The little red squirrel’s heart

On Saturday afternoon Tiny and Winkie Weasel went out for a frolic in
the forest beyond the river. Reynard Redfox had almost recovered from
his severe cold, but he stayed at home, thinking of the golden summer
so near at hand with its red strawberries and wild grapes.

Winkie came from a family of very bloodthirsty and suspicious
character, but Miss Hare’s teachings had made him as gentle as Weenie
Mouse. Although Tiny had been taught to shun weasels, he had become
quite fond of Winkie, because he was bright and active.

Side by side they made their way through the deep forest. The birds
sang merrily and the sun shone brightly. Lady’s-slippers with
lemon-colored pouches and long slender leaves grew in the damp, low
grounds. Occasionally a rose-colored one nodded its fairy head at them.

“Summer will come soon,” said Tiny, his voice ringing with happiness.

“Yes,” replied Winkie, as he stopped to sniff at a fallen log. “How
glad I am that cold weather has passed away!”

A turn in the path brought them to a clump of hazel bushes, where a
queer spectacle met their gaze. An animal covered with mud and moss
was trailing along towards the creek. A striped gopher, a queer little
animal with bloated cheeks and no neck at all, was annoying the poor
creature by jumping upon its back.

[Illustration: A QUEER LITTLE ANIMAL WITH BLOATED CHEEKS AND NO NECK AT
ALL WAS TORMENTING THE POOR CREATURE BY JUMPING UPON ITS BACK.]

“It is a turtle,” said Tiny, who had seen creatures of its kind before.
“It has just awakened from its winter slumber. You know that a turtle
settles down in the mud as soon as the frost kills the insects, and
there it stays until warm weather comes again.”

“Stop teasing that turtle!” cried Winkie to the gopher. “If you do not
cease, you shall feel the points of my teeth. Come here.”

The gopher jumped from the turtle’s back, and, holding his head to one
side, said good-naturedly:

“I am tired of teasing the slothful turtle, but I am not too tired to
run a race with you. Let us see which of us three will beat in a race.”

Winkie readily consented; but, just as they had drawn up in line to
take a dash down the narrow pathway, a deep growl resounded through the
thicket. Quick as a flash Winkie darted into a hollow stump.

[Illustration: “FOLLOW ME,” SAID THE GOPHER, AS HE DISAPPEARED INTO A
HOLE IN THE GROUND.]

“Follow me,” said the gopher, quite self-possessed, as he disappeared
into a hole in the ground. Tiny did not like the idea of being under
ground, nor was he fond of animals that burrow; but he obeyed, for he
was frightened. He trembled violently.

They entered a dark hall, at the end of which was a little, round room
containing a comfortable bed of soft grasses and fur.

“This is a cozy place,” said Tiny, sinking down to rest.

“It is my home,” said the little animal. “I suppose you know that I
am Jolly Gopher. It is fortunate that you happened to be so near my
residence when the panther happened along. Panthers are rare in this
temperate zone, and I am glad of it. What if the savage beast had
attacked me while I was riding? I am glad that you like my humble home.”

“It is a restful place for lazy animals, but I should not like to dwell
here,” said Tiny, frankly. “I always distrusted creatures that burrow
in the ground away from the air and sunshine, until I went to Miss
Hare’s school.”

“What has Miss Hare’s school to do with it?” asked the gopher, his
mouth open.

“I learned that Mother Earth,” said Tiny, “is kind indeed to poor
little defenseless animals, whom she protects from savage animals and
hunters. Animals all live where they can have the greatest safety. The
fish lives in the depths of the water, the squirrel in the tree, the
cricket under a rock, and the gopher in the ground. How fortunate it is
that we do not all live in the same place!”

“I am fond of living down in the ground,” resumed the gopher after a
moment of silence. “No panther nor any other beast bigger than myself
can meddle with my affairs. I saunter forth early in the morning and
fill my pockets with fresh, green things. You see that my pockets hang
down from my cheeks. I hurry back and stow away my food. When it rains,
I stay indoors and sleep and eat. A gopher’s life is a very peaceful
one.”

“I wish I might have pockets,” said Tiny, wistfully. “We squirrels
don’t have them, you know. I believe I am the only squirrel that
carries a hunting bag. It was made for me by a tailor bird. She is
a rare and curious bird who makes a nest that looks like a bag. She
selects tough leaves and sews them together with long, firm strips of
growing plants. She uses her bill as a needle.”

“How remarkable!” exclaimed the gopher. “I think it would be nicer to
carry a hunting bag than to have pockets in my cheeks. Sometimes my
pockets are so full I can’t get inside my house.”

“The bee also has pockets–six little pockets,” said Tiny, reflectively.

“And the opossum and several other animals have pockets in which they
carry their children,” added the gopher wisely.

“You seem to observe things as much as I do,” said Tiny, admiringly.

“Yes, I travel a great deal and have seen many queer things,” replied
the gopher, proudly.

[Illustration: SHE IS ABOUT THE ONLY ANIMAL THAT DOES NOT FEAR THE
STING OF A BEE.]

“Once I burrowed down into a badger’s home,” he went on. “I saw the
nursery with the little badgers playing about in their bed of moss and
grass. The mother badger was very civil to me. She is about the only
animal that does not fear the sting of a bee, because her skin is so
tough and her hair is so thick. It seems to me that of all animals, the
badger is treated with the greatest cruelty. When the hunters catch
her, they permit their dogs to torture her to death. The harder the
poor creature fights to get away, the worse they abuse her, and the
greater it pleases the cruel hunters. Sometimes the poor animal endures
this brutal treatment for a full day.”

“I have often heard that the verb _to badger_ means _to tease_, or _to
torment_,” said Tiny.

“I do not know anything about verbs,” replied the gopher, “but I do
know that some hunters are very cruel.”

“Have you ever seen a mole’s nest?” asked Tiny.

“Oh, yes, when I was quite small, I had the privilege of visiting one,”
replied the gopher enthusiastically. “You may think that the mole is a
very stupid animal, but I assure you that he is not.”

“An animal that lives in the dirt all the time couldn’t be very
intelligent,” interrupted Tiny. “Besides, his eyes and ears are so
small, he surely cannot see and hear well.”

“Little eyes and ears are often more keen than larger ones,” quickly
replied Jolly Gopher. “Do you suppose that a giraffe can see or hear
better than you can? It is fortunate that the mole has such tiny eyes
and ears, otherwise they would catch a great deal of dirt, as the
little animal burrows through the earth. The mole is very clean in
appearance. He sleeps three hours and then he works three hours as
long as he lives. He is a great builder; he sinks wells to quench his
thirst; he can run fast; he can swim; and he can fight. He loves his
home in the ground. He seldom comes out.”

“Does he have a nice bed like yours?” asked Tiny, much interested.

“Indeed, he has,” said the gopher. “His home is one of the most
wonderful things I have ever seen. It is reached by passing through one
of several long, straight halls. The walls are so solid that the rain
seldom leaks through. I went into one of these halls, and with some
difficulty made my way into another one, which was circular. From this
hall five passages led to another hall above my head. I stopped at the
foot of the nearest passage to rest. Then I went up. The upper hall was
circular, but not so large as the lower one. I knew that I was at the
summit of the mole hill, for I could plainly hear the birds singing
overhead. From this upper circular hall three more passages led down to
the main room. I went down into this room and sat very quietly there
for a few moments. I wondered why the mole had made it so difficult to
get into his house.”

“I suppose he wants to make his house as safe as possible,” suggested
the squirrel.

“Precisely so,” said the gopher. “If he and his family hear some
vicious animal coming through one of the long halls, they have a chance
to escape. The central room is a kind of fortress where they seek
protection.”

“Did you ever see any of the little moles?” asked Tiny, excitedly.

“No. I learned afterwards that their nursery was built at a point where
two or more of the long halls cross one another. It was situated in an
out of the way place with many avenues of escape. Their bed was made of
blades of grass and other soft material. I am sure that the nest of a
mole is safer than that of a goldfinch hanging high up in a tree. Why
does the goldfinch usually build her nest at the end of a branch?”

“Because she likes to have her nest dance up and down and sway about
in the breeze,” said Tiny. “The goldfinch builds very well. Her nest
is made of lichens and moss and sheep’s wool, and is so fashioned that
the little birds cannot roll out. What jolly times the goldfinches must
have teetering up and down in a roomy nest on a starlit night!”

“Yet they surely suffer when it storms, while the little moles are
never bothered by lightning and thunder,” quickly interposed the
gopher. “I suppose it is fortunate that all animals do not have the
same ideas about things.”

“I should like to hear something about prairie dogs,” said Tiny, after
a while.

“I will gladly tell you,” returned the gopher, settling himself more
comfortably. “Sometimes hundreds of prairie dogs live together in one
city. It is interesting to watch the round towers of their dwellings.
Most prairie dogs have small brown eyes and grayish-red fur. Although
they are agile little animals, they do not work much. You would laugh
to see them when they bark, for they shake their stumpy tails and jerk
to and fro. They yelp like dogs. Some of them act as guards and sit out
upon their roofs all day long, looking about the horizon. When an enemy
approaches, they bark loudly and rush into their houses, and all the
chattering ceases. For a while the city is as quiet as night; but, in
a few minutes, many inquisitive, dark eyes peep out to see if danger
still threatens them.”

“Their city must be a very lively place,” observed Tiny.

“Many other animals visit there,” said the gopher. “All kinds of
vicious creatures flock to a great city, you know. The prairie dogs
are often molested by hawks, burrowing owls, and coyotes. I believe I
prefer to live in the country.”

“I am quite satisfied with my mode of living, as we all should be,”
said Tiny. “I have been greatly benefited by learning about these
animals. If one should get blue or homesick or discouraged, it would
pay him to visit a gopher and find out how other less fortunate animals
live. Then he would return home quite contented with his lot. I thank
you for teaching me so much.”

“You are welcome,” replied the gopher. “I, too, have learned from you,
so we have been mutually helped. I never knew before that it is wrong
to engage in any kind of sport that gives pain to another. Henceforth I
will never tease a turtle or take a ride on his back.”

“I must go,” declared Tiny, rising from his downy couch.

“Stay longer,” pleaded the gopher. “The moon rises early, and–”

“That is no reason why I should go to bed late,” interrupted Tiny. “My
teacher may worry about me. Goodby, Mr. Gopher.”

“Goodby. You must come back,” replied the gopher sleepily.

Before Tiny could reach the door, his acquaintance with the pockets in
his cheeks was fast asleep.

The little red squirrel’s heart beat with joy and thankfulness when the
dewy air, laden with the sweet fragrance of early summer, again greeted
his nostrils. With nimble leaps he made his way through the leaf-strewn
pathway to the edge of the crystal stream. Before him lay the quaint
beaver houses that had become so dear to him, while beyond, the pink
western skies faded softly into gray, like the happy days of his youth.

About two weeks before the close of school, Miss Hare met with a
misfortune. Because of the great amount of work she had to do, grading
examination papers, her eyes became so weak that she scarcely could
use them. Tiny felt sorry for the patient, hard-working teacher, and
offered to be of assistance to her.

“You may come into the schoolroom and help me,” she said to him one
Saturday morning. “I have a number of important letters to write. You
are very painstaking, and I shall be glad to have your assistance.”

Tiny followed her into the room and sat down beside the desk, very
happy to be of some use to one he so thoroughly respected. The material
upon which he wrote was not so white and smooth as the paper used in
schoolrooms nowadays. It was simply birch bark that could be rolled
up and tied with heavy grass. The ink he used was the juice of the
pokeberry, and his pen was a goose quill.

[Illustration: AS SOON AS HE HAD WRITTEN A LETTER, HE ROLLED IT NEATLY,
ADDRESSED IT CAREFULLY, AND GAVE IT TO BILLY BEAVER, WHO CALLED A
CARRIER PIGEON.]

As soon as he had written a letter, he rolled it neatly, addressed it
carefully, and gave it to Billy Beaver, who called a carrier pigeon to
take it to its place of destination.

During the hour that Tiny spent in the schoolroom that morning, he
learned about money orders and drafts, for it is said that at one time
the more enlightened residents of Animal Kingdom made use of them.

Here are a few letters that Tiny either wrote or read for Miss Hare:

1. BUSINESS LETTER.

Beaver Creek, Joy Co., Animal Kingdom,
May 25,—-

Messrs. Sheep, Goat & Co.,
63, 65, 67 Bleat Street,
Herd City, Animal Kingdom.

Gentlemen:

Please send at your earliest convenience the following articles for
use in my boarding school:

2 quarts milk.
15 pounds wool.
1 dozen quills.

I enclose money order for three dollars.

Yours respectfully,
(MISS) MOLLY HARE.

2. BUSINESS LETTER.

Beaver Creek, Joy Co., Animal Kingdom,
May 25,—-

Messrs. Fido, Carlo & Co.,
Dogtown, Animal Kingdom.

Gentlemen:

Please send by Pony Express:

1 uniform for janitor, size No. 3.
2 yards horsehair cloth, as per sample.
1 school bench, as per catalogue.

Enclosed find draft for ten dollars ($10).

Respectfully,
(MISS) MOLLY HARE.

3. BUSINESS LETTER.

118 Hill Avenue,
Rolling City,
May 16,—-

Miss Molly Hare,
Principal, Beaver Creek School,
Beaver Creek, Animal Kingdom.

Dear Madam:

For the enclosed money order ($1.25) please send to my address “The
Beaver Creek School Journal” for one year, beginning next month.

Yours truly,
JUMPINGTON PRAIRIEDOG.

4. INFORMAL NOTE.

Dear Miss Hare:

Please excuse Glossy Marten from school all next week on account of
illness in the family.

Will you kindly tell her to travel via Central Route to avoid danger?

Very respectfully yours,
MRS. BEAUTY MARTEN.

5. INFORMAL NOTE.

Dear Miss Turkey:

Will you lay aside your work for a short time and dine with me
Wednesday at 5 o’clock?

Sincerely yours,
MOLLY HARE.

6. FORMAL NOTE.

Miss Pet Pheasant requests the pleasure of Miss Hare’s company on
Tuesday evening, May thirtieth, from four to seven o’clock.

13 Forest Edge Street.

7. NOTE OF ACCEPTANCE.

Miss Molly Hare is pleased to accept Miss Pet Pheasant’s kind
invitation for Wednesday evening, May thirtieth.

Beaver Creek, May twenty-fifth.

8. INVITATION.

Miss Brownie Mink
at home
Thursday evening, June first
from six to eight o’clock

14 Water Front

9. NOTE OF REGRET.

Miss Molly Hare regrets that a previous engagement prevents her from
accepting Miss Brownie Mink’s kind invitation for Thursday evening,
June first.

Beaver Creek, May twenty-fifth.

* * * * *

“This has been a very pleasant task, I assure you,” said Tiny, when
his work was done. “I have learned how to write a business letter,
which is an important thing to know. I never before had heard of money
orders and drafts. You know we do not have those things, nor money, nor
stores, at Squirreltown.”

“Only a few of the more intelligent animals know anything about
business,” replied Miss Hare. “I know of only two large department
stores and three banks in Animal Kingdom. I have heard that the
ancient human beings used shells for money; but, finally, they
established the use of coins, because they were valued by all classes
of people. If the hunters would not molest us, Animal Kingdom would
imitate the human race and become very much enlightened. Some day I
hope you may visit the department store of Sheep, Goat & Co., and see
for yourself how animals are advancing in knowledge. I understand that
this great store employs almost a dozen clerks.”

“I have also learned how to write an invitation and notes of regret and
acceptance. They seem to be very simple in their construction,” said
Tiny, placing the quill in a shell filled with sand.

“No self-respecting animal should neglect his correspondence, no matter
how busy he may be,” said Miss Hare. “As a rule, one who hates to write
letters is one who cannot write them well. It is necessary that one
should write social and business letters, and learn how to make them
clear and forceful. Now you may rest. I thank you for your services,
Tiny.”

The red squirrel, with a polite bow, returned to his room, much pleased
because he had pleased some one else.