Living in the orchard as they did, near the farmhouse, Jolly Robin and his wife knew more about Farmer Green’s family than any of the other birds in Pleasant Valley, except maybe Rusty Wren. Being a house wren, Rusty was naturally on the best of terms with all the people in the farmhouse.
But all summer long Rusty Wren never strayed far from home. So it was Jolly Robin who told his friends in the woods many strange stories about what happened near the orchard. His account of the golden bird was only one of many curious tales that he related to the wondering wood-creatures.
Being so cheerful and having so much interesting news to tell, Jolly Robin was welcome wherever he went. And when his friends met him in the woods or the fields they were sure to stop and ask him if he hadn’t some new story to tell. One day old Mr. Crow even took the trouble to fly all the way across the cornfield to the edge of the woods, where his sharp eyes had seen Jolly Robin eating wild cherries.
“I say, what do you know that’s new?” Mr. Crow asked him. The old gentleman was a very curious person. Being a great gossip, he was always on the lookout for something to talk about.
“I don’t believe I’ve seen anything lately that would interest you,” Jolly replied, “unless it’s the four-armed man.”
Mr. Crow looked up quickly.
“What’s that you say?” he exclaimed.
“The four-armed man!” Jolly Robin repeated.
“Is that a joke?” Mr. Crow asked. He was inclined to be suspicious, because he always disliked having tricks played upon him. “I’ve heard of—and seen—a two-headed calf,” he remarked. “But a four-armed man is a little too much for me to believe in, unless I behold him with my own eyes.”
Jolly Robin laughed.
“It’s no joke at all!” he declared.
“Then what are you laughing at?” Mr. Crow inquired severely.
“Nothing!” Jolly Robin answered. “It’s just a habit of mine to laugh.”
“Very well!” said Mr. Crow. “I accept your apology. But please don’t do it again.... And now,” he added, “where, pray, is this wonderful four-armed man?”
“In the barnyard!” Jolly Robin informed him. “I’ve often seen him lately, walking between the house and the barn. He looks a good deal like the hired-man. But of course it can’t be he, for the hired-man—as you yourself know—has but two arms.”
“I must have a look at this monster,” Mr. Crow remarked. “When would be a good time for me to see him?”
“At milking-time,” Jolly Robin told him. “If you’ll meet me on the bridge down the road when you see Johnnie Green and old dog Spot driving the cows home from the pasture this afternoon, I’ll be glad to show you the four-armed man. And then you’ll admit that I’m not joking.”
“I’ll certainly be there—” Mr. Crow promised—“but on one condition. You must tell me now whether you have ever known this queer being to fire a gun. If a two-armed man can shoot one gun, I see no reason why a four-armed man could not fire at least two guns at the same time. And if there’s any chance of such a thing happening, I would not care to be present.”
Jolly Robin had hard work to keep from laughing again. The very idea of the four-armed man aiming two guns at old Mr. Crow struck him as being very funny. He couldn’t speak at all for a few moments. But he shook his head violently.
“You think there’s no danger, then?” said Mr. Crow, anxiously.
“None at all!” Jolly Robin answered him. “He carries nothing more dangerous than milk-pails.”
“Then I’ll meet you on the bridge,” Mr. Crow promised.