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 queer 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 queer, very queer, 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 foolish, a very foolish look crept over each face.
“Where—where do you suppose they have gone?” asked Happy Jack in a queer-sounding voice.
Just then they heard some one laughing fit to kill himself. 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.
HAPPY JACK SUSPECTS STRIPED CHIPMUNK
Thrift is one test of true loyalty to your country.
Happy Jack didn’t look happy a bit. Indeed, Happy Jack looked very unhappy. You see, he looked just as he felt. He had set his heart on having all the big, fat nuts that he had found in the top of that tall hickory tree, and now, instead of having all of them, he hadn’t any of them. Worse still, he knew right down in his heart that it was his own fault. He had been too greedy. But what had become of those nuts?
Happy Jack was studying about this as he sat with his back against a big chestnut tree. He remembered how hard Peter Rabbit had laughed when Happy Jack and his cousin, Chatterer the Red Squirrel, had been so surprised because they could not find the nuts they had knocked down. Peter hadn’t taken them, for Peter has no use for them, but he must know what had become of them, for he was still laughing as he had gone off down the Lone Little Path. While he was thinking of all this, Happy Jack’s bright eyes had been wide open, as they usually are, so that no danger should come near. Suddenly they saw something moving among the brown-and-yellow leaves on the ground. Happy Jack looked sharply, and then a sudden thought popped into his head.