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THAT black rascal, Mr. Crow, was not the oldest dweller in Pleasant Valley. There was another elderly gentleman who had spent more summers – and a great many more winters – under the shadow of Blue Mountain than he.
All the wild folk knew this person by the name of Timothy Turtle. And if they didn't see him so often as Mr. Crow it was because he spent much of his time on the muddy bottom of Black Creek. Besides, he never flapped his way through the air to Farmer Green's cornfield, in plain sight of everyone who happened to look up at the sky.
On the contrary, Mr. Timothy Turtle seldom wandered far from the banks of the creek – for the best of reasons. He was anything but a fast walker. In fact, one might say that he waddled, or even crawled, rather than walked. But in the water he was quite a different creature. By means of his webbed feet he could swim as easily as Mr. Crow could fly. And he could stay at the bottom of Black Creek a surprisingly long time before he came up for a breath of air. Indeed, Mr. Crow sometimes remarked that he would be just as well pleased if Timothy Turtle buried himself in the mud beneath the water and never came up again!
Such a speech was enough to show that Mr. Crow was not fond of Timothy Turtle. Perhaps Mr. Crow disliked to have a neighbor who was older than he. But Mr. Crow himself always laughed at such a suggestion.
"The trouble is –" he would say – "the trouble is, Timothy Turtle is too grumpy. Now, I'm old. But I claim that that's no reason why I shouldn't be pleasant." And then he would laugh – somewhat harshly – just to show that he knew how.
There was a good deal of truth in what Mr. Crow said. Timothy Turtle was grumpy. But it was not old age that made him so. He had been like that all his life. There never was a time when he wasn't snappish, when he wouldn't rather bite a body than not.
And that was the reason why he had not more friends. To be sure, many people knew him. But usually they took good care not to get too near him.
For Timothy Turtle had a most unpleasant way of shooting out his long neck, from under his shell and seizing a person in his powerful jaws. In spite of his great age he was quick as a flash. And one had to step lively to escape him.
If Timothy had bitten you just for an instant, and then stopped, this trick of his wouldn't have been so disagreeable. But he was not content with a mere nip. When he had hold of you he never wanted to let you go. And it was no joke getting away, once you found yourself caught by him.
As for Timothy Turtle, he never could understand why his neighbors objected to this little trick of his. He always said that it was more fun than almost anything else he could think of. And it is true that he never seemed so happy as he did when he had caught some careless person and was biting him without mercy.
"Anybody that wants to may bite me," Timothy used to declare. But perhaps he never stopped to think that one might almost as well bite a rock as his hard shell. And anybody might better chew a piece of leather than try to take a mouthful out of his legs, or his neck, or his head.
So no one paid any heed to Timothy Turtle's kind offer. Even Peter Mink, who was himself overfond of biting people, wisely let Mr. Turtle alone.
There is no doubt that it was the safer way.
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