On that evening when Johnnie noticed the flight of Mr. Crow’s cronies toward the woods something happened at the meeting that displeased that old gentleman. Being the biggest—as well as the oldest—crow in the neighborhood, for years past he had called every such meeting to order. And he had always done most of the talking, too.
But old Mr. Crow was late that night. When he reached the pine woods he found that a stranger had taken his accustomed seat in a great tree and was already addressing the gathering in a loud and commanding voice.
And nobody paid any attention to old Mr. Crow. Nobody made room for him. He had to take a back seat on a limb that was crowded with boisterous young fellows, who kept pushing and poking one another. It was most annoying.
“Who’s that person that’s so fond of hearing himself talk?” Mr. Crow asked someone in the next tree. He spoke in such a loud voice that everybody could hear him. And the stranger cried out sharply:
Thereupon everyone looked around at Mr. Crow and frowned.
He felt both angry and uncomfortable. And for a little while he sat as still as he could and listened to the stranger’s remarks.
Now, the newcomer was talking about the hard times. He said that there weren’t as many grasshoppers as usual that year, and that Farmer Green had put tar on his corn before he planted it and that the rats had stolen most of his young chickens (of course that left very few for them), and that the wild berry crop was poor.
Everybody agreed with the stranger. And everybody nodded his head, as if to say, “That’s quite true!”—at least, everybody but Mr. Crow. He was determined that he would not agree with anything the stranger said. And so he shouted, “Nonsense!” at the top of his lungs.
A murmur ran through the meeting. And there were cries of “Put him out!”
“That’s what I say, too!” Mr. Crow bellowed.
And then he could hardly believe his ears when someone near him said, “They mean you!”
Well, it was no wonder that Mr. Crow was surprised when he found that some people wanted to put him out of the meeting just because he had said one word. Had he not always talked more than anybody else at those sunset meetings in the pine woods?
Luckily, no one made a move to oust him. And he managed to keep silent for a little while. But he was so angry that he did not hear what the stranger was saying. At last, however, Mr. Crow began to pay attention again.
“Do you want to know why times are hard and food is scarce in this neighborhood?” the impudent fellow asked.
Everybody except old Mr. Crow answered, “Yes!” And after the echo had died away the stranger continued:
“It’s because you need a new leader,” he declared. “I understand that a person called ‘Old Mr. Crow’ has been your leader for a good many years. And my advice to you, friends, is this: Get rid of him!”