XXI. The Crow Caucus
 

"Where are all those crows going?" Johnnie Green asked his father one evening. He pointed to a long line of big black birds that straggled across the sky. They came from across the valley. And they were travelling fast toward the pine woods near the foot of Blue Mountain. "They seem to be in a hurry," said Johnnie Green.

His father took one look at the procession and laughed.

"They're going to a crow caucus, I guess," he answered.

And then Johnnie wanted to know what a caucus was. He asked so many other questions, too, that Farmer Green didn't succeed in answering them all until they had almost finished their supper.

Now, it was the custom of old Mr. Crow and many of his dusky friends to gather at sunset in the pine woods and hold a meeting. That was what Farmer Green meant when he said they were going to a caucus. And if he could have been there himself he would have been astonished at the things he would have heard.

But for some reason he was never invited to attend one of those twilight meetings. Perhaps it was because disagreeable remarks were sometimes made about Farmer Green!

On that evening when Johnnie noticed the flight of Mr. Crow's cronies toward the woods something happened at the meeting that displeased that old gentleman. Being the biggest--as well as the oldest--crow in the neighborhood, for years past he had called every such meeting to order. And he had always done most of the talking, too.

But old Mr. Crow was late that night. When he reached the pine woods he found that a stranger had taken his accustomed seat in a great tree and was already addressing the gathering in a loud and commanding voice.

And nobody paid any attention to old Mr. Crow. Nobody made room for him. He had to take a back seat on a limb that was crowded with boisterous young fellows, who kept pushing and poking one another. It was most annoying.

"Who's that person that's so fond of hearing himself talk?" Mr. Crow asked someone in the next tree. He spoke in such a loud voice that everybody could hear him. And the stranger cried out sharply:

"Silence!"

Thereupon everyone looked around at Mr. Crow and frowned.

He felt both angry and uncomfortable. And for a little while he sat as still as he could and listened to the stranger's remarks.

Now, the newcomer was talking about the hard times. He said that there weren't as many grasshoppers as usual that year, and that Farmer Green had put tar on his corn before he planted it and that the rats had stolen most of his young chickens (of course that left very few for them), and that the wild berry crop was poor.

Everybody agreed with the stranger. And everybody nodded his head, as if to say, "That's quite true!"--at least, everybody but Mr. Crow. He was determined that he would not agree with anything the stranger said. And so he shouted, "Nonsense!" at the top of his lungs.

A murmur ran through the meeting. And there were cries of "Put him out!"

"That's what I say, too!" Mr. Crow bellowed.

And then he could hardly believe his ears when someone near him said, "They mean you!"