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AFTER leaving the wonderful spring Cuffy Bear was so long getting home that he decided he would not say anything to his father and mother about what he had found. You see — he was afraid they would tell him not to go so far away from home again. But Cuffy had not been long in the snug little house before he had a terrible stomach-ache. He stood the pain as long as he could without saying anything. But he simply had to hang onto his little fat stomach with both his front paws. And at last he began to cry softly. Then Mrs. Bear asked him what he had been doing; and before Cuffy knew it he had told all about finding the delicious, sweet water.
"How much did you drink?" asked his mother.
"Oh — only a little," Cuffy answered faintly.
Then Mrs. Bear nodded her head three times. She was very wise — was Mrs. Bear. And she knew quite well that Cuffy had drunk a great deal too much of that nice-tasting water. So she made Cuffy lie down and gave him some peppermint leaves to chew. In a little while he began to feel so much better that before he knew it he had fallen asleep.
When Cuffy waked up he found that his father had come home. And soon Mr. Bear had Cuffy on one knee, and Silkie on the other, and he was telling them all about maple-sugar. For of course you knew all the time that what Cuffy had found was not a spring at all — but a sugar-maple tree, which Farmer Green had tapped so that he might gather the sap and boil it until it turned to maple-sugar. If Cuffy had gone further down the mountainside he would have found a great many other trees, each — like the one he discovered — with a tin bucket hanging on it to catch the sweet sap.
"So you see there are many things for little bears to learn," Mr. Bear said, when he had finished. "And the one big lesson you must learn is to keep away from is men. Farmer Green visits those trees every day to gather the sap. So you must not go down there again."
A cold shiver went up and down Cuffy's back at these words. Farmer Green! Cuffy had heard a great deal about Farmer Green and he certainly did not want to meet him all alone and far from home. But as soon as the tickle of that shiver stopped, Cuffy forgot all about his fright. "This maple-sugar — does it taste as good as the sweet sap?" he asked his father.
"Yes, my son — a hundred times better! " Mr. Bear replied. "I ate some once. And I shall never forget it. "
A hundred times better! After he had gone to bed that night the words kept ringing in Cuffy's ears. A hundred times better! A hundred times better! . . . A hundred — And now Cuffy was fast asleep and — I am sorry to say it — sucking one of his paws for all the world as if it was a piece of Farmer Green's maple-sugar.Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.