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

Cuffy Learns To Swim

Y ES! Cuffy Bear was floating down the river on a cake of ice! How he wished he had been a good little bear and stayed at home, instead of running away to the river all alone! He was huddled up in a little black heap in the center of the cake, and crying as if his heart would break. For Cuffy thought he would never see his mother and father and Silkie again. If only he knew how to swim, like his father! But he didn't; and there he was, being swept away down the valley, right toward Farmer Green's house. It certainly was enough to make anybody weep.

When Cuffy thought about Farmer Green he was more frightened than ever and he began to scream. He remembered all the dreadful things he had heard about men and the things they do to little bears.

Pretty soon Cuffy saw something move up on the bank ahead of him. And he stopped screaming. He was afraid that it was Farmer Green himself and he thought he had better keep still. Then perhaps Farmer Green wouldn't see him. But to his dismay the big black thing began to slide down the steep bank right toward the river.

Cuffy's heart seemed to stand still. He shut his eyes tight and tried to make himself as small as he could. And he hardly breathed.

Then somebody called his name. Cuffy was so surprised that he looked up, and there was his father standing on the edge of the stream. Cuffy was so glad to see him!

Mr. Bear seemed very cross, but Cuffy did not mind that, he was so glad to see his father.

"Oh, Father! What shall I do?" Cuffy cried.

Mr. Bear said just one word. It was "Jump!"

Cuffy could hardly believe his ears.

"Jump!"  said Mr. Bear again.

"I don't know how to swim," Cuffy whined.

"Jump, jump, jump!"  Mr. Bear repeated very sternly.

Still Cuffy did not jump. He was so afraid of that rushing water!

Then Mr. Bear became very, very angry. He gave a great roar and plunged into the icy water. With a few strong strokes—for Mr. Bear was a fine swimmer—he reached the middle of the river. And as he swam close up to Cuffy he reached out and gave that naughty, frightened little bear a shove that sent him flying into the stream.

Cuffy started to scream. But his shriek was cut off short as he sank, head and all, into the cold, cold river. In another moment his nose came up out of the water. It was only an instant, but to Cuffy it seemed a long, long time before he could breathe again. And now, to his great surprise, he found that he was swimming as well as his father.

Now, little bears are different from little boys and girls. They don't have to learn to swim. Cuffy didn't know it. But his father did. That was why Mr. Bear told him to jump. He knew that as soon as Cuffy found himself in the water he could swim as well as anybody.

In another minute Cuffy and his father were safe on the bank, and in another second after that they were running toward home as fast as Cuffy could go, so they wouldn't take cold, you know.

Cuffy had to go to bed for the rest of the day, as a punishment. And as he lay on his little bed he could hear his father and mother laughing in the next room. He didn't see how they could laugh. But you know, Cuffy didn't realize how funny he had looked, floating down the river on the cake of ice.

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