Chapter XVI A SLY TRICK
THIS was the truth of the matter: Old Mr. Crow was jealous because he couldn’t join Reddy Woodpecker’s new club, The Redcaps. For days the old gentleman could speak of nothing else. He went grumbling and sneering up and down Pleasant Valley, stopping to talk with anybody he happened to see. It must be confessed that the neighbors found his ill humor very tiresome.
Meanwhile Reddy Woodpecker’s club grew in numbers daily. It made Mr. Crow snort when anybody told him that The Redcaps had another new member.
Then all at once Mr. Crow’s manner changed. He became quite sprightly and even winked an eye and cracked a joke now and then. His neighbors wondered what had happened to him.
They soon found out. For Mr. Crow announced that he had discovered a new member for Reddy Woodpecker’s club. Strange to say, the old gentleman seemed to take great pride in helping The Redcaps.
“I’m going to take my find to the meeting of the club this afternoon,” Mr. Crow told everybody.
“But you’re not a member. You can’t go to a meeting,” his friends objected.
“Can’t I?” said Mr. Crow wisely. “The air is free. I can go anywhere I please.”
So that afternoon Mr. Crow flew down to the lower end of the meadow, where The Redcaps were gathering. He took a friend with him, whom he left hidden in some reeds at the edge of the swamp.
To Reddy Woodpecker Mr. Crow said, “You’d like another member, I dare say.”
“Certainly!” Reddy replied. “The more the merrier provided they wear red caps.”
“I think,” said Mr. Crow, “when you see the gentleman I have in mind you’ll say he has a red cap.”
“Bring him up!” Reddy Woodpecker ordered.
“I can’t. He’s shy,” Mr. Crow explained. “But if you’ll come with me you can take a look at him.”
So Reddy Woodpecker followed Mr. Crow down to the place where the reeds grew, near the swamp. And there Mr. Crow pointed out a gentleman who did indeed appear to be wearing a red cap.
“Good!” exclaimed Reddy Woodpecker. And to the stranger he called, “I don’t know you. But I invite you, sir, to join The Redcaps.”
The stranger answered in a muffled voice, “I accept.”
Then Reddy took another and closer look at him. Reddy couldn’t help feeling there was something queer about the fellow. Half hidden as he was among the reeds the stranger was not easy to see.
Suddenly Reddy Woodpecker turned upon Mr. Crow and called him a fraud.
“This person hasn’t a red cap,” Reddy declared. “I won’t have him in my club. I know him now. He’s hiding his head under his wing. That patch of scarlet isn’t on his head. It’s on his shoulder. He’s one of that Red-winged Blackbird family that lives in the swamp. And his head is as black as your own, Mr. Crow.”
By this time Mr. Crow was dancing up and down and cawing at the top of his lungs. “He’s a member of The Redcaps!’ he cried with great glee. “You invited him. And he accepted the invitation.”
“Very well!” said Reddy Woodpecker. “But if he belongs to my club he’ll have to keep his head under his wing.”
“Then I resign!” cried the Red-winged Blackbird.
“Oh, don’t do that!” Mr. Crow begged him.
“It’s too late,” Reddy told the old gentleman. “Your friend is a member of The Redcaps no longer.”