Gateway to the Classics: The Tale of Cuffy Bear by Arthur Scott Bailey
The Tale of Cuffy Bear by  Arthur Scott Bailey

The Ice Goes Out of the River

F ARMER GREEN had taken his sap-buckets off the maple trees and that meant the spring was fast going. At least, that was what Mr. Bear said. And Cuffy noticed that every day there was a little less snow than there had been the day before.

"The ice will soon go out," Mr. Bear said to Cuffy's mother at breakfast one morning, "and then when I cross Pleasant Valley I shall have to swim the river."

Cuffy knew that his father meant Swift River. In summer Cuffy could look down from Blue Mountain and see the stream as it flashed through the valley.

"Will the ice go out of the river to-day?" Cuffy asked.

"Well, now—" Mr. Bear said, "it might. And then again, it might not." Mr. Bear never said a thing was so unless he was sure of it.

Now, Cuffy thought it would be great fun to go down into the valley and find out for himself if the ice really did go out. He had an idea that it caused a terrific splitting and crashing and thundering noise and he thought that perhaps some fish would be tossed up on the bank and then he would have a good lunch.

When Mr. Bear had gone off down the mountain, "to see a bear," as he explained to his wife, little Cuffy sneaked away from the house. His mother was making the beds, and Silkie was pretending to help her. Now, nobody sneaks  unless he knows he is doing something wrong. Cuffy knew that his parents would not let him go down into the valley alone, so he went without asking. And when he did at last come to the river there was ice along both banks; but between them ran a broad stream of swift water.

"The ice must have gone out in the night," Cuffy said to himself. And he looked about in the hope of finding some fish on the banks. But not one fish could he find.

He was disappointed. And he crept out onto the ice as far as he could go and peeped over the edge into the water. He thought maybe he could at least catch a fish with his paw.

Cuffy lay quite still for a long time. And then at last to his delight he saw a fish right before him. He made a quick reach for it. And then there was a sharp crack! The ice tipped and Cuffy clung to it with all his claws to keep from falling into the river. He backed away from the edge and looked around. The bank was moving past him. He had never seen such a thing and he was surprised.

Then he gave a cry which sounded in his throat like "Oug!"  and ended with "I-s-s-s!" through his nose. It meant that Cuffy was frightened. For he saw that the ice he was on had broken away and was floating rapidly down the stream.

He had not caught the fish, either. But he forgot all about that now.

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