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Frances Jenkins Olcott

Bad Wild Cat


After this Master Rabbit gave up imitating other people, and studied magic instead, so that he became a great Magician. Now, his enemy Bad Wild Cat started one day to hunt him down, and Master Rabbit determined with all his might not to be caught. So he picked up a handful of magic chips, and threw one as far as he could, and jumped on it; and then he threw another, and jumped on that; so he made no tracks. And when he had got out of scent, sight, and sound, he scampered away like the wind.

As for Bad Wild Cat, he rushed through the woods to Master Rabbit's wigwam, and found him gone. Then he swore by his tail that he would catch Master Rabbit, if he had to hunt him forever. So he kept going around and around the wigwam, all the time getting a little farther and farther away, until at last he found Rabbit tracks. Then he went in hot haste after Master Rabbit.

They both ran hard until night came on, when Master Rabbit had only time enough to trample down the snow a bit, and stick a Spruce twig in it, and sit on it.

Along came Bad Wild Cat, and when he reached the snow he found a fine wigwam, and put his head in. All that he saw was an old man, whose hair was grey, and who had two long venerable ears.

"Old man, have you seen a Rabbit running this way?" he asked.

"Rabbits! Rabbits!" said the old man. "Why, of course I have seen many. They run about in the woods here. I see dozens of them every day. But I am an old man, an old man living alone, and you are cold and hungry, so you had better stay here to-night."

Bad Wild Cat was greatly impressed, and went in and sat down. After a good supper, he lay before the fire, and having run all day, soon fell asleep.

But, oh! how miserable he was when he woke in the morning, to find himself in the open field, lying in the snow, and almost starved! The wind blew as if to kill him, and seemed to go straight through his body.

Then he saw that he had been fooled, and up he jumped in a rage, and swore by his teeth as well as his tail, that Master Rabbit should die. So he ran on fast, and he howled as he went:—

"Oh! how I hate him!

How I despise him!

How I laugh at him!

Oh! may I scalp him!"

Well, he ran all that day, and when night came Master Rabbit heard Bad Wild Cat coming near. He had a little more time than before, so he trampled down a heap of snow, and strewed branches of trees about.

And when Bad Wild Cat got there he found a big Indian village, full of people going to and fro. The first person he met was a young man whose ears stood up like two handles of a pitcher.

"Have you seen a Rabbit running this way?" he asked the young man.

"Rabbits! Rabbits!" replied the young man. "Why, there are hundreds of them racing about the Cedar swamp near this place. You can get as many as you want."

Just then the Chief of the village came up, and he was very remarkable and grey, with a long lock standing up on either side of his head. He invited Bad Wild Cat to his wigwam, where his two beautiful daughters cooked a fine supper. And when Bad Wild Cat wished to sleep, they made him a couch of a White Bear's skin, and laid it before the fire. And so he went to sleep.

But, oh! how he raged when he woke in the morning, and found himself in a wet Cedar swamp, and his head cut by a stone! The wind was blowing ten times worse than before; and all around him were Rabbit tracks and broken branches.

Up he jumped, and swore by his tail, teeth, and claws, that he would be revenged. And he snarled as he went:—

"Oh! how I hate him!

How I despise him!

How I laugh at him!

Oh! may I scalp him!"

Well, Master Rabbit and Bad Wild Cat both ran hard. But Bad Wild Cat was tired and almost broken down with weariness and his head was sore. About noon he came to two good wigwams, and looking into one he saw an old grey-haired man with two long white feathers, one on either side of his head. And in the other wigwam was a young girl, his daughter.

They received Bad Wild Cat kindly, and when the old man saw his sore head, he said that he must get a Doctor at once, or Bad Wild Cat would die. So the old man hurried out, and left his daughter to feed the stranger.

When the Doctor came, he, too, was a grey old man, with a scalp-lock strangely divided like two horns. He looked so queer, and resembled a Rabbit so much, that Bad Wild Cat said, "How did you get that split nose?"

"That is very simple," said the Doctor. "Once I was hammering wampum beads, and the stone I beat them on broke in halves, and a piece flew up and split my nose."

"But," said Bad Wild Cat, "why are the soles of your feet yellow like a Rabbit's?"

"That is very simple," replied the Doctor. "Once I was preparing tobacco, and had to hold it down with my feet for I needed both my hands to work with."

Then Bad Wild Cat was satisfied and did not suspect any more, and let the Doctor put cooling salve on his wound, and soon he felt better. Before the Doctor left, he placed a little pitcher of wine by Bad Wild Cat's side, so that he might refresh himself in the night. Then he departed, and Bad Wild Cat went to sleep.

But, oh! the wretchedness in the morning! For when Bad Wild Cat woke, he was lying in the deep snow. His head was swollen, and the horrid wound was stuffed with Hemlock needles and Pine splinters. And this was the cooling salve the Doctor had applied! As for the pitcher of wine, it was still left in the snow, just a little Pitcher Plant full of foul water.

Up jumped Bad Wild Cat, and he swore by his tail, teeth, claws, and eyes that he would be revenged. And he groaned as he went:—

"Oh! how I hate him!

How I despise him!

How I laugh at him!

Oh! may I scalp him!"

Well, by this time Master Rabbit's magic had almost given out, and he had just enough left for one more trick. So coming to a lake, he picked up a chip, and threw it into the water, and it became a great ship such as white men build, and Master Rabbit was the captain.

And when Bad Wild Cat came up, he saw the ship with sails spread and banners flying. The captain stood on the deck with folded arms; while on either side of his cocked hat rose two points like grand and stately horns.

But Bad Wild Cat cried out, "I know you, Master Rabbit! You cannot escape me this time! I have you now!" And he leaped into the water, and swam toward the ship. Then the captain ordered his men to fire all the guns, and they did so with a bang.

And Bad Wild Cat was frightened almost to death! He swam back to the shore, and ran into the forest; and if he is not dead, he is running there still.