Gateway to the Classics: The Seasons: Autumn by Jane Marcet
The Seasons: Autumn by  Jane Marcet

The Robin Red-Breast

As Willy was one day walking out with his mother, he heard something rustle among the bushes; and looking about to find what it was, he saw a poor little bird lying on the ground, which could neither fly nor hop, for one of its legs was broken.

"Oh, poor little bird," cried Willy, picking it up; "let us take it home, Mamma, and make it well." Though he held it carefully in his arms, that he might not hurt it, the bird struggled to get away: he stroked and caressed him, but the bird did not understand his kindness, and as he could not get free, he lay in Willy's arms, trembling and panting with fear. When they got home, Mamma sent for a bird-cage, at the bottom of which she put some soft wool, for the bird to lie on. She then took a narrow slip of old linen, and bound it round its broken leg.

"Pray mind, Mamma, that you put the two pieces of broken bone close to each other, or else they will not grow well together. Do not you remember Papa said so, when Johnny broke his leg falling down the chimney?"

"I cannot do it so well as the surgeon," replied his Mother; "but I will do the best I can."

The bird squeaked a little while his leg was binding up, and was sadly frightened; for he felt that he was hurt, and he had not sense to know that it was to do him good afterwards. He was then put into the cage, and he was so tired, that he was very glad to lie and rest upon the soft warm wool. He would not eat, and a thin skin came over his eyes, so that Willy thought he had fallen asleep. He took great care not to disturb him; but he put some crumbs of bread and a cup of water into the cage, near him, that he might eat and drink as soon as he awoke. He was then left under Ann's care in the nursery; and Willy went into the drawing-room with his Mamma; for she told him, the best way to cure the bird, was, to leave him to rest quietly.

Every now and then, Willy went very gently into the nursery, and found the poor Robin quietly nestled in the wool; but the last time he went up, to his great delight he saw him standing on the leg which was not broken, and pecking the crumbs of bread. He then dipped his little beak into the cup of water, and afterwards lifted up his head as birds do to swallow their drink.

Willy was quite happy, for he thought the bird was cured; but Ann told him the broken bone would not grow together for several days, and that the bird must be kept quiet in the cage all that time.

"Look, what a pretty red neck it has, Ann!"

"Yes," replied she, "it is called a Robin red-breast, because the feathers on its breast are red. They are very tame birds, and very fond of their young; and I dare say the mother of this bird is not far off, grieving for its loss.

The next day the cage was placed in an open window, that the poor little Robin might have light and air. When he was there he began to call out twee, twee, twee.

"I dare say," said Willy, "that now he can see the trees, he wants to get out and fly about."

"Perhaps," replied Ann, "he is calling after his mother."

"Poor little bird!" exclaimed Willy: "what a sad thing it is to have lost its mother!"

Willy then sat down to look at a book of prints, and Ann was at work. They were both very still, and there was no noise in the room, excepting when the bird cried out twee, twee, twee. All at once, what should they see, but a larger Robin redbreast fly to the window and peck at the cage? Willy was just going to start up; when Ann caught hold of him, and said, in a low voice, "Do not stir, or you will frighten the old bird away. I dare say that is the mother of the young one come to seek for him."

"Oh yes," said Willy, whispering in return; "hear how the little one cries twee, twee,—and tries to get out to its mother; shall we open the door of the cage?"

"No," replied she, "we must not let it out, for it cannot fly till its leg is well."

Willy, in turning round to see better, moved his chair, and made a little noise, which frightened the old bird away.

"Oh dear!" exclaimed he, "the old Robin has flown away; see how the young one wants to go after her. Poor little Robin," said he, opening the door of the cage, and patting him; "how sorry he must be! I should not like to see Mamma fly away without me; and I do not think she would, Ann, even if she had wings; I am sure she would not if I had broken my leg."

"I dare say," replied Ann, "now that the bird knows where her young one is, she will come back another day."

Willy ran eagerly to tell his Mamma what had happened. She thought, like Ann, that it was very likely the old bird would return; so the next morning she took her work and sat in the nursery in hopes of seeing it. Every thing was quiet, but Willy could take no pleasure in looking at his book of pictures, so constantly was he looking towards the window, which had been left open on purpose.

At length the old Robin was seen flying about near the window, and when she found there was nothing to alarm her, she came close to the cage. She had brought something in her beak, which she put between the wires of the cage and fed her little one. Willy was delighted: but he took care not to express his joy in a noisy way, as he usually did, for fear of disturbing the birds.

The old Robin returned every morning, for several days; and the little bird seemed to grow so strong, that at length they unbound the leg, and felt that the bone was grown together, and that the bird was cured.

"Now it will be able to fly away," said Mamma. "Shall we open the cage and set it free the next time its mother comes?"

Willy looked grave and hesitated:—"Then it will go quite away, Mamma, and I shall never see it any more."

"I am afraid you will not see it again," said she; "for it will be so happy with its mother, and it is so unhappy shut up in the cage, that it would not like to come back again."

"But, Mamma, you and I were very good to it, and cured its leg, and the bird ought to love us for that."

"The bird has not sense enough to know that you kept it shut up in the cage for its good; it only felt the confinement, and the being parted from its mother, and the pain of having its leg being bound up. But the bird loves you for feeding him; he will peck out of your hand you know, and is not afraid of you as he used to be."

"Then if he loves me, Mamma, we might keep him a little longer."

"He loves his mother a great deal better than you, Willy. Would you like to keep him from her, now he can fly?"

"No," said Willy, sorrowfully; but he could not bear the thought of losing the bird, and burst into tears.

"Willy," said his Mother, "you should have courage to do what is right: let me see whether you cannot command yourself. If you think it right to let the poor bird go back to its mother, do it with a good will, and not with tears. Think how happy they will be flying together again, after having been so long parted. Besides, if you do good to the two birds, it will please your Papa and me; and most of all remember, that it will please your Father which is in heaven.

Willy felt the force of what his mother said; he thought he no longer wished to keep the bird, so desirous was he of doing what was right.

The next morning, when the old Robin came again, his courage failed a little; but he tried to remember what his Mamma had said, and he thought to himself, I will command myself, and be good. So he went up to the cage, and opened the door. This frightened away the old bird.

"Stop! stop!" cried Willy; "little Robin shall fly away with you;" but the old bird knew not what Willy said, and kept flying on.

By this time the young bird had tried its wings, by fluttering about a little while in the cage, and finding that it was able to fly, it spread them wide, and was out of the window in a moment.

"That way, that way," cried Willy, calling after the little bird, and pointing in the direction the old bird had flown. "Oh, Mamma, it is going the wrong way, and will not find its mother."

"But the mother will find its young one," said she, taking Willy up in her arms and kissing him; and in a few moments, the old Robin wheeled round in the air, and flew back to join the young one. They then went off together, and settled in a thick tree; and Willy could see them no longer.

"How glad the little Robin must be now, Mamma!"

"Yes," replied she; "think how happy he is, and you will not be sorry for your loss."

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