SUDDENLY HE SAW A SPIDER BUSY AT WORK UPON HER COUNTRY HOME

Not far from the city of ants, Tiny halted to refresh himself with an
acorn.

“This country is delightful,” he said to himself. “A squirrel does
not often see such a beautiful scene. He has little knowledge of the
great world. I was discontented not long ago, but now I am happy. I
am glad that I saw the ants and their city. They are very industrious
creatures. All have much work to do, yet they do it willingly. They
don’t seem to wish to be idle. Ants never before were interesting to
me, but now I admire them very much. You have taught me a lesson,
friend ant.”

He sat still for a few moments gazing around him. Suddenly he saw a
spider busy at work upon her country home. She wore a snuff-brown
jacket dashed with purple, and her legs were striped like those of a
tiger.

She had just finished digging a tunnel seven inches long in the earth,
and had lined it with a substance that looked like silk. Now she was
spinning a web to cover the outer door, which was really a dry oak
leaf. She left an opening large enough to pass through. Then she pulled
some blades of grass and fastened them across the leaf so securely that
the entrance to her home could not be seen. She worked very busily,
although occasionally a rude wasp came along and tried to sting her.
In spite of disturbing insects, the spider finished building her home.
Then she twined some tiny vines about the entrance, making a green
bower that looked very pretty. When her difficult task was completed,
she crawled into her silk-lined hall and went to sleep.

“Plucky wood spider!” cried Tiny in admiration. “Although the
wasps threaten her life, she never gives up. You work diligently,
little friend. I admire you very much. I have learned a lesson in
perseverance.”

[Illustration: HE SAW A DARK OBJECT SITTING DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF HIM.]




Tiny did not hunt a place in which to sleep until it was quite late.
Indeed, the moon was beginning to shine before he thought of rest. Just
as he was about to leave the path turning to the right, he saw a dark
object sitting directly in front of him. It was singing in a clear and
plaintive voice:

“Wur-r-r, wur-r-r, wur-r-r,
I never complain nor demur,
Though the fox and the bat and the weasel and cat
Are waiting to seize me and roll me out flat,
And swallow me down like a great lump of fat,
Wur-r-r, wur-r-r, wur-r-r.

“Wur-r-r, wur-r-r, wur-r-r,
I have neither feathers nor fur;
I am dusty and wrinkled and warts to me cling,
Yet I’m never unhappy, for Nature, kind thing,
Gave me such a sweet voice; so I constantly sing
Wur-r-r, wur-r-r, wur-r-r.”

“How fortunate it is that an ugly creature may have the power to sing!”
exclaimed Tiny so loudly that the toad who had been singing grew
frightened and leaped into the tall grass.

“You have taught me the song of contentment, Mrs. Toad,” he continued.
“I have many privileges that you do not enjoy, for you only venture
forth at night. Although hundreds of animals are waiting to destroy
you, your song never loses its vigor. Your only recreation is to catch
a few insects and to sit in the moonlight, singing ‘Wur-r-r, wur-r-r,
wur-r-r’.”

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How full of energy they are

The sunbeams shine through the boughs of the trees and the winds rustle
gently. The dewdrops glitter on the grass. The brook bounds joyously
along. The birds sing gaily and the little animals of the wood come
forth to listen to the sweet music. The wild flowers open their pretty
cups.

Now the forest is ringing with glad shouts and songs. The sunbeams
are growing brighter. The winds are dying down and the dewdrops are
passing away. The brook is bounding along more joyously. The birds are
singing more gaily. The little animals are running hither and thither.
The flowers are spreading their pretty cups wide open to catch the
sunlight. At last Tiny is waking.

When Tiny awoke from his slumbers in the hazel brush, he scampered down
to the edge of the brook, washed his face, and combed out his long,
bushy tail. Then he began to call for Chatty, but no answer came. He
finally decided to start alone. He remembered to take the path leading
to the right as the owl had directed him. For a long time he sauntered
along, admiring the elder, oak, and buckeye trees, and occasionally he
darted his piercing gaze at some low-hanging black haw or pawpaw bush,
fearing some animal might attack him.

At last he came to a sandy plain, where he sat down to rest in the
sunshine. Not far away he saw a city. Its streets were filled with busy
inhabitants. Hundreds of them were hurrying to and fro, working with
all their energy. Many little workers were erecting buildings. To lift
a single grain of sand each was toiling with all his might. They did
not stop to rest or to visit, but kept working, working, working. Tiny
thought it would take them a long time to build houses from grains of
sand.

[Illustration: THEY DID NOT STOP TO REST OR VISIT, BUT KEPT WORKING,
WORKING, WORKING.]

While the architects were busy building new homes, some soldiers in
shiny, red clothes moved about as if they were giving orders to the
workers. A crowd of watchmen stood at the gates of the city, ready to
give warning at the approach of an enemy.




Not one of the little creatures was alarmed by the squirrel. They
heeded him no more than Tiny did the tree beneath which he was
crouching. He drew nearer and saw that there were many little rooms
near the surface of the city and that below them was a great public
dining-room and storeroom. Evidently they all ate their meals together.
These rooms were kept in order by a host of servants, who were very
busy all the time carrying out shells, seeds, and the remains of
insects. Others collected all the rubbish and carried it out into a
heap outside the city limits. Scores of nurses were looking after the
babies, and teaching them that the time would soon come when they must
labor like their elders.

Suddenly there was a great commotion in the street. Some food providers
were struggling along with a fly they had found. They were taking it
to the storeroom. The load was so heavy that several household workers
rushed out to lend their help. They toiled along together, slowly, with
one united effort, and with great difficulty; but, finally, they stowed
the fly headlong into the public storeroom. Tiny breathed a sigh of
relief when their hard task was done.

But they did not stop to rest. They turned out to help others bring
in a locust. The workers in the storeroom cleared a place for other
provisions; the watchmen guarded the gates, without taking their eyes
from their work; the architects, steadily and patiently, carried grain
after grain of sand to the tops of their buildings.

“How full of energy they are!” exclaimed Tiny. “By their combined
efforts they can build and support a great city. If something destroys
it, they build it up again. I wish squirrels would work together as
these insects do. Oh, I see! It is as the owl prophet said. I have
learned the lesson of patience. I do feel glad that I was permitted
to study this wonderful city. However, I am surprised to learn such a
noble lesson from the smallest of all creatures–ants!”

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The little red squirrel

Tiny sat for a long time in the top of the tree and looked away as far
as his eyes could see. In the distance rose the big yellow moon. It
shone brightly upon the treetops of the great forest, yet he could not
see Squirreltown.

At last he began to descend slowly, almost frightening to death a tree
toad that was hopping about on its little velvet toes among the green
branches.

[Illustration: TINY’S BUSHY TAIL STIFFENED WITH FRIGHT.]

Tiny’s bushy tail stiffened with fright when he heard a loud, whirring
sound and a shrill cry from the branch over his head. Two big yellow
eyes glared at him through the dense foliage. They scared him so that
he could not scamper away.

“Hoot! hoot!” cried the dreadful creature. “Why are you prowling around
my castle at this time of night? Don’t you know that I am a horned owl?
I like to eat rabbits, squirrels, and mice.”

“I did not mean to disturb you, sir,” said Tiny politely, although
his teeth chattered and his limbs refused to move. “My name is Tiny
Redsquirrel. I have lost my way. Can you tell me where to find
Squirreltown?”

“I wish I knew where it is,” said the owl, “for it wouldn’t take me
long to put an end to it. Come closer that we may have a little chat. I
like squirrels.”

“Mr. Owl, I know that it would not be prudent for me to get closer to
you,” said Tiny, without moving a step. “I want everyone to like me,
but I do not want them to like me well enough to eat me.”

“Well spoken!” cried the owl, clapping his wings and screeching loudly.
“A fairy told me, Tiny, that you were coming to my castle. I promised
her that I would not hurt you. Tell me what gift you desire above all
things else.”

“A good education,” replied Tiny promptly.

“Fine!” exclaimed the owl. “Of course, squirrels cannot expect to know
very much. Red squirrels are too mischievous to learn a great deal.
They worry robins in their nests, frighten field mice, steal from the
farmer’s granary, and spring the traps that hunters set for martens.
Can you tell me who is the wisest of all living creatures?”

“I think it must be the donkey,” said Tiny after hesitating a few
moments.

“The donkey is as stupid as a stump,” said the owl impatiently. “What
makes you think that the donkey is the wisest of all creatures?”

“An animal that makes so much noise must be very wise,” answered the
innocent squirrel.

“When you are older, you will learn that the wisest creatures seldom
make any noise at all,” said the owl with a sage toss of his head. “The
donkey is most unlike the animal that represents wisdom, and he–”

“Perhaps the wisest animal is the loon,” interrupted the squirrel.

Tiny had never heard the expression “crazy as a loon,” or he would not
have made such an absurd guess.

The owl laughed again. “Poor little squirrel,” he continued, “you are
much in need of an education, and I will help you to realize your wish.
An old loon lives two hundred yards from here in some dry muck on the
ruins of an old muskrat house. Whenever she tries to avoid danger, she
always runs the wrong way and jumps into it. Her legs are placed so
far back beneath her body that she cannot walk very long at a time
without toppling over. When she swims, she makes more noise than a
family of beavers. She screeches all the time, and consequently gets
no opportunity to think. You know that to be wise one must be a quiet
thinker. No, the loon is as dull as the donkey.”

“Then who is the wisest of all creatures?” asked Tiny, growing more and
more interested.

“Have you never heard that the owl is the symbol of wisdom?” asked the
curious creature. “There is nothing I do not know.”

“Then perhaps you can tell me where Squirreltown is situated,” said
Tiny, eagerly.

“I do not know,” replied the owl, glaring at Tiny until he again lost
courage. “I do not fill my mind with useless knowledge, since there are
so many important things to know. How ridiculous of you to ask me such
a question! You might just as well ask why the moon, although not so
large as a pumpkin, can light up this great world of ours. There are
many things that learned students cannot explain so ordinary creatures
can understand. I believe, however, that if you live long enough and
keep traveling all the time, you may find Squirreltown one of these
days.”




“This is no time for jesting,” burst forth Tiny, his heart sinking. “I
greatly desire to get home. I started out to gather our winter store in
this hunting-bag, but I got lost. Mother must be quite tired looking
for me.”

“Your mother need not wear her eyes out _looking_ for you, since you
are surely old enough to _see_ for yourself,” retorted the owl.

Tiny said that he must hasten on.

“Do not be in a hurry, my restless quadruped,” said the owl. “Squirrels
are always in a hurry. You are very nervous animals. It makes me dizzy
to look at you. I am the wisest creature of the forest, yet you do not
choose to tarry long enough to get some useful information. Do you
still desire an education, or have you changed your mind?”

“I want to get home,” sobbed Tiny.

“I will see that your wish is granted,” said the owl, more kindly.
“What else do you wish?”

“I wish to grow up to be a useful squirrel. I want to make my mother
and everybody else happy.”

The owl asked him what more he desired.

“That is all,” was the reply.

“Then do as I say,” commanded the owl. “Before you can become truly
wise, you must learn the lessons of patience and industry, and, as you
struggle, you must sing the song of contentment. I am a wise prophet,
and I will see that your wishes are fulfilled.

“To-night you must sleep out in one of those hazel bushes. Be sure to
hide yourself, for sometimes I fly about while asleep. In that case
perhaps I might eat you without knowing it. To-morrow at dawn, follow
the path that leads to the brook. Then turn to your right. If you
should turn to your left, you would soon find yourself in Big Bear
City. Keep your eyes wide open, and when you least expect it, you will
be taught the lesson of patience.

“Follow the footpath till you come to a lovely dell, where a fairy
princess will teach you the lesson of industry and the value of doing
good to others. She probably can show you the way to Squirreltown, for
she knows all about geography. But, ere you reach home, you will have
two dreadful encounters. A four-legged giant with hundreds of darts
will rush upon you when you least expect it. Do not be frightened. Be
calm and cautious. Lie close to the ground so that his darts will pass
above you, should he throw them at you. Seize one of his darts, jab
him; he will then run away.

“Soon you will find yourself in the heart of a jungle that almost all
tame beasts fear to enter. Another giant, a big black one, will try to
hurt you. However, you will be protected. Do as I command, or you will
never get back home.”

“Thank you, Mr. Owl,” said Tiny, willing to endure any hardship if he
could only see his mother again. “Should you come to Squirreltown, the
Mayor will tell you where to find me. He is stopping at the Beech Tree
Inn.”

“What kind of stops does he use?” asked the owl, much amused.

Tiny stared at him in wonderment.

“I suppose you mean that he is _staying_ at the Beech Tree Inn,” said
the owl. “I hope you have enjoyed your visit in my castle. If you will
stay a while longer I will sing. I have a most beautiful voice. I can
sing twice as loud as a village of sparrows.”

The little red squirrel did not insist upon hearing the owl prophet
sing, for that would have been bad manners.

With a polite goodnight, he scurried down the tree to a clump of hazel
bushes, where he hid himself as securely as possible. He slept very
little, for he feared that the wise owl might fly about in his sleep
and possibly devour him.

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