Happy Jack knew all about his big neighbors, and he was always on the watch for them. He knew their ways and just where they would be likely to hide and try to catch him. He took the greatest care to look into every such hiding place near at hand before he ventured down out of the trees, and because his neighbors are so big, he never had any trouble seeing them if they happened to be around. So Happy Jack didn’t do much worrying about them. The fact is, Happy Jack wasn’t afraid of them at all, for the simple reason that he knew they couldn’t follow him into his hollow tree.
Having nuts stored away, he would have been perfectly happy but for one thing. That was the fear that Shadow the Weasel might take it into his head to pay him a visit. Shadow can go through a smaller hole than Happy Jack can, and so Happy Jack knew that while he was wholly safe from his other enemies, he wasn’t safe at all from Shadow the Weasel. And this worried him. Yes, Sir, it worried Happy Jack. He hadn’t seen or heard of Shadow for a long time, but he had a feeling that he was likely to turn up almost any time, especially now that everything was covered with snow and ice. But no good comes of worrying. Not a bit of good comes of worrying, and Happy Jack knows it.
“All I can do is to watch out and be careful,” he said, and he dropped the shell of a nut on the head of Reddy Fox, who happened to be passing under the tree in which Happy Jack was sitting. Reddy looked up and showed his teeth. Happy Jack laughed and scampered away through the tree-tops to another part of the Green Forest where he had some very secret stores of nuts.
He was gone most of the day, and when he started back home he was in the best of spirits, for his stores had not been found by anyone else. He was in such good spirits that for once he quite forgot Shadow the Weasel. He was just going to pop into his doorway without first looking inside, a very silly thing to do, when he heard someone calling him. He turned to see Tommy T the Chickadee hurrying towards him, and it was very clear that Tommy was greatly excited.
“Hello, Tommy T! What wrong?” exclaimed Happy Jack.
“Don’t go in there, Happy Jack!” cried Tommy T. “Shadow the Weasel is in there waiting for you!”
Happy Jack turned quite pale. “Are you sure?” he gasped.
Tommy T nodded as if he would nod his head off. “I saw him go in, and he hasn’t come out and I’ve kept watch,” said he. “You better get away from here before he knows you are about.”
That was good advice, but it was too late. Even as Tommy T spoke, a face with red eyes was thrust out of Happy Jack’s doorway. It was the face of Shadow the Weasel.
Happy Jack Squirrel turned tail and ran the instant he caught sight of Shadow the Weasel.
It was the wisest thing he could have done. He hoped with a mighty hope that Shadow would not follow him, but he hoped in vain. Shadow had made up his mind, and he didn’t propose to see Happy Jack run away without trying to catch him. So the instant Happy Jack started, Shadow started after him, stopping only long enough to snarl at Tommy T the Chickadee, because Tommy had warned Happy Jack that Shadow was waiting for him.
But Tommy didn’t mind that threat. Oh, my, no! Tommy didn’t mind it at all. He can fly, and so he had no fear of Shadow the Weasel. But he was terribly afraid for Happy Jack. He knew, just as Happy Jack knew, that there wasn’t a single place where Happy Jack could hide into which Shadow could not follow him. So Tommy flitted from tree to tree behind Happy Jack, hoping that in some way he might be able to help him.
From tree to tree raced Happy Jack, making desperately long leaps. Shadow the Weasel followed, and though he ran swiftly, he didn’t appear to be hurrying, and he took no chances on those long leaps. If the leap was too long to take safely, Shadow simply ran back down the tree, across to the next one and up that. It didn’t worry him at all that Happy Jack was so far ahead that he was out of sight. He knew that he could trust his nose to follow the scent of Happy Jack. He knew Happy Jack would get tired soon.
And this is just what Happy Jack did. He ran and jumped and jumped and ran as fast as he could until he was so out of breath that he just had to stop for a rest. But he couldn’t rest much. He was too scared. He shivered and shook while he got his breath, and never for a second did he take his eyes from his back trail. Soon he saw a slim white form darting along the snow straight towards the tree in which he was resting. So once more Happy Jack ran.
He had to rest more often now, and each rest was shorter than the one before, because Shadow was getting closer. Poor Happy Jack! He had tried every trick he knew, and none of them had fooled Shadow the Weasel. Now he was too tired to run much farther. Then he gritted his teeth and made up his mind that he would not give up. It was just at that very minute that he heard the voice of Tommy T the Chickadee calling to him in great excitement, and somehow, he didn’t know why, a wee bit of hope sprang up in his heart.
It never has been fully decided among the little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows just who really did save Happy Jack Squirrel. Some say that Tommy T the Chickadee deserves all the credit, and some say that—just wait. Let me tell you just what happened, and then perhaps you can decide for yourself who saved Happy Jack.
You see, it was this way: Happy Jack had run and run and run and tried every trick he knew to get away from Shadow the Weasel. At last he was so out of breath and so tired that he felt that he couldn’t run any more. He had just made up his mind that he would wait right where he was for Shadow and try to reason with him, when he heard Tommy T calling to him in great excitement.
“Dee, dee, chickadee! Come here quick, Happy Jack! Come here quick!” called Tommy T.
A wee bit of hope sprang up in Happy Jack’s heart. He couldn’t imagine what possible help Tommy T could be, but he would go see. So taking a long breath he started on as fast as he could in the direction of Tommy’s voice. He couldn’t run very fast, because, you know, he was so tired, but he did the best he could. Presently he saw Tommy just ahead of him flying about in great excitement.
“Dee, dee, dee, there he is! Go to him! Go to him, Happy Jack! Hurry! Hurry! Dee, dee, dee, oh, do hurry!” cried Tommy T.
For just a second Happy Jack didn’t know what he meant. Then he saw Farmer Brown’s boy watching Tommy T as if he didn’t know what to make of the little fellow’s excitement.
“Go to him! Go to him!” called Tommy. “He won’t hurt you, and he won’t let Shadow the Weasel catch you! See me! See me! Dee, dee, see me!” And with that Tommy T flew right down on Farmer Brown’s boy’s hand, for you know he and Farmer Brown’s boy are great friends.
Happy Jack hesitated. He knew that Farmer Brown’s boy had tried to make friends with him, and every day since the ice and snow had come had put out nuts and corn for him, but he couldn’t quite forget his fear of him. So now he hesitated. Then he looked back. Shadow the Weasel was only a few jumps behind him. Happy Jack made up his mind, and with a little gasp raced madly across the snow straight to Farmer Brown’s boy and ran right up to his shoulder.
Shadow the Weasel had been so intent on catching Happy Jack that he hadn’t noticed Farmer Brown’s boy at all. Now he saw him for the first time and stopped short. For a minute it looked as if he really meant to follow Happy Jack and try to catch him in spite of Farmer Brown’s boy, and Happy Jack trembled as he looked down into those little red eyes. But Shadow knows when he is well off, and now he knew better than to come a step nearer. So he snarled, and then, as Farmer Brown’s boy took a step forward, leaped to one side and disappeared in the old stone wall.
Very gently and softly Farmer Brown’s boy talked to Happy Jack as he took him to the nearest tree. Then, when Happy Jack was safely up in the tree, he went over to the stone wall and tried to drive Shadow the Weasel out. He pulled over the stones until at last Shadow jumped out, and then Farmer Brown’s boy chased him clear into the Green Forest.
“Dee, dee, dee, what did I tell you?” cried Tommy T happily, as he flew over to where Happy Jack was sitting.
Now who really saved Happy Jack—Tommy T or Farmer Brown’s boy?
After this, of course, Happy Jack and Farmer Brown’s boy became great friends. Farmer Brown’s boy came over to the Green Forest every day to see Happy Jack, and he always had the most delicious nuts in his pockets. At first Happy Jack had been a wee bit shy. He couldn’t quite get over that old fear he had had so long. Then he would remember how Farmer Brown’s boy had saved him, and he would walk right up and take the nuts.
Farmer Brown’s boy would talk to him in the nicest way and that there wasn’t the least thing in the world to be afraid of. Pretty soon Happy Jack began to love Farmer Brown’s boy a little. He couldn’t help it. He just had to love any one who was so kind and gentle to him. It got so that Happy Jack looked forward each day to the visit of Farmer Brown’s boy, and as soon as he heard his whistle, he would hasten to meet him. Some folks were unkind enough to say that it was just because of the nuts and corn he was sure to find in Farmer Brown’s boy’s pockets, but that wasn’t so at all.
At last there came a day when he missed the cheery whistle. He waited and waited. At last he went clear to the edge of the Green Forest, but there was no whistle and no sign of Farmer Brown’s boy. It was the same way the next day and the next. Happy Jack forgot to frisk about the way he usually does. He lost his appetite. He just sat around and moped.
When Tommy T the Chickadee came to call, as he did every day, Happy Jack found that Tommy was worried too. Tommy had been up to Farmer Brown’s dooryard several times, and he hadn’t seen anything of Farmer Brown’s boy.
“I think he must have gone away,” said Tommy.
“He would have come down here first and said good-by,” replied Happy Jack.
“You—you don’t suppose something has happened to him, do you?” asked Tommy.
“I – I don’t know. I don’t know what to think,” replied Happy Jack. “Do you know, Tommy, I’ve grown very fond of Farmer Brown’s boy.”
“Of course. Dee, dee, dee, of course. Everybody who really knows him is fond of him. I’ve said all along that he is the best friend we’ve got, but no one seemed to believe me. I’m glad you’ve found it out for yourself. I tell you what, I’ll go up to his house and have another look around.” And without waiting for a reply, Tommy was off as fast as his little wings could take him.
“I hope, I do hope, that nothing has happened to him,” mumbled Happy Jack, as he pretended to hunt for buried nuts while he waited for Tommy T to come back, and by “him” he meant Farmer Brown’s boy.
Happy Jack very plainly was not happy. He fussed about on the edge of the Green Forest. He just couldn’t keep still. When he thought anybody was looking, he pretended to hunt for some of the nuts he had buried in the fall, and dug holes down through the snow. But as soon as he thought that no one was watching, he would scamper up a tree where he could look over to Farmer Brown’s house and look and look. It was very clear that Happy Jack was watching for some one and that he was anxious, very anxious, indeed.
It was getting late in the afternoon, and soon the Black Shadows would begin to creep out from the Purple Hills, behind which jolly, round, red Mr. Sun would go to bed. It would be bedtime for Happy Jack then, for you know he goes to bed very early, just as soon as it begins to get dark. The later it got, the more anxious and uneasy Happy Jack grew. He had just made up his mind that in a few minutes he would have to give up and go to bed when there was a flit of tiny wings, and Tommy T dropped into the tree beside him.
“Did you find out anything?” asked Happy Jack eagerly, before Tommy had a chance to say a word.
Tommy nodded. “He’s there!” he panted, for he was quite out of breath from hurrying so.
“Where?” Happy Jack fairly shouted the question.
“Over there in the house,” replied Tommy T.
“Then he hasn’t gone away! It’s just as I said, he hasn’t gone away!” cried Happy Jack, and he was so relieved that he jumped up and down and as a result and nearly tumbled out of the tree.
“No,” replied Tommy, “he hasn’t gone away, but I think there is something the matter with him.”
Happy Jack grew very serious. “What makes you think so?” he demanded.
“If you’ll give me time to get my breath, I’ll tell you all about it,” retorted Tommy T.
“All right, only please hurry,” replied Happy Jack, and tried to look patient even if he wasn’t.
Tommy T smoothed out some rumpled feathers and was most provokingly slow about it. “When I left here,” he began at last, “I flew straight up to Farmer Brown’s house, as I said I would. I flew all around it, but all I saw was that horrible Black cat on the back doorsteps, and she looked at me and that she made me dreadfully uncomfortable. I don’t see what Farmer Brown keeps her about for, anyways.”
“Never mind her; go on!” interrupted Happy Jack.
“Then I flew all around the barn, but I didn’t see anyone there but Bully the English Sparrow, and he wanted to pick a fight with me right away.” Tommy looked very indignant.
“Oh, Never mind him, go on!” cried Happy Jack impatiently.
“After that I flew back to the big maple tree close by the house,” continued Tommy. “You know Farmer Brown’s boy has kept a piece of suet tied in that tree all winter for me. I was hungry, and I thought I would get a bite to eat, but there wasn’t any suet there. Sammy Jay had managed to get it untied and had carried it all away. Of course that made me angry, and twice as hungry as before. I was trying to make up my mind what to do next when I happened to look over on the window sill, and what do you think I saw there?”
“What?” demanded Happy Jack eagerly.
“A lot of cracked hickory nuts!” declared Tommy. “I just knew that they were meant for me, and when I was sure that the way was clear, I flew over there. They tasted so good that I almost forgot about Farmer Brown’s boy, when I just happened to look in the window. You know those windows are made of some strange stuff that looks like ice and isn’t, and that you can see right through.”
Happy Jack didn’t know, for he never had been near enough to see, but he nodded, and Tommy T went on.
“There were strange things inside, and I was wondering what they could be when all of a sudden I saw him. He was lying down, and there was something the matter with him. I tapped on the window to him and then I hurried back here.”