Old Mr. Crow did not want to stay near the brook to talk with Peter Mink. Calling to Jolly Robin to follow him, he flapped his way to the edge of the woods and sat in a tree overlooking the pasture.
“Here comes Tommy Fox!” Mr. Crow exclaimed. “We ought to have some fun with him. So when it’s time for you to laugh for me, don’t forget to laugh loudly.”
“I’ll remember,” Jolly promised him. And just by way of practice he chirruped so merrily that Tommy Fox pricked up his ears and came bounding up to the tree where Jolly and Mr. Crow were sitting.
“Good morning!” Mr. Crow cried to Tommy. “Is that a hen’s feather that’s stuck behind your ear?” he asked very solemnly.
“No!” said Tommy Fox. “It’s a crow’s; and I certainly had a fine breakfast.”
Now, Jolly Robin wasn’t quite sure whether he ought to laugh or not. And then Tommy winked at him. So Jolly thought there must be a joke somewhere and he began to chirrup as loudly as he could.
“For pity’s sake, keep still!” old Mr. Crow snapped.
“But you wanted me to laugh louder,” Jolly reminded him.
“Yes,” said Mr. Crow—“when there’s anything to laugh at.”
“But didn’t Tommy Fox make a joke?” Jolly Robin asked.
“A very poor one!” old Mr. Crow replied. “A very poor joke, indeed!... I see,” he added, “I see you’ve not had much experience laughing for people. And here’s where you make a mistake. You laugh at other people’s jokes, which is all wrong. After this you must laugh at my jokes—do you understand?”
Jolly Robin said he understood. And Mr. Crow remarked that he was glad there would be no more trouble.
“And now,” the old fellow said, “now we’ll go over to the swamp, where Uncle Sammy Coon lives. We ought to have some fun with him.”
So over to the swamp they flew, where they found Uncle Sammy Coon sunning himself in the top of a tall hemlock.
“How-dy-do!” said Mr. Crow.
But Uncle Sammy Coon did not answer.
“We’re in luck!” Mr. Crow said with a chuckle. “I declare, I believe the old beggar’s asleep. Just watch me play a practical joke on him!”
So Mr. Crow lighted on a branch near Uncle Sammy Coon and began tickling his nose.
Pretty soon Uncle Sammy Coon sneezed. And when that happened, Mr. Crow jumped back quickly. But Uncle Sammy didn’t awake—at least, he didn’t open his eyes. So Mr. Crow tickled his nose again.
Now, old Mr. Crow was so amused that he glanced at Jolly Robin, to see if he was watching. And in that instant when Mr. Crow looked away, Uncle Sammy Coon leaped at him. He caught Mr. Crow by the tail, too.
The old gentleman set up a great din. He squawked, “Help! help!” at the top of his voice and flapped his broad wings.
The struggle was over in a moment. By a great effort Mr. Crow broke away, leaving one of his tail-feathers with Uncle Sammy Coon, and flew into another tree near-by.
Then Jolly Robin laughed as if he would never stop. He thought that it must be the proper time to laugh, because Mr. Crow had said he was going to play a joke on Uncle Sammy.
Mr. Crow, however, seemed to think differently about the matter.
“Do keep quiet!” he cried. “There’s nothing to laugh at, so far as I can see.”
“But you said you were going to play a joke on Uncle Sammy Coon, didn’t you?” Jolly inquired.
“Yes!” Mr. Crow replied. “But it’s no joke to lose a tail-feather. And I wouldn’t think of laughing at what just happened.... Besides,” he continued, “your laughter is altogether wrong. What you must try to do is to laugh very sadly. In fact,” he added, “I wouldn’t mind if you shed a few tears, because I feel quite upset over this unfortunate accident.”
Well, Jolly Robin saw at once that it was impossible for him to please Mr. Crow.
“My laughter,” he said, “is always merry. I couldn’t laugh sadly, no matter how hard I might try. And as for shedding tears, I couldn’t weep for you even if you lost all your tail-feathers, Mr. Crow.”
“Then you may leave at once!” Mr. Crow cried, just as if Farmer Green’s pasture belonged to him.
“Yes!” Jolly Robin answered. “I may—and then again, I may not!”
And since he stayed right there and laughed, old Mr. Crow himself flew away. It was a long while, too, before he could bear to hear people laugh. For he thought they must be laughing at him, because he had lost a tail-feather.
And perhaps that was what amused Jolly Robin, though I never thought of that before.