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- The Burgess Bird Book for Children - 30/43 -
doesn't use any mud. Now if you'll excuse me, Peter, I must get my breakfast and give Mrs. Wood Thrush a chance to get hers."
So Peter continued on his way to the dear Old Briar-patch and there he spent the day. As evening approached he decided to go back to hear Melody sing again. Just as he drew near the Green Forest he heard from the direction of the Laughing Brook a song that caused him to change his mind and sent him hurrying in that direction. It was a very different song from that of Melody the Wood Thrush, yet, if he had never heard it before, Peter would have known that such a song could come from no throat except that of a member of the Thrush family. As he drew near the Laughing Brook the beautiful notes seemed to ring through the Green Forest like a bell. As Melody's song had filled Peter with a feeling of peace, so this song stirred in him a feeling of the wonderful mystery of life. There was in it the very spirit of the Green Forest.
It didn't take Peter long to find the singer. It was Veery, who has been named Wilson's Thrush; and by some folks is known as the Tawny Thrush.
At the sound of the patter of Peter's feet the song stopped abruptly and he was greeted with a whistled "Wheeu! wheeu!" Then, seeing that it was no one of whom he need be afraid, Veery came out from under some ferns to greet Peter. He was smaller than Melody the Wood Thrush, being about one-fourth smaller than Welcome Robin. He wore a brown coat but it was not as bright as that of his cousin, Melody. His breast was somewhat faintly spotted with brown, and below he was white. His sides were grayish-white and not spotted like the sides of Melody.
"I heard you singing and I just had to come over to see you," cried Peter.
"I hope you like my song," said Veery. "I love to sing just at this hour and I love to think that other people like to hear me."
"They do," declared Peter most emphatically. "I can't imagine how anybody could fail to like to hear you. I came 'way over here just to sit a while and listen. Won't you sing some more for me, Veery?"
"I certainly will, Peter," replied Veery. "I wouldn't feel that I was going to bed right if I didn't sing until dark. There is no part of the day I love better than the evening, and the only way I can express my happiness and my love of the Green Forest and the joy of just being back here at home is by singing."
Veery slipped out of sight, and almost at once his bell-like notes began to ring through the Green Forest. Peter sat right where he was, content to just listen and feel within himself the joy of being alive and happy in the beautiful spring season which Veery was expressing so wonderfully. The B1ack Shadows grew blacker. One by one the little stars came out and twinkled down through the tree tops. Finally from deep in the Green Forest sounded the hunting call of Hooty the Owl. Veery's song stopped. "Good night, Peter," he called softly.
"Good night, Veery," replied Peter and hopped back towards the Green Meadows for a feast of sweet clover.
CHAPTER XXXII Peter Saves a Friend and Learns Something.
Peter Rabbit sat in a thicket of young trees on the edge of the Green Forest. It was warm and Peter was feeling lazy. He had nothing in particular to do, and as he knew of no cooler place he had squatted there to doze a bit and dream a bit. So far as he knew, Peter was all alone. He hadn't seen anybody when he entered that little thicket, and though he had listened he hadn't heard a sound to indicate that he didn't have that thicket quite to himself. It was very quiet there, and though when he first entered he hadn't the least intention in the world of going to sleep, it wasn't long before he was dozing.
Now Peter is a light sleeper, as all little people who never know when they may have to run for their lives must be. By and by he awoke with a start, and he was very wide awake indeed. Something had wakened him, though just what it was he couldn't say. His long ears stood straight up as he listened with all his might for some little sound which might mean danger. His wobbly little nose wobbled very fast indeed as it tested the air for the scent of a possible enemy. Very alert was Peter as he waited.
For a few minutes he heard nothing and saw nothing. Then, near the outer edge of the thicket, he heard a great rustling of dry leaves. It must have been this that had wakened him. For just an instant Peter was startled, but only for an instant. His long ears told him at once that that noise was made by some one scratching among the leaves, and he knew that no one who did not wear feathers could scratch like that.
"Now who can that be?" thought Peter, and stole forward very softly towards the place from which the sound came. Presently, as he peeped between the stems of the young trees, he saw the brown leaves which carpeted the ground fly this way and that, and in the midst of them was an exceedingly busy person, a little smaller than Welcome Robin, scratching away for dear life. Every now and then he picked up something.
His head, throat, back and breast were black. Beneath he was white. His sides were reddish-brown. His tail was black and white, and the longer feathers of his wings were edged with white. It was Chewink the Towhee, sometimes called Ground Robin.
Peter chuckled, but it was a noiseless chuckle. He kept perfectly still, for it was fun to watch some one who hadn't the least idea that he was being watched. It was quite clear that Chewink was hungry and that under those dry leaves he was finding a good meal. His feet were made for scratching and he certainly knew how to use them. For some time Peter sat there watching. He had just about made up his mind that he would make his presence known and have a bit of morning gossip when, happening to look out beyond the edge of the little thicket, he saw something red. It was something alive, for it was moving very slowly and cautiously towards the place where Chewink was so busy and forgetful of everything but his breakfast. Peter knew that there was only one person with a coat of that color. It was Reddy Fox, and quite plainly Reddy was hoping to catch Chewink.
For a second or two Peter was quite undecided what to do. He couldn't warn Chewink without making his own presence known to Reddy Fox. Of course he could sit perfectly still and let Chewink be caught, but that was such a dreadful thought that Peter didn't consider it for more than a second or two. He suddenly thumped the ground with his feet. It was his danger signal which all his friends know. Then he turned and scampered lipperty-lipperty-lip to a thick bramble-tangle not far behind him.
At the sound of that thump Chewink instantly flew up in a little tree. Then he saw Reddy Fox and began to scold. As for Reddy, he looked over towards the bramble-tangle and snarled. "I'll get you one of these days, Peter Rabbit," said he. "I'll get you one of these days and pay you up for cheating me out of a breakfast." Without so much as a glance at Chewink, Reddy turned and trotted off, trying his best to look dignified and as if he had never entertained such a thought as trying to catch Chewink.
>From his perch Chewink watched until he was sure that Reddy Fox had gone away for good. Then he called softly, "Towhee! Towhee! Chewink! Chewink! All is safe now, Peter Rabbit. Come out and talk with me and let me tell you how grateful to you I am for saving my life."
Chewink flew down to the ground and Peter crept out of the bramble-tangle. "It wasn't anything," declared Peter. "I saw Reddy and I knew you didn't, so of course I gave the alarm. You would have done the same thing for me. Do you know, Chewink, I've wondered a great deal about you."
"What have you wondered about me?" asked Chewink.
"I've wondered what family you belong to," replied Peter.
Chewink chuckled. "I belong to a big family," said he. "I belong to the biggest family among the birds. It is the Finch and Sparrow family. There are a lot of us and a good many of us don't look much alike, but still we belong to the same family. I suppose you know that Rosebreast the Grosbeak and Glory the Cardinal are members of my family."
"I didn't know it," replied Peter, "but if you say it is so I suppose it must be so. It is easier to believe than it is to believe that you are related to the Sparrows."
"Nevertheless I am," retorted Chewink.
"What were you scratching for when I first saw you?" asked Peter.
"Oh, worms and bugs that hide under the leaves," replied Chewink carelessly. "You have no idea how many of them hide under dead leaves."
"Do you eat anything else?" asked Peter.
"Berries and wild fruits in season," replied Chewink. "I'm very fond of them. They make a variety in the bill of fare."
"I've noticed that I seldom see you up in the tree tops," remarked Peter.
"I like the ground better," replied Chewink. "I spend more of my time on the ground than anywhere else."
"I suppose that means that you nest on the ground," ventured Peter.
Chewink nodded. "Of course," said he. "As a matter of fact, I've got a nest in this very thicket. Mrs. Towhee is on it right now, and I suspect she's worrying and anxious to know what happened over here when you warned me about Reddy Fox. I think I must go over and set her mind at rest."
Peter was just about to ask if he might go along and see that nest when a new voice broke in.
"What are you fellows talking about?" it demanded, and there flitted just in front of Peter a little bird the size of a
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