It was a terrible sound, fierce and hungry. Sammy Jay nearly fell from his perch. He opened his mouth to scream with fright. Then he remembered just in time and closed it without a sound. It was the hunting-cry of Hooty the Owl. Sammy Jay sat huddled in a little, forlorn, shivering heap, while twice more that fierce cry rang through the Green Forest. Then a shadow floated over the big pine-tree. Hooty the Owl had flown away without seeing him, and Sammy breathed easier.
SAMMY JAY IS GLAD HE SAT UP ALL NIGHT
Sammy Jay was having no trouble in keeping awake now. Not a bit! He couldn’t have gone to sleep if he wanted to—not since Hooty the Owl had frightened him almost out of his skin with his fierce, hungry hunting-call. He was too frightened and shivery and creepy to sleep. But he didn’t want to, anyway.
So he sat in the thickest part of the big pine-tree, shivering and creepy and miserable. He heard Bobby Coon go down the Lone Little Path on his way to Fanner Brown’s cornfield, where the corn was just beginning to get milky and sweet. Out in a patch of bright moonlight he saw Peter Rabbit jumping and dancing and having the greatest kind of a time all by himself. Pretty soon Peter was joined by his cousin, Jumper the Hare. Such antics as they did cut up! Sammy Jay almost laughed aloud as he watched. It was less lonely with them there, and he did want to call to them dreadfully. But that would never, never do, for no one must know that he was sitting up awake all night.
By and by along came Jimmy Skunk, walking out into the patch of bright moonlight. He touched noses with Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare, which is one way of saying “good evening” in the Green Forest.
“Isn’t it most time for Sammy Jay to scream in his sleep?” asked Peter Rabbit.
Sammy pricked up his ears. “Scream in his sleep! Nonsense! Sammy Jay isn’t any more asleep than I am. He just screams out of pure meanness to wake up and frighten good honest folks who want to sleep. For my part, I don’t see what any one wants to sleep for on such a fine night as this, anyway. It serves ’em right if they do get waked up,” replied Jimmy Skunk.
“But Sammy Jay says that he doesn’t do it and doesn’t know anything about it,” said Peter Rabbit. “Have you ever seen him scream in the night, Jimmy Skunk?”
“No, I don’t have to,” replied Jimmy Skunk. “I guess I know his voice when I hear it, and I’ve heard it enough times the last few nights, goodness knows! Tell me this, Peter Rabbit: who else is there that cries ’Thief! thief! thief!’ and screams like Sammy Jay?”
Peter shook his head. “I guess you’re right, Jimmy Skunk. I guess you’re right,” he said.
“Of course I’m right. There, now!” Jimmy held up one hand to warn Peter to keep still. Sure enough, there was Sammy Jay’s voice, way over in the alders beside the Laughing Brook, and it was screaming “Thief! thief! thief!”