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The Naughty Cuckoo and the Bobolinks

by Agnes Carr

 

Spring had come, with its buds and blossoms, warm bright days and gentle showers, and the old apple-tree at the end of the garden was putting on its new spring dress of green leaves and tiny pink buds, which before long would open into sweet blossoms, and still later turn into ripe golden fruit, when a pair of Bobolinks came flying through the garden one fine morning house-hunting, or rather looking for a nice place to build a nest and go to housekeeping.

"Here is a good spot," said the little husband, whose name was Robert, perching on a limb of the old apple-tree and poking his bill into a crotch formed by a crooked branch.

"So it is," said Linny, his wife, "for the leaves will soon be out and hide the nest from sight:" and they began to chatter so fast about the nice home they would have there, that it sounded like nothing but "Bob-o-link, bob-o-link, spink, spank, spink," so that two little girls who were playing with their dolls under the tree said, "What a noise those Bobolinks make! what are they chattering so about?"

Soon, however, they saw the little birds flying back and forth, back and forth, with bits of hair and straw in their bills, and then they said to one another, "The Bobolinks are building a nest," and they hung pieces of cotton and bunches of thread on the lower limbs of the tree, and watched to see Robert carry them off to weave into the outside of the nest, while Linny made a soft lining of hair inside. And at last the little home was finished, and three pretty eggs laid snugly inside; when one day, while Robert and Linny had gone to stretch their wings by a short flight around the garden, an ugly old Cuckoo, who had seen the Bobolinks flying in and out of the tree, came and laid a big egg in the nest; for Cuckoos are lazy birds, and never build houses for themselves, but steal places to lay their eggs, and let somebody else take care of their children.

Now Robert and Linny had never been to school, and could not count; so when they came back they did not notice that there were four eggs in the nest instead of three, and Linny settled down on them, quite happy, while Robert sang a merry song to her, all about birds and flowers, and brought her nice fat worms and flies to eat, and was just the best little Bobolink husband in the whole garden.

And after a while a faint "peep-peep" was heard, the eggs all cracked, and out came four little blind birdies, without any feathers, and ugly enough, you would have said, but their papa and mamma thought them lovely. One, however, was as large as the other three put together, and took up so much room that Linny said: "Oh dear, we have made the nest too small! When the children grow larger, some will be crowded out."

"That is strange," said Robert, "for it is the same size as the other Bobolinks have built, and they have plenty of room."

"Yes, but just see how big one of the babies is," said Linny.

Just then Robert saw the Cuckoo on a tree near by, winking one eye, and laughing until her sides shook, and exclaimed: "I see how it is: that old thief of a Cuckoo has laid an egg in our nest. I will throw her ugly child out, and she can look after it herself;" and he made a dive for the little Cuckoo, but Linny caught him by his tail-feathers, saying:

"No, no; poor little fellow, he will die if you throw him on the ground. Let him stay until he gets too big for the nest."

So the Cuckoo staid. But he was a very bad bird, for after a while, when he and the little Bobolinks got their eyes open, and had nice coats of feathers, he would peck at his companions, and take away all the best bits of bread and fattest worms that their papa and mamma brought them home for dinner, and was so cross and greedy that Robert would have pitched him out on the grass if Linny had not begged he might stay a little longer, and tried to make him behave better.

The apple-tree was now covered with pink and white blossoms, which grew around the little nest and made it like a bower. And now the birdies were learning to fly, and could go to the outer branches of the tree, where they sat in a row, while their father taught them how to sing.

"Bob-o-link, bob-o-link, spink, spank, spink," sang Robert. And the little ones, who could not speak plain, all repeated, "Bob-o-link, bob-o-link, pink, pank, pink"—all except the biggest bird, who would only say, "Cuckoo, cuckoo," in a harsh voice.

At last, one day, Robert said, "Now, children, you are old enough to leave the tree, and to-day you must begin to go a little way into the garden."

"Yes," said their mother, "but take care, and never sit on the ground, for there is a great yellow cat who will surely eat you up."

"We will be very careful," said all the little Bobolinks.

After Billy, Bobby, and Jenny, as well as Cuckoo, had had their feathers brushed nice and smooth, they were sent out to try their wings; but the Cuckoo was stronger, and could fly farther than the Bobolinks.

Bobby flew over to the fence, to see what was on the other side, and the first thing he spied was the yellow cat creeping slowly along, and she fixed her eyes right on him. He tried to fly back, but just then the Cuckoo came behind, and gave him a push which sent him fluttering to the ground, right in front of Mrs. Pussie. Poor Bobby gave himself up for lost; but as the cat was about to spring on him, a great dog came bounding across the yard, which sent the cat scampering off in a hurry, and saved Bobby, who hastened home as fast as his little wings could carry him.

"Pshaw!" said the Cuckoo; "I thought there would be one out of the nest. But there is the cat under a bush, and Jenny is tilting on a twig just above, without seeing her." So the naughty bird flew to the rose-bush, and said, "Jenny, you look as if you were having a nice time."

"I am," said Jenny; "but don't come on this twig, it won't hold you."

"Oh yes, it will," said Cuckoo, leaning on the slender spray, which broke, and fell with Jenny, who was too frightened to fly; and quick as lightning the cat seized and carried her off in her mouth.

"Ha, ha, ha," laughed Cuckoo; "there will be room in the nest now." But at that moment the two little girls came out of the house, saw the cat with the bird, and made her drop Jenny on the grass. She was not much hurt, and they carried her gently back to the apple-tree, and gave her to her papa and mamma. The Cuckoo then went to look for Billy; but as he was passing the flower garden he saw a juicy white angle-worm lying in a bed of violets, and feeling hungry, stopped to take a little lunch.

The worm was very nice, and Cuckoo enjoyed it very much, when, just as he was swallowing the last morsel, the cat came stealing softly from under a wood-pile, and thinking if birds could lunch on worms, she could lunch on birds, pounced upon Cuckoo, and carried him off; and nothing more was ever seen of him, except a few feathers scattered near the door of the wood-shed. These Billy saw, and went home to tell the sad story.