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The Tale of Cuffy Bear

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Far up on the side of Blue Mountain lived Cuffy Bear with his father and mother and his little sister Silkie. Mr. Bear's house was quite the finest for many miles around. It was what people call a cave, being made entirely of stone, and so there was no danger of its ever catching fire; and since it was built straight into the side of the mountain the roof was so very, very thick that Cuffy's father never had to worry for fear a tree would fall upon his house and hurt his family. No matter how hard the wind blew, Mr. Bear was never afraid of that.

Little Cuffy was not a bad bear at heart. But often when he was playing with Silkie, his sister, he would lose his temper and cuff her on the head and make her cry. Then his father or his mother would cuff him. Somehow, he never could learn not to strike out when he became angry. That was why he was called Cuffy. It happened sometimes that a day or two would pass without Cuffy's cuffing his sister. And Mr. Bear and Mrs. Bear would begin to think that at last Cuffy had been cured of his bad habit.

"I do believe the child is growing better mannered," Mrs. Bear would say to her husband, as they watched their son and daughter playing upon the floor. And then just as likely as not, the first thing they knew Cuffy would give Silkie a good, hard box on the ear, or a slap right on the end of her nose.

But for a long time every winter Cuffy was never naughty. You might think that that was just before Christmas. But no—it was not then. All winter long Cuffy was just as good as any little bear could be. He was good because he was asleep! You see—when cold weather came, Mr. and Mrs. Bear and their children stayed in their cozy house, which was snug and warm, and slept and slept and slept for weeks and weeks until spring came.

Now, this tale begins on the very first day of spring. And on that day Mr. Bear waked up. He rose slowly to his feet, for his bones felt stiff because he had been asleep for such a long time. And he was hungry—oh! very hungry, because he had not eaten anything for months and months, since he went to sleep at the beginning of winter.

He went to the door of his house and looked out. And he saw that the weather was warm and fine. So he stepped back into the bedroom and said—

"Ou-e-e-ee!" Just like that. And then Mrs. Bear awaked. "Spring has come," Mr. Bear told her, "and I am going out to fetch something to eat. Wake up Cuffy and Silkie and tell them that it is time to get up."

Gently Mrs. Bear roused Cuffy and Silkie.

"Come, children! Run out and play and get your lungs full of nice, fresh air. Now, be good and don't go far away!" she said.


For a few minutes Cuffy stood in the doorway and blinked and blinked. He rubbed his eyes, for the bright sunlight hurt them. But soon he and Silkie were frisking and tumbling about in the front-yard.

After a little while Cuffy remembered that there was an old tree over in the pine woods—just the finest tree to climb that anybody could want.

"Let's go over to the old tree and play," Cuffy said.

"But Mother told us not to go far away," Silkie reminded him.

"Oh! I don't care," Cuffy said. "Besides, we'll be back before she knows it."

But Silkie would not go with him. So naughty Cuffy started off alone for the pine woods. He found the old tree. It seemed smaller than he expected. The reason for that was because Cuffy himself had grown tall during the months that he had spent in sleep.

He climbed the tree to the very top and as he looked down over the snow he saw something moving a little way off. Whatever it was, it was much smaller than Cuffy himself, so he was not afraid. And he scrambled down to the ground and ran as fast as he could go to the place where he saw the small thing moving. Cuffy wanted to see what it was. He was always like that.

Cuffy found a little animal covered with stiff, sharp quills and he knew that it was a porcupine. And all at once Cuffy felt very hungry. He remembered that his father had sometimes brought home porcupine meat and—yes, Cuffy actually smacked his lips! His mother was always telling him not to smack his lips, but Cuffy forgot all about it now.

As Cuffy came running up Mr. Porcupine rolled himself into a round ball and lay perfectly still. Now, Cuffy remembered that his father had often told him never to touch a porcupine, because if he should he would get his paws stuck full of quills. But now Cuffy decided that he would show his father that he too was clever enough to kill a porcupine. So he stepped close to the little round, prickly ball and gave it one good, hard cuff.

The next instant Cuffy gave a howl of pain. He was so angry that he struck the porcupine once more with his other front-paw.

Again Cuffy howled! Now both his front-paws were full of quills. They looked just like pincushions. And as Cuffy saw what had happened he began to cry. He wanted his mother.

So home he started. All the way he had to walk on his hind legs, because it hurt him terribly whenever he put one of his front-paws on the ground.

Cuffy wept very hard when Mrs. Bear pulled out the quills. And his paws were so sore that he could not feed himself. His mother had to put into his mouth bits of the frozen turnips that his father found in Farmer Green's field. And though afterward Cuffy did many things that he ought not to have done, he never, never touched a porcupine again.


The pricks of the porcupine's quills made Cuffy Bear's paws so sore that it was several days before he could run about again. And during all that time Cuffy was a very good little bear. He did not cuff his sister Silkie once....