fine early-autumn day Binny and his close friends Hoppy and Stoky are
near the edge of the woods when they make a startling discovery. They
find a squirrel, a female called Belloe, who has white fur! The
squirrels who live in the woods had never seen or heard of animals of
their own species whose fur was not red.
Belloe is not alone, but one
of several such squirrels, young and old, male and female, just arriving
in the area.
the news is spread, some of the red squirrels doubt that it can be true.
But a number of them, including Oggy their leader, go to meet and
talk to the newcomers. On his return, Oggy
They are all curious and most are excited by what they have heard, regarding it as a good sign. But not Len, who together with
two others, Nippy and Gruffy, has formed the Secret Society of
“You going to this meeting?” Nipper asked Budger.
Budger turned to look at Len. “May as well find out what all the fuss is about,” Len said with a shrug. “You never know what might be budding with those fools. If you ask me, someone’s been up to something.”
Several of the younger squirrels were waiting at the meeting place long before Oggy was expected. Others gradually turned up in twos and threes, chattering busily among themselves. Some were afraid, especially those who had not been to the far edge of the woods. A few, like Bushie, remained obstinately doubtful. Most were excited and all were very curious.
“Just think! You’ll be telling the youngsters about this in time to come,” more than one squirrel told another.
“After what I’ve seen today, I don’t think they’ll believe me,” came a reply.
“And who could blame them?” added someone else.
More and more squirrels crowded into the clearing where the speech was to be made. There was much jostling for positions and the surrounding trees swarmed with furry creatures.
At last, Oggy appeared, moving slowly. A path was made for him up to a large oak that stood alone in the middle of the area. Slowly, he climbed to and along a low bough, tearing away some of the leaves so that he was in full view. Conversations broke off as one nudged another and nodded towards the branch where the elderly animal stood.
Oggy waited until it was perfectly quiet. “My friends...” he began. “My dear friends...” His voice had become weak with the years and those farthest away had to strain hard to hear. “...Today is a day that will be remembered and spoken of long after I, and you, and your children... have vanished from these woods... and passed on to the Great Everlasting Forest... that happy and plentiful home of all who have gone before us... of our dear departed friends and relations.”
“Doesn’t half like to blab, doesn’t he?” Len murmured to Budger, who grinned back at him.
“Shhh!” said someone just behind them.
Oggy spoke very slowly, with many pauses between his words. “We, my friends... who are here today... must count ourselves very fortunate... for we are the ones who were present when a discovery was made that none of us has ever dreamt of before... and that some of us may still have difficulty in believing... even those who have seen for themselves.”
“When's he going to get to the point?” Len muttered.
“But it is true,” Oggy went on. “My friends... in this great and wonderful world in which we are so fortunate to live... there are squirrels with very little colour in their coats... and who therefore appear strange to our eyes.”
Animals around Bushie turned towards her with ‘I-told-you-so’ looks on their faces. She stared ahead, pretending not to notice.
“Like many of you... I have seen these animals. But I have also had talks with some of the leaders of the fairly small group that arrived in these woods early today.” He took a much longer pause for breath. “There is one thing I want to assure you my dear friends...” he then continued. “And that is this... these creatures are neither Gods nor Ghosts... but squirrels like you and me.”
A murmur went round the clearing and it was some time before Oggy said any more.
“Yes, my friends... these are nothing other than ordinary, mortal squirrels.”
“What’s all the fuss about then?” mumbled Len.
“But as such, let us welcome them... for they are our brothers and sisters.”
“Are they going to stay?” someone called out. And everyone waited expectantly for the answer.
“Oh I do hope they’re going to stay, at least for a little while,” Stoky whispered to Hoppy.
Oggy cleared his throat, showing his old worn front teeth. The speech was putting a great strain on his voice. “Our brothers and sisters who arrived here today... are indeed looking for somewhere to live. My friends... they have travelled far and would like at least to rest. But the woods in which we have the greatest good fortune to dwell... are large and plentiful enough... to support a much greater squirrel population than they do at present... Thus there is no reason... as I see it... why our new-found relations should continue on their way. I, my friends, have already told their leaders of my view... But before going any further... I should like to know whether you agree... I think we should ask them to stay here and live among us.”
“Hooray!” shouted one of the younger squirrels. And there was an immediate chorus of cheers and shouts of excitement. Binny leapt into the air with joy and Stoky and Hoppy danced round delightedly. Everyone was jabbering or calling out at once and much time went by before Oggy, who stood quietly smiling from his branch, tried to say anything else. At last, he raised a paw.
“Shhh,” said one squirrel after another. “Shhh! Be quiet there!”
“I am overjoyed,” Oggy said, “to find you so keen. But perhaps, nevertheless... there are those who have doubts or objections... If so... now is the time to speak.”
The rustling of the leaves suddenly seemed to grow loud. Squirrels stared from one to another. Len looked down, his lips pressed tightly together.
Oggy waited. And waited. Finally he said, “My friends... my very dear friends... we have reason to celebrate. Let there be feasting in the woods... feasting such as we have never known before.” And with that he began to climb down amid calls from above, below and all around.
“Three cheers for Oggy,” a voice shouted from a high perch in one of the trees. “Hip hip...”