The spring had been cold and stormy. The birds who were trying to go to housekeeping had a very hard time. From my chamber window I could see them sitting drenched and forlorn under the shelter of some tiny leaf that had hardly found light and warmth to grow. But June came on bright and warm, and with it my golden-haired friend; and this is the story she told me.
"Tu, lu, lu, tu, lu, lu," sang the great robin as he hopped this way and that, pretending to pick up worms, but really much more occupied with looking sideways at the shy little maiden who hopped very near him and looked on the ground, as if she thought of nothing in all the world but finding a nice breakfast. Now she lifts her head suddenly, and to her great surprise finds herself quite close to the red-breasted gentleman; so she hops away again, turning every minute to see if he follows.
Pick up the worms, little bird, but listen also to his song; for he sings what is very sweet to hear. "Tu, lu, lu, tu, lu, lu, will you be my bride; will you come with me to the old lilac tree, where I have found a nice place for a nest; will you, will you, tu, lu, lu, tu, lu, lu?"
Now although the little maiden hopped about shyly and, whenever she found herself near him, took a sudden start to run away as fast as possible, yet she did listen to his song all the while, and after a little sweet converse between them it was all settled; and this was their marriage.
Not a long engagement certainly, and the wedding took place in the grandest of old cathedrals, with a blue-domed roof and tall graceful pillars with sculptured capitals; the floor was carpeted with velvet, and light streamed from a magnificent chandelier that gave warmth at the same time. And their bridal song was sung by a choir of hundreds, nay perhaps thousands of the finest singers; but, what was best of all, the bridegroom sang to himself, and the bride seemed only too happy as she stood by his side. They did not go on a wedding tour; unless a swift flight up to the great elm-tree top may be called one. There they paused while the groom pointed out to the bride the old lichen-grown lilacs where in the crotch of a branch was still hanging the remains of a last year's nest.
"That is a fine place," she said, "and we must begin to build immediately, if we want to get the eggs laid in good season. Why, my sister's eggs were laid two weeks ago, and we must have our little birds in their autumn coats before the cold comes."
"With all my heart," said he; so, full of happiness and of song, they flew down to the green yard under the lilacs and picked up straw after straw, bits of cotton, bits of horse-hair, tiny sticks and hay from the open barn window, and they worked gaily from morning till night.
Now, down the street, on this very morning, in the great house with the new piazza, the long curtains are looped back from the windows and sunshine streams in where the rich hothouse flowers crowd deep baskets on the tables. For there is to be a wedding here to-day, and aunts and uncles and cousins are all assembled. The music and the fine dresses make everything bright and gay. Soon the ceremony is over, and in an hour more the guests have greeted the bride, eaten the bride cake, and are gone; while the carriage with white horses has rolled away with bride and bridegroom and the three great trunks filled with rich and gay dresses.
As the guests go down the street they talk of the fine wedding journey, in which their friends will see London and Paris, and may even go as far as Norway and have their pictures taken by the light of the midnight sun.
While all this is going on, what has become of our robin bride and groom? Look up among the branches of the old lilac. You may see them busily turning and twisting the straws and threads from the yard into a fine little nest. They have even picked up some hairs dropped from the tails of the white horses that carried the bride and groom away on their wedding journey. Doubtless these will add much to the appearance of the nest. Before the week is ended, the nest is finished; and soon, if we could climb so high, we might see in it four beautiful blue eggs. Have n't you heard of robin's-egg blue?
Now the mother bird broods over the eggs all the day, while the father flies here and there to the gardens and the fields, to get food for them both. Now and then he stops on a branch near her to sing of the beautiful things he has seen, or of the dear little birds that will soon be coming out of the eggs, and the merry life they will have together.
Here ended the story of my golden-haired friend, but she left me to find the rest of it myself. I am sure a pair of robins, who made their nest very late, in our own lilacs, must have been the ones of which she told me, and I watched them all summer as they cared for their babies and sang their morning and evening song, till the autumn winds began to blow cold—and they flew away to the shelter of some pine wood or to the sunny, groves of the south. I can see the poor deserted nest now as the winter storms have piled it high with snow. I hope next spring there will be enough of it remaining to suggest to some other robins that my lilacs would be a safe and happy home for themselves and their babies. I shall be sure that they have plenty of pretty threads and strings for building strewed under my trees, for they like a pretty nest as well as we like a pretty house.