VIII. The New Umbrella
 

Old Mr. Crow was feeling very happy, because he had a new umbrella--the only umbrella that was owned for miles around. And wherever Mr. Crow went, the umbrella went too, tucked snugly under his wing.

There was only one thing that could have made Mr. Crow feel any happier; and that was rain. As soon as it rained he intended to spread the umbrella over his head and go to call upon all of his friends.

But not a drop of rain had fallen for weeks. And so far as old Mr. Crow could judge, there wasn't a single sign of a storm anywhere. Nevertheless, he continued to carry his umbrella every time he stirred away from his house. And although the weather was so dry, he found a good deal of pleasure in showing his umbrella to his neighbors.

Now, old Mr. Crow had a cousin of whom you have heard. His name was Jasper Jay; and he was a great dandy. He always took pride in his handsome blue suit, of which he was very vain.

Being an inquisitive fellow, Jasper Jay was much interested in Mr. Crow's umbrella. Whenever he met Mr. Crow he asked the old gentleman to spread the umbrella; and once Mr. Crow had let Jasper hold it for as long as ten seconds, "just to see how it felt."

After that Jasper Jay could not get the umbrella out of his mind. He began calling at Mr. Crow's house every day; and all the time he was there he never took his eyes off the umbrella.

At last the two cousins met in the woods one day. As usual, Mr. Crow had his umbrella tucked under his wing. But when Jasper asked him to spread it, Mr. Crow refused.

"I can't keep putting my umbrella up and down," he said. "If I did, the first thing I knew it would be worn out; and then what would happen to me if it should rain?"

"You'd get wet," said Jasper Jay.

"Exactly!" Mr. Crow replied. "And at my age I might take cold and be very ill, perhaps."

"Where are you going?" Jasper inquired pleasantly. He was disappointed; but he did not let his cousin see that.

"I'm on my way to a big meeting of the Crow family," the old gentleman replied.

"And you're taking your umbrella?" Jasper asked, as if he were greatly astonished.

"Why--yes!" Mr. Crow answered. "You seem surprised."

"I am," said Jasper Jay with a sad shake of his head. "I'd hate to risk it, if I were you. There'll be some rough young fellows there and you're likely to lose your umbrella. I'm afraid they'll take it away from you."

Old Mr. Crow looked worried.

"I don't know what to do," he said anxiously. "It's an important meeting. They're expecting me. And I'm late, as it is. If I go back home and leave my umbrella I'm afraid they'll think I'm not coming."

"I suppose I could help you just this once," Jasper Jay remarked. "Of course, it's not a thing I'd do for everybody. But since you're my cousin, if you want me to do it I'll take care of your umbrella until you come back again."

"Will you wait right here?" Mr. Crow asked him.

"Yes!"

"Will you promise not to spread the umbrella?"

At that question Jasper Jay's face fell. But pretty soon he said cheerfully:

"I promise not to put it up--unless it should rain."

Mr. Crow looked carefully at the sky. There was not a cloud to be seen. So he turned to Jasper Jay with a smile and placed the umbrella carefully in his hands.

Then Mr. Crow flew away.

"It certainly can't rain," he said to himself.

Mr. Crow arrived at the meeting quite out of breath. And his friends noticed that he seemed uneasy about something. He kept looking up at the sky and asking everybody what he thought about the weather.