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

Marsh Realm Chooses a Teacher

"L ADIES AND GENTLEMEN," said Mr. Goggle Eyes Bullfrog, standing up and tapping the toadstool table before him with his cat-tail gavel, "you know the object of our meeting together to‑night. A school is to be opened in Marsh Realm so that our children may be properly educated. We must choose a teacher.

"I might say," he added, smoothing out his white vest and puffing out his chest, "that should I, on account of my many sterling qualities, be chosen to fill the post of Marsh Realm's teacher, my endeavor will be to make every boy and girl pupil a good swimmer and a fine singer. My charge for services would be two dozen sand-flies per hour."

He bowed to his hearers and sat down.

"Friends and neighbors," observed Long-Neck Crane, standing up on his pipe-stem legs, "I rise to a point of order."

"You certainly rise high enough," grunted Brownie Muskrat.

"Mr. Bullfrog, as chairman," resumed Long-Neck, "is not privileged to nominate himself—"

"Excuse me," Goggle Eyes was on his feet again. "I did not nominate myself. I simply—"

"I have the floor, I think," Long-Neck reminded him.

"There isn't any floor," chuckled Slyboy Redfox.

"I was going to add," remarked Long-Neck, "that our teacher must be more than merely a swimmer and a singer. He should possess a thorough knowledge of marshology and woodology, which qualifications, unfortunately for him, Mr. Bullfrog does not possess. If, however, it is your desire that our teacher be one your children may look up to—"

Long-Neck paused and smiled down on the upturned faces of the fathers and mothers, "I should be quite willing—"

"Oh, sit down, you old lean streak!" cried Merry Eyes Grey-fox, who had just arrived in time to overhear Long-Neck's last remark. "You're all right as a tale-bearer and a meddler, but you'd never do as a teacher of our young. Why, you can't even teach yourself common-sense."

"I can stand on one leg, and that's more than you can do, sir," retorted Long-Neck angrily.

"Order, gentlemen, order!" croaked the chairman tapping his gavel on the table.

"It seems to me," remarked Swampy-Coon, rising to his feet, "we're doing a lot of talking, but not getting anywhere. Now, I'm of the opinion that we should choose a teacher who is wise enough to understand our children and tolerant enough to bear with 'em; one who has lived and observed and garnered the kind of knowledge which, imparted to our youngsters, will the better equip them for their hazardous journey through life."

"That's the talk!" cried Mammy Muskrat shrilly, flourishing her umbrella in her excitement and knocking the bonnets of Mrs. Mink and Mrs. Swamp-Coon, who were seated just ahead of her, askew. "We want a wise bird or animal for a teacher."

She sat down, glaring defiantly about her, and Swampy continued, "I believe Amberorbs Owl is fully qualified to teach, but what I would suggest is this. I observe that our most ancient and merry-hearted inhabitant of beautiful Marsh Realm has just this moment arrived. Perhaps he will be good enough to favor us with a few words."

"Old Man Turtle! Old Man Turtle!" shouted the animals and birds enthusiastically.

"I'd far rather not say anything," said Old Man Turtle, climbing erect by aid of a clump of cat-tails and scratching his chin thoughtfully. "Sixty years ago I was asked to decide a similar question at a meeting of what was known as the Furbearers' Mutual Protective Society, and as a result I had to go in hiding for nearly one year. Those," resumed Old Man Turtle thoughtfully, "were very troublous times. The pine woods animals had declared open warfare on the marsh animals and, needless to say, their forces were superior to ours. The Society had met to appoint a police-sentinel. It so happened that for once I had not arrived in time to see the meeting opened, otherwise, I feel sure that I would not have misunderstood its purport.

"When I arrived, I was assailed on all sides to decide a point at issue. Two candidates had been named as sentinel-police, so much I gleaned from the confused babble all about me. One predominating fact was impressed on me, however. The sentinel-police must necessarily possess a keen eye and keen scent in order to perform his duties satisfactorily."

Old Man Turtle chuckled reminiscently. "So," he went on, "I told them if it was keen scent they were after, I knew the very one to fill the bill.

"They left it to me and I proposed Mr. Skunk. Some doubting Thomas expressed his disbelief, and Mr. Skunk at once proceeded to prove my opinion of him correct.

"I managed somehow, by keeping my head under my shell, to get back to my pond alive, but I told myself I would never choose another candidate for any position again.

"Be that as it may," continued the speaker, "I feel that I should be less than a public-spirited Marsh Realmite if I took no interest in the question that has drawn us together to‑night. The teacher of our young must be the best qualified bird or animal we can secure. The babies of to‑day will be the big night-hunters of to‑morrow—"

"To-morrow night, you mean," snickered Redwing Blackbird.

Old Man Turtle threw the interrupter a withering look.

"Mr. Blackbird," he asked caustically, "are you a grown bird or a fledgling?"

"Why—why," stammered the abashed Redwing, "a grown bird, of course."

"Then keep your mouth shut. As I was about to remark," resumed Old Man Turtle, turning to his audience, "we need a wise one as teacher. Swampy-Coon has suggested Mr. Owl, and I strongly endorse his choice. I am sure we would have in Mr. Owl a sagacious and learned instructor, and one who would take a live interest in the progress of the youngsters under his control."

"Too live an interest, I'm afraid," quacked a voice, and Mrs. Mallard flopped her wings agitatedly.

Old Man Turtle was quick to reassure her.

"Neither you nor any other mother of Marsh Realm need fear harm to your children, Madam," he said. "Mr. Owl, or whoever is chosen as our teacher, will be put under heavy bond, and will be held responsible for any harm happening to the children in his charge."


[Illustration]

Amberorbs Owl for Teacher

"Amberorbs Owl for teacher! Amberorbs Owl for teacher!" shouted the mothers and fathers of Marsh Realm, and almost before he knew it, Mr. Owl was elected. He was so pleased with the honor that he refused to accept any salary for his services; all he would ask, he said, was that Croaker Crow, Long-Neck Crane, Slowboy Bittern and other rival marsh hunters be kept off his hunting preserve.

His wish was at once granted, and the animals and birds proceeded to their homes well pleased with the fact that Marsh Realm was to have a teacher.


[Illustration]


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