Little Joe laughed. “What’s the matter, Jerry? ’Fraid I’ll eat it all up before you get here?” he asked, as he reached out for the fish.
“Stop!” shrieked Jerry, and gave Little Joe a push, just as the latter touched the fish.
Snap! A pair of wicked steel jaws flew together and caught Little Joe Otter by a claw of one toe. If it hadn’t been for Jerry’s push, he would have been caught by a foot.
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” cried Little Joe Otter.
“Next time I guess you’ll remember what Grandfather Frog said about watching out when you find things to eat where they never were before,” said Jerry, as he helped Little Joe pull himself free from the trap. But he left the claw behind and had a dreadfully sore toe as a result. Then they buried the trap deep down in the mud and started to look for another.
All around the Smiling Pool and along the Laughing Brook their cousins and uncles and aunts and friends were just as busy, and every once in a while some one would have just as narrow an escape as Little Joe Otter. And all the time up at the farmhouse Farmer Brown’s boy was planning what he would do with the skins of the little animals he was sure he would catch in his traps.
Farmer Brown’s boy was whistling merrily as he tramped down across the Green Meadows. The Merry Little Breezes saw him coming, and they raced over to the Smiling Pool to tell Billy Mink. Farmer Brown’s boy was coming to visit his traps. He was very sure that he would find Billy Mink or Little Joe Otter, or Jerry Muskrat, or perhaps Bobby Coon.
Billy Mink was sitting on top of the Big Rock. He saw the Merry Little Breezes racing across the Green Meadows, and behind them he saw Farmer Brown’s boy. Billy Mink dived head first into the Smiling Pool. Then he swam over to Jerry Muskrat’s house and warned Jerry. Together they hunted up Little Joe Otter, and then the three little scamps in brown hid in the bulrushes, where they could watch Farmer Brown’s boy.
The first place Farmer Brown’s boy visited was Jerry Muskrat’s old log. Very cautiously he peeped over the edge of the bank. The trap was gone!
“Hurrah!” shouted Farmer Brown’s boy. He was very much excited, as he caught hold of the end of the chain, which fastened it to the old log. He was sure that at last he had caught Jerry Muskrat. When he pulled the trap up, it was empty. Between the jaws were a few hairs and a little bit of skin, which Jerry Muskrat had left there when he sprung the trap with his tail.
Farmer Brown’s boy was disappointed. “Well, I’ll get him to-morrow, anyway,” said he to himself. Then he went on to his next trap; it was nowhere to be seen. When he pulled the chain he was so excited that he trembled. The trap did not come up at once. He pulled and pulled, and then suddenly up it came, all covered with mud. In it was one little claw from Little Joe Otter. Very carefully Farmer Brown’s boy set the trap again. If he could have looked over in the bulrushes and have seen Little Joe Otter and Billy Mink and Jerry Muskrat watching him and tickling and laughing, he would not have been so sure that next time he would catch Little Joe Otter.