The Burgess Bird Book for Children
Thornton W. Burgess
Part 2 out of 5
Peter blinked his eyes. "Ye-e-s," he said slowly. "Come to think
of it, I have. I've seen him picking up beechnuts in the fall.
The Woodpeckers are a funny family. I don't understand them."
Just then a long, rolling rat-a-tat-tat rang out just over their
heads. "There's another one of them," chuckled Jenny. "That's
Downy, the smallest of the whole family. He certainly makes an
awful racket for such a little fellow. He is a splendid drummer
and he's just as good a carpenter. He made the very house I am
Peter was sitting with his head tipped back trying to see Downy.
At first he couldn't make him out. Then he caught a little
movement on top of a dead limb. It was Downy's head flying back
and forth as he beat his long roll. He was dressed all in black
and white. On the back of his head was a little scarlet patch. He
was making a tremendous racket for such a little chap, only a
little bigger than one of the Sparrow family.
"Is he making a hole for a nest up there?" asked Peter eagerly.
"Gracious, Peter, what a question! What a perfectly silly
question!" exclaimed Jenny Wren scornfully. "Do give us birds
credit for a little common sense. If he were cutting a hole for a
nest, everybody within hearing would know just where to look for
it. Downy has too much sense in that little head of his to do
such a silly thing as that. When he cuts a hole for a nest he
doesn't make any more noise than is absolutely necessary. You
don't see any chips flying, do you?"
"No-o," replied Peter slowly. "Now you speak of it, I don't. Is--
is he hunting for worms in the wood?"
Jenny laughed right out. "Hardly, Peter, hardly," said she. "He's
just drumming, that's all. That hollow limb makes the best kind
of a drum and Downy is making the most of it. Just listen to
that! There isn't a better drummer anywhere."
But Peter wasn't satisfied. Finally he ventured another question.
"What's he doing it for?"
"Good land, Peter!" cried Jenny. "What do you run and jump for in
the spring? What is Mr. Wren singing for over there? Downy is
drumming for precisely the same reason--happiness. He can't run
and jump and he can't sing, but he can drum. By the way, do you
know that Downy is one of the most useful birds in the Old
Just then Downy flew away, but hardly had he disappeared when
another drummer took his place. At first Peter thought Downy had
returned until he noticed that the newcomer was just a bit bigger
than Downy. Jenny Wren's sharp eyes spied him at once.
"Hello!" she exclaimed. "There's Hairy. Did you ever see two
cousins look more alike? If it were not that Hairy is bigger than
Downy it would be hard work to tell them apart. Do you see any
other difference, Peter?"
Peter stared and blinked and stared again, then slowly shook his
head. "No," he confessed, "I don't."
"That shows you haven't learned to use your eyes, Peter," said
Jenny rather sharply. "Look at the outside feathers of his tail;
they are all white. Downy's outside tail feathers have little
bars of black. Hairy is just as good a carpenter as is Downy, but
for that matter I don't know of a member of the Woodpecker family
who isn't a good carpenter. Where did you say Yellow Wing the
Flicker is making his home this year?"
"Over in the Big Hickory-tree by the Smiling Pool," replied
Peter. "I don't understand yet why Yellow Wing spends so much
time on the ground."
"Ants," replied Jenny Wren. "Just ants. He's as fond of ants as
is Old Mr. Toad, and that is saying a great deal. If Yellow Wing
keeps on he'll become a ground bird instead of a tree bird. He
gets more than half his living on the ground now. Speaking of
drumming, did you ever hear Yellow Wing drum on a tin roof?"
Peter shook his head.
"Well, if there's a tin roof anywhere around, and Yellow Wing can
find it, he will be perfectly happy. He certainly does love to
make a noise, and tin makes the finest kind of a drum."
Just then Jenny was interrupted by the arrival, on the trunk of
the very next tree to the one on which she was sitting, of a bird
about the size of Sammy Jay. His whole head and neck were a
beautiful, deep red. His breast was pure white, and his back was
black to nearly the beginning of his tail, where it was white.
"Hello, Redhead!" exclaimed Jenny Wren. "How did you know we were
talking about your family?"
"Hello, chatterbox," retorted Redhead with a twinkle in his eyes.
"I didn't know you were talking about my family, but I could have
guessed that you were talking about some one's family. Does your
tongue ever stop, Jenny?"
Jenny Wren started to become indignant and scold, then thought
better of it. "I was talking for Peter's benefit," said she,
trying to look dignified, a thing quite impossible for any member
of the Wren family to do. "Peter has always had the idea that
true Woodpeckers never go down on the ground. I was explaining to
him that Yellow Wing is a true Woodpecker, yet spends half his
time on the ground."
Redhead nodded. "It's all on account of ants," said he. "I don't
know of any one quite so fond of ants unless it is Old Mr. Toad.
I like a few of them myself, but Yellow Wing just about lives on
them when he can. You may have noticed that I go down on the
ground myself once in a while. I am rather fond of beetles, and
an occasional grasshopper tastes very good to me. I like a
variety. Yes, sir, I certainly do like a variety--cherries,
blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes. In fact most
kinds of fruit taste good to me, not to mention beechnuts and
acorns when there is no fruit."
Jenny Wren tossed her head. "You didn't mention the eggs of some
of your neighbors," said she sharply.
Redhead did his best to look innocent, but Peter noticed that he
gave a guilty start and very abruptly changed the subject, and a
moment later flew away.
"Is it true," asked Peter, "that Redhead does such a dreadful
Jenny bobbed her head rapidly and jerked her tail. "So I an
told," said she. "I've never seen him do it, but I know others
who have. They say he is no better than Sammy Jay or Blacky the
Crow. But gracious, goodness! I can't sit here gossiping
forever." Jenny twitched her funny little tail, snapped her
bright eyes at Peter, and disappeared in her house.
CHAPTER XII Some Unlikely Relatives.
Having other things to attend to, or rather having other things
to arouse his curiosity, Peter Rabbit did not visit the Old
Orchard for several days. When he did it was to find the entire
neighborhood quite upset. There was an indignation meeting in
progress in and around the tree in which Chebec and his modest
little wife had their home. How the tongues did clatter! Peter
knew that something had happened, but though he listened with all
his might he couldn't make head or tail of it.
Finally Peter managed to get the attention of Jenny Wren. "What's
happened?" demanded Peter. "What's all this fuss about?"
Jenny Wren was so excited that she couldn't keep still an
instant. Her sharp little eyes snapped and her tail was carried
higher than ever. "It's a disgrace! It's a disgrace to the whole
feathered race, and something ought to be done about it!"
sputtered Jenny. "I'm ashamed to think that such a contemptible
creature wears feathers! I am so!"
"But what's it all about?" demanded Peter impatiently. "Do keep
still long enough to tell me. Who is this contemptible creature?"
"Sally Sly," snapped Jenny Wren. "Sally Sly the Cowbird. I hoped
she wouldn't disgrace the Old Orchard this year, but she has.
When Mr. and Mrs. Chebec returned from getting their breakfast
this morning they found one of Sally Sly's eggs in their nest.
They are terribly upset, and I don't blame them. If I were in
their place I simply would throw that egg out. That's what I'd
do, I'd throw that egg out!"
Peter was puzzled. He blinked his eyes and stroked his whiskers
as he tried to understand what it all meant. "Who is Sally Sly,
and what did she do that for?" he finally ventured.
"For goodness' sake, Peter Rabbit, do you mean to tell me you
don't know who Sally Sly is?" Then without waiting for Peter to
reply, Jenny rattled on. "She's a member of the Blackbird family
and she's the laziest, most good-for-nothing, sneakiest, most
unfeeling and most selfish wretch I know of!" Jenny paused long
enough to get her breath. "She laid that egg in Chebec's nest
because she is too lazy to build a nest of her own and too
selfish to take care of her own children. Do you know what will
happen, Peter Rabbit? Do you know what will happen?"
Peter shook his head and confessed that he didn't. "When that egg
hatches out, that young Cowbird will be about twice as big as
Chebec's own children," sputtered Jenny. "He'll be so big that
he'll get most of the food. He'll just rob those little Chebecs
in spite of all their mother and father can do. And Chebec and
his wife will be just soft-hearted enough to work themselves to
skin and bone to feed the young wretch because he is an orphan
and hasn't anybody to look after him. The worst of it is, Sally
Sly is likely to play the same trick on others. She always
chooses the nest of some one smaller than herself. She's terribly
sly. No one has seen her about. She just sneaked into the Old
Orchard this morning when everybody was busy, laid that egg and
sneaked out again."
"Did you say that she is a member of the Blackbird family?" asked
Jenny Wren nodded vigorously. "That's what she is," said she.
"Thank goodness, she isn't a member of MY family. If she were I
never would be able to hold my head up. Just listen to Goldy the
Oriole over in that big elm. I don't see how he can sing like
that, knowing that one of his relatives has just done such a
shameful deed. It's a queer thing that there can be two members
of the same family so unlike. Mrs. Goldy builds one of the most
wonderful nests of any one I know, and Sally Sly is too lazy to
build any. If I were in Goldy's place I--"
"Hold on!" cried Peter. "I thought you said Sally Sly is a member
of the Blackbird family. I don't see what she's got to do with
Goldy the Oriole."
"You don't, eh?" exclaimed Jenny. "Well, for one who pokes into
other people's affairs as you do, you don't know much. The
Orioles and the Meadow Larks and the Grackles and the Bobolinks
all belong to the Blackbird family. They're all related to
Redwing the Blackbird, and Sally Sly the Cowbird belongs in the
Peter gasped. "I--I-- hadn't the least idea that any of these
folks were related," stammered Peter.
"Well, they are," retorted Jenny Wren. "As I live, there's Sally
Peter caught a glimpse of a brownish-gray bird who reminded him
somewhat of Mrs. Redwing. She was about the same size and looked
very much like her. It was plain that she was trying to keep out
of sight, and the instant she knew that she had been discovered
she flew away in the direction of the Old Pasture. It happened
that late that afternoon Peter visited the Old Pasture and saw
her again. She and some of her friends were busily walking about
close to the feet of the cows, where they seemed to be picking up
food. One had a brown head, neck and breast; the rest of his coat
was glossy black. Peter rightly guessed that this must be Mr.
Cowbird. Seeing them on such good terms with the cows he
understood why they are called Cowbirds.
Sure that Sally Sly had left the Old Orchard, the feathered folks
settled down to their personal affairs and household cares, Jenny
Wren among them. Having no one to talk to, Peter found a shady
place close to the old stone wall and there sat down to think
over the surprising things he had learned. Presently Goldy the
Baltimore Oriole alighted in the nearest apple-tree, and it
seemed to Peter that never had he seen any one more beautifully
dressed. His head, neck, throat and upper part of his back were
black. The lower part of his back and his breast were a beautiful
deep orange color. There was a dash of orange on his shoulders,
but the rest of his wings were black with an edging of white. His
tail was black and orange. Peter had heard him called the
Firebird, and now he understood why. His song was quite as rich
and beautiful as his coat.
Shortly he was joined by Mrs. Goldy. Compared with her handsome
husband she was very modestly dressed. She wore more brown than
black, and where the orange color appeared it was rather dull.
She wasted no time in singing. Almost instantly her sharp eyes
spied a piece of string caught in the bushes almost over Peter's
head. With a little cry of delight she flew down and seized it.
But the string was caught, and though she tugged and pulled with
all her might she couldn't get it free. Goldy saw the trouble
she was having and cutting his song short, flew down to help
her. Together they pulled and tugged and tugged and pulled, until
they had to stop to rest and get their breath.
"We simply must have this piece of string," said Mrs. Goldy.
"I've been hunting everywhere for a piece, and this is the first
I've found. It is just what we need to bind our nest fast to the
twigs. With this I won't have the least bit of fear that that
nest will ever tear loose, no matter how hard the wind blows."
Once more they tugged and pulled and pulled and tugged until at
last they got it free, and Mrs. Goldy flew away in triumph with
the string in her bill. Goldy himself followed. Peter watched
them fly to the top of a long, swaying branch of a big elm-tree
up near Farmer Brown's house. He could see something which looked
like a bag hanging there, and he knew that this must be the nest.
"Gracious!" said Peter. "They must get terribly tossed about when
the wind blows. I should think their babies would be thrown out."
"Don't you worry about them," said a voice.
Peter looked up to find Welcome Robin just over him. "Mrs. Goldy
makes one of the most wonderful nests I know of," continued
Welcome Robin. "It is like a deep pocket made of grass, string,
hair and bark, all woven together like a piece of cloth. It is so
deep that it is quite safe for the babies, and they seem to enjoy
being rocked by the wind. I shouldn't care for it myself because
I like a solid foundation for my home, but the Goldies like it.
It looks dangerous but it really is one of the safest nests I
know of. Snakes and cats never get 'way up there and there are
few feathered nest-robbers who can get at those eggs so deep down
in the nest. Goldy is sometimes called Golden Robin. He isn't a
Robin at all, but I would feel very proud if he were a member of
my family. He's just as useful as he is handsome, and that's
saying a great deal. He just dotes on caterpillars. There's Mrs.
Robin calling me. Good-by, Peter."
With this Welcome Robin flew away and Peter once more settled
himself to think over all he had learned.
CHAPTER XIII More of the Blackbird Family.
Peter Rabbit was dozing. Yes, sir, Peter was dozing. He didn't
mean to doze, but whenever Peter sits still for a long time and
tries to think, he is pretty sure to go to sleep. By and by he
wakened with a start. At first he didn't know what had wakened
him, but as he sat there blinking his eyes, he heard a few
rich notes from the top of the nearest apple-tree. "It's Goldy
the Oriole," thought Peter, and peeped out to see.
But though he looked and looked he couldn't see Goldy anywhere,
but he did see a stranger. It was some one of about Goldy's size
and shape. In fact he was so like Goldy, but for the color of his
suit, that at first Peter almost thought Goldy had somehow changed his clothes.
Of course he knew that this couldn't be, but
it seemed as if it must be, for the song the stranger was singing
was something like that of Goldy. The stranger's head and throat
and back were black, just like Goldy's, and his wings were
trimmed with white in just the same way. But the rest of his
suit, instead of being the beautiful orange of which Goldy is so
proud, was a beautiful chestnut color.
Peter blinked and stared very hard. "Now who can this be?" said
he, speaking aloud without thinking.
"Don't you know him?" asked a sharp voice so close to Peter that
it made him jump. Peter whirled around. There sat Striped
Chipmunk grinning at him from the top of the old stone wall.
"That's Weaver the Orchard Oriole," Striped Chipmunk rattled on.
"If you don't know him you ought to, because he is one of the
very nicest persons in the Old Orchard. I just love to hear him
"Is--is--he related to Goldy?" asked Peter somewhat doubtfully.
"Of course," retorted Striped Chipmunk. "I shouldn't think you
would have to look at him more than once to know that. He's first
cousin to Goldy. There comes Mrs. Weaver. I do hope they've
decided to build in the Old Orchard this year."
"I'm glad you told me who she is because I never would have
guessed it," confessed Peter as he studied the newcomer. She did
not look at all like Weaver. She was dressed in olive-green and
dull yellow, with white markings on her wings.
Peter couldn't help thinking how much easier it must be for her
than for her handsome husband to hide among the green leaves.
As he watched she flew down to the ground and picked up a long
piece of grass. "They are building here, as sure as you live!"
cried Striped Chipmunk. "I'm glad of that. Did you ever see
their nest, Peter? Of course you haven't, because you said you
had never seen them before. Their nest is a wonder, Peter. It
really is. It is made almost wholly of fine grass and they weave
it together in the most wonderful way."
"Do they have a hanging nest like Goldy's?" asked Peter a bit
"Not such a deep one," replied Striped Chipmunk. "They hang it
between the twigs near the end of a branch, but they bind it more
closely to the branch and it isn't deep enough to swing as
Peter had just opened his mouth to ask another question when
there was a loud sniffing sound farther up along the old stone
wall. He didn't wait to hear it again. He knew that Bowser the
Hound was coming.
"Good-by, Striped Chipmunk! This is no place for me," whispered
Peter and started for the dear Old Briar-patch. He was in such a
hurry to get there that on his way across the Green Meadows he
almost ran into Jimmy Skunk before he saw him.
"What's your hurry, Peter?" demanded Jimmy
"Bowser the Hound almost found me up in the Old Orchard," panted
Peter. "It's a wonder he hasn't found my tracks. I expect he will
any minute. I'm glad to see you, Jimmy, but I guess I'd better be
"Don't be in such a hurry, Peter. Don't be in such a hurry,"
replied Jimmy, who himself never hurries. "Stop and talk a bit.
That old nuisance won't bother you as long as you are with me."
Peter hesitated. He wanted to gossip, but he still felt nervous
about Bowser the Hound. However, as he heard nothing of Bowser's
great voice, telling all the world that he had found Peter's
tracks, he decided to stop a few minutes. "What are you doing
down here on the Green Meadows?" he demanded.
Jimmy grinned. "I'm looking for grasshoppers and grubs, if you
must know," said he. "And I've just got a notion I may find some
fresh eggs. I don't often eat them, but once in a while one
"If you ask me, it's a funny place to be looking for eggs down
here on the Green Meadows," replied Peter. "When I want a thing;
I look for it where it is likely to be found."
"Just so, Peter; just so," retorted Jimmy Skunk, nodding his
head with approval. "That's why I am here."
Peter looked puzzled. He was puzzled. But before he could ask
another question a rollicking song caused both of them to look
up. There on quivering wings in mid-air was the singer. He was
dressed very much like Jimmy Skunk himself, in black and white,
save that in places the white had a tinge of yellow, especially
on the back of his neck. It was Bubbling Bob the Bobolink. And
how he did sing! It seemed as if the notes fairly tumbled over
Jimmy Skunk raised himself on his hind-legs a little to see
just where Bubbling Bob dropped down in the grass. Then Jimmy
began to move in that direction. Suddenly Peter understood. He
remembered that Bubbling Bob's nest is always on the ground.
It was his eggs that Jimmy Skunk was looking for.
"You don't happen to have seen Mrs. Bob anywhere around here,
do you, Peter?" asked Jimmy, trying to speak carelessly.
"No," replied Peter. "If I had I wouldn't tell you where. You
ought to be ashamed, Jimmy Skunk, to think of robbing such a
beautiful singer as Bubbling Bob."
"Pooh!" retorted Jimmy. "What's the harm? If I find those eggs
he and Mrs. Bob could simply build another nest and lay some
more. They won't be any the worse off, and I will have had a good
"But think of all the work they would have to do to build another
nest," replied Peter.
"I should worry," retorted Jimmy Skunk. "Any one who can spend so
much time singing can afford to do a little extra work."
"You're horrid, Jimmy Skunk. You're just horrid," said Peter. "I
hope you won't find a single egg, so there!"
With this, Peter once more headed for the dear Old Briar-patch,
while Jimmy Skunk continued toward the place where Bubbling Bob
had disappeared in the long grass. Peter went only a short
distance and then sat up to watch Jimmy Skunk. Just before Jimmy
reached the place where Bubbling Bob had disappeared, the latter
mounted into the air again, pouring out his rollicking song as if
there were no room in his heart for anything but happiness. Then
he saw Jimmy Shrunk and became very much excited. He flew down in
the grass a little farther on and then up again, and began to
It looked very much as if he had gone down in the grass to warn
Mrs. Bob. Evidently Jimmy thought so, for he at once headed
that way. When Bubbling Bob did the same thing all over again.
Peter grew anxious. He knew just how patient Jimmy Skunk could
be, and he very much feared that Jimmy would find that nest.
Presently he grew tired of watching and started on for the dear
Old Briar-patch. Just before he reached it a brown bird, who
reminded him somewhat of Mrs. Redwing and Sally Sly the Cowbird,
though she was smaller, ran across the path in front of him and
then flew up to the top of a last year's mullein stalk. It was
Mrs. Bobolink. Peter knew her well, for he and she were very good
"Oh!" cried Peter. "What are you doing here? Don't you know that
Jimmy Skunk, is hunting for your nest over there? Aren't you
worried to death? I would be if I were in your place."
Mrs. Bob chuckled. "Isn't he a dear? And isn't he smart?" said
she, meaning Bubbling Bob, of course, and not Jimmy Skunk. "Just
see him lead that black-and-white robber away."
Peter stared at her for a full minute. "Do you mean to say,"
said he "that your nest isn't over there at all?"
Mrs. Bob chuckled harder than ever. "Of course it isn't over
there," said she.
"Then where is it?" demanded Peter.
"That's telling," replied Mrs. Bob. "It isn't over there, and it
isn't anywhere near there. But where it is is Bob's secret and
mine, and we mean to keep it. Now I must go get something to
eat," and with a hasty farewell Mrs. Bobolink flew over to the
other side of the dear Old Briar-patch.
Peter remembered that he had seen Mrs. Bob running along the
ground before she flew up to the old mullein stalk. He went back
to the spot where he had first seen her and hunted all around in
the grass, but without success. You see, Mrs. Bobolink had been
quite as clever in fooling Peter as Bubbling Bob had been in
fooling Jimmy Skunk.
CHAPTER XIV Bob White and Carol the Meadow Lark.
"Bob--Bob White! Bob--Bob White! Bob--Bob White!" clear and
sweet, that call floated over to the dear Old Briar-patch until
Peter could stand it no longer. He felt that he just had to go
over and pay an early morning call on one of his very best
friends, who at this season of the year delights in whistling
his own name--Bob White.
"I suppose," muttered Peter, "that Bob White has got a nest. I
wish he would show it to me. He's terribly secretive about it.
Last year I hunted for his nest until my feet were sore, but it
wasn't the least bit of use. Then one morning I met Mrs. Bob
White with fifteen babies out for a walk. How she could hide a
nest with fifteen eggs in it is more than I can understand."
Peter left the Old Briar-patch and started off over the Green
Meadows towards the Old Pasture. As he drew near the fence
between the Green Meadows and the Old Pasture he saw Bob White
sitting on one of the posts, whistling with all his might. On
another post near him sat another bird very near the size of
Welcome Robin. He also was telling all the world of his
happiness. It was Carol the Meadow Lark.
Peter was so intent watching these two friends of his that he
took no heed to his footsteps. Suddenly there was a whirr from
almost under his very nose and he stopped short, so startled that
he almost squealed right out. In a second he recognized Mrs.
Meadow Lark. He watched her fly over to where Carol was singing.
Her stout little wings moved swiftly for a moment or two, then
she sailed on without moving them at all. Then they fluttered
rapidly again until she was flying fast enough to once more sail
on them outstretched. The white outer feathers of her tail
showed clearly and reminded Peter of the tail of Sweetvoice the
Vesper Sparrow, only of course it was ever so much bigger.
Peter sat still until Mrs. Meadow Lark had alighted on the fence
near Carol. Then he prepared to hurry on, for he was anxious for
a bit of gossip with these good friends of his. But just before
he did this he just happened to glance down and there, almost at
his very feet, he caught sight of something that made him squeal
right out. It was a nest with four of the prettiest eggs Peter
ever had seen. They were white with brown spots all over them.
Had it not been for the eggs he never would have seen that nest,
never in the world. It was made of dry, brown grass and was
cunningly hidden is a little clump of dead grass which fell over
it so as to almost completely hide it. But the thing that
surprised Peter most was the clever way in which the approach to
it was hidden. It was by means of a regular little tunnel of
"Oh!" cried Peter, and his eyes sparkled with pleasure. "This
must be the nest of Mrs. Meadow Lark. No wonder I have never been
able to find it, when I have looked for it. It is just luck and
nothing else that I have found it this time. I think it is
perfectly wonderful that Mrs. Meadow Lark can hide her home in
such a way. I do hope Jimmy Skunk isn't anywhere around."
Peter sat up straight and anxiously looked this way and that way.
Jimmy Skunk was nowhere to be seen and Peter gave a little sigh
of relief. Very carefully he walked around that nest and its
little tunnel, then hurried over toward the fence as fast as he
"It's perfectly beautiful, Carol!" he cried, just as soon as he
was near enough. "And I won't tell a single soul!"
"I hope not. I certainly hope not," cried Mrs. Meadow Lark in an
anxious tone. "I never would have another single easy minute if I
thought you would tell a living soul about my nest. Promise that
you won't, Peter. Cross your heart and promise that you won't."
Peter promptly crossed his heart and promised that he wouldn't
tell a single soul. Mrs. Meadow Lark seemed to feel better. Right
away she flew back and Peter turned to watch her. He saw her
disappear in the grass, but it wasn't where he had found the
nest. Peter waited a few minutes, thinking that he would see her
rise into the air again and fly over to the nest. But he waited
in vain. Then with a puzzled look on his face, he turned to look
up at Carol.
Carol's eyes twinkled. "I know what you're thinking, Peter," he
chuckled. "You are thinking that it is funny Mrs. Meadow Lark
didn't go straight hack to our nest when she seemed so anxious
about it. I would have you to know that she is too clever to do
anything so foolish as that. She knows well enough that somebody
might see her and so find our secret. She has walked there from
the place where yon saw her disappear in the grass. That is the
way we always do when we go to our nest. One never can be too
careful these days."
Then Carol began to pour out his happiness once more, quite as if
nothing had interrupted his song.
Somehow Peter never before had realized how handsome Carol the
Meadow Lark was. As he faced Peter, the latter saw a beautiful
yellow throat and waistcoat, with a broad black crescent on his
breast. There was a yellow line above each eye. His back was of
brown with black markings. His sides were whitish, with spats and
streaks of black. The outer edges of his tail were white.
Altogether he was really handsome, far handsomer than one would
suspect, seeing him at a distance.
Having found out Carol's secret, Peter was doubly anxious to find
Bob White's home, so he hurried over to the post where Bob was
whistling with all his might. "Bob!" cried Peter. "I've just
found Carol's nest and I've promised to keep it a secret. Won't
you show me your nest, too, if I'll promise to keep THAT a
Rob threw back his head and laughed joyously. "You ought to know,
Peter, by this time," said he, "that there are secrets never to
be told to anybody. My nest is one of these. If you find it, all
right; but I wouldn't show it to my very best friend, and I guess
I haven't any better friend than you, Peter." Then from sheer
happiness he whistled, "--Bob White! Bob--Bob White!" with all
Peter was disappointed and a little put out. "I guess", said he,
"I could find it if I wanted to. I guess it isn't any better
hidden than Mrs. Meadow Lark's, and I found that. Some folks
aren't as smart as they think they are."
Bob White, who is sometimes called Quail and sometimes called
Partridge, and who is neither, chuckled heartily. "Go ahead, old
Mr. Curiosity, go ahead and hunt all you please," said he. "It's
funny to me how some folks think themselves smart when the truth
is they simply have been lucky. You know well enough that you
just happened to find Carol's nest. If you happen to find mine, I
won't have a word to say."
Bob White took a long breath, tipped his head back until his
bill was pointing right up in the blue, blue sky, and with all
his might whistled his name, "Bob--Bob White! Bob--Bob White!"
As Peter looked at him it came over him that Bob White was the
plumpest bird of his acquaintance. He was so plump that his body
seemed almost round. The shortness of his tail added to this
effect, for Bob has a very short tail. The upper part of his coat
was a handsome reddish-brown with dark streaks and light edgings.
His sides and the upper part of his breast were of the same
handsome reddish-brown, while underneath he was whitish with
little bars of black. His throat was white, and above each eye
was a broad white stripe. His white throat was bordered with
black, and a band of black divided the throat from the white line
above each eye. The top of his head was mixed black and brown.
Altogether he was a handsome little fellow in a modest way.
Suddenly Bob White stopped whistling and looked down at Peter
with a twinkle in his eye. "Why don't you go hunt for that nest,
Peter?" said he.
"I'm going," replied Peter rather shortly, for he knew that Bob
knew that he hadn't the least idea where to look. It might be
somewhere on the Green Meadows or it might be in the Old Pasture;
Bob hadn't given the least hint. Peter had a feeling that the
nest wasn't far away and that it was on the Green Meadows, so he
began to hunt, running aimlessly this way and that way, all the
time feeling very foolish, for of course he knew that Bob White
was watching him and chuckling down inside.
It was very warm down there on the Green Meadows, and Peter grew
hot and tired. He decided to run up in the Old Pasture in the
shade of an old bramble-tangle there. Just the other side of the
fence was a path made by the cows and often used by Farmer
Brown's boy and Reddy Fox and others who visited the Old Pasture.
Along this Peter scampered, lipperty-lipperty-lip, on his way to
the bramble-tangle. He didn't look either to right or left. It
didn't occur to him that there would be any use at all, for of
course no one would build a nest near a path where people passed
to and fro every day.
And so it was that in his happy-go-lucky way Peter scampered
right past a clump of tall weeds close beside the path without
the least suspicion that cleverly hidden in it was the very thing
he was looking for. With laughter in her eyes, shrewd little
Mrs. Bob White, with sixteen white eggs under her, watched him
pass. She had chosen that very place for her nest because she
knew that it was the last place anyone would expect to find it.
The very fact that it seemed the most dangerous place she could
have chosen made it the safest.
CHAPTER XV A Swallow and One Who Isn't.
Johnny and Polly Chuck had made their home between the roots of
an old apple-tree in the far corner of the Old Orchard. You know
they have their bedroom way down in the ground, and it is reached
by a long hall. They had dug their home between the roots of that
old apple-tree because they had discovered that there was just
room enough between those spreading roots for them to pass in and
out, and there wasn't room to dig the entrance any larger. So
they felt quite safe from Reddy Fox; and Bowser the Hound, either
of whom would have delighted to dig them out but for those roots.
Right in front of their doorway was a very nice doorstep of
shining sand where Johnny Chuck delighted to sit when he had a
full stomach and nothing else to do. Johnny's nearest neighbors
had made their home only about five feet above Johnny's head when
he sat up on his doorstep. They were Skimmer the Tree Swallow
and his trim little wife, and the doorway of their home was a
little round hole in the trunk of that apple-tree, a hole which
had been cut some years before by one of the Woodpeckers.
Johnny and Skimmer were the best of friends. Johnny used to
delight in watching Skimmer dart out from beneath the branches of
the trees and wheel and turn and glide, now sometimes high in the
blue, blue sky, and again just skimming the tops of the grass, on
wings which seemed never to tire. But he liked still better the
bits of gossip when Skimmer would sit in his doorway and chat
about his neighbors of the Old Orchard and his adventures out in
the Great World during his long journeys to and from the far-away
To Johnny Chuck's way of thinking, there was no one quite so trim
and neat appearing as Skimmer with his snowy white breast and
blue-green back and wings. Two things Johnny always used to
wonder at, Skimmer's small bill and short legs. Finally he
ventured to ask Skimmer about them.
"Gracious, Johnny!" exclaimed Skimmer. "I wouldn't have a big
bill for anything. I wouldn't know what to do with it; it would
be in the way. You see, I get nearly all my food in the air when
I am flying, mosquitoes and flies and all sorts of small insects
with wings. I don't have to pick them off trees and bushes or
from the ground and so I don't need any more of a bill than I
have. It's the same way with my legs. Have you ever seen me
walking on the ground?"
Johnny thought a moment. "No," said he, "now you speak of it, I
"And have you ever seen me hopping about in the branches of a
tree?" persisted Skimmer.
Again Johnny Chuck admitted that he never had.
"The only use I have for feet," continued Skimmer, "is for
perching while I rest. I don't need long legs for walking or
hopping about, so Mother Nature has made my legs very short. You
see I spend most of my time in the air."
"I suppose it's the same with your cousin; Sooty the Chimney
Swallow," said Johnny.
"That shows just how much some people know!" twittered Skimmer
indignantly. "The idea of calling Sooty a Swallow! The very idea!
I'd leave you to know, Johnny Chuck, that Sooty isn't even
related to me. He's a Swift, and not a Swallow."
"He looks like a Swallow," protested Johnny Chuck.
"He doesn't either. You just think he does because he happens to
spend most of his time in the air the way we Swallows do,"
sputtered Skimmer. "The Swallow family never would admit such a
homely looking fellow as he is as a member.
"Tut, tut, tut, tut! I do believe Skimmer is jealous," cried
Jenny Wren, who had happened along just in time to hear Skimmer's
"Nothing of the sort," declared Skimmer, growing still more
indignant. "I'd like to know what there is about Sooty the
Chimney Swift that could possibly make a Swallow jealous."
Jenny Wren cocked her tail up in that saucy way of hers and
winked at Johnny Chuck. "The way he can fly," said she softly.
"The way he can fly!" sputtered Skimmer, "The way he can fly!
Why, there never was a day in his life that he could fly like a
Swallow. There isn't any one more graceful on the wing than I am,
if I do say so. And there isn't any one more ungraceful than
Just then there was a shrill chatter overhead and all looked up
to see Sooty the Chimney Swift racing through the sky as if
having the very best time in the world. His wings would beat
furiously and then he would glide very much as you or I would on
skates. It was quite true that he wasn't graceful. But he could
twist and turn and cut up all sorts of antics, such as Skimmer
never dreamed of doing.
"He can use first one wing and then the other, while you have to
use both wings at once," persisted Jenny Wren. "You couldn't, to
save your life, go straight down into a chimney, and you know it,
Skimmer. He can do things with his wings which yon can't do, nor
any other bird."
"That may be true, but just the same I'm not the least teeny
weeny bit jealous of him," said Skimmer, and darted away to get
beyond the reach of Jenny's sharp tongue.
"Is it really true that he and Sooty are not related?" asked
Johnny Chuck, as they watched Skimmer cutting airy circles high
up in the slay.
Jenny nodded. "It's quite true, Johnny," said site. "Sooty
belongs to another family altogether. He's a funny fellow. Did
yon ever in your life see such narrow wings? And his tail is
hardly worth calling a tail."
Johnny Chuck laughed. "Way up there in the air he looks almost
alike at both ends," said he. "Is he all black?"
"He isn't black at all," declared Jenny. "He is sooty-brown,
rather grayish on the throat and breast. Speaking of that tail of
his, the feathers end in little, sharp, stiff points. He uses
them in the same way that Downy the Woodpecker uses his tail
feathers when he braces himself with them on the trunk of a
"But I've never seen Sooty on the trunk of a tree," protested
Johnny Chuck. "In fact, I've never seen him anywhere but in the
"And you never will," snapped Jenny. "The only place he ever
alights is inside a chimney or inside a hollow tree. There he
clings to the side just as Downy the Woodpecker clings to the
trunk of a tree."
Johnny looked as if he didn't quite believe this. "If that's the
case where does he nest?" he demanded. "And where does he sleep?"
"In a chimney, stupid. In a chimney, of course," retorted Jenny
Wren. "He fastens his nest right to the inside of a chimney. He
makes a regular little basket of twigs and fastens it to the side
of the chimney."
"Are you trying to stuff me with nonsense?" asked Johnny Chuck
indignantly. "How can he fasten his nest to the side of a chimney
unless there's a little shelf to put it on? And if be never
alights, how does he get the little sticks to make a nest of? I'd
just like to know how you expect me to believe any such story as
Jenny Wren's sharp little eyes snapped. "If you half used your
eyes you wouldn't have to ask me how he gets those little
sticks," she sputtered. "If you had watched him when he was
flying close to the tree tops you would have seen him clutch
little dead twigs in his claws and snap them off without
stopping. That's the way he gets his little sticks, Mr. Smarty,
He fastens them together with a sticky substance he has in his
mouth, and he fastens the nest to the side of the chimney in the
same way. You can believe it or not, but it's so."
"I believe it, Jenny, I believe it," replied Johnny Chuck very
humbly. "If you please, Jenny, does Sooty get all his food in the
"Of course," replied Jenny tartly. "He eats nothing but insects,
and he catches them flying. Now I must get back to my duties at
"Just tell me one more thing," cried Johnny Chuck hastily.
"Hasn't Sooty any near relatives as most birds have?"
"He hasn't any one nearer than some sort of second cousins,
Boomer the Nighthawk, Whippoorwill, and Hummer the Hummingbird."
"What?" cried Johnny Chuck, quite as if he couldn't believe he
had heard aright. "Did you say Hummer the Hummingbird?" But he
got no reply, for Jenny Wren was already beyond hearing.
CHAPTER XVI A Robber in the Old Orchard.
"I don't believe it," muttered Johnny Chuck out loud. "I don't
believe Jenny Wren knows what she's talking about."
"What is it Jenny Wren has said that you don't believe?" demanded
Skimmer the Tree Swallow, as he once more settled himself in his
"She said that Hummer the Hummingbird is a sort of second cousin
to Sooty the Chimney Swift," replied Johnny Chuck.
"Well, it's so, if you don't believe it," declared Skimmer. "I
don't see that that is any harder to believe than that you are
cousin to Striped Chipmunk and Nappy Jack the Gray Squirrel. To
look at you no one would ever think you are a member of the
Squirrel family, but you must admit that you are."
Johnny Chuck nodded his head thoughtfully. "Yes," said he, "I am,
even if I don't look it. This is a funny world, isn't it? You
can't always tell by a person's looks who he may be related to.
Now that I've found out that Sooty isn't related to you and is
related to Hummer, I'll never dare guess again about anybody's
relatives. I always supposed Twitter the Martin to be a relative
of yours, but now that I've learned that Sooty isn't, I suspect
that Twitter isn't either."
"Oh, yes, he is," replied Skimmer promptly. "He's the largest of
the Swallow family, and we all feel very proud of him. Everybody
"Is he as black as he looks, flying round up in the air?" asked
Johnny Chuck. "He never comes down here as you do where a fellow
can get a good look at him."
"Yes," replied Skimmer, "he dresses all in black, but it is a
beautiful blue-black, and when the sun shines on his back it
seems to be almost purple. That is why some folks call him the
Purple Martin. He is one of the most social fellows I know of. I
like a home by myself, such as I've got here, but Twitter loves
company. He likes to live in an apartment house with a lot of his
own kind. That is why he always looks for one of those houses
with a lot of rooms in it, such as Farmer Brown's boy has put up
on the top of that tall pole out in his back yard. He pays for
all the trouble Farmer Brown's boy took to put that house up. If
there is anybody who catches more flies and winged insects than
Twitter, I don't know who it is."
"How about me?" demanded a new voice, as a graceful form skimmed
over Johnny Chuck's head, and turning like a flash, came back. It
was Forktail the Barn Swallow, the handsomest and one of the most
graceful of all the Swallow family. He passed so close to Johnny
that the latter had a splendid chance to see and admire his
glistening steel-blue back and the beautiful chestnut-brown of
his forehead and throat with its narrow black collar, and the
brown to buff color of his under parts. But the thing that was
most striking about him was his tail, which was so deeply forked
as to seem almost like two tails.
"I would know him as far as I could see him just by his tail
alone," exclaimed Johnny. "I don't know of any other tail at all
"There isn't any other like it," declared Skimmer. "If Twitter
the Martin is the largest of our family, Forktail is the
"How about my usefulness?" demanded Forktail, as he came skimming
past again. "Cousin Twitter certainly does catch a lot of flies
and insects but I'm willing to go against him any day to see who
can catch the most."
With this he darted away. Watching him they saw him alight on the
top of Farmer Brown's barn. "It's funny," remarked Johnny Chuck,
"but as long as I've known Forktail, and I've known him ever
since I was big enough to know anybody, I've never found out how
he builds his nest. I've seen him skimming over the Green Meadows
times without number, and often he comes here to the Old Orchard
as he did just now, but I've never seen him stop anywhere except
over on that barn."
"That's where he nests," chuckled Skimmer.
"What?" cried Johnny Chuck. "Do you mean to say he nests on Farmer
"No," replied Skimmer. "He nests in it. That's why he is called
the Barn Swallow, and why you never have seen his nest. If you'll
just go over to Farmer Brown's barn and look up in the roof,
you'll see Forktail's nest there somewhere."
"Me go over to Farmer Brown's barn!" exclaimed Johnny Chuck. "Do
you think I'm crazy?"
Skimmer chuckled. "Forktail isn't crazy," said he, "and he goes
in and out of that barn all day long. I must say I wouldn't care
to build in such a place myself, but he seems to like it. There's
one thing about it, his home is warm and dry and comfortable, no
matter what the weather is. I wouldn't trade with him, though.
No, sir, I wouldn't trade with him for anything. Give me a hollow
in a tree well lined with feathers to a nest made of mud and
straw, even if it is feather-lined."
"Do you mean that such a neat-looking, handsome fellow as
Forktail uses mud in his nest?" cried Johnny.
Skimmer bobbed his head. "He does just that," said he. "He's
something like Welcome Robin in this respect. I--"
But Johnny Chuck never knew what Skimmer was going to say next,
for Skimmer happened at that instant to glance up. For an instant
he sat motionless with horror, then with a shriek he darted out
into the air. At the sound of that shriek Mrs. Skimmer, who all
the time had been sitting on her eggs inside the hollow of the
tree, darted out of her doorway, also shrieking. For a moment
Johnny Chuck couldn't imagine what could be the trouble. Then a
slight rustling drew his eyes to a crotch in the tree a little
above the doorway of Skimmer's home. There, partly coiled around
a branch, with head swaying to and fro, eyes glittering and
forked tongue darting out and in, as he tried to look down into
Skimmer's nest, was Mr. Blacksnake.
It seemed to Johnny as if in a minute every bird in the Old
Orchard had arrived on the scene. Such a shrieking and screaming
as there was! First one and then another would dart at Mr.
Blacksnake, only to lose courage at the last second and turn
aside. Poor Skimmer and his little wife were frantic. They did
their utmost to distract Mr. Blacksnake's attention, darting
almost into his very face and then away again before he could
strike. But Mr. Blacksnake knew that they were powerless to hurt
him, and he knew that there were eggs in that nest. There is
nothing he loves better than eggs unless it is a meal of baby
birds. Beyond hissing angrily two or three times he paid no
attention to Skimmer or his friends, but continued to creep
nearer the entrance to that nest.
At last he reached a position where he could put his head in the
doorway. As he did so, Skimmer and Mrs. Skimmer each gave a
little cry of hopelessness and despair. But no sooner had his
head disappeared in the hole in the old apple-tree than Scrapper
the Kingbird struck him savagely. Instantly Mr. Blacksnake
withdrew his head, hissing fiercely, and struck savagely at the
birds nearest him. Several times the same thing happened. No
sooner would his head disappear in that hole than Scrapper or one
or the other of Skimmer's friends, braver than the rest, would
dart in and peck at him viciously, and all the time all the birds
were screaming as only excited feathered folk can. Johnny Chuck
was quite as excited as his feathered friends, and so intent
watching the hated black robber that he had eyes for nothing
else. Suddenly he heard a step just behind him. He turned his
head and then frantically dived head first down into his hole. He
had looked right up into the eyes of Farmer Brown's boy!
"Ha, ha!" cried Farmer Brown's boy, "I thought as much!" And
with a long switch he struck Mr. Blacksnake just as the latter
had put his head in that doorway, resolved to get those eggs this
time. But when he felt that switch and heard the voice of Farmer
Brown's boy he changed his mind in a flash. He simply let go his
hold on that tree and dropped. The instant he touched the ground
he was off like a shot for the safety of the old stone wall,
Farmer Brown's boy after him. Farmer Brown's boy didn't intend to
kill Mr. Blacksnake, but he did want to give him such a fright
that he wouldn't visit the Old Orchard again in a hurry, and this
he quite succeeded in doing.
No sooner had Mr. Blacksnake disappeared than all the birds set
up such a rejoicing that you would have thought they, and not
Farmer Brown's boy, had saved the eggs of Mr. and Mrs. Skimmer.
Listening to them, Johnny Chuck just had to smile.
CHAPTER XVII More Robbers.
By the sounds of rejoicing among the feathered folks of the Old
Orchard Johnny Chuck knew that it was quite safe for him to come
out. He was eager to tell Skimmer the Tree Swallow how glad he
was that Mr. Blacksnake had been driven away before he could get
Skimmer's eggs. As he poked his head out of his doorway he became
aware that something was still wrong in the Old Orchard. Into the
glad chorus there broke a note of distress and sorrow. Johnny
instantly recognized the voices of Welcome Robin and Mrs. Robin.
There is not one among his feathered neighbors who can so express
worry and sorrow as can the Robins.
Johnny was just in time to see all the birds hurrying over to
that part of the Old Orchard where the Robins had built their
home. The rejoicing suddenly gave way to cries of indignation and
anger, and Johnny caught the words, "Robber! Thief! Wretch!" It
appeared that there was just as much excitement over there as
there had been when Mr. Blacksnake had been discovered trying to
rob Skimmer and Mrs. Skimmer. It couldn't be Mr. Blacksnake
again, because Farmer Brown's boy had chased him in quite another
"What is it now?" asked Johnny of Skimmer, who was still
excitedly discussing with Mrs. Skimmer their recent fright.
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," replied Skimmer and
Johnny Chuck waited patiently. The excitement among the birds
seemed to increase, and the chattering and angry cries grew
louder. Only the voices of Welcome and Mrs. Robin were not angry.
They were mournful, as if Welcome and Mrs. Robin were
heartbroken. Presently Skimmer came back to tell Mrs. Skimmer the
"The Robins have lost their eggs!" he cried excitedly. "All four
have been broken and eaten. Mrs. Robin left them to come over
here to help drive away Mr. Blacksnake, and while she was here
some one ate those eggs. Nobody knows who it could have been,
because all the birds of the Old Orchard were over here at that
time. It might leave been Chatterer the Red Squirrel, or it might
have been Sammy Jay, or it might have been Creaker the Grackle,
or it might have been Blacky the Crow. Whoever it was just took
that chance to sneak over there and rob that nest when there was
no one to see him."
Just then from over towards the Green Forest sounded a mocking
"Caw, caw, caw!" Instantly the noise in the Old Orchard ceased
for a moment. Then it broke out afresh. There wasn't a doubt now
in any one's mind. Blacky the Crow was the robber. How those
tongues did go! There was nothing too bad to say about Blacky.
And such dreadful things as those birds promised to do to Blacky
the Crow if ever they should catch him in the Old Orchard.
"Caw, caw, caw!" shouted Blacky from the distance, and his voice
sounded very much as if he thought he had done something very
smart. It was quite clear that at least he was not sorry for what
he had done.
All the birds were so excited and so angry, as they gathered
around Welcome and Mrs. Robin trying to comfort them, that it was
some time before their indignation meeting broke up and they
returned to their own homes and duties. Almost at once there was
another cry of distress. Mr. and Mrs. Chebec had been robbed of
their eggs! While they had been attending the indignation meeting
at the home of the Robins, a thief had taken the chance to steal
their eggs and get away.
Of course right away all the birds hurried over to sympathize
with the Chebecs and to repeat against the unknown thief all the
threats they had made against Blacky the Crow. They knew it
couldn't have been Blacky this time because they had heard Blacky
cawing over on the edge of the Green Forest. In the midst of the
excited discussion as to who the thief was, Weaver the Orchard
Oriole spied a blue and white feather on the ground just below
"It was Sammy Jay! There is no doubt about it, it was Sammy Jay!"
At the sight of that telltale feather all the birds knew that
Weaver was right, and led by Scrapper the Kingbird they began a
noisy search of the Old Orchard for the sly robber. But Sammy
wasn't to be found, and they soon gave up the search, none daring
to stay longer away from his own home lest something should
happen there. Welcome and Mrs. Robin continued to cry mournfully,
but little Mr. and Mrs. Chebec bore their trouble almost
"There is one thing about it," said Mr. Chebec to his sorrowful
little wife, "that egg of Sally Sly's went with the rest, and we
won't have to raise that bothersome orphan."
"That's true," said she. "There is no use crying over what can't
be helped. It is a waste of time to sit around crying. Come on,
Chebec, let's look for a place to build another nest. Next time I
won't leave the eggs unwatched for a minute."
Meanwhile Jenny Wren's tongue was fairly flying as she chattered
to Peter Rabbit, who had come up in the midst of the excitement
and of course had to know all about it.
"Blacky the Crow has a heart as black as his coat, and his cousin
Sammy Jay isn't much better," declared Jenny. "They belong to a
family of robbers."
"Wait a minute," cried Peter. "Do you mean to say that Blacky the
Crow and Sammy Jay are cousins?"
"For goodness' sake, Peter!" exclaimed Jenny, "do you mean to say
that you don't know that? Of course they're cousins. They don't
look much alike, but they belong to the same family. I would
expect almost anything bad of any one as black as Blacky the
Crow. But how such a handsome fellow as Sammy Jay can do such
dreadful things I don't understand. He isn't as bad as Blacky,
because he does do a lot of good. He destroys a lot of
caterpillars and other pests.
"There are no sharper eyes anywhere than those of Sammy Jay, and
I'll have to say this for him, that whenever he discovers any
danger he always gives us warning. He has saved the lives of a
good many of us feathered folks in this way. If it wasn't for
this habit of stealing our eggs I wouldn't have a word to say
against him, but at that, he isn't as bad as Blacky the Crow.
They say Blacky does some good by destroying white grubs and some
other harmful pests, but he's a regular cannibal, for he is just
as fond of young birds as he is of eggs, and the harm he does in
this way is more than the good he does in other ways. He's bold,
black, and bad, if you ask me.
Remembering her household duties, Jenny Wren disappeared inside
her house in her usual abrupt fashion. Peter hung around for a
while but finding no one who would take the time to talk to him
he suddenly decided to go over to the Green Forest to look for
some of his friends there. He had gone but a little way in the
Green Forest when he caught a glimpse of a blue form stealing
away through the trees. He knew it in an instant, for there is no
one with such a coat but Sammy Jay. Peter glanced up in the tree
from which Sammy had flown and there he saw a nest in a crotch
halfway up. "I wonder," thought Peter, "if Sammy was stealing
eggs there, or if that is his own nest." Then he started after
Sammy as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. As he ran he
happened to look back and was just in time to see Mrs. Jay slip
on to the nest. Then Peter knew that he had discovered Sammy's
home. He chuckled as he ran.
"I've found out your secret, Sammy Jay!" cried Peter when at last
he caught up with Sammy.
"Then I hope you'll be gentleman enough to keep it," grumbled
Sammy, looking not at all pleased.
"Certainly," replied Peter with dignity. "I wouldn't think of
telling any one. My, what a handsome fellow you are, Sammy."
Sammy looked pleased. He is a little bit vain, is Sammy Jay.
There is no denying that he is handsome. He is just a bit bigger
than Welcome Robin. His back is grayish-blue. His tail is a
bright blue crossed with little black bars and edged with white.
His wings are blue with white and black bars. His throat and
breast are a soft grayish-white, and he wears a collar of black.
On his head he wears a pointed cap, a very convenient cap, for at
times he draws it down so that it is not pointed at all.
"Why did you steal Mrs. Chebec's eggs?" demanded Peter abruptly.
Sammy didn't look the least bit put out. "Because I like eggs,"
he replied promptly. "If people will leave their eggs unguarded
they must expect to lose them. How did you know I took those
"Never mind, Sammy; never mind. A little bird told me," retorted
Sammy opened his mouth for a sharp reply, but instead he uttered
a cry of warning. "Run, Peter! Run! Here comes Reddy Fox!" he
Peter dived headlong under a great pile of brush. There he was
quite safe. While he waited for Reddy Fox to go away he thought
about Sammy Jay. "It's funny," he mused, "how so much good and so
much bad can be mixed together. Sammy Jay stole Chebec's eggs,
and then he saved my life. I just know he would have done as much
for Mr. and Mrs. Chebec, or for any other feathered neighbor. He
can only steal eggs for a little while in the spring. I guess on
the whole he does more good than harm. I'm going to think so
Peter was quite right. Sammy Jay does do more good than harm.
CHAPTER XVIII Some Homes in the Green Forest.
Reddy Fox wasted very little time waiting for Peter Rabbit to
come out from under that pile of brush where he had hidden at
Sammy Jay's warning. After making some terrible threats just to
try to frighten Peter, he trotted away to look for some Mice.
Peter didn't mind those threats at all. He was used to them. He
knew that he was safe where he was, and all he had to do was to
stay there until Reddy should be so far away that it would be
safe to come out.
Just to pass away the time Peter took a little nap. When he awoke
he sat for a few minutes trying to make up his mind where to go
and what to do next. From 'way over in the direction of the Old
Pasture the voice of Blacky the Crow reached him. Peter pricked
up his ears, then chuckled.
"Reddy Fox has gone back to the Old Pasture and Blacky has
discovered him there," he thought happily. You see, he understood
what Blacky was saying. To you or me Blacky would have been
saying simply, "Caw! Caw!" But to all the little people of the
Green Forest and Green Meadows within hearing he was shouting,
"I wonder," thought Peter, "where Blacky is nesting this year.
Last year his nest was in a tall pine-tree not far from the edge
of the Green Forest. I believe I'll run over there and see if he
has a new nest near the old one."
So Peter scampered over to the tall pine in which was Blacky's
old nest. As he sat with his head tipped back, staring up at it,
it struck him that that nest didn't look so old, after all. In
fact, it looked as if it had recently been fixed up quite like
new. He was wondering about this and trying to guess what it
meant, when Blacky himself alighted close to the edge of it.
There was something in his bill, though what it was Peter
couldn't see. Almost at once a black head appeared above the edge
of the nest and a black bill seized the thing which Blacky had
brought. Then the head disappeared and Blacky silently flew away.
"As sure as I live," thought Peter, "that was Mrs. Blacky, and
Blacky brought her some food so that she would not have to leave
those eggs she must have up there. He may be the black-hearted
robber every one says he is, but he certainly is a good husband.
He's a better husband than some others I know, of whom nothing
but good is said. It just goes to show that there is some good in
the very worst folks. Blacky is a sly old rascal. Usually he is
as noisy as any one I know, but he came and went without making a
sound. Now I think of it, I haven't once heard his voice near
here this spring. I guess if Farmer Brown's boy could find this
nest he would get even with Blacky for pulling up his corn. I
know a lot of clever people, but no one quite so clever as Blacky
the Crow. With all his badness I can't help liking him."
Twice, while Peter watched, Blacky returned with food for Mrs.
Blacky. Then, tired of keeping still so long, Peter decided to
run over to a certain place farther in the Green Forest which was
seldom visited by any one. It was a place Peter usually kept away
from. It was pure curiosity which led him to go there now. The
discovery that Blacky the Crow was using his old nest had
reminded Peter that Redtail the Hawk uses his old nest year after
year, and he wanted to find out if Redtail had come back to it
Halfway over to that lonesome place in the Green Forest a trim
little bird flew up from the ground, hopped from branch to branch
of a tree, walked along a limb, then from pure happiness threw
back his head and cried, "Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher,
teacher! " each time a little louder than before. It was Teacher
the Oven Bird.
In his delight at seeing this old friend, Peter quite forgot
Redtail the Hawk. "Oh, Teacher!" cried Peter. "I'm so glad to see
Teacher stopped singing and looked down at Peter. "If you are so
glad why haven't you been over to see me before?" he demanded.
"I've been here for some time."
Peter looked a little foolish. "The truth is, Teacher," said he
very humbly, "I have been visiting the Old Orchard so much and
learning so many things that this is the first chance I have had
to come 'way over here in the Green Forest. You see, I have been
learning a lot of things about you feathered folks, things I
hadn't even guessed. There is something I wish you'd tell me,
Teacher; will you?"
"That depends on what it is," replied Teacher, eyeing Peter a
"It is why you are called Oven Bird," said Peter.
"Is that all?" asked Teacher. Then without waiting for a reply he
added, "It is because of the way Mrs. Teacher and I build our
nest. Some people think it is like an oven and so they call us
Oven Birds. I think that is a silly name myself, quite as silly as
Golden Crowned Thrush, which is what some people call me. I'm not
a Thrush. I'm not even related to the Thrush family. I'm a
Warbler, a Wood Warbler."
"I suppose," said Peter, looking at Teacher thoughtfully,
"they've given you that name because you are dressed something
like the Thrushes. That olive-green coat, and white waistcoat all
streaked and spotted with black, certainly does remind me of the
Thrush family. If you were not so much smaller than any of the
Thrushes I should almost think you were one myself. Why, you are
not very much bigger than Chippy the Chipping Sparrow, only
you've got longer legs. I suppose that's because you spend so
much time on the ground. I think that just Teacher is the best
name for you. No one who has once heard you could ever mistake
you for any one else. By the way, Teacher, where did you say your
"I didn't say," retorted Teacher. "What's more, I'm not going to
"Won't you at least tell me if it is in a tree?" begged Peter.
Teacher's eyes twinkled. "I guess it won't do any harm to tell
you that much," said he. "No, it isn't in a tree. It is on the
ground and, if I do say it, it is as well hidden a nest as
anybody can build. Oh, Peter, watch your step! Watch your step!"
Teacher fairly shrieked this warning.
Peter, who had just started to hop off to his right, stopped
short in sheer astonishment. Just in front of him was a tiny
mound of dead leaves, and a few feet beyond Mrs. Teacher was
fluttering about on the ground as if badly hurt. Peter simply
didn't know what to make of it. Once more he made a movement as
if to hop. Teacher flew right down in front of him. "You'll step
on my nest!" he cried.
Peter stared, for he didn't see any nest. He said as much.
"It's under that little mound of leaves right in front of your
feet!" cried Teacher. "I wasn't going to tell you, but I just had
to or you certainly would have stepped on it."
Very carefully Peter walked around the little bunch of leaves and
peered under them from the other side. There, sure enough, was a
nest beneath them, and in it four speckled eggs. "I won't tell a
soul, Teacher. I promise you I won't tell a soul," declared Peter
very earnestly. "I understand now why you are called Oven Bird,
but I still like the name Teacher best."
Feeling that Mr. and Mrs. Teacher would feel easier in their
minds if he left them, Peter said good-by and started on for the
lonesome place in the Green Forest where he knew the old nest of
Redtail the Hawk had been. As he drew near the place he kept
sharp watch through the treetops for a glimpse of Redtail.
Presently he saw him high in the blue sky, sailing lazily in big
circles. Then Peter became very, very cautious. He tiptoed
forward, keeping under cover as much as possible. At last,
peeping out from beneath a little hemlock-tree, he could see
Redtail's old nest. He saw right away that it was bigger than it
had been when he saw it last. Suddenly there was a chorus of
hungry cries and Peter saw Mrs. Redtail approaching with a Mouse
in her claws. From where he sat he could see four funny heads
stretched above the edge of the nest.
"Redtail is using his old nest again and has got a family
already," exclaimed Peter. "I guess this is no place for me. The
sooner I get away from here the better."
Just then Redtail himself dropped down out of the blue, blue sky
and alighted on a tree close at hand. Peter decided that the best
thing he could do was to sit perfectly still where he was. He had
a splendid view of Redtail, and he couldn't help but admire this
big member of the Hawk family. The upper parts of his coat were a
dark grayish-brown mixed with touches of chestnut color. The
upper part of his breast was streaked with grayish-brown and
buff, the lower part having but few streaks. Below this were
black spots and bars ending in white. But it was the tail which
Peter noticed most of all. It was a rich reddish-brown with a
narrow black band near its end and a white tip. Peter understood
at once why this big Hawk is called Redtail.
It was not until Mr. and Mrs. Redtail had gone in quest of more
food for their hungry youngsters that Peter dared steal away. As
soon as he felt it safe to do so, he headed for home as fast as
he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. He knew that he wouldn't feel
safe until that lonesome place in the Green Forest was far
Yet if the truth be known, Peter had less cause to worry than
would have been the case had it been some other member of the
Hawk family instead of Redtail. And while Redtail and his wife do
sometimes catch some of their feathered and furred neighbors, and
once in a while a chicken, they do vastly more good than harm.
CHAPTER XIX A Maker of Thunder and a Friend in Black.
Peter Rabbit's intentions were of the best. Once safely away from
that lonesome part of the Green Forest where was the home of
Redtail the Hawk, he intended to go straight back to the dear Old
Briar-patch. But he was not halfway there when from another
direction in the Green Forest there came a sound that caused him
to stop short and quite forget all about home. It was a sound
very like distant thunder. It began slowly at first and then went
faster and faster. Boom--Boom--Boom--Boom-Boom-Boom Boo-Boo-B-B-
B-B-b-b-b-b-boom! It was like the long roll on a bass drum.
Peter laughed right out. "That's Strutter the Stuffed Grouse!" he
cried joyously. "I had forgotten all about him. I certainly must
go over and pay him a call and find out where Mrs. Grouse is. My,
how Strutter can drum!"
Peter promptly headed towards that distant thunder. As he drew
nearer to it, it sounded louder and louder. Presently Peter
stopped to try to locate exactly the place where that sound,
which now was more than ever like thunder, was coming from.
Suddenly Peter remembered something. "I know just where he is,"
said he to himself. "There's a big, mossy, hollow log over
yonder, and I remember that Mrs. Grouse once told me that that is
Strutter's thunder log."
Very, very carefully Peter stole forward, making no sound at all.
At last he reached a place where he could peep out and see that
big, mossy, hollow log. Sure enough, there was Strutter the
Ruffed Grouse. When Peter first saw him he was crouched on one
end of the log, a fluffy ball of reddish-brown, black and gray
feathers. He was resting. Suddenly he straightened up to his full
height, raised his tail and spread it until it was like an open
fan above his back. The outer edge was gray, then came a broad
band of black, followed by bands of gray, brown and black. Around
his neck was a wonderful ruff of black. His reddish-brown wings
were dropped until the tips nearly touched the log. His full
breast rounded out and was buff color with black markings. He
was of about the size of the little Bantam hens Peter had seen in
Farmer Brown's henyard.
In the most stately way you can imagine Strutter walked the
length of that mossy log. He was a perfect picture of pride as he
strutted very much like Tom Gobbler the big Turkey cock. When he
reached the end of the log he suddenly dropped his tail,
stretched himself to his full height and his wings began to beat,
first slowly then faster and faster, until they were just a blur.
They seemed to touch above his back but when they came down they
didn't quite strike his sides. It was those fast moving wings
that made the thunder. It was so loud that Peter almost wanted to
stop his ears. When it ended Strutter settled down to rest and
once more appeared like a ball of fluffy feathers. His ruff was
Peter watched him thunder several times and then ventured to show
himself. "Strutter, you are wonderful! simply wonderful!" cried
Peter, and he meant just what he said.
Strutter threw out his chest proudly. "That is just what Mrs.
Grouse says," he replied. "I don't know of any better thunderer
if I do say it myself."
"Speaking of Mrs. Grouse, where is she?" asked Peter eagerly.
"Attending to her household affairs, as a good housewife should,"
retorted Strutter promptly.
"Do you mean she has a nest and eggs?" asked Peter.
Strutter nodded. "She has twelve eggs," he added proudly.
"I suppose," said Peter artfully, "her nest is somewhere near
here on the ground."
"It's on the ground, Peter, but as to where it is I am not saying
a word. It may or it may not be near here. Do you want to hear me
Of course Peter said he did, and that was sufficient excuse for
Strutter to show off. Peter stayed a while longer to gossip, but
finding Strutter more interested in thundering than in talking,
he once more started for home.
"I really would like to know where that nest is," said he to
himself as he scampered along. "I suppose Mrs. Grouse has hidden
it so cleverly that it is quite useless to look for it."
On his way he passed a certain big tree. All around the ground
was carpeted with brown, dead leaves. There were no bushes or
young trees there. Peter never once thought of looking for a
nest. It was the last place in the world he would expect to find
one. When he was well past the big tree there was a soft chuckle
and from among the brown leaves right at the foot of that big
tree a head with a pair of the brightest eyes was raised a
little. Those eyes twinkled as they watched Peter out of sight.
"He didn't see me at all," chuckled Mrs. Grouse, as she settled
down once more. "That is what comes of having a cloak so like the
color of these nice brown leaves. He isn't the first one who has
passed me without seeing me at all. It is better than trying to
hide a nest, and I certainly am thankful to Old Mother Nature for
the cloak she gave me. I wonder if every one of these twelve eggs
will hatch. If they do, I certainly will have a family to be
Meanwhile Peter hurried on in his usual happy-go-lucky fashion
until he came to the edge of the Green Forest. Out on the Green
Meadows just beyond he caught sight of a black form walking about
in a stately way and now and then picking up something. It
reminded him of Blacky the Crow, but he knew right away that it
wasn't Blacky, because it was so much smaller, being not more
than half as big.
"It's Creaker the Grackle. He was one of the first to arrive this
spring and I'm ashamed of myself for not having called on him,"
thought Peter, as he hopped out and started across the Green
Meadows towards Creaker. "What a splendid long tail he has. I
believe Jenny Wren told me that he belongs to the Blackbird
family. He looks so much like Blacky the Crow that I suppose this
is why they call him Crow Blackbird."
Just then Creaker turned in such a way that the sun fell full on
his head and back. "Why! Why-ee!" exclaimed Peter, rubbing his
eyes with astonishment. "He isn't just black! He's beautiful,
simply beautiful, and I've always supposed he was just plain,
It was true. Creaker the Grackle with the sun shining on him was
truly beautiful. His head and neck, his throat and upper breast,
were a shining blue-black, while his back was a rich, shining
brassy-green. His wings and tail were much like his head and
neck. As Peter watched it seemed as if the colors were constantly
changing. This changing of colors is called iridescence. One
other thing Peter noticed and this was that Creaker's eyes were
yellow. Just at the moment Peter couldn't remember any other bird
with yellow eyes.
"Creaker," cried Peter, "I wonder if you know how handsome you
"I'm glad you think so," replied Creaker. "I'm not at all vain,
but there are mighty few birds I would change coats with."
"Is--is--Mrs. Creaker dressed as handsomely as you are?" asked
Peter rather timidly.
Creaker shook his head. "Not quite," said he. "She likes plain
black better. Some of the feathers on her back shine like mine,
but she says that she has no time to show off in the sun and to
take care of fine feathers."
"Where is she now?" asked Peter.
"Over home," replied Creaker, pulling a white grub out of the
roots of the grass. "We've got a nest over there in one of those
pine-trees on the edge of the Green Forest and I expect any day
now we will have four hungry babies to feed. I shall have to get
busy then. You know I am one of those who believe that every
father should do his full share in taking care of his family."
"I'm glad to hear you say it," declared Peter, nodding his head
with approval quite as if he was himself the best of fathers,
which he isn't at all.
"May I ask you a very personal question, Creaker?"
"Ask as many questions as you like. I don't have to answer them
unless I want to," retorted Creaker.
"Is it true that you steal the eggs of other birds?" Peter
blurted the question out rather hurriedly.
Creaker's yellow eyes began to twinkle. "That is a very personal
question," said he. "I won't go so far as to say I steal eggs,
but I've found that eggs are very good for my constitution and if
I find a nest with nobody around I sometimes help myself to the
eggs. You see the owner might not come back and then those eggs
would spoil, and that would be a pity."
"That's no excuse at all," declared Peter. "I believe you're no
better than Sammy Jay and Blacky the Crow."
Creaker chuckled, but he did not seem to be at all offended. Just
then he heard Mrs. Creaker calling him and with a hasty farewell
he spread his wings and headed for the Green Forest. Once in the
air he seemed just plain black. Peter watched him out of sight
and then once more headed for the dear Old Briar-patch.
CHAPTER XX A Fisherman Robbed.
Just out of curiosity, and because he possesses what is called
the wandering foot, which means that he delights to roam about,
Peter Rabbit had run over to the bank of the Big River. There
were plenty of bushes, clumps of tall grass, weeds and tangles of
vines along the bank of the Big River, so that Peter felt quite
safe there. He liked to sit gazing out over the water and wonder
where it all came from and where it was going and what, kept it
He was doing this very thing on this particular morning when he
happened to glance up in the blue, blue sky. There he saw a
broad-winged bird sailing in wide, graceful circles. Instantly
Peter crouched a little lower in his hiding-place, for he knew
this for a member of the Hawk family and Peter has learned by
experience that the only way to keep perfectly safe when one of
these hook-clawed, hook-billed birds is about is to keep out
So now he crouched very close to the ground and kept his eyes
fixed on the big bird sailing so gracefully high up in the blue,
blue sky over the Big River. Suddenly the stranger paused in his
flight and for a moment appeared to remain in one place, his
great wings heating rapidly to hold him there. Then those wings
were closed and with a rush he shot down straight for the water,
disappearing with a great splash. Instantly Peter sat up to his
full height that he might see better.
"It's Plunger the Osprey fishing, and I've nothing to fear from
him," he cried happily.
Out of the water, his great wings flapping, rose Plunger. Peter
looked eagerly to see if he had caught a fish, but there was
nothing in Plunger's great, curved claws. Either that fish had
been too deep or had seen Plunger and darted away just in the
nick of time. Peter had a splendid view of Plunger. He was just a
little bigger than Redtail the Hawk. Above he was dark brown, his
head and neck marked with white. His tail was grayish, crossed by
several narrow dark bands and tipped with white. His under parts
were white with some light brown spots on his breast. Peter could
see clearly the great, curved claws which are Plunger's
Up, up, up he rose, going round and round in a spiral. When he
was well up in the blue, blue sky, he began to sail again in wide
circles as when Peter had first seen him. It wasn't long before
he again paused and then shot down towards the water. This time
he abruptly spread his great wings just before reaching the water
so that he no more than wet his feet. Once more a fish had
escaped him. But Plunger seemed not in the least discouraged. He
is a true fisherman and every true fisherman possesses patience.
Up again he spiraled until he was so high that Peter wondered how
he could possibly see a fish so far below. You see, Peter didn't
know that it is easier to see down into the water from high above
it than from close to it. Then, too, there are no more wonderful
eyes than those possessed by the members of the Hawk family. And
Plunger the Osprey is a Hawk, usually called Fish Hawk.
A third time Plunger shot down and this time, as in his first
attempt, he struck the water with a great splash and
disappeared. In an instant he reappeared, shaking the water from
him in a silver spray and flapping heavily. This time Fetes could
gee a great shining fish in his claws. It was heavy, as Peter
could tell by the way in which Plunger flew. He headed towards a
tall tree on the other bank of the Big River, there to enjoy his
breakfast. He was not more than halfway there when Peter was
startled by a harsh scream.
He looked up to see a great bird, with wonderful broad wings,
swinging in short circles about Plunger. His body and wings were
dark brown, and his head was snowy white, as was his tail. His
great hooked beak was yellow and his legs were yellow. Peter knew
in an instant who it was. There could be no mistake. It was King
Eagle, commonly known as Bald Head, though his head isn't bald
Peter's eyes looked as if they would pop out of his head, for it
was quite plain to him that King Eagle was after Plunger, and
Peter didn't understand this at all. You see, he didn't
understand what King Eagle was screaming. But Plunger did. King
Eagle was screaming, "Drop that fish! Drop that fish!"
Plunger didn't intend to drop that fish if he could help
himself. It was his fish. Hadn't he caught it himself? He didn't
intend to give it up to any robber of the air, even though that
robber was King Eagle himself, unless he was actually forced to.
So Plunger began to dodge and twist and turn in the air, all the
time mounting higher and higher, and all the time screaming
harshly, "Robber! Thief! I won't drop this fish! It's mine! It's
Now the fish was heavy, so of course Plunger couldn't fly as
easily and swiftly as if he were carrying nothing. Up, up he
went, but all the time King Eagle went up with him, circling
round him, screaming harshly, and threatening to strike him with
those great cruel, curved claws. Peter watched them, so excited
that he fairly danced. "O, I do hope Plunger will get away from
that big robber," cried Peter. "He may be king of the air, but he
is a robber just the same."
Plunger and King Eagle were now high in the air above the Big
River. Suddenly King Eagle swung above Plunger and for an instant
seemed to hold himself still there, just as Plunger had done
before he had shot down into the water after that fish. There
was a still harsher note in King Eagle's scream. If Peter had
been near enough he would have seen a look of anger and
determination in King Eagle's fierce, yellow eyes. Plunger saw it
and knew what it meant. He knew that King Eagle would stand for
no more fooling. With a cry of bitter disappointment and anger
he let go of the big fish.
Down, down, dropped the fish, shining in the sun like a bar of
silver. King Eagle's wings half closed and he shot down like a
thunderbolt. Just before the fish reached the water King Eagle
struck it with his great claws, checked himself by spreading his
broad wings and tail, and then in triumph flew over to the very
tree towards which Plunger had started when he had caught the
fish. There he Hisurely made his breakfast, apparently enjoying
it as much as if he had come by it honestly.
As for poor Plunger, he shook himself, screamed angrily once or
twice, then appeared to think that it was wisest to make the best
of a bad matter and that there were more fish where that one had
come from, for he once more began to sail in circles over the Big
River, searching for a fish near the surface. Peter watched him
until he saw him catch another fish and fly away with it in
triumph. King Eagle watched him, too, but having had a good
breakfast he was quite willing to let Plunger enjoy his catch in
Late that afternoon Peter visited the Old Orchard, for he just
had to tell Jenny Wren all about what he had seen that morning.
"King Eagle is king simply because he is so big and fierce and
strong," sputtered Jenny. "He isn't kingly in his habits, not the
least bit. He never hesitates to rob those smaller than himself,
just as you saw him rob Plunger. He is very fond of fish, and
once in a while he catches one for himself when Plunger isn't
around to be robbed, but he isn't a very good fisherman, and he
isn't the least bit fussy about his fish. Plunger eats only fresh
fish which he catches himself, but King Eagle will eat dead fish
which he finds on the shore. He doesn't seem to care how long
they have been dead either."
"Doesn't he eat anything but fish?" asked Peter innocently.
"Well," retorted Jenny Wren, her eyes twinkling, "I wouldn't
advise you to run across the Green Meadows in sight of King
Eagle. I am told he is very fond of Rabbit. In fact he is very
fond of fresh meat of any kind. He even catches the babies of
Lightfoot the Deer when he gets a chance. He is so swift of wing
that even the members of the Duck family fear him, for he is
especially fond of fat Duck. Even Honker the Goose is not safe
from him. King he may he, but he rules only through fear. He is
a white-headed old robber. The best thing I can say of him is
that he takes a mate for life and is loyal and true to her as
long as she lives, and that is a great many years. By the way,
Peter, did you know that she is bigger than he is, and that the
young during the first year after leaving their nest, are bigger
than their parents and do not have white heads? By the time they
get white heads they are the same size as their parents."
"That's queer and its hard to believe," said Peter.
"It is queer, but it is true just the same, whether you believe
it or not," retorted Jenny Wren, and whisked out of sight into
CHAPTER XXI A Fishing Party.
Peter Rabbit sat on the edge of the Old Briar-patch trying to
make up his mind whether to stay at home, which was the wise and
proper thing to do, or to go call on some of the friends he had
not yet visited. A sharp, harsh rattle caused him to look up to
see a bird about a third larger than Welcome Robin, and with a
head out of all proportion to the size of his body. He was
flying straight towards the Smiling Pool, rattling harshly as he
flew. The mere sound of his voice settled the matter for Peter.
"It's Rattles the Kingfisher," he cried. "I think I'll run over
to the Smiling Pool and pay him my respects."
So Peter started for the Smiling Pool as fast as his long legs
could take him, lipperty-lipperty-lip. He had lost sight of
Rattles the Kingfisher, and when he reached the back of the
Smiling Pool he was in doubt which way to turn. It was very early
in the morning and there was not so much as a ripple on the
surface of the Smiling Pool. As Peter sat there trying to make up
his mind which way to go, he saw coming from the direction of the
Big River a great, broad-winged bird, flying slowly. He seemed to
have no neck at all, but carried straight out behind him were
two long legs.
"Longlegs the Great Blue Heron! I wonder if he is coming here,"
exclaimed Peter. "I do hope so."
Peter stayed right where he was and waited. Nearer and nearer
came Longlegs. When he was right opposite Peter he suddenly
dropped his long legs, folded his great wings, and alighted right
on the edge of the Smiling Pool across from where Peter was
sitting. If he seemed to have no neck at all when he was flying,
now he seemed to be all neck as he stretched it to its full
length. The fact is, his neck was so long that when he was flying
he carried it folded back on his shoulders. Never before had
Peter had such an opportunity to see Longlegs.
He stood quite four feet high. The top of his head and throat
were white. From the base of his great bill and over his eye was
a black stripe which ended in two long, slender, black feathers
hanging from the back of his head. His bill was longer than his
head, stout and sharp like a spear and yellow in color. His long
neck was a light brownish-gray. His back and wings were of a
bluish color. The bend of each wing and the feathered parts of
his legs were a rusty-red. The remainder of his legs and his feet
were black. Hanging down over his breast were beautiful long
pearly-gray feathers quite unlike any Peter had seen on any of
his other feathered friends. In spite of the length of his legs
and the length of his neck he was both graceful and handsome.
"I wonder what has brought him over to the Smiling Pool," thought
He didn't have to wait long to find out. After standing perfectly
still with his neck stretched to its full height until he was
sure that no danger was near, Longlegs waded into the water a few
steps, folded his neck back on his shoulders until his long bill
seemed to rest on his breast, and then remained as motionless as
if there were no life in him. Peter also sat perfectly still. By
and by he began to wonder if Longlegs had gone to sleep. His own
patience was reaching an end and he was just about to go on in
search of Rattles the Kingfisher when like a flash the
dagger-like bill of Longlegs shot out and down into the water.
When he withdrew it Peter saw that Longlegs had caught a little
fish which he at once proceeded to swallow head-first. Peter
almost laughed right out as he watched the funny efforts of
Longlegs to gulp that fish down his long throat. Then Longlegs
resumed his old position as motionless as before.
It was no trouble now for Peter to sit still, for he was too
interested in watching this lone fisherman to think of leaving.
It wasn't long before Longlegs made another catch and this time
it was a fat Pollywog. Peter thought of how he had watched
Plunger the Osprey fishing in the Big River and the difference in
the ways of the two fishermen.
"Plunger hunts for his fish while Longlegs waits for his fish to
come to him," thought Peter. "I wonder if Longlegs never goes
As if in answer to Peter's thought Longlegs seemed to conclude
that no more fish were coming his way. He stretched himself up to
his full height, looked sharply this way and that way to make
sure that all was safe, then began to walk along the edge of the
Smiling Pool. He put each foot down slowly and carefully so as
to make no noise. He had gone but a few steps when that great
bill darted down like a flash, and Peter saw that he had caught a
careless young Frog. A few steps farther on he caught another
Pollywog. Then coming to a spot that suited him, he once more
waded in and began to watch for fish.
Peter was suddenly reminded of Rattles the Kingfisher, whom he
had quite forgotten. From the Big Hickory-tree on the bank,
Rattles flew out over the Smiling Pool, hovered for an instant,
then plunged down head-first. There was a splash, and a second
later Rattles was in the air again, shaking the water from him in
a silver spray. In his long, stout, black bill was a little fish.
He flew back to a branch of the Big Hickory-tree that hung out
over the water and thumped the fish against the branch until it
was dead. Then he turned it about so he could swallow it
head-first. It was a big fish for the size of the fisherman and
he had a dreadful time getting it down. But at last it was down,
and Rattles set himself to watch for another. The sun shone full
on him, and Peter gave a little gasp of surprise.
"I never knew before how handsome Rattles is," thought Peter. He
was about the size of Yellow Wing the Flicker, but his head made
him look bigger than he really was. You see, the feathers on top
of his head stood up in a crest, as if they had been brushed the
wrong way. His head, back, wings and tail were a bluish-gray. His
throat was white and he wore a white collar. In front of each eye
was a little white spot. Across his breast was a belt of
bluish-gray, and underneath he was white. There were tiny spots
of white on his wings, and his tail was spotted with white. His
bill was black and, like that of Longlegs, was long, and
stout, and sharp. It looked almost too big for his size.
Presently Rattles flew out and plunged into the Smiling Pool
again, this time, very near to where Longlegs was patiently
waiting. He caught a fish, for it is not often that Rattles
misses. It was smaller than the first one Peter had seen him
catch, and this time as soon as he got back to the Big
Hickory-tree, he swallowed it without thumping it against the
branch. As for Longlegs, he looked thoroughly put out. For a
moment or two he stood glaring angrily up at Rattles. You see,
when Rattles had plunged so close to Longlegs he had frightened
all the fish. Finally Longlegs seemed to make up his mind that
there was room for but one fisherman at a time at the Smiling
Pool. Spreading his great wings, folding his long neck back on
his shoulders, and dragging his long legs out behind him, he flew
heavily away in the direction of the Big River.
Rattles remained long enough to catch another little fish, and
then with a harsh rattle flew off down the Laughing Brook. "I
would know him anywhere by that rattle," thought Peter. "There
isn't any one who can make a noise anything like it. I wonder
where he has gone to now. He must have a nest, but I haven't the
least idea what kind of a nest he builds. Hello! There's
Grandfather Frog over on his green lily pad. Perhaps he can tell
So Peter hopped along until he was near enough to talk to
Grandfather Frog. "What kind of a nest does Rattles the
Kingfisher build?" repeated Grandfather Frog. "Chug-arum, Peter
Rabbit! I thought everybody knew that Rattles doesn't build a
nest. At least I wouldn't call it a nest. He lives in a hole in
"What!" cried Peter, and looked as if he couldn't believe his own
Grandfather Frog grinned and his goggly eyes twinkled. "Yes,"
said he, "Rattles lives in a hole in the ground."
"But--but--but what kind of a hole?" stammered Peter.
"Just plain hole," retorted Grandfather Frog, grinning more
broadly than ever. Then seeing how perplexed and puzzled Peter
looked, he went on to explain. "He usually picks out a high
gravelly bank close to the water and digs a hole straight in just
a little way from the top. He makes it just big enough for
himself and Mrs. Rattles to go in and out of comfortably, and he
digs it straight in for several feet. I'm told that at the end of
it he makes a sort of bedroom, because he usually has a
"Do you mean to say that he digs it himself?" asked Peter.
Grandfather Frog nodded. "If he doesn't, Mrs. Kingfisher does,"
he replied. "Those big bills of theirs are picks as well as fish
spears. They loosen the sand with those and scoop it out with
their feet. I've never seen the inside of their home myself, but
I'm told that their bedroom is lined with fish bones. Perhaps you
may call that a nest, but I don't."
"I'm going straight down the Laughing Brook to look for that
hole," declared Peter, and left in such a hurry that he forgot to
be polite enough to say thank you to Grandfather Frog.
CHAPTER XXII Some Feathered Diggers.
Peter Rabbit scampered along down one bank of the Laughing Brook,
eagerly watching for a high, gravelly bank such as Grandfather
Frog had said that Rattles the Kingfisher likes to make his home
in. If Peter had stopped to do a little thinking, he would have
known that he was simply wasting time. You see, the Laughing
Brook was flowing through the Green Meadows, so of course there
would be no high, gravelly bank, because the Green Meadows are
low. But Peter Rabbit, in his usual heedless way, did no
thinking. He had seen Rattles fly down the Laughing Brook, and so
he had just taken it for granted that the home of Rattles must be
somewhere down there.
At last Peter reached the place where the Laughing Brook entered
the Big River. Of course he hadn't found the home of Rattles. But
now he did find something that for the time being made him quite
forget Rattles and his home. Just before it reached the Big River
the Laughing Brook wound through a swamp in which were many tall
trees and a great number of young trees. A great many big ferns
grew there and were splendid to hide under. Peter always did like
He had stopped to rest in a clump of ferns when he was startled
by seeing a great bird alight in a tree just a little way from
him. His first thought was that it was a Hawk, so you can imagine
how surprised and pleased he was to discover that it was Mrs.
Longlegs. Somehow Peter had always thought of Longlegs the Blue
Heron as never alighting anywhere except on the ground. But here
was Mrs. Longlegs in a tree. Having nothing to fear, Peter crept
out from his hiding place that he might see better.
Back to Full Books