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Chapter 14


At first Chatterer decided that he had rather die than live in a prison, no matter how nice that prison might be. It was a very foolish thing to do, but he made up his mind that he just wouldn't eat. He wouldn't touch that nice, yellow corn Farmer Brown's boy had put in his prison for him. He would starve himself to death. Yes, Sir, he would starve himself to death. So when he found that there was no way to get out of his prison, he curled up in the little hollow stump in his prison, where no one could see him, and made up his mind that he would stay there until he died. Life wasn't worth living if he had got to spend all the rest of his days in a prison. He wouldn't even make himself comfortable. There was that little heap of nice shavings and bits of rag for him to make a nice comfortable bed of, but he didn't touch them. No, Sir, he just tried to make himself miserable.

Not once that long day did he poke so much as the tip of his nose out of his little round doorway. Ever so many times Farmer Brown's boy came to see him, and whistled and called softly to him. But Chatterer didn't make a sound. At last night came, and the woodshed where his prison was grew dark and darker and very still. Now it was about this time that Chatterer's stomach began to make itself felt. Chatterer tried not to notice it, but his stomach would be noticed, and Chatterer couldn't help himself. His stomach was empty, and it kept telling him so.

"I'm going to starve to death," said Chatterer to himself over and over.

"I'm empty, and there is plenty of food to fill me up, if you'll only stop being silly," whispered his stomach.

The more Chatterer tried not to think of how good something to eat would taste, the more he did think of it. It made him restless and uneasy. He twisted and squirmed and turned. At last he decided that he would have one more look to see if he couldn't find some way to get out of his prison. He poked his head out of the little round doorway. All was still and dark. He listened, but not a sound could he hear. Then he softly crept out and hurriedly examined all the inside of his prison once more. It was of no use! There wasn't a single place where he could use his sharp teeth.

"There's that little pile of corn waiting for me," whispered his stomach.

"I'll never touch it!" said Chatterer fiercely.

Just then he hit something with his foot, and it rolled. He picked it up and then put it down again. It was a nut, a plump hickory nut. Two or three times he picked it up and put it down, and each time it was harder than before to put it down.

"I—I—I'd like to taste one more nut before I starve to death," muttered Chatterer, and almost without knowing it, he began to gnaw the hard shell. When that nut was finished, he found another; and when that was gone, still another. Then he just had to taste a grain of corn. The first thing Chatterer knew, the nuts and the corn were all gone, and his stomach was full. Somehow he felt ever so much better. He didn't feel like starving to death now.

"I—I believe I'll wait a bit and see what happens," said he to himself, "and while I'm waiting, I may as well be comfortable."

With that he began to carry the shavings and rags into the hollow stump and soon had as comfortable a bed as ever he had slept on. Chatterer had decided to live.

Thornton W. Burgess

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