Chapter XIV A SURPRISING THING HAPPENS
Blacky the Crow and Sammy Jay, looking down from the top of a tall tree, held their breath. Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel and his cousin, Chatterer the Red Squirrel, looking down from another tree, held their breath. Unc’ Billy Possum, sticking his head out from a hollow tree, held his breath. Bobby Coon, looking through a hole in a hollow stump in which he was hiding, held his breath. Reddy Fox, lying flat down behind a heap of brush, held his breath. Peter Rabbit, sitting bolt upright under a thick hemlock branch, with eyes and ears wide open, held his breath. And all the other little people who happened to be where they could see did the same thing.
You see, it was the most exciting moment ever was in the Green Forest. Farmer Brown’s boy had just stepped out from behind one side of a little hemlock-tree and Buster Bear had just stepped out from behind the opposite side of the little hemlock-tree and neither had known that the other was anywhere near. For a whole minute they stood there face to face, gazing into each other’s eyes, while everybody watched and waited, and it seemed as if the whole Green Forest was holding its breath.
Then something happened. Yes, Sir, something happened. Farmer Brown’s boy opened his mouth and yelled! It was such a sudden yell and such a loud yell that it startled Chatterer so that he nearly fell from his place in the tree, and it made Reddy Fox jump to his feet ready to run. And that yell was a yell of fright. There was no doubt about it, for with the yell Farmer Brown’s boy turned and ran for home, as no one ever had seen him run before. He ran just as Peter Rabbit runs when he has got to reach the dear Old Briar-patch before Reddy Fox can catch him, which, you know, is as fast as he can run. Once he stumbled and fell, but he scrambled to his feet in a twinkling, and away he went without once turning his head to see if Buster Bear was after him. There wasn’t any doubt that he was afraid, very much afraid.
Everybody leaned forward to watch him. “What did I tell you? Didn’t I say that he was afraid of Buster Bear?” cried Little Joe Otter, dancing about with excitement.
“You were right, Little Joe! I’m sorry that I doubted it. See him go! Caw, caw, caw!” shrieked Blacky the Crow.
For a minute or two everybody forgot about Buster Bear. Then there was a great crash which made everybody turn to look the other way. What do you think they saw? Why, Buster Bear was running away too, and he was running twice as fast as Farmer Brown’s boy! He bumped into trees and crashed through bushes and jumped over logs, and in almost no time at all he was out of sight. Altogether it was the most surprising thing that the little people of the Green Forest ever had seen.
Buster Bear was running away, too.
Sammy Jay looked at Blacky the Crow, and Blacky looked at Chatterer, and Chatterer looked at Happy Jack, and Happy Jack looked at Peter Rabbit, and Peter looked at Unc’ Billy Possum, and Unc’ Billy looked at Bobby Coon, and Bobby looked at Johnny Chuck, and Johnny looked at Reddy Fox, and Reddy looked at Jimmy Skunk, and Jimmy looked at Billy Mink, and Billy looked at Little Joe Otter, and for a minute nobody could say a word. Then Little Joe gave a funny little gasp.
“Why, why-e-e!” said he, “I believe Buster Bear is afraid too!” Unc’ Billy Possum chuckled. “Ah believe yo’ are right again, Brer Otter,” said he. “It cert’nly does look so. If Brer Bear isn’t scared, he must have remembered something impo’tant and has gone to attend to it in a powerful hurry.”
Then everybody began to laugh.
Go to Chapter 15 here.