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Snowball really meant to be kind to the elderly dame, Aunt Nancy, who had objected to being led on the wild goose chases in which he delighted.
"I mustn't start another game of Follow My Leader," he said to himself. "Aunt Nancy says she can't help following. And for a person of her years it must be hard work to run."
But Snowball soon learned that he had set himself a hard task. Soon afterward he found himself suddenly running. He hadn't meant to run. Yet there he was, bounding along towards the stone wall as fast as he could jump! And the whole flock was following him, with Aunt Nancy puffing hard among the stragglers, doing her best to keep up.
Over the wall went Snowball. Over the wall went all the rest. Aunt Nancy was the last to leap down upon the ledge where Snowball had stopped. And he could see that she was upset. He edged away from her. But she shouldered her friends aside (she was a huge person!) and walked straight up to him.
"You're a spoiled child," she told Snowball. "Here you've gone and led us over this wall again! And I just told you I didn't want to run anywhere—over this wall least of all places!"
Snowball felt much ashamed.
"I—I didn't mean to do it," he faltered. "Something set my feet a-going. I had to go along with them!"
"Is that so?" she cried in dismay. "My goodness! You've been and gone and got the habit of being leader! And you can't stop! . . . I don't know what I'm going to do!" she wailed. "There'll be nothing left of me if this keeps up. I'll be nothing but fleece and bones if I have to run so much."
Somehow her friends didn't seem alarmed. Aunt Nancy was very fat. In fact she was so very, very fat that nobody thought she could waste away. And everybody smiled a little.
But she didn't notice that. And then a squeaky voice piped up:
"Is there an earthquake?"
It was Uncle Jerry Chuck peeping out of his hole, with his teeth chattering so fast that it seemed as if they must all drop out of his mouth.
"There's no earthquake," Aunt Nancy told him. "We just jumped off the wall upon this ledge—that's all."
"I was sure there was an earthquake," he said. "And the last quake was the worst of all."
There were more smiles then, for Aunt Nancy herself had been the last of the flock to plump down off the wall.
"I wish—" said Uncle Jerry Chuck—"I wish, when you folks jump the wall, you'd pick out a different place. You disturb me a dozen times a day. I'm losing lots of sleep on your account. And if I continue to lose my rest I'll be nothing but fur and bones."
Well, Uncle Jerry was fat, too. He looked as if it would do him a world of good to be thinner. But Aunt Nancy felt sorry for him.
"Whoever leads the way over the wall must pick out another spot," she declared, looking straight at Snowball as she spoke. "It's a shame to annoy this gentleman."
Everybody agreed with her good-naturedly. And Snowball said meekly that if he found himself running towards the wall he would try to turn his steps in another direction.
No one said anything more about the matter. For somebody suddenly cried, "Baa! baa!" and scrambled over the wall.
Of course the whole flock followed instantly, leaving Uncle Jerry Chuck to creep out of his hole and watch the last tail of all bob out of sight.
It was Aunt Nancy's.
"They're a queer lot," Uncle Jerry said aloud. He gave a long whistle. "I'm glad I'm not one of 'em," he added.
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In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
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