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Title: How Mr. Rabbit Lost his Tail - Hollow Tree Stories
Author: Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937
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 "How Mr. Rabbit Lost his Tail - Hollow Tree Stories" ***

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Internet Archive)



[Illustration: [See page 94

SET UP HIS EARS AND WENT BY, LICKETY SPLIT]



HOW MR. RABBIT LOST HIS TAIL


[Illustration: HOLLOW TREE STORIES

BY ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE

ILLUSTRATED BY J. M. CONDÉ]

          HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
          NEW YORK AND LONDON



HOLLOW TREE STORIES

BY

ALBERT BIGELOW PAINE

          HOW MR. DOG GOT EVEN
          HOW MR. RABBIT LOST HIS TAIL
          MR. RABBIT'S BIG DINNER
          MR. TURTLE'S FLYING ADVENTURE
          MAKING UP WITH MR. DOG
          MR. POSSUM'S GREAT BALLOON TRIP
          WHEN JACK RABBIT WAS A LITTLE BOY
          MR. CROW AND THE WHITEWASH
          MR. RABBIT'S WEDDING


          HOLLOW TREE AND DEEP WOODS BOOK
          HOLLOW TREE SNOWED-IN BOOK
          HOLLOW TREE NIGHTS AND DAYS

          HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK

          Copyright, 1901, by ROBERT HOWARD RUSSELL

          Copyright, 1910, by HARPER & BROTHERS

          Printed in the United States of America



CONTENTS


                                                    PAGE
          MR. DOG PLAYS SANTA CLAUS                    3
          MR. DOG AT THE CIRCUS                       23
          WHEN MR. 'COON WAS A LITTLE BOY             45
          HOW MR. RABBIT LOST HIS TAIL                67
          HOW THE OTHER RABBITS LOST THEIR TAILS      87

[Illustration: MAP OF THE HOLLOW TREE AND DEEP WOODS COUNTRY]



EXPLANATION OF MAP


THE top of the map is South. This is always so with the Hollow Tree
People. The cross on the shelf below the edge of the world (where the
ladder is) is where Mr. Dog landed, and the ladder is the one brought by
Mr. Man for him to climb back on. The tree that Mr. Man cut down shows
too. The spot on the edge of the world is where the Hollow Tree People
sometimes sit and hang their feet over, and talk. A good many paths
show, but not all by a good deal. The bridge and plank near Mr. Turtle's
house lead to the Wide Grass Lands and Big West Hills. The spots along
the Foot Race show where Grandpaw Hare stopped, and the one across the
fence shows where Mr. Turtle landed. Most of the other things tell what
they are, and all the things are a good deal farther apart than they
look. Of course there was not room on the map for everything.



MR. DOG PLAYS SANTA CLAUS

A STORY TOLD WHEN IT WAS SNOWING OUTSIDE, AND THE LITTLE LADY WAS
WONDERING HOW IT WAS IN THE FAR DEEP WOODS


ONCE upon a time, said the Story Teller, the Robin, and Turtle, and
Squirrel, and Jack Rabbit had all gone home for the winter, and nobody
was left in the Hollow Tree except the 'Coon and 'Possum and the Old
Black Crow. Of course the others used to come back and visit them pretty
often, and Mr. Dog, too, now that he had got to be good friends with all
the Deep Woods People, and they thought a great deal of him when they
got to know him better. Mr. Dog told them a lot of things they had
never heard of before, things that he'd learned at Mr. Man's house, and
maybe that's one reason why they got to liking him so well.

He told them about Santa Claus, for one thing, and how the old fellow
came down the chimney on Christmas Eve to bring presents to Mr. Man and
his children, who always hung up their stockings for them, and Mr. Dog
said that once he had hung up his stocking, too, and got a nice bone in
it, that was so good he had buried and dug it up again as much as six
times before spring. He said that Santa Claus always came to Mr. Man's
house, and that whenever the children hung up their stockings they were
always sure to get something in them.

[Illustration: HE TOLD THEM ALL ABOUT SANTA CLAUS]

Well, the Hollow Tree people had never heard of Santa Claus. They knew
about Christmas, of course, because everybody, even the cows and sheep,
know about that; but they had never heard of Santa Claus. You see, Santa
Claus only comes to Mr. Man's house, but they didn't know that,
either, so they thought if they just hung up their stockings he'd come
there, too, and that's what they made up their minds to do. They talked
about it a great deal together, and Mr. 'Possum looked over all his
stockings to pick out the biggest one he had, and Mr. Crow made himself
a new pair on purpose. Mr. 'Coon said he never knew Mr. Crow to make
himself such big stockings before, but Mr. Crow said he was getting old
and needed things bigger, and when he loaned one of his new stockings to
Mr. 'Coon, Mr. 'Coon said, "That's so," and that he guessed they were
about right after all. They didn't tell anybody about it at first, but
by and by they told Mr. Dog what they were going to do, and when Mr. Dog
heard it he wanted to laugh right out. You see, he knew Santa Claus
never went anywhere except to Mr. Man's house, and he thought it would
be a great joke on the Hollow Tree people when they hung up their
stockings and didn't get anything.

[Illustration: MR. CROW MADE HIMSELF A NEW PAIR ON PURPOSE]

But by and by Mr. Dog thought about something else. He thought it would
be too bad for them to be disappointed that way. You see, Mr. Dog liked
them all, now, and when he had thought about that a minute he made up
his mind to do something. And this is what it was--he made up his mind
to play Santa Claus!

He knew just how Santa Claus looked, 'cause he'd seen lots of his
pictures at Mr. Man's house, and he thought it would be great fun to
dress up that way and take a bag of presents to the Hollow Tree while
they were all asleep and fill up the stockings of the 'Coon and 'Possum
and the Old Black Crow. But first he had to be sure of some way of
getting in, so he said to them he didn't see how they could expect Santa
Claus, their chimneys were so small, and Mr. Crow said they could leave
their latch string out down stairs, which was just what Mr. Dog wanted.
Then they said they were going to have all the folks that had spent the
summer with them over for Christmas dinner and to see the presents they
had got in their stockings. They told Mr. Dog to drop over, too, if he
could get away, and Mr. Dog said he would, and went off laughing to
himself and ran all the way home because he felt so pleased at what he
was going to do.

Well, he had to work pretty hard, I tell you, to get things ready. It
wasn't so hard to get the presents as it was to rig up his Santa Claus
dress. He found some long wool out in Mr. Man's barn for his white
whiskers, and he put some that wasn't so long on the edges of his
overcoat and boot tops and around an old hat he had. Then he borrowed a
big sack he found out there, too, and fixed it up to swing over his
back, just as he had seen Santa Claus do in the pictures. He had a lot
of nice things to take along. Three tender young chickens he'd borrowed
from Mr. Man, for one thing, and then he bought some new neckties for
the Hollow Tree folks all around, and a big, striped candy cane for each
one, because candy canes always looked well sticking out of a stocking.
Besides all that, he had a new pipe for each, and a package of tobacco.
You see, Mr. Dog lived with Mr. Man, and didn't ever have to buy much
for himself, so he had always saved his money. He had even more things
than that, but I can't remember just now what they were; and when he
started out, all dressed up like Santa Claus, I tell you his bag was
pretty heavy, and he almost wished before he got there that he hadn't
started with quite so much.

[Illustration: IT GOT HEAVIER AND HEAVIER]

It got heavier and heavier all the way, and he was glad enough to get
there and find the latch string out. He set his bag down to rest a
minute before climbing the stairs, and then opened the doors softly and
listened. He didn't hear a thing except Mr. Crow and Mr. 'Coon and Mr.
'Possum breathing pretty low, and he knew they might wake up any minute,
and he wouldn't have been caught there in the midst of things for a good
deal. So he slipped up just as easy as anything, and when he got up
in the big parlor room he almost had to laugh right out loud, for there
were the stockings sure enough, all hung up in a row, and a card with a
name on it over each one telling who it belonged to.

[Illustration: HE ALMOST HAD TO LAUGH RIGHT OUT LOUD]

Then he listened again, and all at once he jumped and held his breath,
for he heard Mr. 'Possum say something. But Mr. 'Possum was only talking
in his sleep, and saying, "I'll take another piece, please," and Mr. Dog
knew he was dreaming about the mince pie he'd had for supper.

So then he opened his bag and filled the stockings. He put in mixed
candy and nuts and little things first, and then the pipes and tobacco
and candy canes, so they'd show at the top, and hung a nice dressed
chicken outside. I tell you, they looked fine! It almost made Mr. Dog
wish he had a stocking of his own there to fill, and he forgot all about
them waking up, and sat down in a chair to look at the stockings. It was
a nice rocking chair, and over in a dark corner where they wouldn't be
apt to see him, even if one of them did wake up and stick his head out
of his room, so Mr. Dog felt pretty safe now, anyway. He rocked softly,
and looked and looked at the nice stockings, and thought how pleased
they'd be in the morning, and how tired he was. You've heard about
people being as tired as a dog; and that's just how Mr. Dog felt. He was
so tired he didn't feel a bit like starting home, and by and by--he
never did know how it happened--but by and by Mr. Dog went sound asleep
right there in his chair, with all his Santa Claus clothes on.

[Illustration: TO SEE MR. DOG JUMP RIGHT STRAIGHT UP OUT OF HIS CHAIR]

And there he sat, with his empty bag in his hand and the nice full
stockings in front of him, all night long. Even when it came morning and
began to get light Mr. Dog didn't know it; he just slept right on, he
was that tired. Then pretty soon the door of Mr. 'Possum's room opened
and he poked out his head. And just then the door of Mr. 'Coon's room
opened and he poked out _his_ head. Then the door of the Old Black
Crow opened and out poked _his_ head. They all looked toward the
stockings, and they didn't see Mr. Dog, or even each other, at all. They
saw their stockings, though, and Mr. 'Coon said all at once:--

[Illustration: IT WAS SNOWING HARD OUTSIDE, WHICH MADE IT A NICER
CHRISTMAS THAN IF IT HADN'T BEEN]

"Oh, there's something in my stocking!"

And then Mr. Crow said:--

"Oh, there's something in my stocking, too!"

And Mr. 'Possum said:--

"Oh, there's something in all our stockings!"

And with that they gave a great hurrah all together, and rushed out and
grabbed their stockings and turned around just in time to see Mr. Dog
jump right straight up out of his chair, for he did not know where he
was the least bit in the world.

"Oh, there's Santa Claus himself!" they all shouted together, and made a
rush for their rooms, for they were scared almost to death. Then it all
dawned on Mr. Dog in a second, and he commenced to laugh and hurrah to
think what a joke it was on everybody. And when they heard Mr. Dog laugh
they knew him right away, and they all came up and looked at him, and he
had to tell just what he'd done and everything; so they emptied out
their stockings on the floor and ate some of the presents and looked at
the others, until they almost forgot about breakfast, just as children
do on Christmas morning.

Then Mr. Crow said, all at once, that he'd make a little coffee, and
that Mr. Dog must stay and have some, and by and by they made him
promise to spend the day with them and be there when the Robin and the
Squirrel and Mr. Turtle and Jack Rabbit came, which he did.

And it was snowing hard outside, which made it a nicer Christmas than if
it hadn't been, and when all the others came they brought presents, too.
And when they saw Mr. Dog dressed up as Santa Claus and heard how he'd
gone to sleep and been caught, they laughed and laughed. And it snowed
so hard that Mr. Dog had to stay for dinner, which he wanted to do more
than anything, because he knew that then they would all sit around and
tell stories.



MR. DOG AT THE CIRCUS

THE HOLLOW TREE PEOPLE LEARN SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT ABOUT SHOWS


THAT was a great Christmas in the Hollow Tree. The 'Coon and the 'Possum
and the Old Black Crow had been getting ready for it for a long time,
and brought in ever so many nice things to eat, which Mr. Crow had
cooked for them, for Mr. Crow is the best cook of anybody in the Big
Deep Woods. Then Mr. Dog had brought a lot of good things, too, which he
had borrowed from Mr. Man's house, so they had the finest Christmas
dinner that you can think of, and plenty for the next day, when it would
be even better, because chicken and turkey and dressing and such things
are always better the next day, and even the _third_ day, with gravy,
than they are when they are first cooked.

[Illustration: THE PANTRY IN THE HOLLOW TREE]

Then, when they were all through and were standing around, smoking their
new pipes and looking at each other's new neckties and other Christmas
things, Mr. Crow said that he and Mr. Squirrel would clear off the table
if the others would get in some wood and stir up the fire and set the
room to rights, so they could gather round and be comfortable by and by;
and then, he said it might snow as much as it liked as long as they had
plenty of wood and things to eat inside.

So then they all skurried around getting on their things to go out after
wood--all except Mr. Crow and Mr. Squirrel, who set about clearing off
the table and doing up the dishes. And pretty soon Mr. Dog and Mr. 'Coon
and the rest were hopping about where the snow was falling so soft and
silent among the big, leafless trees, gathering nice pieces of wood and
brushing the snow off of them and piling them into the first down
stairs of the Hollow Tree, which the 'Coon and 'Possum and Old Black
Crow use for their wood house and general store room. It was great fun,
and they didn't feel the least bit cold after their warm dinner and with
all that brisk exercise.

[Illustration: MR. ROBIN HOPPED ABOUT AND LOOKED FOR GOOD PIECES]

Mr. Robin didn't help carry the wood in. He was hardly strong enough for
that, but he hopped about and looked for good pieces, and when he found
one he would call to Mr. 'Coon or Mr. 'Possum, or maybe to one of the
others, to throw it on his shoulder and carry it in, and then he would
tell whoever it happened to be how strong he was and how fine he looked
with that great chunk on his shoulder, and would say that he didn't
suppose there was another 'Coon, or 'Possum, or Turtle, or Rabbit, or
Dog that could begin to stand up straight under such a chunk as that
anywhere outside of a menagerie. Mr. Robin likes to say pleasant things
to his friends, and is always popular. And each one tried to carry the
biggest load of wood to show how strong he was, and pretty soon they
had the lower room of the Hollow Tree piled up high with the finest
chunks and kindling pieces to be found anywhere. Then they all hurried
up stairs, stamping the snow off their feet, and gathered around the
nice warm fire in the big parlor which was just below the three big
hollow branches where the 'Coon and 'Possum and the Old Black Crow had
their rooms.

Mr. Crow and Mr. Squirrel were through with the table by this time, and
all hands lit their pipes, and looked into the fire, and smoked, and
rested, and thought a little before they began talking--thinking, of
course, of what a good time they were having, and how comfortable and
nice it was to be inside and warm when such a big snow was falling
outside.

Mr. 'Possum was the first one to say anything. He said he had been
thinking of what Mr. Robin had said about them being outside of a
menagerie, and that, come to think about it, he believed he didn't know
what a menagerie was, unless it was a new name for a big dinner, as that
was the only thing he could think of now that they were outside of, and
he said if that was so, and if he could get outside of two menageries,
he thought he could carry in a bigger chunk than any two chunks there
were down stairs.

Then all the others laughed a good deal, and Mr. 'Coon said he had
thought that perhaps a menagerie was something to wear that would make
anybody who had it on very strong, and able to stand up under a big
load, and to eat as much as Mr. 'Possum could, or even more.

But Mr. Robin said that it didn't mean either of those things. He said
he didn't really know what it did mean himself, but that it must be some
kind of a place that had a great many large creatures in it, for he had
quite often heard his grandmother call his grandfather the biggest goose
outside of a menagerie, though, being very young then, Mr. Robin
couldn't remember just what she had meant by it.

Mr. Rabbit said he thought that the word "menagerie" sounded like some
kind of a picnic, with swings and nice lively games, and Mr. Crow said
that once when he was flying he passed over a place where there was a
big sign that said "Menagerie" on it, and that there were some tents and
a crowd of people and a great noise, but that he hadn't seen anything
that he could carry off without being noticed, so he didn't stop.

Mr. Squirrel thought that from what Mr. Crow said it must be a place
where there would be a lot of fine things to see, and Mr. Turtle said
that he was a good deal over three hundred years old and had often heard
of a menagerie, but that he had never seen one. He said he had always
supposed that it was a nice pond of clear water, with a lot of happy
turtles and fish and wild geese and ducks and such things, in it, and
maybe some animals around it, all living happily together, and taken
care of by Mr. Man, who brought them a great many good things to eat.
He had always thought he would like to live in a menagerie, he said, but
that nobody had ever invited him, and he had never happened to come
across one in his travels.

Mr. Dog hadn't been saying anything all this time, but he knocked the
ashes out of his pipe now, and filled it up fresh and lit it, and
cleared his throat, and began to talk. It made him smile, he said, to
hear the different ways people thought of a thing they had never seen.
He said that Mr. Turtle was the only one who came anywhere near to what
a menagerie really was, though of course Mr. Crow _had_ seen one on the
outside. Then Mr. Dog said:--

[Illustration: SLIPPED IN BEHIND HIM WHEN HE WENT INTO THE TENT]

"I know all about menageries, on the outside and the inside too, for I
have been to one. I went once with Mr. Man, though I wasn't really
invited to go. In fact, Mr. Man invited me to stay at home, and tried to
slip off from me; but I watched which way he went, and took long
roundin's on him, and slipped in behind him when he went into the tent.
He didn't know for a while that I was there, and I wasn't there so very
long. But it was plenty long enough--a good deal longer than I'd ever
stay again, unless I was tied.

"I never saw so many wild, fierce-looking creatures in my life as there
were in that menagerie, and they were just as wild and fierce as they
looked. They had a lot of cages full of them and they had some outside
of cages, though I don't know why they should leave any of those
dangerous animals around where they could damage folks that happened to
come in reach, as I did. Those animals outside didn't look as wild and
fierce as those in the cages, but they were.

"I kept in the crowd, close behind Mr. Man at first, and nobody knew I
was there, but by and by he climbed up into a seat to watch some people
all dressed up in fancy clothes ride around a ring on horses, which I
didn't care much about, so I slipped away, and went over to where there
were some things that I wanted to take my time to and see quietly.

[Illustration: "HE LOOKED SMILING AND GOOD-NATURED, AND I WENT OVER TO
ASK HIM SOME QUESTIONS"]

"There was an animal about my size and style tied over in one corner of
the tent, behind a rope, with a sign in front of him which said, 'The
Only Tame Hyena in the World,' He looked smiling and good-natured, and I
went over to ask him some questions.

"But that sign wasn't true. He wasn't the least bit tame, and I'm sure
now that he wasn't smiling. He grabbed me before I had a chance to say a
word, and when I jerked loose, which I did right away, for I didn't want
to stir up any fuss there, I left quite a piece of my ear with the tame
hyena, and tripped backward over the rope and rolled right in front of a
creature called an elephant, about as big as a house and not as useful.

"I suppose they thought _he_ was tame, too, but he must have been tamed
by the same man, for he grabbed me with a kind of a tail that grew on
the end of his nose--a thing a good deal like Mr. 'Possum's tail, only
about a million times as big--and I could hear my ribs crack as he waved
me up and down.

"Of course, as I say, I didn't want to stir up any fuss, but I couldn't
keep still under such treatment as that, and I called right out to Mr.
Man, where he sat looking at the fancy people riding, and told him that
I had had enough of the show, and if he wanted to take any of me home he
ought not to wait very long, but come over that way and see if he
couldn't get the tame elephant to practise that performance on the hyena
or the next dog, because I had had plenty, and was willing to go home
just as I was, all in one piece, even if not very lively.

"Mr. Man _came_, too, and so did a lot of the others. They seemed to
think that I was more to look at than those riding people; and some of
them laughed, though what there was happening that was funny I have
never been able to guess to this day. I kept right on telling Mr. Man
what I wanted him to do, and mebbe I made a good deal of noise about
it, for it seemed to stir up those other animals. There was a cage full
of lions that started the most awful roaring you can think of, and a
cage of crazy-looking things they called monkeys that screeched and
howled and swung back and forth in rings and held on to the bars, and
all the other things joined in, until I couldn't tell whether I was
still saying anything or not. I suppose they were all jealous of the
elephant because of the fun he was having, and howling to be let out so
they could get hold of me too.

"Well, you never heard of such a time. It nearly broke up the show.
Everybody ran over to look, and even the riding people stopped their
horses to enjoy it, too. If it only hadn't been so dangerous and
unpleasant I should have been proud of the way they came to see me
perform.

"But Mr. Man didn't seem to like it much. I heard him tell somebody, as
loud as he could, that I would be killed, and that I was the best dog
he ever had, and that if I _was_ killed he'd sue the show.

[Illustration: "GAVE ME AN EXTRA BIG SWING AND CRACK"]

"That made me proud, too, but I wished he wouldn't wait to sue the show,
but would do something right away, and just then a man with a fancy
dress on and a stick with a sharp iron hook on it came running up and
said something I didn't understand and hit the elephant with the hook
end of the stick, and he gave me an extra big swing and crack and flung
me half way across the tent, where I landed on a bunch of hay right in
front of a long-necked thing called a camel--another terrible tame
creature, I suppose--who had me about half eaten up with his old long
under lip before Mr. Man could get over there.

"When Mr. Man did get hold of me, he said that I'd better take what was
left of me home, for they were going to feed the animals pretty soon,
and that I would likely get mixed up with the bill of fare.

"After that he took me to the entrance and pushed me outside, and I
heard all those fierce creatures in the cages growl and roar louder
than ever, as if they had expected to sample me and were sorry to see me
go.

"That's what a menagerie is--it's a place where they have all the kinds
of animals and things in the world, for show, and a good many birds, and
maybe turtles, too, but they don't have any fine clear pond. They have
just a big tent, like the one Mr. Crow saw, and a lot of cages inside.
They keep most of the animals in cages, and they ought to keep them all
there, and I don't think they feed them very much, nor the best things,
or they wouldn't look so fierce and hungry.

"They just keep them for Mr. Man and his friends to look at and talk
about, and if Mr. Turtle will take my advice he will keep out of a
menagerie and live in the Wide Blue Water where he was born. I wouldn't
have gone there again unless I had been dragged there by force, or
unless they had put those tame animals into cages with the others. No
doubt there are some very fine, strong animals in a menagerie, but they
wouldn't be there if they could help it, and if anybody ever invites any
of you to join a menagerie, take my advice and don't do it."

Then Mr. Dog knocked the ashes out of his pipe again, and all the other
Deep Woods People knocked the ashes out of _their_ pipes, too, and
filled them up fresh, and one said one thing, and one said another about
being in a menagerie or out of it, and every one thought it would be a
terrible thing to be shut up in a cage, except Mr. 'Possum, who said he
wouldn't mind it if they would let him sleep enough and give him all he
could eat, but that a cage without those things would be a lonesome
place.

Then Mr. 'Coon said that a little adventure had happened to him once
which he had never mentioned before, because he had never known just
what to make of it; but he knew now, he said, that he had come very near
getting into a menagerie, and he would tell them just what happened.

The Story Teller looked down at the quiet figure in his lap. The Little
Lady's head was nestled close to his shoulder, and her eyes were
straining very hard to keep open.

I think we will save Mr. 'Coon's story till another night, he said.



WHEN MR. 'COON WAS A LITTLE BOY

MR. 'COON TELLS HOW HE CAME NEAR BEING A PART OF A MENAGERIE, AND HOW HE
ONCE TOLD A STORY TO MR. DOG


"YOU can tell about Mr. 'Coon, now--the the story you didn't tell last
night, you know," and the Little Lady wriggles herself into a
comfortable corner just below the Story Teller's smoke, and looks deep
into a great cavern of glowing embers between the big old andirons,
where, in her fancy, she can picture the Hollow Tree people and their
friends.

Why, yes, let me see--says the Story Teller.

"Mr. Dog had just told about being at the menagerie, you know, and Mr.
'Coon was just going to tell how he came very near getting into a
menagerie himself."

Oh, yes, of course--well, then, all the Hollow Tree people, the 'Coon
and 'Possum and the Old Black Crow, and their friends who were visiting
them--Mr. Dog and Mr. Robin and Jack Rabbit and Mr. Turtle and Mr.
Squirrel--knocked the ashes out of their pipes and filled them up
fresh--

"No, they had just done that."

That's so, I forgot. Well, anyway, as soon as they got to smoking and
settled back around the fire again Mr. 'Coon told them his story, and I
guess we'll call it


MR. 'COON'S EARLY ADVENTURE

[Illustration: ALL AT ONCE HE HEARD A FIERCE BARK CLOSE BEHIND HIM]

Mr. 'Coon said he was quite young when it happened, and was taking a
pleasant walk one evening, to think over things a little, and perhaps to
pick out a handy tree where Mr. Man's chickens roosted, when all at once
he heard a fierce bark close behind him, and he barely had time to get
up a tree himself when a strange and very noisy Mr. Dog was leaping
about at the foot of the tree, making a great fuss, and calling every
moment for Mr. Man to hurry, for he had a young 'coon treed.

"Of course I laid pretty low when I heard that," Mr. 'Coon said, "for I
knew that Mr. Man would most likely have a gun, so I got into a bunch of
leaves and brush that must have been some kind of an old nest, and
scrooched down so that none of me would show.

"Then by and by I heard some big creature come running through the
brush, and I peeked over a little, and there, sure enough, was Mr. Man
with a long gun, and I noticed that he wore a thing on his head--a sort
of hat, I suppose--made of what looked to be the skin of some relative
of mine.

"Of course that made me mad. I hadn't cared so much until I saw that;
but I said right then to myself that any one who would do such a thing
as that never could be a friend of mine, no matter how much he tried.
So I scrooched down and laid low in that old nest, and didn't move or
let on in any way that I was there.

"Then I heard Mr. Man walking around the tree and talking to his dog and
telling him that there wasn't anything up in that tree at all, and that
Mr. Dog had just been fooling him. I could tell by his voice that he was
getting mad at Mr. Dog, and I hoped that he'd get mad enough pretty soon
to take a stick to him for chasing me up a tree like that, calling all
the time for Mr. Man to come and see me when there wasn't really
anything to look at.

"But Mr. Dog kept galloping around the tree and barking out, over and
over, that I was there; that he had seen me, and that he knew that I was
hiding up there somewhere; and pretty soon I heard Mr. Man going away,
and I peeked over again.

"Sure enough, he was going, but Mr. Dog was staying right there, sitting
under the tree and looking up and making a good deal more noise than
there was any need of to let me know he hadn't gone. I didn't see why he
stayed there. I wished he'd go away and 'tend to his own business.

"Being quite young, I still lived with my folks over near the Wide Grass
Lands, and I wanted to get home for supper. It was a good way to go, for
the tree I had climbed was over close to the edge of the world where the
sun and moon rise, and you all know that's a good way, even from here.

"Well, he didn't go, but just sat there, barking up that tree, and after
a long time I heard somebody coming again, and I peeked over, and there
was Mr. Man, hurrying back, this time with an axe. I knew, right then,
there was going to be trouble. I knew they were going to cut that tree
down, and that I should most likely have quite a fuss with Mr. Dog, and
perhaps go home with a black eye and a scratched nose, and then get
whipped again for fighting, after I got there."

Mr. 'Coon stopped and knocked the ashes out of his pipe and filled it
up fresh, and all the others knocked the ashes out of their pipes and
filled them up fresh, too. Then Mr. 'Possum poked up the fire and told
Mr. Turtle to bring a stick of wood from down stairs, and when it was
blazing up high and bright again they all stepped over to the window a
minute, to see how hard it was snowing and banking up outside, then went
back to their chairs around the fire, and stretched out their feet and
leaned back and smoked, and listened to the rest of Mr. 'Coon's story.

Mr. 'Coon said he didn't like the sound of that axe when Mr. Man began
to cut the tree down.

"Every time he struck the tree I could feel it all through me," he said,
"and I knew if he kept that noise up long enough it would give me a
nervous headache. I wished the tree would hurry up and drop, so we could
have what muss we were going to, and get it over with. I'd have got out
of that old nest and made a jump for another tree if there had been any
near enough, but there wasn't, so I just laid low and gritted my teeth
and let him chop.

"Well, by and by the tree began to go down. It seemed to teeter a little
at first, this way and that; then it went very slow in one direction;
then it went a little faster; then it went a good deal faster; then I
suddenly felt like a shooting-star, I came down so fast, and there was a
big crash, and I thought I had turned into a lot of stars, sure enough,
and was shooting in every direction, and the next I knew I was tied to a
tree hand and foot and around the middle, and Mr. Man and Mr. Dog were
sitting and looking at me, and grinning, and talking about what they
were going to do.

"Mr. Man wasn't scolding Mr. Dog any more. He was telling him what a
good thing it was they had caught me alive, for now they could sell me
to a show and get a great deal more for me than they could for my skin.
I didn't know what a show was, then, or about menageries, but I know
now, and I can see just what they meant.

[Illustration: "THEN I SUDDENLY FELT LIKE A SHOOTING-STAR"]

"Pretty soon Mr. Man told Mr. Dog to stay there and watch me while he
went home after a box to put me in. He said he didn't think it would be
safe to carry me in his arms, and he was right about that.

"So then Mr. Man walked off, and left Mr. Dog guarding me and saying
unpleasant things to me now and then.

"At first I wouldn't answer him; but pretty soon I happened to think of
something pleasant to say.

"'Mr. Dog,' I said, 'I know a good story, if you'd like me to tell it.
Mr. Man may be a good while getting that box, and mebbe you'd like to
hear something to pass the time.'

"Mr. Dog said he would. He said that Mr. Man would most likely have to
make the box, and he didn't suppose he knew where the hammer and nails
were, and it might be dark before Mr. Man got back.

"I felt a good deal better when I heard Mr. Dog say that, and I told
him a story I knew about how Mr. Rabbit lost his tail, and Mr. Dog
laughed and seemed to like it, and said, 'Tell me another.'"

Before Mr. 'Coon could go on with his story, Mr. Rabbit said that of
course if that old tale had helped Mr. 'Coon out of trouble he was very
glad, but that it wasn't at all true, and that some time _he_ would tell
them himself the true story of how it happened.

Then they all said that they hoped he would, for they'd always wanted to
hear that story told right, and then Mr. 'Coon went on with his
adventure.

[Illustration: THEN MR. DOG SAID, "TELL ME ANOTHER"]

Mr. 'Coon said that when Mr. Dog said, "Tell me another," he knew he was
in a good humor, and that he felt better and better himself. "I thought,
if Mr. Man didn't come back too soon," he said, "I might get along
pretty well with Mr. Dog.

"'I know another story, Mr. Dog,' I said--'the funniest story there is.
It would make you laugh until you fell over the edge of the world, but I
can't tell it here.'

"'Why,' he said--'why can't you tell it here as well as anywhere?'

"'Because it has to be acted,' I said, 'and my hands are tied.'

"'Will you tell it if I untie your hands?' said Mr. Dog.

"'Well,' I said, 'I'll begin it, and you can see how it goes.'

"So Mr. Dog came over and untied my hands, for he said he could tie them
again before Mr. Man came back, because he knew Mr. Man hadn't found
that hammer yet.

"'You can't get loose with just your hands untied, can you?' he said.

"'No, of course not, Mr. Dog,' I said, pleasant and polite as could be.

"'Let's see you try,' said Mr. Dog.

"So I twisted and pulled, and of course I couldn't get loose.

"'Now tell the story,' said Mr. Dog.

"So I said: 'Once there was a man who had a very bad pain in his chest,
and he took all kinds of medicine, and it didn't do him any good. And
one day the Old Wise Man of the Woods told him if he would rub his
chest with one hand and pat his head with the other, it might draw the
pain out of the top and cure him. So the man with the pain in his chest
tried it, and he did it this way.'

"Then I showed Mr. Dog just how he did it, and Mr. Dog thought that was
funny, and laughed a good deal.

"'Go on and tell the rest of it,' he said. 'What happened after that?'

"But I let on as if I'd just remembered something, and I said, 'Oh, Mr.
Dog, I'm _so_ sorry, but I can't tell the rest of that story here, and
it's the funniest part, too. I know you'd laugh till you rolled over the
edge of the world.'

"'Why can't you tell the rest of that story here as well as anywhere?'
said Mr. Dog, looking anxious.

"'Because it has to be acted with the feet,' I said, 'and my feet are
tied.'

"'Will you tell it if I untie your feet?' said Mr. Dog.

"'Well, I'll do the best I can,' I said.

"So Mr. Dog came over and untied my feet. He said he knew that Mr. Man
hadn't found the nails or the pieces to make the box yet, and there
would be plenty of time to tie me again before Mr. Man got back.

"'You can't get loose, anyway, with just your hands and feet untied, can
you?' he said.

"'No, of course not, Mr. Dog,' I said, more pleasant and polite than
ever.

"'Let's see you try,' said Mr. Dog.

"So I squirmed and twisted, but of course with a strong string around my
waist and tied behind I couldn't do anything.

"'Now go on with the story,' said Mr. Dog.

[Illustration: AND DID ROLL OFF THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, SURE ENOUGH]

"'Well,' I said, 'the pain left his chest, but it went into his back,
and he had a most terrible time, until one day the Old Wise Man of the
Woods came along and told him that he thought he ought to know enough by
this time to rub his back where the pain was and pat his head at the
same time to draw it out at the top. So then the man with the pain
rubbed his back and patted his head this way,' and I showed Mr. Dog how
he did it; and I rubbed a good while about where the knot was, and made
a face to show how the man with the pain looked, and then I said the
pain came back into his chest again instead of being drawn out at the
top, and I changed about and rubbed there awhile, and then I went around
to my back again, chasing that pain first one side and then the other;
and then I said that the Old Wise Man of the Woods came along one day
and told him that he must kick with his feet, too, if he ever wanted to
get rid of that pain, because, after all, it might have to be kicked out
at the bottom; and when I began to kick and dance with both feet and to
rub with my hands at the same time, Mr. Dog gave a great big laugh--the
biggest laugh I ever heard anybody give--and fell right down and rolled
over and over, and did roll off the edge of the world, sure enough.

"I heard him go clattering into a lot of brush and blackberry bushes
that are down there, and just then I got that back knot untied, and I
stepped over and looked down at Mr. Dog, who had lodged in a brier patch
on a shelf about ten feet below the edge, where Mr. Man would have to
get him up with a ladder or a rope.

"'Do you want to hear the rest of the story, Mr. Dog?' I said.

"'I'll story _you_,' he said, 'when I catch you!'

"'I told you you'd laugh till you fell off the edge of the world,' I
said.

[Illustration: "I SET OUT FOR HOME WITHOUT WAITING TO SAY GOOD-BYE"]

"'I'll make _you_ laugh,' he said, 'when I catch you!'

"Then I saw he was cross about something, and I set out for home without
waiting to say good-bye to Mr. Man, for I didn't want to waste any more
time, though I missed my supper and got a scolding besides.

"But I was glad I didn't bring home a black eye and scratched nose, and
I'm more glad than ever now that Mr. Man didn't get back in time with
that box, or I might be in a menagerie this minute instead of sitting
here smoking and telling stories and having a good time on Christmas
Day."

The Story Teller looks down at the Little Lady.

"I'm glad Mr. 'Coon didn't get into the menagerie, aren't you?" she
says.

Very glad, says the Story Teller.

"He went lickety split home, didn't he?"

He did that!

"I like them to go lickety split better than lickety cut, don't you?"
says the Little Lady. "They seem to go so much faster."

Ever so much faster, says the Story Teller.



HOW MR. RABBIT LOST HIS TAIL

MR. RABBIT TELLS SOME INTERESTING FAMILY HISTORY


THE Little Lady waited until the Story Teller had lit his pipe and sat
looking into the great open fire, where there was a hickory log so big
that it had taken the Story Teller and the Little Lady's mother with two
pairs of ice tongs to drag it to the hearth and get it into place.
Pretty soon the Little Lady had crept in between the Story Teller's
knees. Then in another minute she was on one of his knees, helping him
rock. Then she said:--

"Did Mr. Rabbit tell his story next? He promised to tell about losing
his tail, you know."

The Story Teller took his pipe from his mouth a moment, and sat thinking
and gazing at the big log, which perhaps reminded him of one of the
limbs of the Hollow Tree where the 'Coon and 'Possum and the Old Black
Crow lived and had their friends visit them that long-ago snowy
Christmas-time.

Why, yes, he said, that's so, Mr. Rabbit _did_ tell that story. When Mr.
'Coon got through telling how he came near getting into a menagerie,
they all said that it certainly was a very narrow escape, and Mr. 'Coon
said he shouldn't wonder if that menagerie had to quit business, just
because he wasn't in it; and Mr. 'Possum said he thought if anything
would _save_ a menagerie that would, for it would keep them from being
eaten out of house and home.

Then Mr. 'Coon said that if that was so, Mr. 'Possum had saved at least
three menageries by staying right where he was in the Big Deep Woods.
This made Mr. Squirrel and Mr. Robin laugh, and the rest wondered what
those two gigglers had noticed that was funny. Then they all knocked the
ashes out of their pipes again, and walked over to the window, and
looked at the snow banking up outside and piling up on the bare limbs of
the big trees. They said how early it got dark this time of year,
especially on a cloudy day. And pretty soon Mr. Crow said they had just
about time for one more story before supper, and that Mr. Rabbit ought
to tell now about how, a long time ago, his family had lost their tails.
Mr. Rabbit didn't seem to feel very anxious to tell it, but they told
him that he had promised, and that now was as good a time as any, so
they went back and sat down, and Mr. Rabbit told them


THE TRUE STORY OF THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE, AND HOW JACK RABBIT LOST
HIS TAIL

"Once upon a time," he said, "a great many great-grandfathers back, my
family had long bushy tails, like Mr. Squirrel and Mr. Fox, only a good
deal longer and finer and softer, and _very handsome_."

When Mr. Rabbit said that, Mr. Squirrel sniffed and twitched his nose
and gave his nice bushy tail a flirt, but he didn't say anything. Mr.
Rabbit went right on.

"Well, there was one fine, handsome rabbit who had the longest and
plumiest tail of any of the family, and was very proud of it. He was my
twenty-seventh great-grandfather, and was called 'Mr. Hare.' He was
young and smart then, and thought he was a good deal smarter than he
really was, though he was smart enough and handsome enough to set the
style for all the other rabbits, and not much ever happened to him,
because he could beat anything running that there was in the Big Deep
Woods.

"That twenty-seventh great-grandfather of mine was very proud of his
running, and used to brag that in a foot race he could beat anything
that lived between the Wide Grass Lands and the edge of the world. He
used to talk about it to almost everybody that came along, and one day
when he met one of the Turtle family who used to be called 'Mr.
Tortoise' in those days, he stopped and began to brag to him how fast he
could run and how nobody in the Big Deep Woods dared to race with him.

"But Mr. Turtle he just smiled a little and said: 'Oh, pshaw! You can't
run very fast. I believe I can beat you myself!'

"Well, that did make Grandfather Hare laugh--and made him a little mad,
too.

'You!' he said. 'Why, I'll give you within ten yards of that rail fence
of Mr. Man's half a mile away, and then beat you across it. Just travel
along, and some time this afternoon, when you get down that way, I'll
come back and let you see me go by. But you'll have to look quick if you
see me, for I'll be going fast.'

[Illustration: MR. FOX SAID HE HADN'T MUCH TO DO FOR A FEW MINUTES, AND
HE'D ACT AS JUDGE]

"But Mr. Tortoise said he didn't want any start at all, that he was
ready to begin the race right then; and that made Grandpaw Hare laugh so
loud that Mr. Fox heard him as he was passing, and came over to see
what the fun was. Then he said that he hadn't much to do for a few
minutes, and that he'd stay and act as judge. He thought a race like
that wouldn't last long; and it didn't, though it wasn't at all the kind
of a race he had expected.

"Well, he put Mr. Tortoise and my twenty-seventh great-grandfather side
by side, and then he stood off and said, 'Go!' and thought it would all
be over in a minute.

"Grandpaw Hare gave one great big leap, about twenty feet long, and then
stopped. He was in no hurry, and he wanted to have some fun with Mr.
Tortoise. He looked around to where Mr. Tortoise was coming straddling
and panting along, and he laughed and rolled over to see how solemn he
looked, and how he was travelling as if he meant to get somewhere before
dark. He was down on all fours so he could use all his legs at once, and
anybody would think, to look at him, that he really expected to win that
race.

"The more my Grandpaw Hare looked at him the more he laughed, and then
he would make another long leap forward and stop, and look back, and
wait for Mr. Tortoise to catch up again.

"Then he would call to him, or maybe go back and take roundin's on him,
and say: 'Come along there, old tobacco box. Are you tied to something?'
Mr. Fox would laugh a good deal, too, and he told my ancestor to go on
and finish the race--that he couldn't wait around there all day. And
pretty soon he said if they were going to fool along like that, he'd
just go down to the fence and take a nap till they got there; and for
Grandpaw Rabbit to call to him when he really started to come, so he
could wake up and judge the finish.

"Mr. Fox he loped away to the fence and laid down and went to sleep in
the shade, and Grandpaw Hare thought it would be fun to pretend to be
asleep, too. I've heard a story told about it that says that he really
did go to sleep, and that Mr. Tortoise went by him and got to the fence
before he woke up. But that is not the way it happened. My
twenty-seventh great-grandfather was too smart to go to sleep, and even
if he had gone to sleep, Mr. Tortoise made enough noise pawing and
scratching along through the grass and gravel to wake up forty of our
family.

"My ancestor would wait until he came grinding along and was up even
with him, then suddenly he'd sit up as if he'd been waked out of a nice
dream and say: 'Hello, old coffee mill! What do you want to wake me up
for when I'm trying to get a nap?' Then he would laugh a big laugh and
make another leap, and lie down and pretend again, with his fine plumy
tail very handsome in the sun.

"But Grandpaw Hare carried the joke a little too far. He kept letting
Mr. Tortoise get up a little closer and closer every time, until Mr.
Tortoise would almost step on him before he would move. And that was
just what Mr. Tortoise wanted, for about the next time he came along he
came right up behind my ancestor, but instead of stepping on him, he
gave his head a quick snap, just as if he were catching fish, and
grabbed my Grandpaw Hare by that beautiful plumy tail, and held on, and
pinched, and my ancestor gave a squeal and a holler and set out for that
rail fence, telling his troubles as he came.

[Illustration: SAILING ALONG, JUST TOUCHING THE HIGHEST POINTS]

"Mr. Fox had gone sound asleep and didn't hear the rumpus at first, and
when he did he thought Grandpaw was just calling to him to wake up and
be ready to judge the race, so he sat up quick and watched them come. He
saw my twenty-seventh great-grandfather sailing along, just touching the
highest points, with something that looked like an old rusty washpan
tied to his tail.

"When Mr. Fox saw what it was, he just laid down and laughed and rolled
over, and then hopped up on the top rail and called out, 'All right, I'm
awake, Mr. Hare! Come right along, Mr. Hare. You'll beat him yet!'

"Then he saw my ancestor stop and shake himself, and paw, and roll
over, to try to get Mr. Tortoise loose, which of course he couldn't do,
for, as we all know, whenever any of the Turtle family get a grip they
never let go till it thunders, and this was a bright day. So pretty soon
Grandpaw was up and running again, with Mr. Tortoise sailing out behind
and Mr. Fox laughing to see them come, and calling out: 'Come right
along, Mr. Hare! Come right along! You'll beat him yet!'

[Illustration: AWAY WENT MR. TORTOISE, CLEAR OVER THE TOP RAIL]

"But Mr. Fox made a mistake about that. Grandpaw Hare was really
ahead, of course, when he came down the homestretch, but when he got
pretty close to the fence he made one more try to get Mr. Tortoise
loose, and gave himself and his tail a great big swing, and Mr. Tortoise
didn't let go quite quick enough, and off came my twenty-seventh
great-grandfather's beautiful plumy tail, and away went Mr. Tortoise
with it, clear over the top rail of the fence, and landed in a brier
patch on the other side.

"Well, Grandpaw Hare was in such a state as you never heard of! He
forgot all about the race at first, and just raved about his great loss,
and borrowed Mr. Fox's handkerchief to tie up what was left, and said
that he never in the world could show his face before folks again.

"And Mr. Fox stopped laughing as soon as he could, and was really quite
sorry for him, and even Mr. Tortoise looked through the fence, and asked
him if he didn't think it could be spliced and be almost as good as
ever.

"He said he hadn't meant to commit any injury, and that he hoped Mr.
Hare would live to forgive him, and that now there was no reason why my
grandpaw shouldn't beat him in the next race.

"Then my ancestor remembered about the race and forgot his other loss
for a minute, and declared that Mr. Tortoise didn't win the race at
all--that he couldn't have covered that much ground in a half a day
alone, and he asked Mr. Fox if he was going to let that great straddle
bug ruin his reputation for speed and make him the laughing stock of
the Big Deep Woods, besides all the other damage he had done.

"Then Mr. Fox scratched his head, and thought about it, and said he
didn't see how he could help giving the race to Mr. Tortoise, for it was
to be the first one across the fence, and that Mr. Tortoise was
certainly the first one across, and that he'd gone over the top rail in
style.

[Illustration: SET OUT FOR HOME BY A BACK WAY]

"Well, that made Grandpaw Hare madder than ever. He didn't say another
word, but just picked up his property that Mr. Tortoise handed him
through the fence, and set out for home by a back way, studying what he
ought to do to keep everybody from laughing at him, and thinking that if
he didn't do something he'd have to leave the country or drown himself,
for he had always been so proud that if people laughed at him he knew he
could never show his face again.

"And that," said Mr. Rabbit, "is the true story of that old race between
the Hare and the Tortoise, and of how the first Rabbit came to lose his
tail. I've never told it before, and none of my family ever did; but so
many stories have been told about the way those things happened that we
might just as well have this one, which is the only true one so far as I
know."

Then Mr. Rabbit lit his pipe and leaned back and smoked. Mr. Dog said it
was a fine story, and he wished he could have seen that race, and Mr.
Turtle looked as if he wanted to say something, and did open his mouth
to say it, but Mr. Crow spoke up, and asked what happened after that to
Mr. Rabbit's twenty-seventh great-grandfather, and how it was that the
rest of the Rabbits had short tails, too.

Then Mr. Rabbit said that that was another story, and Mr. Squirrel and
Mr. Robin wanted him to tell it right away, but Mr. Crow said they'd
better have supper now, and Mr. 'Possum thought that was a good plan,
and Mr. 'Coon, too, and then they all hurried around to get up some
sticks of wood from down stairs, and to set the table, and everybody
helped, so they could get through early and have a nice long evening.

And all the time the snow was coming down outside and piling higher and
higher, and it was getting too dark to see much when they tried to look
out the window through the gloom of the Big Deep Woods.



HOW THE OTHER RABBITS LOST THEIR TAILS

MR. JACK RABBIT CONTINUES HIS FAMILY HISTORY


"DID they have enough left for supper--enough for all the visitors, I
mean?" asks the Little Lady the next evening, when the Story Teller is
ready to go on with the history of the Hollow Tree.

Oh, yes, they had plenty for supper, and more, too. They had been
getting ready a good while for just such a time as this, and had carried
in a lot of food, and they had a good many nice things down in the store
room where the wood was, but they didn't need those yet. They just put
on what they had left from their big dinner, and Mr. Crow stirred up a
pan of hot biscuits by his best receipt, and they passed them back and
forth across the table so much that Mr. 'Possum said they went like hot
cakes, sure enough, and always took two when they came his way.

And they talked a good deal about the stories that Mr. 'Coon and Mr.
Rabbit had told them, and everybody thought how sly and smart Mr. 'Coon
had been to fool Mr. Dog that way; and Mr. 'Coon said that, now he came
to think it over, he supposed it was a pretty good trick, though it
really hadn't seemed so specially great to him at the time. He said he
didn't think it half as smart as Mr. Tortoise's trick on Mr. Rabbit's
Grandpaw Hare, when he beat him in the foot race and went over the fence
first, taking Mr. Hare's tail with him. And then they wondered if that
had all really happened as Mr. Rabbit had told it--all but Mr. Turtle,
who just sat and smiled to himself and didn't say anything at all,
except "Please pass the biscuits," now and then, when he saw the plate
being set down in front of Mr. 'Possum.

Then by and by they all got through and hurried up and cleared off the
table, and lit their pipes, and went back to the fire, and pretty soon
Jack Rabbit began to tell


HOW THE REST OF THE RABBITS LOST THEIR TAILS

"Well," he said, "my twenty-seventh great-grandfather Hare didn't go out
again for several days. He put up a sign that said 'Not at Home' on his
door, and then tried a few experiments, to see what could be done.

[Illustration: HE TRIED TO SPLICE HIS PROPERTY BACK IN PLACE]

"He first tried to splice his property back into place, as Mr. Tortoise
had told him he might, but that plan didn't work worth a cent. He never
could get it spliced on straight, and if he did get it about right, it
would lop over or sag down or something as soon as he moved, and when he
looked at himself in the glass he made up his mind that he'd rather do
without his nice plumy brush altogether than to go out into society
with it in that condition.

"So he gave it up and put on some nice all-healing-ointment, and before
long what there was left of it was well, and a nice bunch of soft, white
cottony fur had grown out over the scar, and Grandpaw Hare thought when
he looked at himself in the glass that it was really quite becoming,
though he knew the rest of his family would always be saying things
about it, and besides they would laugh at him for letting Mr. Tortoise
beat him in a foot race.

[Illustration: GRANDFATHER WOULD LIGHT HIS PIPE AND THINK IT OVER]

"Sometimes, when there was nobody around, my grandfather would go out
into the sun and light his pipe and lean up against a big stone, or
maybe a stump, and think it over.

"And one morning, as he sat there thinking, he made up his mind what he
would do. Mr. Lion lived in the Big Deep Woods in those days, and he was
King. Whenever anything happened among the Deep Woods People that they
couldn't decide for themselves, they went to where King Lion lived, in
a house all by himself over by the Big West Hills, and he used to settle
the question; and sometimes, when somebody that wasn't very old, and
maybe was plump and tender, had done something that wasn't just right,
King Lion would look at him and growl and say it was too bad for any one
so young to do such things, and especially for them to grow up and keep
on doing them; so he would have him for breakfast, or maybe for dinner,
and that would settle everything in the easiest and shortest way.

"Of course Grandfather Hare knew very well that Mr. Tortoise and Mr. Fox
wouldn't go with him to King Lion, for they would be afraid to, after
what they had done, so he made up his mind to go alone and tell him the
whole story, because he was as sure as anything that King Lion would
decide that he had really won the race, and would be his friend, which
would make all the other Deep Woods People jealous and proud of him
again, and perhaps make them wish they had nice bunches of white
cottony fur in the place of long dragging tails that were always in the
way.

"And then some day he would show King Lion where Mr. Fox and Mr.
Tortoise lived.

"My Grandfather Hare didn't stop a minute after he thought of that, but
just set out for King Lion's house over at the foot of the Big West
Hills. He had to pass by Mr. Fox's house, and Mr. Fox called to him, but
Grandpaw Hare just set up his ears as proud as could be and went by,
lickety split, without looking at Mr. Fox at all.

"It was a good way to King Lion's house, but Grandpaw Hare didn't waste
any time, and he was there almost before he knew it.

"When he got to King Lion's door he hammered on the knocker, and when
nobody came right away he thought maybe the King was out for a walk. But
that wasn't so. King Lion had been sick for two or three days, and he
was still in bed, and had to get up and get something around him before
he could let Grandpaw in.

"Grandpaw Hare had sat down on the steps to wait, when all at once the
door opened behind him and he felt something grab him by the collar and
swing him in and set him down hard on a seat, and then he saw it was
King Lion, and he didn't much like his looks.

[Illustration: "GLAD TO SEE YOU," SAID KING LION; "I WAS JUST THINKING
ABOUT HAVING A RABBIT FOR BREAKFAST"]

"'So it was you, was it, making that noise?' he said. 'Well, I'm glad to
see you, for I was just thinking about having a nice rabbit for
breakfast.'

"Then my twenty-seventh great-grandfather knew he'd made a mistake,
coming to see King Lion when he was feeling that way, and he had to
think pretty quick to know what to say. But our family have always been
pretty quick in their thoughts, and Grandpaw Hare spoke right up as
polite as could be, and said he would do anything he could to find a
nice young plump rabbit for King Lion, and that he would even be proud
to be a king's breakfast himself, only he wasn't so very young nor so
very plump, and, besides, there was that old prophecy about the king
and the cotton-tailed rabbit, which of course, he said, King Lion must
have heard about.

"Then King Lion said that my twenty-seventh great-grandfather was plenty
young enough and plenty plump enough, and that he'd never heard of any
prophecy about a cotton-tailed rabbit, and that he'd never heard of a
cotton-tailed rabbit, either.

"Then Grandpaw Hare just got up and turned around, and as he turned he
said, as solemnly as he could:--

          "'When the King eats a hare with a cotton tail,
            Then the King's good health will fail.'

"Well, that scared the King a good deal, for he was just getting over
one sick spell, and he was afraid if he had another right away he'd die,
sure. He sat down and asked Grandpaw Hare to tell him how he came to
have a tail like that, and Grandpaw told him, and it made the King laugh
and laugh, until he got well, and he said it was the best joke he ever
heard of, and that he'd have given some of the best ornaments off of
his crown to have seen that race.

"And the better King Lion felt the hungrier he got, and when my
Grandfather Hare asked him if he wouldn't decide the race in his favor,
he just glared at him and said if he didn't get out of there and hunt
him up a nice, young, plump, long-tailed rabbit, he'd eat him--cotton
tail, prophecy, and all--for he didn't go much on prophecies, anyway.

"Then Grandpaw Hare got right up and said, 'Good day,' and backed out
and made tracks for the rest of his family, and told them that King Lion
had just got up from a sick spell that had given him an appetite for
long-tailed rabbits. He said that the King had sent him out to get one,
and that King Lion would most likely be along himself pretty soon. He
said the sooner the Rabbit family took pattern after the new
cotton-tailed style the more apt they'd be to live to a green old age
and have descendants.

"Well, that was a busy day in the Big Deep Woods. The Rabbit family got
in line by a big smooth stump that they picked out for the purpose, and
Grandpaw borrowed a hatchet and attended to the job for them, and called
out 'Next!' as they marched by. He didn't have to wait, either, for they
didn't know what minute King Lion might come. Mr. Tortoise and Mr. Fox
came along and stopped to see the job, and helped Grandpaw now and then
when his arm got tired, and by evening there was a pile of tails by that
stump as big as King Lion's house, and there never was such a call for
the all-healing-ointment as there was that night in the Big Deep Woods.

"And none of our family ever did have tails after that, for they never
would grow any more, and all the little new rabbits just had bunches of
cotton, too, and that has never changed to this day."

"And when King Lion heard how he'd been fooled by Grandpaw Hare with
that foolish prophecy that he just made up right there, out of his
head, he knew that everybody would laugh at him as much as he had
laughed at Mr. Hare, and he moved out of the country and never came
back, and there's never been a king in the Big Deep Woods since, so my
twenty-seventh great-grandfather did some good, after all.

"And that," said Mr. Rabbit, "is the whole story of the Hare and the
Tortoise and how the Rabbit family lost their tails. It's never been
told outside of our family before, but it's true, for it's been handed
down, word for word, and if Mr. Fox or Mr. Tortoise were alive now they
would say so."

Mr. Rabbit filled his pipe and lit it, and Mr. Crow was just about to
make some remarks when Mr. Turtle cleared his throat and said:--

"The story that Mr. Rabbit has been telling is all true, every word of
it--I was there."

Then all the Deep Woods People took their pipes out of their mouths and
just looked at Mr. Turtle with their mouths wide open, and when they
could say anything at all, they said:--

"_You were there!_"

You see, they could never get used to the notion of Mr. Turtle's being
so old--as old as their twenty-seventh great-grandfathers would have
been, if they had lived.

"Yes," said Mr. Turtle, "and it all comes back to me as plain as day. It
happened two hundred and fifty-eight years ago last June. They used to
call us the Tortoise family then, and I was a young fellow of
sixty-seven and fond of a joke. But I was surprised when I went sailing
over that fence, and I didn't mean to carry off Mr. Hare's tail. Dear
me, how time passes! I'm three hundred and twenty-five now, though I
don't feel it."

Then they all looked at Mr. Turtle again, for though they believed he
was old, and might possibly have been there, they thought it pretty
strange that he could be the very Mr. Tortoise who had won the race.

Mr. 'Possum said, pretty soon, that when anybody said a thing like that,
there ought to be some way to prove it.

Then Mr. Turtle got up and began taking off his coat, and all the others
began to get out of the way, for they didn't know what was going to
happen to Mr. 'Possum, and they wanted to be safe; and Mr. 'Possum
rolled under the table, and said that he didn't mean anything--that he
loved Mr. Turtle, and that Mr. Turtle hadn't understood the way he meant
it at all.

But Mr. Turtle wasn't the least bit mad. He just laid off his coat,
quietly, and unbuttoned his shirt collar, and told Mr. 'Coon and Mr.
Crow to look on the back of his shell.

And then Mr. Dog held a candle, and they all looked, one after another,
and there, sure enough, carved right in Mr. Turtle's shell, were the
words:--

                           BEAT MR. HARE
                             FOOT RACE
                           JUNE 10, 1649

"That," said Mr. Turtle, "was my greatest joke, and I had it carved on
my shell."

And all the rest of the forest people said that a thing like that was
worth carving on anybody's shell that had one, and when Mr. Turtle put
on his coat they gave him the best seat by the fire, and sat and looked
at him and asked questions about it, and finally all went to sleep in
their chairs, while the fire burned low and the soft snow was banking up
deeper and deeper, outside, in the dark.

[Illustration]

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note:

Illustrations were moved from their original location. They are now
located more closely to the text that forms the caption.





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