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The Oriole’s Nest
by [?]

“See how each boy, excited by the actual event, is all ear.”–Froebel.

There it hangs, on a corner of the picture frame, very much as it hung in the old willow-tree out in the garden.

It was spring time, and I used to move my rocking-chair up to the window, where I could lean out and touch the green branches, and watch there for the wonderful beautiful things to tell my little children in the kindergarten. There I saw the busy little ants hard at work on the ground below; the patient, dull, brown toads snapping flies in the sunshine; the striped caterpillars lazily crawling up the trunk of the tree; and dozens of merry birds getting ready for housekeeping.

Did you know the birdies “kept house”? Oh, yes; they never “board” like men and women; indeed, I don’t think they even like to RENT a house without fixing it over to suit themselves, but they ‘d much rather go to work and build one,

“So snug and so warm, so cosy and neat,
To start at their housekeeping all complete.”

Now there hung just inside my window a box of strings, and for two or three days, no matter how many I put into it, when I went to look the next time none could be found. I had talked to the little girls and scolded the little boys in the house, but no one knew anything about the matter, when one afternoon, as I was sitting there, a beautiful bird with a yellow breast fluttered down from the willow-tree, perched on the window-sill, cocked his saucy head, winked his bright eye, and without saying “If you please,” clipped his naughty little beak into the string box and flew off with a piece of pink twine.

I sat as still as a mouse to see if the little scamp would dare to come back; he didn’t, but he sent his wife, who gave a hop, skip, and a jump, looked me squarely in the eye, and took her string without being a bit afraid.

Now do you call that stealing? “No,” you answer. Neither do I; to be sure they took what belonged to me, but the window was wide open, and I think they must have known I loved the birds and would like to give them something for their new house. Perhaps they knew, too, that bits of old twine could not be worth much.

Then how busily they began their work! They had already chosen the place for their nest, springing up and down in the boughs till they found a branch far out of sight of snakes and hawks and cruel tabby cats, high out of reach of naughty small boys with their sling-shots, and now everything was ready for these small carpenters to begin their building. No hammer and nails were needed, claw and bill were all the tools they used, and yet what beautiful carpenter work was theirs!

Do you see how strongly the nest is tied on to those three slender twigs, and how carefully and closely it is woven, so that you can scarcely pull it apart? Those wiry black hairs holding all the rest together were dropped from Prince Charming’s tail (Prince Charming is the pretty saddle-horse who crops his grass, under the willow-tree). Those sleek brown hairs belonged to Dame Margery, the gentle mooly cow, who lives with her little calf Pet in the stable with Prince Charming; and there is a shining yellow spot on one side. Ah, you roguish birds, you must have been outside the kitchen window when baby Johnny’s curls were cut! We could only spare two from his precious head, and we hunted everywhere for this one to send to grandmamma!

Now just look at this door in the side of the nest, and tell me how a bird could make such a perfect one; and yet I’ve heard you say, “It’s only a bird; he doesn’t know anything.” To be sure he cannot do as many things as you, but after all you are not wise enough to do many of the things that he does. What would one of my little boys do, I wonder, if he were carried miles away from home and dropped in a place he had never seen? Why, he would be too frightened to do anything but cry; and yet there are many birds, who, when taken away a long distance, will perch on top of the weather-vane, perhaps, make up their little bits of minds which way to go, and then with a whir-r-r-r fly off over house-tops and church-steeples, towns and cities, rivers and meadows, until they reach the place from which they started.