The Tale of Jimmy Rabbit
Produced by Joe and Isaac Longo, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
THE TALE of JIMMY RABBIT
[Illustration: He trundled the wheelbarrow home again]
THE TALE of JIMMY RABBIT
Arthur Scott Bailey
The Cuffy Bear Books Sleepy-Time Series, Etc.
_Illustrations by_ Eleanore Fagan
Grosset & Dunlap Publishers--New York
Copyright, 1916, by GROSSET & DUNLAP
I Jimmy Finds a New Tail 9
II Troublesome Mr. Mink 14
III May Baskets 19
IV Making Somebody Happy 23
V The New Wheelbarrow 28
VI A Narrow Escape 34
VII A Fast Runner 40
VIII The Great Race 46
IX Playing Leap-Frog 52
X The Tooth Puller 58
XI A Slight Dispute 63
XII The Strange Man 69
XIII Mr. Crow's Picture 74
XIV Boy Lost! 80
XV Telling Fortunes 85
XVI Red Leggins 91
XVII The Rabbits' Ball 96
XVIII A Dance Without Music 101
XIX Jimmy Grows Too Cheeky 105
XX A Queer Cure 109
_The Tale of Jimmy Rabbit_
[Illustration: 1 Jimmy Finds a New Tail]
Jimmy Finds a New Tail
Jimmy Rabbit wanted a new tail. To be sure, he already had a tail--but it was so short that he felt it was little better than none at all. Frisky Squirrel and Billy Woodchuck had fine, bushy tails; and so had all the other forest-people, except the Rabbit family.
Jimmy had tried his hardest to get a handsome tail for himself. And once he had nearly succeeded. For he almost cut off Frisky Squirrel's big brush. But Mrs. Squirrel had appeared just in time to save her son from so dreadful a mishap.
After that, Jimmy Rabbit tried to _buy_ a tail; but no one would sell him one. Then he set out to _find_ one, in the hope that some day some one would forget his tail and go off and leave it lying in the woods, and not be able to remember where he left it.
In fact, Jimmy Rabbit often lurked behind trees and bushes, watching his neighbors as they took naps in the sunshine. But when they awaked and stretched themselves, and went trotting off, there was not one of them that didn't take his tail right along with him.
It was disappointing. Still, Jimmy Rabbit continued his search.
Now, Jimmy had decided that if he could only get a long tail he didn't care what color it was, if it was only a brownish yellow, to match the rest of him. And at last, as he was wandering through the woods one day, to his great joy he found almost exactly what he wanted. Lying near a heap of chips was a beautiful tail! But it was red, with a black tip. That was the only drawback about it.
This tail, however, was so handsome that Jimmy made up his mind that he would wear it, anyhow, even though it did not match his coat. So with a bit of string which he had carried with him for weeks for that very purpose, he tied the red tail to his own short stub.
There was great excitement among the forest-people when Jimmy Rabbit appeared among them. Most everyone told him how much better he looked. In fact, old Mr. Crow was about the only person who didn't say something pleasant. He only shook his head, and muttered something to himself about "handsome is as handsome does." But Jimmy Rabbit paid little attention to him.
"Whose tail is that?" Mr. Crow finally asked.
"Mine, of course!" Jimmy told him.
"Well, you'd better look out!" said Mr. Crow. "Unless that tail is bought and paid for, there's trouble ahead of you, young man."
To his friends Frisky Squirrel and Billy Woodchuck, Jimmy said something about Mr. Crow in a low voice. And they laughed loudly. Whereupon Mr. Crow flew away, croaking to himself about the shocking way children are brought up nowadays. You know, Mr. Crow was a great gossip. And everywhere he went that day he spread the news about Jimmy Rabbit's finding a red tail in the woods.
Probably that was the pleasantest day of Jimmy Rabbit's life. But toward evening something startled him. He had been over to the brook, to look at himself in a pool. And he was coming back towards home when some one called:
"Hi, there, young fellow!"
Jimmy Rabbit hurried along faster. He knew that it was a mink's voice. And he didn't like minks.
Mr. Mink ran after him, calling "Stop, thief!" at the top of his voice.
Jimmy Rabbit did not stop. But he glanced around. And his heart sank as he saw that Mr. Mink had no tail! At the same time Jimmy ran faster than ever. He did not want even to speak to Mr. Mink, for he felt that by waiting to talk with him he had nothing at all to gain, and a great deal to lose.
There was his new tail! He certainly did not want to part with that!
[Illustration: 2 Troublesome Mr. Mink]
Troublesome Mr. Mink
Jimmy Rabbit arrived home somewhat out of breath. But he was still happy, for he thought that he had shaken off that troublesome Mr. Mink. And he had no idea that Mr. Mink knew where he lived.
Now, it happened that old Mr. Crow's story about Jimmy's new tail had reached Mr. Mink's ears. And as soon as he heard it he had inquired where Jimmy Rabbit lived.
Mr. Crow had told him. And he took another look at Mr. Mink.
"I notice you've lost your tail," he said.
"Yes!" Mr. Mink answered. "Farmer Green threw an axe at me once. And it cut off my tail, as you see. I left that neighborhood then; and never cared to return to it. But if this young Rabbit boy has found my tail, I shall certainly claim it at once." So off he went. And Mr. Crow nodded his head wisely. It was just as he had said! There was trouble ahead for Jimmy Rabbit--or, you might say, there was trouble _behind_ for him; for it was that handsome red tail, you remember, that was the cause of it all.
Well, Jimmy Rabbit was trying to decide what he would do that evening, when all at once somebody else decided it for him. For all at once a slim, red gentleman rushed at Jimmy, crying, "Give me my tail! I want my tail!"
It was Mr. Mink! And Jimmy Rabbit ran off as fast as he could go.
"This is my tail!" he called over his shoulder. "I found it. And I'm not going to give it up to anybody."
But Mr. Mink hurried after Jimmy. To be sure, Jimmy left him far behind. But Mr. Mink kept following. It was very annoying, for Jimmy knew that sooner or later that troublesome gentleman would be on his heels again.
There was no use of Jimmy's crawling into any hole, for he was four times as big as Mr. Mink; and, of course, anywhere he went, Mr. Mink could easily follow.
Jimmy Rabbit didn't know what to do. Mr. Mink had terribly sharp teeth. And he was very angry. But Jimmy was not angry at all. _He_ didn't want to fight.
While he was trying to think of some way out of his trouble, something suddenly pulled him backward. Looking around, he saw Mr. Mink with his cruel teeth fastened in that beautiful red tail.
"Let go of me!" Jimmy Rabbit cried.
But Mr. Mink didn't say a word. In order to speak, he would have had to drop that precious tail. And he had no idea of doing that. Besides, there was nothing he wanted to say. There was no use of his calling, "Stop, thief!" when he had already stopped him, you know.
Jimmy Rabbit pulled with all his might. And Mr. Mink dug his four feet into the ground and pulled with all of _his_.
And then, the first thing Jimmy knew, he fell forward, head over heels. He was up in a jiffy, and off like a flash, running like the wind.
But this time Mr. Mink did not follow.
When at last Jimmy sat down to rest he discovered why it was that Mr. Mink had stopped chasing him. His beautiful, new, red tail was gone! The bit of string had broken under all that pulling. And now Jimmy Rabbit had no tail except his own.
"Where's your fine, bushy tail?" Mr. Crow asked Jimmy the next morning.
"Oh! I discovered who the owner of it was," Jimmy said. "He came for his property; and I let him have it."
But Mr. Crow was a wise old chap.
"Did you give him the string, too?" he inquired.
[Illustration: 3 May Baskets]
Jimmy Rabbit was very busy. He was getting ready for May Day. And he intended to hang two May baskets. One of them was already finished, and filled with things that Jimmy himself liked--such as strips of tender bark from Farmer Green's young fruit trees, and bits of turnip from his vegetable cellar. You might almost think that Farmer Green himself ought to have hung that basket. But Jimmy Rabbit never once thought of such a thing. He expected to hang it on the door of a neighbor's house, where there lived a young girl-rabbit. Jimmy had made that basket the best he knew how.
The one he was working on now was a very different sort of basket. But then--you see, he intended to give it to a very different sort of person. He was going to hang _this_ one on Henry Skunk's door.
Frisky Squirrel, who happened to be passing Jimmy's house, stopped and watched him. And he was surprised to learn that Jimmy was going to give a May basket to Henry Skunk.
"What are you going to put in it?" Frisky asked.
"Hens' eggs!" said Jimmy Rabbit.
That surprised Frisky Squirrel still more. If it had been a joke--a trick of some sort--that Jimmy was going to play on Henry Skunk, he could have understood that. But hens' eggs! Why, everyone knew how fond of hens' eggs Henry Skunk was!
"I thought you didn't like Henry Skunk," Frisky said.
"Well, can't I hang a May basket on his door just the same?" asked Jimmy.
Frisky Squirrel said he supposed so--but it was a strange thing to do.
"Look out he doesn't catch you when you're doing it!" he warned Jimmy. Henry Skunk was a quarrelsome fellow. There was no knowing what he wouldn't do if he caught anyone tying anything to his doorknob. "By the way," Frisky added, "where did you get the hens' eggs?"
"Down at Farmer Green's!" Jimmy said.
"I suppose there are lots more," said Frisky.
Jimmy Rabbit smiled.
"Not like these!" he said.
"I suppose you had to be careful not to break them--bringing them so far," Frisky Squirrel remarked.
"Oh, it's easy when you know how," Jimmy Rabbit told him.
"Well, Henry Skunk will break them fast enough, when he finds them," Frisky said.
"Yes, he'll break them!" Jimmy Rabbit laughed. "That's just the point! _He'll break them!_" You notice that Jimmy didn't say what it was that Henry Skunk would break.
[Illustration: 4 Making Somebody Happy]
Making Somebody Happy
Well, that very evening Jimmy Rabbit made a certain young neighbor very happy by hanging a May basket on her door. And then he hurried along to Henry Skunk's house. He hoped Henry was still there; for when Henry Skunk went out of an evening he seldom came home until morning.
Jimmy hung the basket of eggs on the doorknob, rang the bell, and then ran and hid behind a tree. He peeped out, as he heard the door open; and he saw Henry Skunk look all around. He seemed angry, until he caught sight of the basket. And then Henry Skunk certainly was pleased.
"Ah, ha!" he exclaimed. "A May basket! Now, I wonder what friend of mine has left this for me!" He looked inside the basket. "Ah, ha! Hens' eggs!" he cried. "I'll sit down on my front steps and eat them. Then I won't have to give anybody else a taste."
That was like Henry Skunk. He was a selfish fellow--always greedy, never offering to share a dainty with anyone.
Jimmy Rabbit was holding his mouth. He knew that if he laughed he would spoil everything. As he listened, he heard a _snap_! And Henry Skunk said "Oh!" as if something hurt him, and surprised him, both. "I declare, I've broken a tooth!" he exclaimed. "That's the hardest egg I ever saw. I'll try another." And he took another egg out of the basket.
There was another _snap_! This time Henry cried "Ow!" It was queer, to break two teeth like that. And he reached into the basket for the third egg. "It certainly can't happen again," Henry told himself. And he bit the third egg with all his might.
How it hurt him! He fairly howled with pain.
And then Jimmy Rabbit snickered. He could hold in his laughter no longer.
That was enough for Henry Skunk. He looked around quickly. And what he saw made him very angry. For he knew then that those eggs were nothing but a joke.
Now, when he tittered, Jimmy Rabbit had jumped back behind the tree round which he had been peeping. He thought that he was safely out of sight. But he had forgotten all about his ears. They were so long, and they stuck out so far, that Henry Skunk could see them. And he knew right away who had played that trick on him.
He did not think it was any joke, to break three teeth. And he began to creep toward those ears. But there was one thing that Henry Skunk had not noticed. He had not looked up in the branches above Jimmy Rabbit's head. If he had, he would have seen Frisky Squirrel, who had come along to see the fun.
As soon as Frisky saw what was happening, he cried:
"Look out, Jimmy!"
And Jimmy Rabbit looked out just in time. The smile faded from his face. And he turned and ran.
Henry Skunk did not chase him. He was no runner. But he hoped that some day he could catch _both_ those meddlesome youngsters.
[Illustration: Jimmy Rabbit delivers his May basket]
"Well, what did I tell you?" Jimmy Rabbit said, when Frisky joined him at a good, safe distance from Henry Skunk's house. "Didn't I say there'd be some fun?"
"But I don't understand what happened," Frisky said. "I thought Henry Skunk _liked_ hens' eggs."
"So he does!" Jimmy Rabbit answered. "But those were not real hens' eggs. They were china eggs which I found in Farmer Green's henhouse. And they were almost as hard as stones."
Frisky Squirrel laughed.
"I wish we had some more," he said. "Then we could hang a May basket on Fatty Coon's door.... I don't suppose you'd care to go back to Henry's house and get those eggs?"
"I don't suppose I would," said Jimmy Rabbit.
[Illustration: 5 The New Wheelbarrow]
The New Wheelbarrow
There was something that Jimmy Rabbit wanted. He had teased for it for a long time. And at last, after he had almost made up his mind that he wasn't going to get it, one day to his great joy his father brought home the very thing Jimmy had begged for. It was a wheelbarrow! Jimmy Rabbit could hardly believe his eyes.
"Well, young man, you ought to be pretty grateful for this," Mr. Rabbit said.
"Yes, Father!" Jimmy answered. He picked up the handles of the wheelbarrow, and began pushing it proudly about the dooryard. "I'm going to play with my wheelbarrow all the time after this," Jimmy said.
"I reckon you can do a little work with it, too," Mr. Rabbit told him. "I shall expect you to bring home the vegetables for the whole family, every morning."
"Yes, Father!" Jimmy answered. He thought that would be great sport. He didn't stop to think that it would take a good many vegetables to feed his father and his mother, his four sisters, his two brothers, and himself.
"I hope, now, to have a little time for recreation," Mr. Rabbit remarked.
"It's too bad you have to work so hard," said Jimmy. "Recreation" was a big word. Jimmy supposed that it was some kind of specially hard work. He did not know that it meant _play_. "I'll go down to Farmer Green's garden right away and get a load of his best vegetables!" Jimmy exclaimed.
Down in Farmer Green's garden Jimmy worked busily, loading his new wheelbarrow to the very top. And then he trundled it home again. No prouder youngster was ever seen in Pleasant Valley than Jimmy Rabbit, pushing that little wheelbarrow up the hill.
"Let me push it!" Frisky Squirrel begged.
But Jimmy Rabbit said that he mustn't let anybody else play with that wheelbarrow.
"Let me take hold of one handle!" Billy Woodchuck pleaded.
But Jimmy Rabbit told him that _that_ was no way to wheel a wheelbarrow.
Somehow, the next day Jimmy didn't have half so much fun getting the vegetables. And the day after that he actually began to think that gathering vegetables was a good deal like work. And before a week had passed he just hated the sight of Farmer Green's garden.
But all Jimmy's friends still crowded around and begged him to let them push the wheelbarrow. And all the while he had been very firm. He had not given one of them leave to touch the barrow.
At last Jimmy Rabbit had an idea.
"I'll tell you what I'll do," he said to Frisky Squirrel. "If you weren't my best friend I'd never think of such a thing. And you mustn't expect I'm going to let you do this often----"
"Do what?" Frisky asked.
"Why, wheel my wheelbarrow!" said Jimmy.
Frisky Squirrel jumped high up in the air, he was so pleased.
"Hurrah!" he cried. "May I push it now, before you fill it with vegetables?"
"Well--no! It's getting late," said Jimmy. "My mother will be expecting me soon. I'll let you wheel the vegetables home for me. But first, you must gather them."
Frisky Squirrel was more than willing. And he filled the barrow with cabbages and turnips, lettuce and peas, while Jimmy Rabbit looked on and ordered him about.
"There!" said Jimmy, when the wheelbarrow was full. "Now we'll go home." And then, to Frisky Squirrel's surprise, Jimmy climbed on top of the load and sat himself down.
"What's that for?" asked Frisky.
"Why, to keep the vegetables from falling out!" Jimmy explained. "You see, you don't know how to wheel a wheelbarrow. You'll be tipping it, first one side and then the other. And we'd have to stop every few steps and pick up a turnip or a cabbage."
"But I don't want to wheel _you_!" said Frisky. "You're too heavy!"
"Oh, very well, then!" Jimmy answered. "If you don't care to wheel the wheelbarrow, it's all the same to me." And he started to jump down from his seat on top of the load.
"No, no!" Frisky cried. "Don't get off! I can manage all right!" After gathering all those vegetables, he didn't want to lose the fun of pushing the wheelbarrow.
"Walk fast, now!" Jimmy said. "We're late already."
[Illustration: 6 A Narrow Escape]
A Narrow Escape
Frisky Squirrel had a hard time pushing the wheelbarrow home with Jimmy Rabbit on top of the load of vegetables. He puffed and groaned. And he had to stop every little while to catch his breath.
"You see, you're not used to wheeling a wheelbarrow," Jimmy told him. "For me, it's no trouble at all. But then, I'm stronger than you are."
Now, Frisky had been almost ready to tell Jimmy that he might trundle the barrow the rest of the way. But when he heard that he made up his mind that he would get that wheelbarrow up the hill to Jimmy's house if he didn't do another thing that day.
So he started on again. And at last he stopped in front of Jimmy Rabbit's door.
Jimmy hopped nimbly to the ground. But poor Frisky was so tired that he lay right down and went to sleep. And the next day he never went near Farmer Green's garden.
But Jimmy Rabbit didn't mind that at all. There were plenty of others who wanted to trundle the wheelbarrow. And this time Jimmy told Billy Woodchuck that _he_ might wheel the barrow home for him.
Once more Jimmy Rabbit stood by while the vegetables were gathered for him. Once more he seated himself on top of the load. And once more he had a free ride up the long hill. Jimmy had changed his mind about Farmer Green's garden. He even asked his mother if he might not bring home two loads of vegetables each day, instead of only one. And he was disappointed when she said "No!"
There was one thing, however, that Jimmy had overlooked. As the days went by, one by one his friends stayed away from the garden-patch. And at last there was nobody left who wanted to push the wheelbarrow except Fatty Coon. And Fatty Coon was really no friend of his at all. In fact, Jimmy did not like him, because he never could feel sure that Fatty would not get hungry all at once and try to eat him.
But Fatty teased so hard that at last Jimmy agreed to give him his turn at the fun (Jimmy was always careful to speak of gathering vegetables and wheeling them home as "fun").
When the barrow was full, Jimmy Rabbit again climbed on top of the load. But he kept very close watch of Fatty. And he was ready, any moment, to leap off the wheelbarrow in case Fatty should reach for his legs.
Fatty Coon was strong. He did not tire so easily as the others had. But finally he let go the handles and straightened up.
"What's the matter?" asked Jimmy. "You're not tired, are you?"
"No!" said Fatty. "But it's harder work than I supposed. I declare, I'm getting terribly hungry."
When Jimmy Rabbit heard him say that, his heart went _pitty-pat_. And he almost ran away, then and there.
But what would become of his nice new wheelbarrow if he did that? He was afraid that Fatty Coon would run off with it.
"My goodness! I'm growing hungrier every minute!" said Fatty Coon.
Then Jimmy Rabbit had a happy thought. He grabbed up a handful of green peas and tossed them to Fatty.
"Here!" he said. "Eat those! Maybe they'll make you feel better."
Fatty Coon ate the peas greedily.
"More!" he said. As you see, he was not very polite.
Jimmy threw him two handfuls then.
Still Fatty Coon said "More!"
So Jimmy rolled a turnip off the load. And after that he threw out a cabbage, and then a head of lettuce.
"More! more! more!" Fatty ordered.
And soon Jimmy Rabbit saw with dismay that the vegetables were nearly all gone. In a few moments he reached the very last one--a big turnip which he could hardly lift.
But he managed to pick it up and raise it above his head. And then with all his might he threw the turnip straight at Fatty Coon.
Fatty was just opening his mouth to say "More!" But he never said it. The big turnip struck him right on his fat stomach and knocked his breath out. He gave a faint groan and toppled over on the ground. And he was so fat that he started to roll.
Though he clawed at the grass to stop himself, he rolled faster and faster down the hill.
He was a very comical sight. And at any other time Jimmy Rabbit would have stopped to laugh. But Jimmy was so glad to be rid of Fatty Coon that he picked up the handles of his little wheelbarrow and ran home as fast as he could jump.
[Illustration: 7 A Fast Runner]
A Fast Runner
On Blue Mountain, and in Pleasant Valley as well, there lived many fast runners. And among the swiftest was Jimmy Rabbit. But he never ran very far. Whenever he was startled he would go bounding off like the wind; but pretty soon he would stop and listen to see if anyone was following him. And if it happened to be dog Spot, he always hurried to a hollow stump, or perhaps a woodchuck's hole--or a skunk's--and hid there until Spot went away.
Of course, there was some risk in going into somebody else's house. For if the owner happened to be at home there was likely to be a quarrel. Naturally, nobody likes to have some outsider burst into his house without even stopping to knock.
Now, everyone said that Jimmy Rabbit could run fast--that is, all but Tommy Fox. He never would admit that Jimmy Rabbit was much of a runner. I should hate to say that Tommy Fox was jealous. But it certainly did annoy him to hear so much said about Jimmy's wonderful speed.
Perhaps he never would have suggested the race, if Jimmy Rabbit hadn't boasted so much about his running. You see, in time Jimmy's head became turned. And he was often heard to say that there was no one in that part of the country who could beat him.
"Of course, there may be some one, somewhere, who can outrun me," Jimmy Rabbit said. "But I have yet to meet him."
That was a little more than Tommy Fox could bear. And he went off, looking very sour. He trotted over to the creek, did Tommy Fox. And there he might have been seen talking to Mr. Turtle. He talked with him for a long time. And when at last he went away Tommy's face wore a very different look. He was actually smiling.
The very next day Jimmy Rabbit met Tommy Fox in the woods.
"You'd better go home!" Tommy told him. "You have a caller waiting to see you. I just happened to pass your house, and the caller asked me if I had seen you."
"Who is it?" Jimmy asked him.
But Tommy Fox would not tell him.
"It's really none of my business," he said.
Jimmy Rabbit hurried off. He wondered who wanted to see him, and why.
He was surprised--and disappointed, too--to find that it was nobody but Mr. Turtle. And he was still more surprised when he learned his errand.
"I have come to challenge you to a race," Mr. Turtle told him.
Jimmy Rabbit laughed right in his face.
"A race!" he exclaimed. "Why--you can't run. I guess you've come to the wrong house. I guess you've made a mistake."
But Mr. Turtle said that he knew what he was about.
"I want to race you all the way from the creek to Broad Brook, where it runs into Swift River," he said.
Jimmy Rabbit had hard work to keep a straight face.
"My dear sir!" he said. "I could run that distance a hundred times while you were waddling it once. I don't care to race with you. It would be no fun at all for me."
When Mr. Turtle heard that, his beady little eyes snapped.
"Don't be so sure!" he said. "I believe I can beat you. And I will bet you----"
Jimmy Rabbit did not wait for him to finish.
"Bet!" he cried. "I never bet! I'm not allowed to. My mother doesn't approve of betting. And if she heard you mention such a thing to me she would be very angry."
"I didn't mean to say that," Mr. Turtle told him hastily. "It was just a slip of the tongue. What I meant to say was this: If you win the race, I'll _give_ you a fine new sled; and if I win, you can _give_ me your wheelbarrow."
Jimmy Rabbit began to be interested. He had always wanted a sled. And by another month or two there ought to be good coasting. It certainly wasn't _betting_, he thought. And as for losing the race--and his wheelbarrow--he knew that such a thing could never happen.
"I'll race you!" he cried. "When shall it be?"
"How would to-morrow do?" said Mr. Turtle. "It's a long way from the creek to Broad Brook--a good day's journey, I call it. It's too late to start to-day."
Jimmy Rabbit grinned. He knew that he could run that far fifty times a day.
"I'll be at the creek early in the morning," he promised.
[Illustration: 8 The Great Race]
The Great Race
On the morning of his great race with Mr. Turtle, Jimmy Rabbit was at the creek bright and early. He brought his two brothers with him, to see the fun. And he found that there were others, too, who had heard of the sport and had come to enjoy it. Frisky Squirrel was there, and Billy Woodchuck, and Fatty Coon. Then there was old Mr. Crow, who was always on hand whenever a crowd gathered. And perhaps the pleasantest and most interested of all was Tommy Fox.
"I hope you'll let me have a ride on your new sled when the first snow comes," he said to Jimmy Rabbit. "For, of course, you'll win the race. And Mr. Turtle will have to give you the sled, as he promised."
"I'll see," said Jimmy. And that was all the answer he would give.
But Tommy Fox seemed satisfied.
"I'm going to run along beside you," he told Jimmy, "to keep you company. And I'll wait at Broad Brook with you, to see the fun when Mr. Turtle gets there. For everyone knows that you're going to win the race."
"I fully expect to," said Jimmy.
Then Tommy drew a line in the sand.
"Here's where you start!" he said.
And Mr. Turtle and Jimmy Rabbit toed the mark.
"One, two, three--go!" cried Tommy Fox. And with that they were off. In no time at all Jimmy Rabbit had run so far that Mr. Turtle lost sight of him.
"Just as I expected!" Tommy Fox said to Jimmy Rabbit. They were in the woods now, and not far from Broad Brook. "There's no need of hurrying," Tommy remarked. "You can reach the brook quickly enough. It will be late in the afternoon before Mr. Turtle gets this far. I see you're a little out of breath. Why don't you lie down and rest? I'd take a nap, if I were you. And I'll wake you in time for you to win the race."
"That's a good idea," Jimmy Rabbit said. "I'll do it!" And he lay down on the ground and went to sleep.
Late in the afternoon there were as many people at Broad Brook to see the finish of the race as there had been at the creek in the morning to watch the start.
"I don't see where Jimmy can be," said Frisky Squirrel. "His brothers are both here--and they can't run as fast as he can." But no one seemed to know what had become of Jimmy Rabbit.
"I'm afraid he's going to lose his wheelbarrow," Tommy Fox finally said. "If he loses the race, he'll have to give his wheelbarrow to Mr. Turtle, just as he promised." And Tommy didn't seem at all sorry at such a thought.
"I hear some one coming!" Billy Woodchuck cried a little later. He had very sharp ears.
"And I can _see_ somebody!" Fatty Coon exclaimed. _He_ had very sharp eyes.
And sure enough! Pretty soon they all saw Mr. Turtle waddle out of the woods and hurry toward them.
Tommy Fox began to dance and sing.
"He's going to win! He's going to win!" he said, over and over again.
And it certainly did look as if that was just what was going to happen.
Tommy drew a mark in the sand near the brook. "As soon as he crosses this line, he'll win the race!" he shouted.
The two Rabbit boys stepped across the line and waited.
"Your brother is just as good as beaten," Tommy Fox told them. You see, he had never been near Jimmy Rabbit to wake him, as he had agreed. Of course, he had never intended to wake him.
Then Mr. Turtle crossed the line.
"You've won!" Tommy exclaimed. And he was so pleased that he gave Mr. Turtle a good, hard slap on the back. "Ouch!" Tommy said. There was a look of pain on his face. He had forgotten that Mr. Turtle had such a hard back.
"Who's won?" one of the Rabbit brothers asked.
"Why, Mr. Turtle!" said Tommy Fox.
"That," said the Rabbit boy, "that is just where you are mistaken, sir. Jimmy Rabbit has won the race--for _I_ am Jimmy Rabbit."
For a moment there was silence. And then a great shout went up. For they all saw that it was Jimmy Rabbit himself, dressed like one of his brothers.
But Tommy Fox did not shout at all. He was very angry. "There's been some trick played on us," he said.
"Where's my sled, Mr. Turtle?" Jimmy Rabbit asked. He turned around. But Mr. Turtle had vanished. He had jumped into the brook and swum away.
So Jimmy Rabbit did not get the sled after all. But he was so pleased over the way he had outwitted Tommy Fox that he didn't care very much. And all his friends said that he was not only a fast runner, but a very clever fellow as well.
[Illustration: 9 Playing Leap-Frog]
There was great joy in the woods. Jimmy Rabbit had promised to teach his friends a new game. Frisky Squirrel and Billy Woodchuck, Fatty Coon and Tommy Fox, were all on hand to have their share of the fun.
"What's the game called?" Frisky Squirrel asked.
"It's leap-frog," Jimmy told him.
"Shucks!" said Fatty Coon. "The frog's not here yet. And we can't do anything till _he_ comes."
Jimmy Rabbit laughed.
"You don't need a frog to play leap-frog," he said. "Just squat down in front of me and I'll show you how it's done."
Frisky Squirrel did just as Jimmy told him to do. And Jimmy ran up behind him, put his front paws on Frisky's back, and leaped over him. Then he ran on a little way. And when he stopped, he crouched down and called to Fatty Coon to jump over them both.
Soon they were all playing leap-frog, though Tommy Fox said that he didn't think it was much of a game.
"There's more to it than you think," Jimmy said. "I haven't taught you the whole game yet."
"Well, I want to learn it all," Tommy Fox grumbled.
"Wait until you do this part better," Jimmy Rabbit said. "Then I'll show you something different. You must learn to leap higher and further. You're not half as good a jumper as I supposed you were."
Tommy Fox did not like that very well. And if he and Jimmy Rabbit had been alone I am afraid he would have done something very unpleasant to Jimmy. But now he only snarled a little, and showed his teeth, and said that he could leap higher and further than any of the others.
"Well, you're a good boaster, anyhow," said Jimmy.
Everybody laughed at that--except Tommy Fox. _He_ frowned. And when it was his turn to leap over the others he sprang so high and so far that he jumped over Frisky Squirrel and Fatty Coon together, without once touching the ground. It was really a wonderful jump.
"What do you think of that?" Tommy asked with a grin. "Can any of you beat that?"
"It's a pretty fair leap," Jimmy Rabbit admitted. "But I've seen better. When I'm in practice I can do better myself. A really good leap-frog player ought to be able to jump over three people at a time."
Fatty Coon shook his head. He was not much of a jumper--he was so fat, and his legs were so short. And he didn't believe he could ever leap over three people at a time.
"I could do it, if you'd let me start from a tree," Frisky Squirrel said.
But Jimmy told him that that was never allowed.
"It's against the rules of the game," he explained.
"Well, I can do it, and start on the ground, too," Tommy Fox boasted. "I can do anything anybody else can do."
"I believe you can," Jimmy Rabbit said, to everybody's surprise. For they all knew that he didn't like Tommy Fox. "We'll give you a good, fair chance to try it," Jimmy went on. "You squat here," he told Fatty Coon. And he pointed out the exact place where he wanted Fatty to stand. A little way behind Fatty, he stationed Frisky Squirrel. And back of Frisky he took his own place.
"Now!" Jimmy Rabbit said, "are you all ready?"
"Yes," they cried.
"I'm coming!" called Tommy Fox. And he came running up behind them. He rested his front paws on Jimmy Rabbit's back. And just as he leaped, Jimmy Rabbit leaped too.
You might say that Tommy Fox made a double jump. His own jump would have been a high one. But when Jimmy jumped, it sent Tommy Fox all the higher into the air. He went sailing far above Frisky Squirrel and Fatty Coon; and still he kept on, turning and tumbling, head over heels, until at last he landed with a great splash in the same deep pool where the hornets chased Cuffy Bear one time.
When Tommy Fox crawled out upon the bank, dripping wet, the leap-frog players were nowhere to be seen.
Though Tommy did not know it, at that very moment they were hidden in the woods, rolling over and over upon the ground, and laughing as if they would never stop.
Finally Jimmy Rabbit sat up and wiped the tears off his face. He had laughed so hard that he had cried.
"I told him I'd teach him something different about leap-frog," he said.
[Illustration: 10 The Tooth Puller]
The Tooth Puller
Jimmy Rabbit was always changing his mind about what he was going to be when he grew up. First he thought he would be a gardener, so he would always have plenty of vegetables to eat. Next he decided he would be a preacher, because, so far as he could see, they never did anything except talk--and he was sure _that_ couldn't be very hard work. And one day he told his mother that he expected to become a tramp, so he wouldn't have to wash his face. But she soon put that idea out of his head. So Jimmy had to think of something else.
[Illustration: Jimmy Rabbit hurts Frisky Squirrel]
Now, he had heard that there were places where one could go to have a tooth pulled. And it seemed to him that it must be very pleasant to pull teeth. And he saw no reason why he need wait till he grew up, either. He saw no reason why he should not begin at once.
Jimmy knew of a hollow stump not far away which would make as fine an office as anyone could want. So he hopped into the woods. And outside the hollow stump he nailed a sign that said:
He didn't have to wait any time at all before some one came along.
It was Frisky Squirrel. And the moment he read the sign he decided that one of his teeth was in need of pulling.
"Come right in!" Jimmy Rabbit said. He had on a white apron, which he had borrowed from his mother when she was not looking. And in his hand he held a big pair of pincers, which he had borrowed from his father while Mr. Rabbit was away from home.
"Do you really know how to pull a tooth?" Frisky asked.
"I've never yet had a complaint from anyone who let me pull a tooth for him," Jimmy Rabbit said. And that was perfectly true--for he had never pulled a tooth in his whole life.
It would have been a shame if Frisky Squirrel had lost one of his sharp, white teeth. But Frisky didn't know that. He thought it would be fun. And he sat down and told Jimmy Rabbit he was ready.
So Jimmy Rabbit stepped up to him. But he hadn't any more than closed his pincers when Frisky Squirrel began to scream.
Jimmy Rabbit was so surprised that he let the pincers drop and jumped back.
"My goodness!" he said. "How you startled me! I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"Yes, you did!" Frisky answered. And Jimmy could see that he was angry. "You hurt my lip terribly."
"Well, you must have moved," said Jimmy. "Having a tooth pulled is a good deal like having your picture taken. You have to sit very still."
Now, sitting still was something that Frisky Squirrel never was able to do.
"I'm sorry," he said, "but I shall have to get along with my teeth just as they are."
"Better try once more!" Jimmy urged him. "Most everybody has at least _one_ tooth out. It's quite the fashion."
But Frisky would not let him try again.
"I haven't heard that it was the fashion to have your lip pulled off," he said. "But I'll stay here a while," he added. He wanted to _see_ a tooth pulled, even if it wasn't his own.
"Do!" said Jimmy Rabbit. "And after you've seen how easily the thing's done, I've no doubt you will want me to 'tend to your case." He was very cheerful.
But Frisky Squirrel did not appear very happy. His lip pained him terribly.
[Illustration: 11 A Slight Dispute]
A Slight Dispute
You may have heard somewhere of Uncle Jerry Chuck. He was an old woodchuck who lived in Farmer Green's pasture. And he was known far and wide as the stingiest person in Pleasant Valley. He never paid for anything if he could possibly help it.
Well, Uncle Jerry had the toothache. That was nothing new for him, either. He often had the toothache. And it was always the same tooth, too--because he had only one in his head. But he never would go and have his tooth pulled, because he simply _hated_ the thought of paying anyone to take it out. He had an idea that _he_ was the one who should be paid. But he never could find a dentist who looked at the matter in that light.
Uncle Jerry was strolling through the woods. He had a big red handkerchief tied about his face, because it was a cold day. And he was getting very tired of the toothache. He was just wishing that he could get rid of it--for nothing. He even thought he would be willing to part with that tooth without asking any pay for it, when what should he see right in front of him but a big sign, which said:
"Hello!" said Uncle Jerry. "Here's something new! I've never noticed that sign before." And he stepped inside the hollow stump to which the sign was nailed.
And there he found Jimmy Rabbit, in a white apron, and with a pair of pincers in his hand. Frisky Squirrel was there, too, sitting in a corner and holding onto his head.
"What are your prices?" Uncle Jerry asked.
"An ear of corn for a tooth!" said Jimmy Rabbit promptly.
"That's reasonable enough," Uncle Jerry Chuck replied. And he sat down at once. "Go ahead!" he said.
Jimmy Rabbit was delighted.
"Which one is it?" he asked.
"All of them!" said Uncle Jerry.
That was even better than Jimmy had expected. But when he looked inside Uncle Jerry's mouth he was disappointed.
"Why, you've only one tooth in your head!" he exclaimed in his surprise.
"Hurry up!" Uncle Jerry snapped. "I came here to have a tooth pulled--not _to be talked to_." He was always ill tempered. And his toothache only made him crosser than ever.
So Jimmy Rabbit went to work. He tugged away with all his might and main. Now and then Uncle Jerry groaned. And whenever he groaned, Jimmy turned pale. For he was somewhat afraid of the old gentleman.
At last Jimmy tumbled backward, head over heels. That was when the tooth came out.
"Well, you were long enough about it, I must say!" Uncle Jerry Chuck said. "Give me my ear of corn now, for I must hurry home."
"Give _you your_ ear of corn?" Jimmy Rabbit cried. He could scarcely believe his own ears--and goodness knows they were big enough to hear anything anybody said.
"Why, certainly!" Uncle Jerry replied. "I asked you your prices, you know. And you said: 'An ear of corn for a tooth!'"
Jimmy Rabbit didn't know what to do.
"Why"--he gasped, "I thought _you_ were going to pay _me_!"
"Well, you see you were mistaken," Uncle Jerry told him. "And you had better give me that ear of corn at once, or it will be the worse for you."
For all the old fellow was toothless, Jimmy saw that his claws were long and sharp. He knew that he had got himself into a fix. And he couldn't think of any way out of it.
"You've got my tooth! I want an ear of corn! You've got my tooth! I want an ear of corn!" Uncle Jerry Chuck kept saying. And each time he said it, his voice grew louder, until he was shouting at the top of his lungs.
Then Jimmy Rabbit had an idea. He picked up Uncle Jerry's tooth off the floor and placed it in Uncle Jerry's hand.
"There's your tooth!" he cried. "I don't want it!"
"But you promised to give me an ear of corn for my tooth!" said Uncle Jerry.
"Well, haven't you got your tooth?" asked Jimmy Rabbit.
And Uncle Jerry Chuck was so puzzled that he went home without saying another word.
[Illustration: 12 The Strange Man]
The Strange Man
A strange man had come to stay at Farmer Green's house. It was Jasper Jay who brought the news into the woods.
"He doesn't seem to work with Farmer Green, or the hired man, either," said Jasper. "When I first saw him he was sitting on the bank of the river, under a great, brown umbrella. But what he was doing I couldn't make out."
When Jimmy Rabbit heard that, he knew at once that he wouldn't be able to sleep a wink that night unless he found out exactly what the strange man was about. So he went off toward Swift River with a skip and a hop. He was always like that. Whenever there was a new sight to be seen, Jimmy Rabbit was sure to be among the first to see it.
He had no trouble in finding what he was looking for. There on the river bank was a huge umbrella. Jimmy was sure it was the biggest one in the world. And under the umbrella sat the strange man. In one hand he grasped a queerly shaped board, and a number of sticks; and in the other he held one of the sticks, with which he kept dabbing at a big, flat thing that stood in front of him.
Jimmy Rabbit was puzzled. He stole nearer. And at last he had crept so close that when he stood on his hind legs he could see what the man was working at.
To his great surprise, he discovered that Swift River was rushing and tumbling across the big, flat object which was propped upright in front of the stranger.
Jimmy couldn't understand it. Was the man fishing? he wondered. And how had he managed to get Swift River out of its banks like that?
Jimmy Rabbit began to think that the strange man had used magic. Why, he wasn't even wet!
And Jimmy turned and ran back home. If he hadn't happened to meet Mr. Crow, probably he would never have known to this day what that man was doing.
But Mr. Crow knew right away.
"That wasn't really Swift River that you saw in front of him. It was just something that looked like it.... Haven't you ever seen a picture?" Mr. Crow asked.
Jimmy Rabbit had to admit that he had never had that pleasure.
"Well!" said Mr. Crow. "I can tell you where you can see better pictures than that man can make. He only paints rivers and mountains, and lakes. But down at Farmer Green's, all over the front of the barn, you'll find the most beautiful pictures anyone could ask for. You'll see ladies riding on horses--standing up, mind you! And you'll see men perched one on top of another until they reach the clouds. And animals! There are the oddest looking animals--different from anything you ever saw in these woods."
"I'm going right down there," Jimmy Rabbit said. "I'm very glad to have met you, Mr. Crow. And thank you, very much!" It was not often that Jimmy was so polite.
He was almost afraid that Mr. Crow was playing some trick on him. But it was all just as Mr. Crow had said--only ten times more wonderful. And Jimmy Rabbit made up his mind, before he came away from Farmer Green's barn, that he wanted to make pictures himself.
Mr. Crow had said that the strange man, who made the picture of Swift River, was an artist. Well, Jimmy intended to begin to be an artist the very next day. And he was so grateful to Mr. Crow for explaining everything to him that he decided he would do something specially nice for the old gentleman.
And all at once a happy thought came into Jimmy's head. He would make a picture of Mr. Crow!
[Illustration: 13 Mr. Crow's Picture]
Mr. Crow's Picture
In the woods near the foot of Blue Mountain news travels fast. Soon everybody knew that Jimmy Rabbit had become an artist. And many of the woods-people put on their best clothes and hurried to Jimmy's house, to have their pictures painted.
They were disappointed when Jimmy told them all that they would have to wait.
"But after I've made a picture of Mr. Crow you shall each have your turn," he promised.
Some of them grumbled. And Mr. Fox, especially, was very disagreeable.
"I was the first one here," he said. "I don't see why I should have to wait for old Mr. Crow."
But Jimmy Rabbit would not listen to him. He felt quite important.
"I shall have to ask you all to go away now," he said. "Painting pictures is very difficult work. It would make me nervous to have so many people watching me."
So his callers left him--all but Mr. Fox.
"I'm going to stay right here," Mr. Fox said. "And as soon as you finish with Mr. Crow, you can begin my picture." And he looked so surly that Jimmy Rabbit didn't dare object.
At last Mr. Crow arrived.
"I'd have been here before," he said, "but I stopped to get a new hat."
"That's too bad!" Jimmy told him. "You know, gentlemen never wear hats when they're having their portraits painted. But I'll tell you what you can do," he added, for he saw that Mr. Crow was disappointed. "You can hold your hat in your hand."
That seemed to make Mr. Crow feel better. But Mr. Fox almost spoiled everything by saying, "Then he'll have to stand on one leg."
Jimmy Rabbit hadn't thought of that. And Mr. Crow only made it harder for him. For he said in a loud voice, "No hat, no picture!"
Jimmy Rabbit thought very hard. And pretty soon he smiled all over his face.
"It's all right!" he said. "I know how to fix it, Mr. Crow. You can hold your hat, just as I said."
So everybody was happy again--except Mr. Fox, who had hoped that old Mr. Crow would go away.
Jimmy Rabbit showed Mr. Crow where to stand. And then he began to paint. And while he worked, Mr. Fox looked over his shoulder.
It was not long before something seemed to please Mr. Fox, for he smiled broadly.
Mr. Crow noticed that grin.
"What's he laughing at?" he asked. "_I_ don't see anything to laugh at."
Jimmy Rabbit looked around. But Mr. Fox was as solemn as an owl.
"He isn't laughing," said Jimmy.
"Certainly not!" said Mr. Fox. "Your eyes must be bad, Mr. Crow."
"Well, I didn't bring my spectacles," Mr. Crow answered. "I thought I'd look better without them."
After that Mr. Fox managed to keep a sober face. But _inside_ he was laughing as hard as could be.
"What makes him shake so?" Mr. Crow asked, a few minutes later.
"I must have caught cold," Mr. Fox replied. "I've been chilly all the morning."
"You'd better go home," Jimmy Rabbit advised him. But Mr. Fox wouldn't have left for anything.
"Now he's choking!" Mr. Crow said. "I declare, I can't have my picture painted with such goings-on." And he started to fly away.
But Jimmy Rabbit begged him to stand still just a little longer.
"The picture is almost done," he said. "There!" he added, a bit later. "It's finished. And I know you'll be pleased."
It was clear that Mr. Fox was pleased, for he was actually beaming. Jimmy thought he had never seen him look so pleasant. Mr. Crow had to ask him to stand aside, so _he_ could have a look.
"I should think I might gaze on my own picture," he grumbled.
At first Mr. Crow was delighted. Then he seemed somewhat puzzled.
"The face is good," he said. "And no one could ask for a better picture of a hat. But there's something that doesn't look quite right." And all at once Mr. Crow saw what was the matter. And he flew at the picture and ran his bill through it in a dozen places. "The idea!" he said. "I've never been so insulted in all my life!" And without another word he flew out of sight.
It was no wonder that he was angry. For in the picture Jimmy Rabbit had painted him with four legs!
"Well," said Jimmy, "he needn't be so cross about it. It was his own fault. He wanted to hold his hat. And I just _had_ to give him more than one leg to stand on."
[Illustration: 14 Boy Lost!]
Poor Mrs. Rabbit didn't know what to do. Her son Jimmy had not been home since early morning; and she was sure he was lost. She hurried through the woods, looking for him everywhere. But not a trace of him could she find. No one had seen him.
At last Mrs. Rabbit happened to meet Jasper Jay.
"Have you seen Jimmy?" she asked.
"Yes!" he said. "Right after breakfast I saw him hurrying along the road by the river. The gypsies have a camp there. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they had stolen him," he added very cheerfully.
When Mrs. Rabbit heard that she was terribly upset.
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" she cried. "Whatever shall I do?"
"The usual thing," Jasper Jay told her, "is to offer a reward."
"Is that so?" said Mrs. Rabbit. "I've never done anything like that. Will you help me?"
"Why, certainly!" said Jasper. And he set to work and painted a big sign, which looked like this:
LOST, STRAYED, OR STOLEN!
A boy in a checkered suit, with a short
tail and long ears. He answers to the
name of Jimmy Rabbit. A reward will be
paid for his return, and no questions asked.
Near the Big Pine Tree.
"There!" said Jasper Jay, proudly. "That ought to fetch him, if anything will." And he and Mrs. Rabbit took the sign down to the road and hung it on a fence-post.
"Why do you say 'No questions asked'?" she inquired.
"That's the way it's always done," said Jasper.
Now, it was almost as Jasper Jay had thought. Jimmy Rabbit was at the gypsies' camp. But he hadn't been stolen. He was skulking about, as near the gypsies as he dared to go. And he was so interested in what he saw that he had entirely forgotten to go home to dinner. But late in the afternoon he began to have such a queer feeling in his stomach that he remembered then that he had had nothing to eat since breakfast. And he started off up the road, towards home.
You can imagine how surprised he was when he stopped and read Jasper Jay's sign. As soon as he had read it a second time he decided that he had better hurry home a little faster. For he could see that his mother was worried.
So Jimmy jumped through the fence and went hopping across the meadow. Soon he was home again; and Mrs. Rabbit was hugging him and asking him where he had been and what he had been doing.
Jimmy was just going to tell her. But he happened to think that when his mother learned that he had been at the gypsies' camp all day she might not be pleased. And then he remembered that sign.
"Why don't you answer me?" Mrs. Rabbit asked. "You'd better speak up at once. Where have you been?"
"But the sign said 'No questions asked'!" Jimmy reminded her.
When she heard that, Mrs. Rabbit gasped.
"Yes!" Jimmy went on. "And it said 'A reward will be paid for his return'!"
Mrs. Rabbit gasped again. She saw that Jasper Jay had got her into trouble. It seemed to her that it would be very hard to have to pay a reward to her own son. But Mrs. Rabbit was a person who always kept her word.
"Well," she said, "what do you want?"
"I think," Jimmy told her, "that I would like something to eat."
"Then the gypsies didn't give you your dinner," Mrs. Rabbit said.
"No, Mother!" Jimmy answered, before he thought. So you see that Mrs. Rabbit found out where he had been, after all, even though she asked no questions.
It is very hard to keep anything from one's mother.
[Illustration: 15 Telling Fortunes]
At the gypsies' camp Jimmy Rabbit had seen something that was very interesting. He had watched the gypsies telling fortunes. And he saw no reason why he should not become a fortune-teller himself. It looked easy enough. All you had to do was to hold the hand of the person whose fortune you were telling and say anything that came into your head. And you were paid for it, too! That was the best part of it all.
As soon as he had eaten the lunch that his mother gave him, Jimmy skipped away to ask everyone he met if he wanted his fortune told. And there wasn't a single person who didn't say "Yes!" at once.
"All right!" Jimmy told everybody. "It will cost you one cabbage.... And you can find me under the big willow near the brook."
"I'll come along with you now," said Fatty Coon. "You can tell my fortune. And afterward I'll go down to Farmer Green's and get a cabbage for you."
"That won't do!" said Jimmy. "You'll have to give me the cabbage first."
So Fatty hurried down the hill. Never before had he seen so many of his neighbors in Farmer Green's garden. And they were all looking for cabbages. It was quite clear that Jimmy Rabbit was going to be very busy.
Those who could run the fastest had their fortunes told first, for they were the ones that reached the big willow the soonest. And Mr. Fox was the quickest of all.
Jimmy Rabbit looked at Mr. Fox's paw. He wouldn't hold it, as he had seen the gypsies hold the hands of the people who visited them, for he never liked to get too near Mr. Fox. But Mr. Fox didn't know the difference.
"First I'll tell your _past_," Jimmy said.
But Mr. Fox thought there was no sense in doing that. "I know all about my past," he said.
"Well, I'll tell your present, then," said Jimmy Rabbit.
"Oh, that's silly!" Mr. Fox sneered. "You're telling my fortune--_that's_ what my present is."
"Your future, then!" Jimmy continued. "I'll tell your future."
"Good!" said Mr. Fox. "That's just what I want."
So Jimmy Rabbit looked at his paw again.
"Beware of a dark man!" he said. "He'll make trouble for you if he can."
"That must be Farmer Green," Mr. Fox remarked. "I shall have to be careful."
"And I see a spotted person chasing you," said Jimmy.
Mr. Fox shuddered.
"Old dog Spot!" he said. "Hurry and finish! I must be running along." And he glanced over his shoulder as if he half expected to see Spot come bounding towards him.
"You are going on a journey," Jimmy Rabbit told him. "You are going to the other side of Blue Mountain. Beneath the great oak near the lake" (everybody had heard of the great oak) "when the moon comes up to-night, you will find the surprise of your life.... That's all!" Jimmy said.
Mr. Fox thought it was well worth one cabbage. And he went off wondering about that surprise.
Jimmy Rabbit told many fortunes that day. And the last one of all was Henry Skunk's, because Henry was so slow in coming up the hill from the garden.
By the time he had reached Henry Skunk, Jimmy could think of nothing new to say. So he began at the beginning again and told Henry Skunk exactly what he had said to Mr. Fox.
And Henry seemed just as pleased as Mr. Fox had been.
Then Jimmy waited for some time, because Fatty Coon had not appeared at all. You see, Fatty had been trying and trying to bring a cabbage up the hill, to pay for having his fortune told. But before he was half way up he always grew so hungry that he had to eat the cabbage, and then there was nothing to do but go back for another. So poor Fatty never had his fortune told at all.
The next day Jimmy Rabbit heard that Mr. Fox and Henry Skunk had had a terrible battle on the other side of Blue Mountain, just as the moon came up. It was said that each thought the other was spying on him.
Jimmy Rabbit was the only person who knew how it had come about. And _he_ wouldn't tell.
[Illustration: The Night of the Rabbit's Ball]
[Illustration: 16 Red Leggins]
It was winter. And you would naturally think that Jimmy Rabbit would be happy, there was so much snow to play in. But he wasn't. I am sorry to say that he was sulking in the house, while all his friends were out of doors, having a good time in the snow.
The trouble was this: Mrs. Rabbit wouldn't let Jimmy play in the snowdrifts unless he wore his red leggins. And Jimmy just hated them. None of the other youngsters had to wear red leggins. And they made all manner of fun of Jimmy, and called him names, whenever he appeared in those bright red things.
The worst name that they called him was one that Fatty Coon made up. It was "Red Legs." And it was a little more than Jimmy could bear. So Jimmy said he would rather not go out at all, than wear those horrid leggins.
"Very well!" his mother said.
But all the time Jimmy kept wishing he was out there with the others. He could hear them laughing and shouting.
"Mayn't I go out without my leggins if I stay in my own yard?" he asked his mother.
"Yes!" she said, "if you won't step in the deep snow." So Jimmy went outside and watched his friends.
"Come on, Jimmy!" they cried. "Tommy Fox has taught us a new game. It's fox-and-geese!"
But Jimmy Rabbit shook his head.
"I can't!" he said. "I'm too busy."
"Ho! Jimmy Rabbit has to work!" somebody cried.
But Jimmy Rabbit smiled.
"Maybe _you'd_ call it work," he said. "But _I_ call it a good deal of fun.... I'm forming a club," he told them.
"A club? What's that?" asked Frisky Squirrel.
"It's a jolly band of fellows," Jimmy told him. "Sort of a secret society, you know. We'll have all kinds of fun."
"Who's in your club?"
"That's one of the secrets," Jimmy answered. "We don't tell."
"I'd like to join," Frisky told him. And the others all said that they would like to be members, too.
"Well, everything has to be very private," Jimmy said. "Anybody who wants to belong to the club has to come and ask me. And I'll tell him what to do, if I want him to belong.... One at a time, now! Don't crowd!" Jimmy said. For everybody was coming inside his yard.
He stood at one side and wouldn't talk above a whisper. And to each of his friends he said:
"You have to have a uniform, you know.... The name of the club is The Scarlet Spies. And everyone who is in it must wear a pair of scarlet leggins."
Just as soon as they learned that, the whole troop hurried away. And by afternoon the woods seemed to have turned red, there were so many pairs of scarlet leggins twinkling almost anywhere you looked.
In fact, there was only one of Jimmy's young neighbors who hadn't been able to get a pair. And that was Fatty Coon. Goodness knows he wanted some scarlet leggins. But his mother simply would not buy him any, in spite of all his teasing.
"Why are we called The Scarlet Spies?" Frisky Squirrel asked Jimmy.
"Because we _spy_ on everybody who doesn't wear the uniform," Jimmy Rabbit explained. "Now, there's Fatty Coon! We'll follow him wherever he goes, and watch everything he does. But we mustn't have anything to do with him, because he's what is called an 'outsider'."
Fatty Coon didn't like it at all when he found that The Scarlet Spies were following him about, hiding behind trees, and peeping at him.
"Shucks!" he cried. "Those are nothing but _red leggins_! Jimmy Rabbit has played another trick on you."
But Jimmy Rabbit didn't mind what he said. He could play in the snow now without being called names. And that was enough for him.
[Illustration: 17 The Rabbits' Ball]
The Rabbits' Ball
The Rabbits' Ball (that was a dancing party, you know) was something to which Jimmy Rabbit had looked forward for a long time.
Now, only rabbits were invited. And everybody that came was expected to wear fancy clothes, and a mask.
Jimmy Rabbit had decided that he would go to the Ball dressed like one of his sisters. He thought that he could have a good deal of fun in that way. And as it happened, he was not disappointed.
The night of the great Ball had come; and Jimmy Rabbit had a delightful time dancing with friends of his who thought he was a girl. But after a while almost everybody knew almost everybody else--in spite of the masks they wore. But there were two dancers whom nobody seemed to know.
One was dressed as a giant-dwarf, and the other as a dwarf-giant. And they looked a good deal alike, except that one of them (that was the gentleman) was tall and thin; and the other (that was the lady) was short and fat. They didn't appear even to know each other. But they both enjoyed the Ball--at least they told everyone that they did.
Before the Ball was over the tall, thin stranger invited Jimmy Rabbit to dance with him--supposing, of course, that Jimmy was a girl.
It struck Jimmy that the stranger was very, very tall for a rabbit. Only rabbits were invited to the party, you remember.
Well, as the stranger walked away, after the dance was done, Jimmy Rabbit caught a glimpse of a bushy red tail beneath his coat. And he knew right away who it was. It was Tommy Fox! And, of course, he had no business to be there, at the Rabbits' Ball!
That set Jimmy to thinking. And he wasn't long in making up his mind that the short, fat lady was no other than Fatty Coon. When Jimmy looked sharply he could see where Fatty's tail was hidden beneath the dress he was wearing. And, of course, he had no business there, either.
Pretty soon Jimmy Rabbit thought of a plan. And he hurried up to the tall stranger and said:
"We are now going to have a new sort of dance. And knowing you to be a fine dancer, I would suggest that you ask that shortish, stoutish lady to be your partner. I should say that next to you, she is the most graceful dancer at the Ball."
Tommy Fox hurried over at once to claim a dance with the strange lady, who was really Fatty Coon--only Tommy didn't know it.
As soon as everyone was ready, Jimmy Rabbit climbed on top of a toadstool and made a speech.
"The new dance," he said, "will be like this: Everybody must be blindfolded." So every dancer pulled out his pocket-handkerchief and tied it over his eyes. "The new dance will be _without_ music," Jimmy added. "You will dance until the music _begins_, instead of dancing until it _stops_."
Everyone said that that was a queer sort of dance. But Jimmy Rabbit paid no attention to such remarks.
"All ready!" he called. "One, two, three--dance!" he cried in a loud voice.
Among all that crowd, Jimmy Rabbit was the only one who was not blindfolded. But no one else knew that, for nobody could see him--except the musicians. And as soon as Jimmy whispered something to them they tucked their corn-stalk fiddles under their arms and ran away.
But everybody kept dancing--because, you remember, it was to be a dance without music. Jimmy Rabbit had said that they weren't to stop dancing till the music began. And with the fiddlers gone, you might think they'd be dancing yet.
But it was not so.
[Illustration: 18 A Dance Without Music]
A Dance Without Music
As soon as Tommy Fox began to dance with the strange lady (she was really Fatty Coon, you know), he saw very quickly that she was not a good dancer at all. She kept stepping on Tommy's feet, and tripping him. And Tommy kept wishing that the music would begin, so he could stop dancing. You remember that Jimmy Rabbit had said that this was to be a dance _without_ music, and that everybody had to be blindfolded, too.
At first, Tommy Fox and his partner kept bumping into other dancers. That was natural enough, too, because how could anyone see, with a pocket-handkerchief tied over his eyes?
After a while Tommy noticed that they bumped into fewer and fewer people, until at last they never ran into any others at all. But he never stopped to wonder at that. He was only glad that it was so.
Being blindfolded, he had not seen what was going on. But Jimmy Rabbit was very busy. He kept going up to all the rabbit dancers, and whispering to them, and telling them to take their pocket-handkerchiefs off their eyes and run away, because Tommy Fox and Fatty Coon had come to the Rabbits' Ball, without being invited. So two by two the dancers stole off, until there were only three of the merrymakers left. Two of those were Tommy Fox and Fatty Coon, who were still dancing, still blindfolded, and each still thinking that the other was a rabbit. The third was Jimmy Rabbit himself. But he was not dancing. He was peeping out from behind a tree, and wondering what was going to happen.
And all the time Tommy Fox was wishing the music would begin. Of course, he didn't know that Jimmy Rabbit had sent the fiddlers away.
Now, the longer they danced, the oftener the fat lady stepped on Tommy's feet. And he grew so angry that he finally said:
"Do be careful where you step!"
That remark did not please Fatty Coon.
"Don't tell _me_ how to dance!" he said. "You're a great, clumsy creature!"
"I'm not!" Tommy retorted. "I'm the best dancer at the Ball. But _you_ can't dance any better than a coon!"
That was enough for Fatty. He tore the handkerchief off his eyes. And Tommy Fox was just as quick. He saw that he had made an unwise speech. And he snatched the bandage from his own face.
"You've played a trick on me!" Tommy Fox cried, when he saw that all the other dancers--and the fiddlers, too--had gone.
"You've played one on me!" Fatty Coon shouted. And he pulled the mask off Tommy Fox's face.
And again Tommy Fox was just as quick. He reached out and twitched away Fatty Coon's mask.
For one second they stared at each other. And then they jumped at each other.
Jimmy Rabbit didn't wait to see anything more. He felt that it would be much safer somewhere else. And besides, the Rabbits' Ball had come to an end.
That was the last time that Fatty Coon and Tommy Fox ever went to a party to which they were not invited. Jimmy Rabbit had taught them a lesson.
[Illustration: 19 Jimmy Grows Too Cheeky]
Jimmy Grows Too Cheeky
Mrs. Rabbit always tried to teach her children good manners. It was no easy matter, either, with four girls and three boys. But she was glad that she hadn't four boys and three girls, because her boys always stuffed their mouths when they ate.
One day at dinner Mrs. Rabbit said:
"Jimmy! Don't fill your mouth so full! If you could see how you look, with your cheeks sticking out, you'd be more careful."
The first thing Mrs. Rabbit knew, Jimmy burst into tears.
"I haven't eaten a thing!" he said. "There's nothing in my mouth at all. I'm not a bit hungry."
When Mrs. Rabbit looked at his plate she knew at once that there must be something the matter with him, for she saw that Jimmy hadn't touched his dinner. And usually he was the first to ask for more.
"That boy is not well!" she told her husband. "I wish you would go and ask Aunt Polly Woodchuck to step over here." Aunt Polly, you know, was a famous doctor.
Well, Mr. Rabbit hurried away as soon as he had finished his meal. And it wasn't long before old Aunt Polly hobbled up to Mrs. Rabbit's door.
"Come right in!" Mrs. Rabbit said. "It's Jimmy! I want you to look at him. He wouldn't eat any dinner, and his cheeks stick out very queerly."
Old Aunt Polly gave Jimmy a sharp pinch on one of his puffed-out cheeks.
"Ouch!" he said.
"Did that hurt?" Aunt Polly asked him.
"Yessum!" he answered.
"Hm--I thought so!" she said. You see, Aunt Polly was a good doctor. She generally knew what was what.
Then she reached into her basket and drew out a green apple, and gave it to Jimmy Rabbit.
"Here!" she said. "Take a big bite!"
Jimmy did just as she told him to. And then he cried "Ouch!" again.
"Did it hurt?" she asked him.
"Yessum!" he said.
"I thought so!" Aunt Polly replied. And turning to Mrs. Rabbit, she said, "This boy has mumps."
"You don't say so!" Mrs. Rabbit exclaimed.
"I do, indeed!" Aunt Polly declared. "Give him a cup of catnip tea and put him to bed. And let him have a hot-water bottle at his feet. And if everything isn't all right, just send for me again." So she went away. And Jimmy went to bed.
He kept his mother busy for a few days, for he was always asking her to fill his hot-water bottle with hotter water. But she was glad to do that for him. And she was pleased to see that he was improving.
Then one day Mrs. Rabbit discovered that the hot-water bottle was full of small holes. The water ran out of it almost as fast as she poured it in.
Mrs. Rabbit was surprised. She was worried, too, for it was no easy matter to get a new hot-water bottle where she lived.
"Aunt Polly said to send for her again if everything wasn't all right," she said to Mr. Rabbit. "So you'd better go and tell her to come over at once."
[Illustration: 20 A Queer Cure]
A Queer Cure
When that famous doctor, Aunt Polly Woodchuck, reached Mrs. Rabbit's house, she said:
"Is Jimmy worse? He ought to be almost well by this time; for mumps don't last long, as a rule."
"It isn't Jimmy," Mrs. Rabbit told her. "It's the hot-water bottle! I find that it's full of holes; and I can't think how they came there."
Aunt Polly put on another pair of spectacles.
"Let me see it!" she said. "Aha!" she exclaimed, as she looked at the hot-water bottle closely. "I thought so!" she said.
"What is it?" Mrs. Rabbit inquired. "I hope it's nothing catching. For just think what a fix we'd be in if all the children should have that same trouble!"
Aunt Polly told her not to worry.
"You'd better get a new bottle," she said, "for this one can't be cured. But I'll show you what to do to prevent the new hot-water bottle from getting full of holes like this one.... Get me a piece of string!" said Aunt Polly.
Now, for some reason or other, Jimmy Rabbit began to feel very uncomfortable. He was no longer in bed. And when he heard Aunt Polly ask for a piece of string he started to sneak out of the room.
But Aunt Polly saw him.
"Come back here!" she said. "I want you!" And she made Jimmy sit at her feet and wait until his mother returned.
"Here!" Mrs. Rabbit said when she came back at last. "Is this string what you need? It's a very strong piece."
"Just the thing!" Aunt Polly told her. And she took hold of Jimmy Rabbit.
He began to howl. And he squirmed. And he would have kicked, if he had dared.
Aunt Polly Woodchuck did a strange thing then. She hung the hot-water bottle from Jimmy's neck.
"There!" she said. "Just let him wear that for a few days! I don't think you'll have any more trouble with holes in hot-water bottles."
"Have you known cases like this before?" Mrs. Rabbit asked her.
"A few!" said Aunt Polly. "And this is by far the best way to treat them. I've never known it to fail."
"It seems to me it's rather hard on Jimmy," Mrs. Rabbit said.
"Don't you worry about him!" Aunt Polly told her. "It will do him a world of good."
Jimmy Rabbit hung his head. He hated to have that hot-water bottle dangling from his neck. And he made up his mind that he would never prick another pin-hole in anything else so long as he lived.
But he was glad of one thing. He was glad Aunt Polly hadn't told his mother what he had done.
[Illustration: The End]
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