Gateway to the Classics: The Adventures of Peter Cottontail by Thornton W. Burgess
The Adventures of Peter Cottontail by  Thornton W. Burgess

The Plot of Two Scamps

S AMMY JAY, looking around for mischief, found Reddy Fox sitting on his door-step with his chin in both hands and looking as if he hadn't a friend in the world.

"What are you doing?" asked Sammy Jay.

"I'm just a-studying," replied Reddy Fox.

"What are you studying? Perhaps I can help you," said Sammy Jay.

Reddy Fox heaved a long sigh. "I'm a-studying how I can catch Peter Rabbit," replied Reddy.

Sammy Jay scratched his head thoughtfully. Reddy Fox still sat with his chin in his hands and thought and thought and thought. Sammy Jay sat on one foot and scratched and scratched and scratched his head with the other. Suddenly Sammy looked up.

"I have it!" said he. "You remember the hollow log over beyond the old hickory-tree?"

Reddy nodded his head.

"Well, I'll go down and invite Peter Rabbit to come over there and see the strangest thing in the world. You know what great curiosity Peter Rabbit has. Now, you be hiding in the hollow log, and when you hear me say to Peter Rabbit, 'the strangest thing in the world is waiting for you over there, Peter,' you spring out, and you'll have Peter."

Reddy Fox brightened up. This plan certainly did look good to Reddy. Peter had fooled him so many times that he was almost in despair. He knew that if he sent another invitation to Peter, Peter would suspect right away that it meant mischief. But Peter wouldn't think that Sammy Jay was planning mischief, because he knew that Sammy is the greatest news teller in the Green Forest.

So Reddy Fox trotted off to the hollow log down by the big hickory-tree and crept inside. Sammy Jay flew over to the Old Briar-patch to look for Peter Rabbit. He found him sitting under a big bramble bush.

"Good morning, Peter Rabbit," said Sammy Jay, with his finest manner.

Peter looked at Sammy sharply as he returned his greeting. Sammy Jay wasn't in the habit of being so polite to Peter, and Peter began to study just what it could mean.

"I saw the strangest thing in the world this morning," said Sammy Jay.

Peter pricked up his ears. In spite of himself, he began to grow curious. "What was it, Sammy Jay?" he asked.

Sammy looked very mysterious. "I really don't know what it is," he replied, "but I can show it to you, if you want to see for yourself, Peter Rabbit."

Of course Peter wanted to see it, so he started out across the Green Meadows with Sammy Jay. Now the farther he went, the more time he had to think, and by the time he had nearly reached the old hickory-tree, Peter began to suspect a trick.

Sammy Jay motioned Peter to approach very carefully. "It's right over there, in that hollow log, Peter," he whispered. "You go peep in, and you'll see it." Then Sammy prepared to give the signal to Reddy Fox.

Peter hopped a couple of steps nearer, and then he sat up very straight and gazed at the hollow log. Somehow he didn't just like the looks of it. He didn't know why, but he just didn't. Then along came one of Old Mother West Wind's Merry Little Breezes, dancing right past the hollow log and up to Peter Rabbit, and with him he brought a funny smell.

Peter's little wobbly nose wrinkled. That funny smell certainly reminded Peter of Reddy Fox. He wrinkled his nose again. Then he suddenly whirled about. "Excuse me, Sammy Jay," he exclaimed. "I just remembered something very important!" And before Sammy Jay could open his mouth, Peter had started like a little brown streak for the Old Briar-patch.

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