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IX
CHATTERER GROWS TOO CURIOUS  

EVERYBODY knows how curious Peter Rabbit is. He is forever poking his wobbly little nose in where it has no business to be, and as a result Peter is forever getting into trouble. Whenever Chatterer the Red Squirrel has heard a new story about Peter and the scrapes his curiosity has got him into, Chatterer has said that Peter got no more than he deserved. As for himself, he might be curious about .a thing he saw for the first time, but he had too much sense to meddle with it until he knew all about it. So Chatterer has come to be thought very, smart, quite too smart to be caught in a trap at least to be caught in an ordinary trap.

Now a great many people manage to make their neighbors think they are a great deal smarter than they really are, and Chatterer is one of this kind. If some of his neighbors could have peeped into Farmer Brown's corn-crib the morning after Farmer Brown's boy found the telltale corn-cob so carelessly dropped by Chatterer, they would have been surprised. Yes, Sir, they would have been surprised. They would have seen Chatterer the Red Squirrel, the boaster, he of the sharp wits, showing quite as much curiosity as ever possessed Peter Rabbit.

Chatterer had come over to the corncrib as usual to get his daily supply of corn. As usual, he had raced about over the great pile of yellow corn. Quite suddenly his sharp eyes spied something that they hadn't seen before. It was down on the floor of the corn-crib quite near the door. Chatterer was sure that it hadn't been there the day before. It was a very queer looking thing, very queer indeed. And then he spied another queer looking thing near it, only this was very much smaller. What could they be? He looked at them suspiciously. They looked harmless enough. They didn't move. He ran a few steps towards them and scolded, just as he scolds at anything new he finds out of doors. Still they didn't move. He ran around on a little ledge where he could look right down on the queer things. He was sure now that they were not alive. The biggest one he could see all through. Inside was something to eat. The littlest thing was round and flat with funny bits of wire on top. It looked as if it were made of wood, and in the sides were little round holes too small for him to put his head through.

"Leave them alone," said a small voice inside of Chatterer.

"But I want to see what they are and find out all about them," said Chatterer.

"No good ever comes of meddling with things you don't know about," said the small voice.

"But they are such queer looking things, and they're not alive. They can't hurt me," said Chatterer.

Nevertheless he ran back to the pile of corn and tried to eat. Somehow he had lost his appetite. He couldn't take his eyes off those two queer things down on the floor.

"Better keep away," warned the small voice inside.

"It won't do any harm to have a closer look at them," said Chatterer.

So once more he scrambled down, from the pile of corn and little by little drew nearer to the two queer things. The nearer he got, the more harmless they looked. Finally he reached out and smelled of the smallest. Then he turned up his nose.

"Smells of mice," muttered Chatterer, "just common barn mice." Then he reached out a paw and touched it. "Pooh!" said he, "it's nothing to be afraid of." Just then he touched one of the little wires, and there was a sudden snap. It frightened Chatterer so that he scurried away. But he couldn't stay away. That snap was such a funny thing, and it hadn't done any harm. You see, he hadn't put his paw in at one of the little holes, or it might have done some harm.

Pretty soon he was back again, meddling with those little wires on top. Every once in a while there would be a snap, and he would scamper away. It was very scary and great fun. By and by the thing wouldn't snap any more, and then Chatterer grew tired of his queer plaything and began to wonder about the other queer thing. No harm had come from the first one, and so he was sure no harm could come from the other.


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