The Adventures of a Little Chipmunk (ca. 1921)

I should note that in transcribing Barbara’s writing, I’ve made minor corrections to her spelling and punctuation for easier reading. Sometimes a word has been garbled by the keys of Barbara’s typewriter (e.g. what looks like “grtal clear” in the excerpt below was intended to be “crystal clear”) but otherwise I haven’t rewritten anything.

The Adventures of a Little Chipmunk


Chapter I

Once upon a time a certain pair of chipmunks were consulting each other how and where to build their nest. At length they thought of a very good plan, and went together to find a place to accomplish the task. They came to a grassy bank that sloped down to a little brook that ran babbling merrily over pebbles and stones. In a shelter of tiny birch trees they dug a home under a rock, very large and covered with moss, and surrounded by ferns and bracken.

“I’m sure nobody can ever find our home in these ferns,” said shy little Mrs. Chipmunk, and Mr. Chipmunk agreed.

After they had dug the home and made a bedroom lined with grass and milkweed they went down to the brook and began to follow it going in the same direction as the current. It was really very pretty, rushing over white pebbles and making pretty little falls over stones which stood in the way, and at last coming to a boulder that rose above the stream and it could not get over, but would have to go around it. At last they came to a pool, very large and crystal clear, with white pebbles forming a beach around it, in fact it was a spring, and the sand at the bottom stirred as the water bubbled up all the time with the entrance hole of the brook making it bigger because beyond it was a banking used for a dam and on each side of the pool beyond the pebble were bankings. The brook however was not filling the pool very fast because in the banking beyond the pool was a hole near the water level. Some little animal had dug a hole through, and it was getting bigger because the force of the water that went through it tore the sides away. There was a little brook beyond the banking where there was none when the banking had been complete.

The chipmunks went on following the little brook that went beyond the bank. Before they had walked an eighth of a mile they came to a woods, but the brook still went on. The chipmunks didn’t want to go into the woods as they went back to the nest and began to play around there, but suddenly Mrs. Chipmunk began to feel ill and went down into their little bedroom to lie down. You will find out why she was ill.

Chapter II

The next day poor Mrs. Chipmunk felt very badly indeed, and the afternoon even worse. Mr. Chipmunk had to find her meals and he had to do all the work. That afternoon she called him to tell him that she felt fine. Mr. Chipmunk stared in surprise. He couldn’t understand how anybody that had been as ill as Mrs. Chipmunk had could be well again so quickly. He was so surprised that for a minute he couldn’t even see why even when the answer was right before his eyes. In the nest were six fuzzy brown babies. My! how Mr. Chipmunk and Mrs. Chipmunk had to work to find food for the ever hungry little mouths. They were so busy that they could hardly do any playing. The babies grew so fast that before long they came out of their nest in the wide world. They went down to the brook and ran along its edge, and Mrs. Chipmunk discovered what she had never noticed before. As I told you before she and Mr. Chipmunk had followed the brook in the direction of the current until it went into the woods. Mrs. Chipmunk found that by following it in the opposite direction she came to an open field beyond the birches where their home was. In the middle of the field was a very pretty fountain. There was a large basin or hollow in the earth of stones. Around the edge were little holes where the water ran out but so that water from the spring could go up there and prevent it under the hollow there were half-inch walls going down into the earth a long distance on each side of the row of holes. They were so small that the water could just drain through but there were a lot of them and it got out almost as fast as it came in. In the middle was a larger hole where the water bubbled up, in a two foot spring. All around it were holes a little larger than the ones where it drained out. Outside of the small holes than the one in the middle was a wall of stones that stuck up a good three inches above the water level. I will tell you why the holes where the water drained out were so little. Outside of the wall in the stream there were two gold-fishes, and a sunfish and several tiny fishes. The holes were a little like that so that the young could not get out. I forgot to say that the holes around the large one in the middle were occupied by little streams dancing out, too. In the fishes part of the fountain, there were a lot more holes as small as the ones around the edge where the tiny streams bubbled up to keep the water fresh. There was a piece of metal that fitted the fountain part of the hollow, and when it began to overflow, you pulled the metal over the streams underneath them by two strings longer than the metal that stuck up through one of the holes in the fishes part of the hollow, and when you wanted to shut off the streams you could pull a certain string and the metal would shut them off, and when you wanted them to bubble up again you would pull the other string and the metal would go to one side letting the streams pour in again. In the wall that went into the earth there was a slit for that piece of metal. It was very pretty indeed. But what most interested Mrs. Chipmunk were the baby fishes hurrying and scurrying about, with their tiny tails and fins and she liked to see them struggle with the current that ran into the holes. The babies liked the movement of the large fishes’ tails and fins, and every day they came to that fountain, and watched the springs and fishes and after they had got tired of the springs, something happened that made Mrs. Chipmunk and Mr. Chipmunk to feel very badly. In the next chapter I will tell you what it was.

Chapter III

This is what happened. One of the little chipmunks that was larger but timider than the others decided to take a stroll by himself. It very often means a lot of danger but it is not always fatal. So when the mother and father were asleep he crawled out of the burrow into the birch-grove. “What shall I do first?” thought he to himself. “I know, I’ll go over to the fountain.” When he got there instead of staying he went north from it and came to a little country road which ran east and west through flowery meadows. After he had followed it west for a while the meadows left off and came to orchards with peach-trees, cherry-trees, apple-trees, and pear-trees in bloom in them. Near each orchard was a house with a vineyard near filled with white and purple grapes. After that were dear little cottages each surrounded by an exquisite little flower garden, with gravel paths twisting here and there through the flower-beds so that one could look at them all. Outside of the garden all around the house were white, pinkish, darker pink, and carmine rhododendrons, and also pink and red magnolias, besides red, orange, yellow, cream, and reddish-pink azaleas. These and the garden were always surrounding the house except in front where there was a tiny gravel path leading out to the road as they were set back about fifty feet. Once in a while one would see a tiny dark green shingled house with a vine climbing over it, with just a tiny garden around it and no rhododendrons, magnolias, or azaleas. Sometimes there would be some fire-bushes near these but most of them had little trees all around on a nicely kept green lawn. These were set back more, too.

But they didn’t interest the weary little chipmunk. All he wanted was to find a place to spend the night. He wished with all his heart that he hadn’t run away from his mother. But it didn’t do him any good, he only felt more lonely and sleepy. What he did do was to eat up some stale cheese that a little girl that lived in one of the dark green cottages threw for the birds, and go to sleep in a thick fire-bush. The next morning the little girl came out to weed the fire-bush as it was slightly weedy round the roots. She found the little chipmunk asleep and brought him into the little house. It was little outside but I made a mistake to say little for the inside. You see, all the bulk of the house was in back so it didn’t show. After one had opened the front door he comes out into a short hallway. On the left of it was a large living-room the beauty of which is almost untellable. It had in it a rug the colour of a morning-glory wing bordered with black. In the black were ovals of a gold colour with lines of gold connecting the ends inside of them. The ovals were all connected by a gold band. Outside of them all around the rug was a border of dull grayish-yellow. The curtains in the room were white. When one opened the door in the northern end of this room he comes into another, a thing of marvel and beauty, the beautyness indescribable, but the things to make the beauty simple. It was not a room with all the windows coloured-glass with gay curtains and a gay coloured rug. Oh no. It was not a room with a tapestry hung from the ceiling, and gay cloth on the chairs. No. But it was a room about the size of the living-room with windows all around it, each having two sky blue velvet curtains. On the floor was a plain white rug with a black band around it near the edge of the white, there was a good half foot outside of it though. There were white flowers with orange centres and fairly long stems for the size of the flowers not very close together arranged in chain-like patterns all over the black. There was no furniture in this room except a soft white sofa on the eastern side. Now if that isn’t a beautiful room please tell me what is for though I think there are more beautiful rooms I think that this is very lovely and it satisfies me.

On the other side of the hall, about opposite the entrance to the living-room was the dining-room and of course the kitchen was north of it. In a room that was east of the dining-room the little girl carried the little chipmunk. This was her museum. She had several caged animals and they were very [word missing] even in captivity for she was kind to them and fed them three times a day just before her meals. She first put him in a cage with a little female chipmunk hoping they would mate, but instead they quarreled and the little girl saw that the male was too young to mate and the female was too so she put the male in another cage and had another one to feed every day. She was a very busy little girl, about eight with fair blond hair and blue eyes, and she had lessons with her mother. She loved her animals, and never failed to help a little bird with a broken wing, or perhaps even make it all right. But she would always keep it two or three days afterward to make sure. She kept her pussy (which was yellow) from catching birds for she had trained her not to. It seems impossible but when ever she had done it or even attempted to she gave her a little sharp little slap and she didn’t get out the next day. When she tried to scratch or bite anybody she had the same punishment and so now she was a gentle loving little pussy about half grown. She was not even allowed to catch a mouse. Her little female chipmunk was a dear little creature. She would eat from the little girl’s hand as if she had been a tame kitten. She had been born pretty tame for the little girl had caught her with her mother and three others when they were just out hunting for the first time. Our little chipmunk’s cage was right next to the little female’s, and the two became such friends that the little girl put them in a cage together and they didn’t quarrel a bit. When they both got older they mated each other.

Chapter IV

Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Chipmunk were hunting everywhere for their lost baby. True, they had three others but the lost one was the merriest and the liveliest of all of them and life was nothing to any of the babies or the parents without him. One of their remaining babies, the youngest, mourned day and night for her lost brother and hoped with all her heart that no fate had overtaken him. She was a little female, very smart and would not run any risk, being even very fleet of foot. Yet when she knew that she was safe she was sad, walked slowly and contentedly through the grass, and was always thinking of beauties. Another one of the remaining babies was a gay lively little female with very distinct marks in her fur, who was quite cautious, but when safe traveled with high bounds over the grass or else walked along with light tripping steps made with dainty white feet with her head held high up listening for the tiniest squeak or grunt. When this came if she happened to be tripping along she would hold one dainty forepaw up to her head erect until it happened again. Then she would run along in the grass blades very low so that she couldn’t be seen so easily. She would run in this slightly uncomfortable position until she came to some place of safety. If she were traveling in high bounds there would be danger that she couldn’t stop herself in time and run right into her fate. So when she was traveling this way at the tiniest noise she would instantly dart in the opposite direction of it. The third remaining chipmunk was a brisk little male who liked to be always hiding behind bushes and jumping out on his sisters or on Mother or Father Chipmunk. When Mrs. or Mr. Chipmunk said: “Please don’t, Chippy” (they called him Chippy), he would find a soft grassy spot to go to sleep on and then he would sleep for three or four hours, but when he woke up he would be right at it again. Then they would cuff him and put him in the burrow and roll a stone over the top of it so he couldn’t get out. If one of the little female chipmunks happened to be in the hole when he was put in, Chippy would waste no time in teasing her, spinning upon her until she might get some very bad wounds. You see, the bottom of the burrow was not big enough for her to save herself, but, as soon as she had managed to get part way up the long tunnel nobody could pull her back again. After she had got up to the top and found the stone Mother would soon hear her little voice calling: “Mother, please let me out.” Then Mother Chipmunk would right off pull away the stone but, no, Chippy must stay in the burrow by himself a little longer, “for,” says Mother Chipmunk, “Chippy has been fighting you. I know by the way you called me.” She would always say the same thing and the action of the chipmunks that I have told you about refers to either female. Once when Chippy was put down in his burrow Mother heard the sad little female calling: “Please Chippy, dear brother don’t, spare me.” Whereupon he danced around her in circles giggling. Mother Chipmunk was down that hole like two whicks [sic] and was holding the struggling Chippy while the female had a chance to go out. “I’m ashamed of you, naughty Chippy,” she said, very severely. “If you think you can fight with your dear little sister who helps me with everything I have to do, I don’t know what punishment I will give you.”

“Don’t give me any then,” said Chippy. “Sisters are meant to play with me, aren’t they?”

“Sometimes they’re to play with and sometimes they’re to help mothers with housework. I know brothers aren’t meant for helping mothers with housework, at least you don’t seem to. I know, I’ll get your father to see if he knows any punishment for you.”

She hurried out of the burrow leaving the crying Chippy behind. “Deareeo! deareeo!” she called, as Mr. Chipmunk knew it. Soon he came bounding over the grass.

“Well,” said Mother Chipmunk, “I heard our sad little female calling out to Chippy (as I had put him in the burrow and evidently the sad one was there too). ‘Please Chippy, dear brother don’t, spare me.’ And then he danced all around her giggling. Now, what I wanted you for was to find out if you know any punishment for him.”

“Well, my love,” replied Mr. Chipmunk, looking important, “I don’t think I know of anything, though of course it is a wicked thing to do for such a poor little thing that our sad one is, but I think that if you were to give him a good sharp little slap each time he did it and then put him in the burrow, but that is what we have been doing. Well, let’s keep it up a little longer and see.

“By the way, love, I have heard some news of our lost baby. You know that little country road north of the fountain?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Chipmunk.

“Well, I followed it west and met an old chipmunk, and I asked him if he knew anything about our baby. He told me that a little way along the road was a little cottage and in it lived a little girl who had a room which she kept filled with animal cages and kept animals in them, but that she wasn’t a bit cruel to them and they all liked her. She fed them three times a day just before her meals, and sometimes she released some and put others in. He said that he had come from a cage next to our baby at first and then our baby had been put in a cage with a little female and they had mated, and so then he wasn’t and a new animal had been put in our baby’s first cage. Don’t you think that is something to know?”

“Oh, don’t I though,” said Mother Chipmunk, “but I’m afraid that we can’t get him away until she lets the little female go too because you know when one has mated one has a great love for his mate.”

“Ye-es,” said Mr. Chipmunk thoughtfully, “but I think I will go out hunting now. Goodbye, dear.”

“Goodbye,” said Mrs. Chipmunk.

Chapter V

The little girl that had the baby chipmunk had now arranged on a lovely screened in porch a real outdoors woods. She had covered the porch up with soil first, then she had taken little plants and sowed grass in it, and lastly she had planted even bushes in it. Now she let her animals play some alone on this porch every day, but she only made a mixture of friends at a time for she was afraid that they would quarrel, but when one set of animals had got through being there some others would always be taken out to play. No animal had any more time on the porch than two hours a day, for first she would get up early in the morning, feed them and then take some out on the porch, animals that were friends of course, for an hour, then they would go back to their cage while some more friends were taken out, and every animal had an hour before dinner was started to be prepared, about twenty minutes before it was even started. During the time before dinner was started to be prepared or the table not started to be set she fed her animals, and while dinner was being prepared she would take all her little birds with broken wings and put them in baskets and then walk about with them on the porch, sometimes setting one down on the leaves or grass. When dinner was prepared she would take her birdies back in to their little cages and go to dinner very happy. You may wonder how she found time to do her lessons but she did those when the animals were out on the piazza and then when one set of them had had an hour she would stop her work and take them back and put more out and work again. The same thing was reported after dinner though then she didn’t work, instead she sometimes walked about on the piazza with them or else attended to her sick birds. Amongst them was a song sparrow, not with a broken wing but with a bad bite from her yellow pussy who had almost caught her and was severely punished for it. This little song sparrow was almost well and the little girl was thinking about letting her go.

There was a little patch of woods in back of the little girl’s cottage and one warm sunny afternoon she had just let a gray squirrel go for the sake of putting a new little one in her cage and she found a red salamander, as it had rained slightly the day before. She had never seen one before and it filled her with delight. She straightaway carried it to her father and asked what it could possibly be. “Why Sunnyhair” (for that was what they had got used to calling her), “it is a red salamander often found in damp woods, and I think that this one has an unusually clear red skin and very few spots on it. Indeed I have never seen such a spot-lacking one.” It had only two spots on each side.

“How could I make it live in captivity?” asked Sunnyhair.

“I think deary that if you take a large high wooden box, plant a nice little garden in it of ferns and moss with an extra spot for damp leaves, and then let me nail a bit of netting over it, I think then you would have a fine place for him.”

Sunnyhair made a much better place for her salamander than her father had described. She got two wooden boxes, and filled one with leaves with a few tiny plants growing in them, and the other she filled with mostly just plain moss, with tiny hairs growing out of it which are sometimes seen in moss. Then she got a third box and put in the middle lovely moss and in two of the corners lovely ten-inch ferns with graceful curved bodies and in the other two ends damp leaves. She then spread the three boxes in a triangle, the third box with one end touching one of the other boxes and the other end touching the other one, and the two first boxes touched each other. She then took a sharp knife, cut a hole very near the bottom of one box right through the other and into it, so the lizard could go from one to the other. She then cut a hole from the box with the leaves in it to the box with everything in it and a hole from the box with the moss in it to the one with everything in it, so the lizard could go all around in his new home.

When her father came to her museum room to see how she was getting along it was all finished and he was surprised to see how much better it was than it would be if she had followed his suggestion. He really thought that she was very clever to think of it. They put the lizard in and he liked it very well, clambering around just as if it were his native home. They then went out in the woods and found some more salamanders and put them in the cage too. Amongst them was one about an inch long with a dark back and many spots down the sides.

The only trouble with keeping the exquisite little red salamanders was that Sunnyhair didn’t know what to feed them on. At last she found  that if she caught some mosquitoes and some little yellow tree worms that were now dropping down from the trees and fed them on these twice a day they got along very nicely.

Chapter VI

When Mr. Chipmunk had left, Mrs. Chipmunk started off in the opposite direction. She went to the fountain, then north of it to the country road, and then walked through the beautiful meadows, orchards, and little cottages that her baby had walked through. She was out hunting for him. She didn’t know it but the two little females were trailing along after her; the male not there for she had put him in the burrow. The merry little female ran up to her mother and said: “Dear Mother, I shouldn’t go any farther, you may run into danger and we may be going farther and farther from our lost one. I really think that it would be wise to go home now and let your baby take care of himself. You see Mother, if that old chipmunk that met our father really came from a cage next to him and said that she was nice to her animals and fed them three times a day, I’m sure that he won’t suffer for lack of food, or lack of friendship, and I don’t think that you need to worry about him any more, though it would be a delighting thing to have him back.”

“Oh, so you came along, did you?” said Mrs. Chipmunk, turning around, “and you too deary,” she continued, looking at the sad one. “What you have said is just right if it weren’t for these footprints coming together.” There was a pair of footprints coming from the direction of the little girl’s cottage and another pair going in the direction in which the little family was now moving. When the footprints came together there were two flat imprints in the sand where the father and the old chipmunk had sat down to converse.

“Oh, we didn’t see those,” said the little female. “You’d better follow the old chipmunk’s footprints backwards until you come to the cottage.”

“I wish I could,” sighed Mother Chipmunk.

“”But why can’t you?” asked the little female.

“Because iI don’t know what cottage it is.”

“Well,” said the little on, “you could follow the old chipmunk’s tracks backwards until you come to it, couldn’t you?”

“Oh, yes,” said Mother, waking up, “you said that before, only I wasn’t awake enough to think it out.”

“Think it out,” said the sad one, “I really didn’t think that there was anything to think out.”

Most mothers would be cross at her babies for asking so many questions and talking, but Mother Chipmunk said very pleasantly: “Well, you see children, I was really dozing off and I couldn’t pay much attention to anything anybody else said, and here is a good example of what comes of dozing off when one is looking for something, for the tracks have left off and we have passed the cottage.” Whereupon she turned around and started back. “I forgot,” she continued presently, “we couldn’t get our baby out of captivity even if we did find the cottage, how stupid I am.”

“Why yes,” said the merry female, “I don’t see why I wasn’t sensible enough to correct you on that, but anyhow let us start home.” And so they started home. Father Chipmunk was there and had released Chippy who was put back into the burrow again by Mrs. Chipmunk.

“Why, where have you been, my love?” asked Mr. Chipmunk.

“Well my children and I have been along the little country road looking for the cottage where our baby is, but you see I pretty well went to sleep and we didn’t find it.” And then she told all about what the females had said and what plans they had given. They were then praised by the father who said to Mrs. Chipmunk: “Yes, but you mustn’t go to sleep when you are looking for things, sweetheart.”

Chapter VII

The lost baby who was not a baby any longer, but about three-quarters grown, and his mate were usually the first ones out on the porch in the morning and were as fond of each other as a well brought up brother and sister. Whenever they went out on the porch they kept together and were very happy. But the time was coming when they were going to be tired of living with humans and with the female it was the same. They were growing more restless each day. A little chipmunk cannot spend all his days in captivity. The little girl, Sunnyhair, was very nice about letting some of her animals go and get some new ones whenever they showed much restlessness. She didn’t think that the lost one and his mate were getting restless enough to be let go just yet, but when they were fed they looked up at Sunnyhair with pitiful faces and tears in their eyes. They longed for their freedom. Sunnyhair said to her mother after feeding them once: “Mother, the lost baby and his mate are getting terribly restless, I think they want to go.”

“Well, you let them go then,” said her mother. And so Sunnyhair went to the woods with them, gave each a kiss and a hug, deposited them, and then went back to her house.

Now about this time Mr. and Mrs. Chipmunk with the two little females and Chippy had come to the cottage and were waiting outside to see what would happen, and when they saw their lost baby and his sweet little mate their joy was unbelievable. He introduced her to Mr. and Mrs. Chipmunk, Chippy, and the two females so that they all know the sweet little creature, and Mrs. Chipmunk whispered to the baby who was now almost full grown: “You surely have found a nice pretty mate.”

Then one by one the others went off to find mates, and then brought them back to the happy mother and father, and there in their little rock-hidden home they all had a party.

And now that the other little chippies have found mates too we will leave them to build homes and have children that might go through the same adventures, or they might be entirely different.

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