The first time that Shaggycoat saw the brown sherman, he came sliding over the surface of the beavers’ pond, and the manner of his coming both astonished and angered Shaggycoat.
The thing that astonished him was to see the otter slide, and he was angry, because the stranger acted just as though the pond belonged to him and Shaggycoat knew that it was his own. Had he not spent days and weeks searching in the wilderness for a spot where he could make his home and had not he and Brighteyes built the dam that owed the meadow? It was all his and the manner of this merry stranger made him furious.
He would show him who was master here, so the beaver began swimming rapidly about under the ice, trying vainly to find an escape to the outer air. But Jack Frost had shut down a transparent ice window over the pond the night before, and, although Shaggycoat could still see the sky and the trees along the shore, yet the outer world would not be his again until spring. He could find an airhole by going up-stream two or three miles to some rapids, but the return trip overland was not inviting, for he, like other beavers, was a poor pedestrian and would not go any long distance except by water. So true is this of the beaver, that one naturalist says he may be kept a prisoner in a certain portion of a stream, simply by placing wire netting across the current and running it inland for a hundred feet in either direction. A beaver so held between two wire fences at right angles to the stream, will spend several days in captivity before he will venture around the end of the fence to freedom.
It was out of the question for Shaggycoat to go two miles up-stream and think of returning overland merely to fight, so he gave up the plan and amused himself by watching the otter.
He had never seen any one so agile before and he would have been amused at the other’s pranks, had it not been upon his own particular pond.
The other would go up the bank where it was steep and give three or four great jumps. When he struck the surface ice, he would double his fore legs up so that they lay along his sides, and slide across the ice on his breast, trailing his hind legs.
Then he would scramble up the opposite bank and repeat the performance, carrying him nearly back to the other side. Shaggycoat thought he had never seen anything quite so interesting in his life and he swam about under the ice watching his visitor.
Finally in one of his slides the otter passed over the spot where Shaggycoat was and saw him for the first time.
He could not stop in his slide in time to pay his compliments to the beaver, but he soon came slipping and sliding back and glared down at the owner of the pond showing a set of teeth, almost as good as the beaver’s own.
Shaggycoat glared back at him and they both knew the fight would come some other day.
The otter seemed to say by his looks, “Come up here and I will shake you out of that drab coat,” and the beaver’s countenance replied, “You just come down here and I’ll drown you and then tear you to pieces just to see what your brown coat is made of.”
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