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THE MAJOR HAS A PAIN
THE party had come to an end; nobody was left except old Mr. Crow and his friend Major Monkey.
Mr. Crow himself was fast growing sleepy, for it was almost dark. And he wanted to fly home and go to bed. But he hardly felt that he ought to leave just then.
There was no doubt that the Major was in great pain. He kept one hand pressed against the lowest button of his short red coat. His cap was awry. And his wrinkled face showed a careworn and anxious look.
"How many apples have you eaten today?" Mr. Crow asked his friend.
"I haven't the slightest idea," the Major answered. "After I had finished two dozen I lost count."
"My goodness!" Mr. Crow exclaimed. "It's no wonder you're ill.... We'll hurry over to the pasture and see Aunt Polly Woodchuck, the herb doctor. She'll know what to do for you."
Major Monkey was more than willing.
So they set out at once. The Major travelled through the tree-tops where he could, while Mr. Crow flew slowly, alighting now and then to wait for his friend to overtake him.
In a little while they came to the pasture. And Major Monkey was glad to find Aunt Polly at home.
She was a wise old lady. She knew right away, without being told, that it was Major Monkey – and not Mr. Crow – that was ill.
"You're in pain," she remarked to the Major. "I knew it the moment I set eyes on you."
Major Monkey moaned faintly.
"I hope you'll give me something to make me feel better," he wailed.
"I will," Aunt
Polly Woodchuck promised. And putting her hand inside a basket
carried on her arm, she drew forth a red apple. "Here!" she said,
Aunt Polly Woodchuck offered him an apple.
Major Monkey drew back.
"No!" he groaned. "I don't want any more apples. I've had too many already."
Aunt Polly Woodchuck shot a triumphant look at Mr. Crow.
"I thought so," she said. And she dropped the red apple back into her basket. "Now," she went on, turning again to the Major, "I should like to ask whether you're fond of corn."
Old Mr. Crow stepped forward quickly, "I object!" he cried. "The less said about corn, the better!"
Aunt Polly Woodchuck hastened to explain that she meant no offense to anyone.
"I merely wondered," she said, "whether you gave your guests corn to eat at your party."
"Certainly not! " Mr. Crow exploded. "Certainly not! " And he glared at the old lady as if to say: "Change the subject – for pity's sake!"
"You're a stranger in these parts, I take it," Aunt Polly said, turning once more to Major Monkey. "No doubt you've been used to eating different food from what you get hereabouts."
"That's so," the Major admitted. "I've been living mostly on boiled rice, with a baked potato now and then."
"Ah! Cooked food!" said Aunt Polly. And if you had that sort of fare, you must have been living with men."
The Major looked uneasy.
"I don't care to talk about my past," he murmured. "Just you give me something to warm my stomach a bit. That's all I ask of you."
Well, Aunt Polly Woodchuck handed him some peppermint leaves.
"Chew these," she directed him. "And if you don't feel better to-morrow I'll lose my guess."
Major Monkey put the leaves into his mouth and made a wry face.
"Haven't you a lump of sugar to make this dose taste better?" he asked her.
"There!" Aunt Polly cried. "You've been fed by men! I knew it all the time."
Major Monkey made no comment on her remark. And settling his cap firmly on his head he said that he must be going. So he and Mr. Crow went off.
"Where are you going to spend the night?" Mr. Crow asked him as soon as they were out of Aunt Polly's hearing.
"That haystack is a good place," said the Major. "I believe I'll live there as long as I stay in Pleasant Valley."
"It's not far from the farmhouse," Mr. Crow observed. "Perhaps you could steal – er – I mean find a little cooked food there now and then."
"That's an idea," Major Monkey told him. But he did not explain whether he had thought it a good one or not.
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