Major Monkey quite enjoyed the amazement of the picnickers. And he did two very odd things, for the commander of an army: first he took off his red cap and made a low bow to Johnnie Green and his mates; and next he swung off the limb of the tree and hung by his tail and one hand.
The boys whooped with delight.
"Let's catch him!" Johnnie Green cried. And then he shouted to the boy who had run away, and who stood a good, safe distance off, looking back and wondering what was going on. "Hi, Bill! It's a monkey!" Johnnie bellowed.
Bill came running back at top speed.
"We're going to catch him," said Johnnie Green.
"How're we going to do that?" asked the boy who had been frightened and run away and come back.
Nobody answered him, for at that moment one of the youngsters flung a butternut at the Major, who caught the missile deftly and shot it back again.
A howl of delight from the ground below greeted the Major's ears.
"Let's stone him!" somebody cried.
But Johnnie Green said, "No! We don't want to hurt him. We'll climb the tree and get him."
His friends agreed that that was the better way, after all. And one after another they began to shin up the tree where Major Monkey was still cutting his queer capers. The boys had no sooner started to climb after him than the Major gave a shrill whistle. He was calling for help. But there was not a general in sight anywhere.
He could see not a single one of his whole army, except the cook, old Mr. Crow. And even he flapped away to a neighboring tree-top. As Mr. Crow remarked afterward, since he had to do nothing, he thought he could do it much better if he wasn't too near.
Major Monkey began to chatter. And Mr. Crow always declared that the Major trembled.
There is no doubt that he was alarmed. He scrambled to the very top of the tree, while the boys went up, up, up--until at last Major Monkey gave a scream and jumped into another--and smaller--tree, the top of which was far below him.
He plunged, sprawling, through the leafy boughs until he managed to seize a branch and steady himself. Then he was off like a squirrel. And long before the boys had reached the ground again Major Monkey was far away in the woods.
* * * * * * *
Mr. Crow took good care not to lose sight of Major Monkey. And when the Major at last stopped, panting, and slipped down to the ground to have a drink out of the brook, old Mr. Crow promptly joined him.
"Aha!" said Mr. Crow. "You were scared. You ran away!"
The Major wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and looked at Mr. Crow uneasily.
"I came away--yes!" he said.
Mr. Crow snorted.
"A fine soldier you are!" he cried scornfully. "You aren't brave enough to lead an army. I should think you'd be ashamed."
Major Monkey seemed pained. He said it hurt him to have Mr. Crow say such cruel things.
"It's plain," said he, "that you don't know much about an army, in spite of all I've tried to teach you. Of course I had to leave. I'm the leader of the army; and I must keep out of danger. So when the generals failed to come to my rescue when I whistled for help there was nothing I could do except retreat."
For a long time Mr. Crow was silent.
"You were scared, anyway," he remarked at last.
"I wasn't!" the Major protested.
"You were!" said Mr. Crow. "You were! You were! You were!"
Of course he was very ill-mannered. But Major Monkey was too polite to tell him so. Instead, he picked up a smooth stone out of the brook and threw it at Mr. Crow's head.
The old gentleman hopped aside just in time. And without waiting to dispute any further, he tore off as fast as he could go.
"Now who's scared?" Major Monkey called after him.
But old Mr. Crow did not stop to answer.