Written by Thornton Burgess
Somehow Happy Jack’s day had been spoiled. He knew that he had no business to allow it to be spoiled, but it was, just the same. You see, he had been all puffed up with pride because he thought himself a very bold fellow because he had really been inside Farmer Brown’s house. He couldn’t help feeling quite puffed up about it. But when he told Tommy T the Chickadee about it, Tommy had said, “Pooh! I’ve done that often.”
That was what had spoiled the day for Happy Jack. He knew that if Tommy T said that he had done a thing, he had, for Tommy always tells the truth and nothing but the truth. So Happy Jack hadn’t been so dreadfully bold, after all, and had nothing to brag about. It made him feel quite put out. He actually tried to make himself feel that it was all the fault of Tommy T, and that he wanted to get even with him. He thought about it all the rest of the day, and just before he fell asleep that night an idea came to him.
“I know what I’ll do! I’ll dare Tommy to go as far inside Farmer Brown’s house as I do!” he went to sleep to dream that he was the boldest, bravest squirrel that ever lived.
The next morning when he reached the tree close by Farmer Brown’s house, he found Tommy T already there, flitting about impatiently and calling his loudest, which wasn’t very loud, for you know Tommy is a very little fellow, and his voice is not very loud. But he was doing his best to call Farmer Brown’s boy. You see, there wasn’t a single nut on the window-sill, and the window was closed. Pretty soon Farmer Brown’s boy came to the window and opened it. But he didn’t put out any nuts. Tommy T at once flew over to the sill, and to show that he was just as bold, Happy Jack followed. Looking inside, they saw Farmer Brown’s boy standing in the middle of the room, holding out a dish of nuts and smiling at them. This was the chance Happy Jack wanted to try the plan he had thought of the night before.
“I dare you to go way in there and get a nut,” he said to Tommy T. He hoped that Tommy would be afraid.
But Tommy wasn’t anything of the kind. “Dee, dee, dee! Come on!” he cried, and flitted over and helped himself to a cracked nut and was back with it before Happy Jack could make up his mind to jump down inside. Of course now that he had dared Tommy T, and Tommy had taken the dare, he just had to do it too. It looked a long way in to where Farmer Brown’s boy was standing. Twice he started and turned back. Then he heard Tommy T chuckle. That was too much. He wouldn’t be laughed at. He just wouldn’t. He scampered across, grabbed a nut, and rushed back to the window-sill, where he ate the nut. It was easier to go after the second nut, and when he went for the third, he had made up his mind that it was perfectly safe in there, and so he sat up on a chair and ate it. Presently he felt quite at home, and when he had eaten all the nuts he wanted, he ran all around the room, examining all the strange little things.
This was a little more than Tommy T could make up his mind to do. He wasn’t afraid to fly in for a nut and then fly out again, but he couldn’t feel easy inside a house like that. Of course, this made Happy Jack feel good all over. You see, he felt that now he really did have something to boast about. No one else in all the Green Forest or on the Green Meadows could say that they had been all over Farmer Brown’s boy’s room as he had. Happy Jack swelled himself out at the thought. Now everybody would say, “What a bold fellow!”
Very few people can be all puffed up with pride without showing it. Happy Jack Squirrel couldn’t. Just to have looked at him you would have known that he was feeling very, very good about something. When he thought no one was looking, he would actually strut. And it was all because he considered himself a very bold fellow. This was a new feeling for Happy Jack. He knew that all his neighbors considered him rather timid, and many a time he had envied, actually envied Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox and Unc’ Billy Possum and even Sammy Jay because they did such bold things and had dared to visit Farmer Brown’s dooryard and henhouse in spite of Bowser the Hound.
But now he felt that he dared do a thing that not one of them dared do. He dared go right into Farmer Brown’s house and make himself quite at home in the room of Farmer Brown’s boy. He felt that he was a tremendously brave fellow. You see, he quite forgot one thing. He forgot that he had found out that love destroys fear, and that though it might look to others like a very bold thing to walk right into Farmer Brown’s house, it really wasn’t bold at all, because all the time he knew that no harm would come to him. It had been brave of him to go in at that open window the first time, because then he had been afraid, but now he wasn’t afraid, and so it was no longer either brave or bold of him.
Tommy T the Chickadee knew all this, and he used to chuckle to himself as he saw how proud of himself Happy Jack was, but he said nothing to any one about it. Of course, it wasn’t long before others began to notice Happy Jack’s pride. One of the first was Sammy Jay. There is very little that escapes Sammy Jay’s sharp eyes. Silently stealing through the Green Forest early one morning, he surprised Happy Jack strutting.
“Huh,” he said, “what are you feeling so big about?”
Like a flash the thought came to Happy Jack that here was a chance to show what a bold fellow he had become. “Hello, Sammy!” he exclaimed. “Are you feeling very brave this morning?”
“Me feeling brave? What are you talking about? If I was as timid as you are, I wouldn’t ever talk about bravery to other people. If there is anything you dare to do that I don’t, I’ve never heard of it,” replied Sammy Jay.
“Come on!” cried Happy Jack. “I’m going to get my breakfast, and I dare you to follow me!”
Sammy Jay actually laughed right out. “Go ahead. Wherever you go, I’ll go,” he declared.
Happy Jack started right away for Farmer Brown’s house, and Sammy followed. Through the Old Orchard, across the dooryard and into the big maple tree Happy Jack led the way, and Sammy followed, all the time wondering what was up. He had been there many times. In fact, he had had many a good meal of suet there during the cold weather, for Farmer Brown’s boy had kept a big piece tied to a branch of the maple tree for those who were hungry.
Sammy was a little surprised when he saw Happy Jack jump over onto the window-sill. Still, he had been on that window-sill more than once himself, when he had made sure that no one was near, and had helped himself to the cracked nuts he had found there.
“Come on!” called Happy Jack, his eyes twinkling.
Sammy Jay chuckled. “He thinks I don’t dare go over there,” he thought. “Well, I’ll fool him.”
With a hasty look to see that no danger was near, he spread his wings to follow Happy Jack on to the window-sill. Happy Jack waited to make sure that he really was coming and then slipped in at the open window and scampered over to a table on the farther side of the room and helped himself from a dish of nuts there.
When Sammy saw Happy Jack disappear inside he gave a little gasp. When he looked inside and saw Happy Jack making himself quite at home, he gasped again. And when he saw a door open and Farmer Brown’s boy enter, and still Happy Jack did not run, he was too upset for words. He didn’t dare stay to see more, and for once in his life was quite speechless as he flew back to the Green Forest.
Which is worse, to have a very beautiful dream never come true, or to have a bad dream really come true? Happy Jack Squirrel says the latter is worse, much worse. Dreams do come true once in a great while, you know. One of Happy Jack’s did. It came true, and it made a great difference in Happy Jack’s life. You see, it was like this:
Happy Jack had had so many things to think of that he had almost forgotten about Shadow the Weasel. Happy Jack hadn’t seen or heard anything of him since Farmer Brown’s boy had chased him into the Green Forest and saved Happy Jack’s life. Since then life had been too full of pleasant things to think of anything so unpleasant as Shadow the Weasel. But one night Happy Jack had a bad dream. Yes, Sir, it was a very bad dream. He dreamed that once more Shadow the Weasel was after him, and this time there was no Farmer Brown’s boy to run to for help. Shadow was right at his heels and in one more jump would catch him. Happy Jack opened his mouth to scream, and—woke up.
He was all a shake with fright. It was a great relief to find that it was only a dream, but even then he couldn’t get over it right away. He was glad that it was almost morning, and just as soon as it was light enough to see, he crept out. It was too early to go over to Farmer Brown’s house; Farmer Brown’s boy wouldn’t be up yet. So Happy Jack ran over to one of his favorite lookouts, a tall chestnut tree, and there, with his back against the trunk, high above the ground, he watched the Green Forest wake as the first Sunbeams stole through it. But all the time he kept thinking of that dreadful dream.
A little spot of black moving against the white snow caught his sharp eyes. What was it? He leaned forward and held his breath, as he tried to make sure. Ah, now he could see! Just ahead of that black thing was a long, slim fellow all in white, and that black spot was his tail. If it hadn’t been for that, Happy Jack very likely wouldn’t have seen him at all. It was Shadow the Weasel! He was running swiftly, first to one side and then to the other, with his nose to the snow. He was looking for breakfast.
Happy Jack’s eyes grew wide with fear. Would Shadow find his tracks? It looked as if Shadow was heading for Happy Jack’s house, and Happy Jack was very glad that that bad dream had woken him and he had come out. Otherwise he might have been caught in his own bed. Shadow was almost at Happy Jack’s house when he stopped abruptly with his nose to the snow and sniffed eagerly. Then he turned, and with his nose to the snow, started straight toward the tree where Happy Jack was. Happy Jack waited to see no more. He knew now that Shadow had found his trail and that it would need to run.
“My dream has come true!” he sobbed as he ran. “My dream has come true, and I don’t know what to do!” But all the time he kept on running as fast as ever he could, which really was the only thing to do.
Frightened and breathless, running with all his might from Shadow the Weasel, Happy Jack Squirrel was in despair. He didn’t know what to do or where to go. The last time he had run from Shadow he had run to Farmer Brown’s boy, who just happened to be near, and Farmer Brown’s boy had chased Shadow the Weasel away. But now it was too early in the morning for him to expect to meet Farmer Brown’s boy. In fact, jolly, round, red Mr. Sun had hardly kicked his bedclothes off yet, and Happy Jack was very sure that Farmer Brown’s boy was still asleep.
Now most of us are creatures of habit. We do the thing that we have been in the habit of doing, and do it without thinking anything about it. This is why good habits are such a blessing. Happy Jack Squirrel is just like the rest of us. He has habits, both good and bad. Of late, he had been in the habit of getting his breakfast at Farmer Brown’s house every morning, so now when he has began to run from Shadow the Weasel he just naturally ran in the direction of Farmer Brown’s house from force of habit. In fact, he was halfway there before he realized in which direction he was running.
Right then a thought came to him. It gave him a wee bit of hope, and seemed to help him run just a little faster. If the window of Farmer Brown’s boy’s room was open, he would run in there, and perhaps Shadow the Weasel wouldn’t dare follow! How he did hope that that window would be open! He knew that it was his only chance. He wasn’t quite sure that it really was a chance, for Shadow was such a bold fellow that he might not be afraid to follow him right in, but it was worth trying.
Along the stone wall beside the Old Orchard raced Happy Jack to the dooryard of Farmer Brown, and after him ran Shadow the Weasel, and Shadow looked as if he was enjoying himself. No doubt he was. He knew just as well as Happy Jack did that there was small chance of meeting Farmer Brown’s boy so early in the morning, so he felt very sure how that chase was going to end.
By the time Happy Jack reached the dooryard, Shadow was only a few jumps behind him, and Happy Jack was pretty well out of breath. He didn’t stop to look to see if the way was clear. There wasn’t time for that. Besides, there could be no greater danger in front than was almost at his heels, and so, without looking one way or another, he scampered across the dooryard and up the big maple tree close to the house. Shadow the Weasel was surprised. He had not dreamed that Happy Jack would come over here. But Shadow is a bold fellow, and it made little difference to him where Happy Jack went. At least, that is what he thought.
So he followed Happy Jack across the dooryard and up the maple tree. He took his time about it, for he knew by the way Happy Jack had run that he was pretty nearly at the end of his strength. “He’ll never get out of this tree,” thought Shadow, as he started to climb it. He fully expected to find Happy Jack huddled in a little heap somewhere near the top. Just imagine how surprised he was when he discovered that Happy Jack wasn’t to be seen. He rubbed his little red eyes, and they grew angrier and redder than before.
“Must be a hollow up here somewhere,” he muttered. “I’ll just follow the scent of his feet, and that will lead me to him.”
But when that scent led him out on a branch the tip of which brushed against Farmer Brown’s house Shadow got another surprise. There was no sign of Happy Jack. He couldn’t have reached the roof. There was no place he could have gone unless—. Shadow stared across at a window open about two inches.
“He couldn’t have!” muttered Shadow. “He wouldn’t dare. He couldn’t have!”
But Happy Jack had. He had gone inside that window.