IX. Working for Mr. Crow
 

Old Mr. Crow had decided that he would not fly south to spend the winter. He said he was getting almost too old for such a long journey. And he remembered, too, that he had heard the weather was going to be mild that winter.

"There's just one thing that worries me," he told Aunt Polly Woodchuck one day, when he was talking the matter over with her. "I don't know what I shall have to eat."

"Why, you can sleep until spring, just as I do," Aunt Polly said. "Then you won't want anything to eat."

But Mr. Crow said he was a light sleeper and that he could no more sleep the whole winter long than Aunt Polly could fly.

"Then why don't you store up some corn, the way the squirrels do?" she asked him. There was one thing about Aunt Polly--she always had a remedy for everything.

"That's a good idea!" Mr. Crow told her. "Maybe I can get somebody to help me, too."

And that very day he went to Sandy Chipmunk and asked him if he didn't want to gather some food for him.

"How much will you pay me?" Sandy asked him.

"I'll give you half what you gather for me," said Mr. Crow. "And that's certainly fair, I'm sure. It's often done. And it's called 'working at the halves.'"

It seemed fair to Sandy Chipmunk, too.

"That's a bargain," he said. "I'll begin right away. Where do you want me to hide the food for you, Mr. Crow?"

Old Mr. Crow told Sandy to put it in his house in the top of the tall elm tree.

"I don't like to climb so high," Sandy objected. "You know I'm not so good a climber as Frisky Squirrel. He wouldn't mind climbing up to your house. But it might make me dizzy."

"Well," said Mr. Crow, "why don't you bring the food to the foot of my tree and get Frisky Squirrel to carry it to the top?"

"I'll do it," said Sandy Chipmunk--"if Frisky is willing." So he went off to find Frisky Squirrel, who proved to be much interested in the plan.

"How much will you pay me?" he asked Sandy Chipmunk.

"I suppose you ought to have half the food," Sandy said. "That's what Mr. Crow is paying me."

Frisky Squirrel said that that seemed fair. So they set to work at once. And every time Sandy brought a load of food to the foot of the tall elm, where Mr. Crow lived, he found Frisky Squirrel waiting for him.

"Let's see--" Frisky said, when Sandy brought the first load--"since I'm to get half, I'll take everything you bring in your left cheek-pouch. And you can take what you bring in the right one."

Sandy Chipmunk said that that seemed fair. So each time he came to the elm he left with Frisky only what he carried in his left cheek-pouch. And before gathering more food he scampered home to store away his own share.

So the day passed. And when evening came, and the sun was dropping out of sight in the west, Sandy and Frisky decided they had worked long enough for Mr. Crow.

"Don't you suppose he has enough food by this time?" Sandy asked. He looked up at Mr. Crow's house. "We mustn't fill his house too full," he said. "He has to have room for himself, you know."

"I don't think he'll have any trouble getting inside it," Frisky Squirrel answered.

"Well--I'm glad you helped me," Sandy told him. "If it didn't make me dizzy to climb so high I'd like to take a look at Mr. Crow's food. I hope he'll be pleased."

"I hope he will," Frisky Squirrel agreed.

Sandy Chipmunk noticed that Frisky Squirrel was smiling. But he thought that it was only because he was thinking about Mr. Crow, and how happy he would be.

"Let's wait here till he comes home," Sandy suggested.

But Frisky Squirrel said that he was going to bed early that night, because he expected to have a race with the sun the next morning.

"I'm going to try to beat him," he explained. "I'm going to see if I can't get up before he does."

So Frisky said good-night and left Sandy to wait for Mr. Crow alone.