This advice was a golden

Tiny’s last ramble through the copse near Beaver Creek was one that
he never forgot. He was beginning to realize how much more pleasing
are the works of Nature when one really takes an interest in them. He
had learned to study even the snail in his shell house and the Venus’
fly-trap that catches insects.

“Aren’t the skies blue, and the trees and grasses green, and the music
of the birds sweet, and the busy hum of the insects inspiring?” he
asked himself again and again.

Once he stopped to admire the graceful foliage of the alder tree.

“That tree has some secrets hidden away that I mean to find out,” said
he, as he scurried up its smooth trunk. He gazed through the branches.
At last he espied a nest. It was built of coarse sticks.

“What an odd place for a jay bird’s home!” he exclaimed. “I never could
understand why the jay does not build a comfortable nest like that of
the robin. Perhaps he fears he might spoil his little ones by making
them too comfortable.”

Next he saw a queer object that held his attention for a long time. A
caterpillar was hanging from a leaf. Tiny thought that it was about
to fall, but the little worm held fast with all its might. It was
attaching a fine thread to the point of a leaf, but it worked harder
than the man who fells a tree.

“Do not molest that caterpillar,” said a voice from a limb overhead.

Tiny looked up and saw a peculiar animal with a long, pointed face
and sharp teeth, hanging head downward from a limb overhead. With a
startled cry, the squirrel hid in a thick branch.

“You need not fear me, for I do not eat squirrels,” said the odd
creature. “I am looking for birds. I should think you would be ashamed
to attack a poor little caterpillar.”

“Never in my life have I molested a caterpillar,” declared Tiny. “I
should think you would be ashamed to attack birds.”

“Well, everything depends upon the point of view,” replied the larger
animal. “I am not responsible if my views do not agree with your own,
for I see things upside down.”

[Illustration: “WHY DO YOU HANG BY YOUR TAIL?” TINY ASKED.]

“Why do you hang by your tail?” asked Tiny. From his hiding place he
peeped at the curious animal.

“Because I am an opossum, and I am wise enough to know that tails were
made to hang by. I couldn’t hang by my neck, could I?”

“I suppose not,” replied Tiny, with a laugh. “Reynard, Snowball, and
Rover have strong tails. I will tell them that they should cultivate
the use of them, as the opossum does.”

“I’ll be glad to teach them how,” said the opossum, not in the least
offended at the squirrel’s amusement. Tiny drew closer to get a better
view of his new acquaintance. He could look into his eyes.

“Reynard, Snowball, or Rover is going with me to-morrow. I should like
you to teach some of your amusing tricks to the one who comes.”

The opossum laughed so hard that Tiny feared he would lose his hold and
fall upon him.

“Neither Reynard, Rover, nor Snowball is likely to be benefited by
anything that I may teach him,” said the opossum, evidently much
pleased by Tiny’s suggestion. “Neither the birds nor the animals admire
me.”

“I do not dislike you,” said Tiny, truthfully.

“I am not so dull as one might think. I can sit up and I can hang by my
tail.”

“I can sit up, but I cannot hang by my tail,” said Tiny. “Some
squirrels can fly, but I am sure I can beat any flying squirrel in
a race. A red, a gray, and a black squirrel live close together at
Squirreltown. The mayor sends them with messages to other neighboring
towns. They are as swift as lightning.”

“Perhaps you wonder why I am looking so closely at that caterpillar,”
said the opossum, without stopping to argue concerning the fleetness of
squirrels. “All morning long I have watched with anxious eyes.”

“Perhaps you want to see what he is trying to do,” suggested Tiny.

“The caterpillar does not interest me at all,” said the opossum
rather brusquely. “I am waiting for a bird to come along to catch the
caterpillar. Before the bird catches the worm, I shall catch the bird–”

“And perhaps some hunter will catch you before you can catch the bird,”
interrupted Tiny.

“You are right,” said the opossum. “Every animal always seems to be
ready to catch another one. I like pretty birds as you like plump
acorns. A yellow, brown, and blue bird is a very attractive creature.
An ugly sparrow is not half so pleasing to me as a golden oriole.”

“I am sorry that you like to destroy birds,” said Tiny, who had
learned to love the little feathered songsters of the forest. “You are
cowardly. You attack birds. They are smaller than you.”

“I am cowardly but cautious,” returned the opossum. “I should be
foolish to try to capture an eagle. I have caught six little birds this
morning. The first, second, and third birds were sparrows. The fourth,
the fifth, and the sixth birds were robins.”

“The poor things surely did not suffer long. Your mouth is so large and
your teeth are so sharp,” said the red squirrel.

“Where do you live?” inquired the opossum, still gazing at the
caterpillar.

“I came from Beaver Creek,” answered Tiny. “I am out to-day to study
Nature.”

“Then you needn’t spend any more of your time here. There are other
things to see,” snapped the opossum. “Your incessant chatter is keeping
the birds away.”

“Where do you live?” asked Tiny, wishing to save as many birds as
possible.

“Close by,” replied the opossum indifferently. “I live in a dead tree.”

“What has become of the caterpillar?”

“It is still working away. It is a remarkable toiler. Now it has
succeeded in bending back the point of the leaf and has fastened it
down with bits of thread.”

“It has curled the leaf until it looks like a little tube with a very
round hole at each end,” said Tiny, much interested.

“Caterpillars make houses of leaves,” explained the opossum.

“How very odd!” exclaimed the squirrel.

“That depends upon the point of view,” repeated the opossum. “Insects
breathe through holes along their sides. You have lungs. Through these
lungs you breathe. Both of these methods of breathing might seem very
odd to the fish, who breathes through his gills.”

“How can the caterpillar turn around in such a small house?” asked Tiny.

“It doesn’t wish to turn around,” said the opossum. “The caterpillar
does not wiggle so much as the squirrel. It knows that big houses are
seldom half as cozy as smaller ones. As soon as it gets settled down to
housekeeping, it begins to eat its little green house.”

“How funny!” chuckled Tiny.

“Before very long it eats itself out of house and home,” said the
opossum.

“What would you do if a hunter were to steal up and club you?” asked
Tiny, more interested in the quadruped than in the worm.

“If a hunter should attack me, I would drop down and play that I was
dead,” was the answer.

“Once Snowball pretended to be asleep when Billy Beaver called him,”
said Tiny. “Billy said that Snowball was ‘playing ’possum.’ Now I know
what he meant.”

“I suppose that the opossum is not the only animal that tries to
deceive,” said the opossum, with a yawn.

“I see that you are sleepy,” said the squirrel. “I must go to my
home. I wonder why animals are so impolite as to yawn when they are
entertaining company.”

“Perhaps it would be better for you to say goodby before your
entertainers tire of you,” retorted the opossum.

This advice was a golden gift to Tiny. He never forgot it. With a
courteous farewell, he hastened down the trunk of the tree. When he
reached the ground, he stopped a moment to gaze overhead. The opossum
was asleep among the branches.

“He had better be sleeping than killing birds,” said Tiny, gratefully.
“I shall visit the opossum often and keep him out of mischief. This
afternoon has been well spent. I have stood between the birds and their
enemy.”

The last day of school rolled round. The pupils of the Beaver Creek
School were in a state of pleasant excitement. They smoothed their
feathers or brushed their fur until they were as sleek as could be. All
the civilized animals for miles around were present. Mr. Owl, looking
wiser and more serious than ever, was the first visitor to arrive. Miss
Hare, with earrings hanging from her long ears and a wreath of white
blossoms on her head, greeted him warmly. Soon after, Mother Goose, the
most beloved fowl in Animal Kingdom, waddled into the main building in
good time. Sammy Rabbit’s relatives followed her, also Puss Snowball’s
mother and aunt.

Billy Beaver and his friends had erected a platform in the creek, and
upon its smooth surface had built a green bower. The messenger pigeons
had adorned this bower with beautiful flowers, and the pupils had
filled in the rough places of the floor with pretty shells and pebbles.

On the shady bank across the way, the larger animals of the wood had
gathered. Tiny could see them plainly as he sat in his room, brushing
out his long tail. There were Mr. Goat, of the great department
store, and his daughter, Miss Nannie; the Otter family in their best
garments; Miss Mink, a close friend of Miss Hare; several from the
Badger family; and, in the background, as modest as could be, Mr.
Opossum, Jolly Gopher, and the Ferret brothers.

While awaiting the signal of Billy Beaver, Tiny was visited by Shifty
Woodchuck, who carried a soiled composition.

“Won’t you please help me?” whined Shifty, as he thrust the composition
between Tiny’s forepaws. “You know I was to graduate with your class,
but Miss Hare will not let me.”

[Illustration: “WON’T YOU PLEASE HELP ME?” WHINED SHIFTY.]

“Pupils that fail should not blame their teachers. It is entirely your
own fault,” said Tiny, looking over the careless manuscript.

“I wish I hadn’t slept so much last winter,” continued Shifty,
ruefully. “However, I believe that if Miss Hare will let me read my
composition, I will get the prize. Miss Hare says I cannot read it
properly, because it is carelessly written. Please tell me what is the
matter with it. To me it looks very well. I have spent nearly an hour
in writing it.”

“If you ever intend to write a good composition, you will have to work
longer than an hour,” said Tiny. “You will have to read things that
will help you, and you must exercise great care. Moreover, you must not
postpone your work until the last minute.”

Tiny, with great difficulty, read Shifty’s composition, which was as
follows:

one saturday Afternoon in may

“the first may Holiday was beautiful! the sun shined bright. birds
twittered and sung sweetly the flowers were in bloom. nature was
happy. warm weather had came. mister beaver and me went for a stroll.
how our hearts thrilled with Joy? We stopped by the Creek. us animals
like the water

the clear sparkling waves passed by us. hark sweet music comes from
the brook and the forest they cried.

come into the woods mister beaver i said, are you afraid of the tall
trees.

i will set here says he. a Beaver don’t wander into the Thicket, he
prefers the Creek. daisys and violets may be pretty but spatter-docks
is prettier, you can go if you wish, and I will stay here.

i replied that Woodchucks squirrels rabbits and many other animals
preferred the wild flowers. i ran to the bushes. o how cool they
seemed. they were green and fragrant with blossoms, the leaves of
the trees were bigger than their’s but they wasn’t more beautiful. i
wandered for a hour through the woods. i seen a birds’ nest and many
interesting things, a active guinea hen was hiding among the Ferns
with her brood

a few deers were laying behind a pile of brush, they run when i
approached. i could heer wild geeses’ cries. every animal of the
forest were moving about. in each glade was a hundred live creatures.
i went back to the brook, mister beaver was waiting for me.

“did you have a pleasant time he asked lazily?”

the forest is grand i cried joyously. the animals of the forest are
rejoicing while you are setting by this brook with a long face.

“What is wrong with it?” inquired Shifty, when the red squirrel had
finished reading. “I am sure that it is as well written as the others,
for I am a good speller and have learned not to use bad grammar.”

“Everything is wrong with it,” said Tiny, frankly, although he was too
polite to make fun of Shifty’s ignorance.

At that moment Billy Beaver began thumping with his long tail.

“Read it over very carefully many times, and perhaps you may be able to
find your mistakes,” said Tiny, as he hastened out into the sunlit air.

From the top of the bower over the platform a chorus of goldfinches,
swallows, robins, and wrens began singing “Hail to Spring.” At the
same time Miss Hare, followed by the graduating class, came out of the
schoolroom, and, with great dignity, made her way to the platform. Miss
Hare seated herself upon a mossy cushion, while the graduating class
sat near her, forming a semicircle. The graduates were Susie Goose,
Sammy Rabbit, Winkie Weasel, Puss Snowball, Rover Canine, Reynard
Redfox, and Tiny Redsquirrel.

At the close of the song, which was followed by loud cries of applause,
Mr. Owl, who sat upon a branch in front of the platform, said that the
class would proceed to deliver their compositions. He added that a
prize would be given to the one who had the best theme, and that Miss
Hare, Mother Goose, and he would be judges.

When this announcement was made, Mother Goose rose from her comfortable
seat by the side of the Misses Pea Fowl and Guinea, and flew to a seat
beside Mr. Owl. The audience cheered again more loudly than before.

[Illustration: SAMMY RABBIT WAS THE FIRST OF THE CLASS TO SPEAK.]

Sammy Rabbit was the first of the class to speak. Leaping to the front
of the platform, he faced his audience, and, with a profound bow, read
as follows:

SOME QUEER CREATURES I HAVE SEEN.

One day our teacher sent us out to study Nature. She said that we
should observe the simplest things, for often they were the most
instructive.

My friend, Puss Snowball, went with me. Both of us were anxious to
improve our time. We animals are fast friends.

Three merry little ferrets darted across our pathway. We followed
them, but finally gave up the chase. Snowball’s fur was filled with
briers and thistles; I was covered with mud, and had to bathe in the
brook. How we laughed! At last we decided that we would study the
smallest and simplest things, as our teacher had told us to do.

We found some earthworms in the soft loam. These little creatures
burrow into the soil when the first frost comes. They spend the
winter deep in the ground, where the cold cannot reach them. They do
not mind if it blows and snows.

We saw a katydid. He was of a pale green color. His gauzy wings had
little covers that looked like drums. He rubbed the drums briskly,
and the music that he made was very cheerful. Did you ever hear the
katydid’s shrilling? The katydid, however, is very small.

We saw two interesting spiders in the brook. Spiders have eight legs,
while true insects have only six. One of these little creatures
had made a silken diving-bell that resembled a tiny silver globe.
The other had made a raft of weeds, fastened together with silken
threads. Then they went slowly downstream to catch insects that might
fall into the water. Spiders, although quite tiny, are very clever.
When spiders sleep, they sleep soundly; when they work, they work
industriously; when they fight, they fight fiercely.

Ants, bees, and wasps are interesting. The fly, too, is worthy of
study. It has four thousand small eyes. Observe it carefully.

Nature is full of wonderful, beautiful things–but I shall not have
time to tell any more about the queer creatures I have seen.

Sammy’s composition was much appreciated. He had chosen a simple,
familiar subject and kept it plainly in mind.

Winkie Weasel met with less favor, for he had undertaken to write
about something that was beyond his understanding. One can imagine
how much a little weasel would know about “The Growth of Intellectual
Perspicuity.” He stumbled over the long words in a way that made all
the little prairie dogs in the front row titter in a very impolite
manner. Weenie Mouse became so much frightened that he scampered away,
long before it was time for him to recite, and caused quite a panic
amongst the members of the Hen family.

The other compositions were well written, although Puss Snowball’s was
spoiled by a singsong delivery.

Occasionally, the frog orchestra, from their green lily pads close by,
would play a spirited air; and Jenny Wren, a nervous little body, who
twitched every time she reached a high note, sang “Happy Woodlands.”

[Illustration: TINY REDSQUIRREL WAS THE LAST OF HIS CLASS TO APPEAR
BEFORE THE AUDIENCE.]

Tiny Redsquirrel was the last of his class to appear before the
audience. With becoming modesty, he rose, saluted the judges and his
hearers, and recited in a loud, clear voice:

HAPPINESS EVERYWHERE.

There is a spell in every flower,
A sweetness in each spray;
And every single bird has power
To please us with its lay.

And there is music on the breeze
That sports along the glade;
The crystal dewdrops on the trees
Are gems by fancy made.

Oh, there is joy and happiness
In everything we see!
But greatest joys we shall possess
Through truth and purity.

When he had finished, all the animals near and far gave vent to
tremendous applause, for animal audiences are not so hard to please as
those composed of human beings. Mr. Opossum became so enthusiastic that
he shouted at the top of his voice:

“Hurrah for Mr. Redsquirrel! One cannot judge by the size of a
creature how much he can say.”

Miss Hare joined the other two judges, and for a few moments they held
an earnest conversation among themselves, while the audience sat in
breathless expectation.

Finally, Mother Goose descended from her perch and waddled to the front
of the platform, where she faced the eager listeners and said in a
shrill, but kindly voice:

“Animals of the forest, the judges have decided that the prize should
go to Mr. Tiny Redsquirrel of Squirreltown!”

Turning to the embarrassed but happy little squirrel, she pulled from
her wing a quill, which she gave him with a low bow, saying:

“This quill was taken from my wing. No creature is more respected by
the human race and all other animals than I am. Anyone who receives
a quill pen made from one of my feathers will be famous ever after.
Accept this reward for your excellent poem and your good scholarship;
but bear in mind that every achievement is but a camping place for the
night.”