S AMMY JAY is a queer fellow. Although he is a scamp and dearly loves to make trouble for his neighbors, he is always ready to take their part when others make trouble for them. Many are the times he has given them warning of danger. This is one reason they are quite willing to overlook his own shortcomings. So, though in many ways he is no better than Reddy Fox, he dearly loves to upset Reddy's plans and is very apt to rejoice when Reddy gets into trouble. Of course, being right there, he saw all that happened when Reddy ran against the old barrel at the top of the hill and sent it rolling. He had been quite as much surprised as Reddy to find that there was some one inside, and he had followed Reddy to see who it was. So, of course, he had seen what happened to Reddy.
Now, instead of being sorry for Reddy, he had openly rejoiced. It seems to be just that way with a great many people. They like to see others who are considered very smart get into trouble. So Sammy had laughed and made fun of poor Reddy. In the first place it was very exciting, and Sammy dearly loves excitement. And then it would make such a splendid story to tell, and no one likes to carry tales more than does Sammy Jay. He watched Reddy sneak away to the Green Forest, and Jimmy Skunk slowly walk away in a very dignified manner. Then Sammy flew back to the Old Orchard to spread the news among the little people there. It wasn't until he reached the Old Orchard that he remembered Peter Rabbit. Instead of flying about telling every one what had happened to Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox, he found a comfortable perch in an old apple-tree and was strangely silent. The fact is, Sammy Jay was doing some hard thinking. He had suddenly begun to wonder. It had popped into that shrewd little head of his that it was very strange how suddenly Peter Rabbit had disappeared.
"Of course," thought Sammy, "Jimmy Skunk is sure that Reddy rolled that barrel down hill purposely, and I don't wonder that he does think so. But I saw it all, and I know that it was all an accident so far as Reddy was concerned. I didn't know that Jimmy was in that barrel, and Reddy couldn't have known it, because he didn't come up here until after I did. But Peter Rabbit may have known. Why did Peter run so that he would have to jump over that barrel when he could have run right past it?
"Of course, he may have thought that if he could make Reddy run right slam bang against that barrel it would stop Reddy long enough to give him a chance to get away. That would have been pretty smart of Peter and quite like him. But somehow I have a feeling that he knew all the time that Jimmy Skunk was taking a nap inside and that something was bound to happen if he was disturbed. The more I think of it, the more I believe that Peter did know and that he planned the whole thing. If he did, it was one of the smartest tricks I ever heard of. I didn't think Peter had it in him. It was rather hard on Jimmy Skunk, but it got rid of Reddy Fox for a while. He won't dare show his face around here for a long time. That means that Peter will have one less worry on his mind. Hello! Here comes Jimmy Skunk. I'll ask him a few questions."
Jimmy came ambling along in his usual lazy manner. He had quite recovered his good nature. He felt that he was more than even with Reddy Fox, and as he was none the worse for his wild ride in the barrel, he had quite forgotten that he had lost his temper.
"Hello, Jimmy. Have you seen Peter Rabbit this morning?" cried Sammy Jay.
Jimmy looked up and grinned. "Yes," said he. "I saw him up here early this morning. Why?"
"Did he see you go into that old barrel?" persisted Sammy.
"I don't know," confessed Jimmy. "He may have. What have you got on your mind, Sammy Jay?"
"Nothing much, only Reddy Fox was chasing him when he ran against that barrel and sent you rolling down the hill," replied Sammy.
Jimmy pricked up his ears. "Then Reddy didn't do it purposely!" he exclaimed.
"No," replied Sammy. "He didn't do it purposely. I am quite sure that he didn't know you were in it. But how about Peter Rabbit? I am wondering. And I'm doing a little guessing, too."