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- Lady Mary and her Nurse - 4/22 -
to the wires of the cage, his bright eyes looking like two black beads."
"As soon as it grows dark he will begin to be more lively, and perhaps he will eat something, but not while we look at him--he is too shy for that."
"Nurse, how can they see to eat in the dark?"
"The good God, Lady Mary, has so formed their eyes that they can see best by night. I will read you, Lady Mary, a few Verses from Psalm civ.:--
"Verse 19. He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.
20. Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.
21. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.
22. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.
23. Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.
24. O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the eath is full of thy riches.
"Thus you see, my dear lady, that our heavenly Father taketh care of all his creatures, and provideth for them both by day and by night."
"I remember, nurse, that my dormice used to lie quite still, nestled among the moss and wool in their little dark chamber in the cage, all day long; but when it was night they used to come out and frisk about, and run along the wires, and play all sorts of tricks, chasing one another round and round, and they were not afraid of me, but would let me look at them while they ate a nut, or a bit of sugar; and the dear little things would drink out of their little white saucer, and wash their faces and tails--it was so pretty to see them!"
"Did you notice, Lady Mary, how the dormice held their food?"
"Yes, they sat up, and held it in their fore-paws, which looked just like tiny hands."
"There are many animals whose fore-feet resemble hands, and these, generally, convey their food to their mouths--among these are the squirrel and dormice. They are good climbers and diggers. You see, my dear young lady, how the merciful Creator has given to all his creatures, however lowly, the best means of supplying their wants, whether of food or shelter."
"Indeed, nurse, I have learned a great deal about squirrels, Canadian rice, otters, and Indians; but, if you please, I must now have a little play with my doll. Good-bye, Mrs. Frazer,--pray take care of my dear little squirrel, and mind that he does not fly away." And Lady Mary was soon busily engaged in drawing her wax doll about the nursery in a little sleigh lined with red squirrel fur robes, and talking to her as all children like to talk to their dolls, whether they be rich or poor--the children of peasants, or governors' daughters.
LADY MARY READS TO MRS. FRAZER THE FIRST PART OF THE HISTORY OF THE SQUIRREL FAMILY.
One day Lady Mary came to her nurse, and putting her arms about her neck, whispered to her,--"Mrs. Frazer, my dear good governess has given me something--it is in my hand," and she slily held her hand behind her-- "will you guess what it is?"
"Is it a book, my lady?"
"Yes, yes, it is a book, a pretty book; and see, here are pictures of squirrels in it. Mrs. Frazer, if you like, I will sit down on this cushion by you and read some of my new book. It does not seem very hard."
Then Mrs. Frazer took out her work-basket and sat down to sew, and Lady Mary began to read the little story, which, I hope, may entertain my little readers as much as it did the Governor's daughter.
THE HISTORY OF A SQUIRREL FAMILY
It must be a pleasant thing to be a squirrel, and live a life of freedom in the boundless forests; to leap and bound among the branches of the tall trees; to gambol in the deep shade of the cool glossy leaves, through the long warm summer day; to gather the fresh nuts and berries; to drink the pure dews of heaven, all bright and sparkling from the opening flowers; to sleep on soft beds of moss and thistle-down in some hollow branch rocked by the wind as in a cradle. Yet, though this was the happy life led by a family of pretty grey squirrels that had their dwelling in the hoary branch of an old oak-tree that grew on one of the rocky islands in a beautiful lake in Upper Canada, called _Stony Lake_ (because it was full of rocky islands), these little creatures were far from being contented, and were always wishing for a change. Indeed, they had been very happy, till one day when a great black squirrel swam to the island and paid them a visit. He was a very fine handsome fellow, nearly twice as large as any of the grey squirrels; he had a tail that flourished over his back, when he set it up, like a great black feather; his claws were sharp and strong, and his eyes very round and bright; he had upright ears, and long, sharp teeth, of which he made good use. The old grey squirrels called him cousin, and invited him to dinner. They very civilly set before him some acorns and beech-nuts; but he proved a hungry visitor, and ate as much as would have fed the whole family for a week. After the grey squirrels had cleared away the shells and scraps, they asked their greedy guest where he came from, when Blackie told them he was a great traveller, and had seen many wonderful things; that he had once lived on a forked pine at the head of the Waterfall, but being tired of a dull life, he had gone out on his travels to see the world; that he had been down the lake, and along the river shore, where there were great places cut out in the thick forest, called clearings, where some very tall creatures lived, who were called men and women, with young ones called children; that though they were not so pretty as squirrels--for they had no for on them, and were obliged to make clothes to cover them and keep them warm--they were very useful, and sowed corn and planted fruit-trees and roots for squirrels to eat, and even built large grain stores to keep it safe and dry for them.
This seemed very strange, and the simple little grey squirrels were very much pleased, and said they should like very much to go down the lakes too, and see these wonderful things.
The black squirrel then told them that there were many things to be seen in these clearings: that there were large beasts, called oxen, and cows, and sheep, and pigs; and these creatures had houses built for them to live in; and all the men and women seemed to employ themselves about, was feeding and taking care of them.
Now this cunning fellow never told his simple cousins that the oxen had to bear a heavy wooden yoke and chain, and were made to work very hard; nor that the cows were fed that they might give milk to the children; nor that the pigs were fatted to make pork; nor that the sheep had their warm fleeces cut off every year that the settlers might have the wool to spin and weave. Blackie did not say that the men carried guns, and the dogs were fierce, and would hunt poor squirrels from tree to tree, frightening them almost to death with their loud, angry barking; that cats haunted the barns and houses, and, in short, that there were dangers as well as pleasures to be met with in these clearings; and that the barns were built to shelter the grain for men, and not for the benefit of squirrels.
The black squirrel proved rather a troublesome guest, for he stayed several days, and ate so heartily, that the old grey squirrels were obliged to hint that he had better go back to the clearings, where there was so much food, for that their store was nearly done.
When Blackie found that all the nice nuts were eaten, and that even pine-kernels and beech-nuts were becoming scarce, he went away, saying that he should soon come again.
The old grey squirrels were glad when they saw the tip of Blackie's tail disappear, as he whisked down the trunk of the old oak; but their young ones were very sorry that he was gone, for they liked very much to listen to all his wonderful stories, which they thought were true; and they told their father and mother how they wished they would leave the dull island and the old tree, and go down the lakes, and see the wonderful things that their black cousin had described.
But the old ones shook their heads, and said they feared there was more fiction than truth in the tales they had heard, and that if they were wise they would stay where they were. "What do you want more, my dear children," said their mother, "than you enjoy here? Have you not this grand old oak for a palace to live in; its leaves and branches spreading like a canopy over your heads, to shelter you from the hot sun by day and the dews by night? Are there not moss, dried grass, and roots beneath, to make a soft bed for you to lie upon? and do not the boughs drop down a plentiful store of brown ripe acorns? That silver lake, studded with islands of all shapes and sizes, produces cool clear water for you to drink and bathe yourselves in. Look at those flowers that droop their blossoms down to its glassy surface, and the white lilies that rest upon its bosom,--will you see anything fairer or better if you leave this place? Stay at home and be contented."
"If I hear any more grumbling," said their father, "I shall pinch your ears and tails." So the little squirrels said no more, but I am sorry to say they did not pay much heed to their wise, old mother's counsels; for whenever they were alone, all their talk was how to run away, and go abroad to see the world, as their black cousin had called the new settlement down the lakes. It never came into the heads of the silly creatures that those wonderful stories they had been told originated in an artful scheme of the greedy black squirrel, to induce them to leave their warm pleasant house in the oak, that he and his children might come and live in it, and get the hoards of grain, and nuts, and acorns, that their father and mother had been laying up for winter stores.
Moreover, the wily black squirrel had privately told them that their father and mother intended to turn them out of the nest very soon, and make provision for a new family. This indeed was really the case; for as soon as young animals can provide for themselves, their parents turn them off, and care no more for them. Very different, indeed, is this from our parents; for they love and cherish us as long as they live, and afford us a home and shelter as long as we need it.
Every hour these little grey squirrels grew more and more impatient to leave the lonely little rocky island, though it was a pretty spot, and the place of their birth; but they were now eager to go abroad and seek their fortunes.
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