Gateway to the Classics: The Tale of Peter Mink by Arthur Scott Bailey
The Tale of Peter Mink by  Arthur Scott Bailey

Peter's New Coat

P ERHAPS you never heard how Mr. Mink lost his tail in the woods, and how Jimmy Rabbit found it and wore it until Mr. Mink came along and took the tail away from him.

Peter Mink knew all about it, anyhow, for Mr. Mink was his uncle. And Peter knew that Jimmy Rabbit was still on the lookout for a fine, bushy tail.

So one day when Peter met Jimmy Rabbit he told Jimmy that if he would go to a certain place, near Broad Brook, he might find something that would interest him.

"You'll find a small place where the earth has been stirred up," Peter said, "if you look exactly where I tell you to. There's something hidden there. And I won't say just what it is. It might be a tail; and then again, it might not," Peter told him. "Anyhow, if you go and dig in that spot, I know you won't hurry away, when you find what's there."

Now, Jimmy Rabbit ought to have known Peter Mink well enough to suspect that there was something wrong. But the moment he heard the word "tail" he couldn't start for Broad Brook fast enough.

It took him some time to find the place Peter Mink had described, for a light snow had covered the ground. But at last Jimmy discovered the loose earth, exactly as Peter had said.

Jimmy Rabbit was just going to begin to dig when some one called his name. And he jumped back quickly and looked all around. At first he could see no one. But after a moment he saw some one beckoning to him. It was Paddy Muskrat. He had crawled out of the brook just in time to stop Jimmy Rabbit before it was too late.

"What are you going to do?" Paddy Muskrat asked.

"I'm going to dig in this dirt," Jimmy explained. "I believe there's a tail hidden there. I need one, you know. And Peter Mink told me——"

"Peter Mink!" Paddy interrupted. "I'd advise you to have nothing to do with Peter Mink. Because sooner or later he'll get you into trouble. . . . Do you know what's hidden beneath that dirt? I'll tell you: it's a trap! Johnnie Green set it there, thinking he could catch me  in it. But I saw him when he buried it. And I wouldn't go near it for anything."

As soon as Jimmy heard the word "trap" he couldn't get away from that place fast enough. He turned and ran off in great bounds; and he never even stopped to thank Paddy Muskrat for warning him. Now, that was not like Jimmy at all. But you see, he was frightened.

Paddy Muskrat was a wise little chap. And though he had said he wouldn't go near the trap for anything, he thought it was about time somebody fixed the trap so it couldn't do any harm. And very carefully he scraped the dirt away from it.

"There!" he said to himself. "Now everybody can see it. And no one will get caught." Then he jumped into Broad Brook again and swam away.

Not long afterwards a slim figure came stealing through the woods. It was Peter Mink; and he had a bag in his hand. He expected to use the bag, too. For he was very sure that he would find Jimmy Rabbit fast in the trap and he intended to put him in the bag and drag him away.

Peter was disappointed when he saw that the trap was empty. And he wondered what had happened.

"Well, here's the bag, anyhow," he said to himself. "I've got that!" And he sat down and made a hole in the bag for his head, and two more for his arms, and drew the bag on. It fitted him very well.

"Why, here I've a new coat!" he said. "I see now that the bag would have been much too small to hold Jimmy Rabbit. So it's just as well he didn't get caught in the trap."

And Peter Mink walked away. He liked his new coat. But probably it wasn't the kind you would care for at all.

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