Chapter IX JOLLY’S MISTAKE
With Jolly Robin following close behind him, Jasper Jay flew directly to the crossroads, almost half-way to the village. Once there, he perched himself upon the sign-post at the four corners. And Jolly Robin seated himself upon one of the boards that were nailed to the post. “Here we are!” said Jasper Jay. “You see how easy it is.”
“When will the post begin to move?” Jolly Robin inquired, a bit anxiously. He had waited a whole day to begin his long journey to the South, so it was only natural that he should want to start at once.
“What’s that you say?” asked Jasper Jay. And when Jolly repeated his question, Jasper began to scream with laughter. “Well, that’s a good one!” he said at last. “So you thought the post was going to pull itself out of the ground and fly away with you, did you?”
“Why, yes!” Jolly Robin replied. “Aren’t these wings?” he asked, looking down at the boards. “They’re already spread,” he observed.
It was some minutes before Jasper Jay could answer him, for he was laughing again. But finally he managed to speak. “Those aren’t wings!” he cried. “They’re sign-boards, to tell you which road to take. Of course, you can’t expect to read a sign when you’re sitting on it. Just go over to the fence across the road and you can see the sign that you’re on now.”
So Jolly Robin fluttered over to the fence. And from there he could see the sign-board plainly. This is what it looked like: TO SKY POND, 15 MILES.
“There!” Jasper Jay cried, when Jolly had read the sign aloud. “You see how easy it is. All you need do is to follow this road to which the hand points.”
“Then I shall have to fly, after all,” Jolly Robin said. He had expected to have a ride. And naturally he was disappointed. Then he read the sign once more. “Sky Pond!” he exclaimed. “I don’t want to go to Sky Pond. I want to go to the South!”
“Well, Sky Pond’s south of Pleasant Valley,” Jasper Jay explained. “It’s right on your way to your winter home. And all you have to do when you reach Sky Pond will be to find another sign, which ought to say something like this: ‘To the South, one thousand miles.’ You see how simple it is,” Jasper Jay remarked. “With a sign-board to guide you, you can’t go wrong.”
But it seemed to Jolly that the new way of travelling was far more difficult than the old. He said as much to Jasper Jay, too. “I wish—-” he added–“I wish I had started yesterday, with the others.”
At that Jasper Jay said, “Nonsense!” And he muttered something about dunces, and mollycoddles, and–yes! ‘fraid-cats!
Perhaps Jasper hadn’t intended that Jolly Robin should hear those words–and perhaps he had. Anyhow, he was sorry afterward that he had spoken so loud. For the first thing he knew, Jolly Robin flew straight at him with shrill chirps of rage. And Jasper was so surprised—and frightened, too–that he flew off as fast as he could go, following the road that led to Sky Pond, fifteen miles away, with Jolly Robin after him.
Jolly chased him for a long time, until at last Jasper Jay swerved to one side and turned toward home.
But Jolly Robin followed him no longer. He kept straight on, and on, and on. And he flew so fast and so far before he stopped that he overtook the party that had started a whole day ahead of him.
So he travelled to his winter home in the old-fashioned way, after all. And though Jolly Robin laughed when he told his friends about Jasper Jay’s new style of travelling, there was one thing over which he could not smile, even then.
You see, “‘fraid-cat” was a name he couldn’t abide.