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THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS

from The Children's Book Of Christmas Stories





Founded on fact.

"Chickadee-dee-dee-dee! Chickadee-dee-dee-dee! Chicka--" "Cheerup,
cheerup, chee-chee! Cheerup, cheerup, chee-chee!" "Ter-ra-lee,
ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee!"

"Rap-atap-atap-atap!" went the woodpecker; "Mrs. Chickadee may speak
first."

"Friends," began Mrs. Chickadee, "why do you suppose I called you
together?"

"Because it's the day before Christmas," twittered Snow Bunting. "And
you're going to give a Christmas party," chirped the Robin. "And you
want us all to come!" said Downy Woodpecker. "Hurrah! Three cheers for
Mrs. Chickadee!"

"Hush!" said Mrs. Chickadee, "and I'll tell you all about it. To-morrow
IS Christmas Day, but I don't want to give a party."

"Chee, chee, chee!" cried Robin Rusty-breast; "chee, chee, chee!"

"Just listen to my little plan," said Mrs. Chickadee, "for, indeed, I
want you all to help. How many remember Thistle Goldfinch--the happy
little fellow who floated over the meadows through the summer and fall?"

"Cheerup, chee-chee, cheerup, chee-chee, I do," sang the Robin; "how he
loved to sway on thistletops!"

"Yes," said Downy Woodpecker, "and didn't he sing? All about blue
skies, and sunshine and happy days, with his
'Swee-e-et-sweet-sweet-sweet-a-twitter-witter-witter-witter-wee-twea!'"

"Ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee," said Snow Bunting. "We've all heard of
Thistle Goldfinch, but what can he have to do with your Christmas
party? He's away down South now, and wouldn't care if you gave a dozen
parties."

"Oh, but he isn't; he's right in these very woods!"

"Why, you don't mean--"

"Indeed I do mean it, every single word. Yesterday I was flitting about
among the trees, peeking at a dead branch here, and a bit of moss
there, and before I knew it I found myself away over at the other side
of the woods! 'Chickadee-dee-dee, chickadee-dee-dee!' I sang, as I
turned my bill toward home. Just then I heard the saddest little voice
pipe out: 'Dear-ie me! Dear-ie me!' and there on the sunny side of a
branch perched a lonesome bit of yellowish down. I went up to see what
it was, and found dear little Thistle Goldfinch! He was very glad to
see me, and soon told his short story. Through the summer Papa and
Mamma Goldfinch and all the brothers and sisters had a fine time,
singing together, fluttering over thistletops, or floating through the
balmy air. But when 'little Jack Frost walked through the trees,' Papa
Goldfinch said: 'It is high time we went South!' All were ready but
Thistle; he wanted to stay through the winter, and begged so hard that
Papa Goldfinch soberly said: 'Try it, my son, but do find a warm place
to stay in at night.' Then off they flew, and Thistle was alone. For a
while he was happy. The sun shone warm through the middle of the day,
and there were fields and meadows full of seeds. You all remember how
sweetly he sang for us then. But by and by the cold North Wind came
whistling through the trees, and chilly Thistle woke up one gray
morning to find the air full of whirling snowflakes He didn't mind the
light snows, golden-rod and some high grasses were too tall to be
easily covered, and he got seeds from them. But now that the heavy
snows have come, the poor little fellow is almost starved, and if he
doesn't have a warm place to sleep in these cold nights, he'll surely
die!"

Mrs. Chickadee paused a minute. The birds were so still one could hear
the pine trees whisper. Then she went on: "I comforted the poor little
fellow as best I could, and showed him where to find a few seeds; then
I flew home, for it was bedtime. I tucked my head under my wing to keep
it warm, and thought, and thought, and thought; and here's my plan:

"We Chickadees have a nice warm home here in the spruce trees, with
their thick, heavy boughs to shut out the snow and cold. There is
plenty of room, so Thistle could sleep here all winter. We would let
him perch on a branch, when we Chickadees would nestle around him until
he was as warm as in the lovely summer tine. These cones are so full of
seeds that we could spare him a good many; and I think that you Robins
might let him come over to your pines some day and share your seeds.
Downy Woodpecker must keep his eyes open as he hammers the trees, and
if he spies a supply of seeds he will let us know at once. Snow Bunting
is only a visitor, so I don't expect him to help, but I wanted him to
hear my plan with the rest of you. Now you WILL try, won't you, EVERY
ONE?"

"Cheerup, cheerup, ter-ra-lee! Indeed we'll try; let's begin right
away! Don't wait until to-morrow; who'll go and find Thistle?"

"I will," chirped Robin Rusty-breast, and off he flew to the place
which Mrs. Chickadee had told of, at the other side of the wood. There,
sure enough, he found Thistle Goldfinch sighing: "Dear-ie me! dear-ie
me! The winter is so cold and I'm here all alone!" "Cheerup,
chee-chee!" piped the Robin:

"Cheerup, cheerup, I'm here!
I'm here and I mean to stay.
What if the winter is drear--
Cheerup, cheerup, anyway!"

"But the snow is so deep," said Thistle, and the Robin replied:

"Soon the snows'll be over and gone,
Run and rippled away;
What's the use of looking forlorn?
Cheerup, cheerup, I say!"

Then he told Thistle all their plans, and wasn't Thistle surprised?
Why, he just couldn't believe a word of it till they reached Mrs.
Chickadee's and she said it was all true. They fed him and warmed him,
then settled themselves for a good night's rest.

Christmas morning they were chirping gaily, and Thistle was trying to
remember the happy song he sang in the summer time, when there came a
whirr of wings as Snow Bunting flew down.

"Ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee," said he, "can you fly a little
way?"

"Oh, yes," replied Thistle. "I THINK I could fly a LONG way."

"Come on, then," said Snow Bunting. "Every one who wants a Christmas
dinner, follow me!" That was every word he would say, so what could
they do but follow?

Soon they came to the edge of the wood, and then to a farmhouse. Snow
Bunting flew straight up to the piazza, and there stood a dear little
girl in a warm hood and cloak, with a pail of bird-seed on her arm, and
a dish of bread crumbs in her hand. As they flew down, she said:

"And here are some more birdies who have come for a Christmas dinner.
Of course you shall have some, you dear little things!" and she laughed
merrily to see them dive for the crumbs.

After they had finished eating, Elsie (that was the little girl's name)
said: "Now, little birds, it is going to be a cold winter, you would
better come here every day to get your dinner. I'll always be glad to
see you."

"Cheerup chee-chee, cheerup chee-chee! thank you, thank you," cried the
Robins.
"Ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee! thank you, thank you!" twittered
Snow Bunting.

"Chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee,
chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee! how kind you are!" sang the Chickadees.

And Thistle Goldfinch? Yes, he remembered his summer song, for he sang
as they flew away:

"Swee-e-et-sweet-sweet-sweet-a-twitter-witter-witter-witter--wee-twea!"

notes.--l. The Robin's song is from "Bird Talks," by Mrs. A.D.T.
Whitney.
2. The fact upon which this story is based--that is of the other birds
adopting and warming the solitary Thistle Goldfinch--was observed near
Northampton, Mass., where robins and other migratory birds sometimes
spend the winter in the thick pine woods.





Next: THE LITTLE SISTER'S VACATION
Previous: JIMMY SCARECROW'S CHRISTMAS



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