A LONG the sand-bar which separated the marsh world from the bay, Mr. Swamp-Coon came upon a big, slate-blue bird whose legs were so long they resembled swamp-reeds, and whose neck was almost the length of a broom-stick. His body was so thin that when he stood upright and stretched his neck he looked not unlike a black stick which had been stuck in the bog.
"I wonder what that old trouble-maker, Daddy Long-Neck, has on his mind this morning?" thought Mr. Swamp-Coon. "He looks very pleased about something."
Mr. Swamp-Coon approached the long-legged bird softly. When he was but a few yards from it, he leaped up and cried "Boo!" in his most ferocious voice. He expected to see the crane spring to wing in terror. But he was disappointed.
"Oh, I saw you coming, Swampy," said the bird huskily.
"Humph!" snorted Mr. Swamp-Coon, "I might have known it. All you have to do is stretch that long neck of yours and you can see clear from one end of this marsh to the other. I wish I had a neck like yours."
"I wish you had mine," said Old Daddy Long-Neck. "I've got a sore throat this morning."
Mr. Swamp-Coon grinned. He was just mean enough to enjoy the other's misfortune.
"How'd you get it?" he asked.
"You gave it to me," returned Daddy Long-Neck placidly.
"I?" cried the other indignantly. "You know that's not so. You've been trying to swallow a clam-shell or something equally as sharp. Don't you try blaming me for your sore throat."
"No," said Daddy Long-Neck, "but I tried to swallow your story of how you scared old Ruffneck Lynx into a fit. It was too much for me, Swampy."
"But it's true, I tell you," cried Mr. Swamp-Coon. "I met old Ruffy face to face. 'Get off the trail,' I commanded, 'or I'll make you.' And he didn't lose any time jumping into the thicket, I can tell you."
"Ha ha!" laughed Daddy Long-Neck, "Ruffy Lynx tells a different story. He says he made a jump at you and you dodged him and climbed a big elm tree."
"That's all right, Daddy," grumbled Swamp-Coon. "I hoped he would follow me; that's why I climbed the elm. I would have had him at a disadvantage in the tree. Ruffy can't fight unless he's lying on his back. You know that."
"I know this," said Daddy Long-Neck, after pausing to catch a small fish which he had driven into a corner of the pond, "Ruffy Lynx is telling everybody who'll listen to him how he scared you. He's got all the animals in the woods thinking you are a coward, and you're going to have quite a time telling them otherwise, I'm afraid."
"Bah!" sneered Mr. Swamp-Coon contemptuously. "I'm not taking your word for that, you trouble-breeding old crane."
"Please be so good as to call me by my right name," said Daddy Long-Neck, drawing himself up to his dignified three-feet six. "When you address me, you will oblige me by calling me Mr. Here‑on."
"I'll call you Mr. Here-and-There," sneered the angry Swampy. "You're never in one place. It keeps you busy carrying tales from the marsh to the woods and from the woods to the marsh. You're never satisfied unless you're making trouble."
"It's you four-footed creatures that carry tails," Daddy returned mildly, "and I'm satisfied with lots and lots of things. Why, if only I didn't have this sore throat, I'd be quite happy."
"Perhaps you have a fish-bone in it," suggested Mr. Swamp-Coon craftily. "Just let me have a peek down it, will you? I'll bet I can find that bone if it's there."
"Yes," nodded Daddy Long-Neck, "and some other bones as well. Thanks, Swampy, but I don't care to have my neck between your jaws."
"You're very suspicious," muttered Mr. Swamp-Coon.
"That's how I remain alive," agreed Daddy Long-Neck.
"I've got a new riddle," said Swamp-Coon, wishing to turn the subject.
"There's no such thing," retorted Daddy, airily.
"I'll wager you never heard this one before," said Swampy. "Here 'tis. What makes the water wet?"
"I can answer that riddle without straining my thinker a bit," said Daddy Long-Neck. "What makes the water wet but rain? That's the answer, rain."
"No," frowned Swampy, "that's not the correct answer."
"Then what is the correct answer?"
"The correct answer," said Swampy, "is this. If it wasn't wet, it wouldn't be water."
"Humph!" mused Daddy Long-Neck. "There's no point to that answer, and no sense either."
"All right. Maybe you better tell Old Man Turtle so," growled Swampy. "He told me that riddle."
"He must have been talking in his sleep, then," said Daddy Long-Neck. "Now if you want to hear a good riddle, I'll tell you one. Listen to this and see if you can find an answer to it.
"If I'm thinner than a bittern, and a bittern is thinner than a fish hawk, where will you find a bird that's thinner than all three of us put together?"
"That's a silly riddle," cried Mr. Swamp-Coon. "Ask a sensible one and I'll answer it."
"All right," agreed Daddy, as he prepared to fly away. "Why is that small frog yonder like a good football player?"
Swampy scratched his head and thought and thought, but he had to confess he couldn't find the answer. "Well, why is that frog like a football player?" he asked, giving it up.
"Because," chuckled Daddy Long-Neck, "he's there in the rushes."
He was still chuckling as on flapping wings, long neck out-thrust before him, long legs thrust straight out behind him, he took the air and flew slowly across the marsh towards the forest to tell the little woods people about the new joke he had on Mr. Swamp-Coon.