T HE Ruffed Grouse cocked his crested head on one side and looked up through the bare branches to the sky. It was a soft gray, and in the west were banks of bluish clouds. "I think it will snow very soon," said he. "Mrs. Grouse, are the children all ready for cold weather?"
"All ready," answered his cheerful little wife. "They
have had their thickest feathers on for quite a while.
The Rabbits were saying the other day that they had
never seen a plumper or better clothed flock than
ours." And her beautiful
Indeed, the young
"Some cold white things," they said, "came tumbling down upon us and scared us. The white things didn't say a word, but they came so fast that we think they must be alive. Tell us what to do. Must we hide?"
"Why, that is snow!" exclaimed their mother. "It drops from the clouds up yonder quite as the leaves drop from the trees in the fall. It will not hurt you, but we must find shelter."
"What did I tell you, Mrs. Grouse?" asked her husband. "I was certain that it would snow before night. I felt it in my quills." And Mr. Grouse strutted with importance. It always makes one feel so very knowing when he has told his wife exactly what will happen.
"How did you feel it in your quills?" asked one of his children. "Shall I feel it in my quills when I am as old as you are?"
"Perhaps," was the answer. "But until you do feel it you can never understand it, for it is not like any other feeling that there is."
Then they all started for a low clump of bushes to find shelter from the storm. Once they were frightened by seeing a great creature come tramping through the woods towards them. "A man!" said Mr. Grouse. "Hide!" said Mrs. Grouse, and each little Grouse hid under the leaves so quickly that nobody could see how it was done. One might almost think that a strong wind had blown them away. The mother pretended that she had a broken wing, and hopped away, making such pitiful sounds that the man followed to pick her up. When she had led him far from her children, she, too, made a quick run and hid herself; and although the man hunted everywhere, he could not find a single bird.
You know that is always the way in Grouse families, and even if the man's foot had stirred the leaves under which a little one was hiding, the Grouse would not have moved or made a sound. The children are brought up to mind without asking any questions. When their mother says, "Hide!" they do it, and never once ask "Why?" or answer, "As soon as I have swallowed this berry." It is no wonder that the older ones are proud of their children. Any mother would be made happy by having one child obey like that, and think of having twelve!
At last, the whole family reached the bushes where they were to stay, and then they began to feed near by. "Eat all you can," said Mr. Grouse, "before the snow gets deep. You may not have another such good chance for many days." So they ate until their little stomachs would not hold one more seed or evergreen bud.
All this time the snowflakes
were falling, but the Grouse children were no longer
afraid of them. Sometimes they even chased and snapped
at them as they would at a fly in
"We do not have to bother about them at all," she said. "They put themselves on when the weather gets cold in the fall, and they take themselves off when spring comes. We each have a new pair every year, and when they are grown we can walk easily over the soft snow. Without them we should sink through and flounder."
When night came they all huddled under the
bushes, lying close together to keep each other warm.
The next day they burrowed into a
"It was a fine,
sunshiny day," he said, "and everybody was happy. I
had for some time been learning to drum, and now I felt
that I was as good a drummer as there was in the
forest. So I found a log
"I know!" interrupted one of the little Grouse. "It was our mother."
"Well, it wasn't your mother then, my chick," said Mr. Grouse, "for that was long, long before you were hatched."
"She was our mother afterwards, anyway," cried the young Grouse. "I just know she was!"
eyes twinkled, but he went gravely on. "At last I
flapped my wings hard and fast, and the soft drumming
sound could be heard far and near.
"Did she know?" cried the little Grouse.
must ask your mother that," he answered, "for it was
she who came. Ah, what happy days we had together all
spring! We wandered all through this
Forest and even made some journeys into the edge of the
Meadow. Still, there was no place we loved as we did
the dusky hollow by the old log where we first met.
One day your mother told me that she must begin
housekeeping and that I must keep out of the way while
she was busy. So I had to go off with a crowd of other
"Oh!" said one of the young Grouse. "Oh, I am so glad that you drummed, and that she came when she heard you. Who would we have had to take care of us if it hadn't happened just so?"
That made them
all feel very solemn,