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HOW CHATTERER HAD FOOLED PETER RABBIT
CHATTERER THE RED SQUIRREL is a scamp himself and not to be trusted. Nobody in the Green Forest or on the Green Meadows trusts him. And people who cannot be trusted themselves never trust any one else. Chatterer never does. He is always suspicious. So when Peter Rabbit had said good-by and started for the dear Old Briar-patch without knowing where Chatterer's new house was, Chatterer had made up his mind right away that Peter would never be satisfied until he knew, or thought he knew, where that new house was. You see, he knew all about Peter's dreadful curiosity.
He watched Peter out of sight, then he slipped down out of sight himself between the stones of the old wall. "I know what Peter will do," said he to himself. "Peter will come sneaking back, and hide where he can watch me, and so find out where my new house is. I'll just stay here long enough to give him a chance to hide, and then I'll fool him."
You see, Chatterer knew that if he had been in Peter's place, he would have done just that thing. So he waited a little while and then went back to the place where Peter had left him. There he sat and pretended to be looking in the direction in which Peter had gone, as if to make sure that Peter was really on his way home. But all the time Chatterer was watching out of the corners of his eyes to see if Peter was hiding anywhere near. He didn't see Peter, but he didn't have the least doubt that Peter was somewhere about.
After a while, he ran over to a hole between the stones of the old wall and pretended to be very busy there, just as if it really were the new house he had found. He kept popping in and out and looking around as if afraid that some one was watching him. He even got some dry leaves and took them inside, as if to make a bed. All the time, although he hadn't seen a sign of Peter, he didn't have the least doubt in the world that Peter was watching him. When he grew tired, a new idea popped into his shrewd little head. He popped out of the hole and sat up on the wall. Then he said aloud that verse which had made Peter's ears burn so. He had meant to make Peter's ears burn. 1He said that verse just as if he really did believe that Peter was not spying on him and was glad of it. When he had finished, he whisked out of sight again to give Peter a chance to get away. But this time Chatterer did some peeking himself. He hid where Peter couldn't see him, but where he himself could see both ways along the old stone wall, and so it was that he saw Peter crawl out from under the little bush where he had been hiding and sneak away in the direction of the Old Briar-patch. And he knew that this time Peter had gone for good.
Then Chatterer laughed and laughed to think how he had fooled Peter Rabbit, and wished that he could pat himself on the back for being so smart. He didn't once think of how dishonest and mean it was of Peter to spy on him, because, you see, he would have done the same thing himself. "One has to have one's wits very sharp these days to keep a secret," chuckled Chatterer.
But over in the old Briar-patch that afternoon Peter Rabbit sat very thoughtful and very much ashamed. The thought that he had found out where Chatterer's new house was didn't give him the pleasure that he had thought it would. His ears still burned, for he thought that Chatterer supposed him honest when he wasn't.
"I believe I'll go over to-morrow and tell Chatterer all about it and how mean I have been," said he at last. And when he had made up his mind to do this, he felt better.
And all the time he hadn't found Chatterer's new house at all. You see, it was the old home of Drummer the Woodpecker in an old apple-tree which Chatterer had decided to live in.