Old Man Coyote had crept half-way up the hill, and Peter was wondering how much nearer he could let him get with safety, when a sudden grunting broke out right behind him. Peter knew what it meant and jumped to one side. Then down the hill, rolling straight towards Old Man Coyote, started the strange, headless, tailess, legless creature that had so frightened Reddy and Granny Fox.
Old Man Coyote took one good look, hesitated, looked again, and then turned tail and started for the Green Meadows as fast as his long legs would take him. It was plain to see that he was afraid, very much afraid. Quite suddenly he had lost his appetite.
BUSTER BEAR GIVES IT ALL AWAY
It was very clear that Old Man Coyote wasn’t thinking about his stomach just then, but about his legs and how fast they could go. He had been half-way up the hill when he first saw the terrible creature without head, tail, or legs rolling down straight at him. He stopped only long enough for one good look and then he started for the bottom of the hill as fast as he could make his legs go. Now, it is a very bad plan to run fast down-hill. Yes, Sir, it is a very bad plan. You see, once you are started, it is not the easiest thing in the world to stop. And then again, you are quite likely to stub your toes.
This is what Old Man Coyote did. He stubbed his toes and turned a complete somersault. He looked so funny that the little scamps watching him had all they could do to keep from shouting right out. Old Granny Fox and Reddy Fox, looking on from a safe distance, did laugh. You know they had not been friendly with Old Man Coyote since he came to live on the Green Meadows, and as they had themselves had a terrible fright when they first saw the strange creature, they rejoiced in seeing him frightened.
But Old Man Coyote didn’t stop for a little thing like a tumble. Oh, my, no! He just rolled over on to his feet and was off again, harder than before. Now there are very few people who can see behind them without turning their heads as Peter Rabbit can, and Old Man Coyote is not one of them. Trying to watch behind him, he didn’t see where he was going, and the first thing he knew he ran bump into—guess who! Why, Buster Bear, to be sure.
Where Buster had come from nobody knew, but there he was, as big as life. When Old Man Coyote ran into him, he growled a deep, provoked growl and whirled around with one big paw raised to cuff whoever had so nearly upset him. Old Man Coyote, more frightened than ever, yelped and ran harder than before, so that by the time Buster Bear saw who it was who had run into him, he was safely out of reach and still running.
Then it was that Buster Bear first saw, rolling down the hill, the strange creature which had so frightened Old Man Coyote. Unc’ Billy Possum, Jimmy Skunk, Sammy Jay, Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Peter, watching from safe hiding places, wondered if Buster would run too. If he did, it would be almost too good to be true. But he didn’t. He looked first at the strange creature rolling down the hill, then at Old Man Coyote running as hard as ever he could, and his shrewd little eyes began to twinkle. Then he began to laugh.