Chapter XIV ONE OR TWO BLUNDERS
Jolly Robin’s cousin, the Hermit, seemed much disappointed because Jolly did not weep after hearing the beautiful, sad song. But no matter how mournful a song might be, Jolly Robin could no more have shed tears over it than a fish could have. Naturally, a fish never weeps, because it would be a silly thing to do. Surrounded by water as he is, a fish could never see his own tears. And so all the weeping he might do would be merely wasted. Not wanting to hurt his cousin’s feelings, Jolly Robin said that he would try to weep after he went home. And that made the Hermit feel happier once more.
“Perhaps you’d like to see our eggs?” he suggested. And since Jolly Robin said he would be delighted to look at them, if the Hermit’s wife had no objection, his cousin led him further into the swamp. And there, in a nest of moss and leaves, lined with pine needles, the Hermit proudly pointed to three greenish blue eggs, somewhat smaller than those in Jolly’s own nest in Farmer Green’s orchard.
Jolly Robin stared at the nest in amazement. And pretty soon the Hermit grew quite uncomfortable. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “You seem surprised.”
“I certainly am!” Jolly Robin cried. “How do you dare do it?”
“Do what?” his cousin inquired uneasily.
“Why, you and your wife have built your nest on the ground!”
“Well, why shouldn’t we?” the Hermit asked. And he looked the least bit angry.
“But everybody knows that the best place for a nest is in a tree,” Jolly Robin told him. His cousin shook his head at that.
“It’s a matter of taste,” he said. “Our families have always preferred to build their nests on the ground. And as for me, I shall continue to follow their example…. It suits me very well,” he added.
Jolly Robin couldn’t help laughing, the sight struck him as being such an odd one.
“It’s a wonder–” he remarked–“it’s a wonder your wife doesn’t bury her eggs in the sand beside the creek, like old Mrs. Turtle.”
“I’d thank you,” said the Hermit, stiffly, “not to say such things about my wife.” And though he spoke politely enough, his manner was quite cold. It was clear that he felt terribly insulted.
Jolly Robin saw that he had blundered. And wishing to change the subject, he said hastily: “Won’t you sing another song?”
So the Hermit cleared his throat and began to sing again.
Although this song was not so sad as the first one, Jolly Robin did not like it half so well. The chorus, especially, he considered quite offensive. And it is not surprising, perhaps, that it displeased him, for this is the way it went:
“Any old vest
May do for the rest;
But I like a spotted one best!”
If it hadn’t been for that song, Jolly Robin would not have remembered that he had intended to speak to his cousin about his spotted waistcoat. Jolly had been so interested in the nest on the ground that the matter of the waistcoat had slipped out of his mind. But now he suddenly recalled the reason why he had come to see the Hermit. And he disliked his cousin’s spotted finery more than ever.
Thereupon, he resolved that he would speak about it, too.