* * * * *
“Next the plants held their council and resolved to come to the aid of men in their distress. ‘I,’ said the ginseng plant, ’will give my roots to make a healing drink. It shall be good for headaches and for cramps and for many other kinds of pains and aches.’
“‘And I,’ said the snake-root, ’will give my roots also for a healing drink. It shall cure fevers and coughs and many other diseases.’
“And so it went on. The silkweed, the skull-cap, catnip, boneset, the peppermint, wild ginger, wintergreen, and scores of other plants, all gladly offered their roots, their berries, or their leaves.
* * * * *
“Their number was so great that the little striped squirrel, who had attended both councils, was scarcely able to remember them all.
“After the councils were over, he went about among the villages of the Red Men and told them what the trees and the plants had said. They at once began to gather and prepare the medicines which they needed to cure the different diseases from which they suffered. And from this time, on account of the use of these medicines, they were sometimes able to heal their diseases and save many of their people from death.
“This is the story of how diseases came upon men and medicines to cure them were found.
“The Red Men were grateful to the little ground squirrel for the help he had given them, and loved him more than any other of the wild folk, and to this day no Indian boy will injure a chipmunk.”
XVII. LITTLE LUKE AND MEE-KO THE RED SQUIRREL
One day as little Luke was sitting on a fallen log in the woods, Mee-ko the Red Squirrel ran out on a branch over his head. There he sat up on his hind legs and began to chatter and scold and cough.
He remembered the day when the little boy had stoned him away from the nest of O-pee-chee the Robin. Ever since that time he had never missed a chance of saying bad words at him. But the little boy didn’t mind Mee-ko’s scolding; he only laughed at him for his bad temper and spitefulness.
“Mee-ko,” said he, “what makes you cough so? Tell me. I think there must be a story about it.”
“Well, suppose there is?” snapped Mee-ko. “I wouldn’t tell you anyway. A Man Cub has no business to know the animal talk. I did my best to keep you from touching the Magic Speech Flower. I hate you! I hate you! I wish I were as big as my forefathers were, I’d drive you out of the woods!”
“Come, now, Mee-ko,” replied the boy, “don’t be so spiteful. I haven’t done you any harm. I stopped you from stealing Mother O-pee-chee’s eggs, but you had no business with the eggs anyway. How would you like to have some one eat up your young ones? Let bygones be bygones and tell me about your forefathers.”
“I’ll not be friends with you on any terms,” replied Mee-ko. “I wish you’d stay about the farmhouse where you belong. You’ve no business sneaking about in the woods, disturbing us wood folk, and spying on us and tattling about us. Go away. You know too much now.”