Here to return to
RUSTY WREN’S cousin, Long Bill, lived in the reeds on the bank of Black Creek. Although everybody called him “Long Bill,” like Rusty Wren he was actually short and chubby. His bill, however, was much longer than Rusty’s. You see, he belonged to one branch of the Marsh Wren family; and they all had bills like that.
Long Bill Wren always claimed that his real name was William; but people generally smiled when he made that statement.
It was not often that Rusty met this cousin of his, for Rusty seldom ventured so far from home as Black Creek. And being very fond of water, Long Bill did not care to spend any of his valuable time in Farmer Green’s dooryard.
Of course, there was the duck pond not far away — and the river, too. But the only water really close to Rusty’s home was the watering-trough. And that was entirely too small to please Long Bill. Wren. So no one ever saw him around the farm buildings.
For a long time Rusty had neither seen nor heard of his cousin, when one day Jolly Robin knocked at his door.
“I won’t come in,” said Jolly (of course he couldn’t have, anyhow — being far too big to get through Rusty’s door!). “I won’t come in, for I merely want to give you a message. Old Mr. Crow came to the orchard to-day and he asked me to deliver an invitation from your cousin who lives near Black Creek.”
“That’s Long Bill!” Rusty Wren exclaimed.
Jolly Robin nodded. “He’s going to have a party,” he explained. “And he wants you to come to it.”
“When will it take place?” Rusty asked eagerly.
“To-morrow!” said Jolly Robin.
“It’s rather short notice,” Rusty Wren observed.
“Mr. Crow has been keeping the message for you for some time,” Jolly Robin explained. “He said he thought it would be more of a surprise if you didn’t know about the party too soon.”
“We’ll be there, anyhow,” Rusty’s wife interrupted behind her husband’s back. She had been listening with a good deal of interest to Jolly’s message.
“But you’re not invited,” Jolly Robin told her. “This is a men’s party — so Mr. Crow says.”
“You may tell old Mr. Crow that my husband won’t be able to be present,” Mrs. Rusty Wren snapped. “He’s going to be very busy to-morrow, for he promised to help me with my house-cleaning.”
Rusty Wren looked worried. But he said nothing more just then. He wanted to go to his cousin’s party. But he did not like to argue with his wife, especially in the presence of a neighbor.
Soon Jolly Robin said he must go back to the orchard, because he had to take care of his children while his wife went out to make a call.
Mrs. Rusty did not urge him to stay. And, since she seemed upset over something, Rusty thought it just as well if their visitor did not linger there too long.
“I was just going to the orchard myself to hunt for insects,” said Rusty. “So I’ll go with you.”
Mrs. Rusty shot a quick look at him.
“Remember! You’re going to be busy at home to-morrow!” she warned him.
“Yes! yes!” he said. And he seemed in a bit of a hurry to get to the orchard — it couldn’t have been to get away from home.