Bedtime Short Stories | Mr. and Mrs. Robin
A PAIR OF robins : Mr. and Mrs. Robin had started to construct their nest on a limb of an old apple tree that grew up under the nursery window. Day after day, five small youngsters may be seen peering out the window, watching the birds. There were bright-eyed little girls named Alice and Mary, seven and eight years old, followed by stout little Jamie and Charlie, and finally tiny Puss, whose true name was Ellen, but who was nicknamed Puss and Pussy, Birdie or Todlie, or any other pet name that came to mind.
The birds were so used to the curly heads at the window that they rashly grabbed up and wove into their nest small bits of cotton, thread, and yarn tossed to them. Charlie chopped one of Todlie’s floss curls and flung it away; they all smiled when they saw Todlie’s golden hair in a bird’s nest.
The youngsters were overjoyed when the nest was completed. They refer to it as “our nest,” and the two robins as “our birds.” Their excitement was doubled when they discovered a gorgeous pale green egg in the nest one morning. After five days, the eldest girl, Alice, stated, “That makes one for each of us, and each of us will have a bird someday,” to which all the children smiled, clapped their hands, and leaped for joy. The mother bird began to perch on the eggs, and she remained there day after day.
“Yes she is,” said grave little Alice. “Old Sam says his hens set three weeks; just think, almost a month!”
When they glanced out the window one morning, the patient mother bird was gone, and there seemed to be nothing in the nest but a bundle of something hairy. When the youngsters yelled for their mother to come, five small mouths opened in the nest, and they saw there were five little birds inside. The youngsters wanted to feed the animals, but their mother reminded them that the elderly birds knew best how to care for them;
While they were talking, Mr. and Mrs. Robin flew back through the green branches, and all the small red mouths opened open, and the birds deposited something into each. After that, it was wonderful fun to watch the daily feeding of the tiny birds and to see how, when not feeding them, the mother sat brooding over the nest, warming them under her soft wing, while the father bird sat on the apple-tree’s highest limb and sang to them.
“I’m going to give mine a name,” said Mary, when the robins were almost full-grown. “I’ll call him Brown-Eyes.”
“And I shall call mine Tip Top, because I know he’ll be a tip-top bird,” Jamie said.
“I’ll call mine Singer,” said Alice.
“I’ll call mine Toddy,” said little Todlie, who would not be behind the others.
“Hurrah for Todlie!” cried Charlie; “hers is the best of all. For my part, I’ll call mine Speckle.”
The birds developed quickly, and the nest became overcrowded. Tip Top was the largest and strongest, and he was continually scuffling and crowding the others and clamoring for the most food; and when Tip Top became too boisterous, Speckle, a spirit bird, would peck at him. tiny Brown Eyes was a gentle and sensitive tiny bird who sat winking and blinking in dread as her larger brothers fought. Toddy and Singer were sister birds who like to speak and chastise their misbehaving brothers in a way that made the nest rather lively. Mr. and Mrs. Robin were devastated by their family’s squabbles.
“I say,” Tip Top told them one day, “this old nest is a crowded hole, and it’s about time some of us got out of it; just give us flying lessons, won’t you, and let us go.”
“My dear boy,” Mother Robin promised, “we shall teach you to fly as soon as your wings are strong enough.” “You are a very small bird,” his father said, “and you should be good and obedient while you wait for your wing feathers to grow.”
“Will you please wait for my wing feathers?” Humbug!” Tip Top would say, balancing himself on the very edge of the nest with his little short tail and little chumps of wings, peering up into the blue skies above or down into the grass and clover-heads below. “Father and mother want to keep me back,” he explained, “but if they don’t hurry up and teach me to fly, I’ll take matters into my own hands and be off before they know it.” Look at those swallows flying into the beautiful sky! That’s how I want to go.”
Tip Top’s younger sister tried to persuade him, but all he answered was, “What do you know about flying?”
“About as much as you do,” Speckle said. So the squabbling got worse by the day, while Tip Top would get out on the edge of the nest and threaten to leave.
“My dear boy,” the mother continued, “do go into the nest and be a good boy; then you will be happy.”
“Oh!” said Tip Top, “I’m too big for the nest, and I want to see the world; it’s full of beautiful things, I know. Now there’s the most lovely creature, with bright eyes, that comes under the tree every day, and wants me to come down in the grass and play with her.”
“My son, take care,” said the frightened mother, “that lovely-seeming creature is our dreadful enemy, the cat, a horrid monster with teeth and claws.”
Except for Tip top, who believed he was so large he didn’t need to be scared of anything, all the smaller birds trembled and huddled deeper into the nest. Tip Top returned to the edge of the nest after the mother and father had left, and glancing over, he spotted charming Miss Pussy washing her face among the daisies under the trees. Tip Top thought her yellow eyes were lovely as he peered down, and then she murmured softly, “Little bird, little bird, come down, Pussy wants to play with you.”
“Look at her! “Her eyes are like gold!” remarked Tip Top.
“No, don’t look,” Singer and speckle warned, “she will get you to come down, and then she will eat you up.”
“I’d like to see her try to eat me up,” said Tip Top; “just as if she would! She’s a nice creature, and wants us to have some fun; we never do have any fun in this old nest.”
Then Pussy called again, “Little birds, come down, Pussy want to play with you.”
A moment after a scream was heard from the nursery window, where the children were looking out upon the nest.
“Oh, mamma! Do come here! Tip Top has fallen out of the nest, and the cat has got him!”
Pussy dashed away, a silly Tip Top in her mouth. Jamie dashed after the cat. Mr. and Mrs. Robin, who had just returned home, cried out in anguish when they saw what had occurred, and Mrs. Robin’s sparkling eyes immediately found her sad little boy, where Pussy was stroking him and rolling him from one paw to the other among the currant bushes. She called the small folk to the area by lighting on the shrub above. Jamie dove beneath the bush, caught the cat, and with one or two hits forced her to let Tip top go.
The poor thing wasn’t dead, but part of his feathers had been ripped off and one of his wings had been shattered; he was returned to the nest. The cat had shook all the foolishness out of him, and the little robin was horribly humiliated. The birds learnt to fly in a short period, but poor Tip Top sat there with a damaged wing.
Finally, Jamie pulled him out of the nest and put him in a cage, and he appeared tolerably comfortable, although he was a pitiful lame-winged robin all his days.
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