What the blackbird said


Material Information

What the blackbird said a story in four chirps
Physical Description:
87 p., 4 leaves of plates : ill. ; 22 cm.
Locker-Lampson, Hannah Jane
Caldecott, Randolph, 1846-1886 ( Illustrator )
George Routledge and Sons ( Publisher )
R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor ( Printer )
Egolf, Robert ( donor )
George Routledge and Sons
Place of Publication:
London ;
New York
R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Birds -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Seasons -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Natural history -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Flowers -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Christian life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Bldn -- 1881
novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
England -- London
United States -- New York -- New York


Statement of Responsibility:
by Mrs. Frederick Locker ; illustrated by Randolph Caldecott.
Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002233294
notis - ALH3702
oclc - 03521789
System ID:

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-= c;-' HE winter of 1878 was certainly an
/ unusually dreary one, and so thought
a remarkably fine young Blackbird,
Sas he perched one morning on the
bare bough of a spreading lime-tree, whose last brown
leaf had fallen to the ground some weeks before.
With the exception of the Scotch firs and other
fortunate evergreens, there was nothing to be seen
on all sides but leafless branches standing out sharply
against the cold, grey sky. The ground was frozen,
and entirely covered with snow, for there had been
a heavy fall during the night. The way-marks of



field and road were obliterated, all was one sheet of
dazzling whiteness. Here and there a little mound
marked the spot where a flower-bed lay buried, and
there was one narrow path where the snow was thickly
piled on either side, for it had been partially swept
from the centre, which showed traces of the bright
brown gravel below.
The Blackbird was contemplating this landscape in
a discontented and unhappy frame of mina. He was,
as we have just said, a remarkably fine young bird.
His plumage was of a glossy blackness, with which
not even a raven's could vie; his bright eyes looked
even brighter as they gleamed from the deep yellow
rims which surrounded them, and his bill resembled
the polished shaft of an early crocus.
At the time at which my story begins, this Black-
bird was about eight months old, and usually he was
not a little vain of his appearance. On this particular
morning, however, he did not feel at all so proud of
himself, or especially pleased with any one or anything.
He had passed the long night in a wood hard by, and
had been benumbed with cold.
He had tucked his head first under one wing, and


then under the other, but it had been of no use,
the cutting wind had penetrated even his thick warm
feathers, and had ruffled them in a way which had
sorely discomposed him, in body as well as in mind.
Then again, all through the night he had been
exceedingly put out by little cold wet dabs which
kept continually falling on his back. The Blackbird
had changed his position-he had done it several
times: he had moved from a birch to an elm, and
then to a beech-tree. But it was of no avail, the
little cold droppings seemed to pursue him where-
ever he went, and it was not till quite late in the
night that he found real shelter, and got a little rest
in a thick mantle of ivy which completely covered a
wall near the stables.
What were these cold droppings? He could not
imagine. He knew well enough they were not rain;
rain always made a sharp pelting noise as it struck
against the trees. But there had been no such
sound, for, with the exception of the occasional
sighing of the wind, the night had been a singularly
noiseless one. What then could this cold, soft
moisture be?


The Blackbird could not at all understand it, but
as he was well sheltered, and soon got warm in the
ivy, he fell asleep and forgot all about it.
The next morning, however, when he woke up and
peeped forth from his green canopy, he was much
astonished by the sight which met his eyes. Every-
thing was white! The green fields were gone, the
lawn where he found his worms, the flower-beds
where he caught his insects, all had disappeared,
and a broad, white, sparkling covering lay over
everything. What was it? what could it mean?
The Blackbird had no one to explain it all to him,
so he thought he would just take a short flight and find
out for himself. He stretched his wings and skimmed
away over the white ground, and then he thought he
would rest for a while on a small white hillock.
No sooner, however, had his little dusky brown feet
touched the surface of the snow, than he found he
was gradually sinking down, down into a soft, but
very cold white bed. With a shrill cry of alarm he
flew up again, and did not stop until he alighted on
the bough of the lime-tree where we were first intro-
duced to him. What was it? What wonderful and



terrible new thing was this ? and where was he to go
for his breakfast?
He was sitting in a very melancholy frame of mind,
stretching out first one foot and then the other, when
his attention was arrested by a flood of joyous song
poured forth from above, and looking up, he saw a
bright-breasted Robin on the bough immediately over
his head.
The little bird in his scarlet and brown plumage
looked more richly coloured and even more beautiful
than usual, as, supported by his slender legs, with his
head thrown back and his feathers puffed out, he
poured forth his light-hearted carol to the leafless
"How can you sing on this miserable morning?"
said the Blackbird, gloomily, and indeed half contemp-
Miserable morning!" replied the 'Robin in a tone
of surprise; "why I don't think it's at all a miserable
morning,-just look at the beautiful snow."
"Oh, that's what you call that white stuff down
there, is it ?" said the Blackbird, disdainfully gazing at
the white world beneath him.



"Yes, to be sure," said the Robin; "have you never
seen snow before?"
No," replied the Blackbird, I've not, and I shan't
break my heart if I never see it again. All last
night it was dropping on my back till I was wet
through and through; and just now, when I flew
down to look about for my breakfast, why it all
gave way under my feet, and I might have been
"Ah," said the Robin, shaking his head, you won't
mind it when you get more used to it. You see
you're a young bird; this is only your first winter.
Now I saw it all last winter. I'm nearly two years old."
The Robin said this with a certain pride of seniority,
and stretched himself to his full height as he looked
at his younger, but much more bulky, neighbour.
I don't see any great advantage in being old," said
the Blackbird, sarcastically; "but since you are so
experienced, perhaps you can tell me what it all
means ?"
"Yes, I can," said the Robin, hopping a little
nearer. "Rain, you know, comes down from the
clouds up there. Well, when it gets very cold indeed,



as it is just now" (here the Blackbird shivered
visibly), why, then the clouds get frozen, and
instead of falling in soft, warm little drops, they come
down in these white flakes, which we call snow.
I am not very learned myself," said the Robin,
humbly, "but a very wise friend of mine, an old
Rook, told me all this, and he also said that if I
examined a flake of snow, I should find it was made
of beautiful crystals, each shaped like a little star."
"Indeed," said the Blackbird, "that is very curious,
but, in the meantime, I should very much like to
know what I am to do for something to eat. The
fruit is all gone from the garden, and I can't find
any insects in the snow. Ivy berries will be poorish
eating day after day."
What do all your friends do ?" asked the Robin.
"I don't see much of my friends," replied the
Blackbird; "we Blackbirds are not so mighty fond of
each other's company, we like to live alone, we
never," he said this rather loftily, "talk much to
strangers; in fact, during this cold weather, we don't
care to talk to each other."
"Every one must judge for himself," quoth the



Robin, "but methinks it would be rather a dull world
if none of us spoke to each other when it was cold.
You see it's very often cold here in old England, and
the winters are very long and dark. I should like to
know what we should all do without a little cheerful
talk, and an occasional snatch of song ?"
"As to singing," struck in the Blackbird, I've been
so hoarse these last two months, that it's only when
the sun is very bright indeed that I can sing at all,
and all my friends are in the same plight. There are
no leaves' on the trees, there is no music in the
woods, there is no sunshine to speak of, and it's
altogether exceedingly dull."
The Robin did not exactly know how to reply
to this wail of discontent, so he gathered himself
together and poured forth a bright little song.
"How is it," said the Blackbird suddenly, "that
you have all at once become such a great songster?
I never remember hearing your voice in the summer."
"Ah, that's it," replied the Robin, "many people
think I only sing in the winter, but in reality I sing
quite as well, and better too, for that matter, in the
summer. The truth is that it's very difficult for



me to make myself heard when the larks are
singing so gloriously, and the thrushes, and the
nightingales-not to speak of yourself," said the
Robin, turning round politely. "Now, however," he
continued, "there are so few woodland notes, that I
think my poor little pipe may be more welcome, and
I do my best."
Again the Robin carolled, and as the Blackbird
listened he said, with a certain air of respect, "You
are a good little bird, Mr. Robin, and I feel the
better for having heard your song; all the same,
however, if we are to have much of this wretched
snow, I should just like to know what I am to do
for my food ?"
His song ended, the Robin had been preparing to
fly away, but at these words he drew in his little
brown wings again, and said, I hope we may meet
again in a few days, and that you may then be
happier than you are just now. In the meantime,
however, it may be a help to you to hear something
which my good friend the old Rook once told me,
and which I have never forgotten. He said that the
great God Who made you and me, and the snow,



and everybody and everything, would never forget
any of us, for He not only thinks of us, but, can
you believe it, not one of those poor little sparrows
falls to the ground without His knowing it. We don't
think much of the sparrows," continued the Robin,
"they are low, mischievous creatures, but God feeds
them, so I'm sure He won't let us starve. I'm only
a very small bird myself, but the thought that I'm
taken care of makes me feel very happy."
Then away flew the Robin, leaving the Blackbird
on the bare branch, with much to think about.
He had heard many new and startling things that
morning, and now as he gazed at the snow-covered
world, it was with a happier feeling; the little Robin's
discourse had not been altogether thrown away.
It was getting late, and as yet the Blackbird had
had no breakfast. He determined, therefore, to make
an expedition in search of food, and his sable wings
were soon bearing him swiftly over the sparkling
snow. He first flew to a wood not very far off, and
as he alighted on a small hazel-branch he noticed, just
beyond him, a fine holly, and in spite of the snow
he could see that it was covered with scarlet berries.



How was it that he had never noticed that beautiful
bush before? The ripe berries looked very tempting,
and he had soon made as substantial a meal as any
hungry Blackbird could desire-indeed he left one
bough almost bare. He felt all the better after this
breakfast, and took quite a long excursion over the
snow-covered woods and fields in the neighbourhood.
It was very remarkable how many trees he now
found covered with berries; he had never noticed
such a number before. In one hedgerow, leafless
though it was, he discovered a hawthorn-bush, and
its small black berries, hard though they proved to
be, formed by no means a contemptible luncheon,
even after the softer scarlet ones he had disposed of
at breakfast. There was a mountain ash too, just on
the other side of the hedge, upon the fruit of which
this keen-eyed Blackbird made up his mind to regale
himself at no very distant period. Altogether, his
day, which had begun so unpromisingly, was a decided
success, and that night, as he fluttered to rest in
the ivy, and saw the little silver stars peeping and
twinkling at him through the warm green curtains
of his canopy, he thought of all the little Robin's



wise words. It was with a chirp of sincere thank-
fulness that he tucked his head under his wing.
The next morning was sunny, but frosty and very
cold. Before leaving the ivy-bush, our Blackbird ate
a few of the dark berries which clustered thickly
around him. They were not, perhaps, quite so good
as the holly or hawthorn berries, but still they were
better than nothing at all.
He then flew from the ivy to his favourite branch
on the lime-tree, and he was not a little pleased to
find that his small red-breasted friend was there
before him.
"Well," quoth the Robin, as he paused in his carol
to welcome his friend, "how do you find yourself this
morning ?"
Better," replied the Blackbird, "much better." He
then gave the Robin an account of all his experi-
ences of the day before, and observed how curious it
was that in one short day he should have discovered
so many new kinds of berries.
It is remarkable indeed," said the Robin: "now I
wonder what my old friend the Rook up there would
have to say about it."



The Rook was at that very moment sailing in slow
circles round the top of a neighboring elm-tree.
For centuries he and his ancestors had built their
nests in the particular avenue of elms of which this
tree was one of the tallest. It so happened that the
Rook was just starting off for his morning con-
stitutional, and as he finished his round, and then
swept slowly across the meadow below, very de-
liberately flapping his great dusky wings, he came
in sight of the lime-tree on which the Robin was
Out flew the Robin, and then back again to attract
the Rook's attention. When the Rook saw this,
he slowly gathered in his wings and swung himself
on to a branch close to his little friend.
He certainly was a very sedate, and even solemn-
looking gentleman, at least so thought the Blackbird.
His plumage was anything but bright and glossy, in
fact it looked very shabby indeed, as if he had worn
it for some seasons without a change, and had been
out in much rough weather. His dark eyes were
relieved by no merry twinkle; then there were small
bare patches (which were not over beautiful) on his



neck; and his voice was exceedingly hoarse and
unmusical. But notwithstanding all this, there was a
certain quiet dignity, and an air of ripe wisdom
about the old bird which much impressed our hero,
and made him listen with respect to whatever words
of wisdom fell from the blue beak, although they
were uttered in rather a croaky tone.
After the usual "good mornings" had passed, and
the Blackbird had been presented in due form to the
Rook, the Robin said, "How comes it, Mr. Rook,
that there are so many new berries on the bushes ?"
"You ask how it is, my little friend," said the
Rook, kindly; "well, I will tell you. Just now, when
no insects can be had, what should we all do if we
had no berries? Now that the leaves have all
fallen, we can find the berries much more easily.
Many of them were there already, only you didn't
see them. They are provided for us by our Heavenly
Father. As each season comes round, God gives us
the fruits of that season, and when one kind of food
fails, He provides us with another. I am an old
bird," continued the Rook, "but I've never known
the seasons to fail. We do not 'sow, nor do we



gather into barns,' but still 'God feeds us. I always
look forward, and hopefully too, to every season as it
comes Spring, -Summer,-Autumn,-Winter,-and,
my young friends, you will be wise to do the same,
for, do you know, this trustful feeling is called
'faith.' "
The Rook then shut his learned beak, and opened
and spread his wide black wings, and slowly sailed away,
leaving the Blackbird and the Robin to meditate on
all that he had been telling them. At last the Robin
broke silence with Have you breakfasted ?"
Yes, I have," replied the Blackbird, "on a few
poor ivy-berries, but I'm still rather hungry."
"Then come with me," said the Robin, "and you
shall soon have a right good feast." Off the birds
flew, and swiftly passed over one or two snow-
covered fields, and then by a long avenue of lime
trees. They came at last to a level lawn, at the
end of which stood an old gabled mansion, built of
gray stone; ivy climbed round the pillars of an arcade
at the east end of the house, and ivy covered the
west corner. The time-stained gables, surmounted by
round stone balls, stood out in the sunshine, and the



dark tiles of the roof peeped out here and there
from their snowy covering. The two friends flew to
the west side of the mansion, which overlooked a
smooth grassy terrace and garden. Beyond was a
lake, and then came a wood behind which the sun
sank, each evening, to rest. Gray gables rose on
this side of the house also, and there was a large
bay window which the Blackbird soon discovered to
be the window of the dining-room. There were
some thick laurel-bushes beyond this window, to
which the two birds flew, and then they stopped to
rest and look about them. The Blackbird gazed
admiringly at the old house, and with especial interest
at the bay window.
Standing there was quite the dearest little couple
he had ever seen, a little girl and boy.
The boy was a brave little man of about four
years of age, with two dark eyes, and thick curly
brown hair. His face was positively brimming over
with fun and mischief. Standing by his side, and
clasping his hand with plump little fingers, was a
little girl of some two and a half years. She had
a round baby face, gray eyes, and the sweet bloom


of babyhood was on her cheek. Her eyes had that
wondering, far-away look, which is so very bewitching
in quite little children, and her small rosy mouth
showed some very white teeth, especially when she
laughed, which was not by any means seldom.
It was evident that these little ones were waiting
for something of interest, for they stood very patiently,
and their eyes were fixed on the grass beneath the
fir-trees. At the moment we are describing the
redbreast flew from one laurel-bush to another,
and then with a shout of delight, the little children
suddenly disappeared from the window. In a minute
however they were back again with faces full of
expectation and importance, bearing between them a
plate of bread which had been carefully broken into
small pieces.
One of the large windows, which opened to the
ground, was then flung back, and the little boy,
advancing carefully, scattered the crumbs on the
gravel path just beyond the window. The window
was then softly closed, and hand-in-hand the little
children stood still to watch. The opening and
shutting of the window had frightened the Blackbird;



he had flown to a more distant bush; but as the
more courageous Robin only fluttered about for a
moment, the Blackbird soon came back, and in
less than a minute the Robin was upon the gravel
path hard at work picking up the dainty white
crumbs. The Blackbird still hesitated on the laurel
branch, loth to remain, yet fearful to advance, but
at last, impelled by a sudden pang of hunger, he
ventured to join his red-breasted friend.
It was a most luxurious repast; never before had
the Blackbird tasted food half so delicious. It is true
that he got one or two frights, for once the little girl
was so delighted at the sight of both birds devouring
the crumbs, that she banged her little fat hands
against the window-pane, dancing at the same time
with delight. This gambol fairly startled their feathered
guests, and frightened them away for a minute or
two, but they were soon back again, and then the
Blackbird saw that the boy was carefully holding his
sister's hands to keep her quiet.
Each morning found the little eager faces waiting
at the window, and each morning also found the two
expectant birds perched on the laurel-bushes. The




feathered company was soon swelled by the arrival of
some impudent and very quarrelsome sparrows, a pair
of chaffinches, and a darling little blue titmouse, who,
with his cousin a cole-titmouse, soon became quite at
their ease. By common consent all the other birds
avoided the sparrows. "They are common, idle
creatures, you know," said the Robin, "and none of
us care to associate with such low, vulgar birds."
The Blackbird, through the kindness of his little
friend the Robin, soon got acquainted with many
other birds, and indeed he grew quite intimate with a
gaily apparelled Goldfinch. However, notwithstanding
all this, the Blackbird found it difficult to make friends,
and could never be quite so much at his ease as his
more sociable red-breasted companion.
One day the Robin confided to the Blackbird a
great discovery that he and the Goldfinch had made.
They had come upon a large barn, and there,
close to the roof, they had found a small hole. It
was very small indeed, but, after some hesitation, they
had squeezed through it, and had found themselves
in a large room filled with huge sacks of corn,
oats and barley. Their delight at this discovery was


not to be described, any more than the feast they
subsequently made. Mice, and even rats, were
scampering about in every direction, gnawing holes
in the sacks, and getting into all manner of mischief.
"We were afraid of the rats at first," said the
Robin, "but we soon found that they were much too
busy to trouble their heads about us. The Goldfinch
is very anxious that the sparrows should not find
out this barn. They are greedy and quarrelsome,
and would keep it all to themselves, and try to turn
us out."
The Blackbird soon found his way to the corn
sacks, but he and his friends were uncommonly cir-
cumspect whenever they met any sparrows. They
would even pretend that they were going in quite
another direction; they would fly straight by the barn,
and then wait patiently in a neighboring tree or
hedgerow, and not return till they were certain of
not being noticed.
It must be confessed that the process of squeezing
through the small dark hole was not altogether an
agreeable arrangement, it sadly disturbed our smart
friend's smooth, glossy feathers. The mice too, to say



nothing of the rats, were not congenial companions.
But the corn was so good that it made amends for
all these drawbacks.
Thus the winter passed by very happily, and what
with the berries, red and black, the corn, and best of
all, the crumbs, the Blackbird never wanted for food.
Not the least pleasant part of the day was the
morning, when he paid his visit to the bay window,
where the little children were always ready for him.
No wonder he grew very fond of them, and soon
learnt their names, Willie" and "Alice," which he
would often repeat to himself as he fell asleep in
the ivy, and thought of the little boy and girl fast
asleep too, and of the happy meeting which they
were all looking forward to in the morning.





HE days were certainly becoming longer
S and less cold, the snow had altogether
I' disappeared, and somehow the sun
seemed, to the Blackbird, to get up
earlier and go to bed later. He noticed also, about
this time, that little shaft-like leaves were beginning
to peep through the grass, and that the beech and
hazel twigs were swelling into small knobs. He also
felt that there was something different in himself-a
change-he was stronger and happier, and he was
seized with an irresistible desire to sing. The hoarse-
ness which had tried him so much during the winter
months had gone, and his throat was once more clear.
A week passed by, the little knobs on the trees
began to open and discover small, tender leaves, and


between the green spear-like shoots in the grass
delicate stems had come up bearing white drooping
One morning the Blackbird discussed all these
changes with the Robin; and the Rook, who happened
to be flying by, was called in to assist at their
"You are surprised at all these changes, my young
friends," he said; did I not tell you that the seasons
never fail ? This is the Spring, the time when every-
thing comes forth to new life. The snow has over-
spread the earth and kept it warm all these months.
It has covered the bulbs of the snowdrops, those white
flowers that you so greatly admire, friend Blackbird.
It covered them up carefully till the proper time
arrived that they should spring forth. In the same
way the buds on the trees have been wrapped up in
their brown coats and kept warm during the bitter
winter weather, and now that the sun is once more
shining, the said brown coats are beginning to drop
off, for the little green leaves are pushing their way
into the world of warmth and sunshine. And then,
not the least interesting change, your song has once



more returned to you, the woods are full of sweet
music,-ay, and you will see yet greater wonders, for
truly 'the time of the singing of birds is come, and
the voice of the turtle is heard in the land.'"
Yes, the Rook was quite right; each day now
brought about some fresh wonder-a few more green
leaves, a few more white flowers; and presently between
the snowdrop plants came up the slender green leaves,
and the gold and purple blossoms of the crocus.
About this time, too, the Blackbird noticed that
many of his feathered friends were unusually busy.
They seemed to have no time for talk. He met
them flying hither and thither with feathers, small
pieces of straw, or twigs, in their beaks. About this
time also, the Blackbird himself felt a strong desire
to have a nest of his own. But how could he build
it by himself? He must find a partner to share his
labours-and where could he find such a partner ? He
was almost in despair, so at last he determined to
pour out his desire in song, as he perched one morning
on the branch of a budding hawthorn.
He sang his sweetest, his very best, and as the
song was borne along on the bright morning air, and



then died away, he became aware of a tender little
note, a faint twitter which came from a branch imme-
diately beneath him. He looked down, and, lo and behold,
there, half concealed by spreading boughs, was a bird
like himself, another Blackbird! This stranger Black-
bird was very attractive-looking, but its plumage was
not quite so bright or black as his own. Its bill, too,
was more brown than yellow, and the orange streaks
round the eyes were of a greenish hue. But notwith-
standing these slight differences, the bird which now
hopped down on the grass, and answered his song by
if possible a sweeter warble, was both handsome and
winning. The Blackbird was delighted to have thus
found so immediate a response to his petition, and he was
very soon on the grass beside the interesting stranger.
On nearer approach he found that this Blackbird had
gentle eyes, and was indeed altogether very bewitching,
so without any hesitation he proposed that they should
build a nest together! His offer was shyly accepted,
and then came the important question, where to build ?
The Blackbird was anxious not to be too far from
his little friends Willie and Alice. They had been
so kind to him during the winter, that he would fain



see something of them still, and sing them his best
songs, now that he had his voice back again. He
had watched them the day before, as they trotted hand-
in-hand along the home-meadow where the snowdrops
and crocuses grew. They had pulled some of the
white and yellow blossoms, and had then stood still
to listen to the flute-like voice of an unseen minstrel.
Hand-in-hand they listened; the little boy with his
large brown eyes fixed on the tree from whence came
the song, the little girl with her baby-face uplifted,
and one pink finger held up as much as to say
"Hush! hush! "
The song ended, the Blackbird flew out from the
shelter of the thick fir-tree where he had been concealed,
and winged his way across the meadow.
"Our Blackbird!" cried the little boy, exultingly.
"Our Blackbird!"
Dicky! dicky !" shouted the little girl, and then
they ran home delighted.
Yes, this songster was their own particular Black-
bird, there was no doubt about it; and did it not
behove him to build his nest as near their home as
he possibly could ?



After a short consultation, the pair of Blackbirds set
off on an exploring expedition. First of all they care-
fully examined the ivy which covered an old wall near
the stables: but they did not consider the stems of the
ivy were quite strong enough to support their nest.
They then looked at some laurel-bushes. But no,
these would not do. The position was too exposed,
the branches were much too far apart, their nest would
soon be discovered. Then a very compact little ever-
green bush on the lawn in front of the old house
caught their eyes. It was thick and well grown,
every branch was covered, so that a nest could not
be seen by the passers-by. Yes, it was the very
place for them, there they might build in security,
and at the same time watch their dear little friends as
they went out and about each day. They carefully
inspected each bough of the said bush, and then,
having chosen a spot at the lower end of a branch
where it joined the main stem, they set to work
to build in right good earnest. Small twigs, the
waifs and strays of last autumn, strewed the ground
in a little wilderness hard by, and thither the Black-
birds repaired. Hour after hour both might be seen



flitting between the wood and their chosen bush, with
twigs in their yellow beaks. These they neatly laid
on the branch, and then twisted them in and out, and
round and round each other, and then a little moss
and a few soft fibres were added to the harder twigs.
The whole fabric soon began to assume a round,
nest-like appearance. It grew fair and shapely, and the
exultant Blackbird paused to pour forth a clear, mellow,
bold song," as he alighted for a moment on the summit
of the Deodor. Then he and his gentle partner, feeling
the "keen demands of appetite," determined to go and
refresh themselves with some food, and they repaired
to a field not very far off.
There they found the Rook hopping along the
freshly-turned furrows, eagerly picking up the grubs
which had been brought to the surface by the plough-
share. The repast did not look very inviting,-those
small, gray grubs! But it was the Rook's favourite
food, and the farmers were not sorry that he and his
feathered friends should make a meal of that same
gray grub, for these insects sometimes destroy whole
acres of grass. They bury themselves in the turf,
and then it turns brown and dies. These grubs are



mischievous indeed,-after remaining for some time in
the grub state, they change into cockchafers, and even
then they are by no means agreeable visitors.
"Good morning, my friend," said the polite old
Rook, "this is a very pleasant change of food after the
hard winter berries, isn't it ?"
Indeed, it is," replied the Blackbird, picking up a
grub, "but I like better feeding near the hedgerows;
however, this isn't bad after a hard day's work."
Oh, you are house building, are you ?" said the
Rook. "I hope you have chosen wisely, and got a
good mate to work with you, one who is industrious
and affectionate."
I think I have," said the Blackbird, with a certain
amount of proper pride; but you shall judge for yourself,"
he added, as he presented his young wife to the Rook.
The Rook made a quaint sort of movement with his
head, which, probably among birds, passed for a very
grave and polite bow, and after looking at her for a
few moments, he nodded his approval.
"We are all rather sad to-day," said the Rook, after
a few moments of silence; "we have just lost a very
dear friend-indeed a cousin of mine." The Blackbird



looked grave and sympathetic, and the Rook continued,
" He started off yesterday evening to get some supper,
and found his way to some grass-land which was
being destroyed by these mischievous little grubs; he
was busy pecking away at them, when all of a sudden
we, who were in a tree hard by, heard a fearful noise,
and saw a great deal of smoke. In another moment,
as the smoke cleared away, we saw my poor cousin
lying on the ground. He was quite dead; a young
farmer had shot him with a terrible gun, thinking he
was doing mischief; the stupid fellow little knew what
good service my cousin was engaged upon in eating
those grubs. This affair has made us all very sad
indeed," said the Rook, with a little extra huskiness
in his voice: "poor fellow, he had just begun building
his first nest, and his young widow is completely
broken hearted."
The Blackbird was very grieved for his friend's
trouble, and he felt rather uncomfortable besides, for it
occurred to him that the same wretched man might very
likely shoot him some evening, and then what would
become of his little wife ? He therefore prepared to fly
off, but before doing so he said, I hope we sha'n't be



shot also, for these grubs are easier food to get at
than the snails. I got hold of some snails this very
morning, and my bill still aches with the trouble they
gave me. I dropped them on the stones to break
them, but one, and he was a fat fellow too, was so
obstinate he would neither come out of his shell, nor
could I crack it. So after ten minutes hard work I
was obliged to leave the rascal. They are stubborn
creatures, these snails," said the Blackbird, with a groan
that expressed his deep sense of injury.
That they are," replied the Rook, "and they
ought to be taught better."
A few days more went by and then the nest in
the evergreen bush was completed. The inside walls,
which were of mud, had been perhaps the most difficult
part of the building, for although the Blackbirds would
very often start off with a nice piece of soft mud in
their beaks, it would get dry, in a very tiresome manner,
before they could reach the nest, and it then crumbled
to pieces as they tried to plaster it on the twigs. The
birds persevered, however, and the mud walls were
at last substantially built, and to crown the whole,
a lining of soft grass was added.


The Blackbird was so over-joyed when the nest was
finished, that, after carefully examining it outside to
see that each twig was in its proper place, and looking
at the neatly finished interior, he flew off to the laurel
bushes by the bay window and sang a song of such
surpassing ecstasy that two little brown heads soon
made their appearance at a bed-room window to listen.
The little figures were clothed in long white night-
dresses, for they were just going to bed, but they
could not miss such a song. I am sure that if it
could have been interpreted it would have proved to
be a chant of joy and praise. The nest was com-
pleted, the home was ready!
That night as long brown lashes sank over soft
sleepy eyes the little heads that belonged to them were
still thinking of that jubilant carol, and about the
same time, under the shelter of the ivy leaves, two
other and much smaller heads were full of dreams of
the future, of the newly-built home in the evergreen,
and of all that new home might mean.
Some two days after this the Blackbird happened
to be perched on the branch of a dark fir-tree. His
young mate had been for some time sitting steadily



on the nest in the evergreen bush. To amuse her
he had sung some of his sweetest songs. He could
not see her very distinctly through the thick branches,
so he thought he would just go and have a look at
her. He flew to the bush, and there was a sight which,
for a moment, made him feel almost breathless. His
mate was perched on the bough above the nest, but
what was that in the nest below?
Down in its very centre lay a round, smooth,
pale blue object, shaded with light green, and
marked at one end with reddish brown spots. There
it lay securely, snugly; and it looked very fresh and
beautiful. The Blackbird hopped nearer. What could
it be ? Was it really an egg ? Yes, it was indeed
an egg! His delight was so great that he could only
express it in song, and the deep flute-like notes
sounded from the little bush quite late into the
twilight of that evening.
A few more days saw four eggs added to the
first. Yes, five little blue balls now lay side by
side. As his industrious little wife flew off to
get supper the evening that the last egg was laid,
the happy Blackbird perched himself on the very


top of the bush, to guard the nest and sing his
evening song. He had not been there very long
when he heard a door bang, and presently from
under the old porch came the dear little couple he
loved so well, the little one in her white frock and
white hat, the other in his sailor's suit.
They ran together across the grass, but stopped
suddenly as they heard the Blackbird's note, and the
Blackbird as suddenly ceased singing, for how terrible
would it be if they should discover his nest and all
his treasures!
The sharp eyes of the little boy had already espied
him, and the little feet scampered lightly over the
ground. The poor Blackbird's heart sank within
him. Nearer, still nearer came the brother and
sister, and at last they stopped close by the bush.
The Blackbird rose into the air with a shrill, scared
cry, and then settled again. Would they hurt him?
Could they be so cruel as to rob him of his
treasures ?
"He must have a nest somewhere," said the
little boy, as he peeped cautiously into the bush.
What was that dark thing on the bough above ?



The little fellow clapped his hands, wild with excite-
ment. "A nest! a nest !" he cried. The little girl fairly
danced with delight. Then the boy slowly put out
his hand and caught the bough, and carefully bent
it towards him. All this time two black eyes were
watching with intense anxiety from the tree-top.
Would the eggs fall out and be broken? would
the nest be robbed?
One, two, three, four, five," counted the little boy
slowly, while a poor palpitating heart counted each
moment. How long those moments seemed!
The little boy still held the bough in his grasp,
the nest was on one side, he stretched out his eager
little hand.
The Blackbird scarcely breathed. The boy's fingers
were over the nest; they nearly closed on one of the
eggs. Then he suddenly drew back, No, no, Alice,"
he said, Mamma says I must never rob the poor
birds. We won't rob our own Blackbird."
Then the branch was slowly released and returned
to its place, and the little fellow, who with no small
Amount of self-denial had conquered the intense desire
to take the eggs, stood still gazing at the bush. Little



Miss Alice now made signs that she wished to be
lifted up to see into the nest, and with no small
difficulty her sturdy young brother obliged her.
Look, Alice, pretty eggs; but we mustn't touch,
and we mustn't tell any one."
At that moment the front door of the old manor
house again opened, and this time a voice called,
" Master Willie, Miss Alice, wherever have you
got to ?"
At hearing this sudden appeal, Willie dropped his
little sister, both because her weight was rather more
than he could well support, and because he was afraid
that Nanny," might find out what they were doing.
However, as Alice fell on the grass she was not hurt.
Willie quickly helped her up, and, as they ran towards
the house, the Blackbird heard Willie say, We won't
tell any one about our nest, will we? It's a great
It was some time before the poor bird recovered
from his terrible fright. His little heart beat very
fast, and when his wife returned, and he told her
all about the children's visit, it was with bated and
often-interrupted breath.



That night his sleep was disturbed by very un-
pleasant dreams. He had visions of numbers of little
boys who kept coming to look at his nest, and who
pulled the bough down to the ground. Then he saw
the eggs rolling out slowly one after the other on to
the lawn. And then he would wake with a start to
find that after all it was only a dream, and would see
the bright moonlight shining on the dewy grass, and
hear afar off the hoarse trill of the night-jar, or the
boding screech of the great white owl.
All that night he could not help feeling nervous, and
he was very glad indeed when the first streaks of dawn
became visible in the far east. It was a bright spring
morning, and as he and his sprightly little wife hopped
nimbly about on the daisy-spangled lawn, ere the dew
had disappeared from the little pink and white flowers,
and as they here and there picked up a worm or
an insect, he felt wonderfully refreshed, indeed by the
time he had taken his morning bath, and had plumed
his feathers, he was quite himself again.
The thirteen days which now followed were very
important ones; for, during that time, our Blackbird's
patient young wife sat almost uninterruptedly upon



her nest. She stole away for a few moments to the
neighboring hedgerows for breakfast or dinner; but
she was never happy till she was back again to her
precious charge.
It was at this time that the Blackbird poured forth
his very best music. He had never sung so many
nor such varied songs before; now that his partner
could not go about with him, he had so much to tell
her of his rambles and of course he told it all in song.
He did not always perch on their own bush. He
was afraid that if he did so he might attract too much
attention, but from the bough of any tree close at
hand he cheered her heart with his beautiful melodies.
Then it was that he told his wife of the green
hedgerows where the golden, star-shaped blossoms of
the celandine were luxuriant, and where the shy prim-
roses were just beginning to show their pale heads.
He would sing of the blackthorn whose snowy blooms
were then just peeping out, and of the hawthorn already
covered with its tender green leaves. He told her, and
this was a profound secret, of the nest of their good
friend, the Robin, which was very cunningly concealed
at the top of the ivy. It was a soft, cosy little nest,


:: Y-
L: ,''f


not plastered with mud as theirs was, but lined with
silky hair. The Robin had shown him five little pale
eggs, white spotted with brown, at the bottom of the
nest, half hidden by the soft hair.
The Blackbird had also come across a most remark-
able nest, that of the golden-crested wren. My old
friend, the Rook, tells me," said the Blackbird, "that
this wren is the very smallest of our birds. He certainly
is a great beauty with his crown of golden feathers.
His nest is in yonder yew-tree. It seems large for a
bird of his size. It is almost entirely built of moss,
and, can you believe it, the wren uses spider's webs
to bind it together! It seemed to be hanging from
the bough, and was so well hidden by another bough,
that I did not see it until I had flown quite into the
middle of the tree. The opening in the nest is so
small, I don't believe you could have got even your
little head in; but I had a good peep, and saw its
lining of soft warm feathers, and counted ten of the
palest, tiniest eggs you can possibly imagine."
The following day the Blackbird had other tidings
for his wife. He had been to a stream in the neigh-
bourhood,-the Brawl. Its banks were gay with


marsh marigolds, and while he was hopping and frisking
about there, he had met a very curious-looking bird,
a ring-ousel. This creature was rather shy and had
not long arrived from the south, where he usually spent
the winter. He was a pretty fellow, with black plumage
and a white crescent round his throat, and his song
was very sweet indeed. He had few relations in
England, for he was what folks call a rare bird, and
the Blackbird was sorry for it, for he thought him
both pretty and attractive.
The following day the Blackbird had a long talk
with the Rook. The latter was perched on an elm,
whose leaves were just beginning to burst forth, and
it was there that the Blackbird joined him. Rooks'
nests, made of rough-looking sticks, many of them
containing one or more blue eggs, were to be seen
dotted here and there along the avenue of elms, and
the cawing and the gossip, to say nothing of the
quarrelling, was almost deafening. The Blackbird
settled on a bough close to the Rook, and as he did
so he noticed some swallows skimming over the lawn
far below them. They were beautiful birds, their blue-
black plumage glinted in the sunshine, and now and


then a quick turn displayed their brown throats and
white breasts. They were darting hither and thither,
so rapidly that the eye could hardly follow them,
catching the many-winged insects as they flew by.
Then they would suddenly dart off to the topmost
gables of the old mansion, where their compact mud
nests could be plainly seen against the dark gray
"I remember," said the Blackbird, "watching those
swallows a long, long time ago, when I was quite a
fledgeling; but I haven't seen one all the winter. Where
can they have been all this time ?"
Oh," replied the Rook, "the swallows are most
curious and interesting creatures. When October
comes they assemble from all parts of Great Britain and
then start forth on a long journey across the wide seas
to pass the winter in sunnier and warmer countries.
When April returns they all come back again,-from
the palms of Africa, over the olives of Italy and the
oaks of Spain-back across the seas they come to us.
It is here that they build their nests and rear their
young ones, but only to fly away again in the autumn.
Truly, these swallows are wonderful travellers."



"How nice it must be to spend the winter in a
warm, sunny place," remarked the Blackbird, enviously.
"Well, I don't know," retorted the Rook; "think
of the long, long journey! Think of the miles and
miles of ocean to be crossed, think of the weary wings,
think of the poor breathless birds. They often perch
to rest a while on the passing ships, and they often get
knocked down and killed. Then again, just think how
they must suffer from the cold here in England, after
the warm climates they have wintered in. No, depend
"upon it," said the Rook, shaking his head wisely, "it's
far better to spend the winter here at home and get
healthy and hardy. There are many nights when you
and I are warm and comfortable that these unhappy
swallows are crouched shivering under the eaves. In
my humble opinion there's nothing like England, dear
old England, for English birds."
You see this old Rook was very patriotic, and
of course a great Tory to boot. He disliked change
of every sort and kind. He, and his ancestors
before him, had built in these same elm-trees, since
the first gray stone of the old mansion had been
laid. From these same trees, from generation to


generation, they had watched the sun rise and set
during the stormy days of winter and the sunny
days of summer. They had noted the seasons as
they came and went, enjoying the fruits and the joys
of each, and when any rook was cut off by death,
it was generally old age that killed him,-unless it
were that occasionally a youngster, more enterprising
than prudent, would lean out of his nest to see the
world around him, and what was going on there, and
then a sudden rush of his small body through the air,
and a thud at the foot of the tree, would tell of the
premature decease of a promising rooklet. Yes, "Old
England for ever! was still the watchword of the rooks.
"Certainly it is very delightful just now," said
the Blackbird, looking round him. Delicate young
leaves were bursting forth on every side; primroses,
anemones, and even a few early cowslips were peering
through the grass below, the sun was shining, and
the woods were filled with a chorus of song.
"Yes indeed," said the Rook solemnly "'the stork
in the heavens knoweth her appointed time, and the
turtle, and the crane, and the swallow observe the
time of their coming.'"


This conversation, and all his other talks and
small adventures, were faithfully reported to the home-
tied wife. His voice beguiled the many weary hours
during which she patiently sat on her nest.
It was thus that matters went on until towards
the end of the thirteenth day, when certain mysterious
sounds were heard to proceed from the nest, faint
peckings, which would cease and then begin again.
One day, while his wife was taking her mid-day meal,
the Blackbird hopped close to the nest, and put his
head over the side, and as he watched and listened,
lo and behold, through a slight crack in the blue shell
of one of the eggs peeped a very tiny beak!
It was very marvellous! This beak moved back-
wards and forwards, and in and out, and gradually,
the crack becoming larger, a small featherless head
emerged. Yes, so it was; and before sunset the
following day five callow little birds lay huddled to-
gether in the nest, and although they were his own
sons and daughters, it must be confessed that the
Blackbird could not help thinking them remarkably
ugly. They had very few feathers on their poor
naked little bodies, their heads appeared to be of an



enormous and disproportionate size,-and then, their
As they squatted in the nest with their five
mouths opened to their widest, displaying five red
throats, the Blackbird thought that never before in
all his long life had he seen anything so frightful.
How such enormous creatures had ever come out of
those five pretty little eggs he could not imagine.
However, he had no time for reflection, for what on
earth did those eager little monsters mean by gaping
at him like that ?
At last it occurred to him that they might be
hungry, and thereupon he and his wife set off to pick
up small worms and insects for them. The Blackbird
fancied that being so very young they would require
delicate feeding, but this proved to be an entire
mistake. Never before had he thought it possible
that such small bodies could dispose of so much food.
From morning to night, and almost from night to
morning, he and his poor wife were to be seen flying
backwards and forwards conveying provisions to the
However, none of the brood ever seemed to be



satisfied. Five mouths always opened wide when the
Blackbird returned, although he could only feed one
at a time, and he never, for the life of him, could
remember which he had fed last.
Worms, grubs, caterpillars, insects, all found their
way to the little gaping mouths,-nothing came amiss,
until the Blackbird felt that if it went on much
longer there would be no insects left in the whole
country, and that his young ones would certainly die
of indigestion. However, the little birds flourished, and
grew apace, and each night as the Blackbird drew in
his wings for a few short hours of rest, he wondered
when the brood would be old enough to feed them-
selves, for he looked forward, and with no small
longing, to that time of rest.



;-~----------l--- ..- ---^------?i^



J T T is not to be supposed that our little
li friends Willie and Alice made but that
S1: .. one visit to the Blackbird's nest. No,
--___i' at some hour or other of each day
the small couple stole across the lawn to peep at the
mother as she sat on her nest. At first, the birds were
rather alarmed by these visitations, but they soon
grew accustomed to them, more especially when they
found that their young friends meant no harm.
One morning, on going to the nest, Willie was
very much surprised to find that a wonderful change
had taken place. The pretty little blue eggs had
disappeared, and behold, in their place were five
callow, gaping creatures! Alice was also very much
interested, and it was but natural that she should insist


upon seeing what excited her brother so much.
Willie, therefore, after considerable difficulty, raised her
sufficiently high to let her have a good look at the
funny little heads. At the sight of them, Alice kicked
her little feet with joy, which caused her to slip
quickly through Willie's arms on to the grass. Her
fresh white frock was a good deal tumbled in conse-
quence, and her hat had fallen off in the scramble.
At this critical moment their nurse, Mrs. Barlow,
appeared on the scene. Master Willie! Master
Willie!" she called, "how often I've told you not to
lift Miss Alice. She's a deal too heavy for you; and
look how you've tumbled her clean white frock.
There'll be an accident some day, or my name's not
Barlow. I won't have you dragging her about the
country in this way; before you've done you'll make
"a regular tom-boy of her, and, bless her heart, she's
"a real delicate little lady."
Master Willie tried to look penitent, and he
secretly hoped their beloved nest would not be dis-
covered. However, the nurse had her suspicions
of their bush, so she walked straight up to it and
then round it.



"Well, I do declare," she said at last, "there's a
nest, and that's what you've been after, is it ? Well,
of all the nasty, horrid little things that ever I saw
these birds are the nastiest. Bless me, I wonder
now how they get along, and no nurse to look after
What fun they must have, was Willie's secret
thought. They could rove about the country at their
"own sweet will," and never think about tumbling their
clothes. But then he remembered that the birds
hadn't got any clothes to speak of, and that, as yet,
they couldn't even fly. He therefore began to wonder
how they did manage without a nurse, and thought
he should like to try, just for a week or two, how he
could get along without one. What climbing, de-
lightful wanderings, and general mischief presented
themselves to his childish imagination! what fun he
and Alice would have!
"Whatever bird is it?" said the nurse.
Our Blackbird," replied Willie, with an air of
considerable importance.
".Your Blackbird!" she said; "why, whatever does
the child mean ? Well, anyhow, the gardener will soon



make short work of the Blackbirds, nasty mischievous
things!-why, they eat up all the fruit, and destroy
the flowers."
"Oh, Nanny," cried the little boy sadly, "don't
say that, our Blackbird is so good, he sings beautifully,
and we are so fond of him. The gardener mustn't
kill our Blackbird." Tears stood in the soft brown
eyes, and Nanny, who was really a kind-hearted
woman, hastened to say that she didn't at all sup-
pose that that particular Blackbird would be killed,
it was only that birds in general were such destruc-
tive creatures, that the fewer of them there were left
about, the better.
Willie, however, was not altogether consoled, and
he could not help feeling that Nanny was not so
sympathetic as she might be about his dear Black-
bird. Still he hoped for the best, and determined,
at the very earliest opportunity, to entreat the
gardener to spare every Blackbird, young and old,
for the sake of his particular friend.
All this had happened in the spring, some months
before, and it was now July. The young Blackbirds,
hatched in April, had been out and abroad in the


world some weeks. They were not yet quite full
grown, and still depended upon their parents for help
and advice. The parent-birds, however, had not a
little to do, for by this time they had hatched a second
brood, and, just now, these last required their constant
attention, although they hoped that by the end of
the month their young ones would be able to fly a
little. This brood had proved more refractory than
the first one, and they were continually getting into
trouble and mischief. One of them tumbled into a
pool of water, and was as nearly as possible drowned;
another was pursued by a cat and had his leg very
much hurt; while a third, alas! a poor little fellow,
tumbled right out of the nest one morning, fell on,
the hard ground, and never breathed again.
But although the Blackbird had his troubles, and
serious ones they were too, the beauty and luxuriance
of the season rejoiced his heart. The country was in
its richest summer garb, even the porch of the old
gabled house was covered with pale pink roses. A
splendid yellow rose, a Gloire de Dijon, clustered
round the library window, and a white rose peeped
in at the drawing-room. White and yellow jasmin,



varied here and there by clusters of deep crimson
roses, covered the west side of the house and the old
bay window, and the garden below was gay with
bright-coloured flower-beds.
Every tree was in full foliage, and the avenue of
limes was sweet with small white blossoms, and mu-
sical with the murmur of myriads of contented bees,
who found some of their sweetest nectar there. The
newly mown hay was falling on all sides, and the
trees gave a very grateful shade to the tired hay-
makers during the noon-tide heat.
The spot, however, which most attracted the Black-
birds, was the kitchen garden. What ripe red straw-
berries were hidden away under the thick leaves
on the long slope of the upper garden! what cool
green gooseberries, and what a variety of currants,
were fast ripening in the lower garden! The Black-
bird would often retire with one or two of his young
people to this favoured region. They would first
settle themselves at the strawberry-bed, though it must
be confessed that this part of the feast was attended
with some peril. They felt a certain degree of ner-
vousness, a sense of insecurity, for a horrid net had



been stretched over this particular bed, and sometimes
the dark feathered heads got caught in it.
One day the Blackbird had a most terrible fright.
He and his wife, and some of the young ones,
had been hard at work on the ripe strawberries.
They had been so busy that they did not hear
stealthy footsteps approaching on the sandy gravel
till they were quite close to them. Then the birds
rose in the air, with shrill cries of alarm, all except
Mamma Blackbird, who somehow could not get her
head from under the net. She struggled desperately;
the gardener was now close upon her. The poor
bird, wild with alarm, fluttered backwards and forwards,
till at last by a supreme effort, she freed herself and
fled away, very much scared, but rejoicing in her
liberty. This affair gave all the family a fearful
shock, and it was some days before they dared to
re-visit the strawberry-bed.
All things considered, though, the strawberries were
very good, the birds preferred the lower garden,
where they could hop comfortably and securely under
the gooseberry and currant bushes. There were no
nets there, and the gardener could not pounce down



upon them through those stiff thorny bushes; they
could feast on the small, red gooseberries, and then,
for a change, pass on to the smooth yellowish ones.
Their meal generally ended by a visit to a certain
bush where the clusters of white currants hung con-
veniently near the ground.
There was one spot, however, which was perhaps
the most attractive of all. On the south side of the
garden flourished an old cherry-tree which bore on
its wide spreading arms white hearts" of the very
finest quality and flavour. This was a secret corner
to which the birds repaired at even-tide, and
where, curiously enough, the gardener never suspected
them of trespassing.
One bright July morning the Blackbird noticed a
most unusual stir at the old mansion. There was a
good deal of running about, to and fro, and in and
out. The dairymaid paid a great many visits to
the dairy, and other maids might be seen hurrying
in all directions. The small brother and sister had
more than once trotted out on the lawn to look at
the sky, and make sure that it was not raining.
When the Blackbird happened to fly across the



garden he was still more puzzled. Two gardeners
with large baskets were stooping over the strawberry
beds, hard at work, picking the last of the strawberries.
Alas! there would be none left! Another gardener
was walking down the rows of raspberry-bushes, filling
a capacious basket with the red and white berries.
A small boy was collecting currants in another bulky
receptacle, while two more were pulling quantities of
gooseberries. What did it all mean ?
Later on in the day two large carts quite brimming
over with rosy-faced girls and boys passed through
the yard, and on into the hay-field hard by. The
little ones were soon seated in groups on the soft,
sweet hay, and then the old mansion began to pour
forth its inmates.
Servant-maids appeared with their gowns tucked up,
carrying large cans of hot tea, followed by men in livery
with huge platters piled with plum-cake, and stacks of
bread-and-butter; and last, but by no means least, the
ancient housekeeper, and her special maids, with baskets
of fruit and jugs of rich golden cream. Then, last
of all, from under the old porch, appeared the mother
and father and their two children, our Willie and Alice.



Little Alice looked so fair and pretty in her white frock,
blue sash, and blue shoes; and Willie's bright young
face was flushed with excitement and delight.
Then the Blackbird began to suspect what it all
meant. It was Willie's birthday; yes, he was five years
old, and he had chosen, as his treat, that all the village
children should be invited to tea in the hay-field. It
was a great joy to Willie to hand round the cake and
fruit, and to watch the little faces aglow with happiness.
Willie and Alice, and even their mamma and papa,
had tea in the hay-field, and Willie thought that never
before had even strawberries and cream been quite so
It was a lovely afternoon, and it was very pleasant
to sit on the newly-mown hay and listen to the birds
singing in the trees. Of course, the Blackbird could not
resist going to see and, as far as he could, share the fun,
and he and his family had a private banquet of their own:
for it so happened that one plate of fruit had been put
behind a little hay-cock and then overlooked and for-
gotten, and there, fearless of gardeners or nets, the
Blackbirds devoured the last of the strawberries.
After tea games were proposed, and the merry voices



could be heard in "blindman's buff," and "drop the
handkerchief," until quite late into the evening. By
this time the fathers and mothers had arrived to look
after their children and take them home, and many
were the kind words and warm thanks expressed to
Willie and Alice as their graceful little figures went in
and out among the groups as they said "good night."
At last little Alice was fairly tired out, so she was
borne away by Nurse Barlow, who announced it as
her decided opinion that the children would "get their
deaths of cold, and both be laid up the next day."
Poor Mrs. Barlow had not enjoyed her afternoon.
She had been constantly occupied in trying to find Willie
and Alice, for, as there were so many children scattered
over the field, they had continually escaped her search-
ing eye. Once she had ruthlessly torn Alice away as
she was standing between two rosy-cheeked, delighted
village urchins, playing drop the handkerchief." Each
of her little fair hands was clasped by the strong brown
fingers of a small village neighbour, and Alice
vigorously resented being thus carried off.
"The idea of her playing with them," murmured
Mrs. Barlow contemptuously as she carried her off.
Not long afterwards a shout of triumph attracted



her attention to another part of the field, where she
was certain "Master Willie" would be found. If
there's mischief going on," she said, "he's sure to be
in it;" and when she reached the spot, there he was
sure enough, in his best clothes trying to climb the
well-greased pole. As may be supposed his intentions
of reaching the top, and securing the prize, were
quickly nipped in the bud, and he was obliged to
make a more sudden descent than he had counted upon.
Notwithstanding these slight interruptions, every-
thing went off most satisfactorily, and all were sorry
enough when the time arrived to say good-bye.
The children assembled in front of the old house,
and sang a short hymn-

"We are but little children weak;"

and then they were marched off to their different
homes, and Willie went to bed, his thoughts full of
the happy day they had had, and the words of the
children's hymn still sounding in his ears.
The Blackbird had thoroughly enjoyed the after-
noon. There had been no drawbacks. Although he had
not been one of the invited guests, he felt somehow
that he had been welcome, and he was very pleased


to have seen so much of his two young friends, and
to have left them so happy.
At this summer-time, it was a great pleasure to the
Blackbird during the afternoon to perch on the limb
of an old fir-tree on the lawn, and watch the squirrels
at their gambols. They would play long, long games
of hide and seek among the dark branches, and then,
tired of that, they would chase each other from bough
to bough, scattering the pine-cones, which dropped with
a soft sound on the grass below. Little wagtails ran
nimbly about the lawn uttering their shrill "quit, quit,"
and catching as they ran the gnats and other insects.
The small dark heads of the swallows could be seen as
they crouched and twittered beneath the gables of the
old mansion, and the distant trickling of water made
a soft accompaniment to these varied sounds.
One afternoon when the Blackbird was thus perched
on his favourite fir-branch he saw the old Rook sailing
slowly by. He had not seen his old friend for some
time, so he gladly welcomed and joined him.
Away they flew to a copse beyond the lake where
hazels and alders grew. A bright, pebbly stream
wound through this copse, babbling cheerily as it went,



and both birds alighted on an overhanging bough to
watch the tiny fish as they poised and darted back-
wards and forwards. At a bend of the stream a little
higher up, a brilliant-hued kingfisher was on the watch,
and another bird of much soberer plumage was perched
on a hazel bough beyond. He had yellow legs, a long
tail, and ashen-coloured plumage spotted with white
which attracted the Blackbird's attention, for he did
not remember ever to have seen him before.
Do you know that bird ?" inquired the
Blackbird, nodding in the direction of the stranger.
Indeed I do," replied the Rook, dryly; "but
he's no friend of mine I assure you. He's one of
the laziest and most unprincipled of creatures. He has
only one good point about him, that's his note, and you
must know that well. His "twofold shout" of cuckoo is
a welcome sound to every one, for it tells us that Spring
is here. As I said, however, that is his only good
point,-for, can you believe it ? he never builds a nest! "
Never builds a nest!" exclaimed the Blackbird
in astonishment, "then where does he lay his eggs ? "
"Why," said the Rook, "the cuckoos have the
impudence, the audacity, to drop them in the nest of



some other bird, any nest that takes their fancy. And
that is not all. Not only does the cuckoo lay its egg
in a stranger's nest, but the unfortunate bird whose
nest he has chosen has not only to sit on his egg, and
hatch his great gawkey young one, but has also to feed
it, and rear it till it can take care of itself. Nice job it
is too," said the Rook with disgust. Then they are
so knowing-ay, they're clever birds! Why they never
lay their eggs in the nests of any of the Finches, because
they are seed-feeding birds, and the cuckoos know full
well that their young ones would starve, because a seed-
feeding bird wouldn't be able to rear them. Therefore
they always choose the nests of the insect-feeding birds,
and they never make a mistake. I wish they would
sometimes, then there would be a few less of them!
Those little pied wagtails, that you were watching on the
lawn just now, often have the honour thrust upon them
of hatching and rearing a young cuckoo, as do also the
hedge sparrow and the reed warbler. The cuckoos
are such cowards too," continued the Rook, that they
sometimes lay their eggs in the poor little nest of
quite a small bird who can't even remonstrate with,
much less fight them. Last Spring a vile cuckoo


actually laid her egg in a wren's nest, and the two
poor little wrens had to hatch and rear the young
monster. You may fancy what hard work it was,-
it was nearly the death of them!"
The Blackbird groaned sympathetically, for he re-
membered his own labours in that line. After a last
glance at the kingfisher, the cuckoo, and the winding
stream, the two friends flew farther on, over "flowery
meads" and shining woods. The hedges were purple
with marshmallow and vetch, while in other places
the blue heads of the succory, and the pink and white
briar roses were luxuriant, not to speak of the pale
bindweed which clung so affectionately round the slender
stems of the hazels.
The pair of friends alighted for a moment to gaze
at all this summer wealth.
I do wish it could always be summer," sighed the
"You'd soon get very tired of it if it were,"
retorted the Rook, "and you would not value the
sunshine and flowers half so much if you always
had them."
Perhaps not," said the Blackbird, gazing rather




*.,- -"B.A

r ,


sentimentally at the closing blossoms of the convolvulus,
"perhaps not, but the flowers are very lovely."
"Yes," said the Rook, gravely; "they toil not,
neither do they spin, and yet we are assured that
even the great King Solomon in all his glory 'was
not arrayed like one of these.' The great God is over
all His works, friend Blackbird; nothing, however small
or however insignificant it may be, is overlooked or
forgotten by the Creator."
After a few moments of silence the Blackbird said,
"I must be going home; my young ones are not yet
able to do without me."
"Your young ones !" exclaimed the Rook, in a tone
of surprise; and then he added, Ah, you've had two
broods, I suppose?"
"Yes," replied the Blackbird, "and the last are
still young. My first are now quite grown up."
I once knew a relation of yours," said the Rook,
who hatched three broods in one year."
Dear me," said the Blackbird in a tone of com-
miseration, how exhausted he must have been by
the time he had finished with his third family."
"I have been told, and on the best possible



authority too," said the Rook, rather mischievously,
"of a pair of Blackbirds who had four families-"
Oh, pray don't," said the Blackbird, as he opened
out his wings as if for flight; "you make me feel
quite nervous."
The Rook gave a caw which he intended to be a
sympathetic one, but there was a little falter in it, which,
had he been a human being instead of a bird, might
have been mistaken for a smothered laugh. The birds
now rose on the wing, and together flew homewards.
While passing the lake a boat and the sound of oars
arrested their attention. To watch it as it went by, they
settled on the lowest branch of an old beech-tree, which
grew at the edge of the lake, and spread its arms
over the bright waters, affording a grateful shade to
boating-parties in the summer. This tree was quite
an old family friend, and generation after generation
had gazed at it from the old bay window-generations
who had rejoiced in its first spring leaves, and regretted
the fall of the last brown one in autumn. It formed
a capital shelter for the birds, from whence they could
see and not be seen.
Willie and Alice, their mother and father, and Mrs.



Barlow the nurse, were in the boat. The father was
rowing, and Willie was occupying the proud position
of steersman. They soon drew to land and moored
the little craft under the shade of the beech-tree.
Then out came little mugs, bread and butter, fruit
and cake-they were actually going to have a pic-nic
on the water!
Tea out of doors was an immense delight; but tea out
of doors and on the water was even better, at least so
thought Willie and Alice, but so did not think Nurse
Barlow. She screamed each time the boat rolled, and
assured them every few minutes that they would all be
drowned. As far as she was concerned she couldn't
"-see "why Master Willie and Miss Alice couldn't have
had tea quietly in their own nursery. It was a deal
better than coming out there on the water, and sitting
under that tree, with all those nasty insects dropping
down on them."
Nurse Barlow did not love expeditions of any sort
or kind. She infinitely preferred walking up and
down the trim gravel paths, with a child on either
side of her. She could not bear to see the little curls
ruffled, and the fresh white frocks tumbled.



But these were not the sentiments of Willie and his
sister, and it is to be feared that they gave Nurse
Barlow many disturbed and anxious moments, as they
darted away from her to hide behind the bushes, or
rolled head over heels in the new-mown hay, quite
regardless of clean frock or embroidered suit.
It must be confessed that on this particular evening
Willie was in a specially mischievous humour, for, among
other tricks, he directed the attention of many small
insects to his nurse's gown, where they remained till
jerked off in horror by the discomfited Nanny.
The Rook and Blackbird watched the party with no
small interest and amusement, and then as the shadows
lengthened they flew away home.
It was such a lovely evening that, after seeing his
wife and the young ones comfortably settled in their
nest the Blackbird took another short flight before going
to bed himself.
He halted on a hedgerow in a narrow lane, which
bordered a deep wood. The sky was lovely sapphire
colour, pierced here and there by bright stars.
It was wonderfully still, save for those indescrib-
able sounds which ever accompany the close of a



summer's evening, those sounds which reveal to us
that the great pulse of life is still strong,-strong even
at that hour of repose,-the sleepy half-notes of the
woodland bird, the "droning flight" of the beetle, or
the passing hum of a belated bee. Tiny lamps, the
glow-worm's dusky light," shone here and there from
the hedgerow. No step sounded, the air was sweet
with the perfume of flowers, and had not yet lost the
heat of a long summer day.
All at once, in the midst of the general stillness,
there broke forth on the night air a song so strange,
so beautiful, that the Blackbird held his breath
to listen. It came suddenly; and from a tree close
beside him, a sweet low murmuring song, and then it
changed to a swift "jug, jug." This was followed by a
shake, clear and prolonged, and then came a "low
piping sound," which, as the song ceased, the air gave
back, as if it were loth to lose the melody.
Once again the song broke forth, varied, and, if
possible, more full, more beautiful than before, finishing
with the same low pipe. The Blackbird gazed about
him in ecstasy; who could the unseen minstrel be ?
A very unpretending looking bird, with a brown



back, and a dull white breast was sitting on a beech-
tree close by. Could that be the minstrel, that plain
insignificant looking bird ?
And then as the Blackbird reflected, he all at once
called to mind who it was,-this songster of the
It was none other than the Nightingale, the queen
of song, the glory of the woods; and the Blackbird flew
back to his nest, lost in admiration of the small brown-
coated singer, his heart filled with gratitude for the
glorious song.





-- HE strawberries had entirely disappeared,
the raspberries and gooseberries had
followed, the last of the hay had been
some time gathered in, and dry grass had
taken the place of flowery meadows.
The corn which had been green and soft was rapidly
becoming hard and golden. It was now that the Black-
bird became aware that the sun was once more beginning
to go earlier to bed, and yet to get up later.
No doubt the sun is getting tired," thought the
Blackbird, and no wonder; he has been up and shining
so many hours lately. I shall be glad when he has had
a good long rest, and begins to rise early again, for
the birds are not singing so sweetly as they used to
do, and even the poor flowers begin to droop."


However, the days were still beautiful, though the
blue sky was now often obscured by clouds, and the
evenings were getting rather chilly.
The oaks were still as fresh as ever, but many other
trees had changed their bright green for the deeper
and more golden tints of autumn. In some places
brown and crisp leaves already formed a thick carpet,
and the beeches were fast flinging their ripe nuts to
the ground. For all that, it was a little hard to realise
that Autumn had already begun, for many flowers yet
lingered, and the white and yellow roses still enlivened
the gray face of the old mansion.
However, as the Blackbird had learnt to know,
there were fruits and joys for every season, and if the
strawberries and cherries had gone, were there not
rosy-cheeked apples and delicious pears, which had.
been wanting in the summer?
There was one apple-tree in the orchard which
he specially remembered; he had noticed it in the
spring with its wealth of pink-white blossoms. The
blossoms had quickly fallen, and he recollected hopping
and frisking about among the soft, rosy petals as they
strewed the grass. He had regretted the fall of these



pretty leaflets, and, of course, had gone to the old
Rook for consolation.
"Wait a while," had been the Rook's sage remark;
"they have only fallen off to give place to something
The old sage was right, they had been pushed off,
in order that the apples of autumn might come to
perfection. This tree was now covered with rosy-
cheeked, tempting fruit, pippins, that were so round
and plump, that their skins appeared to have a great
difficulty in containing them, and the Blackbird deter-
mined that no time should be lost in conducting his
young family there.
Accordingly, one fine evening found him on the
wing, at the head of his summer nestlings, who were
fast developing into grown-up birds. He alighted on
a bough, and hopped down from thence to the grass,
where the apples lay very temptingly around. Just
as he was about to commence supper, he became
aware of a very fierce-looking man who was standing
with outstretched and threatening arms, only a few
yards from the tree.
The Blackbird immediately rose in the air and flew



away with a shrill cry, and all his young ones followed
him. They did not venture to stop till they reached a
neighboring field. The appearance of the man at this
time was all the more singular, for the Blackbird never
before remembered to have seen the gardener in the
orchard, so late in the evening. However, the next
morning he determined to be there betimes, and to
make his breakfast off the apples, although he had lost
his supper. As he flew along, followed by his young
ones, he said, Now remember, my children, always to
be very careful, and never go near the orchard if the
gardener happens to be about, for the hard-hearted man
would think nothing of shooting every one of us, and
all for the sake of his miserable apples."
This admonition did not make the young Blackbirds
feel over comfortable, and as they hopped to the grass
their poor little legs trembled with alarm.
At this moment a shrill cry from their parent startled
them, and again they quickly scattered, for the dreadful
gardener had already arrived, and was there awaiting
them, standing by the tree with his outstretched arms.
It certainly was very provoking and terrifying, and
after one or two more feeble attempts upon the apples



the Blackbird determined to give up the orchard alto-
gether, for go at what time he might, that horrible, that
ugly old gardener was always there before him.
One day he happened to mention his trouble and
disappointment to the Rook. You should have seen
that bird's face; his usually solemn expression of coun-
tenance suddenly gave way to one of intense amusement,
as he replied, Ah, you hav'n't been quite so many years
about the orchards as I have, or you wouldn't have
been quite so frightened. The gardener has tried that
old trick upon me and mine so often that I'm quite
accustomed to it. Why, it's not a gardener at all-it's a
rickety old Scare-crow! However," he added, as he
saw the Blackbird look rather ashamed and crestfallen,
"I was quite taken in myself at first; but one day I
happened to be passing the orchard just as a gale of
wind was blowing, and saw the Scare-crow topple over.
Since that day I've never been afraid of scare-crows,
although there's an old farmer near here who puts most
frightful-looking ones in his corn fields, worse than any
I've ever seen anywhere else. It's of no use, however,
we don't care a bit for them. They must find out some-
thing much more terrible than scare-crows if they want
to frighten the crows or us."


It must be confessed that the Blackbird never had
the moral courage to acknowledge how completely he
had been taken in, and it was only gradually that his
young ones found out that after all the scare-crow was
not the dreaded gardener, but only some very shabby
old clothes arranged on a stupid pole or two.
It was about this time that the Blackbird haunted
the neighbourhood of a certain lane, where the bramble
blossoms had been succeeded by the wild-fruits of autumn.
The blackberries were abundant, and it was not the
Blackbird only who found this lane, with its high hedge-
rows, an attractive spot. Little Willie would sometimes
persuade his unwilling nurse to take that lane on their
way home, "just for a treat, you know ;" and while the
nurserymaid, followed by Mrs. Barlow, pushed Alice
in her perambulator, Willie would linger far behind,
making many overt attacks upon the blackberries,
thereby tearing his clothes and staining his lips
and fingers.
One day the Blackbird was much amused at a scene
which took place in the lane between Mrs. Barlow and
her young charges. The nurserymaid had been left
at home, Nanny was alone with them, Willie had
lagged far behind, and had stuffed his mouth, and then



with some difficulty all his pockets, full of ripe black-
berries. Of course Nanny knew nothing of this; she
was rather exhausted, and had stopped for a moment,
perambulator in hand, to speak to a friend.
This was an opportunity not to be lost. Willie
ran up with one of his small hands full of the juicy
berries, they were so good he must give some to
Alice. The delighted little girl opened wide her
rosy mouth to receive the fruit. The crushed
berries were hastily pushed in by Willie, leaving
large purple stains on her lips and chin, and in his
haste and fear of being discovered he let several fall
on her pale blue pelisse.
It was just at this moment that Nurse Barlow
looked round. Master Willie! Master Willie !" she
cried, darting forward and seizing him by both hands,
" haven't I often and often told you Miss Alice is not to
have those nasty berries ? Didn't I only yesterday read
in the newspaper of three children that were poisoned
to death by eating berries out of a hedge-poor little
children that had no nurse to look after them; and
here you've given the darling those nasty, poisonous
things. Just look at her mouth !" and she paused as



she turned to examine Willie's pockets. I do declare
if you haven't gone and put them into the pockets of
your new clothes! Well," said she, appealing to
her friend, did you ever see the like ? That's his new
suit, on yesterday for the first time,-and just look!"
she continued, as one after the other she slowly turned
the pockets inside out, "just look!"
The pockets were purple, as were also the lips and
hands of the delinquent, and he really looked as penitent
as he felt, though, as Nurse Barlow said, where's the
use of being sorry when the mischief's done ?" Willie
promised that he really would behave better another
time, and that he had not meant to do any harm.
In the meanwhile little Alice had mightily enjoyed the
taste of these her first blackberries, but she and Willie
did not forget in a hurry the terrible scolding, and the
much more terrible washing, which succeeded that
famous day's blackberrying in the lane.
The Blackbird congratulated himself that he had no
blue suit of clothes to spoil, and that his coat was of
such a colour that the berries could not harm it.
We have already said that the Blackbird had his
interests and pleasures even at this autumn time, but



it must be owned that a good deal of life and enjoy-
ment had gone with the summer.
The woods were almost songless, and each day added
to the increasing multitude of dead leaves that drove
before the wind; each day, too, the bare boughs, once
so well covered, flung a few more of their last leaves
to the ground. About this time, too, the Blackbird did
not feel quite well-he was listless, his wings would
droop in spite of himself. His feathers were not so
black and glossy as they had been,-the fact was, the
moulting season had begun, and it was some time
before he began to feel really bright and well again.
It was also about this time that the Blackbird noticed
a most unusual gathering together of the swallows,
and a good deal of commotion and twittering. They
assembled in large flocks, and appeared to be eagerly
discussing some weighty affair of State. After such
discussions they would suddenly disperse, but only to
re-assemble and twitter more eagerly than ever.
What could it all mean? Of course the sage and
experienced Rook was referred to.
"These birds," he said, are about to what is called
migrate, it is a very important event to them, and



they hold long consultations beforehand. As you may
remember, I told you in the spring they do not spend
above half the year in England, and now that the
leaves are falling, and the winds are getting cold, they
know it is high time to be off. They are wonderfully
quick flyers, a few days will find them on the distant
shores of Africa."
It must be very sunny, very delightful there,"
said the Blackbird.
I daresay it is," replied the Rook, hopping slowly
from one fir-branch to another; but I had far rather
remain at home. Dear old place !" he said, looking at the
venerable gray mansion, and then at the beautiful lake
and wood behind which the sun was setting. I wouldn't
miss the winter and spring here for anything that Africa
or any other place in the wide world could give me."
The gray stones and gables were bright with the
glory of the setting sun, the ruddy stems of the firs
had caught the reflection and stood out in their depth
of red from the dark green foliage. Some autumn
flowers and a few late roses still gave colour to the
garden, and the sound of far-off childish voices echoed
from the more distant lime-trees.



Willie came dancing across the lawn, and the
perambulator, pushed by Nurse Barlow, followed more
slowly. Willie's eyes were sparkling with excitement.
He had been out with his father, and had hunted the
hedgerows for blackberries to his heart's content. In
one hand he held a small basket wherein lay some fresh-
gathered mushrooms. In the other he bore in triumph
a large hazel branch, loaded with nuts. Just then his
mother came out on the lawn, and he ran towards
her with eager joy and affection.
Look, mother! I picked these in the field my
very own self. Ain't they beauties ? he said, turning the
mushrooms slowly over; they're for your dinner, and
I picked them."
They certainly looked very fresh and tempting, with
their glossy white tops and soft pink gills.
"Thank you, my darling," said his mother, stroking
the brown hair back from his bright face, I shall like
them very much."
At this moment Willie caught sight of a little black
head and a pair of bright eyes between the fir-branches.
"Mother," he whispered, pointing to the branch,
"that's our Blackbird. He's fond of blackberries; he
was eating some in the hedge the other day-I saw him.


I have a few in the corner of the basket here. I'll throw
them to him."
A few blackberries were scattered on the grass on
the other side of the fir-tree, and Willie moved a little
further off, for fear the Blackbird should be shy.
"These nuts are for your dessert, mother," he con-
tinued, holding out the hazel branch in triumph.
"It is very good of my little boy to think of
mamma," said his mother. Isn't it, Barlow ?" she said,
turning to that rather exhausted person, who now came
slowly up.
Nurse Barlow had not had a happy afternoon. She
had been toiling through the lanes after Willie and his
papa. The lanes were muddy, they had gone a long
way, and she was very tired. She had made up her
mind that the mushrooms were toadstools. It is true
that they had come from a meadow in the neighbour-
hood where excellent mushrooms were wont to grow,
but all the same, she was fully persuaded that these
particular ones were toadstools, "just such as my poor
sister's little boy nearly died of eating."
Then again Master Willie had eaten "pounds of
blackberries, let alone those nasty nuts."
It turned out that Nurse Barlow's fears were happily


unfounded, for Willie's papa had forbidden the con-
sumption of nuts and limited the quantity of blackberries.
Notwithstanding these assurances, "Nanny" re-
fused to be comforted, and as she tucked Willie in his
little bed, she soothingly remarked, A nice lot of physic
I shall have to give you. Then you'll have to stay in-
doors, and you'll both be very cross and very tiresome;
I know what it will be."
That night Willie's dreams were troubled, but they
were mingled with a deep bliss notwithstanding. He
seemed to be wandering through endless lanes where
thousands of ripe and gigantic blackberries grew on
all sides,-they actually seemed to bend forward and
drop into his basket as he passed. Hazel-nuts were
there also, of a marvellous size, and very brown and
sweet, browner and sweeter than any he ever remem-
bered to have eaten. He passed from the lanes into a
field, where the mushrooms grew so thickly, that it was
difficult to avoid treading on them as he walked.
What greatly added to the delights of the expedition
was the fact that all the time the Blackbird hopped
by his side. He, too, seemed to have grown larger,
and he was wonderfully tame, and allowed Willie to
stroke his glossy head and back. Arrived at the end


of the meadow, however, Willie seemed somehow to
pass into another lane, and there on the hedgerows
instead of blackberries hung curious-looking bottles,
and they were all labelled Mr. Phil Viall, Chemist
and Druggist."
Alas! poor Willie, he knew those bottles far too
well. Some of them were yellow and others were
white, while a few were dreadfully black. Nanny,"
grown very tall indeed, marched before him down the
lane, pointing sternly to each bottle as she passed.
At this moment Willie awoke, and was very glad
to find that after all it was only a dream, that the
bright morning sun was streaming through the white
dimity curtains, and that he did not feel one bit the
worse for yesterday's expedition.
A few days passed away, and the Blackbird found
that all that the Rook had told him was strictly true,
for before long an evening arrived when a great many
swallows began to congregate; then after a good deal
of twittering and excitement they took wing, and flew
steadily away towards the setting sun. The next
morning the Blackbird sadly missed the twitter of his
small friends. No little glossy dark heads were to be
seen peeping out of the clay-built nests under the eaves,



and no white-breasted flyers skimmed the lawn. Yes,
the swallows were indeed gone, and the Blackbird sadly
realized the fact that the summer and its singers were
gone too, left far behind in the months of long ago.
That evening, after watching the flight of the
swallows, the Blackbird flew from the fir to his
favourite branch on the lime, where we were first
introduced to him. He felt rather sad, there was so
much that was bright and joyous and sunny to look
back upon in the past spring and summer; there was
not a little that was dark and cold and dreary to look
forward to in the approaching winter. As he was
meditating on the past, and thinking of the future,
a bright, a familiar note greeted him from a branch
close by,-in another moment the Robin had hopped
to his side.
"My dear little friend," cried the Blackbird, "I
haven't seen you for a long time."
I've often seen you though," said the Robin; "but
what with your two large families, and all the delights
and distractions of the summer, you have been a good
deal occupied."
I haven't heard you singing," said the Blackbird.


Don't you remember what I told you in the spring ?'
replied the Robin; "my poor little song is quite ex-
tinguished when so many others are singing, but now I
am beginning to be heard once more."
Again he poured forth a clear, bright carol.
"As I have said before," remarked the Blackbird,
" you are a very good little bird, you come to cheer us
just when we want cheering."
But you're not so down-hearted as you used to be,"
said the Robin.
"That is due then to your bright little lessons," said
the Blackbird gratefully, and the teaching of our dear
old friend the Rook there."
In another moment the Rook, who was passing, had
joined them on the lime-tree bough, and together the
three friends watched the sun setting, and wondered
where the swallows had got to by that time.
The evening was chilly, and a damp mist lay over the
meadows, a warning to the birds that it was time to be
going home.
Yes," said the Blackbird reflectively, taking up the
conversation where he had left off, I ought to be very
grateful to you, Mr. Rook,-and to you, my dear little


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friend," he said, turning to the Robin. You, Mr.
Rook, have taught me a great deal, and given me a
real interest in the creatures and things about me, which
I should not have had otherwise. Above all, you have
taught me the great lesson of faith and trust. And you,
dear little red-breasted friend, have taught me the sweet
lesson of content, and not that alone, but you have
shown me that each of us in our small way should try
to make the world a little better and brighter for those
around us. You do it, Mr. Rook; you do it, little
Robin; Willie and Alice do it, with their kind thought-
fulness for us, and why should not I try to do it also,-
I will, and this very winter too."
All the birds were grave and silent for a few
moments, and then, as they took an affectionate leave
of each other before parting, the Rook said, "There
was a pretty little poem once written about the Robin.
I will repeat it to you before we separate:

"Unheard in Summer's flaring ray,
Pour forth thy notes, sweet singer,
Wooing the stillness of the autumn day:
Bid it a moment linger,
Nor fly
Too soon from Winter's scowling eye.


The Blackbird's song at eventide,
And hers, who gay ascends,
Filling the heavens far and wide,
Are sweet. But none so blends,
As thine
With calm decay, and peace divine."

Each day now the sun rose later and went to
bed earlier. Willie and Alice still ran about the
garden, stamping their little feet among the dry,
crisp leaves, and picking up the beech-nuts which
strewed the ground.
However, as time went on, they came less out of
doors, for cold and wet days followed each other, when
all that the Blackbird saw of his little friends were
the two small faces pressed against the dining-room
window-pane, looking wistfully out as the clouds drove
past, and the rain pattered against the glass.
At last a night arrived when it was very cold indeed.
Through the bare boughs, and on to the hedgerows and
ivy, stole down the pure, soft snow. The Blackbird put
his head out of the ivy-bush to see what sort of night
it might be, and lo! under the pale light of the moon,
all the landscape lay white and dazzling before him.
One little flake dropt upon his head-one cold, soft


flake; but as he drew back into the shelter of the ivy, to
return once more to rest, it was with very different
thoughts and feelings than those gloomy ones which had
troubled him the year before. He now knew what
the beautiful snow meant. It was the beginning of a
hard winter, it was the herald of cold, dark days. But
he had also been taught a lesson of faith; he knew of
the winter berries which would be provided for him by
One who remembered even the despised Sparrows; he
knew of a certain bay-window where two eager little
faces would be watching for him, through all the cold,
dark days; and as he closed his eyes, on this the first
night of winter, he remembered that little Willie and
Alice, and he himself, and all created things, were under
the protection of Him Who "casteth forth His ice like
morsels," but Who, in His own good time, would again
bring about the time of the singing of birds," when,
once more, as of old, "the voice of the turtle" would
be "heard in the land."