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Paddy the Beaver was hard at work. He had just cut down a good- sized aspen tree and now he was gnawing it into short lengths to put in his food pile in the pond. As he worked, Paddy was doing a lot of thinking about the footprint of Old Man Coyote in a little patch of mud, for he knew that meant that Old Man Coyote had discovered his pond, and would be hanging around, hoping to catch Paddy off his guard. Paddy knew it just as well as if Old Man Coyote had told him so. That was why he was at work cutting his food supply in the daytime. Usually he works at night, and he knew that Old Man Coyote knew it.
"He'll try to catch me then," thought Paddy, "so I'll do my working on land now and fool him."
The tree he was cutting began to sway and crack. Paddy cut out One more big chip, then hurried away to a safe place while the tree fell with a crash.
"Thief! thief! thief!" screamed a voice just back of Paddy.
"Hello, Sammy Jay! I see you don't feel any better than usual this morning," said Paddy. "Don't you want to sit up in this tree while I cut it down?"
Sammy grew black in the face with anger, for he knew that Paddy was laughing at him. You remember how only a few days before he had been so intent on calling Paddy bad names that he actually hadn't noticed that Paddy was cutting the very tree in which he was sitting, and so when it fell he had had a terrible fright.
"You think you are very smart, Mr. Beaver, but you'll think differently one of these fine days!" screamed Sammy. "If you knew what I know, you wouldn't be so well satisfied with yourself."
"What do you know?" asked Paddy, pretending to be very much alarmed.
"I'm not going to tell you what I know," retorted Sammy Jay. "You'll find out soon enough. And when you do find out, you'll never steal another tree from our Green Forest. Somebody is going to catch you, and it isn't Farmer Brown's boy either!"
Paddy pretended to be terribly frightened. "Oh, who is it? Please tell me, Mr. Jay," he begged.
Now to be called Mr. Jay made Sammy feel very important. Nearly everybody else called him Sammy. He swelled himself out trying to look as important as he felt, and his eyes snapped with pleasure. He was actually making Paddy the Beaver afraid. At least, he thought he was.
"No, Sir, I won't tell you," he replied. "I wouldn't be you for a great deal, though! Somebody who is smarter than you are is going to catch you, and when he gets through with you, there won't be anything left but a few bones. No, Sir, nothing but a few bones!"
"Oh, Mr. Jay, this is terrible news! Whatever am I to do?" cried Paddy, all the time keeping on at work cutting another tree.
"There's nothing you can do," replied Sammy, grinning wickedly at Paddy's fright. "There's nothing you can do unless you go right straight back to the North where you came from. You think you are very smart, but--"
Sammy didn't finish. Crack! Over fell the tree Paddy had been cutting and the top of it fell straight into the alder in which Sammy was sitting. "Oh! Oh! Help!" shrieked Sammy, spreading his wings and flying away just in time.
Paddy sat down and laughed until his sides ached. "Come make me another call someday, Sammy!" he said. "And when you do, please bring some real news. I know all about Old Man Coyote. You can tell him for me that when he is planning to catch people he should be careful not to leave footprints to give himself away."
Sammy didn't reply. He just sneaked off through the Green Forest, looking quite as foolish as he felt.
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In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
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