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Agnes Taylor Ketchum

The Nest on Wheels

L ITTLE folks, do you know where the little brown sparrows like to build their nests? In a bird-house on the house-top, and sometimes between the spout and the wall of the house.

One fine spring morning two little fat sparrows, mamma and papa sparrow, said to each other: "Is it not time to make a nest and have little baby sparrows?" Mamma shook her head wisely and said she thought it was, as the sun was beginning to shine quite warm, and the days were getting real long. So off they flew to find a good snug place for a nest.

Into all the bird houses they flew, but all the places had been taken, so they looked among the branches of the trees, but could not find a place to suit them. Since Mr. Sparrow would rather build near houses, mamma sparrow got tired and said that she would stop and rest awhile, but papa said that he had seen such a pretty yellow house with a nice little safe nook on the roof, just the place for a nest. It was only down the street a little piece. Away they flew, and sure enough, there it stood, a long yellow house with a great many windows on either side, and two doors on little porches, and on the roof was a nice sheltered place to build a nest.

Mamma sparrow said it was a splendid place for a nest, and Papa liked it also. The next thing to do, now that they had found a good place, was to find moss, straw, hair and cotton to make a soft, warm nest with. So off they went, mamma north and papa south, to see what they could find. Pretty soon mamma came back with a long piece of string in her mouth; this she laid round and round on the roof of the house. Then papa came with some soft cotton, which he placed on mamma's string, and off they flew to find more. They worked all day, until the nest was half finished, and were going to rest (as it was getting late) when papa said, "Mamma, you stay here and watch the nest whilst I fly away and get that long yellow straw I saw in the street not far off; and away he flew. He had only been gone a few minutes when he came back with the long straw in his bill, to put in the nest; but where was the house and where was the nest? Oh, where was mamma sparrow! Papa was so frightened that he dropped the straw, and it fell to the ground. At first he thought that maybe he was on the wrong street; but no, that could not be, for there was the fence near which the yellow house had stood, and over the way was the large red brick house. He was not mistaken.

But where could the yellow house be, and mamma sparrow and the half-finished nest? Who ever heard of a house walking away? Papa sparrow felt so bad, that he sat on the fence and hung down his little brown head and cried bitterly. What should he do without mamma and the nest and the yellow house! But what do you think? While he was crying so hard, a great rumbling noise was heard, something like thunder; then a puff, a whistle and a bell; and, right there was the yellow house coming along as fast as it could come, and stopped just where it had stood before.

"Well, papa sparrow could hardly believe his eyes. To think it came back! How fast he spread his wings and flew over to see if mamma and the nest were still there! And sure enough there was mamma looking so frightened and ruffled up that she could hardly speak. When she got her breath, she told papa that while she was waiting for him to come with the straw, the house gave a jerk, and something puffed and blew so loud, and then off the house ran so fast, oh, so fast, that she had to almost close her eyes; the trees and fences and houses seemed to run away also, but she stuck to the nest, when suddenly the house stopped, and there she was again!

Papa, when he heard this, shook his head and did not know what to make of it. At last he said: "Shall we find another place to build our nest, as this is not safe?"

Mamma sparrow would not hear of it; she said that the nest was almost finished, and that maybe the house would not go away again. "We had better finish it," said she.

Well, the next day they worked together, and finished the nest, sure enough; and in two days there was a little speckled egg among the soft cotton, upon which mamma sparrow sat. Every day for four days a new egg was added, and mamma sparrow sat on the little eggs day after day to keep them warm, and at length five little birds were hatched. The dear little things looked very bare, having no feathers. They opened their mouths very wide for food, calling their mother, saying, "Peep, peep." The father sparrow would fly away in search of food for the little babies and mamma sparrow; and now it happened one day, while he was away looking for worms, the house again went off, and papa was left alone. It stayed away so long he thought it would never come back, but at last it did come back. As soon as it stopped, papa sparrow flew into the nest. The little babies all cried at once, "Oh, papa, what a splendid ride we had! How very fast we went—almost as fast as the white clouds in the sky! We wish we could take a ride like that every day; how nice that would be!" And sure enough, the next day the yellow house, on which their nest was, rode off again; and the next day, and the next, and every day after that. How the little birdies enjoyed it! And sometimes papa sparrow would go also! How grand it was to sit still in the nest, and go away off as fast as could be, and come back again after a long ride! Papa and mamma sparrow said they would always build their nests on yellow houses after this, and they did, sure enough. What kind of house do you think it was? Guess and tell me. A passenger car.