VI. Samples of Wheat
 

There was so much said about Sandy Chipmunk's store of nuts and grain that a few of the forest-people began to wish they had some of Sandy's winter food for themselves. Uncle Sammy Coon, an old scamp who lived over near the swamp, was one of those who began to plan to get Sandy's hoard away from him.

It was the grain that Uncle Sammy wanted. If he had spent in honest work one-half the time he used in planning some trickery he would have been much better off. But he hated work more than anything else in the world.

Uncle Sammy Coon scarcely slept at all for several days, he was so busy thinking about Sandy's grain. And since he always passed his nights in wandering through the woods, he became almost ill.

The trouble was, Uncle Sammy was far too big to crawl inside Sandy's house. And he knew that the only way he could get at the grain was to persuade somebody to bring it outside for him.

At last he thought of a fine scheme. And as soon as it came into his head he hobbled over to Sandy Chipmunk's home. I say hobbled, because Uncle Sammy had a lame knee. He always claimed that he was injured in battle. But almost every one knew that he hurt his knee one time when Farmer Green caught him stealing a hen.

When he reached the pasture Uncle Sammy found Sandy Chipmunk just starting away to hunt for nuts.

"Good morning!" the old fellow said. He spoke very pleasantly, though he was so sleepy that he felt disagreeable enough. "I've come over to buy something from your store."

"My store!" Sandy Chipmunk exclaimed.

"Yes!" said Uncle Sammy Coon. "I've heard you have a store here with a heap of nuts and grain to sell."

Now, it had never occurred to Sandy Chipmunk to sell any of the food he had gathered for the winter. But when Uncle Sammy put the idea in his head Sandy rather liked it.

"I have a fine stock, to be sure," he said. "The nuts are specially good. How many would you like to buy?"

But Uncle Sammy Coon told him he didn't want any nuts.

"I never eat them," he said. "It's grain that I want. And I'll buy as much as you care to sell.... Bring a sample of it up here," he urged. "I'd like to see if it's as good as people say."

So Sandy Chipmunk darted into his house. And soon he appeared again with his cheek-pouches crammed full of wheat kernels.

"There!" he cried, when he had dropped the grain in front of Uncle Sammy. "Just try a little of it! You'll agree with me that it's very fine."

Uncle Sammy not only tried a little. He gobbled up every single kernel.

"It seems to me to have a queer taste," he said. "Bring up some more!"

And Sandy scurried down into his house again, to bob up in a few moments with another sample of his grain.

Once more Uncle Sammy ate it all.

"It's a bit damp," he remarked, as he smacked his lips. "I hope it's not moldy.... You'd better let me see another sample."

Uncle Sammy declared the next heap of kernels to be altogether too dry. And he kept ordering Sandy to fetch more for him to "taste," as he called it. Some of the wheat he considered too ripe, and some too green. Some of the kernels--so he said--were too little, and others too big. And finally he even told Sandy Chipmunk that he was afraid Sandy was trying to sell him last year's wheat.

Now, Sandy knew that his wheat was fresh--all of it. So he went down and brought up still another load.

Uncle Sammy ate that more slowly, for by this time he had had a good meal.

"How do you like it?" Sandy asked him.

"It's fair," Uncle Sammy replied. "But I believe it's next year's wheat. And of course I wouldn't think of buying that kind.... I guess I can't trade with you, after all." And he started to hobble away.

When Sandy heard that, and saw the old fellow leaving, he began to scold.

"Aren't you going to pay me for what you've eaten?" he asked.

"What! Pay you for the samples?" Uncle Sammy asked. "I guess, young man, you don't know much about keeping a store. Nobody ever pays for samples." And he went away muttering to himself.

Sandy Chipmunk felt very sad. Uncle Sammy had eaten half his winter's supply of wheat.

Sandy was angry, too. And for several days he was busier than ever, trying to think of some way in which he could make Uncle Sammy Coon pay him.