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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


meal. All day long the red squirrels came and went, and afforded me
much entertainment by their manoeuvres. One would approach at
first warily through the shrub oaks, running over the snow-crust by
fits and starts like a leaf blown by the wind, now a few paces this
way, with wonderful speed and waste of energy, making
inconceivable haste with his "trotters," as if it were for a wager, and
now as many paces that way, but never getting on more than half a
rod at a time; and then suddenly pausing with a ludicrous expression
and a gratuitous somerset, as if all the eyes in the universe were eyed
on him-for all the motions of a squirrel, even in the most solitary
recesses of the forest, imply spectators as much as those of a dancing
girl-wasting more time in delay and circumspection than would have
sufficed to walk the whole distance-I never saw one walk-and then
suddenly, before you could say Jack Robinson, he would be in the
top of a young pitch pine, winding up his clock and chiding all
imaginary spectators, soliloquizing and talking to all the universe at
the same time-for no reason that I could ever detect, or he himself
was aware of, I suspect. At length he would reach the corn, and
selecting a suitable ear, frisk about in the same uncertain
trigonometrical way to the topmost stick of my wood-pile, before my
window, where he looked me in the face, and there sit for hours,
supplying himself with a new ear from time to time, nibbling at first
voraciously and throwing the half-naked cobs about; till at length he
grew more dainty still and played with his food, tasting only the
inside of the kernel, and the ear, which was held balanced over the
stick by one paw, slipped from his careless grasp and fell to the
ground, when he would look over at it with a ludicrous expression of
uncertainty, as if suspecting that it had life, with a mind not made up
whether to get it again, or a new one, or be off; now thinking of corn,
then listening to hear what was in the wind. So the little impudent
fellow would waste many an ear in a forenoon; till at last, seizing
some longer and plumper one, considerably bigger than himself, and
skilfully balancing it, he would set out with it to the woods, like a
tiger with a buffalo, by the same zig-zag course and frequent pauses,
scratching along with it as if it were too heavy for him and falling all
the while, making its fall a diagonal between a perpendicular and
horizontal, being determined to put it through at any rate;- a
singularly frivolous and whimsical fellow;- and so he would get off
with it to where he lived, perhaps carry it to the top of a pine tree
forty or fifty rods distant, and I would afterwards find the cobs
strewn about the woods in various directions.

At length the jays arrive, whose discordant screams were heard long
before, as they were warily making their approach an eighth of a
mile off, and in a stealthy and sneaking manner they flit from tree to
tree, nearer and nearer, and pick up the kernels which the squirrels
have dropped. Then, sitting on a pitch pine bough, they attempt to
swallow in their haste a kernel which is too big for their throats and
chokes them; and after great labor they disgorge it, and spend an
hour in the endeavor to crack it by repeated blows with their bills.
They were manifestly thieves, and I had not much respect for them;
but the squirrels, though at first shy, went to work as if they were
taking what was their own.

Meanwhile also came the chickadees in flocks, which, picking up the
crumbs the squirrels had dropped, flew to the nearest twig and,
placing them under their claws, hammered away at them with their
little bills, as if it were an insect in the bark, till they were
sufficiently reduced for their slender throats. A little flock of these
titmice came daily to pick a dinner out of my woodpile, or the
crumbs at my door, with faint flitting lisping notes, like the tinkling
of icicles in the grass, or else with sprightly day day day, or more
rarely, in springlike days, a wiry summery phebe from the woodside.
They were so familiar that at length one alighted on an armful of
wood which I was carrying in, and pecked at the sticks without fear.

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment while I
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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