THE LUCKY MINK
URING the warm weather, the Minks did not come often to the
pond. Then they had to stay nearer home and care for
their babies. In the winter, when food was not so
plentiful and their youngest children were old enough
to come with them, they visited there every day. It
was not far from their home.
The Minks lived by a waterfall in the river, and had
burrows in the banks, where the young Minks stayed
until they were large enough to go out into the world.
Then the fathers and mothers were very busy, for in
each home there were four or five or six children,
hungry and restless, and needing to be taught many
They were related to the Weasels who
 lived up by the farmyard, and had the same slender and
elegant bodies and short legs as they. Like the
Weasels, they sometimes climbed trees, but that was not
often. They did most of their hunting in the river,
swimming with their bodies almost all under water, and
diving and turning and twisting gracefully and quickly.
When they hunted on land, they could tell by smelling
just which way to go for their food.
The Minks were a very dark brown, and scattered through
their close, soft fur were long, shining hairs of an
even darker shade, which made their coats very
beautiful indeed. The fur was darker on their backs
than on the under part of their bodies, and their
tapering, bushy tails were almost black. Their under
jaws were white, and they were very proud of them.
Perhaps it was because they had so little white fur
that they thought so much of it. You know that is
 the way—we think most of those things which are scarce
or hard to get.
There was one old Mink by the river who had a white tip
on his tail, and that is something which many people
have never seen. It is even more uncommon than for
Minks to have white upper lips, and that happens only
once in a great while. This Mink was a bachelor, and
nobody knew why. Some people said it was because he
was waiting to find a wife with a white tip on her
tail, yet that could not have been, for he was too wise
to wait for something which might never happen.
However it was he lived alone, and fished and hunted
just for himself. He could dive more quickly, stay
under water longer, and hunt by scent better than any
other Mink round there. His fur was sleeker and more
shining than that of his friends, and it is no wonder
that the sisters of his friends thought that he ought
 When the Minks visited together, somebody was sure to
speak of the Bachelor's luck. They said that, whatever
he did, he was always lucky. "It is all because of a
white tip on his tail," they said. "That makes him
The young Minks heard their fathers and mothers
talking, and wished that they had been born with white
tips on their tails so that they could be lucky too.
Once the Bachelor heard them wishing this, and he
smiled and showed his beautiful teeth, and told them
that it was not the tip of his tail but his whole body
that made him lucky. He did not smile to show
his teeth, because he was not at all vain. He just
smiled and showed his teeth.
There was a family of young Minks who lived at the foot
of the waterfall, where the water splashed and dashed
in the way they liked best. There were four brothers
and two sisters in this
 family, and the brothers were bigger than the sisters
(as Mink Brothers always are), although they were all
the same age. One was very much larger than any of the
rest, and so they called him Big Brother. He thought
there was never such a fine Mink as the Bachelor, and
he used to follow him around, and look at the tip on
his tail, and wish that he was lucky like him. He
wished to be just like him in every way but one; he did
not want to be a bachelor.
USED TO FOLLOW HIM AROUND.
The other young Minks laughed at Big Brother, and asked
him if he thought his tail would turn white if he
followed the Bachelor long enough. Big Brother stood
it very patiently for a while; then he snarled at them,
and showed his teeth without smiling, and said he would
fight anybody who spoke another word about it. Minks
are very brave and very fierce, and never know when to
stop if they have begun to fight; so, after that,
nobody dared tease Big Brother by saying
any-  thing more about the Bachelor. Sometimes they did look at
his tail and smile, but they never spoke, and he
pretended not to know what they meant by it.
A few days after this, the Bachelor was caught in a
trap—a common, clumsy, wooden trap, put together with
nails and twine. It was not near the river, and none
of his friends would have found him, if Big Brother had
not happened along. He could hardly believe what he
saw. Was it possible that a trap had dared to catch a
Mink with a white-tipped tail? Then he heard the
Bachelor groan, and he knew that it was so. He hurried
up to where the trap was.
"Can't you get out?" said he.
"No," said the Bachelor. "I can't. The best way to
get out is not to get in—and
I've gotten in."
"Can't you do something with your lucky tail to make
the trap open?" asked Big Brother.
 "I could do something with my teeth," answered the
Bachelor, "if they were only where the tip of my tail
is. Why are Minks always walking into traps?" He was
trying hard not to be cross, but his eyes showed how he
felt, and that was very cross indeed.
Then Big Brother became much excited. "I have good
teeth," said he, "Tell me what to do."
"If you will help me out," said the Bachelor, "I will
give you my luck."
"And what shall I do with the tail I have?" asked the
young Mink, who thought that the Bachelor was to give
him his white-tipped tail.
"Never mind now," answered the Bachelor, and he told
the young Mink just where to gnaw. For a long time
there was no sound but that of the young Mink's teeth
on the wood of the trap. The Bachelor was too brave to
groan or make a fuss, when he knew there was anybody
 to hear. Big Brother's mouth became very sore, and his
stomach became very empty, but still he kept at work.
He was afraid somebody would come for the trap and the
Mink in it, before he finished.
"Now try it," said he, after he had gnawed for quite a
while. The Bachelor backed out as far as he could, but
his body stuck in the hole. "You are rumpling your
beautiful fur," cried the young Mink.
"Never mind the fur," answered the Bachelor. "I can
smooth that down afterward. You will have to gnaw a
little on this side." And he raised one of his hind
feet to show where he meant. It was a beautiful
hindfoot, thickly padded, and with short partly webbed
toes, and no hair at all growing between them. The
claws were short, sharp, and curved.
Big Brother gnawed away. "Now try it," said he. The
Bachelor backed carefully out through the opening and
 there, looking tired and hungry and very much rumpled.
"You are a fine young Mink," said he. "We will get
something to eat, and then we will see about making you
They went to the river bank and had a good dinner. The
Bachelor ate more than Big Brother, for his mouth was
not sore. But Big Brother was very happy. He thought
how handsome he would look with a white-tipped tail,
and how, after he had that, he could surely marry
whoever he wished. It was the custom among his people
to want to marry the best looking and strongest.
Indeed it is so among all the pond people, and that is
one reason why they care so much about being
good-looking. It is very hard for a young Mink to have
the one he loves choose somebody else, just because the
other fellow has the bushiest tail, or the longest fur,
or the thickest pads on his feet.
"Now," said the Bachelor, "we will
 talk about luck. We will go to a place where nobody
can hear what we say." They found such a place and lay
down. The Bachelor rolled over three times and
smoothed his fur; he was still so tired from being in
the trap. Then he looked at the young Mink very
sharply. "So you want my tail?" said he.
"You said you would give me your luck," answered Big
Brother, "and everybody knows that your luck is in your
The Bachelor smiled. "What will you do with the tail
you have?" said he.
"I don't know," answered Big Brother.
"You wouldn't want to wear two?" asked the Bachelor.
"Oh, no," answered Big Brother. "How that would look!"
"Well, how will you put my tail in place of yours?"
asked the Bachelor.
"I don't know," answered the young Mink, "but you are
so wise that I thought you might know some way." He
 to feel discouraged, and to think that the Bachelor's
offer didn't mean very much after all.
"Don't you think?" said the Bachelor slowly, "don't you
think that, if you could have my luck, you could get
along pretty well with your own tail?"
"Why, yes," said the young Mink, who had begun to fear
he was not going to get anything. "Yes, but how could
The Bachelor smiled again. "I always tell people,"
said he, "that my luck is not in my tail, and they
never believe it. I will tell you the secret of my
luck, and you can have luck like it, if you really care
enough." He looked all around to make sure that nobody
was near, and he listened very carefully with the two
little round ears that were almost hidden in his
head-fur. Then he whispered to Big Brother, "This is
the secret: always do everything a little better
than anybody else can."
 "Is that all?" asked the young Mink.
"That is enough," answered the Bachelor. "Keep trying
and trying and trying, until you can dive deeper, stay
under water longer, run faster, and smell farther than
other Minks. Then you will have good luck when theirs
is poor. You will have plenty to eat when they are
hungry. You can beat in every fight. You can have
sleek, shining fur when theirs is dull. Luck is not a
matter of white-tipped tails."
The more the young Mink thought about it, the happier
he became. "I don't see that I am to have your luck
after all," said he. "When I have learned to do
everything in the very best way, it will be luck of my
"Of course," answered the Bachelor. "Then it is a kind
of luck that cannot be lost. If I carried mine in the
tip of my tail, somebody might bite it off and leave me
 Big Brother kept the secret, and worked until he had
learned to be as lucky as the Bachelor. Then he
married the person he wanted, and she was very, very
handsome. It is said that one of their sons has a
white-tipped tail, but that may not be so.