When Mr. Bear had gone off down the mountain, “to see a bear,” as he explained to his wife, little Cuffy sneaked away from the house. His mother was making the beds, and Silkie was pretending to help her. Now, nobody sneaks unless he knows he is doing something wrong. Cuffy knew that his parents would not let him go down into the valley alone, so he went without asking. And when he did at last come to the river there was ice along both banks; but between them ran a broad stream of swift water.
“The ice must have gone out in the night,” Cuffy said to himself. And he looked about in the hope of finding some fish on the banks. But not one fish could he find.
He was disappointed. And he crept out onto the ice as far as he could go and peeped over the edge into the water. He thought maybe he could at least catch a fish with his paw.
Cuffy lay quite still for a long time. And then at last to his delight he saw a fish right before him. He made a quick reach for it. And then there was a sharp crack! The ice tipped and Cuffy clung to it with all his claws to keep from falling into the river. He backed away from the edge and looked around. The bank was moving past him. He had never seen such a thing and he was surprised.
Then he gave a cry which sounded in his throat like "Oug!" and ended with "I-s-s-s!" through his nose. It meant that Cuffy was frightened. For he saw that the ice he was on had broken away and was floating rapidly down the stream.
He had not caught the fish, either. But he forgot all about that now.
CUFFY LEARNS TO SWIM
Yes! Cuffy Bear was floating down the river on a cake of ice! How he wished he had been a good little bear and stayed at home, instead of running away to the river all alone! He was huddled up in a little black heap in the center of the cake, and crying as if his heart would break. For Cuffy thought he would never see his mother and father and Silkie again. If only he knew how to swim, like his father! But he didn’t; and there he was, being swept away down the valley, right toward Farmer Green’s house. It certainly was enough to make anybody weep.
When Cuffy thought about Farmer Green he was more frightened than ever and he began to scream. He remembered all the dreadful things he had heard about men and the things they do to little bears.
Pretty soon Cuffy saw something move up on the bank ahead of him. And he stopped screaming. He was afraid that it was Farmer Green himself and he thought he had better keep still. Then perhaps Farmer Green wouldn’t see him. But to his dismay the big black thing began to slide down the steep bank right toward the river.
Cuffy’s heart seemed to stand still. He shut his eyes tight and tried to make himself as small as he could. And he hardly breathed.