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- Sleepy-Time Tales: The Tale of Fatty Coon - 6/9 -
"Oh, that depends!" Jimmy Rabbit said. "Mr. Squirrel will pay us six cabbage leaves. But if we were to cut your hair we'd have to ask more. We'd want a dozen cabbage leaves, at least."
"Well, don't I get anything for the use of my tail?" Fatty asked. He had already stuck it out through the hole; and he had half a mind to pull it in again.
Jimmy Rabbit and his brother whispered together for a few moments.
"I'll tell you what we'll do," Jimmy said. "If you'll let us use your tail for the barber's pole, we'll cut your hair free. Isn't that fair enough?"
Fatty Coon was satisfied. But he insisted that Jimmy begin to cut his hair at once.
"I'm doing my part of the work now," he pointed out. "So there's no reason why you shouldn't do yours."
With that Jimmy Rabbit began. He clipped and snipped at Fatty's head, pausing now and then to see the effect. He smiled once in a while, behind Fatty's back, because Fatty certainly did look funny with his fur all ragged and uneven.
"Moustache trimmed?" Jimmy Rabbit asked, when he had finished with Fatty's head.
"Certainly--of course!" Fatty Coon answered. And pretty soon Fatty's long white moustache lay on the floor of the barber-shop. Fatty felt a bit uneasy as he looked down and saw his beautiful moustache lying at his feet. "You haven't cut it too short, I hope," he said.
"No, indeed!" Jimmy Rabbit assured him. "It's the very latest style."
"What on earth has happened to you?" Mrs. Coon cried,--when Fatty reached home that night. "Have you been in a fire?"
"It's the latest style, Mother," Fatty told her. "At least, that's what Jimmy Rabbit says." He felt the least bit uneasy again.
"Did you let that Jimmy Rabbit do that to you?" Mrs. Coon asked.
Fatty hung his head. He said nothing at all. But his mother knew.
"Well! you ARE a sight!" she exclaimed. "It will be months before you look like my child again. I shall be ashamed to go anywhere with you."
Fatty Coon felt very foolish. And there was just one thing that kept him from crying. And THAT was THIS: he made up his mind that when he played barber-shop with Jimmy Rabbit again he would get even with him.
But when the next day came, Fatty couldn't find Jimmy Rabbit and his brother anywhere. They kept out of sight. But they had told all the other forest-people about the trick they had played on Fatty Coon. And everywhere Fatty went he heard nothing but hoots and jeers and laughs. He felt very silly. And he wished that he might meet Jimmy Rabbit and his brother.
THE BARBER-SHOP AGAIN
Although Fatty Coon never could get Jimmy Rabbit and his brother to play barber-shop with him again, Fatty saw no reason why he should not play the game without them. So one day he led his brother Blackie over to the old hollow sycamore. His sisters, Fluffy and Cutey, wanted to go too. But Fatty would not let them. "Girls can't be barbers," he said. And of course they could find no answer to that.
As soon as Fatty and Blackie reached the old sycamore I am sorry to say that a dispute arose. Each of them wanted to use his own tail for the barber's pole. They couldn't both stick their tails through the hole in the tree at the same time. So they finally agreed to take turns.
Playing barber-shop wasn't so much fun as they had expected, because nobody would come near to get his hair cut. You see, the smaller forest- people were all afraid to go inside that old sycamore where Fatty and Blackie were. There was no telling when the two brothers might get so hungry they would seize and eat a rabbit or a squirrel or a chipmunk. And you know it isn't wise to run any such risk as that.
Fatty offered to cut Blackie's hair. But Blackie remembered what his mother had said when Fatty came home with his moustache gone and his head all rough and uneven. So Blackie wouldn't let Fatty touch him. But HE offered to cut Fatty's hair--what there was left of it.
"No, thank you!" said Fatty. "I only get my hair cut once a month." Of course, he had never had his hair cut except that once, in his whole life.
Now, since there was so little to do inside the hollow tree, Fatty and Blackie kept quarreling. Blackie would no sooner stick his tail through the hole in the side of the tree than Fatty would want HIS turn. And when Fatty had succeeded in squeezing HIS tail out through the opening Blackie would insist that Fatty's time was up.
It was Fatty's turn, and Blackie was shouting to him to stand aside and give him a chance.
"I won't!" said Fatty. "I'm going to stay here just as long as I please."
The words were hardly out of his mouth when he gave a sharp squeal, as if something hurt him. And he tried to pull his tail out of the hole. He wanted to get it out now. But alas! it would not come! It was caught fast! And the harder Fatty pulled the more it hurt him.
"Go out and see what's the matter!" he cried to Blackie.
But Blackie wouldn't stir. He was afraid to leave the shelter of the hollow tree.
"It may be a bear that has hold of your tail," he told Fatty. And somehow, that idea made Fatty tremble all over.
"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" he wailed. "What shall I do? Oh! whatever shall I do?" He began to cry. And Blackie cried too. How Fatty wished that his mother was there to tell him what to do!
But he knew of no way to fetch her. Even if she were at home she could never hear him calling from inside the tree. So Fatty gave up all hope of her helping.
"Please, Mr. Bear, let go of my tail!" he cried, when he could stand the pain no longer.
The only answer that came was a low growl, which frightened Fatty and Blackie more than ever. And then, just as they both began to howl at the top of their voices Fatty's tail was suddenly freed. He was pulling on it so hard that he fell all in a heap on the floor of the barber-shop. And that surprised him.
But he was still more surprised when he heard his mother say--
"Stop crying and come out--both of you!" Fatty and Blackie scrambled out of the hollow sycamore. Fatty looked all around. But there was no bear to be seen anywhere--no one but his mother.
"Did you frighten the bear away, Mother?" he asked.
"There was no bear," Mrs. Coon told him. "And it's lucky for you that there wasn't. I saw your tail sticking out of this tree and I thought I would teach you a lesson. Now, don't ever do such a foolish thing again. Just think what a fix you would have been in if Johnnie Green had come along. He could have caught you just as easily as anything."
Fatty Coon was so glad to be free once more that he promised to be good forever after. And he was just as good as any little coon could be--all the rest of that day.
FATTY VISITS THE SMOKE-HOUSE
The winter was fast going. And one fine day in February Fatty Coon crept out of his mother's house to enjoy the warm sunshine--and see what he could find to eat.
Fatty was much thinner than he had been in the fall. He had spent so much of the time sleeping that he had really eaten very little. And now he hardly knew himself as he looked at his sides. They no longer stuck out as they had once.
After nosing about the swamp and the woods all the afternoon Fatty decided that there was no use in trying to get a meal there. The ground was covered with snow. And except for rabbit tracks--and a few squirrels'--he could find nothing that even suggested food. And looking at those tracks only made him hungrier than ever.
For a few minutes Fatty thought deeply. And then he turned about and went straight toward Farmer Green's place. He waited behind the fence just beyond Farmer Green's house; and when it began to grow dark he crept across the barnyard.
As Fatty passed a small, low building he noticed a delicious smell. And he stopped right there. He had gone far enough. The door was open a little way. And after one quick look all around--to make sure there was nobody to see him--Fatty slipped inside.
It was almost dark inside Farmer Green's smokehouse--for that was what the small, low building was called. It was almost dark; but Fatty could see just as well as you and I can see in the daytime. There was a long row of hams hung up in a line. Underneath them were white ashes, where Farmer Green had built wood fires, to smoke the hams. But the fires were out, now; and Fatty was in no danger of being burned.
The hams were what Fatty Coon had smelled. And the hams were what Fatty intended to eat. He decided that he would eat them all--though of course he could never have done that--at least, not in one night; nor in a week, either. But when it came to eating, Fatty's courage never failed
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