A few yards away Baree was almost hidden in his hollow, only the top of his shiny black body appearing to Beaver Tooth’s scrutiny. To get a better look, the old beaver spread his flat tail out beyond him and rose to a sitting posture on his hindquarters, his two front paws held squirrel-like over his breast. In this pose he was fully three feet tall. He probably weighed forty pounds, and in some ways he resembled one of those fat, good-natured, silly-looking dogs that go largely to stomach. But his brain was working with amazing celerity. Suddenly he gave the hard mud of the dam a single slap with his tail—and Baree sat up. Instantly he saw Beaver Tooth, and stared. Beaver Tooth stared. For a full half-minute neither moved the thousandth part of an inch. Then Baree stood up and wagged his tail.
That was enough. Dropping to his forefeet. Beaver Tooth waddled leisurely to the edge of the dam and dived over. He was neither cautious nor in very great haste now. He made a great commotion in the water and swam boldly back and forth under Baree. When he had done this several times, he cut straight up the pond to the largest of the three houses and disappeared. Five minutes after Beaver Tooth’s exploit word was passing quickly among the colony. The stranger—Baree—was not a lynx. He was not a fox. He was not a wolf. Moreover, he was very young—and harmless. Work could be resumed. Play could be resumed. There was no danger. Such was Beaver Tooth’s verdict.
If someone had shouted these facts in beaver language through a megaphone, the response could not have been quicker. All at once it seemed to Baree, who was still standing on the edge of the dam, that the pond was alive with beavers. He had never seen so many at one time before. They were popping up everywhere, and some of them swam up within a dozen feet of him and looked him over in a leisurely and curious way. For perhaps five minutes the beavers seemed to have no particular object in view. Then Beaver Tooth himself struck straight for the shore and climbed out. Others followed him. Half a dozen workers disappeared in the canals. As many more waddled out among the alders and willows. Eagerly Baree watched for Umisk and his chums. At last he saw them, swimming forth from one of the smaller houses. They climbed out on their playground—the smooth bar above the shore of mud. Baree wagged his tail so hard that his whole body shook, and hurried along the dam.
When he came out on the level strip of shore, Umisk was there alone, nibbling his supper from a long, freshly cut willow. The other little beavers had gone into a thick clump of young alders.
This time Umisk did not run. He looked up from his stick. Baree squatted himself, wiggling in a most friendly and ingratiating manner. For a few seconds Umisk regarded him.
Then, very coolly, he resumed his supper.