Mr. Squirrel was disappointed when he peeped his head out of his hollow tree early one morning. Not one nut was to be seen on the ground.
“Jack Frost did not come last night. I see no nuts anywhere. It will take a long time to get all we need from the tree, I fear,” he said to Mrs. Squirrel, who was standing close beside him.
“But Jack Frost will come to our tree,” she said. “He never fails. See, there’s Mrs. Bushytail out early. She seems to be looking around, too. Perhaps Jack Frost has shaken them down for her. Let’s run down and see.”
Away frisked Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel as fast as their legs could take them, to see what Jack Frost had done for their neighbour. But, no, he had not visited Mrs. Bushytail’s tree. She had looked all over the ground, and there wasn’t a nut in sight. She couldn’t explain it herself.
“Let us wait until to-morrow morning,” said Mrs. Squirrel, “he will be sure to come to-night. Then what fun Bushy and Frisky will have gathering them. They will have to work hard to get enough for our winter store. Boys love nuts, too,” she added with a sigh. “But we will wait.”
Morning came and frosty Jack had been there in earnest, for the nuts lay all over the ground.
“Now to work,” said Father Squirrel. “Come, Bushy and Frisky.”
It was a busy day for Mr. Squirrel’s family. They well knew how many, many nuts are needed for the winter’s store, and Mr. Squirrel kept telling Bushy and Frisky that they would have to work hard, and perhaps until the sun went down that day.
But alas for those little squirrels. “Boys love nuts, too,” Mrs. Squirrel had said over and over again, and when a rustle was heard in the bushes behind the trees, and the sound of boys’ voices came loud and clear, these little workers had to take to their heels, and whisk up the hollow tree. There they stayed trembling with fear. In a few minutes Bushy, a little braver than the rest, ventured to peep out of a small hole. Frisky stood just back of him.
“Boys—three of them—and they all have bags!”
Poor Bushy and Frisky. If there was one thing that these little squirrels loved to do more than another it was to gather nuts—and now their chance was spoiled, for the boys were really there, and would be sure to take every nut they could find.
“They’re working hard,” said Bushy.
“Will they leave any for us?” asked Frisky, not even daring to peep out.
“Sh! Listen, Frisky. I heard one of the boys say that there are some nuts under the other tree. Two of the boys are going there now. It’s Mrs. Bushytail’s tree. But look, Frisky, they have left two of the bags.”
“One of the boys is sitting on one of them. He is cracking nuts, I think.”
“And the other bag, Bushy?”
“The other one is close by our tree,” and before anyone could say a word, Bushy was out of the hole, down the tree, and close to the big bag. Mrs. Squirrel tried to call him back, but it was of no use. Up and down the bag he ran, first to the top and then to the sides. But he could not get in—the bag was tied tight. But Bushy’s teeth were sharp.
“Dear, dear,” said his mother, “here come the boys back, and they will surely see Bushy—dear, dear.”
Bushy caught sight of the boys coming toward the tree for their bags, and with a whisk and a scamper he was up the tree again and into his hole in no time.
“Dear, dear Bushy,” said his mother. “What a fright you gave us all. Just see those boys. There’s no telling what would have happened if they had seen you.”
Mr. Squirrel’s family watched the boys pick up their bags, throw them over their shoulders and go away.
“Why, Tom, look at your bag,” said one of the boys. “It has a hole in it. You must have lost so many nuts along the way.”
“A hole?” asked Tom in surprise, as he lifted the bag from his shoulder. “So it has—and a pretty big one, too. I wonder how it ever came there. It wasn’t there when I started.”
The boys were gone, and Mr. Squirrel’s family ventured out once more.
“It’s of no use, I fear,” began Mrs. Squirrel; “those boys were good workers and—dear me, here are nuts sprinkled all along the road. What does it mean?” asked Mrs. Squirrel.
“It is strange,” said Mr. Squirrel. “I really thought those boys had found them all, but perhaps boys’ eyes are not as sharp as we think.”
Bushy kept on gathering the nuts and smiling to himself. How sly he was. Not one of the family seemed to guess the truth. It was only when he and Frisky were going to bed that night that Frisky dared to whisper, “Bushy, did you put that hole in that bag?”
Hark! how they chatter
Down the dusk Road,
See them come patter,
Each with his Load.
What have you sought, then,
Happy little Band?
What have you brought, then,
Each in his Hand?
No need to ask it;
No need to tell;
In Bag and in Basket
Your nuts show well!
Nuts from the wild-wood;
Sweet Nuts to eat;
Sweetest in Childhood
When life is sweet.
There they go patter,
Each with his Load;
Hark! how they chatter
Down the dusk Road.