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- The Tale of Brownie Beaver - 5/9 -
only to-day. And I thought you ought to know about it at once, Uncle Jerry."
As soon as he heard that, Uncle Jerry Chuck stepped close to the tree and began to read the sign.
Now, there was something about Uncle Jerry's reading that Brownie Beaver had heard. People had told him that Uncle Jerry Chuck couldn't tell what a sign said unless he read it _aloud_. That was why Brownie Beaver had sent for him, for Brownie knew Uncle Jerry well enough to guess that if anybody _asked_ Uncle Jerry to read the sign, Uncle Jerry would insist on being paid for his trouble.
But now Uncle Jerry was going to read the sign for himself. And Brownie Beaver moved up beside him, to hear what he said.
The sign looked like this:
Uncle Jerry repeated the words in a sing-song tone.
"I don't think much of that," he said. "It's bad enough to be hunted by people who make a noise, though you have _some_ chance of getting away then. But if they can't make a noise it will be much more dangerous for all of us forest-people."
If Tommy Fox hadn't happened to come along just then Uncle Jerry wouldn't have found out his mistake. But Tommy Fox soon set him right. As soon as he had talked a bit with Uncle Jerry he said:
"What the sign really means is that no hunting or fishing will be permitted. That last word should be 'allowed,' instead of 'aloud.' It's spelled wrong," he explained.
"That's better!" Uncle Jerry cried. "Now there'll be no more hunting in the neighborhood and we'll all be quite safe.... Farmer Green is kinder than I supposed."
When Brownie Beaver heard that, he said good-by and started home at once to tell the good news to all his friends. He had leaped into the river and was swimming up-stream rapidly when Uncle Jerry called to him to stop.
"There's something I want to say," Uncle Jerry shouted. "I think you ought to pay me for reading the sign."
But Brownie Beaver shook his head.
"I didn't ask you to read the sign for me," he declared. "You read it for _yourself_, Uncle Jerry. And besides, you didn't know what it meant until Tommy Fox came along and told you.... If you want to know what I think, I'll tell you. I think you ought to pay Tommy Fox something."
Uncle Jerry at once began to look worried. He said nothing more, but plunged out of sight into some bushes, as if he were afraid Tommy Fox might come back and find him.
[Illustration: Brownie Beaver Returned to His Wood-cutting]
There was great rejoicing in the little village in the pond when Brownie Beaver returned with the good news that there would be no more hunting and fishing. And when old Grandaddy Beaver said that everybody ought to take a holiday to celebrate the occasion, all the villagers said it was a fine idea.
So they stopped working, for once, and began to plan the celebration. They thought that there ought to be swimming races and tree-felling contests. And Brownie Beaver said that after the holiday was over he would suggest that someone be chosen to go down and thank Farmer Green for putting the notice on the tree.
The whole village agreed to Brownie's proposal and they voted to see who should be sent. Brownie Beaver himself passed his hat around to take up the votes. And it was quickly found that every vote was for Brownie Beaver. He had even voted for himself. But no one seemed to care about that.
Then the swimming races began. There was a race under water, a race with heads out of water--and another in which each person who took part had to stay beneath the surface as long as he could.
That last race caused some trouble. A young scamp called Slippery Sam won it. And many people thought that he had swum up inside his house, where he could get air, without being seen. But no one could prove it; so he won the race, just the same.
Next came the tree-felling contest. There were six, including Brownie Beaver, that took part in it. Grandaddy Beaver had picked out six trees of exactly the same size. Each person in the contest had to try to bring his tree to the ground first. And that caused some trouble, too, because some claimed that their trees were of harder wood than others--and more difficult to gnaw--while others complained that the bark of their trees tasted very bitter, and of course that made their task unpleasant.
Those six trees, falling one after another, made such a racket that old Mr. Crow heard the noise miles away and flew over to see what was happening.
After everybody crept out of his hiding-place some time afterward (everyone had to hide for a while, you know), there was Mr. Crow sitting upon one of the fallen trees.
"What's going on?" he inquired. "You're not going to cut down the whole forest, I hope."
Then they told him about the celebration. And Mr. Crow began to laugh.
"What are you going to do next?" he asked.
"We're a-going to send Brownie Beaver over to Pleasant Valley to thank Farmer Green for his kindness in putting an end to hunting and fishing," said old Grandaddy Beaver. "And he's a-going to start right away."
Mr. Crow looked around. And there was Brownie Beaver, with a lunch-basket in his hand, all ready to begin his long journey.
"Say good-by to him then," said Mr. Crow, "for you'll never see him again."
"What do you mean?" Grandaddy Beaver asked. And as for Brownie--he was so frightened that he dropped his basket right in the water.
"I mean----" said Mr. Crow--"I mean that it's a very dangerous errand. You don't seem to have understood that sign. In the first place, it was not Farmer Green, but his son Johnnie, who nailed It to the tree."
"Ah!" Brownie Beaver cried. "_That_ is why one of the words was misspelled!"
"No doubt!" Mr. Crow remarked. As a matter of fact, not being able to read he hadn't known about the word that was spelled wrong. "In the second place," he continued, "the sign doesn't mean that hunting and fishing are to be stopped. It means that no one but Johnnie Green is going to hunt and fish in this neighborhood. He wants all the hunting and fishing for himself. That's why he put up that sign. And instead of hunting and fishing being stopped, I should say that they were going to begin to be more dangerous than ever.... They tell me," he added, "that Johnnie Green had a new gun on this birthday."
Brownie Beaver said at once that he was not going on the errand of thanks.
"I resign," he said, "and anyone that wants to go in my place is welcome to do so."
But nobody cared to go. And the whole village seemed greatly disappointed, until Grandaddy Beaver made a short speech.
"We've all had a good holiday, anyhow," he said. "And I should say that was something to be thankful for."
"Have you heard the news?" Tired Tim asked Brownie Beaver one day. "There's going to be a cyclone."
"A cyclone?" Brownie exclaimed. "What's that? I never heard of one."
"It's a big storm, with a terrible wind," Tired Tim explained. "The wind will blow so hard that it will snap off big trees."
"Good!" Brownie Beaver cried. "Then I won't have to cut down any more trees in order to reach the tender bark that grows in their tops."
Tired Tim laughed. "You won't think it's very 'good,'" he said, "when the cyclone strikes the village."
"Why not?" Brownie inquired.
"Because--" said Tired Tim--"because the wind will blow every house away. It will snatch up the sticks of which the houses are built and carry them over the top of Blue Mountain. Then I guess you'll wish you had taken my advice and not built that new house of yours.
"_I_ shall be safe enough," the lazy rascal continued. "All I'll have to do will be to crawl inside my house in the bank; for the wind can't very well blow the ground away."
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