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- The Tale of Brownie Beaver - 1/9 -


[Illustration: Mr. Frog Had Been Hiding Among the Lily-pads]

THE TALE OF BROWNIE BEAVER

BY

ARTHUR SCOTT BAILEY

CONTENTS

I A QUEER PLACE TO LIVE

II HOW TO FELL A TREE

III STICKS AND MUD

IV THE FRESHET

V BROWNIE SAVES THE DAM

VI A HAPPY THOUGHT

VII A NEWFANGLED NEWSPAPER

VIII MR. CROW IS UPSET

IX THE SIGN ON THE TREE

X A HOLIDAY

XI BAD NEWS

XII GRANDADDY BEAVER THINKS

XIII A LUCKY FIND

XIV WAS IT A GUN?

XV JASPER JAY'S STORY

XVI LOOKING PLEASANT

XVII BROWNIE ESCAPES

XVIII MR. FROG'S QUESTION

XIX THE NEW SUIT

I

A QUEER PLACE TO LIVE

The village near one end of Pleasant Valley where Farmer Green often went to sell butter and eggs was not the only village to be seen from Blue Mountain. There was another which Farmer Green seldom visited, because it lay beyond the mountain and was a long distance from his house. Though he owned the land where it stood, those that lived there thought they had every right to stay there as long as they pleased, without being disturbed.

It was in this village that Brownie Beaver and his neighbors lived. It was a different sort of town, too, from the one where Farmer Green went each week. Over beyond Blue Mountain all the houses were built in a pond. And all their doors were under water. But nobody minded that because--like Brownie Beaver--everybody that dwelt there was a fine swimmer.

Years and years before Brownie's time his forefathers had come there, and finding that there were many trees in the neighborhood with the sort of bark they liked to eat--such as poplars, willows and box elders--they had decided that it was a good place to live. There was a small stream, too, which was really the beginning of Swift River. And by damming it those old settlers made a pond in which they could build their houses.

They had ideas of their own as to what a house should be like--and very good ideas they were--though you, perhaps, might not care for them at all. They wanted their houses to be surrounded by water, because they thought they were safer when built in that manner. And they always insisted that a door leading into a house should be far beneath the surface of the water, for they believed that that made a house safer too.

To you such an idea may seem very strange. But if you were chased by an enemy you might be glad to be able to swim under water, down to the bottom of a pond, and slip inside a door which led to a winding hall, which in its turn led upwards into your house.

Of course, your enemy might be able to swim as well as you. But maybe he would think twice--or even three times--before he went prowling through your crooked hall. For if you had enormous, strong, sharp teeth--with which you could gnaw right through a tree--he would not care to have you seize him as he poked his head around a corner in a dark passage of a strange house.

It was in a house of that kind that Brownie Beaver lived. And he built it himself, because he said he would rather have a neat, new house than one of the big, old dwellings that had been built many years before, when his great-great-grandfather had helped throw the dam across the stream.

The dam was there still. It was so old that trees were growing on it. And there was an odd thing about it: it was never finished. Though Brownie Beaver was a young chap, he worked on the dam sometimes, like all his neighbors. You see, the villagers kept making the dam wider. And since it was built of sticks and mud, the water sometimes washed bits of it away: so it had to be kept in repair.

If Brownie Beaver and his friends had neglected their dam, they would have waked up some day and found that their pond was empty; and without any water to hide their doorways they would have been safe no longer.

They would have had no place, either, to store their winter's food. For they were in the habit of cutting down trees and saving the bark and branches too, in order to have plenty to eat when cold weather came and the ice closed their pond.

Some of their food they carried into their houses through a straight hall which was made for that very purpose. And some of the branches they fastened under water, near the dam. It was just like putting green things into a refrigerator, so they will keep.

Now you see why Brownie Beaver would no more have thought of building his house on dry land than you would think of building one in a pond. Everybody likes his own way best. And it never once occurred to Brownie Beaver that his way was the least bit strange.

Perhaps it was because his family had always lived in that fashion.

II

HOW TO FELL A TREE

Brownie Beaver could do many things that other forest-people (except his own relations) were not able to do at all. For instance, cutting down a tree was something that nobody but one of the Beaver family would think of attempting. But as for Brownie Beaver--if he ever saw a tree that he wanted to cut down he set to work at once, without even going home to get any tools. And the reason for that was that he always had his tools with him. For strange as it may seem, he used his teeth to do all his wood-cutting.

The first thing to be done when you set out to fell a tree with your teeth is to strip off the bark around the bottom of the trunk, so that a white band encircles it. At least, that was the way Brownie Beaver always began. And no doubt he knew what he was about.

After he had removed the band of bark Brownie began to gnaw away chips of wood, where the white showed. And as he gnawed, he slowly sidled round and round the tree, until at last only the heart of the tree was left to keep the tree from toppling over.

Then Brownie Beaver would stop his gnawing and look all about, to pick out a place where he wanted the tree to fall. And as soon as Brownie had made up his mind about that, he quickly gnawed a few more chips out of the heart of the tree on the side toward the spot where he intended it to come toppling down upon the ground.

Brownie Beaver would not have to gnaw long before the tree would begin to lean. All the time it leaned more and more. And the further over it sagged, the faster it tipped. Luckily, Brownie Beaver always knew just the right moment to jump out of the way before the tree fell.

If you had ever seen him you might have thought he was frightened, because he never failed to run away and hide as the tree crashed down with a sound almost like thunder.

But Brownie was not at all frightened. He was merely careful. Knowing what a loud noise the falling tree would make, and that it might lead a man (or some other enemy) to come prowling around, to see what had happened, Brownie used to stay hidden until he felt quite sure that no one was going to trouble him.

You can understand that waiting, as he did, was no easy matter when you stop to remember that one of Brownie's reasons for cutting down a tree was that he wanted to eat the tender bark to be found in the tree-top. It was exactly like knowing your dinner was on the table, all ready for you, and having to hide in some dark corner for half an hour, before going into the dining-room. You know how hungry you would get, if you had to do that.

Well, Brownie Beaver used to get just as hungry as any little boy or girl. How he did tear at the bark, when he finally began to eat! And how full he stuffed his mouth! And how he did enjoy his meal! But everybody will admit that he had a right to enjoy his dinner, for he


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