Is he really going to work

Have you ever heard of Squirreltown? It is a town of quaint homes in
the woods, in which little animals live together as contentedly as
though they were human beings. The whole town is roofed over by leafy
bowers, and carpeted with wild flowers. All day long butterflies flit
about in the shimmering sunlight, and by night thousands of fairies
come out to dance in the pale moonlight.

In this town there once dwelt a young red squirrel named Tiny. He lived
with his mother near the top of an oak tree. Mrs. Redsquirrel was a
poor but industrious widow. Although red squirrels are said to be the
most mischievous animals of the forest, she had taught Tiny to conduct
himself in a proper way. In fact, he was much better behaved than
Chatty Chipmunk, who lived in the ground at the foot of the tree.

One morning early in the autumn, while the weather was yet warm, Tiny’s
mother said to him, “You must bestir yourself, Tiny! Now is the time to
gather acorns, seeds, and other food for the winter.”

As he sat sipping water from a hollow acorn, he observed how anxiously
his mother gazed at him. “Why do you look so sad?” he asked.

“I am getting too old to work,” she answered, and she wiped the tears
from her black eyes. Then abruptly she turned to look through the
window. It was a small hole covered with a silken curtain that had been
woven by a spider.

“Please don’t cry, mother,” implored Tiny. He put down his acorn, went
over to his mother and drew her down upon a little couch made of moss.
“I am willing to work hard to support you. Perhaps some day I shall
become great. Who can tell?”

“But I want you to have a fine education,” said his mother, looking
with pride at her son, “and we have no good schools!”

“Perhaps a fairy may find me a good school. I can work to pay my way!”
cheerfully suggested Tiny. “I have heard that those who do this make
the best students.” He fanned his mother with a small peacock feather.
He thought that she might drop into a doze, for he knew that she had
not been sleeping much of late, but just then a persistent rapping at
the tree began.

“It must be Mr. Woodpecker,” said Mrs. Redsquirrel with a sigh. “Every
day he comes over to rap this tree. The noise makes my head ache.”

“Please sit still. I’ll go outside to see what he wants,” said Tiny,
hastening from the room.

“Hello!” he cried lustily.

Mr. Woodpecker did not answer. He was digging his long, straight,
pointed beak into the bark of the tree. His stiff tail was spread out
to prop his body, for woodpeckers would not be such good climbers if
they had no tails. He was black and white, and wore a jaunty scarlet
cap.

“Sir,” said Tiny, “You annoy my mother. Furthermore, Mr. Graysquirrel,
who owns this tree, will make you pay dearly for all the damage you are
doing to his property.”

“Ha, ha!” laughed Mr. Woodpecker, turning his head to one side and
looking down at the squirrel. “I am not destroying property. I am
digging into the bark to find insects. Mr. Graysquirrel, your landlord,
told me that I might have all I could find. He said it was they who
greatly annoy his tenants. Pardon me for disturbing your mother.”

[Illustration: “GO AWAY AND DO NOT COME BACK AGAIN,” COMMANDED TINY.]

“Go away! and do not come back again,” commanded Tiny, vexed at the
bird’s display of good humor. “Hush, Tiny!” called Mrs. Redsquirrel,
thrusting her dainty nose through the window. “I am glad that Mr.
Woodpecker is so kind as to destroy those horrid insects. I thought at
first that he was tapping the tree because he wished to trouble me. We
animals are always ready to imagine disagreeable things.”

Tiny came back into the house and to cover his chagrin began to get the
storeroom in order.

His mother gathered up the nut-shell cups and placed them in a
hollow gourd. As they worked she talked. “Mr. Woodpecker is a clever
creature,” she said. “I never before saw a bird that could use his bill
with such ease and swiftness.”

Tiny did not reply. He was thinking very hard, and the idea that he was
going to support his mother made him feel very important.

“Woodpeckers do a great deal of good by destroying grubs and insects,”
his mother went on. “I have heard that in a far-away land there lives
one kind that feeds chiefly on acorns, and stores them away for the
winter as squirrels do. They make small holes in the soft bark of dead
trees and place the acorns in these holes by pounding them with their
bills.”

“Now I am ready to start,” interrupted Tiny. “Perhaps I can get Chatty
Chipmunk to go with me.”

“If you do, don’t let him lead you into bad company!” warned Mrs.
Redsquirrel. “He is very mischievous. He causes his parents much
trouble.”

At that moment Peggy and Bushy Graysquirrel came running into the
room, without stopping to knock at the door.

“Good morning, Mrs. Redsquirrel,” said Peggy.

“We are going over to the Beech Hotel to spend the day with the
Blacksquirrel family,” said Bushy, too much excited to draw a long
breath. “Come along with us, Tiny. We will play ripple.”

“What is ripple?” asked Mrs. Redsquirrel.

“Oh, it is a fine game!” exclaimed Peggy. “All the squirrels get out on
the bough of a tree. Each one throws a nut or a pebble into the brook,
and the one that makes the biggest circle gets the prize.”

“Do you want to go, Tiny?” asked his mother.

“No, mother,” said Tiny bravely. “I like to play ripple, but I must
gather our winter store before the cold rains begin.”

“Please come with us,” coaxed pretty Bushy, flashing her dark eyes
straight into his own.

“I cannot go,” he declared stolidly, turning his back upon her.

“Is he really going to work?” asked Bushy, looking from one to the
other in a bewildered way.

“Yes, I am going,” replied Tiny, and he took down his hunting bag from
the wall.

Another moment a little red squirrel ran down the tree and was lost to
view.

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