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Sammy Jay
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BLACK PUSSY was out very early, hunting for her breakfast. Not that she needed to hunt for her breakfast; oh, my, no! Black Pussy didn't need a single thing. Every morning Farmer Brown's boy filled a saucer with warm fresh milk for her, and every day she had all the meat that was good for her, so there wasn't the least need in the world for her to go hunting. Black Pussy was just like all cats. Lying before the fire in Farmer Brown's house, blinking and purring contentedly, she seemed too good-natured and gentle to hurt any one, and all Farmer Brown's family said that she was and believed it. They knew nothing about the empty little nests in the joyful springtime, — empty because Black Pussy had found them and emptied them and broken the hearts of little father and mother birds.

You see, Farmer Brown's folks really didn't know Black Pussy. But the little forest and meadow people did. They knew that Black Pussy was just like all cats, — fierce and cruel down inside, — and they hated Black Pussy, every one of them. They knew that down in her heart was the love of killing, just that same love of killing that is in the heart of Shadow the Weasel, and so they hated Black Pussy. If she had had to hunt for a living, they wouldn't have minded so much, but she didn't have to hunt for a living, and so they hated her.

This particular morning Black Pussy had chosen to have a look along the old stone wall at the edge of the Old Orchard. Many times she had hunted Striped Chipmunk there. She didn't know enough about the ways of the little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows to know that this cold weather had sent Striped Chipmunk down into his snug bedroom under ground for a long sleep, so she sneaked along from stone to stone, hoping that she would surprise him. She had gone half the length of the old wall without a sign of anything to catch when she heard voices that put all thought of Striped Chipmunk out of her head. Crawling flat on her stomach to keep out of sight, she softly worked nearer and nearer until, peeping from behind a big stone in the old wall, she could see Chatterer the Red Squirrel, Peter Rabbit, and Sammy Jay talking so busily and so excited that they didn't seem to be paying attention to anything else.

Sammy Jay was safe, because he was sitting in an old apple-tree, but Chatterer was on the old wall, and Peter was on the ground. Which should she catch? Peter would make the biggest and best breakfast, but Black Pussy hadn't forgotten the terrible kick he had once given her when she had caught little Miss Fuzzytail up in the Old Pasture, and she had great respect for Peter's stout hind legs. She would be content to catch Chatterer this morning. She hated him, anyway, for he had been very saucy to her many times. He would never make fun of her or call her names again.

More slowly and carefully than ever, Black Pussy stole forward. Her eyes grew yellow with excitement, and fierce and cruel. At last she reached a place where one good jump would land her on Chatterer. Carefully she drew her feet under her to make the jump. The end of her black tail twitched with eagerness. Just as she got ready to spring, there was a shrill scream from Sammy Jay. He had caught sight of the moving tip of that tail, and he knew what it meant. Black Pussy sprang, but she was just too late. Chatterer had dived headfirst down between the stones of the old wall at the sound of Sammy's scream, and Peter had dived headfirst into Johnny Chuck's house, on the doorstep of which he happened to be sitting.

Black Pussy looked up at Sammy Jay and snarled at him in a terrible rage. Sammy shrieked at her just as angrily. Then, when her head was turned for just an instant, he darted down and actually pulled a tuft of hair from her coat, and was safely out of the way before she could turn and spring. Then Black Pussy thrust a paw down between the stones where Chatterer had disappeared. She pulled it out again with a yowl of pain, for sharp little teeth had bitten it. Slowly and sullenly Black Pussy turned and limped back towards Farmer Brown's house. She suddenly remembered that saucer of milk, and that that was really all the breakfast she wanted.

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