Chapter II. Johnny Chuck Receives Callers
 

The morning after gentle Sister South Wind arrived on the Green Meadows, Peter Rabbit came hopping and skipping down the Lone Little Path from the Green Forest. Peter was happy. He didn't know why. He just was happy. It was in the air. Everybody else seemed happy, too. Peter had to stop every few minutes just to kick up his heels and try to jump over his own shadow. He had felt just that way ever since gentle Sister South Wind arrived.

    "I simply have to kick and dance!
     I cannot help but gaily prance!
     Somehow I feel it in my toes
     Whenever gentle South Wind blows."

So sang Peter Rabbit as he hopped and skipped down the Lone Little Path. Suddenly he stopped right in the middle of the verse. He sat up very straight and stared down at Johnny Chuck's house. Some one was sitting on Johnny Chuck's door-step. It looked like Johnny Chuck. No, it looked like the shadow of Johnny Chuck. Peter rubbed his eyes and looked again. Then he hurried as fast as he could, lipperty-lipperty- lip. The nearer he got, the less like Johnny Chuck looked the one sitting on Johnny Chuck's door-step. Johnny Chuck had gone to sleep round and fat and roly-poly, so fat he could hardly waddle. This fellow was thin, even thinner than Peter Rabbit himself. He waved a thin hand to Peter.

"Hello, Peter Rabbit! I told you that I would see you in the spring. How did you stand the long winter?"

That certainly was Johnny Chuck's voice. Peter was so delighted that in his hurry he fell over his own feet. "Is it really and truly you, Johnny Chuck?" he cried.

"Of course it's me; who did you think it was?" replied Johnny Chuck rather crossly, for Peter was staring at him as if he had never seen him before.

"I--I--I didn't know," confessed Peter Rabbit. "I thought it was you and I thought it wasn't you. What have you been doing to yourself, Johnny Chuck? Your coat looks three sizes too big for you, and when I last saw you it didn't look big enough." Peter hopped all around Johnny Chuck, looking at him as if he didn't believe his own eyes.

"Oh, Johnny's all right. He's just been living on his own fat," said another voice. It was Jimmy Skunk who had spoken, and he now stood holding out his hand to Johnny Chuck and grinning good-naturedly. He had come up without either of the others seeing him.

Peter's big eyes opened wider than ever. "Do you mean to say that he has been eating his own fat?" he gasped.

Johnny Chuck and Jimmy Skunk both laughed. "No," said Jimmy Skunk, "he didn't eat it, but he lived on it just the same while he was asleep all winter. Don't you see he hasn't got a particle of fat on him now?"

"But how could he live on it, if he didn't eat it?" asked Peter, staring at Johnny Chuck as if he had never seen him before.

Jimmy Skunk shrugged his shoulders. "Don't ask me. That is one of Old Mother Nature's secrets; you'll have to ask her," he replied.

"And don't ask me," said Johnny Chuck, "for I've been asleep all the time. My, but I'm hungry!"

"So am I!" said another voice. There was Reddy Fox grinning at them. Johnny Chuck dove into the doorway of his house with Peter Rabbit at his heels, for there was nowhere else to go. Jimmy Skunk just stood still and chuckled. He knew that Reddy Fox didn't dare touch him.