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NOW Peter Mink had never learned to read. In the first place, he had never had a chance to learn. And in the second, he was such a good-for-nothing rascal that he wouldn't have gone to school anyhow.
But he did not tell all this to Timothy Turtle. When he stepped behind Timothy and gazed at his back, Peter Mink thought of a fine way to tease the old fellow.
Of course, he had not the slightest idea what those marks on Mr. Turtle's shell meant. But he looked down at them with a wise smile.
Mr. Turtle, watching Peter out of the corner of his eye, saw that smile; and he did not like it in the least. In fact, it made him feel quite peevish.
"Well, what do you see?" he asked Peter Mink impatiently.
"Ah!" Peter Mink replied with a shake of his small head. "I'm not going to tell you, Mr. Turtle. I don't want to hurt your feelings. And if I were to explain that your back says you're a disagreeable, mean old scamp, you know you'd be very angry."
Peter Mink jumped out of the way just in time. For Timothy Turtle wheeled with amazing swiftness and snapped at his tormentor.
"Don't do that!" Peter cried. "I didn't say anything about you, Mr. Turtle."
"You'd better not," Timothy warned him. "And if Johnnie Green carved any such words as those on my shell I don't know what to do. I certainly don't want to carry them about with me for the rest of my life." He looked unhappy, to say the least. He knew that probably he would live a great many years longer. And he was puzzled.
"Why don't you get a new shell?" Peter Mink inquired.
"I'd hate to do that," Timothy Turtle told him. "I've had this one a long time; and it fits me perfectly."
"Then why don't you get the well-known tailor, Mr. Ferdinand Frog, to make you a coat that will cover your back? If you did that, nobody could see what's on your shell."
"A good idea!" Timothy Turtle exclaimed. "I'll see Mr. Frog at once. And some day I'll do something handsome for you, because you've been a great help to me."
"Why wait?" Peter Mink demanded. "Why don't you do it now?" Knowing that Timothy was stingy, Peter thought that the old gentleman would soon change his mind about "doing something handsome" for him.
"No!" Timothy Turtle declared. "I want to wait a while and think it over."
"Well, then," Peter Mink urged him, "why don't you crawl under that shelving rock and think it over right now?"
"You ask too many questions," Mr. Turtle told him. "And besides, I must hurry away and find Ferdinand Frog. I want my new coat as soon as I can get it. And the longer I stay here, the more time I shall lose." So in spite of all Peter Mink could say, Timothy slipped into Black Creek and swam away.Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.