Here to return to
SO Timothy Turtle struggled up the steep face of the bluff. And as he neared the top Mr. Crow began to hop up and down upon the old pine stump. He was almost bursting with silent laughter. But he succeeded in keeping quiet. And now and then he made threatening motions toward Jasper Jay and his friends, who stuck their heads from behind limbs of trees and hummocks and bushes, lest they miss any of the fun.
Once on top of the great rock that capped the bluff and hung out over the creek, Timothy Turtle clung there and peered down at the gently flowing water below.
"What a long way it is down there!" be called to Mr. Crow.
"Don't think about that!" Mr. Crow cautioned him.
"Is this the way Mr. Alligator learned to fly?" Timothy Turtle demanded.
"Don't think about him!" Mr. Crow shouted. "Just jump out as far as you can!"
"I believe I don't care to fly to-day," Timothy Turtle faltered, drawing back from the edge of the rock. "I – I'll wait till some other time. You know, I'm older than you are."
"Tut, tut!" said Mr. Crow. "When I'm your age I shall still be flying as well as I do now. It's nothing, when you know how. Nothing at all!"
Urged by Mr. Crow, Timothy Turtle once more crept to the very edge of the cliff and stretched his neck out as far as he could, to gaze down at the black water. And at last, after making several false starts and drawing back to a place of safety, he stood up on his hind legs, shut his eyes, and hopped off into space.
Now, the moment Timothy Turtle leaped from the top of the bluff a deafening squawk broke the silence. Old Mr. Crow cawed as loud as he knew how. But the racket he made was as nothing compared with the uproar of Jasper Jay and the noisy crew he had brought with him. They squalled with delight as Timothy Turtle plunged through the air like a stone. And when he landed upside down in the creek, striking the water with a great splash, the whole company shrieked louder than ever.
"Ha! ha! ha!" Mr. Crow cried, holding his sides and rocking backwards and forwards upon the old stump.
"Jay! jay! jay!" Jasper and his friends bawled, hopping up and down and cutting capers in the air.
As for Timothy Turtle, he made no sound at all. And neither did he make the slightest motion. The current of Black Creek caught him and bore him away down the stream. But at last he managed to paddle ashore. And he pulled himself slowly out of the water, and lay upon the sand and groaned.
Mr. Crow and his cronies gathered quickly about him.
"What's the matter?" Mr. Crow inquired. "Don't you like flying?"
It was some time before Timothy could answer.
"I've had an awful fall," he moaned finally.
"Where are you hurt?" Mr. Crow asked him.
"Everywhere!" Timothy Turtle told him. "I thought you said that water was soft to fall into."
"Well, isn't it?"
"It certainly is not," Timothy Turtle declared. "I believe there's nothing harder in the whole world. . . . I've heard, sir, that you are very wise. But for once, anyhow, you've made a great mistake."
Old Mr. Crow coughed – and winked at his friends.
"The trouble was" – he explained – "the trouble was, you lost your balance and landed in the creek upside down. And of course you couldn't fly in that position. It's what's called 'turning turtle, '" he added, "and I might have known – if I had stopped to think – that you'd be sure to do it."
"Well," said Timothy Turtle, drawing a long breath, "I'll tell you right now that I'll never, never, turn turtle again."
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