Part 2 out of 5
"That haymaking is a pretty good idea of Little Chief's," remarked
Peter Rabbit, scratching a long ear with a long hind foot. "I've
a great mind to try it myself."
Everybody laughed right out, for everybody knew just how easy-going
and thriftless Peter was. Peter himself grinned. He couldn't
"That would be a very good idea, Peter," said Old Mother Nature.
"By the way, there is another haymaker out in those same great
mountains of the Far West."
"Who?" demanded Peter and Johnny Chuck and Happy Jack Squirrel,
all in the same breath.
"Stubtail the Mountain Beaver," declared Peter promptly. "I
suppose Stubtail is his cousin."
Old Mother Nature shook her head. "No," said she. "No. Stubtail
and Paddy are no more closely related than the rest of you. Stubtail
isn't a Beaver at all. His proper name is Sewellel. Sometimes he
is called Showt'l and sometimes the Boomer, and sometimes the
Chehalis, but most folks call him the Mountain Beaver."
"Is it because he looks like Paddy the Beaver?" Striped Chipmunk asked.
"No," replied Old Mother Nature. "He looks more like Jerry Muskrat
than he does like Paddy. He is about Jerry's size and looks very
much as Jerry would if he had no tail."
"Hasn't he any tail at all?" asked Peter.
"Yes, he has a little tail, a little stub of a tail, but it is so
small that to look at him you would think he hadn't any," replied
Old Mother Nature. "He is found out in the same mountains of the
Far West where Whistler and Little Chief live, but instead of
living way up high among the rocks he is at home down in the valleys
where the ground is soft and the trees grow thickly. Stubtail has
no use for rocks. He wants soft, wet ground where he can tunnel
and tunnel to his heart's content. In one thing Stubtail is very
like Yap Yap the Prairie Dog."
"What is that?" asked Johnny Chuck quickly, for, you know, Yap Yap
is Johnny's cousin.
"In his social habits," replied Old Mother Nature. "Stubtail isn't
fond of living alone. He wants company of his own kind. So wherever
you find Stubtail you are likely to find many of his family. They
like to go visiting back and forth. They make little paths between
their homes and all about through the thick ferns, and they keep
these little paths free and clear, so that they may run along them
easily. Some of these little paths lead into long tunnels. These
are made for safety. Usually the ground is so wet that there will
be water running in the bottoms of these little tunnels."
"What kind of a house does Stubtail have?" inquired Johnny
"A hole in the ground, of course, replied Old Mother Nature. "It
is dug where the ground is drier than where the runways are made.
Mrs. Stubtail makes a nest of dried ferns and close by they build
two or three storehouses, for Stubtail and Mrs. Stubtail are
"I suppose he fills them with hay, for you said he is a haymaker,"
remarked Happy Jack Squirrel, who is always interested in storehouses.
"Yes," replied Old Mother Nature, "he puts hay in them. He cuts
grasses, ferns, pea-vines and other green plants and carries them
in little bundles to the entrance to his tunnel. There he piles
them on sticks so as to keep them off he damp ground and so that
the air can help dry them out. When they are dry, he takes them
inside and stores them away. He also stores other things. He likes
the roots of ferns. He cuts tender, young twigs from bushes and
stores away some of these. He is fond of bark. In winter he is
quite as active as in summer and tunnels about under the snow.
Then he sometimes has Peter Rabbit's bad habit of killing trees
by gnawing bark all around as high up as he can reach."
"Can he climb trees?" asked Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"Just about as much as Johnny Chuck can," replied Old Mother Nature.
"Sometimes he climbs up in low bushes or in small, low-branching
trees to cut off tender shoots, but he doesn't do much of this sort
of thing. His home is the ground. He is most active at night, but
where undisturbed, is out more or less during the day. When he wants
to cut off a twig he sits up like a Squirrel and holds the twig in
his hands while he bites it off with his sharp teeth."
"You didn't tell us what color his coat is," said Peter Rabbit.
"I told you he looked very much like Jerry Muskrat," replied Old
Mother Nature. "His coat is brown, much the color of Jerry's, but
his fur is not nearly so soft and fine."
"I suppose he has enemies just as the rest of us little people have,"
"Of course," replied Old Mother Nature. "All little people have
enemies, and most big ones too, for that matter. King Eagle is one
and Yowler the Bob Cat is another. They are always watching for
Stubtail. That is why he digs so many tunnels. He can travel under
the ground then. My goodness, how time flies! Scamper home, all of
you, for I have too much to do to talk any more to-day."
CHAPTER X Prickly Porky and Grubby Gopher
All the way to school the next morning Peter Rabbit wondered who
they would learn about that day. He was so busy wondering that he
was heedless. Peter is apt to be heedless at times. The result
was that as he hopped out of a bramble-tangle just within the edge
of the Green Forest, he all but landed in something worse than the
worst brambles that ever grew. It was only by a wild side jump
that he saved himself. Peter had almost landed among the thousand
little spears of Prickly Porky the Porcupine.
"Gracious!" exclaimed Peter.
"Why don't you look where you are going," grunted Prickly Porky.
Plainly he was rather peevish. "It wouldn't be my fault if you had
a few of my little spears sticking in you this very minute, and it
would serve you right." He waddled along a few steps, then began
talking again. "I don't see why Old Mother Nature sent for me this
morning," he grumbled. "I hate a long walk."
Peter pricked up his long ears. "I know!" he cried. "You're going
to school, Prickly Porky. You're a Rodent, and we are going to
learn all about you this morning."
"I'm not a Rodent; I'm a Porcupine," grunted Prickly Porky indignantly.
"You're a Rodent just the same. You've got big gnawing teeth, and
any one with that kind of teeth is a Rodent," retorted Peter. Then
at a sudden thought a funny look passed over his face. "Why, that
means that you and I are related in a way," he added.
"Don't believe it," grunted Prickly Porky, still shuffling along.
"Don't believe it. Don't want to be related to anybody as
heedless as you. What is this school, anyway? Don't want to go to
school. Know all I want to know. Know how to get all I want to eat
and how to make everybody get out of my way and leave me alone, and
that's enough to know." He rattled the thousand little spears
hidden in his coat, and Peter shivered at the sound. It was a most
"Well, some folks do like to be stupid," snapped Peter and hurried
on, lipperty-lipperty-lip, while Prickly Porky slowly shuffled and
rattled along behind.
All the others were there when Peter arrived. Prickly Porky wasn't
even in sight. Old Mother Nature wasted no time. She has too much
to do ever to waste time. She called the school to order at once.
"Yesterday," she began, "I told you about two little haymakers of
the high mountains of the Far West. Who were they, Peter Rabbit?"
"Little Chief Hare, called the Pika or Cony, and Stubtail the
Mountain Beaver or Sewellel," replied Peter with great promptness.
"Right," said Old Mother Nature. "Now I am going to tell you of
one of my little plowmen who also lives in the Far West but prefers
the great plains to the high mountains, though he is sometimes
found in the latter. He is Grubby the Gopher, a member of the
same order the rest of you belong to, but of a family quite his
own. He is properly called the Pocket Gopher, and way down in
the Southeast, where he is also found, he is called a Salamander,
though what for I haven't the least idea."
"Does he have pockets in his cheeks like mine?" asked Striped
"He has pockets in his cheeks, and that is why he is called Pocket
Gopher," replied Old Mother Nature; "but they are not at all like
yours, Striped Chipmunk. Yours are on the inside of your cheeks,
but his are on the outside."
"How funny!" exclaimed Striped Chipmunk.
"Your pockets are small compared with those of Grubby," continued
Old Mother Nature. "One of his covers almost the whole side of
his head back to his short neck, and it is lined with fur, and
remember he has two of them. Grubby uses these for carrying food
and never for carrying out earth when he is digging a tunnel, as
some folks think he does. He stuffs them full with his front feet
and empties them by pressing them from the back with his feet.
The Gopher family is quite large and the members range in size
from the size of Danny Meadow Mouse to that of Robber the Rat,
only these bigger members are stouter and heavier than Robber.
Some are reddish-brown and some are gray. But whatever his size
and wherever he is found, Grubby's habits are the same."
All this time Peter Rabbit had been fidgeting about. It was quite
clear that Peter had something on his mind. Now as Old Mother
Nature paused, Peter found the chance he had been waiting for.
"If you please, why did you call him a plowman?" he asked eagerly.
"I'm coming to that all in due time," replied Old Mother Nature,
smiling at Peter's eagerness. "Grubby Gopher spends most of his
life underground, very much like Miner the Mole, whom you all
know. He can dig tunnels just about as fast. His legs are short,
and his front legs and feet are very stout and strong. They are
armed with very long, strong claws and it is with these and the
help of his big cutting teeth that Grubby digs. He throws the
earth under him and then kicks it behind him with his hind feet.
When he has quite a pile behind him he turns around, and with his
front feet and head pushes it along to a little side tunnel and
then up to the surface of the ground. As soon as he has it all
out he plugs up the opening and goes back to digging. The loose
earth he has pushed out makes little mounds, and he makes one of
these mounds every few feet.
"Grubby is a great worker. He is very industrious. Since he is
underground, it doesn't make much difference to him whether it be
night or day. In summer, during the hottest part of the day, he
rests. His eyes are small and weak because he has little use for
them, coming out on the surface very seldom and then usually in
the dusk. He has a funny little tail without any hair on it; this
is very sensitive and serves him as a sort of guide when he runs
backward along his tunnel, which he can do quite fast. A funny
thing about those long claws on his front feet is that he folds
them under when he is walking or running. Do any of you know why
Farmer Brown plows his garden?"
As she asked this, Old Mother Nature looked from one to another,
and each in turn shook his head. "It is to mix the dead vegetable
matter thoroughly with the earth so that the roots of the plants
may get it easily," explained Old Mother Nature. "By making those
tunnels in every direction and bringing up the earth below to the
surface, Grubby Gopher does the same thing. That is why I call
him my little plowman. He loosens up the hard, packed earth and
mixes the vegetable matter with it and so makes it easy for seeds
to sprout and plants to grow."
"Then he must be one of the farmer's best friends," spoke up
Happy Jack Squirrel.
Old Mother Nature shook her head. "He has been in the past," said
she. "He has done a wonderful work in helping make the land fit
for farming. But where land is being farmed he is a dreadful
pest, I am sorry to say. You see he eats the crops the farmer
tries to raise, and the new mounds he is all the time throwing up
bury a lot of the young plants, and in the meadows make it very
hard to use a mowing machine for cutting hay. Then Grubby gets
into young orchards and cuts off all the tender roots of young
trees. This kills them. You see he is fond of tender roots,
seeds, stems of grass and grain, and is never happier than when
he can find a field of potatoes.
"Being such a worker, he has to have a great deal to eat. Then,
too, he stores away a great deal for winter, for he doesn't sleep
in winter as Johnny Chuck does. He even tunnels about under the
snow. Sometimes he fills these little snow tunnels with the earth
he brings up from below, and when the snow melts it leaves queer
little earth ridges to show where the tunnels were.
"Grubby is very neat in his habits and keeps his home and himself
very clean. During the day he leaves one of his mounds open for
a little while to let in fresh air. But it is only for a little
while. Then he closes it again. He doesn't dare leave it open
very long, for fear Shadow the Weasel or a certain big Snake called
the Gopher Snake will find it and come in after him. Digger the
Badger is the only one of his enemies who can dig fast enough to
dig him out, but at night, when he likes to come out for a little
air or to cut grain and grass, he must always watch for Hooty the
Owl. Old Man Coyote and members of the Hawk family are always
looking for him by day, so you see he has plenty of enemies, like
the rest of you.
"He got the name Gopher because that comes from a word meaning
honeycomb, and Grubby's tunnels go in every direction until the
ground is like honeycomb. He isn't a bit social and has rather
a mean disposition. He is always ready to fight. On the plains
he has done a great deal to make the soil fine and rich, as I have
already told you, but on hillsides he does a great deal of harm.
The water runs down his tunnels and washes away the soil. Because
of this and the damage he does to crops, man is his greatest
enemy. But man has furnished him with new and splendid foods easy
to get, and so Grubby's family increases faster than it used to,
in spite of traps and poison. Hello! See who's here! It is
There was a shuffling and rattling and grunting, and Prickly
Porky climbed up on an old stump, looking very peevish and much
out of sorts. He had come to school much against his will.
CHAPTER XI A Fellow With a Thousand Spears
"There," said Old Mother Nature, pointing to Prickly Porky the
Porcupine, "is next to the largest member of your order, which is?"
"Order of Rodents," piped up Striped Chipmunk.
"He is not only next to the largest, but is the stupidest," continued
Old Mother Nature. "At least that is what people say of him, though
I suspect he isn't as stupid as he sometimes seems. Anyway, he
manages to keep well fed and escape his enemies, which is more than
can be said for some others who are supposed to have quick wits."
"Escaping his enemies is no credit to him. They are only too glad
to keep out of his way; he doesn't have to fear anybody," said
Chatterer the Red Squirrel to his cousin, Happy Jack.
His remark didn't escape the keen ears of Old Mother Nature. "Are
you sure about that?" she demanded. "Now there's Pekan the Fisher-"
She was interrupted by a great rattling on the old stump. Everybody
turned to look. There was Prickly Porky backing down as fast as he
could, which wasn't fast at all, and rattling his thousand little
spears as he did so. It was really very funny. Everybody had to
laugh, even Old Mother Nature. You see, it was plain that he was
in a great hurry, yet every movement was slow and clumsy.
"Well, Prickly Porky, what does this mean? Where are you going?"
demanded Old Mother Nature.
Prickly Porky turned his dull-looking eyes towards her, and in them
was a troubled, worried look. "Where's Pekan the Fisher?" he asked,
and his voice shook a little with something very much like fear.
Old Mother Nature understood instantly. When she had said, "Now
there's Pekan the Fisher," Prickly Porky had waited to hear no
more. He had instantly thought that she meant that Pekan was
right there somewhere. "It's all right, Prickly Porky," said she.
Pekan isn't anywhere around here, so climb back on that stump and
don't worry. Had you waited for me to finish, you would have saved
yourself a fright. Chatterer had just said that you didn't have
to fear anybody and I was starting to explain that he was wrong,
that despite your thousand little spears you have reason to fear
Pekan the Fisher."
Prickly Porky shivered and this made the thousand little spears in
his coat rattle. It was such a surprising thing to see Prickly Porky
actually afraid that the other little folks almost doubted their own
eyes. "Are you quite sure that Pekan isn't anywhere around?" asked
Prickly Porky, and his voice still shook.
"Quite sure," replied Old Mother Nature. "If he were I wouldn't
allow him to hurt you. You ought to know that. Now sit up so
that every one can get a good look at you."
Prickly Porky sat up, and the others gathered around the foot of
the stump to look at him. "He certainly is no beauty," murmured
Happy Jack Squirrel.
Happy Jack was quite right. He was anything but handsome. The
truth is he was the homeliest, clumsiest-looking fellow in all
the Green Forest. He was a little bigger than Bobby Coon and his
body was thick and heavy-looking. His back humped up like an
arch. His head was rather small for the size of his body, short
and rather round. His neck was even shorter. His eyes were small
and very dull. It was plain that he couldn't see far, or clearly
unless what he was looking at was close at hand. His ears were
small and nearly hidden in hair. His front teeth, the gnawing
teeth which showed him to be a Rodent, were very large and bright
orange. His legs were short and stout. He had four toes on each
front foot and five on each hind foot, and these were armed with
quite long, stout claws.
But the queerest thing and the most interesting thing about Prickly
Porky was his coat. Not one among the other little people of the
Green Forest has a coat anything like his. Most of them have a
soft, short under fur protected and more or less hidden by longer,
coarser hair. Prickly Porky had the long coarse hair and on his
back it was very long and coarse, brownish-black in color up to
the tips, which were white. Under this long hair was some soft
woolly fur, but what that long hair hid chiefly was an array of
wicked-looking little spears called quills. They were white to the
tips, which were dark and very, very sharply pointed. All down the
sides were tiny barbs, so small as hardly to be seen, but there
just the same. On his head the quills were about an inch long,
but on his back they were four inches long, becoming shorter
towards the tail. The latter was rather short, stout, and covered
with short quills.
As he sat there on that old stump some of Prickly Porky's little
spears could be seen peeping out from the long hair on his back,
but they didn't look particularly dangerous. Peter Rabbit
suddenly made a discovery. "Why!" he exclaimed. "He hasn't any
little spears on the under side of him!"
"I wondered who would be the first to notice that," said Old Mother
Nature. "No, Prickly Porky hasn't any little spears underneath,
and Pekan the Fisher has found that out. He knows that if he can
turn Prickly Porky on his back he can kill him without much danger
from those little spears, and he has learned how to do that very
thing. That is why Prickly Porky is afraid of him. Now, Prickly
Porky, climb down off that stump and show these little folks what
you do when an enemy comes near."
Grumbling and growling, Prickly Porky climbed down to the ground.
Then he tucked his head down between his front paws and suddenly
the thousand little spears appeared all over him, pointing in
every direction until he looked like a giant chestnut burr. Then
he began to thrash his tail from side to side.
"What is he doing that for?" asked Johnny Chuck, looking
"Go near enough to be hit by it, and you'll understand," said Old
Mother Nature dryly. "That is his one weapon. Whoever is hit by
that tail will find himself full of those little spears and will
take care never to go near Prickly Porky again. Once those little
spears have entered the skin, they keep working in deeper and
deeper, and more than one of his enemies has been killed by them.
On account of those tiny barbs they are hard to pull out, and
pulling them out hurts dreadfully. Just try one and see."
But no one was anxious to try, so Old Mother Nature paused only a
moment. "You will notice that he moves that tail quickly," she
continued. "It is the only thing about him which is quick. When
he has a chance, in time of danger, he likes to get his head
under a log or rock, instead of putting it between his paws as he
is doing now. Then he plants his feet firmly and waits for a
chance to use that tail."
"Is it true that he can throw those little spears at folks?"
Old Mother Nature shook her head. "There isn't a word of truth in
it," she declared. "That story probably was started by some one
who was hit by his tail, and it was done so quickly that the victim
didn't see the tail move and so thought the little spears were
thrown at him."
"How does he make all those little spears stand up that way?"
asked Jumper the Hare.
"He has a special set of muscles for just that purpose," explained
Old Mother Nature.
"When those quills stick into some one they must pull out of
Prickly Porky's own skin; I should think that would hurt him,"
spoke up Striped Chipmunk.
"Not at all," replied Old Mother Nature. "They are very loosely
fastened in his skin and come out at the least little pull. New
Ones grow to take the place of those he loses. Notice that he
puts his whole foot flat on the ground just as Buster Bear and
Bobby Coon do, and just as those two-legged creatures called men
do. Very few animals do this, and those that do are said to be
plantigrade. Now, Prickly Porky, tell us what you eat and where
you make your home, and that will end today's lesson."
"I eat bark, twigs and leaves mostly," grunted Prickly Porky
ungraciously. "I like hemlock best of all, but also eat poplar,
pine and other trees for a change. Sometimes I stay in a tree for
days until I have stripped it of all its bark and leaves. I don't
see any sense in moving about any more than is necessary."
"But that must kill the tree!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit.
"Well, what of it?" demanded Prickly Porky crossly. "There are
plenty of trees. In summer I like lily pads and always get them
when I can."
"Can you swim?" asked Peter eagerly.
"Of course," grunted Prickly Porky.
"I never see you out on the Green Meadows," said Peter.
"And you never will," retorted Prickly Porky. "The Green Forest
for me every time. Summer or winter, I'm at home there."
"Don't you sleep through the cold weather the way Buster Bear and
I do?" asked Johnny Chuck.
"What should I sleep for?" grumbled Prickly Porky. "Cold weather
doesn't bother me. I like it. I have the Green Forest pretty much
to myself then. I like to be alone. And as long as there are trees,
there is plenty to eat. I sleep a great deal in the daytime because
I like night best."
"What about your home?" asked Happy Jack.
"Home is wherever I happen to be, most of the time, but Mrs. Porky
has a home in a hollow log or a cave or under the roots of a tree
where the babies are born. I guess that's all I've got to tell you."
"You might add that those babies are big for the size of their
mother and have a full supply of quills when they are born," said
Old Mother Nature. "And you forgot to say how fond of salt you
are, and how often this fondness gets you into trouble around the
camps of men. Your fear of Pekan the Fisher we all saw. I might
add that Puma the Panther is to be feared at times, and when he
is very hungry Buster Bear will take a chance on turning you on
your back. By the way, don't any of you call Prickly Porky a
Hedgehog. He isn't any thing of the kind. He is sometimes called
a Quill Pig, but his real name, Porcupine, is best. He has no
near relatives. Tomorrow morning, instead of meeting here, we'll
hold school on the shore of the pond Paddy the Beaver has made.
School is dismissed."
CHAPTER XII A Lumberman and Engineer
Johnny Chuck and Striped Chipmunk were the only ones who were not
on hand at the pond of Paddy the Beaver deep in the Green Forest
at sun-up the next morning. Johnny and Striped Chipmunk were
afraid to go so far from home. To the surprise of everybody,
Prickly Porky was there.
"He must have traveled all night to get here he is such a slow-poke,"
said Peter Rabbit to his cousin, Jumper the Hare.
Peter wasn't far from the truth. But how ever he got there, there
he was, reaching for lily pads from an old log which lay half in
the water, and appearing very well satisfied with life. You know
there is nothing like a good meal of things you like, to make
everything seem just as it should.
Old Mother Nature seated herself on one end of Paddy's dam and
called the school to order. Just as she did so a brown head
popped out of the water close by and a pair of anxious eyes looked
up at Old Mother Nature.
"It is quite all right, Paddy," said she softly. "These little
folks are trying to gain a little knowledge of themselves and
other folks, and we are going to have this morning's lesson right
here because it is to be about you."
Paddy the Beaver no longer looked anxious. There was a sparkle in
his eyes. "May I stay?" he asked eagerly. "If there is a chance
to learn anything I don't want to miss it."
Before Old Mother Nature could reply Peter Rabbit spoke up. "But
the lesson is to be about you and your family. Do you expect to
learn anything about yourself?" he demanded, and chuckled as if he
thought that a great joke.
"It seems to me that some one named Peter learned a great deal about
his own family when he first came to school to me," said Old Mother
Nature. Peter had grace enough to hang his head and look ashamed.
"Of course you may stay, Paddy. In fact, I want you to. There are
some things I shall want you to explain. That is why we are holding
school over here this morning. Just come up here on your dam where
we can all get a good look at you."
Paddy the Beaver climbed out on his dam. It was the first time
Happy Jack Squirrel ever had seen him out of water, and Happy Jack
gave a little gasp of surprise. "I had no idea he is so big!"
"He is the biggest of all the Rodents in this country, and one of
the biggest in all the Great World. Also he is the smartest
member of the whole order," said Old Mother Nature.
"He doesn't look it," said Chatterer the Squirrel with a saucy
jerk of his tail.
"Which means, I suppose, that you haven't the least doubt that you
are quite as smart as he," said Old Mother Nature quietly, and
Chatterer looked both guilty and a little bit ashamed. "I'll admit
that you are smart, Chatterer, but often it is in a wrong way.
Paddy is smart in the very best way. He is a lumberman, builder
and engineer. A lot of my little people are workers, but they are
destructive workers. The busier they are, the more they destroy.
Paddy the Beaver is a constructive worker. That means that he is a
builder instead of a destroyer."
"How about all those trees he cuts down? If that isn't destroying,
I don't know what is!" said Chatterer, and with each word jerked
his tail as if somehow his tongue and tail were connected.
"So it is," replied Old Mother Nature good-naturedly. "But just
think of the number of trees you destroy."
"I never have destroyed a tree in my life!" declared
"Yes, you have," retorted Old Mother Nature.
"I never have!" contradicted Chatterer, quite forgetting to whom
he was speaking.
But Old Mother Nature overlooked this. "I don't suppose you ever
ate a chestnut or a fat hickory nut or a sweet beechnut," said
"Of course," retorted Chatterer sharply. "I've eaten ever and
ever and ever so many of them. What of it?"
In the heart of each one was a little tree, explained Old Mother
Nature. "But for you very many of those little trees would have
sprung up and some day would have made big trees. So you see for
every tree Paddy has destroyed you probably have destroyed a
hundred. You eat the nuts that you may live. Paddy cuts down the
trees that he may live, for the bark of those trees is his food.
Like Prickly Porky he lives chiefly on bark. But, unlike Prickly
Porky, he doesn't destroy a tree for the bark alone. He wastes
nothing. He makes use of every bit of that tree. He does something
for the Green Forest in return for the trees he takes."
Chatterer looked at Happy Jack and blinked in a puzzled way.
Happy Jack looked at Peter Rabbit and blinked. Peter looked at
Jumper the Hare and blinked. Jumper looked at Prickly Porky and
blinked. Then all looked at Paddy the Beaver and finally at Old
Mother Nature, and all blinked. Old Mother Nature chuckled.
"Don't you think the Green Forest is more beautiful because of
this little pond?" she asked. Everybody nodded. "Of course," she
continued. "But there wouldn't be any little pond here were it
not for Paddy and the trees he has cut. He destroyed the trees in
order to make the pond. That is what I meant when I called him a
constructive worker. Now I want you all to take a good look at
Paddy. Then he will show us just how as a lumberman he cuts
trees, as a builder he constructs houses and dams, and as an
engineer he digs canals."
As Paddy sat there on his dam, he looked rather like a giant member
of the Rat family, though his head was more like that of a Squirrel
than a Rat. His body was very thick and heavy, and in color he
was dark brown, lighter underneath than above. Squatting there
on the dam his back was rounded. All together, he was a very
Peter Rabbit appeared to be interested in just one thing, Paddy's
tail. He couldn't keep his eyes off it.
Old Mother Nature noticed this. "Well, Peter," said she, "what
have you on your mind now?"
"That tail," replied Peter. "That's the queerest tail I've ever
seen. I should think it would be heavy and dreadfully in the way."
Old Mother Nature laughed. "If you ask him Paddy will tell you
that that tail is the handiest tail in the Green Forest," said she.
"There isn't another like it in all the Great World, and if you'll
be patient you will see just how handy it is."
It was a queer-looking tail. It was broad and thick and flat, oval
in shape, and covered with scales instead of hair. Just then Jumper
the Hare made a discovery. "Why!" he exclaimed, "Paddy has feet
like Honker the Goose!"
"Only my hind feet," said Paddy. "They have webs between the toes
just as Honker's have. That is for swimming. But there are no
webs between my fingers." He held up a hand for all to see. Sure
enough, the fingers were free.
"Now that everybody has had a good look at you, Paddy," said Old
Mother Nature, "suppose you swim over to where you have been
cutting trees. We will join you there, and then you can show us
just how you work."
Paddy slipped into the water, where for a second or two he floated
with just his head above the surface. Then he quickly raised his
broad, heavy tail and brought it down on the water with a slap that
sounded like the crack of a terrible gun. It was so loud and
unexpected that every one save Old Mother Nature and Prickly Porky
jumped with fright. Peter Rabbit happened to be right on the edge
of the dam and, because he jumped before he had time to think, he
jumped right into the water with a splash. Now Peter doesn't like
the water, as you know, and he scrambled out just as fast as ever
he could. How the others did laugh at him.
"What did he do that for?" demanded Peter indignantly. "To show
you one use he has for that handy tail," replied Old Mother Nature.
"That is the way he gives warning to his friends whenever he
discovers danger. Did you notice how he used his tail to aid him
in swimming? He turns it almost on edge and uses it as a rudder.
Those big, webbed hind feet are the paddles which drive him through
the water. He can stay under water a long time--as much as five
minutes. See, he has just come up now."
Sure enough, Paddy's head had just appeared clear across the pond
almost to the opposite shore, and he was now swimming on the surface.
Old Mother Nature at once led the way around the pond to a small
grove of poplar trees which stood a little way back from the water.
Paddy was already there. "Now," said Old Mother Nature "show us what
kind of a lumberman you are."
Paddy picked out a small tree, sat up much as Happy Jack Squirrel
does, but with his big flat tail on the ground to brace him,
seized the trunk of the tree in both hands, and went to work with
his great orange-colored cutting teeth. He bit out a big chip.
Then another and another. Gradually he worked around the tree.
After a while the tree began to sway and crack. Paddy bit out two
or three more chips, then suddenly slapped the ground with his
tail as a warning and scampered back to a safe distance. He was
taking no chances of being caught under that falling tree.
The tree fell, and at once Paddy returned to work. The smaller
branches he cut off with a single bite at the base of each.
The larger ones required a number of bites. Then he set to work
to cut the trunk up in short logs. At this point Old Mother
"Now show us," said she, "what you do with the logs."
Paddy at once got behind a log, and by pushing, rolled it ahead
of him until at last it fell with a splash in the water of a ditch
or canal which led from near that grove of trees to the pond.
Paddy followed into the water and began to push it ahead of him
towards the pond.
"That will do," spoke up Old Mother Nature. "Come out and show us
how you take the branches."
Obediently Paddy climbed out and returned to the fallen tree. There
he picked up one of the long branches in his mouth, grasping it near
the butt, twisted it over his shoulder and started to drag it to
the canal. When he reached the latter he entered the water and began
swimming, still dragging the branch in the same way. Once more Old
Mother Nature stopped him. "You've shown us how you cut trees and
move them, so now I want you to answer a few questions," said she.
Paddy climbed out and squatted on the bank.
"How did this canal happen to be here handy?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"Why, I dug it, of course," replied Paddy looking surprised. "You
see, I'm rather slow and clumsy on land, and don't like to be far
from water. Those trees are pretty well back from the pond, so I
dug this canal, which brings the water almost to them. It makes
it safer for me in case Old Man Coyote or Buster Bear or Yowler the
Bobcat happens to be looking for a Beaver dinner. Also it makes
it very much easier to get my logs and branches to the pond."
Old Mother Nature nodded. "Just so," said she. "I want the rest
of you to notice how well this canal has been dug. At the other
end it is carried along the bottom of the pond where the water is
shallow so as to give greater depth. Now you will understand why
I called Paddy an engineer. What do you do with your logs and
"Put them in my food-pile, out there where the water is deep near
my house," replied Paddy promptly. "The bark I eat, and the bare
sticks I use to keep my house and dam in repair. In the late fall
I cut enough trees to keep me in food all winter. When my pond is
covered with ice I have nothing to worry about; my food supply
is below the ice. When I am hungry I swim out under the ice, get
a stick, take it back into my house and eat the bark. Then I take
the bare stick outside to use when needed on my dam or house."
"How did you come to make this fine pond? " asked Old Mother Nature.
"Oh, I just happened to come exploring up the Laughing Brook and
found there was plenty of food here and a good place for a pond,"
replied Paddy. "I thought I would like to live here. Down where
my dam is, the Laughing Brook was shallow--just the place for
"Tell us why you wanted a pond and how you built that dam,"
commanded Old Mother Nature.
"Why, I had to have a pond, if I was to stay here," replied Paddy,
as if every one must understand that. "The Laughing Brook wasn't
deep or big enough for me to live here safely. If it had been, I
would have made my home in the bank and not bothered with a house
or dam. But it wasn't, so I had to make a pond. It required a
lot of hard work, but it is worth all it cost.
"First, I cut a lot of brush and young trees and placed them in
the Laughing Brook in that shallow place, with the butts pointing
up-stream. I kept them in place by piling mud and stones on them.
Then I kept piling on more sticks and brush and mud. The water
brought down leaves and floating stuff, and this caught in the
dam and helped fill it in. I dug a lot of mud in front of it and
used this to fill in the spaces between the sticks. This made the
water deeper in front of the dam and at the same time kept it from
getting through. As the water backed up, of course it made a pond.
I kept making my dam longer and higher, and the longer and higher
it became the bigger the pond grew. When it was big enough and
deep enough to suit me, I stopped work on the dam and built my
house out there."
Everybody turned to look at Paddy's house, the roof of which stood
high out of water a little way from the dam. "Tell us how you
built that" said Old Mother Nature quietly.
"Oh, I just made a big platform of sticks and mud out there where
it was deep enough for me to be sure that the water could not
freeze clear to the bottom, even in the coldest weather," replied
Paddy, in a matter-of-fact tone. "I built it up until it was
above water. Then I built the walls and roof of sticks and mud,
just as you see them there. Inside I have a fine big room with a
comfortable bed of shredded wood. I have two openings in the
floor with a long passage leading from each down through the
foundations and opening at the bottom of the pond. Of course,
these are filled with water. Some houses have only one passage,
but I like two. These are the only entrances to my house.
"Every fall I repair my walls and roof, adding sticks and mud and
turf, so that now they are very thick. Late in the fall I
sometimes plaster the outside with mud. This freezes hard, and
no enemy who may reach my house on the ice can tear it open. I
guess that's all."
Peter Rabbit drew a long breath. "What dreadful lot of work," said
he. "Do you work all the time?"
Paddy chuckled. "No, Peter," said he. And Old Mother Nature nodded
in approval. "Quite right," said she. "Quite right. Are there
any more questions?"
"Do you eat nothing but bark?" It was Happy Jack Squirrel who spoke.
"Oh, no," replied Paddy. "In summer I eat berries, mushrooms, grass
and the leaves and stems of a number of plants. In winter I vary my
fare with lily roots and the roots of alder and willow. But bark is
my principal food."
Old Mother Nature waited a few minutes, but as there were no more
questions she added a few words. "Now I hope you understand why I
am so proud of Paddy the Beaver, and why I told you that he is a
lumberman, builder and engineer," said she. "For the next lesson
we will take up the Rat family."
CHAPTER XIII A Worker and a Robber
"Now we come to the largest family of the Rodent order, the Rat
family, which of course includes the Mice," said Old Mother Nature,
after calling school to order at the old meeting-place. "And the
largest member of the family reminds me very much of the one we
learned about yesterday."
"I know!" cried Peter Rabbit. "You mean Jerry Muskrat."
"Go to the head of the class, Peter," said Old Mother Nature,
smiling. "Jerry is the very one, the largest member of the Rat
family. Sometimes he is spoken of as a little cousin of Paddy the
Beaver. Probably this is because he looks something like a small
Beaver, builds a house in the water as Paddy does, and lives in
very much the same way. The truth is, he is no more closely related
to Paddy than he is to the rest of you. He is a true Rat. He is
called Muskrat because he carries with him a scent called musk. It
is not an unpleasant scent, like that of Jimmy Skunk, and isn't used
for the same purpose. Jerry uses his to tell his friends where he
has been. He leaves a little of it at the places he visits. Some
folks call him Musquash, but Muskrat is better.
"Jerry is seldom found far from the water and then only when he is
seeking a new home. He is rather slow and awkward on land; but in
the water he is quite at home, as all of you know who have visited
the Smiling Pool. He can dive and swim under water a long distance,
though not as far as Paddy the Beaver."
"Has he webbed hind feet like Paddy?" piped up Jumper the Hare.
"Yes and no," replied Old Mother Nature. "They are not fully webbed
as Paddy's are, but there is a little webbing between some of the
toes, enough to be of great help in swimming. His tail is of greater
use in swimming than is Paddy's. It is bare and scaly, but instead
of being flat top and bottom it is flattened on the sides, and he
uses it as a propeller, moving it rapidly from side to side.
"Like Paddy he has a dark brown outer coat, lighter underneath than
on his back and sides, and like Paddy he has a very warm soft under
coat, through which the water cannot get and which keeps him
comfortable, no matter how cold the water is. You have all seen
his house in the Smiling Pool. He builds it in much the same way
that Paddy builds his, but instead of sticks he cuts and uses
rushes. Of course it is not nearly as large as Paddy's house,
because Jerry is himself so much smaller. It is arranged much the
same, with a comfortable bedroom and one or more passages down to
deep water. In winter Jerry spends much of his time in this house,
going out only for food. Then he lives chiefly on lily roots and
roots of other water plants, digging them up and taking them back
to his house to eat. When the ice is clear you can sometimes see
him swimming below."
"I know," spoke up Peter Rabbit. "Once I was crossing the Smiling
Pool on the ice and saw him right under me."
"Jerry doesn't build dams, but he sometimes digs little canals
along the bottom where the water isn't deep enough to suit him,"
continued Old Mother Nature. "Sometimes in the winter Jerry and
Mrs. Jerry share their home with two or three friends. If there
is a good bank Jerry usually has another home in that. He makes
the entrance under water and then tunnels back and up for some
distance, where he builds a snug little bedroom just below the
surface of the ground where it is dry. Usually he has more than
one tunnel leading to this, and sometimes an opening from above.
This is covered with sticks and grass to hide it, and provides
an entrance for fresh air.
"Jerry lives mostly on roots and plants, but is fond of mussels or
fresh-water clams, fish, some insects and, I am sorry to say, young
birds when he can catch them. Jerry could explain where some of
the babies of Mr. And Mrs. Quack the Ducks have disappeared to.
Paddy the Beaver doesn't eat flesh at all.
"Jerry and Mrs. Jerry have several families in a year, and Jerry
is a very good father, doing his share in caring for the babies.
He and Mrs. Jerry are rather social and enjoy visiting neighbors
of their own kind. Their voices are a sort of squeak, and you can
often hear them talking among the rushes in the early evening.
That is the hour they like best, though they are abroad during the
day when undisturbed. Man is their greatest enemy. He hunts and
traps them for their warm coats. But they have to watch out for
Hooty the Owl at night and for Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote whenever
they are on land. Billy Mink also is an enemy at times, perhaps
the most to be dreaded because he can follow Jerry anywhere.
"Jerry makes little landings of mud and rushes along the edge of
the shore. On these he delights to sit to eat his meals. He likes
apples and vegetables and sometimes will travel quite a distance to
get them. Late in the summer he begins to prepare for winter by
starting work on his house, if he is to have a new one. He is a
good worker. There isn't a lazy bone in him. All things considered,
Jerry is a credit to his family.
"But if Jerry is a credit to his family there is one of its members
who is not and that is--who knows?"
"Robber the Brown Rat," replied Happy Jack Squirrel promptly. "I
have often seen him around Farmer Brown's barn. Ugh! He is an
"And he is just as ugly as he looks," replied Old Mother Nature.
"There isn't a good thing I can say for him, not one. He doesn't
belong in this country at all. He was brought here by man, and
now he is found everywhere. He is sometimes called the Norway Rat
and sometimes the Wharf Rat and House Rat. He is hated by all
animals and by man. He is big, being next in size to Jerry
Muskrat, savage in temper, the most destructive of any animal I
know, and dirty in his habits. He is an outcast, but he doesn't
seem to care.
"He lives chiefly around the homes of men, and all his food is
stolen. That is why he is named Robber. He eats anything he can
find and isn't the least bit particular what it is or whether it
be clean or unclean. He gnaws into grain bins and steals the
grain. He gets into hen-houses and sucks the eggs and kills young
chickens. He would like nothing better than to find a nest of
your babies, Peter Rabbit."
Peter shivered. "I'm glad he sticks to the homes of men," said he.
"But he doesn't," declared Old Mother Nature. "Often in summer he
moves out into the fields, digging burrows there and doing great
damage to crops and also killing and eating any of the furred and
feathered folk he can catch. But he is not fond of the light of
day. His deeds are deeds of darkness, and he prefers dark places.
He has very large families, sometimes ten or more babies at a time,
and several families in a year. That is why his tribe has managed
to overrun the Great World and why they cause such great damage.
Worse than the harm they do with their teeth is the terrible harm
they do to man by carrying dreadful diseases and spreading them--
diseases which cause people to die in great numbers."
"Isn't Robber afraid of any one?" asked Peter.
"He certainly is," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is in deadly fear
of one whom every one of you fears--Shadow the Weasel. One good
thing I can say for Shadow is that he never misses a chance to kill
a Rat. Wherever a Rat can go he can go, and once he finds a colony
he hunts them until he has killed all or driven them away.
"When food becomes scarce, Robber and his family move on to where
it is more plentiful. Often they make long journeys, a great
number of them together, and do not hesitate to swim a stream that
may be in their path."
"I've never seen Robber," said Peter. "What kind of a tail does
"I might have known you would ask that," laughed Old Mother Nature.
"It is long and slim and has no hair on it. His fur is very coarse
and harsh and is brown and gray. He has a close relative called
the Black Rat. But the latter is smaller and has been largely
driven out of the country by his bigger cousin. Now I guess this
is enough about Robber. He is bad, all bad, and hasn't a single
friend in all the Great World."
"What a dreadful thing--not to have a single friend," said
"It is dreadful, very dreadful," replied Old Mother Nature. "But
it is wholly his own fault. It shows what happens when one becomes
dishonest and bad at heart. The worst of it is Robber doesn't care.
To-morrow I'll tell you about some of his cousins who are not bad.
CHAPTER XIV A Trader and a Handsome Fellow
"Way down in the Sunny South," began Old Mother Nature, "lives a
member of the Rat family who, though not nearly so bad as Robber,
is none too good and so isn't thought well of at all. He is
Little Robber the Cotton Rat, and though small for a Rat, being
only a trifle larger than Striped Chipmunk, looks the little
savage that he is. He has short legs and is rather thick-bodied,
and appears much like an overgrown Meadow Mouse with a long tail.
The latter is not bare like Robber's, but the hair on it is very
short and thin. In color he is yellowish-brown and whitish
underneath. His fur is longer and coarser than that of other
"He lives in old fields, along ditches and hedges, and in similar
places where there is plenty of cover in which he can hide from
his enemies. He burrows in the ground and usually has his nest of
dry grass there, though often in summer it is the surface of the
ground. He does not live in and around the homes of men, like the
Brown Rat, but he causes a great deal of damage by stealing grain
in the shock. He eats all kinds of grain, many seeds, and meat
when he can get it. He is very destructive to eggs and young of
ground-nesting birds. He has a bad temper and will fight savagely.
Mr. and Mrs. Cotton Rat raise several large families in a year.
Foxes, Owls and Hawks are their chief enemies.
"But there are other members of the Rat family far more interesting
and quite worth knowing. One of these is Trader the Wood Rat, in
some parts of the Far West called the Pack Rat. Among the mountains
he is called the Mountain Rat. Wherever found, his habits are much
the same and make him one of the most interesting of all the little
people who wear fur.
"Next to Jerry Muskrat he is the largest native Rat, that is, of
the Rats which belong in this country. He is about two thirds as
big as Robber the Brown Rat, but though he is of the same general
shape, so that you would know at once that he is related to Robber,
he is in all other ways wholly unlike that outcast. His fur is
thick and soft, almost as soft as that of a Squirrel. His fairly
long tail is covered with hair. Indeed, some members of his branch
of the family have tails almost as bushy as a Squirrel's. His coat
is soft gray and a yellowish-brown above, and underneath pure white
or light buff. His feet are white. He has rounded ears and big
black eyes with none of the ugliness in them that you always see in
the eyes of Robber. And he has long whiskers and plenty of them."
"But why is he called Trader?" asked Rabbit a bit impatiently.
"Patience, Peter, patience. I'm coming to that," chided Old Mother
Nature. "He is Trader because his greatest delight is in trading.
He is a born trader if ever there was one. He doesn't steal as
other members of his family but trades. He puts something back
in place of whatever he takes. It may be little sticks or chips
or pebbles or anything else that is handy but it is something to
replace what he has taken. You see, he is very honest. If Trader
finds something belonging to some one else that he wants he takes
it, but he tries to pay for it.
"Next to trading he delights in collecting. His home is a regular
museum. He delights in anything bright and shiny. When he can
get into the camps of men he will take anything he can move. But
being honest, he tries to leave something in return. All sorts of
queer things are found in his home--buckles cut from saddles,
spoons, knives, forks, even money he has taken from the pockets of
sleeping campers. Whenever any small object is missed from a camp,
the first place visited in search of it is the home of Trader. In
the mountains he sometimes makes piles of little pebbles just for
the fun of collecting them.
"He is found all over the West, from the mountains to the deserts,
in thick forests and on sandy wastes. He is also found in parts
of the East and in the Sunny South. He is a great climber and is
perfectly at home in trees or among rocks. He eats seeds, grain,
many kinds of nuts, leaves and other parts of plants. In the
colder sections he lays up stores for winter."
"What kind of a home does he have?" asked Happy Jack.
"His home usually is a very remarkable affair," replied Old Mother
Nature. "It depends largely on where he is. When he is living in
rocky country, he makes it amongst the rocks. In some places he
burrows in the ground. But more often it is on the surface of the
ground--a huge pile of sticks and thorns in the very middle of
which is his snug, soft nest. The sticks and thorns are to protect
it from enemies. When he lives down where cactus grow, those queer
plants with long sharp spines, he uses these, and there are few
enemies who will try to pull one of these houses apart to get at him.
"When he is alarmed or disturbed, he has a funny habit of drumming on
the ground with his hind feet in much the same way that Peter Rabbit
and Jumper the Hare thump, only he does it rapidly. Sometimes he
builds his house in a tree. When he finds a cabin in the woods he
at once takes possession, carrying in a great mass of sticks and
trash. He is chiefly active at night, and a very busy fellow he
is, trading and collecting. He has none of the mean disposition
of Robber the Brown Rat. Mrs. Trader has two to five babies at
a time and raises several families in a year. As I said before,
Trader is one of the most interesting little people I know of, and
he does very, very funny things.
"Now we come to the handsomest member of the family, Longfoot the
Kangaroo Rat, so called because of his long hind legs and tail and
the way in which he sits up and jumps. Really he is not a member
of the Rat branch of the family, but closely related to the Pocket
Mice. You see, he has pockets in his cheeks."
"Like mine?" asked Striped Chipmunk quickly.
"No, they are on the outside instead of the inside of his cheeks.
Yours are inside."
"I think mine must be a lot handier," asserted Striped Chipmunk,
nodding his head in a very decided way.
"Longfoot seems to think his are quite satisfactory," replied Old
Mother Nature. "He really is handsome, but he isn't a bit vain
and is very gentle. He never tries to bite when caught and taken
in a man's hand."
"But you haven't told us how big he is or what he looks like,"
protested impatient Peter.
"When he sits up or jumps he looks like a tiny Kangaroo. But that
doesn't mean anything to you, and you are no wiser than before,
for you never have seen a Kangaroo," replied Old Mother Nature.
"In the first place he is about the size of Striped Chipmunk.
That is, his body is about the size of Striped Chipmunk's; but
his tail is longer than his head and body together."
"My, it must be some tail!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit admiringly.
Old Mother Nature smiled. "It is," said she. "You would like that
tail, Peter. His front legs are short and the feet small, but his
hind legs are long and the feet big. Of course you have seen
Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse, Peter."
Peter nodded. "Of course" he replied. "My how that fellow can jump!"
"Well, Longfoot is built on the same plan as Nimbleheels and for the
same purpose," continued Old Mother Nature. "He is a jumper."
"Then I know what that long tail is for," cried Peter. "It is to
keep him balanced when he is in the air so that he can jump straight."
"Right again, Peter," laughed Old Mother Nature. "That is just what
it is for. Without it, he never would know where he was going to
land when he jumped. As I told you, he is a handsome little fellow.
His fur is very soft and silky. Above, it is a pretty yellowish-brown,
but underneath it is pure white. His cheeks are brown, he is white
around the ears, and a white stripe crosses his hips and keeps right
on along the sides of his tail. The upper and under parts of his
tail are almost or quite black, and the tail ends in a tuft of long
hair which is pure white. His feet are also white. His head is
rather large for his size, and long. He has a long nose. Longfoot
has a number of cousins, some of them much smaller than he, but they
all look very much alike."
"Where do they live?" asked Johnny Chuck, for Johnny had been unable
to stay away from school another day.
"In the dry, sandy parts of the Southwest, places so dry that it
seldom rains, and water is to be found only long distances apart,"
replied Old Mother Nature.
"Then how does Longfoot get water to drink?" demanded Chatterer the
"He gets along without drinking," replied Old Mother Nature. "Such
moisture as he needs he gets from his food. He eats seeds, leaves
of certain plants and tender young plants just coming up. He
burrows in the ground and throws up large mounds of earth. These
have several entrances. One of these is the main entrance, and
during the day this is often kept closed with earth. Under the
mound he has little tunnels in all directions, a snug little bedroom
and storerooms for food. He is very industrious and dearly loves
"Longfoot likes to visit his relatives sometimes, and where there
are several families living near together, little paths lead from
mound to mound. He comes out mostly at night, probably because he
feels it to be safer then. Then, too, in that hot country it is
cooler at night. The dusk of early evening is his favorite
playtime. If Longfoot has a quarrel with one of his relatives they
fight, hopping about each other, watching for a chance to leap and
kick with those long, strong hind feet. Longfoot sometimes drums
with his hind feet after the manner of Trader the Wood Rat.
"Now I think this will do for this morning. If any of you should
meet Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, tell him to come to school to-morrow
morning. And you might tell Danny Meadow if you little folks want
school to continue."
"We do!" cried Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare and Happy Jack
Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Striped Chipmunk and
Johnny Chuck as one.
CHAPTER XV Two Unlike Little Cousins
Whitefoot the Wood Mouse is one of the smallest of the little people
who live in the Green Forest. Being so small he is one of the most
timid. You see, by day and by night sharp eyes are watching for
Whitefoot and he knows it. Never one single instant, while he is
outside where sharp eyes of hungry enemies may see him, does he
forget that they are watching for him. To forget even for one little
minute might mean--well, it might mean the end of little Whitefoot,
but a dinner for some one with a liking for tender Mouse.
So Whitefoot the Wood Mouse rarely ventures more than a few feet
from a hiding place and safety. At the tiniest sound he starts
nervously and often darts back into hiding without waiting to find
out if there really is any danger. If he waited to make sure he
might wait too long, and it is better to be safe than sorry. If you
and I had as many real frights in a year, not to mention false frights,
as Whitefoot has in a day, we would, I suspect, lose our minds.
Certainly we would be the most unhappy people in all the Great World.
But Whitefoot isn't unhappy. Not a bit of it. He is a very happy
little fellow. There is a great deal of wisdom in that pretty
little head of his. There is more real sense in it than in some
very big heads. When some of his neighbors make fun of him for
being so very, very timid he doesn't try to pretend that he isn't
afraid. He doesn't get angry. He simply says:
"Of course I'm timid, very timid indeed. I'm afraid of almost
everything. I would be foolish not to be. It is because I am
afraid that I am alive and happy right now. I hope I shall never
be less timid than I am now, for it would mean that sooner or
later I would fail to run in time and would be gobbled up. It
isn't cowardly to be timid when there is danger all around. Nor
is it bravery to take a foolish and needless risk. So I seldom
go far from home. It isn't safe for me, and I know it."
This being the way Whitefoot looked at matters, you can guess how
he felt when Chatterer the Red Squirrel caught sight of him and
gave him Old Mother Nature's message.
"Hi there, Mr. Fraidy!" shouted Chatterer, as he caught sight
of Whitefoot darting under a log. "Hi there! I've got a message
Slowly, cautiously, Whitefoot poked his head out from beneath the
old log and looked up at Chatterer. "What kind of a message?" he
"A message you'll do well to heed. It is from Old Mother Nature,"
"A message from Old Mother Nature!" cried Whitefoot, and came out
a bit more from beneath the old log.
"That's what I said, a message from Old Mother Nature, and if you
will take my advice you will heed it," retorted Chatterer. "She
says you are to come to school with the rest of us at sun-up
Then Chatterer explained about the school and where it was held
each morning and what a lot he and his friends had already learned
there. Whitefoot listened with something very like dismay in his
heart. That place where school was held was a long way off. That
is, it was a long way for him, though to Peter Rabbit or Jumper the
Hare it wouldn't have seemed long at all. It meant that he would
have to leave all his hiding places and the thought made him shiver.
But Old Mother Nature had sent for him and not once did he even
think of disobeying. "Did you say that school begins at sun-up?"
he asked, and when Chatterer nodded Whitefoot sighed. It was a
sigh of relief. "I'm glad of that," said he. "I can travel in
the night, which will be much safer. I'll be there. That is, I
will if I am not caught on the way."
Meanwhile over on the Green Meadows Peter Rabbit was looking for
Danny Meadow Mouse. Danny's home was not far from the dear Old
Briar-patch, and he and Peter were and still are very good friends.
So Peter knew just about where to look for Danny and it didn't
take him long to find him.
"Hello, Peter! You look as if you have something very important
on your mind," was the greeting of Danny Meadow Mouse as Peter
came hurrying up.
"I have," said Peter. "It is a message for you. Old Mother Nature
says for you to be on hand at sun-up to-morrow when school opens
over in the Green Forest. Of course you will be there."
"Of course," replied Danny in the most matter-of-fact tone. "Of
course. If Old Mother Nature really sent me that message--"
"She really did," interrupted Peter.
"There isn't anything for me to do but obey," finished Danny. Then
his face became very sober. "That is a long way for me to go,
Peter," said he. "I wouldn't take such a long journey for anything
or for anybody else. Old Mother Nature knows, and if she sent for
me she must be sure I can make the trip safely. What time did you
say I must be there?"
"At sun-up," replied Peter. "Shall I call for you on my way there?"
Danny shook his head. Then he began to laugh. "What are you
laughing at?" demanded Peter.
"At the very idea of me with my short legs trying to keep up with
you," replied Danny. "I wish you would sit up and take a good
look all around to make sure that Old Man Coyote and Reddy Fox and
Redtail the Hawk and Black Pussy, that pesky Cat from Farmer Brown's,
are nowhere about."
Peter obligingly sat up and looked this way and looked that way and
looked the other way. No one of whom he or Danny Meadow Mouse need
be afraid was to be seen. He said as much, then asked, "Why did
you want to know, Danny?"
"Because I am going to start at once," replied Danny.
"Start for where?" asked Peter, looking much puzzled.
"Start for school of course," replied Danny rather shortly.
"But school doesn't begin until sun-up to-morrow," protested Peter.
"Which is just the reason I am going to start now," retorted Danny.
"If I should put off starting until the last minute I might not
get there at all. I would have to hurry, and it is difficult to
hurry and watch for danger at the same time. I've noticed that
people who put things off to the last minute and then have to
hurry are quite apt to rush headlong into trouble. The way is
clear now, so I am going to start. I can take my time and keep
a proper watch for danger. I'll see you over there in the
Danny turned and disappeared in one of his private little paths
though the tall grass. Peter noticed that he was headed towards
the Green Forest.
When Peter and the others arrived for school the next morning they
found Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse waiting with
Old Mother Nature. Safe in her presence, they seemed to have lost
much of their usual timidity. Whitefoot was sitting on the end of
a log and Danny was on the ground just beneath him.
"I want all the rest of you to look well at these two little cousins
and notice how unlike two cousins can be," said Old Mother Nature.
"Whitefoot, who is quite as often called Deer Mouse as Wood Mouse,
is one of the prettiest of the entire Mouse family. I suspect he
is called Deer Mouse because the upper part of his coat is such a
beautiful fawn color. Notice that the upper side of his long slim
tail is of the same color, while the under side is white, as is the
whole under part of Whitefoot. Also those dainty feet are white,
hence his name. See what big, soft black eyes he has, and notice
that those delicate ears are of good size.
"His tail is covered with short fine hairs, instead of being naked
as is the tail of Nibbler the House mouse, of whom I will tell you
later. Whitefoot loves the Green Forest, but out in parts of the
Far West where there is no Green Forest he lives on the brushy
plains. He is a good climber and quite at home in the trees.
There he seems almost like a tiny Squirrel. Tell us, Whitefoot,
where you make your home and what you eat."
"My home just now," replied Whitefoot, "is in a certain hollow in a
certain dead limb of a certain tree. I suspect that a member of the
Woodpecker family made that hollow, but no one was living there when
I found it. Mrs. Whitefoot and I have made a soft, warm nest there
and wouldn't trade homes with any one. We have had our home in a
hollow log on the ground, in an old stump, in a hole we dug in the
ground under a rock, and in an old nest of some bird. That was in
a tall bush. We roofed that nest over and make a little round
doorway on the under side. Once we raised a family in a box in a
dark corner of Farmer Brown's sugar camp.
"I eat all sorts of things--seeds, nuts, insects and meat when I
can get it. I store up food for winter, as all wise and thrifty
"I suppose that means that you do not sleep as Johnny Chuck does in
winter," remarked Peter Rabbit.
"I should say not!" exclaimed Whitefoot. "I like winter. It is fun
to run about on the snow. Haven't you ever seen my tracks, Peter?"
"I have, lots of times," spoke up Jumper the Hare. "Also I've seen you
skipping about after dark. I guess you don't care much for sunlight."
"I don't," replied Whitefoot. "I sleep most of the time during the
day, and work and play at night. I feel safer then. But on dull
days I often come out. It is the bright sunlight I don't like. That
is one reason I stick to the Green Forest. I don't see how Cousin
Danny stands it out there on the Green Meadows. Now I guess it is
Every one looked at Danny Meadow Mouse. In appearance he was as
unlike Whitefoot as it was possible to be and still be a Mouse.
There was nothing pretty or graceful about Danny. He wasn't dainty
at all. His body was rather stout, looking stouter than it really
was because his fur was quite long. His head was blunt, and he
seemed to have no neck at all, though of course he did have one.
His eyes were small, like little black beads. His ears were almost
hidden in his hair. His legs were short and his tail was quite
short, as if it had been cut off when half grown. No, those two
cousins didn't look a bit alike. Danny felt most uncomfortable
as the others compared him with pretty Whitefoot. He knew he was
homely, but never before had he felt it quite so keenly. Old
Mother Nature saw and understood.
"It isn't how we look, but what we are and what we do and how we
fit into our particular places in life that count," said she.
"Now, Danny is a homely little fellow, but I know, and I know that
he knows that he is just fitted for the life he lives, and he lives
it more successfully for being just as he is.
"Danny is a lover of the fields and meadows where there is little
else but grass in which to hide. Everything about him is just
suited for living there. Isn't that so, Danny?"
"Yes'm, I guess so," replied Danny. "Sometimes my tail does seem
dreadfully short to look well."
Everybody laughed, even Danny himself. Then he remembered how once
Reddy Fox had so nearly caught him that one of Reddy's black paws
had touched the tip of his tail. Had that tail been any longer
Reddy would have caught him by it. Danny's face cleared and he
hastened to declare, "After all, my tail suits me just as it is."
"Wisely spoken, Danny," said Old Mother Nature. "Now it is your
turn to tell how you live and what you eat and anything else of
interest about yourself."
"I guess there isn't much interesting about me," began Danny
modestly. "I'm just one of the plain, common little folks.
I guess everybody knows me so well there is nothing for me
"Some of them may know all about you, but I don't," declared
Jumper the Hare. "I never go out on the Green Meadows where you
live. How do you get about in all that tall grass?"
"Oh, that's easy enough," replied Danny. "I cut little paths in
"Just the way I do in the dear Old Briar-patch," interrupted
"I keep those little paths clear and clean so that there never is
anything in my way to trip me up when I have to run for safety,"
continued Danny. "When the grass gets tall those little paths are
almost like little tunnels. The time I dread most is when Farmer
Brown cuts the grass for hay. I not only have to watch out for that
dreadful mowing machine, but when the hay has been taken away the
grass is so short that it is hard work for me to keep out of sight.
"I sometimes dig a short burrow and at the end of it make a nice nest
of dry grass. Sometimes in summer Mrs. Danny and I make our nest on
the surface of the ground in a hollow or in a clump of tall grass,
especially if the ground is low and wet. We have several good-sized
families in a year. All Meadow Mice believe in large families, and
that is probably why there are more Meadow Mice than any other Mice
in the country. I forgot to say that I am also called Field Mouse."
"And it is because there are so many of your family and they require
so much to eat that you do a great deal of damage to grass and other
crops," spoke up Old Mother Nature. "You see," she explained to the
others, "Danny eats grass, clover, bulbs, roots, seeds and garden
vegetables. He also eats some insects. He sometimes puts away a
few seeds for the winter, but depends chiefly on finding enough to
eat, for he is active all winter. He tunnels about under the snow
in search of food. When other food is hard to find he eats bark,
and then he sometimes does great damage in young orchards. He gnaws
the bark from young fruit trees all the way around as high as he
can reach, and of course this kills the trees. He is worse than
"Danny didn't mention that he is a good swimmer and not at all
afraid of the water. No one has more enemies than he, and the fact
that he is alive and here at school this morning is due to his
everlasting watchfulness. This will do for to-day. To-morrow we
will take up others of the Mouse family."
CHAPTER XVI Danny's Northern Cousins and Nimbleheels
Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse had become so
interested that they decided they couldn't afford to miss the next
lesson. Neither did either of them feel like making the long
journey to his home and back again. So Whitefoot found a hole in
a stump near by and decided to camp out there for a few days. Danny
decided to do the same thing in a comfortable place under a pile of
brush not far away. So the next morning both were on hand when
"I told you yesterday that I would tell you about some of Danny's
cousins," began Old Mother Nature just as Chatterer the Red Squirrel,
who was late, came hurrying up quite out of breath. "Way up in the
Far North are two of Danny's cousins more closely related to him
than to any other members of the Mouse family. Yet, strange to say,
they are not called Mice at all, but Lemmings. However, they belong
to the Mouse family.
"Bandy the Banded Lemming is the most interesting, because he is
the one member of the entire family who changes the color of his
coat. In summer he wears beautiful shades of reddish brown and
gray, but in winter his coat is wholly white. He is also called
the Hudson Bay Lemming.
"Danny Meadow Mouse thinks his tail is short, but he wouldn't if
he should see Bandy's tail. That is so short it hardly shows beyond
his long fur. He is about Danny's size, but a little stouter and
stockier, and his long fur makes him appear even thicker-bodied than
he really is. He has very short legs, and his ears are so small
that they are quite hidden in the fur around them, so that he appears
to have no ears at all.
"In that same far northern country is a close relative called the
Brown Lemming. He is very much like Bandy save that he is all brown
and does not change his coat in winter. Both have the same general
habits, and these are much like the habits of Danny Meadow Mouse.
They make short burrows in the ground leading to snug, warm nests of
grass and moss. In winter they make little tunnels in every direction
under the snow, with now and then an opening to the surface.
"There are many more Brown Lemmings than Banded Lemmings, and their
little paths run everywhere through the grass and moss. In that
country there is a great deal of moss. It covers the ground just
as grass does here. But the most interesting thing about these
Lemmings is the way they migrate. To migrate is to move from one
part of the country to another. You know most of the birds migrate
to the Sunny South every autumn and back every spring.
"Once in a while it happens that food becomes very scarce where
the Lemmings are. Then very many of them get together, just as
migrating birds form great flocks, and start on a long journey in
search of a place where there is plenty of food. They form a great
army and push ahead, regardless of everything. They swim wide
rivers and even lakes which may lie in their way. Of course, they
eat everything eatable in their path."
"My!" exclaimed Danny Meadow Mouse, "I'm glad I don't live in a
country where I might have to make such long journeys. I don't
envy those cousins up there in the Far North a bit. I'm perfectly
satisfied to live right on the Green Meadows."
"Which shows your good common sense," said Old Mother Nature. "By
the way, Danny, I suppose you are acquainted with Nimbleheels the
Jumping Mouse, who also is rather fond of the Green Meadows. I
ought to have sent word to him to be here this morning."
Hardly were the words out of Old Mother Nature's mouth when something
landed in the leaves almost at her feet and right in the middle of
school. Instantly Danny Meadow Mouse scurried under a pile of dead
leaves. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse darted into a knothole in the log
on which he had been sitting. Jumper the Hare dodged behind a
little hemlock tree. Peter Rabbit bolted for a hollow log. Striped
Chipmunk vanished in a hole under an old stump. Johnny Chuck backed
up against the trunk of a tree and made ready to fight. Only Happy
Jack the Gray Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Prickly
Porky the Porcupine, who were sitting in trees, kept their places.
You see they felt quite safe.
As soon as all those who had run had reached places of safety,
they peeped out to see what had frightened them so. Just imagine
how very, very foolish they felt when they saw Old Mother Nature
smiling down at a little fellow just about the size of little
Whitefoot, but with a much longer tail. It was Nimbleheels the
"Well, well, well," exclaimed Old Mother Nature. "I was just
speaking of you and wishing I had you here. How did you happen
to come? And what do you mean by scaring my pupils half out of
their wits?" Her eyes twinkled. Nimbleheels saw this and knew
that she was only pretending to be severe.
Before he could reply Johnny Chuck began to chuckle. The chuckle
became a laugh, and presently Johnny was laughing so hard he had
to hold his sides. Now, as you know, laughter is catching. In a
minute or so everybody was laughing, and no one but Johnny Chuck
knew what the joke was. At last Peter Rabbit stopped laughing
long enough to ask Johnny what he was laughing at.
"At the idea of that little pinch of nothing giving us all such a
fright," replied Johnny Chuck. Then all laughed some more.
When they were through laughing Nimbleheels answered Old Mother
Nature's questions. He explained that he had heard about that
school, as by this time almost every one in the Green Forest and
on the Green Meadows had. By chance he learned that Danny Meadow
Mouse was attending. He thought that if it was a good thing for
Danny it would be a good thing for him, so he had come.
"Just as I was almost here I heard a twig snap behind me, or thought
I did, and I jumped so as to get here and be safe. I didn't
suppose anyone would be frightened by little me," he explained.
"It was some jump!" exclaimed Jumper the Hare admiringly. "He
went right over my head, and I was sitting up at that!"
"It isn't much of a jump to go over your head, replied Nimbleheels.
"You ought to see me when I really try to jump. I wasn't half
trying when I landed here. I'm sorry I frightened all of you so.
It gives me a queer feeling just to think that I should be able
to frighten anybody. If you please, Mother Nature, am I in time
for to-day's lesson?"
"Not for all of it, but you are just in time for the part I wanted
you here for," replied Old Mother Nature. "Hop up on that log
side of your Cousin Whitefoot, where all can see you."
Nimbleheels hopped up beside Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, and as the
two little cousins sat side by side they were not unlike in general
appearance, though of the two Whitefoot was the prettier. The coat
of Nimbleheels was a dull yellowish, darker on the back than on the
sides. Like Whitefoot he was white underneath. His ears were much
smaller than those of Whitefoot. But the greatest differences
between the two were in their hind legs and tails.
The hind legs and feet of Nimbleheels were long, on the same plan
as those of Peter Rabbit. From just a glance at them any one
would know that he was a born jumper and a good one. Whitefoot
possessed a long tail, but the tail of Nimbleheels was much
longer, slim and tapering.
"There," said Old Mother Nature, "is the greatest jumper for his
size among all the animals in this great country. When I say this,
I mean the greatest ground jumper. Timmy the Flying Squirrel
jumps farther, but Timmy has to climb to a high place and then
coasts down on the air. I told you what wonderful jumps Jack
Rabbit can make, but if he could jump as high and far for his size
as Nimbleheels can jump for his size, the longest jump Jack has
ever made would seem nothing more than a hop. By the way, both
Nimbleheels and Whitefoot have small pockets in their cheeks.
Tell us where you live, Nimbleheels."
"I live among the weeds along the edge of the Green Meadows,"
replied Nimbleheels, "though sometimes I go way out on the Green
Meadows. But I like best to be among the weeds because they are
tall and keep me well hidden, and also because they furnish me
plenty to eat. You see, I live largely on seeds, though I am also
fond of berries and small nuts, especially beechnuts. Some of my
family prefer the Green Forest, especially if there is a Laughing
Brook or pond in it. Personally I prefer, as I said before, the
edge of the Green Meadows."
"Do you make your home under the ground?" asked Striped Chipmunk.
"For winter, yes," replied Nimbleheels. "In summer I sometimes
put my nest just a few inches under ground, but often I hide it
under a piece of bark or in a thick clump of grass, just as Danny
Meadow Mouse often does his. In the fall I dig a deep burrow,
deep enough to be beyond the reach of Jack Frost, and in a nice
little bedroom down there I sleep the winter away. I have little
storerooms down there too, in which I put seeds, berries and nuts.
Then when I do wake up I have plenty to eat."
"I might add," said Old Mother Nature, "that when he goes to sleep
for the winter he curls up in a little ball with his long tail
wrapped around him, and in his bed of soft grass he sleeps very
sound indeed. Like Johnny Chuck he gets very fat before going to
sleep. Now, Nimbleheels, show us how you can jump."
Nimbleheels hopped down from the log on which he had been sitting
and at once shot into the air in such a high, long, beautiful jump
that everybody exclaimed. This way and that way he went in great
leaps. It was truly wonderful.
"That long tail is what balances him," explained Old Mother Nature.
"If he should lose it he would simply turn over and over and never
know where or how he was going to land. His jumping is done only
in times of danger. When he is not alarmed he runs about on the
ground like the rest of the Mouse family. This is all for to-day.
To-morrow I will tell you still more about the Mouse family."
CHAPTER XVII Three Little Redcoats and Some Others
With Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, Danny Meadow Mouse and Nimbleheels
the Jumping Mouse attending school, the Mouse family was well
represented, but when school opened the morning after Nimbleheels
had made his sudden and startling appearance, there was still
another present. It was Piney the Pine Mouse. Whitefoot, who
knew him, had hunted him up and brought him along.
"I thought you wouldn't mind if Piney came," explained Whitefoot.
"I'm glad he has come," replied Old Mother Nature. "It is much
better to see a thing than merely to be told about it, and now you
have a chance to see for yourselves the differences between two
cousins very closely related, Danny Meadow Mouse and Piney the
Pine Mouse. What difference do you see, Happy Jack Squirrel?"
"Piney is a little smaller than Danny, though he is much the same
shape," was the prompt reply.
"True," said Old Mother Nature. "Now, Striped Chipmunk, what
difference do you see?"
"The fur of Piney's coat is shorter, finer and has more of a shine.
Then, too, it is more of a reddish-brown than Danny's," replied
"And what do you say, Peter Rabbit?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"Piney has a shorter tail," declared Peter, and everybody laughed.
"Trust you to look at his tail first," said Old Mother Nature.
"These are the chief differences as far as looks are concerned.
Their habits differ in about the same degree. As you all know,
Danny cuts little paths through the grass. Piney doesn't do this,
but makes little tunnels just under the surface of the ground very
much as Miner the Mole does. He isn't fond of the open Green
Meadows or of damp places as Danny is, but likes best the edge of
the Green Forest and brushy places. He is very much at home in a
poorly kept orchard where the weeds are allowed to grow and in young
orchards he does a great deal of damage by cutting off the roots of
young trees and stripping off the bark as high up as he can reach.
Tell us, Piney, how and where you make your home."
Piney hesitated a little, for he was bashful. "I make my home under
ground," he ventured finally. "I dig a nice little bedroom with
several entrances from my tunnels, and in it I make a fine nest of
soft grass. Close by I dig one or more rooms in which to store my
food, and these usually are bigger than my bedroom. When I get one
filled with food I close it up by filling the entrance with earth."
"What do you put in your storerooms?" asked Peter Rabbit.
"Short pieces of grass and pieces of roots of different kinds,"
replied Piney. "I am very fond of tender roots and the bark of
trees and bushes.
"And he dearly loves to get in a garden where he can tunnel along
a row of potatoes or other root crops," added Old Mother Nature.
"Because of these habits he does a great deal of damage and is much
disliked by man. Striped Chipmunk mentioned his reddish-brown coat.
There is another cousin with a coat so red that he is called the
Red-backed Mouse. He is about the size of Danny Meadow Mouse but
has larger ears and a longer tail.
"This little fellow is a lover of the Green Forest, and he is quite
as active by day as by night. He is pretty, especially when he sits
up to eat, holding his food in his paws as does Happy Jack Squirrel.
He makes his home in a burrow, the entrance to which is under an old
stump, a rock or the root of a tree. His nest is of soft grass or
moss. Sometimes he makes it in a hollow log or stump instead of
digging a bedroom under ground. He is thrifty and lays up a supply
of food in underground rooms, hollow logs and similar places. He
eats seeds, small fruits, roots and various plants. Because of
his preference for the Green Forest and the fact that he lives as
a rule far from the homes of men, he does little real damage.
"There is still another little Redcoat in the family, and he is
especially interesting because while he is related to Danny Meadow
Mouse he lives almost wholly in trees. He is called the Rufous
Tree Mouse. Rufous means reddish-brown, and he gets that name
because of the color of his coat. He lives in the great forests
of the Far West, where the trees are so big and tall that the
biggest tree you have ever seen would look small beside them. And
it is in those great trees that the Rufous Tree Mouse lives.
"Just why he took to living in trees no one knows, for he belongs
to that branch of the family known as Ground Mice. But live in
them he does, and he is quite as much at home in them as
Chatterer the Red Squirrel was interested right away. "Does he
build a nest in a tree like a Squirrel?" he asked.
"He certainly does," replied Old Mother Nature, "and often it is a
most remarkable nest. In some sections he places it only in big
trees, sometimes a hundred feet from the ground. In other sections
it is placed in small trees and only a few feet above the ground.
The high nests often are old deserted nests of Squirrels enlarged
and built over. Some of them are very large indeed and have been
used year after year. Each year they have been added to.
"One of these big nests will have several bedrooms and little
passages running all through it. It appears that Mrs. Rufous
usually has one of these big nests to herself, Rufous having
a small nest of his own out on one of the branches. The big
nest is close up against the trunk of the tree where several
"Does Rufous travel from one tree to another, or does he live in
just one tree?" asked Happy Jack Squirrel.
"Wherever branches of one tree touch those of another, and you
know in a thick forest this is frequently the case, he travels
about freely if he wants to. But those trees are so big that I
suspect he spends most of his time in the one in which his home
is," replied Old Mother Nature. "However, if an enemy appears
in his home tree, he makes his escape by jumping from one tree
to another, just as you would do."
"What I want to know is where he gets his food if he spends all
his time up in the trees," spoke up Danny Meadow Mouse.
"Old Mother Nature smiled. "Where should he get it but up where
he lives?" she asked. "Rufous never has to worry about food. It
is all around him. You see, so far as known, he lives wholly on
the thick parts of the needles, which you know are the leaves, of
fir and spruce trees, and on the bark of tender twigs. So you
see he is more of a tree dweller than any of the Squirrel family.
While Rufous has the general shape of Danny and his relatives, he
has quite a long tail. Now I guess this will do for the nearest
relatives of Danny Meadow Mouse."
"He certainly has a lot of them," remarked Whitefoot the Wood Mouse.
Then he added a little wistfully, "Of course, in a way they are all
cousins of mine, but I wish I had some a little more closely related."
"You have," replied Old Mother Nature, and Whitefoot pricked up
his big ears. "One of them Bigear the Rock Mouse, who lives out
in the mountains of the Far West. He is as fond of the rocks as
Rufous is of the trees. Sometimes he lives in brush heaps and in
brushy country, but he prefers rocks, and that is why he is known
as the Rock Mouse.
"He is a pretty little fellow, if anything a trifle bigger than you,
Whitefoot, and he is dressed much like you with a yellowish-brown
coat and white waistcoat. He has just such a long tail covered
with hair its whole length. But you should see his ears. He has
the largest ears of any member of the whole family. That is why
he is called Bigear. He likes best to be out at night, but often
comes out on dull days. He eats seeds and small nuts and is
especially fond of juniper seeds. He always lays up a supply of
food for winter. Often he is found very high up on the mountains.
"Another of your cousins, Whitefoot, lives along the seashore of
the East down in the Sunny South. He is called the Beach Mouse.
In general appearance he is much like you, having the same shape,
long tail and big ears, but he is a little smaller and his coat
varies. When he lives back from the shore, in fields where the
soil is dark, his upper coat is dark grayish-brown, but when he
lives on the white sands of the seashore it is very light. His
home is in short burrows in the ground.
"Now don't you little people think you have learned enough about
the Mouse family?"
"You haven't told us about Nibbler the House Mouse yet. And you
said you would," protested Peter Rabbit.
"And when we were learning about Longfoot the Kangaroo Rat you said
he was most closely related to the Pocket Mice. What about them?"
said Johnny Chuck.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "I see," said she, "that you want to
know all there is to know. Be on hand to-morrow morning. I guess
we can finish up with the Mouse family then and with them the order
of Rodents to which all of you belong."
CHAPTER XVIII Mice with Pockets, and Others
"Pockets are very handy things for little people who are thrifty
and who live largely on small seeds. Without pockets in which to
carry the seeds, I am afraid some of them would never be able to
store up enough food for winter," began Old Mother Nature, as soon
as everybody was on hand the next morning.
"I wouldn't be without my pockets for any thing," spoke up
Old Mother Nature smiled. "You certainly do make good use of yours,"
said she. "But there are others who have even greater need of
pockets, and among them are the Pocket Mice. Of course, it is
because of their pockets that they are called Pocket Mice. All of
these pretty little fellows live in the dry parts of the Far West
and Southwest in the same region where Longfoot the Kangaroo Rat
lives. They are close neighbors and relatives of his.
"Midget the Silky Pocket Mouse is one of the smallest animals in
all the Great World, so small that Whitefoot the Wood Mouse is a
giant compared with him. He weighs less than an ounce and is a
dear little fellow. His back and sides are yellow, and beneath
he is white. He has quite long hind legs and a long tail, and
these show at once that he is a jumper. In each cheek is a pocket
opening from the outside, and these pockets are lined with hair.
He is called Silky Pocket Mouse because of the fineness and
softness of his coat. He has some larger cousins, one of them
being a little bigger than Nibbler the House Mouse. Neighbors
and close relatives are the Spiny Pocket Mice."
"Do they have spines like Prickly Porky?" demanded Peter Rabbit.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "I don't wonder you ask," said she.
"I think it is a foolish name myself, for they haven't any spines at
all. Their fur isn't as fine as that of Midget, and it has all
through it long coarse hairs almost like bristles, and from these
they get their name. The smallest of the Spiny Pocket Mice is
about the size of Nibbler the House Mouse and the largest is twice
as big. They are more slender than their Silky cousins, and their
tails are longer in proportion to their size and have little tufts
of hair at the ends. Of course, they have pockets in their cheeks.
"In habits all the Pocket Mice are much alike. They make burrows
in the ground, often throwing up a little mound with several
entrances which lead to a central passageway connecting with the
bedroom and storerooms. By day the entrances are closed with
earth from inside, for the Mice are active only at night.
Sometimes the burrows are hidden under bushes, and sometimes
they are right out in the open. Living as they do in a hot, dry
country, the Pocket Mice have learned to get along without
drinking water. Their food consists mainly of a variety of
"Another Mouse of the West looks almost enough like Whitefoot to
be a member of his branch of the family. He has a beautiful
yellowish-brown coat and white waistcoat, and his feet are white.
But his tail is short in comparison with Whitefoot's and instead
of being slim is quite thick. His fur is like velvet. He is
called the Grasshopper Mouse."
"Is that because he eats Grasshoppers?" asked Peter Rabbit at once.
"You've guessed it," laughed Old Mother Nature. "He is very, very
fond of Grasshoppers and Crickets. He eats many kinds of insects,
Moths, Flies, Cutworms, Beetles, Lizards, Frogs and Scorpions.
Because of his fondness for the latter he is called the Scorpion
Mouse in some sections. He is fond of meat when he can get it.
He also eats seeds of many kinds. He is found all over the West
from well up in the North to the hot dry regions of the Southwest.
When he cannot find a convenient deserted burrow of some other
animal, he digs a home for himself and there raises several families
each year. In the early evening he often utters a fine, shrill,
whistling call note.
"Another little member of the Mouse family found clear across the
country is the Harvest Mouse. He is never bigger than Nibbler the
House Mouse and often is much smaller. In fact, he is one of the
smallest of the entire family. In appearance he is much like
Nibbler, but his coat is browner and there are fine hairs on his
tail. He loves grassy, weedy or brushy places.
"As a rule he does little harm to man, for his food is chiefly
seeds of weeds, small wild fruits and parts of wild plants of no
value to man. Once in a while his family becomes so large that
they do some damage in grain fields. But this does not happen
often. The most interesting thing about this little Mouse is the
way he builds his home. Sometimes he uses a hole in a tree or
post and sometimes a deserted birds' nest, but more frequently
he builds a nest for himself--a little round ball of grass and
other vegetable matter. This is placed in thick grass or weeds
close to the ground or in bushes or low trees several feet from
"They are well-built little houses and have one or more little
doorways on the under side when they are in bushes or trees. Inside
is a warm, soft bed made of milkweed or cattail down, the very
nicest kind of a bed for the babies. No one has a neater home than
the Harvest Mouse. He is quite as much at home in bushes and low
trees as Happy Jack Squirrel is in bigger trees. His long tail
comes in very handy then, for he often wraps it around a twig to
make his footing more secure.
"Now this is all about the native Mice and--what is it, Peter?"
"You've forgotten Nibbler the House Mouse," replied Peter.
"How impatient some little folks are and how fearful that their
curiosity will not be satisfied" remarked Old Mother Nature. "As
I was saying, this is all about our native Mice; that is, the Mice
who belong to this country. And now we come to Nibbler the House
Mouse, who, like Robber the Brown Rat, has no business here at all,
but who has followed man all over the world and like Robber has
become a pest to man."
Peter Rabbit looked rather sheepish when he discovered that Old
Mother Nature hadn't for gotten, and resolved that in the future
he would hold his tongue.
"Have any of you seen Nibbler?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"I have," replied Danny Meadow Mouse. "Once I was carried to
Farmer Brown's barn in a shock of corn and I found Nibbler living
in the barn."
"It is a wonder he wasn't living in Farmer Brown's house," said
Old Mother Nature. "Probably other members of his family were.
He is perfectly at home in any building put up by man, just as
is Robber the Rat. Because of his small size he can go where
Robber cannot. He delights to scamper about between the walls.
Being a true Rodent he is forever gnawing holes in the corners
of rooms and opening on to pantry shelves so that he may steal
food. He eats all sorts of food, but spoils more for man, by
running about over it, than he eats. In barns and henhouses he
gets into the grain bins and steals a great deal of grain.
"It is largely because of Robber the Rat and Nibbler that men keep
the Cats you all hate so. A Cat is Nibbler's worst enemy. Nibbler
is slender and graceful, with a long, hairless tail and ears of
good size. He is very timid, ready to dart into his hole at the
least sound. He raises from four to nine babies at a time and
several sets of them in a year.
"If Mr. and Mrs. Nibbler are living in a house, their nest is made
of scraps of paper, cloth, wool and other soft things stolen from
the people who live in the house. In getting this material they
often do great damage. If they are living in a barn, they make
their nest of hay and any soft material they can find.
"While Nibbler prefers to live in or close to the homes of men,
he sometimes is driven out and then takes to the fields, especially
in summer. There he lives in all sorts of hiding places, and isn't
at all particular what the place is, if it promises safety and food
can be obtained close by. I'm sorry Nibbler ever came to this
country. Man brought him here and now he is here to stay and quite
as much at home as if he belonged here the way the rest of you do.
"This finishes the lessons on the order of Rodents, the animals
related by reason of having teeth for the purpose of gnawing. I
suspect these are the only ones in whom you take any interest, and
so you will not care to come to school any more. Am I right?"
"No, marm," answered Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel, who, you remember,