“What is ‘courage,’ Tommy Tapir?” asked Oliver Elephant, swinging his books by the strap as the two walked slowly toward the schoolhouse.
“Why—why—courage is not being afraid of the dark or any one larger than you. I have courage, Oliver Elephant, because I’m not afraid of you, and you’re MUCH larger than I am. I don’t believe, Oliver, that you have any courage at all. Look how you ran when you pulled Tabora Crocodile’s tooth. Yes, Oliver Elephant, I truly do think you must be a COWARD.”
At this Oliver elephant looked very sad, indeed, His trunk hung straight down, and so did his tail. No courage! What would his mother think, for Oliver had heard her say that morning that if there was one thing she detested in this world it was coward elephant. The school bell made both cousins quicken their steps, and Tommy Tapir, anxious to show Oliver Elephant how brave he was, pushed him aside and hurried to his seat.
Professor Bear was exceedingly bearish that day, and big little Oliver was so sad and sorrowful thinking how dreadful it was to have your own mother detest you that he could not remember his lessons at all—not even how much twice two cocoanuts equaled. So his big ears drooped more and more and his trunk got sniffly, and his eyes filled with huge tears that rolled splash on to his new jacket. Frantically he looked for his clean handkerchief, but remembered that he had used it that morning to collect dried bugs and had left it under a stone for safe keeping.
Tommy Tapir was watching Oliver and was really feeling dreadfully sorry he had called him a coward, and when he saw the huge tears roll slowly down Oliver’s trunk he handed him his handkerchief. Oliver’s eyes were so misty that he never noticed the wiggeldy things tied up in the corner.
“Oliver Elephant, come here!” Professor Bear’s voice was very stern, indeed. “What is that sticking out of the corner of your handkerchief, CANDY?” “I dod’t dow!” sobbed Oliver Elephant. “Don’t tell stories, Oliver Elephant!” thundered the professor. He jerked the handkerchief out of Oliver’s hand, and, untying it, shook out of the desk a little snake cut in three pieces. The professor’s glasses fell with a crash to the floor, so shocked was he. “What a cowardly thing to do! The poor little snake! You are not only a story teller, Oliver Elephant, but a COWARD; and I cannot have cowards in my schoolroom. Go home at ONCE!!”
That dreadful words again! Oliver Elephant looked beseechingly at Tommy Tapir, but Tommy turned his head away and, crying as if his heart would break, Oliver ran from the school and threw himself on the soft ground. “It’s not fair! It’s not fair,” he sobbed over and over.
“Why, Oliver Elephant, what’s the matter?” Mother Elephant had baked a great big juicy cocoanut pie, and was carrying it to school for Oliver’s lunch.
“I’M A COWARD!!” choked Oliver Elephant as soon as he could make himself understood. “Who says so?” asked Mother Elephant, glaring around threateningly. “Tommy Tapir—and Professor Bear—and every one thinks so!” sobbed Oliver. With his trunk to his eyes he told her all about it, and when he came to the part about the snake, Mother Elephant looked very grave indeed. “That was cowardly, Oliver. It was so much smaller and you cut it up to die!” At this Oliver looked more dejected than ever. “I am sorry you are a --------.” Just as she was about to say that hateful word again, a forlorn little figure, all out of breath, came racing out of the schoolhouse door. “Oliver, Oliver Elephant! I told the professor it was mine, and he wants you to come right back. He says you aren’t a coward, Oliver, and I was only fooling this morning. I don’t think so either. I—I—think you are the bravest elephant there is. But I AM A COWARD!!” And Tommy Tapir threw himself down on the selfsame spot which was all soggy with Oliver’s tears.
Mother Elephant thought a moment with her trunk to her head, then she looked very wise. “I don’t think you meant to hurt the poor little snake, did you, Tommy?” she asked gently. “Ung-ung! Tabora Crocodile told me it wouldn’t hurt it and that the pieces would wiggle until the sun went down!” sniffled Tommy. “Oh, I didn’t mean to be a coward!”
“Don’t cry, Tommy Tapir. Neither of you is a coward!” said Mother Elephant, putting her trunk around the two little cousins. “I am proud of you, Oliver, for not telling on Tommy. That took courage. And I am proud of you, Tommy, for telling on yourself. That took a great deal of courage. For, you see, real courage is not being afraid to do the RIGHT thing no mater how hard it is.”
Then they all sat down to eat cocoanut pie, which didn’t take any courage at all.
A touch of frost is in the air;
Jack Rabbit homeward scurrying
Points his long ears, forsooth he hears
A reason for more hurrying.
A silver horn, clear as the morn,
Its merry summons peals;
Jack Rabbit pauses for no more
But takes him to his heels;
He need not run, nor fear the gun
Of huntsman bold, for here
None come to do him harm;
’Tis the Supposyfolk, my dear,
Laden with sticks, with sacks and bags;
With tarts and sweets delectable
They’re out upon a frolic,
Which is surely quite expectable;
Off toward the royal forests,
Where the nuts are growing thick as peas,
They turn their steps, and soon
Are circling merrily beneath the trees;
But scarce their sacks and lunches
Are disposed upon the ground,
Before queer crossish rumblings
And grumblings begin to sound;
The trees swish to and fro
As from a giant wind storm tossed;
The burry nuts pelt down like hail;
With grievous scratches all criss-crossed;
The poor Supposies cling together;
Several there have brought umbrellas,
And these they raise and thus ward off
The stinging missiles (lucky fellows);
“Bear up!” the King calls to the rest;
Bear up! Well, I should say
There were two dozen up there
In the trees. Oh, deep dismay!
Why even in Supposyville they
Have bears. I declare
If there was one place free of them
I’d think it would be there.
“Bear up, is very well,” a wise man cried;
“If they bear down,
And bear us off, what then?”
The King took off his golden crown
In great distress; not so the Queen.
She rushed off toward the lunch
And tossed aloft some apple tarts;
Down in a furry bunch
The bears descended; and not heeding
Warnings, there here highness
Gave all the goodies to the bears,
Nor seemed to mind their nighness;
And while they ate, with sundry grunts,
The good Supposies fill
Their socks [sic] and bags chock full
And run back to Supposyville.
And any one there will bear out
This tale. I’ve barely time
To finish this, because I have
To write another rhyme.
(So please excuse me.)
Copyright © 2021 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.