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In its very nature this essay will partake largely of the element of historical preciseness, and if it do not, I have so far failed to gain my end. I have wished to introduce matter of a kind calculated to relieve this, and to insure the escape of the essay from the charge of a well-sustained dryness.
Of the humorous instinct of the Indian, as indulged toward his fellow Indian, I cannot speak with confidence; of the malign operation upon myself of the same instinct, I can speak with somewhat more exactness, and with somewhat saddening recollections. The cases, indeed, where I have been exposed to the play of his humor exhibit him in so superlatively complacent an aspect, and myself in so painfully inglorious a one, that I refrain, nay shrink, from rehearsing the discomposing circumstances. I should be pleased if I could call to mind any instance which would convey some notion of the Indian’s aptness in this line, and yet not involve myself, but I cannot. I would say, in a general way, that the Indian is a plausible being, and one needs to be wary with him, and not too loath to suspect him of meditating some dire practical joke, which shall issue in the utter confusion and discomfiture of its victim, whilst its author shall appropriate the main comfort and jubilation. Though the Indian, perhaps, does not conceive these in the determinedly hostile spirit with which the Mohometan who seeks to compass the Christian’s undoing is credited, there is yet such striking accord in the two cases, so far as exultant approval of the issue is concerned, that I am disposed to look upon his creed in this respect as a modified Mahometanism. I could relate many instances, affecting myself, where trustfulness has incurred payment in this coin, but, having no desire to stimulate the Indian’s existing proneness to practical joking, I stay my hand at further mention of the peculiarity.