Written by Thornton Burgess
Happy Jack Squirrel hadn’t slept very well. He had had bad dreams. Ever so many times in the night he had woken up, a very unusual thing for Happy Jack. The fact is, he had something on his mind. Yes, Happy Jack had something on his mind, and that something was Farmer Brown’s boy. He often had had Farmer Brown’s boy on his mind before, but in a different way. Then it had been in the days when Farmer Brown’s boy roamed through the Green Forest and over the Green Meadows looking for animals. Then everybody had Farmer Brown’s boy on their minds most of the time and some of them were afraid of him. But Happy Jack no longer feared him. Love had taken the place of fear in his heart, for had not Farmer Brown’s boy saved him from Shadow the Weasel, and brought him nuts and corn when food was scarce? And now Tommy T had brought word that something was the matter with Farmer Brown’s boy. It was this that was on Happy Jack’s mind and had given him such a bad night.
As soon as it was daylight, Happy Jack scrambled out of bed to look for Tommy T. He didn’t have long to wait, for Tommy is quite as early a riser as Happy Jack.
“Dee, dee, chickadee!
I hope you feel as well as me!”
sang Tommy merrily, as he flitted over to where Happy Jack was looking for his breakfast. The very sound of Tommy’s voice made Happy Jack feel better. One must feel very badly indeed not to be a little more cheerful when Tommy T is about. The fact is, Tommy T packs about so much good cheer in that small person of his, that no one can be downhearted when he is about.
“Hello, Tommy,” said Happy Jack. “If I could make other people feel as good as you do, do you know what I would do?”
“What?” asked Tommy.
“I’d go straight up to Farmer Brown’s house and try to cheer up Farmer Brown’s boy,” replied Happy Jack.
“That’s the very thing I have in mind,” chuckled Tommy. “I’ve come over here to see if you won’t come along with me. I’ve been up to his house so often that he won’t think half so much of a visit from me as he will from you. Will you do it?”
Happy Jack looked a little startled. You see, he never had been over to Farmer Brown’s house, and somehow he couldn’t get over the idea that it would be a very dangerous thing to do. “I—I—do you really suppose I could?” he asked.
“I’m sure of it,” replied Tommy T. “There’s no one to be afraid of but the Black Cat and Bowser the Hound, and it’s easy enough to keep out of their way. You can hide in the old stone wall until the way is clear and then run across to the big maple tree close to the house. Then you can look right in and see Farmer Brown’s boy, and he can look out and see you. Will you do it?”
Happy Jack thought very hard for a few minutes. Then he made up his mind. “I’ll do it!” he said in a very decided tone of voice. “Let’s start right away.”
“Good for you! Dee, dee, good for you!” cried Tommy T, and started to lead the way.
Great things were happening to Happy Jack Squirrel. He was actually on his way to Farmer Brown’s house, and he had a feeling that other things were likely to happen when he got there. Now you may not think that it was anything very great that Happy Jack should be on his way to Farmer Brown’s house. Very likely you are saying, “Hah! that’s nothing!” This may be true, and then again it may not. Suppose you do a little supposing. Suppose you had all your life been terribly afraid of a great giant much larger than you. Suppose that great giant had stopped scaring you and by little deeds of kindness had at last won your love. Suppose you learned that something was the matter with him, and you made up your mind to visit him at his great castle where there were other great giants whom you did not know. Wouldn’t you think that great things were happening to you?
Well, that is exactly the way it was with Happy Jack Squirrel, as he and Tommy T the Chickadee started to go over to Farmer Brown’s house to look for Farmer Brown’s boy. Tommy T had been there often, so he didn’t think anything about it, but Happy Jack never had been there, and if the truth were known, his heart was going pitapat, pitapat, with excitement and perhaps just a little fear. Through the Old Orchard they went, Tommy T flitting ahead and keeping a sharp watch for danger. When they reached the old stone wall on the edge of Farmer Brown’s dooryard, Tommy told Happy Jack to hide there while he went to see if the way was clear. He was back in a few minutes.
“Dee, dee, everything is alright,” he said. “Bowser the Hound is eating his breakfast out back where he can’t see you at all, and the Black Cat is nowhere to be seen. All you have to do is to follow me over to that big tree close to the house, and I will show you where Farmer Brown’s boy is.”
“I—I’m afraid,” confessed Happy Jack.
“Pooh! There’s nothing to be afraid of,” asserted Tommy T in the most positive way. “Don’t worry. Remember how Farmer Brown’s boy saved you from Shadow the Weasel. Come on! Dee, dee, dee, come on!” With that Tommy flew across to the tree close by the house.
Happy Jack scrambled up on the old stone wall and looked this way and looked that way. He couldn’t see a thing to be afraid of. He jumped down and ran a few steps. Then his heart failed, and he scampered back to the old stone wall in a panic. After a few minutes he tried again, and once more fear sent him back. The third time he gritted his teeth, said to himself over and over, “I will! I will! I will!” and ran with all his might. In no time at all he was across the dooryard and up in the big tree, his heart pounding with excitement.
“Dee, dee, dee,” called Tommy T.
Happy Jack looked over to the house, and there sat Tommy on a window-sill, helping himself to the most delicious-looking cracked nuts. The sight of them made Happy Jack’s mouth water. A long branch hung down over the window and almost touched the sill. Happy Jack ventured halfway and stopped. Somehow it seemed very dangerous to go so close to that window.
“Come on! Come on! What are you afraid of?” called Tommy.
With a quick little run and jump he was on the sill, and a second later he was staring in at all the strange things inside. At first he didn’t see anything of Farmer Brown’s boy, but in a few minutes he made him out. He was lying down all covered over except his head. There was something the matter with him. Happy Jack didn’t need to be told that, and a great pity filled his heart. He wanted to do something for Farmer Brown’s boy.
All the way home from his visit to Farmer Brown’s house Happy Jack Squirrel puzzled and wondered over what he had seen. He had peeped in at a window and seen Farmer Brown’s boy lying all covered up, with only his head showing. Happy Jack couldn’t see very well, but somehow that head didn’t look just right. One thing was sure, and that was there was something wrong with Farmer Brown’s boy. He never would have been lying still like that if there hadn’t been.
Happy Jack had been so troubled by what he saw that he had hardly tasted the nuts he had found on the window-sill. “I am going to make him another call to-morrow,” he said when he and Tommy T were once back in the Green Forest.
“Of course,” replied Tommy. “I expected you would. I will be around for you at the same time. You’re not afraid anymore to go up there, are you?”
“No-o,” replied Happy Jack, slowly. The truth is, he was still a little afraid. It seemed to him a terribly venturesome thing to cross that open dooryard, but having done it once in safety, he knew that it would be easier the next time and It was. The next morning he and Tommy T went just as before, and this time Happy Jack scampered across the dooryard the very first time he tried. They found things just as they had been the day before. They saw Farmer Brown’s boy, but he didn’t see them. Tommy T was just going to tap on the window to let him know they were there, when a door inside opened, and in walked Mrs. Brown. It frightened them so that Tommy T flew away without tasting a single nut, and Happy Jack nearly fell as he scrambled back into the tree close by the window. You see, they had never made her acquaintance, and having her walk in so suddenly frightened them terribly. They didn’t stop to think that there was nothing to fear because there was a window between them. Somehow they couldn’t understand that strange stuff that they could see through but which shut them out. If they had seen Mrs. Brown go to the window and put more cracked nuts on the sill, perhaps they would have been less afraid. But they had been too badly frightened to look back, and so they didn’t know anything about that.
The next morning Tommy T was on hand as usual, but he found Happy Jack a little doubtful about paying another visit. He wasn’t wholly over his scare of the day before. It took him some time to make up his mind to go, but finally he did. This time when they reached the tree close by the house, they found a great surprise awaiting them. Farmer Brown’s boy was sitting just inside the window, looking out. At least, they thought it was Farmer Brown’s boy, but when they got a little nearer, they weren’t sure. It looked like Farmer Brown’s boy, and yet it didn’t. His cheeks stuck way out just as Striped Chipmunk’s do when he has them stuffed full of corn or nuts.
Happy Jack stared at him very hard. “My goodness, I didn’t know he carried his food that way!” he exclaimed. “I should think it would be dreadfully uncomfortable.”
If Farmer Brown’s boy could have heard that, he certainly would have tried to laugh, and if he had—well, it was bad enough when he tried to smile at the sight of Tommy T and Happy Jack. He didn’t smile at all but made up an awful face instead and clapped both hands to his cheeks. Happy Jack and Tommy T didn’t know what to make of it, and it was some time before they made up their minds that it really was Farmer Brown’s boy, and that they had nothing to fear. But when they finally ventured on to the sill and, as they helped themselves to nuts, saw the smile in his eyes, though he did not smile with his mouth at all, they knew that it was he, and that he was glad that they had called. Then they were glad too.
But what was the matter with Farmer Brown’s boy? Happy Jack puzzled over it all the rest of the day, and then gave it up.
Every day Happy Jack visited the window sill of Farmer Brown’s house to call on Farmer Brown’s boy, who was always waiting for him just inside the window. In fact Happy Jack had got into the habit of getting his breakfast there, for there were always fat, delicious nuts on the window-sill, and it was much easier and more comfortable to breakfast there than to hunt up his own hidden supplies and perhaps have to dig down through the snow to get them. Most people are just like Happy Jack—they do the easiest thing.
Each day Farmer Brown’s boy looked more and more like himself. His cheeks stuck out less and less, and finally did not stick out at all. And now he smiled at Happy Jack with his mouth as well as with his eyes. You know when his cheeks had stuck out so he couldn’t smile at all except with his eyes. Happy Jack didn’t know what had been the matter with Farmer Brown’s boy, but whatever it was, he was better now, and that made Happy Jack feel better.
One morning he got a surprise. When he ran out along the branch of the tree that led to the window-sill he suddenly discovered something wrong. There were no nuts on the sill! More than this there was something very suspicious looking about the window. It didn’t look just right. The truth was it was partly open, but Happy Jack didn’t understand this, not then, anyway. He stopped short and scolded, a way he has when things don’t suit him. Farmer Brown’s boy came to the window and called to him. Then he put a hand out, and in it were some of the fattest nuts Happy Jack ever had seen. His mouth watered right away. There might be something wrong with the window, but certainly the sill was all right. It would do no harm to go that far.
So Happy Jack nimbly jumped across to the window-sill. Farmer Brown’s boy’s hand with the fat nuts was still there, and Happy Jack lost no time in getting one. Then he sat up on the sill to eat it. My, but it was good! It was just as good as it had looked. Happy Jack’s eyes twinkled as he ate. When he had finished that nut, he wanted another. But now Farmer Brown’s boy had drawn his hand inside the window. He was still holding it out with the nuts in it, but to get them Happy Jack must go inside, and he couldn’t get it out of his head that that was a very dangerous thing to do. What if that window should be closed while he was in there? Then he would be a prisoner.
So he sat up and begged. He knew that Farmer Brown’s boy knew what he wanted. But Farmer Brown’s boy kept his hand just where it was.
“Come on,” he said. “You ought to know me well enough by this time to know that I won’t hurt you or let any harm come to you. Hurry up, because I can’t stand here all day. You see, I’ve just got over the mumps, and if I should catch a cold I might be sick again. Come along now, and show how brave you are.”
Of course Happy Jack couldn’t understand what he said. If he could have, he might have guessed that it was the mumps that had made Farmer Brown’s boy look so like Striped Chipmunk when he has his cheeks stuffed with nuts. But if he couldn’t understand what Farmer Brown’s boy said, he had no difficulty in understanding that if he wanted those nuts he would have to go after them. So at last he gathered up his courage and put his head inside. Nothing happened, so he went wholly in and sat on the inside sill. Then by reaching out as far as he could without tumbling off, he managed to get one of those nuts, and as soon as he had it, he dodged outside to eat it.
Farmer Brown’s boy laughed, and putting the rest of the nuts outside, he closed the window. Happy Jack ate his fill and then scampered back to the Green Forest. He felt all puffed up with pride. He felt that he had been very, very bold, and he was anxious to tell Tommy T the Chickadee, who had not been with him that morning, how bold he had been.
“Pooh, that’s nothing!” replied Tommy, when he had heard about it. “I’ve done that often.”