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Nimble's Mistake

from The Tale Of Nimble Deer





One morning Nimble's mother said to him, "To-night, just as the moon
rises, we'll start for Farmer Green's garden patch."

He knew what that meant. It meant that he was going to know, at last,
what carrots tasted like. And he was delighted.

"You've improved fast," his mother told him. "You've grown a good deal.
You start to run much more quickly than you did a month ago; and you're
quite speedy now. I must say that you don't mind me any too well. Take
care that to-night you do exactly as you're ordered!"

Nimble promised. "I'll be good," he said. "No matter how many carrots
you want me to eat, I'll finish every one."

"No matter if you haven't had a chance to eat a single carrot, if I
tell you to run you must obey instantly," his mother warned him. "Two
seconds' delay might be fatal," she added solemnly. "If we hear a twig
snap you mustn't stop to look nor listen."

"Yes!" said Nimble. But ten minutes later he couldn't have repeated a
word that his mother said--except that they were going to start for the
garden when the moon rose. That much he told Jimmy Rabbit when he met
him in the woods a little while afterward. And Jimmy Rabbit agreed to
get the news, somehow, to Fatty Coon and Cuffy Bear.

He was as good as his promise--even better. For Jimmy told everybody he
met that day. He explained about the excursion to the garden patch and
said that every one must be ready to start just as the moon peeped over
the rim of the world, for Nimble Deer's mother wouldn't wait for anybody
that wasn't on hand.

Nimble found that day a long one. He was so eager to get a carrot
between his lips that he thought night would never come. But darkness
fell at last. And some hours later his mother said to him, "Are you
ready?"

He was. So together they passed silently along the old runway which
led, as his mother knew, to the pasture fence. The woods were inky
black, for the moon had not yet risen. But Nimble's mother remarked
that she thought they would see it when they reached the open hillside.

Just before they came to the fence somebody spoke. Nimble's mother
jumped when somebody cried, "Good evening!" But she knew at once that
it was only Jimmy Rabbit.

"I see you're on time," he said. "I haven't been waiting long."

"Waiting?" Nimble's mother exclaimed. "Waiting for what?"

"For you!" he answered. "I heard you were going down to the garden
patch to-night; and I'm to be one of the party."

The good lady thought it queer. How did Jimmy Rabbit happen to have
heard of the excursion? She couldn't imagine. But he was a harmless
little fellow. Really she didn't mind having him go with her.

"Very well!" she told him. "But remember: You must be quiet!" And she
was just about to walk up to the fence when she gave a searching look
all around. "Bless me!" she muttered. "I never saw so many eyes in all
my life. Who are all these people?"

It was no wonder she asked that question. For no matter where she
turned, pairs of eyes burned in the darkness.

Strangely enough, nobody answered. Jimmy Rabbit didn't say a word. And
as for Nimble, he didn't seem to hear--nor understand--anything his
mother said.

"I repeat," she spoke again, "who are these people? Why have they
gathered here? The woods aren't afire, are they?" And she lifted her
nose and sniffed at the air. But she could find no trace of smoke.

Somehow Nimble began to feel ill at ease. He edged away from his mother
and tried to hide behind Jimmy Rabbit. And that was a ridiculous thing
to do; because Nimble was ever so much the bigger of the two.

Presently his mother gave him a sharp look. And then he, too, raised
his muzzle and sniffed.

"I don't smell any smoke," he stammered.

"Do you know why there's such a crowd here?" she asked him sternly.

"I think," he said, "they expect to go to the garden patch with us."

And his mother wondered, then, why she hadn't guessed the secret
instantly.





Next: An Unexpected Party

Previous: Planning A Picnic



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