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Little tales of the desert.

by Ethel Twycross Foster
Part 3 A CHAT WITH MRS. COTTONTAIL.

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ONE bright Sunday morning Mary wandered away from camp alone. The fact was she did not know what to do. At home she always attended church with Father and Mother, but here the nearest church was eighty miles away, a bit too far for a morning ride, you see. Father did not work Sunday, and as it was about the only time he had to chat with Mother, Mary was for the moment forgotten. She followed along a little trail leading over a small hill east of camp. Upon arriving at the top she noticed a clump of trees beyond, and they looked so cool and shady that she trotted down the trail and sat beneath them. Now this was a dangerous thing to do, for she could no longer see home, and there were many trails leading in all directions. A little girl of six years could hardly be expected to remember the way back. She was soon rested and decided to start for home. She was getting hungry, too. A tiny hill rose from the clump of trees in every direction, which one ought she to choose? She was not a child to be daunted by a thing like this, so boldly started up the path she thought led home. She climbed to the top, but no camp was in sight, no tents, no horses, nothing to indicate the surroundings of those dear people that she did want dreadfully to see, O! so quickly.



"Oh me, oh my, I guess I'm lost!" she cried with a little break in her voice. "I hope there are no bears in these hills. Oh, why did I run away, and where is my mamma?" She ran back down the hill, throwing herself on the ground under the trees while the great big tears chased down her rosy cheeks. "Can I help you, little girl?" said a tiny voice near by, "you are getting your pretty dress soiled and your hair will be full of sand." "Oh, I didn't know rabbits could talk," and Mary's eyes grew big and round with wonder. There before her stood a little cottontail perched upon its haunches and blinking at her with its cute little pink eyes. "Yes, we desert rabbits could always talk, didn't you know that? But, where is your mamma and what are you doing out here alone?" "I guess I'm lost," answered Mary, "but you live here, can't you find my home?" "No, dear little girl, I can't, and I will tell you why. Mr. Man with many brothers and sisters lives in your home. Mr. Man has a gun and he uses that gun to kill poor little rabbits like me. Don't you remember eating some for dinner yesterday? Well, on that day several of our dear little playfellows were killed. Now you see I don't care to be eaten, so must not go near your home, even to show you the way."



Mary gave a little shudder, for she did remember eating rabbit for dinner the day before and that she liked it, too; but she made a resolve never to do so again. "But I'll not desert you for all that," continued the strange friend. "My home is close by and as you are but a wee bit of a girl and have no gun, I'll take you there." Mary was delighted. To visit a real rabbit village and to be taken there by Mrs. Rabbit, herself, would be a strange adventure, indeed. Mrs. Rabbit led the way down a narrow path worn by the little feet of her numerous family. Mary trotted along behind when suddenly the rabbit stood up, gave a jump and darted away into the bushes. Mary, startled, looked up in surprise. There stood cousin Jack gazing down at her with an amused twinkle in his eyes; why! she, herself, was lying, her head pillowed on her chubby arms, directly under the shady tree where she had thrown herself in despair but a few moments before. "Well, little girl, what have you been dreaming about?" he asked. "Mother is sure you are lost or eaten up by some of your wild friends." At this, Mary stood up and looked around indignantly. "Did I really dream about all those dreadful things Mrs. Cottontail told me?" she said.

       



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