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How Mother Robin Called A New Mate

by E. Jay Edwards

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 nest made."

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 mouth.

"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 Mr.

"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?"