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HOME > Classical Novels > The Bad Little Owls > CHAPTER VII THE CLEVERNESS OF CHAIK JAY
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 Poor Chaik Jay felt a lot sadder than he looked when he saw the Woodsfolk go skipping across the Broad Field one at a time so nobody would notice them, on the way to Tommy Peele’s barn.  
But he was a pretty sensible bird. “I’m glad they’re gone,” he said to himself. “That was a fine idea of Rabbit’s to go away. won’t stay here long if he finds there isn’t any hunting.”
Pretty soon he was very busy exercising his stiff wing and thinking: “I can reach every sumach berry in this . They’re fine eating. I feel better every minute. I’ll be able to fly before very long—if I can’t fly across the Broad Field to-night I’ll surely be able to do it in the morning.” He really did feel better. That was the funny part of it. It wasn’t long before he had his feathers all prinked up and his as sassy as if he were going courting.
“It’s too bad about those foolish mice,” he thought to himself. “The bad old weasel can live on them for a long time if there’s nobody else here to hunt them.” He thought harder than ever. “It would be nicer yet,” he said after another minute, “if the mice would go, too. Killer can’t eat and and and roots and such things like the rest of us Woodsfolk. He’d have to go away.”
But how could Chaik do that—just one bluejay with a hurt wing? He kept on thinking, all the same; he thought so hard his head needed scratching. At last he began to have an idea. “Isn’t it a lucky thing they did leave me here? I can talk more bird and beast talk than any one else in all the Woods and Fields, except Miau the Catbird. I wish he’d happen along, I do. I could use him. If we could warn all the birds, Killer would never be able to catch one. But the mice——”
And just them someone did happen along. It wasn’t Miau, but—but, listen! It was the hoptoad! You know him—so terrible scary-ugly, but nice as anything—the one who found Nibble Rabbit’s lost bunny. Well, the hoptoad called, in his funny, voice, “Chirpy, Chaik Jay! Do you see anything of the rain?” He loves rain because it makes the wings of the bugs all waterlogged and it’s easy to catch them.
“Chirpy, Croaker ,” Chaik answered, “I can’t see a sign of it.”
“It’s coming, all the same,” Croaker. “Floods of it. I feel it.”
“It is?” asked Chaik eagerly. “Mice, oh, mice! How they hate it!” And he bounced on his until Croaker Toad stared with his big round eyes. But a lot Chaik cared!
He carried on at such a rate that a big saw-billed duck down to see what was the matter. “It’s going to rain,” he sang, looking at the duck, his feathers all out from laughing.
“Of course it’s going to rain,” the duck, making a gawpy face with his long red bill that set Chaik all over again. “It’s going to rain hard, and it’s going to rain soon. You won’t find it a laughing matter, old soggy feathers.” (A duck never forgets to tease the other birds about not having a nice water-proof coat, you know.) And off he flew.
But Chaik Jay didn’t care a wormy thorn apple what the duck thought about him. He was just waiting for a fieldmouse. The very first time he heard one stirring out in the thicket he called: “Hey! Who’s there? Is that you, Nibble Rabbit?” He knew it wasn’t Nibble, because Nibble had gone away, but he said it on purpose.
“No,” came the answer; “it’s Scritch Mouse.” But I tell you he felt kind of flattered at being taken for someone as big and important as a rabbit. “I haven’t seen or heard anything of him since this morning.”
“Chirk-cheree!” exclaimed Chaik impatiently. “I do wish he’d come. Won’t you in his hole for me and see if he’s there? I want to get along myself before it comes.”
“Before what comes?” asked the mouse. “I’m sure he isn’t there.”
“Before the rain, of course,” answered the clever bird. “Every one else has run away, but I was to wait and warn him. There’s the most terrible rain coming—I just heard about it from the saw-billed duck.” (No mouse would ever dare to ask questions of a saw-bill for himself—the bird would eat him as easy as at him, so Chaik went right on adding to it.) “The birds coming down from the north had to swim two days instead of flying. It’s going to flood these Woods and Fields from the Brushpile to the Robins’ Roosting Tree—maybe worse. It’s the worst——”
“Well,” interrupted the mouse, “it’s a funny thing nobody told us.”
“Oh, nobody told me not to tell you,” said Chaik. “But you haven’t been very friendly with the Woodsfolk lately, have you?”
Scritch ran as fast as his claws could catch on the ground. He went straight to the where Great-grandfather Fieldmouse, who’s so old his ears are crinkly, lives with all his family. Every one was taking an afternoon nap when he bounced right in and woke them. “Quick, quick!” he . “An awful thing is happening. We must run!”
Great-grandfather Fieldmouse raised his head and blinked at him. “Eh? What? Who’s that? Was any one chasing you?” he asked.
“No,” said Scritch. “It’s worse than that. Hurry! The rest of the Woodsfolk have gone already—every last one.”
“Ho, they left because they’re afraid of Killer the Weasel,” the old fieldmouse. “But we’re not going. He can’t eat many more of us than they do themselves. He isn’t like a bear who could tear this stump right open and kill us all—but you don’t know about that. Bears were long before your time.” They were long before Great-grandfather Fieldmouse’s time, too, but he’s always pretending. The fat old fellow set to combing his head with a stiff paw.
“That isn’t why they’ve gone,” Scritch . “They just pretended that it was. They’ve gone because the ducks say there’s a terrible storm coming. They say they had to swim in it for two days instead of flying. They say Doctor Muskrat’s Pond is going to grow so fast it will swallow up the Woods and Fields, and we’ll all be drowned!”
“That’s what they tell you,” the old mouse. “They don’t like to own up that they’re afraid of a little beast like Killer.”
“But they didn’t mean to. It was Chaik Jay. He thought I was Nibble Rabbit.” My, but wasn’t Scritch proud when he remembered Chaik took him for Nibble! “And Chaik said they didn’t warn us because we weren’t friends.”
“They didn’t, didn’t they?” the old mouse. “We’ll show them if we’ll stay here and be drowned.” That settled it. In less than an hour Chaik saw the last mouse tail go trooping into the cornfield.
“Chay!” he laughed. “Now, Killer, you’ll have a hard time finding anything to eat around this pond. I’ll give you two days to go back to the Deep Woods where you belong. And you’ll be a whole lot thinner than when you came, old slinky-sides.”
It was true, there wasn’t a single bit of fur for Killer to put his teeth into when he woke up from his daytime sleep and went hunting. But Chaik was Killer wouldn’t make his supper off a bird, either. Every time one lit to drink at Doctor Muskrat’s Pond Chaik would send it away.
He told some one reason for leaving and some another, just whatever he thought would scare them the most. Once a whole flock of gorgeous little fellows down and he was puzzled. They were warblers from the far-away south; they come up north every summer, but they live all by themselves and speak their own language, so none of the northern birds can talk to them at all. “Now, how in the world can I frighten those silly little spiggoty birds?” he with his head on one side, most discouraged. “They won’t listen to reason.”
Suddenly he began to himself. “If they can’t talk my talk they can’t talk the ’s, either.” He practised quietly for a minute or two. Then he began to shout the hawk’s hunting call. “Kee-yah!” he squawked. “Kee-yah!” And you should have heard those warblers flutter their wings. They flew off without even stopping to look behind them.
It was really a fine imitation. It fooled more than the scary little spiggoty birds. It fooled the marsh hawk himself. He woke up on his perch down in the bulrushes where he until the mice begin to stir for their suppers. He thought surely it was one of his sons who was hunting with his mother over in the Big Marsh, on the far-away side of the Deep Woods, where the Woodsfolk think the sun goes to sleep. “What’s he doing here?” wondered the old bird. “Surely his mother never sent him to tell me we were going to start south ahead of the storm.” And up he flew, craning his neck all around and calling.
Of course Chaik knew better than to answer. He dropped down under the leaves of the pickery thorn tree of the Quail’s Thicket and hid from the hawk by around its trunk, keeping always on the opposite side of it. “Lucky thing for me Killer the Weasel isn’t on the prowl for me right now,” he thought. “I believe this is a poor place to sleep. These leaves will let in ever so much rain, and if the should take to hunting me from above and Killer from below they wouldn’t be very long about me.”
Just then his heart ’most stopped beating; he heard a beneath him—right at the very foot of the tree he was hiding on. He squinched himself flat tight against the bark so he looked like nothing more than a knothole and peeked—into the smiling face of Tad Coon.

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