THE GREAT DOG.
"See the pretty birds,
In glossy plumage dressed,
Picking straws and sticks,
To build themselves a nest.
"And then they place it safe
Along the boughs so high,
With leaves, to shade it,
And keep the nestlings dry."
"DEAR little birdie!" exclaimed Annie, coming down the stone steps, and scattering the crumbs on every side, "King sha'n't hurt you. Grandpa, tell him."
The great dog sat down at grandpa's feet, and looked him full in the face. "Now King," said the good man, "these little robins have come to make their home with us: you must help the children take care of them, and then you can hear their happy songs. Pretty robins!" pointing to the birds; "good fellow!" stroking his head; "now you may go and make acquaintance with them; and let us see how polite you can be."
King knew very well what this meant. He walked slowly on toward the little strangers, while Annie kept close to them, all the time saying, "Pretty birdie, pretty birdie, eat crumbs."
Mrs. Robin hopped backward a few steps, and then turned her bright eyes upon the great dog. Her husband came forward, and stood by her side. "I don't think there is much danger," he said to himself; "but I will be near to defend her in case any thing should occur."
Kind stood for a moment looking at them, and then lay down under the shad of the tree, as if was going to take a nap. But he kept one eye open to see what the new comer would do. After a few minutes, he was pleased to see that they were picking up crumbs as before, and even ventured close to his head. He was careful to lie very still, and they soon became so find of him that when Annie threw some bread down by him, they hopped boldly up, and ate it close to his mouth.
From this time, both Mr. and Mrs. Robin counted King among their intimate friends. If he was not in the yard when they went to their breakfast or dinner, they were much disappointed and kept turning first one eye and then the other upon Fred and Annie, as much as to say, "Where is King, I wonder?"
The pretty little house was now ready; and Mrs. Robin began to lay eggs in it. She was so much engaged in this, and so afraid some accident would happen to them while she was away, that she scarcely gave herself time to eat at all.
Fred wondered to see Mr. Robin come so often alone, and if Mrs. Robin flew into the yard for a minute, she hopped about so quickly, and appeared in such great haste to eat and fly back to her nest that Annie was quite in distress about her.
One day it rained very hard, and Mrs. Robin did not come at all. The little girl stood watching at the window. By and by she saw Mr. Robin flying up and down, from the garden to the tree. He did this ever so many times, and at last Fred went to the door to see what he was doing.
While he was gone grandpa came in from the shed, and told Annie that Mrs. Robin was sitting on her eggs to keep them warm, so that some little birds would come out of them. "If she should leave them, the rain would wet and spoil them; so she sits there patiently and lovingly and her mate carries her food to the tree."
"Annie! Annie!" cried Fred; "O, come quick, and see Robin Red-breast, with a great long worm in his mouth. I guess he is going to give it to his wife."
"Yes! yes! grandpa says so," exclaimed Annie, her face all in a glow from excitement.
Fred then ran in and begged some crumbs of his mother. "I want large ones," he said, "because Robin has to carry each to the nest, and then he need not go so many times."
His mother laughed. "I don't think it will hurt him any," she said; "he likes to wait on her, and he has nothing else to do."
"Except to sing," said Fred, walking to the door.
"Here, birdie, birdie," called out the boy, "come and get these for your breakfast."
Mr. Robin came as soon as he heard the call. He turned his little eye up to the window, and Annie told her mother he was bowing to her. Fred laughed merrily, and ran in to ask his grandpa to see how important the Robin walked about, eating a few pieces, and then flying away with one to the nest.
"He will have enough to do when the little ones are hatched," said grandpa, "for then he will have to feed them all."
SITTING ON THE EGGS.
THE next day the sun arose clear and bright. Mr. Robin did not like to go to the Observatory as well as when his wife went with him; but he kept up his spirits as bravely as he could. When he saw the sun peeping up from behind the hill, he poured forth such a volume of grateful lays as seemed to fill the whole air with melody. There were other families of robins in the neighborhood, and they joined in the morning song, echoing it from tree to tree in the most delightful manner.
Mr. Robin then went and sat on a little bough near his nest, where he cold have a chat with his wife.
"I enjoyed your singing very much, my dear," she said.
"Thank you," he replied. "I did my best, but I missed your voice sadly.
"In a few weeks I shall be able to join you," she answered lovingly; "and then only think how happy we shall be with our dear little birdlings by our side.
"I hope they will be dutiful, affectionate children," said Mr. Robin, gravely.
"We will do our best to teach them to be so," was the tender reply. "I think we ought to be very happy and grateful," she added, after a minute, "that we have so pleasant a place to bring up our little ones. I have often heard my parents say that dangers lurked on every side. But here we seem to be quite free from them; even King, of whom, at first, we were so afraid, would defend us if we were attacked by an enemy."
"Yes, my love, all you say is very true. I thought of it while I was in the Observatory this morning; and that I suppose was the reason why I sung so heartily. But I must be away to the garden, and get your breakfast."
In a few minutes he returned with a long worm, which he had readily found on the newly-ploughed land. "Worms are very plenty," said he. "The air is exceedingly fine. I will take your place for a few minutes, if you will fly down and get some."
"You are very kind," said Mrs. Robin, turning her little bright eye affectionately upon her husband. "I will go with pleasure. I sat so steadily all day yesterday that I think a little exercise will revive me."
She arose carefully from the little blue eggs, and after seeing her husband sheltering them, made a swift circle in the air, and then flew rapidly away to the garden. She found the worms on the top of the ground, as if they were waiting to be eaten, and made a most excellent meal of them. She was just raising her wings to hasten back to the nest, when she heard a loud barking at the cottage door, and saw Annie, in her night dress, scattering some crumbs.
For a moment Mrs. Robin perched upon a little bough on the lower limb of the tree, quite undecided what to do, when her husband called out, "Speak to the little girl, my dear; all is going on quite well in the nest." So she flew down again, and walked boldly up on the stone steps, and picked the crumbs close by Annie's little bare feet.
Then she cocked her small head, and said, "I am a very happy bird; I have a loving mate, and four pretty eggs, out of which some tiny birdlings will come, one of these days. I know you will like to see them. Good by, little girl! good by, King! I'm not at all afraid of you now."
Annie laughed heartily while Mrs. Robin was talking. She looked so funny standing on one foot, and turning her head, first on one side, then on the other; but she could not understand a word of it. I don't think she ever would have know what Mrs. Robin meant, if grandpa had not heard it too, and told her.
Annie's mother was very busy getting breakfast. She told the little girl to put on her clothes, and ask grandpa to button them for her.
"Where is Fred?" asked Annie.
"He is feeding the hens," said her mother. "There will be some little chickens next week."
"O, I'm glad!" cried Annie.
ONE day it was so warm, and the air so soft, that when Mr. Symmes came home to dinner, he carried grandpa's chair out under the tree, and the old gentleman went and sat in the shade for two or three hours.
Fred was trying to make a hen-coop by nailing some narrow pieces of wood on the top of a barrel. He kept very busily at work, though the hammer was so large that he had given his fingers two or three hard blows, when he was trying to strike his nails.
Annie was putting her dolly to bed on grandpa's knees, and covering her with an old apron, when Fred turned the barrel over on one side, and exclaimed joyfully, "There, my hen-coop is done!"
"How are you going to get the hen in?" asked grandpa, his mild eye [sic] twinkling with mirth.
Fred looked very sober for a minute, then cried out, "O, that is too bad! I meant to have left off one or two sticks, just enough to squeeze her in."
"It would be better to make a small door," said the old gentleman, "because sometimes it is a good plan to let the hen run about a little with the chickens."
"I can't do it," said Fred, impatiently. "It hurt me dreadfully just to nail the pieces on."
"You are tired and warm now," said grandpa; "come, rest, and then I will help you about it."
Fred threw himself on the grass, just as Mr. robin, who was perched on a limb above him, began to sing.
"I wonder how birds can build their nests," he began. "I suppose their parents teach them."
"No," said grandpa; "their teaching comes directly from God, and is called instinct. Examine the nest of a robin here, and another in England, and you will find them exactly alike, or as nearly so as the birds can find materials to make them. The robin never makes his nest in the grass, like a ground bird, nor in a chimney, as swallows are so fond of doing. Every where, in every country, he selects the fork of a tree, or some such place, builds it with straws, and lines it with hair and down, which he often plucks from his own breast."
"I have a great mind to bring the latter," exclaimed Fred, "and go up to the robins' nest. I should like to see how many eggs there are in it."
"That would be cruel," said grandpa. "Sometimes birds become so alarmed by persons approaching their young that they desert their nests. But I was telling you about their building them. There was once a gentleman who took a young robin and his mate, and put them in a large room called an aviary. He wished to see whether they would know how to build their next. Neither of them had ever seen a robin's nest, as they were only just fledged when they were taken from their parents. There were a great many kinds of birds in the room with them, and each pair were building their own nest. Do you suppose the robins looked to see how they worked, and made their own like it?"
"I guess so," answered Fred; "that is the way I should do."
"No; they paid no attention to the others, but chose a nice place, just as near like the one our robins have, as they could find in the enclosure, and built it just like the robins in the woods."
"That is queer enough!" exclaimed Fred, looking up into the tree. "What a singing that bird keeps up!"
"I read once," said grandpa, "some pretty lines about a bird's nest, and I liked them so much, I learned them. I think I can repeat them now.
'Behold a bird's nest!
Mark it well, within, without!
No tool had he that wrought; no knife to cut,
No nail to fix, no awl to pierce,
No glue to join; his little beak was all;
And yet how neatly finished! What nice hand,
With every implement and means of art,
Could compass such another!'"
By the time grandpa had done talking, Annie's dolly had taken quite a long nap; and the little girl was ready to lift her up and feed her with some of the pudding she had been making out of the mud. Fred was quite rested too, and with grandpa's advice soon made a small door in his hen-coop. He cut two pieces of stout leather from an old boot, and nailed them on for hinges; and another piece, with a hole in it, served, with a large nail, to fasten the door together.
"There!" said he, throwing off his cap and wiping his forehead with the sleeve of his sack, "I'm glad now I didn't give up. There's a [sic] beautiful hen-coop as I ever saw. I mean to show it to father when he comes home."
WHAT a happy time this was in the robins' nest! The dear little wife was sitting so tenderly upon the eggs, and her husband cooing his loving notes upon a branch near by. Every morning she said, "One day less, my dear. The little nestlings will soon be breaking through the shell; and then what delight will be mine!"
VISIT TO MRS. BILL ROBIN.
"A merry party we shall be," answered Mr. Robin, hopping along the bough and perching on the edge of the nest. "But, my love," he added, "this close confinement makes you look quite thin. Let me take your place while you fly about a while through this clear soft air."
"I do, indeed, feel rather stiff," replied Mrs. Robin; "but I hardly like to change my position, lest I should injure our little ones, now they are so nearly hatched."
"I will be as gentle as possible," urged her husband; "you had better go, and before you come back, make a call upon the children at the cottage door."
This was quite a day of adventures. When Mrs. Robin left her nest, she flew away toward the farther end of the orchard, and alighted upon a pear tree on the neighboring farm.
She had scarcely recovered her breath before she heard a familiar voice saying, "Why, Mrs. Robin, how do you do? I am very happy to see you. Do you live near by?"
"O, yes," said the lady bird. "I live in the elm tree near yonder cottage; and a delightful home it is too. We did not know you had come north. I suppose that is your wife in he nest."
"Yes, hop down and let me introduce you. Your husband is my own cousin, you know."
"Certainly, I shall be happy to know her. I am glad to find that we are neighbors."
"How can you leave your nest?" asked the other bird, whose name was Mrs. Bill Robin. "Don't you think it injures your young?"
"My husband is very careful," answered our Mrs. Robin; "but, indeed, I was reluctant to leave, and I must hurry away now."
"Ask your husband to call," said Mr. Bill.
"I advise you to keep close to your nest, if you want to have healthy birds, " cried Mrs. Bill Robin, in a sharp voice, as her visitor was leaving."
Without waiting to visit the cottage, Mrs. Robin flew at once to our home. "I am afraid I have done wrong in leaving the nest," she said in a penitent tone, and then she proceeded at once to tell him about her visit to his friends.
"I am sorry you went there, " answered her husband. "They are not well mated, and never seem happy together. I am sorry to say that Mrs. Bill, though she married my own cousin, is not one I wish to associate with. She delights to vex and tease those about her. So get rid of that sad face as quickly as possible, for I have something pleasant to tell you."
"What can it be?" inquired the little wife.
"Why, my dear," said her husband, "I was sitting here thinking of you; how ready you are to give up all pleasure, and remain quietly on your nest day after day, and trying to be grateful for such a sweet mate, when I heard a beautiful song from the cottage door. Of course, as you were away, I could not rise to look; but I recognized grandpa's voice. He was teaching the little girl a song of welcome for us. If you fly down now, perhaps they will repeat it."
"Don't you think, my dear," said the wife, with some anxiety, "I had better take my place in the nest, and let you go?"
"No, indeed! I will keep very quiet until you return."
"Mrs. Robin waited no longer, but flew quickly to the ground; and there, true enough, were grandpa and Annie, waiting to sing her the song. It was this:
"Sweetest songster of the grove,
Little darling Robin, come;
Hasten from the lonely wood,
Make this graceful elm thy home.
"Just between these parting boughs
Build thy warm and downy nest;
Never was there prettier spot,
For a little bird to rest.
"Mount and sit upon the bough,
When the day begins to dawn;
Wake me, Robin, from my sleep
With they merry morning song.
"When my breakfast is prepared,
I will pay thee for the song;
Half my bread thou shalt divide
Thy little family among.
"And when round this quiet farm
The cherries hang so ripe and sweet,
Robin, though shalt have them all
For thy little ones to eat.
"No rude boy in wanton sport,
Shall thy eggs or nestlings take;
I will guard this great elm tree,
Gentle Robin, for thy sake."
On to conclusion
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