The feathered folk in Pleasant Valley were all aflutter. They had heard a strange tale—the oddest tale, almost, that had ever been told in their neighborhood.
It was Jolly Robin who had started the story. And since he was not in the habit of playing jokes on people, everybody believed what he said—at least, everybody except Jasper Jay. He declared from the first that Jolly Robin’s tale was a hoax.
“I claim that there’s not a word of truth in it!” Jasper Jay said.
Now, there was a reason why Jasper spoke in that disagreeable way. He didn’t want the story to be true. And, somehow, he felt that if he said it was a hoax, it would really prove to be one.
“I know well enough,” said Jasper, “that there’s no golden bird in Pleasant Valley—and nowhere else, either!”
You see, Jolly Robin had hurried to the woods one day and told everyone he met that a wonderful golden bird had come to Pleasant Valley.
“He’s not just yellow, like a goldfinch. He’s solid gold all over, from the tip of his bill to the tip of his tail. Even his feet are golden. And he glistens in the sunshine as if he were afire!” That was the way Jolly Robin described the marvellous newcomer. “He’s the handsomest bird that ever was seen,” he added.
Perhaps Jasper Jay was jealous. You know he was a great dandy, being very proud of his blue suit, which was really quite beautiful. Anyhow, Jasper Jay began to sulk as soon as he heard the news.
“Where is this magnificent person?” he asked Jolly Robin with a sneer. “Do let me see him! And if he wants to fight, I’ll soon spoil his finery for him. He won’t look so elegant after I’ve pulled out his tail-feathers.”
But Jolly Robin wouldn’t tell anybody where he had seen the wonderful bird. He said the golden bird was three times as big as Jasper Jay. And he didn’t want Jasper to get hurt, even if he was so disagreeable.
Anyone can see, just from that, that Jolly Robin was very kind.
“You’d better be careful, or I’ll fight you, too!” Jasper warned him.
But Jolly was not afraid. He knew that Jasper was something of a braggart and a bully. He had chased Jasper once. And he thought he could do it again, if he had to.
“My cousin will tell me where to find this yellow fellow,” said Jasper Jay at last. “There’s not much that happens in Pleasant Valley that my cousin doesn’t know about.” So he flew off to find old Mr. Crow—for he was the cousin of whom Jasper was speaking.
Jasper found Mr. Crow in his favorite tree in the pine woods. And sure enough! the old gentleman seemed to know all about the golden bird. But like Jolly Robin, he refused to say where he had seen him. To tell the truth, Mr. Crow had never set eyes on the strange bird. But he did not like to admit it. “He’s a great credit to the neighborhood,” said old Mr. Crow. “And you’d better let him alone, if you should happen to find him, because he’s solid gold, you know. And if you flew at him and tried to peck him, just as likely as not you’d break your bill on him, he’s so hard.”
Old Mr. Crow’s warning, however, had no effect at all upon Jasper Jay.
“I’m going to search every corner in the valley until I find this fop. And I’ll teach him that he’d better get out of our neighborhood with his fine airs.”
When he heard that, old Mr. Crow shook his head.
“You’re going to have trouble!” he told Jasper. And then he hurried away to tell Jolly Robin that he ought to advise the golden bird to leave Pleasant Valley.
But Jolly Robin said he had not spoken with the stranger. And never having talked with a golden bird, he felt a bit shy about saying anything to him.
“Then there’ll be a terrible fight, I’m afraid,” said Mr. Crow.
“I’m afraid so,” Jolly Robin agreed. And strange as it may seem, they both said that if there was going to be a fight they didn’t want to miss seeing it.