Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/113

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night—and the other was known as "The Chirper." To "make assurance doubly sure" that they would fulfill their engagement, and not disappoint me, their supper had been withheld from them on the evening previous to my visit.

True to time, just as the clock struck eight, and while we were conversing, there came from a corner of the fireplace, "Chirp, chirp, chirp," the same note being repeated several times at the rate of about thrice in a second, and gradually becoming louder. Presently a slight movement was visible about one end of the fender; and, after some hesitation, a little brown mouse came out upon the carpet, leisurely sniffed about for its accustomed meal, came close to my chair, looked wistfully up to my face, and I was introduced to "The Chirper." As a critic, I am bound to say that "The Chirper's" performance was of second-rate quality; but it was merely a kind of levée de rideau, and the principal artist was yet to appear.

We had not to wait long. At the conclusion of "The Chirper's" ineffective solo, a prolonged trill was faintly heard from behind the scenes, followed by others, each more audible than its predecessor; and ultimately "Nicodemus," the soprano, came forth before the audience, perfectly self-possessed, and showing no signs of "stage-fear."

The song to which the little creature gave utterance again and again in our full view was as sweet and varied as the warbling of any bird. It most resembled that of the canary, but the melody of the nightingale was occasionally introduced. Every note was clear and distinct, but withal so soft, so gentle, tender, and pianissimo, that I can only compare it to the voice of a bird muffled by being heard through a down pillow. In the room was a canary, whose cage was suspended in one of the windows. He had settled himself to roost, and his head was under his wing, but at the sound of "Nicodemus's" serenade he awoke, and listening attentively, and fantastically leaning alternately to right and left, peeped curiously down to the floor. I learned that mouse and bird were intimately acquainted with each other, and that the former frequently visited his feathered friend and staid to supper. Accordingly, while we looked on with interest and pleasure, "Nicodemus" climbed up the drawn curtains, entered the bird's cage, and partook of the seed—the canary showing no symptom of disapprobation or disturbance, but merely from his perch peering down on his visitor in a ludicrously quaint and odd manner. During his supper-time "Nicodemus" obliged us, from the cage, with several repetitions of his song, "The Chirper," down below on the carpet, occasionally coming in with a monotonous contralto accompaniment, and sometimes emitting a sound like the squeaking of a corkscrew through a cork. The two little songsters, having done their best to please us, were rewarded with all that mice could wish for as components of a feast, and, after selecting the portions they severally preferred, gracefully retired.