LIFE in the forest is very different from life in the
meadow, and the forest people have many ways of doing
which are not known in the world outside. They are a
quiet people and do not often talk or sing when there
are strangers near. You could never get acquainted
with them until you had learned to be quiet also, and
to walk through the underbrush without
twigs at every step. Then, if you were to live among
them and speak their language, you would find that
there are many things about which it is not polite to
talk. And there is a reason for all this.
In the meadow, although they have their quarrels and
their own troubles, they always make it up again and
are friendly, but in the forest there are some people
who can never get along well together, and who do not
go to the same parties or call upon each other. It is
not because they are cross, or selfish, or bad. It is
just because of the way in which they have to live and
hunt, and they cannot help it any more than you could
help having eyes of a certain color.
These are things which are all understood in the
forest, and the people there are careful what they say
and do, so they get on very well indeed, and have many
 happy times in that quiet, dusky place. When
people are born there, they learn these things without
thinking about it, but when they come there from some
other place it is very hard, for everybody thinks it
stupid in strangers to ask about such simple matters.
When Mr. Red Squirrel first came to the forest, he knew
nothing of the way in which they do, and he afterward
said that learning forest manners was even harder than
running away from his old home. You see, Mr. Red
Squirrel was born in the forest, but was carried away
from there when he was only a baby. From that time
until he was grown, he had never set claw upon a tree,
and all he could see of the world he had seen by
peeping through the bars of a cage. His cousins in the
forest learned to frisk along the fence-tops and to
jump from one swaying branch to another, but when this
poor little fellow longed for a scamper he
only run around and around in a wire wheel that hummed
as it turned, and this made him very dizzy.
He used to wonder if there were nothing better in life,
for he had been taken from his woodland home when he
was too young to remember about it. One day he saw
another Squirrel outside, a dainty little one who
looked as though she had never a sad thought. That
made him care more than ever to be free, and when he
curled down in his cotton nest that night he dreamed
about her, and that they were eating acorns together in
a tall oak tree.
The next day Mr. Red Squirrel pretended to be sick. He
would not run in the wheel or taste the food in his
cage. When his master came to look at him, he moaned
pitifully and would not move one leg. His master
thought that the leg was broken, and took limp little
Mr. Red Squirrel in his hand to the window to see
 what was the matter. The window was up, and when he
saw his chance, Mr. Red Squirrel leaped into the open
air and was away to the forest. His poor legs were
weak from living in such a small cage, but how he ran!
His heart thumped wildly under the soft fur of his
chest, and his breath came in quick gasps, and still he
ran, leaping, scrambling, and sometimes falling, but
always nearer the great green trees of his birthplace.
At last he was safe and sat trembling on the lowest
branch of a beech-tree. The forest was a new world to
him and he asked many questions of a fat, old Gray
Squirrel. The Gray Squirrel was one of those people who
know a great deal and think that they know a great,
great deal, and want others to think so too. He was so
very knowing and important that, although he answered
all of Mr. Red Squirrel's questions, he really did not
tell him any of the things which
 he most wanted to
know, and this is the way in which they talked:
"What is the name of this place?" asked Mr. Red
"This? Why this is the forest, of course," answered
the Gray Squirrel. "We have no other name for it. It
is possible that there are other forests in the world,
but they cannot be so fine as this, so we call ours
'the forest.' "
"Are there pleasant neighbors here?" asked Mr. Red
"Very good, very good. My wife and I do not call on
many of them, but still they are good enough people, I
"Then why don't you call?"
"Why? Why? Because they are not in our set. It
would never do." And the Gray Squirrel sat up very
"Who is that gliding fellow on the ground below?"
asked the newcomer. "Is he one of your friends?"
 "That? That is the Rattlesnake. We never speak
to each other. There has always been trouble between
"Who lives in that hollow tree yonder?"
"Sh, sh! That is where the Great Horned Owl has his
home. He is asleep now and must not be awakened, for
Squirrels and Owls cannot be friendly."
"Because. It has always been so."
"And who is that bird just laying an egg in her nest
"Speak softly, please. That is the Cowbird, and it is
not her nest. You will get into trouble if you talk
such things aloud. She can't help it. She has to lay
her eggs in other birds' nests, but they don't like it."
Mr. Red Squirrel tried very hard to find out the reason
for this, but there are always some things for which no
reason can be given; and there are many questions
which can never be answered, even
 if one were to
ask, "Why? why? why?" all day long. So Mr. Red
Squirrel, being a wise little fellow, stopped asking,
and thought by using his eyes and ears he would in time
learn all that he needed to know. He had good eyes and
keen ears, and he learned very fast without making many
mistakes. He had a very happy life among the forest
people, and perhaps that was one reason. He learned
not to say things which made his friends feel badly,
and he did not ask needless questions. And after all,
you know, it would have been very foolish to ask
questions which nobody could answer, and worse than
foolish to ask about
matters which he could find out for himself.
It is in the forest as in the world outside. We can
know that many things are, but we never know why they