Albert Bigelow Paine.

Mr. Turtle's flying adventure ; hollow tree stories online

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[Illustration: [See page 64









12mo, Cloth. Fully Illustrated


Illustrated. 8vo.
Illustrated. 8vo.



* * * * *

Copyright, 1915, 1916, 1917, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America
Published October, 1917





ONCE upon a time, when it was early summer in the Big Deep Woods, the
Hollow Tree people and Jack Rabbit went over to spend the day with Mr.
Turtle, who lives in a very nice stone house which he built himself on
the edge of the Wide Blue Water. Mr. Turtle fishes a good deal, and
makes most of his living that way, and knows all the best places, so
when his friends came he said that perhaps they would enjoy fishing a
little - which they could do and sit in a pleasant place at the same
time, and talk, and look out over the Wide Blue Water, which was
especially blue at this season.


That just suited the Hollow Tree people, for they enjoyed fishing when
they had somebody to pick out a good place, and Mr. 'Possum found a nice
stump to lean back against, and presently went to sleep, but was waked
up soon after, when a big catfish nearly jerked his pole out of his
hands. Mr. 'Possum had to use all his strength to pull it out.

Then he was so proud he didn't think about going to sleep again, and
told how all his family had been quite smart at catching fish; and
pretty soon Jack Rabbit caught a good-sized perch, and Mr. 'Coon hooked
a croppie, which got away the first time, though he caught it the next;
and Mr. Crow caught a "punkin-seed," which made the others laugh,
because it is a funny little fish; while Mr. Turtle just went right
along pulling out one kind after another, without saying a word, because
fishing is his business and doesn't excite him.

Then by and by the fish stopped biting, as they 'most always do, by
spells, and the Deep Woods people leaned back and looked out over the
Wide Blue Water, and away out there saw Mr. Eagle swoop down and pick up
something which looked at first like a shoe-string; then they saw it
wriggle, and knew it was a small water-snake, which was going to be Mr.
Eagle's dinner; and they talked about it and wondered how he could enjoy
such food.

Mr. Turtle said that Mr. Eagle enjoyed a good many kinds of food, and
that he was reminded of an adventure he once had himself with Mr. Eagle,
when he (Mr. Turtle, of course) was quite small. Then they all asked Mr.
Turtle to tell them his adventure, because they thought it must have
been exciting if it was anything like the snake's adventure which they
had just witnessed. Mr. Turtle said it was - quite a good deal like it,
in some ways - then he said:

"That was the only time I ever flew, or ever had a chance to, or ever
wanted to, that I can remember. Very likely you have already heard how
once, a long time ago, I thought I could fly, and persuaded an eagle to
take me up in the air to give me a start. That old story has been told a
good deal, and I believe has even been put into some of Mr. Man's books
for his children to read."

Mr. Turtle paused, and the others all said they did remember something
of a story of that sort, but never thought it had really happened,
because, knowing Mr. Turtle as they did, they didn't believe any of his
family would try such an experiment.

"Well," said Mr. Turtle, "it did really happen, though not in the way
you have heard. You are right about thinking my family would not care to
experiment in that way, and would not do it unless somebody else
arranged it for them and gave the experiment a good start."

Mr. Turtle went on to say that in this case it was Mr. Eagle and one of
the ancient ancestors of the little water-snake he had just carried off
that had started the experiment, though he thought none of it had been
really planned.

"I was very small then," Mr. Turtle went on, "about the size of Mr.
Man's fist, though I suppose much heavier, for my shell was very thick
for my age, and everybody said that if I lived a thousand years or so I
might have a shell as big and thick as the one that Father Storm Turtle,
up at the Forks, uses to make the thunder with.[1] Then they would laugh
and say that Old Man Moccasin, up at the Drifts, would certainly have
trouble with his digestion if he ever caught me; which used to scare my
mother, for Old Man Moccasin was the biggest water-snake that anybody
ever saw, and there was nobody around the Wide Blue Water that didn't
give him room, especially fish-fry, and Mr. Frog, and young turtles like
me, and even some older ones. My mother used to warn us children all the
time, and scold us every day about going away so far from the house and
not keeping a good watch-out for Old Man Moccasin, who would surely get
us, she said, unless we were more careful. Then she would tell us to
look out for Mr. Eagle, too, who was likely any time to come soaring
about, and would pick up any food he saw lying handy.

"Well, it used to scare us when we thought about it. Old Man Moccasin
was seven feet long, and I judge about half a foot thick. He could lift
himself two feet out of the water when he was swimming, and with his
far-sighted glasses on could see a mile. Mr. Eagle was fully twice as
big as any of the Eagle family I know of nowadays, and didn't need any
glasses to see an article the size of a bug floating on the Wide Blue
Water, no matter how high he was flying. We tried to keep a lookout in
several directions, but, of course, as we got older without accidents,
we grew careless, and our mother used to count us every night and be
surprised that we were all there, and give us a good scolding to go to
bed on.

"Nothing happened to any of us for a good while, and then it happened to
me. I was the biggest and strongest of our lot, and had the thickest
shell, and I liked to show how grown-up I was, and would swim out
farther, and make believe I wasn't afraid any more of Mr. Eagle and Old
Man Moccasin, which wasn't true, of course, for Mr. Eagle could have
handled me with one claw and Old Man Moccasin could have swallowed me
like a pill and enjoyed the operation.

"Well, one day I was showing off more than usual and had paddled out
farther toward the Drifts, saying to the others that I was going to pay
a call on Old Man Moccasin. I kept on farther than I intended, for it
was a nice summer day and the water felt good. I didn't know how far I
had gone until I turned around to look, and then I didn't think about
that any more, for a quarter of a mile away, and between me and the
shore, was Old Man Moccasin, coming straight in my direction. He was a
good two feet out of the water and had on his far-sighted glasses, and I
knew he was after me. He was coming, too. He was swimming with a wide,
wavy motion, and making a little curl of white foam in front, and
leaving a long trail behind.

"I was so scared, at first, that I couldn't do anything. Then I thought
I'd better dive, but I knew that Old Man Moccasin could swim faster
under the water than on top of it, and see just as well. I began to
paddle for dear life toward the other side of the Wide Blue Water, which
was a long way off, with Old Man Moccasin gaining fast. I knew he was
bound to overtake me before I got across, and I was getting weaker every
minute, from being so scared and trying so hard, and I could hear Old
Man Moccasin's steady swimming noise coming closer all the time.


"Of course it wasn't very long until I gave up. I was too worn out to
swim another stroke. Old Man Moccasin was only about twenty feet away,
and when I looked back at him over my shoulder I saw that he was smiling
because he was so sure he had me. It was an awful smile, and I don't
like to remember it often, even now, and that was ever so long ago, as
much as three hundred and fourteen or fifteen years, this spring.

"Well, when I saw Old Man Moccasin at that close distance, and smiling
in that glad way, and his spectacles shining, because he was so pleased
at the prospect, I said to myself, I'm gone now, for certain, unless
something happens right off; though, of course, I didn't see how
anything _could_ happen, placed as I was. But just as I said those
words, something did happen - and about the last thing I would have
expected. The first I saw was a big shadow, and the first I heard was a
kind of swish in the air, and the first I knew I wasn't in the water any
more, but was on the way to the sky with Mr. Eagle, who had one great
claw around my hind leg and another hooked over my shell, not seeming to
mind my weight at all, and paying no attention to Old Man Moccasin, who
was beating his tail on the water and calling Mr. Eagle bad names and
threatening him with everything he could think of. I didn't know where
I was going, and couldn't see that I was much better off than before,
but I did enjoy seeing Old Man Moccasin carry on about losing me, and I
called a few things to him that didn't make him feel better. I said Mr.
Eagle and I were good friends, and asked him how he liked the trick we
had played on him. I even sang out to him:

"'Old Man Moccasin,
See you by and by;
Mr. Eagle's teaching me
How to learn to fly.'

which was a poem, and about the only one I ever made, but it seemed to
just come into my head as we went sailing along. Mr. Eagle, he heard it,
too, and said:

"'Look here,' he said, 'what are you talking about? You don't think you
could ever learn to fly, I hope?'

"'Why, yes, Mr. Eagle,' I said, 'if I just had somebody like you to give
me a few lessons. Of course, nobody could ever fly as well as you can,
but I'm sure I could learn to fly some.'

"Then I thanked him for having saved me from Old Man Moccasin, and said
how kind he was, and told him how my folks had always told us what a
great bird Mr. Eagle was - so strong and grand, and the best flyer in the
world - and how we must always admire and respect him and not get in his
way, and how I thought if I could only fly a little - perhaps about as
much as a hen - I could keep from being caught by Old Man Moccasin, which
was the worst thing that could happen, and wouldn't Mr. Eagle please
give me a lesson.

"Then Mr. Eagle said, very politely, that he guessed he'd keep me from
being caught by Old Man Moccasin, but it wouldn't be by teaching me to

"'You couldn't fly any more than a stone,' he said, 'and a stone can't
fly at all.'

"'But a stone can't swim, either, Mr. Eagle,' I said, 'and I can swim
fine. I could learn to swim right through the air - I know I could - I can
tell by the way I feel,' and I made some big motions with my front
legs, and kicked with my free hind leg to show him how I would do it;
and I really did feel, the way that air was blowing past, so fresh and
strong, that if he would let go of me I could swim in it a little,

"But Mr. Eagle laughed, and said:

"'You have to have wings to fly with,' he said. 'You couldn't fly a
foot. If I should drop you, you'd go down like a shot, and would
probably break all to pieces!'

"I was looking down as he spoke, and I noticed that we were passing over
Mr. Man's marsh meadows, for we were not flying very high, and I could
see locations quite plain, and even some objects. I knew those meadows
were soft in places, for I had been there once to a spring overflow
picnic. There were also a great number of little hay-piles, which Mr.
Man had raked up, getting ready to make his big stacks when the hay was
dry. So I said, as quick as I could:

"'Oh, Mr. Eagle, I am certain I could fly this minute. I never felt so
much like it in my life. Just give me a big swing, Mr. Eagle, and let me
try. If I fall and break, it won't be your fault, and you can take the
pieces home to your family. I'll be handier for them that way than any

"When Mr. Eagle heard that, he laughed, and said:

"'Well, that's so, anyway. You people always are a tough proposition for
my young folks. Much obliged for the suggestion.'

"And just as he said that, Mr. Eagle quit flying straight ahead and
started to circle around, as if he were looking for something, and
pretty soon I saw down there a flat stone, and Mr. Eagle saw it, too,
and stopped still in the air right over it, as near as he could judge,
making all the time a big flapping sound with his wings, until he got me
aimed to suit him, and I could feel him beginning to loosen up his hold
on my hind leg and shell. Then, all of a sudden, he let me go.

[Illustration: "NOW FLY!" HE SAYS, AND DOWN I WENT]

"'Now fly!' he says, and down I went.

"Well, Mr. Eagle certainly told the truth about the way he said I'd
drop. I made the biggest kind of swimming motions in the direction of
one of those little haycocks, but if I made any headway in that
direction I couldn't notice it. I didn't have time, anyway. It seemed to
me that I struck bottom almost before I started from the top; still, I
must have turned myself over, for I landed on my back, exactly in the
center of that flat stone, Mr. Eagle being a center shot.

"He was wrong, though, about me breaking to pieces, and so was the story
you've heard. Our family don't break very easy, and as I said before, my
shell was thick and tough for my age. It was the stone that broke, and
probably saved my life, for if I had hit in a soft place in that marsh
meadow I'd have gone down out of sight and never been able to dig out.

"As it was, I bounced some, and landed right side up close to one of
those little haycocks, and had just about sense and strength enough left
to scrabble under it before Mr. Eagle came swooping down after me, for
he saw what had happened and didn't lose any time.

"But he was too late, for I was under that haycock, and Mr. Eagle had
never had much practice in pitching hay. He just clawed at it on
different sides and abused me as hard as he could for deceiving him, as
he called it, and occasionally I called back to him, and tried to soothe
him, and told him I was sorry not to come out and thank him in person,
but I was so shaken up by the fall that I must rest and collect myself.
Then, by and by he pretended to be very sweet, and said I had done so
well the first time, I ought to take another lesson, and if I'd come out
we'd try it again.

"But I said I couldn't possibly take another lesson to-day, and for him
to come back to-morrow, when I had got over the first one; and then I
heard him talking to himself and saying it was growing late and he must
be getting home with something to eat for those brats, and pretty soon I
heard his big wing sound; but I didn't come out, for I thought he was
most likely just trying to fool me, and was sailing around overhead and
waiting, which I still think he was, for a while. After a long time,
though, I worked over where I could see out a little, and then I found
it was night, and, of course, Mr. Eagle had really gone home.

"So then I worked along across the meadows, being pretty sore and
especially lame in the left hind leg, where Mr. Eagle had gripped me,
though I felt better when I got into the Wide Blue Water and was
swimming toward home. It took me all night to get there, and the folks
were so worried they couldn't sleep, for some one had seen Old Man
Moccasin out in the middle of the water, chasing something, during the

"Well, of course I told everything that had happened, and almost
everybody in the Wide Blue Water came to hear about it, and they told it
to others, and Old Man Moccasin heard so much about how Mr. Eagle had
fooled him, and how I had fooled Mr. Eagle, that he moved to another
drift, farther down, and probably lives there still. And Mr. Eagle heard
so much about the way he tried to teach me to fly that he made up a
story of his own and flew in all directions, telling it; and that is the
story most people know about to-day and the one that Mr. Man put into
his books. But it isn't true, and I can prove it."

Mr. Turtle got up and turned around toward the Hollow Tree people. He
had his coat off, and he reached back and pointed to a place about in
the center of his shell.

"Feel right there," he said, which Mr. Rabbit did, and said:

"Why, there's quite a lump there. It hardly shows, but you can feel it


"Yes," said Mr. Turtle, "that's where I struck. It was quite sore for a
good while. There was a lump there, at first, as big as an egg. It
flattened a good deal afterward, but it never quite went away. Feel how
smooth it is. It kept just about as it was when it happened."

Then all those other Deep Woods people came up and felt of the queer
lump on Mr. Turtle's back, and said how perfectly that proved everything
and how Mr. Turtle always could prove things, and they noticed the
inscription about the old race with Mr. Hare, and said in some ways Mr.
Turtle was about the most wonderful person anywhere and they were
certainly proud to be his friends.

Then Mr. Turtle said they might all sit there and talk about it a
little, while he went in to cook the fish and make a pan of biscuits and
a nice salad for dinner.


[1] "Mr. Turtle's Thunder Story" in _The Hollow Tree and Deep Woods



ONE night in the Hollow Tree, when the 'Coon and 'Possum and the Old
Black Crow had finished their supper and were sitting around the fire,
smoking, Mr. 'Possum said that he thought he had heard Mr. Frog trying
off a few notes to-day, over in the Wide Grasslands, so that he knew
that it must be coming spring, and Mr. 'Coon said that over Mr. Man's
way he had smelled burning leaves, which was a pretty sure sign. Then
Mr. Crow said that some of his wild relatives had been cawing about
lately, and that was a sign, too. Then they all smoked some more, and
looked in the fire, and were glad that winter was about over, and
presently Mr. 'Possum said that every time he smelled the spring smell,
and heard the spring sounds, it reminded him of something that happened
a long time ago, when he was quite young and lived with his Uncle Silas
and Aunt Melissy Lovejoy, over beyond the Wide Blue Water. Then the
'Coon and the Old Black Crow begged Mr. 'Possum to tell about it,
because they said Mr. 'Possum's stories always sounded so unbelievable,
and yet always turned out to be almost founded on fact.

"Well," said Mr. 'Possum, "you remember I told you about Uncle Silas
Lovejoy going to the city, once, and coming home all stylish, with a
young man to wait on him, and how Aunt Melissy, when she saw them,
turned the young man into just a plain hired help and set them both to
work in the garden;[2] and you may remember how I once told you about
all our folks, including the hired man, being moved by a balloon across
the Wide Blue Water and set down right at the very door of a fine hollow
tree, which we moved into and enjoyed for a long time - my little cousins
and myself growing up there, and some of them still living there to this

Mr. 'Possum stopped to fill his pipe again, and the others all said they
remembered, and Mr. 'Coon said he always liked the nice slow and
reminding way Mr. 'Possum began his stories, as it brought everything up
fresh, and one didn't have to be trying to think of what had happened
before, but could just sit back and listen. Mr. 'Possum nodded, and lit
his pipe, and leaned back and drew a few puffs, as if he enjoyed them so
much that he didn't care to go on with his story. But pretty soon he

"We lived there till I grew up, and all my little cousins, too, and the
hired man stayed with us. He was a very good young man; though, being
brought up in town, of course it took him a little while to get used to
country ways. But Aunt Melissy was a stirring person and she didn't let
it take as long as it might have in another family. Aunt Melissy was
quite primpy herself, and said that she guessed she could carry what
style there was in our family (being a Glenwood, and having married
beneath her), and that Uncle Silas and the rest of us would do pretty
well if we managed to keep up with the work she laid out for us; and
that was so.


"She kept Uncle Silas and Winters - that was the name of the hired
man - busier than anybody, as she never quite got over the trip to town
and the way they came home. She used to set Uncle Silas to peeling
potatoes, after supper, for next morning, and would make Winters help my
young lady cousin do the dishes, which you would not think he would
like; but he did. Aunt Melissy didn't know that he would like it so
much, or she would have set him at the potatoes, and Uncle Silas at the

"I don't suppose any of you can guess why our hired man wanted to help
my cousin, Minta Glenwood Lovejoy, with the dishes. I couldn't, even
after I saw that he was so fond of the job that he could hardly wait
until the supper was cleared away and it was ready for him. I used to
wonder how that young man, brought up in town, could take so to such
work, and then, after a while, I got to wondering why it took him and
Minty Glenwood, as we always called her, so long to get through.


"That was the first thing Aunt Melissy wondered, too. She generally knit
a little, after supper, and went to sleep over it, and would wake up
suddenly and look at the clock and begin to knit as fast as she could,
so we would not think she had been asleep. But one night she slept a
long time, and when she looked at the clock it was so late that she
said, 'Land's sakes, it's bedtime!' and she went over and shook Uncle
Silas, who had gone to sleep with a potato in his hand, and scolded him
to bed, and shook up the rest of us, and then noticed that Cousin
Minty and Winters were missing, and went straight to the kitchen door
and opened it, and found them sitting close together, and Winters
holding Cousin Minty's hand and telling her that unless she would set up
housekeeping with him he would go back to the city and lead a fearful
life; and Cousin Minty Lovejoy looking very scared.

"But she didn't look half as scared as she did when she saw Aunt
Melissy, nor the hired man, either. He had to make two trials before he
could get up, even after Aunt Melissy told him to, and Cousin Minty
Glenwood began to cry, and Aunt Melissy told her to go to bed at once,
and made a swing at her, and missed her, as she went by. She didn't miss
the hired man, though; and I guess he had something else to think of
besides Minty Glenwood and housekeeping, for a few minutes, anyway.

"Then Aunt Melissy Lovejoy told him he could take himself out of that
house, and not come back except for meals, and she said he could sleep
over in the shop, which was an old, leaky, broken stump of a tree where
we kept our garden tools. Then I happened to be sitting in the way, and

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Online LibraryAlbert Bigelow PaineMr. Turtle's flying adventure ; hollow tree stories → online text (page 1 of 4)