Part 3 out of 5
had laughed at Peter Rabbit for wanting to go to school. "No, marm.
There are ever so many other people of the Green Forest and the
Green Meadows we want to know more about than we now know. Isn't
that so?" Happy Jack turned to the others and every one nodded,
even Prickly Porky.
"There is one little fellow living right near here who looks to me
as if he must be a member of the Mouse family, but he isn't like any
of the Mice you have told us about," continued Happy Jack. "He is
so small he can hide under a leaf. I'm sure he must be a Mouse."
"You mean Teeny Weeny the Shrew," replied Old Mother Nature, smiling
at Happy Jack. "He isn't a Mouse. He isn't even a Rodent. I'll
try to have him here to-morrow morning and we will see what we can
find out about him and his relatives."
CHAPTER XIX Teeny Weeny and His Cousin
"Of course Old Mother Nature knows, but just the same it is hard
for me not to believe that Teeny Weeny is a member of the Mouse
family," said Happy Jack Squirrel to Peter Rabbit, as they
scampered along to school. "I never have had a real good look
at him, but I've had glimpses of him lots of times and always
supposed him a little Mouse with a short tail. It is hard to
believe that he isn't."
"I hope Old Mother Nature will put him where we can get a good
look at him," replied Peter. "Perhaps when you really see him he
won't look so much like a Mouse."
When all had arrived Old Mother Nature began the morning lesson at
once. "You have learned about all the families in the order of
Rodents," said she, "so now we will take up another and much smaller
order called Insectivora. I wonder if any of you can guess what
that means." "It sounds," said Peter Rabbit, "as if it must have
something to do with insects."
"That is a very good guess, Peter," replied Old Mother Nature,
smiling at him. "It does have to do with insects. The members
of this order live very largely on insects and worms, and the name
Insectivora means insect-eating. There are two families in this
order, the Shrew family and the Mole family."
"Then Teeny Weeny and Miner the Mole must be related," spoke
"Right again, Peter," was the prompt reply. "The Shrews and the
Moles are related in the same way that you and Happy Jack Squirrel
"And isn't Teeny Weeny the Shrew related to the Mice at all?"
asked Happy Jack.
"Not at all," said Old Mother Nature. "Many people think he is
and often he is called Shrew Mouse. But this is a great mistake.
It is the result of ignorance. It seems strange to me that people
so often know so little about their near neighbors." She looked
at Happy Jack Squirrel as she said this, and Happy Jack looked
sheepish. He felt just as he looked. All this time the eyes of
every one had been searching this way, that way, every way, for
Teeny Weeny, for Old Mother Nature had promised to try to have
him there that morning. But Teeny Weeny was not to be seen. Now
and then a leaf on the ground close by Old Mother Nature's feet
moved, but the Merry Little Breezes were always stirring up
fallen leaves, and no one paid any attention to these.
Old Mother Nature understood the disappointment in the faces before
her and her eyes began to twinkle. "Yesterday I told you that I
would try to have Teeny Weeny here," said she. A leaf moved.
Stooping quickly she picked it up. "And here he is," she finished.
Sure enough where a second before the dead brown leaf had been was
a tiny little fellow, so tiny that that leaf had covered him
completely, and it wasn't a very big leaf. It was Teeny Weeny the
Shrew, also called the Common Shrew, the Long-tailed Shrew and the
Shrew Mouse, one of the smallest animals in all the Great World.
He started to dart under another leaf, but Old Mother Nature stopped
him. "Sit still," she commanded sharply. "You have nothing to fear.
I want everybody to have a good look at you, for it is high time
these neighbors of yours should know you. I know just how nervous
and uncomfortable you are and I'll keep you only a few minutes.
Now everybody take a good look at Teeny Weeny."
This command was quite needless, for all were staring with all
their might. What they saw was a mite of a fellow less than four
inches long from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, and
of this total length the tail was almost half. He was slender,
had short legs and mouselike feet. His coat was brownish above
and grayish beneath, and the fur was very fine and soft.
But the oddest thing about Teeny Weeny was his long, pointed head
ending in a long nose. No Mouse has a head like it. The edges of
the ears could be seen above the fur, but the eyes were so tiny
that Peter Rabbit thought he hadn't any and said so.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "Yes, he has eyes, Peter," said she.
"Look closely and you will see them. But they don't amount to
much--little more than to tell daylight from darkness. Teeny
Weeny depends on his nose chiefly. He has a very wonderful little
nose, flexible and very sensitive. Of course, with such poor eyes
he prefers the dark when there are fewer enemies abroad."
All this time Teeny Weeny had been growing more and more uneasy.
Old Mother Nature saw and understood. Now she told him that he
might go. Hardly were the words out of her mouth when he vanished,
darting under some dead leaves. Hidden by them he made his way
to an old log and was seen no more.
"Doesn't he eat anything but insects and worms?" asked
"Yes," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is very fond of flesh, and
if he finds the body of a bird or animal that has been killed he
will tear it to pieces. He is very hot-tempered, as are all his
family, and will not hesitate to attack a Mouse much bigger than
himself. He is so little and so active that he has to have a
great deal of food and probably eats his own weight in food every
day. Of course, that means he must do a great deal of hunting,
and he does.
"He makes tiny little paths under the fallen leaves and in swampy
places--little tunnels through the moss. He is especially fond of
old rotted stumps and logs and brush piles, for in such places he
can find grubs and insects. At the same time he is well hidden.
He is active by day and night, but in the daytime takes pains to
keep out of the light. He prefers damp to dry places. In winter
he tunnels about under the snow. In summer he uses the tunnels
and runways of Meadow Mice and others when he can. He eats seeds
and other vegetable food when he cannot find insects or flesh"
"How about his enemies?" asked Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"He has plenty," replied Old Mother Nature, "but is not so much
hunted as the members of the Mouse family. This is because he has
a strong, unpleasant scent which makes him a poor meal for those
at all particular about their food. Some of the Hawks and Owls
appear not to mind this, and these are his worst enemies."
"Has he any near relatives?" asked Jumper the Hare.
"Several," was the prompt response. "Blarina the Short-tailed
Shrew, also called Mole Shrew, is the best known. He is found
everywhere, in forests, old pastures and along grassy banks, but
seldom far from water. He prefers moist ground. He is much
larger and thicker than Teeny Weeny and has a shorter tail.
People often mistake him for Miner the Mole, because of the thick,
fine fur which is much like Miner's and his habit of tunneling
about just beneath the surface, but if they would look at his
fore feet they would never make that mistake. They are small
and like the feet of the Mouse family, not at all like Miner's
big shovels. Moreover, he is smaller than Miner, and his tunnels
are seldom in the earth but just under the leaves and grass.
"His food is much the same as that of Teeny Weeny--worms, insects,
flesh when he can get it, and seeds. He is fond of beechnuts. He
is quite equal to killing a Mouse of his own size or bigger and
does not hesitate to do so when he gets the chance. He makes a
soft, comfortable nest under a log or in a stump or in the ground
and has from four to six babies at a time. Teeny Weeny sometimes
has as many as ten. The senses of smell and hearing are very keen
and make up for the lack of sight. His eyes, like those of other
Shrews, are probably of use only in distinguishing light from
darkness. His coat is dark brownish-gray.
"Another of the Shrew family is the Marsh Shrew, also called Water
Shrew and Black-and white Shrew. He is longer than either of the
others and, as you have guessed, is a lover of water. He is a good
swimmer and gets much of his food in the water--water Beetles and
grubs and perhaps Tadpoles and Minnows. Now who among you knows
Miner the Mole?"
"I do. That is, I have seen him," replied Peter Rabbit.
"Very well, Peter, to-morrow morning we will see how much you know
about Miner," replied Old Mother Nature.
CHAPTER XX Four Busy Little Miners
Scampering along on his way to school and thinking of nothing so
uninteresting as watching his steps, Peter Rabbit stubbed his toes.
Yes, sir, Peter stubbed his toes. With a little exclamation of
impatience he turned to see what he had stumbled over. It was a
little ridge where the surface of the ground had been raised a
trifle since Peter had passed that way the day before.
Peter chuckled. "Now isn't that funny?" he demanded of no one at
all, for he was quite alone. Then he answered himself. "It
certainly is," said he. "Here I am on my way to learn something
about Miner the Mole, and I trip over one of the queer little
ridges he is forever making. It wasn't here yesterday, so that
means that he is at work right around here now. Hello, I
Peter had been looking along that little ridge and had discovered
that it ended only a short distance from him. Now as he looked at
it again, he saw the flat surface of the ground at the end of the
ridge rise as if being pushed up from beneath, and that little
ridge became just so much longer. Peter understood perfectly. Out
of sight beneath the surface Miner the Mole was at work. He was
digging a tunnel, and that ridge was simply the roof to that
tunnel. It was so near the surface of the ground that Miner simply
pushed up the loose soil as he bored his way along, and this made
the little ridge over which Peter had stumbled.
Peter watched a few minutes, then turned and scampered, lipperty-
lipperty-lip, for the Green Forest. He arrived at school quite out
of breath, the last one. Old Mother Nature was about to chide him
for being late, but noticing his excitement, she changed her mind.
"Well, Peter," said she. "What is it now? Did you have a narrow
escape on your way here?"
Peter shook his head. "No," he replied. "No, I didn't have a
narrow escape, but I discovered something."
Happy Jack Squirrel snickered. "Peter is always discovering
something," said he. "He is a great little discoverer. Probably
he has just found out that the only way to get anywhere on time
is to start soon enough."
"No such thing!" declared Peter indignantly. "You--"
"Never mind him, Peter," interrupted Old Mother Nature soothingly.
"What was it you discovered?"
"That the very one we are to learn about is only a little way from
here this very minute. Miner the Mole is at work on the Green
Meadow; close to the edge of the Green Forest," cried Peter eagerly.
"I thought perhaps you would want to-"
"Have this morning's lesson right there where we can at least see
his works if not himself," interrupted Old Mother Nature again.
"That is fine, Peter. We will go over there at once. It is always
better to see things than to merely hear about them."
So Peter led the way to where he had stumbled over that little
ridge on his way to school. It was longer than when he had left
it, but even as the others crowded about to look, the earth was
pushed up and it grew in length. Old Mother Nature stooped and
made a little hole in that ridge. Then she put her lips close to
it and commanded Miner to come out. She spoke softly, pleasantly,
but in a way that left no doubt that she expected to be obeyed.
She was. Almost at once a queer, long, sharp nose was poked out
of the little hole she had made, and a squeaky voice asked
fretfully, "Do I have to come way out?"
"You certainly do," replied Old Mother Nature. "I want some of
your friends and neighbors to get a good look at you, and they
certainly can't do that with only that sharp nose of yours to be
seen. Now scramble out here. No one will hurt you. I will keep
you only a few minutes. Then you can go back to your everlasting
digging. Out with you, now!"
While the others gathered in a little circle close about that hole
there scrambled into view one of the queerest little fellows in all
the Great World. Few of them had ever seen him close to before.
He was a stout little fellow with the softest, thickest, gray coat
imaginable. He was about six inches long and had a funny, short,
pinkish-white, naked tail that at once reminded Peter of an Angleworm.
His head seemed to be set directly on his shoulders, so that
there was no neck worth mentioning. His nose was long and sharp
and extended far beyond his mouth. Neither ears nor eyes were
to be seen.
Striped Chipmunk at once wanted to know how Miner could see. "He
doesn't see as you do," replied Old Mother Nature. "He has very
small eyes, tiny things, which you might find if you should part
the fur around them, but they are of use only to distinguish light
from darkness. Miner hasn't the least idea what any of you look
like. You see, he spends his life under ground and of course has
no use for eyes there. They would be a nuisance, for the dirt would
be continually getting in them if they were any larger than they
are or were not protected as they are. If you should feel of
Miner's nose you would find it hard. That is because he uses it
to bore with in the earth. Just notice those hands of his."
At once everybody looked at Miner's hands. No one ever had seen
such hands before. The arms were short but looked very strong.
The hands also were rather short, but what they lacked in length
they made up in width and they were armed with long, stout claws.
But the queer thing about them was the way he held them. He held
them turned out. His hind feet were not much different from the
hind feet of the Mouse family.
Miner was plainly uncomfortable. He wriggled about uneasily and
it was very clear that he was there only because Old Mother Nature
had commanded him to be there, and that the one thing he wanted
most was to get back into his beloved ground. Old Mother Nature
saw this and took pity on him. She picked him up and placed him
on the ground where there was no opening near.
"Now, Miner," said she, "your friends and neighbors have had a
good look at you, and I know just how uncomfortable you feel.
There is but one thing more I'll ask of you. It is that you will
show us how you can dig. Johnny Chuck thinks he is a pretty good
digger. Just show him what you can do in that line."
Miner didn't wait to be told twice. The instant Old Mother Nature
stopped speaking he began to push and bore into the earth with
his sharp nose. One of those great, spadelike hands was slipped
up past his face and the claws driven in beside his nose. Then it
was swept back and the loosened earth with it. The other hand was
used in the same way. It was quite plain to everybody why they
were turned out in the way they were. There was nothing slow about
the way Miner used that boring nose and those shoveling hands.
Peter Rabbit had hardly time for half a dozen long breaths before
Miner the Mole had disappeared.
"Some digging!" exclaimed Peter.
"Never again as long as I live will I boast of my digging," declared
Johnny Chuck admiringly. From the point where Miner had entered
the ground a little ridge was being pushed up, and they watched it
grow surprisingly fast as the little worker under the sod pushed
his tunnel along in the direction of his old tunnels. It was clear
that he was in a hurry to get back where he could work in peace.
"What a queer life," exclaimed Happy Jack Squirrel. "He can't
have much fun. I should think it would be awful living in the
dark that way all the time."
"You forget that he cannot see as you can, and so prefers the
dark," replied Old Mother Nature. "As for fun, he gets that in
his work. He is called Miner because he lives in the ground and
is always tunneling."
"What does he eat, the roots of plants?" asked Jumper the Hare.
Old Mother Nature shook her head. "A lot of people think that,"
said she, "and often Miner is charged with destroying growing
crops, eating seed corn, etc. That is because his tunnels are
found running along the rows of plants. The fact is Miner has
simply been hunting for grubs and worms around the roots of
those plants. He hasn't touched the plants at all. I suspect
that Danny Meadow Mouse or one of his cousins could explain who
ate the seed corn and the young plants. They are rather fond of
using Miner's tunnels when he isn't about."
Danny hung his head and looked guilty, but didn't say anything.
"The only harm Miner does is sometimes to tunnel so close to
garden plants that he lets air in around the tender roots and they
dry out," continued Old Mother Nature. "His food consists almost
wholly of worms, grubs and insects, and he has to have a great many
to keep him alive. That is why he is so active. Those tunnels of
his which seem to be without any plan are made in his search for
food. He is especially fond of Angleworms.
"As a matter of fact, he is a useful little fellow. The only
time he becomes a nuisance to man is when he makes his little
ridges across smooth lawns. Even then he pays for the trouble by
destroying the grubs in the grass roots, grubs that in their turn
would destroy the grass. When you see his ridges you may know that
his food is close to the surface. When in dry or cold weather the
worms go deep in the ground, Miner follows and then there is no
trace of his tunnels on the surface.
"Night and day are all the same to him. He works and sleeps when
he chooses. In winter he tunnels below the frost line. You all
noticed how dense his fur is. That is so the sand cannot work
down in it. His home is a snug nest of grass or leaves in a
little chamber under the ground in which several tunnels offer
easy means of escape in case of sudden danger."
"Has Miner any near relatives?" asked Peter Rabbit.
"Several," replied Old Mother Nature. "All are much alike in
habits. One who lives a little farther north is called Brewer's
Mole or the Hairytailed Mole. His tail is a little longer than
Miner's and is covered with fine hair. The largest and handsomest
member of the family is the Oregon Mole of the Northwest. His
coat is very dark and his fur extremely fine. His ways are much
the same as those of Miner whom you have just met, excepting that
when he is tunneling deep in the ground he pushes the earth to the
surface after the manner of Grubby Gopher, and his mounds become
a nuisance to farmers. When he is tunneling just under the surface
he makes ridges exactly like these of his eastern cousin.
"But the oddest member of the Mole family is the Star-nosed Mole.
He looks much like Miner with the exception of his nose and tail.
His nose has a fringe of little fleshy points, twenty-two of them,
like a many-pointed star. From this he gets his name. His tail
is a little longer than Miner's and is hairy. During the late
fall and winter this becomes much enlarged.
"This funny little fellow with the star-like nose is especially
fond of moist places, swamps, damp meadows, and the banks of
streams. He is not at all afraid of the water and is a good
swimmer. Sometimes he may be seen swimming under the ice in
winter. He is seldom found where the earth is dry. For that
matter, none of the family are found in those sections where
there are long, dry periods and the earth becomes baked and hard.
"The fur of Miner and his cousins will lay in either direction,
which keeps it smooth no matter whether the wearer is going
forward or backward. Otherwise it would be badly mussed up most
of the time. Altogether these little underground workers are
most interesting little people when you know them. But that
is something few people have a chance to do.
"Now just remember that the Shrews and the Moles belong to the
order of Insectivora, meaning eaters of insects, and are the only
two families in that order. And don't despise either of them, for
they do a great deal of good in the Great World, more than some
right here whom I might name, but will not. School is dismissed."
CHAPTER XXI Flitter the Bat and His Family
In the dusk of early evening, as Peter Rabbit sat trying to make
up his mind whether to spend that night at home in the dear Old
Briar-patch with timid little Mrs. Peter or go over to the Green
Forest in search of adventure, a very fine, squeaky voice which
came right out of the air above him startled him for a moment.
"Better stay at home, Peter Rabbit. Better stay at home to-night,"
said the thin, squeaky voice.
"Hello, Flitter!" exclaimed Peter, as he stared up at a little
dark form darting this way, twisting that way, now up, now down,
almost brushing Peter's head and then flying so high he could
hardly be seen. "Why should I stay at home?"
"Because I saw Old Man Coyote sneaking along the edge of the Green
Forest, Reddy Fox is hunting on the Green Meadows, and Hooty the
Owl is on watch in the Old Orchard," replied Flitter the Red Bat.
"Of course it is no business of mine what you do, Peter Rabbit, but
were I in your place I certainly would stay at home. Gracious!
I'm glad I can go where I please when I please. You ought to fly,
Peter. You ought to fly. There is nothing like it."
"I wish I could," sighed Peter.
"Well, don't say I didn't warn you," squeaked Flitter, and darted
away in the direction of Farmer Brown's house. Peter wisely
decided that the dear Old Briar-patch was the best place for him
that night, so he remained at home, to the joy of timid little
Mrs. Peter, and spent the night eating, dozing and wondering how
it would seem to be able to fly like Flitter the Bat.
Flitter was still in his mind when he started for school the next
morning, and by the time he got there he was bubbling over with
curiosity and questions. He could hardly wait for school to be
called to order. Old Mother Nature noticed how fidgety he was.
"What have you on your mind, Peter?" she asked.
"Didn't you tell us that the Shrew family and the Mole family are
the only families in this country in the order of insect-eaters?"
"I certainly did," was the prompt reply. "Doesn't Flitter the Bat
live on insects?" asked Peter.
Old Mother Nature nodded. "He does," said she. "In fact he lives
altogether on insects."
"Then why isn't he a member of that order?" demanded Peter.
Old Mother Nature smiled, for she was pleased that Peter had thought
of this. "That question does you credit, Peter," said she. "The
reason is that he and his relatives are so very different from other
animals that they have been placed in an order of their own. It is
called the Chi-rop-ter-a, which means wing-handed. How many of you
know Flitter the Bat?"
"I've often seen him," declared Jumper the Hare.
"So have I," said Chatterer the Red Squirrel. Each of the others
said the same thing. There wasn't one who hadn't watched and
envied Flitter darting about in the air just at dusk of early
evening or as the Black Shadows were stealing away in the early
morning. Old Mother Nature smiled.
"Seeing him isn't knowing him," said she. "Who is there who knows
anything about him and his ways save that he flies at night and
catches insects in the air?"
She waited a minute or two, but no one spoke. The fact is there
was not one who really knew anything about Flitter. "It is one of
the strange things of life," said she, "that people often know
nothing about the neighbors whom they see every day. But in this
case it is not to be wondered at. I suspect none of you has seen
Flitter, excepting in the air, and then he moves so rapidly that
there is no chance to get a good look at him. I think this is
just the time and place for you to really make the acquaintance
of Flitter the Red Bat."
She stepped over to a bush and parted the leaves. Hanging from
a twig was what appeared at first glance to be a rumpled, reddish-
brown dead leaf. She touched it lightly. At once it came to life,
stirring uneasily. A thin, squeaky voice peevishly demanded to
know what was wanted.
"You have some callers, a few of your friends who want to get
really acquainted with you. Suppose you wake up for a few minutes,"
explained Old Mother Nature pleasantly.
Flitter, for that is just who it was, yawned once or twice sleepily,
shook himself, then grinned down at the wondering faces of his
friends crowded about just under him. "Hello, folks," said he in
that thin, squeaky voice of his.
The sunlight fell full on him, but he seemed not to mind it in the
least. In fact, he appeared to enjoy its warmth. He was hanging
by his toes, head down, his wings folded. He was about four inches
long, and his body was much like that of a Mouse. His fur was
fine and thick, a beautiful orange-red. For his size his ears were
large. Instead of the long head and sharp nose of the Mouse family,
Flitter had a rather round head and blunt nose. Almost at once Peter
Rabbit made a discovery. It was that Flitter possessed a pair of
bright, little, snapping eyes and didn't seem in the least bothered
by the bright light.
"Where did that saying 'blind as a Bat' ever come from?"
Old Mother Nature laughed. "Goodness knows; I don't," said she.
"There is nothing blind about Flitter. He sleeps through the
day and does his hunting in the dusk of evening or early morning,
but if he is disturbed and has to fly during the day, he has no
trouble in seeing. Flitter, stretch out one of your wings so
that everybody can see it."
Obediently Flitter stretched out one of his wings. Everybody
gasped, for it was the first time any of them ever had seen one
of those wings near enough to know just what it was like.
Flitter's arm was long, especially from his elbow to his hand.
But the surprising thing was the length of his three fingers.
Each finger appeared to be about as long as the whole arm. From
his shoulder a thin, rubbery skin was stretched to the ends of
the long fingers, then across to the ankle of his hind foot on
that side, and from there across to the tip of his tail. A
little short thumb with a long, curved claw stuck up free from
the edge of the wing.
"Now you can see just why he is called winghanded," explained Old
Mother Nature, as Flitter folded the wing. In a minute he began
to clean it. Everybody laughed, for it was funny to watch him.
He would take the skin of the wing in his mouth and pull and stretch
it as if it were rubber. He washed it with his tiny tongue. Then
he washed his fur. You see, Flitter is very neat. With the little
claw of his thumb he scratched his head and combed his hair. All
the time he remained hanging head down, clinging to the twig with
"Where is Mrs. Flitter?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"Don't know," replied Flitter, beginning on the other wing. "She's
quite equal to looking after herself, so I don't worry about her."
"Nor about your babies. Flitter, I'm ashamed of you. You are a
poor kind of father," declared Old Mother Nature severely. "If
you don't know where to find your family, I'll show you."
She stepped over to the very next tree, parted the leaves, and
there, sure enough, hung Mrs. Flitter fast asleep. And clinging
to her were three of the funniest babies in all the Great World!
All were asleep, and Old Mother Nature didn't awaken them. As for
Flitter, he seemed to take not the slightest interest in his
family, but went right on with his toilet.
"Flitter the Red Bat is one of the best known of the whole family
in this country," said Old Mother Nature, as they left Flitter to
resume his nap. He is found from the East to the Far West, from
ocean to ocean. Like the birds, he migrates when cold weather
comes, returning in the early summer. Although, like all Bats,
he sleeps all day as a rule, he doesn't mind the sunlight, as you
have just seen for yourselves. Sometimes on dull, dark days he
doesn't wait for evening, but flies in the afternoon. Usually he
is the first of the Bat family to appear in the evening, often coming
out while it is still light enough to show the color of his red coat.
No other member of his family has a coat of this color.
"Some people call him the Tree Bat. After seeing him hanging over
there I think you can guess why. He rarely goes to a cave for his
daytime sleep, as most of his relatives do, but hangs by his toes
from a twig of a tree or bush, frequently not far from the ground,
just as he is right now.
"As all of you who have watched him know, Flitter is a swift flier.
This is because his wings are long and narrow. They are made for
speed. I want you to know that the Bats are among the most
wonderful of all my little people. Few if any birds can equal them
in the air because of their wonderful ability to twist and turn.
They are masters of the art of flying. Moreover, they make no
sound with their wings, something which only the Owls among birds
can boast of.
"You all saw the three babies clinging to Mrs. Flitter. Most Bats
have but two babies at a time, occasionally only one, but the Red
Bat and his larger cousin, the Hoary Bat, have three or four. Mrs.
Flitter carries her babies about with her until they are quite big.
When they are too large to be carried she leaves them hanging in a
tree while she hunts for her meals.
"Flitter has many cousins. One of these is the Little Brown Bat,
one of the smallest members of the family and found all over the
country. He is brown all over. He is sometimes called the Cave
Bat, because whenever a cave is to be found he sleeps there.
Sometimes great numbers of these little Bats are found crowded
together in a big cave. When there is no cave handy, a barn or
hollow tree is used. Often he will creep behind the closed
blinds of a house to spend the day.
"Very like this little fellow in color is his cousin the Big Brown
Bat, called the House Bat and the Carolina Bat. He is especially
fond of the homes of men. He is a little bigger than the Red Bat.
While the latter is one of the first Bats to appear in the evening,
the former is one of the last, coming out only when it is quite
dark. He also found all over the country.
"The Silvery Bat is of nearly the same size and in many places is
more common than any its cousins. The fur is dark brown or black
with white tips, especially in the young. From this it gets its
name. One of the largest and handsomest of the Bat cousins, and
one of the rarest is the Hoary Bat. His fur is a mixture of dark
and light brown tipped with white. He is very handsome. His
wings are very long and narrow and he is one of the most wonderful
of all fliers. He is a lover of the Green Forest and does his
hunting high above the tree-tops, making his appearance late in
the evening. Like the Red Bat he spends the hours of daylight
hanging in a tree.
"Down in the Southeast is a member of the family with ears so big
that he is called the Big-eared Bat. He is a little chap, smaller
than Little Brown Bat, and his ears are half as long his head and
body together. What do you think of that? For his size he has
the biggest ears of any animal in all this great country. A
relative in the Southwest is the Big-eared Bat.
"All members of the Bat family are drinkers and usually the first
thing they do when they start out at dusk is to seek water. All
live wholly on insects, and for this reason they are among the very
best friends of man. They eat great numbers of Mosquitoes. They do
no harm whatever, which is more than can be said for some of the
rest of you little folks. Now who shall we learn about next?"
CHAPTER XXII An Independent Family
Just as Old Mother Nature asked who they should learn about next,
Happy Jack Squirrel spied some one coming down the Lone Little
Path. "See who's coming!" cried Happy Jack.
Everybody turned to look down the Lone Little Path. There, ambling
along in the most matter-of-fact and unconcerned way imaginable, came
a certain small person who was dressed wholly in black and white.
"Hello, Jimmy Skunk," cried Chatterer the Red Squirrel. "What are
you doing over here in the Green Forest?" Jimmy Skunk looked up
and grinned. It was a slow, good-natured grin. "Hello, everybody,"
said he. "I thought I would just amble over here and see your school.
I suppose all you fellows are getting so wise that pretty soon you
will think you know all there is to know. Have any of you seen any
fat Beetles around here?"
Just then Jimmy noticed Old Mother Nature and hastened to bow his
head in a funny way. "Please excuse me, Mother Nature," he said,
"I thought school was over. I don't want to interrupt."
Old Mother Nature smiled. The fact is, Old Mother Nature is rather
fond of Jimmy Skunk. "You aren't interrupting," said she. "The
fact is, we had just ended the lesson about Flitter the Bat and
his relatives, and were trying to decide who to study about next.
I think you came along at just the right time. You belong to a
large and rather important order, one that all these little folks
here ought to know about. How many cousins have you, Jimmy?"
Jimmy Skunk looked a little surprised at the question. He scratched
his head thoughtfully. "Let me see," said he, "I have several close
cousins in the Skunk branch of the family, but I presume you want to
know who my cousins are outside of the Skunk branch. They are
Shadow the Weasel, Billy Mink and Little Joe Otter. These are the
only ones I can think of now."
"How about Digger the Badger?" asked Old Mother Nature.
A look of surprise swept over Jimmy Skunk's face. "Digger the
Badger!" he exclaimed. "Digger the Badger is no cousin of mine!"
"Tut, tut, tut!" chided Old Mother Nature. "Tut, tut, tut, Jimmy
Skunk! It is high time you came to school. Digger the Badger is
just as much a cousin of yours as is Shadow the Weasel. You are
members of the same order and it is a rather large order. It is
called the Car-niv-o-ra, which means 'flesh-eating.' You are a
member of the Marten or Weasel family, and that family is called
the 'Mus-tel-i-dae.' Digger the Badger is also a member of that
family. That means that you two are cousins. You and Digger and
Glutton the Wolverine belong to the stout-bodied branch of the
family. Billy Mink, Little Joe Otter, Shadow the Weasel, Pekan
the Fisher and Spite the Marten belong to its slim-bodied branch.
But all are members of the same family despite the difference in
looks, and thus, of course, are cousins. Seeing that you are here,
Jimmy, I think we will find out just how much these little folks
know about you.
"Peter Rabbit, tell us what you know about Jimmy Skunk."
"I know one thing about him," declared Peter, "and that's that he is
the most independent fellow in the world. He isn't afraid of anybody.
I saw Buster Bear actually step out of his way the other day."
Jimmy Skunk grinned. "Buster always treats me very politely,"
"I have noticed that everybody does, even Farmer Brown's boy," spoke
up Happy Jack Squirrel.
"It is easy enough to be independent when everybody is afraid of
you," sputtered Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"Just why is everybody afraid of Jimmy Skunk " asked Old
"They are afraid of that little scent gun he carries," spoke up Peter
Rabbit. "I wish I had one just like it."
Old Mother Nature shook her head. "It wouldn't do, Peter, to trust
you with a gun like Jimmy Skunk's," said she. "You are altogether
too heedless and careless. If you had a scent gun like Jimmy's, I
am afraid there would be trouble in the Green Forest and on the Green
Meadow all the time. I suspect that you would drive everybody else
away. Jimmy is never heedless or careless. He never uses that little
scent gun unless he is in real danger or thinks he is. Usually he
is pretty sure that he is before he uses it. I'll venture to say
that not one of you has seen Jimmy use that little scent gun."
Peter looked at Jumper the Hare. Jumper looked at Chatterer. Chatterer
looked at Happy Jack. Happy Jack looked at Danny Meadow Mouse. Danny
looked at Striped Chipmunk. Striped looked at Johnny Chuck. Johnny
looked at Whitefoot the Wood Mouse. Then all looked at Old Mother
Nature and shook their heads. "I thought as much," said she. "Jimmy
is wonderfully well armed, but for defense only. He never makes the
mistake of misusing that little scent gun. But everybody knows he
has it, so nobody interferes with him. Now, Peter, what more do you
know about Jimmy?"
"He's lazy," replied Peter.
"I'm not lazy," retorted Jimmy Skunk. "I'm no more lazy than you
are. You call me lazy just because I don't hurry. I don't have
to hurry, and I never can see any good in hurrying when one
doesn't have to."
"That will do," interposed Old Mother Nature. "Go on, Peter, with
what you know about Jimmy." "He is good-natured," said Peter, and
grinned at Jimmy.
Jimmy grinned back. "Thank you, Peter," said he.
"He is one of the best-natured people I know," continued Peter. "I
guess it is a lucky thing for the rest of us that he is. I have
noticed that fat people are usually good-natured, and Jimmy is nearly
always fat. In fact, I don't think I have seen him what you would
call really thin excepting very early in the spring. He eats Beetles
and grubs and Grasshoppers and Crickets and insects of all sorts. I
am told that he steals eggs when he can find them."
"Yes, and he catches members of my family when he can," spoke up Danny
Meadow Mouse. "I never feel safe with Jimmy Skunk very near."
Jimmy didn't look at all put out. "I might as well confess that
tender Mouse is rather to my liking," said he, "and I might add that
I also enjoy a Frog now and then, or a Lizard or a fish."
"Also you might mention that young birds don't come amiss when you
can get them," spoke up Chatterer the Red Squirrel maliciously.
Jimmy looked up at Chatterer. "That's a case of the pot calling
the kettle black," said he and Chatterer made a face at him. But
Chatterer said nothing more, for he knew that all the others knew
that what Jimmy said was true: Chatterer had robbed many a nest
of young birds.
"Is that all you know about Jimmy?" asked Old Mother Nature of Peter.
"I guess it is," replied Peter, "excepting that he lives in a hole
in the ground, and I seldom see him out in winter. I rather think
he sleeps all winter, the same as Johnny Chuck does."
"You've got another think coming, Peter," said Jimmy. "I sleep a
lot during the winter, but I don't go into winter quarters until
well after snow comes, and I don't sleep the way Johnny Chuck does.
Sometimes I go out in winter and hunt around a little."
"Do you dig your house?" asked Old Mother Nature.
Jimmy shook his head. "Not when I can help myself," said he, "It
is too much work. If I have to I do, but I would much rather use
one of Johnny Chuck's old houses. His houses suit me first rate."
"I want you all to look at Jimmy very closely," said Old Mother
Nature. "You will notice that he is about the size of Black
Pussy, the Cat from Farmer Brown's, and that his coat is black
with broad white stripes. But not all Skunks are marked alike. I
dare say that no two of Jimmy's children would be exactly alike.
I suspect that one or more might be all black, with perhaps a
little bit of white on the tail. Notice that Jimmy's front feet
have long, sharp claws. He uses these to dig out grubs and
insects in the ground, and for pulling over sticks and stones in
his search for beetles. Also notice that he places his feet on
the ground very much as does Buster Bear. That big, bushy tail
of his is for the purpose of warning folks. Jimmy never shoots
that little scent gun without first giving warning. When that
tail of his begins to go up in the air, wise people watch out.
"A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that Jimmy Skunk and
his family do a great deal of harm. The truth is, they do a great
deal of good to man. Once in a while they will make the mistake
of stealing Chickens or eggs, but it is only once in a while. They
make up for all they take in this way by the pests they destroy.
Jimmy and Mrs. Skunk have a large family each year, usually from
six to ten. Mrs. Skunk usually is living by herself when the babies
are born, but when they are big enough to walk their father rejoins
the family, and you may see them almost any pleasant evening
starting out together to hunt for Grasshoppers, Beetles and other
things. Often the whole family remains together the whole winter,
not breaking up until spring. Jimmy is one of the neatest of all
my little people and takes the best of care of his handsome coat.
He isn't afraid of water and can swim if it is necessary. He does
most of his hunting at night, sleeping during the day. He is one
of the few little wild people who haven't been driven away by man,
and often makes his home close to man's home.
"Jimmy has own cousins in nearly all parts of this great country.
Way down in the Southwest is one called the Hog-nosed Skunk, one of
the largest of the family. He gets his name because of the shape
of his nose and the fact that he roots in the ground the same as
a hog. He is also called the Badger Skunk because of the big claws
on his front feet and the fact that he is a great digger. His fur
is not so fine as that of Jimmy Skunk, but is rather coarse and
harsh. He is even more of an insect eater than is Jimmy.
"The smallest of Jimmy's own cousins is the Little Spotted Skunk.
He is only about half as big as Jimmy, and his coat, instead of
being striped with white like Jimmy's, is covered with irregular
white lines and spots, making it appear very handsome. He lives
in the southern half of the country and in habits is much like
Jimmy, but he is much livelier. Occasionally he climbs low trees.
Like Jimmy he eats almost anything he can find. And it goes
without saying that, like Jimmy, he carries a little scent gun.
By the way, Jimmy, what do you do when you are angry? Show us."
Jimmy began to growl, a queer-sounding little growl, and at the
same time to stamp the ground with his front feet. Old Mother
Nature laughed. "When you see Jimmy do that," said she, "it is
best to pretend you don't see him and keep out of his way."
"Hasn't Jimmy any enemies at all?" asked Peter Rabbit.
"That depends on how hungry some folks get," replied Old Mother
Nature. "Hooty the Owl doesn't seem to mind Jimmy's little scent
gun, but this is the only one I can think of who doesn't. Some of
the bigger animals might take him if they were starving, but even
then I think they would think twice. Who knows where Digger the
Badger is living?"
"I do," replied Peter Rabbit. "He is living out on the Green
Meadows over near the Old Pasture."
"All right, Peter," replied Old Mother Nature, "suppose you run
over and pay him a visit and to-morrow morning you can tell us
CHAPTER XXIII Digger and His Cousin Glutton
"Well, Peter," said Old Mother Nature, "did you visit Digger the
"Yes'm," replied Peter, "I visited him, but I didn't find out much.
He's a regular old grouch. He isn't the least bit neighborly. It
took me a long time to find him. He has more holes than anybody I
ever knew, and I couldn't tell which one is his home. When I did
find him, he gave me a terrible scare. I didn't see him until I
was right on top of him, and if I hadn't jumped, and jumped quickly,
I guess I wouldn't be here this morning. He was lying flat down in
the grass and he was so very flat that I just didn't see him. When
I told him that I wanted to know all about him and his ways, he
replied that it was none of my business how he lived or what he did,
and that was all I could get out of him.
"I sat around awhile and watched him, but he didn't do much except
take a sun bath. He certainly is a queer-looking fellow to be a
member of the Weasel family. There's nothing about him that looks
like a Weasel, that I could see. Of course, he isn't as broad as
he is long, but he looks almost that when he is lying flat down and
that long hair of his is spread out on both sides. He really has a
handsome coat when you come to look at it. It is silvery gray and
silky looking. It seems to be parted right down the middle of his
back. His tail is rather short, but stout and hairy. His head and
face are really handsome. His cheeks, chin and a broad stripe from
his nose right straight back over his head are white. On each cheek
is a bar of black. The back part of each ear is black, and so are
his feet. He has rather a sharp nose. Somehow when he is walking
he makes me think of a little, flattened-out Bear with very short
legs. And such claws as he has on his front feet! I don't know
any one with such big strong claws for his size. I guess that must
be because he is such a digger."
"That's a very good guess, Peter," said Old Mother Nature. "Has
any one here ever seen him dig?"
"I did once," replied Peter. "I happened to be over near where he
lives when Farmer Brown's boy came along and surprised Digger some
distance from one of his holes. Digger didn't try to get to one of
those holes; he simply began to dig. My gracious, how the sand did
fly! He was out of sight in the ground before Farmer Brown's boy
could get to him. Johnny Chuck is pretty good at digging, but he
simply isn't in the same class with Digger the Badger. No one is
that I know of, unless it is Miner the Mole. I guess this is all
I know about him, excepting that he is a great fighter. Once I saw
him whip a dog almost twice his size. I never heard such hissing
and snarling and growling. He wouldn't tell me anything about how
"Very good, Peter, very good," replied Old Mother Nature, "That's
as much as I expected you would be able to find out. Digger is
a queer fellow. His home is on the great plains and in the flat,
open country of the Middle West and Far West, where Gophers and
Ground Squirrels and Prairie Dogs live. They furnish him with the
greater part of his food. All of them are good diggers, but they
don't stand any chance when he sets out to dig them out.
"Digger spends most of his time under ground during daylight, seldom
coming out except for a sun bath. But as soon as jolly, round, red
Mr. Sun goes to bed for the night, Digger appears and travels about
in search of a dinner. His legs are so short and he is so stout and
heavy that he is slow and rather clumsy, but he makes up for that by
his ability to dig. He doesn't expect to catch any one on the surface,
unless he happens to surprise a Meadow Mouse within jumping distance.
He goes hunting for the holes of Ground Squirrels and other burrowers,
and when he finds one promptly digs. He eats Grasshoppers, Beetles
and small Snakes, as well as such small animals as he catches. It
was well for you, Peter, that you jumped when you did, for I suspect
that Digger would have enjoyed a Rabbit dinner.
"Very little is known of Digger's family life, but he is a good
husband. In winter he sleeps as Johnny Chuck does, coming out soon
after the snow disappears in the spring. Of all my little people,
none has greater courage. When he is cornered he will fight as
long as there is a breath of life in him. His skin is very tough
and he is further protected by his long hair. His teeth are sharp
and strong and he can always give a good account of himself in a
fight. He is afraid of no one of his own size.
"Man hunts him for his fur, but man is very stupid in many things and
this is an example. You see, Digger is worth a great deal more alive
than dead, because of the great number of destructive Rodents he
kills. The only thing that can be brought against him is the number
of holes he digs. Mr. and Mrs. Digger have two to five babies late
in the spring or early in the summer. They are born under ground in
a nest of grass. As you may guess just by looking at Digger, he is
very strong. If he once gets well into the ground, a strong man
pulling on his tail cannot budge him. As Peter has pointed out, he
isn't at all sociable. Mr. and Mrs. Digger are quite satisfied to
live by themselves and be left alone. So he is rarely seen in
daytime, but probably is out oftener than is supposed. Peter has
told how he nearly stepped on Digger before seeing him. It is
Digger's wise habit to lie perfectly still until he is sure he has
been seen, so people often pass him without seeing him at all, or
if they see him they take him for a stone.
"While Digger the Badger is a lover of the open country and doesn't
like the Green Forest at all he has a cousin who is found only in
the Green Forest and usually very deep in the Green Forest at that.
This is Glutton the Wolverine, the largest and ugliest member of the
family. None of you have seen him, because he lives almost wholly
in the great forests of the North. He hasn't a single friend that
I know of, but that doesn't trouble him in the least.
"Glutton has several names. He is called 'Carcajou' in the Far
North, and out in the Far West is often called 'Skunkbear.' The
latter name probably is given him because in shape and color he
looks a good deal as though he might be half Skunk and half Bear.
He is about three feet long with a tail six inches long, and is
thickset and heavy. His legs are short and very stout. His hair,
including that on the tail, is long and shaggy. It is blackish-
brown, becoming grayish on the upper part of his head and cheeks.
His feet are black. When he walks he puts his feet flat on the
ground as a Bear does.
"Being so short of leg and heavy of body, he is slow in his movements.
But what he lacks in this respect he makes up in strength and cunning.
You think Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote are smart, but neither begins
to be as smart as Glutton the Wolverine. He is a great traveler, and
in the Far North where the greater part of the fur of the world is
trapped, he is a pest to the trappers. He will follow a trapper all
day long, keeping just out of sight. No matter how carefully a trapper
hides a trap, Glutton will find it and steal the bait without getting
caught. Sometimes he even tears up the traps and takes them off and
hides them in the woods. If he comes on a trap in which some other
animal has been caught, he will eat the animal. His strength is so
great that often he will tear his way into the cabins of hunters while
they are absent and then eat or destroy all their food. His appetite
is tremendous, and it is because of this that he is called Glutton.
What he cannot eat or take away, he covers with filth so that no
other animal will touch it. He is of ugly disposition and is hated
alike by the animals and by man. His fur is of considerable value,
but he is hunted more for the purpose of getting rid of him than for
his fur. Sometimes when caught in a trap he will pick it up and
carry it for miles.
"Mrs. Glutton has two or three babies in the spring. They live
in a cave, but if a cave cannot be found, they use a hole in the
ground which Mrs. Glutton digs. It is usually well hidden and seldom
has been found by man. Glutton will eat any kind of flesh and seems
not to care whether it be freshly killed or so old that it is decayed.
The only way that hunters can protect their supplies is by covering
them with great logs. Even then Glutton will often tear the logs
apart to get at the supplies. Because of his great cunning, the
Indians think he is possessed of an evil spirit.
"I think this will do for to-day. To-morrow we will take up
another branch of the family, some members of which all of you
know. I wonder if it wouldn't be a good plan to have Shadow
the Weasel here."
Such a look of dismay as swept over the faces of all those little
people, with the exception of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porky! "If--
if--if you please, I don't think I'll come to-morrow morning," said
Danny Meadow Mouse.
"I--I--I think I shall be too busy at home and will have to miss
that lesson," said Striped Chipmunk.
Old Mother Nature smiled. "Don't worry, little folks," said she.
"You ought to know that if I had Shadow here I wouldn't let him
hurt one of you. But I am afraid if he were here you would pay
no attention to me, so I promise you that Shadow will not be
CHAPTER XXIV Shadow and His Family
Every one was on hand when school opened the next morning, despite
the fear that the mere mention of Shadow the Weasel had aroused in
all save Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porky. You see, all felt they must
be there so that they might learn all they possibly could about one
they so feared. It might help them to escape should they discover
Shadow hunting them sometime.
"Striped Chipmunk," said Old Mother Nature, "you know something about
Shadow the Weasel, tell us what you know."
"I know I hate him!" declared Striped Chipmunk, and all the others
nodded their heads in agreement. "I don't know a single good thing
about him," he continued, "but I know plenty of bad things. He is
the one enemy I fear more than any other because he is the one who
can go wherever I can. Any hole I can get into he can. I've seen
him just twice in my life, and I hope I may never see him again."
"What did he look like?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"Like a snake on legs," declared Striped Chipmunk. "Anyway, that
is what he made me think of, because his body was so long and slim
and he twisted and turned so easily. He was about as long as
Chatterer the Red Squirrel but looked longer because of his slim
body and long neck. He was brown above and white below. His front
feet were white, and his hind feet rather whitish, but not clear
white. His short, round tail was black at the end. Somehow his
small head and sharp face made me think of a Snake. Ugh! I don't
like to think about him!"
"I saw him once, and he wasn't brown at all. Striped Chipmunk is
all wrong, excepting about the end of his tail," interrupted Jumper
the Hare. "He was all white, every bit of him but the end of his
tail, that was black."
"Striped Chipmunk is quite right and so are you," declared Old Mother
Nature. "Striped Chipmunk saw him in summer and you saw him in winter.
He changes his coat according to season, just as you do yourself,
Jumper. In winter he is trapped for his fur and he isn't called
Weasel then at all, but Ermine."
"Oh," said Jumper and looked as if he felt a wee bit foolish.
"What was he doing when you saw him?" asked Old Mother Nature, turning
to Striped Chipmunk.
"Hunting," replied Striped Chipmunk, and shivered. "He was hunting
me. He had found my tracks where I had been gathering beechnuts,
and he was following them with his nose just the way Bowser the
Hound follows Reddy Fox. I nearly died of fright when I saw him."
"You are lucky to be alive," declared Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"I know it," replied Striped Chipmunk and shivered again. "I know
it. I guess I wouldn't be if Reddy Fox hadn't happened along just
then and frightened Shadow away. I've had a kindlier feeling for
Reddy Fox ever since."
"I never ran harder in my life than the time I saw him," spoke up
Jumper the Hare. "He was hunting me just the same way, running
with his nose in the snow and following every twist and turn I had
made. But for that black-tipped tail I wouldn't have seen him
until too late."
"Pooh!" exclaimed Jimmy Skunk. "The idea of a big fellow like you
running from such a little fellow as my Cousin Shadow!"
"I'm not ashamed of running," declared Jumper. "I may be ever so
much bigger, but he is so quick I wouldn't stand the least chance
in the world. When I suspect Shadow is about, I go somewhere else,
the farther the better. If I could climb a tree like Chatterer,
it would be different."
"No, it wouldn't!" interrupted Chatterer. "No, it wouldn't. That
fellow can climb almost as well as I can. The only thing that
saved me from him once was the fact that I could make a long jump
from one tree to another and he couldn't. He had found a hole in
a certain tree where I was living, and it was just luck that I
wasn't at home when he called. I was just returning when he
popped out. I ran for my life."
"He is the most awful fellow in all the Great World," declared
Whitefoot the Wood Mouse.
Jimmy Skunk chuckled right out. "A lot you know about the Great
World," he said. "Why, you are farther from home now than you've
ever been in your life before, yet I could walk to it in a few
minutes. How do you know Shadow is the most awful fellow in the
"I just know, that's all," retorted Whitefoot in a very positive
though squeaky voice. "He hunts and kills just for the love of
it, and no one, no matter how big he is, can do anything more
awful than that. I have a lot of enemies. Sometimes it seems as
if almost every one of my neighbors is looking for a Mouse dinner.
But all but Shadow the Weasel hunt me when they are hungry and
need food. I can forgive them for that. Every one must eat to
live. But Shadow hunts me even when his stomach is so full he
cannot eat another mouthful. That fellow just loves to kill.
He takes pleasure in it. That is what makes him so awful."
"Whitefoot is right," declared Old Mother Nature, and she spoke
sadly. "If Shadow was as big as Buster Bear or Puma the Panther
or even Tufty the Lynx, he would be the most terrible creature in
all the Great World because of this awful desire to kill which
fills him. He is hot-blooded, quick-tempered and fearless. Even
when cornered by an enemy against whom he has no chance he will
fight to the last gasp. I am sorry to say that there is no
kindness nor gentleness in him towards any save his own family.
Outside of that he hasn't a friend in the world, not one."
"Hasn't he any enemies?" asked Peter Rabbit.
"Oh, yes," replied Old Mother Nature. "Reddy Fox, Old Man Coyote,
Hooty the Owl and various members of the Hawk family have to be
watched for by him. But they do not worry him much. You see he
moves so quickly, dodging out of sight in a flash, that whoever
catches him must be quick indeed. Then, too, he is almost always
close to good cover. He delights in old stone walls, stone piles,
brush-grown fences, piles of rubbish and barns and old buildings,
the places that Mice delight in. In such places there is always
a hole to dart into in time of danger. He hunts whenever he feels
like it, be it day or night, and often covers considerable ground,
though nothing to compare with his big, brown, water-loving cousin,
Billy Mink. It is because of his wonderful ability to disappear
in an instant that he is called Shadow.
"Shadow is known as the Common Weasel, Short-tailed Weasel, Brown
Weasel, Bonaparte Weasel and Ermine, and is found all over the
forested parts of the northern part of the country. A little
farther south in the East is a cousin very much like him called the
New York Weasel. On the Great Plains of the West is a larger cousin
with a longer tail called the Long-tailed Weasel, Large Ermine, or
Yellow-bellied Weasel. His smallest cousin is the Least Weasel.
The latter is not much longer than a Mouse. In winter he is all
white, even the tip of his tail. In summer he is a purer white
underneath than his larger cousins. All of the Weasels are alike
in habits. When running they bound over the ground much as Peter
"In that part of the West where Yap Yap the Prairie Dog lives is
a relative called the Blackfooted Ferret who looks like a large
Weasel. He is about the size of Billy Mink, but instead of the
rich dark brown of Billy's coat his coat is a creamy yellow. His
feet are black and so is the tip of his tail. His face is whitish
with a dark band across the eyes. He is most frequently found in
Prairie dog towns and lives largely on Yap Yap and his friends.
His ways are those of Shadow and his cousins. There is no one
Yap Yap fears quite as much.
"The one good thing Shadow the Weasel does is to kill Robber the
Rat whenever they meet. Robber, as you know, is big and savage
and always ready for a fight when cornered. But all the fight
goes out of him when Shadow appears. Perhaps it is because he
knows how hopeless it is. When Shadow finds a barn overrun with
Rats he will sometimes stay until he has killed or driven out
the last one. Then perhaps he spoils it all by killing a dozen
Chickens in a night.
"It is a sad thing not to be able to speak well of any one, but
Shadow the Weasel, like Robber the Rat, has by his ways made
himself hated by all the little people of the Green Forest and
the Green Meadows and by man. There is not one to say a good
word for him. Now to-morrow we will meet on the bank of the
Smiling Pool instead of here."
CHAPTER XXV Two Famous Swimmers
The bank of the Smiling Pool was a lovely place to hold school at
that hour of the day, which you know was just after sun-up.
Everybody who could get there was on hand, and there were several
who had not been to school before. One of these was Grandfather
Frog, who was sitting on his big, green, lily pad. Another was
Jerry Muskrat, whose house was out in the Smiling Pool. Spotty
the Turtle was also there, not to mention Longlegs the Heron. You
see, they hadn't come to school but the school had come to them,
for that is where they live or spend most of their time.
"Good morning, Jerry Muskrat," said Old Mother Nature pleasantly, as
Jerry's brown head appeared in the Smiling Pool. "Have you seen
anything of Billy Mink or Little Joe Otter?" "Little Joe went down
to the Big River last night," replied Jerry Muskrat. "I don't know
when he is coming back, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him any
minute. Billy Mink was here last evening and said he was going up
the Laughing Brook fishing. He is likely to be back any time. One
never can tell when that fellow will appear. He comes and goes
continually. I don't believe he can keep still five minutes."
"Who is that can't keep still five minutes?" demanded a new voice,
and there was Billy Mink himself just climbing out on the Big Rock.
"Jerry was speaking of you," replied Old Mother Nature. "This will
be a good chance for you to show him that he is mistaken. I want
you to stay here for a while and to stay right on the Big Rock. I
may want to ask you a few questions."
Just then Billy Mink dived into the Smiling Pool, and a second later
his brown head popped out of the water and in his mouth was a fat
fish. He scrambled back on the Big Rock and looked at Old Mother
Nature a bit fearfully as he laid the fish down.
"I--I didn't mean to disobey," he mumbled. "I saw that fish and
dived for him before I thought. I hope you will forgive me, Mother
Nature. I won't do it again."
"Acting before thinking gets people into trouble sometimes," replied
Old Mother Nature. "However, I will forgive you this time. The
fact is you have just shown your friends here something. Go ahead
and eat that fish and be ready to answer questions."
As Billy Mink sat there on the Big Rock every one had a good look
at him. One glance would tell any one that he was a cousin of
Shadow the Weasel. He was much larger than Shadow, but of the same
general shape, being long and slender. His coat was a beautiful
dark brown, darkest on the back. His chin was white. His tail was
round, covered with fairly long hair which was so dark as to be almost
black. His face was like that of Shadow the Weasel. His legs were
rather short. As he sat eating that fish, his back was arched.
Old Mother Nature waited until he had finished his feast. "Now
then, Billy," said she, "I want you to answer a few questions.
Which do you like best, night or day?"
"It doesn't make any particular difference to me," replied Billy.
"I just sleep when I feel like it, whether it be night or day, and
then when I wake up I can hunt. It all depends on how I feel."
"When you go hunting, what do you hunt?" asked Old Mother Nature.
Billy grinned. "Anything that promises a good meal," said he. "I'm
not very particular. A fat Mouse, a tender young Rabbit, a Chipmunk,
a Frog, Tadpoles, Chickens, eggs, birds, fish; whatever happens to
be easiest to get suits me. I am rather fond of fish, and that's
one reason that I live along the Laughing Brook and around the Smiling
Pool. But I like a change of fare, and so often I go hunting in the
Green Forest. Sometimes I go up to Farmer Brown's for a Chicken. In
the spring I hunt for nests of birds on the ground. In winter, if
Peter Rabbit should happen along here when I was hungry, I might be
tempted to sample Peter." Billy snapped his bright eyes wickedly
and Peter shivered.
"If Jerry Muskrat were not my friend, I am afraid I might be tempted
to sample him," continued Billy Mink.
"Pooh!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit. "You wouldn't dare tackle Jerry Muskrat."
"Wouldn't I?" replied Billy. "Just ask Jerry how he feels about it."
One look at Jerry's face showed everybody that Jerry, big as he was,
was afraid of Billy Mink. "How do you hunt when you are on land?"
asked Old Mother Nature.
"The way every good hunter should hunt, with eyes, nose and ears,"
replied Billy. "There may be folks with better ears than I've got,
but I don't know who they are. I wouldn't swap noses with anybody.
As for my eyes, well, they are plenty good enough for me."
"In other words, you hunt very much as does your cousin, Shadow the
Weasel," said Old Mother Nature.
Billy nodded. "I suppose I do," said he, "but there's one thing he
does which I don't do and that's hunt just for the love of killing.
"Once in a while I may kill more than I can eat, but I don't mean to.
I hunt for food, while he hunts just for the love of killing."
"You all saw how Billy catches fish," said Old Mother Nature. "Now,
Billy, I want you to swim over to the farther bank and show us how
Billy obeyed. He slipped into the water, dived, swam under water
for a distance, then swam with just his head out. When he reached
the bank he climbed out and started along it. He went by a series
of bounds, his back arched sharply between each leap. Then he
disappeared before their very eyes, only to reappear as suddenly
as he had gone. So quick were his movements that it was impossible
for one of the little people watching to keep their eyes on him.
It seemed sometimes as though he must have vanished into the air.
Of course he didn't. He was simply showing them his wonderful
ability to take advantage of every little stick, stone and bush.
"Billy is a great traveler," said Old Mother Nature. He really
loves to travel up and down the Laughing Brook, even for long
distances. Wherever there is plenty of driftwood and rubbish,
Billy is quite at home, being so slender he can slip under all
kinds of places and into all sorts of holes. Quick as he is on
land, he is not so quick as his Cousin Shadow; and good swimmer
as he is, he isn't so good as his bigger cousin, Little Joe Otter.
But being equally at home on land and in water, he has an advantage
over his cousins. Billy is much hunted for his fur, and being
hunted so much has made him very keen-witted. Mrs. Billy makes
her home nest in a hole in the bank or under an old stump or under
a pile of driftwood, and you may be sure it is well hidden.
There the babies are born, and they stay with their mother all
summer. Incidentally, Billy can climb readily. Billy is found
all over this great country of ours. When he lives in the Far
North his fur is finer and thicker than when he lives in the South.
I wish Little Joe Otter were here. I hoped he would be."
"Here he comes now," cried Jerry Muskrat. "I rather expected he
would be back." Jerry pointed towards where the Laughing Brook
left the Smiling Pool on its way to the Big River. A brown head
was moving rapidly towards them. There was no mistaking that head.
It could belong to no one but Little Joe Otter. Straight on to
the Big Rock he came, and climbed up. He was big, being one of
the largest members of his family. He was more than three feet
long. But no one looking at him could mistake him for any one but
a member of the Weasel family. His legs were short, very short for
the length of his body. His tail was fairly long and broad. His
coat was a rich brown all over, a little lighter underneath than
on the back.
"What's going on here?" asked Little Joe Otter, his eyes bright
"We are holding a session of school here today," explained Old
Mother Nature. "And we were just hoping that you would appear.
Hold up one of your feet and spread the toes, Little Joe."
Little Joe Otter obeyed, though there was a funny, puzzled look
on his face. "Whyee!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit. "His toes are
webbed like those of Paddy the Beaver!"
"Of course they're webbed," said Little Joe. "I never could swim
the way I do if they weren't webbed."
"Can you swim better than Paddy the Beaver?" asked Peter.
"I should say I can. If I couldn't, I guess I would go hungry most
of the time," replied Little Joe.
"Why should you go hungry? Paddy doesn't," retorted Peter.
"Paddy doesn't live on fish," replied Little Joe. "I do and that's
the difference. I can catch a fish in a tail-end race, and that's
"You might show us how you can swim," suggested Old Mother Nature.
Little Joe slipped into the water. The Smiling Pool was very still
and the little people sitting on the bank could look right down and
see nearly to the bottom. They saw Little Joe as he entered the
water and then saw little more than a brown streak. A second later
his head popped out on the other side of the Smiling Pool.
"Phew, I'm glad I'm not a fish!" exclaimed Peter and everybody laughed.
"You may well be glad," said Old Mother Nature. "You wouldn't stand
much chance with Little Joe around. Like Billy Mink, Little Joe is
a great traveler, especially up and down the Laughing Brook and the
Big River. Sometimes he travels over land, but he is so heavy and
his legs are so short that traveling on land is slow work. When he
does cross from one stream or pond to another, he always picks out
the smoothest going. Sometimes in winter he travels quite a bit.
Then when he comes to a smooth hill, he slides down it on his
stomach. By the way, Little Joe, haven't you a slippery slide
somewhere around here?"
Little Joe nodded. "I've got one down the Laughing Brook where
the bank is steep," said he. "Mrs. Otter and I and our children
slide every day."
"What do you mean by a slippery slide?" asked Happy Jack Squirrel,
who was sitting in the Big Hickory-tree which grew on the bank
of the Smiling Pool.
Old Mother Nature smiled. "Little Joe Otter and his family are
quite as fond of play as any of my children," said she. "They get
a lot of fun out of life. One of their ways of playing is to make
a slippery slide where the bank is steep and the water deep. In
winter it is made of snow, but in summer it is made of mud. There
they slide down, splash into the water, then climb up the bank
and do it all over again. In winter they make their slippery slide
where the water doesn't freeze, and they get just as much fun in
winter as they do in summer."
"I suppose that means that Little Joe doesn't sleep in winter as
Johnny Chuck does," said Peter.
"I should say not," exclaimed Little Joe. "I like the winter, too.
I have such a warm coat that I never get cold. There are always
places where the water doesn't freeze. I can swim for long distances
under ice and so I can always get plenty of food."
"Do you eat anything but fish?" asked Peter Rabbit.
"Oh, sometimes," replied Little Joe. "Once in a while I like a
little fresh meat for a change, and sometimes when fish are
scarce I eat Frogs, but I prefer fish, especially Salmon and Trout."
"How many babies do you have at a time?" asked Happy Jack Squirrel.
"Usually one to three," replied Little Joe, "and only one family
a year. They are born in my comfortable house, which is a burrow
in the bank. There Mrs. Otter makes a large, soft nest of leaves
and grass. Now, if you don't mind, I think I will go on up the
Laughing Brook. Mrs. Otter is waiting for me up there."
Old Mother Nature told Little Joe to go ahead. As he disappeared,
she sighed. "I'm very fond of Little Joe Otter," said she, "and
it distresses me greatly that he is hunted by man as he is. That
fur coat of his is valuable, and man is forever hunting him for
it. The Otters were once numerous all over this great country,
but now they are very scarce, and I am afraid that the day isn't
far away when there will be no Little Joe Otter. I think this will
do for to-day. There are two other members of the Weasel family
and these, like Little Joe and Billy Mink, are continually being
hunted for their fur coats. I will tell you about them to-morrow."
CHAPTER XXVI Spite the Marten and Pekan the Fisher
"The two remaining members of the Weasel family none of you have
ever seen," began Old Mother Nature, when she opened school at
the old meeting place in the Green Forest the morning after their
visit to the Smiling Pool. "You have never seen them because they
live in the deep forests of the Far North. But were you living up
there, you would know them, and the dread of them would seldom be
out of your mind. One is called Spite the Marten and the other
Pekan the Fisher.
"Spite the Marten is also called the Pine Marten and the American
Sable, and he is one of the handsomest members of the Weasel family.
Shadow the Weasel can climb, but he spends most of his time on the
ground. Jimmy Skunk and Digger the Badger are not climbers at all.
Little Joe Otter spends most of his time in the water. But Spite
the Marten is a lover of the tree tops, and is quite as much at home
there as Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"When he is moving about in the trees, he looks much like a very
large Squirrel, while on the ground he might be mistaken for a
young Fox. His coat is a rich, dark, yellowish-brown, becoming
almost black on the tail and legs. His throat usually is yellow,
though sometimes it is almost white. The sides of his face are
grayish, and his good-sized ears are grayish-white on the inside.
His tail is about half as long as his body and is covered with
long hair, but isn't bushy like a Squirrel's. While his general
shape is that of Shadow the Weasel, his body is much heavier in
proportion to his size.
"Chatterer, you and your Cousin Happy Jack may well be thankful
that Spite the Marten doesn't live about here, for he is very fond
of Squirrels and delights to hunt them. He can leap from tree to
tree quite as easily as either of you, and the only possible means
of escape for a Squirrel he is hunting is a hole too small for
Spite to get into. No Squirrel is more graceful in the trees
than is Spite.
"But he by no means confines himself to the trees. He is quite at
home on the ground, and there he moves with much of the quickness
of Shadow the Weasel. He delights to hunt Rabbits and he covers
great distances, being even more of a traveller than Billy Mink.
He doesn't kill for the love of killing, but merely for food. If
he kills more than he can eat at a meal he buries it, and when he
is hungry again he returns to it. Like all the other members of
his family, he is a great hunter of Mice. Also he catches many
birds, especially those birds which nest on the ground. Birds,
eggs, Frogs, Toads, some insects and fish vary his bill of fare.
But unlike his smaller cousins, he eats some other things besides
flesh, including certain nuts, berries and honey.
"He isn't in the least social with his own kind but prefers to
live alone and is always ready to fight if he meets another
Marten. Being so great a traveler he has several dens. Mrs. Spite
makes her nest of grass and moss in a hollow tree as a rule,
occasionally in a hole in the ground. She has from one to five
babies in the spring. Spite is not a good father, for he has
nothing to do with his family.
"As I told you in the beginning he is found only in the great forests
of the North. The darker and deeper they are, the better it suits
him. His own cousin, Pekan the Fisher, and Tufty the Lynx, are
probably the only natural enemies he has much cause to fear. His one
great enemy is man. His coat is one of the most highly prized of all
furs and he is persistently hunted and trapped. In fact, his coat is
one of the chief prizes of the fur trappers.
"In this same deep, dark forest clear across the northern part of
the country lives Pekan the Fisher, also called the Pennant Marten
and Blackcat. He is larger and heavier than Spite the Marten and
his coat is a brownish-black, light on the sides, and browner below.
His nose, ears, feet and tail are black. He gets his name of Blackcat
from his resemblance to a Cat with a bushy tail, though on the ground
he looks more like a black Fox. Like his cousin, Spite the Marten,
he lives in the pine and spruce forests and prefers to be near swamps.
He is a splendid climber but spends quite as much time on the ground.
However, he is even livelier in the trees than is Spite the Marten.
Spite can catch a Squirrel in the tree tops, but Pekan can catch Spite,
and often does. He isn't afraid of leaping to the ground from high up
in a tree, and often when coming down a tree he comes down headfirst.
He is very fond of hunting the cousins of Jumper the Hare and is so
tireless that he can run them down. He is very clever and, like his
cousin, Glutton the Wolverine, makes no end of trouble for trappers
by stealing the baits from their traps.
"You all remember how frightened Prickly Porky was when I merely
mentioned Pekan the Fisher. It was because Pekan is almost the
only one Prickly Porky has reason to fear. If Pekan is hungry he
doesn't hesitate to dine on Porcupine. He has learned how to turn
a Porcupine on his back, and, as you have already found out, the
under part of the Porcupine is unprotected.
"Just why Pekan should be called Fisher, I don't know. True, he
eats fish when he can get them, but he isn't a water animal and
doesn't go fishing as do Billy Mink and Little Joe Otter. His food
is much the same as that of Spite the Marten. He is especially fond
of Rabbit and Hare. He is so strong and savage that he can kill a
Fox and often does. Bobby Coon is a good fighter and much bigger
and heavier than Pekan, but he is no match for Pekan.
"Probably all of you have guessed that being a true Marten, Pekan's
coat is highly prized by the fur trappers. He hates the presence of
man and with good cause.
"Now this ends the Weasel family, but that's only one family of the
order of Carnivora, or flesh eaters. There is one family you all
know so well that I think we will take that up next. It is the
family to which Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote belong, and it is
called the Dog family.
"To-morrow morning when you get here, I may have a surprise for you."
CHAPTER XXVII Reddy Fox Joins the School
When school was called to order the following morning not one was
missing. You see, with the exception of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly
Porky, there was not one in whose life Reddy Fox did not have a most
important part. Even Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel and Chatterer
the Red Squirrel, tree folk though they were, had many times
narrowly missed furnishing Reddy with a dinner. As for Johnny Chuck
and Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare and Striped Chipmunk and Danny
Meadow Mouse and Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, there were few hours of
day or night when they did not have Reddy in mind, knowing that to
forget him even for a few minutes might mean the end of them.
Just imagine the feelings of these little people when, just as they
had comfortably seated themselves for the morning lesson, Reddy
himself stepped out from behind a tree. Never before was a school
so quickly broken up. In the winking of an eye Old Mother Nature
was alone, save for Reddy Fox, Jimmy Skunk, and in the trees Prickly
Porky the Porcupine and Happy Jack and Chatterer.
Reddy Fox looked as if he felt uncomfortable. "I didn't mean to
break up your school," said he to Old Mother Nature. "I wouldn't
have thought of coming if you hadn't sent for me."
Old Mother Nature smiled. "I didn't tell any one that I was going
to send for you, Reddy," said she, "for I was afraid that if I did
no one would come this morning. I promised them a surprise, but it
is clear that no one guessed what that surprise was to be. Go over
by that old stump near the Lone Little Path and sit there, Reddy."
Then Old Mother Nature called each of the little people by name,
commanding each to return at once. She spoke sternly, very sternly
indeed. One by one they appeared from all sorts of hiding places,
glancing fearfully towards Reddy Fox, yet not daring to disobey
Old Mother Nature.
When at last all were crowded about her as closely as they could
get, Old Mother Nature spoke and this time her voice was soft. "I
am ashamed of you," said she. "Truly I am ashamed of you. How
could you think that I would allow any harm to come to you? Reddy
Fox is here because I sent for him, but he is going to sit right
where he is until I tell him he can go, and not one of you will be
harmed by him. To begin with, I am going to tell you one or two
facts about Reddy, and then I am going to find out just how much
you have learned about him yourselves.
"It may seem queer to you that Reddy Fox belongs to the same family
as Bowser the Hound, but it is true. Both are members of the Dog
family and thus are quite closely related. Howler the Wolf and Old
Man Coyote are also members of the family, so all are cousins.
Look closely at Reddy and you will see at once that he looks very
much like a small Dog with a beautiful red coat, white waistcoat,
black feet and bushy tail. Now, Peter, you probably know as much
about Reddy as any one here. At least you should. Tell us what
you have learned in your efforts to keep out of his clutches."
Peter scratched a long ear thoughtfully and glanced sideways at
Reddy Fox. "I certainly ought to know something about him," he
began. "He was the very first person my mother warned me to watch
for, because she said he was especially fond of young Rabbits and
was the slyest, smartest and most to be feared of all my enemies.
Since then I have found out that she knew just what she was talking
about." Johnny Chuck, Danny Meadow Mouse and Whitefoot the Wood
Mouse nodded as if they quite agreed. Then Peter continued, "Reddy
lives chiefly by hunting, and in his turn he is hunted, so he needs
to have sharp wits. When he isn't hunting me he is hunting Danny
Meadow Mouse or Whitefoot or Striped Chipmunk or Mrs. Grouse, or
Bob White, or is trying to steal one of Farmer Brown's Chickens,
or is catching Frogs along the edge of the Smiling Pool, or
grasshoppers out in the Green Meadows. So far as I can make out,
anything Reddy can catch furnishes him with food. I guess he doesn't
eat anything but such things as these."
"Your guess is wrong, Peter," spoke up Reddy Fox, who had been
listening with a grin on his crafty face. "I am rather fond of
certain kinds of fruits. You didn't know that, did you, Peter?"
"No, I didn't," replied Peter. "I'm glad to know it. I think it
is dreadful to live entirely by killing others."
"You might add," remarked Reddy, "that I like a meal of fish
occasionally, and eggs are always welcome. I am not particular
what I eat so long as I can get my stomach full."
"Reddy Fox hunts with ears, eyes and nose," continued Peter. "Many
a time I've watched him listening for the squeak of Danny Meadow
Mouse or watching for the grass to move and show where Danny was
hiding; and many a time he has found my scent with his wonderful
nose and followed me just as Bowser the Hound follows him. I guess
there isn't much going on that Reddy's eyes, ears and nose don't
tell him. But it is Reddy's quick wits that the rest of us fear
most. We never know what new trick he will try. Lots of enemies
are easy to fool, but Reddy isn't one of them. Sometimes I think
he knows more about me than I know about myself. I guess it is
just pure luck that he hasn't caught me with some of those smart
tricks of his.
"Reddy hunts both day and night, but I think he prefers night. I
guess it all depends on how hungry he is. More than once I've
seen him bringing home a Chicken, but I am told that he is smart
enough not to steal Chickens near his home, but always to go some
distance to get them. Also I've been told that he is too clever
to go to the same Chicken yard two nights in succession. So far
as I know, he isn't afraid of any one except a hunter with a
terrible gun. He doesn't seem to mind being chased by Bowser the
Hound at all."
"I don't," spoke up Reddy. "I rather enjoy it. It gives me good
exercise. Any time I can't fool Bowser by breaking my trail so he
can't find it again, I deserve to be caught. I am not even so
terribly afraid of a hunter with a gun. You see, usually I can
guess what a hunter will do better than he can what I will do."
Old Mother Nature nodded. "That sounds like boasting," said she,
"but it isn't. Reddy Fox is one of the few animals who has
succeeded in holding his own against man, and he has done it simply
by using his wits. There is no other animal as large as Reddy Fox
who has succeeded as he has in living close to the homes of men.
It is simply because he has made the most of the senses I have given
him. He has learned to use his eyes, ears and nose at all times and
to understand and make the most of the information they bring him.
Reddy has always been hunted by man, and it is this very thing which
has so sharpened his wits. It is seldom that he is guilty of making
the same mistake twice. All of you little people fear Reddy, and I
suspect some of you hate him. But always remember that he never
kills for the love of killing, and only when he must have food.
There would be something sadly missing in the Green Forest and on
the Green Meadows were there no Reddy Fox. Reddy, where do you and
Mrs. Reddy make your home? And how do you raise your babies?"
"This year our home is up in the Old Pasture," replied Reddy. "We
have the nicest kind of a house dug in the ground underneath a big
rock. It has only one entrance, but this is because there is no
need of any other. No one could possibly dig us out there. Last
year our home was on the Green Meadows and there were three doorways
to that. The year before we dug our house in a gravelly bank just
within the edge of the Green Forest. The babies are born in a
comfortable bedroom deep underground. Sometimes we have a storeroom
in addition to the bedroom; there Mrs. Reddy and I can keep food
when there is more than can be eaten at one meal. When the babies
are first born in the spring and Mrs. Reddy cannot leave them, I
take food to her. When the youngsters are big enough to use their
sharp little teeth, we take turns hunting food for them. Usually
we hunt separately, but sometimes we hunt together. You know often
two can do what one cannot. If Bowser the Hound happens to find
the trail of Mrs. Reddy when there are babies at home, she leads him
far away from our home. Then I join her, and take her place so that
she can slip away and go back to the babies. Bowser never knows
"Our children are well trained if I do say it. We teach them how to
hunt, how to fool their enemies, and all the tricks we have learned.
No one has a better training than a young Fox."
"Here is a conundrum for you little folks," said Old Mother Nature.
"When is a Red Fox not a Red Fox?" Everybody blinked. Most of
them looked as if they thought Old Mother Nature must be joking.
But suddenly Chatterer the Red Squirrel, whose wits are naturally
quick, remembered how Old Mother Nature had told them that there
were black Gray Squirrels. "When he is some other color,"
"That's the answer," said Old Mother Nature. "Once in a while a
pair of Red Foxes will have a baby who hasn't a red hair on him.
He will be all black, with perhaps just the tip of his tail white.
Or his fur will be all black just tipped with white. Then he is
called a Black Fox or Silver Fox. He is still a Red Fox, yet
there is nothing red about him. Sometimes the fur is only partly
marked with black and then he is called a Cross Fox. A great many
people have supposed that the Black or Silver Fox and the Cross Fox
were distinct kinds. They are not. They are simply Red Foxes with
different coats. The fur of the Silver Fox is considered by man to
be one of the choicest of all furs and tremendous prices are paid
for it. This means, of course, that a young Fox whose coat is
black will need to be very smart indeed if he would live to old
age, for once he has been seen by man he will be hunted unceasingly."
Reddy Fox had been listening intently and now Mother Nature
noticed a worried look on his face. "What is it, Reddy?" said
she. "You look anxious."
"I am anxious," said he. "What you have just said has worried me.
You see, one of my cubs at home is all black. Now that I have
learned that his fur is so valuable, Mrs. Reddy and I will have
to take special pains to teach him all we know."
"I want you all to know that Reddy Fox and Mrs. Reddy mate for
life," said Old Mother Nature. "Reddy is the best of fathers and
the best of mates."
"There's one thing I do envy Reddy," spoke up Peter Rabbit, "and
that is that big tail of his. It is a wonderful tail. I wish I
had one like it."
How everybody laughed as they tried to picture Peter Rabbit with a
big tail like that of Reddy Fox. "I am afraid you wouldn't get far
if you had to carry that around," said Old Mother Nature. "Even
Reddy finds it rather a burden in wet weather when it becomes heavy
with water. That is one reason you do not find him abroad much when
it is raining or in winter when the snow is soft and wet. Reddy Fox
is at home all over the northern half of this country, and everywhere
he is the same sly, clever fellow whom you all know so well.
"In the South and some parts of the East and West, Reddy has a
cousin of about his own size whose coat is gray with red on the
sides of his neck, ears and across his breast. The under part of
his body is reddish, his throat and the middle of his breast are
white. He is called the Gray Fox. He prefers the Green Forest to
the open country, for he is not nearly as smart as his Cousin Reddy.
He is, if anything, a better runner, but his wits are slower and he
cannot so well hold his own against man. Instead of making his home
in a hole in the ground, he usually chooses a hollow tree-trunk or
hollow log. The babies are born in a nest of leaves in the bottom
of a hollow tree. In some parts of the West this Fox is called the
Tree Fox, because often he climbs up in low trees.
"The Gray Fox of the South is not the only cousin of Reddy's,"
continued Old Mother Nature. "In certain parts of the Great West,
on the plains, lives one of the smallest of Reddy's cousins,
called the Kit Fox or Swift. He is no larger than Black Pussy,
Farmer Brown's Cat, and gets his name of Swift from his great
speed in running. He is a prairie animal and lives in burrows in
the ground as most prairie animals do. His back is of a grayish
color, while his sides are yellowish red. Beneath he is white.
The upper side of his tail is yellowish-gray, below it is yellowish,
and the tip is black. In general appearance he is more like the
Gray Fox than Reddy. He lacks the quick wit of Reddy Fox and is
"In the hot, dry regions of the Southwest, where the Kangaroo Rats
and Pocket Mice live, is another cousin, closely related to the Kit
Fox. This is called the Desert Fox. Like most of the little people
who live on the desert, he is seldom seen by day. He is very swift
of foot. He digs a burrow with several entrances and his food consists
largely of Pocket Mice, Kangaroo Rats, Ground squirrels and such other
small animals as are found in that part of the country. Like his
cousin, the Kit Fox, he is not especially quick-witted. Neither the Kit
Fox nor the Desert Fox are considered very valuable for their coats, and
so are not hunted and trapped as much as are Reddy Fox and his two
cousins of the Great North, the Arctic Fox and the Blue Fox.
"The Arctic, or White Fox, lives in the Far North, in the land of
snow and ice. He is a little fellow, bigger than the Kit Fox, but
only about two thirds the size of Reddy Fox, and very beautiful.
Way up in the Far North his entire coat is snowy white the year
round. The fur is long, very thick and soft. His tail is very
large and handsome. When he lives a little farther south, he
changes his coat in the summer to one of a bluish-brown. But just
as soon as winter approaches, he resumes his white coat. The
young are born in a burrow in the ground, if the parents happen
to be living far enough south for the ground to be free of snow.
In the Far North, their home is a burrow in a snow bank, and
there the babies are born. The white coats of the Arctic Foxes,
who live in a world of white, are of great help to them when
hunting, or when trying to escape from enemies. It is difficult
to see them against their white surroundings. In summer their
food consists very largely of ducks and other wild fowl which nest
in great numbers in the Far North. In the winter they hunt for
Lemmings, Arctic Hares and a cousin of Mrs. Grouse called the
Ptarmigan, who lives up there. They pick the bones left by Polar
Bears and Wolves. Getting a living in winter is not easy, and so
the Arctic Fox is a great traveler.
"The Blue Fox is really only a colored White Fox, just as the Black
Fox is a black Red Fox, and his habits are, of course, just the same
as the habits of the White Fox. There are some islands in the Far
North, called the Pribilof Islands, and on them live many Blue
Foxes. Both the White and the Blue Foxes are much hunted for their
coats, which are considered very valuable by man. Certainly they
are very beautiful. While these cousins of Reddy's are clever hunters
they do not begin to be as quick-witted as Reddy, and so are much
more easily trapped.
"Now I think this will do for Reddy Fox and his relatives. Reddy
is going to stay right here with me, until the rest of you have
had a chance to get home. After that you will have to watch out
for yourselves as usual. Just remember that Reddy has become the
quick-witted person he is because he has been so much hunted. If
you are as smart as Reddy, you will understand that the more he
hunts you, the quicker-witted you also will become. To-morrow we
will take up Reddy's big cousins, the Wolves."
CHAPTER XXVIII Old Man Coyote and Howler the Wolf
"Of course, you all know to what branch of the Dog family Old Man
Coyote belongs," said Old Mother Nature, and looked expectantly at
the circle of little folks gathered around her. No one answered.
"Well, well, well!" exclaimed Old Mother Nature, "I am surprised.
I am very much surprised. I supposed that all of you knew that
Old Man Coyote is a member of the Wolf branch of the family."
"Do you mean that he is really a true Wolf?" asked Striped
"Of course," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is all Wolf and nothing
but Wolf. He is the Prairie Wolf, so called because he is a lover
of the great open plains and not of the deep forests like his big
cousin, Howler the Timber Wolf. Reddy Fox is smart, but sometimes
I believe Old Man Coyote is smarter. You have got to get up very
early indeed to get ahead of Old Man Coyote.
"Old Man Coyote varies in size from not so very much bigger than
Reddy Fox to almost the size of his big cousin, Howler the Timber
Wolf. Also he varies in color from a general brownish-gray to a
yellowish-brown, being whitish underneath. His face is rather
longer than that of Reddy Fox. He has a brushy tail, but it is
not as thick as Reddy's.
"In his habits, Old Man Coyote is much like Reddy, but being larger
and stronger he is able to kill larger animals, and has won the hate
of man by killing young Pigs, Lambs, newly born Calves and poultry.
Because of this, he has been and is continually hunted and trapped.
But like Reddy Fox the more he is hunted the smarter he becomes,
and he is quite capable of taking care of himself. He is one of
the swiftest of all runners. Many people think him cowardly because
he is always ready to run away at the least hint of danger. He
isn't cowardly, however; he is simply smart--too smart to run any
unnecessary risk. Old Man Coyote believes absolutely in safety
first, a very wise rule for everybody. The result is that he is
seldom led into the mistake of simply thinking a thing is all
right. He makes sure that it is all right. Because of this he
is very hard to trap. No matter how hungry he may be, he will
turn his back on a baited trap, even when the trap is so cunningly
hidden that he cannot see it.
"Old Man Coyote is a good father and husband and a good provider
for his family. He and Mrs. Coyote have a large family every year,
sometimes as many as ten babies. Their home is in the ground and
is very similar to that of Reddy Fox. They eat almost everything
eatable, including such animals and birds as they can catch, Frogs,
Toads, Snakes and insects, dead bodies they may find, and even some
fruits. Mr. and Mrs. Coyote often hunt together. Sometimes, when
the children are full-grown, they all hunt together. When they do
this they can pull down Lightfoot the Deer.
"Old Man Coyote has one of the strangest voices to be heard anywhere,
and he delights to use it, especially at night. It is like many
voices shouting together, and one who hears it for the first time
cannot believe that all that sound comes from one throat.
"His big cousin, Howler the Gray Wolf, sometimes called Timber Wolf--
is found now only in the forests of the North and the mountains of
the Great West. Once he roamed over the greater part of this great
country. Howler is as keen-witted as, and perhaps keener-witted
than, Reddy Fox or Old Man Coyote, and added to this he has great
strength and courage. He is one of the most feared of all the
people of the Green Forest. In summer when food is plentiful,
Howler and Mrs. Wolf devote themselves to the bringing up of their
family and are careful not to be overbold. But when winter comes,
Howler and his friends get together and hunt in packs. With their
wonderful noses they can follow Lightfoot the Deer and run him down.
They kill Sheep and young Cattle. The harder the winter the bolder
they become, and they have been known to attack man himself. In the
Far North they grow especially large, and because of the scarcity of
food there in winter, they become exceedingly fierce. They can go an
astonishingly long time without food and still retain their strength.
But hunger makes them merciless. They will not attack each other,
but if one in the pack becomes injured, the others will turn upon him,
and kill and eat him at once.
"Howler and Mrs. Wolf mate for life, and each is at all times loyal
to the other. They are the best of parents, and the little Wolves
are carefully trained in all that a Wolf should know. Always the
hand of man has been against them, and this fact has developed their
wits and cunning to a wonderful degree. Man in his effort to destroy
them has used poison, cleverly hiding it in pieces of meat left where
Howler and his friends could find them. Howler soon found out that
there was something wrong with pieces of meat left about, and now it
is seldom that any of his family come to harm in that way. He is
equally cunning in discovering traps, even traps buried in one of
his trails. Sometimes he will dig them up and spring them without
"When Wolves hunt in packs they have a leader, usually the strongest
or the smartest among them, and this leader they obey. In all the
great forests there is no more dreadful sound than the howling of a
pack of wolves. There is something in it that strikes terror to the
hearts of all who hear it.
"The color of Howler's coat usually is brownish-gray and that is
why he is called the Gray Wolf; but sometimes it is almost black,
and in the Far North it becomes snowy white. Howler is very
closely related to the Dogs which men keep as pets. They are
really first cousins. Few Dogs dare meet Howler in battle."
"My!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit, "I am glad Howler doesn't live
"You well may be," said Old Mother Nature. "He would make just
about one bite of you, Peter."
Peter shivered. "Are Old Man Coyote and Howler friends?" asked Peter.
"I wouldn't call them exactly friends, replied Old Mother Nature.
"Old Man Coyote takes pains to keep out of Howler's way, but he is
clever enough to know that when Howler has made a good kill there
may be some left after Howler has filled his own stomach. So when
Howler is hunting in Old Man Coyote's neighbor hood, the latter
keeps an eye and ear open to what is going on. In the long-ago
days when Thunderfoot the Bison was lord of the prairies, Howler's
family lived on the prairies as well as in the forests, but now
Howler sticks pretty closely to the forests and mountains, leaving
the prairies and brushy plains to Old Man Coyote.
"All branches of the Dog family do one thing: they walk on their
toes. They never put the whole foot down flat as does Buster Bear.
And, as you have already discovered, all branches of the Dog family
are very smart. They are intelligent. Hello, there is Black Pussy,
the cat from Farmer Brown's, coming down the Lone Little Path! I
suspect it will be well for some of you smallest ones to get out
of sight before she arrives. She doesn't belong over here in the
Green Forest, but she has a cousin who does, Yowler the Bob Cat.
Shall I tell you about Yowler and his cousins to-morrow?"
"We'd love to have you!" cried Happy Jack, speaking for all.
Then, as Black Pussy was drawing near, they separated and went
their several ways.
CHAPTER XXIX Yowler and His Cousin Tufty
Jumper the Hare arrived at school a little late and quite out of
breath from hurrying. His big soft eyes were shining with
excitement. "You look as though you had had an adventure, Jumper,"
said Old Mother Nature.