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Old Mother West Wind by Thornton W. Burgess

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Etext created by Eve Sobol, South Bend, Indiana, USA

OLD MOTHER WEST WIND

by Thornton W. Burgess

TO MY MOTHER TO WHOM I OWE SO MUCH AND TO MY LITTLE SON WHOSE
LOVE OF STORIES INSPIRED THESE TALES THIS LITTLE VOLUME IS
AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.

CONTENTS:

CHAPTER

I. MRS. REDWING'S SPECKLED EGG

II. WHY GRANDFATHER FROG HAS NO TAIL

III. HOW REDDY FOX WAS SURPRISED

IV. WHY JIMMY SKUNK WEARS STRIPES

V. THE WILFUL LITTLE BREEZE

VI. REDDY FOX GOES FISHING

VII. JIMMY SKUNK LOOKS FOR BEETLES

VIII. BILLY MINK'S SWIMMING PARTY

IX. PETER RABBIT PLAYS A JOKE

X. HOW SAMMY JAY WAS FOUND OUT

XI. JERRY MUSKRAT'S PARTY

XII. BOBBY COON AND REDDY FOX PLAY TRICKS

XIII. JOHNNY CHUCK FINDS THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD

XIV. LITTLE JOE OTTER'S SLIPPERY SLIDE

XV. THE TALE OF TOMMY TROUT WHO DIDN'T MIND

XVI. SPOTTY THE TURTLE WINS A RACE

CHAPTER I. MRS. REDWING'S SPECKLED EGG

Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills in the
golden light of the early morning. Over her shoulders was slung a
bag--a great big bag--and in the bag were all of Old Mother West
Wind's children, the Merry Little Breezes.

Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills to the Green
Meadows and as she walked she crooned a song:

"Ships upon the ocean wait;
I must hurry, hurry on!
Mills are idle if I'm late;
I must hurry, hurry on."

When she reached the Green Meadows Old Mother West Wind opened
her bag, turned it upside down and shook it. Out tumbled all the
Merry Little Breezes and began to spin round and round for very
joy, for you see they were to lay in the Green Meadows all day
long until Old Mother West Wind should come back at night and
take them all to their home behind the Purple Hills.

First they raced over to see Johnny Chuck. They found Johnny
Chuck sitting just outside his door eating his breakfast. One,
for very mischief, snatched right out of Johnny Chuck's mouth the
green leaf of corn he was eating, and ran away with it. Another
playfully pulled his whiskers, while a third rumpled up his hair.

Johnny Chuck pretended to be very cross indeed, but really he
didn't mind a bit, for Johnny Chuck loved the Merry Little
Breezes and played with them everyday.

And if they teased Johnny Chuck they were good to him, too. When
they saw Farmer Brown coming across the Green Meadows with a gun
one of them would dance over to Johnny Chuck and whisper to him
that Farmer Brown was coming, and then Johnny Chuck would hide
away, deep down in his snug little house under ground, and Farmer
Brown would wonder and wonder why it was that he never, never
could get near enough to shoot Johnny Chuck. But he never, never
could.

When the Merry Little Breezes left Johnny Chuck they raced across
the Green Meadows to the Smiling Pool to say good morning to
Grandfather Frog who sat on a big lily pad watching for green
flies for breakfast.

"Chug-arum," said Grandfather Frog, which was his way of saying
good morning.

Just then along came a fat green fly and up jumped Grandfather
Frog. When he sat down again on the lily pad the fat green fly
was nowhere to be seen, but Grandfather Frog looked very well
satisfied indeed as he contentedly rubbed his white waistcoat
with one hand.

"What is the news, Grandfather Frog?" cried the Merry Little
Breezes.

"Mrs. Redwing has a new speckled egg in her nest in the
bulrushes," said Grandfather Frog.

"We must see it," cried the Merry Little Breezes, and away they
all ran to the swamp where the bulrushes grow.

Now someone else had heard of Mrs. Redwing's dear little nest in
the bulrushes, and he had started out bright and early that
morning to try and find it, for he wanted to steal the little
speckled eggs just because they were pretty. It was Tommy Brown,
the farmer's boy.

When the Merry Little Breezes reached the swamp where the
bulrushes grow they found poor Mrs. Redwing in great distress.
She was afraid that Tommy Brown would find her dear little nest,
for he was very, very near it, and his eyes were very, very
sharp.

"Oh," cried the Merry Little Breezes, "we must help Mrs. Redwing
save her pretty speckled eggs from bad Tommy Brown!"

So one of the Merry Little Breezes whisked Tommy Brown's old
straw hat off his head over into the Green Meadows. Of course
Tommy ran after it. Just as he stooped to pick it up another
little Breeze ran away with it. Then they took turns, first one
little Breeze, then another little Breeze running away with the
old straw hat just as Tommy Brown would almost get his hands on
it. Down past the Smiling Pool and across the Laughing Brook they
raced and chased the old straw hat, Tommy Brown running after it,
very cross, very red in the face, and breathing very hard. Way
across the Green Meadows they ran to the edge of the wood, where
they hung the old straw hat in the middle of a thorn tree. By
the time Tommy Brown had it once more on his head he had
forgotten all about Mrs. Redwing and her dear little nest.
Besides, he heard the breakfast horn blowing just then, so off he
started for home up the Lone Little Path through the wood.

And all the Merry Little Breezes danced away across the Green
Meadows to the swamp where the bulrushes grow to see the new
speckled egg in the dear little nest where Mrs. Redwing was
singing for joy. And while she sang the Merry Little Breezes
danced among the bulrushes, for they knew, and Mrs. Redwing knew,
that some day out of that pretty new speckled egg would come a
wee baby Redwing.

CHAPTER II WHY GRANDFATHER FROG HAS NO TAIL

Old Mother West Wind had gone to her day's work, leaving all the
Merry Little Breezes to play in the Green Meadows. They had
played tag and run races with the Bees and played hide and seek
with the Sun Beams, and now they had gathered around the Smiling
Pool where on a green lily pad sat Grandfather Frog.

Grandfather Frog was old, very old, indeed, and very, very wise.
He wore a green coat and his voice was very deep. When
Grandfather Frog spoke everybody listened very respectfully. Even
Billy Mink treated Grandfather Frog with respect, for Billy
Mink's father and his father's father could not remember when
Grandfather Frog had not sat on the lily pad watching for green
flies.

Down in the Smiling Pool were some of Grandfather Frog's
great-great-great-great-great grandchildren. You wouldn't have
known that they were his grandchildren unless some one told you.
They didn't look the least bit like Grandfather Frog. They were
round and fat and had long tails and perhaps this is why they
were called Pollywogs.

"Oh Grandfather Frog, tell us why you don't have a tail as you
did when you were young," begged one of the Merry Little Breezes.

Grandfather Frog snapped up a foolish green fly and settled
himself on his big lily pad, while all the Merry Little Breezes
gathered round to listen.

"Once on a time," began Grandfather Frog, "the Frogs ruled the
world, which was mostly water. There was very little dry land--
oh, very little indeed! There were no boys to throw stones and no
hungry Mink to gobble up foolish Frog-babies who were taking a
sun bath!"

Billy Mink, who had joined the Merry Little Breezes and was
listening, squirmed uneasily and looked away guiltily.

"In those days all the Frogs had tails, long handsome tails of
which they were very, very proud indeed," continued Grandfather
Frog. "The King of all the Frogs was twice as big as any other
Frog, and his tail was three times as long. He was very proud,
oh, very proud indeed of his long tail. He used to sit and admire
it until he thought that there never had been and never could be
another such tail. He used to wave it back and forth in the
water, and every time he waved it all the other Frogs would cry
'Ah!' and 'Oh!' Every day the King grew more vain. He did nothing
at all but eat and sleep and admire his tail.

"Now all the other Frogs did just as the King did, so pretty soon
none of the Frogs were doing anything but sitting about eating,
sleeping and admiring their own tails and the King's.

"Now you all know that people who do nothing worth while in this
world are of no use and there is little room for them. So when
Mother Nature saw how useless had become the Frog tribe she
called the King Frog before her and she said:

"'Because you can think of nothing but your beautiful tail it
shall be taken away from you. Because you do nothing but eat and
sleep your mouth shall become wide like a door, and your eyes
shall start forth from your head. You shall become bow-legged and
ugly to look at, and all the world shall laugh at you.'

"The King Frog looked at his beautiful tail and already it seemed
to have grown shorter. He looked again and it was shorter still.
Every time he looked his tail had grown shorter and smaller. By
and by when he looked there was nothing left but a little stub
which he couldn't even wriggle. Then even that disappeared, his
eyes popped out of his head and his mouth grew bigger and
bigger."

Old Grandfather Frog stopped and looked sadly at a foolish green
fly coming his way. "Chug-arum," said Grandfather Frog, opening
his mouth very wide and hopping up in the air. When he sat down
again on his big lily pad the green fly was nowhere to be seen.
Grandfather Frog smacked his lips and continued:

"And from that day to this every Frog has started life with a big
tail, and as he has grown bigger and bigger his tail has grown
smaller and smaller, until finally it disappears, and then he
remembers how foolish and useless it is to be vain of what nature
has given us. And that is how I came to lose my tail," finished
Grandfather Frog.

"Thank you," shouted all the Merry Little Breezes. "We won't
forget."

Then they ran a race to see who could reach Johnny Chuck's home
first and tell him that Farmer Brown was coming down on the Green
Meadows with a gun.

CHAPTER III HOW REDDY FOX WAS SURPRISED

Johnny Chuck and Reddy Fox lived very near together on the edge
of the Green Meadows. Johnny Chuck was fat and roly-poly. Reddy
Fox was slim and wore a bright red coat. Reddy Fox used to like
to frighten Johnny Chuck by suddenly popping out from behind a
tree and making believe that he was going to eat Johnny Chuck all
up.

One bright summer day Johnny Chuck was out looking for a good
breakfast of nice tender clover. He had wandered quite a long way
from his snug little house in the long meadow grass, although his
mother had told him never to go out of sight of the door. But
Johnny was like some little boys I know, and forgot all he had
been told.

He walked and walked and walked. Every few minutes Johnny Chuck
saw something farther on that looked like a patch of nice fresh
clover. And every time when he reached it Johnny Chuck found that
he had made a mistake. So Johnny Chuck walked and walked and
walked.

Old Mother West Wind, coming across the Green Meadows, saw Johnny
Chuck and asked him where he was going. Johnny Chuck pretended
not to hear and just walked faster.

One of the Merry Little Breezes danced along in front of him.

"Look out, Johnny Chuck, you will get lost," cried the Merry
Little Breeze then pulled Johnny's whiskers and ran away.

Higher and higher up in the sky climbed round, red Mr. Sun. Every
time Johnny Chuck looked up at him Mr. Sun winked.

"So long as I can see great round, red Mr. Sun and he winks at me
I can't be lost," thought Johnny Chuck, and trotted on looking
for clover.

By and by Johnny Chuck really did find some clover--just the
sweetest clover that grew in the Green Meadows. Johnny Chuck ate
and ate and ate and then what do you think he did? Why, he curled
right up in the nice sweet clover and went fast asleep.

Great round, red Mr. Sun kept climbing higher and higher up in
the sky, then by and by he began to go down on the other side,
and long shadows began to creep out across the Green Meadows.
Johnny Chuck didn't know anything about them: he was fast asleep.

By and by one of the Merry Little Breezes found Johnny Chuck all
curled up in a funny round ball.

"Wake up Johnny Chuck! Wake up!" shouted the Merry Little Breeze.

Johnny Chuck opened his eyes. Then he sat up and rubbed them. For
just a few, few minutes he couldn't remember where he was at all.

By and by he sat up very straight to look over the grass and see
where he was. But he was so far from home that he didn't see a
single thing that looked at all like the things he was used to.
The trees were all different. The bushes were all different.
Everything was different. Johnny Chuck was lost.

Now, when Johnny sat up, Reddy Fox happened to be looking over
the Green Meadows and he saw Johnny's head where it popped above
the grass.

"Aha!" said Reddy Fox, "I'll scare Johnny Chuck so he'll wish
he'd never put his nose out of his house."

Then Reddy dropped down behind the long grass and crept softly,
oh, ever so softly, through the paths of his own, until he was
right behind Johnny Chuck. Johnny Chuck had been so intent
looking for home that he didn't see anything else.

Reddy Fox stole right up behind Johnny and pulled Johnny's little
short tail hard. How it did frighten Johnny Chuck! He jumped
right straight up in the air and when he came down he was the
maddest little woodchuck that ever lived in the Green Meadows.

Reddy Fox had thought that Johnny would run, and then Reddy meant
to run after him and pull his tail and tease him all the way
home. Now, Reddy Fox got as big a surprise as Johnny had had when
Reddy pulled his tail. Johnny didn't stop to think that Reddy Fox
was twice as big as he, but with his eyes snapping, and
chattering as only a little Chuck can chatter, with every little
hair on his little body standing right up on end, so that he
seemed twice as big as he really was, he started for Reddy Fox.

It surprised Reddy Fox so that he didn't know what to do, and he
simply ran. Johnny Chuck ran after him, nipping Reddy's heels
every minute or two. Peter Rabbit just happened to be down that
way. He was sitting up very straight looking to see what mischief
he could get into when he caught sight of Reddy Fox running as
hard as ever he could. "It must be that Bowser, the hound, is
after Reddy Fox," said Peter Rabbit to himself. "I must watch out
that he doesn't find me."

Just then he caught sight of Johnny Chuck with every little hair
standing up on end and running after Reddy Fox as fast as his
short legs could go.

"Ho! ho! ho!" shouted Peter Rabbit. "Reddy Fox afraid of Johnny
Chuck! Ho! ho! Ho!"

Then Peter Rabbit scampered away to find Jimmy Skunk and Bobby
Coon and Happy Jack Squirrel to tell them all about how Reddy Fox
had run away from Johnny Chuck, for you see they were all a
little afraid of Reddy Fox.

Straight home ran Reddy Fox as fast as he could go, and going
home he passed the house of Johnny Chuck. Now Johnny couldn't run
so fast as Reddy Fox and he was puffing and blowing as only a fat
little woodchuck can puff and blow when he has to run hard.
Moreover, he had lost his ill temper now and he thought it was
the best joke ever to think that he had actually frightened Reddy
Fox. When he came to his own house he stopped and sat on his hind
legs once more. Then he shrilled out after Reddy Fox: "Reddy Fox
is a 'fraid cat, 'fraid-cat! Reddy Fox is a 'fraid-cat!"

And all the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind, who
were playing on the Green Meadows shouted: "Reddy Fox is a
'fraid-cat, 'fraid-cat!"

And this is the way that Reddy Fox was surprised and that Johnny
Chuck found his way home.

CHAPTER IV WHY JIMMY SKUNK WEARS STRIPES

Jimmy Skunk, as everybody knows, wears a striped suit, a suit of
black and white. There was a time, long, long ago, when all the
Skunk family wore black. Very handsome their coats were, too, a
beautiful, glossy black. They were very, very proud of them and
took the greatest care of them, brushing them carefully ever so
many times a day.

There was a Jimmy Skunk then, just as there is now, and he was
head of all the Skunk family. Now this Jimmy Skunk was very proud
and thought himself very much of a gentleman. He was very
independent and cared for no one. Like a great many other
independent people, he did not always consider the rights of
others. Indeed, it was hinted in the wood and on the Green
Meadows that not all of Jimmy Skunk's doings would bear the light
of day. It was openly said that he was altogether too fond of
prowling about at night, but no one could prove that he was
responsible for mischief done in the night, for no one saw him.
You see his coat was so black that in the darkness of the night
it was not visible at all.

Now about this time of which I am telling you Mrs. Ruffed Grouse
made a nest at the foot of the Great Pine and in it she laid
fifteen beautiful buff eggs. Mrs. Grouse was very happy, very
happy indeed, and all the little meadow folks who knew of her
happiness were happy too, for they all loved shy, demure, little
Mrs. Grouse. Every morning when Peter Rabbit trotted down the
Lone Little Path through the wood past the Great Pine he would
stop for a few minutes to chat with Mrs. Grouse. Happy Jack
Squirrel would bring her the news every afternoon. The Merry
Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind would run up a dozen times
a day to see how she was getting along.

One morning Peter Rabbit, coming down the Lone Little Path for
his usual morning call, found a terrible state of affairs. Poor
little Mrs. Grouse was heart-broken. All about the foot of the
Great Pine lay the empty shells of her beautiful eggs. They had
been broken and scattered this way and that.

"How did it happen?" asked Peter Rabbit.

"I don't know," sobbed poor little Mrs. Grouse. "In the night
when I was fast asleep something pounced upon me. I managed to
get away and fly up in the top of the Great Pine. In the morning
I found all my eggs broken, just as you see them here."

Peter Rabbit looked the ground over very carefully. He hunted
around behind the Great Pine, he looked under the bushes, he
studied the ground with a very wise air. Then he hopped off down
the Lone Little Path to the Green Meadows. He stopped at the
house of Johnny Chuck.

"What makes your eyes so big and round?" asked Johnny Chuck.

Peter Rabbit came very close so as to whisper in Johnny Chuck's
ear, and told him all that he had seen. Together they went to
Jimmy Skunk's house. Jimmy Skunk was in bed. He was very sleepy
and very cross when he came to the door. Peter Rabbit told him
what he had seen.

"Too bad! Too bad!" said Jimmy Skunk, and yawned sleepily.

"Won't you join us in trying to find out who did it?" asked
Johnny Chuck.

Jimmy Skunk said he would be delighted to come but that he had
some other business that morning and that he would join them in
the afternoon. Peter Rabbit and Johnny Chuck went on. Pretty soon
they met the Merry Little Breezes and told them the dreadful
story.

"What shall we do?" asked Johnny Chuck.

"We'll hurry over and tell Old Dame Nature," cried the Merry
Little Breezes, "and ask her what to do."

So away flew the Merry Little Breezes to Old Dame Nature and told
her all the dreadful story. Old Dame Nature listened very
attentively. Then she sent the Merry Little Breezes to all the
little meadow folks to tell every one to be at the Great Pine
that afternoon. Now whatever Old Dame Nature commanded all the
meadow folks were obliged to do. They did not dare to disobey
her. Promptly at four o'clock that afternoon all the meadow folks
were gathered around the foot of the Great Pine. Broken-hearted
little Mrs. Ruffed Grouse sat beside her empty nest, with all the
broken shells about her.

Reddy Fox, Peter Rabbit, Johnny Chuck, Billy Mink, Little Joe
Otter, Jerry Muskrat, Hooty the Owl, Bobby Coon, Sammy Jay,
Blacky the Crow, Grandfather Frog, Mr. Toad, Spotty the Turtle,
the Merry Little Breezes, all were there. Last of all came Jimmy
Skunk. Very handsome he looked in his shining black coat and very
sorry he appeared that such a dreadful thing should have
happened. He told Mrs. Grouse how badly he felt, and he loudly
demanded that the culprit should be found out and severely
punished.

Old Dame Nature has the most smiling face in the world, but this
time it was very, very grave indeed. First she asked little Mrs.
Grouse to tell her story all over again that all might hear.
Then each in turn was asked to tell where he had been the night
before. Johnny Chuck, Happy Jack Squirrel, Striped Chipmunk,
Sammy Jay and Blacky the Crow had gone to bed when Mr. Sun went
down behind the Purple Hills. Jerry Muskrat, Billy Mink, Little
Joe Otter, Grandfather Frog and Spotty the Turtle had not left
the Smiling Pool. Bobby Coon had been down in Farmer Brown's
cornfield. Hooty the Owl had been hunting in the lower end of the
Green Meadows. Peter Rabbit had been down in the berry patch. Mr.
Toad had been under the piece of bark which he called a house.
Old Dame Nature called on Jimmy Skunk last of all. Jimmy
protested that he had been very, very tired and had gone to bed
very early indeed and had slept the whole night through.

Then Old Dame Nature asked Peter Rabbit what he had found among
the egg shells that morning.

Peter Rabbit hopped out and laid three long black hairs before
Old Dame Nature. "These," said Peter Rabbit "are what I found
among the egg shells."

Then Old Dame Nature called Johnny Chuck. "Tell us, Johnny
Chuck," said she, "what you saw when you called at Jimmy Skunk's
house this morning."

"I saw Jimmy Skunk," said Johnny Chuck, "and Jimmy seemed very,
very sleepy. It seemed to me that his whiskers were yellow."

"That will do," said Old Dame Nature, and then she called Old
Mother West Wind.

"What time did you come down on the Green Meadows this morning?"

"Just at the break of day," said Old Mother West Wind, "as Mr.
Sun was coming up from behind the Purple Hills."

"And whom did you see so early in the morning?" asked Old Dame
Nature.

"I saw Bobby Coon going home from old Farmer Brown's cornfield,"
said Old Mother West Wind. "I saw Hooty the Owl coming back from
the lower end of the Green Meadows. I saw Peter Rabbit down in
the berry patch. Last of all I saw something like a black shadow
coming down the Lone Little Path toward the house of Jimmy
Skunk."

Every one was looking very hard at Jimmy Skunk. Jimmy began to
look very unhappy and very uneasy.

"Who wears a black coat?" asked Dame Nature.

"Jimmy Skunk!" shouted all the little meadow folks.

"What MIGHT make whiskers yellow?" asked Old Dame Nature.

No one seemed to know at first. Then Peter Rabbit spoke up. "It
MIGHT be the yolk of an egg," said Peter Rabbit.

"Who are likely to be sleepy on a bright sunny morning?" asked
Old Dame Nature.

"People who have been out all night," said Johnny Chuck, who
himself always goes to bed with the sun.

"Jimmy Skunk," said Old Dame Nature, and her voice was very
stern, very stern indeed, and her face was very grave. "Jimmy
Skunk, I accuse you of having broken and eaten the eggs of Mrs.
Grouse. What have you to say for yourself?"

Jimmy Skunk hung his head. He hadn't a word to say. He just
wanted to sneak away by himself.

"Jimmy Skunk," said Old Dame Nature, "because your handsome black
coat of which you are so proud has made it possible for you to
move about in the night without being seen, and because we can no
longer trust you upon your honor, henceforth you and your
descendants shall wear a striped coat, which is the sign that you
cannot be trusted. Your coat hereafter shall be black and white,
that when you move about in the night you will always be
visible."

And this is why that to this day Jimmy Skunk wears a striped suit
of black and white.

CHAPTER V THE WILFUL LITTLE BREEZE

Old Mother West Wind was tired--tired and just a wee bit cross--
cross because she was tired. She had had a very busy day. Ever
since early morning she had been puffing out the white sales of
the ships on the big ocean so that they could go faster; she had
kept all the big and little wind mills whirling and whirling to
pump water for thirsty folks and grind corn for hungry folks;
she had blown away all the smoke from tall chimneys and engines
and steamboats. Yes, indeed, Old Mother West Wind had been very,
very busy.

Now she was coming across the Green Meadows on her way to her
home behind the Purple Hills, and as she came she opened the big
bag she carried and called to her children, the Merry Little
Breezes, who had been playing hard on the Green Meadows all the
long day. One by one they crept into the big bag, for they were
tired, too, and ready to go to their home behind the Purple
Hills.

Pretty soon all were in the bag but one, a willful little Breeze,
who was not quite ready to go home; he wanted to play just a
little longer. He danced ahead of Old Mother West Wind. He kissed
the sleepy daisies. He shook the nodding buttercups. He set all
the little poplar leaves a dancing, too, and he wouldn't come
into the big bag. So Old Mother West Wind closed the big bag and
slung it over her shoulder. Then she started on towards her home
behind the Purple Hills.

When she had gone, the willful little Breeze left behind suddenly
felt very lonely--very lonely indeed! The sleepy daisies didn't
want to play. The nodding buttercups were cross. Great round
bright Mr. Sun, who had been shining and shining all day long,
went to bed and put on his night cap of golden clouds. Black
shadows came creeping, creeping out into the Green Meadows.

The willful little Breeze began to wish that he was safe in Old
Mother West Wind's big bag with all the other Merry Little
Breezes.

So he started across the Green Meadows to find the Purple Hills.
But all the hills were black now and he could not tell which he
should look behind to find his home with Old Mother West Wind and
the Merry Little Breezes. How he did wish that he had minded Old
Mother West Wind.

By and by he curled up under a bayberry bush and tried to go to
sleep, but he was lonely, oh, so lonely! And he couldn't go to
sleep. Old Mother Moon came up and flooded all the Green Meadows
with light, but it wasn't like the bright light of jolly round
Mr. Sun, for it was cold and white and it made many black
shadows.

Pretty soon the willful little Breeze heard Hooty the Owl out
hunting for a meadow mouse for his dinner. Then down the Lone
Little Path which ran close to the bayberry bush trotted Reddy
Fox. He was trotting very softly and every minute or so he turned
his head and looked behind him to see if he was followed. It was
plain to see that Reddy Fox was bent on mischief.

When he reached the bayberry bush Reddy Fox sat down and barked
twice. Hooty the Owl answered him at once and flew over to join
him. They didn't see the willful little Breeze curled up under the
bayberry bush, so intent were these two rogues in plotting
mischief. They were planning to steal down across the Green
Meadows to the edge of the Brown Pasture where Mr. Bob White and
pretty Mrs. Bob White and a dozen little Bob Whites had their
home.

"When they run along the ground I'll catch 'em, and when they fly
up in the air you'll catch 'em, and we'll gobble 'em all up," said
Reddy Fox to Hooty the Owl. Then he licked his chops and Hooty
the Owl snapped his bill, just as if they were tasting tender
little Bob Whites that very minute. It made the willful little
Breeze shiver to see them. Pretty soon they started on towards
the Brown Pasture.

When they were out of sight the willful little Breeze jumped up
and shook himself. Then away he sped across the Green Meadows to
the Brown Pasture. And because he could go faster and because he
went a shorter way he got there first. He had to hunt and hunt to
find Mrs. and Mr. Bob White and all the little Bob Whites, but
finally he did find them, all with their heads tucked under their
wings fast asleep.

The willful little Breeze shook Mr. Bob White very gently. In an
instant he was wide awake.

"Sh-h-h," said the willful little Breeze. "Reddy Fox and Hooty the
Owl are coming to the Brown Pasture to gobble up you and Mrs. Bob
White and all the little Bob Whites."

"Thank you, little Breeze," said Mr. Bob White, "I think I'll
move my family."

Then he woke Mrs. Bob White and all the little Bob Whites. With
Mr. Bob White in the lead away they all flew to the far side of
the Brown Pasture where they were soon safely hidden under a
juniper tree.

The willful little Breeze saw them safely there, and when they
were nicely hidden hurried back to the place where the Bob Whites
had been sleeping. Reddy Fox was stealing up through the grass
very, very softly. Hooty the Owl was flying as silently as a
shadow. When Reddy Fox thought he was near enough he drew himself
together, made a quick spring and landed right in Mr. Bob White's
empty bed. Reddy Fox and Hooty the Owl looked so surprised and
foolish when they found the Bob Whites were not there that the
willful little Breeze nearly laughed out loud.

Then Reddy Fox and Hooty the Owl hunted here and hunted there,
all over the Brown Pasture, but they couldn't find the Bob
Whites.

And the willful little Breeze went back to the juniper tree and
curled himself beside Mr. Bob White to sleep, for he was lonely
no longer.

CHAPTER VI REDDY FOX GOES FISHING

One morning when Mr. Sun was very, very bright and it was very,
very warm, down on the Green Meadows Reddy Fox came hopping and
skipping down the Lone Little Path that leads to the Laughing
Brook. Hoppity, skip, skippity hop! Reddy felt very much pleased
with himself that sunny morning. Pretty soon he saw Johnny Chuck
sitting up very straight close by the little house where he
lives.

"Johnny Chuck, Chuck, Chuck! Johnny Chuck, Chuck, Chuck! Johnny
Woodchuck!" called Reddy fox.

Johnny Chuck pretended not to hear. His mother had told him not
to play with Reddy Fox, for Reddy Fox was a bad boy.

"Johnny Chuck, Chuck, Chuck! Johnny Woodchuck!" called Reddy
again.

This time Johnny turned and looked. He could see Reddy Fox
turning somersaults and chasing his tail and rolling over and
over in the little path.

"Come on!" said Reddy Fox. "Let's go fishing!"

"Can't," said Johnny Chuck, because you know, his mother had told
him not to play with Reddy Fox.

"I'll show you how to catch a fish," said Reddy Fox, and tried to
jump over his own shadow.

"Can't," said good little Johnny Chuck again, and turned away so
that he couldn't see Reddy Fox chasing Butterflies and playing
catch with Field Mice children.

So Reddy Fox went down to the Laughing Brook all alone. The Brook
was laughing and singing on its way to join the Big River. The
sky was blue and the sun was bright. Reddy Fox jumped on the Big
Rock in the middle of the Laughing Brook and peeped over the
other side. What do you think he saw? Why, right down below in a
Dear Little Pool were Mr. And Mrs. Trout and all the little
Trouts.

Reddy Fox wanted some of those little Trouts to take home for his
dinner, but he didn't know how to catch them. He lay flat down
on the Big Rock and reached way down into the Dear Little Pool,
but all the little Trouts laughed at Reddy Fox and not one came
within reach. Then Mr. Trout swam up so quickly that Reddy Fox
didn't see him coming and bit Reddy's little black paw hard.

"Ouch!" cried Reddy Fox, pulling his little black paw out of the
water. And all the little Trouts laughed at Reddy Fox.

Just then along came Billy Mink.

"Hello, Reddy Fox!" said Billy Mink. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm trying to catch a fish," said Reddy Fox.

"Pooh! That's easy!" said Billy Mink. "I'll show you how."

So Billy Mink lay down on the Big Rock side of Reddy Fox and
peeped over into the Dear Little Pool where all the little Trouts
were laughing at Reddy Fox and having such a good time. But Billy
Mink took care, such very great care, that Mr. Trout and Mrs.
Trout should not see him peeping over into the Dear Little Pool.

When Billy Mink saw all those little Trouts playing in the Dear
Little Pool he laughed. "You count three, Reddy Fox," said he,
"and I'll show you how to catch a fish."

"One!" said Reddy Fox, "Two! Three!"

Splash! Billy Mink had dived head first into the Dear Little
Pool. He spattered water way up onto Reddy Fox, and he frightened
old Mr. Frog so that he fell over backwards off the lily pad
where he was taking a morning nap right into the water. In a
minute Billy Mink climbed out on the other side of the Dear
Little Pool and sure enough, he had caught one of the little
Trouts.

"Give it to me," cried Reddy Fox.

"Catch one yourself," said Billy Mink. "Old Grandpa Mink wants a
fish for his dinner, so I am going to take this home. You're
afraid, Reddy Fox! 'Fraid-cat! Fraid-cat!"

Billy Mink shook the water off of his little brown coat, picked
up the little Trout and ran off home.

Reddy Fox lay down again on the Big Rock and peeped into the Dear
Little Pool. Not a single Trout could he see. They were all
hiding safely with Mr. and Mrs. Trout. Reddy Fox watched and
watched. The sun was warm, the Laughing Brook was singing a
lullaby and--what do you think? Why, Reddy Fox went fast asleep
on the edge of the great Big Rock.

By and by Reddy Fox began to dream. He dreamed that he had a nice
little brown coat that was waterproof, just like the little brown
coat that Billy Mink wore. Yes, and he dreamed that he had
learned to swim and to catch fish just as Billy Mink did. He
dreamed that the Dear Little Pool was full of little Trouts and
that he was just going to catch one when--splash! Reddy Fox had
rolled right off of the Big Rock into the Dear Little Pool.

The water went into the eyes of Reddy Fox, and it went up his
nose and he swallowed so much that he felt as if he never, never
would want another drink of water. And his beautiful red coat,
which old Mother Fox had told him to be very, very careful of
because he couldn't have another for a whole year, was oh so wet!
And his pants were wet and his beautiful bushy tail, of which he
was so proud, was so full of water that he couldn't hold it up,
but had to drag it up the bank after him as he crawled out of the
Dear Little Pool.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughed Mr. Kingfisher, sitting on a tree.

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" laughed old Mr. Frog, who had climbed back on his
lily pad.

"He! He! He!" laughed all the little Trouts and Mr. Trout and
Mrs. Trout, swimming round and round in the Dear Little Pool.

"Ha! Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho! Ho! He! He! He!" laughed Billy Mink, who had
come back to the Big Rock just in time to see Reddy Fox tumble
in.

Reddy Fox didn't say a word, he was so ashamed. He just crept up
the Lone Little Path to his home, dragging his tail, all wet and
muddy, behind him, and dripping water all the way.

Johnny Chuck was still sitting by his door as his mother had told
him to. Reddy Fox tried to go past without being seen, but Johnny
Chuck's bright little eyes saw him.

"Where are your fish, Reddy Fox?" called Johnny Chuck.

"Why don't you turn somersaults, and jump over your shadow and
chase Butterflies and play with the little Field Mice, Reddy
Fox?" called Johnny Chuck.

But Reddy Fox just walked faster. When he got almost home he saw
old Mother Fox sitting in the doorway with a great big switch
across her lap, for Mother Fox had told Reddy Fox not to go near
the Laughing Brook.

And this is all I am going to tell you about how Reddy Fox went
fishing.

CHAPTER VII JIMMY SKUNK LOOKS FOR BEETLES

Jimmy Skunk opened his eyes very early one morning and peeped out
of his snug little house on the hill. Big, round Mr. Sun, with a
very red, smiling face, had just begun to climb up into the sky.
Old Mother West Wind was just starting down to the Green Meadows
with her big bag over her shoulder. In that bag Jimmy Skunk knew
she carried all her children, the Merry Little Breezes, whom she
was taking down to the Green Meadows to play and frolic all day.

"Good morning, Mother West Wind," said Jimmy Skunk, politely.
"Did you see any beetles as you came down the hill?"

Old Mother West Wind said, no, she hadn't seen any beetles as she
came down the hill.

"Thank you," said Jimmy Skunk politely. "I guess I'll have to go
look myself, for I'm very, very hungry."

So Jimmy Skunk brushed his handsome black and white coat, and
washed his face and hands, and started out to try to find some
beetles for his breakfast. First he went down to the Green
Meadows and stopped at Johnny Chuck's house. But Johnny Chuck was
still in bed and fast asleep. Then Jimmy Skunk went over to see
if Reddy Fox would go with him to help find some beetles for his
breakfast. But Reddy Fox had been out very, very late the night
before and was still in bed fast asleep, too.

So Jimmy Skunk set out all alone along the Crooked Little Path up
the hill to find some beetles for his breakfast. He walked very
slowly, for Jimmy Skunk never hurries. He stopped and peeped
under every old log to see if there were any beetles. By and by
he came to a big piece of bark beside the Crooked Little Path.
Jimmy Skunk took hold of the piece of bark with his two little
black paws and pulled and pulled. All of a sudden, the big piece
of bark turned over so quickly that Jimmy Skunk fell flat on his
back.

When Jimmy Skunk had rolled over onto his feet again, there sat
old Mr. Toad right in the path, and old Mr. Toad was very, very
cross indeed. He swelled and he puffed and he puffed and he
swelled, till he was twice as big as Jimmy Skunk had ever seen
him before.

"Good morning, Mr. Toad," said Jimmy Skunk. "Have you seen any
beetles?"

But Mr. Toad blinked his great round goggly eyes and he said:
"What do you mean, Jimmy Skunk, by pulling the roof off my
house?"

"Is that the roof of your house?" asked Jimmy Skunk politely. "I
won't do it again."

Then Jimmy Skunk stepped right over old Mr. Toad, and went on up
the Crooked Little Path to look for some beetles.

By and by he came to an old stump of a tree which was hollow and
had the nicest little round hole in one side. Jimmy Skunk took
hold of one edge with his two little black paws and pulled and
pulled. All of a sudden the whole side of the old stump tore open
and Jimmy Skunk fell flat on his back.

When Jimmy Skunk had rolled over onto his feet again there was
Striped Chipmunk hopping up and down right in the middle of the
path, he was so angry.

"Good morning, Striped Chipmunk," said Jimmy Skunk. "Have you
seen any beetles?"

But Striped Chipmunk hopped faster than ever and he said: "What
do you mean, Jimmy Skunk, by pulling the side off my house?"

"Is that the side of your house?" asked Jimmy Skunk, politely. "I
won't do it again."

Then Jimmy Skunk stepped right over Striped Chipmunk, and went
on up the Crooked Little Path to look for some beetles.

Pretty soon he met Peter Rabbit hopping along down the Crooked
Little Path. "Good morning, Jimmy Skunk, where are you going so
early in the morning?" said Peter Rabbit.

"Good morning, Peter Rabbit. Have you seen any beetles?" asked
Jimmy Skunk, politely.

"No, I haven't seen any beetles, but I'll help you find some,"
said Peter Rabbit. So he turned about and hopped ahead of Jimmy
Skunk up the Crooked Little Path.

Now because Peter Rabbit's legs are long and he is always in a
hurry, he got to the top of the hill first. When Jimmy Skunk
reached the end of the Crooked Little Path on the top of the hill
he found Peter Rabbit sitting up very straight and looking and
looking very hard at a great flat stone.

"What are you looking at, Peter Rabbit?" asked Jimmy Skunk.

"Sh-h-h!" said Peter Rabbit, "I think there are some beetles
under that great flat stone where that little black string is
sticking out. Now when I count three you grab that string and
pull hard perhaps you'll find a beetle at the other end."

So Jimmy Skunk got ready and Peter Rabbit began to count.

"One!" said Peter. "Two!" said Peter. "Three!"

Jimmy Skunk grabbed the black string and pulled as hard as ever
he could and out came--Mr. Black Snake! The string Jimmy Skunk had
pulled was Mr. Black Snake's tail, and Mr. Black Snake was very,
very angry indeed.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughed Peter Rabbit.

"What do you mean, Jimmy Skunk," said Mr. Black Snake, "by
pulling my tail?"

"Was that your tail?" said Jimmy Skunk, politely. "I won't do it
again. Have you seen any beetles?"

But Mr. Black Snake hadn't seen any beetles, and he was so cross
that Jimmy Skunk went on over the hill to look for some beetles.

Peter Rabbit was still laughing and laughing and laughing. And
the more he laughed the angrier grew Mr. Black Snake, till
finally he started after Peter Rabbit to teach him a lesson.

Then Peter Rabbit stopped laughing, for Mr. Black Snake can run
very fast. Away went Peter Rabbit down the Crooked Little Path as
fast as he could go, and away went Mr. Black Snake after him.

But Jimmy Skunk didn't even look once to see if Mr. Black Snake
had caught Peter Rabbit to teach him a lesson, for Jimmy Skunk had
found some beetles and was eating his breakfast.

CHAPTER VIII BILLY MINK'S SWIMMING PARTY

Billy Mink was coming down the bank of the Laughing Brook. Billy
Mink was feeling very good indeed. He had had a good breakfast,
the sun was warm, little white cloud ships were sailing across
the blue sky and their shadows were sailing across the Green
Meadows, the birds were singing and the bees were humming. Billy
Mink felt like singing too, but Billy Mink's voice was not meant
for singing.

By and by Billy Mink came to the Smiling Pool. Here the Laughing
Brook stopped and rested on its way to join the Big River. It
stopped its noisy laughing and singing and just lay smiling and
smiling in the warm sunshine. The little flowers on the bank
leaned over and nodded to it. The beech tree, which was very old,
sometimes dropped a leaf into it. The cat-tails kept their feet
cool in the edge of it.

Billy Mink jumped out on the Big Rock and looked down into the
Smiling Pool. Over on a green lily pad he saw old Grandfather
Frog.

"Hello, Grandfather Frog," said Billy Mink.

"Hello, Billy Mink," said Grandfather Frog. "What mischief are
you up to this fine sunny morning?"

Just then Billy Mink saw a little brown head swimming along one
edge of the Smiling Pool.

"Hello, Jerry Muskrat!" shouted Billy Mink.

"Hello your own self, Billy Mink," shouted Jerry Muskrat, "Come
in and have a swim; the water's fine!"

"Good," said Billy Mink. "We'll have a swimming party."

So Billy Mink called all the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother
West Wind, who were playing with the flowers on the bank, and
sent them to find Little Joe Otter and invite him to come to the
swimming party. Pretty soon back came the Little Breezes and with
them came Little Joe Otter.

"Hello, Billy Mink," said Little Joe Otter. "Here I am!"

"Hello, Little Joe Otter," said Billy Mink. "Come up here on the
Big Rock and see who can dive the deepest into the Smiling Pool."

So Little Joe Otter and Jerry Muskrat climbed up on the Big Rock
side of Billy Mink and they all stood side by side in their
little brown bathing suits looking down into the Smiling Pool.

"Now when I count three we'll all dive into the Smiling Pool
together and see who can dive the deepest. One!" said Billy Mink.
"Two!" said Billy Mink. "Three!" said Billy Mink.

And when he said "Three!" in they all went head first. My such a
splash as they did make! They upset old Grandfather Frog so that
he fell off his lily pad. They frightened Mr. and Mrs. Trout so
that they jumped right out of the water. Tiny Tadpole had such a
scare that he hid way, way down in the mud with only the tip of
his funny little nose sticking out.

"Chug-a-rum," said old Grandfather Frog, climbing out of his lily
pad. "If I wasn't so old I would show you how to dive."

"Come on, Grandfather Frog!" cried Billy Mink. "Show us how to
dive."

And what do you think? Why, old Grandfather Frog actually got so
excited that he climbed up on the Big Rock to show them how to
dive. Splash! Went Grandfather Frog into the Smiling Pool.
Splash! Went Billy Mink right behind him. Splash! Splash! Went
Little Joe Otter and Jerry Muskrat, right at Billy Mink's heels.

"Hurrah!" shouted Mr. Kingfisher, sitting on a branch of the old
beech tree. And then just to show them that he could dive, too,
splash! He went into the Smiling Pool.

Such a noise as they did make! All the Little Breezes of Old
Mother West Wind danced for joy on the bank. Blacky the Crow and
Sammy Jay flew over to see what was going on.

"Now let's see who can swim the farthest under water," cried
Billy Mink.

So they all stood side by side on one edge of the Smiling Pool.

"Go!" shouted Mr. Kingfisher, and in they all plunged. Little
ripples ran across the Smiling Pool and then the water became as
smooth and smiling as if nothing had gone into it with a plunge.

Now old Grandfather Frog began to realize that he wasn't as young
as he used to be, and he couldn't swim as fast as the others
anyway. He began to get short of breath, so he swam up to the top
and stuck just the tip of his nose out to get some more air.
Sammy Jay's sharp eyes saw him.

"There's Grandfather Frog!" he shouted.

So then Grandfather Frog popped his head out and swam over to his
green lily pad to rest.

Way over beyond the Big Rock little bubbles in three long rows
kept coming up to the top of the Smiling Pool. They showed just
where Billy Mink, Little Joe Otter and Jerry Muskrat were
swimming way down out of sight. It was the air from their lungs
making the bubbles. Straight across the Smiling Pool went the
lines of little bubbles and then way out on the farther side two
little heads bobbed out of water close together. They were Billy
Mink and Little Joe Otter. A moment later Jerry Muskrat bobbed up
beside them.

You see, they had swum clear across the Smiling Pool and of course
they could swim no farther.

So Billy Mink's swimming party was a great success.

CHAPTER IX PETER RABBIT PLAYS A JOKE

One morning when big round Mr. Sun was climbing up in the sky and
Old Mother West Wind had sent all her Merry Little Breezes to
play in the Green Meadows, Johnny Chuck started out for a walk.
First he sat up very straight and looked and looked all around to
see if Reddy Fox was anywhere about, for you know Reddy Fox liked
to tease Johnny Chuck.

But Reddy Fox was nowhere to be seen, so Johnny Chuck trotted down
the Lone Little Path to the wood. Mr. Sun was shining as brightly
as ever he could and Johnny Chuck, who was very, very fat, grew
very, very warm. By and by he sat down on the end of a log under
a big tree to rest.

Thump! Something hit Johnny Chuck right on the top of his round
little head. It made Johnny Chuck jump.

"Hello, Johnny Chuck!" said a voice that seemed to come right out
of the sky. Johnny Chuck tipped his head way, way back and looked
up. He was just in time to see Happy Jack Squirrel drop a nut.
Down it came and hit Johnny Chuck right on the tip of his funny,
black, little nose.

"Oh!" said Johnny Chuck, and tumbled right over back off the log.
But Johnny Chuck was so round and so fat and so roly-poly that it
didn't hurt him a bit.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughed Happy Jack up in the tree.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughed Johnny Chuck, picking himself up. Then they
both laughed together. It was such a good joke.

"What are you laughing at?" asked a voice so close to Johnny
Chuck that he rolled over three times he was so surprised. It was
Peter Rabbit.

"What are you doing in my wood?" asked Peter Rabbit.

"I'm taking a walk," said Johnny Chuck.

"Good," said Peter Rabbit, "I'll come along too."

So Johnny Chuck and Peter Rabbit set out along the Lone Little
Path through the wood. Peter Rabbit hopped along with great big
jumps, for Peter's legs are long and meant for jumping, but
Johnny Chuck couldn't keep up though he tried very hard, for
Johnny's legs are short. Pretty soon Peter Rabbit came back,
walking very softly. He whispered in Johnny Chuck's ear.

"I've found something," said Peter Rabbit.

"What is it?" asked Johnny Chuck.

"I'll show you," said Peter Rabbit, "but you must be very, very
still, and not make the least little bit of noise."

Johnny Chuck promised to be very, very still for he wanted very
much to see what Peter Rabbit had found. Peter Rabbit tip-toed
down the Lone Little Path through the wood, his funny long ears
pointing right up to the sky. And behind him tip-toed Johnny
Chuck, wondering and wondering what it could be that Peter Rabbit
had found.

Pretty soon they came to a nice mossy green log right across the
Lone Little Path. Peter Rabbit stopped and sat up very straight.
He looked this way and looked that way. Johnny Chuck stopped too
and he sat up very straight and looked this way and looked that
way, but all he could see was the mossy green log across the Lone
Little Path.

"What is it, Peter Rabbit?" whispered Johnny Chuck.

"You can't see it yet," whispered Peter Rabbit, "for first we
have to jump over that mossy green log. Now I'll jump first, and
then you jump just the way I do, and then you'll see what it is
I've found," said Peter Rabbit.

So Peter Rabbit jumped first, and because his legs are long and
meant for jumping, he jumped way, way over the mossy green log.
Then he turned around and sat up to see Johnny Chuck jump over
the mossy green log, too.

Johnny Chuck tried to jump very high and very far, just as he had
seen Peter Rabbit jump, but Johnny Chuck's legs are very short
and not meant for jumping. Besides, Johnny Chuck was very, very
fat. So though he tried very hard indeed to jump just like Peter
Rabbit, he stubbed his toes on the top of the mossy green log and
over he tumbled, head first, and landed with a great big thump
right on Reddy Fox, who was lying fast asleep on the other side
of the mossy green log.

Peter Rabbit laughed and laughed until he had to hold his sides.

My, how frightened Johnny Chuck was when he saw what he had done!
Before he could get on his feet he had rolled right over behind a
little bush, and there he lay very, very still.

Reddy Fox awoke with a grunt when Johnny Chuck fell on him so
hard, and the first thing he saw was Peter Rabbit laughing so
that he had to hold his sides. Reddy Fox didn't stop to look
around. He thought that Peter Rabbit had jumped on him. Up jumped
Reddy Fox and away ran Peter Rabbit. Away went Reddy Fox after
Peter Rabbit. Peter dodged behind the trees, and jumped over the
bushes, and ran this way and ran that way, just as hard as ever
he could, for Peter Rabbit was very much afraid of Reddy Fox. And
Reddy Fox followed Peter Rabbit behind the trees and over the
bushes this way and that way, but he couldn't catch Peter Rabbit.
Pretty soon Peter Rabbit came to the house of Jimmy Skunk. He
knew that Jimmy Skunk was over in the pasture, so he popped right
in and then he was safe, for the door of Jimmy Skunk's house was
too small for Reddy Fox to squeeze in. Reddy Fox sat down and
waited, but Peter Rabbit didn't come out. By and by Reddy Fox
gave it up and trotted off home where old Mother Fox was waiting
for him.

All this time Johnny Chuck had sat very still, watching Reddy Fox
try to catch Peter Rabbit. And when he saw Peter Rabbit pop into
the house of Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox trot away home, Johnny
Chuck stood up and brushed his little coat very clean and then he
trotted back up the Lone Little Path through the wood to his own
dear little path through the Green Meadows where the Merry Little
Breezes of Old Mother West Wind were still playing, till he was
safe in his own snug little house once more.

CHAPTER X HOW SAMMY JAY WAS FOUND OUT

Sammy Jay was very busy, very busy indeed. When anyone happened
that way Sammy Jay pretended to be doing nothing at all, for
Sammy Jay thought himself a very fine gentleman. He was very
proud of his handsome blue coat with white trimmings and his high
cap, and he would sit on a fence post and make fun of Johnny
Chuck working at a new door for his snug little home in the Green
Meadows, and of Striped Chipmunk storing up heaps of corn and
nuts for the winter, for most of the time Sammy Jay was an idle
fellow. And when Sammy Jay WAS busy, he was pretty sure to be
doing something that he ought not to do, for idle people almost
always get into mischief.

Sammy Jay was in mischief now, and that is why he pretended to be
doing nothing when he thought any one was looking.

Old Mother West Wind had come down from her home behind the
Purple Hills very early that morning. Indeed, jolly, round, red
Mr. Sun had hardly gotten out of bed when she crossed the Green
Meadows on her way to help the big ships across the ocean. Old
Mother West Wind's eyes were sharp, and she saw Sammy Jay before
Sammy Jay saw her.

"Now what can Sammy Jay be so busy about, and why is he so very,
very quiet?" thought Old Mother West Wind. "He must be up to some
mischief."

So when she opened her big bag and turned out all her Merry
Little Breezes to play on the Green Meadows she sent one of them
to see what Sammy Jay was doing in the old chestnut tree. The
Merry Little Breeze danced along over the tree tops just as if he
hadn't a thought in the world but to wake up all the little
leaves and set them to dancing too, and Sammy Jay, watching Old
Mother West Wind and the other Merry Little Breezes, didn't see
this Merry Little Breeze at all.

Pretty soon it danced back to Old Mother West Wind and whispered
in her ear: "Sammy Jay is stealing the nuts Happy Jack Squirrel
had hidden in the hollow of the old chestnut tree, and is hiding
them for himself in the tumble down nest that Blacky the Crow
built in the Great Pine last year." "Aha!" said Old Mother West
Wind. Then she went on across the Green Meadows.

"Good morning, Old Mother West Wind," said Sammy Jay as she
passed the fence post where he was sitting.

"Good morning, Sammy Jay," said Old Mother West Wind. "What
brings you out so early in the morning?"

"I'm out for my health, Old Mother West Wind," said Sammy Jay
politely. "The doctor has ordered me to take a bath in the dew at
sunrise every morning."

Old Mother West Wind said nothing, but went on her way across the
Green Meadows to blow the ships across the ocean. When she had
passed, Sammy Jay hurried to take the last of Happy Jack's nuts to
the old nest in the Great Pine.

Poor Happy Jack! Soon he came dancing along with another nut to
put in the hollow of the old chestnut tree. When he peeped in and
saw that all his big store of nuts had disappeared, he couldn't
believe his own eyes. He put in one paw and felt all around but
not a nut could he feel. Then he climbed in and sure enough, the
hollow was empty.

Poor Happy Jack! There were tears in his eyes when he crept out
again. He looked all around but no one was to be seen but
handsome Sammy Jay, very busy brushing his beautiful blue coat.

"Good morning, Sammy Jay, have you seen any one pass this way?"
asked Happy Jack. "Some one has stolen a store of nuts from the
hollow in the old chestnut tree."

Sammy Jay pretended to feel very badly indeed, and in his
sweetest voice, for his voice was very sweet in those days, he
offered to help Happy Jack try to catch the thief who had stolen
the store of nuts from the hollow in the old chestnut tree.

Together they went down cross the Green Meadows asking every one
whom they met if they had seen the thief who had stolen Happy
Jack's store of nuts from the hollow in the old chestnut tree.
All the Merry Little Breezes joined in the search, and soon every
one who lived in the Green Meadows or in the wood knew that some
one had stolen all of Happy Jack Squirrel's store of nuts from
the hollow in the old chestnut tree. And because every one liked
Happy Jack, every one felt very sorry indeed for him.

The next morning all the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West
Wind were turned out of the big bag into the Green Meadows very
early indeed, for they had a lot of errands to do. All over the
Green Meadows they hurried, all through the wood, up and down the
Laughing Brook and all around the Smiling Pool, inviting
everybody to meet at the Great Pine on the hill at nine o'clock
to form a committee of the whole--to try to find the thief who
stole Happy Jack's nuts from the hollow in the old chestnut tree.

And because every one liked Happy Jack every one went to the
Great Pine on the hill--Reddy Fox, Bobby Coon, Jimmy Skunk
Striped Chipmunk, who is Happy Jack's cousin you know, Billy
Mink, Little Joe Otter, Jerry Muskrat, Hooty the Owl, who was
almost too sleepy to keep his eyes open, Blacky the Crow, Johnny
Chuck, Peter Rabbit, even old Grandfather Frog. Of course Sammy
Jay was there, looking his handsomest.

When they had all gathered around the Great Pine, Old Mother West
Wind pointed to the old nest way up in the top of it. "Is that
your nest?" she asked Blacky the Crow.

"It was, but I gave it to my cousin, Sammy Jay," said Blacky the
Crow.

"Is that your nest, and may I have a stick out of it?" asked Old
Mother West Wind of Sammy Jay.

"It is," said Sammy Jay, with his politest bow, "And you are
welcome to a stick out of it." To himself he thought, "She will
only take one from the top and that won't matter."

Old Mother West Wind suddenly puffed out her cheeks and blew so
hard that she blew a big stick right out of the bottom of the old
nest. Down it fell bumpity-bump on the branches of the Great
Pine. After it fell--what do you think? Why, hickory nuts and
chestnuts and acorns and hazel nuts, such a lot of them!

"Why! Why--e--e!" cried Happy Jack. "There are all my stolen nuts!"

Everybody turned to look at Sammy Jay, but he was flying off
through the wood as fast as he could go. "Stop thief!" cried Old
Mother West Wind. "Stop thief!" cried all the Merry Little Breezes
and Johnny Chuck and Billy Mink and all the rest. But Sammy Jay
didn't stop.

Then all began to pick up the nuts that had fallen from the old
nest where Sammy Jay had hidden them. By and by, with Happy Jack
leading the way, they all marched back to the old chestnut tree
and there Happy Jack stored all the nuts away in his snug little
hollow once more.

And ever since that day, Sammy Jay, whenever he tries to call,
just screams" "Thief!" "Thief!" "Thief!"

CHAPTER XI JERRY MUSKRAT'S PARTY

All the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind were
hurrying over the Green Meadows. Some flew this way and some ran
that way and some danced the other way. You see, Jerry Muskrat had
asked them to carry his invitations to a party at the Big Rock in
the Smiling Pool.

Of course every one said that they would be delighted to go to
Jerry Muskrat's party. Round Mr. Sun shone his very brightest.
The sky was its bluest and the little birds had promised to be
there to sing for Jerry Muskrat, so of course all the little
folks in the Green Meadows and in the wood wanted to go.

There were Johnny Chuck and Reddy Fox and Jimmy Skunk and Bobby
Coon and Happy Jack Squirrel and Striped Chipmunk and Billy Mink
and Little Joe Otter and Grandfather Frog and old Mr. Toad and
Mr. Blacksnake--all going to Jerry Muskrat's party.

When they reached the Smiling Pool they found Jerry Muskrat all
ready. His brothers and his sister, his aunts and his uncles and
his cousins were all there. Such a merry, merry time as there was
in the Smiling Pool! How the water did splash! Billy Mink and
Little Joe Otter and Grandfather Frog jumped right in as soon as
they got there. They played tag in the water and hid behind the
Big Rock. They turned somersaults down the slippery slide and
they had such a good time!

But Reddy Fox and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Coon and Johnny Chuck
and Jimmy Skunk and Happy Jack and Striped Chipmunk couldn't
swim, so of course they couldn't play tag in the water or hide
and seek or go down the slippery slide; all they could do was sit
around to look on and wish that they knew how to swim, too. So of
course they didn't have a good time. Soon they began to wish that
they hadn't come to Jerry Muskrat's party. When he found that
they were not having a good time, poor Jerry Muskrat felt very
badly indeed. You see he lives in the water so much that he had
quite forgotten that there was anyone who couldn't swim, or he
never, never would have invited all the little meadow folks who
live on dry land.

"Let's go home," said Peter Rabbit to Johnny Chuck.

"We can have more fun up on the hill," said Jimmy Skunk.

Just then Little Joe Otter came pushing a great big log across
the Smiling Pool.

"Here's a ship, Bobby Coon. You get on one end and I'll give you
a sail across the Smiling Pool," shouted Little Joe Otter.

So Bobby Coon crawled out on the big log and held on very tight,
while little Joe Otter swam behind and pushed the big log. Across
the Smiling Pool they went and back again. Bobby Coon had such a
good ride that he wanted to go again, but Jimmy Skunk wanted a
ride. So Bobby Coon hopped off of the big log and Jimmy Skunk
hopped on and away he went across the Smiling Pool with little
Joe Otter pushing behind.

Then Jerry Muskrat found another log and gave Peter Rabbit a
ride. Jerry Muskrat's brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles
and cousins found logs and took Reddy Fox and Johnny Chuck and
even Mr. Toad back and forth across the Smiling Pool.

Happy Jack Squirrel sat up very straight on the end of his log
and spread his great bushy tail for a sail. All the little
Breezes blew and blew and Happy Jack Squirrel sailed round and
round the Smiling Pool.

Sometimes someone would fall off into the water and get wet, but
Jerry Muskrat or Billy Mink always pulled them out again, and no
one cared the tiniest bit for a wetting.

In the bushes around the Smiling Pool the little birds sang and
sang. Reddy Fox barked his loudest. Happy Jack Squirrel chattered
and chir--r--r--ed. All the muskrats squealed and squeaked, for
Jerry Muskrat's party was such fun!

By and by when Mr. Sun went down behind the Purple Hills to his
home and Old Mother West Wind with all her Merry Little Breezes
went after him, and the little stars came out to twinkle and
twinkle, the Smiling Pool lay all quiet and still, but smiling
and smiling to think what a good time every one had had at Jerry
Muskrat's party.

CHAPTER XII BOBBY COON AND REDDY FOX PLAY TRICKS

It was night. All the little stars were looking down and
twinkling and twinkling. Mother Moon was doing her best to make
the Green Meadows as light as Mr. Sun did in the daytime. All the
little birds except Hooty the Owl and Boomer the Night Hawk, and
noisy Mr. Whip-poor-will were fast asleep in their little nests.
Old Mother West Wind's Merry Little Breezes had all gone to
sleep, too. It was oh so still! Indeed it was so very still that
Bobby Coon, coming down the Lone Little Path through the wood,
began to talk to himself.

"I don't see what people want to play all day and sleep all night
for," said Bobby Coon. "Night's the best time to be about. Now
Reddy Fox--"

"Be careful what you say about Reddy Fox," said a voice right
behind Bobby Coon.

Bobby Coon turned around very quickly indeed, for he had thought
he was all alone. There was Reddy Fox himself, trotting down the
Lone Little Path through the wood.

"I thought you were home and fast asleep, Reddy Fox," said Bobby
Coon.

"You were mistaken," said Reddy Fox. "For you see I'm out to take
a walk in the moonlight."

So Bobby Coon and Reddy Fox walked together down the Lone Little
Path through the wood to the Green Meadows. They met Jimmy Skunk,
who had dreamed that there were a lot of beetles up on the hill,
and was just going to climb the Crooked Little Path to see.

"Hello, Jimmy Skunk!" said Bobby Coon and Reddy Fox. "Come down
to the Green Meadows with us."

Jimmy Skunk said he would, so they all went down on the Green
Meadows together, Bobby Coon first, Reddy Fox next and Jimmy
Skunk last of all, for Jimmy Skunk never hurries. Pretty soon
they came to the house of Johnny Chuck.

"Listen," said Bobby Coon. "Johnny Chuck is fast asleep."

They all listened and they could hear Johnny Chuck snoring away
down in his snug little bed.

"Let's give Johnny Chuck a surprise," said Reddy Fox.

"What shall it be?" asked Bobby Coon.

"I know," said Reddy Fox. "Let's roll that big stone right over
Johnny Chuck's doorway; then he'll have to dig his way out in the
morning."

So Bobby Coon and Reddy Fox pulled and tugged and tugged and
pulled at the big stone till they had rolled it over Johnny
Chuck's doorway. Jimmy Skunk pretended not to see what they were
doing.

"Now let's go down to the Laughing Brook and wake up old
Grandfather Frog and hear him say 'Chug-a-rum,'" said Bobby Coon.

"Come on!" cried Reddy Fox, "I'll get there first!"

Away raced Reddy Fox down the Lone Little Path and after him ran
Bobby Coon, going to wake old Grandfather Frog from a nice
comfortable sleep on his green lily pad.

But Jimmy Skunk didn't go. He watched Reddy Fox and Bobby Coon
until they were nearly to the Laughing Brook. Then he began to
dig at one side of the big stone which filled the doorway of
Johnny Chuck's house. My, how he made the dirt fly! Pretty soon
he had made a hole big enough to call through to Johnny Chuck,
who was snoring away, fast asleep in his snug little bed below.

"Johnny Chuck, Chuck, Chuck! Johnny Woodchuck!" called Jimmy
Skunk.

But Johnny Chuck just snored.

"Johnny Chuck, Chuck, Chuck! Johnny Woodchuck!" called Jimmy
Skunk once more.

But Johnny Chuck just snored. Then Jimmy Skunk called again, this
time louder than before.

"Who is it?" asked a very sleepy voice.

"It's Jimmy Skunk. Put your coat on and come up here!" called
Jimmy Skunk.

"Go away, Jimmy Skunk. I want to sleep!" said Johnny Chuck.

"I've got a surprise for you, Johnny Chuck. You'd better come!"
called Jimmy Skunk through the little hole he had made. When
Johnny Chuck heard that Jimmy Skunk had a surprise for him he
wanted to know right away what it could be, so though he was
very, very sleepy, he put on his coat and started up for his door
to see what the surprise was that Jimmy Skunk had. And there he
found the big stone Reddy Fox and Bobby Coon had put there, and
of course he was very much surprised indeed. He thought Jimmy
Skunk had played him a mean trick and for a few minutes he was
very mad. But Jimmy Skunk soon told him who had filled up his
doorway with the big stone.

"Now you push from that side, Johnny Chuck, and I'll pull from
this side, and we'll soon have this big stone out of your
doorway," said Jimmy Skunk.

So Johnny Chuck pushed and Jimmy Skunk pulled, and sure enough
they soon had the big stone out of Johnny Chuck's doorway.

"Now," said Jimmy Skunk, "we'll roll this big stone down the Lone
Little Path to Reddy Fox's house and we'll give Reddy Fox a
surprise."

So Johnny Chuck and Jimmy Skunk tugged and pulled and rolled the
big stone down to the house of Reddy Fox, and sure enough, it
filled his doorway.

"Good night, Jimmy Skunk," said Johnny Chuck, and trotted down
the Lone Little Path toward home, chuckling to himself all the
way.

Jimmy Skunk walked slowly up the Lone Little Path to the wood,
for Jimmy Skunk never hurries. Pretty soon he came to the big
hollow tree where Bobby Coon lives, and there he met Hooty the
Owl.

"Hello, Jimmy Skunk, where have you been?" asked Hooty the Owl.

"Just for a walk," said Jimmy Skunk. "Who lives in this big
hollow tree?"

Now of course Jimmy Skunk knew all the time, but he pretended he
didn't.

"Oh, this is Bobby Coon's house," said Hooty the Owl.

"Let's give Bobby Coon a surprise," said Jimmy Skunk.

"How?" asked Hooty the Owl.

"We'll fill his house full of sticks and leaves," said Jimmy
Skunk.

Hooty the Owl thought that would be a good joke so while Jimmy
Skunk gathered all the old sticks and leaves he could find, Hooty
the Owl stuffed them into the old hollow tree which was Bobby
Coon's house, until he couldn't get in another one.

"Good night," said Jimmy Skunk as he began to climb the Crooked
Little Path up the hill to his own snug little home.

"Good night," said Hooty the Owl, as he flew like a big soft
shadow over to the Great Pine.

By and by when old Mother Moon was just going to bed and all the
little stars were too sleepy to twinkle any longer, Reddy Fox and
Bobby Coon, very tired and very wet from playing in the Laughing
Brook, came up the Lone Little Path, ready to tumble into their
snug little beds. They were chuckling over the trick they had
played on Johnny Chuck, and the way they had waked up old
Grandfather Frog, and all the other mischief they had done. What
do you suppose they said when they reached their homes and found
that someone else had been playing jokes, too?

I'm sure I don't know, but round, red Mr. Sun was laughing very
hard as he peeped over the hill at Reddy Fox and Bobby Coon, and
he won't tell why.

CHAPTER XIII JOHNNY CHUCK FINDS THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD

Old Mother West Wind had stopped to talk with the Slender Fir
Tree.

"I've just come across the Green Meadows," said Old Mother West
Wind, "and there I saw the Best Thing in the World."

Striped Chipmunk was sitting under the Slender Fir Tree and he
couldn't help hearing what Old Mother West Wind said. "The Best
Thing in the World--now what can that be?" thought Striped
Chipmunk. "Why, it must be heaps and heaps of nuts and acorns!
I'll go and find it."

So Striped Chipmunk started down the Lone Little Path through
the wood as fast as he could run. Pretty soon he met Peter
Rabbit.

"Where are you going in such a hurry, Striped Chipmunk?" asked
Peter Rabbit.

"Down in the Green Meadows to find the Best Thing in the World,"
replied Striped Chipmunk, and ran faster.

"The Best Thing in the World," said Peter Rabbit. "Why, that must
be great piles of carrots and cabbage! I think I'll go and find
it."

So Peter Rabbit started down the Lone Little Path through the
wood as fast as he could go after Striped Chipmunk.

As they passed the great hollow tree Bobby Coon put his head out.
"Where are you going in such a hurry?" asked Bobby Coon.

"Down in the Green Meadows to find the Best Thing in the World!"
shouted Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit, and both began to run
faster.

"The Best Thing in the World," said Bobby Coon to himself. "Why,
that must be a whole field of sweet milky corn. I think I'll go
and find it."

So Bobby Coon climbed down out of the great hollow tree and
started down the Lone Little Path through the wood as fast as he
could go after Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit, for there is
nothing that Bobby Coon likes to eat so well as sweet milky corn.

At the edge of the wood they met Jimmy Skunk.

"Where are you going in such a hurry?" asked Jimmy Skunk.

"Down in the Green Meadows to find the Best Thing in the World!"
shouted Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Coon. Then
they all tried to run faster.

"The Best Thing in the World," said Jimmy Skunk. "Why, that must
be packs and packs of beetles!" And for once in his life Jimmy
Skunk began to hurry down the Lone Little Path after Striped
Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Coon.

They were all running so fast that they didn't see Reddy Fox
until he jumped out of the long grass and asked: "Where are you
going in such a hurry?"

"To find the Best Thing in the World!" shouted Striped Chipmunk
and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Coon and Jimmy Skunk, and each did his
best to run faster.

"The Best Thing in the World," said Reddy Fox to himself. "Why,
that must be a whole pen full of tender young chickens, and I
must have them."

So away went Reddy Fox as fast as he could run down the Lone
Little Path after Striped Chipmunk, Peter Rabbit, Bobby Coon and
Jimmy Skunk.

By and by they all came to the house of Johnny Chuck.

"Where are you going in such a hurry?" asked Johnny Chuck.

"To find the Best Thing in the World," shouted Striped Chipmunk
and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Coon and Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox.

"The Best Thing in the World," said Johnny Chuck. "Why, I don't
know of anything better than my own little home and the warm
sunshine and the beautiful blue sky."

So Johnny Chuck stayed at home and played all day among the
flowers with the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind and
was as happy as could be.

But all day long Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Coon
and Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox ran this way and ran that way over
the Green Meadows trying to find the Best Thing in the World. The
sun was very, very warm and they ran so far and they ran so fast
that they were very, very hot and tired, and still they hadn't
found the Best Thing in the World.

When the long day was over they started up the Lone Little Path
past Johnny Chuck's house to their own homes. They didn't hurry
now for they were so very, very tired! And they were cross--oh so
cross! Striped Chipmunk hadn't found a single nut. Peter Rabbit
hadn't found so much as the leaf of a cabbage. Bobby Coon hadn't
found the tiniest bit of sweet milky corn. Jimmy Skunk hadn't
seen a single beetle. Reddy Fox hadn't heard so much as the peep
of a chicken. And all were as hungry as hungry could be.

Half way up the Lone Little Path they met Old Mother West Wind
going to her home behind the hill. "Did you find the Best Thing
in the World?" asked Old Mother West Wind.

"NO!" shouted Striped Chipmunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Coon
and Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox all together.

"Johnny Chuck has it," said Old Mother West Wind. "It is being
happy with the things you have and not wanting things which some
one else has. And it is called Con-tent-ment."

CHAPTER XIV LITTLE JOE OTTER'S SLIPPERY SLIDE

Little Joe Otter and Billy Mink had been playing together around
the Smiling Pool all one sunshiny morning. They had been fishing
and had taken home a fine dinner of Trout for old Grandfather
Mink and blind old Granny Otter. They had played tag with the
Merry Little Breezes. They had been in all kinds of mischief and
now they just didn't know what to do.

They were sitting side by side on the Big Rock trying to push
each other off into the Smiling Pool. Round, smiling red Mr. Sun
made the Green Meadows very warm indeed, and Reddy Fox, over in
the tall grass, heard them splashing and shouting and having such
a good time that he wished he liked the nice cool water and could
swim, too.

"I've thought of something!" cried Little Joe Otter.

"What is it?" asked Billy Mink.

Little Joe Otter just looked wise and said nothing.

"Something to eat?" asked Billy Mink.

"No," said Little Joe Otter.

"I don't believe you've a thought of anything at all," said Billy
Mink.

"I have too!" said Little Joe Otter. "It's something to do."

"What?" demanded Billy Mink.

Just then Little Joe Otter spied Jerry Muskrat. "Hi, Jerry
Muskrat! Come over here!" he called.

Jerry Muskrat swam across to the Big Rock and climbed up beside
Billy Mink and Little Joe Otter.

"What are you fellows doing?" asked Jerry Muskrat.

"Having some fun," said Billy Mink. "Little Joe Otter has thought
of something to do, but I don't know what it is."

"Let's make a slide," cried Little Joe Otter.

"You show us how," said Billy Mink.

So Little Joe Otter found a nice smooth place on the bank, and
Billy Mink and Jerry Muskrat brought mud and helped him pat it
down smooth until they had the loveliest slippery slide in the
world. Then Little Joe Otter climbed up the bank to the top of
the slippery slide and lay down flat on his stomach. Billy Mink
gave a push and away he went down, down the slippery slide,
splash into the Smiling Pool. Then Jerry Muskrat tried it and
after him Billy Mink. Then all did it over again. Sometimes they
went down the slippery slide on their backs, sometimes flat on
their stomachs, sometimes head first, sometimes feet first. Oh
such fun as they did have! Even Grandfather Frog came over and
tried the slippery slide.

Johnny Chuck, over in the Green Meadows, heard the noise and
stole down the Lone Little Path to see. Jimmy Skunk, looking for
beetles up on the hill, heard the noise and forgot that he hadn't
had his breakfast. Reddy Fox, taking a nap, woke up and hurried
over to watch the fun. Last of all came Peter Rabbit.

Little Joe Otter saw him coming. "Hello, Peter Rabbit!" he
shouted. "Come and try the slippery slide."

Now Peter Rabbit couldn't swim, but he pretended that he didn't
want to.

"I've left my bathing suit at home," said Peter Rabbit.

"Never mind," said Billy Mink. "Mr. Sun will dry you off."

"And we'll help," said all the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother
West Wind.

But Peter Rabbit shook his head and said, "No."

Faster and faster went Billy Mink and Little Joe Otter and Jerry
Muskrat and old Grandfather Frog down the slippery slide into the
Smiling Pool.

Peter Rabbit kept coming nearer and nearer until finally he stood
right at the top of the slippery slide. Billy Mink crept up
behind him very softly and gave him a push. Peter Rabbit's long
legs flew out from under him and down he sat with a thump on the
slippery slide. "Oh," cried Peter Rabbit, and tried to stop
himself. But he couldn't do it and so away he went down the
slippery slide, splash into the Smiling Pool.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Billy Mink.

"Ho! ho! ho!" shouted Little Joe Otter.

"He! he! he!" laughed Jerry Muskrat and old Grandfather Frog and
Sammy Jay and Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox and Blacky the Crow and
Mr. Kingfisher, for you know Peter Rabbit was forever playing
jokes on them.

Poor Peter Rabbit! The water got in his eyes and up his nose and
into his mouth and made him choke and splutter, and then he
couldn't get back on the bank, for you know Peter Rabbit couldn't
swim.

When Little Joe Otter saw what a dreadful time Peter Rabbit was
having he dove into the Smiling Pool and took hold of one of
Peter Rabbit's long ears. Billy Mink swam out and took hold of
the other long ear. Jerry Muskrat swam right under Peter Rabbit
and took him on his back. Then with old Grandfather Frog swimming
ahead they took Peter Rabbit right across the Smiling Pool and
pulled him out on the grassy bank, where it was nice and warm.
All the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind came over
and helped Mr. Sun dry Peter Rabbit off.

Then they all sat down together and watched Little Joe Otter turn
a somersault down the slippery slide.

CHAPTER XV THE TAIL OF TOMMY TROUT WHO DID NOT MIND

In the Laughing Brook, which rippled and sings all day long,
lived Mr. Trout and Mrs. Trout, and a whole lot of little Trouts.
There were so many little Trouts that Mr. Trout and Mrs. Trout
were kept very busy indeed getting breakfast and dinner and
supper for them, and watching out for them and teaching them how
to swim and how to catch foolish little flies that sometimes fell
on the water and how to keep out of the way of big hungry fish
and sharp eyed Mr. Kingfisher and big men and little boys who
came fishing with hooks and lines.

Now all the little Trouts were very, very good and minded just
what Mrs. Trout told them--all but Tommy Trout, for Tommy Trout--
oh, dear, dear! Tommy Trout never could mind right away. He
always had to wait a little instead of minding when he was spoken
to.

Tommy Trout didn't mean to be bad. Oh dear, no! He just wanted to
have his own way, and because Tommy Trout had his own way and
didn't mind Mrs. Trout there isn't any Tommy Trout now. No sir,
there isn't as much as one little blue spot of his beautiful
little coat left because--why, just because Tommy Trout didn't
mind.

One day when round, red Mr. Sun was shining and the Laughing
Brook was singing on its way to join the Big River, Mrs. Trout
started to get some nice plump flies for dinner. All the little
Trouts were playing in their dear little pool, safe behind the
Big Rock. Before she started Mrs. Trout called all the little
Trouts around her and told them not to leave their little pool
while she was gone, "For," said she, "something dreadful might
happen to you."

All the little Trouts, except Tommy Trout, promised that they
would surely, surely stay inside their dear little pool. Then
they all began to jump and chase each other and play as happy as
could be, all but Tommy Trout.

As soon as Mrs. Trout had started, Tommy Trout swam off by
himself to the edge of the pool. "I wonder what is on the other
side of the Big Rock," said Tommy Trout. "The sun is shining and
the brook is laughing and nothing could happen if I go just a
little speck of a ways."

So, when no one was looking, Tommy Trout slipped out of the safe
little pool where all the other little Trouts were playing. He
swam just a little speck of a ways farther still. Now he could
see almost around the Big Rock. Then he swam just a little speck
of a ways farther and--oh dear, dear! he looked right into the
mouth of a great big, big fish called Mr. Pickerel, who is very
fond of little Trouts and would like to eat one for breakfast
every day.

"Ah ha!" said Mr. Pickerel, opening his big, big mouth very, very
wide.

Tommy Trout turned to run back to the dear, dear safe little pool
where all the other little Trouts were playing so happily, but he
was too late. Into that great big, big mouth he went instead, and
Mr. Pickerel swallowed him whole.

"Ah ha," said Mr. Pickerel, "I like little Trouts."

And nothing more was ever heard of Tommy Trout, who didn't mind.

CHAPTER XVI SPOTTY THE TURTLE WINS A RACE

All the little people who live on the Green Meadows and in the
Smiling Pool and along the Laughing Brook were to have a holiday.
The Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind had been very
busy, oh very busy indeed, in sending word to all the little
meadow folks. You see, Peter Rabbit had been boasting of how fast
he could run. Reddy Fox was quite sure that he could run faster
than Peter Rabbit. Billy Mink, who can move so quickly you hardly
can see him, was quite sure that neither Peter Rabbit nor Reddy
Fox could run as fast as he. They all met one day beside the
Smiling Pool and agreed that old Grandfather Frog should decide
who was the swiftest.

Now Grandfather Frog was accounted very wise. You see he had
lived a long time, oh, very much longer than any of the others,
and therefore, because of the wisdom of age, Grandfather Frog was
always called on to decide all disputes. He sat on his green
lily-pad while Billy Mink sat on the Big Rock, and Peter Rabbit
and Reddy Fox sat on the bank. Each in turn told why he thought
he was the fastest. Old Grandfather Frog listened and listened
and said never a word until they were all through. When they had
finished, he stopped to catch a foolish green fly and then he
said: "The best way to decide who is the swiftest is to have a
race."

So it was agreed that Peter Rabbit and Reddy Fox and Billy Mink
should start together from the old butternut tree on one edge of
the Green Meadows, race away across the Green Meadows to the
little hill on the other side and each bring back a nut from the
big hickory which grew there. The one who first reached the old
butternut tree with a hickory nut would be declared the winner.
The Merry Little Breezes flew about over the Green Meadows
telling everyone about the race and everyone planned to be
there.

It was a beautiful summer day. Mr. Sun smiled and smiled, and the
more he smiled the warmer it grew. Everyone was there to see the
race--Striped Chipmunk, Happy Jack Squirrel, Sammy Jay, Blacky the
Crow, Hooty the Owl and Bobby Coon all sat up in the old
butternut tree where it was cool and shady. Johnny Chuck, Jerry
Muskrat, Jimmy Skunk, Little Joe Otter, Grandfather Frog and even
old Mr. Toad, were there. Last of all came Spotty the Turtle. Now
Spotty the Turtle is a very slow walker, and he cannot run at
all. When Peter Rabbit saw him coming up towards the old butternut
tree he shouted: "Come, Spotty, don't you want to race with us?"

Everybody laughed because you know Spotty is so very, very slow
but Spotty didn't laugh and he didn't get cross because everyone
else laughed.

"There is a wise old saying, Peter Rabbit," said Spotty the
Turtle, "which shows that those who run fastest do not always
reach a place first. I think I WILL enter this race."

Every one thought that that was the best joke they had heard for
a long time, and all laughed harder than ever. They all agreed
that Spotty the Turtle should start in the race too.

So they all stood in a row, Peter Rabbit first, the Billy Mink,
then Reddy Fox, and right side of Reddy Fox Spotty the Turtle.

"Are you ready?" asked Grandfather Frog. "Go!"

Away went Peter Rabbit with great big jumps. After him went Billy
Mink so fast that was just a little brown streak going through
the tall grass, and side by side with him ran Reddy Fox. Now just
as they started Spotty the Turtle reached up and grabbed the long
hair on the end of Reddy's big tail. Of course Reddy couldn't
have stopped to shake him off, because Peter Rabbit and Billy
Mink were running so fast that he had to run his very best to
keep up with them. But he didn't even know that Spotty the Turtle
was there. You see Spotty is not very heavy and Reddy Fox was so
excited that he did not notice that his big tail was heavier than
usual.

The Merry Little Breezes flew along, too, to see that the race
was fair. Peter Rabbit went with great big jumps. Whenever he
came to a little bush he jumped right over it, for Peter Rabbit's
legs are long and meant for jumping. Billy Mink is so slim that
he slipped between the bushes and through the long grass like a
little brown streak. Reddy Fox, who is bigger than either Peter
Rabbit or Billy Mink, had no trouble in keeping up with them. Not
one of them noticed that Spotty the Turtle was hanging fast to
the end of Reddy's tail.

Now just at the foot of the little hill on which the big hickory
tree grew was a little pond. It wasn't very wide but it was quite
long. Billy Mink remembered this pond and he chuckled to himself
as he raced along, for he knew that Peter Rabbit couldn't swim
and he knew that Reddy Fox does not like the water, so therefore
both would have to run around it. He himself can swim even faster
than he can run. The more he thought of this, the more foolish it
seemed that he should hurry so on such a warm day. "For," said
Billy Mink to himself, "even if they reach the pond first, they
will have to run around it, while I can swim across it and cool
off while I am swimming. I will surely get there first." So Billy
Mink ran slower and slower, and pretty soon he had dropped
behind.

Mr. Sun, round and red, looking down, smiled and smiled to see
the race. The more he smiled the warmer it grew. Now, Peter Rabbit
had a thick gray coat and Reddy Fox had a thick red coat, and
they both began to get very, very warm. Peter Rabbit did not make
such long jumps as when he first started. Reddy Fox began to feel
very thirsty, and his tongue hung out. Now that Billy Mink was
behind them they thought they did not need to hurry so.

Peter Rabbit reached the little pond first. He had not thought of
that pond when he agreed to enter the race. He stopped right on
the edge of it and sat up on his hind legs. Right across he could
see the big hickory tree, so near and yet so far, for he knew
that he must run around the pond then back again, and it was a
long, long way. In just a moment Reddy Fox ran out of the bushes
and Reddy felt much as Peter Rabbit did. Way, way behind them was
Billy Mink, trotting along comfortably and chuckling to himself.
Peter Rabbit looked at Reddy Fox in dismay, and Reddy Fox looked
at Peter Rabbit in dismay. Then they both looked at Billy Mink
and remembered that Billy Mink could swim right across.

Then off Peter Rabbit started as fast as he could go around the
pond one way, and Reddy Fox started around the pond the other
way. They were so excited that neither noticed a little splash in
the pond. That was Spotty the Turtle who had let go of Reddy's
tail and now was swimming across the pond, for you know that Spotty
is a splendid swimmer. Only once or twice he stuck his little
black nose up to get some air. The rest of the time he swam under
water and no one but the Merry Little Breezes saw him. Right
across he swam, and climbed up the bank right under the big
hickory tree.

Now there were just three nuts left under the hickory trees. Two
of these Spotty took down to the edge of the pond and buried in
the mud. The other he took in his mouth and started back across
the pond. Just as he reached the other shore up trotted Billy
Mink, but Billy Mink didn't see Spotty. He was too intent
watching Reddy Fox and Peter Rabbit, who were now half way around
the pond. In he jumped with a splash. My! How good that cool
water did feel! He didn't have to hurry now, because he felt sure
that the race was his. So he swam round and round and chased some
fish and had a beautiful time in the water. By and by he looked
up and saw that Peter Rabbit was almost around the pond one way
and Reddy Fox was almost around the pond the other way. They both
looked tired and hot and discouraged.

Then Billy Mink swam slowly across and climbed out on the bank
under the big hickory tree. But where were the nuts? Look as he
would, he could not see a nut anywhere, yet the Merry Little
Breezes had said there were three nuts lying under the hickory
tree. Billy Mink ran this way and ran that way. He was still
running around, poking over the leaves and looking under the
twigs and pieces of bark when Peter Rabbit and Reddy Fox came up.

Then they, too, began to look under the leaves and under the
bark. They pawed around in the grass, they hunted in every nook
and cranny, but not a nut could they find. They were tired and
cross and hot and they accused Billy Mink of having hidden the
nuts. Billy Mink stoutly insisted that he had not hidden the
nuts, that he had not found the nuts, and when they saw how hard
he was hunting they believed him.

All the afternoon they hunted and hunted and hunted, and all the
afternoon Spotty the Turtle, with the nut in his mouth, was
slowly, oh, so slowly, crawling straight back across the Green
Meadows towards the old butternut tree. Round, red Mr. Sun was
getting very close to the Purple Hills, where he goes to bed every
night, and all the little meadow folks were getting ready to go
to their homes. They were wondering and wondering what could have
happened to the racers, when Sammy Jay spied the Merry Little
Breezes dancing across the Green Meadows.

"Here come the Merry Little Breezes; they'll tell us who wins the
race," cried Sammy Jay.

When the Merry Little Breezes reached the old butternut tree, all
the little meadow folks crowded around them, but the Merry Little
Breezes just laughed and laughed and wouldn't say a word. Then
all of a sudden, out of the tall meadow grass crept Spotty the
Turtle and laid the hickory nut at the feet of old Grandfather
Frog. Old Grandfather Frog was so surprised that he actually let
a great green fly buzz right past his nose.

"Where did you get that hickory nut?" asked Grandfather Frog.

"Under the big hickory tree on the hill on the other side of the
Green Meadows," said Spotty.

Then all the Merry Little Breezes clapped their hands and
shouted: "He did! He did! Spotty wins the race!"

Then they told how Spotty reached the pond by clinging to the tip
of Reddy Fox's tail, and had hidden the other two nuts, and then
how he had patiently crawled home while Billy Mink and Reddy Fox
and Peter Rabbit were hunting and hunting and hunting for the
nuts they could not find.

And so Spotty the Turtle was awarded the race, and to this day
Peter Rabbit and Reddy Fox and Billy Mink can't bear the sight of
a hickory nut.

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