Juggerjook

★ Juggerjook Story :

“Oh, Mama!” cried Fuzzy Wuz, running into the burrow where her mother lay dozing, “may I go walking with Chatter Chuk?”

Mrs. Wuz opened one eye sleepily and looked at Fuzzy.

“If you are careful,” she said; “and don’t go near Juggerjook’s den; and watch the sun so as to get home before the shadows fall.”

“Yes, yes; of course,” returned Fuzzy, eagerly.

“And don’t let Chatter Chuk lead you into mischief,” continued Mrs. Wuz, rubbing one long ear with her paw lazily. “Those red squirrels are reckless things and haven’t much sense.”

“Chatter’s all right,” protested Fuzzy Wuz. “He’s the best friend I have in the forest. Good-by, Mother.”

“Is your face clean, Fuzzy?”

“I’ve just washed it, Mother.”

“With both paws, right and left?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Then run along and be careful.”

“Yes, Mother.”

Fuzzy turned and darted from the burrow, and in the bright sunshine outside sat Chatter Chuk on his hind legs, cracking an acorn.

“What’d she say, Fuz?” asked the red squirrel.

“All right, I can go, Chat. But I’ve got to be careful.”

As the white rabbit hopped away through the bushes and he glided along beside her, Chatter Chuk laughed.

“Your people are always careful, Fuz,” said he. “That’s why you see so little of the world, and lose all the fun in life.”

“I know,” replied Fuzzy, a little ashamed. “Father is always singing this song to me:

“Little Bunny, Don’t get funny; Run along and mind your eye; It’s the habit Of a rabbit To be diffident and shy.”

“We squirrels are different,” said Chatter Chuk, proudly. “We are always taught this song:

“Squirrel red, Go ahead! See the world, so bright and gay. For a rover May discover All that happens day by day.”

“Oh, if I could run up a tree, I shouldn’t be afraid, either,” remarked Fuzzy Wuz. “Even Juggerjook couldn’t frighten me then.”

“Kernels and shucks! Juggerjook!” cried Chatter Chuk, scornfully. “Who cares for him?”

“Don’t you fear him?” asked Fuzzy Wuz, curiously.

“Of course not,” said the squirrel. “My people often go to his den and leave nuts there.”

“Why, if you make presents to Juggerjook, of course he won’t hurt you,” returned the rabbit. “All the beasts carry presents to his den, so he will protect them from their enemies. The bears kill wolves and carry them to Juggerjook to eat; and the wolves kill foxes and carry them to Juggerjook, and the foxes kill rabbits for him. But we rabbits do not kill animals, so we cannot take Juggerjook anything to eat except roots and clover; and he doesn’t care much for those. So we are careful to keep away from his den.”

“Have you ever seen him or the place where he lives?” asked the squirrel.

“No,” replied Fuzzy Wuz.

“Suppose we go there now?”

“Oh, no! Mother said–”

“There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ve looked at the den often from the trees near by,” said Chatter Chuk. “I can lead you to the edge of the bushes close to his den, and he’ll never know we are near.”

“Mother says Juggerjook knows everything that goes on in the forest,” declared the rabbit, gravely.

“Your mother’s a ‘fraid-cat and trembles when a twig cracks,” said Chatter, with a careless laugh. “Why don’t you have a little spirit of your own, Fuzzy, and be independent?”

Fuzzy Wuz was quite young, and ashamed of being thought shy, so she said:

“All right, Chat. Let’s go take a peep at Juggerjook’s den.”

“We’re near it, now,” announced the squirrel. “Come this way; and go softly, Fuzzy Wuz, because Juggerjook has sharp ears.”

They crept along through the bushes some distance after that, but did not speak except in whispers. Fuzzy knew it was a bold thing to do. They had nothing to carry to the terrible Juggerjook, and it was known that he always punished those who came to his den without making him presents. But the rabbit relied upon Chatter Chuk’s promise that the tyrant of the forest would never know they had been near him. Juggerjook was considered a great magician, to be sure, yet Chatter Chuk was not afraid of him. So why should Fuzzy Wuz fear anything?

The red squirrel ran ahead, so cautiously that he made not a sound in the underbrush; and he skilfully picked the way so that the fat white rabbit could follow him. Presently he stopped short and whispered to his companion:

“Put your head through those leaves, and you will see Juggerjook’s den.”

Fuzzy Wuz obeyed. There was a wide clearing beyond the bushes, and at the farther side was a great rock with a deep cave in it. All around the clearing were scattered the bones and skulls of animals, bleached white by the sun. Just in front of the cave was quite a big heap of bones, and the rabbit shuddered as she thought of all the many creatures Juggerjook must have eaten in his time. What a fierce appetite the great magician must have!

The sight made the timid rabbit sick and faint. She drew back and hopped away through the bushes without heeding the crackling twigs or the whispered cautions of Chatter Chuk, who was now badly frightened himself.

When they had withdrawn to a safe distance the squirrel said peevishly:

“Oh, you foolish thing! Why did you make such a noise and racket?”

“Did I?” asked Fuzzy Wuz, simply.

“Indeed you did. And I warned you to be silent.”

“But it’s all right now. We’re safe from Juggerjook here,” she said.

“I’m not sure of that,” remarked the squirrel, uneasily. “One is never safe from punishment if he is discovered breaking the law. I hope the magician was asleep and did not hear us.”

“I hope so, too,” added the rabbit; and then they ran along at more ease, rambling through the forest paths and enjoying the fragrance of the woods and the lights and shadows cast by the sun as it peeped through the trees.

Once in a while they would pause while Fuzzy Wuz nibbled a green leaf or Chatter Chuk cracked a fallen nut in his strong teeth, to see if it was sound and sweet.

“It seems funny for me to be on the ground so long,” he said. “But I invited you to walk with me, and of course a rabbit can’t run up a tree and leap from limb to limb, as my people do.”

“That is true,” admitted Fuzzy; “nor can squirrels burrow in the ground, as rabbits do.”

“They have no need to,” declared the squirrel. “We find a hollow tree, and with our sharp teeth gnaw a hole through the shell and find a warm, dry home inside.”

“I’m glad you do,” remarked Fuzzy. “If all the animals burrowed in the ground there would not be room for us to hide from each other.”

Chatter laughed at this.

“The shadows are getting long,” he said. “If you wish to be home before sunset, we must start back.”

“Wait a minute!” cried the rabbit, sitting up and sniffing the air. “I smell carrots!”

“Never mind,” said the squirrel.

“Never mind carrots? Oh, Chatter Chuk! You don’t know how good they are.”

“Well, we haven’t any time to find them,” he replied. “For my part, I could run home in five minutes, but you are so clumsy it will take you an hour. Where are you going now?”

“Just over here,” said Fuzzy Wuz. “Those carrots can’t be far off.”

The squirrel followed, scolding a little because to him carrots meant nothing especially good to eat. And there, just beside the path, was an old coverless box raised on a peg, and underneath it a bunch of juicy, fat, yellow carrots.

There was room under the box for Fuzzy Wuz to creep in and get the carrots, and this she promptly did, while Chatter Chuk stood on his hind legs a short distance away and impatiently waited. But when the white rabbit nibbled the carrots, the motion pulled a string which jerked out the peg that held up the box, and behold, Fuzzy Wuz was a prisoner!

She squealed with fear and scratched at the sides of the box in a vain endeavor to find a way to escape; but escape was impossible unless some one lifted the box. The red squirrel had seen the whole mishap, and chattered angrily from outside at the plight of his captured friend. The white rabbit thought he must be far away, because the box shut out so much the sound of his voice.

“Juggerjook must have heard us, and this is part of his revenge,” said the squirrel. “Oh, dear! Oh, dear! I wonder what the great magician will do to me.”

He was so terrified by this thought that Chatter Chuk took flight and darted home at his best speed. He lived in a tree very near to the burrow where Mrs. Wuz resided, but the squirrel did not go near the rabbit-burrow. The sun was already sinking in the west, so he ran into his nest and pretended to sleep when his mother asked him where he had been so late.

All night Mrs. Wuz waited for Fuzzy, and it was an anxious and sleepless night for the poor mother, as you may well believe. Fuzzy was her one darling, several other children having been taken from her in various ways soon after their birth. Mr. Wuz had gone to attend a meeting of the Rabbits’ Protective Association and might be absent for several days; so he was not there to help or counsel her.

When daybreak came, the mother rabbit ran to the foot of the squirrels’ tree and called:

“Chatter Chuk! Chatter Chuk! Where is my Fuzzy Wuz? Where is my darling child?”

Chatter Chuk was too frightened to answer until his mother made him. Then he ran down to the lowest limb of the tree and sat there while he talked.

“We went walking,” he said, “and Fuzzy found some carrots under a box that was propped up with a peg. I told her not to eat them; but she did, and the peg fell out and made her a prisoner.”

You see, he did not mention Juggerjook at all, yet he knew the magician was at the bottom of all the trouble.

But Mrs. Wuz knew rabbit-traps quite well, being old and experienced; so she begged the red squirrel to come at once and show her the place where Fuzzy had been caught.

“There isn’t a moment to lose,” she said, “for the trappers will be out early this morning to see what they have captured in their trap.”

Chatter Chuk was afraid to go, having a guilty conscience; but his mother made him. He led the way timidly, but swiftly, and Mrs. Wuz fairly flew over the ground, so anxious was she to rescue her darling.

The box was in the same place yet, and poor Fuzzy Wuz could be heard moaning feebly inside it.

“Courage, my darling!” cried the mother, “I have come to save you.”

First she tried to move the box, but it was too heavy for her to stir. Then she began scratching away the earth at its edge, only to find that it had been placed upon a big, flat stone, to prevent a rabbit from burrowing out.

This discovery almost drove her frantic, until she noticed Chatter Chuk, who stood trembling near by.

“Here!” she called; “it was you who led my child into trouble. Now you must get her out.”

“How?” asked the red squirrel.

“Gnaw a hole in that box–quick! Gnaw faster than you ever did before in your life. See! the box is thinnest at this side. Set to work at once, Chatter Chuk!”

The red squirrel obeyed. The idea of saving his friend was as welcome to him as it was to the distracted mother. He was young, and his teeth were as sharp as needles. So he started at the lower edge and chewed the wood with all his strength and skill, and at every bite the splinters came away.

It was a good idea. Mrs. Wuz watched him anxiously. If only the men would keep away for a time, the squirrel could make a hole big enough for Fuzzy Wuz to escape. She crept around the other side of the box and called to the prisoner: “Courage, dear one! We are trying to save you. But if the men come before Chatter Chuk can make a hole big enough, then, as soon as they raise the box, you must make a dash for the bushes. Run before they can put in their hands to seize you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mother,” replied Fuzzy, but her voice wasn’t heard very plainly, because the squirrel was making so much noise chewing the wood.

Presently Chatter Chuk stopped.

“It makes my teeth ache,” he complained.

“Never mind, let them ache,” replied Mrs. Wuz. “If you stop now, Fuzzy will die; and if she dies, I will go to Juggerjook and tell him how you led my child into trouble.”

The thought of Juggerjook made the frightened squirrel redouble his efforts. He forgot the pain in his teeth and gnawed as no other squirrel had ever gnawed before. The ground was covered with tiny splinters from the box, and now the hole was big enough for the prisoner to put the end of her nose through and beg him to hurry.

Chatter Chuk was intent on his task, and the mother was intent upon watching him, so neither noticed any one approaching, until a net fell over their heads, and a big voice cried, with a boisterous laugh:

“Caught! and neat as a pin, too!”

Chatter Chuk and Mrs. Wuz struggled in the net with all their might, but it was fast around them, and they were helpless to escape. Fuzzy stuck her nose out of the hole in the box to find out what was the matter, and a sweet, childish voice exclaimed: “There’s another in the trap, Daddy!”

Neither the rabbits nor the squirrel understood this strange language; but all realized they were in the power of dreadful Man and gave themselves up for lost.

Fuzzy made a dash the moment the box was raised; but the trapper knew the tricks of rabbits, so the prisoner only dashed into the same net where her mother and Chatter Chuk were confined.

“Three of them! Two rabbits and a squirrel. That’s quite a haul, Charlie,” said the man.

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