THE SLOW LITTLE MUD TURTLE
HEN the twenty little Mud Turtles broke their egg-shells
one hot summer day, and poked their way up through the
warm sand in which they had been buried, they looked
almost as much alike as so many raindrops. The Mother
Turtle who was sunning herself on the bank near by,
said to her friends, "Why! There are my children! Did
you ever see a finer family? I believe I will go over
and speak to them."
Most of the young Mud Turtles crawled quickly out of
the sand and broken shells, and began drying themselves
in the sunshine. One slow little fellow stopped to
look at the broken
 shells, stubbed one of his front toes on a large piece
and then sat down until it
should stop aching. "Wait for me!" he called out to
his brothers and sisters. "I'm coming in a minute."
The other little Turtles waited, but when his toe was
comfortable again and he started toward them, he met a
very interesting Snail and talked a while with him.
"Come on," said the Biggest Little Turtle. "Don't
wait any longer. He can catch up."
So they sprawled along until they came to a place where
they could sit in a row on an old log, and they climbed
onto it and sat just close enough together and not at
all too close. Then the Slow Little Turtle came
hurrying over the sand with a rather cross look in his
eyes and putting his feet down a little harder than he
needed to—quite as though he were out of patience about
something, "Why didn't you Turtles wait for
 me?" he grumbled. "I was coming right along."
Just then the Mother Turtle came up. "Good morning,"
said she. "I believe you are my children?"
"GOOD MORNING," SAID SHE. "I BELIEVE YOU ARE MY CHILDREN?"
The little Mud Turtles looked at each other
and didn't say
a word. This was not because they were rude or
bashful, but because they did not know what to say.
And that, you know, was quite right, for unless one has
something worth saying, it is far better to say nothing
She drew a long Mud Turtle breath and answered her own
question. "Yes," she said, "you certainly are, for I
saw you scrambling out of the sand a little while ago,
and you came from the very place where I laid my eggs
and covered them during the first really warm nights
this year. I was telling your father only yesterday
that it was about time for you to hatch. The sun has
been so hot lately that I was sure you would do well."
 The Mother Turtle stretched her head this way and that
until there was hardly a wrinkle left in her neck-skin,
she was so eager to see them all. "Why are you not up
here with your brothers and sisters?" she asked
suddenly of the Slow Little Turtle, who was trying to
make a place for himself on the log.
"They didn't wait for me," he said. "I was coming
right along but they wouldn't wait. I think they are
just as mea——"
The Mother Turtle raised one of her forefeet until all
five of its toes with their strong claws were pointing
at him. She also raised her head as far as her upper
shell would let her. "So you are the one," she
said. "I thought you were when I heard you trying to
make the others wait. It is too bad."
She looked so stern that the Slow Little Turtle
finish what he had begun to say, yet down in his
little Turtle heart he thought, "Now they are going
 to catch it!" He was sure his mother was going to
scold the other Turtle children for leaving him. He
wanted to see what they would do, so he looked out of
his right eye at the ten brothers and sisters on that
side, and out of his left eye at the nine brothers and
sisters on that side. He could do this very easily,
because his eyes were not on the front of his head like
those of some people, but one on each side.
"I have raised families of young Turtles every year,"
said the Mother Turtle. "The first year I had only a
few children, the next year I had more, and so it has
gone—every year a few more children than the year
before—until now I never know quite how many I do have.
But there is always one Slow Little Turtle who lags
behind and wants the others to wait for him. That
makes him miss his share of good things, and then he is
quite certain to be cross and think it is somebody
 The Slow Little Turtle felt the ten brothers and
sisters on his right side looking at him out of their
left eyes, and the nine brothers and sisters on his
left side looking at him out of their right eyes. He
drew in his head and his tail and his legs, until all
they could see was his rounded upper shell, his shell
side-walls, and the yellow edge of his flat lower
shell. He would have liked to draw them in too, but of
course he couldn't do that.
"I did hope," said the Mother Turtle, "that I might
have one family without such a child in it. I cannot
help loving even a slow child who is cross, if he is
hatched from one of my eggs, yet it makes me sad—very,
"Try to get over this," she said to the Slow Little
Turtle, "before it is too late. And you," she added,
turning to his brothers and sisters, "must be patient
with him. We shall not have him with us long."
 "What do you mean?" asked the Slow Little Turtle,
peeping out from between his shells. "I'm not going
"You do not want to," said his mother, "but you will
not be with us long unless you learn to keep up with
the rest. Something always happens to pond people who
are too slow. I cannot tell you what it will be, yet
it is sure to be something. I remember so well
my first slow child—and how he—" She began to cry, and
since she could not easily get her forefeet to her
eyes, she sprawled to the pond and swam off with only
her head and a little of her upper shell showing above
The Slow Little Turtle was really frightened by what
his mother had said, and for a few days he tried to
keep up with the others. Nothing happened to him, and
so he grew careless and made people wait for him just
because he was not quite ready to go with them, or
be-  cause he wanted to do this or look at that or talk to some
other person. He was a very trying little Turtle, yet
his mother loved him and did not like it when the rest
called him a Land Tortoise. It is all right, you know,
to be a Land Tortoise when your father and mother are
Land Tortoises, and these cousins of the Turtles look
so much like them that some people cannot tell them
apart. That is because they forget that the Tortoises
live on land, have higher back shells, and move very,
very slowly. Turtles live more in the water and can
move quickly if they will. This is why other Turtles
sometimes make fun of a slow brother by calling him a
One beautiful sunshiny afternoon, when most of the
twenty little Turtles were sitting on a floating log by
the edge of the pond, their mother was with some of her
friends on another log near by. She looked often at
her children, and thought
 how handsome their rounded-up back shells were in the
sunshine with the little red and yellow markings
showing on the black. She could see their strong
little pointed tails too, and their webbed feet with a
stout claw on each toe. She was so proud that she
could not help talking about them. "Is there any sight
more beautiful," she said, "than a row of good little
"Yes," said a fine old fellow who was floating near
her, "a row of their mothers!" He was a Turtle whom
she had never liked very well, but now she began to
think that he was rather agreeable after all. She was
just noticing how beautifully the skin wrinkled on his
neck, when she heard a splash and saw two terrible
great two-legged animals wading into the pond from the
"Boys!" she cried, "Boys!" And she sprawled off the
end of her log and slid into the water, all her friends
follow-  ing her. The Biggest Little Turtle saw these great animals
coming toward him. He sprawled off the end of his log
and slid into the water, and all his brothers and
sisters followed him except the Slow Little Turtle.
"Wait for me," he said. "I'm coming in just a——"
Then one of these great animals stooped over and picked
him up, and held him bottom side uppermost and rapped
on that side, which was flat; and on the other side,
which was rounded; and stared at him with two great
eyes. Next the other great animal took him and turned
him over and rapped on his shells and stared at him.
The poor Slow Little Turtle drew in his head and tail
and legs and kept very, very still. He wished that he
had side-pieces of shell all around now, instead of
just one on each side between his legs. He was
thinking over and over, "Something has happened!
Something has happened!" And he knew that back
 in the pond his mother would be trying to find him and
The boys carried him to the edge of the meadow and put
him down on the grass. He lay perfectly still for a
long, long time, and when he thought they had forgotten
about him he tried to run away. Then they laughed and
picked him up again, and one of them took something
sharp and shiny and cut marks into his upper shell.
This did not really give him pain, yet, as he said
afterward, "It hurts almost as much to think you are
going to be hurt, as it does to be hurt."
It was not until the sun went down that the boys let
the Slow Little Turtle go. Then he was very, very
tired, but he wanted so much to get back to his home in
the pond that he started at once by moonlight. This
was the first time he had ever seen the moon, for,
except when they are laying eggs, Turtles usually sleep
at night. He was not quite sure which
 way he should go, and if it had not been for the
kindness of the Tree Frog he might never have seen his
brothers and sisters again. You know the Tree Frog had
been carried away when he was young, before he came to
live with the meadow people, so he knew how to be sorry
for the Slow Little Turtle.
The Tree Frog hopped along ahead to show the way, and
the Turtle followed until they reached a place from
which they could see the pond. "Good night!" said the
Tree Frog. "You can find your way now."
"Good night!" said the Turtle. "I wish I might help
you some time."
"Never mind me," said the Tree Frog. "Help somebody
else and it will be all right." He hopped back toward
his home, and for a long time afterward the Turtle
heard his cheerful "Pukr-r-rup! Pukr-r-rup!" sounding
over the dewy grass and through the still air. At the
edge of the pond the Slow Little Turtle
 found his nineteen brothers and sisters sound asleep.
"I'm here!" he cried joyfully, poking first one and
then another of them with his head.
The Biggest Little Turtle moved without awakening. "I
tell you I'm not hungry," he murmured. "I don't want
to get up." And again he fell fast asleep.
So the Slow Little Turtle did not disturb him, but
cuddled inside his two shells and went to sleep also.
He was so tired that he did not awaken until the sun
was high in the sky. When he did open his eyes, his
relatives were sitting around looking at him, and he
remembered all that had happened before he slept.
"Does my shell look very bad?" he cried.
"I wish I could see it. Oh, I am so glad to
get back! I'll never
be slow again.
His mother came and leaned her shell lovingly against
his. "If you will only learn to keep up with your
 sisters," she said,
"I shall not be sorry that the boys
carried you off."
"You just wait and see," said the Slow Little Turtle.
And he was as good as his word. After that he was
always the first to slip from the log to the water if
anything scared them; and when, one day, a strange
Turtle from another pond came to visit, he said to the
Turtles who had always lived there, "Why do you call
that young fellow with the marked shell 'The Slow
Little Turtle?' He is the quickest one in his family."
The pond people looked at each other and laughed.
"That is queer!" they said. "After this we will call
him 'The Quick Little Turtle.' "
This made him very happy, and when, once in a while,
somebody forgot and by mistake called him "The Quick
Slow Little Turtle," he said he rather liked it because
it showed that a Turtle needn't keep his faults if he
did have them.