Chapter XX CATCHING FLIES
AFTER his children were grown up Reddy Woodpecker had plenty of time to wander about and see all the sights in Pleasant Valley. He had often heard that one of the most curious sights was an odd person known as Ferdinand Frog. So one day Reddy flew down to Black Creek, where this nimble gentleman lived.
Unseen by Mr. Frog, Reddy Woodpecker clung to an old stump that leaned over the water, as if it wanted to enjoy a swim but didn’t quite dare take the first plunge. Keeping most of himself hidden, Reddy peeped around the stump and watched Ferdinand Frog as he sat on a flat rock near the bank and caught flies.
Mr. Frog was an expert at that sport. Whenever a fly ventured near enough to him his long tongue darted out of his wide mouth so quickly you could hardly see it. And it darted back again just as fast, bearing the fly upon the end of it.
“I don’t see how he spears ‘em like that,” thought Reddy Woodpecker, “with nothing but air behind them.” Mr. Frog’s knack was so unusual that at last Reddy Woodpecker couldn’t keep silent any longer.
So he called to Mr. Frog, “How do you do?”
“I’m very well, thank you!” cried Ferdinand Frog instantly. “How are you?”
Reddy Woodpecker had to explain that Mr. Frog hadn’t understood him.
“What I was going to ask you,” he said, “was not ‘How do you do?’ It was ‘How do you do that?'”
“That what?” Ferdinand Frog inquired.
“How do you spear flies with your tongue when they’re in the air?” Reddy Woodpecker asked. “I can spear grubs and things with my tongue when they’re on a tree. And I can catch flies in my mouth when I’m flying. But I’ve never learned your trick.”
“I don’t spear flies,” said Mr. Frog.
Of course Reddy Woodpecker thought that Mr. Frog had told a whopper. Hadn’t he been watching him?
“I don’t spear flies with my tongue,” Ferdinand Frog went on. “My tongue is sticky. When it touches a fly, he’s caught. It’s very simple.”
“That’s an elegant way to catch ’em,” Reddy remarked.
“Yes,” said Mr. Frog; “and that’s an elegant suit you’re wearing. Would you mind if I copied it? You know, I’m the well known tailor of Pleasant Valley. And I’m always on the lookout for something different. Your clothes are different from any I’ve ever seen before. I dare say they’ll become quite fashionable in about ten years.”
Well, Reddy Woodpecker didn’t know whether to be angry or pleased. He had heard that Mr. Frog was queer. But he hadn’t supposed Mr. Frog could be as queer as he seemed.
“You may copy my suit if you wish,” Reddy blurted at last.
“Good!” the tailor exclaimed. “Come with me to my shop and I’ll make some notes.”
This was more than Reddy Woodpecker cared to do. “I won’t!” he said flatly.
“Tut! Tut!” cried Mr. Frog. “You promised I might copy your suit. You mustn’t break your promise.”
“I’m not going inside any shop,” Reddy declared very firmly.
“Of course not!” said Mr. Frog. “I’ll go inside. You can stay outside. And I’ll look you over through the doorway and jot down what I need.”
“All right!” said Reddy Woodpecker.
So Mr. Frog leaped ashore and gayly led the way to his shop nearby.