The Birds' Christmas





F. E. MANN



Founded on fact.





"CHICKADEE-DEE-DEE-DEE! Chickadee-dee-dee-dee! Chicka----" "Cheerup,

cheerup, chee-chee! Cheerup, cheerup, chee-chee!" "Ter-ra-lee,

ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee!"



"Rap-atap-atap-atap!" went the woodpecker; "Mrs. Chickadee may speak

first."



"Friends," began Mrs. Chickadee, "why do you suppose I called you

together?"



"Because it's the day before Christmas," twittered Snow Bunting. "And

you're going to give a Christmas party," chirped the Robin. "And you

want us all to come!" said Downy Woodpecker. "Hurrah! Three cheers for

Mrs. Chickadee!"



"Hush!" said Mrs. Chickadee, "and I'll tell you all about it. To-morrow

is Christmas Day, but I don't want to give a party."



"Chee, chee, chee!" cried Robin Rusty-breast; "chee, chee, chee!"



"Just listen to my little plan," said Mrs. Chickadee, "for, indeed, I

want you all to help. How many remember Thistle Goldfinch--the happy

little fellow who floated over the meadows through the summer and fall?"



"Cheerup, chee-chee, cheerup, chee-chee, I do," sang the Robin; "how he

loved to sway on thistletops!" "Yes," said Downy Woodpecker, "and didn't

he sing? All about blue skies, and sunshine and happy days, with his

'Swee-e-et-sweet-sweet-sweet-a-twitter-witter-witter-witter-wee-twea!'"



"Ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee," said Snow Bunting. "We've all heard of Thistle

Goldfinch, but what can he have to do with your Christmas party? He's

away down South now, and wouldn't care if you gave a dozen parties."



"Oh, but he isn't; he's right in these very woods!"



"Why, you don't mean----"



"Indeed I do mean it, every single word. Yesterday I was flitting about

among the trees, pecking at a dead branch here, and a bit of moss there,

and before I knew it I found myself away over at the other side of the

woods! 'Chickadee-dee-dee, chickadee-dee-dee!' I sang, as I turned my

bill toward home. Just then I heard the saddest little voice pipe out:

'Dear-ie me! Dear-ie me!' and there on the sunny side of a branch

perched a lonesome bit of yellowish down. I went up to see what it was,

and found dear little Thistle Goldfinch! He was very glad to see me, and

soon told his short story. Through the summer Papa and Mamma Goldfinch

and all the brothers and sisters had a fine time, singing together,

fluttering over thistletops, or floating through the balmy air. But when

'little Jack Frost walked through the trees,' Papa Goldfinch said: 'It

is high time we went South!' All were ready but Thistle; he wanted to

stay through the winter, and begged so hard that Papa Goldfinch soberly

said: 'Try it, my son, but do find a warm place to stay in at night.'

Then off they flew, and Thistle was alone. For a while he was happy. The

sun shone warm through the middle of the day, and there were fields and

meadows full of seeds. You all remember how sweetly he sang for us then.

But by and by the cold North Wind came whistling through the trees, and

chilly Thistle woke up one gray morning to find the air full of whirling

snowflakes. He didn't mind the light snows, golden-rod and some high

grasses were too tall to be easily covered, and he got seeds from them.

But now that the heavy snows have come, the poor little fellow is almost

starved, and if he doesn't have a warm place to sleep in these cold

nights, he'll surely die!"



Mrs. Chickadee paused a minute. The birds were so still one could hear

the pine trees whisper. Then she went on: "I comforted the poor little

fellow as best I could, and showed him where to find a few seeds: then I

flew home, for it was bedtime. I tucked my head under my wing to keep it

warm, and thought, and thought, and thought; and here's my plan:



"We Chickadees have a nice warm home here in the spruce trees, with

their thick, heavy boughs to shut out the snow and cold. There is plenty

of room, so Thistle could sleep here all winter. We would let him perch

on a branch, when we Chickadees would nestle around him until he was as

warm as in the lovely summer time. These cones are so full of seeds that

we could spare him a good many; and I think that you Robins might let

him come over to your pines some day and share your seeds. Downy

Woodpecker must keep his eyes open as he hammers the trees, and if he

spies a supply of seeds he will let us know at once. Snow Bunting is

only a visitor, so I don't expect him to help, but I wanted him to hear

my plan with the rest of you. Now you will try, won't you, every

one?"



"Cheerup, cheerup, ter-ra-lee! Indeed we'll try; let's begin right away!

Don't wait until to-morrow; who'll go and find Thistle?"



"I will," chirped Robin Rusty-breast, and off he flew to the place which

Mrs. Chickadee had told of, at the other side of the wood. There, sure

enough, he found Thistle Goldfinch sighing: "Dear-ie me! dear-ie me! The

winter is so cold and I'm here all alone!" "Cheerup, chee-chee!" piped

the Robin:



"Cheerup, cheerup, I'm here!

I'm here and I mean to stay.

What if the winter is drear--

Cheerup, cheerup anyway!"



"But the snow is so deep," said Thistle, and the Robin replied:



"Soon the snows'll be over and gone,

Run and rippled away;

What's the use of looking forlorn?

Cheerup, cheerup, I say!"



Then he told Thistle all their plans, and wasn't Thistle surprised? Why,

he just couldn't believe a word of it till they reached Mrs. Chickadee's

and she said it was all true. They fed him and warmed him, then settled

themselves for a good night's rest.



Christmas morning they were chirping gaily, and Thistle was trying to

remember the happy song he sang in the summer time, when there came a

whirr of wings as Snow Bunting flew down.



"Ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee," said he, "can you fly a little

way?"



"Oh, yes," replied Thistle. "I think I could fly a long way."



"Come on, then," said Snow Bunting. "Every one who wants a Christmas

dinner, follow me!" That was every word he would say, so what could they

do but follow?



Soon they came to the edge of the wood, and then to a farmhouse. Snow

Bunting flew straight up to the piazza, and there stood a dear little

girl in a warm hood and cloak, with a pail of bird-seed on her arm, and

a dish of bread crumbs in her hand. As they flew down, she said:



"And here are some more birdies who have come for a Christmas dinner. Of

course you shall have some, you dear little things!" and she laughed

merrily to see them dive for the crumbs.



After they had finished eating, Elsie (that was the little girl's name)

said: "Now, little birds, it is going to be a cold winter, you would

better come here every day to get your dinner. I'll always be glad to

see you."



"Cheerup chee-chee, cheerup chee-chee! thank you, thank you," cried the

Robins.



"Ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee! thank you, thank you!" twittered

Snow Bunting.



"Chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee,

chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee! how kind you are!" sang the Chickadees.



And Thistle Goldfinch? Yes, he remembered his summer song, for he sang

as they flew away:



"Swee-e-et--sweet-sweet-sweet-a-twitter-witter-witter-witter--wee-twea!"



* * * * *



NOTES.--1: The Robin's song is from "Bird Talks,"

by Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney.



2: The fact upon which this story is based--that

is of the other birds adopting and warming the

solitary Thistle Goldfinch--was observed near

Northampton, Mass., where robins and other

migratory birds sometimes spend the winter in the

thick pine woods.





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