“But we can’t let the whole Liberty Forest go to rack and ruin!” protested Big-and-Strong. “We’ll have to consult the humans; there is no alternative.”
Karr understood that the elk had difficulty in expressing what they wished to say, and he tried to help them.
“Perhaps you want me to let the people know the conditions here?” he suggested.
All the old elk nodded their heads.
“It’s most unfortunate that we are obliged to ask help of human beings, but we have no choice.”
A moment later Karr was on his way home. As he ran ahead, deeply distressed over all that he had heard and seen, a big black water-snake approached them.
“Well met in the forest!” hissed the water-snake.
“Well met again!” snarled Karr, and rushed by without stopping.
The snake turned and tried to catch up to him.
“Perhaps that creature also, is worried about the forest,” thought Karr, and waited.
Immediately the snake began to talk about the great disaster.
“There will be an end of peace and quiet in the forest when human beings are called hither,” said the snake.
“I’m afraid there will,” the dog agreed; “but the oldest forest dwellers know what they’re about!” he added.
“I think I know a better plan,” said the snake, “if I can get the reward I wish.”
“Are you not the one whom every one around here calls old Helpless?” said the dog, sneeringly.
“I’m an old inhabitant of the forest,” said the snake, “and I know how to get rid of such plagues.”
“If you clear the forest of that pest, I feel sure you can have anything you ask for,” said Karr.
The snake did not respond to this until he had crawled under a tree stump, where he was well protected. Then he said:
“Tell Grayskin that if he will leave Liberty Forest forever, and go far north, where no oak tree grows, I will send sickness and death to all the creeping things that gnaw the pines and spruces!”
“What’s that you say?” asked Karr, bristling up. “What harm has Grayskin ever done you?”
“He has slain the one whom I loved best,” the snake declared, “and I want to be avenged.”
Before the snake had finished speaking, Karr made a dash for him; but the reptile lay safely hidden under the tree stump.
“Stay where you are!” Karr concluded. “We’ll manage to drive out the caterpillars without your help.”
The following spring, as Karr was dashing through the forest one morning, he heard some one behind him calling: “Karr! Karr!”
He turned and saw an old fox standing outside his lair.
“You must tell me if the humans are doing anything for the forest,” said the fox.
“Yes, you may be sure they are!” said Karr. “They are working as hard as they can.”