HE first thing that
"I will starve first!" he said to himself, and he was so much in earnest that he spoke quite loudly.
The words were hardly out of his mouth when "Pft!" a fat acorn came down at his feet. He caught it up with his forepaws before looking around. It was smooth and glossy, not at all as though it had passed a long winter on an oak branch. He took a good nibble at it and then looked up to see if there were more on the tree above him. You can think how surprised he was to find himself sitting beneath a maple, for in all the years since the world began no maple has ever borne acorns.
"There are no more to come," he said. "I must take small bites and make it last as long as I can." And he turned it around and around, clutching it tightly with his long, crooked claws, so that not the tiniest bit could be lost. At last it was all eaten, not a crumb was left, and then "Pft!" down came a walnut. This hit him squarely on the back, but he was too hungry to mind, and he ate it all, just stopping long enough to say: "If this maple bears such fruit as acorns and walnuts, I should like to live in a maple grove."
Next came a hazelnut, then a butternut, and last of all
a fat kernel of yellow corn. He knew now that some
friend was hidden in the branches above, so he
tucked the corn in one of his
"Good morning!" said he. "Thank you very much for your kindness."
"What do you mean?" said she.
"As though you didn't know!" he answered. "I never heard of a maple tree that bore acorns, nuts, and corn, and that in the springtime."
"Oh, well," said she, tossing her pretty head, "you have lived in a cage and may not know what our forest trees can do."
That was a rather saucy thing to say, but
"I—I thought you looked like the Squirrel at the farmhouse," she said; and then forgetting herself, she added, "You did look so surprised when that walnut hit you."
"Where were you then?" he asked quickly.
"Oh! I was on a branch above you," she answered, seeing that he now knew all about it. "You looked so hungry, and I had plenty of food stored away. You may have some whenever you wish. It must have been dreadful in that cage."
"I shall never be able to do anything for you," said he. "You are young and beautiful and know the forest ways. I am a stranger and saddened by my hard life. I wish I could help you."
"The Blue Jays! The Blue Jays!" she cried, starting up. "They have found my hidden acorns and are eating them."
And sure enough, a pair of those handsome robbers
were pulling acorn after acorn out of a
"What would I have done without your help?" she said. "I was so dreadfully frightened. Don't you see how my paws are shaking still?" And she held out the prettiest little paws imaginable for him to see.
"Yes, they might want to," she said, looking away from him and acting as though she saw another Blue Jay coming.
"You wouldn't be my little wife, would you?" he asked, coming nearer to her.
"Why—I—might!" she answered, with a saucy flirt of her
tail, and she scampered away as fast as she could. Do
"Ah!" said he, squinting at
"I have done so already, sir," answered
"Is that so?" exclaimed the Gray Squirrel. "I did not know that you were married. I thought you came alone to the forest."
"This is my wife, sir," said
"I think I must have seen you somewhere," he said; "your face is very familiar." And he scratched his poor old puzzled head with one claw.
"Why, Cousin Gray Squirrel, don't you know
"To be sure!" he exclaimed. "But isn't your marriage rather sudden?"
"No," she said, blushing under her fur. "We have
always liked each other, although we never spoke until
this morning. I used to scamper along the rail fence
"Did you truly come for that?" asked her husband, after their caller had gone.
"I truly did," she answered, "but I never expected anybody to know it. You poor fellow! I felt so sorry for you. I would have given every nut I had to set you free."
They were a very happy couple, and the next fall the
Gray Squirrel watched them and their children gathering
nuts for their winter stores.
"Don't stop to think how many you need," said the little mother to her children. "Get every nut you can. It may be a very long winter."
"And if you don't eat them all," said their
"When was it her way? What makes you smile when you say it? Mother, what does he mean?" cried the young Red Squirrels all in a breath.
"I gave some nuts to a hungry Squirrel once," she said, "and he was so grateful that he drove the Blue Jays away when they tried to rob me." But she looked so happy as she spoke that the children knew there was more to the story. They dared not tease her to tell, so they whispered among themselves and wondered what their father meant.
As they gathered nuts near the Gray Squirrel, he
motioned them to come close.
"Do you suppose that was it?" the young Red Squirrels whispered to each other. "Do you really suppose so?"