XV. The Rowdy of the Woods

One of the most quarrelsome of all Sandy Chipmunk's neighbors was Rowdy Red-Squirrel. He was happiest when he was fighting. But perhaps that was because he had never lost a fight. If Rowdy had had a sound beating, maybe fighting would not have seemed so pleasant to him.

Ever since Rowdy whipped Frisky Squirrel, who (being a gray squirrel) was bigger than he was, Rowdy bullied every squirrel in the neighborhood--no matter what color he might be. As for chipmunks, Rowdy Red-Squirrel boasted that he could whip six chipmunks at a time.

"That is, I could if they would stand still," he said. "Of course, if they ran off in six different directions it might be a hard thing to do."

Rowdy was talking to Jasper Jay, who sat in a tree not far away. His boasting amused Jasper. First Jasper smiled. Then he laughed aloud. And after that he gave a hoarse shriek, which rang through the woods most unpleasantly. At least, that was what Rowdy Red-Squirrel thought.

"What's the joke?" he asked.

"The joke?" Jasper answered. "Why--ha! ha!--you are the joke! I don't believe you can whip one chipmunk. And when you talk of whipping six, I can't help laughing."

"You wouldn't laugh if I could catch you," Rowdy Red-Squirrel growled. And if he hadn't known that Jasper Jay would fly away, he would have jumped into Jasper's tree and chased him.

"You mustn't expect me to believe you can whip six until I've seen you whip one," Jasper went on. "There's Sandy Chipmunk in that beech tree. Why don't you steal over there and show me whether you can whip him?"

"I'll do it!" Rowdy cried. "Not that I find much pleasure in fighting a single chipmunk--for I can whip one with my hands tied behind me."

"Can you?" Jasper Jay asked. "Then let me see you tie your hands."

"I can't!" Rowdy Red-Squirrel replied. "Who ever heard of anybody who could tie his own hands behind him?... You will have to do that for me," he said.

Jasper Jay gave another loud shriek and rocked back and forth on the limb where he sat.

"Another joke!" he gasped--for he was too clever to be caught like that. He had no idea of going near enough to Rowdy Red-Squirrel to tie his hands behind his back.

"Well, I see I'll have to whip Sandy Chipmunk just as I am," Rowdy grumbled. "It won't be much fun for me."

"I don't believe it will," Jasper Jay agreed.

"After I whip him, you'll have to find six more chipmunks for me, if you want to see me fight them all at once," Rowdy Red-Squirrel told Jasper Jay.

"I'll do it--if you whip Sandy," Jasper promised. And he laughed so hard that he almost tumbled off the limb.