Gateway to the Classics: Dwellers of the Marsh Realm by Archie P. McKishnie
 
Dwellers of the Marsh Realm by  Archie P. McKishnie

Mr. Snipe Delivers Invitations

N EVER in his life had Dapplewing Snipe been so busy as on the night he flew zig-zagging here and there throughout Marsh Realm, inviting the birds and animals to attend the Annual Truce Banquet. "I do declare," he complained to Old Man Turtle, as he rested for a moment on a log in the pond, "had I but guessed the amount of flying I would have to do, I should never have consented to act as invitation-bearer."


[Illustration]

Dapplewing Snipe and Old Man Turtle

"If you would fly in a straight line instead of darting in and out like a rail fence, you wouldn't have nearly so far to go," Old Man Turtle told him.

"What's a rail fence?" asked Dapplewing.

"Are you asking me a riddle?" inquired Old Man Turtle.

"No, sir. I'm asking you a plain question. I never heard of a rail fence before."

"Well," yawned Old Man Turtle, "as you will likely never hear of one again, why let it bother you? You're a pretty smart little bird, Dapplewing, and you certainly can fly fast. I've often wondered if you and Long Bill Woodcock aren't related."

"Long Bill and I are first cousins," declared the snipe, "but we don't seem to get along very well together. Long Bill is lazy; likes to loaf in a shady, mucky spot, while I like getting around and seeing things. Long Bill Woodcock's a grand bird, though; don't you think so?"

"He certainly is," agreed Old Man Turtle, "but he's very shy. He's a queer fellow, too. Why, when he takes to wing, he doesn't spring from his feet, like you do; he raises himself on his long bill and gets the air under his wings that way."

"I could tell you a good story about that," said the snipe; "but I haven't got time."

"That's all right," nodded Old Man Turtle. "I'm glad you dropped in. The way those fire-flies have been staring at me has made me nervous."

"Staring at you?" laughed Dapplewing. "Why, fire-flies can't stare—they have no eyes!"

"Oh, you're wrong there," said Old Man Turtle. "They certainly have."

"Nonsense," cried Dapplewing. "You can't prove it."

"Yes I can. Just you take your note book and pencil and write the name 'fire-flies'  down."

Dapplewing took his notebook from his pocket and with his pencil wrote, "F-I-R-E-F-L-I-E-S."

"All right," he said, "I've got it down. Now what?"

"What's the second letter?" asked Old Man Turtle.

" 'I,' " answered Dapplewing.

"And the seventh letter?"

"It's 'I,' too."

"Well, that's two of 'em. Now, when anybody asks you, you can say that fireflies have two 'I's.' "

"Well I never—" began Dapplewing, but Old Man Turtle had disappeared beneath the water so that only his mossy back showed.

Dapplewing sped away, low down above the marsh. He came across Slyboy Red Fox who, seated under a scrub willow, was industriously licking his chops and combing his whiskers.

Dapplewing never lit in trees, so he paused on a tuft of grass some little distance from Slyboy and called to him.

"You're invited to the Annual Truce Banquet to be held tomorrow night on Sand Island, Slyboy."

"What did you say about a grand island?" asked the red fox, putting a paw to his ear. "I've been a little hard of hearing ever since I refereed that singing contest between Tapper Woodpecker and Goggle Eyes Bullfrog. Please come a little closer to me, my dear fellow," he begged.

"Thanks," returned Dapplewing, "but I'm close enough for my own comfort now. You heard what I said, so I'm away."

Dapplewing jumped straight up in the air and sped up the pond. "That cunning Slyboy would like to catch me napping," he told himself, "but I don't intend to let him."

He was flying across the corner of the pond when somebody called his name.

He curved swiftly about and peered down into the water. "Dear me," he said aloud, "I am sure somebody called me."

"So they did," quacked a voice, and waddling through the rushes came Wary Mallard.

"I saw you crossing the pond," Wary said. "What's up? You seemed to be flying awfully fast."

Dapplewing explained. "You'll be over to the Annual Truce Banquet, I hope?" he added.

"Let's see," ruminated Wary. "What day is tomorrow night, anyway?"

"No day," answered Dapplewing. "It's tomorrow night."

"What makes you so sure of that?" quacked the marsh drake. "How do you know it isn't last night, or to‑night?"

"Because," said Dapplewing, "last night is gone, and to-night will soon be gone, so, you see, it can only be tomorrow night."

"Why now, when you put it that way, I can see you are right," nodded the mallard. "I'm sorry, but I can't attend the banquet. Tomorrow night is my night to keep the eggs warm and let my wife hunt snails. I'll tell you what I might do, though."

"What's that?" asked Dapplewing.

"I might persuade old Slowboy Bittern to sit on our nest, but I'll have to offer him something very tempting before he'll agree. If I could only catch a nice young frog for him, it would be all right."

"But you see, Wary," explained Dapplewing, "Slowboy Bittern is supposed to attend the banquet too. He's one of the officers."

"Is that so?" exclaimed Wary. "Well, I must waddle back to that nest. If my wife happens to come home and find me gone, I'll get a good scolding. I'll be there if I can possibly make it, Dapplewing. So long."

"So long," returned Dapplewing, and darted into the air again.

It was just coming daylight when Dapplewing flew wearily down to his own particular feeding ground, a low marshy waste between two long grass-covered ridges. He had given invitations to the Truce Banquet to the following members of Marsh Realm and their families: Swampy Coon, Old Man Turtle, Daddy Long-Neck, Goggle Eyes Bullfrog, Merry Eyes Silverfox, Slyboy Red-fox, Spotba Marshsnake, Whiskernose Otter, Amberorbs Owl, Loper Mink, Creamy Weasel, Croaker Crow, Long Bill Woodcock and Yellowleg Plover. He would deliver invitations to Redwing Blackbird, Slim Teal, Cresty Wood-duck and others on the morrow. Long-Neck Crane had promised to help him. Long-Neck would see that Feathertail Blacksquirrel, Chiseltooth Chipmunk, Billy Porcupine, Tapper Woodpecker, Yowler Wildcat and Ruff-neck Lynx got their invitations.

"I'm mighty tired," yawned Dapplewing. "I'll pick up some breakfast and then I'll have a nap."


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