Written by Thornton Burgess
Happy Jack Squirrel sat on the tip of one of the highest branches of a big hickory tree. Happy Jack was up very early that morning. In fact, jolly, round, red Mr. Sun was still in his bed behind the Purple Hills when Happy Jack hopped briskly out of bed. He washed himself thoroughly and was ready for business by the time Mr. Sun began his climb up in the blue, blue sky.
You see, Happy Jack had found that big hickory tree just loaded with nuts all ripe and ready to gather. He was quite sure that no one else had found that special tree, and he wanted to get all the nuts before anyone else found out about them. So he was all ready and off he raced to the big tree just as soon as it was light enough to see.
“The nuts that grow in the hickory tree—
They’re all for me! They’re all for me!”
Happy Jack was humming that little song as he rested for a few minutes ‘way up in the top of the tree and wondered if his storehouse would hold all these big, fat nuts. Just then he heard a great scolding a little way over in the Green Forest. Happy Jack stopped humming and listened. He knew that voice. It was his cousin’s voice—the voice of Chatterer the Red Squirrel. Happy Jack frowned. “I hope he won’t come over this way,” muttered Happy Jack. There was the big tree full of hickory nuts! He didn’t want Chatterer to find that.
I am afraid that Happy Jack was selfish. There were more nuts than he could possibly eat in one winter, and yet he wasn’t willing that his cousin, Chatterer the Red Squirrel, should have a single one. Now Chatterer is short-tempered and a great scold. Someone or something had upset him this morning, and he was scolding as fast as his tongue could go, as he came running right towards the tree in which Happy Jack was sitting. Happy Jack sat perfectly still and watched. He didn’t move so much as the tip of his big gray tail. Would Chatterer go past and not see that big tree full of nuts? It looked very much as if he would, for he was so busy scolding that he wasn’t paying much attention to other things.
Happy Jack smiled as Chatterer came running under the tree without once looking up. He was so tickled that he started to hug himself and didn’t remember that he was holding a big, fat nut in his hands. Of course he dropped it. Where do you think it went? Well it fell straight down, from the top of that tall tree, and it landed right on the head of Chatterer the Red Squirrel!
“My stars!” cried Chatterer, stopping his scolding and his running together, and rubbing his head where the nut had hit him. Then he looked up to see where it had come from. Of course, he looked straight up at Happy Jack.
“You did that on purpose!” screamed Chatterer, his short temper flaring up.
“I didn’t!” snapped Jack.
Oh, dear, oh, dear, such a sight! two little Squirrels, one in a gray suit and one in a red suit, contradicting each other and calling names! It was such a sad, sad sight, for you know they were cousins.
It was a beautiful morning, a very beautiful fall morning, but all the beauty of it was being spoiled by the dreadful noise of these two little people.
When Happy Jack had dropped that nut from the tiptop of the tall hickory tree and it had landed right on top of Chatterer’s head it really had been an accident. All the time Happy Jack had been sitting as still as still could be, hoping that his cousin Chatterer would pass by without looking up and so seeing the big fat nuts in the top of that tree. You see Happy Jack was greedy and wanted all of them himself. Now Chatterer the Red Squirrel has a nasty temper, and also he has sharp eyes. All the time he was scolding Happy Jack and calling him names Chatterer’s bright eyes were taking note of all those big, fat hickory-nuts and his mouth began to water. Without wasting any more time he started up the tree to get some.
Happy Jack grew very angry, very angry indeed. He hurried down to meet Chatterer the Red Squirrel and to prevent him from climbing the tree.
“You keep out of this tree; it’s mine!” he shrieked.
“No such thing! You don’t own the tree and I’ve got just as much right here as you do!” screamed Chatterer, dodging around to the other side of the tree.
“‘Tis, too, mine! I found it!” shouted Happy Jack. “You’re a thief, so there!”
“You’re selfish, Happy Jack! You’re very, very selfish!”
“I am not selfish! I found these nuts first and I tell you they’re mine!” shrieked Happy Jack, so angry that every time he spoke he jerked his tail. And all the time he was chasing round and round the trunk of the tree trying to prevent Chatterer from getting up.
Now Happy Jack is ever so much bigger than his cousin Chatterer but he isn’t as spry. So in spite of him Chatterer got past, and like a little red flash was up in the top of the tree where the big, fat nuts were. But he didn’t have time to pick even one, for after him came Happy Jack so angry that Chatterer knew things would not go well if Happy Jack should catch him. Round and round, over and across, this way and that way, in the top of the tall hickory tree raced Chatterer the Red Squirrel with his cousin, Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel, right at his heels. Yes, indeed it was truly dreadful, and Peter Rabbit, who happened along just then, put his hands over his ears so as not to hear such a dreadful quarrel.
Striped Chipmunk was sitting just inside a hollow log, thinking about how he could fill up his new storehouse for the winter. Striped Chipmunk is very thrifty. He likes to play, and he is one of the merriest of all the little people who live on the Green Meadows or in the Green Forest. He lives right on the edge of both and knows everybody, and everybody knows him. Almost every morning the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind hurry over to have a frolic with him the very first thing. But though he dearly loves to play, he never lets play interfere with work. Whatever he does, be it play or work, he does with all his might.
“I love the sun; I love the rain;
I love to work; I love to play.
Whatever it may bring to me
I love each minute of each day.”
So said Striped Chipmunk, as he sat in the hollow log and studied how he could fill that splendid big new storehouse. Pretty soon he pricked up his funny little ears. What was all that noise over in the Green Forest? Striped Chipmunk peeped out of the hollow log. Over in the top of a tall hickory tree a terrible fuss was going on. Striped Chipmunk listened. He heard voices, such angry voices! They were the voices of his big cousins, Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
“Dear me! Dear me! How those two do quarrel! I must go over and see what it is all about,” thought Striped Chipmunk.
So, with a flirt of his funny, little tail, he scampered out of the hollow log and over to the tall hickory tree. He knew all about that tree. Many, many times he had looked up at the big fat nuts in the top of it, watching them grow bigger and fatter, and hoping that when they grew ripe, Old Mother West Wind would find time to shake them down to him. You know Striped Chipmunk is not much of a climber, and so he cannot go up and pick the nuts as do his big cousins, Happy Jack and Chatterer.
When he reached the tall hickory tree, what do you think was happening? Why, those big, fat nuts were rattling down to the ground on every side, just as if Old Mother West Wind was shaking the tree as hard as she could. But Old Mother West Wind wasn’t there at all. No, Sir, there wasn’t even one of the Merry Little Breezes up in the tree-tops. The big fat nuts were rattling down just on account of the dreadful quarrel of Striped Chipmunk’s two silly cousins, Happy Jack and Chatterer.
It was all because Happy Jack was greedy. Chatterer had climbed the tree, and now Happy Jack, was chasing Chatterer round and round and over the tree-top, and both were so angry that they didn’t once notice that they were knocking down the very nuts over which they were quarreling.
Striped Chipmunk didn’t stop to listen to the quarrel. No, Sir-ee! He stuffed a big fat nut in each pocket in his cheeks and scampered back to his splendid new storehouse as fast as his little legs would take him. Back and forth, back and forth, scampered Striped Chipmunk, and all the time he was laughing inside and hoping his big cousins would keep right on quarreling. This was the best day ever for him.
Happy Jack and Chatterer were out of breath. Happy Jack was puffing and blowing, for he is big and heavy, and it is not so easy for him to race about in the tree-tops as it is for his smaller, slim, nimble cousin, Chatterer. So Happy Jack was the first to stop. He sat on a branch ‘way up in the top of the tall hickory tree and glared across at Chatterer, who sat on a branch on the other side of the tall tree.
“Couldn’t catch me, could you?” taunted Chatterer.
“You just wait until I do! I’ll make you sorry you ever came near my hickory tree,” snapped Happy Jack.
“I’m waiting. Besides, it isn’t your tree any more than it’s mine,” replied Chatterer, and made a face at Happy Jack.
Happy Jack hopped up as if he meant to begin the chase again, but he had a pain in his side from running so hard and so long, and so he sat down again. Right down in his heart Happy Jack knew that Chatterer was right, that the tree didn’t belong to him any more than to his cousin. But when he thought of all those big, fat nuts with which the tall hickory tree had been loaded, greedy thoughts chased out all thoughts of right and he said to himself again, as he had said when he first saw his cousin, that Chatterer shouldn’t have one of them. He stopped scolding long enough to take a look at them, and then—what do you think Happy Jack did? Why, he gave such a jump of surprise that he nearly lost his balance. Not a nut was to be seen! Happy Jack blinked. Then, he rubbed his eyes and looked again. He couldn’t see a nut anywhere!
There were the husks in which the nuts had grown big and fat until they were ripe, but now every husk was empty. Chatterer saw the strange look on Happy Jack’s face, and he looked too. Now Chatterer the Red Squirrel had very quick wits, and he guessed right away what had happened. He knew that while they had been quarreling and racing over the top of the tall hickory tree, they must have knocked down all the nuts, which were just ready to fall anyway. Like a little red flash, Chatterer started down the tree. Then Happy Jack guessed too, and down he started as fast as he could go, crying, “Stop, thief!” all the way.
When he reached the ground, there was Chatterer scurrying around and poking under the fallen leaves, but he hadn’t found a single nut. Happy Jack couldn’t stop to quarrel any more, because you see he was afraid that Chatterer would find the biggest and fattest nuts, so he began to scurry around and hunt too. It was strange, very strange, how those nuts could have hidden so! They hunted and hunted, but no nuts were to be found. Then they stopped and stared up at the top of the tall hickory tree. Not a nut could they see. Then they stared at each other, and gradually a silly, very silly look crept over each face.
“Where—where do you suppose they have gone?” asked Happy Jack in a funny-sounding voice.
Just then they heard someone laughing and laughing. It was Peter Rabbit.
“Did you take our hickory nuts?” they both shouted angrily.
“No,” replied Peter, “no, I didn’t take them, though they were not yours, anyway!” And then he went off into another fit of laughter, for Peter had seen Striped Chipmunk very hard at work taking away those very nuts while his two big cousins had been quarreling in the tree-top.