“Right away, if you want to,” replied Johnny Chuck, and swaggered off down the Lone Little Path, leaving Jimmy Skunk to stare after him as if he thought Johnny Chuck had suddenly gone crazy, as indeed he did.
JOHNNY CHUCK TURNS TRAMP
Johnny Chuck had turned tramp. Yes, Sir, Johnny Chuck had turned tramp. It was a funny thing to do, but he had done it. He didn’t know why he had done it, excepting that he had become dissatisfied and discontented and unhappy in his old home. And then, almost without thinking what he was doing, he had told Jimmy Skunk that he could have the house he had worked so hard to build the summer before and of which he had been so proud. Then Johnny Chuck had swaggered away down the Lone Little Path without once looking back at the home he was leaving.
Where was he going? Well, to tell the truth, Johnny didn’t know. He was going to see the world, and perhaps when he had seen the world, he would build him a new house. So as long as he was in sight of Jimmy Skunk, he swaggered along quite as if he was used to traveling about, without any snug house to go to at night. But right down in his heart Johnny Chuck didn’t feel half so bold as he pretended.
You see, not since he was a little Chuck and had run away from old Mother Chuck with Peter Rabbit, had he ever been very far from his own door-step. He had always been content to grow fat and roly-poly right near his own home, and listen to the tales of the great world from Jimmy Skunk and Peter Rabbit and Bobby Coon and Unc’ Billy Possum, all of whom are great travelers.
But now, here he was, actually setting forth, and without a home to come back to! You see, he had made up his mind that no matter what happened, he wouldn’t come back, after having given his house to Jimmy Skunk.
When he had reached a place where he thought Jimmy Skunk couldn’t see him, Johnny Chuck turned and looked back, and a queer little feeling seemed to make a lump that filled his throat and choked him. The fact is, Johnny Chuck already began to feel homesick. But he swallowed very hard and tried to make himself think that he was having a splendid time. He stopped looking back and started on, and as he tramped along, he tried to sing a song he had once heard Jimmy Skunk sing:
“The world may stretch
full far and wide—
What matters that to me?
I’ll tramp it up; I’ll tramp it down!
For I am bold and free.”
It was a very brave little song, but Johnny Chuck didn’t feel half so brave and bold as he tried to think he did. Already he was beginning to wonder where he should spend the night. Then he thought of old Whitetail the Marshhawk, who had given him such a fright and had so nearly caught him when he was a little fellow. The thought made him look around hastily, and there was old Whitetail himself, sailing back and forth hungrily just ahead of him. A great fear took possession of Johnny Chuck, and he made himself as flat as possible in the grass, for there was no place to hide. He made up his mind that anyway he would fight.