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Chatterer the Red Squirrel, the mischief maker of the Green Forest, had never been more comfortable in his life. No matter how rough Brother North Wind roared across the Green Meadows and through the Green Forest, piling the snow in great drifts, he couldn't send so much as one tiny shiver through the little red coat of Chatterer. And always right at hand was plenty to eat—corn and nuts and other good things such as Chatterer loves. No, he never had been so comfortable in all his life. But he wasn't happy, not truly happy. You see, he was in prison, and no matter how nice a prison may be, no one can be truly happy there.
Since he had been a prisoner, Chatterer had learned to think very differently of Farmer Brown's boy from what he used to think. In fact, he and Farmer Brown's boy had become very good friends, for Farmer Brown's boy was always very gentle, and always brought him something good to eat.
"He isn't at all like what I had thought," said Chatterer, "and if I were free, I wouldn't be afraid of him at all. I—I'd like to tell some of the other little Green Forest people about him. If only—"
Chatterer didn't finish. Instead a great lump filled his throat. You see, he was thinking of the Green Forest and the Old Orchard, and how he used to race through the tree-tops and along the stone wall. Half the fun in life had been in running and jumping, and now there wasn't room in this little prison to stretch his legs. If only he could run—run as hard as ever he knew how—once in a while, he felt that his prison wouldn't be quite so hard to put up with.
That very afternoon, while Chatterer was taking a nap in his bed in the hollow stump, something was slipped over his little round doorway, and Chatterer awoke in a terrible fright to find himself a prisoner inside his hollow stump. There was nothing he could do about it but just lie there in his bed, and shake with fright, and wonder what dreadful thing was going to happen next. He could hear Farmer Brown's boy very busy about something in his cage. After a long, long time, his little round doorway let in the light once more. The door had been opened. At first Chatterer didn't dare go out, but he heard the soft little whistle with which Farmer Brown's boy always called him when he had something especially nice for him to eat, so at last he peeped out. There on the floor of the cage were some of the nicest nuts. Chatterer came out at once. Then his sharp eyes discovered something else. It was a queer looking thing made of wire at one end of his cage.
Chatterer looked at it with great suspicion. Could it be a new kind of trap? But what would a trap be doing there, when he was already a prisoner? He ate all the nuts, all the time watching this new, queer looking thing. It seemed harmless enough. He went a little nearer. Finally he hopped into it. It moved. Of course that frightened him, and he started to run up. But he didn't go up. No, Sir, he didn't go up. You see, he was in a wire wheel; and as he ran, the wheel went around. Chatterer was terribly frightened, and the faster he tried to run, the faster the wheel went around. Finally he had to stop, because he was out of breath and too tired to run another step. When he stopped, the wheel stopped.
Little by little, Chatterer began to understand. Farmer Brown's boy had made that wheel to give him a chance to run all he wanted to and whenever he wanted to. When he understood this, Chatterer was as nearly happy as he could be in a prison. It was such a pleasant surprise! He would race and race in it until he just had to stop for breath. Farmer Brown's boy looked on and laughed to see how much happier he had made Chatterer.
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