The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, continued
But Nutkin, who had no respect, began to dance up and down, tickling old Mr. Brown with a nettle and singing–
“Old Mr. B! Riddle-me-ree!
Hitty Pitty within the wall,
Hitty Pitty without the wall;
If you touch Hitty Pitty,
Hitty Pitty will bite you!”
Mr. Brown woke up suddenly and carried the mole into his house. He shut the door in Nutkin’s face. Presently a little thread of blue smoke from a wood fire came up from the top of the tree, and Nutkin peeped through the key-hole and sang–
“A house full, a hole full!
And you cannot gather a bowl-full!”
The squirrels searched for nuts all over the island and filled their little sacks.
But Nutkin gathered oak-apples–yellow and scarlet–and sat upon a beech-stump playing marbles, and watching the door of old Mr. Brown.
On the third day the squirrels got up very early and went fishing; they caught seven fat minnows as a present for Old Brown.
They paddled over the lake and landed under a crooked chestnut tree on Owl Island.
Twinkleberry and six other little squirrels each carried a fat minnow; but Nutkin, who had no nice manners, brought no present at all. He ran in front, singing–
“The man in the wilderness said to me,
‘How many strawberries grow in the sea?’
I answered him as I thought good–
‘As many red herrings as grow in the wood.'”
But old Mr. Brown took no interest in riddles–not even when the answer was provided for him.
On the fourth day the squirrels brought a present of six fat beetles, which were as good as plums in plum-pudding for Old Brown. Each beetle was wrapped up carefully in a dock-leaf, fastened with a pine-needle pin. But Nutkin sang as rudely as ever–
“Old Mr. B! riddle-me-ree
Flour of England, fruit of Spain,
Met together in a shower of rain;
Put in a bag tied round with a string,
If you’ll tell me this riddle, I’ll give you a ring!”
Which was ridiculous of Nutkin, because he had not got any ring to give to Old Brown.
The other squirrels hunted up and down the nut bushes; but Nutkin gathered robin’s pincushions off a briar bush, and stuck them full of pine-needle pins.
On the fifth day the squirrels brought a present of wild honey; it was so sweet and sticky that they licked their fingers as they put it down upon the stone. They had stolen it out of a bumble bees’ nest on the tippitty top of the hill.
But Nutkin skipped up and down, singing–
“Hum-a-bum! buzz! buzz! Hum-a-bum buzz!
As I went over Tipple-tine
I met a flock of bonny swine;
Some yellow-nacked, some yellow backed!
They were the very bonniest swine
That e’er went over Tipple-tine.”