Gateway to the Classics: The Adventures of Old Man Coyote by Thornton W. Burgess
The Adventures of Old Man Coyote by  Thornton W. Burgess

The Strange Voice

"L ISTEN!" It was Jimmy Skunk speaking. He had just met Peter Rabbit half-way down the Crooked Little Path just where the moonlight was brightest. But he did not need to tell Peter to listen. Peter was  listening,—listening with all his might. He was sitting up very straight, and his long ears were turned in the direction of the strange sound. Just then it came again, a sound such as neither Peter Rabbit nor Jimmy Skunk had ever heard before. Peter's teeth began to chatter.

"Wha—wha—what is it?" he whispered.

"I don't know, unless it is Hooty the Owl gone crazy," replied Jimmy.

"No," said Peter, "it isn't Hooty the Owl. Hooty never could make such a noise as that."

"Maybe it's Dippy the Loon. I've heard him on the Big River, and he sounds just as if he had gone crazy," replied Jimmy.

"No," said Peter, looking behind him nervously. "No, it isn't Dippy the Loon, for Dippy never leaves the water, and that voice came from the Green Meadows. I wouldn't be surprised—" Peter didn't finish, for just then the strange voice sounded again, and it was nearer than before. Never had the Green Meadows or the Green Forest heard anything like it. It sounded something like Hooty the Owl, and Dippy the Loon, and two or three little dogs howling all together, and there was something in the sound that made cold chills run up and down Peter Rabbit's backbone. He crept a little closer to Jimmy Skunk.

"I believe it is Farmer Brown's boy and some of his friends laughing and shouting together," said Jimmy.

"No, it isn't! Farmer Brown's boy and his friends can make some dreadful noises but nothing so dreadful as that. It makes me afraid, Jimmy Skunk," said Peter.

"Pooh! You're afraid of your own shadow!" replied Jimmy Skunk, who isn't afraid of much of anything. "Let's go down there and find out what it is."

Peter's big eyes grew rounder than ever with fright at the very thought. "D-d-don't you think of such a thing, Jimmy Skunk! D-d-don't y-y-you think of such a thing!" he chattered. "I know it's something terrible. Oh, dear! I wish I were safe at home in the dear Old Briar-patch."

Again sounded the strange voice, or was it voices? It seemed sometimes as if there were two or three together. Then again it sounded like only one. Each time Peter Rabbit crept a little closer to Jimmy Skunk. Pretty soon even Jimmy began to feel a little uneasy.

"I'm going home," said he suddenly.

"I want to, but I don't dare to," said Peter, shaking all over with fright.

"Pooh! Any one who can run as fast as you can ought not to be afraid," said Jimmy. "But if you really are afraid, you can come up to my house and stay a while," he added, good-naturedly.

"Oh, thank you, Jimmy Skunk. I believe I will come sit on your doorstep if you don't mind."


So together they went up to Jimmy Skunk's house.

So together they went up to Jimmy Skunk's house, and sat on his doorstep in the moonlight, and listened to the strange voice all the long night; and then, when he saw Old Mother West Wind coming down from the Purple Hills in the early dawn, Peter Rabbit became courageous enough to start for his home in the dear Old Briar-patch.

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