THE TALE OF SQUIRREL NUTKIN
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.
had a little sack and a large oar, and spread out his tail for a
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.
Twinkleberry and the other little squirrels each made a low bow,
and said politely--
Brown, will you favour us with permission to gather nuts upon
But Nutkin was
excessively impertinent in his manners. He bobbed up and down
like a little red cherry, singing -
"Riddle me, riddle
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
He shut his
eyes obstinately and went to sleep.
The squirrels fill
their little sacks with nuts, and sailed away home in the
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-
Brown, will you favor 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 -
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
"A house full, a hole full!
And you cannot gather a bowl-full!"
searched for nuts 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
On the third
day the squirrels got up very early and went fishing; they
caught seven fat minnows as a present for Old Brown.
over the lake and landed under a crooked chestnut-tree on Owl
and six other little squirrels each carried a fat minnow; but
Nutkin, who had no nice manners, brought no present at all. He
ran in front singing -
"The man in the
wilderness said to me,
'How many strawberries grow in the sea?'
I answered him as I thought good -
'As many red herrings as grow in the wood.' "
But Old Mr.
Brown took no interest in riddles - not even when the answer was
provided for him.
On the fourth
day the squirrels brought a present of six fat beetles, which
were as good as plums in plum-pudding for Old Brown.
Each beetle was wrapped up carefully in a dockleaf, fastened
with a pine-needle pin.
But Nutkin sang
as rudely as ever -
"Old Mr. B.!
Flour of England, fruit of Spain,
Met together in a shower of rain;
Put in a bag tied round with a string,
If you'll tell me this riddle I'll give you a ring!"
ridiculous of Nutkin, because he had not got any ring to give to
squirrels hunted up and down the nut bushes; but Nutkin gathered
robin's pin-cushions off a briar bush, and stuck them full of
On the fifth
day the squirrels brought a present of wild honey; it was so
sweet and sticky that they licked their fingers as they put it
dwn upon the stone. They had stolen it out of a bumble bees'
nest on the tippitty top of the hill.
skipped up and down, singing -
buzz! Hum-a-bum buzz!
As I went over Tipple-tine
I met a flock of of bonny swine;
Some yellow-nacked, some yellow backed!
They were the very bonniest swine
That e'er went over Tipple-tine."
Old Mr. Brown
turned up his eyes in disgust at the impertinence of Nutkin.
But he ate up
filled their little sacks with nuts.
But Nutkin sat
upon a big flat rock, and played ninepins with a crab apple and
On the sixth
day, which was Saturday, the squirrels came again for the last
time; they brought a new laid egg in a little rush
basket as a last parting present for Old Brown.
But Nutkin ran
in front laughing, and shouting -
"Humpty Dumpty lies
in the beck,
With a white counterpane round his neck,
Forty doctors and forty wrights
Cannot put Humpty Dumpty to rights!"
Now Old Mr.
Brown took an interest in eggs; he opened one eye and shut it
again. But still he did not speak.
more and more impertinent -
Old Mr. B! Old Mr. B!
Hickamore, Hackamore, on the King's kitchen door;
All the King's horses, and all the King's men,
Couldn't drive Hickamore, Hackamore,
Off the King's kitchen door."
up and down like a sunbeam, but still Old Brown said
nothing at all.
"Arthur O'Bower has
broken his band,
He comes roaring up the land!
The King of Scots with all his power,
Cannot turn Arthur of the Bower!"
Nutkin made a
whirring noise to sound like the wind, and he took a
running jump right onto the head of Old Brown!....
Then all at
once there was a flutterment and a scufflement and a loud
squirrels scuttered away into the bushes.
When they came
back very cautiously peeping round the tree - there was Old
Brown sitting on his door-step, quite still, with his eyes
closed, as if nothing had happened.
* * * * * *
was in his wasitcoat pocket!
This looks like the end of the
story; but it isn't.
carried Nutkin into his house, and held him up by the tail,
intending to skin him; but Nutkin pulled so very hard that his
tail broke in two, and he dashed up the staircase and escaped
out of the attic window.
And to this day
if you meet Nutkin up a tree and ask him a riddle, he will throw
sticks at you and stamp his feet and scold, and shout -
u c k - cuck-cuck-cur-r-r cuck-k-k!"