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VI
PETER RABBIT LISTENS TO THE WRONG VOICE

PETER RABBIT didn't play fair. No, Sir, Peter didn't play fair. People who have too much curiosity about other people's affairs seldom do play fair. He didn't mean to be unfair. Oh, my, no! Peter didn't mean to be unfair. When he left Chatterer the Red Squirrel sitting on the old stone wall on the edge of Farmer Brown's Old Orchard, he intended to go straight home to the dear Old Briar-patch. He was a little disappointed, was Peter, that Chatterer hadn't told him just where his new house was. Not that it really mattered; he just wanted to know, that was all. With. every jump away from the old stone wall, that desire to know just where Chatterer's new house was seemed to grow. Peter stopped and looked back. He couldn't see Chatterer now, because the bushes hid him. And if he couldn't see Chatterer, why of course Chatterer couldn't see him.

Peter sat down and began to pull his whiskers in a way he has when he is trying to decide something. It seemed as if two little voices were quarreling inside him. "Go along home like the good fellow you are and mind your own business," said one. "Steal back to the old wall and watch Chatterer and so find out just where his new house is; he'll never know anything about it, and there'll be no harm done," said the other little voice. It was louder than the first voice, and Peter liked the sound of it.

"I believe I will," said he, and without waiting to hear what the first little voice would say to that, he turned about and very carefully and softly tiptoed back to the old stone wall. Right near it was a thick little bush. It seemed to Peter that it must have grown there just to give him a hiding place. He crawled under it and lay very flat. He could see along the old stone wall in both directions. Chatterer was sitting just where he had left him. He was looking in the direction that Peter had gone when he had said good-by. Peter chuckled to himself. "He's waiting to make sure I have gone before he goes to that new house of his," thought Peter. "This is the time I'll fool him.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Peter Rabbit; this is none of your business," said that little small voice.

"You're not doing a bit of harm. Chatterer has no business to try to keep his new house a secret, anyway," said the other little voice inside. And because of his dreadful curiosity, Peter liked the sound of that voice best and listened to it, and after a while the first voice grew discouraged and stopped.

Chatterer sat where he was for what seemed to Peter a very long time. But by and by he gave a sudden funny little flirt of his tail and ran along the old wall a little way. Then with a hasty look around, he disappeared in a hole. A minute later he popped his head out for another look around and then disappeared again. He did this two or three times as if anxious.

Peter chuckled to himself. "That's his new house right there," said he to himself, "and now that I know where it is, I think I'll hurry along home to the dear Old Briar-patch." He was just getting ready to start when Chatterer popped out of his hole and sat up on a big stone. He was talking out loud, and Peter listened. Then his long ears began to burn, for this is what he heard:

 

"I'm glad that Peter's not a spy,

     For spies are hateful as can be;

It's dreadful how some people try

     Affairs of other folks to see."


Chatterer whisked out of sight, and Peter hurried to get away. His ears still burned, and somehow he didn't feel so tickled over the thought that he had discovered Chatterer's secret as he had thought he would. And over in the hole in the old stone wall Chatterer the Red Squirrel was laughing as if there was some great joke. There was, and the joke was on Peter Rabbit. You see he hadn't discovered Chatterer's new house at all.


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