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A STRANGE MISTAKE
NOT wishing to be late at his cousin’s party, which he understood was to begin at five o’clock, Rusty Wren hurried along the bank of Black Creek, while Mr. Frog did his best to keep pace with him.
Somewhat out of breath, the two arrived shortly at the home of Long Bill Wren. And, to their surprise, they saw not the least sign of any other guests.
“It looks as if we were the first to get here,” Rusty Wren remarked, as they drew near Long Bill’s house in the reeds.
“Well, somebody has to be first, you know,” the tailor observed easily. “I always like to be early at a party,” he added, “because then I am sure of getting plenty of refreshments.”
If there were no other guests to be seen, neither was there any indication of a party about Long Bill’s home. There was nothing to eat anywhere in sight; and no flag, nor gay Chinese lantern, nor decoration of any other kind adorned his house.
Rusty Wren had always thought his cousin’s house a strange dwelling. Made of coarse grasses and reed stalks, it was round, like a big ball, with a doorway in one side. This queer building was fastened among the reeds a little distance above the ground. And it seemed to Rusty Wren that it must be a damp and unhealthful place to live.
“It’s odd that your cousin’s not here to greet us,” Mr. Frog croaked.
The words were scarcely out of his large mouth when Long Bill thrust his head and shoulders out of his door — for he had heard the voices in his front yard. He had on a shocking old coat — not at all the sort one would choose to wear when one expected guests.
“Well, well!” he exclaimed. “I’m glad to see you, Cousin Rusty. And I’m certainly surprised, for it’s more than a year since you’ve paid me a visit.”
“Aren’t you glad to see me, too?” Mr. Frog piped up a bit anxiously.
“Certainly — to be sure!” said Long Bill. “But I’m not so surprised — though I understand that you usually attend a singing-party about this time o’ day.”
“Yes!” said Mr. Frog. “But I’d much prefer to come to yours.”
“My what?” inquired Long Bill Wren, as a puzzled look appeared upon his face.
“Your party, of course!” Mr. Frog replied with a wide smile.
Now, Rusty Wren wished he had not called at Mr. Frog’s shop at all. If he had only come straight to his cousin’s house, he thought that he would have spared himself — and his cousin, too — a good deal of trouble. And, since he didn’t know what to say, he kept still for a few moments and let the others do all the talking.
Meanwhile, Long Bill hopped briskly outside his house, and joined them on the ground.
“My party!” he cried. “Why, I know of no party here! Somebody has made a mistake. I haven’t given a party for a year — just a year ago to-day. . . . I invited you at that time,” he told Rusty Wren, “but you didn’t come. And I never received any word from you about the matter.”
“That’s strange!” said Rusty. “This is the first I ever heard of the affair.”
“I engaged Mr. Crow to take your invitation to Jolly Robin in the orchard and ask him to give it to you,” Long Bill informed his bewildered cousin.
“That’s just the way this invitation reached me yesterday!” Rusty explained.
“Ah! I see it all now,” said Long Bill. And he began to laugh merrily. “Mr. Crow’s poor memory is to blame for your mistake. He forgot to deliver the message last year. And he happened to remember it only yesterday. So the news reached you just twelve months too late.”
Although Long Bill Wren continued to laugh heartily, neither Mr. Frog nor Rusty could manage even a faint smile. Having expected a merry time and plenty to eat, they were both disappointed.
But Mr. Frog soon said that so far as he was concerned, he still had a singing-party that he could attend, so he didn’t feel sad very long. And, after all, Rusty was glad to see his cousin, Long Bill Wren. They had a pleasant chat together for almost an hour. And Long Bill invited Rusty to stay to dinner.
Rusty thanked him and said, no! he must hasten home, because he had to go to bed early, on account of having to awaken Farmer Green at dawn the next morning.
When he returned to the old cherry tree Rusty had to answer a good many questions. His wife wanted to know what had kept him so long, and what Mr. Frog said, and what color his new Sunday coat was going to be.
When she learned that her husband’s visit to the tailor had been all in vain, she looked very suspicious and said quickly:
“You haven’t been at a party, have you?”
“No, indeed!” Rusty Wren replied. “I haven’t gone to a party for more than a year.”
And he seemed quite indignant that his wife should have such a strange idea in her head.