“It might rain suddenly,” Mr. Crow explained. “I might be soaked before I knew it—and you know that’s very dangerous for one of my age.”
It was not many days before there was another thunder-shower. And this time Mr. Crow was ready for it. As soon as he felt the first drops he spread his umbrella and raised it above his head. At last he was very, very happy. For the first time in his life he was going to see what it was like to stay out in the rain without getting wet.
Now, it hadn’t rained long before Jasper Jay came hurrying up to Mr. Crow, where he sat on Farmer Green’s fence, and crawled under the umbrella close beside the old gentleman.
“You don’t mind, I hope?” said Jasper Jay.
“Well—n-no!” said Mr. Crow. “It’s a big umbrella, fortunately. But I hope no one else comes along.”
The words were hardly out of his bill when Mr. Crow noticed a slim, gray fellow, with a bushy tail, bounding toward them on top of the fence.
It was Frisky Squirrel. And he crept close to Mr. Crow, under the umbrella, saying:
“You don’t mind, I hope?”
“N-no!” replied Mr. Crow. With Frisky on one side of him and Jasper Jay on the other Mr. Crow thought that maybe he could keep drier because they were there. But he hoped no one else would pass that way.
Well, some one did. Before Mr. Crow knew what had happened, a voice said—right over his shoulder:
“You don’t mind, I hope?”
It was Fatty Coon! And Mr. Crow certainly did mind—though he didn’t dare say so. In the first place, Mr. Crow was afraid of Fatty Coon. And in the second place, Fatty was so big that he crowded Mr. Crow almost off the fence.
Old Mr. Crow found it very hard to hold the umbrella straight and cling to the fence-rail at the same time. And something seemed to have made the umbrella very heavy. In spite of all he could do, it would tilt. And Mr. Crow crouched under the edge of it, right where the rain poured off. The water dripped inside his collar and ran down his back until he was soaked through and through.
Pretty soon Mr. Crow began to sneeze. At first he sneezed quite softly. But every time it happened he sneezed harder than the time before. And at last he sneezed so violently that he lost his hold on the fence and went tumbling down to the ground, with the umbrella, Jasper Jay, Fatty Coon and Frisky Squirrel on top of him.
As they fell, a huge, long-legged fellow named Christopher Crane alighted on the fence, on the very spot where they had been sitting, and laughed loudly at them.
“What’s the joke?” Mr. Crow asked in an angry voice, as he picked himself up. “I don’t see anything to laugh at.”
“Joke?” said Christopher Crane. “The joke’s on me. I thought that thing you have in your hand was a new kind of toadstool, growing on the fence. And here I’ve been sitting on it all this time and never knew you chaps were under it!”