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A Cheerful Worker
A cheery whistle or a song
Will help the daily work along.
The little feathered people of the Green Meadows, the Green Forest and the Old Orchard learned this long ago, and it is one reason why you will so often find them singing with all their might when they are hard at work building their homes in the spring. Most of them sing, but there is one who whistles, and it is such a clear and cheery whistle that it gladdens the hearts of all who hear it. Many and many a time has Farmer Brown's boy stopped to whistle back, and never has he failed to get a response.
A handsome little fellow is this whistler. He is dressed in brown, white and black, and his name is Bob White. Sometimes he is called a Quail and sometimes a Partridge, but if you should ask him he would tell you promptly and clearly that he is Bob White, and he answers to no other name. All the other little people know and love him well, most of them for the cheery sound of his whistle; but a few, like Reddy Fox and Redtail the Hawk, for the good meal he will make them if only they are smart enough to catch him.
Farmer Brown's boy loves him, not only for his cheerful whistle, but because he has found out that Bob White is a worker as well as a whistler, one of the best workers and greatest helpers on the farm. You see, a part of the work of Farmer Brown's boy is to keep down the weeds and destroy the insects that eat up the crops. Now weeds spring up from seeds. If there were no weed-seeds there would be no weeds. In the same way, if there were no insect-eggs there would be no insects. But there are millions and millions of both, and so all summer long Farmer Brown's boy has to fight the weeds and the insects. He is very thankful for any help he may get, and this is one reason he has become so fond of Old Mr. Toad, who helps him keep the garden clear of worms and bugs, and of Tommy Tit the Chickadee and others of the little feathered people who live in the Old Orchard and hunt bugs and their eggs among the apple-trees. You know the surest way of winning friends is to help others.
Bob White not only catches worms and bugs, but eats the seeds of weeds, scratching them out where they have hidden in the ground, and filling his little crop with them until he just has to fly to the nearest fence and tell all the world how happy he is to be alive and have a part in the work of the Great World. Not one of all the little people is of greater help to Farmer Brown's boy than Bob White. All the long day he works, and with him works Mrs. Bob and all the little Bobs, scratching up weed-seeds here, picking off bugs there, all the time so happy and cheerful that everybody in the neighborhood is happy and cheerful too. The best of it is Bob White is always just that way. You would think he never had a thing in the world to worry about. But he does have. Yes, indeed! Bob White has plenty to worry about, as you shall hear, but he never allows his troubles to interfere with his cheerfulness if he can help it.
"Bob White! Bob White!" with all his might
He whistles loud and clear.
Because no shame e'er hurt his name
He wants that all shall hear.
One day Peter Rabbit sat listening to it, and it reminded him that he hadn't called on Bob White for some time, and also that there were some things about Bob White that he didn't know. He decided that he would go at once to call on Bob and try to satisfy his curiosity. So off he started, lipperty-lipperty-lip.CHAPTER 2
Bob White has Visiters
"Bob White! Bob White! I bid the world good cheer!
Bob White! Bob White! I whistle loud and clear!"
That very same morning Bob White had taken it into his head to come over to live not very far from the dear Old Briar-patch where Peter Rabbit lives. Of course, Peter didn't know that Bob had come over there to live. For that matter, I doubt if Bob White knew it himself. He just happened over that way and liked it, and so finally he made up his mind to look about there for a place to make his home.
Now Peter Rabbit had known Bob White for a long time. Peter, in his roaming about, had met Bob a number of times, and they had passed the time of day. Whenever Peter had heard Bob whistling within a reasonable distance he had made it a point to call on him. Bob is such a cheery fellow that somehow Peter always felt better for just a word or two with him. So when Bob began to whistle that spring morning Peter hurried over, lipperty-lipperty-lip, to call. He didn't have far to go, for Bob was sitting on a fence-post just a little way from the dear Old Briar-patch.
"Good morning," said Peter. "You seem to be very cheerful this morning."
"Why not?" replied Bob White. "I'm always cheerful. It's the only way to get along in this world."
"It must be that you don't have much to worry about," retorted Peter. "Now if you had to run for your life as often as I have to, perhaps you wouldn't find it so easy to be always cheerful."
Bob White's bright little eyes twinkled. "The trouble with a lot of people is that they think that no one has worries but themselves," said he. "Now there is Reddy Fox coming this way. What do you suppose he is coming for?"
"For me!" exclaimed Peter promptly, preparing to scamper back to the Old Briarpatch.
"Nothing of the kind," replied Bob White. "Don't think you are so important, Peter. He doesn't know you are over here at all. He has heard me whistling, and he's coming to see if he can't give me a little surprise. It's me and not you he is after. What's your hurry, Peter?"
"I—I think I'd better be going; I'll call again when you haven't other visitors," shouted Peter over his shoulder.
Hardly had Peter reached the dear Old Briar-patch when Reddy Fox reached the fence where Bob White was sitting. "Good morning," said he, trying to make his voice sound as pleasant as he could, "I'm glad to see you over here. I heard you whistling and hurried over here to welcome you. I hope you will like here so well that you will make your home here."
"That is very nice of you," replied Bob White, his eyes twinkling more than ever, for he knew why Reddy hoped he would make his home there. He knew that Reddy hoped to find that home and make a good dinner on Quail some day. "It is very pleasant over here, and I don't know but I will stay. Everybody seems very neighborly. Peter Rabbit has just called."
Reddy looked about him in a very sly way but with a hungry look in his eyes as he said, "Peter always is neighborly. Is he anywhere about now? I should like to pay my respects to him."
"No," replied Bob White. "Peter left in something of a hurry. Hello! Here comes Old Man Coyote. People certainly are neighborly here. Why, what's your hurry, Reddy?"
"I have some important matters to attend to over in the Green Forest," replied Reddy, with a hasty glance in the direction of Old Man Coyote. "I hope I'll see you often, Bob White."
"I hope so," replied Bob White politely, and then added under his breath, "but I hope I see you first."CHAPTER 3
Bob Decides to Build a Home
Old Man Coyote's call was very much like that of Reddy Fox. He was very, very pleasant and told Bob White that he was very glad indeed that Bob had come over on the Green Meadows, and he hoped that he would stay. No one could have been more polite than was Old Man Coyote. Bob White was just as polite, but he wasn't fooled. No, indeed. He knew that, just like Reddy Fox, the reason Old Man Coyote was so glad to see him was because he hoped to catch him some fine day. But Bob White didn't let a little thing like that bother him. Ever since he could remember he had been hunted. That was why he had taken the precaution to sit on a fence-post when he whistled. Up there neither Old Man Coyote nor Reddy Fox could reach him. Just after Old Man Coyote left Bob White saw some one else headed his way, and this time he didn't wait. You see it was Redtail the Hawk, and a fence-post was no place to receive a call from him.
Spreading his wings Bob White flew across to the dear Old Briar-patch and dropped in among the brambles close to where Peter Rabbit was sitting. "You didn't expect me to return your call so soon, did you, Peter?" said he.
"No," replied Peter, "but I'm ever so glad to see you just the same. Did you have a pleasant call from Reddy Fox?"
"Very," replied Bob White with a chuckle. "He was ever so glad to see me. So was Old Man Coyote. I didn't wait to see what Old Redtail would say, but I have a feeling that he would have liked better to have seen me a little nearer. You see, Peter, you are not the only one who has to keep his eyes open and his wits about him all the time. There are just as many looking for me as for you, but I don't allow that to make me any the less cheerful. Every time I whistle I know that some one is going to come looking for me, but I whistle just the same. I just have to, because in spite of all its troubles life is worth living and full of happiness. Now I've got a secret to tell you."
"What is it?" asked Peter eagerly.
"Promise not to tell a single soul," commanded Bob White.
"Can't I tell Mrs. Peter? I never keep secrets from her you know," replied Peter.
"Well, you may tell her, but she must promise to keep it secret," said Bob.
"I'll promise for her and for myself," declared Peter. "What is it?"
"I've decided to come over here to live," replied Bob White.
"Right here in the Old Briar-patch?" asked Peter excitedly.
"No, but not far from here," replied Bob White. "I'm going back to the Old Pasture after Mrs. Bob, and we are going to build a home right away."
"Goody!" cried Peter, clapping his hands. "Where are you going to build?"
"That," replied Bob White, "is for Mrs. Bob to decide."
"And when she does you'll tell me where it is so that I can come over and call, won't you?" cried Peter.
"That depends," replied Bob White. "You know there are some things it is better not to know."
"No, I don't know," retorted Peter. "I'm your friend, and I don't see what harm it could do for me to know where your home is."
"Without meaning to friends sometimes do the most harm of any one, especially if they talk too much," replied Bob White. "Now the way is clear and I must hurry back to the Old Pasture to tell Mrs. Bob how nice it is here." And with this away he flew.
"Now what did he mean by friends who talk too much," muttered Peter. "Could he have meant me?"CHAPTER 4
Bob White and Peter become Neighbors
Who strictly minds his own affairs
And cheerfully doth labor,
He is the one whom I would choose
Always to be my neighbor.
That is just the kind of a neighbor Peter Rabbit found Bob White to be. Bob and Mrs. Bob had come down from the Old Pasture and built their home near the dear Old Briar-patch and so become the neighbors of Peter and little Mrs. Peter. Bob was very neighborly. He often dropped in to have a chat with Peter, and Peter was always glad to see him, for he is such a cheerful fellow that Peter always felt better for having him about. It always is that way with cheerful people. They are just like sunshine.
But though Bob and Mrs. Bob had built their home near Peter, he didn't know just where it was. No, Sir, Peter didn't know just where that home of the Bob Whites was. It wasn't because he didn't try to find out. Oh, my, no! Peter could no more have helped trying to find out than he could have helped breathing. That was the curiosity in him. He wasted a great deal of time trying to find Bob White's home, all to no purpose. At first he was rather put out because Bob White wouldn't tell him where it was hidden. But Bob just smiled and told Peter that the reason he wouldn't was because he thought a great deal of Peter and wanted him for a friend always.
"Then," said Peter, "I should think you would tell me where your home is. There ought not to be secrets between friends. I don't think much of a friendship that cannot be trusted."
"How would you feel, Peter, if harm came to me and my family through you?" asked Bob White.
"Dreadfully," declared Peter. "But do you suppose I would let any harm come to you? A nice kind of a friend you must think me!"
"No," replied Bob White soberly, "I don't think you would let any harm come to us if you knew it. But you've lived long enough, Peter, to know that there are eyes and ears and noses watching, listening, smelling everywhere all the time. Now supposing that when you were sure that nobody saw you, somebody did see you visit my house. Or supposing Reddy Fox just happened to run across your tracks and followed them to my house. It wouldn't be your fault if something dreadful happened to us, yet you would be the cause of it. You remember what I told you the other day, that there are some things it is better not to know."
Peter looked very thoughtful and pulled his whiskers while he turned this over in his mind. "That is a new idea to me," said he at last. "I never had thought of it before. I certainly never would be able to forgive myself if anything happened to you because of me."
"Of course you wouldn't," replied Bob White. "No more would I ever be able to forgive myself if anything happened to my family because I had told some one where my home is."
Peter nodded. "Of course if I should just happen to find your home all by myself, you wouldn't be angry, would you?" he asked.
Bob White laughed. "Of course not," said he. "Just the same I would advise you not to try to find it. Then you will have nothing to trouble your mind if you should be followed, and something dreadful did happen to me or mine. You see there are just as many who would like to make a dinner of me as there are who would like to make a dinner of you, and I would a whole lot rather sit on a fence-post and whistle than to fill somebody's stomach."
"And I would a lot rather have you," declared Peter.CHAPTER 5
Others are Interested in Bob White
Peter rabbit wasn't the only one who was interested in Bob White and in Bob's hidden home. Oh, my, no! It seemed to Peter that Reddy and Granny Fox were prowling around the dear Old Briar-patch most of the time. At first he didn't understand it. "It isn't me they are after, because they know well enough that they can't catch me here," said he to himself, as he watched them one morning. "It isn't Danny Meadow Mouse, because Danny hasn't been over this way for a long time. I don't see how it can be Bob White, because he isn't likely to stay on the ground while they are around, and they can't catch him unless he is on the ground."
He was so busy trying to puzzle out what should bring Reddy and Granny that way so often that he neither saw nor heard Jimmy Skunk steal up behind him.
"Boo!" said Jimmy, and Peter nearly jumped out of his skin.
"What did you do that for?" demanded Peter indignantly.
"Just to teach you that you shouldn't go to sleep without keeping your ears open," replied Jimmy with a grin.
"I wasn't asleep!" protested Peter crossly. "I was just watching Reddy and Granny Fox and wondering what brings them over here so much."
"You might just as well have been asleep," replied Jimmy. "Supposing I had been my cousin, Shadow the Weasel."
Peter shivered at the very thought. Jimmy continued: "You are old enough to know, Peter, that it isn't safe to be so interested in one thing that you forget to watch out for other things. As for Reddy and Granny Fox, you ought to know what brings them over this way so much."
"What?" demanded Peter.
"Hasn't Bob White got a nest somewhere around here?" asked Jimmy by way of answer.
"Y-e-s," replied Peter slowly, "I suppose he has. But what of that?"
"Why, Reddy and Granny are looking for it, stupid," replied Jimmy.
Peter stared at Jimmy a minute in a puzzled way. "What do they want of that?" he asked finally. "They don't eat eggs, do they?"
"Eggs hatch out into little birds, don't they?" demanded Jimmy. "If Reddy and Granny can find that nest, they'll wait until the eggs have hatched into birds and then, well, I've heard say that there is nothing more delicious than young Quail. Now do you see?"
Peter did. Of course he did. He understood perfectly. Reddy and Granny had heard Bob White whistling over there every day, and they knew that meant that his home wasn't far away. It was all very plain now.
"By the way, you don't happen to know where that nest is, do you?" asked Jimmy carelessly.
"No, I don't!" exclaimed Peter, and suddenly was glad that he didn't know about that nest. "What do you want to know for?" he demanded suspiciously.
"I'm hungry for some eggs," confessed Jimmy frankly.
"You wouldn't rob Mr. and Mrs. Bob White of their eggs, would you?" cried Peter. "I thought better of you than that, Jimmy Skunk."
Jimmy grinned. "Don't get excited, Peter," said he. "I'm told that Mrs. Bob lays a great many eggs, and if that's the case, she wouldn't miss a few."
"Jimmy Skunk, you're horrid, so there!" declared Peter.
Excerpted from The Adventures of Bob White by THORNTON W. BURGESS, Harrison Cady. Copyright © 2011 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Posted June 9, 2014
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