XIV. The Lucky Laugh
 

As the train drew nearer to the tree where Mr. Crow and his friends were waiting, it gave a loud shriek.

"You hear that?" said Mr. Crow. "It's still angry." And he shouted an impudent caw-caw in reply.

In a moment more the race began. Mr. Crow had no trouble in beating the train, just as he always had. And when he had passed it he dropped quickly and swerved across the track ahead of it.

To his great surprise the train never faltered. It kept straight on, going faster and faster. And the first thing Mr. Crow knew, the last car had whipped around a curve and passed out of sight.

Poor Mr. Crow felt very downcast. He would have liked to hurry home at once, because he hated to face his friends. But he knew they would follow him if he flew away. So he went back to meet them, wearing a bold smile.

"Did you see what happened?" he inquired. "The train was afraid to stop!"

Everybody laughed when Mr. Crow said that. People knew him too well to be deceived by him.

"I suppose your yellow coat frightened it," Jasper Jay jeered. "It's too bad you didn't wear your checkered red one."

At that remark Jimmy Rabbit pricked up his long ears.

"Did you wear your red coat yesterday?" he asked Mr. Crow.

"Yes!" Mr. Crow replied gruffly. He did not like being questioned by a mere youngster like Jimmy Rabbit.

"And you say the train stopped when you flew in front of it yesterday?"

Mr. Crow grunted. But Jimmy Rabbit knew that he meant "Yes!"

"That's it!" Jimmy Rabbit cried. And he jumped up and down in his excitement.

"That's what?" asked Mr. Crow in a sulky tone.

"I'll tell you!" said Jimmy. "Yesterday the train stopped because it saw your red coat. That's the way to stop a train. You wave a red flag or a red lantern at a train and it will always stop. But I've noticed that a train pays no attention to any other color. Now, you could wave something green, or yellow, or blue in front of a train; and no matter how hard you waved, it would go right on as if it never saw you at all."

"Maybe you know," Mr. Crow snapped. "And maybe you don't. I said the train was afraid to stop. And I still think so."

Jimmy Rabbit winked at the crowd in the tree.

"I must hop along now," he told them. "I'm glad I came to see the race, for it has been even more fun than I expected."

Then Jasper Jay gave Mr. Crow a great start.

"It's too bad--" he said--"it's too bad you can't wear your red coat any more, Mr. Crow."

"How's that?" asked Mr. Crow quickly.

"You promised that if we didn't say it was a good joke you'd never wear a checkered red coat again."

Now, Mr. Crow had forgotten all about that remark. And for a moment he looked worried. Then he turned cheerful all at once.

"Look here!" he cried. "When I came back to this tree you all laughed, didn't you?"

Everybody admitted that.

"Then there must have been a good joke somewhere," Mr. Crow said. "And I shall wear my red coat as often as I please."

No one really cared, anyhow, whether he did or whether he didn't. But Mr. Crow was angry with Jasper Jay. And he refused to finish the game of checkers with him.