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Title: The Cockatoo's Story
Author: Cupples, George, Mrs., 1839-1898
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 Cockatoo's Story" ***

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public domain works in the International Children's Digital










       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: A GREEDY DOG

_Page 80._]


"I begin to be ashamed of myself--I really do," said a white cockatoo,
as he sat on his perch one day. Then he gave himself a good shake, and
after walking up and down once or twice, he continued, "I think it vexes
the boy, and I can see he means to be kind. And, oh dear, dear! I see
now I brought the troubles on myself."

"Kind!" screamed a small gray parrot from a perch on the opposite side;
"of course he means to be kind. You won't often meet a kinder; let me
tell you that, sir. If I could only get this chain off my foot, I'd come
over and give you as good a pecking as ever you got in your life, you
sulky, ungrateful bird you! And then Master Herbert stands, day after
day, trying to tempt you with the daintiest morsels, and there you sit
and sulk, or take it with your face turned from him, when hunger forces

"There is no need to be so angry, old lady," replied the cockatoo.
"Didn't you hear me say, I begin to be ashamed of myself? But if you
only knew how I have been used, you would not wonder at my sulks."

"Oh, if you have a foundation for your conduct, then I'll be happy to
retract," said Mrs. Polly, walking about her perch very fast indeed, and
ruffling up her feathers as she walked. "No bird I ever had the
pleasure of living beside could say I was unreasonable; so please state
your case, state your case--I'm all attention, at-ten-tion;" and she
lengthened out the last word with a shrill scream peculiar to parrots.

"But it would take ever so long to tell," said the cockatoo, "and my
feelings or my nerves have got the better of me at this moment, and I
really couldn't; only if you heard my history you would think it very
wonderful indeed;" and here Mr. Cockatoo lifted up his foot and
scratched his eye.

"A history, did you say?" said the gray parrot, pausing in her walk
along her perch, and looking at him over her back. "Pray, how old are
you, may I ask?"

"Well, I'll be about two years old," said the cockatoo, straightening
himself up, and looking over to the gray parrot, as if he expected the
news would surprise her greatly.

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Mrs. Polly; "two years old, and has a history! Oh
dear! my old sides will split. What a youth he is, to be sure, ha, ha,

"I don't see anything to laugh at," said the poor cockatoo, collapsing
into his sulky state once more. "I tell you I _have_ a history, and a
wonderful history too. I wish you would stop that chatter."

"Boy, boy, you'll be the death of me," said Mrs. Polly, not in her own
language, but in the words taught her by Master Herbert.

"Oh, if you are going to speak in the language used by these abominable
people who keep us here as prisoners and slaves, I've nothing more to
say," said the poor cockatoo, scratching his eye once more.

"Well, I won't then," said Mrs. Polly graciously. "I have been told it
is the height of bad manners to speak in a foreign language, if it is
not understood by your companion, so I shall confine myself, when
addressing you, to my mother tongue. And now, since you have told me
your age, would you like to know mine?"

"Yes," said the cockatoo, for he really was a little puzzled as to Mrs.
Polly's behaviour.

"Well, I'm seventy years old!" replied Mrs. Polly, drawing up her neck
as far as its limited length would permit. "And now you can understand
why I laughed, sir; for it did look a little absurd to hear a bird of
your tender years speaking of a history. Think what mine must be, and
what I must have come through and seen in my long life!"

They were here interrupted by the appearance once more of Master
Herbert, who brought a most tempting piece of cake in his hand. Going up
to the cockatoo, he said, "I suppose I needn't offer you this, Cockatoo.
You are determined not to be friends." The cockatoo put out his claw for
it, and took it gently from Herbert's hand, who could not fail to see
there was a marked difference in the bird's appearance.

"Good boy, good boy!" shrieked the gray parrot from her perch, quite
forgetting she had promised never to speak the English language, in her
eagerness to mark her approval of his conduct. "Now, if you really would
like to please Master Herbert," she continued in her own parrot tongue,
"I'd say the words he has been trying to teach you for days. Come, out
with it, old boy;" and again she relapsed into the English language.


_Page 12._]

The cockatoo looked into Herbert's kind eyes, and said as plainly as he
could, "Pretty Cocky."

"Oh, you can speak after all," said Herbert. "Well, now, that's jolly; I
thought you were going to be a good-for-nothing stupid creature. Come
now, say it again; but give us the whole of the word."

Assisted by Mrs. Polly's "Out with it, old boy," the cockatoo tried his
best, but could only get the length of "Pretty Cockat----" However,
Herbert was content with this for a beginning, and turned to the gray
parrot with a kind inquiry after her health; who instantly replied,
anxious perhaps to make up for her companion's tardiness, "Thank you,
sir; how d'ye do?"

"I'm glad _you're_ clever, Mrs. Polly," said Herbert. "Uncle James was
just saying to Lucy the other day, you were the cleverest parrot he
ever saw, and he has brought home dozens now." Mrs. Polly did not
understand all her young master said; but she knew by his voice and eye
he was praising her, so she said, with a pretty courtesy, "Thank you,
sir!" which made Herbert laugh very heartily; and when he further
requested her to dance, she did so at once, whistling a tune to herself
for an accompaniment. "Do you know, Mrs. Polly, you are to have another
companion very soon?" said Herbert, giving the gray parrot another piece
of cake. "He's a great scarlet macaw, and Uncle James says he is getting
him sent from South America. Oh dear! I should like to be able to
understand your chatter--I mean your own language, Polly--because you
could tell such a great deal about the different countries you have come
from. There's Cockatoo, he could tell us about the Indian Islands, and
Borneo;--that was where Uncle James brought you from, sir, when he was
on his voyage to Canton. He got ever so many birds of paradise, too;
for, luckily for him, they had just come over from New Guinea, and the
other islands where they generally stay. Oh dear! I do wish I understood
your language," he repeated again.

At this moment, a great humble-bee came humming in at the window; and on
looking up, what should Herbert see but a tiny fairy sitting on its
back! In a moment the bee lighted on the table, and stopped its humming;
and then the fairy's voice could be distinctly heard, as she stood up on
the back of the humble-bee, saying,----

  "Little boy, with eyes so blue,
  You are kind and you are true
  To the birds, the beasts, the flowers,
  Their language we will make it yours:
  Then listen to Miss Polly's speech,
  And hear what lesson she will teach."

With these words she waved her shining silver wand, and touching him
first on one ear, and then on the other, as she rode past him, was borne
away out of the window once more, on the back of the humble-bee.

Herbert didn't know very well what had happened, and thought he was
dreaming, till he heard Mrs. Polly saying to the cockatoo, "Now, sir, if
you sulk, Master Herbert will know what it's for."

"I say, Polly," said Herbert, "am I really to understand your language?
Did you see the fairy too?"

"Oh yes, sir," replied Mrs. Polly. "I saw her, and heard what she said;
and let me tell you, sir, it isn't every boy that receives such a
reward; but you must have pleased the fairy Fauna, by being kind to all
the creatures, great and small. Yes, she has heard no doubt how you open
the window, and put the bees and the blue-bottle flies out, instead of
killing them. I shouldn't wonder if it was that great spider whose life
you spared who told her. You remember your cousin Dick wanted to kill
it; and I noticed she guided the bee with threads from a spider's web."

"Well, I'm very glad," said Herbert laughing. "I must say the reward is
greater than I deserve, for it seems an easy thing to be kind to animals
and insects."

"It's not such an easy thing as you think, sir," said Mrs. Polly. "I've
lived seventy years in this world, and I've kept my eyes wide open, and
I've seen boys, ay, and girls too, do very cruel things to dumb

"Dear me, Polly, have you lived seventy years?" replied Herbert in much
astonishment; "I had no idea of it. Uncle James says parrots live to a
great age--he knew one that was a hundred years old; but somehow I
thought you were quite young. I mustn't ask you to dance quite so often,
for your legs must feel rather stiff at times. But what was _that_ the
fairy said you could teach me? Is it a story? I must hear it."

"Very well, sir," said Mrs. Polly, courtesying again, just to show how
agile she was, for she did not like the idea of her old legs being
thought stiff. "But before you came in, Mr. Cockatoo was preparing to
tell me his history, the history of his life. He is two years old,
Master Herbert, and as he fancies the world has ill-used him, I think it
would make him more comfortable to tell his story first, if you don't
mind, sir."

"Oh, very well," said Herbert, delighted to think that he could
understand the cockatoo also. "But I must not forget my lessons. I shall
go now and learn them; and in the afternoon, when you are in your cages,
I will bring the fish-hooks I have got to make, and while I do them we
can listen to the story."

"We shall be all the better of a few quiet hours," said Mrs. Polly, who
was very fond of a nap in the afternoon, especially after partaking of
rich cake. "Dear me, Master Herbert, one gets quite stupified looking
back into one's life. We'll lay our brains in sleep, sir, while you're
at your lessons. Good-day, good-day." Out of compliment, she finished
off with Herbert's own language, though had she said it in her own he
would have understood it quite well. But Polly hadn't lived for seventy
years for nothing.

In the afternoon the cockatoo's cage was placed at the open window,
Polly preferring to have hers on one side, to be away from the draught;
and when Herbert had got his box of hooks, and his coloured feathers,
and reels of silk placed conveniently, he bade Mr. Cockatoo begin his


_Page 22._]

"You said some time ago, Master Herbert," began the cockatoo, "that I
was brought from the Indian Islands; and I suppose you're right, sir,
though I can't say I ever heard the name before to-day: all I can say
is, I remember the place well. When I popped my head out of my shell, I
found other three heads had done the same, so I was the youngest of my
family. A sad circumstance for me, as you will see. There we lay,
without a single feather, and not even a particle of down to cover us,
our heads feeling far too large for our naked bodies. We had to be as
patient as we could, down in our nest in an old rotten tree, till the
down began to come; but it was three or four months before we were
fairly covered with feathers. Somehow, being the youngest, my feathers
were longer of coming than were the others; and when our mother was out
of hearing, my brothers would laugh at me, and make fun of my big
head--for it certainly was a very large head. This treatment spoiled my
temper, and I would sit and sulk by myself, taking a delight in refusing
to join in any of their sports when a fourth was required. I used to
creep up to the top of the tree, and sit trimming my feathers, spreading
them out and trying to make the most of their scanty appearance, till my
patience was rewarded; for beyond a doubt, at the end of the fifth month
my plumage was something wonderful to behold for beauty. As for my head
being large, it now helped to show off the splendid yellow crest; and
the awkward look was quite gone. Still my temper hadn't improved; indeed
I think it was worse, for conceit was added to my other bad qualities;
and when I would have liked to be amiable and join the merry flock of
cockatoos that lived in the trees near us, they would have nothing to
say to me. My mother used often to moan and vex herself about me, and
she did her best to keep as near me as she could, warning me that it was
not safe for a cockatoo to wander far from his home. And then she would
tell me of wonderful escapes she had made in her day, both from wild
animals and the snares of wicked men. Though these stories frightened me
terribly, I must own, making my crest stand up with fright to hear her,
still I used to beg her to tell me more, for it was often a change from
the dull hours I spent; and I must say my mother behaved in a most
amiable manner towards me.

"Then she would take pains to show us what kind of fruits to eat,
warning us particularly against the fruit of the cotton-tree, which,
though pleasant to the taste, was a dangerous one for taking away the
senses. Ah, if I had only followed her advice! Still, with my mother for
company now and then, my days were very happy, in spite of the coldness
and dislike of my brothers and their young companions. Indeed, living in
my lovely home, it would have been strange if I had felt anything else.
How often since, while sitting in this cage or on my perch, have I
thought of those happy days of freedom! Forests of woods and grasses,
bearing the most lovely flowers and the most delicious fruits, from the
edge of the sea to the top of the mountain. And then the clear cool
water, where we could plunge ourselves several times a day;--how
different from the small quantity Marjory allows me! We lived close to
the banks of a small river; and oh, it was so delightful, after plunging
into the water, to keep shaking my plumage, until the greater portion of
water was out, and then sit in the sun till I was quite dry! There were
no men on our island, else I should have remembered seeing them; and
nothing ever disturbed our slumbers, save the wild pigs that sometimes
went about routing and grunting, or a cry from one of our band.

"And so time passed on, till we were a year old, when one day we were
startled by hearing screams from a thicket not far off. On getting
along as fast as I could, I met my brothers flying from one branch to
another in the direction I was coming from, who screamed to me to
escape, for an enemy was at hand. One of them said something about my
mother, but what, I could not make out clearly; only I knew she was in
danger somehow. I was in such a hurry to get to see what had happened to
her--for I did love my mother--that I positively took a good long
flight, and landed on a tree some distance off. Then, what was my
astonishment to see a great large face, quite different from anything I
had ever seen before, looking at me from round the trunk! And there,
too, at the bottom of the tree, lay my poor mother, evidently dead. I
heard him cry to another man below to hand him up his bow and arrow; but
before he had got it I flew off once more, taking a longer flight than
before. An old cockatoo told me afterwards that very likely my mother
was not dead, but that she had only been stunned, as those men would
have a button on the arrow to prevent it from killing her. It took me
ever so many days to find my way back to my old home; and when I did
find it, not one of my old companions was there. Gloomy though my
disposition was, still I did not like the idea of living alone, and I
set out to try to find them. On my way I met an old cockatoo who had
been a friend of my poor mother's, and who like me had lost her
companions, so we agreed to go on together. I found her a most
intelligent companion, and she was very useful in showing me what fruit
was good for eating, for there were many new kinds. She showed me some
curious birds'-nests, and told me that men ate them; and a good
hearty chuckle we had over it, you may be sure. We regaled ourselves by
picking out the pulp of the banana, the palm, the lemon, and the berries
from the coffee-tree; and coming upon an almond-tree, we stayed under it
for a whole week. Then we proceeded on our journey. We must have
travelled miles, and we were beginning to despair of ever seeing the
flock again, when we heard a great chatter chatter, and in a few minutes
we came in sight of a great number of birds of different colours, in
earnest conversation.


_Page 29._]

"'Stop, my boy,' said my companion; 'we had better not show ourselves
for a little. They may be friends; but birds though they are, if they
see anything strange in our appearance, they will fall upon us, and may
peck out our feathers, if not our very eyes.'"

"After waiting for a little," continued the cockatoo, "and after
listening very hard, my companion explained to me she thought we might
venture to join the group; for if they weren't cockatoos, they were our
cousins the parrots; and in a minute more she spread out her wings, and
alighted in the midst of them. They were somewhat startled at first; but
on her explaining why she was there, they received her very kindly; and
she then called out to me to approach, for I had waited in a bush out of
sight, feeling a little shy and nervous. They were greatly delighted
with my appearance, and I fear they quite turned my head by their
praises. I know I gave myself airs, and strutted about in a manner that
would have vexed my poor mother, could she but have seen me. My
companion over and over again reminded me to beware of conceit, saying
that even in a cockatoo it was a dangerous thing to carry about with
one; and that though our cousins were pleased with me at present, they
would tire of praising me by-and-by, if they saw how foolish it made me.
But I was only a year old at that time, and had always been a little
headstrong and difficult to manage.

"As my old friend had said," continued the cockatoo, "my newly-found
cousins were not long in finding out my bad qualities, and they were
almost harder upon me than my own brothers had been; which caused my
temper to give way again, and from being a very frank, obliging bird, I
became quite a cross, ill-natured one. One day I had retired to the
woods, and was sitting sulking by myself in a bush, when the old
cockatoo came and perched herself on the branch above me. For some
minutes she sat looking at me without uttering a sound; but every now
and then she would shake her head, or raise up her crest in rather a
fierce manner. At last I couldn't stand it any longer, and I cried out
in a very angry tone of voice, 'Why, what do you mean by looking at me
like that? I would rather not be disturbed.' And I gave a very ugly and
angry screech.

"'Cockatoo,' said she, 'I am grieved to the heart by your behaviour.
Take my advice, sir, and mend your ways, else I fear something bad will
come of it.'

"'I will not be interfered with,' I said; 'and I don't care if you never
speak to me again;' and I screeched louder and uglier than before.

[Illustration: UNWELCOME ADVICE.

_Page 36._]

"I must say she was very good to me, though I couldn't or wouldn't see
it at the time; and seeing that I was determined to be sulky and
ill-natured, she left me. Two or three days after, a green parrot, that
my friend had warned me against, came and sat in a bush near me. He kept
chattering away to himself,--speaking about the hard way he was used by
the other parrots, and threatening to fly away and see them no more.
Now, I had noticed they were rather severe upon him, but I also knew he
was not a well-behaved bird by any means; but in my present state of
mind I couldn't help pitying him.

"Creeping along the branch, I ventured to inquire what was the matter,
when he poured into my ears a perfect shower of complaints against his
brothers and sisters, friends and companions, and even against his
parents. Two or three times I tried to get in a word of inquiry as to
whether some of his trouble had not been brought on by his own conduct;
for at that moment I remembered how gently my mother used to speak to me
when I used to rage against all the cockatoos in my happy home by the
bank of the river. However, it was useless to interfere with him, for
the mere mention of the idea made his rage something fearful to witness.
The sight of him called to mind, too, what my mother used to say to us
when we lay curled up snugly in our nest in the old tree, before my
brothers had learned to tease me. 'Children,' she used to say, 'a
beautiful plumage is all very well, but a happy-looking face, and a
kind, amiable disposition, are to be prized far before the loveliest
coloured feathers.'

"This parrot now before me was as lovely a bird of his kind as one would
wish to see; but his face was purple with rage, and his lovely feathers
were all ruffled and rumpled with passion, so that any kind of feathers
might have served him equally well.

"I cannot tell how it was," said the cockatoo, "but from that time I was
always meeting the discontented parrot; and we gradually got more and
more intimate. My good friend, the old cockatoo, did not hesitate to
warn me against my companion; but I was angry with her, because I
fancied she lectured me, having no right to do so, and treated me as if
I had been a perfect baby. Then one night, after a long conversation
with the parrot, I agreed to fly away with him, and seek our fortunes on
some other part of the island. It was arranged that we should set out
the next morning before the sun was up; for the parrot thought if he
went away in open daylight, his father, who was a very fierce parrot,
would interfere with our flight. I cannot tell you why I felt sorry,
after the parrot left me, at the idea of leaving my good, kind friend,
the old cockatoo; but I really was. She had been so good to me, and had
so much to tell me about what she had seen during her long life, and in
her travels, that time passed very quickly indeed. That evening, too,
when I had retired to the branch I had selected for my sleeping-place, I
overheard a conversation between a very large mother parrot and her
three young ones, that somewhat filled my heart with alarm. 'Be
contented, children,' the mother parrot was saying. 'I have known many
parrots come to an untimely end, because they were always wanting to see
what was beyond the trees and bushes of their own home. I remember my
grandfather telling me about how a brother and he had strayed away far
into the woods, and they were overtaken by the darkness, and were
forced to remain in a tree all night. But he had not fallen asleep long
when he heard a great shriek; and on opening his eyes, what should he
see but an immense ape clutching his brother by the throat, and carrying
him away up to the top of the tree out of sight. It was all my
grandfather could do to get his wings to carry him home, he was so weak
and faint with the fright; and never again did he wander from his


_Page 42._]

"Oh, that I had listened even then to the old mother parrot's wise
advice!" said the cockatoo, as he scratched his eye. "Ah, sir," he said,
turning to Herbert, "it's harder to bear troubles when they come upon us
by our own folly.

"The sun was scarcely up when the green parrot was beside me; and as I
had promised to join him, I did not like to hesitate or draw back now.
So we set out on our travels, without even saying good-bye to any one.
For days we travelled on through the forest, and a happy enough time it
was; for my companion was apparently delighted at the idea of his
freedom, and chattered away in a very amiable manner. But toward the end
of the third day we were startled by hearing strange sounds; and on
peering down from the branches, we saw a man. I did not know he was a
man at the time; but I found out to my cost what he was only too soon.
He had some dogs with him, and seemed to be waiting for something, for
he peeped cautiously round a tree every now and then, bidding the dogs
lie close. Then in a moment came a fearful crack from a gun he carried,
and something gave a great roar and a wild snort, and I nearly lost my
senses with the fright. It was all I could do to clutch on by the
branch, my legs shook so with fear; and as for my companion, if it
hadn't been for falling into a cleft in a branch, he would have gone
straight down on to the man's wide-spreading hat. The cry had come from
a boar, which lay dead or dying; and in a very few minutes the man had
fastened something to his legs, and began dragging him away, while the
dogs capered, and danced, and barked round them.

"You may well believe we felt no anxiety to continue our travels, for a
little. There were not many trees near us with fruit that we cared for,
except a cotton-tree; and I ate and ate, wondering why my mother could
have been so stupid as to say its fruit was not safe. But all at once I
began to feel my eyes shutting; and to rouse myself I flew on to
another tree, where my companion soon joined me. Though it was broad
daylight, I was as sleepy as if it had been the dead of night; and I
recollect nothing more, till, on opening my eyes, I found myself in a
dark, dingy place, and heard strange noises--grunts coming from under my
feet, cries from every side; and then such a number of strange-looking
creatures all about, and one quite different in colour from the others
standing near where I was tied; for I soon found I was securely fastened
by the foot."

"That was my uncle," said Herbert; "and he told me how he had found you
and your companion quite stupified with eating the cotton seeds; and
that was a Dyak log-house you were in."

"When I recovered my senses," said the cockatoo, "I had been taken on
board ship, and placed in a large wicker-cage. There were ever so many
more birds in the ship, but I did not see them then, and thought I was
quite alone. However, I had not been many hours in my cage when, to my
horror, a large monkey came and stared at me, putting his ugly hairy
face so close to the cage, that it was all I could do to scream with
fright. At first the men drove him away, but they were soon too busy to
pay any attention to my cries; and somehow I got to be less frightened,
when I saw that he couldn't get near me, though he tried ever so hard.
Round and round he went, tugging at the bars in vain; then he mounted on
the top, and peered at me through the openings, grinning in a very ugly
manner. Now, I had always been considered a bold cockatoo, and anything
but a coward; and so, when I saw his tail sticking between the bars, I
flew down to the bottom of the cage, and seizing it, gave it such a
bite that I nipped the piece quite out! Away he went, howling and
yelling; but though he showed it to ever so many of the men, they said
it served him right for teasing me.


_Page 50._]

"It was, no doubt, very dull, but I was greatly cheered by the company
of a little girl, the daughter of one of the passengers. She used to
come down every morning, and chatter away to me about all sorts of
things, not one of which I understood, except that she always called me
Pretty Cockatoo, as you do, Master Herbert. She knew, too, what I liked
to eat, and would bring me almonds, and fruit, and sweet cake, and would
stay chattering away to me while I ate them. Soon I began to weary for
her coming, and would sit counting the hours, and forgetting my wrongs,
while waiting for her to come again. I liked the almonds, of course;
but I liked to see her face, and hear her kind voice, far more. And I
think I was less sulky and unhappy during that time than I had been all
my life. It was the parting from her that upset me, and made me fall
into a gloomy and sulky state of mind. I well remember the last day we
were together. She came to me with a piece of cake she had saved for me
from her own lunch; and I seemed somehow to understand what she was
saying. I felt at the time she was asking me to be a good bird; but now
that I have known you, sir, so long, and am better acquainted with the
English language, I know she told me how much happier I should be if I
were good. 'Oh fie, Cockatoo,' I think I hear her saying, 'how naughty
of you to bite the captain's finger; you ought to be a good bird,
sir,--and he is so kind to you, and all the birds aboard.' It was all
very well for Miss Maud to speak of the captain being good; but I could
not forget he had taken me from my home, and made me a prisoner. Ah,
sir, you would not like to have your liberty taken from you; you would
feel it hard; and you would look upon the person who held you captive,
however kind he was, as a foe instead of a friend."

"And are you still longing for your freedom so much, Cockatoo?" said
Herbert, who could not bear the idea of any of his pets being unhappy.

"Oh yes, sir," said the poor cockatoo. "I often feel how delightful it
would be if I could get this ring off my foot and fly away to the
shrubbery; and how I should rejoice to plunge in that little pond where
you have your gold-fish."

"Now, I should like to give you your heart's desire, Cockatoo; but if I
set you at liberty in this country you would die. We have no orange,
lemon, or coffee trees in our garden; and though we have apples and
pears in plenty, you could not stand the long cold nights. But I'll tell
you what I will do: if you will make a promise not to fly far, and to
return to your cage when I call you, I shall let you free to fly about
in the shrubbery; and you can bathe in the pond, if you do not harm the

"Oh, thank you, Master Herbert," cried the cockatoo. "I'll come back at
a moment's notice,--I really will."

"Mee-a-ow, mew," cried Polly, imitating the cry of a cat. "Beware of
Miss Puss."

"You're right, Polly; that is very amiable of you," said Herbert. "Now,
here goes, Cockatoo, and I shall expect you to report yourself, as
uncle might say, in an hour's time." With that he opened the cage door,
and with a glad scream away flew the cockatoo.

"I don't know if I have done right or not, Polly," said Herbert. "I hope
he will return, else my uncle will be very angry. He thought Cockatoo
was the finest bird he had ever seen of the kind. Come now, Polly, you
promised to tell me your history after Cockatoo had told his."

"Oh no, sir, I made no promise," said Mrs. Polly, walking up and down
the perch very fast, turning at each end with a graceful and coquettish
air. "After such a wonderful story as we have heard, it would quite
spoil it to listen to such an old, humdrum affair as mine."

[Illustration: FREEDOM FOR AN HOUR.

_Page 56._]

"Now, Polly, don't be cross," said Herbert; "the fairy must have fancied
you could tell a good thing, else she wouldn't have said what she

"Oh, she had no idea I could tell a story," said Polly; "she only meant
that, considering my great age, I ought to be able to give you a word of
good advice. She only said it out of politeness."

"A fairy would be sure to know all about you," said Herbert, "and would
never say what she didn't mean."

"Ah, there's more than fairies do that," said Polly, pausing to shake
her head. "I once knew a little boy who said to his cousin, 'Oh, I hope
your mamma will let you come again on Saturday;' and then, when his
cousin was out of hearing, he turned and said, 'I hope he won't get
leave to come, he's such a cross-patch.'"

"O Polly, what a sly rogue you are! I see I shall have to be careful
what I say before you," said Herbert.

"I hate deceit," said Polly. "Ah, I knew a man who was well punished for
a fine trick he played; and about a bird of my species, too."

"Do tell it me, Polly, there's a dear," said Herbert.

"Well, I was once the favourite Polly of an old bird-stuffer," said Mrs.
Polly; "and great pains he took to teach me many songs and words of your
language, and very proud he was when I managed to say them. He was so
very fond of me, that after I had gone to bed, with my head on my back,
he would creep downstairs and repeat the words he had been dinning into
my ears all day; and just to get rid of him, more than to please him, I
used to say them correctly, and so off he would go to bed as pleased as
possible. One day a gentleman brought two birds to be stuffed, and I
heard him say they were trogons. Now, they are very rare birds; and
after the gentleman went away, my master exclaimed, 'I have long been
wanting a bird of this kind. I think I could manage to make one to
myself out of some of the feathers!'

"Now, the very night before, my master had come down with his red
night-cap on his head to teach me to say, 'Honesty is the best policy;'
because he wanted me to call out to the servant-maid, 'Who stole the
tea?' and finish off with the other as a warning. So I said under my
breath, but loud enough for him to hear, 'Honesty, sir, is the
best----;' and then screamed out, 'Who stole the----? Oh, fie for

"You should have seen how he started, Master Herbert; but he went on
with his wicked intentions, and actually kept back every third feather,
making a bird to resemble a trogon out of them. When he tried to get me
to say that about honesty, I never would do it again, but kept saying
instead, 'Oh fie! Who stole the feathers?' And the more he wanted me to
change the word into tea or sugar, the more I cried 'feath--ers.' He was
so angry with me about it that he sold me to an old lady, who took me
away in her carriage."

"But where did you come from first of all, Polly?" said Herbert. "Where
were you born?"

"I really cannot tell you, sir," said Polly. "I have heard the old
bird-stuffer telling people I was a native of Western Africa, but
whether that was true or not I do not know. All I can recollect of my
first home was sitting beside an old parrot like what I am myself now,
who, I suppose, was my mother; and on looking round, I saw a strange
animal glaring at me from the trunk of the tree behind. I fluttered and
screamed, but my mother did not seem to fancy there was any danger,
till, all at once, she was pounced upon by the animal, and dragged away,
and I never saw her more. Then I crept back into the nest, and lay
half-dead with fright, moaning and crying at times for very loneliness;
but she never came. And even now, Master Herbert--would you believe
it?--I keep thinking of that dreadful time, and I have to shriek out for
some relief to my feelings. You often ask me what I am crying for, but
you will know now. And you often wonder why I won't be friends with the
cat, and try to bite her when I get a chance. Well, the animal that
stole my mother was so very like a cat, that I cannot help hating
everything that looks like one.--But don't you think, sir, Mr. Cocky is
staying out beyond his time. I am not sure of him, sir. Remember, by
his own showing, he was an ill-behaved, ungrateful bird in his youth."

"Yes; but, Polly, don't you think he has some good qualities too?" said
Master Herbert. "I liked to hear him tell how he went to look for his
mother, when the rest were running away, leaving her to her fate. I
really think, if his brothers had been kinder to him he would have been
more amiable. And papa often tells me that if he sees a boy kind to his
mother, he is pretty sure to turn out a good man in the end. But tell
me, Polly, how you got on after your mother left."

"Well, sir," continued Polly, "as I sat looking out of the nest in the
tree, another parrot came and sat beside me, asking all sorts of
questions as to where my mother had gone; and when I told him, he stayed
and took care of me. I suppose he must have been my father. But before I
was many months older, I was knocked down off the tree, just in the
same way as Cockatoo says his mother was knocked down, and I was put
into a cage and carried away along with ever so many birds. I've
scarcely any recollection of living out of a cage, sir, or off a perch,
the time I stayed in my native woods being so short, and so very long

"And how did you like the old lady, Polly?" inquired Herbert.

"Oh, very well indeed, sir," she replied. "I had plenty to eat and
drink, and a very fine brass cage to live in, and a servant to attend to
my wants along with the other birds my mistress had. I cannot say I was
ever troubled with a restless disposition,--owing, I suppose, to my
having been taken from my native land when I was so very young,--and I
always felt very happy. My mistress took a great deal of notice of me,
teaching me a great many things, and particularly songs. I used to sing
a verse of an old song called 'Crazie Jane,' and another called 'The
Maid of Lodi,' which used to be a great favourite with my mistress; and
when I saw her coming in with some dainty bits from the dessert after
dinner, I used to dance about my perch, and cry out,--

  'I sing the Maid of Lodi,
    Who sweetly sung to me,'

which used to make her so happy, poor old lady. But I am sorry to say my
singing led me into some trouble. I used to be put in the kitchen at
night to benefit by the heat of the fire, and I used to be teased a good
deal by the servants to sing. Now, it was past my usual bed-hour when I
was taken to the kitchen, and as I always went to bed at sunset, I used
to be quite angry with them, and would say all sorts of impudent things
instead of singing. But, as they would then walk away with my dishes,
and threaten to pour water on me if I didn't do what they said, in
desperation I would sing my songs to get rid of them. One young woman,
the lady's-maid, was particularly tormenting in this way; and when Tom,
the footman, tried to teach me a new song, I could not help noticing she
was in a great fright. I pricked up my ears at once, and showed Tom I
was all attention. In a very few days I could say it quite correctly,
but no one knew of it except Tom. Seeing the lady's-maid preparing to go
out one day, and dressed in her very finest clothes, I took the
opportunity to ask her for a drink of water, my dish being empty; but
she was in a hurry, and cross at something, and instead of replying
civilly, she made such an ugly face, and flapped her handkerchief at me.
My mistress, who was going out too, had her back turned at the moment,
else the maid had not dared to do such a thing. But I had not learned to
bear insults quietly then, and was young and hot-headed, so, thirsting
for revenge, I screamed out what Tom had taught me:

  'How happy you shall be
    With your bold soldier boy!'

How frightened she did look, to be sure! Up she came to the cage, and in
the most coaxing voice said, 'Pretty Polly! would Polly like some fresh
bread and milk?--Oh, please, madam, wait till I get Polly some food! Her
dish is quite empty, poor, dear bird!' and away she flew to fetch me

"'Why, what's Polly saying, Emma, about a soldier?' said my mistress
solemnly. 'Now, you know I abhor soldiers.'

  "'How happy you shall be!
  Come with me--you shall see
    Your bold soldier boy!'

I sang out again, dancing about my perch in great delight at the
mischief I was causing.

"'Emma, what do I hear?' said my mistress. 'Have you still anything to
do with that soldier, after what I said?'

"And now I began to feel sorry for poor Emma, who fell a-crying, and
held up her hands in despair or entreaty. Then I thought to myself, what
good had my revenge done me? So hoping to help her out of the
difficulty, I called out, 'Tom, Tom, Tom! Come here, sir! Oh fie!'

"Tom was at the door waiting for our mistress, I knew; and being a
kind-hearted lad, he came in at once; and seeing Emma in tears, and
hearing the story, told he had taught me the song, and she knew nothing
about it. Though my mistress said she was satisfied with Tom's
explanation, she was still angry, and ordered poor Emma to take off her
finery and remain at home. After she was gone, Emma took my cage into
the garden, where I was often allowed to remain for hours. But I was
very much surprised when she took me out and allowed me to sit on her
hand, much to little Dido the Italian grayhound's indignation, for he
was always a jealous animal. I really believe she wanted me to fly away
then and there. But, as I told you before, Master Herbert, I never was
of a restless turn, and had no ambition to leave my home. Seeing this,
she gave me a great twist by the toes to put me back into the cage; but
as she pinched me very hard, I tried, in self-defence, to bite her, and
in the scuffle she broke a piece of my toe off, which has never grown on
again. But whenever I look at it I am reminded, if revenge is sweet, it
doesn't escape without something bitter too; and Miss Emma no doubt felt
the same, because I left my mark for ever upon her soft white arm."

"Thank you, Polly," said Herbert. "I see the fairy is right in saying
you have many useful lessons to teach; but I must now go and see what
Mr. Cockatoo is about. I do hope he hasn't flown away, for Uncle James
would never forgive me for letting him off, he thinks so much of his
beautiful plumage."

Herbert had a good hunt all over the grounds for the cockatoo, and was
just going to give him up, when, as he approached the summer-house, he
heard him chattering, and trying to say, "Pretty Cockatoo."

"Oh, you're there, are you?" said Herbert. "It's past the time I allowed
you to stay out, so come along, old fellow,--a bargain's a bargain."

"Just one more flight, sir," said the cockatoo. "My wings are so stiff,
I've only taken a very few."

Herbert having consented, away flew the cockatoo down on to the path;
but at that moment a huge cat, which lived outside, and which had a
lively young family of five kittens, under the summer-house, saw the
bird and made a pounce at him, catching him by the feathers of his tail.
Fortunately Herbert saw what had happened, and before the cockatoo had
time to scream, he had pitched his cap at Mrs. Puss, and then drove her
away with the branch of a tree lying near. Mr. Cockatoo was shaking with
fright, and was thankful to find himself inside his cage once more,
with the door securely shut. For some time after, when Herbert urged him
to take a little exercise, he refused, saying that he agreed with Mrs.
Polly in thinking that, as they were now in a foreign country, flying
about did not seem to suit his health, and that there were worse places
than his cage.

Some days after, Herbert's cousins came to pay him a visit; and as
Minnie was recovering from a severe illness, the sofa was taken out of
doors, and placed under the spreading branches of an oak-tree. There she
lay, enjoying the fresh cool air that wafted along under the branches;
while Herbert read aloud her last new book to her and her sister Grace.
Polly, who had taken a great fancy to Minnie, had requested Herbert to
place her perch close to them; for, though she liked to be out of doors,
her terror of cats was so great, that unless she was closely guarded
she preferred to remain in her cage. It was a book on natural history
Herbert was reading from. In the midst of a dry description of the
habits of the humming-bird, he suddenly broke out with----

  "'The humming-bird! the humming-bird!
      So fairy-like and bright
  It lives among the sunny flowers,--
      A creature of delight!

  "'In the radiant islands of the East,
      Where fragrant spices grow,
  A thousand thousand humming-birds
      Are glancing to and fro!'"

"Oh! how beautiful they must be!" exclaimed Herbert, pausing in the
reading. "How delightful it must be to visit foreign countries! Only
think of 'a thousand thousand humming-birds!'"


_Page 74._]

"Do you know," said Grace, "when I was a little thing, I used to lie
awake at night and think of all the different animals and birds and
fishes there are in the world, till I declare I got so frightened I
used to scream out. Nurse used to call it the nightmare; but it was no
such thing. I wish I could have thought of only the humming-birds--it
would have been lovely."

"Cheer up, Sam!" sung Mrs. Polly from her perch, in a very pathetic
voice, which set the children laughing heartily; for somehow, as Minnie
said, Polly always knew how to bring in her wise sayings just when they
were wanted,--and there was no doubt she was the very cleverest parrot
that ever lived.

It was during the visit his cousins paid Herbert, that the great macaw
arrived from Uncle James; and Herbert was delighted to find he was not a
wild specimen, as he had supposed, but quite an educated one. They
called him the "Great Mogul;" but though he was tamed, he had learned
so many bad words from the sailors, that Herbert thought it would be
better to keep him separate from Mrs. Polly and the cockatoo till he had
forgotten them. He was a very greedy bird, and ate so fast that he was
constantly dropping the best parts in his hurry to get some more. Dash,
a little terrier belonging to Herbert's cousins, was not long in finding
this out; and whenever he saw the boys feeding the parrots, off he would
go and seat himself at the foot of the perch. He used to sit up and beg
all the time, and evidently thought the pieces were thrown down to him
out of pure good-nature; for he was always exceedingly polite to the
parrots, and when he heard them shrieking at sight of the cats, would
bark and drive them away.

[Illustration: THE "GREAT MOGUL."

_Page 78._]

"I can't say I admire the appearance of the 'Great Mogul,'" said
Charley laughing; "he has such ugly bare cheeks."

"Oh! but look at his beautiful tail; and could anything be more
beautiful than those scarlet feathers?--and see to his blue wings! I
don't wonder he is considered the most magnificent of the parrot tribe."

"It is certainly a very beautiful bird," said Charley; "but I've read
somewhere about it looking like a richly-liveried footman, and whoever
said so was not far wrong."

Dash had slipped away when he found there were no more pieces to be got
from the macaw; and when Herbert and Charley went into the room where
Mrs. Polly and the cockatoo stayed, there they found him, sitting at the
foot of Cockatoo's perch begging for a dainty morsel. The cockatoo was
chattering away to him; but had Dash only known all the severe names he
was being called, he would scarcely have sat there so calmly. Polly,
however, who had a greater command of the English language, was doing
her best to restrain his greedy disposition. "Oh fie, sir!" she kept
saying. "Greedy Dick!--Who stole the sugar?--Leave the room this
moment!--Oh fie, sir!"

Dash did lay back his ears and look round, a good deal ashamed of
himself; but he could not tear himself away so long as the cockatoo held
that tempting morsel. The greedy dog knew that both the cockatoo and
Polly never held anything long, and that if he only had patience he
would get it in the end. Polly was calling out for the twentieth
time--"Leave the room, sir!--Greedy Dick!--Oh fie! fie!" when Herbert
and Charley entered.

"Why, what's the matter, Polly?" said Herbert. "It's not a good thing to
lose your temper in that way. Come, tell us who this greedy Dick is,
that you are always sending out of the room."

Charley was always delighted to be with Herbert when he fed the parrots;
for though he did not understand their language, as Herbert did, his
cousin acted as interpreter, and some of the stories were really very
entertaining. The other children were often there too; and over and over
again they vowed to be kind to all living creatures, in the hope that
they too would be allowed to understand the language of the birds.

"Yes, sir; I shall be most happy to tell you about greedy Dick," said
Polly. "But I should like to see the new parrot. Cockatoo there says he
is so beautiful that we are thrown quite into the shade, and he has
been mourning ever since."

"Well, at present I really cannot let you see him," said Herbert. "He
says such naughty words, that I am forced to keep him in a room by
himself; but if you like, I can show you a picture of him, or of some
birds like him in their native woods." Here Herbert ran off for his book
on natural history; and while he was gone, Polly entertained Charley as
well as she could till Herbert's return. Polly admired the picture very
much; but said, though his plumage was very fine, no doubt, she did not
like the expression of his face--though she dared say it was not a good
likeness. She said this out of civility, but all the time she thought
the "Great Mogul" a most unlovable-looking bird, and she was very glad
to find herself a gray parrot instead.

"And now, Polly, since I have shown you the picture," said Herbert,
"tell us about greedy Dick."

"It is a sad story, Master Herbert," said Polly, shaking her head and
moving about her perch very slowly. "Oh dear!--oh dear!" she continued
in English; "I'm really quite--oh fie! fie!" Then in her own language
she went on to say: "Dick came to stay with a lady I had the pleasure of
residing with, after I left my old friend who had the maid. I was really
a fine-looking bird at that time;" and here Polly flounced out her
feathers coquettishly, as if she were still a young bird. "I did like
living there; no servants ever were allowed to wait upon me, for the
young ladies of the house were so fond of me they fed me with their own
fair hands. Dick was their nephew, and a nice-looking boy,--clever,
too,--very; but he had one bad habit that grieved his aunts very much.
At all his meals he would keep stuffing and stuffing himself, just like
a little pig feeding for market. He always chose the daintiest dishes,
and would look so ill-natured if any of his aunts happened to say, 'Why,
Dick, you will die of apoplexy; you have been helped to that pudding
three times.'

"He never knew when to stop, and oh dear! though he was a good-looking
boy enough, how ugly he did look when he was eating! His Aunt Mary, and
my favourite mistress, used to say so often, 'Greedy Dick,' that I very
soon picked up the words; and when I saw him slipping into the press to
steal the sugar, I would call out--'Oh fie! fie!--who stole the sugar?'
His aunts used to tell him that even a bird had more sense, and used to
beg him to take an example from me; for I did not gobble up everything
I got at once, but put it in my tin dish till I was hungry. Ah! Master
Dick knew that very well indeed; and many a time had he slipped up and
stolen my piece of sweet-cake, or other dainty.

"One day his Aunt Mary came to my perch and said, 'Come now, Polly; you
shall have this nice piece of sugar if you will say 'Pretty Mary.' I had
tried hard for ever so long to say it, but somehow my tongue would not
twist out the exact words. But I was not pleased with Miss Mary for
asking me to say it for a bribe; she ought to have known me better, I
thought, and I sat quite silent, determined not even to say 'Pretty

"'Oh now, Polly, that is naughty!' she said, seeing my sulky looks.
'Well, you shall have it if you take it out of my mouth.'

"Of course I could not object to that," said Polly with a laugh; "So I
stepped on to her finger as desired, and took the bit of sugar from her
pretty red lips, and put it into my tin dish. Then, to show her I was
grateful for her kindness, I cried out, 'Mary! pretty Mary!' and she was
so pleased, she wanted me to have another piece of sugar as a reward;
but I would not have it. No; I made my little speeches for love, and not
for sugar.

"When I was sitting quietly thinking of things in general, and my
mistress in particular, Master Dick, who had been sitting at the window
all the time, and saw what his aunt had given me, and where I had put
it, came stealthily across the lawn; and putting up his hand took hold
of my piece of sugar.

[Illustration: PRETTY MARY.

_Page 88._]

"Now, I had determined in my own mind I would punish him the very first
opportunity; so I flew upon him in a moment; and catching hold of the
sleeve of his coat, held it fast with my claws. He tried to shake me
off, but I flew on to his head before he could get away; and I do not
know who screamed the loudest. Aunt Mary and one or two of the servants
came running out; but though they tried to get me on to my perch, I kept
calling, 'Who stole the sugar? Oh fie! greedy Dick!'

"The boy had been so frightened that he forgot to drop the sugar; and on
his aunt opening his hand, there it was, safe enough. She had seen him
from her room window take it out of my dish; and when I at last allowed
her to lift me on to my perch, she gave Master Dick such a beating that
he did not steal my sugar any more.--But, Master Herbert, there is
something the matter with the cockatoo," said Polly; "I hear him saying
some angry words to somebody in the garden."

On looking out of the window, Herbert saw his cousin Grace standing with
a young visitor before the cockatoo's perch. Jane, the visitor, was
calling him "Ugly Cocky! bad Cocky! ugly Cockatoo!" and telling him that
all the nice things would be given to the pussy cat, and everything
disagreeable to him. She was doing this for no reason whatever, except
that she once heard her brother speaking to a parrot in this manner to
see it made angry; and poor Cockatoo, who always considered himself a
very pretty bird, and had never been spoken to so unkindly before, was
certainly ruffled enough.

"Pretty Cockatoo," he said in reply, looking from Jane to Grace, who
could not bear to annoy the poor bird.

"Oh, don't speak so, Jane," said Grace; "Cockatoo is such an amiable,
pretty bird! He has been so good-natured ever since we came; and Herbert
says he is trying to be contented, though of course he greatly prefers
to live in his native woods, poor bird."

"But how does Herbert know the cockatoo likes that?" said Jane.

"Oh, because a fairy gave him permission to understand the language of
the birds," replied Grace; "and the cockatoo told him his whole

"Oh dear! how funny!" said Jane. "I wonder if the fairy would give me

"No, I don't think so," said Grace; "people must be very kind to all the
animals, both great and small, else the fairy will not give them that
power. But Herbert says, if we are very kind to the animals, even
although we do not understand their language exactly as he does, we will
get to understand a different kind; and by the expression in their eye,
and by their voice, will know when they are happy or sad. Now, you
always kill every insect and fly you see."

"I really can't help killing them. I wonder why they were made at all,"
said Jane.

"But, Jane, do you never think how displeased God must be if you kill
even a beetle?" said Grace. "I remember reading somewhere----

  'The poor beetle that we tread upon,
  In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
  As when a giant dies.'"

"I can't help it," said Jane; "I do hate beetles; and even if they do
suffer, I must kill them."

By this time the two girls had come close to the place where Herbert
and Charley were, and they heard what Jane said quite plainly. Herbert
was about to express his indignation, when Polly called out, "I'm
shocked! leave the room! murder! oh dear! oh fie!"

"You may well say so, Polly," said Herbert. "I cannot understand how any
one can kill one of God's creatures--more especially a girl."

That afternoon, when the children were busily engaged playing at blowing
soap bubbles, Jane stole out into the garden, and crossed over to where
Polly was sitting among the bushes. Of late Mrs. Polly had rather
enjoyed being set at liberty, and, with Cockatoo, would sometimes defy
the cat and her kittens. Coming up to her now, Jane began to tell Polly
she never meant to kill an animal or an insect again; and that she meant
to strive very hard, in the hope that the good fairy would let her
understand the language of the birds.

Herbert, who had been playing as busily as any of his cousins, began to
notice that the cockatoo was a good deal afraid of the airy soap
bubbles--especially when they lighted on his back--and so he took him
off his perch as quietly as possible, not to disturb the game, and
carried him away, to place him beside Mrs. Polly. By this means he had
overheard Jane's speech.

"I am very glad to hear you say so," he said. "I am sure if you would
only take the trouble to examine a little more closely the insects you
are so fond of killing, you would be surprised at their beauty. I will
lend you my book, if you like. I really cannot understand why boys and
girls take such little interest in natural history. Speaking of
fairies, you will read of them there in the shape of the
butterflies--what can be more fairy-like?--and I will tell you what
mamma often says: if we only knew what pleasure we could draw from
common objects around us, rainy days would be less dreary, and we should
have happier hearts and more contented minds."

"I feel you are right there, Master Herbert," said the cockatoo. "I have
felt twice as happy since Mrs. Polly persuaded me to make the most of my
present condition; and I ought to have known it by experience--having
brought all my troubles upon myself by cherishing a discontented

"Ah, children, children," said Mrs. Polly, with a wise shake of her
head, "when you come to look back upon life from as long a pilgrimage,
you will see that the busier you are, and the more good you do, there
will be less inclination to be discontented. And with such a beautiful
world around you, and so much to learn about it, and the wise lessons it
can teach, who would be anything but contented?--But I am keeping you
from your companions, Master Herbert, so I must wish you good-day, sir.
Good-day, miss," said Polly in English; "I'll now take a nap;" and with
that she laid her head on her back, and went off to sleep.

As Cockatoo followed her example, Herbert knew by experience no more
could be got out of them; and with a united "Good-bye, dear old Polly!
Good-bye, Cockatoo!" Herbert and Jane returned to the house and were
soon sending a whole fleet of soap-bells up into the sunshine.

       *       *       *       *       *



Arctic World," &c. Beautifully Illustrated with Fifty-one Full-page and
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THE INSECT. By JULES MICHELET. With One Hundred and Forty Illustrations,
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       *       *       *       *       *



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       *       *       *       *       *


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       *       *       *       *       *


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