W HEN Mr. Rabbit reached home, after Peter Mink's lecture, and told his wife about the money that had been collected for the poor boy whom Peter Mink knew, she asked:
"Who has the money?"
"Oh, it's safe," said Mr. Rabbit. "It's hidden in an old stump. And the hole in the stump is so small that even Peter himself can't crawl through it."
"How do you know he can't?"
"He tried," said Mr. Rabbit.
"How do you know he tried as hard as he could?" Mrs. Rabbit asked.
That was what made Mr. Rabbit worry. So instead of going to bed, he hurried back to the place where Peter had given his famous lecture; and there he hid himself under a small pine.
Mr. Rabbit hadn't waited long before he saw some one come out of the elderberry bushes and hurry up to the stump.
It was Peter Mink! He had a bag in his hand.
Peter Mink had a bag in his hand.
And while Mr. Rabbit was watching, he squeezed through the hole in the stump. Even for Peter Mink the hole was almost too small. But he managed to squirm through, though it cost him a few groans; and he said some words that made Mr. Rabbit shake his head.
Well, as soon as Peter was inside the hole he began to push the money through it. And then what do you suppose Mr. Rabbit did? He crept up to the stump, picked up the bag, which Peter had left on the ground, and as fast as the money rolled out of the hole, Mr. Rabbit put it inside the bag.
Mr. Rabbit put the money inside the bag.
The bag was almost full when the money stopped rolling out of the hole. And Mr. Rabbit heard Peter Mink say to himself:
"That seems to be all!"
And as soon as he heard that, Mr. Rabbit hurried away, with the bag of money over his shoulder.
Peter Mink waited a bit, to see if he could find more money. But he had thrown it all out. So he squeezed through the hole again. Then he turned to pick up the bag. But it had vanished.
"That's queer!" said Peter Mink. "I thought I left that bag right here." He looked all around, but he couldn't find it anywhere. So he took off his ragged coat and laid it on the ground. "I'll put the money in this!" Peter said.
But when he looked for the money he couldn't find a single piece.
"That's queer!" said Peter. "It must have rolled away from the stump." And he began to search all about. But the money, too, had vanished completely. And Peter Mink couldn't understand it.
The following night, when everybody came back again, expecting that Peter Mink would bring the poor boy with him to get the money, Peter never appeared at all.
Finally Mr. Rabbit jumped on top of the stump and told his friends what had happened the night before.
"And now," he said, "everybody can come right up here and get his money back, for there's no doubt at all that Peter Mink was collecting it for himself. He was the poor boy he told us about."
Everybody was surprised. But everybody was glad to get his money again. In fact, there was only one person who grumbled; and that was Uncle Jerry Chuck. He hurried up to the stump ahead of all the rest, to get some money. And he seemed more surprised than ever when Mr. Rabbit said there was no money there for him.
"I was at the lecture last night," Uncle Jerry said.
"But you left before the money was collected," Mr. Rabbit replied.
Uncle Jerry admitted that that was so. But he claimed that he had made less trouble for everybody, because no one had been obliged to handle the money that he hadn't given.
But Mr. Rabbit told him he ought to be ashamed of himself. And every one will say that Peter Mink ought to have been ashamed of himself, too.