A STORY FOR NORAH
This is a Tale about a tail—a tail that belonged to a little red squirrel, and his name was Nutkin.
He had a brother called Twinkleberry, and a great many cousins: they lived in a wood at the edge of a lake.
In the middle of the lake there is an island covered with trees and nut bushes; and amongst those trees stands a hollow oak-tree, which is the house of an owl who is called Old Brown.
One autumn when the nuts were ripe, and the leaves on the hazel bushes were golden and green—Nutkin and Twinkleberry and all the other little squirrels came out of the wood, and down to the edge of the lake.
They made little rafts out of twigs, and they paddled away over the water to Owl Island to gather nuts.
Each squirrel had a little sack and a large oar, and spread out his tail for a sail.
They also took with them an offering of three fat mice as a present for Old Brown, and put them down upon his door-step.
Then Twinkleberry and the other little squirrels each made a low bow, and said politely—
"Old Mr. Brown, will you favour us with permission to gather nuts upon your island?"
But Nutkin was excessively impertinent in his manners. He bobbed up and down like a little red cherry, singing—
"Riddle me, riddle me, rot-tot-tote!A little wee man, in a red red coat!A staff in his hand, and a stone in his throat;If you'll tell me this riddle, I'll give you a groat."
Now this riddle is as old as the hills; Mr. Brown paid no attention whatever to Nutkin.
He shut his eyes obstinately and went to sleep.
The squirrels filled their little sacks with nuts, and sailed away home in the evening.
But next morning they all came back again to Owl Island; and Twinkleberry and the others brought a fine fat mole, and laid it on the stone in front of Old Brown's doorway, and said—
"Mr. Brown, will you favour us with your gracious permission to gather some more nuts?"
But Nutkin, who had no respect, began to dance up and down, tickling old Mr. Brown with a nettle and singing—
"Old Mr. B! Riddle-me-ree!Hitty Pitty within the wall,Hitty Pitty without the wall;If you touch Hitty Pitty,Hitty Pitty will bite you!"
Mr. Brown woke up suddenly and carried the mole into his house.
He shut the door in Nutkin's face. Presently a little thread of blue smoke from a wood fire came up from the top of the tree, and Nutkin peeped through the key-hole and sang—
"A house full, a hole full!And you cannot gather a bowl-full!"
The squirrels searched for nuts all over the island and filled their little sacks.
But Nutkin gathered oak-apples—yellow and scarlet—and sat upon a beech-stump playing marbles, and watching the door of old Mr. Brown.
On the third day the squirrels got up very early and went fishing; they caught seven fat minnows as a present for Old Brown.
They paddled over the lake and landed under a crooked chestnut tree on Owl Island.
Twinkleberry and six other little squirrels each carried a fat minnow; but Nutkin, who had no nice manners, brought no present at all....