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- The Tale of Brownie Beaver - 3/9 -
people with nothing to do at home.
"There'll be plenty to help save the dam," everybody said to himself. "I'll just work on my house."
Now, Brownie Beaver knew that there was nothing more he could do to make his house safe, so he swam over to the dam, expecting to find a good many of his neighbors there. But old Grandaddy Beaver was the only other person he found. And he seemed worried.
"It's a great pity!" he said to Brownie. "Here's this fine dam, which has taken so many years to build, and it's a-going to be washed away-- you mark my words!"
"What makes you think that?" asked Brownie.
"There's nobody here to do anything," said Grandaddy Beaver. "The spillways of this dam ought to be made as big as possible, to let the freshet pass through. But I can't do it, for I can't swim as well as I could once."
Brownie Beaver looked at the rushing water which poured over the top of the dam in a hundred places and was already carrying off mud and sticks, eating the dam away before his very eyes.
"I'll save the dam!" he cried. "You?" Grandaddy Beaver exclaimed. "Why, what do you think you can do?" Being so old, he couldn't help believing that other people were too young to do difficult things.
"Watch me and I'll show you!" Brownie Beaver told him. And without saying another word he swam to the nearest spillway and began making it bigger.
Sometimes he had to fight the freshet madly, to keep from being swept over the dam himself. Sometimes, too, as he stood on the dam it crumbled beneath him and he found himself swimming again.
How many narrow escapes he had that day Brownie Beaver could never remember. When they happened, he didn't have time to count them, he was working so busily. And if old Grandaddy Beaver hadn't told everyone afterward, how Brownie saved the great dam from being swept away, and how hard he had worked, and how he had swum fearlessly into the torrent, people wouldn't have known anything about it.
To be sure, they had noticed that the water went down almost as suddenly as it rose. But they hadn't stopped to think that there must have been some reason for that. And when they learned that Brownie Beaver was the reason, the whole village gave him a vote of thanks.
They wanted to give him a gold-headed cane, too. But they were unable to find one anywhere.
When Brownie Beaver heard of that he said it was just as well, because he seldom walked far on land and there wasn't much use in a person's carrying a cane when he swam, anyhow. Although it was sometimes done, he had always considered it a silly practice--and one that he would not care to follow.
A HAPPY THOUGHT
Brownie Beaver liked to know what was going on in the world. But living far from Pleasant Valley as he did, he seldom heard any news before it was quite old.
"I wish--" he said to Mr. Crow one day, when that old gentleman was making him a visit--"I wish someone would start a newspaper in this neighborhood."
Mr. Crow told Brownie that he would be glad to bring him an old newspaper whenever he happened to find one. "Thank you!" Brownie Beaver said. "You're very kind. But an old newspaper would be of no use to me."
"Why not?" Mr. Crow inquired. "They make very good beds, I've been told. And I suppose that is what you want one for."
"Not at all!" Brownie replied. "I'd like to know what's happening over in Pleasant Valley. It takes so long for news to reach us here in our pond that it's often hardly worth listening to when we hear it--it's so old. Now, what I'd really prefer is a newspaper that would tell me everything that's going to happen a week later."
Mr. Crow said he never heard of a newspaper like that.
"Well, somebody ought to start one," Brownie Beaver answered.
Mr. Crow thought deeply for some minutes without saying a word. And at last He cried suddenly:
"I have an idea!"
"Have you?" Brownie Beaver exclaimed. "What is it, Mr. Crow?"
"I'll be your newspaper!" Mr. Crow told him.
At that Brownie Beaver looked somewhat doubtful.
"That's very kind of you," he said. "But I'm afraid it wouldn't do me much good. You're so black that the ink wouldn't show on you at all--- unless," he added, "they use _white_ ink to print on you."
"You don't understand," old Mr. Crow said. "What I mean is this: I'll fly over here once a week and tell you everything that's happened. Of course," he continued, "I can't very well tell you everything that is going to take place the following week. But I'll do my best."
Brownie Beaver was delighted. And when Mr. Crow asked him what day he wanted his newspaper Brownie said that Saturday afternoon would be a good time.
"That's the last day of the week," Brownie Beaver remarked, "so you ought to have plenty of news for me. You know, if you came the first day of the week there would be very little to tell."
"That's so!" said Mr. Crow. "Well say 'Saturday,' then. And you shall have your newspaper without fail--unless," he explained--"unless there should be a bad storm, or unless I should be ill. And, of course, if Farmer Green should want me to help him in his cornfield, I wouldn't be able to come. There might be other things, too, to keep me at home, which I can't think of just now," said Mr. Crow.
Again Brownie Beaver looked a bit doubtful.
"I hope you'll try to be regular," he told Mr. Crow. "When a person takes a newspaper he doesn't like to be disappointed, you know."
Old Mr. Crow said that he hoped nothing would prevent his coming to Brownie's house every Saturday afternoon.
"There's only one more thing I can think of," he croaked, "that would make it impossible for me to be here. And that is if I should lose count of the days of the week or have to see a baseball game or fly south for the winter."
"But that's _three_ things, instead of only _one_," Brownie Beaver objected.
"Well--maybe it is," Mr. Crow replied--"the way you count. But I call it only one because I said it all in one breath, without a single pause."
"I hope you won't tell me the news as fast as that," said Brownie Beaver, "for if you did I should never be able to remember one-half of it."
But Mr. Crow promised that he would talk very slowly.
"You'll be perfectly satisfied," he told Brownie. "And now I must go home at once, to begin gathering news."
A NEWFANGLED NEWSPAPER
After Mr. Crow flew back to Pleasant Valley to gather news for him, Brownie Beaver carefully counted each day that passed. Since Mr. Crow had agreed to be his newspaper, and come each Saturday afternoon to tell him everything that had happened during the week, Brownie was in a great hurry for Saturday to arrive.
In order to make no mistake, he put aside a stick in which he gnawed a notch each day. And in that way he knew exactly when Saturday came.
That was probably the longest day in Brownie Beaver's life. At least, it seemed so to him. Whenever he saw a bird soaring above the tree-tops he couldn't help hoping it was Mr. Crow. And whenever he heard a _caw_--_caw_ far off in the distance Brownie Beaver dropped whatever he happened to be doing, expecting that Mr. Crow would flap into sight at any moment.
Brownie had many disappointments. But Mr. Crow really came at last. He lighted right on top of Brownie Beaver's house and called "Paper!" down the chimney--just like that!
Brownie happened to be inside his house. And in a wonderfully short time his head appeared above the water and he soon crawled up beside Mr. Crow.
"Well, I _am_ glad to see you!" he told Mr. Crow.
"Peter Mink caught a monstrous eel in the duck pond on Monday," Mr. Crow said. Being a newspaper, he thought he ought to say nothing except what was news--not even "Good afternoon!"
"Mr. Rabbit, of Pine Ridge, with his wife and fourteen children, is visiting his brother, Mr. Jeremiah Rabbit. Mrs. Jeremiah Rabbit says she does not know when her husband's relations are going home," Mr. Crow continued to relate in a singsong voice.
"Goodness gracious!" Brownie Beaver exclaimed.
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