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ROBIN, OR THE LITTLE PREACHER.
ROBIN, OR THE LITTLE PREACHER.
DO you know the Robin, my young friends? 'Ah, yes,'some of you say; 'we have "The Babes in the Wood"; also, "Cock Robin's Death and Burial." Certainly we know Robin Red-breast.'
I am very glad to hear that you have these books, as they form a pleasing link of connection between the children of a past generation, and those of the present; but for all that, I am not so sure that you really know the little bird I speak of. It is one thing to know about him, quite another to know himself; and I assure you, ho is worth getting acquainted with, this brave little friend of mine, for he has a character of his own.
One thing that I admire so much in Robin is this, that he seems to rise superior to circumstances. I say seems, because we cannot suppose that he does so purposely, as you or I might; because we understand that such is the right way to do, but that this disposition belongs to the nature God has given to the Robin. For the little bird does certainly give us the impression, that he is willing to make the best of things, and take a cheerful view of life.
Long after the Cuckoo and Swallow have found a more genial climate than ours, and when the notes even of the Blackbird and the Thrush are no longer heard in the woods, then is the time of Robin's reign. On any bright autumn or winter day he may be seen hopping blithely across the woodland path, startling the passer by with his unexpected appearance, as he rustles the withered leaves. At such times he takes great pleasure in flying on before one; alighting every now and again on some overhanging spray, and there trilling forth his peculiarly sweet and characteristic little song; darting off when he has finished, but still keeping up; re-appearing when we thought he was lost, and looking back to his human friend with a roguish nod to see if he is being appreciated. And even when winter is at its darkest, and food for Robin at its scarcest, he will shake the snow from his sturdy brown wings, and, making a virtue
of necessity, fly boldly into some dwelling of man, there to eat the crumbs that fall from the children's table. And we don't envy the man or woman who could have the heart to drive him out.
Now, this quiet determination not to be overcome by adversity, but the rather to carry ourselves with cheerfulness, even in untoward circumstances, is surely a disposition of mind that we would do well to aim after,—you boys and girls, and we grown up folks too.
There, for example, is a little boy with a face of indolent despair. And why? Because his sum in arithmetic will not come right; and lie has come rather hastily to the conclusion, that there is no use to try any longer, for that multiplication and division must have been invented for the special purpose of tormenting small boys. Remember the Robin, my young friend, and don't give in till you have conquered the difficulty. No brave boy will let the difficulty conquer him.
Just one word of caution here. Robins sometimes fight with one another till both fall down dead; neither will yield. But we should expect that boys and girls know better how to direct their energy. Suppose now, Dick and Harry have been forbidden to venture on the iee, both are alike disappointed; but while Harry cheerfully sets himself to some other work or play, Dick continues to indulge his feeling of disappointment, and grumbles at everything. This mood of mind lays him open to temptation; and we find that when his companions pass by on their way to the loch, he is easily persuaded to join them in direct disobedience to the injunction of his kind guardians; while Harry is able, with perfect good humour, to reply to the taunts of cowardice, and so on. Which is the really brave boy: he who is determined to do the right, or the one that only perseveres in pleasing himself?
I leave you, my young friends, to answer these questions for yourselves, and hasten on to tell you of a lesson we may learn from the Robin, that of faith and trust in a Superior Being. The Robin, more Ill
ROBIN, OR THE LITTLE PREACHER.
perhaps than any other bird, confides in man. To illustrate this, and show you how in this way a Robin once became a little comforter, I will tell you a true story of what happened to a friend of mine.
It was in the 'leafy month of June.' The drowsy hum of mid-summer had filled all the air through the sultry hours of noon; bat now the evening is drawing on with its refreshing coolness, giving one such a feeling of restfulness as though Nature herself sought repose. The jaded-looking farm horses are slowly stepping homewards, with their heads full of thought of supper and bed. The plough-boy, trudging wearily by their side, is too tired even to whistle. The fowls are thinking of going to roost; while the blithe servant girls, so clean and tidy in short-gown and striped skirt, are going out and in with pails of foaming milk fresh from the cow, in all the cheerful bustle of farm life.
My friend, too, was weary with a long day's work, though of a different nature from that already described, and had just sat down to a solitary meal where many used to gather. Changes had taken place in the homo where her youth was cherished, and this was the eve of a general breaking up. Naturally her thoughts were tomewhat sad, as, with a melancholy pleasure, she dwelt on the past. Suddenly her ear caught a sound as of feet pattering along the lobby. Thinking it was a pet sheep that was thus softly stealing in, trusting to her good nature for permission to remain, she opened the parlour door to rebuke the bold intruder; but there instead was a dear little Robin just fledged, and so not yet quite at home in the world, outside its parents' nest. The lady took it gently up, and carried it back into the room with her, where it at once got upon the most friendly terms with its hostess,—perching any where and everywhere, and pecking at the bread and butter with true Robin-like audacity. By and bye—the two friends having finished their meal—Robin curled himself up most comfortably on the lap of his kind protector, and went to sleep while she sat reading.
On retiring for the night, my friend
extemporized a cosy nest for her small visitor in her hat; and there he again went to sleep quite trustfully, with his little head tucked under his wing in orthodox bird fashion. When she looked at him some hours after, he was still in the same position. But by and bye, as the early morning light seemed to creep along the valley, up the hillside, and in at the window, a feeble, plaintive chirp was heard. The Robin was unmistakably hungry, so the lady thought she would try an experiment. Hastily dressing she went down stairs, and, opening the front door, stept out iuto the open-air with the bird on her hand. She now carefully set it down amongst the grass, and stood a little way off to see what would happen. Very soon down flew the parent Robin from a neighbouring tree, and fed its offspring with the proper kind of food,—worms and such like. When this process had been completed, the old Robin retired, and back fluttered our little friend, again to be carried to his roost in the hat. This was repeated at least once or twice; but the last time the young Robin, like Noah's dove, finally disappeared, and was seen no more. His lowly mission had been accomplished; for by that time the busy world was getting astir, and my friend had no more time for sad thoughts, she had to be up and doing, all the more brave and strong for having had her musings diverted into another channel, by having to care for the little bird. And in the sweet hours of the early morning, as she stood watching the wonderful works of God, she might well claim to herself the promise—'Fear not, therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.' A.
A ND what do they say—what can they **. 6ay? exclaim our young friends. Who ever heard of birds talking!
Well, let me tell you what a careful listener has heard, and is still hearing day by day of the talk up in the trees; and if it does not come out in real words such as you and I speak, it really comes quite as near to them, as much of the boasted talk of parrots.
My listening began in January, which being a fine open month of mild weather, the little talkers began thus early in the year.
Staying at that time in the neighbourhood of the Golden Valley, Gloucestershire, and surrounded by park land, my early morning slumbers were broken by a cheery blackbird, who seemed to be the leading character of his neighbourhood, entitled to hold forth and call to order as it pleased him. 'Come then—come then,' was his first speech, as though summoning his comrades to leave their nests, presently repeated still louder,
and followed by, 'Come be quick,' in more vociferous tone and many times over.
I suppose the feathered company must have been rather lazily disposed (like some of our young friends, who no doubt sometimes find it rather hard work to leave their beds, on a winter morning). Be this as it may, on went the call until the whole company of the grove were assembled for early matins; but above all would be heard the one voice haranguing and lecturing his neighbours, whenever a pause in the song came—
'You did—you did—yes you did,' the last clause often repeated and winding up with a most emphatic 'You did,' which seemed to settle the matter for that time.
I suppose the blackbird must have had some rather fractious comrades to deal with; but anyhow he seemed to be master of the assembly, and able to command and call to order in fine style.
Now and then he seemed to fill in his talk with snatches of song, and sometimes
becoming so jubilant as to wind up with a hearty laugh; not a mere titter, but a good round peal, and so excellent an imitation was it, very often, that the listener could not help joining in the laugh too, right heartily.
Now, my young friends need not think the narrator was only dreaming; for in truth this bird-talk cost many an hour of morning sleep, before daylight, which could ill be spared; and notwithstanding the amusement of listening, he has many a time wished he could stop the vociferous talk going on. As the spring advanced there was a decided change in the style of talk, and some very tender tones were heard— 'Come then, come then,' 'Pretty dear, pretty dear,' the last so well articulated that it was perfectly ridiculous, joined to the coaxing tone in which it was uttered. A cold morning, or a touch of easterly wind, however, made all quiet, and I suppose the vigorous choir-master thought it wise to allow his fellows to keep their beds later. At any rate the listener was well pleased when this was the case, and his sleep remained undisturbed to a reasonable hour.
But when the cold weather finally departed and the time for the young ones arrived, then the bustle and excitement of the grove reached its height, and the listener was made acquainted with a variety of domestic matters going on in the nests. Evidently the young ones required no small amount of legislation at times. Perhaps one wanted the worm, when it was another one's turn to have it; or perhaps as they grew bigger they crowded and elbowed each other in the nest.
I can't say exactly what the fault might be, but surely enough I heard the reproofs, 'Naughty boy, naughty boy!' and presently, 'Oh, naughty, naughty, naughty!' And the bird-mother's voice went up and down in such an exactly suitable tone of reproof, that only very dull ears could have helped noticing it most plainly.
A few weeks later came the teaching to fly, and after various little gentle coaxing tones and exhortations, was heard quite plainly, 'Try again, try again.' (Ah!
which of us has not to do this, our young friends especially!)
'Try again, try again,' said the birdmother, still more energetically as she sought to make the young fledglings try their wings. Now and then it would seem as if some clumsy attempt had been made, or some young one had nearly tumbled, and then the drollest imitation of a long l.ierry laugh was sure to be heard; but, 'Try again, try again,' always followed.
I always noticed that the warm sunny afternoons were chosen for the lessons in flying, after which all hushed down for a snug siesta after the fatigue, until feedingtime came.
After this was over, during the warm evening sunshine, the tones again changed, and it was evident the young birdies were all quiet in the nest, and 'listening (as all young ones should), to what the mother had to say. So gentle and conversational were her tones, that one might quite imagine tales were being told; for who can say that young birds do not love tiles in their own speech, as well as little children do in theirs?
Now and then it seemed as if the mother broke out into a song, like a merry jig, to amuse her little ones; or perhaps the fatherbird did this part of the business, until at last all the drowsy little ones seemed hushed to sleep for the night.
Now, if our young friends doubt the correctness of what we have told, they must really begin to listen for themselves. If they live in the neighbourhood of trees, I think they will soon make it all out quite plainly, if they begin to listen in the spring-time.
For ourselves, we never hear this birdtalk without thinking of the Great Creator, who has made all for the happiness of His creatures, and filled our groves and trees with voices to echo forth His praises, and the wonders of His works.
'Our God doth teach them,' is the explanation of whatever excites our wonder or admiration in the creatures of His hands; and for the young it is a charming and wholesome recreation to learn to listen to the many voices in God's universe.