THE CLEVER WATER-ADDER
ONE of the pond people were alone more than the
Water-Adders. The Snapping Turtle was left to himself
a great deal until the day when he and Belostoma drove
away the boys. After that his neighbors began to
understand him better and he was less grumpy, so that
those who wore shells were soon quite fond of him.
Belostoma did not have many friends among the smaller
people, and only a few among the larger ones. They
said that he was cruel, and that he had a bad habit of
using his stout sucking tube to sting with. Still,
Belostoma did not care; he said, "A Giant Water-Bug
does not always live in the water. I shall have my
 wings soon, and leave the water and marry. After that,
I shall fly away on my wedding trip. Mrs. Belostoma
may go with me, if she feels like doing so after laying
her eggs here. I shall go anyway. And I shall flutter
and sprawl around the light, and sting people who
bother me, and have a happy time." That was
Belostoma's way. He would sting people who
bothered him, but then he always said that they need
not have bothered him. And perhaps that was so.
With the Water-Adders it was different. They were
good-natured enough, yet the Mud Turtles and Snapping
Turtle were the only ones who ever called upon them and
found them at home. The small people without shells
were afraid of them, and the Clams and Pond Snails
never called upon any one. The Minnows said they could
not bear the looks of the Adders—they had such ugly
mouths and such quick motions. The larger
 fishes kept away on account of their children, who were
small and tender.
One might think that the Sand-Hill Cranes, the Fish
Hawks, and the other shore families would have been
good friends for them, but when they called, the Adders
were always away. People said that the Adders were
afraid of them.
The Yellow Brown Frog wished that the Adders could be
scared, badly scared, some time: so scared that a
chilly feeling would run down their backs from their
heads clear to the tips of their tails. "I wish," said
he, "that the chilly feeling would be big enough to go
way through to their bellies. Their bellies are only
the front side of their backs, anyway," he added,
"because they are so thin." Of course this was a
dreadful wish to make, but people said that one of the
Adders had frightened the Yellow Brown Frog so that he
never got over it, and this was the reason he felt so.
 The Water-Adders were certainly the cleverest people in
the pond, and there was one Mother Adder who was so
very bright that they called her "the Clever
Water-Adder." She could do almost anything, and she
knew it. She talked about it, too, and that showed bad
taste, and was one reason why she was not liked better.
She could swim very fast, could creep, glide, catch
hold of things with her tail, hang herself from the
branch of a tree, lift her head far into the air, leap,
dart, bound, and dive. All her family could do these
things, but she could do them a little the best.
One day she was hanging over the pond in a very
graceful position, with her tail twisted carelessly
around a willow branch. The Snapping Turtle and a Mud
Turtle Father were in the shallow water below her. Her
slender forked tongue was darting in and out of her
open mouth. She was using her tongue in this way most
 the time. "It is useful in feeling of things," she
said, "and then, I have always thought it quite
becoming." She could see herself reflected in the
still water below her, and she noticed how prettily the
dark brown of her back shaded into the white of her
belly. You see she was vain as well as clever.
The Snapping Turtle felt cross to-day, and had come to
see if a talk with her would not make him feel better.
The Mud Turtle was tired of having the children sprawl
around him, and of Mrs. Mud Turtle telling about the
trouble she had to get the right kind of food.
The Clever Water-Adder spoke first of the weather. "It
must be dreadfully hot for the shore people," she said.
"Think of their having to wear the same feathers all
the year and fly around in the sunshine to find food
for their children."
"Ah yes," said the Mud Turtle. "How they must wish for
 "Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle. "What for? To fly
with? Let them come in swimming with their children,
if they are warm and tired."
The Water-Adder laughed in her snaky way, and showed
her sharp teeth. "I have heard," she said, "that when
the Wild Ducks bring their children here to swim, they
do not always take so many home as they brought."
The Snapping Turtle became very much interested in his
warty right foreleg, and did not seem to hear what she
The Mud Turtle smiled. "I have heard," she
went on, "that when young Ducks dive head first, they
are quite sure to come up again, but that when they
dive feet first, they never come up."
"What do you mean?" asked the Snapping Turtle, and he
was snappy about it.
"Oh, nothing," replied the Water-Adder, swinging her
head back and forth and looking at the scales on her
 "I know what you mean," said the Snapping Turtle, "and
you know what you mean, but I have to eat something,
and if I am swimming under the water and a Duckling
paddles along just above me and sticks his foot into my
mouth, I am likely to swallow him before I think."
The Water-Adder saw that he was provoked by what she
had said, so she talked about something else. "I think
the Ducks spoil their children," said she. "They make
such a fuss over them, and they are not nearly so
bright as my children. Why, mine hatch as soon as the
eggs are laid, and go hunting at once. They are no
trouble at all."
"I never worry about mine," said the Mud Turtle,
"although their mother thinks it is not safe for them
all to sleep at once, as they do on a log in the
"It isn't," said the Adder decidedly. "I never close
my eyes. None of us
 Adders do. Nobody can ever say that we close our eyes
to danger." They couldn't shut their eyes if they
wanted to, because they had no eyelids, but she did not
speak of that. "How stupid people are," she said.
"Most of them," remarked the Turtles.
"All of them," she said, "except us Adders and the
Turtles. I even think that some of the Turtles are a
little queer, don't you?"
"We have thought so," said the Mud Turtle.
"They certainly are," agreed the Snapping Turtle, who
was beginning to feel much better natured.
"What did you say?" asked the Adder who, like all her
family, was a little deaf.
"Ouch!" exclaimed the Snapping Turtle. "Ouch! Ouch!"
"What is the matter?" asked the Mud Turtle. Then he
began to slap the
 water with his short, stout tail, and say "Ouch!"
Two naughty young Water-Boatmen had swum quietly up on
their backs, and stung the Turtles on their tails.
Then they swam away, pushing themselves quickly through
the water with swift strokes of their hairy oar-legs.
"Ah-h-h!" exclaimed the Snapping Turtle, and he backed
into the mud, knowing that fine, soft mud is the best
thing in the world for stings.
"Ah-h-h!" exclaimed the Mud Turtle, "if I could only
reach my tail with my head, or even with one of my hind
"Reach your tail with your head?" asked the Water-Adder
in her sweetest voice. "Nothing is easier." And she
wound herself around the willow branch in another
graceful position, and took the tip of her tail
daintily between her teeth.
"Humph!" said the Snapping Turtle,
 and he pulled his tail out of the mud and swam away.
"Ugh!" said the Mud Turtle, and he swam away with the
"What a rude person she is!" they said. "Always trying
to show how much more clever she is than other people.
We would rather be stupid and polite."
After a while the Snapping Turtle said, "But then, you
know, we are not stupid."
"Of course not," replied the Mud Turtle, "not even