The Burgess Bird Book for Children
Thornton W. Burgess
Part 3 out of 5
In the tree in which Mrs. Longlegs was perched and just below her
he saw a little platform of sticks. He didn't suspect that it was
a nest, because it looked too rough and loosely put together to
be a nest. Probably he wouldn't have thought about it at all had
not Mrs. Longlegs settled herself on it right while Peter was
watching. It didn't seem big enough or strong enough to hold her,
but it did.
"As I live," thought Peter, "I've found the nest of Longlegs! He
and Mrs. Longlegs may be good fishermen but they certainly are
mighty poor nest-builders. I don't see how under the sun Mrs.
Longlegs ever gets on and off that nest without kicking the eggs
Peter sat around for a while, but as he didn't care to let his
presence be known, and as there was no one to talk to, he
presently made up his mind that being so near the Big River he
would go over there to see if Plunger the Osprey was fishing
again on this day.
When he reached the Big River, Plunger was not in sight. Peter
was disappointed. He had just about made up his mind to return
the way he had come, when from beyond the swamp, farther up the
Big River, he heard the harsh, rattling cry of Rattles the
Kingfisher. It reminded him of what he had come for, and he at
once began to hurry in that direction.
Peter came out of the swamp on a little sandy beach. There he
squatted for a moment, blinking his eyes, for out there the sun
was very bright. Then a little way beyond him he discovered
something that in his eager curiosity made him quite forget that
he was out in the open where it was anything but safe for a
Rabbit to be. What he saw was a high sandy bank. With a hasty
glance this way and that way to make sure that no enemy was in
sight, Peter scampered along the edge of the water till he was
right at the foot of that sandy bank. Then he squatted down and
looked eagerly for a hole such as he imagined Rattles the
Kingfisher might make. Instead of one hole he saw a lot of holes,
but they were very small holes. He knew right away that Rattles
couldn't possibly get in or out of a single one of those holes.
In fact, those holes in the bank were no bigger than the holes
Downy the Woodpecker makes in trees. Peter couldn't imagine who
or what had made them.
As Peter sat there staring and wondering a trim little head
appeared at the entrance to one of those holes. It was a trim
little head with a very small bill and a snowy white throat. At
first glance Peter thought it was his old friend, Skimmer the
Tree Swallow, and he was just on the point of asking what under
the sun Skimmer was doing in such a place as that, when with a
lively twitter of greeting the owner of that little hole in the
bank flew out and circled over Peter's head. It wasn't Skimmer at
all. It was Banker the Bank Swallow, own cousin to Skimmer the
Tree Swallow. Peter recognized him the instant he got a full view
In the first place Banker was a little smaller than Skimmer. Then
too, he was not nearly so handsome. His back, instead of being
that beautiful rich steel-blue which makes Skimmer so handsome,
was a sober grayish-brown. He was a little darker on his wings
and tail. His breast, instead of being all snowy white, was
crossed with a brownish band. His tail was more nearly square
across the end than is the case with other members of the Swallow
"Wha--wha--what were you doing there?" stuttered Peter, his eyes
popping right out with curiosity and excitement.
"Why, that's my home," twittered Banker.
"Do--do--do you mean to say that you live in a hole in the
ground?" cried Peter.
"Certainly; why not?" twittered Banker as he snapped up a fly
just over Peter's head.
"I don't know any reason why you shouldn't," confessed Peter.
"But somehow it is hard for me to think of birds as living in
holes in the ground. I've only just found out that Rattles the
Kingfisher does. But I didn't suppose there were any others. Did
you make that hole yourself, Banker?"
"Of course," replied Banker. "That is, I helped make it. Mrs.
Banker did her share. 'Way in at the end of it we've got the
nicest little nest of straw and feathers. What is more, we've got
four white eggs in there, and Mrs. Banker is sitting on them
By this time the air seemed to be full of Banker's friends,
skimming and circling this way and that, and going in and out of
the little holes in the bank.
"I am like my big cousin, Twitter the Purple Martin, fond of
society," explained Banker. "We Bank Swallows like our homes
close together. You said that you had just learned that Rattles
the Kingfisher has his home in a bank. Do you know where it is?"
"No, replied Peter. "I was looking for it when I discovered your
home. Can you tell me where it is?"
"I'll do better than that;" replied Banker. "I'll show you where
He darted some distance up along the bank and hovered for an
instant close to the top. Peter scampered over there and looked
up. There, just a few inches below the top, was another hole, a
very much larger hole than those he had just left. As he was
staring up at it a head with a long sharp bill and a crest which
looked as if all the feathers on the top of his head had been
brushed the wrong way, was thrust out. It was Rattles himself. He
didn't seem at all glad to see Peter. In fact, he came out and
darted at Peter angrily. Peter didn't wait to feel that sharp
dagger-like bill. He took to his heels. He had seen what he
started out to find and he was quite content to go home.
Peter took a short cut across the Green Meadows. It took him past
a certain tall, dead tree. A sharp cry of "Kill-ee, kill-ee,
kill-ee!" caused Peter to look up just in time to see a trim,
handsome bird whose body was about the size of Sammy Jay's but
whose longer wings and longer tail made him look bigger. One
glance was enough to tell Peter that this was a member of the
Hawk family, the smallest of the family. It was Killy the Sparrow
Hawk. He is too small for Peter to fear him, so now Peter was
possessed of nothing more than a very lively curiosity, and sat
up to watch.
Out over the meadow grass Killy sailed. Suddenly, with beating
wings, he kept himself in one place in the air and then dropped
down into the grass. He was up again in an instant, and Peter
could see that he had a fat grasshopper in his claws. Back to the
top of the tall, dead tree he flew and there ate the grasshopper.
When it was finished he sat up straight and still, so still that
he seemed a part of the tree itself. With those wonderful eyes of
his he was watching for another grasshopper or for a careless
Very trim and handsome was Killy. His back was reddish-brown
crossed by bars of black. His tail was reddish-brown with a band
of black near its end and a white tip. His wings were slaty-blue
with little bars of black, the longest feathers leaving white
bars. Underneath he was a beautiful buff, spotted with black. His
head was bluish with a reddish patch right on top. Before and
behind each ear was a black mark. His rather short bill, like the
bills of all the rest of his family, was hooked.
As Peter sat there admiring Killy, for he was handsome enough for
any one to admire, he noticed for the first time a hole high up
in the trunk of the tree, such a hole as Yellow Wing the Flicker
might have made and probably did make. Right away Peter
remembered what Jenny Wren had told him about Killy's making his
nest in just such a hole. "I wonder," thought Peter, "if that is
Just then Killy flew over and dropped in the grass just in front
of Peter, where he caught another fat grasshopper. "Is that your
home up there?" asked Peter hastily.
"It certainly is, Peter," replied Killy. "This is the third
summer Mrs. Killy and I have had our home there."
"You seem to be very fond of grasshoppers," Peter ventured.
"I am," replied Killy. "They are very fine eating when one can
get enough of them."
"Are they the only kind of food you eat?" ventured Peter.
Killy laughed. It was a shrill laugh. "I should say not," said
he. "I eat spiders and worms and all sorts of insects big enough
to give a fellow a decent bite. But for real good eating give me
a fat Meadow Mouse. I don't object to a Sparrow or some other
small bird now and then, especially when I have a family of
hungry youngsters to feed. But take it the season through, I live
mostly on grasshoppers and insects and Meadow Mice. I do a lot of
good in this world, I'd have you know."
Peter said that he supposed that this was so, but all the time he
kept thinking what a pity it was that Killy ever killed his
feathered neighbors. As soon as he conveniently could he politely
bade Killy good-by and hurried home to the dear Old Briar-patch,
there to think over how queer it seemed that a member of the hawk
family should nest in a hollow tree and a member of the Swallow
family should dig a hole in the ground.
CHAPTER XXIII Some Big Mouths.
Boom! Peter Rabbit jumped as if he had been shot. It was all so
sudden and unexpected that Peter jumped before he had time to
think. Then he looked foolish. He felt foolish. He had been
scared when there was nothing to be afraid of.
"Ha, ha, ha, ha" tittered Jenny Wren. "What are you jumping for,
Peter Rabbit? That was only Boomer the Nighthawk."
"I know it just as well as you do, Jenny Wren," retorted Peter
rather crossly. "You know being suddenly startled is apt to make
people feel cross. If I had seen him anywhere about he wouldn't
have made me jump. It was the unexpectedness of it. I don't see
what he is out now for, anyway, It isn't even dusk yet, and I
thought him a night bird."
"So he is," retorted Jenny Wren. "Anyway, he is a bird of the
evening, and that amounts to the same thing. But just because he
likes the evening best isn't any reason why he shouldn't come out
in the daylight, is it?"
"No-o," replied Peter rather slowly. "I don't suppose it is."
"Of course it isn't," declared Jenny Wren. "I see Boomer late in
the afternoon nearly every day. On cloudy days I often see him
early in the afternoon. He's a queer fellow, is Boomer. Such a
mouth as he has! I suppose it is very handy to have a big mouth
if one must catch all one's food in the air, but it certainly
isn't pretty when it is wide open."
"I never saw a mouth yet that was pretty when it was wide open,"
retorted Peter, who was still feeling a little put out. "I've
never noticed that Boomer has a particularly big mouth."
"Well he has, whether you've noticed it or not," retorted Jenny
Wren sharply. "He's got a little bit of a bill, but a great big
mouth. I don't see what folks call him a Hawk for when he isn't a
Hawk at all. He is no more of a Hawk than I am, and goodness
knows I'm not even related to the Hawk family."
"I believe you told me the other day that Boomer is related to
Sooty the Chimney Swift," said Peter.
Jenny nodded vigorously. "So I did, Peter," she replied. "I'm
glad you have such a good memory. Boomer and Sooty are sort of
second cousins. There is Boomer now, way up in the sky. I do wish
he'd dive and scare some one else."
Peter tipped his head 'way back. High up in the blue, blue sky
was a bird which at that distance looked something like a much
overgrown Swallow. He was circling and darting about this way and
that. Even while Peter watched he half closed his wings and shot
down with such speed that Peter actually held his breath. It
looked very, very much as if Boomer would dash himself to pieces.
Just before he reached the earth he suddenly opened those wings
and turned upward. At the instant he turned, the booming sound
which had so startled Peter was heard. It was made by the rushing
of the wind through the larger feathers of his wings as he
In this dive Boomer had come near enough for Peter to get a good
look at him. His coat seemed to be a mixture of brown and gray,
very soft looking. His wings were brown with a patch of white on
each. There was a white patch on his throat and a band of white
near the end of his tail.
"He's rather handsome, don't you think?" asked Jenny Wren.
"He certainly is," replied Peter. "Do you happen to know what
kind of a nest the Nighthawks build, Jenny?"
"They don't build any." Jenny Wren was a picture of scorn as she
said this. "They don't built any nests at all. It can't be
because they are lazy for I don't know of any birds that hunt
harder for their living than do Boomer and Mrs. Boomer."
"But if there isn't any nest where does Mrs. Boomer lay her
eggs?" cried Peter. "I think you must be mistaken, Jenny Wren.
They must have some kind of a nest. Of course they must."
"Didn't I say they don't have a nest?" sputtered Jenny. "Mrs.
Nighthawk doesn't lay but two eggs, anyway. Perhaps she thinks it
isn't worth while building a nest for just two eggs. Anyway, she
lays them on the ground or on a flat rock and lets it go at that.
She isn't quite as bad as Sally Sly the Cowbird, for she does sit
on those eggs and she is a good mother. But just think of those
Nighthawk children never having any home! It doesn't seem to me
right and it never will. Did you ever see Boomer in a tree?"
Peter shook his head. "I've seen him on the ground," said he,
"but I never have seen him in a tree. Why did you ask, Jenny
"To find out how well you have used your eyes," snapped Jenny. "I
just wanted to see if you had noticed anything peculiar about the
way he sits in a tree. But as long as you haven't seen him in a
tree I may as well tell you that he doesn't sit as most birds do.
He sits lengthwise of a branch. He never sits across it as the
rest of us do."
"How funny!" exclaimed Peter. "I suppose that is Boomer making
that queer noise we hear."
"Yes," replied Jenny. "He certainly does like to use his voice.
They tell me that some folks call him Bullbat, though why they
should call him either Bat or Hawk is beyond me. I suppose you
know his cousin, Whip-poor-will."
"I should say I do," replied Peter. "He's enough to drive one
crazy when he begins to shout 'Whip poor Will' close at hand.
That voice of his goes through me so that I want to stop both
ears. There isn't a person of my acquaintance who can say a thing
over and over, over and over, so many times without stopping for
breath. Do I understand that he is cousin to Boomer?"
"He is a sort of second cousin, the same as Sooty the Chimney
Swift," explained Jenny Wren. "They look enough alike to be own
cousins. Whip-poor-will has just the same kind of a big mouth and
he is dressed very much like Boomer, save that there are no white
patches on his wings."
"I've noticed that," said Peter. "That is one way I can tell them
"So you noticed that much, did you?" cried Jenny. "It does you
credit, Peter. It does you credit. I wonder if you also noticed
"Whiskers!" cried Peter. "Who ever heard of a bird having
whiskers? You can stuff a lot down me, Jenny Wren, but there are
some things I cannot swallow, and bird whiskers is one of them."
"Nobody asked you to swallow them. Nobody wants you to swallow
them," snapped Jenny. "I don't know why a bird shouldn't have
whiskers just as well as you, Peter Rabbit. Anyway,
Whip-poor-will has them and that is all there is to it. It doesn't
make any difference whether you believe in them or not, they are
there. And I guess Whip-poor-will finds them just as useful as you
find yours, and a little more so. I know this much, that if I had
to catch all my food in the air I'd want whiskers and lots of them
so that the insects would get tangled in them. I suppose that's
what Whip-poor-will's are for."
"I beg your pardon, Jenny Wren," said Peter very humbly. "Of
course Whip-poor-will has whiskers if you say so. By the way, do
the Whip-poor-wills do any better in the matter of a nest than
"Not a bit," replied Jenny Wren. "Mrs. Whip-poor-will lays her
eggs right on the ground, but usually in the Green Forest where
it is dark and lonesome. Like Mrs. Nighthawk, she lays only two.
It's the same way with another second cousin, Chuck-will's-widow."
"Who?" cried Peter, wrinkling his brows.
"Chuck-will's-widow," Jenny Wren fairly shouted it. "Don't you
Peter shook his head. "I never heard of such a bird," he
"That's what comes of never having traveled," retorted Jenny
Wren. "If you'd ever been in the South the way I have you would
know Chuck-will's-widow. He looks a whole lot like the other two
we've been talking about, but has even a bigger mouth. What's
more, he has whiskers with branches. Now you needn't look as if
you doubted that, Peter Rabbit; it's so. In his habits he's just
like his cousins, no nest and only two eggs. I never saw people
so afraid to raise a real family. If the Wrens didn't do better
than that, I don't know what would become of us." You know Jenny
usually has a family of six or eight.
CHAPTER XXIV The Warblers Arrive.
If there is one family of feathered friends which perplexes Peter
Rabbit more than another, it is the Warbler family.
"So many of them come together and they move about so constantly
that a fellow doesn't have a chance to look at one long enough
to recognize him," complained Peter to Jenny Wren one morning
when the Old Orchard was fairly alive with little birds no bigger
than Jenny Wren herself.
And such restless little folks as they were!
They were not still an instant, flitting from tree to tree, twig
to twig, darting out into the air and all the time keeping up an
endless chattering mingled with little snatches of song. Peter
would no sooner fix his eyes on one than another entirely
different in appearance would take its place. Occasionally he
would see one whom he recognized, one who would stay for the
nesting season. But the majority of them would stop only for a
day or two, being bound farther north to make their summer homes.
Apparently, Jenny Wren did not look upon them altogether with
favor. Perhaps Jenny was a little bit envious, for compared with
the bright colors of some of them Jenny was a very homely small
person indeed. Then, too, there were so many of them and they
were so busy catching all kinds of small insects that it may be
Jenny was a little fearful they would not leave enough for her to
get her own meals easily.
"I don't see what they have to stop here for," scolded Jenny.
"They could just as well go somewhere else where they would not
be taking the food out of the mouths of honest folk who are here
to stay all summer. Did you ever in your life see such uneasy
people? They don't keep still an instant. It positively makes me
tired just to watch them."
Peter couldn't help but chuckle, for Jenny Wren herself is a very
restless and uneasy person. As for Peter, he was thoroughly
enjoying this visit of the Warblers, despite the fact that he was
having no end of trouble trying to tell who was who. Suddenly one
darted down and snapped up a fly almost under Peter's very nose
and was back up in a tree before Peter could get his breath.
"It's Zee Zee the Redstart!" cried Peter joyously. "I would know
Zee Zee anywhere. Do you know who he reminds me of, Jenny Wren?"
"Who?" demanded Jenny.
"Goldy the Oriole," replied Peter promptly. "Only of course he's
ever and ever so much smaller. He's all black and orange-red and
white something as Goldy is, only there isn't quite so much
orange on him."
For just an instant Zee Zee sat still with his tail spread. His
head, throat and back were black and there was a black band
across the end of his tail and a black stripe down the middle of
it. The rest was bright orange-red. On each wing was a band of
orange-red and his sides were the same color. Underneath he was
white tinged more or less with orange.
It was only for an instant that Zee Zee sat still; then he was in
the air, darting, diving, whirling, going through all sorts of
antics as he caught tiny insects too small for Peter to see.
Peter began to wonder how he kept still long enough to sleep at
night. And his voice was quite as busy as his wings. "Zee, zee,
zee, zee!" he would cry. But this was only one of many notes. At
times he would sing a beautiful little song and then again it
would seem as if he were trying to imitate other members of the
"I do hope Zee Zee is going to stay here," said Peter. "I just
love to watch him."
"He'll stay fast enough," retorted Jenny Wren. "I don't imagine
he'll stay in the Old Orchard and I hope he won't, because if he
does it will make it just that much harder for me to catch enough
to feed my big family. Probably he and Mrs. Redstart will make
their home on the edge of the Green Forest. They like it better
over there, for which I am thankful. There's Mrs Redstart now.
Just notice that where Zee Zee is bright orange-y red she is
yellow, and instead of a black head she has a gray head and her
back is olive-green with a grayish tinge. She isn't nearly as
handsome as Zee Zee, but then, that's not to be expected. She
lets Zee Zee do the singing and the showing off and she does the
work. I expect she'll build that nest with almost no help at all
from him. But Zee Zee is a good father, I'll say that much for
him. He'll do his share in feeding their babies."
Just then Peter caught sight of a bird all in yellow. He was
about the same size as Zee Zee and was flitting about among the
bushes along the old stone wall. "There's Sunshine!" cried
Peter, and without being polite enough to even bid Jenny Wren
farewell, he scampered over to where he could see the one he
called Sunshine flitting about from bush to bush.
"Oh, Sunshine!" he cried, as he came within speaking distance,
"I'm ever and ever so glad to see you back. I do hope you and
Mrs. Sunshine are going to make your home somewhere near here
where I can see you every day."
"Hello, Peter! I am just as glad to see you as you are to see
me," cried Sunshine the Yellow Warbler. "Yes, indeed, we
certainly intend to stay here if we can find just the right place
for our nest. It is lovely to be back here again. We've journeyed
so far that we don't want to go a bit farther if we can help it.
Have you seen Sally Sly the Cowbird around here this spring?"
Peter nodded. "Yes," said he, "I have."
"I'm sorry to hear it," declared Sunshine. "She made us a lot of
trouble last year. But we fooled her."
"How did you fool her?" asked Peter.
Sunshine paused to pick a tiny worm from a leaf. "Well," said he,
"she found our nest just after we had finished it and before Mrs.
Sunshine had had a chance to lay an egg. Of course you know what
"I can guess," replied Peter. "She laid one of her own eggs in
Sunshine stopped to pick two or three more worms from the leaves.
"Yes," said he. "She did just that, the lazy good-for-nothing
creature! But it didn't do her a bit of good, not a bit. That egg
never hatched. We fooled her and that's what we'll do again if
she repeats that trick this year."
"What did you do, throw that egg out?" asked Peter.
"No," replied Sunshine. "Our nest was too deep for us to get that
egg out. We just made a second bottom in our nest right over that
egg and built the sides of the nest a little higher. Then we took
good care that she didn't have a chance to lay another egg in
"Then you had a regular two-story nest, didn't you?" cried Peter,
opening his eyes very wide.
Sunshine nodded. "Yes, sir," said he, "and it was a mighty fine
nest, if I do say it. If there's anything Mrs. Sunshine and I
pride ourselves on it is our nest. There are no babies who have a
softer, cozier home than ours."
"What do you make your nest of?" asked Peter.
"Fine grasses and soft fibers from plants, some hair when we can
find it, and a few feathers. But we always use a lot of that nice
soft fern-cotton. There is nothing softer or nicer that I know
All the time Peter had been admiring Sunshine and thinking how
wonderfully well he was named. At first glance he seemed to be
all yellow, as if somehow he had managed to catch and hold the
sunshine in his feathers. There wasn't a white feather on him.
When he came very close Peter could see that on his breast and
underneath were little streaks of reddish brown and his wings and
tail were a little blackish. Otherwise he was all yellow.
Presently he was joined by Mrs. Sunshine. She was not such a
bright yellow as was Sunshine, having an olive-green tint on her
back. But underneath she was almost clear yellow without the
reddish-brown streaks. She too was glad to see Peter but
couldn't stop to gossip, for already, as she informed Sunshine,
she had found just the place for their nest. Of course Peter
begged to be told where it was. But the two little folks in
yellow snapped their bright eyes at him and told him that that
was their secret and they didn't propose to tell a living soul.
Perhaps if Peter had not been so curious and eager to get
acquainted with other members of the Warbler family he would have
stayed and done a little spying. As it was, he promised himself
to come back to look for that nest after it had been built; then
he scurried back among the trees of the Old Orchard to look for
other friends among the busy little Warblers who were making the
Old Orchard such a lively place that morning.
"There's one thing about it," cried Peter. "Any one can tell Zee
Zee the Redstart by his black and flame colored suit. There is no
other like it. And any one can tell Sunshine the Yellow Warbler
because there isn't anybody else who seems to be all yellow. My,
what a lively, lovely lot these Warblers are!"
CHAPTER XXV Three Cousins Quite Unlike.
As Peter Rabbit passed one of the apple-trees in the Old Orchard,
a thin, wiry voice hailed him. "It's a wonder you wouldn't at
least say you're glad to see me back, Peter Rabbit," said the
Peter, who had been hopping along rather fast, stopped abruptly
to look up. Running along a limb just over his head, now on top
and now underneath, was a little bird with a black and white
striped coat and a white waistcoat. Just as Peter looked it flew
down to near the base of the tree and began to run straight up
the trunk, picking things from the bark here and there as it ran.
Its way of going up that tree trunk reminded Peter of one of his
winter friends, Seep Seep the Brown Creeper.
"It strikes me that this is a mighty poor welcome for one who has
just come all the way from South America," said the little black
and white bird with twinkling eyes.
"Oh, Creeper, I didn't know you were here!" cried Peter. "You
know I'm glad to see you. I'm just as glad as glad can be. You
are such a quiet fellow I'm afraid I shouldn't have seen you at
all if you hadn't spoken. You know it's always been hard work for
me to believe that you are really and truly a Warbler."
"Why so?" demanded Creeper the Black and White Warbler, for that
is the name by which he is commonly known. "Why so? Don't I look
like a Warbler?"
"Ye-es," said Peter slowly. "You do look like one but you don't
act like one."
"In what way don't I act like one I should like to know?"
"Well," replied Peter, "all the rest of the Warblers are the
uneasiest folks I know of. They can't seem to keep still a
minute. They are everlastingly flitting about this way and that
way and the other way. I actually get tired watching them. But
you are not a bit that way. Then the way you run up tree trunks
and along the limbs isn't a bit Warbler-like. Why don't you flit
and dart about as the others do?"
Creeper's bright eyes sparkled.
"I don't have to," said he. "I'm going to let you into a little
secret, Peter. The rest of them get their living from the leaves
and twigs and in the air, but I've discovered an easier way. I've
found out that there are lots of little worms and insects and
eggs on the trunks and big limbs of the trees and that I can get
the best kind of a living there without flitting about
everlastingly. I don't have to share them with anybody but the
Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Tommy Tit the Chickadee."
"That reminds me," said Peter. "Those folks you have mentioned
nest in holes in trees; do you?"
"I should say not," retorted Creeper. "I don't know of any
Warbler who does. I build on the ground, if you want to know. I
nest in the Green Forest. Sometimes I make my nest in a little
hollow at the base of a tree; sometimes I put it under a stump or
rock or tuck it in under the roots of a tree that has been blown
over. But there, Peter Rabbit, I've talked enough. I'm glad
you're glad that I'm back, and I'm glad I'm back too."
Creeper continued on up the trunk of the tree, picking here and
picking there. Just then Peter caught sight of another friend
whom he could always tell by the black mask he wore. It was
Mummer the Yellow-throat. He had just darted into the thicket of
bushes along the old stone wall. Peter promptly hurried over
there to look for him.
When Peter reached the place where he had caught a glimpse of
Mummer, no one was to be seen. Peter sat down, uncertain which
way to go. Suddenly Mummer popped out right in front of Peter,
seemingly from nowhere at all. His throat and breast were bright
yellow and his back wings and tail a soft olive-green. But the
most remarkable thing about him was the mask of black right
across his cheeks, eyes and forehead. At least it looked like a
mask, although it really wasn't one.
"Hello, Mummer!" cried Peter.
"Hello yourself, Peter Rabbit!" retorted Mummer and then
disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared.
Peter blinked and looked in vain all about.
"Looking for some one?" asked Mummer, suddenly popping into view
where Peter least expected him.
"For goodness' sake, can't you sit still a minute?" cried Peter.
"How do you expect a fellow can talk to you when he can't keep
his eyes on you more than two seconds at a time."
"Who asked you to talk to me?" responded Mummer, and popped out
of sight. Two seconds later he was back again and his bright
little eyes fairly shone with mischief. Then before Peter could
say a word Mummer burst into a pleasant little song. He was so
full of happiness that Peter couldn't be cross with him.
"There's one thing I like about you, Mummer," declared Peter,
"and that is that I never get you mixed up with anybody else. I
should know you just as far as I could see you because of that
black mask across your face. Has Mrs. Yellow-throat arrived yet?"
"Certainly," replied another voice, and Mrs. Yellow-throat
flitted across right in front of Peter. For just a second she sat
still, long enough for him to have one good look at her. She was
dressed very like Mummer save that she did not wear the black
Peter was just about to say something polite and pleasant when
from just back of him there sounded a loud, very emphatic, "Chut!
Chut!" Peter whirled about to find another old friend. It was
Chut-Chut the Yellow-breasted Chat, the largest of the Warbler
family. He was so much bigger than Mummer that it was hard to
believe that they were own cousins. But Peter knew they were, and
he also knew that he could never mistake Chut-Chut for any other
member of the family because of his big size, which was that of
some of the members of the Sparrow family. His back was a dark
olive-green, but his throat and breast were a beautiful bright
yellow. There was a broad white line above each eye and a little
white line underneath. Below his breast he was all white.
To have seen him you would have thought that he suspected Peter
might do him some harm. He acted that way. If Peter hadn't known
him so well he might have been offended. But Peter knew that
there is no one among his feathered friends more cautious than
Chut-Chut the Chat. He never takes anything for granted. He
appears to be always on the watch for danger, even to the extent
of suspecting his very best friends.
When he had decided in his own mind that there was no danger,
Chut-Chut came out for a little gossip. But like all the rest of
the Warblers he couldn't keep still. Right in the middle of the
story of his travels from far-away Mexico he flew to the top of a
little tree, began to sing, then flew out into the air with his
legs dangling and his tail wagging up and down in the funniest
way, and there continued his song as he slowly dropped down into
the thicket again. It was a beautiful song and Peter hastened to
tell him so.
Chut-Chut was pleased. He showed it by giving a little concert
all by himself. It seemed to Peter that he never had heard such a
variety of whistles and calls and songs as came from that yellow
throat. When it was over Chut-Chut abruptly said good-by and
disappeared. Peter could hear his sharp "Chut! Chut!" farther
along in the thicket as he hunted for worms among the bushes.
"I wonder," said Peter, speaking out loud without thinking,
"where he builds his nest. I wonder if he builds it on the
ground, the way Creeper does."
"No," declared Mummer, who all the time had been darting about
close at hand. "He doesn't, but I do. Chut-Chut puts his nest
near the ground, however, usually within two or three feet. He
builds it in bushes or briars. Sometimes if I can find a good
tangle of briars I build my nest in it several feet from the
ground, but as a rule I would rather have it on the ground under
a bush or in a clump of weeds. Have you seen my cousin Sprite the
Parula Warbler, yet?"
"Not yet," said Peter, as he started for home.
CHAPTER XXVI Peter Gets a Lame Neck.
For several days it seemed to Peter Rabbit that everywhere he
went he found members of the Warbler family. Being anxious to
know all of them he did his best to remember how each one looked,
but there were so many and some of them were dressed so nearly
alike that after awhile Peter became so mixed that he gave it up
as a bad job. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the
Warblers disappeared. That is to say, most of them disappeared.
You see they had only stopped for a visit, being on their way
In his interest in the affairs of others of his feathered
friends, Peter had quite forgotten the Warblers. Then one day
when he was in the Green Forest where the spruce-trees grow, he
stopped to rest. This particular part of the Green Forest was low
and damp, and on many of the trees gray moss grew, hanging down
from the branches and making the trees look much older than they
really were. Peter was staring at a hanging branch of this moss
without thinking anything about it when suddenly a little bird
alighted on it and disappeared in it. At least, that is what
Peter thought. But it was all so unexpected that he couldn't be
sure his eyes hadn't fooled him.
Of course, right away he became very much interested in that
bunch of moss. He stared at it very hard. At first it looked no
different from a dozen other bunches of moss, but presently he
noticed that it was a little thicker than other bunches, as if
somehow it had been woven together. He hopped off to one side so
he could see better. It looked as if in one side of that bunch of
moss was a little round hole. Peter blinked and looked very hard
indeed to make sure. A minute later there was no doubt at all,
for a little feathered head was poked out and a second later a
dainty mite of a bird flew out and alighted very close to Peter.
It was one of the smaller members of the Warbler family.
"Sprite!" cried Peter joyously. "I missed you when your cousins
passed through here, and I thought you had gone to the Far North
with the rest of them."
"Well, I haven't, and what's more I'm not going to go on to the
Far North. I'm going to stay right here," declared Sprite the
Parula Warbler, for that is who it was.
As Peter looked at Sprite he couldn't help thinking that there
wasn't a daintier member in the whole Warbler family. His coat
was of a soft bluish color with a yellowish patch in the very
center of his back. Across each wing were two bars of white. His
throat was yellow. Just beneath it was a little band of
bluish-black. His breast was yellow and his sides were grayish
"Sprite, you're just beautiful," declared Peter in frank
admiration. "What was the reason I didn't see you up in the Old
Orchard with your cousins?"
"Because I wasn't there," was Sprite's prompt reply as he flitted
about, quite unable to sit still a minute. "I wasn't there
because I like the Green Forest better, so I came straight here."
"What were you doing just now in that bunch of moss?" demanded
Peter, a sudden suspicion of the truth hopping into his head.
"Just looking it over," replied Sprite, trying to look innocent.
At that very instant Peter looked up just in time to see a tail
disappearing in the little round hole in the side of the bunch of
moss. He knew that that tail belonged to Mrs. Sprite, and just
that glimpse told him all he wanted to know.
"You've got a nest in there!" Peter exclaimed excitedly. "There's
no use denying it, Sprite; you've got a nest in there! What a
perfectly lovely place for a nest."
Sprite saw at once that it would be quite useless to try to
deceive Peter. "Yes," said he, "Mrs. Sprite and I have a nest in
there. We've just finished it. I think myself it is rather nice.
We always build in moss like this. All we have to do is to find a
nice thick bunch and then weave it together at the bottom and
line the inside with fine grasses. It looks so much like all the
rest of the bunches of moss that it is seldom any one finds it. I
wouldn't trade nests with anybody I know."
"Isn't it rather lonesome over here by yourselves?" asked Peter.
"Not at all," replied Sprite. "You see, we are not as much alone
as you think. My cousin, Fidget the Myrtle Warbler, is nesting
not very far away, and another cousin Weechi the Magnolia Warbler
is also quite near. Both have begun housekeeping already."
Of course Peter was all excitement and interest at once. "Where
are their homes?" he asked eagerly. "Tell me where they are and
I'll go straight over and call."
"Peter," said Sprite severely, "you ought to know better than to
ask me to tell you anything of this kind. You have been around
enough to know that there is no secret so precious as the secret
of a home. You happened to find mine, and I guess I can trust you
not to tell anybody where it is. If you can find the homes of
Fidget and Weechi, all right, but I certainly don't intend to
tell you where they are."
Peter knew that Sprite was quite right in refusing to tell the
secrets of his cousins, but he couldn't think of going home
without at least looking for those homes. He tried to look very
innocent as he asked if they also were in hanging bunches of
moss. But Sprite was too smart to be fooled and Peter learned
nothing at all.
For some time Peter hopped around this way and that way, thinking
every bunch of moss he saw must surely contain a nest. But though
he looked and looked and looked, not another little round hole
did he find, and there were so many bunches of moss that finally
his neck ached from tipping his head back so much. Now Peter
hasn't much patience as he might have, so after a while he gave
up the search and started on his way home. On higher ground, just
above the low swampy place where grew the moss-covered trees, he
came to a lot of young hemlock-trees. These had no moss on them.
Having given up his search Peter was thinking of other things
when there flitted across in front of him a black and gray bird
with a yellow cap, yellow sides, and a yellow patch at the root
of his tail. Those yellow patches were all Peter needed to see to
recognize Fidget the Myrtle Warbler, one of the two friends he
had been so long looking for down among the moss-covered trees.
"Oh, Fidget!" cried Peter, hurrying after the restless little
bird. "Oh, Fidget! I've been looking everywhere for you."
"Well, here I am," retorted Fidget. "You didn't look everywhere
or you would have found me before. What can I do for you?" All
the time Fidget was hopping and flitting about, never still an
"Yon can tell me where your nest is," replied Peter promptly.
"I can, but I won't," retorted Fidget. "Now honestly, Peter, do
yon think you have any business to ask such a question?"
Peter hung his head and then replied quite honestly, "No I don't,
Fidget. But you see Sprite told me that you had a nest not very
far from his and I've looked at bunches of moss until I've got a
crick in the back of my neck."
"Bunches of moss!" exclaimed Fidget. "What under the sun do you
think I have to do with bunches of moss?"
"Why--why--I just thought you probably had your nest in one, the
same as your cousin Sprite."
Fidget laughed right out. "I'm afraid you would have a worse
crick in the back of your neck than you've got now before ever
you found my nest in a bunch of moss," said he. "Moss may suit my
cousin Sprite, but it doesn't suit me at all. Besides, I don't
like those dark places where the moss grows on the trees. I build
my nest of twigs and grass and weed-stalks and I line it with
hair and rootlets and feathers. Sometimes I bind it together with
spider silk, and if you really want to know, I like a little
hemlock-tree to put it in. It isn't very far from here, but where
it is I'm not going to tell you. Have you seen my cousin, Weechi?"
"No," replied Peter. "Is he anywhere around here?"
"Right here," replied another voice and Weechi the Magnolia
Warbler dropped down on the ground for just a second right in
front of Peter.
The top of his head and the back of his neck were gray. Above his
eye was a white stripe and his cheeks were black. His throat was
clear yellow, just below which was a black band. From this black
streaks ran down across his yellow breast. At the root of his
tail he was yellow. His tail was mostly black on top and white
His wings were black and gray with two white bars. He was a
little smaller than Fidget the Myrtle Warbler and quite as
Peter fairly itched to ask Weechi where his nest was, but by this
time he had learned a lesson, so wisely kept his tongue still.
"What were you fellows talking about?" asked Weechi.
"Nests," replied Fidget. "I've just been telling Peter that while
Cousin Sprite may like to build in that hanging moss down there,
it wouldn't suit me at all."
"Nor me either," declared Weechi promptly. "I prefer to build a
real nest just as you do. By the way, Fidget, I stopped to look
at your nest this morning. I find we build a good deal alike and
we like the same sort of a place to put it. I suppose you know
that I am a rather near neighbor of yours?"
"Of course I know it," replied Fidget. "In fact I watched you
start your nest. Don't you think you have it rather near the
"Not too near, Fidget; not too near. I am not as high-minded as
some people. I like to be within two or three feet of the
"I do myself," replied Fidget.
Fidget and Weechi became so interested in discussing nests and
the proper way of building them they quite forgot Peter Rabbit.
Peter sat around for a while listening, but being more interested
in seeing those nests than hearing about them, he finally stole
away to look for them.
He looked and looked, but there were so many young hemlock-trees
and they looked so much alike that finally Peter lost patience
and gave it up as a bad job.
CHAPTER XXVII A New Friend and an Old One.
Peter Rabbit never will forget the first time he caught a glimpse
of Glory the Cardinal, sometimes called Redbird. He had come up
to the Old Orchard for his usual morning visit and just as he
hopped over the old stone wall he heard a beautiful clear, loud
whistle which drew his eyes to the top of an apple-tree. Peter
stopped short with a little gasp of sheer astonishment and
delight. Then he rubbed his eyes and looked again. He couldn't
quite believe that he saw what he thought he saw. He hadn't
supposed that any one, even among the feathered folks, could be
quite so beautiful.
The stranger was dressed all in red, excepting a little black
around the base of his bill. Even his bill was red. He wore a
beautiful red crest which made him still more distinguished
looking, and how he could sing! Peter had noticed that quite
often the most beautifully dressed birds have the poorest songs.
But this stranger's song was as beautiful as his coat, and that
was one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, that
Peter ever had seen. Of course he lost no time in hunting up
Jenny Wren. "Who is it, Jenny? Who is that beautiful stranger
with such a lovely song?" cried Peter, as soon as he caught sight
"It's Glory the Cardinal," replied Jenny Wren promptly. "Isn't he
the loveliest thing you've ever seen? I do hope he is going to
stay here. As I said before, I don't often envy any one's fine
clothes, but when I see Glory I'm sometimes tempted to be
envious. If I were Mrs. Cardinal I'm afraid I should be jealous.
There she is in the very same tree with him. Did you ever see
such a difference?"
Peter looked eagerly. Instead of the glorious red of Glory, Mrs.
Cardinal wore a very dull dress. Her back was a brownish-gray.
Her throat was a grayish-black. Her breast was a dull buff with a
faint tinge of red. Her wings and tail were tinged with dull red.
Altogether she was very soberly dressed, but a trim, neat looking
little person. But if she wasn't handsomely dressed she could
sing. In fact she was almost as good a singer as her handsome
"I've noticed," said Peter, "that people with fine clothes spend
most of their time thinking about them and are of very little use
when it comes to real work in life."
"Well, you needn't think that of Glory," declared Jenny in her
vigorous way. "He's just as fine as he is handsome. He's a model
husband. If they make their home around here you'll find him
doing his full share in the care of their babies. Sometimes they
raise two families. When they do that, Glory takes charge of the
first lot of youngsters as soon as they are able to leave the
nest so that Mrs. Cardinal has nothing to worry about while she
is sitting on the second lot of eggs. He fusses over them as if
they were the only children in the world. Everybody loves Glory.
Excuse me, Peter, I'm going over to find out if they are really
going to stay."
When Jenny returned she was so excited she couldn't keep still a
minute. "They like here, Peter!" she cried. "They like here so
much that if they can find a place to suit them for a nest
they're going to stay. I told them that it is the very best place
in the world. They like an evergreen tree to build in, and I
think they've got their eyes on those evergreens up near Farmer
Brown's house. My, they will add a lot to the quality of this
Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal whistled and sang as if their hearts were
bursting with joy, and Peter sat around listening as if he had
nothing else in the world to do. Probably he would have sat there
the rest of the morning had he not caught sight of an old friend
of whom he is very fond, Kitty the Catbird. In contrast with
Glory, Kitty seemed a regular little Quaker, for he was dressed
almost wholly in gray, a rather dark, slaty-gray. The top of his
head and tail were black, and right at the base of his tail was a
patch of chestnut color. He was a little smaller than Welcome
Robin. There was no danger of mistaking him for anybody else, for
there is no one dressed at all like him.
Peter forgot all about Glory in his pleasure at discovering the
returned Kitty and hurried over to welcome him. Kitty had
disappeared among the bushes along the old stone wall, but Peter
had no trouble in finding him by the queer cries he was uttering,
which were very like the meow of Black Pussy the Cat. They were
very harsh and unpleasant and Peter understood perfectly why
their maker is called the Catbird. He did not hurry in among the
bushes at once but waited expectantly. In a few minutes the harsh
cries ceased and then there came from the very same place a song
which seemed to be made up of parts of the songs of all the other
birds of the Old Orchard. It was not loud, but it was charming.
It contained the clear whistle of Glory, and there was even the
tinkle of Little Friend the Song Sparrow. The notes of other
friends were in that song, and with them were notes of southern
birds whose songs Kitty had learned while spending the winter in
the South. Then there were notes all his own.
Peter listened until the song ended, then scampered in among the
bushes. At once those harsh cries broke out again. You would have
thought that Kitty was scolding Peter for coming to see him
instead of being glad. But that was just Kitty's way. He is
simply brimming over with fun and mischief, and delights to
When Peter found him, he was sitting with all his feathers puffed
out until he looked almost like a ball with a head and tail. He
looked positively sleepy. Then as he caught sight of Peter he
drew those feathers down tight, cocked his tail up after the
manner of Jenny Wren, and was as slim and trim looking as any
bird of Peter's acquaintance. He didn't look at all like the same
bird of the moment before. Then he dropped his tail as if he
hadn't strength enough to hold it up at all. It hung straight
down. He dropped his wings and all in a second made himself look
fairly disreputable. But all the time his eyes were twinkling and
snapping, and Peter knew that these changes in appearance were
made out of pure fun and mischief.
"I've been wondering if you were coming hack," cried Peter. "I
don't know of any one of my feathered friends I would miss so
much as you."
"Thank you," responded Kitty. "It's very nice of you to say that,
Peter. If you are glad to see me I am still more glad to get
"Did you pass a pleasant winter down South?" asked Peter.
"Fairly so. Fairly so," replied Kitty. "By the way, Peter, I
picked up some new songs down there. Would you like to hear
"Of course," replied Peter, "but I don't think you need any new
songs. I've never seen such a fellow for picking up other
people's songs excepting Mocker the Mockingbird."
At the mention of Mocker a little cloud crossed Kitty's face for
just an instant. "There's a fellow I really envy," said he. "I'm
pretty good at imitating others, but Mocker is better. I'm hoping
that, if I practice enough, some day I can be as good. I saw a
lot of him in the South and he certainly is clever."
"Huh! You don't need to envy him," retorted Peter. "You are some
imitator yourself. How about those new notes you got when you
were in the South?"
Kitty's face cleared, his throat swelled and he began to sing. It
was a regular medley. It didn't seem as if so many notes could
come from one throat. When it ended Peter had a question all
"Are you going to build somewhere near here?" he asked.
"I certainly am," replied Kitty. "Mrs. Catbird was delayed a day
or two. I hope she'll get here to-day and then we'll get busy at
once. I think we shall build in these bushes here somewhere. I'm
glad Farmer Brown has sense enough to let them grow. They are
just the kind of a place I like for a nest. They are near enough
to Farmer Brown's garden, and the Old Orchard is right here.
That's just the kind of a combination that suits me."
Peter looked somewhat uncertain. "Why do you want to be near
Farmer Brown's garden?" he asked.
"Because that is where I will get a good part of my living,"
Kitty responded promptly. "He ought to be glad to have me about.
Once in a while I take a little fruit, but I pay for it ten times
over by the number of bugs and worms I get in his garden and the
Old Orchard. I pride myself on being useful. There's nothing like
being useful in this world, Peter."
Peter nodded as if he quite agreed. Though, as you know and I
know, Peter himself does very little except fill his own big
CHAPTER XXVIII Peter Sees Rosebreast and Finds Redcoat.
"Who's that?" Peter Rabbit pricked up his long ears and stared up
at the tops of the trees of the Old Orchard.
Instantly Jenny Wren popped her head out of her doorway. She
cocked her head on one side to listen, then looked down at Peter,
and her sharp little eyes snapped.
"I don't hear any strange voice," said she. "The way you are
staring, Peter Rabbit, one would think that you had really heard
something new and worth while."
Just then there were two or three rather sharp, squeaky notes
from the top of one of the trees. "There!" cried Peter. "There!
Didn't you hear that, Jenny Wren?"
"For goodness' sake, Peter Rabbit, you don't mean to say you
don't know whose voice that is," she cried. "That's Rosebreast.
He and Mrs. Rosebreast have been here for quite a little while.
I didn't suppose there was any one who didn't know those sharp,
squeaky voices. They rather get on my nerves. What anybody wants
to squeak like that for when they can sing as Rosebreast can, is
more than I can understand."
At that very instant Mr. Wren began to scold as only he and Jenny
can. Peter looked up at Jenny and winked slyly. "And what anybody
wants to scold like that for when they can sing as Mr. Wren can,
is too much for me," retorted Peter. "But you haven't told me who
"The Grosbeak, of course, stupid," sputtered Jenny. "If you don't
know Rosebreast the Grosbeak, Peter Rabbit, you certainly must
have been blind and deaf ever since you were born. Listen to
that! Just listen to that song!"
Peter listened. There were many songs, for it was a very
beautiful morning and all the singers of the Old Orchard were
pouring out the joy that was within them. One song was a little
louder and clearer than the others because it came from a tree
very close at hand, the very tree from which those squeaky notes
had come just a few minutes before. Peter suspected that that
must be the song Jenny Wren meant. He looked puzzled. He was
puzzled. "Do you mean Welcome Robin's song?" he asked rather
sheepishly, for he had a feeling that he would be the victim of
Jenny Wren's sharp tongue.
"No, I don't mean Welcome Robin's song," snapped Jenny. "What
good are a pair of long ears if they can't tell one song from
another? That song may sound something like Welcome Robin's, but
if your ears were good for anything at all you'd know right away
that that isn't Welcome Robin singing. That's a better song than
Welcome Robin's. Welcome Robin's song is one of good cheer, but
this one is of pure happiness. I wouldn't have a pair of ears
like yours for anything in the world, Peter Rabbit."
Peter laughed right out as he tried to picture to himself Jenny
Wren with a pair of long ears like his. "What are you laughing
at?" demanded Jenny crossly. "Don't you dare laugh at me! If
there is any one thing I can't stand it is being laughed at."
"I wasn't laughing at you," replied Peter very meekly. "I was
just laughing, at the thought of how funny you would look with a
pair of long ears like mine. Now you speak of it, Jenny, that
song IS quite different from Welcome Robin's."
"Of course it is," retorted Jenny. "That is Rosebreast singing up
there, and there he is right in the top of that tree. Isn't he
Peter looked up to see a bird a little smaller than Welcome
Robin. His head, throat and back were black. His wings were black
with patches of white on them. But it was his breast that made
Peter catch his breath with a little gasp of admiration, for that
breast was a beautiful rose-red. The rest of him underneath was
white. It was Rosebreast the Grosbeak.
"Isn't he lovely!"' cried Peter, and added in the next breath,
"Who is that with him?"
"Mrs. Grosbeak, of course. Who else would it be?" sputtered Jenny
rather crossly, for she was still a little put out because she
had been laughed at.
"I would never have guessed it," said Peter. "She doesn't look
the least bit like him."
This was quite true. There was no beautiful rose color about Mrs.
Grosbeak. She was dressed chiefly in brown and grayish colors
with a little buff here and there and with dark streaks on her
breast. Over each eye was a whitish line. Altogether she looked
more as if she might be a big member of the Sparrow family than
the wife of handsome Rosebreast. While Rosebreast sang, Mrs.
Grosbeak was very busily picking buds and blossoms from the tree.
"What is she doing that for?" inquired Peter.
"For the same reason that you bite off sweet clover blossoms and
leaves," replied Jenny Wren tartly.
"Do you mean to say that they live on buds and blossoms?" cried
Peter. "I never heard of such a thing."
"Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut! You can ask more silly questions than
anybody of my acquaintance," retorted Jenny Wren. "Of course they
don't live on buds and blossoms. If they did they would soon
starve to death, for buds and blossoms don't last long. They eat
a few just for variety, but they live mostly on bugs and insects.
You ask Farmer Brown's boy who helps him most in his potato
patch, and he'll tell you it's the Grosbeaks. They certainly do
love potato bugs. They eat some fruit, but on the whole they are
about as useful around a garden as any one I know. Now run along,
Peter Rabbit, and don't bother me any more.
Seeing Farmer Brown's boy coming through the Old Orchard Peter
decided that it was high time for him to depart. So he scampered
for the Green Forest, lipperty-lipperty-lip. Just within the edge
of the Green Forest he caught sight of something which for the
time being put all thought of Farmer Brown's boy out of his head.
Fluttering on the ground was a bird than whom not even Glory the
Cardinal was more beautiful. It was about the size of Redwing the
Blackbird. Wings and tail were pure black and all the rest was a
beautiful scarlet. It was Redcoat the Tanager. At first Peter had
eyes only for the wonderful beauty of Redcoat. Never before had
he seen Redcoat so close at hand. Then quite suddenly it came
over Peter that something was wrong with Redcoat, and he hurried
forward to see what the trouble might be.
Redcoat heard the rustle of Peter's feet among the dry leaves and
at once began to flap and flutter in an effort to fly away, but
he could not get off the ground. "What is it, Redcoat? Has
something happened to you? It is just Peter Rabbit. You don't
have anything to fear from me," cried Peter.
The look of terror which had been in the eyes of Redcoat died
out, and he stopped fluttering and simply lay panting.
"Oh, Peter," he gasped, "you don't know how glad I am that it is
only you. I've had a terrible accident, and I don't know what I
am to do. I can't fly, and if I have to stay on the ground some
enemy will be sure to get me. What shall I do, Peter? What shall
Right away Peter was full of sympathy. "What kind of an accident
was it, Redcoat, and how did it happen?" he asked.
"Broadwing the Hawk tried to catch me," sobbed Redcoat. "In
dodging him among the trees I was heedless for a moment and did
not see just where I was going. I struck a sharp-pointed dead
twig and drove it right through my right wing."
Redcoat held up his right wing and sure enough there was a little
stick projecting from both sides close up to the shoulder. The
wing was bleeding a little.
"Oh, dear, whatever shall I do, Peter Rabbit? Whatever shall I
do?" sobbed Redcoat.
"Does it pain you dreadfully?" asked Peter.
Redcoat nodded. "But I don't mind the pain," he hastened to say.
"It is the thought of what MAY happen to me."
Meanwhile Mrs. Tanager was flying about in the tree tops near at
hand and calling anxiously. She was dressed almost wholly in
light olive-green and greenish-yellow. She looked no more like
beautiful Redcoat than did Mrs. Grosbeak like Rosebreast.
"Can't you fly up just a little way so as to get off the ground?"
she cried anxiously. "Isn't it dreadful, Peter Rabbit, to have
such an accident? We've just got our nest half built, and I don't
know what I shall do if anything happens to Redcoat. Oh, dear,
here comes somebody! Hide, Redcoat! Hide!" Mrs. Tanager flew off
a short distance to one side and began to cry as if in the
greatest distress. Peter knew instantly that she was crying to
get the attention of whoever was coming.
Poor Redcoat, with the old look of terror in his eyes, fluttered
along, trying to find something under which to hide. But there
was nothing under which he could crawl, and there was no hiding
that wonderful red coat. Peter heard the sound of heavy
footsteps, and looking back, saw that Farmer Brown's boy was
coming. "Don't be afraid, Redcoat," he whispered. "It's Farmer
Brown's boy and I'm sure he won't hurt you. Perhaps he can help
you." Then Peter scampered off for a short distance and sat up to
watch what would happen.
Of coarse Farmer Brown's boy saw Redcoat. No one with any eyes at
all could have helped seeing him, because of that wonderful
scarlet coat. He saw, too, by the way Redcoat was acting, that he
was in great trouble. As Farmer Brown's boy drew near and Redcoat
saw that he was discovered, he tried his hardest to flutter away.
Farmer Brown's boy understood instantly that something was wrong
with one wing, and running forward, he caught Redcoat.
"You poor little thing. You poor, beautiful little creature,"
said Farmer Brown's boy softly as he saw the cruel twig sticking
through Redcoats' shoulder. "We'll have to get that out right
away," continued Farmer Brown's boy, stroking Redcoat ever so
Somehow at that gentle touch Redcoat lost much of his fear, and a
little hope sprang in his heart. He saw, too, this was no enemy,
but a friend. Farmer Brown's boy took out his knife and carefully
cut off the twig on the upper side of the wing. Then, doing his
best to be careful and to hurt as little as possible, he worked
the other part of the twig out from the under side. Carefully he
examined the wing to see if any bones were broken. None were, and
after holding Redcoat a few minutes he carefully set him up in a
tree and withdrew a short distance. Redcoat hopped from branch to
branch until he was halfway up the tree. Then he sat there for
some time as if fearful of trying that injured wing. Meanwhile
Mrs. Tanager came and fussed about him and talked to him and
coaxed him and made as much of him as if he were a baby.
Peter remained right where he was until at last he saw Redcoat
spread his black wings and fly to another tree. From tree to tree
he flew, resting a bit in each until he and Mrs. Tanager
disappeared in the Green Forest.
"I knew Farmer Brown's boy would help him, and I'm so glad he
found him," cried Peter happily and started for the dear Old
CHAPTER XXIX The Constant Singers.
Over in a maple-tree on the edge of Farmer Brown's door yard
lived Mr. and Mrs. Redeye the Vireos. Peter Rabbit knew that they
had a nest there because Jenny Wren had told him so. He would
have guessed it anyway, because Redeye spent so much time in that
tree during the nesting season. No matter what hour of the day
Peter visited the Old Orchard he heard Redeye singing over in the
maple-tree. Peter used to think that if song is an expression of
happiness, Redeye must be the happiest of all birds.
He was a little fellow about the size of one of the larger
Warblers and quite as modestly dressed as any of Peter's
acquaintances. The crown of his head was gray with a little
blackish border on either side. Over each eye was a white line.
Underneath he was white. For the rest he was dressed in light
olive-green. The first time he came down near enough for Peter to
see him well Peter understood at once why he is called Redeye.
His eyes were red. Yes, sir, his eyes were red and this fact
alone was enough to distinguish him from any other members of his
But it wasn't often that Redeye came down so near the ground that
Peter could see his eyes. He preferred to spend most of his time
in the tree tops, and Peter only got glimpses of him now and
then. But if he didn't see him often it was less often that he
failed to hear him. "I don't see when Redeye finds time to eat,"
declared Peter as he listened to the seemingly unending song in
"Redeye believes in singing while he works," said Jenny Wren.
"For my part I should think he'd wear his throat out. When other
birds sing they don't do anything else, but Redeye sings all the
time he is hunting his meals and only stops long enough to
swallow a worm or a bug when he finds it. Just as soon as it is
down he begins to sing again while he hunts for another. I must
say for the Redeyes that they are mighty good nest builders. Have
you seen their nest over in that maple-tree, Peter?"
Peter shook his head.
"I don't dare go over there except very early in the morning
before Farmer Brown's folks are awake," said he, "so I haven't
had much chance to look for it."
"You probably couldn't see it, anyway," declared Jenny Wren.
"They have placed it rather high up from the ground and those
leaves are so thick that they hide it. It's a regular little
basket fastened in a fork near the end of a branch and it is
woven almost as nicely as is the nest of Goldy the Oriole. How
anybody has the patience to weave a nest like that is beyond me."
"What's it made of?" asked Peter.
"Strips of bark, plant down, spider's web, grass, and pieces of
paper!" replied Jenny. "That's a funny thing about Redeye; he
dearly loves a piece of paper in his nest. What for, I can't
imagine. He's as fussy about having a scrap of paper as Cresty
the Flycatcher is about having a piece of Snakeskin. I had just a
peep into that nest a few days ago and unless I am greatly
mistaken Sally Sly the Cowbird has managed to impose on the
Redeyes. I am certain I saw one of her eggs in that nest."
A few mornings after this talk with Jenny Wren about Redeye the
Vireo Peter once more visited the Old Orchard. No sooner did he
come in sight than Jenny Wren's tongue began to fly. "What did I
tell you, Peter Rabbit? What did I tell you? I knew it was so,
and it is!" cried Jenny.
"What is so?" asked Peter rather testily, for he hadn't the least
idea what Jenny Wren was talking about.
"Sally Sly DID lay an egg in Redeye's nest, and now it has
hatched and I don't know whatever is to become of Redeye's own
children. It's perfectly scandalous! That's what it is, perfectly
scandalous!" cried Jenny, and hopped about and jerked her tail
and worked herself into a small brown fury.
"The Redeyes are working themselves to feathers and bone feeding
that ugly young Cowbird while their own babies aren't getting
half enough to eat," continued Jenny. "One of them has died
already. He was kicked out of the nest by that young brute."
"How dreadful!" cried Peter. "If he does things like that I
should think the Redeyes would throw HIM out of the nest."
"They're too soft-hearted," declared Jenny. "I can tell you I
wouldn't be so soft-hearted if I were in their place. No, sir-ee,
I wouldn't! But they say it isn't his fault that he's there, and
that he's nothing but a helpless baby, and so they just take care
"Then why don't they feed their own babies first and give him
what's left?" demanded Peter.
"Because he's twice as big as any of their own babies and so
strong and greedy that he simply snatches the food out of the
very mouths of the others. Because he gets most of the food, he's
growing twice as fast as they are. I wouldn't be surprised if he
kicks all the rest of them out before he gets through. Mr. and
Mrs. Redeye are dreadfully distressed about it, but they will
feed him because they say it isn't his fault. It's a dreadful
affair and the talk of the whole Orchard. I suppose his mother is
off gadding somewhere, having a good time and not caring a flip
of her tail feathers what becomes of him. I believe in being
goodhearted, but there is such a thing as overdoing the matter.
Thank goodness I'm not so weak-minded that I can be imposed on in
any such way as that."
"Speaking of the Vireos, Redeye seems to be the only member of
his family around here," remarked Peter.
"Listen!" commanded Jenny Wren. "Don't you hear that warbling
song 'way over in the big elm in front of Farmer Brown's house
where Goldy the oriole has his nest?"
Peter listened. At first he didn't hear it, and as usual Jenny
Wren made fun of him for having such big ears and not being able
to make better use of them. Presently he did hear it. The voice
was not unlike that of Redeye, but the song was smoother, more
continuous and sweeter. Peter's face lighted up. "I hear it," he
"That's Redeye's cousin, the Warbling Vireo," said Jenny. "He's a
better singer than Redeye and just as fond of hearing his own
voice. He sings from the time jolly Mr. Sun gets up in the
morning until he goes to bed at night. He sings when it is so hot
that the rest of us are glad to keep still for comfort's sake. I
don't know of anybody more fond of the tree tops than he is. He
doesn't seem to care anything about the Old Orchard, but stays
over in those big trees along the road. He's got a nest over in
that big elm and it is as high up as that of Goldy the Oriole; I
haven't seen it myself, but Goldy told me about it. Why any one
so small should want to live so high up in the world I don't
know, any more than I know why any one wants to live anywhere but
in the Old Orchard."
"Somehow I don't remember just what Warble looks like," Peter
"He looks a lot like his cousin, Redeye," replied Jenny. His coat
is a little duller olive-green and underneath he is a little bit
yellowish instead of being white. Of course he doesn't have red
eyes, and he is a little smaller than Redeye. The whole family
looks pretty much alike anyway."
"You said something then, Jenny Wren," declared Peter. "They
get me all mixed up. If only some of them had some bright colors
it would be easier to tell them apart."
"One has," replied Jenny Wren. "He has a bright yellow throat and
breast and is called the Yellow-throated Vireo. There isn't the
least chance of mistaking him."
"Is he a singer, too?" asked Peter.
"Of course," replied Jenny. "Every one of that blessed family
loves the sound of his own voice. It's a family trait. Sometimes
it just makes my throat sore to listen to them all day long. A
good thing is good, but more than enough of a good thing is too
much. That applies to gossiping just as well as to singing and
I've wasted more time on you than I've any business to. Now hop
along, Peter, and don't bother me any more to-day."
CHAPTER XXX Jenny Wren's Cousins.
Peter Rabbit never will forget his surprise when Jenny Wren asked
him one spring morning if he had seen anything of her big cousin.
Peter hesitated. As a matter of fact, he couldn't think of any
big cousin of Jenny Wren. All the cousins he knew anything about
were very nearly Jenny's own size.
Now Jenny Wren is one of the most impatient small persons in the
world. "Well, well, well, Peter, have you lost your tongue?" she
chattered. "Can't you answer a simple question without talking
all day about it? Have you seen anything of my big cousin? It is
high time for him to be here."
"You needn't be so cross about it if I am slow," replied Peter.
"I'm just trying to think who your big cousin is. I guess, to be
quite honest, I don't know him."
"Don't know him! Don't know him!" Sputtered Jenny. "Of course you
know him. You can't help but know him. I mean Brownie the
In his surprise Peter fairly jumped right off the ground. "What's
that?" he exclaimed. "Since when was Brownie the Thrasher related
to the Wren family?"
"Ever since there have been any Wrens and Thrashers," retorted
Jenny. "Brownie belongs to one branch of the family and I belong
to another, and that makes him my second cousin. It certainly is
surprising how little some folks know."
"But I have always supposed he belonged to the Thrush family,"
protested Peter. "He certainly looks like a Thrush."
"Looking like one doesn't make him one," snapped Jenny. "By this
time you ought to leave learned that you never can judge anybody
just by looks. It always makes me provoked to hear Brownie called
the Brown Thrush. There isn't a drop of Thrush blood in him. But
you haven't answered my question yet, Peter Rabbit. I want to
know if he has got here yet."
"Yes," said Peter. "I saw him only yesterday on the edge of the
Old Pasture. He was fussing around in the bushes and on the
ground and jerking that long tail of his up and down and sidewise
as if he couldn't decide what to do with it. I've never seen
anybody twitch their tail around the way he does."
Jenny Wren giggled. "That's just like him," said she. "It is
because he thrashes his tail around so much that he is called a
Thrasher. I suppose he was wearing his new spring suit."
"I don't know whether it was a new suit or not, but it was mighty
good looking," replied Peter. "I just love that beautiful
reddish-brown of his back, wings and tail, and it certainly does
set off his white and buff waistcoat with those dark streaks and
spots. You must admit, Jenny Wren, that any one seeing him
dressed so much like the Thrushes is to be excused for thinking
him a Thrush."
"I suppose so," admitted Jenny rather grudgingly. "But none of
the Thrushes have such a bright brown coat. Brownie is handsome,
if I do say so. Did you notice what a long bill he has?"
Peter nodded. "And I noticed that he had two white bars on each
wing," said he.
"I'm glad you're so observing," replied Jenny dryly. "Did you
hear him sing?"
"Did I hear him sing!" cried Peter, his eyes shining at the
memory. "He sang especially for me. He flew up to the top of a
tree, tipped his head back and sang as few birds I know of can
sing. He has a wonderful voice, has Brownie. I don't know of
anybody I enjoy listening to more. And when he's singing he acts
as if he enjoyed it himself and knows what a good singer he is. I
noticed that long tail of his hung straight down the same way Mr.
Wren's does when he sings."
"Of course it did," replied Jenny promptly. "That's a family
trait. The tails of both my other big cousins do the same thing."
"Wha-wha-what's that? Have you got more big cousins?" cried
Peter, staring up at Jenny as if she were some strange person he
never had seen before.
"Certainly," retorted Jenny. "Mocker the Mockingbird and Kitty
the Catbird belong to Brownie's family, and that makes them
second cousins to me."
Such a funny expression as there was on Peter's face. He felt
that Jenny Wren was telling the truth, but it was surprising news
to him and so hard to believe that for a few minutes he couldn't
find his tongue to ask another question. Finally he ventured to
ask very timidly, "Does Brownie imitate the songs of other birds
the way Mocker and Kitty do?"
Jenny Wren shook her head very decidedly. "No," said she. "He's
perfectly satisfied with his own song." Before she could add
anything further the clear whistle of Glory the Cardinal sounded
from a tree just a little way off. Instantly Peter forgot all
about Jenny Wren's relatives and scampered over to that tree. You
see Glory is so beautiful that Peter never loses a chance to see
As Peter sat staring up into the tree, trying to get a glimpse of
Glory's beautiful red coat, the clear, sweet whistle sounded once
more. It drew Peter's eyes to one of the upper branches, but
instead of the beautiful, brilliant coat of Glory the Cardinal he
saw a bird about the size of Welcome Robin dressed in sober
ashy-gray with two white bars on his wings, and white feathers on
the outer edges of his tail. He was very trim and neat and his
tail hung straight down after the manner of Brownie's when he
was singing. It was a long tail, but not as long as Brownie's.
Even as Peter blinked and stared in surprise the stranger opened
his mouth and from it came Glory's own beautiful whistle. Then
the stranger looked down at Peter, and his eyes twinkled with
"Fooled you that time, didn't I, Peter?" he chuckled. "You
thought you were going to see Glory the Cardinal, didn't you?"
Then without waiting for Peter to reply, this sober-looking
stranger gave such a concert as no one else in the world could
give. From that wonderful throat poured out song after song and
note after note of Peter's familiar friends of the Old Orchard,
and the performance wound up with a lovely song which was all the
stranger's own. Peter didn't have to be told who the stranger
was. It was Mocker the Mockingbird.
"Oh!" gasped Peter. "Oh, Mocker, how under the sun do you do it?
I was sure that it was Glory whom I heard whistling. Never again
will I be able to believe my own ears."
Mocker chuckled. "You're not the only one I've fooled, Peter,"
said he. "I flatter myself that I can fool almost anybody if I
set out to. It's lots of fun. I may not be much to look at, but
when it comes to singing there's no one I envy.
"I think you are very nice looking indeed," replied Peter
politely. "I've just been finding out this morning that you can't
tell much about folks just by their looks."
"And now you've learned that you can't always recognize folks by
their voices, haven't you?" chuckled Mocker.
"Yes," replied Peter. "Hereafter I shall never be sure about any
feathered folks unless I can both see and hear them. Won't you
sing for me again, Mocker?"
Mocker did. He sang and sang, for he clearly loves to sing. When
he finished Peter had another question ready. "Somebody told me
once that down in the South you are the best loved of all the
birds. Is that so?"
"That's not for me to say," replied Mocker modestly. "But I can
tell you this, Peter, they do think a lot of me down there. There
are many birds down there who are very beautifully dressed, birds
who don't come up here at all. But not one of them is loved as I
am, and it is all on account of my voice. I would rather have a
beautiful voice than a fine coat."
Peter nodded as if he quite agreed, which, when you think of it,
is rather funny, for Peter has neither a fine coat nor a fine
voice. A glint of mischief sparkled in Mocker's eyes. "There's
Mrs. Goldy the Oriole over there," said he. "Watch me fool her."
He began to call in exact imitation of Goldy's voice when he is
anxious about something. At once Mrs. Goldy came hurrying over to
find out what the trouble was. When she discovered Mocker she
lost her temper and scolded him roundly; then she flew away a
perfect picture of indignation. Mocker and Peter laughed, for
they thought it a good joke.
Suddenly Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had told him. "Was
Jenny Wren telling you the truth when she said that you are a
second cousin of hers?" he asked.
Mocker nodded. "Yes," said he, "we are relatives. We each belong
to a branch of the same family." Then he burst into Mr. Wren's
own song, after which he excused himself and went to look for
Mrs. Mocker. For, as he explained, it was time for them to he
thinking of a nest.
CHAPTER XXXI Voices of the Dusk.
Jolly, round, red Mr. Sun was just going to bed behind the Purple
Hills and the Black Shadows had begun to creep all through the
Green Forest and out across the Green Meadows. It was the hour of
the day Peter Rabbit loves best. He sat on the edge of the Green
Forest watching for the first little star to twinkle high up in
the sky. Peter felt at peace with all the Great World, for it was
the hour of peace, the hour of rest for those who had been busy
all through the shining day.
Most of Peter's feathered friends had settled themselves for the
coming night, the worries and cares of the day over and
forgotten. All the Great World seemed hushed. In the distance
Sweetvoice the Vesper Sparrow was pouring out his evening song,
for it was the hour when he dearly loves to sing. Far back in the
Green Forest Whip-poor-will was calling as if his very life
depended on the number of times he could say, "Whip poor Will,"
without taking a breath. From overhead came now and then the
sharp, rather harsh cry of Boomer the Nighthawk, as he hunted his
supper in the air.
For a time it seemed as if these were the only feathered friends
still awake, and Peter couldn't help thinking that those who went
so early to bed missed the most beautiful hour of the whole day.
Then, from a tree just back of him, there poured forth a song so
clear, so sweet, so wonderfully suited to that peaceful hour,
that Peter held his breath until it was finished. He knew that
singer and loved him. It was Melody the Wood Thrush.
When the song ended Peter hopped over to the tree from which it
had come. It was still light enough for him to see the sweet
singer. He sat on a branch near the top, his head thrown back and
his soft, full throat throbbing with the flute-like notes he was
pouring forth. He was a little smaller than Welcome Robin. His
coat was a beautiful reddish-brown, not quite so bright as that
of Brownie the Thrasher. Beneath he was white with large, black
spots thickly dotting his breast and sides. He was singing as if
he were trying to put into those beautiful notes all the joy of
life. Listening to it Peter felt steal over him a wonderful
feeling of peace and pure happiness. Not for the world would he
have interrupted it.
The Black Shadows crept far across the Green Meadows and it
became so dusky in the Green Forest that Peter could barely make
out the sweet singer above his head. Still Melody sang on and the
hush of eventide grew deeper, as if all the Great World were
holding its breath to listen. It was not until several little
stars had begun to twinkle high up in the sky that Melody stopped
singing and sought the safety of his hidden perch for the night.
Peter felt sure that somewhere near was a nest and that one thing
which had made that song so beautiful was the love Melody lad
been trying to express to the little mate sitting on the eggs
that nest must contain. "I'll just run over here early in the
morning," thought Peter.
Now Peter is a great hand to stay out all night, and that is just
what he did that night. Just before it was time for jolly, round,
red Mr. Sun to kick off his rosy blankets and begin his daily
climb up in the blue, blue sky, Peter started for home in the
dear Old Briar-patch. Everywhere in the Green Forest, in the Old
Orchard, on the Green Meadows, his feathered friends were
awakening. He had quite forgotten his intention to visit Melody
and was reminded of it only when again he heard those beautiful
flute-like notes. At once he scampered over to where he had spent
such a peaceful hour the evening before. Melody saw him at once
and dropped down on the ground for a little gossip while he
scratched among the leaves in search of his breakfast.
"I just love to hear you sing, Melody," cried Peter rather
breathlessly. "I don't know of any other song that makes me feel
quite as yours does, so sort of perfectly contented and free of
care and worry."
"Thank you," replied Melody. "I'm glad you like to hear me sing
for there is nothing I like to do better. It is the one way in
which I can express my feelings. I love all the Great World and I
just have to tell it so. I do not mean to boast when I say that
all the Thrush family have good voices."
"But you have the best of all," cried Peter.
Melody shook his brown head. "I wouldn't say that," said he
modestly. "I think the song of my cousin Hermit, is even more
beautiful than mine. And then there is my other cousin, Veery.
His song is wonderful, I think."
But just then Peter's curiosity was greater than his interest in
songs. "Have you built your nest yet?" he asked.
Melody nodded. "It is in a little tree not far from here," said
he, "and Mrs. Wood Thrush is sitting on five eggs this blessed
minute. Isn't that perfectly lovely?"
It was Peter's turn to nod. "What is your nest built of?" he
"Rootlets and tiny twigs and weed stalks and leaves and mud,"
"Mud!" exclaimed Peter. "Why, that's what Welcome Robin uses in
"Well, Welcome Robin is my own cousin, so I don't know as there's
anything so surprising in that," retorted Melody.
"Oh," said Peter. "I had forgotten that he is a member of the
"Well, he is, even if he is dressed quite differently from the
rest of us," replied Melody.
"You mentioned your cousin, Hermit. I don't believe I know him,"
"Then it's high time you got acquainted with him," replied Melody
promptly. "He is rather fond of being by himself and that is why
he is called the Hermit Thrush. He is smaller than I and his coat
is not such a bright brown. His tail is brighter than his coat.
He has a waistcoat spotted very much like mine. Some folks
consider him the most beautiful singer of the Thrush family. I'm
glad you like my song, but you must hear Hermit sing. I really
think there is no song so beautiful in all the Green Forest."
"Does he build a nest like yours?" asked Peter.
"No," replied Melody. "He builds his nest on the ground, and he
doesn't use any mud. Now if you'll excuse me, Peter, I must get
my breakfast and give Mrs. Wood Thrush a chance to get hers."
So Peter continued on his way to the dear Old Briar-patch and
there he spent the day. As evening approached he decided to go
back to hear Melody sing again. Just as he drew near the Green
Forest he heard from the direction of the Laughing Brook a song
that caused him to change his mind and sent him hurrying in that
direction. It was a very different song from that of Melody the
Wood Thrush, yet, if he had never heard it before, Peter would
have known that such a song could come from no throat except that
of a member of the Thrush family. As he drew near the Laughing
Brook the beautiful notes seemed to ring through the Green Forest
like a bell. As Melody's song had filled Peter with a feeling of
peace, so this song stirred in him a feeling of the wonderful
mystery of life. There was in it the very spirit of the Green
It didn't take Peter long to find the singer. It was Veery, who
has been named Wilson's Thrush; and by some folks is known as the
At the sound of the patter of Peter's feet the song stopped
abruptly and he was greeted with a whistled "Wheeu! wheeu!" Then,
seeing that it was no one of whom he need be afraid, Veery came
out from under some ferns to greet Peter. He was smaller than
Melody the Wood Thrush, being about one-fourth smaller than
Welcome Robin. He wore a brown coat but it was not as bright as
that of his cousin, Melody. His breast was somewhat faintly
spotted with brown, and below he was white. His sides were
grayish-white and not spotted like the sides of Melody.
"I heard you singing and I just had to come over to see you,"
"I hope you like my song," said Veery. "I love to sing just at
this hour and I love to think that other people like to hear me."
"They do," declared Peter most emphatically. "I can't imagine how
anybody could fail to like to hear you. I came 'way over here
just to sit a while and listen. Won't you sing some more for me,
"I certainly will, Peter," replied Veery. "I wouldn't feel that I
was going to bed right if I didn't sing until dark. There is no
part of the day I love better than the evening, and the only way
I can express my happiness and my love of the Green Forest and
the joy of just being back here at home is by singing."
Veery slipped out of sight, and almost at once his bell-like
notes began to ring through the Green Forest. Peter sat right
where he was, content to just listen and feel within himself the
joy of being alive and happy in the beautiful spring season which
Veery was expressing so wonderfully. The B1ack Shadows grew
blacker. One by one the little stars came out and twinkled down
through the tree tops. Finally from deep in the Green Forest
sounded the hunting call of Hooty the Owl. Veery's song stopped.
"Good night, Peter," he called softly.
"Good night, Veery," replied Peter and hopped back towards the
Green Meadows for a feast of sweet clover.
CHAPTER XXXII Peter Saves a Friend and Learns Something.
Peter Rabbit sat in a thicket of young trees on the edge of the
Green Forest. It was warm and Peter was feeling lazy. He had
nothing in particular to do, and as he knew of no cooler place he
had squatted there to doze a bit and dream a bit. So far as he
knew, Peter was all alone. He hadn't seen anybody when he entered
that little thicket, and though he had listened he hadn't heard a
sound to indicate that he didn't have that thicket quite to
himself. It was very quiet there, and though when he first
entered he hadn't the least intention in the world of going to
sleep, it wasn't long before he was dozing.
Now Peter is a light sleeper, as all little people who never know
when they may have to run for their lives must be. By and by he
awoke with a start, and he was very wide awake indeed. Something
had wakened him, though just what it was he couldn't say. His
long ears stood straight up as he listened with all his might for
some little sound which might mean danger. His wobbly little nose
wobbled very fast indeed as it tested the air for the scent of a
possible enemy. Very alert was Peter as he waited.
For a few minutes he heard nothing and saw nothing. Then, near
the outer edge of the thicket, he heard a great rustling of dry
leaves. It must have been this that had wakened him. For just an
instant Peter was startled, but only for an instant. His long
ears told him at once that that noise was made by some one
scratching among the leaves, and he knew that no one who did not
wear feathers could scratch like that.
"Now who can that be?" thought Peter, and stole forward very
softly towards the place from which the sound came. Presently, as
he peeped between the stems of the young trees, he saw the brown
leaves which carpeted the ground fly this way and that, and in
the midst of them was an exceedingly busy person, a little
smaller than Welcome Robin, scratching away for dear life. Every
now and then he picked up something.
His head, throat, back and breast were black. Beneath he was
white. His sides were reddish-brown. His tail was black and
white, and the longer feathers of his wings were edged with
white. It was Chewink the Towhee, sometimes called Ground Robin.
Peter chuckled, but it was a noiseless chuckle. He kept perfectly
still, for it was fun to watch some one who hadn't the least idea
that he was being watched. It was quite clear that Chewink was
hungry and that under those dry leaves he was finding a good
meal. His feet were made for scratching and he certainly knew how
to use them. For some time Peter sat there watching. He had just
about made up his mind that he would make his presence known and
have a bit of morning gossip when, happening to look out beyond
the edge of the little thicket, he saw something red. It was
something alive, for it was moving very slowly and cautiously
towards the place where Chewink was so busy and forgetful of
everything but his breakfast. Peter knew that there was only one
person with a coat of that color. It was Reddy Fox, and quite
plainly Reddy was hoping to catch Chewink.
For a second or two Peter was quite undecided what to do. He
couldn't warn Chewink without making his own presence known to
Reddy Fox. Of course he could sit perfectly still and let Chewink
be caught, but that was such a dreadful thought that Peter didn't
consider it for more than a second or two. He suddenly thumped
the ground with his feet. It was his danger signal which all his
friends know. Then he turned and scampered lipperty-lipperty-lip
to a thick bramble-tangle not far behind him.
At the sound of that thump Chewink instantly flew up in a little
tree. Then he saw Reddy Fox and began to scold. As for Reddy, he
looked over towards the bramble-tangle and snarled. "I'll get you
one of these days, Peter Rabbit," said he. "I'll get you one of
these days and pay you up for cheating me out of a breakfast."
Without so much as a glance at Chewink, Reddy turned and trotted
off, trying his best to look dignified and as if he had never
entertained such a thought as trying to catch Chewink.
>From his perch Chewink watched until he was sure that Reddy Fox
had gone away for good. Then he called softly, "Towhee! Towhee!
Chewink! Chewink! All is safe now, Peter Rabbit. Come out and
talk with me and let me tell you how grateful to you I am for
saving my life."
Chewink flew down to the ground and Peter crept out of the
bramble-tangle. "It wasn't anything," declared Peter. "I saw
Reddy and I knew you didn't, so of course I gave the alarm. You
would have done the same thing for me. Do you know, Chewink, I've
wondered a great deal about you."
"What have you wondered about me?" asked Chewink.
"I've wondered what family you belong to," replied Peter.
Chewink chuckled. "I belong to a big family," said he. "I belong
to the biggest family among the birds. It is the Finch and
Sparrow family. There are a lot of us and a good many of us don't
look much alike, but still we belong to the same family. I
suppose you know that Rosebreast the Grosbeak and Glory the
Cardinal are members of my family."
"I didn't know it," replied Peter, "but if you say it is so I
suppose it must be so. It is easier to believe than it is to
believe that you are related to the Sparrows."
"Nevertheless I am," retorted Chewink.
"What were you scratching for when I first saw you?" asked Peter.
"Oh, worms and bugs that hide under the leaves," replied Chewink
carelessly. "You have no idea how many of them hide under dead
"Do you eat anything else?" asked Peter.
"Berries and wild fruits in season," replied Chewink. "I'm very
fond of them. They make a variety in the bill of fare."
"I've noticed that I seldom see you up in the tree tops,"
"I like the ground better," replied Chewink. "I spend more of my
time on the ground than anywhere else."
"I suppose that means that you nest on the ground," ventured
Back to Full Books