Jolly Robin awoke at dawn. And he knew at once that the day was going to be a fine one. Though the sun had not yet peeped above the rim of the eastern hills, Jolly Robin was sure that there would be plenty of sunshine a little later. He had many ways of his own for telling the weather; and he never made a mistake about it.
Now, it had grown quite warm by the time Jolly Robin went to the woods late in the morning to meet Jimmy Rabbit. And the snow had melted away as if by magic.
“Summer’s coming! Summer’s coming!” Jolly called joyfully as soon as Jimmy Rabbit came hopping into sight. “The apple-blossoms will burst out before we know it.”
“Yes—and the cabbages, too,” Jimmy Rabbit replied. “I’m glad the white giant in the orchard lost his head,” he added, “because there’s no telling what he would have done to the cabbages later, if he had wandered into the garden. He might have eaten every one of them. And I shouldn’t have liked that very well.”
Then they started off together toward the orchard to look at the headless stranger who had given Jolly Robin such a fright the day before. Jimmy Rabbit went bounding along with great leaps, while Jolly Robin flew above him and tried not to go too fast for his long-eared friend.
Once in the orchard, Jolly led Jimmy to the spot where he had seen Johnnie Green knock off the giant’s head with the snowball.
“Here he is!” Jolly Robin whispered—for he was still somewhat afraid of the giant, in spite of his having lost his head. “He doesn’t seem as big as he was yesterday. And he has dropped the stick that he carried.”
Jimmy Rabbit stopped short in his tracks and stared at the still figure under the apple tree. For a few moments he did not speak.
“That looks to me like snow,” he said at last. And he crept up to what was left of the giant and sniffed at him. “It is snow!” he declared.
When he heard that, Jolly Robin flew to a low branch just above the giant.
“I don’t understand it,” he said. “There’s his head on the ground, with the big, black eyes. They certainly aren’t made of snow.”
“No!” Jimmy Rabbit agreed, as he sniffed at the terrible eyes. “They’re butternuts—that’s what they are!”
Well, Jolly Robin was so surprised that he all but tumbled off his perch.
“There’s his hat—” he continued, as he clung to the limb—“that’s a real hat. It’s not made of snow—or butternuts, either.”
“Yes!” Jimmy Rabbit said. “It’s a sure-enough hat. Farmer Green wore it on Sundays for a good many years. I’ve often seen him starting for the meeting-house over the hill with this very hat on his head.”
“Then the giant stole it from him!” Jolly Robin cried in great excitement.
But Jimmy Rabbit thought differently.
“It’s my opinion—” he said—“it’s my opinion that Johnnie Green took this old hat and put it on the giant’s head, after he had made him.”
“Made him!” Jolly Robin repeated. “You don’t mean to say that Johnnie Green could make a giant, do you?”
“Well, he knows how to make a snow-man—so I’ve been told,” Jimmy Rabbit replied. “And though I’ve never seen one before, it’s plain that that’s what this creature is.”
Jolly Robin had listened with growing wonder. Spending his winters in the South, as he did, he had never even heard of a snow-man.
“Are they dangerous—these snow-men?” he inquired anxiously.
“This one certainly isn’t,” Jimmy Rabbit told him. “With his head off, he can’t do any harm. And with the sun shining so warm I should say that by to-morrow he’ll be gone for good. It looks to me as if he might be the last snow-man of the winter, for I don’t believe there’ll be any more snow until next fall.”
“Good!” Jolly Robin cried. “I shall come back to the orchard to live, after all, just as I had intended.” And he felt so happy that he began to sing.
“I’m glad I brought you here to see the snow giant,” he told Jimmy Rabbit, when he had finished his song. “But when my wife and I start to build our summer-house a little later in the spring, I hope you’ll say nothing to her about this affair. It might upset her, you know, if she knew that a giant lost his head in the orchard—even if he was made of snow.”
“I understand!” said Jimmy Rabbit. “And I won’t mention the matter to her. You’re afraid she might lose her head, I suppose, if she heard about it.”
Having made a joke, Jimmy Rabbit thought it was a good time for him to be leaving. So he said good-by and hopped briskly away.
And Jolly Robin’s wife never knew that her husband and Jimmy Rabbit had a secret that they did not tell her.
Of course, if they had told her it would have been no secret at all.