XX. Old Shoes for New

Old Mr. Crow was too proud to admit that the shoe Jimmy Rabbit was pulling upon his right foot was too small for him. But he would have objected, to be sure, had he known that it was the left shoe. He would have objected likewise when Jimmy crammed his left foot into the right shoe a few minutes later. But Mr. Crow only knew that his feet already ached.

"Now just stand on them!" Jimmy Rabbit said at last.

And Mr. Crow stood up.

"Now walk a bit," the shoe merchant continued.

But Mr. Crow could not walk. He hobbled a short distance. And then he sank down with a groan.

"They don't hurt you, do they?" Jimmy Rabbit asked him.

And Mr. Crow shook his head. He thought he could do that truthfully. What he felt was far worse than a mere hurt. It was torture--that was certainly what it was.

Of course Jimmy Rabbit knew what the trouble was--or part of it, at least. He knew that Mr. Crow's toes were doubled up inside the shoes. And it was on the tip of his tongue to suggest to Mr. Crow that he have his toes cut off. But a better way soon occurred to Jimmy Rabbit.

"I know you'll find these shoes very comfortable--after they're finished," he told Mr. Crow.

"Finished!" Mr. Crow exclaimed. "Do you mean to say they're only partly made?"

"There's just one more thing to do to them," Jimmy Rabbit explained. "The holes haven't been cut in them yet."

"Holes!" said Mr. Crow. "What holes?"

"Why, the holes for your toes, of course!" Jimmy Rabbit answered. "Maybe you didn't know that shoes are to be worn like that this summer. It makes them much cooler in hot weather."

Well, Mr. Crow liked the idea. He said so, too. He certainly couldn't wear the shoes as they were. And if everybody else was going to wear shoes with toe-holes, he didn't want to be behind the times. But he hadn't seen anybody with shoes made after that fashion. And he told Jimmy Rabbit as much.

"Ah!" said Jimmy Rabbit. "Quite true! You'll be the first in Pleasant Valley, Mr. Crow. You'll set the fashion, instead of following it. Better be first than last, you know!"

Old Mr. Crow agreed to that. So he let Jimmy Rabbit cut as many holes in the shoes as he had toes--that made four holes in each shoe.

And then Mr. Crow thrust his toes through the holes. To his great delight he could walk with ease and comfort. And he was about to leave the store when Jimmy Rabbit stopped him.

"Haven't you forgotten something?" he asked.

"I don't think so," Mr. Crow replied.

"Yes, you have!" Jimmy Rabbit insisted. "You've forgotten your bill!"

Mr. Crow looked at him in amazement. And then he felt of his face.

"None of your tricks, young man!" he cried. "My bill is right where it belongs. How could I forget it, I should like to know?"

"You don't understand," said Jimmy Rabbit. "What I mean is this: You haven't paid me for the shoes."

"Oh!" said Mr. Crow. And he looked away quickly. "Well, you may keep my old shoes. I'm sure that's a fair exchange."

And he pretended to be surprised when Jimmy Rabbit did not agree with him.

"Your old shoes are full of holes," Jimmy objected. "I don't want them."

And there Mr. Crow had him.

"These shoes I have on are full of holes, too," he declared. "And if one hole isn't just as good as another, then I may as well go back to school again." And with that he stalked angrily away.

As it happened, old Mr. Crow had never been to school in his life. But he thought the remark sounded well. And it seemed to keep Jimmy Rabbit quiet. He couldn't think of a thing to say until long after Mr. Crow had gone.

And then it was too late.