This was just the place for a rabbit nest. Mother Wa-poose could squat anywhere in the pile and her brown coat would blend with the dead brush so perfectly that only the keenest eye could see her. No hawk or owl could swoop through such a tangle of vines and brush, and no fox or dog could creep through the close-set hedge of thorny blackberry bushes without losing a good deal of his hide.
Through the thicket Mother Wa-poose cut two or three paths just wide enough for herself, but not big enough for a dog or a fox. In the middle of the brush pile, she dug a little round hollow about a foot across and lined it with coarse grass. On the top of this she placed another lining of finer grass. Then she filled the hollow quite full of soft fur from her own coat. No bird’s nest could be cosier or safer. To be sure, it was on the ground, but the land sloped and no water could settle into it.
One day as little Luke was passing by the brush pile, his keen eye saw Mother Wa-poose. “There,” said he to himself, “is just the place for a rabbit’s nest. I’ll take a look at Mother Wa-poose’s babies.”
So he got down on his hands and knees, pulled the bushes apart, and crept into the thicket. He saw the nest, but could not get quite to it because of the sharp thorns on the blackberry bushes.
“Good morning, Man-cub,” said Mother Wa-poose.
“Good morning, Mother Wa-poose,” said little Luke; “don’t be afraid, I only want to take a look at your babies.”
“Oh, I’m not afraid,” said Mother Wa-poose. “None of us are afraid of you any more. Look all you want to. But don’t come any nearer. I am afraid you will open a path for Kee-wuk the Red Fox, or for Old Boze the Hound. Both of them have been around here several times. They know that I and my babies are here, but they can’t get in. Old Boze tried it the other day, but went back to the house with a pair of bloody ears for his pains.”
“Yes, I noticed his ears,” said little Luke, “and wondered what he had been up to.”
The little boy sat down as comfortably as he could and looked at Mother Wa-poose and her babies.
“Mother Wa-poose,” said he after a while, “what makes you wriggle your nose so?”
“Oh,” said Mother Wa-poose, “I do that to keep my smeller clear. You see we have so many enemies that we have to be on the watch all the time, and I can smell a fox or a dog almost as far as I can see them. You see I always sit with my nose to the wind, and my ears in the other direction. My nose tells me who is coming in front; my ears tell me who is coming from behind; and my eyes keep watch on both sides. I sleep most of the day, but my eyes, my ears, and my nose are always awake. Why, I knew you were coming almost half an hour ago. My nose told me. It is only in such a place as this that my three sentinels ever get any rest.
“When I haven’t any babies to care for, I like to sit in a more open place in the sun. So long as I have a chance to run each way, I am not much afraid of anybody. And if it wasn’t for the men with their dreadful fire-sticks, we of the Wa-poose family would have a pretty safe and easy time of it.”