“How much did you drink?” asked his mother.
“Oh—only a little,” Cuffy answered faintly.
Then Mrs. Bear nodded her head three times. She was very wise—was Mrs. Bear. And she knew quite well that Cuffy had drunk a great deal too much of that nice-tasting water. So she made Cuffy lie down and gave him some peppermint leaves to chew. In a little while he began to feel so much better that before he knew it he had fallen asleep.
When Cuffy waked up he found that his father had come home. And soon Mr. Bear had Cuffy on one knee, and Silkie on the other, and he was telling them all about maple-sugar. For of course you knew all the time that what Cuffy had found was not a spring at all—but a sugar-maple tree, which Farmer Green had tapped so that he might gather the sap and boil it until it turned to maple-sugar. If Cuffy had gone further down the mountainside he would have found a great many other trees, each—like the one he discovered—with a tin bucket hanging on it to catch the sweet sap.
“So you see there are many things for little bears to learn,” Mr. Bear said, when he had finished. “And the one big lesson you must learn is to keep away from men. Farmer Green visits those trees every day to gather the sap. So you must not go down there again.”
A cold shiver went up and down Cuffy’s back at these words. Farmer Green! Cuffy had heard a great deal about Farmer Green and he certainly did not want to meet him all alone and far from home. But as soon as the tickle of that shiver stopped, Cuffy forgot all about his fright.
“This maple-sugar—does it taste as good as the sweet sap?” he asked his father.
“Yes, my son—a hundred times better!” Mr. Bear replied. “I ate some once And I shall never forget it.”
A hundred times better! After he had gone to bed that night the words kept ringing in Cuffy’s ears. A hundred times better! A hundred times better!... A hundred—And now Cuffy was fast asleep and—I am sorry to say it—sucking one of his paws for all the world as if it was a piece of Farmer Green’s maple-sugar.
CUFFY AND THE MAPLE-SUGAR
Another day had come and all the morning long Cuffy Bear and his sister Silkie played and played as hard as they could. They played that they were making maple-sugar. And they pretended to hang buckets on all the trees near Mr. Bear’s house. There were no maple trees about Cuffy’s home—only pine and hemlock and spruce—but if you are just pretending to make maple-sugar any sort of tree will do.
While they were playing Cuffy kept wishing for some real maple-sugar. After all, the little cakes of snow that he and Silkie made and called maple-sugar seemed very tasteless, no matter how much Cuffy pretended. And later, when Silkie was taking her nap, and Cuffy had no one to play with, he became so angry with the make-believe sugar that he struck the little pats of snow as hard as he could and spoiled them. And then, after one look toward the door of his father’s house—to make sure that his mother did not see him—Cuffy started on a trot down the mountainside.