Well, after the Decoration Day parade, and the things that happened in it, such as the pony running away with Jimmie Wibblewobble, Uncle Wiggily Longears thought he’d like to go off to some quiet place and rest.
“Oh, can’t you come with me?” asked Percival, the old circus dog. “We’ll go to the Bow-Wows house, and have something to eat.”
“No, I’m afraid I can’t go,” replied the old gentleman rabbit. “You see I must travel on to seek my fortune, for I haven’t found it yet, and I still have the rheumatism.”
“Why don’t you try to lose that rheumatism somewhere?” asked Percival. “I would, if it’s such a bother.”
“Oh, I’ve tried and tried and tried, but I can’t seem to lose it,” replied Uncle Wiggily. “So I think I’ll travel on. I’m much obliged to you for letting me march in the parade.”
Then the old gentleman rabbit got his valise, and, with his crutch, he once more started off. He went on and on, up one hill and down another, over the fields where the horses and cows and sheep were pulling up the grass, and chewing it, so the man wouldn’t have to cut it with the lawn mower; on and on he went. Then Uncle Wiggily reached the woods, where the ferns and wild flowers grow.
“This is a fine place,” he said as he sat down on a flat stump. “I think I will eat my dinner,” so he opened the satchel, and took out a sandwich made of yellow carrots and red beets, and very pretty they looked on the white bread, let me tell you; very nice indeed!
Uncle Wiggily was eating away, and he was brushing the crumbs off his nose by wiggling his ears, when, all of a sudden, he heard a cat crying. Oh, such a loud cry as it was!
“Why, some poor kittie must be lost,” thought the old gentleman rabbit. “I’ll see if I can find it.”
Then the cry sounded again, and, in another moment, out of a tree flew a big bird.
“Oh, maybe that bird stuck his sharp beak in the kittie and made it cry,” thought Uncle Wiggily. “Bird, did you do that?” he asked, calling to the bird, who was flying around in the air.
“Did I do what?” asked the bird.
“Did you stick the kittie, and make it cry?”
“Oh, no,” answered the bird. “I made that cat-crying noise myself. I am a cat-bird, you know,” and surely enough that bird went “Mew! Mew! Mew!” three times, just like that, exactly as if a cat had cried under your window, when you were trying to go to sleep.
“Ha! That is very strange!” exclaimed the rabbit. “So you are a cat-bird.”
“Yes, and my little birds are kittie-birds,” was the answer. “I’ll show you.”
So the bird went “Mew! Mew! Mew!” again, and a lot of the little birds came flying around and they all went “Mew! Mew!” too, just like kitties. Oh, I tell you cat-birds are queer things! and how they do love cherries when they are ripe! Eh?
“That is very good crying, birdies,” said Uncle Wiggily, “and I think I’ll give you something to eat, to pay for it.” So he took out from his valise some peanuts, that Percival, the circus dog, had given him, and Uncle Wiggily fed them to the cat-bird and her kittie-birds.
“You are very kind,” said the mamma bird, “and if we can ever do you a favor we will.”
And now listen, as the telephone girl says, those birds are going to do Uncle Wiggily a favor in a short time—a very short time indeed.
Well, after the birds had eaten all the peanuts they flew away, and Uncle Wiggily started off once more. He hadn’t gone very far before he came to a fountain. You know what that is. It’s a thing in a park that squirts up water, just like when you fill a rubber ball with milk or lemonade and squeeze it. Only a fountain is bigger, of course.
This fountain that Uncle Wiggily came to had no water in it, for it was being cleaned. There was a big basin, with a pipe up through the middle, and this was where the water spouted up when it was running.
“This is very strange,” said Uncle Wiggily, for he had never seen a fountain before, “perhaps I can find my fortune in here. I’ll go look.” So down he jumped into the big empty fountain basin, which was as large as seven wash tubs made into one. And it was so nice and comfortable there, and so shady, for there were trees near it, that, before he knew it, Uncle Wiggily fell fast asleep, with his head on his satchel for a pillow.
And then he had a funny dream. He dreamed that it was raining, and that his umbrella turned inside out, and got full of holes, and that he was getting all wet.
“My!” exclaimed Uncle Wiggily, as he gave a big sneeze. “This is a very real dream. I actually believe I am wet!”
Then he got real wide awake all of a sudden, and he found that he was right in the middle of a lot of wetness, for the man had turned the water on in the fountain unexpectedly, not knowing that the old gentleman rabbit was asleep there.
“I must get out of here!” cried Uncle Wiggily, as he grabbed up his valise and crutch. Then the water came up to his little short, stumpy tail. Next it rose higher, up to his knees. Then it rose still faster up to his front feet and then almost up to his chin.
“Oh, I’m afraid I’m going to drown!” he cried. “I must get out!” So he tried to swim to the edge of the fountain, but you can’t swim very well with a crutch and a valise, you know, and Uncle Wiggily didn’t want to lose either one. Then the water from the top of the fountain splashed in his eyes and he couldn’t see which way to swim.
“Oh, help! Help!” he cried. “Will no one help me?”
“Yes, we will help you!” answered a voice, and up flew the big cat-bird, and her little kitten-birds. “Quick, children!” she cried, “we must save Uncle Wiggily, who was so kind to us! Every one of you get a stick, and we’ll make a little boat, or raft, for him!”
Well, I wish you could have seen how quickly the mamma cat-bird and her kittie-birds gathered a lot of sticks, and twigs, and laid them together crossways on the water in that fountain basin, until they had a regular little boat. Upon this Uncle Wiggily climbed, with his crutch and valise, and then the mamma cat-bird flew on ahead, and pulled the boat by a string to the edge of the fountain, where the rabbit could safely get out.
So that’s how the bunny was saved from drowning in the water, and in the next story, if a big, red ant doesn’t crawl upon our porch and carry away the hammock, I’ll tell you another adventure Uncle Wiggily had. It will be a story of the old gentleman rabbit and the bad dog.