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XXIII
CHATTERER GROWS VERY, VERY, BOLD  

"Iím not afraid. I am afraid. I'm not afraid. I am afraid. I'm not afraid." Chatterer kept saying these two things over and over and over again to himself. You see, he really was afraid, and he was trying to make himself believe that he wasn't afraid. He thought that perhaps if he said ever and ever so many times that he wasn't afraid, he might actually make himself believe it. The trouble was that every time he said it, a little voice, a little, truthful voice down inside, seemed to speak right up and tell him that he was afraid.

Poor Chatterer! It hurt his pride to have to own to himself that he wasn't as brave as little Tommy Tit the Chickadee. His common sense told him that there was no reason in the world why he shouldn't be. Tommy Tit went every day and took food from the hand of Farmer Brown's boy. It seemed to Chatterer, and to Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel, and to Peter Rabbit, and to Sammy Jay, and to Blacky the Crow, all of whom had seen him do it, as if it were the very bravest thing they ever had seen, and their respect for Tommy Tit grew wonderfully.

But Tommy Tit himself didn't think it brave at all. No, Sir, Tommy knew better. You see, he has a great deal of common sense under the little black cap he wears.

"It may have been brave of me to do it the first time," thought he to himself, when the others told him how brave they thought him, "but it isn't brave of me now, because I know that no harm is going to come to me from Farmer Brown's boy. There isn't any bravery about it, and it might be just the same way with Chatterer and all the other little forest and meadow people, if only they would think so, and give Farmer Brown's boy half a chance."

Chatterer was beginning to have some such thoughts himself, as he tried to make himself think that he wasn't afraid. He heard the door of Farmer Brown's house slam and peeped out from the old stone wall. There was Farmer Brown's boy with a big, fat hickory nut held out in the most tempting way, and Farmer Brown's boy was whistling the same gentle little whistle he had used when Chatterer was his prisoner, and he had brought good things for Chatterer to eat. Of course Chatterer knew perfectly well that that whistle was a call for him, and that that big fat hickory nut was intended for him. Almost before he thought, he had left the old stone wall and was half way over to Farmer Brown's boy. Then he stopped short. It seemed as if that little voice inside had fairly shouted in his ears: "I am afraid."

It was true; he was afraid. He was right on the very point of turning to scurry back to the old stone wall, when he heard another voice. This time it wasn't a voice inside. No, indeed! It was a voice from the top of one of the apple-trees in the Old Orchard, and this is what it said:

"Coward! Coward! Coward!" It was Sammy Jay speaking.

Now it is one thing to tell yourself that you are afraid, and it is quite another thing to be told by some one else that you are afraid.

"No such thing! No such thing! I'm not afraid! " scolded Chatterer, and then to prove it, he suddenly raced forward, snatched the fat hickory nut from the hand of Farmer Brown's boy, and was back in the old stone wall. It was hard to tell which was the most surprised ó Chatterer himself, Farmer Brown's boy, or Sammy Jay.

"I did. it! I did it! I did it!" boasted Chatterer.

"You don't dare do it again, though!" said Sammy Jay, in the most provoking and unpleasant way.

"I do too!" snapped Chatterer, and he did it. And with the taking of that second fat nut from the hand of Farmer Brown's boy, the very last bit of fear of him left Chatterer, and. he knew that Tommy Tit the Chickadee had been right all the time when he insisted that there was nothing to fear from Farmer Brown's boy.

"Why," thought Chatterer, "if I would have let him, he would have been my friend long ago!" And so he would have.

And this is all about Chatterer the Red Squirrel for now. Sammy Jay insists that it is his turn now, and so the next book will be about his adventures.

 

THE END

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