Far up Blue Mountain, and down in the valley too, the leaves had long ago fallen off the trees. And for some time the ground had been white with snow; for winter had come again. And Cuffy Bear’s sister Silkie had had a birthday-party the very first day it snowed. Cuffy and Silkie shouted with glee each morning now, when they went out of doors, where the earth was covered with a snow-blanket. And they played and played and had just as good a time as little boys and girls have when winter comes. As they scampered about in the door-yard their feet left tracks that looked exactly like the foot-prints of barefooted girls and boys. They played tag, and hide-and-seek, and turned somersaults. And one day, when Mrs. Bear called them into the house, they ate, each of them, several quarts of chestnuts which Mr. Bear had gathered and brought home. In fact, before Mrs. Bear knew it they had eaten a great many more chestnuts than were good for them. And Cuffy, who had eaten the most, soon began to have a pain in his stomach.
“That’s what you get for being greedy,” his mother told him.
“I didn’t eat many chestnuts,” Cuffy said.
Mrs. Bear pointed to the floor.
“What do you call those?” she asked.
“Chestnut-shells,” Cuffy replied, hanging his head. There was a great heap of shells on the floor where Cuffy had sat.
“Pick them all up—every one of them,” his mother ordered. “And when you have finished you may take a nap—both of you.”
“What do you say?” Mrs. Bear asked severely.
“Excuse me!” Cuffy said hastily.
“That’s better!” said Mrs. Bear. “Now do as I say. You’ll be asleep before you know it. And I don’t intend to have those chestnut shells lying on the floor all winter.”
You may think that that was a queer thing for Mrs. Bear to say. But when you see what happened, you’ll understand what Mrs. Bear meant.
As Cuffy and Silkie sat down on the floor and began gathering up the chestnut-shells they both yawned and yawned. And since Mrs. Bear had left the room they didn’t bother to say “Excuse me!” They were so sleepy! And before little Silkie had finished picking up her shells she just rolled herself up into a round ball and fell fast asleep. As for Cuffy, being a little older, he managed to stay awake just long enough to get the floor all nice and clean. And then he rolled himself into a ball and he went to sleep, right there on the floor.
So Mrs. Bear found them when she came back into the room. She smiled as she saw them. And picking up first one and then the other she carried them into their little bed-chamber and put them down gently and covered them over with leaves, so they would be snug and warm. Yes, Mrs. Bear wanted her children to be warm, for she knew that they would not wake up again until spring. She had noticed for several days that Cuffy and Silkie were growing sleepy. And to tell the truth, Mrs. Bear was becoming sleepy herself. That very night she and Mr. Bear went to bed a whole hour earlier than usual. And the next day they never minded at all how cold it grew outside or how much the wind howled. For not one of Mr. Bear’s family waked up at all! They just slept and slept and slept, the whole winter long.