Molly Finds a Track

WHEN Pesty the Magpie told Molly that he had not seen Peter, she sat by the Friendly Burrow wondering what to do. She had hoped that Pesty would know something about Peter. But then, about all that Pesty ever thought of was finding something to eat. And so it would not be strange if he had seen Peter and had been so interested in looking for something to eat that he had forgotten all about it.

To tell the truth, Pesty had seen Peter that very morning. He had seen Peter running across an open space in the Black Forest in the direction of the Old Homestead.

Of course, Peter did not know that Molly was in the Big Jungle Thicket looking for him. And Molly did not know that Peter had left. And so Molly hopped off down the Sheltered Bunny Lane that went from the Friendly Burrow farther into the Big Jungle Thicket. Soon she came to another Sheltered Bunny Lane that crossed the one she was following; and after she had turned down it a way, she came to many other Sheltered Bunny Lanes. There were so many that Molly did not know which one to follow. They ran in every direction and crisscrossed one another like a spider's web, except that a spider's web is more regular in its design.

At last Molly stopped and sat up. She wiggled her soft little nose and looked first down one Sheltered Bunny Lane and then down another.

"I wonder which one of these I should follow," she said to herself It was quite a problem for Molly.

Down one of the Sheltered Bunny Lanes Molly saw something that looked like a Friendly Burrow. So she started in that direction.

"Perhaps some one lives there who can tell me about Peter," she thought; "I'll go: see what I can find, " Suddenly she stopped. She had come to another Sheltered Bunny Lane that crossed the one she was following. She put her nose to the round and sniffed. The Laughing Yellow Sun had melted what little snow had reached the ground under the heavy bushes and destroyed most of the scent. Molly was not quite, sure, and so she sniffed again. There was no mistaking it the second time; Peter surely had gone that way during the night.  

It did not take Molly long to decide what to do. Down, the Sheltered Bunny Lane she went as fast as she could until she came to another crossing. There she stopped long enough to sniff out which one to follow. It is queer how Molly could tell which direction Peter had gone, but that is another one of her secrets. Perhaps she could tell that the scent was getting a little stronger as she went, and knew that that was where Peter had been last. Sometimes Molly went so fast she lost the trail and had, to go back to find it.

At last Molly came to the edge of the Big Jungle Thicket. All the other Bunny Tracks stopped here except Peter's. The snow had melted much during the day, but there was still enough so that she could see Peter's track winding through the Black Forest in the direction of the Old Homestead.

"Now, I wonder if Peter has gone back to the Little Jungle Thicket to see what I am doing," said Molly. "If he has, and doesn't find me there, he will wonder what has become of me. I believe I'd better hurry right back home."

Molly hopped along for a way in Peter's tracks. The Laughing Yellow Sun was fast melting the snow, and Molly was tempted to stop to nibble some Tender Grass Shoots where the ground was bare of snow.

"I wonder where Peter will stay tonight," thought Molly. "But then, there is no use trying to overtake him.�

About the time when the Laughing Yellow Sun was going to bed, she came to a Warm Hollow Log. She could see where Peter had gone into one end of it, and she went in also. But Peter had not stayed. At the other end she saw his tracks going on across the field. The snow was gone at the end of the log, and some Tender Grass Shoots were showing.

"I believe I'll just stay here tonight," said Molly, and she sat up by the end of the Warm Hollow Log to look around. There was plenty to eat; and if Great Horn the Owl came along, she could dodge into the log for protection.

Molly liked the Warm Hollow Log very well. She liked it so well that she would have stayed if Peter had been there. But she was anxious to find Peter. And so after she had eaten some Tender Grass Shoots and had rested a while, she started on again.

Molly was very cautious about traveling at night while Great Horn the Owl and Reddy Fox and Shaggy the Wolf and Ranger the Coyote were prowling. She ran quickly from the Warm Hollow Log to a rabbit bush not far away. After making sure that no danger was near, she ran quickly to another bush, and stopped to look around. That is the way Molly traveled. And that is the way that Peter had traveled ahead of her.

Suddenly Molly stopped. There in the snow were the tracks of Ranger the Coyote following Peter.

"Oh, dear, I do hope Ranger the Coyote didn't catch Peter," said Molly.

And then she hurried on, fearing every minute that she would come to the place where Ranger had overtaken him.

Chapter 14

Molly Cottontail Finds Peter

WHEN Molly Cottontail saw the tracks of Ranger the Coyote following Peter, you may be sure that she lost no time along the way. No, sir. She hurried along so fast that she almost ran plump into Digger the Badger beforee she saw him. Digger was out looking for Dodger the Gopher, Tiny the Meadow Mouse, and Hardshell the Beetle. In fact, Digger does not stop at eating Forktongue the Snake if he can find him. But Forktongue is not in the habit of crawling around in the snow, and neither are Hardshell and many other Little Wild Creatures that Digger the Badger likes to eat.

And so Digger was having quite a time to find something to satisfy his hunger. You see, when Digger comes out in the spring after his long nap, he is very hungry. If he can get a smell of Dodger the Gopher in his Friendly Burrow, Digger makes the dirt fly with his long, strong claws, and Dodger would soon be caught if he did not have a Secret Little Tunnel through which he could escape.

Digger the Badger was Snaking the dirt fly when Molly almost ran into him. He was very busy kicking out dirt, and did not like to be disturbed. He was afraid that if he stopped, Dodger would escape. And Digger had a mean temper, anyway.

When Molly came along and stopped plump in front of him, he hissed and bared his shining white teeth. You may be sure that Molly was glad to leave him to his digging as soon as she could get her legs to working.

It was almost daylight when Molly reached the Little Jungle Thicket, and it did not take her long to find her Friendly Burrow. There sat Peter looking rather lonesome, she thought.

Molly did not go straight to Peter. She thumped a signal on the ground with her hind feet to see what he would do. Peter was so surprised he almost jumped off the ground. Then he thumped back a signal to Molly.

In a moment Molly was touching noses with Peter. "I'm so glad we are both safely back home," she said. Then Molly told Peter that she had been to the Big Jungle Thicket looking for him.

"You see, Tattler the Jay said that he saw Shadow the Lynx making a meal of you, and I wanted to find out if it was true," she said.

Peter wiggled his nose in a way that showed he was thinking hard.

"Tattler the Jay must have jumped at conclusions," he said. "Perhaps he saw Shadow the Lynx catch some other bunny; or, like as not, he was playing a trick on you. I think Tattler the Jay is a big talker."

"Perhaps he is," said Molly, "but he at least warned me about Reddy Fox in time to save my life." And then Molly told Peter about her experience with Reddy Fox down by Little River.

"And do you know that Mr. Bluebird is back from the Sunny Southland ?" she asked Peter.,

Yes, I know it," replied Peter; "Snowshoe the Hare told me he had seen Mr. Bluebird from a distance. You see, Mr. Bluebird came to the Black Forest looking for something to eat, and Sharpshin the Hawk almost caught him, and would have if Scrapper the Kingbird had not interfered. I wonder what Mr. Bluebird thinks about this late snow. I thought we might expect Jolly Spring when Mr. Bluebird came."

"And so we can," said Molly; "but sometimes Jolly Spring has a hard time to drive Old Man Winter away."

"How did you escape Ranger the Coyote?" she asked. "I was surely afraid that he would get you when I saw his tracks on your trail."

"Easy enough," replied Peter. "I crawled between some rocks."

You see, that was not the first time that Peter had been chased by Ranger. And it was not the first time he had been to the Black Forest. Peter had gone there several times without Molly, and he knew the Friendly Burrows and the Tumbled Rock Piles along the way.

In the east the Laughing Yellow Sun was just ready to peep. "Ho hum," yawned Molly, "I believe I'll get some sleep."

And down into their Friendly Burrow tumbled Molly and Peter.


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