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VIII
CHATTERER GROWS CARELESS
 

When you grow careless even though

     It be in matters small,

Old Mr. Trouble you will find

     Is bound to make a call.

 

SOME people never seem to learn that. You would suppose that after all the trouble and worry, Chatterer the Red Squirrel had had, he would have learned a lesson. For a while it seemed as if he had. Morning after morning, before anybody was up in Farmer Brown's house, he visited Farmer Brown's corn-crib, taking the greatest care not to be seen and to get back to his home in the Old Orchard before it was time for Farmer Brown's boy to come out and do his morning's work. And in the corn-crib he took the greatest care to steal only where what he took would not be missed. The empty cobs from which he had eaten the corn he hid in the darkest corner behind the great pile of yellow corn, where they would not be found until nearly all the corn had been taken from the crib. Oh, he was very sly and crafty, was Chatterer the Red Squirrel at first.

But after a while, when nothing happened, Chatterer grew careless. At first it had seemed very dangerous to go over to the corn-crib, but after he had been there often, it didn't seem dangerous at all. Once inside, he would just give himself up to having a good time. He raced about over the great pile of beautiful yellow corn and found the loveliest hiding places in it.

Down in a dark corner he made a splendid bed from pieces of husk which hadn't been stripped from some of the ears. It was quite the nicest place he had ever dreamed of, was Farmer Brown's corn-crib. He got to feeling that it was his own and not Farmer Brown's at all.

The more that feeling grew, the more careless Chatterer became. He dropped a grain of corn now and then and was too lazy to go down and pick it up, or else didn't think anything about it. Farmer Brown's boy, coming every morning for corn for the hens, noticed these grains, but supposed they were some that had been rubbed from the ears during the handling of them. Then one morning Chatterer dropped a cob from which he had eaten all the corn. He meant to get it and hide it, as he had hidden other cobs, but he didn't want to do it just then And later well, then he forgot all about it. Yes, Sir, he forgot all about it until he had reached his home in the Old Orchard.

"Oh, well," thought Chatterer, "it doesn't matter. I can get it and hide it to-morrow morning."

Now a corn-cob is a very simple thing. Farmer Brown's boy knew where there was a whole pile of them. He added to that pile every day, after shelling enough corn for the biddies. So it would seem that there was nothing about a corn-cob to make him open his eyes as he did that morning, when he saw the one left by Chatterer the Red Squirrel. But you see he knew that a bare corn-cob, had no business inside the corn-crib, and suddenly those scattered grains of corn had a new meaning for him.

"Ha, ha!" he exclaimed, "A thief has been here, after all! I thought we were safe from rats and mice, and I don't see now how they got in, for I don't, I really don't, see how they could climb the stone legs of the corn-crib. But some one with sharp teeth certainly has been in here. It must be that I have left the door open some time, and a rat has slipped in. I'll just have to get- after you, Mr. Rat or Mr. Mouse. We can't have you in our corn-crib."

With that he went into the house. Presently he came back, and in one hand was a rat-trap and in the other a mouse-trap.


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