THE BLUEBIRDS & THEIR NEIGHBOURS

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CHAPTER 11

Shaggy the Wolf Gets Hungry

AFTER Old Bent Horn left, Molly sat in her Cozy Form thinking. She sat there until the Laughing Yellow Sun began to melt the Merry Little Snowflakes on her rabbit bush and she felt the Cold Little Drops trickling down on her Back.

"Dear me, I'm getting wet," she said, "and also stiff. I believe I'll just hop along toward the Black Forest, and perhaps I can find some Tart Grape Vines or Bitter Willow Bark to eat on the way. It is such a task trying to find Tender Grass Shoots until the snow leaves."

And so Molly hopped right out of her form into the snow and started following in the trail that Old Bent Horn had left. That was a foolish thing for Molly to do. You see, as a rule Molly does not hop around much in daylight. She likes to hide and doze in a Cozy Form during the day, and come out to eat and play about dusk. She was taking her daytime nap when Reddy Fox almost caught her, and would have caught her, no doubt, if Tattler the jay had not warned her. She would have stayed in her form this time if it had not been wet, and if she had not been hungry and anxious to look for Peter. But off she went in the trail that Old Bent Horn had broken, stopping now and, then to nibble a Tender Grass Shoot that Old Bent Horn's feet had uncovered.

Yes, it was foolish of Molly to leave her form in daylight, and especially when snow was on the ground, because then she was so easily seen in her gray coat. It would not have been so bad if she had worn a white coat in winter like her cousin Snowshoe the Hare: And then, to make matters worse, she left Old Bent Horn's trail and started right out across the snow, leaving a trail that was as plain as anything.

Over in the edge of the Black Forest was a Wild Plum Thicket where Shaggy the Wolf liked to spend the day. Of course, it did not make any difference to Shaggy just where he stayed during the day as long as he was hidden some place in the timber. Shaggy had been out, hunting all night in the snow, and when the Laughing Yellow Sun came up, he had stopped in the Wild Plum Thicket where he would be out of sight until another night.

Just as the Laughing Yellow Sun was going down, Shaggy arose and stretched his legs. He was anxious to start his hunt because he had caught nothing the night before, and he was hungry. It seemed as if all the Rabbits and Hares and other Little Wild Creatures had not moved during the storm. And so Shaggy had lain around all day with an empty stomach.

"I'm so hungry," said Shaggy to himself, as he walked out of the Wild Plum Thicket. Then he sat down on his haunches, pointed his blunt nose toward the sky and howled. 

"Wake up, everybody," he seemed; to say.

Soon there was an answering howl from over near the Blue Spruce Thicket. "I'm already awake," was what it said to Shaggy.

"Come over and let's go hunting together," howled Shaggy.

You see, when Shaggy cannot catch something to eat alone, he gets help. Instead of stalking his victim and pouncing upon it as does Reddy Fox, he catches it by outrunning it and then pulling it down. When Shaggy the Wolf is hunting with his whole family in a pack, he does not hesitate to attack large animals like Old Bent Horn the Cow and Cervus the Elk and Lightfoot the Deer.

On the way to meet his friend, Shaggy the Wolf saw a track in the snow.

"Aha !" he said, and licked his white fangs, "Molly Cottontail has been along here, and not long ago either. I believe I'll hurry along and see if I can overtake her."

Away went Shaggy as fast as he could run.

Molly had just reached the edge of the Black Forest when she heard Shaggy the Wolf howl the first time. She hardly knew what to do.

"I must hurry to the Big Jungle Thicket, because soon Shaggy the Wolf will find my tracks and follow," she said.

It was not far to the Big Jungle Thicket, but Molly could not run very fast in the snow. Soon she had to stop to rest. Then she heard Shaggy's next howl, and it sounded nearer.

"I do wish the snow was frozen so I could run on top of it," said Molly, as she started on again. She knew that Shaggy's long legs would carry him through the snow without any trouble.

"If only I could find a Friendly Burrow, then I would be safe," puffed Molly; "but they are all out of sight under the snow."

After Shaggy the Wolf found Molly's tracks in the snow, he did not wait to go hunting with his friend. Oh no! He hurried right along after Molly.

"I do like rabbit for breakfast," he said, and he licked his sharp teeth with his red tongue. "Besides, one rabbit is not enough for two."

You see, although it was growing dark, it really was his breakfast that Shaggy the Wolf was hunt�ing, because he had slept all day. At least he had slept as much as wolves ever sleep.

Shaggy looked ahead, and his green-gray eyes sparkled. There, not far away, was Molly hopping along in the snow on her short legs as fast as she could go.

"Aha!" thought Shaggy, "I'll soon catch Molly now.�

CHAPTER 12

Molly Sees Pesty the Magpie

MOLLY was growing very tired, but she dared not stop. Once she looked back and saw the dark form of Shaggy the Wolf skimming along over the snow many times faster than she could run. If only she could reach the Big Jungle Thicket, then she would be safe. The buckbush and wild currant and chokecherry bushes and wild grape�vines grew so thick that Shaggy could not pass through them half as fast as Molly could run under them. And they were so thick that there would be little snow on the ground under them. That would be another thing in Molly's favor. If only she could reach it before, Shaggy arrived!

Then a strange thing happened. Molly almost ran pell-mell into Lightfoot the Deer, and Lightfoot was so frightened that he jumped and ran directly toward the Big Jungle Thicket. Or it might have been that he saw Shaggy the Wolf coming. For a moment Shaggy was so surprised that he forgot all about Molly. He stopped for an instant to make sure that Lightfoot the Deer was not Terror the Hunter. There were no Playful Air Whiffs just then to carry Lightfoot's scent to Shaggy's keen nose, and so he had to depend upon his eyes to tell him what it was.

When Shaggy hesitated, that gave Molly time to gain a little ground. And where Lightfoot the Deer had run through the snow, he had broken a trail in places when he reached the ground between his long jumps. That made it a little easier for Molly to run.

At last Molly reached the Big Jungle Thicket and dived into a Sheltered Bunny Lane that led to other Sheltered Bunny Lanes that ran in all directions in the Big Jungle Thicket. There were so many Sheltered Bunny Lanes that even though Shaggy the Wolf had tried to follow Molly he would soon have been confused. You see, Shaggy the Wolf hunts mostly by sight. That is, he likes to see whatever he is hunting, and does not follow a trail with his nose as well as Nero the Hound.

You may be sure that Molly was glad when she was hidden in that tangle of bushes and vines. She was ready to run into a Friendly Burrow and rest until morning. There were many Friendly Burrows in the Big Jungle Thicket, and each had a Sheltered Bunny Lane leading to it.

The next morning Molly came out of the Friendly Burrow just before the Laughing Yellow Sun came up over the Old Homestead. It is a mystery how Molly can tell when it is time to get up when she is in a Friendly Burrow where it is always dark. Perhaps she sleeps near enough to the opening so she can see the first hint of daylight. But usually Molly does her sleeping during the day. Then how does she know when it is growing dark and time to get up when there is no daylight to awaken her? That is one of Molly Cottontail's deep secrets.

Molly was very anxious to look for Peter. She was so anxious that she did not stop to think that Peter would probably be asleep in a Friendly Burrow or Cozy Form as most Cottontails were during the day. And so she came out of the Friendly Burrow to look around. It had been a long time since Molly had been in the Big Jungle Thicket. She and Peter had gone there once in winter, thinking it would be a nice place to stay. But they had gone back to their own Friendly Burrow in the Little Jungle Thicket at the foot of High Cliff when Jolly Spring had come. That had been a year before.

When Molly sat up on the edge of the Friendly Burrow to look around, there was Pesty the Magpie sitting in a bush near by.

Now, Pesty the Magpie is not a friend of Molly's. He steals her babies and eats them if he gets a chance. Not only that, he kills other things. Sometimes he even kills grown cattle by picking large holes in their sides where they have been branded. He is a pest and a nuisance. He is also a scavenger. That is, he flies across the fields and through the forests looking for some dead thing that he can eat. It is no wonder that Pesty the Magpie is an undesirable citizen, because he belongs to the same family as Jim Crow and Tattler the Jay; and they are both thieves and murderers.

No, Pesty was no friend of Molly's, but Molly thought that during his travels he might have seen Peter. At least she meant to ask him.

"Good morning," said Molly, more to attract Pesty's attention than for any other reason.

"Good morning," replied Pesty, with his impudent, cackling voice.

"Have you seen Peter lately?" Molly inquired, in a casual tone. "He came over to the Big Jungle Thicket to look for Tender Grass Shoots, and Tattler the Jay told me that Shadow the Lynx caught him."

"Cask-tack," said Pesty "I have not seen him. I have been over in the Wide-Wide Pasture, hoping that Shaggy the Wolf would come along and kill a juicy calf and leave some for me to eat. But he didn't, so I came back. Perhaps Sneak the Couger will catch Lightfoot the Deer, and then I shall have plenty to eat."

You see, Sneak the Couger usually eats only one meal from his catch, and the next time he is hungry he kills something else.

"And Shadow the Lynx," continued Pesty, "if he caught Peter, he wouldn't leave me a bite. Cack�cack," and Pesty the Magpie flew away, leaving Molly feeling very blue.

"Oh, dear," she sighed, "I must find Peter. I just must find him."

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