Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/36

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24
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
UP THE CHIMNEY.

By FRANK BOLLES.

LYING flat upon my back on my bedroom floor, with my bead in the fireplace, pillowed upon the andirons, and my gaze directed intently up the chimney, I watched, hour by hour, the strange domestic doings of two of my tenants. The fireplace was so arranged, and its opening into the chimney so shaped, that I could see much of that part of the interior of the chimney which rose above me, leading toward the little patch of blue sky far away. The whole of the west wall of the black flue, and a little more than half of both the north and south walls, were visible to me. The surface of these walls was rough, having been daubed with mortar which formed undulations and ridges. The lower faces of these irregularities were soft, dull black, but the parts inclined toward the sky caught the glare of light from above and shone as though ebonized. About eight feet above me, as I lay in the second-story fireplace, something about the size of half a small saucer projected like a tree fungus from the northern wall of the flue. Its edges gleamed like silvery gelatin, and light shone through its fabric in many places. This fabric seemed to be made of dozens of small twigs matted and woven together in semi-saucer form, and held firmly in place by some translucent, gelatinous substance of a yellowish-white color. Masses of the same substance held the shallow nest in its place against the hard, cold wall of brick and mortar. Protruding from the nest were the long and slender wings of a bird, which was sitting snugly upon the structure, with her face turned directly to the bricks. The tapering wings crossed near the body, and their tips spread like a Y, under which a short, stiff, fan-shaped tail extended, for a part of the distance covered by the wings. These stiff tail feathers, kept spread all the time, terminated in sharp spines, readily discernible. Occasionally, as I watched, the sitting bird wriggled on her nest, and her wings moved restlessly.

Suddenly the column of air in the chimney was thrown into vibration, and a dull booming sound resulted. Something darkened the opening of the shaft, the interrupted light trembled in a confusing way; I was strongly inclined to get out from under, and found it impossible to avoid closing my eyes. Simultaneously with these disturbing events, a bird's voice in the chimney produced a series of rapid whistling or peeping notes, so mingled as to render the hearer uncertain as to the number of birds making them. A second bird had entered the chimney. Seen from outside, he had dropped into it, and, watched by perturbed vision