Old Mother West Wind was tired - tired and just a wee bit cross - cross because she was tired. She had had a very busy day. Ever since early morning she had been puffing out the white sails of the ships on the big ocean to make them go faster. She had kept all the big and little windmills whirling and whirling to pump water for thirsty folks and grind corn for hungry folks. She had blown away all the smoke from tall chimneys and engines and steamboats. Yes indeed, Old Mother West Wind had been very, very busy.
Now she was coming across the Green Meadows on her way to her home behind the Purple Hills, and as she came she opened the big bag she carried and called to her children, the Merry Little Breezes, who had been playing hard on the Green Meadows all the long day. One by one they crept into the big bag, for they were tired, too, and ready to go to their home behind the Purple Hills.
Pretty soon all were in the bag but one, a willful little Breeze who was not quite ready to go home. He wanted to play just a little longer. He danced ahead of Old Mother West Wind. He kissed the sleepy daisies. He shook the nodding buttercups. He set all the little poplar leaves a-dancing, too, and he wouldn't come into the big bag.
So Old Mother West Wind closed the big bag and slung it over her shoulder. Then she started on to-wards her home behind the Purple Hills.
When she had gone the willful little Breeze left behind suddenly felt very lonely - very lonely in- deed! The sleepy daisies didn't want to play. The nodding buttercups were cross. Great round, bright Mr. Sun, who had been shining and shining all day long, went to bed and put on his nightcap of golden clouds. Black shadows came creeping, creeping out into the Green Meadows.
The willful little Breeze began to wish that he was safe in Old Mother West Wind's big bag with all the other Merry Little Breezes.
So he started across the Green Meadows to find the Purple Hills. But all the hills were black now and he could not tell which he should look behind to find his home with Old Mother West Wind and the Merry Little Breezes. How he did wish that he had minded Old Mother West Wind!
By and by he curled up under a bayberry bush and tried to go to sleep, but he was lonely - oh so lonely! - and he couldn't go to sleep. Old Mother Moon came up and flooded all the Green Meadows with light, but it wasn't like the bright light of jolly round Mr. Sun, for it was cold and white and it made many black shadows.
Pretty soon the willful little Breeze heard Hooty the Owl out hunting for a meadow mouse for his dinner. Then down the Lone Little Path which ran close to the bayberry bush trotted Reddy Fox. He was trotting very softly and every minute or so he turned his head and looked behind him to see if he was followed. it was plain to see that Reddy Fox was bent on mischief.
When he reached the bayberry bush Reddy Fox sat down and barked twice. Hooty the Owl answered him at once and flew over to join him. They didn't see the willful little Breeze curled up under the bayberry bush, so intent were these two rogues in plotting mischief. They were planning to steal down across the Green Meadows to the edge of the Brown Pasture, where Mr. Bob White and pretty Mrs. Bob White and a dozen little Bob Whites had their home.
"When they run along the ground I'll catch 'em, and when they fly up in the air you'll catch 'em, and we'll gobble 'em all up," said Reddy Fox to Hooty the Owl. Then he licked his chops and Hooty the Owl snapped his bill, just as if they were tasting tender little Bob Whites that very minute. It made the willful little Breeze shiver to see them. Pretty soon they started on towards the Brown Pasture.
When they were out of sight the willful little Breeze jumped up and shook himself. Then away he sped across the Green Meadows to the Brown Pasture. And because he could go faster and because he went a shorter way, he got there first. He had to hunt and hunt to find Mrs. and Mr. Bob White and all the little Bob Whites, but finally he did find them, all with their heads tucked under their wings fast asleep.
The willful little Breeze shook Mr. Bob White very gently. In an instant he was wide awake.
"Sh-h-h," said the willful little Breeze. "Reddy Fox and Hooty the Owl are coming to the Brown Pasture to gobble up you and Mrs. Bob White and all the little Bob Whites."
"Thank you, little Breeze," said Mr. Bob White. "I think I'll move my family."
Then he woke Mrs. Bob White and all the little Bob Whites. With Mr. Bob White in the lead, away they all flew to the far side of the Brown Pasture, where they were soon safely hidden under a juniper tree.
The willful little Breeze saw them safely there, and when they were nicely hidden hurried back to the place where the Bob Whites had been sleeping. Reddy Fox was stealing up through the grass very, very softly. Hooty the Owl was flying as silently as a shadow. When Reddy Fox thought he was near enough he drew himself together, made a quick spring, and landed right in Mr. Bob White's empty bed. Reddy Fox and Hooty the Owl looked so surprised and foolish when they found that the Bob Whites were not there that the willful little Breeze nearly laughed out loud.
Then Reddy Fox and Hooty the Owl hunted here and hunted there, all over the Brown Pasture, but they couldn't find the Bob Whites.
And the willful little Breeze went back to the juniper tree and curled himself up beside Mr. Bob White to sleep, for he was lonely no longer.