The Tale of Old Mr. Crow by Arthur Scott Bailey
II. Something Lost
It may seem a strange thing for old Mr. Crow to have had no other name--such as John, or James, or Josephus. But that was the way he preferred it to be. Indeed, his parents had given him another name, years before. But Mr. Crow did not like it. And after he grew up he dropped the name. To tell the truth, the reason for his coming to Pleasant Valley, in the beginning, was because no one knew him there. And though his new friends thought it odd that he should be called simply "Mr. Crow," he was satisfied.
Of course, that was when he was younger. As the years passed he became known as "old Mr. Crow." But no one called him that except behind his back. And since he knew nothing of that, it never annoyed him in the least.
Now, Mr. Crow had spent a good many pleasant seasons in Pleasant Valley. And nobody had ever found out much about him. But at last there came a day when he was very much upset. He was roaming through the woods on a sunny afternoon when someone called to him.
He stopped. And presently a person in a bright blue coat came hurrying up. It was a noisy fellow known as Jasper Jay, who was new in the neighborhood.
"I thought I recognized you," he shouted to Mr. Crow. "As soon as I saw you fly past I said to myself, 'That looks like Cousin--'"
Mr. Crow stopped him just in time. It was true that the two were cousins. One look at their big feet and their big bills would have told you that.
Now, Mr. Crow sometimes saw Jasper on the trips he made each fall and spring. And Jasper knew Mr. Crow's name. He had almost said it, too, at the top of his boisterous voice.
"What's the matter?" Jasper Jay inquired, for Mr. Crow was looking all around. "Have you lost anything?"
"Yes!" said Mr. Crow. "I've lost my name. And I don't want to find it again, either."
What he was really doing was this: He was peering about to see whether anybody might be listening.
Jasper Jay's mouth fell open--he was so astonished.
"Why, what do you mean, Cousin--"
Mr. Crow stopped him again.
"Don't call me that!" he said severely. "I'm known here as 'Mr. Crow.' And I'll thank you to call me by that name and no other."
That astonished Jasper Jay all the more, because he had never known Mr. Crow to thank anybody for anything.
"Well, well!" he murmured faintly. And then it was Mr. Crow's turn to be surprised, for he had never before heard his cousin Jasper speak in anything but the loudest scream.
Then Mr. Crow explained that he had never liked the name his parents had given him and that he wanted nobody in Pleasant Valley to learn what it was.
"You must promise me," said Mr. Crow--and there was a dangerous glitter in his eye--"you must promise me that you'll never speak my name again."
"Why, certainly!" Jasper Jay replied. "I'm glad to oblige you, I'm sure. And I promise that I'll never, never, never again mention your name aloud, Cousin Jim."
There! The secret is out! Jasper Jay said Mr. Crow's name without once thinking what he was about. And Mr. Crow was so angry that he gave his cousin a sound beating, on the spot.
"I'll teach you," he said, "to do as you're told!" And he did. For after that Jasper Jay always remembered that to him, as to everybody else, his big black cousin must be known only as "Mr. Crow."
You see, "Jim Crow" was a name that Mr. Crow could not abide. The mere sound of it made him wince. And he was not a person of tender feelings, either.