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Rusty Wren

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RUSTY WREN’S wife was a very neat housekeeper. Every day she carefully cleaned her house, chirping while she worked. Sometimes her voice was sweet and pleasant. But at other times — though it was still sweet — it was not pleasant at all. And whenever Rusty heard that sec­ond kind of chirp he was always careful to find some errand that took him away from home.

You see, Rusty Wren was not so orderly as his wife. Often he scattered things about the house in a very careless fash­ion. For instance, if he happened to notice a bit of moss — or a burr — clinging to his coat, just as likely as not he would brush it off and let it fall upon the floor. And when Mrs. Rusty found anything like that in her cottage, she always knew how it came there.

Rusty sometimes remarked that it was a good thing he didn’t smoke.

“How would you like it if I dropped bits of tobacco, or ashes, and maybe burnt matches for you to pick up?” he asked his wife.

“You couldn’t come inside my house if you used tobacco,” she always replied. And she would get quite excited at the mere thought of such an untidy habit.

And then Rusty would smile — but he always took good care not to let his wife see him.

“Don’t worry!” he would say, if she became too stirred up. “I’ve never smoked yet — and I never expect to.”

One can see that Rusty Wren was some­what of a tease. And as it usually hap­pens with people who amuse themselves at the expense of others, there came a time when Rusty’s teasing landed him in trouble.

One day after he had come home from an excursion to the pasture (he seldom strayed so far from home as that!), Mrs. Rusty began sniffing the air. Her nose would have wrinkled — only it couldn’t, because it was so hard. She looked at her husband suspiciously. And it seemed to her that he had a guilty manner.

“I declare,” she said, “I believe you’ve been smoking.” And she started to scold so angrily that Rusty Wren knew she must be in a temper.

Seeing signs of trouble, Rusty began to fidget. And he moved about so uneasily that his wife was all the surer of his guilt. She stopped right in the middle of her scolding to say, “I smell smoke!”

“Perhaps you do,” Rusty admitted. “But it’s certainly not tobacco smoke.”

“Ah!” she exclaimed. “Then you’ve been smoking corn-silk, or hayseed — and that’s almost as bad.”

But Rusty said that it must be the smoke of a pine stump that she noticed.

“Farmer Green is burning some old stumps in the pasture,” he explained. “And I flew through a cloud of it.”

Just then he happened to notice a bit of something or other clinging to one of his tail feathers. And though his wife was looking straight at him, he flicked the tiny scrap upon the floor, without think­ing what he was doing.

“There you go again!” Mrs. Rusty Wren cried. “Here I’ve just finished cleaning the house and you’re littering it all up! You don’t care how much work you make for me.” And she pounced upon the brownish bit, intending to pick it up and throw it out of the house.

Rusty had already decided that he had better go away from home for a little while, until things were pleasanter, when his wife suddenly faced about and filed him with her glittering eyes.

“Ha!” she cried, holding up the scrap in her bill for him to see. “Tobacco!” she screamed. “And what, pray, have you to say to me now?”

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