Lying in every direction, and quite filling the little hollow, were round mounds of earth, each one having a hole in the center. The mounds were about two feet high and as big around as a wash-tub, and the edges of the holes were pounded hard and smooth by the pattering feet of the little creatures that lived within.
"Isn't it funny!" said Chubbins, staring at the mounds.
"Awful," replied Twinkle, staring too. "Do you know, Chub, there are an'mals living in every single one of those holes?"
"What kind?" asked Chubbins.
"Well, they're something like squirrels, only they aren't squirrels," she explained. "They're prairie-dogs."
"Don't like dogs," said the boy, looking a bit uneasy.
"Oh, they're not dogs at all," said Twinkle; "they're soft and fluffy, and gentle."
"Do they bark?" he asked.
"Yes; but they don't bite."
"How d' you know, Twink?"
"Papa has told me about them, lots of times. He says they're so shy that they run into their holes when anybody's around; but if you keep quiet and watch, they'll stick their heads out in a few minutes."
"Let's watch," said Chubbins.
"All right," she agreed.
Very near to some of the mounds was a raised bank, covered with soft grass; so the children stole softly up to this bank and lay down upon it in such a way that their heads just stuck over the top of it, while their bodies were hidden from the eyes of any of the folks of Prairie-Dog Town.
"Are you comferble, Chub?" asked the little girl.
"Then lie still and don't talk, and keep your eyes open, and perhaps the an'mals will stick their heads up."
"All right," says Chubbins.
So they kept quiet and waited, and it seemed a long time to both the boy and the girl before a soft, furry head popped out of a near-by hole, and two big, gentle brown eyes looked at them curiously.
"Dear me!" said the prairie-dog, speaking almost in a whisper; "here are some of those queer humans from the village."
"Let me see! Let me see!" cried two shrill little voices, and the wee heads of two small creatures popped out of the hole and fixed their bright eyes upon the heads of Twinkle and Chubbins.
"Go down at once!" said the mother prairie-dog. "Do you want to get hurt, you naughty little things?"
"Oh, they won't get hurt," said another deeper voice, and the children turned their eyes toward a second mound, on top of which sat a plump prairie-dog whose reddish fur was tipped with white on the end of each hair. He seemed to be quite old, or at least well along in years, and he had a wise and thoughtful look on his face.
"They're humans," said the mother.
"True enough; but they're only human children, and wouldn't hurt your little ones for the world," the old one said.
"That's so!" called Twinkle. "All we want, is to get acquainted."
"Why, in that case," replied the old prairie-dog, "you are very welcome in our town, and we're glad to see you."
"Thank you," said Twinkle, gratefully. It didn't occur to her just then that it was wonderful to be talking to the little prairie-dogs just as if they were people. It seemed very natural they should speak with each other and be friendly.
As if attracted by the sound of voices, little heads began to pop out of the other mounds – one here and one there – until the town was alive with the pretty creatures, all squatting near the edges of their holes and eyeing Chubbins and Twinkle with grave and curious looks.
"Let me introduce myself," said the old one that had first proved friendly. "My name is Bowko, and I'm the Mayor and High Chief of Prairie-Dog Town."
"Don't you have a king?" asked Twinkle.
"Not in this town," he answered. "There seems to be no place for kings in this free United States. And a Mayor and High Chief is just as good as a king, any day."
"I think so, too," answered the girl.
"Better!" declared Chubbins.
The Mayor smiled, as if pleased.
"I see you've been properly brought up," he continued; "and now let me introduce to you some of my fellow-citizens. This," pointing with one little paw to the hole where the mother and her two children were sitting, "is Mrs. Puff-Pudgy and her family – Teenty and Weenty. Mr. Puff-Pudgy, I regret to say, was recently chased out of town for saying his prayers backwards."
"How could he?" asked Chubbins, much surprised.
"He was always contrary," answered the Mayor, with a sigh, "and wouldn't do things the same way that others did. His good wife, Mrs. Puff-Pudgy, had to scold him all day long; so we finally made him leave the town, and I don't know where he's gone to."