THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS





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.





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