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

Goggle Eyes Visits Old Man Turtle

M R. BULLFROG was very much put out with what he considered Mrs. Muskrat's unfair attitude toward him as a singer. His pride was hurt. He felt that anybody who understood as little about music as Mrs. Muskrat had no right to criticise a vocal celebrity like himself. He was so angry he deliberately made a face at the man in the moon. You see, he couldn't sing again because he had promised Mrs. Muskrat he wouldn't, unless he was able to answer his own question; and he had failed to answer that question.

"I know what I'll do," decided Goggle Eyes, "I'll go down and ask Old Man Turtle's advice on the matter."

Old Man Turtle had lived in Marsh Realm so long that he knew every animal and bird in it. He could remember before any of them came, for he was a very, very old turtle indeed. And he was wise, too; even Swamp-Coon admitted that, as did also Merry-Eyes, the silver fox, and Ruffy, the yellow-eyed lynx, whose home was really in the forest, but who often came into the Marsh simply to make trouble.

Goggle Eyes swam down the long pond and hopped through the rushes to Old Man Turtle's swale.

"Are you there?" he croaked, peering through the reeds.

"No," answered Old Man Turtle, "I'm very sorry to say I'm not."

"But you are,  you know," Goggle Eyes corrected. "I can see you."

"Dear me," yawned Old Man Turtle, "if that is so, I must be here, after all."

"Well," grumbled Mr. Bullfrog, "at least you might have said so at once, then. If you don't want me to come in, I'll go away."


[Illustration]

Goggle-Eyes the Bullfrog and Old Man Turtle

"Oh, come in by all means," invited Old Man Turtle. "I'll be glad to see you. I've got something I wish to ask you. The fact is when you spoke, I wasn't really here. I was far away from here, in Dreamland."

"Ha ha!" laughed Goggle Eyes, "I see, I see."

"What do you see?" asked Old Man Turtle, glancing apprehensively about him.

"I mean I understand,"  explained Goggle Eyes, hopping through the rush door and over to where Old Man Turtle lay basking in the moonlight. "What was it you wished to ask me?" he inquired, smoothing the wrinkles out of his white vest with his webbed forefeet.

"It's something very serious," said Old Man Turtle. "It's about that wild fellow, Swamp-Coon. It seems he's feeling very badly because he is not allowed to enter the 'Fine Fur' contest next Saturday night."

"Well, I should think he would be!" cried Mr. Bullfrog. "He has the finest fur of any animal in Marsh Realm. He would carry off first prize sure. Surely you've noticed his wonderful coat of dark grey with lighter bars on flank and tail. It's beautiful, that's what it is."  "You're to be one of the judges of this Fine Fur Contest, I understand," said Old Man Turtle.

"Yes," admitted Goggle Eyes, "I've been asked to act in that capacity."

"What I wished to ask you," said Old Man Turtle, with a twinkle in his eye, is this. "Why is Mr. Swamp-Coon's coat barred?"

For a few seconds Mr. Bullfrog stared at his questioner stupidly; then as Old Man Turtle chuckled, understanding came to him, and leaning against a clump of rushes, he laughed till the tears came to his eyes.

"Oh, that's good!" he gulped. "I knew you'd cheer me up if I came to see you, Old Man Turtle. How is it you can always be so light-hearted and happy? There's surely some reason for it."

"Why, it's because I've lived so long I've learned that happiness is the only thing worth while," said Old Man Turtle. "And I've learned that most of the things that make us sad are only imaginary things. I wish you and Swamp-Coon and Daddy Long-Neck and the Muskrats and Loper Mink and Creamy Weasel and Ruffy-Fox—and all the rest of the animals and birds of Marsh Realm would accept my viewpoint on life. We'd get along so much more happily then."

Mr. Bullfrog sighed. "No doubt we would," he admitted. "But there are so many dangers, one has to worry more or less. Right at this moment I'm worried almost sick over what that vicious snake, Spotba, says he is going to do to me."

"What's that old snake saying now?" asked Old Man Turtle, thrusting his head forward interestedly.

"He's saying," wept poor Goggle Eyes, "that he'll bite my hind legs off close to my body, if ever he gets the opportunity."

"Humph!" snorted Old Man Turtle, "that needn't bother you. What if he does?"

"But," cried Goggle Eyes, "however could I swim without my hind legs?"

"You've done it before, haven't you?"

"Certainly not."

"How about when you were a tadpole?" asked Old Man Turtle. "A pollywog, if that name suits you better?"

"Why," stammered Goggle Eyes, "come to think of it, I was quite able to swim then—and I didn't have any legs, either."

"Well," grunted Old Man Turtle, "why worry then?"

"But I don't want Spotba to bite my legs off," groaned Mr. Bullfrog.

Old Man Turtle laughed.

"Why, you poor coward," he chided, "that old marsh snake is only trying to scare you, same as he tries to scare every other animal in this world of ours. He can't bite anything off, that old bluffer, because . . ."

He paused to chuckle again and Mr. Bullfrog asked eagerly, "Because—what?"

"Because," said Old Man Turtle, "he hasn't got a tooth in his head."

"Are—are you sure?" gasped Mr. Bullfrog.

"Absolutely. The other day I found him curled up asleep on the edge of my pond. I tickled him under the chin with a dry reed till he yawned, and, believe me or not, Goggle Eyes, he hadn't the sign of a tooth in his mouth. All he has is a rasp-like roof to his upper jaw. With that he is able to hold grasshoppers and other small insects, even a fledgling bird; but bite—Pshaw! a wee turtle just hatched from the egg could bite harder than poor old Spotba."

"But why," asked the greatly relieved Bullfrog, "does he hiss and threaten us then?"

"Because he's afraid that some of the animals who really have teeth will hurt him, that's why," explained Old Man Turtle. "Just as long as he can bluff his way through, well and good. If some of the folks of Marsh Realm got to know this, Spotba's life wouldn't be worth an empty clam-shell, so I'm going to pledge you not to tell what I've told you about him. He's not a bad old snake when you get to know him well. He's kind to his mate and family, and he never hunts on anybody else's feeding-ground."

"Why," cried Mr. Bullfrog, "I'm sure I bear him no ill will; I won't tell a soul what you've told me about Spotba."

"Good," nodded Old Man Turtle. "And the next time you happen to be hopping his way, you might just call 'Hullo!' to him. He's a lonesome old fellow, and it'll cheer him up."

"I'll be glad to do that," promised Mr. Bullfrog, preparing to swim away. "Thanks for what you've told me. I haven't felt so relieved in a long time. You've certainly cheered me up. I was awfully blue."

"Speaking of being blue," yawned Old Man Turtle, settling himself for another doze, "can you tell me why the morning sun loves to see everything in the water glad?"

Goggle Eyes shook his head.

"Because the water's blue," sighed Old Man Turtle, and pulling his head, legs and tail beneath his shell, he went to sleep.


[Illustration]


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