ONCE upon a time there was a beautiful wild Goose that lived in the mountains; he was King of the Geese, and he had a mate and two or three fine young ones. But it had happened once that this Goose, in his travels about the world, fell in with a young lady Crow, who was very pretty; as black as jet, with two eyes like black beads, and she flirted and flouted so enchantingly that he had married her, like the goose he was; so he had two wives, the little black Crow and the Goose.
In course of time this Crow laid a beautiful egg, all white with blue spots, and twice as big as an ordinary crow's egg. She was very proud of her egg, and sat on it for a longtime, until one day, pop! went the egg, and out came a funny little chick. The Crow did not know what to make of this chick; he was not black, as she was, and he was not white, like his father, but something betwixt and between, a dingy grey with brown streaks. So she named him Streaky.
Be sure that Streaky fancied himself mightily, being so very different from all the Crows he lived with; he was larger, to begin with, and then he had a very loud voice, with several different notes in it; not to mention his brown streaks, which made him a proud bird indeed. And I think the other Crows took him at his own price, as foolish creatures are apt to do, and thought him very wonderful, though he was really only a mongrel.
Now the Goose, his father, used to pay a visit to the Crow colony now and again, flying down from the mountains to the dust-heap where they lived, outside the city gate. But he did not stay long, because the Crows used to feed on offal and dead bodies, in fact anything dirty they could find; and King Goose could not get what he liked to eat.
Well, once as he was talking to his sons, the young Geese, they asked him why he was always going away for days at a time.
"Why," said he, "I go to see a son of mine that lives somewhere else."
"Oh, how nice!" said the Geese. "Then he must be our brother. Do let us bring him here on a visit! Do, father!"
At first the father Goose would not let them go, for fear of mischief; but after a while he was persuaded, and gave them very careful directions how to fly, and where to go, and how to find the place where Streaky lived, on the top of a tall palm-tree that grew out of a dust-heap at the city gate.
So away they flew, and away they flew, till at last they saw the tall palm-tree; and on the very top of it, a big nest; and in the nest, a little black Crow, and our funny friend Streaky.
They said "How do you do?" and told their errand; because they meant to go through with it now, although they did not much like the look of this ugly bird Streaky, with his airs and graces. Mrs. Crow was very much pleased, but Streaky looked bored, and said:
"Aw, caw, I don't think I can fly all that way. It is really too much trouble. Why did not the Governor come to see me instead, as usual--aw?" This rude bird called his father the Governor; you see, as he had been brought up among carrion crows, his manners were none of the best.
The young Geese began to like him less than ever. However, they put a good face on it, and answered him:
"Well, Streaky, if you are as weak as all that, we will carry you on a stick."
These Geese were very big, strong birds, and they thought nothing of carrying Streaky. So they looked about until they found a strong stick, and then each of them took an end in his mouth, and Streaky perched in the middle. They could not say good-bye to Mrs. Crow, because their mouths were full of the stick, but they made her a nice bow, like polite little Geese, and flew off.
As for Streaky, he was far too full of his own importance to say good-bye to his mother, or even so much as "Thank you" to the two birds who were so kindly carrying him. There he sat, on the middle of the stick, as proud as Punch, pluming his feathers, and feeling that now all the world would see what a splendid bird he was.
As they flew over the city Streaky looked down, and saw the king of the city, in a beautiful carriage drawn by four white thoroughbreds, driving round the city in great state and grandeur. "Aha!" thought he, "that's as it should be! But I'm every bit as good as he!" and in his joy he began to sing a little song which he made up on the spur of the moment, and here is his song:
"As yonder king goes galloping with his milk-white four-in-hand,
Streaky has these, his pair of Geese, to carry him over the land!"
The Geese were very angry when they heard Streaky sing this song. But they were very well-bred Geese, as you must have seen already; so they said nothing at all to him then, but carried him safely to their home, and then they told their father what Streaky had said, so that he might do as he thought best.
Old King Goose was more angry than they were, and was very sorry he had left his son to be brought up by a Crow who knew no manners. So he called Streaky, and this is what he said:
"Streaky, you have been very rude to your brothers, who are at least as good as you; and if you think they are like a pair of horses, to be driven about for your pleasure, you make a great mistake. So the best thing you can do is to fly back to your mother; for your manners suit the dust-heap better than the mountains."
I don't know whether Streaky was ashamed of what he had said; creatures like Streaky are very thick-skinned, and it takes a great deal to make them ashamed; but anyhow he had to go back, and this time he must fly by himself, for it was hardly likely that his brothers would carry him when he had been so rude. He got back a few days later, tired and hungry, and spent the rest of his days on the dust-heap, eating carrion. What his mother thought of it all I don't know; but King Goose never went to see them any more.