Snowball couldn't understand old Mr. Crow's rage. Mr. Crow had invited himself to the treat that Johnnie Green was going to give the flock. But the moment the old gentleman heard that the treat was going to be salt he had squalled at the top of his hoarse voice that he was going to stay as far from the pasture as he could get.
"What's the matter?" Snowball asked Mr. Crow. "Don't you like salt?"
Mr. Crow made a wry face.
"No, I don't!" he spluttered.
"Well, just because you don't happen to care for salt is no reason for your being so angry," Snowball told him.
And then Mr. Crow almost took his breath away.
"I agree with you," he said gruffly! And Mr. Crow was a person who was never known to agree with anybody! So that was an astonishing remark for him to make.
"Then I suppose you'll get over being angry, at once," Snowball ventured.
"I won't!" Mr. Crow thundered. "And take a bit of advice, young fellow: Don't go near the salting party! It will be dangerous," he added darkly.
"Why will it be dangerous?" Snowball inquired.
The old gentleman shook his head and put on a very wise look.
"I don't believe you've ever been at a salting party," he said.
And Snowball confessed that he hadn't.
Whereat Mr. Crow nodded his head up and down several times and looked even wiser than before.
"It's lucky for you, my lad, that you told me about this affair," he declared. "For I'm going to keep you out of a peck of trouble. Don't you go near the party! Keep just as far away from it as you can! When you see Johnnie Green come inside the pasture you scramble over the stone wall and hide!" And now he shook his head.
"It's a pity—" he sighed—"a pity you can't fly, or climb a tree."
He was so gloomy that Snowball couldn't help feeling uncomfortable. And all he could manage to say was one word which he had hard work to stammer out. It was "W-w-why?"
"Because it's just a trick!" Mr. Crow explained. "It's a trick to catch you. This trick of salting the sheep is as old as the hills. But I suppose you're so young you never have happened to hear of it. I must say," he added, "I'm surprised that the Muley Cow didn't take the trouble to tell you all about it."
"Maybe she's too young to know about it, too," Snowball suggested.
"Young!" Mr. Crow cried with a short, mirthless laugh. "The Muley Cow's not young. She's the oldest cow on the farm. If the truth must be told, she's so old that Farmer Green wouldn't keep her if it weren't that Johnnie Green thinks she belongs to him. And he'd raise a terrible row if his father sold her."
"Are you too young to explain about this trick that you just warned me against?" Snowball asked. "I'd like to know how there can be any danger in salt. How can anybody be caught with salt?"
"Well, you are a silly!" cried Mr. Crow. "Can't you guess that Johnnie Green is going to put salt on everybody's tail?"