Chatterer the Red Squirrel peered down from the edge of an old nest
built long ago in a big hemlock-tree in the Green Forest, and if you
could have looked into Chatterer's eyes, you would have seen there a
great fear. He looked this way; he looked that way. Little by little,
the fear left him, and when at last he saw Peter Rabbit coming his way,
he gave a little sigh of relief and ran down the tree. Peter saw him and
headed straight toward him to pass the time of day.
"Peter," whispered Chatterer, as soon as Peter was near enough to hear,
"have you seen Shadow the Weasel?"
It was Peter's turn to look frightened, and he hastily glanced this way
and that way. "No," he replied. "Is he anywhere about here?"
"I saw him pass about five minutes ago, but he seemed to be in a hurry,
and I guess he has gone now," returned Chatterer, still whispering.
"I hope so! My goodness, I hope so!" exclaimed Peter, still looking this
way and that way uneasily.
"I hate him!" declared Chatterer fiercely.
"So do I," replied Peter. "I guess everybody does. It must be dreadful
to be hated by everybody. I don't believe he has got a single friend in
the wide, wide world, not even among his own relatives. I wonder why it
is he never tries to make any friends."
"Here comes Jimmy Skunk. Let's ask him. He ought to know, for he is
Shadow's cousin," said Chatterer.
Jimmy came ambling up in his usual lazy way, for you know he never
hurries. It seemed to Chatterer and Peter that he was slower than usual.
But he got there at last.
"Why is it, Jimmy Skunk, that your cousin, Shadow the Weasel, never
tries to make any friends?" cried Chatterer, as soon as Jimmy was near
"I've never asked him, but I suppose it's because he doesn't want them,"
"But why?" asked Peter.
"I guess it's because he is an outcast," replied Jimmy.
"What is an outcast," demanded Peter.
"Why, somebody with whom nobody else will have anything to do, stupid,"
replied Jimmy. "I thought everybody knew that."
"But how did it happen that he became an outcast in the first place?"
"He's always been an outcast, ever since he was born, and I suppose he
is used to it," declared Jimmy. "His father was an outcast, and his
grandfather, and his great-grandfathers way back to the days when the
world was young."
"Tell us about it. Do tell us about it!" begged Peter.
Jimmy smiled good-naturedly. "Well, seeing that I haven't anything else
to do just now, I will. Perhaps you fellows may learn something from the
story," said he. Then he settled himself comfortably with his back to an
old stump and began.
"When old King Bear ruled in the forest long, long ago, and the
great-great-ever-so-great-grandfathers of all of us and of everybody
else lived in peace and happiness with each other, slim, trim, spry Mr.
Weasel lived with the rest. He was small, just as Shadow is now, and he
looked just the same as Shadow does now. He was on the best of terms
with all his neighbors, and no one had a word to say against him. In
fact, he was rather liked and had quite as many friends as anybody. But
all the time he had a mean disposition. He hid it from his neighbors,
but he had it just the same. Now mean dispositions are easily hidden
when everything is pleasant and there are no worries, and that is the
way it was then. No one suspected any one else of meanness, for with
plenty to eat and nothing to worry about, there was no cause for
"With his mean disposition, Mr. Weasel was also very crafty. Being
small and moving so swiftly, he was hard to keep track of. You know how
it is with Shadow--now you see him, and now you don't."
Chatterer and Peter nodded. They knew that it is because of this that he
is called Shadow.
"Well," continued Jimmy, "it didn't take him long to find that if he
were careful, he could go where he pleased, and no one would be the
wiser. They say that he used to practise dodging out of sight when he
saw any one coming, and after a while he got so that he could disappear
right under the very noses of his neighbors. Being so slim, he could go
where any of his four-footed neighbors could, and it wasn't long before
he knew all about every hole and nook and corner anywhere around. There
were no secrets that he didn't find out, and all the time no one
"Of course hard times came to Mr. Weasel at last, just as to everybody
else, but they didn't worry him much. You see, he knew all about the
secret hiding-places in which some of his neighbors had stored away
food, so when he was hungry, all he had to do was to help himself. So
Mr. Weasel became a thief, and still no one suspected him. Now one bad
habit almost always leads to another. Mr. Weasel developed a great
fondness for eggs. Our whole family has always had rather a weakness
Jimmy grinned, for he knew that Peter and Chatterer knew that he himself
never could pass a fresh egg when he found it.
"One day he found a nest in which were four little baby birds instead
of the eggs he had been expecting to find there and, having a mean
disposition, he flew into a rage and killed those four little birds.
Yes, Sir, that's what he did. He found the taste of young birds very
much to his liking, and he began to hunt for more. Then he discovered a
nest of young mice, and he found these quite as good as young birds.
Then came a great fear upon the littlest people, but not once did they
suspect Mr. Weasel. He was very crafty and went and came among them just
as always. They suspected only the larger and stronger people of the
forest who, because food was getting very scarce, had begun to hunt the
"But you know wrongdoing is bound to be found out sooner or later. One
day Mr. Rabbit surprised Mr. Weasel making a meal of young mice, and of
course he hurried to tell all his neighbors. Then Mr. Weasel knew that
it was no longer of use to pretend that he was what he was not, and he
boldly joined the bigger animals in hunting the smaller ones. It makes
most people angry to be caught in wrongdoing and it was just that way
with Mr. Weasel. He flew into a great rage and vowed that he would kill
Mr. Rabbit, and when he couldn't catch Mr. Rabbit, he hunted others of
his neighbors until there was no one, not even fierce Mr. Wolf or Mr.
Panther or Mr. Lynx, of whom the littlest people were in such fear. You
see, they could hide from the big hunters, but they couldn't hide from
Mr. Weasel because he knew all their hiding-places, and he was so slim
and small that wherever they could go, he could go.
"Now the big people, like Mr. Wolf and Mr. Panther, killed only for
food that they might live, and when they found Mr. Weasel killing more
than he could eat, they would have nothing to do with him and even
threatened to kill him if they caught him. So pretty soon Mr. Weasel
found that he hadn't a friend in the world. This made him more savage
than ever, and he hunted and killed just for the pleasure of it. He took
pleasure in the fear which he read in the eyes of his neighbors when
they saw him.
"Old Mother Nature was terribly shocked when she discovered what was
going on, but she found that she could do nothing with Mr. Weasel. He
wasn't sorry for what he had done and he wouldn't promise to do better.
'Very well,' said Old Mother Nature, 'from this time on you and your
children and your children's children forever and ever shall be
outcasts among the people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows,
hated by all, little and big.' And it has been so to this day. Even I am
not on speaking terms with Shadow, although he is my own cousin,"
concluded Jimmy Skunk.
Peter Rabbit shuddered. "Isn't it dreadful not to have a single friend?"
he exclaimed. "I would rather have to run for my life twenty times a day
than to be hated and feared and without a single friend. I wouldn't be
an outcast for all the world."
"There's not the least bit of danger of that for you, Peter," laughed