VII. Mr. Crow's Bad Memory
 

It was true, as Mr. Crow had said, that he had a bad memory. By the time he reached home he had forgotten almost everything the famous doctor, Aunt Polly Woodchuck, had said to him. About all Mr. Crow could recall of their talk was that Aunt Polly had told him his swollen foot was caused by gout; and that she had given him samples of such food as he might eat, and also such as he mightn't.

He had put the two kinds in different pockets, just as Aunt Polly had suggested. And all he had to do when he was hungry was to look into his pockets and see what food he might safely choose for his meal. Well, Mr. Crow was hungry as a bear by the time he reached his house. And the first thing he did was to feel in his left-hand pocket. He drew forth a kernel of corn.

"Good!" he cried. "That's exactly what I'd like for my dinner. And if Farmer Green hadn't tarred his corn before planting it I know exactly where I'd go." Then he thought deeply for a few minutes. "I'll go over to the corn-crib and see if I can't find some corn on the ground!" he exclaimed a little later. While he was thinking he ate the sample of corn, without once noticing what he did.

So Mr. Crow flew swiftly to the farm-yard. It happened that there was nobody about. And, luckily, Mr. Crow found enough corn scattered near the door of the corn-crib to furnish him with a good dinner.

The next morning, as soon as it began to grow light (for Mr. Crow was an early riser), he felt in his left-hand pocket once more. And he pulled out an elderberry.

"That won't do!" he said. "It's too early in the season for elderberries." But he ate the sample--though he found it rather dry, for it was a last year's berry. And then he fished a bird's egg out of the same pocket. "My favorite breakfast!" he remarked. He ate the egg. And at once he started out to hunt for more. Some people say that he robbed the nests of several small birds before he had breakfast enough.

Mr. Crow then proceeded to pass the morning very pleasantly, by making calls on his friends. He enjoyed their surprise at seeing his bandaged foot.

"I've the worst case of gout Aunt Polly Woodchuck has ever seen," he told every one with an air of pride.

When lunch time came, it found Mr. Crow with a hearty appetite. And once more he felt in his left-hand pocket to see what he might have for his meal.

He pulled out a squirming field-mouse. Mr. Crow was about to eat him; but the mouse slipped away and hid in a hollow stump. So Mr. Crow lost him. Then he went soaring off across the pasture. And when he came home again he didn't seem hungry at all. Whatever he may have found to eat, it seemed to satisfy him.

By this time Mr. Crow had quite recovered from the fear that had seized him when he first discovered his swollen foot. And before he went to sleep that night he thought he would take the bandage off his foot and look at it. He had some trouble in removing the bandage. And when he had succeeded in unwinding it he could hardly believe his eyes. His foot was its natural size again!

Old Mr. Crow looked at the bandage. And he saw, clinging to it, a mass of caked mud. He could not understand that.

"Anyhow, I'm cured," he said sadly. He was disappointed, because there were still a good many of his friends to whom he had not yet shown his bandaged foot. "I don't consider that Aunt Polly Woodchuck is as good a doctor as people say," Mr. Crow grumbled. "Here she's gone and cured my foot almost a week before I wanted her to!"

And the next day he went over to see the old lady and complain about her mistake.

"What have you been eating?" she asked Mr. Crow.

He told her.

"Ah!" said Aunt Polly. "It's your mistake--and not mine. You ate what was in your left-hand pocket, instead of what was in the right-hand one. If you had followed my instructions everything would have been all right."

Old Mr. Crow felt very much ashamed. There was nothing he could say. So he slunk away and moped for three days.

Though he did not know it, the trouble with his foot was simply this: He had daubed so much tar on his foot, in Farmer Green's cornfield, that the soft earth had stuck to it in a big ball.

Mr. Crow recovered his spirits at last. And neither he nor Aunt Polly Woodchuck ever discovered that he never had gout at all. He forgave her, at last, for having cured his foot too quickly, for the affair gave him something to talk about for a long time afterward. He never tired of telling his friends about the trouble he had had.

But many of the feathered folk in Pleasant Valley grew very weary of the tale before they heard the last of it.