The Truce Banquet
T HE Truce Banquet of the wild folk of Marsh Realm and Pine Forest was an annual event, and one in which everybody, big and little, happily joined. On this night all enmities were forgotten, for the time being, and the fiercest of the animals and birds laughed and chatted in all friendliness with the smallest and most timid.
Ruffy Lynx and Redwing Blackbird sat at the head of the feast table and ate soup from the same bowl.
Slyboy Fox lit his pipe from Strutter Partridge's cigar and vowed that when he got his Marsh Band organized properly, Strutter would be his drummer. Goggle Eyes Bullfrog sat right under Slowboy Bittern's beak and winked at that fellow's dry jokes. Even old Swampy Coon wore a cheerful face, and in his reply to the toast to the president, made a telling speech in which he declared that all animals were born equal.
Old Man Turtle was called on to tell a funny story or his newest riddle, but, as he had not yet arrived, Croaker Crow took the floor and recited a humorous poem, the opening stanza of which ran something like this:
Goggle Eyes Bullfrog laughed so hard during Croaker's recitation he swallowed his cigar and had to leap backward into the water to quench the coal. All the bird and animal children howled and wanted more, but President Swampy Coon declared that on account of the long programme yet before them, no encores would be allowed.
Mammy Muskrat read an interesting paper on how to bring up marsh babies. Whiskernose Otter described how he had once witnessed a dogfish chase a catfish up a tree. Tapper Woodpecker demonstrated the newest methods of boring holes in rotten stumps. Amberorbs Owl delighted everybody by his marvelous power of ventriloquism and Merry Eyes Greyfox performed some wonderful feats of sleight of hand.
But the crowning number of the programme was Goggle Eyes' bass solo, composed by himself. Miss Whip-poor-will and Miss Cricket accompanied him on flute and cello. The song was entitled "Us Folks."
And so on, and so on. Goggle Eyes had something to say about every animal and bird of his acquaintance. Before he was through with his song he had everybody laughing.
The moon was just sliding down behind the Sunset Islands when the banquet broke up. All of the animals and birds declared it had been the most successful one to date.
Just as everybody was shaking hands with everybody else, Old Man Turtle appeared on the scene. He seemed surprised that he was so late.
"That comes of my wearing a still-water watch!" he exclaimed disgustedly.
"Waterbury, I guess you mean," said Yowler Wildcat.
"No, sir, I mean no such thing," declared Old Man Turtle. "I mean what I say, still-water."
"And what is a still-water watch?" asked half a dozen voices together.
"Why, you see, it's a watch that doesn't run," grinned Old Man Turtle. And quite content with having a joke on his friends, he turned slowly about and crawled back toward his pond, very carefully, so as not to upset the basket of good things Mammy Muskrat had saved from the banqueting table and placed on his shell.