Nearer and nearer came old Whitetail! Finally he passed right over Johnny Chuck. But he didn’t offer to touch him. Indeed, it seemed to Johnny that old Whitetail actually grinned and winked at him. And right then all his fear left him.
“Pooh!” said Johnny Chuck scornfully. “Who’s afraid of him!” He suddenly realized that he was no longer a helpless little Chuck who couldn’t take care of himself, but big and strong, with sharp teeth with which his old enemy had no mind to make a closer acquaintance, when there were mice and snakes to be caught without fighting. So he puffed out his chest and went on, and actually began to enjoy himself, and almost wished for a chance to show how big and strong he was.
JOHNNY’S FIRST ADVENTURE
After old Whitetail the Marshhawk passed Johnny Chuck without offering to touch him, Johnny began to feel very brave and bold and important. He strutted and swaggered along as much as his short legs would let him. He held his head very high. Already he felt that he had had an adventure and he longed for more. He forgot the terrible lonesome feeling of a little while before. He forgot that he had given away the only home he had. He didn’t know just why, but right down deep inside he had a sudden feeling that he really didn’t care a thing about that old home. In fact, he felt as if he wouldn’t care if he never had another home. Yes, Sir, that is the way that Johnny Chuck felt. Do you know why? Just because he had just begun to realize how big and strong he really was.
Now it is a splendid thing to feel big and strong and brave, a very splendid thing! But it is a bad thing to let that feeling turn to pride, foolish pride. Of course old Whitetail hadn’t really been afraid of Johnny Chuck. He had simply passed Johnny with a wink, because there was plenty to eat without the trouble of fighting, and Whitetail doesn’t fight just for the fun of it.
But foolish Johnny Chuck really thought that old Whitetail was afraid of him. The more he thought about it, the more tickled he felt and the more puffed up he felt. He began to talk to himself and to brag. Yes, Sir, Johnny Chuck began to brag:
“I’m not afraid of any
They’re all afraid of me!
I only have to show my teeth
To make them turn and flee!”
“Pooh!” said a voice. “Pooh! It would take two like you to make me run away!”
Johnny Chuck gave a startled jump. There was a strange Chuck glaring at him from behind a little bunch of grass. He was a big, gray old Chuck whom Johnny never had seen on the Green Meadows before, and he didn’t look the least bit afraid. No, Sir, he didn’t look the teeniest, weeniest bit afraid! Somehow, Johnny Chuck didn’t feel half so big and strong and brave as he had a few minutes before. But it wouldn’t do to let this stranger know it. Of course not! So, though he felt very small inside, Johnny made all his hair bristle up and tried to look very fierce.