Chapter XVI: Old Man Coyote Is Very Crafty.
 
     Coyote has a crafty brain;
     His wits are sharp his ends to gain.

There is nothing in the world more true than that. Old Man Coyote has the craftiest brain of all the little people of the Green Forest or the Green Meadows. Sharp as are the wits of old Granny Fox, they are not quite so sharp as the wits of Old Man Coyote. If you want to fool him, you will have to get up very early in the morning, and then it is more than likely that you will be the one fooled, not he. There is very little going on around him that he doesn't know about. But once in a while something escapes him. The coming of Paddy the Beaver to the Green Forest was one of these things. He didn't know a thing about Paddy until Paddy had finished his dam and his house, and was cutting his supply of food for the winter.

You see, it was this way: When the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind first heard what was going on in the Green Forest and hurried around over the Green Meadows and through the Green Forest to spread the news, as is their way, they took the greatest pains not to even hint it to Old Man Coyote because they were afraid that he would make trouble and perhaps drive Paddy away. The place that Paddy had chosen to build his dam was so deep in the Green Forest that Old Man Coyote seldom went that way. So it was that he knew nothing about Paddy, and Paddy knew nothing about him for some time.

But after awhile Old Man Coyote noticed that the little people of the Green Meadows were not about as much as usual. They seemed to have a secret of some kind. He mentioned the matter to his friend, Digger the Badger.

Digger had been so intent on his own affairs that he hadn't noticed anything unusual, but when Old Man Coyote mentioned the matter he remembered that Blacky the Crow headed straight for the Green Forest every morning. Several times he had seen Sammy Jay flying in the same direction as if in a great hurry to get somewhere.

Old Man Coyote grinned. "That's all I need to know, friend Digger," said he. "When Blacky the Crow and Sammy Jay visit a place more than once, something interesting is going on there. I think I'll take a stroll up through the Green Forest and have a look around."

With that, off Old Man Coyote started. But he was too sly and crafty to go straight to the Green Forest. He pretended to hunt around over the Green Meadows just as he usually did, all the time working nearer and nearer to the Green Forest. When he reached the edge of it, he slipped in among the trees, and when he felt that no one was likely to see him, he began to run this way and that way with his nose to the ground.

"Ha!" he exclaimed presently, "Reddy Fox has been this way lately."

Pretty soon he found another trail. "So," said he, "Peter Rabbit has been over here a good deal of late, and his trail goes in the same direction as that of Reddy Fox. I guess all I have to do now is to follow Peter's trail, and it will lead me to what I want to find out."

So Old Man Coyote followed Peter's trail, and he presently came to the pond of Paddy the Beaver. "Ha!" said he, as he looked out and saw Paddy's new house. "So there is a newcomer to the Green Forest! I have always heard that Beaver is very good eating. My stomach begins to feel empty this very minute." His mouth began to water, and a fierce, hungry look shone in his eyes.

It was just then that Sammy Jay saw him and began to scream at the top of his lungs so that Paddy the Beaver over in his house heard him. Old Man Coyote knew that it was of no use to stay longer with Sammy Jay about, so he took a hasty look at the pond and found where Paddy came ashore to cut his food. Then, shaking his fist at Sammy Jay, he started straight back for the Green Meadows. "I'll just pay a visit here in the night," said he, "and give Mr. Beaver a surprise while he is at work."

But with all his craft, Old Man Coyote didn't notice that he left a footprint in the mud.