I felt justified in keeping this animal caged. He was not fit to run loose even in the Bear Swamp. Perhaps I have done him wrong in this story of the frog. Frogs may need washing, after all, despite the fact that they are never out of the bath-tub long enough to dry off once in their whole lives. Mux knew more about frogs than I, doubtless. But Mux insisted upon washing oysters.
Now there are few people clothed in sane minds who do not like raw oysters. Mark this, however: when you see a person wash raw oysters, keep out of his way; he has lost either his wits or his morals. The only two creatures I ever knew to wash raw oysters were Mux and an oyster-dealer in Cambridge Street, Boston. I saw this dealer take up a two-gallon can that had just arrived at his store, and dump the dark salty shell-fish into a great colander, stick the end of a piece of rubber hose in among them, turn the water on? and stir and soak them. How white they got! How fat they got! How their ghastly corpses swelled!
Mux did not wash his to see them swell, but simply that he might take no chances with dirt—or poison, for I used to think sometimes that he thought I was trying to poison him. He was desperately fond of oysters. But who could cast his pearls, or, to be scientifically and literally correct, his mothers of pearls, before such a swine? Mux had just one plateful of oysters while I was his keeper. They were nice plump fellows, and when I saw the maniac soak one all stringy and tasteless I poured his wash-water out. Was he to be balked that way! No, no. He took oyster number two, flopped it into the empty tub, scoured it around on the muddy bottom, looked it over as carefully as he had done stringy number one, and swallowed sandy, muddy number two with just as much relish.
This was too much. I cuffed him and took away the tub. This I suppose was wrong, for I understand you must never oppose crazy persons. Well, Mux helped himself to oyster number three. There was no water, no tub. But what were oysters for if not to be washed? And who was he but Procyon lotor—Procyon “the washer”? Can the leopard change his spots or the racoon his habits? Can he? Shall he? I could almost hear him muttering under his breath, “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” Then he darted a triumphantly malicious glance at me, retreated to the back of his cage, thrust his oyster out of sight beneath the straw of his bed, and washed it—washed the oyster in the straw, washed it into a fistful of sticks and chaff, and gloated as he swallowed it.
Into the wode to her the briddes sing.
Over the creek, and clearing it by a little, hung a snow-white, stirless mist, its under surface even and parallel with the face of the water, its upper surface peaked and billowed half-way to the tops of the shore-skirting trees.