THE BLUEBIRDS & THEIR NEIGHBOURS

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Chapter 9
Molly Cottontail Hears Some News

WHEW," puffed Molly Cottontail, "I wonder what Tattler the Jay saw that time."

"He saw Reddy Fox," said Mr. Bluebird, "and Reddy was following your trail."

Tattler the Jay had not warned Molly Cottontail because he was her friend. Oh no! Tattler the Jay is not a special friend to anyone. In fact, he is an enemy to almost all little birds. You see, Tattler the Jay is a robber. He is also a bully and a murderer. He drives small parent birds out of their nests and takes their eggs or kills their babies. If the owners are too large for him to drive away, he waits until they leave the nest in search of food and then he steals the eggs. He is a sneak thief. He would probably kill Molly's babies if she did not keep them hidden in a Friendly Burrow or some other place until they are large enough to hide themselves.

And so it was not because of friendship that Tattler the Jay warned Molly. He wanted make Reddy Fox angry. He likes to meddle in other people's business, and he tells everything he knows

He likes to gossip. Yes, sir, he flies through the woods and across the meadows from morning until night looking for something that he can tell to some one else. That is how he happened to know that Peter Cottontail was staying in the Big Jungle Thicket. And to was the reason that Tattler the Jay happened to be in the brambles along Little Rive when Reddy Fox came along. Tattler was looking for Molly himself so he could tell her a big story about Peter. He thought it would be fun to cause Molly to take a "wild-goose chase" in search of Peter.

When Molly ran away, he decided that he would follow so he could tell her a story about Peter. He saw Mr. Bluebird on the treelet and stopped to ask him if he had seen Molly pass that way. There was Molly resting and talking to Mr. Bluebird

"Haw haw haw laughed Tattler the Jay, �how funny Reddy Fox looked when you ran away! It was indeed comical. Haw haw haw."

"Thank you for warning me," said Molly. "You saved my life."

Tattler the Jay did not care anything about that. He had had his fun out of it. And he was thinking about how much fun it was going to be to tell Molly about Peter. He just couldn't wait any longer. He hopped down near Molly, and perched on a little willow tree.

"Do you know that Peter is in the Big Jungle Thicket in the edge of the Black Forest?" he asked Molly.

"Of course I do," she answered. "He went there to look for Tender Grass Shoots to eat."

She did not want to say any more about it, and yet she thought that perhaps Tattler the Jay could tell her when he was expecting to come home.

"Have you seen Peter lately?" she asked.

"Only yesterday," said Tattler, as he cocked his head on one side and tried to look very wise "And that was when Shadow the Lynx was making a meal of him.�

Now, Molly Cottontail should have known Tattler the Jay well enough to know that he might have been mistaken. She should have waited until she heard more about it from some one who was not such a talker. But what Tattler the Jay had said made her anxious. My, how troubled she was!

"I am going right over to see if it was Peter," she said; and away she ran thumpety thumpety thump, thumpety thumpety thump.

"Haw haw haw," laughed Tattler the Jay, "won't Molly' be surprised when she sees Peter? Haw haw haw."

Mr. Bluebird thought that was a mean thing to do. He thought that Tattler the Jay should not have worried Molly like that. Some folks think it is great fun to make trouble. They simply have to keep things stirred up. And Tattler the Jay is one of that kind.

Mr. Bluebird didn't like Tattler the Jay very well. He didn't care to be seen talking to him. He was afraid that some one would see him and think that he was a gossiper too, because people judge us by the company we keep.. And so Mr. Bluebird flew back to the Nesting Box to see if Mrs. Bluebird had returned from her visit with Bobby White.

CHAPTER 10

The Big Snowstorm

AFTER Molly left Tattler the Jay and Mr. Bluebird, she ran until she was out of breath, and then stopped by a Friendly Burrow. You see, she knew she was so tired that if Ranger the Coyote or Shaggy the Wolf came along, she would not be able to run and escape them. And so she wanted a Friendly Burrow handy while she was resting because she felt safer. She knew that she could tumble into it and escape their white fangs.

"I told Peter not to go to the Black Forest," said Molly to herself between puffs. "But he just would go. Now, if I had been with him, I could have watched while, he ate and thumped a warning if Shadow the Lynx came near. He just would go alone."

Then Molly felt sorry because she had talked so about Peter even though no one had heard her. It made her feel just as we feel when we think unkindly of some one. Even though we say nothing about it to anyone, we feel as if every one knows our thoughts, and we are ashamed.

"I must not talk like that about Peter," said Molly. "What if he is dead? Oh, I do hope he is safe. I wonder if Tattler the Jay was only fooling." And away went Molly again as fast as her legs could carry her.

In a short time some Gray Cloud Ships sailed across the sky and hid the Laughing Yellow Sun. Soon the Merry Little Snowflakes were falling thick and fast, and Molly stopped in the shelter of a rabbit bush.

"I believe we are going to have a storm," she said, as she wiggled her nose and sniffed the air. " I think I'll build a Cozy Form and wait until it is over."

And so she scratched out a place for a Cozy Form under the rabbit bush, arranged some dry grass around her for cover, and settled down until she was out of sight.

"I do wish it would stop snowing," she said, as she watched the Merry Little Snowflakes sift down.

"It seems as if all I get done is to build Cozy Forms. But then, I suppose I should not complain, because the snow is just what we need to bring up the Tender Grass Shoots. If only I knew about Peter"

In a short time the Great Wide World was covered with a deep, white blanket, and no one would ever have thought that Molly was hidden under that bush. No, sir; you never would have guessed it, because it looked just like many other rabbit bushes around there. Not even Reddy Fox could have found Molly unless he happened to pass quite close. You see, when the Merry Little Snowflakes are falling so fast and the Playful Air Whiffs are taking a rest, Reddy Fox cannot smell Molly very far because her scent is smothered to the ground somewhat.

And so Molly felt quite safe in her Cozy Form. The large bush protected her from the back and sides so that Reddy Fox could not pounce upon her from those directions. And she had been quite careful to see to it that there was no brush in front of her so she could bound away without interference if she were discovered. If she were found, she would have to play a game of dodge among the rabbit bushes, because she never could outrun Reddy Fox or Ranger the Coyote or Shaggy the Wolf, and especially in deep snow.

After a while it began to grow dark, and Molly could hear Screecher the Owl making terrible noises from his Old Hollow Stub in the Black Forest. Of course, Molly was not afraid of Screecher because she knew he was quite harmless even though he sounded like a monster. Sometimes we see people who are like that; they make a big noise to scare other people, but that is all it amounts to. Then we call them bluffers.

In the night Molly heard a strange noise. She was not quite sure what was making it. It was not a growl and it was not a scream. Sometimes it sounded far away, and then again it seemed to be quite close. It could hardly have been called a groan or a moan or a shriek. In fact, it would have been impossible to describe it.

"Now, I wonder what that is," thought Molly. "It doesn't sound like Growler the Bear or Shadow the Lynx or Screecher the Owl. And it could not be Whistler the Marmot because he would be asleep tonight."

Then Molly noticed that the Playful Air Whiffs were moving the brush at her back.

"Now I know what is making that noise," thought Molly. "The Playful Air Whiffs are rub�bing two trees together and causing a tree squeak." And so she settled down for a nap.

But Molly did not sleep long. She was awakened by the sound of something walking. Tramp, tramp, tramp. It was not very loud in the soft snow, but it was too loud to be Reddy the Fox or Ranger the Coyote or Shaggy the Wolf. Molly perked up her ears and listened. Tramp, tramp, tramp-it was coming nearer. Her heart began to thump. It might be Nero the Hound out on an early morning hunt. But no, Nero the Hound would not make that heavy a tread. Tramp, tramp, tramp-it was almost to Molly's hiding place. When it got right by her rabbit bush it stopped, and Molly's heart almost stopped too when her bush began to move. Something was eating twigs off her bush. Molly knew that anything that ate twigs would not be likely to harm her, and so she waited. Soon, she smelled the breath of Old Bent Horn the Cow, and Molly settled down again with a sigh of relief.

"My, how you frightened me!" she said to Old Bent Horn.

Old Bent Horn jumped with astonishment when she heard a noise coming from the bush on which she was browsing. "Is that you, Molly?" she asked.

"Yes, it is I," replied Molly. "And how does the world look outside?"

Old Bent Horn bit off another mouthful of twigs. "It is hard to find anything to eat," she said, "because the Tender Grass Shoots are hidden. But it looks as if we would have a nice day, for the Laughing Yellow Sun is just peeping over the Old Homestead."

"I do hope it is nice," said Molly, "because I must see if I can find Peter."

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