Happy Jack didn’t look one bit happy. Indeed, Happy Jack looked very unhappy. You see, he looked just as he felt. He had set his heart on having all the big, fat nuts that he had found in the top of that tall hickory tree, and now, instead of having all of them, he didn’t have any of them. Worse still, he knew right down in his heart that it was his own fault. He had been too greedy. But what had become of those nuts?
Happy Jack was thinking about this as he sat with his back against a big chestnut tree. He remembered how hard Peter Rabbit had laughed when Happy Jack and his cousin, Chatterer the Red Squirrel, had been so surprised because they could not find the nuts they had knocked down. Peter hadn’t taken them, for Peter has no use for them, but he must know what had become of them, for he was still laughing as he had gone off down the Lone Little Path.
While he was thinking of all this, Happy Jack’s bright eyes had been wide open, as they usually are, so that no danger should come near. Suddenly they saw something moving among the brown-and-yellow leaves on the ground. Happy Jack looked sharply, and then a sudden thought popped into his head.
“Hi, there, Cousin Chipmunk!” he shouted.
“Hi, there, your own self!” replied Striped Chipmunk, for it was he.
“What are you doing down there?” asked Happy Jack.
“Looking for hickory nuts,” replied Striped Chipmunk, and his eyes twinkled as he said it, for there wasn’t a hickory tree near.
Happy Jack looked hard at Striped Chipmunk, for that sudden thought which had popped into his head when he first saw Striped Chipmunk was growing into a strong suspicion that Striped Chipmunk knew something about those lost hickory nuts. But Striped Chipmunk looked back at him so innocently that Happy Jack didn’t know just what to think.
“Have you begun to fill your storehouse for winter yet?” inquired Happy Jack.
“Of course I have. I don’t mean to let Jack Frost catch me with an empty storehouse,” replied Striped Chipmunk.
“When leaves turn yellow, brown, and red,
And nuts come pitter, patter down;
When days are short and swiftly sped,
And Autumn wears her colored gown,
I’m up before old Mr. Sun
His nightcap has a chance to doff,
And have my day’s work well begun
When others kick their bed clothes off.”
“What are you filling your storehouse with?” asked Happy Jack, trying not to show too much interest.
“Corn, nice ripe yellow corn, and seeds and acorns and chestnuts,” answered Striped Chipmunk. “And now I’m looking for some big, fat hickory nuts,” he added, and his bright eyes twinkled. “Have you seen any, Happy Jack?”
Happy Jack said that he hadn’t seen any, and Striped Chipmunk remarked that he couldn’t waste any more time talking, and scurried away. Happy Jack watched him go, a puzzled little frown puckering up his brows.
“I believe he knows something about those nuts. I think I’ll follow him and have a peep into his storehouse,” he muttered.
Striped Chipmunk was whisking about among the brown-and-yellow leaves that covered the ground on the edge of the Green Forest. He is such a little fellow that he looked almost like a brown leaf himself, and when one of Old Mother West Wind’s Merry Little Breezes whirled the brown leaves in a mad little dance around him, it was the hardest work in the world to see Striped Chipmunk at all. Anyway, Happy Jack Squirrel found it so.
You see, Happy Jack was spying on Striped Chipmunk. Yes, Sir, Happy Jack was spying. Spying, you know, is secretly watching other people and trying to find out what they are doing. It isn’t a very nice thing to do, not a bit nice. Happy Jack knew it, and all the time he was doing it, he was feeling bad. But he said to himself that he just had to know where Striped Chipmunk’s storehouse was, because he just had to peep inside and find out if it held any of the big, fat hickory nuts that had disappeared from under the tall hickory tree while he was quarreling up in the top of it with his cousin, Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
But spying on Striped Chipmunk isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Happy Jack was finding it the hardest work he had ever undertaken. Striped Chipmunk is so spry, and whisks about so, that you need eyes all around your head to keep track of him. Happy Jack found that his two eyes, bright and quick as they are, couldn’t keep that little elf of a cousin of his always in sight. Every few minutes he would disappear and then bob up again in the most unexpected place and most provoking way.
“Now I’m here, and now I’m there!
Now I am not anywhere!
Watch me now, for here I go
Out of sight! I told you so!”
With the last words, Striped Chipmunk was nowhere to be seen. It seemed as if the earth must have opened and swallowed him. But it hadn’t, for two minutes later Happy Jack saw him flirting his funny little tail in the sauciest way as he scampered along an old log.
Happy Jack began to suspect that Striped Chipmunk was just having fun with him. What else could he mean by saying such things? And yet Happy Jack was sure that Striped Chipmunk hadn’t seen him, for, all the time he was watching, Happy Jack had taken the greatest care to keep himself hidden. No, it couldn’t be, it just couldn’t be that Striped Chipmunk knew that he was anywhere about. He would just be patient a little longer, and he would surely see that smart little cousin of his go to his storehouse. So Happy Jack waited and watched.
Striped Chipmunk would shout in his shrillest voice:
“Hipperty, hopperty, one, two, three!
What do you think becomes of me?”
Then he would vanish from sight all in the wink of an eye. You couldn’t tell where he went to. At least Happy Jack couldn’t, and his eyes are sharper than yours or mine. Happy Jack was spying, you remember. He was watching Striped Chipmunk without letting Striped Chipmunk know it. At least he thought he was. But really he wasn’t. Those sharp twinkling eyes of Striped Chipmunk see everything. You know, he is such a very little fellow that he has to be very wide-awake to keep out of danger.
And he is wide-awake. Oh, my, yes, indeed! When he is awake, and that is every minute of the daytime, he is the most wide-awake little fellow you ever did see. He had seen Happy Jack the very first thing, and he had guessed right away that Happy Jack was spying on him so as to find out if he had any of the big, fat hickory nuts.
Now Striped Chipmunk had all of those big, fat hickory nuts safely hidden in his splendid new storehouse, but he didn’t intend to let Happy Jack know it. So he just pretended not to see Happy Jack, or to know that he was anywhere near, but acted as if he was just going about his own business. Really he was just having the best time ever fooling Happy Jack.
“The corn is ripe; the nuts do fall;
Acorns are sweet and plump.
I soon will have my storehouse full
Inside the hollow stump.”
Striped Chipmunk sang this just as if no one was anywhere near, and he was singing just for joy. Of course Happy Jack heard it and he grinned.
“So your storehouse is in a hollow stump, my smart little cousin!” said Happy Jack to himself. “If that’s the case, I’ll find it soon.”
Striped Chipmunk scurried along, and now he took pains to always keep in sight. Happy Jack followed, hiding behind the trees. Pretty soon Striped Chipmunk picked up a plump acorn and put it in the pocket of his right cheek. Then he picked up another and put that in the pocket in his left cheek. Then he crowded another into each; and his face was swelled so that you would hardly have guessed that it was Striped Chipmunk if you had chanced to meet him. My, my, he was a funny sight! Happy Jack grinned again as he watched, partly because Striped Chipmunk looked so funny, and partly because he knew that if Striped Chipmunk was going to eat the acorns right away, he wouldn’t stuff them into the pockets in his cheeks. But he had done this very thing, and so he must be going to take them to his storehouse.
Off scampered Striped Chipmunk, and after him stole Happy Jack, his eyes shining with excitement. Pretty soon he saw an old stump which looked as if it must be hollow. Happy Jack grinned more than ever as he carefully hid himself and watched Striped Chipmunk scramble up on the old stump, looked this way and that way, as if to be sure that no one was watching him, then with a flirt of his funny little tail he darted into a little round doorway. He was gone a long time, but by and by out he popped, looked this way and that way, and then scampered off in the direction from which he had come. Happy Jack didn’t try to follow him. He waited until he was sure that Striped Chipmunk was out of sight and hearing, and then he walked over to the old stump.
“It’s his storehouse sure enough,” said Happy Jack.
Happy Jack Squirrel stood in front of the old stump into which he had seen Striped Chipmunk go with the pockets in his cheeks full of acorns, and out of which he had seen him come with the pockets of his cheeks quite empty.
“It certainly is his storehouse, and now I’ll find out if he is the one who got all those big, fat hickory nuts,” muttered Happy Jack.
First he looked this way, and then he looked that way, to be sure that no one saw him, for what he was planning to do was a dreadful thing, and he knew it. Happy Jack was going to turn burglar. A burglar, you know, is one who breaks into another’s house or barn to steal, which is a very, very awful thing to do. Yet this is just what Happy Jack Squirrel was planning to do. He was going to get into that old stump, and if those big, fat hickory nuts were there, as he was sure they were, he was going to take them. He tried very hard to make himself believe that it wouldn’t be stealing. He had watched those nuts in the top of that tall hickory tree so long that he had grown to think that they belonged to him. Of course they didn’t, but he had made himself think they did.
Happy Jack walked all around the old stump, and then he climbed up on top of it. There was only one doorway, and that was the little round hole through which Striped Chipmunk had entered and then come out. It was too small for Happy Jack to even get his head through, though his cousin, Chatterer the Red Squirrel, who is much smaller, could have slipped in easily. Happy Jack sniffed and sniffed. He could smell nuts and corn and other good things. My, how good they did smell! His eyes shone greedily.
Happy Jack took one more hasty look around to see that no one was watching, then with his long sharp teeth he began to make the doorway larger. The wood was tough, but Happy Jack worked with might and main, for he wanted to get those nuts and get away before Striped Chipmunk should return, or any one else should happen along and see him. Soon the hole was big enough for him to get his head inside. It was a storehouse, sure enough. Happy Jack worked harder than ever, and soon the hole was large enough for him to get wholly inside.
What a sight! There was corn! and there were chestnuts and acorns! and there were a few hickory nuts, though these did not look so big and fat as the ones Happy Jack was looking for! Happy Jack chuckled to himself, a big, greedy chuckle, as he looked. And then something happened.
“Oh! Oh! Stop it! Leave me alone!” yelled Happy Jack.