“Depend upon it, my dear,” said Mrs. Nutcracker solemnly, “that fellow must be a genius.”
“Fiddlestick on his genius!” said old Mr. Nutcracker; “what does he DO?”
“Oh, nothing, of course; that’s one of the first marks of genius. Geniuses, you know, never can come down to common life.”
“He eats enough for any two,” remarked old Nutcracker, “and he never helps to gather nuts.”
“My dear, ask Parson Too-whit. He has conversed with him, and quite agrees with me that he says very uncommon things for a squirrel of his age; he has such fine feelings,–so much above those of the common crowd.”
“Fine feelings be hanged!” said old Nutcracker. “When a fellow eats all the nuts that his mother gives him, and then grumbles at her, I don’t believe much in his fine feelings. Why don’t he set himself about something? I’m going to tell my fine young gentleman that, if he doesn’t behave himself, I’ll tumble him out of the nest, neck and crop, and see if hunger won’t do something towards bringing down his fine airs.”
But then Mrs. Nutcracker fell on her husband’s neck with both paws, and wept, and besought him so piteously to have patience with her darling, that old Nutcracker, who was himself a soft-hearted old squirrel, was prevailed upon to put up with the airs and graces of his young scapegrace a little longer; and secretly in his silly old heart he revolved the question whether possibly it might not be that a great genius was actually to come of his household.
The Nutcrackers belonged to the old-established race of the Grays, but they were sociable, friendly people, and kept on the best of terms with all branches of the Nutcracker family. The Chipmunks of Chipmunk Hollow were a very lively, cheerful, sociable race, and on the very best of terms with the Nutcracker Grays. Young Tip Chipmunk, the oldest son, was in all respects a perfect contrast to Master Featherhead. He was always lively and cheerful, and so very alert in providing for the family, that old Mr. and Mrs. Chipmunk had very little care, but could sit sociably at the door of their hole and chat with neighbours, quite sure that Tip would bring everything out right for them, and have plenty laid up for winter.
Now Featherhead took it upon him, for some reason or other, to look down upon Tip Chipmunk, and on every occasion to disparage him in the social circle, as a very common kind of squirrel, with whom it would be best not to associate too freely.
“My dear,” said Mrs. Nutcracker one day, when he was expressing these ideas, “it seems to me that you are too hard on poor Tip; he is a most excellent son and brother, and I wish you would be civil to him.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt that Tip is GOOD enough,” said Featherhead carelessly; “but then he is so very common! he hasn’t an idea in his skull above his nuts and his hole. He is good-natured enough, to be sure,–these very ordinary people often are good-natured,–but he wants manner; he has really no manner at all; and as to the deeper feelings, Tip hasn’t the remotest idea of them. I mean always to be civil to Tip when he comes in my way, but I think the less we see of that sort of people the better; and I hope, mother, you won’t invite the Chipmunks at Christmas,–these family dinners are such a bore!”
“But, my dear, your father thinks a great deal of the Chipmunks; and it is an old family custom to have all the relatives here at Christmas.”
“And an awful bore it is! Why must people of refinement and elevation be forever tied down because of some distant relationship? Now there are our cousins the High-Flyers,–if we could get them, there would be some sense in it. Young Whisk rather promised me for Christmas; but it’s seldom now you can get a flying squirrel to show himself in our parts, and if we are intimate with the Chipmunks it isn’t to be expected.”