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Chapter 12

XII. BOBBY TRIES THE WRONG HOUSE

"Home again! Home again! Happy am I!

Had I but wings I most surely would fly!"


SO sang Bobby Coon as he wandered about in the Green Forest after leaving Farmer Brown's boy. At least, he meant it for singing. Of course, it wasn't real singing, for Bobby Coon can no more sing than he can fly. But it did very well to express his happiness, and that was all it was intended to do. Bobby was happy. He was very happy indeed. Indeed he couldn't remember ever having been quite so happy. You see, he never before had understood fully what freedom means. No one can fully understand what a wonderful and blessed thing freedom is until they have lost it and then got it again.

Bobby took long breaths and sniffed and sniffed and sniffed and sniffed the sweet smells of early spring. The Green Forest was full of them, and never had they seemed so good to Bobby. He climbed a tree for nothing under the sun but to know what it felt like to climb once more. Then he climbed down to earth again and went poking around among the leaves just for the fun of poking around. He rolled over and over from sheer joy. Finally he brushed himself off, climbed up on an old stump, and sat down to think things over.

"Of course," said he to himself, "the first thing for me to do is to find a new house. I don't have to have it right away, because there are plenty of places in which I can curl up for a nap, but it is more convenient and much more respectable to have a house. People who sleep anywhere and have no homes are never thought much of by their friends and neighbors. Without a home I can have no self-respect. There's a certain old hollow tree I always did like the looks of. Unc' Billy Possum used to live there, but maybe he has moved. Anyway, he may be out, and if so he will be smarter than I think he is to get me out once I'm inside. I believe I'll look up that tree right away."

Bobby scrambled down from the stump and started down the Lone Little Path. After a while he turned off the Lone Little Path into a hollow and presently came to the tree he had in mind. It was straight, tall, and big. High up was a doorway plenty big enough for Bobby Coon. He sat down and looked up. The longer he looked, the better that tree seemed to him. It would suit for a house first-rate. There were marks on the tree made by claws—the claws of Une' Billy Possum. Some of them looked quite fresh.

"Looks as if Une' Billy is still living here," thought Bobby. "Well, I can't help it if he is. If that tree looks as good inside as it does outside, I am afraid Unc' Billy and I will have a falling out. It's every one for himself in the Green Forest, and I don't think Unc' Billy will care to fight me. I'm bigger and considerably stronger than he, so if he's there, I guess I'll just invite him to move out."

Now, of course, this wasn't at all right of Bobby Coon, but it is the way things are done in the Green Forest, and the people who live there are used to it. The strong take what they want if they can get it, and Bobby knew that Unc' Billy Possum would treat Happy Jack Squirrel the same way, if he happened to want Happy Jack's house. So he climbed up the tree, quite sure that this was the house he would take for his new home. He was half-way up when a sharp voice spoke.

"Haven't yo' made a mistake, Brer Coon?" said the voice. "This isn't your house."

Bobby stopped and looked up. Unc' Billy Possum was grinning down at him from his doorway. Bobby grinned back. "It occurred to me that you might like to move, and as I'm looking for a house, I think this one will suit me very well," said he, and grinned again, for he knew that Unc' Billy would understand just what he meant.

Before Unc' Billy could say a word, another sharp face appeared beside his own, and a voice still sharper than his said: "What's that no 'count Coon doing in our tree? What's this talk Ah hear about moving? Isn't nobody gwine to move that Ah knows of." Bobby had forgotten all about old Mrs. Possum, and now as he saw that it was two against one he suddenly changed his mind.

"Excuse me," said he, "I guess I've got the wrong house."

Thornton W. Burgess

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