So off the old gentleman rabbit started, limping on his crutch, for his rheumatism was troubling him again, and at his side swung his valise, with some crackers and cheese and bread and butter and jam in it—plenty of jam, too, let me tell you, for the red squirrel’s mamma could make lovely preserves, and this was carrot jam, with turnip frosting on it.
Well, Uncle Wiggily traveled on and on, over the hills and through the deep woods, and pretty soon he came to a place where he saw a lot of little black ants trying to carry to their nest a nice big piece of meat that some one had dropped.
“My, how hard those ants are working,” thought the rabbit. “But that meat is too heavy for them. I’ll have to help carry it.”
Now the piece of meat was only as big as a quarter of a small cocoanut, but, of course, that’s too big for an ant to carry; or even for forty-’leven ants, so Uncle Wiggily kindly lifted it for them, and put it in their nest.
“Thank you very much,” said the biggest ant. “If ever we can do you a favor, or any of your friends, we will.”
The old gentleman rabbit said he was glad to hear that, and then, taking up his crutch and valise again, on he went.
Pretty soon he came to a place in the woods where the sun was shining down through the trees, and a little brook was making pretty music over the stones. And then, all at once, the old gentleman rabbit heard a different kind of music, and it was that of a little bird singing. And this is the song.
Now I did not make up this song. It is much prettier than I could write, even if I had my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes on, and I don’t know who did write it. But it used to be in my school reader when I was a little boy, and I liked it very much. I hope whoever did write it won’t mind if you sing it. This is it:
“There’s a little
brown bird sitting up in a tree,
He’s singing to you—he’s singing to me.
And what does he say, little girl—little boy?
Oh, the world’s running over with joy!”
Then the bird sang about how there were five eggs laid away up in a nest, and how, pretty soon, little birds would come out from them, and then, all of a sudden, the bird sang like this:
“But don’t meddle,—don’t
Little girl—little boy,
Or the world will lose some of its joy!”
“Ha! you seem quite happy this beautiful morning,” said Uncle Wiggily, as he paused under the tree where the bird was singing. “Why, I do declare,” he exclaimed. “If it isn’t Mrs. Wren! Well, I never in all my born days! I didn’t know you were back from the South yet.”
“Yes, Uncle Wiggily,” said the little brown wren, “I came up some time ago. But I’m real glad to see you. I’m going to take my little birdies out of the shell pretty soon. They are almost hatched.”
“Glad to hear it,” said the rabbit, politely, and then he told about seeking his fortune, and all of a sudden a great big ugly crow-bird flew down out of a tall tree and made a dash for Mrs. Wren to eat her up. But Mrs. Wren got out of the way just in time, and didn’t get caught.