Long-Neck Flies into Danger
"I 'LL tell you one thing," observed Long-Neck Crane to Old Man Turtle, as he stood in the shallow pond on his right leg, his left foot tucked beneath his wing, "if I had a wife so given to scolding as that little brown wife of Blackbird's, I wouldn't stay home at all."
"Nonsense," returned Old Man Turtle. "What harm is a little scolding going to do one? All wives scold more or less, I understand; and, perhaps you've noticed, the smaller the wife, the more scolding she does. Look at little Jennie Wren now. Did you ever hear anything to beat her?"
"No," confessed Long-Neck, "I can't say that I have; unless," he added, "it's Mrs. Redsquirrel."
Old Man Turtle blinked his eyes and stretched in the warm splash of sunlight. "I wonder if you can tell me why a scolding wife is like a piece of ice?" he asked.
"Tut, tut!" muttered Long-Neck impatiently. "Will you never be done asking foolish riddles, Mossback?"
"Riddles are the zest of life," declared the turtle. "They keep the brain and the digestion active and are a tonic to mind and body. Why, you can cure most any mental or physical ailment with a good riddle, my long found friend."
"Why do you call me your long found friend?" asked Long-Neck testily. "I've heard of long lost friends, but never of a long found one before."
"Well, you are long, aren't you?" asked Mossback.
"Fairly long," admitted the crane. "Well?"
"And everybody in Marsh Realm knows it's not hard to find you, with your head poking up above the rushes like a lone tree on a point; isn't that so?"
"Perhaps," nodded Long-Neck, "it is."
"There you are then," grinned Old Man Turtle.
"I must say though," Long-Neck observed, as he changed legs, "this last riddle of yours is neither a very bright or a very clear one."
"Surely ice is bright and clear enough for anybody," replied the turtle.
"Ugh!" shivered Long-Neck, "and cold enough too."
"A scolding wife is quite as cold," said Old Man Turtle dryly.
Long-Neck frowned and, dropping his long beak on his narrow breast, considered.
"Let's see," he murmured—"a scolding wife is quite a scold."
He flapped his wings angrily.
"Perhaps if I had nothing to do but loaf and bask in the warm muck, I would be able to think of clever things too," he cried.
"I very much doubt if you could," said Old Man Turtle. "Clever thoughts are born in the heart, Long-Neck, and are telegraphed to the brain. The trouble is your brain and heart are so far apart the inspiration is cold before it reaches your headpiece."
"I don't know but what I would as soon have it that way as have my heart and brain so close together they were always getting in each other's way," retorted Long-Neck pointedly.
"My dear fellow," said Old Man Turtle gently, "that's exactly what's wrong with the world. If we would all allow our heads and hearts to get in each other's way occasionally, we would not be so high-headed as to overlook a lot of little worth-while things, or so low-hearted that we couldn't appreciate them."
"Oh, you're a sage old philosopher, for sure," cried the crane airily. "But I haven't got time to argue with you further. I'm satisfied to leave my head and heart where they are."
"That being the case," advised Old Man Turtle, "if I were you I'd fly across to the Pine Forest and apologize to Ruffy Lynx for starting that story about his having got drunk on catnip and making a fool of himself."
Long-Neck tossed his head. "Why should I? It's quite true."
"For the simple reason that you desire to keep your head and your heart where they are," answered the turtle. "If you don't apologize, Ruffy is going to do something which will make your heart jump into your throat, and it wouldn't surprise me if you lose both head and heart."
Long-Neck opened his beak and gave a derisive chuckle.
"I'm not afraid of that old blow-hard, Ruffy Lynx," he declared bravely. "He's been saying what he'd do to me when he catches me, but he's not going to catch me."
"I sincerely hope not," said Old Man Turtle fervently. "I like you in spite of your faults, Long-Neck."
"I'm honest and upright, at any rate," defended the crane.
"I'm not sure about you being honest," replied the turtle, squinting up at him, "but you're certainly upright, particularly when you stand on one leg and point your beak at the sky."
He watched Long-Neck flop to wing and fly slowly across the ponds towards the Pine Forest.
"Dear me," he sighed, "I greatly fear that audacious fellow will come to grief yet, stirring up trouble the way he does. I did my best to warn him not to vex Ruffy Lynx too much. He knows, too, that we are doing our best to keep our relations friendly with the Pine Woods folk. I really must try and think up a plan to make Long-Neck behave himself."
Old Man Turtle sat there pondering and pondering all through the summer afternoon. The sun was just sinking behind Sunset Islands when he stirred and stretched himself.
"I guess maybe I've thought of a way," he yawned. "Now I'll go and get Goggle Eyes Bullfrog and see if he will help me save Long-Neck's life."