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The story soon spread all around the farmyard, how fat Mrs. Hen had been seen talking with no less a rascal than Grumpy Weasel.
Everybody told her that it was a dangerous thing to do and that it was a wonder she had escaped, until Mrs. Hen began to feel that she was quite the most important person in the neighborhood. Even old dog Spot asked her some questions one day—some of which she could answer, and some of which she could not.
For one thing, she couldn't (or wouldn't) tell what way Grumpy left the farmyard. "He just jumped back and was gone before I knew it," she said.
"That's what they all say," said Spot. "He's so quick you never can see him go."
Now, Mrs. Hen ought to have explained that Grumpy Weasel disappeared from inside the henhouse. But she was not a person of much sense. By that time she began to think that perhaps Grumpy Weasel was as bad as the neighbors had said. And she was afraid that her relations might find fault with her if they learned that she had invited Grumpy to enter their house. Silly Mrs. Hen decided that she wouldn't tell what she had done. But she never tired of talking about what she called "the great mystery"—meaning "Where did Grumpy Weasel go?"
It was simple enough. To escape meeting old dog Spot, Grumpy Weasel had crawled into the old rat hole. It suited him quite well to do that, for more than one reason. Not only did he avoid trouble, but he found the other end of the rat hole. Silly Mrs. Hen had done exactly as he had hoped. She had shown him a way to get into the henhouse at night in spite of locks and bolts and doors. And Grumpy Weasel went off to the woods well pleased with himself.
"Perhaps, after all, it pays to be pleasant," he said—just as if that was a reason! But he stopped short all at once. "There's that stupid Mrs. Hen," he cried aloud. "She was pleasant; but it won't pay her, in the end!" So he decided on the spot that he would keep on being surly. It would be much easier for him, anyhow.
That very night Grumpy Weasel stole back to the henhouse. And he was just about to creep up to the old rat hole, pausing first to take a searching look all around, when he saw a motionless figure sitting on a low-hanging limb of a tree near-by. It was Solomon Owl. And Grumpy could see that he was staring at the rat hole as if he were waiting for somebody.
Grumpy Weasel knew at once that that rat hole was no safe place for him. Very gingerly he drew back into a deep shadow. And as he pondered silently he saw a huge rat step out of the hole. Solomon Owl swooped down and grabbed the fellow before he knew what was happening.
Well, Grumpy Weasel saw that all his trouble had gone for nothing. Silly Mrs. Hen hadn't known what she was talking about. If Solomon Owl was in the habit of watching that hole Grumpy certainly didn't mean to go near it.
Of course he was angry. But Mrs. Hen never learned what he said about her. No matter what remarks her neighbors made, she always insisted afterward that Grumpy Weasel was one of the most pleasant and polite gentlemen she had ever met.
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