Gateway to the Classics: When Grandfather Was a Boy by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
When Grandfather Was a Boy by  Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Squirrel Who Fooled Grandfather

Grandfather was standing by the old chimney out in the field. John was standing close to Grandfather and he had a bag of chestnuts. Out in the road there were red and yellow leaves hurrying about, and the wind was making strange noises in the old chimney.

"Once upon a time—" began the little boy.

"There was a shagbark tree that stood near the Old Place where I lived," Grandfather went on. "It stood at the end of the road, by the stone wall. I'd been watching it for quite a spell, for it hadn't been able to bear any nuts. It was too small, you know. But one fall it made an extra effort and it had about a pint of nuts way up on the top branches. Shagbarks were scarce that year. Your Great Grandmother said she would make some molasses taffy with nuts in it some night. I was planning to gather those shagbarks for the candy if the wind ever blew them down.

"Well, there was a smart little squirrel who lived in those woods. He used to sit on the stone wall every day right under the shagbark tree. I used to see him when I went by to school. He would sit there with his little paws folded over his fat little stomach, just looking and looking up at those nuts.

"One day, late in the fall, it was very cold and the wind blew just the way it is blowing now. I started off down the road to school, whistling to keep warm. Pretty soon I came to the shagbark tree. What do you think had happened?"

"Had the wind blown down the nuts?" asked John.

"It had!" said Grandfather.

"There they lay in a little brown heap on the ground."

"Did you put them in your pockets?" asked John, his eyes very big.

"No," said Grandfather. "I was afraid the big boys at school would take them away from me, but I knew where there was a hole in the stone wall. I picked up every single shagbark and I hid them in that hole, thinking I would get them on my way home from school.

"I missed nearly all my lessons that day and was kept in because I was thinking of molasses candy with shagbarks in it. It was nearly dark when I came by the stone wall. I pulled up the loose stone to get the nuts. There was not one there! Every nut was gone. Then I heard a little chirping noise behind me. The squirrel was sitting on top of the wall. I could just see him through the dark. It sounded as if he were laughing at me. He  knew what had become of those nuts."

"You ought to have left half of the nuts for him in the first place," said John soberly.

"That was just it," said Grandfather, "only I didn't think about it at the time. He saw me hide those nuts. A squirrel is just sure to get even with you, especially if you try to get the better of him."

"Did your mother make you the molasses candy?" asked John.

"Yes, but it had no nuts in it," said Grandfather. "Now you run along and put some of those nuts back in the woods for the squirrel."

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