Little Joe Otter was having the jolliest kind of a time. Little Joe
Otter is a jolly little chap, anyway, and just now he was extra happy.
You see, he had a brand new slippery-slide. Yes, Sir, Little Joe had
just built a new slippery-slide down the steepest part of the bank into
the Smiling Pool. It was longer and smoother than his old
slippery-slide, and it seemed to Little Joe as if he could slide and
slide all day long. Of course he enjoyed it more because he had built it
himself. He would stretch out full length at the top of the
slippery-slide, give a kick to start himself, shoot down the
slippery-slide, disappear headfirst with a great splash into the Smiling
Pool, and then climb up the bank and do it all over again.
Peter Rabbit and Johnny Chuck sat watching him from the bank on the
other side of the Smiling Pool. Right down below them, sitting on his
big green lily-pad, was Grandfather Frog, and there was a sparkle in his
big, goggly eyes and his great mouth was stretched in a broad grin as he
watched Little Joe Otter. He even let a foolish green fly brush the tip
of his nose and didn't snap at it.
"Chug-a-rum!" exclaimed Grandfather Frog to no one in particular. "That
reminds me of the days when I was young and the greatest diver in the
Smiling Pool. My goodness, it makes me feel young just to watch Little
Joe shoot down that slippery-slide. If I weren't so old, I'd try it
With, that, Grandfather Frog suddenly jumped. It was a great, long,
beautiful jump, and with his long hind legs straight out behind him,
Grandfather Frog disappeared in the Smiling Pool so neatly that he made
hardly a splash at all, only a whole lot of rings on the surface of the
water that grew bigger and bigger until they met the rings made by
Little Joe Otter and then became all mixed up.
Half a minute later Grandfather Frog's head bobbed up out of the water,
and for the first time he saw Johnny Chuck and Peter Rabbit.
"Come on in; the water's fine!" he cried, and rolled one big, goggly eye
up at jolly, round, bright Mr. Sun and winked it in the most comical
way, for he knew, and he knew that Mr. Sun knew, just how Johnny Chuck
and Peter Rabbit dislike the water.
"No, thanks," replied Peter, but there was a wistful look in his big
eyes as he watched Little Joe Otter splash into the Smiling Pool. Little
Joe was having such a good time! Peter actually was wishing that he
_did_ like the water.
Grandfather Frog climbed out on his big green lily-pad. He settled
himself comfortably so as to face Johnny Chuck and Peter and at the same
time watch Little Joe out of the corner of one big, goggly eye.
"Chug-a-rum!" said he, as once more Little Joe splashed into the Smiling
Pool. "Did you ever hear about Little Joe's family secret?" he asked in
his deep gruff voice.
"No," cried Peter Rabbit. "Do tell us about it! I just love secrets."
There was a great deal of eagerness in Peter's voice, and it made
Grandfather Frog smile.
"Is that the reason you never can keep them?" he asked.
Peter looked a wee bit foolish, but he kept still and waited patiently.
After what seemed a long, long time, Grandfather Frog cleared his throat
two or three times, and this is the story he told Johnny Chuck and Peter
"Once upon a time when the world was young, the
great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of Little Joe Otter got into a
peck of trouble. Yes, Sir, he certainly did get into a peck of trouble.
You see, it was winter, and everything was covered with snow, so that
food was hard to get. Most of the little forest and meadow people found
little to eat, and it took a great deal of hunting to find that little.
Only those who, like old Mr. Squirrel, had been wise enough to lay up a
store of food when there was plenty, and two or three others like Mr.
Mink and Mr. Otter, who could go fishing in the spring-holes which had
not frozen over, had full stomachs.
"Now an empty stomach almost always makes a short temper. It is hard,
very hard indeed to be hungry and good-natured at the same time. So as
most of the people of the Green Forest were hungry all the time, they
were also short-tempered all the time. Mr. Otter knew this. When any of
them came prowling around the spring-hole where he was fishing, he would
tease them by letting them see how fat he was. Sometimes he would bring
up a fine fish and eat it right before them without offering to share so
much as a mouthful. He had done this several times to Mr. Lynx, and
though Mr. Lynx had begged and begged for just a bite, Mr. Otter had
refused the teeniest, weeniest bit and had even made fun of Mr. Lynx for
not being smart enough to get sufficient to eat.
"Now it happened that one fine morning Mr. Otter took it into his head
to take a walk in the Green Forest. It was a beautiful morning, and Mr.
Otter went farther than he intended. He was just trying to make up his
mind whether to turn back or go just a little farther, when he heard
stealthy footsteps behind him. He looked over his shoulder, and what he
saw helped him to make up his mind in a hurry. There, creeping over the
frozen snow, was Mr. Lynx, and the sides of Mr. Lynx were very thin, and
the eyes of Mr. Lynx looked very hungry and fierce, and the claws of Mr.
Lynx were very long and strong and cruel looking. Mr. Otter made up his
mind right away that the cold, black water of that open spring-hole was
the only place for him, and he started for it without even passing the
time of day with Mr. Lynx.
"Now Mr. Otter's legs were very short, just as Little Joe's are, but it
was surprising how fast he got over the snow that beautiful morning.
When he came to the top of a little hill, he would slide down, because
he found that he could go faster that way. But in spite of all he could
do, Mr. Lynx traveled faster, coming with great jumps and snarling and
spitting with every jump. Mr. Otter was almost out of breath when he
reached the high bank just above the open spring-hole. It was very
steep, very steep indeed. Mr. Otter threw a hasty glance over his
shoulder. Mr. Lynx was so near that in one more jump he would catch
him. There wasn't time to run around to the place where the bank was
low. Mr. Otter threw himself flat, gave a frantic kick with his hind
legs, shut his eyes, and shot down, down, down the slippery bank so fast
that he lost what little breath he had left. Then he landed with a great
splash in the cold, black water and was safe, for Mr. Lynx was afraid of
the water. He stopped right on the very edge of the steep bank, where he
growled and screeched and told Mr. Otter what dreadful things he would
do to him if ever he caught him.
"Now in spite of his dreadful fright, Mr. Otter had enjoyed that
exciting slide down the steep bank. He got to thinking about it after
Mr. Lynx had slunk away into the Green Forest, and when he was rested
and could breathe comfortably again, he made up his mind to try it once
more. So he climbed out where the bank was low and ran around to the
steep place and once more slid down into the water. It was great fun,
the greatest fun Mr. Otter ever had had. He did it again and again. In
fact, he kept doing it all the rest of that day. And he found that the
more he slid, the smoother and more slippery became the slippery-slide,
for the water dripped from his brown coat and froze on the slide.
"After that, as long as the snow lasted, Mr. Otter spent all his time,
between eating and sleeping, sliding down his slippery-slide. He learned
just how to hold his legs so that they would not be hurt. When gentle
Sister South Wind came in the spring and took away all the snow, Mr.
Otter hardly knew what to do with himself, until one day a bright idea
popped into his head and made him laugh aloud. Why not make a
slippery-slide of mud and clay? Right away he tried it. It wasn't as
good as the snow slide, but by trying and trying, he found a way to make
it better than at first. After that Mr. Otter was perfectly happy, for
summer and winter he had a slippery-slide. He taught his children, and
they taught their children how to make slippery-slides, and ever since
that long-ago day when the world was young, the making of
slippery-slides has been the family secret of the Otters."
"And it's the best secret in the world," said Little Joe Otter, swimming
up behind Grandfather Frog just then.
"I wish--I wish I had a slippery-slide," said Peter Rabbit wistfully.
"Chug-a-rum!" said Grandfather Frog. "Chug-a-rum! Be content with the
blessings you have got, Peter Rabbit. Be content with the blessings you
have got. No good comes of wishing for things which it never was meant
that you should have. It is a bad habit and it makes discontent."