PROFESSOR CHIPMUNK'S SURPRISING ADVENTURE
THE oak-tree selected by the committee was excellently adapted to the purpose, being deep in the woods, shady, and yet not so thickly leaved as to obstruct the audience's view of the sky, in case of hawks or other unruly members of society.
Professor A. Chipmunk, though a little dingy in coloring and somewhat thin, as indeed was natural considering his experiences, appeared to be fully conscious of the importance of the occasion and ready to do his best.
Precisely at noon he climbed to his place on one of the smaller branches, took a dainty sip of rain-water from an acorn-cup, waved his tail gracefully to the audience, and began:
Quadrupeds And Bipeds:
Your committee has told me that there is much curiosity among you in regard to my experiences during my recent captivity in the hands of that grasping and selfish race which converts our happy woodlands into desolate farms, and prefers to the sprightly and interesting dwellers of the woods the overfed and stupid slaves of the farm-yard. For the benefit of my younger hearers, I will say plainly that I refer to the ordinary Homo, commonly known as Man. [Applause.]
Most of you know that it was my misfortune to fall into the clutches of these strange animals, and my good fortune to return again to my bereaved family, and to you, my neighbors. And I am sure I can find no more fitting occasion than the present to thank you all for having supplied my wife and children with acorns and walnuts during my absence. But for the sake of the few who may not know how it was that I became the prisoner of the slow-moving animals to which I have already referred, I will explain that I entered, in the interests of science, a sort of inclosure or artificial burrow known in their tongue as a "trap." My purpose in entering the inclosure was to ascertain whether it was a safe place for a squirrel to reside, and I am quite convinced by my experience that it is not. The trap is commodious, dark, and well sheltered; but it has the serious defect that the entrance does not always remain open. Indeed, in the case of the one I examined, no sooner had I entered it than something fell over the end, shutting out the light. As it fell I heard a peculiar sound from a bush near by, sounding like "Igothiim."
Some of you may ask why I did not push aside the obstruction and escape. The same thought occurred to me; but, no matter how hard I pushed, it would not move. I then began to gnaw my way out, when a remarkable thing occurred. You have many of you been upon a branch when it was violently swayed by the wind. In the same way did this trap behave. It seemed to be raised from the ground and to be shaken violently; so violently, in fact, that I had to cease my attempts at gnawing my way out.This continued for quite a time, and when it ceased the cover was opened. Glad to escape, I sprang through the opening. But, to my surprise, I found I was not free. I found myself in another inclosure made of thin, straight twigs, without bark, and harder than any wood. I think I may say without presumption that my teeth are as good as those of any rodent who may be present, but try as I might, I could make no impression upon even the smallest of those cold gray twigs.
[At this moment two blue-jays in one of the upper branches, who had already been chattering in rather an audible tone, burst into a peal of mocking laughter. A king-bird flew at them, and gave them a good pecking, whereupon they flew away toward the swamp, and the indignant audience settled down again and begged the professor to go on.]
As I picked up a few words of their language, I can inform you that this contrivance was called a "cage" and seemed to have been made for the purpose of retaining such wood-dwellers as might fall into these creatures' power.
Several of the young animals gathered around it and examined me closely, apparently to determine whether I was good to eat. Indeed, the youngest of them—what they call a "Polly"—tried to seize a piece of my tail, but was prevented by the older and greedier ones.
They seemed to think that I was not fat enough to be eaten, for they furnished me a variety of food. Among the things offered were bits of apple, a kind of sweet stone they called "sugar," which was like very clean ice or hard snow, a dusty sort of dry stuff known to them as "crackers" and a few very poor walnuts. Of course I did not feel like eating; but they would not leave me alone. They poked me with bits of stick until, seeing a good opportunity, I bit the young animal called a Polly on the end of one of her soft claws. Then she wanted to hurt me; but a larger one of the animals, known as a "Papa" interfered, and tied a soft white leaf around her claw, probably so that she might not scratch me.
By this time I heard a curious jingling sound, and I was soon left alone.
This jingling sound was evidently of much importance to these curious creatures. I heard it always in the morning, at about mid-day, and after dark; and whenever it was heard, the animals, big and little, would leave me for a time long enough to eat perhaps a dozen hickory nuts.
Every part of the cage was comfortable and quiet, except one. That was a movable place into which I could crawl; but as soon as I was in it, it would slide from under my feet. But no sooner did I slide from one part than I found another beneath my feet. It was very curious. They called it a "wheel."
Except the continued staring and poking, nothing was clone to me the first day. The queer creatures did not do any work, but rested most of the time on strange contrivances that seemed made of dead branches of trees. They chattered together now and then, but spent longer periods in gazing upon bundles of white leaves, which they turned over, examining each leaf carefully. I made up my mind they were looking for some small insect among these leaves.
I wondered whether they liked to stay shut up in their hollow homes, for they could get out into the woods if they chose. Their homes are not unpleasant in the daytime. But, at night, there was a great slamming and banging, the lights were suddenly taken away, just as the moonlight ends when a black cloud goes over the moon, and the whole place in which they lived became dark.
Then how I suffered! The air became very heavy and close. I could not sleep. The hole in which these queer animals sleep was terribly warm and oppressive, and I longed to be in the woods again.
When the light returned, the jingling sound was repeated, the Papa and the Polly and the rest entered the big hollow where I was, and repeated a form of words until I was able to remember it. They said, "Good morning, Papa" "Good morning, Polly" and then went out of the hollow.
After another long time, a third one of them came in and looked very pleasantly at me. The Polly and the Papa came and stood looking in, too. Then the larger one said some words to the others, and repeated something like, "Lethimgo."
The Polly said, "Whymama!"
The other said again, "Lethimgo"
Then the cage was picked up and carried out of the hollow and into the field where they lived. Next the Polly worked over one side of the cage until she had made an opening in it.
Strange to say, none of them seemed to notice this opening, and of course I did not call their attention to the oversight. [Laughter.]
I waited until the Polly had run away to where the other creature stood, and then I made a quick jump through the opening, and away I went!
It did not take me long, I promise you, to make my way back to the woods, and since my return I have lived among you as usual.
My observations while in captivity may be summed up as follows:
I should advise you to avoid entering any of those peculiar square, hollow logs known as "traps," as it is much easier to enter them than to escape from them. I am sure few would be clever enough to escape as I did.
If you should be so unfortunate as to find yourself in a "cage,"—which, you remember, is made of hard gray twigs,—bite the soft claws of the creatures who poke you.
Do not eat the strange foods known as "crackers" or "candy" as they do not agree with any but men.
Large men are known as the "Papa" or "Oh-Papa," and the smaller ones as "Polly" or "Bobby." The worst kind, I believe, is the "Bobby," and the best and kindest seems to be the "Why-mama."
These curious creatures all have a means of putting out the stars and moon at night, and prefer to sleep in very hot and bad air. They also run away somewhere whenever they hear a jingle, which happens three times a day.
I thank you for your attention, and hope to be in my usual health soon.
After a vote of thanks the meeting adjourned, much impressed by the boldness and learning of Professor Chipmunk.