At first old Mr. Crow could scarcely believe his eyes. He stared and stared. Certainly it was no 'possum that he saw. And yet the stranger was hanging by his tail.
There could be no doubt about that. Even as Mr. Crow watched him he waved both hands at Mr. Crow, and swung by his tail alone.
The old gentleman was terribly upset. During all the summers he had spent in Pleasant Valley he had never seen any such person there before.
For a moment Mr. Crow was worried about himself. He wondered if he was not ill. He knew he had eaten a good deal of corn that day. And he half hoped that that was the trouble--that perhaps he saw something that wasn't really in the tree at all.
Then he remembered the blow on his back. Had the queer person in the tree-top struck him?... Mr. Crow grew angry.
"Did you hit me?" he called.
"I'm not sure," said the stranger. "But I think I did, for I saw you jump."
"Then you threw something at me!" Mr. Crow screamed.
"Oh, no!" the other replied. "I didn't throw anything at you, sir. I merely dropped something on your back."
Mr. Crow choked. Perhaps it was as well that he could not speak just then. He coughed and spluttered and swallowed and swayed back and forth, trying to get his breath. And he had begun, at last to feel better, when--biff!--something struck him again and all but knocked him over.
The stranger gave a shrill whistle.
"I threw something that time!" he jeered.
Old Mr. Crow felt that he had been terribly insulted. He looked as dignified as he could. And he would have turned his back on the stranger--had he dared.
While he was wondering whether he had better fly away, or stay and quarrel with the rude person who had pelted him, the boorish stranger leaped from the tall tree into the smaller one where Mr. Crow was sitting. Then, dropping nimbly from limb to limb, with the help of his hands and his feet and his tail, he stopped at last when he had reached Mr. Crow's level.
One thing was certain. The stranger was bold as brass. He looked Mr. Crow up and down. And then he said:
"You're a gay old bird! What's your name?"
Now, no doubt some people would have been angry. But Mr. Crow rather liked to be called gay, because he couldn't help looking solemn. And most people knew he was very old. And everybody was aware he was a bird. So he said hoarsely:
"My name is Mister Crow--and please don't forget the Mister."
The stranger put on his flat-topped red cap and touched the visor smartly with his right hand, in a military manner.
Old Mr. Crow couldn't help admiring the newcomer's clothes. He wore a red coat trimmed with gold braid, and bright blue trousers.
"That's a handsome suit that you have on," Mr. Crow observed. "I shouldn't mind having one like it myself."
The stranger seemed pleased. And he touched his cap again.
"I'm afraid you can't have a suit like this," he said. "It's a uniform--that's what it is. And, of course, a plain Mister like you can't wear a uniform. But I wear one because I'm a soldier."
Old Mr. Crow was disappointed. But he soon brightened up. Though he wasn't a soldier himself, at least it was pleasant to know one. So he decided to forget that he had been angry with the stranger.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Major Monkey," said the newcomer, knocking off his cap with one hand and catching it with the other as it fell. "When you speak to me, please don't forget the Major," he added.