II. Something in the Sky

When Sandy Chipmunk was just a little chap his mother began to teach him to take care of himself. She told him that among other enemies he must always watch out for foxes and minks and weasels--especially weasels.

"They are very dangerous," Mrs. Chipmunk said.

"Well, I'll always be safe if I climb a tree--won't I?" Sandy asked her.

"Goodness, no!" his mother replied. "There are many big birds--such as hawks and owls and eagles--that would catch you if they could.... But I'll tell you about them some other time, Sandy."

Well, Sandy Chipmunk went out to play. But he didn't have what you would call a good time, because he couldn't help thinking of his mother's warning. He kept looking all around to see whether a weasel or a mink or a fox might be trying to steal up behind him. And he kept looking up to make sure that no big bird was ready to swoop down upon him.

But nothing of the sort happened--at least, not until the middle of the afternoon. Sandy had begun to believe that his mother was too timid. He did not think there was anything in Farmer Green's pasture to be afraid of. There were the cows--nothing seemed to worry them. They ate grass, or chewed their cuds, and never once looked behind them.

Sandy Chipmunk wandered further and further from home. For a long time he had not taken the trouble to look at the sky. But at last he glanced up. And to his great alarm he saw, hovering in the air far above him, an enormous creature. He had never seen its like before. It seemed all head and tail. Two great eyes stared at Sandy Chipmunk and sent a chill of fear over him. The monster's wide mouth grinned at him cruelly. And its long tail lashed back and forth as if its owner were very angry. Even as Sandy looked at the creature it gave a horrid scream.

Sandy Chipmunk did not wait for anything else. He turned and ran home. And a few of his friends who happened to see him remarked that he seemed to be in a greater hurry than ever.

Sandy felt better when he found himself safe in his mother's house. And he told Mrs. Chipmunk what he had seen.

"It may be an owl," he said, "because it has big, round eyes. But its tail was not like any owl's tail that I ever saw. It was like six catamounts' tails, all tied in knots."

"That's queer!" his mother remarked. "I never knew of a bird with a tail like that."

"Maybe it's a beast that has learned to fly," Sandy suggested.

"Beasts can't fly," Mrs. Chipmunk said.

But Sandy knew better than that.

"There's the Flying-Squirrel family," he reminded her.

"They can only fly from one tree to another," his mother told him. "I think I'll peep out and see for myself what this strange creature looks like."

He begged her not to. But Mrs. Chipmunk said she would be careful. And she went out and looked up at the sky.

Sandy was surprised when she came back laughing.

"What is it, Mother?" he asked. "Is it a bird or a beast?"

"Neither!" Mrs. Chipmunk answered with a smile.

"Then it must be a fish!" Sandy exclaimed.

"No! It's not a fish, either," his mother said. "It's nothing but a kite that Johnnie Green has made. He has painted eyes and a mouth on it. And I must say that if I didn't know a kite when I saw one it might have frightened me."

"But what makes it lash its tail that way?" Sandy asked her.

"The wind is blowing it," Mrs. Chipmunk explained.

"What made it scream?" Sandy inquired.

"It didn't," his mother replied.

Now, Sandy Chipmunk knew better than to contradict his mother. So all he said was this:

"Let's go outside and listen!"

Still smiling, Mrs. Chipmunk went to the door again with Sandy. And pretty soon they heard a long, far-off wail.

"There!" he cried. "That's it! Don't you hear it, Mother?"

"That--" Mrs. Chipmunk said--"that is nothing but the whistle of an engine, way down at the other end of Pleasant Valley."