Kneetime Animal Stories
WINKIE, THE WILY
HER MANY ADVENTURES
Author of “Squinty, the Comical Pig,” “Tum Tum, the
Jolly Elephant,” “Tamba, the Tame Tiger,”
“Toto, the Bustling Beaver,” “Shaggo,
the Mighty Buffalo,” etc.
NEW YORK, N. Y. NEWARK, N. J.
By Richard Barnum
Large 12mo. Illustrated.
- SQUINTY, THE COMICAL PIG
- SLICKO, THE JUMPING SQUIRREL
- MAPPO, THE MERRY MONKEY
- TUM TUM, THE JOLLY ELEPHANT
- DON, A RUNAWAY DOG
- DIDO, THE DANCING BEAR
- BLACKIE, A LOST CAT
- FLOP EAR, THE FUNNY RABBIT
- TINKLE, THE TRICK PONY
- LIGHT FOOT, THE LEAPING GOAT
- CHUNKY, THE HAPPY HIPPO
- SHARP EYES, THE SILVER FOX
- NERO, THE CIRCUS LION
- TAMBA, THE TAME TIGER
- TOTO, THE BUSTLING BEAVER
- SHAGGO, THE MIGHTY BUFFALO
- WINKIE, THE WILY WOODCHUCK
BARSE & HOPKINS
New York, N. Y. Newark, N. J.
Barse & Hopkins
Winkie, the Wily Woodchuck
PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.
WINKIE, THE WILY
WINKIE PLAYS TAG
“What shall we do next?” asked Winkie, the wily woodchuck.
“Isn’t it too hot to do anything?” was what Blinkie, her sister, wanted to know. “Let’s just sit here by the front door, where we can easily pop down into our underground house if anything happens.”
“Do you think anything is going to happen?” asked Winkie, who was called wily because she was so smart and careful, always on the lookout for traps and danger. “If you think anything is going to happen,” went on Winkie, speaking to her sister, “I’m going in now and tell mother. I’d tell pa, only he isn’t home yet from the woods, where he went to get something special to eat.”
“Oh, I don’t know that there is any special danger,” said Blinkie, as she pawed out a bit of thistle that had become stuck to her fur. “But it’s too hot to do anything, Winkie.”
“Except to eat clover,” half grunted Blunk, who was the woodchuck brother of Winkie and Blinkie. “Let’s go over in the farmer’s big field and eat a lot more clover,” suggested Blunk. You know clover is what woodchucks like best of all.
“Clover!” laughed Winkie, tapping her brother playfully on his black nose. “If you eat any more clover, Blunk, it will run out of your ears, as grandma says.”
“Pooh! I never eat too much clover!” boasted Blunk. “And I’m going over to the field now and get some more. Do you girls want to come?” he asked. “I know where there’s some clover with red blossoms.”
“Oh, it’s too hot to move, especially with this thick fur we have to wear,” said Blinkie. “In the winter it isn’t bad; but now, with summer coming on, I wish I didn’t have so much fur.”
“Some of it will fall out, so mother said,” explained Winkie. “She told me that the fur of all woodchucks and other animals like us gets thinner in summer.”
“Well, I’m glad of it,” sighed Blinkie, stretching out her two front paws lazily. “I’m so warm now I don’t know what to do!”
“Let’s slide down the back-door hole inside our burrow,” suggested Winkie. “We can have fun that way, and it’s nice and cool away down deep underground. Let’s slide down the back-door hole!”
Woodchucks, you know, have two holes, or doors, leading into their houses, which are dug in the earth below the surface. The reason for this is that if a fox, or other pursuing animal, chases them down one hole they can run out the other.
“Oh, I don’t want to slide down any holes!” complained Blinkie.
“Nor I,” added Blunk. “I’m going over after clover.”
“Don’t let the farmer catch you eating his clover, or he may set a trap for you or fire his gun at you,” warned Blinkie, as her brother waddled off, his little short legs slowly carrying his rather fat body.
“I’ll be careful,” promised Blunk.
Winkie stood for a moment near the edge of the sloping hole that led down into the dark underground house. This hole was the front door of the little woodchuck’s home. The back door was around behind a big rock. The hole had been used so often by the woodchuck family when crawling in and out that the bottom of it was worn smooth. When it rained, and the earth became wet, the front entrance to the burrow was very slippery.
But the back door had been dug down through some earth that had in it many shale-rocks—that is rocks which were little flat pieces of smooth stone. On these it was almost as easy for a woodchuck to slide as it is for a boy or girl to slide or coast on the ice or snow. Winkie knew she did not need to wait until it rained to have a slide on the shale-covered back-door hole, and this she was now eager to do. Only, she didn’t want to play alone!
“Please come on and slide with me,” begged Winkie of Blinkie.
“No, indeed!” answered the other woodchuck girl. “It’s too warm. I’m going to sleep.”
“Well, I’ll have to go by myself then,” said Winkie, a bit sadly. “Will you play after you wake up, Blinkie?”
“Maybe—maybe,” answered Blinkie, sleepily.
“Oh, I never saw such creatures!” murmured Winkie, as she ran along, giving a look toward her sister and a glance over into the next field where Blunk was nibbling clover. “All they think about is eating and sleeping! I’m going to do something! I wish I could have some adventures! That’s what I wish—adventures!
“Flop Ear, the rabbit who used to live here before he went away, had lots of adventures. He told me so when he came here on a visit. Oh dear! I wonder if I’ll ever have any adventures?”
Had she only known it, Winkie was, even then, about to start some very wonderful adventures, which I will tell you about.
But just at present all there seemed for the little girl woodchuck to do was to slide down the back-door hole of her underground home. And this she did until she was tired.
She would gather her paws under her, sit down on the smooth shale-rocks at the top of the hole, give herself a little push, and down she would go, landing in the big underground earth-room, where all the woodchucks of this one family lived.
“My goodness, Winkie! what are you doing?” cried her mother, who was having a nap all by herself.
“Just sliding down the hole,” answered Winkie. “Blinkie and Blunk won’t play with me, so I have to slide all alone.”
Mrs. Woodchuck did not answer, for she had fallen asleep once more. But she awakened when Winkie came sliding down again, and the mother of the little animal girl said:
“I wish, Winkie, you’d go somewhere else to play. I want to sleep, and you wake me up every time you land.”
“All right, Mother, I’ll see if I can get Blunk and Blinkie to play tag,” said Winkie, for she was a good little thing.
Taking just one more slide, while her mother was still awake, Winkie crawled up the back-door hole again, and went softly to Blinkie’s side. Blinkie was still slumbering.
“Tag! You’re it!” suddenly cried Winkie in her sister’s ear.
“What’s that? You’re going to put me in a bag? Oh, please, Mr. Farmer, don’t put me in a bag!” begged Blinkie. “I didn’t take any of your clover!”
“Ha! Ha!” laughed Winkie, as Blinkie sat up, rubbing her eyes. “You must have been dreaming that you were over in the field with Blunk, taking clover! I’m not a farmer, and I haven’t any bag. I just cried, ‘Tag! You’re it!’ Come on and play!”
“Oh, it’s you,” said Blinkie, not frightened now that she saw only her sister. “Yes, I was dreaming. And when you awakened me so suddenly I thought you were a farmer trying to catch me in a bag.”
“Well, come on and have a little tag game and you’ll feel better,” advised Winkie. “I can’t slide any more because mother wants to sleep. Let’s play tag!”
“You go and tag Blunk,” suggested Blinkie. “I’ll be wider awake after that, and then I’ll play. Go and tag Blunk.”
“All right,” agreed Winkie, who was very obliging. “I hope he hasn’t fallen asleep from eating too much clover,” she added.
But Blunk was wide awake. He was sitting up on his haunches, as a dog sits up to beg, and he was slowly nipping off the sweet clover tops and the tender leaves, chewing them very contentedly.
“Hello, Winkie! So you came over, after all, to get something to eat, did you?” asked Blunk.
“No, I came to see you,” replied Winkie. “Tag! You’re it!” she suddenly cried, tapping her brother with an extended paw, and then springing away before he could touch her. “Come on! Chase me!”
Blunk was fonder of games than was his sister Blinkie, who, to tell the truth, was a bit lazy. So when Blunk found he was “it,” he made up his mind not to stay that way any longer than need be.
“Oh, I’ll tag you all right!” he cried, racing after his sister Winkie. “I’ll tag you!”
“If you do, then I’ll tag Blinkie and we can have a regular game!” merrily laughed Winkie, as she sprang over a clump of clover. “This is more fun than sliding down the back-hole door all alone, or even going to sleep. Come on, Blunk! Let’s see you tag me!” she cried.
Nearly always when the woodchuck children played a game of tag, or any other running game, Blunk would easily catch Winkie or Blinkie. For, being a boy woodchuck and strong, he could go faster than the girls. And this time Blunk thought he would have no trouble in tapping Winkie with his paw, tagging her and making her “it.”
But Blunk forgot about all the clover he had eaten. He had, I am sorry to say, rather stuffed himself. He had eaten too much, but not enough to make himself ill, for animals know better than that. But Blunk had swallowed so much clover that his little stomach was sticking out like a toy balloon, and this made him so heavy that he could not run fast.
Because of this, Winkie could easily keep ahead of him. On and on ran the wily little girl woodchuck, laughing and teasing her brother because he could not catch her to tag her.
“Come on! Come on!” cried Winkie. “Why don’t you tag me, Blunk?”
“I will—in a—minute!” panted Blunk. “I—I haven’t started—running—yet!”
He was getting out of breath, and he was beginning to wish he had done what Winkie had asked him to do at first—come and play with her—instead of eating so much clover.
“But I’ll catch her after a while. I always do,” thought Blunk to himself, as he raced on and on, while Winkie, the wily woodchuck, dashed this way and that, making quick turns, which was the best way of avoiding her brother.
“I never knew her to keep away from me so long as this—before. I—I guess I ate too much clover!” panted Blunk.
“I know you did!” called Winkie, laughing, for her brother had said this last thought aloud. “Ha! Ha! You can’t tag me!”
“Yes, I can! There! Now you’re it!” cried Blunk.
He gave a sudden jump, and so did Winkie, for she wanted to keep from being tagged as long as possible. Just as she and Blunk leaped, a harsh voice cried:
“Ha! There’s them pesky woodchucks in my clover again! I’ll fix ’em!”
There was a loud bang, like a clap of thunder, and as Blunk looked back he saw his sister falling in a crumpled heap.
WINKIE HEARS A NOISE
Blunk, the boy woodchuck, was so frightened by what he heard and especially by what he saw—his sister falling in a heap amid the clover—that for a little while he could do nothing. He stopped short, and hid down under a big bunch of the red blossoms and green leaves.
“Oh! Oh! What has happened?” thought poor Blunk.
It was not the noise that he minded, for he had often heard thunder when rain storms made the ground wet. Though now there was not a cloud in the sky, which was bright blue, and the sun was gaily shining. So it could not have been thunder.
“There!” cried the man. “I guess I shot one of them pesky woodchucks that time! I’ll teach ’em to take my clover!”
There was a queer smell in the air—a powder smell, though Blunk did not know what it was then. And there was a little cloud of blue smoke near Farmer Tottle, for it was he who had fired the gun at Blunk and Winkie.
“Yes, sir!” went on the farmer, lowering his gun, from the end of which more blue smoke floated. “I got one of the woodchucks!”
“Ha!” suddenly cried Winkie, jumping up from the grass and clover where she was hidden near Blunk. “He didn’t get me!”
“Oh!” cried Blunk, who was less quick-witted than his wily sister and who was very much surprised when Winkie leaped up so suddenly. “Oh, I’m so glad! I thought something had happened to you, Winkie!”
“Something really did happen,” said the girl woodchuck. “Keep still, Blunk! Don’t move! Don’t look up!”
“Because that man might shoot you! He’s got a gun! I saw him pointing it, and, just in time, I stumbled and fell.”
“On purpose?” asked Blunk.
“Yes! Of course! Suppose I wanted to get shot? Keep still now!”
The two little woodchucks kept close together and hid themselves down under the clover tops. They could hear the heavy, tramping feet of Farmer Tottle, though of course they did not know his name.
“Keep still now—he’s coming!” whispered Winkie to Blunk. The little girl woodchuck really did not need to tell her brother this. Blunk, though slower witted than the wily Winkie, was not foolish, and did not need be warned of his danger.
Of course they talked in woodchuck language, just as dogs talk in their language and cats in theirs. Winkie and Blunk could not understand what the man said, though they understood some of the things he did. Nor could Farmer Tottle hear, much less understand, what the woodchucks said. Animals seem able to talk to one another, even if they are from different countries and are quite different one from the other.
Nearer and nearer came the heavy, tramping feet of the farmer. Winkie and Blunk wanted to dart away and hide in their underground house, but they did not dare come out from beneath the sheltering clover.
“That’s funny!” muttered the farmer to himself. “I’m sure I shot one of them pesky woodchucks, but I can’t find it! There were two, but they’ve got away somewhere. If I only had Buster, my dog, he’d nose ’em out. Guess that’s what I’ll do—I’ll go get Buster!”
Winkie and Blunk kept so quiet under the clover that though the farmer was very close to them he did not see them. And when he turned to go back to the barn, to get his dog Buster, Winkie and Blunk thought this would be a good time for them to run home.
And run home is what Winkie and Blunk did.
Of course they did not know the farmer had gone after his dog, but the woodchuck children knew they had been in danger; and where there is danger once for an animal, there may be danger a second time.
“Come on, Winkie!” said Blunk in a low voice, as the footsteps of the farmer died away in the distance. “Let’s run!”
“Do you want to play tag any more?” asked Winkie, astonished.
“Tag? No, indeed!” exclaimed her brother. “All I want to do is to get home. And you’d better come with me. It’s a good thing Blinkie didn’t come, for if there were three of us that man might more easily have seen one of us. Come on now—let’s run!”
And run home is what Winkie and Blunk did. They ran as fast as when they had been playing tag. But this was no joyful race; it was a race full of danger. For there was no telling when the farmer might shoot his gun again, or when he might return with his dog.
Though Winkie and Blunk felt pretty safe as they ran through the deep clover, they also felt their little hearts beating very fast as they neared their burrow, or underground house.
“My goodness!” exclaimed Blinkie, in woodchuck talk, as her brother and sister came leaping up to the front door. “What’s your hurry on such a hot day?”
“Hurry?” gasped Blunk. “I guess you’d be in a hurry if you’d seen and heard what happened to us! Wouldn’t she, Winkie?”
“Indeed she would!” said Winkie. “Oh, such a terrible time!”
“What’s the matter?” asked Mother Woodchuck, coming up into the air after her sleep. “What’s all the excitement about?”
“We were playing tag,” began Winkie, “when all at once there was a noise like thunder—”
“But it wasn’t thunder. It was a man with a gun shooting at us,” interrupted Blunk.
“Oh, my dears! A man with a gun, shooting!” cried Mrs. Woodchuck. “Oh, my poor children! What shall we do? I wish your father was home! Oh, this is dreadful!”
“Don’t worry, Mother!” said Blunk kindly. “We ran away from the man with the gun, and I don’t believe he can find us. And neither of us got shot. Winkie threw herself down in the clover and hid just in time.” Blunk was proud of his clever, wily sister.
“Oh, but suppose he comes here!” cried Mrs. Woodchuck.
“I don’t believe he can find our burrow,” said Blinkie, a bit proudly. “Daddy and you made our underground house in a place that isn’t easy to find.”
“Besides, it has two doors,” said Winkie. “And you told us that made it much safer, Mother.”
“I suppose it is as safe as any house can be,” said the woodchuck lady. “Still, even with two doors, something may happen. I wish your father would come home.”
And a little later Mr. Woodchuck came home. In his paws he carried some yellow carrots and a white turnip.
“See what I have brought for you!” he cried, as he scrambled down the front door of the underground house.
“Oh, how lovely!” cried Blinkie.
“Why, what is the matter?” asked Mr. Woodchuck, dropping the carrots and the turnip in a heap on the floor. “Has anything happened?” he asked, for he could tell by looking at his wife and children that something was wrong.
“Winkie and Blunk were in great danger to-day,” said Mrs. Woodchuck. “And I am afraid we shall have to move out of our lovely home. Tell your father about the man with the gun, children!”
Winkie and Blunk related what had happened in the clover field when they were playing tag. At the end of the story Mr. Woodchuck looked as worried as did his wife.
“What are we going to do?” asked the woodchuck mother, looking anxiously at her husband. “Shall we have to move?”
“Let me think a minute,” said the father woodchuck. “Tell me,” he went on, speaking to Winkie and Blunk. “Did the man follow you all the way to our burrow?”
“No. He turned around and went back after he shot at us and didn’t hit either of us,” said Blunk.
“Well, then,” went on the father woodchuck, “I think we shall be safe here for another day or so. Men are stupid creatures. It is only by accident that he could find this burrow.”
“Maybe his dog could,” suggested Winkie.
“Yes, a dog is smarter than a man when it comes to that,” said Mr. Woodchuck. “But don’t worry any more right away. Eat the good things I brought home, and I will think what is best to do.”
The three woodchuck children, Winkie, Blinkie, and Blunk, soon forgot their troubles in eating the sweet carrots and turnip. Even though Blunk had eaten so much clover he could hardly run, he was now ready for the good things his father had brought home.
“Where did you get them?” asked Blinkie, nibbling the end of a carrot.
“I found them in a field,” answered Mr. Woodchuck. “There were so many I don’t believe the farmer will mind my taking a few.”
“Maybe they were planted by the same man who fired a gun at Winkie and me,” suggested Blunk.
“Maybe,” said his father. “Why don’t you eat some?” he asked his wife, for she had not even nibbled the outside skin of the turnip.
“I am too worried to eat!” she answered. “I hate to think of having to move.”
“Perhaps we may not be driven to that,” said Mr. Woodchuck, who was more cheerful than his wife. “And if we do, we can easily dig a new burrow, or find a place to stay. This is summer, and the ground is soft.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” he went on. “We’ll be ready to run away at the slightest sign of danger. If that farmer comes to our front door we’ll run out the back door; and if he comes to the back door we’ll skip out the front, and all will be well.”
“It sounds all right,” said Mother Woodchuck. “I only hope it happens that way.”
But it did not. Things in the woodchuck world, just as in your world and mine, very often do not turn out the way they are expected to. For several days, however, after the game of tag and the shooting of the gun, nothing happened in the woodchuck home. For a time Winkie, Blinkie, and Blunk hardly poked their noses outside the back or front door. But as the days passed and no farmer with his gun and dog came, the children became bolder.
They played tag and other games and ate the clover and the other good things their father and mother brought home. Then, one morning, just as Mr. Woodchuck was starting out to go to a distant field, and when the children were about to go out and play, Winkie held up her paw and said:
“Listen! I hear a noise!”
WINKIE FINDS A WAY OUT
Just as soon as Winkie told the other woodchucks to be quiet and listen, they all remained as still as though frozen in their places. Not one made a move. This is what wild animals always do when they hear or see anything strange. They stay quiet for just a moment or two before making up their minds what is best to do to save themselves from danger. And that danger was at hand Winkie, the wily woodchuck, felt sure.
As I have told you, she was the smartest of all the woodchuck children, and that is why her mother nicknamed her “Wily,” which means smart and cunning.
“I don’t hear anything!” whispered Blunk.
“Hark!” cautioned Winkie once more.
This time they all heard it. Silently they listened in their underground house to the strange noise. It was up above them—a thudding, rasping, scraping sound.
“What can it be?” asked Mrs. Woodchuck. She spoke in a whisper, as, indeed, they all did, for they knew their little whispering voices could not be heard outside their burrow.
“I don’t know what it is,” answered Mr. Woodchuck. “But whatever it is I’m glad Winkie heard it before I started out; otherwise I might have run right into danger!”
“Do you suppose it’s that farmer looking for us?” asked Blinkie.
“Or his dog?” added Blunk.
“If it’s a dog maybe I could fool him in some way!” said Winkie.
“How can you fool a dog?” Winkie’s mother asked.
“I can poke my nose out of the back door, and when he sees me I’ll duck down in here again,” explained Winkie.
“What good will that do?” asked Daddy Woodchuck. “You would only be running your nose into danger!”
“Well, but listen!” exclaimed Winkie, and she was so eager that she forgot to speak in a whisper until her mother said:
“Hush! Keep quiet!”
“All right,” hissed Winkie. “But this is what I could do. I could poke my nose out of our back door. The dog would see me, and run to get me. I’d duck down in here, and the dog would begin digging at the back door to make it big enough for him to come down.”
“Yes, that’s just what the dog would do,” sighed Mrs. Woodchuck. “I know dogs, to my sorrow! Once one bit me on the leg!”
“Yes, but wait!” went on Winkie eagerly. “While the dog was digging at our back door we could run out the front.”
“That’s a good idea!” exclaimed Blunk. “But I think I’m the one to do it, and not Winkie.”
“No! No!” exclaimed Mr. Woodchuck. “I see your trick, Winkie, and it is very good of you to think of it and good of Blunk to offer to do it. But it is too dangerous! The dog might dig his way in here through the back door before we had a chance to run out the front. And who knows but what the farmer with his gun may be waiting up above for us! No, we will stay right here safe in our burrow. I don’t believe they will find us here.”
“But what is that strange noise?” asked Blinkie. “There it sounds again!”
Indeed there came once more that strange noise which Winkie had first heard. The rumbling kept up, and now and then came a pounding as if heavy feet were tramping on the ground overhead.
“Oh, that must be the farmer trying to break his way in here with his heavy boots!” cried Blinkie.
“Hush! Do you want him to hear you?” whispered Winkie, and her sister grew quiet.
As the woodchuck family listened, the noise grew louder, and then, very plainly, they all heard a man’s voice shouting:
Instantly the noise stopped.
“That was the farmer!” exclaimed Blunk. “I know his voice!”
“What was he saying?” asked Blinkie.
No one could tell her, of course, for the woodchucks did not understand man talk, any more than the farmer understood animal language. But Blinkie made a guess.
“Perhaps that farmer was talking to his dog,” she said.
“Maybe,” agreed her mother. “I hope neither of them finds his way down here!”
But the farmer was not talking to his dog. One doesn’t say “whoa!” to dogs, one says it to horses. And that is to whom the farmer called the word which means stop.
“Whoa there now!” cried Farmer Tottle again. “Stand still, can’t you? Want to drag this plow over all them rocks? I’ve got to blast ’em out. That’s what I’ve got to do. These rocks and stumps are in the way, and I’m going to get some powder and blow ’em to bits. What with big stones on my farm, and the pesky woodchucks eating the clover, I won’t have enough left to buy me a new shirt at the end of the year. Stand still, can’t you? Not that I blame you much for not wanting to plow in this field of rocks,” he went on. “Guess I’ll go and get some powder and blow ’em up now. I’ll finish plowing to-morrow.”
It was this noise of the plow rasping and cutting its way through the earth over their heads, and the heavy thud of the hoofs of the horses, that Winkie and the other woodchucks had heard down in their burrow.
There was silence while Farmer Tottle was thinking of the best way to blast the rocks from his field, not far from the clover patch where Blunk and Winkie had played tag that day. Then, having made up his mind what he would do, Mr. Tottle turned his team around and drove them back to the barn.
“The noise isn’t so loud now,” whispered Winkie, after a bit.
“No. Maybe nothing is going to happen after all,” said Blinkie.
But the danger was over only for a little while. The noise stopped as Farmer Tottle drove away, and, for a time, the ground-hogs thought everything was going to be all right. Ground-hog is another name for the woodchuck.
“I guess I can go out now,” said Mr. Woodchuck, when an hour or more had passed and there were no more thumping sounds and no further cries of “Whoa!”
Mr. Woodchuck went softly to the back-door of the burrow. He crept up the little incline, or hill, that led to out-of-doors, and he was just poking his nose out when, all at once, there sounded a loud:
And that was not the worst! As the loud noise sounded, louder than any thunder the ground-hogs had ever heard, Mr. Woodchuck came slipping, sliding, and half falling back into the burrow.
“Oh, Nib! what has happened?” cried Mrs. Woodchuck. “Nib” was a pet name for her husband. “Are you shot?” she asked. “I’m sure I heard a gun!”
“It was the biggest gun I ever heard shot off, if that’s what it was!” said Mr. Woodchuck. “It fairly stunned me! Why, I fell right over backward, and a lot of little stones and dirt flew in my face!”
“Did the farmer see you and shoot at you?” asked Winkie.
“No. He couldn’t see me, for I hadn’t yet poked my nose outside,” answered the father. “I don’t understand what happened!”
Blunk, just like a boy, had run to the back-door to be near the scene of excitement. Now he came running back, all out of breath.
“Oh, you ought to see!” he cried. “Our back-door hole is closed up! It’s full of dirt and stones, and nobody can get out that way!”
“You don’t tell me!” cried his father, who was, by this time, getting over the shock. “I must take a look!”
Timidly, all the woodchucks followed him to the back-door. Just as Blunk had said, a lot of earth and stones had caved in, completely filling up the passage way and the door.
“No getting out there,” said Winkie, for she had been quicker than any of the others to see what had happened.
“Hurry!” cried her father. “We must try the front-door hole! I think I know what happened. The farmer shot off his gun down our back-door hole and blew it shut!”
But alas for this woodchuck family! As Mr. Woodchuck was patting and tapping Winkie, Blinkie, and Blunk with his paws to make them run faster, and just as they were close to the front-door hole, there came another loud sound, and the earth trembled under the paws of the little animals.
“Oh! Oh, dear!” whined Blinkie.
“Dear me! I hope no one is hurt,” said Mrs. Woodchuck. “This is dreadful!”
No one was hurt; but they were all covered with moist earth that had rattled down on them. But as woodchucks are always burrowing and digging in the earth, this did not matter.
Daddy Woodchuck scrambled on ahead of the others until he reached the front door.
“Just as I feared!” he sadly said. “This door is closed too! We are prisoners here in our burrow!”
“You don’t mean to tell me the front-door hole is closed up, like the back door!” cried his wife.
“Yes, that is what happened,” answered her husband. “The farmer has shot both our doors shut! We can’t get out!”
This last part was true enough, but not the first. Farmer Tottle had not exactly shot shut the two door holes of the Woodchucks’ underground house. He had blasted some rocks in his field, using powder to blow up the big stones. It was the shock of the blastings that had closed the doors of the burrow. Dirt and rocks had been shaken into the passages until they were almost completely filled, and none of the children, to say nothing of big Mr. and Mrs. Woodchuck, could squeeze their way past.
“What are we going to do?” cried Mrs. Woodchuck.
“Shall we have to stay here forever?” asked Blinkie.
“We can’t stay here forever!” exclaimed Blunk. “There isn’t anything to eat down here, and we’ll starve!”
“Oh! Don’t talk that way!” faintly screamed Blinkie.
“Maybe we can find a way out,” suggested Winkie, who always looked on the bright side.
“That’s so!” exclaimed her father. “This is no time for sitting down and biting one’s paws. We must look for a way out! Come, Blunk, you and I will try the back-door again. And, Mother, you take Winkie and Blinkie and try the front-door. Maybe there is a little hole which we can dig larger, and so get out through it. Look sharp!”
This was better than sitting still sighing; at least so Winkie felt. But while her mother and sister went to the front-door hole, and her father and brother to the back door, the wily little woodchuck nosed off by herself. She remembered that once, when she was playing hide-and-seek with Blunk and Blinkie she had hidden herself in a side passage of the burrow. The passage was larger and longer than she had at first thought, and she had made up her mind, after the game, to see where it went. But, somehow or other, she had never done this.
“But I’m going into that hole now and see if it leads anywhere,” thought Winkie. “Maybe it’s a tunnel that will let us out.”
Winkie could see quite well in the dark. She soon found her old hiding-place, and, going to the far end, where she had never before been, she looked upward. To her delight she saw a little bit of daylight gleaming. Scrambling her way forward, Winkie began to dig. She had soon made a larger hole. She put her nose close to this, and could smell fresh air.
Much excited, Winkie climbed down and ran to the middle of the burrow, just as her father and Blunk came from the back door.
“There is no way out there,” said Mr. Woodchuck sadly.
“Nor at the front!” added Mrs. Woodchuck, coming back with Blinkie. “But where have you been, Winkie?”
“I think I have found a way out!” cried the wily woodchuck. “Yes, I am sure I have. Come! I’ll show you!”
WINKIE IN THE WOODS
The family of woodchucks huddled close together in the middle of the underground house of earth in which they had lived so happily for many months. It was dark down there, but they did not mind that. It was home to them, the same as your house is home to you. And though there were no tables nor chairs, no pictures on the wall and no piano, still there were things there that the woodchucks cared for as much as you care for the things in your house.
Winkie, Blinkie, and Blunk had brought in bits of wood and stones with which they played. Their parents had carried in things to eat, and bits of these were stored in different places that Mrs. Woodchuck might call her cupboards.
But the woodchucks were to be driven from their home. In fact, they were very glad to get out, for, no matter how fine a house is, one never wants to be shut up there forever.
If some one closed all the doors and windows of your house tight, so that no air or sunshine could get in, I think you would be as glad to find a way out as Winkie was.
“Do you think you really have found a way to get out, Winkie?” asked her father anxiously.
“I’m quite sure I have,” she answered. “I found a hole, near a side burrow where I played one day. I could stick my nose out and breathe fresh air. And we can easily make the hole larger.”
All at once there was another of those loud, rumbling sounds. It shook the earth, and the woodchucks, cowering in their burrow, trembled in fear.
Bang! down came a big clod of dirt from the roof of their burrow, scattering to pieces in the middle of the floor.
“Oh my! what’s that?” shrieked Blinkie.
Again there came a rumble, as another blast was set off. If the woodchucks had been above ground they would have seen a great rock fly to pieces as the powder broke it up. But down in their burrow there was trouble enough. For a second clod of earth fell, almost hitting Winkie. If it had hit her there would have been no story to tell, for that would have been the end of poor Winkie.
“Come! We must get out of here!” cried her father, as the second large chunk of dirt and stones fell from the roof. “Show us the way out you think you have found, Winkie. For neither your mother nor I saw any way.”
“Come with me!” called the wily little woodchuck girl, and she led them toward the side burrow where she had seen the daylight peeping through.
It was so narrow that there was room for only two of the animals to walk side by side. Winkie went with her father to show him what she had found.
“See! There is daylight!” cried Winkie at last. “And you can smell the fresh air!”
“Yes, so you can!” cried Mr. Woodchuck, taking a long breath. “We are saved, I think!”
Still there was much digging to be done before the hole could be made large enough for the woodchucks to get out. They were all rather plump, for they lived on rich clover. And Mrs. Woodchuck was really quite fat, though I shouldn’t like to have her know that I called her that, for perhaps she wouldn’t like it.
“We must make the hole large enough for your mother,” said Mr. Woodchuck to Winkie. “It will take some little time.”
“I’ll help!” offered Blunk, and, as he was a strong woodchuck boy, his father told Blunk to come up in place of Winkie and use his paws. Of course girl woodchucks can dig burrows fully as well as the woodchuck boys can, but there was no need as yet for Blinkie, Winkie, and Mrs. Woodchuck to work at the digging when there was room for only two to work and there were two “men” in the burrow. And Blunk was beginning to think of himself as almost a man woodchuck.
Now and again, as Blunk and his father dug to make larger the hole Winkie had discovered, there came that rumbling sound, like far-off thunder. Farmer Tottle was still blasting.
But the woodchucks were some distance from it now, and no more lumps of earth fell on them. With their paws Mr. Woodchuck and Blunk dug away, throwing the dirt behind them. By this time Mrs. Woodchuck and the two girl Woodchucks had set to work thrusting the dirt to one side so they would have room to get out when the time came.
At last the hole was made large enough, and Mr. Woodchuck could thrust his head out. He looked all around, sniffed to see if he could smell danger, listened with both his ears, and then called down to the others:
“Come on! It’s all right! Thanks to Winkie, we are now getting out of our stopped-up burrow, though I thought we never should.”
“Let the children go up first,” said Mrs. Woodchuck. And Winkie, having found the way, was the first to follow her father outside the underground house, through the extra hole that had been dug.
“Why, it’s black night!” cried Winkie, as she scrambled out beside Mr. Woodchuck.
“Yes, it’s dark, so much the better for us,” said Mr. Woodchuck. “That farmer and his dog won’t see us.”
Night had come while the woodchucks dug to free themselves from the caved-in burrow.
Up came Blinkie, and then Blunk.
“Now, Mother, it’s your turn!” called Mr. Woodchuck down the hole.
Up scrambled Mrs. Woodchuck. Large as Blunk and his father had made the opening, it was hardly large enough for fat Mrs. Woodchuck, and she grunted as she pushed her way through it. Then she came to a sudden stop, half-way.
“Come on!” cried her husband. “Come, mother! We must get away from here and find a new home.”
“I—I can’t!” panted Mrs. Woodchuck. “I can’t come any farther, Nib!”
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because I’m stuck! I—I didn’t know I was so—so stout!”
“Here, children!” cried Mr. Woodchuck. “Catch hold of your mother by her front paws and give her a pull. We’ll have to help her out of the hole.”
By pulling and hauling, they managed to get Mrs. Woodchuck up and out. Then the little animal family stood together outside the new hole that had been dug. Down below them was their burrow, no longer of any use, for the two door holes had been closed by the fall of rocks and earth, caused by Mr. Tottle’s blasting.
“Well, we haven’t any home now,” said Mrs. Woodchuck, giving herself a little shake to get rid of the dirt that clung to her fur.
“What shall we do?” Blunk asked sadly.
“Make a new home, of course!” answered his father cheerfully.
“But where can we stay to-night?” Blinkie wanted to know.
“Oh, we shall do very well!” replied Mrs. Woodchuck. “This is the warm summer time, and we really don’t need an underground house now. We can stay in a hollow log in the woods.”
“What is the woods?” asked Winkie. Though the woodland trees grew not far from the burrow house, Winkie had never been in the forest.
“Come with your mother and me and we’ll show you,” her father answered. “Follow me!”
By pulling and hauling they managed to get Mrs. Woodchuck up and out.
Though it was dark, the other woodchucks could see well enough to follow Mr. Woodchuck. He led them across the field where Mr. Tottle had been blasting that day. But now the farmer was asleep in bed, and his dog was asleep also. There was no one to see the escape of the woodchucks.
Through the clover field they went, stopping long enough to eat as much as they wanted, for they were hungry. Then Mr. Woodchuck ducked under a fence, the others followed, and soon they found themselves in a darker, silent place, where the moon did not shine and where the stars did not glitter.
“What place is this?” asked Winkie, in a whisper. She was just a bit afraid.
“This is the woods,” her father answered. “We shall be safe in the dark, silent woods. Now we’ll curl up in the warm, dry leaves and go to sleep. In the morning we’ll find a hollow log, and you can see what the woods are like, Winkie.”
Though she did not know it then, Winkie was to have many adventures in these woods and the country roundabout.
WINKIE MEETS DON
Tired by their hard work in making their way out of their burrow, and weary with the journey to the woods, Winkie, Blinkie, and Blunk slept rather late the next morning. Father and Mother Woodchuck were up and astir early, however, rustling around among the dried leaves.
“How do you like it here, Mrs. Woodchuck?” asked her husband in a whisper, for he did not want to awaken the children.
“Of course,” answered his wife, “it isn’t as nice as the burrow we had to leave. But it will do very well for the summer. I think it will be very pleasant, if you think it will be safe.”
“It will be safe enough,” declared Mr. Woodchuck. “We can hide in the leaves and hollow logs if danger comes. And we are not far from the clover field. Besides, there is plenty of bark here to gnaw.”
“Yes, there is plenty of bark,” agreed Mrs. Woodchuck, looking around at the trees, through which the morning sun was just beginning to shine. Woodchucks sometimes eat bark, you know, as well as clover. “Yes, there is plenty of bark,” said Winkie’s mother again. “And I had rather eat the bark of a tree than listen to the bark of a dog,” she added, smiling as she made this little joke.
Mr. Woodchuck smiled, too—that is, as much as woodchucks ever smile—and he felt happy. When his wife made little jokes this way he knew that she, too, was happy. Really, you could hardly have blamed the woodchucks for being unhappy, when they had to get out of their underground house in the way they did.
“Yes, I think we shall like it here in the woods,” proceeded the woodchuck lady. “But of course it would never do for winter.”
“Oh, my, no!” agreed her husband. “When winter comes we will dig ourselves a new burrow.”
Just then Winkie awakened and cried out in some fear:
“Oh, where am I?”
“Hush, Winkie! You’re all right!” her mother called. “We are in our new home—in the woods. You’ll like it very much!”
“Oh!” murmured the wily woodchuck girl. “I was dreaming, Mother, that I was playing tag with Blunk, and he tickled me.”
“Well, these leaves are tickling me!” cried Brother Blunk, who just then awakened.
They all laughed at this, and at Winkie’s dream, and after they had washed themselves they were ready for breakfast. I don’t mean to say that the woodchucks went to a bathroom and washed their faces and paws or took a bath as you do when you get up in the morning. At least, as you wash your faces and hands or take a bath.
But I am sure you have all seen a cat wash its face; and though the woodchucks did not cleanse themselves in just this way, they made their ruffled fur smooth and sleek before they ate their breakfast.
After a few nibbles at the bark of some trees, which they liked very much, the woodchucks went over to the edge of the woods near the clover field. There they ate some green leaves and red blossoms.
All at once they saw a flash of fire and a puff of smoke, and they heard that rumbling sound which had so frightened them before.
“Look out!” cried Mr. Woodchuck.
But there was no danger to the woodchucks now, even though Farmer Tottle was again blasting stumps and rocks in his field. The woodchucks, however, were afraid, and back toward the woods they ran. And as they did not keep together, but scattered, it happened that, after the first frightened rush, Winkie found herself running along alone.
It was the first time Winkie had ever been in the woods, and the first time she had ever been anywhere alone. Always, except perhaps when very near the burrow, she had been with her brother or sister, or father or mother. Now, as she ran along, she looked on either side, she peered amid the trees and under the bushes and saw—no one! No Blinkie, no Blunk, no father, no mother!
“Oh, where are you?” cried Winkie, in woodchuck language, of course. “Where are you all?”
But so frightened were the other woodchucks that they had scurried here and there, one running this way and the other that way until they were widely separated. Neither Blinkie nor Blunk, neither father nor mother was within sound of Winkie’s voice.
“Oh, what is going to happen to me?” cried poor Winkie. “What is going to happen?”
If she had been a real little girl, instead of an animal one, Winkie might have cried, for she was lost for the first time in her life, and away from father, mother, brother and sister. I believe almost any of you little girls, and probably a good many of the boys, would have cried.
But Winkie was a brave little woodchuck girl, and she was also wily, which, as I have told you, means smart and cunning.
“No, I’m not going to cry!” said Winkie to herself. “If I cry, and make a blubbery noise, some of the farmer’s dogs may hear me and chase me. Or maybe a fox will hear me. I’m going to keep still and see if I can’t find Blinkie and the others.”
So saying, Winkie came to a stop in the midst of her mad, frightened rush amid the dried leaves. She became very quiet, listened and looked about her. At first she could hear nothing but the beating of her own little, frightened heart and the whispering of the wind among the trees. This last sound came to Winkie’s ears as rather friendly. She was beginning to like it in the big woods.
“Perhaps nothing will harm me here,” she said to herself. “And I may have adventures, such as my father and mother have told me about having had when they were younger.”
Thinking thus made Winkie feel better. She was not so frightened. Though she no longer ran on as fast as when she had heard the distant blast set off by Farmer Tottle, she still kept running.
“For,” she said to herself, “I want to find my father and mother if I can.”
So Winkie’s wanderings were all done toward the end of finding her family again, and the adventures came in between, so to speak.
After her run Winkie began to feel a bit thirsty, as most wild animals do when they journey fast through the woods or fields. The wily little woodchuck looked about for some water to drink. Winkie could smell water as you smell cookies baking in your mother’s oven, and it did not take the ground-hog girl long to reach a little stream. She was thirstily drinking when, all of a sudden, she heard a noise.
She stopped drinking, and looked across the little brook. There she saw, sitting on the opposite bank, a brown animal, not very much different from herself, except as to the tail. This animal had a broad, flat tail, marked in scales like those of a fish, while the tail of Winkie was round and covered with fur. And, as she looked, somehow or other Winkie did not feel that this strange animal would harm her.
“Who are you?” asked Winkie.
“I am Toto,” was the answer.
“You aren’t a woodchuck, I know,” said Winkie. “Are you a muskrat?”
“No. But I can swim under water,” answered Toto. “I am the bustling beaver, if you please. And who are you?”
“Oh, I am Winkie, the wily woodchuck, and I’m lost!” came the answer. “Why do they call you a bustling beaver? Have you seen any of my family?”
“My! You are very fond of asking questions!” laughed Toto. “But I will do my best to answer you. I am a beaver, because I was born a beaver, that’s all I can tell you about that.
“But the reason I am called ‘bustling’ is because I am such a fast worker. I bustle about, digging canals, making dams, cutting down trees, and all such work as that. And I’ll soon have to run along and help build a new dam we beavers are putting across the brook.”
“What’s a dam?” asked Winkie.
“There you go again! Asking more questions!” laughed Toto. “Well, a dam is a lot of sticks, stones, and grass piled across a stream to make it stop running away. Then the water makes a big pond back of the dam, and in that pond of deep water we beavers build our homes. With our teeth we gnaw down big trees so they will fall across the brook to help in making the dam.”
“My! I should say you were bustling!” exclaimed Winkie. “But in all your bustling about have you seen Blinkie, Blunk, or my father or mother?”
“More questions!” laughed Toto, the beaver. “No,” he answered, after taking another drink of water from the brook, “I haven’t seen them, I am sorry to say. Are they lost?”
Then Winkie told of the blasting, how the Woodchuck family had been shut up in the burrow, how she had found a way out and how they had all separated, much frightened, when the big noise came again that morning.
“You certainly have had a lot of trouble,” agreed Toto. “I wish I could help you, but I must now bustle back to my work—we beavers are very busy animals. However, if I see any of your family I’ll tell them where to find you.”
“Please do,” begged Winkie, as Toto hastened along. The beaver waddled off a little way, moving in a queer fashion, for beavers are rather awkward on land, though very swift in swimming.
Then Toto came to a stop. He turned and looked at Winkie.
“I say,” asked Toto, “were you ever in a book, Winkie?”
“Book? No, I never was in a book,” answered Winkie. “What is a book?”
“I’ve been in one,” went on Toto. “I haven’t time to tell you about it now. Maybe I will some other day. Good-bye, Winkie. I’m glad I met you!”
“Good-bye,” echoed the wily woodchuck. She felt a bit lonesome when Toto was gone. “I wonder what a book is,” murmured Winkie, as she walked along after she had lapped up all the water she wanted. “Toto said book. I wish I knew what a book is!” And she spoke aloud this time.
“A book! Ha! I can tell you what a book is!” suddenly exclaimed another voice. “Come over here and I’ll tell you all about a book. I have been put in one!”
Winkie looked through the trees, and what she saw made her heart beat faster than it ever had before.
“Oh, it’s a dog!” she gasped. “One of the farmer’s big dogs! Oh, this is the end of me! Oh, I must run!”
Away leaped Winkie. The dog ran after her barking and shouting:
“Don’t run! Don’t be afraid! I’m only Don! I’m Don, the runaway dog, but I don’t run away any more, and I won’t hurt you. Wait! I want to tell you what a book is!”
WINKIE IN A STORM
Winkie, the wily woodchuck, was so frightened at the sight of the dog—even more frightened than she had been at the distant blasting explosion—that she ran on and on through the woods, scarcely looking where she was going. Racing in this way, not keeping watch, caused Winkie to bump into a tree full tilt!
Bang! she slammed against it, so hard that she was thrown down and lay, for a moment, stunned amid the leaves.
It was a good thing that Don was a kind dog, and not a savage one belonging to Farmer Tottle. And it is also a good thing Don was not a wolf or a fox. For had he been either of these he could easily have caught Winkie in his teeth when she fell back, stunned by her crash into the tree.
But Don did not do this thing. Instead, he went gently up to Winkie as she lay amid the leaves, smelled her fur, and barked in a low tone.
“Oh, please don’t bite me! Please don’t!” begged Winkie.
“Bite you? Nonsense! I never thought of such a thing!” cried Don. “Why did you run away?”
“Because you chased me,” answered Winkie, her heart not beating so fast now, when she found that nothing had yet happened to her. She was so plump and so covered with fur that running into the tree had not done her any more harm than to knock her breath from her for a moment or two.
“How foolish! I didn’t chase you!” declared Don. “I was just running after you to tell you what a book is.”
“What is a book?” asked Winkie, and Don told her as well as he could for a dog who couldn’t himself read.
“A book,” he barked, “is a sort of long story of adventures.”
“I know what adventures are,” said Winkie. “They’re things that happen to you.”
“Yes,” agreed Don. “And you have had an adventure this morning.”
“You mean all our family getting lost?” asked Winkie.
“I didn’t hear about that,” said Don. “But that’s an adventure too. No, I meant running away from me and bumping into a tree. That was an adventure.”
Caused Winkie to bump into a tree full tilt!
“Not a very pleasant one,” remarked Winkie, smiling.
“Oh, well, there are all sorts of adventures,” said Don. “I have had very many, and they have been put into a book about me, just as have those of Toto, the bustling beaver, about whom I heard you speaking.”
“Have you had adventures?” asked Winkie.
“I should say I have!” barked Don. “Say,” he went on, “did you ever meet Squinty, the comical pig?”
“No, I never did,” answered Winkie. “Who is he?”
“Oh, a jolly chap. Did you ever meet Slicko, the jumping squirrel?”
“No, not that I know of. Where is Slicko?”
“Somewhere in these woods, I think. You’ll probably meet Slicko sooner or later. And then there is Mappo, and there’s Tum Tum.”
“Who are they?”
“Animals who have had adventures and been put in books,” answered Don. “Mappo is a merry monkey, and Tum Tum is a jolly elephant. I hope you meet them some day.”
“I hope so, too,” said Winkie. “But just now I should like to meet my father and mother and Blinkie and Blunk. Have you seen them?”
“No, I am sorry to say I have not,” answered Don. “But don’t worry, you may find them, also. And I’m sure you will have lots of adventures. You are sort of running away, you know.”
“Yes, I ran away from that big noise,” admitted Winkie. “But what has that to do with it?”
“Running away always brings adventures,” answered Don. “At least it did to me. I was once a runaway dog. But I was glad to get back again, and I am very happy now.”
“Are you one of the farmer’s dogs that barked at my father and mother?” asked Winkie.
“No,” replied Don. “I never bark at woodchucks. I like them, and so does my master, who is very kind. But some men don’t like you ground-hogs, and they are always sending their dogs after you. They also set traps—those men do.”
“What are traps?” asked Winkie.
“Ha! There you go again—more questions!” chuckled the dog. “Well, I can tell you one thing—traps are very good things to keep out of. Once I caught my paw in a trap, and I was lame for a month after it. Keep away from traps, Winkie!”
“I’ll try!” promised the wily woodchuck. But she did not know what was soon going to happen to her.
So much talk seemed to make Winkie hungry, and, seeing some grass growing under a tree, she began to nibble the green blades.
“Why don’t you eat something,” she asked Don. “This grass is very sweet and good.”
“Thank you; but we dogs don’t eat grass,” Don answered. “That is unless we take it as medicine when we aren’t feeling well. But I feel fine now—I don’t need grass, but I would like a juicy bone. And speaking of bones makes me hungry. I think I’ll trot to my kennel and get a bone.”
“What’s a kennel?” asked Winkie.
“My! I never knew any one to ask as many questions as you, unless it might be Mappo, the merry monkey,” barked Don. “A kennel is a house in which I live.”
“We call our house a burrow,” said Winkie. “Only we haven’t any now.”
“It wouldn’t do for all of us to live in the same kind of houses,” Don said. “I’d feel rather silly in a nest, and yet a nest is a home for a bird. Well, I’m going to trot along, Winkie. I hope I shall see you soon again.”
“I hope so too,” murmured Winkie, who knew that she was going to be lonely when Don went away.
Don started off, wagging his tail in a friendly farewell to Winkie. She was watching him and did not notice where she was walking until, all of a sudden, she felt herself falling into a hole with a lot of leaves and sticks.
“Oh! Oh!” cried Winkie. “Help me, Don! I’m in a trap!”
With a bark Don bounded back, and, with his paws, he helped Winkie up out of the hole.
“That wasn’t a trap,” he said. “You can’t get out of traps as easily as that. You just fell into a hole where once there was a stump or stone. The hole was covered with dried leaves and you didn’t see it, I guess.
“Some traps are like that, and others are like a box that shut you up tight. Other traps have strong, sharp teeth that snap shut on your leg. That’s the kind of trap I was once in.”
“I hope nothing like that happens to me!” sighed Winkie, and Don hoped the same.
“Now I must go,” said the dog, when he found the little woodchuck girl was all right. “See you later! Good-bye!” And soon he was lost to sight among the trees.
Poor Winkie felt very lonely now, for, having talked to Toto, the beaver, and to Don, the dog, she began to have a very friendly feeling for these animals.
But she was a brave little thing, as well as wily and smart, and she began to feel that she must look after herself now, since it might be many days before she would find her family in the big woods.
Sitting down and crying about things never makes them any better, and Winkie was not going to do this. Instead she felt that she must find some place to stay during the night, which she knew would come when the sun went down.
“But first I am going to see if I can’t find my family,” thought Winkie. “There’s no sense in giving up so soon. I’ll make believe we have been playing hide-and-seek and I’ve got to find them so I won’t be it.”
She had often played this game, and it was not hard to imagine she was doing it again. On through the woods she wandered, now and then stopping to listen or to call. She cried the names of Blinkie and Blunk as loudly as she could, and also shouted for her father and mother.
But the only answers she heard were the sighing of the wind in the trees, the murmur of the brooks as they flowed over the green, mossy stones, and the songs of the birds. To the birds Winkie spoke, for she could talk their language, and she asked them if they had seen anything of her father, mother, Blinkie or Blunk.
“You birds fly high above the trees,” said Winkie, “and you can look down and see many things I can not see. Please help me look for my people.”
“We will!” sang the birds. So they flew here and there, peering down through the tree branches. But they did not get a glimpse of any of the woodchucks. For, truth to tell, the other four ground-hogs had run away at the time Winkie had, and now they were all scattered. Blinkie, Blunk and Mr. and Mrs. Woodchuck were separated one far from the other, and as much lost as was Winkie herself.
Later on the four woodchucks found each other and made a new home for themselves, but Winkie did not know this for a long time, and not until after she had had many adventures about which I must tell you.
For several days Winkie wandered through the woods, all alone except that once or twice she met Toto, and again, she spied Don. But the dog was walking with his master and he did not come near Winkie. For this the woodchuck girl was glad, for she was afraid of men, even of one as kind as Don’s master seemed to be.
Look as the fluttering birds did, they found no trace of Winkie’s relatives, and they told the woodchuck girl this.
One day, as Winkie was wandering about, she suddenly heard a noise in the bushes. She was going to run and hide, thinking it might be a wolf or a fox, when a jolly voice grunted:
“Don’t be afraid, little ground-hog girl, I won’t hurt you!”
“Who are you?” asked Winkie.
“Squinty, the comical pig,” was the answer.
“Oh, I have heard Don speak of you,” said Winkie, as the pig came rooting his way through the underbrush.
“Yes, Don and I are friends,” Squinty replied. “But you had better find a good place to stay to-night, Winkie.”
“Why?” asked the wily woodchuck.
“Because there is going to be a big storm,” was the pig’s answer. “I am going back to my pen. I really oughtn’t to have come out, but I get tired of staying shut up so much, and, once in a while, I root my way out with my rubbery nose. But I’m going back now before I am caught in the storm, and you, also, had better find a place of shelter.”
“Thank you; I’ll look for one,” said Winkie.
She went on a little farther, after bidding good-bye to Squinty. All at once, she heard a sound in a tree over her head.
“Oh,” cried Winkie, “is that one of the birds come to tell me he has found my family?”
“No, I’m not a bird,” was the answer; “though I stay in the trees a great deal of the time. I am Slicko, the jumping squirrel. I know you, Winkie. Don told me about you. Have you a good place to stay this night?”
“No, I have no home,” sadly answered Winkie.
“Then you had better stay in this hollow tree,” said Slicko kindly, pointing to one near by. “There is going to be a big storm, and you will be frightened if you are out in it. I can always tell when a storm is coming, hours before it gets here.”
“That’s what Squinty said,” remarked Winkie.
“Oh, do you know that comical pig?” asked the jumping squirrel. “Isn’t he funny?”
“I don’t know him very well. I just met him,” answered the wily woodchuck. “But he seemed very kind. And thank you for telling me about the hollow tree.”
“Don’t mention it!” chattered the squirrel. “We animals must be kind to one another. I hope you’ll rest well. I have my nest higher up in this same tree.”
“Then we shall be company for each other in the night,” said Winkie.
She found the hollow tree to which Slicko had pointed. Inside were some dried leaves, which would make a soft bed for the woodchuck girl. When night came Winkie crawled in and went to bed, and up higher in the tree she could see Slicko crawling into a hole where the squirrel’s nest was made.
Winkie slept very well the first part of the night, even though the wind sighed and moaned among the trees. Then, all of a sudden, she was awakened by a great flash of light and a loud crashing sound.
“Oh! Oh!” cried Winkie. “The farmer and his dogs are after us again! He’s going to shut us up in the burrow again!”
“No, this is no farmer!” chattered Slicko. “This is a big storm, with thunder, lightning and rain! I’m afraid this tree will blow down! Look out, Winkie!”
Before Winkie could crawl out of her bed of leaves in the lower hollow place there was another blinding flash of light and a great thundering sound, following by a cracking noise.
“Oh, the tree is struck! The tree is falling!” cried Slicko. “Save yourself, Winkie!”
A moment later the wily woodchuck found herself tossed out into the storm.
WINKIE IN A TRAP
Slicko, the jumping squirrel, had told the truth about the storm. The tree, in the upper part of which the squirrel had a nest and in a lower hollow part of which Winkie had been sleeping, was struck by lightning, and broken down.
But neither of the animals, nor some birds nesting under the leaves of the tree, was hurt by the lightning, though all were stunned by it for a moment. The birds fluttered into other trees, glad to hide themselves under the leaves as much out of the rain as they could get. Slicko, feeling the tree falling, had leaped safely into another.
And what happened to poor Winkie?
At first the wily woodchuck hardly knew what was taking place. She had been awakened so suddenly by the storm, with its lightning, thunder, wind, and rain, that she was dazed.
But she heard what Slicko said, and she knew enough to jump when she felt the tree going over, so she was not caught under it and pinned down, as sometimes happens to beavers in the woods.
“Where are you? Where can I get in out of the rain?” called Winkie to Slicko. But either she could not make her voice heard above the storm, or else Slicko was too far away to hear. I think it was a little of both.
At any rate Winkie stood for a moment beside the fallen, split tree that had been a sort of “hotel” for her during the first part of the night. But the warm leaf-lined nest where she had so cozily cuddled was no more. And as she felt the rain falling on her and heard the noise of the storm, Winkie knew she must get under some kind of shelter.
Winkie, like most wild animals, could see pretty well in the dark, so she walked along.
Every now and then a flash of lightning came, and this showed her still better which way to go. She did not need to keep on any path. She could wander where she wished. And, really, the rain did her little harm, for this was summer. If it had been winter, with a rain that froze as fast as it fell, that would have been very sad indeed. Winkie wore a coat of fur, and though this was wet through, she knew it would soon dry in the sun.
She looked about her for a hollow tree, but could find none. Then she spied a hole under some rocks, and in another moment she had crawled into this little den, away from the wind and the rain. In the hole were dried leaves, and cuddling up in these Winkie soon began to feel warm again.
Outside the rain splashed down, the wind lashed the branches of the trees, breaking some off and tossing them to the ground, the thunder roared, and the lightning flashed. But, safe in the little cave she had found, Winkie, the wily woodchuck, soon went to sleep again.
So, after all, Winkie came through the storm with nothing worse than a fright and a wetting. Of course she missed Slicko, for when morning came and the warm sun shone once more, there was no sign of the jumping squirrel.
“Slicko! Slicko! Where are you?” called Winkie, as she came out of the little cave.
“Slicko has gone away!” chirped a bird. “I saw Slicko scampering off through the tree tops long before the sun was up.”
“Well, then I shall have to get a new friend,” said Winkie. “Have you seen any of my family?” she asked the bird.
“No, I am sorry to say I have not,” was the answer. “I have only been in these woods a short time. I came just before the storm, and I met Slicko only by chance. I can’t tell you anything about your family.”
“Then I shall have to travel on and try to find them,” said Winkie. “But first I must get something to eat.”
This was easy for the woodchuck girl. She did not have to go to the store, nor yet wait for a meal to be cooked or a table set. Eating was very easy for her.
All she had to do was to look about for some grass or something green growing, and for some bark to gnaw. Winkie did not really care as much about bark as did Toto the beaver, for ground-hogs live mainly on clover, grass, and other soft plants. But when a woodchuck is hungry, as Winkie was, it will eat almost anything in the vegetable line.
“I’d like to find some turnips, carrots, or cabbage,” she thought to herself, for woodchucks are very fond of these, and that is one reason why farmers do not like woodchucks. “But I don’t see any around here,” went on Winkie.
Indeed there was no garden near the woods, and after eating what she could find in the forest and on the edge of it, Winkie started off to look for more adventures.
Of course, she really didn’t especially look for them, nor did she know she was going to have them, but adventures happened to her, and some of them were not very pleasant.
The woods were washed clean by the storm, and now the day was warm and sunny. The birds sang, many animals scurried here and there between the trees and under the bushes, and Winkie was one of them.
Now and then she would hear some large animal moving in the bushes, and at such times Winkie would crouch down and hide, for she feared a wolf, a fox or a dog might be coming after her.
“I shouldn’t mind meeting Don, or even Tum Tum, the jolly elephant, he told about,” thought Winkie. “But I don’t want to meet any strange dogs.”
Don, however, was far away, as was Tum Tum. So Winkie had to wander along by herself. All day she roamed through the woods, now and then stopping to give a sort of whistle, which is one way woodchucks have of talking. Again she would also chatter her teeth with a rattling sound, as owls clatter their beaks. This is another way woodchucks have of speaking to one another.
But to all Winkie’s calls there came no answer from any of her family. She did not see Blinkie nor Blunk, and her father and mother might have been a hundred miles away for all she knew.
Once, indeed, she met another woodchuck, a fat, lazy old man of a ground-hog, and at first Winkie thought he might be her grandfather. But he was not, and this woodchuck knew nothing of Winkie’s family.
“But I can tell you where to get a good meal of clover,” said the lazy old ground-hog.
“Where?” eagerly asked Winkie.
“Go straight along the way you are headed, and on the edge of the woods you will see a field,” was the answer. “Crawl under the fence and you’ll find some clover.”
Winkie thanked him, and waddled on. She found the clover just where she had been told it would be and ate her fill. She ate so much she felt sleepy, and about sunset she curled up in a hollow log and slept all night.
When morning came Winkie started on her travels again. By this time she was getting rather used to wandering around alone. Not that she liked it, but it was the best she could do. She would have been very glad to have had a game of tag with Blinkie or Blunk, but this was not to happen for a long time.
That noon Winkie found a field where a farmer was raising some carrots, and, as she saw no man in sight, and no dogs, and did not hear any dogs barking, Winkie went into the field, dug up some carrots, and ate them. It was because of this that, a few days later, something dreadful happened to Winkie.
For she liked the carrots so much that she looked for more everywhere she went. One day Winkie, who was very hungry at the time, saw another carrot—a large yellow one—in a fence corner.
“Some one must have left this carrot here specially for me!” thought Winkie. “How kind of him!”
Winkie was not quite as wily and smart then as she ought to have been, for if she had only known it, this carrot was placed where it was as a bait. But Winkie did not know this. Up she went quite boldly, and reached out to take the carrot.
A moment later she heard a clicking sound, and something closed with a snap on her left hind leg. She felt a great pain in it, and tried to run away.
But Winkie could not run! She was caught fast in a trap! The carrot had been placed there just for that—to trap some animal—and Winkie was caught!
WINKIE’S NEW HOME
Just as soon as Winkie felt the pain in her leg, a hard pinching and pulling, she knew what had happened just as well as if her mother had told her.
“I’m in a trap!” cried the girl woodchuck, who was not as wily now as she ought to have been. “I’m in a trap! Oh, dear! What shall I do?”
She had often heard her father and mother talk of animals being caught in traps. Some traps were of one kind and some of another. Winkie was glad this was not a box trap, shutting her away from the air and sunlight. She was glad it was not a bear trap with sharp teeth, like those of a saw, for they would have cut her leg and caused it to bleed.
This trap was just a common, spring one, with smooth jaws, and though it pinched Winkie very much, and held her so fast that she could not pull her leg loose, she was not cut.
“I must run away!” thought poor Winkie. “I must run away and take this trap with me. Then, maybe, when I am in a safe place, I can pull my leg out! Oh, how it pinches! I wish I had never tried to get the carrot!”
The little woodchuck no longer thought of the yellow carrot which was placed near the trap. She seemed to have got over her hunger because of the pain in her leg.
“Yes, I must run away and take this trap with me!” thought Winkie.
But that was easier said than done. As Winkie tried to walk away, with the spring trap still fast to her leg, she was suddenly stopped with a jerk that gave her another pain. She almost fell down, and she had to cry “Ouch!” Of course, in the way woodchucks say it.
Then she looked and found there was a chain attached to the trap, and the other end of the chain was fast to a big log. If Winkie should walk away with the trap, she would also have to drag the log with her. And this was more than the little woodchuck girl could do.
“Oh dear! Oh dear!” thought poor Winkie, lying down on the soft grass near the trap. “This is dreadful!”
And indeed it was! It was worse than the blasting in the field which had closed the door holes of the burrow house. It was worse than Farmer Tottle and his dog. It was worse than the big storm when the tree in which Winkie was sleeping had been struck by lightning.
“Oh, what shall I do?” sighed poor Winkie.
Well, there was little she could do. She again tried to pull her leg out of the trap, but it would not move, and the pain each time she tried made her chatter her teeth and whistle. Then she tried to pull the trap loose from the log to which it was chained. But she could not do that, either.
“Oh, I shall have to stay here forever!” thought poor Winkie. “I never can get loose! I shall never see Blinkie nor Blunk again, nor my father and mother! Oh dear!”
Winkie looked at the carrot which was the cause of all her troubles. Even yet she did not feel hungry enough to nibble it, though just before she had stepped into the trap she had been very anxious for some vegetable.
“I must do something!” thought Winkie. “I can’t stay here forever.”
She was just going to tug again at the trap and chain when, all of a sudden, she heard a noise. It was a whistling sound, almost like that which woodchucks make. For one happy moment Winkie thought it might be her father or mother coming to set her free. But a moment later, as the whistling became louder, Winkie saw coming toward her a boy. It was the boy who was whistling.
On he came, trilling a merry air. Well might he whistle! He was caught in no trap that pinched his leg!
Suddenly the boy caught sight of Winkie, the wily woodchuck.
“Oh, ho!” he cried. “I’ve caught a ground-hog! I’ve caught a woodchuck in my trap! My, but I’m lucky!”
Of course Winkie could not understand what the boy said, but if she thought anything at all she must have thought that she was very unlucky.
“It’s a nice fat woodchuck, too!” exclaimed Larry Dawson, which was the boy’s name. “It isn’t hurt, either. I’m glad it’s a smooth trap and not one with teeth! I set it to catch a skunk, but it caught a woodchuck instead. I guess she isn’t hurt much. A woodchuck’s fur isn’t any good, like a skunk’s. But I’ll take this ground-hog home, and maybe I can tame her and teach her tricks.”
If Winkie could have understood all the boy said she would not have been so afraid of him, for Larry was a kind boy and gave no needless pain to animals. But the woodchuck did not understand, and when Larry came closer, intending to loose her from the trap, she crouched down, showed her sharp, biting teeth, and squealed and chattered.
“Oh, ho! You’re going to be ugly, are you?” exclaimed the boy. “Well, I can’t blame you. It isn’t any fun to be caught in a trap. I wouldn’t like it myself, and I’ll take you out if you don’t bite me.” For Larry knew that woodchucks can bite very severely when they are caught and when they fear they are in danger.
“I’ll go and get a bag to carry you in,” said Larry, still speaking aloud, as though Winkie could understand him. “I’ll get a bag, and then take you home. My sister Alice will like you. We’ll teach you tricks after we tame you. Wait here while I go for a bag!”
There really wasn’t any need of telling Winkie to “wait there.” She couldn’t get loose. And of course she remained until Larry came back. He had gone to his father’s barn and gotten a strong bag in which feed came for the horses.
Dropping this bag over Winkie, who was now more frightened than ever, Larry reached in from the outside, the strong bag keeping Winkie from biting, though she tried to do this, and soon the boy had loosened the spring and taken the trap off the woodchuck’s leg.
“Oh, how good it feels not to be pinched any more!” thought Winkie. “Oh, how good it feels!”
And she curled up in the bottom of the bag, as Larry slung it over his shoulder, and closed her eyes, for she felt so much better than she had in the trap.
“I wonder what is going to happen to me?” thought Winkie.
She was going to have more adventures, though she did not know it just then.
Across the fields went Larry, carrying the wily woodchuck in the bag over his shoulder. Winkie did not mind the bouncing, for the pain in her leg, where the trap had pinched her, was growing less now.
“Oh, Larry, what have you got?” cried his sister Alice, as he reached the house.
“A woodchuck,” the boy answered. “She was in my skunk trap.”
“Is she dead?” asked Alice.
“No, she’s very much alive,” replied Larry. “Don’t go near the bag or she may bite you. We’ll tame her, and she’ll do tricks for us. Get me a piece of cord, Alice, and I’ll tie this bag up. Then the woodchuck can’t get out until I build a pen for her.”
“Oh, are you going to do that?” asked Alice.
“Yes, I’ll make a strong pen, so she can’t get out. You’ll help me, won’t you? After she’s been in the pen a while, and we feed her every day, she’ll get used to us and grow tame. Then we can teach her some tricks.”
“Oh, that will be fun!” cried Alice.
The cord which Alice brought was tied around the neck of the bag, so that the woodchuck could not get out, though she tried to do this as soon as Larry set the bag down on the ground.
“Oh, we have you safe!” exclaimed the boy, as he saw the form of the ground-hog scurrying about inside the bag. “But we’ll soon give you a better place than that to live in. Come on, Alice, we’ll make a woodchuck pen!”
The brother and sister hammered away, nailing boards together, and soon the pen was finished. Larry took the bag, loosed the string, and held the open end of the bag over the pen. Out toppled Winkie, her eyes blinking on account of being so suddenly thrust into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the bag.
The first thing Winkie did, after tumbling from the bag, was to stand very still, crouching on the ground. Then she looked about for a way of escape. In one corner of the pen she saw a square black hole.
“Maybe that’s a burrow door,” thought Winkie. “If I can run down that I’ll be safe.”
She waddled over to the square black hole, and went through it. But she only found herself inside a small box, with no way out.
“Oh, she went into her bedroom!” laughed Alice, clapping her hands. “I guess she’s sleepy!”
“I guess she thought she could get out that way,” said Larry. “But she can’t. That inside box is for her to sleep in, but she can’t get out that way.”
And, to Winkie’s sorrow, she could not. She was fast in a pen which was to be her new home. The woodchuck remained inside the inner box for a little while, seeking some hole through which she might crawl. But when she saw none she came out into the open pen again.
The pen Larry and Alice had made, which was to be Winkie’s new home, was really a large box set on the ground. It had a bottom to it, and four sides, but no top. In place of the box cover Larry had put on some strong chicken wire. Winkie could not push her way up through this wire, nor could she bite it, though she had very strong teeth for gnawing bark and nipping clover.
In one corner of the larger box Larry and Alice had set a smaller box, with wooden sides and a wooden top. There was a square hole for a door in this smaller box, and this was Winkie’s bedroom.
Out toppled Winkie.
“You’re safe here now, little woodchuck!” said Larry. “I’m going to feed you and then teach you tricks when you get tame.”
“Maybe she wants a drink of water,” suggested Alice.
“Yes, I guess she does,” said Larry. “I’ll get some for her.”
When a basin of water was set down inside the pen the woodchuck was so thirsty that she began to drink at once. The boy and girl laughed to see her drink.
“She’s getting tame already,” said Alice.
“Well, sort of beginning,” agreed Larry. “Now I’ll get her something to eat. But I guess I’d better bait that trap with something besides carrot if I want to catch a skunk. I guess skunks don’t like carrots, for none has come near the trap since I set it.”
Larry was right. Skunks are not carrot-eating animals, though they may take a nibble now and then if they are very hungry.
The children had started to get something for Winkie to eat when, all at once, there came a noise which was a dreadful sound to the ground-hog.
It was the barking of a dog!
WINKIE LEARNS TRICKS
Though Winkie had never been very close to any dog except Don, the wily woodchuck knew the bark of this dog meant danger. It is this way with many wild animals, and even with your cat, perhaps, which is not so wild as a woodchuck.
Little kittens, if they are brought up with dogs from their earliest days, may not be afraid of Rover or Towser, whom they know. But they may be afraid of a strange dog. However, almost any cat will arch up its back, hiss and, if it gets a chance, will run away from almost any dog. It was the same with Winkie, though she did not arch her back nor fluff out her tail—woodchucks don’t do that. But Winkie tried to run away as soon as she heard the bark of the dog.
Only she could not get out of the pen. But she did run and hide in her sleeping box, which was partly filled with hay.
“Oh, here comes Buster!” exclaimed Alice. “Don’t let Buster get the woodchuck!”
“No, indeed!” cried Larry. “Uncle Elias’s dog shan’t get my woodchuck!”
“I thought you said she was part my woodchuck,” observed Alice.
“Yes, that’s so. You may have half,” agreed Larry. “Go on back, Buster! Go away!” shouted Larry, as a big dog came bounding into the yard, barking and wagging his tail, for he was glad to see the children, and often played with them, being a friendly dog except toward wild things.
All at once Buster stopped barking and stopped wagging his tail. He stood still, his nose pointed toward the pen, and he began to sniff. He had caught the wild smell of the woodchuck, even though he could not see Winkie, who was hiding in her sleeping chamber.
Then Buster growled, away down in his throat, and came nearer the pen. Alice ran to get in front of the dog, and again Larry cried:
“Go on away, Buster!”
Just then Uncle Elias Tottle, who was a brother of Larry and Alice’s mother—being, in fact the children’s uncle—came along. He saw the boy and girl standing near the pen, and he heard his dog growling.
“What’s the matter with Buster? What have you youngsters got there?” asked Uncle Elias, in rather a harsh voice. He had no children of his own, and owned the farm next to that of Mr. Dawson, who was the father of Larry and Alice. “What have you in that box that makes Buster growl?” demanded Uncle Elias Tottle.
“I have a woodchuck,” answered Larry. “I caught her in my skunk trap. But she isn’t hurt. I’m going to tame her.”
“We’re going to teach her tricks,” added Alice.
“Huh! Woodchuck!” cried Uncle Elias. “The pesky creatures! If I had my way they’d all be shot or trapped. They eat my clover. I saw some of ’em eating it the other day.”
If he had only known it, Winkie was one of those very woodchucks! But Uncle Elias didn’t know.
“Woodchuck!” he exclaimed. “Eating up everything a poor farmer can raise! I’ll kill that woodchuck of yours if I catch her out!”
“Well, you won’t catch her, for we aren’t going to let her out,” said Alice, and she and her brother felt bad because of the harsh words of Uncle Elias.
It is true, in some places, that woodchucks do harm when they are very numerous, and farmers don’t like them. But Larry and Alice did not see what harm poor little Winkie could do, especially if they kept her shut up in a pen.
“Look here!” said Uncle Elias at last. “Will you sell me that woodchuck for a dollar, Larry?”
“A dollar?” repeated the boy.
“Yes, I’ll give you a dollar for her,” went on Uncle Elias, putting his hand in his pocket.
Larry shook his head.
“I want my woodchuck,” said the boy.
“And she’s half mine,” broke in Alice. “Even if Larry would sell his half, I wouldn’t sell my half! So there, Uncle Elias!”
“Huh!” grunted the farmer, who was a hard and sometimes a cruel man.
“What do you want of a woodchuck, Uncle Elias?” asked Larry. “Do you want one to teach tricks to? If you do I’ll try to catch one for you in my trap.”
“Nonsense! As if I’d try to teach a woodchuck tricks!” snorted the old man, while his dog sniffed and snuffed at the wild smell and Winkie cowered down in her dark box. “If I had that ground-hog of yours—which I’m willing to pay a dollar for”—went on Mr. Tottle, “I’d turn her loose and set Buster on her! Woodchucks are no good!”
“Well, you aren’t going to get this one!” said Larry.
“I guess not!” exclaimed Alice. “I love my woodchuck!”
“Huh!” snorted Uncle Elias. “Come on, Buster!” he called to his dog. “This isn’t any place for us! We don’t like woodchucks!”
Then, to the relief of Larry and Alice, their cruel-hearted uncle went away, followed by Buster. The dog, however, did not want to go. He growled and whined as he sniffed toward the woodchuck’s pen. Had poor Winkie been outside and if Buster had chased her there would not have been much left of her.
“The idea!” exclaimed Alice, when Mr. Tottle was gone. “To want to kill our woodchuck!”
“I wouldn’t sell her for two dollars—no, not for five!” cried Larry. “When we teach her tricks maybe we can put her in a circus!”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful!” cried Alice, clapping her hands. “Let’s start teaching her tricks right away. But what shall we name our woodchuck?”
“Yes, we must think of a name,” agreed Larry.
Just then Winkie, no longer hearing the barking of the dog, poked her head out of the square hole in the smaller box, into which she had gone to hide. Coming out of the dark, as she did, made Winkie’s eyes open and shut until they became used to the glare of the sun. Larry and his sister, watching their new pet, saw her eyes winking this way.
“Oh, I know what to call her!” cried Alice.
“What?” asked her brother.
“Winkie!” replied the little girl. “See her wink!”
“Yes, Winkie will be a good name,” agreed Larry.
And so Winkie was given by the children the same name the father and mother of the little ground-hog had given her when she lived in the burrow.
“Come here, Winkie! Come here!” called Alice.
Winkie remained with her head out of the bedroom, but she did not come to the side of the larger, outside pen, near which Alice stood.
“I guess Winkie is a little afraid,” said Larry. “I’ll get her something to eat. That will make her tame quicker than anything else.”
Out to the barn ran Larry, and soon he came back with some yellow carrots. He cut off little pieces of them and tossed them into the pen through the open meshes of the chicken wire on top.
At first Winkie was a bit timid about taking these chunks of carrot. But they smelled so good, and she was so hungry, that she at last ventured to nibble one. Then, finding no harm came to her, she grew bold and took more. She limped a little on the leg that had been caught in the trap, but it was quickly getting over its soreness.
“Oh, isn’t Winkie cute!” cried Alice, as she watched the woodchuck eat.
“Yes,” agreed Larry. “And I want to teach her soon to eat out of my hand.”
“We want to be careful that she doesn’t bite us,” said his sister. “See what sharp teeth she has.”
Indeed Winkie had very sharp teeth and Larry knew this.
“I’ll be careful!” he said.
For two or three days Winkie would not take any food from Larry’s hand or that of Alice. But she grew bolder when she saw that the boy and his sister meant to be kind, and one day, about a week after being caught and put in the pen, Winkie took a piece of carrot right from Larry’s fingers.
“Oh, she’s getting tame! She’s getting tame!” cried the boy. “Now I can teach her some tricks!”
“Let me feed her!” begged Alice. And the little girl was delighted when Winkie took some pieces of carrot from her fingers.
It was several days longer before either Larry or his sister dared reach in to stroke Winkie’s fur. The first time this was tried Winkie scurried back into her sleeping box as though Buster were after her. But the next time she was not so timid, and soon the little woodchuck came to know that the children intended no harm.
“Though why they want to fuss over me and rub me is more than I can tell,” thought Winkie to herself. “I wish I had some one to talk animal talk to—Squinty, the pig, or Slicko, the squirrel. Or even Tum Tum, the elephant. I wish he were here!”
Winkie had never seen an elephant like Tum Tum, and of course she did not know how large elephants are.
Tum Tum could hardly have gotten more than one of his big feet in Winkie’s pen!
One day Larry came running into the house much excited.
“Oh, you ought to see!” he cried. “You ought to see Winkie!”
“Has she gotten out?” asked Alice.
“No, but I’ve taught her a trick. She’ll sit up on her hind legs and beg like a dog! Come and see!”
Alice followed her brother out to the yard where Winkie’s pen had been built. Larry took off some of the top wire.
“She’ll get away!” cried Alice.
“No, she won’t,” said Larry. “Winkie is tame now, and won’t run away. I’ve taught her a trick! She’ll sit up and beg! Look!”
Taking the woodchuck out of her cage—and Winkie did not try to bite Larry now—the boy stood her on the ground. Then, holding a piece of turnip in front of the ground-hog, the boy exclaimed:
“Sit up, Winkie! Sit up!”
Slowly, because she was now very fat, Winkie sat up on her hind quarters. This is easy for woodchucks to do, since they often sit that way outside their burrows to watch for danger.
“Look! She’s begging!” laughed Larry. “And here’s your piece of turnip!” he added. “Isn’t that a good trick, Alice?”
“A lovely one! I wish I could teach Winkie some tricks!”
“Maybe you can,” said Larry. “Here, see if she’ll beg for you.” And Winkie, who was standing with all four feet on the ground, again stood up as Alice held out a bit of carrot and told her to “beg!”
“I don’t know why they want me to do that,” thought Winkie. “But they give me something to eat each time after it, so I may as well do what they want.”
Once again Winkie rose up on her haunches, and she looked very cute when she did that. Larry and Alice laughed to see her.
“But one trick isn’t enough,” Larry said. “We must teach her another.”
“What one?” asked Alice.
“We’ll teach her to lie down and roll over,” said the boy.
It took nearly a week to get Winkie to understand this trick, which, though no harder than the other, was quite different. But at last Winkie got to the point where she would lie on her back and roll over like a dog whenever Larry or Alice told her to. And of course each time the trick was done Winkie was given something good to eat.
One day, when Larry and Alice came home from school, they ran out toward the woodchuck pen, for Larry had said he was going to teach Winkie a new trick. As brother and sister neared the pen they heard the loud barking of a dog, and the frightened whistling and teeth-clattering of the little ground-hog.
“Oh, Buster is trying to get Winkie!” cried Larry, dropping his books and rushing toward the pen.
WINKIE IS IN DANGER
Alice followed her brother, also dropping her books on the path that led around the house. What did a few school books matter when Winkie, the wily woodchuck, was in danger?
And that’s just what Winkie was—in great danger. Buster, the big dog belonging to Uncle Elias Tottle, had come over, all by himself, and was trying to tear some boards off the pen so that he might get in at Winkie.
“Here! Get away from there, Buster!” cried Larry.
“Go away! Go away, you bad dog!” shrieked Alice.
Buster had not expected to see the children, and when they came running around the corner of the house the dog was evidently surprised. He stopped barking at once and his tail dropped between his legs, as always happens with dogs when they are caught doing something they ought not to do.
And this is what had happened to Buster. Finding nothing special to do at the farm of Mr. Tottle, Buster had wandered over the fields to the home of Larry and Alice. Buster had not been over to see the children for some time, and he may have forgotten all about the woodchuck in a pen in the back yard.
But Buster had no sooner come close to the yard than the wind blew to him the wild smell of Winkie, for, like most animals, Winkie had a wild smell about her, and a dog’s nose is very keen for smelling.
“Oh, ho!” thought Buster to himself, in a way dogs have of thinking. “That woodchuck! I forgot all about her! Guess I’ll go and tease her, as I haven’t anything else to do!”
With a loud bark Buster made his way into the yard. As it happened, Mrs. Dawson was not home just then, or she would have driven Buster away. But the children’s mother had gone to call on a neighbor, and Buster had everything his own way.
“Now I’ll get you!” cried the dog in animal language, as he made a dash against Winkie’s pen.
“Stop! Stop! Go on away! Let me alone!” begged Winkie, whistling and chattering her teeth, because she was so frightened.
“Oh, I’m not going to hurt you! I’m just going to chase you out of that pen and make you run!” said Buster. “I like to chase rabbits and other wild animals. I won’t bite you. I just want to chase you! Come on out!”
“No! No! I’m not coming out!” declared Winkie. “You aren’t nice like Don!”
“Pooh! I wouldn’t be a dog like Don—afraid to chase a rabbit or a squirrel!” sneered Buster. “I’m going to chase you, and if you don’t come out I’ll make you!”
“No, I’m not coming out!” chattered Winkie, and she ran into her sleeping box to hide in the hay.
“I’ll break open your pen and chase you out!” barked Buster. And the dog was trying to do this when Larry and Alice came home from school.
“Make Buster go away, Larry!” half sobbed Alice. “He won’t go for me! Oh, Buster, go away!”
“I’ll make him!” cried Larry, and he stooped over as if to pick up a stone or a stick. I don’t believe that Larry would really have stoned Buster, or have struck him with a stick, any more than I believe Buster would have bitten Winkie. But the boy knew he had to do something to make Buster run away, and pretending to pick up a stone was one of the best ways.
She came out of her pen and did her tricks.
Away ran Buster, with his tail between his legs, giving a little howl as he ran, as much as to say:
“Don’t throw anything at me! I was only in fun!”
But this was the kind of fun Larry didn’t want Buster to have with the woodchuck, and it was time the dog learned this.
“Is Winkie all right?” asked Alice, as Larry looked into the pen.
“Yes, I guess Buster didn’t do any more than scare her,” the boy answered. And indeed poor Winkie’s heart was beating very fast, for she was dreadfully frightened.
But when she saw Larry and Alice, and heard the kind voices of the children, and smelled the sweet carrot pieces they brought her, Winkie was no longer frightened. She came out of her pen when Larry opened the door, and did her tricks for the boy and his sister.
“It’s a good thing Buster didn’t open the pen door,” said Alice, as she stroked Winkie’s head. “What are we going to do, Larry? If we leave Winkie in her pen, Buster may come over to-morrow when we’re at school and bite her.”
“I’m going to get daddy to speak to Uncle Elias about his dog,” said the boy. “I like Buster, and he’s a good dog; but we can’t have him chasing over here and scaring our woodchuck. I’m going to make him stop.”
That night Mr. Dawson spoke to his brother-in-law about Buster, telling the farmer how the dog had nearly caught the woodchuck.
“I wish Buster really had caught that ground-hog!” exclaimed the uncle. “Woodchucks are a nuisance. They spoil my clover crop. A lot of ’em had burrows in my meadow. But I plowed the place up, and I blasted out a lot of rocks and stumps and now the pesky creatures have cleared out.”
“I should think they would,” said Mr. Dawson. “I hope none of them were killed.”
“I wish they were all killed!” snarled Mr. Tottle. “And if your children will sell their woodchuck for two dollars I’ll buy her and let Buster chase her.”
“I don’t believe Larry and Alice will sell Winkie,” said Mr. Dawson.
Mr. Tottle came to them the next day and offered two dollars for Winkie.
“Let me take her,” said Uncle Elias with a grin, “and you’ll never have to bother to feed her again.”
“Oh, but we like to feed her,” said Alice.
One day Uncle Elias came over to the Dawson home very much excited.
“There! What did I tell you!” he cried. “A lot of my clover’s been spoiled by your woodchuck!”
“It couldn’t be by Winkie,” said Larry, who was just then making his pet do some of her tricks. “She hasn’t been out of her pen for a week, except just in our yard. She couldn’t have taken any of your clover!”
“Well, some pesky ground-hog did!” stormed the farmer. “And I’m going to pay ’em back!”
“Oh, what are you going to do?” asked Alice.
“Never you mind!” snapped her uncle. “But I’ll fix these woodchucks!”
He hurried away, muttering to himself. That night Winkie was in danger again. After ten o’clock, when it was quite dark, Elias Tottle left his home and with a big club in his hand walked across the field toward the home of his sister, where Winkie slept in her pen.
“I’ll fix that woodchuck!” muttered Mr. Tottle to himself. “I’ll fix her!”
WINKIE GETS OUT
That night, for some reason or other, Alice could not sleep. She had played in the evening with her brother, after they had put Winkie through some of her tricks. Then the wily woodchuck had curled up in her nest of hay in the smaller box, and Alice and Larry had studied their lessons and gone to bed.
But Alice could not sleep. She tossed restlessly from one side of the bed to the other, and, all the while, she could not help thinking of Winkie.
“I hope Buster doesn’t come over in the night and break into her pen,” thought Alice. “And I hope Uncle Elias does nothing to her! Poor Winkie! I would rather turn her back into the woods than have anything happen to her!”
Alice tried to keep Winkie out of her mind, but, try as she did, the little girl kept thinking of the pet ground-hog.
“If anything should happen to Winkie,” said Alice over and over again to herself, “I—I’d cry—that’s what I’d do!”
And, almost before she knew it, some tears came out of the blue eyes of Alice and wet the pillow on which her head rested.
“Oh dear! Oh dear!” thought Winkie’s little mistress. “What am I going to do? I feel so bad about Winkie! I—I’d almost rather have her get out than to have Uncle Elias buy her, even for ten dollars, and sic Buster after her.
“And maybe Buster will come in the night,” thought Alice again, her ideas chasing one another around in her poor little tired head as if playing tag. “Or maybe Uncle Elias might come over and—and do something to Winkie!”
This was too much for Alice to bear. She sat up in bed, and a new idea came to her. Carefully she listened. There was not a sound in the house, for all the family had gone to bed rather early. And then, as she listened, Alice thought she heard, faint and far off, the barking of Buster.
It may have been some dog barking on a distant farm, or it may have been Buster. Alice was sure it was. And then, in her fancy, she heard Winkie’s whistle.
“And she’s chattering her teeth, too!” said Alice half aloud.
She really thought she heard this, and perhaps she did.
“I know what I’m going to do!” said Alice at last. “I’m going down the back stairs, out into the yard, and I’m going to let Winkie run out! I shan’t have Buster chase her or Uncle Elias do anything to her. I’m going to let Winkie go back to the woods.”
Alice swung her bare feet over the edge of her bed. She listened again, but there was not a sound in the house. Even the distant barking of the dog had stopped.
“But maybe he stopped because he’s running over here to get Winkie!” thought Alice. “I must hurry down!”
The early part of the evening had been dark, but now the moon had risen, and, shining in the windows, gave light enough for the little girl to see her way. Softly in her bare feet, clad only in her night dress, she pattered down the back stairs.
It was an easy matter to open the back door and go down the rear steps. Her bare feet made scarcely any sound, and the boards of the walk were warm and dry from the day’s sun.
“Ouch!” Alice could not help exclaiming, as she stepped off the boards into the grass. It was cool and damp to her bare feet, but she minded it but for a moment. Then, stopping a second or two to get used to the tickling feeling of the grass, she went on.
Winkie’s pen was plainly seen in the moonlight. Alice walked over toward it, and if any one had been looking then they might have thought the little girl, in her night dress, was some good fairy floating on a moonbeam to help Winkie.
And that, really, is what Alice was. She stooped down and began to fumble with the catch of the door in the side of the pen. The children had cut a little door hole and had hung a board on for a door, swinging it on leather hinges. They had done this so Winkie could easily come out to do her tricks.
As soon as Alice touched the pen Winkie was awake, and, with a little low whistle of greeting, the wily woodchuck came out of her small sleeping box to see what was going on.
“Oh, Winkie!” half sobbed Alice, putting in her hand and patting her pet, “I’m so afraid something will happen to you that I’m going to open your door and let you go. I hope you will be happy. I’d never be happy if Buster caught you or if Uncle Elias did anything to you. So I’m going to let you go, Winkie.”
Of course Winkie did not understand this talk, but the woodchuck knew when any one was kind to her, and Alice was certainly kind. Alice gave Winkie a final pat, stroked her fur, and then, leaving the door open, Alice ran back into the house, softly pattering in her bare feet over the grass and boards.
“Good-bye, Winkie, good-bye!” whispered the little girl, as she closed the back door, went upstairs, and jumped into bed, nobody having heard her.
Then, almost as soon as her head touched the pillow, Alice fell asleep. Her mind was now at rest about Winkie.
But now let us see what happened to the wily woodchuck. It did not take Winkie long to notice the open door. She knew in what part of her pen it was, for she often went in and out when doing her tricks. And now, in the moonlight, the open door plainly showed.
“I guess they want me to go out,” thought Winkie. “Some more of that funny business, I suppose, rolling over and sitting up. Well, I don’t mind, for they give me good things to eat.”
But when Winkie reached the outside of her pen neither Larry nor Alice was in sight, for Alice had gone back to bed and Larry had not gotten up.
“Why—why, it looks as if I could run away!” was the sudden thought that came into the woodchuck’s mind. “Yes, I can run away. I can go back to the woods and maybe find my family! Oh, how lovely that will be!”
So away ran Winkie in the moonlight. She was only partly tame, and even animals that have been in captivity a long time, and have come to love their masters very much, will run away and turn wild again if they get the chance.
Winkie’s chance had come.
Perhaps for an instant she felt sad at leaving the pen that had come to be her home, and she may have felt sorry at going away from Larry and Alice, who had fed her and been good to her. But this thought lasted only a moment, and then Winkie scudded away.
What new adventures would she have?
WINKIE FINDS HER FOLKS
Out of the yard, over the brook, and across the meadow hurried Winkie, as fast as her fat little body could waddle. Woodchucks, especially when they are fat from much eating, are not very fast travelers, and Winkie could not go very rapidly. Besides, she was in no great hurry. She did not think any danger would come to her in this beautiful, moonlight night.
But danger was near!
As Winkie waddled along she suddenly heard a tramping noise. It was the noise of heavy boots on the ground. Winkie knew footsteps when she heard them, for she had listened to those of Larry and Alice running home from school every day to feed her. But these footfalls were big and heavy.
“Maybe this is a farmer coming with a dog!” thought Winkie. “I guess I’d better hide!”
And hide she did, under a bush. It was well she did so, for, a little later, along came Uncle Elias with a big club in his hand. Uncle Elias walked as softly as he could as he neared the house of his sister, in the yard of which he knew was Winkie’s pen.
“I’ll fix that woodchuck!” muttered the man. “It’s all right for children to have pets, but let ’em get a dog or a cat that doesn’t eat clover and gnaw vegetables. Woodchucks are pesky creatures! I’ll soon put an end to this one.”
Mr. Tottle came to the fence, paused to look up at the house, and, seeing it was all in darkness, he climbed over and walked softly toward Winkie’s pen. It was a good thing Alice had been down and gone back again, or she might have been frightened by the big figure of a man stalking through the moonlight, with a club in his hand.
And perhaps if Uncle Elias had seen the white-robed figure floating over the grass in the moonlight he might have thought it was a fairy. But then, he didn’t believe in fairies.
“Now you pesky woodchuck, this is the end of you!” fiercely exclaimed Uncle Elias, as he reached the pen and raised his club.
But what a surprise for him! The door of the pen was open and there was no woodchuck to be seen!
“Gone!” gasped Mr. Tottle. “That pesky creature’s gone! I guess she broke out and has gone over to my clover field. I’ll fix her!”
Away he strode, muttering to himself. Back over the fence he climbed, and, had he but known it, he passed close to Winkie’s hiding place. But the wily woodchuck crouched down in the grass and neither moved nor made a sound.
Uncle Elias tramped on his way, muttering about “pesky creatures” over to his own clover patch. He thought he might find Winkie, or some other woodchucks, eating his crops. But he saw none, and that seemed to make him more angry, for he had tramped around in the night for nothing.
“But I’ll get that ground-hog when she comes back to her cage,” he muttered. “I will, or I’ll sic Buster on her!”
Uncle Elias angrily tossed his club on the wood pile and went to bed. Meanwhile Winkie, waiting until his tramping feet had gone away, came out of her hiding place.
“Now for something good to eat!” thought the little woodchuck.
She was always ready to eat, and, somehow or other, the grass she now nibbled tasted sweeter than any she had ever chewed in her pen. It was almost as good as carrots. Perhaps it was because Winkie was free.
On through the night wandered the little ground-hog girl. She did not know which way she was going—she did not care as long as no dogs, wolves or foxes chased her. She ate some more, and then, finding a hollow log, she curled up in it and went to sleep.
Winkie awakened before daylight, and crawled out. She felt that she must be on her way again.
“I want to find my folks,” she said wistfully. She was getting tired of going about by herself, and even when she had been with Larry and Alice she had longed for a game of tag with Blinkie and Blunk.
Wandering on, Winkie came to a farmhouse. Though she did not know it, this was the place where Uncle Elias lived. But the cross man was asleep now, and so was Buster, curled up in the straw of his kennel.
“I smell something very good!” suddenly whispered Winkie to herself. “It smells like carrots and turnips and other good things!”
She sat up on her haunches, as Larry had taught her to do, a trick she would have learned by herself, anyhow, and again she sniffed. The good smell came from a side porch of the farmhouse, and, going softly up the steps, Winkie saw and smelled some baskets of vegetables.
“Oh!” thought the little woodchuck. “Some one must have known I was coming and they left these here for me! Oh, how good they are!”
She stood up and gnawed the potatoes, cabbages, turnips and carrots in the basket, eating her fill. And even a small woodchuck has a large appetite. Winkie ate so much she could hardly waddle, and then she went off into the wood a little distance, lay down in another hollow log, and went to sleep.
Daylight came. Uncle Elias came downstairs early, for he was going to take a load of vegetables to the city. He had packed them in baskets the night before and set them on the side porch. As he went to load them into his wagon he gave an angry cry.
“Look here! Look here!” he shouted. “Some pesky woodchuck has been here and sampled all my vegetables! Look here!”
“Oh, a woodchuck would hardly come right up to the house,” said his wife.
“But this one did!” cried Mr. Tottle. “I know the mark of a ground-hog’s teeth. And look, here are paw marks in the dirt! Yes, a woodchuck has been here. And I know which one it was!”
“Which one?” asked Mrs. Tottle.
“The pesky creature Larry and Alice keep for a pet! I was over last night—I mean I’m going over now,” and Uncle Elias corrected himself quickly. “I’m going over now and make ’em get rid of it!”
Winkie ate so much she could hardly waddle.
Over to his sister’s house he hurried.
“Look here!” he stormed. “You’ve got to get rid of your woodchuck! She chewed up a lot of my best vegetables. Where is she? I’m going to get rid of her!”
He went out to the pen, followed by Alice and Larry. Alice said nothing, but Larry was crying and saying that if Uncle Elias did anything to Winkie, Larry would tell his father.
But Winkie was not in her pen! The door was open as Alice had left it.
“She—she’s gone!” gasped Larry. “Our Winkie is gone!”
“I knew she got out, because she was over at my place!” said Uncle Elias. “I was here—I mean I’m here now to see that she doesn’t get out again. She came over in the night and ate my best vegetables. I thought she’d be back here by now.”
“No, Winkie isn’t here,” said Alice. “And I—I’m glad of it, Uncle Elias!” she said bravely.
“Oh, you are, are you!” snorted the unkind man. “Well, when she comes back I’ll fix her.”
“Maybe she’ll never come back,” said Larry sadly. “I wonder how she got out? I fastened the door last night.”
Alice knew, and later on she told Larry. She didn’t want Buster or Uncle Elias to catch the woodchuck. And the angry farmer or the big dog never did.
After her fine feast of the vegetables belonging to Uncle Elias, Winkie slept until nearly noon. Then she awakened in the hollow tree, stretched herself and walked out.
There were woods not far away, and Winkie, feeling thirsty, thought she might find a brook there.
“But I must be careful to keep out of traps,” she thought to herself. “The next one I get caught in may not be as easy on me as the one Larry set.”
Carefully Winkie made her way through the woods. As she was drinking she heard a noise on the other side of the brook. Looking up she saw Toto, the beaver.
“Hello, Winkie!” called the bustling chap, who was floating a little log of wood into a canal he had dug. “Say, where have you been, Winkie?” Toto asked.
“Oh, lots of places,” answered the woodchuck. “The last place I was in was a pen, but a little girl let me out. Why do you ask?”
“Because some new woodchucks, who have just come to these woods to live, have been asking for you.”
“Asking for me?” cried Winkie.
“Yes, there was a girl woodchuck named Blinkie and——”
“That’s my sister!” cried Winkie.
“And a boy woodchuck named Blunk!”
“He’s my brother!” cried Winkie. “Oh, where are they? And are my father and mother with Blinkie and Blunk?”
“Well, there are four woodchucks living not far from our beaver dam,” said Toto. “They just moved there last week. They said they had been driven out of their burrow by a big noise, and then, when they were all walking along together to find a new home, they heard another big noise, and they separated. The four of them came together some time later, but the fifth one was lost.”
“I am that fifth one!” cried Winkie.
“I’m beginning to think so!” chuckled Toto. “Come, and I’ll take you to the other woodchucks!”
He led the way. Winkie saw a big pile of grass, sticks, stones, and mud across a pond of water. This was the beaver dam. A little distance off was a smaller pile of dirt near a hole in the side of a hill.
“That’s where the new woodchuck family lives,” said Toto, pointing with his flat tail.
Winkie hurried over. She saw a woodchuck come to the edge of the burrow and look out.
“Oh, Blinkie! Here I am!” shouted Winkie. “Don’t you know me? I’ve come back. Here I am!”
The woodchuck at the edge of the burrow gave a whistle and a chatter. Three other ground-hogs came rushing out.
“Winkie! It’s my Winkie!” cried Mrs. Woodchuck.
“Oh, Mother!” sobbed Winkie. “How glad I am to be home again! Oh, such adventures as I’ve had! But now I’m home!”
Winkie had found her folks again! And she lived happily with them until, as a grown-up woodchuck, she went away to make her own home in her own burrow.