Chapter VIII AN EARLY CALL
MRS. WOODPECKER flew to her neighbor Mrs. Flicker’s tree and rapped, tap-tap-tap-tap. She didn’t rap gently, either. She was not in a gentle mood. She intended to find out why Mrs. Flicker had called to Reddy Woodpecker, “Good morning, my dear!”
Mrs. Flicker promptly stuck her head out of her door.
“My husband is not at home,” she said. And then she vanished.
“Well, the very idea! What a remark to make to me!” cried Mrs. Woodpecker. “As if I’d call on a gentleman!” Being angrier than ever, she rapped harder than before.
Again Mrs. Flicker peered out. Again she spoke. “Did you wish to leave a message, Mr. Woodpecker?” she inquired.
“I’m not Mr. Woodpecker! I’m Mrs. Woodpecker!” shrieked the caller.
“Oh! Oh! Oh! My! My! My!” exclaimed Mrs. Flicker, who was greatly astonished. “I beg your pardon! Excuse me! It’s my mistake.”
“It certainly isn’t mine,” said Mrs. Reddy Woodpecker. “It seems to me you’re making a good many mistakes this morning, madam.”
Mrs. Flicker looked very unhappy. She wasn’t used to being called ‘madam.’ She could see that Mrs. Woodpecker was furious. She wanted to be friends with Mrs. Woodpecker.
“You and Mr. Woodpecker look very much alike,” Mrs. Flicker said to her angry caller. “When one of you peeps out of your house it’s hard to tell who’s who. Just now when I came to my doorway I could see only your head. And I thought it was your husband. When I spoke to your husband a few minutes ago I thought it was you.”
Mrs. Woodpecker stared at her neighbor for a few moments. Somehow she thought Mrs. Flicker must be telling the truth.
“It’s your red caps, I think,” Mrs. Flicker went on. “They make you look like twins.”
“Dear me!” said Mrs. Woodpecker. “I hadn’t thought of that. What can we do?” Her anger had suddenly left her.
“My husband and I have things nicely arranged,” Mrs. Flicker told her caller.
“Now, you never have mistaken him for me, have you?”
“Nor me for him?”
“Do you know the reason?” Mrs. Flicker asked.
“No! No! I can’t say I do,” replied Mrs. Woodpecker eagerly.
“Well,” said Mrs. Flicker, “my husband wears a black mustache…. And of course I don’t,” she added.
“That’s it!” cried Mrs. Woodpecker. “I hadn’t realized it. But it’s so. And I must tell my husband to wear a mustache. It’s the only safe way to avoid trouble. Then people can tell us apart.”
Then Mrs. Woodpecker hurried away to speak to her husband. She was surprised that he didn’t take kindly to her suggestion.
“I don’t want to wear a mustache,” he objected.
“But you must!” she insisted.
“Why don’t you wear one?” he inquired. “It would do just as well.”
“Don’t be silly!” she snapped. “Ladies never wear mustaches.”
“Yes, they do,” he replied.
“No, they don’t!” she disputed.
Well, he saw at once that it was useless to argue with her.
“Come with me a moment, my dear!” Reddy begged her.
She thought he was going somewhere to get a mustache. So of course she hurried after him.
Reddy Woodpecker stopped beside Farmer Green’s barn.
“There!” he said, as he waved a wing towards a great poster that was pasted upon the side of the barn. “Do you see that lady? She has a mustache and a beard, too!”
It was just as he said. Mrs. Woodpecker couldn’t help admitting that, to herself. And though she didn’t speak to Reddy the rest of that day, he was satisfied. For she didn’t mention mustaches to him again.
“It was lucky for me,” he thought, “that the circus came to these parts this Summer.”