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It was a wild story that came to the ears of Little Jack Rabbit for, as he came hopping down the Shady Forest Path, a whole troop of his playmates ran out to meet him, and one cried one thing, and one another, but the words which he heard most plainly
"The railroad! The railroad! Oh, have you heard?"
"Yes," answered Little Jack Rabbit, not at all excited, "I know a railroad is going to run past the Sunny Meadow,"
"Oh, but that's nothing! It's going to run right through your house!" cried Busy-Beaver.
"Right through the Old Bramble Patch!" shouted Chippy Chipmunk.
"Right through your front door!" screamed Gray Squirrel.
"I don't believe that," said Little Jack Rabbit. "A railroad can't get through a door!"
"Why, of course they'll take out the door," replied Busy Beaver; "they'll pull down your whole house; they'll clear away the Old Bramble Patch; why, they may use the whole of the Sunny Meadow—every bit of it!"
By this time Little Jack Rabbit was excited. Already he saw the dear Old Bramble Patch torn out by the roots; the little house gone, and himself and all the family forced to rove homeless through the Shady Forest So it was no wonder he almost forgot to stop at the postoffice on his way home.
But as he came up the Shady Forest Path that afternoon, he saw that the dear Old Bramble Patch was still there—that was one comfort. No wandering about tonight, at least.
"And there, too, was his little brother, Bobby Tail, turning somersaults under the Old Chestnut Tree, and Mr. and Mrs. John Rabbit sitting quietly on the front doorstep.
So Little Jack Rabbit plucked up heart and asked Papa Rabbit if the railroad were going to take away the Old Bramble Patch and their house.
"No, it isn't," replied Mr. Rabbit, but it's coming mighty close."
"I just knew it wasn't," said Little Jack
Rabbit with a sigh of relief. "But Busy Beaver said it was and that I musf-pack up my clothes at once."
"Well, the line was laid out to run right through the dear Old Bramble Patch," said Mr. Rabbit, "but when they found it must cross the Old Duck Pond, they turned it to one side. So the dear Old Brafmble Patch is safe."
THE FIRST TRAIN
Look out for the Choo-choo cars!
Don't you hear the thunder jars?
First the whistle, then the bell
Clanging through the Forest Dell.
For weeks and weeks there was great excitement among the Little People of the; Shady Forest and Sunny Meadow. From behind trees and bushes, rocks and stumps, they watched the building of the railroad.
Professor Jim Crow came to offer advice, but changed his mind. As for Little Jack Rabbit, he looked out from behind a stump and wondered.
Cousin Cotton Tail had been forced to move from the Big Brush Heap on the hill. She and her little bunnies were now visiting in the Old Bramble Patch.
When Little Jack Rabbit was told that a railroad must be level, he thought a man would come with a big scythe and slice off the top of the hill like a loaf of bread and lay the slices in the hollows.
This wasn't so very strange, seeing that he was only a little bunny boy and, of course, didn't know anything about building railroads.
Every day the railroad came nearer being finished. The hill was dug out. As Mr. Mole remarked, "It was done almost as well as I could have done it, only, of course, I would have made a tunnel."
Then the sleepers were laid. Busy Beaver smiled as he watched the men lay the great logs on the smooth earth.
"Wouldn't they be dandy for my dam?" he remarked.
"You've got all you need," answered Little Jack Rabbit. "I'm glad they didn't break up the Old Rail Fence and make railroad ties out of it."
Finally the rails were fastened on the logs and the railroad was finished; the first train was to run through and everybody; was waiting to see it.
Mr. and Mrs. John Rabbit put on their Sunday clothes and took Little Jack Rabbit and Brother Bobby Tail to the end of the Old Rail Fence.
Pretty soon a black speck appeared at the end of the long line. It grew bigger and bigger. A cloud of smoke arose and drifted over to the Shady Forest. There was a rattle and a roar and a din. Little Jack Rabbit hid behind his mother's skirt, but the train had already passed them.
And there on the platform of the last car, stood the Farmer's Boy, holding on by the door, bowing and smiling and proud as a king.
A NARROW ESCAPE
Hear the engine whistle toot!
See the smoke and smell the soot!
Lucky that the train don't stay,
But flashes by and far away!
At first the Grown-ups in the Shady Forest and the Sunny Meadow were very sorry to have the railroad come so near, but after a while they found it didn't matter so much; for the cars passed through a "cut" so deep that the engine's smokestack hardly reached the top, and you only knew they were there by the sound.
Of course, it took Cousin Cotton Tail ever and ever so long to get used to the Old thing like the Old Brush Heap, with its covering of trailing vines, and she was glad when she was able to go back to her old home on the other side of the Bubbling Brook.
On this side the Sunny Meadow was just the same; so was the Shady Forest, and by and by everybody almost forgot that there had been a time when there wasn't any railroad.
At the Old Barnyard, however, things were very different, for the railroad made a turn just there and came in very close to the Big Red Barn.
Cocky Doodle had all he could do to keep the Barnyard Folk out of danger. Every morning after his early cock-a-doodle-do he read them a lesson on the dangers of crossing railroad tracks.
For a while Henny Penny laid her eggs in the Henhouse. The truth was that her nest in the corner of the Old Rail Fence happened to be just at the end of the Sunny Meadow where the railroad ran through the "cut," and the noise of the cars made her nervous.
Ducky Waddles was glad that the Old Duck Pond was still safe. He had heard how it had just escaped being bridged over for the noisy cars.
Yes, everyone kept away from the railroad track except Goosey Lucy. And why Goosey Lucy liked to waddle down the steep bank and along the hard wooden logs of the roadbed no one could find out.
But one fine day Goosey Lucy got caught Yes, sir. Before she could get off the track the train came along. It was very narrow between the two steep banks, and she couldn't fly high enough to reach the top. Cocky Doodle and Henny Penny shut their eyes. They couldn't bear to see what was going to happen.
But Goosey Lucy wasn't such a goose, after all. She sat perfectly still between the rails, and when the train had passed over her, she got up, shook the cinders off her white feathers and, waddled back to the Old Barnyard!
"Come, get your cap, I'm going to take you to school today!"
Little Jack Rabbit was too surprised to answer—he just opened his mouth, and the only sound his mother heard was a funny little noise like a whistle.
"Don't you hear me?" she asked, tying the strings of her Sunday bonnet under her furry chin.
"Whew!" said the little rabbit at last recovering from his surprise. "Why do you want me to go to school?"
"Because all the Shady Forest grown-ups think it's a good thing to have a school for the children," and she gave her bonnet a push and pulled on her black silk mitts.
"Get your cap. Every mother will be there for the opening day, and we -mustn't be late."
The little rabbit hopped silently along by his mother's side, wondering how it had all happened so suddenly. He hadn't heard a word about a school, nor had any of his playmates.
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" he asked at last.
"Because we didn't want Grandmother Magpie to know anything until the matter was settled," answered Mrs. Rabbit in a low voice. "She is such a busy-body."
Goodness me! Mrs. Rabbit had hardly finished speaking when up flew; the very person she had been talking about. Yes, there she stood, right on the Shady Forest Path a few feet in front of them.
"Good morning," said Grandmother Magpie.
Mrs. Jack Rabbit gave her bonnet strings a jerk. She always did this when she was angry, and the sight of that disagreeable bird reminded her of the time she had told tales on Little Jack Rabbit.
"Good morning," answered the little rabbit's mother stiffly. She didn't really want to say good morning, but she had to be polite.
"Where are you going?" asked Grandmother Magpie, hopping along by Mrs. Rabbit's side. Mrs. Rabbit said nothing, only hopped along faster, but she couldn't, get rid of that mischievous old bird. Oh, my, no. She stuck around like a chestnut burr.
"Grandmother Magpie," said Mrs. Rabbit at last, "I have some important business to attend to this morning, so I will say goodby." And she gave Grandmother Mischief, as she was often called, such a stiff bow that the old lady magpie stopped short and let them go on without her.
A MISTAKE IN SPELLING
The Shady Forest School had once been a pigeon house, but when the farm was sold and the old buildings torn down, it had been left to shelter Mr. and Mrs. Pigeon, who Wouldn't move away.
One night during a great storm it had toppled off the post on which it stood, and rolled down the hillside, helped along by [Billy Breeze, until it had landed on the edge of the Shady Forest.
Here it had been discovered by the Little Forest Folk, and at Parson Owl's suggestion, had been pushed and shoved in and out among the trees until it stood right-side up in a sunlit clearing.
Then Parson Owl had called together all the Grown-ups and persuaded them to make it into a schoolhouse.
And, well, here we are with Mrs. Rabbit and her little bunny on their way to the opening exercises, so there is no need of saying anything more about it, except that it had a nice door in front and a dozen round holes, under which were fastened little pieces of board for wide windowsills, on which the pigeons used to stand and preen their feathers.
As Little Jack Rabbit and his mother drew near they saw Chippy Chipmunk's face at one of the little round windows. Then Busy Beaver looked out of another, and pretty soon every little round window had a head peeping through, while in the doorway stood Professor Jim Crow in his black swallowtail coat.
"Good morning, Mrs. Rabbit," he said, looking over his spectacles. "You have brought another scholar, I see."
When they were seated in the schoolroom, he walked over to the big blackboard.
"John," he said, turning to the little rabbit, "tell me how to spell your name."
Goodness gracious me! Would you believe it, the little rabbit answered "J-A-CK!" You see, he was so used to being called just "Jack" that he spelt "John" the same way.
Then Professor Jim Crow asked who was the first President, but he didn't enquire :who was going to be the next, for I guess he thought the little rabbit hadn't studied Politics enough. After that he told Mrs. Rabbit that she had a very bright little bunny boy even if he didn't know how to spell his right name.
DISOBEDIENT JIMMY CROW
Professor Jim Crow and his family lived in the Tall Pine Tree.
"Now, Mrs. Crow," he said to his wife one morning, "as I shall be away almost all day teaching the Little People of the Shady Forest and the Sunny Meadow to read and write, you will have your hands full with the children. Be very careful, my dear, for they haven't yet learned to fly!"
"Don't worry," answered Mrs. Crow, "you have troubles enough with the schoolhouse full of children. I'll take good care that ours come to no harm."
Professor Jim Crow had been gone only a few minutes when who should call but Grandmother Magpie.
"Good morning," she said, perching on a branch near at hand so as to look into the nestful of little crows.
"I'm dreadfully busy," answered Mrs. Crow. "Now that the Professor is teaching school, I have all the care of the children. It's no easy matter, for each little crow thinks he knows how to fly."
"Well, perhaps he does!" said Grandmother Magpie. "If you don't let them try how are they ever going to learn?"
"They are not old enough," replied Mrs. Crow.
"Not old enough?" repeated that meddlesome old lady bird. "Stuff and nonsense! Of course they are!" Then off she flew, leaving Mrs. Crow dreadfully upset and the little crows very discontented.
After making sure that Grandmother Magpie was out of sight, Mrs. Crow flew over to the Sunny Meadow for worms for her hungry children, but first she told them to be careful not to fall out of the nest while she was gone.
"Botheration!" said little Jimmy Crow after a few minutes, "Every word Grandmother Magpie says is true. We are kept like prisoners in this old nest. I'm going to fly!"
"Oh, don't!" cried all his brothers and sisters. "You can't fly even across the Shady Forest Path."
"Well, then, I can walk," said the naughty little crow, and he hopped out of the nest and fluttered down to the ground.
But, Oh dear me I Just then along came the Fanner's Boy. In a twinkling, he caught poor Jimmy Crow and cut off the tips of his wing feathers with a big jack-knife.
"Now, my little black beauty, you won't fly far," he laughed, and turned his steps toward the Old Farm.
"So, you're caught, Jimmy Crow!"
Sang gay Billy Breeze,
'Mid the tall forest trees.
"Don't you wish you'd obeyed
What your kind mother said?
But, no, you were stubborn,
And had a swelled head."
Pretty soon along came Little Jack Rabbit on his way home from school. Everybody in the Shady Forest knew Little Jack Rabbit From his nest in the Tall Pine Tree Jimmy Crow had often seen him hopping by with the Squirrel Brothers.
How he wished now he had never left the dear old nest. Here he was, a prisoner, and there was the little rabbit, free and happy, hopping home from school.
He tried to flutter out of the Farmer Boy's hand, but he was only held the tighter, so he lay perfectly still and wondered miserably what his mother would say when she came home and heard that he had disobeyed.
By and by the Farmer's Boy opened the gate to the Farmyard and walked over to the Big Red Barn. Pretty soon he found an old birdcage, in which he put poor Jimmy Crow. Then he hung it up on the little front porch of the Old Farm House.
"What have you got there," asked the Kind Farmer when he came home for supper, "a young crow?"
"Yep," answered the Farmer's Boy. "I picked him up in the woods; he was tryin' to fly."
It was very lonely on the little front porch after Mr. Merry Sun had gone to bed. Jimmy Crow huddled in one corner and watched Mrs. Moon climb over the hilltop.
He heard Granddaddy Bullfrog singing in the Duck Pond, and the splash of the millwheel as it turned slowly over and over. How he wished he had obeyed his mother and was safe at home, listening to his father tell the school news, and who was late, and who knew his lesson best.
By and by the Old Grandfather Clock in the Farm House struck ten and the lights went out. If it hadn't been for Mrs. Moon it would have been pitch dark.
Suddenly, he heard a familiar hoot, and the next minute; dear Old Parson Owl fluttered up to the cage.
It didn't take him long to find the handle on the little door, which he opened softly.
"Jump out!" he whispered. "Hop after me as fast as you can. I'll fly low down so you won't lose sight of me."
"Am I dreaming?" thought the poor little crow, as he fluttered down to the ground and hopped after Old Parson Owl toward the Shady Forest "If I am, I hope I'll wake up in Mother's nest!"
It was very late when they reached the Tall Pine Tree. The good Professor was sound asleep after a hard day's work in the Shady Forest Schoolhouse and a long search for his little lost crow. He had hunted for him until it grew so dark that he had been forced to give it up.
But Mrs. Crow was wide awake and the little crows were crying softly over their little lost brother. Disobedience makes others unhappy as well as the one who disobeys.
All of a sudden Mrs. Crow heard the gentle flap of wings, and looking over the edge of the nest, she saw Old Parson Owl in the dim moonlight The next moment the sight of little Jimmy Crow hopping after him made her heart go pitter-patter.
"Here's our little boy!" she cried, fluttering down to the ground, while all the little crow brothers and sisters looked over the edge of the nest, and Professor Jim Crow woke up with a start
But, dear me! Didn't they have a dreadful time getting the little crow up in the tree. You see, he could only flutter now that his wings had been clipped, and if Old Parson Owl hadn't carried him on his broad back, I doubt if Jimmy Crow ever would have reached the nest
By this time Mrs. Moon had crossed over the sky, and Mr. Merry Sun was getting out of bed in the gold and purple East.
The Shady Forest was beginning to awake. The birds were chirping to one another, and the Little Four-footed People were racing up and down the trees and scampering over the ground.
Parson Owl waited to see that everything was all right, and then, turning to Professor Jim Crow, said:
"If Little Jack Rabbit hadn't come to tell me that the Farmer's Boy had stolen Jimmy Crow, your little son would still be in the cage on the farmhouse porch."
"My dear Parson," said Professor Jim Crow gratefully, "I shall never forget what you and Little Jack Rabbit have done."
Excerpted from Little Jack Rabbit's Adventures by David Cory, H. S. Barbour. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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