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THE BIRDLING FLIES AWAY
HE Ruggleses had finished a last romp in the library with Paul
and Hugh, and Uncle Jack had taken them home and stayed a
while to chat with Mrs. Ruggles, who opened the door for them,
her face all aglow with excitement and delight. When Kitty and
Clem showed her the oranges and nuts they had kept for her, she
astonished them by saying that at six o'clock Mrs. Bird had sent
her in the finest dinner she had ever seen in her life; and not
only that, but a piece of dress-goods that must have cost a dollar
a yard if it cost a cent.
As Uncle Jack went down the
rickety steps he looked back into the window
for a last glimpse of the
family, as the children gathered about their mother, showing
their beautiful presents again and again,—and then
upward to a
window in the great house yonder. "A little child shall lead
 thought. "Well, if—if anything ever happens to Carol,
I will take the Ruggleses under my wing."
"Softly, Uncle Jack," whispered the boys, as he walked into the
library a little while later. "We are listening to the music in
the church. They choir has sung 'Carol, brothers, carol,' and
now we think the organist is beginning to play 'My ain countree'
"I hope she hears it," said Mrs. Bird; "but they are very late
to-night, and I dare not speak to her lest she should be asleep.
It is almost ten o'clock."
The boy soprano, clad in white surplice, stood in the organ loft.
The light shone full upon his crown of fair hair, and his pale
face, with its serious blue eyes, looked paler than usual.
Perhaps it was something in the tender thrill of the voice, or in
the sweet words, but there were tears in many eyes, both in the
church and in the great house next door.
"I am far frae my hame,
I am weary aften whiles
For the langed for hame-bringin',
An' my Faether's welcome smiles;
An' I 'll ne'er be fu' content,
Until my e'en do see
The gowden gates o' heaven
In my ain countree.
"The earth is decked wi' flow'rs,
Mony tinted, fresh an' gay,
An' the birdies warble blythely,
For my Faether made them sae;
But these sights an' these soun's
Will as naething be to me,
When I hear the angels singin'
In my ain countree.
"Like a bairn to its mither,
A wee birdie to its nest,
I fain would be gangin' noo
Unto my Faether's breast;
For He gathers in His arms
Helpless, worthless lambs like me,
An' carries them Himsel'
To His ain countree."
"MY AIN COUNTREE"
There were tears in many eyes, but not in Carol's. The loving
heart had quietly ceased to beat and the "wee birdie" in the
great house had flown to its "home nest." Carol had fallen
asleep! But as to the song, I think perhaps, I cannot say, she
heard it after all!
So sad an ending to a happy day! Perhaps—to those
left; and yet Carol's mother, even
 in the freshness of her grief,
was glad that her darling had slipped away on the loveliest day
of her life, out of its glad content, into everlasting peace.
She was glad that she had gone, as she had come, on wings of
song, when all the world was brimming over with joy; glad of
every grateful smile, of every joyous burst of laughter, of every
loving thought and word and deed the dear last day had brought.
Sadness reigned, it is true, in the little house behind the
garden; and one day poor Sarah Maud, with a courage born of
despair, threw on her hood and shawl, walked straight to a
certain house a mile away, up the marble steps into
good Dr. Bartol's office, falling at his feet as she cried, "Oh,
sir, it was me an' our children that went to Miss Carol's last
dinner-party, an' if we made her worse we can't never be happy
again!" Then the kind old gentleman took her rough hand in his
and told her to dry her tears, for neither she nor any of her
flock had hastened Carol's flight; indeed, he said that had it
not been for the strong hopes and wishes that filled her tired
heart, she could not have stayed long enough to keep that last
merry Christmas with her dear ones.
 And so the old years, fraught with memories, die, one after
another, and the new years, bright with hopes, are born to take
their places; but Carol lives again in every chime of Christmas
bells that peal glad tidings, and in every Christmas anthem sung
by childish voices.