“Work, work all the night
While the stars are shining bright;
Work, work all the day;
I have got no time to play.”
This little rhyme Paddy the Beaver made up as she toiled at building the dam which was to make the pond she so much desired deep in the Green Forest. Of course it wasn’t quite true, that about working all night and all day. Nobody could do that, you know, and keep it up. Everybody has to rest and sleep. Yes, and everybody has to play a little to be at their best. So it wasn’t quite true that Paddy worked all day after working all night. But it was true that Paddy had no time to play. She had too much to do. She had had her playtime during the long summer, and now she had to get ready for the long cold winter.
Now of all the little workers in the Green Forest, on the Green Meadows, and in the Smiling Pool, none can compare with Paddy the Beaver, not even her cousin, Mary Muskrat. Happy Jill Squirrel and Striped Chipmunk store up food for the long cold months when rough Brother North Wind and Jack Frost rule, and Mary Muskrat builds a fine house wherein to keep warm and comfortable, but all this is as nothing to the work of Paddy the Beaver.
As I said before, Paddy had had a long playtime through the summer. She had wandered up and down the Laughing Brook. She had followed it way up to the place where it started. And all the time she had been studying and studying to make sure that she wanted to stay in the Green Forest. In the first place, she had to be sure that there was plenty of the kind of food that she likes. Then she had to be equally sure that she could make a pond near where this particular food grew. Last of all, she had to satisfy herself that if she did make a pond and build a home, she would be reasonably safe in it. And all these things she had done in her playtime. Now she was ready to go to work, and when Paddy begins work, she sticks to it until it is finished. She says that is the only way to succeed, and you know and I know that she is right.
Now Paddy the Beaver can see at night just as Reddy Fox and Peter Rabbit and Bonnie Coon can, and she likes the night best, because she feels safest then. But she can see in the daytime too, and when she feels that she is perfectly safe and no one is watching, she works then too. Of course the first thing to do was to build a dam across the Laughing Brook to make the pond she so much needed. She chose a low open place deep in the Green Forest, around the edge of which grew many young aspen-trees, the bark of which is her favorite food. Through the middle of this open place flowed the Laughing Brook. At the lower edge was just the place for a dam. It would not have to be very long, and when it was finished and the water was stopped in the Laughing Brook, it would just have to flow over the low open place and make a pond there. Paddy’s eyes twinkled when she first saw it. It was right then that she made up her mind to stay in the Green Forest.
So now that she was ready to begin her dam she went up the Laughing Brook to a place where alders and willows grew, and there she began work; that work was the cutting of a great number of trees by means of her big front teeth which were given her for just this purpose. And as she worked, Paddy was happy, for one can never be truly happy who does no work.
Paddy the Beaver was busy cutting down trees for the dam she had planned to build. Up in the woods of the North from which she had come to the Green Forest she had learned all about tree-cutting and dam-building and canal-digging and house-building. Paddy’s father and mother had been very wise in the ways of the Beaver world, and Paddy had been quick to learn. So now she knew just what to do and the best way of doing it. You know a great many people waste time and labor doing things the wrong way, so that they have to be done over again. They forget to be sure they are right, and so they go ahead until they find they are wrong, and all their work goes for nothing.
But Paddy the Beaver isn’t this kind. Paddy would never have leaped into the spring with the steep sides without looking, as Grandfather Frog did. So now she carefully picked out the trees to cut. She could not afford to waste time cutting down a tree that wasn’t going to be just what she wanted when it was down. When she was sure that the tree was right, she looked up at the top to find out whether, when she had cut it, it would fall clear of other trees. She had learned to do that when she was quite young and heedless. She remembered just how she had felt when after working hard, oh, so hard, to cut a big tree, she had warned all her friends to get out of the way so that they would not be hurt when it fell, and then it hadn’t fallen at all because the top had caught in another tree. She was so mortified that she didn’t get over it for a long time.
So now she made sure that a tree was going to fall clear and just where she wanted it. Then she sat up on her hind legs, and with her great broad tail for a brace, began to make the chips fly. You know Paddy has the most wonderful teeth for cutting. They are long and broad and sharp. She would begin by making a deep bite, and then another just a little way below. Then she would pry out the little piece of wood between. When she had cut very deep on one side so that the tree would fall that way, she would work around to the other side. Just as soon as the tree began to lean and she was sure that it was going to fall, she would scamper away so as to be out of danger. She loved to see those tall trees lean forward slowly, then faster and faster, till they struck the ground with a crash.
Just as soon as they were down, she would trim off the branches until the trees were just long poles. This was easy work, for she could take off a good-sized branch with one bite. On many she left their bushy tops. When she had trimmed them to suit her and had cut them into the right lengths, she would tug and pull them down to the place where she meant to build her dam.
There she placed the poles side by side, not across the Laughing Brook like a bridge, but with the big ends pointing up the Laughing Brook, which was quite broad but shallow right there. To keep them from floating away, she rolled stones and piled mud on the bushy ends. Clear across on both sides she laid those poles until the land began to rise. Then she dragged more poles and piled on top of these and wedged short sticks crosswise between them.
And all the time the Laughing Brook was having harder and harder work to run. Its merry laugh grew less merry and finally almost stopped, because, you see, the water could not get through between all those poles and sticks fast enough. It was just about that time that the little people of the Smiling Pool decided that it was time to see just what Paddy was doing, and they started up the Laughing Brook, leaving only Grandfather Frog and the tadpoles in the Smiling Pool, which for a little while would smile no more.
Paddy the Beaver knew perfectly well that she would have visitors just as soon as she began to build her dam. She expected a lot of them. You see, she knew that none of them ever had seen a Beaver at work unless perhaps it was Prickly Porky the Porcupine, who also had come down from the North. So as she worked she kept her ears open, and she smiled to herself as she heard a little rustle here and then a little rustle there. She knew just what those little rustles meant. Each one meant another visitor. Yes, Sir, each rustle meant another visitor, and yet not one had shown himself.
Paddy chuckled. “Seems to me that you are dreadfully afraid to show yourselves,” said she in a loud voice, just as if she were talking to nobody in particular. Everything was still. There wasn’t so much as a rustle after Paddy spoke. She chuckled again. She could just feel ever so many eyes watching her, though she didn’t see a single pair. And she knew that the reason her visitors were hiding so carefully was because they were afraid of her. You see, Paddy was much bigger than most of the little meadow and forest people, and they didn’t know what kind of a temper she might have. It is always safest to be very distrustful of strangers. That is one of the very first things taught all little meadow and forest children.
Of course, Paddy knew all about this. She had been brought up that way. “Be sure, and then you’ll never be sorry” had been one of her mother’s favorite sayings, and she had always remembered it. Indeed, it had saved her a great deal of trouble. So now she was perfectly willing to go right on working and let her hidden visitors watch her until they were sure that she meant them no harm. You see, she herself felt quite sure that none of them was big enough to do her any harm. Little Joann Otter was the only one she had any doubts about, and she felt quite sure that Little Joann wouldn’t try to pick a quarrel. So she kept right on cutting trees, trimming off the branches, and hauling the trunks down to the dam she was building. Some of them she floated down the Laughing Brook. This was easier.
Now when the little people of the Smiling Pool, who were the first to find out that Paddy the Beaver had come to the Green Forest, had started up the Laughing Brook to see what she was doing, they had told the Merry Little Breezes where they were going. The Merry Little Breezes had been greatly excited. They couldn’t understand how a stranger could have been living in the Green Forest without their knowledge. You see, they quite forgot that they very seldom wandered to the deepest part of the Green Forest. Of course they started at once as fast as they could go to tell all the other little people who live on or around the Green Meadows, all but Old Man Coyote. For some reason they thought it best not to tell him. They were a little doubtful about Old Man Coyote. He was so big and strong and so sly and smart that all his neighbors were afraid of him. Perhaps the Merry Little Breezes had this fact in mind, and knew that none would dare go to call on the stranger if they knew that Old Man Coyote was going too. Anyway, they simply passed the time of day with Old Man Coyote and hurried on to tell every one else, and the very last one they met was Sammy Jay.
Sammy was terribly put out to think that anything should be going on that she didn’t know about first. You know she is very fond of prying into the affairs of other people, and she loves dearly to boast that there is nothing going on in the Green Forest or on the Green Meadows that she doesn’t know about. So now her pride was hurt, and she was in a terrible rage as she started after the Merry Little Breezes for the place deep in the Green Forest where they said Paddy the Beaver was at work. She didn’t believe a word of it, but she would see for herself.
When Sammy Jay reached the place deep in the Green Forest where Paddy the Beaver was so hard at work, she didn’t hide as had the little four-footed people. You see, of course, she had no reason to hide, because she felt perfectly safe. Paddy had just cut a big tree, and it fell with a crash as Sammy came hurrying up. Sammy was so surprised that for a minute she couldn’t find her tongue. She had not supposed that anybody but Farmer Brown or Farmer Brown’s Girl could cut down so large a tree as that, and it quite took her breath away. But she got it again in a minute. She was boiling with anger, anyway, to think that she should have been the last to learn that Paddy had come down from the North to make her home in the Green Forest, and here was a chance to speak her mind.
“Thief! thief! thief!” she screamed in her harshest voice.
Paddy the Beaver looked up with a twinkle in her eyes. “Hello, Ms. Jay! I see you haven’t any better manners than your cousin who lives up where I came from,” said she.
“Thief! thief! thief!” screamed Sammy, hopping up and down, she was so angry.
“Meaning yourself, I suppose,” said Paddy. “I never did see an honest Jay, and I don’t suppose I ever will.”
“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Peter Rabbit, who had quite forgotten that he was hiding.
“Oh, how do you do, Mr. Rabbit? I’m very glad you have called on me this morning,” said Paddy, just as if she hadn’t known all the time just where Peter was. “Ms. Jay seems to have gotten out of the wrong side of her bed this morning.”
Peter laughed again. “She always does,” said he. “If she didn’t, she wouldn’t be happy. You wouldn’t think it to look at her, but she is happy right now. She doesn’t know it, but she is. She always is happy when she can show what a bad temper she has.”
Sammy Jay glared down at Peter. Then she glared at Paddy. And all the time she still shrieked “Thief!” as hard as ever she could. Paddy kept right on working, paying no attention to Sammy. This made Sammy more angry than ever. She kept coming nearer and nearer until at last she was in the very tree that Paddy happened to be cutting. Paddy’s eyes twinkled.
“I’m no thief!” she exclaimed suddenly.
“You are! You are! Thief! Thief!” shrieked Sammy. “You’re stealing our trees!”
“They’re not your trees,” retorted Paddy. “They belong to the Green Forest, and the Green Forest belongs to all who love it, and we all have a perfect right to take what we need from it. I need these trees, and I’ve just as much right to take them as you have to take the fat acorns that drop in the fall.”
“No such thing!” screamed Sammy. You know she can’t talk without screaming, and the more excited she gets, the louder she screams. “No such thing! Acorns are food. They are meant to eat. I have to have them to live. But you are cutting down whole trees. You are spoiling the Green Forest. You don’t belong here. Nobody invited you, and nobody wants you. You’re a thief!”
Then up spoke Mary Muskrat, who, you know, is cousin to Paddy the Beaver.
“Don’t you mind her,” said she, pointing at Sammy Jay. “Nobody does. She’s the greatest trouble-maker in the Green Forest or on the Green Meadows. She would steal from her own relatives. Don’t mind what she says, Cousin Paddy.”
Now all this time Paddy had been working away just as if no one was around. Just as Mary stopped speaking, Paddy thumped the ground with her tail, which is her way of warning people to watch out, and suddenly scurried away as fast as she could run. Sammy Jay was so surprised that she couldn’t find her tongue for a minute, and she didn’t notice anything peculiar about that tree. Then suddenly she felt herself falling. With a frightened scream, she spread her wings to fly, but branches of the tree swept her down with them right into the Laughing Brook.
You see while Sammy had been speaking her mind, Paddy the Beaver had cut down the very tree in which she was sitting.
Sammy wasn’t hurt, but she was wet and muddy and terribly frightened — the most miserable looking Jay that ever was seen. It was too much for all the little people who were hiding. They just had to laugh. Then they all came out to pay their respects to Paddy the Beaver.
Paddy the Beaver kept right on working just as if she hadn’t any visitors. You see, it is a big undertaking to build a dam. And when that was done there was a house to build and a supply of food for the winter to cut and store. Oh, Paddy the Beaver had no time for idle gossip, you may be sure! So she kept right on building her dam. It didn’t look much like a dam at first, and some of Paddy’s visitors turned up their noses when they first saw it. They had heard stories of what a wonderful dam-builder Paddy was, and they had expected to see something like the smooth, grass-covered bank with which Farmer Brown kept the Big River from running back on his low lands. Instead, all they saw was a great pile of poles and sticks which looked like anything but a dam.
“Pooh!” exclaimed Billy Mink, “I guess we needn’t worry about the Laughing Brook and the Smiling Pool, if that is the best Paddy can do. Why, the water of the Laughing Brook will work through that in no time.”
Of course Paddy heard him, but she said nothing, just kept right on working.
“Just look at the way she has laid those sticks!” continued Billy Mink. “Seems as if any one would know enough to lay them _across_ the Laughing Brook instead of just the other way. I could build a better dam than that.”
Paddy said nothing; she just kept right on working.
“Yes, Sir,” Billy boasted. “I could build a better dam than that. Why, that pile of sticks will never stop the water.”
“Is something the matter with your eyesight, Billy Mink?” inquired Mary Muskrat.
“Of course not!” retorted Billy indignantly. “Why?”
“Oh, nothing much, only you don’t seem to notice that already the Laughing Brook is over its banks above Paddy’s dam,” replied Mary, who had been studying the dam with a great deal of interest.
Billy looked a wee bit foolish, for sure enough there was a little pool just above the dam, and it was growing bigger.
Paddy still kept at work, saying nothing. She was digging in front of the dam now, and the mud and grass she dug up she stuffed in between the ends of the sticks and patted down with her hands. She did this all along the front of the dam and on top of it too, wherever she thought it was needed. Of course this made it harder for the water to work through, and the little pond above the dam began to grow faster. It wasn’t a great while before it was nearly to the top of the dam, which at first was very low. Then Paddy brought more sticks. This was easier now, because she could float them down from where she was cutting. She would put them in place on the top of the dam, then hurry for more. Wherever it was needed, she would put in mud. She even rolled a few stones in to help hold the mass.
So the dam grew and grew, and so did the pond above the dam. Of course, it took a good many days to build so big a dam, and a lot of hard work! Every morning the little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows would visit it, and every morning they would find that it had grown a great deal in the night, for that is when Paddy likes best to work.
By this time, the Laughing Brook had stopped laughing, and down in the Smiling Pool there was hardly water enough for the minnows to feel safe a minute. Billy Mink had stopped making fun of the dam, and all the little people who live in the Laughing Brook and the Smiling Pool were terribly worried.
To be sure Paddy had warned them of what she was going to do, and had promised that just as soon as her pond was big enough, the water would once more run in the Laughing Brook. They tried to believe her, but they couldn’t help having just a wee bit of fear that she might not be wholly honest. You see, they didn’t know her, for she was a stranger. Mary Muskrat was the only one who seemed absolutely sure that everything would be all right. Perhaps that was because Paddy is her cousin, and Mary couldn’t help but feel proud of such a big cousin and one who was so smart.
So day by day the dam grew, and the pond grew, and then one morning Grandfather Frog, down in what had once been the Smiling Pool, heard a sound that made his heart jump for joy. It was a murmur that kept growing and growing, until at last it was the merry laugh of the Laughing Brook. Then he knew that Paddy had kept her word and water would once more fill the Smiling Pool.
Now it happened that the very day before Paddy the Beaver decided that her pond was big enough, and so allowed the water to run in the Laughing Brook once more, Farmer Brown’s Girl took it into her head to go fishing in the Smiling Pool. Just as usual she went whistling down across the Green Meadows. Somehow, when she goes fishing, she always feels like whistling. Grandfather Frog heard her coming and dived into the little bit of water remaining in the Smiling Pool and stirred up the mud at the bottom so that Farmer Brown’s Girl shouldn’t see him.
Nearer and nearer drew the whistle. Suddenly it stopped right short off. Farmer Brown’s Girl had come in sight of the Smiling Pool or rather, it was what used to be the Smiling Pool. Now there wasn’t any Smiling Pool, for the very little pool left was too small and sickly-looking to smile. There were great banks of mud, out of which grew the bulrushes. The lily-pads were forlornly stretched out towards the tiny pool of water remaining. Where the banks were steep and high, the holes that Mary Muskrat and Billy Mink knew so well were plain to see. Over at one side stood Mary Muskrat’s house, wholly out of water.
Somehow, it seemed to Farmer Brown’s Girl that she must be dreaming. She never, never had seen anything like this before, not even in the very driest weather of the hottest part of the summer. She looked this way and looked that way. The Green Meadows looked just as usual. The Green Forest looked just as usual. The Laughing Brook — ha! What was the matter with the Laughing Brook? She couldn’t hear it and that, you know, was very unusual. She dropped her rod and ran over to the Laughing Brook. There wasn’t any brook. No, sir, there wasn’t any brook; just pools of water with the tiniest of streams trickling between. Big stones over which she had always seen the water running in the prettiest of little white falls were bare and dry. In the little pools frightened minnows were darting about.
Farmer Brown’s Girl scratched her head in a puzzled way. “I don’t understand it,” said she. “I don’t understand it at all. Something must have gone wrong with the springs that supply the water for the Laughing Brook. They must have failed. Yes, Sir, that is just what must have happened. But I never heard of such a thing happening before, and I really don’t see how it could happen.” She stared up into the Green Forest just as if she thought she could see those springs. Of course, she didn’t think anything of the kind. She was just turning it all over in her mind. “I know what I’ll do! I’ll go up to those springs this afternoon and find out what the trouble is,” she said out loud. “They are way over almost on the other side of the Green Forest, and the easiest way to get there will be to start from home and cut across the Old Pasture up to the edge of the Mountain behind the Green Forest. If I try to follow up the Laughing Brook now, it will take too long, because it winds and twists so. Besides, it is too hard work.”
With that, Farmer Brown’s Girl went back and picked up her rod. Then she started for home across the Green Meadows, and for once she wasn’t whistling. You see, she was too busy thinking. In fact, she was so busy thinking that she didn’t see Jenny Skunk until she almost stepped on her, and then she gave a frightened jump and ran, for without a gun she was just as much afraid of Jenny as Jenny was of her when she did have a gun.
Jenny just grinned and went on about her business. It always tickles Jenny to see people run away from her, especially people so much bigger than herself; they look so silly.
“I should think that they would have learned by this time that if they don’t bother me, I won’t bother them,” she muttered, as she rolled over a stone to look for fat beetles. “Somehow, folks never seem to understand me.”
Across the Old Pasture to the foot of the Mountain back of the Green Forest tramped Farmer Brown’s Girl. Ahead of her trotted Bella the Hound, sniffing and snuffing for the tracks of Reddy or Granny Fox. Of course she didn’t find them, for Reddy and Granny hadn’t been up in the Old Pasture for a long time. But she did find Old Sue Thumper, the big gray Rabbit who had made things so uncomfortable for Peter Rabbit once upon a time, and Bella gave her such a fright that Old Sue didn’t look where she was going and almost ran headfirst into Farmer Brown’s Girl.
“Hi, there, you old cottontail!” yelled Farmer Brown’s Girl, and this frightened Old Sue still more, so that she actually ran right past her own castle of bullbriars without seeing it.
Farmer Brown’s Girl kept on her way, laughing at the fright of Old Sue Thumper. Presently she reached the springs from which came the water that made the very beginning of the Laughing Brook. She expected to find them dry, for way down on the Green Meadows the Smiling Pool was nearly dry, and the Laughing Brook was nearly dry, and she had supposed that of course the reason was that the springs where the Laughing Brook started were no longer bubbling.
But they were! The clear, cold water came bubbling up out of the ground just as it always had, and ran off down into the Green Forest in a little stream that would grow and grow as it ran and became the Laughing Brook. Farmer Brown’s Girl took off her ragged old straw hat and scowled down at the bubbling water just as if she thought it had no business to be bubbling there.
Of course, she didn’t think just that. The fact is, she didn’t know just what she did think. Here were the springs bubbling away just as they always had. There was the little stream starting off down into the Green Forest with a gurgle that by and by would become a laugh, just as it always had. And yet down on the Green Meadows on the other side of the Green Forest there was no longer a Laughing Brook or a Smiling Pool. She felt as if she ought to pinch herself to make sure that she was awake and not dreaming.
“I don’t know what it means,” said she, talking out loud. “No, Sir, I don’t know what it means at all, but I’m going to find out. There’s a cause for everything in this world, and when a person doesn’t know a thing, it is her business to find out all about it. I’m going to find out what has happened to the Laughing Brook, if it takes me a year!”
With that she started to follow the little stream which ran gurgling down into the Green Forest. She had followed that little stream more than once, and now she found it just as she remembered it. The farther it ran, the larger it grew, until at last it became the Laughing Brook, merrily tumbling over rocks and making deep pools in which the trout loved to hide. At last she came to the edge of a little open hollow in the very heart of the Green Forest. She knew what splendid deep holes there were in the Laughing Brook here, and how the big trout loved to lie in them because they were deep and cool. She was thinking of these trout now and wishing that she had brought along her fishing-rod. She pushed her way through a thicket of alders and then — Farmer Brown’s Girl stopped suddenly and fairly gasped! She had to stop because there right in front of her was a pond!
She rubbed her eyes and looked again. Then she stooped down and put her hand in the water to see if it was real. There was no doubt about it. It was real water — a real pond where there never had been a pond before. It was very still there in the heart of the Green Forest. It was always very still there, but it seemed stiller than usual as she tramped around the edge of this strange pond. She felt as if it were all a dream. She wondered if pretty soon she wouldn’t wake up and find it all untrue. But she didn’t, and so she kept on tramping until presently she came to a dam — a splendid dam of logs and sticks and mud. Over the top of it the water was running, and down in the Green Forest below she could hear the Laughing Brook just beginning to laugh once more. Farmer Brown’s Girl sat down with her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands. She was almost too much surprised to even think.
Farmer Brown’s Girl sat with her chin in her hands staring at the new pond in the Green Forest and at the dam which had made it. That dam puzzled her. Who could have built it? What did they build it for? Why hadn’t she heard them chopping? She looked carelessly at the stump of one of the trees, and then a still more puzzled look made deep furrows between her eyes. It looked — yes, it looked very much as if teeth, and not an axe, had cut down that tree. Farmer Brown’s Girl stared and stared, her mouth gaping wide open. She looked so funny that Peter Rabbit, who was hiding under an old pile of brush close by, nearly laughed right out.
But Peter didn’t laugh. No, Sir, Peter didn’t laugh, for just that very minute something happened. Sniff! Sniff! That was right behind him at the very edge of the old brush-pile, and every hair on Peter stood on end with fright.
“Bow, wow, wow!” It seemed to Peter that the great voice was right in his very ears. It frightened him so that he just _had_ to jump. He didn’t have time to think. And so he jumped right out from under the pile of brush and of course right into plain sight. And the very instant he jumped there came another great roar behind him. Of course it was from Bella the Hound. You see, Bella had been following the trail of her master, but as she always stops to sniff at everything she passes, she had been some distance behind. When she came to the pile of brush under which Peter was hiding she had sniffed at that, and of course she had smelled Peter right away.
Now when Peter jumped out so suddenly, he had landed right at one end of the dam. The second roar of Bella’s great voice frightened him still more, and he jumped right up on the dam. There was nothing for him to do now but go across, and it wasn’t the best of going. No, indeed, it wasn’t the best of going. You see, it was mostly a tangle of sticks. Happy Jill Squirrel or Chatterer the Red Squirrel or Striped Chipmunk would have skipped across it without the least trouble. But Peter Rabbit has no sharp little claws with which to cling to logs and sticks, and right away he was in a peck of trouble. He slipped down between the sticks, scrambled out, slipped again, and then, trying to make a long jump, he lost his balance and — tumbled heels over head into the water!
Poor Peter Rabbit! He gave himself up for lost this time. He could swim, but at best he is a poor swimmer and doesn’t like the water. He couldn’t dive and keep out of sight like Mary Muskrat or Billy Mink. All he could do was to paddle as fast as his legs would go. The water had gone up his nose and down his throat so that he choked, and all the time he felt sure that Bella the Hound would plunge in after him and catch him. And if she shouldn’t, why Farmer Brown’s Girl would simply wait for him to come ashore and then catch him.
But Farmer Brown’s Girl didn’t do anything of the kind. No, Sir, she didn’t. Instead she shouted to Bella and called her away. Bella didn’t want to come, but she long ago learned to obey, and very slowly she walked over to where her master was sitting.
“You know it wouldn’t be fair, old friend, to try to catch Peter now. It wouldn’t be fair at all, and we never want to do anything unfair, do we?” said she. Perhaps Bella didn’t agree, but she wagged her tail as if she did, and sat down beside her master to watch Peter swim.
It seemed to Peter as if he never, never would reach the shore, though really it was only a very little distance that he had to swim. When he did scramble out, he was a sorry looking Rabbit. He didn’t waste any time, but started for home as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. And Farmer Brown’s Girl and Bella the Hound just laughed and didn’t try to catch him at all.
“Well, I never!” exclaimed Sammy Jay, who had seen it all from the top of a pine-tree. “Well, I never! I guess Farmer Brown’s Girl isn’t so bad, after all.”
Paddy the Beaver sat on her dam, and her eyes shone with happiness as she looked out over the shining water of the pond she had made. All around the edge of it grew the tall trees of the Green Forest. It was very beautiful and very still and very lonesome. That is, it would have seemed lonesome to almost any one but Paddy the Beaver. But Paddy never is lonesome. You see, she finds company in the trees and flowers and all the little plants.
It was still, very, very still. Over on one side was a beautiful rosy glow in the water. It was the reflection from jolly, round, red Mr. Sun. Paddy couldn’t see him because of the tall trees, but she knew exactly what Mr. Sun was doing. He was going to bed behind the Purple Hills. Pretty soon the little stars would come out and twinkle down at her. She loves the little stars and always watches for the first one.
Yes, Paddy the Beaver was very happy. She would have been perfectly happy but for one thing: Farmer Brown’s Girl had found her dam and pond that very afternoon, and Paddy wasn’t quite sure what Farmer Brown’s Girl might do. She had kept herself snugly hidden while Farmer Brown’s Girl was there, and she felt quite sure that Farmer Brown’s Girl didn’t know who had built the dam. But for this very reason she might, she just _might_, try to find out all about it, and that would mean that Paddy would have to be always on the watch.
“But what’s the use of worrying over troubles that haven’t come yet, and may never come? Time enough to worry when they do come,” said Paddy to herself, which shows that Paddy has a great deal of wisdom in her little brown head. “The thing for me to do now is to get ready for winter, and that means a great deal of work,” she continued. “Let me see, I’ve got to build a house, a big, stout, warm house, where I will be warm and safe when my pond is frozen over. And I’ve got to lay in a supply of food, enough to last me until gentle Sister South Wind comes to prepare the way for lovely Mistress Spring. My, my, I can’t afford to be sitting here dreaming, when there is such a lot to be done!”
With that Paddy slipped into the water and swam all around her new pond to make sure of just the best place to build her house. Now placing one’s house in just the right place is a very important matter. Some people are dreadfully careless about this. Jenny Skunk, for instance, often makes the mistake of digging her house (you know Jenny makes her house underground) right where every one who happens along that way will see it. Perhaps that is because Jenny is so independent that she doesn’t care who knows where she lives.
But Paddy the Beaver never is careless. She always chooses just the very best place. She makes sure that it is best before she begins. So now, although she was quite positive just where her house should be, she swam around the pond to make doubly sure. Then, when she was quite satisfied, she swam over to the place she had chosen. It was where the water was quite deep.
“There mustn’t be the least chance that the ice will ever get thick enough to close up my doorway,” said she, “and I’m sure it never will here. I must make the foundations strong and the walls thick. I must have plenty of mud to plaster with, and inside, up above the water, I must have the snuggest, warmest room where I can sleep in comfort. This is the place to build it, and it is high time I was at work.”
With that Paddy swam over to the place where she had cut the trees for her dam, and her heart was light, for she had long ago learned that the surest way to be happy is to be busy.
Mary Muskrat was very much interested when she found that Paddy the Beaver, who, you know, is her cousin, was building a house. Mary is a house-builder herself, and down deep in her heart she very much doubted if Paddy could build as good a house as she could. Her house was down in the Smiling Pool, and Mary thought it a very wonderful house indeed, and was very proud of it. It was built of mud and sod and little alder and willow twigs and bulrushes. Mary had spent one winter in it, and she had decided to spend another there after she had fixed it up a little. So, as long as she didn’t have to build a brand new house, she could afford the time to watch her cousin Paddy. Perhaps she hoped that Paddy would ask her advice.
But Paddy did nothing of the kind. She had seen Mary Muskrat’s house, and she had smiled. But she had taken great pains not to let Mary see that smile. She wouldn’t have hurt Mary’s feelings for the world. She is too polite and good-natured to do anything like that. So Mary sat on the end of an old log and watched Paddy work. The first thing to build was the foundation. This was of mud and grass with sticks worked into it to hold it together. Paddy dug the mud from the bottom of her new pond. And because the pond was new, there was a great deal of grassy sod there, which was just what Paddy needed. It was very convenient.
Mary watched a little while and then, because Mary is a worker herself, she just had to get busy and help. Rather timidly she told her big cousin that she would like to have a share in building the new house.
“All right,” replied Paddy, “that will be fine. You can bring mud while I am getting the sticks and grass.”
So Mary dived down to the bottom of the pond and dug up mud and piled it on the foundation and was happy. The little stars looked down and twinkled merrily as they watched the two workers. So the foundation grew and grew down under the water. Mary was very much surprised at the size of it. It was ever and ever so much bigger than the foundation for her own house. You see, she had forgotten how much bigger Paddy is.
Each night Mary and Paddy worked, resting during the daytime. Occasionally Bonnie Coon or Reddy Fox or Unc’ Billy Possum or Jenny Skunk would come to the edge of the pond to see what was going on. Peter Rabbit came every night. But they couldn’t see much because, you know, Paddy and Mary were working under water.
But at last Peter was rewarded. There, just above the water, was a splendid platform of mud and grass and sticks. A great many sticks were carefully laid as soon as the platform was above the water, for Paddy was very particular about this. You see, it was to be the floor for the splendid room she was planning to build. When it suited her, she began to pile mud in the very middle.
Mary puzzled and puzzled over this. Where was Paddy’s room going to be, if she piled up the mud that way? But she didn’t like to ask questions, so she kept right on helping. Paddy would dive down to the bottom and then come up with double handfuls of mud, which she held against her chest. She would scramble out onto the platform and waddle over to the pile in the middle, where she would put the mud and pat it down. Then back to the bottom for more mud.
And so the mud pile grew and grew, until it was quite two feet high. “Now,” said Paddy, “I’ll build the walls, and I guess you can’t help me much with those. I’m going to begin them tomorrow night. Perhaps you will like to see me do it, Cousin Mary.”
“I certainly will,” replied Mary, still puzzling over that pile of mud in the middle.
Mary Muskrat was more and more sure that her big cousin, Paddy the Beaver, didn’t know quite so much as she might about house-building. Mary would have liked to offer some suggestions, but she didn’t quite dare. You see, she was very anxious not to displease her big cousin. But she felt that she simply had got to speak her mind to some one, so she swam across to where she had seen Peter Rabbit almost every night since Paddy began to build. Sure enough, Peter was there, sitting up very straight and staring with big round eyes at the platform of mud and sticks out in the water where Paddy the Beaver was at work.
“Well, Peter, what do you think of it?” asked Mary.
“What is it?” asked Peter innocently. “Is it another dam?”
Mary threw back her head and laughed and laughed.
Peter looked at her suspiciously. “I don’t see anything to laugh at,” said he.
“Why, it’s a house. It’s Paddy’s new house,” replied Mary, wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes.
Peter retorted, “How was I to know that that pile of mud and sticks is meant for a house? It certainly doesn’t look it. Where is the door?”
“To tell you the truth, I don’t think it is much of a house myself,” replied Mary. “It has got a door, all right. In fact, it has got three. You can’t see them because they are under water, and there is a passage from each right up through that platform of mud and sticks, which is the foundation of the house. It really is a very fine foundation, Peter; it really is. But what I can’t understand is what Paddy is thinking of by building that great pile of mud right in the middle. When she gets her walls built, where will her bedroom be? There won’t be any room at all. It won’t be a house at all — just a big useless pile of sticks and mud.”
Peter scratched his head and then pulled his whiskers thoughtfully as he gazed out at the pile in the water where Paddy the Beaver was at work.
“It does look foolish, that’s a fact,” said he. “Why don’t you point out to her the mistake she is making, Mary? You have built such a splendid house yourself that you ought to be able to help Paddy and show her her mistakes.”
Mary had smiled a very self-satisfied smile when Peter mentioned her fine house, but she shook her head at the suggestion that she should give Paddy advice.
“I — I don’t just like to,” she confessed. “You know, she might not like it and — and it doesn’t seem as if it would be quite polite.”
Peter sniffed. “That wouldn’t trouble me any if she were my cousin,” said he.
Mary shook her head. “No, I don’t believe it would,” she replied, “but it does trouble me and — and — well, I think I’ll wait awhile.”
Now all this time Paddy had been hard at work. She was bringing the longest branches which she had cut from the trees out of which she had built her dam, and a lot of slender willow and alder poles. she pushed these ahead of her as she swam. When she reached the foundation of her house, she would lean them against the pile of mud in the middle with their big ends resting on the foundation. So she worked all the way around until by and by the mud pile in the middle couldn’t be seen. It was completely covered with sticks, and they were cunningly fastened together at the tops.
If you think you know it all
You are riding for a fall.
Use your ears and use your eyes,
But hold your tongue and you’ll be wise.
Mary Muskrat will tell you that is as true as true can be.
Mary knows. She found it out for herself. Now she is very careful what she says about other people or what they are doing. But she wasn’t so careful when her cousin, Paddy the Beaver, was building her house. No, Sir, Mary wasn’t so careful then. She thought she knew more about building a house than Paddy did. She was sure of it when she watched Paddy heap up a great pile of mud right in the middle where her room ought to be, and then build a wall of sticks around it. she said as much to Peter Rabbit.
Now it is never safe to say anything to Peter Rabbit that you don’t care to have others know. Peter has a great deal of respect for Mary Muskrat’s opinion on house-building. You see, he very much admires Mary’s snug house in the Smiling Pool. It really is a very fine house, and Mary may be excused for being proud of it. But that doesn’t excuse Mary for thinking that she knows all there is to know about house-building. Of course Peter told every one he met that Paddy the Beaver was making a foolish mistake in building her house, and that Mary Muskrat, who ought to know, said so.
So whenever they got the chance, the little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows would steal up to the shore of Paddy’s new pond and chuckle as they looked out at the great pile of sticks and mud which Paddy had built for a house, but in which she had forgotten to make a room. At least they supposed that she had forgotten this very important thing. She must have, for there wasn’t any room. It was a great joke. They laughed a lot about it, and they lost a great deal of the respect for Paddy which they had had since she built her wonderful dam.
Mary and Peter sat in the moonlight talking it over. Paddy had stopped bringing sticks for her wall. She had dived down out of sight, and she was gone a long time. Suddenly Mary noticed that the water had grown very, very muddy all around Paddy’s new house. She wrinkled her brows trying to think what Paddy could be doing. Presently Paddy came up for air. Then she went down again, and the water grew muddier than ever. This went on for a long time. Every little while Paddy would come up for air and a few minutes of rest. Then down she would go, and the water would grow muddier and muddier.
At last Mary could stand it no longer. She just had to see what was going on. She slipped into the water and swam over to where the water was muddiest. Just as she got there up came Paddy.
“Hello, Cousin Mary!” said she. “I was just going to invite you over to see what you think of my house inside. Just follow me.”
Paddy dived, and Mary dived after her. She followed Paddy in at one of the three doorways under water and up a smooth hall right into the biggest, nicest bedroom Mary had ever seen in all her life. She just gasped in sheer surprise. She couldn’t do anything else. She couldn’t find her tongue to say a word. Here she was in this splendid great room up above the water, and she had been so sure that there wasn’t any room at all! She just didn’t know what to make of it.
Paddy’s eyes twinkled. “Well,” said she, “what do you think of it?”
“I — I — think it is splendid, just perfectly splendid! But I don’t understand it at all, Cousin Paddy. I — I — where is that great pile of mud I helped you build in the middle?” Mary looked as foolish as she felt when she asked this.
“Why, I’ve dug it all away. That’s what made the water so muddy,” replied Paddy.
“But what did you build it for in the first place?” Mary persisted.
“Because I had to have something to rest my sticks against while I was building my walls, of course,” replied Paddy. “When I got the tops fastened together for a roof, they didn’t need a support any longer, and then I dug it away to make this room. I couldn’t have built such a big room any other way. I see you don’t know very much about house-building, Cousin Mary.”
“I — I’m afraid I don’t,” confessed Mary sadly.
Everybody knew that Paddy the Beaver was laying up a supply of food for the winter, and everybody thought it was strange food. That is, everybody but Prickly Porky the Porcupine thought so. Prickly Porky likes the same kind of food, but she never lays up a supply. She just goes out and gets it when she wants it, winter or summer. What kind of food was it? Why, bark, to be sure. Yes, Sir, it was just bark — the bark of certain kinds of trees.
Now Prickly Porky can climb the trees and eat the bark right there, but Paddy the Beaver cannot climb, and if she should just eat the bark that she can reach from the ground it would take such a lot of trees to keep her filled up that she would soon spoil the Green Forest. You know, when the bark is taken off a tree all the way around, the tree dies. That is because all the things that a tree draws out of the ground to make it grow and keep it alive are carried up from the roots in the sap, and the sap cannot go up the tree trunks and into the branches when the bark is taken off, because it is up the inside of the bark that it travels. So when the bark is taken from a tree all the way around the trunk, the tree just starves to death.
Now Paddy the Beaver loves the Green Forest as dearly as you and I do, and perhaps even a little more dearly. You see, it is her home. Besides, Paddy never is wasteful. So she cuts down a tree so that she can get all the bark instead of killing a whole lot of trees for a very little bark, as she might do if she were lazy. There isn’t a lazy bone in her — not one. The bark she likes best is from the aspen. When she cannot get that, she will eat the bark from the poplar, the alder, the willow, and even the birch. But she likes the aspen so much better that she will work very hard to get it. Perhaps it tastes better because she does have to work so hard for it.
There were some aspen-trees growing right on the edge of the pond Paddy had made in the Green Forest. These she cut just as she had cut the trees for her dam. As soon as a tree was down, she would cut it into short lengths, and with these swim out to where the water was deep, close to her new house. She took them one by one and carried the first ones to the bottom, where she pushed them into the mud just enough to hold them. Then, as fast as she brought more, she piled them on the first ones. And so the pile grew and grew.
Mary Muskrat, Peter Rabbit, Bonnie Coon, and the other little people of the Green Forest watched her with the greatest interest and curiosity. They couldn’t quite make out what she was doing. It was almost as if she were building the foundation for another house.
“What’s she doing, Mary?” demanded Peter, when he could keep still no longer.
“I don’t exactly know,” replied Mary. “She said that she was going to lay in a supply of food for the winter, just as I told you, and I suppose that is what she is doing. But I don’t quite understand what she is taking it all out into the pond for. I believe I’ll go ask her.”
“Do, and then come tell us,” begged Peter, who was growing so curious that he couldn’t sit still.
So Mary swam out to where Paddy was so busy. “Is this your food supply, Cousin Paddy?” she asked.
“Yes,” replied Paddy, crawling up on the side of her house to rest. “Yes, this is my food supply. Isn’t it splendid?”
“I guess it is,” replied Mary, trying to be polite, “though I like lily-roots and clams better. But what are you going to do with it? Where is your storehouse?”
“This pond is my storehouse,” replied Paddy. “I will make a great pile right here close to my house, and the water will keep it nice and fresh all winter. When the pond is frozen over, all I will have to do is to slip out of one of my doorways down there on the bottom, swim over here and get a stick, and fill my stomach. Isn’t it handy?”
Very early one morning Paddy the Beaver heard Sammy Jay making a terrible fuss over in the aspen-trees on the edge of the pond Paddy had made in the Green Forest. Paddy couldn’t see because she was inside her house, and it has no window, but she could hear. She wrinkled up her brows thoughtfully.
“Seems to me that Sammy is very much excited this morning,” said she, talking to herself, a way she has because she is so much alone. “When she screams like that, Sammy is usually trying to do two things at once — make trouble for somebody and keep somebody else out of trouble; and when you come to think of it, that’s rather a funny way of doing. It shows that she isn’t all bad, and at the same time she is a long way from being all good. Now, I should say from the sounds that Sammy has discovered Reddy Fox trying to steal up on some one over where my aspen-trees are growing. Reddy is afraid of me, but I suspect that he knows that Peter Rabbit has been hanging around here a lot lately, watching me work, and he thinks perhaps he can catch Peter. I shall have to whisper in one of Peter’s long ears and tell him to watch out.”
After a while she heard Sammy Jay’s voice growing fainter and fainter in the Green Forest. Finally she couldn’t hear it at all. “Whoever was there has gone away, and Sammy has followed just to torment them,” thought Paddy. She was very busy making a bed. She is very particular about her bed, is Paddy the Beaver. She makes it of fine splinters of wood which she splits off with those wonderful great cutting teeth of hers. This makes the driest kind of a bed. It requires a great deal of patience and work, but patience is one of the first things a little Beaver learns, and honest work well done is one of the greatest pleasures in the world, as Paddy long ago found out for herself. So she kept at work on her bed for some time after all was still outside.
At last Paddy decided that she would go over to her aspen-trees and look them over to decide which ones she would cut the next night. She slid down one of her long halls, out the doorway at the bottom of the pond, and then swam up to the surface, where she floated for a few minutes with just her head out of water. And all the time her eyes and nose and ears were busy looking, smelling, and listening for any sign of danger. Everything was still. Sure that she was quite safe, Paddy swam across to the place where the aspen-trees grew, and waddled out on the shore.
Paddy looked this way and looked that way. She looked up in the tree tops, and she looked off up the hill, but most of all she looked at the ground. Yes, Sir, Paddy just studied the ground. You see, she hadn’t forgotten the fuss Sammy Jay had been making there, and she was trying to find out what it was all about. At first she didn’t see anything unusual, but by and by she happened to notice a little wet place, and right in the middle of it was something that made Paddy’s eyes open wide. It was a footprint! Someone had carelessly stepped in the mud.
“Ha!” exclaimed Paddy, and the hair on her back lifted ever so little, and for a minute she had a prickly feeling all over. The footprint was very much like that of Reddy Fox, only it was larger.
“Ha!” said Paddy again, “that certainly is the footprint of Old Man Coyote! I see I have got to watch out more sharply than I had thought for. All right, Mr. Coyote; now that I know you are about, you’ll have to be smarter than I think you are to catch me. You certainly will be back here tonight looking for me, so I think I’ll do my cutting right now in the daytime.”
Paddy the Beaver was hard at work. She had just cut down a good-sized aspen tree and now she was gnawing it into short lengths to put in her food pile in the pond. As she worked, Paddy was doing a lot of thinking about the footprint of Old Man Coyote in a little patch of mud, for she knew that meant that Old Man Coyote had discovered her pond, and would be hanging around, hoping to catch Paddy off her guard. Paddy knew it just as well as if Old Man Coyote had told her so. That was why she was at work cutting her food supply in the daytime. Usually she works at night, and she knew that Old Man Coyote knew it.
“He’ll try to catch me then,” thought Paddy, “so I’ll do my working on land now and fool him.”
The tree she was cutting began to sway and crack. Paddy cut out one more big chip, then hurried away to a safe place while the tree fell with a crash.
“Thief! thief! thief!” screamed a voice just back of Paddy.
“Hello, Sammy Jay! I see you don’t feel any better than usual this morning,” said Paddy. “Don’t you want to sit up in this tree while I cut it down?”
Sammy grew black in the face with anger, for she knew that Paddy was laughing at her. You remember how only a few days before she had been so intent on calling Paddy bad names that she actually hadn’t noticed that Paddy was cutting the very tree in which she was sitting, and so when it fell she had had a terrible fright.
“You think you are very smart, Ms. Beaver, but you’ll think differently one of these fine days!” screamed Sammy. “If you knew what I know, you wouldn’t be so well satisfied with yourself.”
“What do you know?” asked Paddy, pretending to be very much alarmed.
“I’m not going to tell you what I know,” retorted Sammy Jay. “You’ll find out soon enough. And when you do find out, you’ll never steal another tree from our Green Forest. Somebody is going to catch you, and it isn’t Farmer Brown’s Girl either!”
Paddy pretended to be terribly frightened. “Oh, who is it? Please tell me, Ms. Jay,” she begged.
Now to be called Ms. Jay made Sammy feel very important. Nearly everybody else called her Sammy. She swelled herself out trying to look as important as she felt, and her eyes snapped with pleasure. She was actually making Paddy the Beaver afraid. At least she thought she was.
“No, Sir, I won’t tell you,” she replied. “I wouldn’t be you for a great deal though! Somebody who is smarter than you are is going to catch you, and when he gets through with you, there won’t be anything left but a few bones. No, Sir, nothing but a few bones!”
“Oh, Ms. Jay, this is terrible news! Whatever am I to do?” cried Paddy, all the time keeping right on at work cutting another tree.
“There’s nothing you can do,” replied Sammy, grinning wickedly at Paddy’s fright. “There’s nothing you can do unless you go right straight back to the North where you came from. You think you are very smart but —”
Sammy didn’t finish. Crack! Over fell the tree Paddy had been cutting and the top of it fell straight into the alder in which Sammy was sitting. “Oh! Oh! Help!” shrieked Sammy, spreading her wings and flying away just in time.
Paddy sat down and laughed until her sides ached. “Come make me another call some day, Sammy!” she said. “And when you do, please bring some real news. I know all about Old Man Coyote. You can tell him for me that when he is planning to catch people he should be careful not to leave footprints to give himself away.”
Sammy didn’t reply. She just sneaked off through the Green Forest, looking quite as foolish as she felt.
Coyote has a crafty brain;
His wits are sharp his ends to gain.
There is nothing in the world more true than that. Old Man Coyote has the craftiest brain of all the little people of the Green Forest or the Green Meadows. Sharp as are the wits of old Granny Fox, they are not quite as sharp as the wits of Old Man Coyote. If you want to fool him, you will have to get up very early in the morning, and then it is more than likely that you will be the one fooled, not he. There is very little going on around him that he doesn’t know about. But once in a while something escapes him. The coming of Paddy the Beaver to the Green Forest was one of these things. He didn’t know a thing about Paddy until Paddy had finished her dam and her house, and was cutting her supply of food for the winter.
You see, it was this way: When the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind first heard what was going on in the Green Forest and hurried around over the Green Meadows and through the Green Forest to spread the news, as is their way, they took the greatest pains not to even hint it to Old Man Coyote because they were afraid that he would make trouble and perhaps drive Paddy away. The place that Paddy had chosen to build her dam was so deep in the Green Forest that Old Man Coyote seldom went that way. So it was that he knew nothing about Paddy, and Paddy knew nothing about him for some time.
But after a while Old Man Coyote noticed that the little people of the Green Meadows were not about as much as usual. They seemed to have a secret of some kind. He mentioned the matter to his friend, Digger the Badger.
Digger had been so intent on his own affairs that he hadn’t noticed anything unusual, but when Old Man Coyote mentioned the matter he remembered that Blacky the Crow headed straight for the Green Forest every morning. Several times he had seen Sammy Jay flying in the same direction as if in a great hurry to get somewhere.
Old Man Coyote grinned. “That’s all I need to know, friend Digger,” said he. “When Blacky the Crow and Sammy Jay visit a place more than once, something interesting is going on there. I think I’ll take a stroll up through the Green Forest and have a look around.”
With that, off Old Man Coyote started. But he was too sly and crafty to go straight to the Green Forest. He pretended to hunt around over the Green Meadows just as he usually did, all the time working nearer and nearer to the Green Forest. When he reached the edge of it, he slipped in among the trees, and when he felt sure that no one was likely to see him, he began to run this way and that way with his nose to the ground.
“Ha!” he exclaimed presently, “Reddy Fox has been this way lately.”
Pretty soon he found another trail. “So,” said he, “Peter Rabbit has been over here a good deal of late, and his trail goes in the same direction as that of Reddy Fox. I guess all I have to do now is to follow Peter’s trail, and it will lead me to what I want to find out.”
So Old Man Coyote followed Peter’s trail, and he presently came to the pond of Paddy the Beaver. “Ha!” said he, as he looked out and saw Paddy’s new house. “So there is a newcomer to the Green Forest! I have always heard that Beaver is very good eating. My stomach begins to feel empty this very minute.” His mouth began to water, and a fierce, hungry look shone in his yellow eyes.
It was just then that Sammy Jay saw him and began to scream at the top of her lungs so that Paddy the Beaver over in her house heard her. Old Man Coyote knew that it was of no use to stay longer with Sammy Jay about, so he took a hasty look at the pond and found where Paddy came ashore to cut her food. Then, shaking his fist at Sammy Jay, he started straight back for the Green Meadows. “I’ll just pay a visit here in the night,” said he, “and give Ms. Beaver a surprise while she is at work.”
But with all his craft, Old Man Coyote didn’t notice that he had left a footprint in the mud.
Old Man Coyote lay stretched out in his favorite napping place on the Green Meadows. He was thinking of what he had discovered up in the Green Forest that morning — that Paddy the Beaver was living there. Old Man Coyote’s thoughts seemed very pleasant to himself, though really they were very dreadful thoughts. You see, he was thinking how easy it was going to be to catch Paddy the Beaver, and what a splendid meal she would make. He licked his chops at the thought.
“She doesn’t know I know she’s here,” thought Old Man Coyote. “In fact, I don’t believe she even knows that I am anywhere around. Of course, she won’t be watching for me. She cuts her trees at night, so all I will have to do is to hide right close by where she is at work, and she’ll walk right into my mouth. Sammy Jay knows I was up there this morning, but Sammy sleeps at night, so she will not give the alarm. My, my, how good that Beaver will taste!” He licked his chops once more, then yawned and closed his eyes for a nap.
Old Man Coyote waited until jolly, round, red Mr. Sun had gone to bed behind the Purple Hills, and the Black Shadows had crept out across the Green Meadows. Then, keeping in the blackest of them, and looking very much like a shadow himself, he slipped into the Green Forest. It was dark in there, and he made straight for Paddy’s new pond, trotting along swiftly without making a sound. When he was near the aspen trees which he knew Paddy was planning to cut, he crept forward very slowly and carefully. Everything was still as still could be.
“Good!” thought Old Man Coyote. “I am here first, and now all I need do is to hide and wait for Paddy to come ashore.”
So he stretched himself flat behind some brush close beside the little path Paddy had made up from the edge of the water and waited. It was very still, so still that it seemed almost as if he could hear his heart beat. He could see the little stars twinkling in the sky and their own reflections twinkling back at them from the water of Paddy’s pond. Old Man Coyote waited and waited. He is very patient when there is something to gain by it. For such a splendid dinner as Paddy the Beaver would make he felt that he could well afford to be patient. So he waited and waited, and everything was as still as if no living thing but the trees were there. Even the trees seemed to be asleep.
At last, after a long, long time, he heard just the faintest splash. He pricked up his ears and peeped out on the pond with the hungriest look in his yellow eyes. There was a little line of silver coming straight towards him. He knew that it was made by Paddy the Beaver swimming. Nearer and nearer it drew. Old Man Coyote chuckled way down deep inside, without making a sound. He could see Paddy’s head now, and Paddy was coming straight in, as if she hadn’t a fear in the world.
Almost to the edge of the pond swam Paddy. Then she stopped. In a few minutes she began to swim again, but this time it was back in the direction of her house, and she seemed to be carrying something. It was one of the little food logs she had cut that day, and she was taking it out to her storehouse. Then back she came for another. And so she kept on, never once coming ashore. Old Man Coyote waited until Paddy had carried the last log to her storehouse and then, with a loud whack on the water with her broad tail, had dived and disappeared in her house.
Then Old Man Coyote arose and started elsewhere to look for his dinner, and in his heart was bitter disappointment.
For three nights Old Man Coyote had stolen up through the Green Forest with the coming of the Black Shadows and had hidden among the aspen trees where Paddy the Beaver cut her food, and for three nights Paddy had failed to come ashore. Each night she had seemed to have enough food logs in the water to keep her busy without cutting more. Old Man Coyote lay there, and the hungry look in his eyes changed to one of doubt and then to suspicion. Could it be that Paddy the Beaver was smarter than he thought? It began to look very much as if Paddy knew perfectly well that he was hiding there each night. Yes, Sir, that’s the way it looked. For three nights Paddy hadn’t cut a single tree, and yet each night she had plenty of food logs ready to take to her storehouse in the pond.
“That means that she comes ashore in the daytime and cuts her trees,” thought Old Man Coyote as he trotted home the third night, tired and with black anger in his heart. “She couldn’t have found out about me herself; she isn’t smart enough. It must be that some one has told her. And nobody knows that I have been over there but Sammy Jay. It must be she who has been the tattletale. I think I’ll visit Paddy by daylight tomorrow, and then we’ll see!”
Now the trouble with some smart people is that they are never able to believe that others may be as smart as they. Old Man Coyote didn’t know that the first time he had visited Paddy’s pond he had left behind him a footprint in a little patch of soft mud. If he had known it, he wouldn’t have believed that Paddy would be smart enough to guess what that footprint meant. So Old Man Coyote laid all the blame at the door of Sammy Jay, and that very morning, when Sammy came flying over the Green Meadows, Old Man Coyote accused her of being a tattletale and threatened the most dreadful things to Sammy if ever he caught her.
Now Sammy had flown down to the Green Meadows to tell Old Man Coyote how Paddy was doing all her work on land in the daytime. But when Old Man Coyote began to call her a tattletale and accuse her of having warned Paddy, and to threaten dreadful things, she straightway forgot all her anger at Paddy and turned it all on Old Man Coyote. She called him everything she could think of, and this was a great deal, for Sammy has a wicked tongue. When she hadn’t any breath left, she flew over to the Green Forest, and there she hid where she could watch all that was going on.
That afternoon Old Man Coyote tried his new plan. He slipped into the Green Forest, looking this way and that way to be sure that no one saw him. Then very, very softly, he crept up through the Green Forest towards the pond of Paddy the Beaver. As he drew near, he heard a crash, and it made him smile. He knew what it meant. It meant that Paddy was at work cutting down trees. With his stomach almost on the ground, he crept forward little by little, little by little, taking the greatest care not to rustle so much as a leaf. Presently he reached a place where he could see the aspen trees, and there sure enough was Paddy, sitting up on her hind legs and hard at work cutting another tree.
Old Man Coyote lay down for a few minutes to watch. Then he wriggled a little nearer. Slowly and carefully he drew his legs under him and made ready for a rush. Paddy the Beaver was his at last! At just that very minute a harsh scream rang out right over his head “Thief! thief! thief!”
It was Sammy Jay, who had silently followed him all the way. Paddy the Beaver didn’t stop to even look around. She knew what that scream meant, and she scrambled down her little path to the water as she never had scrambled before. And as she dived with a great splash, Old Man Coyote landed with a great jump on the very edge of the pond.
Paddy the Beaver floated in her pond and grinned in the most provoking way at Old Man Coyote, who had so nearly caught her. Old Man Coyote fairly danced with anger on the bank. He had felt so sure of Paddy that time that it was hard work to believe that Paddy had really gotten away from him. He bared his long cruel teeth, and he looked very fierce and ugly.
“Come on in; the water’s fine!” called Paddy.
Now, of course, this wasn’t a nice thing for Paddy to do, for it only made Old Man Coyote all the angrier. You see, Paddy knew perfectly well that she was absolutely safe, and she just couldn’t resist the temptation to say some unkind things. She had had to be on the watch for days lest she should be caught, and so she hadn’t been able to work quite so well as she could have done with nothing to fear, and she still had a lot of preparations to make for winter. So she told Old Man Coyote just what she thought of him, and that he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was or he never would have left a footprint in the mud to give him away.
When Sammy Jay, who was listening and chuckling as she listened, heard that, she flew down where she would be just out of reach of Old Man Coyote, and then she just turned that tongue of hers loose, and you know that some people say that Sammy’s tongue is hung in the middle and wags at both ends. Of course, this isn’t really so, but when she gets to abusing people it seems as if it must be true. She called Old Man Coyote every bad name she could think of. She called him a sneak, a thief, a coward, a bully, and a lot of other things.
“You said I had warned Paddy that you were trying to catch her and that was why you failed to find her at work at night, and all the time you had warned her yourself!” screamed Sammy. “I used to think that you were smart, but I know better now. Paddy is twice as smart as you are.”
“Mr. Coyote is ever so sly;
Mr. Coyote is clever and spry;
If you believe all you hear.
Mr. Coyote is naught of the kind;
Mr. Coyote is stupid and blind;
he can’t catch a flea on his ear.”
Paddy the Beaver laughed till the tears came at Sammy’s foolish verse, but it made Old Man Coyote angrier than ever. He was angry with Paddy for escaping from him, and he was angry with Sammy, terribly angry, and the worst of it was he couldn’t catch either one, for one was at home in the water and the other was at home in the air and he couldn’t follow in either place. Finally he saw it was of no use to stay there to be laughed at, so, muttering and grumbling, he started for the Green Meadows.
As soon as he was out of sight Paddy turned to Sammy Jay.
“Ms. Jay,” said she, knowing how it pleased Sammy to be called that, “Ms. Jay, you have done me a mighty good turn today, and I am not going to forget it. You can call me what you please and scream at me all you please, but you won’t get any satisfaction out of it, because I simply won’t get angry. I will say to myself, ‘Ms. Jay saved my life the other day,’ and then I won’t mind your tongue.”
Now this made Sammy feel very proud and very happy. You know it is very seldom that she hears anything nice said of her. She flew down on the stump of one of the trees Paddy had cut. “Let’s be friends,” said she.
“With all my heart!” replied Paddy.
Paddy sat looking thoughtfully at the aspen trees she would have to cut to complete her store of food for the winter. All those near the edge of her pond had been cut. The others were scattered about some little distance away. “I don’t know,” said Paddy out loud. “I don’t know.”
“What don’t you know?” asked Sammy Jay, who, now that she and Paddy had become friends, was very much interested in what Paddy was doing.
“Why,” replied Paddy, “I don’t know just how I am going to get those trees. Now that Old Man Coyote is watching for me, it isn’t safe for me to go very far from my pond. I suppose I could dig a canal up to some of the nearest trees and then float them down to the pond, but it is hard to work and keep sharp watch for enemies at the same time. I guess I’ll have to be content with some of these alders growing close to the water, but the bark of aspens is so much better that I — I wish I could get them.”
“What’s a canal?” asked Sammy abruptly.
“A canal? Why, a canal is a kind of ditch in which water can run,” replied Paddy.
Sammy nodded. “I’ve seen Farmer Brown dig one over on the Green Meadows, but it looked like a great deal of work. I didn’t suppose that any one else could do it. Do you really mean that you can dig a canal, Paddy?”
“Of course I mean it,” replied Paddy, in a surprised tone of voice. “I have helped dig lots of canals. You ought to see some of them back where I came from.”
“I’d like to,” replied Sammy. “I think it is perfectly wonderful. I don’t see how you do it.”
“It’s easy enough when you know how,” replied Paddy. “If I dared to, I’d show you.”
Sammy had a sudden idea. It almost made her gasp. “I tell you what, you work and I’ll keep watch!” she cried. “You know my eyes are very sharp.”
“Will you?” cried Paddy eagerly. “That would be perfectly splendid. You have the sharpest eyes of any one whom I know, and I would feel perfectly safe with you on watch. But I don’t want to put you to all that trouble, Ms. Jay.”
“Of course I will,” replied Sammy, “and it won’t be any trouble at all. I’ll just love to do it.” You see, it made Sammy feel very proud to have Paddy say that she had such sharp eyes. “When will you begin?”
“Right away, if you will just take a look around and see that it is perfectly safe for me to come out on land.”
Sammy didn’t wait to hear more. She spread her beautiful blue wings and started off over the Green Forest straight for the Green Meadows. Paddy watched her go with a puzzled and disappointed air. “That’s funny,” thought she. “I thought she really meant it, and now off she goes without even saying goodbye.”
In a little while back came Sammy, all out of breath. “It’s all right,” she panted. “You can go to work just as soon as you please.”
Paddy looked more puzzled than ever. “How do you know?” she asked. “I haven’t seen you looking around.”
“I did better than that,” replied Sammy. “If Old Man Coyote had been hiding somewhere in the Green Forest, it might have taken me some time to find him. But he isn’t. You see, I flew straight over to his home in the Green Meadows to see if he is there, and he is. He’s taking a sun-bath and looking as cross as two sticks. I don’t think he’ll be back here this morning, but I’ll keep a sharp watch while you work.”
Paddy made Sammy a low bow. “You certainly are smart, Ms. Jay,” said she. “I wouldn’t have thought of going over to Old Man Coyote’s home to see if he was there. I’ll feel perfectly safe with you on guard. Now I’ll get to work.”
Mary Muskrat had been home at the Smiling Pool for several days. But she couldn’t stay there long. Oh, my, no! she just had to get back to see what her big cousin, Paddy the Beaver, was doing. So as soon as she was sure that everything was all right at the Smiling Pool she hurried back up the Laughing Brook to Paddy’s pond, deep in the Green Forest. As soon as she was in sight of it, she looked eagerly for Paddy. At first she didn’t see her. Then she stopped and gazed over at the place where Paddy had been cutting aspen-trees for food. Something was going on there, something weird. She couldn’t make it out.
Just then Sammy Jay came flying over.
“What’s Paddy doing?” Mary asked.
Sammy Jay dropped down to the top of an alder-tree and fluffed out all her feathers in a very important way. “Oh,” said she, “Paddy and I are building something!”
“You! Paddy and you! Ha, ha! Paddy and you building something!” Mary laughed.
“Yes, me!” snapped Sammy angrily. “That’s what I said; Paddy and I are building something.”
Mary had begun to swim across the pond by this time, and Sammy was flying across. “Why don’t you tell the truth, Sammy, and say that Paddy is building something and you are making her all the trouble you can?” called Mary.
Sammy’s eyes snapped angrily, and she darted down at Mary’s little brown head. “It isn’t true!” she shrieked. “You ask Paddy if I’m not helping!”
Mary ducked under water to escape Sammy’s sharp bill. When she came up again, Sammy was over in the little grove of aspen-trees where Paddy was at work. Then Mary discovered something. What was it? Why a little water-path led right up to the aspen-trees, and there, at the end of the little water-path, was Paddy the Beaver hard at work. She was digging and piling the earth on one side very neatly. In fact, she was making the water-path longer. Mary swam right up the little water-path to where Paddy was working. “Good morning, Cousin Paddy,” said she. “What are you doing?”
“Oh,” replied Paddy, “Sammy Jay and I are building a canal.”
Sammy Jay looked down at Mary in triumph, and Mary looked at Paddy as if she thought that she was joking.
“Sammy Jay? What’s Sammy Jay got to do about it?” demanded Mary.
“A whole lot,” replied Paddy. “You see, she keeps watch while I work. If she didn’t, I couldn’t work, and there wouldn’t be any canal. Old Man Coyote has been trying to catch me, and I wouldn’t dare work on shore if it wasn’t that I am sure that the sharpest eyes in the Green Forest are watching for danger.”
Sammy Jay looked very much pleased indeed and very proud. “So you see it takes both of us to make this canal; I dig while Sammy watches. So we are building it together,” concluded Paddy with a twinkle in her eyes.
“I see,” said Mary slowly. Then she turned to Sammy Jay. “I beg your pardon, Sammy,” said she. “I do, indeed.”
“That’s all right,” replied Sammy airily. “What do you think of our canal?”
“I think it is wonderful,” replied Mary.
And indeed it was a very fine canal, straight, wide, and deep enough for Paddy to swim in and float her logs out to the pond. Yes, indeed, it was a very fine canal.
”Sharp her tongue and sharp her eyes—
Sammy guards against surprise.
If ’twere not for Sammy Jay
I could do no work today.”
When Sammy overheard Paddy the Beaver say that to Mary Muskrat, it made her swell up all over with pure pride. You see, Sammy is so used to hearing bad things about herself that to hear something nice like that pleased her immensely. She straightway forgot all the mean things she had said to Paddy when she first saw her — how she had called her a thief because she had cut the aspen-trees she needed. She forgot all this. She forgot how Paddy had made her the laughing-stock of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows by cutting down the very tree in which she had been sitting. She forgot everything but that Paddy had trusted her to keep watch and now was saying nice things about her. She made up her mind that she would deserve all the nice things that Paddy could say, and she thought that Paddy was the finest friend in the world.
Mary Muskrat looked doubtful. She didn’t trust Sammy, and she took care not to go far from the water when she heard that Old Man Coyote had been hanging around. But Paddy worked away just as if she hadn’t a fear in the world.
“The way to make people want to be trusted is to trust them,” said she to herself. “If I show Sammy Jay that I don’t really trust her, she will think it is of no use to try and will give it up. But if I do trust her, and she knows that I do, she’ll be the best watchman in the Green Forest.”
And this shows that Paddy the Beaver has a great deal of wisdom, for it was just as she thought. Sammy was on hand bright and early every morning. She made sure that Old Man Coyote was nowhere in the Green Forest, and then she settled herself comfortably in the top of a tall pine-tree where she could see all that was going on while Paddy the Beaver worked.
Paddy had finished her canal, and a beautiful canal it was, leading straight from her pond up to the aspen-trees. As soon as she had finished it, she began to cut the trees. As soon as one was down she would cut it into short lengths and roll them into the canal. Then she would float them out to her pond and over to her storehouse. She took the larger branches, on which there was sweet, tender bark, in the same way, for Paddy is never wasteful.
After a while she went over to her storehouse, which, you know, was nothing but a great pile of aspen-logs and branches in her pond close by her house. She studied it very carefully. Then she swam back and climbed up on the bank of her canal.
“Ms. Jay,” said she, “I think our work is about finished.”
“What!” cried Sammy, “Aren’t you going to cut the rest of those aspen-trees?”
“No,” replied Paddy. “Enough is always enough, and I’ve got enough to last me all winter. I want those trees for next year. Now I am fixed for the winter. I think I’ll take it easy for a while.”
Sammy looked disappointed. You see she had just begun to learn that the greatest pleasure in the world comes from doing things for other people. For the first time since she could remember, some one wanted her around and it gave her such a good feeling down deep inside!