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Wechah The Provider - Page 6 of 6

'You must keep away from Sintay, for he is dangerous," said Wasula, who always talked to her pet as if he understood every word she said. Nevertheless, while she struggled on with her load he had once more dis- appeared. Soon a cry from him attracted her attention, and turning a little aside from her path, she beheld Sintay sitting upon a snow-covered log at the root of a large hollow, tree, holding a comb of wild honey in his two paws, listening angrily and growling over his interrupted meal. In a moment something sprang into the air directly over his head and alighted in front of him. It was Wechah.

Sintay screamed and clawed the air with his right paw, at the same time clinging to the comb with the left. The new-comer bravely faced him. Both were desperately in earnest, growling and snapping their sharp teeth. The bee-tree was the bone of contention, and it was well worth a fight.

Striking out with his big right paw, the tame raccoon launched forth to secure the comb, whereupon Sintay struck at him with his disengaged paw, but refused to let go with the other. It was a ludicrous sight, and Wasula could not help laughing, especially when her pet succeeded in tearing away a part of the comb and the contents were generously daubed over their fur. But the fight soon became serious, and Wechah was getting the worst beating he had ever had when his mistress interfered. She struck at Sintay with her drawn bow and he dodged quickly behind the tree, still unwilling to leave it to the intruders, but at last he fled. It was the best thing for him to do!

Wechah stood before Wasula bleeding, his robe of fine fur sadly ruffled and plastered with honey and snow. He looked sorry for himself, yet proud of his discovery, and there was no time now to pity or rejoice. On they ran till, within hailing distance of the camp, the girl gave the wolf-call. The others were already very anxious. "She is coming!" they cried to one another, joyously, and two went forth to meet her, for her call meant a successful hunt.

Thus the maiden and her tame raccoon saved several families from starvation. The run of fish would last for days, and there was much honey in the tree, which they secured on the following day.

"It is my wish," said Wasula, "that you do not trap the 'coon again this season, for the sake of Wechah, who has saved us all. In gratitude to him,withdrawyour deadfalls."

All agreed to this. Yet one spring morning when they were about to set out on the return journey he was not to be found, and no one had seen him. The huntress immediately took down her bow and quiver and searched for his track, which she followed into the woods. Her love for Wechah had never been fully realized by the people or perhaps even by herself. "If Sintay has met and taken revenge upon him, I shall not return without his scalp," she said to herself.

Over the still frozen lake to the nearest island lay Wechah' s well-known track, and he was apparently hunting for company. It was the time of year when his people do so. He had run far and wide, meeting here and there a bachelor 'coon. The tracks told the story of how they merely dared one another and parted.

At last the trail lay over a slope overlooking a little cove, where there stood a large sugar-maple. The upper quarter of it had been torn off by lightning, leaving a very high stump. Wechah's tracks led directly to this tree, and the scratches on its bark plainly told who lived there. It was the home of Wechawee, the 'coon maid.

Wasula took her small hatchet from her belt and struck several quick blows. There was a scrambling inside, and in a moment Wechah poked his quaint striped face from the top. He looked very much abashed. Like a guilty dog he whined, but showed no desire to come down.

'Wechah, you frightened me! I thought you had been killed. I am glad now, my heart is good, that you have found your mate."

At this Wechah' s new wife pushed her cunning head out beside that of her husband. Wasula stood looking at them both for a few minutes with mingled pleasure and sorrow, and ere she left she sang a maiden's serenade to the bridegroom -- the founder of a new clan!

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