Here to return to
EVERYBODY who lived near Black Creek noticed Timothy Turtle's new collar. And almost every one, being curious, asked Mr. Turtle where he got it, and why he was wearing it.
Now, Timothy Turtle would give such folk no answer at all. But old Mr. Crow knew what had happened – of course. And he took pains to tell all his friends how Johnnie Green had caught Timothy and tied a rope around his neck, and cut something on Timothy's back, besides.
So it was not long before Timothy Turtle's neighbors began to ask him what was on his back.
"My shell's on my back!" he snapped, when any one put that question to him. "Yes – but what's on your shell?" everybody was sure to answer back. Timothy Turtle couldn’t have replied to that question, even if he had wanted to. And though he always sneered when hearing it and turned his head away, as if the matter was something he didn't care to talk about, there was nobody who was any more eager to know the answer than he. To be sure, by raising his head he could get a slanting view of the top of his shell. But such a glimpse was not enough to tell I him anything.
Under the constant inquiries of his neighbors Timothy's curiosity grew every day. Soon he took to staring at his reflection in the surface of the water, with the hope that he might be able to see his back in that way.
But it was all in vain. Though Timothy twisted and turned and stretched his long neck, he couldn't see his own back, no matter how much he tried.
Now, there was an ill-mannered scamp named Peter Mink who happened to go prowling up the creek one day. And as he quietly rounded a bend he came upon an odd sight.
In front of him, and perched on a rock in the midst of the water, Timothy Turtle was going through the queerest motions. He seemed to be peering into the water at something, while wriggling about in a most peculiar fashion.
He did not notice Peter
Mink, who stood stock still and watched him for some time without
At last Peter's prying ways got the better of him. He simply had to say something.
"What on earth are you doing?" he called to Timothy.
Mr. Turtle gave a great start.
"I'm looking at myself – that's all," he said. He was so surprised that for once he actually answered a question politely.
His reply amused Peter Mink. And that ill-bred rascal laughed right in Timothy Turtle's face.
"Time must hang heavy on your hands, if you can't find anything pleasanter to do than that," he remarked – for Peter Mink never cared how rude he was. In fact he liked to make unkind remarks. "Aren't you afraid," he added, "that you'll wear out the surface of the creek, gazing into it? I shouldn't like that very well," said Peter Mink, "because then it couldn't freeze in winter, and you know it's great sport to hunt muskrats under the ice."
Well, Peter's speech alarmed Timothy Turtle. And yet he felt that he could not rest until he knew what was on his back. So he asked Peter Mink to meet him on the bank.
"I want you to help
me," he said. "I have reason to believe that there's something
written on my back. And you must tell me what it is."