Cuffy knew that that was a long way off—not until summer had come and gone.
“And Father’s?” he inquired once more.
Mrs. Bear shook her head.
“Your father hasn’t many birthdays,” she said. “He was born on the day of the great forest fire. It may be a long time before he has another birthday. I hope so, anyhow,” she added, “for a great forest fire is a dreadful thing.”
Now you see, having a birthday like that is a good deal like being born on the twenty-ninth of February, when you have a birthday only once in four years. Yes—it’s a good deal like that, only worse. For you may have to wait years and years before another great fire comes. You understand, of course, that having no clocks or calendars or anything like that, the wild animals can keep track of birthdays only by remembering things that happen.
All this made Cuffy Bear feel very sad. He had been hoping that some member of the family would have a birthday soon, and then perhaps his father would bring home another little pig for another nice feast. But now he saw that there was no chance of that happening for a long, long time.
[Illustration: Mrs. Eagle Rose Higher and Higher]
Cuffy went out of doors then and thought and thought and thought. I’m almost ashamed to have to say it—he was planning to go down to Farmer Green’s and get another fat, tender, little pig like the one his father had brought home.
Now, when a very young bear starts out to steal a pig there are many things to think of. In the first place, there was Farmer Green, and Farmer Green’s boy Johnnie, and Farmer Green’s hired man. Cuffy knew that he must be very, very careful not to meet them.
To his great relief, when he had gone down into Pleasant Valley Cuffy saw all three ploughing in a field. They did not see him at all. And so he felt very brave as he went on toward the farm buildings.
Farmer Green’s pig-pen was in a little, low building next the cow-barn. Cuffy had no trouble in finding it. And he walked inside quite boldly and before you could have winked, almost, he had seized a little, white pig in his mouth and was loping off across the barnyard.
The pig had looked very small to Cuffy when he first saw and seized it. But now it seemed to be as many as twenty times bigger than Cuffy was himself. That was because the pig made the most frightful noise Cuffy had ever heard in all his life. Cuffy felt as if he had a hundred pigs in his mouth, with their hundred snouts squealing right in his ears. Though Farmer Green was at least a mile away, Cuffy was sure he could hear. Indeed, Cuffy thought that all the world must hear that dreadful racket. And he was so frightened that he let go of the little pig and ran away towards home as fast as he could jump.
That squealing rang in his ears for a long time. And if Cuffy’s father had brought home a pig that night Cuffy couldn’t have eaten a mouthful of it. He never wanted to see or taste of a pig again. And you may be sure he never wanted to hear one, either.