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Blacky the Crow
By THORNTON W. BURGESS, Harrison Cady
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1999 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Blacky the Crow Makes a Discovery
Blacky the Crow is always watching for things not intended for his sharp eyes. The result is that he gets into no end of trouble which he could avoid. In this respect he is just like his cousin, Sammy Jay. Between them they see a great deal with which they have no business and which it would be better for them not to see.
Now Blacky the Crow finds it no easy matter to pick up a living when snow covers the Green Meadows and the Green Forest, and ice binds the Big River and the Smiling Pool. He has to use his sharp eyes for all they are worth in order to find enough to fill his stomach, and he will eat anything in the way of food that he can swallow. Often he travels long distances looking for food, but at night he always comes back to the same place in the Green Forest, to sleep in company with others of his family.
Blacky dearly loves company, particularly at night, and about the time jolly, round, red Mr. Sun is beginning to think about his bed behind the Purple Hills, you will find Blacky heading for a certain part of the Green Forest where he knows he will have neighbors of his own kind. Peter Rabbit says that it is because Blacky's conscience troubles him so that he doesn't dare sleep alone, but Happy Jack Squirrel says that Blacky hasn't any conscience. You can believe just which you please, though I suspect that neither of them really knows.
As I have said, Blacky is quite a traveler at this time of year, and sometimes his search for food takes him to out-of-the-way places. One day toward the very last of winter, the notion entered his black head that he would have a look in a certain lonesome corner of the Green Forest where once upon a time Redtail the Hawk had lived. Blacky knew well enough that Redtail wasn't there now; he had gone south in the fall and wouldn't be back until he was sure that Mistress Spring had arrived on the Green Meadows and in the Green Forest.
Like the black imp he is, Blacky flew over the tree-tops, his sharp eyes watching for something interesting below. Presently he saw ahead of him the old nest of Redtail. He knew all about that nest. He had visited it before when Redtail was away. Still it might be worth another visit. You never can tell what you may find in old houses. Now, of course, Blacky knew perfectly well that Redtail was miles and miles, hundreds of miles away, and so there was nothing to fear from him. But Blacky learned ever so long ago that there is nothing like making sure that there is no danger. So, instead of flying straight to that old nest, he first flew over the tree so that he could look down into it.
Right away he saw something that made him gasp and blink his eyes. It was quite large and white, and it looked—it looked very much indeed like an egg! Do you wonder that Blacky gasped and blinked? Here was snow on the ground, and Rough Brother North Wind and Jack Frost had given no hint that they were even thinking of going back to the Far North. The idea of any one laying an egg at this time of year! Blacky flew over to a tall pine-tree to think it over.
"Must be it was a little lump of snow," thought he. "Yet if ever I saw an egg, that looked like one. Jumping grasshoppers, how good an egg would taste right now!" You know Blacky has a weakness for eggs. The more he thought about it, the hungrier he grew. Several times he almost made up his mind to fly straight over there and make sure, but he didn't quite dare. If it were an egg, it must belong to somebody, and perhaps it would be best to find out who. Suddenly Blacky shook himself. "I must be dreaming," said he. "There couldn't, there just couldn't be an egg at this time of year, or in that old tumble-down nest! I'll just fly away and forget it."
So he flew away, but he couldn't forget it. He kept thinking of it all day, and when he went to sleep that night he made up his mind to have another look at that old nest.CHAPTER 2
Blacky Makes Sure
"As true as ever I've cawed a caw
That was a new-laid egg I saw."
"What are you talking about?" demanded Sammy Jay, coming up just in time to hear the last part of what Blacky the Crow was mumbling to himself.
"Oh nothing, Cousin, nothing at all," replied Blacky. "I was just talking foolishness to myself."
Sammy looked at him sharply. "You aren't feeling sick, are you, Cousin Blacky?" he asked. "Must be something the matter with you when you begin talking about new-laid eggs, when everything's covered with snow and ice. Foolishness is no name for it. Whoever heard of such a thing as a new-laid egg this time of year?"
"Nobody, I guess," replied Blacky. "I told you I was just talking foolishness. You see, I'm so hungry that I just got to thinking what I'd have if I could have anything I wanted. That made me think of eggs, and I tried to think just how I would feel if I should suddenly see a great big egg right in front of me. I guess I must have said something about it."
"I guess you must have. It isn't egg time yet, and it won't be for a long time. Take my advice and just forget about impossible things. I'm going over to Farmer Brown's corn-crib. Corn may not be as good as eggs, but it is very good and very filling. Better come along," said Sammy.
"Not this morning, thank you. Some other time, perhaps," replied Blacky.
He watched Sammy disappear through the trees. Then he flew to the top of the tallest pine-tree to make sure that no one was about. When he was quite sure that no one was watching him, he spread his wings and headed for the most lonesome corner of the Green Forest.
"I'm foolish. I know I'm foolish," he muttered. "But I've just got to have another look in that old nest of Redtail the Hawk. I just can't get it out of my head that that was an egg, a great, big, white egg, that I saw there yesterday. It won't do any harm to have another look, anyway."
Straight toward the tree in which was the great tumbledown nest of Redtail the Hawk he flew, and as he drew near, he flew high, for Blacky is too shrewd and smart to take any chances. Not that he thought that there could be any danger there; but you never can tell, and it is always the part of wisdom to be on the safe side. As he passed over the top of the tree, he looked down eagerly. Just imagine how he felt when instead of one, he saw two white things in the old nest,—two white things that looked for all the world like eggs! The day before there had been but one; now there were two. That settled it in Blacky's mind; they were eggs! They couldn't be anything else.
Blacky kept right on flying. Somehow he didn't dare stop just then. He was too much excited by what he had discovered to think clearly. He had got to have time to get his wits together. Whoever had laid those eggs was big and strong. He felt sure of that. It must be some one a great deal bigger than himself, and he was of no mind to get into trouble, even for a dinner of fresh eggs. He must first find out whose they were; then he would know better what to do. He felt sure that no one else knew about them, and he knew that they couldn't run away. So he kept right on flying until he reached a certain tall pine-tree where he could sit and think without being disturbed.
"Eggs!" he muttered. "Real eggs! Now who under the sun can have moved into Redtail's old house? And what can they mean by laying eggs before Mistress Spring has even sent word that she has started? It's too much for me. It certainly is too much for me."CHAPTER 3
Blacky Finds Out Who Owns the Eggs
Two big white eggs in a tumble-down nest, and snow and ice everywhere! Did ever anybody hear of such a thing before?
"Wouldn't believe it, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes," muttered Blacky the Crow. "Have to believe them. If I can't believe them, it's of no use to try to believe anything in this world. As sure as I sit here, that old nest has two eggs in it. Whoever laid them must be crazy to start housekeeping at this time of year. I must find out whose eggs they are and then—"
Blacky didn't finish, but there was a hungry look in his eyes that would have told any who saw it, had there been any to see it, that he had a use for those eggs. But there was none to see it, and he took the greatest care that there should be none to see him when he once again started for a certain lonesome corner of the Green Forest.
"First I'll make sure that the eggs are still there," thought he, and flew high above the tree tops, so that as he passed over the tree in which was the old nest of Red-tail the Hawk, he might look down into it. To have seen him, you would never have guessed that he was looking for anything in particular. He seemed to be just flying over on his way to some distant place. If the eggs were still there, he meant to come back and hide in the top of a near-by pine-tree to watch until he was sure that he might safely steal those eggs, or to find out whose they were.
Blacky's heart beat fast with excitement as he drew near that old tumble-down nest. Would those two big white eggs be there? Perhaps there would be three! The very thought made him flap his wings a little faster. A few more wing strokes and he would be right over the tree. How he did hope to see those eggs! He could almost see into the nest now. One stroke! Two strokes! Three strokes! Blacky bit his tongue to keep from giving a sharp caw of disappointment and surprise.
There were no eggs to be seen. No, Sir, there wasn't a sign of eggs in that old nest. There wasn't because—why, do you think? There wasn't because Blacky looked straight down on a great mass of feathers which quite covered them from sight, and he didn't have to look twice to know that that great mass of feathers was really a great bird, the bird to whom those eggs belonged.
Blacky didn't turn to come back as he had planned. He kept right on, just as if he hadn't seen anything, and as he flew he shivered a little. He shivered at the thought of what might have happened to him if he had tried to steal those eggs the day before and had been caught doing it.
"I'm thankful I knew enough to leave them alone," said he. "Funny I never once guessed whose eggs they are. I might have known that no one but Hooty the Horned Owl would think of nesting at this time of year. And that was Mrs. Hooty I saw on the nest just now. My, but she's big! She's bigger than Hooty himself! Yes, Sir, it's a lucky thing I didn't try to get those eggs yesterday. Probably both Hooty and Mrs. Hooty were sitting close by, only they were sitting so still that I thought they were parts of the tree they were in. Blacky, Blacky, the sooner you forget those eggs the better."
"Some things are best forgotten
As soon as they are learned.
Who never plays with fire
Will surely not get burned."
The Cunning of Blacky
Now when Blacky the Crow discovered that the eggs in the old tumble-down nest of Redtail the Hawk in a lonesome corner of the Green Forest belonged to Hooty the Owl, he straightway made the best of resolutions; he would simply forget all about those eggs. He would forget that he ever had seen them, and he would stay away from that corner of the Green Forest. That was a very wise resolution. Of all the people who live in the Green Forest, none is fiercer or more savage than Hooty the Owl, unless it is Mrs. Hooty. She is bigger than Hooty and certainly quite as much to be feared by the little people.
All this Blacky knows. No one knows it better. And Blacky is not one to poke his head into trouble with his eyes open. So he very wisely resolved to forget all about those eggs. Now it is one thing to make a resolution and quite another thing to live up to it, as you all know. It was easy enough to say that he would forget, but not at all easy to forget. It would have been different if it had been spring or early summer, when there were plenty of other eggs to be had by any one smart enough to find them and steal them. But now, when it was still winter (such an unheard-of time for any one to have eggs!), and it was hard work to find enough to keep a hungry Crow's stomach filled, the thought of those eggs would keep popping into his head. He just couldn't seem to forget them. After a little, he didn't try.
Now Blacky the Crow is very, very cunning. He is one of the smartest of all the little people who fly. No one can get into more mischief and still keep out of trouble than can Blacky the Crow. That is because he uses the wits in that black head of his. In fact, some people are unkind enough to say that he spends all his spare time in planning mischief. The more he thought of those eggs, the more he wanted them, and it wasn't long before he began to try to plan some way to get them without risking his own precious skin.
"I can't do it alone," thought he, "and yet if I take any one into my secret, I'll have to share those eggs. That won't do at all, because I want them myself. I found them, and I ought to have them." He quite forgot or overlooked the fact that those eggs really belonged to Hooty and Mrs. Hooty and to no one else. "Now let me see, what can I do?"
He thought and he thought and he thought and he thought, and little by little a plan worked out in his little black head. Then he chuckled. He chuckled right out loud, then hurriedly looked around to see if any one had heard him. No one had, so he chuckled again. He cocked his head on one side and half closed his eyes, as if that plan was something he could see and he was looking at it very hard. Then he cocked his head on the other side and did the same thing.
"It's all right," said he at last. "It'll give my relatives a lot of fun, and of course they will be very grateful to me for that. It won't hurt Hooty or Mrs. Hooty a bit, but it will make them very angry. They have very short tempers, and people with short tempers usually forget everything else when they are angry. We'll pay them a visit while the sun is bright, because then perhaps they cannot see well enough to catch us, and we'll tease them until they lose their tempers and forget all about keeping guard over those eggs. Then I'll slip in and get one and perhaps both of them. Without knowing that they are doing anything of the kind, my friends and relatives will help me to get a good meal. My, how good those eggs will taste!"
It was a very clever and cunning plan, for Blacky is a very clever and cunning rascal, but of course it didn't deserve success because nothing that means needless worry and trouble for others deserves to succeed.CHAPTER 5
Blacky Calls His Friends
When Blacky cries "Caw, caw, caw, caw!"
As if he'd dislocate his jaw,
His relatives all hasten where
He waits them with a crafty air.
They know that there is mischief afoot, and the Crow family is always ready for mischief. So on this particular morning when they heard Blacky cawing at the top of his lungs from the tallest pine-tree in the Green Forest, they hastened over there as fast as they could fly, calling to each other excitedly and sure that they were going to have a good time of some kind.
Blacky chuckled as he saw them coming. "Come on! Come on! Caw, caw, caw! Hurry up and flap your wings faster. I know where Hooty the Owl is, and we'll have no end of fun with him," he cried.
"Caw, caw, caw, caw, caw, caw!" shouted all his relatives in great glee. "Where is he? Lead us to him. We'll drive him out of the Green Forest!"
So Blacky led the way over to the most lonesome corner of the Green Forest, straight to the tree in which Hooty the Owl was comfortably sleeping. Blacky had taken pains to slip over early that morning and make sure just where he was. He had discovered Hooty fast asleep, and he knew that he would remain right where he was until dark. You know Hooty's eyes are not meant for much use in bright light, and the brighter the light, the more uncomfortable his eyes feel. Blacky knows this, too, and he had chosen the very brightest part of the morning to call his relatives over to torment poor Hooty. Jolly, round, bright Mr. Sun was shining his very brightest, and the white snow on the ground made it seem brighter still. Even Blacky had to blink, and he knew that poor Hooty would find it harder still.
But one thing Blacky was very careful not to even hint of, and that was that Mrs. Hooty was right close at hand. Mrs. Hooty is bigger and even more fierce than Hooty, and Blacky didn't want to frighten any of the more timid of his relatives. What he hoped down deep in his crafty heart was that when they got to teasing and tormenting Hooty and making the great racket which he knew they would, Mrs. Hooty would lose her temper and fly over to join Hooty in trying to drive away the black tormentors. Then Blacky would slip over to the nest which she had left unguarded and steal one and perhaps both of the eggs he knew were there.
Excerpted from Blacky the Crow by THORNTON W. BURGESS, Harrison Cady. Copyright © 1999 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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