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- The Tale of Brownie Beaver - 2/9 -
certainly worked hard enough to get it.
STICKS AND MUD
Like the dam that held back the water to form the pond where Brownie Beaver lived, Brownie's house was made of sticks and mud. He cut the sticks himself, from trees that grew near the bank of the pond; and after dragging and pushing them to the water's edge he swam with them, without much trouble, to the center of the pond, where he wished to build his house. Of course, the sticks floated in the water; so Brownie found that part of his work to be quite easy.
He had chosen that spot in the center of the pond because there was something a good deal like an island there--only it did not rise quite out of the water. A good, firm place on which to set his house-- Brownie Beaver considered it.
While he was building his house Brownie gathered his winter's food at the same time. Anyone might think he would have found it difficult to do two things at once like that. But while he was cutting sticks to build his new house it was no great trouble to peel the bark off them. The bark, you know, was what Brownie Beaver always ate. And when he cut sticks for his house there was only one thing about which he had to be careful; he had to be particular to use only certain kinds of wood. Poplar, cottonwood, or willow; birch, elm, box elder or aspen-- those were the trees which bore bark that he liked. But if he had cut down a hickory or an ash or an oak tree he wouldn't have been able to get any food from them at all because the bark was not the sort he cared for. That was lucky, in a way, because the wood of those trees was very hard and Brownie would have had much more work cutting them down.
A good many of Brownie Beaver's neighbors thought he was foolish to go to the trouble of building a new house, when there were old ones to be had. And there was a lazy fellow called Tired Tim who laughed openly at Brownie.
"When you're older you'll know better than to work like that," Tired Tim told him. "Why don't you do the way I did?" he asked. "I dug a tunnel in the bank of the pond; and it's a good enough house for anybody. It's much easier than building a house of sticks and mud."
But Brownie told Tired Tim that he didn't care to live in a hole in the bank.
"Nobody but a very lazy person would be willing to have a house like that," Brownie said.
Tired Tim only laughed all the harder.
"Old Grandaddy Beaver has been talking to you," he remarked. "I saw him taking you over to the dam day before yesterday and telling you where to work on it. Of course, that's all right if you're willing to work for the whole village. But I say, let others do the work! As for me, I've never put a single stick nor a single armful of mud on that dam; and what's more, I never intend to, either.
"My tunnel in the bank suits me very well. Of course, it may not be so airy in summer as a house such as you're making for yourself. But I don't live in my house in summer. So what's the difference to me? In summer I go up the stream, or down--just as it suits me--and I see something of the world and have a fine time. There's nothing like travel, you know, to broaden one," said Tired Tim.
Brownie Beaver stopped just a moment and looked at the lazy fellow. He was certainly broad enough, Brownie thought. He was so fat that his sides stuck far out. But it was no wonder--for he never did any work.
"You'd better take my advice," Tired Tim told Brownie.
But Brownie Beaver had returned to his wood-cutting. He didn't even stop to answer. To him, working was just fun. And building a fine house was as good as any game.
The rain had fallen steadily for two days and two nights-not just a gentle drizzle, but a heavy downpour.
For some time it did not in the least disturb Brownie Beaver and his neighbors--that is to say, all but one of them. For there was a very old gentleman in the village known as Grandaddy Beaver who began to worry almost as soon as it began to rain.
"We're a-going to have a freshet," he said to everybody he met. "I've seen 'em start many a time and I can always tell a freshet almost as soon as I see it coming."
Grandaddy Beaver's friends paid no heed to his warning. And some of them were so unkind as to laugh when the old gentleman crawled on top of his house and began to mend it.
"You young folks can poke fun at me if you want to," said Grandaddy Beaver, "but I'm a-going right ahead and make my house as strong as I can. For when the freshet gets here I don't want my home washed away."
All day long people would stop to watch the old fellow at work upon his roof. And everybody thought it was a great joke--until the second day came and everybody noticed that it was raining just as hard as ever.
But no one except Grandaddy Beaver had ever heard of a freshet at that time of year. So even then nobody else went to work on his house, though some people _did_ stop smiling. A freshet, you know, is a serious thing.
As the second day passed, the rain seemed to fall harder. And still Grandaddy Beaver kept putting new sticks on the roof of his house and plastering mud over them. And at last Brownie Beaver began to think that perhaps the old gentleman was right, after all, and that maybe everybody else was wrong.
So Brownie went home and set to work. And all his neighbors at once began to smile at him.
But Brownie Beaver didn't mind that.
"My roof needed mending, anyhow," he said. "And if we _should_ have a freshet. I'll be ready for it. And if we don't have one, there'll be no harm done."
[Illustration: Mr. Crow Called Down the Chimney]
Now, all this time the water had been rising slowly. But that was no more than everyone expected, since it was raining so hard. But when the second night came, the water began to rise very fast. It rose so quickly that several families found their bedroom floors under water almost before they knew it.
Then old Grandaddy Beaver went through the village and stopped at every door.
"What do you think about it now?" he asked. "Is it a freshet or isn't it?"
In the houses where the water had climbed above the bedroom floors the people all agreed that it was a freshet and that Grandaddy Beaver had been right all the time. But there were still plenty of people who thought the old gentleman was mistaken.
"The water won't come any higher," they said. "It never has, at this time of year." But they looked a bit worried, in spite of what they said.
"It's a-going to be the worst freshet that's happened since you were born," their caller croaked. "You mark my words!"
When he came to Brownie Beaver's house Grandaddy found that there was one person, at least, that had taken his advice.
"I see you're all ready for the freshet!" the old gentleman remarked. "They laughed at me; but I was right," he said.
"They laughed at me, too," Brownie Beaver told him.
"There's nobody in this village that'll laugh again tonight," Grandaddy said very solemnly, "for there's a-going to be a flood before morning."
BROWNIE SAVES THE DAM
Brownie Beaver was always glad that he had taken Grandaddy's advice about the freshet. And Brownie's neighbors were glad that he had, too. For that was really the only thing that saved the village from being carried away by the flood of water that swept down upon the pond, after it had rained for two days and two nights.
The pond rose so quickly and the water rushed past so fast that people had to scramble out of their houses and begin working on them, to keep them from being washed away.
That rush of water meant only one thing. The pond was full and running over! And just as likely as not the dam would be carried away--the dam on which Grandaddy Beaver had worked when he was a youngster, and on which his own grandaddy had worked before him. It would take years and years to build another such dam as that.
Now, with almost everybody working on his own house, there was almost no one left to work upon the dam. But people never stopped to think about that. They never once remembered that out of the whole village old Grandaddy and Brownie Beaver were the only persons whose houses had been made ready for the freshet and that those two were the only
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