Chapter XI: Farmer Brown's Boy Is Tempted
 
   When you're tempted to do wrong
   Is the time to prove you're strong.
   Shut your eyes and clench each fist;
   It will help you to resist.

When a bird is found sitting on a nest, it is a pretty sure sign that that nest holds something worth while. It is a sign that that bird has set up housekeeping. So when Farmer Brown's boy discovered Mrs. Hooty sitting so close on the old nest of Redtail the Hawk, in the most lonesome corner of the Green Forest, he knew what it meant. Perhaps I should say that he knew what it ought to mean.

It ought to mean that there were eggs in that nest.

But it was hard for Farmer Brown's boy to believe that. Why, spring had not come yet! There was still snow, and the Smiling Pool was still covered with ice. Who ever heard of birds nesting at this time of year? Certainly not Farmer Brown's boy. And yet Hooty the Owl and Mrs. Hooty were acting for all the world as feathered folks do act when they have eggs and are afraid that something is going to happen to them. It was very puzzling.

"That nest was built by Red-tail the Hawk, and it hasn't even been repaired, " muttered Farmer Brown's boy, as he stared up at it. "If Hooty and his wife have taken it for their home, they are mighty poor housekeepers. And if Mrs. Hooty has laid eggs this time of year, she must be crazy. I suppose the way to find out is to climb up there. It seems foolish, but I'm going to do it. Those Owls certainly act as if they are mighty anxious about something, and I'm going to find out what it is."

He looked at Hooty and Mrs. Hooty, at their hooked bills and great claws, and decided that he would take a stout stick along with him. He had no desire to feel these great claws. When he had found a stick to suit him, he began to climb the tree. Hooty and Mrs. Hooty snapped their bills and hissed fiercely. They drew nearer. Farmer Brown's boy kept a watchful eye on them. They looked so big and fierce that he was almost tempted to give up and leave them in peace. But he just had to find out if there was anything in that nest, so he kept on. As he drew near it, Mrs. Hooty swooped very near to him, and the snap of her bill made an ugly sound. He held his stick ready to strike and kept on.

The nest was simply a great platform of sticks. When Farmer Brown's boy reached it, he found that he could not get where he could look into it, so he reached over and felt inside. Almost at once his fingers touched something that made him tingle all over. It was an egg, a great big egg! There was no doubt about it. It was just as hard for him to believe as it had been for Blacky the Crow to believe, when he first saw those eggs. Farmer Brown's boy's fingers closed over that egg and took it out of the nest. Mrs. Hooty swooped very close, and Farmer Brown's boy nearly dropped the egg as he struck at her with his stick. Then Mrs. Hooty and Hooty seemed to lose courage and withdrew to a tree near by, where they snapped their bills and hissed.

Then Farmer Brown's boy looked at the prize in his hand. It was a big, dirty-white egg. His eyes shone. What a splendid prize to add to his collection of birds' eggs! It was the first egg of the Great Horned Owl, the largest of all Owls, that he ever had seen.

Once more he felt in the nest and found there was another egg there. "I'll take both of them, " said he. "It's the first nest of Hooty's that I've ever found, and perhaps I'll never find another. Gee, I'm glad I came over here to find out what those Crows were making such a fuss about. I wonder if I can get these clown without breaking them."

Just at that very minute he remembered something. He remembered that he had stopped collecting eggs. He remembered that he had resolved never to take another bird's egg.

"But this is different, " whispered the tempter. "This isn't like taking the eggs of the little song birds."