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´╗┐Title: Mother West Wind's Children
Author: Burgess, Thornton W. (Thornton Waldo), 1874-1965
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mother West Wind's Children" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



MOTHER WEST WIND'S CHILDREN

by

THORNTON W. BURGESS

Author of "Old Mother West Wind"

Illustrated by George Kerr



[Frontispiece: "Yap-yap-yap," barked Reddy Fox, as loud as he could.]



Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers
New York
By arrangement with Little, Brown and Company

Copyright, 1911,
by Thornton W. Burgess.
All rights reserved



TO

ALL THE LITTLE FRIENDS

OF

JOHNNY CHUCK AND REDDY FOX,

AND TO

ALL WHO LOVE THE GREEN MEADOWS

AND THE SMILING POOL,

THE LAUGHING BROOK AND THE MERRY LITTLE BREEZES,

THIS LITTLE BOOK IS DEDICATED.



CONTENTS


   CHAPTER

       I.  DANNY MEADOW MOUSE LEARNS WHY HIS TAIL IS SHORT
      II.  WHY REDDY FOX HAS NO FRIENDS
     III.  WHY PETER RABBIT'S EARS ARE LONG
      IV.  REDDY FOX DISOBEYS
       V.  STRIPED CHIPMUNK'S POCKETS
      VI.  REDDY FOX, THE BOASTER
     VII.  JOHNNY CHUCK'S SECRET
    VIII.  JOHNNY CHUCK'S GREAT FIGHT
      IX.  MR. TOAD'S OLD SUIT
       X.  GRANDFATHER FROG GETS EVEN
      XI.  THE DISAPPOINTED BUSH
     XII.  WHY BOBBY COON WASHES HIS FOOD
    XIII.  THE MERRY LITTLE BREEZES HAVE A BUSY DAY
     XIV.  WHY HOOTY THE OWL DOES NOT PLAY ON THE GREEN MEADOWS
      XV.  DANNY MEADOW MOUSE LEARNS TO LAUGH



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


   "YAP-YAP-YAP," BARKED REDDY FOX, AS LOUD
     AS HE COULD . . . . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

   MR. RABBIT HAD A GREAT DEAL OF CURIOSITY,
     A VERY GREAT DEAL, INDEED

   THEN EVERYBODY SHOUTED "HAW!  HAW!  HAW!"

   HE WAS SO SURPRISED HE FORGOT TO CLOSE IT



MOTHER WEST WIND'S CHILDREN


I

DANNY MEADOW MOUSE LEARNS WHY HIS TAIL IS SHORT

Danny Meadow Mouse sat in his doorway and looked down the Lone Little
Path across the Green Meadows.  Way, way over near the Smiling Pool he
could see Old Mother West Wind's Children, the Merry Little Breezes, at
play.  Sammy Jay was sitting on a fence post.  He pretended to be
taking a sun bath, but really he was planning mischief.  You never see
Sammy Jay that he isn't in mischief or planning it.

Reddy Fox had trotted past an hour before in a great hurry.  Up on the
hill Danny Meadow Mouse could just see Jimmy Skunk pulling over every
old stick and stone he could find, no matter whose house it might be,
and excusing himself because he was hungry and was looking for beetles.

Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun was playing at hide and seek behind some
fleecy white clouds.  All the birds were singing and singing, and the
world was happy--all but Danny Meadow Mouse.

No, Danny Meadow Mouse was not happy.  Indeed, he was very far from
happy, and all because his tail was short.

By and by up came old Mr. Toad.  It was a warm day and Mr. Toad was
very hot and very, very thirsty.  He stopped to rest beside the house
of Danny Meadow Mouse.

"Good morning, Danny Meadow Mouse," said old Mr. Toad, "it's a fine
morning."

"Morning," said Danny Meadow Mouse, grumpily.

"I hope your health is good this morning," continued old Mr. Toad, just
as if he hadn't noticed how short and cross Danny Meadow Mouse had
answered.

Now old Mr. Toad is very ugly to look upon, but the ugliness is all in
his looks.  He has the sunniest of hearts and always he is looking for
a chance to help someone.

"Danny Meadow Mouse," said old Mr. Toad, "you make me think of your
grandfather a thousand times removed.  You do indeed.  You look just as
he did when he lost the half of his tail and realized that he never,
never could get it back again."

Danny Meadow Mouse sat up suddenly.

"What are you talking about, old Mr. Toad?  What are you talking
about?" he asked.  "Did my grandfather a thousand times removed lose
the half of his tail, and was it shorter then than mine is now?  Was
it, old Mr. Toad?  And how did he come to lose the half of it?"

Old Mr. Toad laughed a funny silent laugh.  "It's a long story," said
old Mr. Toad, "and I'm afraid I can't tell it.  Go down to the Smiling
Pool and ask Great-Grandfather Frog, who is my first cousin, how it
happened your grandfather a thousand times removed lost the half of his
tail.  But before you go catch three fat, foolish, green flies and take
them with you as a present to Grandfather Frog."

Danny Meadow Mouse could hardly wait for old Mr. Toad to stop speaking.
In fact, he was in such a hurry that he almost forgot his manners.  Not
quite, however, for he shouted "Thank you, Mr. Toad, thank you!" over
his shoulder as he rushed off down the Lone Little Path.

You see his short tail had always been a matter of mortification to
Danny Meadow Mouse.  All his cousins in the Mouse family and the Rat
family have long, smooth, tapering tails, and they have always been a
source of envy to Danny Meadow Mouse.  He had felt his queer short tail
to be a sort of disgrace.  So when he would meet one of his cousins
dancing down the Lone Little Path, with his long, slim, tapering tail
behind him, Danny Meadow Mouse would slip out of sight under the long
grass, he was so ashamed of his own little tail.  It looked so mean and
small!  He had wondered and wondered if the Meadow Mice had always had
short tails.  He used to ask everyone who came his way if they had ever
seen a Meadow Mouse with a long tail, but he had never found any one
who had.

"Perhaps," thought Danny Meadow Mouse as he hurried down the Lone
Little Path, "perhaps Grandfather Frog, who is very wise, will know why
my tail is short."

So he hurried this way and he hurried that way over the Green Meadows
in search of fat, foolish, green flies.  And when he had caught three,
he caught one more for good measure.  Then he started for the Smiling
Pool as fast as his short legs would take him.

When finally he reached the edge of the Smiling Pool he was quite out
of breath.  There sat Great-Grandfather Frog on his big, green lily
pad.  He was blinking his great goggle eyes at jolly, round, red Mr.
Sun.

"Oh, Grandfather Frog," said Danny Meadow Mouse in a very small voice,
for you know he was quite out of breath with running, "Oh, Grandfather
Frog, I've brought you four fat, foolish, green flies."

Grandfather Frog put a hand behind an ear and listened.  "Did I hear
someone say 'foolish, green flies?'" asked Grandfather Frog.

"Yes, Grandfather Frog, here they are," said Danny Meadow Mouse, still
in a very small voice.  Then he gave Grandfather Frog the four fat,
foolish, green flies.

"What is it that you want me to do for you, Danny Meadow Mouse?" asked
Grandfather Frog as he smacked his lips, for he knew that Danny Meadow
Mouse must want something to bring him four fat, foolish, green flies.

"If you please," said Danny Meadow Mouse, very politely, "if you
please, Grandfather Frog, old Mr. Toad told me that you could tell me
how Grandfather Meadow Mouse a thousand times removed lost half of his
tail.  Will you, Grandfather Frog--will you?"

"Chug-a-rum," said Grandfather Frog.  "My cousin, Mr. Toad, talks too
much."

But he settled himself comfortably on the big lily pad, and this is
what he told Danny Meadow Mouse:

"Once upon a time, when the world was young, Mr. Meadow Mouse, your
grandfather a thousand times removed, was a very fine gentleman.  He
took a great deal of pride in his appearance, did Mr. Meadow Mouse, and
they used to say on the Green Meadows that he spent an hour, a full
hour, every day combing his whiskers and brushing his coat.

"Anyway, he was very fine to look upon, was Mr. Meadow Mouse, and not
the least attractive thing about him was his beautiful, long, slim
tail, of which he was very proud.

"Now about this time there was a great deal of trouble on the Green
Meadows and in the Green Forest, for some one was stealing--yes,
stealing!  Mr. Rabbit complained first.  To be sure, Mr. Rabbit was
lazy and his cabbage patch had grown little more than weeds while he
had been minding other folks' affairs rather than his own, but, then,
that was no reason why he should lose half of the little which he did
raise.  And that is just what he said had happened.

"No one really believed what Mr. Rabbit said, for he had such a bad
name for telling things which were not so that when he did tell the
truth no one could be quite sure of it.

"So no one paid much heed to what Mr. Rabbit said until Happy Jack
Squirrel one day went to his snug little hollow in the big chestnut
tree where he stores his nuts and discovered half had been stolen.
Then Striped Chipmunk lost the greater part of his winter store of
corn.  A fat trout was stolen from Billy Mink.

"It was a terrible time, for every one suspected every one else, and no
one on the Green Meadows was happy.

"One evening Mr. Meadow Mouse went for a stroll along the Crooked
Little Path up the hill.  It was dark, very dark indeed.  But just as
he passed Striped Chipmunk's granary, the place where he stores his
supply of corn and acorns for the winter, Mr. Meadow Mouse met his
cousin, Mr. Wharf Rat.  Now Mr. Wharf Rat was very big and strong and
Mr. Meadow Mouse had for a long time looked up to and admired him.

"'Good evening, Cousin Meadow Mouse,' said Mr. Wharf Rat, swinging a
bag down from his shoulder.  'Will you do a favor for me?'

"Now Mr. Meadow Mouse felt very much flattered, and as he was a very
obliging fellow anyway, he promptly said he would.

"'All right,' said Mr. Wharf Rat.  'I'm going to get you to tote this
bag down the Crooked Little Path to the hollow chestnut tree.  I've got
an errand back on top of the hill.'

"So Mr. Meadow Mouse picked up the bag, which was very heavy, and swung
it over his shoulder.  Then he started down the Crooked Little Path.
Half way down he met Striped Chipmunk.

"'Good evening, Mr. Meadow Mouse,' said Striped Chipmunk.  'What are
you toting in the bag across your shoulder?'

"Now, of course, Mr. Meadow Mouse didn't know what was in the bag and
he didn't like to admit that he was working for another, for he was
very proud, was Mr. Meadow Mouse.

"So he said: 'Just a planting of potatoes I begged from Jimmy Skunk,
just a planting of potatoes, Striped Chipmunk.'

"Now no one had ever suspected Mr. Meadow Mouse of stealing--no indeed!
Striped Chipmunk would have gone his way and thought no more about it,
had it not happened that there was a hole in the bag and from it
something dropped at his feet.  Striped Chipmunk picked it up and it
_wasn't_ a potato.  It was a fat acorn.  Striped Chipmunk said nothing
but slipped it into his pocket.

"'Good night,' said Mr. Meadow Mouse, once more shouldering the bag.

"'Good night,' said Striped Chipmunk.

"No sooner had Mr. Meadow Mouse disappeared in the darkness down the
Crooked Little Path than Striped Chipmunk hurried to his granary.  Some
one had been there and stolen all his acorns!

"Then Striped Chipmunk ran to the house of his cousin, Happy Jack
Squirrel, and told him how the acorns had been stolen from his granary
and how he had met Mr. Meadow Mouse with a bag over his shoulder and
how Mr. Meadow Mouse had said that he was toting home a planting of
potatoes he had begged from Jimmy Skunk.  'And this,' said Striped
Chipmunk, holding out the fat acorn, 'is what fell out of the bag.'

"Then Striped Chipmunk and Happy Jack Squirrel hurried over to Jimmy
Skunk's house, and, just as they expected, they found that Mr. Meadow
Mouse had not begged a planting of potatoes of Jimmy Skunk.

"So Striped Chipmunk and Happy Jack Squirrel and Jimmy Skunk hurried
over to Mr. Rabbit's and told him all about Mr. Meadow Mouse and the
bag of potatoes that dropped acorns.  Mr. Rabbit looked very grave,
very grave indeed.  Then Striped Chipmunk and Happy Jack Squirrel and
Jimmy Skunk and Mr. Rabbit started to tell Mr. Coon, who was cousin to
old King Bear.

"On the way they met Hooty the Owl, and because he could fly softly and
quickly, they sent Hooty the Owl to tell all the meadow people who were
awake to come to the hollow chestnut tree.  So Hooty the Owl flew away
to tell all the little meadow people who were awake to meet at the
hollow chestnut tree.

"When they reached the hollow chestnut tree whom should they find there
but Mr. Meadow Mouse fast asleep beside the bag he had brought for Mr.
Wharf Rat, who had wisely stayed away.

"Very softly Striped Chipmunk stole up and opened the bag.  Out fell
his store of fat acorns.  Then they waked Mr. Meadow Mouse and marched
him off to old Mother Nature, where they charged him with being a thief.

"Old Mother Nature listened to all they had to say.  She saw the bag of
acorns and she heard how Mr. Meadow Mouse had said that he had a
planting of potatoes.  Then she asked him if he had stolen the acorns.
Yes, Sir, she asked him right out if he had stolen the acorns.

"Of course Mr. Meadow Mouse said that he had not stolen the acorns.

"'Then where did you get the bag of acorns?' asked old Mother Nature.

"When she asked this, Mr. Wharf Rat, who was sitting in the crowd of
meadow people, got up and softly tiptoed away when he thought no one
was looking.  But old Mother Nature saw him.  You can't fool old Mother
Nature.  No, Sir, you can't fool old Mother Nature, and it's of no use
to try.

"Mr. Meadow Mouse didn't know what to say.  He knew now that Mr. Wharf
Rat must be the thief, but Mr. Wharf Rat was his cousin, and he had
always looked up to him as a very fine gentleman.  He couldn't tell the
world that Mr. Wharf Rat was a thief.  So Mr. Meadow Mouse said nothing.

"Three times old Mother Nature asked Mr. Meadow Mouse where he got the
bag of acorns, and each time Mr. Meadow Mouse said nothing.

"'Mr. Meadow Mouse,' said old Mother Nature, and her voice was very
stern, 'I know that you did not steal the acorns of Striped Chipmunk.
I know that you did not even guess that there were stolen acorns in
that bag.  Everyone else thinks that you are the thief who caused so
much trouble on the Green Meadows and in the Green Forest.  But I know
who the real thief is and he is stealing away as fast as he can go down
the Lone Little Path this very minute.'

"All of the little meadow people and forest folks turned to look down
the Lone Little Path, but it was so dark none could see, none but Hooty
the Owl, whose eyes are made to see in the dark.

"'I see him!' cried Hooty the Owl.  'It's Mr. Wharf Rat!'

"'Yes,' said old Mother Nature, 'it's Mr. Wharf Rat--he is the thief.
And this shall be his punishment: Always hereafter he will be driven
out wherever he is found.  He shall no longer live in the Green Meadows
or the Green Forest.  Everyone will turn their backs upon him.  He will
live on what others throw away.  He will live in filth and there will
be no one to say a good word for him.  He will become an outcast
instead of a fine gentleman.'

"'And you, Mr. Meadow Mouse, in order that you may remember always to
avoid bad company, and that while it is a splendid thing to be loyal to
your friends and not to tell tales, it is also a very, very wrong thing
to shield those who have done wrong when by so doing you simply help
them to keep on doing wrong--you shall no longer have the splendid long
tail of which you are so proud, but it shall be short and stubby.'

"Even while old Mother Nature was speaking, Mr. Meadow Mouse felt his
tail grow shorter and shorter, and when she had finished he had just a
little mean stub of a tail.

"Of course he felt terribly.  And while Striped Chipmunk hurried to
tell him how sorry he felt, and while all the other little meadow
people also hurried to tell him how sorry they felt, he could not be
comforted.  So he slipped away as quickly as he could, and because he
was so ashamed he crept along underneath the long grass that no one
should see his short tail.  And ever since that long ago time when the
world was young," concluded Grandfather Frog, "the Meadow Mice have had
short tails and have always scurried along under cover of the long
grass where no one will see them.  And the Wharf Rats have never again
lived in the Green Meadows or in the Green Forest, but have lived on
filth and garbage around the homes of men, with every man's hand
against them."

"Thank you, Grandfather Frog," said Danny Meadow Mouse, very soberly.
"Now I understand why my tail is short and I shall not forget."

"But it isn't your fault at all, Danny Meadow Mouse," cried the Merry
Little Breezes, who had been listening, "and we love you just as much
as if your tail was long!"

Then they played tag with him all the way up the Lone Little Path to
his house, till Danny Meadow Mouse quite forgot that he had wished that
his tail was long.



II

WHY REDDY FOX HAS NO FRIENDS

The Green Meadows lay peaceful and still.  Mother Moon, sailing high
overhead, looked down upon them and smiled and smiled, flooding them
with her silvery light.  All day long the Merry Little Breezes of Old
Mother West Wind had romped there among the asters and goldenrod.  They
had played tag through the cat rushes around the Smiling Pool.  For
very mischief they had rubbed the fur of the Field Mice babies the
wrong way and had blown a fat green fly right out of Grandfather Frog's
mouth just as his lips came together with a smack.  Now they were
safely tucked in bed behind the Purple Hills, and so they missed the
midnight feast at the foot of the Lone Pine.

But Reddy Fox was there.  You can always count on Reddy Fox to be about
when mischief or good times are afoot, especially after Mr. Sun has
pulled his nightcap on.

Jimmy Skunk was there.  If there is any mischief Reddy Fox does not
think of Jimmy Skunk will be sure to discover it.

Billy Mink was there.  Yes indeed, Billy Mink was there!  Billy Mink is
another mischief maker.  When Reddy Fox and Jimmy Skunk are playing
pranks or in trouble of any kind you are certain to find Billy Mink
close by.  That is, you are certain to find him if you look sharp
enough.  But Billy Mink is so slim, he moves so quickly, and his wits
are so sharp, that he is not seen half so often as the others.

With Billy Mink came his cousin, Shadow the Weasel, who is sly and
cruel.  No one likes Shadow the Weasel.

Little Joe Otter and Jerry Muskrat came.  They were late, for the legs
of Little Joe Otter are so short that he is a slow traveler on land,
while Jerry Muskrat feels much more at home in the water than on the
dry ground.

Of course Peter Rabbit was there.  Without him no party on the Green
Meadows would be complete, and Peter likes to be abroad at night even
better than by day.  With Peter came his cousin, Jumper the Hare, who
had come down from the Pine Forest for a visit.

Boomer the Nighthawk and Hooty the Owl completed the party, though
Hooty had not been invited and no one knew that he was there.

Each was to contribute something to the feast--the thing that he liked
best.  Such an array as Mother Moon looked down upon!  Reddy Fox had
brought a plump, tender chicken, stolen from Farmer Brown's dooryard.

Very quietly, like a thin, brown shadow, Billy Mink had slipped up to
the duck pond and--alas!  Now Mother Quack had one less in her pretty
little flock than when as jolly, round, red Mr. Sun went to bed behind
the Purple Hills, she had counted her babies as they tucked their heads
under their wings.

Little Joe Otter had been fishing and he brought a great fat brother of
the lamented Tommy Trout, who didn't mind.

Jerry Muskrat brought up from the mud of the river bottom some fine
fresh water clams, of which he is very fond.

Jimmy Skunk stole three big eggs from the nest of old Gray Goose.

Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare rolled up a great, tender, fresh
cabbage.

Boomer the Nighthawk said that he was very sorry, but he was on a diet
of insects, which he must swallow one at a time, so to save trouble he
had swallowed them as he caught them.

Now Hooty the Owl is a glutton and is lazy.  "Reddy Fox and Jimmy Skunk
and Billy Mink are sure to bring somethink [Transcriber's note:
something?] I like, so what is the use of spending my time hunting for
what someone else will get for me?" said he to himself.  So Hooty the
Owl went very early to the Lone Pine and hid among the thick branches
where no one could see him.

Shadow the Weasel is sly and a thief and lives by his wits.  So because
he had rather steal than be honest, he too went to the midnight spread
with nothing but his appetite.

Now Reddy Fox is also a glutton and very, very crafty.  When he saw the
plump duck brought by Billy Mink, his mouth watered, for Reddy Fox is
very, very fond of young spring ducks.  So straightway he began to plan
how he could get possession of Billy Mink's duck.

And when Billy Mink saw the fat trout Little Joe Otter had brought, his
eyes danced and his heart swelled with envy, for Billy Mink is very,
very fond of fish.  At once he began to plan how he could secure that
particular fat trout Little Joe Otter guarded so carefully.

Jimmy Skunk was quite contented with the eggs he had stolen from old
Gray Goose--that is, he was until he saw the plump chicken Reddy Fox
had brought from Farmer Brown's dooryard.  Then suddenly his stomach
became very empty, very empty indeed for chicken, and Jimmy Skunk began
to think of a way to add the chicken of Reddy Fox to his own stolen
eggs.

Because Reddy Fox is the largest he was given the place of honor at the
head of the table under the Lone Pine.  On his right sat Little Joe
Otter and on his left Jerry Muskrat.  Shadow the Weasel was next to
Little Joe Otter, while right across from him was Jimmy Skunk.  Peter
Rabbit was next, sitting opposite his cousin, Jumper the Hare.  At the
extreme end, facing Reddy Fox, sat Billy Mink, with the plump duck
right under his sharp little nose.

Boomer the Nighthawk excused himself on the plea that he needed
exercise to aid digestion, and as he had brought nothing to the feast,
his excuse was politely accepted.

Reddy Fox is very, very cunning, and his crafty brain had been busily
working out a plan to get all these good things for himself.  "Little
brothers of the Green Meadows," began Reddy Fox, "we have met here
to-night for a feast of brotherly love."

Reddy Fox paused a moment to look hungrily at Billy Mink's duck.  Billy
Mink cast a longing eye at Little Joe Otter's trout, while Jimmy Skunk
stole an envious glance at Reddy Fox's chicken.

"But there is one missing to make our joy complete," continued Reddy
Fox.  "Who has seen Bobby Coon?"

No one had seen Bobby Coon.  Somehow happy-go-lucky Bobby Coon had been
overlooked when the invitations were sent out.

"I move," continued Reddy Fox, "that because Billy Mink runs swiftly,
and because he knows where Bobby Coon usually is to be found, he be
appointed a committee of one to find Bobby Coon and bring him to the
feast."

Now nothing could have been less to the liking of Billy Mink, but there
was nothing for him to do but to yield as gracefully as he could and go
in search of Bobby Coon.

No sooner had Billy Mink disappeared down the Lone Little Path than
Reddy Fox recalled a nest of grouse eggs he had seen that day under a
big hemlock, and he proposed that inasmuch as Jimmy Skunk already wore
stripes for having stolen a nest of eggs from Mrs. Grouse, he was just
the one to go steal these eggs and bring them to the feast.

Of course there was nothing for Jimmy Skunk to do but to yield as
gracefully as he could and go in search of the nest of eggs under the
big hemlock.

No sooner had Jimmy Skunk started off than Reddy Fox remembered a big
shining sucker Farmer Brown's boy had caught that afternoon and tossed
among the rushes beside the Smiling Pool.  Little Joe Otter listened
and his mouth watered and watered until he could sit still no longer.
"If you please," said Little Joe Otter, "I'll run down to the Smiling
Pool and get that sucker to add to the feast."

No sooner was Little Joe Otter out of sight than Reddy Fox was reminded
of a field of carrots on the other side of the Green Meadows.  Now
Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare are very fond of tender young carrots
and they volunteered to bring a supply for the feast.  So away they
hurried with big jumps down the Lone Little Path and out across the
Green Meadows.

No sooner were Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare fairly started than
Reddy Fox began to tell of some luscious sweet apples he had noticed
under a wild apple tree a little way back on the hill.  Now Jerry
Muskrat is quite as fond of luscious sweet apples as of fresh-water
clams, so quietly slipping away, he set out in quest of the wild apple
tree a little way back on the hill.

No sooner was Jerry Muskrat lost in the black shadows than Reddy Fox
turned to speak to Shadow the Weasel.  But Shadow the Weasel believes
that a feast in the stomach is worth two banquets untasted, so while
the others had been talking, he had quietly sucked dry the three big
eggs stolen by Jimmy Skunk from old Gray Goose, and then because he is
so slim and so quick and so sly, he slipped away without anyone seeing
him.

So when Reddy Fox turned to speak to Shadow the Weasel, he found
himself alone.  At least he thought himself alone, and he smiled a
wicked, selfish smile as he walked over to Billy Mink's duck.  He was
thinking how smart he had been to get rid of all the others, and of how
he would enjoy the feast all by himself.

As Reddy Fox stooped to pick up Billy Mink's duck, a great shadow
dropped softly, oh so softly, out of the Lone Pine down onto the plump
chicken.  Then without the teeniest, weeniest bit of noise, it floated
back into the Lone Pine and with it went the plump chicken.

Reddy Fox, still with his wicked, selfish smile, trotted back with
Billy Mink's duck, but he dropped it in sheer surprise when he
discovered that his plump chicken had disappeared.  Now Reddy Fox is
very suspicious, as people who are not honest themselves are very apt
to be.  So he left Billy Mink's duck where he had dropped it and
trotted very, very softly up the Lone Little Path to try to catch the
thief who had stolen his plump chicken.

No sooner was his back turned than down out of the Lone Pine floated
the great shadow, and when a minute later Reddy Fox returned, Billy
Mink's duck had also disappeared.

Reddy Fox could hardly believe his eyes.  He didn't smile now.  He was
too angry and too frightened.  Yes, Reddy Fox was frightened.  He
walked in a big circle round and round the place where the plump
chicken and the duck had been, and the more he walked, the more
suspicious he became.  He wrinkled and wrinkled his little black nose
in an effort to smell the intruder, but not a whiff could he get.  All
was as still and peaceful as could be.  Little Joe Otter's trout lay
shining in the moonlight.  The big head of cabbage lay just where Peter
Rabbit and Jumper the Hare had left it.  Reddy Fox rubbed his eyes to
make sure that he was not dreaming and that the plump chicken and the
duck were not there too.

Just then Bowser the Hound, over at Farmer Brown's, bayed at the moon.
Reddy Fox always is nervous and by this time he was so fidgety that he
couldn't stand still.  When Bowser the Hound bayed at the moon Reddy
Fox jumped a foot off the ground and whirled about in the direction of
Farmer Brown's house.  Then he remembered that Bowser the Hound is
always chained up at night, so that he had nothing to fear from him.

After listening and looking a moment Reddy Fox decided that all was
safe.  "Well," said he to himself, "I'll have that fat trout anyway,"
and turned to get it.

But the fat trout he had seen a minute before shining in the moonlight
had also disappeared.  Reddy Fox looked and looked until his eyes
nearly popped out of his head.  Then he did what all cowards do--ran
home as fast as his legs could carry him.

Now of course Billy Mink didn't find Bobby Coon, and when he came back
up the Lone Little Path he was very tired, very hungry and very cross.
And of course Jimmy Skunk failed to find the nest of Mrs. Grouse, and
Little Joe Otter could find no trace of the shining big sucker among
the rushes beside the Smiling Pool.  They also were very tired, very
hungry and very cross.

When the three returned to the Lone Pine and found nothing there but
the big head of cabbage, which none of them liked, the empty egg shells
of old Gray Goose and Jerry Muskrat's clams, they straightway fell to
accusing each other of having stolen the duck and the fat trout and the
eggs and began to quarrel dreadfully.

Pretty soon up came Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare, who had failed to
find the tender young carrots.  And up came Jerry Muskrat, who had
found no luscious sweet apples.

"Where is Reddy Fox?" asked Peter Rabbit.

Sure enough, where was Reddy Fox?  Billy Mink and Little Joe Otter and
Jimmy Skunk stopped quarreling and looked at each other.

"Reddy Fox is the thief!" they cried all together.

Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare and Jerry Muskrat agreed that Reddy
Fox must be the thief, and had sent them all away on false errands that
he might have the feast all to himself.

So because there was nothing else to do, Billy Mink and Little Joe
Otter, tired and hungry and angry, started for their homes beside the
Laughing Brook.  And Jimmy Skunk, also tired and hungry and angry,
started off up the Crooked Little Path to look for some beetles.

But Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare sat down to enjoy the big head of
cabbage, while close beside them sat Jerry Muskrat smacking his lips
over his clams, they tasted so good.  Mother Moon looked down and
smiled and smiled, for she knew that each had a clear conscience, for
they had done no harm to anyone.

And up in the thick top of the great pine Hooty the Owl nodded
sleepily, for his stomach was very full of chicken and duck and trout,
although he had not been invited to the party.

And this is why Reddy Fox has no true friends on the Green Meadows.



III

WHY PETER RABBIT'S EARS ARE LONG

The Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind were tired.  Ever
since she had turned them out of her big bag onto the Green Meadows
early that morning they had romped and played tag and chased
butterflies while Old Mother West Wind herself went to hunt for a
raincloud which had wandered away before it had watered the thirsty
little plants who were bravely trying to keep the Green Meadows lovely
and truly green.  Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun wore his broadest smile and
the more he smiled the warmer it grew.  Mr. Sun is never thirsty
himself, never the least little bit, or perhaps he would have helped
Old Mother West Wind find the wandering raincloud.

The Merry Little Breezes threw themselves down on the edge of the
Smiling Pool, where the rushes grow tall, and there they took turns
rocking the cradle which held Mrs. Redwing's four babies.

Pretty soon one of the Merry Little Breezes, peeping through the
rushes, spied Peter Rabbit sitting up very straight on the edge of the
Green Meadows.  His long ears were pointed straight up, his big eyes
were very wide open and he seemed to be looking and listening with a
great deal of curiosity.

"I wonder why it is that Peter Rabbit has such long ears," said the
Merry Little Breeze.

"Chug-a-rum!" replied a great, deep voice right behind him.

All the Merry Little Breezes jumped up and ran through the rushes to
the very edge of the Smiling Pool.  There on a great green lily pad sat
Great-Grandfather Frog, his hands folded across his white and yellow
waistcoat and his green coat shining spick and span.

"Chug-a-rum," said Grandfather Frog.

"Oh, Grandfather Frog," cried the Merry Little Breezes all together,
"do tell us why it is that Peter Rabbit has such long ears."

Grandfather Frog cleared his throat.  He looked to the east and cleared
his throat again.  Then he looked to the west, and cleared his throat.
He looked north and he looked south, and each time he cleared his
throat, but said nothing.  Finally he folded his hands once more over
his white and yellow waistcoat, and looking straight up at jolly,
round, red Mr. Sun he remarked in his very deepest Voice and to no one
in particular:

"If I had four fat, foolish, green flies, it is just possible that I
might remember how it happens that Peter Rabbit has such long ears."

Then up jumped all the Merry Little Breezes and away they raced.  Some
of them went east, some of them went west, some of them went north,
some of them went south, all looking for fat, foolish, green flies for
Grandfather Frog.

By and by they came skipping back, one by one, to the edge of the
Smiling Pool, each with a fat, foolish, green fly, and each stopping to
give Mrs. Redwing's cradle a gentle push.

When Grandfather Frog had swallowed all the fat, foolish, green flies
brought by the Merry Little Breezes, he settled himself comfortably on
his big lily pad once more and began:

"Once upon a time, very long ago, when the world was young, Mr.
Rabbit--not our Peter Rabbit, but his grandfather a thousand times
removed--had short ears like all the other meadow people, and also his
four legs were all of the same length, just exactly the same length.

"Now Mr. Rabbit had a great deal of curiosity, a very great deal,
indeed.  He was forever pushing his prying little nose into other
people's affairs, which, you know, is a most unpleasant habit.  In
fact, Mr. Rabbit had become a nuisance."

[Illustration: Mr. Rabbit had a great deal of curiosity, a very great
deal, indeed.]

"Whenever Billy Mink stopped to pass the time of day with Jerry Muskrat
they were sure to find Mr. Rabbit standing close by, listening to all
they said.  If Johnny Chuck's mother ran over to have a few minutes'
chat with Jimmy Skunk's mother, the first thing they knew Mr. Rabbit
would be squatting down in the grass right behind them.

"The older he grew the worse Mr. Rabbit became.  He would spend his
evenings going from house to house, tiptoeing softly up to the windows
to listen to what the folks inside were saying.  And the more he heard
the more Mr. Rabbit's curiosity grew.

"Now, like most people who meddle in other folks' affairs, Mr. Rabbit
had no time to tend to his own business.  His cabbage patch grew up to
weeds.  His house leaked, his fences fell to pieces, and altogether his
was the worst looking place on the Green Meadows.

"Worse still, Mr. Rabbit was a trouble maker.  He just couldn't keep
his tongue still.  And like most gossips, he never could tell the exact
truth.

"Dear me! dear me!" said Grandfather Frog, shaking his head solemnly.
"Things had come to a dreadful pass on the Green Meadows.  Reddy Fox
and Bobby Coon never met without fighting.  Jimmy Skunk and Johnny
Chuck turned their backs on each other.  Jerry Muskrat, Little Joe
Otter, and Billy Mink called each other bad names.  All because Mr.
Rabbit had told so many stories that were not true.

"Now when old Mother Nature visited the Green Meadows she soon saw what
a dreadful state all the meadow people were in, and she began to
inquire how it all came about.

"'It's all because of Mr. Rabbit,' said Reddy Fox.

"'No one is to blame but Mr. Rabbit,' said Striped Chipmunk.

"Everywhere old Mother Nature inquired it was the same--Mr. Rabbit, Mr.
Rabbit, Mr. Rabbit.

"So then old Mother Nature sent for blustering great Mr. North Wind,
who is very strong.  And she sent for Mr. Rabbit.

"Mr. Rabbit trembled in his shoes when he got old Mother Nature's
message.  He would have liked to run away and hide.  But he did not
dare do that, for he knew that there was nowhere he could hide that
Mother Nature would not find him sooner or later.  And besides, his
curiosity would give him no peace.  He just _had_ to know what old
Mother Nature wanted.

"So Peter Rabbit put on his best suit, which was very shabby, and set
out for the Lone Pine to see what old Mother Nature wanted.  When he
got there, he found all the little people of the Green Meadows and all
the little folks of the Green Forest there before him.  There were
Reddy Fox, Johnny Chuck, Striped Chipmunk, Happy Jack Squirrel, Mr.
Black Snake, old Mr. Crow, Sammy Jay, Billy Mink, Little Joe Otter,
Jerry Muskrat, Spotty the Turtle, old King Bear, his cousin, Mr. Coon,
and all the other little people.

"When he saw all who had gathered under the Lone Pine, and how they all
looked crossly at him, Mr. Rabbit was so frightened that his heart went
pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, and he wanted more than ever to run
away.  But he didn't dare to.  No, Sir, he didn't dare to.  And then he
was so curious to know what it all meant that he wouldn't have run if
he had dared.

"Old Mother Nature made Mr. Rabbit sit up on an old log where all could
see him.  Then in turn she asked each present who was the cause of all
the trouble on the Green Meadows.  And each in turn answered 'Mr.
Rabbit.'

"'Mr. Rabbit,' said old Mother Nature, 'you are lazy, for your cabbage
patch has all gone to weeds.  You are shiftless, for your house leaks.
You are a sneak, for you creep up where you are not wanted and listen
to things which do not concern you.  You are a thief, for you steal the
secrets of others.  You are a prevaricator, for you tell things which
are not so.  Mr. Rabbit, you are all these--a lazy, shiftless sneak,
thief and prevaricator.'

"It was dreadful.  Mother Nature paused, and Mr. Rabbit felt oh so
ashamed.  He did not look up, but he felt, he just _felt_, all the eyes
of all the little meadow people and forest folk burning right into him.
So he hung his head and two great tears fell splash, right at his feet.
You see Mr. Rabbit wasn't altogether bad.  It was just this dreadful
curiosity.

"Old Mother Nature knew this and down in her heart she loved Mr. Rabbit
and was oh so sorry for him.

"'Mr. Rabbit,' continued old Mother Nature, 'because your curiosity is
so great, your ears shall be made long, that every one who sees you may
know that it is not safe to talk when you are near.  Because you are a
sneak and steal up to people unseen, your-hind legs shall be made long,
so that whenever you sit up straight you will be tall and every one can
see you, and whenever you run, you will go with great jumps, and every
one will know who it is running away.  And because you are shiftless
and your house leaks, you will hereafter live in a hole in the ground.'

"Then old Mother Nature took Mr. Rabbit by his two ears and big, strong
Mr. North Wind took Peter Rabbit by his hind legs, and they both
pulled.  And when they put him down Peter Rabbit's ears and his hind
legs were long, many times longer than they used to be.  When he tried
to run away to hide his shame, he found that the only way he could go
was with great jumps, and you may be sure he jumped as fast as he could.

"And ever since that long ago time, when the world was young, rabbits
have had long ears and long hind legs, all because of the curiosity of
their grandfather a thousand times removed.  And now you know why Peter
Rabbit's ears are long, and why he is always sitting up and listening,"
concluded Great-Grandfather Frog.

"Thank you, thank you, Grandfather Frog!" shouted all the Merry Little
Breezes, and raced away to help old Mother West Wind drive up the
wandering raincloud, which she had found at last.



IV

REDDY FOX DISOBEYS

On the brow of the hill by the Lone Pine sat Reddy Fox.  Every few
moments he pointed his little black nose up at the round, yellow moon
and barked.  Way over across the broad White Meadows, which in summer
time are green, you know, in the dooryard of Farmer Brown's house,
Bowser the Hound sat and barked at the moon, too.

"Yap-yap-yap," barked Reddy Fox, as loud as he could.

"Bow-wow-wow," said Bowser the Hound in his deepest voice.

Then both would listen and watch the million little stars twinkle and
twinkle in the frosty sky.  Now just why Reddy Fox should bark at the
moon he did not know.  He just had to.  Every night for a week he had
sat at the foot of the Lone Pine and barked and barked until his throat
was sore.  Every night old Mother Fox had warned him that noisy
children would come to no good end, and every night Reddy had promised
that he would bark no more.  But every night when the first silver
flood of witching light crept over the hill and cast strange shadows
from the naked branches of the trees, Reddy forgot all about his
promise.  Deep down under his little red coat was a strange feeling
which he could not explain.  He simply _must_ bark, so up to the Lone
Pine he would go and yap and yap and yap, until all the little meadow
people who were not asleep knew just where Reddy Fox was.

Bowser the Hound knew, too, and he made up his mind that Reddy Fox was
making fun of him.  Now Bowser did not like to be made fun of any more
than little boys and girls do, and he made up his mind that if ever he
could break his chain, or that if ever Farmer Brown forgot to chain him
up, he would teach Reddy Fox a lesson that Reddy would never forget.

"Yap-yap-yap," barked Reddy Fox, and then listened to hear Bowser's
deep voice reply.  But this time there was no reply.  Reddy listened,
and listened, and then tried it again.  Way off on a distant hill he
could hear Hooty the Owl.  Close by him Jack Frost was busy snapping
sticks.  Down on the White Meadows he could see Jimmy Skunk prowling
about.  Once he heard a rooster crow sleepily in Farmer Brown's
hen-house, but he thought of Bowser the Hound, and though his mouth
watered, he did not dare risk a closer acquaintance with the big dog.
So he sat still and barked, and pretty soon he forgot all else but the
moon and the sound of his own voice.

Now Bowser the Hound had managed to slip his collar.  "Aha," thought
Bowser, "now I'll teach Reddy Fox to make fun of me," and like a shadow
he slipped through the fence and across the White Meadows towards the
Lone Pine.

Reddy Fox had just barked for the hundreth time when he heard a twig
crack just back of him.  It had a different sound from the noisy crack
of Jack Frost, and Reddy stopped a yap right in the middle and whirled
about to see what it might be.  There was Bowser the Hound almost upon
him, his eyes flashing fire, his great, red jaws wide open, and every
hair on his back bristling with rage.

Reddy Fox didn't wait to say "Good evening," or to see more.  Oh, no!
He turned a back somersault and away he sped over the hard, snowy crust
as fast as his legs could carry him.  Bowser baying at the moon he
liked to hear, but Bowser baying at his heels was another matter, and
Reddy ran as he had never run before.  Down across the White Meadows he
sped, Bowser frightening all the echoes with the roar of his big voice
as he followed in full cry.

How Reddy did wish that he had minded Mother Fox!  How safe and snug
and warm was his home under the roots of the old hickory tree, and how
he did wish that he was safely there!  But it would never do to go
there now, for that would tell Bowser where he lived, and Bowser would
take Farmer Brown there, and that would be the end of Reddy Fox and of
Mother Fox and of all the brother and sister foxes.

So Reddy twisted and turned, and ran this way and ran that way, and the
longer he ran, the shorter his breath grew.  It was coming in great
pants now.  His bushy tail, of which he was so proud, had become very
heavy.  How Reddy Fox did wish and wish that he had minded Mother Fox!
He twisted and turned, and doubled this way and that way, and all the
time Bowser the Hound got closer and closer.

Now way off on the hill behind the White Meadows Mother Fox had been
hunting for her supper.  She had heard the "Yap-yap-yap" of Reddy Fox
as he barked at the moon, and she had heard Bowser baying over in the
barnyard of Farmer Brown.  Then she had heard the "yap" of Reddy Fox
cut short in the middle and the roar of Bowser's big voice as he
started to chase Reddy Fox.  She knew that Reddy could run fast, but
she also knew that Bowser the Hound had a wonderful nose, and that
Bowser would never give up.  So Mother Fox pattered down the Crooked
Little Path onto the White Meadows, where she could see the chase.
When she got near enough, she barked twice to tell Reddy that she would
help him.

Now Reddy Fox was so tired that he was almost in despair when he heard
Mother Fox bark.  But he knew that Mother Fox was so wise, and she had
so often fooled Bowser the Hound, that if he could hold out just a
little longer she would help him.  So for a few minutes he ran faster
than ever and he gained a long way on Bowser the Hound.  As he passed a
shock of corn that had been left standing on the White Meadows, Mother
Fox stepped out from behind it.  "Go home, Reddy Fox," said she,
sharply, "go home and stay there until I come."  Then she deliberately
sat down in front of the shock of corn to wait until Bowser the Hound
should come in sight.

Now Bowser the Hound kept his eyes and nose on the track of Reddy Fox,
looking up only once in a while to see where he was going, so he did
not see Reddy Fox slip behind the corn shock, and when he did look up,
he saw only Mother Fox sitting there waiting for him.

Now Bowser the Hound thinks slowly.  When he saw old Mother Fox sitting
there, he did not stop to think that it was not Reddy Fox whom he had
been following, or he would have known better than to waste his time
following old Mother Fox.  He would have just hunted around until he
had found where Reddy had gone to.  But Bowser the Hound thinks slowly.
When he saw old Mother Fox sitting there, he thought it was Reddy Fox
and that now he had him.

With a great roar of his big voice, he sprang forward.  Mother Fox
waited until he was almost upon her, then springing to one side, she
trotted off a little way.  At once Bowser the Hound started after her.
She pretended to be very tired.  Every time he rushed forward she
managed to just slip out of his grasp.

Little by little she led him across the White Meadows back towards
Farmer Brown's barnyard.  Pretty soon old Mother Fox began to run as
fast as she could, and that is very fast indeed.  She left Bowser the
Hound a long, long way behind.  When she came to a stone wall she
jumped up on the stone wall and ran along it, just like a squirrel.
Every once in a while she would make a long jump and then trot along a
little way again.  She knew that stones do not carry the scent well,
and that Bowser the Hound would have hard work to smell her on the
stone wall.  Way down at the end of the pasture an old apple tree
stretched a long limb out towards the stone wall.  When she got
opposite to this she jumped onto this long limb and ran up into the
tree.  There in the crotch, close to the trunk, she sat and watched.

Bowser the Hound, making a tremendous noise, followed her trail up to
the stone wall.  Then he was puzzled.  He sniffed this way, and he
sniffed that way, but he could not tell where Mother Fox had
disappeared to.  He looked up at old Mother Moon and bayed and bayed,
but old Mother Moon did not help him a bit.  Then he jumped over the
stone wall and looked, and looked, and smelled, and smelled, but no
track of Mother Fox could he find.  Then he ran up along the stone wall
a little way, and then down along the stone wall a little way, but
still he could not find a track of Mother Fox.  The longer he hunted,
the angrier he grew.

Old Mother Fox, sitting in the apple tree, watched him and laughed and
laughed to herself.  Then when she grew tired of watching him, she made
a long jump out into the field and trotted off home to punish Reddy Fox
for his disobedience.  When she got there she found Reddy Fox very much
ashamed, very tired and very sorrowful, and since that time Reddy Fox
has never barked at the moon.



V

STRIPED CHIPMUNK'S POCKETS

It was one of Striped Chipmunk's busy days.  Every day is a busy day
with Striped Chipmunk at this season of the year, for the sweet acorns
are ripe and the hickory nuts rattle down whenever Old Mother West Wind
shakes the trees, while every night Jack Frost opens chestnut burrs
just to see the squirrels scamper for the plump brown nuts the next
morning.

So Striped Chipmunk was very busy, very busy indeed!  He whisked in and
out of the old stone wall along one edge of the Green Meadows.  Back
and forth, back and forth, sometimes to the old hickory tree, sometimes
to the hollow chestnut tree, sometimes to the great oak on the edge of
the Green Forest Striped Chipmunk scampered.

Old Mother West Wind, coming down from the Purple Hills very early in
the morning, had found Striped Chipmunk up before her and hard at work.
Later, when jolly, round, red Mr. Sun had climbed up into the sky, the
Merry Little Breezes had spied Striped Chipmunk whisking along the old
stone wall and had raced over to play with him, for the Merry Little
Breezes are very fond of Striped Chipmunk.  They got there just in time
to see him disappear under a great stone in the old wall.  In a minute
he was out again and off as fast as he could go to the old hickory tree.

"Oh, Striped Chipmunk, come play with us," shouted the Merry Little
Breezes, running after him.

But Striped Chipmunk just flirted his funny little tail and winked with
both his bright eyes at them.

"Busy!  busy!  busy!" said Striped Chipmunk, hurrying along as fast as
his short legs could take him.

The Merry Little Breezes laughed, and one of them, dancing ahead,
pulled the funny little tail of Striped Chipmunk.

"It's a beautiful day; do come and play with us," cried the Merry
Little Breeze.

But Striped Chipmunk flirted his tail over his back once more.

"Busy! busy! busy!" he shouted over his shoulder and ran faster than
ever.

In a few minutes he was back again, but such a queer-looking fellow as
he was!  His head was twice as big as it had been before and you would
hardly have known that it was Striped Chipmunk but for the saucy way he
twitched his funny little tail and the spry way he scampered along the
old stone wall.

"Oh, Striped Chipmunk's got the mumps!" shouted the Merry Little
Breezes.

But Striped Chipmunk said never a word.  He couldn't.  He ran faster
than ever until he disappeared under the big stone.  When he popped his
head out again he was just his usual saucy little self.

"Say, Striped Chipmunk," cried the Merry Little Breezes, rushing over
to him, "tell us how you happen to have pockets in your cheeks."

But Striped Chipmunk just snapped his bright eyes at them and said
"Busy! busy! busy!" as he scuttled over to the hollow chestnut tree.

The Merry Little Breezes saw that it was no use at all to try to tempt
Striped Chipmunk to play with them or to answer questions.

"I tell you what," cried one, "let's go ask Great-Grandfather Frog how
Striped Chipmunk happens to have pockets in his cheeks.  He'll know."

So away they started, after they had raced over to the big hollow
chestnut tree and sent a shower of brown nuts rattling down to Striped
Chipmunk from the burrs that Jack Frost had opened the night before.

"Good-bye, Striped Chipmunk," they shouted as they romped across the
Green Meadows.  And Striped Chipmunk stopped long enough to shout
"Good-bye" before he filled his pockets with the brown nuts.

Old Grandfather Frog sat on his big green lily pad blinking in the sun.
It was very still, very, very still indeed.  Suddenly out of the brown
bulrushes burst the Merry Little Breezes and surrounded old Grandfather
Frog.  And every one of them had brought to him a fat, foolish, green
fly.

Grandfather's big goggly eyes sparkled and he gave a funny little hop
up into the air as he caught each foolish green fly.  When the last one
was safely inside his white and yellow waistcoat he settled himself
comfortably on the big green lily pad and folded his hands over the
foolish green flies.

"Chug-a-rum!"  said  Grandfather Frog.  "What is it you want this
morning?"

"Oh, Grandfather Frog," cried the Merry Little Breezes, "tell us how it
happens that Striped Chipmunk has pockets in his cheeks.  Do tell us,
Grandfather Frog.  Please do!"

"Chug-a-rum," said Grandfather Frog.  "How should I know?"

"But you do know, Grandfather Frog, you know you do.  Please tell us!"
cried the Merry Little Breezes as they settled themselves among the
rushes.

And presently Grandfather Frog began:

"Once upon a time--a long, long while ago--"

"When the world was young?" asked a mischievous little Breeze.

Grandfather Frog pretended to be very much put out by the interruption,
and tried to look very severe.  But the Merry Little Breezes were all
giggling, so that presently he had to smile too.

"Yes," said he, "it was when the world was young, before old
King Bear became king.  Mr. Chipmunk, Striped Chipmunk's
great-great-great-grandfather a thousand times removed, was the
smallest of the squirrels, just as Striped Chipmunk is now.  But he
didn't mind that, not the least little bit.  Mr. Gray Squirrel was four
times as big and had a handsome tail, Mr. Fox Squirrel was four times
as big and he also had a handsome tail, Mr. Red Squirrel was twice as
big and he thought his tail was very good to see.  But Mr. Chipmunk
didn't envy his big cousins their fine tails; not he!  You see he had
himself a beautiful striped coat of which he was very proud and which
he thought much more to be desired than a big tail.

"So Mr. Chipmunk went his way happy and contented and he was such a
merry little fellow and so full of fun and cut such funny capers that
everybody loved Mr. Chipmunk.

"One day, when the nights were cool and all the trees had put on their
brilliant colors, old Mother Nature sent word down across the Green
Meadows that every squirrel should gather for her and store away until
she came a thousand nuts.  Now the squirrels had grown fat and lazy
through the long summer, all but Mr. Chipmunk, who frisked about so
much that he had no chance to grow fat.

"Mr. Gray Squirrel grumbled.  Mr. Fox Squirrel grumbled.  Mr. Red
Squirrel grumbled.  But they didn't dare disobey old Mother Nature, so
they all set out, each to gather a thousand nuts.  And Mr. Chipmunk
alone was pleasant and cheerful.

"When they reached the nut trees, what do you suppose they discovered?
Why, that they had been so greedy that they had eaten most of the nuts
and it was going to be hard work to find and store a thousand nuts for
old Mother Nature.  Then they began to hurry, did Mr. Gray Squirrel and
Mr. Fox Squirrel and Mr. Red Squirrel, each trying to make sure of his
thousand nuts.  They quarreled and they fought over the nuts on the
ground and even up in the trees.  And because they were so big and so
strong, they pushed Mr. Chipmunk this way and they pushed him that way
and often just as he was going to pick up a fat nut one of them would
knock him over and make off with the prize.

"Poor Mr. Chipmunk kept his temper and was as polite as ever, but how
he did work!  His cousins are great climbers and could get the nuts
still left on the trees, but Mr. Chipmunk is a poor climber, so he had
to be content with those on the ground.  Of course he could carry only
one nut at a time and his legs were so short that he had to run as fast
as ever he could to store each nut in his secret store-house and get
back for another.  And while the others quarreled and fought, he
hurried back and forth, back and forth, from early morning until jolly,
round, red Mr. Sun pulled his night cap on behind the Purple Hills,
hunting for nuts and putting them away in his secret store-house.

"But the nuts grew scarcer and scarcer on the ground and harder to
find, for the other squirrels were picking them up too, and then they
did not have so far to carry them.

"Sometimes one of his cousins up in the trees would drop a nut, but Mr.
Chipmunk never would take it, not even when he was having hard work to
find any, 'for,' said he to himself, 'if my cousin drops a nut, it is
his nut just the same.'

"Finally Mr. Gray Squirrel announced that he had got his thousand nuts.
Then Mr. Fox Squirrel announced that he had got his thousand nuts.  The
next day Mr. Red Squirrel stopped hunting because he had his thousand
nuts.

"But Mr. Chipmunk had hardly more than half as many.  And that night he
made a dreadful discovery--some one had found his secret store-house
and had _stolen_ some of his precious nuts.

"'It's of no use to cry over what can't be helped,' said Mr. Chipmunk,
and the next morning he bravely started out again.  He had worked so
hard that he had grown thinner and thinner until now he was only a
shadow of his old self.  But he was as cheerful as ever and kept right
on hunting and hunting for stray nuts.  Mr. Gray Squirrel and Mr. Fox
Squirrel and Mr. Red Squirrel sat around and rested and made fun of
him.  Way up in the tops of the tallest trees a few nuts still clung,
but his cousins did not once offer to go up and shake them down for Mr.
Chipmunk.

"And then old Mother Nature came down across the Green Meadows.  First
Mr. Gray Squirrel took her to his storehouse and she counted his
thousand nuts.  Then Mr. Fox Squirrel led her to his storehouse and she
counted his thousand nuts.  Then Mr. Red Squirrel showed her his
store-house and she counted his thousand nuts.

"Last of all Mr. Chipmunk led her to his secret store-house and showed
her the pile of nuts he had worked so hard to get.  Old Mother Nature
didn't need to count them to see that there were not a thousand there.

"'I've done the best I could,' said Mr. Chipmunk bravely, and he
trembled all over, he was so tired.

"Old Mother Nature said never a word but went out on the Green Meadows
and sent the Merry Little Breezes to call together all the little
meadow people and all the little forest folks.  When they had all
gathered before her she suddenly turned to Mr. Gray Squirrel.

"'Go bring me a hundred nuts from your store-house,' said she.

"Then she turned to Mr. Fox Squirrel.

"'Go bring me a hundred nuts from your store-house,' said she.

"Last of all she called Mr. Red Squirrel out where all could see him.
Mr. Red Squirrel crept out very slowly.  His teeth chattered and his
tail, of which he was so proud, dragged on the ground, for you see Mr.
Red Squirrel had something on his mind.

"Then old Mother Nature told how she had ordered each squirrel to get
and store for her a thousand nuts.  She told just how selfish Mr. Gray
Squirrel and Mr. Fox Squirrel had been.  She told just how hard Mr.
Chipmunk had worked and then she told how part of his precious store
had been stolen.

"'And there,' said old Mother Nature in a loud voice so that every one
should hear, 'there is the thief!'

"Then she commanded Mr. Red Squirrel to go to his store-house and bring
her half of the biggest and best nuts he had there!

"Mr. Red Squirrel sneaked off with his head hanging, and began to bring
the nuts.  And as he tramped back and forth, back and forth, all the
little meadow people and all the little forest folks pointed their
fingers at him and cried 'Thief!  Thief!  Thief!'

"When all the nuts had been brought to her by Mr. Gray Squirrel and Mr.
Fox Squirrel and Mr. Red Squirrel, old Mother Nature gathered them all
up and put them in the secret store-house of Mr. Chipmunk.  Then she
set Mr. Chipmunk up on an old stump where all could see him and she
said:

"'Mr. Chipmunk, because you have been faithful, because you have been
cheerful, because you have done your best, henceforth you shall have
two pockets, one in each cheek, so that you can carry two nuts at once,
that you may not have to work so hard the next time I tell you to store
a thousand nuts.'

"And all the little meadow people and all the little forest folks
shouted 'Hurrah for Mr. Chipmunk!'  All but his cousins, Mr. Gray
Squirrel and Mr. Fox Squirrel and Mr. Red Squirrel, who hid themselves
for shame.

"And ever since that time long ago, when the world was young, the
Chipmunks have had pockets in their cheeks.

"You can't fool old Mother Nature," concluded Great-Grandfather Frog.
"No, Sir, you can't fool old Mother Nature and it's no use to try."

"Thank you, thank you," cried the Merry Little Breezes, clapping their
hands.  Then they all raced across the Green Meadows to shake down some
more nuts for Striped Chipmunk.



VI

REDDY FOX, THE BOASTER

Johnny Chuck waddled down the Lone Little Path across the Green
Meadows.  Johnny Chuck was very fat and rolly-poly.  His yellow brown
coat fitted him so snugly that it seemed as if it must burst.  Johnny
Chuck was feeling very happy--very happy indeed, for you see Johnny
Chuck long ago found the best thing in the world, which is contentment.

Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun, looking down from the sky, smiled and smiled
to see Johnny Chuck waddling down the Lone Little Path, for he loved
the merry-hearted little fellow, as do all the little meadow
people--all but Reddy Fox, for Reddy Fox has not forgotten the surprise
Johnny Chuck once gave him and how he called him a "'fraid cat."

Once in a while Johnny Chuck stopped to brush his coat carefully, for
he is very particular about his appearance, is Johnny Chuck.  By and by
he came to the old butternut tree down by the Smiling Pool.  He could
see it a long time before he reached it, and up in the top of it he
could see Blacky the Crow flapping his wings and cawing at the top of
his voice.

"There must be something going on," said Johnny Chuck to himself, and
began to waddle faster.  He looked so very queer when he tried to hurry
that jolly round, red Mr. Sun smiled more than ever.

When he was almost to the old butter-nut tree Johnny Chuck sat up very
straight so that his head came just above the tall meadow grasses
beside the Lone Little Path.  He could see the Merry Little Breezes
dancing and racing under the old butternut tree and having such a good
time!  And he could see the long ears of Peter Rabbit standing up
straight above the tall meadow grasses.  One of the Merry Little
Breezes spied Johnny Chuck.

"Hurry up, Johnny Chuck!" he shouted, and Johnny Chuck hurried.

When he reached the old butternut tree he was all out of breath.  He
was puffing and blowing and he was so warm that he wished just for a
minute, a single little minute, that he could swim like Billy Mink and
Jerry Muskrat and Little Joe Otter, so that he could jump into the
Smiling Pool and cool off.

"Hello, Johnny Chuck!" shouted Peter Rabbit.

"Hello yourself, and see how you like it!" replied Johnny Chuck.

"Hello myself!" said Peter Rabbit.

And then because it was so very foolish everybody laughed.  It is a
good thing to feel foolishly happy on a beautiful sunshiny day,
especially down on the Green Meadows.

Jimmy Skunk was there.  He was feeling very, very good indeed, was
Jimmy Skunk, for he had found some very fine beetles for his breakfast.

Little Joe Otter was there, and Billy Mink and Jerry Muskrat and Happy
Jack Squirrel, and of course Reddy Fox was there.  Oh my, yes, of
course Reddy Fox was there!  Reddy Fox never misses a chance to show
off.  He was wearing his very newest red coat and his whitest
waistcoat.  He had brushed his tail till it looked very handsome, and
every few minutes he would turn and admire it.  Reddy Fox thought
himself a very fine gentleman.  He admired himself and he wanted every
one else to admire him.

"Let's do stunts," said Peter Rabbit.  "I can jump farther than anybody
here!"

Then Peter Rabbit jumped a tremendously long jump.  Then everybody
jumped, everybody but Reddy Fox.  Even Johnny Chuck jumped, and because
he was so rolly-poly he tumbled over and over and everybody laughed and
Johnny Chuck laughed loudest of all.

And because his hind legs are long and meant for jumping Peter Rabbit
had jumped farther than any one else.

"I can climb to the top of the old butternut tree quicker than anybody
else," cried Happy Jack Squirrel, and away he started with Bobby Coon
and Billy Mink after him, for though Billy Mink is a famous swimmer and
can run swiftly, he can also climb when he has to.  But Happy Jack
Squirrel was at the top of the old butternut tree almost before the
others had started.

The Merry Little Breezes clapped their hands and everybody shouted for
Happy Jack Squirrel, everybody but Reddy Fox.

"I can swim faster than anybody here," shouted Little Joe Otter.

In a flash three little brown coats splashed into the Smiling Pool so
suddenly that they almost upset Great-Grandfather Frog watching from
his big green lily pad.  They belonged to Little Joe Otter, Billy Mink
and Jerry Muskrat.  Across the Smiling Pool and back again they raced
and Little Joe Otter was first out on the bank.

"Hurrah for Little Joe Otter!" shouted Blacky the Crow.

And everybody shouted "Hurrah!"  Everybody but Reddy Fox.

"What can you do, Jimmy Skunk?" asked Peter Rabbit, dancing up and
down, he was so excited.

Jimmy Skunk yawned lazily.

"I can throw a wonderful perfume farther than anybody here," said Jimmy
Skunk.

"We know it!  We know it!" shouted the Merry Little Breezes as
everybody tumbled heels over head away from Jimmy Skunk, even Reddy
Fox.  "But please don't!"

And Jimmy Skunk didn't.

Then they all came back, Reddy Fox carefully brushing his handsome red
coat which had become sadly mussed, he had fled in such a hurry.

Now for the first time in his life Johnny Chuck began to feel just a
wee, wee bit discontented.  What was there he could do better than any
one else?  He couldn't jump and he couldn't climb and he couldn't swim.
He couldn't even run fast, because he was so fat and round and
rolly-poly.  He quite forgot that he was so sunny-hearted and
good-natured that everybody loved him, everybody but Reddy Fox.

Just then Reddy Fox began to boast, for Reddy Fox is a great boaster.
"Pooh!" said Reddy Fox, "pooh!  Anybody could jump if their legs were
made for jumping.  And what's the good of climbing trees anyway?  Now I
can run faster than anybody here--faster than anybody in the whole
world!" said Reddy Fox, puffing himself out.

"Chug-a-rum," said Grandfather Frog.  "You can't beat Spotty the
Turtle."

Then everyone shouted and rolled over and over in the grass, they were
so tickled, for every one remembered how Spotty the Turtle had once won
a race from Reddy Fox.

For a minute Reddy Fox looked very foolish.  Then he lost his temper,
which is a very unwise thing to do, for it is hard to find again.  He
swelled himself out until every hair stood on end and he looked twice
as big as he did before.  He strutted up and down and glared at each in
turn.

"And I'm not afraid of any living thing on the Green Meadows!" boasted
Reddy Fox.

"Chug-a-rum," said Grandfather Frog.  "Do I see Bowser the Hound?"

Every hair on Reddy Fox suddenly fell back into place.  He whirled
about nervously and anxiously looked over the Green Meadows.  Then
everybody shouted again and rolled over and over in the grass and held
on to their sides, for you see Bowser the Hound wasn't there at all.

But everybody took good care to keep away from Reddy Fox, everybody but
Johnny Chuck.  He just sat still and chuckled and chuckled till his fat
sides shook.

"What are you laughing at?" demanded Reddy Fox.

"I was just thinking," said Johnny Chuck, "that though you can run so
fast, you can't even catch me."

Reddy Fox just glared at him for a minute, he was so mad.  Then he
sprang straight at Johnny Chuck.

"I'll show you!" he snarled.

Now Johnny Chuck had been sitting close beside a hole that Grandfather
Chuck had dug a long time before and which was empty.  In a flash
Johnny Chuck disappeared head first in the hole.  Now the hole was too
small for Reddy Fox to enter, but he was so angry that he straightway
began to dig it larger.  My, how the sand did fly!  It poured out
behind Reddy Fox in a stream of shining yellow.

Johnny Chuck ran down the long tunnel underground until he reached the
end.  Then when he heard Reddy Fox digging and knew that he was really
coming, Johnny Chuck began to dig, too, only instead of digging down he
dug up towards the sunshine and the blue sky.

My, how his short legs did fly and his stout little claws dug into the
soft earth!  His little forepaws flew so fast that if you had been
there you could hardly have seen them at all.  And with his strong hind
legs he kicked the sand right back into the face of Reddy Fox.

All the little meadow people gathered around the hole where Johnny
Chuck and Reddy Fox had disappeared.  They were very anxious, very
anxious indeed.  Would Reddy Fox catch Johnny Chuck?  And what would he
do to him?  Was all their fun to end in something terrible to
sunny-hearted, merry Johnny Chuck, whom everybody loved?

All of a sudden, pop! right out of the solid earth among the daisies
and buttercups, just like a jack-in-the-box, came Johnny Chuck!  He
looked very warm and a little tired, but he was still chuckling as he
scampered across to another hole of Grandfather Chuck's.

By and by something else crawled out of the hole Johnny Chuck had made.
Could it be Reddy Fox?  Where were his white waistcoat and beautiful
red coat?  And was that thing dragging behind him his splendid tail?

He crept out of the hole and then just lay down and panted for breath.
He was almost too tired to move.  Then he began to spit sand out of his
mouth and blow it out of his nose and try to wipe it out of his eyes.
The long hair of his fine coat was filled full of sand and no one would
ever have guessed that this was Reddy Fox.

"Haw! haw! haw!" shouted Blacky the Crow.

Then everybody shouted "Haw! haw! haw!" and began to roll in the grass
and hold on to their sides once more; everybody but Reddy Fox.  When he
could get his breath he didn't look this way or that way, but just
sneaked off to his home under the big hickory.

[Illustration: Then everybody shouted "Haw! haw! haw!"]

And when Old Mother West Wind came with her big bag to take the Merry
Little Breezes to their home behind the Purple Hills, Johnny Chuck
waddled back up the Lone Little Path chuckling to himself, for that
little feeling of discontent was all gone.  He had found that after all
he could do something better than anybody else on the Green Meadows,
for in his heart he knew that none could dig so fast as he.



VII

JOHNNY CHUCK'S SECRET

Johnny Chuck pushed up the last bit of gravel from the hole he had dug
between the roots of the old apple tree in a corner of the Green
Meadows.  He smoothed it down on the big, yellow mound he had made in
front of his door.  Then he sat up very straight on top of the mound,
brushed his coat, shook the sand from his trousers and carefully
cleaned his hands.

After he had rested a bit, he turned around and looked at his new home,
for that is what it was, although he had not come there to live yet,
and no one knew of it, no one but jolly, round, red Mr. Sun, who,
peeping between the branches of the old apple tree, had caught Johnny
Chuck at work.  But _he_ wouldn't tell, not jolly Mr. Sun!  Looking
down from the blue sky every day he sees all sorts of queer things and
he learns all kinds of secrets, does Mr. Sun, but he never, never
tells.  No, Sir!  Mr. Sun never tells one of them, not even to Old
Mother West Wind when at night they go down together behind the Purple
Hills.

So jolly, round, red Mr. Sun just smiled and smiled when he discovered
Johnny Chuck's secret, for that is just what the new home under the
apple tree was--a secret.  Not even the Merry Little Breezes, who find
out almost everything, had discovered it.

Johnny Chuck chuckled to himself as he planned a back door, a beautiful
back door, hidden behind a tall clump of meadow grass where no one
would think to look for a door.  When he had satisfied himself as to
just where he would put it, he once more sat up very straight on his
nice, new mound and looked this way and looked that way to be sure that
no one was near.  Then he started for his old home along a secret
little path he had made for himself.

Pretty soon he came to the Lone Little Path that went past his own
home.  He danced and he skipped along the Lone Little Path, and,
because he was so happy, he tried to turn a somersault.  But Johnny
Chuck was so round and fat and rolly-poly that he just tumbled over in
a heap.

"Well, well, well!  What's the matter with you?" said a voice close
beside him before he could pick himself up.  It was Jimmy Skunk, who
was out looking for some beetles for his dinner.

Johnny Chuck scrambled to his feet and looked foolish, very foolish
indeed.

"There's nothing the matter with me, Jimmy Skunk," said Johnny.
"There's nothing the matter with me.  It's just because I've got a
secret."

"A secret!" cried Jimmy Skunk.  "What is it?"

"Yes, a secret, a really, truly secret," said Johnny Chuck, and looked
very important.

"Tell me, Johnny Chuck.  Come on, tell just _me_, and then we'll have
the secret together," begged Jimmy Skunk.

Now Johnny Chuck was so tickled with his secret that it seemed as if he
_must_ share it with some one.  He just couldn't keep it to himself any
longer.

"You won't tell any one?" said Johnny Chuck.

Jimmy Skunk promised that he wouldn't tell a soul.

"Cross your heart," commanded Johnny Chuck.

Jimmy Skunk crossed his heart.

Then Johnny Chuck looked this way and looked that way to be sure that
no one was listening.  Finally he whispered in Jimmy Skunk's ear:

"I've got a new home under the old apple tree in a corner of the Green
Meadows," said Johnny Chuck.

Of course Jimmy Skunk was very much surprised and very much interested,
so Johnny Chuck told him all about it.

"Now, remember, it's a secret," said Johnny Chuck, as Jimmy Skunk
started off down the Lone Little Path across the Green Meadows, to look
for some beetles.

"I'll remember," said Jimmy Skunk.

"And don't tell!" called Johnny Chuck.

Jimmy Skunk promised that he wouldn't tell.  Then Johnny Chuck started
off up the Lone Little Path, whistling, and Jimmy Skunk trotted down
the Lone Little Path onto the Green Meadows.

Jimmy Skunk was thinking so much about Johnny Chuck's new home that he
quite forgot to look for beetles, and he almost ran into Peter Rabbit.

"Hello, Jimmy Skunk," said Peter Rabbit, "can't you see where you are
going?  It must be you have something on your mind; what is it?"

"I was thinking of Johnny Chuck's new home," said Jimmy Skunk.

"Johnny Chuck's new home!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit.  "Has Johnny Chuck
got a new home?  Where is it?"

"Under the roots of the old apple tree in a corner of the Green
Meadows," said Jimmy Skunk, and then he clapped both hands over his
mouth.  You see he hadn't really meant to tell.  It just slipped out.

"Oh, but it's a secret!" cried Jimmy Skunk.  "It's a secret, and you
mustn't tell.  I guess Johnny Chuck won't mind if you know, Peter
Rabbit, but you mustn't tell any one else."  Peter Rabbit promised he
wouldn't.

Now Peter Rabbit is very inquisitive, very inquisitive indeed.  So as
soon as he had parted from Jimmy Skunk he made up his mind that he must
see the new home of Johnny Chuck.  So off he started as fast as he
could go towards the old apple tree in a corner of the Green Meadows.
Half way there he met Reddy Fox.

"Hello, Peter Rabbit!  Where are you going in such a hurry?" asked
Reddy Fox.

"Over to the old apple tree to see Johnny Chuck's new home," replied
Peter Rabbit as he tried to dodge past Reddy Fox.  Then of a sudden he
remembered and clapped both hands over his mouth.

"Oh, but it's a secret, Reddy Fox.  It's a secret, and you mustn't
tell!" cried Peter Rabbit.

But Reddy Fox wouldn't promise that he wouldn't tell, for in spite of
his handsome coat and fine manners, Reddy Fox is a scamp.  And,
besides, he has no love for Johnny Chuck, for he has not forgotten how
Johnny Chuck once made him run and called him a "'fraid cat."

So when Reddy Fox left Peter Rabbit he grinned a wicked grin and
hurried off to find Bobby Coon.  He met him on his way to the Laughing
Brook.  Reddy Fox told Bobby Coon all about Johnny Chuck's secret and
then hurried away after Peter Rabbit, for Reddy Fox also is very
inquisitive.

Bobby Coon went on down to the Laughing Brook.  There he met Billy Mink
and told him about the new home Johnny Chuck had made under the old
apple tree in a corner of the Green Meadows.

Pretty soon Billy Mink met Little Joe Otter and told him.

Then Little Joe Otter met Jerry Muskrat and told him.

Jerry Muskrat saw Blacky the Crow and told him, and Great-Grandfather
Frog heard him.

Blacky the Crow met his first cousin, Sammy Jay, and told him.

Sammy Jay met Happy Jack Squirrel and told him.

Happy Jack met his cousin, Striped Chipmunk, and told him.

Striped Chipmunk passed the house of old Mr. Toad and told him.

The next morning, very early, before Old Mother West Wind had come down
from the Purple Hills, Johnny Chuck stole over to his new home to begin
work on his new back door.  He had hardly begun to dig when he heard
some one cough right behind him.  He whirled around and there sat Peter
Rabbit looking as innocent and surprised as if he had really just
discovered the new home for the first time.

"What a splendid new home you have, Johnny Chuck!" said Peter Rabbit.

"Y--e--s," said Johnny Chuck, slowly.  "It's a secret," he added
suddenly.  "You won't tell, will you, Peter Rabbit?"

Peter Rabbit promised that he wouldn't tell.  Then Johnny Chuck felt
better and went back to work as soon as Peter Rabbit left.

He had hardly begun, however, when some one just above him said: "Good
morning, Johnny Chuck."

Johnny Chuck looked up and there in the old apple tree sat Blacky the
Crow and his cousin, Sammy Jay.

Just then there was a rustle in the grass and out popped Billy Mink and
Little Joe Otter and Jerry Muskrat and Happy Jack Squirrel and Striped
Chipmunk and Bobby Coon.  When Johnny Chuck had recovered from his
surprise and looked over to the doorway of his new home there sat Reddy
Fox on Johnny Chuck's precious new mound.  It seemed as if all the
little meadow people were there, all but Jimmy Skunk, who wisely stayed
away.

"We've come to see your new home," said Striped Chipmunk, "and we think
it's the nicest home we've seen for a long time."

"It's so nicely hidden away, it's really quite secret," said Reddy Fox,
grinning wickedly.

Just then up raced the Merry Little Breezes and one of them had a
message for Johnny Chuck from Great-Grandfather Frog.  It was this:

"Whisper a secret to a friend and you shout it in the ear of the whole
world."

After every one had admired the new home, they said good-bye and
scattered over the Green Meadows.  Then Johnny Chuck began to dig
again, but this time he wasn't making his new back door.  No indeed!
Johnny Chuck was digging at that new mound of yellow gravel of which he
had been so proud.  Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun blinked to be sure that
he saw aright, for Johnny Chuck was _filling up his new home_ between
the roots of the old apple tree.  When he got through, there wasn't any
new home.

Then Johnny Chuck brushed his coat carefully, shook the sand out of his
trousers, wiped his hands and started off for his old home.  And this
time he didn't take his special hidden path, for Johnny Chuck didn't
care who saw him go.

Late that afternoon, Johnny Chuck sat on his old doorstep, with his
chin in his hands, watching Old Mother West Wind gathering her Merry
Little Breezes into the big bag in which she carries them to their home
behind the Purple Hills.

"'Whisper a secret to a friend and you shout it in the ear of the whole
world.'  Now what did Grandfather Frog mean by that?" thought Johnny
Chuck.  "Now I didn't tell anybody but Jimmy Skunk and Jimmy Skunk
didn't tell anyone but Peter Rabbit and--and--"

Then Johnny Chuck began to chuckle and finally to laugh.  "'Whisper a
secret to a friend and you shout it in the ear of the whole world.'  My
gracious, what a loud voice I must have had and didn't know it!" said
Johnny Chuck, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes.

And the next day Johnny Chuck started to make a new home.  Where?  Oh,
that's Johnny Chuck's secret.  And no one but jolly, round, red Mr. Sun
has found it out yet.



VIII

JOHNNY CHUCK'S GREAT FIGHT

Johnny Chuck sat on the doorstep of his new home, looking away across
the Green Meadows.  Johnny Chuck felt very well satisfied with himself
and with all the world.  He yawned lazily and stretched and stretched
and then settled himself comfortably to watch the Merry Little Breezes
playing down by the Smiling Pool.

By and by he saw Peter Rabbit go bobbing along down the Lone Little
Path.  Lipperty, lipperty, lip, went Peter Rabbit and every other jump
he looked behind him.

"Now what is Peter Rabbit up to?" said Johnny Chuck to himself, "and
what does he keep looking behind him for?"

Johnny Chuck sat up a little straighter to watch Peter Rabbit hop down
the Lone Little Path.  Then of a sudden he caught sight of something
that made him sit up straighter than ever and open his eyes very wide.
Something was following Peter Rabbit.  Yes, Sir, something was bobbing
along right at Peter Rabbit's heels.

Johnny Chuck forgot the Merry Little Breezes.  He forgot how warm it
was and how lazy he felt.  He forgot everything else in his curiosity
to learn what it could be following so closely at Peter Rabbit's heels.

Presently Peter Rabbit stopped and sat up very straight and
then--Johnny Chuck nearly tumbled over in sheer surprise!  He rubbed
his eyes to make sure that he saw aright, for there were two Peter
Rabbits!  Yes, Sir, there were _two_ Peter Rabbits, only one was very
small, very small indeed.

"Oh!" said Johnny Chuck, "that must be Peter Rabbit's baby brother!"

Then he began to chuckle till his fat sides shook.  There sat Peter
Rabbit with his funny long ears standing straight up, and there right
behind him, dressed exactly like him, sat Peter Rabbit's baby brother
with _his_ funny little long ears standing straight up.  When Peter
Rabbit wiggled _his_ right ear, his baby brother wiggled his right ear.
When Peter Rabbit scratched his left ear, his baby brother scratched
_his_ left ear.  Whatever Peter Rabbit did, his baby brother did too.

Presently Peter Rabbit started on down the Lone Little Path--lipperty,
lipperty, lip, and right at his heels went his baby brother--lipperty,
lipperty, lip.  Johnny Chuck watched them out of sight, and then he
settled himself on his doorstep once more to enjoy a sun bath.  Every
once in a while he chuckled to himself as he remembered how funny Peter
Rabbit's baby brother had looked.  Presently Johnny Chuck fell asleep.

Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun had climbed quite high in the sky when Johnny
Chuck awoke.  He yawned and stretched and stretched and yawned, and
then he sat up to look over the Green Meadows.  Then he became wide
awake, very wide awake indeed!  Way down on the Green Meadows he caught
a glimpse of something red jumping about in the long meadow grass.

"That must be Reddy Fox," thought Johnny Chuck.  "Yes, it surely is
Reddy Fox.  Now I wonder what mischief he is up to."

Then he saw all the Merry Little Breezes racing towards Reddy Fox as
fast as they could go.  And there was Sammy Jay screaming at the top of
his voice, and his cousin, Blacky the Crow.  Happy Jack Squirrel was
dancing up and down excitedly on the branch of an old elm close by.

Johnny Chuck waited to see no more, but started down the Lone Little
Path to find out what it all was about.  Half way down the Lone Little
Path he met Peter Rabbit running as hard as he could.  His long ears
were laid flat back, his big eyes seemed to pop right out of his head,
and he was running as Johnny Chuck had never seen him run before.

"What are you running so for, Peter Rabbit?" asked Johnny Chuck.

"To get Bowser the Hound," shouted Peter Rabbit over his shoulder, as
he tried to run faster.

"Now what can be the matter?" said Johnny Chuck to himself, "to send
Peter Rabbit after Bowser the Hound?"  He knew that, like all the other
little meadow people, there was nothing of which Peter Rabbit was so
afraid as Farmer Brown's great dog, Bowser the Hound.

Johnny Chuck hurried down the Lone Little Path as fast as his short
legs could take his fat, rolly-poly self.

Presently he came out onto the Green Meadows, and there he saw a sight
that set every nerve in his round little body a-tingle with rage.

Reddy Fox had found Peter Rabbit's baby brother and was doing his best
to frighten him to death.

"I'm going to eat you now," shouted Reddy Fox, and then he sprang on
Peter Rabbit's baby brother and gave him a cuff that sent him heels
over head sprawling in the grass.

"Coward!  Coward, Reddy Fox!" shrieked Sammy Jay.

"Shame!  Shame!" shouted the Merry Little Breezes.

"You're nothing but a great big bully!" yelled Blacky the Crow.

But no one did anything to help Peter Rabbit's baby brother, for Reddy
Fox is so much bigger than any of the rest of them, except Bobby Coon,
that all the little meadow people are afraid of him.

But Reddy Fox just laughed at them, and nipped the long ears of Peter
Rabbit's little brother so hard that he cried with the pain.

Now all were so intent watching Reddy Fox torment the baby brother of
Peter Rabbit that no one had seen Johnny Chuck coming down the Lone
Little Path.  And for a few minutes no one recognized the furious
little yellow-brown bundle that suddenly knocked Reddy Fox over and
seized him by the throat.  You see it didn't look a bit like Johnny
Chuck.  Every hair was standing on end, he was so mad, and this made
him appear twice as big as they had ever seen him before.

"Coward!  Coward!  Coward!" shrieked Johnny Chuck as he shook Reddy Fox
by the throat.  And then began the greatest fight that the Green
Meadows had ever seen.

Now Johnny Chuck is not naturally a fighter.  Oh my, no!  He is so
good-natured and so sunny-hearted that he seldom quarrels with any one.
But when he has to fight, there isn't a cowardly hair on him, not the
teeniest, weeniest one.  No one ever has a chance to cry, "'Fraid cat!
Cry baby!" after Johnny Chuck.

So though, like all the other little meadow people, he was usually just
a little afraid of Reddy Fox, because Reddy is so much bigger, he
forgot all about it as soon as he caught sight of Reddy Fox tormenting
Peter Rabbit's little brother.  He didn't stop to think of what might
happen to himself.  He didn't stop to think at all.  He just gritted
his teeth and in a flash had Reddy Fox on his back.

Such a fight was never seen before on the Green Meadows!  Reddy Fox is
a bully and a coward, for he never fights with any one of his own size
if he can help it, but when he has to fight, he fights hard.  And he
certainly had to fight now.

"Bully!" hissed Johnny Chuck as with his stout little hind feet he
ripped the bright red coat of Reddy Fox.  "You great big bully!"

Over and over they rolled, Johnny Chuck on top, then Reddy Fox on top,
then Johnny Chuck up again, clawing and snarling.

It seemed as if news of the fight had gone over all the Green Meadows,
for the little meadow people came running from every direction--Billy
Mink, Little Joe Otter, Jerry Muskrat, Striped Chipmunk, Jimmy Skunk,
old Mr. Toad.  Even Great-Grandfather Frog, who left his big lily pad,
and came hurrying with great jumps across the Green Meadows.  They
formed a ring around Reddy Fox and Johnny Chuck and danced with
excitement.  And all wanted Johnny Chuck to win.

Peter Rabbit's poor little brother, so sore and lame from the knocking
about from Reddy Fox, and so frightened that he hardly dared breathe,
lay flat on the ground under a little bush and was forgotten by all but
the Merry Little Breezes, who covered him up with some dead grass, and
kissed him and whispered to him not to be afraid now.  How Peter
Rabbit's little brother did hope that Johnny Chuck would win!  His
great, big, round, soft eyes were wide with terror as he thought of
what might happen to him if Reddy Fox should whip Johnny Chuck.

But Reddy Fox wasn't whipping Johnny Chuck.  Try as he would, he could
not get a good hold on that round, fat, little body.  And Johnny
Chuck's stout claws were ripping his red coat and white vest and Johnny
Chuck's sharp teeth were gripping him so that they could not be shaken
loose.  Pretty soon Reddy Fox began to think of nothing but getting
away.  Every one was shouting for Johnny Chuck.  Every time Reddy Fox
was underneath, he would hear a great shout from all the little meadow
people, and he knew that they were glad.

Now Johnny Chuck was round and fat and rolly-poly, and when one is
round and fat and rolly-poly, one's breath is apt to be short.  So it
was with Johnny Chuck.  He had fought so hard that his breath was
nearly gone.  Finally he loosed his hold on Reddy Fox for just a second
to draw in a good breath.  Reddy Fox saw his chance, and, with a quick
pull and spring, he broke away.

How all the little meadow people did scatter!  You see they were very
brave, very brave indeed, so long as Johnny Chuck had Reddy Fox down,
but now that Reddy Fox was free, each one was suddenly afraid and
thought only of himself.  Jimmy Skunk knocked Jerry Muskrat flat in his
hurry to get away.  Billy Mink trod on Great-Grandfather Frog's big
feet and didn't even say "Excuse me."  Striped Chipmunk ran head first
into a big thistle and squealed as much from fear as pain.

But Reddy Fox paid no attention to any of them.  He just wanted to get
away, and off he started, limping as fast as he could go up the Lone
Little Path.  Such a looking sight!  His beautiful red coat was in
tatters.  His face was scratched.  He hobbled as he ran.  And just as
he broke away, Johnny Chuck made a grab and pulled a great mouthful of
hair out of the splendid tail Reddy Fox was so proud of.

When the little meadow people saw that Reddy Fox was actually running
away, they stopped running themselves, and all began to shout: "Reddy
Fox is a coward and a bully!  Coward!  Coward!"  Then they crowded
around Johnny Chuck and all began talking at once about his great fight.

Just then they heard a great noise up on the hill.  They saw Reddy Fox
coming back down the Lone Little Path, and he was using his legs just
as well as he knew how.  Right behind him, his great mouth open and
waking all the echoes with his big voice, was Bowser the Hound.

You see, although Peter Rabbit couldn't fight for his little baby
brother and is usually very, very timid, he isn't altogether a coward.
Indeed, he had been very brave, very brave indeed.  He had gone up to
Farmer Brown's and had jumped right under the nose of Bowser the Hound.
Now that is something that Bowser the Hound never can stand.  So off he
had started after Peter Rabbit.  And Peter Rabbit had started back for
the Green Meadows as fast as his long legs could take him, for he knew
that if once Bowser the Hound caught sight of Reddy Fox, he would
forget all about such a little thing as a saucy rabbit.

Sure enough, half way down the Lone Little Path they met Reddy Fox
sneaking off home, and, when Bowser the Hound saw him, he straightway
forgot all about Peter Rabbit, and, with a great roar, started after
Reddy Fox.

When Johnny Chuck had carefully brushed his coat and all the little
meadow people had wished him good luck, he started off up the Lone
Little Path for home, the Merry Little Breezes dancing ahead and Peter
Rabbit coming lipperty, lipperty, lip behind, and right between them
hopped Peter Rabbit's little brother, who thought Johnny Chuck the
greatest hero in the world.

When they reached Johnny Chuck's old home, Peter Rabbit and Peter
Rabbit's little brother tried to tell him how thankful they were to
him, but Johnny Chuck just laughed and said: "It was nothing at all,
just nothing at all."

When at last all had gone, even the Merry Little Breezes, Johnny Chuck
slipped away to his new home, which is his secret, you know, which no
one knows but jolly, round, red Mr. Sun, who won't tell.

"I hope," said Johnny Chuck, as he stretched himself out on the mound
of warm sand by his doorway, for he was very tired, "I hope," said
Johnny Chuck, sighing contentedly, "that Reddy Fox got away from Bowser
the Hound!"

And Reddy Fox did.



IX

MR. TOAD'S OLD SUIT

Peter Rabbit was tired and very sleepy as he hopped along the Crooked
Little Path down the hill.  He could see Old Mother West Wind just
emptying her Merry Little Breezes out of her big bag onto the Green
Meadows to play all the bright summer day.  Peter Rabbit yawned and
yawned again as he watched them dance over to the Smiling Pool.  Then
he hopped on down the Crooked Little Path towards home.

Sammy Jay, sitting on a fence post, saw him coming.

  "Peter Rabbit out all night!
  Oh my goodness what a sight!
  Peter Rabbit, reprobate!
  No good end will be your fate!"

shouted Sammy Jay.

Peter Rabbit ran out his tongue at Sammy Jay.

"Who stole Happy Jack's nuts?  Thief!  Thief!  Thief!" shouted Peter
Rabbit at Sammy Jay, and kept on down the Crooked Little Path.

It was true--Peter Rabbit had been out all night playing in the
moonlight, stealing a midnight feast in Farmer Brown's cabbage patch
and getting into mischief with Bobby Coon.  Now when most of the little
meadow people were just waking up Peter Rabbit was thinking of bed.

Presently he came to a big piece of bark which is the roof of Mr.
Toad's house.  Mr. Toad was sitting in his doorway blinking at jolly,
round, red Mr. Sun, who had just begun to climb up the sky.

"Good morning, Mr. Toad," said Peter Rabbit.

"Good morning," said Mr. Toad.

"You're looking very fine this morning, Mr. Toad," said Peter Rabbit.

"I'm feeling very fine this morning," said Mr. Toad.

"Why, my gracious, you have on a new suit, Mr. Toad!" exclaimed Peter
Rabbit.

"Well, what if I have, Peter Rabbit?" demanded Mr. Toad.

"Oh, nothing, nothing, nothing at all, Mr. Toad, nothing at all," said
Peter Rabbit hastily, "only I didn't know you ever had a new suit.
What have you done with your old suit, Mr. Toad?"

"Swallowed it," said Mr. Toad shortly, turning his back on Peter Rabbit.

And that was all Peter Rabbit could get out of Mr. Toad, so he started
on down the Crooked Little Path.  Now Peter Rabbit has a great deal of
curiosity and is forever poking into other people's affairs.  The more
he thought about it the more he wondered what Mr. Toad could have done
with his old suit.  Of course he hadn't _swallowed_ it!  Who ever heard
of such a thing!  The more he thought of it the more Peter Rabbit felt
that he must know what Mr. Toad had done with his old suit.  By this
time he had forgotten that he had been out all night.  He had forgotten
that he was sleepy.  He had got to find out about Mr. Toad's old suit.

"I'll just run over to the Smiling Pool and ask Grandfather Frog.
He'll surely know what Mr. Toad does with his old suits," said Peter
Rabbit, and began to hop faster.

When he reached the Smiling Pool there sat Great-Grandfather Frog on
his big green lily pad as usual.  There was a hungry look in his big
goggly eyes, for it was so early that no foolish, green flies had come
his way yet.  But Peter Rabbit was too full of curiosity in Mr. Toad's
affairs to notice this.

"Good morning, Grandfather Frog," said Peter Rabbit.

"Good morning," replied Grandfather Frog a wee bit gruffly.

"You're looking very fine this morning, Grandfather Frog," said Peter
Rabbit.

"Not so fine as I'd feel if I had a few fat, foolish, green flies,"
said Grandfather Frog.

"I've just met your cousin, Mr. Toad, and he has on a new suit," said
Peter Rabbit.

"Indeed!" replied Grandfather Frog.  "Well, I think it's high time."

"What does Mr. Toad do with his old suit, Grandfather Frog?" asked
Peter Rabbit.

"Chug-a-rum!  It's none of my business.  Maybe he swallows it," replied
Grandfather Frog crossly, and turned his back on Peter Rabbit.

Peter Rabbit saw that his curiosity must remain unsatisfied.  He
suddenly remembered that he had been out all night and was very, very
sleepy, so he started off home across the Green Meadows.

Now the Merry Little Breezes had heard all that Peter Rabbit and
Grandfather Frog had said, and they made up their minds that they would
find out from Grandfather Frog what Mr. Toad really did do with his old
suit.  First of all they scattered over the Green Meadows.  Presently
back they all came, each blowing ahead of him a fat, foolish, green
fly.  Right over to the big green lily pad they blew the green flies.

"Chug-a-rum!  Chug-a-rum!  Chug-a-rum!" said Grandfather Frog, as each
fat, foolish, green fly disappeared inside his white and yellow
waistcoat.  When the last one was out of sight, all but a leg which was
left sticking out of a corner of Grandfather Frog's big mouth, one of
the Merry Little Breezes ventured to ask him what became of Mr. Toad's
old suit.

Grandfather Frog settled himself comfortably on the big green lily pad
and folded his hands across his white and yellow waistcoat.

"Chug-a-rum," began Grandfather Frog.  "Once upon a time--"

The Merry Little Breezes clapped their hands and settled themselves
among the buttercups and daisies, for they knew that soon they would
know what Mr. Toad did with his old suit.

"Once upon a time," began Grandfather Frog again, "when the world was
young, old King Bear received word that old Mother Nature would visit
the Green Meadows and the Green Forest.  Of course old King Bear wanted
his kingdom and his subjects to look their very best, so he issued a
royal order that every one of the little meadow people and every one of
the little forest folk should wear a new suit on the day that old
Mother Nature was to pay her visit.

"Now like old King Bear, every one wanted to appear his very best
before old Mother Nature, but as no one knew the exact day she was to
come, every one began at once to wear his best suit, and to take the
greatest care of it.  Old King Bear appeared every day in a suit of
glossy black.  Lightfoot the Deer, threw away his dingy gray suit, and
put on a coat of beautiful red and fawn.  Mr. Mink, Mr. Otter, Mr.
Muskrat, Mr. Rabbit, Mr. Woodchuck, Mr. Coon, who you know was first
cousin to old King Bear, Mr. Gray Squirrel, Mr. Fox Squirrel, Mr. Red
Squirrel, all put on brand new suits.  Mr. Skunk changed his black and
white stripes for a suit of all black, very handsome, very handsome
indeed.  Mr. Chipmunk took care to see that his new suit had the most
beautiful stripes to be obtained.

"Mr. Jay, who was something of a dandy, had a wonderful new coat that
looked for all the world as it if had been cut from the bluest patch of
sky and trimmed with edging taken from the whitest clouds.  Even Mr.
Crow and Mr. Owl took pains to look their very best.

"But Mr. Toad couldn't see the need of such a fuss.  He thought his
neighbors spent altogether too much time and thought on dress.  To be
sure he was anxious to look his best when old Mother Nature came, so he
got a new suit all ready.  But Mr. Toad couldn't afford to sit around
in idleness admiring his new clothes.  No indeed!  Mr. Toad had too
much to do.  He was altogether too busy.  He had a large garden to take
care of, had Mr. Toad, and work in a garden is very hard on clothes.
So Mr. Toad just wore his old suit over his new one and went on about
his business.

"By and by the great day came when old Mother Nature arrived to inspect
the kingdom of old King Bear.  All the little meadow people and all the
little forest folk hastened to pay their respects to old Mother Nature
and to strut about in their fine clothes--all but Mr. Toad.  He was so
busy that he didn't even know that old Mother Nature had arrived.

"Late in the afternoon, Mr. Toad stopped to rest.  He had just cleared
his cabbage patch of the slugs which threatened to eat up his crop and
he was very tired.  Presently he happened to look up the road, and who
should he see but old Mother Nature herself coming to visit his garden
and to find out why Mr. Toad had not been to pay her his respects.

"Suddenly Mr. Toad remembered that he had on his working clothes, which
were very old, very dirty and very ragged.  For just a minute he didn't
know what to do.  Then he dived under a cabbage leaf and began to pull
off his old suit.  But the old suit stuck!  He was in such a hurry and
so excited that he couldn't find the buttons.  Finally he got his
trousers off.  Then he reached over and got hold of the back of his
coat and tugged and hauled until finally he pulled his old coat off
right over his head just as if it were a shirt.

"Mr. Toad gave a great sigh of relief as he stepped out in his new
suit, for you remember that he had been wearing that new suit
underneath the old one all the time.

"Mr. Toad was very well pleased with himself until he thought how
terribly untidy that ragged old suit looked lying on the ground.  What
should he do with it?  He couldn't hide it in the garden, for old
Mother Nature's eyes are so sharp that she would be sure to see it.
What should he do?

"Then Mr. Toad had a happy thought.  Every one made fun of his big
mouth.  But what was a big mouth for if not to use?  He would swallow
his old suit!  In a flash Mr. Toad dived under the cabbage leaf and
crammed his old suit into his mouth.

"When old Mother Nature came into the garden, Mr. Toad was waiting in
the path to receive her.  Very fine he looked in his new suit and you
would have thought he had been waiting all day to receive old Mother
Nature, but for one thing--swallow as much and as hard as he would, he
couldn't get down quite all of his old suit, and a leg of his trousers
hung out of a corner of his big mouth.

"Of course old Mother Nature saw it right away.  And how she did laugh!
And of course Mr. Toad felt very much mortified.  But Mother Nature was
so pleased with Mr. Toad's garden and with Mr. Toad's industry that she
quite overlooked the ragged trousers leg hanging from the corner of Mr.
Toad's mouth.

"'Fine clothes arc not to be compared with fine work,' said old Mother
Nature.  'I herewith appoint you my chief gardener, Mr. Toad.  And as a
sign that all may know that this is so, hereafter you shall always
swallow your old suit whenever you change your clothes!'

"And from that day to this the toads have been the very best of
gardeners.  And in memory of their great, great, great-grandfather a
thousand times removed they have always swallowed their old suits.

"Now you know what my cousin, old Mr. Toad, did with his old suit just
before Peter Rabbit passed his house this morning," concluded
Great-Grandfather Frog.

"Oh," cried the Merry Little Breezes, "thank you, thank you,
Grandfather Frog!"

Then they raced away across the Green Meadows and up the Crooked Little
Path to see if old Mr. Toad was gardening.  And Peter Rabbit still
wonders what old Mr. Toad did with his old suit.



X

GRANDFATHER FROG GETS EVEN

Old Grandfather Frog sat on his big green lily pad in the Smiling Pool
dreaming of the days when the world was young and the frogs ruled the
world.  His hands were folded across his white and yellow waistcoat.
Round, red, smiling Mr. Sun sent down his warmest rays on the back of
Grandfather Frog's green coat.

Very early that morning Old Mother West Wind, hurrying down from the
Purple Hills on her way to help the white-sailed ships across the great
ocean, had stopped long enough to blow three or four fat, foolish,
green flies over to the big lily pad, and they were now safely inside
the white and yellow waistcoat.  A thousand little tadpoles, the great,
great-grandchildren of Grandfather Frog, were playing in the Smiling
Pool, and every once in a while wriggling up to the big lily pad to
look with awe at Grandfather Frog and wonder if they would ever be as
handsome and big and wise as he.

And still old Grandfather Frog sat dreaming and dreaming of the days
when all the frogs had tails and ruled the world.

Presently Billy Mink came hopping and skipping down the Laughing Brook.
Sometimes he swam a little way and sometimes he ran a little way along
the bank, and sometimes he jumped from stone to stone.  Billy Mink was
feeling very good--very good indeed.  He had caught a fine fat trout
for breakfast.  He had hidden two more away for dinner in a snug little
hole no one knew of but himself.  Now he had nothing to do but get into
mischief.  You can always depend upon Billy Mink to get into mischief.
He just can't help it.

So Billy Mink came hopping and skipping down the Laughing Brook to the
Smiling Pool.  Then he stopped, as still as the rock he was standing
on, and peeped through the bulrushes.  Billy Mink is very cautious,
very cautious indeed.  He always looks well before he shows himself,
that nothing may surprise him.

So Billy Mink looked all over the Smiling Pool and the grassy banks.
He saw the sunbeams dancing on the water.  He saw the tadpoles having
such a good time in the Smiling Pool.  He saw the Merry Little Breezes
kissing the buttercups and daisies on the bank, and he saw old
Grandfather Frog with his hands folded across his white, and yellow
waistcoat sitting on the green lily pad, dreaming of the days when the
world was young.

Then Billy Mink took a long breath, a very long breath, and dived into
the Smiling Pool.  Now, Billy Mink can swim very fast, very fast
indeed.  For a little way he can swim even faster than Mr. Trout.  And
he can stay under water a long time.

Straight across the Smiling Pool, with not even the tip of his nose out
of water, swam Billy Mink.  The thousand little tadpoles saw him coming
and fled in all directions to bury themselves in the mud at the bottom
of the Smiling Pool, for when he thinks no one is looking Billy Mink
sometimes gobbles up a fat tadpole for breakfast.

Straight across the Smiling Pool swam Billy Mink toward the big green
lily pad where Grandfather Frog sat dreaming of the days when the world
was young.  When he was right under the big green lily pad he suddenly
kicked up hard with his hind feet.  Up went the big green lily pad,
and, of course, up went Grandfather Frog--up and over flat on his back,
with a great splash into the Smiling Pool!

Now, Grandfather Frog's mouth is very big.  Indeed, no one else has so
big a mouth, unless it be his cousin, old Mr. Toad.  And when
Grandfather Frog went over flat on his back, splash in the Smiling
Pool, his mouth was wide open.

You see he was so surprised he forgot to close it.  So, of course,
Grandfather Frog swallowed a great deal of water, and he choked and
spluttered and swam around in foolish little circles trying to find
himself.  Finally he climbed out on his big green lily pad.

[Illustration: He was so surprised he forgot to close it.]

"Chug-a-rum?"  said  Grandfather Frog, and looked this way and looked
that way.  Then he gave a funny hop and turned about in the opposite
direction and looked this way and looked that way, but all he saw was
the Smiling Pool dimpling and smiling, Mrs. Redwing bringing a fat worm
to her hungry little babies in their snug nest in the bulrushes, and
the Merry Little Breezes hurrying over to see what the trouble might be.

"Chug-a-rum!" said Grandfather Frog.  "It is very strange.  I must have
fallen asleep and had a bad dream."

Then he once more settled himself comfortably on the big green lily
pad, folded his hands across his white and yellow waistcoat, and seemed
to be dreaming again, only his big goggly eyes were not dreaming.  No,
indeed!  They were very much awake, and they saw all that was going on
in the Smiling Pool.  Great-Grandfather Frog was just pretending.  You
may fool him once, but Grandfather Frog has lived so long that he has
become very wise, and though Billy Mink is very smart, it takes some
one a great deal smarter than Billy Mink to fool Grandfather Frog twice
in the same way.

Billy Mink, hiding behind the Big Rock, had laughed and laughed till he
had to hold his sides when Grandfather Frog had choked and spluttered
and hopped about on the big lily pad trying to find out what it all
meant.  He thought it such a good joke that he couldn't keep it to
himself, so when he saw Little Joe Otter coming to try his slippery
slide he swam across to tell him all about it.  Little Joe Otter
laughed and laughed until he had to hold his sides.  Then they both
swam back to hide behind the Big Rock to watch until Grandfather Frog
should forget all about it, and they could play the trick over again.

Now, out of the corner of one of his big goggly eyes, Grandfather Frog
had seen Billy Mink and Little Joe Otter with their heads close
together, laughing and holding their sides, and he saw them swim over
behind the Big Rock.  Pretty soon one of the Merry Little Breezes
danced over to see if Grandfather Frog had really gone to sleep.
Grandfather Frog didn't move, not the teeniest, weeniest bit, but he
whispered something to the Merry Little Breeze, and the Merry Little
Breeze flew away, shaking with laughter, to where the other Merry
Little Breezes were playing with the buttercups and daisies.

Then all the Merry Little Breezes clapped their hands and laughed too.
They left the buttercups and daisies and began to play tag across the
Smiling Pool.

Now, right on the edge of the Big Rock lay a big stick.  Pretty soon
the Merry Little Breezes danced over to the Big Rock, and then,
suddenly, all together they gave the big stick a push.  Off it went,
and then such a splashing and squealing as there was behind the Big
Rock!

In a few moments Little Joe Otter crept out beside his slippery slide
and slipped away holding on to his head.  And, sneaking through the
bulrushes, so as not to be seen, crawled Billy Mink, back towards his
home on the Laughing Brook.  Billy Mink wasn't laughing now.  Oh, no!
He was limping and he was holding on to his head.  Little Joe Otter and
Billy Mink had been sitting right underneath the big stick.

"Chug-a-rum!" said Grandfather Frog and held on to his sides and opened
his mouth very wide in a noiseless laugh, for Grandfather Frog never
makes a sound when he laughs.

"Chug-a-rum!" said Grandfather Frog once more.  Then he folded his
hands across his white and yellow waistcoat and began again to dream of
the days when the frogs had long tails and ruled the world.



XI

THE DISAPPOINTED BUSH

Way down beside the Laughing Brook grew a little bush.  It looked a
whole lot like other little bushes all around it.  But really it was
quite different, as you shall see.  When in the spring warm, jolly,
round Mr. Sun brought back the birds and set them singing, when the
little flowers popped their heads out of the ground to have a look
around, then all the little bushes put out their green leaves.

This little bush of which I am telling you put out its green leaves
with the rest.  The little leaves grew bigger and bigger on all the
little bushes.  By and by on some of the other little bushes, little
brown buds began to appear and grow and grow.  Then on more and more of
the little bushes the little brown buds came and grew and grew.  But on
this little bush of which I am telling you no little brown buds
appeared.  The little bush felt very sad indeed.

Pretty soon all the little brown buds on the other little brown bushes
burst their brown coats, and then all the little bushes were covered
with little flowers.  Some were white and some were yellow and some
were pink; and the air was filled with the sweet odor of all the little
flowers.  It brought the bees from far, far away to gather the honey,
and all the little bushes were very happy indeed.

But the little bush of which I am telling you had no little flowers,
for you see it had had no little buds, and it felt lonely and shut away
from the other little bushes, and very sad indeed.  But it bravely kept
on growing and growing and growing.  Its little leaves grew bigger and
bigger and bigger, and it tried its best not to mind because it had no
little flowers.

Then one by one, and two by two, and three by three, and finally in
whole showers, the little flowers of all the other little bushes fell
off, and they looked very much like the little bush of which I am
telling you, so that the little bush no longer felt sad.

All summer long all the little bushes grew and grew and grew.  The
birds came and built their nests among them.  Peter Rabbit and his
brothers and sisters scampered under them.  The butterflies flew over
them.

By and by came the fall, and with the fall came Jack Frost.  He went
about among the little bushes, pinching the leaves.  Then the little
green leaves turned to brown and red and yellow and pretty soon they
fluttered down to the ground, the Merry Little Breezes blew them about
and all the little bushes were bare.  They had no leaves at all to
cover their little naked brown limbs.

The little bush of which I am telling you lost its leaves with the
rest.  But all the summer long this little bush had been growing some
of those little brown buds, which the other bushes had had in the
spring, and now, when all the other little bushes had lost all the
green leaves, and had nothing at all upon their little brown twigs,
behold! one beautiful day, the little bush of which I am telling you
was covered with gold, for each little brown bud had burst its little
brown coat and there was a beautiful little yellow flower.  Such a
multitude of these little yellow flowers!  They covered the little bush
from top to bottom.  Then the little bush felt very happy indeed, for
it was the only bush which had any flowers.  And every one who passed
that way stopped to look at it and to praise it.

Colder grew the weather and colder.  Johnny Chuck tucked himself away
to sleep all winter.  Grandfather Frog went deep, deep down in the mud,
not to come out again until spring.  By and by the little yellow
flowers dropped off the little bush, just as the other little flowers
in spring had dropped off the other bushes.  But they left behind them
tiny little packages, one for every little flower that had been on the
bush.  All winter long these little packages clung to the little bush.
In the spring when the little leaves burst forth in all the little
bushes, these little packages on the little bush of which I am telling
you grew and grew and grew.  While the other little bushes had a lot of
little flowers as they had had the year before, these little brown
packages on the little bush of which I am telling you kept on growing.
And they comforted the little bush because it felt that it really had
something worth while.

All the summer long the little brown packages grew and grew until they
looked like little nuts.  When the fall came again and all the little
leaves dropped off all the little bushes, and the little bush of which
I am telling you was covered with another lot of little yellow flowers
and was very happy, then these little brown nuts, one bright autumn
day, suddenly popped open!  And out of each one flew two brown shiny
little seeds.  You never saw such a popping and a snapping and a
jumping!  Pop! pop! snap! snap! hippetty hop! they went, faster than
the corn pops in the corn popper.  Reddy Fox, who always is suspicious,
thought some one was shooting at him.  Down on the ground fell the
little brown shining seeds and tucked themselves into the warm earth
under the warm leaves, there to stay all winter long.

And when the third spring came with all its little birds and all its
little flowers and the warm sunshine, every one of these little brown
seeds which had tucked themselves into the warm earth, burst its little
brown skin, and up into the sunshine came a little green plant, which
would grow and grow and grow, and by and by become just like the little
bush I am telling you about.

When the little bush looked down and saw all these little green
children popping out of the ground, it was very happy indeed, for it
knew that it would no longer be lonely.  It no longer felt bad when all
the other bushes were covered with flowers, for it knew that by and by
when all the other little bushes had lost all their leaves and all
their flowers, then would come its turn, and it knew that for a whole
year its little brown children would be held safe on its branches.

Now, what do you think is the name of this little bush?  Why, it is the
witch hazel.  And sometime when you fall down and bump yourself hard
grandma will go to the medicine closet and will bring out a bottle, and
from that bottle she will pour something on that little sore place and
it will make it feel better.  Do you know what it is?  It is the gift
of the witch hazel bush to little boys and big men to make them feel
better when they are hurt.



XII

WHY BOBBY COON WASHES HIS FOOD

Happy-Go-Lucky Bobby Coon sat on the edge of the Laughing Brook just as
round, red Mr. Sun popped up from behind the Purple Hills and Old
Mother West Wind turned all her Merry Little Breezes out to romp on the
Green Meadows.

Bobby Coon had been out all night.  You see Bobby Coon is very apt to
get into mischief, and because usually it is safer to get into mischief
under cover of the darkness Bobby Coon prefers the night wherein to go
abroad.  Not that Bobby Coon is really bad!  Oh my, no!  Everybody
likes Bobby Coon.  But he can no more keep out of mischief than a duck
can keep out of water.

So Bobby Coon sat on the edge of the Laughing Brook and he was very
busy, very busy indeed.  He was washing his breakfast.  Really, it was
his dinner, for turning night into day just turns everything
topsy-turvy.  So Bobby Coon eats dinner when most of the little meadow
people are eating breakfast.

This morning he was very busy washing a luscious ear of sweet corn just
in the milk.  He dipped it in the water and with one little black paw
rubbed it thoroughly.  Then he looked it over carefully before, with a
sigh of contentment, he sat down to put it in his empty little stomach.
When he had finished it to the last sweet, juicy kernel, he ambled
sleepily up the Lone Little Path to the big hollow chestnut tree where
he lives, and in its great hollow in a soft bed of leaves Bobby Coon
curled himself up in a tight little ball to sleep the long, bright day
away.

One of the Merry Little Breezes softly followed him.  When he had
crawled into the hollow chestnut and only his funny, ringed tail hung
out, the Merry Little Breezes tweaked it sharply just for fun, and then
danced away down the Lone Little Path to join the other Merry Little
Breezes around the Smiling Pool.

"Oh!  Grandfather Frog," cried a Merry Little Breeze, "tell us why it
is that Bobby Coon always washes his food.  He never eats it where he
gets it or takes it home to his hollow in the big chestnut, but always
comes to the Laughing Brook to wash it.  None of the other meadow
people do that."

Now Great-Grandfather Frog is counted very wise.  He is very, very old
and he knows the history of all the tribes of little meadow people way
back to the time when the frogs ruled the world.

When the Merry Little Breeze asked him why Bobby Coon always washes his
food, Grandfather Frog stopped to snap up a particularly fat, foolish,
green fly that came his way.  Then, while all the Merry Little Breezes
gathered around him, he settled himself on his big green lily pad and
began:

"Once upon a time, when the world was young, old King Bear ruled in the
Green Forest.  Of course old Mother Nature, who was even more beautiful
then than she is now, was the real ruler, but she let old King Bear
think he ruled so long as he ruled wisely.

"All the little Green Forest folk and all the little people of the
Green Meadows used to take presents of food to old King Bear, so that
he never had to hunt for things to eat.  He grew fatter and fatter and
fatter until it seemed as if his skin must burst.  And the fatter he
grew the lazier he grew."

Grandfather Frog paused with an expectant far-away look in his great
bulging eyes.  Then he leaped into the air so far that when he came
down it was with a great splash in the Smiling Pool.  But as he swam
back to his big lily pad the leg of a foolish green fly could be seen
sticking out of one corner of his big mouth, and he settled himself
with a sigh of great contentment.

"Old King Bear," continued Grandfather Frog, just as if there had been
no interruption, "grew fatter and lazier every day, and like a great
many other fat and lazy people who have nothing to do for themselves
but are always waited on by others, he grew shorter and shorter in
temper and harder and harder to please.

"Now perhaps you don't know it, but the Bear family and the Coon family
are very closely related.  In fact, they are second cousins.  Old Mr.
Coon, Bobby Coon's father with a thousand greats tacked on before, was
young then, and he was very, very proud of being related to old King
Bear.  He began to pass some of his old playfellows on the Green
Meadows without seeing them.  He spent a great deal of time brushing
his coat and combing his whiskers and caring for his big ringed tail.
He held his head very high and he put on such airs that pretty soon he
could see no one at all but members of his own family and of the royal
family of Bear.

"Now as old King Bear grew fat and lazy he grew fussy, so that he was
no longer content to take everything brought him, but picked out the
choicest portions for himself and left the rest.  Mr. Coon took charge
of all the things brought as tribute to old King Bear and of course
where there were so many goodies left he got all he wanted without
working.

"So just as old King Bear had grown fat and lazy and selfish, Mr. Coon
grew fat and lazy and selfish.  Pretty soon he began to pick out the
best things for himself and hide them before old King Bear saw them.
When old King Bear was asleep he would go get them and stuff himself
like a greedy pig.  And because he was stealing and wanted no one to
see him he always ate his stolen feasts at night.

"Now old Mother Nature is, as you all know, very, very wise, oh very
wise indeed.  One of the first laws she made when the world was young
is that every living thing shall work for what it has, and the harder
it works the stronger it shall grow.  So when Old Mother Nature saw how
fat and lazy and selfish old King Bear was getting and how fat and lazy
and dishonest his cousin, Mr. Coon, was becoming, she determined that
they should be taught a lesson which they would remember for ever and
ever and ever.

"First she proclaimed that old King Bear should be king no longer, and
no more need the little folks of the Green Forest and the little people
of the Green Meadows bring him tribute.

"Now when old Mother Nature made this proclamation old King Bear was
fast asleep.  It was just on the edge of winter and he had picked out a
nice warm cave with a great pile of leaves for a bed.  Old Mother
Nature peeped in at him.  He was snoring and probably dreaming of more
good things to eat.  'If he is to be king no longer, there is no use in
waking him now,' said old Mother Nature to herself, 'he is so fat and
so stupid.  He shall sleep until gentle Sister South Wind comes in the
spring to kiss away the snow and ice.  Then he shall waken with a lean
stomach and a great appetite and there shall be none to feed him.'

"Now old Mother Nature always has a warm heart and she was very fond of
Bobby Coon's grandfather a thousand times removed.  So when she saw
what a selfish glutton and thief he had become she decided to put him
to sleep just as she had old King Bear.  But first she would teach Mr.
Coon that stolen food is not the sweetest.

"So old Mother Nature found some tender, juicy corn just in the milk
which Mr. Coon had stolen from old King Bear.  Then she went down on
the Green Meadows where the wild mustard grows and gathering a lot of
this she rubbed the juice into the corn and then put it back where Mr.
Coon had left it.

"Now I have told you that it was night when Mr. Coon had his stolen
feasts, for he wanted no one to see him.  So no one was there when he
took a great bite of the tender, juicy corn old Mother Nature had put
back for him.  Being greedy and a glutton, he swallowed the first
mouthful before he had fairly tasted it, and took a second, and then
such a time as there was on the edge of the Green Forest!  Mr. Coon
rolled over and over with both of his forepaws clasped over his stomach
and groaned and groaned and groaned.  He had rubbed his eyes and of
course had got mustard into them and could not see.  He waked up all
the little Green Forest folk who sleep through the night, as good
people should, and they all gathered around to see what was the matter
with Mr. Coon.

"Finally old Mother Nature came to his relief and brought him some
water.  Then she led him to his home in the great hollow in the big
chestnut tree, and when she had seen him curled up in a tight little
ball among the dried leaves she put him into the long sleep as she had
old King Bear.

"In the spring, when gentle Sister South Wind kissed away all the snow
and ice, old King Bear, who was king no longer, and Mr. Coon awoke and
both were very thin, and both were very hungry, oh very, very hungry
indeed.  Old King Bear, who was king no longer, wasn't the least mite
fussy about what he had to eat, but ate gladly any food he could find.

"But Mr. Coon remembered the burning of his stomach and mouth and could
not forget it.  So whenever he found anything to eat he first took it
to the Laughing Brook or the Smiling Pool and washed it very carefully,
lest there be some mustard on it.

"And ever since that long ago time, when the world was young, the Coon
family has remembered that experience of Mr. Coon, who was second
cousin to old King Bear, and that is why Bobby Coon washes his food,
travels about at night, and sleeps all winter," concluded Grandfather
Frog, fixing his great goggle eyes on a foolish green fly headed his
way.

"Oh thank you, thank you, Grandfather Frog," cried the Merry Little
Breezes as they danced away over the Green Meadows.  But one of them
slipped back long enough to get behind the foolish green fly and blow
him right up to Grandfather Frog's big lily pad.

"Chug-a-rum," said Grandfather Frog, smacking his lips.



XIII

THE MERRY LITTLE BREEZES HAVE A BUSY DAY

Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills in the shadowy
coolness of the early morning, before even jolly, round, red Mr. Sun
had thrown off his rosy coverlids for his daily climb up through the
blue sky.  The last little star was blinking sleepily as Old Mother
West Wind turned her big bag upside down on the Green Meadows and all
her children, the Merry Little Breezes, tumbled out on the soft green
grass.

Then Old Mother West Wind kissed them all around and hurried away to
hunt for a rain cloud which had gone astray.  The Merry Little Breezes
watched her go.  Then they played hide and seek until jolly, round, red
Mr. Sun had climbed out of bed and was smiling down on the Green
Meadows.

Pretty soon along came Peter Rabbit, lipperty-lipperty-lip.

"Hello, Peter Rabbit!" shouted the Merry Little Breezes.  "Come play
with us!"

"Can't," said Peter Rabbit.  "I have to go find some tender young
carrots for my breakfast," and away be hurried, lipperty-lipperty-lip.

In a few minutes Jimmy Skunk came in sight and he seemed to be almost
hurrying along the Crooked Little Path down the hill.  The Merry Little
Breezes danced over to meet him.

"Hello, Jimmy Skunk!" they cried.  "Come play with us!"

Jimmy Skunk shook his head.  "Can't," said he.  "I have to go look for
some beetles for my breakfast," and off he went looking under every old
stick and pulling over every stone not too big for his strength.

The Merry Little Breezes watched him for a few minutes and then raced
over to the Laughing Brook.  There they found Billy Mink stealing
softly down towards the Smiling Pool.

"Oh, Billy Mink, come play with us," begged the Merry Little Breezes.

"Can't," said Billy Mink.  "I have to catch a trout for Grandfather
Mink's breakfast," and he crept on towards the Smiling Pool.

Just then along came Bumble the Bee.  Now Bumble the Bee is a lazy
fellow who always makes a great fuss, as if he was the busiest and most
important fellow in the world.

"Good morning, Bumble," cried the Merry Little Breezes.  "Come play
with us!"

"Buzz, buzz, buzz," grumbled Bumble the Bee.  "Can't, for I have to get
a sack of honey," and off he hurried to the nearest dandelion.

Then the Merry Little Breezes hunted up Johnny Chuck.  But Johnny Chuck
was busy, too busy to play.  Bobby Coon was asleep, for he had been out
all night.  Reddy Fox also was asleep.  Striped Chipmunk was in such a
hurry to fill the pockets in his cheeks that he could hardly stop to
say good morning.  Happy Jack Squirrel just flirted his big tail and
rushed away as if he had many important things to attend to.

Finally the Merry Little Breezes gave it up and sat down among the
buttercups and daisies to talk it over.  Every one seemed to have
something to do, every one but themselves.  It was such a busy world
that sunshiny morning!  Pretty soon one of the Merry Little Breezes
hopped up very suddenly and began the maddest little dance among the
buttercups.

"As we haven't anything to do for ourselves let's do something for
somebody else!" he shouted.

Up jumped all the Little Breezes, clapping their hands.

"Oh let's!" they shouted.

Way over across the Green Meadows they could see two long ears above
the nodding daisies.

"There's Peter Rabbit," cried one.  "Let's help him find those tender
young carrots!"

No sooner proposed than off they all raced to see who could reach Peter
first.  Peter was sitting up very straight, looking this way and
looking that way for some tender young carrots, but not one had he
found, and his stomach was empty.  The Merry Little Breezes stopped
just long enough to tickle his long ears and pull his whiskers, then
away they raced, scattering in all directions, to see who could first
find a tender young carrot for Peter Rabbit.  By and by when one of
them did find a field of tender young carrots he rushed off, taking the
smell of them with him to tickle the nose of Peter Rabbit.

Peter wriggled his nose, his funny little nose, very fast when it was
tickled with the smell of tender young carrots, and the Merry Little
Breeze laughed to see him.

"Come on, Peter Rabbit, for this is my busy day!" he cried.

Peter Rabbit didn't have to be invited twice.  Away he went,
lipperty-lipperty-lip, as fast as his long legs could take him after
the Merry Little Breeze.  And presently they came to the field of
tender young carrots.

"Oh thank you, Merry Little Breeze!" cried Peter Rabbit, and
straightway began to eat his breakfast.

Another Merry Little Breeze, slipping up the Crooked Little Path on the
hill, spied the hind legs of a fat beetle sticking out from under a
flat stone.  At once the Little Breeze remembered Jimmy Skunk, who was
hunting for beetles for his breakfast.  Off rushed the Little Breeze in
merry whirls that made the grasses sway and bend and the daisies nod.

When after a long, long hunt he found Jimmy Skunk, Jimmy was very much
out of sorts.  In fact Jimmy Skunk was positively cross.  You see, he
hadn't had any breakfast, for hunt as he would he couldn't find a
single beetle.

When the Merry Little Breeze danced up behind Jimmy Skunk and, just in
fun, rumpled up his black and white coat, Jimmy quite lost his temper.
In fact he said some things not at all nice to the Merry Little Breeze.
But the Merry Little Breeze just laughed.  The more he laughed the
crosser Jimmy Skunk grew, and the crosser Jimmy Skunk grew the more the
Merry Little Breeze laughed.  It was such a jolly laugh that pretty
soon Jimmy Skunk began to grin a little sheepishly, then to really
smile and finally to laugh outright in spite of his empty stomach.  You
see it is very hard, very hard indeed and very foolish, to remain cross
when someone else is perfectly good natured.

Suddenly the Merry Little Breeze danced up to Jimmy Skunk and whispered
in his right ear.  Then he danced around and whispered in his left ear.
Jimmy Skunk's eyes snapped and his mouth began to water.

"Where, Little Breeze, where?" he begged.

"Follow me," cried the Merry Little Breeze, racing off up the Crooked
Little Path so fast that Jimmy Skunk lost his breath trying to keep up,
for you know Jimmy Skunk seldom hurries.

When they came to the big flat stone Jimmy Skunk grasped it with both
hands and pulled and pulled.  Up came the stone so suddenly that Jimmy
Skunk fell over flat on his back.  When he had scrambled to his feet
there were beetles and beetles, running in every direction to find a
place to hide.

"Thank you, thank you, Little Breeze," shouted Jimmy Skunk as he
started to catch beetles for his breakfast.

And the Little Breeze laughed happily as he danced away to join the
other Merry Little Breezes on the Green Meadows.  There he found them
very, very busy, very busy indeed, so busy that they could hardly find
time to nod to him.  What do you think they were doing?  They were
toting _gold_!  Yes, Sir, toting gold!  And this is how it happened:

While the first Little Breeze was showing Peter Rabbit the field of
tender young carrots, and while the second Little Breeze was leading
Jimmy Skunk to the flat stone and the beetles, the other Merry Little
Breezes had found Bumble the Bee.  Now Bumble the Bee is a lazy fellow,
though he pretends to be the busiest fellow in the world, and they
found him grumbling as he buzzed with a great deal of fuss from one
flower to another.

"What's the matter, Bumble?" cried the Merry Little Breezes.

"Matter enough," grumbled Bumble the Bee.  "I've got to make a sack of
honey, and as if that isn't enough, old Mother Nature has ordered me to
carry a sack of gold from each flower I visit to the next flower I
visit.  If I don't I can get no honey.  Buzz-buzz-buzz," grumbled
Bumble the Bee.

The Merry Little Breezes looked at the million little flowers on the
Green Meadows, each waiting a sack of gold to give and a sack of gold
to receive.  Then they looked at each other and shouted happily, for
they too would now be able to cry "busy, busy, busy."

From flower to flower they hurried, each with a bag of gold over his
shoulder.  Wherever they left a bag they took a bag, and all the little
flowers nodded happily to see the Merry Little Breezes at work.

Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun climbed higher and higher and higher in the
blue sky, where he can look down and see all things, great and small.
His smile was broader than ever as he watched the hurrying, scurrying
Little Breezes working instead of playing.  Yet after all it was a kind
of play, for they danced from flower to flower and ran races across
bare places where no flowers grew.

By and by the Merry Little Breezes met Peter Rabbit.  Now Peter Rabbit
had made a good breakfast of tender young carrots, so he felt very
good, very good indeed.

"Hi!" shouted Peter Rabbit, "come play with me."

"Can't," cried the Merry Little Breezes all together, "we have work to
do!"

Off they hurried, while Peter Rabbit stretched himself out full length
in a sunny spot, for Peter Rabbit also is a lazy fellow.

Down the Crooked Little Path onto the Green Meadows came Jimmy Skunk.

"Ho!" shouted Jimmy Skunk as soon as he saw the Little Breezes, "come
play with me."

"Can't," cried the Little Breezes, "for we are busy, busy, busy," and
they laughed happily.

When they reached the Laughing Brook they found Billy Mink curled up in
a round ball, fast asleep.  It isn't often that Billy Mink is caught
napping, but he had had a good breakfast of trout, he had found no one
to play with and, as he never works and the day was so bright and warm,
he had first looked for a place where he thought no one would find him
and had then curled himself up to sleep, One of the Little Breezes laid
down the bag of gold he was carrying and creeping ever so softly over
to Billy Mink began to tickle one of Billy's ears with a straw.

At first Billy Mink didn't open his eyes, but rubbed his ear with a
little black hand.  Finally he jumped to his feet wide awake and ready
to fight whoever was bothering him.  But all he saw was a laughing
Little Breeze running away with a bag of gold on his back.

So all day long, till Old Mother West Wind came with her big bag to
carry them to their home behind the Purple Hills, the Merry Little
Breezes hurried this way and that way over the Green Meadows.  No wee
flower was too tiny to give and receive its share of gold, and not one
was overlooked by the Merry Little Breezes.

Old Mother Nature, who knows everything, heard of the busy day of the
Merry Little Breezes.  Nobody knows how she heard of it.  Perhaps
jolly, round, red Mr. Sun told her.  Perhaps--but never mind.  You
can't fool old Mother Nature anyway and it's of no use to try.

So old Mother Nature visited the Green Meadows to see for herself, and
when she found how the Merry Little Breezes had distributed the gold
she was so pleased that straightway she announced to all the world that
thenceforth and for all time the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother
West Wind should have charge of the distribution of the gold of the
flowers on the Green Meadows, which they have to this day.

And since that day the Merry Little Breezes have been merrier than
ever, for they have found that it is not nearly so much fun to play all
the time, but that to work for some good in the world is the greatest
fun of all.

So every year when the gold of the flowers, which some people do not
know is gold at all but call pollen, is ready you will find the Merry
Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind very, very busy among the
flowers on the Green Meadows.  And this is the happiest time of all.



XIV

WHY HOOTY THE OWL DOES NOT PLAY ON THE GREEN MEADOWS

The Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind were having a
good-night game of tag down on the Green Meadows.  They were having
_such_ a jolly time while they waited for Old Mother West Wind and her
big bag to take them to their home behind the Purple Hills.  Jolly,
round, red Mr. Sun had already put his nightcap on.  Black shadows
crept softly out from the Purple Hills onto the Green Meadows.  The
Merry Little Breezes grew sleepy, almost too sleepy to play, for Old
Mother West Wind was very, very late.

Farther and farther and farther out onto the Green Meadows crept the
black shadows.  Suddenly one seemed to separate from the others.
Softly, oh so softly, yet swiftly, it floated over towards the Merry
Little Breezes.  One of them happened to look up and saw it coming.  It
was the same Little Breeze who one time stayed out all night.  When he
looked up and saw this seeming shadow moving so swiftly he knew that it
was no shadow at all.

"Here comes Hooty the Owl," cried the Little Breeze.

Then all the Merry Little Breezes stopped their game of tag to look at
Hooty the Owl.  It is seldom they have a chance to see him, for usually
Hooty the Owl does not come out on the Green Meadows until after the
Merry Little Breezes are snugly tucked in bed behind the Purple Hills.

"Perhaps Hooty the Owl will tell us why it is that he never comes out
to play with us," said one of the Little Breezes.

But just as Hooty the Owl floated over to them up came Old Mother West
Wind, and she was in a great hurry, for she was late, and she was
tired.  She had had a busy day, a very busy day indeed, hunting for a
rain cloud which had gone astray.  So now she just opened her big bag
and tumbled all the Merry Little Breezes into it as fast as she could
without giving them so much as a chance to say "Good evening" to Hooty
the Owl.  Then she took them off home behind the Purple Hills.

Of course the Merry Little Breezes were disappointed, very much
disappointed.  But they were also very sleepy, for they had played hard
all day.

"Never mind," said one of them, drowsily, "to-morrow we'll ask
Great-Grandfather Frog why it is that Hooty the Owl never comes out to
play with us on the Green Meadows.  He'll know."

The next morning Old Mother West Wind was late in coming down from the
Purple Hills.  When she finally did turn the Merry Little Breezes out
of her big bag onto the Green Meadows jolly, round, red Mr. Sun was
already quite high in the blue sky.  The Merry Little Breezes waited
just long enough to say "Good-by" to Old Mother West Wind, and then
started a mad race to see who could reach the Smiling Pool first.

There they found Great-Grandfather Frog sitting on his big green lily
pad as usual.  He was very contented with the world, was Grandfather
Frog, for fat green flies had been more foolish than usual that morning
and already he had all that he could safely tuck inside his white and
yellow waistcoat.

"Good morning, Grandfather Frog," shouted the Merry Little Breezes.
"Will you tell us why it is that Hooty the Owl never comes out to play
with us on the Green Meadows?"

"Chug-a-rum," said Great-Grandfather Frog, gruffly, "how should I know?"

You see, Grandfather Frog likes to be teased a little.

"Oh, but you do know, for you are so old and so very wise," cried the
Merry Little Breezes all together.

Grandfather Frog smiled, for he likes to be thought very wise, and also
he was feeling very good, very good indeed that morning.

"Chug-a-rum," said Grandfather Frog.  "If you'll sit perfectly still
I'll tell you what I know about Hooty the Owl.  But remember, you must
sit perfectly still, _per-fect-ly_ still."

The Merry Little Breezes sighed, for it is the hardest thing in the
world for them to keep perfectly still unless they are asleep.  But
they promised that they would, and when they had settled down, each one
in the heart of a great white water lily, Grandfather Frog began:

"Once upon a time, when the world was young, Hooty the Owl's
grandfather a thousand times removed used to fly about in daylight with
the other birds.  He was very big and very strong and very fierce, was
Mr. Owl.  He had great big claws and a hooked bill, just as Hooty the
Owl has now, and he was afraid of nothing and nobody.

"Now when people are very big and very strong and afraid of nothing and
nobody they are very apt to care for nothing and nobody but themselves.
So it was with Mr. Owl.  Whatever he saw that he wanted he took, no
matter to whom it belonged, for there was no one to stop him.

"As I have already told you, Mr. Owl was very big and very strong and
very fierce and he was a very great glutton.  It took a great many
little birds and little animals to satisfy his appetite.  But he didn't
stop there!  No, Sir, he didn't stop there!  He used to kill harmless
little meadow people just for the fun of killing, and because he could.
Every day he grew more savage.  Finally no one smaller than himself
dared stir on the Green Meadows when he was around.  The little birds
no longer sang.  The Fieldmice children no longer played among the
meadow grasses.  Those were sad days, very sad days indeed on the Green
Meadows," said Grandfather Frog, with a sigh.

"At last old Mother Nature came to visit the Green Meadows and she soon
saw what a terrible state things were in.  No one came to meet her, for
you see no one dared to show himself for fear of fierce old Mr. Owl.

"Now I have told you that Mr. Owl was afraid of nothing and nobody, but
this is not quite true, for he was afraid, very much afraid of old
Mother Nature.  When he saw her coming he was sitting on top of a tall
dead stump and he at once tried to look very meek and very innocent.

"Old Mother Nature wasted no time.  'Where are all my little meadow
people and why do they not come to give me greeting?' demanded old
Mother Nature of Mr. Owl.

"Mr. Owl bowed very low.  'I'm sure I don't know.  I think they must
all be taking a nap,' said he.

"Now you can't fool old Mother Nature and it's of no use to try.  No,
Sir, you can't fool old Mother Nature.  She just looked at Mr. Owl and
she looked at the feathers and fur scattered about the foot of the dead
stump.  Mr. Owl stood first on one foot and then on the other.  He
tried to look old Mother Nature in the face, but he couldn't.  You see,
Mr. Owl had a guilty conscience and a guilty conscience never looks
anyone straight in the face.  He did wish that Mother Nature would say
something, did Mr. Owl.  But she didn't.  She just looked and looked
and looked and looked straight at Mr. Owl.  The longer she looked the
uneasier he got and the faster he shifted from one foot to the other.
Finally he shifted so fast that he seemed to be dancing on top of the
old stump.

"Gradually, a few at a time, the little meadow people crept out from
their hiding places and formed a great circle around the old dead
stump.  With old Mother Nature there they felt sure that no harm could
come to them.  Then they began to laugh at the funny sight of fierce
old Mr. Owl hopping from one foot to the other on top of the old dead
stump.  It was the first laugh on the Green Meadows for a long, long,
long time.

"Of course Mr. Owl saw them laughing at him, but he could think of
nothing but the sharp eyes of old Mother Nature boring straight through
him, and he danced faster than ever.  The faster he danced the funnier
he looked, and the funnier he looked the harder the little meadow
people laughed.

"Finally old Mother Nature slowly raised a hand and pointed a long
forefinger at Mr. Owl.  All the little meadow people stopped laughing
to hear what she would say.

"'Mr. Owl,' she began, 'I know and you know why none of my little
meadow people were here to give me greeting.  And this shall be your
punishment: From now on your eyes shall become so tender that they
cannot stand the light of day, so that hereafter you shall fly about
only after round, red Mr. Sun has gone to bed behind the Purple Hills.
No more shall my little people who play on the Green Meadows all the
day long have cause to fear you, for no more shall you see to do them
harm.'

"When she ceased speaking all the little meadow people gave a great
shout, for they knew that it would be even as Mother Nature had said.
Then began such a frolic as the Green Meadows had not known for many a
long day.

"But Mr. Owl flew slowly and with difficulty over to the darkest part
of the deep wood, for the light hurt his eyes dreadfully and he could
hardly see.  And as he flew the little birds flew around him in a great
cloud and plucked out his feathers and tormented him for he could not
see to harm them."

Grandfather Frog paused and looked dreamily across the Smiling Pool.
Suddenly he opened his big mouth and then closed it with a snap.  One
more foolish green fly had disappeared inside the white and yellow
waistcoat.

"Chug-a-rum," said Grandfather Frog, "those were sad days, sad days
indeed for Mr. Owl.  He couldn't hunt for his meals by day, for the
light blinded him.  At night he could see but little in the darkness.
So he got little to eat and he grew thinner and thinner and thinner
until he was but a shadow of his former self.  He was always hungry,
was Mr. Owl, always hungry.  No one was afraid of him now, for it was
the easiest thing in the world to keep out of his way.

"At last old Mother Nature came again to visit the Green Meadows and
the Green Forest.  Far, far in the darkest part of the deep wood she
found Mr. Owl.  When she saw how very thin and how very, very miserable
he was her heart was moved to pity, for old Mother Nature loves all her
subjects, even the worst of them.  All the fierceness was gone from Mr.
Owl.  He was so weak that he just sat huddled in the thickest part of
the great pine.  You see he had been able to catch very little to eat.

"'Mr. Owl,' said old Mother Nature gently, 'you now know something of
the misery and the suffering which you have caused others, and I think
you have been punished enough.  No more may you fly abroad over the
Green Meadows while the day is bright, for still is the fear of you in
the hearts of all my little meadow people, but hereafter you shall not
find it so difficult to get enough to eat.  Your eyes shall grow big,
bigger than the eyes of any other bird, so that you shall be able to
see in the dusk and even in the dark.  Your ears shall grow large,
larger than the ears of any of the little forest or meadow people, so
that you can hear the very least sound.  Your feathers shall become as
soft as down, so that when you fly none shall hear you.'

"And from that day it was even so.  Mr. Owl's eyes grew big and bigger
until he could see as well in the dusk as he used to see in the full
light of day.  His ears grew large and larger until his hearing became
so keen that he could hear the least rustle, even at a long distance.
And when he flew he made no sound, but floated like a great shadow.

"The little meadow people no longer feared him by day, but when the
shadows began to creep out from the Purple Hills each night and they
heard his voice 'Whoo-too-whoo-hoo-hoo' they felt all the old fear of
him.  If they were wise they did not stir, but if they were foolish and
so much as shivered Mr. Owl was sure to hear them and silently pounce
upon them.

"So once more Mr. Owl grew strong and fierce.  But only at night had
anyone cause to fear him, and then only the foolish and timid.

"And now you know," concluded Grandfather Frog, "why it is that Hooty
the Owl never comes out to play with you on the Green Meadows, and why
his eyes are so big and his ears so large."

"Thank you, thank you, Grandfather Frog!" cried the Merry Little
Breezes, springing up from the white water lilies and stretching
themselves.  "We'll bring you the first foolish green fly we can find."

Then away they rushed to hunt for it.



XV

DANNY MEADOW MOUSE LEARNS TO LAUGH

Danny Meadow Mouse sat on his doorstep and sulked.  The Merry Little
Breezes of Old Mother West Wind ran past, one after another, and
pointing their fingers at him cried:

  "Fie, Danny Meadow Mouse!
  Better go inside the house!
  Babies cry--oh my! oh my!
  You're a baby--go and cry!"


Pretty soon along the Lone Little Path came Peter Rabbit.  Peter Rabbit
looked at Danny Meadow Mouse.  Then he pointed a finger at him and said:

  "Cry, Danny, cry!
  Mammy'll whip you by and by!
  Then we'll all come 'round to see
  How big a baby you can be.
  Cry, Danny, cry!"


Danny Meadow Mouse began to snivel.  He cried softly to himself as
Peter Rabbit hopped off down the Lone Little Path.  Soon along came
Reddy Fox.  He saw Danny Meadow Mouse sitting on his doorstep crying
all by himself.  Reddy Fox crept up behind a tall bunch of grass.  Then
suddenly he jumped out right in front of Danny Meadow Mouse.

"Boo!" cried Reddy Fox.

It frightened Danny Meadow Mouse.  He jumped almost out of his skin,
and ran into the house crying at the top of his voice.

"Ha, ha, ha," laughed Reddy Fox

  "Danny, Danny, crying Dan
  Boo-hoo-hooed and off he ran!"


Then Reddy Fox chased his tail all the way down the Lone Little Path
onto the Green Meadows.

By and by Danny Meadow Mouse came out again and sat on his doorstep.
He had stopped crying, but he looked very unhappy and cross and sulky.
Hopping and skipping down the Lone Little Path came Striped Chipmunk.

"Come play with me," called Danny Meadow Mouse.

Striped Chipmunk kept right on hopping and skipping down the Lone
Little Path.

"Don't want to," said Striped Chipmunk, sticking his tongue in his
cheek.

  "Cry-baby Danny
  Never'll be a manny!
  Run to mamma, Danny, dear,
  And she will wipe away your tear!"


Striped Chipmunk hopped and skipped out of sight, and Danny Meadow
Mouse began to cry again because Striped Chipmunk would not play with
him.

It was true, dreadfully true!  Danny Meadow Mouse _was_ a cry-baby and
no one wanted to play with him.  If he stubbed his toe he cried.  If
Striped Chipmunk beat him in a race he cried.  If the Merry Little
Breezes pulled his whiskers just in fun he cried.  It had come to such
a pass that all the little meadow people delighted to tease him just to
make him cry.  Nowhere on all the Green Meadows was there such a
cry-baby as Danny Meadow Mouse.

So Danny sat on his doorstep and cried because no one would play with
him and he was lonely.  The more he thought how lonely he was, the more
he cried.

Presently along came old Mr. Toad.  Now Mr. Toad looks very grumpy and
out of sorts, but that is because you do not know old Mr. Toad.  When
he reached the house of Danny Meadow Mouse he stopped right in front of
Danny.  He put his right hand behind his right ear and listened.  Then
he put his left hand behind his left ear and listened some more.
Finally he put both hands on his hips and began to laugh.

Now Mr. Toad's mouth is very big indeed, and when he opens it to laugh
he opens it very wide indeed.

"Ha, ha, ha!  Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Mr. Toad.

Danny Meadow Mouse cried harder than ever, and the harder he cried the
harder old Mr. Toad laughed.  By and by Danny Meadow Mouse stopped
crying long enough to say to Mr. Toad:

"What are you laughing for, Mr. Toad?"

Mr. Toad stopped laughing long enough to reply:

"I'm laughing, Danny Meadow Mouse, because you are crying at me.  What
are you crying for?"

"I'm crying," said Danny Meadow Mouse, "because you are laughing at
me."  Then Danny began to cry again, and Mr. Toad began to laugh again.

"What's all this about?" demanded some one right behind them.

It was Jimmy Skunk.

"It's a new kind of game," said old Mr. Toad.  "Danny Meadow Mouse is
trying to see if he can cry longer than I can laugh."

Then old Mr. Toad once more opened his big mouth and began to laugh
harder than ever.  Jimmy Skunk looked at him for just a minute and he
looked so funny that Jimmy Skunk began to laugh too.

Now a good honest laugh is like whooping cough--it is catching.  The
first thing Danny Meadow Mouse knew his tears would not come.  It's a
fact, Danny Meadow Mouse had run short of tears.  The next thing he
knew he wasn't crying at all--he was laughing.  Yes, Sir, he actually
was laughing.  He tried to cry, but it was of no use at all; he just
_had_ to laugh.

The more he laughed the harder old Mr. Toad laughed.  And the harder
Mr. Toad laughed the funnier he looked.  Pretty soon all three of them,
Danny Meadow Mouse, old Mr. Toad and Jimmy Skunk, were holding their
sides and rolling over and over in the grass, they were laughing so
hard.

By and by Mr. Toad stopped laughing.

"Dear me, dear me, this will never do!" said Mr. Toad.  "I must get
busy in my garden.

  "The little slugs, they creep and crawl
  And eat and eat from spring to fall
  They never stop to laugh nor cry,
  And really couldn't if they'd try.

So if you'll excuse me I'll hurry along to get them out of my garden."

Mr. Toad started down the Lone Little Path.  After a few hops he paused
and turned around.

"Danny Meadow Mouse," said old Mr. Toad, "an honest laugh is like
sunshine; it brightens the whole world.  Don't forget it."

Jimmy Skunk remembered that he had started out to find some beetles, so
still chuckling he started for the Crooked Little Path up the hill.
Danny Meadow Mouse, once more alone, sat down on his doorstep.  His
sides were sore, he had laughed so hard, and somehow the whole world
had changed.  The grass seemed greener than he had ever seen it before.
The sunshine was brighter and the songs of the birds were sweeter.
Altogether it was a very nice world, a very nice world indeed to live
in.  Somehow he felt as if he never wanted to cry again.

Pretty soon along came the Merry Little Breezes again, chasing
butterflies.  When they saw Danny Meadow Mouse sitting on his doorstep
they pointed their fingers at him, just as before, and shouted:

  "Fie, Danny Meadow Mouse!
  Better go inside the house!
  Babies cry--oh my! oh my!
  You're a baby--go and cry!"


For just a little minute Danny Meadow Mouse wanted to cry.  Then he
remembered old Mr. Toad and instead began to laugh.

The Merry Little Breezes didn't know just what to make of it.  They
stopped chasing butterflies and crowded around Danny Meadow Mouse.
They began to tease him.  They pulled his whiskers and rumpled his
hair.  The more they teased the more Danny Meadow Mouse laughed.

When they found that Danny Meadow Mouse really wasn't going to cry,
they stopped teasing and invited him to come play with them in the long
meadow grass.  Such a good frolic as they did have!  When it was over
Danny Meadow Mouse once more sat down on his doorstep to rest.

Hopping and skipping back up the Lone Little Path came Striped
Chipmunk.  When he saw Danny Meadow Mouse he stuck his tongue in his
cheek and cried:

  "Cry-baby Danny
  Never'll be a manny!
  Run to mamma, Danny dear,
  And she will wipe away your tear!"


Instead of crying Danny Meadow Mouse began to laugh.  Striped Chipmunk
stopped and took his tongue out of his cheek.  Then he began to laugh
too.

"Do you want me to play with you?" asked Striped Chipmunk, suddenly.

Of course Danny did, and soon they were having the merriest kind of a
game of hide and seek.  Right in the midst of it Danny Meadow Mouse
caught his left foot in a root and twisted his ankle.  My, how it did
hurt!  In spite of himself tears did come into his eyes.  But he winked
them back and bravely began to laugh.

Striped Chipmunk helped him back to his doorstep and cut funny capers
while Mother Meadow Mouse bound up the hurt foot, and all the time
Danny Meadow Mouse laughed until pretty soon he forgot that his foot
ached at all.

When Peter Rabbit came jumping along up the Lone Little Path he began
to shout as soon as he saw Danny Meadow Mouse:

  "Cry, Danny, cry!
  Mammy'll whip you by and by!
  Then we'll all come 'round to see
  How big a baby you can be.
  Cry, Danny, cry!"

But Danny didn't cry.  My, no!  He laughed instead.  Peter Rabbit was
so surprised that he stopped to see what had come over Danny Meadow
Mouse.  When he saw the bandaged foot and heard how Danny had twisted
his ankle Peter Rabbit sat right down on the doorstep beside Danny
Meadow Mouse and told him how sorry he was, for happy-go-lucky Peter
Rabbit is very tender-hearted.  Then he told Danny all about the
wonderful things he had seen in his travels, and of all the scrapes he
had gotten into.  When Peter Rabbit finally started off home Danny
Meadow Mouse still sat on his doorstep.  But no longer was he lonely.
He watched Old Mother West Wind trying to gather her Merry Little
Breezes into her big bag to take to their home behind the Purple Hills,
and he laughed right out when he saw her catch the last mischievous
Little Breeze and tumble him, heels over head, in with the others.

"Old Mr. Toad was right, just exactly right," thought Danny Meadow
Mouse, as he rocked to and fro on his doorstep.  "It _is_ much better,
oh very much better, to laugh than to cry."

And since that day when Danny Meadow Mouse learned to laugh, no one has
had a chance to point a finger at him and call him a cry-baby.  Instead
every one has learned to love merry little Danny Meadow Mouse, and now
they call him "Laughing Dan."





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