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Title: South American Jungle Tales
Author: Quiroga, Horacio
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "South American Jungle Tales" ***

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[Illustration: "With a great roar an army of them came leaping down to
the river bank."]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                      SOUTH AMERICAN JUNGLE TALES

                                   BY

                            HORACIO QUIROGA

     _Authorized translation from the Spanish (Cuentos de la Seloa)
                         by Arthur Livingston_

                             ILLUSTRATED BY

                              A. L. RIPLEY

                             [Illustration]

                                NEW YORK
                          DUFFIELD AND COMPANY
                                  1922

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           COPYRIGHT, 1922 BY
                          DUFFIELD AND COMPANY


                         _Printed in U. S. A._

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

             HOW THE RAYS DEFENDED THE FORD
             THE STORY OF TWO RACCOON CUBS AND TWO MAN CUBS
             THE PARROT THAT LOST ITS TAIL
             THE BLIND DOE
             THE ALLIGATOR WAR
             HOW THE FLAMINGOES GOT THEIR STOCKINGS
             THE LAZY BEE
             THE GIANT TORTOISE'S GOLDEN RULE

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             ILLUSTRATIONS

    "With a great roar an army of them came leaping down to the
    river bank"

    "Nice bird! Nice bird!" he growled. "Please come a little
    closer"

    "The flamingoes ... hopped down to the river, and waded out ...
    to relieve their pain"

    "He could not help feeling sorry for the poor turtle ..."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                      SOUTH AMERICAN JUNGLE TALES



                     HOW THE RAYS DEFENDED THE FORD


In South America there is a river called the Yabebirì; and it flows
through the city of Misiones. In this river there are many rays, a kind
of mud fish like the salt-water skate; and the river, indeed, gets its
name from them: "Yabebirì" means the "river of ray fish." The ray is a
wide, flat fish with a long, slender tail. The tail is very bony; and
when it strikes you it cuts, and leaves poison in the wound.

There are so many rays in the river that it is dangerous even to put
your foot into the water. I once knew a man who had his heel pricked by
a ray. He had to walk more than two miles home, groaning with pain all
the way and fainting several times from the poison. The pain from a ray
bite is one of the sharpest pains one can feel.

But there are also other kinds of fish in the Yabebirì; and most of them
are good to eat. That is why some evil men once began to fish for them
with dynamite. They put the dynamite under water and set it off. The
shock of the explosion stunned and killed all the fish nearby; and not
only the big fish, but also the little ones, which cannot be eaten. It
is very cruel and wasteful to hunt fish with dynamite.

However, there was a man who lived on the bank of the river; and he was
sorry for the poor fish, especially the little ones; and he told the bad
men that they must stop bombing the fish. At first they were angry and
said they would do what they liked. But the man was known everywhere to
be an upright, honest man, and finally they obeyed him and set off no
more bombs in the river.

And the fish were grateful to this man, whom they had come to know the
moment he approached the edge of the water. Whenever he walked along the
bank smoking his pipe, the rays especially would swim along the bottom
to keep him company. He, of course, did not know he had so many friends
in the river. He lived there just because he liked the place.

Now, it happened one afternoon that a fox came running down to the
river; and putting his forepaws into the water he called:

"Hey there, you ray fish! Quick! Quick! Here comes that friend of yours!
He's in trouble!"

All the rays who heard came swimming up anxiously to the edge of the
water.

"What's the matter? Where is he?" they asked.

"Here he comes!" answered the fox. "He has been fighting with a panther,
and is trying to get away! He wants to get over to that island! Let him
cross, for he is a very good man!"

"Of course we will! Of course we will!" the rays answered. "As for the
panther, we will fix him!"

"Yes, but remember a panther is a panther!" said the fox; by which he
meant that a panther is almost as hard to fight with as a tiger. And the
fox gave a little jump and ran back into the woods, so as not to be near
when the panther came.

A second or two later, the branches along the river bank were pushed
aside, and the man came running down to the water's edge. He was all
bleeding and his shirt was torn. From a scratch on his face the blood
was streaming down off his chin, and his sleeves were wet with blood
also. It was clear that the man was very badly hurt; for he almost fell
as he ran out into the river. When he put his feet into the water, the
rays moved aside so that their tails would not touch him; and he waded
across to the island, with the water coming up to his breast. On the
other side he fell to the ground fainting from loss of blood.

The rays did not have much time to sit there pitying him. Some distance
behind the man the panther came jumping along with great leaps to catch
him. The big wildcat stopped on the bank, and gave a great roar; but up
and down the river the rays went calling; "The Panther! The Panther!"
and they gathered together near the shore to attack him if he tried to
cross.

The panther looked up and down the stream, and finally he spied the man
lying helpless on the island. He, too, was badly wounded and dripping
with blood; but he was determined to eat the man at any cost. With
another great howl, he leaped into the water.

Almost instantly, however, he felt as though a hundred pins and needles
were sticking into his paws. You see, the rays were trying to block the
ford, and were stinging him with the stingers in their tails. He gave
one big jump back to the river bank and stood there roaring, and holding
one paw up in the air because it hurt him to step on it. After a moment
he looked down into the water and saw that it was all black and muddy.
The rays were coming in great crowds and stirring up the bottom of the
river.

"Ah hah!" said the panther: "Ah hah! I see! It is you, you bad, wicked
ray fish! It was you who gave me all those stings! Well now, just get
out of the way!"

"We will not get out of the way," answered the rays.

"Away, I tell you!" said the panther.

"We won't!" said the rays. "He is a good man. It is not right to kill
him!"

"He gave me these wounds you see," said the panther. "I must punish
him!"

"And you gave him his wounds, too," said the rays. "But that is all a
matter for you folks in the woods to settle. So long as this man is on
the river, he is in our province and we intend to protect him!"

"Get out of my way!" said the panther.

"Not never!" said the rays. You see, the rays had never been to school;
and they said "not never" and "not nothing" the way children sometimes
do and never ought to do, not never!

"Well, we'll see!" said the panther, with another great roar; and he ran
up the bank to get a start for one great jump. The panther understood
that the rays were packed close in along the shore; and he figured that
if he could jump away out into the stream he would get beyond them and
their stingers, and finally reach the wounded man on the island.

But some of the rays saw what he was going to do, and they began to
shout to one another:

"Out to mid-stream! Out to mid-stream! He's going to jump! He's going to
jump!"

The panther did succeed in making a very long leap, and for some seconds
after he struck the water he felt no pain. He gave a great roar of
delight, thinking he had deceived his enemies. But then, all of a
sudden, sting here and sting there, in front, in back, on his sides! The
rays were upon him again, driving their poisonous stingers into his
skin. For a moment, the panther thought it was as easy to go forward as
back, and he kept on. But the rays were now all over along the island;
so the panther turned and went back to the shore he had left.

He was now about done. He just had to lie down on his side to keep the
bottoms of his feet off the ground; and his stomach went up and down as
he breathed deeply from fatigue and pain. He was growing dizzy, also,
because the poison from the stings was getting into his brain.

The rays were not satisfied, however. They kept crowding up along the
shore because they knew that panthers never go alone, but always with a
mate. This mate would come, and they would again have to defend the
ford.

And so it was. Soon the she-panther came down roaring through the bushes
to rescue her husband. She looked across to the island where the man was
lying wounded; and then at her mate, who lay there panting at her feet;
and then down into the water, which was black with rays.

"Ray fish!" she called.

"Well, madam?" answered the rays.

"Let me cross the river!"

"No crossing here for panthers!" said the rays.

"I'll bite the tails off every one of you!" said the she-panther.

"Even without our tails, we won't let you cross!" said the rays.

"For the last time, out of my way!" said the she-panther.

"Not never!" said the rays.

The she-panther now put one foot into the water; but a ray struck at her
with its stinger, and made a sting right between two of her toes.

"Oooouch!" growled the she-panther.

"We have at least one tail left!" mocked the rays.

But the she-panther began to scowl now. When panthers are thinking very
hard they scowl. This one scowled her face into deep wrinkles; which
meant that she had a very important idea. She did not let on what it
was, however. She just trotted off up the bank into the woods without
saying another word.

But the rays understood what she was up to. She was going to some place
farther along the stream where there were no rays and would swim across
before they could reach her. And a great fright came over them. Rays
cannot swim very fast, and they knew that the she-panther would get
there before they did.

"Oh, oh!" they cried to each other. "Now our poor man-friend is done
for. How can we let the rays down there know we must prevent the panther
from crossing at any cost?"

But a little ray, who was a very bright and clever little fish, spoke up
and said:

"Get the shiners to carry a message! Shiners can swim like lightning;
and they too ought to be grateful to the man for stopping those bombs!"

"That's it! That's it! Let's send the shiners!"

A school of shiners happened to be just going by; and the rays sent them
off with a message to all the rays along the river:

"Sting the she-panther if she tries to cross! Hold the ford against the
she-panther!"

Though the shiners swam very, very fast, they were barely in time. The
panther was already in the water, and had begun to swim out beyond her
depth. In fact, she was almost over on the other side toward the island.
But when her paws struck bottom and she began to wade again, the rays
were on hand. They rushed in packs upon her legs and feet, stinging them
with tens, hundreds, thousands of stings. At the same time more rays
crowded in between the panther and the shore. Roaring with pain and
anger, she finally swam back to the place where she had jumped in, and
rolled about on the ground in agony. When she came back to where her
husband was lying, her paws and legs were all swollen from the poison.

The rays, for their part, were getting very tired from all this stinging
and hurrying to and fro. And they were not much relieved when they saw
the panther and the she-panther get up all of a sudden and go off into
the woods. What were they up to now? The rays were very much worried,
and they gathered together in council.

"Do you know what I think?" said the oldest ray. "I think they have gone
off to get all the other panthers. When they come back, they will be too
much for us and they will surely get across!"

"That is so!" said the other rays, the older and more experienced ones.
"At least one or two will get across. That will be the end of our
friend, the man! Suppose we go and have a talk with him!"

For the first time they now went over to where the man was lying. They
had been too busy up to then to think of him.

The man had lost a great deal of blood, and was still lying on the
ground; but he was able to sit up enough to talk. The rays told him how
they had been defending the ford against the panthers who had been
trying to eat him. The man could hardly keep in his tears as he thought
of the friendship these fishes had for him. He thanked them by reaching
out his hand and stroking the nearest ones on the nose. But then he
moaned:

"Alas! You cannot save me! When the panthers come back there will be
many of them; and if they want to get across they can."

"No they can't," said a little ray. "No they can't! Nobody but a friend
of ours can cross this ford!"

"I'm afraid they will be too much for you," said the man sadly. After a
moment's thought he added:

"There might be one way to stop them. If there were someone to go and
get my rifle ... I have a Winchester, with a box of bullets ... but the
only friends I have near here are fish ... and fish can't bring me a
rifle!"

"Well...?" asked the rays anxiously.

"Yes ... yes ..." said the man, rubbing his forehead with his right
hand, as though trying to collect his thoughts. "Let's see.... Once I
had a friend, a river hog, whom I tamed and kept in my house to play
with my children. One day he got homesick and went back to the woods to
live. I don't know what became of him ... but I think he came to this
neighborhood!"

The rays gave one great shout of joy:

"We know him! We know him! He lives in the cave just below here in the
river bank. We remember now that he once told us he knew you very well.
We will send him to get the rifle."

No sooner said than done! A shiner, who was the fastest swimmer in his
school, started off down the river to where the river hog lived. It was
not far away; and before long the river hog came up on the bank across
the river. The man picked up a fishbone from the ground near him; and
dipping it in some blood that was on his hand wrote on a dry leaf this
letter to his wife:

    "Dear Wife: Send me my Winchester by this river hog, with a full
    box of a hundred bullets.

                                                  (Signed) The Man."

He was just finishing the letter when the whole river valley began to
tremble with the most frightful roars. The panthers were coming back in
a large company to force a crossing and devour their enemy. Quickly two
rays stuck their heads out of the water. The man handed them the leaf
with the letter written on it; and holding it up clear of the water,
they swam over to where the river hog was. He took it in his mouth and
ran off as fast as he could toward the man's house.

And he had no time to lose. The roaring was now very close to the river
and every moment it was getting nearer. The rays called anxiously to the
shiners, who were hovering in the water nearby waiting for orders:

"Quick, shiners! Swim up and down the river, and give a general alarm!
Have all the rays gather about the island on every side! We will see
whether these panthers get across!"

And up and down the river the shiners darted, streaking the surface with
tiny black wakes, so fast did they move. The rays began coming out from
the mud, from under the stones, from the mouths of the brooks, from all
along the river. They assembled in solid masses, almost, around the
island, bent on keeping the panthers back at whatever cost. And
meanwhile the shiners came streaming up and down past the island,
raising new recruits and ready to give the word when the panthers
appeared.

And the panthers did appear, at last. With a great roar an army of them
came leaping down to the river bank. There were a hundred of them,
perhaps; at least all the panthers in the woods around Misiones. But, on
the other hand, the river was now packed with rays, who were ready to
die, rather than let a single panther across.

"Get out of our way!" roared the panthers.

"No trespassing on this river!" said the rays.

"Gangway!" called the panthers.

"Keep out!" said the rays.

"If you don't get out of the way, we will eat every ray, and every son
of a ray, and every grandson of a ray, not counting the women and
children!" said the panthers.

"Perhaps," said the rays; "but no panther, nor any son, grandson,
daughter, granddaughter, sister, brother, wife, aunt or uncle of a
panther will ever get across this ford!

"For one last time, get out of the way!"

"Not never!" said the rays.

And the battle began.

With enormous bounds and jumps and leaps, the panthers plunged into the
river. But they landed on an almost solid floor of ray fish. The rays
plunged their stingers into the panthers' feet, and at each prick the
panthers would send up the most bloodcurdling roars. Meanwhile the
panthers were clawing and kicking at the rays, making frightful splashes
in the water and tossing up ray fish by the barrel full. Hundreds and
hundreds of rays were caught and torn by the panthers' claws, and went
floating down the Yabebirì, which was soon all tinged with ray blood.
But the panthers were getting terribly stung, too; and many of them had
to go back to the shore, where they lay roaring and whining, holding
their swollen paws up in the air. Though many more of the rays were
being trampled on, and scratched and bitten, they held their ground.
Sometimes when a ray had been tossed into the air by a panther's paw, he
would return to the fight after he had fallen back into the water.

The combat had now lasted as long as half an hour. By that time the
panthers were tired out and had gone back to the shore they came from,
where they sat down to rest and to lick the stings on their paws.

Not one of them had been able to cross the ford, however. But the rays
were in a terrible plight. Thousands of them had been killed; and those
that still remained were about tired to death.

"We cannot stand a second attack like this one," said the rays. "Hey,
shiners! Go up and down the river again, and bring us reenforcements! We
must have every single last ray there is in the Yabebirì!"

And again the shiners were off up and down the river, flecking the
surface of the water with the wakes they left. The rays now thought they
should consult the man again.

"We cannot hold out much longer!" said the rays. And some of them
actually wept for the poor man who was going to be eaten by the
panthers.

"Never mind, please, my dear little rays!" answered the man. "You have
done enough for me! It's a pity that any more of you should die. Now you
had better let the panthers come across."

"Not never!" cried the rays. "So long as there is a ray left alive, we
shall defend the man who defended us and saved our lives from the
bombers."

"My dear friends," said the man in reply, "I think I am bound to die
anyway, I am so badly wounded. But I can promise you that when that
Winchester arrives, you will see some exciting things. That much I am
sure of!"

"Yes, we know! We know!" said the rays. But they could not continue the
conversation: the battle was on again. The panthers had now rested, and
were crouching all on the river bank, ready to take off with great leaps
and bounds.

"We'll give you one last chance!" they called to the rays. "Now be
reasonable! Get out of our way!"

"Not never!" said the rays, crowding up close along the shore in front
of the panthers.

In a flash, the panthers were in the water again, and the same terrible
fight as before was taking place. The Yabebirì from shore to shore was
one mass of bloody foam. Hundreds and hundreds of rays were tossed into
the air, while the panthers bellowed from the pain in their paws. But
not a panther and not a ray gave an inch of ground.

However, the panthers were little by little forcing their way forward.
In vain the shiners darted up and down the river calling in more and
more rays to battle. There were no rays left anywhere along the stream.
Every last ray was either fighting desperately in the army around the
island, or was floating bruised and bleeding down the current. Such as
were still left were all but helpless from the fatigue of their great
efforts.

And now they realized that the battle was lost. Five of the biggest
panthers had broken through the lines of the rays, and were swimming
through clear water straight toward the island. The poor rays decided
they would rather die than see their poor friend eaten by the panthers.

"Retreat to the island!" they called to each other. "Back to the
island!"

But this was too late, alas. Two more panthers had now broken through
the line; and when the rays started for the island, every last panther
on the shore jumped into the water and made for the wounded man. Ten,
twenty, fifty, perhaps a hundred panthers could be seen swimming with
just their heads out of water.

But what was that down there? The rays had been so busy fighting they
had not noticed before. From a point on the shore some distance below
the ford a brown, fuzzy animal had gone into the water, and had been
swimming all this time toward the island. It was the river hog, paddling
along as fast as he could with his head and neck out of the water and
the Winchester in his mouth. He was holding his head away up like that
to keep the rifle dry. On the end of the rifle hung the man's cartridge
belt, full of bullets.

The man gave a great cry of joy; for the river hog was quite a distance
ahead of the panthers, and he would be ashore by the time they began to
wade again. And the river hog did get there in no time. The man was too
weak to move much; so the river hog pulled him around by the collar so
that he lay facing the panthers. In this position the man loaded the
rifle and took aim.

The rays, meanwhile, were heart broken. Crushed, scratched, bruised,
bleeding, worn out from struggling, they saw that they had lost the
battle. The panthers were almost over to the island. In a few moments
their friend would be eaten alive!

C-r-r-ack! C-r-r-r-ack! Bing! Bing. The rays who had their eyes out of
water suddenly saw a panther, who was just coming up out of the river
toward the man, give a great leap into the air and fall back to the
ground in a heap.

The rays understood! "Hoo-ray! Hoo-ray Hoo-ray!" shouted the rays. "The
man has the rifle! He is saved! We have won!" And they dirtied all the
water, so much mud did they stir up by the dancing they started on the
bottom of the river. C-r-r-r-ack! C-r-r-ack! Bing-g-g! Bing-g-g! The
rifle kept going off and the bullets kept singing through the air. At
each shot a panther fell dead on the sand or sank drowning under the
water. The shooting did not last more than a minute and a half, however.
After ten or a dozen panthers had been killed, the others swam back to
the opposite shore and ran off into the woods.

The panthers that were killed in the water, sank to the bottom where the
horn-pouts ate them. Others kept afloat, and the shiners went down the
Yabebirì with them, all the way to the Parana, having a great feast off
panther meat, and jumping and hopping along the top of the water to
express their delight. When the friends of the wounded man came to get
him, they skinned the panthers that were lying on the shore; and the
man's wife had a set of new rugs for her dining room.

Soon the man got well again. And the rays, who have a great many
children each year, were as numerous as ever after one season. The man
was so grateful for what they had done in trying to save his life, that
he built a bungalow on the island and went there to live during his
vacations. On nights in summer, when the moon was shining, he would go
out in front of his bungalow and sit down on a rock over the water to
smoke his pipe. The rays would creep up softly over the bottom and point
him out to fish who did not know him. "There he is, see? The panthers
came across over here; we stood in line over there. And when the
panthers broke through, the man took his rifle, and...."



             THE STORY OF TWO RACCOON CUBS AND TWO MAN CUBS


Once there was a mother raccoon who had three cubs; they all lived in
the woods eating fruits and berries and birds' eggs. Whenever they were
on a tree top and heard a noise, they would jump head foremost to the
ground and scamper off with their tails in the air.

One day when the cubs had grown to be quite large sized raccoons, their
mother took them up all together to the top of an orange tree--you must
know that in South America orange trees, which came originally from
Spain, now grow wild in the forest--and spoke to them as follows:

"Cublets, you are almost big enough to be called raccoons; and it is
time you began to hunt for your meals by yourselves. It is very
important for you to know how to do this, because, when you get to be
old, you will go around all alone in the world, as all raccoons do. The
oldest of you likes snails and cockroaches. He must hunt around
woodpiles and under trunks of rotting trees, where there are always
plenty of snails and cockroaches. The next to the oldest of you seems to
like oranges. Up to the month of December there will be plenty of
oranges right here in this grove. The youngest of you is always asking
for birds' eggs. Well, there are birds' nests everywhere. All he will
have to do is hunt. But one thing, however: he must never go down to the
farm looking for eggs. It is very bad for raccoons to go near farms.

"Cublets, there is one thing more you must all be afraid of: dogs! dogs!
Never go near a dog! Once I had a fight with a dog. Do you see this
broken tooth? Well, I broke it in a fight with a dog! And so I know what
I am talking about! And behind dogs come people, with guns, and the guns
make a great noise, and kill raccoons. Whenever you hear a dog, or a
man, or a gun, jump for your lives no matter how high the tree is, and
run, run, run! If you don't they will kill you as sure as preaching!"

That is what the mother raccoon said to her cublets. Whereupon, they all
got down from the tree top, and went each his own way, nosing about in
the leaves from right to left and from left to right, as though they
were looking for something they had lost. For that is the way raccoons
hunt.

The biggest of the cubs, who liked snails and cockroaches, looked under
every piece of dead wood he came to and overturned the piles of dead
leaves. Soon he had eaten such a fine meal that he grew sleepy and lay
down in a nice cozy bed of leaves and went to sleep. The second one, who
liked oranges, did not move from that very grove. He just went from one
tree to another eating the best oranges; and he did not have to jump
from a tree top once; for neither men, nor dogs, nor guns, came anywhere
near him.

But the youngest, who would have nothing but birds' eggs, had a harder
time of it. He hunted and hunted over the hillsides all day long and
found only two birds' nests--one belonging to a toucan, with three eggs
in it, and the other belonging to a wood dove, with two eggs in it. Five
tiny little eggs! That was not very much to eat for a raccoon almost big
enough to go to school. When evening came the little cub was as hungry
as he had been that morning; and he sat down, all cold and tired and
lonesome, on the very edge of the forest.

From the place where he was sitting he could look down on the green
fields of the farm, and he thought of what his mother had said about
such places.

"Now, why did mamma say that? Why shouldn't I go looking for eggs down
along those fences on the farm?"

And just as he was saying this all to himself, what should he hear but
the song of a strange bird: "Cock-a-doodle-doo-oo-oo"; coming from far,
far away and from the direction of the farmhouse.

"My, did you ever hear a bird sing so loud?" said the cublet to himself.
"What a big bird it must be! And its eggs must be the size of a
cocoanut!"

"Cock-a-doodle-doo-oo-oo," came the bird's song again. The hungry little
raccoon just couldn't do without one of those eggs the size of a
cocoanut. The bird was singing somewhere off to the right. So he made a
short cut through the woods toward the field on the other side.

The sun was setting, but the raccoon cub ran with his tail in the air.
At last he came to the edge of the woods, and looked down again into the
fields.

"Cock-a-doodle-doo-oo-oo!"

Not far away now he could see the farmhouse. There was a man in the
yard. The man was wearing long boots, and leading a horse by the bridle
into a barn. On the fence in the barnyard, the little raccoon saw his
bird.

"What a silly little 'coon I am," he said to himself. "That isn't a
bird! That's a rooster! Mamma showed him to me one day, when we were on
top of a big tree up in the woods. Roosters have a fine song; and they
have a great many hens that lay sweet eggs. I think I could eat a dozen
of those eggs, right now!"

For some time the little raccoon sat looking at the rooster and the barn
and the farmhouse, and thinking of what his mother had said. But at last
he thought: "Mamma is far away! She will never know"; and he made up his
mind that as soon as it was dark he would run down to that hen coop and
see what he could find.

Before long the sun had gone completely and it was so dark you could
hardly see your hand before your face. Walking on tiptoe, the little
raccoon came out from the shadow of the woods, and began making his way
toward the farmhouse.

When he got into the yard, he stopped and listened carefully. Not a
sound! The little raccoon was as happy as could be: he was going to eat
a hundred, a thousand, two thousand of those eggs! He looked around for
the hen coop. There it was! He stole up to the door and peered in.

On the ground, and right in front of the door, what should he see but an
egg? And such a large egg! If it was not as big as a cocoanut, it was at
least as big as an orange! And how brightly it shone in the dark! "Guess
I'll keep that egg for dessert," thought the cub for a moment. But his
mouth began to water and water, and he simply couldn't wait. He stepped
up and put his front teeth into that egg. But--

Trac-c-c!

He had hardly touched it when there was a sharp snapping noise. The
little raccoon felt a hard blow strike him in the face, while a stinging
pain caught him in his right forepaw.

"Mamma! Mamma!" he called, jumping wildly this way and that. But he
could not get his foot loose. He was caught in a trap! And just at that
moment a dog began to bark!

All that time when the little raccoon had been waiting in the woods for
night to come, so that he could go down to get his eggs in the hen coop,
the man who owned the farmhouse had been playing with his children on
the lawn in the yard. One of them was a little girl five years old; and
the other was a little boy six years old. Both had golden hair. They
were chasing their father about and falling down every so often on the
grass. Then they would get up again and run some more. The man would
also pretend to fall and the three of them were having a splendid time.

When it grew dark, the man said:

"Now let's go and set our trap in the hen coop, so that if the weasel
comes to-night to kill our chickens and eat our eggs, we will catch
him."

They went and set the trap. Then the family had dinner, and the little
boy and the little girl were put to bed.

But they were both very much excited about the trap and the weasel. They
could not sleep. Finally they sat up in their beds and began to throw
pillows at each other. Their father and mother were reading down in the
dining room. They heard what the children were doing; but they said
nothing.

Suddenly the pillow-throwing stopped; and after a moment the little boy
called:

"Papa! Papa! The weasel is in the trap. Don't you hear Tuké barking? Let
us go too, papa!"

Tuké, you see, was the name of the dog!

Their father said they might, provided they put their shoes on. He would
never let them go out at night, barefooted, for fear of coral or
rattlesnakes.

So they went in their pajamas, just as they were.

And what, if you please, did they find in the trap? Their father stooped
down in the doorway of the hen coop, holding Tuké back by the collar.
When he stood up, he was holding a little raccoon by the tail; and the
little raccoon was snapping and whistling and screaming "Mamma! Mamma!"
in a sharp, shrill voice like a cricket's.

"Oh, don't kill him, papa! He is such a pretty little 'coon!" said the
boy and the girl. "Give him to us, and we will tame him!"

"Very well," said the father. "You may have him. But don't forget that
raccoons drink water when they are thirsty, the same as little boys and
girls."

He said this because once he had caught a wildcat and given it to them
for a pet. They fed it plenty of meat from the pantry. But they didn't
dream that it needed water. And the poor wildcat died.

The cage where the wildcat had been kept was still standing near the hen
coop. They put the raccoon into the cage, and went back into the house.
This time, when they went to bed, they fell fast asleep at once.

About midnight, when everything was still, the little raccoon, who had a
very sore foot from the cuts made in it by the teeth of the trap, saw
three shadows come creeping up toward his cage; for the moon was now
shining faintly. They came closer and closer, moving softly and
noiselessly over the ground. His heart gave a great leap when he
discovered that it was his mother and his two brothers, who had been
looking for him everywhere.

"Mamma! Mamma!" he began to cry from his cage, but soft-like, so as not
to wake up the dog. "Here I am, here I am. Oh, get me out of here! I'm
afraid! I'm afraid! Mamma! Mamma! Mamma!" The little raccoon was choking
with tears!

The mother and the two brother raccoons were as happy as could be to
find him! They rubbed their noses against him through the wires in the
cage, and tried to stroke him with their paws. Then they set to work to
get him out, if they could. First they examined the wiring of the cage,
and one after another they worked at it with their teeth. But the wire
was thick and tough, and they could do nothing with it. Then an idea
came to the mother raccoon.

"People cut wires with files! Where can we get a file? A file is a long
piece of iron with three sides, like the rattle of a rattlesnake. You
push it away from you across the wire, and then you draw it toward you.
Finally the wire breaks. Let's hunt around in the blacksmith shop, and
we may find one."

They hurried off to the shop where the farmer kept his tools. Soon they
found the file and came back with it to the cage. Thinking it must be
very hard to file off a wire, they all took hold of the file and started
pushing it back and forth between two of the wires. They pushed so hard
that the cage began to shake all over and made a terrible noise. In
fact, it made such a loud noise that Tuké woke up and set to barking at
the top of his voice. The raccoons were frightened out of their wits;
and for fear the dog might ask them where they got that file, they
scampered off, with their tails in the air, toward the forest.

The little boy and the little girl woke up very early in the morning to
go to see their new pet, who had been brooding sadly in his cage all
night long.

"What shall we call him?" asked the little boy.

"Seventeen," answered the little girl. "I can count to seventeen!"

And what did "Seventeen" have for breakfast? One of those hen's eggs he
had tried so hard to get the night before. And after the hen's egg, a
grasshopper, and then a piece of meat, and then a bunch of grapes and
finally a lump of chocolate! By the end of the day, he was letting the
two children reach their finger through the cage to scratch his head;
and so pleased was he at all that was now happening to him that he liked
being a prisoner in a cage almost as much as being a free raccoon cub on
the mountain side. He was all taken up with the nice things that were
placed in his coop for him to eat; and he liked those two yellow-headed
children who kept coming to look at him!

That night and the following one, Tuké, the dog, slept so close to
"Seventeen's" cage that when his mother and his two brothers came back
to make another try at rescuing him, they did not dare approach. But on
the third night everything was as it should be. They went directly to
the shop, got the file, and hurried to the cage.

"But mamma," said the little raccoon, "I guess I'd rather stay where I
am. They feed me all the eggs I want, and they are very kind to me.
Today they told me that if I was good, they would soon let me go about
the yard loose. There are two of them, with yellow hair. And they are
man cubs, just as we are 'coon cubs. We shall have a fine time playing
together."

The three wild raccoons were very sad to hear all this; but they made
the best of it, and went away, just promising to come back and see
"Seventeen" every night.

And so they did. Each evening, as soon as it was dark and whether it was
fair or rainy, the mother raccoon came with her two cublets to see their
little brother. He gave them bread and chocolate, which he handed out
between the wires of his cage; and they ate it on the ground nearby.

In two weeks, he was let loose to run about the yard; and every night he
went back to his cage of his own accord to sleep. He had his ears
tweeked a number of times, when the farmer caught him too close to the
hen coop; otherwise he had no trouble at all. The two children became
much attached to him; and when the wild raccoons heard how kind those
man cubs were to their little brother, they began to be as fond of them
as he was.

But one night, when it was very dark and very hot and a thunderstorm was
gathering on the mountains, the wild raccoons called to "Seventeen" in
vain. "Seventeen! Seventeen! Seventeen!" But he did not answer. In great
alarm they crept up to the cage and looked in.

Pstt!

They drew back just in time. There in the door of the cage a big
rattlesnake lay coiled. They had almost touched him with their noses.
And now they knew why "Seventeen" failed to answer! The rattlesnake had
bitten him and probably he was already dead.

The three raccoons decided they must first punish the rattlesnake. They
rushed upon him from three directions and snipped his head off before he
knew what they were about. Then they hurried inside the cage.
"Seventeen" was lying there on the floor in a pool of blood, his feet up
in the air, and his sides shaking as he panted for breath. They caressed
him with their tongues and licked his body all over for more than a
quarter of an hour. But it did no good. "Seventeen" finally opened his
mouth and stopped breathing altogether. He was dead. Raccoons ordinarily
are not much harmed by rattlesnake poison. Some other animals are not
hurt at all. But this snake had bitten "Seventeen" right through an
artery; and he had died, not of the poison, but from loss of blood.

The mother raccoon and her two cublets wept over his body for a long
time; then, since they could do nothing further for him, they left the
cage where he had been so happy and went back to the woods. But they
kept thinking all the time: "What will the two man cubs say when they
find that their little playmate is dead? They will probably be very,
very sad and cry a long time!" They had grown to love the man cubs just
from what "Seventeen" had said of them; and one thought was in their
three heads--to relieve the sorrow of the two man cubs as best they
could.

They talked the matter over earnestly; and at last they agreed to the
following plan. The second youngest cublet looked almost like the
raccoon who was dead. He had the same markings, was about the same size,
and carried himself in much the same way. Why shouldn't he go and crawl
into the cage, taking the place of his brother? The man cubs would
probably be surprised; but nothing more. The four of them had talked
about everything that went on at the farm so much, that the new raccoon
could easily pretend he had been there all along. He might do it so well
even, that the man cubs would not notice anything at all.

So they ran back to the cage, and the little raccoon took the place of
his dead brother. The mother raccoon and her remaining cub took hold of
"Seventeen" with their teeth and dragged him away off to the woods,
where they buried him under the leaves.

The next day, the man cubs were surprised at a number of strange habits
"Seventeen" seemed to have learned during the night. But the new cub was
just as affectionate to them as the real "Seventeen" had been; and they
never guessed what had happened. The two man cubs played about with the
raccoon cub all day long as usual; and at night the two wild raccoons
came to pay their usual visit. The tame raccoon saved bits of his boiled
eggs for them each time; and they would sit down and eat them on the
ground in front of the cage. He told them all that happened at the farm;
and they told him all the news about doings in the woods.



                     THE PARROT THAT LOST ITS TAIL


In the woods near a farm lived a flock of parrots. Every morning, the
parrots went and ate sweet corn in the garden of the farm. Afternoons
they spent in the orange orchards eating oranges. They always made a
great to-do with their screaming and jawing; but they kept a sentinel
posted on one of the tree tops to let them know if the farmer was
coming.

Parrots are very much disliked by farmers in countries where parrots
grow wild. They bite into an ear of corn and the rest of the ear rots
when the next rain comes. Besides, parrots are very good to eat when
they are nicely broiled. At least the farmers of South America think so.
That is why people hunt them a great deal with shotguns.

One day the hired man on this farm managed to shoot the sentinel of the
flock of parrots. The parrot fell from the tree top with a broken wing.
But he made a good fight of it on the ground, biting and scratching the
man several times before he was made a prisoner. You see, the man
noticed that the bird was not very badly injured; and he thought he
would take it home as a present for the farmer's children.

The farmer's wife put the broken wing in splints and tied a bandage
tight around the parrot's body. The bird sat quite still for many days,
until he was entirely cured. Meanwhile he had become quite tame. The
children called him Pedrito; and Pedrito learned to hold out his claw to
shake hands; he liked to perch on people's shoulders, and to tweek their
ears gently with his bill.

Pedrito did not have to be kept in a cage. He spent the whole day out in
the orange and eucalyptus trees in the yard of the farmhouse. He had a
great time making sport of the hens when they cackled. The people of the
family had tea in the afternoon, and then Pedrito would always come into
the dining room and climb up with his claws and beak over the tablecloth
to get his bread-and-milk. What Pedrito liked best of all was bread
dipped in tea and milk.

The children talked to Pedrito so much, and he had so much to say to
them, that finally he could pronounce quite a number of words in the
language of people. He could say: "Good day, Pedrito!" and "nice papa,
nice papa"; "papa for Pedrito!" "Papa" is the word for bread-and-milk in
South America. And he said many things that he should not have; for
parrots, like children, learn naughty words very easily.

On rainy days Pedrito would sit on a chair back and grumble and grumble
for hours at a time. When the sun came out again he would begin to fly
about screaming at the top of his voice with pleasure.

Pedrito, in short, was a very happy and a very fortunate creature. He
was as free as a bird can be. At the same time he had his afternoon tea
like rich people.

Now it happened that one week it rained every day and Pedrito sat
indoors glum and disconsolate all the time, and saying the most bitter
and unhappy things to himself. But at last one morning the sun came out
bright and glorious. Pedrito could not contain himself: "Nice day, nice
day, Pedrito!" "Nice papa, nice papa," "Papa for Pedrito!" "Your paw,
Pedrito!" So he went flitting about the yard, talking gayly to himself,
to the hens, to everyone, including the beautiful, splendid sun itself.
From a tree top he saw the river in the distance, a silvery, shining
thread winding across the plain. And he flew off in that direction,
flying, flying, flying, till he was quite tired and had to stop on a
tree to rest.

Suddenly, on the ground far under him, Pedrito saw something shining
through the trees, two bright green lights, as big as overgrown
lightning bugs.

"Wonder what that is?" thought Pedrito to himself. "Nice papa! Papa for
Pedrito. Wonder what that is? Good day, Pedrito! Your paw, Pedrito!..."
And he chattered on, just talking nonsense, and mixing his words up so
that you could scarcely have understood him. Meantime he was jumping
down from branch to branch to get as close as possible to the two bright
gleaming lights. At last he saw that they were the eyes of a jaguar, who
was crouching low on the ground and staring up at him intently.

But who could be afraid of anything on a nice day like that? Not
Pedrito, at any rate. "Good day, jaguar!" said he. "Nice papa! Papa for
Pedrito! Your paw, Pedrito!"

The jaguar tried to make his voice as gentle as he could; but it was
with a growl that he answered: "GOOD DAY, POLL-PARROT!"

"Good day, good day, jaguar! Papa, papa, papa for Pedrito! Nice papa!"

You see, it was getting on toward four o'clock in the afternoon; and all
this talk about "papa" was intended to remind the jaguar that it was
tea-time. Pedrito had forgotten that jaguars don't serve tea, nor
bread-and-milk, as a rule.

"Nice tea, nice papa! Papa for Pedrito! Won't you have tea with me
today, jaguar?"

The jaguar began to get angry; for he thought all this chatter was
intended to make fun of him. Besides, he was very hungry, and had made
up his mind to eat this garrulous bird.

"Nice bird! Nice bird!" he growled. "Please come a little closer! I'm
deaf and can't understand what you say."

The jaguar was not deaf. All he wanted was to get the parrot to come
down one more branch, where he could reach him with his paws. But
Pedrito was thinking how pleased the children in the family would be to
see such a sleek jaguar coming in for tea. He hopped down one more
branch and began again: "Nice papa! Papa for Pedrito! Come home with me,
jaguar!"

"Just a little closer!" said the jaguar. "I can't hear!"

[Illustration: "Nice Bird! Nice Bird!" he growled, "Please come a little
closer."]

And Pedrito edged a little nearer: "Nice papa!"

"Closer still!" growled the jaguar.

And the parrot went down still another branch. But just then the jaguar
leaped high in the air--oh, twice, three times his own length, as high
as a house perhaps, and barely managed to reach Pedrito with the tips of
his claws. He did not succeed in catching the bird but he did tear out
every single feather in Pedrito's tail.

"There!" said the jaguar, "go and get your bread-and-milk! Nice papa!
Nice papa! Lucky for you I didn't get my paws on you!"

Terrified and smarting from pain, the parrot took to his wings. He could
not fly very well, however; for birds without a tail are much like ships
without their rudders: they cannot keep to one direction. He made the
most alarming zigzags this way and that, to the right and to the left,
and up and down. All the birds who met him thought surely he had gone
crazy; and took good care to keep out of his way.

However, he got home again at last, and the people were having tea in
the dining room. But the first thing that Pedrito did was to go and look
at himself in the mirror. Poor, poor Pedrito! He was the ugliest, most
ridiculous bird on earth! Not a feather to his tail! His coat of down
all ruffled and bleeding! Shivering with chills of fright all over! How
could any self-respecting bird appear in society in such disarray?

Though he would have given almost anything in the world for his usual
bread-and-milk that day, he flew off to a hollow eucalyptus tree he knew
about, crawled in through a hole, and nestled down in the dark, still
shivering with cold and drooping his head and wings in shame.

In the dining room, meantime, everybody was wondering where the parrot
was. "Pedrito! Pedrito!" the children came calling to the door.
"Pedrito! Papa, Pedrito. Nice papa! Papa for Pedrito!"

But Pedrito did not say a word. Pedrito did not stir. He just sat there
in his hole, sullen, gloomy, and disconsolate. The children looked for
him everywhere, but he did not appear. Everybody thought he had gotten
lost, perhaps, or that some cat had eaten him; and the little ones began
to cry.

So the days went by. And every day, at tea-time, the farmer's family
remembered Pedrito and how he used to come and have tea with them. Poor
Pedrito! Pedrito was dead! No one would ever see Pedrito again!

But Pedrito was not dead at all. He was just a proud bird; and would
have been ashamed to let anybody see him without his tail. He waited in
his hole till everybody went to bed; then he would come out, get
something to eat, and return to his hiding place again. Each morning,
just after daylight, and before anybody was up, he would go into the
kitchen and look at himself in the mirror, getting more and more
bad-tempered meanwhile because his feathers grew so slowly.

Until one afternoon, when the family had gathered in the dining room for
tea as usual, who should come into the room but Pedrito! He walked in
just as though nothing at all had happened, perched for a moment on a
chair back, and then climbed up the tablecloth to get his
bread-and-milk. The people just laughed and wept for joy, and clapped
their hands especially to see what pretty feathers the bird had.
"Pedrito! Why Pedrito! Where in the world have you been? What happened
to you? And what pretty, pretty feathers!"

You see, they did not know that they were new feathers; and Pedrito, for
his part, said not a word. He was not going to tell them anything about
it. He just ate one piece of bread-and-milk after another. "Papa,
Pedrito! Nice papa! Papa for Pedrito!" Of course, he said a few things
like that. But otherwise, not a word.

That was why the farmer was very much surprised the next day when
Pedrito flew down out of a tree top and alighted on his shoulder,
chattering and chattering as though he had something very exciting on
his mind. In two minutes, Pedrito told him all about it--how, in his joy
at the nice weather, he had flown down to the Parana; how he had invited
the jaguar to tea; and how the jaguar had deceived him and left his tail
without a feather. "Without a feather, a single blessed feather!" the
parrot repeated, in rage at such an indignity. And he ended by asking
the farmer to go and shoot that jaguar.

It happened that they needed a new mat for the fireplace in the dining
room, and the farmer was very glad to hear there was a jaguar in the
neighborhood. He went into the house to get his gun, and then set out
with Pedrito toward the river. They agreed that when Pedrito saw the
jaguar he would begin to scream to attract the beast's attention. In
that way the man could come up close and get a good shot with his gun.

And that is just what happened. Pedrito flew up to a tree top and began
to talk as noisily as he could, meanwhile looking in all directions to
see if the jaguar were about. Soon he heard some branches crackling
under the tree on the ground; and peering down he saw the two green
lights fixed upon him. "Nice day!" he began. "Nice papa! Papa for
Pedrito! Your paw, Pedrito!"

The jaguar was very cross to see that this same parrot had come around
again and with prettier feathers than before. "You will not get away
this time!" he growled to himself, glaring up at Pedrito more fiercely
than before.

"Closer! Closer! I'm deaf! I can't hear what you say!"

And Pedrito, as he had done the other time, came down first one branch
and then another, talking all the time at the top of his voice:

"Papa for Pedrito! Nice papa! At the foot of this tree! Your paw,
Pedrito! At the foot of this tree!"

The jaguar grew suspicious at these new words, and, rising part way on
his hind legs, he growled:

"Who is that you are talking to? Why do you say I am at the foot of this
tree!"

"Good day, Pedrito! Papa, papa for Pedrito!" answered the parrot; and he
came down one more branch, and still another.

"Closer, closer!" growled the jaguar.

Pedrito could see that the farmer was stealing up very stealthily with
his gun. And he was glad of that, for one more branch and he would be
almost in the jaguar's claws.

"Papa, papa for Pedrito! Nice papa! Are you almost ready?" he called.

"Closer, closer," growled the jaguar, getting ready to spring.

"Your paw, Pedrito! He's ready to jump! Papa, Pedrito!"

And the jaguar, in fact, leaped into the air. But this time Pedrito was
ready for him. He took lightly to his wings and flew up to the tree top
far out of reach of the terrible claws. The farmer, meanwhile, had been
taking careful aim; and just as the jaguar reached the ground, there was
a loud report. Nine balls of lead as large as peas entered the heart of
the jaguar, who gave one great roar and fell over dead.

Pedrito was chattering about in great glee; because now he could fly
around in the forest without fear of being eaten; and his tail feathers
would never be torn out again. The farmer, too, was happy; because a
jaguar is very hard to find anyway; and the skin of this one made a very
beautiful rug indeed.

When they got back home again, everybody learned why Pedrito had been
away so long, and how he had hidden in the hollow tree to grow his
feathers back again. And the children were very proud that their pet had
trapped the jaguar so cleverly.

Thereafter there was a happy life in the farmer's home for a long, long
time. But the parrot never forgot what the jaguar had tried to do to
him. In the afternoon when tea was being served in the dining room, he
would go over to the skin lying in front of the fireplace and invite the
jaguar to have bread-and-milk with him: "Papa, nice papa! Papa for
Pedrito! Papa for jaguar? Nice papa!"

And when everybody laughed, Pedrito would laugh too.



                             THE BLIND DOE


Once upon a time there was a deer--a doe--who gave birth to two little
deers; and, as is very rare with such animals, the little deers were
twins. However, a wildcat ate one of them; and the second, a female, had
to live her childhood without a playmate.

She was such a beautiful little creature, nevertheless, that all the
mother deers in the forest wished she belonged to them; and to show
their affection they were always nipping gently at her ribs with their
lips.

Every morning when the little deer got up out of bed, her mother would
make her say the catechism which all deers learn when they are babies:

I. I must smell of each green leaf before I eat it; because some green
leaves are poisonous.

II. I must stop and look carefully up and down the brook before I lower
my head to drink; for otherwise an alligator may eat me.

III. I must lift my head every half hour and sniff carefully in all
directions; otherwise a panther may steal up and catch me.

IV. I must look ahead of me when I am grazing in a meadow; otherwise a
snake may bite me.

All good fawns learn this catechism by heart; and when this little deer
could say it all by herself, her mother began to let her go away from
home alone.

One afternoon in summer, when the fawn was wandering over the mountain
side looking for the tenderest tufts of grass, she saw a tree with a
hollow trunk in front of her. Inside it a number of small slate-colored
bags were hanging.

"What in the world is that?" said the little deer to herself. She had
never seen anything of just that kind! Now deers, like people, are
inclined to be a bit disrespectful towards things they don't understand.
Those puffy slate-colored bags seemed to her about the most ridiculous
things there was on earth! So she butted them with all her might.

She now saw that she had made a great dent in the bags, which began to
drip with drops of shining fluid. At the same time a swarm of reddish
flies, with narrow waists, came out, buzzing around and walking about,
over their broken nest.

The little deer edged nearer. Curiously, those red flies did not seem to
mind at all! And what about that juicy-looking stuff? Carefully, gently,
the fawn stretched out her head till she was able to touch one of the
drops of fluid with the tip of her tongue.

What a surprise, what a wonderful surprise, for such a little, and such
an inexperienced deer! She smacked her lips and licked her nose with her
tongue, hurrying to lap up all the drops she could find. For they were
honey, honey of the sweetest kind. And the red flies were bees! They did
not sting because they had no stingers! There are bees like that, you
know, in South America.

Not content with the few drops that were slowly oozing out of the cracks
in the bags, the little deer now broke all the nests down and ate every
bit of the honey in them; then, leaping and jumping with pride and
delight, she hurried home to tell her mother all about it.

But the mother deer frowned severely:

"Look out for bees' nests, my child!" she exclaimed earnestly. "Honey is
very good to eat; but it is dangerous to get at it. Keep away from all
the nests you see!"

"But bees don't sting, mamma!" the little deer objected gleefully.
"Hornets sting, and wasps sting; but bees, no!"

"That isn't so, my dear!" the mother answered. "You had good luck,
that's all. Bees are quite as bad as wasps. Now mind me, child, or some
day you'll be sorry."

"All right, mamma, I'll be careful," said the little deer.

But the first thing she did the very next morning was to take one of the
paths that people had made over the mountains. She had figured out that,
running along in the open, she could cover more ground and see the bees'
nests better!

And at last the search of the little deer was successful. She came upon
a nest of bees--as she thought--black ones this time, with yellow sashes
about their belts; and many of them were walking over the outside of the
nest. The nest, also, was of a different color, and much larger than the
bags the little deer had found the day before. But such things made no
difference to her. "If the nest is larger," she concluded simply, "the
honey is probably sweeter and there's more of it!"

But then she suddenly remembered all that her mother had said. "Oh,
mother is too afraid! All mothers are too afraid!" And she finished by
giving a lusty butt at the nest.

In a second or two she had bitterly repented of her folly. The "bees"
were ordinary bees and there were thousands of them. They rushed forth
from the nest in a great swarm, settled all over the head, neck, and
shoulders of the little deer, and even under her belly and on her tail.
And they stung her all over, but worst of all about the eyes. There were
more than ten stings to each eye!

The little deer, wild with pain and fright, began to run screaming away.
She ran and ran. But finally she had to stop, because she could no
longer see where she was going. Her eyes were all swollen; so swollen
she could not open them. Trembling with fear and smarting with pain, she
stopped where she was and began to cry piteously:

"Mamma!... Mamma!"

The mother deer was much worried when the afternoon wore on and her
child did not come home; and at last she started out to look for her,
following by smell, as deers can, the tracks of her little one over the
hillsides. What was her despair when, finally, she heard the disobedient
fawn weeping in the distance; and how much blacker her despair became
when she found that the child was blind!

Slowly the two deers started home again, the fawn's nose resting on her
mother's hip. And along the road all the old bucks and does came up to
examine the little one's eyes and give their opinions as to a cure. The
mother deer did not know what to do. She had no plasters nor poultices
to soothe the pain in her child's eyes. She learned ultimately that
across the mountains lived a man who was skillful with remedies. This
man was a hunter, and traded in venison. But, from all reports, she
concluded that he was quite a kind-hearted person.

Though the doe shivered at the thought of visiting a man who made his
living on the slaughter of deer, she was willing to risk anything for
her offspring. However, she had never met the man personally, and she
thought it best to ask for a letter of introduction from the Anteater,
who was supposed to be on very good terms with all the human kind.

It was night; and the panthers and wildcats were rampant through all the
forest; but the mother deer did not wait an instant. She covered her
little one carefully with branches so that no one could find her, and
then made off toward the Anteater's house. She went so fast and so far
that she was faint with fatigue when she arrived there; and once, on the
road, she escaped only by merest chance from the fangs of a mountain
lion.

The Anteater was one of the smaller members of his tribe--a yellow
little fellow with a black cape thrown over his shoulders and reaching
down to the waist, where it was tied under his belly with black strings.

Just how or why the Anteater became so friendly with the hunter, no one
in the forest knew; but some day the truth will be known, doubtless.

At any rate, the poor doe arrived at the house where the Anteater lived.

"Tan! Tan! Tan!" she knocked, panting.

"Who's that?" answered the Anteater sleepily.

"It's me!" said the doe; though she corrected herself almost
immediately, and said:     "It is I--a deer, the mother of the twins!"

"I see," said the Anteater. "So it's you! Well, what do you want?"

"I want you to introduce me to the hunter. The fawn, my daughter, is
blind!"

"You don't say so? That little fawn that everybody makes so much of?
She's a dear little thing! I don't have to be asked twice to do a favor
when that child is concerned! I'll introduce you gladly. But you won't
need a letter. Just show the man this, and he'll do all you ask."

The Anteater rummaged around in the leaves for a while and at last
stretched his tail out. On the tip of it was the head of a snake,
completely dried, and with the poison fangs still in it.

"Thanks ever so much," exclaimed the doe. "But that man is a venison
hunter! Do you think this is all I need?"

"Quite!" the Anteater averred.

"You are a very kind-hearted Anteater," the doe replied, her eyes
filling with tears. But she did not prolong the conversation. It was
getting to be very late, and she had to be at the hunter's lodge by
daybreak.

She hurried back to her house and got the fawn, who still lay there
weeping in her bed. Together they made their way toward the village
where the hunter lived. They stole along very softly, keeping close to
the walls of the houses, so that the dogs would not see nor hear them.

At the door of the hunter's cottage the mother knocked loudly:

"Tan! Tan! Tan!"

And the little deer knocked as loudly as she could.

"Ta! Ta! Ta!"

"Who's there?" a voice called from within.

"It's us," said the fawn.

"It's we," corrected the mother. "We are friends of the Anteater, and we
have the snake's head!"

"I see," said the hunter opening the door. "What can I do for you?"

"My daughter, this little fawn here, is blind. Can you help her?"

And the mother deer told the whole story about her child and the bees.

"Hum!" said the man. "Just let me see what ails this nice young lady!"

Reentering the cottage, the hunter soon came back with a rather high
stool, on which he set the fawn in such a manner that he could examine
her eyes without bending over. Then he took out a big lens and began to
look at the stings, while the mother deer stood by, holding a lantern
around her neck so that the "doctor" could see better. For the sun had
not yet risen.

"Oh, there's nothing to worry about," the hunter said to the fond
parent, helping her little one out of the chair. "It's only a matter of
time and care. Wrap her head up, and keep a bandage with this ointment
across her eyes. Then keep her in the dark for twenty days. After that,
have her wear these yellow glasses for a week or two; and by that time
she will be all right."

"Thanks, many, many thanks," said the mother deer warmly and gratefully.
"And now, sir, how much do I owe you?"

"Nothing at all, nothing at all, madam," the hunter replied with a
smile. "But one thing more: look out for the dogs in the next house. A
man lives there who keeps hounds especially for chasing deer."

At this news the mother deer and her child were so scared they hardly
dared breathe; and as they went away they walked on tiptoe, and stopped
every few feet. Even at that the dogs heard them and gave chase for
nearly a mile into the forest. But the mother deer found a narrow path,
opening into the bush where the blind fawn could run quite safely; and
they made good their escape.

The little deer got well, just as the hunter had said she would; though
the care and trouble it cost the mother to keep her fawn shut up for
twenty long days inside a hollow tree, she only knew. Inside there you
could not have seen your hand before your face! But at last, one
morning, the mother deer brushed aside the branches she had woven across
the hole in the tree so tightly as to keep out all light; and the fawn,
now with the yellow glasses on her nose, came out into the broad day.

"Oh, I can see now, mamma, I can see all right!"

And the mother deer, to tell the truth, had to go and hide her head in a
clump of bushes to conceal the tears of joy that came to her eyes when
she saw her little one cured at last. In two weeks, the glasses were
laid aside.

As time wore on, the fawn, though happy to be quite herself again, began
to grow sad. She was anxious to repay the hunter for his kindness to
her; and she could think of no possible way of doing it.

One day, however, an idea occurred to her. As she was trotting along the
shore of a pond she came upon a feather which a blue heron had let fall
there. "I wonder if that good man would like it?" she thought. And she
picked it up.

Then, one night when it was raining hard and the dogs would probably be
under cover, she started out for the hunter's cottage.

The man was reading in his bedroom, feeling quite cozy besides, for he
had just completed a thatched roof for his cabin when the rain began.
Now he was quite safe and dry out of reach of the storm.

"Tan! Tan! Tan!"

When he opened the door, the little deer, whom he had treated and of
whom he had often thought since then, was standing there in the rain,
with the heron's plume, all wet and drooping, in her mouth.

"Here is something I have brought for you," the fawn explained.

But the hunter began to laugh.

The little deer went off home in great shame and sorrow. She thought the
man had laughed in ridicule of her poor gift! So thereafter she went
looking for a better, bigger feather to give her benefactor; and this
time she found some plumes that were truly splendid ones; and she was
careful to keep them clean and dry.

Again she went back, one night, to the hunter's cabin; and this time he
did not laugh. He was a courteous, polite man; and he understood that,
the other time, he had hurt his little friend's feelings by laughing at
her. Instead, he now invited her indoors, drew the high chair up to the
table and gave her a saucerful of honey. Gobble, gobble! The little deer
lapped the sweet up in mad delight.

From that time on, the two became great friends. The fawn spent a great
deal of her time collecting heron plumes, which the man sold for a large
sum of money. And every time she came in with a feather, the hunter gave
her a jar of honey; and occasionally he offered her a cigar, which the
little deer ate, but, of course, did not smoke. Smoking is bad even for
deers.

Whole nights the two friends thus spent together, talking in front of
the open fire, while the wind was howling outside; for the deer made her
visits only in stormy weather when dogs would be sure not to be about.
In a short time whenever the skies were dark and gave promise of a bad
night, the hunter began to expect these visits. He would light a lamp,
set a jar of honey on the table, take out a book and begin to read,
waiting for the "Tan! Tan! Tan!" of the little deer, who remained his
loyal friend all her life.



                           THE ALLIGATOR WAR


It was a very big river in a region of South America that had never been
visited by white men; and in it lived many, many alligators--perhaps a
hundred, perhaps a thousand. For dinner they ate fish, which they caught
in the stream, and for supper they ate deer and other animals that came
down to the water side to drink. On hot afternoons in summer they
stretched out and sunned themselves on the bank. But they liked nights
when the moon was shining best of all. Then they swam out into the river
and sported and played, lashing the water to foam with their tails,
while the spray ran off their beautiful skins in all the colors of the
rainbow.

These alligators had lived quite happy lives for a long, long time. But
at last one afternoon, when they were all sleeping on the sand, snoring
and snoring, one alligator woke up and cocked his ears--the way
alligators cock their ears. He listened and listened, and, to be sure,
faintly, and from a great distance, came a sound: _Chug!_ _Chug!_
_Chug!_

"Hey!" the alligator called to the alligator sleeping next to him, "Hey!
Wake up! Danger!"

"Danger of what?" asked the other, opening his eyes sleepily, and
getting up.

"I don't know!" replied the first alligator.

"That's a noise I never heard before. Listen!"

The other alligator listened: _Chug!_ _Chug!_ _Chug!_

In great alarm the two alligators went calling up and down the river
bank: "Danger! Danger!" And all their sisters and brothers and mothers
and fathers and uncles and aunts woke up and began running this way and
that with their tails curled up in the air. But the excitement did not
serve to calm their fears. _Chug!_ _Chug!_ _Chug!_ The noise was growing
louder every moment; and at last, away off down the stream, they could
see something moving along the surface of the river, leaving a trail of
gray smoke behind it and beating the water on either side to foam:
_Chush!_ _Chush!_ _Chush!_

The alligators looked at each other in the greatest astonishment: "What
on earth is that?"

But there was one old alligator, the wisest and most experienced of them
all. He was so old that only two sound teeth were left in his jaws--one
in the upper jaw and one in the lower jaw. Once, also, when he was a
boy, fond of adventure, he had made a trip down the river all the way to
the sea.

"I know what it is," said he. "It's a whale. Whales are big fish, they
shoot water up through their noses, and it falls down on them behind."

At this news, the little alligators began to scream at the top of their
lungs, "It's a whale! It's a whale! It's a whale!" and they made for the
water intending to duck out of sight.

But the big alligator cuffed with his tail a little alligator that was
screaming nearby with his mouth open wide. "Dry up!" said he. "There's
nothing to be afraid of! I know all about whales! Whales are the
afraidest people there are!" And the little alligators stopped their
noise.

But they grew frightened again a moment afterwards. The gray smoke
suddenly turned to an inky black, and the _Chush!_ _Chush!_ _Chush!_ was
now so loud that all the alligators took to the water, with only their
eyes and the tips of their noses showing at the surface.

_Cho-ash-h-h!_ _Cho-ash-h-h!_ _Cho-ash-h-h!_ The strange monster came
rapidly up the stream. The alligators saw it go crashing past them,
belching great clouds of smoke from the middle of its back, and
splashing into the water heavily with the big revolving things it had on
either side.

It was a steamer, the first steamer that had ever made its way up the
Parana. _Chush!_ _Chush!_ _Chush!_ It seemed to be getting further away
again. _Chug!_ _Chug!_ _Chug!_ It had disappeared from view.

One by one, the alligators climbed up out of the water onto the bank
again. They were all quite cross with the old alligator who had told
them wrongly that it was a whale.

"It was not a whale!" they shouted in his ear--for he was rather hard of
hearing. "Well, what was it that just went by?"

The old alligator then explained that it was a steamboat full of fire;
and that the alligators would all die if the boat continued to go up and
down the river.

The other alligators only laughed, however. Why would the alligators die
if the boat kept going up and down the river? It had passed by without
so much as speaking to them! That old alligator didn't really know so
much as he pretended to! And since they were very hungry they all went
fishing in the stream. But alas! There was not a fish to be found! The
steamboat had frightened every single one of them away.

"Well, what did I tell you?" said the old alligator. "You see: we
haven't anything left to eat! All the fish have been frightened away!
However--let's just wait till tomorrow. Perhaps the boat won't come back
again. In that case, the fish will get over their fright and come back
so that we can eat them." But the next day, the steamboat came crashing
by again on its way back down the river, spouting black smoke as it had
done before, and setting the whole river boiling with its paddle wheels.

"Well!" exclaimed the alligators. "What do you think of that? The boat
came yesterday. The boat came today. The boat will come tomorrow. The
fish will stay away; and nothing will come down here at night to drink.
We are done for!"

But an idea occurred to one of the brighter alligators: "Let's dam the
river!" he proposed. "The steamboat won't be able to climb a dam!"

"That's the talk! That's the talk! A dam! A dam! Let's build a dam!" And
the alligators all made for the shore as fast as they could.

They went up into the woods along the bank and began to cut down trees
of the hardest wood they could find--walnut and mahogany, mostly. They
felled more than ten thousand of them altogether, sawing the trunks
through with the kind of saw that alligators have on the tops of their
tails. They dragged the trees down into the water and stood them up
about a yard apart, all the way across the river, driving the pointed
ends deep into the mud and weaving the branches together. No steamboat,
big or little, would ever be able to pass that dam! No one would
frighten the fish away again! They would have a good dinner the
following day and every day! And since it was late at night by the time
the dam was done, they all fell sound asleep on the river bank.

_Chug!_ _Chug!_ _Chug!_ _Chush!_ _Chush!_ _Chush!_ _Cho-ash-h-h-h!_
_Cho-ash-h-h-h!_ _Cho-ash-h-h-h!_

They were still asleep, the next day, when the boat came up; but the
alligators barely opened their eyes and then tried to go to sleep again.
What did they care about the boat? It could make all the noise it
wanted, but it would never get by the dam!

And that is what happened. Soon the noise from the boat stopped. The men
who were steering on the bridge took out their spy-glasses and began to
study the strange obstruction that had been thrown up across the river.
Finally a small boat was sent to look into it more closely. Only then
did the alligators get up from where they were sleeping, run down into
the water, and swim out behind the dam, where they lay floating and
looking downstream between the piles. They could not help laughing,
nevertheless, at the joke they had played on the steamboat!

The small boat came up, and the men in it saw how the alligators had
made a dam across the river. They went back to the steamer, but soon
after, came rowing up toward the dam again.

"Hey, you, alligators!"

"What can we do for you?" answered the alligators, sticking their heads
through between the piles in the dam.

"That dam is in our way!" said the men.

"Tell us something we don't know!" answered the alligators.

"But we can't get by!"

"I'll say so!"

"Well, take the old thing out of the way!"

"Nosireesir!"

The men in the boat talked it over for a while and then they called:

"Alligators!"

"What can we do for you?"

"Will you take the dam away?"

"No!"

"No?"

"No!"

"Very well! See you later!"

"The later the better," said the alligators.

The rowboat went back to the steamer, while the alligators, as happy as
could be, clapped their tails as loud as they could on the water. No
boat could ever get by that dam, and drive the fish away again!

But the next day the steamboat returned; and when the alligators looked
at it, they could not say a word from their surprise: it was not the
same boat at all, but a larger one, painted gray like a mouse! How many
steamboats were there, anyway? And this one probably would want to pass
the dam! Well, just let it try! No, sir! No steamboat, little or big,
would ever get through that dam!

"They shall not pass!" said the alligators, each taking up his station
behind the piles in the dam.

The new boat, like the other one, stopped some distance below the dam;
and again a little boat came rowing toward them. This time there were
eight sailors in it, with one officer. The officer shouted:

"Hey, you, alligators!"

"What's the matter?" answered the alligators.

"Going to get that dam out of there?"

"No!"

"No?"

"No!"

"Very well!" said the officer. "In that case, we shall have to shoot it
down!"

"Shoot it up if you want to!" said the alligators.

And the boat returned to the steamer.

But now, this mouse-gray steamboat was not an ordinary steamboat: it was
a warship, with armor plate and terribly powerful guns. The old
alligator who had made the trip to the river mouth suddenly remembered,
and just in time to shout to the other alligators: "Duck for your lives!
Duck! She's going to shoot! Keep down deep under water."

The alligators dived all at the same time, and headed for the shore,
where they halted, keeping all their bodies out of sight except for
their noses and their eyes. A great cloud of flame and smoke burst from
the vessel's side, followed by a deafening report. An immense solid shot
hurtled through the air and struck the dam exactly in the middle. Two or
three tree trunks were cut away into splinters and drifted off
downstream. Another shot, a third, and finally a fourth, each tearing a
great hole in the dam. Finally the piles were entirely destroyed; not a
tree, not a splinter, not a piece of bark, was left; and the alligators,
still sitting with their eyes and noses just out of water, saw the
warship come steaming by and blowing its whistle in derision at them.

Then the alligators came out on the bank and held a council of war. "Our
dam was not strong enough," said they; "we must make a new and much
thicker one."

So they worked again all that afternoon and night, cutting down the very
biggest trees they could find, and making a much better dam than they
had built before. When the gunboat appeared the next day, they were
sleeping soundly and had to hurry to get behind the piles of the dam by
the time the rowboat arrived there.

"Hey, alligators!" called the same officer.

"See who's here again!" said the alligators, jeeringly.

"Get that new dam out of there!"

"Never in the world!"

"Well, we'll blow it up, the way we did the other!"

"Blaze away, and good luck to you!"

You see, the alligators talked so big because they were sure the dam
they had made this time would hold up against the most terrible cannon
balls in the world. And the sailors must have thought so, too; for after
they had fired the first shot a tremendous explosion occurred in the
dam. The gunboat was using shells, which burst among the timbers of the
dam and broke the thickest trees into tiny, tiny bits. A second shell
exploded right near the first, and a third near the second. So the shots
went all along the dam, each tearing away a long strip of it till
nothing, nothing, nothing was left. Again the warship came steaming by,
closer in toward shore on this occasion, so that the sailors could make
fun of the alligators by putting their hands to their mouths and
holloing.

"So that's it!" said the alligators, climbing up out of the water. "We
must all die, because the steamboats will keep coming and going, up and
down, and leaving us not a fish in the world to eat!"

The littlest alligators were already whimpering; for they had had no
dinner for three days; and it was a crowd of very sad alligators that
gathered on the river shore to hear what the old alligator now had to
say.

"We have only one hope left," he began. "We must go and see the
Sturgeon! When I was a boy, I took that trip down to the sea along with
him. He liked the salt water better than I did, and went quite a way out
into the ocean. There he saw a sea fight between two of these boats; and
he brought home a torpedo that had failed to explode. Suppose we go and
ask him to give it to us. It is true the Sturgeon has never liked us
alligators; but I got along with him pretty well myself. He is a good
fellow, at bottom, and surely he will not want to see us all starve!"

The fact was that some years before an alligator had eaten one of the
Sturgeon's favorite grandchildren; and for that reason the Sturgeon had
refused ever since to call on the alligators or receive visits from
them. Nevertheless, the alligators now trouped off in a body to the big
cave under the bank of the river where they knew the Sturgeon stayed,
with his torpedo beside him. There are sturgeons as much as six feet
long, you know, and this one with the torpedo was of that kind.

"Mr. Sturgeon! Mr. Sturgeon!" called the alligators at the entrance of
the cave. No one of them dared go in, you see, on account of that matter
of the sturgeon's grandchild.

"Who is it?" answered the Sturgeon.

"We're the alligators," the latter replied in a chorus.

"I have nothing to do with alligators," grumbled the Sturgeon crossly.

But now the old alligator with the two teeth stepped forward and said:

"Why, hello, Sturgy. Don't you remember Ally, your old friend that took
that trip down the river, when we were boys?"

"Well, well! Where have you been keeping yourself all these years," said
the Sturgeon, surprised and pleased to hear his old friend's voice.
"Sorry I didn't know it was you! How goes it? What can I do for you?"

"We've come to ask you for that torpedo you found, remember? You see,
there's a warship keeps coming up and down our river scaring all the
fish away. She's a whopper, I'll tell you, armor plate, guns, the whole
thing! We made one dam and she knocked it down. We made another and she
blew it up. The fish have all gone away and we haven't had a bite to eat
in near onto a week. Now you give us your torpedo and we'll do the
rest!"

The Sturgeon sat thinking for a long time, scratching his chin with one
of his fins. At last he answered:

"As for the torpedo, all right! You can have it in spite of what you did
to my eldest son's first-born. But there's one trouble: who knows how to
work the thing?"

The alligators were all silent. Not one of them had ever seen a torpedo.

"Well," said the Sturgeon, proudly, "I can see I'll have to go with you
myself. I've lived next to that torpedo a long time. I know all about
torpedoes."

The first task was to bring the torpedo down to the dam. The alligators
got into line, the one behind taking in his mouth the tail of the one in
front. When the line was formed it was fully a quarter of a mile long.
The Sturgeon pushed the torpedo out into the current, and got under it
so as to hold it up near the top of the water on his back. Then he took
the tail of the last alligator in his teeth, and gave the signal to go
ahead. The Sturgeon kept the torpedo afloat, while the alligators towed
him along. In this way they went so fast that a wide wake followed on
after the torpedo; and by the next morning they were back at the place
where the dam was made.

As the little alligators who had stayed at home reported, the warship
had already gone by upstream. But this pleased the others all the more.
Now they would build a new dam, stronger than ever before, and catch the
steamer in a trap, so that it would never get home again.

They worked all that day and all the next night, making a thick, almost
solid dike, with barely enough room between the piles for the alligators
to stick their heads through. They had just finished when the gunboat
came into view.

Again the rowboat approached with the eight men and their officer. The
alligators crowded behind the dam in great excitement, moving their paws
to hold their own with the current; for this time, they were downstream.

"Hey, alligators!" called the officer.

"Well?" answered the alligators.

"Still another dam?"

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again!"

"Get that dam out of there!"

"No, sir!"

"You won't?"

"We won't!"

"Very well! Now you alligators just listen! If you won't be reasonable,
we are going to knock this dam down, too. But to save you the trouble of
building a fourth, we are going to shoot every blessed alligator around
here. Yes, every single last alligator, women and children, big ones,
little ones, fat ones, lean ones, and even that old codger sitting there
with only two teeth left in his jaws!"

The old alligator understood that the officer was trying to insult him
with that reference to his two teeth, and he answered:

"Young man, what you say is true. I have only two teeth left, not
counting one or two others that are broken off. But do you know what
those two teeth are going to eat for dinner?" As he said this the old
alligator opened his mouth wide, wide, wide.

"Well, what are they going to eat?" asked one of the sailors.

"A little dude of a naval officer I see in a boat over there!"--and the
old alligator dived under water and disappeared from view.

Meantime the Sturgeon had brought the torpedo to the very center of the
dam, where four alligators were holding it fast to the river bottom
waiting for orders to bring it up to the top of the water. The other
alligators had gathered along the shore, with their noses and eyes alone
in sight as usual.

The rowboat went back to the ship. When he saw the men climbing aboard,
the Sturgeon went down to his torpedo.

Suddenly there was a loud detonation. The warship had begun firing, and
the first shell struck and exploded in the middle of the dam. A great
gap opened in it.

"Now! Now!" called the Sturgeon sharply, on seeing that there was room
for the torpedo to go through. "Let her go! Let her go!"

As the torpedo came to the surface, the Sturgeon steered it to the
opening in the dam, took aim hurriedly with one eye closed, and pulled
at the trigger of the torpedo with his teeth. The propeller of the
torpedo began to revolve, and it started off upstream toward the
gunboat.

And it was high time. At that instant a second shot exploded in the dam,
tearing away another large section.

From the wake the torpedo left behind it in the water the men on the
vessel saw the danger they were in, but it was too late to do anything
about it. The torpedo struck the ship in the middle, and went off.

You can never guess the terrible noise that torpedo made. It blew the
warship into fifteen thousand million pieces, tossing guns, and
smokestacks, and shells and rowboats--everything, hundreds and hundreds
of yards away.

The alligators all screamed with triumph and made as fast as they could
for the dam. Down through the opening bits of wood came floating, with a
number of sailors swimming as hard as they could for the shore. As the
men passed through, the alligators put their paws to their mouths and
holloed, as the men had done to them three days before. They decided not
to eat a single one of the sailors, though some of them deserved it
without a doubt. Except that when a man dressed in a blue uniform with
gold braid came by, the old alligator jumped into the water off the dam,
and snap! snap! ate him in two mouthfuls.

"Who was that man?" asked an ignorant young alligator, who never learned
his lessons in school and never knew what was going on.

"It's the officer of the boat," answered the Sturgeon. "My old friend,
Ally, said he was going to eat him, and eaten him he has!"

The alligators tore down the rest of the dam, because they knew that no
boats would be coming by that way again.

The Sturgeon, who had quite fallen in love with the gold lace of the
officer, asked that it be given him in payment for the use of his
torpedo. The alligators said he might have it for the trouble of picking
it out of the old alligator's mouth, where it had caught on the two
teeth. They gave him also the officer's belt and sword. The Sturgeon put
the belt on just behind his front fins, and buckled the sword to it.
Thus togged out, he swam up and down for more than an hour in front of
the assembled alligators, who admired his beautiful spotted skin as
something almost as pretty as the coral snake's, and who opened their
mouths wide at the splendor of his uniform. Finally they escorted him in
honor back to his cave under the river bank, thanking him over and over
again, and giving him three cheers as they went off.

When they returned to their usual place they found the fish had already
returned. The next day another steamboat came by; but the alligators did
not care, because the fish were getting used to it by this time and
seemed not to be afraid. Since then the boats have been going back and
forth all the time, carrying oranges. And the alligators open their eyes
when they hear the _chug! chug! chug!_ of a steamboat and laugh at the
thought of how scared they were the first time, and of how they sank the
warship.

But no warship has ever gone up the river since the old alligator ate
the officer.



                 HOW THE FLAMINGOES GOT THEIR STOCKINGS


Once the snakes decided that they would give a costume ball; and to make
the affair a truly brilliant one they sent invitations to the frogs, the
toads, the alligators and the fish.

The fish replied that since they had no legs they would not be able to
do much dancing; whereupon, as a special courtesy to them, the ball was
held on the shore of the Parana. The fish swam up to the very beach and
sat looking on with their heads out of water. When anything pleased them
they splashed with their tails.

To make as good an appearance as possible, the alligators put necklaces
of bananas around their throats; and they came to the ball smoking big
Paraguay cigars. The toads stuck fish scales all over their bodies; and
when they walked, they moved their forelegs out and in as though they
were swimming. They strutted up and down the beach with very glum,
determined faces; and the fish kept calling to them, making fun of their
scales. The frogs were satisfied to leave their smooth green skins just
as they were; but they bathed themselves in perfume and walked on their
hind legs. Besides, each one carried a lightning bug, which waved to and
fro like a lantern, at the end of a string in the frog's hand.

But the best costumes of all were worn by the snakes. All of them,
without exception, had dancing gowns of the color of their skins. There
were red snakes, and brown snakes, and pink snakes, and yellow
snakes--each with a garment of tulle to match. The _yarara_, who is a
kind of rattler, came in a single-piece robe of gray tulle with
brick-colored stripes--for that is the way the _yarara_ dresses even
when he is not going to a ball. The coral snakes were prettier still.
They draped themselves in a gauze of reds, whites and blacks; and when
they danced, they wound themselves round and round like corkscrews,
rising on the tips of their tails, coiling and uncoiling, balancing this
way and that. They were the most graceful and beautiful of all the
snakes, and the guests applauded them wildly.

The flamingoes were the only ones who seemed not to be having a good
time. Stupid birds that they were, they had not thought of any costumes
at all. They came with the plain white legs they had at that time and
the thick, twisted bills they have even now. Naturally they were envious
of all the gowns they saw, but most of all, of the fancy dress of the
coral snakes. Every time one of these went by them, courtesying,
pirouetting, balancing, the flamingoes writhed with jealousy. For no
one, meanwhile, was asking them to dance.

"I know what we must do," said one of the flamingoes at last. "We must
go and get some stockings for our legs--pink, black and white like the
coral snakes themselves--then they will all fall in love with us!"

The whole flock of them took wing immediately and flew across the river
to a village nearby. They went to the store and knocked:

"Tan! Tan! Tan!"

"Who is it?" called the storekeeper.

"We're the flamingoes. We have come to get some stockings--pink, black,
and white."

"Are you crazy?" the storekeeper answered. "I keep stockings for people,
not for silly birds. Besides, stockings of such colors! You won't find
any in town, either!"

The flamingoes went on to another store:

"Tan! Tan! Tan! We are looking for stockings--pink, black and white.
Have you any?"

"Pink, black and white stockings! Don't you know decent people don't
wear such things? You must be crazy! Who are you, anyway?"

"We are the flamingoes," the flamingoes replied.

"In that case you are silly flamingoes! Better go somewhere else!"

They went to still a third store:

"Tan! Tan! Pink, black and white stockings! Got any?"

"Pink, black and white nonsense!" called the storekeeper. "Only birds
with big noses like yours could ask for such a thing. Don't make tracks
on my floor!"

And the man swept them into the street with a broom.

So the flamingoes went from store to store, and everywhere people called
them silly, stupid birds.

However, an owl, a mischievous _tatu_, who had just been down to the
river to get some water, and had heard all about the ball and the
flamingoes, met them on his way back and thought he would have some fun
with them.

"Good evening, good evening, flamingoes," he said, making a deep bow,
though, of course, it was just to ridicule the foolish birds. "I know
what you are looking for. I doubt if you can get any such stockings in
town. You might find them in Buenos Aires; but you would have to order
them by mail. My sister-in-law, the barn owl, has stockings like that,
however. Why don't you go around and see her? She can give you her own
and borrow others from her family."

"Thanks! Thanks, ever so much!" said the flamingoes; and they flew off
to the cellar of a barn where the barn owl lived.

"Tan! Tan! Good evening, Mrs. Owl," they said. "A relation of yours, Mr.
Tatu, advised us to call on you. Tonight, as you know, the snakes are
giving a costume ball, and we have no costumes. If you could lend us
your pink, black and white stockings, the coral snakes would be sure to
fall in love with us!"

"Pleased to accommodate you," said the barn owl. "Will you wait just a
moment?"

She flew away and was gone some time. When she came back she had the
stockings with her. But they were not real stockings. They were nothing
but skins from coral snakes which the owl had caught and eaten during
the previous days.

"Perhaps these will do," she remarked. "But if you wear them at the
ball, I advise you to do strictly as I say: dance all night long, and
don't stop a moment. For if you do, you will get into trouble, I assure
you!"

The flamingoes listened to what she said; but, stupidly, did not try to
guess what she could have meant by such counsel. They saw no danger in
the pretty stockings. Delightedly they doubled up their claws like
fists, stuck them through the snakeskins, which were like so many long
rubber tubes, and flew back as quickly as they could to the ball.

When the guests at the dance saw the flamingoes in such handsome
stockings, they were as jealous as could be. You see, the coral snakes
were the lions of the evening, and after the flamingoes came back, they
would dance with no one but the flamingoes. Remembering the instructions
of the barn owl, the flamingoes kept their feet going all the time, and
the snakes could not see very clearly just what those wonderful
stockings were.

After a time, however, they grew suspicious. When a flamingo came
dancing by, the snakes would get down off the ends of their tails to
examine its feet more closely. The coral snakes, more than anybody else,
began to get uneasy. They could not take their eyes off those stockings,
and they got as near as they could, trying to touch the legs of the
flamingoes with the tips of their tongues--for snakes use their tongues
to feel with, much as people use their hands. But the flamingoes kept
dancing and dancing all the while, though by this time they were getting
so tired they were about ready to give up.

The coral snakes understood that sooner or later the flamingoes would
have to stop. So they borrowed the lightning bugs from the frogs, to be
ready when the flamingoes fell from sheer exhaustion.

And in fact, it was not long before one of the birds, all tired out,
tripped over the cigar in an alligator's mouth, and fell down on her
side. The coral snakes all ran toward her with their lanterns, and held
the lightning bugs up so close that they could see the feet of the
flamingo as clearly as could be.

"Aha! Aha! Stockings, eh? Stockings, eh?" The coral snakes began to hiss
so loudly that people could hear them on the other side of the Parana.

The cry was taken up by all the snakes: "They are not wearing stockings!
We know what they have done! The flamingoes have been killing brothers
of ours, and they are wearing their skins as stockings! Those pretty
legs each stand for the murder of a coral snake!"

At this uproar, the flamingoes took fright and tried to fly away. But
they were so tired from all the dancing that not one of them could move
a wing. The coral snakes darted upon them, and began to bite at their
legs, tearing off the false stockings bit by bit, and, in their rage,
sinking their fangs deep into the feet and legs of the flamingoes.

The flamingoes, terrified and mad with pain, hopped this way and that,
trying to shake their enemies off. But the snakes did not let go till
every last shred of stocking had been torn away. Then they crawled off,
to rearrange their gauze costumes that had been much rumpled in the
fray. They did not try to kill the flamingoes then and there; for most
coral snakes are poisonous; and they were sure the birds they had bitten
would die sooner or later anyway.

But the flamingoes did not die. They hopped down to the river and waded
out into the water to relieve their pain. Their feet and legs, which had
been white before, had now turned red from the poison in the bites. They
stood there for days and days, trying to cool the burning ache, and
hoping to wash out the red.

[Illustration: "The flamingoes ... hopped down to the river, and waded
out ... to relieve their pain."]

But they did not succeed. And they have not succeeded yet. The
flamingoes still pass most of their time standing on their red legs out
in the water. Occasionally they go ashore and walk up and down for a few
moments to see if they are getting well. But the pain comes again at
once, and they hurry back into the water. Even there they sometimes feel
an ache in one of their feet; and they lift it out to warm it in their
feathers. They stand that way on one leg for hours, I suppose because
the other one is so stiff and lame.

That is why the flamingoes have red legs instead of white. And the
fishes know it too. They keep coming up to the top of the water and
crying "Red legs! Red legs! Red legs!" to make fun of the flamingoes for
having tried to borrow costumes for a ball. On that account, the
flamingoes are always at war with the fishes. As they wade up and down,
and a fish comes up too close in order to shout "Red legs" at them, they
dip their long bills down and catch it if they can.



                              THE LAZY BEE


In a beehive once there was a bee who would not work. She would go
flying from blossom to blossom on the orange trees sucking out all the
honey. But instead of taking it back to the hive she would eat it then
and there.

She was a lazy bee. Every morning, the moment the sun had warmed the
hive, she would come to the door and look out. On making sure that it
was a lovely day, she would wash her face and comb her hair with her
paws, the way flies do, and then go flitting off, as pleased as could be
at the bright weather. So she would go buzzing and buzzing from flower
to flower; and then after a time she would go back and see what the
other bees were doing in the hive. So it would go on all day long.

Meantime the other bees would be working themselves to death trying to
fill the hive full of honey; for honey is what they give the little bees
to eat as soon as they are born. And these worker bees, very staid,
respectable, earnest bees, began to scowl at the conduct of this shirker
of a sister they had.

You must know that, at the door of every beehive, there are always a
number of bees on watch, to see that no insects but bees get into the
hive. These policemen, as a rule, are old bees, with a great deal of
experience in life. Their backs are quite bald, because all the hair
gets worn off from rubbing against the hive as they walk in and out of
the door.

One day when the lazy bee was just dropping in to see what was going on
in the hive, these policemen called her to one side:

"Sister," said they, "it is time you did a little work. All us bees have
to work!"

The little bee was quite scared when the policemen spoke to her, but she
answered:

"I go flying about all day long, and get very tired!"

"We didn't ask you how tired you got! We want to see how much work you
can do! This is Warning Number 1!"

And they let her go on into the hive.

But the lazy little bee did not mend her ways. On the next evening the
policemen stopped her again:

"Sister, we didn't see you working today!"

The little bee was expecting something of the kind, and she had been
thinking up what she would say all the way home.

"I'll go to work one of these days," she spoke up promptly; and with a
cheerful, winsome smile.

"We don't want you to go to work one of these days," they answered
gruffly. "We want you to go to work tomorrow morning. This is Warning
Number 2!"

And they let her in.

The following night, when the lazy bee came home, she did not wait for
the policemen to stop her. She went up to them sorrowfully and said:

"Yes, yes! I remember what I promised. I'm so sorry I wasn't able to
work today!"

"We didn't ask how sorry you were, nor what you had promised. What we
want from you is work. Today is the nineteenth of April. Tomorrow will
be the twentieth of April. See to it that the twentieth of April does
not pass without your putting at least one load of honey into the hive.
This is Warning Number 3! You may enter!"

And the policemen who had been blocking the door stepped aside to let
her in.

The lazy bee woke up with very good intentions the next morning; but the
sun was so warm and bright and the flowers were so beautiful! The day
passed the same as all the others; except that toward evening the
weather changed. The sun went down behind a great bank of clouds and a
strong icy wind began to blow.

The lazy little bee started for home as fast as she could, thinking how
warm and cozy it would be inside the hive, with all that storm blowing
out of doors. But on the porch of the beehive the policemen got in front
of her.

"Where are you going, young lady?" said they.

"I am going in to bed. This is where I live!"

"You must be mistaken," said the policemen. "Only busy worker bees live
here! Lazy bees are not allowed inside this door!"

"Tomorrow, surely, surely, surely, I am going to work," said the little
bee.

"There is no tomorrow for lazy bees," said the policemen; for they were
old, wise bees, and knew philosophy. "Away with you!" And they pushed
her off the doorstep.

The little bee did not know what to do. She flew around for a time; but
soon it began to grow dark; the wind blew colder and colder, and drops
of rain began to fall. Quite tired at last, she took hold of a leaf,
intending to rest a moment; but she was chilled and numbed by the cold.
She could not hang on, and fell a long distance to the ground.

She tried to get to her wings again, but they were too tired to work. So
she started crawling over the ground toward the hive. Every stone, every
stick she met, she had to climb over with great effort--so many hills
and mountains they seemed to such a tiny bee. The raindrops were coming
faster when, almost dead with cold and fright and fatigue, she arrived
at the door of the hive.

"Oh, oh," she moaned. "I am cold, and it is going to rain! I shall be
sure to die out here!" And she crept up to the door.

But the fierce policemen again stopped her from going in.

"Forgive me, sisters," the little bee said. "Please, let me go in!"

"Too late! Too late!" they answered.

"Please, sisters, I am so sleepy!" said the little bee.

"Too late! Too late!" said they.

"Please, sisters, I am cold!" said the little bee.

"Sorry! You can't go in!" said they.

"Please, sisters, for one last time! I shall die out here!"

"You won't die, lazy bee! One night will teach you the value of a warm
bed earned by honest labor! Away from here!"

And they pushed her off the doorstep again.

By this time it was raining hard. The little bee felt her wings and fur
getting wetter and wetter; and she was so cold and sleepy she did not
know what to do. She crawled along as fast as she could over the ground,
hoping to come to some place where it was dry and not so cold. At last
she came to a tree and began to walk up the trunk. Suddenly, just as she
had come to the crotch of two branches, she fell! She fell a long, long
distance and landed finally on something soft. There was no wind and no
rain blowing. On coming to her wits the little bee understood that she
had fallen down through a hole inside a hollow tree.

And now the little bee had the fright of her life. Coiled up near her
there was a snake, a green snake with a brick-colored back. That hollow
tree was the snake's house; and the snake lay there looking at her with
eyes that shone even in that darkness. Now, snakes eat bees, and like
them. So when this little bee found herself so close to a fearful enemy
of her kind, she just closed her eyes and murmured to herself:

"This is the last of me! Oh, how I wish I had worked!"

To her great surprise, however, the snake not only did not eat her, but
spoke to her rather softly for such a terrible snake:

"How do you do, little bee? You must be a naughty little bee, to be out
so late at night!"

"Yes," she murmured, her heart in her throat. "I have been a naughty
bee. I did not work, and they won't let me in to go to my bed!"

"In that case, I shall not be so sorry to eat you!" answered the snake.
"Surely there can be no harm at all in depriving the world of a useless
little bee like you! I won't have to go out for dinner tonight. I shall
eat you right here!"

The little bee was about as scared as a bee can be.

"That is not fair," she said. "It is not just! You have no right to eat
me just because you are bigger than I am. Go and ask people if that
isn't so! People know what is right and wrong!"

"Ah, ah!" said the snake, lifting his head higher, "so you have a good
opinion of men? So you think that the men who steal your honey are more
honest than snakes who eat you? You are not only a lazy bee. You are
also a silly one!"

"It is not because men are dishonest that they take our honey," said the
bee.

"Why is it then?" said the snake.

"It's because they are more intelligent than we are!" That is what the
bee said; but the snake just laughed; and then he hissed:

"Well, if you must have it that way, it's because I'm more intelligent
than you that I'm going to eat you now! Get ready to be eaten, lazy
bee!"

And the snake drew back to strike, and lap up the bee at one gobble.

But the little bee had time to say:

"It's because you're duller than I am that you eat me!"

"Duller than you?" asked the snake, letting his head down again. "How is
that, stupid?"

"However it is, it's so!"

"I'll have to be shown!" said the snake. "I will make a bargain with
you. We will each do a trick; and the cleverest trick wins. If I win,
I'll eat you!"

"And if I win?" asked the little bee.

"If you win," said the snake after some thought, "you may stay in here
where it is warm all night. Is it a bargain?"

"It is," said the bee.

The snake considered another moment or so and then began to laugh. He
had thought of something a bee could not possibly do. He darted out of a
hole in the tree so quickly the bee had scarcely time to wonder what he
was up to; and just as quickly he came back with a seed pod from the
eucalyptus tree that stood near the beehive and shaded it on days when
the sun was hot. Now the seed pods of the eucalyptus tree are just the
shape of a top; in fact, the boys and girls in Argentina call them
"tops"--_trompitos!_

"Now you just watch and see what I'm a-going to do," said the snake.
"Watch now! Watch!..."

The snake wound the thin part of his tail around the top like a string;
then, with a jump forward to his full length, he straightened his tail
out. The "top" began to spin like mad on the bark floor there at the
bottom of the hollow tree; and it spun and spun and spun, dancing,
jumping, running off in this direction and then in that direction. And
the snake laughed! And he laughed and he laughed and he laughed! No bee
would ever be able to do a thing like that!

Finally the top got tired of spinning and fell over on its side.

"That is very clever!" said the bee, "I could never do that!"

"In that case, I shall have to eat you!" said the snake.

"Not just yet, please," said the bee. "I can't spin a top; but I can do
something no one else can do!"

"What is that?" asked the snake.

"I can disappear!" said the bee.

"What do you mean, disappear?" said the snake, with some interest.
"Disappear so that I can't see you and without going away from here?"

"Without going away from here!"

"Without hiding in the ground?"

"Without hiding in the ground!"

"I give up!" said the snake. "Disappear! But if you don't do as you say,
I eat you, gobble, gobble, just like that!"

Now you must know that while the top was spinning round and round, the
little bee had noticed something on the floor of the hollow tree she had
not seen before: it was a little shrub, three or four inches high, with
leaves about the size of a fifty-cent piece. She now walked over to the
stem of this little shrub, taking care, however, not to touch it with
her body. Then she said:

"Now it is my turn, Mr. Snake. Won't you be so kind as to turn around,
and count 'one,' 'two,' 'three.' At the word 'three,' you can look for
me everywhere! I simply won't be around!"

The snake looked the other way and ran off a "onetathree," then turning
around with his mouth wide open to have his dinner at last. You see, he
counted so fast just to give the bee as little time as possible, under
the contract they had made.

But if he opened his mouth wide for his dinner, he held it open in
complete surprise. There was no bee to be found anywhere! He looked on
the floor. He looked on the sides of the hollow tree. He looked in each
nook and cranny. He looked the little shrub all over. Nothing! The bee
had simply disappeared!

Now, the snake understood that if his trick of spinning the top with his
tail was extraordinary, this trick of the bee was almost miraculous.
Where had that good-for-nothing lazybones gone to? Here? No! There? No!
Where then? Nowhere! There was no way to find the little bee!

"Well," said the snake at last, "I give up! Where are you?"

A little voice seemed to come from a long way off, but still from the
middle of the space inside the hollow tree.

"You won't eat me if I reappear?" it said.

"No, I won't eat you!" said the snake.

"Promise?"

"I promise! But where are you?"

"Here I am," said the bee, coming out on one of the leaves of the little
shrub.

It was not such a great mystery after all. That shrub was a
Sensitive-plant, a plant that is very common in South America,
especially in the North of the Republic of Argentina, where
Sensitive-plants grow to quite a good size. The peculiarity of the
Sensitive-plant is that it shrivels up its leaves at the slightest
contact. The leaves of this shrub were unusually large, as is true of
the Sensitive-plants around the city of Misiones. You see, the moment
the bee lighted on a leaf, it folded up tight about her, hiding her
completely from view. Now, the snake had been living next to that plant
all the season long, and had never noticed anything unusual about it.
The little bee had paid attention to such things, however; and her
knowledge this time had saved her life.

The snake was very much ashamed at being bested by such a little bee;
and he was not very nice about it either. So much so, in fact, that the
bee spent most of the night reminding him of the promise he had made not
to eat her.

And it was a long, endless night for the little bee. She sat on the
floor in one corner and the snake coiled up in the other corner
opposite. Pretty soon it began to rain so hard that the water came
pouring in through the hole at the top of the tree and made quite a
puddle on the floor. The bee sat there and shivered and shivered; and
every so often the snake would raise his head as though to swallow her
at one gulp. "You promised! You promised! You promised!" And the snake
would lower his head, sheepishlike, because he did not want the bee to
think him a dishonest, as well as a stupid snake.

The little bee, who had been used to a warm hive at home and to warm
sunlight out of doors, had never dreamed there could be so much cold
anywhere as there was in that hollow tree. Nor had there ever been a
night so long!

But the moment there was a trace of daylight at the hole in the top of
the tree, the bee bade the snake good-by and crawled out. She tried her
wings; and this time they worked all right. She flew in a bee-line
straight for the door of the hive.

The policemen were standing there and she began to cry. But they simply
stepped aside without saying a word, and let her in. They understood,
you see, as wise old bees, that this wayward child was not the lazy bee
they had driven away the evening before, but a sadder and wiser child
who now knew something about the world she had to live in.

And they were right. Never before was there such a bee for working from
morning till night, day in, day out, gathering pollen and honey from the
flowers. When Autumn came she was the most respected bee in the hive and
she was appointed teacher of the young bees who would do the work the
following year. And her first lesson was something like this:

"It is not because bees are intelligent but because they work that makes
them such wonderful little things. I used my intelligence only once--and
that was to save my life. I should not have gotten into that trouble,
however, if I had worked, like all the other bees. I used to waste my
strength just flying around doing nothing. I should not have been any
more tired if I had worked. What I needed was a sense of duty; and I got
it that night I spent with the snake in the hollow tree.

"Work, my little bees, work!--remembering that what we are all working
for, the happiness of everybody, will be hard enough to get if each of
us does his full duty. This is what people say, and it is just as true
of bees. Work well and faithfully and you will be happy. There is no
sounder philosophy for a man or for a bee!"



                    THE GIANT TORTOISE'S GOLDEN RULE


Once there was a man who lived in Buenos Aires and was a friend of the
superintendent of the Zoo. This man had a very happy life, because he
worked hard and enjoyed good health. But one day he fell ill, and the
doctors told him he would never get well unless he left town and went to
live in the country where there was good air and a warm climate. The man
could not think of such a thing, however. He had five little brothers,
and both his parents were dead. He had to provide the little boys with
food and clothes, and get them ready for school in the morning. Who
would care for them, if he went away? So he kept on with his work and
his illness grew worse and worse.

One day a man from the Zoo met him on the street and said:

"You ought to go and live an out-of-door life for a while. Now, I have
an idea. We need a collection of new specimens for our museum, and you
are a good shot with a gun. Wouldn't you like to go up into the Andes
and hunt for us? I will pay for your outfit, and get a woman to look
after your little brothers. It will not cost you very much, and there
will be plenty of money left for the boys."

The sick man gladly accepted. He went off to the mountains, many, many
miles beyond Misiones, where he camped in the open air and soon began to
get better.

He lived quite by himself, doing his own cooking, washing his own
clothes, and making his own bed, which was a bag with blankets in it. He
did not use a tent, but slept in the bag out under the stars. When it
rained he would throw up a shelter of branches, cover it with his
waterproof, and sit down all cozy underneath, till the storm cleared. He
ate partridges and venison, with the berries and wild fruits he found
along the mountains. Whenever he saw some rare animal that the Zoo would
want, he shot it, and dried its skin in the sun. In course of time, he
made a big bundle of such skins, which he carried on his shoulder
whenever he moved his camp to a new place. Many beautifully spotted
snakes he was able to catch alive; and these he kept in a big hollow
gourd--for in South America wild squashes and pumpkins grow till they
are as large as gasoline cans.

All this was very hard work but the man grew strong and healthy again.
And what an appetite he had when supper time came around! One day when
his provisions were getting low, he went out hunting with his gun. Soon
he came to a wide lake, and what should he see on the shore but a huge
panther that had caught a tortoise! The fierce animal had drawn the
turtle up out of the water and was clawing between the two shells trying
to scratch the meat out. As the man approached, the panther turned and,
with a great roar, leaped toward him. The panther was not quick enough,
however, for a bullet from the man's rifle caught him between the eyes
and laid him low in his tracks.

"What a wonderful rug this skin will make for somebody!" the man
exclaimed; and he carefully removed the hide and rolled it up to take
home.

"I think I will have turtle soup for supper tonight," the man continued
as he turned toward the tortoise; for turtle-flesh is one of the richest
and sweetest of all meats.

But he could not help feeling very sorry for the poor turtle when he saw
what a plight she was in. The panther's claws had torn the flesh
terribly; and a great gash in her throat had all but left her head
severed from the rest of the body. Instead of killing the wounded turtle
the hunter thought he would try to cure her of her hurts.

[Illustration: "He could not help feeling sorry for the poor
turtle...."]

The camp was some distance away and the man was very tired. Besides,
when he tried to lift the tortoise, he found she weighed nearly two
hundred pounds. Finally he put a rope around her, and pulled and hauled
till he dragged her along over the grass back to the camp.

The man had no extra pieces of cloth to make a bandage with, so he cut
off a piece of his shirt and took the lining out of his coat. Finally he
managed to bind up the tortoise's throat and stop the bleeding. Then he
pushed her into a corner of the shelter, where she lay motionless for
days and days. Twice a day the man would come and wash the wound with
water and liniment. When he thought the cut had healed, he took off the
wrapping and the tortoise drew her head into her shell. The man kept
visiting her every morning, however, tapping gently on the turtle's back
to wake her up.

The tortoise got entirely well; but then something terrible happened.
The man caught a fever in the swamps around the lake, and chills and
pains began to wrack his body. One morning he could not get out of his
sleeping bag, but just lay there groaning. His fever got rapidly worse,
and a parching thirst burned at his throat. In his delirium he began to
talk out loud: "Here I am all alone, away out here in the woods. I am
surely going to die. There is no one even to bring me a drink of water."

But the tortoise, all this time, had not been sleeping so soundly as the
man had thought. In fact, she had been slyly watching him as he worked
about the camp. When the hunter did not get up that morning, the
tortoise understood that something was wrong, and also that it was water
he kept calling for.

"This man," thought the tortoise, "did not eat me that day, though he
had me in his power and was hungry. Instead, he took care of me till I
was well. A good tortoise ought surely to do as much for him!"

The big turtle--she stood as high as a chair and weighed, as I said, as
much as a man--crawled off to the lakeside. There she hunted around till
she found a small tortoise shell. She polished it with sand till it was
bright and shiny. Then she filled it with pure cold water from a spring,
crawled back to camp with it, and gave the man a drink.

"Now for something to eat," said the turtle.

Turtles know the most peculiar kinds of roots and grasses to eat when
they are sick. This tortoise went out and gathered a supply of such
herbs and fed them to the man; and he ate them without noticing who was
finding his food for him, so nearly unconscious was he in his delirium.
So day after day the tortoise went hunting and hunting over the mountain
sides, looking for tenderer and tenderer grasses with stronger and
stronger juices. And how sorry she was she could not climb trees where
such fine berries and fruits were hanging!

Thus the hunter lay for a week or more, struggling between life and
death and kept alive only by the herbs the tortoise brought him. And
then one day, to the joy of the faithful animal, the man sat up in his
sleeping bag. The fever had left him and his mind was clear. He looked
around in surprise to see the water and a bundle of grasses near him;
for he was quite alone, save for the big turtle that still seemed to be
sleeping in her corner.

"Alas, I am lost!" he moaned. "No one will ever come to me. The fever
will return, and I cannot get any medicine nearer than Buenos Aires. If
I could walk, I might get there; but I can't, so I must die!"

And, just as he feared, the fever did return that evening worse than
before; and the man fell back into unconsciousness.

But again the turtle had understood: "Yes, he will die, if he stays
here! I must get him to Buenos Aires where there is some medicine!"

Carefully she dragged the bundle of skins up to the man and placed it in
position on his body. Then she did the same with the gourd full of
snakes. And what a task it was to get the gun in place on top of the
whole pile! Finally she went out into the woods and bit off a number of
tough, strong vines. These she stretched across the sleeping man and
tied to his arms and legs in such a way as to keep the baggage from
falling off. She dug her way under the sleeping bag till everything was
balanced on her back; and then she started off toward Buenos Aires.

She crawled along for ten or twelve hours each day, swimming rivers and
ponds, sinking deep into the mud of bogs, climbing hills and crossing
sandy plains where the sun at midday scorched terribly. In his fever the
man kept calling for water; and it was very trying to the poor tortoise
to have to get the man off her back each time while she went looking for
a drink for him. But she struggled forward just the same, and each night
she knew she was that much nearer to Buenos Aires.

But the tortoise, after days and days of this toil, understood that her
own strength was giving out. She did not complain, but she began to be
afraid that she would die before getting the hunter to a place of
safety. And one morning, in fact, she was so tired she was quite unable
to move.

"Here I am dying all alone in the woods!" the man moaned from his bag.
"No one will help me get to Buenos Aires! Oh, oh, I shall die here all
alone!"

You see, the man had been unconscious all the time, and thought he was
still lying in the shelter, away back in the mountains.

The words stirred the weary tortoise to fresh effort. She got the man up
on her back again and went on.

But the moment came when she could not take another step forward. She
had not been eating for some days, because she had not dared take the
time for hunting. Now she was too weak to do even that. So she drew her
legs into her shell and closed her eyes, waiting for death to come, and
mourning inside her turtle-heart that she had failed in saving the life
of the man who had befriended her.

The sun went down and night fell. As the turtle chanced to open her
eyes, she was surprised to see a reddish glow on the distant horizon;
and she heard a voice--the voice of a wharf rat--talking near by. The
rat was saying:

"My, what a turtle, what a turtle! I never saw such a big one in my
life! And what is that on her back? A cord of wood?"

The poor turtle did not know that those lights came from Buenos Aires,
and that the rat was a citizen of that town, out for a night's foraging
in the fields of the suburbs.

"It is not a cord of wood," the turtle murmured, "It is a man, a sick
man!"

"And what on earth are you doing here with a man on your back?" the rat
inquired, laughing the way rats from the city laugh at their country
cousins.

"I ... I was ..." the tortoise murmured faintly, "I was taking him to
Buenos Aires to be cured ... but I shall never get there.... My strength
has given out.... I am going to die ... we are both going to die, right
here!"

"I never saw such a silly turtle!" the rat replied. "Don't you know
you're in Buenos Aires now? Don't you see those lights? They're from the
theater district. Go along straight ahead; and you'll get there in no
time!"

This encouraging news filled the tortoise with new life. She strained
every muscle inside her shell and moved slowly but surely forward.

When it was daylight she found herself quite inside the town. And who
should come along the street but the superintendent of the Zoo!

"My, what a turtle! What a big turtle!" he exclaimed. "And what in the
world is she carrying on her back?"

The tortoise could not speak from sheer fatigue. She stopped, and the
man came up to examine the strange outfit on her back. To his amazement,
he recognized his friend in the man sleeping, pale and fever-stricken,
inside the bag. He called a carriage and got the man home, sending for a
doctor to come at once.

In course of time, the man got well. When he learned that the tortoise
had brought him miles and miles on her back, all the way from the Andes
to Buenos Aires, he could hardly believe the story. And out of gratitude
he said he would make a home for her the rest of her life. His own
cottage was quite filled with his six little brothers; and there was no
room for such a big pet in the house. But the director of the Zoo said
he would find a place for her there, and care for her as tenderly as he
would for his own daughter.

And that is what happened. The tortoise was given a house for herself
alone, with a tank of water in the front yard, where she could swim if
she wanted to. She was allowed to wander at will over all the gardens of
the Zoo, though she spent a large part of her time near the monkey
house, where there was most to eat.

And she is still living there. Go to the zoölogical park any day and you
will see an enormously big tortoise crawling slowly along over the green
grass. If you wait long enough you will see a man come up, stoop over
and rap gently with his knuckles on her shell.

That's the tortoise we have been talking about--and that's the man!

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                 NOTES

_How the Rays Defended the Ford._ P. 14: Where we say "shiner," the
Argentine text has _dorado_, a fish apparently of the salmon family, for
which the scientific name is _salminus platensis_. P. 18: The river-pig
is the _carpincho_, a river rodent, and the largest of all surviving
rodents, known to zoölogists as _hydroceros capibara_. The _carpincho_
can be tamed, and trained to follow its master around like a dog.

_The Story of Two Raccoon Cubs and Two Man Cubs._ Where we say "raccoon"
the Spanish text has _coatì_ (nasua narica), biologically a relative of
the bear family.

_The Blind Doe._ P. 75: The stingless bees in question are those called
_yatei_ or _mirì_ in the Guarani dialect. P. 80: Our "anteater" is the
variety found in Northern Argentina, there known as the _oso
hormiguero_. The Spanish name is _tamandua_, and the scientific,
_mirmecophaga tridactyla_.

_The Alligator War._ P. 97: Where we say "walnut and mahogany" the
Argentine text reads _quebracho_ and _lapacho_, hardwood trees known to
commerce under their Spanish names and common in the Chaco region. P.
104: We say "sturgeon." The word used by Quiroga is _surubì_, a large
South American river fish of the torpedo family (_pseudo-platystoma
coruscans_).

_How the Flamingoes Got Their Stockings._ P. 121: The name _tatù_ is
applied also to the _armadillo_.

_The Lazy Bee._ P. 143: The sensitive plant in question is of the
variety called _mimosa pudica_.

                                                                   A. L.


                                THE END





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