THE first thing that Mr. Red Squirrel did after coming
to the forest and meeting the Gray Squirrel was to look
for something to eat. It was not a good season for a
stranger who had no hidden store of nuts and seeds to
draw upon. The apples and corn were not ripe, and last
year's seeds and acorns were nearly gone. What few
remained here and there had lost their sweet and
 wholesome taste. Poor Mr. Red Squirrel began to wish
that he had eaten breakfast before he ran away. He
even went to the edge of the forest and looked over
toward the farmhouse, where his open cage hung in the
sunshine. He knew that there were nuts and a fresh bit
of fruit inside of it, and his mouth watered at the
thought of them, but he was a sensible young fellow,
and he knew that if he went back to eat, the cage door
would be snapped shut, and he would never again be free
to scamper in the beautiful trees.
"I will starve first!" he said to himself, and he was
so much in earnest that he spoke quite loudly.
The words were hardly out of his mouth when "Pft!" a
fat acorn came down at his feet. He caught it up with
his forepaws before looking around. It was smooth and
glossy, not at all as though it had passed a long
winter on an oak branch. He took a good nibble at it
 and then looked up to see if there were more on
the tree above him. You can think how surprised he was
to find himself sitting beneath a maple, for in all the
years since the world began no maple has ever borne
"There are no more to come," he said. "I must take
small bites and make it last as long as I can." And he
turned it around and around, clutching it tightly with
his long, crooked claws, so that not the tiniest bit
could be lost. At last it was all eaten, not a crumb
was left, and then "Pft!" down came a walnut. This hit
him squarely on the back, but he was too hungry to
mind, and he ate it all, just stopping long enough to
say: "If this maple bears such fruit as acorns and
walnuts, I should like to live in a maple grove."
Next came a hazelnut, then a butternut, and last of all
a fat kernel of yellow corn. He knew now that some
friend was hidden in the branches above, so he
 tucked the corn in one of his cheek-pockets, and
scampered up the maple trunk to find out who it was.
He saw a whisking reddish-brown tail, and knew that
some other Red Squirrel was there. But whoever it was
did not mean to be caught, and such a chase as he had!
Just as he thought he had overtaken his unknown friend,
he could see nothing more of her, and he was almost
vexed to think how careless he must have been to miss
her. He ran up and down the tree on which he last saw
her, and found a little hollow in one of its large
branches. He looked in, and there she was, the same
dainty creature whom he had so often watched from his
cage. He could see that she was breathless from
running so fast, yet she pretended to be surprised at
seeing him. Perhaps she now thought that she had been
too bold in giving him food, and so wanted him to think
that it had been somebody else.
 "Good morning!" said he. "Thank you very much
for your kindness."
"What do you mean?" said she.
"As though you didn't know!" he answered. "I never
heard of a maple tree that bore acorns, nuts, and corn,
and that in the springtime."
"Oh, well," said she, tossing her pretty head, "you
have lived in a cage and may not know what our forest
trees can do."
That was a rather saucy thing to say, but Mr. Red
Squirrel knew her kind heart and that she said it only
in mischief. "How do you know I have lived in a cage?"
"I—I thought you looked like the Squirrel at the
farmhouse," she said; and then forgetting herself, she
added, "You did look so surprised when that walnut hit
"Where were you then?" he asked quickly.
"Oh! I was on a branch above
 you," she answered,
seeing that he now knew all about it. "You looked so
hungry, and I had plenty of food stored away. You may
have some whenever you wish. It must have been
dreadful in that cage."
Now Mr. Red Squirrel had loved his little friend ever
since the first time he saw her on the rail fence, but
he had never thought she would care for him—a tired,
discouraged fellow, who had passed such a sorrowful
life in prison. Yet when he heard her pitying words,
and saw the light in her tender eyes, he wondered if he
could win her for his wife.
"I shall never be able to do anything for you," said
he. "You are young and beautiful and know the forest
ways. I am a stranger and saddened by my hard life. I
wish I could help you."
"The Blue Jays! The Blue Jays!" she cried, starting
up. "They have found my hidden acorns and are eating
 And sure enough, a pair of those handsome robbers
were pulling acorn after acorn out of a tree-hollow
near by, and eating them as fast as they could. You
should have seen Mr. Red Squirrel then! He leaped from
branch to branch until he reached the Blue Jays; then
he stood by the hole where the acorns were stored, and
he said; and that in the Red Squirrel language is a
very severe scolding. He jumped about with his head
down and his tail jerking, while his eyes gleamed like
coals of fire. The Blue Jays made a great fuss and
called "Jay! Jay!" at him, and made fun of him for
being a stranger, but they left at last, and Mr. Red
Squirrel turned to his friend.
"What would I have done without your help?" she said.
"I was so dreadfully frightened. Don't you see how my
paws are shaking still?" And she held
 out the
prettiest little paws imaginable for him to see.
Then Mr. Red Squirrel's heart began to thump very fast
and hard beneath the white fur of his chest, and he
sighed softly. "I wish I might always help you and
protect you," he said; "but I suppose there are better
fellows than I who want to do that." And he sighed
"Yes, they might want to," she said, looking away from
him and acting as though she saw another Blue Jay
"You wouldn't be my little wife, would you?" he asked,
coming nearer to her.
"Why—I—might!" she answered, with a saucy flirt of her
tail, and she scampered away as fast as she could. Do
you think Mr. Red Squirrel stopped then to eat his fat
kernel of yellow corn? Or do you think he waited to
see whether the Blue Jays were around? No, indeed! He
followed as fast as his legs could carry
 him from
tree to tree, from branch to branch, and it was not
until he had reached the top of a tall beech that he
overtook his little sweetheart. They were still there
when the Gray Squirrel happened along in the afternoon.
"Ah!" said he, squinting at Mr. Red Squirrel, for his
eyes were poor. "You are getting acquainted, are you?
Pleasant society here. The Squirrel set is very
select. You must meet some of our young people.
Suppose you will begin housekeeping one of these days?"
"I have done so already, sir," answered Mr. Red
Squirrel, although his wife was nudging him with one
paw and motioning him to keep quiet. "Mrs. Red
Squirrel and I will build our round home in the top
fork of this tree. We shall be pleased to have you
call when we are settled."
"Is that so?" exclaimed the Gray Squirrel. "I did not
know that you were
 married. I thought you came
alone to the forest."
"This is my wife, sir," said Mr. Red Squirrel, and the
Gray Squirrel made his very best bow and looked at her
as sharply as his poor eyes would let him.
"I think I must have seen you somewhere," he said;
"your face is very familiar." And he scratched his
poor old puzzled head with one claw.
"Why, Cousin Gray Squirrel, don't you know Bushy-tail?"
she cried. "You lived the next tree to mine all
"To be sure!" he exclaimed. "But isn't your marriage
"No," she said, blushing under her fur. "We have
always liked each other, although we never spoke until
this morning. I used to scamper along the rail fence
to see Mr. Red Squirrel in his cage."
"Did you truly come for that?" asked her husband, after
their caller had gone.
 "I truly did," she answered, "but I never
expected anybody to know it. You poor fellow! I felt
so sorry for you. I would have given every nut I had
to set you free."
They were a very happy couple, and the next fall the
Gray Squirrel watched them and their children gathering
nuts for their winter stores. Mr. Red Squirrel, as the
head of the family, planned the work, yet each did his
share. The nuts were not yet ripe, and they gnawed off
the stems, then came to the ground, filled their
cheek-pockets with the fallen nuts, and scampered off
to hide them in many places. They were stored in
tree-hollows, under the rustling leaves which strewed
the ground, in the cracks of old logs, beneath
brush-heaps, and in holes in the ground.
"Don't stop to think how many you need," said the
little mother to her children. "Get every nut you can.
It may be a very long winter."
 "And if you don't eat them all," said their
hard-working father with a twinkle in his eyes, "you
may want to drop a few down to some poor fellow who has
none. That was your mother's way."
"When was it her way? What makes you smile when you
say it? Mother, what does he mean?" cried the young
Red Squirrels all in a breath.
"I gave some nuts to a hungry Squirrel once," she said,
"and he was so grateful that he drove the Blue Jays
away when they tried to rob me." But she looked so
happy as she spoke that the children knew there was
more to the story. They dared not tease her to tell,
so they whispered among themselves and wondered what
their father meant.
As they gathered nuts near the Gray Squirrel, he
motioned them to come close. "S-sh!" said he. "Don't
tell it from me, but I think the poor hungry fellow was
your father, and it was a lucky thing
 for you
that she had enough to give away."
"Do you suppose that was it?" the young Red Squirrels
whispered to each other. "Do you really suppose so?"