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Chapter 16

The Major's Trouble

After Major Monkey fled from Johnnie Green and his friends in the picnic grove, his generals declared that they wanted no leader that ran away from the enemy. And since they couldn't agree on anyone else to take the Major's place, they disbanded.

So Major Monkey lost his army. But the loss did not seem to trouble him greatly. He was almost too cheerful. And his neighbors even claimed that his spirits rose higher each day.

There is no doubt that the Major felt very gay. He was fast losing the lean and hungry look he had had when he first appeared in Pleasant Valley. And he became freer than ever as to manners.

Nobody else could go about the woods with any comfort, because one never knew when he would have to dodge a stone. For Major Monkey liked nothing better than making a body jump--unless it was bowling someone over when he failed to jump soon enough.

In time the forest-folk grew quite weary of that sport. And they began to tell one another that something would have to be done to put an end to Major Monkey's stone-throwing.

But nobody could suggest any way to cure Major Monkey of his unpleasant habit. And at last Mr. Crow went to Aunt Polly Woodchuck and asked her if she couldn't give the Major an herb of some sort to eat, which would make him stop wanting to pelt every head he saw.

But Aunt Polly replied that it wasn't possible.

"The trouble with Major Monkey," she said, "is that he eats too much as it is. And if I gave him still more food he would only throw more stones at you."

Mr. Crow exclaimed that he didn't want that to happen.

"Then you'll have to make the Major eat less," said Aunt Polly Woodchuck. "On what sort of fare is he living at present?" she inquired.

Mr. Crow answered that he wasn't quite sure, but he thought Major Monkey fed for the most part on cowbirds' eggs.

Aunt Polly Woodchuck shook her head.

"That's not possible," she cried. "There aren't enough Cowbirds' eggs in Pleasant Valley to make anybody so fat as the Major is getting. Unless I'm mistaken, he's taking the eggs of a good many others besides Cowbirds."

Mr. Crow became greatly excited.

"Then he's a thief!" he squawked. "Major Monkey is an egg thief!" And he flapped away across the pasture in a fine rage, to tell everybody what Aunt Polly Woodchuck had said.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

A little later in the day Major Monkey began to notice that a good many of his neighbors looked at him very coldly. The birds, especially, glared at him as if they were actually angry. And wherever he went they set up a loud twittering. Some of them even flew at his head and tried to peck him as they darted past.

At first he couldn't imagine what was the matter. But before the day was done Jasper Jay let him know what made the bird people angry.

"You're a sneak-thief!" Jasper told the Major bluntly. "We've found at last what makes you so fat. You've been stealing eggs from every nest in the woods!"

"Tut! Tut!" said Major Monkey. "When a lazy Cowbird lays an egg in somebody else's nest, the owner ought to be grateful to me for taking the egg out and eating it."

"It's not that," Jasper Jay replied. "The trouble is, you've taken all kinds of eggs."

"Well, well!" said Major Monkey. "To be sure, I may have made a mistake now and then. But what's an egg or two, more or less, when one has a half-dozen of them?"

Arthur Scott Bailey

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