When the Hermit Thrush had finished his song about the spotted vest, he looked at his cousin Jolly Robin out of the corner of his eye.
“How do you like that one?” he inquired. He noticed that Jolly was not laughing.
“That seems to me to be a very silly song,” Jolly Robin said. “But I’m glad you sang it, because it has reminded me that I was going to speak to you about that spotted waistcoat you’re so fond of wearing.”
“What’s the matter with my waistcoat?” the Hermit asked quickly. “I’m sure it’s a very handsome one.”
“I don’t like it!” Jolly told him. “I wouldn’t be caught with it on me for anything. Everybody says that you’re a great dandy because you wear it. And since you’re my cousin, I think I ought to tell you what people are saying about you.”
“I don’t care what people say!” the Hermit exclaimed. “Those that don’t like my beautiful waistcoat can look the other way when I’m around. And if my style of dress doesn’t please you, I’d suggest that you keep out of this swamp.”
“Now, don’t get angry!” Jolly Robin begged. He gave his cousin a smile, hoping that it might make him feel pleasanter. “I was only trying to help you. I was only going to advise you to wear a red waistcoat, like mine.”
Now, the mere thought of wearing a red waistcoat made the Hermit feel faint. Some people say that all great singers are like that. If they don’t like a thing, they can’t bear even to think about it. And it was a fact that the words “red waistcoat” had always made Jolly Robin’s cousin shudder.
Maybe one reason why he never went to visit Jolly was because he couldn’t endure the sight of his bright red vest.
Of course, Jolly Robin knew nothing about all this.
“Red would be very becoming to you,” he continued. “And it’s certainly a cheerful color, too. You need brightening up. I don’t believe it’s good for you, living in this damp swamp and singing sad songs. What you ought to do is to get some clothes like mine and bring your wife over to Farmer Green’s orchard and build a nest in an apple tree.... We could have some gay times together,” he said smilingly.
Like many other people Jolly Robin thought his own ways were the best. And since the Hermit was just as sure that nobody else knew how to dress, or how to sing, or how to build a house as well as he did, it is quite plain that the two cousins never could agree.
“Just tell your wife about my plan when she comes home,” said Jolly Robin. “And I’ll fly over to-morrow and show you the way to the orchard.”
“I’ll tell her,” his cousin promised.
“Good!” said Jolly Robin. And he gave his delicate cousin a hearty slap on the back, which made the poor fellow wince—for it hurt him not a little. “Good-by!” Jolly cried. And chirping loudly, he flew back home.
Now, Jolly noticed, as he left, that his cousin called “Farewell!” in a melancholy tone. But he thought no more about it at the time. He told his wife the good news as soon as he reached the orchard; for Jolly was sure that his cousin the Hermit was going to follow his advice.
But the next day Jolly met with a great surprise. When he went to the swamp near Black Creek he couldn’t find his cousin anywhere—nor his cousin’s wife, either. Even their three eggs had disappeared from the nest on the ground.
“I hope Fatty Coon hasn’t eaten the eggs,” said Jolly Robin, as he gazed into the empty nest. “But it’s no more than anybody could expect who’s so foolish as to build a nest on the ground.” He grew quite uneasy. And he was puzzled, too.
Later, when Jolly Robin met old Mr. Crow, he learned that his cousin, the Hermit Thrush, and his wife had moved away from the swamp the evening before.
“They’ve left for parts unknown,” old Mr. Crow explained. “I saw them when they started. And when I asked your cousin where they were going, he said that they didn’t know, but they were hoping to find some peaceful neighborhood where they had no relations.”
“That’s strange!” Jolly Robin exclaimed. “We are very fond of each other—my cousin and I. By the way,” he added, “did you happen to notice what sort of waistcoat he was wearing?”
Mr. Crow said he had noticed; and that it was a light-colored one with dark spots.
“Dear me!” said Jolly Robin. “I was hoping he had put on a red one. But since he moved in such a hurry, perhaps he hadn’t time to change.”
Whether that was the case, Jolly Robin never learned. For he never saw his cousin the Hermit again.