Gateway to the Classics: Display Item
Agnes Taylor Ketchum

Willie and the Oriole

I T was there on the window-sill just a moment ago. It was a spool of No. 60. It was a black spool with white thread on it. Bertha's mamma had been using it, and now she wanted it again. She had hunted everywhere for it—out of doors, and in the house, and Bertha had helped her, but they could not find it. Willie was sitting in the swing under the old willow-tree, and he had not seen anything of it, either. This happened one bright spring morning in the country. As Bertha stood at the open window wondering what had become of the thread, she noticed how very beautiful the willow-tree looked that morning. Its long golden branches hung down almost to the ground, and made such a pretty play-house, and its new green leaves shone so brightly in the warm sunshine. Just then she saw Willie stop swinging and sit still a moment; then he sprang from the swing, picked up something from the ground, and ran into the house.

"Oh, mamma!" he cried, "you can never guess who it was that stole your thread! It was a little bird—such a beautiful yellow bird with black spots. It had hold of one end of the thread, and was pulling and pulling to get the thread off the spool. Mamma, it pulled really hard for such a little thing."

Then his mamma laughed and said: "So pretty Mr. Oriole thought he would like to have some of my thread to build his nest with, did he? Well, I will forgive him, if he will only build it where we can see it. Would you like to help him build his nest, Willie?"

"Mamma, how can I?"

"Do you see my new dress on the bed, there? If you will take out the basting-threads, and hang them upon the currant bushes, I think your pretty bird will take them to weave into his nest. If you keep out of the way and watch, perhaps you may see him come and get them."

Willie did as his mother told him, and sure enough he saw the bird come and take the threads and fly with them to the willow-tree. And there he and his mate built a nest. It was such a curious nest! It was made of wrapping-cord, and grasses and thread and fibers from the clothes-line and from the children's swing, all woven together. It hung down from a branch of the tree, just like a little bag. Mr. Oriole and his mate worked very busily at it until it was finished. When it was done, Mrs. Oriole laid her eggs in it and then she sat on them.

On warm days Bertha and Willie would come and sit together in the swing under the old willow-tree, and swing and swing. And up over their heads Mrs. Oriole would sit in her pretty nest and swing and swing. And Mr. Oriole would perch upon a branch near by and sing and sing. Mrs. Oriole listened to his song and was happy. The children listened to his song and were happy, too. Oh, what bright sunny days those were! Even the old willow-tree itself seemed to grow more golden and green with the happiness and the sunshine. In a few weeks the eggs were hatched and the nest was full of baby birds. And then one morning the children heard Mr. Oriole singing such a joyful song that they all went out to listen. He seemed to say:

Rock-a-by birdies,

On the tree-tops;

When the wind blows,

The cradle will rock;

If the bough break,

The cradle will fall,

And down comes

Rock-a-by birdies and all.