Then there was a still different whistle. It meant “Danger very near; lie low!” When they heard that, they flattened themselves right down in the grass just wherever they happened to be, and held their breath and didn’t move until Johnny signaled that they might. Of course, there never was any real danger. Johnny was just teaching them, so that when danger did come, as it surely would, sooner or later, they would know just what to do.
It surely was a funny little school, and sometimes Sammy Jay had hard work to keep from laughing right out.
SAMMY JAY PROVES THAT HE IS NOT ALL BAD
Sammy Jay hadn’t had so much fun for a long time as he found in watching the funny little school in Farmer Brown’s old orchard, where Johnny Chuck was teaching his three baby Chucks the things that every little Chuck must learn, if he would grow up into a big Chuck. When they had learned to mind without waiting to ask why, and had learned the signals which told them just what to do when danger was near, Johnny began to lead them farther and farther away from home.
He took them up along the old stone wall and showed them how to find safe hiding-places among the stones. Then he took them off a little way and suddenly gave the danger signal. It was funny, very funny indeed to see the three little Chucks scamper for the old stone wall and crawl out of sight.
The first time, two of them tried to squeeze into the same hole together, and each was in such a hurry that he wouldn’t let the other go first. Then both lost their tempers and they began to fight about it, quite forgetting that if there was really any danger near, they surely would come to harm. Such a scolding as Johnny Chuck did give those two little Chucks! Then he made them try it all over again.
Once he found a foot print which Reddy Fox had made in some soft earth during the night, and made each little Chuck smell of it, while he told them all about Reddy and old Granny Fox and how smart and sly they were and how very, very fond they were of tender young Chucks for dinner.
The three little Chucks shivered when they smelled of Reddy’s track, and the hair along their backs stood up in a way that was very funny to see.
Then Johnny Chuck took them over to the edge of the old orchard, where they could peep out over the Green Meadows. He pointed out old Whitetail the Marshhawk, sailing back and forth over the meadows, and told them how once, when he was a little Chuck and had run away from home, old Whitetail had nearly caught him. He told them about Farmer Brown’s boy and about Bowser the Hound and a great many other things that little Chucks should learn about.
Now all the time that Johnny Chuck was teaching these things, he was keeping the sharpest kind of a watch for danger, and there were many times when he would give the danger signal. Then they would all lie flat down in the grass and keep perfectly still, or else scamper as fast as they could along the little paths which Johnny had made, to the safety of the snug home under the old apple-tree. But even the most watchful are surprised sometimes.