Cuffy Is Missing





Far up on the dark mountainside, in the driving snow, Nimble waited in

front of the cave where Cuffy Bear had vanished. And all the time Nimble

was growing more uneasy. He feared that Cuffy Bear might be in some sort

of trouble.



Nimble looked all about for help. But there wasn't a sign of anybody

stirring, anywhere. All the mountain people seemed to have sought

shelter from the storm.



At last, however, Peter Mink came sneaking up from the spring. He had

set out to follow Broad Brook all the way up to its beginning, on a

hunt for meadow mice. And when he set out to do a thing he always

finished it, no matter what the weather might be.



"You're just the person I want to see!" Nimble cried. "Will you do me a

favor?"



Now, Peter Mink never did anybody a favor if he could help it. So he

promptly said, "No!"



"Won't you go inside this cave for me and see what's happened to Cuffy

Bear?" Nimble implored him. "He went inside the cave. I promised to wait

for him here. And he has been gone for hours."



"I won't go into that cave for anybody," Peter Mink declared. "How do I

know you're not trying to play a trick on me? I don't see any Bear

tracks in the snow."



"Of course you don't!" Nimble agreed. "All this snow has fallen since

Cuffy crawled into the cave."



"Why don't you go inside yourself?" Peter Mink inquired with something

very like a sneer.



"I'm too tall," said Nimble. "Besides, I don't like caves. I keep out of

them."



"So do I!" Peter Mink declared--though everybody knew that he went

everywhere--even under the ice along Broad Brook and Swift River.



Poor Nimble didn't know what to do. He felt that he ought to go for

help, somewhere. But he had promised Cuffy Bear to wait for him.



Then all at once an idea came to him. Why not send Peter Mink for help?



"Won't you please go down to Cedar Swamp and ask Fatty Coon to come up

here?" Nimble begged Peter.



"I can't," Peter answered. "I must go home now." And everybody knew

that Peter Mink had no home at all! He was the vagabond of the woods.



Nimble saw then that it was useless to look for help from him. And after

Peter Mink had gone his surly way Nimble still lingered there. He was

hungry. So he began to paw the snow away here and there, to uncover the

ground growths. And just as he was nibbling beside a bush somebody said,

"Don't step on me!"



It was Mr. Grouse, half buried in the snow.



"I wondered why you were waiting here so long," Mr. Grouse told Nimble.

"When I heard you talking to that rascal, Peter Mink, I knew the reason.

But I didn't dare speak while he was about."



"Are you going to spend the night here?" Nimble asked him.



"Yes!" said Mr. Grouse. "I shall be snug and warm after the snow covers

me."



"Well, your head won't be covered for some time," Nimble told him. "Are

you willing to keep an eye out for Cuffy Bear? I'm going down to Cedar

Swamp to get help. And Cuffy Bear might come out of the cave while I'm

gone."



"I'd be glad to watch," Mr. Grouse replied, "but it wouldn't be any

use."



"Why not?" Nimble asked him. "Don't you think we'll see Cuffy again?"



"Oh, we'll see him," Mr. Grouse answered. "But it won't be till towards

spring. For there's no doubt that Cuffy Bear has fallen into his

winter's sleep."



And then Nimble exclaimed that Cuffy Bear had yawned as he turned away

to enter the cave. He hadn't even begged pardon, nor covered his mouth

with a paw.



"No doubt he was very, very sleepy," said Mr. Grouse.





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