Out of the Nest
Once upon a time a mother-bird and father-bird built a nest in a tree.
It was made of straw and leaves and all sorts of wonderful things, and even had lace trimmings on it.
Soon after the nest was finished, the mother-bird put two eggs in it, and then she and father-bird thought of nothing but keeping those eggs safe and warm.
Mother-bird sat upon them day and night; and even when father-bird would say, "You really must fly about a little and let me take care of the eggs," she did not like to leave them.
After a while two little birds came out of the shells,—which was just what she had been hoping for all the long time. The baby-birds were both so weak and small that they could do nothing at all for themselves but open their mouths very wide and call "Peep, peep! mother dear, peep!" Mother-bird and father-bird were busy all day getting them something to eat.
By and by, they began to grow; and then they had soft feather clothes to wear, which are the best clothes in the world for baby-birds.
Mother-bird said to them one day: "You are almost ready to learn to fly"; and then they felt very large.
That same day, mother-bird and father-bird flew away together to get something for dinner; and while they were gone the little birds heard a very queer noise which seemed to come from a pond near their tree. This is the way it sounded: "Kerchunk! Kerchunk!"
"Oh! what can it be?" said the sister-bird.
"I'll peep over the side of the nest and see," said her brother.
But when he put his head out he could see nothing, although he heard the sound very plainly: "Kerchunk! Kerchunk!" Then he leaned out a little farther and a little farther, till his head was dizzy. "Peep, peep! You'll fall!" cried the sister-bird; and, sure enough, she had scarcely said it before he tumbled out of the nest, down, down to the ground!
He was not hurt, but oh, how frightened he was! "Peep, peep! mother dear, peep!" he cried.
"Peep!" cried the sister-bird up in the nest; but the mother and father were too far away to hear their calls.
The brother-bird hopped about on the ground and looked around him. He was near the pond now, and the sound was very loud: "Kerchunk! Kerchunk! Kerchunk!"
"Peep, peep, peep!" called the birdie; and in a moment up hopped a big frog.
This was an old school-teacher frog, and he had been teaching all the little frogs to sing.
He hopped right up to the brother-bird. "Kerchunk! Kerchunk!" said he. "How can I teach my frogs to sing when you are making such a noise?"
"Peep, peep! I want my mama," said the baby-bird.
Then the big frog saw how young the birdie was, and he was sorry for him. "Come with me," he said, "and I will teach you to sing."
But the baby-bird only cried louder than ever at this, and a mother-dove, who was singing her babies to sleep in a neighboring tree, flew down to see what could be the matter.
"I can't begin to get my children to sleep in all this fuss," she said to the frog; but when she saw the little bird she was just as sorry as the frog had been.
"Poor, dear baby," she cried; "I will fly right off and find your mama for you." So she told her children to be good and quiet, and then away she flew.
Before long she met the father and mother and they all came back in a great hurry.
Then they tried to get the baby-bird into the nest again.
"He's entirely too young to be out of the nest," cried his mother, "and he must get in again at once."
"Spread your wings and fly as I do," said the father-bird.
So the baby-bird spread his wings and tried to fly; but try as he would he could not reach the nest in the tree.
"Put him into my school and I will teach him to swim," said the frog; "that is better than flying, and a great deal easier to learn, I am sure."
This was so kind in the frog that the mother-bird thanked him; but she said that she had to be very careful with her children, and that she was afraid the water might give the little bird a cold.
While they were talking, they heard somebody coming along, whistling the jolliest tune!
"Dear me! Dear me!" cried the birds. "There comes a boy!"
"He's apt to have stones in his pocket," said the frog.
"He will carry my darling off and put him in a cage! Oh, fly! fly!" begged the mother-bird. But before the baby-bird even had time to say "peep!" the boy came in sight.
Then the father-bird flew over the boy's head and the mother-bird down in front of him. The frog croaked and the dove cooed, but none of them could hide the little bird from him.
"If you hurt him I'll peck your eyes out!" cried the poor mother, who hardly knew what she was saying; but the boy picked the little bird up, just as if he did not hear her.
"Oh! what shall I do!" cried the mother-bird.
Then the boy looked at her and at the baby-bird and up in the tree where the nest was.
"Coo, coo, coo! I think I know what he's going to do," said the dove.
"There's no telling," croaked the frog; and they all watched and wondered while the boy put the bird in his pocket and began to climb the tree.
He swung himself from branch to branch, climbing higher all the time, until at last he reached the pretty nest where the sister-bird waited for her mama to come home.
Mother-bird and father-bird flew to the top of the tree to watch the boy.
"Suppose he should take her, too," said the mother-bird. But what do you think he did?—Yes, indeed! He put the brother-bird back in the nest, as well as the mother-bird could have done it herself.
"Thank you! Thank you!" sang the mother and father, as the boy scrambled down again.
"Peep, peep! Thank you!" called the little birds from the nest.
"Coo, coo! I knew," cried the dove.
"Kerchunk! Kerchunk! I should like to have him in my school," said the frog as he hopped away to his pond.
And that is the end of my story.