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XX
CHATTERER HAS ANOTHER GREAT SURPRISE  

CHATTERER had never had so many surprises good surprises in all his life, as since the day he had been caught in a trap in Farmer Brown's corn-crib. In the first place, it had been a great surprise to him that he had not been given to Black Pussy, as he had fully expected to be. Then had come the even greater surprise of finding that Farmer Brown's boy was ever and ever go much nicer than he had thought. A later surprise had been the wire wheel in his cage, so that he could run to his heart's content. It was such a pleasant and wholly unexpected surprise that it had quite changed Chatterer's feelings towards Farmer Brown's boy.

The fact is, Chatterer could have been truly happy but for one thing he was a prisoner. Yes, Sir, he was a prisoner, and he couldn't forget it for one minute while he was awake. He used to watch Farmer Brown's boy and wish with all his might that he could make him understand how dreadful it was to be in a prison. But Farmer Brown's boy couldn't understand what Chatterer said, no matter how hard Chatterer tried to make him. He seemed to think that Chatterer was happy. He just didn't understand that not all the good things in the world could make up for loss of freedom that it is better to be free, though hungry and cold, than in a prison with every comfort.

Chatterer had stood it pretty well and made the best of things until Sammy Jay had found him, and Reddy Fox had made fun of him, and Peter Rabbit had peeped at him from behind the old stone wall. The very sight of them going where they pleased and when they pleased had been too much for Chatterer, and such a great longing for the Green Forest and the Old Orchard filled his heart that he could think of nothing else. He just sat in a corner of his cage and looked as miserable as he felt. He lost his appetite. In vain Farmer Brown's boy brought him the fattest nuts and other dainties. He couldn't eat for the great longing for freedom that filled his heart until it seemed ready to burst. He no longer cared to run in the new wire wheel which had given him so much pleasure at first. He was homesick, terribly homesick, and he just couldn't help it.

Farmer Brown's boy noticed it, and his face grew sober and thoughtful. He watched Chatterer when the latter didn't know that he was about, and if he couldn't understand Chatterer's talk, he could understand Chatterer's actions. He knew that he was unhappy and guessed why. One morning Chatterer did not come out of his hollow stump as he usually did when his cage was placed on the shelf outside the farm-house door. He just didn't feel like it. He stayed curled up in his bed for a long, long time, too sad and miserable to move. At last he crawled up and peeped out of his little round doorway. Chatterer gave a little gasp and rubbed his eyes. Was he dreaming? He scrambled out in a hurry and peeped through the wires of his cage. Then he rubbed his eyes again and rushed over to the other side of the cage for another look. His cage wasn't on the usual shelf at all! It was on the snow-covered stone wall at the edge of the Old Orchard.

Chatterer was so excited he didn't know what to do. He raced around the cage. Then he jumped into the wire wheel and made it spin round and round as never before. When he was too tired to run any more, he jumped out. And right then he discovered something he hadn't noticed before. The little door in the top of his cage was open! It must be that Farmer Brown's boy had forgotten to close it when he put in Chatterer's breakfast. Chatterer forgot that he was tired. Like a little red flash he was outside and whisking along the snow-covered stone wall straight for his home in the Old Orchard.

"Chickaree! Chickaree! Chickareel" he shouted as he ran.


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