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XXI
CHATTERER HEARS THE SMALL VOICE  

THE very first of the little meadow and forest people to see Chatterer after he had safely reached the Old Orchard, was Tommy Tit the Chickadee. It just happened that Tommy was very busy in the very apple-tree in which was the old home of Drummer the Woodpecker when Chatterer reached it. You know Chatterer had moved into it for the winter just a little while before he had been caught in the corn-crib by Farmer Brown's boy.

Yes, Sir, Tommy was very busy, indeed. He was so busy that, sharp as his bright little eyes are, he had not seen Chatterer racing along the snow-covered old stone wall. It wasn't until he heard Chatterer's claws on the trunk of the apple-tree that Tommy saw him at all. Then he was so surprised that he lost his balance and almost turned a somersault in the air before he caught another twig. You see, he knew all about Chatterer and how he had been kept a prisoner by Farmer Brown's boy.

"Why! Whye-e! Is this really you, Chatterer?" he exclaimed. "However did you get out of your prison? I'm glad, ever and ever so glad, that you got away.

Chatterer flirted his tail in the saucy way he has, and his eyes twinkled. Here was just the best chance ever to boast and brag. He could tell Tommy Tit how smart he had been smart enough to get away from Farmer Brown's boy. Tommy Tit would tell the other little people, and then everybody would think him just as smart as Unc' Billy Possum; and you know Unc' Billy really was smart enough to get away from Farmer Brown's boy after being caught. Everybody knew that he had been a prisoner, and now that he was free, everybody would believe whatever he told them about how he got away. Was there ever such a chance to make his friends and neighbors say: "What a smart fellow he is! "

"I I " Chatterer stopped. Then he began again. "You see, it was this way: I I " Somehow, Chatterer couldn't say what he had meant to say. It seemed as if Tommy Tit's bright, merry eyes were looking right into his head and heart and could see his very thoughts. Of course they couldn't.

The truth is that little small voice inside, which Chatterer had so often refused to listen to when he was tempted to do wrong, was talking again. It was saying: "For shame, Chatterer! For shame! Tell the truth. Tell the truth." It was that little small voice that made Chatterer hesitate and stop.

"You don't mean to say that you were smart enough to fool Farmer Brown's boy and get out of that stout little prison he made for you, do you?" asked Tommy Tit.

"No," replied Chatterer, almost before he thought. "No, I didn't. The fact is, Tommy Tit, he left the door open purposely. He let me go. Farmer Brown's boy isn't half so bad as some people think."

"Dee, dee, dee," laughed Tommy Tit. "I've been telling a lot of you fellows that for a long time, but none of you would believe me. Now I guess you know it. Why, I'm not the least bit afraid of Farmer Brown's boy not the least little bit in the world. If all the little forest and meadow people would only trust him, instead of running away from him, he would be the very best friend we have."

"Perhaps so," replied Chatterer doubtfully. "He was very good to me while I was in his prison, and and I'm not so very much afraid of him now. Just the same, I don't mean to let him get hands on me again."

"Pooh!" said Tommy Tit. "Pooh! I'd just as soon eat out of his hand."

"That's all very well for you to say, when you are flying around free, but I don't believe you dare go up to his house and prove it," retorted Chatterer.

"Can't now," replied Tommy. "I've got too much to do for him right now, but some day I'll show you. Dee, dee, dee, chickadee! I'm wasting my time talking when there is such a lot to be done. I am clearing his apple-trees of insect eggs."

"Ha, ha, ha! Go it, you little red scamp!" shouted a voice behind him.

Then Chatterer knew that Farmer Brown's boy had not left the little door open by mistake, but had given him his freedom, and right then he knew that they were going to be the best of friends.


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