It was wonderful to see how, by means of persisting in remarks like these, young Featherhead at last got all his family to look up to him as something uncommon. Though he added nothing to the family, and required more to be done for him than all the others put together,-- though he showed not the smallest real perseverance or ability in anything useful,--yet somehow all his brothers and sisters, and his poor foolish old mother, got into a way of regarding him as something wonderful, and delighting in his sharp sayings as if they had been the wisest things in the world.
But at last old papa declared that it was time for Featherhead to settle himself to some business in life, roundly declaring that he could not always have him as a hanger-on in the paternal hole.
"What are you going to do, my boy?" said Tip Chipmunk to him one day. "We are driving now a thriving trade in hickory-nuts, and if you would like to join us--"
"Thank you," said Featherhead; "but I confess I have no fancy for anything so slow as the hickory trade; I never was made to grub and delve in that way."
The fact was that Featherhead had lately been forming alliances such as no reputable squirrel should even think of. He had more than once been seen going out evenings with the Rats of Rat Hollow,--a race whose reputation for honesty was more than doubtful. The fact was, further, that old Longtooth Rat, an old sharper and money-lender, had long had his eye on Featherhead as just about silly enough for their purposes,--engaging him in what he called a speculation, but which was neither more nor less than downright stealing.
Near by the chestnut-tree where Nutcracker Lodge was situated was a large barn filled with corn and grain, besides many bushels of hazel- nuts, chestnuts, and walnuts. Now old Longtooth proposed to young Featherhead that he should nibble a passage into this loft, and there establish himself in the commission business, passing the nuts and corn to him as he wanted them. Old Longtooth knew what he was about in the proposal, for he had heard talk of a brisk Scotch terrier that was about to be bought to keep the rats from the grain; but you may be sure he kept his knowledge to himself, so that Featherhead was none the wiser for it.
"The nonsense of fellows like Tip Chipmunk!" said Featherhead to his admiring brothers and sisters--"the perfectly stupid nonsense! There he goes, delving and poking, picking up a nut here and a grain there, when _I_ step into property at once."
"But I hope, my son, you are careful to be honest in your dealings," said old Nutcracker, who was a very moral squirrel.