| Dooryard Stories|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
|Around the dooryard nest all sorts of birds, including flickers, robins, sparrows, wrens, swifts, and blackbirds. These stories convey some of the drama that arises in the garden as birds go about the business of building nests and raising young. The author's cat Silvertip figures in a number of the narratives as do a number of other mammals and insects. Invites children to 'see how many tiny neighbors you have around you, and how much you can learn about them.' Ages 5-7 |
THE ROBINS' DOUBLE BROOD
HE Robins who nested on the west-side second-story
window-ledge had four as good children as you would
care to see. They were healthy nestling, brought up to
them without fussing. If, for any reason there came a
time when they had to go without for a while, they were
good-natured then also. Their parents had raised other
broods the year before, and had learned that it is not
really kind to children to spoil them.
"You must never forget," Mrs. Robin used to say, "that
your father is your father and your mother
mother. If it were not for us, you would not be here
at all, and if it were not for us you
 would have
nothing to eat now that you are here. Little birds
should be very thoughtful of their parents."
When it was bedtime, and the young Robins wanted to
play instead of going to sleep, their father would
often leave the high branch where he was singing his
evening song and come over to talk to them. When he
did this he did not scold, but he looked so grave that
each child listened to every word. "Your mother," he
would say, "has been busy all day, hunting Worms for
you and flying up to the nest with them. Now she is
tired, and would enjoy perching on a branch and
sleeping alone, but because that would leave you cold
and lonely she is willing to sleep in the nest and
cover you with her soft feathers. Do you think it is
fair for you to keep her awake?"
Then all the little Robins would hang their heads and
murmur, "No, Father."
What are you going to do about it?"
 would be the
next question. And then the little Robins never failed
to raise their heads and answer, "We will be good and
not say a word."
Mrs. Robin often said that there would be more happy
mothers in the world if their children took as good
care of them as her nestlings took of her. "They have
to be reminded," she said, "because they are so young,
but when they have been told the right thing to do,
they always do it." The Catbird, however, who was a
very shrewd fellow, said he thought it was not so much
what their father said to them that made them good, as
what they saw him do. He was always kind to Mrs. Robin
himself, you know, and spoke gently, and left the
biggest Worms for her to eat, so his children felt sure
that this was the right way.
Mrs. Robin, too, was always polite to her husband. She
spoke pleasantly of him to the children, and if he had
 faults she did not talk about them. The
little Robins were certain that they had the finest
father in the world, and meant to be exactly like him
when they grew up. That is, the sons did. The
daughters meant to be like their mother.
When the little Robins' tail-feathers were about as
long as fir needles, they were surprised to find a
beautiful blue egg in the nest beside them. "Is it for
us to play with?" they asked their mother. "Did we
come out of eggs like that? Why is this here?"
Then their wise and gentle mother stood on the ledge
beside the nest and talked to them. She was a busy
bird, you know, but she always said that it took no
longer to answer children's questions than it did to
tell them over and over again to keep still.
"Each of you came out of just such an egg as that," she
said. "This one is here because I had it ready to lay,
 was no other good place to put it. You
may play with it very carefully, and be sure not to
push it out of the nest, for then it would fall on the
porch roof and break. You may take turns lying next to
it, and before long I will lay another, so you can all
be next to an egg at the same time."
"What are you going to do with them?" asked the Oldest
Nestling. "What will become of them when we are old
enough to leave the nest?"
"That is the loveliest part of it," answered their
mother. "I shall hatch these eggs, too, and then you
can have baby brothers and sisters, perhaps both."
"But who will take care of us?" asked the Youngest
Nestling, and she looked as though she wanted to cry
when she spoke.
"Don't you worry, little Robin," said her mother
cheerfully. "There are always enough people to do the
things which have to be done, if they will only keep
 sweet and not make a fuss. We will all help each
other and everything will come out beautifully. This
is the first time I ever laid the eggs for the second
brood before the first brood was out of the nest, but
we shall manage. Besides," she added, "I believe you
are the first little Robins I ever knew who had a
chance to help hatch eggs before being grown up. Won't
that be fine?"
Mrs. Robin looked so bright and happy as she spoke that
her children were sure it was going to be great fun,
and one and all chirped back, "Oh, let's! We'll hatch
them just as hard as we can."
Mrs. Robin fixed them with the new egg in the middle of
the nest, and went off to help their father find dinner
for them. After they had been fed with about fifteen
Worms, she laid the second egg. "That will be all for
this brood," she said, "and perhaps it is just as well.
Too many eggs would crowd the nest."
 Then she told them what wonderful things eggs
are; how what is going to be the young bird is at first
only a tiny, soft, stringy thing, floating around
inside the shell, with a ball of yellow food-stuff in
the middle of the shell and clear white stuff all
around it. She told them, too, how this little thing
which is to be a bird floats on top of the other stuff,
and so is always next to the mother's breast as she
sits over it on the nest. "It is the being warm for a
long time and all the time that changes it into a bird
strong enough to break the shell. You will remember
that, won't you," said she, "and keep the top side of
the eggs warm when I am not here?"
All the little birds were sure that they could, and
very proud to think that she would trust them so.
Perhaps if she had said, ‘Now, don't you let me catch
you leaving those eggs uncovered!" they might have
murmured to each other,
 "What do we care about
her old eggs? Let them get cold!" It is a great pity,
you know, when people in families get to talking in
that way. And the worst of it is that every time one
person speaks so, another is almost sure to answer in
the same way.
Now that Robin family were all care-takers, and what
Mrs. Robin flew up with choice Worms for her children,
she gave them loving glances, and said, "You are such
helpers! I don't know how I could get along without
Mr. Robin, too, remarked every now and then that it
made him happy to see how thoughtful they were of their
mother. After he had said these things, the children
always stretched themselves, so that they might look as
big as they felt.
With four growing children besides the two eggs in the
nest, it soon became very much crowded. Mr. and Mrs.
Robin talked it over while hunting in the
gar-  den, where the Hired Man was spading. After they had
fed the children whole billfuls of Worms, which they
had found wriggling there on top of the ground, Mr.
Robin said: "Now, if you will keep very still and not
interrupt, I will tell you some good news."
When all was quiet, he said: "I shall take you out
into the great world tomorrow. I shall teach you to
fly, to perch on branches, and to hunt for yourselves."
"Oh, goody!" cried all the little Robins together.
Then they remembered how stubby their wings and tails
still were, and wondered how they could ever get to the
ground. "Won't we tumble some?" they asked doubtfully.
"You may tumble some," answered their father, "but is
n't it worth a tumble to get out into the world?
Mother will stay up here and finish hatching the eggs
while I am with you, and we will stay
 near enough
for her to see how fast you learn."
You can imagine how excited the young Robins were then.
They talked so much that day that not one of them took
a nap, and if their mother had not insisted upon it,
they would not have quieted down at sunset.
Early the next morning their parents helped them to the
ground. First they tumbled, fluttered, and sprawled to
the porch roof below the nest. Then when they had
rested, they tumbled, fluttered, and sprawled to the
tops of the sweet briar bushes underneath. There they
clung until after breakfast, while their father hunted
for them and their mother sat on the eggs above. If
they had not been taught to mind, it would have been
much harder. As it was, when their parents said,
"Flutter your wings! Get ready! Fly!" they did the
very best they could at once. And that is exactly the
 way children must do if they wish to grow strong
and help themselves.
There never were such plump, cheerful, and obedient
little Robins as these. Their father had them stay in
the lower branches of the fir tree, within sight of the
nest, and the mother watched them while he was hunting,
and called down comforting things to them. When they
had tumbles in trying to fly, she would say: "Never
mind! Pick yourselves up! Robins must tumble before
they can fly. After awhile, when I have finished
hatching these eggs, you can come right up to this
window ledge and see the babies."
Then the little Robins would try harder than ever, for
they were already proud of the babies to be hatched,
since they had helped keep the eggs warm.
Sometimes Silvertip would stroll around the corner of
the house, and Mrs. Robin would be so scared that she
could hardly scream "Cat!" Yet she always managed
 to do it in some way, and all the other Robins
would help her. Then the Lady, who was almost always
writing or sewing at the sitting-room window, within
sight of the nest, would drop her work and run out the
nearest door, pick up Silvertip, and carry him inside.
There he would stand, with his nose pressed against the
screen and his tail switching angrily.
The Lady seemed to understand Robins. When they only
cried "Trouble!" she did not move, knowing it was
something she could not help, but when they cried,
"Cat! Cat!" she always hurried out. Sometimes, though,
it was the Gentleman who came, and sometimes the Little
Boy. Mrs. Robin often said that she was sure she could
never raise children so well in any other place as
here, in spite of Silvertip's being around.
Every day the young Robins were larger and stronger,
and their tail-feathers were better grown. When at
last the joyful
 time came for the two babies to
chip the shell, every one of the four children managed
to get up to the window ledge to see them. It was a
hard trip, and they had to try and try again, and rest
between times. They were not all there at once, but
oh, it was a happy, happy time!
The mother told the babies how their big brothers and
sisters had helped hatch them, and the father told the
mother how beautifully she had managed everything.
Then the mother told him how faithfully he had worked,
and they both told the older children how proud they
were of them. Everybody said lovely things to
everybody else, and the best part of it was that all
these lovely things were true.
The babies were too little to talk much, but they
stretched their necks up lovingly and sleepily to all
the family, and acted as though they really understood
how many people had been loving and working for them,
even before they were hatched.
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