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Chapter 23

XXIII. BUSTER BEAR FINDS BOBBY COON

BOBBY COON was back in his new house, in the little cave in the rocky ledge deep in the Green Forest, and never was he or any member of his family more upset. You see, he had started out in high spirits to see what was to be seen about his new home and to find out who his neighbors might be, and he hadn't much more than started when he discovered that his nearest neighbor was none other than Buster Bear. Wasn't that enough to upset anybody? Anyway, it was enough to upset Bobby Coon, for only a few hours before Buster Bear had tried to catch him and had threatened to eat him. So all desire to spend the night looking about left Bobby the very instant he found Buster Bear's home in that very same rocky ledge in which his own new home was.

"What a dreadful fix, what a dreadful, dreadful fix I'm in," whined Bobby. "Here I've found the best home I've ever had, and now I find that Buster Bear lives almost next door. I don't dare stay here, and I haven't any place to go. Oh, dear, oh, dear, what can a poor little fellow like me do? I wish I were as big as Buster Bear. I do. Then I'd fight him. I would. I'd fight him."

"Who would you fight?" demanded a great, deep, grumbly, rumbly voice from outside his doorway.

Bobby just dropped right down where he was and shook with fright. But he took great care not to make a sound, not the teeniest, weeniest sound. Perhaps Buster Bear didn't know who it was he had overheard. Perhaps, if he kept perfectly still, Buster would think he had been mistaken.

"Who are you in there, anyway?" demanded the deep, grumbly, rumbly voice. "I didn't know any one was living here. Why don't you come out and be sociable?"

Bobby simply shivered and kept his tongue still. For a minute or two there was no sound from outside. Then there were three long sniffs—sniff, sniff, sniff! They made Bobby shiver more than ever.

"Oh, ho! So it's you, Bobby Coon! It's my little Cousin Bobby!" exclaimed the deep, grumbly, rumbly voice of Buster Bear, followed by a chuckle. "Welcome to the old rock ledge, Bobby. Welcome to the old rock ledge. If I am to have such a near neighbor, I'm glad it is to be you. Come out and shake hands. Don't be so bashful. I won't hurt you."

At that Bobby pricked up his ears a little. He knew that Buster's nose had told him all he wanted to know, and that there was no use to pretend any longer.

"Do you really mean that, Cousin Buster?" he asked in a faint voice.

"Certainly I mean it. Of course. Why not? I usually mean what I say," grumbled Buster Bear.

"That's just the trouble," replied Bobby timidly. "Just a little while ago you tried to catch me and said that you would eat me, and I thought you meant it."

Buster Bear began to chuckle and then to laugh, and his laugh was deep and grumbly rumbly like his voice.

"That's so, Bobby! That's so!" said he. "But that was when my stomach was so empty that it made me lose my temper. Now my stomach is full, and I'm really myself. You know you don't need to be afraid of me when I am myself. Just forget that little affair. I should have, if you hadn't reminded me of it. I'm glad you've decided to be neighborly. You couldn't make your home in a safer place. I'm going to take a nap now. Come over and see me when you feel like it. Be neighborly, cousin Bobby. Be neighborly."

With this Buster Bear went shuffling along to his own house and bed. As for Bobby Coon, he was soon in the best of spirits again. He decided to remain right there, and he is there this very minute, I suspect, unless he is out getting into mischief or seeking new adventures. Speaking of adventures reminds me of some of Jimmy Skunk's.

It will take a whole book to tell you of them, so I am going to devote the next one to Jimmy and his doings.

THE END.

Thornton W. Burgess

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