The Story of the Robins/Chapter 8

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1180176The Story of the Robins — Chapter 8Sarah Trimmer



Whilst all the business related in the last chapter was going on in the redbreast family, Harriet and her brother were walking home with the poor birds in the baskets. "Well, Frederick," said she to him, "what think you of bird-nesting now? Should you like to occasion the deaths of a number of little harmless creatures?"

"No, indeed," said Frederick; "and I think Miss Jenkins a very naughty girl for starving them."

"She was to blame, but is now sorry for her fault, my dear, therefore you must not speak unkindly of her; besides, you know she has no good mamma, as we have, to teach her what is proper; and her papa is obliged to be absent from home very often, and leave her to the care of a governess, who perhaps was never instructed herself to be tender to animals."

With this kind of conversation they amused themselves as they walked, every now and then peeping into their baskets to see the little birds, which were very lively and well. They entreated the maid to take them through the orchard, which had a gate that opened into a meadow that lay in their way, having no doubt of obtaining admittance, as it was the usual hour for their friend Joe to work there. They accordingly knocked at the gate, which was immediately opened to them, and Frederick requested Joe to show him the robins' nest.

Just at this time the young robins were collected together near the gate, when they were suddenly alarmed with a repetition of the same noises which had formerly terrified them in the nest; and Robin, who was foremost, beheld, to his very great amazement, Frederick and Harriet, the maid who attended them, with Joe the gardener, who, having opened the gate, was, at the request of his young master and mistress, conducting them to the ivy wall.

Robin, with all his courage (and, indeed, he was not deficient in this quality), was seized with a great tremor; for if the view he had of the faces of these persons had appeared so dreadful to him when he sat in the nest, what must it now be to behold their full size, and see them advancing with, as he thought, gigantic strides towards him? He expected nothing less than to be crushed to death with the foot of one of them; and not having yet attained his full strength, and never having raised himself in the air, he knew not how to escape, therefore chirped so loudly as not only to surprise his brother and sisters, and bring his father and mother to inquire the meaning of his cry, but also to attract the attention of the young Bensons.

"What chirping is that?" cried Harriet.

"It was the cry of a young bird," said the maid; "was it not one of those in the baskets?"

"No," said Frederick, "the noise came that way," pointing to some currant bushes; "my birds are very well."

"And so is my linnet," replied Harriet.

Frederick then set down his charge very carefully and began looking about in the place from whence he supposed the sound proceeded, when, to his great joy, he soon discovered the redbreasts and their little family. He called eagerly to his sister, who was equally pleased with the sight. They then stooped down to take a nearer view of them, by which means he directly confronted Robin, who, as soon as the young gentleman's face was on a level with his eyes, recollected him, and calling to his brother and sisters, told them they need not be afraid.

Harriet followed her brother's example, and delighted the little flock with the sight of her amiable countenance. She heartily lamented having nothing with which to regale her old favourites and their family, when Frederick produced from his pocket a piece of biscuit, which they crumbled and scattered. Harriet, recollecting that her mamma would expect her at home, and that the birds in the baskets would be hungry, persuaded her brother to take up his little load and return. They therefore left the redbreasts enjoying the fruits of their bounty.

When the happy birds had shared amongst them the kind present of their young benefactors, they hopped about in search of some moister food. Dicky had the good fortune to find four little worms together, but instead of calling his brother and sisters to partake of them, he devoured them all himself.

"Are you not ashamed, you little greedy creature?" cried his father, who observed his selfish disposition. "What would you think of your brother and sisters were they to serve you so? In a family every individual ought to consult the welfare of the whole, instead of his own private satisfaction; it is his own truest interest to do so. A day may come when he who has now sufficient to supply the wants of his relations may stand in need of assistance from them. But setting aside selfish considerations, which are the last that ever find place in a generous breast, how great is the pleasure of doing good, and contributing to the happiness of others!"

Dicky was quite confounded, and immediately hopped away to find, if possible, something for his brother and sisters, that he might regain their good opinion.

In the meanwhile Robin found a caterpillar, which he intended to take for Pecksy; but just as he was going to pick it up, a linnet, which had a nest in the orchard, snatched it from him, and flew away with it.

With the most furious rage Robin advanced to his father, and entreated that he would fly after the linnet and tear his heart out.

"That would be taking violent revenge indeed," said his father. "No, Robin, the linnet has as great a right to the caterpillar as you or I, and in all proba- bility he has as many little gaping mouths at home ready to receive it. But however this may be, I had for my own part rather sustain an injury than take revenge. You must expect to have many a scramble of this kind in your life; but if you give way to a resentful temper, you will do yourself more harm than all the enemies in the world can do you, for you will be in perpetual agitation, from an idea that every one who does not act in direct conformity with your wishes has a design against you. Therefore restrain your anger, that you may be happy; for, believe me, peace and tranquillity are the most valuable things you can possess."

At this instant Pecksy came up with a fine fat spider in her mouth, which she laid down at her mother's feet, and thus addressed her:—

"Accept, my dear parent, the first tribute of gratitude which I have ever been able to offer you. How have I formerly longed to ease those toils which you and my dear father have endured for our sakes! and gladly would I now release you from further fatigue on my account; but I am still a poor creature, and must continue to take shelter under your wing. I will hop, however, as long as I am able, to procure food for the family."

The eyes of the mother sparkled with delight, and knowing that Pecksy's love would be disappointed by a refusal, she ate the spider which the dutiful nestling had so affectionately brought her, and then said,— "How happy would families be if every one, like you, my dear Pecksy, consulted the welfare of the rest, instead of turning their whole attention to their own interest!"

Dicky was not present at this speech, which he might have considered as a reflection on his own conduct; but he arrived as it was ended, and presented Pecksy with a worm, like those he had himself so greedily eaten. She received it with thanks, and declared it was doubly welcome from his beak.

"Certainly," said the mother, "fraternal love stamps a value on the most trifling presents."

Dicky felt himself happy in having regained the good opinion of his mother and obliged his sister, and resolved to be generous for the future.

The mother bird now reminded her mate that it would be proper to think of returning to the nest.

"If the little ones fatigue themselves too much with hopping about," said she, "their strength will be exhausted, and they will not be able to fly back."

"True, my love," replied her mate; "gather them under your, wings a little, as there is no reason to apprehend danger here, and then we will see what they can do." She complied with his desire, and when they were sufficiently rested she got up, on which the whole brood instantly raised themselves on their feet.

"Now, Robin," cried the father, "let us see your dexterity in flying upwards: come, I will show you how to raise yourself."

"Oh, you need not take that trouble," said the conceited bird; "as I flew down, I warrant I know how to fly up."

Then spreading his wings, he attempted to rise, but in so unskilful a manner that he only shuffled along upon the ground.

"That will not do, however," cried the father; "shall I show you now?"

Robin persisted in it that he stood in no need of instruction, and tried again: he managed to raise himself a little way, but soon tumbled headlong. His mother then began reproving him for his obstinacy, and advised him to accept his father's kind offer of teaching him.

"You may depend on it, Robin," said she, "that he is in every respect wiser than you, and as he has had so much practice, he must of course be expert in the art of flying; and if you persist in making your own foolish experiments, you will only commit a number of errors, and make yourself ridiculous. I should commend your courage, provided you would add prudence to it; but blundering on in this ignorant manner is only rashness."

"Let him alone, let him alone," said the father; "if he is above being taught, he may find his own way to the nest; I will teach his brother.—Come, Dicky," said he, "let us see what you can do at flying upwards; you cut a noble figure this morning when you flew down."

Dicky, with reluctance, advanced; he said he did not see what occasion they had to go back to the nest at all; he should suppose they might easily find some snug corner to creep into till they were strong enough to roost in trees, as other birds did.

"Why," said the father, "you are as ridiculous with your timidity as Robin with his conceit. Those who give way to groundless fears generally expose themselves to real dangers. If you rest on the earth all night, you will suffer a great deal from cold and damp, and may very likely be devoured whilst you sleep, by rats and other creatures that go out in the night to seek for food; whereas, if you determine to go back to the nest, you have but one effort to make, for which, I will venture to say, you have sufficient strength, and then you will lie warm, safe, and quiet: however, do as you will."

Dicky began to think that it was his interest to obey his father, and said he would endeavour to fly up, but was still fearful he should not be able to do it.

"Never despair," replied his father, "of doing what others have done before you. Turn your eyes upwards, and behold what numbers of birds are at this instant soaring in the air. They were once all nestlings, like yourself. See there that new-fledged wren, with what courage he skims along. Let it not be said that a redbreast lies grovelling on the earth while a wren soars above him!"

Dicky was now ashamed of himself, and inspired with emulation, therefore without delay he spread his wings and his tail; his father with pleasure placed himself in a proper attitude before him, then rising from the ground, led the way; and Dicky, by carefully following his example, safely arrived at the nest, which he found a most comfortable resting-place after the fatigue of the morning, and rejoiced that he had a good father to teach him what was most conducive to his welfare.

The father, having seen him safe home, returned to his mate, who, during his short absence, had been endeavouring to convince Robin of his fault, but to no purpose; he did not like to be taught what he still persuaded himself he could do by his own exertions; she therefore applied herself to Flapsy.

"Come, my dear," said she, "get ready to follow me when your father returns, for the sun casts a great heat here, and the nest will be quite comfortable to you." Flapsy dreaded the experiment; however, as she could not but blame both Robin and Dicky's conduct, she resolved to do her best, but entreated her mother to inform her very particularly how to proceed. "Well, then," said the tender parent, "observe me. First bend your legs then spring from the ground as quick as you can, stretching your wings straight out on each side of your body as you rise; shake them with a quick motion, as you will see me do, and the air will yield to you, and at the same time support your weight; whichever way you want to turn, strike the air with the wing on the contrary side, and that will bring you about." She then rose from the ground, and having practised two or three times repeatedly what she had been teaching, Flapsy at length ventured to follow her, but with a palpitating heart; and was soon happily seated in the nest by the side of Dicky, who rejoiced that his favourite sister was safely arrived.

The mother bird now went back to Pecksy, who was waiting with her father till she returned; for the good parent chose to leave the female part of his family to the particular management of their mother.

Pecksy was fully prepared for her flight, for she had attentively observed the instruction given to the others, and also their errors; she therefore kept the happy medium betwixt self-conceit and timidity, indulging that moderated emulation which ought to possess every young heart; and resolving that neither her inferiors nor equals should soar above her, she sprang from the ground, and, with a steadiness and agility wonderful for her first essay, followed her mother to the nest, who, instead of stopping to rest herself there, flew to a neighbouring tree, that she might be at hand to assist Robin, should he repent of his folly. But Robin disappointed her hopes, for he sat sulky; though convinced he had been in the wrong, he would not humble himself to his father, who therefore resolved to leave him a little while, and return to the nest.

As soon as Robin found himself deserted, instead of being sorry, he gave way to anger and resentment. "Why," cried he, "am I to be treated in this manner, who am the eldest in the family, while all the little darlings are fondled and caressed? But I don't care; I can get to the nest yet, I make no doubt." He then attempted to fly, and after a great many trials at length got up in the air; but not knowing which way to direct his course, he sometimes turned to the right and sometimes to the left now he advanced forwards a little, and now, fearing he was wrong, came back again; at length, quite spent with fatigue, he fell to the ground, and bruised himself a good deal: stunned with the fall, he lay for some minutes without sense or motion, but soon revived; and finding himself alone in this dismal condition, the horrors of his situation filled him with dreadful apprehensions and the bitterest remorse.

"Oh," cried he, "that I had but followed the advice and example of my tender parents! then had I been safe in the nest, blest with their kind caresses, and enjoying the company of my dear brother and sisters; but now I am of all birds the most wretched! Never shall I be able to fly, for every joint of me has received a shock which I doubt it will not recover. Where shall I find shelter from the scorching sun, whose piercing rays already render the ground I lie on intolerably hot? What kind beak will supply me with food to assuage the pangs of hunger which I shall soon feel? By what means shall I procure even a drop of water to quench that thirst which so frequently returns? Who will protect me from the various tribes of barbarous animals which I have been told make a prey of birds? Oh, my dear, my tender mother! if the sound of my voice can reach your ears, pity my condition, and fly to my succour!"

The kind parent waited not for further solicitation, but parting from the branch on which she had been a painful eye-witness of Robin's fall, she instantly stood before him.

"I have listened," said she, "to your lamentations, and since you seem convinced of your error, I will not add to your sufferings by my reproaches; my heart relents towards you, and gladly would I afford you all the aid in my power; but, alas! I can do but little for your relief. However, let me persuade you to exert all the strength you have, and use every effort for your own preservation; I will endeavour to procure you some refreshment, and at the same time contrive the means of fixing you in a place of more security and comfort than that in which you at present lie." So saying, she flew to a little stream which flowed in an adjacent meadow, and fetched from the brink of it a worm, which she had observed an angler to drop as she perched on the tree; with this she immediately returned to the penitent Robin, who received the welcome gift with gratitude.

Refreshed with this delicious morsel, and comforted by his mother's kindness, he was able to stand up, and on shaking his wings, he found that he was not so greatly hurt as he apprehended; his head, indeed, was bruised, so that one eye was almost closed, and he had injured the joint of one wing, so that he could not possibly fly: however, he could manage to hop, and the parent bird observing that Joe the gardener was cutting a hawthorn hedge which was near the spot, desired Robin to follow her. This he did, though with great pain. "Now," said she, "look carefully about, and you will soon find insects of one kind or another for your sustenance during the remainder of the day, and before evening I will return to you again. Summon all your courage, for I make no doubt you will be safe while our friend continues his work, as none of those creature? which are enemies to birds will venture to come near him." Robin took a sorrowful farewell, and the mother flew to the nest.