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Agnes Taylor Ketchum

Mark Ridley

O NE summer morning, Mark Ridley and his little sister Minnie were crossing a field that lay between their house and an old apple orchard, and just as they came near a clump of young trees, their attention was attracted by a bird, which seemed to be behaving very strangely. When they first noticed her, she was fluttering about among the low branches of the bushes, and uttering the most piercing cries. For a moment, Mark thought she was wounded. But the instant she saw the children, she flew straight towards them, uttering the same piercing cries, as of anger. Round and round their heads she flew, and then off to an old apple-tree near by. Three times she came near them, with the same sharp cries, and then flew back again to the tree, till at last they thought some one had robbed her nest, and that she took them for the rogues. The third time she flew so near to Mark, and made such a pitiful noise, that his curiosity was excited to see what was the matter with the bird, and he followed her to the tree from which, and to which, she had flown so many times; instead of an empty nest, what do you suppose he saw? A great, ugly snake had crawled up the tree, and was running his fiery tongue out just over the little birds in the nest. Mark ran to the fence for a long pole, and killed the snake. As Mark and Minnie went on into the orchard, the old robin came again, and flew round and round their heads, and her notes were sweet and happy now. It seemed as if she could not thank and praise them enough for killing the snake and saving her little darlings from such a dreadful death.