Written by Thornton Burgess
Isn’t it strange how hard it seems to be for some boys to go to bed at the proper time and how much harder it is for them to get up in the morning? It was just so with Farmer Brown’s boy. I suppose he wouldn’t have been a real boy if it hadn’t been so. Of course, while he was sick with the mumps, he didn’t have to get up, and while he was getting over the mumps his mother let him sleep as long as he wanted to in the morning. That was very nice, but it made it all the harder to get up when he should after he was well again. In summer it wasn’t so bad getting up early, but in winter—well, that was the one thing about winter that Farmer Brown’s boy didn’t like.
On this particular morning Farmer Brown had called him, and he had replied with a sleepy “All right.” and then had rolled over and promptly gone to sleep again. In two minutes he was dreaming just as if there were no such things as duties to be done. For a while they were very pleasant dreams, very pleasant indeed. But suddenly they changed. He was being chased in his dream. He couldn’t see what it was behind him but he felt he had to run. In his dream he ran and ran. Then he tripped and fell, and couldn’t get back up. He could feel something coming closer and closer.
With a yell, Farmer Brown’s boy woke up and sprang out of bed. For a minute he couldn’t think where he was. Then with a sigh of relief he realized that he was safe in his own snug little room with the first Jolly Little Sunbeam creeping in at the window to wish him good morning and chide him for being such a lazy fellow. A thump and a scurry of little feet caught his attention, and he turned to see a Gray Squirrel running for the open window. It jumped up on the sill, looked out, then jumped down inside again, and ran over to a corner of the room, where he crouched as if in great fear. It was clear that he had been badly frightened by the yell of Farmer Brown’s boy, and that he was still more frightened by something he had seen when he looked out of the window.
A great light broke over Farmer Brown’s boy. “Happy Jack, you little rascal, I believe you are the thing that scared me so!” he exclaimed. But what is wrong? You look so frightened.”
He went over to the window and looked out. A movement in the big maple tree just outside caught his attention. He saw a long, slim white form dart down the tree and disappear. He knew who it was. It was Shadow the Weasel.
“So that pesky Weasel has been after you again, and you came to me for help,” said he gently, as he coaxed Happy Jack to come to him. “This is the place to come to every time. Poor little chap, you’re all of a tremble.” He gently stroked Happy Jack as he talked, and Happy Jack let him.
“Breakfast!” called a voice from downstairs.
“Coming!” replied Farmer Brown’s boy as he put Happy Jack on the table by a dish of nuts and began to scramble into his clothes.
Happy Jack didn’t dare go home. Can you think of anything more dreadful than to be afraid to go to your own home? Why, home is the dearest place in the world, and it should be the safest. Just think how you would feel if you should be away from home, and then you should learn that it wouldn’t be safe for you to go back there again, and you had no other place to go. It often happens that way with the little people of the Green Meadows and the Green Forest. It was that way with Happy Jack Squirrel now.
You see, Happy Jack knew that Shadow the Weasel is not one to give up easily. Shadow has one very good trait, and that is persistence. He is not easily discouraged. When he sets out to do a thing, usually he does it. No, he isn’t easily discouraged. Happy Jack knows this. No one knows it better. So Happy Jack didn’t dare to go home. He knew that any minute of night or day Shadow might surprise him there. He more than half suspected that Shadow was at that very time hiding somewhere along the way ready to spring out on him if he should try to go back home.
He had stayed in the room of Farmer Brown’s boy until Mrs. Brown had come to make the bed. Then he jumped out of the window into the big maple tree. He wasn’t quite sure of Mrs. Brown yet. She had kindly eyes. They were just like the eyes of Farmer Brown’s boy. But he didn’t feel really acquainted yet, and he felt safer outside than inside the room while she was there.
“Oh dear, oh dear! What shall I do?
I have no home, and so
To keep me warm and snug and safe
I have no place to go!”
Happy Jack said this over and over as he sat in the maple tree, trying to decide what was to be done.
“I wonder what ails that Squirrel. He seems to be doing a lot of scolding,” said Mrs. Brown, as she looked out of the window. And that shows how easy it is to misunderstand people when we don’t know all about their affairs. Mrs. Brown thought that Happy Jack was scolding, when all the time he was just frightened and worried and wondering where he could go and what he could do to feel safe from Shadow the Weasel.
Because he didn’t dare to go back to the Green Forest, he spent most of the day in the big maple tree close to Farmer Brown’s house. The window had been closed, so he couldn’t go inside. He looked at it longingly a great many times during the day, hoping that he would find it open. But he didn’t. You see, it was opened only at night when Farmer Brown’s boy went to bed, so that he would have plenty of fresh air all night. Of course Happy Jack didn’t know that. All his life he had had plenty of fresh air all the time, and couldn’t understand how people could live in houses all closed up.
Late that afternoon Farmer Brown’s boy, who had been at school all day, came whistling into the yard. He noticed Happy Jack right away. “Hello! You back again! Isn’t one good meal a day enough?” he exclaimed.
“He’s been there all day,” said his mother, who had come to the door just in time to overhear him. “I don’t know what is bothering him.”
Then Farmer Brown’s boy noticed how unhappy Happy Jack looked. He remembered Happy Jack’s fright that morning.
“I know what’s the matter!” he cried. “It’s that Weasel. The poor little chap is afraid to go home. We must see what we can do for him. I wonder if he will stay if I make a new house for him. I believe I’ll try it and see.”
Certainly things couldn’t look much darker than they did to Happy Jack Squirrel as he sat in the big maple tree at the side of Farmer Brown’s house, and saw jolly, round, red Mr. Sun getting ready to go to bed behind the Purple Hills. He was afraid to go to his home in the Green Forest because Shadow the Weasel might be waiting for him there. He was afraid of the night which would soon come. He was cold, and he was hungry. Altogether he was as miserable a little Squirrel as ever was seen.
He had just made up his mind that he would have to go look for a hollow in one of the trees in the Old Orchard in which to spend the night, when around the corner of the house came Farmer Brown’s boy with something under one arm and dragging a ladder. He whistled cheerily to Happy Jack as he put the ladder against the tree and climbed up. By this time Happy Jack had grown so timid that he was just a little afraid of Farmer Brown’s boy, so he climbed as high up in the tree as he could get and watched what was going on below. Even if he was afraid, there was comfort in having Farmer Brown’s boy near.
For some time Farmer Brown’s boy worked busily at the place where the branch that Happy Jack knew so well started out from the trunk of the tree towards the window of Farmer Brown’s boy’s room. When he had fixed things to suit him, he went down the ladder and carried it away with him. In the crook of the tree he had left the strange thing that he had brought under his arm. In spite of his fears, Happy Jack was curious. Little by little he crept nearer. What he saw was a box with a round hole, just about big enough for him to go through, in one end, and in front of it a little shelf. On the shelf were some of the nuts that he liked best.
For a long time Happy Jack looked and looked. Was it a trap? Somehow he couldn’t believe that it was. What would Farmer Brown’s boy try to trap him for when they were such good friends? At last the sight of the nuts was too much for him. It certainly was safe enough to help himself to those. How good they tasted! Almost before he knew it, they were gone. Then he got up courage enough to peep inside. The box was filled with soft hay. It certainly did look inviting in there to a fellow who had no home and no place to go. He put his head inside. Finally he went wholly in. It was just as nice as it looked.
“I believe,” thought Happy Jack, “that he made this little house just for me, and that he put all this hay in here for my bed. He doesn’t know much about making a bed, but I guess he means well.”
With that he went to work happily to make up a bed to suit him, and by the time the first Black Shadow had crept as far as the big maple tree, Happy Jack was curled up fast asleep in his new house.
Happy Jack Squirrel was happy once more. He liked his new house, the house that Farmer Brown’s boy had made for him and fastened in the big maple tree close by the house in which he himself lived. Happy Jack and Farmer Brown’s boy were getting to be greater friends than ever. Every morning Happy Jack jumped over to the window-sill and then in at the open window of the room of Farmer Brown’s boy. There he was sure to find a good breakfast of fat hickory nuts. When Farmer Brown’s boy overslept, as he did sometimes, Happy Jack would jump up on the bed and wake him. He thought this was great fun. So did Farmer Brown’s boy, though sometimes when he was very sleepy he pretended to scold, especially on Sunday mornings when he did not have to get up as early as on other days.
Of course, the Black cat had soon discovered that Happy Jack was living in the big maple tree, and she spent a great deal of time sitting at the foot of it and glaring up at him with a hungry look in her eyes. Several times she climbed up in the tree and tried to catch him. At first he had been afraid, but he had soon found out that the Black cat was not at all at home in a tree as he was. After that, he rather enjoyed having her try to catch him. It was almost like a game. It was great fun to scold at her and let her get very near him and then, just as she was sure that she was going to catch him, to jump out of her reach. After a while she was content to sit at the foot of the tree and just glare at him.
Happy Jack had only one worry now, and this didn’t trouble him a great deal. It was possible that Shadow the Weasel might take it into his head to try to surprise him some night. Happy Jack knew that by this time Shadow must know where he was living, for of course Sammy Jay had found out, and Sammy is one of those who tells all he knows. Still, being so close to Farmer Brown’s boy gave Happy Jack a very comfortable feeling.
Now all this time Farmer Brown’s boy had not forgotten Shadow the Weasel and how he had driven Happy Jack out of the Green Forest, and he had wondered a great many times if it wouldn’t be a kindness to the other little people if he should catch Shadow and take him out of the forest. But you know he had given up trapping, and somehow he didn’t like to think of setting a trap, even for such a mischief-maker as Shadow. Then something happened that made Farmer Brown’s boy very, very angry. One morning, when he went to feed the chickens, he found that Shadow had visited the henhouse in the night and three of his best chickens were missing. That decided it. He felt sure that Shadow would come again, and he meant to give Shadow a surprise. He looked until he found the little hole through which Shadow had gotten into the henhouse, and there he set a trap.
“I don’t like to do it, but I’ve got to,” he said. “It is time that something was done to get rid of him.”
The very next morning Happy Jack saw Farmer Brown’s boy coming from the henhouse with something under his arm. He came straight over to the foot of the big maple tree and put the thing he was carrying down on the ground. He whistled to Happy Jack, and as Happy Jack came down to see what it was all about, Farmer Brown’s boy grinned. “Here’s a friend of yours you probably will be glad to see,” he said.
At first, all Happy Jack could make out was a kind of wire box. Then he saw something white inside, and it moved. Very suspiciously Happy Jack came nearer. Then his heart gave a great leap. That wire box was a cage, and glaring between the wires was Shadow the Weasel! He had been caught! Right away Happy Jack was so excited that he acted as if he were crazy. He no longer had a single thing to be afraid of. Can you understand why he was so excited?