T HE Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind were excited. Yes, Sir, they certainly were excited. They had met Happy Jack Squirrel and Peter Rabbit, and they were full of the news of the queer things that Happy Jack and Peter Rabbit had found over in the Green Forest. They hurried this way and that way over the Green Meadows and told every one they met. Finally they reached the Smiling Pool and excitedly told Grandfather Frog all about it.
Grandfather Frog smoothed down his white and yellow waistcoat and looked very wise, for you know that Grandfather Frog is very old.
"Pooh," said Grandfather Frog. "I know what they are."
"What?" cried all the Merry Little Breezes together. "Happy Jack says he is sure they do not grow, for there are no strange plants over there."
Grandfather Frog opened his big mouth and snapped up a foolish green fly that one of the Merry Little Breezes blew over to him.
"Chug-a-rum," said Grandfather Frog. "Things do not have to be on plants in order to grow. Now I am sure that those things grew, and that they did not grow on a plant."
The Merry Little Breezes looked puzzled. "What is there that grows and doesn't grow on a plant?" asked one of them.
"How about the claws on Peter Rabbit's toes and the hair of Happy Jack's tail?" asked Grandfather Frog.
The Merry Little Breezes looked foolish. "Of course," they cried. "We didn't think of that. But we are quite sure that these queer things that prick so are not claws, and certainly they are not hair."
"Don't you be too sure," said Grandfather Frog. "You go over to the Green Forest and look up in the treetops instead of down on the ground; then come back and tell me what you find."
Away raced the Merry Little Breezes to the Green Forest and began to search among the treetops. Presently, way up in the top of a big poplar, they found a stranger. He was bigger than any of the little meadow people, and he had long sharp teeth with which he was stripping the bark from the tree. The hair of his coat was long, and out of it peeped a thousand little spears just like the queer things that Happy Jack and Peter Rabbit had told them about.
"Good morning," said the Merry Little Breezes politely.
"Mornin'," grunted the stranger in the treetop.
"May we ask where you come from?" said one of the Merry Little Breezes politely.
"I come from the North Woods," said the stranger and then went on about his business, which seemed to be to strip every bit of the bark from the tree and eat it.