Albert Bigelow Paine.

The hollow tree and deep woods book : being a new edition in one volume of The hollow tree and In the deep woods with several new stories and pictures added online

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Online LibraryAlbert Bigelow PaineThe hollow tree and deep woods book : being a new edition in one volume of The hollow tree and In the deep woods with several new stories and pictures added → online text (page 6 of 9)
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then he got cold, and the sweat began to break out on his bill like dew
drops. He began to eat a little of the crust first, and then he was
afraid if he ate the crust away the others would see what was inside of
it, so he put his fork in and got a rolled up leaf with gravy on it and
whisked it into his mouth and chewed and tried to swallow till his eyes
stuck out and the tears ran down in a stream. He was glad that nobody
seemed to be looking at him, for everybody else was too busy eating the
nice pie, and Mr. 'Possum was just saying that he liked Mr. Crow's
surprises, for he always surprised them by having something better than
they expected.

Then he told how once, when they were snowed in, Mr. Crow had kept them
all from starving by making a kind of bread called Johnnie cake, and
some chicken gravy, and how they could never get him to tell where he
got the things to make it of.[1] He said he thought maybe Mr. Crow would
tell pretty soon, though, now. Then they all looked at Mr. Crow and
begged him to tell his great secret, and when they looked they saw he
wasn't eating his pie, but was just sitting there picking at it with his
fork a little. They all told him not to be afraid to eat some of his own
nice pie, for they were sure there'd be plenty, and Mr. Crow said in a
weakly voice that when he cooked he never could eat very much. He said
he guessed he'd take a biscuit and some syrup because he didn't feel
quite well, anyway. So he pushed the C. X. pie away and ate a biscuit
with butter and syrup on it, and felt a good deal better.

But pretty soon Mr. Turtle finished his piece and remembered what Mr.
'Possum had whispered about asking for a second helping. So he said he
guessed he'd take another piece of that fine pie - just a small one to
hold the other down. Mr. Rabbit said he guessed he'd have to ask for
another small piece, too, it was so good, and the Coon and the 'Possum
both said that, although they were home folks and used to Mr. Crow's
good cooking, they certainly would have to take another little piece of
that fine pie.

[Illustration: FAINTED DEAD AWAY.]

Then Mr. Crow knew there were only two things that he could do. He could
either faint, or "holler" "Fire!" And, after studying for about half a
second, he keeled right over and fainted dead away.

Of course that stopped the dinner for a while. Jack Rabbit and Mr.
Turtle jumped up frightened, and the 'Coon and the 'Possum pretended to
be frightened, too. They all ran to Mr. Crow and carried him up stairs
to his room and put him on his bed. Then Mr. 'Coon brought some water
and Mr. Rabbit fanned him and Mr. Turtle unbuttoned his vest to give him
air. Mr. 'Possum he stood still and gave orders, and said pretty soon
that he was sure a good strong hot mustard poultice would help matters.
When he said that Mr. Crow opened his eyes a little pinch and asked
where he was, and then he said he guessed he must have fainted, for he'd
been taken with a dreadful bad turn at the table and didn't remember any

Mr. 'Possum winked at Mr. 'Coon and said yes, that Mr. Crow had even
forgot to give them a second helping of pie, but that he supposed Mr.
Rabbit and Mr. Turtle could go back and help themselves. Then the sweat
broke out on Mr. Crow again, and he said he hoped they wouldn't, for it
would be cold now and they would find the biscuits and syrup much
better. Jack Rabbit said he thought so, too, and the 'Possum, who was
really beginning to feel sorry for the poor Crow, said the same, and so
did the others. So then Mr. Crow got better as quick as anything, and
they all went back down stairs and ate the biscuits and syrup, which
were certainly very fine. Once Mr. Rabbit wondered what that nice, leafy
smell was that he got a whiff of now and then, and Mr. Turtle said he'd
been thinking about that, too. Then Mr. 'Coon helped out and said that
he s'posed it was Mr. Man and Mr. Dog burning brush over on the edge of
the Wide Grass Lands, and he went on to make a little speech that was
kind of a reply to Mr. Rabbit's poem. He said how nice it was to give
one's friends pleasant surprises of good things as Mr. Crow had done,
instead of unpleasant ones such as Mr. 'Possum had mentioned, and all
the others said, "Yes, Yes!" and cheered him, all except Mr. Crow, who
looked down into his plate and didn't say a word, but just seemed to be
thinking and thinking.

And by and by, when Jack Rabbit and Mr. Turtle said goodby and went
away, he hurried back to the table, and was just going to take the C. X.
pie up to his own part of the house, when Mr. 'Possum and Mr. 'Coon
grabbed him and said they must have a piece of that pie, after all. And
when Mr. Crow wasn't going to give it to them they both commenced to
laugh and said it was their pie anyway, and that they meant to have it.
And right then Mr. Crow knew just what had happened, and that it was no
use to be an April fool any longer. He stood still a minute, looking
first at Mr. 'Coon and then at Mr. 'Possum. Then he walked to the window
and flung the C. X. pie out as far as he could send it among the leaves
and brush, where it belonged. The 'Coon stood on one side and the
'Possum on the other, and they watched it strike and roll out of sight
before they said anything. Then Mr. 'Coon said that perhaps it would be
a good time now to tell the great secret of the Johnnie cake and gravy,
and Mr. Crow said he would do that and anything else they wanted him to
if they'd promise they wouldn't tell this joke on him to anybody - Mr.
Rabbit and Mr. Turtle especially. Then he went right on and told them
the great secret of the Johnnie cake, and the 'Coon and the 'Possum did
promise, though they didn't intend to tell anyway, for they thought a
great deal of Mr. Crow and they were all good friends.

"But, dear me!" exclaimed the story teller, "I've been telling for three
evenings on this story, and here it is nine o'clock again."

"You'll tell some more to-morrow night won't you?" said the Little Lady,

"We'll have a story about Mr. Jack Rabbit next time," said the story


[1] The Three Friends, page 136.



"Now tell me the rabbit story," commanded the Little Lady on the next
evening. "You know you promised to."

"So I did," said the Story Teller, "and it goes this way: - "


"One afternoon in the early spring Mr. Jack Rabbit and his friends were
out for an airing. The Hollow Tree people were along, and Mr. Turtle, as
usual. By and by they came to a log under a big tree and sat down for a
smoke and talk. They talked about the weather at first and other things,
till somebody mentioned Easter. Then they all had something to say about

"'What I object to,' says Mr. Rabbit, when it came his time to talk, 'is
this thing of people always saying that the Easter eggs belong to me.'

"'Oh, but that's just a joke,' says Mr. 'Coon, laughing.

"'I know it's just a joke, of course, but it's a pretty old joke, and
I'm tired of it,' says Jack Rabbit.

"'How did it get started anyway?' asked Mr. 'Possum.

"Then Mr. Rabbit took his pipe out of his mouth and leaned forward a
little, so he could talk better.

"'I tell you how it got started,' he says, 'and after that I don't want
to hear any more of it. This is how it happened: -

"'Once upon a time, as much as twenty grandmothers back, I should think,
there was a very nice family of Rabbits that lived in a grassy place on
a hillside back of a big farmyard. There was quite a hole in the ground
there, and they had a cosy home in it, and a soft bed for their little


"'Now, every bright morning, Father and Mother Rabbit used to take the
children out for a walk, and for a few lessons in running and hiding
from Mr. Dog, who bothered about a good deal, and one day as they were
coming home they heard a great cackling, and when they got to their
house there was a nice fresh egg lying right in the children's bed. Some
old hen from the farmyard had slipped in and laid it while they were
gone. A good many hens, especially old hens, like to hide their nests
that way, and this was one of that kind.

"'Well, of course all the young Rabbits claimed it, and Mother Rabbit at
last gave it to the smallest and weakest one of the children, a little
girl, who was always painting things with the juice of flower petals.
And the very first thing that little girl did was to stain that egg all
over with violet juice, not thinking what trouble it was going to cause
our family forever after."


"'It was a nice blue egg when she got through with it, and the next day,
when they all came back from their walk again there was another white
egg right by it. The old hen had been there again and laid another while
they were gone. The second little girl claimed that egg, of course, and
she painted it a bright yellow with buttercup juice. Then the next day
there was another egg, and the next day there was another egg, and the
next day there was another egg, until there was one apiece for every one
of the children, and some over."


"'And they all painted them. Some painted theirs pink or red with
roseleaves or japonica, some painted them yellow with buttercups, and
some blue or purple with violets, as the first little girl had done.
They had so many at last that it crowded them out of their bed, and they
had to sleep on the floor.

"'And then, one Sunday, and it must have been Easter Sunday, they all
went out walking again, and when they came back every one of those
beautiful colored eggs was gone. The children cried and made a great
fuss, but it was no use. Some of Mr. Man's boys out hunting hen's nests
had found them and taken them all home with them.

"'And of course all those colored eggs set Mr. Man to wondering, and he
came with his boys to the place where they had found them; and when they
looked in out jumped the whole Rabbit family, helter skelter in every


"'And right then,' said Mr. Rabbit, leaning over to light his pipe from
Mr. 'Possum's, 'right then Mr. Man declared those colored eggs were
rabbit eggs, and he's kept on saying so ever since, though he knows
better, and he knows I don't like it. He takes eggs and colors them
himself now, and makes believe they're mine, and he puts my picture all
over things about Easter time. I suppose he thinks I don't care, but I
do, and I wish that little Miss Rabbit twenty grandmothers back had left
that old hen's egg white as she found it.'

"'It's too bad,' says Mr. Crow. 'It's like that story they tell about
the fox making me drop the cheese.'

"'Or like Mr. Man making believe that the combs he uses are really made
out of my shell,' says Mr. Turtle.

"Mr. 'Coon and Mr. 'Possum shook their heads. They had their troubles,




Once upon a time, said the Story Teller, when the Crow and the 'Coon and
the 'Possum lived together in three big, hollow branches of a big big,
hollow tree in the big, big, Big Deep Woods, and used to meet and have
good times together in the parlor down stairs, they had Jack Rabbit and
Mr. Turtle in for supper. It was a nice supper, too, for it was just
about strawberry time, and strawberries grow thicker in the Big Deep
Woods than fur on a kitten's back. Mr. Crow, who is a great cook, had
made a nice shortcake, and been over to Mr. Man's pantry, where he gets
some of his best things, and borrowed a pail of sweet cream when Mr. Man
wasn't at home.

"Of course they had fried chicken, too, first, and by the time they were
through their shortcake and had lit their pipes Mr. 'Possum, who likes
good things better than anybody, almost, could hardly open his eyes. He
said he wished he was a poet, like Mr. Jack Rabbit, for he had never
been so full of summer happiness since he was born, and if he could
only make rhymes, he knew that poetry would slip right off his tongue.
Then, of course, Mr. Rabbit wanted to show off, and without stopping a
second he commenced to talk poetry - this way: -

"In the summer time I make a rhyme
For every breeze that passes,
For I can always make it chime
With lassies, grasses, sasses."

"Mr. 'Possum said he couldn't do that if it was to save him from being
hung the next minute, and Mr. Rabbit went right on without catching his
breath: -

"Where e'er I go my verses flow -
I keep it up for hours.
I'm never short of rhymes, you know,
With bowers, flowers, showers."

"Well, that set them all to wondering how Jack Rabbit could do it so
easily, and Mr. Rabbit didn't think to tell them how he'd sat up all the
night before to compose this poetry, so's to have it on hand and ready
for a chance to use it. He said that it was somebody else's turn now,
and that maybe Mr. Turtle would give them a performance of some kind.
Mr. Turtle wanted to change the subject, and got up and walked over to
the window. He said that, speaking of showers, it was so warm and close,
he shouldn't wonder if they had one before morning. He said he believed
there was lightning now, off in the west, and seemed like he could hear
it thunder, too. Then they all talked about thunder and lightning and
what they were. But nobody seemed to know except Mr. Turtle himself.

"'Why,' he said, 'I thought everybody knew that!' Then he went on to say
that he'd known the story ever since he wasn't 'any bigger than a pants
button,' and all the others said he must tell it to them, because it was
his turn, anyway. And Mr. Turtle was glad to do that, for he really
wanted to show off a little, like Jack Rabbit, only he hadn't known
before how to do it. So he filled up his pipe nice and fresh, and lit
it, and began.

"'Well,' he said, 'of course you know my family all live to be pretty
old. I'm only three hundred and sixteen next spring myself, but Uncle
Tom Turtle, who lives up by the forks, is a good deal over nine hundred,
and he isn't nearly as old as Father Storm Turtle and his wife, who live
up in the Big West Hills, and make the thunder and lightning.'

"Mr. Turtle stopped a minute to light his pipe again, and all the others
just looked at him and couldn't say a word. They knew he was pretty old,
but they had never thought much about it before, and what he said about
Father and Mother Storm Turtle they had never even heard of. But Mr.
Turtle just lit his pipe, and puffed, and said: -

"'To tell the truth, I never did hear of any of our family dying of old
age, and I shouldn't wonder if Old Man Turtle Himself would still be
alive, too, if he hadn't tried to swallow a mussel fish with the shell
on and got it stuck in his throat a million and twenty-five years ago
last spring. Anyhow, that's according to the date cut on his shell
overcoat that Uncle Tom Turtle saw once at Father Storm's house up in
the Big West Hills.

"'I don't know how many great grandfathers back Father Storm is from me,
nor how many from Father Storm Old Man Turtle Himself was, but I know
Father Storm got his shell overcoat after the mussel fish wouldn't go
down, and that it was a great deal too big to take in the house, and it
used to set out in the yard on four bricks, for the children to play

"'Father Storm Turtle had a big family then, and they were pretty
troublesome. They had a habit of wandering off in the woods and
forgetting to come back. Every night Mother Storm had to stand in the
door and call and call and not be able to sleep if they didn't come,
especially when it was cloudy and looked like rain. She knew that, if
they got wet they'd all come home with bad colds and sore throats and
make trouble and expense. Three of them - named Slop, Splash and
Paddle - were worse than any of the others, for even when it didn't rain
they were always playing in dirty puddles, and would come home all mud
and with wet feet.'"





"At last, one day, when Mother Storm Turtle had shouted herself hoarse
and couldn't make any of them hear, she said she wouldn't put up with it
any longer, and that Father Storm had got to fix up some way to call
those children home when she wanted them, especially when it was going
to rain, as it was now. So Father Storm went out into the front yard and
sat down and looked at the clouds and thought and thought."


"All at once, just as he was about to give it up, he happened to be
looking right at the shell of Old Man Turtle Himself. He jumped up quick
and hit it with his cane, and when it made quite a loud sound he
laughed, for he knew, now, how he could make those children hear when he
wanted them. He didn't say a word to Mother Storm Turtle, but went right
to work and dug two holes and put up two tall posts in the yard and
fastened a stout beam across the top of them. Then he worked until he
had bored a hole in one end of the shell of Old Man Turtle Himself, and
put a chain in it and dragged it over and strung it up between the
posts, so that it swung there and didn't quite touch the ground. That,
of course, made a thing a good deal like Mr. Man's dinner gong, only a
hundred times as big, and about a thousand times as loud. Then Father
Storm went out into the woodhouse to make a club to beat it with,
laughing to himself now and then when he thought how Mother Storm Turtle
would most have a fit when she heard it for the first time.

"But while Father Storm Turtle was doing so much, Mother Storm had been
thinking and doing some herself. She was getting supper, and when she
looked into the fire to put in a stick of wood, she just happened to
think that if she could make a torch big enough and bright enough, when
she stood in the door and waved it, those children would see the light,
especially nights when it was dark just before a heavy rain. So she went
right to work and made one, just as big as she could make it, and put
lots of oil and fat on it, to make it bright. She laughed to think how
Father Storm Turtle would jump when she waved that out the door, and how
the children would come running when they saw the big flash. Then she
noticed that it was getting darker and darker and would rain in a
minute. So she hurried up and lit it and stepped to the door and gave it
a great big swing. And just that second Father Storm hit the shell of
Old Man Turtle Himself with a big hickory club, and there was never such
a light nor such a roar in the world as that was.

"Mother Storm Turtle tumbled over backward and set the house afire
with her torch, and Father Storm was so frightened by the big light that
at first he couldn't help her put the fire out. And just then it began
raining like forty, and all the children came running and screaming out
of the woods, half scared to death by the big light and noise. It made a
terrible commotion there for a few minutes, until they got the fire put
out, and people heard it all over the country, even to Mr. Man's house.
And when they found out what it was, and who started it, everybody
called it a 'storm.' And rain and wind and thunder and lightning, or
most any other kind of a big fuss, is called a 'storm' to this day,
after Father and Mother Storm Turtle."


"And that," said Mr. Turtle, lighting his pipe once more, "was the first
thunder and lightning, and whenever people saw it after that they said,
'We're going to have another storm!' For Father and Mother Storm Turtle
went right on using the big torch and the shell of Old Man Turtle
Himself to call in the children just before a rain, and the children
would come running every time, all except Slop, Splash and Paddle, who
got so at last that they liked the mud and dirty water better than
anything else. They liked the mud so well that Father Storm told them
one day they might go and live in the mud and be named Mud for all he
cared; and so they did, and their names were Mud, and they and all their
families live in dirty water and are called Mud Turtles to this day.
They never went home again, but whenever they hear Father Storm
pounding on the shell, they stop whatever they are doing and listen. And
that's how the saying began that 'a Mud Turtle never lets go till it

"What makes the noise always get louder and the light brighter just
before it rains?" asked Jack Rabbit.

"Why, you see," said Mr. Turtle, "Father and Mother Storm's
grandchildren and great-grandchildren are a good deal scattered now, and
as the old people run the thunder and lightning mostly on their account,
they try to make it just about bright enough and loud enough to keep up
with the rain wherever it goes."

"It's plenty loud enough," said Mr. 'Coon solemnly.

"And plenty bright enough," said Mr. Crow, blinking.

"What makes it set things on fire sometimes?" asked Mr. 'Possum

"That's when Mother Storm Turtle swings her torch too hard and coals fly
out of it," said Mr. Turtle, as he got up and walked over to the window.

Then the Crow and the 'Coon and the 'Possum and Jack Rabbit got up, too,
and walked over, and they all looked out together. It was dark among the
trees below them, and Mr. Turtle pointed off toward the Big West Hills.

"You see," he said, speaking low, "Mother Storm is beginning to swing
her torch, and you'll hear Father Storm pounding before long on the
shell of Old Man Turtle Himself."


So the five friends stood very still and listened and pretty soon they
did hear a low far off rumble, sure enough.

"That means it's time to start for home," said Mr. Jack Rabbit, reaching
for his hat and cane.

Mr. Turtle reached for his hat and cane, too, and they felt their way
down the dim stairs, with Mr. 'Coon holding a candle, and Mr. Crow and
Mr. 'Possum looking after them.

"Good night, everybody," said Mr. Turtle.


"Push the latch string in from the outside," called Mr. Crow. "Then, I
won't have to come down."

"All right!
Good night!"

called back Jack Rabbit.

"Good night! Come again!" called the Crow and the 'Coon and the



The night was warm in the Hollow Tree. Jack Rabbit and Mr. Turtle, who
had been spending the evening with the 'Coon and 'Possum and the Old
Black Crow, had hurried off to their homes, so as to get there before
the rain set in.

They had all stood by an open parlor window and seen it coming over the
Big West Hills, and the visitors knew they'd catch it if they didn't
hurry. Mr. Crow and the others had watched them down stairs, and called
to Jack Rabbit to push in the latch string, which would fasten the door
from the outside. Then Mr. 'Possum had taken his candle, and Mr. 'Coon
had taken his candle, and Mr. Crow had taken his candle, and each had
gone up to his own room and scrambled into bed quick, so's to be able to
cover up his head when it thundered.

Well, they hadn't any more than all gone to bed before Mr. Crow suddenly
happened to remember that, being in such a hurry, none of them had
thought to close the parlor window, and it would rain in as sure as the
world. There was a little table close to the window, with some of his
best things on it, too, and if it rained in they would all get wet and
be spoiled. He thought about this twice, and maybe more than twice, and
the more he thought about it the less he wanted to get up and close that
window. Then, all at once, there came a flash of lightning and low
growling thunder. Down he bobbed under the covers, and this made him
want to get up less than ever. He knew, though, that it would be raining
hard pretty soon, and spoiling his things. He had to do something right

So, after thinking a minute, he sat up in bed and called out:

"Oh, Mr. 'Coon! You forgot to close the parlor window. It will rain in
on your things."

But Mr. 'Coon called back:

"It won't hurt MY things, Mr. Crow. They're over on the other side of
the room."

And Mr. 'Possum, who was sitting up in bed, too, listened and laughed in
the dark.

But just then there was another flash of lightning, and Mr. Crow bobbed
down, and Mr. 'Coon bobbed down, and Mr. 'Possum bobbed down, so's not

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Online LibraryAlbert Bigelow PaineThe hollow tree and deep woods book : being a new edition in one volume of The hollow tree and In the deep woods with several new stories and pictures added → online text (page 6 of 9)