Jimmy Skunk in "Jimmy Skunk Keeps His Word"
Jimmy Skunk Keeps
"Keep your word, whate'er you do,
And to your inmost self be true."
When Jimmy Skunk shouted down the hall of Johnny Chuck's old house to Ryder Rabbit that he would come back at dark, he was half joking. He did it to make Ryder uneasy and to worry him. The truth is, Jimmy was no longer angry at all. He had quite recovered his good nature and was very much inclined to laugh himself over Ryder's trick. But he felt that it wouldn't do to let Ryder off without some kind of punishment, and so he decided to frighten Ryder a little.
He knew that Ryder wouldn't dare come out during the daytime because of the Yellow Jackets whose home was just inside the doorway of that old house; and he knew that Ryder wouldn't dare face him, for he would be afraid of being treated as Reddy Fox had been. So that is why he told Ryder that he was coming back at dark. He felt that if Ryder was kept a prisoner in there for a while, all the time worrying about how he was to get out, he would be very slow to try such a trick again.
As Jimmy ambled away to look for some beetles, he chuckled and chuckled and chuckled. "I guess that by this time Ryder wishes he hadn't thought of that joke on Reddy Fox and myself," said he.
"Perhaps I'll go back there tonight and perhaps I won't. He won't know whether I do or not, and he won't dare come out." Then he stopped and scratched his head thoughtfully. Then he sighed. Then he scratched his head again and once more sighed.
"I really don't want to go back there tonight," he muttered, "but I guess I'll have to.
I said I would, and so I'll have to do it. I believe in keeping my word. If I shouldn't and some day he should find it out, he wouldn't believe me the next time I happened to say I would do a thing. Yes, Sir, I'll have to go back. There is nothing like making people believe that when you say a thing you mean it. There is nothing like keeping your word to make people respect you."
Being naturally rather lazy, Jimmy decided not to go any farther than the edge of the Old Orchard, which was only a little way above Johnny Chuck's old house, where Ryder was a prisoner.
There Jimmy found a warm, sunny spot and curled up for a nap. In fact, he spent all the day there. When jolly, round, red Mr. Sun went to bed behind the Purple Hills, and the Black Shadows came trooping across the Green Meadows, Jimmy got up, yawned, chuckled, and then slowly ambled down to Johnny Chuck's old house. A look at the footprints in the sand on the doorstep told him that Ryder had not come out. Jimmy sat down and waited until it was quite dark. Then he poked his head in at the doorway. The Yellow Jackets had gone to bed for the night.
"Come out, Ryder. I'm waiting for you!" he called down the hall, and made his voice sound as angry as he could. But inside he was chuckling. Then Jimmy Skunk calmly turned and went about his business. He had kept his word.
As for Ryder Rabbit, that had been one of the very worst days he could recall. He had ached and smarted from the stings of the Yellow Jackets; he had worried all day about what would happen to him if he did meet Jimmy Skunk, and he was hungry.
He had had just a little bit of hope, and this was that Jimmy Skunk wouldn't come back when it grew dark. He had crept part way up the hall at the first hint of night and stretched himself out to wait until he could be sure that those dreadful Yellow Jackets had gone to sleep. He had just about made up his mind that it was safe for him to scamper out when Jimmy Skunk's voice came down the hall to him. Poor Ryder! The sound of that voice almost broke his heart.
"He has come back. He's kept his word," he half sobbed as he once more went back to Johnny Chuck's old bedroom.
There he stayed nearly all the rest of the night, though his stomach was so empty it ached. Just before it was time for Mr. Sun to rise, Ryder ventured to dash out of Johnny Chuck's old house. He got past the home of the Yellow Jackets safely, for they were not yet awake. With his heart in his mouth, he sprang out of the doorway.
Jimmy Skunk wasn't there. With a sigh of relief, Ryder started for the dear, safe Old Briar-patch, lipperty-lipperty-lip, as fast as he could go.
"I'll never, never play another joke," he said, over and over again as he ran.