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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mother West Wind "When" Stories" ***

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



MOTHER WEST WIND "WHEN" STORIES

By Thornton W. Burgess

Author Of "Old Mother West Wind," "The Bed Time Story-Books," Etc.

Illustrations in Color by Harrison Cady

Boston: Little, Brown, And Company 1917


[Illustration: 0008]


[Illustration: 0009]



DEDICATION

To all little children and to all those crowned with the glory of many
years who still retain that priceless possession, the heart of a child,
this little volume is affectionately dedicated.



MOTHER WEST WIND "WHEN" STORIES



I. WHEN MR. BLUEBIRD WON HIS BEAUTIFUL COAT


[Illustration: 0019]

|OF all the joyous sounds of all the year there is none more loved by
Peter Rabbit, and the rest of us for that matter, than the soft whistle
of Winsome Bluebird in the spring. The first time Peter hears it he
always jumps up in the air, kicks his long heels together, and does a
funny little dance of pure joy, for he knows that Winsome Bluebird is
the herald of sweet Mistress Spring, and that she is not far behind him.
It is the end of the shivery, sad time and the beginning of the happy,
glad time, and Peter rejoices when he hears that sweet, soft voice which
is sometimes so hard to locate, seeming to come from everywhere and
nowhere.

So Peter loves Winsome Bluebird and never tires of seeing him about. You
know he wears a very, very beautiful coat of blue, the blue of the sky
when it is softest, and you love to lie on your back and look up into it
and dream and dream. It always has seemed to Peter that Winsome's coat
is one of the loveliest he ever has seen, as indeed it is, and that it
is quite right and proper and just as it should be that one having such
a beautiful voice and bringing such a beautiful message should himself
be beautiful. He said as much one day when he had run over to the
Smiling Pool to pay his respects to Grandfather Frog.

"Chug-a-rum! Certainly. Of course," replied Grandfather Frog. "Winsome
Bluebird has a beautiful nature and his beautiful coat is the reward
which Old Mother Nature has given him. It has been in the family ever
since his grandfather a thousand times removed was brave enough to
become the herald of Mistress Spring."

"Oh, Grandfather Frog, that sounds like a story," cried Peter. "Please,
please tell it to me, for I love Winsome Bluebird, and I know I
shall love him more when I have learned more about him. His
great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather must have done something very fine
to have won such a lovely reward."

"He did," replied Grandfather Frog. "He became the herald of Mistress
Spring when no one else would, and bravely carried his message of
gladness and joy where it was sadly needed, in spite of cold and
hardship which no one else was willing to face."

"Please, please tell me all about it," begged Peter.

Grandfather Frog appeared to consider for a few minutes, and Peter
waited anxiously. Then Grandfather Frog cleared his voice. "I will,"
said he, "because you ought to know it. Everybody ought to know it, and
Winsome Bluebird certainly never will tell it himself. He is too modest
for that. It happened a great while ago when the world was young. Mr.
Bluebird was one of the quietest and most modest of all the birds. He
wore just a modest gray coat, and no one took any particular notice of
him. In fact, he didn't even have a name. He never quarreled with his
neighbors. He never was envious of those to whom Old Mother Nature had
given beautiful coats, or if he were, he never showed it. He just minded
his own affairs and did his best to do his share of the work of the
Great World, for even in the beginning of things there was something for
each one to do.

"Old Mother Nature was very busy those days making the Great World a fit
place in which to live, and as soon as she had started a new family of
birds or animals she had to leave them to take care of themselves and
get along as best they could. Those who were too lazy or too stupid to
take care of themselves disappeared, and others took their places. There
was nothing lazy or stupid about Mr. Bluebird, and he quickly learned
how to take care of himself and at the same time to keep on the best of
terms with his neighbors.

"When the place where the first birds lived became too crowded and old
King Eagle led them out into the new land Old Mother Nature had been
preparing for them, Mr. Bluebird was one of the first to follow him. The
new land was very beautiful, and there was plenty of room and plenty to
eat for all. Then came Jack Frost with snow and ice and drove all the
birds back to the place they had come from. They made up their minds
that they would stay there even if it were crowded. But after a while
Old Mother Nature came to tell them that soon Jack Frost would be driven
back from that wonderful new land, and sweet Mistress Spring would waken
all the sleeping plants and all the sleeping insects up there so that
it would be as beautiful as it was before, even more beautiful than the
place where they were now. She said that she should expect them to go to
the new land and make it joyous with their songs and build their homes
there and help her to keep the insects and worms from eating all the
green things.

"'But first I want a herald to go before Mistress Spring to tell those
who have lived there all through the time of snow and ice that Mistress
Spring is coming. Who will go as the herald of sweet Mistress Spring?'
asked Old Mother Nature.

"All the birds looked at one another and shivered, and then one by one
they tried to slip out of sight. Now Mr. Bluebird had modestly waited
for some of his big, strong neighbors to offer to take the message of
gladness up into that frozen land, but when he saw them slip away one by
one, his heart grew hot with shame for them, and he flew out before Old
Mother Nature. 'I'll go,' said he, bobbing his head respectfully.

"Old Mother Nature just had to smile, because compared with some of his
neighbors Mr. Bluebird was so very small. 'What can such a little fellow
as you do?' she asked. 'You will freeze to death up there, for it is
still very cold.'

"'If you please, I can at least try,' replied Mr. Bluebird modestly. 'If
I find I can't go on, I can come back.'

"'And what reward do you expect?' asked Old Mother Nature.

"'The joy of spreading such good news as the coming of Mistress Spring
will be all the reward I want,' replied Mr. Bluebird.

"This reply so pleased Old Mother Nature that she then and there made
Mr. Bluebird the herald of Mistress Spring and started him on his long
journey. It _was_ a long journey and a hard journey, harder, very much
harder for Mr. Bluebird than the same journey is for Winsome these days.
You see, everything was new to him. And then it was so cold! He couldn't
get used to the cold. It seemed sometimes as if he certainly would
freeze to death. At these times, when he sat shivering and shaking, he
would remember that sweet Mistress Spring was not very far behind
and that he was her herald. This would give him courage, and he would
bravely keep on. Whenever he stopped to rest, he would whistle the news
that Mistress Spring was coming, and sometimes, just to keep up his own
courage, he would whistle while he was flying, and he found it helped.
To keep warm at night he crept into hollow trees, and it was thus he
learned how snug and safe and comfortable such places were, and he made
up his mind that in just such a place he would build his nest when the
time came.

"As he passed on he left behind him great joy, and Mistress Spring found
as she journeyed north that all in the forests and on the meadows were
eagerly awaiting her, for they had heard the message of her coming; and
she was glad and told Old Mother Nature how well her herald had done his
work. When he had completed his errand, Mr. Bluebird built a home and
was as modest and retiring as ever. He didn't seem to think that he had
done anything out of the usual. He simply rejoiced in his heart that he
had been able to do what Old Mother Nature had requested, and it never
entered his head that he should have any other reward than the knowledge
that he had done his best and that he had brought cheer and hope to
many.

"When Jack Frost moved down from the far North in the fall, all the
birds journeyed south again, and of course Mr. Bluebird went with them.
The next season when it was time for Mistress Spring to start north, Old
Mother Nature assembled all the birds, and this time, instead of asking
who would carry the message, she called Mr. Bluebird out before them and
asked if he were willing to be the herald once more. Mr. Bluebird said
that he would be glad to be the herald if she wished it. Then Old Mother
Nature told all the birds how brave Mr. Bluebird was and how faithful
and true, and she made all the other birds feel ashamed, especially
those bigger and stronger than Mr. Bluebird. Then she said: 'Winsome
Bluebird, for that is to be your name from now on, I here and now
appoint you the herald of Mistress Spring, and the honor shall descend
to your children and your children's children forever and ever, and you
shall be one of the most loved of all the birds. And because you are a
herald, you shall have a bright coat, as all heralds should have; and
because you are true and faithful, your coat shall be blue, as blue as
the blue of the sky.'

"She reached out and touched Mr. Bluebird, and sure enough his sober
gray coat turned the most wonderful blue. Then once more he started on
his long journey and he whistled his message more joyously than before.
And because his whistle brought joy and gladness, and because he was
beautiful to see, it came about just as Old Mother Nature had said it
would, that he was one of the most loved of all the birds, even as his
great-great-ever-so-great-grandson is to-day."

Peter drew a long breath. "Thank you, Grandfather Frog," said he. "I
have always loved Winsome Bluebird and now I shall love him more."



II. WHEN OLD MR. GOPHER FIRST GOT POCKETS

|THERE was one of Peter Rabbit's neighbors of whose presence he was
always aware, and yet whom he almost never saw. No, it wasn't Miner the
Mole, but it was one who lives in much the same way as Miner. When Peter
would leave the dear Old Briar-patch he seldom went far without coming
to a little pile of fresh earth. These little piles of earth had puzzled
Peter a great deal for a long time. It sometimes seemed to Peter as if
they appeared by magic. He would pass across a certain part of the Green
Meadows, and there would be nothing but the green things growing there.
When he returned the same way, there would be one or two or maybe half a
dozen piles of newly turned earth.

"Of course," said Peter the first time he noticed one of these little
earth piles, "where there is a pile of earth like that, there must be a
hole. Some one has been digging, and this is the dirt thrown out."

But when Peter looked for the hole he couldn't find one. There was no
hole. It was very puzzling, but it was a fact. He kicked that pile of
earth until he had scattered it far and wide, but there was no sign of
a hole. Later he tried the same thing with other little piles of earth,
but never once did he find a hole. It looked as if some one brought
those little piles, dropped them on the Green Meadows, and then went
away. Of course no one did anything of the kind, and Peter knew it. He
spent a good deal of time wondering who could make them. Then one day,
as he was hopping along across the Green Meadows, the ground right in
front of him began to move. It so startled Peter that his first thought
was to run. Then he decided that it would be foolish to run until there
was something to run from. So he sat perfectly still and watched that
spot where the ground was moving. Earth, loose earth, was pushed up from
underneath, and even as Peter sat there staring, with eyes popping out
of his head and mouth wide open in wonder, the pile grew and grew until
it was as big as any of the piles about which he so often had wondered.
Then suddenly a head was thrust out of the middle of it, a homely head.
In an instant it vanished, and a second later the hole where it had
been was filled. Peter could hear the stranger packing the earth in from
underneath. When Peter had recovered his breath and looked, there was no
sign of the hole. No one would ever have guessed that there had been one
there.

That was Peter Rabbit's first meeting with Grubby Gopher. Since then he
has seen Grubby several times, but Grubby is never what you would
call neighborly, and Peter never has felt and never will feel really
acquainted with him. But for one thing Peter would have thought Grubby
Gopher the most uninteresting fellow he ever had met. The one thing was
the discovery that Grubby has the biggest pockets in his cheeks that
Peter has ever seen. And another thing about those pockets--they are on
the _outside_ of Grubby's cheeks instead of being inside, as is the case
with Striped Chipmunk. "When Peter discovered this, he became curious
at once. Of course. Who wouldn't be curious? Peter felt sure that there
must be a story in connection with those pockets. He wondered what use
Grubby Gopher had for pockets, anyway. He wondered why they were outside
instead of inside his cheeks. He wondered a great many things, did
Peter. And when he just couldn't stand it any longer for wondering, he
began to ask questions.

"Why does Grubby Gopher have pockets in his cheeks?" he asked Jimmy
Skunk.

"Because they are handier there than they would be anywhere else,"
replied Jimmy with a twinkle in his eyes. "Have you seen any fat beetles
this morning, Peter?"

"No," returned Peter shortly. Then an idea came to him. "I tell you
what, Jimmy," said he, speaking eagerly, "if you'll tell me about those
queer pockets of Grubby's and how he came by them, I'll help you hunt
for some beetles. Is it a bargain?"

Jimmy Skunk scratched his nose thoughtfully as if trying to decide which
would have the better of the bargain. Then he grinned good-naturedly.
You know, Jimmy really is one of the best-natured little people in the
world. "All right," said he, "it's a bargain. You do your part and I'll
do mine. Now where shall I begin?"

"Begin with the days when the world was young, of course," replied
Peter. "All good stories seem to have had their beginnings then, so far
as I can see. Of course Grubby got those pockets from his father, and
his father got them from his father, and so on way back to the first
Gopher. So begin right off with him."

"Just as you say," replied Jimmy. "Old Mr. Gopher, the first Gopher,
who wasn't old then, was one of the little people whom Old Mother Nature
turned loose in the Great World which was just in its beginning and
told to make the best of life as they found it. No doubt they would need
things which they hadn't got, but first they must find out what they
really did need. Later, when she had more time, she would consider these
needs, and if they were real needs, not just desires, she would see what
could be done to supply them.

"So Mr. Gopher started out to make his way in the Great World, and it
wasn't long before he discovered that everybody else was doing the same
thing. It soon became clear to him that if everybody lived on the same
kind of food, there wouldn't be enough to go around, and the biggest
and strongest creatures would get all there was, leaving the smaller and
weaker ones to starve. Not long after this he discovered certain of
his big neighbors had begun to look at him in a way that made him most
uncomfortable. In fact, they looked at him with such a hungry gleam
in their eyes, and they licked their lips in such an unpleasant way
whenever he met them, that little cold shivers ran all over him and he
decided that the less he was seen the better his chances.

"One other thing Mr. Gopher discovered, and this was that each one
seemed to have some special gift. One was a good climber, another a
swift runner, a third a wonderful jumper, a fourth a great swimmer. Mr.
Gopher could neither climb, nor run, nor jump, nor swim particularly
well. What could he do? Somehow he had a feeling that Old Mother Nature
had given him some special advantage. What could it be? He sat down and
studied himself. Then he noticed for the first time that his hands were
different from the hands of those about him. For his size they were
very large and strong, and on the three middle fingers of each hand were
long, stout claws. What could he do with these besides fight? Dig!
That was it; he could dig. He tried it. Sure enough, he could dig at a
surprising rate.

"Then came a new idea. He would dig himself a hole and live in it. That
would keep him out of sight of his big neighbors with the hungry-looking
eyes and the watery mouths. So he dug himself a hole, and then he
discovered that in order to get food he must leave the hole, and so
he was no better off than before. While he was studying over this, He
started a little tunnel just for the fun of digging, for he liked to
dig, did Mr. Gopher. Presently he came to a root in his path. He decided
to cut it and get it out of his way. Now when he began to cut it he made
another discovery, one that tickled him half to death. That root was
good to eat! He ate all of it, and then he went on digging, hoping to
find another. He did find another. Then Mr. Gopher made up his mind
that in the future he would live underground and be safe. He would make
himself a comfortable house, and then from that he would tunnel wherever
he pleased for food.

"So Mr. Gopher made a comfortable house underground, and then he started
digging for food. Every once in a while he would make an opening at the
surface of the ground and push out the dirt he had dug in making his
tunnel, filling up the opening as soon as he had pushed out all the
dirt. In this way he kept his tunnels clear, so that he could run back
and forth through them. So he lived very comfortably until one day he
happened to overhear Mr. Squirrel talking about the coming of Jack Frost
and telling how he wouldn't mind because he was laying up stores of food
in a storehouse.

"'That's a good idea of Mr. Squirrel's,' thought Mr. Gopher, who was
much troubled by what he had heard about the coming of Jack Frost. 'I
believe I'll do the same thing.' But when he tried it, he found it slow,
hard work. You see, he could carry so little at a time, and had to carry
it so far, that it was very discouraging. He had forgotten all about
Old Mother Nature until suddenly one day she appeared before him and
smilingly asked what boon she could grant him. Almost without thinking
he replied, 'Pockets! Big pockets in my cheeks!'

"Old Mother Nature looked surprised. 'Tell me all about it,' said she.
'Why do you want pockets, and what would you do with them if you had
them?'

"So Mr. Gopher explained to Old Mother Nature how he had learned to live
underground and how lately he had been trying to lay up a store of food
but had found it slow work.

"Old Mother Nature was pleased to think that Mr. Gopher had made the
most of his opportunities, but she didn't say so. 'I'll think it over,'
said she and left him. But the very next time Mr. Gopher brushed a hand
against one of his cheeks, he discovered a great pocket there. Hastily
he felt of the other.

"There was another great pocket there! Then Mr. Gopher was perfectly
happy. He felt that there wasn't a single thing in all the world that
he could ask for to make him any happier. It is just the same way with
Grubby to-day. He is perfectly happy working in the dark under the
ground and very, very proud of the big pockets in his cheeks," concluded
Jimmy Skunk.

"Thank you, Jimmy. Thank you ever so much. Now I'll help you find some
fat beetles," cried Peter.



III. WHEN OLD MR. GROUSE GOT HIS SNOWSHOES

|PETER RABBIT and Mrs. Grouse are very good friends. In fact they are
the best of friends. For one thing they are very near neighbors. Once in
a great while Mrs. Grouse conies to the dear Old Briar-patch and walks
along Peter's private little paths. However, that isn't often. But up
in the bramble tangle on the edge of the Green Forest they spend a great
deal of time together. You see, they both fear the same enemies, and so
they have a great deal to talk over, and each is always ready to help
the other.

When winter comes Peter is sometimes rather lonely. You see, a lot of
his feathered friends fly away to the warm, sunny Southland to spend the
winter. Other friends, Johnny Chuck and Striped Chipmunk and Grandfather
Frog for instance, retire and sleep all through the cold weather. Peter
cannot understand what they do it for, but they do. So Peter has very
few to gossip with after Jack Frost arrives. But he can always count on
Mrs. Grouse. No matter how hard Jack Frost pinches, or how bitter the
breath of rough Brother North Wind, somewhere in the Green Forest Mrs.
Grouse is bravely doing her best to get enough to eat, and Peter knows
that if he looks for her he will find her.

There was one thing about Mrs. Grouse that puzzled Peter for a long
time, and this was the difference between the footprints she made in the
soft damp earth after a rain in the summer and the prints she made
in the snow. The first time he noticed those prints in the snow, he
actually didn't know who had made them. You know how very, very curious
Peter is. He followed those queer footprints, and when he found that
they led right straight into the bramble tangle, he just didn't know
what to think. He sat down on the edge of the bramble tangle and
scratched his long right ear with his long left hind foot. When Peter
does this it is a sign that he is very much puzzled about something.

"Good morning, Peter Rabbit. You seem to have something on your mind,"
said a voice from the middle of the bramble tangle.

Peter gave a little start of surprise. Then he hopped into the bramble
tangle along one of the little paths he had cut there. "Good morning,
Mrs. Grouse," he replied. "I _have_ got something on my mind. I have
been following some strange tracks, and I don't know what to make of
them." He pointed at one of them as he spoke.

"Oh," replied Mrs. Grouse in a tone of great surprise. "I made those
with my snowshoes. I supposed you knew."

"Snowshoes! What are snow-shoes?" asked Peter, looking more puzzled than
ever.

Very proudly Mrs. Grouse held out one foot for Peter to look at. Instead
of the slim smooth toes he often had admired Peter saw that the bottom
of each was covered for its whole length with queer-looking, homy little
points that prevented the foot from sinking way down in the snow as it
would have done without them. This made it very easy for Mrs. Grouse to
get about on the snow instead of having to wade through it.

"My!" exclaimed Peter. "How perfectly splendid! Where did you get them?"

"Oh," replied Mrs. Grouse with pride in her voice, "they have been
in the family a great many years. They were given to my
great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather by Old Mother Nature."

"Tell me about it. Do please tell me about it," begged Peter, who had
not had a story since Grandfather Frog went to sleep for the winter.

Mrs. Grouse fluffed out her feathers and settled herself comfortably.
"There isn't much to tell," she began, "but all the same our family
always has been rather proud of the way we came by our snowshoes. It all
happened a great while ago."

"Way back in the time that Grandfather Frog tells about, when the world
was young?" interrupted Peter.

Mrs. Grouse nodded and went on. "Great-grandfather Grouse lived very
comfortably in those days, even when the hard times came and so many
took to killing their neighbors because food was scarce. He always
managed to get enough to eat because he didn't believe in being fussy.
When he couldn't get what he wanted, he took what he could get and was
thankful. When he couldn't find grasshoppers or crickets or bugs of any
kind, or chestnuts or beechnuts or berries that he liked, he ate such
berries as he could find, whether he liked them or not; and when he
couldn't find berries or seeds, he ate the buds of trees. So one way or
another he managed to pick up a living and to keep out of the way of his
enemies, for he was just as smart as they were. You know, in those days
there were no hunters with dreadful guns.

"So Grandfather Grouse managed to get along without really suffering
until the coming of the first snow. That first snow was hard on
everybody, but it was particularly hard on Grandfather Grouse. His slim
toes cut right through. They wouldn't hold him up at all. Of course he
spent as much time as possible up in the trees, but when he wanted to
get low-hanging berries on the bushes, the kind that stay on all winter,
you know, he just had to stand on the ground and reach up for them.
Then, too, his feet were intended for walking and running rather than
for perching in trees, and it made his toes ache dreadfully to have to
cling to the branch of a tree too long. I know just how it felt because
I have had to do it when Reddy Fox has been hunting for me.

"But Grandfather Grouse made the best of a bad matter and didn't say a
word, not a word. He waded around in the snow as best he could, but it
was dreadfully tiresome. He couldn't take more than a few steps without
stopping to rest. And this wasn't all; the snow made his feet ache with
the cold. He had to keep drawing first one foot and then the other up to
warm them in his feathers.

"Now Grandfather Grouse had sharp eyes, and he knew how to use them. He
had to, to keep out of danger. He watched the other little people, and
he soon saw that those with big feet, feet that were big for the size of
their bodies, didn't sink in like those with small, slim feet. For the
first time in his life he began to wish that Old Mother Nature had made
him different. He wished that he had broad feet. Yes, Sir, he wished
just that. Then a thought popped into his head. Perhaps the snow wasn't
going to last forever. Perhaps it would go away and never come again.
Then he wouldn't want broad feet, but just the kind of feet he already
had. He sighed. Then he tried to smile bravely.

"'I guess,' said he, talking out loud to himself, for he thought he
was quite alone, 'I guess the thing to do is to stop worrying about the
things I haven't got and make the most of the blessings I have got,' and
he started to wade through the snow for some berries just ahead.

"Now Old Mother Nature happened to be passing, and she overheard
Grandfather Grouse. 'I wish that every one felt as you do.' said she.
'It would make things a great deal easier for me. But what is it that
you wish you had?'" Grandfather Grouse felt both pleased and a little
ashamed--ashamed that he should even _seem_ to be dissatisfied. At first
he tried to pretend that everything really was all right, but after a
little urging he told Old Mother Nature all about his troubles since the
coming of the snow. She listened and looked thoughtful. Then she told
Grandfather Grouse to be patient and perhaps things would not be so bad
as they seemed. Somehow Grandfather Grouse felt better after that, and
when he went to bed for the night in a big hemlock-tree he was almost
cheerful.

"The next morning when he flew down to get his breakfast, he had the
greatest surprise of his life. Instead of sinking way down into the
snow, he sank hardly at all. He could get about with the greatest ease.
He didn't know what to make of it until he happened to look down at his
feet and then he saw--"

"That he had snowshoes!" interrupted Peter Rabbit, dancing about in
great excitement.

"Just so," replied Mrs. Grouse. "He had snowshoes just like the ones I
have now. When spring came, Old Mother Nature came around and took them
away, because he no longer had need of them; but when the next winter
came, she returned them to him. She called them the reward of patience.
And ever since that long-ago day our family has had snowshoes in the
winter. I really don't know how we would get along without them."

"I don't know how you would," replied Peter Rabbit. "Isn't it splendid
how Old Mother Nature seems to know just what everybody needs?"

And with that Peter started for the dear Old Briar-patch to tell little
Mrs. Peter all about the snowshoes of Mrs. Grouse.



IV. WHEN OLD MR. PANTHER LOST HIS HONOR

|PETER RABBIT, always curious, had overheard his cousin, Jumper the
Hare, tell Prickly Porky the Porcupine that it was lucky for him Puma
the Panther was too much afraid of men to come down to the Green Forest
to live, but kept to the Great Woods and the Big Mountains. At the very
mention of Puma the thousand little spears of Prickly Porky had rattled
together, and Peter had a queer feeling that this time, instead of being
rattled purposely to make others afraid, they rattled because Prickly
Porky himself shook with something very like fear. In fact, it seemed to
Peter that Prickly Porky actually turned pale.

Now Peter knew nothing at all about Puma the Panther, and right away he
was so full of questions that he could hardly wait to get Jumper alone
so that he might satisfy his curiosity. The first chance he got he began
to ask questions so fast that Jumper clapped his hands over both ears
and threatened to run away.

"Who is Puma? Where does he live? Why is Prickly Porky afraid of him?
What does he look like? Why--" It was then that Jumper clapped his hands
over his ears. Peter grinned. "Please, Cousin Jumper, tell me about
him," he begged.

Jumper pretended to consider for a few minutes. Then, because like most
people he likes to air his knowledge, and also because he is very fond
of his cousin Peter, he told him what he knew about Puma the Panther.

"In the first place," said he, "Puma is the biggest member of the Cat
family living in the Great Woods."

"Is he bigger than Tuffy the Lynx?" asked Peter eagerly.

Jumper nodded, and Peter's eyes opened very wide. "He looks very much
like Black Pussy, Farmer Brown's cat, only he is yellowish-brown instead
of black, and is ever and ever and ever so many tunes bigger," continued
Jumper. "He has a long tail, just like Black Pussy, and great claws
which are terribly sharp. He is so soft-footed that he can steal through
the woods without making a sound; he can climb trees like Happy Jack
Squirrel, and he is so big and strong that every one but Buster Bear is
afraid of him, even Prickly Porky, for he is so smart and cunning that
he has found a way to make Prickly Porky's thousand little spears quite
useless to protect him. But big and strong and smart as he is, he is a
coward because he is a sneak, and all sneaks are cowards. Of course, you
know that, Peter."

Peter nodded. "Everybody knows that," said he. "But if he is so big and
strong and smart, why is he a sneak?"

"I guess it's in his blood, and he can't help himself," replied
Jumper. "I guess it is because way back in the beginning of things his
great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather lost his honor, and none of the
family ever has got it back again."

"How did old Mr. Panther lose his honor?" demanded Peter, fairly itching
with curiosity and eagerness.

"Well," replied Jumper, "all I know is what I've heard whispered about
among the people of the Great Woods. It may be true and it may not be,
but every one seems to believe it. As I said before, it happened way
back in the beginning of things. Old King Bear ruled the Great Woods
then, and there was peace between all the animals. Mr. Panther was sleek
and handsome and graceful in all his movements. He knew it, too. He
spent a great deal of time washing himself and smoothing his fur, just
as Black Pussy does. He would stretch out in the sun for hours with his
eyes closed until they were just slits. But all the time he saw all that
was going on around him.

"He would watch old King Bear shuffling about in his clumsy fashion, and
he would curl the end of his tail up and twitch it scornfully. Then
he would look at his own trim form admiringly and think how much
finer-looking a king he would make. The more he watched old King Bear,
the more this feeling grew. He became envious and then jealous. But he
took care never to let old King Bear know this. You see, there was one
thing about King Bear which Mr. Panther did respect, and that was his
strength. He had no desire to quarrel with King Bear. So whenever they
met he was very polite and said flattering things to him. But behind his
back Mr. Panther made fun of him, but did it in such an artful way
that his neighbors merely thought that they themselves were making the
discovery of how much handsomer Mr. Panther was than old King Bear.

"After a while came the hard time when food was scarce, and in order to
keep from starving, the big and strong began to prey on their neighbors
who were smaller or weaker or more helpless. But the law was made that
none should kill more than was needed to fill an empty stomach for the
time being. It was then that Mr. Panther thought of a plan for making
old King Bear hated by all his subjects.

"'If they hate him, they will refuse to have him as king any longer,
and I, being next in strength and far more kingly in appearance, will be
made king in his place,' reasoned Mr. Panther, but he took care not to
hint such a thing.

"Presently ugly stories began to float about. Some one was killing
seemingly for the fun of killing. It was dreadful, but it was true.
Almost every day some one was found killed but not eaten, and always
there were footprints going to and away from the place, and they were
the footprints of _old King Bear!_ So all the forest people began to
hate King Bear and to mutter among themselves that they would have him
for king no longer. Finally some of them went to Old Mother Nature and
told her all about it; they asked that old King Bear be punished and
that some one else be made king in his place. Old Mother Nature told
them that she would think it over.

"Quite unknown to old King Bear, she followed him about and watched him
as he shuffled about in his clumsy way. 'Hm-m, it ought not to be very
hard to keep out of his way. Those who are caught must be very stupid
if _he_ catches them,' thought she. Presently her sharp eyes caught a
glimpse of a shadowy form sneaking along behind old King Bear. It was
Mr. Panther, and he was stepping with the greatest care so as to leave
no footprints. Old Mother Nature sat down and waited. She saw Mr.
Panther bound away through the trees. By and by he came back, bringing
the body of a Hare which he had killed. He laid it down where old King
Bear had left a footprint in the soft earth and then, with his long tail
twitching, he looked this way and that way to make sure that no one had
seen him and then bounded away.

"The next day Old Mother Nature called all the people of the forest
before her, and they all came, for none dared stay away. When they were
all there, she had each in turn look her straight in the face while she
asked if they had hunted fairly and honorably and only when they were
hungry. Each in turn looked her straight in the face and said that he
had until it came the turn of Mr. Panther. Mr. Panther's tail twitched
nervously, and he looked everywhere but at Old Mother Nature as she put
the question to him.

"'Look me straight in the face and tell me on your honor that you have
hunted fairly,' commanded Old Mother Nature. Mr. Panther knew that all
eyes were upon him, and he tried his best to look her in the face, but
he couldn't do it. You see, he hadn't any honor. He had lost it, and
without honor no one can look another straight in the face. Instead he
turned and began to slink away, and all who saw him wondered how they
ever could have thought him kingly-looking.

"Then Old Mother Nature told what she had seen the day before, and at
once everybody understood who it was that had been doing the killing and
trying to make it appear that it was old King Bear, and they all turned
and shouted 'Coward! Sneak! Coward! Sneak!' until Mr. Panther fairly ran
to get out of hearing. From that time on he lived by himself and would
not look even timid Mr. Hare in the face. Instead of hunting openly and
boldly like Mr. Wolf, he sneaked about in the forest and hunted by
stealth, so that all the people of the forest looked on him with scorn,
and though most of them feared him, they called him a coward and they
nicknamed him 'Sneak-cat.'

"And to this day all Panthers have been the same, sneaking and cowardly
in spite of their great size and strength, for it has been in their
blood ever since the time when old Mr. Panther lost his honor," ended
Jumper.

Peter was silent for a minute. Then he said softly: "I'm little and
timid, but I'd rather be that way than to be big like Puma but a coward
and a sneak. I can look any one in the face."



V. WHEN OLD MR. RAT BECAME AN OUTCAST

|Robber the brown rat is an outcast among the little people of the Green
Meadows and the Green Forest. You know an outcast is one with whom no
one else will have anything to do. No one speaks to Robber. Whoever
meets him pretends not to even see him, unless it happens to be one of
the Hawk family or one of the Owl family or Shadow the Weasel. If one
of these sees him, it is well for Robber to find a safe hiding-place
without any loss of time.

But the rest of the little meadow and forest people turn their backs on
Robber and get out of his way, partly because many of them are afraid of
him, and partly because they despise him and consider him quite beneath
them. He hasn't a single friend among them, not even among his own
relatives. The latter are ashamed of him. If they could help it, they
wouldn't even admit that they are related to him. Just mention him to
them, and right away they will begin to talk about something else. Wag
the Wood Rat and Bounder the Kangeroo Rat are very different fellows and
are well liked, but Robber the Brown Rat is hated. Yes, Sir, he is hated
even by his own relatives, which, you will agree, is a dreadful state of
affairs.

Peter Rabbit had heard of Robber but never had seen him until one
moonlight night he happened to go up to Farmer Brown's barn just out of
curiosity. He saw a hole under the barn and was trying to decide whether
or not to go in and find out what was inside when who should come out
but Robber himself. His coat was so rough and untidy, he was so dirty,
he smelled so unclean, and he looked so savage that Peter at once
decided that he wasn't interested in that barn and took himself oft to
the Green Forest, lip-perty-lipperty-lip, as fast as he could go. All
the rest of the night he thought about Robber the Brown Rat, and the
very next day he hurried over to the Smiling Pool to ask Grandfather
Frog how it was that Robber had become such a disreputable fellow with
not a single friend.

Grandfather Frog had had a good breakfast of foolish green flies and was
feeling in the very best of humor.

"Chug-a-rum!" said he, "Robber the Brown Rat is an outcast because he is
all bad. His father was all bad, and his father's father, and so on way
back to the beginning of things when the world was young. There was no
good in any of them, and there is no good in Robber. He is a disgrace to
the whole race of meadow and forest people, and so he lives only where
man lives, and I have heard that he is as much hated by man as by the
rest of us.

"Way back when the world was young, his
great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather, who was the first of his race,
lived with the rest of the little people in the Green Forest, and Old
Mother Nature gave him the same chance to make an honest living that she
gave to the rest. For a while Mr. Rat was honest. He was honest just
as long as it was easier to be honest than dishonest. But when the hard
times came of which you know, and food became scarce, Mr. Rat was too
lazy to even try to earn his own living. He discovered that it was
easier to steal from his neighbors. He wasn't at all particular whom he
stole from, but he took from big and little alike. He was so sly about
it that for a long time no one found him out.

"By and by his neighbors began to wonder how it was that Mr. Rat always
seemed fat and well fed and yet never was seen to work. But Mr. Rat was
too crafty to be caught stealing. He said he didn't need much to live
on, which was an untruth, for he was a very greedy fellow. Now laziness
is a habit that grows. First Mr. Rat was too lazy to work for his
living. Then, little by little, he grew too lazy to be crafty.
He grew bolder and bolder in his stealing, until at last he just took
what he pleased from those who were smaller than he. Being well fed,
he was strong. All the little people of his own size and smaller feared
him. The bigger people said it was no business of theirs, so long as he
didn't steal from them. All the time he _was_ stealing from them, but
hadn't been caught.

"Finally he grew too lazy to keep himself looking neat. His coat was
always unbrushed and untidy-looking. He was always dirty. You see, it
was too much work to even wash his face and hands. There was always food
sticking to his whiskers. The little people kept away from him because
they were afraid of him. The bigger people would have nothing to do with
him because they were ashamed of him, ashamed to be seen in his company.

[Illustration: 0087]

"So lazy Mr. Bat grew dirtier in his habits, bolder in his stealing,
and impudent to everybody. He became quarrelsome. It was about this time
that the bigger people found him out.

"Mr. Lynx had secured the first meal he had had in a week. Part of it he
put away for the next day. Before going to bed he went to have a look at
it. Some of it was gone.

"'That's queer,' muttered Mr. Lynx. 'I wonder who there is who dares to
steal from me.'

"Mr. Lynx hid where he could watch what was left of that meal. By and by
he grew sleepy. He was just dozing off when he heard a noise. There was
Mr. Rat carrying off part of what was left of that meal. With a snarl of
anger Mr. Lynx leaped out. But Mr. Rat was too quick for him. He slipped
into a hole. Mr. Lynx grabbed at him and caught him by the tail. Mr.
Rat pulled and Mr. Lynx pulled. But Mr. Rat's tail was slippery, and Mr.
Lynx couldn't hold on. He did, however, pull all the hair from it.

"Of course, Mr. Lynx told what had happened, and after that Mr. Rat did
not dare show himself at all when the bigger people were about. So he
lived in holes and continued to steal. Finally old King Bear called a
meeting, and it was decided to drive Mr. Rat out of the Green Forest and
off the Green Meadows. Little Mr. Weasel said that he was not afraid of
Mr. Rat, and he would go into all the holes and drive Mr. Rat out. So
Mr. Weasel went into hole after hole until at last he found Mr. Rat. Mr.
Rat tried to fight, but he found that little Mr. Weasel was so slim and
could move so quickly that he couldn't get hold of him. So at last Mr.
Rat was forced to run to save his life.

"The minute he appeared all the others, big and little, started for him.
Mr. Rat gave one look, and then, with a squeal of fright, he ran with
all his might, dodging into one hiding-place after another, only to be
chased out of each. And so at last he turned away from the Green Forest
and the Green Meadows and ran to the homes of men, where he hid in dark
places and stole from men as he formerly had stolen from his neighbors
of the Green Forest. And because men are wasteful and allow much food
to spoil, Mr. Rat found plenty to fill his stomach, such as it was, but
often it was such as no one else would have touched.

"Once or twice he tried to get back to the Green Forest, but as soon as
he was discovered he was driven back, and at last he gave up trying. He
grew more dirty than ever, and finding everybody, even man, against him,
he became savage of temper, living wholly by stealing, evil to look at
and evil to come near, for in the dirt of his coat be carried sickness
from place to place. In no place in all the Great World could he find a
welcome.

"His children followed in his footsteps, and his children's children.
Old Mother Nature became so disgusted with them that she said that they
should always remain outcasts until they should mend their ways. But
this they never did, and so Robber the Brown Rat is an outcast to-day,
looked down on and hated by every living thing. There is none to say
a good word for him. And to this day the tails of Bobber's family have
been almost bare of hair as a reminder of how old Mr. Rat of long ago
came to be driven out of the Green Forest. Now are you satisfied, Peter
Rabbit?" concluded Grandfather Frog.

"Yes, indeed, and I thank you ever so much," declared Peter. "Ugh! It
must be dreadful to be despised and hated by all the Great World. I
wouldn't be in Robber's place for anything."

"Chug-a-rum! I should hope not!" said Grandfather Frog.



VI. WHEN MR. MOOSE LOST HIS HORNS

|PETER RABBIT had just seen Flathorns the Moose for the first time, and
Peter was having hard work to believe that there wasn't something the
matter with his eyes. Indeed they looked as if something was the matter
with them, for they seemed about to pop right out of his head. If any
one had _told_ Peter that any one as big as Flathorns lived in the Great
Woods, he wouldn't have believed it, but now that he had _seen_ that it
was so, he just had to believe. So Peter sat with his eyes popping out
and his mouth gaping wide open in the most foolish way as he stared in
the direction in which Flathorns had gone.

"Big, isn't he?"

Peter looked up to see Blacky the Crow in the top of a birch-tree just
at one side, and Blacky, too, was looking after Flathorns. Then Blacky
looked down at Peter and began to laugh. "Don't try to swallow him,
Peter!" said he.

[Illustration: 0099]

Peter closed his mouth with a snap.

"My, but he _is_ big!" he exclaimed. "I never felt so small in all my
life as when I first caught sight of him. What queer horns he has!
I suppose they are horns, for he carries them on his head just as
Lightfoot the Deer does his. They are so big I should think they would
make his head ache."

"Perhaps they do, and that is why he drops them every spring and grows a
new pair during the summer," replied Blacky.

"Drops them! Drops those great horns and grows new ones in a single
summer! Do you mean to tell me that hard things like those horns grow?
And what do you mean by saying that he drops them every spring? Why, I
saw him banging them against a tree just now, and I guess if they ever
were coming off they would have come off then. You can't fool me with
any such story as that, Blacky!"

"Have it your own way, Peter," replied Blacky. "Some people never can
believe a thing until they see it with their own eyes. All I've got to
say is just keep an eye on Flathorns in the spring and then remember
what I've told you." Before Peter could reply Blacky had spread his
wings, and with a harsh "Caw, caw, caw," had flown away.

Of course, after that Peter was very very curious about Flathorns the

Moose, and he just ached all over to ask about those horns. But every
time he saw them the idea that they ever would or could come off seemed
so impossible that he held his tongue. You see, he didn't want to be
laughed at. So the winter passed, and Peter was no wiser than before.
Then the spring came, and one never-to-be-forgotten day Peter was
hurrying along, lipperty-lipperty-lip, when right in front of him lay
something that made him stop short and stare even harder than he had
stared the first time he saw Flat-horns. What was it? Why, it was one
of those very horns he had thought so much about! Yes, Sir, that is just
what it was.

Even then Peter couldn't believe it was so. He couldn't believe it until
he had hunted up Flathorns himself and seen with his own eyes that
there were no longer any horns on that great head. Then Peter _had_ to
believe. It seemed to Peter the strangest thing he ever had heard of.
There must be a reason, and if there were, Grandfather Frog would be
sure to know it. So every day Peter visited the Smiling Pool to see if
Grandfather Frog had wakened from his long winter sleep. At last one day
he found him and could hardly wait to tell him how glad he was to see
him once more and to be properly polite before he asked him about those
horns of Flat-horns the Moose.

"Chug-a-rum!" said Grandfather Frog. "It's pretty early in the season to
be asking me for a story, but seeing it is you, Peter, and that you've
waited all winter for it, I'll tell it to you. Way, way back in
the days when the world was young, the first Moose, the
great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of Flathorns, was the biggest of
all the animals in the Green Forest, but he had no horns, and he was
such a homely fellow that everybody laughed at him and made fun of him.
Now nothing hurts quite so much as being laughed at."

"I know," interrupted Peter.

"Mr. Moose felt so badly about it that he used to hide away and keep out
of sight all he possibly could," continued Grandfather Frog. "Big as he
was and strong as he was, he would turn and run away to hide from
even such little people as Mr. Skunk and Mr. Squirrel and your
ever-so-great-grand-father, Mr. Rabbit. He just couldn't bear to be
laughed at. Old Mother Nature kept her eye on him and at last she took
pity on him and crowned his head with the most wonderful horns, horns so
big that no one smaller than Mr. Moose could possibly have carried them.

"Then Mr. Moose threw up his head and carried it proudly, for now no one
laughed at him. He marched through the Great Woods boldly, and even
old King Bear, who was king no longer, stepped aside respectfully. Then
pride entered into Mr. Moose; pride in his wonderful horns; pride in
his great strength. He feared no one. He beat the bushes with his great
horns and bellowed until the Great Woods rang with his voice, and all
those who had once laughed at him hid in fear. He proclaimed himself
king of the Great Woods, and no one dared to deny it.

"So he came and went when and where he pleased and felt himself every
inch a king and carried his great horns as a crown. One day in the
beginning of the springtime, he came face to face with Old Mother
Nature. Once he would have bowed to her very humbly, but by now he had
grown so proud and haughty that instead of stepping aside for her to
pass, he boldly marched on with his head held high as if he did not see
her. It was Old Mother Nature who stepped aside. She said nothing, but
as he passed she reached forth and touched his great horns and they fell
from his head, and with them fell all his pride and haughtiness. At once
some of his neighbors who had been hiding near and had seen all that had
happened began to mock him and make fun of him and laugh at him.

"Then, with his head hung low in shame, did Mr. Moose slink away and
hide as he had done in the beginning, and none could find him save Old
Mother Nature. Very humble was Mr. Moose when she visited him; all his
pride was melted away in shame. Old Mother Nature was sorry for him.
She promised him that he should have new horns, but that once a year he
should lose his horns lest he should forget and again become over-proud
and haughty. So while he kept hidden, the new horns grew and grew until
they were greater and more wonderful than the ones he had had before.
Then Mr. Moose once more came forth, holding his head high and glorying
in his strength, and all his neighbors treated him with the greatest
respect, quite as if he were really king of the Great Woods.

"But he never forgot what Old Mother Nature had said to him, and when
the spring came, he slipped away and hid lest he should be seen without
the glory of his horns, for in his heart he knew that Old Mother Nature
would keep her word. Sure enough, his great horns dropped off, and in
humbleness and patience he waited for new horns to grow. So it was all
the years of his life, and so it has been with his children and his
grandchildren even to this day, and so it is with Flathorns, and so it
will be with his children. And the Moose family never have forgotten and
never can forget that there is nothing so foolish as pride in personal
appearance."

"Is that all?" asked Peter, as Grandfather Frog stopped.

"Isn't that enough?" demanded Grandfather Frog testily. "Just think
it over a while, and when you are tempted to be proud and haughty just
remember the horns of Mr. Moose and what happened to them."

"Thank you ever so much for the story," replied Peter politely as he
hopped away. Half way to the dear Old Briar-patch he paused. "It served
old Mr. Moose just right!" he declared to no one in particular. And so
it did.



VII. WHEN MR. KINGFISHER TOOK TO THE GROUND

|PETER RABBIT had taken it into his funny little head to wander down
the Laughing Brook below the Smiling Pool. It was open there, and in one
place the bank was quite high and steep. Peter sat down on the edge of
it and looked down. Right under him the Laughing Brook was very quiet
and clear. Peter sat gazing down into it. He could see all the pebbles
on the bottom and queer little plants growing among them. It seemed very
queer, very queer indeed to Peter that plants, real plants, could be
growing down there under water. Somehow he couldn't make it seem right
that anything but fish should be able to live down there.

So Peter sat gazing down, lost in a sort of day-dream. The Jolly Little
Sunbeams made beautiful lights and shadows in the water. Everything was
so peaceful and beautiful that Peter quite forgot he was sitting right
out in the open where Redtail the Hawk might spy him. He just gave
himself up to dreams, day-dreams, you know. Presently those day-dreams
were very, very near to being sleep-dreams. Yes, Sir, they were. Peter
actually was nodding. His big eyes would close, open, close again,
open and then close for a little longer. Suddenly a sharp and very loud
noise, which seemed to come from right under his very toes, put an
end to all nodding and dreaming. It was a long, harsh rattle, and it
startled Peter so that he almost jumped out of his skin. Anyway, he
jumped straight up in the air, and the wonder was that he didn't tumble
headfirst down that steep bank right into the Laughing Brook. A queer
prickly feeling ran all over him. He blinked his eyes rapidly. Then he
saw a handsome blue and white and gray bird, with a head that looked too
big for his body, flying up the Laughing Brook just above the water, and
as he flew he made that sharp, harsh, rattling noise which had startled
Peter so. Abruptly he paused in his flight, hovered over the water an
instant, shot down, and disappeared with a tinkling little splash. A
second later he was in the air again, and in his stout, spear-like bill
was a gleaming, silvery thing. It was a little fish, a minnow.

[Illustration: 0115]

"Rattles the Kingfisher!" exclaimed Peter, as he watched him fly over
to a tree, pound the fish on a branch, and then go through the funniest
performance as he tried to swallow the minnow whole. "Now where did he
come from?" continued Peter. "It certainly seemed to me that he came
from right under my very feet, but there isn't so much as a twig down
there."

Peter poked his head over the edge of the bank. No, there wasn't a
single thing down there on which Rattles could have been sitting. He was
still wondering about it when his wobbly little nose caught a smell, a
very unpleasant smell. It was the smell of fish, and it seemed to come
from right under him. He leaned a little farther over the edge of the
bank, and then he gave a funny little gasp. There was a _hole_ in the
bank only a few inches below him, and the smell certainly came from that
hole.

Could it be, could it possibly be that Rattles had come out of that
hole? It certainly seemed so, and yet Peter couldn't quite believe it.
The very idea of a bird living in a hole in the ground!

"I don't believe it! I don't, so there!" exclaimed Peter right out loud.

"What is it you don't believe?" asked a voice. Peter looked down.
There was Little Joe Otter looking up at him from the water, his eyes
twinkling.

"I don't believe that Rattles the Kingfisher came out of that hole, yet
I don't see where else he could have come from," replied Peter.

Little Joe chuckled. "That's where he came from, even if you don't
believe it," said he. "I don't suppose you will believe that he dug that
hole himself, either."

Peter's eyes opened very wide. "I--I'll believe it if you say on your
honor that it realty is so," he replied slowly.

"On my honor it really is so," said Little Joe Otter, his eyes
twinkling more than ever. "Perhaps you would like to know how the
great-great-grandfather of Rattles the Kingfisher happened to take the
ground for a home."

Peter's eyes fairly danced. "Do tell me, Little Joe! Oh, please tell
me!" he exclaimed.

Little Joe climbed out of the water on a rock just below Peter and
settled himself comfortably.

"Once upon a time," he began.

"In the beginning of things," prompted Peter.

"Yes, in the beginning of things," replied Little Joe, "way back when
the world was young, lived the very first of the Kingfisher family.
From the very beginning Mr. Kingfisher was a very independent fellow.
He cared nothing about his neighbors. That is, he was not social. He was
polite enough, but he preferred his own company and was never happier
than when he was by himself. Of course, his neighbors soon found this
out. They called him odd and queer, and soon refused to even speak to
him. This just suited Mr. Kingfisher, and he went about his business
very well content to be let alone. He spent his days fishing, and,
because there were few other fishermen, he always had plenty to eat. At
night he found a comfortable roost in a tree, and so for a time he was
perfectly contented.

"By and by he discovered that most of his neighbors were building homes.
At first he gave little attention to this, but after a while, seeing how
happy they were, he began to think about a home for himself. The more he
thought about it, the more he wanted one. But underneath Mr.
Kingfisher's pointed cap were very clever wits. He would do nothing
hastily. So he flew up and down the brook, appearing to do nothing but
fish, but all the time he was keeping his eyes open, and there were no
sharper eyes than those of Mr. Kingfisher.

"He was watching his neighbors work to see where and how they made
their homes. He saw some of the birds building nests in the trees, some
building them in the bushes, and a few building right on the ground.

"Of all he saw he liked best the home of Drummer the Woodpecker. 'That
fellow has the right idea,' thought he. 'He cuts a hole in a tree; he is
dry; he is warm; and no one can get at him there. If I build a home,
that is the kind of place I want. He has got what I call plain sense,
plain common sense!'

"After this Mr. Kingfisher watched until he was quite sure that no one
was around to see him, and then he tried to make a hole in a tree as he
had seen Drummer the Woodpecker do. But right away he discovered that
two things were wrong; his bill was not made for cutting wood, and his
feet were not big enough or the right shape for clinging to the side of
a tree. Mr. Kingfisher was disappointed, very much disappointed. A hole
seemed to him the only kind of a place for a home. He was thinking it
over when he happened to discover Mr. Muskrat digging a hole in the
bank. At first he didn't pay much attention. Then all in a flash an
idea, a wonderful idea, came to him. Why shouldn't he have a home in the
ground? No one in the wide world would ever think of looking for the
home of a bird in the ground. With a rattle of joy, Mr. Kingfisher flew
off up the brook to a steep, sandy bank of which he knew.

"'Just the place! Just the very place!' he cried. 'I'll make a hole just
a little way from the top. No one will see it except from below, and it
will be hard work for any one to climb up that sandy bank.'

"He flew straight at the spot he had selected and drove his big
spear-like bill into it. Then he did it again and again. That bill
wouldn't cut wood like the bill of Drummer the Woodpecker, but it
certainly would cut into a sandy bank. In a little while he had room to
cling with his feet. Then he could work faster and more easily. Pretty
soon he had a hole deep enough to get into. He would loosen the earth
with his hill and scrape it out with his feet. He was so pleased with
his discovery that he kept right on working. He almost forgot to eat.
All the time he could spare from fishing, he spent digging. Day after
day he worked. When he had a hole three or four feet straight into the
bank, he made a turn in it and then kept on digging. When he had gone
far enough in, he made a little bedroom.

"At last the house was done. Mr. Kingfisher chuckled happily. No one
could get at him there. He had the best and safest home he knew of. It
was better than the home of Drummer the Woodpecker. If Mr. Mink happened
to find it, and Mr. Kingfisher could think of no one else who would be
likely to, there would be nothing to fear, for Mr. Mink would never dare
face that sharp hill in such a narrow place.

"It all worked out just as Mr. Kingfisher thought it would. No one
dreamed of looking in the ground for his home, and for a long, long time
he kept his secret so well that his neighbors thought he had no home,
and called him 'Rattles the Homeless.' From that day to this the
Kingfishers have made their homes in the ground," concluded Little Joe
Otter.

"Isn't it wonderful?" exclaimed Peter, as he watched Rattles dive
into the water and catch a silvery minnow. "I didn't know that any one
wearing feathers had so much sense."

"There's a great deal you don't know, Peter," replied Little Joe Otter,
sliding into the water.



VIII. WHEN OLD MR. BADGER LEARNED TO STAY AT HOME

|THE first time Peter Rabbit saw Digger the Badger, he laughed at him.
Yes, Sir, Peter laughed at him. He laughed until he had to hold his
sides. When he got back to the dear Old Briar-patch, he told little Mrs.
Peter all about Digger. That is, he told her all that he had seen, which
was really very little indeed about Digger, as he found out later.

"I found him away over on the Green Meadows in a place where I have
never been before, and I almost stepped on him before I saw him.
You should have seen me jump. I guess it is lucky I did, too, for he
certainly has got the wickedest-looking teeth, and I didn't like the way
he snarled. Then at a safe distance I sat down and laughed. I just had
to. Why, his legs are so short and his coat hangs down so on each side
that he doesn't seem to have any legs at all. And as for shape, he
hasn't any. He is so broad and flat that he looks as if something big
and heavy had passed over him and rolled him out flat. But how he can
dig! If Johnny Chuck should ever see him digging, Johnny would die of
envy. I'm going over there again to learn more about him."

"You'd better stay at home and mind your own affairs," replied little
Mrs. Peter tartly. "No good comes of poking into the affairs of other
people." This is true, and Peter knows it, but he just couldn't keep
away from that part of the Green Meadows where he had discovered Digger
the Badger. The more he saw of Digger, the greater became his curiosity
about him. The less Peter can find out for himself about any one, the
more curious he becomes, and all he could find out about Digger was that
he slept most of the day, never went far from home, could dig faster
than any one Peter had ever heard of, was short-tempered, and was
treated with respect by all his neighbors, even Old Man Coyote, who
seemed to know him very well.

All this made Peter more curious than ever, so one day, when Old Man
Coyote happened along by the Old Briar-patch, Peter ventured to ask him
about Digger the Badger. Old Man Coyote happened to be feeling in fine
humor, for he had just eaten a good dinner. So he sat down just outside
the dear Old Briar-patch, and this is what he told Peter:

"Digger is an old friend of mine, and I would advise you to treat him
with the greatest respect, Peter, because if you don't, and he ever gets
his claws on you, that will be the end of you. I wouldn't care to get in
a fight with him myself, big as I am. You may have noticed that no one
ever bothers him." Peter nodded, and Old Man Coyote continued: "I don't
know of any one who minds his own business and keeps his nose out of
the affairs of other people as Digger does. Greatest homebody I know of,
unless it's Johnny Chuck, and even Johnny wanders off once in a while.
But Digger never gets very far from his own doorstep. Says there is no
place like home, and he can't see what anybody wants to leave the best
place in the world for, even if they can come back to it."

Mrs. Peter reached over and poked Peter in the back, but he didn't even
look at her. You know, she is always trying to keep Peter from roaming
about so. Old Man Coyote went on with his story.

"It isn't because Digger is afraid. Goodness, no! I don't know of any
one better able to take care of himself than Digger the Badger. I guess
it is because his family always have been home-lovers. I've heard my
grandfather tell how Digger's grandfather was just the same as Digger
is, and how he had heard his grandfather say the same thing about
Digger's grandfather's grandfather. They say that the very first Badger,
who founded the family way back in the days when the world was young,
started this home-staying habit, and that all Badgers ever since then
have been just like him. Digger is terribly proud of his family and of
old Mr. Badger, who founded it so long ago. I don't know as I wonder at
it. Old Mr. Badger certainly had more sense than some of his neighbors.

"You see, when Old Mother Nature first turned him loose in the Great
World, he felt that she had not been at all fair in her treatment of
him. His legs were so short and he was so broad and flat that everybody
or nearly everybody laughed at him and good-naturedly poked fun at him.
He pretended not to care, but he did care, just the same. No one really
likes to be laughed at for something he cannot help. Mr. Badger would
watch his neighbors, Mr. Wolf and Mr. Fox and Mr. Rabbit and others,
run and jump, and then he would try to do as they did, and he couldn't
because his legs were so short and so clumsy. He would sit for hours
admiring the graceful forms of his neighbors and comparing them with his
own homely shape. He would wonder what Old Mother Nature could have been
thinking of when she made him.

"But he didn't say so to her. No, indeed! He kept his thoughts to
himself and never let his neighbors know that he envied them in the
least. One day he wandered out from the Green Forest on to the Green
Meadows. He liked it out there. He liked to look up and see so much
of the blue, blue sky all at once. He liked to look off and see a long
distance. Of course, he couldn't do that in the Green Forest because of
the trees. He liked being by himself because he felt so sensitive about
his homely shape. He discovered that if he lay down flat on his stomach
when any one came near, he was always passed unnoticed. Being so broad
and flat and altogether shapeless, he could remain unseen right out
there on the open Green Meadows even when the grass was short, and
that was something that Mr. Wolf and Mr. Fox and even little Mr.
Rabbit couldn't do. It pleased him. He began to be less envious of his
neighbors.

"Then one never-to-be-forgotten day the Red Terror, which men call fire,
broke loose in the Green Forest, and all the little people fled before
it. Across the meadows and past old Mr. Badger they raced, with fear in
their eyes, and behind them came the Red Terror. A terrible fear sprang
up in the heart of Mr. Badger. With those short legs he never in the
world could run fast enough to escape. What should he do? What _could_
he do? He looked at the great claws on his stout feet, and all in a
flash an idea came to him. Perhaps if he dug a hole and crawled into it,
the Red Terror would not find him. At once he began to dig, and how the
dirt did fly! In just no time at all he was quite out of sight, and by
the time the Red Terror had reached there, he was so far down in the
ground that he didn't even feel the heat.

"When it was all over and the earth had cooled off so that he could come
out, he sat on the pile of dirt in front of his hole and did some hard
thinking. He looked at his stout legs and long claws, and all at once it
came over him that Old Mother Nature had not been so unfair after all.
She had provided him with a means to take care of himself which he
wouldn't exchange with any of his neighbors for all their speed and
better looks. Later, when he saw how some of them were worn out with
running, and some of them even had burned places on their coats, the
last bit of envy disappeared.

"'I guess,' said he to himself, 'Old Mother Nature has given each one
special blessings, but she expects us to find them out for ourselves.
I've found mine out, some of them, anyway, and I'll just get busy and
look for the rest. I'm going straight over to the prettiest part of the
Green Meadows where the Red Terror hasn't been and dig myself a house in
the ground. There is no place like a good home, so what is the good of
roaming around? My legs were not intended for that, and those who have
got longer legs can do it if they want to.'

"He did just what he said he would do. He practised digging until he was
the best digger of all the little people. The more he dug, the stouter
and stronger his legs became, and soon he found that all his neighbors
respected his strength, and none would quarrel with him. Because he
could get plenty to eat near his home, he never went far from his
doorstep, and from that time on he lived in perfect safety and
contentment. He brought his children up to do the same thing, and if you
should go over and ask Digger to-day, he would tell you that there is no
place like home, and that he envies no one. I'm glad, however, that not
every one agrees with him, or I should have hard work to get a living,"
concluded Old Man Coyote with a sly wink at Mrs. Peter.



IX. WHEN BOB WHITE WON HIS NAME

|THIS isn't the story of the Bob White you know, and yet when I think
it over, I don't know but that it is, after all. It is the story of the
first Bob White, the great-great-great-ever-so-great-grand-father of
the Bob White you know and I know and everybody who ever has heard his
whistle knows. It is a story of that long-ago time, way back in the
beginning of things, when the world was young, and yet I guess
it is just as much our own Bob White's story as it is his
great-great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather's. You see, it is because
of it, of what happened in that long-ago time, that Bob White _is_ Bob
White. So that makes it his story too, doesn't it? Anyway, I'll tell you
the story and leave it to you to decide.

Old Mother West Wind told me the story, and she got it from Peter
Rabbit, and Peter got it from--well, I don't know for sure, but I
suspect he got it from Bob White himself. You know Peter and Bob White
are great friends. They are very near neighbors. They are such near
neighbors and such good friends that if it popped into Peter's funny
little head to be curious about Bob White's affairs, he wouldn't
hesitate an instant to ask Bob about them. Anyway, some one told Peter
the story, and I like to think that that some one was none other than
that brown-coated little whistler, Bob White the Quail, himself. Here is
the story as Old Mother West Wind told it to me:

"Long, long ago, way back in the beginning of things, when the world was
young, when the Green Meadows were new, and the Green Forest was new,
and the Smiling Pool and the Laughing Brook and the Big River were new,
and the little and big people whom Old Mother Nature put in them to
live were new too, being the very first each of his kind, things were
different, quite different from what they are now. Old Mother Nature
was busier than she is now, and goodness knows she is busy enough these
days. In fact, she is a million times busier than the busiest other
person in all the Great World. If she wasn't, if she grew tired or lazy
or careless or anything like that, I am afraid things would go so wrong
with the Great World that they never, never could be righted again.

"But in these far-away days in the beginning of things she was busier
still. It is always easier to keep things going after they are once
started than it is to start them, and Old Mother Nature was just
starting things. So she started a great many of the little people off in
life, and told them to make the best of things as they found them in
the Great World and do as well as they could while she was attending to
other matters.

"Now one of these little people was a plump little person
in a coat of reddish-brown feathers. He was Mr. Quail, the
great-great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of all the Quails. To Mr.
Quail, as to all the others, Old Mother Nature said: 'The Great World
is new. There is a place in it for you, but you must find that place
for yourself. There is work for you to do, but you must find out for
yourself what it is. When you have real need of anything come to me, but
don't bother me until you do have. No one who proves to be helpless or
useless will live long. Now run along and prove whether or not you have
a right to live.'

"So little Mr. Quail went out among the other people in the Great World
to try and find his place. All the other people were trying to find
their places, and some of them were having a dreadful time doing it. A
great many began by trying to do just what their neighbors did, which
was the very worst kind of a mistake. It was a pure waste of time. Worse
still, it wasn't making a place in the work of the Great World. Little
Mr. Quail's eyes were very bright, and he used them for all they were
worth. His wits were quite as bright, and he used these the same way.

"'There are two things for me to find out,' said lie to himself, 'what
I can't do and what I can do. The sooner I find out what I can't do, the
more time I'll have to find out what I can do. I've got wings, and that
must mean that Old Mother Nature intends me to fly. I'm glad of that. It
must be fine to sail around up in the air and see all that is going on
down below.'

"Up overhead Ol' Mistah Buzzard was sailing 'round and 'round, high up
in the sky, with hardly a motion of his broad wings. Little Mr. Quail
watched him a long time, and a great longing to do the same thing filled
him. At last he sprang into the air, and right then he made a discovery.
Yes, Sir, he made a discovery. He must beat his wings with all his might
in order to stay in the air. When he stopped beating them and held them
spread out as Ol' Mistah Buzzard did, he found that he simply sailed
a little way straight ahead and then began to come down. He must keep
those wings moving very fast or else come down to the ground. Then he
made another discovery. In a very little while his wings were so tired
that he just had to stop flying.

"Little Mr. Quail squatted in the grass and panted for breath. He was
disappointed, terribly disappointed. 'It's plain to me that Old Mother
Nature doesn't intend that I shall spend my time sailing about in the
air,' said he. He scratched his pretty little head thoughtfully. 'I can
fly pretty fast for a short distance,' he continued, talking to himself,
'but that is all. That must mean that I have been given wings for use
only in time of need. There are some birds flitting about in a tree.
They seem to be having a good time. I think I'll join them. If I can't
sail about in the air, the next best thing will be flitting about in the
trees.'

"So after he had rested a bit, little Mr. Quail flew to the tree
where the other birds were flitting about, and there he made another
disappointing discovery. Try as he would, he couldn't flit about as
they did. Moreover, he didn't feel comfortable perched in a tree for any
length of time. It made his toes ache to bend them around the branch on
which he was sitting. He watched the other birds, and his bright eyes
soon discovered that their feet were different from his feet. Their toes
were made to clutch twigs and hold them there comfortably, while his
were not. 'Old Mother Nature doesn't intend that I shall spend my time
flitting about in trees,' said he sorrowfully, and flew down to the
ground once more.

"Right away his feet felt better. All the ache left them. It was good to
be on the ground. Pretty soon he began to run about. It was good to run
about. He felt as if he could run all day without getting tired. While
hunting for food he discovered that if his toes were not made for
perching in trees, they certainly were made for scratching over leaves
and loose earth where stray seeds were hiding. Then he made still
another discovery. His coat was just the right color to make it hard
work for others to see him when he squatted down close to the ground. If
an enemy did discover him, his stout little wings took him out of danger
like a bullet.

"Little by little it came over him that he had found his place in the
Great World, which was on the ground most of the time. But he remembered
what Old Mother Nature had said about work to do, and this worried him a
little. One day he watched Mr. Toad catching bugs. Old Mr. Toad was
grumbling. 'I can't keep up with these pesky bugs,' said he. 'When I get
my stomach full, I have to wait for it to get empty again before I can
catch any more. But _they_ don't wait. _They_ keep right on eating all
the time, and there won't be any green things left if I don't have
help.'

[Illustration: 0153]

"Little Mr. Quail grew thoughtful. Then he started in to help Old Mr.
Toad catch bugs so as to give the green things a chance to grow. He had
found work to do, and he did it with all his might. He forgot he ever
had wanted to sail around in the air or flit about in the trees. He had
found his place in the Great World, and he had found work to do, and
also he had found the secret of the truest happiness. He was so happy
that he had to tell his neighbors about it. So every morning, just
before starting work, he would fly up on a stump and whistle with all
his might; what he tried to say was, 'All-all's right! All-all's right!'
But what his neighbors thought he said was, 'Bob-Bob White! Bob-Bob
White!'

"So they promptly called him Bob White and loved him for the cheer which
his clear whistle brought to them. When Old Mother Nature came to see
how things were getting on, she found little Mr. Quail the happiest and
the most useful of all the birds, and as she listened to his whistle,
she smiled and said: 'I love you, Bob White, and all the world shall
love you.' And all the world has loved him to this very day."



X. WHEN TEENY-WEENY BECAME GRATEFUL

|DID something move among the dead leaves along that old log, or was it
the wind that stirred them? Peter Rabbit stared very hard trying to find
out. Not that it made the least bit of difference to Peter. It didn't.
If something alive had moved those leaves, that something was too small
for Peter to fear it. Probably it was a worm or a bug. It might have
been a beetle. That looked like a good place for beetles. There was
Jimmy Skunk ambling down the Lone Little Path this very minute, and
Jimmy always appeared to be looking for beetles. Peter stared harder
than ever. A leaf moved. Another turned fairly over. There wasn't any
wind just then. Dead leaves don't turn over of themselves, so there must
be something alive there.

"What has Peter on his mind this morning to make him stare so?" asked
Jimmy Skunk as he ambled up.

Peter grinned. "I was just wondering," said he, "if there are any fat
beetles under that log over there. Those dead leaves along the side of
it have a way of moving once in a while without cause that I can see.
There! What did I tell you?"

Sure enough, a couple of leaves had moved. Jimmy Skunk's eyes
brightened. He actually almost hurried over to that old log, and began
to rake away the leaves. Suddenly he stopped and sniffed. At the same
time Peter thought he saw something dart in at the hollow end of that
log. It might have been a shadow, but Peter had a feeling that it
wasn't. Jimmy Skunk sniffed once more and then deliberately turned his
back on that old log, and with his nose turned up, his face the very
picture of disgust and disappointment, he rejoined Peter.

                   "Teeny Weeny, clever and spry,

                   Disappears while you wink an eye.'

said Jimmy.

"Oh!" exclaimed Peter. "Is that who it was? I suppose he was hunting
beetles himself. He's such a little mite of a fellow that I should think
a goodsized beetle could almost carry him away. I declare to goodness,
I don't see how any one so small manages to live! Danny Meadow Mouse and
Whitefoot the Wood Mouse are small enough, but they are giants compared
with Teeny Weeny the Shrew. They have a hard enough time keeping alive,
and I should think that any one smaller would stand no chance at all."

"Do you know Teeny Weeny very well?" asked Jimmy.

"No," confessed Peter. "I've seen him only a few times and then had no
more than a glimpse of him."

"And yet he lives right around here where you come and go every day,"
said Jimmy.

"I know it," replied Peter. "I suppose it is because he is so small. He
can hide under next to nothing." Jimmy grinned. "I don't see hut what
you've answered yourself," he chuckled. "It's because he is so small
that Teeny Weeny manages to keep out of harm. He isn't very good eating,
anyway, so I have heard say."

"Why? Because there isn't enough of him to make a bite?" asked Peter.

"No," replied Jimmy. "Of course I don't know anything about it, but I've
heard those who do say that a Shrew doesn't taste good, and that no one
who is at all particular about his food will touch one. I am told that
Hooty the Owl hunts Teeny Weeny, but Hooty isn't at all particular, you
know. If Teeny Weeny tastes the way he smells, I for one don't want to
try him."

Peter laughed right out. He couldn't help it. The idea of Jimmy Skunk
being fussy about smells was too funny.

"What are you laughing at?" demanded Jimmy, suspiciously.

"At the idea that any one so small can smell bad enough to make any
difference," replied Peter. "I wonder how he comes to have that bad
smell."

"It's a reward," replied Jimmy. "It's a reward handed down
to him from the days when the world was young, and his
great-great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather, the first Shrew, you know,
who was also called Teeny Weeny, was given it by Old Mother Nature,
because he had sense enough to be grateful and to tell her that he was."

"It's a story!" cried Peter. "It's a story, and you've just got to tell
it to me, Jimmy Skunk."

"Say please," grinned Jimmy.

"Please, please, please, please," replied Peter. "If that isn't enough,
I'll say it as many tunes more."

"I guess that will do, because after all it isn't so very much of a
story," returned Jimmy, scratching his head as if he were trying to stir
up his memory.

"It happened way back in the beginning of things that when Old Mother
Nature had about finished making the birds and the animals, she had just
a teeny weeny pinch of the stuff they were made of left over. Because
she couldn't then and can't now bear to be wasteful, she started to make
something. First she started to make it into a very tiny mouse. Then she
changed her mind and started to make it into a tiny mole. Finally she
changed her mind again and made it into something like each but not just
like either, blew the breath of life into it, and set it free in the
great world. That was Teeny Weeny, the first Shrew, and the smallest of
all animals.

"For a while Teeny Weeny wished that he hadn't been made at all. He
wished that Old Mother Nature hadn't been so thrifty and saving. What
was the good of being an animal at all if he wasn't big enough to be
recognized as such? That's the way he felt about it for a while. It hurt
his feelings to have old King Bear say, after just missing him with his
great foot. 'I beg your pardon, You are so tiny I thought you were a bug
of some kind. Of course, I don't mind stepping on bugs, but I wouldn't
step on you for the world. Why don't you grow so that we can see you?'

"'Yes, why don't you?' asked old Mr. Wolf. 'If you get stepped on, don't
blame us.' Even Mr. Meadow Mouse laughed at him because he was so
small. Teeny Weeny was quite furious at that. So for a while he was very
unhappy because he was so small. He ate and ate and ate, hoping that
this would make him grow bigger. But it didn't. He remained as small as
ever, the smallest of all the four-footed people. And his temper didn't
improve. Not a bit. He was fretful and snappish. He said all sorts of
things about Old Mother Nature because she had made him so small. He
almost hated her. He couldn't see a single advantage in being so small.

"Time went on, and at length came the hard times of which you have
heard, the times when food was so scarce and most of the little people
were always hungry. Then it was that the big and strong began to hunt
the small and weak, as you know. At first Teeny Weeny was in a regular
panic of fear. He felt that because he was so small he hadn't any chance
at all. But after a while he made a discovery, a most amazing discovery.
It quite took his breath away when he first realized it. It was that
because he was so small he had more chance than some of those of whom he
had been envious. Because he was so small, he could slip out of sight in
a twinkling. He could slip into holes that no one else could get into. A
leaf on the ground would hide him.

"Then he discovered that because he was so very small, it didn't take
much food to fill his stomach, and he had no trouble in finding all he
needed to eat. While his neighbors were going hungry, he was fat and
comfortable. Bugs there were and worms there were in plenty, and
on these he lived. One day he saw Old Mother Nature, and she looked
worried. She _was_ worried. It was in the very middle of the hard times
and wherever she went, the little people of the Green Forest and the
Green Meadows crowded about her to complain and ask her help. Teeny
Weeny remembered all the bitter things he had said and all the bitter
thoughts he had had because she had made him so small, and he was
ashamed. Yes, Sir, he was ashamed. You see, he realized by this time
that his small size was his greatest blessing.

"What did Teeny Weeny do but march right straight up to Old Mother
Nature the first chance he got and tell her how grateful he was for what
she had done for him. He was quite honest. He told her how he had felt,
and how he had said bitter things, and how sorry he was now that he
understood how well off he was. Then he thanked her once more and turned
to leave. Old Mother Nature called him back. She was wonderfully pleased
to have these few words of thanks amid so many complaints.

"'Teeny Weeny,' said she, 'because you have been smart enough to
see, and honest enough to admit a blessing in what you had thought a
hardship, and because you have been grateful instead of complaining, I
herewith give you this musky odor, which will be distasteful to even the
hungriest of your enemies. It is a further protection to you and your
children and your children's children for ever and ever.'

"And so it was, and so it has been, and so it is, and that's all,"
concluded Jimmy Skunk.



XI. WHEN OLD MR. HARE BECAME A TURNCOAT

|TURNCOAT isn't considered a very nice name to call any one. You see, it
is supposed to mean one who has turned traitor, as it were; has been on
one side and gone over to the other side. If a soldier who is fighting
for France should go over to the German army and fight for Germany
against France, he would be a turncoat. Benedict Arnold, of whom you
have read in history, was a turncoat. But the meaning isn't always bad.
Just take the case of Jumper the Hare. In summer he wears a coat of
brown, but in winter he wears a coat of white, the white of the pure
driven snow. So you see he is a turncoat, but in his case it doesn't
mean anything bad at all. On the contrary, it means something rather
nice and very interesting.

Now you know Jumper is the cousin of Peter Rabbit and looks very much
like Peter, save that he is very much larger and has longer hind legs
and longer ears. But Peter wears the same little homely brown coat in
winter that he does in summer, the only difference being that it is
thicker and so warmer. I am afraid that Peter has sometimes let a little
envy creep into his heart when he has met his cousin wearing a coat of
pure white. Be that as it may, Peter puzzled over the matter a great
deal until he found out from Grandfather Frog how it happens that Jumper
has such a lovely winter coat.

It happened one evening in early June, when Peter was hopping along down
the Lone Little Path through the Green Forest, that he met Jumper and
stopped to gossip for a few minutes. He had not seen Jumper since gentle
Sister South. Wind had swept away the last of the winter snow. Then
Jumper's coat had been white; now it was brown. This reminded Peter that
he never had been able to tease Jumper into telling him how he could
change his coat that way. None of Peter's other friends of the winter
seemed to know, for he had asked all of them, and each had told him
to ask Grandfather Frog. Of course, Peter couldn't do that in winter
because Grandfather Frog was then fast asleep in the mud at the bottom
of the Smiling Pool. With the coming of spring he had forgotten all
about the matter. Now at the sight of Jumper once more, it all came back
to him.

When Peter and Jumper parted, Peter started for the Smiling Pool,
lip-perty-lipperty-lip. He arrived there quite out of breath.
Grandfather Frog smiled a big, broad smile. Before Peter could say a
word Grandfather Frog spoke.

"If you will catch a foolish green fly for me, Peter, Ill tell you the
story," said he.

For a full minute Peter couldn't find his tongue, he was so surprised.
"How do you know what story I want?" he stammered at last.

"I don't know, but that doesn't make any difference," replied
Grandfather Frog. "Catch me a foolish green fly, and I'll tell you any
story you want."

"But--but--but I can't catch foolish green flies," cried Peter. "I would
if I could, but I can't, and you know I can't."

"You can try," replied Grandfather Frog gruffly, but with a twinkle in
his eyes which Peter didn't see.

Peter hesitated. Then suddenly lie shut his lips in a way that meant
that he had made up his mind to something. He looked this way and that
way. Whichever way he looked he saw foolish green flies flitting about.
He jumped for one and missed it. He jumped for another and missed it.
It was the beginning of such a funny performance that Grandfather Frog
nearly rolled off his big green lily-pad with laughter. Peter raced and
jumped this way and that way on the banks of the Smiling Pool as if he
had gone quite crazy, and at last in his excitement jumped right into
the Smiling Pool itself after a foolish green fly. But not one did he
catch.

As he crawled out of the water, looking forlorn enough, Grandfather Frog
took pity on him. "Chug-a-rum!" said he. "Lie down there in the sun and
dry off, Peter, and I'll tell you the story."

"But I haven't caught you a foolish green fly!" exclaimed Peter.

"No, but you've tried, and willingness to try is just as deserving
of reward as successful effort. Now what was it you wanted to know?"
replied Grandfather Frog.

"If you please, I want to know how it is that my cousin, Jumper the
Hare, happens to have a white coat in winter. It seems to me very
curious," replied Peter.

"A long time ago, in the beginning of things," began Grandfather Frog,
"Old Mother Nature gave the first Hare a brown coat and turned him out
into the Great World to shift for himself, just as she had done with
all the other animals. That was a very easy matter for old Mr. Hare, who
wasn't old then, of course. You see, those were good times with plenty
for all to eat without trying to eat each other. Mr. Hare was very
bashful, and like most bashful people he liked to be by himself. So he
made his home in the most lonely part of the Green Forest and was very
happy and contented for a long time.

"Now being alone so much made him very timid, ready to jump and run at
the least unusual sound, and this, it happens, proved to be a very good
thing for Mr. Hare. You see, being by himself that way, he had plenty to
eat even after the hard times of which you have-heard had begun. So he
was in splendid condition, was Mr. Hare, even after some of the other
little people had begun to grow thin because of lack of food. One day
Mr. Lynx happened to stray to that part of the Green Forest where Mr.
Hare was living. He saw Mr. Hare before Mr. Hare saw him. He licked his
lips hungrily. 'Ha!' thought he, 'this is where I get a good dinner.'

"With this he began to creep ever so softly towards Mr. Hare. But
careful as he was, he stepped on a tiny stick and it snapped. Instantly
away went Mr. Hare without stopping to see what had made the noise. That
was because he had grown so timid from living so much alone. Then Mr.
Lynx made a mistake. With a yell he started after Mr. Hare, and so Mr.
Hare learned that it was no longer safe to trust his neighbors. Mr. Lynx
didn't catch Mr. Hare, because Mr. Hare was too swift of foot for him,
but he gave him such a scare was that Mr. Hare was more timid than ever.

[Illustration: 0181]

"Others tried to catch him, and, little by little, Mr. Hare learned that
he must always be on the watch, and that safety lay in two things--his
long legs and his brown coat. He learned about the latter by being
surprised once by Mr. Wolf. He knew that Mr. Wolf didn't see him as he
crouched among the brown leaves. For once he was too frightened to run,
Mr. Wolf was so close to him, and this, as it happened, was a very good
thing. Mr. Wolf trotted right past without seeing him or smelling him.

"After that Mr. Hare tried that trick often, for he was smart, was Mr.
Hare. When he suspected that he had been seen he ran, but when he felt
sure that he hadn't been seen, he sat tight right where he happened to
be. But when the first snow came, Mr. Hare found himself in a peck of
trouble. He didn't dare sit still when an enemy was near, because his
brown coat stood out so against the white snow, and when he ran it was
an easy matter to keep him in sight. One day he was squatting under a
snow-covered hemlock bough when he was startled by the howl of Mr. Wolf
not far away. In his fright he jumped up, and the next thing he knew
down came the snow from the bough all over him. Then, to his dismay, he
saw Mr. Lynx not two jumps away. He sat still from force of habit. Mr.
Lynx didn't see him; he went right past Presently Mr. Wolf came along,
and he went right past.

"Mr. Hare was puzzled. Then he just happened to glance at his coat. He
was white with snow from head to foot! Then he understood, and a great
idea popped into his head. If only he could have a brown coat in summer
and a white coat in winter, he felt sure that he could take care of
himself. He thought about it a great deal. Finally he screwed up his
courage and went to Old Mother Nature. He told her all about how he
had learned to sit tight when he wasn't seen, but that it didn't always
succeed when there was snow on the ground. Then he told her how Mr. Lynx
and Mr. Wolf had run right past him the time he was covered with snow.
Very timidly he asked Old Mother Nature if she thought it possible that
he might have a white coat in winter. Old Mother Nature said that she
would think about it. It was almost the end of winter then, and he
heard nothing from Old Mother Nature. With the coming of summer he quite
forgot his request. But Old Mother Nature didn't. She kept an eye on Mr.
Hare and she saw how timid he was and how he was in constant danger from
his hungry neighbors. With the beginning of the next winter, Mr. Hare
discovered one day that his coat was turning white. He watched it day by
day and saw it grow whiter and whiter until it was as white as the
snow itself. Then he knew that Old Mother Nature had not forgotten his
request and at once hastened to thank her. And from that day to this,
the Hares have had brown coats in summer and white coats in winter,"
concluded Grandfather Frog.

"Oh, thank you, Grandfather Frog," cried Peter with a little sigh of
contentment. "I--I wish I could catch a foolish green fly for you."

"I'll take the will for the deed, Peter," replied Grandfather Frog. And
he suddenly snapped up a foolish green fly that flew too near.



XII. WHEN GREAT-GRANDFATHER SWIFT FIRST USED A CHIMNEY

|OF all his feathered friends and neighbors there was none whom Peter
Rabbit enjoyed watching more than he did Sooty the Chimney Swift. There
were two very good reasons why Peter enjoyed watching Sooty. In the
first place Sooty always appeared to be having the very best of good
times, and you know it is always a pleasure to watch any one having a
good time. Ol' Mistah Buzzard, sailing and sailing high in the sky with
only an occasional movement of his great wings, always seemed to be
enjoying himself, and so did Skimmer the Swallow, skimming just above
the tall grass of the Green Meadows or wheeling gracefully high in the
air. But neither these two nor any other bird ever seemed to Peter to be
getting so much real fun out of flying as Sooty the Swift. Just to hear
him shout as he raced with swiftly beating wings and then glided in a
short half circle was enough to make you want to fly yourself, thought
Peter.

The second reason why Peter enjoyed watching Sooty was that he was very
much a bird of mystery, in spite of the fact that Peter saw him every
day through the long summer. You know, we all enjoy anything that is
mysterious. To Peter there was no end of mystery about Sooty the Swift.
He was not like other birds. In the first place he hardly looked like
a bird at all. His tail was so short that it was hardly worth calling a
tail. His neck was so short that his head seemed a part of his body. And
then in all the time he had known him, Peter never had seen Sooty still
for a single instant. Ol' Mistah Buzzard would come down from high up in
the blue, blue sky and sit for hours on a dead tree in the Green Forest
or walk about on the ground. Skimmer the Swallow would sit on the
branch of a tree, or on the very top of Farmer Brown's barn, and twitter
sociably. But Sooty the Swift was always in the air. At least, he always
was whenever Peter saw him.

Sometimes Peter used to wonder if Sooty slept in the air as Ducks sleep
on the water. Of course, he didn't really think that he did, but never
seeing him anywhere but in the air, he was ready to believe almost
anything. Then one evening just at dusk, Peter happened to be over in
the Old Orchard close by Farmer Brown's house, and he saw something
that puzzled him more than ever. He saw Sooty the Swift right above
the chimney on Farmer Brown's house. It seemed to Peter as if something
happened to Sooty. He beat his wings in a queer way, but instead of
flying on, he dropped right straight down, down, down, and disappeared.
He had fallen down that chimney! Peter waited a long time, but Sooty
didn't appear again, and finally Peter went home with the feeling that
he never again would see Sooty.

But he did see him again. He saw him the very next day, flying and
shouting and seemingly having just as good a time as ever. It was then
that Peter's curiosity would no longer be denied. He headed straight for
the Smiling Pool to consult Grandfather Frog.

"He'll know all about Sooty if anybody does," thought Peter and hurried
as fast as he could, lipperty-lipperty-lip. Grandfather Frog was in
his usual place on his big green lily-pad. One glance told Peter that
Grandfather Frog was in the best of humor, so he wasted no time.

"Grandfather Frog," cried Peter before he was fairly on the bank of the
Smiling Pool, "I saw something queer last night, and you are the only
one I know of who can tell me what it meant, because you are the only
one I know who knows all about everything."

Grandfather Frog smiled. It was a great, big, broad smile. It pleased
him to have Peter say that he knew everything. "Chug-a-rum! Not
everything, Peter! I don't know everything. Nobody does," said he. "But
if I happen to know what you want, to know, I'll be glad to tell you.
Now what is it that is on your mind?"

Peter at once plunged into his story. He told Grandfather Frog how much
he enjoyed watching Sooty fly and how little he knew about Sooty. He
wound up by telling how he had seen Sooty fall down that chimney and how
surprised he had been to see Sooty about the next day as well and happy
as ever. He called Sooty a Swallow, for that is what Peter thought that
Sooty was. He always had thought so.

When Peter had finished, Grandfather Frog chuckled. It was a long, deep
chuckle that seemed to come clear from his toes. When he had enjoyed his
chuckle to his heart's content, he looked up at Peter and blinked his
great goggly eyes.

"What would you say, Peter, if I should tell you that Sooty isn't a
member of the Swallow family at all?" he asked.

"I'd believe you," replied Peter promptly, "but I never again would dare
guess what family anybody belonged to from his looks."

"Well, Sooty isn't a Swallow at all," said Grandfather Frog slowly. "He
is a Swift, which is another family altogether. Furthermore, he didn't
fall down that chimney. No, Sir, he didn't fall down that chimney. He
flew down, and he did it because he lives there. Now listen, and I'll
tell you a story." Peter needed no second invitation. A story from
Grandfather Frog is always one of Peter's greatest treats, as you know.

"Chug-a-rum!" began Grandfather Frog, as he always does. "When Old
Mother Nature first peopled the Great World, she made each bird a little
different from every other bird, and each animal a little different from
every other animal. Then she turned them loose to make their way the
best they could, and let them alone to test them and see how
each would make the best of his advantages. Mr. Swift, the
great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of Sooty, felt at first as if Old
Mother Nature had forgotten to give him any advantages at all. He was
homely. There wasn't so much as a single bright feather in his whole
coat. He had a tail which might as well have been no tail at all, so far
as he could see. He had tiny feet on which he couldn't walk at all, and
with which it was all he could do to hang on to a twig when he wanted to
rest. But when it came to wings, he wasn't long in discovering that in
these he was blessed beyond most of his neighbors. Those wings certainly
were made for speed. They were long and narrow, and they drove him
through the air faster than his neighbors with broader wings could fly
and with a great deal less effort. He could fly all day without getting
tired, and he never was so happy as when darting about high in the air.

"Of course, it didn't take him long to find out that he could catch all
kinds of flying insects, and so he had no trouble in filling his stomach
while flying, for his mouth was very wide. 'It must be,' thought he,
'that Old Mother Nature expects me to live in the air. I wish I could
sleep while I am flying, but I can't. I never feel comfortable sitting
on a twig.'

"One day he discovered that he could do something that no other bird
could do. By using his wings in a certain way he could drop right
straight down without really falling. He practised this a great deal
just for fun. Then one day as he was flying over a rocky place, he saw
right under him a great hole that went straight down into the ground.
It interested him. He wondered what it was like inside. The more he
wondered, the more he wanted to find out. So one day, after many trials,
he dropped straight down into the hole by means of that new way of
flying he had discovered.

"He didn't go very far down, because it was so dark in there, and he was
beginning to get a wee bit frightened. On his way up he brushed against
the side of the rocky wall and without knowing why, he put out both feet
and clung to it, folding his wings for a minute's rest. Then he found
that by pressing his funny little tail, which ended in sharp spines,
against the wall, he rested more comfortably than ever he had before in
all his short life. He could cling to a rough wall very much easier than
he could sit on a perch. After that he spent his nights in that hole and
was happy.

"A long time later he was far from home when night was coming on, and he
knew that he wouldn't be able to get there before dark. Looking down as
he flew, he saw the hollow trunk of a great tree which had been broken
off by the wind. Why not sleep in that? He circled over it two or three
times and then dropped straight down inside. He liked it. He liked it
better than he did the hole in the rocks. After that he made his home in
a hollow tree.

"In course of time old King Eagle led the birds to a new part of the
Great World which Old Mother Nature had been preparing for them to spend
the summer in. Mr. Swift went with the others. But when he got there,
he could find no hole in the ground and no hollow tree. But he found
something else. He found the queer homes of men and on top of each a
straight, tall thing quite like a hollow tree, only all black inside and
made of what seemed like stone. Having no other place to go, he tried
one of them. The next day he searched for a hollow tree hut could find
none, and so returned to that chimney, for that is what it was. So it
was every day. After a little he began to like the chimney. It was easy
to get in and out of. No one ever bothered him there. It was easy to
cling to the wall of it. At last he decided to build a nest there. And
from that day to this, the Swifts have lived in the chimneys on the
houses of men. When you thought you saw Sooty fall, he was simply going
home to spend the night," concluded Grandfather Frog.

"Thank you," replied Peter with a long sigh. "It's a funny world, isn't
it, Grandfather Frog? The idea of living in a chimney! The very idea!"



XIII. WHEN PETER RABBIT FIRST MET BLUFFER THE ADDER

|HOPPITY-SKIP down the Crooked Little Path, lipper-ty-lipperty-lip, went
Peter Rabbit in his usual heedless, careless way. Peter never can seem
to get it into his funny little head why he should be careful when there
appears to be no particular reason for being careful. He is like a great
many people--careful when he knows that there is danger near, but as
heedless as you please when he thinks that all is safe. He has got to
see or hear danger before he will believe that it is near. Like a lot of
other folks he has yet to wake up to the fact that the only way to keep
out of trouble is to be always prepared for trouble.

So Peter hopped and skipped down the Crooked Little Path, as he had a
thousand times before, without a thought of danger. Nothing ever had
happened to him on the Crooked Little Path, and so he thought nothing
ever could. Suddenly as he rounded a little turn, there was a sound that
made Peter stop so suddenly that he almost fell over backward--a sound
that made every hair on his body stand on end and his eyes pop out with
fright. It was a hiss, the loudest, most awful hiss he ever had heard.
For just a second Peter was too frightened to move. There, coiled up
right in the Crooked Little Path, was a member of the Snake family whom
he never had seen before. And such a fierce, ugly-looking fellow as he
was! No wonder Peter was frightened. This Snake had the flattest head
Peter ever had seen. His body was rather short and thick, and his neck
was flattened in a way that made it appear very large and gave to him a
very ugly and dangerous look.

As soon as he could get his wits together, Peter turned and raced
pell-mell up the Crooked Little Path as fast as his long legs would take
him. Looking behind him he didn't see in front of him, and so he almost
ran into Jimmy Skunk. In fact, he would have, if Jimmy hadn't cried:

"Hi, there! Why don't you look where you are going? What is the matter
with you, anyway, Peter Rabbit?" Peter was so startled by Jimmy that he
jumped to one side as if he suddenly had stepped on something hot.
Then he saw who it was. "Oh, Jimmy," he cried, "you mustn't go down the
Crooked Little Path!"

"Why not?" demanded Jimmy Skunk, staring at Peter and noting how
frightened Peter was.

"Because," panted Peter, "right down there in the middle of it is one of
Mr. Black Snake's cousins, and I know by his looks that he is one of the
dangerous kind, like Buzztail the Rattler. Ugh! I nearly ran into him,
and he hissed enough to make your hair rise. He's got a terrible temper.
I wouldn't go near him again for the world. Where are you going, Jimmy?"

"Down the Crooked Little Path to have a look at this terrible fellow,"
replied Jimmy over his shoulder. "Perhaps I can teach him some manners."

"Oh, Jimmy, do be careful!" begged Peter. "He really is very terrible.
I know his bite must be awful. I guess it is worse than that of Buzztail
the Rattler. I wouldn't go if I were you."

"I'm not such a fraidy as you, Peter," replied Jimmy Skunk, and ambled
on down the Crooked Little Path. Peter wasn't sure about it, but he
thought he heard Jimmy chuckle. That settled matters for Peter. If Jimmy
was laughing at him for warning him of danger, he could just go on and
get a good fright. It would serve him right. Peter hesitated a minute,
then at a safe distance he followed. He wanted to see Jimmy Skunk when
he rounded that little turn in the Crooked Little Path and heard that
terrible hiss.

Jimmy ambled along slowly, for you know he never hurries. Presently he
disappeared around that little turn, and right away Peter heard that
terrible hiss. He expected to see Jimmy come racing back, and he was all
ready to make fun of him for pretending to be so brave. But Jimmy didn't
come. Once more Peter beard that angry biss and felt his hair rise on
end. Then all was still.

Peter waited as long as he could stand it, and then his curiosity got
the best of him. Slowly and carefully be tiptoed along until he could
see around the turn in the Crooked Little Path. What he saw quite
took his breath away. There sat Jimmy Skunk looking down at something
stretched out at his feet. It was that dreadful Snake on his back, and
he appeared to be quite dead. Jimmy reached out and poked him, but Mr.
Snake didn't move. Jimmy poked him some more, and still he didn't move.

[Illustration: 0211]

"Oh, Jimmy, however did you dare to try to kill him?" cried Peter.

Jimmy looked back at Peter and grinned. "Come on with me, and I will
tell you a story," said he.

Peter hesitated, but the thought of a story was too much for him, and he
followed Jimmy down the Crooked Little Path, taking pains to go around
the body of Mr. Snake and not very near it at that, although he knew it
was silly and foolish to be afraid of one who was dead. Jimmy didn't go
far. He sat down and waited for Peter to join him. From where they were
they could see the body of Mr. Snake stretched out on its back in the
Crooked Little Path. Somehow, now that he was dead, Mr. Snake didn't
look so very fierce and terrible. In fact he didn't look nearly so big
as he had when he was alive. Peter was thinking of this when his heart
gave a funny little jump. He had turned his head for just a second
and now, as he looked back at Mr. Snake, he felt that his eyes must be
playing him tricks for Mr. Snake was on his _stomach_ instead of on his
_back!_

Peter opened his mouth to say something, but Jimmy made a sign to keep
still. So Peter kept still and with popping eyes watched Mr. Snake.
Presently he saw Mr. Snake's head come up a little at a time and then
move from side to side as if Mr. Snake were looking to see that the
way was clear. Slowly Mr. Snake began to glide forward. Then, as if
satisfied that no one was watching, he moved faster as if in a hurry to
get away from there, and in a moment he disappeared.

Peter gulped two or three times as if trying to swallow the truth and
then turned to stare at Jimmy Skunk. Jimmy laughed right out because
Peter looked so funny.

"You--you didn't kill him, after all," gasped Peter.

"No," replied Jimmy, "I didn't even touch him until you saw me poke him
when he lay there on his back."

Peter looked quite as puzzled as he felt. "Was he just pretending to be
dead the way Unc' Billy Possum does?" demanded Peter.

Jimmy nodded. "You've guessed it," he replied.

"But why did he do it?" persisted Peter, such a puzzled look on his face
that Jimmy just had to laugh again.

"Because he was afraid and tried to fool me into thinking him dead so
that I would leave him alone," replied Jimmy.

"Afraid! That fellow afraid!" exclaimed Peter in an unbelieving tone
of voice. "Why, when I saw him first, he was the most savage,
dangerous-looking fellow that ever I have met."

Once more Jimmy laughed. "All in his looks, Peter," said he. "Yes,
Sir, all his fierceness is in his looks. Really he is one of the most
harmless and gentle fellows in the world. He tried to scare me just
as he frightened you, and when he found it wouldn't work, he tried the
other plan--pretended that he was dead. No one but Old Mr. Toad has the
least reason in the world to be afraid of him. All his fierceness is
just pretending, and that is how he comes by his name, which is Bluffer
the Puff-Adder. I'm surprised that you've never happened to meet him
before. I believe some folks call him the Hog-nosed Snake. I always like
to meet him just to see him try to scare me, and when he finds he
can't, I do a little pretending myself and give him a little scare by
pretending that I am going to fight him. Then he always rolls over on
his back and pretends that he is dead. I suppose he is chuckling to
himself now because he thinks that he fooled us. The next time you meet
him just show him that you know he is perfectly harmless and see how
quickly he'll stop pretending that he is so ugly and dangerous. He
learned that trick of bluffing from his father, and his father learned
it from his father, and so on way back to the days when the world was
young. I would tell you the story now if I had time, but I haven't."

"Then you'll have to do it some other time," retorted Peter, "for I
shall give you no peace until you do."



XIV. WHEN MR. WOOD MOUSE LEARNED FROM THE BIRDS

|PETER RABBIT never will forget the first time that he saw Whitefoot
the Wood Mouse pop out of a nest in a bush a few feet above his head. It
wasn't so much the surprise of seeing Whitefoot as it was the discovery
that that nest was White-foot's own. Peter, had seen that nest often. It
was in a bush just a little above one of Peter's favorite paths on the
edge of the Green Forest. Always he had supposed that it belonged to
one of his feathered friends. He had seen many such nests. At least, he
supposed he had. That was because he hadn't taken the trouble to look at
this one particularly. He hadn't used his eyes. If he had, he might have
seen that this, while very like other nests he had seen, was different.
It was different in that it had a roof. Yes, Sir, this particular nest
had a roof. And it had a doorway, a very small doorway, and this doorway
was underneath, a very queer place for a bird to make a doorway had
there been any bird of his acquaintance who would build a roof to a
nest, anyway. All of which goes to show how easy it is to see things
without really seeing them at all.

It was just at dusk that Peter happened along this particular little
path and saw Whitefoot the Wood Mouse pop out of that nest.

"Hello!" exclaimed Peter. "What are you doing up there? What business
have you in that nest? Have you been stealing eggs?"

"No, I haven't been stealing eggs," retorted Whitefoot indignantly. "And
if I haven't any business in this nest I should like to know who has.
It's my nest! Who has a better right in it?"

"Your nest!" exclaimed Peter. "Why, I thought you lived in a hollow tree
or a hollow log or a hole in the ground or some such place. How long is
it since you learned to build a nest like a bird, and who taught you?"

Whitefoot knew by the tone of Peter's voice that Peter didn't believe a
word of what he had been told. He looked very hard at Peter, and in his
big, soft, black eyes was an indignant look which Peter couldn't help
but see. "I don't care whether you believe it or not, this is my nest,
and I built it," said he indignantly. "At least I built it over," he
added, for Whitefoot is very truthful. "In the winter I do live in a
hollow tree or a hollow log or a hole in the ground, whichever is most
comfortable, but in the warm weather I have a summer home, and this is
it. My family has known how to build such homes ever since the days of
my great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather when the world was young.
It was he who learned the secret, and it has been in our family ever
since."

Peter's long ears stood straight up with excited interest and
curiosity. "Tell me about it!" he begged. "Tell me how your
great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather learned how to build a nest like a
bird. Please tell me, White-foot."

Whitefoot sat up and daintily washed his pretty white hands. "I don't
think I will," he replied slowly. "You didn't believe me when I said
that this nest is mine, and so I'm sure you won't believe the story of
my great-grandfather. I don't like telling stories to people who don't
believe."

"But I will believe it!" cried Peter. "If you say it is true, I'll
believe every word of it. Please tell me the story, Whitefoot. Oh,
please do." Peter was very much in earnest. "I'm sorry I didn't believe
you at first when you said that this nest is yours. But I do now,
Whitefoot. I do now. Please, please tell me the story."

Whitefoot's black eyes snapped and twinkled. He enjoyed being teased
for that story. You see, he is such a little fellow, such a very little
fellow, that his bigger neighbors seldom take any notice of him unless
it is to try to catch him. There are several who would be glad to
swallow Whitefoot if they could catch him. So, being such a little
fellow, he felt rather puffed up, rather important, you know, that Peter
Rabbit should be so interested and should actually be begging him for a
story. He climbed up to a crotch in a tree just a little above Peter's
head, a place where he could watch out for danger, made himself
comfortable with his back against the trunk of the tree, carefully
combed his fur, for Whitefoot is very particular how he looks, and then
began his story.

"Always, ever since the world was young, Mice have been among the
smallest of the little people of the Green Meadows and the Green Forest,
and because of this they have had to live by their wits if they would
live at all. In the beginning of things it was not so, I have heard it
said, because then there was plenty for all to eat and no cause for the
big and strong to seek to kill the small and weak. But when the hard
times came and hunger led to the doing of many dreadful things, all of
the Mouse tribe found that they were in danger all the time, just as
they are to-day.

"My great-great-great-grandfather, the first of all the Wood Mice, chose
the Green Forest for his home instead of the Green Meadows where his
cousin, old Mr. Meadow Mouse, liked best to live. He chose the Green
Forest because it was always beautiful there, and because among the
roots of the trees and in the trees themselves there were so many
hiding-places. He was very small, just as I am, and he was very smart."

"Just as you are?" inquired Peter with a twinkle in his eyes.

"I didn't say that!" retorted Whitefoot indignantly. "I never have
claimed to be very smart, though I've been smart enough to keep out of
the clutches of Reddy Fox and Hooty the Owl and all the others who hunt
me. But great-great-great-grandfather _was_ smart. In the Green Forest
he had prepared for himself many hiding-places. Some were in the ground,
some were in holes in trees, and some were in hollow stumps and logs.
For a while he felt quite safe and easy in his mind, even when the times
had become so hard and food so scarce that night and day some of his
big neighbors like Mr. Lynx and Mr. Fox and Mr. Wolf and Mr. Owl and Mr.
Hawk and even old King Bear were sure to come prowling about looking
for little people like himself. You see, he had plenty to eat himself
because he had been forehanded and had stored away seeds in some of his
hiding-places. And he felt perfectly safe because the doorways to his
hiding-places were so very small that none of these people could follow
him into them.

"So he used to laugh at those who hunted him and sometimes would dodge
into one of his little doorways right under their very noses. But one
day he saw old King Bear tear open an old hollow stump with his great
claws, and he knew that King Bear was looking for him. Another day quite
by chance he happened to see Mr. Weasel slip into one of his smallest
doorways, and then a great fear took hold of Grandfather Wood Mouse.
His enemies knew now where to look for him and how to get into his
hiding-places; they were no longer safe.

"'I must find a new hiding-place and keep it a secret,' thought he. For
many; days he went about, thinking and thinking. One day he had this
very much on his mind as he watched Mr. Catbird build a nest. All in a
flash a great idea came to him. If he could have a home in a bush like
that of Mr. Catbird, no one ever, ever would think of looking for him
there! 'If birds can build nests, why can't I?' thought he. All that day
he watched the building of Mr. Catbird's nest, trying to see just how
each stick was placed and how the nest was lined with fine roots and
grass and strips of grapevine bark. The next day he hunted up some old
nests in bushes not too high above the ground and climbed up to them.
He even pulled some of them to pieces to see how they were made and then
tried to put them together again.

"'I believe I can do it!' he exclaimed over and over to himself. 'I
believe I can do it! Any way, it will do no harm to try. No harm can
come of trying.'

"He remembered an old nest in a bramble bush not far from where he
lived. This he examined very carefully. It would do for a foundation.
Then he went to work, taking care to build only when no one was near to
discover his secret. He brought grass and fine roots, and he made that
nest more comfortable than it had been when it was first built. Then he
built a roof over it, so that it would shelter him in bad weather, and
to get into it he made a little round doorway. When it was finished, he
was very proud of it, as he had reason to be. He carried seeds into it,
and then he made it his home for the summer and way into the fall. Of
course, no one ever dreamed of looking for him in what seemed like
a bird's nest, and many a time he peeped out and watched his hungry
neighbors walk right under him without ever suspecting that he was near.

"Of course, he taught his children the secret of nest-building which he
had learned from the birds, and that has been the most precious secret
in our family ever since. You won't tell any one, will you, Peter?" he
concluded anxiously.

"No," said Peter, "I won't tell any one. Of course I won't. It must be
nice to have a sort of sky-parlor in the summer," he added wistfully.

"It is," replied Whitefoot. "I just love my summer home." With this he
climbed up to his snug nest, and the last Peter saw of him was his long
slim tail disappearing through the little round doorway.



XV. WHEN MR. HUMMINGBIRD GOT HIS LONG BILL


               "I saw him here; I saw him there;

               And now he is not anywhere!

               He is not there; he is not here,

               Yet no one saw him disappear."

|PETER RABBIT didn't intend that for any ears but his own, but it never
is safe to talk out loud if you want no one else to hear.

"Huh!" said a voice right back of Peter. Peter started ever so little
and hastily turned his head, but saw no one.

"Huh!" said the voice again. "Huh! Are you a poet, Peter Rabbit?"

This time Peter turned wholly around in a single jump. Staring up at him
from under a mullein-leaf was Old Mr. Toad.

"What's a poet?" demanded Peter.

"A poet is some one who--who--Say, Peter Rabbit, have you eaten
something that went to your head?" Old Mr. Toad looked really anxious.

"No," replied Peter, "it went to my stomach. Everything I eat goes to my
stomach."

"Then it can't be that you are a real poet," sighed Old Mr. Toad. "I was
a little afraid you might be when I overheard you just now. On the whole
I am rather glad, Peter. It would be so tiresome to have to listen to
you talking that way. By the way, who is it that is not there and is not
here, yet no one saw him disappear?"

"Hummer the Hummingbird," replied Peter eagerly. "You see him in one
place and before you can get your mouth open to speak, lie is somewhere
else. Then in a shake of your tail he isn't anywhere at all. I mean he
isn't anywhere in sight."

"I haven't any tail," retorted Old Mr. Toad rather testily. "I got rid
of the silly thing long ago, as you very well know, Peter Rabbit."

"Excuse me, Mr. Toad. I didn't mean anything personal. It was just a way
of speaking to show how quickly Hummer disappears. I was thinking of my
own tail," said Peter.

"Huh!" grunted Old Mr. Toad just as before. "Then you weren't thinking
of much."

Peter laughed. "Not so very much," he replied. "Still I can shake it,
even if there isn't much of it. See!" He stood up and twitched his funny
little tail until solemn Old Mr. Toad had to laugh in spite of himself.

"Hummer is such a wonderful little fellow," continued Peter eagerly. "He
is so tiny it doesn't seem possible that he can be like other birds. I
don't feel really acquainted with him because he isn't still long enough
for me to more than nod to him."

"That's true," replied Old Mr. Toad, nodding sagely. "He isn't still
down near the ground, but if you happened to find his home, you would
often see him sitting near it as still as any other bird. By the way,
Peter, did you ever hear how it happened that he comes by such a long
bill?"

"A story!" cried Peter, jumping up and down and clapping his hands. "Oh,
Mr. Toad, I never did hear, and I'm just dying to know. Please do tell
me!" There was a twinkle in Old Mr. Toad's beautiful eyes,--for they
really are beautiful, you know. He backed a little farther under the big
mullein-leaf where the sun couldn't reach him, opened and closed his big
mouth two or three tunes without making a sound, rolled his eyes back as
if he were looking way, way into the past, and then, just as Peter had
begun to think that there wasn't going to be any story after all, he
began to talk in a funny little voice that seemed to come from way down
where his throat and his stomach meet.

"It was long, long, long ago," said he.

"I know! It was way back when the world was young," interrupted Peter
eagerly.

"Oh! So you know the story after all, do you?" grunted Old Mr. Toad
rather crossly.

"I beg your pardon. I do indeed. I'm sorry," Peter hastened to say.

"Very well. Very well," grumbled Old Mr. Toad, "but don't do it again.
Now I'll have to begin all over again. It was a long, long, long time
ago in the beginning of things when Old Mother Nature had made all
the big birds and the middle-sized birds and the little birds that she
discovered that she had just a teeny, weeny bit of the things birds
are made of left over. There wasn't enough to make even the head of an
ordinary bird. No bird had use for another head, anyway.

"Now Old Mother Nature never could bear to waste anything, and she
didn't intend to begin. So she made a teeny, weeny bird and she made him
just as perfect as any other bird. She gave him feathers just like any
other bird, only of course his feathers were teeny, weeny. She gave him
a tail just like any other bird, only it was a teeny, weeny tail. She
gave him feet with toes and claws just like any other bird, only they
were teeny, weeny feet. And she gave him a bill, only it was a teeny,
weeny bill and it was short. And because he was so teeny, weeny and yet
a perfect bird, Old Mother Nature was very proud of him, so she gave
him a beautiful green coat. The beautiful ruby throat was not given
him until later, when he proved so brave of heart and so loyal to King
Eagle, you remember."

"I remember," said Peter. "He got his ruby throat when old King Eagle
won his crown of white."

"When Old Mother Nature sent little Mr. Hummingbird out into the Great
World to join the other birds, she told him that tiny as he was she
could treat him no differently from the others, and that he would have
to take care of himself and prove that he was worthy to live and have a
place in the work of the Great World, for that was a law which she could
not break for any one, great or small.

"So little Mr. Hummingbird darted away to join the other birds and find
a place for himself in the Great World. When the other birds first saw
him, they laughed at him because he was so tiny, and made fun of him.
though truth to tell some of them were envious because of his beautiful
coat, and others were envious because of the way in which he could
dart about, for not one among them could fly so swiftly as little Mr.
Hummingbird.

"Tiny though he was, he was stout of heart and fairly bursting with
spunk. He would dash into the very faces of those who tried to tease him
and would be away again before they could so much as strike at him. So
it wasn't long before they let him alone, though among themselves they
still looked on him as a joke and were sure he would not live long.
Being such a teeny, weeny fellow, of course Mr. Hummingbird had a teeny,
weeny stomach, and he soon discovered that he couldn't eat the things
that other birds did but must hunt for teeny, weeny things. It didn't
take him long to find out that there were many teeny, weeny insects just
suited to him, especially about the flowers. So Mr. Hummingbird spent
most of his time darting about among the flowers catching teeny, weeny
insects to fill his teeny, weeny stomach.

"One day he paused in front of a deep-throated flower and discovered
that many teeny, weeny insects had hidden in the heart of it. Try as he
would he could not reach them. Now his own swift little wings were
not quicker than Mr. Hummingbird's temper, and he promptly pulled that
flower to pieces. Then he caught all the insects, and in doing this he
discovered that in the heart of the flower were sweet juices, better
than anything he ever had tasted before. After that he wasted no time
limiting for teeny, weeny insects in the air, but darted from one
deep-throated flower to another, pulling them to pieces and filling his
teeny, weeny stomach with the insects hiding there and the sweet juices.

"One day along came Old Mother Nature to see how things were going. On
every side were beautiful flowers torn to rags. She threw up her hands
in dismay. 'Dear me!' she cried. 'I wonder who can have been doing such
dreadful mischief!'

"Just then she caught sight of little Mr. Hummingbird tearing another
flower to pieces. Sternly she called him before her, and he came
fearlessly. 'Why are you tearing my beautiful flowers to pieces?' she
demanded.

"'Because it is the only way I can get the food in the hearts of them,
and it is the food best suited to me,' replied little Mr. Hummingbird
promptly but respectfully.

"Old Mother Nature tried to look severe, but a twinkle crept into her
eyes. Secretly she was pleased with the fearlessness of the teeny, weeny
bird.

"'That may be, but I cannot have my beautiful flowers destroyed this
way. It will never do at all!' said she.

"She scratched her head thoughtfully for a few minutes. Then she reached
out and took hold of Mr. Hummingbird's teeny, weeny bill. 'Pull,' said
she. Little Mr. Hummingbird pulled with all his might, and his bill was
pulled out until it was long and slender, and his tongue was pulled out
long with it.

"'Now,' said Old Mother Nature, 'I guess you won't have to pull my
flowers to pieces.'

"Little Mr. Hummingbird darted away to the nearest deep-throated flower
and found that he could reach the teeny, weeny insects and the sweet
juices without the least trouble, and from that time on he took the
greatest care not to hurt the beautiful flowers. That is how Hummer,
whom you know, happens to have a long bill," concluded Old Mr. Toad.

"And I suppose that is why he seems to love the flowers so," said Peter
as he looked down at Old Mr. Toad thoughtfully.

"It is," replied Old Mr. Toad, and yawned sleepily.



XVI. WHEN OLD MR. BAT GOT HIS WINGS

|IT happens that the Merry Little Breezes, who, as you know, are the
children of Old Mother West Wind, are quite as fond of stories as is
Peter Rabbit. In fact, whenever they suspect that Peter is going to ask
some one for a story, they manage to be about so that they may hear it
too. Now the Merry Little Breezes are very fond of Grandfather Frog
and many, many times they have helped him get a good dinner by blowing
foolish green flies within his reach. It was after one of these times
that Grandfather Frog promised them a story.

Now the Merry Little Breezes did not intend to let Grandfather Frog
forget that promise, so one afternoon when they had grown tired of
romping on the Green Meadows, they danced over to the Smiling Pool and
settled around the big, green lily-pad on which Grandfather Frog was
dozing. All together they shouted:

                   "We know you're old;

                        We know you're wise;

                   And what you say

                        We dearly prize.

                   So tell a tale

                        Of olden days,

                   And then, mayhap,

                        We'll go our ways."

"Chug-a-rum! What shall it be about?" demanded Grandfather Frog, waking
up quite good-natured.

"Tell us why Flitter the Bat can fly when none of the other animals
can," cried one of the Merry Little Breezes.

Grandfather Frog cleared his throat several times, and then he began,
and this is the story he told:

"Once upon a time when the world was young, old Mr. Bat, the many times
great-grandfather of Flitter, whom you all know, lived in a cave on the
edge of the Green Forest. Old Mr. Bat was little, quite as little as
Flitter is now. He didn't have any wings then. No, Sir, old Mr. Bat had
no wings.

"Now old Mr. Bat's teeth were small and not made for cracking hard seeds
and things of that sort, so he lived mostly on insects. He used to hunt
for them under sticks and stones. Sometimes he had hard work to find
enough for a meal, because, you know, so many other Green Forest people
were hunting for them too.

"Now old Mr. Bat's eyes were very small, very, very small indeed, and
the bright sun hurt them. So old Mr. Bat used to stay in his cave all
day and hunt for his meals only after jolly Mr. Sun had gone to bed
behind the Purple Hills. When he did come out most of the crawling bugs
had been caught by others, and it was hard work finding them. So often
Mr. Bat went hungry.

"One evening old Mr. Bat noticed that at twilight a great many bugs fly
about. He sat on a big stone at the mouth of his cave and watched. It
seemed to him that the air was full of bugs. By and by a big fat
fellow came so near that old Mr. Bat forgot where he was and jumped for
him--jumped right off: the top of the big stone. Of course he got a hard
tumble, but he didn't mind it a bit, not a bit, for he had caught the
bug. After that, old Mr. Bat used to spend most of the time he was awake
jumping for flying bugs.

"One night he made a very long jump from a _very_ high stone and got
such a fall that all the breath was knocked out of his funny little
body. When he had gotten his breath back he discovered that some one was
looking down and smiling at him. It was Old Mother Nature.

"'Pretty hard work to get a dinner that way, isn't it, Mr. Bat?' asked
Old Mother Nature.

"Mr. Bat allowed that it was.

"'How would you like to fly!' asked Old Mother Nature.

"Mr. Bat thought that that would be very fine indeed, but that was quite
out of the question because, as you know, he hadn't any wings.

"Old Mother Nature said no more, but something seemed to be pleasing her
greatly as she left Mr. Bat.

"The next evening when old Mr. Bat awoke, he really didn't know whether
he was himself or not. No, Sir, he didn't. His legs were much longer
than they used to be and really of no use at all for walking. Between
them was a queer thin skin. He couldn't run. He couldn't even crawl very
well.

"At last, after much work, he managed to get to the top of a big rock.
He was very hungry, and when a big, fat bug came along, he forgot all
about his troubles and tried to jump. But instead of jumping as he
always had, he just tumbled off the big rock. As he fell he spread out
his legs. What do you think happened? Why, old Mr. Bat found that he
could fly!

"And ever since that long-ago time the Bats have lived in dark caves and
have been able to fly," concluded Grandfather Frog.

"Splendid!" cried the Merry Little Breezes. "And we thank you ever and
ever so much!" Then they had a race to see who could be the first to
blow a foolish green fly over to Grandfather Frog.


THE END





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