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´╗┐Title: The Burgess Bird Book for 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 "The Burgess Bird Book for Children" ***

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THE BURGESS BIRD BOOK FOR CHILDREN

By Thornton W. Burgess



     TO THE CHILDREN AND THE BIRDS
  OF AMERICA THAT THE BONDS OF LOVE AND
    FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN THEM MAY BE
             STRENGTHENED
        THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED



PREFACE

This book was written to supply a definite need. Its preparation was
undertaken at the urgent request of booksellers and others who have
felt the lack of a satisfactory medium of introduction to bird life for
little children. As such, and in no sense whatever as a competitor
with the many excellent books on this subject, but rather to supplement
these, this volume has been written.

Its primary purpose is to interest the little child in, and to make
him acquainted with, those feathered friends he is most likely to see.
Because there is no method of approach to the child mind equal to the
story, this method of conveying information has been adopted. So far
as I am aware the book is unique in this respect. In its preparation an
earnest effort has been made to present as far as possible the important
facts regarding the appearance, habits and characteristics of our
feathered neighbors. It is intended to be at once a story book and an
authoritative handbook. While it is intended for little children, it
is hoped that children of larger growth may find in it much of both
interest and helpfulness.

Mr. Louis Agassiz Fuertes, artist and naturalist, has marvelously
supplemented such value as may be in the text by his wonderful drawings
in full color. They were made especially for this volume and are so
accurate, so true to life, that study of them will enable any one to
identify the species shown. I am greatly indebted to Mr. Fuertes for his
cooperation in the endeavor to make this book of real assistance to the
beginner in the study of our native birds.

It is offered to the reader without apologies of any sort. It was
written as a labor of love--love for little children and love for the
birds. If as a result of it even a few children are led to a keener
interest in and better understanding of our feathered friends, its
purpose will have been accomplished.

                                          THORNTON W. BURGESS


CONTENTS

        I JENNY WREN ARRIVES
          Introducing the House Wren.

       II THE OLD ORCHARD BULLY
          The English or House Sparrow.

      III JENNY HAS A GOOD WORD FOR SOME SPARROWS
          The Song, White-throated and Fox Sparrows.

      IV  CHIPPY, SWEETVOICE AND DOTTY
          The Chipping, Vesper and Tree Sparrows.

       V  PETER LEARNS SOMETHING HE HADN'T GUESSED
          The Bluebird and the Robin.

      VI  AN OLD FRIEND IN A NEW HOME
          The Phoebe and the Least Flycatcher.

     VII  THE WATCHMAN OF THE OLD ORCHARD
          The Kingbird and the Great Crested Flycatcher.

    VIII  OLD CLOTHES AND OLD HOUSES
          The Wood Peewee and Some Nesting Places.

      IX  LONGBILL AND TEETER
          The Woodcock and the Spotted Sandpiper.

       X  REDWING AND YELLOW WING
          The Red-winged Blackbird and the Golden-winged Flicker.

      XI  DRUMMERS AND CARPENTERS
          The Downy, Hairy and Red-headed Woodpeckers.

     XII  SOME UNLIKE RELATIVES
     The Cowbird and the Baltimore Oriole.

    XIII  MORE OF THE BLACKBIRD FAMILY
     The Orchard Oriole and the Bobolink.

     XIV  BOB WHITE AND CAROL THE MEADOW LARK
     The So-called Quail and the Meadow Lark.

      XV  A SWALLOW AND ONE WHO ISN'T
     The Tree Swallow and the Chimney Swift.

     XVI  A ROBBER IN THE OLD ORCHARD
     The Purple Martin and the Barn Swallow.

    XVII  MORE ROBBERS
     The Crow and the Blue Jay.

   XVIII  SOME HOMES IN THE GREEN FOREST
          The Crow, the Oven Bird and the Red-tailed Hawk.

     XIX  A MAKER OF THUNDER AND A FRIEND IN BLACK
     The Ruffed Grouse and the Crow Blackbird.

      XX  A FISHERMAN ROBBED
     The Osprey and the Bald-headed Eagle.

     XXI  A FISHING PARTY
     The Great Blue Heron and the Kingfisher.

    XXII  SOME FEATHERED DIGGERS
          The Bank Swallow, the Kingfisher and the Sparrow Hawk.

   XXIII  SOME BIG MOUTHS
       The Nighthawk, the Whip-poor-will and Chuck-wills-widow.

    XXIV  THE WARBLERS ARRIVE
     The Redstart and the Yellow Warbler.

     XXV  THREE COUSINS QUITE UNLIKE
      The Black and White Warbler, the Maryland Yellow-Throat
          and the Yellow-breasted Chat.

    XXVI  PETER GETS A LAME NECK
          The Parula, Myrtle and Magnolia Warblers.

   XXVII  A NEW FRIEND AND AN OLD ONE
          The Cardinal and the Catbird.

  XXVIII  PETER SEES ROSEBREAST AND FINDS REDCOAT
          The Rose-breasted Grosbeak and the Scarlet Tanager.

    XXIX  THE CONSTANT SINGERS
          The Red-eyed, Warbling and Yellow-throated Vireos.

     XXX  JENNY WREN'S COUSINS
          The Brown Thrasher and the Mockingbird.

    XXXI  VOICE OF THE DUSK
     The Wood, Hermit and Wilson's Thrushes.

   XXXII  PETER SAVES A FRIEND AND LEARNS SOMETHING
          The Towhee and the Indigo Bunting.

  XXXIII  A ROYAL DRESSER AND A LATE NESTER
          The Purple Linnet and the Goldfinch.

   XXXIV  MOURNER THE DOVE AND CUCKOO
     The Mourning Dove and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

    XXXV  A BUTCHER AND A HUMMER
         The Shrike and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

   XXXVI  A STRANGER AND A DANDY
          The English Starling and the Cedar Waxwing.

  XXXVII  FAREWELLS AND WELCOMES
      The Chickadee.

 XXXVIII  HONKER AND DIPPY ARRIVE
     The Canada Goose and the Loon.

   XXXIX  PETER DISCOVERS TWO OLD FRIENDS
       The White-breasted Nuthatch and the Brown Creeper.

      XL  SOME MERRY SEED-EATERS
     The Tree Sparrow and the Junco.

     XLI  MORE FRIENDS COME WITH THE SNOW
          The Snow Bunting and the Horned Lark.

    XLII  PETER LEARNS SOMETHING ABOUT SPOOKY
     The Screech Owl.

   XLIII  QUEER FEET AND A QUEERER BILL
          The Ruffed Grouse and the Crossbills.

     XLIV MORE FOLKS IN RED
          The Pine Grosbeak and the Redpoll.

     XLV  PETER SEES TWO TERRIBLE FEATHERED HUNTERS
          The Goshawk and the Great Horned Owl.



THE BURGESS BIRD BOOK FOR CHILDREN



CHAPTER I. Jenny Wren Arrives.

Lipperty-lipperty-lip scampered Peter Rabbit behind the tumble-down
stone wall along one side of the Old Orchard. It was early in the
morning, very early in the morning. In fact, jolly, bright Mr. Sun had
hardly begun his daily climb up in the blue, blue sky. It was nothing
unusual for Peter to see jolly Mr. Sun get up in the morning. It would
be more unusual for Peter not to see him, for you know Peter is a great
hand to stay out all night and not go back to the dear Old Briar-patch,
where his home is, until the hour when most folks are just getting out
of bed.

Peter had been out all night this time, but he wasn't sleepy, not the
least teeny, weeny bit. You see, sweet Mistress Spring had arrived, and
there was so much happening on every side, and Peter was so afraid he
would miss something, that he wouldn't have slept at all if he could
have helped it. Peter had come over to the Old Orchard so early this
morning to see if there had been any new arrivals the day before.

"Birds are funny creatures," said Peter, as he hopped over a low place
in the old stone wall and was fairly in the Old Orchard.

"Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut!" cried a rather sharp scolding voice. "Tut,
tut, tut, tut, tut! You don't know what you are talking about, Peter
Rabbit. They are not funny creatures at all. They are the most sensible
folks in all the wide world."

Peter cut a long hop short right in the middle, to sit up with shining
eyes. "Oh, Jenny Wren, I'm so glad to see you! When did you arrive?" he
cried.

"Mr. Wren and I have just arrived, and thank goodness we are here at
last," replied Jenny Wren, fussing about, as only she can, in a branch
above Peter. "I never was more thankful in my life to see a place than I
am right this minute to see the Old Orchard once more. It seems ages and
ages since we left it."

"Well, if you are so fond of it what did you leave it for?" demanded
Peter. "It is just as I said before--you birds are funny creatures. You
never stay put; at least a lot of you don't. Sammy Jay and Tommy Tit
the Chickadee and Drummer the Woodpecker and a few others have a little
sense; they don't go off on long, foolish journeys. But the rest of
you--"

"Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut!" interrupted Jenny Wren. "You don't know what
you are talking about, and no one sounds so silly as one who tries to
talk about something he knows nothing about."

Peter chuckled. "That tongue of yours is just as sharp as ever," said
he. "But just the same it is good to hear it. We certainly would miss
it. I was beginning to be a little worried for fear something might have
happened to you so that you wouldn't be back here this summer. You know
me well enough, Jenny Wren, to know that you can't hurt me with your
tongue, sharp as it is, so you may as well save your breath to tell me a
few things I want to know. Now if you are as fond of the Old Orchard as
you pretend to be, why did you ever leave it?"

Jenny Wren's bright eyes snapped. "Why do you eat?" she asked tartly.

"Because I'm hungry," replied Peter promptly.

"What would you eat if there were nothing to eat?" snapped Jenny.

"That's a silly question," retorted Peter.

"No more silly than asking me why I leave the Old Orchard," replied
Jenny. "Do give us birds credit for a little common sense, Peter. We
can't live without eating any more than you can, and in winter there is
no food at all here for most of us, so we go where there is food. Those
who are lucky enough to eat the kinds of food that can be found here in
winter stay here. They are lucky. That's what they are--lucky. Still--"
Jenny Wren paused.

"Still what?" prompted Peter.

"I wonder sometimes if you folks who are at home all the time know just
what a blessed place home is," replied Jenny. "It is only six months
since we went south, but I said it seems ages, and it does. The best
part of going away is coming home. I don't care if that does sound
rather mixed; it is true just the same. It isn't home down there in the
sunny South, even if we do spend as much time there as we do here. THIS
is home, and there's no place like it! What's that, Mr. Wren? I haven't
seen all the Great World? Perhaps I haven't, but I've seen enough of it,
let me tell you that! Anyone who travels a thousand miles twice a year
as we do has a right to express an opinion, especially if they have used
their eyes as I have mine. There is no place like home, and you needn't
try to tease me by pretending that there is. My dear, I know you; you
are just as tickled to be back here as I am."

"He sings as if he were," said Peter, for all the time Mr. Wren was
singing with all his might.

Jenny Wren looked over at Mr. Wren fondly. "Isn't he a dear to sing to
me like that? And isn't it a perfectly beautiful spring song?" said she.
Then, without waiting for Peter to reply, her tongue rattled on. "I do
wish he would be careful. Sometimes I am afraid he will overdo. Just
look at him now! He is singing so hard that he is shaking all over. He
always is that way. There is one thing true about us Wrens, and this is
that when we do things we do them with all our might. When we work
we work with all our might. When Mr. Wren sings he sings with all his
might."

"And, when you scold you scold with all your might," interrupted Peter
mischievously.

Jenny Wren opened her mouth for a sharp reply, but laughed instead. "I
suppose I do scold a good deal," said she, "but if I didn't goodness
knows who wouldn't impose on us. I can't bear to be imposed on."

"Did you have a pleasant journey up from the sunny South?" asked Peter.

"Fairly pleasant," replied Jenny. "We took it rather easily, Some birds
hurry right through without stopping, but I should think they would be
tired to death when they arrive. We rest whenever we are tired, and just
follow along behind Mistress Spring, keeping far enough behind so that
if she has to turn back we will not get caught by Jack Frost. It gives
us time to get our new suits on the way. You know everybody expects you
to have new things when you return home. How do you like my new suit,
Peter?" Jenny bobbed and twisted and turned to show it off. It was plain
to see that she was very proud of it.

"Very much," replied Peter. "I am very fond of brown. Brown and gray are
my favorite colors." You know Peter's own coat is brown and gray.

"That is one of the most sensible things I have heard you say,"
chattered Jenny Wren. "The more I see of bright colors the better I like
brown. It always is in good taste. It goes well with almost everything.
It is neat and it is useful. If there is need of getting out of sight in
a hurry you can do it if you wear brown. But if you wear bright colors
it isn't so easy. I never envy anybody who happens to have brighter
clothes than mine. I've seen dreadful things happen all because of
wearing bright colors."

"What?" demanded Peter.

"I'd rather not talk about them," declared Jenny in a very emphatic way.
"'Way down where we spent the winter some of the feathered folks who
live there all the year round wear the brightest and most beautiful
suits I've ever seen. They are simply gorgeous. But I've noticed that in
times of danger these are the folks dreadful things happen to. You see
they simply can't get out of sight. For my part I would far rather be
simply and neatly dressed and feel safe than to wear wonderful clothes
and never know a minute's peace. Why, there are some families I know of
which, because of their beautiful suits, have been so hunted by men that
hardly any are left. But gracious, Peter Rabbit, I can't sit here all
day talking to you! I must find out who else has arrived in the Old
Orchard and must look my old house over to see if it is fit to live in."



CHAPTER II. The Old Orchard Bully.

Peter Rabbit's eyes twinkled when Jenny Wren said that she must look
her old house over to see if it was fit to live in. "I can save you that
trouble," said he.

"What do you mean?" Jenny's voice was very sharp.

"Only that our old house is already occupied," replied Peter. "Bully the
English Sparrow has been living in it for the last two months. In fact,
he already has a good-sized family there."

"What?" screamed Jenny and Mr. Wren together. Then without even saying
good-by to Peter, they flew in a great rage to see if he had told them
the truth. Presently he heard them scolding as fast as their tongues
could go, and this is very fast indeed.

"Much good that will do them," chuckled Peter. "They will have to find
a new house this year. All the sharp tongues in the world couldn't budge
Bully the English sparrow. My, my, my, my, just hear that racket! I
think I'll go over and see what is going on."

So Peter hopped to a place where he could get a good view of Jenny
Wren's old home and still not be too far from the safety of the old
stone wall. Jenny Wren's old home had been in a hole in one of the old
apple-trees. Looking over to it, Peter could see Mrs. Bully sitting
in the little round doorway and quite filling it. She was shrieking
excitedly. Hopping and flitting from twig to twig close by were Jenny
and Mr. Wren, their tails pointing almost straight up to the sky, and
scolding as fast as they could make their tongues go. Flying savagely at
one and then at the other, and almost drowning their voices with his own
harsh cries, was Bully himself. He was perhaps one fourth larger than
Mr. Wren, although he looked half again as big. But for the fact that
his new spring suit was very dirty, due to his fondness for taking dust
baths and the fact that he cares nothing about his personal appearance
and takes no care of himself, he would have been a fairly good-looking
fellow. His back was more or less of an ashy color with black and
chestnut stripes. His wings were brown with a white bar on each. His
throat and breast were black, and below that he was of a dirty white.
The sides of his throat were white and the back of his neck chestnut.

By ruffling up his feathers and raising his wings slightly as he hopped
about, he managed to make himself appear much bigger than he really was.
He looked like a regular little fighting savage. The noise had brought
all the other birds in the Old Orchard to see what was going on, and
every one of them was screaming and urging Jenny and Mr. Wren to stand
up for their rights. Not one of them had a good word for Bully and his
wife. It certainly was a disgraceful neighborhood squabble.

Bully the English Sparrow is a born fighter. He never is happier than
when he is in the midst of a fight or a fuss of some kind. The fact that
all his neighbors were against him didn't bother Bully in the least.

Jenny and Mr. Wren are no cowards, but the two together were no match
for Bully. In fact, Bully did not hesitate to fly fiercely at any of the
onlookers who came near enough, not even when they were twice his own
size. They could have driven him from the Old Orchard had they set out
to, but just by his boldness and appearance he made them afraid to try.

All the time Mrs. Bully sat in the little round doorway, encouraging
him. She knew that as long as she sat there it would be impossible for
either Jenny or Mr. Wren to get in. Truth to tell, she was enjoying
it all, for she is as quarrelsome and as fond of fighting as is Bully
himself.

"You're a sneak! You're a robber! That's my house, and the sooner you
get out of it the better!" shrieked Jenny Wren, jerking her tail with
every word as she hopped about just out of reach of Bully.

"It may have been your house once, but it is mine now, you little
snip-of-nothing!" cried Bully, rushing at her like a little fury. "Just
try to put us out if you dare! You didn't make this house in the first
place, and you deserted it when you went south last fall. It's mine now,
and there isn't anybody in the Old Orchard who can put me out."

Peter Rabbit nodded. "He's right there," muttered Peter. "I don't like
him and never will, but it is true that he has a perfect right to that
house. People who go off and leave things for half a year shouldn't
expect to find them just as they left them. My, my, my what a dreadful
noise! Why don't they all get together and drive Bully and Mrs. Bully
out of the Old Orchard? If they don't I'm afraid he will drive them out.
No one likes to live with such quarrelsome neighbors. They don't belong
over in this country, anyway, and we would be a lot better off if they
were not here. But I must say I do have to admire their spunk."

All the time Bully was darting savagely at this one and that one and
having a thoroughly good time, which is more than could be said of any
one else, except Mrs. Bully.

"I'll teach you folks to know that I am in the Old Orchard to stay!"
shrieked Bully. "If you don't like it, why don't you fight? I am not
afraid of any of you or all of you together." This was boasting, plain
boasting, but it was effective. He actually made the other birds believe
it. Not one of them dared stand up to him and fight. They were content
to call him a bully and all the bad names they could think of, but that
did nothing to help Jenny and Mr. Wren recover their house. Calling
another bad names never hurts him. Brave deeds and not brave words are
what count.

How long that disgraceful squabble in the Old Orchard would have lasted
had it not been for something which happened, no one knows. Right in the
midst of it some one discovered Black Pussy, the cat who lives in Farmer
Brown's house, stealing up through the Old Orchard, her tail twitching
and her yellow eyes glaring eagerly. She had heard that dreadful racket
and suspected that in the midst of such excitement she might have a
chance to catch one of the feathered folks. You can always trust Black
Pussy to be on hand at a time like that.

No sooner was she discovered than everything else was forgotten. With
Bully in the lead, and Jenny and Mr. Wren close behind him, all the
birds turned their attention to Black Pussy. She was the enemy of all,
and they straightway forgot their own quarrel. Only Mrs. Bully remained
where she was, in the little round doorway of her house. She intended
to take no chances, but she added her voice to the general racket. How
those birds did shriek and scream! They darted down almost into the face
of Black Pussy, and none went nearer than Bully the English Sparrow and
Jenny Wren.

Now Black Pussy hates to be the center of so much attention. She knew
that, now she had been discovered, there wasn't a chance in the world
for her to catch one of those Old Orchard folks. So, with tail still
twitching angrily, she turned and, with such dignity as she could, left
the Old Orchard. Clear to the edge of it the birds followed, shrieking,
screaming, calling her bad names, and threatening to do all sorts of
dreadful things to her, quite as if they really could.

When finally she disappeared towards Farmer Brown's barn, those angry
voices changed. It was such a funny change that Peter Rabbit laughed
right out. Instead of anger there was triumph in every note as everybody
returned to attend to his own affairs. Jenny and Mr. Wren seemed to have
forgotten all about Bully and his wife in their old house. They flew to
another part of the Old Orchard, there to talk it all over and rest and
get their breath. Peter Rabbit waited to see if they would not come
over near enough to him for a little more gossip. But they didn't, and
finally Peter started for his home in the dear Old Briar-patch. All the
way there he chuckled as he thought of the spunky way in which Jenny and
Mr. Wren had stood up for their rights.



CHAPTER III. Jenny Has a Good Word for Some Sparrows.

The morning after the fight between Jenny and Mr. Wren and Bully the
English Sparrow found Peter Rabbit in the Old Orchard again. He was so
curious to know what Jenny Wren would do for a house that nothing but
some very great danger could have kept him away from there. Truth to
tell, Peter was afraid that not being able to have their old house,
Jenny and Mr. Wren would decide to leave the Old Orchard altogether. So
it was with a great deal of relief that as he hopped over a low place in
the old stone wall he heard Mr. Wren singing with all his might.

The song was coming from quite the other side of the Old Orchard from
where Bully and Mrs. Bully had set up housekeeping. Peter hurried over.
He found Mr. Wren right away, but at first saw nothing of Jenny. He
was just about to ask after her when he caught sight of her with a tiny
stick in her bill. She snapped her sharp little eyes at him, but for
once her tongue was still. You see, she couldn't talk and carry that
stick at the same time. Peter watched her and saw her disappear in a
little hole in a big branch of one of the old apple-trees. Hardly had
she popped in than she popped out again. This time her mouth was free,
and so was her tongue.

"You'd better stop singing and help me," she said to Mr. Wren sharply.
Mr. Wren obediently stopped singing and began to hunt for a tiny little
twig such as Jenny had taken into that hole.

"Well!" exclaimed Peter. "It didn't take you long to find a new house,
did it?"

"Certainly not," snapped Jenny "We can't afford to sit around wasting
time like some folk I know."

Peter grinned and looked a little foolish, but he didn't resent it. You
see he was quite used to that sort of thing. "Aren't you afraid that
Bully will try to drive you out of that house?" he ventured.

Jenny Wren's sharp little eyes snapped more than ever. "I'd like to see
him try!" said she. "That doorway's too small for him to get more than
his head in. And if he tries putting his head in while I'm inside, I'll
peck his eyes out! She said this so fiercely that Peter laughed right
out.

"I really believe you would," said he.

"I certainly would," she retorted. "Now I can't stop to talk to you,
Peter Rabbit, because I'm too busy. Mr. Wren, you ought to know that
that stick is too big." Jenny snatched it out of Mr. Wren's mouth
and dropped it on the ground, while Mr. Wren meekly went to hunt for
another. Jenny joined him, and as Peter watched them he understood why
Jenny is so often spoken of as a feathered busybody.

For some time Peter Rabbit watched Jenny and Mr. Wren carry sticks and
straws into that little hole until it seemed to him they were trying
to fill the whole inside of the tree. Just watching them made Peter
positively tired. Mr. Wren would stop every now and then to sing, but
Jenny didn't waste a minute. In spite of that she managed to talk just
the same.

"I suppose Little Friend the Song Sparrow got here some time ago," said
she.

Peter nodded. "Yes," said he. "I saw him only a day or two ago over by
the Laughing Brook, and although he wouldn't say so, I'm sure that he
has a nest and eggs already."

Jenny Wren jerked her tail and nodded her head vigorously. "I suppose
so," said she. "He doesn't have to make as long a journey as we do, so
he gets here sooner. Did you ever in your life see such a difference as
there is between Little Friend and his cousin, Bully? Everybody loves
Little Friend."

Once more Peter nodded. "That's right," said he. "Everybody does love
Little Friend. It makes me feel sort of all glad inside just to hear
him sing. I guess it makes everybody feel that way. I wonder why we so
seldom see him up here in the Old Orchard."

"Because he likes damp places with plenty of bushes better," replied
Jenny Wren. "It wouldn't do for everybody to like the same kind of
a place. He isn't a tree bird, anyway. He likes to be on or near the
ground. You will never find his nest much above the ground, not more
than a foot or two. Quite often it is on the ground. Of course I prefer
Mr. Wren's song, but I must admit that Little Friend has one of the
happiest songs of any one I know. Then, too, he is so modest, just like
us Wrens."

Peter turned his head aside to hide a smile, for if there is anybody
who delights in being both seen and heard it is Jenny Wren, while Little
Friend the Song Sparrow is shy and retiring, content to make all the
world glad with his song, but preferring to keep out of sight as much as
possible.

Jenny chattered on as she hunted for some more material for her nest. "I
suppose you've noticed," said she, "that he and his wife dress very much
alike. They don't go in for bright colors any more than we Wrens do.
They show good taste. I like the little brown caps they wear, and the
way their breasts and sides are streaked with brown. Then, too, they are
such useful folks. It is a pity that that nuisance of a Bully doesn't
learn something from them. I suppose they stay rather later than we do
in the fall."

"Yes," replied Peter. "They don't go until Jack Frost makes them. I
don't know of any one that we miss more than we do them."

"Speaking of the sparrow family, did you see anything of Whitethroat?"
asked Jenny Wren, as she rested for a moment in the doorway of her new
house and looked down at Peter Rabbit.

Peter's face brightened. "I should say I did!" he exclaimed. "He stopped
for a few days on his way north. I only wish he would stay here all the
time. But he seems to think there is no place like the Great Woods
of the North. I could listen all day to his song. Do you know what he
always seems to be saying?"

"What?" demanded Jenny.

"I live happ-i-ly, happ-i-ly, happ-i-ly," replied Peter. "I guess he
must too, because he makes other people so happy."

Jenny nodded in her usual emphatic way. "I don't know him as well as I
do some of the others," said she, "but when I have seen him down in
the South he always has appeared to me to be a perfect gentleman. He is
social, too; he likes to travel with others."

"I've noticed that," said Peter. "He almost always has company when he
passes through here. Some of those Sparrows are so much alike that it
is hard for me to tell them apart, but I can always tell Whitethroat
because he is one of the largest of the tribe and has such a lovely
white throat. He really is handsome with his black and white cap and
that bright yellow spot before each eye. I am told that he is very
dearly loved up in the north where he makes his home. They say he sings
all the time."

"I suppose Scratcher the Fox Sparrow has been along too," said Jenny.
"He also started sometime before we did."

"Yes," replied Peter. "He spent one night in the dear Old Briar-patch.
He is fine looking too, the biggest of all the Sparrow tribe, and HOW he
can sing. The only thing I've got against him is the color of his
coat. It always reminds me of Reddy Fox, and I don't like anything that
reminds me of that fellow. When he visited us I discovered something
about Scratcher which I don't believe you know."

"What?" demanded Jenny rather sharply.

"That when he scratches among the leaves he uses both feet at once,"
cried Peter triumphantly. "It's funny to watch him."

"Pooh! I knew that," retorted Jenny Wren. "What do you suppose my eyes
are make for? I thought you were going to tell me something I didn't
know."

Peter looked disappointed.



CHAPTER IV. Chippy, Sweetvoice, and Dotty.

For a while Jenny Wren was too busy to talk save to scold Mr. Wren for
spending so much time singing instead of working. To Peter it seemed
as if they were trying to fill that tree trunk with rubbish. "I should
think they had enough stuff in there for half a dozen nests," muttered
Peter. "I do believe they are carrying it in for the fun of working."
Peter wasn't far wrong in this thought, as he was to discover a little
later in the season when he found Mr. Wren building another nest for
which he had no use.

Finding that for the time being he could get nothing more from Jenny
Wren, Peter hopped over to visit Johnny Chuck, whose home was between
the roots of an old apple-tree in the far corner of the Old Orchard.
Peter was still thinking of the Sparrow family; what a big family it
was, yet how seldom any of them, excepting Bully the English Sparrow,
were to be found in the Old Orchard.

"Hello, Johnny Chuck!" cried Peter, as he discovered Johnny sitting on
his doorstep. "You've lived in the Old Orchard a long time, so you ought
to be able to tell me something I want to know. Why is it that none of
the Sparrow family excepting that noisy nuisance, Bully, build in the
trees of the Old Orchard? Is it because Bully has driven all the rest
out?"

Johnny Chuck shook his head. "Peter," said he, "whatever is the matter
with your ears? And whatever is the matter with your eyes?"

"Nothing," replied Peter rather shortly. "They are as good as yours any
day, Johnny Chuck."

Johnny grinned. "Listen!" said Johnny. Peter listened. From a tree just
a little way off came a clear "Chip, chip, chip, chip." Peter didn't
need to be told to look. He knew without looking who was over there. He
knew that voice for that of one of his oldest and best friends in the
Old Orchard, a little fellow with a red-brown cap, brown back with
feathers streaked with black, brownish wings and tail, a gray waistcoat
and black bill, and a little white line over each eye--altogether as
trim a little gentleman as Peter was acquainted with. It was Chippy, as
everybody calls the Chipping Sparrow, the smallest of the family.

Peter looked a little foolish. "I forgot all about Chippy," said he.
"Now I think of it, I have found Chippy here in the Old Orchard ever
since I can remember. I never have seen his nest because I never
happened to think about looking for it. Does he build a trashy nest like
his cousin, Bully?"

Johnny Chuck laughed. "I should say not!" he exclaimed. "Twice Chippy
and Mrs. Chippy have built their nest in this very old apple-tree. There
is no trash in their nest, I can tell you! It is just as dainty as they
are, and not a bit bigger than it has to be. It is made mostly of little
fine, dry roots, and it is lined inside with horse-hair."

"What's that?" Peter's voice sounded as it he suspected that Johnny
Chuck was trying to fool him.

"It's a fact," said Johnny, nodding his head gravely. "Goodness knows
where they find it these days, but find it they do. Here comes Chippy
himself; ask him."

Chippy and Mrs. Chippy came flitting from tree to tree until they were
on a branch right over Peter and Johnny. "Hello!" cried Peter. "You
folks seem very busy. Haven't you finished building your nest yet?"

"Nearly," replied Chippy. "It is all done but the horsehair. We are on
our way up to Farmer Brown's barnyard now to look for some. You haven't
seen any around anywhere, have you?"

Peter and Johnny shook their heads, and Peter confessed that he wouldn't
know horsehair if he saw it. He often had found hair from the coats of
Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote and Digger the Badger and Lightfoot the
Deer, but hair from the coat of a horse was altogether another matter.

"It isn't hair from the coat of a horse that we want," cried Chippy, as
he prepared to fly after Mrs. Chippy. "It is long hair form the tail
or mane of a horse that we must have. It makes the very nicest kind of
lining for a nest."

Chippy and Mrs. Chippy were gone a long time, but when they did return
each was carrying a long black hair. They had found what they wanted,
and Mrs. Chippy was in high spirits because, as she took pains to
explain to Peter, that little nest would not soon be ready for the four
beautiful little blue eggs with black spots on one end she meant to lay
in it.

"I just love Chippy and Mrs. Chippy," said Peter, as they watched their
two little feathered friends putting the finishing touches to the little
nest far out on a branch of one of the apple-trees.

"Everybody does," replied Johnny. "Everybody loves them as much as they
hate Bully and his wife. Did you know that they are sometimes called
Tree Sparrows? I suppose it is because they so often build their nests
in trees?"

"No," said Peter, "I didn't. Chippy shouldn't be called Tree Sparrow,
because he has a cousin by that name."

Johnny Chuck looked as if he doubted that, "I never heard of him," he
grunted.

Peter grinned. Here was a chance to tell Johnny Chuck something, and
Peter never is happier than when he can tell folks something they don't
know. "You'd know him if you didn't sleep all winter," said Peter.
"Dotty the Tree Sparrow spends the winter here. He left for his home in
the Far North about the time you took it into your head to wake up."

"Why do you call him Dotty?" asked Johnny Chuck.

"Because he has a little round black dot right in the middle of his
breast," replied Peter. "I don't know why they call him Tree Sparrow; he
doesn't spend his time in the trees the way Chippy does, but I see him
much oftener in low bushes or on the ground. I think Chippy has much
more right to the name of Tree Sparrow than Dotty has. Now I think of
it, I've heard Dotty called the Winter Chippy."

"Gracious, what a mix-up!" exclaimed Johnny Chuck. "With Chippy being
called a Tree Sparrow and a Tree Sparrow called Chippy, I should think
folks would get all tangled up."

"Perhaps they would," replied Peter, "if both were here at the same
time, but Chippy comes just as Dotty goes, and Dotty comes as Chippy
goes. That's a pretty good arrangement, especially as they look very
much alike, excepting that Dotty is quite a little bigger than Chippy
and always has that black dot, which Chippy does not have. Goodness
gracious, it is time I was back in the dear Old Briar-patch! Good-by,
Johnny Chuck."

Away went Peter Rabbit, lipperty-lipperty-lip, heading for the dear
Old Briar-patch. Out of the grass just ahead of him flew a rather pale,
streaked little brown bird, and as he spread his tail Peter saw two
white feathers on the outer edges. Those two white feathers were all
Peter needed to recognize another little friend of whom he is very fond.
It was Sweetvoice the Vesper Sparrow, the only one of the Sparrow family
with white feathers in his tail.

"Come over to the dear Old Briar-patch and sing to me," cried Peter.

Sweetvoice dropped down into the grass again, and when Peter came
up, was very busy getting a mouthful of dry grass. "Can't," mumbled
Sweetvoice. "Can't do it now, Peter Rabbit. I'm too busy. It is high
time our nest was finished, and Mrs. Sweetvoice will lose her patience
if I don't get this grass over there pretty quick."

"Where is your nest; in a tree?" asked Peter innocently.

"That's telling," declared Sweetvoice. "Not a living soul knows where
that nest is, excepting Mrs. Sweetvoice and myself. This much I will
tell you, Peter: it isn't in a tree. And I'll tell you this much more:
it is in a hoofprint of Bossy the Cow."

"In a WHAT?" cried Peter.

"In a hoofprint of Bossy the Cow," repeated Sweetvoice, chuckling
softly. "You know when the ground was wet and soft early this spring,
Bossy left deep footprints wherever she went. One of these makes the
nicest kind of a place for a nest. I think we have picked out the very
best one on all the Green Meadows. Now run along, Peter Rabbit, and
don't bother me any more. I've got too much to do to sit here talking.
Perhaps I'll come over to the edge of the dear Old Briar-patch and sing
to you a while just after jolly, round, red Mr. Sun goes to bed behind
the Purple Hills. I just love to sing then."

"I'll be watching for you," replied Peter. "You don't love to sing any
better than I love to hear you. I think that is the best time of all
the day in which to sing. I mean, I think it's the best time to hear
singing," for of course Peter himself does not sing at all.

That night, sure enough, just as the Black Shadows came creeping out
over the Green Meadows, Sweetvoice, perched on the top of a bramble-bush
over Peter's head, sang over and over again the sweetest little song and
kept on singing even after it was quite dark. Peter didn't know it, but
it is this habit of singing in the evening which has given Sweetvoice
his name of Vesper Sparrow.



CHAPTER V. Peter Learns Something He Hadn't Guessed.

Running over to the Old Orchard very early in the morning for a little
gossip with Jenny Wren and his other friends there had become a regular
thing with Peter Rabbit. He was learning a great many things, and some
of them were most surprising.

Now two of Peter's oldest and best friends in the Old Orchard were
Winsome Bluebird and Welcome Robin. Every spring they arrived pretty
nearly together, though Winsome Bluebird usually was a few days ahead
of Welcome Robin. This year Winsome had arrived while the snow still
lingered in patches. He was, as he always is, the herald of sweet
Mistress Spring. And when Peter had heard for the first time Winsome's
soft, sweet whistle, which seemed to come from nowhere in particular
and from everywhere in general, he had kicked up his long hind legs
from pure joy. Then, when a few days later he had heard Welcome Robin's
joyous message of "Cheer-up! Cheer-up! Cheer-up! Cheer-up! Cheer!" from
the tiptop of a tall tree, he had known that Mistress Spring really had
arrived.

Peter loves Winsome Bluebird and Welcome Robin, just as everybody else
does, and he had known them so long and so well that he thought he knew
all there was to know about them. He would have been very indignant had
anybody told him he didn't.

"Those cousins don't look much alike, do they?" remarked Jenny Wren, as
she poked her head out of her house to gossip with Peter.

"What cousins?" demanded Peter, staring very hard in the direction in
which Jenny Wren was looking.

"Those two sitting on the fence over there. Where are your eyes, Peter?"
replied Jenny rather sharply.

Peter stared harder than ever. On one post sat Winsome Bluebird, and
on another post sat Welcome Robin. "I don't see anybody but Winsome and
Welcome, and they are not even related," replied Peter with a little
puzzled frown.

"Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut, Peter!" exclaimed Jenny Wren. "Tut, tut, tut,
tut, tut! Who told you any such nonsense as that? Of course they are
related. They are cousins. I thought everybody knew that. They belong to
the same family that Melody the Thrush and all the other Thrushes belong
to. That makes them all cousins."

"What?" exclaimed Peter, looking as if he didn't believe a word of what
Jenny Wren had said. Jenny repeated, and still Peter looked doubtful.

Then Jenny lost her temper, a thing she does very easily. "If you don't
believe me, go ask one of them," she snapped, and disappeared inside her
house, where Peter could hear her scolding away to herself.

The more he thought of it, the more this struck Peter as good advice. So
he hopped over to the foot of the fence post on which Winsome Bluebird
was sitting. "Jenny Wren says that you and Welcome Robin are cousins.
She doesn't know what she is talking about, does she?" asked Peter.

Winsome chuckled. It was a soft, gentle chuckle. "Yes," said he, nodding
his head, "we are. You can trust that little busybody to know what she
is talking about, every time. I sometimes think she knows more about
other people's affairs than about her own. Welcome and I may not look
much alike, but we are cousins just the same. Don't you think Welcome is
looking unusually fine this spring?"

"Not a bit finer than you are yourself, Winsome," replied Peter
politely. "I just love that sky-blue coat of yours. What is the reason
that Mrs. Bluebird doesn't wear as bright a coat as you do?"

"Go ask Jenny Wren," chuckled Winsome Bluebird, and before Peter could
say another word he flew over to the roof of Farmer Brown's house.

Back scampered Peter to tell Jenny Wren that he was sorry he had doubted
her and that he never would again. Then he begged Jenny to tell him why
it was that Mrs. Bluebird was not as brightly dressed as was Winsome.

"Mrs. Bluebird, like most mothers, is altogether too busy to spend much
time taking care of her clothes; and fine clothes need a lot of care,"
replied Jenny. "Besides, when Winsome is about he attracts all the
attention and that gives her a chance to slip in and out of her nest
without being noticed. I don't believe you know, Peter Rabbit, where
Winsome's nest is."

Peter had to admit that he didn't, although he had tried his best to
find out by watching Winsome. "I think it's over in that little house
put up by Farmer Brown's boy," he ventured. "I saw both Mr. and Mrs.
Bluebird go in it when they first came, and I've seen Winsome around it
a great deal since, so I guess it is there."

"So you guess it is there!" mimicked Jenny Wren. "Well, your guess is
quite wrong, Peter; quite wrong. As a matter of fact, it is in one of
those old fence posts. But just which one I am not going to tell you. I
will leave that for you to find out. Mrs. Bluebird certainly shows good
sense. She knows a good house when she sees it. The hole in that post is
one of the best holes anywhere around here. If I had arrived here early
enough I would have taken it myself. But Mrs. Bluebird already had her
nest built in it and four eggs there, so there was nothing for me to
do but come here. Just between you and me, Peter, I think the Bluebirds
show more sense in nest building than do their cousins the Robins. There
is nothing like a house with stout walls and a doorway just big enough
to get in and out of comfortably."

Peter nodded quite as if he understood all about the advantages of
a house with walls. "That reminds me," said he. "The other day I saw
Welcome Robin getting mud and carrying it away. Pretty soon he was
joined by Mrs. Robin, and she did the same thing. They kept it up till I
got tired of watching them. What were they doing with that mud?"

"Building their nest, of course, stupid," retorted Jenny. "Welcome
Robin, with that black head, beautiful russet breast, black and white
throat and yellow bill, not to mention the proud way in which he carries
himself, certainly is a handsome fellow, and Mrs. Robin is only a little
less handsome. How they can be content to build the kind of a home they
do is more than I can understand. People think that Mr. Wren and I use
a lot of trash in our nest. Perhaps we do, but I can tell you one thing,
and that is it is clean trash. It is just sticks and clean straws, and
before I lay my eggs I see to it that my nest is lined with feathers.
More than this, there isn't any cleaner housekeeper than I am, if I do
say it.

"Welcome Robin is a fine looker and a fine singer, and everybody loves
him. But when it comes to housekeeping, he and Mrs. Robin are just plain
dirty. They make the foundation of their nest of mud,--plain, common,
ordinary mud. They cover this with dead grass, and sometimes there is
mighty little of this over the inside walls of mud. I know because I've
seen the inside of their nest often. Anybody with any eyes at all can
find their nest. More than once I've known them to have their nest
washed away in a heavy rain, or have it blown down in a high wind.
Nothing like that ever happens to Winsome Bluebird or to me."

Jenny disappeared inside her house, and Peter waited for her to come out
again. Welcome Robin flew down on the ground, ran a few steps, and then
stood still with his head on one side as if listening. Then he reached
down and tugged at something, and presently out of the ground came
a long, wriggling angleworm. Welcome gulped it down and ran on a few
steps, then once more paused to listen. This time he turned and ran
three or four steps to the right, where he pulled another worm out of
the ground.

"He acts as if he heard those worms in the ground," said Peter, speaking
aloud without thinking.

"He does," said Jenny Wren, poking her head out of her doorway just as
Peter spoke. "How do you suppose he would find them when they are in the
ground if he didn't hear them?"

"Can you hear them?" asked Peter.

"I've never tried, and I don't intend to waste my time trying," retorted
Jenny. "Welcome Robin may enjoy eating them, but for my part I want
something smaller and daintier, young grasshoppers, tender young
beetles, small caterpillars, bugs and spiders."

Peter had to turn his head aside to hide the wry face he just had to
make at the mention of such things as food. "Is that all Welcome Robin
eats?" he asked innocently.

"I should say not," laughed Jenny. "He eats a lot of other kinds of
worms, and he just dearly loves fruit like strawberries and cherries and
all sorts of small berries. Well, I can't stop here talking any longer.
I'm going to tell you a secret, Peter, if you'll promise not to tell."

Of course Peter promised, and Jenny leaned so far down that Peter
wondered how she could keep from falling as she whispered, "I've got
seven eggs in my nest, so if you don't see much of me for the next week
or more, you'll know why. I've just got to sit on those eggs and keep
them warm."



CHAPTER VI. An Old Friend In a New Home.

Every day brought newcomers to the Old Orchard, and early in the morning
there were so many voices to be heard that perhaps it is no wonder if
for some time Peter Rabbit failed to miss that of one of his very good
friends. Most unexpectedly he was reminded of this as very early one
morning he scampered, lipperty-lipperty-lip, across a little bridge over
the Laughing Brook.

"Dear me! Dear me! Dear me!" cried rather a plaintive voice. Peter
stopped so suddenly that he all but fell heels over head. Sitting on the
top of a tall, dead, mullein stalk was a very soberly dressed but rather
trim little fellow, a very little larger than Bully the English Sparrow.
Above, his coat was of a dull olive-brown, while underneath he was of a
grayish-white, with faint tinges of yellow in places. His head was dark,
and his bill black. The feathers on his head were lifted just enough to
make the tiniest kind of crest. His wings and tail were dusky, little
bars of white showing very faintly on his wings, while the outer edges
of his tail were distinctly white. He sat with his tail hanging straight
down, as if he hadn't strength enough to hold it up.

"Hello, Dear Me!" cried Peter joyously. "What are you doing way down
here? I haven't seen you since you first arrived, just after Winsome
Bluebird got here." Peter started to say that he had wondered what had
become of Dear Me, but checked himself, for Peter is very honest and
he realized now that in the excitement of greeting so many friends he
hadn't missed Dear Me at all.

Dear Me the Phoebe did not reply at once, but darted out into the air,
and Peter heard a sharp click of that little black bill. Making a short
circle, Dear Me alighted on the mullein stalk again.

"Did you catch a fly then?" asked Peter.

"Dear me! Dear me! Of course I did," was the prompt reply. And with each
word there was a jerk of that long hanging tail. Peter almost wondered
if in some way Dear Me's tongue and tail were connected. "I suppose,"
said he, "that it is the habit of catching flies and bugs in the air
that has given your family the name of Flycatchers."

Dear Me nodded and almost at once started into the air again. Once more
Peter heard the click of that little black bill, then Dear Me was back
on his perch. Peter asked again what he was doing down there.

"Mrs. Phoebe and I are living down here," replied Dear Me. "We've made
our home down here and we like it very much."

Peter looked all around, this way, that way, every way, with the
funniest expression on his face. He didn't see anything of Mrs. Phoebe
and he didn't see any place in which he could imagine Mr. and Mrs.
Phoebe building a nest. "What are you looking for?" asked Dear Me.

"For Mrs. Phoebe and your home," declared Peter quite frankly. "I didn't
suppose you and Mrs. Phoebe ever built a nest on the ground, and I don't
see any other place around here for one."

Dear Me chuckled. "I wouldn't tell any one but you, Peter," said he,
"but I've known you so long that I'm going to let you into a little
secret. Mrs. Phoebe and our home are under the very bridge you are
sitting on."

"I don't believe it!" cried Peter.

But Dear Me knew from the way Peter said it that he really didn't mean
that. "Look and see for yourself," said Dear Me.

So Peter lay flat on his stomach and tried to stretch his head over
the edge of the bridge so as to see under it. But his neck wasn't long
enough, or else he was afraid to lean over as far as he might have.
Finally he gave up and at Mr. Phoebe's suggestion crept down the bank to
the very edge of the Laughing Brook. Dear Me darted out to catch another
fly, then flew right in under the bridge and alighted on a little ledge
of stone just beneath the floor. There, sure enough, was a nest, and
Peter could see Mrs. Phoebe's bill and the top of her head above the
edge of it. It was a nest with a foundation of mud covered with moss and
lined with feathers.

"That's perfectly splendid!" cried Peter, as Dear Me resumed his perch
on the old mullein stalk. "How did you ever come to think of such a
place? And why did you leave the shed up at Farmer Brown's where you
have build your home for the last two or three years?"

"Oh," replied Dear Me, "we Phoebes always have been fond of building
under bridges. You see a place like this is quite safe. Then, too, we
like to be near water. Always there are many insects flying around where
there is water, so it is an easy matter to get plenty to eat. I left the
shed at Farmer Brown's because that pesky cat up there discovered our
nest last year, and we had a dreadful time keeping our babies out of
her clutches. She hasn't found us down here, and she wouldn't be able to
trouble us if she should find us."

"I suppose," said Peter, "that as usual you were the first of your
family to arrive."

"Certainly. Of course," replied Dear Me. "We always are the first. Mrs.
Phoebe and I don't go as far south in winter as the other members of the
family do. They go clear down into the Tropics, but we manage to pick up
a pretty good living without going as far as that. So we get back here
before the rest of them, and usually have begun housekeeping by the time
they arrive. My cousin, Chebec the Least Flycatcher, should be here by
this time. Haven't you heard anything of him up in the Old Orchard?"

"No," replied Peter, "but to tell the truth I haven't looked for him.
I'm on my way to the Old Orchard now, and I certainly shall keep my ears
and eyes open for Chebec. I'll tell you if I find him. Good-by."

"Dear me! Dear me! Good-by Peter. Dear me!" replied Mr. Phoebe as Peter
started off for the Old Orchard.

Perhaps it was because Peter was thinking of him that almost the first
voice he heard when he reached the Old Orchard was that of Chebec,
repeating his own name over and over as if he loved the sound of it. It
didn't take Peter long to find him. He was sitting out on the up of one
of the upper branches of an apple-tree where he could watch for flies
and other winged insects. He looked so much like Mr. Phoebe, save that
he was smaller, that any one would have know they were cousins. "Chebec!
Chebec! Chebec!" he repeated over and over, and with every note jerked
his tail. Now and then he would dart out into the air and snap up
something so small that Peter, looking up from the ground, couldn't see
it at all.

"Hello, Chebec!" cried Peter. "I'm glad to see you back again. Are you
going to build in the Old Orchard this year?"

"Of course I am," replied Chebec promptly. "Mrs. Chebec and I have built
here for the last two or three years, and we wouldn't think of going
anywhere else. Mrs. Chebec is looking for a place now. I suppose I ought
to be helping her, but I learned a long time ago, Peter Rabbit, that in
matters of this kind it is just as well not to have any opinion at all.
When Mrs. Chebec has picked out just the place she wants, I'll help her
build the nest. It certainly is good to be back here in the Old Orchard
and planning a home once more. We've made a terribly long journey, and I
for one am glad it's over."

"I just saw your cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Phoebe, and they already have a
nest and eggs," said Peter.

"The Phoebes are a funny lot," replied Chebec. "They are the only
members of the family that can stand cold weather. What pleasure they
get out of it I don't understand. They are queer anyway, for they never
build their nests in trees as the rest of us do."

"Are you the smallest in the family?" asked Peter, for it had suddenly
struck him that Chebec was a very little fellow indeed.

Chebec nodded. "I'm the smallest," said he. "That's why they call me
Least Flycatcher. I may be least in size, but I can tell you one thing,
Peter Rabbit, and that is that I can catch just as many bugs and flies
as any of them." Suiting action to the word, he darted out into the air.
His little bill snapped and with a quick turn he was back on his former
perch, jerking his tail and uttering his sharp little cry of, "Chebec!
Chebec! Chebec!" until Peter began to wonder which he was the most fond
of, catching flies, or the sound of his own voice.

Presently they both heard Mrs. Chebec calling from somewhere in the
middle of the Old Orchard. "Excuse me, Peter," said Chebec, "I must go
at once. Mrs. Chebec says she has found just the place for our nest,
and now we've got a busy time ahead of us. We are very particular how we
build a nest."

"Do you start it with mud the way Welcome Robin and your cousins, the
Phoebes, do?" asked Peter.

"Mud!" cried Chebec scornfully. "Mud! I should say not! I would have you
understand, Peter, that we are very particular about what we use in our
nest. We use only the finest of rootlets, strips of soft bark, fibers of
plants, the brown cotton that grows on ferns, and perhaps a little
hair when we can find it. We make a dainty nest, if I do say it, and
we fasten it securely in the fork made by two or three upright little
branches. Now I must go because Mrs. Chebec is getting impatient. Come
see me when I'm not so busy Peter."



CHAPTER VII. The Watchman of the Old Orchard.

A few days after Chebec and his wife started building their nest in
the Old Orchard Peter dropped around as usual for a very early call. He
found Chebec very busy hunting for materials for that nest, because, as
he explained to Peter, Mrs. Chebec is very particular indeed about what
her nest is made of. But he had time to tell Peter a bit of news.

"My fighting cousin and my handsomest cousin arrived together yesterday,
and now our family is very well represented in the Old Orchard," said
Chebec proudly.

Slowly Peter reached over his back with his long left hind foot and
thoughtfully scratched his long right ear. He didn't like to admit that
he couldn't recall those two cousins of Chebec's. "Did you say your
fighting cousin?" he asked in a hesitating way.

"That's what I said," replied Chebec. "He is Scrapper the Kingbird, as
of course you know. The rest of us always feel safe when he is about."

"Of course I know him," declared Peter, his face clearing. "Where is he
now?"

At that very instant a great racket broke out on the other side of the
Old Orchard and in no time at all the feathered folks were hurrying from
every direction, screaming at the top of their voices. Of course, Peter
couldn't be left out of anything like that, and he scampered for the
scene of trouble as fast as his legs could take him. When he got there
he saw Redtail the Hawk flying up and down and this way and that way, as
if trying to get away from something or somebody.

For a minute Peter couldn't think what was the trouble with Redtail, and
then he saw. A white-throated, white-breasted bird, having a black cap
and back, and a broad white band across the end of his tail, was darting
at Redtail as if he meant to pull out every feather in the latter's
coat.

He was just a little smaller than Welcome Robin, and in comparison with
him Redtail was a perfect giant. But this seemed to make no difference
to Scrapper, for that is who it was. He wasn't afraid, and he intended
that everybody should know it, especially Redtail. It is because of his
fearlessness that he is called Kingbird. All the time he was screaming
at the top of his lungs, calling Redtail a robber and every other
bad name he could think of. All the other birds joined him in calling
Redtail bad names. But none, not even Bully the English Sparrow, was
brave enough to join him in attacking big Redtail.

When he had succeeded in driving Redtail far enough from the Old Orchard
to suit him, Scrapper flew back and perched on a dead branch of one of
the trees, where he received the congratulations of all his feathered
neighbors. He took them quite modestly, assuring them that he had done
nothing, nothing at all, but that he didn't intend to have any of the
Hawk family around the Old Orchard while he lived there. Peter couldn't
help but admire Scrapper for his courage.

As Peter looked up at Scrapper he saw that, like all the rest of the
flycatchers, there was just the tiniest of hooks on the end of his bill.
Scrapper's slightly raised cap seemed all black, but if Peter could have
gotten close enough, he would have found that hidden in it was a patch
of orange-red. While Peter sat staring up at him Scrapper suddenly
darted out into the air, and his bill snapped in quite the same way
Chebec's did when he caught a fly. But it wasn't a fly that Scrapper
had. It was a bee. Peter saw it very distinctly just as Scrapper snapped
it up. It reminded Peter that he had often heard Scrapper called the Bee
Martin, and now he understood why.

"Do you live on bees altogether?" asked Peter.

"Bless your heart, Peter, no," replied Scrapper with a chuckle. "There
wouldn't be any honey if I did. I like bees. I like them first rate. But
they form only a very small part of my food. Those that I do catch are
mostly drones, and you know the drones are useless. They do no work at
all. It is only by accident that I now and then catch a worker. I eat
all kinds of insects that fly and some that don't. I'm one of Farmer
Brown's best friends, if he did but know it. You can talk all you please
about the wonderful eyesight of the members of the Hawk family, but if
any one of them has better eyesight than I have, I'd like to know who it
is. There's a fly 'way over there beyond that old apple-tree; watch me
catch it."

Peter knew better than to waste any effort trying to see that fly. He
knew that he couldn't have seen it had it been only one fourth that
distance away. But if he couldn't see the fly he could hear the sharp
click of Scrapper's bill, and he knew by the way Scrapper kept opening
and shutting his mouth after his return that he had caught that fly and
it had tasted good.

"Are you going to build in the Old Orchard this year?" asked Peter.

"Of course I am," declared Scrapper. "I--"

Just then he spied Blacky the Crow and dashed out to meet him. Blacky
saw him coming and was wise enough to suddenly appear to have no
interest whatever in the Old Orchard, turning away toward the Green
Meadows instead.

Peter didn't wait for Scrapper to return. It was getting high time for
him to scamper home to the dear Old Briar-patch and so he started along,
lipperty-lipperty-lip. Just as he was leaving the far corner of the
Old Orchard some one called him. "Peter! Oh, Peter Rabbit!" called the
voice. Peter stopped abruptly, sat up very straight, looked this way,
looked that way and looked the other way, every way but the right way.

"Look up over your head," cried the voice, rather a harsh voice. Peter
looked, then all in a flash it came to him who it was Chebec had meant
by the handsomest member of his family. It was Cresty the Great Crested
Flycatcher. He was a wee bit bigger than Scrapper the Kingbird, yet not
quite so big as Welcome Robin, and more slender. His throat and breast
were gray, shading into bright yellow underneath. His back and head were
of a grayish-brown with a tint of olive-green. A pointed cap was all
that was needed to make him quite distinguished looking. He certainly
was the handsomest as well as the largest of the Flycatcher family.

"You seem to be in a hurry, so don't let me detain you, Peter," said
Cresty, before Peter could find his tongue. "I just want to ask one
little favor of you."

"What is it?" asked Peter, who is always glad to do any one a favor.

"If in your roaming about you run across an old cast-off suit of Mr.
Black Snake, or of any other member of the Snake family, I wish you
would remember me and let me know. Will you, Peter?" said Cresty.

"A--a--a--what?" stammered Peter.

"A cast-off suit of clothes from any member of the Snake family,"
replied Cresty somewhat impatiently. "Now don't forget, Peter. I've
got to go house hunting, but you'll find me there or hereabouts, if it
happens that you find one of those cast-off Snake suits."

Before Peter could say another word Cresty had flown away. Peter
hesitated, looking first towards the dear Old Briar-patch and then
towards Jenny Wren's house. He just couldn't understand about those
cast-off suits of the Snake family, and he felt sure that Jenny Wren
could tell him. Finally curiosity got the best of him, and back he
scampered, lipperty-lipperty-lip, to the foot of the tree in which Jenny
Wren had her home.

"Jenny!" called Peter. "Jenny Wren! Jenny Wren!" No one answered him.
He could hear Mr. Wren singing in another tree, but he couldn't see him.
"Jenny! Jenny Wren! Jenny Wren!" called Peter again. This time Jenny
popped her head out, and her little eyes fairly snapped. "Didn't I tell
you the other day, Peter Rabbit, that I'm not to be disturbed? Didn't
I tell you that I've got seven eggs in here, and that I can't spend any
time gossiping? Didn't I, Peter Rabbit? Didn't I? Didn't I?"

"You certainly did, Jenny. You certainly did, and I'm sorry to disturb
you," replied Peter meekly. "I wouldn't have thought of doing such a
thing, but I just didn't know who else to go to."

"Go to for what?" snapped Jenny Wren. "What is it you've come to me
for?"

"Snake skins," replied Peter.

"Snake skins! Snake skins!" shrieked Jenny Wren. "What are you talking
about, Peter Rabbit? I never have anything to do with Snake skins and
don't want to. Ugh! It makes me shiver just to think of it."

"You don't understand," cried Peter hurriedly. "What I want to know
is, why should Cresty the Flycatcher ask me to please let him know if
I found any cast-off suits of the Snake family? He flew away before I
could ask him why he wants them, and so I came to you, because I know
you know everything, especially everything concerning your neighbors."

Jenny Wren looked as if she didn't know whether to feel flattered or
provoked. But Peter looked so innocent that she concluded he was trying
to say something nice.



CHAPTER VIII. Old Clothes and Old Houses.

"I can't stop to talk to you any longer now, Peter Rabbit," said
Jenny Wren, "but if you will come over here bright and early to-morrow
morning, while I am out to get my breakfast, I will tell you about
Cresty the Flycatcher and why he wants the cast-off clothes of some of
the Snake family. Perhaps I should say WHAT he wants of them instead
of WHY he wants them, for why any one should want anything to do with
Snakes is more then I can understand."

With this Jenny Wren disappeared inside her house, and there was nothing
for Peter to do but once more start for the dear Old Briar-patch. On his
way he couldn't resist the temptation to run over to the Green Forest,
which was just beyond the Old Orchard. He just HAD to find out if there
was anything new over there. Hardly had he reached it when he heard
a plaintive voice crying, "Pee-wee! Pee-wee! Pee-wee!" Peter chuckled
happily. "I declare, there's Pee-wee," he cried. "He usually is one of
the last of the Flycatcher family to arrive. I didn't expect to find him
yet. I wonder what has brought him up so early."

It didn't take Peter long to find Pewee. He just followed the sound of
that voice and presently saw Pewee fly out and make the same kind of
a little circle as the other members of the family make when they are
hunting flies. It ended just where it had started, on a dead twig of a
tree in a shady, rather lonely part of the Green Forest. Almost at once
he began to call his name in a rather sad, plaintive tone, "Pee-wee!
Pee-wee! Pee-wee!" But he wasn't sad, as Peter well knew. It was his way
of expressing how happy he felt. He was a little bigger than his cousin,
Chebec, but looked very much like him. There was a little notch in the
end of his tail. The upper half of his bill was black, but the lower
half was light. Peter could see on each wing two whitish bars, and he
noticed that Pewee's wings were longer than his tail, which wasn't the
case with Chebec. But no one could ever mistake Pewee for any of his
relatives, for the simple reason that he keeps repeating his own name
over and over.

"Aren't you here early?" asked Peter.

Pewee nodded. "Yes," said he. "It has been unusually warm this spring,
so I hurried a little and came up with my cousins, Scrapper and Cresty.
That is something I don't often do."

"If you please," Peter inquired politely, "why do folks call you Wood
Pewee?"

Pewee chuckled happily. "It must be," said he, "because I am so very
fond of the Green Forest. It is so quiet and restful that I love
it. Mrs. Pewee and I are very retiring. We do not like too many near
neighbors."

"You won't mind if I come to see you once in a while, will you?" asked
Peter as he prepared to start on again for the dear Old Briar-patch.

"Come as often as you like," replied Pewee. "The oftener the better."

Back in the Old Briar-patch Peter thought over all he had learned about
the Flycatcher family, and as he recalled how they were forever catching
all sorts of flying insects it suddenly struck him that they must be
very useful little people in helping Old Mother Nature take care of her
trees and other growing things which insects so dearly love to destroy.

But most of all Peter thought about that queer request of Cresty's, and
a dozen times that day he found himself peeping under old logs in the
hope of finding a cast-off coat of Mr. Black Snake. It was such a funny
thing for Cresty to ask for that Peter's curiosity would allow him no
peace, and the next morning he was up in the Old Orchard before jolly
Mr. Sun had kicked his bedclothes off.

Jenny Wren was as good as her word. While she flitted and hopped about
this way and that way in that fussy way of hers, getting her breakfast,
she talked. Jenny couldn't keep her tongue still if she wanted to.

"Did you find any old clothes of the Snake family?" she demanded. Then
as Peter shook his head her tongue ran on without waiting for him to
reply. "Cresty and his wife always insist upon having a piece of Snake
skin in their nest," said she. "Why they want it, goodness knows! But
they do want it and never can seem to settle down to housekeeping unless
they have it. Perhaps they think it will scare robbers away. As for me,
I should have a cold chill every time I got into my nest if I had to sit
on anything like that. I have to admit that Cresty and his wife are a
handsome couple, and they certainly have good sense in choosing a house,
more sense than any other member of their family to my way of thinking.
But Snake skins! Ugh!"

"By the way, where does Cresty build?" asked Peter.

"In a hole in a tree, like the rest of us sensible people," retorted
Jenny Wren promptly.

Peter looked quite as surprised as he felt. "Does Cresty make the hole?"
he asked.

"Goodness gracious, no!" exclaimed Jenny Wren. "Where are your eyes,
Peter? Did you ever see a Flycatcher with a bill that looked as if it
could cut wood?" She didn't wait for a reply, but rattled on. "It is a
good thing for a lot of us that the Woodpecker family are so fond of new
houses. Look! There is Downy the Woodpecker hard at work on a new house
this very minute. That's good. I like to see that. It means that next
year there will be one more house for some one here in the Old Orchard.
For myself I prefer old houses. I've noticed there are a number of my
neighbors who feel the same way about it. There is something settled
about an old house. It doesn't attract attention the way a new one does.
So long as it has got reasonably good walls, and the rain and the
wind can't get in, the older it is the better it suits me. But the
Woodpeckers seem to like new houses best, which, as I said before, is a
very good thing for the rest of us."

"Who is there besides you and Cresty and Bully the English Sparrow who
uses these old Woodpecker houses?" asked Peter.

"Winsome Bluebird, stupid!" snapped Jenny Wren.

Peter grinned and looked foolish. "Of course," said he. "I forgot all
about Winsome."

"And Skimmer the Tree Swallow," added Jenny.

"That's so; I ought to have remembered him," exclaimed Peter. "I've
noticed that he is very fond of the same house year after year. Is there
anybody else?"

Again Jenny Wren nodded. "Yank-Yank the Nuthatch uses an old house, I'm
told, but he usually goes up North for his nesting," said she. "Tommy
Tit the Chickadee sometimes uses an old house. Then again he and Mrs.
Chickadee get fussy and make a house for themselves. Yellow Wing the
flicker, who really is a Woodpecker, often uses an old house, but quite
often makes a new one. Then there are Killy the Sparrow Hawk and Spooky
the Screech Owl."

Peter looked surprised. "I didn't suppose THEY nested in holes in
trees!" he exclaimed.

"They certainly do, more's the pity!" snapped Jenny. "It would be a good
thing for the rest of us if they didn't nest at all. But they do, and an
old house of Yellow Wing the Flicker suits either of them. Killy always
uses one that is high up, and comes back to it year after year. Spooky
isn't particular so long as the house is big enough to be comfortable.
He lives in it more or less the year around. Now I must get back to
those eggs of mine. I've talked quite enough for one morning."

"Oh, Jenny," cried Peter, as a sudden thought struck him.

Jenny paused and jerked her tail impatiently. "Well, what is it now?"
she demanded.

"Have you got two homes?" asked Peter.

"Goodness gracious, no!" exclaimed Jenny. "What do you suppose I want of
two homes? One is all I can take care of."

"Then why," demanded Peter triumphantly, "does Mr. Wren work all day
carrying sticks and straws into a hole in another tree? It seems to me
that he has carried enough in there to build two or three nests."

Jenny Wren's eyes twinkled, and she laughed softly. "Mr. Wren just has
to be busy about something, bless his heart," said she. "He hasn't a
lazy feather on him. He's building that nest to take up his time and
keep out of mischief. Besides, if he fills that hollow up nobody else
will take it, and you know we might want to move some time. Good-by,
Peter." With a final jerk of her tail Jenny Wren flew to the little
round doorway of her house and popped inside.



CHAPTER IX. Longbill and Teeter.

From the decided way in which Jenny Wren had popped into the little
round doorway of her home, Peter knew that to wait in the hope of more
gossip with her would be a waste of time. He wasn't ready to go back
home to the dear Old Briar-patch, yet there seemed nothing else to do,
for everybody in the Old Orchard was too busy for idle gossip. Peter
scratched a long ear with a long hind foot, trying to think of some
place to go. Just then he heard the clear "peep, peep, peep" of the
Hylas, the sweet singers of the Smiling Pool.

"That's where I'll go!" exclaimed Peter. "I haven't been to the
Smiling Pool for some time. I'll just run over and pay my respects to
Grandfather Frog, and to Redwing the Blackbird. Redwing was one of the
first birds to arrive, and I've neglected him shamefully."

When Peter thinks of something to do he wastes no time. Off he started,
lipperty-lipperty-lip, for the Smiling Pool. He kept close to the edge
of the Green Forest until he reached the place where the Laughing Brook
comes out of the Green Forest on its way to the Smiling Pool in the
Green Meadows. Bushes and young trees grow along the banks of the
Laughing Brook at this point. The ground was soft in places, quite
muddy. Peter doesn't mind getting his feet damp, so he hopped along
carelessly. From right under his very nose something shot up into the
air with a whistling sound. It startled Peter so that he stopped short
with his eyes popping out of his head. He had just a glimpse of a
brown form disappearing over the tops of some tall bushes. Then Peter
chuckled. "I declare," said he, "I had forgotten all about my old
friend, Longbill the Woodcock. He scared me for a second."

"Then you are even," said a voice close at hand. "You scared him. I saw
you coming, but Longbill didn't."

Peter turned quickly. There was Mrs. Woodcock peeping at him from behind
a tussock of grass.

"I didn't mean to scare him," apologized Peter. "I really didn't mean
to. Do you think he was really very much scared?"

"Not too scared to come back, anyway," said Longbill himself,
dropping down just in front of Peter. "I recognized you just as I
was disappearing over the tops of the bushes, so I came right back. I
learned when I was very young that when startled it is best to fly first
and find out afterwards whether or not there is real danger. I am glad
it is no one but you, Peter, for I was having a splendid meal here, and
I should have hated to leave it. You'll excuse me while I go on eating,
I hope. We can talk between bites."

"Certainly I'll excuse you," replied Peter, staring around very hard to
see what it could be Longbill was making such a good meal of. But Peter
couldn't see a thing that looked good to eat. There wasn't even a bug
or a worm crawling on the ground. Longbill took two or three steps in
rather a stately fashion. Peter had to hide a smile, for Longbill had
such an air of importance, yet at the same time was such an odd looking
fellow. He was quite a little bigger than Welcome Robin, his tail was
short, his legs were short, and his neck was short. But his bill was
long enough to make up. His back was a mixture of gray, brown, black and
buff, while his breast and under parts were a beautiful reddish-buff. It
was his head that made him look queer. His eyes were very big and they
were set so far back that Peter wondered if it wasn't easier for him to
look behind him than in front of him.

Suddenly Longbill plunged his bill into the ground. He plunged it in for
the whole length. Then he pulled it out and Peter caught a glimpse of
the tail end of a worm disappearing down Longbill's throat. Where that
long bill had gone into the ground was a neat little round hole. For the
first time Peter noticed that there were many such little round holes
all about. "Did you make all those little round holes?" exclaimed Peter.

"Not at all," replied Longbill. "Mrs. Woodcock made some of them."

"And was there a worm in every one?" asked Peter, his eyes very wide
with interest.

Longbill nodded. "Of course," said he. "You don't suppose we would take
the trouble to bore one of them if we didn't know that we would get a
worm at the end of it, do you?"

Peter remembered how he had watched Welcome Robin listen and then
suddenly plunge his bill into the ground and pull out a worm. But the
worms Welcome Robin got were always close to the surface, while these
worms were so deep in the earth that Peter couldn't understand how it
was possible for any one to know that they were there. Welcome Robin
could see when he got hold of a worm, but Longbill couldn't. "Even if
you know there is a worm down there in the ground, how do you know when
you've reached him? And how is it possible for you to open your bill
down there to take him in?" asked Peter.

Longbill chuckled. "That's easy," said he. "I've got the handiest bill
that ever was. See here!" Longbill suddenly thrust his bill straight
out in front of him and to Peter's astonishment he lifted the end of the
upper half without opening the rest of his bill at all. "That's the way
I get them," said he. "I can feel them when I reach them, and then I
just open the top of my bill and grab them. I think there is one right
under my feet now; watch me get him." Longbill bored into the ground
until his head was almost against it. When he pulled his bill out, sure
enough, there was a worm. "Of course," explained Longbill, "it is only
in soft ground that I can do this. That is why I have to fly away south
as soon as the ground freezes at all."

"It's wonderful," sighed Peter. "I don't suppose any one else can find
hidden worms that way."

"My cousin, Jack Snipe, can," replied Longbill promptly. "He feeds the
same way I do, only he likes marshy meadows instead of brushy swamps.
Perhaps you know him."

Peter nodded. "I do," said he. "Now you speak of it, there is a strong
family resemblance, although I hadn't thought of him as a relative of
yours before. Now I must be running along. I'm ever so glad to have seen
you, and I'm coming over to call again the first chance I get."

So Peter said good-by and kept on down the Laughing Brook to the Smiling
Pool. Right where the Laughing Brook entered the Smiling Pool there was
a little pebbly beach. Running along the very edge of the water was
a slim, trim little bird with fairly long legs, a long slender bill,
brownish-gray back with black spots and markings, and a white waistcoat
neatly spotted with black. Every few steps he would stop to pick up
something, then stand for a second bobbing up and down in the funniest
way, as if his body was so nicely balanced on his legs that it teetered
back and forth like a seesaw. It was Teeter the Spotted Sandpiper, an
old friend of Peter's. Peter greeted him joyously.

"Peet-weet! Peet-weet!" cried Teeter, turning towards Peter and bobbing
and bowing as only Teeter can. Before Peter could say another word
Teeter came running towards him, and it was plain to see that Teeter was
very anxious about something. "Don't move, Peter Rabbit! Don't move!" he
cried.

"Why not?" demanded Peter, for he could see no danger and could think of
no reason why he shouldn't move. Just then Mrs. Teeter came hurrying up
and squatted down in the sand right in front of Peter.

"Thank goodness!" exclaimed Teeter, still bobbing and bowing. "If you
had taken another step, Peter Rabbit, you would have stepped right on
our eggs. You gave me a dreadful start."

Peter was puzzled. He showed it as he stared down at Mrs. Teeter just in
front of him. "I don't see any nest or eggs or anything," said he rather
testily.

Mrs. Teeter stood up and stepped aside. Then Peter saw right in a little
hollow in the sand, with just a few bits of grass for a lining, four
white eggs with big dark blotches on them. They looked so much like the
surrounding pebbles that he never would have seen them in the world
but for Mrs. Teeter. Peter hastily backed away a few steps. Mrs. Teeter
slipped back on the eggs and settled herself comfortably. It suddenly
struck Peter that if he hadn't seen her do it, he wouldn't have known
she was there. You see she looked so much like her surroundings that he
never would have noticed her at all.

"My!" he exclaimed. "I certainly would have stepped on those eggs if you
hadn't warned me," said he. "I'm so thankful I didn't. I don't see how
you dare lay them in the open like this."

Mrs. Teeter chuckled softly. "It's the safest place in the world,
Peter," said she. "They look so much like these pebbles around here
that no one sees them. The only time they are in danger is when somebody
comes along, as you did, and is likely to step on them without seeing
them. But that doesn't happen often."



CHAPTER X. Redwing and Yellow Wing.

Peter had come over to the Smiling Pool especially to pay his respects
to Redwing the Blackbird, so as soon as he could, without being
impolite, he left Mrs. Teeter sitting on her eggs, and Teeter himself
bobbing and bowing in the friendliest way, and hurried over to where
the bulrushes grow. In the very top of the Big Hickory-tree, a little
farther along on the bank of the Smiling Pool, sat some one who at that
distance appeared to be dressed all in black. He was singing as if
there were nothing but joy in all the great world. "Quong-ka-reee!
Quong-ka-reee! Quong-ka-reee!" he sang. Peter would have known from this
song alone that it was Redwing the Blackbird, for there is no other song
quite like it.

As soon as Peter appeared in sight Redwing left his high perch and flew
down to light among the broken-down bulrushes. As he flew, Peter saw the
beautiful red patch on the bend of each wing, from which Redwing gets
his name. "No one could ever mistake him for anybody else," thought
Peter, "For there isn't anybody else with such beautiful shoulder
patches."

"What's the news, Peter Rabbit?" cried Redwing, coming over to sit very
near Peter.

"There isn't much," replied Peter, "excepting that Teeter the Sandpiper
has four eggs just a little way from here."

Redwing chuckled. "That is no news, Peter," said he. "Do you suppose
that I live neighbor to Teeter and don't know where his nest is and all
about his affairs? There isn't much going on around the Smiling Pool
that I don't know, I can tell you that."

Peter looked a little disappointed, because there is nothing he likes
better than to be the bearer of news. "I suppose," said he politely,
"that you will be building a nest pretty soon yourself, Redwing."

Redwing chuckled softly. It was a happy, contented sort of chuckle. "No,
Peter," said he. "I am not going to build a nest."

"What?" exclaimed Peter, and his two long ears stood straight up with
astonishment.

"No," replied Redwing, still chuckling. "I'm not going to build a nest,
and if you want to know a little secret, we have four as pretty eggs as
ever were laid."

Peter fairly bubbled over with interest and curiosity. "How splendid!"
he cried. "Where is your nest, Redwing? I would just love to see it. I
suppose it is because she is sitting on those eggs that I haven't seen
Mrs. Redwing. It was very stupid of me not to guess that folks who come
as early as you do would be among the first to build a home. Where is
it, Redwing? Do tell me."

Redwing's eyes twinkled.

     "A secret which is known by three
      Full soon will not a secret be,"

said he. "It isn't that I don't trust you, Peter. I know that you
wouldn't intentionally let my secret slip out. But you might do it by
accident. What you don't know, you can't tell."

"That's right, Redwing. I am glad you have so much sense," said another
voice, and Mrs. Redwing alighted very near to Redwing.

Peter couldn't help thinking that Old Mother Nature had been very unfair
indeed in dressing Mrs. Redwing. She was, if anything, a little bit
smaller than her handsome husband, and such a plain, not to say homely,
little body that it was hard work to realize that she was a Blackbird
at all. In the first place she wasn't black. She was dressed all over in
grayish-brown with streaks of darker brown which in places were almost
black. She wore no bright-colored shoulder patches. In fact, there
wasn't a bright feather on her anywhere. Peter wanted to ask why it was
that she was so plainly dressed, but he was too polite and decided to
wait until he should see Jenny Wren. She would be sure to know. Instead,
he exclaimed, "How do you do, Mrs. Redwing? I'm ever so glad to see you.
I was wondering where you were. Where did you come from?"

"Straight from my home," replied Mrs. Redwing demurely. "And if I do say
it, it is the best home we've ever had."

Redwing chuckled. He was full of chuckles. You see, he had noticed how
eagerly Peter was looking everywhere.

"This much I will tell you, Peter," said Redwing; "our nest is somewhere
in these bulrushes, and if you can find it we won't say a word, even if
you don't keep the secret."

Then Redwing chuckled again and Mrs. Redwing chuckled with him. You see,
they knew that Peter doesn't like water, and that nest was hidden in
a certain clump of brown, broken-down rushes, with water all around.
Suddenly Redwing flew up in the air with a harsh cry. "Run, Peter! Run!"
he screamed. "Here comes Reddy Fox!"

Peter didn't wait for a second warning. He knew by the sound of
Redwing's voice that Redwing wasn't joking. There was just one place
of safety, and that was an old hole of Grandfather Chuck's between
the roots of the Big Hickory-tree. Peter didn't waste any time getting
there, and he was none too soon, for Reddy was so close at his heels
that he pulled some white hairs out of Peter's tail as Peter plunged
headfirst down that hole. It was a lucky thing for Peter that that hole
was too small for Reddy to follow and the roots prevented Reddy from
digging it any bigger.

For a long time Peter sat in Grandfather Chuck's old house, wondering
how soon it would be safe for him to come out. For a while he heard Mr.
and Mrs. Redwing scolding sharply, and by this he knew that Reddy Fox
was still about. By and by they stopped scolding, and a few minutes
later he heard Redwing's happy song. "That means," thought Peter, "that
Reddy Fox has gone away, but I think I'll sit here a while longer to
make sure."

Now Peter was sitting right under the Big Hickory-tree. After a while he
began to hear faint little sounds, little taps, and scratching sounds as
of claws. They seemed to come from right over his head, but he knew that
there was no one in that hole but himself. He couldn't understand it at
all.

Finally Peter decided it would be safe to peek outside. Very carefully
he poked his head out. Just as he did so, a little chip struck him right
on the nose. Peter pulled his head back hurriedly and stared at the
little chip which lay just in front of the hole. Then two or three more
little chips fell. Peter knew that they must come from up in the Big
Hickory-tree, and right away his curiosity was aroused. Redwing was
singing so happily that Peter felt sure no danger was near, so he hopped
outside and looked up to find out where those little chips had come
from. Just a few feet above his head he saw a round hole in the trunk
of the Big Hickory-tree. While he was looking at it, a head with a long
stout bill was thrust out and in that bill were two or three little
chips. Peter's heart gave a little jump of glad surprise.

"Yellow Wing!" he cried. "My goodness, how you startled me!"

The chips were dropped and the head was thrust farther out. The sides
and throat were a soft reddish-tan and on each side at the beginning of
the bill was a black patch. The top of the head was gray and just at the
back was a little band of bright red. There was no mistaking that head.
It belonged to Yellow Wing the Flicker beyond a doubt.

"Hello, Peter!" exclaimed Yellow Wing, his eyes twinkling. "What are you
doing here?"

"Nothing," replied Peter, "but I want to know what you are doing. What
are all those chips?"

"I'm fixing up this old house of mine," replied Yellow Wing promptly.
"It wasn't quite deep enough to suit me, so I am making it a little
deeper. Mrs. Yellow Wing and I haven't been able to find another house
to suit us, so we have decided to live here again this year." He came
wholly out and flew down on the ground near Peter. When his wings
were spread, Peter saw that on the under sides they were a beautiful
golden-yellow, as were the under sides of his tail feathers. Around his
throat was a broad, black collar. From this, clear to his tail, were
black dots. When his wings were spread, the upper part of his body just
above the tail was pure white.

"My," exclaimed Peter, "you are a handsome fellow! I never realized
before how handsome you are."

Yellow Wing looked pleased. Perhaps he felt a little flattered. "I
am glad you think so, Peter," said he. "I am rather proud of my suit,
myself. I don't know of any member of my family with whom I would change
coats."

A sudden thought struck Peter. "What family do you belong to?" He asked
abruptly.

"The Woodpecker family," replied Yellow Wing proudly.



CHAPTER XI. Drummers and Carpenters.

Peter Rabbit was so full of questions that he hardly knew which one to
ask first. But Yellow Wing the Flicker didn't give him a chance to ask
any. From the edge of the Green forest there came a clear, loud call of,
"Pe-ok! Pe-ok! Pe-ok!"

"Excuse me, Peter, there's Mrs. Yellow Wing calling me," exclaimed
Yellow Wing, and away he went. Peter noticed that as he flew he went up
and down. It seemed very much as if he bounded through the air just as
Peter bounds over the ground. "I would know him by the way he flies just
as far as I could see him," thought Peter, as he started for home in the
dear Old Briar-patch. "Somehow he doesn't seem like a Woodpecker because
he is on the ground so much. I must ask Jenny Wren about him."

It was two or three days before Peter had a chance for a bit of gossip
with Jenny Wren. When he did the first thing he asked was if Yellow Wing
is a true Woodpecker.

"Certainly he is," replied Jenny Wren. "Of course he is. Why under the
sun should you think he isn't?"

"Because it seems to me he is on the ground more than he's in the
trees," retorted Peter. "I don't know any other Woodpeckers who come
down on the ground at all."

"Tut, tut, tut, tut!" scolded Jenny. "Think a minute, Peter! Think a
minute! Haven't you ever seen Redhead on the ground?"

Peter blinked his eyes. "Ye-e-s," he said slowly. "Come to think of it,
I have. I've seen him picking up beechnuts in the fall. The Woodpeckers
are a funny family. I don't understand them."

Just then a long, rolling rat-a-tat-tat rang out just over their heads.
"There's another one of them," chuckled Jenny. "That's Downy, the
smallest of the whole family. He certainly makes an awful racket for
such a little fellow. He is a splendid drummer and he's just as good a
carpenter. He made the very house I am occupying now."

Peter was sitting with his head tipped back trying to see Downy. At
first he couldn't make him out. Then he caught a little movement on top
of a dead limb. It was Downy's head flying back and forth as he beat
his long roll. He was dressed all in black and white. On the back of his
head was a little scarlet patch. He was making a tremendous racket for
such a little chap, only a little bigger than one of the Sparrow family.

"Is he making a hole for a nest up there?" asked Peter eagerly.

"Gracious, Peter, what a question! What a perfectly silly question!"
exclaimed Jenny Wren scornfully. "Do give us birds credit for a little
common sense. If he were cutting a hole for a nest, everybody within
hearing would know just where to look for it. Downy has too much sense
in that little head of his to do such a silly thing as that. When he
cuts a hole for a nest he doesn't make any more noise than is absolutely
necessary. You don't see any chips flying, do you?"

"No-o," replied Peter slowly. "Now you speak of it, I don't. Is--is he
hunting for worms in the wood?"

Jenny laughed right out. "Hardly, Peter, hardly," said she. "He's just
drumming, that's all. That hollow limb makes the best kind of a drum
and Downy is making the most of it. Just listen to that! There isn't a
better drummer anywhere."

But Peter wasn't satisfied. Finally he ventured another question.
"What's he doing it for?"

"Good land, Peter!" cried Jenny. "What do you run and jump for in the
spring? What is Mr. Wren singing for over there? Downy is drumming for
precisely the same reason--happiness. He can't run and jump and he can't
sing, but he can drum. By the way, do you know that Downy is one of the
most useful birds in the Old Orchard?"

Just then Downy flew away, but hardly had he disappeared when another
drummer took his place. At first Peter thought Downy had returned until
he noticed that the newcomer was just a bit bigger than Downy. Jenny
Wren's sharp eyes spied him at once.

"Hello!" she exclaimed. "There's Hairy. Did you ever see two cousins
look more alike? If it were not that Hairy is bigger than Downy it
would be hard work to tell them apart. Do you see any other difference,
Peter?"

Peter stared and blinked and stared again, then slowly shook his head.
"No," he confessed, "I don't."

"That shows you haven't learned to use your eyes, Peter," said Jenny
rather sharply. "Look at the outside feathers of his tail; they are all
white. Downy's outside tail feathers have little bars of black. Hairy is
just as good a carpenter as is Downy, but for that matter I don't know
of a member of the Woodpecker family who isn't a good carpenter. Where
did you say Yellow Wing the Flicker is making his home this year?"

"Over in the Big Hickory-tree by the Smiling Pool," replied Peter. "I
don't understand yet why Yellow Wing spends so much time on the ground."

"Ants," replied Jenny Wren. "Just ants. He's as fond of ants as is Old
Mr. Toad, and that is saying a great deal. If Yellow Wing keeps on he'll
become a ground bird instead of a tree bird. He gets more than half his
living on the ground now. Speaking of drumming, did you ever hear Yellow
Wing drum on a tin roof?"

Peter shook his head.

"Well, if there's a tin roof anywhere around, and Yellow Wing can find
it, he will be perfectly happy. He certainly does love to make a noise,
and tin makes the finest kind of a drum."

Just then Jenny was interrupted by the arrival, on the trunk of the very
next tree to the one on which she was sitting, of a bird about the size
of Sammy Jay. His whole head and neck were a beautiful, deep red. His
breast was pure white, and his back was black to nearly the beginning of
his tail, where it was white.

"Hello, Redhead!" exclaimed Jenny Wren. "How did you know we were
talking about your family?"

"Hello, chatterbox," retorted Redhead with a twinkle in his eyes. "I
didn't know you were talking about my family, but I could have guessed
that you were talking about some one's family. Does your tongue ever
stop, Jenny?"

Jenny Wren started to become indignant and scold, then thought better
of it. "I was talking for Peter's benefit," said she, trying to look
dignified, a thing quite impossible for any member of the Wren family to
do. "Peter has always had the idea that true Woodpeckers never go
down on the ground. I was explaining to him that Yellow Wing is a true
Woodpecker, yet spends half his time on the ground."

Redhead nodded. "It's all on account of ants," said he. "I don't know of
any one quite so fond of ants unless it is Old Mr. Toad. I like a few of
them myself, but Yellow Wing just about lives on them when he can. You
may have noticed that I go down on the ground myself once in a while.
I am rather fond of beetles, and an occasional grasshopper tastes
very good to me. I like a variety. Yes, sir, I certainly do like a
variety--cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes. In
fact most kinds of fruit taste good to me, not to mention beechnuts and
acorns when there is no fruit."

Jenny Wren tossed her head. "You didn't mention the eggs of some of your
neighbors," said she sharply.

Redhead did his best to look innocent, but Peter noticed that he gave a
guilty start and very abruptly changed the subject, and a moment later
flew away.

"Is it true," asked Peter, "that Redhead does such a dreadful thing?"

Jenny bobbed her head rapidly and jerked her tail. "So I an told," said
she. "I've never seen him do it, but I know others who have. They say he
is no better than Sammy Jay or Blacky the Crow. But gracious, goodness!
I can't sit here gossiping forever." Jenny twitched her funny little
tail, snapped her bright eyes at Peter, and disappeared in her house.



CHAPTER XII. Some Unlikely Relatives.

Having other things to attend to, or rather having other things to
arouse his curiosity, Peter Rabbit did not visit the Old Orchard for
several days. When he did it was to find the entire neighborhood quite
upset. There was an indignation meeting in progress in and around the
tree in which Chebec and his modest little wife had their home. How the
tongues did clatter! Peter knew that something had happened, but though
he listened with all his might he couldn't make head or tail of it.

Finally Peter managed to get the attention of Jenny Wren. "What's
happened?" demanded Peter. "What's all this fuss about?"

Jenny Wren was so excited that she couldn't keep still an instant. Her
sharp little eyes snapped and her tail was carried higher than ever.
"It's a disgrace! It's a disgrace to the whole feathered race, and
something ought to be done about it!" sputtered Jenny. "I'm ashamed to
think that such a contemptible creature wears feathers! I am so!"

"But what's it all about?" demanded Peter impatiently. "Do keep still
long enough to tell me. Who is this contemptible creature?"

"Sally Sly," snapped Jenny Wren. "Sally Sly the Cowbird. I hoped she
wouldn't disgrace the Old Orchard this year, but she has. When Mr. and
Mrs. Chebec returned from getting their breakfast this morning they
found one of Sally Sly's eggs in their nest. They are terribly upset,
and I don't blame them. If I were in their place I simply would throw
that egg out. That's what I'd do, I'd throw that egg out!"

Peter was puzzled. He blinked his eyes and stroked his whiskers as he
tried to understand what it all meant. "Who is Sally Sly, and what did
she do that for?" he finally ventured.

"For goodness' sake, Peter Rabbit, do you mean to tell me you don't
know who Sally Sly is?" Then without waiting for Peter to reply, Jenny
rattled on. "She's a member of the Blackbird family and she's the
laziest, most good-for-nothing, sneakiest, most unfeeling and most
selfish wretch I know of!" Jenny paused long enough to get her breath.
"She laid that egg in Chebec's nest because she is too lazy to build a
nest of her own and too selfish to take care of her own children. Do you
know what will happen, Peter Rabbit? Do you know what will happen?"

Peter shook his head and confessed that he didn't. "When that egg
hatches out, that young Cowbird will be about twice as big as Chebec's
own children," sputtered Jenny. "He'll be so big that he'll get most
of the food. He'll just rob those little Chebecs in spite of all
their mother and father can do. And Chebec and his wife will be just
soft-hearted enough to work themselves to skin and bone to feed the
young wretch because he is an orphan and hasn't anybody to look after
him. The worst of it is, Sally Sly is likely to play the same trick on
others. She always chooses the nest of some one smaller than herself.
She's terribly sly. No one has seen her about. She just sneaked into
the Old Orchard this morning when everybody was busy, laid that egg and
sneaked out again."

"Did you say that she is a member of the Blackbird family?" asked Peter.

Jenny Wren nodded vigorously. "That's what she is," said she. "Thank
goodness, she isn't a member of MY family. If she were I never would be
able to hold my head up. Just listen to Goldy the Oriole over in that
big elm. I don't see how he can sing like that, knowing that one of his
relatives has just done such a shameful deed. It's a queer thing that
there can be two members of the same family so unlike. Mrs. Goldy builds
one of the most wonderful nests of any one I know, and Sally Sly is too
lazy to build any. If I were in Goldy's place I--"

"Hold on!" cried Peter. "I thought you said Sally Sly is a member of
the Blackbird family. I don't see what she's got to do with Goldy the
Oriole."

"You don't, eh?" exclaimed Jenny. "Well, for one who pokes into other
people's affairs as you do, you don't know much. The Orioles and the
Meadow Larks and the Grackles and the Bobolinks all belong to the
Blackbird family. They're all related to Redwing the Blackbird, and
Sally Sly the Cowbird belongs in the same family."

Peter gasped. "I--I--hadn't the least idea that any of these folks were
related," stammered Peter.

"Well, they are," retorted Jenny Wren. "As I live, there's Sally Sly
now!"

Peter caught a glimpse of a brownish-gray bird who reminded him somewhat
of Mrs. Redwing. She was about the same size and looked very much like
her. It was plain that she was trying to keep out of sight, and the
instant she knew that she had been discovered she flew away in the
direction of the Old Pasture. It happened that late that afternoon Peter
visited the Old Pasture and saw her again. She and some of her friends
were busily walking about close to the feet of the cows, where they
seemed to be picking up food. One had a brown head, neck and breast; the
rest of his coat was glossy black. Peter rightly guessed that this
must be Mr. Cowbird. Seeing them on such good terms with the cows he
understood why they are called Cowbirds.

Sure that Sally Sly had left the Old Orchard, the feathered folks
settled down to their personal affairs and household cares, Jenny Wren
among them. Having no one to talk to, Peter found a shady place close
to the old stone wall and there sat down to think over the surprising
things he had learned. Presently Goldy the Baltimore Oriole alighted in
the nearest apple-tree, and it seemed to Peter that never had he seen
any one more beautifully dressed. His head, neck, throat and upper part
of his back were black. The lower part of his back and his breast were
a beautiful deep orange color. There was a dash of orange on his
shoulders, but the rest of his wings were black with an edging of white.
His tail was black and orange. Peter had heard him called the Firebird,
and now he understood why. His song was quite as rich and beautiful as
his coat.

Shortly he was joined by Mrs. Goldy. Compared with her handsome husband
she was very modestly dressed. She wore more brown than black, and where
the orange color appeared it was rather dull. She wasted no time in
singing. Almost instantly her sharp eyes spied a piece of string caught
in the bushes almost over Peter's head. With a little cry of delight
she flew down and seized it. But the string was caught, and though she
tugged and pulled with all her might she couldn't get it free. Goldy saw
the trouble she was having and cutting his song short, flew down to help
her. Together they pulled and tugged and tugged and pulled, until they
had to stop to rest and get their breath.

"We simply must have this piece of string," said Mrs. Goldy. "I've been
hunting everywhere for a piece, and this is the first I've found. It is
just what we need to bind our nest fast to the twigs. With this I won't
have the least bit of fear that that nest will ever tear loose, no
matter how hard the wind blows."

Once more they tugged and pulled and pulled and tugged until at last
they got it free, and Mrs. Goldy flew away in triumph with the string in
her bill. Goldy himself followed. Peter watched them fly to the top of a
long, swaying branch of a big elm-tree up near Farmer Brown's house. He
could see something which looked like a bag hanging there, and he knew
that this must be the nest.

"Gracious!" said Peter. "They must get terribly tossed about when the
wind blows. I should think their babies would be thrown out."

"Don't you worry about them," said a voice.

Peter looked up to find Welcome Robin just over him. "Mrs. Goldy makes
one of the most wonderful nests I know of," continued Welcome Robin. "It
is like a deep pocket made of grass, string, hair and bark, all woven
together like a piece of cloth. It is so deep that it is quite safe for
the babies, and they seem to enjoy being rocked by the wind. I shouldn't
care for it myself because I like a solid foundation for my home, but
the Goldies like it. It looks dangerous but it really is one of the
safest nests I know of. Snakes and cats never get 'way up there and
there are few feathered nest-robbers who can get at those eggs so deep
down in the nest. Goldy is sometimes called Golden Robin. He isn't a
Robin at all, but I would feel very proud if he were a member of my
family. He's just as useful as he is handsome, and that's saying a great
deal. He just dotes on caterpillars. There's Mrs. Robin calling me.
Good-by, Peter."

With this Welcome Robin flew away and Peter once more settled himself to
think over all he had learned.



CHAPTER XIII. More of the Blackbird Family.

Peter Rabbit was dozing. Yes, sir, Peter was dozing. He didn't mean to
doze, but whenever Peter sits still for a long time and tries to think,
he is pretty sure to go to sleep. By and by he wakened with a start. At
first he didn't know what had wakened him, but as he sat there blinking
his eyes, he heard a few rich notes from the top of the nearest
apple-tree. "It's Goldy the Oriole," thought Peter, and peeped out to
see.

But though he looked and looked he couldn't see Goldy anywhere, but he
did see a stranger. It was some one of about Goldy's size and shape. In
fact he was so like Goldy, but for the color of his suit, that at first
Peter almost thought Goldy had somehow changed his clothes. Of course he
knew that this couldn't be, but it seemed as if it must be, for the
song the stranger was singing was something like that of Goldy. The
stranger's head and throat and back were black, just like Goldy's, and
his wings were trimmed with white in just the same way. But the rest
of his suit, instead of being the beautiful orange of which Goldy is so
proud, was a beautiful chestnut color.

Peter blinked and stared very hard. "Now who can this be?" said he,
speaking aloud without thinking.

"Don't you know him?" asked a sharp voice so close to Peter that it made
him jump. Peter whirled around. There sat Striped Chipmunk grinning
at him from the top of the old stone wall. "That's Weaver the Orchard
Oriole," Striped Chipmunk rattled on. "If you don't know him you ought
to, because he is one of the very nicest persons in the Old Orchard. I
just love to hear him sing."

"Is--is--he related to Goldy?" asked Peter somewhat doubtfully.

"Of course," retorted Striped Chipmunk. "I shouldn't think you would
have to look at him more than once to know that. He's first cousin to
Goldy. There comes Mrs. Weaver. I do hope they've decided to build in
the Old Orchard this year."

"I'm glad you told me who she is because I never would have guessed it,"
confessed Peter as he studied the newcomer. She did not look at all
like Weaver. She was dressed in olive-green and dull yellow, with white
markings on her wings.

Peter couldn't help thinking how much easier it must be for her than for
her handsome husband to hide among the green leaves.

As he watched she flew down to the ground and picked up a long piece
of grass. "They are building here, as sure as you live!" cried Striped
Chipmunk. "I'm glad of that. Did you ever see their nest, Peter? Of
course you haven't, because you said you had never seen them before.
Their nest is a wonder, Peter. It really is. It is made almost wholly of
fine grass and they weave it together in the most wonderful way."

"Do they have a hanging nest like Goldy's?" asked Peter a bit timidly.

"Not such a deep one," replied Striped Chipmunk. "They hang it between
the twigs near the end of a branch, but they bind it more closely to the
branch and it isn't deep enough to swing as Goldy's does."

Peter had just opened his mouth to ask another question when there was a
loud sniffing sound farther up along the old stone wall. He didn't wait
to hear it again. He knew that Bowser the Hound was coming.

"Good-by, Striped Chipmunk! This is no place for me," whispered Peter
and started for the dear Old Briar-patch. He was in such a hurry to get
there that on his way across the Green Meadows he almost ran into Jimmy
Skunk before he saw him.

"What's your hurry, Peter?" demanded Jimmy

"Bowser the Hound almost found me up in the Old Orchard," panted Peter.
"It's a wonder he hasn't found my tracks. I expect he will any minute.
I'm glad to see you, Jimmy, but I guess I'd better be moving along."

"Don't be in such a hurry, Peter. Don't be in such a hurry," replied
Jimmy, who himself never hurries. "Stop and talk a bit. That old
nuisance won't bother you as long as you are with me."

Peter hesitated. He wanted to gossip, but he still felt nervous about
Bowser the Hound. However, as he heard nothing of Bowser's great voice,
telling all the world that he had found Peter's tracks, he decided to
stop a few minutes. "What are you doing down here on the Green Meadows?"
he demanded.

Jimmy grinned. "I'm looking for grasshoppers and grubs, if you must
know," said he. "And I've just got a notion I may find some fresh eggs.
I don't often eat them, but once in a while one tastes good."

"If you ask me, it's a funny place to be looking for eggs down here on
the Green Meadows," replied Peter. "When I want a thing; I look for it
where it is likely to be found."

"Just so, Peter; just so," retorted Jimmy Skunk, nodding his head with
approval. "That's why I am here."

Peter looked puzzled. He was puzzled. But before he could ask another
question a rollicking song caused both of them to look up. There on
quivering wings in mid-air was the singer. He was dressed very much like
Jimmy Skunk himself, in black and white, save that in places the white
had a tinge of yellow, especially on the back of his neck. It was
Bubbling Bob the Bobolink. And how he did sing! It seemed as if the
notes fairly tumbled over each other.

Jimmy Skunk raised himself on his hind-legs a little to see just where
Bubbling Bob dropped down in the grass. Then Jimmy began to move in that
direction. Suddenly Peter understood. He remembered that Bubbling Bob's
nest is always on the ground. It was his eggs that Jimmy Skunk was
looking for.

"You don't happen to have seen Mrs. Bob anywhere around here, do you,
Peter?" asked Jimmy, trying to speak carelessly.

"No," replied Peter. "If I had I wouldn't tell you where. You ought to
be ashamed, Jimmy Skunk, to think of robbing such a beautiful singer as
Bubbling Bob."

"Pooh!" retorted Jimmy. "What's the harm? If I find those eggs he and
Mrs. Bob could simply build another nest and lay some more. They won't
be any the worse off, and I will have had a good breakfast."

"But think of all the work they would have to do to build another nest,"
replied Peter.

"I should worry," retorted Jimmy Skunk. "Any one who can spend so much
time singing can afford to do a little extra work."

"You're horrid, Jimmy Skunk. You're just horrid," said Peter. "I hope
you won't find a single egg, so there!"

With this, Peter once more headed for the dear Old Briar-patch,
while Jimmy Skunk continued toward the place where Bubbling Bob had
disappeared in the long grass. Peter went only a short distance and then
sat up to watch Jimmy Skunk. Just before Jimmy reached the place where
Bubbling Bob had disappeared, the latter mounted into the air again,
pouring out his rollicking song as if there were no room in his heart
for anything but happiness. Then he saw Jimmy Shrunk and became very
much excited. He flew down in the grass a little farther on and then up
again, and began to scold.

It looked very much as if he had gone down in the grass to warn Mrs.
Bob. Evidently Jimmy thought so, for he at once headed that way. When
Bubbling Bob did the same thing all over again. Peter grew anxious. He
knew just how patient Jimmy Skunk could be, and he very much feared
that Jimmy would find that nest. Presently he grew tired of watching
and started on for the dear Old Briar-patch. Just before he reached it a
brown bird, who reminded him somewhat of Mrs. Redwing and Sally Sly the
Cowbird, though she was smaller, ran across the path in front of him
and then flew up to the top of a last year's mullein stalk. It was Mrs.
Bobolink. Peter knew her well, for he and she were very good friends.

"Oh!" cried Peter. "What are you doing here? Don't you know that Jimmy
Skunk, is hunting for your nest over there? Aren't you worried to death?
I would be if I were in your place."

Mrs. Bob chuckled. "Isn't he a dear? And isn't he smart?" said she,
meaning Bubbling Bob, of course, and not Jimmy Skunk. "Just see him lead
that black-and-white robber away."

Peter stared at her for a full minute. "Do you mean to say," said he
"that your nest isn't over there at all?"

Mrs. Bob chuckled harder than ever. "Of course it isn't over there,"
said she.

"Then where is it?" demanded Peter.

"That's telling," replied Mrs. Bob. "It isn't over there, and it isn't
anywhere near there. But where it is is Bob's secret and mine, and we
mean to keep it. Now I must go get something to eat," and with a hasty
farewell Mrs. Bobolink flew over to the other side of the dear Old
Briar-patch.

Peter remembered that he had seen Mrs. Bob running along the ground
before she flew up to the old mullein stalk. He went back to the spot
where he had first seen her and hunted all around in the grass, but
without success. You see, Mrs. Bobolink had been quite as clever in
fooling Peter as Bubbling Bob had been in fooling Jimmy Skunk.



CHAPTER XIV. Bob White and Carol the Meadow Lark.

"Bob--Bob White! Bob--Bob White! Bob--Bob White!" clear and sweet, that
call floated over to the dear Old Briar-patch until Peter could stand it
no longer. He felt that he just had to go over and pay an early morning
call on one of his very best friends, who at this season of the year
delights in whistling his own name--Bob White.

"I suppose," muttered Peter, "that Bob White has got a nest. I wish
he would show it to me. He's terribly secretive about it. Last year I
hunted for his nest until my feet were sore, but it wasn't the least bit
of use. Then one morning I met Mrs. Bob White with fifteen babies out
for a walk. How she could hide a nest with fifteen eggs in it is more
than I can understand."

Peter left the Old Briar-patch and started off over the Green Meadows
towards the Old Pasture. As he drew near the fence between the Green
Meadows and the Old Pasture he saw Bob White sitting on one of the
posts, whistling with all his might. On another post near him sat
another bird very near the size of Welcome Robin. He also was telling
all the world of his happiness. It was Carol the Meadow Lark.

Peter was so intent watching these two friends of his that he took no
heed to his footsteps. Suddenly there was a whirr from almost under
his very nose and he stopped short, so startled that he almost squealed
right out. In a second he recognized Mrs. Meadow Lark. He watched
her fly over to where Carol was singing. Her stout little wings moved
swiftly for a moment or two, then she sailed on without moving them at
all. Then they fluttered rapidly again until she was flying fast enough
to once more sail on them outstretched. The white outer feathers of her
tail showed clearly and reminded Peter of the tail of Sweetvoice the
Vesper Sparrow, only of course it was ever so much bigger.

Peter sat still until Mrs. Meadow Lark had alighted on the fence near
Carol. Then he prepared to hurry on, for he was anxious for a bit of
gossip with these good friends of his. But just before he did this he
just happened to glance down and there, almost at his very feet, he
caught sight of something that made him squeal right out. It was a nest
with four of the prettiest eggs Peter ever had seen. They were white
with brown spots all over them. Had it not been for the eggs he never
would have seen that nest, never in the world. It was made of dry, brown
grass and was cunningly hidden is a little clump of dead grass which
fell over it so as to almost completely hide it. But the thing that
surprised Peter most was the clever way in which the approach to it was
hidden. It was by means of a regular little tunnel of grass.

"Oh!" cried Peter, and his eyes sparkled with pleasure. "This must be
the nest of Mrs. Meadow Lark. No wonder I have never been able to find
it, when I have looked for it. It is just luck and nothing else that
I have found it this time. I think it is perfectly wonderful that Mrs.
Meadow Lark can hide her home in such a way. I do hope Jimmy Skunk isn't
anywhere around."

Peter sat up straight and anxiously looked this way and that way. Jimmy
Skunk was nowhere to be seen and Peter gave a little sigh of relief.
Very carefully he walked around that nest and its little tunnel, then
hurried over toward the fence as fast as he could go.

"It's perfectly beautiful, Carol!" he cried, just as soon as he was near
enough. "And I won't tell a single soul!"

"I hope not. I certainly hope not," cried Mrs. Meadow Lark in an anxious
tone. "I never would have another single easy minute if I thought you
would tell a living soul about my nest. Promise that you won't, Peter.
Cross your heart and promise that you won't."

Peter promptly crossed his heart and promised that he wouldn't tell a
single soul. Mrs. Meadow Lark seemed to feel better. Right away she flew
back and Peter turned to watch her. He saw her disappear in the grass,
but it wasn't where he had found the nest. Peter waited a few minutes,
thinking that he would see her rise into the air again and fly over to
the nest. But he waited in vain. Then with a puzzled look on his face,
he turned to look up at Carol.

Carol's eyes twinkled. "I know what you're thinking, Peter," he
chuckled. "You are thinking that it is funny Mrs. Meadow Lark didn't go
straight hack to our nest when she seemed so anxious about it. I would
have you to know that she is too clever to do anything so foolish as
that. She knows well enough that somebody might see her and so find our
secret. She has walked there from the place where you saw her disappear
in the grass. That is the way we always do when we go to our nest. One
never can be too careful these days."

Then Carol began to pour out his happiness once more, quite as if
nothing had interrupted his song.

Somehow Peter never before had realized how handsome Carol the Meadow
Lark was. As he faced Peter, the latter saw a beautiful yellow throat
and waistcoat, with a broad black crescent on his breast. There was a
yellow line above each eye. His back was of brown with black markings.
His sides were whitish, with spats and streaks of black. The outer edges
of his tail were white. Altogether he was really handsome, far handsomer
than one would suspect, seeing him at a distance.

Having found out Carol's secret, Peter was doubly anxious to find Bob
White's home, so he hurried over to the post where Bob was whistling
with all his might. "Bob!" cried Peter. "I've just found Carol's nest
and I've promised to keep it a secret. Won't you show me your nest, too,
if I'll promise to keep THAT a secret?"

Rob threw back his head and laughed joyously. "You ought to know, Peter,
by this time," said he, "that there are secrets never to be told to
anybody. My nest is one of these. If you find it, all right; but I
wouldn't show it to my very best friend, and I guess I haven't any
better friend than you, Peter." Then from sheer happiness he whistled,
"--Bob White! Bob--Bob White!" with all his might.

Peter was disappointed and a little put out. "I guess," said he, "I
could find it if I wanted to. I guess it isn't any better hidden than
Mrs. Meadow Lark's, and I found that. Some folks aren't as smart as they
think they are."

Bob White, who is sometimes called Quail and sometimes called Partridge,
and who is neither, chuckled heartily. "Go ahead, old Mr. Curiosity,
go ahead and hunt all you please," said he. "It's funny to me how some
folks think themselves smart when the truth is they simply have been
lucky. You know well enough that you just happened to find Carol's nest.
If you happen to find mine, I won't have a word to say."

Bob White took a long breath, tipped his head back until his bill was
pointing right up in the blue, blue sky, and with all his might whistled
his name, "Bob--Bob White! Bob--Bob White!"

As Peter looked at him it came over him that Bob White was the plumpest
bird of his acquaintance. He was so plump that his body seemed almost
round. The shortness of his tail added to this effect, for Bob has a
very short tail. The upper part of his coat was a handsome reddish-brown
with dark streaks and light edgings. His sides and the upper part of his
breast were of the same handsome reddish-brown, while underneath he was
whitish with little bars of black. His throat was white, and above each
eye was a broad white stripe. His white throat was bordered with black,
and a band of black divided the throat from the white line above each
eye. The top of his head was mixed black and brown. Altogether he was a
handsome little fellow in a modest way.

Suddenly Bob White stopped whistling and looked down at Peter with a
twinkle in his eye. "Why don't you go hunt for that nest, Peter?" said
he.

"I'm going," replied Peter rather shortly, for he knew that Bob knew
that he hadn't the least idea where to look. It might be somewhere on
the Green Meadows or it might be in the Old Pasture; Bob hadn't given
the least hint. Peter had a feeling that the nest wasn't far away and
that it was on the Green Meadows, so he began to hunt, running aimlessly
this way and that way, all the time feeling very foolish, for of course
he knew that Bob White was watching him and chuckling down inside.

It was very warm down there on the Green Meadows, and Peter grew hot and
tired. He decided to run up in the Old Pasture in the shade of an old
bramble-tangle there. Just the other side of the fence was a path made
by the cows and often used by Farmer Brown's boy and Reddy Fox and
others who visited the Old Pasture. Along this Peter scampered,
lipperty-lipperty-lip, on his way to the bramble-tangle. He didn't look
either to right or left. It didn't occur to him that there would be any
use at all, for of course no one would build a nest near a path where
people passed to and fro every day.

And so it was that in his happy-go-lucky way Peter scampered right past
a clump of tall weeds close beside the path without the least suspicion
that cleverly hidden in it was the very thing he was looking for. With
laughter in her eyes, shrewd little Mrs. Bob White, with sixteen white
eggs under her, watched him pass. She had chosen that very place for her
nest because she knew that it was the last place anyone would expect to
find it. The very fact that it seemed the most dangerous place she could
have chosen made it the safest.



CHAPTER XV. A Swallow and One Who Isn't.

Johnny and Polly Chuck had made their home between the roots of an old
apple-tree in the far corner of the Old Orchard. You know they have
their bedroom way down in the ground, and it is reached by a long hall.
They had dug their home between the roots of that old apple-tree because
they had discovered that there was just room enough between those
spreading roots for them to pass in and out, and there wasn't room to
dig the entrance any larger. So they felt quite safe from Reddy Fox; and
Bowser the Hound, either of whom would have delighted to dig them out
but for those roots.

Right in front of their doorway was a very nice doorstep of shining
sand where Johnny Chuck delighted to sit when he had a full stomach and
nothing else to do. Johnny's nearest neighbors had made their home only
about five feet above Johnny's head when he sat up on his doorstep. They
were Skimmer the Tree Swallow and his trim little wife, and the doorway
of their home was a little round hole in the trunk of that apple-tree, a
hole which had been cut some years before by one of the Woodpeckers.

Johnny and Skimmer were the best of friends. Johnny used to delight in
watching Skimmer dart out from beneath the branches of the trees and
wheel and turn and glide, now sometimes high in the blue, blue sky, and
again just skimming the tops of the grass, on wings which seemed never
to tire. But he liked still better the bits of gossip when Skimmer would
sit in his doorway and chat about his neighbors of the Old Orchard and
his adventures out in the Great World during his long journeys to and
from the far-away South.

To Johnny Chuck's way of thinking, there was no one quite so trim and
neat appearing as Skimmer with his snowy white breast and blue-green
back and wings. Two things Johnny always used to wonder at, Skimmer's
small bill and short legs. Finally he ventured to ask Skimmer about
them.

"Gracious, Johnny!" exclaimed Skimmer. "I wouldn't have a big bill for
anything. I wouldn't know what to do with it; it would be in the
way. You see, I get nearly all my food in the air when I am flying,
mosquitoes and flies and all sorts of small insects with wings. I don't
have to pick them off trees and bushes or from the ground and so I don't
need any more of a bill than I have. It's the same way with my legs.
Have you ever seen me walking on the ground?"

Johnny thought a moment. "No," said he, "now you speak of it, I never
have."

"And have you ever seen me hopping about in the branches of a tree?"
persisted Skimmer.

Again Johnny Chuck admitted that he never had.

"The only use I have for feet," continued Skimmer, "is for perching
while I rest. I don't need long legs for walking or hopping about, so
Mother Nature has made my legs very short. You see I spend most of my
time in the air."

"I suppose it's the same with your cousin; Sooty the Chimney Swallow,"
said Johnny.

"That shows just how much some people know!" twittered Skimmer
indignantly. "The idea of calling Sooty a Swallow! The very idea! I'd
leave you to know, Johnny Chuck, that Sooty isn't even related to me.
He's a Swift, and not a Swallow."

"He looks like a Swallow," protested Johnny Chuck.

"He doesn't either. You just think he does because he happens to spend
most of his time in the air the way we Swallows do," sputtered Skimmer.
"The Swallow family never would admit such a homely looking fellow as he
is as a member.

"Tut, tut, tut, tut! I do believe Skimmer is jealous," cried Jenny Wren,
who had happened along just in time to hear Skimmer's last remarks.

"Nothing of the sort," declared Skimmer, growing still more indignant.
"I'd like to know what there is about Sooty the Chimney Swift that could
possibly make a Swallow jealous."

Jenny Wren cocked her tail up in that saucy way of hers and winked at
Johnny Chuck. "The way he can fly," said she softly.

"The way he can fly!" sputtered Skimmer, "The way he can fly! Why, there
never was a day in his life that he could fly like a Swallow. There
isn't any one more graceful on the wing than I am, if I do say so. And
there isn't any one more ungraceful than Sooty."

Just then there was a shrill chatter overhead and all looked up to see
Sooty the Chimney Swift racing through the sky as if having the very
best time in the world. His wings would beat furiously and then he would
glide very much as you or I would on skates. It was quite true that he
wasn't graceful. But he could twist and turn and cut up all sorts of
antics, such as Skimmer never dreamed of doing.

"He can use first one wing and then the other, while you have to use
both wings at once," persisted Jenny Wren. "You couldn't, to save your
life, go straight down into a chimney, and you know it, Skimmer. He can
do things with his wings which you can't do, nor any other bird."

"That may be true, but just the same I'm not the least teeny weeny bit
jealous of him," said Skimmer, and darted away to get beyond the reach
of Jenny's sharp tongue.

"Is it really true that he and Sooty are not related?" asked Johnny
Chuck, as they watched Skimmer cutting airy circles high up in the slay.

Jenny nodded. "It's quite true, Johnny," said site. "Sooty belongs to
another family altogether. He's a funny fellow. Did you ever in your
life see such narrow wings? And his tail is hardly worth calling a
tail."

Johnny Chuck laughed. "Way up there in the air he looks almost alike at
both ends," said he. "Is he all black?"

"He isn't black at all," declared Jenny. "He is sooty-brown, rather
grayish on the throat and breast. Speaking of that tail of his, the
feathers end in little, sharp, stiff points. He uses them in the same
way that Downy the Woodpecker uses his tail feathers when he braces
himself with them on the trunk of a tree."

"But I've never seen Sooty on the trunk of a tree," protested Johnny
Chuck. "In fact, I've never seen him anywhere but in the air."

"And you never will," snapped Jenny. "The only place he ever alights is
inside a chimney or inside a hollow tree. There he clings to the side
just as Downy the Woodpecker clings to the trunk of a tree."

Johnny looked as if he didn't quite believe this. "If that's the case
where does he nest?" he demanded. "And where does he sleep?"

"In a chimney, stupid. In a chimney, of course," retorted Jenny Wren.
"He fastens his nest right to the inside of a chimney. He makes a
regular little basket of twigs and fastens it to the side of the
chimney."

"Are you trying to stuff me with nonsense?" asked Johnny Chuck
indignantly. "How can he fasten his nest to the side of a chimney unless
there's a little shelf to put it on? And if he never alights, how does
he get the little sticks to make a nest of? I'd just like to know how
you expect me to believe any such story as that."

Jenny Wren's sharp little eyes snapped. "If you half used your eyes you
wouldn't have to ask me how he gets those little sticks," she sputtered.
"If you had watched him when he was flying close to the tree tops you
would have seen him clutch little dead twigs in his claws and snap them
off without stopping. That's the way he gets his little sticks, Mr.
Smarty, He fastens them together with a sticky substance he has in his
mouth, and he fastens the nest to the side of the chimney in the same
way. You can believe it or not, but it's so."

"I believe it, Jenny, I believe it," replied Johnny Chuck very humbly.
"If you please, Jenny, does Sooty get all his food in the air too?"

"Of course," replied Jenny tartly. "He eats nothing but insects, and he
catches them flying. Now I must get back to my duties at home."

"Just tell me one more thing," cried Johnny Chuck hastily. "Hasn't Sooty
any near relatives as most birds have?"

"He hasn't any one nearer than some sort of second cousins, Boomer the
Nighthawk, Whippoorwill, and Hummer the Hummingbird."

"What?" cried Johnny Chuck, quite as if he couldn't believe he had heard
aright. "Did you say Hummer the Hummingbird?" But he got no reply, for
Jenny Wren was already beyond hearing.



CHAPTER XVI. A Robber in the Old Orchard.

"I don't believe it," muttered Johnny Chuck out loud. "I don't believe
Jenny Wren knows what she's talking about."

"What is it Jenny Wren has said that you don't believe?" demanded
Skimmer the Tree Swallow, as he once more settled himself in his
doorway.

"She said that Hummer the Hummingbird is a sort of second cousin to
Sooty the Chimney Swift," replied Johnny Chuck.

"Well, it's so, if you don't believe it," declared Skimmer. "I don't see
that that is any harder to believe than that you are cousin to Striped
Chipmunk and Nappy Jack the Gray Squirrel. To look at you no one would
ever think you are a member of the Squirrel family, but you must admit
that you are."

Johnny Chuck nodded his head thoughtfully. "Yes," said he, "I am, even
if I don't look it. This is a funny world, isn't it? You can't always
tell by a person's looks who he may be related to. Now that I've found
out that Sooty isn't related to you and is related to Hummer, I'll never
dare guess again about anybody's relatives. I always supposed Twitter
the Martin to be a relative of yours, but now that I've learned that
Sooty isn't, I suspect that Twitter isn't either."

"Oh, yes, he is," replied Skimmer promptly. "He's the largest of the
Swallow family, and we all feel very proud of him. Everybody loves him."

"Is he as black as he looks, flying round up in the air?" asked Johnny
Chuck. "He never comes down here as you do where a fellow can get a good
look at him."

"Yes," replied Skimmer, "he dresses all in black, but it is a beautiful
blue-black, and when the sun shines on his back it seems to be almost
purple. That is why some folks call him the Purple Martin. He is one of
the most social fellows I know of. I like a home by myself, such as I've
got here, but Twitter loves company. He likes to live in an apartment
house with a lot of his own kind. That is why he always looks for one of
those houses with a lot of rooms in it, such as Farmer Brown's boy has
put up on the top of that tall pole out in his back yard. He pays for
all the trouble Farmer Brown's boy took to put that house up. If there
is anybody who catches more flies and winged insects than Twitter, I
don't know who it is."

"How about me?" demanded a new voice, as a graceful form skimmed
over Johnny Chuck's head, and turning like a flash, came back. It was
Forktail the Barn Swallow, the handsomest and one of the most graceful
of all the Swallow family. He passed so close to Johnny that the latter
had a splendid chance to see and admire his glistening steel-blue back
and the beautiful chestnut-brown of his forehead and throat with its
narrow black collar, and the brown to buff color of his under parts. But
the thing that was most striking about him was his tail, which was so
deeply forked as to seem almost like two tails.

"I would know him as far as I could see him just by his tail alone,"
exclaimed Johnny. "I don't know of any other tail at all like it."

"There isn't any other like it," declared Skimmer. "If Twitter the
Martin is the largest of our family, Forktail is the handsomest."

"How about my usefulness?" demanded Forktail, as he came skimming past
again. "Cousin Twitter certainly does catch a lot of flies and insects
but I'm willing to go against him any day to see who can catch the
most."

With this he darted away. Watching him they saw him alight on the top of
Farmer Brown's barn. "It's funny," remarked Johnny Chuck, "but as long
as I've known Forktail, and I've known him ever since I was big enough
to know anybody, I've never found out how he builds his nest. I've seen
him skimming over the Green Meadows times without number, and often he
comes here to the Old Orchard as he did just now, but I've never seen
him stop anywhere except over on that barn."

"That's where he nests," chuckled Skimmer.

"What?" cried Johnny Chuck. "Do you mean to say he nests on Farmer
Brown's barn?"

"No," replied Skimmer. "He nests in it. That's why he is called the Barn
Swallow, and why you never have seen his nest. If you'll just go over to
Farmer Brown's barn and look up in the roof, you'll see Forktail's nest
there somewhere."

"Me go over to Farmer Brown's barn!" exclaimed Johnny Chuck. "Do you
think I'm crazy?"

Skimmer chuckled. "Forktail isn't crazy," said he, "and he goes in and
out of that barn all day long. I must say I wouldn't care to build in
such a place myself, but he seems to like it. There's one thing about
it, his home is warm and dry and comfortable, no matter what the weather
is. I wouldn't trade with him, though. No, sir, I wouldn't trade with
him for anything. Give me a hollow in a tree well lined with feathers to
a nest made of mud and straw, even if it is feather-lined."

"Do you mean that such a neat-looking, handsome fellow as Forktail uses
mud in his nest?" cried Johnny.

Skimmer bobbed his head. "He does just that," said he. "He's something
like Welcome Robin in this respect. I--"

But Johnny Chuck never knew what Skimmer was going to say next, for
Skimmer happened at that instant to glance up. For an instant he sat
motionless with horror, then with a shriek he darted out into the air.
At the sound of that shriek Mrs. Skimmer, who all the time had been
sitting on her eggs inside the hollow of the tree, darted out of her
doorway, also shrieking. For a moment Johnny Chuck couldn't imagine what
could be the trouble. Then a slight rustling drew his eyes to a crotch
in the tree a little above the doorway of Skimmer's home. There, partly
coiled around a branch, with head swaying to and fro, eyes glittering
and forked tongue darting out and in, as he tried to look down into
Skimmer's nest, was Mr. Blacksnake.

It seemed to Johnny as if in a minute every bird in the Old Orchard had
arrived on the scene. Such a shrieking and screaming as there was! First
one and then another would dart at Mr. Blacksnake, only to lose courage
at the last second and turn aside. Poor Skimmer and his little wife were
frantic. They did their utmost to distract Mr. Blacksnake's attention,
darting almost into his very face and then away again before he could
strike. But Mr. Blacksnake knew that they were powerless to hurt him,
and he knew that there were eggs in that nest. There is nothing he
loves better than eggs unless it is a meal of baby birds. Beyond hissing
angrily two or three times he paid no attention to Skimmer or his
friends, but continued to creep nearer the entrance to that nest.

At last he reached a position where he could put his head in the
doorway. As he did so, Skimmer and Mrs. Skimmer each gave a little cry
of hopelessness and despair. But no sooner had his head disappeared in
the hole in the old apple-tree than Scrapper the Kingbird struck him
savagely. Instantly Mr. Blacksnake withdrew his head, hissing fiercely,
and struck savagely at the birds nearest him. Several times the same
thing happened. No sooner would his head disappear in that hole than
Scrapper or one or the other of Skimmer's friends, braver than the rest,
would dart in and peck at him viciously, and all the time all the birds
were screaming as only excited feathered folk can. Johnny Chuck was
quite as excited as his feathered friends, and so intent watching the
hated black robber that he had eyes for nothing else. Suddenly he heard
a step just behind him. He turned his head and then frantically dived
head first down into his hole. He had looked right up into the eyes of
Farmer Brown's boy!

"Ha, ha!" cried Farmer Brown's boy, "I thought as much!" And with a long
switch he struck Mr. Blacksnake just as the latter had put his head in
that doorway, resolved to get those eggs this time. But when he felt
that switch and heard the voice of Farmer Brown's boy he changed his
mind in a flash. He simply let go his hold on that tree and dropped. The
instant he touched the ground he was off like a shot for the safety of
the old stone wall, Farmer Brown's boy after him. Farmer Brown's boy
didn't intend to kill Mr. Blacksnake, but he did want to give him such a
fright that he wouldn't visit the Old Orchard again in a hurry, and this
he quite succeeded in doing.

No sooner had Mr. Blacksnake disappeared than all the birds set up such
a rejoicing that you would have thought they, and not Farmer Brown's
boy, had saved the eggs of Mr. and Mrs. Skimmer. Listening to them,
Johnny Chuck just had to smile.



CHAPTER XVII. More Robbers.

By the sounds of rejoicing among the feathered folks of the Old Orchard
Johnny Chuck knew that it was quite safe for him to come out. He
was eager to tell Skimmer the Tree Swallow how glad he was that Mr.
Blacksnake had been driven away before he could get Skimmer's eggs. As
he poked his head out of his doorway he became aware that something was
still wrong in the Old Orchard. Into the glad chorus there broke a
note of distress and sorrow. Johnny instantly recognized the voices
of Welcome Robin and Mrs. Robin. There is not one among his feathered
neighbors who can so express worry and sorrow as can the Robins.

Johnny was just in time to see all the birds hurrying over to that part
of the Old Orchard where the Robins had built their home. The rejoicing
suddenly gave way to cries of indignation and anger, and Johnny caught
the words, "Robber! Thief! Wretch!" It appeared that there was just as
much excitement over there as there had been when Mr. Blacksnake had
been discovered trying to rob Skimmer and Mrs. Skimmer. It couldn't be
Mr. Blacksnake again, because Farmer Brown's boy had chased him in quite
another direction.

"What is it now?" asked Johnny of Skimmer, who was still excitedly
discussing with Mrs. Skimmer their recent fright.

"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," replied Skimmer and darted
away.

Johnny Chuck waited patiently. The excitement among the birds seemed
to increase, and the chattering and angry cries grew louder. Only the
voices of Welcome and Mrs. Robin were not angry. They were mournful, as
if Welcome and Mrs. Robin were heartbroken. Presently Skimmer came back
to tell Mrs. Skimmer the news.

"The Robins have lost their eggs!" he cried excitedly. "All four have
been broken and eaten. Mrs. Robin left them to come over here to help
drive away Mr. Blacksnake, and while she was here some one ate those
eggs. Nobody knows who it could have been, because all the birds of the
Old Orchard were over here at that time. It might leave been Chatterer
the Red Squirrel, or it might have been Sammy Jay, or it might have been
Creaker the Grackle, or it might have been Blacky the Crow. Whoever it
was just took that chance to sneak over there and rob that nest when
there was no one to see him."

Just then from over towards the Green Forest sounded a mocking "Caw,
caw, caw!" Instantly the noise in the Old Orchard ceased for a moment.
Then it broke out afresh. There wasn't a doubt now in any one's mind.
Blacky the Crow was the robber. How those tongues did go! There was
nothing too bad to say about Blacky. And such dreadful things as those
birds promised to do to Blacky the Crow if ever they should catch him in
the Old Orchard.

"Caw, caw, caw!" shouted Blacky from the distance, and his voice sounded
very much as if he thought he had done something very smart. It was
quite clear that at least he was not sorry for what he had done.

All the birds were so excited and so angry, as they gathered around
Welcome and Mrs. Robin trying to comfort them, that it was some time
before their indignation meeting broke up and they returned to their own
homes and duties. Almost at once there was another cry of distress.
Mr. and Mrs. Chebec had been robbed of their eggs! While they had been
attending the indignation meeting at the home of the Robins, a thief had
taken the chance to steal their eggs and get away.

Of course right away all the birds hurried over to sympathize with the
Chebecs and to repeat against the unknown thief all the threats they
had made against Blacky the Crow. They knew it couldn't have been Blacky
this time because they had heard Blacky cawing over on the edge of the
Green Forest. In the midst of the excited discussion as to who the thief
was, Weaver the Orchard Oriole spied a blue and white feather on the
ground just below Chebec's nest.

"It was Sammy Jay! There is no doubt about it, it was Sammy Jay!" he
cried.

At the sight of that telltale feather all the birds knew that Weaver was
right, and led by Scrapper the Kingbird they began a noisy search of the
Old Orchard for the sly robber. But Sammy wasn't to be found, and they
soon gave up the search, none daring to stay longer away from his
own home lest something should happen there. Welcome and Mrs. Robin
continued to cry mournfully, but little Mr. and Mrs. Chebec bore their
trouble almost silently.

"There is one thing about it," said Mr. Chebec to his sorrowful little
wife, "that egg of Sally Sly's went with the rest, and we won't have to
raise that bothersome orphan."

"That's true," said she. "There is no use crying over what can't be
helped. It is a waste of time to sit around crying. Come on, Chebec,
let's look for a place to build another nest. Next time I won't leave
the eggs unwatched for a minute."

Meanwhile Jenny Wren's tongue was fairly flying as she chattered to
Peter Rabbit, who had come up in the midst of the excitement and of
course had to know all about it.

"Blacky the Crow has a heart as black as his coat, and his cousin Sammy
Jay isn't much better," declared Jenny. "They belong to a family of
robbers."

"Wait a minute," cried Peter. "Do you mean to say that Blacky the Crow
and Sammy Jay are cousins?"

"For goodness' sake, Peter!" exclaimed Jenny, "do you mean to say that
you don't know that? Of course they're cousins. They don't look much
alike, but they belong to the same family. I would expect almost
anything bad of any one as black as Blacky the Crow. But how such
a handsome fellow as Sammy Jay can do such dreadful things I don't
understand. He isn't as bad as Blacky, because he does do a lot of good.
He destroys a lot of caterpillars and other pests.

"There are no sharper eyes anywhere than those of Sammy Jay, and I'll
have to say this for him, that whenever he discovers any danger he
always gives us warning. He has saved the lives of a good many of us
feathered folks in this way. If it wasn't for this habit of stealing our
eggs I wouldn't have a word to say against him, but at that, he isn't
as bad as Blacky the Crow. They say Blacky does some good by destroying
white grubs and some other harmful pests, but he's a regular cannibal,
for he is just as fond of young birds as he is of eggs, and the harm he
does in this way is more than the good he does in other ways. He's bold,
black, and bad, if you ask me."

Remembering her household duties, Jenny Wren disappeared inside her
house in her usual abrupt fashion. Peter hung around for a while but
finding no one who would take the time to talk to him he suddenly
decided to go over to the Green Forest to look for some of his friends
there. He had gone but a little way in the Green Forest when he caught a
glimpse of a blue form stealing away through the trees. He knew it in
an instant, for there is no one with such a coat but Sammy Jay. Peter
glanced up in the tree from which Sammy had flown and there he saw a
nest in a crotch halfway up. "I wonder," thought Peter, "if Sammy was
stealing eggs there, or if that is his own nest." Then he started
after Sammy as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. As he ran he
happened to look back and was just in time to see Mrs. Jay slip on
to the nest. Then Peter knew that he had discovered Sammy's home. He
chuckled as he ran.

"I've found out your secret, Sammy Jay!" cried Peter when at last he
caught up with Sammy.

"Then I hope you'll be gentleman enough to keep it," grumbled Sammy,
looking not at all pleased.

"Certainly," replied Peter with dignity. "I wouldn't think of telling
any one. My, what a handsome fellow you are, Sammy."

Sammy looked pleased. He is a little bit vain, is Sammy Jay. There is no
denying that he is handsome. He is just a bit bigger than Welcome Robin.
His back is grayish-blue. His tail is a bright blue crossed with little
black bars and edged with white. His wings are blue with white and black
bars. His throat and breast are a soft grayish-white, and he wears a
collar of black. On his head he wears a pointed cap, a very convenient
cap, for at times he draws it down so that it is not pointed at all.

"Why did you steal Mrs. Chebec's eggs?" demanded Peter abruptly.

Sammy didn't look the least bit put out. "Because I like eggs," he
replied promptly. "If people will leave their eggs unguarded they must
expect to lose them. How did you know I took those eggs?"

"Never mind, Sammy; never mind. A little bird told me," retorted Peter
mischievously.

Sammy opened his mouth for a sharp reply, but instead he uttered a cry
of warning. "Run, Peter! Run! Here comes Reddy Fox!" he cried.

Peter dived headlong under a great pile of brush. There he was quite
safe. While he waited for Reddy Fox to go away he thought about Sammy
Jay. "It's funny," he mused, "how so much good and so much bad can be
mixed together. Sammy Jay stole Chebec's eggs, and then he saved my
life. I just know he would have done as much for Mr. and Mrs. Chebec,
or for any other feathered neighbor. He can only steal eggs for a little
while in the spring. I guess on the whole he does more good than harm.
I'm going to think so anyway."

Peter was quite right. Sammy Jay does do more good than harm.



CHAPTER XVIII. Some Homes in the Green Forest.

Reddy Fox wasted very little time waiting for Peter Rabbit to come
out from under that pile of brush where he had hidden at Sammy Jay's
warning. After making some terrible threats just to try to frighten
Peter, he trotted away to look for some Mice. Peter didn't mind those
threats at all. He was used to them. He knew that he was safe where he
was, and all he had to do was to stay there until Reddy should be so far
away that it would be safe to come out.

Just to pass away the time Peter took a little nap. When he awoke he sat
for a few minutes trying to make up his mind where to go and what to do
next. From 'way over in the direction of the Old Pasture the voice of
Blacky the Crow reached him. Peter pricked up his ears, then chuckled.

"Reddy Fox has gone back to the Old Pasture and Blacky has discovered
him there," he thought happily. You see, he understood what Blacky was
saying. To you or me Blacky would have been saying simply, "Caw! Caw!"
But to all the little people of the Green Forest and Green Meadows
within hearing he was shouting, "Fox! Fox!"

"I wonder," thought Peter, "where Blacky is nesting this year. Last
year his nest was in a tall pine-tree not far from the edge of the Green
Forest. I believe I'll run over there and see if he has a new nest near
the old one."

So Peter scampered over to the tall pine in which was Blacky's old nest.
As he sat with his head tipped back, staring up at it, it struck him
that that nest didn't look so old, after all. In fact, it looked as if
it had recently been fixed up quite like new. He was wondering about
this and trying to guess what it meant, when Blacky himself alighted
close to the edge of it.

There was something in his bill, though what it was Peter couldn't see.
Almost at once a black head appeared above the edge of the nest and
a black bill seized the thing which Blacky had brought. Then the head
disappeared and Blacky silently flew away.

"As sure as I live," thought Peter, "that was Mrs. Blacky, and Blacky
brought her some food so that she would not have to leave those eggs she
must have up there. He may be the black-hearted robber every one says he
is, but he certainly is a good husband. He's a better husband than some
others I know, of whom nothing but good is said. It just goes to show
that there is some good in the very worst folks. Blacky is a sly old
rascal. Usually he is as noisy as any one I know, but he came and went
without making a sound. Now I think of it, I haven't once heard his
voice near here this spring. I guess if Farmer Brown's boy could find
this nest he would get even with Blacky for pulling up his corn. I know
a lot of clever people, but no one quite so clever as Blacky the Crow.
With all his badness I can't help liking him."

Twice, while Peter watched, Blacky returned with food for Mrs. Blacky.
Then, tired of keeping still so long, Peter decided to run over to a
certain place farther in the Green Forest which was seldom visited
by any one. It was a place Peter usually kept away from. It was pure
curiosity which led him to go there now. The discovery that Blacky the
Crow was using his old nest had reminded Peter that Redtail the Hawk
uses his old nest year after year, and he wanted to find out if Redtail
had come back to it this year.

Halfway over to that lonesome place in the Green Forest a trim little
bird flew up from the ground, hopped from branch to branch of a tree,
walked along a limb, then from pure happiness threw back his head and
cried, "Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher!" each time a little
louder than before. It was Teacher the Oven Bird.

In his delight at seeing this old friend, Peter quite forgot Redtail the
Hawk. "Oh, Teacher!" cried Peter. "I'm so glad to see you again!"

Teacher stopped singing and looked down at Peter. "If you are so glad
why haven't you been over to see me before?" he demanded. "I've been
here for some time."

Peter looked a little foolish. "The truth is, Teacher," said he very
humbly, "I have been visiting the Old Orchard so much and learning so
many things that this is the first chance I have had to come 'way over
here in the Green Forest. You see, I have been learning a lot of things
about you feathered folks, things I hadn't even guessed. There is
something I wish you'd tell me, Teacher; will you?"

"That depends on what it is," replied Teacher, eyeing Peter a little
suspiciously.

"It is why you are called Oven Bird," said Peter.

"Is that all?" asked Teacher. Then without waiting for a reply he added,
"It is because of the way Mrs. Teacher and I build our nest. Some people
think it is like an oven and so they call us Oven Birds. I think that is
a silly name myself, quite as silly as Golden Crowned Thrush, which is
what some people call me. I'm not a Thrush. I'm not even related to the
Thrush family. I'm a Warbler, a Wood Warbler."

"I suppose," said Peter, looking at Teacher thoughtfully, "they've given
you that name because you are dressed something like the Thrushes. That
olive-green coat, and white waistcoat all streaked and spotted with
black, certainly does remind me of the Thrush family. If you were not so
much smaller than any of the Thrushes I should almost think you were
one myself. Why, you are not very much bigger than Chippy the Chipping
Sparrow, only you've got longer legs. I suppose that's because you spend
so much time on the ground. I think that just Teacher is the best name
for you. No one who has once heard you could ever mistake you for any
one else. By the way, Teacher, where did you say your nest is?"

"I didn't say," retorted Teacher. "What's more, I'm not going to say."

"Won't you at least tell me if it is in a tree?" begged Peter.

Teacher's eyes twinkled. "I guess it won't do any harm to tell you that
much," said he. "No, it isn't in a tree. It is on the ground and, if I
do say it, it is as well hidden a nest as anybody can build. Oh, Peter,
watch your step! Watch your step!" Teacher fairly shrieked this warning.

Peter, who had just started to hop off to his right, stopped short
in sheer astonishment. Just in front of him was a tiny mound of dead
leaves, and a few feet beyond Mrs. Teacher was fluttering about on the
ground as if badly hurt. Peter simply didn't know what to make of it.
Once more he made a movement as if to hop. Teacher flew right down in
front of him. "You'll step on my nest!" he cried.

Peter stared, for he didn't see any nest. He said as much.

"It's under that little mound of leaves right in front of your feet!"
cried Teacher. "I wasn't going to tell you, but I just had to or you
certainly would have stepped on it."

Very carefully Peter walked around the little bunch of leaves and peered
under them from the other side. There, sure enough, was a nest beneath
them, and in it four speckled eggs. "I won't tell a soul, Teacher. I
promise you I won't tell a soul," declared Peter very earnestly. "I
understand now why you are called Oven Bird, but I still like the name
Teacher best."

Feeling that Mr. and Mrs. Teacher would feel easier in their minds if he
left them, Peter said good-by and started on for the lonesome place
in the Green Forest where he knew the old nest of Redtail the Hawk had
been. As he drew near the place he kept sharp watch through the treetops
for a glimpse of Redtail. Presently he saw him high in the blue sky,
sailing lazily in big circles. Then Peter became very, very cautious.
He tiptoed forward, keeping under cover as much as possible. At last,
peeping out from beneath a little hemlock-tree, he could see Redtail's
old nest. He saw right away that it was bigger than it had been when he
saw it last. Suddenly there was a chorus of hungry cries and Peter saw
Mrs. Redtail approaching with a Mouse in her claws. From where he sat he
could see four funny heads stretched above the edge of the nest.

"Redtail is using his old nest again and has got a family already,"
exclaimed Peter. "I guess this is no place for me. The sooner I get away
from here the better."

Just then Redtail himself dropped down out of the blue, blue sky and
alighted on a tree close at hand. Peter decided that the best thing he
could do was to sit perfectly still where he was. He had a splendid view
of Redtail, and he couldn't help but admire this big member of the Hawk
family. The upper parts of his coat were a dark grayish-brown mixed with
touches of chestnut color. The upper part of his breast was streaked
with grayish-brown and buff, the lower part having but few streaks.
Below this were black spots and bars ending in white. But it was the
tail which Peter noticed most of all. It was a rich reddish-brown with a
narrow black band near its end and a white tip. Peter understood at once
why this big Hawk is called Redtail.

It was not until Mr. and Mrs. Redtail had gone in quest of more food for
their hungry youngsters that Peter dared steal away. As soon as he
felt it safe to do so, he headed for home as fast as he could go,
lipperty-lipperty-lip. He knew that he wouldn't feel safe until that
lonesome place in the Green Forest was far behind.

Yet if the truth be known, Peter had less cause to worry than would have
been the case had it been some other member of the Hawk family instead
of Redtail. And while Redtail and his wife do sometimes catch some of
their feathered and furred neighbors, and once in a while a chicken,
they do vastly more good than harm.



CHAPTER XIX. A Maker of Thunder and a Friend in Black.

Peter Rabbit's intentions were of the best. Once safely away from that
lonesome part of the Green Forest where was the home of Redtail the
Hawk, he intended to go straight back to the dear Old Briar-patch. But
he was not halfway there when from another direction in the Green Forest
there came a sound that caused him to stop short and quite forget all
about home. It was a sound very like distant thunder. It began slowly at
first and then went faster and faster. Boom--Boom--Boom--Boom-Boom-Boom
Boo-Boo-B-B-B-B-b-b-b-b-boom! It was like the long roll on a bass drum.

Peter laughed right out. "That's Strutter the Stuffed Grouse!" he cried
joyously. "I had forgotten all about him. I certainly must go over and
pay him a call and find out where Mrs. Grouse is. My, how Strutter can
drum!"

Peter promptly headed towards that distant thunder. As he drew nearer
to it, it sounded louder and louder. Presently Peter stopped to try to
locate exactly the place where that sound, which now was more than ever
like thunder, was coming from. Suddenly Peter remembered something.
"I know just where he is," said he to himself. "There's a big, mossy,
hollow log over yonder, and I remember that Mrs. Grouse once told me
that that is Strutter's thunder log."

Very, very carefully Peter stole forward, making no sound at all. At
last he reached a place where he could peep out and see that big, mossy,
hollow log. Sure enough, there was Strutter the Ruffed Grouse. When
Peter first saw him he was crouched on one end of the log, a fluffy ball
of reddish-brown, black and gray feathers. He was resting. Suddenly he
straightened up to his full height, raised his tail and spread it until
it was like an open fan above his back. The outer edge was gray, then
came a broad band of black, followed by bands of gray, brown and black.
Around his neck was a wonderful ruff of black. His reddish-brown wings
were dropped until the tips nearly touched the log. His full breast
rounded out and was buff color with black markings. He was of about the
size of the little Bantam hens Peter had seen in Farmer Brown's henyard.

In the most stately way you can imagine Strutter walked the length of
that mossy log. He was a perfect picture of pride as he strutted very
much like Tom Gobbler the big Turkey cock. When he reached the end of
the log he suddenly dropped his tail, stretched himself to his full
height and his wings began to beat, first slowly then faster and faster,
until they were just a blur. They seemed to touch above his back but
when they came down they didn't quite strike his sides. It was those
fast moving wings that made the thunder. It was so loud that Peter
almost wanted to stop his ears. When it ended Strutter settled down to
rest and once more appeared like a ball of fluffy feathers. His ruff was
laid flat.

Peter watched him thunder several times and then ventured to show
himself. "Strutter, you are wonderful! simply wonderful!" cried Peter,
and he meant just what he said.

Strutter threw out his chest proudly. "That is just what Mrs. Grouse
says," he replied. "I don't know of any better thunderer if I do say it
myself."

"Speaking of Mrs. Grouse, where is she?" asked Peter eagerly.

"Attending to her household affairs, as a good housewife should,"
retorted Strutter promptly.

"Do you mean she has a nest and eggs?" asked Peter.

Strutter nodded. "She has twelve eggs," he added proudly.

"I suppose," said Peter artfully, "her nest is somewhere near here on
the ground."

"It's on the ground, Peter, but as to where it is I am not saying a
word. It may or it may not be near here. Do you want to hear me thunder
again?"

Of course Peter said he did, and that was sufficient excuse for Strutter
to show off. Peter stayed a while longer to gossip, but finding Strutter
more interested in thundering than in talking, he once more started for
home.

"I really would like to know where that nest is," said he to himself
as he scampered along. "I suppose Mrs. Grouse has hidden it so cleverly
that it is quite useless to look for it."

On his way he passed a certain big tree. All around the ground was
carpeted with brown, dead leaves. There were no bushes or young trees
there. Peter never once thought of looking for a nest. It was the last
place in the world he would expect to find one. When he was well past
the big tree there was a soft chuckle and from among the brown leaves
right at the foot of that big tree a head with a pair of the brightest
eyes was raised a little. Those eyes twinkled as they watched Peter out
of sight.

"He didn't see me at all," chuckled Mrs. Grouse, as she settled down
once more. "That is what comes of having a cloak so like the color
of these nice brown leaves. He isn't the first one who has passed me
without seeing me at all. It is better than trying to hide a nest, and I
certainly am thankful to Old Mother Nature for the cloak she gave me.
I wonder if every one of these twelve eggs will hatch. If they do, I
certainly will have a family to be proud of."

Meanwhile Peter hurried on in his usual happy-go-lucky fashion until
he came to the edge of the Green Forest. Out on the Green Meadows just
beyond he caught sight of a black form walking about in a stately way
and now and then picking up something. It reminded him of Blacky the
Crow, but he knew right away that it wasn't Blacky, because it was so
much smaller, being not more than half as big.

"It's Creaker the Grackle. He was one of the first to arrive this spring
and I'm ashamed of myself for not having called on him," thought Peter,
as he hopped out and started across the Green Meadows towards Creaker.
"What a splendid long tail he has. I believe Jenny Wren told me that he
belongs to the Blackbird family. He looks so much like Blacky the Crow
that I suppose this is why they call him Crow Blackbird."

Just then Creaker turned in such a way that the sun fell full on his
head and back. "Why! Why-ee!" exclaimed Peter, rubbing his eyes with
astonishment. "He isn't just black! He's beautiful, simply beautiful,
and I've always supposed he was just plain, homely black."

It was true. Creaker the Grackle with the sun shining on him was truly
beautiful. His head and neck, his throat and upper breast, were a
shining blue-black, while his back was a rich, shining brassy-green.
His wings and tail were much like his head and neck. As Peter watched
it seemed as if the colors were constantly changing. This changing of
colors is called iridescence. One other thing Peter noticed and this
was that Creaker's eyes were yellow. Just at the moment Peter couldn't
remember any other bird with yellow eyes.

"Creaker," cried Peter, "I wonder if you know how handsome you are!"

"I'm glad you think so," replied Creaker. "I'm not at all vain, but
there are mighty few birds I would change coats with."

"Is--is--Mrs. Creaker dressed as handsomely as you are?" asked Peter
rather timidly.

Creaker shook his head. "Not quite," said he. "She likes plain black
better. Some of the feathers on her back shine like mine, but she says
that she has no time to show off in the sun and to take care of fine
feathers."

"Where is she now?" asked Peter.

"Over home," replied Creaker, pulling a white grub out of the roots of
the grass. "We've got a nest over there in one of those pine-trees on
the edge of the Green Forest and I expect any day now we will have four
hungry babies to feed. I shall have to get busy then. You know I am
one of those who believe that every father should do his full share in
taking care of his family."

"I'm glad to hear you say it," declared Peter, nodding his head with
approval quite as if he was himself the best of fathers, which he isn't
at all.

"May I ask you a very personal question, Creaker?"

"Ask as many questions as you like. I don't have to answer them unless I
want to," retorted Creaker.

"Is it true that you steal the eggs of other birds?" Peter blurted the
question out rather hurriedly.

Creaker's yellow eyes began to twinkle. "That is a very personal
question," said he. "I won't go so far as to say I steal eggs, but I've
found that eggs are very good for my constitution and if I find a nest
with nobody around I sometimes help myself to the eggs. You see the
owner might not come back and then those eggs would spoil, and that
would be a pity."

"That's no excuse at all," declared Peter. "I believe you're no better
than Sammy Jay and Blacky the Crow."

Creaker chuckled, but he did not seem to be at all offended. Just then
he heard Mrs. Creaker calling him and with a hasty farewell he spread
his wings and headed for the Green Forest. Once in the air he seemed
just plain black. Peter watched him out of sight and then once more
headed for the dear Old Briar-patch.



CHAPTER XX. A Fisherman Robbed.

Just out of curiosity, and because he possesses what is called the
wandering foot, which means that he delights to roam about, Peter Rabbit
had run over to the bank of the Big River. There were plenty of bushes,
clumps of tall grass, weeds and tangles of vines along the bank of the
Big River, so that Peter felt quite safe there. He liked to sit gazing
out over the water and wonder where it all came from and where it was
going and what, kept it moving.

He was doing this very thing on this particular morning when he happened
to glance up in the blue, blue sky. There he saw a broad-winged bird
sailing in wide, graceful circles. Instantly Peter crouched a little
lower in his hiding-place, for he knew this for a member of the Hawk
family and Peter has learned by experience that the only way to keep
perfectly safe when one of these hook-clawed, hook-billed birds is about
is to keep out of sight.

So now he crouched very close to the ground and kept his eyes fixed on
the big bird sailing so gracefully high up in the blue, blue sky over
the Big River. Suddenly the stranger paused in his flight and for a
moment appeared to remain in one place, his great wings heating rapidly
to hold him there. Then those wings were closed and with a rush he shot
down straight for the water, disappearing with a great splash. Instantly
Peter sat up to his full height that he might see better.

"It's Plunger the Osprey fishing, and I've nothing to fear from him," he
cried happily.

Out of the water, his great wings flapping, rose Plunger. Peter looked
eagerly to see if he had caught a fish, but there was nothing in
Plunger's great, curved claws. Either that fish had been too deep or
had seen Plunger and darted away just in the nick of time. Peter had a
splendid view of Plunger. He was just a little bigger than Redtail the
Hawk. Above he was dark brown, his head and neck marked with white. His
tail was grayish, crossed by several narrow dark bands and tipped with
white. His under parts were white with some light brown spots on his
breast. Peter could see clearly the great, curved claws which are
Plunger's fishhooks.

Up, up, up he rose, going round and round in a spiral. When he was well
up in the blue, blue sky, he began to sail again in wide circles as when
Peter had first seen him. It wasn't long before he again paused and
then shot down towards the water. This time he abruptly spread his great
wings just before reaching the water so that he no more than wet his
feet. Once more a fish had escaped him. But Plunger seemed not in the
least discouraged. He is a true fisherman and every true fisherman
possesses patience. Up again he spiraled until he was so high that Peter
wondered how he could possibly see a fish so far below. You see, Peter
didn't know that it is easier to see down into the water from high above
it than from close to it. Then, too, there are no more wonderful eyes
than those possessed by the members of the Hawk family. And Plunger the
Osprey is a Hawk, usually called Fish Hawk.

A third time Plunger shot down and this time, as in his first attempt,
he struck the water with a great splash and disappeared. In an instant
he reappeared, shaking the water from him in a silver spray and flapping
heavily. This time Fetes could gee a great shining fish in his claws.
It was heavy, as Peter could tell by the way in which Plunger flew. He
headed towards a tall tree on the other bank of the Big River, there to
enjoy his breakfast. He was not more than halfway there when Peter was
startled by a harsh scream.

He looked up to see a great bird, with wonderful broad wings, swinging
in short circles about Plunger. His body and wings were dark brown, and
his head was snowy white, as was his tail. His great hooked beak was
yellow and his legs were yellow. Peter knew in an instant who it was.
There could be no mistake. It was King Eagle, commonly known as Bald
Head, though his head isn't bald at all.

Peter's eyes looked as if they would pop out of his head, for it was
quite plain to him that King Eagle was after Plunger, and Peter didn't
understand this at all. You see, he didn't understand what King Eagle
was screaming. But Plunger did. King Eagle was screaming, "Drop that
fish! Drop that fish!"

Plunger didn't intend to drop that fish if he could help himself. It was
his fish. Hadn't he caught it himself? He didn't intend to give it up to
any robber of the air, even though that robber was King Eagle himself,
unless he was actually forced to. So Plunger began to dodge and twist
and turn in the air, all the time mounting higher and higher, and all
the time screaming harshly, "Robber! Thief! I won't drop this fish! It's
mine! It's mine!"

Now the fish was heavy, so of course Plunger couldn't fly as easily and
swiftly as if he were carrying nothing. Up, up he went, but all the time
King Eagle went up with him, circling round him, screaming harshly, and
threatening to strike him with those great cruel, curved claws. Peter
watched them, so excited that he fairly danced. "O, I do hope Plunger
will get away from that big robber," cried Peter. "He may be king of the
air, but he is a robber just the same."

Plunger and King Eagle were now high in the air above the Big River.
Suddenly King Eagle swung above Plunger and for an instant seemed to
hold himself still there, just as Plunger had done before he had shot
down into the water after that fish. There was a still harsher note in
King Eagle's scream. If Peter had been near enough he would have seen
a look of anger and determination in King Eagle's fierce, yellow eyes.
Plunger saw it and knew what it meant. He knew that King Eagle would
stand for no more fooling. With a cry of bitter disappointment and anger
he let go of the big fish.

Down, down, dropped the fish, shining in the sun like a bar of silver.
King Eagle's wings half closed and he shot down like a thunderbolt. Just
before the fish reached the water King Eagle struck it with his great
claws, checked himself by spreading his broad wings and tail, and then
in triumph flew over to the very tree towards which Plunger had started
when he had caught the fish. There he leisurely made his breakfast,
apparently enjoying it as much as if he had come by it honestly.

As for poor Plunger, he shook himself, screamed angrily once or twice,
then appeared to think that it was wisest to make the best of a bad
matter and that there were more fish where that one had come from, for
he once more began to sail in circles over the Big River, searching
for a fish near the surface. Peter watched him until he saw him catch
another fish and fly away with it in triumph. King Eagle watched him,
too, but having had a good breakfast he was quite willing to let Plunger
enjoy his catch in peace.

Late that afternoon Peter visited the Old Orchard, for he just had to
tell Jenny Wren all about what he had seen that morning.

"King Eagle is king simply because he is so big and fierce and strong,"
sputtered Jenny. "He isn't kingly in his habits, not the least bit. He
never hesitates to rob those smaller than himself, just as you saw him
rob Plunger. He is very fond of fish, and once in a while he catches one
for himself when Plunger isn't around to be robbed, but he isn't a very
good fisherman, and he isn't the least bit fussy about his fish. Plunger
eats only fresh fish which he catches himself, but King Eagle will eat
dead fish which he finds on the shore. He doesn't seem to care how long
they have been dead either."

"Doesn't he eat anything but fish?" asked Peter innocently.

"Well," retorted Jenny Wren, her eyes twinkling, "I wouldn't advise you
to run across the Green Meadows in sight of King Eagle. I am told he is
very fond of Rabbit. In fact he is very fond of fresh meat of any kind.
He even catches the babies of Lightfoot the Deer when he gets a chance.
He is so swift of wing that even the members of the Duck family fear
him, for he is especially fond of fat Duck. Even Honker the Goose is not
safe from him. King he may he, but he rules only through fear. He is
a white-headed old robber. The best thing I can say of him is that he
takes a mate for life and is loyal and true to her as long as she lives,
and that is a great many years. By the way, Peter, did you know that
she is bigger than he is, and that the young during the first year after
leaving their nest, are bigger than their parents and do not have white
heads? By the time they get white heads they are the same size as their
parents."

"That's queer and its hard to believe," said Peter.

"It is queer, but it is true just the same, whether you believe it or
not," retorted Jenny Wren, and whisked out of sight into her home.



CHAPTER XXI. A Fishing Party.

Peter Rabbit sat on the edge of the Old Briar-patch trying to make up
his mind whether to stay at home, which was the wise and proper thing
to do, or to go call on some of the friends he had not yet visited. A
sharp, harsh rattle caused him to look up to see a bird about a third
larger than Welcome Robin, and with a head out of all proportion to
the size of his body. He was flying straight towards the Smiling Pool,
rattling harshly as he flew. The mere sound of his voice settled the
matter for Peter. "It's Rattles the Kingfisher," he cried. "I think I'll
run over to the Smiling Pool and pay him my respects."

So Peter started for the Smiling Pool as fast as his long legs could
take him, lipperty-lipperty-lip. He had lost sight of Rattles the
Kingfisher, and when he reached the back of the Smiling Pool he was in
doubt which way to turn. It was very early in the morning and there was
not so much as a ripple on the surface of the Smiling Pool. As Peter sat
there trying to make up his mind which way to go, he saw coming from the
direction of the Big River a great, broad-winged bird, flying slowly. He
seemed to have no neck at all, but carried straight out behind him were
two long legs.

"Longlegs the Great Blue Heron! I wonder if he is coming here,"
exclaimed Peter. "I do hope so."

Peter stayed right where he was and waited. Nearer and nearer came
Longlegs. When he was right opposite Peter he suddenly dropped his long
legs, folded his great wings, and alighted right on the edge of the
Smiling Pool across from where Peter was sitting. If he seemed to have
no neck at all when he was flying, now he seemed to be all neck as he
stretched it to its full length. The fact is, his neck was so long that
when he was flying he carried it folded back on his shoulders. Never
before had Peter had such an opportunity to see Longlegs.

He stood quite four feet high. The top of his head and throat were
white. From the base of his great bill and over his eye was a black
stripe which ended in two long, slender, black feathers hanging from
the back of his head. His bill was longer than his head, stout and
sharp like a spear and yellow in color. His long neck was a light
brownish-gray. His back and wings were of a bluish color. The bend of
each wing and the feathered parts of his legs were a rusty-red. The
remainder of his legs and his feet were black. Hanging down over his
breast were beautiful long pearly-gray feathers quite unlike any Peter
had seen on any of his other feathered friends. In spite of the
length of his legs and the length of his neck he was both graceful and
handsome.

"I wonder what has brought him over to the Smiling Pool," thought Peter.

He didn't have to wait long to find out. After standing perfectly still
with his neck stretched to its full height until he was sure that no
danger was near, Longlegs waded into the water a few steps, folded his
neck back on his shoulders until his long bill seemed to rest on his
breast, and then remained as motionless as if there were no life in him.
Peter also sat perfectly still. By and by he began to wonder if Longlegs
had gone to sleep. His own patience was reaching an end and he was just
about to go on in search of Rattles the Kingfisher when like a flash the
dagger-like bill of Longlegs shot out and down into the water. When he
withdrew it Peter saw that Longlegs had caught a little fish which he at
once proceeded to swallow head-first. Peter almost laughed right out as
he watched the funny efforts of Longlegs to gulp that fish down his long
throat. Then Longlegs resumed his old position as motionless as before.

It was no trouble now for Peter to sit still, for he was too interested
in watching this lone fisherman to think of leaving. It wasn't long
before Longlegs made another catch and this time it was a fat Pollywog.
Peter thought of how he had watched Plunger the Osprey fishing in the
Big River and the difference in the ways of the two fishermen.

"Plunger hunts for his fish while Longlegs waits for his fish to come to
him," thought Peter. "I wonder if Longlegs never goes hunting."

As if in answer to Peter's thought Longlegs seemed to conclude that
no more fish were coming his way. He stretched himself up to his full
height, looked sharply this way and that way to make sure that all was
safe, then began to walk along the edge of the Smiling Pool. He put each
foot down slowly and carefully so as to make no noise. He had gone but
a few steps when that great bill darted down like a flash, and Peter
saw that he had caught a careless young Frog. A few steps farther on he
caught another Pollywog. Then coming to a spot that suited him, he once
more waded in and began to watch for fish.

Peter was suddenly reminded of Rattles the Kingfisher, whom he had quite
forgotten. From the Big Hickory-tree on the bank, Rattles flew out over
the Smiling Pool, hovered for an instant, then plunged down head-first.
There was a splash, and a second later Rattles was in the air again,
shaking the water from him in a silver spray. In his long, stout, black
bill was a little fish. He flew back to a branch of the Big Hickory-tree
that hung out over the water and thumped the fish against the branch
until it was dead. Then he turned it about so he could swallow it
head-first. It was a big fish for the size of the fisherman and he had a
dreadful time getting it down. But at last it was down, and Rattles set
himself to watch for another. The sun shone full on him, and Peter gave
a little gasp of surprise.

"I never knew before how handsome Rattles is," thought Peter. He was
about the size of Yellow Wing the Flicker, but his head made him look
bigger than he really was. You see, the feathers on top of his head
stood up in a crest, as if they had been brushed the wrong way. His
head, back, wings and tail were a bluish-gray. His throat was white and
he wore a white collar. In front of each eye was a little white spot.
Across his breast was a belt of bluish-gray, and underneath he was
white. There were tiny spots of white on his wings, and his tail was
spotted with white. His bill was black and, like that of Longlegs, was
long, and stout, and sharp. It looked almost too big for his size.

Presently Rattles flew out and plunged into the Smiling Pool again, this
time, very near to where Longlegs was patiently waiting. He caught a
fish, for it is not often that Rattles misses. It was smaller than the
first one Peter had seen him catch, and this time as soon as he got back
to the Big Hickory-tree, he swallowed it without thumping it against the
branch. As for Longlegs, he looked thoroughly put out. For a moment or
two he stood glaring angrily up at Rattles. You see, when Rattles had
plunged so close to Longlegs he had frightened all the fish. Finally
Longlegs seemed to make up his mind that there was room for but one
fisherman at a time at the Smiling Pool. Spreading his great wings,
folding his long neck back on his shoulders, and dragging his long legs
out behind him, he flew heavily away in the direction of the Big River.

Rattles remained long enough to catch another little fish, and then
with a harsh rattle flew off down the Laughing Brook. "I would know him
anywhere by that rattle," thought Peter. "There isn't any one who can
make a noise anything like it. I wonder where he has gone to now. He
must have a nest, but I haven't the least idea what kind of a nest he
builds. Hello! There's Grandfather Frog over on his green lily pad.
Perhaps he can tell me."

So Peter hopped along until he was near enough to talk to Grandfather
Frog. "What kind of a nest does Rattles the Kingfisher build?" repeated
Grandfather Frog. "Chug-arum, Peter Rabbit! I thought everybody knew
that Rattles doesn't build a nest. At least I wouldn't call it a nest.
He lives in a hole in the ground."

"What!" cried Peter, and looked as if he couldn't believe his own ears.

Grandfather Frog grinned and his goggly eyes twinkled. "Yes," said he,
"Rattles lives in a hole in the ground."

"But--but--but what kind of a hole?" stammered Peter.

"Just plain hole," retorted Grandfather Frog, grinning more broadly than
ever. Then seeing how perplexed and puzzled Peter looked, he went on to
explain. "He usually picks out a high gravelly bank close to the water
and digs a hole straight in just a little way from the top. He makes
it just big enough for himself and Mrs. Rattles to go in and out of
comfortably, and he digs it straight in for several feet. I'm told that
at the end of it he makes a sort of bedroom, because he usually has a
good-sized family."

"Do you mean to say that he digs it himself?" asked Peter.

Grandfather Frog nodded. "If he doesn't, Mrs. Kingfisher does," he
replied. "Those big bills of theirs are picks as well as fish spears.
They loosen the sand with those and scoop it out with their feet. I've
never seen the inside of their home myself, but I'm told that their
bedroom is lined with fish bones. Perhaps you may call that a nest, but
I don't."

"I'm going straight down the Laughing Brook to look for that hole,"
declared Peter, and left in such a hurry that he forgot to be polite
enough to say thank you to Grandfather Frog.



CHAPTER XXII. Some Feathered Diggers.

Peter Rabbit scampered along down one bank of the Laughing Brook,
eagerly watching for a high, gravelly bank such as Grandfather Frog had
said that Rattles the Kingfisher likes to make his home in. If Peter had
stopped to do a little thinking, he would have known that he was simply
wasting time. You see, the Laughing Brook was flowing through the Green
Meadows, so of course there would be no high, gravelly bank, because the
Green Meadows are low. But Peter Rabbit, in his usual heedless way, did
no thinking. He had seen Rattles fly down the Laughing Brook, and so he
had just taken it for granted that the home of Rattles must be somewhere
down there.

At last Peter reached the place where the Laughing Brook entered the
Big River. Of course he hadn't found the home of Rattles. But now he did
find something that for the time being made him quite forget Rattles and
his home. Just before it reached the Big River the Laughing Brook wound
through a swamp in which were many tall trees and a great number of
young trees. A great many big ferns grew there and were splendid to hide
under. Peter always did like that swamp.

He had stopped to rest in a clump of ferns when he was startled by
seeing a great bird alight in a tree just a little way from him. His
first thought was that it was a Hawk, so you can imagine how surprised
and pleased he was to discover that it was Mrs. Longlegs. Somehow
Peter had always thought of Longlegs the Blue Heron as never alighting
anywhere except on the ground. But here was Mrs. Longlegs in a tree.
Having nothing to fear, Peter crept out from his hiding place that he
might see better.

In the tree in which Mrs. Longlegs was perched and just below her he
saw a little platform of sticks. He didn't suspect that it was a nest,
because it looked too rough and loosely put together to be a nest.
Probably he wouldn't have thought about it at all had not Mrs. Longlegs
settled herself on it right while Peter was watching. It didn't seem big
enough or strong enough to hold her, but it did.

"As I live," thought Peter, "I've found the nest of Longlegs! He and
Mrs. Longlegs may be good fishermen but they certainly are mighty poor
nest-builders. I don't see how under the sun Mrs. Longlegs ever gets on
and off that nest without kicking the eggs out."

Peter sat around for a while, but as he didn't care to let his presence
be known, and as there was no one to talk to, he presently made up his
mind that being so near the Big River he would go over there to see if
Plunger the Osprey was fishing again on this day.

When he reached the Big River, Plunger was not in sight. Peter was
disappointed. He had just about made up his mind to return the way he
had come, when from beyond the swamp, farther up the Big River, he heard
the harsh, rattling cry of Rattles the Kingfisher. It reminded him of
what he had come for, and he at once began to hurry in that direction.

Peter came out of the swamp on a little sandy beach. There he squatted
for a moment, blinking his eyes, for out there the sun was very bright.
Then a little way beyond him he discovered something that in his eager
curiosity made him quite forget that he was out in the open where it was
anything but safe for a Rabbit to be. What he saw was a high sandy bank.
With a hasty glance this way and that way to make sure that no enemy was
in sight, Peter scampered along the edge of the water till he was right
at the foot of that sandy bank. Then he squatted down and looked eagerly
for a hole such as he imagined Rattles the Kingfisher might make.
Instead of one hole he saw a lot of holes, but they were very small
holes. He knew right away that Rattles couldn't possibly get in or out
of a single one of those holes. In fact, those holes in the bank were
no bigger than the holes Downy the Woodpecker makes in trees. Peter
couldn't imagine who or what had made them.

As Peter sat there staring and wondering a trim little head appeared
at the entrance to one of those holes. It was a trim little head with a
very small bill and a snowy white throat. At first glance Peter thought
it was his old friend, Skimmer the Tree Swallow, and he was just on the
point of asking what under the sun Skimmer was doing in such a place as
that, when with a lively twitter of greeting the owner of that little
hole in the bank flew out and circled over Peter's head. It wasn't
Skimmer at all. It was Banker the Bank Swallow, own cousin to Skimmer
the Tree Swallow. Peter recognized him the instant he got a full view of
him.

In the first place Banker was a little smaller than Skimmer. Then too,
he was not nearly so handsome. His back, instead of being that
beautiful rich steel-blue which makes Skimmer so handsome, was a sober
grayish-brown. He was a little darker on his wings and tail. His breast,
instead of being all snowy white, was crossed with a brownish band. His
tail was more nearly square across the end than is the case with other
members of the Swallow family.

"Wha--wha--what were you doing there?" stuttered Peter, his eyes popping
right out with curiosity and excitement.

"Why, that's my home," twittered Banker.

"Do--do--do you mean to say that you live in a hole in the ground?"
cried Peter.

"Certainly; why not?" twittered Banker as he snapped up a fly just over
Peter's head.

"I don't know any reason why you shouldn't," confessed Peter. "But
somehow it is hard for me to think of birds as living in holes in the
ground. I've only just found out that Rattles the Kingfisher does. But
I didn't suppose there were any others. Did you make that hole yourself,
Banker?"

"Of course," replied Banker. "That is, I helped make it. Mrs. Banker did
her share. 'Way in at the end of it we've got the nicest little nest of
straw and feathers. What is more, we've got four white eggs in there,
and Mrs. Banker is sitting on them now."

By this time the air seemed to be full of Banker's friends, skimming and
circling this way and that, and going in and out of the little holes in
the bank.

"I am like my big cousin, Twitter the Purple Martin, fond of society,"
explained Banker. "We Bank Swallows like our homes close together. You
said that you had just learned that Rattles the Kingfisher has his home
in a bank. Do you know where it is?"

"No," replied Peter. "I was looking for it when I discovered your home.
Can you tell me where it is?"

"I'll do better than that;" replied Banker. "I'll show you where it is."

He darted some distance up along the bank and hovered for an instant
close to the top. Peter scampered over there and looked up. There, just
a few inches below the top, was another hole, a very much larger hole
than those he had just left. As he was staring up at it a head with a
long sharp bill and a crest which looked as if all the feathers on the
top of his head had been brushed the wrong way, was thrust out. It was
Rattles himself. He didn't seem at all glad to see Peter. In fact, he
came out and darted at Peter angrily. Peter didn't wait to feel that
sharp dagger-like bill. He took to his heels. He had seen what he
started out to find and he was quite content to go home.

Peter took a short cut across the Green Meadows. It took him past a
certain tall, dead tree. A sharp cry of "Kill-ee, kill-ee, kill-ee!"
caused Peter to look up just in time to see a trim, handsome bird whose
body was about the size of Sammy Jay's but whose longer wings and longer
tail made him look bigger. One glance was enough to tell Peter that
this was a member of the Hawk family, the smallest of the family. It was
Killy the Sparrow Hawk. He is too small for Peter to fear him, so now
Peter was possessed of nothing more than a very lively curiosity, and
sat up to watch.

Out over the meadow grass Killy sailed. Suddenly, with beating wings,
he kept himself in one place in the air and then dropped down into the
grass. He was up again in an instant, and Peter could see that he had a
fat grasshopper in his claws. Back to the top of the tall, dead tree
he flew and there ate the grasshopper. When it was finished he sat up
straight and still, so still that he seemed a part of the tree itself.
With those wonderful eyes of his he was watching for another grasshopper
or for a careless Meadow Mouse.

Very trim and handsome was Killy. His back was reddish-brown crossed by
bars of black. His tail was reddish-brown with a band of black near
its end and a white tip. His wings were slaty-blue with little bars
of black, the longest feathers leaving white bars. Underneath he was a
beautiful buff, spotted with black. His head was bluish with a reddish
patch right on top. Before and behind each ear was a black mark. His
rather short bill, like the bills of all the rest of his family, was
hooked.

As Peter sat there admiring Killy, for he was handsome enough for any
one to admire, he noticed for the first time a hole high up in the trunk
of the tree, such a hole as Yellow Wing the Flicker might have made and
probably did make. Right away Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had
told him about Killy's making his nest in just such a hole. "I wonder,"
thought Peter, "if that is Killy's home."

Just then Killy flew over and dropped in the grass just in front of
Peter, where he caught another fat grasshopper. "Is that your home up
there?" asked Peter hastily.

"It certainly is, Peter," replied Killy. "This is the third summer Mrs.
Killy and I have had our home there."

"You seem to be very fond of grasshoppers," Peter ventured.

"I am," replied Killy. "They are very fine eating when one can get
enough of them."

"Are they the only kind of food you eat?" ventured Peter.

Killy laughed. It was a shrill laugh. "I should say not," said he. "I
eat spiders and worms and all sorts of insects big enough to give a
fellow a decent bite. But for real good eating give me a fat Meadow
Mouse. I don't object to a Sparrow or some other small bird now and
then, especially when I have a family of hungry youngsters to feed. But
take it the season through, I live mostly on grasshoppers and insects
and Meadow Mice. I do a lot of good in this world, I'd have you know."

Peter said that he supposed that this was so, but all the time he
kept thinking what a pity it was that Killy ever killed his feathered
neighbors. As soon as he conveniently could he politely bade Killy
good-by and hurried home to the dear Old Briar-patch, there to think
over how queer it seemed that a member of the hawk family should nest
in a hollow tree and a member of the Swallow family should dig a hole in
the ground.



CHAPTER XXIII. Some Big Mouths.

Boom! Peter Rabbit jumped as if he had been shot. It was all so sudden
and unexpected that Peter jumped before he had time to think. Then
he looked foolish. He felt foolish. He had been scared when there was
nothing to be afraid of.

"Ha, ha, ha, ha," tittered Jenny Wren. "What are you jumping for, Peter
Rabbit? That was only Boomer the Nighthawk."

"I know it just as well as you do, Jenny Wren," retorted Peter rather
crossly. "You know being suddenly startled is apt to make people feel
cross. If I had seen him anywhere about he wouldn't have made me jump.
It was the unexpectedness of it. I don't see what he is out now for,
anyway, It isn't even dusk yet, and I thought him a night bird."

"So he is," retorted Jenny Wren. "Anyway, he is a bird of the evening,
and that amounts to the same thing. But just because he likes the
evening best isn't any reason why he shouldn't come out in the daylight,
is it?"

"No-o," replied Peter rather slowly. "I don't suppose it is."

"Of course it isn't," declared Jenny Wren. "I see Boomer late in the
afternoon nearly every day. On cloudy days I often see him early in the
afternoon. He's a queer fellow, is Boomer. Such a mouth as he has! I
suppose it is very handy to have a big mouth if one must catch all one's
food in the air, but it certainly isn't pretty when it is wide open."

"I never saw a mouth yet that was pretty when it was wide open,"
retorted Peter, who was still feeling a little put out. "I've never
noticed that Boomer has a particularly big mouth."

"Well he has, whether you've noticed it or not," retorted Jenny Wren
sharply. "He's got a little bit of a bill, but a great big mouth. I
don't see what folks call him a Hawk for when he isn't a Hawk at all. He
is no more of a Hawk than I am, and goodness knows I'm not even related
to the Hawk family."

"I believe you told me the other day that Boomer is related to Sooty the
Chimney Swift," said Peter.

Jenny nodded vigorously. "So I did, Peter," she replied. "I'm glad you
have such a good memory. Boomer and Sooty are sort of second cousins.
There is Boomer now, way up in the sky. I do wish he'd dive and scare
some one else."

Peter tipped his head 'way back. High up in the blue, blue sky was
a bird which at that distance looked something like a much overgrown
Swallow. He was circling and darting about this way and that. Even while
Peter watched he half closed his wings and shot down with such speed
that Peter actually held his breath. It looked very, very much as if
Boomer would dash himself to pieces. Just before he reached the earth he
suddenly opened those wings and turned upward. At the instant he turned,
the booming sound which had so startled Peter was heard. It was made by
the rushing of the wind through the larger feathers of his wings as he
checked himself.

In this dive Boomer had come near enough for Peter to get a good look
at him. His coat seemed to be a mixture of brown and gray, very soft
looking. His wings were brown with a patch of white on each. There was a
white patch on his throat and a band of white near the end of his tail.

"He's rather handsome, don't you think?" asked Jenny Wren.

"He certainly is," replied Peter. "Do you happen to know what kind of a
nest the Nighthawks build, Jenny?"

"They don't build any." Jenny Wren was a picture of scorn as she said
this. "They don't built any nests at all. It can't be because they are
lazy for I don't know of any birds that hunt harder for their living
than do Boomer and Mrs. Boomer."

"But if there isn't any nest where does Mrs. Boomer lay her eggs?" cried
Peter. "I think you must be mistaken, Jenny Wren. They must have some
kind of a nest. Of course they must."

"Didn't I say they don't have a nest?" sputtered Jenny. "Mrs. Nighthawk
doesn't lay but two eggs, anyway. Perhaps she thinks it isn't worth
while building a nest for just two eggs. Anyway, she lays them on the
ground or on a flat rock and lets it go at that. She isn't quite as bad
as Sally Sly the Cowbird, for she does sit on those eggs and she is a
good mother. But just think of those Nighthawk children never having any
home! It doesn't seem to me right and it never will. Did you ever see
Boomer in a tree?"

Peter shook his head. "I've seen him on the ground," said he, "but I
never have seen him in a tree. Why did you ask, Jenny Wren?"

"To find out how well you have used your eyes," snapped Jenny. "I just
wanted to see if you had noticed anything peculiar about the way he sits
in a tree. But as long as you haven't seen him in a tree I may as well
tell you that he doesn't sit as most birds do. He sits lengthwise of a
branch. He never sits across it as the rest of us do."

"How funny!" exclaimed Peter. "I suppose that is Boomer making that
queer noise we hear."

"Yes," replied Jenny. "He certainly does like to use his voice. They
tell me that some folks call him Bullbat, though why they should call
him either Bat or Hawk is beyond me. I suppose you know his cousin,
Whip-poor-will."

"I should say I do," replied Peter. "He's enough to drive one crazy when
he begins to shout 'Whip poor Will' close at hand. That voice of his
goes through me so that I want to stop both ears. There isn't a person
of my acquaintance who can say a thing over and over, over and over,
so many times without stopping for breath. Do I understand that he is
cousin to Boomer?"

"He is a sort of second cousin, the same as Sooty the Chimney Swift,"
explained Jenny Wren. "They look enough alike to be own cousins.
Whip-poor-will has just the same kind of a big mouth and he is dressed
very much like Boomer, save that there are no white patches on his
wings."

"I've noticed that," said Peter. "That is one way I can tell them
apart."

"So you noticed that much, did you?" cried Jenny. "It does you credit,
Peter. It does you credit. I wonder if you also noticed Whip-poor-will's
whiskers."

"Whiskers!" cried Peter. "Who ever heard of a bird having whiskers? You
can stuff a lot down me, Jenny Wren, but there are some things I cannot
swallow, and bird whiskers is one of them."

"Nobody asked you to swallow them. Nobody wants you to swallow them,"
snapped Jenny. "I don't know why a bird shouldn't have whiskers just as
well as you, Peter Rabbit. Anyway, Whip-poor-will has them and that is
all there is to it. It doesn't make any difference whether you believe
in them or not, they are there. And I guess Whip-poor-will finds them
just as useful as you find yours, and a little more so. I know this
much, that if I had to catch all my food in the air I'd want whiskers
and lots of them so that the insects would get tangled in them. I
suppose that's what Whip-poor-will's are for."

"I beg your pardon, Jenny Wren," said Peter very humbly. "Of course
Whip-poor-will has whiskers if you say so. By the way, do the
Whip-poor-wills do any better in the matter of a nest than the
Nighthawks?"

"Not a bit," replied Jenny Wren. "Mrs. Whip-poor-will lays her eggs
right on the ground, but usually in the Green Forest where it is dark
and lonesome. Like Mrs. Nighthawk, she lays only two. It's the same way
with another second cousin, Chuck-will's-widow."

"Who?" cried Peter, wrinkling his brows.

"Chuck-will's-widow," Jenny Wren fairly shouted it. "Don't you know
Chuck-will's-widow?"

Peter shook his head. "I never heard of such a bird," he confessed.

"That's what comes of never having traveled," retorted Jenny Wren.
"If you'd ever been in the South the way I have you would know
Chuck-will's-widow. He looks a whole lot like the other two we've been
talking about, but has even a bigger mouth. What's more, he has whiskers
with branches. Now you needn't look as if you doubted that, Peter
Rabbit; it's so. In his habits he's just like his cousins, no nest and
only two eggs. I never saw people so afraid to raise a real family. If
the Wrens didn't do better than that, I don't know what would become of
us." You know Jenny usually has a family of six or eight.



CHAPTER XXIV. The Warblers Arrive.

If there is one family of feathered friends which perplexes Peter Rabbit
more than another, it is the Warbler family.

"So many of them come together and they move about so constantly that
a fellow doesn't have a chance to look at one long enough to recognize
him," complained Peter to Jenny Wren one morning when the Old Orchard
was fairly alive with little birds no bigger than Jenny Wren herself.

And such restless little folks as they were!

They were not still an instant, flitting from tree to tree, twig to
twig, darting out into the air and all the time keeping up an endless
chattering mingled with little snatches of song. Peter would no sooner
fix his eyes on one than another entirely different in appearance would
take its place. Occasionally he would see one whom he recognized, one
who would stay for the nesting season. But the majority of them would
stop only for a day or two, being bound farther north to make their
summer homes.

Apparently, Jenny Wren did not look upon them altogether with favor.
Perhaps Jenny was a little bit envious, for compared with the bright
colors of some of them Jenny was a very homely small person indeed.
Then, too, there were so many of them and they were so busy catching all
kinds of small insects that it may be Jenny was a little fearful they
would not leave enough for her to get her own meals easily.

"I don't see what they have to stop here for," scolded Jenny. "They
could just as well go somewhere else where they would not be taking the
food out of the mouths of honest folk who are here to stay all summer.
Did you ever in your life see such uneasy people? They don't keep still
an instant. It positively makes me tired just to watch them."

Peter couldn't help but chuckle, for Jenny Wren herself is a very
restless and uneasy person. As for Peter, he was thoroughly enjoying
this visit of the Warblers, despite the fact that he was having no end
of trouble trying to tell who was who. Suddenly one darted down and
snapped up a fly almost under Peter's very nose and was back up in a
tree before Peter could get his breath. "It's Zee Zee the Redstart!"
cried Peter joyously. "I would know Zee Zee anywhere. Do you know who he
reminds me of, Jenny Wren?"

"Who?" demanded Jenny.

"Goldy the Oriole," replied Peter promptly. "Only of course he's ever
and ever so much smaller. He's all black and orange-red and white
something as Goldy is, only there isn't quite so much orange on him."

For just an instant Zee Zee sat still with his tail spread. His head,
throat and back were black and there was a black band across the end of
his tail and a black stripe down the middle of it. The rest was bright
orange-red. On each wing was a band of orange-red and his sides were the
same color. Underneath he was white tinged more or less with orange.

It was only for an instant that Zee Zee sat still; then he was in the
air, darting, diving, whirling, going through all sorts of antics as he
caught tiny insects too small for Peter to see. Peter began to wonder
how he kept still long enough to sleep at night. And his voice was quite
as busy as his wings. "Zee, zee, zee, zee!" he would cry. But this was
only one of many notes. At times he would sing a beautiful little song
and then again it would seem as if he were trying to imitate other
members of the Warbler family.

"I do hope Zee Zee is going to stay here," said Peter. "I just love to
watch him."

"He'll stay fast enough," retorted Jenny Wren. "I don't imagine he'll
stay in the Old Orchard and I hope he won't, because if he does it will
make it just that much harder for me to catch enough to feed my big
family. Probably he and Mrs. Redstart will make their home on the edge
of the Green Forest. They like it better over there, for which I am
thankful. There's Mrs Redstart now. Just notice that where Zee Zee is
bright orange-y red she is yellow, and instead of a black head she has
a gray head and her back is olive-green with a grayish tinge. She isn't
nearly as handsome as Zee Zee, but then, that's not to be expected. She
lets Zee Zee do the singing and the showing off and she does the work.
I expect she'll build that nest with almost no help at all from him. But
Zee Zee is a good father, I'll say that much for him. He'll do his share
in feeding their babies."

Just then Peter caught sight of a bird all in yellow. He was about the
same size as Zee Zee and was flitting about among the bushes along
the old stone wall. "There's Sunshine!" cried Peter, and without being
polite enough to even bid Jenny Wren farewell, he scampered over to
where he could see the one he called Sunshine flitting about from bush
to bush.

"Oh, Sunshine!" he cried, as he came within speaking distance, "I'm ever
and ever so glad to see you back. I do hope you and Mrs. Sunshine are
going to make your home somewhere near here where I can see you every
day."

"Hello, Peter! I am just as glad to see you as you are to see me," cried
Sunshine the Yellow Warbler. "Yes, indeed, we certainly intend to stay
here if we can find just the right place for our nest. It is lovely to
be back here again. We've journeyed so far that we don't want to go
a bit farther if we can help it. Have you seen Sally Sly the Cowbird
around here this spring?"

Peter nodded. "Yes," said he, "I have."

"I'm sorry to hear it," declared Sunshine. "She made us a lot of trouble
last year. But we fooled her."

"How did you fool her?" asked Peter.

Sunshine paused to pick a tiny worm from a leaf. "Well," said he, "she
found our nest just after we had finished it and before Mrs. Sunshine
had had a chance to lay an egg. Of course you know what she did."

"I can guess," replied Peter. "She laid one of her own eggs in your
nest."

Sunshine stopped to pick two or three more worms from the leaves. "Yes,"
said he. "She did just that, the lazy good-for-nothing creature! But
it didn't do her a bit of good, not a bit. That egg never hatched. We
fooled her and that's what we'll do again if she repeats that trick this
year."

"What did you do, throw that egg out?" asked Peter.

"No," replied Sunshine. "Our nest was too deep for us to get that egg
out. We just made a second bottom in our nest right over that egg and
built the sides of the nest a little higher. Then we took good care that
she didn't have a chance to lay another egg in there."

"Then you had a regular two-story nest, didn't you?" cried Peter,
opening his eyes very wide.

Sunshine nodded. "Yes, sir," said he, "and it was a mighty fine nest, if
I do say it. If there's anything Mrs. Sunshine and I pride ourselves on
it is our nest. There are no babies who have a softer, cozier home than
ours."

"What do you make your nest of?" asked Peter.

"Fine grasses and soft fibers from plants, some hair when we can find
it, and a few feathers. But we always use a lot of that nice soft
fern-cotton. There is nothing softer or nicer that I know of."

All the time Peter had been admiring Sunshine and thinking how
wonderfully well he was named. At first glance he seemed to be all
yellow, as if somehow he had managed to catch and hold the sunshine in
his feathers. There wasn't a white feather on him. When he came very
close Peter could see that on his breast and underneath were little
streaks of reddish brown and his wings and tail were a little blackish.
Otherwise he was all yellow.

Presently he was joined by Mrs. Sunshine. She was not such a bright
yellow as was Sunshine, having an olive-green tint on her back. But
underneath she was almost clear yellow without the reddish-brown
streaks. She too was glad to see Peter but couldn't stop to gossip,
for already, as she informed Sunshine, she had found just the place for
their nest. Of course Peter begged to be told where it was. But the two
little folks in yellow snapped their bright eyes at him and told him
that that was their secret and they didn't propose to tell a living
soul.

Perhaps if Peter had not been so curious and eager to get acquainted
with other members of the Warbler family he would have stayed and done
a little spying. As it was, he promised himself to come back to look for
that nest after it had been built; then he scurried back among the
trees of the Old Orchard to look for other friends among the busy
little Warblers who were making the Old Orchard such a lively place that
morning.

"There's one thing about it," cried Peter. "Any one can tell Zee Zee the
Redstart by his black and flame colored suit. There is no other like
it. And any one can tell Sunshine the Yellow Warbler because there isn't
anybody else who seems to be all yellow. My, what a lively, lovely lot
these Warblers are!"



CHAPTER XXV. Three Cousins Quite Unlike.

As Peter Rabbit passed one of the apple-trees in the Old Orchard, a
thin, wiry voice hailed him. "It's a wonder you wouldn't at least say
you're glad to see me back, Peter Rabbit," said the voice.

Peter, who had been hopping along rather fast, stopped abruptly to
look up. Running along a limb just over his head, now on top and now
underneath, was a little bird with a black and white striped coat and a
white waistcoat. Just as Peter looked it flew down to near the base of
the tree and began to run straight up the trunk, picking things from
the bark here and there as it ran. Its way of going up that tree
trunk reminded Peter of one of his winter friends, Seep Seep the Brown
Creeper.

"It strikes me that this is a mighty poor welcome for one who has just
come all the way from South America," said the little black and white
bird with twinkling eyes.

"Oh, Creeper, I didn't know you were here!" cried Peter. "You know I'm
glad to see you. I'm just as glad as glad can be. You are such a quiet
fellow I'm afraid I shouldn't have seen you at all if you hadn't spoken.
You know it's always been hard work for me to believe that you are
really and truly a Warbler."

"Why so?" demanded Creeper the Black and White Warbler, for that is
the name by which he is commonly known. "Why so? Don't I look like a
Warbler?"

"Ye-es," said Peter slowly. "You do look like one but you don't act like
one."

"In what way don't I act like one I should like to know?" demanded
Creeper.

"Well," replied Peter, "all the rest of the Warblers are the uneasiest
folks I know of. They can't seem to keep still a minute. They are
everlastingly flitting about this way and that way and the other way. I
actually get tired watching them. But you are not a bit that way.
Then the way you run up tree trunks and along the limbs isn't a bit
Warbler-like. Why don't you flit and dart about as the others do?"

Creeper's bright eyes sparkled.

"I don't have to," said he. "I'm going to let you into a little secret,
Peter. The rest of them get their living from the leaves and twigs and
in the air, but I've discovered an easier way. I've found out that there
are lots of little worms and insects and eggs on the trunks and big
limbs of the trees and that I can get the best kind of a living there
without flitting about everlastingly. I don't have to share them with
anybody but the Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Tommy Tit the Chickadee."

"That reminds me," said Peter. "Those folks you have mentioned nest in
holes in trees; do you?"

"I should say not," retorted Creeper. "I don't know of any Warbler who
does. I build on the ground, if you want to know. I nest in the Green
Forest. Sometimes I make my nest in a little hollow at the base of a
tree; sometimes I put it under a stump or rock or tuck it in under the
roots of a tree that has been blown over. But there, Peter Rabbit, I've
talked enough. I'm glad you're glad that I'm back, and I'm glad I'm back
too."

Creeper continued on up the trunk of the tree, picking here and picking
there. Just then Peter caught sight of another friend whom he could
always tell by the black mask he wore. It was Mummer the Yellow-throat.
He had just darted into the thicket of bushes along the old stone wall.
Peter promptly hurried over there to look for him.

When Peter reached the place where he had caught a glimpse of Mummer, no
one was to be seen. Peter sat down, uncertain which way to go. Suddenly
Mummer popped out right in front of Peter, seemingly from nowhere at
all. His throat and breast were bright yellow and his back wings and
tail a soft olive-green. But the most remarkable thing about him was the
mask of black right across his cheeks, eyes and forehead. At least it
looked like a mask, although it really wasn't one.

"Hello, Mummer!" cried Peter.

"Hello yourself, Peter Rabbit!" retorted Mummer and then disappeared as
suddenly as he had appeared.

Peter blinked and looked in vain all about.

"Looking for some one?" asked Mummer, suddenly popping into view where
Peter least expected him.

"For goodness' sake, can't you sit still a minute?" cried Peter. "How do
you expect a fellow can talk to you when he can't keep his eyes on you
more than two seconds at a time."

"Who asked you to talk to me?" responded Mummer, and popped out of
sight. Two seconds later he was back again and his bright little eyes
fairly shone with mischief. Then before Peter could say a word Mummer
burst into a pleasant little song. He was so full of happiness that
Peter couldn't be cross with him.

"There's one thing I like about you, Mummer," declared Peter, "and that
is that I never get you mixed up with anybody else. I should know you
just as far as I could see you because of that black mask across your
face. Has Mrs. Yellow-throat arrived yet?"

"Certainly," replied another voice, and Mrs. Yellow-throat flitted
across right in front of Peter. For just a second she sat still, long
enough for him to have one good look at her. She was dressed very like
Mummer save that she did not wear the black mask.

Peter was just about to say something polite and pleasant when from just
back of him there sounded a loud, very emphatic, "Chut! Chut!"
Peter whirled about to find another old friend. It was Chut-Chut the
Yellow-breasted Chat, the largest of the Warbler family. He was so
much bigger than Mummer that it was hard to believe that they were own
cousins. But Peter knew they were, and he also knew that he could never
mistake Chut-Chut for any other member of the family because of his big
size, which was that of some of the members of the Sparrow family. His
back was a dark olive-green, but his throat and breast were a beautiful
bright yellow. There was a broad white line above each eye and a little
white line underneath. Below his breast he was all white.

To have seen him you would have thought that he suspected Peter might do
him some harm. He acted that way. If Peter hadn't known him so well he
might have been offended. But Peter knew that there is no one among his
feathered friends more cautious than Chut-Chut the Chat. He never takes
anything for granted. He appears to be always on the watch for danger,
even to the extent of suspecting his very best friends.

When he had decided in his own mind that there was no danger, Chut-Chut
came out for a little gossip. But like all the rest of the Warblers he
couldn't keep still. Right in the middle of the story of his travels
from far-away Mexico he flew to the top of a little tree, began to sing,
then flew out into the air with his legs dangling and his tail wagging
up and down in the funniest way, and there continued his song as he
slowly dropped down into the thicket again. It was a beautiful song and
Peter hastened to tell him so.

Chut-Chut was pleased. He showed it by giving a little concert all by
himself. It seemed to Peter that he never had heard such a variety of
whistles and calls and songs as came from that yellow throat. When it
was over Chut-Chut abruptly said good-by and disappeared. Peter could
hear his sharp "Chut! Chut!" farther along in the thicket as he hunted
for worms among the bushes.

"I wonder," said Peter, speaking out loud without thinking, "where he
builds his nest. I wonder if he builds it on the ground, the way Creeper
does."

"No," declared Mummer, who all the time had been darting about close at
hand. "He doesn't, but I do. Chut-Chut puts his nest near the ground,
however, usually within two or three feet. He builds it in bushes or
briars. Sometimes if I can find a good tangle of briars I build my nest
in it several feet from the ground, but as a rule I would rather have
it on the ground under a bush or in a clump of weeds. Have you seen my
cousin Sprite the Parula Warbler, yet?"

"Not yet," said Peter, as he started for home.



CHAPTER XXVI. Peter Gets a Lame Neck.

For several days it seemed to Peter Rabbit that everywhere he went he
found members of the Warbler family. Being anxious to know all of them
he did his best to remember how each one looked, but there were so many
and some of them were dressed so nearly alike that after awhile Peter
became so mixed that he gave it up as a bad job. Then, as suddenly as
they had appeared, the Warblers disappeared. That is to say, most of
them disappeared. You see they had only stopped for a visit, being on
their way farther north.

In his interest in the affairs of others of his feathered friends, Peter
had quite forgotten the Warblers. Then one day when he was in the Green
Forest where the spruce-trees grow, he stopped to rest. This particular
part of the Green Forest was low and damp, and on many of the trees gray
moss grew, hanging down from the branches and making the trees look much
older than they really were. Peter was staring at a hanging branch of
this moss without thinking anything about it when suddenly a little
bird alighted on it and disappeared in it. At least, that is what Peter
thought. But it was all so unexpected that he couldn't be sure his eyes
hadn't fooled him.

Of course, right away he became very much interested in that bunch of
moss. He stared at it very hard. At first it looked no different from
a dozen other bunches of moss, but presently he noticed that it was
a little thicker than other bunches, as if somehow it had been woven
together. He hopped off to one side so he could see better. It looked
as if in one side of that bunch of moss was a little round hole. Peter
blinked and looked very hard indeed to make sure. A minute later there
was no doubt at all, for a little feathered head was poked out and a
second later a dainty mite of a bird flew out and alighted very close to
Peter. It was one of the smaller members of the Warbler family.

"Sprite!" cried Peter joyously. "I missed you when your cousins passed
through here, and I thought you had gone to the Far North with the rest
of them."

"Well, I haven't, and what's more I'm not going to go on to the Far
North. I'm going to stay right here," declared Sprite the Parula
Warbler, for that is who it was.

As Peter looked at Sprite he couldn't help thinking that there wasn't
a daintier member in the whole Warbler family. His coat was of a soft
bluish color with a yellowish patch in the very center of his back.
Across each wing were two bars of white. His throat was yellow. Just
beneath it was a little band of bluish-black. His breast was yellow and
his sides were grayish and brownish-chestnut.

"Sprite, you're just beautiful," declared Peter in frank admiration.
"What was the reason I didn't see you up in the Old Orchard with your
cousins?"

"Because I wasn't there," was Sprite's prompt reply as he flitted about,
quite unable to sit still a minute. "I wasn't there because I like the
Green Forest better, so I came straight here."

"What were you doing just now in that bunch of moss?" demanded Peter, a
sudden suspicion of the truth hopping into his head.

"Just looking it over," replied Sprite, trying to look innocent.

At that very instant Peter looked up just in time to see a tail
disappearing in the little round hole in the side of the bunch of moss.
He knew that that tail belonged to Mrs. Sprite, and just that glimpse
told him all he wanted to know.

"You've got a nest in there!" Peter exclaimed excitedly. "There's no use
denying it, Sprite; you've got a nest in there! What a perfectly lovely
place for a nest."

Sprite saw at once that it would be quite useless to try to deceive
Peter. "Yes," said he, "Mrs. Sprite and I have a nest in there. We've
just finished it. I think myself it is rather nice. We always build in
moss like this. All we have to do is to find a nice thick bunch and then
weave it together at the bottom and line the inside with fine grasses.
It looks so much like all the rest of the bunches of moss that it is
seldom any one finds it. I wouldn't trade nests with anybody I know."

"Isn't it rather lonesome over here by yourselves?" asked Peter.

"Not at all," replied Sprite. "You see, we are not as much alone as you
think. My cousin, Fidget the Myrtle Warbler, is nesting not very far
away, and another cousin Weechi the Magnolia Warbler is also quite near.
Both have begun housekeeping already."

Of course Peter was all excitement and interest at once. "Where are
their homes?" he asked eagerly. "Tell me where they are and I'll go
straight over and call."

"Peter," said Sprite severely, "you ought to know better than to ask me
to tell you anything of this kind. You have been around enough to
know that there is no secret so precious as the secret of a home. You
happened to find mine, and I guess I can trust you not to tell anybody
where it is. If you can find the homes of Fidget and Weechi, all right,
but I certainly don't intend to tell you where they are."

Peter knew that Sprite was quite right in refusing to tell the secrets
of his cousins, but he couldn't think of going home without at least
looking for those homes. He tried to look very innocent as he asked if
they also were in hanging bunches of moss. But Sprite was too smart to
be fooled and Peter learned nothing at all.

For some time Peter hopped around this way and that way, thinking every
bunch of moss he saw must surely contain a nest. But though he looked
and looked and looked, not another little round hole did he find, and
there were so many bunches of moss that finally his neck ached from
tipping his head back so much. Now Peter hasn't much patience as he
might have, so after a while he gave up the search and started on his
way home. On higher ground, just above the low swampy place where grew
the moss-covered trees, he came to a lot of young hemlock-trees. These
had no moss on them. Having given up his search Peter was thinking of
other things when there flitted across in front of him a black and gray
bird with a yellow cap, yellow sides, and a yellow patch at the root of
his tail. Those yellow patches were all Peter needed to see to recognize
Fidget the Myrtle Warbler, one of the two friends he had been so long
looking for down among the moss-covered trees.

"Oh, Fidget!" cried Peter, hurrying after the restless little bird. "Oh,
Fidget! I've been looking everywhere for you."

"Well, here I am," retorted Fidget. "You didn't look everywhere or you
would have found me before. What can I do for you?" All the time Fidget
was hopping and flitting about, never still an instant.

"You can tell me where your nest is," replied Peter promptly.

"I can, but I won't," retorted Fidget. "Now honestly, Peter, do you
think you have any business to ask such a question?"

Peter hung his head and then replied quite honestly, "No I don't,
Fidget. But you see Sprite told me that you had a nest not very far from
his and I've looked at bunches of moss until I've got a crick in the
back of my neck."

"Bunches of moss!" exclaimed Fidget. "What under the sun do you think I
have to do with bunches of moss?"

"Why--why--I just thought you probably had your nest in one, the same as
your cousin Sprite."

Fidget laughed right out. "I'm afraid you would have a worse crick in
the back of your neck than you've got now before ever you found my nest
in a bunch of moss," said he. "Moss may suit my cousin Sprite, but it
doesn't suit me at all. Besides, I don't like those dark places where
the moss grows on the trees. I build my nest of twigs and grass and
weed-stalks and I line it with hair and rootlets and feathers. Sometimes
I bind it together with spider silk, and if you really want to know, I
like a little hemlock-tree to put it in. It isn't very far from here,
but where it is I'm not going to tell you. Have you seen my cousin,
Weechi?"

"No," replied Peter. "Is he anywhere around here?"

"Right here," replied another voice and Weechi the Magnolia Warbler
dropped down on the ground for just a second right in front of Peter.

The top of his head and the back of his neck were gray. Above his eye
was a white stripe and his cheeks were black. His throat was clear
yellow, just below which was a black band. From this black streaks ran
down across his yellow breast. At the root of his tail he was yellow.
His tail was mostly black on top and white underneath.

His wings were black and gray with two white bars. He was a little
smaller than Fidget the Myrtle Warbler and quite as restless.

Peter fairly itched to ask Weechi where his nest was, but by this time
he had learned a lesson, so wisely kept his tongue still.

"What were you fellows talking about?" asked Weechi.

"Nests," replied Fidget. "I've just been telling Peter that while Cousin
Sprite may like to build in that hanging moss down there, it wouldn't
suit me at all."

"Nor me either," declared Weechi promptly. "I prefer to build a real
nest just as you do. By the way, Fidget, I stopped to look at your nest
this morning. I find we build a good deal alike and we like the same
sort of a place to put it. I suppose you know that I am a rather near
neighbor of yours?"

"Of course I know it," replied Fidget. "In fact I watched you start your
nest. Don't you think you have it rather near the ground?"

"Not too near, Fidget; not too near. I am not as high-minded as some
people. I like to be within two or three feet of the ground."

"I do myself," replied Fidget.

Fidget and Weechi became so interested in discussing nests and the
proper way of building them they quite forgot Peter Rabbit. Peter sat
around for a while listening, but being more interested in seeing those
nests than hearing about them, he finally stole away to look for them.

He looked and looked, but there were so many young hemlock-trees and
they looked so much alike that finally Peter lost patience and gave it
up as a bad job.



CHAPTER XXVII. A New Friend and an Old One.

Peter Rabbit never will forget the first time he caught a glimpse of
Glory the Cardinal, sometimes called Redbird. He had come up to the Old
Orchard for his usual morning visit and just as he hopped over the old
stone wall he heard a beautiful clear, loud whistle which drew his eyes
to the top of an apple-tree. Peter stopped short with a little gasp
of sheer astonishment and delight. Then he rubbed his eyes and looked
again. He couldn't quite believe that he saw what he thought he saw. He
hadn't supposed that any one, even among the feathered folks, could be
quite so beautiful.

The stranger was dressed all in red, excepting a little black around the
base of his bill. Even his bill was red. He wore a beautiful red crest
which made him still more distinguished looking, and how he could sing!
Peter had noticed that quite often the most beautifully dressed birds
have the poorest songs. But this stranger's song was as beautiful as his
coat, and that was one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful,
that Peter ever had seen. Of course he lost no time in hunting up Jenny
Wren. "Who is it, Jenny? Who is that beautiful stranger with such a
lovely song?" cried Peter, as soon as he caught sight of Jenny.

"It's Glory the Cardinal," replied Jenny Wren promptly. "Isn't he the
loveliest thing you've ever seen? I do hope he is going to stay here. As
I said before, I don't often envy any one's fine clothes, but when I see
Glory I'm sometimes tempted to be envious. If I were Mrs. Cardinal I'm
afraid I should be jealous. There she is in the very same tree with him.
Did you ever see such a difference?"

Peter looked eagerly. Instead of the glorious red of Glory, Mrs.
Cardinal wore a very dull dress. Her back was a brownish-gray. Her
throat was a grayish-black. Her breast was a dull buff with a faint
tinge of red. Her wings and tail were tinged with dull red. Altogether
she was very soberly dressed, but a trim, neat looking little person.
But if she wasn't handsomely dressed she could sing. In fact she was
almost as good a singer as her handsome husband.

"I've noticed," said Peter, "that people with fine clothes spend most of
their time thinking about them and are of very little use when it comes
to real work in life."

"Well, you needn't think that of Glory," declared Jenny in her vigorous
way. "He's just as fine as he is handsome. He's a model husband. If they
make their home around here you'll find him doing his full share in the
care of their babies. Sometimes they raise two families. When they do
that, Glory takes charge of the first lot of youngsters as soon as they
are able to leave the nest so that Mrs. Cardinal has nothing to worry
about while she is sitting on the second lot of eggs. He fusses over
them as if they were the only children in the world. Everybody loves
Glory. Excuse me, Peter, I'm going over to find out if they are really
going to stay."

When Jenny returned she was so excited she couldn't keep still a minute.
"They like here, Peter!" she cried. "They like here so much that if they
can find a place to suit them for a nest they're going to stay. I told
them that it is the very best place in the world. They like an evergreen
tree to build in, and I think they've got their eyes on those evergreens
up near Farmer Brown's house. My, they will add a lot to the quality of
this neighborhood."

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal whistled and sang as if their hearts were bursting
with joy, and Peter sat around listening as if he had nothing else
in the world to do. Probably he would have sat there the rest of the
morning had he not caught sight of an old friend of whom he is very
fond, Kitty the Catbird. In contrast with Glory, Kitty seemed a regular
little Quaker, for he was dressed almost wholly in gray, a rather dark,
slaty-gray. The top of his head and tail were black, and right at the
base of his tail was a patch of chestnut color. He was a little smaller
than Welcome Robin. There was no danger of mistaking him for anybody
else, for there is no one dressed at all like him.

Peter forgot all about Glory in his pleasure at discovering the returned
Kitty and hurried over to welcome him. Kitty had disappeared among the
bushes along the old stone wall, but Peter had no trouble in finding
him by the queer cries he was uttering, which were very like the meow
of Black Pussy the Cat. They were very harsh and unpleasant and Peter
understood perfectly why their maker is called the Catbird. He did
not hurry in among the bushes at once but waited expectantly. In a few
minutes the harsh cries ceased and then there came from the very same
place a song which seemed to be made up of parts of the songs of all the
other birds of the Old Orchard. It was not loud, but it was charming. It
contained the clear whistle of Glory, and there was even the tinkle of
Little Friend the Song Sparrow. The notes of other friends were in that
song, and with them were notes of southern birds whose songs Kitty had
learned while spending the winter in the South. Then there were notes
all his own.

Peter listened until the song ended, then scampered in among the bushes.
At once those harsh cries broke out again. You would have thought that
Kitty was scolding Peter for coming to see him instead of being glad.
But that was just Kitty's way. He is simply brimming over with fun and
mischief, and delights to pretend.

When Peter found him, he was sitting with all his feathers puffed out
until he looked almost like a ball with a head and tail. He looked
positively sleepy. Then as he caught sight of Peter he drew those
feathers down tight, cocked his tail up after the manner of Jenny Wren,
and was as slim and trim looking as any bird of Peter's acquaintance.
He didn't look at all like the same bird of the moment before. Then he
dropped his tail as if he hadn't strength enough to hold it up at all.
It hung straight down. He dropped his wings and all in a second made
himself look fairly disreputable. But all the time his eyes were
twinkling and snapping, and Peter knew that these changes in appearance
were made out of pure fun and mischief.

"I've been wondering if you were coming hack," cried Peter. "I don't
know of any one of my feathered friends I would miss so much as you."

"Thank you," responded Kitty. "It's very nice of you to say that, Peter.
If you are glad to see me I am still more glad to get back."

"Did you pass a pleasant winter down South?" asked Peter.

"Fairly so. Fairly so," replied Kitty. "By the way, Peter, I picked up
some new songs down there. Would you like to hear them?"

"Of course," replied Peter, "but I don't think you need any new songs.
I've never seen such a fellow for picking up other people's songs
excepting Mocker the Mockingbird."

At the mention of Mocker a little cloud crossed Kitty's face for just an
instant. "There's a fellow I really envy," said he. "I'm pretty good at
imitating others, but Mocker is better. I'm hoping that, if I practice
enough, some day I can be as good. I saw a lot of him in the South and
he certainly is clever."

"Huh! You don't need to envy him," retorted Peter. "You are some
imitator yourself. How about those new notes you got when you were in
the South?"

Kitty's face cleared, his throat swelled and he began to sing. It was a
regular medley. It didn't seem as if so many notes could come from one
throat. When it ended Peter had a question all ready.

"Are you going to build somewhere near here?" he asked.

"I certainly am," replied Kitty. "Mrs. Catbird was delayed a day or two.
I hope she'll get here to-day and then we'll get busy at once. I think
we shall build in these bushes here somewhere. I'm glad Farmer Brown has
sense enough to let them grow. They are just the kind of a place I like
for a nest. They are near enough to Farmer Brown's garden, and the Old
Orchard is right here. That's just the kind of a combination that suits
me."

Peter looked somewhat uncertain. "Why do you want to be near Farmer
Brown's garden?" he asked.

"Because that is where I will get a good part of my living," Kitty
responded promptly. "He ought to be glad to have me about. Once in a
while I take a little fruit, but I pay for it ten times over by the
number of bugs and worms I get in his garden and the Old Orchard. I
pride myself on being useful. There's nothing like being useful in this
world, Peter."

Peter nodded as if he quite agreed. Though, as you know and I know,
Peter himself does very little except fill his own big stomach.



CHAPTER XXVIII. Peter Sees Rosebreast and Finds Redcoat.

"Who's that?" Peter Rabbit pricked up his long ears and stared up at the
tops of the trees of the Old Orchard.

Instantly Jenny Wren popped her head out of her doorway. She cocked her
head on one side to listen, then looked down at Peter, and her sharp
little eyes snapped.

"I don't hear any strange voice," said she. "The way you are staring,
Peter Rabbit, one would think that you had really heard something new
and worth while."

Just then there were two or three rather sharp, squeaky notes from the
top of one of the trees. "There!" cried Peter. "There! Didn't you hear
that, Jenny Wren?"

"For goodness' sake, Peter Rabbit, you don't mean to say you don't
know whose voice that is," she cried. "That's Rosebreast. He and Mrs.
Rosebreast have been here for quite a little while. I didn't suppose
there was any one who didn't know those sharp, squeaky voices. They
rather get on my nerves. What anybody wants to squeak like that for when
they can sing as Rosebreast can, is more than I can understand."

At that very instant Mr. Wren began to scold as only he and Jenny can.
Peter looked up at Jenny and winked slyly. "And what anybody wants to
scold like that for when they can sing as Mr. Wren can, is too much for
me," retorted Peter. "But you haven't told me who Rosebreast is."

"The Grosbeak, of course, stupid," sputtered Jenny. "If you don't know
Rosebreast the Grosbeak, Peter Rabbit, you certainly must have been
blind and deaf ever since you were born. Listen to that! Just listen to
that song!"

Peter listened. There were many songs, for it was a very beautiful
morning and all the singers of the Old Orchard were pouring out the joy
that was within them. One song was a little louder and clearer than the
others because it came from a tree very close at hand, the very tree
from which those squeaky notes had come just a few minutes before.
Peter suspected that that must be the song Jenny Wren meant. He looked
puzzled. He was puzzled. "Do you mean Welcome Robin's song?" he asked
rather sheepishly, for he had a feeling that he would be the victim of
Jenny Wren's sharp tongue.

"No, I don't mean Welcome Robin's song," snapped Jenny. "What good are
a pair of long ears if they can't tell one song from another? That song
may sound something like Welcome Robin's, but if your ears were good
for anything at all you'd know right away that that isn't Welcome Robin
singing. That's a better song than Welcome Robin's. Welcome Robin's song
is one of good cheer, but this one is of pure happiness. I wouldn't have
a pair of ears like yours for anything in the world, Peter Rabbit."

Peter laughed right out as he tried to picture to himself Jenny Wren
with a pair of long ears like his. "What are you laughing at?" demanded
Jenny crossly. "Don't you dare laugh at me! If there is any one thing I
can't stand it is being laughed at."

"I wasn't laughing at you," replied Peter very meekly. "I was just
laughing, at the thought of how funny you would look with a pair of long
ears like mine. Now you speak of it, Jenny, that song IS quite different
from Welcome Robin's."

"Of course it is," retorted Jenny. "That is Rosebreast singing up there,
and there he is right in the top of that tree. Isn't he handsome?"

Peter looked up to see a bird a little smaller than Welcome Robin. His
head, throat and back were black. His wings were black with patches of
white on them. But it was his breast that made Peter catch his breath
with a little gasp of admiration, for that breast was a beautiful
rose-red. The rest of him underneath was white. It was Rosebreast the
Grosbeak.

"Isn't he lovely!"' cried Peter, and added in the next breath, "Who is
that with him?"

"Mrs. Grosbeak, of course. Who else would it be?" sputtered Jenny rather
crossly, for she was still a little put out because she had been laughed
at.

"I would never have guessed it," said Peter. "She doesn't look the least
bit like him."

This was quite true. There was no beautiful rose color about Mrs.
Grosbeak. She was dressed chiefly in brown and grayish colors with a
little buff here and there and with dark streaks on her breast. Over
each eye was a whitish line. Altogether she looked more as if she
might be a big member of the Sparrow family than the wife of handsome
Rosebreast. While Rosebreast sang, Mrs. Grosbeak was very busily picking
buds and blossoms from the tree.

"What is she doing that for?" inquired Peter.

"For the same reason that you bite off sweet clover blossoms and
leaves," replied Jenny Wren tartly.

"Do you mean to say that they live on buds and blossoms?" cried Peter.
"I never heard of such a thing."

"Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut! You can ask more silly questions than anybody
of my acquaintance," retorted Jenny Wren. "Of course they don't live on
buds and blossoms. If they did they would soon starve to death, for buds
and blossoms don't last long. They eat a few just for variety, but they
live mostly on bugs and insects. You ask Farmer Brown's boy who helps
him most in his potato patch, and he'll tell you it's the Grosbeaks.
They certainly do love potato bugs. They eat some fruit, but on the
whole they are about as useful around a garden as any one I know. Now
run along, Peter Rabbit, and don't bother me any more."

Seeing Farmer Brown's boy coming through the Old Orchard Peter decided
that it was high time for him to depart. So he scampered for the Green
Forest, lipperty-lipperty-lip. Just within the edge of the Green Forest
he caught sight of something which for the time being put all thought of
Farmer Brown's boy out of his head. Fluttering on the ground was a bird
than whom not even Glory the Cardinal was more beautiful. It was about
the size of Redwing the Blackbird. Wings and tail were pure black and
all the rest was a beautiful scarlet. It was Redcoat the Tanager. At
first Peter had eyes only for the wonderful beauty of Redcoat. Never
before had he seen Redcoat so close at hand. Then quite suddenly it came
over Peter that something was wrong with Redcoat, and he hurried forward
to see what the trouble might be.

Redcoat heard the rustle of Peter's feet among the dry leaves and at
once began to flap and flutter in an effort to fly away, but he could
not get off the ground. "What is it, Redcoat? Has something happened to
you? It is just Peter Rabbit. You don't have anything to fear from me,"
cried Peter.

The look of terror which had been in the eyes of Redcoat died out, and
he stopped fluttering and simply lay panting.

"Oh, Peter," he gasped, "you don't know how glad I am that it is only
you. I've had a terrible accident, and I don't know what I am to do. I
can't fly, and if I have to stay on the ground some enemy will be sure
to get me. What shall I do, Peter? What shall I do?"

Right away Peter was full of sympathy. "What kind of an accident was it,
Redcoat, and how did it happen?" he asked.

"Broadwing the Hawk tried to catch me," sobbed Redcoat. "In dodging him
among the trees I was heedless for a moment and did not see just where I
was going. I struck a sharp-pointed dead twig and drove it right through
my right wing."

Redcoat held up his right wing and sure enough there was a little
stick projecting from both sides close up to the shoulder. The wing was
bleeding a little.

"Oh, dear, whatever shall I do, Peter Rabbit? Whatever shall I do?"
sobbed Redcoat.

"Does it pain you dreadfully?" asked Peter.

Redcoat nodded. "But I don't mind the pain," he hastened to say. "It is
the thought of what MAY happen to me."

Meanwhile Mrs. Tanager was flying about in the tree tops near at
hand and calling anxiously. She was dressed almost wholly in light
olive-green and greenish-yellow. She looked no more like beautiful
Redcoat than did Mrs. Grosbeak like Rosebreast.

"Can't you fly up just a little way so as to get off the ground?" she
cried anxiously. "Isn't it dreadful, Peter Rabbit, to have such an
accident? We've just got our nest half built, and I don't know what I
shall do if anything happens to Redcoat. Oh, dear, here comes somebody!
Hide, Redcoat! Hide!" Mrs. Tanager flew off a short distance to one side
and began to cry as if in the greatest distress. Peter knew instantly
that she was crying to get the attention of whoever was coming.

Poor Redcoat, with the old look of terror in his eyes, fluttered along,
trying to find something under which to hide. But there was nothing
under which he could crawl, and there was no hiding that wonderful red
coat. Peter heard the sound of heavy footsteps, and looking back, saw
that Farmer Brown's boy was coming. "Don't be afraid, Redcoat," he
whispered. "It's Farmer Brown's boy and I'm sure he won't hurt you.
Perhaps he can help you." Then Peter scampered off for a short distance
and sat up to watch what would happen.

Of coarse Farmer Brown's boy saw Redcoat. No one with any eyes at all
could have helped seeing him, because of that wonderful scarlet coat. He
saw, too, by the way Redcoat was acting, that he was in great trouble.
As Farmer Brown's boy drew near and Redcoat saw that he was discovered,
he tried his hardest to flutter away. Farmer Brown's boy understood
instantly that something was wrong with one wing, and running forward,
he caught Redcoat.

"You poor little thing. You poor, beautiful little creature," said
Farmer Brown's boy softly as he saw the cruel twig sticking through
Redcoats' shoulder. "We'll have to get that out right away," continued
Farmer Brown's boy, stroking Redcoat ever so gently.

Somehow at that gentle touch Redcoat lost much of his fear, and a little
hope sprang in his heart. He saw, too, this was no enemy, but a friend.
Farmer Brown's boy took out his knife and carefully cut off the twig on
the upper side of the wing. Then, doing his best to be careful and to
hurt as little as possible, he worked the other part of the twig out
from the under side. Carefully he examined the wing to see if any bones
were broken. None were, and after holding Redcoat a few minutes he
carefully set him up in a tree and withdrew a short distance. Redcoat
hopped from branch to branch until he was halfway up the tree. Then
he sat there for some time as if fearful of trying that injured wing.
Meanwhile Mrs. Tanager came and fussed about him and talked to him and
coaxed him and made as much of him as if he were a baby.

Peter remained right where he was until at last he saw Redcoat spread
his black wings and fly to another tree. From tree to tree he flew,
resting a bit in each until he and Mrs. Tanager disappeared in the Green
Forest.

"I knew Farmer Brown's boy would help him, and I'm so glad he found
him," cried Peter happily and started for the dear Old Briar-patch.



CHAPTER XXIX. The Constant Singers.

Over in a maple-tree on the edge of Farmer Brown's door yard lived Mr.
and Mrs. Redeye the Vireos. Peter Rabbit knew that they had a nest there
because Jenny Wren had told him so. He would have guessed it anyway,
because Redeye spent so much time in that tree during the nesting
season. No matter what hour of the day Peter visited the Old Orchard he
heard Redeye singing over in the maple-tree. Peter used to think that if
song is an expression of happiness, Redeye must be the happiest of all
birds.

He was a little fellow about the size of one of the larger Warblers and
quite as modestly dressed as any of Peter's acquaintances. The crown
of his head was gray with a little blackish border on either side. Over
each eye was a white line. Underneath he was white. For the rest he was
dressed in light olive-green. The first time he came down near enough
for Peter to see him well Peter understood at once why he is called
Redeye. His eyes were red. Yes, sir, his eyes were red and this fact
alone was enough to distinguish him from any other members of his
family.

But it wasn't often that Redeye came down so near the ground that Peter
could see his eyes. He preferred to spend most of his time in the tree
tops, and Peter only got glimpses of him now and then. But if he didn't
see him often it was less often that he failed to hear him. "I don't
see when Redeye finds time to eat," declared Peter as he listened to the
seemingly unending song in the maple-tree.

"Redeye believes in singing while he works," said Jenny Wren. "For my
part I should think he'd wear his throat out. When other birds sing they
don't do anything else, but Redeye sings all the time he is hunting
his meals and only stops long enough to swallow a worm or a bug when he
finds it. Just as soon as it is down he begins to sing again while he
hunts for another. I must say for the Redeyes that they are mighty good
nest builders. Have you seen their nest over in that maple-tree, Peter?"

Peter shook his head.

"I don't dare go over there except very early in the morning before
Farmer Brown's folks are awake," said he, "so I haven't had much chance
to look for it."

"You probably couldn't see it, anyway," declared Jenny Wren. "They have
placed it rather high up from the ground and those leaves are so thick
that they hide it. It's a regular little basket fastened in a fork near
the end of a branch and it is woven almost as nicely as is the nest of
Goldy the Oriole. How anybody has the patience to weave a nest like that
is beyond me."

"What's it made of?" asked Peter.

"Strips of bark, plant down, spider's web, grass, and pieces of paper!"
replied Jenny. "That's a funny thing about Redeye; he dearly loves a
piece of paper in his nest. What for, I can't imagine. He's as fussy
about having a scrap of paper as Cresty the Flycatcher is about having a
piece of Snakeskin. I had just a peep into that nest a few days ago and
unless I am greatly mistaken Sally Sly the Cowbird has managed to impose
on the Redeyes. I am certain I saw one of her eggs in that nest."

A few mornings after this talk with Jenny Wren about Redeye the Vireo
Peter once more visited the Old Orchard. No sooner did he come in sight
than Jenny Wren's tongue began to fly. "What did I tell you, Peter
Rabbit? What did I tell you? I knew it was so, and it is!" cried Jenny.

"What is so?" asked Peter rather testily, for he hadn't the least idea
what Jenny Wren was talking about.

"Sally Sly DID lay an egg in Redeye's nest, and now it has hatched and
I don't know whatever is to become of Redeye's own children. It's
perfectly scandalous! That's what it is, perfectly scandalous!" cried
Jenny, and hopped about and jerked her tail and worked herself into a
small brown fury.

"The Redeyes are working themselves to feathers and bone feeding that
ugly young Cowbird while their own babies aren't getting half enough to
eat," continued Jenny. "One of them has died already. He was kicked out
of the nest by that young brute."

"How dreadful!" cried Peter. "If he does things like that I should think
the Redeyes would throw HIM out of the nest."

"They're too soft-hearted," declared Jenny. "I can tell you I wouldn't
be so soft-hearted if I were in their place. No, sir-ee, I wouldn't! But
they say it isn't his fault that he's there, and that he's nothing but a
helpless baby, and so they just take care of him."

"Then why don't they feed their own babies first and give him what's
left?" demanded Peter.

"Because he's twice as big as any of their own babies and so strong and
greedy that he simply snatches the food out of the very mouths of the
others. Because he gets most of the food, he's growing twice as fast as
they are. I wouldn't be surprised if he kicks all the rest of them out
before he gets through. Mr. and Mrs. Redeye are dreadfully distressed
about it, but they will feed him because they say it isn't his fault.
It's a dreadful affair and the talk of the whole Orchard. I suppose his
mother is off gadding somewhere, having a good time and not caring
a flip of her tail feathers what becomes of him. I believe in being
goodhearted, but there is such a thing as overdoing the matter. Thank
goodness I'm not so weak-minded that I can be imposed on in any such way
as that."

"Speaking of the Vireos, Redeye seems to be the only member of his
family around here," remarked Peter.

"Listen!" commanded Jenny Wren. "Don't you hear that warbling song 'way
over in the big elm in front of Farmer Brown's house where Goldy the
oriole has his nest?"

Peter listened. At first he didn't hear it, and as usual Jenny Wren made
fun of him for having such big ears and not being able to make better
use of them. Presently he did hear it. The voice was not unlike that of
Redeye, but the song was smoother, more continuous and sweeter. Peter's
face lighted up. "I hear it," he cried.

"That's Redeye's cousin, the Warbling Vireo," said Jenny. "He's a better
singer than Redeye and just as fond of hearing his own voice. He sings
from the time jolly Mr. Sun gets up in the morning until he goes to bed
at night. He sings when it is so hot that the rest of us are glad to
keep still for comfort's sake. I don't know of anybody more fond of the
tree tops than he is. He doesn't seem to care anything about the Old
Orchard, but stays over in those big trees along the road. He's got
a nest over in that big elm and it is as high up as that of Goldy the
Oriole; I haven't seen it myself, but Goldy told me about it. Why any
one so small should want to live so high up in the world I don't know,
any more than I know why any one wants to live anywhere but in the Old
Orchard."

"Somehow I don't remember just what Warble looks like," Peter confessed.

"He looks a lot like his cousin, Redeye," replied Jenny. "His coat is a
little duller olive-green and underneath he is a little bit yellowish
instead of being white. Of course he doesn't have red eyes, and he is
a little smaller than Redeye. The whole family looks pretty much alike
anyway."

"You said something then, Jenny Wren," declared Peter. "They get me all
mixed up. If only some of them had some bright colors it would be easier
to tell them apart."

"One has," replied Jenny Wren. "He has a bright yellow throat and breast
and is called the Yellow-throated Vireo. There isn't the least chance of
mistaking him."

"Is he a singer, too?" asked Peter.

"Of course," replied Jenny. "Every one of that blessed family loves the
sound of his own voice. It's a family trait. Sometimes it just makes my
throat sore to listen to them all day long. A good thing is good, but
more than enough of a good thing is too much. That applies to gossiping
just as well as to singing and I've wasted more time on you than I've
any business to. Now hop along, Peter, and don't bother me any more
to-day."

Peter hopped.



CHAPTER XXX. Jenny Wren's Cousins.

Peter Rabbit never will forget his surprise when Jenny Wren asked him
one spring morning if he had seen anything of her big cousin. Peter
hesitated. As a matter of fact, he couldn't think of any big cousin
of Jenny Wren. All the cousins he knew anything about were very nearly
Jenny's own size.

Now Jenny Wren is one of the most impatient small persons in the world.
"Well, well, well, Peter, have you lost your tongue?" she chattered.
"Can't you answer a simple question without talking all day about it?
Have you seen anything of my big cousin? It is high time for him to be
here."

"You needn't be so cross about it if I am slow," replied Peter. "I'm
just trying to think who your big cousin is. I guess, to be quite
honest, I don't know him."

"Don't know him! Don't know him!" Sputtered Jenny. "Of course you know
him. You can't help but know him. I mean Brownie the Thrasher."

In his surprise Peter fairly jumped right off the ground. "What's that?"
he exclaimed. "Since when was Brownie the Thrasher related to the Wren
family?"

"Ever since there have been any Wrens and Thrashers," retorted Jenny.
"Brownie belongs to one branch of the family and I belong to another,
and that makes him my second cousin. It certainly is surprising how
little some folks know."

"But I have always supposed he belonged to the Thrush family," protested
Peter. "He certainly looks like a Thrush."

"Looking like one doesn't make him one," snapped Jenny. "By this time
you ought to leave learned that you never can judge anybody just by
looks. It always makes me provoked to hear Brownie called the Brown
Thrush. There isn't a drop of Thrush blood in him. But you haven't
answered my question yet, Peter Rabbit. I want to know if he has got
here yet."

"Yes," said Peter. "I saw him only yesterday on the edge of the Old
Pasture. He was fussing around in the bushes and on the ground and
jerking that long tail of his up and down and sidewise as if he couldn't
decide what to do with it. I've never seen anybody twitch their tail
around the way he does."

Jenny Wren giggled. "That's just like him," said she. "It is because he
thrashes his tail around so much that he is called a Thrasher. I suppose
he was wearing his new spring suit."

"I don't know whether it was a new suit or not, but it was mighty good
looking," replied Peter. "I just love that beautiful reddish-brown of
his back, wings and tail, and it certainly does set off his white and
buff waistcoat with those dark streaks and spots. You must admit, Jenny
Wren, that any one seeing him dressed so much like the Thrushes is to be
excused for thinking him a Thrush."

"I suppose so," admitted Jenny rather grudgingly. "But none of the
Thrushes have such a bright brown coat. Brownie is handsome, if I do say
so. Did you notice what a long bill he has?"

Peter nodded. "And I noticed that he had two white bars on each wing,"
said he.

"I'm glad you're so observing," replied Jenny dryly. "Did you hear him
sing?"

"Did I hear him sing!" cried Peter, his eyes shining at the memory. "He
sang especially for me. He flew up to the top of a tree, tipped his head
back and sang as few birds I know of can sing. He has a wonderful voice,
has Brownie. I don't know of anybody I enjoy listening to more. And when
he's singing he acts as if he enjoyed it himself and knows what a good
singer he is. I noticed that long tail of his hung straight down the
same way Mr. Wren's does when he sings."

"Of course it did," replied Jenny promptly. "That's a family trait. The
tails of both my other big cousins do the same thing."

"Wha-wha-what's that? Have you got more big cousins?" cried Peter,
staring up at Jenny as if she were some strange person he never had seen
before.

"Certainly," retorted Jenny. "Mocker the Mockingbird and Kitty the
Catbird belong to Brownie's family, and that makes them second cousins
to me."

Such a funny expression as there was on Peter's face. He felt that Jenny
Wren was telling the truth, but it was surprising news to him and so
hard to believe that for a few minutes he couldn't find his tongue to
ask another question. Finally he ventured to ask very timidly, "Does
Brownie imitate the songs of other birds the way Mocker and Kitty do?"

Jenny Wren shook her head very decidedly. "No," said she. "He's
perfectly satisfied with his own song." Before she could add anything
further the clear whistle of Glory the Cardinal sounded from a tree
just a little way off. Instantly Peter forgot all about Jenny Wren's
relatives and scampered over to that tree. You see Glory is so beautiful
that Peter never loses a chance to see him.

As Peter sat staring up into the tree, trying to get a glimpse of
Glory's beautiful red coat, the clear, sweet whistle sounded once more.
It drew Peter's eyes to one of the upper branches, but instead of the
beautiful, brilliant coat of Glory the Cardinal he saw a bird about the
size of Welcome Robin dressed in sober ashy-gray with two white bars
on his wings, and white feathers on the outer edges of his tail. He was
very trim and neat and his tail hung straight down after the manner of
Brownie's when he was singing. It was a long tail, but not as long as
Brownie's. Even as Peter blinked and stared in surprise the stranger
opened his mouth and from it came Glory's own beautiful whistle. Then
the stranger looked down at Peter, and his eyes twinkled with mischief.

"Fooled you that time, didn't I, Peter?" he chuckled. "You thought you
were going to see Glory the Cardinal, didn't you?"

Then without waiting for Peter to reply, this sober-looking stranger
gave such a concert as no one else in the world could give. From that
wonderful throat poured out song after song and note after note of
Peter's familiar friends of the Old Orchard, and the performance wound
up with a lovely song which was all the stranger's own. Peter didn't
have to be told who the stranger was. It was Mocker the Mockingbird.

"Oh!" gasped Peter. "Oh, Mocker, how under the sun do you do it? I was
sure that it was Glory whom I heard whistling. Never again will I be
able to believe my own ears."

Mocker chuckled. "You're not the only one I've fooled, Peter," said he.
"I flatter myself that I can fool almost anybody if I set out to. It's
lots of fun. I may not be much to look at, but when it comes to singing
there's no one I envy.

"I think you are very nice looking indeed," replied Peter politely.
"I've just been finding out this morning that you can't tell much about
folks just by their looks."

"And now you've learned that you can't always recognize folks by their
voices, haven't you?" chuckled Mocker.

"Yes," replied Peter. "Hereafter I shall never be sure about any
feathered folks unless I can both see and hear them. Won't you sing for
me again, Mocker?"

Mocker did. He sang and sang, for he clearly loves to sing. When he
finished Peter had another question ready. "Somebody told me once that
down in the South you are the best loved of all the birds. Is that so?"

"That's not for me to say," replied Mocker modestly. "But I can tell you
this, Peter, they do think a lot of me down there. There are many birds
down there who are very beautifully dressed, birds who don't come up
here at all. But not one of them is loved as I am, and it is all on
account of my voice. I would rather have a beautiful voice than a fine
coat."

Peter nodded as if he quite agreed, which, when you think of it, is
rather funny, for Peter has neither a fine coat nor a fine voice. A
glint of mischief sparkled in Mocker's eyes. "There's Mrs. Goldy the
Oriole over there," said he. "Watch me fool her."

He began to call in exact imitation of Goldy's voice when he is anxious
about something. At once Mrs. Goldy came hurrying over to find out what
the trouble was. When she discovered Mocker she lost her temper
and scolded him roundly; then she flew away a perfect picture of
indignation. Mocker and Peter laughed, for they thought it a good joke.

Suddenly Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had told him. "Was Jenny Wren
telling you the truth when she said that you are a second cousin of
hers?" he asked.

Mocker nodded. "Yes," said he, "we are relatives. We each belong to
a branch of the same family." Then he burst into Mr. Wren's own song,
after which he excused himself and went to look for Mrs. Mocker. For, as
he explained, it was time for them to be thinking of a nest.



CHAPTER XXXI. Voices of the Dusk.

Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun was just going to bed behind the Purple Hills
and the Black Shadows had begun to creep all through the Green Forest
and out across the Green Meadows. It was the hour of the day Peter
Rabbit loves best. He sat on the edge of the Green Forest watching for
the first little star to twinkle high up in the sky. Peter felt at peace
with all the Great World, for it was the hour of peace, the hour of rest
for those who had been busy all through the shining day.

Most of Peter's feathered friends had settled themselves for the coming
night, the worries and cares of the day over and forgotten. All the
Great World seemed hushed. In the distance Sweetvoice the Vesper Sparrow
was pouring out his evening song, for it was the hour when he dearly
loves to sing. Far back in the Green Forest Whip-poor-will was calling
as if his very life depended on the number of times he could say, "Whip
poor Will," without taking a breath. From overhead came now and then the
sharp, rather harsh cry of Boomer the Nighthawk, as he hunted his supper
in the air.

For a time it seemed as if these were the only feathered friends still
awake, and Peter couldn't help thinking that those who went so early to
bed missed the most beautiful hour of the whole day. Then, from a tree
just back of him, there poured forth a song so clear, so sweet, so
wonderfully suited to that peaceful hour, that Peter held his breath
until it was finished. He knew that singer and loved him. It was Melody
the Wood Thrush.

When the song ended Peter hopped over to the tree from which it had
come. It was still light enough for him to see the sweet singer. He sat
on a branch near the top, his head thrown back and his soft, full throat
throbbing with the flute-like notes he was pouring forth. He was
a little smaller than Welcome Robin. His coat was a beautiful
reddish-brown, not quite so bright as that of Brownie the Thrasher.
Beneath he was white with large, black spots thickly dotting his
breast and sides. He was singing as if he were trying to put into those
beautiful notes all the joy of life. Listening to it Peter felt steal
over him a wonderful feeling of peace and pure happiness. Not for the
world would he have interrupted it.

The Black Shadows crept far across the Green Meadows and it became so
dusky in the Green Forest that Peter could barely make out the sweet
singer above his head. Still Melody sang on and the hush of eventide
grew deeper, as if all the Great World were holding its breath to
listen. It was not until several little stars had begun to twinkle high
up in the sky that Melody stopped singing and sought the safety of his
hidden perch for the night. Peter felt sure that somewhere near was a
nest and that one thing which had made that song so beautiful was the
love Melody lad been trying to express to the little mate sitting on
the eggs that nest must contain. "I'll just run over here early in the
morning," thought Peter.

Now Peter is a great hand to stay out all night, and that is just what
he did that night. Just before it was time for jolly, round, red Mr. Sun
to kick off his rosy blankets and begin his daily climb up in the blue,
blue sky, Peter started for home in the dear Old Briar-patch. Everywhere
in the Green Forest, in the Old Orchard, on the Green Meadows, his
feathered friends were awakening. He had quite forgotten his intention
to visit Melody and was reminded of it only when again he heard those
beautiful flute-like notes. At once he scampered over to where he had
spent such a peaceful hour the evening before. Melody saw him at once
and dropped down on the ground for a little gossip while he scratched
among the leaves in search of his breakfast.

"I just love to hear you sing, Melody," cried Peter rather breathlessly.
"I don't know of any other song that makes me feel quite as yours does,
so sort of perfectly contented and free of care and worry."

"Thank you," replied Melody. "I'm glad you like to hear me sing for
there is nothing I like to do better. It is the one way in which I can
express my feelings. I love all the Great World and I just have to tell
it so. I do not mean to boast when I say that all the Thrush family have
good voices."

"But you have the best of all," cried Peter.

Melody shook his brown head. "I wouldn't say that," said he modestly.
"I think the song of my cousin Hermit, is even more beautiful than
mine. And then there is my other cousin, Veery. His song is wonderful, I
think."

But just then Peter's curiosity was greater than his interest in songs.
"Have you built your nest yet?" he asked.

Melody nodded. "It is in a little tree not far from here," said he, "and
Mrs. Wood Thrush is sitting on five eggs this blessed minute. Isn't that
perfectly lovely?"

It was Peter's turn to nod. "What is your nest built of?" he inquired.

"Rootlets and tiny twigs and weed stalks and leaves and mud," replied
Melody.

"Mud!" exclaimed Peter. "Why, that's what Welcome Robin uses in his
nest."

"Well, Welcome Robin is my own cousin, so I don't know as there's
anything so surprising in that," retorted Melody.

"Oh," said Peter. "I had forgotten that he is a member of the Thrush
family."

"Well, he is, even if he is dressed quite differently from the rest of
us," replied Melody.

"You mentioned your cousin, Hermit. I don't believe I know him," said
Peter.

"Then it's high time you got acquainted with him," replied Melody
promptly. "He is rather fond of being by himself and that is why he is
called the Hermit Thrush. He is smaller than I and his coat is not such
a bright brown. His tail is brighter than his coat. He has a waistcoat
spotted very much like mine. Some folks consider him the most beautiful
singer of the Thrush family. I'm glad you like my song, but you must
hear Hermit sing. I really think there is no song so beautiful in all
the Green Forest."

"Does he build a nest like yours?" asked Peter.

"No," replied Melody. "He builds his nest on the ground, and he doesn't
use any mud. Now if you'll excuse me, Peter, I must get my breakfast and
give Mrs. Wood Thrush a chance to get hers."

So Peter continued on his way to the dear Old Briar-patch and there
he spent the day. As evening approached he decided to go back to hear
Melody sing again. Just as he drew near the Green Forest he heard from
the direction of the Laughing Brook a song that caused him to change his
mind and sent him hurrying in that direction. It was a very different
song from that of Melody the Wood Thrush, yet, if he had never heard
it before, Peter would have known that such a song could come from no
throat except that of a member of the Thrush family. As he drew near
the Laughing Brook the beautiful notes seemed to ring through the Green
Forest like a bell. As Melody's song had filled Peter with a feeling of
peace, so this song stirred in him a feeling of the wonderful mystery of
life. There was in it the very spirit of the Green Forest.

It didn't take Peter long to find the singer. It was Veery, who has been
named Wilson's Thrush; and by some folks is known as the Tawny Thrush.

At the sound of the patter of Peter's feet the song stopped abruptly and
he was greeted with a whistled "Wheeu! wheeu!" Then, seeing that it was
no one of whom he need be afraid, Veery came out from under some ferns
to greet Peter. He was smaller than Melody the Wood Thrush, being about
one-fourth smaller than Welcome Robin. He wore a brown coat but it was
not as bright as that of his cousin, Melody. His breast was somewhat
faintly spotted with brown, and below he was white. His sides were
grayish-white and not spotted like the sides of Melody.

"I heard you singing and I just had to come over to see you," cried
Peter.

"I hope you like my song," said Veery. "I love to sing just at this hour
and I love to think that other people like to hear me."

"They do," declared Peter most emphatically. "I can't imagine how
anybody could fail to like to hear you. I came 'way over here just to
sit a while and listen. Won't you sing some more for me, Veery?"

"I certainly will, Peter," replied Veery. "I wouldn't feel that I was
going to bed right if I didn't sing until dark. There is no part of the
day I love better than the evening, and the only way I can express my
happiness and my love of the Green Forest and the joy of just being back
here at home is by singing."

Veery slipped out of sight, and almost at once his bell-like notes began
to ring through the Green Forest. Peter sat right where he was, content
to just listen and feel within himself the joy of being alive and
happy in the beautiful spring season which Veery was expressing so
wonderfully. The Black Shadows grew blacker. One by one the little stars
came out and twinkled down through the tree tops. Finally from deep in
the Green Forest sounded the hunting call of Hooty the Owl. Veery's song
stopped. "Good night, Peter," he called softly.

"Good night, Veery," replied Peter and hopped back towards the Green
Meadows for a feast of sweet clover.



CHAPTER XXXII. Peter Saves a Friend and Learns Something.

Peter Rabbit sat in a thicket of young trees on the edge of the Green
Forest. It was warm and Peter was feeling lazy. He had nothing in
particular to do, and as he knew of no cooler place he had squatted
there to doze a bit and dream a bit. So far as he knew, Peter was all
alone. He hadn't seen anybody when he entered that little thicket,
and though he had listened he hadn't heard a sound to indicate that he
didn't have that thicket quite to himself. It was very quiet there, and
though when he first entered he hadn't the least intention in the world
of going to sleep, it wasn't long before he was dozing.

Now Peter is a light sleeper, as all little people who never know when
they may have to run for their lives must be. By and by he awoke with
a start, and he was very wide awake indeed. Something had wakened him,
though just what it was he couldn't say. His long ears stood straight up
as he listened with all his might for some little sound which might mean
danger. His wobbly little nose wobbled very fast indeed as it tested
the air for the scent of a possible enemy. Very alert was Peter as he
waited.

For a few minutes he heard nothing and saw nothing. Then, near the outer
edge of the thicket, he heard a great rustling of dry leaves. It must
have been this that had wakened him. For just an instant Peter was
startled, but only for an instant. His long ears told him at once that
that noise was made by some one scratching among the leaves, and he knew
that no one who did not wear feathers could scratch like that.

"Now who can that be?" thought Peter, and stole forward very softly
towards the place from which the sound came. Presently, as he peeped
between the stems of the young trees, he saw the brown leaves which
carpeted the ground fly this way and that, and in the midst of them
was an exceedingly busy person, a little smaller than Welcome Robin,
scratching away for dear life. Every now and then he picked up
something.

His head, throat, back and breast were black. Beneath he was white. His
sides were reddish-brown. His tail was black and white, and the longer
feathers of his wings were edged with white. It was Chewink the Towhee,
sometimes called Ground Robin.

Peter chuckled, but it was a noiseless chuckle. He kept perfectly still,
for it was fun to watch some one who hadn't the least idea that he was
being watched. It was quite clear that Chewink was hungry and that under
those dry leaves he was finding a good meal. His feet were made for
scratching and he certainly knew how to use them. For some time Peter
sat there watching. He had just about made up his mind that he would
make his presence known and have a bit of morning gossip when, happening
to look out beyond the edge of the little thicket, he saw something red.
It was something alive, for it was moving very slowly and cautiously
towards the place where Chewink was so busy and forgetful of everything
but his breakfast. Peter knew that there was only one person with a coat
of that color. It was Reddy Fox, and quite plainly Reddy was hoping to
catch Chewink.

For a second or two Peter was quite undecided what to do. He couldn't
warn Chewink without making his own presence known to Reddy Fox. Of
course he could sit perfectly still and let Chewink be caught, but that
was such a dreadful thought that Peter didn't consider it for more than
a second or two. He suddenly thumped the ground with his feet. It
was his danger signal which all his friends know. Then he turned and
scampered lipperty-lipperty-lip to a thick bramble-tangle not far behind
him.

At the sound of that thump Chewink instantly flew up in a little tree.
Then he saw Reddy Fox and began to scold. As for Reddy, he looked over
towards the bramble-tangle and snarled. "I'll get you one of these days,
Peter Rabbit," said he. "I'll get you one of these days and pay you
up for cheating me out of a breakfast." Without so much as a glance at
Chewink, Reddy turned and trotted off, trying his best to look dignified
and as if he had never entertained such a thought as trying to catch
Chewink.

From his perch Chewink watched until he was sure that Reddy Fox had
gone away for good. Then he called softly, "Towhee! Towhee! Chewink!
Chewink! All is safe now, Peter Rabbit. Come out and talk with me and
let me tell you how grateful to you I am for saving my life."

Chewink flew down to the ground and Peter crept out of the
bramble-tangle. "It wasn't anything," declared Peter. "I saw Reddy and I
knew you didn't, so of course I gave the alarm. You would have done
the same thing for me. Do you know, Chewink, I've wondered a great deal
about you."

"What have you wondered about me?" asked Chewink.

"I've wondered what family you belong to," replied Peter.

Chewink chuckled. "I belong to a big family," said he. "I belong to
the biggest family among the birds. It is the Finch and Sparrow family.
There are a lot of us and a good many of us don't look much alike, but
still we belong to the same family. I suppose you know that Rosebreast
the Grosbeak and Glory the Cardinal are members of my family."

"I didn't know it," replied Peter, "but if you say it is so I suppose it
must be so. It is easier to believe than it is to believe that you are
related to the Sparrows."

"Nevertheless I am," retorted Chewink.

"What were you scratching for when I first saw you?" asked Peter.

"Oh, worms and bugs that hide under the leaves," replied Chewink
carelessly. "You have no idea how many of them hide under dead leaves."

"Do you eat anything else?" asked Peter.

"Berries and wild fruits in season," replied Chewink. "I'm very fond of
them. They make a variety in the bill of fare."

"I've noticed that I seldom see you up in the tree tops," remarked
Peter.

"I like the ground better," replied Chewink. "I spend more of my time on
the ground than anywhere else."

"I suppose that means that you nest on the ground," ventured Peter.

Chewink nodded. "Of course," said he. "As a matter of fact, I've got a
nest in this very thicket. Mrs. Towhee is on it right now, and I suspect
she's worrying and anxious to know what happened over here when you
warned me about Reddy Fox. I think I must go over and set her mind at
rest."

Peter was just about to ask if he might go along and see that nest when
a new voice broke in.

"What are you fellows talking about?" it demanded, and there flitted
just in front of Peter a little bird the size of a Sparrow but lovelier
than any Sparrow of Peter's acquaintance. At first glance he seemed
to be all blue, and such a lovely bright blue. But as he paused for an
instant Peter saw that his wings and tail were mostly black and that
the lovely blue was brightest on his head and back. It was Indigo the
Bunting.

"We were talking about our family," replied Chewink. "I was telling
Peter that we belong to the largest family among the birds."

"But you didn't say anything about Indigo," interrupted Peter. "Do you
mean to say that he belongs to the same family?"

"I surely do," replied Indigo. "I'm rather closely related to the
Sparrow branch. Don't I look like a Sparrow?"

Peter looked at Indigo closely. "In size and shape you do," he
confessed, "but just the same I should never in the world have thought
of connecting you with the Sparrows."

"How about me?" asked another voice, and a little brown bird flew
up beside Indigo, twitching her tail nervously. She looked very
Sparrow-like indeed, so much so, that if Peter had not seen her with her
handsome mate, for she was Mrs. Indigo, he certainly would have taken
her for a Sparrow.

Only on her wings and tail was there any of the blue which made Indigo's
coat so beautiful, and this was only a faint tinge.

"I'll have to confess that so far as you are concerned it isn't hard
to think of you as related to the Sparrows," declared Peter. "Don't you
sometimes wish you were as handsomely dressed as Indigo?"

Mrs. Indigo shook her head in a most decided way. "Never!" she declared.
"I have worries enough raising a family as it is, but if I had a coat
like his I wouldn't have a moment of peace. You have no idea how I worry
about him sometimes. You ought to be thankful, Peter Rabbit, that you
haven't a coat like his. It attracts altogether too much attention."

Peter tried to picture himself in a bright blue coat and laughed right
out at the mere thought, and the others joined with him. Then Indigo
flew up to the top of a tall tree not far away and began to sing. It
was a lively song and Peter enjoyed it thoroughly. Mrs. Indigo took this
opportunity to slip away unobserved, and when Peter looked around for
Chewink, he too had disappeared. He had gone to tell Mrs. Chewink that
he was quite safe and that she had nothing to worry about.



CHAPTER XXXIII. A Royal Dresser and a Late Nester.

Jenny and Mr. Wren were busy. If there were any busier little folks
anywhere Peter Rabbit couldn't imagine who they could be. You see,
everyone of those seven eggs in the Wren nest had hatched, and seven
mouths are a lot to feed, especially when every morsel of food must be
hunted for and carried from a distance. There was little time for gossip
now. Just as soon as it was light enough to see Jenny and Mr. Wren began
feeding those always hungry babies, and they kept at it with hardly
time for an occasional mouthful themselves, until the Black Shadows came
creeping out from the Purple Hills. Wren babies, like all other bird
babies, grow very fast, and that means that each one of them must have a
great deal of food every day. Each one of them often ate its own weight
in food in a day and all their food had to be hunted for and when found
carried back and put into the gaping little mouths. Hardly would
Jenny Wren disappear in the little round doorway of her home with a
caterpillar in her bill than she would hop out again, and Mr. Wren would
take her place with a spider or a fly and then hurry away for something
more.

Peter tried to keep count of the number of times they came and went but
soon gave it up as a bad job. He began to wonder where all the worms and
bugs and spiders came from, and gradually he came to have a great deal
of respect for eyes sharp enough to find them so quickly. Needless to
say Jenny was shorter-tempered than ever. She had no time to gossip and
said so most emphatically. So at last Peter gave up the idea of trying
to find out from her certain things he wanted to know, and hopped off
to look for some one who was less busy. He had gone but a short distance
when his attention was caught by a song so sweet and so full of little
trills that he first stopped to listen, then went to look for the
singer.

It didn't take long to find him, for he was sitting on the very tiptop
of a fir-tree in Farmer Brown's yard. Peter didn't dare go over there,
for already it was broad daylight, and he had about made up his mind
that he would have to content himself with just listening to that sweet
singer when the latter flew over in the Old Orchard and alighted just
over Peter's head. "Hello, Peter!" he cried.

"Hello, Linnet!" cried Peter. "I was wondering who it could be who was
singing like that. I ought to have known, but you see it's so long since
I've heard you sing that I couldn't just remember your song. I'm so glad
you came over here for I'm just dying to talk to somebody."

Linnet the Purple Finch, for this is who it was, laughed right out. "I
see you're still the same old Peter," said he. "I suppose you're just
as full of curiosity as ever and just as full of questions. Well, here I
am, so what shall we talk about?"

"You," replied Peter bluntly. "Lately I've found out so many surprising
things about my feathered friends that I want to know more. I'm trying
to get it straight in my head who is related to who, and I've found out
some things which have begun to make me feel that I know very little
about my feathered neighbors. It's getting so that I don't dare to even
guess who a person's relatives are. If you please, Linnet, what family
do you belong to?"

Linnet flew down a little nearer to Peter. "Look me over, Peter," said
he with twinkling eyes. "Look me over and see if you can't tell for
yourself."

Peter stared solemnly at Linnet. He saw a bird of Sparrow size most of
whose body was a rose-red, brightest on the head, darkest on the back,
and palest on the breast. Underneath he was whitish.

His wings and tail were brownish, the outer parts of the feathers edged
with rose-red. His bill was short and stout.

Before Peter could reply, Mrs. Linnet appeared. There wasn't so much as
a touch of that beautiful rose-red about her. Her grayish-brown back
was streaked with black, and her white breast and sides were spotted and
streaked with brown. If Peter hadn't seen her with Linnet he certainly
would have taken her for a Sparrow. She looked so much like one that he
ventured to say, "I guess you belong to the Sparrow family."

"That's pretty close, Peter. That's pretty close," declared Linnet. "We
belong to the Finch branch of the family, which makes the sparrows own
cousins to us. Folks may get Mrs. Linnet mixed with some of our Sparrow
cousins, but they never can mistake me. There isn't anybody else my size
with a rose-red coat like mine. If you can't remember my song, which you
ought to, because there is no other song quite like it, you can always
tell me by the color of my coat. Hello! Here comes Cousin Chicoree. Did
you ever see a happier fellow than he is? I'll venture to say that he
has been having such a good time that he hasn't even yet thought of
building a nest, and here half the people of the Old Orchard have grown
families. I've a nest and eggs myself, but that madcap is just roaming
about having a good time. Isn't that so, Chicoree?"

"Isn't what so?" demanded Chicoree the Goldfinch, perching very near to
where Linnet was sitting.

"Isn't it true that you haven't even begun thinking about a nest?"
demanded Linnet. Chicoree flew down in the grass almost under Peter's
nose and began to pull apart a dandelion which had gone to seed. He
snipped the seeds from the soft down to which they were attached and
didn't say a word till he was quite through. Then he flew up in the
tree near Linnet, and while he dressed his feathers, answered Linnet's
question.

"It's quite true, but what of it?" said he. "There's time enough to
think about nest-building and household cares later. Mrs. Goldfinch and
I will begin to think about them about the first of July. Meanwhile we
are making the most of this beautiful season to roam about and have a
good time. For one thing we like thistledown to line our nest, and there
isn't any thistledown yet. Then, there is no sense in raising a family
until there is plenty of the right kind of food, and you know we
Goldfinches live mostly on seeds. I'll venture to say that we are the
greatest seed-eaters anywhere around. Of course when the babies are
small they have to have soft food, but one can find plenty of worms and
bugs any time during the summer. Just as soon as the children are big
enough to hunt their own food they need seeds, so there is no sense in
trying to raise a family until there are plenty of seeds for them when
needed. Meanwhile we are having a good time. How do you like my summer
suit, Peter?"

"It's beautiful," cried Peter. "I wouldn't know you for the same bird I
see so often in the late fall and sometimes in the winter. I don't know
of anybody who makes a more complete change. That black cap certainly is
very smart and becoming."

Chicoree cocked his head on one side, the better to show off that black
cap. The rest of his head and his whole body were bright yellow. His
wings were black with two white bars on each. His tail also was black,
with some white on it. In size he was a little smaller than Linnet and
altogether one of the smartest appearing of all the little people who
wear feathers. It was a joy just to look at him. If Peter had known
anything about Canaries, which of course he didn't, because Canaries
are always kept in cages, he would have understood why Chicoree the
Goldfinch is often called the Wild Canary.

Mrs. Goldfinch now joined her handsome mate and it was plain to see that
she admired him quite as much as did Peter. Her wings and tail were much
like his but were more brownish than black. She wore no cap it all and
her back and head were a grayish-brown with an olive tinge. Underneath
she was lighter, with a tinge of yellow. All together she was a very
modestly dressed small person. As Peter recalled Chicoree's winter suit,
it was very much like that now worn by Mrs. Goldfinch, save that his
wings and tail were as they now appeared.

All the time Chicoree kept up a continual happy twittering, breaking out
every few moments into song. It was clear that he was fairly bubbling
over with joy.

"I suppose," said Peter, "it sounds foolish of me to ask if you are a
member of the same family as Linnet."

"Very foolish, Peter. Very foolish," laughed Chicoree. "Isn't my name
Goldfinch, and isn't his name Purple Finch? We belong to the same family
and a mighty fine family it is. Now I must go over to the Old Pasture to
see how the thistles are coming on."

Away he flew calling, "Chic-o-ree, per-chic-o-ree, chic-o-ree!" Mrs.
Goldfinch followed. As they flew, they rose and fell in the air in very
much the same way that Yellow Wing the Flicker does.

"I'd know them just by that, even if Chicoree didn't keep calling his
own name," thought Peter. "It's funny how they often stay around all
winter yet are among the last of all the birds to set up housekeeping.
As I once said to Jenny Wren, birds certainly are funny creatures."

"Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut! It's no such thing, Peter Rabbit. It's no such
thing," scolded Jenny Wren as she flew last Peter on her way to hunt for
another worm for her hungry babies.



CHAPTER, XXXIV. Mourner the Dove and Cuckoo.

A long lane leads from Farmer Brown's barnyard down to his cornfield on
the Green Meadows. It happened that very early one morning Peter Rabbit
took it into his funny little head to run down that long lane to see
what he might see. Now at a certain place beside that long lane was a
gravelly bank into which Farmer Brown had dug for gravel to put on the
roadway up near his house. As Peter was scampering past this place
where Farmer Brown had dug he caught sight of some one very busy in that
gravel pit. Peter stopped short, then sat up to stare.

It was Mourner the Dove whom Peter saw, an old friend of whom Peter is
very fond. His body was a little bigger than that of Welcome Robin,
but his long slender neck, and longer tail and wings made him appear
considerably larger. In shape he reminded Peter at once of the
Pigeons up at Farmer Brown's. His back was grayish-brown, varying to
bluish-gray. The crown and upper parts of his head were bluish-gray.
His breast was reddish-buff, shading down into a soft buff. His bill was
black and his feet red. The two middle feathers of his tail were longest
and of the color of his back. The other feathers were slaty-gray with
little black bands and tipped with white. On his wings were a few
scattered black spots. Just under each ear was a black spot. But it
was the sides of his slender neck which were the most beautiful part of
Mourner. When untouched by the Jolly Little Sunbeams the neck feathers
appeared to be in color very like his breast, but the moment they
were touched by the Jolly Little Sunbeams they seemed to be constantly
changing, which, as you know, is called iridescence. Altogether Mourner
was lovely in a quiet way.

But it was not his appearance which made Peter stare; it was what he was
doing. He was walking about and every now and then picking up something
quite as if he were getting his breakfast in that gravel pit, and Peter
couldn't imagine anything good to eat down there. He knew that there
were not even worms there. Besides, Mourner is not fond of worms; he
lives almost altogether on seeds and grains of many kinds. So Peter was
puzzled. But as you know he isn't the kind to puzzle long over anything
when he can use his tongue.

"Hello, Mourner!" he cried. "What under the sun are you doing in there?
Are you getting your breakfast?"

"Hardly, Peter; hardly," cooed Mourner in the softest of voices.
"I've had my breakfast and now I'm picking up a little gravel for my
digestion." He picked up a tiny pebble and swallowed it.

"Well, of all things!" cried Peter. "You must be crazy. The idea of
thinking that gravel is going to help your digestion. I should say the
chances are that it will work just the other way."

Mourner laughed. It was the softest of little cooing laughs, very
pleasant to hear. "I see that as usual you are judging others by
yourself," said he. "You ought to know by this time that you can do
nothing more foolish. I haven't the least doubt that a breakfast of
gravel would give you the worst kind of a stomach-ache. But you are you
and I am I, and there is all the difference in the world. You know I eat
grain and hard seeds. Not having any teeth I have to swallow them whole.
One part of my stomach is called a gizzard and its duty is to grind and
crush my food so that it may be digested. Tiny pebbles and gravel help
grind the food and so aid digestion. I think I've got enough now for
this morning, and it is time for a dust bath. There is a dusty spot over
in the lane where I take a dust bath every day."

"If you don't mind," said Peter, "I'll go with you."

Mourner said he didn't mind, so Peter followed him over to the dusty
place in the long lane. There Mourner was joined by Mrs. Dove, who was
dressed very much like him save that she did not have so beautiful a
neck. While they thoroughly dusted themselves they chatted with Peter.

"I see you on the ground so much that I've often wondered if you build
your nest on the ground," said Peter.

"No," replied Mourner. "Mrs. Dove builds in a tree, but usually not very
far above the ground. Now if you'll excuse us we must get back home.
Mrs. Dove has two eggs to sit on and while she is siting I like to be
close at hand to keep her company and make love to her."

The Doves shook the loose dust from their feathers and flew away. Peter
watched to see where they went, but lost sight of them behind some
trees, so decided to run up to the Old Orchard. There he found Jenny and
Mr. Wren as busy as ever feeding that growing family of theirs. Jenny
wouldn't stop an instant to gossip. Peter was so brimful of what he had
found out about Mr. and Mrs. Dove that he just had to tell some one.
He heard Kitty the Catbird meowing among the bushes along the old stone
wall, so hurried over to look for him. As soon as he found him Peter
began to tell what he had learned about Mourner the Dove.

"That's no news, Peter," interrupted Kitty. "I know all about Mourner
and his wife. They are very nice people, though I must say Mrs. Dove is
one of the poorest housekeepers I know of. I take it you never have seen
her nest."

Peter shook his head. "No," said he, "I haven't. What is it like?"

Kitty the Catbird laughed. "It's about the poorest apology for a nest I
know of," said he. "It is made of little sticks and mighty few of them.
How they hold together is more than I can understand. I guess it is a
good thing that Mrs. Dove doesn't lay more than two eggs, and it's a
wonder to me that those two stay in the nest. Listen! There's
Mourner's voice now. For one who is so happy he certainly does have the
mournfullest sounding voice. To hear him you'd think he was sorrowful
instead of happy. It always makes me feel sad to hear him."

"That's true," replied Peter, "but I like to hear him just the same.
Hello! Who's that?"

From one of the trees in the Old Orchard sounded a long, clear,
"Kow-kow-kow-kow-kow-kow!" It was quite unlike any voice Peter had heard
that spring.

"That's Cuckoo," said Kitty. "Do you mean to say you don't know Cuckoo?"

"Of course I know him," retorted Peter. "I had forgotten the sound of
his voice, that's all. Tell me, Kitty, is it true that Mrs. Cuckoo is
no better than Sally Sly the Cowbird and goes about laying her eggs in
the nests of other birds? I've heard that said of her."

"There isn't a word of truth in it," declared Kitty emphatically. "She
builds a nest, such as it is, which isn't much, and she looks after her
own children. The Cuckoos have been given a bad name because of some
good-for-nothing cousins of theirs who live across the ocean where Bully
the English Sparrow belongs, and who, if all reports are true, really
are no better than Sally Sly the Cowbird. It's funny how a bad name
sticks. The Cuckoos have been accused of stealing the eggs of us other
birds, but I've never known them to do it and I've lived neighbor to
them for a long time, I guess they get their bad name because of their
habit of slipping about silently and keeping out of sight as much as
possible, as if they were guilty of doing something wrong and trying to
keep from being seen. As a matter of fact, they are mighty useful birds.
Farmer Brown ought to be tickled to death that Mr. and Mrs. Cuckoo have
come back to the Old Orchard this year."

"Why?" demanded Peter.

"Do you see that cobwebby nest with all those hairy caterpillars on it
and around it up in that tree?" asked Kitty.

Peter replied that he did and that he had seen a great many nests just
like it, and had noticed how the caterpillars ate all the leaves near
them.

"I'll venture to say that you won't see very many leaves eaten around
that nest," replied Kitty. "Those are called tent-caterpillars, and they
do an awful lot of damage. I can't bear them myself because they are so
hairy, and very few birds will touch them. But Cuckoo likes them. There
he comes now; just watch him."

A long, slim Dove-like looking bird alighted close to the caterpillar's
nest. Above he was brownish-gray with just a little greenish tinge.
Beneath he was white. His wings were reddish-brown. His tail was a
little longer than that of Mourner the Dove. The outer feathers were
black tipped with white, while the middle feathers were the color of
his back. The upper half of his bill was black, but the under half was
yellow, and from this he is called the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. He has a
cousin very much like himself in appearance, save that his bill is all
black and he is listed the Black-billed Cuckoo.

Cuckoo made no sound but began to pick off the hairy caterpillars and
swallow them. When he had eaten all those in sight he made holes in the
silken web of the nest and picked out the caterpillars that were inside.
Finally, having eaten his fill, he flew off as silently as he had come
and disappeared among the bushes farther along the old stone wall. A
moment later they heard his voice, "Kow-kow-how-kow-kow-kow-kow-kow!"

"I suppose some folks would think that it is going to rain," remarked
Kitty the Catbird. "They have the silly notion that Cuckoo only calls
just before rain, and so they call him the Rain Crow. But that isn't
so at all. Well, Peter, I guess I've gossiped enough for one morning. I
must go see how Mrs. Catbird is getting along."

Kitty disappeared and Peter, having no one to talk to, decided that the
best thing he could do would be to go home to the dear Old Briar-patch.



CHAPTER XXXV. A Butcher and a Hummer.

Not far from the Old Orchard grew a thorn-tree which Peter Rabbit often
passed. He never had paid particular attention to it. One morning
he stopped to rest under it. Happening to look up, he saw a most
astonishing thing. Fastened on the sharp thorns of one of the branches
were three big grasshoppers, a big moth, two big caterpillars, a lizard,
a small mouse and a young English Sparrow. Do you wonder that Peter
thought he must be dreaming? He couldn't imagine how those creatures
could have become fastened on those long sharp thorns. Somehow it gave
him an uncomfortable feeling and he hurried on to the Old Orchard,
bubbling over with desire to tell some one of the strange and dreadful
thing he had seen in the thorn-tree.

As he entered the Old Orchard in the far corner he saw Johnny Chuck
sitting on his doorstep and hurried over to tell him the strange news.
Johnny listened until Peter was through, then told him quite frankly
that never had he heard of such a thing, and that he thought Peter must
have been dreaming and didn't know it.

"You're wrong, Johnny Chuck. Peter hasn't been dreaming at all," said
Skimmer the Swallow, who, you remember, lived in a hole in a tree just
above the entrance to Johnny Chuck's house. He had been sitting where he
could hear all that Peter had said.

"Well, if you know so much about it, please explain," said Johnny Chuck
rather crossly.

"It's simple enough," replied Skimmer. "Peter just happened to find the
storehouse of Butcher the Loggerhead Shrike. It isn't a very pleasant
sight, I must admit, but one must give Butcher credit for being smart
enough to lay up a store of food when it is plentiful."

"And who is Butcher the Shrike?" demanded Peter. "He's a new one to me.

"He's new to this location," replied Skimmer, "and you probably haven't
noticed him. I've seen him in the South often. There he is now, on the
tiptop of that tree over yonder."

Peter and Johnny looked eagerly. They saw a bird who at first glance
appeared not unlike Mocker the Mockingbird. He was dressed wholly in
black, gray and white. When he turned his head they noticed a black
stripe across the side of his face and that the tip of his bill was
hooked. These are enough to make them forget that otherwise he was like
Mocker. While they were watching him he flew down into the grass and
picked up a grasshopper. Then he flew with a steady, even flight, only
a little above the ground, for some distance, suddenly shooting up and
returning to the perch where they had first seen him. There he ate the
grasshopper and resumed his watch for something else to catch.

"He certainly has wonderful eyes," said Skimmer admiringly. "He mast
have seen that grasshopper way over there in the grass before he started
after it, for he flew straight there. He doesn't waste time and energy
hunting aimlessly. He sits on a high perch and watches until he sees
something he wants. Many times I've seen him sitting on top of a
telegraph pole. I understand that Bully the English Sparrow has become
terribly nervous since the arrival of Butcher. He is particularly fond
of English Sparrows. I presume it was one of Bully's children you saw
in the thorn-tree, Peter. For my part I hope he'll frighten Bully into
leaving the Old Orchard. It would be a good thing for the rest of us."

"But I don't understand yet why he fastens his victims on those long
thorns," said Peter.

"For two reasons," replied Skimmer. "When he catches more grasshoppers
and other insects than he can eat, he sticks them on those thorns so
that later he may be sure of a good meal if it happens there are no more
to be caught when he is hungry. Mice, Sparrows, and things too big
for him to swallow he sticks on the thorns so that he can pull them to
pieces easier. You see his feet and claws are not big and stout enough
to hold his victims while he tears them to pieces with his hooked bill.
Sometimes, instead of sticking them on thorns, he sticks them on the
barbed wire of a fence and sometimes he wedges them into the fork of two
branches."

"Does he kill many birds?" asked Peter.

"Not many," replied Skimmer, "and most of those he does kill are English
Sparrows. The rest of us have learned to keep out of his way. He feeds
mostly on insects, worms and caterpillars, but he is very fond of mice
and he catches a good many. He is a good deal like Killy the Sparrow
Hawk in this respect. He has a cousin, the Great Northern Shrike, who
sometimes comes down in the winter, and is very much like him. Hello!
Now what's happened?"

A great commotion had broken out not far away in the Old Orchard.
Instantly Skimmer flew over to see what it was all about and Peter
followed. He got there just in time to see Chatterer the Red Squirrel
dodging around the trunk of a tree, first on one side, then on the
other, to avoid the sharp bills of the angry feathered folk who had
discovered him trying to rob a nest of its young.

Peter chuckled. "Chatterer is getting just what is due him, I guess," he
muttered. "It reminds me of the time I got into a Yellow Jacket's nest.
My, but those birds are mad!"

Chatterer continued to dodge from side to side of the tree while the
birds darted down at him, all screaming at the top of their voices.
Finally Chatterer saw his chance to run for the old stone wall. Only one
bird was quick enough to catch up with him and that one was such a tiny
fellow that he seemed hardly bigger than a big insect. It was Hammer the
Hummingbird. He followed Chatterer clear to the old stone wall. A moment
later Peter heard a humming noise just over his head and looked up to
see Hummer himself alight on a twig, where he squeaked excitedly for a
few minutes, for his voice is nothing but a little squeak.

Often Peter had seen Hummer darting about from flower to flower and
holding himself still in mid-air in front of each as he thrust his long
bill into the heart of the blossom to get the tiny insects there and
the sweet juices he is so fond of. But this was the first time Peter had
ever seen him sitting still. He was such a mite of a thing that it
was hard to realize that he was a bird. His back was a bright,
shining green. His wings and tail were brownish with a purplish tinge.
Underneath he was whitish, But it was his throat on which Peter fixed
his eyes. It was a wonderful ruby-red that glistened and shone in the
sun like a jewel.

Hummer lifted one wing and with his long needle-like bill smoothed the
feathers under it. Then he darted out into the air, his wings moving so
fast that Peter couldn't see them at all. But if he couldn't see them he
could hear them. You see they moved so fast that they made a sound very
like the humming of Bumble the Bee. It is because of this that he is
called the Hummingbird. A fey' minutes later he was back again and now
he was joined by Mrs. Hummer. She was dressed very much like Hummer but
did not have the beautiful ruby throat. She stopped only a minute or
two, then darted over to what looked for all the world like a tiny cup
of moss. It was their nest.

Just then Jenny Wren came along, and being quite worn out with the work
of feeding her seven babies, she was content to rest for a few moments
and gossip. Peter told her what he had discovered.

"I know all about that," retorted Jenny. "You don't suppose I hunt these
trees over for food without knowing where my neighbors are living, do
you? I'd have you to understand, Peter, that that is the daintiest nest
in the Old Orchard. It is made wholly of plant down and covered on the
outside with bits of that gray moss-like stuff that grows on the bark of
the trees and is called lichens. That is what makes that nest look like
nothing more than a knot on the branch. Chatterer made a big mistake
when he visited this tree. Hummer may be a tiny fellow but he isn't
afraid of anybody under the sun. That bill of his is so sharp and he is
so quick that few folks ever bother him more than once. Why, there isn't
a single member of the Hawk family that Hummer won't attack. There isn't
a cowardly feather on him."

"Does he go very far south for the winter?" asked Peter. "He is such a
tiny fellow I don't see how he can stand a very long journey."

"Huh!" exclaimed Jenny Wren. "Distance doesn't bother Hummer any. You
needn't worry about those wings of his. He goes clear down to South
America. He has ever so many relatives down there. You ought to see his
babies when they first hatch out. They are no bigger than bees. But they
certainly do grow fast. Why, they are flying three weeks from the time
they hatch. I'm glad I don't have to pump food down the throats of my
youngsters the way Mrs. Hummingbird has to down hers."

Peter looked perplexed. "What do you mean by pumping food down their
throats?" he demanded.

"Just what I say," retorted Jenny Wren. "Mrs. Hummer sticks her bill
right down their throats and then pumps up the food she has already
swallowed. I guess it is a good thing that the babies have short bills."

"Do they?" asked Peter, opening his eyes very wide with surprise.

"Yes," replied Jenny. "When they hatch out they have short bills, but it
doesn't take them a great while to grow long."

"How many babies does Mrs. Hummer usually have?" asked Peter.

"Just two," replied Jenny. "Just two. That's all that nest will hold.
But goodness gracious, Peter, I can't stop gossiping here any longer.
You have no idea what a care seven babies are."

With a jerk of her tail off flew Jenny Wren, and Peter hurried back to
tell Johnny Chuck all he had found out about Hummer the Hummingbird.



CHAPTER XXXVI. A Stranger and a Dandy.

Butcher the Shrike was not the only newcomer in the Old Orchard. There
was another stranger who, Peter Rabbit soon discovered, was looked on
with some suspicion by all the other birds of the Old Orchard. The first
time Peter saw him, he was walking about on the ground some distance
off. He didn't hop but walked, and at that distance he looked all black.
The way he carried himself and his movements as he walked made Peter
think of Creaker the Grackle. In fact, Peter mistook him for Creaker.
That was because he didn't really look at him. If he had he would have
seen at once that the stranger was smaller than Creaker.

Presently the stranger flew up in a tree and Peter saw that his tail was
little more than half as long as that of Creaker. At once it came over
Peter that this was a stranger to him, and of course his curiosity was
aroused. He didn't have any doubt whatever that this was a member of the
Blackbird family, but which one it could be he hadn't the least idea.
"Jenny Wren will know," thought Peter and scampered off to hunt her up.

"Who is that new member of the Blackbird family who has come to live in
the Old Orchard?" Peter asked as soon as he found Jenny Wren.

"There isn't any new member of the Blackbird family living in the Old
Orchard," retorted Jenny Wren tartly.

"There is too," contradicted Peter. "I saw him with my own eyes. I can
see him now. He's sitting in that tree over yonder this very minute.
He's all black, so of course he must be a member of the Blackbird
family."

"Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut!" scolded Jenny Wren. "Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut!
That fellow isn't a member of the Blackbird family at all, and what's
more, he isn't black. Go over there and take a good look at him; then
come back and tell me if you still think he is black."

Jenny turned her back on Peter and went to hunting worms. There being
nothing else to do, Peter hopped over where he could get a good look at
the stranger. The sun was shining full on him, and he wasn't black at
all. Jenny Wren was right. For the most part he was very dark green. At
least, that is what Peter thought at first glance. Then, as the stranger
moved, he seemed to be a rich purple in places. In short he changed
color as he turned. His feathers were like those of Creaker the
Grackle--iridescent. All over he was speckled with tiny light spots.
Underneath he was dark brownish-gray. His wings and tail were of the
same color, with little touches of buff. His rather large bill was
yellow.

Peter hurried back to Jenny Wren and it must be confessed he looked
sheepish. "You were right, Jenny Wren; he isn't black at all," confessed
Peter. "Of course I was right. I usually am," retorted Jenny. "He isn't
black, he isn't even related to the Blackbird family, and he hasn't
any business in the Old Orchard. In fact, if you ask me, he hasn't any
business in this country anyway. He's a foreigner. That's what he is--a
foreigner."

"But you haven't told me who he is," protested Peter.

"He is Speckles the Starling, and he isn't really an American at all,"
replied Jenny. "He comes from across the ocean the same as Bully the
English Sparrow. Thank goodness he hasn't such a quarrelsome disposition
as Bully. Just the same, the rest of us would be better satisfied if he
were not here. He has taken possession of one of the old homes of Yellow
Wing the Flicker, and that means one less house for birds who really
belong here. If his family increases at the rate Bully's family does,
I'm afraid some of us will soon be crowded out of the Old Orchard. Did
you notice that yellow bill of his?"

Peter nodded. "I certainly did," said he. "I couldn't very well help
noticing it."

"Well, there's a funny thing about that bill," replied Jenny. "In winter
it turns almost black. Most of us wear a different colored suit in
winter, but our bills remain the same."

"Well, he seems to be pretty well fixed here, and I don't see but what
the thing for the rest of you birds to do is to make the best of the
matter," said Peter. "What I want to know is whether or not he is of any
use."

"I guess he must do some good," admitted Jenny Wren rather grudgingly.
"I've seen him picking up worms and grubs, but he likes grain, and I
have a suspicion that if his family becomes very numerous, and I suspect
it will, they will eat more of Farmer Brown's grain than they will pay
for by the worms and bugs they destroy. Hello! There's Dandy the Waxwing
and his friends."

A flock of modestly dressed yet rather distinguished looking feathered
folks had alighted in a cherry-tree and promptly began to help
themselves to Farmer Brown's cherries. They were about the size of
Winsome Bluebird, but did not look in the least like him, for they were
dressed almost wholly in beautiful, rich, soft grayish-brown. Across the
end of each tail was a yellow band. On each, the forehead, chin and
a line through each eye was velvety-black. Each wore a very stylish
pointed cap, and on the wings of most of them were little spots of
red which looked like sealing-wax, and from which they get the name of
Waxwings. They were slim and trim and quite dandified, and in a quiet
way were really beautiful.

As Peter watched them he began to wonder if Farmer Brown would have
any cherries left. Peter himself can do pretty well in the matter of
stuffing his stomach, but even he marvelled at the way those birds put
the cherries out of sight. It was quite clear to him why they are often
called Cherrybirds.

"If they stay long, Farmer Brown won't have any cherries left," remarked
Peter.

"Don't worry," replied Jenny Wren. "They won't stay long. I don't
know anybody equal to them for roaming about. Here are most of us with
families on our hands and Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird with a second family and
Mr. and Mrs. Robin with a second set of eggs, while those gadabouts up
there haven't even begun to think about housekeeping yet. They certainly
do like those cherries, but I guess Farmer Brown can stand the loss of
what they eat. He may have fewer cherries, but he'll have more apples
because of them."

"Bow's that?" demanded Peter.

"Oh," replied Jenny Wren, "they were over here a while ago when those
little green cankerworms threatened to eat up the whole orchard,
and they stuffed themselves on those worms just the same as they are
stuffing themselves on cherries now. They are very fond of small fruits
but most of those they eat are the wild kind which are of no use at all
to Farmer Brown or anybody else. Now just look at that performance, will
you?"

There were five of the Waxwings and they were now seated side by side
on a branch of the cherry tree. One of them had a plump cherry which
he passed to the next one. This one passed it on to the next, and so it
went to the end of the row and halfway back before it was finally eaten.
Peter laughed right out. "Never in my life have I seen such politeness,"
said he.

"Huh!" exclaimed Jenny Wren. "I don't believe it was politeness at all.
I guess if you got at the truth of the matter you would find that each
one was stuffed so full that he thought he didn't have room for that
cherry and so passed it along."

"Well, I think that was politeness just the same," retorted Peter. "The
first one might have dropped the cherry if he couldn't eat it instead of
passing it along." Just then the Waxwings flew away.

It was the very middle of the summer before Peter Rabbit again saw Dandy
the Waxwing. Quite by chance he discovered Dandy sitting on the tiptop
of an evergreen tree, as if on guard. He was on guard, for in that tree
was his nest, though Peter didn't know it at the time. In fact, it was
so late in the summer that most of Peter's friends were through nesting
and he had quite lost interest in nests. Presently Dandy flew down to
a lower branch and there he was joined by Mrs. Waxwing. Then Peter was
treated to one of the prettiest sights he ever had seen. They rubbed
their bills together as if kissing. They smoothed each other's feathers
and altogether were a perfect picture of two little lovebirds. Peter
couldn't think of another couple who appeared quite so gentle and
loving.

Late in the fall Peter saw Mr. and Mrs. Waxwing and their family
together. They were in a cedar tree and were picking off and eating the
cedar berries as busily as the five Waxwings had picked Farmer Brown's
cherries in the early summer. Peter didn't know it but because of their
fondness for cedar berries the Waxwings were often called Cedarbirds or
Cedar Waxwings.



CHAPTER XXXVII. Farewells and Welcomes.

All through the long summer Peter Rabbit watched his feathered friends
and learned things in regard to their ways he never had suspected. As
he saw them keeping the trees of the Old Orchard free of insect pests
working in Farmer Brown's garden, and picking up the countless seeds of
weeds everywhere, he began to understand something of the wonderful
part these feathered folks have in keeping the Great World beautiful and
worth while living in.

He had many a hearty laugh as he watched the bird babies learn to fly
and to find their own food. All summer long they were going to school
all about him, learning how to watch out for danger, to use their eyes
and ears, and all the things a bird must know who would live to grow up.

As autumn drew near Peter discovered that his friends were gathering
in flocks, roaming here and there. It was one of the first signs
that summer was nearly over, and it gave him just a little feeling of
sadness. He heard few songs now, for the singing season was over. Also
he discovered that many of the most beautifully dressed of his
feathered friends had changed their finery for sober traveling suits in
preparation for the long journey to the far South where they would spend
the winter. In fact he actually failed to recognize some of them at
first.

September came, and as the days grew shorter, some of Peter's friends
bade him good-by. They were starting on the long journey, planning to
take it in easy stages for the most part. Each day saw some slip away.
As Peter thought of the dangers of the long trip before them he wondered
if he would ever see them again. But some there were who lingered even
after Jack Frost's first visit. Welcome and Mrs. Robin, Winsome and Mrs.
Bluebird. Little Friend the Song Sparrow and his wife were among these.
By and by even they were forced to leave.

Sad indeed and lonely would these days have been for Peter had it not
been that with the departure of the friends he had spent so many happy
hours with came the arrival of certain other friends from the Far North
where they had made their summer homes. Some of these stopped for a few
days in passing. Others came to stay, and Peter was kept busy looking
for and welcoming them.

A few old friends there were who would stay the year through. Sammy Jay
was one. Downy and Hairy the Woodpeckers were others. And one there was
whom Peter loves dearly. It was Tommy Tit the Chickadee.

Now Tommy Tit had not gone north in the spring. In fact, he had made
his home not very far from the Old Orchard. It just happened that Peter
hadn't found that home, and had caught only one or two glimpses of Tommy
Tit. Now, with household cares ended and his good-sized family properly
started in life, Tommy Tit was no longer interested in the snug little
home he had built in a hollow birch-stub, and he and Mrs. Chickadee
spent their time flitting about hither, thither, and yon, spreading good
cheer. Every time Peter visited the Old Orchard he found him there, and
as Tommy was always ready for a bit of merry gossip, Peter soon ceased
to miss Jenny Wren.

"Don't you dread the winter, Tommy Tit?" asked Peter one day, as he
watched Tommy clinging head down to a twig as he picked some tiny insect
eggs from the under side.

"Not a bit," replied Tommy. "I like winter. I like cold weather. It
makes a fellow feel good from the tips of his claws to the tip of his
bill. I'm thankful I don't have to take that long journey most of the
birds have to. I discovered a secret a long time ago, Peter; shall I
tell it to you?"

"Please, Tommy," cried Peter. "You know how I love secrets."

"Well," replied Tommy Tit, "this is it: If a fellow keeps his stomach
filled he will beep his toes warm."

Peter looked a little puzzled. "I--I--don't just see what your stomach
has to do with your toes," said he.

Tommy Tit chuckled. It was a lovely throaty little chuckle. "Dee, dee,
dee!" said he. "What I mean is, if a fellow has plenty to eat he will
keep the cold out, and I've found that if a fellow uses his eyes and
isn't afraid of a little work, he can find plenty to eat. At least
I can. The only time I ever get really worried is when the trees are
covered with ice. If it were not that Farmer Brown's boy is thoughtful
enough to hang a piece of suet in a tree for me, I should dread those
ice storms more than I do. As I said before, plenty of food keeps a
fellow warm."

"I thought it was your coat of feathers that kept you warm," said Peter.

"Oh, the feathers help," replied Tommy Tit. "Food makes heat and a warm
coat keeps the heat in the body. But the heat has got to be there first,
or the feathers will do no good. It's just the same way with your own
self, Peter. You know you are never really warm in winter unless you
have plenty to eat..."

"That's so," replied Peter thoughtfully. "I never happened to think of
it before. Just the same, I don't see how you find food enough on the
trees when they are all bare in winter."

     "Dee, Dee, Chickadee!
     Leave that matter just to me,"

Chuckled Tommy Tit. "You ought to know by this time Peter Rabbit, that
a lot of different kinds of bugs lay eggs on the twigs and trunks of
trees. Those eggs would stay there all winter and in the spring hatch
out into lice and worms if it were not for me. Why, sometimes in a
single day I find and eat almost five hundred eggs of those little green
plant lice that do so much damage in the spring and summer. Then there
are little worms that bore in just under the bark, and there are other
creatures who sleep the winter away in little cracks in the bark. Oh,
there is plenty for me to do in the winter. I am one of the policemen of
the trees. Downy and Hairy the Woodpeckers, Seep-Seep the Brown Creeper
and Yank-Yank the Nuthatch are others. If we didn't stay right here on
the job all winter, I don't know what would become of the Old Orchard."

Tommy Tit hung head downward from a twig while he picked some tiny
insect eggs from the under side of it. It didn't seem to make the least
difference to Tommy whether he was right side up or upside down. He was
a little animated bunch of black and white feathers, not much bigger
than Jenny Wren. The top of his head, back of his neck and coat were
shining black. The sides of his head and neck were white. His back was
ashy. His sides were a soft cream-buff, and his wing and tail feathers
were edged with white. His tiny bill was black, and his little black
eyes snapped and twinkled in a way good to see. Not one among all
Peter's friends is such a merry-hearted little fellow as Tommy Tit the
Chickadee. Merriment and happiness bubble out of him all the time, no
matter what the weather is. He is the friend of everyone and seems to
feel that everyone is his friend.

"I've noticed," said Peter, "that birds who do not sing at any other
time of year sing in the spring. Do you have a spring song, Tommy Tit?"

"Well, I don't know as you would call it a song, Peter," chuckled Tommy.
"No, I hardly think you would call it a song. But I have a little love
call then which goes like this: Phoe-be! Phoe-be!"

It was the softest, sweetest little whistle, and Tommy had rightly
called it a love call. "Why, I've often heard that in the spring and
didn't know it was your voice at all," cried Peter. "You say Phoebe
plainer than does the bird who is named Phoebe, and it is ever so much
softer and sweeter. I guess that is because you whistle it."

"I guess you guess right," replied Tommy Tit. "Now I can't stop to talk
any longer. These trees need my attention. I want Farmer Brown's boy to
feel that I have earned that suet I am sure he will put out for me as
soon as the snow and ice come. I'm not the least bit afraid of Farmer
Brown's boy. I had just as soon take food from his hand as from anywhere
else. He knows I like chopped-up nut-meats, and last winter I used
to feed from his hand every day." Peter's eyes opened very wide with
surprise. "Do you mean to say," said he, "that you and Farmer Brown's
boy are such friends that you dare sit on his hand?"

Tommy Tit nodded his little black-capped head vigorously. "Certainly,"
said he. "Why not? What's the good of having friends if you can't trust
them? The more you trust them the better friends they'll be."

"Just the same, I don't see how you dare to do it," Peter replied. "I
know Farmer Brown's boy is the friend of all the little people, and I'm
not much afraid of him myself, but just the same I wouldn't dare go near
enough for him to touch me."

"Pooh!" retorted Tommy Tit. "That's no way of showing true friendship.
You've no idea, Peter, what a comfortable feeling it is to know that
you can trust a friend, and I feel that Farmer Brown's boy is one of the
best friends I've got. I wish more boys and girls were like him."



CHAPTER XXXVIII. Honker and Dippy Arrive.

The leaves of the trees turned yellow and red and brown and then began
to drop, a few at first, then more and more every day until all but the
spruce-trees and the pine-trees and the hemlock-trees and the fir-trees
and the cedar-trees were bare. By this time most of Peter's feathered
friends of the summer had departed, and there were days when Peter had
oh, such a lonely feeling. The fur of his coat was growing thicker. The
grass of the Green Meadows had turned brown. All these things were signs
which Peter knew well. He knew that rough Brother North Wind and Jack
Frost were on their way down from the Far North.

Peter had few friends to visit now. Johnny Chuck had gone to sleep for
the winter 'way down in his little bedroom under ground. Grandfather
Frog had also gone to sleep. So had Old Mr. Toad. Peter spent a
great deal of time in the dear Old Briar-patch just sitting still and
listening. What he was listening for he didn't know. It just seemed to
him that there was something he ought to hear at this time of year, and
so he sat listening and listening and wondering what he was listening
for. Then, late one afternoon, there came floating down to him from high
up in the sky, faintly at first but growing louder, a sound unlike any
Peter had heard all the long summer through. The sound was a voice.
Rather it was many voices mingled "Honk, honk, honk, honk, honk, honk,
honk!" Peter gave a little jump.

"That's what I've been listening for!" he cried. "Honker the Goose and
his friends are coming. Oh, I do hope they will stop where I can pay
them a call."

He hopped out to the edge of the dear Old Briar-patch that he might
see better, and looked up in the sky. High up, flying in the shape of
a letter V, he saw a flock of great birds flying steadily from the
direction of the Far North. By the sound of their voices he knew that
they had flown far that day and were tired. One bird was in the lead and
this he knew to be his old friend, Honker. Straight over his head they
passed and as Peter listened to their voices he felt within him the
very spirit of the Far North, that great, wild, lonely land which he had
never seen but of which he had so often heard.

As Peter watched, Honker suddenly turned and headed in the direction of
the Big River. Then he began to slant down, his flock following him. And
presently they disappeared behind the trees along the bank of the Great
River. Peter gave a happy little sigh. "They are going to spend the
night there," thought he. "When the moon comes up, I will run over
there, for they will come ashore and I know just where. Now that they
have arrived I know that winter is not far away. Honker's voice is as
sure a sign of the coming of winter as is Winsome Bluebird's that spring
will soon be here."

Peter could hardly wait for the coming of the Black Shadows, and just as
soon as they had crept out over the Green Meadows he started for the
Big River. He knew just where to go, because he knew that Honker and
his friends would rest and spend the night in the same place they had
stopped at the year before. He knew that they would remain out in the
middle of the Big River until the Black Shadows had made it quite safe
for them to swim in. He reached the bank of the Big River just as sweet
Mistress Moon was beginning to throw her silvery light over the Great
World. There was a sandy bar in the Great River at this point, and Peter
squatted on the bank just where this sandy bar began.

It seemed to Peter that he had sat there half the night, but really it
was only a short time, before he heard a low signal out in the Black
Shadows which covered the middle of the Big River. It was the voice
of Honker. Then Peter saw little silvery lines moving on the water and
presently a dozen great shapes appeared in the moonlight. Honker and his
friends were swimming in. The long neck of each of those great birds
was stretched to its full height, and Peter knew that each bird was
listening for the slightest suspicious sound. Slowly they drew near,
Honker in the lead. They were a picture of perfect caution. When they
reached the sandy bar they remained quiet, looking and listening for
some time. Then, sure that all was safe, Honker gave a low signal and
at once a low gabbling began as the big birds relaxed their watchfulness
and came out on the sandy bar, all save one. That one was the guard,
and he remained with neck erect on watch. Some swam in among the rushes
growing in the water very near to where Peter was sitting and began to
feed. Others sat on the sandy bar and dressed their feathers. Honker
himself came ashore close to where Peter was sitting.

"Oh, Honker," cried Peter, "I'm so glad you're back here safe and
sound."

Honker gave a little start, but instantly recognizing Peter, came over
close to him. As he stood there in the moonlight he was truly handsome.
His throat and a large patch on each side of his head were white. The
rest of his head and long, slim neck were black. His short tail was also
black. His back, wings, breast and sides were a soft grayish-brown. He
was white around the base of his tail and he wore a white collar.

"Hello, Peter," said he. "It is good to have an old friend greet me.
I certainly am glad to be back safe and sound, for the hunters with
terrible guns have been at almost every one of our resting places, and
it has been hard work to get enough to eat. It is a relief to find one
place where there are no terrible guns."

"Have you come far?" asked Peter.

"Very far, Peter; very far," replied Honker. "And we still have very far
to go. I shall be thankful when the journey is over, for on me depends
the safety of all those with me, and it is a great responsibility."

"Will winter soon be here?" asked Peter eagerly.

"Rough Brother North Wind and Jack Frost were right behind us," replied
Honker. "You know we stay in the Far North just as long as we can.
Already the place where we nested is frozen and covered with snow. For
the first part of the journey we kept only just ahead of the snow and
ice, but as we drew near to where men make their homes we were forced to
make longer journeys each day, for the places where it is safe to feed
and rest are few and far between. Now we shall hurry on until we reach
the place in the far-away South where we will make our winter home."

Just then Honker was interrupted by wild, strange sounds from the middle
of the Great River. It sounded like crazy laughter. Peter jumped at the
sound, but Honker merely chuckled. "It's Dippy the Loon," said he. "He
spent the summer in the Far North not far from us. He started south just
before we did."

"I wish he would come in here so that I can get a good look at him and
make his acquaintance," said Peter.

"He may, but I doubt it," replied Honker. "He and his mate are great
people to keep by themselves. Then, too, they don't have to come ashore
for food. You know Dippy feeds altogether on fish. He really has an
easier time on the long journey than we do, because he can get his food
without running so much risk of being shot by the terrible hunters. He
practically lives on the water. He's about the most awkward fellow on
land of any one I know."

"Why should he be any more awkward on land then you?" asked Peter, his
curiosity aroused at once.

"Because," replied Honker, "Old Mother Nature has given him very short
legs and has placed them so far back on his body that he can't keep his
balance to walk, and has to use his wings and bill to help him over the
ground. On shore he is about the most helpless thing you can imagine.
But on water he is another fellow altogether. He's just as much at home
under water as on top. My, how that fellow can dive! When he sees the
flash of a gun he will get under water before the shot can reach him.
That's where he has the advantage of us Geese. You know we can't dive.
He could swim clear across this river under water if he wanted to, and
he can go so fast under water that he can catch a fish. It is because
his legs have been placed so far back that he can swim so fast. You know
his feet are nothing but big paddles. Another funny thing is that he can
sink right down in the water when he wants to, with nothing but his head
out. I envy him that. It would be a lot easier for us Geese to escape
the dreadful hunters if we could sink down that way."

"Has he a bill like yours?" asked Peter innocently.

"Of course not," replied Honker. "Didn't I tell you that he lives on
fish? How do you suppose he would hold on to his slippery fish if he had
a broad bill like mine? His bill is stout, straight and sharp pointed.
He is rather a handsome fellow. He is pretty nearly as big as I am,
and his back, wings, tail and neck are black with bluish or greenish
appearance in the sun. His back and wings are spotted with white, and
there are streaks of white on his throat and the sides of his neck.
On his breast and below he is all white. You certainly ought to get
acquainted with Dippy, Peter, for there isn't anybody quite like him."

"I'd like to," replied Peter. "But if he never comes to shore, how can
I? I guess I will have to be content to know him just by his voice. I
certainly never will forget that. It's about as crazy sounding as the
voice of Old Man Coyote, and that is saying a great deal."

"There's one thing I forgot to tell you," said Honker. "Dippy can't fly
from the land; he must be on the water in order to get up in the air."

"You can, can't you?" asked Peter.

"Of course I can," replied Honker. "Why, we Geese get a lot of our food
on land. When it is safe to do so we visit the grain fields and pick up
the grain that has been shaken out during harvest. Of course we couldn't
do that if we couldn't fly from the land. We can rise from either land
or water equally well. Now if you'll excuse me, Peter, I'll take a nap.
My, but I'm tired! And I've got a long journey to-morrow."

So Peter politely bade Honker and his relatives good-night and left them
in peace on the sandy bar in the Big River.



CHAPTER XXXIX. Peter Discovers Two Old Friends.

Rough Brother North Wind and Jack Frost were not far behind Honker the
Goose. In a night Peter Rabbit's world was transformed. It had become
a new world, a world of pure white. The last laggard among Peter's
feathered friends who spend the winter in the far-away South had hurried
away. Still Peter was not lonely. Tommy Tit's cheery voice greeted Peter
the very first thing that morning after the storm. Tommy seemed to be in
just as good spirits as ever he had been in summer.

Now Peter rather likes the snow. He likes to run about in it, and so
he followed Tommy Tit up to the Old Orchard. He felt sure that he would
find company there besides Tommy Tit, and he was not disappointed. Downy
and Hairy the Woodpeckers were getting their breakfast from a piece
of suet Farmer Brown's boy had thoughtfully fastened in one of the
apple-trees for them. Sammy Jay was there also, and his blue coat never
had looked better than it did against the pure white of the snow.

These were the only ones Peter really had expected to find in the Old
Orchard, and so you can guess how pleased he was as he hopped over the
old stone wall to hear the voice of one whom he had almost forgotten. It
was the voice of Yank-Yank the Nuthatch, and while it was far from being
sweet there was in it something of good cheer and contentment. At once
Peter hurried in the direction from which it came.

On the trunk of an apple-tree he caught sight of a gray and black and
white bird about the size of Downy the Woodpecker. The top of his head
and upper part of his back were shining black. The rest of his back was
bluish-gray. The sides of his head and his breast were white. The outer
feathers of his tail were black with white patches near their tips.

But Peter didn't need to see how Yank-Yank was dressed in order to
recognize him. Peter would have known him if he had been so far away
that the colors of his coat did not show at all. You see, Yank-Yank was
doing a most surprising thing, something no other bird can do. He was
walking head first down the trunk of that tree, picking tiny eggs of
insects from the bark and seemingly quite as much at home and quite as
unconcerned in that queer position as if he were right side up.

As Peter approached, Yank-Yank lifted his head and called a greeting
which sounded very much like the repetition of his own name. Then he
turned around and began to climb the tree as easily as he had come down
it.

"Welcome home, Yank-Yank!" cried Peter, hurrying up quite out of breath.

Yank-Yank turned around so that he was once more head down, and his eyes
twinkled as he looked down at Peter. "You're mistaken Peter," said he.
"This isn't home. I've simply come down here for the winter. You know
home is where you raise your children, and my home is in the Great Woods
farther north. There is too much ice and snow up there, so I have come
down here to spend the winter."

"Well anyway, it's a kind of home; it's your winter home," protested
Peter, "and I certainly am glad to see you back. The Old Orchard
wouldn't be quite the same without you. Did you have a pleasant summer?
And if you please, Yank-Yank, tell me where you built your home and what
it was like."

"Yes, Mr. Curiosity, I had a very pleasant summer," replied Yank-Yank.
"Mrs. Yank-Yank and I raised a family of six and that is doing a lot
better than some folks I know, if I do say it. As to our nest, it was
made of leaves and feathers and it was in a hole in a certain old stump
that not a soul knows of but Mrs. Yank-Yank and myself. Now is there
anything else you want to know?"

"Yes," retorted Peter promptly. "I want to know how it is that you can
walk head first down the trunk of a tree without losing your balance and
tumbling off."

Yank-Yank chuckled happily. "I discovered a long time ago, Peter," said
he, "that the people who get on best in this world are those who make
the most of what they have and waste no time wishing they could
have what other people have. I suppose you have noticed that all
the Woodpecker family have stiff tail feathers and use them to brace
themselves when they are climbing a tree. They have become so dependent
on them that they don't dare move about on the trunk of a tree without
using them. If they want to come down a tree they have to back down.

"Now Old Mother Nature didn't give me stiff tail feathers, but she gave
me a very good pair of feet with three toes in front and one behind
and when I was a very little fellow I learned to make the most of those
feet. Each toe has a sharp claw. When I go up a tree the three front
claws on each foot hook into the bark. When I come down a tree I simply
twist one foot around so that I can use the claws of this foot to keep
me from falling. It is just as easy for me to go down a tree as it is
to go up, and I can go right around the trunk just as easily and
comfortably." Suiting action to the word, Yank-Yank ran around the trunk
of the apple-tree just above Peter's head. When he reappeared Peter had
another question ready.

"Do you live altogether on grubs and worms and insects and their eggs?"
he asked.

"I should say not!" exclaimed Yank-Yank. "I like acorns and beechnuts
and certain kinds of seeds."

"I don't see how such a little fellow as you can eat such hard things as
acorns and beechnuts," protested Peter a little doubtfully.

Yank-Yank laughed right out. "Sometime when I see you over in the Green
Forest I'll show you," said he. "When I find a fat beechnut I take it
to a little crack in a tree that will just hold it; then with this stout
bill of mine I crack the shell. It really is quite easy when you know
how. Cracking a nut open that way is sometimes called hatching, and
that is how I come by the name of Nuthatch. Hello! There's Seep-Seep. I
haven't seen him since we were together up North. His home was not far
from mine."

As Yank-Yank spoke, a little brown bird alighted at the very foot of the
next tree. He was just a trifle bigger than Jenny Wren but not at all
like Jenny, for while Jenny's tail usually is cocked up in the sauciest
way, Seep-Seep's tail is never cocked up at all. In fact, it bends down,
for Seep-Seep uses his tail just as the members of the Woodpecker family
use theirs. He was dressed in grayish-brown above and grayish-white
beneath. Across each wing was a little band of buffy-white, and his bill
was curved just a little.

Seep-Seep didn't stop an instant but started up the trunk of that tree,
going round and round it as he climbed, and picking out things to
eat from under the bark. His way of climbing that tree was very like
creeping, and Peter thought to himself that Seep-Seep was well named the
Brown Creeper. He knew it was quite useless to try to get Seep-Seep to
talk, He knew that Seep-Seep wouldn't waste any time that way.

Round and round up the trunk of the tree he went, and when he reached
the top at once flew down to the bottom of the next tree and without
a pause started up that. He wasted no time exploring the branches, but
stuck to the trunk. Once in a while he would cry in a thin little voice,
"Seep! Seep!" but never paused to rest or look around. If he had felt
that on him alone depended the job of getting all the insect eggs and
grubs on those trees he could not have been more industrious.

"Does he build his nest in a hole in a tree?" asked Peter of Yank-Yank.
Yank-Yank shook his head. "No," he replied. "He hunts for a tree or stub
with a piece of loose bark hanging to it. In behind this he tucks his
nest made of twigs, strips of bark and moss. He's a funny little fellow
and I don't know of any one in all the great world who more strictly
attends to his own business than does Seep-Seep the Brown Creeper. By
the way, Peter, have you seen anything of Dotty the Tree Sparrow?"

"Not yet," replied Peter, "but I think he must be here. I'm glad you
reminded me of him. I'll go look for him."



CHAPTER XL. Some Merry Seed-Eaters.

Having been reminded of Dotty the Tree Sparrow, Peter Rabbit became
possessed of a great desire to find this little friend of the cold
months and learn how he had fared through the summer.

He was at a loss just where to look for Dotty until he remembered a
certain weedy field along the edge of which the bushes had been left
growing. "Perhaps I'll find him there," thought Peter, for he remembered
that Dotty lives almost wholly on seeds, chiefly weed seeds, and that he
dearly loves a weedy field with bushes not far distant in which he can
hide.

So Peter hurried over to the weedy field and there, sure enough, he
found Dotty with a lot of his friends. They were very busy getting their
breakfast. Some were clinging to the weed-stalks picking the seeds out
of the tops, while others were picking up the seeds from the ground. It
was cold. Rough Brother North Wind was doing his best to blow up another
snow-cloud. It wasn't at all the kind of day in which one would expect
to find anybody in high spirits. But Dotty was. He was even singing
as Peter came up, and all about Dotty's friends and relatives were
twittering as happily and merrily as if it were the beginning of spring
instead of winter.

Dotty was very nearly the size of Little Friend the Song Sparrow and
looked somewhat like him, save that his breast was clear ashy-gray, all
but a little dark spot in the middle, the little dot from which he gets
his name. He wore a chestnut cap, almost exactly like that of Chippy
the Chipping Sparrow. It reminded Peter that Dotty is often called the
Winter Chippy.

"Welcome back, Dotty!" cried Peter. "It does my heart good to see you."

"Thank you, Peter," twittered Dotty happily. "In a way it is good to be
back. Certainly, it is good to know that an old friend is glad to see
me."

"Are you going to stay all winter, Dotty?" asked Peter.

"I hope so," replied Dotty. "I certainly shall if the snow does not get
so deep that I cannot get enough to eat. Some of these weeds are so tall
that it will take a lot of snow to cover them, and as long as the tops
are above the snow I will have nothing to worry about. You know a lot of
seeds remain in these tops all winter. But if the snow gets deep enough
to cover these I shall have to move along farther south."

"Then I hope there won't be much snow," declared Peter very
emphatically. "There are few enough folks about in winter at best,
goodness knows, and I don't know of any one I enjoy having for a
neighbor more than I do you."

"Thank you again, Peter," cried Dotty, "and please let me return the
compliment. I like cold weather. I like winter when there isn't too much
ice and bad weather. I always feel good in cold weather. That is one
reason I go north to nest."

"Speaking of nests, do you build in a tree?" inquired Peter.

"Usually on or near the ground," replied Dotty. "You know I am really
a ground bird although I am called a Tree Sparrow. Most of us Sparrows
spend our time on or near the ground."

"I know," replied Peter. "Do you know I'm very fond of the Sparrow
family. I just love your cousin Chippy, who nests in the Old Orchard
every spring. I wish he would stay all winter. I really don't see why he
doesn't. I should think he could if you can."

Dotty laughed. It was a tinkling little laugh, good to hear. "Cousin
Chippy would starve to death," he declared. "It is all a matter of food.
You ought to know that by this time, Peter. Cousin Chippy lives chiefly
on worms and bugs and I live almost wholly on seeds, and that is what
makes the difference. Cousin Chippy must go where he can get plenty to
eat. I can get plenty here and so I stay."

"Did you and your relatives come down from the Far North alone?" asked
Peter.

"No," replied Dotty promptly. "Slaty the Junco and his relatives came
along with us and we had a very merry party."

Peter pricked up his ears. "Is Slaty here now?" he asked eagerly.

"Very much here," replied a voice right behind Peter's back. It was
so unexpected that it made Peter jump. He turned to find Slaty himself
chuckling merrily as he picked up seeds. He was very nearly the same
size as Dotty but trimmer. In fact he was one of the trimmest, neatest
appearing of all of Peter's friends. There was no mistaking Slaty the
Junco for any other bird. His head, throat and breast were clear slate
color. Underneath he was white. His sides were grayish. His outer tail
feathers were white. His bill was flesh color. It looked almost white.

"Welcome! Welcome!" cried Peter. "Are you here to stay all winter?"

"I certainly am," was Slaty's prompt response. "It will take pretty bad
weather to drive me away from here. If the snow gets too deep I'll just
go up to Farmer Brown's barnyard. I can always pick up a meal there, for
Farmer Brown's boy is a very good friend of mine. I know he won't let me
starve, no matter what the weather is. I think it is going to snow some
more. I like the snow. You know I am sometimes called the Snowbird."

Peter nodded. "So I have heard," said he, "though I think that name
really belongs to Snowflake the Snow Bunting."

"Quite right, Peter, quite right," replied Slaty. "I much prefer my own
name of Junco. My, these seeds are good!" All the time he was busily
picking up seeds so tiny that Peter didn't even see them.

"If you like here so much why don't you stay all the year?" inquired
Peter.

"It gets too warm," replied Slaty promptly,

"I hate hot weather. Give me cold weather every time."

"Do you mean to tell me that it is cold all summer where you nest in the
Far North?" demanded Peter.

"Not exactly cold," replied Slaty, "but a lot cooler than it is down
here. I don't go as far north to nest as Snowflake does, but I go far
enough to be fairly comfortable. I don't see how some folks can stand
hot weather."

"It is a good thing they can," interrupted Dotty. "If everybody liked
the same things it wouldn't do at all. Just suppose all the birds ate
nothing but seeds. There wouldn't be seeds enough to go around, and a
lot of us would starve. Then, too, the worms and the bugs would eat up
everything. So, take it all together, it is a mighty good thing that
some birds live almost wholly on worms and bugs and such things, leaving
the seeds to the rest of us. I guess Old Mother Nature knew what she was
about when she gave us different tastes."

Peter nodded his head in approval. "You can always trust Old Mother
Nature to know what is best," said he sagely. "By the way, Slaty, what
do you make your nest of and where do you put it?"

"My nest is usually made of grasses, moss and rootlets. Sometimes it is
lined with fine grasses, and when I am lucky enough to find them I use
long hairs. Often I put my nest on the ground, and never very far above
it. I am like my friend Dotty in this respect. It always seems to me
easier to hide a nest on the ground than anywhere else. There is nothing
like having a nest well hidden. It takes sharp eyes to find my nest, I
can tell you that, Peter Rabbit."

Just then Dotty, who had been picking seeds out of the top of a weed,
gave a cry of alarm and instantly there was a flit of many wings as
Dotty and his relatives and Slaty sought the shelter of the bushes along
the edge of the field. Peter sat up very straight and looked this way
and looked that way. At first he saw nothing suspicious. Then, crouching
flat among the weeds, he got a glimpse of Black Pussy, the cat from
Farmer Brown's house. She had been creeping up in the hope of catching
one of those happy little seedeaters. Peter stamped angrily. Then
with long jumps he started for the dear Old Briar-patch,
lipperty-lipperty-lip, for truth to tell, big as he was, he was a little
afraid of Black Pussy.



CHAPTER XLI. More Friends Come With the Snow.

Slaty the Junco had been quite right in thinking it was going to snow
some more. Rough Brother North Find hurried up one big cloud after
another, and late that afternoon the white feathery flakes came drifting
down out of the sky.

Peter Rabbit sat tight in the dear Old Briar-patch. In fact Peter did no
moving about that night, but remained squatting just inside the entrance
to an old hole Johnny Chuck's grandfather had dug long ago in the middle
of the clear Old Briar-patch. Some time before morning the snow stopped
falling and then rough Brother North Wind worked as hard to blow away
the clouds as he had done to bring them.

When jolly, round, bright Mr. Sun began his daily climb up in the blue,
blue sky he looked down on a world of white. It seemed as if every
little snowflake twinkled back at every little sunbeam. It was all very
lovely, and Peter Rabbit rejoiced as he scampered forth in quest of his
breakfast.

He started first for the weedy field where the day before he had found
Dotty the Tree Sparrow and Slaty the Junco. They were there before him,
having the very best time ever was as they picked seeds from the tops of
the weeds which showed above the snow. Almost at once Peter discovered
that they were not the only seekers for seeds. Walking about on the
snow, and quite as busy seeking seeds as were Dotty and Slaty, was a
bird very near their size the top of whose head, neck and back were a
soft rusty-brown. There was some black on his wings, but the latter
were mostly white and the outer tail feathers were white. His breast and
under parts were white. It was Snowflake the Snow Bunting in his winter
suit. Peter knew him instantly. There was no mistaking him, for, as
Peter well knew, there is no other bird of his size and shape who is so
largely white. He had appeared so unexpectedly that it almost seemed as
if he must have come out of the snow clouds just as had the snow itself.
Peter had his usual question ready.

"Are you going to spend the winter here, Snowflake?" he cried.

Snowflake was so busy getting his breakfast that he did not reply at
once. Peter noticed that he did not hop, but walked or ran. Presently he
paused long enough to reply to Peter's question. "If the snow has come
to stay all winter, perhaps I'll stay," said he.

"What has the snow to do with it?" demanded Peter.

"Only that I like the snow and I like cold weather. When the snow
begins to disappear, I just naturally fly back farther north," replied
Snowflake. "It isn't that I don't like bare ground, because I do, and
I'm always glad when the snow is blown off in places so that I can hunt
for seeds on the ground. But when the snow begins to melt everywhere I
feel uneasy. I can't understand how folks can be contented where there
is no snow and ice. You don't catch me going 'way down south. No, siree,
you don't catch me going 'way down south. Why, when the nesting season
comes around, I chase Jack Frost clear 'way up to where he spends the
summer. I nest 'way up on the shore of the Polar Sea, but of course you
don't know where that is, Peter Rabbit."

"If you are so fond of the cold in the Far North, the snow and the ice,
what did you come south at all for? Why don't you stay up there all the
year around?" demanded Peter.

"Because, Peter," replied Snowflake, twittering merrily, "like everybody
else, I have to eat in order to live. When you see me down here you may
know that the snows up north are so deep that they have covered all the
seeds. I always keep a weather eye out, as the saying is, and the minute
it looks as if there would be too much snow for me to get a living, I
move along. I hope I will not have to go any farther than this, but if
some morning you wake up and find the snow so deep that all the heads of
the weeds are buried, don't expect to find me."

"That's what I call good, sound common sense," said another voice, and
a bird a little bigger than Snowflake, and who at first glance seemed to
be dressed almost wholly in soft chocolate brown, alighted in the snow
close by and at once began to run about in search of seeds. It was
Wanderer the Horned Lark. Peter hailed him joyously, for there was
something of mystery about Wanderer, and Peter, as you know, loves
mystery.

Peter had known him ever since his first winter, yet did not feel
really acquainted, for Wanderer seldom stayed long enough for a real
acquaintance. Every winter he would come, sometimes two or three times,
but seldom staying more than a few days at a time. Quite often he and
his relatives appeared with the Snowflakes, for they are the best of
friends and travel much together.

Now as Wanderer reached up to pick seeds from a weed-top, Peter had
a good look at him. The first things he noticed were the two little
horn-like tufts of black feathers above and behind the eyes. It is from
these that Wanderer gets the name of Horned Lark. No other bird has
anything quite like them. His forehead, a line over each eye, and his
throat were yellow. There was a black mark from each corner of the
bill curving downward just below the eye and almost joining a black
crescent-shaped band across the breast. Beneath this he was soiled white
with dusky spots showing here and there. His back was brown, in places
having almost a pinkish tinge. His tail was black, showing a little
white on the edges when he flew. All together he was a handsome little
fellow.

"Do all of your family have those funny little horns?" asked Peter.

"No," was Wanderer's prompt reply. "Mrs. Lark does not have them."

"I think they are very becoming," said Peter politely.

"Thank you," replied Wanderer. "I am inclined to agree with you. You
should see me when I have my summer suit."

"Is it so very different from this?" asked Peter. "I think your present
suit is pretty enough."

"Well said, Peter, well said," interrupted Snowflake. "I quite agree
with you. I think Wanderer's present suit is pretty enough for any one,
but it is true that his summer suit is even prettier. It isn't so
very different, but it is brighter, and those black markings are much
stronger and show up better. You see, Wanderer is one of my neighbors in
the Far North, and I know all about him."

"And that means that you don't know anything bad about me, doesn't it?"
chuckled Wanderer.

Snowflake nodded. "Not a thing," he replied. "I wouldn't ask for a
better neighbor. You should hear him sing, Peter. He sings up in the
air, and it really is a very pretty song."

"I'd just love to hear him," replied Peter. "Why don't you sing here,
Wanderer?"

"This isn't the singing season," replied Wanderer promptly. "Besides,
there isn't time to sing when one has to keep busy every minute in order
to get enough to eat."

"I don't see," said Peter, "why, when you get here, you don't stay in
one place."

"Because it is easier to get a good living by moving about," replied
Wanderer promptly. "Besides, I like to visit new places. I shouldn't
enjoy being tied down in just one place like some birds I know. Would
you, Snowflake?"

Snowflake promptly replied that he wouldn't. Just then Peter discovered
something that he hadn't known before. "My goodness," he exclaimed,
"what a long claw you have on each hind toe!"

It was true. Each hind claw was about twice as long as any other claw.
Peter couldn't see any special use for it and he was just about to ask
more about it when Wanderer suddenly spied a flock of his relatives
some distance away and flew to join them. Probably this saved him some
embarrassment, for it is doubtful if he himself knew why Old Mother
Nature had given him such long hind claws.



CHAPTER XLII. Peter Learns Something About Spooky.

Peter Rabbit likes winter. At least he doesn't mind it so very much,
even though he has to really work for a living. Perhaps it is a good
thing that he does, for he might grow too fat to keep out of the way of
Reddy Fox. You see when the snow is deep Peter is forced to eat whatever
he can, and very often there isn't much of anything for him but the bark
of young trees. It is at such times that Peter gets into mischief, for
there is no bark he likes better than that of young fruit trees. Now
you know what happens when the bark is taken off all the way around the
trunk of a tree. That tree dies. It dies for the simple reason that it
is up the inner layer of bark that the life-giving sap travels in the
spring and summer. Of course, when a strip of bark has been taken off
all the way around near the base of a tree, the sap cannot go up and the
tree must die.

Now up near the Old Orchard Farmer Brown had set out a young orchard.
Peter knew all about that young orchard, for he had visited it many
times in the summer. Then there had been plenty of sweet clover and
other green things to eat, and Peter had never been so much as tempted
to sample the bark of those young trees. But now things were very
different, and it was very seldom that Peter knew what it was to have a
full stomach. He kept thinking of that young orchard. He knew that if he
were wise he would keep away from there. But the more he thought of it
the more it seemed to him that he just must have some of that tender
young bark. So just at dusk one evening, Peter started for the young
orchard.

Peter got there in safety and his eyes sparkled as he hopped over to
the nearest young tree. But when he reached it, Peter had a dreadful
disappointment. All around the trunk of that young tree was wire
netting. Peter couldn't get even a nibble of that bark. He tried the
next tree with no better result. Then he hurried on from tree to tree,
always with the same result. You see Farmer Brown knew all about Peter's
liking for the bark of young fruit trees, and he had been wise enough to
protect his young orchard.

At last Peter gave up and hopped over to the Old Orchard. As he passed a
certain big tree he was startled by a voice. "What's the matter, Peter?"
said the voice. "You don't look happy."

Peter stopped short and stared up in the big apple-tree. Look as he
would he couldn't see anybody. Of course there wasn't a leaf on that
tree, and he could see all through it. Peter blinked and felt foolish.
He knew that had there been any one sitting on any one of those branches
he couldn't have helped seeing him.

"Don't look so high, Peter; don't look so high," said the voice with a
chuckle. This time it sounded as if it came right out of the trunk of
the tree. Peter stared at the trunk and then suddenly laughed right out.
Just a few feet above the ground was a good sized hole in the tree, and
poking his head out of it was a funny little fellow with big eyes and a
hooked beak.

"You certainly did fool me that time, Spooky," cried Peter. "I ought to
have recognized your voice, but I didn't."

Spooky the Screech Owl, for that is who it was, came out of the hole in
the tree and without a sound from his wings flew over and perched just
above Peter's head. He was a little fellow, not over eight inches high,
but there was no mistaking the family to which he belonged. In fact he
looked very much like a small copy of Hooty the Great Horned Owl, so
much so that Peter felt a little cold shiver run over him, although he
had nothing in the world to fear from Spooky.

His head seemed to be almost as big around as his body, and he seemed
to leave no neck at all. He was dressed in bright reddish-brown, with
little streaks and bars of black. Underneath he was whitish, with little
streaks and bars of black and brown. On each side of his head was a tuft
of feathers. They looked like ears and some people think they are ears,
which is a mistake. His eyes were round and yellow with a fierce hungry
look in them. His bill was small and almost hidden among the feathers of
his face, but it was hooked just like the bill of Hooty. As he settled
himself he turned his head around until he could look squarely behind
him, then brought it back again so quickly that to Peter it looked as
if it had gone clear around. You see Spooky's eyes are fixed in their
sockets and he cannot move them from side to side. He has to turn his
whole head in order to see to one side or the other.

"You haven't told me yet why you look so unhappy, Peter," said Spooky.

"Isn't an empty stomach enough to make any fellow unhappy?" retorted
Peter rather shortly.

Spooky chuckled. "I've got an empty stomach myself, Peter," said he,
"but it isn't making me unhappy. I have a feeling that somewhere there
is a fat Mouse waiting for me."

Just then Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had told him early in the
spring of how Spooky the Screech Owl lives all the year around in a
hollow tree, and curiosity made him forget for the time being that he
was hungry. "Did you live in that hole all summer, Spooky?" he asked.

Spooky nodded solemnly. "I've lived in that hollow summer and winter for
three years," said he.

Peter's eyes opened very wide. "And till now I never even guessed it,"
he exclaimed. "Did you raise a family there?"

"I certainly did," replied Spooky. "Mrs. Spooky and I raised a family of
four as fine looking youngsters as you ever have seen. They've gone out
into the Great World to make their own living now. Two were dressed just
like me and two were gray."

"What's that?" exclaimed Peter.

"I said that two were dressed just like me and two were gray," replied
Spooky rather sharply.

"That's funny," Peter exclaimed.

"What's funny?" snapped Spooky rather crossly.

"Why that all four were not dressed alike," said Peter.

"There's nothing funny about it," retorted Spooky, and snapped his
bill sharply with a little cracking sound. "We Screech Owls believe in
variety. Some of us are gray and some of us are reddish-brown. It is
a case of where you cannot tell a person just by the color of his
clothes."

Peter nodded as if he quite understood, although he couldn't understand
at all. "I'm ever so pleased to find you living here," said he politely.
"You see, in winter the Old Orchard is rather a lonely place. I don't
see how you get enough to eat when there are so few birds about."

"Birds!" snapped Spooky. "What have birds to do with it?"

"Why, don't you live on birds?" asked Peter innocently.

"I should say not. I guess I would starve if I depended on birds for
my daily food," retorted Spooky. "I catch a Sparrow now and then, to
be sure, but usually it is an English Sparrow, and I consider that I am
doing the Old Orchard a good turn every time I am lucky enough to catch
one of the family of Bully the English Sparrow. But I live mostly on
Mice and Shrews in winter and in summer I eat a lot of grasshoppers and
other insects. If it wasn't for me and my relatives I guess Mice would
soon overrun the Great World. Farmer Brown ought to be glad I've come to
live in the Old Orchard and I guess he is, for Farmer Brown's boy knows
all about this house of mine and never disturbs me. Now if you'll excuse
me I think I'll fly over to Farmer Brown's young orchard. I ought to
find a fat Mouse or two trying to get some of the bark from those young
trees."

"Huh!" exclaimed Peter. "They can try all they want to, but they won't
get any; I can tell you that."

Spooky's round yellow eyes twinkled. "It must be you have been trying to
get some of that bark yourself," said he.

Peter didn't say anything but he looked guilty, and Spooky once more
chuckled as he spread his wings and flew away so soundlessly that he
seemed more like a drifting shadow than a bird. Then Peter started for
a certain swamp he knew of where he would be sure to find enough bark to
stay his appetite.



CHAPTER XLIII. Queer Feet and a Queerer Bill.

Peter Rabbit had gone over to the Green Forest to call on his cousin,
Jumper the Hare, who lives there altogether. He had no difficulty in
finding Jumper's tracks in the snow, and by following these he at length
came up with Jumper. The fact is, Peter almost bumped into Jumper before
he saw him, for Jumper was wearing a coat as white as the snow itself.
Squatting under a little snow-covered hemlock-tree he looked like
nothing more than a little mound of snow.

"Oh!" cried Peter. "How you startled me! I wish I had a winter coat like
yours. It must be a great help in avoiding your enemies."

"It certainly is, Cousin Peter," cried Jumper. "Nine times out of ten
all I have to do is to sit perfectly still when there was no wind to
carry my scent. I have had Reddy Fox pass within a few feet of me and
never suspect that I was near. I hope this snow will last all winter. It
is only when there isn't any snow that I am particularly worried. Then
I am not easy for a minute, because my white coat can be seen a long
distance against the brown of the dead leaves."

Peter chuckled, "that is just when I feel safest," he replied. "I
like the snow, but this brown-gray coat of mine certainly does show up
against it. Don't you find it pretty lonesome over here in the Green
Forest with all the birds gone, Cousin Jumper?"

Jumper shook his head. "Not all have gone, Peter, you know," said he.
"Strutter the Grouse and Mrs. Grouse are here, and I see them every day.
They've got snowshoes now."

Peter blinked his eyes and looked rather perplexed. "Snowshoes!" he
exclaimed. "I don't understand what you mean."

"Come with me," replied Jumper, "and I'll show you."

So Jumper led the way and Peter followed close at his heels. Presently
they came to some tracks in the snow. At first glance they reminded
Peter of the queer tracks Farmer Brown's ducks made in the mud on the
edge of the Smiling Pool in summer. "What funny tracks those are!" he
exclaimed. "Who made them?"

"Just keep on following me and you'll see," retorted Jumper.

So they continued to follow the tracks until presently, just ahead of
them, they saw Strutter the Grouse. Peter opened his eyes with surprise
when he discovered that those queer tracks were made by Strutter.

"Cousin Peter wants to see your snowshoes, Strutter," said Jumper as
they came up with him.

Strutter's bright eyes sparkled. "He's just as curious as ever, isn't
he?" said he. "Well, I don't mind showing him my snowshoes because I
think myself that they are really quite wonderful." He held up one foot
with the toes spread apart and Peter saw that growing out from the sides
of each toe were queer little horny points set close together. They
quite filled the space between his toes. Peter recalled that when he
had seen Strutter in the summer those toes had been smooth and that his
tracks on soft ground had shown the outline of each toe clearly. "How
funny!" exclaimed Peter.

"There's nothing funny about them," retorted Strutter. "If Old Mother
Nature hadn't given me something of this kind I certainly would have a
hard time of it when there is snow on the ground. If my feet were just
the same as in summer I would sink right down in when the snow is soft
and wouldn't be able to walk about at all. Now, with these snowshoes I
get along very nicely. You see I sink in but very little."

He took three or four steps and Peter saw right away how very useful
those snowshoes were. "My!" he exclaimed. "I wish Old Mother Nature
would give me snowshoes too." Strutter and Jumper both laughed and after
a second Peter laughed with them, for he realized how impossible it
would be for him to have anything like those snowshoes of Strutter's.

"Cousin Peter was just saying that he should think I would find it
lonesome over here in the Green Forest. He forgot that you and Mrs.
Grouse stay all winter, and he forgot that while most of the birds who
spent the summer here have left, there are others who come down from the
Far North to take their place."

"Who, for instance?" demanded Peter.

"Snipper the Crossbill," replied Jumper promptly. "I haven't seen him
yet this winter, but I know he is here because only this morning I found
some pine seeds on the snow under a certain tree."

"Huh!" Peter exclaimed. "That doesn't prove anything. Those seeds might
have just fallen, or Chatterer the Red Squirrel might have dropped
them."

"This isn't the season for seeds to just fall, and I know by the signs
that Chatterer hasn't been about," retorted Jumper. "Let's go over there
now and see what we will see."

Once more he led the way and Peter followed. As they drew near that
certain pine-tree, a short whistled note caused them to look up. Busily
at work on a pine cone near the top of a tree was a bird about the size
of Bully the English Sparrow. He was dressed wholly in dull red with
brownish-black wings and tail.

"What did I tell you?" cried Jumper. "There's Snipper this very minute,
and over in that next tree are a lot of his family and relatives. See in
what a funny way they climb about among the branches. They don't flit
or hop, but just climb around. I don't know of any other bird anywhere
around here that does that."

Just then a seed dropped and landed on the snow almost in front of
Peter's nose. Almost at once Snipper himself followed it, picking it up
and eating it with as much unconcern as if Peter and Jumper were a mile
away instead of only a foot or so. The very first thing Peter noticed
was Snipper's bill. The upper and lower halves crossed at the tips.
That bill looked very much as if Snipper had struck something hard and
twisted the tips over.

"Have--have--you met with an accident?" he asked a bit hesitatingly.

Snipper looked surprised. "Are you talking to me?" he asked. "Whatever
put such an idea into your head?"

"Your bill," replied Peter promptly. "How did it get twisted like that?"

Snipper laughed. "It isn't twisted," said he. "It is just the way Old
Mother Nature made it, and I really don't know what I'd do if it were
any different."

Peter scratched one long ear, as is his way when he is puzzled. "I don't
see," said he, "how it is possible for you to pick up food with a bill
like that."

"And I don't see how I would get my food if I didn't have a bill like
this," retorted Snipper. Then, seeing how puzzled Peter really was, he
went on to explain. "You see, I live very largely on the seeds that grow
in pine cones and the cones of other trees. Of course I eat some other
food, such as seeds and buds of trees. But what I love best of all are
the seeds that grow in the cones of evergreen trees. If you've ever
looked at one of those cones, you will understand that those seeds are
not very easy to get at. But with this kind of a bill it is no trouble
at all. I can snip them out just as easily as birds with straight
bills can pick up seeds. You see my bill is very much like a pair of
scissors."

"It really is very wonderful," confessed Peter. "Do you mind telling me,
Snipper, why I never have seen you here in summer?"

"For the same reason that in summer you never see Snowflake and Wanderer
the Horned Lark and some others I might name," replied Snipper. "Give me
the Far North every time. I would stay there the year through but that
sometimes food gets scarce up there. That is why I am down here now. If
you'll excuse me, I'll go finish my breakfast."

Snipper flew up in the tree where the other Crossbills were at work and
Peter and Jumper watched them.

"I suppose you know," said Jumper, "that Snipper has a cousin who looks
almost exactly like him with the exception of two white bars on each
wing. He is called the White-winged Crossbill."

"I didn't know it," replied Peter, "but I'm glad you've told me. I
certainly shall watch out for him. I can't get over those funny bills.
No one could ever mistake it for any other bird. Is there anyone else
now from the Far North whom I haven't seen?"



CHAPTER XLIV. More Folks in Red.

Jumper the Hare didn't have time to reply to Peter Rabbit's question
when Peter asked if there was any one else besides the Crossbills who
had come down from the Far North.

"I have," said a voice from a tree just back of them.

It was so unexpected that it made both Peter and Jumper hop in startled
surprise. Then they turned to see who had spoken. There sat a bird just
a little smaller than Welcome Robin, who at first glance seemed to be
dressed in strawberry-red. However, a closer look showed that there were
slate-gray markings about his head, under his wings and on his legs. His
tail was brown. His wings were brown, marked with black and white and
slate. His bill was thick and rather short.

"Who are you?" demanded Peter very bluntly and impolitely.

"I'm Piny the Pine Grosbeak," replied the stranger, seemingly not at all
put out by Peter's bluntness.

"Oh," said Peter. "Are you related to Rosebreast the Grosbeak who nested
last summer in the Old Orchard?"

"I certainly am," replied Piny. "He is my very own cousin. I've never
seen him because he never ventures up where I live and I don't go down
where he spends the winter, but all members of the Grosbeak family are
cousins."

"Rosebreast is very lovely and I'm very fond of him," said Peter. "We
are very good friends."

"Then I know we are going to be good friends," replied Piny. As he said
this he turned and Peter noticed that his tail was distinctly forked
instead of being square across like that of Welcome Robin. Piny
whistled, and almost at once he was joined by another bird who in shape
was just like him, but who was dressed in slaty-gray and olive-yellow,
instead of the bright red that he himself wore. Piny introduced the
newcomer as Mrs. Grosbeak.

"Lovely weather, isn't it?" said she. "I love the snow. I wouldn't feel
at home with no snow about. Why, last spring I even built my nest before
the snow was gone in the Far North. We certainly hated to leave up
there, but food was getting so scarce that we had to. We have just
arrived. Can you tell me if there are any cedar-trees or ash-trees or
sumacs near here?"

Peter hastened to tell her just where she would find these trees and
then rather timidly asked why she wanted to find them.

"Because they hold their berries all winter," replied Mrs. Grosbeak
promptly, "and those berries make very good eating. I rather thought
there must be some around here. If there are enough of them we certainly
shall stay a while."

"I hope you will," replied Peter. "I want to get better acquainted with
you. You know, if it were not for you folks who come down from the Far
North the Green Forest would be rather a lonely place in winter. There
are times when I like to be alone, but I like to feel that there is
someone I can call on when I feel lonesome. Did you and Piny come down
alone?"

"No, indeed," replied Mrs. Grosbeak. "There is a flock of our relatives
not far away. We came down with the Crossbills. All together we made
quite a party."

Peter and Jumper stayed a while to gossip with the Grosbeaks. Then Peter
bethought him that it was high time for him to return to the dear Old
Briar-patch, and bidding his new friends good-by, he started off through
the Green Forest, lipperty-lipperty-lip. When he reached the edge of
the Green Forest he decided to run over to the weedy field to see if the
Snowflakes and the Tree Sparrows and the Horned Larks were there.
They were, but almost at once Peter discovered that they had company.
Twittering cheerfully as he busily picked seeds out of the top of a weed
which stood above the snow, was a bird very little bigger than Chicoree
the Goldfinch. But when Peter looked at him he just had to rub his eyes.

"Gracious goodness!" he muttered, "it must be something is wrong with my
eyes so that I am seeing red. I've already seen two birds dressed in red
and now there's another. It certainly must be my eyes. There's Dotty
the Tree Sparrow over there; I hear his voice. I wonder if he will look
red."

Peter hopped near enough to get a good look at Dotty and found him
dressed just as he should be. That relieved Peter's mind. His eyes were
quite as they should be. Then he returned to look at the happy little
stranger still busily picking seeds from that weed-top.

The top of his head was bright red. There was no doubt about it. His
back was toward Peter at the time and but for that bright red cap Peter
certainly would have taken him for one of his friends among the Sparrow
family. You see his back was grayish-brown. Peter could think of several
Sparrows with backs very much like it. But when he looked closely he saw
that just above his tail this little stranger wore a pinkish patch, and
that was something no Sparrow of Peter's acquaintance possesses.

Then the lively little stranger turned to face Peter and a pair of
bright eyes twinkled mischievously. "Well," said he, "how do you like
my appearance? Anything wrong with me? I was taught that it is very
impolite to stare at any one. I guess your mother forgot to teach you
manners."

Peter paid no attention to what was said but continued to stare. "My,
how pretty you are!" he exclaimed.

The little stranger WAS pretty. His breast was PINK. Below this he was
white. The middle of his throat was black and his sides were streaked
with reddish-brown. He looked pleased at Peter's exclamation.

"I'm glad you think I'm pretty," said he. "I like pink myself. I like it
very much indeed. I suppose you've already seen my friends, Snipper the
Crossbill and Piny the Grosbeak."

Peter promptly bobbed his head. "I've just come from making their
acquaintance," said he. "By the way you speak, I presume you also are
from the Far North. I am just beginning to learn that there are more
folks who make their homes in the Far North than I had dreamed of. If
you please, I don't believe I know you at all."

"I'm Redpoll," was the prompt response. "I am called that because of my
red cap. Yes, indeed, I make my home in the Far North. There is no place
like it. You really ought to run up there and get acquainted with the
folks who make their homes there and love it."

Redpoll laughed at his own joke, but Peter didn't see the joke at all.
"Is it so very far?" he asked innocently; then added, "I'd dearly love
to go."

Redpoll laughed harder than ever. "Yes," said he, "it is. I am afraid
you would be a very old and very gray Rabbit by the time you got there.
I guess the next thing is for you to make the acquaintance of some of us
who get down here once in awhile."

Redpoll called softly and almost at once was joined by another
red-capped bird but without the pink breast, and with sides more heavily
streaked. "This is Mrs. Redpoll," announced her lively little mate. Then
he turned to her and added, "I've just been telling Peter Rabbit that
as long as he cannot visit our beautiful Far North he must become
acquainted with those of us who come down here in the winter. I'm sure
he'll find us very friendly folks."

"I'm sure I shall," said Peter. "If you please, do you live altogether
on these weed seeds?"

Redpoll laughed his usual happy laugh. "Hardly, Peter," replied he. "We
like the seeds of the birches and the alders, and we eat the seeds of
the evergreen trees when we get them. Sometimes we find them in cones
Snipper the Crossbill has opened but hasn't picked all the seeds out of.
Sometimes he drops some for us. Oh, we always manage to get plenty to
eat. There are some of our relatives over there and we must join them.
We'll see you again, Peter."

Peter said he hoped they would and then watched them fly over to join
their friends. Suddenly, as if a signal had been given, all spread their
wings at the same instant and flew up in a birch-tree not far away. All
seemed to take wing at precisely the same instant. Up in the birch-tree
they sat for a minute or so and then, just as if another signal had been
given, all began to pick out the tiny seeds from the birch tassels. No
one bird seemed to be first. It was quite like a drill, or as if each
had thought of the same thing at the same instant. Peter chuckled over
it all the way home. And somehow he felt better for having made the
acquaintance of the Redpolls. It was the feeling that everybody so
fortunate as to meet them on a gold winter's day is sure to have.



CHAPTER XLV. Peter Sees Two Terrible Feathered Hunters.

While it is true that Peter Rabbit likes winter, it is also true that
life is anything but easy for him that season. In the first place he has
to travel about a great deal to get sufficient food, and that means that
he must run more risks. There isn't a minute of day or night that he is
outside of the dear Old Briar-patch when he can afford not to watch and
listen for danger. You see, at this season of the year, Reddy Fox often
finds it difficult to get a good meal. He is hungry most of the time,
and he is forever hunting for Peter Rabbit. With snow on the ground and
no leaves on the bushes and young trees, it is not easy for Peter to
hide. So, as he travels about, the thought of Reddy Fox is always in his
mind.

But there are others whom Peter fears even more, and these wear feathers
instead of fur coats. One of these is Terror the Goshawk. Peter is
not alone in his fear of Terror. There is not one among his feathered
friends who will not shiver at the mention of Terror's name. Peter will
not soon forget the day he discovered that Terror had come down from the
Far North, and was likely to stay for the rest of the winter. Peter went
hungry all the rest of that day.

You see it was this way: Peter had gone over to the Green Forest very
early that morning in the hope of getting breakfast in a certain swamp.
He was hopping along, lipperty-lipperty-lip, with his thoughts chiefly
on that breakfast he hoped to get, but at the same time with ears and
eyes alert for possible danger, when a strange feeling swept over him.
It was a feeling that great danger was very near, though he saw nothing
and heard nothing to indicate it. It was just a feeling, that was all.

Now Peter has learned that the wise thing to do when one has such a
feeling as that is to seek safety first and investigate afterwards.
At the instant he felt that strange feeling of fear he was passing a
certain big, hollow log. Without really knowing why he did it, because,
you know, he didn't stop to do any thinking, he dived into that hollow
log, and even as he did so there was the sharp swish of great wings.
Terror the Goshawk had missed catching Peter by the fraction of a
second.

With his heart thumping as if it were trying to pound its way through
his ribs, Peter peeped out of that hollow log. Terror had alighted on
a tall stump only a few feet away. To Peter in his fright he seemed the
biggest bird he ever had seen. Of course he wasn't. Actually he was very
near the same size as Redtail the Hawk, whom Peter knew well. He was
handsome. There was no denying the fact that he was handsome.

His back was bluish. His head seemed almost black. Over and behind each
eye was a white line. Underneath he was beautifully marked with wavy
bars of gray and white. On his tail were four dark bands. Yes, he was
handsome. But Peter had no thought for his beauty. He could see nothing
but the fierceness of the eyes that were fixed on the entrance to that
hollow log. Peter shivered as if with a cold chill. He knew that in
Terror was no pity or gentleness.

"I hope," thought Peter, "that Mr. and Mrs. Grouse are nowhere about."
You see he knew that there is no one that Terror would rather catch than
a member of the Grouse family.

Terror did not sit on that stump long. He knew that Peter was not likely
to come out in a hurry. Presently he flew away, and Peter suspected from
the direction in which he was headed that Terror was going over to visit
Farmer Brown's henyard. Of all the members of the Hawk family there is
none more bold than Terror the Goshawk. He would not hesitate to seize
a hen from almost beneath Farmer Brown's nose. He is well named, for the
mere suspicion that he is anywhere about strikes terror to the heart of
all the furred and feathered folks. He is so swift of wing that few can
escape him, and he has no pity, but kills for the mere love of killing.
In this respect he is like Shadow the Weasel. To kill for food is
forgiven by the little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows,
but to kill needlessly is unpardonable. This is why Terror the Goshawk
is universally hated and has not a single friend.

All that day Peter remained hidden in that hollow log. He did not dare
put foot outside until the Black Shadows began to creep through the
Green Forest. Then he knew that there was nothing more to fear from
Terror the Goshawk, for he hunts only by day. Once more Peter's thoughts
were chiefly of his stomach, for it was very, very empty.

But it was not intended that Peter should fill his stomach at once. He
had gone but a little way when from just ahead of him the silence of
the early evening was broken by a terrifying sound--"Whooo-hoo-hoo,
whooo-hoo!" It was so sudden and there was in it such a note of
fierceness that Peter had all he could do to keep from jumping and
running for dear life. But he knew that voice and he knew, too, that
safety lay in keeping perfectly still. So with his heart thumping madly,
as when he had escaped from Terror that morning, Peter sat as still as
if he could not move.

It was the hunting call of Hooty the Great Horned Owl, and it had been
intended to frighten some one into jumping and running, or at least into
moving ever so little. Peter knew all about that trick of Hooty's. He
knew that in all the Green Forest there are no ears so wonderful as
those of Hooty the Owl, and that the instant he had uttered that fierce
hunting call he had strained those wonderful ears to catch the faintest
sound which some startled little sleeper of the night might make. The
rustle of a leaf would be enough to bring Hooty to the spot on his great
silent wings, and then his fierce yellow eyes, which are made for seeing
in the dusk, would find the victim.

So Peter sat still, fearful that the very thumping of his heart might
reach those wonderful ears. Again that terrible hunting cry rang out,
and again Peter had all he could do to keep from jumping. But he didn't
jump, and a few minutes later, as he sat staring at a certain tall, dead
stub of a tree, wondering just where Hooty was, the top of that
stub seemed to break off, and a great, broad-winged bird flew away
soundlessly like a drifting shadow. It was Hooty himself. Sitting
perfectly straight on the top of that tall, dead stub he had seemed a
part of it. Peter waited some time before he ventured to move. Finally
he heard Hooty's hunting call in a distant part of the Green Forest, and
knew that it was safe for him to once more think of his empty stomach.

Later in the winter while the snow still lay in the Green Forest,
and the ice still bound the Laughing Brook, Peter made a surprising
discovery. He was over in a certain lonely part of the Green Forest when
he happened to remember that near there was an old nest which had once
belonged to Redtail the Hawk. Out of idle curiosity Peter ran over for a
look at that old nest. Imagine how surprised he was when just as he
came within sight of it, he saw a great bird just settling down on it.
Peter's heart jumped right up in his throat. At least that is the way it
seemed, for he recognized Mrs. Hooty.

Of course Peter stopped right where he was and took the greatest care
not to move or make a sound. Presently Hooty himself appeared and
perched in a tree near at hand. Peter has seen Hooty many times before,
but always as a great, drifting shadow in the moonlight. Now he could
see him clearly. As he sat bolt upright he seemed to be of the same
height as Terror the Goshawk, but with a very much bigger body. If Peter
had but known it, his appearance of great size was largely due to the
fluffy feathers in which Hooty was clothed. Like his small cousin,
Spooky the Screech Owl, Hooty seemed to have no neck at all. He looked
as if his great head was set directly on his shoulders. From each side
of his head two great tufts of feathers stood out like ears or horns.
His bill was sharply hooked. He was dressed wholly in reddish-brown with
little buff and black markings, and on his throat was a white patch. His
legs were feathered, and so were his feet clear to the great claws.

But it was on the great, round, fierce, yellow eyes that Peter kept his
own eyes. He had always thought of Hooty as being able to see only in
the dusk of evening or on moonlight nights, but somehow he had a feeling
that even now in broad daylight Hooty could see perfectly well, and he
was quite right.

For a long time Peter sat there without moving. He dared not do anything
else. After he had recovered from his first fright he began to wonder
what Hooty and Mrs. Hooty were doing at that old nest. His curiosity was
aroused. He felt that he simply must find out. By and by Hooty flew away
very carefully, so as not to attract the attention of Mrs. Hooty. Peter
stole back the way he had come.

When he was far enough away to feel reasonably safe, he scampered as
fast as ever he could. He wanted to get away from that place, and he
wanted to find some one of whom he could ask questions.

Presently he met his cousin, Jumper the Hare, and at once in a most
excited manner told him all he had seen.

Jumper listened until Peter was through. "If you'll take my advice,"
said he, "you'll keep away from that part of the Green Forest, Cousin
Peter. From what you tell me it is quite clear to me that the Hooties
have begun nesting."

"Nesting!" exclaimed Peter. "Nesting! Why, gentle Mistress Spring will
not get here for a month yet!"

"I said NESTING," retorted Jumper, speaking rather crossly, for you see
he did not like to have his word doubted. "Hooty the Great Horned Owl
doesn't wait for Mistress Spring. He and Mrs. Hooty believe in getting
household cares out of the way early. Along about this time of year they
hunt up an old nest of Redtail the Hawk or Blacky the Crow or Chatterer
the Red Squirrel, for they do not take the trouble to build a nest
themselves. Then Mrs. Hooty lays her eggs while there is still snow and
ice. Why their youngsters don't catch their death from cold when they
hatch out is more than I can say. But they don't. I'm sorry to hear that
the Hooties have a nest here this year. It means a bad time for a lot
of little folks in feathers and fur. I certainly shall keep away in from
that part of the Green Forest, and I advise you to."

Peter said that he certainly should, and then started on for the dear
Old Briar-patch to think things over. The discovery that already the
nesting season of a new year had begun turned Peter's thoughts towards
the coming of sweet Mistress Spring and the return of his many feathered
friends who had left for the far-away South so long before. A great
longing to hear the voices of Welcome Robin and Winsome Bluebird and
Little Friend the Song Sparrow swept over him, and a still greater
longing for a bit of friendly gossip with Jenny Wren. In the past year
he had learned much about his feathered neighbors, but there were still
many things he wanted to know, things which only Jenny Wren could tell
him. He was only just beginning to find out that no one knows all there
is to know, especially about the birds. And no one ever will.





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