The poor squirrel
Wells, in Norfolk, lies at the edge of a marsh, a mile and a quarter back from the sea. It has for a harbor a creek which, at full tide, is deep enough to allow small vessels to come up to the town.
Near the mouth of the creek is a row of tall guiding-poles in the water. One afternoon, a fisherman noticed a squirrel sitting bunched up on the top of the most distant pole, about thirty feet above the water.
The little animal had come through the pine wood on the sand hills on the west side of the creek; then, wishing to continue his travels eastward along the shore and over towards Blakeley, he had cast himself into the water.
Finding the current too strong, he had just saved himself from been carried out to sea by climbing up the last pole.
Now the current was the other way, and the creek was full from bank to bank, so the poor squirrel on his pole-top was in the middle of the swirling waters.
The fisherman went home to his tea; but two hours later, just about sunset, he strolled back to the sea-front, and there still sat the squirrel, bunched up on the top of his pole.
Presently a fishing-boat, in which was a young man, came in from the sea. The fisherman hailed the young man, and called his attention to the squirrel on the pole.
'All right; I see him! 'The boatman shouted back. 'I'll try to get him off! '
Then, as the swirling current carried the boat up to within about three yards of the pole, the young man leaned forward and thrust out an oar, until the blade touched the pole.
No sooner had it touched than down, like lightning, came the squirrel from his perch. He leaped upon the oar, and from the oar to the boat, then quickly bounded up the mast and perched himself on the top.
The boat went swiftly on, driven by the rushing tide, until it reached the quay at Wells. No sooner did the keel touch the stones at the landing-stage than down the squirrel flew from the mast-top.
Rushing to the bow, the little creature took a flying leap to the land, and then dashed off towards the town at topmost speed.
A number of children playing on the quay saw him, and with a wild cry of ' Squirrel! Squirrel! 'Went after him. Luckily there was no dog about; and the squirrel, being faster than the boys, kept well ahead.
He dodged this way and that among coal-trucks, wagons, horses, and men busy in unloading boats; then, crossing the coast road, he dashed into one of the narrow streets which run up to the higher part of the town.
There more yelling children joined the hunt, and the people of the street ran out of their houses to find out what all the uproar was about.
Facing the top of the street is a long brick wall ten feet high. Up this wall went the squirrel without a pause or slip, as swiftly as when going over the level earth. He disappeared over the top into the orchard on the other side, where the loud advancing wave of children was kept back by a cliff.
It had been a breathless chase, and the squirrel could now have settled safely down in that sheltered spot among the fruit trees, for the owner, who lived like a hermit in the house, was friendly to all wild creatures, and allowed neither dogs nor cats nor boys with loud halloo and brutal noise to enter his grounds.
Yet this would not have suited the squirrel. The town noises and lights and the shrill cries of children at play in the evening would have kept him in a constant state of fear, for squirrels are timid creatures.
When the town was asleep and silent that night, he climbed the back-wall and crossed other orchards and gardens until he came out to the old unkempt hedge on that side, and followed it all the way to Oldham Park, with its many noble trees in one of which, perhaps, he was born.
And there, at home once more, he no doubt decided, like the Discontented Squirrel of the fable, never again to try