PART 1. SEIZING THE FIREBRAND.
OH, it was so cold! The wind blew the leaves about on the ground. The frost spirit hid on the north side of every tree, and stung every animal of the forest that came near. Then the snow fell till the ground was white. Through the snowflakes one could see the sun, but the sun looked cold, for it was not a clear, bright yellow, It was almost as white as the moon.
The Indians drew their cloaks more and more closely around them, for they had no fire.
"How shall we get fire?" they asked, but no one answered.
All the fire on earth was in the wigwam of two old women who did not like the Indians.
"They shall not have it," said the old women, and they watched night and day so that no one could get a firebrand.
At last a young Indian said to the others, "No man can get fire. Let us ask the animals to help us."
"What beast or what bird can get fire when the two old women are watching it?" the others cried.
"The bear might get it."
"No, he cannot run swiftly."
"The deer can run."
"His antlers would not go through the door of the wigwam."
"The raven can go through the door."
"It was smoke that made the raven's feathers black, and now he always keeps away from the fire."
"The serpent has not been in the smoke."
"No, but he is not our friend, and he will not do anything for us."
"Then I will ask the wolf," said the young man. "He can run, he has no antlers, and he has not been in the smoke."
So the young man went to the wolf and called, "Friend wolf, if you will get us a firebrand, I will give you some food every day."
"I will get it," said the wolf. "Go to the home of the old women and hide behind a tree; and when you hear me cough three times, give a loud war-cry."
Close by the village of the Indians was a pond. In the pond was a frog, and near the pond lived a squirrel, a bat, a bear, and a deer. The wolf cried, "Frog, hide in the rushes across the pond. Squirrel, go to the bushes beside the path that runs from the pond to the wigwam of the two old women. Bat, go into the shadow and sleep if you like, but do not close both eyes. Bear, do not stir from behind this great rock till you are told. Deer, keep still as a mountain till something happens."
The wolf then went to the wigwam of the two old women. He coughed at the door, and at last they said, "Wolf, you may come in to the fire."
The wolf went into the wigwam. He coughed three times, and the Indian gave a war-cry. The two old women ran out quickly into the forest to see what had happened, and the wolf ran away with a firebrand from the fire.
PART II. THE FIREBRAND IN THE FOREST.
When the two women saw that the wolf had the firebrand, they were very angry, and straightway they ran after him.
"Catch it and run! " cried the wolf, and he threw it to the deer. The deer caught it and ran.
"Catch it and run! " cried the deer, and he threw it to the bear. The bear caught it and ran.
"Catch it and fly!" cried the bear, and he threw it to the bat. The bat caught it and flew.
"Catch it and run! " cried the bat, and he threw it to the squirrel. The squirrel caught it and ran.
"Oh, serpent," called the two old women, "you are no friend to the Indians. Help us. Get the firebrand away from the squirrel."
As the squirrel ran swiftly over the ground, the serpent sprang up and tried to seize the firebrand. He did not get it, but the smoke went into the squirrel's nostrils and made him cough. He would not let go of the firebrand, but ran and ran till he could throw it to the frog.
When the frog was running away with it, then the squirrel for the first time thought of himself, and he found that his beautiful bushy tail was no longer straight, for the fire had curled it up over his back.
"Do not be sorry," called the young Indian across the pond. "Whenever an lndian boy sees a squirrel with his tail curled up over his back, he will throw him a nut."
PART III. THE FIREBRAND IN THE POND.
All this time the firebrand was burning, and the frog was going to the pond as fast as he could. The old women were running after him, and when he came to the water, one of them caught him by the tail.
"I have caught him! " she called.
"Do not let him go!" cried the other.
"No, I will not," said the first; but she did let him go, for the little frog tore himself away and dived into the water. His tail was still in the woman's hand, but the fire. brand was safe, and he made his way swiftly across the pond.
"Here it is," said the frog.
"Where?" asked the young Indian. Then the frog coughed, and out of his mouth came the firebrand. It was small, for it had been burning all this time, but it set fire to the leaves and twigs, and soon the Indians were warm again. They sang and they danced about the flames.
At first the frog was sad, because he was sorry to lose his tail; but before long he was as merry as the people who were dancing, for the young Indian said, "Little frog, you have been a good friend to us, and as long as we live on the earth, we will never throw a stone at a frog that has no tail."