THE BIRD'S NEST
AROL herself knew nothing of motherly tears and fatherly
anxieties; she lived on peacefully in the room where she was
But you never would have known that room; for Mr. Bird had a
great deal of money, and though he felt sometimes as if he wanted
to throw it all in the sea, since it could not buy a strong
body for his little girl, yet he was glad to make the place she
lived in just as beautiful as it could be.
The room had been extended by the building of a large addition
that hung out over the garden below, and was so filled with
windows that it might have been a conservatory. The ones on the
side were thus still nearer the little Church of Our Saviour than
they used to be; those in front looked out on the beautiful
harbor, and those in the back commanded a view of nothing in
particular but a narrow alley;
 nevertheless, they were
pleasantest of all to Carol, for the Ruggles family lived in the
alley, and the nine little, middle-sized, and big Ruggles children
were the source of inexhaustible interest.
The shutters could all be opened and Carol could take a real
sun-bath in this lovely glass house, or they could all be closed
when the dear head ached or the dear eyes were tired. The carpet
was of soft gray, with clusters of green bay and holly leaves.
The furniture was of white wood, on which an artist had painted
snow scenes and Christmas trees and groups of merry children
ringing bells and singing carols.
Donald had made a pretty, polished shelf and screwed it on to the
outside of the foot-board, and the boys always kept this full of
blooming plants, which they changed from time to time; the
head-board, too, had a bracket on either side, where there were
pots of maiden-hair ferns.
Love-birds and canaries hung in their golden houses in the
windows, and they, poor caged things, could hop as far from their
wooden perches as Carol could venture from her little white bed.
On one side of the room was a bookcase filled with hundreds—yes,
I mean it—with hundreds and hundreds of books; books with
 books without; books with black and white
outline sketches, books with none at all; books with verses,
books with stories; books that made children laugh, and some,
only a few, that
made them cry; books with words of one syllable for tiny boys and
girls, and books with words of fearful length to puzzle wise
This was Carol's "Circulating Library." Every Saturday she chose
ten books, jotting their names down in a little diary; into these
she slipped cards that said:—
"Please keep this book two weeks and read it.
Then Mrs. Bird stepped into her carriage, and took the ten books
to the Children's Hospital, and brought home ten others that she
had left there the fortnight before.
This was a source of great happiness; for some of the Hospital
children that were old enough to print or write, and were strong
enough to do it, wrote Carol sweet little letters about the
books, and she answered them, and they grew to be friends. (It
is very funny, but you do not always have to see people to love
them. Just think about it, and tell if it is n't so.)
There was a high wainscoting of wood about the
 room, and on top
of this, in a narrow gilt framework, ran a row of illuminated
pictures, illustrating fairy tales, all in dull blue and gold and
scarlet and silver. From the door to the
closet there was the story of "The Fair One with Golden Locks;"
from closet to bookcase, ran "Puss in Boots;" from bookcase to
fireplace, was "Jack the Giant-killer;" and on the other side of
the room were "Hop o' my Thumb," "The Sleeping Beauty," and
Then there was a great closet full of beautiful things to
wear, but they were all dressing-gowns and slippers and shawls;
and there were drawers full of toys and games; but they were such
as you could play with on your lap. There were no ninepins, nor
balls, nor bows and arrows, nor bean bags, nor tennis rackets;
but, after all, other children needed these more than Carol
Bird, for she was always happy and contented whatever she had or
whatever she lacked; and after the room had been made so lovely
for her, on her eighth Christmas, she always called herself, in
fun, a "Bird of Paradise."
On these particular December days she was happier than usual, for
Uncle Jack was coming from England to spend the holidays. Dear,
funny, jolly, loving, wise Uncle Jack, who came every two or
three years, and brought so much joy with him that the world
 looked as black as a thunder-cloud for a week after he went away
The mail had brought this letter:—
LONDON, November 28, 188-.
Wish you merry Christmas, you dearest birdlings in America!
Preen your feathers, and stretch the Birds' nest a trifle, if you
please, and let Uncle Jack in for the holidays. I am coming with
such a trunk full of treasures that you'll have to borrow the
stockings of Barnum's Giant and Giantess; I am coming to squeeze
a certain little lady-bird until she cries for mercy; I am coming
to see if I can find a boy to take care of a black pony that I
bought lately. It's the strangest thing I ever knew; I've hunted
all over Europe, and can't find a boy to suit me! I'll tell you
why. I've set my heart on finding one with a dimple in his chin,
because this pony particularly likes dimples! ["Hurrah!" cried
Hugh; "bless my dear dimple; I'll never be ashamed of it again."]
Please drop a note to the clerk of the weather, and have a good,
rousing snow-storm—say on the twenty-second. None of your meek,
gentle, nonsensical, shilly-shallying snow-storms; not the sort
where the flakes float lazily down from the sky as if they did n't
care whether they ever got here or not and then melt away as
soon as they touch the earth, but a regular business-like
whizzing, whirring, blurring, cutting snow-storm, warranted to
freeze and stay on!
I should like rather a LARGE Christmas tree, if it's convenient:
not one of those "sprigs," five or six feet high, that you used
to have three or four years ago, when the birdlings were not
fairly feathered out; but a tree of some size. Set it
 up in the
garret, if necessary, and then we can cut a hole in the roof if
the tree chances to be too high for the room.
Tell Bridget to begin to fatten a turkey. Tell her that by the
twentieth of December that turkey must not be able to stand on
its legs for fat, and then on the next three days she must allow
it to recline easily on its side, and stuff it to bursting. (One
ounce of stuffing beforehand is worth a pound afterwards.)
The pudding must be unusually huge, and darkly, deeply,
lugubriously black in color. It must be stuck so full of plums
that the pudding itself will ooze out into the pan and not be
brought on to the table at all. I expect to be there by the
twentieth, to manage these little things myself,—remembering it is the
early Bird that catches the worm,—but give you the instructions
in case I should be delayed.
And Carol must decide on the size of the tree—she knows best,
she was a Christmas child; and she must plead for the
snow-storm—the "clerk of the weather" may pay some attention to
her; and she must look up the boy with the dimple for me—she's
likelier to find him than I am, this minute. She must advise
about the turkey, and Bridget must bring the pudding to her
bedside and let her drop every separate plum into it and stir it
once for luck, or I'll not eat a single slice—for Carol is the
dearest part of Christmas to Uncle Jack, and he'll have
none of it without her. She is better than all the turkeys and
puddings and apples and spare-ribs and wreaths and garlands and
mistletoe and stockings and chimneys and sleigh-bells in
Christendom. She is the very sweetest Christmas Carol that was
ever written, said, sung or chanted, and I am coming, as fast as
ships and railway trains can carry me, to tell her so.
 Carol's joy knew no bounds. Mr. and Mrs. Bird laughed like
children and kissed each other for sheer delight, and when the
boys heard it they simply whooped like wild Indians; until the
Ruggles family, whose back yard joined their garden, gathered at
the door and wondered what was "up" in the big house.