“And so it has been with the swallow folk since that time.
“But,” went on the old swallow, “our foreparents learned their lesson, and since that time we always bring up our children to be very obedient. No doubt you have noticed how very well they mind.”
XIV. LITTLE LUKE AND A-BAL-KA THE CHIPMUNK
One of little Luke’s best friends among the wild folk was A-bal-ka the Chipmunk. He was a dainty little fellow about five inches long, with a tail of the same length. His coat was of a yellowish-brown color, with black stripes running down his back. This fine, striped coat made him look much prettier than his cousin Mee-ko the Red Squirrel.
He was a clean, jolly, little chap, and very fond of singing, though he knew but two songs. One was a sharp chip, chip, chip, which he would sometimes keep up for a long time. At a distance it sounded like the call note of some bird. The other was a cuck, cuck, cuck, which sounded much like the song of the Cuckoo. A curious thing about this song was that one could scarcely tell where it came from. Little Luke was often deceived by it. Sometimes when it sounded as if A-bal-ka was near by, he was really a good way off, and when it sounded as if he were a good way off, he was really close by.
Beside these songs, A-bal-ka had an odd way of saying chip, chur-r-r-r-r, when he was scared. This meant, “I am not afraid of you,” and he never said it till he was safe in some hole where no one could get at him.
A-bal-ka never harmed any one, nor did he scold and steal like Mee-ko the Red Squirrel. Yet he had many foes. Ko-ko-ka the Owl, Ak-sip the Hawk, Kee-wuk the Fox, Kag-ax the Weasel, Ko-sa the Mink, and A-tos-sa the Snake were always ready to pounce upon him at sight and make a meal of him. Even Mee-ko was not to be trusted. Sometimes he would chase A-bal-ka and rob him of the nuts which he was carrying to his storehouse. He would have robbed the storehouse, too, if he could have got into it. But A-bal-ka’s door was too small, and his hallways too narrow for Mee-ko.
Little Luke knew all about A-bal-ka’s underground dwelling. The way he found out was this: Uncle Mark and Sam the hired man were digging stones on the hillside in the edge of the woods for the foundations of a new barn. While at this work, they uncovered the home of one of A-bal-ka’s brothers. It was made up of a long, winding passageway, ending in a sleeping chamber, near which was a storehouse, and in this storehouse there was a large quantity of nuts. These nuts were all good ones. The greater part of them were little, three-cornered beech nuts, which the squirrels like better than anything else. In all there was as much as half a bushel of nuts, enough to last a chipmunk all winter. The bedroom was a neat, little, round chamber, nicely filled with leaves, grass, and moss. In such a house as this, with its store of nuts, a chipmunk could live snug and warm all winter long and come out sleek and fat in the spring.