One day Ernie and Bert were walking by Mister Hooper’s store.
Suddenly Ernie stopped.
“Look at that!” he said.
Ernie pressed his nose to the store window.
Inside was a beautiful box of paints. It had lots of colors—even gold and silver.
“Gee,” said Ernie. “I wish I had that box of paints.”
“Maybe you can have it,” said Bert. “Mister Hooper is having a contest. The painter of the best picture wins that box of paints.”
Ernie started to run home.
“Wow!” he said. “I am going to paint a picture right now!”
Ernie got out his old paint box.
Then he got some paper.
He was ready to start painting.
The doorbell rang.
“I have a letter for you, Ernie,” said the mailman.
“Thanks,” said Ernie.
Then he said good-bye to the mailman and opened his letter.
The letter was from his cousin.
I painted a picture for you.
I hope you like it!
Love, Cousin Fred
It was a great picture of a tiger.
“Wow!” said Ernie.
“It is so much better than any of my pictures.”
And then Ernie got an idea.
“What if I told Mister Hooper that I painted this tiger? Then I would be sure to win the contest,” said Ernie.
Ernie’s heart beat faster.
He looked at the painting again.
“No, I cannot lie,” he said.
Ernie hung the tiger painting on the wall.
“Now I will paint my own picture for the contest,” he said.
He painted a picture of Rubber Duckie.
It was a good painting.
Bert saw the tiger painting as soon as he came home.
“What a great painting!” he said. “You will win the contest for sure, old buddy!”
He took the painting off the wall.
“I’ll take it to Mister Hooper for you,” said Bert happily.
“Wait, Bert,” said Ernie. “There is something I have to tell you.”
“Tell me later,” Bert said.
SLAM went the door.
Ernie looked sadly at his painting of Rubber Duckie.
He rolled it up and put it in his pocket.
Then he put on his sneakers and went outside.
“I must tell Mister Hooper the truth,” he said.
But before Ernie got to Mister Hooper’s store, Big Bird saw him.
“Ernie!” shouted Big Bird. “Your tiger painting is great! I bet it will win the contest.”
“Do you really think so?” asked Ernie.
“Yes, I do,” said Big Bird. “And so does everyone else. Don’t be late for the contest.”
And Big Bird ran off.
But Ernie just sat on the curb.
“I want that paint box,” he said softly. “But I don’t want to lie. How did I get into this mess?”
At last Ernie went to the store.
Everyone was already there, and everyone had a painting.
Bert’s was a broom.
Oscar’s was a garbage can.
Big Bird’s was a big sunflower.
But the best painting of all was the tiger.
“All of these paintings are good,” said Mister Hooper. “But only one person can win. First prize goes to…ERNIE!”
Mister Hooper gave Ernie the beautiful box of paints, and everyone clapped.
“Thank you,” Ernie said sadly.
Then Big Bird said, “Ernie, may I have your painting to hang by my nest?”
Ernie looked at Big Bird and burst into tears.
“I did not paint that tiger!” he cried. “My cousin painted it.”
He took out his picture of Rubber Duckie.
“This is my painting!”
“Ernie, so THAT’S what you wanted to tell me!” said Bert.
“YES!” cried Ernie.
Bert put his arm around Ernie.
“It is not always easy to tell the truth,” said Bert. “But you did it! I’m proud of you, old buddy.”
“I will mail the paint box to my cousin,” Ernie said. “Because HE really won it.”
“You didn’t win the contest,” said Bert, “but you painted the best picture ever of Rubber Duckie. And that is no lie!”