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The Hollow Tree Snowed-in Book by Paine

It was the first time Erastus had been out all night


Then

the robber took all the things that Erastus had in his pockets. He took his new knife and his little watch; also the nice bag which his mother had given him for Christmas.

Erastus kept his wings up a good while after the robber had gone. He was afraid the robber had not gone far enough. When he put them down they were cramped and sore. Then he heard something again, and thought it was the robber coming back after his clothes.

Erastus fled with great speed, taking off his garments as he ran. At last he reached the edge of the wood, not far from where he lived. It was just morning, and his mother saw him coming. She looked sad, and embraced him.

It was the first time Erastus had been out all night.

Erastus was not allowed to go swimming or even to leave the yard for a long time. Whenever he remembered that night in the woods he shivered, and his mother thought he had a chill. Then she would put him to bed and give him some of the unpleasant medicine.

Erastus did not tell his mother _all_ that had happened that night for a good while. He was ashamed to do so. But one day when he seemed quite sick and his mother was frightened, he broke down and told her all about it. Then his mother forgave him, and he got well right away.

After that Erastus behaved, and grew to be the best

and largest duck in Mr. Man's farm-yard.

* * * * *

While Mr. Dog had been reading his story the Hollow Tree People--the 'Coon and the 'Possum and the Old Black Crow--had been leaning forward and almost holding their breath, and Mr. Dog felt a good deal flattered when he noticed how interested they were. When he sat down he saw that Mr. 'Possum's mouth was open and his tongue fairly hanging out with being so excited.

[Illustration: MR. 'POSSUM SAID IT MIGHT BE A GOOD ENOUGH STORY, BUT IT COULDN'T BE TRUE]

Then before any of the others could say a word, Mr. 'Possum said that it might be a good enough story, but that it couldn't be true. He said that he wasn't a judge of stories, but that he was a judge of ducks--young ducks, or old either--and that no young duck could pass the night in the Big Deep Woods and get home at sunrise or any other time, unless all the other animals were snowed in or locked up in a menagerie, and that the animal that had met Erastus might have robbed him, of course, but he would have eaten him first, and then carried off what was left, unless, of course, that robber was a rabbit, and he said that he didn't believe any rabbit would have spunk enough to be in that business.

Mr. Rabbit was about to say something just then, but Mr. Crow and Mr. 'Coon both interrupted and said they thought Mr. 'Possum was right for once, except about Mr. Rabbit, who was plenty brave enough, but too much of a gentleman to be out robbing people at night when he could be at home in bed asleep. Then Mr. Dog said:


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