| Among the Meadow People|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
|Delightful stories of field life for young children, relating incidents in the lives of birds, insects, and other small creatures who make the meadow their home. Each chapter features the story of one animal in its daily activities and interactions with the other animals inhabiting the meadow. Ages 5-7 |
THE YOUNG ROBIN WHO WAS AFRAID TO FLY
 DURING the days when the four beautiful green-blue eggs lay
in the nest, Mrs. Robin stayed quite closely at home. She
said it was a very good place, for she could keep her eggs
warm and still see all that was happening. The rail-end on
which they had built was on the meadow side of the fence,
over the tallest grasses and the graceful stalks of
golden-rod. Here the Garter Snake drew his shining body
through the tangled green, and here the Tree Frog often came
for a quiet nap.
Just outside the fence the milkweeds grew, with every broad,
pale green leaf slanting upward in their spring style.
the Milkweed Caterpillars fed, and here, too, when the great
balls of tiny dull pink blossoms dangled from the stalks,
the Milkweed Butterflies hung all day long. All the teams
from the farmhouse passed along the quiet, grass-grown road,
and those which were going to the farm as well. When Mrs.
Robin saw a team coming, she always settled herself more
deeply into her nest, so that not one of her brick-red
breast feathers showed. Then she sat very still, only
turning her head enough to watch the team as it came near,
passed, and went out of sight down the road. Sometimes she
did not even have to turn her head, for if she happened to
be facing the road, she could with one eye watch the team
come near, and with the other watch it go away. No bird, you
know, ever has to look at anything with both eyes at once.
After the young Robins had outgrown their shells and broken
and thrown them
 off, they were naked and red and blind. They
lay in a heap in the bottom of the nest, and became so
tangled that nobody but a bird could tell which was which.
If they heard their father or their mother flying toward
them, they would stretch up their necks and open their
mouths. Then each would have some food poked down his
throat, and would lie still until another mouthful was
brought to him.
When they got their eyes open and began to grow more down,
they were good little Robins and did exactly as they were
told. It was easy to be good then, for they were not strong
enough to want to go elsewhere, and they had all they wanted
to eat. At night their mother sat in the nest and covered
them with her soft feathers. When it rained she also did
this. She was a kind and very hard-working mother. Mr. Robin
worked quite as hard as she, and was exceedingly proud of
 But when their feathers began to grow, and each young
Robin's sharp quills pricked his brothers and sisters if
they pushed against him, then it was not so easy to be good.
Four growing children in one little round bed sometimes
found themselves rather crowded. One night Mrs. Robin said
to her husband: "I am all tired out. I work as long as
daylight lasts getting food for those children, and I cannot
be here enough to teach them anything."
"Then they must learn to work for themselves," said Mr.
Robin decidedly. "They are surely old enough."
"Why, they are just babies!" exclaimed his wife. "They have
hardly any tails yet."
"They don't need tails to eat with," said he, "and they may
as well begin now. I will not have you get so tired for this
Mrs. Robin said nothing more.
In-  deed, there was nothing more
to be said, for she knew perfectly well that her children
would not eat with their tails if they had them. She loved
her babies so that she almost disliked to see them grow up,
yet she knew it was right for them to leave the nest. They
were so large that they spread out over the edges of it
already, and they must be taught to take care of themselves
before it was time for her to rear her second brood.
The next morning all four children were made to hop out on
to the rail. Their legs were not very strong and their toes
sprawled weakly around. Sometimes they lurched and almost
fell. Before leaving the nest they had felt big and very
important; now they suddenly felt small and young and
helpless. Once in a while one of them would hop feebly along
the rail for a few steps. Then he would chirp in a
frightened way, let his head settle down over his speckled
 slide his eyelids over his eyes, and wait for more
food to be brought to him.
Whenever a team went by, the oldest child shut his eyes. He
thought they couldn't see him if he did that. The other
children kept theirs open and watched to see what happened.
Their father and mother had told them to watch, but the
timid young Robin always shut his eyes in spite of that.
"We shall have trouble with him," said Mrs. Robin, "but he
must be made to do as he is told, even if he is afraid."
She shut her bill very tightly as she spoke, and Mr. Robin
knew that he could safely trust the bringing-up of his timid
son to her.
Mrs. Robin talked and talked to him, and still he shut his
eyes every time that he was frightened. "I can't keep them
open," he would say, "because when I am frightened I am
always afraid, and I can't be brave when I am afraid."
 "That is just when you must be brave," said his mother.
"There is no use in being brave when there is nothing to
fear, and it is a great deal braver to be brave when you are
frightened than to be brave when you are not." You can see
that she was a very wise Robin and a good mother. It would
have been dreadful for her to let him grow up a coward.
At last the time came when the young birds were to fly to
the ground and hop across the road. Both their father and
their mother were there to show them how. "You must let go
of the rail," they said. "You will never fly in the world
unless you let go of the rail."
"Three of the children fluttered and lurched and flew down.
The timid young Robin would not try it. His father ordered
and his mother coaxed, yet he only clung more closely to his
rail and said, "I can't! I'm afraid!"
At last his mother said: "Very well.
 You shall stay there as
long as you wish, but we cannot stay with you."
Then she chirped to her husband, and they and the three
brave children went across the road, talking as they went.
"Careful!" she would say. "Now another hop! That was fine!
Now another!" And the father fluttered around and said:
"Good! Good! You'll be grown-up before you know it." When
they were across, the parents hunted food and fed their
three brave children, tucking the mouthfuls far into their
The timid little Robin on the fence felt very, very lonely.
He was hungry, too. Whenever he saw his mother pick up a
mouthful of food, he chirped loudly: "Me! Me! Me!" for he
wanted her to bring it to him. She paid no attention to him
for a long time. Then she called: "Do you think you can fly?
Do you think you can fly? Do you think?"
The timid little Robin hopped a few
 steps and chirped but
never lifted a wing. Then his mother gave each of the other
children a big mouthful.
The Robin on the fence huddled down into a miserable little
bunch, and thought: "They don't care whether I ever have
anything to eat. No, they don't!" Then he heard a rush of
wings, and his mother stood before him with a bunch in her
bill for him. He hopped toward her and she ran away. Then he
sat down and cried. She hopped back and looked lovingly at
him, but couldn't speak because her bill was so full. Across
the road the Robin father stayed with his brave children and
called out, "Earn it, my son, earn it!"
The young Robin stretched out his neck and opened his
bill—but his mother flew to the ground.
He was so hungry—so
very, very hungry,—that for a minute he quite forgot to be
afraid, and he leaned toward her and toppled over. He
fluttered his wings without thinking, and the
 first he knew
he had flown to the ground. He was hardly there before his
mother was feeding him and his father was singing: "Do you
know what you did? Do you know what you did? Do you know?"
Before his tail was grown the timid Robin had become as
brave as any of the children, for, you know, after you begin
to be brave you always want to go on. But the Garter Snake
says that Mrs. Robin is the bravest of the family.
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