“Yes, it would be well if you who have some authority in the forest should do this,” said Helpless.
“I might also drop a good word for the pine needle pickers among the thrushes?” volunteered the adder. “I will gladly serve you when you do not demand anything unreasonable.”
“Now you have given me a good promise, Crawlie,” said Helpless, “and I’m glad that I came to you.”
One morning—several years later—Karr lay asleep on the porch. It was in the early summer, the season of light nights, and it was as bright as day, although the sun was not yet up. Karr was awakened by some one calling his name.
“Is it you, Grayskin?” he asked, for he was accustomed to the elk’s nightly visits. Again he heard the call; then he recognized Grayskin’s voice, and hastened in the direction of the sound.
Karr heard the elk’s footfalls in the distance, as he dashed into the thickest pine wood, and straight through the brush, following no trodden path. Karr could not catch up with him, and he had great difficulty in even following the trail. “Karr, Karri” came the cry, and the voice was certainly Grayskin’s, although it had a ring now which the dog had never heard before.
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” the dog responded. “Where are you?”
“Karr, Karr! Don’t you see how it falls and falls?” said Grayskin.
Then Karr noticed that the pine needles kept dropping and dropping from the trees, like a steady fall of rain.
“Yes, I see how it falls,” he cried, and ran far into the forest in search of the elk.
Grayskin kept running through the thickets, while Karr was about to lose the trail again.
“Karr, Karr!” roared Grayskin; “can’t you scent that peculiar odour in the forest?”
Karr stopped and sniffed.
He had not thought of it before, but now he remarked that the pines sent forth a much stronger odour than usual.
“Yes, I catch the scent,” he said. He did not stop long enough to find out the cause of it, but hurried on after Grayskin.
The elk ran ahead with such speed that the dog could not catch up with him.
“Karr, Karr!” he called; “can’t you hear the crunching on the pines?” Now his tone was so plaintive it would have melted a stone.
Karr paused to listen. He heard a faint but distinct “tap, tap,” on the trees. It sounded like the ticking of a watch.
“Yes, I hear how it ticks,” cried Karr, and ran no farther. He understood that the elk did not want him to follow, but to take notice of something that was happening in the forest.
Karr was standing beneath the drooping branches of a great pine. He looked carefully at it; the needles moved. He went closer and saw a mass of grayish-white caterpillars creeping along the branches, gnawing off the needles. Every branch was covered with them. The crunch, crunch in the trees came from the working of their busy little jaws. Gnawed-off needles fell to the ground in a continuous shower, and from the poor pines there came such a strong odour that the dog suffered from it.