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What The Swallows Did
by [?]

A man lay on a pile of new-made hay, in a great barn, looking up at the swallows who darted and twittered above him. He envied the cheerful little creatures; for he wasn’t a happy man, though he had many friends, much money, and the beautiful gift of writing songs that everybody loved to sing. He had lost his wife and little child, and would not be comforted; but lived alone, and went about with such a gloomy face that no one liked to speak to him. He took no notice of friends and neighbors; neither used his money for himself nor others; found no beauty in the world, no happiness anywhere; and wrote such sad songs it made one’s heart ache to sing them.

As he lay alone on the sweet-smelling hay, with the afternoon sunshine streaming in, and the busy birds chirping overhead, he said sadly to himself:

“Happy swallows, I wish I were one of you; for you have no pains nor sorrows, and your cares are very light. All summer you live gayly together; and, when winter comes, you fly away to the lovely South, unseparated still.”

“Neighbors, do you hear what that lazy creature down there is saying?” cried a swallow, peeping over the edge of her nest, and addressing several others who sat on a beam near by.

“We hear, Mrs. Skim; and quite agree with you that he knows very little about us and our affairs,” answered one of the swallows with a shrill chirp, like a scornful laugh. “We work harder than he does any day. Did he build his own house, I should like to know? Does he get his daily bread for himself? How many of his neighbors does he help? How much of the world does he see, and who is the happier for his being alive?”

“Cares indeed!” cried another; “I wish he’d undertake to feed and teach my brood. Much he knows about the anxieties of a parent.” And the little mother bustled away to get supper for the young ones, whose bills were always gaping wide.

“Sorrows we have, too,” softly said the fourth swallow. “He would not envy me, if he knew how my nest fell, and all my children were killed; how my dear husband was shot, and my old mother died of fatigue on our spring journey from the South.”

“Dear neighbor Dart, he would envy you, if he knew how patiently you bear your troubles; how tenderly you help us with our little ones; how cheerfully you serve your friends; how faithfully you love your lost mate; and how trustfully you wait to meet him again in a lovelier country than the South.”

As Skim spoke, she leaned down from her nest to kiss her neighbor; and, as the little beaks met, the other birds gave a grateful and approving murmur, for Neighbor Dart was much beloved by all the inhabitants of Twittertown.

“I, for my part, don’t envy him,” said Gossip Wing, who was fond of speaking her mind. “Men and women call themselves superior beings; but, upon my word, I think they are vastly inferior to us. Now, look at that man, and see how he wastes his life. There never was any one with a better chance for doing good, and being happy; and yet he mopes and dawdles his time away most shamefully.”

“Ah! he has had a great sorrow, and it is hard to be gay with a heavy heart, an empty home; so don’t be too severe, Sister Wing.” And the white tie of the little widow’s cap was stirred by a long sigh as Mrs. Dart glanced up at the nook where her nest once stood.

“No, my dear, I won’t; but really I do get out of patience when I see so much real misery which that man might help, if he’d only forget himself a little. It’s my opinion he’d be much happier than he now is, wandering about with a dismal face and a sour temper.”