Written by Thornton Burgess
“Let me go! Let me go!” yelled Happy Jack, as he backed out of the hollow stump faster than he had gone in, a great deal faster. Can you guess why? I’ll tell you. It was because he was being pulled out. Yes, Sir, Happy Jack Squirrel was being pulled out by his big, bushy tail.
Happy Jack was more frightened than hurt. To be sure, it is not at all comfortable to have one’s tail pulled, but Happy Jack wouldn’t have minded this so much had it not been so unexpected, or if he could have seen who was pulling it. And then, right inside Happy Jack didn’t feel a bit good. Why? Well, because he was doing a dreadful thing, and he knew that it was a dreadful thing. He had broken into somebody’s storehouse to steal. He was sure that it was Striped Chipmunk’s storehouse, and he wouldn’t admit to himself that he was going to steal, actually steal. But all the time, right down deep in his heart, he knew that if he took any of those hickory nuts it would be stealing.
But Happy Jack had been careless. When he had made the doorway big enough for him to crawl inside, he had left his tail hanging outside. Some one had very, very softly stolen up and grabbed it and begun to pull. It was so sudden and unexpected that Happy Jack yelled with fright. When he could get his wits together, he thought of course Striped Chipmunk had come back and was pulling his tail. When he thought that, he got over his fright right away, for Striped Chipmunk is such a little fellow that Happy Jack knew that he had nothing; to fear from him.
So as fast as he could, Happy Jack backed out of the hole and whirled around. Of course he expected to face a very angry little Chipmunk. But he didn’t. No, he didn’t. Instead, he looked right into the angry face of his other cousin, Chatterer the Red Squirrel. And Chatterer was angry! Oh my, my, how angry Chatterer was! For a minute he couldn’t find his voice, because his anger fairly choked him. And when he did, how his tongue did fly!
“You thief! You robber! What are you doing in my storehouse?” he shrieked.
Happy Jack backed away hurriedly, for though he is much bigger than Chatterer, he has a very wholesome respect for Chatterer’s sharp teeth, and when he is very angry, Chatterer is a great fighter.
“I—I didn’t know it was your storehouse,” said Happy Jack, backing away still further.
“It doesn’t make any difference if you didn’t; you’re a thief just the same!” screamed Chatterer and rushed at Happy Jack. And what do you think Happy Jack did? Why, he just turned tail and ran, Chatterer after him, crying “Thief! Thief!” at the top of his lungs, so that everyone in the Green Forest could hear.
Striped Chipmunk sat on a mossy old log, laughing until his sides ached. “Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho! Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!” laughed Striped Chipmunk, holding his sides. Over in the Green Forest he could still hear Chatterer the Red Squirrel crying “Thief! Thief!” as he chased his big cousin, Happy Jack, and every time he heard it, Striped Chipmunk laughed harder.
You see, Striped Chipmunk had known all the time that Happy Jack was spying on him, and he had had no end of fun fooling Happy Jack by suddenly disappearing and then bobbing into view. He had known that Happy Jack was following him so as to find out where his storehouse was. Then Striped Chipmunk had remembered the storehouse of Chatterer the Red Squirrel. He had filled the pockets in his cheeks with acorns and gone straight over to Chatterer’s storehouse and put them inside, knowing that Happy Jack would follow him and would think that that was his storehouse. And that is just what happened.
Then Striped Chipmunk had hidden himself where he could see all that happened. He had seen Happy Jack look all around, to make sure that no one was near, and then tear open the little round doorway of Chatterer’s storehouse until it was big enough for him to squeeze through. He had seen Chatterer come up, fly into a rage, and pull Happy Jack out by the tail. Indeed, he had had to clap both hands over his mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Then Happy Jack had turned tail and run away with Chatterer after him, shouting “Thief” at the top of his voice, and this had tickled Striped Chipmunk still more, for he knew that Chatterer himself is one of the greatest thieves in the Green Forest. So he sat on the mossy old log and laughed and laughed and laughed.
Finally Striped Chipmunk wiped the tears from his eyes and jumped up. “My, my, this will never do!” he said.
“Idle hands and idle feet
Never filled a storehouse yet;
But instead, so I’ve heard say,
Into mischief surely get.”
“Here it is almost Thanksgiving and—” Striped Chipmunk stopped and scratched his head, while a funny little pleased look crept into his face. “I wonder if Happy Jack and Chatterer would come to a Thanksgiving dinner,” he muttered. “I believe I’ll ask them just for fun.”
Then Striped Chipmunk hurried home full of his new idea and chuckled as he planned his Thanksgiving dinner. Of course he couldn’t have it at his own house. That wouldn’t do at all. In the first place, the doorway would be altogether too small for Happy Jack. Anyway, his home was a secret, his very own secret, and he didn’t propose to let Happy Jack and Chatterer know where it was, even for a Thanksgiving dinner. Then he thought of the big, smooth, mossy log he had been sitting on that very morning.
“The very place!” cried Striped Chipmunk, and scurried away to find Happy Jack Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel to invite them to his Thanksgiving dinner.
Striped Chipmunk jumped out of bed very early Thanksgiving morning. It was going to be a very busy day. He had invited Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel, and Chatterer the Red Squirrel, to eat Thanksgiving dinner with him, and each had promised to be there. Striped Chipmunk chuckled as he thought how neither of his guests knew that the other was going to be there. He washed his face and hands, brushed his hair, and ate his breakfast. Then he scurried over to his splendid new storehouse, which no one knew of but himself, and stuffed the pockets in his cheeks with good things to eat. When he couldn’t stuff another thing in, he scurried over to the nice, mossy log on the edge of the Green Forest, and there he emptied his pockets, for that was to be his dining table.
Back and forth, back and forth between his secret storehouse and the smooth, mossy log hurried Striped Chipmunk. He knew that Happy Jack and the Chatterer have great appetites, and he wanted to be sure that there were plenty of good things to eat. And as he scurried along, he sang a little song.
“Thanksgiving comes but once a year,
But when it comes it brings good cheer.
For in my storehouse on this day
Are piles of good things hid away.
Each day I’ve worked from early morn
To gather acorns, nuts, and corn,
Till now I’ve plenty and to spare
Without a worry or a care.
So light of heart the whole day long,
I’ll sing a glad Thanksgiving song.”
Promptly at the dinner hour Happy Jack appeared coming from one direction, and Chatterer the Red Squirrel coming from another direction. They didn’t see each other until just as they reached Striped Chipmunk’s smooth, mossy log. Then they stopped and scowled. Striped Chipmunk pretended not to notice anything wrong and bustled about, talking all the time as if his guests were the best of friends.
On the smooth, mossy log was a great pile of shining yellow corn. There was another pile of plump ripe acorns, and three little piles of dainty looking brown seeds. But the thing that Happy Jack couldn’t keep his eyes off was right in the middle. It was a huge pile of big, fat hickory nuts. Now who could remain ill-tempered and cross with such a lot of goodies spread before him? Certainly not Happy Jack or his cousin, Chatterer the Red Squirrel. They just had to smile in spite of themselves, and when Striped Chipmunk urged them to sit down and help themselves, they did. In three minutes they were so busy eating that they had forgotten all about their quarrel and were laughing and chatting like the best of friends.
“It’s quite a family party, isn’t it?” said Striped Chipmunk, for you know they are all cousins.
Whitefoot the Wood Mouse happened along, and Striped Chipmunk insisted that he should join the party. Later Sammy Jay came along, and nothing would excuse him from sharing in the feast, too. When everybody had eaten and eaten until they couldn’t hold another thing, and it was time to think of going home, Striped Chipmunk insisted that Happy Jack and Chatterer should divide between them the big, fat hickory nuts that were left, and they did without once quarreling about it.
“Thanksgiving comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer,”
said Striped Chipmunk to himself as he watched his guests depart.
Happy Jack sat up in a chestnut tree, and his face was very serious. The fact is, Happy Jack was doing some very hard thinking. This is so very unusual for him that Sammy Jay stopped to ask if he was sick. You see he is naturally a happy-go-lucky little scamp, and that is one reason that he is called Happy Jack. But this morning he was thinking and thinking hard, so hard, in fact, that he almost lost his temper when Sammy Jay interrupted his thoughts with such a foolish question.
What was he thinking about? Can you not guess? Why, he was thinking about those big, fat hickory nuts that Striped Chipmunk had had for his Thanksgiving dinner, and how Striped Chipmunk had given him some of them to bring home. He was very sure that they were the very same nuts that he had watched grow big and fat in the top of the tall hickory tree and then had knocked down while chasing his cousin, Chatterer. When they had reached the ground and found the nuts gone, Happy Jack had at once suspected that Striped Chipmunk had taken them, and now he felt sure about it.
But all at once things looked very different to Happy Jack, and the more he thought about how he had acted, the more ashamed of himself he grew.
“There certainly must have been enough of those nuts for all of us, and if I hadn’t been so greedy we might all have had a share. As it is, I’ve got only those that Striped Chipmunk gave me, and Chatterer has only those that Striped Chipmunk gave him. It must be that that sharp little cousin of mine with the striped coat has got the rest, and I guess he deserves them.”
Then all of a sudden Happy Jack realized how Striped Chipmunk had fooled him into thinking that the storehouse of Chatterer was his storehouse, and Happy Jack began to laugh. The more he thought of it, the harder he laughed.
“The joke certainly is on me!” he exclaimed. “The joke certainly is on me, and it serves me right. Hereafter I’ll mind my own business. If I had spent half as much time looking for hickory nuts as I did looking for Striped Chipmunk’s storehouse, I would be ready for winter now, and Chatterer couldn’t call me a thief.”
Then he laughed again as he thought how Striped Chipmunk must have enjoyed seeing him pulled out of Chatterer’s storehouse by the tail.
“What’s the joke?” asked Bobby raccoon, who happened along just then.
“I’ve just learned a lesson,” replied Happy Jack.
“What is it?” asked Bobby.
Happy Jack grinned as he answered:
“I’ve found that greed will never, never pay.
It makes one cross and ugly, and it drives one’s friends away.
And being always selfish and always wanting more,
One’s very apt to lose the things that one has had before.”
“Huh!” said Bobby Coon. “Have you just found that out? I learned that a long time ago.”