The gristmill where Farmer Green had his wheat ground into flour stood near a mill-pond.
Now, Farmer Green always supposed that the pond was there so that the miller would have water to turn his mill. But Paddy Muskrat thought that the pond had been put there in order to give him and his neighbors a pleasant place in which to live.
His house was dug out of the bank of the pond. But you might have walked right over it without knowing it was there. Paddy reached it through a long tunnel, the door of which was hidden by the water. And there he lived with his wife. They liked their home. And so long as Paddy did as his wife wanted him to do, they were quite happy and never had a quarrel.
Sometimes Paddy Muskrat stayed away from home more than Mrs. Paddy liked. You see, he was very fond of swimming. In fact, that was why he was called Paddy, because he had begun to paddle in the water when he was so young that he was hardly more than a little, round ball.
To be sure, Mrs. Paddy was a fine swimmer herself. But she used to say that her husband ought to have been a fish; for he never seemed to get enough swimming to satisfy him. He had a way, in summer, of spending a good deal of time right where a big willow flung its shadow upon the water. And he might have been seen there often, swimming round and round in a circle and trying to catch his tail.
Mrs. Paddy used to tell him that he was too old for such foolishness. But it was a game he liked. And he never grew tired of it.
Even in winter, when the water was freezing cold, Paddy went for a swim almost every day. In one way he enjoyed his winter more than his summer swims, for he was quite safe from enemies when the ice covered the pond. In fact, unless Peter Mink or one of his relations came prowling about beneath the ice, there was nothing to trouble Paddy and his wife at that season.
In summer Paddy Muskrat had many enemies. Johnnie Green was by no means the least of these. He was continually setting traps to catch Paddy, who was the biggest of all the Muskrat family that lived in Pleasant Valley.
Now, Johnnie Green had succeeded in catching a good many of Paddy’s distant cousins. If you could have seen the side of Farmer Green’s woodshed, half covered by the skins Johnnie Green had nailed there, you would understand why Paddy was usually pretty careful where he stepped.
And when you hear that Mr. Crow told him one day that Johnnie had saved a place on the side of the woodshed especially for him, you can see why Paddy Muskrat was in no hurry to occupy it.
Luckily for him, he never came to such a sad end. Though when he vexed Mrs. Paddy she said, sometimes, that if he should get caught perhaps it would teach him not to stay away from home so much.
And then Paddy Muskrat always told her that being nailed to Farmer Green’s woodshed ought to teach him to stay away all the time.
Of course, that was just a little joke of his. But Mrs. Paddy never cared for it.