How Mother Robin Called A New Mate
by E. Jay
A friend of mine has a robin's nest that he guards with very great care,
and about which he tells a story to all the young and old people who
call upon him.
"There is a romance," he says, as he shows you the nest, "about this,
and if you want to hear it, I will tell it to you."
"It was a good many years ago," my friend begins, "that this nest was
made. There came one morning early in April two robins to the big
fir-tree in front of my window. One of them had, as sure as you live, a
club-foot, and he hobbled about upon it in a very lively manner, and I
know that it was this one—Mr. Robin, I call him—that fixed upon the
precise place for the nest. For he whetted his bill upon a bough a great
many times, and then he danced upon it with one foot and the other, as
though trying its strength, and at last he flew up to Mrs. Robin, who
was standing on the limb above looking at him. My window was open, and I
heard him peeping the gentlest little song to her that you can imagine.
Then she jumped down upon the limb, rubbed her bill upon it, and danced,
while he looked at her, and after she had done these things she sang the
same little melody. After that they flew away with great speed, and the
next that I saw of them they were working with might and main, bringing
twigs, moss, twine, and all sorts of things, until at last they had the
Now my friend, when he gets so far in his story, always stops a moment
and laughs, though you can not see anything to laugh at. But he looks
closely at you, and just as soon as he observes the surprise that your
eyes show, he says: "I ought to say right here that my mother had a very
choice piece of lace, a collar or something of that sort, that was
washed and put out upon a little bush to dry on the very day that Mr.
and Mrs. Robin decided to build the nest in the fir-tree. A great fuss
was made that evening because the lace collar could not be found, and
mother wanted the police called, so that the thief might be arrested and
the collar got back, for that collar was worth, I have heard, a great
many dollars. But the police never found the thief.
"Now I will go on, with my story," always continues my friend, and he
generally takes the nest in his hands at this time. "Well, after this
nest—this is the very one I hold in my hand—was built, you never saw a
more attentive lover than this Mr. Robin. He would hop about with his
club-foot, and seem to put his eye right upon an angle-worm's cave every
time he flew down to the ground, and you might see him from early
morning to sunset flying back and forth with his mouth full of good
things for Mrs. Robin, and he would feed her as she sat upon the nest.
"One day he seemed specially excited and happy; you could hear him
singing in the tree more loudly than before, and I could see from my
window the cause of his joy. Four yellow mouths were put up to receive
the dainties he had brought, and then I knew that the little robins had
come. Well, old Mr. Robin was so excited that he did not see our cat
stealthily coming, as he was pulling away at a very long angle-worm.
Pussy had him in her mouth before he could even give a warning cry, and
the last I saw of Mr. Robin was the club-foot that hung out of Puss's
"By-and-by Mrs. Robin seemed to get hungry, and I heard her uttering two
strange notes that I had never heard before, and which seemed to me to
sound just as though she was saying, 'Come here! come here!' Of course
that was not what she said, but I have no doubt that the notes meant
just that, and that every robin that might have heard them would have
understood them as a call for help. But no robin came. It rained all
that day, and poor Mrs. Robin kept up that cry, and her young ones
continually thrust their bills from beneath her body, and opened them. I
could not help them, of course, for little birds would rather starve
than be fed by any one but their parents.
"Now I am coming to the strangest part of my story," my friend always
says when he reaches this point. "The next morning was clear, and I
happened to be up early. Old Mrs. Robin had begun her plaintive call.
Suddenly I saw a great many robins—not less than twenty, I should
say—that had come together from some place, and rested upon the
branches of a great elm-tree that was only a few yards away from the
fir-tree. Of all the noises I ever heard from birds, those that these
robins made were the strangest. At last they were quiet, and two of them
flew off to the fir-tree, and cautiously made their way to the nest.
Mrs. Robin looked at them, and sang a little trill. One of the visitors,
with much shaking of his head, sang something in reply, and then the
other one did the same thing. Mrs. Robin repeated her trill, and then
she hopped up to the branch above, and sang another note or two, and the
smaller of the two robins took his place beside her. Then the other
robin flew away to his companions, and after singing a little, they all
went off together.
"When I looked back to the nest, Mrs. Robin sat there perfectly quiet,
and, not more than a minute after, the new Mr. Robin brought a worm, and
he was from that time until the little ones got their feathers and flew
off as kind and attentive to Mrs. Robin as had been poor old club-footed
"Now isn't this a pretty love story?" my friend inquires, and of course
you say it is, and then ask him why he laughed, and what his mother's
lace collar had to do with it, and he will answer you in this way:
"Look in the nest. See what lies on the bottom, where the little robins
nestled. I got the nest after they all flew away together, and there in
the bottom was my mother's lace collar, not good to wear any longer, so
I have let it stay there ever since. Do you suppose young robins ever
had such a costly bed?"