“It is generally a stupid creature

Tiny became ill, and could not venture out of doors, so the party
was postponed until he should get well. His mother sent for Dr.
Flyingsquirrel, who lived out in the country. The doctor, who could
spread out his loose skin and fly like a bird, said that Tiny should
remain quiet for at least two days.

The Mayor of Squirreltown issued an edict that anyone who made a loud
noise should be banished from the city, so intense silence reigned.
Several of Tiny’s best friends, including the mayor himself and other
important citizens, came to see him. They brought him wild flowers,
acorns fashioned by their teeth into fanciful cups, and many other
pretty things which Tiny gratefully received.

The second morning Bushy Graysquirrel brought him a book of fables
written by Father Aesop, who at that time was the greatest writer known
to Animal Kingdom.

The story that pleased him most was the following:

THE MOUSE’S DISCOVERY.

Once upon a time a donkey, a wolf, a fox, and a cat fell into an
argument as to which of them was the greatest.

A field mouse, who was hiding close by in a tuft of grass, heard the
conversation, and was much amused.

“I am the greatest thing in the world,” boasted the wolf, “for I am
so brave that I fear nothing. On the other hand, you would all run if
I showed my teeth and claws. I am one of man’s greatest fears.”

“It is certainly no sign of greatness to be a good fighter,” said the
fox, proudly curling his tail as foxes sometimes do. “I am shrewd and
wily. It is much better to have these qualities of mind than to be
fierce. Children’s books are full of stories concerning my cunning
tricks.”

“Foxes’ opinions of themselves are sometimes absurd,” said the
donkey, stamping his hoofs upon the ground to scare away the flies.
“Donkeys are the greatest of all objects, for the reason that they
are useful and always can be depended upon. Donkeys’ feet are more
sure than the hoofs of horses.”

“I am the chief of all objects,” proclaimed the cat, from a bough
of one of the birches. “I belong to the tiger family, yet I am so
gentle that children keep me for a pet. Men prefer dogs, but cats are
women’s favorites. The wolf’s importance is small compared with mine.
My food is brought to me, and I spend my spare time catching mice.
Cats are mice’s greatest foes.”

The mouse’s heart stood still when he heard these dreadful words from
the cat’s mouth, for he dreaded cats’ paws more than he did wolves’
teeth.

“I cannot fight, nor am I shrewd enough to steal, strong enough to
carry loads, nor lazy enough to be a child’s pet; but I can sing,”
warbled a thrush from the branch of another tree. “Birds are men’s
sweetest comforters, for their tunes always drive away care. Flies’
lives are spent in useless buzzing. A fly’s buzz is not sweet to
hear, as the donkey well knows. However, thrushes’ songs are very
melodious, for thrushes practice singing all day long. Surely the
thrush’s position is high above that of all other objects.”

Before the wolf could open his mouth to praise himself again, there
was a sound of heavy footsteps. Presently a man came in sight,
carrying a blunderbuss.

The wolf, forgetting how brave he was, darted away; the donkey’s
departure was almost as sudden; the thrush flew high into the sky;
the cat scurried to the birch’s topmost branch; and the hair on the
fox’s tail stood straight up as he leaped the bushes.

“See how they run!” exclaimed the field mouse, laughing at the
frightened animals who a moment since had been boasting of their
power. “It is very plain to be seen that the greatest of all objects
is the blunderbuss.”

When the two days were up Tiny had quite regained his health. Great
preparations had been made for a jubilee. A grand banquet, given by the
mayor and other high officials, was to be held in the hollow of a big
tree.

When Tiny stepped out upon the little rustic veranda in front of his
home, he observed that the branches of the tree below him were thronged
with squirrels of all colors and of all walks in life.

“Hurrah for Tiny Redsquirrel!” they shouted. “Welcome, deliverer of
Squirreltown! Three cheers for the noblest and bravest squirrel of
Animal Kingdom! A speech! A speech!”

[Illustration: TINY BECAME OVERWHELMED BY A FEELING OF
IMPORTANCE–THERE WAS ALL SQUIRRELTOWN AT HIS FEET.]

Strange to say, instead of being embarrassed, Tiny became overwhelmed
by a feeling of importance. There was all Squirreltown at his feet,
including the mayor and Billy Foxsquirrel, the noted whistler. Tiny
bowed very stiffly, while the squirrels at the tops of their voices
shouted lustily. He looked down upon them just as the wise owl prophet
had gazed at him.

“Fellow citizens,” he began, “I thank you for the honor you do me. I
see many faces before me that show appreciation for what I have done to
rescue our city from the bears. I choose to do all I can to help you.




“The mayor invited me to make a speech to you. At the time, I knew that
I could not prepare one as well as he, but I threw myself into the task
and did the best I could. I am glad that this public reception has
drawn so many of you to this place.

“You have given me great happiness. Our beautiful city has grown very
dear to me. I am glad that I was driven all round the world, for I
learned many things that I will teach you. I have become much wiser
since I have traveled, and have learned much that you do not know. I–”

But in the midst of his grand eloquence, Tiny was interrupted. As he
stood beating the air with his little paws, trying to impress his
hearers, there came a flapping of wings overhead.

His terrified hearers fled in all directions, but before he could
escape he was seized and borne high into the air–up, up amongst the
tree-tops.

He was too much frightened to cry out. He could only wait until the
dreadful creature that held him in his clutches should set him free.
His blood almost froze in his veins. He wondered what he should do
if his frail limbs were broken, or if he should be cast down in some
lonely place to perish. Perhaps he would be eaten. His heart fell
within him.

After traveling for some time in this unusual and uncomfortable manner,
he found himself in a nest of great size, with the owl prophet staring
at him with big yellow eyes.

[Illustration: HE FOUND HIMSELF IN A NEST OF HUGE SIZE, WITH THE OWL
PROPHET STARING AT HIM WITH BIG, YELLOW EYES.]

Although he was in a quiver of fright, like many other small creatures,
he did not wish to appear concerned, so he smiled feebly and said:

“Hello!”

“How dare you be so bold?” cried the owl in a dry, unnatural voice. “Do
you think I am a telephone?”

“Pardon me,” said Tiny weakly. “My grammar is very bad.”

“Grammar is never bad,” corrected the owl. “It is your English that is
bad.”

“But why did you take me away from dear old Squirreltown?” wailed Tiny.

“To teach you the lesson of humility,” replied the owl prophet. “I
have flown all the way to Squirreltown and back here to keep you
from disgracing yourself. I am glad that I went. To see little Tiny
Redsquirrel, puffed with vanity, frisking about with his little paws
and bushy tail, lecturing to the old citizens of Squirreltown, was
enough to make a wise owl laugh. What do you suppose the mayor thought
of you?”

“I don’t know,” replied Tiny, ashamed of himself in spite of his
excitement. “I fear that I was very pompous; but then I had delivered
Squirreltown from the bears, and I thought I had a right to be bold.
You see, the mayor intended to have me for supper.”

“If you complain any more, I myself will have you for supper,” declared
the owl, with no pity whatever. “I suppose you mean that the mayor
intended to entertain you at supper, for it is not likely that he would
wish to eat you.”

Tiny stared in bewilderment. He could not understand all the odd
sayings of the prophet, but, nevertheless, he corrected himself by
saying:

“The mayor invited me to eat supper with him.”

“Well, he will have all the more to eat without you, and will not have
to listen to any more of your speeches,” snapped the owl. “Which one of
those squirrels was the mayor?”

“The large one with the sleek fur. I have often been told that the
mayor looks like I do,” replied Tiny, his new vanity again appearing.

“To be sure he does,” retorted the owl, with a laugh. “I, too, look
like you do.”

Tiny again stared in astonishment. He could see no points of
resemblance between himself and the owl.

“A bee looks like you do,” continued the prophet. “A bear looks like
you do; so does a weasel, an elephant, a hyena, a jay bird, and a loon;
even a monkey looks like you do.”

“You are jesting with me,” protested Tiny, beginning to be vexed.

“All animals look like you do, because they look with their eyes just
as you do,” said the owl, with another distracting screech.

“Oh, I see,” said Tiny, good-naturedly. “I should have said that the
mayor looks like _me_. It was incorrect for me to say that the mayor
looks like I do.”

“Quite so,” said the owl, less harshly. “You are a bright little
creature, and I am going to see that your wish for knowledge is
granted. You felt very important an hour ago, when you tried to make a
public speech before the oldest citizens of Squirreltown; but now you
see how little you know. I am going to take you to Beaver Creek, where
you may complete your education. Very few animals of the wood know of
this school, and only the ablest ones are admitted to it. When you have
graduated, you may go back to Squirreltown. Perhaps by that time you
will be able to make a modest speech before your fellow squirrels.”

“I really want an education,” replied Tiny, with enthusiasm. “The
schools at Squirreltown are not very good, and very few squirrels
attend them. We are such nervous creatures, and care more for play than
for study. But what will my mother do without me?”

“If she is a good mother, she will not stand in the way of your
education,” replied the owl. “I will write her a letter which the
messenger pigeon, a friend of mine, will carry to her. You must write
to her twice a week, and the messenger pigeon will bear the letters to
her.”

“I dislike to write letters,” protested Tiny. “It is such stupid work.”

“It is generally a stupid creature that dislikes to write letters,”
said the owl severely. “He does not like to write, because he does not
know how to write well. In Miss Hare’s School at Beaver Creek, you will
be taught how to write correctly; then letter writing will prove to be
a great pleasure to you.”

“I am anxious to attend this school, because I want to learn how to
read stories and to count,” said Tiny, after a moment of anxious
thought.

“You must promise to work hard,” said the owl, earnestly. “You will
find pupils at this school from all parts of Animal Kingdom. Miss Hare
is a good instructor, but very strict. If you should do anything that
would injure one of your classmates, you would be drowned in the creek.
Now roll yourself into a little round ball again, for I am ready to
start.”

Tiny did as he was commanded. The owl almost encircled him with his
long claws, and away they went to a strange land, about which Tiny had
never even dreamed.

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