“They are just washing their faces and hands, ready for breakfast,” answered the muskrat nurse. “They will soon be out.”
Sure enough, in a little while the two bunny children came running out.
“Oh, what a lovely day!” cried Susie Littletail, and she wrinkled up her nose, and made it go very fast, almost as fast as an automobile or a motorcycle. “Doesn’t it smell fine?” she asked her brother, and she took a good, long breath.
“It smells just like spring,” answered Sammie. “The wind is nice and warm, there are lots more birds around than there were, and the grass is getting greener and greener every minute,” and he turned a somersault, he felt so glad that summer was coming.
“Ha! Ha! Ha!” exclaimed Uncle Wiggily, three times, just like that. “Now I know what makes me feel so fine. It is because spring is here. We must get ready to boil maple sugar.”
“What is maple sugar?” asked Susie.
“What? I am surprised at you!” exclaimed Sammie. “Maple sugar is that brown, sweet stuff you buy in the store, and in the winter you eat it on your pancakes, or you can shave it up and put it on hot rice, or you can put it on fritters. That is what maple sugar is.”
“Exactly,” went on Uncle Wiggily, and he stretched the leg with the rheumatism in so that it hardly hurt him a bit. “Well, children, we are going to make some maple sugar. Come with me, and I will show you how. Jane Fuzzy-Wuzzy, we shall have to ask you to help us. We need your sharp teeth to gnaw a hole in the tree.”
So Uncle Wiggily, Sammie, Susie and Nurse Jane Fuzzy-Wuzzy went off into the woods. Oh, it was a beautiful day, and in some places the tiny green leaves on the trees were just beginning to show through the brown buds.
“Just think,” said Uncle Wiggily, as they walked along. “It will soon be Easter. And, oh! what a lot of work we rabbits will have then, with all the eggs to look after. For, you see, rabbits always have to take charge of the Easter eggs, but of course you know that.”
So the rabbits and the muskrat nurse kept on through the woods, leaving Papa and Mamma Littletail at home in the burrow.
Uncle Wiggily walked on ahead, and pretty soon he came to a tree, where he stopped.
“This is a maple tree,” he said, “and we will get some juice from it to make maple sugar, so as to have it ready for Easter. Jane Fuzzy-Wuzzy, will you kindly bite a hole in that tree?”
“Of course I will,” answered the muskrat, so she stood up on her hind legs, and gnawed a little hole in the tree. Then Uncle Wiggily took a stem of last year’s goldenrod, that was hollow, and put it in the hole. Pretty soon, what should happen but that some juice, like water, began running out of that tree right through the hollow stem.
“That is maple sap,” said the old rabbit, “and when we boil it we shall have maple sugar. Susie, you get an old tin can to catch the sap in, and Sammie, you build a fire to boil it over.”