VIII. The Basket of Corn
 

"What are those nuts on the top shelf?" Sandy Chipmunk asked Uncle Sammy Coon.

Now, Uncle Sammy had been keeping store so short a time that he didn't exactly know what was on every one of his shelves. So he wheeled around and looked up. And as soon as his back was turned, Sandy Chipmunk reached down under the table and pulled an ear of corn out of the big basket.

"They're butternuts," Uncle Sammy said. "And they're the same price as the beechnuts."

"Give me one handful," Sandy said.

"Give you a handful--" Uncle Sammy snapped.

But Sandy Chipmunk smiled at him.

"I mean, sell me a handful," he explained. "And here's your ear of corn." It really was Uncle Sammy's ear of corn, you know--just as Sandy said.

But Uncle Sammy didn't know that. He didn't know it had come out of his own basket. So he threw it into the basket and set a handful of butternuts before Sandy Chipmunk.

Sandy was longer eating those, for the shells were harder and thicker than the beechnut shells. But in a little while he was ready for more.

"How about your chestnuts?" he asked.

And Uncle Sammy turned his back again.

"I have a few," he said.

"I'll buy a handful," Sandy told him, as he pulled another ear of corn out of the basket.

And after that Sandy bought hickory nuts and hazelnuts and walnuts.

"How about peanuts?" he asked then. "I've never eaten any; but I've heard they are very good."

Uncle Sammy stood up and searched his shelves very carefully. And while he was searching, Sandy Chipmunk took six ears of green corn out of the big basket under the table.

"I don't seem to have any peanuts," Uncle Sammy Coon said at last.

"Well--have you any nutmegs?" Sandy inquired.

And while Uncle Sammy was looking for nutmegs, Sandy Chipmunk slyly took six more ears from the basket. He had more corn now than he could carry. So he quickly tossed it out through the doorway.

Uncle Sammy Coon had to admit at last that he had no nutmegs. But Sandy kept him busy hunting for almonds and Brazil nuts and pecans, though he knew well enough that nothing of the sort grew in those woods.

By the time Uncle Sammy stopped looking there was no more corn left in his basket. But there was a great pile of corn on the ground just outside his door, where Sandy Chipmunk had thrown it.

Then Sandy said he must be going. And long before Uncle Sammy stirred out of his house Sandy had carried the corn away and hid it in a good, safe place. He thought that if he left it to dry it would make just as good food for winter as the wheat Uncle Sammy had eaten. And that was just what happened.

That night, long after Sandy Chipmunk had left the store, Uncle Sammy Coon had a great surprise. When he went to the basket, to get some green corn for his supper, there was not a single ear there.

"That's queer!" Uncle Sammy Coon exclaimed. "It was full this afternoon. And now there's not an ear left. I don't remember eating it." He thought deeply for a long time. And after a while he said to himself: "I wonder if it could have been that Chipmunk boy?" But he decided that Sandy was too small to have carried away all those big ears under his very nose. "I must have eaten it," he told himself. "I'm getting terribly forgetful."

And since he thought he had already had his supper, Uncle Sammy Coon went to bed without any supper at all.