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Chapter 8

A Secret

When Major Monkey awoke the following morning his pain had left him. Creeping from the haystack where he had slept, he cast longing eyes at the red apples in the tree near-by. But he remembered his trouble of the evening before. And he remembered likewise what Mr. Crow had said about "finding" something to eat at the farmhouse.

But for some reason the Major wanted to avoid Farmer Green's house. To be sure, he would have enjoyed sitting down with the family at the breakfast table. But he was afraid something might prevent his leaving after he had eaten.

Luckily Major Monkey was a person who could usually find a way out of any difficulty. And now he made up his mind that a light meal of eggs was the very thing he needed in order to begin the day right. So he went straight to the woods and climbed the first tree he came to--a pine tree just beyond the fence.

There Major Monkey found exactly what he was looking for. In a warbler's nest, a dozen feet from the ground, he beheld five speckled eggs.

The owners of the nest were not at home. But knowing that one or the other would soon return, the Major did not care to linger long over their treasures.

He noticed that one of the eggs was bigger than the others.

"Really there are too many eggs here for this small nest," the Major said to himself. "If I take the big one I'll be doing the owners a favor."

So he picked up the big egg, and holding it carefully in one hand he hurried away.

When he had put some distance between himself and the nest, Major Monkey stopped to enjoy his breakfast. He was just on the point of opening the egg, when who should come up but old Mr. Crow.

The Major quickly hid his breakfast behind his back.

"Good morning!" said Mr. Crow. "I hope you are feeling better to-day."

"Oh, yes--thank you!" said Major Monkey. "I'm quite well again."

Mr. Crow's sharp eyes pierced him through and through.

"What are you holding behind you?" he asked bluntly.

The Major saw that he was caught.

"It's my breakfast," he confessed, giving Mr. Crow a quick glance at what was in his hand. "I--I found it," he said. "Wasn't I lucky?"

"A bird's egg!" Mr. Crow exclaimed disapprovingly. "What kind is it?"

"It's nothing but a Warbler's egg," Major Monkey replied.

The old gentleman smiled knowingly. And feeling more comfortable, Major Monkey opened his hand and gave Mr. Crow a good look at his prize.

"That's too big for a Warbler's egg!" Mr. Crow cried.

"I found it in a Warbler's nest," Major Monkey insisted.

"Were there any more like this one in the nest?" Mr. Crow asked.

"Oh, yes!" the Major answered.

"Were they as big as this egg?" Mr. Crow inquired.

Major Monkey explained that they were not.

"Just as I supposed!" the old gentleman exclaimed. "This isn't a Warbler's egg. It's a Cowbird's egg. And you've done that Warbler family a good turn by taking it out of their nest.

"I know Mrs. Cowbird," he went on. "She's too lazy to bring up her own children. So she sneaks through the woods and lays her eggs in other folk's nests.... I must tell of this," Mr. Crow added. "People will think very kindly of you when they hear what you have done."

But Major Monkey begged him not to mention the matter to anyone.

He pleaded so hard that at last Mr. Crow consented to keep the affair a secret between them. And Mr. Crow couldn't help thinking that Major Monkey was one of the most modest people he had ever met.

Then the Major opened the egg with great skill, and ate its contents without spilling a drop.

"Now," he said, "now I'm ready for business."

Arthur Scott Bailey

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