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HERE were only three persons sitting by the
fire, old Jacob and the miller's two children, Xavier and little Mary. The children would not let the old man have any peace till he
consented to tell them each a story. The first he told was for Xavier, a rosy-cheeked lad, of eight years old. He began thus :
“ Last summer, there was in that large fir tree, which stands above the church, and leans back among the rocks and hazel bushes, a large nest with a roof to it, and in this nest there were three young squirrels. One day, the mother brought them some juicy fir-cones to eat, and then seated herself outside the nest upon a long crooked branch to wash her face with her fore-feet. While she was thus employed a large falcon dropped, like a great stone out of the sky; pounced upon her, snatched her up in his talons, and carried her off to the nearest rock, where he ate her for his breakfast. He ate her up, every morsel, so that nothing remained of the poor little squirrel, but her bushy tail, and that was carried down by the wind into the village street, where it was picked up by little Xavier.”
Xavier remembered picking up a squirrel's tail, but he never thought it belonged to that squirrel. Jacob went
The old mother was now gone for ever; and what was to become of the poor little ones? As they had not seen what the falcon had done, they could not imagine why their mother did not bring them nuts as she used to do, and they did not dare to come down from the tall tree to look after her, because as yet they had not learned to climb.
“Whilst they were in great distress for something to eat, there came a mighty tempest of wind, which blew the tiles off the houses as if they had been bits of paper. It rushed with such terrible violence upon the fir-tree, that it must have been broken off, if its roots had not become loosened. As soon as this happened, it yielded to the tempest, and was blown down in a slanting position, with its great head bowed towards the ground. If the tempest had come in another direction, it would have blown it down into the valley, and then it would have knocked down the church steeple, and the little squirrels would have been hurled out of the nest and killed. As it was, however, the wind forced it between the rocks, right among the hazel bushes, and the young squirrels, as soon as they had recovered their fright, and could get courage to look out of the nest, saw that there were plenty of nut bushes all round them, so that they had now nothing to do but to eat.
“ These hazel nuts, with which the bushes were full, agreed so well with the young squirrels, that in a very short time they were able to leave the fir tree, and leap from one rock to another.
“Before long, however, autumn came, and as the time
went on, cold wintry blasts began to blow, and when the first snow fell, they discovered, to their perplexity, that their jackets were much too thin for the approaching season. The little squirrels, however, did not know of any tailor to whom they could go to order warmer winter suits, or over coats, and if they had known of such a one, they had no money to pay for them. In this their great trouble, what did the little things do, but seat themselves on the bare branch of a larch, and pray silently. The eldest prayed in this way, and the prayers of the others were very like his : “O good Father,' he said, we are almost starved to
we shiver with cold. Give us warmer clothing. Thou didst preserve us alive when the great fir tree fell, and hast continued to feed us, although our mother brought us nothing. Oh, give us, now also, warmer clothing!
“ And their prayer could not have been in vain, for when I and your father were yesterday bringing up hay from the lower barn, what should we see but the little squirrels sporting about in the branches of a pine tree, with new fur jackets on, as thick and warm as our alderman's wadded cloak. And when they want any thing again, I know very well from whom they will ask it. Do not you know, little Mary?”
“Oh, yes," replied the little girl, and clasped her hands,
they will ask it from our Father, in Heaven ; He takes care of the little sparrows also. And as He heard the little squirrels, He will certainly hear me when I pray to Him."
“ To be sure He will,” said old Jacob, “ especially as you are a good little girl.
The little girl now looked earnestly up at the old man, and asked him to tell her a story, as he had told Xavier