I. The Outlaw

A good many of the forest-people claimed that old Mr. Crow was an outlaw. They said he was always roving about, robbing Farmer Green of his corn and his chickens, and digging up the potatoes when they shot their sprouts above the surface of the potato-patch. And everybody was aware that the old gentleman stole eggs from the nests of his smaller neighbors. It was even whispered that Mr. Crow had been known to devour baby robins.

But perhaps some of the things said of him were not true. Though if he really was an outlaw he seemed to enjoy being one. He usually laughed whenever Johnnie Green or his father tried to catch him, or when they attempted to frighten him. And on the whole he was quite the boldest, noisiest, and most impertinent of all the creatures that lived in Pleasant Valley.

His house stood in a tall elm, not too far from the cornfield. And those that dwelt near him never could complain that the neighborhood was quiet.... It was never quiet where old Mr. Crow was.

Many of the smaller birds feared him. But they couldn't help laughing at him sometimes--he was so droll, with his solemn face, his sedate walk, and his comical gestures. As for his voice, it was loud and harsh. And those that heard too much of it often wished that he would use it less.

Mr. Crow's best friends sometimes remarked that people did not understand him. They said that he helped Farmer Green more than he injured him, for he did a great deal in the way of eating beetles, cutworms and grasshoppers, as well as many other insects that tried to destroy Farmer Green's crops. So you see he had his good points, as well as his bad ones.

For a number of years Mr. Crow had spent each summer in Pleasant Valley, under the shadow of Blue Mountain. He usually arrived from the South in March and left in October. And though many of his friends stayed in the North and braved the winter's cold and storms, old Mr. Crow was too fond of a good meal to risk going hungry after the snow lay deep upon the ground. At that season, such of his neighbors as remained behind often dined upon dried berries, which they found clinging to the trees and bushes. But so long as Mr. Crow could go where it was warmer, and find sea food along the shore, he would not listen to his friends' pleas that he spend the winter with them.

"Until I can no longer travel 'as the crow flies,' I shall not spend a winter here," he would say to them with a solemn wink. That was one of his favorite jokes. He had heard that when anybody asked Farmer Green how far it was to the village he always answered, "It's nine miles as the crow flies"--meaning that it was nine miles in a straight line.

Old Mr. Crow thought that the saying was very funny. But then, he usually laughed at Farmer Green, no matter what he said or did.

You can see that Mr. Crow was no respecter of persons.