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Rusty Wren

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RUSTY WREN edged toward the door — that little opening in the syrup can, only slightly bigger than a twenty-five-cent piece. He wished he was already safely through it, for he did not like the look in his wife’s eyes.

“I must be going now,” he said faintly  — though he was generally as bold as brass.

“Wait a moment!” Mrs. Rusty ordered. “Where did this tobacco come from?” She spoke somewhat thickly, for she still held the bit of brown leaf in her bill.

“I can’t imagine,” he stammered. “I never knew it was sticking to my tail until I saw it and brushed it off!”

“On my clean floor!” his wife inter­rupted. “Goodness knows it’s bad enough to have you forever doing things like that without your bringing tobacco into my clean house — and without smelling of smoke, too.”

For almost the first time in his life Rusty Wren was really worried. Some­how, he had managed to get into some­thing a good deal like a scrape. It seemed to him that the house was terribly hot and stuffy; and always before he had thought it quite comfortable.

“I’m going out for a breath of fresh air,” he protested feebly. And before Mrs. Rusty could stop him he dodged past her and slipped through the tiny door­way, leaving her to scold to her heart’s content.

All this happened in the middle of the morning. And the cuckoo clock in Far­mer Green’s kitchen had sung the hour six times before Rusty Wren returned.

Never before had he stayed away from his snug house so long. And, naturally, that made him have a guilty feeling, as if he had really done something to be ashamed of. As for smoking, he had (as he said) never smoked in his life. It was true that Farmer Green was burning stumps in the pasture that morning, and that the odor of the smoke had clung to Rusty’s feathers.

But the bit of tobacco that had clung to his tail was a mystery that he couldn’t explain. It was a most unfortunate ac­cident. But Rusty hoped that by that time — it was then the middle of the after­noon — he hoped that his wife had recov­ered from her displeasure. Usually, when they had any little difference of opinion, she felt better if he gave her plenty of time in which to scold. But now Rusty was not quite sure of his welcome. He had never seen Mrs. Rusty so upset.

“Are you there, my love?” he asked softly, as he alighted on the roof of his house. He did not care to go inside until he was quite sure that his wife was in bet­ter spirits.

“The smoker has come home again,” a peevish voice called out. And instead of bursting into the merry song which Rusty had been all ready to carol, he flew off across the yard and began hunting for something to eat.

Since he couldn’t very well go home, he thought that he might as well enjoy a good meal, at least.

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