Grandfather Frog sat on his big green lily-pad in the Smiling Pool and
shook his head reprovingly at Peter Rabbit. Peter is such a
happy-go-lucky little fellow that he never thinks of anything but the
good time he can have in the present. He never looks ahead to the
future. So of course Peter seldom worries. If the sun shines to-day,
Peter takes it for granted that it will shine to-morrow; so he hops and
skips and has a good time and just trusts to luck.
Now Grandfather Frog is very old and very wise, and he doesn't believe
in luck. No, Sir, Grandfather Frog doesn't believe in luck.
"Chug-a-rum!" says Grandfather Frog, "Luck never just _happens_. What
people call bad luck is just the result of their own foolishness or
carelessness or both, and what people call good luck is just the result
of their own wisdom and carefulness and common sense."
Peter Rabbit had been making fun of Happy Jack Squirrel because Happy
Jack said that he had too much to do to stop and play that morning. Here
it was summer, and winter was a long way off. What was summer for if not
to play in and have a good time? Yet Happy Jack was already thinking of
winter and was hunting for a new storehouse so as to have it ready when
the time to fill it with nuts should come. It was much better to play
and take sun-naps among the buttercups and daisies and just have a good
time all day long.
"Chug-a-rum!" said Grandfather Frog, "Did you ever hear how old Mr.
Squirrel learned thrift?"
"No," cried Peter Rabbit, stretching himself out in the soft grass on
the edge of the Smiling Pool. "Do tell us about it. Please do,
You know Peter dearly loves a story.
All the other little meadow and forest people who were about the Smiling
Pool joined Peter Rabbit in begging Grandfather Frog for the story, and
after they had teased for it a long time (Grandfather Frog dearly loves
to be teased), he cleared his throat and began.
"Once upon a time when the world was young, in the days when old King
Bear ruled in the Green Forest, everybody had to take King Bear
presents of things to eat. That was because he was king. You know kings
never have to work like other people to get enough to eat; everybody
brings them a little of their best, and so kings have the best in the
land without the trouble of working for it. It was just this way with
old King Bear. That was before he grew so fat and lazy and selfish that
Old Mother Nature declared that he should be king no longer.
"Now in those days lived old Mr. Squirrel, the grandfather a thousand
times removed of Happy Jack Squirrel whom you all know. Of course, he
wasn't old then. He was young and frisky, just like Happy Jack, and he
was a great favorite with old King Bear. He was a saucy fellow, was Mr.
Squirrel, and he used to spend most of his time playing tricks on the
other meadow and forest people. He even dared to play jokes on old King
Bear. Sometimes old King Bear would lose his temper, and then Mr.
Squirrel would whisk up in the top of a tall tree and keep out of sight
until old King Bear had recovered his good nature.
"Those were happy days, very happy days indeed, and old King Bear was a
very wise ruler. There was plenty of everything to eat, and so nobody
missed the little they brought to old King Bear. Having so much brought
to him, he grew very particular. Yes, Sir, old King Bear grew very
particular indeed. Some began to whisper behind his back that he was
fussy. He would pick out the very best of everything for himself and
give the rest to his family and special friends or else just let it go
"Now old King Bear was very fond of lively little Mr. Squirrel, and
often he would give Mr. Squirrel some of the good things for which he
had no room in his own stomach. Mr. Squirrel was smart. He soon found
out that the more he amused old King Bear, the more of King Bear's good
things he had. It was a lot easier to get his living this way than to
hunt for his food as he always had in the past. Besides, it was a lot
more fun. So little Mr. Squirrel studied how to please old King Bear,
and he grew fat on the good things which other people had earned.
"One day old King Bear gave little Mr. Squirrel six big, fat nuts. You
see, old King Bear didn't care for nuts himself, not the kind with the
hard shells, anyway, so he really wasn't as generous as he seemed, which
is the way with a great many people. It is easy to give what you don't
want yourself. Little Mr. Squirrel bowed very low and thanked old King
Bear in his best manner. He really didn't want those nuts, for his
stomach was full at the time, but it wouldn't do to refuse a gift from
the king. So he took the nuts and pretended to be delighted with them.
"'What shall I do with them?' said little Mr. Squirrel as soon as he was
alone. 'It won't do for me to leave them where old King Bear will find
them, for it might make him very angry.' At last he remembered a certain
hollow tree. 'The very place!' cried little Mr. Squirrel. 'I'll drop
them in there, and no one will be any the wiser.'
"No sooner thought of than it was done, and little Mr. Squirrel frisked
away in his usual happy-go-lucky fashion and forgot all about the nuts
in the hollow tree. It wasn't very long after this that Old Mother
Nature began to hear complaints of old King Bear and his rule in the
Green Forest. He had grown fat and lazy, and all his relatives had grown
fat and lazy because, you see, none of them had to work for the things
they ate. The little forest and meadow people were growing tired of
feeding the Bear family. It was just at the beginning of winter when Old
Mother Nature came to see for herself what the trouble was. It didn't
take her long to find out. No, Sir, it didn't take her long. You can't
fool Old Mother Nature, and it's of no use to try. She took one good
look at old King Bear nodding in the cave where he used to sleep. He was
so fat he looked as if he would burst his skin.
"Old Mother Nature frowned. 'You are such a lazy fellow that you shall
be king no longer. Instead, you shall sleep all winter and grow thin and
thinner till you awake in the spring, and then you will have to hunt
for your own food, for never again shall you live on the gifts of
others,' said she.
"All the little forest and meadow people who had been bringing tribute,
that is things to eat, to old King Bear rejoiced that they need do so no
longer and went about their business. All of old King Bear's family,
including his cousin Mr. Coon, had been put to sleep just like old King
Bear himself. Yes, Sir, they were all asleep, fast asleep.
"Little Mr. Squirrel felt lonesome. He grew more lonesome every day.
None of the other little people would have anything to do with him
because they remembered how he had lived without working when he was the
favorite of King Bear. The weather was cold, and it was hard work to
find anything to eat. Mr. Squirrel was hungry all the time. He couldn't
think of anything but his stomach and how empty it was. He grew thin and
"One cold day when the snow covered the earth, little Mr. Squirrel went
without breakfast. Then he went without dinner. You see, he couldn't
find so much as a pine-seed to eat. Late in the afternoon he crept into
a hollow tree to get away from the cold, bitter wind. He was very tired
and very cold and very, very hungry. Tears filled his eyes and ran over
and dripped from his nose. He curled up on the leaves at the bottom of
the hollow to try to go to sleep and forget. Under him was something
hard. He twisted and turned, but he couldn't get in a comfortable
position. Finally he looked to see what the trouble was caused by. What
do you think he found? Six big, fat nuts! Yes, Sir, six big, fat nuts!
Little Mr. Squirrel was so glad that he cried for very joy.
"When he had eaten two, he felt better and decided to keep the others
for the next day. Then he began to wonder how those nuts happened to be
in that hollow tree. He thought and thought, and at last he remembered
how he had hidden six nuts in this very hollow a long time before, when
he had had more than he knew what to do with. These were the very nuts,
the present of old King Bear.
"Right then as he thought about it, little Mr. Squirrel had a bright
idea. He made up his mind that thereafter he would stop his
happy-go-lucky idleness, and the first time that ever he found plenty of
food, he would fill that hollow tree just as full as he could pack it,
and then if there should come a time when food was scarce, he would
have plenty. And that is just what he did do. The next fall when nuts
were plentiful, he worked from morning till night storing them away in
the hollow tree, and all that winter he was happy and fat, for he had
plenty to eat. He never had to beg of any one. He had learned to save.
"And ever since then the Squirrels have been among the wisest of all the
little forest people and always the busiest.
"The Squirrel family long since learned
That things are best when duly earned;
That play and fun are found in work
By him who does not try to shirk.
"And that's all," finished Grandfather Frog.
"Thank you! Thank you, Grandfather Frog!" cried Peter Rabbit.