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Title: The Curious Book of Birds
Author: Brown, Abbie Farwell, 1871-1927
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Curious Book of Birds" ***

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[Illustration: _Mr. Stork and Miss Heron (page 178)_]



   The Curious Book of Birds

    By Abbie Farwell Brown

     _With Illustrations_

      _By E. Boyd Smith_


     BOSTON AND NEW YORK
 HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
             1903



_Published October, 1903._



_There are many books written nowadays which will tell you about birds
as folk of the twentieth century see them. They describe carefully the
singer's house, his habits, the number of his little wife's eggs, and
the color of every tiny feather on her pretty wings. But these books
tell you nothing at all about bird-history; about what birds have meant
to all the generations of men, women, and children since the world
began. You would think, to read the words of the bird-book men, that
they were the very first folk to see any bird, and that what they think
they have seen is the only matter worth the knowing._

_Now the interesting facts about birds we have always with us. We can
find them out for ourselves, which is a very pleasant thing to do, or we
can take the word of others, of which there is no lack. But it is the
quaint fancies about birds which are in danger of being lost. The
long-time fancies which the world's children in all lands have been
taught are quite as important as the every-day facts. They show what the
little feathered brothers have been to the children of men; how we have
come to like some and to dislike others as we do; why the poets have
called them by certain nicknames which we ought to know; and why a great
many strange things are so, in the minds of childlike people._

_Facts are not what one looks for in a Curious Book. Yet it may be that
some facts have crept in among the ancient fancies of this volume, just
as bookworms will crawl into the nicest books; but they do not belong
there, and it is for these that the Book apologizes to the children. It
has no apology to offer those grown folks who insist that facts, never
fancies, are what children need._



CONTENTS

                                        PAGE

THE DISOBEDIENT WOODPECKER                 1
(_French_)

MOTHER MAGPIE'S KINDERGARTEN               6
(_Isle of Wight_)

THE GORGEOUS GOLDFINCH                    14
(_Roumanian_)

KING OF THE BIRDS                         18
(_Gascon_)

HALCYONE                                  27
(_Greek_)

THE FORGETFUL KINGFISHER                  33
(_German_)

THE WREN WHO BROUGHT FIRE                 39
(_French_)

HOW THE BLUEBIRD CROSSED                  45
(_Samoan_)

THE PEACOCK'S COUSIN                      49
(_Arabic, Malay_)

THE MASQUERADING CROW                     59
(_Russian_)

KING SOLOMON AND THE BIRDS                69
(_Arabic_)

THE PIOUS ROBIN                           81
(_Breton, Basque, Greek_)

THE ROBIN WHO WAS AN INDIAN               87
(_Ojibway_)

THE INQUISITIVE WOMAN                     94
(_Roumanian_)

WHY THE NIGHTINGALE WAKES                 98
(_French_)

MRS. PARTRIDGE'S BABIES                  105
(_Greek_)

THE EARLY GIRL                           109
(_Roumanian_)

HOW THE BLACKBIRD SPOILED HIS COAT       114
(_French_)

THE BLACKBIRD AND THE FOX                124
(_French_)

THE DOVE WHO SPOKE TRUTH                 127
(_Welsh_)

THE FOWLS ON PILGRIMAGE                  132
(_Greek_)

THE GROUND-PIGEON                        138
(_Malay_)

SISTER HEN AND THE CROCODILE             145
(_Congo Negro_)

THE THRUSH AND THE CUCKOO                153
(_Roumanian, German_)

THE OWL AND THE MOON                     157
(_Malay_)

THE TUFTED CAP                           164
(_Ainu, Japanese Islands_)

THE GOOD HUNTER                          168
(_Iroquois_)

THE COURTSHIP OF MR. STORK AND MISS
HERON                                    176
(_Russian_)

THE PHOENIX                              184
(_Egyptian_)

Seven of these tales appeared originally in _The Churchman_ and two in
_The Congregationalist_. They are reprinted by the courteous permission
of the publishers of those magazines.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                        PAGE
MR. STORK AND MISS HERON (page 178)
                                Frontispiece

"NEXT YOU MUST LAY A FEATHER"             10

SUCH A GORGEOUS COAT!                     16

"BLESS ME!" HE EXCLAIMED, "WHOM HAVE
WE HERE?"                                 64

HERE ARE SOME NICE FAT WIGGLY WORMS      106

HE MANAGED TO FLUTTER OUT OF REACH       126

"O BROTHER, DON'T!"                      148

PUTRI BALAN BEGAN TO LAUGH               160



The Curious Book of Birds



    "Not you alone, proud truths of the world,
    Not you alone, ye facts of modern science,
    But myths and fables of eld, Asia's, Africa's fables."

                                             _Whitman._



The Curious Book of Birds



THE DISOBEDIENT WOODPECKER


Long, long ago, at the beginning of things, they say that the Lord made
the world smooth and round like an apple. There were no hills nor
mountains: nor were there any hollows or valleys to hold the seas and
rivers, fountains and pools, which the world of men would need. It must,
indeed, have been a stupid and ugly earth in those days, with no chance
for swimming or sailing, rowing or fishing. But as yet there was no one
to think anything about it, no one who would long to swim, sail, row,
and fish. For this was long before men were created.

The Lord looked about Him at the flocks of newly made birds, who were
preening their wings and wondering at their own bright feathers, and
said to Himself,--

"I will make these pretty creatures useful, from the very beginning, so
that in after time men shall love them dearly. Come, my birds," He
cried, "come hither to me, and with the beaks which I have given you
hollow me out _here_, and _here_, and _here_, basins for the lakes and
pools which I intend to fill with water for men and for you, their
friends. Come, little brothers, busy yourselves as you would wish to be
happy hereafter."

Then there was a twittering and fluttering as the good birds set to work
with a will, singing happily over the work which their dear Lord had
given them to do. They pecked and they pecked with their sharp little
bills; they scratched and they scratched with their sharp little claws,
till in the proper places they had hollowed out great basins and valleys
and long river beds, and little holes in the ground.

Then the Lord sent great rains upon the earth until the hollows which
the birds had made were filled with water, and so became rivers and
lakes, little brooks and fountains, just as we see them to-day. Now it
was a beautiful, beautiful world, and the good birds sang happily and
rejoiced in the work which they had helped, and in the sparkling water
which was sweet to their taste.

All were happy except one. The Woodpecker had taken no part with the
other busy birds. She was a lazy, disobedient creature, and when she
heard the Lord's commands she had only said, "Tut tut!" and sat still on
the branch where she had perched, preening her pretty feathers and
admiring her silver stockings. "You can toil if you want to," she said
to the other birds who wondered at her, "but I shall do no such dirty
work. My clothes are too fine."

Now when the world was quite finished and the beautiful water sparkled
and glinted here and there, cool and refreshing, the Lord called the
birds to Him and thanked them for their help, praising them for their
industry and zeal. But to the Woodpecker He said,--

"As for you, O Woodpecker, I observe that your feathers are unruffled by
work and that there is no spot of soil upon your beak and claws. How did
you manage to keep so neat?"

The Woodpecker looked sulky and stood upon one leg.

"It is a good thing to be neat," said the Lord, "but not if it comes
from shirking a duty. It is good to be dainty, but not from laziness.
Have you not worked with your brothers as I commanded you?"

"It was such very dirty work," piped the Woodpecker crossly; "I was
afraid of spoiling my pretty bright coat and my silver shining hose."

"Oh, vain and lazy bird!" said the Lord sadly. "Have you nothing to do
but show off your fine clothes and give yourself airs? You are no more
beautiful than many of your brothers, yet they all obeyed me willingly.
Look at the snow-white Dove, and the gorgeous Bird of Paradise, and the
pretty Grosbeak. They have worked nobly, yet their plumage is not
injured. I fear that you must be punished for your disobedience, little
Woodpecker. Henceforth you shall wear stockings of sooty black instead
of the shining silver ones of which you are so proud. You who were too
fine to dig in the earth shall ever be pecking at dusty wood. And as you
declined to help in building the water-basins of the world, so you shall
never sip from them when you are thirsty. Never shall you thrust beak
into lake or river, little rippling brook or cool, sweet fountain.
Raindrops falling scantily from the leaves shall be your drink, and your
voice shall be heard only when other creatures are hiding themselves
from the approaching storm."

It was a sad punishment for the Woodpecker, but she certainly deserved
it. Ever since that time, whenever we hear a little tap-tapping in the
tree city, we know that it is the poor Woodpecker digging at the dusty
wood, as the Lord said she should do. And when we spy her, a dusty
little body with black stockings, clinging upright to the tree trunk, we
see that she is creeping, climbing, looking up eagerly toward the sky,
longing for the rain to fall into her thirsty beak. She is always hoping
for the storm to come, and plaintively pipes, "_Plui-plui!_ Rain, O
Rain!" until the drops begin to patter on the leaves.



MOTHER MAGPIE'S KINDERGARTEN


Did you ever notice how different are the nests which the birds build in
springtime, in tree or bush or sandy bank or hidden in the grass? Some
are wonderfully wrought, pretty little homes for birdikins. But others
are clumsy, and carelessly fastened to the bough, most unsafe cradles
for the feathered baby on the treetop. Sometimes after a heavy wind you
find on the ground under the nest poor little broken eggs which rolled
out and lost their chance of turning into birds with safe, safe wings of
their own. Now such sad things as this happen because in their youth the
lazy father and mother birds did not learn their lesson when Mother
Magpie had her class in nest-making. The clumsiest nest of all is that
which the Wood-Pigeon tries to build. Indeed, it is not a nest at all,
only the beginning of one. And there is an old story about this, which I
shall tell you.

In the early springtime of the world, when birds were first made, none
of them--except Mother Magpie--knew how to build a nest. In that lovely
garden where they lived the birds went fluttering about trying their new
wings, so interested in this wonderful game of flying that they forgot
all about preparing a home for the baby birds who were to come. When the
time came to lay their eggs the parents knew not what to do. There was
no place safe from the four-legged creatures who cannot fly, and they
began to twitter helplessly: "Oh, how I wish I had a nice warm nest for
my eggs!" "Oh, what shall we do for a home?" "Dear me! I don't know
anything about housekeeping." And the poor silly things ruffled up their
feathers and looked miserable as only a little bird can look when it is
unhappy.

All except Mother Magpie! She was not the best--oh, no!--but she was the
cleverest and wisest of all the birds; it seemed as if she knew
everything that a bird could know. Already she had found out a way, and
was busily building a famous nest for herself. She was indeed a clever
bird! She gathered turf and sticks, and with clay bound them firmly
together in a stout elm tree. About her house she built a fence of
thorns to keep away the burglar birds who had already begun mischief
among their peaceful neighbors. Thus she had a snug and cosy dwelling
finished before the others even suspected what she was doing. She popped
into her new house and sat there comfortably, peering out through the
window-slits with her sharp little eyes. And she saw the other birds
hopping about and twittering helplessly.

"What silly birds they are!" she croaked. "Ha, ha! What would they not
give for a nest like mine!"

But presently a sharp-eyed Sparrow spied Mother Magpie sitting in her
nest.

"Oho! Look there!" he cried. "Mother Magpie has found a way. Let us ask
her to teach us."

Then all the other birds chirped eagerly, "Yes, yes! Let us ask her to
teach us!"

So, in a great company, they came fluttering, hopping, twittering up to
the elm tree where Mother Magpie nestled comfortably in her new house.

"O wise Mother Magpie, dear Mother Magpie," they cried, "teach us how to
build our nests like yours, for it is growing night, and we are tired
and sleepy."

The Magpie said she would teach them if they would be a patient,
diligent, obedient class of little birds. And they all promised that
they would.

She made them perch about her in a great circle, some on the lower
branches of the trees, some on the bushes, and some on the ground among
the grass and flowers. And where each bird perched, there it was to
build its nest. Then Mother Magpie found clay and bits of twigs and moss
and grass--everything a bird could need to build a nest; and there is
scarcely anything you can think of which some bird would not find very
useful. When these things were all piled up before her she told every
bird to do just as she did. It was like a great big kindergarten of
birds playing at a new building game, with Mother Magpie for the
teacher.

She began to show them how to weave the bits of things together into
nests, as they should be made. And some of the birds, who were attentive
and careful, soon saw how it was done, and started nice homes for
themselves. You have seen what wonderful swinging baskets the Oriole
makes for his baby-cradle? Well, it was the Magpie who taught him how,
and he was the prize pupil, to be sure. But some of the birds were not
like him, nor like the patient little Wren. Some of them were lazy and
stupid and envious of Mother Magpie's cosy nest, which was already
finished, while theirs was yet to do.

As Mother Magpie worked, showing them how, it seemed so very simple that
they were ashamed not to have discovered it for themselves. So, as she
went on bit by bit, the silly things pretended that they had known all
about it from the first--which was very unpleasant for their teacher.

Mother Magpie took two sticks in her beak and began like this: "First of
all, my friends, you must lay two sticks crosswise for a foundation,
thus," and she placed them carefully on the branch before her.

"Oh yes, oh yes!" croaked old Daddy Crow, interrupting her rudely. "I
thought that was the way to begin."

Mother Magpie snapped her eyes at him and went on, "Next you must lay a
feather on a bit of moss, to start the walls."

"Certainly, of course," screamed the Jackdaw. "I knew that came next.
That is what I told the Parrot but a moment since."

Mother Magpie looked at him impatiently, but she did not say anything.
"Then, my friends, you must place on your foundation moss, hair,
feathers, sticks, and grass--whatever you choose for your house. You
must place them like _this_."

"Yes, yes," cried the Starling, "sticks and grass, every one knows how
to do that! Of course, of course! Tell us something new."

[Illustration: _"Next you must lay a feather"_]

Now Mother Magpie was very angry, but she kept on with her lesson in
spite of these rude and silly interruptions. She turned toward the
Wood-Pigeon, who was a rattle-pated young thing, and who was not having
any success with the sticks which she was trying to place.

"Here, Wood-Pigeon," said Mother Magpie, "you must place those sticks
through and across, criss-cross, criss-cross, _so_."

"Criss-cross, criss-cross, so," interrupted the Wood-Pigeon. "I know.
That will do-o-o, that will do-o-o!"

Mother Magpie hopped up and down on one leg, so angry she could hardly
croak.

"You silly Pigeon," she sputtered, "not _so_. You are spoiling your
nest. Place the sticks _so_!"

"I know, I know! That will do-o-o, that will do-o-o!" cooed the
Wood-Pigeon obstinately in her soft, foolish little voice, without
paying the least attention to Mother Magpie's directions.

"We all know that--anything more?" chirped the chorus of birds, trying
to conceal how anxious they were to know what came next, for the nests
were only half finished.

But Mother Magpie was thoroughly disgusted, and refused to go on with
the lesson which had been so rudely interrupted by her pupils.

"You are all so wise, friends," she said, "that surely you do not need
any help from me. You say you know all about it,--then go on and finish
your nests by yourselves. Much luck may you have!" And away she flew to
her own cosy nest in the elm tree, where she was soon fast asleep,
forgetting all about the matter.

But oh! What a pickle the other birds were in! The lesson was but half
finished, and most of them had not the slightest idea what to do next.
That is why to this day many of the birds have never learned to build a
perfect nest. Some do better than others, but none build like Mother
Magpie.

But the Wood-Pigeon was in the worst case of them all. For she had only
the foundation laid criss-cross as the Magpie had shown her. And so, if
you find in the woods the most shiftless, silly kind of nest that you
can imagine--just a platform of sticks laid flat across a branch, with
no railing to keep the eggs from rolling out, no roof to keep the rain
from soaking in--when you see that foolishness, you will know that it is
the nest of little Mistress Wood-Pigeon, who was too stupid to learn the
lesson which Mother Magpie was ready to teach.

And the queerest part of all is that the birds blamed the Magpie for the
whole matter, and have never liked her since. But, as you may have
found out for yourselves, that is often the fate of wise folk who make
discoveries or who do things better than others.



THE GORGEOUS GOLDFINCH


The Goldfinch who lives in Europe is one of the gaudiest of the little
feathered brothers. He is a very Joseph of birds in his coat of many
colors, and folk often wonder how he came to have feathers so much more
gorgeous than his kindred. But after you have read this tale you will
wonder no longer.

You must know that when the Father first made all the birds they were
dressed alike in plumage of sober gray. But this dull uniform pleased
Him no more than it did the birds themselves, who begged that they might
wear each the particular style which was most becoming, and by which
they could be recognized afar.

So the Father called the birds to Him, one by one, as they stood in
line, and dipping His brush in the rainbow color-box painted each
appropriately in the colors which it wears to-day. (Except, indeed, that
some had later adventures which altered their original hues, as you
shall hear in due season.)

But the Goldfinch did not come with the other birds. That tardy little
fellow was busy elsewhere on his own affairs and heeded not the Father's
command to fall in line and wait his turn for being made beautiful.

So it happened that not until the painting was finished and all the
birds had flown away to admire themselves in the water-mirrors of the
earth, did the Goldfinch present himself at the Father's feet out of
breath.

"O Father!" he panted, "I am late. But I was so busy! Pray forgive me
and permit me to have a pretty coat like the others."

"You are late indeed," said the Father reproachfully, "and all the
coloring has been done. You should have come when I bade you. Do you not
know that it is the prompt bird who fares best? My rainbow color-box has
been generously used, and I have but little of each tint left. Yet I
will paint you with the colors that I have, and if the result be ill you
have only yourself to blame."

The Father smiled gently as He took up the brush which He had laid down,
and dipped it in the first color which came to hand. This He used until
there was no more, when He began with another shade, and so continued
until the Goldfinch was completely colored from head to foot. Such a
gorgeous coat! His forehead and throat were of the most brilliant
crimson. His cap and sailor collar were black. His back was brown and
yellow, his breast white, his wings golden set off with velvet black,
and his tail was black with white-tipped feathers. Certainly there was
no danger of his being mistaken for any other bird.

When the Goldfinch looked down into a pool and saw the reflection of his
gorgeous coat, he burst out into a song of joy. "I like it, oh, I like
it!" he warbled, and his song was very sweet. "Oh, I am glad that I was
late, indeed I am, dear Father!"

But the kind Father sighed and shook His head as He put away the brush,
exclaiming, "Poor little Goldfinch! You are indeed a beautiful bird. But
I fear that the gorgeous coat which you wear, and which is the best that
I could give you, because you came so late, will cause you more sorrow
than joy. Because of it you will be chased and captured and kept in
captivity; and your life will be spent in mourning for the days when you
were a plain gray bird."

And so it happened. For to this day the Goldfinch is persecuted by human
folk who admire his wonderful plumage and his beautiful song. He is
kept captive in a cage, while his less gorgeous brothers fly freely in
the beautiful world out of doors.

[Illustration: _Such a gorgeous coat!_]



KING OF THE BIRDS


Once upon a time, when the world was very new and when the birds had
just learned from Mother Magpie how to build their nests, some one said,
"We ought to have a king. Oh, we need a king of the birds very much!"

For you see, already in the Garden of Birds trouble had begun. There
were disputes every morning as to which was the earliest bird who was
entitled to the worm. There were quarrels over the best places for
nest-building and over the fattest bug or beetle; and there was no one
to settle these difficulties. Moreover, the robber birds were growing
too bold, and there was no one to rule and punish them. There was no
doubt about it; the birds needed a king to keep them in order and peace.

So the whisper went about, "We must have a king. Whom shall we choose
for our king?"

They decided to hold a great meeting for the election. And because the
especial talent of a bird is for flying, they agreed that the bird who
could fly highest up into the blue sky, straight toward the sun, should
be their king, king of all the feathered tribes of the air.

Therefore, after breakfast one beautiful morning, the birds met in the
garden to choose their king. All the birds were there, from the largest
to the smallest, chirping, twittering, singing on every bush and tree
and bit of dry grass, till the noise was almost as great as nowadays at
an election of two-legged folk without feathers. They swooped down in
great clouds, till the sky was black with them, and they were dotted on
the grass like punctuation marks on a green page. There were so many
that not even wise Mother Magpie or old Master Owl could count them, and
they all talked at the same time, like ladies at an afternoon tea, which
was very confusing.

Little Robin Redbreast was there, hopping about and saying pleasant
things to every one, for he was a great favorite. Gorgeous Goldfinch was
there, in fine feather; and little Blackbird, who was then as white as
snow. There were the proud Peacock and the silly Ostrich, the awkward
Penguin and the Dodo, whom no man living has ever seen. Likewise there
were the Jubjub Bird and the Dinky Bird, and many other curious
varieties that one never finds described in the wise Bird Books,--which
is very strange, and sad, too, I think. Yes, all the birds were there
for the choosing of their king, both the birds who could fly, and those
who could not. (But for what were they given wings, if not to fly? How
silly an Ostrich must feel!)

Now the Eagle expected to be king. He felt sure that he could fly higher
than any one else. He sat apart on a tall pine tree, looking very
dignified and noble, as a future king should look. And the birds glanced
at one another, nodded their heads, and whispered, "He is sure to be
elected king. He can fly straight up toward the sun without winking, and
his great wings are so strong, so strong! He never grows tired. He is
sure to be king."

Thus they whispered among themselves, and the Eagle heard them, and was
pleased. But the little brown Wren heard also, and he was not pleased.
The absurd little bird! He wanted to be king himself, although he was
one of the tiniest birds there, who could never be a protector to the
others, nor stop trouble when it began. No, indeed! Fancy him stepping
as a peacemaker between a robber Hawk and a bloody Falcon. It was they
who would make pieces of him. But he was a conceited little creature,
and saw no reason why he should not make a noble sovereign.

"I am cleverer than the Eagle," he said to himself, "though he is so
much bigger. I will be king in spite of him. Ha-ha! We shall see what we
shall see!" For the Wren had a great idea in his wee little head--an
idea bigger than the head itself, if you can explain how that could be.
He ruffled up his feathers to make himself as huge as possible, and
hopped over to the branch where the Eagle was sitting.

"Well, Eagle," said the Wren pompously, "I suppose you expect to be
king, eh?"

The Eagle stared hard at him with his great bright eyes. "Well, if I do,
what of that?" he said. "Who will dispute me?"

"I shall," said the Wren, bobbing his little brown head and wriggling
his tail saucily.

"You!" said the Eagle. "Do _you_ expect to fly higher than I?"

"Yes," chirped the Wren, "I do. Yes, I do, do, do!"

"Ho!" said the Eagle scornfully. "I am big and strong and brave. I can
fly higher than the clouds. You, poor little thing, are no bigger than a
bean. You will be out of breath before we have gone twice this tree's
height."

"Little as I am, I can mount higher than you," said the Wren.

"What will you wager, Wren?" asked the Eagle. "What will you give me if
I win?"

"If you win you will be king," said the Wren. "But beside that, if you
win I will give you my fat little body to eat for your breakfast. But if
I win, Sir, I shall be king, and you must promise never, never, never,
to hurt me or any of my people."

"Very well. I promise," said the Eagle haughtily. "Come now, it is time
for the trial, you poor little foolish creature."

The birds were flapping their wings and singing eagerly, "Let us
begin--begin. We want to see who is to be king. Come, birds, to the
trial. Who can fly the highest? Come!"

Then the Eagle spread his great wings and mounted leisurely into the
air, straight toward the noonday sun. And after him rose a number of
other birds who wanted to be king,--the wicked Hawk, the bold Albatross,
and the Skylark singing his wonderful song. The long-legged Stork
started also, but that was only for a joke. "Fancy me for a king!" he
cried, and he laughed so that he had to come down again in a minute. But
the Wren was nowhere to be seen. The truth was, he had hopped ever so
lightly upon the Eagle's head, where he sat like a tiny crest. But the
Eagle did not know he was there.

Soon the Hawk and the Albatross and even the brave little Skylark fell
behind, and the Eagle began to chuckle to himself at his easy victory.
"Where are you, poor little Wren?" he cried very loudly, for he fancied
that the tiny bird must be left far, far below.

"Here I am, here I am, away up above you, Master Eagle!" piped the Wren
in a weak little voice. And the Eagle fancied the Wren was so far up in
the air that even his sharp eyes could not spy the tiny creature. "Dear
me!" said he to himself. "How extraordinary that he has passed me." So
he redoubled his speed and flew on, higher, higher.

Presently he called out again in a tremendous voice, "Well, where are
you now? Where are you now, poor little Wren?"

Once more he heard the tiny shrill voice from somewhere above piping,
"Here I am, here I am, nearer the sun than you, Master Eagle. Will you
give up now?"

Of course the Eagle would not give up yet. He flew on, higher and
higher, till the garden and its flock of patient birds waiting for their
king grew dim and blurry below. And at last even the mighty wings of the
Eagle were weary, for he was far above the clouds. "Surely," he thought,
"now the Wren is left miles behind." He gave a scream of triumph and
cried, "Where are you now, poor little Wren? Can you hear me at all,
down below there?"

But what was his amazement to hear the same little voice above his head
shrilling, "Here I am, here I am, Sir Eagle. Look up and see me, look!"
And there, sure enough, he was fluttering above the Eagle's head. "And
now, since I have mounted so much higher than you, will you agree that I
have won?"

"Yes, you have won, little Wren. Let us descend together, for I am weary
enough," cried the Eagle, much mortified; and down he swooped, on heavy,
discouraged wings.

"Yes, let us descend together," murmured the Wren, once more perching
comfortably on the Eagle's head. And so down he rode on this convenient
elevator, which was the first one invented in this world.

When the Eagle nearly reached the ground, the other birds set up a cry
of greeting.

"Hail, King Eagle!" they sang. "How high you flew! How near the sun! Did
he not scorch your Majesty's feathers? Hail, mighty king!" and they made
a deafening chorus. But the Eagle stopped them.

"The Wren is your king, not I," he said. "He mounted higher than I did."

"The Wren? Ha-ha! The _Wren_! We can't believe that The Wren flew
higher than you? No, no!" they all shouted. But just then the Eagle
lighted on a tree, and from the top of his head hopped the little Wren,
cocking his head and ruffling himself proudly.

"Yes, I mounted higher than he," he cried, "for I was perched on his
head all the while, ha-ha! And now, therefore, I am king, small though I
be."

Now the Eagle was very angry when he saw the trick that had been played
upon him, and he swooped upon the sly Wren to punish him. But the Wren
screamed, "Remember, remember your promise never to injure me or mine!"
Then the Eagle stopped, for he was a noble bird and never forgot a
promise. He folded his wings and turned away in disgust.

"Be king, then, O cheat and trickster!" he said.

"Cheat and trickster!" echoed the other birds. "We will have no such
fellow for our king. Cheat and trickster he is, and he shall be
punished. You shall be king, brave Eagle, for without your strength he
could never have flown so high. It is you whom we want for our
protector and lawmaker, not this sly fellow no bigger than a bean."

So the Eagle became their king, after all; and a noble bird he is, as
you must understand, or he would never have been chosen to guard our
nation's coat of arms. And besides this you may see his picture on many
a banner and crest and coin of gold or silver, so famous has he become.

But the Wren was to be punished. And while the birds were trying to
decide what should be done with him, they put him in prison in a
mouse-hole and set Master Owl to guard the door. Now while the judges
were putting their heads together the lazy Owl fell fast asleep, and out
of prison stole the little Wren and was far away before any one could
catch him. So he was never punished after all, as he richly deserved to
be.

The birds were so angry with old Master Owl for his carelessness that he
has never since dared to show his face abroad in daytime, but hides away
in his hollow tree. And only at night he wanders alone in the woods,
sorry and ashamed.



HALCYONE


The story of the first Kingfisher is a sad one, and you need not read it
unless for a very little while you wish to feel sorry.

Long, long ago when the world was new, there lived a beautiful princess
named Halcyone. She was the daughter of old Æolus, King of the Winds,
and lived with him on his happy island, where it was his chief business
to keep in order the four boisterous brothers, Boreas, the North Wind,
Zephyrus, the West Wind, Auster, the South Wind, and Eurus, the East
Wind. Sometimes, indeed, Æolus had a hard time of it; for the Winds
would escape from his control and rush out upon the sea for their
terrible games, which were sure to bring death and destruction to the
sailors and their ships. Knowing them so well, for she had grown up with
these rough playmates, Halcyone came to dread more than anything else
the cruelties which they practiced at every opportunity.

One day the Prince Ceyx came to the island of King Æolus. He was the son
of Hesperus, the Evening Star, and he was the king of the great land of
Thessaly. Ceyx and Halcyone grew to love each other dearly, and at last
with the consent of good King Æolus, but to the wrath of the four Winds,
the beautiful princess went away to be the wife of Ceyx and Queen of
Thessaly.

For a long time they lived happily in their peaceful kingdom, but
finally came a day when Ceyx must take a long voyage on the sea, to
visit a temple in a far country. Halcyone could not bear to have him go,
for she feared the dangers of the great deep, knowing well the cruelty
of the Winds, whom King Æolus had such difficulty in keeping within
bounds. She knew how the mischievous brothers loved to rush down upon
venturesome sailors and blow them into danger, and she knew that they
especially hated her husband because he had carried her away from the
island where she had watched the Winds at their terrible play. She
begged Ceyx not to go, but he said that it was necessary. Then she
prayed that if he must go he would take her with him, for she could not
bear to remain behind dreading what might happen.

But Ceyx was resolved that Halcyone should not go. The good king longed
to take her with him; no more than she could he smile at the thought of
separation. But he also feared the sea, not on his own account, but for
his dear wife. In spite of her entreaties he remained firm. If all went
well he promised to return in two months' time. But Halcyone knew that
she should never see him again as now he spoke.

The day of separation came. Standing heart-broken upon the shore,
Halcyone watched the vessel sail away into the East, until as a little
speck it dropped below the horizon; then sobbing bitterly she returned
to the palace.

Now the king and his men had completed but half their journey when a
terrible storm arose. The wicked Winds had escaped from the control of
good old Æolus and were rushing down upon the ocean to punish Ceyx for
carrying away the beautiful Halcyone. Fiercely they blew, the lightning
flashed, and the sea ran high; and in the midst of the horrible tumult
the good ship went to the bottom with all on board. Thus the fears of
Halcyone were proved true, and far from his dear wife poor Ceyx perished
in the cruel waves.

That very night when the shipwreck occurred, the sad and fearful
Halcyone, sleeping lonely at home, knew in a dream the very calamity
which had happened. She seemed to see the storm and the shipwreck, and
the form of Ceyx appeared, saying a sad farewell to her. As soon as it
was light she rose and hastened to the seashore, trembling with a
horrible dread. Standing on the very spot whence she had last seen the
fated ship, she looked wistfully over the waste of stormy waters. At
last she spied a dark something tossing on the waves. The object floated
nearer and nearer, until a huge breaker cast before her on the sand the
body of her drowned husband.

"O dearest Ceyx!" she cried. "Is it thus that you return to me?"
Stretching out her arms toward him, she leaped upon the sea wall as if
she would throw herself into the ocean, which advanced and retreated,
seething around his body. But a different fate was to be hers. As she
leaped forward two strong wings sprouted from her shoulders, and before
she knew it she found herself skimming lightly as a bird over the water.
From her throat came sounds of sobbing, which changed as she flew into
the shrill piping of a bird. Soft feathers now covered her body, and a
crest rose above the forehead which had once been so fair. Halcyone was
become a Kingfisher, the first Kingfisher who ever flew lamenting above
the waters of the world.

The sad bird fluttered through the spray straight to the body that was
tossed upon the surf. As her wings touched the wet shoulders, and as her
horny beak sought the dumb lips in an attempt to kiss what was once so
dear, the body of Ceyx began to receive new life. The limbs stirred, a
faint color returned to the cheeks. At the same moment a change like
that which had transformed Halcyone began to pass over her husband. He
too was becoming a Kingfisher. He too felt the thrill of wings upon his
shoulders, wings which were to bear him up and away out of the sea which
had been his death. He too was clad in soft plumage with a kingly crest
upon his kingly head. With a faint cry, half of sorrow for what had
happened, half of joy for the future in which these two loving ones were
at least to be together, Ceyx rose from the surf-swept sand where his
lifeless limbs had lain and went skimming over the waves beside Halcyone
his wife.

So those unhappy mortals became the first kingfishers, happy at last in
being reunited. So we see them still, flying up and down over the waters
of the world, royal forms with royal crests upon their heads.

They built their nest of the bones of fish, a stout and well-joined
basket which floated on the waves as safely as any little boat. And
while their children, the baby Halcyons, lay in this rocking cradle, for
seven days in the heart of winter, no storms ever troubled the ocean
and mariners could set out upon their voyages without fear.

For while his little grandchildren rocked in their basket, the good King
Æolus, pitying the sorrows of his daughter Halcyone, was always
especially careful to chain up in prison those wicked brothers the
Winds, so that they could do no mischief of any kind.

And that is why a halcyon time has come to mean a season of peace and
safety.



THE FORGETFUL KINGFISHER


In these days the Kingfisher is a sad and solitary bird, caring not to
venture far from the water where she finds her food. Up and down the
river banks she goes, uttering a peculiar plaintive cry. What is she
saying, and why is she so restless? The American Kingfisher is gray, but
her cousin of Europe is a bird of brilliant azure with a breast of rusty
red. Therefore it must have been the foreign Kingfisher who was
forgetful, as you shall hear.

Long, long after the sorrows of Halcyone, the first Kingfisher, were
ended, came the great storm which lasted forty days and forty nights,
causing the worst flood which the world has ever known. That was a
terrible time. When Father Noah hastened to build his ark, inviting the
animals and birds to take refuge with him, the Kingfisher herself was
glad to go aboard. For even she, protected by Æolus from the fury of
winds and waters, was not safe while there was no place in all the world
for her to rest foot and weary wing. So the Kingfisher fluttered in with
the other birds and animals, a strange company! And there they lived
all together, Noah and his arkful of pets, for many weary days, while
the waters raged and the winds howled outside, and all the earth was
covered fathoms deep out of sight below the waves.

But after long weeks the storm ceased, and Father Noah opened the little
window in the ark and sent forth the Dove to see whether or not there
was land visible on which the ark might find rest. Now after he had sent
out the Dove, Noah looked about him at the other birds and animals which
crowded around him eagerly, for they were growing very restless from
their long confinement, and he said, "Which of you is bravest, and will
dare follow our friend the Dove out into the watery world? Ah, here is
the Kingfisher. Little mother, you at least, reared among the winds and
waters, will not be afraid. Take wing, O Kingfisher, and see if the
earth be visible. Then return quickly and bring me faithful word of what
you find out yonder."

Day was just beginning to dawn when the Kingfisher, who was then as gray
as gray, flew out from the little window of the ark whence the Dove had
preceded her. But hardly had she left the safe shelter of Father Noah's
floating home, when there came a tremendous whirlwind which blew her
about and buffeted her until she was almost beaten into the waves,
which rolled endlessly over the face of the whole earth, covering the
high hills and the very mountains. The Kingfisher was greatly
frightened. She could not go back into the ark, for the little window
was closed, and there was no land anywhere on which she could take
refuge. Just think for a moment what a dreadful situation it was! There
was nothing for her to do but to fly up, straight up, out of reach from
the tossing waves and dashing spray.

The Kingfisher was fresh and vigorous, and her wings were strong and
powerful, for she had been resting long days in the quiet ark, eating
the provisions which Father Noah had thoughtfully prepared for his many
guests. So up, up she soared, above the very clouds, on into the blue
ether which lies beyond. And lo! as she did so, her sober gray dress
became a brilliant blue, the color caught from the azure of those clear
heights. Higher and higher she flew, feeling so free and happy after her
long captivity, that she quite forgot Father Noah and the errand upon
which she had been sent. Up and up she went, higher than the sun, until
at last she saw him rising far beneath her, a beautiful ball of fire,
more dazzling, more wonderful than she had ever guessed.

"Hola!" she cried, beside herself with joy at the sight. "There is the
dear sun, whom I have not seen for many days. And how near, how
beautiful he is! I will fly closer still, now that I have come so near.
I will observe him in all his splendor, as no other bird, not even the
high-flying, sharp-eyed Eagle, has ever seen him."

And with that the foolish Kingfisher turned her course downward, with
such mad, headlong speed that she had scarcely time to feel what
terrible, increasing heat shot from the sun's rays, until she was so
close upon him that it was too late to escape. Oh, but that was a
dreadful moment! The feathers on her poor little breast were scorched
and set afire, and she seemed in danger not only of spoiling her
beautiful new blue dress but of being burned into a wretched little
cinder. Horribly frightened at her danger, the Kingfisher turned once
more, but this time toward the rolling waters which covered the earth.
Down, down she swooped, until with the hiss of burning feathers she
splashed into the cold wetness, putting out the fire which threatened to
consume her. Once, twice, thrice, she dipped into the grateful coolness,
flirting the drops from her blue plumage, now alas! sadly scorched.

When the pain of her burns was somewhat relieved she had time to think
what next she should do. She longed for rest, for refuge, for Father
Noah's gentle, caressing hand to which she had grown accustomed during
those stormy weeks of companionship in the ark. But where was Father
Noah? Where was the ark? On all the rolling sea of water there was no
movement of life, no sign of any human presence. Then the Kingfisher
remembered her errand, and how carelessly she had performed it. She had
been bidden to return quickly; but she had wasted many hours--she could
not tell how many--in her forgetful flight. And now she was to be
punished indeed, if she could not find her master and the ark of refuge.

The poor Kingfisher looked wildly about. She fluttered here and there,
backward and forward, over the weary stretch of waves, crying piteously
for her master. He did not answer; there was no ark to be found. The sun
set and the night came on, but still she sought eagerly from east to
west, from north to south, always in vain. She could never find what she
had so carelessly lost.

The truth is that during her absence the Dove, who had done her errand
faithfully, returned at last with the olive leaf which told of one spot
upon the earth's surface at last uncovered by the waves. Then the ark,
blown hither and thither by the same storm which had driven the
Kingfisher to fly upward into the ether-blue, had drifted far and far
to Mount Ararat, where it ran aground. And Father Noah, disembarking
with his family and all the assembled animals, had broken up the ark,
intending there to build him a house out of the materials from which it
was made. But this was many, many leagues from the place where the poor
Kingfisher, lonely and frightened, hovered about, crying piteously for
her master.

And even when the waters dried away, uncovering the earth in many
places, so that the Kingfisher could alight and build herself a nest,
she was never happy nor content, but to this day flies up and down the
water-ways of the world piping sadly, looking eagerly for her dear
master and for some traces of the ark which sheltered her. And the
reflection which she makes in the water below shows an azure-blue body,
like a reflection of the sky above, with some of the breast-feathers
scorched to a rusty red. And now you know how it all came about.



THE WREN WHO BROUGHT FIRE


Centuries and centuries ago, when men were first made, there was no such
thing as fire known in all the world. Folk had no fire with which to
cook their food, and so they were obliged to eat it raw; which was very
unpleasant, as you may imagine! There were no cheery fireplaces about
which to sit and tell stories, or make candy or pop corn. There was no
light in the darkness at night except the sun and moon and stars. There
were not even candles in those days, to say nothing of gas lamps or
electric lights. It is strange to think of such a world where even the
grown folks, like the children and the birds, had to go to bed at dusk,
because there was nothing else to do.

But the little birds, who lived nearer heaven than men, knew of the fire
in the sun, and knew also what a fine thing it would be for the tribes
without feathers if they could have some of the magic element.

One day the birds held a solemn meeting, when it was decided that men
must have fire. Then some one must fly up to the sun and bring a
firebrand thence. Who would undertake this dangerous errand? Already by
sad experience the Kingfisher had felt the force of the sun's heat,
while the Eagle and the Wren, in the famous flight which they had taken
together, had learned the same thing. The assembly of birds looked at
one another, and there was a silence.

"I dare not go," said the Kingfisher, trembling at the idea; "I have
been up there once, and the warning I received was enough to last me for
some time."

"I cannot go," said the Peacock, "for my plumage is too precious to
risk."

"I ought not to go," said the Lark, "for the heat might injure my pretty
voice."

"I must not go," said the Stork, "for I have promised to bring a baby to
the King's palace this evening."

"I cannot go," said the Dove, "for I have a nestful of little ones who
depend upon me for food."

"Nor I," said the Sparrow, "for I am afraid." "Nor I!" "Nor I!" "Nor I!"
echoed the other birds.

"I _will_ not go," croaked the Owl, "for I simply do not wish to."

Then up spoke the little Wren, who had been keeping in the background
of late, because he was despised for his attempt to deceive the birds
into electing him their king.

"I will go," said the Wren. "I will go and bring fire to men. I am of
little use here. No one loves me. Every one despises me because of the
trick which I played the Eagle, our King. No one will care if I am
injured in the attempt. I will go and try."

"Bravely spoken, little friend," said the Eagle kindly. "I myself would
go but that I am the King, and kings must not risk the lives upon which
hangs the welfare of their people. Go you, little Wren, and if you are
successful you will win back the respect of your brothers which you have
forfeited."

The brave little bird set out upon his errand without further words. And
weak and delicate though he was, he flew and he flew up and up so
sturdily that at last he reached the sun, whence he plucked a firebrand
and bore it swiftly in his beak back toward the earth. Like a falling
star the bright speck flashed through the air, drawing ever nearer and
nearer to the cool waters of Birdland and the safety which awaited him
there. The other birds gathered in a flock about their king and
anxiously watched the Wren's approach.

Suddenly the Robin cried out, "Alas! He burns! He has caught fire!" And
off darted the faithful little friend to help the Wren. Sure enough, a
spark from the blazing brand had fallen upon the plumage of the Wren,
and his poor little wings were burning as he fluttered piteously down,
still holding the fire in his beak.

The Robin flew up to him and said, "Well done, brother! You have
succeeded. Now give me the fire and I will relieve you while you drop
into the lake below us to quench the flame which threatens your life."

So the Robin in his turn seized the firebrand in his beak and started
down with it. But, like the Wren, he too was soon fluttering in the
blaze of his own burning plumage, a little living firework, falling
toward the earth.

Then up came the Lark, who had been watching the two unselfish birds.
"Give me the brand, brother Robin," she cried, "for your pretty feathers
are all ablaze and your life is in danger."

So it was the Lark who finally brought the fire safely to the earth and
gave it to mankind. But the Robin and the Wren, when they had put out
the flame which burned their feathers, appeared in the assembly of the
birds, and were greeted with great applause as the heroes of the day.
The Robin's breast was scorched a brilliant red, but the poor, brave
little Wren was wholly bare of plumage. All his pretty feathers had been
burned away, and he stood before them shivering and piteous.

"Bravo! little Wren," cried King Eagle. "A noble deed you have done this
day, and nobly have you won back the respect of your brother birds and
earned the everlasting gratitude of men. Now what shall we do to help
you in your sorry plight?" After a moment's thought he turned to the
other birds and said, "Who will give a feather to help patch a covering
for our brave friend?"

"I!" and "I!" and "I!" and "I!" chorused the generous birds. And in turn
each came forward with a plume or a bit of down from his breast. The
Robin first, who had shared his peril, brought a feather sadly scorched,
but precious; the Lark next, who had helped in the time of need. The
Eagle bestowed a kingly feather, the Thrush, the Nightingale,--every
bird contributed except the Owl.

But the selfish Owl said, "I see no reason why I should give a feather.
Hoot! No! The Wren brought me into trouble once, and I will not help him
now. Let him go bare, for all my aid."

"Shame! Shame!" cried the birds indignantly. "Old Master Owl, you ought
to be ashamed. But if you are so selfish we will not have you in our
society. Go back to your hollow tree!"

"Yes, go back to your hollow tree," cried the Eagle sternly; "and when
winter comes may you shiver with cold as you would have left the brave
little Wren to shiver this day. You shall ruffle your feathers as much
as you like, but you will always feel cold at heart, because your heart
is selfish."

And indeed, since that day for all his feathers the Owl has never been
able to keep warm enough in his lonely hollow tree.

But the Wren became one of the happiest of all the birds, and a favorite
both with his feathered brothers and with men, because of his brave
deed, and because of the great fire-gift which he had brought from the
sun.



HOW THE BLUEBIRD CROSSED


Of course every one knows that the Bluebird was made from a piece of the
azure sky itself. One has only to match his wonderful color against the
April heaven to be sure of that. Therefore the little Bluebird was
especially dear to the Spirit of the sky, the Father in Heaven.

One day this venturesome little bird started out upon a long journey
across the wide Pacific Ocean toward this New World which neither
Columbus nor any other man had yet discovered. Under him tossed the
wide, wide sea, rolling for miles in every direction, with no land
visible anywhere on which a little bird might rest his foot. For this
was also before there were any islands in all that stretch of waters.
Soon the poor little Bluebird became very weary and wished he had not
ventured upon so long a flight. His wings began to droop and he sank
lower and lower toward the sea which seemed eager to overwhelm his
blueness with its own. He had come so far over the salty wastes that he
was very thirsty; but with water, water everywhere there was not a drop
to drink. The poor little bird glanced despairingly up toward the blue
sky from which he had been made and cried,--

"O Spirit of the blue sky, O my Father in Heaven, help your child the
Bluebird! Give me, I pray you, a place to rest and refreshment for my
thirsty throat, or I perish in the cruel blue waters!"

At these sorrowful words the kind Father took pity upon his little
Bluebird. And what do you think? He made a baby earthquake which heaved
a rocky point of land up through the waves, just big enough for a little
bird's perch. It was a tiny reef, and a crack in the rock held but a few
drops of the rain which began to fall; but it meant at least a moment's
safety and draught of life for the weary bird, and glad enough he was to
reach it.

He had not been there long, however, when a big wave almost washed him
away. He was not yet safe. Still he lacked the rest and refreshment
which he so sorely needed. For the raindrops were soon turned brackish
by the waves which dashed upon the reef from all sides, and the Bluebird
had to keep hopping up and down to avoid being drowned in the tossing
spray. He was more tired than ever, and this continuous exercise made
him even more thirsty. Once more he prayed to the Father for help. And
once more the kind Spirit of the Sky heard him from the blueness.

This time there was a terrible earthquake, until the sea boiled and
rolled into huge waves as if churned by a mighty churn at the very
bottom of things, and with a terrified scream the Bluebird flew high
into the air.

But when the noise and the rumbling died away and once more the sea lay
calm and still, what do you think the Bluebird saw? The great ocean
which had once stretched an unbroken sheet of blue as far as the eye
could see was now dotted here and there by islands, big islands and
little islands, groups and archipelagoes of them, just as on the map one
sees them to-day peppering the Pacific Ocean. Samoa came up, and Tonga,
and Tulima, and many others with names quite as bad, if not worse. From
one island to another the Bluebird flew, finding rest and refreshment on
each, until he reached the mainland in safety. And there the islands
remain to this day for other travelers to visit, breaking their journey
from west to east or from east to west. There are forests and cascades,
springs of fresh and pleasant water, delicious fruits, wonderful birds
and animals, and finally a race of strange, dark men. (But they came
long, long after.)

So the Bluebird crossed the Pacific, folk tell. Was it not wonderful how
the kind Father came to scatter those many islands in the Pacific
Ocean,--stepping-stones for a tiny little Bluebird so that he need not
wet his feet in crossing that wide salty river?



THE PEACOCK'S COUSIN


Long, long ago in the days of wise King Solomon, the Crow and the
Pheasant were the best of friends, and were always seen going about
together, wing in wing. Now the Pheasant was the Peacock's own
cousin,--a great honor, many thought, for the Peacock was the most
gorgeous of all the birds. But it was not altogether pleasant for the
Pheasant, because at that time he wore such plain and shabby old
garments that his proud relative was ashamed of him, and did not like to
be reminded that they were of the same family. When the Peacock went
strutting about with his wonderful tail spread fan-wise, and with his
vain little eyes peering to see who might be admiring his beauty, the
Peacock's cousin and his friend the Crow, who was then a plain _white_
bird, would slink aside and hide behind a tree, whence they would peep
enviously until the Peacock had passed by. Then the Peacock's cousin
would say,--

"Oh, how beautiful, how grand, how noble he is! How came such a lordly
bird to have for a cousin so homely a creature as I?"

But the Crow would answer, trying to comfort his friend, "Yes, he is
gorgeous. But listen, what a harsh and disagreeable voice he has! And
see how vain he is. I would not be so vain had I so scandalous a tale in
my family history."

Then the Crow told the Peacock's cousin how his proud relative came to
have so unmusical a voice.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Adam and Eve were living peacefully in their fair garden, while
Satan was still seeking in vain a way to enter there, the Peacock was
the most beautiful of all the companions who surrounded the happy pair.
His plumage shone like pearl and emerald, and his voice was so melodious
that he was selected to sing the Lord's praises every day in the streets
of heaven. But he was then, as now, very, very vain; and Satan, prowling
about outside the wall of Paradise, saw this.

"Aha!" he said to himself, "here is the vainest creature in all the
world. He is the one I must flatter in order to win entrance to the
garden, where I am to work my mischief. Let me approach the Peacock."

Satan stole softly to the gate and in a wheedling voice called to the
Peacock,--

"O most wonderful and beautiful bird! Are you one of the birds of
Paradise?"

"Yes, I am one of the dwellers in the happy garden," answered the
Peacock, strutting. "But who are you who slink about so secretly, as if
afraid of some one?"

"I am one of the cherubim who are appointed to sing the Lord's praises,"
answered the wicked Satan. "I have stopped for a moment to visit the
Paradise which He has prepared for the blest, and I find as my first
glimpse of its glories you, O most lovely bird! Will you conceal me
under your rainbow wings and bring me within the walls?"

"I dare not," answered the Peacock. "The Lord allows none to enter here.
He will be angry and will punish me."

"O charming bird!" went on Satan with his smooth tongue, "take me with
you, and I will teach you three mysterious words which shall preserve
you forever from sickness, age, and death."

At this promise the Peacock was greatly tempted and began to hesitate in
his refusals. And at last he said,--

"I dare not myself let you in, O stranger, but if you keep your promise
I will send the Serpent, who is wiser than I and who may more easily
find some way to let you enter unobserved."

So it was through the Peacock that Satan met the vile Serpent, whose
shape he assumed in order to enter the garden and tempt Eve with the
apple. And for the Peacock's share in the doings of that dreadful day
the Lord took away his beautiful voice and sent him forth from the
pleasant garden to chatter harshly in this workaday world, where his
gorgeousness and his vanity are but a reminder to men of the shame which
he brought upon their ancestors.

       *       *       *       *       *

"And therefore," said the Crow, concluding his gossip, "therefore, dear
Pheasant, I see no reason why we should envy your cousin. We are very
plain citizens of Birdland, but we are at least respectable. I like you
much better, having nothing to make you vain, nothing of which to be
ashamed."

       *       *       *       *       *

So the Crow spoke, in the wisdom which he had learned from Solomon. But
the Peacock's cousin refused to be comforted. The shabbiness of his coat
preyed upon his mind, and he fancied that the other birds jeered at him
because in such old clothes he dared to be the Peacock's cousin. It
seemed to him that every day the Peacock himself grew more haughty and
more patronizing.

One day the Crow and the Peacock's cousin were sauntering through the
Malay woods when they met the Peacock face to face. The Crow looked
defiant and stood jauntily; but the Pheasant tried to shrink out of
sight. The Peacock, however, had spied his poor relative, and was filled
with cousinly resentment at his appearance.

He stopped short. He stood upon one leg. He puffed and ruffled himself,
spreading out his thousand-eyed tail so that its colors flashed
wonderfully in the sunshine. He frilled his neck feathers and snapped
his mean little eyes maliciously; then turning his back on the shabby
couple said, as he stepped airily away,--

"Ah, I have dropped some of my old feathers back there a little way. You
can have them if you like, Pheasant. They will freshen you up a bit; you
really are looking shockingly seedy. But for mercy's sake don't wear
them in my presence! I can't bear to see any one parading in my cast-off
elegance." Then the Peacock minced away.

The Peacock's cousin stamped on the ground and flapped his wings with
rage. If he had been a girl he would have burst into tears. "I cannot
stand this," he cried. "To be treated as if I were a beggar! To be given
old clothes to wear! Crow, Crow, if you were any kind of friend you
would help me. But you stand staring there and see me insulted, without
turning a feather! What is the use of all your wisdom that you learned
from King Solomon if you cannot help a friend in need? I tell you, I
must have some better garments, or I shall die of mortification."

"Don't be excited," said the Crow soothingly. "I have been thinking the
matter over, and I believe I can do something. Listen. Yesterday I found
brushes and a box of colors in a room of the King's palace. They
belonged to the Court Painter. Now they belong to me, for I have hidden
them away in a hollow tree where no one else can find them. I thought
they might be useful, and I think so still."

"Well, well! What do you propose to do with paints and brushes?" cried
the Peacock's cousin impatiently.

"I propose to paint you, to varnish you, to gild you," patiently
answered the Crow.

"Oh, you dear Crow!" exclaimed the other, clapping his wings. "You will
make me brilliant and beautiful! You will make me worthy of the
Peacock, will you not? How clever of you to think of such a thing!"

"Yes," replied the Crow; "I watched the Court Painter at work in the
garden one day, and I know how it is done. I will make you as gorgeous
as you wish. But you must return the compliment. If you are to be an
ornament of fashion, so must I be; for are we not inseparable cronies?
And when you become beautiful it would not do for you to be seen with
such a dowdy as I am."

"You dear creature!" said the Peacock's cousin affectionately; "of
course we will share alike. I will paint you as soon as I see how you
succeed with me. Ah, I know your skill in everything. You will be a fine
artist, my friend! But come, let us get to work at once."

So the flattered Crow led him to the hollow tree where he had concealed
the brushes and the gilding and the India ink, and all the gorgeous
changeable tints which an Eastern artist uses in his paintings. "Here we
are," said the Crow. "Now let us see what we shall see, when Master Crow
turns painter."

The Crow set to work with a will, splashing on the colors generously,
gold and green and bronze iridescence. He had the Peacock in mind, and
though he did not exactly copy the plumage of that wonderful bird, he
managed to suggest the cousinship of the Pheasant in the golden eyes of
his long and beautiful tail. When he had finished, the Crow was
delighted with his work.

"Ah!" he cried. "Now bend over this fountain, my dear friend, and
observe yourself. I think you do credit to my skill as an artist, eh?"

The Peacock's cousin hurried down to the water-pool, all in a flutter of
excitement. And when he saw his image he cried, "How beautiful, how
truly beautiful, I am! Why, I am quite as handsome as Peacock himself.
Surely, now he need not be ashamed to call me cousin. I shall move in
the most fashionable circles. Heavens! Look at my lovely tail! Look at
my burnished feathers! I must go immediately and show my new dress to
Cousin Peacock. I should not be surprised if he became jealous of my
gorgeousness." And off he started as fast as he could go.

"Hold on!" cried the Crow. "Don't run away so quickly. You have
forgotten something. Don't you remember that you promised to paint me
beautiful like yourself?"

"Oh, bother!" answered the ungrateful friend, tossing his head. "I have
no time now for such business. I must hasten to my cousin, for this is a
matter of family pride. Run along like a good creature; and by the way,
you may as well gather the feathers which Peacock mentioned. I am sure
they will make you look quite respectable. Besides, I will give you some
of mine when I have worn them a little. Ta-ta!" And he stepped airily
away.

But the Crow strode after him, shaking his wings and crying, "Come back,
come back and perform your part of the bargain, you selfish, ungrateful
creature!" And he caught the Pheasant by one of his long tail-feathers.

"Let go my train, impertinent wretch!" shrieked the Peacock's cousin,
turning upon him fiercely. "I tell you I have no time to spend in such
nonsense. I must be presenting myself in high society."

"Villain!" croaked the Crow, and he rushed forward fiercely, intending
to tear out the beautiful feathers which he had painted for his
ungrateful friend. Thereupon the Pheasant exclaimed,--

"You want to be painted, do you? Well, take _that_!" and, seizing the
bottle of India ink which was in the Eastern artist's paint-box, he
hurled it at the poor Crow, deluging with blackness his spotless
feathers. Then laughing harshly, away he flew to his cousin the Peacock,
who received him with proud affection, because they were now really
birds of a feather. For the Peacock's cousin was become one of the most
beautiful birds in the world.

But the poor Crow was now a sombre, black bird, wearing the
seedy-looking, inky coat which we know so well to-day. His heart was
broken by his friend's faithlessness, and he became a sour cynic who can
see no good in anything. He flies about crying "Caw! Caw!" in the most
disagreeable, sarcastic tone, as if sneering at the mean action of that
Malay bird, which he can never forget.



THE MASQUERADING CROW


The Crow became very sour and disagreeable after his friend the
Peacock's cousin deserted him for more gorgeous company. Though he
pretended not to care because the Pheasant was now a proud,
beautifully-coated dandy, while he was the shabbiest of all the birds in
his coat of rusty black, yet in truth he did care very much. He could
not forget how the Peacock's cousin had dyed him this sombre hue, after
promising to paint him bright and wonderful, like himself. He could not
help thinking how fine he would have looked in similar plumage of a
rainbow tint, or how becoming a long swallow-tail would be to his style
of beauty. He wished that there was a tailor in Birdland to whom he
could go for a new suit of clothes. But alas! There seemed no way but
for him to remain ugly old Crow to the end of the chapter.

The Crow went moping about most unhappily while this was preying on his
mind, until he really became somewhat crazy upon the subject. The only
thing about which he could think was clothes--clothes--clothes; and
that is indeed a foolish matter to absorb one's mind. One word of the
Peacock's cousin remained in his memory and refused to be forgotten. He
had advised the Crow to gather up the feathers which had fallen from the
Peacock's plumage and to make himself fine with them. First the Crow
remembered these words sadly, because they showed the unkind heart of
his old friend. Next he remembered them with scorn, because they showed
vanity. Then he remembered them with interest because they gave him an
idea. And that idea gradually grew bigger and bigger until it became a
plan.

The plan came to him completely one day while he was sitting moodily on
a tree watching the Peacock and his cousin sweeping proudly over the
velvet lawn of the King's garden. For nowadays the Pheasant moved in the
most courtly circles, as he had promised himself. As they passed under
the Crow two beautiful feathers fell behind them and lay on the grass
shining in the sunlight with a hundred colors.

"Once more the cast-off plumage of the Peacock family is left for me!"
croaked the Crow to himself. "Am I only to be made beautiful by
borrowing from others? Perhaps I might collect feathers enough from all
the birds to conceal my inky coat. Aha! I have it." And this was the
plan of the Crow. He would steal from every dweller in Birdland a
feather, and see whether he could not make himself more beautiful than
the Peacock's cousin himself.

Now the Crow was a skilful thief. He could steal the silver off the
King's table from under the steward's very nose. He could steal a maid's
thimble from her finger as she nodded sleepily over her work. He could
steal the pen from behind a scribe's ear, as he paused to scratch his
head and think over the spelling of a word. So the Crow felt sure that
he could steal their feathers from the birds without any trouble.

When the Peacock and his cousin had passed by, the Crow swooped down and
carried off the two feathers which were to begin his collection. He hid
them in his treasure-house in the hollow tree, and started out for more.

It was great fun for the Crow, and he almost forgot to be miserable. He
followed old lady Ostrich about for some time before he dared tweak a
handful of feathers from her tail. But finally he succeeded; and though
she squawked horribly and turned, quick as a flash, she was not quick
enough to catch the nimble thief, who was already hidden under a bush.
In the same way he secured some lovely plumes from the Bird of
Paradise, the Parrot, and the Cock. He robbed the Redbreast of his ruddy
vest, the Hoopoe of his crown, and he secured a swallow-tail which he
had long coveted. He took some rosy-redness from the Flamingo, the
gilding of the Goldfinch, the gray down of an Eider-Duck. He burgled the
Bluebird and the Redbird and the Yellowbird; and not one single
feathered creature escaped his clever beak. At last his hole in the tree
was brimming with feathers of every color, length, and degree of
softness, a gorgeous feather-bed on which it would dazzle one to sleep.

Then the Crow set to work to make himself a coat of many colors, like
Joseph's. He was a very clever bird, and a wondrous coat it turned out
to be. It had no particular cut nor style; it was not like the coat
which any bird had ever before worn. The feathers were placed in any
fashion that happened to please his original fancy. Some pointed up and
some down; some were straight and some were curled; some drooped about
his feet and others curved gracefully over his head; some trailed far
behind. He was completely covered from top to toe, so that not one blot
of his own inky feathers showed through the gorgeousness. A red vest he
wore, and a swallow-tail, of course, and there was a crown of feathers
on his head. Never was there seen a more extraordinary bird nor one more
gaudy. Perhaps he was not in the best of taste, but at least he was
striking.

When all was finished the Crow went and looked at himself in the
fountain mirror; and he was much pleased.

"Well now!" he cried. "How am I for a bird? I believe no one will know
me, and that is just as well; for now I am so fine that I shall myself
refuse to know any one. Ho! This ought to give some ideas to that
conceited Peacock family! I am a self-made man. I am an artist who knows
how to adapt his materials. I am a genius. King Solomon himself will
wonder at my glory. And as for the Eagle, King of the Birds, he will
grow pale with envy. King of the Birds, indeed! It is now I who should
rightfully be King. No other ever wore clothes so fine as mine. By right
of them I ought to be King of the Birds. I _will_ be King of the Birds!"

You see the poor old Crow was quite crazy with his one idea.

Forth he stalked into Birdland to show his gorgeous plumage and to get
himself elected King of the Birds. The first persons he met were the
Peacock and his cousin,--he who was once the Crow's best friend. The
Crow ruffled himself his prettiest when he saw them coming.

"Good gracious! Who is that extraordinary fowl?" drawled the Peacock.
"He must be some great noble from a far country."

"How beautiful!" murmured his silly cousin. "How odd! How fascinating!
How distinguished! I wish the Crow had painted me like that!" The Crow
heard these words and swelled with pride, casting a scornful glance at
his old friend as he swept by.

Next he met a little Sparrow who was picking bugs from the grass. "Out
of my way, Birdling!" cried the Crow haughtily. "I am the King."

"The King!" gasped the Sparrow, nearly choking over a fat bug, he was so
surprised. "I did not know that the King wore such a robe. How
gorgeous--but how queer!"

Next the Crow met Mr. Stork, standing gravely on one leg and thinking of
the little baby which he was going to bring that night to the cottage by
the lake. The Stork looked up in surprise as the wonderful stranger
approached.

"Bless me!" he exclaimed, "whom have we here? I thought I knew all
Birdland, but I never before saw such a freak as this!"

[Illustration: _"Bless me!" he exclaimed, "whom have we here?"_]

"I am the King. I am to be the new King," announced the Crow. "Is
there any bird more gorgeous than I?"

"Truly, I hope not," said the Stork gravely. "Yet the Woodcock is a very
foolish bird. One never knows what he will do next. If he should try to
be fashionable"--

But the Crow had passed on without listening to the Stork's sarcasm.

As he went through Birdland he drew behind him a following of feathered
citizens, chattering, screaming, tittering all together like the crowd
after a circus procession. All the birds, big and little, plain and
pretty, flocked to see this wonderful stranger who because of his fine
clothes was coming to have himself named King. Some of them thought him
truly beautiful, some thought him ridiculous; some envied him, some
jeered. But they all stared; and the more they stared the more conceited
became the Crow, the more sure that the kingdom was to be his.

At last they came into the presence of the Eagle himself. That royal
bird was perched upon his eyrie far up on the cliff. Below him gathered
the dense flock of birds, waiting to see what would happen when the Crow
demanded to be made King in the Eagle's place. The Eagle had been warned
of the matter by the little Humming-Bird, and was looking very majestic
and scornful. But the Swallow flew round and round in great circles,
twittering excitedly, and in each circle sweeping nearer and nearer to
the ground. The Swallow was angry because some one had stolen his
beautiful swallow-tail.

Presently the Crow swaggered forth, and cocking his impertinent eye
towards the Eagle he croaked,--

"Hello there, Old High-perch! Give me your crown and sceptre, for I am
King of the Birds, not you. Look at my gorgeous clothes; look at your
own dull plumage. Am I not kingly?--look at me."

The King made no reply, merely gazing sternly at the Crow. But the
Swallow took up the word.

"Look at him, look at him indeed, O King!" he screamed. "There is
something strange about his kingly plumage. That swallow-tail is mine, I
know it!" And with a vicious tweak the Swallow pulled out the long
forked feathers of which the Crow was especially proud. Oh, what a
shriek of rage the mad old bird gave! At that moment the Hoopoe came up
and said, "Ha! Methinks I too recognize my property. This is my crown,"
and forthwith he snatched the plumes from the Crow's forehead, leaving
it quite ugly and bare. Next the gentle Redbreast claimed his vest, and
the Bluebird her azure feathers, and the Ostrich her train which she had
sorely missed. Each of the birds in turn came up and with much
chattering and scolding twitched away the property of which he or she
had been robbed, until the Crow stood before them in his customary suit
of solemn black, a bird ashamed and sore. For they had pecked him with
their bills and beaten him with their wings and scratched him with their
claws until even his own plain old coat was frayed and rent.

"Oh ho, oh ho! It is only old Daddy Crow, after all!" screamed the birds
in chorus. And then, because the Eagle burst out laughing, they saw that
it was really funny. Since the King did not mind being robbed for a time
of his title, surely they need not mourn over the few feathers which the
thief had borrowed, especially since each now had his own. Chattering
with glee they all flew home to their various nests, leaving the Crow
alone with his shame and soreness.

Just at this moment the Peacock and his cousin came hurrying up out of
breath.

"Oh, what is it? What is the matter? What was all that noise just now?"
asked the Peacock.

"Oh, what has become of the beautiful, noble, splendid, remarkable,
graceful, gorgeous, stylish, long-tailed, kingly stranger?" questioned
the Peacock's cousin, speaking affably to the Crow, for the first time
since his adoption into high society.

The Crow looked at him sideways, and all his madness went away as he saw
how very, very silly this creature was.

"He was a fool in fools' feathers," he croaked. "He is no more. But
before the end he bade me return these to you, saying, 'Fine feathers do
not make fine birds.'" Speaking thus, he presented to the pair their two
long feathers with which he had started his collection and which were
the only ones now remaining to the masquerading Crow.

Then with a harsh _Caw_! he flew away to his tree. He is not a happy
bird, but since that time he has never been so mad as to think that
clothes are the chief thing in the world.



KING SOLOMON AND THE BIRDS


King Solomon was wiser than all men, and his fame was in all nations
round about Jerusalem. He was so wise that he knew every spoken
language; yes, but more than this, he could talk with everything that
lived, trees and flowers, beasts and fowls, creeping things and fishes.
What a very pleasant thing that was for Solomon, to be sure! And how
glad one would be nowadays to have such knowledge!

Solomon was especially fond of birds, and loved to talk with them
because their voices were so sweet and they spoke such beautiful words.
One day the wise King was chatting pleasantly with the birds who lived
in his wonderful garden, and these are some of the things which he heard
them say. The Nightingale, the sweetest singer of all, chanted,--

"Contentment is the greatest happiness."

"It would be better for most people never to have been born," crooned
the melancholy Turtle-Dove.

The happy little Swallow gave her opinion,--"Do good and you will be
rewarded hereafter."

The harsh cry of the Peacock meant, "As thou judgest so shalt thou be
judged."

The Hoopoe said, "He who has no pity for others will find none for
himself."

The cynical old Crow croaked disagreeably, "The further away from men I
am, the better I am pleased."

Last of all the Cock who sings in the morning chanted his joyous
song,--"Think of your Creator, O foolish creatures!"

When they had finished talking King Solomon softly stroked the head of
the pretty little Dove and bade her cheer up, for life was not so
dreadful a thing, after all. And he gave her permission to build her
nest under the walls of the great Temple which he was building, the most
beautiful, golden house in the whole world. Some years afterward the
Doves had so increased in numbers that with their extended wings they
formed a veil over the numberless pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to
visit the wonderful Temple.

But of all the winged singers who spoke that day in the garden, the wise
King chose to have ever near him the Cock, because he had spoken words
of piety, and the nimble Hoopoe, because he was able to plunge his
clear gaze into the depths of the earth as if it were made of
transparent glass and discover the places where springs of living water
were hidden under the soil. It was very convenient for Solomon, when he
was traveling, to have some one with him who was able to find water in
whatsoever place he might be resting.

Thus the Cock and the Hoopoe became Solomon's closest companions; but of
the two the Hoopoe was his favorite. The Hoopoe is an Eastern bird and
we do not see him in America. He is about as big as a Jay, colored a
beautiful reddish gray, with feathers of purple, brown, and white, and
his black wings are banded with white. But the peculiar thing about a
Hoopoe is his crown of tawny feathers, a tall crown for so small a bird.
And this is the story of the Hoopoe's crown.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day when Solomon was journeying across the desert, he was sorely
distressed by the heat of the sun, until he came near to fainting. Just
then he spied a flock of his friends the Hoopoes flying past, and
calling to them feebly he begged them to shelter him from the burning
rays.

The King of the Hoopoes gathered together his whole nation and caused
them to fly in a thick cloud over the head of Solomon while he
continued his journey. In gratitude the wise King offered to give his
feathered friends whatever reward they might ask.

For a whole day the Hoopoes talked the matter over among themselves,
then their King came to Solomon and said to him,--

"We have considered your offer, O generous King, and we have decided
that what we most desire is to have, each of us, a golden crown on his
head."

King Solomon smiled and answered, "Crowns of gold shall you have. But
you are foolish birds, my Hoopoes; and when the evil days shall come
upon you and you see the folly of your desire, return here to me and I
will help you yet again."

So the King of the Hoopoes left King Solomon with a beautiful golden
crown upon his head. And soon all the Hoopoes were wearing golden
crowns. Thereupon they grew very proud and haughty. They went down by
the lakes and pools and strutted there that they might admire themselves
in the water mirrors. And the Queen of the Hoopoes became very airy, and
refused to speak to her own cousin and to the other birds who had once
been her friends.

There was a certain fowler who used to set traps for birds. He put a
piece of broken mirror into his trap, and a Hoopoe spying it went in to
admire herself, and was caught. The fowler looked at the shining crown
upon her head and said, "What have we here! I never saw a crown like
this upon any bird. I must ask about this."

So he took the crown to Issachar, the worker in metal, and asked him
what it was. Issachar examined it carefully, and his eyes stuck out of
his head. But he said carelessly, "It is a crown of brass, my friend. I
will give you a quarter of a shekel for it; and if you find any more
bring them to me. But be sure to tell no other man of the matter." (A
shekel was about sixty-two cents.)

After this the fowler caught many Hoopoes in the same way, and sold
their crowns to Issachar. But one day as he was on his way to the
metalworker's shop he met a jeweler, and to him he showed one of the
Hoopoes' crowns.

"What is this, and where did you find it?" exclaimed the jeweler. "It is
pure gold. I will give you a golden talent for every four you bring me."
(A talent was worth three hundred shekels.)

Now when the value of the Hoopoes' crowns was known, every one turned
fowler and began to hunt the precious birds. In all the land of Israel
was heard the twang of bows and the whirling of slings. Bird lime was
made in every town, and the price of traps rose in the market so that
the trap-makers became rich men. Not a Hoopoe could show his unlucky
head without being slain or taken captive, and the days of the Hoopoes
were numbered. It seemed that soon there would be no more Hoopoes left
to bewail their sad fate.

At last the few who still lived gathered together and held a meeting to
consider what should be done, for their minds were filled with sorrow
and dismay. And they decided to appeal once more to King Solomon, who
had granted their foolish prayer.

Flying by stealth through the loneliest ways, the unhappy King of the
Hoopoes came at last to the court of the King, and stood once more
before the steps of his golden throne. With tears and groans he related
the sad fortune which had befallen his golden-crowned race.

King Solomon looked kindly upon the King of the Hoopoes and said,
"Behold, did I not warn you of your folly in desiring to have crowns of
gold? Vanity and pride have been your ruin. But now, that there may be a
memorial of the service which once you did me, your crowns of gold shall
be changed into crowns of feathers, and with them you may walk unharmed
upon the earth."

In this way the remaining Hoopoes were saved. For when the fowlers saw
that they no longer wore crowns of gold upon their heads, they ceased to
hunt them as they had been doing. And from that time forth the family of
the Hoopoes have flourished and increased in peace, even to the present
day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Solomon was ever seeking to grow even wiser. The better to know the
wonders of God's world and the ways of all creatures, he undertook many
journeys,--not as we ordinary poor mortals travel, in heavy wagons or
clumsy boats, by dusty roads or stormy waves. It was in no such
troublous ways that Solomon the all-powerful traversed space and reached
the uttermost corners of the earth. Thanks to his great knowledge, he
had discovered a means of locomotion compared to which the most
magnificent railway coaches and the richest palanquins of Indian princes
would seem poor indeed. He had caused his Genii to make a silken carpet
of four leagues in extent. In the midst of this carpet was placed a
magnificent throne for the royal traveler himself; and around it were
seats of gold, of silver, of wood, for the multitude of persons of
different rank whom he took with him. There was also no lack of the most
gorgeous furniture and the necessary provisions for a king's traveling
banquet.

When all was ready Solomon was wont to seat himself upon his throne, and
would command the winds to do their duty. Immediately they gently lifted
the carpet and bore it rapidly through the air to the appointed spot.
During the journey, above the aerial caravan fluttered a cloud of birds,
who with their wings formed a splendid canopy to shield their beloved
lord from the sun's heat, as the Hoopoes had first done.

One day, while on such a journey, Solomon was shocked to feel a ray of
sunlight piercing through this plumy dais which overhung his head.
Shading his eyes, the King glanced up and perceived that there was an
opening in the canopy. One bird was missing from its post. In great
displeasure Solomon demanded of the Eagle the name of the truant.
Anxiously the Eagle called the roll of all the birds in his company; and
he was horrified to find that it was Solomon's favorite, the Hoopoe, who
was missing. With terror he announced the bird's desertion to the most
wise King.

"Soar aloft," commanded Solomon sternly, "and find the Hoopoe that I may
punish him. I will pluck off his feathers that he may feel the
scorching heat of the sun as his carelessness has caused me to do."

The Eagle soared heavenward, until the earth beneath him looked like a
bowl turned upside down. Then he poised on level wings and looked around
in every direction to discover the truant. Soon he espied the Hoopoe
flying swiftly from the south. The Eagle swooped down and would have
seized the culprit roughly in his strong talons, but the Hoopoe begged
him for Solomon's sake to be gentle.

"For Solomon's sake!" cried the Eagle. "Do you dare to name the King
whom you have injured? He has discovered your absence and in his
righteous anger will punish you severely."

"Lead me to him," replied the Hoopoe. "I know that he will forgive me
when he hears where I have been and what I have to tell him."

The Eagle led him to the King, who with a wrathful face was sitting on
his throne. The Hoopoe trembled and drooped his feathers humbly, but
when Solomon would have crushed him in his mighty fist the bird cried,--

"Remember, King, that one day you also must give an account of your
sins. Let me not therefore be condemned unheard."

"And if I hear you, what excuse can you have to offer?" answered
Solomon, frowning. But this was his favorite bird and he hoped that
there might be some reason for sparing him.

"Well," said the Hoopoe, "at Mecca I met a Hoopoe of my acquaintance who
told me so wonderful a tale of the marvelous Kingdom of Sheba in Arabia
that I could not resist the temptation to visit that country of gold and
precious stones. And there, indeed, I saw the most prodigious treasures;
but best of all, O King, more glorious than gold, more precious than
rare jewels, I saw Queen Balkis, the most beautiful of queens."

"Tell me of this Queen," said Solomon, loosening his rough grasp upon
the Hoopoe. So it was, say the Mussulmans, that a bird told Solomon of
the great Queen whose journey to Jerusalem is described in the Bible.

The Hoopoe told of her power and glory, her riches, her wisdom, and her
beauty, until Solomon sighed a great sigh and said, "It seems too good
to be true! But we shall see."

So the King wrote a letter to Balkis, bidding her follow the guidance of
fate and come to the court of the wise King. This note he sealed with
musk, stamped with his great signet, and gave to the Hoopoe, saying,--

"If now you have spoken truth, take this letter to Queen Balkis; then
come away."

The Hoopoe did as he was bid, darting off towards the south like an
arrow. And the next day he came to the palace of the Queen of Sheba,
where she sat in all her splendor among her counselors. He hopped into
the hall and dropped the letter into her lap, then flew away.

Queen Balkis stared and stared at the great King's seal upon the
mysterious letter, and when she had read the brief invitation she stared
and stared again. But she had heard the fame of Solomon and was eager to
ask him some of her clever questions to prove his wisdom. So she decided
to accept his invitation and come to Jerusalem.

She came with a great train of attendants, with camels that bore spices
and treasures of gold and precious stones, gifts for the most wise King.
And she asked him more questions than any woman had ever asked him
before, though he knew a great many ladies, and they were all
inquisitive.

But Solomon was so wise that he answered all her questions without any
trouble.

And she said to him, "It was a true report that I heard of you in my own
land, of your wisdom and of your glory. Only that which now I know and
see is greater than what I heard. Happy are thy men and happy are thy
servants who stand continually before thee and hear thy wisdom."

And she gave the King a hundred and twenty talents of gold, which was a
very rich treasure, besides great store of spices, and the most precious
gifts; no one had ever seen such gifts as the Queen of Sheba gave to
Solomon.

But he in turn was even more generous. For he gave to the fair Balkis
all that she desired and everything she asked, because he admired so
much this splendid Queen of whom the Hoopoe had first told him.

And so, the Bible says, the Queen of Sheba turned and went to her own
country, she and her servants. But the Mussulmans' tales say that in
later days she married Solomon and they lived happily ever after. And it
was all the work of that little Hoopoe with a yellow crown, whom after
that we may be sure Solomon loved better than ever.



THE PIOUS ROBIN


    "Art thou the bird whom man loves best,
    The pious bird with the scarlet breast,
         Our little English Robin?"
                                      WORDSWORTH.

The English Robin is not precisely like our little American friend whom
we call by that name, although, as the lines of poetry quoted above will
show, in two ways he is the same as ours: he has a red breast, and he is
the bird whom every one loves. Of all the little brothers of the air, in
every land and clime, the pretty, jolly, neighborly Robin Redbreast is
the favorite.

There are many stories about him: some which tell how he came by his
scarlet breast, others which explain why he has always been best beloved
of the birds. I have already told how he helped the Wren to bring fire
to men. Every one knows how tenderly he covered with leaves the poor
Babes in the Wood, when they had been deserted even by their nearest of
kin. Some have heard about Saint Kentigern, and how he restored to life
the pious Robin of his master Servan,--the dear little bird who used to
sing psalms every morning in the Saint's company. Some also know about
the Robin who brought the wheat-ear in his bill to the poor brothers in
Brittany who had no grain to plant for their future harvest. All these
tales show the Robin's generous heart, cheerful nature, and pious
devotion, which make him beloved by men. But perhaps you do not know why
he is called God's own bird.

    "The Robin and the Wren
    Are God's cock and hen,"

sing the little English children, and they think it is very wicked to
injure one of the holy birds or make her unhappy by robbing her nest of
its pretty eggs.

This is why the Robin is called the good bird, God's bird. The oldest
stories say that the little Christ-child used to feed most tenderly the
Robins who hopped about the door of His mother's house, for they were
dearest of all to His baby heart. Perhaps He thus early learned to love
them because His mother had told Him of the service which the dear
little birds had once performed for her.

For it is said that once upon a time, when Mary was a little girl, as
she was going along the gusty road a bit of straw blew into her eye and
pained her terribly. She sat down upon a stone and began to cry. Now a
Robin was sitting on a branch close by, singing with all the power of
his little throat when the maiden passed, for she was very sweet to see
and the Robin loved her looks. But when he saw the blessed Mary begin to
cry and rub her eye with her chubby hand, he stopped his gay song and
became very sad, wondering what he could do to help her.

What he did was to fly away and tell his friend the Swallow all about
it, asking her aid. After that he fluttered to a little fountain which
bubbled up close by and brought thence in his bill a drop of water.
Then, perching on Mary's forehead, he gently dropped this into the
suffering eye. At the same time the Swallow softly brushed her long
tail-feathers under the maiden's eyelid, and the hateful straw was wiped
away. Thus the little Mary was relieved, and when once more she could
look up happily with her pretty eyes she smiled upon the two kind birds
and blessed them for their aid.

Of course, if the little Christ heard His mother tell this pretty story
He would have been sure to love the Robin, just as she did. And so these
little birds became His boyhood friends.

Those were happy times. But in the after years, in the dreadful day
when the Saviour was so cruelly done to death by His enemies, the little
Robin once more proved his generous and pious heart, so the legends say.

The Saviour hung upon the cross, suffering and sad, while the world was
veiled with darkness and all good creatures mourned. Two birds perched
upon the cross beside His weary, drooping head. One was the faithful
Robin, who was then a plain and dark-colored bird with the scorched
feathers of a fire-bringer upon his breast. The other was the Magpie,
who at that time was among the most gorgeous and beautiful of all the
birds. She had a tuft of bright feathers on her head, and her plumage
outshone even that of the Peacock, who has the hundred gleaming eyes of
Argus set in his fan-like tail. But the Magpie, in spite of her beauty,
was at heart a wicked bird. Think of it! She mocked the dying Saviour in
His agony and seemed to rejoice in His suffering!

But the Robin fluttered about the holy figure, timidly uttering chirps
of sorrow and longing to help the Master who had fed him tenderly for so
many years. With his soft wings he wiped away the tears which flowed
from the Lord's eyes, while with his beak he tugged at the cruel thorns
which pierced His brow, trying to relieve Him.

Suddenly a drop of blood fell from Christ's forehead upon the Robin's
breast and tinged with bright crimson the rusty reddish feathers.

"Blessed be thou," said the Lord, "thou sharer of my suffering. Wherever
thou goest happiness and joy shall follow thee. Blue as the heaven shall
be thy eggs, and from henceforth thou shalt be the Bird of God, the
bearer of good tidings. But thou," He added, addressing the Magpie
sorrowfully, "thou art accursed. No longer shall the brilliant tuft and
bright feathers of which thou art so proud and so unworthy adorn thee.
Thy color shall be the streaked black and white of shadows, thy life a
hard one. And thy nest, however well builded, shall be open to the
storm."

These were almost the last words which the Saviour spoke. After that,
when the Lord was laid in the sepulchre, the faithful Robin still
watched beside Him for those three dread days until He rose on Easter
morning, when the little bird rejoiced with all nature at the wondrous
happening. And again on Ascension Day he paid his last tribute to the
risen Master, joining his little song with the chorus of the angels
themselves in the gladdest Hosanna which the universe had ever heard.

This explains how the Magpie became a restless, noisy, black-and-white
bird as we know her to this day, having lost all her brilliant beauty
through the wickedness of her heart. But the pious Robin still wears
upon his breast the beautiful feathers stained red with his Master's
blood. And all that the Saviour foretold of him has come true. He is the
blessed bird whom children everywhere love and of whom they still repeat
these old verses:--

    "The Robin and the Redbreast,
       The Robin and the Wren,
    If ye take out of the nest
       Ye'll never thrive again.
    The Robin and the Redbreast,
       The Martin and the Swallow,
    If ye touch one of their eggs
       Bad luck is sure to follow."



THE ROBIN WHO WAS AN INDIAN


The name of Robin makes us think at once of the jolliest and most
sociable of all our little brother birds. In every land the name is a
favorite, and wherever he goes he brings happiness and kind feeling.

The American Robin is not the same bird as his English cousin, though
both have red breasts.

It was in a different manner that our little American friend came to
have the ruddy waistcoat which we know so well.

There was a time, so the Indians say, a very early time, long, long
before Columbus discovered America,--even before histories began to be
written,--when there were no Robins.

In those days in the land of the Ojibways, which is far in the north of
the cold country, there lived an old Indian chief who had one son, named
Iadilla. Now among the Ojibways, when a boy was almost big enough to
become a warrior, before he could go out with the other braves to the
hunt or to war, there was a great trial which he must undergo. Other
lands and peoples have known similar customs. You remember how, in
early Christian times, long, long ago, Galahad and other boys had to
fast and watch by their armor during the long night hours before they
could become knights, to wear spurs and shield and sword? In just the
same way a brown Ojibway lad had to make a long fast in order to win the
love of his Guardian Spirit, who would after that watch over him to make
him brave and strong. It was a very important event in a boy's life,
like graduation from school or college nowadays. For this meant the
graduation from boyhood into manhood, the winning of a warrior's
diploma.

The father of Iadilla was a brave warrior, a famous chief. But he wished
his son to become even better, wiser, greater than he had been. He
resolved that the boy should fast longer and harder than ever a lad had
fasted before. For he believed that this was the way to make him the
noblest of his race. Iadilla was a fine handsome lad, but he was the
youngest one who had ever made the trial, and there were many bigger
boys than he who were not yet warriors. The other chiefs said that he
was not yet old and strong enough.

But Iadilla's father declared that it was time, and bade his son gather
courage and pride for the ordeal. "For," he said, "it will be no easy
matter, my son, to become the greatest chief of the Ojibways."

"My father," replied Iadilla, humbly, "I will do as you wish. I will do
what I can. But my strength is not the strength of the bigger boys; and
I think it is yet early to talk of my becoming greatest of the Ojibways.
Yet make trial of me, if you wish."

The father of Iadilla had made a little tent of skins where the boy was
to live during his fasting time; where he was to lie without food or
drink for twelve long days, waiting for a message from the Guardian
Spirit whose love was to be the reward of such a trial.

When the time came, the old man led Iadilla to the lodge and bade him
lie down on the bed of skins which had been prepared for him. And
Iadilla did as he was bid, for he was a brave and obedient lad.

The days crept by, the long, long days of waiting, while Iadilla lay in
the lodge bearing hunger and thirst such as no Ojibway lad had ever
before known. All day and all night he lay still and spoke never a word.
But a dreadful fear was in his heart lest he should not be able to
endure the fast for the twelve days which his father had set.

Every morning his father came to the lodge to praise and to encourage
him, and to rejoice in one more day checked from the long time of
fasting. So eight days passed, and the old man was proud and happy.
Already his dear son had done more than any Ojibway lad, and the whole
tribe was praising Iadilla, saying what a great chief he would be in the
days to come.

But on the ninth morning, when the father peeped into the lodge to see
how bravely his son was faring, the boy turned his head toward the door
and spoke for the first time in all those long days. He was very thin
and pale, and his voice sounded weak.

"My father," he said, "I have slept, and my dreams were sad. I have
slept, and my dreams were of failure and weakness. The time does not
please my Guardian Spirit. It is not now that I can become a warrior. I
am not yet strong and old enough. O my father, I cannot bear the fast
longer! I am so hungry, so thirsty, so faint! Let me break my fast, and
try again in another year."

But the father sternly refused, for he was ambitious. "Nay, lad," he
cried, frowningly. "Would you fail me now? Think of the glory, think of
being the greatest of Ojibways. It is but a few short days now. Courage,
Iadilla, be a man in strength and patience."

Iadilla said no more. He wrapped himself closer in his blanket and drew
his belt tighter about his slender waist, trying to stifle the hunger
gnawing there. So he lay silently until the eleventh day. That morning
his father came to the lodge, beaming proudly.

"Bravo, my Iadilla!" he cried. "Only one day more, and you will be
released from your fast." But Iadilla clasped his hands beseechingly.

"My father," gasped the poor boy. "I cannot bear it another day. I am
not fit to be a great chief. I have failed. Give me food, or I die!"

But again the father refused. "It is but a day now," he said, "but a few
short hours. Bear a little longer, Iadilla. To-morrow I myself will
bring you the finest breakfast that ever a lad ate. Courage, boy, for
the few hours that remain."

Iadilla was too weak to answer. He lay motionless, with only a gentle
heaving of his breast to show that he still lived. His father left him
for the last time, and went to prepare the morrow's goodly breakfast,
while the tribe planned a fine festival in honor of the young hero.

Early on the morrow came Iadilla's father to the tent, proudly bearing
the breakfast for his brave boy, and smiling to think how gladly he
would be received. But he stopped outside the tent door surprised to
hear some one talking within. Stooping to a little hole in the skin of
the tent he peeped in to find who the speaker might be. Imagine his
surprise to find Iadilla standing upright in the middle of the tent
painting his breast a brilliant red, as Indians do in war time. And as
he daubed on the colors he talked to himself. He spoke softly, yet not
with the weak voice of a starving lad; and his face was very beautiful
to see, despite its pale thinness.

"My father has ended my Indian life," he said. "My father, too
ambitious, has put upon me more than my strength could bear. He would
not listen to my prayer of weakness. But I knew, I knew! And my kind
Guardian Spirit knew also that it was more than I could bear. He has
shown pity, seeing that I was obedient to my father and did my best to
please him. Now I am to be no longer an Indian boy. I must take the
shape which the Spirit has given me, and go away."

At these strange words the father broke into the tent, exclaiming in
terror,--

"My son, my dear son! Do not leave me!"

But, even as he spoke, Iadilla changed into a beautiful Robin Redbreast
with soft feathers and strong, firm wings. And, fluttering up to the
ridgepole of the tent, he looked down with pity and tenderness upon the
heart-broken chief.

"Do not grieve, father," he sang. "I shall be so much happier as a bird,
free from human pain and sorrow. I will cheer you with my merry songs.
Oh, I have been hungry; but now I shall get my food so easily, so
pleasantly on mountains and in the fields. Oh, once I was thirsty; but
now the dew is mine and the little springs. Once I traced my way
painfully by forest paths through bog and brake and tangled brier. But
now my pathways are in the bright, clear air, where never thorn can tear
nor beast can follow. Farewell, dear father! I am so happy!"

He stretched his brown wings as easily as if he had worn them all his
life, and, singing a sweet song, fluttered away to the neighboring
woods, where he built his nest, and lived happily ever after.

And since that day the glad little Robins have lived as that first one
promised, close by the homes of men, and have done all they could to
cheer us and make us happy. For they remember how, once upon a time,
their ancestor was a human boy.



THE INQUISITIVE WOMAN


There was once a woman who was so very inquisitive that she wished to
know everything. She was never happy unless she was poking her nose into
some mystery, and the less a matter concerned her the more curious she
was about it.

One day the Lord gathered together all the insects in the world, all the
beetles, bugs, bees, mosquitoes, ants, locusts, grasshoppers, and other
creatures who fly or hop or crawl, and shut them up in a huge sack well
tied at the end. What a queer, squirming, muffled-buzzing bundle it
made, to be sure!

Then the Lord called the woman to him and said, "Woman, I would have you
take this sack and throw it into the sea. But be sure and do not untie
the end of it to look inside; for the sack must on no account be opened,
even for a single minute."

The woman took the sack, wondering very much at the queer size and shape
and feeling of it, and especially at the strange noises which came from
the inside.

"What can be in the sack?" she said to herself. "Oh, I wish I knew! Oh,
_how_ I wish I knew! Oh, how very, _very_ much I wish I knew!" Her
curiosity increased every minute as she went step by step towards the
sea, until when she had gone scarcely a hundred paces she stopped short
and said, "I must know what is inside this sack before I go any farther.
I will take just one tiny little peep, and He will never know it."

Very carefully she untied the neck of the sack. Buzz! Whirr! Hum! Zim!
She had opened it but a tiny little crack when out crawled and hopped
and flew the millions and swarms and colonies of all kinds of insects,
and away they scattered in every direction. Such a noise as filled the
air about the astonished woman's head! Such a wriggling and squirming
and hopping in the grass about her feet!

"Oh, now I know what was in the sack!" she cried. "But I wish I had not
looked. Oh, whatever shall I do? He told me to throw the bag into the
ocean without looking in. But now the horrid creatures have escaped
everywhere and He will know what I have done. Oh, what will He do to
punish me?"

She began to run hither and yon like a crazy woman, picking up the bugs
and jumping for the fluttering insects, trying to put them back into the
bag. They stung her and bit her and got into her eyes until she screamed
with pain. As fast as she caught one another escaped, and she soon saw
that it was a hopeless task. She could never catch the millions of
creatures who had scattered away to their homes in every corner of the
world.

Then the Lord came to her and said very sternly, "O Woman, you have
disobeyed me, just as did the very first woman of all. And you must be
punished both for your disobedience and for your inquisitiveness which
has led you into the worse sin. Not until you have gathered up every one
of these insects which you have permitted to escape back into the world
shall you be happy. But I will give you wings to help you in the task.
You shall become a Woodpecker, and it shall be your task to hunt, hunt
for the insects which hide away so slyly at your approach. Not till the
last one of these is gobbled up from the earth shall you return to your
own shape and be a woman once more."

Then the Lord changed the inquisitive woman into a restless Woodpecker,
and with a "tut-tut!" she darted away in pursuit of the insects which
had brought her into such trouble.

And that is why to this day one sees the Woodpecker pecking so
frantically on the tree trunks, anxious lest a single insect should
escape. For she is very tired of being a bird, and is longing to become
a woman once more. But it will be a very long time, I fear, before she
gathers up all the wriggling, squirming, hopping, buzzing, stinging,
biting things that make life in the country so varied, exciting, and
musical.



WHY THE NIGHTINGALE WAKES


When the other birds are sound asleep in their nests, with their little
heads tucked comfortably under their feathers, Sister Nightingale, they
say, may not rest, but still sounds the notes of her beautiful song in
grove and thicket.

Why does she sing thus, all night long as well as through the day? It is
because she dares not go to sleep on account of the Blindworm, who is
waiting to catch her with her eyes closed.

Once upon a time, when the world was very new, the Blindworm was not
quite blind, but had one good eye. Moreover, in those days the
Nightingale also had but one eye. As for the Blindworm, it mattered very
little; for he was a homely creature, content to crawl about in the dark
underground, or under wood and leaves, where nobody saw him and nobody
cared. But the Nightingale's case was really quite too pitiful! Fancy
the sweetest singer among all the birds, the favorite chorister, going
about with but one eye, while every one else, even the tiniest little
Humming Bird of all, had two.

The Nightingale felt very sore about this matter, and tried to conceal
her misfortune from the other birds. She managed to cock her head the
other way whenever she met a friend, and she always flew past any
stranger so fast that he never saw the empty socket where her other
pretty eye should be.

But one day there was great excitement among the birds. Miss Jenny Wren
was going to be married to young Cock Robin. There was to be a grand
wedding; every one was invited, and of course the Nightingale was needed
to lead the bridal chorus of feathered songsters. But the poor
Nightingale was set in a flutter of anxiety by the news.

"Oh, dear me!" she said, "I do want to go to Jenny's wedding, oh, of
course I do! But how can I go? If I do, the other birds will discover
that I have but one eye, and then how the disagreeable creatures will
laugh at me. Oh dear, oh dear! What shall I do? I cannot go, no, I
really cannot. But what excuse can I give? Oh, it is not right that the
sweetest singer in all Birdland should be laughed at, merely because she
has the misfortune to lack one poor little eye!"

The Nightingale sat on the branch, singing so mournfully that all the
creatures on the ground below went sorrowfully about their daily
business. Just then the Nightingale spied a silvery gleam among the dead
leaves. It was the Blindworm, a spotted gray streak, writhing
noiselessly along towards the decayed wood of a fallen tree, in which he
loved to burrow. And the Blindworm was not sad like the others, neither
seemed he to care in the least about the Nightingale's music. Worms
think little of sweet sounds. He cocked his one eye up towards the
Nightingale and winked maliciously. He alone of all creatures knew the
Nightingale's secret.

"Good-day, Sister Nightingale," he said. "How is your eye this morning?
We have a goodly pair between us; though I think that mine is rather the
better of the two."

Then he disappeared into a tiny opening. For though the Blindworm is
nearly a foot long he is so smooth and slippery that he can enter a hole
which is almost smaller than himself.

The Nightingale was very indignant at being addressed in this familiar
way by a miserable, crawling creature who not only could not fly, but
who could not sing a note, and did not know _do_ from _fa_.
Besides, it made her angry to think that he knew her secret and talked
aloud about it so that any one might hear.

"The idea!" she cried. "It is bad enough that I cannot go to the wedding
of my dear friend Jenny. But to be jeered at by this creature, it is
more than I can bear. Ha! I have an idea. I will punish him and help
myself at the same time. I will steal his one eye and wear it to Jenny
Wren's wedding; then no one will ever discover my misfortune."

Now this was an excellent scheme, but it was not so easy to carry it out
as the Nightingale had thought. For the Blindworm was very timid and
kept himself carefully hidden in his burrow of soft soil, as if he half
suspected the Nightingale's plans. Day after day the Nightingale kept
eager watch upon his movements, and at last, on the very eve of the
wedding, when she had almost given up hope, she spied the Blindworm
sound asleep on the moss under a tall tree.

"Ha!" said the Nightingale to herself very softly. "Now is my chance!"
She fluttered into the top of the oak tree, and from there hopped down
from branch to branch, from twig to twig, until she was directly over
the sleeper's ugly head, over the one closed eye. Then _whirr_! Down
she pounced upon the Blindworm. And before the creature had a chance to
know what was happening, the Nightingale had stolen his eye, and had
popped it into place in the empty socket on the other side of her beak.

"Ha, ha!" she sang merrily. "Now I have two bright eyes, as good as any
one's. Now I can go to Jenny Wren's wedding as gayly as I please, and no
one shall see more of the ceremony than I. I shall be able to tell just
exactly how the bride is dressed, how every little feather is arranged,
and how she looks after Parson Crow has pronounced the blessing. Oh, how
happy I am!"

But the poor Blindworm, blind indeed from that day forth, began to cry
and lament, begging the Nightingale to give him back his eye.

"Nay," said the Nightingale, "did you not laugh at me when you saw me
sadly sitting on the tree, mourning because I could not go to the
wedding? Now I have stolen your eye, and I can see famously. But you
will never again see me sitting sadly on the tree."

Then the Blindworm grew very angry. "I will get the eye back!" he cried.
"I will steal it from you, as you stole it from me, some time when you
are asleep. I will climb up into your nest some night, and I will take
both your eyes of which you are so proud. Then you will be blind,
wholly blind as I am now."

At these threatening words the Nightingale ceased to sing and became
silent with fear. For she knew that the Blindworm would do as he said.
But again a brilliant thought came to her.

"Nay!" she trilled gladly. "That you shall never do. I will never sleep
again. I will keep awake always, night and day, with my two bright eyes
ever looking out for danger. Yes, yes, yes! No one shall ever catch me
napping."

"You cannot help yourself," said the Blindworm. "You cannot keep awake.
You will drowse in spite of everything. I shall yet find you asleep some
night, and then beware!"

"Nay, nay!" warbled the Nightingale, as she flew away to make herself
fine for the wedding. "I shall sing, sing, sing night and day henceforth
to keep myself awake. And thus I need not fear. Farewell-well-well!"

And so the Nightingale went to the wedding and sang more sweetly in the
bridal chorus than she had ever sung before. And after that, although
she was weary, oh, so weary! she sang all night long, and all the next
night and the next. And so she has continued to sing ever since in the
lands which are blessed by her presence. For she dares not go to sleep
even for a single moment, knowing that the Blindworm is ever ready to
pounce upon her and take away the eyes which she is now enjoying.



MRS. PARTRIDGE'S BABIES


Long, long ago, when the world was very young indeed, the Birds and
Animals used to send their children to school, to Mother Magpie's
kindergarten. All the morning long the babies learned their lessons
which it was needful for them to know. And when the noon hour came their
various mammas came to the school bringing lunches for the children. You
can imagine how gladly they were received by the hungry little scholars.

One day Mrs. Partridge was very busy with her house-cleaning, and when
the noontime came she could not leave her work to go to the school with
her babies' lunch.

"Dear me," she said, looking out of the nest, "here it is noon and the
little Partridges will be so very hungry. But I really cannot leave home
now. What shall I do? If only some other mamma were going that way."

She craned her neck and looked eagerly in every direction. And finally
she spied Madame Tortoise plodding along towards the school, with the
lunch for her little Turtlets.

"Oho, neighbor, oho! Stop a minute!" cried Mrs. Partridge, waving a wing
at Tortoise. "Are you going schoolward, as I think? Oh, dear Madame
Tortoise, if you knew how busy I am to-day. I don't think any one was
ever so busy as I am with my house-cleaning. Will you do me a favor,
please?"

The Tortoise sniffed. "Well, I am a busy woman myself," she said, "but I
am willing to oblige a neighbor. What is it you wish, ma'am?"

"Oh, thank you so much!" cried the Partridge. "Dear Madame Tortoise, I
shall never forget your kindness. Now, will you take this bunch of nice
wiggly worms to my little ones for their lunch? I shall be so very
grateful."

"Don't mention it," snapped the Tortoise, who was rather tired of
hearing Mrs. Partridge's shrill thanks. "I'm perfectly willing to take
the lunch, since I am going to the same place. But I don't know your
babies. What do they look like, ma'am?"

"Oh, that is easily told," cried Mrs. Partridge. "They are the most
beautiful little creatures in the school. They are said greatly to
resemble me. You will have no trouble in recognizing them. When you
come to the school just look around at all the children, and pick out
the three most beautiful of all. Those are certain to be mine. Give them
the wiggly worms, please, with my love. And oh, _thank_ you, Madame
Tortoise, so very much! Some time I will do as much for you. So
neighborly! Thank you!"

[Illustration: _Here are some nice fat wiggly worms!_]

"Don't mention it!" snapped the Tortoise again, very much bored by all
this chatter. She sniffed as she moved slowly along towards the school,
with the second lunch carried carefully on her broad shell-back. "They
are nice fat worms," she said.

Now when the Tortoise came to the school it was high noon, and all the
children were waiting open-mouthed for their mammas and the lunches
which they expected. Such rows and rows of wide hungry mouths! Madame
Tortoise moved slowly up and down and round and round, eyeing the
various children who begged for the nice wiggly worms. "H'm!" she said
to herself, "hungry children seem to look considerably alike, and none
of them are so wondrously beautiful when their mouths are wide open
greedily. I wonder which are Mrs. Partridge's children. She told me to
give this lunch to the handsomest babies here. Well, I will, and if I
make a mistake it will not be my fault. Hello! Here are my dear little
Turtlets! Bless the babies, how pretty they are! Why, I declare, I never
realized that they were so handsome. Certainly, they are the
best-looking children in the school. Then I must give them Mrs.
Partridge's luncheon, for so I promised. Yes, my little ones, here is
your lunch which I brought for you. And when you have finished that,
here is another, some nice, fat, wiggly worms which mother collected on
the way,--a prize for the handsomest children in the school."

So the little Turtlets fared wonderfully well that day; but the poor
little Partridges went hungry, and had dreadful headaches, and went home
peeping sadly to their silly mother. And Mrs. Partridge had no more
sense than to be angry with Madame Tortoise, which I think was very
unfair, don't you? For the latter had only done as she was bidden by her
silly and conceited neighbor.

But after that the Tortoise and the Partridge never spoke to each other,
and their children would not play together at school.



THE EARLY GIRL


There were once two girls who were very dear friends, Zaïca and
Tourtourelle. One morning Zaïca woke up and said, "O Tourtourelle! Last
night I had such a strange dream!"

"And so did I!" cried Tourtourelle. "Let us tell each other the dreams.
But you first, Zaïca."

Zaïca began to laugh. "I dreamed I was a pretty bird with a tuft of
feathers on my head. I could fly, and, O Tourtourelle! it was great fun!
But the most amusing thing of all was that I could sing so finely, and
mock all the birds of the forest. Nay, I could even imitate the sounds
of animals. I cannot help laughing when I think what a jolly time I
had."

"Why, Zaïca!" cried Tourtourelle, wondering, "I dreamed the very same
thing. I too was a pretty little bird, and I too could imitate all kinds
of sounds as I fluttered in the tree-tops. Surely, the dream will come
true for one of us. How fine that would be!"

"Yes, let it be for the one of us who first rises to-morrow morning,"
said Zaïca. And so the two friends agreed.

Now when it came night-time Zaïca went to bed very early, like a wise
little girl who wants to rise with the sun. But Tourtourelle said to
herself, "I know what I will do, I will not go to sleep. I will sit up
all night, and then I am sure to be the first to rise."

So Tourtourelle perched herself on a high-backed chair and stretched her
eyes wide open. For hours and hours she sat there, growing more sleepy
every minute. Towards morning she began to nod; she could hardly keep
her eyes open, though she tried to prop the lids with her finger tips.
Finally, whether she would or no, she fell fast asleep, poor little
Tourtourelle, worn out with her long vigil.

When the first morning sunbeam peeped into the chamber Zaïca opened her
eyes, refreshed and smiling. She sat up in bed remembering the dream,
and then jumped lightly to the floor. As she did so she glanced at her
feet, which felt queer. Wonderful! They were little bird claws! She
looked down at herself. She was covered with soft feathers. She tried to
move her arms, and when she did so she rose lightly from the floor and
skimmed out of the window into the garden. Zaïca had become a pretty
little bird, just as she had dreamed. Oh, how happy she was! She heard a
Lark singing far up in the sky. Opening her mouth, she warbled and
trilled as well as he, until he dropped down quickly to the earth,
thinking it must be his mate who sang so sweetly. She spied a Chicken
strayed too far from the mother Hen; and chuckling to herself
mischievously she imitated the warning cry of a Hawk, till the Chick ran
squawking back to the shelter of his mother's wing. She heard a hound
baying afar off, and with little trouble echoed the sound so perfectly
that a groom came running out of the stable, whistling for the dog which
he feared was straying from the kennel. Zaïca found that as in her dream
she could imitate all the sounds which she heard; and she was so pleased
that she sang and sang and sang, hopping from tree to tree, teasing the
other birds with her mockery, and puzzling them, too.

As for poor Tourtourelle, when she waked it was very late. She yawned
and rubbed her eyes languidly, for she was still sleepy. Then looking
across to Zaïca's bed she saw that it was empty. Her heart gave a great
thump, for she longed and longed to be a bird, but now she feared that
she was too late. In her white gown she ran out into the garden looking
for Zaïca. But first she saw an old man leading his cow to the pasture.
And to the cow he said, "Coo-roo, coo-roo!" coaxing her to hasten.

"Coo-roo, coo-roo!" cried Tourtourelle, imitating him, she knew not why.
And as she said it she wondered at the strange feeling which came over
her. For her body felt very light and it seemed as if she could fly. She
looked down and saw that she was no longer covered with a little white
gown but with soft feathers of ashy gray, while wings sprouted from her
shoulders.

"Oh, I have become a bird!" she tried to say, but all she uttered
was--"Coo-roo, coo-roo!" For Tourtourelle was become a beautiful
Turtle-Dove, and that is all a Turtle-Dove can say.

"Coo-roo, coo-roo!" mocked a voice from the tree. And cocking her little
reddish eye Tourtourelle saw a brilliant Jay hopping in the branches,
imitating a Dove. Then it was the song of a Wren that she heard, then a
Lark, then a Thrush, then a Sparrow-Hawk,--all these sounds coming from
the one little throat of the happy bird on that bough. Tourtourelle
tried to do likewise, but all she could sing was "Coo-roo! coo-roo!" And
she said mournfully to herself:--

"It is Zaïca. She was wiser than I, and earlier, and the dream came
true for her. Oh dear! Oh dear!" And to this day Turtle-Dove flies about
sadly uttering her monotonous cry, and listening with a longing that
would be envy, were she not so good a little bird, to the chatter of her
friend the Jay.

For Zaïca the Jay is always merry, hopping from tree to tree, playing
her jokes upon the other birds whom she deceives with her wonderful
voice. And she leads a life so gay and exciting that she never finds
time to be sad, even over the disappointment of her dear friend, poor
little Tourtourelle.



HOW THE BLACKBIRD SPOILED HIS COAT


Once upon a time, our friend Blackbird, who comes first of the feathered
brothers in the spring, was not black at all. No, indeed; he was
white--white as feather-snow new fallen in the meadow. There are very
few birds who have been thought worthy to dress all in beautiful white,
for that is the greatest honor which a bird can have. So, like the Swan
and the Dove, Master Whitebird--for that is what they called him
then--was very proud of his spotless coat.

He was very proud and happy, and he sang all day long, the jolliest
songs. But you see he did not really deserve this honor, because he was
at heart a greedy bird; and therefore a great shame came upon him, and
after that he was never proud nor happy any more. I shall tell you the
story of how the Whitebird grew grimy and gloomy as we know him, almost
as black and solemn as old Daddy Crow.

Once upon a time, then, Master Whitebird was teetering on a rose-bush,
ruffling his beautiful white feathers and singing little bits of poetry
about himself to any one who would listen.

    "Ho-ho, ho-hee,
    Just look at me!"

he piped, and cocked his little eyes about in every direction, to see
who might be admiring his wondrous whiteness.

But all on a sudden his song gurgled down into his throat and choked
itself still, and his eyes fixed themselves upon a tree close by. It was
a dead old tree, and there was a hole in the trunk halfway up to the
lowest limb, a round little hole about as big as your two fists.

Whitebird had seen something black pop into that hole in a sly and
secret way, and he began to wonder; for he was inquisitive, as most
birds are. He sat quite still on his rose-bush and watched and watched.
Presently out of the hole popped a black head, bigger than Whitebird's,
with two wise little twinkling eyes.

"Oho!" said Whitebird to himself, "it is Mother Magpie up to her old
tricks, hiding, hiding. Maybe she has a treasure hidden there. I will
watch, and perhaps I shall find out something worth knowing."

Mother Magpie was the wisest and the slyest of all the birds, and it was
always worth while, as Whitebird knew, to take lessons of her. So he sat
perfectly still until she came cautiously back carrying something in her
beak. It was round and white and glinted like moonlight. Whitebird's
eyes stuck out greedily.

"It is a piece of silver!" he thought, but he sat perfectly still until
the Magpie had stowed the coin safely in the hollow tree and had hopped
away as if upon an unfinished errand. "Aha! there is more then. I will
watch to see what comes next," said Whitebird. And he waited.

Sure enough. In a little while the Magpie returned, this time bringing
something which glowed yellow like sunlight.

"It is a piece of gold!" gasped Whitebird, and his eyes bulged out like
those of lobsters, he was so jealous of her luck. But he silently
watched her disappear into her tree-cupboard and then hastily depart as
before toward the mountain. "What comes next?" muttered Whitebird to
himself. "I am dying to peep into that hole. I cannot wait much longer."

Then, after a while, a third time came back the Magpie to the dead tree.
And lo, what she carried in her beak twinkled and trembled and shone in
many colors, like a drop of dew on a velvet flower-cheek. When
Whitebird saw this sight, he nearly tumbled off his perch with
excitement.

"It is a diamond!" he cried aloud; "oh, it is a real diamond!"

At this sudden noise from the rose-bush Mother Magpie's nerves were so
shocked that she dropped the diamond helter-skelter into the hole. And
in a moment she fell in after it, out of sight. She hoped that no one
had seen her, but little Whitebird knew the place. He hopped after her
and, perching on the edge of the hole, peered down into the hollow tree.
And there he saw a great heap of silver and gold and precious stones,
which Mother Magpie was trying to cover with her wings.

"Oh, what a treasure! What a treasure!" he piped greedily. "Mother
Magpie, you must tell me where you found it, that I may go and get some
for myself."

But Mother Magpie refused to tell.

"Oho!" chirped Whitebird, angrily; "we shall see about that! Then I will
call in the fierce birds, Robber Hawk and Fighting Falcon and the bloody
Butcher Bird, and they will take your treasure from you, and kill you,
too, into the bargain. What do you think of that, Mother Magpie?"

Then she was afraid, for she knew those bad birds; and she saw that she
must trust her secret with Whitebird, since he had already discovered
half the truth.

"Well, if you will promise me not to let any one else know, not even
King Eagle, I will tell you," she said. So Whitebird promised.

"Listen," said the Magpie. "You must find the cave which is near the
tallest oak on the mountain, under the flat stone. In a corner there is
a tiny hole, just big enough for you or me to pass. And this is the
entrance to a passage which leads down into the cellars of the earth.
And when you have gone down and down, farther than any one except myself
ever went before, you will come to the palace of the King of Riches. It
is full of gold and silver and precious stones like these you see here.
Each chamber is more beautiful and more tempting than the last. But you
must not touch a stone or a single coin, or even a little bit of
gold-dust, until you have seen the King. For first you must offer
yourself to be his servant, and then he will be generous; then he will
let you carry away as much treasure as your beak will hold. That is all
there is to it. But beware, greedy Whitebird! Take my advice, and do not
touch a grain of treasure before you see the King, or great evil will
befall you."

Whitebird promised to do as she said. And then away he flew to the blue
mountain and its tallest oak. Close by the great oak, in a lonely spot,
he found the flat rock, and under it was the cave where once a bear had
lived. Whitebird hopped in eagerly, and away back in one corner of the
cave he found a little round hole, as the Magpie had said; a hole not
much bigger than an apple. It must have been a tight squeeze for fat
Mother Magpie!

Whitebird hopped through the hole and found himself in a long, narrow
passage which led down, down, down into places where his eyes were of no
use at all. For he was not like Master Owl, who can see better in the
dark than anywhere else. Blindly he hopped on and on, till he came into
a great cavern, bright with a white radiance, as if the moonlight
filtered in from somewhere. It was the first room of the King's palace
of treasure; and it was all of silver, paved with silver, heaped with
silver, shining with silver. Whitebird's eyes glittered and he wanted to
stop and take some for himself. But just in time he remembered the wise
warning of Mother Magpie; and so he hopped on over the silver pebbles
through a silver door into a second room. And this was flooded with
yellow light as of sunshine, so dazzling that for a moment Whitebird's
yellow eyes could see nothing at all. When he could see, the place
seemed full of yellow eyes like his own, great yellow eyes heaped up
from floor to ceiling. And when he became used to this he looked again
and saw that these were golden coins, and that this was a cavern all of
gold.

Oh, such a wonderful sight! Oh, such a golden dream! The floor on which
he stood was deep with gold dust, which squished between his toes like
yellow sand on a sea beach. And then Whitebird lost his head and went
quite mad, forgetting the words of wise Mother Magpie.

"Gold dust, gold dust, a treasure for me!" he sang, hopping up and down
on one leg. "I can carry away a great beakful of the yellow seeds, and
each one will blossom into a golden flower for me--for me--for me!" He
was wholly crazy, as you see.

He thrust his bill deep into the gold dust of the floor, and greedily
filled it more than full, till it dropped over his white, white feathers
and splashed his coat so that he was no longer a white bird but a yellow
bird. Oh, the silly, greedy thing! But there are worse fates than being
a yellow bird.

Just at this moment a dreadful roar echoed through the caverns till they
rumbled like an earthquake, and into the golden chamber crashed a
horrible dragon-creature, the guardian of the King's treasure. His eyes
blazed red like coals, and from his mouth came smoke and flame so that
the gold melted before his breath. He rushed straight upon poor little
Whitebird to gobble him up, and as he came he roared: "Thief, thief! who
steals my master's treasure? I scorch you with my eye! I burn you with
my breath! I swallow you into the furnace of my throat. Gr-r-r-r!"

There seemed no chance for Whitebird to escape, the creature was so
near. But with a cry of terror he fluttered and hopped away as fast as
he could toward the narrow passage, through the gold chamber and the
silver chamber, leaving all the treasure behind. (Oh, don't you wish we
could have known how the diamond chamber looked, with its rainbow
light?)

Whitebird hopped and fluttered, fluttered and hopped, feeling the
dragon's hot breath close behind frizzling his feathers and blinding his
eyes with smoke. He seemed like to be roasted alive in this horrible
underground oven. But oh, there was the hole close before him! Pouf!
With a terrible roar the dragon snapped at him as Whitebird popped
through the hole; but he got only a mouthful of burnt tail-feathers.
Whitebird was safe, safe in the narrow passage where the dragon could
not follow. Up and up and up and up he feebly fluttered into the light
of the dear outside world, and then he gave a chirp of joy to find that
he really had escaped. But oh, how tired and frightened he was!

Mother Magpie was sitting on a bush waiting for him, for she had guessed
what would happen to the greedy bird. And when she saw him she gave a
squawk of laughter.

"O Whitebird," she chuckled, "what a sight! what a sight! Your lovely
coat, your spotless feathers! Oh, you greedy, greedy _Blackbird_!"

Then he who had been Whitebird looked down at himself and saw what a
dreadful thing had happened. And he closed his eyes and gave a hoarse,
sad croak. For the smoke and flame of the dragon's breath had smirched
and scorched him from top to toe, so that he was no longer white, but
thenceforth and forever Blackbird.

I think Mother Magpie must have told the story to her children,
chuckling over the greedy fellow's failure. And they told it to the
children of sunny France, from whom I got the tale for you. So now you
know why the Blackbird looks so solemn and so sulky in his suit of rusty
black; and why his nerves are so weak that if one suddenly surprises
him, picking up seeds in the field, he gives a terrible scream of
fright. For he thinks one is that dreadful dragon-creature who chased
him and so nearly gobbled him on that unlucky day, long ago.

Poor Brother Blackbird! Don't let him know I told you all this; it would
make him so very much ashamed.



THE BLACKBIRD AND THE FOX


One day Madame Fox, who was strolling along under the hedge, heard a
Blackbird trilling on a branch. Quick as thought she jumped and seized
the little fellow, and was about to gobble him down then and there. But
the Blackbird began to chirp piteously:--

"Oh, oh, Madame Fox! What are you thinking of? Just see, I am such a
tiny mouthful! And when I am gone--I am gone. Only let me free and I
will tell you something. Look! Here come some peasant women with eggs
and cheese which they are carrying to the market at Verrières. That
would be a meal worth having! Only let me go, and I will help you,
Master Fox."

The Fox saw that this might be a good plan which the bird proposed, so
she let him go.

And what do you think the Blackbird did? He began to hop, hop, hop
toward the women, dragging his wing behind him as if it were broken,
which is a trick some birds know very well.

"Look!" cried one of the women, when she caught sight of him. "Oh, look
at the little Blackbird there! His wing is broken and he cannot fly. I
shall try to catch him." And she ran as fast as she could, making her
hands into a little cage to put over him. The other women, too, set down
their baskets, for convenience--set them down right in the middle of the
road--and joined the chase after the poor little Blackbird, so lame, so
lame! But always, as they came close to him, he managed to flutter out
of reach.

Meanwhile, Madame Fox went round about by the hedge and came all quietly
and unseen to the place where the baskets waited in the road. And oh!
what a good dinner she found there; chickens and eggs and fresh cheese
nicely done up for the market. And the greedy old lady ate them all--all
the chickens and the eggs and the cheeses. My! How fat she was when all
was done.

Now the Blackbird hopped on and on for a long, long way, until, by
cocking his eye, he saw that Madame Fox had finished her dinner. And
then, houff! Up he flew, with a jolly chirp of laughter, right over the
heads of the astonished women. What of his broken wing now? He began to
whistle, to sing, to chirrup like a crazy bird up there in the air. The
women looked at one another sheepishly.

"Ah, the wicked Blackbird!" they said. "One would have thought that he
could not fly at all. But look at him, the sly creature! Oho, it is a
pretty trick he has played us!"

They turned back to where they had left their baskets, intending to
start on for the market. But when they came there--well, well! What a
shame!--they found the eggs, the chickens, the cheeses all gone--eaten
up by the greedy Fox. And then they began to scold and cry.

"Oh, what misfortune!" they wailed. "We have lost our eggs, our
chickens, and our cheeses, and there is nothing left to carry to market.
We have not even a Blackbird to show for our morning's work. Oh dear! oh
dear! It is all the fault of that wicked, deceitful little bird."

And, instead of going on to Verrières, they turned about with their
empty baskets and went back home, a sorry party, scolding and crying all
the way. But long before they reached their homes and their angry
husbands Madame Fox was comfortably snoozing her after-dinner nap under
the hedge; while the happy Blackbird picked up juicy bugs in the
neighboring meadow, with one eye cocked to guard against being surprised
a second time by any bushy-tailed rogue.

[Illustration: _He managed to flutter out of reach_]



THE DOVE WHO SPOKE TRUTH


The Dove and the wrinkled little Bat once went on a journey together.
When it came towards night a storm arose, and the two companions sought
everywhere for a shelter. But all the birds were sound asleep in their
nests and the animals in their holes and dens. They could find no
welcome anywhere until they came to the hollow tree where old Master Owl
lived, wide awake in the dark.

"Let us knock here," said the shrewd Bat, "I know the old fellow is not
asleep. This is his prowling hour, and but that it is a stormy night he
would be abroad hunting.--What ho, Master Owl!" he squeaked, "will you
let in two storm-tossed travelers for a night's lodging?"

Gruffly the selfish old Owl bade them enter, and grudgingly invited them
to share his supper. The poor Dove was so tired that she could scarcely
eat, but the greedy Bat's spirits rose as soon as he saw the viands
spread before him. He was a sly fellow, and immediately began to flatter
his host into good humor. He praised the Owl's wisdom and his courage,
his gallantry and his generosity; though every one knew that however
wise old Master Owl might be, he was neither brave nor gallant. As for
his generosity,--both the Dove and the Bat well remembered his
selfishness towards the poor Wren, when the Owl alone of all the birds
refused to give the little fire-bringer a feather to help cover his
scorched and shivering body.

All this flattery pleased the Owl. He puffed and ruffled himself, trying
to look as wise, gallant, and brave as possible. He pressed the Bat to
help himself more generously to the viands, which invitation the sly
fellow was not slow to accept.

During this time the Dove had not uttered a word. She sat quite still
staring at the Bat and wondering to hear such insincere speeches of
flattery. Suddenly the Owl turned to her.

"As for you, Miss Pink-eyes," he said gruffly, "you keep careful
silence. You are a dull table-companion. Pray, have you nothing to say
for yourself?"

"Yes," exclaimed the mischievous Bat, "have you no words of praise for
our kind host? Methinks he deserves some return for this wonderfully
generous, agreeable, tasteful, well-appointed, luxurious, elegant, and
altogether acceptable banquet. What have you to say, O little Dove?"

But the Dove hung her head, ashamed of her companion, and said very
simply:--

"O Master Owl, I can only thank you with all my heart for the
hospitality and shelter which you have given me this night. I was beaten
by the storm, and you took me in. I was hungry, and you gave me your
best to eat. I cannot flatter nor make pretty speeches like the Bat. I
never learned such manners. But I thank you."

"What!" cried the Bat, pretending to be shocked. "Is that all you have
to say to our obliging host? Is he not the wisest, bravest, most gallant
and generous of gentlemen? Have you no praise for his noble character as
well as for his goodness to us? I am ashamed of you! You do not deserve
such hospitality. You do not deserve this shelter."

The Dove remained silent. Like Cordelia in the play, she could not speak
untruths even for her own happiness.

"Truly, you are an unamiable guest," snarled the Owl, his yellow eyes
growing keen and fierce with anger and mortified pride. "You are an
ungrateful bird, Miss, and the Bat is right. You do not deserve this
generous hospitality which I have offered, this goodly shelter which you
asked. Away with you! Leave my dwelling! Pack off into the storm and see
whether or not your silence will soothe the rain and the wind. Be off, I
say!"

"Yes, away with her!" echoed the Bat, flapping his leathery wings. And
the two heartless creatures fell upon the poor little Dove and drove her
out into the dark and stormy night.

Poor little Dove! All night she was tossed and beaten about shelterless
in the storm, because she had been too truthful to flatter the vain old
Owl. But when the bright morning dawned, draggled and weary as she was,
she flew to the court of King Eagle and told him all her trouble. Great
was the indignation of that noble bird.

"For his flattery and his cruelty let the Bat never presume to fly
abroad until the sun goes down," he cried. "As for the Owl, I have
already doomed him to this punishment for his treatment of the Wren. But
henceforth let no bird have anything to do with either of them, the Bat
or the Owl. Let them be outcasts and night-prowlers, enemies to be
attacked and punished if they appear among us, to be avoided by all in
their loneliness. Flattery and inhospitality, deceit and cruelty,--what
are more hideous than these? Let them cover themselves in darkness and
shun the happy light of day. As for you, little Dove, let this be a
lesson to you to shun the company of flatterers, who are sure to get you
into trouble. But you shall always be loved for your simplicity and
truth. And as a token of our affection your name shall be used by poets
as long as the world shall last to rhyme with _love_."

The words of the wise King Eagle are true to this day. So now you know
why a great many poems came to be written in which the rhymes _dove_ and
_love_ have not seemed to make any particular sense.



THE FOWLS ON PILGRIMAGE


Once upon a time old Lady Fox was very hungry, but she had nothing to
eat, and there was no sign of a dinner to be had anywhere.

"What shall I do, what shall I do?" whined the Fox. "I am so faint and
hungry, but all the birds and all the fowls are afraid of me and will
not venture near enough for me to consult them about a dinner. I have so
bad a name that no one will trust me. What can I do to win back the
respect of the community and earn a square meal? Ah, I have it! I will
turn pious and go upon a pilgrimage. That ought to make me popular once
more."

So the Fox started upon the pilgrimage. She had not gone very far when
she met a Cock, but he knew the character of Madame Fox too well to
trust himself near. He flew up into a tree, and from that safe perch
crowed jauntily, "Good morning, Madame Fox. Whither away so fast?"

The Fox drew down the corners of her mouth, trying to look pious, and
rolled up her eyes as she answered in a hollow voice, "Oh, Master Cock,
I am going on a pious pilgrimage. I am sorry for my wicked life, and now
I am going to be good."

"Ah," said the Cock, "I am indeed glad to hear that! Going on a
pilgrimage, are you? Well, in that case I will go with you."

"Do, Master Cock, do," answered the Fox fervently. "It will do you good.
Come sit upon my broad back and I will carry you."

The Cock thanked her and climbed upon her back, and so they proceeded on
their pilgrimage together. After a while they came upon a Dove, which
fluttered away hastily when she saw old Lady Fox, knowing too well her
wicked tricks. But the Fox called to her in a gentle voice:--

"Do not be afraid, O Dove. I know why you start at my approach. But I
have repented of my former sins and have turned pilgrim. My friend, the
Cock, and I have just started upon our pious journey. Will you join us?"

When the innocent Dove saw the Cock upon the Fox's back she thought that
certainly everything must be safe, so she answered:--

"Yes, Madame Fox, I will go with you."

"Jump right up on my back; there is plenty of room beside the Cock,"
said the Fox cordially.

A little further on they met a wild Duck, who waddled away quacking
wildly when he saw the Fox trotting towards him. But the sly old lady
called out to him, smiling:--

"Be calm, little brother. I have given up my former unkind tricks, for
which I sadly repent, and now I am going on a pious pilgrimage. See,
your friends the Cock and the Dove are my companions."

"In that case I will go along, too," said the Duck, "for you have a
goodly party."

"That is right," replied the Fox approvingly. "I thought you would go.
Kindly take a back seat with the others."

Now when these queer pilgrims had traveled for some time they came to a
cave in the rocks, a deep dark cave which looked like a den. And here
the Fox stopped, saying:--

"Dear brothers, it is time that we paused and thought more carefully
about our sins. We must cross seas and rivers, and Heaven knows when we
shall reach the end of our journey. Let us listen to one another's
confessions, for I am sure we have all been miserable sinners. Come, Mr.
Cock, come into the cave with me and I will hear you first."

The Cock followed her into the cave, saying with some surprise, "Why,
Madame Fox, what have I done that is wicked?"

"Do you not know?" answered the Fox sternly. "Why, do you not begin to
crow at midnight and wake poor tired people out of their first sleep? Go
to! You ought to be ashamed! Then again you crow at the most
inconveniently early hour in the morning and make the caravans mistake
the true time, so that they start upon their journeys long before the
proper hour and fall into the hands of robbers who prowl about before
light. These are dreadful sins, Mr. Cock, and you deserve to be
punished." So the wicked old Fox seized the Cock and ate him all up.

After the Fox had finished him she came to the entrance of the cave and
called, "Now you come, little Dove, and tell me what you have done that
is naughty."

"But I have done nothing," said the innocent Dove, wondering very much;
"of what evil do you accuse me, Madame Fox?"

"When the farmers sow their grain you dig up the yellow kernels and eat
them for your dinner. That is stealing, which is a wicked, wicked sin,
and must be severely punished," cried the hungry Fox. And thereupon she
seized the poor little Dove and ate her up.

Once more the Fox stood at the door of the cave, stealthily licking her
chops, and she called out to the Duck, "Come in, Mr. Duck, and I will
hear what you have to say."

"Well, I have not done anything wrong," said the Duck positively, "and
you cannot say that I have; can you now, Madame Fox?"

"Oh, indeed and indeed!" exclaimed the Fox. "Have you not stolen the
king's gold crown, and do you not wear it on your head, you wicked
creature?"

"Indeed and indeed I have done no such thing. It is not true, Madame
Fox, as I can prove. Wait a bit and I will bring witnesses."

So the Duck went out and flew up and down in front of the cave, waiting.
Presently along came a Hunter with a gun, who espied the Duck and aimed
the weapon at him.

"Don't shoot me," cried the Duck. "What have you against me, O Hunter? I
can tell you where to find worthier game. Come with me and I will show
you a wicked old Fox who eats innocent birds."

"Very well," said the Hunter, putting up his gun, "show me the place and
I will spare you."

The Duck led him softly to the entrance of the cave, and pausing there
cried out to the Fox inside, "Come out, Madame Fox, I have brought the
witness."

"Let him come in, let him come in!" cried the Fox, for she had grown
very hungry indeed and hoped for a double meal.

"No indeed," answered the Duck; "he insists that you must come out." So
the Fox crept stealthily to the door, but as soon as she popped out her
wicked old head the Hunter was ready for her, and Bang! That was the end
of the Fox's pilgrimage.

The Duck also had had enough of being a pilgrim. He went home with the
Hunter and became a tame Duck, and lived happily ever after on the pond
near the Hunter's house.



THE GROUND-PIGEON


Once upon a time there was a little Malay maiden who lived in the forest
with her father and mother and baby sister. They dwelt very happily
together, until one day Coora's father decided to clear the ground on
the edge of the forest and have a rice plantation, as many of his
neighbors were doing.

So one morning early after breakfast he started out with his axe on his
shoulder to cut down the trees and make a clearing.

"O Father, let me go with you!" begged Coora. "I do so want to see the
plantation grow from the very beginning."

But her father said No, she must stay at home until the trees were
felled.

"And after that may I go with you?" asked Coora. And her father promised
that it should be so.

The days went by and at last the trees were all felled in the clearing.
When Coora heard this she jumped up and down on her little bare brown
feet until her anklets tinkled, and cried, "O Father! Now I may go with
you to the clearing, may I not? For so you promised."

But again her father shook his head and said, "No, Coora, not yet. You
must wait until the fallen timber has been burned off. Then you shall go
with your mother and me to the planting of the rice."

Coora was very much disappointed, and the big tears stood in her eyes.
But she only said, "Do you promise that I may help plant the rice,
really and truly?"

And he called back over his shoulder, "I promise!"

At last the fallen timber was burned away, and the ground was ready for
planting. One morning Coora saw her father and mother making ready to go
out together. "Oh, where are you going, Father and Mother?" she asked.

"We go to the planting of the rice," answered her father, slinging a big
bag over his shoulder.

"But you promised that I should go with you when that time came?" cried
Coora wistfully. "Please, please may I not be your little helper?"

"No, no, Coora," answered her mother impatiently. "Do not tease us so.
You must stay at home to take care of your little sister. Be a good
girl this time, and when the rice is well grown we will all go together
and harvest it. That will be great fun!"

"Shall I really go? Do you promise, Mother?" asked poor Coora hopefully,
for she felt sure that her mother would not deceive her.

"I promise," said the mother, not looking her in the eyes; and the
parents went away through the forest to plant the rice.

Time went by until the rice had grown tall and was ready for the
harvest. Now Coora heard her parents talking of the matter, and she was
very gay, for now she expected a happy, happy day. She dressed herself
and made ready to go to the harvesting, as her parents had promised. But
when she joined them, smiling joyfully, they turned upon her frowning
and bade her return to the house and take care of everything until their
home-coming. Then poor little Coora burst into tears and said, "O my
Father and O my Mother, I have obeyed you without a word every time you
broke your promise to me. And still you continue to put me off from day
to day, when this is the thing I long to do so much that it seems as if
my heart would break. Think of it! The clearing has been made, the
timber burned, the rice planted and grown, and now it is ready for the
harvest. But I have not even seen the place where all this has
happened. O Father and Mother, why are you so unkind to me?"

"There, there!" cried her father and mother together, "do not make a
fuss over so small a matter. You cannot go to-day; but wait until the
rice is gathered and it is time to tread it out. Then we will let you
help us, you may be sure. We promise, Coora, that you shall really and
truly go."

"You promise!" echoed Coora bitterly. "You have promised me before and
nothing came of it." But even while she spoke the unkind parents were
gone.

Then Coora fell to weeping most sorely, for she knew that she could not
trust the word of her father and mother; and that is a most terrible
thing. At last she rose and wiped away the tears and looked about the
little cottage where she had been patient through so many
disappointments. And she said to herself, "I can bear it no longer. It
is not right that I should be made to suffer like this when a little
thing would make me so happy. I must see the rice field; I will go
to-day."

Coora tidied the cottage, putting everything in its place and making it
look as beautiful as she could. Then she took up the little sister who
had fallen asleep on the floor, and kissing her tenderly placed her in
the hammock which swung from wall to wall of the hut. Lastly Coora took
off the golden bracelets and earrings and the tinkling anklets which she
wore like other little Malay girls, and left them in a shining heap
behind the door. But she kept her necklace about her pretty little neck.

Now Coora had learned a little magic from a witch, just enough magic to
serve her turn. She went out and picked two palm leaves which she
fastened on her shoulders and changed herself into a bird, a bright,
beautiful Ground-Pigeon, with many-colored metallic feathers. But the
necklace still made a band about her pretty little neck, as you may see
on every Ground-Pigeon to this day.

Coora the Ground-Pigeon fluttered away through the forest until she came
to the rice plantation where her parents were at work. She alighted on a
dead tree close by them and called out, "Mother, O Mother! I have left
my earrings and bracelets behind the door and have put my little sister
in the hammock."

Astonished at these words her mother looked up, but saw no one, only a
Ground-Pigeon perched on the tree over her head. "Father," she cried to
her husband who was at work beside her, "did you not hear Coora's voice
just now?"

"Yes, I thought so," answered the father angrily. "The wicked girl must
have disobeyed me and have followed us here after all. I will punish her
if this is so." They called to her, "Coora, Coora!" until the forest
reëchoed. But no one appeared or answered.

"I will go home and see if she is there," said the mother. "Either I
heard Coora speak or there is some magic in the forest." And she
hastened back to the cottage. There she found the baby in the hammock
and the bracelets and earrings in a shining heap behind the door, as the
voice had said, but there was no Coora anywhere. Surprised and anxious,
once more the mother ran back to the plantation.

"Coora is gone, husband!" she cried. "It must have been her own voice
which we heard just now. Hark! She speaks again!"

Again from the tree they heard a sweet voice calling, "Mother, O Mother,
I have left my earrings and bracelets behind the door and my little
sister in the hammock. Good-by, Coo-o-o-ra!" As she spoke her own name
Coora's voice warbled and crooned into the soft _coo_ of a
Ground-Pigeon's note, and her parents glancing up saw that this bird
must be their child, their Coora, magically changed.

"Let us cut down the tree and catch the wicked girl!" cried the father.
And seizing his axe he chopped away lustily until the tree fell with a
crash. But even at that moment the Pigeon fluttered away to another
tree, crooning again the soft syllables which she has spoken ever since,
"Coo-ra, coo-ra, coo!"

From tree to tree about the rice plantation the distracted parents
pursued the Pigeon; but it was in vain to try to capture her. Ever she
escaped them when they seemed about to lay hands upon her soft feathers.
After following her flight for many miles they were obliged to return
home, sad and sorry and repentant. For they knew now that it was their
own unkindness and their broken promises which had driven their daughter
away from the cottage, never to return.

The beautiful Ground-Pigeon still lingers near the rice plantations
which she had so longed to visit. Still she plaintively calls her name,
and still she wears the necklace about her pretty little neck. And the
little Malay maidens love her very dearly because she was once a girl
like them.



SISTER HEN AND THE CROCODILE


The Crocodile is one of the hungriest bodies that ever lived. When he is
looking for a dinner he will eat almost anything that comes within
reach. Sometimes the greedy fellow swallows great stones and chunks of
wood, in his hurry mistaking them for something more digestible. And
when he is smacking his great jaws over his food he makes such a greedy,
terrible noise that the other animals steal away nervously and hide
until it shall be Master Crocodile's sleepy-time. He is too lazy to
waddle in search of a dinner far from the river where he lives. But any
animal or even a man-swimmer had best be careful how he ventures into
the water near the Crocodile's haunts. For what seems to be a
greenish-brown, knobby log of wood floating on the water, has little
bright eyes which are on the lookout for anything which moves. And below
the water two great jaws are ready to open and swallow in the prey of
Mr. Hungry-Mouth.

But no matter how hungry the Crocodile may be, he will not touch the
Hen, even if she should venture into his very jaws; at least, that is
what the Black Men of the Congo River will tell you. And surely, as they
are the nearest neighbors of the big reptile they ought to know if any
one does. Now this is the story which they tell to explain why the
Crocodile will not eat the Hen.

Once upon a time there was a Hen, a common, plump, clucky mother Hen,
who used every day to go down to the river and pick up bits of food on
the moist banks, where luscious insects were many. She did not know that
this Congo River was the home of the Crocodile, the biggest, fiercest,
scaliest, hungriest Crocodile in all Africa. But one day when she went
down to the water as usual she hopped out onto what looked like a mossy
log, saying to herself:--

"Aha! This is a fine old timber-house. It is full of juicy bugs, I know.
I shall have a great feast!"

Tap-tap! Pick-pick! The Hen began to scratch and peck upon the rough
bark of the log, but Oh dear me! suddenly she began to feel very
seasick. The log was rolling over! The log was teetering up on end like
a boat in a storm! And before she knew what was really happening the
poor Hen found herself floundering in the water in the very jaws of the
terrible Crocodile.

"Ha, ha!" cried the Crocodile in his harsh voice. "You took me for a
log, just as the other silly creatures do. But I am no log, Mrs. Hen, as
you shall soon see. I am Hungry Crocodile, and you will make the fifth
dinner which I have had this evening."

The Hen was frightened almost to death, but she kept her presence of
mind and gasped frantically as she saw the great jaws opening to swallow
her:--

"O _Brother_, don't!"

Now the Crocodile was so surprised at hearing the Hen call him Brother
that he kept his jaws wide open and forgot to swallow his dinner. He
kept them open for some time, gaping foolishly, wondering what the Hen
could mean, and how he could possibly be her brother. And by the time he
had remembered how hungry he was, there was nothing for him to eat. For
the Hen had skipped away just as fast as her feet would take her.

"Pouf!" snorted the Crocodile. "Her brother, indeed! I am not her
brother, and she knows it very well. What a fool I was to be caught by
such a word! Just wait till I catch her again and we will see. I will
_brother_ her!" And he swam sulkily away to hide his mortification in
the Congo mud, with only the end of his long nose poking out as a
ventilator for his breathing.

Now, though the Hen had had so narrow an escape, it had not sufficiently
taught her a lesson. A few days afterwards once more she went down to
the river, for she could not resist the temptation of the bug-dinner
which she knew she should find there. But she kept her eyes open sharply
for any greeny log which might be floating on the water, saying to
herself, "Old Hungry-Mouth shall not catch me napping this time. I know
his wicked tricks!"

But this time the Crocodile was not floating on the water like a greeny
log. He was lying still as still, sunning himself on the river bank
behind some tall reeds. Mrs. Hen came trotting down to the water, a
plump and tempting sight, cocking her head knowingly on one side as she
spied a real log floating out beyond, which she took to be her enemy.
And as she scratched in the soft mud, chuckling to think how sly she
was, with a rush and a rustle down pounced the Crocodile upon her, and
once more, before she knew it, she found herself in the horrid gateway
of his jaws, threatened by the double rows of long, white teeth.

[Illustration: "_O Brother, don't!_"]

"Oho!" snapped the Crocodile. "You shall not escape me this time. I
am a log, am I? Look at me again, Mrs. Hen. Am I a log?" And he came at
her to swallow her at once.

But again the Hen squawked, "O _Brother_, don't!"

Again the Crocodile paused, thunderstruck by this extraordinary word.
"Oh, bother the Hen!" he cried, "what can she mean, really? How can I be
her brother? She lives in a town on the land, and I live in my kingdom
of mud and water. How could two creatures possibly be more unlike?
How"--but while he had been thinking of these hows, once more the Hen
had managed to escape, and was pelting back to her barnyard as fast as
she could go.

Then indeed the Crocodile was angry. He determined to go and see Nzambi,
the wise witch princess, about the matter. She would tell him what it
all meant. But it was a long journey to her palace and he was awkward
and slow in traveling upon land. Before he had gone very far he was
tired and out of breath, and stopped to rest under a banana tree.

As he lay panting in the shade he saw his friend Mbambi, the great
Lizard, hurrying past through the jungle.

"Oh, Mbambi!" cried old Hungry-Mouth, "stop a moment. I want to speak
with you. I am in great trouble."

So the Lizard drew near, wagging her head wisely, for it pleased her to
be consulted by the big Crocodile. "What can it be, dear friend, that is
troubling you this day?" she said amiably. "Surely, no one would be so
rude or rash as to offend the King of Congo River. But tell me your
trouble and perhaps I can advise you."

"Listen to me, then," said the Crocodile. "Almost every day a nice fat
Hen,--Oh, Mbambi! so delightfully fat and tempting!--comes to my river
to feed. Well, why don't I make her my dinner? you ask. Now hearken:
each time, just as I am about to catch her and carry her to my home she
startles me by calling me '_Brother_.' Did you ever hear of anything so
maddening? Twice I have let her escape because of the word. But I can
stand it no longer, and I am on the way to Princess Nzambi to hold a
palaver about it." (By "palaver" the slangy Crocodile meant a long,
serious talk.)

"Silly idiot!" cried the Mbambi, not very politely. "Do nothing of the
kind. You will only get the worst of the palaver and show your ignorance
before the wise Nzambi. Now listen to me. Don't you know, dear
Crocodile, that the Duck lives on the water, though she is neither a
fish nor a reptile? And the Duck lays eggs. The Turtle does the same,
though she is no bird. The Hen lays eggs, just as I do; and I am Mbambi,
the great Lizard. As for you, dear old Hungry-Mouth, you know that at
this moment"--here she whispered discreetly, looking around to see that
no one was listening,--"at this moment in a snug nest dug out of the
sand on the banks of the Congo, Mrs. Crocodile has covered with leaves
to hide them from your enemies sixty smooth white eggs. And in a few
weeks out of these will scamper sixty little wiggly Crocodiles, your
dear, homely, scaly, hungry-mouthed children. Yes, we all lay eggs, my
silly friend, and so in a sense we are all brothers, as the Hen has
said."

"Sh!" whispered the Crocodile, nervously. "Don't mention those eggs of
mine, I beg of you. Some one might overhear. What you say is undoubtedly
true," he added pensively, after thinking a few moments. "Then I suppose
I must give up my tempting dinner of Hen. I cannot eat my Sister, can
I?"

"Of course you cannot," said the Mbambi, as he rustled away through the
jungle. "We can't have everything we want in this world."

"No, I see we cannot," sighed the Crocodile, as he waddled back towards
the banks of the Congo. Now in the same old spot he found the Hen, who
had been improving his absence by greedily stuffing herself on
beetle-bugs, flies, and mosquitoes until she was so fat that she could
not run away at the Crocodile's approach. She could only stand and
squawk feebly, fluttering her ridiculous wings.

But the Crocodile only said, "Good evening, Sister," very politely, and
passing her by with a wag of his enormous tail sank with a plop into the
waters of the Congo.

And ever since that time the Hen has eaten her dinner in tranquil peace,
undisturbed by the sight of floating log or basking shape of knobby
green. For she knows that old Hungry-Mouth will not eat his Sister, the
Hen.



THE THRUSH AND THE CUCKOO


In the wonderful days of old it is said that Christ and Saint Peter went
together upon a journey. It was a beautiful day in March, and the earth
was just beginning to put on her summer gorgeousness. As the two
travelers were passing near a great forest they spied a Thrush sitting
on a tree singing and singing as hard as he could. And he cocked his
head as if he was very proud of something.

Saint Peter stopped at the foot of the tree and said, "I wish you a good
day, Thrush!"

"I have no time to thank you," chirped the Thrush pertly.

"Why not, pretty Thrush?" asked Saint Peter in surprise. "You have all
the time in the world and nothing to do but sing."

"You mistake," cried the Thrush. "I am making the summer! It is I, I, I
who make the green grass grow and the flowers bud. Look, how even now
the world is growing beautiful in answer to my song." And the conceited
little bird continued to warble as hard as he could,--

    "To-day I shall marry, I and no other!
    To-morrow my brother."

Christ and Saint Peter looked at each other and smiled, then went upon
their way without another word, leaving the Thrush to continue his task
of making the summer.

This was in the morning. But before midday the clouds gathered and the
sky darkened, and at noon a cold rain began to drip. The poor Thrush
ceased his jubilant song and began to shiver in the March wind. By night
the snow was felling thick and fast, and where there had been a green
carpet on the earth was now spread a coverlet of snowy white. Shivering
and like to die of cold the Thrush took refuge under the tree in the
moss and dead leaves. He thought no more of his marriage, nor of his
brother's, but only of the danger which threatened him, and of the
discomfort.

The next morning Christ and Saint Peter, plodding through the
snow-drifts, came upon him again, and Saint Peter said as before, "I
wish you good day, Thrush."

"Thank you," answered the Thrush humbly, and his voice was shaky with
cold and sorrow.

"What do you here on the cold ground, O Thrush-who-make-the-summer, and
why are you so sad?" asked Saint Peter. And the Thrush piped feebly,--

    "To-day I must die, I and no other!
    To-morrow my brother."

"O foolish little bird," said Saint Peter. "You boasted that you made
the summer. But see! The Lord's will has sent us back to the middle of
winter, to punish your boasting. You shall not die, he will send the sun
again to warm you. But hereafter beware how you take too much credit for
your little efforts."

Since that time March has ever been a treacherous and a changeful month.
Then the Thrush thinks not of marriage, but of his lesson learned in
past days, and wraps himself in his warmest feathers, waiting for the
Lord's will to be done. He is no longer boastful in his song, but sings
it humbly and sweetly to the Lord's glory, thanking him for the summer
which his goodness sends every year to happy bird and beast and child of
man.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now after this adventure with the Thrush, Christ and Saint Peter went
upon their journey for many miles. At last, weary and hungry, they
passed a Baker's shop. From the window came the smell of new warm bread
baking in the oven, and Christ sent Saint Peter to ask the Baker for a
loaf. But the Baker, who was a stingy fellow, refused.

"Go away with you!" he cried. "I give no bread to lazy beggars!"

"I ask it for my Master, who has traveled many miles and is most faint
and weary," said Saint Peter. But the Baker frowned and shook his head,
then strode into the inner shop, banging the door after him.

The Baker's wife and six daughters were standing at one side when these
things happened, and they heard all that took place. They were generous
and kind-hearted bodies, and tears stood in their eyes at the Baker's
rough words. As soon as he had gone out they wrapped up the loaf and
gave it stealthily to Saint Peter saying,--

"Take the loaf for your Master, good man, and may he be refreshed by
it."

Saint Peter thanked and blessed them and took the loaf to Christ. And
for their charity the Lord set these good women in the sky as the Seven
Stars,--you may see them to this day shining in love upon the sleeping
world. But the wicked Baker he changed into a Cuckoo; and as long as he
sings his dreary song, "Coo-coo! Coo-coo!" in the spring, so long the
Seven Stars are visible in the heaven, so folk say.



THE OWL AND THE MOON


When the moon is round and full, if you look very carefully at the
golden disk you can see in shadowy outline the profile of a beautiful
lady. She is leaning forward as if looking down upon our earth, and
there is a little smile upon her sweet lips. This fair dame is Putri
Balan, the Princess of the Moon, and she smiles because she remembers
how once upon a time she cheated old Mr. Owl, her tiresome lover.

Putri Balan, so they tell you in Malay, was always very, very beautiful,
as we see her now. Like all the Malay women, Putri Balan loved to chew
the spicy betel-nut which turns one's lips a bright scarlet. It is
better, so they say, than any kind of candy, and it is considered much
nicer and more respectable than chewing-gum. So Putri Balan was not
unladylike, although she chewed her betel-nut all night long.

Now, ever since the day when Mr. Owl carelessly let the naughty little
Wren escape from prison, the shamed and sorry old fellow had never
dared to show his face abroad in daylight. Gradually his eyes grew
blurred and blinky, till now he could not see anything by day, even if
he were to try.

So it happens that there are many delightful things about which old Mr.
Owl does not know,--things which take place while the beautiful sun is
shining. But also there are marvelous sights, unknown to early-sleeping
birds, which he enjoys all by himself. For at night his queer eyes are
wonderfully strong and bright. All day long he sits in his hollow tree,
but when the other feathered folk are drowsing upon their roosts, or are
snugly rolled up in their little nests, with their heads tucked under
their downy wings, old Mr. Owl puts on his round spectacles and goes
a-prowling up and down the world through the woods and meadows (like
Haroun-al-Rashid in the streets of Bagdad), spying all sorts of queer
doings.

And this is how old Mr. Owl happened to see the fair Princess Putri
Balan, smiling down from her moon upon the sleeping world of birds who
had never seen her and never would see her in all her loveliness.

How beautiful she was! How bright and wonderful! Old Mr. Owl stared up
in wide-eyed astonishment, and then and there fell in love with her,
and resolved to ask her to be his wife.

Cramming on his spectacles more tightly and ruffling the feathers about
his neck, he flew up and up and up, as high as ever he dared to go,
until he was within hailing distance of the moon. Then he called out in
his softest tones,--which were harsh enough to any ears,--

"O fair Moon-Maiden, O beautiful Princess, will you marry me? For I love
you very dearly."

The Princess Putri Balan stopped chewing her betel-nut for a moment and
looked down to see what daring creature might thus be addressing her.
Soon she spied Mr. Owl with his goggle-eyes looking up at her adoringly.
He was such a ridiculous old creature, and his spectacles glinted so
queerly in the moonlight, that Putri Balan began to laugh and answered
him not at all. She laughed so hard that she almost swallowed her
betel-nut, which might have been a serious matter.

Mr. Owl continued to stare, for he saw nothing funny in the situation.
Again he repeated in his hoarse voice, "O fair Moon-Maiden, O beautiful
Princess, will you marry me? For I love you very dearly."

Again the Princess laughed, for she thought it a tremendous joke; and
again she nearly choked. Mr. Owl waited, but she made him no other
answer. However, he was a persistent lover. All night long he went on
asking the same question, over and over again, until the Princess Putri
Balan was quite worn out trying not to choke with laughter while she
chewed the betel-nut. At last she said impatiently,--

"O Mr. Goggle-Eyes! Do give me a moment's peace! You make me laugh so
that I cannot chew my betel-nut. Yes, I will say _yes_, if you will only
leave me to finish my betel-nut undisturbed. I will marry you. But you
must go away until I have quite done."

Then Mr. Owl was filled with joy. "Thanks, thanks, O most gracious
lady!" he said. "I will go away and leave you to finish your betel-nut
undisturbed. But I shall come again to-morrow night, and by that time
you will have done with it, and then you will be mine!"

Mr. Owl flew back to his home in the hollow tree, for it was almost
morning, and already he was growing so blind that he could hardly find
the way. But the Princess Putri Balan went on chewing the betel-nut, and
to herself she said,--

[Illustration: _Putri Balan began to laugh_]

"How am I to rid myself of this bore? I cannot chew this little
betel-nut forever; there must be an end to it before long. Mr. Owl
will certainly come again to-morrow night, and then, according to my
promise, I must become his wife. I cannot marry old Goggle-Eyes. Oh
dear! What shall I do?"

As she chewed her betel-nut the Princess Putri Balan hit upon a plan.
She would manage to cheat old Mr. Owl after all. She would never finish
the betel-nut! She took the little bit that remained,--and it was a
dangerously little bit, for the Princess had been chewing all night
long, except when she was laughing,--and reaching out from the moon she
tossed it down, down, down upon the earth. At the same time she said a
magic moon-charm: and when the bit of betel-nut reached the earth, it
became a little bird,--the same which the Malay people call the Honey
Bird, with brilliant, beautiful plumage. And the Princess Putri Balan
cried out to it from her golden house,--

"Fly away, pretty little bright bird! Fly as far and as fast as ever you
can, and keep out of Mr. Owl's way. For it is you who must save me from
becoming his unhappy wife."

So the Honey Bird flew away, a brilliant streak, through the Malay
woods, and hid himself in a little nest.

When night came out stole Mr. Owl, with his spectacles in place, and up
he flew to his Princess, whom he now hoped to call his very own.

"Good evening, my beautiful Princess!" he cried. "Have you finished your
betel-nut at last, and are you ready to keep your promise?"

But the Princess Putri Balan looked down at him, pretending to be sad,
though there was a twinkle in her beautiful eye; and she said,--

"Alas! Mr. Owl, a dreadful thing has happened. I lost my betel-nut,
before it was quite finished. It fell down, down, down, until I think it
reached the earth. And I cannot marry you, according to my promise,
until it is finished."

"Then it must be found!" cried Mr. Owl. "I will find it. My eyes are
sharp at night and nothing escapes them. Shine kindly on me, Princess,
and I will find the betel-nut for you, and you shall yet be mine."

"Go then, Mr. Owl," said the Princess, smiling to herself. "Go and look
for the betel-nut which I must finish before I marry you. Search
carefully and you may find it soon."

Poor Mr. Owl searched carefully, but he could not find the bit of
betel-nut. Of course he could not find it, when it had changed and flown
away as a beautiful, many-colored bird! All that night he sought, till
the sun sent him blinking to his tree. And all the next night he
sought, and the next, and the next. And he kept on seeking for days and
months and years, while the Princess Putri Balan smiled down upon him
and was happy at heart because of her clever scheme.

Old Mr. Owl never found out the trick, nor suspected the innocent little
Honey Bird, whom indeed he scarcely ever saw, because it was a
sunset-sleeping bird, while he was a wistful, lonely, sad night-prowler.
Up and down, up and down the world he goes, still looking for the
betel-nut of the Princess Putri Balan, which he will never find. And as
he flies in the moonlight he glances ever longingly at the beautiful
lady in the moon, and sobs "Hoo-hoo! Hoo-hoo!" in grief and despair. For
after all these centuries he begins to fear that she will never be his
wife.



THE TUFTED CAP


One dark night Master Owl left his hollow tree and went prowling about
the world as usual upon his hopeless hunt for the Princess's betel-nut.
As soon as he was out of hearing a long, lean, hungry Rat crept to the
house and stole the dainties which the lonely old bachelor had stored
away for the morrow's dinner. The thief dragged them away to his own
hole and had a splendid feast with his wife and little ones. But the Owl
returned sooner than the Rat had expected, and by the crumbs which he
had dropped upon the way tracked him to the hole.

"Come out, thief!" cried the Owl, "or I will surely kill you. Come out
and return to me my morrow's dinner." The Rat trembled with fear at
these threatening words.

"Alas!" he squeaked, "I cannot do that, for already the dinner is eaten.
My wife and hungry little ones have eaten it. Pity us, for we were
starving!"

"Bah!" screamed the Owl, "I care little for that. It is for my dinner
alone that I care. Since you have eaten it you shall certainly die," and
he began to scratch fiercely at the mouth of the hole. The Rat trembled
more than ever. But suddenly he had an idea which made his whiskers
twitch.

"Hold!" he cried. "Dear, good Master Owl, permit me to live and I will
give you something which is worth many dinners, something that
men-creatures value very highly, and which with great labor and pain I
brought away from one of their dens."

"Umph!" grumbled the Owl. "Let us see what it is."

The Rat crawled timidly out of his hole with the peace-offering; and
what do you think it was? Why, a gimlet! Just a plain, ordinary,
well-sharpened gimlet for boring holes.

"Hoo!" cried the Owl. "I don't think much of _that_. What is it good
for?" Now the Rat had not the faintest idea as to what the gimlet really
was, but he had another idea instead.

"That? Why--that--oh, _that_! That is a very valuable thing. It is able
to give you the keenest delight. I will show you how it works. But you
must do just as I say, or it will be of no use."

"Hoo!" cried the Owl. "Continue with the directions."

"Well, first you must stick the thing point upwards in the ground at the
foot of this tree."

"Very good," said the Owl, doing as was suggested, and waiting
expectantly for the next move.

"Now you must mount to the top of the tree and slide down the trunk,"
said the Rat solemnly. Old Master Owl was certainly very far from wise
that night, for he obeyed the Rat's word without a suspicion. He flew to
the top of the tree, and then, sitting back and giving a warning cry of
"Hoo-hoo!" coasted down the trunk with the speed of lightning. But
midway down he struck a knot in the tree and rolled heels over head. And
when he reached the ground of course he landed fast upon the sharp point
of the gimlet, just as the Rat had planned.

With bloody head, and hooting with pain, the Owl started off in pursuit
of the Rat, resolved this time to kill him without fail. The Rat was
nimble, and his fear added to his speed, but at last the Owl caught him.
Ruffled and ferocious, the great bird was about to tear him in pieces,
when the Rat once more begged his life.

"It was only a joke," he cried. "Only a silly joke. Spare me this once,
dear Master Owl, and I will give you something that you really need.
Look at your bleeding head. You cannot go about the world with that
exposed. Spare my life, and I will give you a lovely cap of tufted
feathers to hide the bite of the wicked sharp-thing-made-by-man. Pray,
let me go, dear Master Owl."

The Owl considered for a moment, and then decided to accept the bargain.
For he thought of Putri Balan, the Princess of the Moon, and knew that
he should lose his last chance to win her if she happened to see him
with this ridiculous wound in his head.

So the Rat gave him a nice cap of tufted feathers, which he wears to
this day; and the Owl let the thief go free. But after that there was a
coolness between them, as you may well imagine.



THE GOOD HUNTER


Once upon a time there was an Indian who was a famous hunter. But he did
not hunt for fun; he took no pleasure in killing the little wild
creatures, birds and beasts and fishes, and did so only when it was
necessary for him to have food or skins for his clothing. He was a very
kind and generous man, and loved all the wood-creatures dearly, often
feeding them from his own larder, and protecting them from their
enemies. So the animals and birds loved him as their best friend, and he
was known as the Good Hunter.

The Good Hunter was very brave, and often went to war with the fierce
savages who were the enemies of his tribe. One sad day he set forth with
a war party, and they had a terrible battle, in which the Good Hunter
was slain, and his enemies took away his scalp, leaving him lying dead
in the forest.

The Good Hunter had not remained long cold and lifeless in the shadowy
stillness, when the Fox came trotting through the woods. "Alack and
alas!" cried the Fox, spying the body stretched on the leaves. "Here is
our dear friend, the Good Hunter, slain! Alack and alas! what shall we
do now that our dear friend and protector is gone?"

The Fox ran out into the forest crying the death lament, which was the
signal to all the beasts that something most sorrowful had happened.
Soon they came flocking to the spot, all the animals of the forest. By
hundreds they came, and surrounding the body of their friend raised the
most doleful howls. For, though they rubbed him with their warm noses,
and licked him with their warm tongues, and nestled against him with
their warm fur, they could not bring him back to warm life.

They called upon Brother Bear to speak and tell them what to do; for he
was the nearest relative to man. The Bear sat up on his haunches and
spoke to the sad assembly with tears in his eyes, begging each animal to
look carefully through his medicine-box and see whether there might not
be some balm which would restore the Good Hunter to life. Then each
animal looked carefully through his medicine-box of herbs and healing
roots, bark and magic leaves, and they tried every remedy that they
knew. But nothing brought the color to their friend's pale cheeks, nor
light into his eyes. He who had helped them so often was helpless now,
and they could not aid him. Again the kind beasts sank back on their
haunches and raised a mighty howl, a requiem for the dead.

Wild and piercing and long-drawn, the sound swept through the forest,
such a sound of sorrow as had never been heard before. The Oriole, who
was flying overhead, heard and was surprised. Soon his brightness came
flashing down through the leafy boughs like a ray of sunlight into the
gloom and darkness of the forest.

"What has happened, O four-footed friends," he asked, "that you mourn so
mightily?" Then they showed him the body of the Good Hunter lying in the
midst of their sad company, and the Oriole joined his voice of sorrow to
theirs.

"O friend of the birds," he cried, "is there no bird who can aid you
now, you who have fed us so many times from the door of your generous
wigwam? I will call all the feathered tribes, and we will do our best."

So the Oriole went forth and summoned the birds to the forest council.
There was a great flapping of wings, a great twittering and chirping,
questioning and exclamation when the birds assembled to hear the sad
news. Every one was there, from the tiny Humming Bird to the great
Eagle of the Iroquois, who left his lonely eyrie to pay his respects to
the Good Hunter's memory. The poor little birds tried everything in
their power to bring back to life their dear friend. With beak and claw
and tender wing they strove, but all their efforts were in vain. Their
Good Hunter was dead, and his scalp was gone.

Then the great Eagle, whose head was white with years of wisdom and
experience, spoke to the despairing assemblage of creatures. From his
lofty perch above the world the Eagle had looked down upon centuries of
change and decay. He knew every force of nature and all the strange
things of life. The hoary-headed sage said that the Good Hunter could
not be restored until his scalp was found. Then all the animals clamored
that they might be allowed to go and seek for the missing scalp. But to
the Fox was given this honor, because he had first found the body of the
Good Hunter in the forest. The Fox set out upon his search, in his foxy
way. He visited every hen-roost and every bird's-nest, but no scalp did
he find. "Of course not!" screamed the birds when he returned from his
fruitless quest, "Of course no bird has taken the Good Hunter's scalp.
You should have known better than that, Master Fox."

So the next time a bird was sent upon the search. The Pigeon Hawk went
forth, confident that she should be successful. But she was in such a
hurry and flew so fast that she saw nothing, and she too returned
without that for which she sought. Then the White Heron begged that he
might be allowed to try. "For," said he, "you all know how slowly I fly,
and how careful I am to see everything."

"Yes, especially if it be something good to eat," chirped the saucy Jay,
"do not trust him, birds, he is too greedy."

Yet the Heron was allowed to go. He flapped away, slowly and sedately,
and the Council sat down to await his return. But the Heron had not gone
far when he came to a field of luscious wild beans; and he stopped to
take a mouthful or two. He ate, and he ate, and he ate, the greedy
fellow! until he could eat no more. And then he was sleepy, so that he
slept and slept and slept. And when he awoke he was so hungry that he
fell to eating again, while the Council waited and wondered and waited.
At last they grew impatient and began to suspect that the Jay had been
right, which was indeed the case. They decided to wait no longer for the
Heron, who did not return. Then the Crow stepped forward and said, "Let
me go, I pray you, for I think I know where the scalp may be found; not
in the nest of a bird, not in the den of any animal, not in the watery
haunt of a fish. For all the creatures of earth, air, and water are
friends of the Good Hunter. It is men who are most cruel to men:
therefore in the tents of men must we look for the missing scalp. Let me
go to seek it there, for men are used to see me flying near and will not
suspect why I come."

The Crow flew forth upon his errand, and before long came to the wigwam
where lived the warrior who had slain the Good Hunter. And sure enough,
there, outside the tent, was the scalp of the Good Hunter, stretched on
a pole to dry. The Crow flew near, and the warrior saw him, but thought
nothing of it, for he was used to seeing crows about the camp. Presently
when no one was looking the skillful thief managed to steal the scalp,
and away he flew with it to the Council in the forest. Great was the
rejoicing of the birds and beasts when they saw that the Crow had been
successful, and they said more kind things to him than he had heard for
many moons. At once they put the scalp upon the Good Hunter's head, but
it had grown so dry in the smoke of the warrior's wigwam that it would
not fit. Here was a new trouble. What was to be done to make the scalp
soft and flexible once more? The animals did their best, but their
efforts were of no avail.

Once more the great Eagle came forward and bade them listen.

"My children," he said, "my wings are never furled. Night and day for
hundreds of years the dews of heaven have been collecting upon my back
as I sit on my throne above the clouds. Perhaps this dew may have a
healing power such as no earthly fountain holds. We will see."

Gravely the Eagle plucked a long feather, and dipping it in the dew
which moistened his plumage, applied it to the stiffened scalp.
Immediately it became soft, and could be fitted to the head of the Good
Hunter closely as when it had first grown there. The birds and animals
hurried away and brought leaves and flowers, bark and berries and roots,
which they made into a mighty healing balsam to bathe the poor head
which had been so cruelly treated. And presently great was their joy to
see a soft color come into the pale cheeks of the Good Hunter, and light
into his eyes. He breathed, he stirred, he sat up and looked around him
in surprise.

"Where am I? What has happened?" he asked.

"You slept and your friends have wakened you," said the great Eagle
tenderly. "Stand up, Good Hunter, that they may see you walk once more."

The Good Hunter stood up and walked, rather unsteadily at first, back to
his own wigwam, followed by a great company of happy forest creatures,
who made the sky ring with their noises of rejoicing. And long, long
after that, the Good Hunter lived to love and protect them.



THE COURTSHIP OF MR. STORK AND MISS HERON


This is a very good story to read at night just before going to sleep.
And if you ask why, I must only tell you that you will find out before
you reach the end of the tale.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was once a Heron, a pretty, long-legged, slender lady Heron, who
lived in the mushy-squshy, wady-shady swamp. The lady Heron lived in her
swamp all alone, earning her living by catching little fish; and she was
very happy, never dreaming that she was lonesome, for no one had told
her what lonesome was. She loved to go wading in the cool waters; she
loved to catch the little fish who swam by unsuspectingly while she
stood still upon one leg pretending to think about something a thousand
miles away. And she loved to look at her slender, long-legged blue
reflection in the water; for the lady Heron was just a little bit vain.

Now one day Mr. Stork came flying over the mushy-squshy, wady-shady
swamp where the Heron lived, and he too saw the reflection in the water.
And he said to himself, "My! How pretty she is! I wonder I never noticed
her before. And how lonesome she must be there all by herself in such a
nasty, moist, mushy-squshy old swamp! I will invite her to come and
share my nice, warm, dry nest on the chimney-top. For to tell the truth,
I am growing lonely up there all by myself. Why should we not make a
match of it, we two long-legged creatures?"

Mr. Stork went home to his house, which he set prettily in order: for he
never dreamed but that the lady Heron would accept his offer at the very
first croak. He preened his feathers and made himself as lovely as he
could, and forthwith off he flew with his long legs dangling, straight
to the wady-shady swamp where Miss Heron was standing on one leg waiting
for her supper to get itself caught.

"Ahem!" croaked Mr. Stork, waving his wing politely. "Good evening, Miss
Heron. Fine weather we are having, eh? But how horribly moist it is down
here! I should think that your nice straight legs would grow crooked
with rheumatism. Now I have a comfortable, dry house on the roof."

"Pouf!" grunted Miss Heron disdainfully.

But Mr. Stork pretended not to hear, and went on with his remarks,--"a
nice dry house which I should be glad to have you share with me. Come,
Miss Heron! Here I am a lonely old bachelor, and here are you a lonely
old maid"--

"Lonely old maid, indeed!" screamed the Heron interrupting him. "I don't
know what it is to be lonely. Go along with you!" and she splashed water
on him with her wings, she was so indignant.

Poor Mr. Stork felt very crestfallen at this reception of his
well-meaning invitation. He turned about and stalked away towards his
nest upon the roof, without so much as saying good-by to the lady.

But no sooner was he out of sight than Miss Heron began to think. He had
said that she was lonely; was she lonely? Well, perhaps he ought to know
better than she, for he was a very wise bird. Perhaps she was lonely,
now that she came to think of it. However, there was no reason why she
should go to live in that stupid, dry, old nest on the house-top. Why
could he not come to dwell in her lovely, mushy-squshy, wady-shady
swamp? That would be very pleasant, for he was a good sort of fellow
with nice long legs; and there were fish enough in the water for two.
Besides, he could then do the fishing for the family; and, moreover,
there would then be two to admire her reflection in the water. Yes; her
mind was made up. She would invite him. She glanced down at her
reflection and settled some of the feathers which her fit of temper had
ruffled out of order. Then off she started in pursuit of Mr. Stork.

Mr. Stork had not gone very far, for a sad, rejected lover is a dawdling
creature. And so she came up with him long before he was in sight of his
nest.

"Good evening, Mr. Stork," said the lady nervously. "I--I have been
thinking over what you said to me just now, and I have concluded that
perhaps I was a bit hasty. To tell you the truth, sir, I _am_ a trifle
lonely, now that you suggest the thought to me. And it would be very
agreeable to have pleasant company. I am ready, sir, to agree to your
proposal. But of course I cannot think of changing my abode. My swamp is
the most beautiful home that a maiden ever knew, and I could not give it
up for any one. As for your ugly old nest on the chimney-top, bah! I
cannot endure the idea with patience."

Mr. Stork was gradually stiffening into an angry attitude, but she did
not notice. "Now you can come and live in my swamp," Miss Heron went on
warmly, "and you will be very welcome to catch fish for me, and to look
in my mirror. It will be very nice indeed!"

"Nice!" croaked the Stork, "I should say as much! What can you be
thinking of, Miss? I to give up my comfortable home on the house-top,
close by the warm chimney, and go to live in that disgusting
mushy-squshy bog of yours! Ha-ha! That is really too ridiculous! I bid
you good morning." And with an elaborate bow he turned his back and flew
away.

Miss Heron flounced back to her swamp, mortified because she had left it
to propose terms to so ungallant a fellow. But hardly had she begun her
tardy supper when once more Mr. Stork's shadow darkened the mirror
before her, and once more she heard his apologetic croak.

"Ahem, ahem!" he began. "I hope I find you well, Miss Heron? I have
been--ha hum!--considering your last most condescending words, and I
find that I have been hasty. You are so good as to express a belief that
I should make a pleasant companion. So I should! so I should! And as for
you," he bowed gallantly, "one can readily imagine the charm of your
society. Come, then, Miss Heron, why should we not make a happy couple,
if we can only arrange this one little foolish matter? Be my wife: come
live with me in my lovely nest."

But at this word Miss Heron uttered a little scream and cried, "Be off
with you, you villain! Leave my premises instantly!" and she waved her
wings so fiercely that once more Mr. Stork took to his and flapped away
to his home.

Now when he had gone Miss Heron found that she had been bad-tempered,
and she thought how pleasantly they might have arranged the matter if
only she had been more moderate. So she spread her beautiful blue wings
and flew to the housetop where Mr. Stork lived, and, perching on the
chimney, she said,--

"Oh, Mr. Stork, I was bad-tempered and impolite, and I beg your pardon.
Let us be friends once more. Leave this hot old stupid house-top and
come live in my cool, moist, wady-shady swamp, and I will be your very
loving little wife."

But the Stork arose in his nest, flapping his wings crossly, and cried,
"Be off, you baggage! Don't come here to insult my beautiful house. Be
off, I say, to your mushy-squshy, rheumaticky bog. I want no more of
you!"

So the Heron flew back disconsolately to the watery swamp, where she
began to feel very lonely indeed. And the Stork, too, began to feel very
lonely indeed; and he was sorry that he had been rude to a lady.
Presently, once more he came flapping to the mushy-squshy marsh, where
he found Miss Heron just ready to go to sleep.

"Oh, dear Miss Heron!" he cried. "I made a great mistake, and said
things for which I am truly sorry. Do come to be my loving wife, as you
promised, and we will live happily ever after on the chimney-top, far
above the other birds. And I will never be cross again."

But the Heron answered, "Away with you! I want to go to sleep. I am
tired of your croaking voice. Leave me alone!" So the Stork flew away in
a huff.

But the Heron could not sleep, she was so lonely. So she rose, and,
flying through the still night air, came again to the Stork's high-built
nest.

"Come, Storkie dear," she said in her sweetest tone, "come home to your
dear wife's house in the wady-shady, mushy-squshy marsh, and I will be
good."

But the Stork pretended to be asleep, and only snored in reply. So the
Heron flew home in a huff. But the Stork could not truly sleep, he was
so lonely. So he rose, and, flying through the still night air, came
again to the Heron's home in the marsh.

"Come, my dear," he said. "Come home to your dear husband's house, and I
will be good."

But the Heron made no answer, pretending to be asleep. So the Stork flew
home in a huff. But the Heron could not truly sleep, she was so lonely.
So she rose at break of day, and, flying through the cool morning air,
came again to the Stork's nest.

"Come, Storkie dear," she said, "come home to your dear wife's house,
and I will be good."

But the Stork did not answer, he was so angry. So the Heron flew home in
a huff.

       *       *       *       *       *

And if you are not asleep when you get as far as this, you may go on
with the story by yourself, perfectly well. You may go on just as long
as you can keep awake. For the tale has no end, no end at all. It is
still going on to this very day. The Stork still lives lonely on his
house-top, and the Heron still lives lonely in her marsh, growing
lonelier and lonelier, both of them. But because they have no tact, they
are never able to agree to the same thing at the same time. And they
keep flying back and forth, saying the same things over, and over, and
over, and over....



THE PHOENIX


On the top of a palm tree, in an oasis of the Arabian desert, sat the
Phoenix, glowering moodily upon the world below. He was alone, quite
alone, in his old age, as he had been alone in his youth, and in his
middle years; for the Phoenix has neither mate nor children, and there
is never but one of his kind upon the earth.

Once he had been proud of his solitariness and of his unusual beauty,
which caused such wonder when he went abroad. But now he was old and
weak and weary, and he was lonely, oh! so lonely! He had lived too long,
he thought.

For years and years and years, afar and apart, he had watched the coming
and going of things in the world. He had seen the other birds created,
and had watched them undergo strange changes in form and color until
they became as they are to-day. He had seen the hundred bright eyes of
Argus, the watchman, set in the Peacock's tail. He had seen the flaming
heart of the volcano tamed and quieted until it became the flaming
little Humming-Bird. He had seen the Crow turn black and the Goldfinch
become a gaudy bird, and he knew how and why all these things had come
to pass. For centuries, how many he knew not, he had watched the birds
hatch out of their little eggs, flutter their feeble little wings, fly
away to build nests for their little mates, and finally die and
disappear as birds do, leaving no trace behind.

But the Phoenix did not die. He was of different clay from these
ordinary feathered creatures. He was the glorious bird of the Sun, the
only one, the gold-and-crimson one, who when he went abroad filled all
creatures with awe of his beauty and wisdom and mystery, so that they
dared not come near, but followed him afar off, hushing their song and
adoring silently. The Phoenix fed not on flowers or fruit or
disgusting insect-fry, but on precious frankincense and myrrh and
odoriferous gums. And the Sun himself loved to caress his plumage of
gold and crimson.

As for men, they also had adored him in time past, and had built temples
in his honor. They also were puny mortals, scarcely longer of life than
the birds themselves. The Phoenix had seen many generations of men
grow up, do good or evil deeds, and die, sometimes leaving grand
monuments upon the earth, sometimes disappearing from knowledge like
the very birds, leaving scarcely a trace behind.

In his time great kings had lived and reigned and turned to dust.
Prophets had grown hoary, said their word, and passed away, leaving no
echo. Poets had sung and had died singing. But the Phoenix, looking
down from the palms of his desert, saw it all and did not die.

All this had been his pride and honor. How he had enjoyed his strength,
his beauty, his wisdom, and the knowledge that he was honored and adored
by thousands who had never even seen his glory! But now, now all was
changed. He was grown old and tired. He felt his loneliness and he
longed to die.

His wings were feeble. Of late he had not dared to venture far from the
desert. He dreaded the curious gaze of the other birds, who would find
his beauty dimmed, and would scorn, perchance, the faded glory which
they had once held in awe. For years he had not ventured within sight of
men, and he knew that most of them had forgotten his existence, nay,
even denied that he had ever lived. He feared that there might not be a
single heart in all the world that thrilled to his name.

Thinking thus mournfully, the Phoenix sat upon the top of the tallest
palm. His plumage of crimson and gold glowed in the last rays of the
setting sun. His head was drooping, and his eye lustreless. The joy of
life was gone. Slowly the Sun sank towards the horizon, a red eye fixed
upon the Phoenix steadily. Suddenly across the gray waste of sand
dotted a beam of light, intensely bright. A single ray from that
watchful Eye seemed to flame as it reached the palm tree and pierced to
the very heart of the Phoenix. A thrill ran through his body. He drew
himself together, and his eye gleamed with new lustre as he fixed it
steadily upon the dazzling disk just touching the horizon. Dark stood
the palm against the desert, but the Phoenix was bathed in sudden
light. It was the signal, the signal for which he had been waiting,
though he knew it not. The five hundred years were ended. The mystery of
his life was about to be solved.

As the sun sank below the horizon, eagerly the Phoenix set about the
task which was before him. At last he might build the nest which till
now he had never known. On the top of the highest palm he would build
it, that it might receive from the blessed East the first beam of the
morning sun. Marvelously strengthened for the task, back and forth to
the ends of the earth his wings of crimson and gold bore the Phoenix
that night. For this was to be no nest of sticks and straw. Of precious
things must it be made, and well he knew where such were to be found. Of
silky leaves and grass interwoven with splinters of sandal-wood were the
walls. Then on the bottom of the nest he laid, bit by bit, a pile of
sweet-smelling gums, cinnamon and spice, spikenard, myrrh, camphor,
ambergris, and frankincense, with no meaner choice.

All night he labored, beak and talon, until the nest was ready. And as
the first tints of dawn began to streak the east, the Phoenix rose
once, high into the air, gazing with wistful eyes over the world which
he had loved; then, slowly sinking to the palm, he poised his gorgeous
body upon the fragrant nest. With wings spread wide, and eyes fixed
eagerly upon the spot where the Sun was sure to rise, he waited, waited.

At last the golden Eye appeared. As on the night before, one radiant
beam seemed to single out the lonely palm. One shaft of flame pierced to
the nest whereon the Phoenix sat. It was the final signal to the Bird
of the Sun. Immediately the great bird began to fan the sweet-smelling
mass with his wings. The burning ray grew brighter,--a pungent,
wonderful aroma of mingled fragrances filled the air. Gradually the Sun
rose, great and glorious, and as it advanced into the heaven a thin
cloud of smoke floated from the palm tree, and wound away across the
desert towards the east. Faster and faster fanned the great wings of the
Phoenix, until when the Sun shone full down through the palm tree top,
the whole mass burst into flame, in the midst of which the Phoenix
blended crimson and gold. High in the air rose the fire, diffusing
abroad all the sweet odors of Araby the blest. For a little while it
glowed, then gradually sank, lower and lower, until but a pile of ashes
remained at the bottom of the nest.

But lo! Was the Phoenix dead? What was this creature risen in youth
and beauty from the ashes? A bird like the Eagle in shape, but nobler,
larger, stronger, more gracious even than the King of Birds, a brilliant
vision of crimson and gold, rose like a flame from the nest, hung for a
moment above the palm, looking eagerly at the Sun, which baptized him in
its splendor. A new Phoenix lived in the world. Once more the ancient
glory was renewed. Once more youth, joy, and hope sprang from the
Phoenix's ashes and rejoiced in the centuries of sunshine before him.
Death was indeed worth dying to make this life worth living!

Slowly the young Phoenix descended to the nest which had been at once
a sepulchre and a cradle. Tenderly careful of the parent ashes which it
held, with lusty beak and talon he tore the nest bodily from the
branches, and set out upon his pious journey. He knew not where he went,
nor why, but the Sun drew him to the East.

As he sped, through the sky, a flash of gold and crimson, the lesser
birds gathered to wonder and admire. Flocks of them followed at a
distance, a train of worshipers, chorusing the glory of the new-born
wonder. He bore his head high with its burden, and his heart was filled
with pious joy. It was good to be a Phoenix, good, good!

At last he reached the place which unknowingly he sought. The Sun alone
had been his guide. To the city of Heliopolis in Egypt he came; to the
great Temple of the Sun, brightly adorned with crimson and gold, the
Phoenix colors.

There upon the altar he laid the precious ashes. And lo! There were folk
waiting to receive them,--many little children, and some elders of
childlike heart, who took the ashes and laid them reverently in the
shrine. The Phoenix was not forgotten; he was never to be forgotten so
long as the world should last.

The new Phoenix flew back to the Arabian desert to live his five
hundred years as each of his race had done, sacred, afar, and apart, but
not forgotten, though in his old age he might come to deem so. For in
the bright Temple of the Sun there are always folk of childlike sympathy
who delight to honor the eternal Phoenix of romance and mystery,--the
dear, undying memory of a time long past.



The Riverside Press
_Electrotyped and printed by H.O. Houghton & Co._
_Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A._





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