In doors things also began to look comfortable; it is true they had only three chairs and one table, but Mr. Lee had knocked together some stools and a dresser, which the children thought superior to any they had ever seen; a rack over it held their small stock of crockery, and a few hanging shelves on the wall were their book-case: cleanliness and neatness made up for the want of more and better furniture, and cheerfulness and content were at home in the humble cottage. Annie was a great help to her mother, and fast learning to be a good housewife. The poultry was her particular care, and she had already received from Mrs. Watson a cock, half a dozen hens, and two pairs of fine turkeys, with many useful directions concerning their management. She would soon perhaps have lost them all, however, if it had not been for an adventure which happened to George, and which made her very watchful of them.
He came running home one day smelling so horribly that he was perfectly intolerable, and the whole house was scented by his clothes.
“Oh, mother!” he cried, “I was playing in the wood, when I saw such a pretty animal; I thought it was a squirrel at first, or a young fox, and it seemed so tame that I ran to catch it, but it ran a little way off, and then stopped and looked back at me—at last, just when I thought I should get hold of it, it squirted all over me. Oh! it smells so nasty!”
“You may well say that, Georgy,” said his uncle; “but it was lucky it did not squirt into your eyes, or you might have been blinded for life. That was a skunk, and very likely thinking of paying a visit to the chickens when you disturbed it. It makes great havoc in a hen-roost, Annie; and I would advise you to get Tom to make yours safe.”
“That I will, this very day,” cried Tom; “but, uncle, I never heard of a skunk before; what kind of a looking thing is it?”
“Rather a pretty animal, Tom, about eighteen inches in length, with a fine bushy tail as long as its body. Its fur is dark, with a white stripe down each side. It can be easily tamed, and would serve very well as a cat in a house, were it not for the disgusting way in which it shows its anger. The fluid it squirts from under its tail will scent the whole country round. Even dogs can’t bear it.”
“I feel quite uncomfortable now from the smell of George’s clothes,” said Annie.
“The worst of it too, is, that you can’t get rid of it; no washing will take it away.”
And so it proved; for notwithstanding repeated washing and airings, that suit of George’s was so offensive that he could no longer wear it; and as everything placed near it was infected, it was at last burnt.
Tom stopped up every cranny of the hen-house which looked in the least dangerous, with such neatness and skill that his father and uncle were quite pleased.
Annie and George were watching him finish his job, when Uncle John came up with what looked like a large, green grasshopper, which he had caught on a sycamore.