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Whitefoot Spends a Happy Winter
IN all his short life Whitefoot the Wood Mouse never had spent such a happy winter. Whitefoot is one of those wise little people who never allow unpleasant things of the past to spoil their present happiness, and who never borrow trouble from the future. Whitefoot believes in getting the most from the present. The things which are past are past, and that is all there is to it. There is no use in thinking about them. As for the things of the future, it will be time enough to think about them when they happen.
If you and I had as many things to worry about as does Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, we probably never would be happy at all. But Whitefoot is happy whenever he has a chance to be, and in this he is wiser than most human beings. You see, there is not one of all the little people in the Green Forest who has so many enemies to watch out for as has Whitefoot. There are ever so many who would like nothing better than to dine on plump little Whitefoot. There are Buster Bear and Billy Mink and Shadow the Weasel and Unc' Billy Possum and Hooty the Owl and all the members of the Hawk family, not to mention Blacky the Crow in times when other food is scarce. Reddy and Granny Fox and Old Man Coyote are always looking for him.
So you see Whitefoot never knows at what instant he may have to run for his life. That is why he is such a timid little fellow and is always running away at the least little unexpected sound. In spite of all this he is a happy little chap.
It was early in the winter that Whitefoot found a little hole in a corner of Farmer Brown's sugar-house and crept inside to see what it was like in there. It didn't take him long to decide that it was the most delightful place he ever had found. He promptly decided to move in and spend the winter. In one end of the sugar-house was a pile of wood. Down under this Whitefoot made himself a warm, comfortable nest. It was a regular castle to Whitefoot. He moved over to it the store of seeds he had laid up for winter use.
Not one of his enemies ever thought of visiting the sugar-house in search of Whitefoot, and they wouldn't have been able to get in if they had. When rough Brother North Wind howled outside, and sleet and snow were making other little people shiver, Whitefoot was warm and comfortable. There was all the room he needed or wanted in which to run about and play. He could go outside when he chose to, but he didn't choose to very often. For days at a time he didn't have a single fright. Yes indeed, Whitefoot spent a happy winter.CHAPTER 2
Whitefoot Sees Queer Things
WHITEFOOT had spent the winter undisturbed in Farmer Brown's sugar-house. He had almost forgotten the meaning of fear. He had come to look on that sugar-house as belonging to him. It wasn't until Farmer Brown's boy came over to prepare things for sugaring that Whitefoot got a single real fright. The instant Farmer Brown's boy opened the door, Whitefoot scampered down under the pile of wood to his snug little nest, and there he lay, listening to the strange sounds. At last he could stand it no longer and crept to a place where he could peep out and see what was going on. It didn't take him long to discover that this great two-legged creature was not looking for him, and right away he felt better. After a while Farmer Brown's boy went away, and Whitefoot had the little sugarhouse to himself again.
But Farmer Brown's boy had carelessly left the door wide open. Whitefoot didn't like that open door. It made him nervous. There was nothing to prevent those who hunt him from walking right in. So the rest of that night Whitefoot felt uncomfortable and anxious.
He felt still more anxious when next day Farmer Brown's boy returned and became very busy putting things to right. Then Farmer Brown himself came and strange things began to happen. It became as warm as in summer. You see Farmer Brown had built a fire under the evaporator. Whitefoot's curiosity kept him at a place where he could peep out and watch all that was done. He saw Farmer Brown and Farmer Brown's boy pour pails of sap into a great pan. By and by a delicious odor filled the sugar-house. It didn't take him a great while to discover that these two-legged creatures were so busy that he had nothing to fear from them, and so he crept out to watch. He saw them draw the golden syrup from one end of the evaporator and fill shining tin cans with it. Day after day they did the same thing. At night when they had left and all was quiet inside the sugar-house, Whitefoot stole out and found delicious crumbs where they had eaten their lunch. He tasted that thick golden stuff and found it sweet and good. Later he watched them make sugar and nearly made himself sick that night when they had gone home, for they had left some of that sugar where he could get at it. He didn't understand these queer doings at all. But he was no longer afraid.CHAPTER 3
Farmer Brown's Boy Becomes Acquainted
IT didn't take Farmer Brown's boy long to discover that Whitefoot the Wood Mouse was living in the little sugar-house. He caught glimpses of Whitefoot peeping out at him. Now Farmer Brown's boy is wise in the ways of the little people of the Green Forest. Right away he made up his mind to get acquainted with Whitefoot. He knew that not in all the Green Forest is there a more timid little fellow than Whitefoot, and he thought it would be a fine thing to be able to win the confidence of such a shy little chap.
So at first Farmer Brown's boy paid no attention whatever to Whitefoot. He took care that Whitefoot shouldn't even know that he had been seen. Every day when he ate his lunch, Farmer Brown's boy scattered a lot of crumbs close to the pile of wood under which Whitefoot had made his home. Then he and Farmer Brown would go out to collect sap. When they returned not a crumb would be left.
One day Farmer Brown's boy scattered some particularly delicious crumbs. Then, instead of going out, he sat down on a bench and kept perfectly still. Farmer Brown and Bowser the Hound went out. Of course Whitefoot heard them go out, and right away he poked his little head out from under the pile of wood to see if the way was clear. Farmer Brown's boy sat there right in plain sight, but Whitefoot didn't see him. That was because Farmer Brown's boy didn't move the least bit. Whitefoot ran out and at once began to eat those delicious crumbs. When he had filled his little stomach, he began to carry the remainder back to his storehouse underneath the woodpile. While he was gone on one of these trips, Farmer Brown's boy scattered more crumbs in a line that led right up to his foot. Right there he placed a big piece of bread crust.
Whitefoot was working so hard and so fast to get all those delicious bits of food that he took no notice of anything else until he reached that piece of crust. Then he happened to look up right into the eyes of Farmer Brown's boy. With a frightened little squeak Whitefoot darted back, and for a long time he was afraid to come out again.
But Farmer Brown's boy didn't move, and at last Whitefoot could stand the temptation no longer. He darted out halfway, scurried back, came out again, and at last ventured right up to the crust. Then he began to drag it back to the woodpile. Still Farmer Brown's boy did not move.
For two or three days the same thing happened. By this time, Whitefoot had lost all fear. He knew that Farmer Brown's boy would not harm him, and it was not long before he ventured to take a bit of food from Farmer Brown's boy's hand. After that Farmer Brown's boy took care that no crumbs should be scattered on the ground. Whitefoot had to come to him for his food, and always Farmer Brown's boy had something delicious for him.CHAPTER 4
Whitefoot Grows Anxious
'Tis sad indeed to trust a friend
Then have that trust abruptly end.
I know of nothing that is more sad than to feel that a friend is no longer to be trusted. There came a time when Whitefoot the Wood Mouse almost had this feeling. It was a very, very anxious time for Whitefoot.
You see, Whitefoot and Farmer Brown's boy had become the very best of friends there in the little sugar-house. They had become such good friends that Whitefoot did not hesitate to take food from the hands of Farmer Brown's boy. Never in all his life had he had so much to eat or such good things to eat. He was getting so fat that his handsome little coat was uncomfortably tight. He ran about fearlessly while Farmer Brown and Farmer Brown's boy were making maple syrup and maple sugar. He had even lost his fear of Bowser the Hound, for Bowser had paid no attention to him whatever.
Now you remember that Whitefoot had made his home way down beneath the great pile of wood in the sugar-house. Of course Farmer Brown and Farmer Brown's boy used that wood for the fire to boil the sap to make the syrup and sugar. Whitefoot thought nothing of this until one day he discovered that his little home was no longer as dark as it had been. A little ray of light crept down between the sticks. Presently another little ray of light crept down between the sticks.
It was then that Whitefoot began to grow anxious. It was then he realized that that pile of wood was growing smaller and smaller, and if it kept on growing smaller, by and by there wouldn't be any pile of wood and his little home wouldn't be hidden at all. Of course Whitefoot didn't understand why that wood was slipping away. In spite of himself he began to grow suspicious. He couldn't think of any reason why that wood should be taken away, unless it was to look for his little home. Farmer Brown's boy was just as kind and friendly as ever, but all the time more and more light crept in, as the wood vanished.
"Oh dear, what does it mean?" cried Whitefoot to himself. "They must be looking for my home, yet they have been so good to me that it is hard to believe they mean any harm. I do hope they will stop taking this wood away. I won't have any hiding-place at all, and then I will have to go outside back to my old home in the hollow stump. I don't want to do that. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! I was so happy and now I am so worried! Why can't happy times last always?"CHAPTER 5
The End of Whitefoot's Worries
You never can tell! You never can tell!
Things going wrong will often end well.
THE next time you meet him just ask Whitefoot if this isn't so. Things had been going very wrong for Whitefoot. It had begun to look to Whitefoot as if he would no longer have a snug, hidden little home in Farmer Brown's sugar-house. The pile of wood under which he had made that snug little home was disappearing so fast that it began to look as if in a little while there would be no wood at all.
Whitefoot quite lost his appetite. He no longer came out to take food from Farmer Brown's boy's hand. He stayed right in his snug little home and worried.
Now Farmer Brown's boy had not once thought of the trouble he was making. He wondered what had become of Whitefoot, and in his turn he began to worry. He was afraid that something had happened to his little friend. He was thinking of this as he fed the sticks of wood to the fire for boiling the sap to make syrup and sugar. Finally, as he pulled away two big sticks, he saw something that made him whistle with surprise. It was Whitefoot's nest which he had so cleverly hidden way down underneath that pile of wood when he had first moved into the sugar-house. With a frightened little squeak, Whitefoot ran out, scurried across the little sugar-house and out through the open door.
Farmer Brown's boy understood. He understood perfectly that little people like Whitefoot want their homes hidden away in the dark. "Poor little chap," said Farmer Brown's boy. "He had a regular castle here and we have destroyed it. He's got the snuggest kind of a little nest here, but he won't come back to it so long as it is right out in plain sight. He probably thinks we have been hunting for this little home of his. Hello! Here's his storehouse! I've often wondered how the little rascal could eat so much, but now I understand. He stored away here more than half of the good things I have given him. I am glad he did. If he hadn't, he might not come back, but I feel sure that to-night, when all is quiet, he will come back to take away all his food. I must do something to keep him here."
Farmer Brown's boy sat down to think things over. Then he got an old box and made a little round hole in one end of it. Very carefully he took up Whitefoot's nest and placed it under the old box in the darkest corner of the sugar-house. Then he carried all Whitefoot's supplies over there and put them under the box. He went outside, and got some branches of hemlock and threw these in a little pile over the box. After this he scattered some crumbs just outside.
Late that night Whitefoot did come back. The crumbs led him to the old box. He crept inside. There was his snug little home! All in a second Whitefoot understood, and trust and happiness returned.CHAPTER 6
A Very Careless Jump
WHITEFOOT once more was happy. When he found his snug little nest and his store of food under that old box in the darkest corner of Farmer Brown's sugar-house, he knew that Farmer Brown's boy must have placed them there. It was better than the old place under the woodpile. It was the best place for a home Whitefoot ever had had. It didn't take him long to change his mind about leaving the little sugar-house. Somehow he seemed to know right down inside that his home would not again be disturbed.
So he proceeded to rearrange his nest and to put all his supplies of food in one corner of the old box. When everything was placed to suit him he ventured out, for now that he no longer feared Farmer Brown's boy he wanted to see all that was going on. He liked to jump up on the bench where Farmer Brown's boy sometimes sat. He would climb up to where Farmer Brown's boy's coat hung and explore the pockets of it. Once he stole Farmer Brown's boy's handkerchief. He wanted it to add to the material his nest was made of. Farmer Brown's boy discovered it just as it was disappearing, and how he laughed as he pulled it away.
So, what with eating and sleeping and playing about, secure in the feeling that no harm could come to him, Whitefoot was happier than ever before in his little life. He knew that Farmer Brown's boy and Farmer Brown and Bowser the Hound were his friends. He knew, too, that so long as they were about, none of his enemies would dare come near. This being so, of course there was nothing to be afraid of. No harm could possibly come to him. At least, that is what Whitefoot thought.
But you know, enemies are not the only dangers to watch out for. Accidents will happen. When they do happen, it is very likely to be when the possibility of them is farthest from your thoughts. Almost always they are due to heedlessness or carelessness. It was heedlessness that got Whitefoot into one of the worst mishaps of his whole life.
He had been running and jumping all around the inside of the little sugar-house. He loves to run and jump, and he had been having just the best time ever. Finally Whitefoot ran along the old bench and jumped from the end of it for a box standing on end, which Farmer Brown's boy sometimes used to sit on. It wasn't a very long jump, but somehow Whitefoot misjudged it. He was heedless, and he didn't jump quite far enough. Right beside that box was a tin pail half filled with sap. Instead of landing on the box, Whitefoot landed with a splash in that pail of sap.
Excerpted from Whitefoot the Wood Mouse by THORNTON W. BURGESS, JANET BAINE KOPITO, Harrison Cady. Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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