Redsquirrel

Deeper and deeper Tiny wandered into the heart of the jungle. It was
very damp and chilly as well as ghostly. His hunting bag was heavy, but
he did not lose heart.

He had heard that fairy princesses with torches often came to the aid
of good squirrels that were in trouble. He wished that they would come
to help him. But the dark trees and bushes looked like frightful hiding
places for foxes and other mischievous animals. He grew more and more
alarmed. Finally he halted at the foot of a pine tree.

“I will spend the night here,” he said to himself. “I shall be out of
danger in this great tree. What a lonesome place it is! This is one of
the gloomiest valleys I ever saw. I’ll hide my acorns under the tree
and find a place in which to rest.”

Hardly had he spoken these words, when a terrible growl fell upon his
ears. At the same time a great black object rose between himself and
the tree. It was the largest creature Tiny had ever seen.

“It is the black giant that Mr. Owl told me about,” chattered Tiny,
dropping his hunting bag. “Oh, what shall I do?”

The giant, which was really a black bear, growled louder than before
and tried to strike Tiny with his great paw. The red squirrel, quick
as a flash, attacked the giant with his dart, but only broke it into
several pieces. Then, as fast as his legs could carry him, he scurried
up the pine tree. The bear, shaking with rage, attempted to climb the
tree, too, but he was so heavy that a bough gave way, and he fell
clumsily to the ground.

[Illustration: HE WAS SO HEAVY THAT A BRANCH GAVE WAY AND HE FELL
CLUMSILY TO THE GROUND.]

“You may be a great fighter on the ground, but you can’t climb trees,”
laughed Tiny in spite of his recent fright.

“You shall stay in that tree till your beard turns gray,” growled the
bear, “for I intend to see that you do not escape.”

Tiny hid himself in one of the thick branches and remained quiet for
a long time. He feared to go to sleep, lest he might fall upon Mr.
Bruin’s upturned nose. In the meantime, the bear fell into a deep
slumber.

Finally the thought struck Tiny that he might be close to Squirreltown.
He quickly ascended to the topmost branch and looked all about him.

Less than two miles away he saw a wonderful sight. It seemed to him
that millions of bright stars clustered together over the top of a tall
tree in the east. They circled briskly about, sparkling and flashing
like diamonds in an immense crown.

“The good owl prophet has told me the truth from first to last,”
said Tiny, his heart almost bursting from joy. “I recognize the dear
old oak where I was born, although it is a long distance away.
Squirreltown stands under that crown of heavenly bodies. Never before
have I seen that kind of stars. Those rays are as bright as these
anxious eyes of mine. Hurrah for home and mother! How strange it is
that all my difficulties have helped me to find the right way home!”

He hastened down to the lowest branch of the tree, but Bruin was still
sleeping, with his head against its massive trunk. Tiny, whose mother
had taught him the lesson of prudence, did not dare to venture down,
lest the big black bear should seize him. So he went back to his
resting place, and soon fell asleep.

In the early gray dawn, he awoke and peeped from his cozy shelter. The
birds were leaving their green roofs to find food for their families.
The daisies in the woods and valleys were beginning to spread their
white and crimson-tipped stars. The leaves trembled in the early
breezes. Old Bruin was not far from the tree. He had found a hollow
stump, and was rooting around it with his long nose.

Soon there was a buzzing sound that swelled into an angry roar. Old
Bruin, in trying to steal some honey, had gotten into trouble with the
bees. The swarm was very angry. Hundreds of bees poured from the stump
and alighted on his head, in his eyes, ears, and nostrils.

[Illustration: CRAZED WITH PAIN THE BEAR DASHED AWAY.]

Crazed with pain, the bear dashed away, bellowing at the top of his
voice. Tiny, although very kind-hearted and forgiving, could not keep
from laughing at the plight of the bear. His cries sounded like the
mingled shrieks of many different animals, for the sting of each bee
was like the cut of a knife.

Tiny scurried down the tree to find his hunting bag, and what was his
delight to find other delicacies that would make his winter store
complete.

“What a glorious jungle this is!” he cried. “I am glad I followed the
advice of the owl prophet, for no squirrel has ever before been so
fortunate. The ground is covered with pine cones, the seeds of which
are delicious. Across the way is a large quantity of beech-nuts, and
all around me are blackberry bushes. There is nothing else so delicious
as dried blackberries.”

In the midst of his joy, the queen bee that he had rescued from the
brook lit upon a purple crow-foot growing by the stump, and cried out:

“Good morning, my four-legged friend. You are the squirrel that saved
my life.”

“I am glad to see you again, your majesty,” said Tiny with his polite
bow. “I wish you had happened to come sooner, for that dreadful black
giant made me stay in yonder pine tree all night long.”

“The impudent creature tried to get into our new home in the stump,”
said the queen. “My soldiers will chase him and his companions so far
away that they will never find their way back here.”

“You have done me a great service,” said Tiny, with a second bow. “I
thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

“A kind act always brings its reward,” said the queen cheerfully.

“But how can a tiny bee scare such a monstrous creature as a bear?”
asked the squirrel.

“One bee couldn’t scare anything,” laughed the queen. “You must
remember that bees work together. When hundreds and hundreds of bees
attack a bear, he is sure to make good use of his legs.”

“Isn’t it rather unpleasant to live in a stump, after having been queen
of the City Wonderful?” asked Tiny, after a moment of silence.

“No, I rather enjoy the change,” returned the queen bee, with a merry
buzz. “I hear that my oldest daughter, the princess, is now queen of
the City Wonderful, but that she is uneasy all the time, as her next
younger sister is almost ready to leave her nursery and fight for the
crown. Occasionally there is strife in the City Wonderful, for as
soon as a princess leaves her nursery, she wants to rule. I am quite
content to live here with my twenty thousand faithful followers. It is
better to live peaceably in a stump than with a quarrelsome daughter in
a fine palace.”

“I wish you much happiness,” said Tiny, with still another bow.

“Thank you,” replied the queen, testing her gauzy wings. “I learned
yesterday from one of my workers that Squirreltown is but a short
distance away. Follow the path leading eastward, and you will be there
in time for dinner.”

“And what a dinner I shall take to my good mother!” exclaimed Tiny,
looking about him.

There was his hunting bag filled with choice acorns. Fully two bushels
of beech-nuts and three barrels of pine cones were scattered over the
ground. On the blackberry bushes, some of which were five feet high,
were at least a dozen gallons of dried berries.

“I warn you that all is not well at Squirreltown,” continued the queen.
“They are having a dreadful famine there, and your poor mother may have
starved by this time. Fear, want, and anxiety are terrible companions
with which to live.”

“What caused the famine?” asked Tiny in alarm.

“Acorns and all the other queer food that squirrels eat are very scarce
in Squirreltown just now,” explained the queen; “and, to make it all
the worse, the squirrels there were annoyed by a host of bears that
took up their abode in the city. As a result, all the inhabitants were
afraid to leave their homes. The poor creatures were hungry enough to
eat one another.”

“Are there many bears about here?” asked Tiny.




“Quite a number of them came to the jungle, because there are so many
acorns. They intended to hibernate here. I remembered how kind you had
been to me, so I sent messengers to all the bees for miles around to
drive the bears out of Squirreltown. We intend to keep them out of this
jungle. We will watch your city every day and woe betide the bear that
enters! Should one attempt to pass the city limits, an alarm will be
sent out, and at least a thousand bees will chase him until he falls
down exhausted. Bears, deer, and buffaloes are cowards. However, they
do look very dreadful to small creatures like us.”

“I can never repay you for your courtesies,” said Tiny, this time
bowing so low that his bushy tail looked like a canopy over his head.

“Now run along home before my army returns,” continued the queen. “All
the citizens of Squirreltown know that you are coming, and that you are
their deliverer. I will send a few of my messengers to guide you, and
to conduct your friends back to the jungle where they can eat all they
want, and store things for winter use. Goodby.”

The queen bee flew back into the stump, buzzing happily. Tiny laughed,
cried, chattered, and sang for joy. After helping himself to a few
berries and pine cones, he picked up his bunting bag and trudged along
to Squirreltown, as happy as a king.

The bees that had been sent to guide Tiny back to Squirreltown did not
speak a word. They flew a short distance ahead of him, occasionally
stopping to rest or to take refreshment from the cup of a wild rose.

What was Tiny’s joy when again he beheld the familiar trees of
Squirreltown! His delight knew no bounds when the squirrels, red, gray,
and black, scurried forth from their homes to welcome him. Soon he was
the center of an excited group. They stroked his fur, pulled his beard,
and shouted joyfully:

[Illustration: “WELCOME HOME! HURRAH FOR TINY REDSQUIRREL! LONG LIFE TO
THE DELIVERER OF SQUIRRELTOWN.”]

“Welcome home! Hurrah for Tiny Redsquirrel! Long life to the deliverer
of Squirreltown!”

They were about to pounce upon his hunting bag, but Tiny gently pushed
them away, saying:

“These are for my mother. Shall I tell you where I got them?”

“Yes, yes,” replied the squirrels, who were almost starved.

“Follow those bees to a jungle not far distant, where you can get
enough provisions to last all winter long. It is a dark and lonely
place, but you need have no fear, for a fairy queen lives there who has
promised to protect you. I will join you soon.”

Although the squirrels were anxious to inquire about Tiny’s health
and to learn of his experience, they immediately scampered off to the
jungle, for sometimes when little creatures become very hungry they
cease to be polite.

Tiny, finding himself all alone, hurried to his home in the great oak
tree. When he saw the face of his dear mother, he was filled with
mingled joy and sorrow. She looked much older, for a few days in
Squirreltown is a very long time, and she had been grieving constantly
for her lost son.

Instead of rushing to embrace him, as one would expect her to do,
she ran rapidly about the room, bounding over the table and chairs,
shrieking and making as much noise as possible, for that is the way red
squirrels show great joy.

“I am so glad that you have come back, my son!” she cried again and
again. “Tell me all about your adventures, for you must have had many
of them.”

[Illustration: HE PULLED THE HUNTING BAG INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM
AND OPENED IT.]

“Let us first have some supper, for you must be almost starved,” said
Tiny. He pulled the hunting bag into the middle of the room, and opened
it.

“Oh, how tempting!” cried his mother, sniffing at the dried
blackberries, and gazing hungrily at the acorns and pine cones. “I have
had nothing to eat for two days.”

“Then let us have a good feast together,” said Tiny, with a merry
laugh. “While we are eating I will tell you the story of my wanderings.”

“I shall eat while you are talking,” said Mrs. Redsquirrel.

“But first I should like to know whether Chatty Chipmunk is safe,” said
Tiny anxiously.

“I don’t know,” replied Mrs. Redsquirrel, with a sigh. “Animals of the
neighboring towns are doing all they can to assist our city in finding
him, but so far they have had little encouragement. His poor mother is
ill from anxiety. No one in the town suffers more than she.”

Tiny told his mother how he had become separated from Chatty. He also
told her about his meeting with the various creatures of the forest.

“I think I may have been traveling in a circle all the time,” he
concluded.

“All bright, heavenly bodies travel in a circle,” said his mother with
pride. “At any rate I am glad that you are safe at home once more. Now
that we have finished our meal, I will make the room more tidy. Can I
lift this hunting bag?”

“I will put it away,” answered Tiny, seizing the bag and pulling it
into the storeroom. “To-morrow I will go out into the jungle and bring
you enough provisions to last all winter. Now, dear mother, tell me
what has happened in Squirreltown during my absence.”

“On the day you left a number of bears took up their abode in the heart
of the city,” began Mrs. Redsquirrel, with a shudder. “We squirrels
could do nothing. We tried to drive them away by throwing twigs at
them, but the dreadful things only laughed at us, and said they would
stay as long as they lived. We couldn’t leave our homes to go out into
the country where the trees are loaded with acorns and beech-nuts, so
we stayed inside and waited for help. The poor chipmunks in the ground
must have suffered more than we.”

“I am sorry that I was not here to comfort you,” said Tiny.

“I missed you sorely, for you are so much braver than I,” said Mrs.
Redsquirrel meekly. “Last night some of the older bears went away to
get food. Early this morning we heard a most terrible noise. I peeped
from my window and could see the bears scattering in every direction,
and could hear them roaring and begging for mercy. Some of them fell
over logs and rolled helplessly about. In a few moments they had all
disappeared, and they did not return. Presently an army of wee soldiers
came to the city, buzzing merrily, and settled down on that old hemlock
tree where the Flyingsquirrel family formerly lived. Then Bushy
Graysquirrel rushed in to tell me that several maids of honor to the
fairy queen wanted to speak to me. She said that they bore news from
you.”

“How remarkable!” exclaimed Tiny. “It sounds, indeed, like a fairy
tale.”

“It was more like a bad dream to me,” declared Mrs. Redsquirrel.
“Between you and me I was afraid to go down, and yet I wanted to hear
something about you. In a few minutes I had brushed myself as neat as
possible, and stood in the presence of the queen’s army. A tiny maid
of honor, with shiny wings, came forth and told me how you had saved
the queen’s life. She said that she and her soldiers had promised to
keep their eyes on Squirreltown, and how they would see that the bears
disturbed us no more. I was also assured that you were well, and that
you would be back soon. I thanked her for her kindness, and returned
home. Squirreltown at once became the liveliest place you ever saw.
All the citizens mingled together as if they belonged to one family,
and they cheered loudly for Tiny Redsquirrel, whom they called their
deliverer. They are planning to give you a party late this afternoon.”

“That will be delightful,” said Tiny, beginning to feel very important.
“Last night I saw a crown of glittering stars circling about the tops
of our tallest trees. I never saw stars that shone brighter than they.”

“Oh, I almost forgot to tell you the most interesting part of the
story,” replied Mrs. Redsquirrel. “The queen doubtless knew that you
would go to some treetop, hoping to catch a glimpse of Squirreltown, so
she sent out some of her attendants to the camp of the fireflies, to
beg them to lend their aid. Before long several thousand of the bright,
pretty creatures were circling about the tops of the oak trees.”

“How wonderful!” exclaimed Tiny, with breathless interest. “I did not
know that such little creatures could be so helpful.”

“Three times to-day several of the queen’s maids of honor flew into my
window and left me some honey,” continued the mother. “I have grown
quite fond of honey, although I do not believe that sweets are good for
animals.”

Tiny then told his parent how the owl prophet had taken an interest in
him, and how he expected to seek him soon to receive more knowledge.

“I do not put much dependence upon owls,” said Mrs. Redsquirrel,
beginning to tremble, “but, should it be to your advantage, I would not
complain if you should go to thank him for his goodness. He has been so
kind that you ought not to show ingratitude. Perhaps he may teach you
many other things that you should know.”

“May I lie down for a few moments, mother?” asked Tiny, for he was
beginning to feel the effects of his long and tiresome journey.

“Dear son, you may,” she replied, as she hastened to make his couch
more comfortable. “You ought to take a long nap before the party.”

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I HAVE CONQUERED THE OGRE

After his strange meeting with the queen bee, Tiny wondered what would
happen next. He remembered what the owl prophet had said concerning
the dangers he would meet. As he sped onward, his little heart began
to beat less bravely, for, like any young squirrel that had lived in
a comfortable home without a care or a worry, he dreaded to face an
uncertain future.

“I am frightened,” he said, with a shudder, as he stopped at the edge
of a clump of cedars to find a place in which to spend the night. “The
day and the twilight are gone. No moon or star is in the sky. I wish I
were at home with mother.”

Then came a crash. Tiny thought for a moment that it was hailing. He
was about to hide in the grass when a bright green light flashed forth,
so brilliant that he could see all about him. He soon learned that the
crash was caused by a multitude of acorns that the wind had shaken from
a tree. Never before had he seen such splendid acorns.

“I will fill my hunting-bag, although such a large load will cause me
to travel more slowly,” he said. “A bagful of acorns is a nice thing to
have. How happy mother will be to get them!”

He began helping himself to the acorns. Suddenly he saw an ogre emerge
from the ground, with a thousand darts all pointed straight at him.
Never before in all his life had Tiny been so frightened.

“Hist!” cried the ogre, advancing slowly towards the poor, trembling
squirrel, his sharp teeth showing in a ghastly manner. “One of the
squirrels of the forest enters my realm. What shall I do with him?”

[Illustration: “HIST!” CRIED THE OGRE, ADVANCING SLOWLY TOWARD THE
POOR, TREMBLING SQUIRREL.]

A hundred voices cried out in reply:

“Master Ogre, friend so true,
He has come to steal from you.
See the bag he carries there!
Seize him by his auburn hair;
Put him in the bag, and then
Hide him in your gloomy den!”

Poor Tiny could only stand and shiver, awaiting his dreadful fate. The
green light became brighter and brighter, and soon he saw that he was
surrounded by a circle of glow worms. The ogre was a fierce porcupine.
Tiny had never before seen such a terrible creature.

“Every soldier in my army is loyal to me!” shouted the porcupine
boisterously. “Each comes with a lantern to help me. They will aid me
to tie you, place you in that bag, and hang you in my den deep down in
the cold ground.”

“I did not come to rob you,” mumbled Tiny, shaking violently. “I am
lost, and am trying to find my way home. This is my hunting bag in
which I gather my winter store. Please let me go unharmed.”

“Neither you nor your hunting bag has any right to be on my castle
grounds,” growled the porcupine. “Either the woodchuck or the rabbit
has told you that I have many priceless valuables hidden in my
storeroom.”

“I have never met the woodchuck, nor have I seen the rabbit for many
weeks,” wailed Tiny. “In my hunting bag are acorns and beech-nuts. I
halted underneath this tree to gather a few of these fine acorns.”

“Guilty creature!” cried the porcupine, bristling still more. “Do not
these acorns belong to me, also the tree they grow upon? Confess now
that you were going to burrow into my storeroom and carry off the
precious carrots and cabbage leaves I have stored away for a rainy day.”

“You are mistaken,” said Tiny, almost dead from fright, while the glow
worms circled still more closely about him.

Just then he remembered what the owl prophet had told him to do. As the
porcupine attempted to seize him, Tiny leaped forward and caught one
of the sharp darts and gave him a hard jab, which made the porcupine
shriek at the top of his voice. Moaning with pain, the ferocious
creature disappeared into the ground. The glow worms vanished.


“I have conquered the ogre!” cried Tiny in delight, whirling the dart
about in the air. “I am glad that I took the wise owl’s advice.”

Still carrying the dart, or quill, that he had wrested from the
porcupine, he groped his way back to the path.

Soon the rays of the moon made everything as bright as day. He had not
gone far when he saw to the left a deep, dark jungle, concerning which
the owl prophet had spoken.

“It is a dismal place after night,” he said, “but I must go into the
jungle as I have promised to do. I shall use the dart to protect
myself.”

With some difficulty he entered the damp place, without thought of the
terrible fright that awaited him.

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