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Billy Mink Becomes Suspicious
The stranger and the unknown must Be always looked on with distrust.
Of all the little people in the Green Forest there is none with sharper eyes and keener wits than Billy Mink. Nothing goes on along the Laughing Brook, from where it starts in the Green Forest to where it joins the Big River, that Billy Mink doesn't know about. Billy is a great traveler. He is so full of life and energy that he cannot keep still very long at a time. Moreover, Billy is one of those little people to whom it makes no difference whether jolly, round, bright Mr. Sun is shining or gentle Mistress Moon has taken his place up in the sky, or the Black Shadows have wrapped everything in darkness. He takes a nap whenever he feels sleepy. Whenever he doesn't feel sleepy he travels back and forth up and down the Laughing Brook.
In these little journeys back and forth nothing escapes Billy's bright eyes and sharp ears and keen nose. Being such a slim fellow, he slips in and out of holes and hiding-places which no one save his cousin, Shadow the Weasel, could get into. Now it happened that one day Billy curled up in a hollow log under a pile of brush close to the Laughing Brook. In a jiffy he was asleep. Right in the very middle of the pleasantest of pleasant dreams he was awakened. Instantly he was wide awake. He was just as wide awake as if he hadn't been asleep at all. Without stopping to think anything about it, he knew what had awakened him. Some one had just passed his hiding-place.
Noiselessly Billy crept out of the hollow log and peeped from under the pile of brush. Walking down the bank of the Laughing Brook was a man.
"I've never seen that fellow before," muttered Billy to himself. "It isn't Farmer Brown's boy and it isn't Farmer Brown. He seems to be looking for something. I wonder what he is about. I think I'll watch him."
So, as silently as a shadow, Billy Mink followed the man down the Laughing Brook, and the man didn't once suspect it. You see, Billy can always find a hiding-place if it be no more than a heap of brown leaves. He just slipped from one hiding-place to another, always keeping the man in sight.
Billy became more and more interested and inquisitive as he watched that man. The man certainly did seem to be looking for something. He would examine every half-sunken log in the Laughing Brook. He searched carefully along each bank. He looked into every little hole. It didn't take Billy long to discover that this man seemed to be especially interested in those places where Billy almost always went when traveling up and down the Laughing Brook.
Billy stopped and rubbed his nose thoughtfully. He was growing suspicious. "I wonder," thought Billy, "if he is looking for me."CHAPTER 2
Billy Finds a Trap
True wisdom watches closest where There seems least cause for fear or care.
For two days Billy Mink saw nothing more of the man who had made him suspicious. But this didn't make Billy feel any easier in his mind. He had a feeling that the man had visited the Laughing Brook and the Smiling Pool for no good purpose. He had a feeling that his visit had something to do with himself. So Billy became more watchful than ever and traveled up and down the length of the Laughing Brook more often than ever, trying with eyes and nose to find out just what that man had been about.
On the third day the man came again. Billy saw him almost as soon as he reached the Laughing Brook, but not quite. The man had come down the Laughing Brook a little way before Billy had discovered him. Just as he had done the first time, Billy followed the man. Just as before, the man seemed to be looking for something. Billy watched him until finally he tramped off through the Green Forest. Then Billy turned and hurried back to the place where he had first seen the man that morning.
"He didn't do anything while I watched him but poke about and seem to be looking for something," muttered Billy. "I wonder if he did anything else before I discovered him. I think I'll look and make sure that everything is all right up the Laughing Brook."
So Billy went up the Laughing Brook above the place where he had first seen the man that morning. He crossed back and forth from one bank to the other, and he examined every stick and log and hole as he went along. Being suspicious, he took the greatest care not to step anywhere until he had first looked to make sure that it was safe.
His nose told him just where the man had been, but for some time he found nothing suspicious. Everything was just as it should be. Nevertheless, Billy was filled with uneasiness. He couldn't get rid of a feeling that something was wrong somewhere. Presently he came to a hole in the bank, a hole with which he was very familiar. From that hole came the most appetizing smell. Now Billy was hungry. He had spent so much time following that strange man that for some time he had had no chance to eat.
The smell from that hole was of fish. That fish was in the back of the hole. There was no doubt about that. All Billy had to do was to go in and get it, and that is what he was tempted to do. Then in a flash a thought came to him. There never had been a fish there before, so why should there be one now? With the greatest care Billy began to examine everything around that hole. In the water, just at the entrance to that hole, were some dead leaves held down by a little bit of mud. Billy didn't remember ever seeing those leaves before. Very cautiously he reached out and lifted them. Underneath was a trap!CHAPTER 3
Billy Outwits the Trapper
As smart and clever as you are, A Mink may smarter be by far.
This is what Billy Mink said to himself as he uncovered the trap which had been set for him at the entrance to one of his favorite holes in the bank of the Laughing Brook. Of course he was thinking of the trapper when he said it. At first Billy flew into a great rage. It made him angry clear to the tip of his brown tail just to think that he must now be always watching for traps where for so long there had been no danger.
At first he had thought to go on at once up the Laughing Brook and see what more he could discover. But you remember that Billy was hungry and that there was a piece of perfectly delicious fish back in that hole. He knew now just how that fish happened to be there. He knew that the trapper had put that piece of fish in there, hoping that Billy would be so eager to get it that he would be careless.
The more he smelled it, the more he wanted it. "It will serve that trapper right if I get that fish," muttered Billy. "Perhaps it will teach him that he is not so smart as he thinks he is."
Billy sat down and studied the trap and the entrance to the hole. The more he studied, the more sure he became that he would be running a very foolish risk if he tried to step over that trap just to get a piece of fish. You see, that trap had been very cunningly placed. But the more he smelled that fish, the more he wanted it.
Billy stroked his whiskers thoughtfully. Of course that didn't have anything to do with it, but just the same while he was stroking them he remembered something. His eyes snapped and he grinned. Way up on the bank between the roots of a certain tree was a little hole. It was the entrance to a little underground tunnel, and that tunnel led right down to the very hole in front of which the trap was set. It really was a back door.
Billy turned and in a flash had scrambled up the bank. With his keen little nose he made sure that there was no scent of the trapper up there. He felt sure the trapper had not found that little hole between the roots of a certain tree. But though he was sure of this, he took no chances. As he approached the hole he took the greatest care to make sure no trap was in there.
There was none. Once inside the hole, Billy ran along that little tunnel, chuckling to himself. He knew that now there was no danger. He could get that fish. He did get it. He got it and ate it right there. Then he turned and ran out the way he had entered. Somehow that fish had tasted the best of any fish he ever had eaten. It was because he had outwitted the trapper.CHAPTER 4
Billy Finds Some Queer Fences
When something new and strange you find, Watch out! To danger be not blind.
The trouble with a great many people is that they are heedless. When they find something new and strange they forget everything but their curiosity. Because of this they walk right straight into trouble. It happens over and over again.
But Billy Mink isn't this kind of a person. My, my, I should say not. He never has been. If he had he would have lost that beautiful, brown coat of his long ago and there would be no Billy Mink. Billy has his share of curiosity, but with it he possesses a great big bump of suspicion. When he finds anything new and strange he wants to learn all about it. But right away he is suspicious of it.
After he had discovered the trap set for him at the entrance to one of his favorite holes, and had fooled the trapper by getting the fish the trapper had placed in that hole, Billy went on up the Laughing Brook to see what else he could discover. Not very far above that place there was a steep bank on each side of the Laughing Brook. Along the foot of each bank was a narrow strip of level ground between the bank and the water. You see, at this season of the year, the water in the Laughing Brook was low.
When Billy came to this place he discovered something queer. It was a little fence. It ran from the foot of the bank straight out into the Laughing Brook to where the water became deep. Midway in this little fence was a gateway just big enough to slip through comfortably. Billy looked across to the other side of the Laughing Brook. Over there was another little fence just like this one, and that little fence had an opening in it.
"Huh!" said Billy. "Huh! These fences are something new. They were not here when I came down the Laughing Brook yesterday. I wonder what they are for. If it were not for those two little openings I would have either to climb the bank or swim around the ends of those fences, and that would be bothersome. I can go through that little opening there as easily as rolling off a log. But I'm not going to do it. No, sir, I'm not going to do it. There is something wrong about these fences. They look to me as if they were built just to make me go through one of those little gateways. If that's the case, I'm not going to do it."
So Billy plunged into the Laughing Brook and swam out into the deep water around the end of the little fence. Then very carefully he approached the little opening from that side. The more he looked at it, the less he liked it. Right in the middle of that little opening were some wet, dead leaves. "Ha, ha!" said Billy. "Another trap!"CHAPTER 5
A Moonlight Visit
Do a good turn for another, Proving thus you are his brother.
Billy Mink was just plain mad. He had begun to get that way when he found the trap set at the entrance to one of his favorite holes. But when he found a little fence on each side of the Laughing Brook right across where he was in the habit of running when traveling up and down the Laughing Brook, and in the middle of each little fence an opening with a trap in it, Billy lost his temper completely. He ground his teeth and his eyes grew red with anger. You see, he knew that those traps had been set especially for him.
"I despise a trapper," snarled Billy. "Yes, sir, I despise a trapper. It is bad enough to be hunted, but then a fellow does have some chance. He knows where the danger is and what to look out for. If he is reasonably smart he can fool the hunter. But traps don't give a fellow any chance at all. They are sneaky things. They jump up and grab a fellow without any warning at all. I hate traps, and I hate trappers! I wonder if I can find any more traps along the Laughing Brook."
Billy continued on up to the very beginning of the Laughing Brook, but found no more traps. Then he curled up in one of his favorite hiding-places to rest and think things over. He was strongly tempted to go away from the Laughing Brook altogether. He thought of going down to the Big River for a long visit. He felt sure that if he kept away from the Laughing Brook the trapper would become discouraged and after a while take up his traps. He had just about made up his mind to leave that very night when he happened to remember that while he knew all about those traps, he had friends who didn't know anything about them. "I guess I'll stay around awhile and see what happens," muttered Billy.
That night Billy went for another look at those traps. By and by a little noise caught his quick ears. Instantly he was alert and watchful. There was a rustling of leaves, and then out on an old log full in the moonlight crept a plump form and sat down. One glance was enough for Billy. Without a sound he slipped up behind that plump form.
"Booh!" said Billy. When he said that Bobby Coon almost fell into the Laughing Brook, he was so startled. You see it was Bobby who had come out on that old log, and at the time he was very busy washing some food. You know he always washes his food before eating, if he can.
For a minute Bobby lost his temper. But it was only for a minute. Then, having washed his food to his satisfaction, he began to eat his supper and at the same time to gossip with Billy Mink. He told Billy all the news of the Green Forest, most of which was no news at all to Billy, for there is little going on that Billy doesn't know. Then Billy told Bobby the news of the Laughing Brook, everything except about the traps and trapper. It was a very pleasant visit they had together there in the moonlight.CHAPTER 6
Billy Warns Bobby Coon
A moment's carelessness may bring A sudden end to everything.
For a long time Billy Mink and Bobby Coon sat gossiping on the edge of the Laughing Brook. Then Bobby, having finished what he had to eat, decided that he would go down the Laughing Brook to see what he could find. There's nothing Bobby Coon enjoys more than wandering along the Laughing Brook, watching for a little fish to come carelessly within reach, or just simply playing in the water. Bobby has almost as much curiosity as has Peter Rabbit. He simply has to examine everything which appears strange. A white pebble in the water or a shell will catch his eyes, and he will stop to play with it.
Billy Mink watched Bobby start along down the Laughing Brook. "I wonder what he'll do when he comes to that little fence," thought Billy. So, to find out what Bobby would do, he followed him. When Bobby came to the little fence he sat down and stared at it in the funniest way. Then he began to talk to himself.
"That's a funny thing," said he. "I wonder how that little fence happens to be here. I've never seen it before. I wonder what it's for. Nobody had any business to build a fence like that. The only way I can get around it is to climb way up that bank, and I don't want to do that." You know Bobby is rather lazy.
So he sat and looked at the fence, which was made of sticks stuck down in the ground, and the more he looked the more determined he became that he wouldn't be stopped and he wouldn't climb that bank. Of course it didn't take him long to discover that right in the middle of that fence was an opening, sort of a gateway. But it was a very narrow opening. You see, it had been made just wide enough for Billy Mink, and Bobby Coon is a great deal bigger than Billy Mink.
Bobby went a little nearer and once more sat down with his head cocked on one side as he studied that little opening. "It's too narrow for me, but if I try hard enough, perhaps I can push those sticks aside and make it wider. That would be easier than climbing that steep bank," thought he.
Excerpted from Billy Mink by THORNTON W. BURGESS, Harrison Cady. Copyright © 2012 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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