A good deal of applause greeted his words. But some of the older and wiser of his listeners shook their heads.
“Who is there that could take Mr. Crow’s place?” a voice called.
At that question the stranger coughed slightly and said:
“Of course, I wouldn’t suggest any one specially, being a newcomer here myself. And if the position were offered to me, I don’t know that I could accept it, though I have had so much experience.”
The young fellows on the limb with Mr. Crow at once set up a great cawing.
“We want you!” they chanted. Old Mr. Crow might have been a scarecrow, for all the attention they paid to him. And he did not dare open his mouth. Many others took up the cry. And a great hub-bub arose—a beating of wings, and flying up and down, and jostling. Some of the younger ones squawked like chickens; others pretended to cry like children. But most of the company cawed in their loudest tones, until the whole valley rang with the uproar.
Then one of old Mr. Crow’s best friends spoke up and said:
“It’s plain that a good many people want you for a leader, stranger.”
“Then I’d be very happy to act as such,” the bold fellow replied. “And I’ll begin at once.”
But the elderly person who had just spoken said that there was no hurry and that the stranger ought first to be put to a test.
“We want to make sure that you’re a good leader,” he explained. “And I would suggest that you go to see Farmer Green to-morrow, tell him that we object to his putting tar on his corn, and ask him not to do it again next spring.”
The stranger looked somewhat uneasy, as he listened. But after he had pondered for a few moments he said briskly:
“I’ll do that! I’ll go to Farmer Green to-morrow (he won’t be busy, for to-morrow’s Sunday), and I’ll make him agree to what you want.”
“We’ll meet again on Monday, at sunset,” Mr. Crow’s friend announced.
And then the meeting broke up in the wildest disorder.
As for old Mr. Crow, he crept away without speaking to anyone. And always, before, he had made more noise than any ten of the others.
THE WHITE FLAG
Unhappy Mr. Crow could scarcely eat a mouthful of food after that meeting on Saturday night, when he found the stranger talking to the gathering. He was worried, because he knew that if the stranger succeeded in getting Farmer Green to promise that he would not put tar on his corn the following spring, everybody would choose the newcomer to be the leader of all the crows in Pleasant Valley. And that was an honor that old Mr. Crow had had for years.
For two whole days he sulked at home. He wouldn’t even go to his door when anybody knocked. But on Monday evening Mr. Crow was the first to reach the meeting-place in the pine woods, long before sunset. He sat himself down in the leader’s seat. And there he intended to stay as long as he could.