“I won’t!” said Fatty. “I’m going to stay here just as long as I please.”
The words were hardly out of his mouth when he gave a sharp squeal, as if something hurt him. And he tried to pull his tail out of the hole. He wanted to get it out now. But alas! it would not come! It was caught fast! And the harder Fatty pulled the more it hurt him.
“Go out and see what’s the matter!” he cried to Blackie.
But Blackie wouldn’t stir. He was afraid to leave the shelter of the hollow tree.
“It may be a bear that has hold of your tail,” he told Fatty. And somehow, that idea made Fatty tremble all over.
“Oh, dear! oh, dear!” he wailed. “What shall I do? Oh! whatever shall I do?” He began to cry. And Blackie cried too. How Fatty wished that his mother was there to tell him what to do!
But he knew of no way to fetch her. Even if she were at home she could never hear him calling from inside the tree. So Fatty gave up all hope of her helping.
“Please, Mr. Bear, let go of my tail!” he cried, when he could stand the pain no longer.
The only answer that came was a low growl, which frightened Fatty and Blackie more than ever. And then, just as they both began to howl at the top of their voices Fatty’s tail was suddenly freed. He was pulling on it so hard that he fell all in a heap on the floor of the barber-shop. And that surprised him.
But he was still more surprised when he heard his mother say—
“Stop crying and come out—both of you!” Fatty and Blackie scrambled out of the hollow sycamore. Fatty looked all around. But there was no bear to be seen anywhere—no one but his mother.
“Did you frighten the bear away, Mother?” he asked.
“There was no bear,” Mrs. Coon told him. “And it’s lucky for you that there wasn’t. I saw your tail sticking out of this tree and I thought I would teach you a lesson. Now, don’t ever do such a foolish thing again. Just think what a fix you would have been in if Johnnie Green had come along. He could have caught you just as easily as anything.”
Fatty Coon was so glad to be free once more that he promised to be good forever after. And he was just as good as any little coon could be—all the rest of that day.
FATTY VISITS THE SMOKE-HOUSE
The winter was fast going. And one fine day in February Fatty Coon crept out of his mother’s house to enjoy the warm sunshine—and see what he could find to eat.
Fatty was much thinner than he had been in the fall. He had spent so much of the time sleeping that he had really eaten very little. And now he hardly knew himself as he looked at his sides. They no longer stuck out as they had once.
After nosing about the swamp and the woods all the afternoon Fatty decided that there was no use in trying to get a meal there. The ground was covered with snow. And except for rabbit tracks—and a few squirrels’—he could find nothing that even suggested food. And looking at those tracks only made him hungrier than ever.