Poor Siccatee was in great trouble.
She had been very busy for some time past laying up food for the
winter, and it had taken many weeks' hard work. She had selected the
very best nuts, acorns, corn, berries and seeds, and all through the
beautiful autumn days had scarcely rested for a moment, so eager had
she been to lay in a good stock.
Not a single unsound, worm-eaten or empty nut had she allowed to go
into her stores. She had taken each one in her little fore paws,
looked it carefully over, turning and twisting it about and examining
it from every point of view with her keen little eyes; and then, when
she had made quite sure that it was a good one and perfectly sound,
she had trotted off with it in her quick way, which was something
between a hop and a gallop, and hidden it in a nice place at the root
of some old tree, or in some cleverly hidden crevice.
Her husband had helped her as much as he could, and had contributed
Their beautiful home was in a wood by the side of the sea, and the
people in the big house at the bottom of the wood sometimes threw out
dainties in the shape of fruit, scraps of meat and bread, and many
kinds of berries.
But Siccatee herself was too frightened to go down on the beach, for
she was a very nervous little thing. Sentre, her husband, was quite
daring, and not easily frightened. They had worked very hard together,
and their children, who were now getting quite strong and big, had
done their best to help them. Only that morning Siccatee woke up
feeling quite bright and cheerful, for she had accumulated nearly
enough winter food for herself and her little ones; but then, that
very afternoon, just as she was taking two big beechnuts to one of her
secret hiding-places, she saw two Horrible Humans standing close to
Siccatee suddenly stopped, hugging the two nuts tightly to her breast
with her funny little paws, and whisking her tail nervously up and
down, making waves in the pretty, gray fur, while her nervous little
mouth worked convulsively. For, oh, what should she do if they found
Quick as a flash she bounded behind a tree, for, with her wonderfully
quick eyesight and senses always on the alert, she scented danger in a
Once behind a tree, nothing could be seen of Siccatee but her bright
eyes and just the tip of her bushy tail. And even these were not
noticed by the Humans.
After all, the Horrible Humans were only a little boy and a little
girl. But, oh, what mischief they did in the next few moments! They
seemed to be picking ferns and flowers, and for a few moments Siccatee
hoped that they would pass her hoarding-place unnoticed. But, alas!
just as they were turning away, the little boy caught sight of the
hollow in the tree, and, having a boy's natural curiosity, he
straightway went to investigate.
Siccatee's little heart beat and throbbed and thumped until she felt
nearly suffocated. Her bright little eyes almost started out of her
head with fear, and her tail waved, and waved, and waved—a true index
of the agitation of its owner.
She remembered that she had hidden her treasures in the tree as far
back as she could go, and had carefully covered them with some powdery
earth. Perhaps they would think there was only earth in the hollow and
not disturb it.
But in another moment the boy gave a scream of delight. For a moment
Siccatee could not see what he was doing, as his body was bent over
the hole. Then he suddenly stood up and called to his sister, and
there, dragged out on the ground and strewn all about, was one of
Siccatee's beautiful winter hoards!
She did not know herself, until she saw it thrown out, what a quantity
of food she and her family had collected.
The Humans did not seem to want the things after all, for the boy
kicked them about, which made Siccatee very angry. And the little
girl, after picking them up, threw them down again.
It was so dreadful to see her precious treasures strewn about in this
fashion, and kicked and bruised, that Siccatee, in spite of her self-
control, gave a little, sobbing cry.
The children heard it, and suddenly caught sight of her, and then, oh,
what a chase began! The boy began to throw stones and pieces of wood,
and actually dared to throw some of her own nuts at Siccatee.
By this time she was at the top of the tree, and now her grief changed
to anger—real anger—and she sat on one of the boughs and scolded as
hard as she could. Her funny little "prit, prit, p-r-i-t," amused the
children, and the more she scolded the more they laughed.
At last Siccatee grew disgusted and left that tree to go to another,
and then another, and still another; springing such distances and at
such a height that the children thought she would be dashed to pieces
every moment. But not a bit of it. Siccatee, like all squirrels, was
very sure-footed, and rarely made a false step. If, by any chance, she
should loose her foothold, she would spread out her legs and funny,
bushy tail, drop lightly to the ground and bound away as though
nothing had happened. But she took care not to lose her foothold now,
with those Horrible Humans so near. All she thought about was to get
away from them as quickly as possible, and to lead them away from her
Luckily they had found but one. She had several others near the big
tree—for this was her home tree, and there she and her husband had
lived for two or three years, and reared several families.
[Illustration: "SAT ON ONE OF THE BOUGHS AND SCOLDED AS HARD AS SHE
But while all this was going on, Siccatee called to her husband, and
in a very few minutes he joined her. He was much bigger than Siccatee
and not so nervous, and on hearing what had happened flew into a great
rage, and dared and defied his enemies in the same way that his wife
had done—that is, by sitting on a bough and scolding them.
The children pelted the two squirrels with everything they could find,
but they dodged so quickly and so cleverly that not a single thing
But after a time the children grew tired of throwing stones and
sticks, and as it made their necks ache to look up so high, they gave
up the chase and went home, and that was the last that Sentre and
Siccatee saw of them for a long time.
But this unpleasant incident had upset them both very much, and when
their children joined them a few minutes later, they gave them many
warnings and cautions about always keeping a sharp lookout for danger.
At last all ventured down, and, while keeping a sharp lookout with
their bright little eyes, gazed on the ruin the children had wrought.
Fortunately, it was not the most valuable of their hoards, for it
contained no eggs or insects.
After much consultation and discussion, the squirrels decided not to
use this hiding-place again—at any rate, not that winter—for it
would never do to run the risk of having it disturbed a second time.
So they set to work, found a nice crevice in a big rock, and worked
hard all day long collecting another store.
Siccatee would not allow her family to eat too many nuts just then.
She knew that the time was coming when young birds, mice and insects
would be very scarce. So she impressed it upon them to make the very
most of their time, and eat as much of that kind of food as they could
get. They might have a nut or two, occasionally, she said, and
meanwhile she would teach them the proper way in which to eat a nut or
Siccatee had found an egg in some hay in a little wooden hut, next to
the house at the foot of the wood, and this she had carried very
carefully to one of her stores. She considered that this would be a
good time to teach her children—there were two of them, fine young
specimens of American squirrels—their first important lesson.
So she stood up, holding the egg firmly with her fore paws, then, with
a crisp snap of her sharp little teeth, she broke the shell, and
cleverly sucked out the inside of it; not all, because she wanted her
little ones to taste and see how good an egg really was. And very good
they thought it—so good that in a few moments the egg was empty and
the two young squirrels were quarreling over the shell. But Siccatee
soon settled that by a scolding and several sharp pats.
But she had not finished her lesson yet, and next showed them how to
eat a nut. She held the nut very much in the same way that she had
held the egg. First of all, she bit off one end of the nut with her
teeth, then broke away the rest of the shell, carefully pulling off
the little brown husk on the kernel, then munched it in her funny
little way as though it was the greatest dainty she had ever tasted.
The young squirrels grew quite excited over this, and kept breaking
and peeling nuts until their mother told them they had had enough, and
sent them off to bed for the night.
Soon after this winter suddenly appeared, covering the earth and trees
and bushes with a thick, white mantle—so thick and white that all the
paths in the woods were hidden and all the trees and bushes looked
alike, but Sentre and Siccatee and their children knew their home,
and, having wonderful memories, never made a mistake about finding
either their home or their stores of food.
Some of their storehouses were quite a distance off, and in various
directions, but never by any chance did either Sentre or Siccatee
forget where they were. And, although the soft, white mantle had
covered all the little hiding-places, neither were in the least
uneasy, but, when one or the other wanted something for dinner, they
trotted off lightly and nimbly, making straight for one of the hoards;
scratching away the snow, and having taken out a few nuts, or berries,
or dried scraps of meat, or bread, scrambled off to eat it at his or
It was a very hard winter, and had it not been that these little
American squirrels were such good housekeepers they would have fared
very badly, and their young ones would probably have died from cold
and want. But they had plenty of food and a nice, warm nest—the very
same nest in which they had lived for several seasons.
This nest was made of leaves, moss, grass, little twigs, hair,
feathers, little scraps of wool which the sheep had thoughtfully left
on the brambles—anything, in fact, that was soft, and comfortable,
and warm. It was woven so carefully that neither rain nor snow could
get into it, and was so firmly wedged in its place that no wind could
blow it away. Therefore, when they had all taken a little exercise,
had a good meal, and trotted home again, they nestled down in their
warm, cozy home, and were just as happy as they could be.
But when Christmas was over and January had come and gone, the young
squirrels got restless and tiresome, and began to behave very badly—
so badly that sometimes they did not come home for a couple of nights
and days, and at last they went away altogether.
But the parent squirrels did not seem to mind it, and it was rather a
relief to be quiet and peaceable, and not have so much noise and
quarreling, and as Mother Earth was beginning to look green again,
Sentre and Siccatee felt very happy and were scarcely ever apart.
They began to find mice, young birds and insects again, and very glad
they were, for they were tired of dried roots and odd scraps.
All that spring they were very busy, as usual, for squirrels always
seem to be busy, no matter what time of the year it may be. They are
busy in the spring getting ready for the little baby squirrels; busy
all the summer attending to them and feeding them; busy all the autumn
collecting their winter stores, and busy all the winter finding their
food and teaching their children the manners and customs of
As the spring went on the two squirrels grew more busy, if possible,
than ever, and by the beginning of summer, in the old nest which they
had done up and renovated, were four, tiny baby squirrels, and both
Sentre and Siccatee were fully convinced that they were finer babies
than they had ever had before. They both took the greatest care of
them all through that summer, and when autumn came round once more
began the same thing over again—collecting food for the winter and
teaching their little ones how to eat eggs and nuts; how to climb
trees, and leap from bough to bough, and how to drop in time of danger
on their outspread little feet and bushy tails, and so save themselves
And, curiously enough, one day Siccatee came across the same Horrible
Humans that had caused her so much trouble the year before. They were
both a little taller and broader, but that they were the same there
could be no doubt. Siccatee found out that they came to the house at
the foot of the hill every year, and very sorry she was, for it was
only last year that they had spoiled one of her best storehouses.
This year something far more terrible happened. Of all her four
children, Siccatee loved best of all little Graycoat, who was
certainly a very beautiful baby squirrel. He was so soft and fluffy;
had such a beautiful, silvery gray tail; such pretty, delicate feet
and limbs, and neat, small head, with bright little eyes that were
never still for a single moment.
Now, Graycoat was fond of wandering off by himself—being a bit of a
dreamer—and one beautiful day he happened in some extraordinary way
to jump right into the lap of one of the Humans, who were sitting
there in the woods.
It was the lap of the little girl, and in an instant she had thrown
her apron over Graycoat and he was a prisoner.
In vain he cried and shrieked for his mother, and in vain she answered
from the bough above, chattering and scolding and calling him
beseechingly in most piteous tones. But the little girl kept tight
hold and carried poor Graycoat to the house at the foot of the hill,
and here, after being petted and stroked, and looked at until he was
nearly dead with fright, Graycoat was put into a horrible prison with
iron bars; and although he climbed and climbed and worked hard all
day, he never seemed to get any further up and could see no chance of
getting out. The children, wishing to be kind, but not realizing how
dreadfully cruel it was to keep him in the cage at all, put his little
prison out on the veranda, and it was with an aching heart and tears
of agony that Siccatee saw her beloved little one shut up in that
She crept close and talked to Graycoat in a soft, guttural tone, and
when night drew on, and all was still and silent outside the house,
Siccatee would go to the prison and bite and gnaw with her little
teeth, and scratch with her little paws, straining every nerve in her
poor little body to set her darling free.
Graycoat's poor little heart would beat with hope every time his
mother came, and, when she hopped swiftly and softly away in the early
morning, Graycoat's little heart would sink again, and he would send
forth a pitiful little cry after his mother—a cry that went to her
From the time that Graycoat was taken prisoner Siccatee scarcely ate
or slept. Carefully hidden behind the nearest tree, her bright little
eyes would peep out, and her soft tail wave up and down while she
watched every action and incident in the new life of her little one.
As night crept on, she would once more steal forth to the cage, and
try again and again at the same useless, hopeless task of breaking
those cruel bars.
She had not forgotten her other children, but she knew they could now
look out for themselves, had plenty to eat, and a good, comfortable
home in the old tree. So she paid little attention to them, and
devoted all her thoughts and energies to her unfortunate, little
Then came one cold, frosty night—so cold that the poor little baby
squirrel shivered and shook as though with an ague. Siccatee sat as
close to the bars of the prison as she could sit, and did her best to
warm Graycoat with the heat from her own little body. But Graycoat
missed the nice, warm nest in the tree, and although the side that was
nestling against his mother was fairly warm, his other side felt cold
In fact, he felt stiff all over, for the unnatural life, the different
food, the cruel prison bars, and last, but not least, the cold, frosty
night were too much for him, and quite suddenly he left off leaning
against his little mother, and lay on the floor of his prison cold and
Poor Siccatee was in great distress. She ran round and round the cage,
calling him, scolding him and beseeching him to speak to her. Her
bright eyes were full of tears, and her poor little body shook with
cold and distress.
In vain she put first one tiny paw through the cage and tried to
arouse him, and then the other. It was no use. Graycoat neither moved
nor answered, and at last with a pitiful little cry Siccatee lay down
by the cage, put one little paw through the bars as though in a last
appeal to her darling, and, shivering with cold and anguish, drew one
long sobbing breath, and lay just as still as Graycoat.
And when the children came in the morning, they were greatly surprised
and deeply distressed to find two dead squirrels—one baby squirrel
inside the cage, and one mother squirrel outside.
But even then they did not seem to realize how dreadfully cruel they
had been in suddenly taking away a wild, free creature from the fresh,
open air, beautiful woods and trees, and, best of all, joyous freedom,
and putting him in a tiny, narrow cage, where there was only just room
enough for him to turn round.
They could not realize that nothing they could do or give him could
ever make up to the active, little creature the loss of his beautiful,
woodland home and his free life.