Little Miss Ptarmigan Fools Him
When Little White Fox saw that he had really found out about Tdariuk, the reindeer, all by himself, he became very wise. The next time one of his friends disappeared from the tundra, he didn’t say a word about it to his mother, but went searching, searching, everywhere, every day.
This time it was Little Miss Ptarmigan who had disappeared. Probably you don’t know Miss Ptarmigan, for she lives only in cold lands where there is plenty of snow. But she is a very interesting young person. She is a bit larger than Madam Partridge and not quite so large as Madam Prairie Hen. And a very dainty little lady she is, too, for all winter–and that’s just the time Little White Fox had known her — she had worn a perfectly white gown, quite as white as the coat he wore himself. And if she hadn’t worn pink shoes and stockings, he probably would never have been able to find her in the snow at all.
Now, if Little White Fox had been as old as his mother, he would have been trying all the time to catch Little Miss Ptarmigan and carry her off to his home for mincemeat. That is what grown-up foxes do to the Ptarmigan folks when they get a chance. But Little White Fox was a very small chap, and didn’t give much thought to mincemeat. All he thought about was having a good time, so almost every day he hunted up Miss Ptarmigan, and they had a grand game of hide and seek. It was always an exciting game, too, on account of Miss Ptarmigan’s white dress, and the only way Little White Fox could find her was by watching for her pink shoes and stockings as she hid away in a snow bank. And when she sat on her feet, he could almost never find her at all.
“You just wait, Miss,” cried Little White Fox one day. “When summer comes, I’ll get you!”
“You will, will you!” replied Miss Ptarmigan. “How will you do it?”
“Why, in the summer the snow will be gone, and the ground will be all brown. Then I will be able to find you anywhere!” Little White Fox gave a hop, skip and jump that ended in a somersault, so tickled was he with his own smartness.
“Oh, indeed!” said Miss Ptarmigan, looking very wise and mysterious.
That was all she said, but Little White Fox wasn’t fussed. He hadn’t lain curled up on the grass mat in his home thinking about it night after night for nothing.
One day when the snow was nearly all gone, Little Miss Ptarmigan suddenly disappeared. Little White Fox didn’t believe she was dead. He remembered how he had been fooled by Tdariuk, and he remembered, too, how she had looked when he talked about catching her. Also, he remembered how he had found out the truth about Tdariuk. Therefore, being a wise youngster, as I have said, he didn’t say a word about it to his mother. He just went quietly about, looking, looking everywhere for Miss Ptarmigan.
In the meantime, Miss Ptarmigan had been making trouble for herself. Silly old Mrs. White Owl had been telling her all winter how very well white suited her complexion. And now summer had come, and Mother Ptarmigan had forbidden her to go outdoors at all till her new brown summer suit was finished. Miss Ptarmigan hated indoors, and she couldn’t understand what difference her dress made, anyway. But she never thought of disobeying till one fine, warm day when her mother was away from home, Little Miss Ptarmigan grew very lonesome.
“I want to go out in the sunshine,” she kept saying to herself. “There can’t be a bit of harm in it. I am sure I would see Old Mrs. White Owl, and she would say something nice about my white dress.”
Down at the foot of the mountain was someone else, a someone who didn’t think much about the sunshine and the flowers. It was Master Black Fox. He was thinking of his sausage grinder. It hadn’t been used much of late, and he was afraid it might get lazy.
“A plump chub of a Ptarmigan would grind nicely,” he said to himself, smacking his lips, “but they all wear brown dresses these days, and one cannot tell them from the weeds and grass.”
Just then his eyes opened wide. “Can I believe it?” he whispered. “Is that one of them going down the mountain this minute — and with a white dress on? Yes, sir, it is!”
Then Mr. Fox looked all about him very sharply, this way and that, for his own coat was black as coal, and could be seen quite well against the brown grass when he moved. But when he lay quite still, you couldn’t tell him from a stone. He was not afraid that Little Miss Ptarmigan would see him. He knew where she was, and could hide behind rocks until he came close to her.
After Mr. Fox had looked all about him very sharply, this way and that, he began to creep around this rock and that one, all the time drawing closer to innocent, foolish Little Miss Ptarmigan, whose white dress showed plain as day against the brown earth. And presently he was right behind a big rock she must pass in just another minute. And then he was so close that it seemed almost as if she could hear him breathe.
But she didn’t. She just walked along, thinking about the fine things Madam White Owl had said to her, till ZING! something sprang at her. She gave a frightened scream and flew to one side, but she was too late. Something sharp and cruel closed down on the toe of her pink shoes. It was the teeth of Mr. Black Fox’s sausage grinder. But he closed them down a little too hard, for it cut the toe right off the pink shoe, and the tips of Little Miss Ptarmigan’s pink toes besides, and away she flew, screaming with pain, toward a white snow bank in the valley. There each little hurt toe left a red spot on the white snow, and my, how they did ache!
One day quite a while later, when Little White Fox was over among the brown rocks at the foot of Saw Tooth Mountain, he heard a scratch, scratch! among the dry grasses behind him. He turned around, and there stood a little stranger dressed all in brown. She looked wonderfully like Miss Ptarmigan. She was just about the same size, and her shoes and stockings were just the same shade of pink.
“Hello, Little White Fox!” she cried. “I thought you said you could find me when summer came and the ground was all brown. You have been looking for me a whole week, and I have been out here all the time. You saw me yesterday, but you didn’t know me, because I had put on my summer clothes. Oh, Little White Fox, you are a very wise fellow! A very wise fellow, indeed!”
It was Miss Ptarmigan. She had changed her white gown for a brown one!
Look up and define these words:
- Ptarmigan —
- Dainty –
- Mincemeat –
- Complexion –
YOUR REACTIONS TO THE CHAPTER
In this story, Little Miss Ptarmigan learns a lesson about the right clothes to wear at the right time. She’s nearly caught and made into mincemeat after wearing her snow-colored winter dress during summer. Try telling us a funny story about a person wearing the wrong clothes at the wrong time!
YOUR VIDEO OF THE DAY
A scientist searches for a ptarmigan. http://youtu.be/qb-rRq-a-pE