Happy Jack in "A Prisoner Without Fear"
A Prisoner Without Fear
"A bad name is easy to get but hard to live down."
Shadow the Weasel was a prisoner. He who always had been free to go and come as he pleased and to do as he pleased was now in a little narrow cage and quite helpless. For once he had been careless, and this was the result. Farmer Brown's boy had caught him in a trap. Of course, he should have known better than to have visited the henhouse a second time after killing three of the best pullets there. He should have known that Farmer Brown's boy would be sure to do something about it. The truth is, he had yielded to temptation when common sense had warned him not to.
So he had no one to blame for his present difficulty but himself, and he knew it.
At first he had been in a terrible rage and had bitten at the wires until he had made his mouth sore. When he had made sure that the wires were stouter than his teeth, he wisely stopped trying to get out in that way, and made up his mind that the only thing to do was to watch for a chance to slip out, if the door of the cage should happen to be left unfastened.
Of course it hurt his pride terribly to be made fun of by those who always had feared him. Happy Jack Squirrel was the first one of these to see him. Farmer Brown's boy had put the cage down near the foot of the big maple tree in which Happy Jack was living, because Shadow had driven him out of the Green Forest. As soon as Happy Jack had made sure that Shadow really and truly was a prisoner and so quite harmless, he had acted as if he were crazy.
Perhaps he was—crazy with joy. You see, he no longer had anything to be really afraid of, for there was no one but Shadow from whom he could not get away by running into his house. Billy Mink was the only other one who could follow him there, and Billy was not likely to come climbing up a tree so close to Farmer Brown's house.
So Happy Jack raced up and down the tree in the very greatest excitement, and his tongue went quite as fast as his legs. He wanted everybody to know that Shadow was a prisoner at last.
At first he did not dare go very close to the cage. You see, he had so long feared Shadow that he was still afraid of him even though he was so helpless. But little by little Happy Jack grew bolder and came very close. And then he began doing something not at all nice. He began calling Shadow names and making fun of him, and telling him how he wasn't afraid of him. It was all very foolish and worse—it was like hitting a foe who was helpless.
Of course Happy Jack hastened to tell everybody he met all about Shadow, so it wasn't long before Shadow began to receive many visitors. Whenever Farmer Brown's boy was not around there was sure to be one or more of the little people who had feared Shadow to taunt him and make fun of him. Somehow it seems as if always it is that way when people get into trouble. You know it is very easy to appear to be bold and brave when there is nothing to be afraid of. Of course that isn't bravery at all, though many seem to think it is.
Now what do you think that right down in their hearts all these little people who came to jeer at Shadow the Weasel hoped they would see? Why, they hoped they would see Shadow afraid. Yes, Sir, that is just what they hoped. But they didn't. That is where they were disappointed. Not once did Shadow show the least sign of fear. He didn't know what Farmer Brown's boy would do with him, and he had every reason to fear that if he was not to be kept a prisoner for the rest of his natural life, something dreadful would be the end.
But he was too proud and too brave to let any one know that any such fear ever entered his mind. Whatever his faults, Shadow is no coward. He boldly took bits of meat which Farmer Brown's boy brought to him, and not once appeared in the least afraid, so that, much as he disliked him, Farmer Brown's boy actually had to admire him. He was a prisoner, but he kept just as stout a heart as ever.