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THE VANITY OF SAMMY JAY
WHEN Sammy Jay isn't planning mischief, or sticking his bill into the affairs of other folks with which he has no concern, or trying to frighten some one bigger than himself or scare some one smaller than himself, he spends a great deal of his time admiring his fine clothes and thinking what a handsome fellow he is. And he is a handsome fellow. Even Chatterer the Red Squirrel, who is always quarreling with him, admits that Sammy Jay is a handsome fellow. He carries himself proudly when he thinks any one is looking. His shape is very trim and neat, and he is a very smart looking fellow indeed. And his coat! Was there ever such a coat before? It seems as if Old Mother Nature must have cut off a little piece of the sky when it was bluest on a summer day to make Sammy Jay's coat, and that she must have taken a tiny strip from the whitest cloud to trim it with. And then she gave him a smart cap and a black collar and a waistcoat of just the softest grayish-white, that shows off his blue coat best. Old Mother Nature certainly was feeling very good indeed when she planned Sammy Jay's clothes.
Now Sammy Jay knows just how handsome he is. If you should ask him, and he would condescend to talk to you at all, which he probably wouldn't do, he would tell you that he is the handsomest fellow in the world. Of course this isn't true, but Sammy Jay thinks it is. And so Sammy Jay is very fond of showing off his fine clothes and making fun of other people who are not so finely dressed. He spends a great deal of time in caring for his beautiful coat and in admiring himself whenever he can see his reflection in a little pool of water.
Now Peter Rabbit isn't the least bit like Sammy Jay. He doesn't think about his clothes at all. Indeed, Peter thinks so little about his clothes that it doesn't trouble him a bit to wear a white patch on the seat of his trousers. And Peter dearly loves to make fun of Sammy Jay.
So it tickled Peter immensely one day to find Sammy Jay admiring himself. Peter had come up through the Green Forest without making a sound, for with the snow covering the ground, there were no dead leaves to rustle. As usual, his long ears were cocked up to catch every sound. Suddenly Peter stopped. He had heard Sammy Jay's voice, and by the sound, Peter knew that Sammy was talking to himself. Very, very softly Peter stole forward and hid where he could see Sammy Jay in a big pine-tree.
"I've got the handsomest coat in all the Green Forest!" said Sammy Jay, stretching one of his wings out and cocking his head on one side to admire it. "And where else is such a beautiful tail to be found?" He spread his tail so that a ray of sunshine would fall on it. It certainly was very beautiful, as blue as the sky, with a little band of white across the tip and little bars of black across the outer sides. Even Peter Rabbit, with his nose turned up in scorn, had to admit to himself that it certainly was a handsome tail.
"I'm so glad it's mine!" sighed Sammy Jay. "It must be dreadful not to be handsome."
Peter Rabbit could keep still no longer. "It's a good thing you admire yourself, Sammy Jay, because no one else does!" he shouted.
"Handsome is as it may do!
Don't forget that, Sammy Jay.
Underneath that coat of blue
Is a black heart, Sammy Jay.
Everybody near and far
Knows you for just what you are —
Of all mischief-makers chief.
Handsome clothes won 't hide a thief."
Sammy Jay flew into a rage, but when he opened his mouth to call Peter names, all he could say was "Thief! thief! thief!"
"What did I tell you?" said Peter Rabbit, grinning.