“What do you know about it?” asked the little boy.
“Oh, I know all about it,” answered the old cat. “But ask Old Boze,” he went on with a grin, “perhaps he’ll tell you.”
Old Boze got up slowly and with dignity. “I am too tired to tell stories,” said he, “but I’m not too tired to shake the foolishness out of a cat.”
“Here now,” said the little boy, “no quarreling and fighting. I won’t have it. And Klaws shall tell me that story about your long, red tongue, if he will.”
“To be sure I will,” said Old Klaws, delighted to be able to tease Old Boze safely. Of course there was another time coming when little Luke might not be at hand, but then the old cat trusted to speed and sharp claws to put himself up a tree and out of the reach of the old hound.
“All right,” said Old Boze, “if you’re fond of the company of a sneaking, mouse-eating, old tabby. I’m not. I’ll take myself off. But my memory is good,” he added, glancing at Old Klaws with a snarl that showed all his sharp, white teeth.
“Well, now for the story,” said the little boy, when Old Boze was out of sight around the corner.
“Long, long ago,” began Old Klaws, “when all the animal kindreds could talk the man-talk, the dogs were the greatest telltales in the world. They told everything they knew, and sometimes a great deal more. Their masters often flogged them for tattling, but it did little or no good.
“In those days there was a great hunter whose name was Man-e-do. He wanted a dog to help him hunt, but he did not want a tattletale. So he took a fine, young pup, and tried to bring him up to be a good hunter and to keep his tongue. He took good care of him. He often told him how foolish it was to tell everything he knew. The pup would promise not to tattle, but he was only a dog, and blood will tell after all.
“When the pup was big enough, his master took him with him when he went hunting for small game. The dog was a good trailer by this time, and together they killed many rabbits and other small animals.
“But when they went home, the dog couldn’t hold his tongue. He would brag to the other dogs, and tell them what a great hunter he was, and how at such and such a place he had caught the biggest rabbits that ever were seen. Then the other dogs would lead their masters to those places and clear them of game. Whenever Man-e-do went to a place a second time, he found no game there.
“Besides, if they were hunting near the village and made a kill, the dog would pretend to go off after more game. But when he was out of sight of his master, he would run home and tell some of his chums about his kill. Then the other dogs and their masters would come out and kill or scare away all the game there was in that place. Many times Man-e-do caught the dog tattling, and scolded and beat him for it, but it did no good. He just couldn’t keep anything to himself.