Read The Little Foundling of The Goat and Her Kid , free online book, by Harriet Myrtle, on ReadCentral.com.

In the beginning of June, when the young birds have got nearly all their principal feathers, but have not yet learned to fly, it is a sad thing if by any accident one of them tumbles out of the nest. This misfortune sometimes happens when a nest is too full. Five or six little birds are a good many for a nest no bigger than a teacup; and there are often as many as five. We have also to recollect that these young things are always very wild, and impatient, and unreasonable, and make a great fluttering together, and scramble and climb over each other, especially when their mother brings them food in her bill. There is, of course, not enough food for all of them at once, but they all try to get it at once, and some of them are naughty and greedy, and try to get a second morsel before their brothers and sisters have had any at all. Now, the careful mother-bird knows this very well, and she, therefore, divides everything among them, so that each has a bit in turn, and while she feeds them she begs the rest to be as patient as they can, and not flutter, and chirrup, and gape so widely, and above all things, to mind they do not tumble, or push each other, over the edge of the nest.

It happened one day that this very accident occurred in a hedge-sparrow’s nest which had been built in the largest branch of a hawthorn-tree. This tree grew in the middle of a hedge that went round a large field, where there were at this time a number of haymakers, all very busy with the hay. While some were tossing the hay about in order to spread it out in the sun and dry it, others were raking up the hay that was already dry enough, and piling it up into haycocks. Men and women, and boys and girls too, were all at work in this way, and singing in the sun as they tossed the hay with forks, or raked it up with large wooden rakes. When the hay was thus moved about on the field, a frog sometimes jumped up, and went silently leaping away towards the hedge; and sometimes a field-mouse sprang out from the short grass, with a loud squeak, and ran off to hide himself in the hedge, squeaking all the way, not because he was in the least hurt, but because he had waked in a great fright.

At the same time that all this was going on, the sparrow, whose nest was in the hawthorn-tree, had brought a few seeds and a morsel of crust to her young ones. The seed she distributed with ease, but the morsel of crust was rather hard, and required her to pinch and peck it a good deal with her bill before it could be soft enough for the young birds. The young ones, however, were all so anxious to be first to receive the crust the moment it was ready, that they all began to make a loud chirruping, and scrambling, and pushing, and fluttering, and trampling, and climbing over each other, till at last two of them were on the very edge of the nest, and had each got hold of the crust. But the mother-bird did not approve of such rudeness, so she took it away from them in her own bill just as the two were beginning to pull with all their might, standing on opposite sides of the nest. They could not recover themselves, but over they went, fluttering down into the tree. One fell into the next bough below, but the other went fluttering into the hedge under the tree. The mother helped the nearest one up again into the nest, by showing it how to hop and fly from branch to branch; the other, however, was too low down, so there sat the unfortunate little fellow all alone upon a twig, chirruping and looking up in vain at his lost nest.

This unlucky nestling had not long sat in this way before some boys, who had brought the haymakers their dinners, and were returning home, saw him in the hedge, and immediately began to try to catch him. But though he could not fly, he could flutter, and if he was not able to run, at least he could hop; so every time one of the boys got near to him, the nestling scrambled on to the next bough, and thus from bough to bough all along the hedge. If the boys had only known how dreadfully frightened the poor little bird was, they never could have been so cruel as to hunt him in this way. They did not know this, however, and only thought of catching him. At last he had got to the end of the hedge, and then went fluttering down upon the field with the boys after him. They soon were so close to him, as he hopped and fluttered along the short grass, that the poor little fellow felt their hands would presently be upon him, and as a last chance of escape, he crept and hid himself under a wisp of hay.

Just at that moment there came into the field Charles Turner, with his sister Fanny, and their maid, each having a little wooden rake to make hay with. They saw the boys all running very eagerly after something in the grass, and they ran directly towards them to see what it was.

“O,” cried Charles, “it is a poor little bird that cannot fly!”

“Do not hurt it,” cried Fanny. “Pray, Charley, ask them not to hurt it!”

The nestling had been obliged to hop from beneath his little morsel of hay, and had now crept underneath a haycock.

“We did not mean to hurt it, Miss,” said one of the boys; “we only wanted to catch it, and we could not. But I am afraid one of us trod upon it somehow by accident, when it was under the bit of hay there; and, perhaps, it has been hurt somewhere. I’m very sorry if it is hurt.” As he said this, the boys all went away; and the one who had spoken really did look sorry.

“I wonder where the little fellow is hiding,” said Charles. “If he has been hurt, we had better look for him, to see if we can help him to find his nest.”

“Yes, let us look for him,” said Fanny; and they both went to work directly to remove the hay and search underneath the haycock, Sarah, their maid, helping them.

They were not long in finding the nestling. He was crouching close to the ground, with one bright little round black eye looking up at them, and was panting as if his little heart would break.

“We will not hurt you, poor little thing!” cried Fanny, as her brother stooped down and took him up softly in both hands. The nestling’s breast panted quicker than ever, and every now and then he gave a flutter, when Charles tried to look at him to see where he was hurt. At last, when he found how gently he was held, and that all they did to him was to smooth down the feathers of his back and wings, he began to be quiet, and to pant less, and gradually to cease making any fluttering.

“Now then,” said Charles, “he is quiet, and we may examine him.” So he slowly began to open his hands, and Fanny began to blow the little bird’s feathers with her mouth close down to him, to blow them on one side that they might see where he was hurt. But no bruise or scratch could be found. Presently, however, Charles said, “O, I see what has happened. The boys in running after him have trod upon his feet, and bruised them dreadfully. They are all red, and swelled, and crooked, and I do not believe they can ever get properly well again. His little claws have been twisted and broken. He will never be able to hop about any more; and I am sure he can never perch upon a twig. He will have nothing to hold fast with. What is to become of him?”

Fanny began to cry as she heard all this, and looked at the nestling’s bruised feet, and saw how badly they were injured. “He will die,” said she, “if we let him go: he will never be able to get up to his nest, nor hop about to find his food; and he will be starved. Do, Charley, let us take him home with us. If he gets well enough to hop and fly, we will give him his liberty; and if not, let us take care of him.”

Accordingly, home they all went, carrying the bird, gently wrapped up in a white handkerchief, and held loosely in Fanny’s double hands, so as not to press him. When they arrived they suddenly recollected that they had no cage for him, and did not know where to put him. Not knowing what to do, as their papa and mamma happened both to be out, Charles went into the yard to ask advice. To his great joy, Timothy, the coachman, told him there was an old wire lantern hanging up in the stable, which he might have. The old lantern was brought, and some hay and grass were laid at the bottom, and then Timothy said he knew of a chaffinch’s nest which had been built last year in a pear-tree that grew up one side of the stable wall, and they might get it down, and put this little lame fellow into it.

“But then,” said Fanny, “what will the chaffinches do without a nest!”

“O, you don’t understand,” said Charles. “It is an empty nest, made last year. It has no owners now.”

“Do get it, then, Timothy, please,” cried Fanny.

Away went Timothy for the old chaffinch’s nest, and Charles with him, while Fanny remained with the nestling, standing beside the wire lantern. They soon came back with the nest, which Fanny placed at the bottom of the lantern.

By this time Mrs. Dowse, the cook, came into the yard smiling, and bringing with her a saucer containing bread and milk and a quill, in order that the nestling should have some supper. “O, thank you, Mrs. Dowse,” cried Fanny. “I had quite forgotten that he would want something to eat. Will you teach us how to feed him?”

Mrs. Dowse took the nestling in her left hand, and a quill full of bread and milk in the other, the nestling all the while making a great kicking and struggling and resistance, not knowing what in the world was going to be done to him. The first time, however, he opened his bill to give a loud chirrup, as much as to say, “What are you about with me, Mrs. Dowse?” the quick fingers of the smiling cook popped a quill full of bread and milk down his throat. In a moment he opened it wide for another! and wider still for another! and yet wider still for one more! There was an end of all his resistance. He had found out what Mrs. Dowse wanted to do to him, and was very much pleased at it. In this way he was fed every day by Fanny, who soon learned to manage it very neatly.

The papa of Charles and Fanny used to call the nestling “The Little Foundling,” and so did their mamma, but Fanny and Charles also gave him the name of “Chirp.” Poor little Chirp’s feet did not get well. He still continued quite lame, as the bones of his claws had all been injured severely. In other respects he was very well; ate his food with a great appetite, and seemed contented and happy. His lantern was always hung in the pear-tree by the stable wall every fine day.

This little Foundling, however, was not the only bird in the house. Fanny’s uncle had brought her a beautiful canary on her last birthday, and he was of the most graceful shape, the most delicate yellow color, and the most clear and joyful voice that ever were seen or heard. He lived in a large cage of bright brass wire, which had a circular top and three perches. One perch was just level with his long seed-box, and, in fact, led up to it; the second perch was in the middle of the cage, and the third was in the circular top, which arched over him in the shape of a bell. He often had groundsel and chickweed hung in the wires over head, to look like a bower; and opposite this top perch was a small looking-glass, in which he could see himself. He had a drinking-glass hung outside his cage at the bottom, and up in one corner a round bath-glass to wash in. Every morning he had his bath; then he took his breakfast; then he hopped up to the top perch under his bell-shaped bower, and set his feathers all to rights at his looking-glass; then he bowed to himself once or twice (fancying all the while he saw another canary in the glass); then he polished his bill upon the perch to complete his toilet; and then he sang himself a delightful song. His name was Dicky. He was quite a gentleman.

When the weather was fine, this very gentleman-like canary bird was always hung in a mulberry-tree. Whenever he found himself among all these beautiful green leaves he sang louder and more joyfully than ever. Fanny and Charles, therefore, thought it was a pity to leave the poor little Foundling so lonely in his pear-tree by the stable, and accordingly they brought his funny old lantern and hung it upon the next bough to the one that held the cage of the canary. And there all day the poor little ragged lame sparrow sat looking with earnest eyes of admiration at the beautiful canary, and listening with the greatest wonder and pleasure to his singing. He only now and then ventured, when the canary stopped to utter his “chirp! chirp!” as much as to say, “more! more!” They were hung up close together in this manner almost every day for a week or two. They looked at one another very much; the nestling sparrow evidently regarding the canary with great admiration, and the canary seeming to pity and be sorry for the poor little lame Foundling.

One day Fanny said to her brother, “Do you see, Charley, how these birds look at each other? I should so much like to put Chirp into Dicky’s cage.”

“I have been thinking of the very same thing,” said Charles. “Let us run and ask mamma if we may do it.”

Away they ran and asked.

“Why,” said their mamma, “it certainly will have rather a strange appearance. The two birds do not seem suitable companions. It is an odd fancy, children; but you may do it if you like.”

No sooner said than done. Off ran Fanny and Charles took the little Foundling out of his old lantern opened the door of Dicky’s cage and at once put him in, and fastened the door. In a moment, Dicky flew up to his top perch, and stood looking down very earnestly; and the little Foundling, though he could stump about on his lame toes, never moved, but sat looking up at Sir Dicky. The nestling looked like a poor little ragged lame beggar-boy whom a sprightly gentleman in a bright yellow coat had been so compassionate as to take into his house.

Presently the Foundling went to the seed-box, and looked in. Down came Dicky in a moment, and drove him away from his box, and then ascended again to the top perch. This happened every time poor Chirp went near the seed. However, he took a good drink out of the bath-glass, at which both Fanny and Charles laughed very much. They then gave the Foundling some food through the wires of the cage. This they had to do for several days, till Dicky at last became more good-natured, and no longer prevented the poor lame Foundling from eating out of his seed-box.

They gradually became very good friends in the cage, though Dicky, except for his bath and his seed, was almost always upon the perch in the middle or the top of the cage, while Chirp, who never recovered from his lameness, went stumping about at the bottom. In other respects, however, the Foundling grew to be a good, strong sparrow with all his proper feathers, and made a clean and respectable appearance. He now looked like a stout faithful servant in a brown coat who inhabited the lower story, while the gay and sprightly owner of the house sat in the upper rooms to sing, or dance upon two perches. They lived very happily, and Fanny and Charles rejoiced that they had brought home the little lame Foundling.