Designed for the
Treatment of Animals.
Printed by T. Longman, and G.G.J.
illegible2 charactersRobinson, Pater-Noster-
Row and illegible1 characterJohnson, St.
To Her Royal Highness Princess Sophia.
I feel inexpreſſible ſastisfaction in being allowed to preſent to a Princess of your diſtinguiſhed humanity and ſweetneſs of diſpoſition, this little Work: not merely on A2 account iv A2v iv account of the honour it reflects on myſelf (of which I am very ſenſible,) but from the perſuaſion that your Patronage will give weight to the Lessons I now attempt to teach; and your Example enforce the practice of them.
I do not mean to flatter you, Madam, nor would I on any account ſuggeſt to your mind, an idea unſuitable to your tender years, therefore give me leave to add, that you muſt conſider yourſelf as indebted for this good diſpoſition, in the firſt place to Divine Providence, and in the next, v A3r v next, to the excellent education which it is your happineſs to receive.
If you continue to avail yourſelf of theſe advantages you will be a bleſſing to your Royal Parents, and an ornament to your country; and from your elevated ſtation, will be enabled to do much good in the world, by exciting the emulation of others, of inferior ranks, to imitate your virtues.
That theſe virtues may increaſe with your growing years, and that the anniverſary of this day may, A3 to vi A3v vi to the end of life, afford you a comfortable retroſpect on the time that has paſſed, is the ſervant wiſh of,
Madam, Your Royal Highneſs’s Moſt obliged, and Moſt obedient Servant,
1785-11-03November 3, 1785.
It certainly comes within the compaſs of Chriſtian Benevolence, to ſhew compaſſion to the Animal Creation; and a good mind naturally inclines to do ſo. But as through an erroneous education, or bad example, many children contract habits of tormenting inferior creatures, before they are conſcious of giving them pain; or fall into the contrary fault of immoderate tenderneſs to them; it is hoped, that an attempt to point out the line of conduct, which ought to regulate the actions of human beings, towards thoſe, over whom the viii A4v viii the Supreme Governor has given them dominion, will not be thought a uſeleſs undertaking: and that the mode of conveying inſtruction on this ſubject, which the Author of the following ſheets has adopted, will engage the attention of young minds, and prove inſtrumental to the happineſs of many an innocent animal.
Many young Readers doubtleſs remember to have met with a Book, which gives an account of a little boy, named Henry, and his ſiſter Charlotte, See the author’s Introduction to the Knowledge of Nature. who were indulged by their Mamma, with walking in the fields and gardens, where ſhe taught them to take particular notice of every object that preſented itſelf to their view. The conſequence of this was, that they contracted a great fondneſs for Animals; and uſed often to expreſs a wiſh, x A5v x wiſh, that their Birds, Cats, Dogs, &c. could talk, that they might hold converſations with them. Their Mamma, therefore, to amuſe them, compoſed the following Fabulous Histories; in which the ſentiments and affection of a good Father and Mother, and a Family of Children, are ſuppoſed to be poſſeſſed by a Neſt of Redbreaſts; and others of the feathered race, are, by the force of imagination, endued with the ſame faculties: but, before Henry and Charlotte began to conſider them, not as containing the real converſations of Birds, (for that it is impoſſible we ſhould ever underſtand,) but as a series of Fables, intended to convey moral inſtruction applicable to themſelves, at the ſame time that they excite compaſſion and tenderneſs for thoſe intereſtinging xi A6r xi ing and delightful creatures, on which ſuch wanton cruelties are frequently inflicted, and recommend univerſal Benevolence.
Having given this account of the origin of the following little Work, the Author will no longer detain her young Readers from the peruſal of it, as ſhe flatters herſelf, they will find ample inſtruction, reſpecting the proper treatment of Animals, in the courſe of her Fabulous Hiſtories, which now invite their attention.
In a hole, which time had made, in a wall covered with ivy, a pair of redbreasts built their neſt. No place could have been better choſen for the purpoſe; it was ſheltered from the rain, ſkreened from the wind, and in an orchard belonging to a gentleman, who had ſtrictly charged his domeſticks not to deſtroy the labours of thoſe little ſongſters, who choſe his ground as an aſylum.
In this happy retreat, which no idle ſchoolboy dared to enter, the Hen Redbreaſt laid four eggs, and then took her ſeat upon them; reſolving, that nothing ſhould tempt her to leave the neſt, till ſhe had hatched her infant brood. Her tender mate every morning brought her food, before he taſted any himſelf, and then cheered her with a ſong.
At length the day arrived, when the happy mother heard the chirping of her little ones; pleaſingB ing 002 B1v 2 ing to her ears, as the prattle of a beloved child to its fond parent: with inexpreſſible tenderneſs ſhe ſpread her maternal wings to cover them, threw out the egg-ſhells in which they before lay confined, then preſſed them to her boſom, and preſented them to her mate, who viewed them with rapture, and ſeated himſelf by her ſide, that he might ſhare her pleaſure.
We may promiſe ourselves much delight in rearing our little family, ſaid he, but it will occaſion us a great deal of trouble; I would willingly bear the whole fatigue myſelf, but it will be impoſſible for me, with my utmoſt labour and induſtry, to ſupply all our neſtlings with what is ſufficient for their daily ſupport; it will therefore be neceſſary for you, to leave the neſt ocaſionally, in order ſometimes to ſeek proviſions for them. She declared her readineſs to take a flight whenever it ſhould be reqiſite; and ſaid, that there would be no neceſſity for her to be long abſent, as ſhe had in her laſt excursſion diſcovered a place near the orchard, where food was ſcattered on purpoſe for ſuch birds as would take the pains of ſeeking it; and had been informed by Chaffinch, that there was no kind of danger in picking it up. This is a lucky diſcovery indeed, replied he, and we muſt avail ourſelves of it; for this great increaſe of family, renders it prudent to make uſe of every expedient for ſupplying our neceſſities; I myſelf,ſelf 003 B2r 3 ſelf, muſt take a larger circuit, for ſome inſects that are proper for the neſtlings, cannot be found in all places: however, I will bear you company whenever it is in my power. The little ones now began to feel the ſenſation of hunger, and opened their gaping mouths for food; on which, their kind father inſtantly flew forth to find it for them, and in turns ſupplied them all, as well as his beloved mate. This was a hard day’s work; and when evening came on, he was glad to ſeek repoſe; and turning his head under his wing, he ſoon fell aſleep; his mate followed his example; the four little ones had before fallen into a gentle ſlumber, and perfect quietneſs for ſome hours reigned in the neſt.
The next morning they were awakened at the dawn of day, by the ſong of a Sky-lark, who had a neſt near the orchard; and as the young Redbreaſts were impatient for food, their father cheerfully prepared himself to renew his toil, but firſt requeſted his mate to accompany him to the place ſhe had mentioned. That I will do, replied ſhe at a proper hour, but it is too early yet; I muſt, therefore, entreat that you will go by yourſelf, and procure a breakfaſt for us, as I am fearful of leaving the neſtlings before the air is warmer, leſt they ſhould be chilled. To this he readily conſented, and fed all his little darlings, to whom for the ſake of diſtinction, I ſhall give the names of Robin, Dicky, Flapſy, and B2 Peckſy. 004 B2v 4 Peckſy. When this kind office was performed, he perched on an adjacent tree, and there, while he reſted, entertained his family with his melody, till his mate ſpringing from the neſt, called on him to attend to her; on which he inſtantly took wing, and followed her to a court-yard, belonging to an elegant manſion.
No ſooner did they appear before the parlour window, than it was haſtily thrown up by Miſs Harriet Benſon, a little girl about eleven years old, the daughter of the Gentleman and Lady to whom the house belonged.
Miſs Harriet, with great delight, called her brother to ſee two Robin Redbreasts: Her ſummons was inſtantly complied with, and ſhe was joined by Maſter Frederick, a fine chubby roſy-cheeked boy, about ſix years of age, who, as ſoon as he had taken a peep at the feathered ſtrangers, ran to his mamma, and entreated her to give him ſomething to feed the birds with. I muſt have a great piece of bread this morning, ſaid he, for there are all the Sparrows and Chaffinches that come every day, and two Robin Redbreasts beſides. Here is a piece for you, Frederick, replied Mrs. Benſon, cutting a roll that was on the table; but if your daily penſioners continue to increaſe, as they have done lately, we muſt provide ſome other food for them, as it is not right to cut pieces from a loaf on purpoſe for birds, becauſe there are many children that want bread, to whom we ſhould give 005 B3r 5 give the preference. Would you deprive a poor little hungry boy of his breakfaſt, to give it to birds? No, ſaid Frederick, I would ſooner give my own breakfaſt to a poor boy, than he ſhould go without. But where ſhall I get victuals enough for my birds? I will beg the cook to ſave the crumbs in the bread-pan, and deſire John to preſerve all he makes, when he cuts the loaf for dinner, and thoſe which are ſcattered on the tablecloth. A very good ſcheme, said Mrs. Benſon, and I adviſe you, my dear, to put it in execution; for I make no doubt it will anſwer your purpoſe, if you can prevail on the ſervants to indulge you. I cannot bear to ſee the leaſt fragment of food waſted, which may conduce to the ſupport of life in any creature.
Miſs Harriet being quite impatient to exerciſe her benevolence, requeſted her brother to remember that the poor birds, for whom he had been a ſucceſsful ſolicitor, would ſoon fly away, if he did not make haſte to feed them; on which, he ran to the window with his treaſure in his hand.
When Miss Harriet firſt appeared, the winged ſuppliants approached with eager expectation of the daily handful, which their kind benefactreſs made it a cuſtom to diſtribute, and were ſurprized at the delay of her charity. They hopped around the window—they chirped—they twittered, and employed all their little arts to gain attention; and were on the point of departing, when Maſter B3 Frede- 006 B3v 6 Frederick, breaking a bit from the piece he held in his hand, attempted to ſcatter it among them, caling out at the ſame time, Dicky! Dicky! On hearing the well known ſound of invitation, the little flock immediately drew near—Maſter Frederick held a ſhort conteſt with his ſiſter, in order to prevail with her to let him feed all the birds himſelf; but finding that he could not fling the crumbs far enough for the Redbreasts, who with the timidity of ſtrangers, kept at a distance, he reſigned the taſk, and Miſs Harriet, with dexterous hand, threw ſome of them to the very ſpot where the affectionate pair ſtood, waiting for an opportunity of attracting her notice, and with grateful hearts picked up the portion aſſigned them; and in the mean while, the other birds having ſatisfied their hunger ſucceſſively withdrew, and they were left alone. Masſter Frederick exclaimed with rapture, that the two Robin Redbreasts were feeding! and Miſs Harriet meditated a deſign of taming them, by repeated inſtances of kindneſs. Be ſure, my dear brother, ſaid she, not to forget to aſk the cook and John for the crumbs; and do not let the leaſt little morſel of any thing you have to eat, fall to the ground. I will be careful in reſpect to mine, and we will collect all that papa and mamma crumble; and if we cannot by theſe means get enough, I will ſpend ſome of my money in grain for them.—O, ſaid Frederick, I would give all the money I have in the world to buy victuals for my 007 B4r 7 my dear, dear birds. Hold, my love ſaid Mrs. Benſon, though I commend your humanity, I muſt remind you again, that there are poor people as well as poor birds.—Well, mamma, replied Frederick, I will only buy a little grain then. As he ſpake the laſt words, the Redbreaſts having finiſhed their meal, the mother bird expreſſed her impatience to return to the neſt: and having obtained her mate’s conſent, repaired with all poſſible ſpeed to her humble habitation, whilſt he tuned his melodious pipe, and delighted their young benefactors with his muſic; he then ſoared into the air, and took his flight to an adjoining garden, where he had a great chance of finding worms for his family.
Master Benson expreſſed great concern that the Robins were gone; but was comforted by his ſiſter, who reminded him, that in all probability his new favorites, having met with ſo kind a reception, would return on the morrow. Mrs. Benſon then bid them ſhut the window, and taking Frederick in her lap, and deſiring B4 Miſs 008 B4v 8 Miſs Harriet to ſit down by her, thus addreſſed them.
I am delighted, my dear children, with your humane behaviour towards the animal creation, and wiſh by all means to encourage it. But though a moſt commendable propenſity, it requires regulation; let me therefore recommend to you, not to ſuffer it to gain upon you to ſuch a degree, as to make you unhappy, or forgetful of thoſe, who have a ſuperior claim to your attention: I mean poor people; always keep in mind the diſtreſſes which they endure, and on no account waſte any kind of food, nor give to inferior animals what is deſigned for mankind.
Miſs Harriet promiſed to follow her mamma’s inſtructions; but Frederick’s attention was entirely engaged by watching a Butterfly, which had juſt left the chryſalis, and was fluttering in the window, longing to try its wings in the air and ſunſhine. This Frederick was very deſirous of catching, but his mamma would not permit him to attempt it; becauſe (ſhe told him) he could not well lay hold of its wings without doing it an injury, and it would be much happier at liberty. Should you like, Frederick, ſaid ſhe, when you are going out to play, to have any body lay hold of you violently, ſcratch you all over, then offer you ſomething to eat which is very diſagreable, and perhaps poiſonous, and ſhut you up in a little dark room? And yet this is the fate to which many an harmleſs inſect is condemned by 009 B5r 9 by thoughtleſs children. As ſoon as Frederick underſtood that he could not catch the Butterfly without hurting it, he gave up the point, and aſſured his mamma, he did not want to keep it, but only to carry it out of doors. Well, replied ſhe, that end may be anſwered by opening the window, which at her deſire was done by Miſs Harriet; the happy inſect ſeized the opportunity of eſcaping, and Frederick had ſoon the pleaſure of ſeeing it in a roſe-tree.
Breakfaſt being ended, Mrs Benſon reminded the young lady and gentleman, that it was almoſt time for their leſſons to begin; but deſired their maid to take them into the garden before they applied to buſineſs, whilſt ſhe gave ſome directions in the family; and Maſter Frederick, during his walk, amuſed himſelf with watching the Butterfly, as it flew from flower to flower, which gave him more pleaſure than he could poſſibly have received from catching and confining the little tender creature.
Let us now ſee what became of our Redbreasts, after they left their young benefactors.
The hen bird, as I informed you, repaired immediately to the neſt; her heart fluttered with apprehenſion as ſhe entered it, and ſhe eagerly called out, Are you all ſafe my little dears? All ſafe, my good mother, replied Peckſy, but a little hungry and very cold. Well, ſaid ſhe, your laſt complaint I can ſoon remove; but in reſpect to the ſatisfying your hunger, that muſt be your father’s taſk, for I have not been able to bring any thing good for you to eat; 010 B5v 10 eat; however he will ſoon be here, I make no doubt. Then ſpreading her wings over them all, ſhe ſoon communicated warmth to them, and they were again comfortable.
In a very ſhort time her mate returned, for he only ſtaid at Mr. Benson’s to finiſh his ſong, and refreſh himſelf with ſome clear water, which his new friends always kept in the place where they fed the birds, on purpoſe for their little penſioners. He brought in his mouth a worm, which was given to Robin; and was going to fetch one for Dicky, but that his mate reminded him of their agreement, to divide betwixt them the care of providing for the family. My young ones are now hatched, ſaid ſhe, and you can keep them warm as well as myſelf; take my place, therefore, and the next excurſion ſhall be mine. I conſent, anſwered he, with the more pleaſure, becauſe I think a little flying now and then will do you good; but to ſave you the trouble of a painful ſearch, I can direct you to a ſpot, where you may be certain of finding worms enow for this morning’s ſupply. He then deſcribed the place; and immediately on her quitting the neſt entered it, and gatherd his young ones under his wings.— Come, my dears, ſaid he, let us ſee what kind of a nurſe I can make; but an aukward one, I fear; even every mother-bird is not a good nurſe: but you are very fortunate in your’s, for ſhe is an exceedingly tender one, and I hope you will make her 011 B6r 11 her a dutiful return for her kindneſs. They all promiſed him they would: Well, then, ſaid he, I will ſing you a ſong. He did ſo, and it was a very merry one, and delighted the neſtlings extremely; ſo that though they laid a little inconveniently under his wings, they did not regard it, nor think the time of their mother’s abſence long; ſhe had not ſucceeded in the place ſhe firſt went to, as a boy was picking up worms to angle with, of whom ſhe was afraid, and therefore flew farther: but as ſoon as ſhe obtained what ſhe went for, ſhe returned with all poſſible ſpeed; and notwithſtanding ſhe had repeated invitations from ſeveral gay birds which ſhe met, to join their ſportive parties, ſhe kept a ſteady course, preferring the pleaſure of feeding little Dicky, to all the diverſions of the fields and groves. As ſoon as ſhe came near the neſt, her mate ſtarted up to make room for her, and take his turn of providing for his family. Once more adieu! ſaid he, and was out of ſight in an inſtant.
My dear neſtlings, ſaid the mother, how do you do? Very well, thank you, replied all at once; and we have been exceedingly merry, ſaid Robin, for my father has ſung a ſweet ſong. I think, ſaid Dicky, I ſhould like to learn it. Well, replied the mother, he will teach it to you, I dare ſay: here he comes, aſk him. I am aſhamed, ſaid Dicky. Then you are a ſilly bird, never be aſhamed, but when you commit a fault: aſking your father to teach 012 B6v 12 teach you to ſing, is not one; and good parents delight to teach their young ones every thing that is proper and uſeful. Whatever ſo good a father ſets you an example of, you may ſafely deſire to imitate. Then addreſſing herſelf to her mate, who for an inſtant ſtopped at the entrance of the neſt, that he might not interrupt her inſtructions. Am I not right, ſaid ſhe, in what I have juſt told them? Perfectly ſo, replied he; I ſhall have pleaſure in teaching them all that is in my power; but we muſt talk of that another time. Who is to feed poor Peckſy? Oh! I, I, anſwered the mother, and was gone in an inſtant. And ſo you want to learn to ſing, Dicky? ſaid the father. Well then, I will repeat my ſong, ſo pray liſten very attentively; you may learn the notes, though you will not be able to practice them till your voice is stronger. He then ſung with the ſame approbation as before.
Robin now remarked, that it was very pretty indeed, and expreſſed his deſire to learn it alſo. By all means, ſaid his father, I ſhall ſing it very often, ſo you may learn it if you pleaſe. For my part, ſaid Flapſy, I do not think I could have patience to learn it, it will take ſo much time. —Nothing, my dear Flapſy, anſwered the father, can be acquired without patience, and I am ſorry to find yours begin to fail you already: But I hope if you have no taſte for muſic, that you will give the greater application to things that may be of more importance to you. Well, ſaid Peckſy, 013 B7r 13 Peckſy, I would apply to muſic with all my heart, but I do not believe it poſſible for me to attain it. Perhaps not, replied her father, but I do not doubt your application to whatever your mother requires of you, and ſhe is an excellent judge both of your talents, and of what is ſuitable to your ſtation in life. She is no ſongſter herſelf, and yet ſhe is very clever, I aſſure you. Here ſhe comes. Then riſing to make room for her, take your ſeat, my love, ſaid he, and I will perch upon the ivy. The hen again covered her brood, whilſt her mate amuſed her with his ſinging and converſation, till evening reminded them of repose; excepting, that each made alternate excurſions, as the appetites of their young ones required.
In this manner ſeveral days paſſed with little variation, the neſtlings were very thriving, and daily gained ſtrength and knowledge, through the care and attention of their indulgent parents, who every day viſited their friends, Master and Miſs Benſon. Frederick had been ſucceſful in his application to both the cook and footman, by whoſe aſſiſtance he obtained enough for his dear birds, as he called them, without infringing on the rights of the poor; as he was ſtill able to produce a penny, whenever his papa or mamma pointed out to him a proper object of charity.
It happened one day, that both the Redbreaſts, who always went together to Mr. Benson’s (becauſe if one had waited for the other’s return, it would have miſſed the chance of being fed) it happened, I ſay, that they were both abſent longer than uſual, for their little benefactors having been fatigued with a very long walk the evening before, lay late in bed that morning; but as ſoon as Frederick was dreſſed, his ſiſter, who was waiting for him, took him by the hand, and led him down ſtairs, where he haſtily demanded of the cook the collection of crumbs reſerved for him. As ſoon as he entered the breakfaſt parlour, he ran eagerly to the window, and attempted to fling it up. What is the cauſe of this mighty buſtle? ſaid his mamma. Do you not perceive that I am in the room, Frederick? Oh, my birds! my birds! cried he. I underſtand, rejoined Mrs. Benſon, that you have neglected to feed your little penſioners; how came this about, Harriet? We were ſo tired laſt night, anſwered Miſs Benſon, that we overſlept ourſelves, mamma. This excuſe may ſatisfy you and your brother added the Lady, but I fear your birds would bring heavy complaints against you, were they able to talk our language. 015 B8r 15 language. But make haſte to ſupply their preſent wants; and for the future, whenever you give any living creature cauſe to depend on you for ſuſtenance, be careful on no account to diſappoint it; and if you are prevented feeding it yourſelf, employ another perſon to do it for you. But though it is very commendable, and indeed an obligation on your humanity, ſo be attentive to your dependants, yet you muſt not let this make you forgetful of your duty to your friends. It is cuſtomary for little boys and girls to pay their reſpects to their papas and mamas, every morning, as ſoon as they ſee them. This, Frederick, you ought to have done to me, on entering the parlour, inſtead of tearing acroſs it, crying out, my birds! my birds! It would have taken you but a very little time to have done ſo: however, I will excuſe your neglect now, my dear, as you did not intend to offend me; but I expect that you will ſo manage the buſineſs you have undertaken, that it may not break in your higher obligations. You depend as much on your papa and me, for every thing you want, as theſe little birds do on you: nay, more ſo, for they could ſupply their own wants, by ſeeking food in other places; but children can do nothing towards their ſupport: therefore it is particularly requiſite, that they ſhould be dutiful and reſpectful to thoſe, whoſe tenderneſs and care are conſtantly exerted for their benefit.Miſs 016 B8v 16
Miſs Harriet, promiſed her mamma, that ſhe would, on all occaſions, endeavor to behave as ſhe wiſhed her to do; but I am ſorry to ſay, Frederick was more intent on opening the window, than on imbibing the good inſtructions that were given him: this he could not effect, and therefore Harriet, by her mamma’s permiſſion, went to his aſſiſtance, and the ſtore of proviſions was diſpenſed. As many of the birds had neſts, they eat their meal with all poſſible expedition; amongſt this number were the Robins, who diſpatched the buſineſs as ſoon as they could, for the hen was anxious to return to her little ones, and the cock to procure them a breakfaſt; and having given his young friends a ſerenade, before they left their bedchambers, he did not think it neceſſary to ſtay to ſing any more, they therefore departed.
When the mother-bird arrived at the ivy wall, ſhe ſtopt at the entrance of the neſt, with a palpitating heart; but ſeeing her brood all ſafe and well, ſhe haſtened to take them under her wings. As ſoon as ſhe was ſeated, ſhe obſerved that they were not ſo cheerful as uſual. What is the matter? ſaid ſhe, How have you agreed during my abſence? To theſe queſtions all were unwilling to reply, for the truth was, that they had been quarrelling almoſt the whole time. What all ſilent? ſaid ſhe, I fear you have not obeyed my commands, but have been contending. I deſire you will tell me the truth. Robin, knowing that he was 017 B9r 17 was the greateſt offender, began to juſtify himſelf, before the other could have time to lay an accuſation againſt him.
I am ſure, mother, ſaid he, I only gave Dicky a little peck, becauſe he crouded me ſo; and all the others joined with him, and fell upon me at once.
Since you have begun, Robin, anſwered Dicky, I muſt ſpeak, for you gave me a very hard peck indeed, and I was afraid you had put out my eye. I am ſure I made all the room I could for you; but you ſaid you ought to half the neſt, and to be maſter, when your father and mother were out, becauſe you are the eldest.
I do not love to tell tales, ſaid Flapſy, but what Dicky says is very true, Robin; and you plucked two or three little feathers out of me, only becauſe I begged you not to uſe us ill.
And you ſet your foot very hard upon me, cried Peckſy, for telling you that you had forget your dear mother’s injunction.
This is a ſad ſtory indeed, ſaid the mother. I am very ſorry to find, Robin, that you already diſcover ſuch a turbulent diſposition. If you go on in this manner, we ſhall have no peace in the neſt, nor can I leave it with any degree of ſatisfaction. As for your being the eldeſt, though it makes me ſhew you a preference on all proper occaſions, it does not give you a priviledge to domineer over your brothers and ſiſters. You are all equally 018 B9v 18 equally the objects of our tender care, which we ſhall excerciſe impartially amongſt you, provided you do not forfeit it by bad behavior. To ſhew you that you are not maſter of the neſt, I deſire you to get from under my wing, and ſit on the outſide, while I cheriſh thoſe who are dutiful and good. Robin greatly mortified, retired from his mother; on which Dicky, with the utmoſt kindneſs, began to intercede for him. Pardon Robin, my dear mother, I entreat you, ſaid he, I heartily forgive his treatment of me, and would not have complained to you, had it not been neceſſary for my own juſtification. You are a good bird, Dicky, ſaid his mother, but ſuch an offence as this muſt be repented of before it is pardoned. At this inſtant her mate returned with a fine worm, and looked as uſual for Robin, who lay ſkulking by himſelf. Give it, ſaid the mother, to Dicky, Robin muſt be ſerved laſt this morning; nay, I do not know whether I ſhall permit him to have any victuals all day. Dicky was very unwilling to mortify his brother, but on his mother’s commanding him not to detain his father, he opened his mouth and ſwallowed the delicious mouthful. What can be the matter, ſaid the good father, when he had emptied his mouth, ſurely none of the little ones have been naughty? But I cannot ſtop to enquire at preſent, for I left another fine worm, which may be gone if I do not make haſte back.
As ſoon as he departed, Dicky renewed his ſolicitationstations 019 B10r 19 tations that Robin might be forgiven; but as he ſat ſwelling with anger and diſdain, becauſe he fancied that the eldeſt ſhould not be ſhoved to the outſide of his mother’s wing, while the others were fed, ſhe would not hear a word in his behalf. The father ſoon came and fed Flapſy, and then thinking it beſt for his mate to continue her inſtructions, he made another excurſion; during which Peckſy, whoſe little heart was full of affectionate concern for the puniſhment of her brother, thus attempted to comfort him.
Dear Robin, do not grieve, I will give you my breakfaſt, if my mother will let me. O, ſaid Robin, I do not want any breakfaſt; if I may not be ſerved first, I will have none. Shall I aſk my mother to forgive you? I do not want any of your interceſſions, replied he; if you had not been a parcel of ill-natured things, I ſhould not have been puſhed about as I am.
Come back, Peckſy, ſaid the mother, who overheard them, I will not have you hold converſe with ſo naughty a bird. I forbid every one of you even to go near him. The father then arrived, and Peckſy was fed. You may reſt, yourſelf, my dear, ſaid the mother, your morning’s taſk is ended. Why, what has Robin done? aſked he. What I am ſorry to relate, ſhe replied; Quarrelled with his brothers and ſiſters. Quarrelled with his brothers and sisters! you ſurpriſe me: I could not have ſuſpected he would have been either ſo fooliſh 020 B10v 20 fooliſh or ſo unkind.—O, this is not all, ſaid the mother, for he preſumes on being the eldeſt, and claims half the neſt to himſelf when we are abſent, and now is ſullen becauſe he hisis diſcharged, and not fed firſt as uſual. If that is the caſe, replied the father, leave me to ſettle this buſineſs, my dear, and pray go into the air a little, for you ſeem to be ſadly agitated. I am diſturbed, ſaid ſhe, I confeſs; for after all my care and ſolicitude, I did not expect ſuch a ſad recompenſe as this. I am ſorry to expoſe this perverſe bird, even to you, but he reſiſts my efforts to reform him. I will do as you deſire, go into the air a little; ſo ſaying, ſhe repaired to a neighbouring tree, where ſhe waited, with anxious expectation, the event of her mate’s interposition .
As soon as the mother departed, the father thus addreſſed the delinquent. And ſo, Robin, you want to be master of the neſt? A pretty maſter you will make indeed, who do not know even how to govern your own temper! I will not ſtand to talk much to you now, becauſe, in your preſent diſposition, you would in all probability turn a deaf ear to my admonitions; but depend upon it, I will not ſuffer you to uſe any of the family ill, particularly your good mother; and if you perſiſt in obſtinacy, I will certainly turn you out of the neſt before you can fly. Theſe threatenings intimidated Robin, and he alſo began to be very hungry, as well as cold; he therefore promiſed to behave better 021 B11r 21 better for the future, and his brothers and ſiſters pleaded earneſtly that he might be forgiven and reſtored to his uſual place.
I can ſay nothing in reſpect to the laſt particular, replied the father, that depends on his mother, but as it is his firſt offence, and he ſeems to be very ſorry, I will myſelf pardon it, and intercede for him with his mother, who I fear is at this time lamenting his obduracy. On this he left the neſt to ſeek for her. Return, my dear, ſaid he, to your beloved family; Robin ſeems ſenſible of his offence, and longs to aſk your forgiveneſs. Pleaſed at this intelligence, the mother raiſed her drooping head, and cloſed her wings, which hung mournfully by her ſides, expreſſive of the dejection of her ſpirits. I fly to give it him, ſaid, ſhe, and haſtened into the neſt. In the mean while Robin wiſhed for, yet dreaded her return.
As ſoon as he ſaw her, he lifted up a ſupplicating eye, and with feeble accents (for hunger and ſorrow had made him faint) he chirped, Forgive me, dear mother, I will not again offend you. I accept your ſubmiſſion, Robin, ſaid she, and will once more receive you to my wing; but indeed your behaviour has made me very unhappy. She then made room for him, he neſtled cloſely to her ſide, and ſoon found the benefit of her foſtering heat; but the pain of hunger ſtill remained, yet he had not confidence to aſk his father to fetch him any victuals: but this kind parent waited not for ſolicitation,tation, 022 B11v 22 tation, for ſeeing that his mother had received him into favour, he went with all ſpeed to an adjacent field, where he ſoon met with refreſhment for him, which with tender love he preſented, and Robin ſwallowed with gratitude. Thus was peace reſtored to the neſt, and the happy mother once more rejoiced that harmony reigned in the family.
A few days after, a freſh diſturbance took place. All the little Red-breaſts, excepting Peckſy, in turn committed ſome fault or other, for which they were occaſionally puniſhed; but ſhe was of ſo amiable a diſpoſition, that it was her conſtant ſtudy to act with propriety, and avoid giving offence; on which account ſhe was juſtly careſſed by her parents with diſtinguiſhing kindneſs. This excited the envy of the others, and they joined together to treat her ill, giving her the title of the Favorite; ſaying, that they made no doubt their father and mother would reſerve the niceſt morſels for their darling.
Poor Peckſy bore all their reproaches with patience, hoping that ſhe ſhould in time regain their good 023 B12r 23 good opinion by her gentleneſs and affection. But it happened one day, that in the midſt of their tauntings their mother unexpectedly returned, who hearing an uncommon noiſe among her young ones, ſtopped on the ivy to learn the cauſe; and as ſoon as ſhe diſcovered it, made her appearance at the entrance of the neſt, with a countenance that indicated her knowledge of their proceedings, and her diſpleasure at them.
Are theſe ſentiments, ſaid ſhe, that ſubſiſt in a family, which ought to be bound together by love and kindneſs? Which of you has cauſe to reproach, either your father or me, with partiality? Do we not, with the exacteſt equality, diſtribute the fruits of our labours among you? And in what reſpect has poor Peckſy the preference, but in that commendation which is juſtly her due, and which you do not ſtrive to deſerve? Has ſhe ever yet uttered a complaint againſt you, though, from the dejection of her countenance, which ſhe in vain attempted to conceal, it is evident that ſhe has ſuffered your reproaches for ſome days paſt? I poſitively command you to treat her otherwiſe, for it is a mother’s duty to ſuccour a perſecuted neſtling; and I will certainly admit her next my heart, and baniſh you all from that place you have hitherto poſſeſſed in it, if you ſuffer envy and jealousy to occupy your boſoms, to the excluſion of that tender love which ſhe, as the kindeſt of ſiſters, has a right to expect from you.Robin, 024 B12v 24
Robin, Dicky,and Flapſy were quite confounded by their mother’s reproof, and Peckſy felt an affectionate concern that they had incurred the diſpleaſure of ſo tender a parent; and far from increaſing it by complaining of them, endeavored to ſoften her anger. That I have been vexed, my dear mother, ſaid ſhe, is true, but not to as great a degree as you ſuppoſe; and I am ready to believe that my dear brothers and ſiſter were not in earneſt in the ſevere things they ſaid of me,—Perhaps they only meant to try my affection.—To ſpare them the trouble of any future trial, I now entreat them to believe my aſſurances, that I would willingly reſign the greateſt pleaſure in life, could I by that means increaſe their happineſs; and ſo far from wiſhing for the niceſt morſel, would content myſelf with the humbleſt fare, rather than any of them ſhould be diſappointed. This tender ſpeech had its deſired effect; it recalled thoſe ſentiments of love, which envy and jealouſy had for a time baniſhed; each neſtling acknowledged its fault, and having obtained the forgiveneſs of their mother, a perfect reconciliation took place, to the great joy of Peckſy, and indeed of all parties.
All the neſtlings continued very good for ſeveral days, and no occurrence happened worth relating; the little flock were ſoon covered with feathers, which their mother taught them to dreſs, telling them, that neatneſs was a very eſſential thing, beinging 025 C1r 25 ing conducive to health, and alſo to the rendering them agreeable in the eye of the world.
Robin was a very ſtrong robuſt bird, not remarkable for his beauty, but there was a great briſkneſs in his manner, which covered many defects, and he was very likely to attract notice. His father judged, from the tone of his chirpings, that he would be a very good ſongſter.
Dicky had a remarkably fine plumage, his breaſt was of a beautiful red, his body and wings of an elegant mottled brown, and his eyes ſparkled like diamonds.
Flapſy was alſo very pretty, but more diſtingiuſhed for the elegance of her shape, than for the variety and luſtre of her feathers.
Peckſy had no outward charms to recommend her to notice; but theſe defects were amply ſupplied by the ſweetness of her diſpoſition, which was amiable to the greateſt degree. Her temper was continually ſerene, ſhe was ever attentive to the happineſs of her parents, and would not have grieved them for the world; and her affection for her brothers and ſiſter was ſo great, that ſhe conſtantly preferred their intereſt to her own, of which we lately gave an inſtance.
The kind parents attended to them with unremitting affection, and made their daily viſit to Master and Miſs Benson, who very punctually diſcharged the benevolent office of feeding them. The Robin Redbreaſts, made familiar by repeated C favours, 026 C1v 26 favours, approached nearer and nearer to their little friends by degrees, and at length ventured to enter the room and feed upon the breakfaſt-table. Miſs Harriet was delighted at this circumſtance, and Frederick was quite tranſported; he longed to catch the birds, but his mamma told him, that would be the very mean to drive them away. Miſs Harriet entreated him not to frighten them on any account, and he was prevailed on to forbear; but could not help expreſſing a wiſh that he had them in a cage, that he might feed them all day long.
And do you really think, Frederick, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, that theſe little delicate creatures are ſuch gluttons, as to deſire to be fed all day long? Could you tempt them to do it, they would ſoon die; but they know better, and as ſoon as their appetites are ſatisfied, always leave off eating. Many a little boy may learn a leſſon from them. Do not you recollect one of your acquaintance, who, if an apple-pie, or any thing elſe that he calls nice, is ſet before him, will eat till he makes himſelf ſick? Frederick looked aſhamed, being conſcious that he was too much inclined to induldge his love of delicacies. Well, ſaid his mamma, I ſee you underſtand who I mean, Frederick, ſo we will ſay no more on that ſubject; only, when you meet with that little Gentleman, give my love to him, and tell him, I beg he will be as moderate as his Redbreaſts.The 027 C2r 27
The cock bird having finiſhed his breakfaſt, flew out at the window, followed by his mate; and as ſoon as they were out of ſight, Mrs. Benson continued her diſcourse. And would you really confine theſe ſweet creatures in a cage, Frederick, merely to have the pleaſure of feeding them? Should you like to be always ſhut up in a little room, and think it ſufficient if you were ſupplied with victuals and drink? Is there no enjoyment in running about, jumping, and going from place to place? Do not you like to keep company with little boys and girls? And is there no pleaſure in breathing the freſh air? Though theſe little animals are inferior to you, there is no doubt but they are capable of enjoyments ſimilar to theſe; and it muſt be a dreadful life for a poor bird to be ſhut up in a cage, where he cannot ſo much as make uſe of his wings—where he is excluded from his natural companions—and where he cannot poſſibly receive that refreſhment, which the air muſt afford to him when at liberty to ſoar to ſuch a height. But this is not all, for many a poor bird is caught, and ſeparated from his family, after it has been at the trouble of building a neſt, has perhaps laid its eggs, or even hatched its young ones, which are by this means expoſed to inevitable deſtruction. It is likely that theſe very Redbreaſts may have young ones, for this is the ſeaſon of the year for their hatching; and I rather think they have, from the circumſtance of their always coming together. C2 If 028 C2v 28 If that is the caſe, ſaid Miſs Harriet, it would be pity indeed, to confine them. But why, mamma, if it is wrong to catch birds, did you at one time keep Canaries?
The caſe is very different in reſpect to Canaries, my dear, ſaid Mrs. Benson. By keeping them in a cage, I did them a kindneſs. I conſidered them as little foreigners who claimed my hoſpitality. This kind of bird came originally from a warm climate, they are in their nature very ſuſceptible of cold, and would periſh in the open air in our winters: neither does the food which they feed on grow plentifully in this countrycountry; and as they are always here bred in cages, they do not know how to procure the materials for their neſts abroad. And there is another particular which would greatly diſtreſs them were they to be turned looſe, which is, the ridicule and contempt they would be expoſed to from other birds. I remember once to have ſeen a poor Canary, which had been turned looſe becauſe it could not ſing; and ſurely no creature could be more miſerable. It was ſtarving for want of victuals, famiſhing with thirſt, ſhivering with cold, and looked terrified to the greatest degree; while a parcel of Sparrows and Chafinches purſued it from place to place, twittering and chirping with every mark of inſolence and deriſion. I could not help fancying the little creature to be like a foreigner juſt landed from ſome diſtant country, followed by a rabble of boys, 029 C3r 29 boys who were ridiculing him, becauſe his dreſs and language were ſtrange to them.
And what became of the poor little creature, mamma? ſaid Miss Harriet. I was going to tell you, my dear, replied Mrs. Benſon. I ordered the ſervant to bring me a cage, with ſeed and water in their uſual places; this I cauſed to be hung on a tree, next to that in which the little ſufferer in vain endeavoured to hide himſelf among the the leaves from his cruel purſuers. No ſooner did the ſervant retire, than the poor little wretch flew to it. I immediately had the cage brought into the parlour, where I experienced great pleaſure in obſerving what happineſs the poor creature enjoyed in her deliverance. I kept it ſome years, but not chuſing to confine her in a little cage, had a large one bought, and procured a companion for her of her own ſpecies. I ſupplied them with materials for building, and from them proceeded a little colony, which grew ſo numerous, that you know I gave them to Mr. Bruce, to put in his aviary, where you have ſeen them enjoying themſelves. So now I hope I have fully accounted for having kept Canary birds in a cage. You have indeed, mamma, ſaid Harriet.
I have alſo, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, occaſionally kept Larks. In ſevere winters vaſt numbers of them come to this country from a colder climate, and many periſh. Quantities of them are killed and ſold for the ſpit, and the bird-catchers uſually have a great many to ſell, C3 and 030 C3v 30 and many an idle boy has ſome to diſpoſe of. I frequently buy them, as you know, Harriet, but as ſoon as the fine weather returns, I conſtantly ſet them at liberty. But come, my dears, prepare for your morning walk, and afterwards let me ſee you in my dreſſing-room.
I wonder, said Frederick, whether our Redbreaſts have got a neſt? I will watch to-morrow which way they fly, for I ſhould like to ſee the little ones. And what will you do ſhould you find them out? ſaid his mamma. Not take the neſt, I hope? Why, replied Frederick, I ſhould like to bring it home, mamma, and put it in a tree near the houſe, and then I would ſcatter crumbs for the old ones to feed them with.
Your deſign is a kind one, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, but would greatly diſtreſs your little favourites. Many birds, through fear, forſake their neſts, when they are removed, therefore I deſire you to let them alone if you ſhould chance to find them. Miſs Harriet then remarked, that ſhe thought it very cruel to take birds neſts. Ah! my dear, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, thoſe who commit ſuch barbarous actions, are quite inſenſible to the diſtreſſes they occaſion. It is very true, that we ought not to indulge ſo great a degree of pity and tednerneſs for ſuch animals, as for thoſe who are more properly our fellow-creatures; I mean men, women, and children; but as every living creature can feel, we ſhould have a conſtant regard to thoſe feelings, and ſtrive 031 C4r 31 ſtrive to give happineſs, rather than inflict miſery. But go, my dear, and take your walk. Mrs. Benſon then left them, to attend her uſual morning employments; and the young Lady and Gentleman, attended by their maid, paſſed an agreeable half hour in the garden.
In the mean time, the hen Redbreaſt returned to the neſt, while her mate took his flight in ſearch of food for his family. When the mother approached the neſt, ſhe was ſurprized at not hearing as uſual the chirping of her young ones; and what was her aſtoniſhment at ſeeing them all crouded together, trembling with apprehenſion: What is the matter my neſtlings, ſaid ſhe, that I find you in this terror?
Oh, my dear mother! cried Robin, who firſt ventured to raiſe up his head, is it you? Peckſy then revived, and entreated her mother to come into the neſt, which ſhe did without delay, and the little tremblers crept under her wings, endeavouring to conceal themſelves in this happy retreat.C4 What 032 C4v 32
What has terrified you in this manner? ſaid ſhe. Oh! I do not know replied Dicky, but we have ſeen ſuch a monſter as I never beheld before. A monſter my dear? pray deſcribe it. I cannot, ſaid Dicky, it was too frightful to be deſcribed. Frightful, indeed, cried Robin, but I had a full view of it, and will give the beſt deſcription I can.
We were all lying peacably in the neſt, and very happy together; Dicky and I were trying to ſing, when suddenly we heard a noiſe againſt the wall, and preſently a great round red face appeared before the neſt, with a pair of enormous ſtaring eyes, a very large beak, and below that a wide mouth, with two rows of bones, that looked as if they could grind us all to pieces in an inſtant. About the top of this round face, and down the ſides, hung ſomething black, but not like feathers. When the two ſtaring eyes had looked at us for ſome time, the whole thing diſappeared. I cannot at all conceive, from your deſcription, Robin, what this thing could be, ſaid the mother, but perhaps it may come again.
Oh! I hope not, cried Flapſy, I ſhall die with fear if it does. Why ſo, my love? ſaid her mother, has it done you any harm? I cannot ſay it has, replied Flapſy. Well then, you do very wrong, my dear, in giving way to ſuch apprehenſions. You muſt ſtrive to get the better of this fearful diſpoſition. When you go abroad in the world, 033 C5r 33 world, you will ſee many ſtrange objects; and if you are terrified at every appearance which you cannot account for, will live a moſt unhappy life. Endeavor to be good, and then you need not fear any thing. But here comes your father, perhaps he will be able to explain the appearance which has ſo alarmed you to-day.
As soon as the father had given the worm to Robin, he was preparing to depart for another, but to his ſurprize, all the reſt of the neſtlings begged him to ſtay, declaring they had rather go without their meal, on condition he would but remain at home and take care of them. Stay at home and take care of you! ſaid he. Why is that more neceſſary now than uſual? The mother then related the ſtrange occurrence that had occaſioned this requeſt. Nonſenſe! ſaid he—a monſter!—great eyes!—large mouth!—long beak!— I don’t underſtand ſuch ſtuff.—Beſides, as it did them no harm, why are they to be in ſuch terror now it is gone? Don’t be angry, dear father, ſaid Peckſy, for it was very frightful indeed. Well, ſaid he, I will fly all round the orchard, and perhaps may meet this monſter. Oh, it will eat you up! it will eat you up! ſaid Flapſy. Never fear, ſaid he, and away he flew.
Their mother then again attempted to calm them, but all in vain, their fears were now redoubled by apprehenſions for their father’s ſafety; however, to their great joy, he ſoon returned. C5 Well, 034 C5v 34 Well, ſaid he, I have ſeen this monſter; the little ones then clung to their mother, fearing the dreadful creature was juſt at hand. What, afraid again? cried he; a parcel of ſtout hearts I have in my neſt truly! Why, when you fly about in the world you will in all probability, ſee hundreds of ſuch monſters, (as you call them) unleſs you chuſe to confine yourſelves to a retired life: nay, even in woods and groves you will be liable to meet ſome of them, and thoſe of the moſt miſchievous kind. I begin to comprehend, ſaid the mother, that theſe dear neſtlings have ſeen the face of a man. Even ſo, replied her mate; it is a man, no other than our friend the gardener who has ſo alarmed them.
A man! cried Dicky, was that frightful thing a man? Nothing more, I aſſure you, anſwered his father, and a good man too, I have reaſon to believe; for he is very careful not to frighten your mother and me, when we are picking up worms, and has frequently thrown crumbs to us, when he was eating his breakfaſt.
And does he live in this garden? ſaid Flapſy. He works here very often, replied her father, but is frequently abſent. O then, cried ſhe, pray take us abroad when he is away, for indeed I cannot bear to ſee him. You are a little ſimpleton, ſaid the father; and if you do not endeavour to get more reſolution, I will leave you in the neſt by yourself, when I am teaching your brothersthers 035 C6r 35 thers and ſiſter to fly and peck, and what will you do then? for you muſt not expect we ſhall go from them to bring you food. Flapſy, fearful that her father would be quite angry, promiſed to follow his directions in every reſpect, and the reſt, animated by his diſcourse, began to recover their ſpirits.
Whilst theſe terrible commotions paſſed in the neſt, the monster, who was no other than honeſt Joe the gardener, went to the houſe and enquired for his young maſter and miſtreſs, having, as he juſtly ſuppoſed, a very pleaſing piece of intelligence to communicate. Both the young gentleman and lady, who were accuſtomed to receive little civilities from Joe, very readily attended him, thinking he had got ſome fruit or flowers for them. Well, Joe, ſaid Miſs Benſon, what have you to ſay to us? Have you got a peach or a nectarine? or have you brought me a root of Sweet William?
No, Miſs Harriet, ſaid Joe, but I have ſomething to tell you, that will pleaſe you as much as tho’ſ I had. What’s that? what’s that? cried C6 Fred- 036 C6v 36 Frederick. Why maſter Frederick, ſaid Joe, a pair of Robins have come’d mortal often to one place in the orchard lately; ſo, thinks I, theſe birds have got a neſt. So, I watches, and watches, and at laſt I ſee’d the old hen fly into a hole in the ivy-wall. I had a fancy to ſet my ladder and look in, but as maſter ordered me not to frighten the birds, I ſtaid till the old one flew out again, and then I mounted, and there I ſee’d the little creatures full-fledged; and if you and Miſs Harriet may go with me, I will ſhew them to you, and you may eaſily get up the ſtep-ladder.
Frederick was in raptures, being confident that theſe were the identical Robins he was ſo attached to, and (like a little thoughtleſs boy as he was) would have gone immediately with the gardener, had not his ſiſter reminded him, that it was proper to aſk mamma’s leave firſt, for which purpoſe ſhe accompanied him into the parlour.
Good news! good news! mamma, cried Frederick, Joe has found the Robin’s neſt, Has he, indeed? ſaid Mrs. Benſon. Yes, mamma, ſaid Miſs Harriet, and if agreeable to you, we ſhould be glad to go along with Joe to ſee it. And how are you to get at it? ſaid Mrs. Benſon, for I ſuppoſe it is ſome height from the ground? Oh, I can climb a ladder very well, cried Frederick. You climb a ladder? You are a clever gentleman at climbing, I know, replied his mamma; but do you 037 C7r 37 you propoſe to mount too, Harriet? I think this is rather an indelicate ſcheme for a lady. Joe tells me that the neſt is but a very little way from the ground, mamma, anſwered Harriet, but if I find it otherwiſe, you may depend on my not getting up. On this condition I will permit you to go; but pray, Mr. Frederick, let me remind you, not to frighten your little favourites. Not for all the world, ſaid Frederick; ſo away he ſkipped, and got to Joe before his ſiſter. We may go! we may go! Joe, cried he. Stay for me, Joe, I beg, ſaid Miſs Harriet, who preſently joined him.
When the Redbreasts had quietted the fears of their young family, they fed them as uſual, and then having a little private buſineſs, they retired to a tree, deſired their little neſtlings not to be terrified if the monſter ſhould look in upon them again, as it was very probable he would do. They promiſed to bear the ſight as well as they could.
When the old ones were ſeated in the tree, it is time, ſaid the father, to take our neſtlings abroad. You ſee, my love, how very timorous they are, and if we do not uſe them a little to the world, they will never be able to ſhift for themſelves. Very true, replied the mother, they are now full fledged, and therefore, if you pleaſe, we will take them out to-morrow; but it will be neceſſary for me to prepare them for it, I will thereforefore 038 C7v 38 fore return to the neſt. One of the beſt preparatives, anſwered her mate, will be to leave them by themſelves a little; therefore we will now take a flight together for a ſhort time, and then go back. The mother complied, but not without reluctance, for ſhe longed to be with her dear family. Let us now return to the happy party, whom we lately left ſetting off on their viſit to the ivy-wall.
As ſoon as Joe found, that the young gentry, as he called them, had obtained permiſſion to accompany him, he took Frederick by the hand, and ſaid, come along, my young maſter, but at Miſs Harriet’s requeſt, ſtopped while ſhe fetched her bonnet and tippet. Frederick’s impatience was ſo great, that he could ſcarcely be reſtrained from running all the way, but that his ſiſter intreated him not to make himſelf too hot.
At length they arrived at the deſired ſpot; Joe placed the ladder, and his young maſter, with a little aſſiſtance, mounted it very dextrouſly: But who can deſcribe his raptures when he beheld the neſtlings! Oh, the ſweet creatures, cried he, there 039 C8r 39 there are four of them, I declare! I never ſaw any thing ſo pretty in my life! I wiſh I might carry you all home! That you muſt not do Frederick, ſaid his ſiſter; and I beg you will come away, for you will either terrify the little creatures, or alarm the old birds, which perhaps are now waiting ſomewhere to feed them. Well, I will come away directly, ſaid Frederick; and ſo good by, Robins! I hope you will come ſoon, along with your father and mother, to be fed in the parlour. He then, under the conduct of his friend Joe, deſcended.
Joe next addreſſed Miſs Harriet: Now, my young miſtreſs, ſaid he, will you go up? As the ſteps of the ladder were broad, and the neſt was not high, Miſs Benſon ventured to go up, and was equally delighted with her brother; but ſo fearful of terrifying the little birds, and alarming the old ones, that ſhe would only indulge herſelf with a peep at the neſt. Frederick enquired how ſhe liked the young Robins? They are ſweet creatures, ſaid ſhe, and I hope we ſhall ſoon find means to invite them to join our party of birds, for they appear to me ready to fly; but let us return to mamma, for you know we promiſed her to ſtay but a little while; besides, we hinder Joe from his work. Never mind that, ſaid the honeſt fellow, maſter won’t be angry, I am ſartain; and if I thought he would, I would work an hour later to fetch up loſt time. Thank you, Joe, 040 C8v 40 Joe, replied Miſs Harriet, but I am ſure papa would not deſire that.
At this inſtant, Frederick perceived the two Redbreaſts, who were returning from their propoſed excurſion, and called to his ſiſter to obſerve them. He was very deſirous to watch whether they would go back to their neſt, but ſhe would on no account conſent to ſtay, leſt her mamma ſhould be diſpleaſed; and leſt the birds ſhould be frightened: Frederick, therefore, with reluctance followed her, and Joe attended them to the houſe.
As ſoon as they were out of ſight, the henbird propoſed to return to the neſt; ſhe had obſerved the party, and though ſhe did not ſee them looking into her habitation, ſuppoſed, from their being ſo near, that they had been taking a view of it, and communicated her ſuſpicions to her mate. He agreed with her, that this had probably been the caſe, and ſaid he now expected to hear a fine ſtory from the neſtlings. Let us return, however, ſaid the mother, for perhaps they have been terrified again. Well ſaid he, I will attend you then; but let me caution you, my dear, not to indulge will certainly prove injurious to them. I will do the beſt I can, replied ſhe, and then flew to the neſt, followed by her mate.
She alighted upon the ivy, and peeping into the neſt, enquired how they all did? Very well, dear mother, ſaid Robin. What, cried the father, (who now alighted) all ſafe? Not one eat up by 041 C9r 41 by the monſter? No father, replied Dicky, we are not devoured, and yet, I aſſure you, the monſter we ſaw before has been here again, and brought two others with him. Two others! what, like himself? ſaid the father: I thought, Flapſy, you were to die with apprehension if you ſaw him again? And ſo I believe I ſhould have done, had not you, my good father, inſtructed me to conquer my fears, replied Flapſy. When I ſaw the top of him, my heart began to flutter to such a degree, that I was ready to faint, and every feather of me ſhook; but when I found he ſtaid but a very little while, I recovered, and was in hopes he was quite gone. My brothers and ſiſter, I believe, felt as I did; but we comforted one another that the danger was over for this day, and all agreed to make ourſelves happy, and not fear this monſter, ſince you had aſſured us he was very harmleſs. However, before we were perfectly come to ourſelves, we heard very uncommon noiſes, ſometimes a hoarſe ſound, diſagreeable to our ears as the croaking of a raven, and ſometimes a ſhriller noiſe, quite unlike the note of any bird that we know of, and immediately after ſomething preſented itſelf to our view, which bore little reſemblance to the monſter, but by no means ſo large and frightful. Inſtead of being all over red, it had on each ſide two ſpots of a more beautiful hue than Dicky’s breaſt, the reſt of it was of a moſt delicate white, excepting two ſtreaks 042 C9v 42 ſtreaks of a deep red, like the cherry you brought us the other day, and between theſe two ſtreaks were rows of white bones, but by no means dreadful to behold, like thoſe of the great monster; its eyes were blue and white, and round this agreeable face was ſomething which I cannot deſcribe, very pretty, and as gloſſy as the feathers of a Goldfinch. There was ſo cheerful and pleaſing a look in this creature altogether, that notwithſtanding I own I was rather afraid, yet I had pleaſure in looking at it, but it ſtaid a very little time and then diſappeared. While we were puzzling ourſelves with conjectures concerning it, another creature, larger than it, appeared before us, equally beautiful, and with an aſpect ſo mild and gentle, that we were all charmed with it; but, as if fearful of alarming us by its ſtay, it immediately retired, and we have been longing for your and my mother’s return, in hopes you would be able to tell us what we have ſeen.
I am happy, my dears, ſaid the mother, to find you more compoſed than I expected: for as your father and I were flying together in order to come back to you, we obſerved the monster, and the two pretty creatures Peckſy has described; the former is, as your father before informed you, our friend the gardener, and the others are our young benefactors, by whoſe bounty we are every day regaled, and who, I will venture to ſay, will do you no harm. You cannot think how kindlyly 043 C10r 43 ly they treat us; and though there are a number of other birds who ſhare their goodneſs, your father and I are favoured with their particular regard.
Oh! ſaid Peckſy, are theſe ſweet creatures your friends? I long to go abroad that I may ſee them again. Well, cried Flapſy, I perceive, that if we judge from appearances we may often be miſtaken; who would have thought that ſuch an ugly monſter as that gardener, could have had a tender heart? Very true, replied the mother; you muſt make it a rule, Flapſy, to judge of mankind by their actions, and not by their looks. I have known ſome of them, whoſe appearance was as engaging as that of our young benefactors, who were notwithſtanding, barbarous enough to take eggs out of a neſt and ſpoil them; nay, even carry away neſt and all before the young ones were fledged, without knowing how to feed them, or having any regard to the ſorrows of the tender parents. Yes, ſaid the mother, laſt year it was my misfortune to be deprived of my neſtlings in that manner, which occaſions my being ſo timid; the anguiſh I ſuffered for their loſs is not to be expreſſed.
A calamity of the ſame kind befel me, replied the father, I never ſhall forget it. I had been making an excurſion into the woods, in order to procure ſome delicious morſels for one of my neſtlings; when I returned to the place in which I had 044 C10v 44 had imprudently built, (for being young and inexperienced, I did not foreſee the danger of chuſing an expoſed ſituation.) The firſt circumſtance that alarmed me, was a part of my neſt ſcattered upon the ground, juſt at the entrance of my habitation; I then perceived a large opening in the wall, where before there was only room for myſelf to paſs. I ſtopped with a palpitating heart, in hopes of hearing the chirpings of my beloved family; but all was ſilence. I then reſolved to enter; but what was my conſternation, when I found that the neſt, which my dear mate and I had with ſo much labour built, and the dear little ones, who were the joy of our lives, were ſtolen away; nay, I did not know but the tender mother alſo was taken captive. I immediately ruſhed out of the place, diſtracted with apprehenſions for the miſeries they might endure; lamented my weakneſs, which rendered me incapable of effecting their reſcue; was ready to tear off my own feathers with vexation; but recollecting that my dear mate might in all probability have eſcaped, I reſolved to go in search of her.
As I was flying along, I ſaw three boys, whoſe appearance was far from diſagreeable; one of them held in his hand my neſt of young ones, which he eyed with cruel exultation, while his companions ſeemed to ſhare his joy.The 045 C11r 45
The dear little creatures, inſenſible of their fate, (for they were newly hatched) opened their mouths in expectation of the uſual ſupply, but all in vain; to have attempted feeding them at this time, would have been inevitable deſtruction to myſelf; but I reſolved to follow the barbarians, that I might at leaſt ſee to what place my darlings were conſigned.
In a ſhort time the party arrived at a houſe, and he who before held the neſt, now committed it to the care of another, but ſoon returned with a kind of victuals I was totally unacquainted with; and with this my young ones, when they gaped for food, were ſucceſſively fed: hunger induced them to ſwallow it with avidity, but ſoon after miſſing the warmth of their mother, they ſet up a general chirp of lamentations, which pierced my very heart. Immediately after this the neſt was carried away, and what became of my neſtlings afterwards I never could diſcover, though I frequently hovered about the fatal ſpot of their impriſonmnet, with the hope of ſeeing them.
Pray, father, ſaid Dicky, what became of your mate? Why, my dear, ſaid he, when I found there was no chance of aſſiſting my little ones, I purſued my courſe, and ſought her in every place of our uſual reſort, but to no purpoſe: At length I returned to the buſh, where I beheld an afflicting ſight indeed, my dear companion lying on the ground, juſt expiring! I flew to her inſtantly,ly, 046 C11v 46 ly, and endeavoured to recal her to life: At the ſound of my voice, ſhe lifted up her languid eyelids, and with feeble accents ſaid, And are you then ſafe, my love? What is become of our little ones? In hopes of comforting her, I told her they were alive and well; but ſhe replied, your conſolations come too late; the blow is ſtruck, I feel my death approaching. The horror which ſeized me when I miſſed my neſtlings, and ſuppoſed myſelf robbed at once of my mate and infants, was too powerful for my weak frame to ſuſtain. Oh! why will the human race be ſo wantonally cruel! The agonies of death now came on, and after a few convulſive pangs, ſhe breathed her laſt, and left me an unhappy widower. I paſſed the remainder of the ſummer, and a dreary winter that ſucceeded it, in a very uncomfortable manner; though the natural cheerfulneſs of my diſpoſition, did not leave me long a prey to unavailing ſorrow: and having paid a proprer tribute to the memory of my firſt dear mate, I reſolved the following ſpring to ſeek another; and had the good fortune to meet with one, whoſe amiable diſposition has renewed my happineſs: and now, my dear, ſaid he, let me aſk you what became of your former companion?
Why, replied the hen Redbreaſt, ſoon after the loſs of our neſt, as he was endeavouring to diſcover what was become of it, a cruel hawk caught him up and devoured him in an inſtant.I 047 C12r 47
I need not ſay that I felt the bittereſt pangs for his loſs; it is ſufficient to inform you, that I led a ſolitary life, till I met with you, whoſe endearing behaviour has made ſociety again agreeable to me.
While the parent birds were the relating the hiſtory of their paſt misfortunes, the young ones listened with the greateſt attention; and when the tales were ended, Flapſy exclaimed, Oh! what dangers there are in the world! I ſhall be afraid to leave the neſt. Why ſo, my love? ſaid the mother. Every bird does not meet with hawks and cruel children. You have already as you ſat on the neſt, ſeen thouſands of the feathered race, of one kind or other, making their airy excurſions, full of mirth and gaiety. This orchard conſtantly reſounds with the melody of thoſe who chaunt forth their ſongs of joy, and I believe there are no beings in the world happier than birds, for we are naturally formed for cheerfulneſs; and I flatter myſelf, a prudent precuation will preſerve both your father and myſelf from any future accident. Our parents were young and unexperienced themſelves, and could not give us good advice; but we know the dangers of the world, and I hope ſhall be able to point out to you ſuch rules of conduct, as may, if followed, counteract the uſual accidents to which birds are expoſed.
In ſtead of indulging your fears, Flapſy, ſaid the father, ſummon up all your courage, for to-morrow you 048 C12v 48 you ſhall, with your brothers and ſiſter, begin to ſee the world. Dicky expreſſed great delight at this declaration, and Robin boaſted that he had not the leaſt remains of fear, Flapſy, though ſtill apprehenſive of monſters, yet longed to ſee the gaieties of life, and Peckſy wiſhed to comply with every deſire of her dear parents. The approach of evening now reminded them that it was time to take repoſe, and turning their heads under their wings; each bird ſoon reſigned itſelf to the gentle power of ſleep.
After Maſter and Miſs Benſon had been gratified with the ſight of the Robin’s neſt, they were returning to the houſe, conducted by their friend Joe, when they were met in the garden by their papa and mamma, accompanied by Miſs Lucy Jenkins and her brother Edward. The former was a fine girl about ten years old, the latter a robuſt rude boy, turned of eleven. We were coming to ſeek you, my dears, ſaid Mrs. Benſson to her children, for I was fearful that the buſineſs you went upon would make you forget your young viſitors.I 049 D1r 49
I cannot anſwer for Frederick, replied Miſs Benſon, but indeed, mamma, I would not on any account have ſlighted my friends. How do you do, my dear Miſs Jenkins? ſaid ſhe, I am happy to ſee you. I have got ſome very pretty new books. Frederick, have you nothing to ſhew Maſter Jenkins? O yes, ſaid Frederick, I have got a new ball, a new top, a new organ, and twenty pretty things; but I had rather go back and ſhew him the Robins.
The Robins! ſaid Maſter Jenkins, what Robins?
Why our Robins, that have built in the ivywall. You never ſaw any thing ſo pretty in your life as the little ones.
Oh, I can ſee birds enow at home, ſaid Maſter Jenkins; but why did you not take the neſt? It would have been nice diverſion to you to toſs the young birds about. I have had a great many neſts this year, and do believe I have an hundred eggs.
An hundred eggs! and how do you propoſe to hatch them? ſaid Miſs Harriet, who turned back on hearing him talk in this manner.
Hatch them, Miſs Benſon? ſaid he; who ever thinks of hatching birds eggs?
Oh, then you eat them, ſaid Frederick, or perhaps you let your cook make puddings of them?D No, 050 D1v 50
No, indeed, replied Maſter Jenkins, I blow out the inside, and then run a thread through them, and give them to Lucy to hang up amongſt her curiosities, and very pretty they look, I aſſure you.
And ſo, ſaid Miſs Harriet, you had rather ſee a parcel of empty egg-shells, than hear a ſweet concert of birds ſinging in the trees? I admire your taſte truly!
Why, is there any harm in taking birds eggs? ſaid Miſs Jenkins; I never before heard that there was.
My dear mamma, replied Miſs Benſon, has taught me to think, there is harm in every action which gives cauſeleſs pain to any living creature; and I own I have a very particular affection for birds.
Well, ſaid Miſs Jenkins, I have no notion of ſuch affections, for my part. Sometimes, indeed, I try to rear thoſe which Edward brings home, but they are teazing troubleſome things, and I am not lucky; to tell the truth, I do not concern myſelf much about them; if they live they live, and if they die they die. He has brought me three neſts this day to plague me; I thought to have fed the birds before I came out, but being in a hurry to come to ſee you, I quite forgot it. Did you feed them, Edward? Not I, ſaid he, I thought you would do it; ’tis enough for me to find the neſts.And 051 D2r 51
And have you actually left three neſts of young birds at home without victuals! exclaimed Miſs Harriet.
I did not think of them, but will feed them when I return, ſaid Miſs Jenkins.
O, cried Miſs Benſon, I cannot bear the thoughts of what the poor little creatures muſt suffer.
Well, ſaid Maſter Jenkins, ſince you feel ſo much for them, I think Miſs Harriet, you will make the beſt nurſe. What ſay you Lucy, will you give the neſts to Miſs Benſon? With all my heart, replied his ſiſter, and pray do not plague me with any more of them.
I do not know that my mamma will let me accept them, ſaid Miſs Benſon, if ſhe will, I ſhall be glad to do ſo.
Frederick enquired what birds they were, and Maſter Jenkins informed him, there was a neſt of Linnets, a neſt of Sparrows, and another of Blackbirds. Frederick was all impatience to ſee them, and Miſs Harriet longed to have the litte creatures in her poſſeſſion, that ſhe might reſcue them from their deplorable condition, and leſſen the evils of captivity, which they now ſuffered in the extreme.
Her mamma had left her with her young companions, that they might indulge themselves in innocent amuſements without reſtraint, but the tender-hearted Harriet, could not engage in any diverſion, till ſhe had made interceſſion in behalf D2 of 052 D2v 52 of the poor birds; ſhe therefore begged Miſs Jenkins would accompany her to her mamma, in order to ſolicit permiſſion to have the birds neſts. She accordingly went, and made her requeſt known to Mrs. Benſon, who readily conſented; obſserving that though ſhe had a very great objection to her children’s having bird’s neſts, yet ſhe could not deny her daughter on the preſent occaſion. Harriet, from an unwillingneſs to expoſe her friend, had ſaid but little on the ſubject, but Mrs. Benſson, having great diſcernment, concluded that ſhe made the requeſt from a merciful motive, and knowing that Miſs Jenkins had no kind mamma to give her inſtruction, ſhe thus addreſſed her.
I perceive, my young friend, that Harriet is apprehenſive the birds will not meet with the ſame kind of treatment from you, which ſhe is diſpoſed to give them. I cannot think you have any cruelty in your nature, but perhaps you have only accuſtomed yourſelf to conſider birds as playthings, without ſenſe or feeling; to me, who am a great admirer of the beautiful little creatures, they appear in a very different light; and I have been an attentive obſerver of them, I aſſure you.
Though they cannot ſpeak our language, each kind has one of its own, which is perfectly underſtood by thoſe of its own ſpecies; and ſo far intelligible to us, as to convince us they are ſuſceptible of joy, grief, fear, anger, and reſentment;ment; 053 D3r 53 ment; and we may eaſily diſcover, that they delight in aſſociating with thoſe of their own claſs, and purſue with alacrity the employments allotted them; from whence we may juſtly infer, that it is cruel to rob them of their young, deprive them of their liberty, ſeparate them from their reſpective ſocieties, or place them in ſituations where they are excluded from the bleſſings ſuited to their natures, for which it is impoſſible for us to give them an equivalent.
Beſides, theſe creatures, inſignificant as they appear in your eſtimation, were made by God as well as you. Have you not read in your Teſtament, my dear, that our Saviour ſaid, Bleſſed are the merciful, for they ſhall obtain mercy. How then can you expect that God will ſend his bleſſing upon you, if you, inſtead of endeavouring to imitate him in being merciful to the utmoſt of your power, are wantonly cruel to innocent creatures which he deſigned for happineſs?
This admonition from Mrs. Benſon, which Miſs Jenkins did not expect, made her look very ſerious, and brought tears into her eyes; on which the good Lady took her by the hand and kindly ſaid, I wiſh not to diſtreſs you, my dear, but merely to awaken the natural ſentiments of your heart: Reflect at your leiſure on what I have taken the liberty of ſaying to you, and I am ſure you will think me our friend. I knew your dear mamma, and can aſſure you, ſhe was D3 remark- 054 D3v 54 remarkable for the tenderneſs of her diſpoſition. But let me not detain you from your amuſements; go to your own apartment, Harriet, and uſe your beſt endeavours to make your viſitors happy. You cannot this evening fetch the birds, becauſe, when Miſs Jenkins goes, it will be too late for you to take ſo long a walk, as you muſt come back afterwards; and I make no doubt, but that to oblige you, ſhe will feed them tonight.
Miſs Harriet and Miſs Jenkins returned, and found Frederick diverting himſelf with the handorgan, which had lately been preſented by his god-papa; but Maſter Jenkins had laid hold of Miſs Harriet’s dog, and was ſearching his own pocket for a piece of ſtring, that he might tie him and the cat together, to ſee, as he ſaid, how nicely they would fight: and ſo fully was he bent on this cruel purpoſe, that it was with difficulty he could be prevailed on to relinquiſh it.
Dear me, said he, if ever I came into ſuch a houſe in my life, there is no fun here. What would you have ſaid to Harry Pritchard and me, the other day, when we made the cats fly?
Made cats fly! ſaid Frederick, how was that?
Why, replied he, we tied bladders to each ſide of their necks, and then ſlung them from the top of the house. There was an end of their purring and mewing for ſome time, I aſſure you, for they lay a long while ſtruggling and gaſping for 055 D4r 55 for breath; and if they had not had nine lives, I think they muſt have died; but at laſt up they jumped, and away they ran ſcampering. Then out came little Jemmy, crying as if he had flown down himſelf, becauſe we hurt the poor cats; he had a dog running after him, who, I ſuppose, meant to call us to taſk, with his bow, wow; but we ſoon ſtopped his tongue, for we caught the gentleman and drove him before us into a narrow lane, and then ran hooting after him into the village; a number of boys joined us, and cried out as we did, a mad dog! a mad dog! On this ſeveral people purſued him with cudgels and broomſticks, and at laſt he was ſhot by a man, but not dead, ſo others came and knocked him about the head till he expired.
For ſhame! Maſter Jenkins, ſaid Miſs Harriet, how can you talk in that rhodomontade manner? I cannot believe any young Gentleman could bring his heart to ſuch barbarities.
Barbarities indeed! why have we not a right to do as we pleaſe to dogs and cats, or do you think they feel as we do? Fiddle faddle of your nonſenſe, ſay I; come, you muſt hear the end of my ſtory. When the dog was dead, we carried him home to little Jemmy, who was ready to break his heart for the loſs of him; ſo we did not like to ſtand hearing his whining, therefore left him and got a Cock, whoſe legs we tied, and ſlung at him till he died. Then we ſet two othersD4 thers 056 D4v 56 thers to fighting, and fine ſport we had; for one was pecked till his breaſt was laid open, and the other was blinded; ſo we left them to make up their quarrel as they could. After this we picked all the feathers off a live chicken, and you never ſaw ſuch a ridiculous animal in your life. Then we got ſome puppies, and drowned them while the mother ſtood by. Oh! how ſhe howled and cried, whilſt they ſtruggled on the ſurface of the water; and there was no quieting her for ſeveral days.
Stop! ſtop! exclaimed Miſs Harriet; for pity’s ſake, ſtop! I can hear no more of your horrid narrations; nor would I commit even one of thoſe barbarities which you boaſt of for the world! Poor innocent creatures! what had they done to you to deſerve ſuch usage?
I beg Edward, ſaid his ſiſter, that you will find ſome other way to entertain us, or I ſhall really tell Mrs. Benſon of you.
What! you are growing tender hearted all at once! cried he.
I will tell you what I think when I go home, replied Miſs Jenkins. As for poor Frederick, he could not reſtrain his tears; and Harriet’s flowed a copious ſtream, with the bare idea of the ſufferings of the poor animals, particularly for the live chicken, and the poor creature, whoſe puppies were drowned in her ſight: but Maſter Jenkins was ſo accuſtomed to be guilty of thoſe things 057 D5r 57 things without reflection, that there was no making any impreſſion of tenderneſs upon his mind; and he only laughed at their concern, and wanted to tell a long ſtory about an ox that had been driven by a cruel drover till he went mad; but Miſs Benſon and his ſiſter ſtopped their ears. As ſoon as they left off doing ſo, he began another about Bat-fowling; which is a treacherous cuſtom of going with a lantern by night to the hedges, where birds rooſt, and frightening them into a net placed for the purpoſe. In ſhort, it appeared from his diſcourſe, that he was acquainted with the whole art of tormenting animals.
At laſt little Frederick went crying to his mamma, and the young Ladies retired to another apartment, ſo Maſter Jenkins amuſed himself with catching flies in the window, pulling the legs off from ſome, and the wings from others, delighted with their extorſions, which were occaſioned by the agonies they endured. Mrs. Benſon had ſome viſitors, which prevented her talking to this cruel boy, as ſhe otherwiſe would have done, on hearing Frederick’s account of him, but ſhe determined to tell his papa; which ſhe accordingly did ſome time after, when he returned home: but this gentleman, ſo far from reproving his ſon, applauded him as a lad of life and ſpirit, and ſaid he would be fit to go through the world.
Maſter Jenkins was now diſturbed from his barbarous ſport by being called to tea; and ſoon D5 after 058 D5v 58 after that was over, the ſervant came to fetch him and his ſiſter. Miſs Harriet earneſtly entreated her friend Lucy to feed the birds properly, till ſhe ſhould be allowed to fetch them, who promiſed to do so; for ſhe was greatly affected with Mrs. Benſon’s discourſe, and then entreated her brother to take leave, that ſhe might return home; with this he readily complied, as there were no further opportunities for cruelty.
After her little viſitors were departed, Miſs Harriet went into the drawing-room, and having paid her compliments, ſat herself down, that ſhe might improve her mind by the converſation of the company. Her mamma perceived that ſhe had been in tears, of which Frederick had before explained the cauſe. I do not wonder, my love, ſaid ſhe, that you ſhould have been ſo affected with the relation of ſuch horrid barbarities, as that thoughtleſs boy has, by degrees, brought himſelf to practice, not only without remorſe, but by way of amuſement. However, do not ſuffer your mind to dwell on them, as the creatures on which he inflicted them are no longer objects of pity. 059 D6r 59 pity. It is wrong to grieve for the death of animals as we do for the loſs of our friends, becauſe they certainly are not of ſo much conſequence to our happineſs; and we are taught to think their ſufferings end with their lives, as they are not religious beings; and therefore the killing them, even in the crueleſt manner, is not like murdering a human creature, who is perhaps unprepared to give account of himſelf at the tribunal of heaven. I have, ſaid a Lady who was preſent, been for a long time accuſtomed to conſider animals as mere machines, actuated by the unerring hand of Providence, to do thoſe things which are neceſſary for the preſervation of themſelves and their offspring; but the ſight of the learned Pig, which has lately been shewn in London, has deranged theſe ideas, and I know not what to think.
If we puzzle our minds for ever, on the ſubject, Madam, replied a gentleman who accompanied her we ſhall never be able fully to comprehend the capacities and feelings of creatures ſo different from ourſelves. That they have not reaſonable ſouls, like the human race, is evident; but at the ſame time I think we may plainly diſcover, that they have ſome portion of intellect, which is even capable of improvement to a certain degree: this is particularly exemplified in the inſtance which Mrs. Franks has juſt mentioned of the learned Pig. Mere inſtinct, I think, would never lead that creature to diſtinguish one letter from another,D6 ther. 060 D6v 60 ther, or, which amounts to the ſame thing, to comprehend the various ſigns by which they are pointed out to him by his keeper. To what a pitch may Dogs, and Horſes be improved; nay, every kind of animal that I have had an opportunity of obſerving, ſeems to acquire ſagacity, by a familiar intercourſe with rational creatures; yet, after all, they fall ſhort of human reaſon beyond compariſon.
For my part, replied Mrs. Benſon, I find the ſubject ſo much above my comprehenſion, that whenever my mind is diſposed to expatiate on it, I check the inclination, from an opinion that it is of no conſenquence to me, whether animals have intellects or not, and that it is amongſt thoſe things which the Almighty has intentionally concealed from our penetration. That they are in the power of man, and ſubſervient to his uſe and pleaſure, gives them a ſufficient claim to our compaſſion and kindneſs; and while I am partly fed and clothed at the expence of the animal creation, I could not bring myself to inflict wanton cruelties upon them. On the other hand, as Providence has placed them ſo much beneath us in the ſcale of beings, I should think it equally wrong to elevate them from their proper rank in life, and ſuffer them to occupy that ſhare of attention and love, which is due to our own ſpecies only.
You are certainly right Madam, anſwered the Gentleman; there are objects enow for the employmentployment 061 D7r 61 ployment of human reaſon, without our endeavouring to penetrate into thoſe things which muſt ever remain hidden, unleſs the inferior creatures were endued with ſpeech. We can form but very imperfet ideas even of our own intellectual powers, ſtill leſs of thoſe of other men; and the farther any creature is removed from us, the leſs capable are we of comprehending its nature, as we can only judge in theſe matters, by what paſſes in ourſelves.
Neither you, Sir, nor Miſs Benſon, ſaid Mrs. Franks, mean, I apprehend to diſcourage the ſtudy of the natural hiſtory of animals. By no means, replied the latter; for as far as it is open to our view, it is replete with amuſement and inſtruction. It leads the mind to contemplate the perfections of the Supreme Being, and alſo furniſhes a variety of uſeful hints for the conduct of human affairs. Many important arts have, in all probability, been derived from them; and the exaſkexact regularity with which they diſcharge the offices of tenderneſs and œconomy, afford examples of real utility to thoſe amongſt us, who are diſpoſed to neglect the duties of humanity. An idle perſon, for inſtance, may be admoniſhed by an Ant or Bee, a thoughtleſs mother by a Hen, an unfaithful ſervant by a Dog, and ſo on, as one of our Poets has elegantly pointed out in his Fable. Gay’s Fable of the Shepherd and Philoſopher. I only mean that we ſhould confine our ſpecu- 062 D7v 62 ſpeculations within due bounds, and not careſs animals to the neglect of the human ſpecies.
Then you would condemn a Lady of my acquaintance, ſaid the Gentleman, who has a little Lap-dog on which her happineſs totally depends, and to uſe a vulgar expreſſion, her very life ſeems to be wrapped up in his. I am ſure it is quite provoking to ſee a reaſonable creature make herſelf ſo ridiculous. It is more than ridiculous, replied Mrs. Benſon; it is really ſinful. At this inſtant the arrival of Mrs. Frank’s coach was announced, and ſhe with the Gentleman took leave.
As ſoon as they were gone, pray mamma, ſaid Harriet, what does the learned Pig do? I had a great deſire to aſk Mrs. Franks, but was fearful ſhe would think me impertinent.
I commend your modeſty, my dear, replied Mrs. Benſon, but would not have it lead you into ſuch a degree of reſtraint, as to prevent your gratifying that laudable curioſity, without which young perſons muſt remain ignorant of many things very proper for them to be acquainted with. Mrs. Franks would, I am ſure, have been far from thinking you impertinent: Thoſe enquiries only are thought troubleſome, by which children interrupt converſation, and endeavour to attract attention to their own inſignificant prattle; but all people of good ſenſe and good-nature delight in giving them uſeful information.In 063 D8r 63
In respect to the learned Pig, I have heard things which are quite aſtoniſhing in a ſpecies of animals generally regarded as very ſtupid. The creature was ſhewn for a ſight in a room provided for the purpoſe, where a number of people aſſembled to view his performances. Two alphabets of large letters on card paper were placed on the floor; one of the company was then deſired to propoſe a word which he wiſhed the Pig to ſpell. This his keeper repeated to him, and the Pig picked out every letter ſucceſſively with his ſnout; and collected them together till the word was compleated. He was then deſired to tell the hour of the day, and one of the company held a watch to him, this he ſeemed with his little cunning eyes to examine very attentively; and having done ſo, picked out figures for the hour and minutes of the day. He ſhewed a number of tricks, of the ſame nature, to the great diveſion of the ſpectators.
For my own part, though I was in London at the time he was exhibited, and heard continually of this wonderful Pig from perſons of my acquaintance, I never went to ſee him; for I am fully perſuaded, that great cruelty muſt have been exerciſed in teaching him things ſo foreign to his nature, and therefore would not give any encouragement to ſuch a ſcheme.
And do you think, mamma, ſaid Harriet, that the Pig knows the letters, and can really ſpell words?I 064 D8v 64
I think it poſſible, my dear, for the Pig to be taught to know the letters one from the other, and that his keeper has ſome private ſign, by which he directs him to each that are wanted; but that he has an idea of ſpelling, I can never believe, nor are animals capable of attaining human ſciences, becauſe, for theſe, human faculties are requiſite; and no art of men can change the nature of any thing, though he may be able to improve that nature to a certain degree, or at leaſt to call forth to view, powers which would be hidden from us, becauſe they would only be exerted in the intercourſe of animals with each other. As far as this can be done by familiarizing them, and ſhewing them ſuch a degree of kindneſs as is conſiſtent with our higher obligations, it may be an agreeable amuſement, but will never anſwer any important purpoſe to mankind; and I would adviſe you, Harriet, never to give countenance to thoſe people who ſhew what they call learned animals; as you may aſſure yourſelf they exerciſe great barbarities upon them, of which ſtarving them almoſt to death is moſt likely among the number; and you may with the money ſuch a ſight would coſt you procure for yourſelf a rational amuſement, or even relieve ſome wretched creature from extreme diſtreſs. But, my dear, it is now time for you to retire to reſt, I will therefore bid you good night.
Early in the morning the hen Redbreast awakened her young brood. Come, my little ones, ſaid ſhe, ſhake off your drowſineſs; remember this is the day fixed for your entrance into the world. I deſire that each of you will dreſs your feathers before you go out; for a ſlovenly bird is my averſion, and neatneſs is a great advantage to the appearance of every one.
The father was on the wing betimes, that he might give each of his young ones a breakfaſt before they attempted to leave the neſt. When he had fed them, he deſired his mate to accompany him as uſual to Mr. Benſon’s, where he found the parlour window open, and his young friends ſitting with their mamma. Crumbs had been, according to cuſtom, ſtrewed befor the window, which the other birds had nearly devoured; but the Redbreaſts took their uſual poſt on the tea-table, and the cock bird ſung his morning lay; after which they returned with all poſſible ſpeed to the neſt, for having ſo important an affair to manage, they could not be long abſent. Neither could their young benefactors pay ſo much attention to them as uſual, for they were impatient to fetch the bird’s neſts from Miſs Jenkins’s; thereforefore 066 D9v 66 fore as ſoon as breakfaſt was ended, they ſet out on their expedition. Harriet carried a basket large enough to hold two neſts, and Frederick a ſmaller one for the other; thus equipped, with a ſervant attending them, they ſet off.
Mr. Jenkins’s house was about a mile from Mr. Benson’s, it was delightfully ſituated; there was a beautiful lawn and canal before it, and a charming garden behind; on one ſide were corn fields, and on the other a wood. In ſuch a delightful retreat as this, it was natural to expect to find a great many birds; but, to Miſs Harriet’s ſurprize, they ſaw only a few ſtraggling ones here and there, who fled with the utmoſt precipitation as ſoon as ſhe and her brother appeared; on which ſhe obſerved to Frederick, that ſhe ſuppoſed Maſster Jenkins’s practice of taking bird’s neſts had made them ſo ſhy, and entreated him never to commit ſo barbarous an action. She ſaid a great deal to him about the cruelties that naughty boy had boaſted of the evening before, which Frederick promiſed to remember.
As ſoon as they arrived at the houſe, Miſs Jenkins ran out to receive them, but her brother was gone to ſchool. We are come, my dear Lucy, ſaid Miſs Benſon, to claim the performance of Maſter Jenkins’s promiſe; how are your little priſoners?
O! I know not what to ſay to you, my dear, ſaid Miſs Jenkins, I have very bad news to tell you, and I fear you will blame me exceedingly, though 067 D10r 67 though not more than I blame myself. I heartily wiſh I had returned home immediately after the kind lecture your mamma favoured me with yeſterday, which ſhewed me the cruelty of my behaviour, though I was then aſhamed to own my conviction.
I walked as faſt as I could all the way from your houſe, and determined to give each of the little creatures a good ſupper; for which purpoſe I had an egg boiled, nicely chopped; I mixed up ſome bread and water very ſmooth, and put a little ſeed with the chopped egg amongſt it, and then carried it to the room where I left the neſts. But what was my concern, when I found that my care was too late, for the greateſt part of them! Every ſparrow lay dead and bloody; they ſeemed to have killed each other. Urged I ſuppoſe by extreme hunger, each ſpent on his unhappy aſſociates thoſe pecks and blows which were my proper deſert.
In the neſt of Linnets, which were very young, I found one dead, two juſt expiring, and the other almoſt exhauſted, but ſtill able to ſwallow; to him, therefore I immediately diſpenſed ſome of the food I had prepared, which greatly revived him; and as I thought he would ſuffer with cold in the neſt by himſelf, I covered him over with wool, and had this morning the pleasure of finding him quite recovered.What 068 D10v 68
What, all the Sparrows and three Linnets dead! ſaid Frederick, whoſe little eyes ſwam with tears at the melancholy tale: And pray, Miſs Jenkins, have you ſtarved all the Blackbirds too?
Not all, my little friend, answered Miſs Jenkins, but I muſt confeſs that ſome of them have fallen victims to my barbarous neglect; however, there are two fine ones alive, which I ſhall, with the ſurviving Linnet, cheerfully reſign to the care of my dear Harriet, whoſe tenderneſs will, I hope, be rewarded by the pleaſure of hearing them ſing when they are old enough. But I beg you will ſtay and reſt yourſelves after your walk.
Let me ſee the birds firſt, ſaid Frederick.
That you ſhall do, anſwered Miſs Jenkins; and taking him by the hand, conducted him to the room in which ſhe kept them, accompanied by Miſs Benſon. She then fed the birds, and gave particular instructions for making their food, and declared that ſhe would never be a receiver of birds-neſts any more, but expreſſed her apprehenſions that it would be difficult to wean Edward from his propenſity for taking them; however, ſaid ſhe, he is going as a boarder to a private academy ſoon, where I think he will have better employment for his leiſure hours.
Miſs Jenkins then took her young friends into the parlour to her Governeſs (for her mama was dead) who received them very kindly, and gave each of them a piece of cake and ſome fruit; after which 069 D11r 69 which Miſs Jenkins led them again into the room where the birds were, and very carefully put the neſt, with the poor ſolitary Linnet, into one baſket, and that with the two blackbirds into the other. Frederick was very urgent to carry the latter, which his ſiſter conſented to; and then bidding adieu to their friend, they ſet off on their return home, attended by the maid as before.
Well, Frederick, ſaid Miſs Harriet, as they walked along, what think you of bird-neſting now? Should you like to occaſion the death of ſo many little harmleſs creatures? No, indeed, ſaid Frederick; and I think Miſs Jenkins a very naughty girl for ſtarving them.
She was to blame, but is now ſorry for her fault, my dear, therefore you muſt not ſpeak unkindly of her; beſides, you know, ſhe had no good mamma, as we have, to teach her what is proper; and her papa is obliged to be abſent from home very often, and leave her to the care of a Governeſs, who perhaps was never inſtructed herſelf to to be tender of animals.
With this kind of converſation they amuſed themſelves as they walked, every now and then peeping into their baſkets to ſee their little birds, which were very lively and well. They entreated the maid to take them through the orchard, which had a gate that opened into a meadow that lay in their way, having no doubt of obtaining admittance, as it was the uſual hour for their friend 070 D11v 70 friend Joe to work there. They accordingly knocked at the gate, which was immediately opened to them, and Frederick requeſted Joe to shew him the Robins neſt. But before we proceed to this part of our Hiſtory, we muſt return to the Redbreaſts, whom we left on the wing, flying back to the ivy-wall, in order to take their young ones abroad.
As the father entered the neſt, he cried out, with a cheerful voice, Well, my neſtlings, are you all ready? Yes, they replied. The mother then advanced, and deſired that each of them would get upon the edge of the neſt. Robin and Peckſy ſprang up in an inſtant, but Dicky and Flapſy being timorous, were not ſo expeditious.
The hearts of the parents felt a rapturous delight at the advantageous view they now had of their young family, who appeared to be ſtrong, vigorous, and lively; and, in a word, endued with every gift of nature requiſite to their ſucceſs in the world.
Now, ſaid the father, ſtretch your wings, Robin, and flutter them a little, in this manner, (ſhewing him the way) and be ſure to obſerve my directions 071 D12r 71 directions exactly. Very well, said he; do not attempt to fly yet, for here is neither air nor ſpace enough for that purpoſe. Walk gently after me to the wall; now hop and perch upon this branch, and as ſoon as you ſee me fly away, ſpread your wings, and exert all the ſtrength you have to follow me.
Robin acquitted himſelf to admiration, and alighted very ſafely on the ground.
Now ſtand ſtill, ſaid the father, till the reſt join us: Then going back, he called upon Dicky to do the ſame as his brother had done; but Dicky was very fearful of fluttering his wings, for he had a great deal of cowardice in his diſpoſition, and expreſſed many apprehenſions that he ſhould not reach the ground without falling, as they were ſuch a great height from it. His father, who was a very courageous bird, was quite angry with him.
Why you fooliſh little thing, ſaid he, do you mean to ſtay in the neſt by yourſelf and ſtarve? I ſhall leave off bringing you food, I aſſure you. Do you think your wings were given you to be always folded by your ſides, and that the whole employment of your life is to dreſs your feathers, and make yourſelf look pretty? Without exerciſe you cannot long enjoy health; beſides, you will ſoon have your livelihood to earn, andand therefore idleneſs would in you be the height of folly; get up this inſtant.Dicky, 072 D12v 72
Dicky, intimidated by his father’s diſpleasure, got up and advanced as far as the branch from which he was to deſcend; but here his fears returned, and inſtead of making an effort to fly, he ſtood flapping his wings in a moſt irreſolute manner, and ſuffered his father to lead the way twice without following him. This good parent, finding that he would not venture to fly, took a circuit unperceived by Dicky, and watching the opportunity when his wings were a little ſpread, came ſuddenly behind him, and puſhed him off from the branch. Dicky, finding himſelf in actual danger of falling, now gladly ſtretched his pinions, and, upborn by the air, gently deſcended to the ground, ſo near the ſpot where Robin ſtood, that the latter eaſily reached him by hopping.
The mother now undertook to conduct Flapſy and Peckſy, whilſt the father ſtaid to take care of the two already landed. Flapſy made a thouſand difficulties, but at length yielded to her mother’s perſuaſions, and flew ſafely down. Peckſy, without the leaſt heſitation, accompanied her, and by exactly following the directions given, found the taſk much eaſier than ſhe expected.
As ſoon as they had a little recovered from the fatigue and fright of their firſt eſſay at flying, they began to look around them with aſtoniſhment. Every object on which they turned their eyes excited their curioſity and wonder. They were no longer confined to a little neſt, built in a 073 E1r 73 a ſmall hole, but were now at full liberty in the open air. The orchard itſelf appeared to them a world. For ſome time each remained ſilent, gazing around, firſt at one thing, then at another; at length Flapſy cried out, what a charming place the world is! I had no conception that it was half ſo big!
And do you ſuppoſe then, my dear, replied the mother, that you now behold the whole of the world? I have ſeen but a ſmall part of it myſelf, and yet have flown over ſo large a ſpace, that what is at preſent within our view appears to me a little inconſiderable ſpot; and I converſed with ſeveral foreign birds, who informed me, that the country they came from was ſo diſtant, that they were many days on their journey hither, though they flew the neareſt way, and ſcarcely allowed themſelves any reſting-time.
Come, ſaid the father, let us proceed to buſineſs, we did not leave the neſt merely to look about us. You are now, my young ones, ſafely landed on the ground, let me inſtruct you what you are to do on it. Every living creature that comes into the world has ſomething allotted him to perform, therefore ſhould not ſtand an idle ſpectator of what others are doing. We ſmall birds have a very eaſy taſk, in comparison of many animals I have had an opportunity of obſerving, being only required to ſeek food for ourſelves, build neſts, and provide for our young E ones 074 E1v 74 ones till they are able to procure their own livelihood.
We have indeed enemies to dread; Hawks and other birds of prey will catch us up, if we are not upon our guard; but the worſt foes we have are thoſe of the human race; though even among them the Redbreaſts have a better chance than many other birds, on account of a charitable action which a pair of our ſpecies are ſaid to have performed towards a little boy and girl Alluding to the Ballad of the Children in the Wood. who were loſt in a wood, where they were ſtarved to death. The Redbreaſts I mention ſaw the affectionate pair, hand in hand, ſtretched on the cold ground, and would have fed them, had they been capable of receiving nouriſhment; but finding them quite dead, and being unable to bury them, reſolved to cover them with leaves. This was an arduous taſk, but many a Redbreaſt has ſince ſhared the reward of it; and I believe, that thoſe who do good to others, always meet with a recompenſe ſome way or other. But I declare I am doing the very thing I was reproving you for—chattering away when I ſhould be minding buſineſs. Come, hop after me, and we ſhall ſoon find ſomething worth having. Fear nothing, for you are now in a place of ſecurity; there is no Hawk near, and I have never ſeen any of the human race 075 E2r 75 race enter this orchard, but the monſters who paid you viſits in the neſt, and others equally inoffenſive.
The father then hopped away, followed by Robin and Dicky, whilſt his mate conducted the female part of the family. The parents inſtructed their young ones in what manner to ſeek for food, and they proved very ſucceſsful, for there were a number of inſects juſt at hand.
Dicky had the good fortune to find four little worms together, but inſtead of calling his brother and ſiſters to partake of them, he devoured them all himſelf.
Are you not aſhamed, you little greedy creature, cried his father, who obſerved his ſelfiſh diſpoſition? What would you think of your brother and ſiſters, were they to ſerve you ſo? In a family, every individual ought to conſult the welfare of the whole, inſtead of his own private ſatisfaction. It is his own trueſt intereſt to do ſo. A day may come, when he who has now ſufficient to ſupply the wants of his relations, may ſtand in need of aſſiſtance from them. But ſetting aſide ſelfiſh conſiderations, which are the laſt that ever find place in a generous breaſt, how great is the pleaſure of doing good, and contributing to the happineſs of others!
Dicky was quite confounded, and immediately hopped away, to find, if poſſible, ſomething for E2 his 076 E2v 76 his brother and ſiſters, that he might regain their good opinion.
In the mean while, Robin found a caterpillar, which he intended to take for Peckſy; but juſt as he was going to pick it up, a Linnet, who had a neſt in the orchard, ſnatched it from him and flew away with it.
Inflamed with the moſt furious rage, Robin advanced to his father, and entreated that he would fly after the Linnet and tear his heart out.
That would be taking violent revenge indeed, ſaid his father. No, Dicky, the Linnet has as great a right to the caterpillar as you or I; and in all probability, has many little gaping mouths at home ready to receive it. But, however this may be, I had, for my own part, rather ſuſtain an injury than take revenge. You muſt expect to have many a ſcramble of this kind in your life; but if you give way to a reſentful temper, you will do yourſelf more harm than all the enemies in the world can do you; for you will be in perpetual agitation from an idea, that every one who does not act in direct conformity to your wiſhes, has a deſign againſt you. Therefore, reſtrain your anger that you may be happy; for believe me, peace and tranquillity are the moſt valuable things you can poſſeſs.
At this inſtant, Peckſy came up with a fine fat ſpider in her mouth, which ſhe laid down at her mother’s feet, and thus addreſſed her. Accept my 077 E3r 77 my dear parent, the firſt tribute of gratitude which I have ever been able to offer you. How have I formerly longed to eaſe thoſe toils which you and my dear father endured for our ſakes; and gladly would I now releaſe you from farther fatigue on my account, but I am ſtill a poor unexperienced creature, and muſt continue to take ſhelter under your wing. All my power to aſſiſt you ſhall however by exerted, and I will hop as long as I am able to procure proviſions for the family. The eyes of the mother ſparkled with delight; and knowing that Peckſy’s love would be diſappointed by a refuſal, ſhe eat the ſpider, which the dutiful neſtling had ſo affectionately brought her; and then ſaid—How happy would families be, if every one like you, my dear Peckſy, conſulted the welfare of the reſt, inſtead of turning their whole attention to their own intereſt.
Dicky was not preſent at this ſpeech, which he might have conſidered as a reflection on his own conduct; but he arrived as it was ended, and preſented Peckſy with a worm, like thoſe he had himſelf ſo greedily eaten. She received it with thanks, and declared it was doubly welcome from his beak.
Certainly, ſaid the mother, fraternal love ſtamps a value on the moſt trifling preſents. Dicky felt himſelf happy in having regained the good opinionE3 nion 078 E3v 78 nion of his mother, and obliged his ſiſter, and reſolved for the future to be generous.
The young Redbreaſts ſoon after, all collected together, near the gate which lead into the meadow, when they were ſuddenly alarmed with a repetition of the ſame noiſes which had formerly ſo terrified them in the neſt; and Robin, who was foremoſt, beheld, to his very great amazement, Maſter and Miſs Benſon, the maid who attended them, and Joe the gardener, who having opened the gate, was, at the request of his young Maſter and Miſtreſs, conducting them to the ivy-wall.
Robin, with all his courage, and indeed he was not deficient in this qualification, was ſeized with a great tremor; for if the view he had of the faces of theſe perſons had appeared ſo dreadful to him when he ſat in the neſt, what muſt it now be, to behold their full ſize, and ſee them advancing with, as he thought, gigantic ſtrides, towards him! He expected nothing leſs than to be cruſhed to death with the foot of one of them; and not having yet attained his full ſtrength, and never having raiſed himſelf in the air, he knew not how to eſcape; therefore chirped ſo loudly, as not only to ſurprize his brother and ſiſters, and bring his father and mother to enquire the meaning of his cry, but alſo to attract the attention of Maſter and Miſs Benson.What 079 E4r 79
What chirping is that? cried the latter.—It was, ſaid the maid, the cry of a young bird; was it not one of thoſe in the baſkets? No, ſaid Frederick, the noiſe came that way, pointing to ſome currant trees.—My birds are very well, and ſo is my Linnet, replied Harriet.—Frederick then ſet down his charge very carefully, and began looking about in the place from whence he ſuppoſed the ſound proceeded, when to his great joy he ſoon diſcovered the Redbreaſts and their little family. He called eagerly to his ſiſter, who was equally pleaſed with the ſight. Frederick then ſtooped down to take a nearer view of them, by which mean he directly fronted Robin, who, as ſoon as the young gentleman’s face was on a level with his eyes, recollected him, and calling to his brother and ſiſters, told them they need not be afraid.
Miſs Benſon followed her brother’s example, and delighted the little flock with the ſight of her benign countenance. She heartily lamented having nothing with which to regale her old favourites and their family, when Frederick produced from his pocket a piece of biſcuit which they crumbled and ſcattered. Miſs Benſon recollecting that her mamma would expect her at home, and that the birds in the baſket would be hungry, perſuaded her brother to take up his little load and return; they therefore left the Redbreaſts enjoying the fruits of their bounty.
When the happy birds had ſhared amongſt them the acceptable preſent made by their young benefactors, the mother reminded her mate that it would be proper to think of returning to the neſt. If the little ones fatigue themſelves too much with hopping about, ſaid ſhe, their ſtrength will be exhauſted, and they will not be able to fly back.
True, my love, replied her mate, gather them under your wings a little, as there is no reaſon to apprehend danger here, and then we will ſee what they can do. She complied with his deſire, and when they were ſufficiently reſted, got up, on which the whole brood inſtantly raiſed themſelves on their feet.
Now Robin, cried the father, let us ſee your dexterity at flying upwards; come, I will ſhew you how to raiſe yourſelf.
O! you need not take that trouble, ſaid the conceited bird, as I flew down I warrant I know how to fly up: then ſpreading his wings, he attempted to riſe, but in ſo unskilful a manner, that he only ſhuffled along upon the ground.
That will not do, however, cried the father, ſhall I ſhew you now? Robin perſiſted in it that 081 E5r 81 that he ſtood in no need of inſtruction, and tried again; he managed to raiſe himſelf a little way, but ſoon tumbled headlong. His mother then began reproving him for his obſtinacy, and adviſed him to accept his father’s kind offer of teaching him.
You may depend on it, Robin ſaid ſhe, that he is in every reſpect wiſer than you; and as he has had ſo much practice, he muſt of courſe be expert in the art of flying; and if you perſiſt in making your own fooliſh experiments, you will only commit a number of errors, and make yourſelf ridiculous; I ſhould commend your courage, provided you would add prudence to it; but blundering on in this ignorant manner, is only raſhneſs.
Let him alone, let him alone, ſaid the father; if he is above being taught, he may find his own way to the neſt, I will teach his brother. Come, ſaid he, Dicky, let us ſee what you can do at flying upwards, you cut a noble figure this morning when you flew down.
Dicky with reluctance, advanced; he ſaid he did not ſee what occaſion they had to go back to the neſt at all; he ſhould ſuppose might eaſily find ſome ſnug corner to creep into, till they were ſtrong enough to rooſt in trees, as other birds did.
Why you, ſaid the father, are as ridiculous with your timidity, as Robin with his conceitedneſs. E6 Thoſe 082 E5v 82 Thoſe who give way to groundleſs fears, generally expoſe themſelves to real dangers; if you reſt on the earth all night, you will ſuffer a great deal from cold and damp, and may very likely be devoured whilſt you ſleep, by rats and other creatures that go out in the night to ſeek for food; whereas, if you determine to go back to the neſt, you have but one effort to make; for which, I will venture to ſay, you have a ſufficient degree of ſtrength, and then you will lie warm, ſafe and quiet: however, do as you will.
Dicky began to think that it was his intereſt to obey his father, and ſaid he would endeavour to fly up, but was ſtill fearful he ſhould not be able to effect it.
Never deſpair, replied his father, of doing what others have done before you. Turn your eyes upwards, and behold what numbers of birds are at this instant ſoaring in the air. They were once all neſtlings like yourſelf. See there that newfledged Wren, with what courage he ſkims along; let it not be ſaid, that a Redbreaſt lies groveling on the earth, while a Wren ſoars above him!
Dicky was now aſhamed of himſelf, and inſpired with emulation; therefore, without delay, ſpread his wings and his tail; his father with pleaſure placed himſelf in a proper attitude before him, then riſing from the ground led the way, and Dicky, by carefully following his example, ſafely arrived at the neſt, which he found a moſt com- 083 E6r 83 comfortable reſting-place after the fatigue of the morning, and rejoiced that he had a good father to teach him what was conducive to his welfare.
The father having ſeen him ſafe home, returned to his mate, who during his ſhort abſence, had been endeavouring to convince Robin of his fault, but to no purpoſe; he did not like to be taught, what he ſtill perſuaded himſelf he could do by his own exertions; ſhe therefore applied herſelf to Flapſy.
Come, my dear, ſaid ſhe, get ready to follow me when your father returns, for the ſun caſts a great heat here, and the neſt will be quite comfortable to you. Flapſy dreaded the experiment; however, as ſhe could not but blame both Robin’s and Dicky’s conduct, ſhe reſolved to do her beſt; but entreated her mother to inform her very particularly how to proceed. Well then, ſaid the tender parent, obſerve me. Firſt bend your legs, then ſpring from the ground as quick as you can, ſtretching your wings as you riſe, ſtraight out on each ſide of your body; ſhake them with a quick motion, as you will ſee me do, and the air will yield to you, and at the ſame time ſupport your weight; which every way you want to turn, ſtrike the air with the wing on the contrary ſide, and that will bring you about. She then roſe from the ground, and having practiſed two or three times repeatedly, what ſhe had been E6 teach- 084 E6v 84 teaching, Flapſy at length ventured to follow her, but with a palpitating heart; and was ſoon happily ſeated in the neſt by the ſide of Dicky, who rejoiced that his favourite ſiſter was ſafely arrived.
The mother bird now went back to Peckſy, who was waiting with her father till ſhe returned; for the good parent choſe to leave the female part of his family, to the particular management of their mother.
Peckſy was fully prepared for her flight, for ſhe had attentively obſerved the inſtruction given to the others, and alſo their errors; ſhe therefore kept the happy medium betwixt ſelf-conceit and timidity, indulging that moderated emulation, which ought to poſſeſs every young heart; and reſolving that neither her inferiors or equals ſhould ſoar above her, ſhe ſprang from the ground, and with a ſteadineſs and agility, wonderful for her firſt eſſay, followed her mother to the neſt, who inſtead of ſtopping to reſt herſelf there, flew to a neighbouring tree, that ſhe might be at hand to aſſiſt Robin ſhould he repent of his folly; but Robin diſapointed her hopes, for ſat ſulky; though convinced that he had been in the wrong, he would not humble himſelf to his father; who therefore reſolved to leave him a little while and return to the neſt. As ſoon as Robin found himſelf deſerted, inſtead of being ſorry, he gave way to anger and reſentment;—why, cried he, am I to be treated in this manner, who am the eldeſt of the family, while all the little darlings are fondleddled 085 E7r 85 dled and careſſed? But I don’t care, I can get to the neſt yet I make no doubt; he then attempted to fly, and after a great many trials at length got up in the air, but knew not which way to direct his courſe; and ſometimes turned to the right, and ſometimes to the left; now he advanced forwards a little, and now, fearing he was wrong, came back again: at length quite ſpent with fatigue, he fell to the ground and bruiſed himſelf a good deal; ſtunned with the fall, he lay for ſome minutes without ſenſe or motion, but ſoon revived; and finding himſelf alone in this diſmal condition, the horrors of his ſituation filled him with dreadful apprehenſions, and the bittereſt remorſe.
Oh! cried he, that I had but followed the advice and example of my tender parents, then had I been ſafe in the neſt, bleſt with their kind careſſes and enjoying the company of my dear brother and ſiſters! but now I am, of all birds the moſt wretched! never ſhall I be able to fly, for every joint of me has received a ſhock which I doubt it will not recover. Where ſhall I find ſhelter from the ſcorching ſun, whoſe piercing rays already render the ground I lie on intolerably hot? What kind beak will ſupply me with food to aſſuage the pangs of hunger which I ſhall ſoon feel? By what means ſhall I procure even a drop of water to quench that thirſt which ſo frequently returns? Who will protect me from the various tribes 086 E7v 86 tribes of barbarous animals which I have been told make a prey of birds? Oh my dear, my tender mother, if the ſound of my voice can reach your ears, pity my condition, and fly to my ſuccour.
The kind parent waited not for farther ſolicitation, but darting from the branch on which ſhe had been a painful eye-witneſs of Robin’s fall, ſhe inſtantly ſtood before him.
I have liſtened, ſaid ſhe, to your lamentations; and ſince you ſeem convinced of your error, will not add to your ſuffering by reproaches; my heart relents towards you, and gladly would I afford you all the aid in my power: but alas! I can do but little for your relief; however, let me perſuade you, to exert all the ſtrength you have, and uſe every effort for your own preſervation; I will endeavour to procure you ſome refreſhment, and at the ſame time contrive means of fixing you in a place of more ſecurity and comfort, than that in which you at preſent lie. So saying, ſhe flew to a little ſtream which flowed in an adjacent meadow, and fetched from the brink of it, a worm which ſhe had obſerved an angler to drop as ſhe perched on the tree; with this ſhe immediately returned to the penitent Robin, who received the welcome gift with gratitude.
Refreſhed with this delicious morſel, and comforted by his mother’s kindneſs, he was able to ſtand up, and ſhaking his wings, found that he 087 E8r 87 he was not ſo greatly hurt as he apprehended; his head, indeed, was bruiſed, ſo that one eye was almost cloſed, and he had injured the joint of one wing ſo that he could not poſſibly fly: however, he could manage to hop, and the parent bird obſerving that Joe the gardener was cutting a hawthorn hedge, which was near the ſpot, deſired Robin to follow her; this he did, tho’ with great pain. Now, ſaid ſhe, look carefully about and you will ſoon find inſects of one kind or another for your ſuſtenance, during the remainder of the day, and before evening I will return to you again. Summon all your courage, for I make no doubt you will be ſafe while our friend continues his work, as none of thoſe creatures which are enemies to birds will venture to come near him. Robin took a ſorrowful farewell, and the mother flew to the neſt.
You have been abſent a long time my love, ſaid her mate, but I perceived that you were indulging your tenderneſs towards that diſobedient neſtling, who has rendered himſelf unworthy of it; however, I do not condemn you for giving him aſſiſtance, for had not you undertaken the taſk I would myſelf have flown to him, inſtead of returning home: how is he, likely to live and reward your kindneſs? Yes, ſaid ſhe, he will, I flatter myſelf, ſoon perfectly recover, for his hurt is not very conſiderable; and I have the pleaſure to tell you, he is extremely ſenſible of his 088 E8v 88 his late folly, and I dare ſay will endeavour to repair his fault with future good behaviour: this is pleaſing news indeed, ſaid he.
The little neſtlings delighted to hear their dear brother was ſafe, and convinced of his error; expreſſed great joy and ſatisfaction, and entreated their father to let them deſcend again and keep him company; to this he would by no means conſent, becauſe, as he told them, the fatigue would be too great; and it was proper that Robin ſhould feel a little longer, the conſequences of his preſumption: to-morrow, ſaid he, you ſhall pay him a viſit, but to-day he muſt be by himſelf: on this they dropped their requeſt, knowing that their parent was the beſt judge what was proper to be done; and not doubting, but that his affection would lead him to every thing that was conducive to the real happineſs of his family: but yet they could not tell how to be happy without Robin, and were continually perking up their little heads, fancying they heard his cries; both the father and mother frequently took a peep at him, and had the ſatisfaction of ſeeing him very ſafe by their friend Joe the gardener. But it is time to enquire after Maſter and Miſs Benſon.
This happy pair arrived at the houſe ſoon after they left the Redbreaſts, and communicated every cirumſtance of their expedition to their kind mamma; who hearing their little priſoners in the baſket chirp very loudly, deſired they would immediately go and feed them; which they gladly did, and then took a ſhort leſſon. Mrs. Benſon told Miſs Harriet that ſhe was going to make a viſit in the afternoon, and ſhould take her with her, therefore deſired ſhe would keep herſelf quite ſtill, that ſhe might not be fatigued after the walk ſhe had had in the morning; for though ſhe meant to go in the coach, it was her intention to return on foot, as the weather was ſo remarkably fine. The young lady took great care of the birds, and Frederick engaged, with the aſſiſtance of the maid, to feed them during her abſence. Miſs Benſon was then dreſſed to attend her mamma.
Mrs. Addis, to whoſe houſe they were going, was a widow lady; ſhe had two children, Maſter Charles, a boy of twelve years old at ſchool, and Miſs Auguſta about ſeven, at home. But theſe children were quite ſtrangers to Miſs Benſon.
On entering the hall, the young lady took notice of a very diſagreeabe ſmell, and was ſurpriſeded 090 E9v 90 ed with the acceptance of a parrot, a paroquet, and a macaw, all in moſt elegant cages. In the next room ſhe came to, were a ſquirrel and a monkey, which had each a little houſe neatly ornamented.
On being introduced into the drawing-room, ſhe obſerved in one corner a lap-dog lying on a ſplendid cuſhion; and in a beautiful little cradle, which ſhe ſuppoſed to contain a large wax doll, lay in great ſtate, a cat with a litter of kittens. In vain did Miſs Harriet look for Mrs. Addis’s children, for neither of them appeared.
After the uſual compliments of ſalutation were over, I have, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, taken the liberty of bringing my daughter with me, madam, in hopes of inducing you to favour us in return, with the company of Maſter and Miſs Addis.
You are very obliging, madam, replied the lady; but indeed, I never take my children with me, they are ſo rude; on the contrary, I am obliged to keep the boy almoſt continually at ſchool, for he is ſo cruel to my dear little precious creatures, that there is no bearing him at home; and as for Auguſta, it will be time enough ſome years hence for her to go a viſiting.
I am sorry to hear you ſay this, madam, ſaid Miſs Benſon, but hope my daughter will at leaſt be indulged with ſeeing Miſs AddiſsAddis to day, or I shall think you are diſpleaſed at my bringing Harriet here. This in reality was the caſe, and Mrs. Benſon 091 E10r 91 Benſon perceived it, for the lady looked very croſs; however, ſhe could not refuſe having her daughter come into the drawing-room, as her gueſt ſo particularly deſired it.
Miſs Harriet was very curious to examine the various animals which were collected together by this extraordinary lady; but as her mamma never ſuffered her to run about when ſhe accompanied her to other people’s houſes, ſhe ſat down and kept quite ſtill, only glancing her eye firſt to one part of the room, and then to the other, as her attention was ſucceſſively attracted.
Mrs. Addis rang the bell, and ordered that Auguſta might come to her. The footman, who had never before received ſuch a command, (for Mrs. Addis only ſaw the child in the nurſery) ſtared with aſtoniſhment, and thought he had miſtaken it. However, on his Miſtreſs’s repeating, that the little girl was to be brought down, he went to tell the nurſery-maid to take her. What new fancy is this, ſaid ſhe? Who would ever have thought of her wanting the child in the drawingroom? I have no ſtockings clean for her, nor a frock to put on but what is all to pieces; I wiſh ſhe would ſpend leſs on her cats, and dogs, and monkies, and then her child might appear as ſhe ought to do. I won’t go up ſtairs Nanny, ſaid the child, mamma is ſo croſs to me. But you muſt, ſaid Nanny; beſides there is a pretty young lady come to ſee you; and if you will go like a good 092 E10v 92 good girl, you ſhall have a piece of ſugar’d bread and butter for your ſupper; and you ſhall carry the new doll which your god-mamma gave you to ſhew your little viſitor.
Theſe bribes has the deſired effect, and Miſs Auguſta went into the drawing-room; but inſtead of entering it like a young lady, with a genteel curtſey, ſhe ſtopped at the door, hung down her head, and looked like a little ſimpleton. Miſs Benſon was ſo ſurpriſed at her awkwardneſs, that ſhe did not know what to do, and looked at her mamma; who ſaid, Harriet, my love, can’t you take the little lady by the hand and lead her to me? I believe ſhe is afraid of ſtrangers. On this Miſs Harriet aroſe to do ſo; but Auguſta; apprehenſive that ſhe would ſnatch her doll away, was going to run out, only ſhe was not able to open the door.
Mrs. Benſon was quite ſhocked to ſee how ſickly, dirty, and ragged this child was, and what a very vulgar figure ſhe made, for want of inſtruction; but Mrs. Addis was ſo taken up at that inſtant with the old lap dog, which had, as ſhe thought fallen into a fit, that ſhe did not mind her entrance; and before ſhe perceived it, the child went up to the cradle in order to put her doll into it; and ſeized one of the kittens by the neck, the ſqueaking of which provoked the old cat to ſcratch her, and this made her cry and drop the kitten on the floor, Mrs. Addis ſeeing this, flew to 093 E11r 93 to the little beaſt, endeavoured to ſooth it with careſſes, and was going to beat Auguſta for touching it, but Mrs. Benſon interceded for her; though ſhe could ſcarcely gain attention, Mrs. Addis being ſo greatly agitated.
Tea was now ordered, and Miſs Auguſta being urgent to go to her maid, Mrs. Benſon thought it beſt ſhe ſhould be indulged; and therefore ſaid, ſhe was ſure Harriet would not deſire to detain her againſt her inclinations; and Auguſta was diſmiſſed by her mamma, without ſo much as one tender kiſs or kind expreſſion!
The tea things being ſet, the footman came in with the urn, which employing both his hands, he left the door open; and was, to the great terror of Miſs Harriet, and even of her mamma too, followed by the monkey they ſaw in the hall, who having broke his chain, came to make a viſit to his lady: ſhe, far from being diſconcerted, ſeemed highly pleaſed with his cleverneſs. O my ſweet dear Pug, ſaid ſhe, are you come to ſee us? Pray ſhew how like a gentleman you can behave: juſt as ſhe had ſaid this, he leaped upon the teatable, and took cup after cup, and threw them on the ground, till he broke half the ſet; then jumped on the back of his miſtreſs’s chair, and tore the cover of it; in ſhort, as ſoon as he had finiſhed one piece of miſchief, he began another, till Mrs. Addis, though vaſtly diverted with his wit, was obliged to have him caught and confined; after which 094 E11v 94 which ſhe began making tea, and quietneſs was for a ſhort time reſtored. But Mrs. Benſon,, though capable of converſing on moſt ſubjects, could not engage Mrs. Addis in any diſcourſe, but upon the perfections of her birds and beaſts; and a variety of unintereſting particulars were related concerning their wit or misfortunes.
On hearing the clock ſtrike ſeven, ſhe begged Mrs. Benſon’s excuſe; but ſaid ſhe made it a conſtant rule, to ſee all her dear darlings fed at that hour, and entreated that ſhe and the young lady would take a turn in the garden in the meanwhile. This was very unpolite, but Mrs. Benſon deſired ſhe would uſe no ceremonies with her, and was really glad of the reſpite it gave her from company ſo irkſome; and Miſs Harriet was happy to be alone with her mamma: ſhe, however, forbore to make any remarks on Mrs. Addis, becauſe ſhe had been taught, that it did not become young perſons to cenſure the behaviour of thoſe who were older than themſelves.
The garden was ſpacious, but overrun with weeds; the gravel-walks were ſo rough for want of rolling, that it was quite painful to tread on them; and the graſs on the lawn ſo long, that there was no walking with any comfort, for the gardener was almoſt continually going on ſome errand or another for Mrs. Addis’s darlings; ſo Mrs. Benſon and her daughter ſat down on a garden ſeat, with an intention of waiting there till Mrs. 095 E12r 95 Mrs. Addis ſhould ſummon them. Miſs Harriet could not reſtrain from expreſſing a wiſh that it was time to go home; to which Mrs. Benſon replied, that ſhe did not wonder at her deſire to return, but ſaid ſhe, my dear, as the world was not made merely for us, we muſt endeavour to be patient under every diſagreeable circumſtance we meet with. I know what opinion you have formed of Mrs. Addis, and ſhould not have brought you to be a ſpectator of her follies, had I not hoped that an hour or two paſſed in her company, would afford you a leſſon which might be uſeful to you through life. I have before told you, that our affections towards the inferior parts of the creation ſhould be properly regulated; you have in your friend Miſs Jenkins and her brother, ſeen inſtances of cruelty to them, which I am ſure you will never be inclined to imitate; but I was apprehenſive you might fall into the contrary extreme, which is equally blameable. Mrs. Addis, you ſee, has abſolutely transferred the affection ſhe ought to feel for her child, to creatures who would really be much happier without it. As for puſs who lies in the cradle in all her ſplendour, I will engage to ſay, ſhe would paſs her time pleaſanter in a baſket of clean ſtraw, placed in a ſituation where ſhe could occaſionally amuſe herſelf with catching mice. The lap-dog is, I am ſure, a miſerable object, full of diſeaſes, the conſequencesces 096 E12v 96 ces of luxurious living. How enviable is the lot of a ſpanniel that is at liberty, to be the companion of his maſter’s walks, when compared with his! Mr. Pug, I am certain, would enjoy himſelf much more in his native wood. And I am greatly miſtaken, if the parrots, &c. have not cauſe to wiſh themſelves in their reſpective countries, or at leaſt divided into ſeparate families, where they would be better attended; for Mrs. Addis, by having ſuch a number of creatures, has put it out of her power to ſee properly with her own eyes to all. But come, let us go back into the houſe, the time for our going home draws near, and I wiſh not to prolong my viſit. Saying this ſhe aroſe, and with her daughter went into the drawing-room, which opened into the garden; the other door which led to the adjoining apartments was not ſhut, and gave them an opportunity of hearing what really diſtreſſed Mrs. Benſon, and perfectly terrified the gentle Harriet.
Begone wretch, ſays Mrs. Addis, begone this inſtant, you ſhall not ſtay a moment longer in this houſe. I hope, madam, you will have the goodneſs to give me a character; indeed and indeed, I fed Poll, but I believe he got cold when you let him ſtand out of doors the other day. I will give you no character I tell you, ſo depart this inſtant, Oh my poor, dear, dear, creature! I fear you will never recover; John, Thomas, 097 F1r 97 Thomas, here run this inſtant to Perkins the birdcatcher, perhaps he can tell me what to give him; then burſting into a flood of tears, ſhe ſet down and forgot her gueſts.
Mrs. Benſon thought it neceſſary to remind her, that ſhe was in the houſe, and ſtepped to the door to aſk what was the matter. Mrs. Addis recollected herſelf ſufficiently, to beg pardon for neglecting to pay attention to her, but declared, that the dreadful misfortune that had befallen her, had made her inſenſible to every thing elſe.
What can be the matter, ſaid Mrs. Benſon? Have you heard of the death of a dear friend, has your child met with an accident? Oh! no, ſaid ſhe, but poor Poll is taken ſuddenly ill; my dear Poll which I have had theſe ſeven years, and I fear he never will recover.
If this is all, madam, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, I really cannot pity you, nor excuſe your behaviour to me; for it is an inſtance of diſreſpect, which I believe no other perſon but yourſelf would ſhew me, and I ſhall take my leave of your houſe for ever: but before I go, permit me to ſay, that you act in a very wrong manner, and will certainly feel the ill effects of your injuſtice to your fellowcreatures, in thus robbing them of the love you owe them, to laviſh it away on thoſe who are really ſufferers by your kindneſs.F At 098 F1v 98
At this inſtant the footman entered to inform Mrs. Benſon that her ſervant was come, on which, accompanied by Miſs Harriet, ſhe, wihout further ceremony, left Mrs. Addis to compoſe herſelf as ſhe could.
As they walked along, both Mrs. Benſon and her daughter continued ſilent, for the former was greatly agitated, and the latter quite in conſternation at what had lately paſſed; but their attention was ſoon awakened by the ſupplication of a poor woman, who entreated them to give her ſome relief, as ſhe had a ſick huſband and ſeven children in a ſtarving condition; of which, ſhe ſaid, they might be eye-witneſſes, if they would have the goodneſs to ſtep into a barn that was very near.
The invitation of wretchedneſs never was given in vain to Mrs. Benſon; her heart was conſtantly awake to the tender feelings of humanity; and taking her daughter by the hand, and deſiring the ſervant to ſtop for her, ſhe followed the woman, who conducted her to the abode of real woe, where ſhe beheld a father, ſurrounded with his helpleſs family, whom he could no longer ſupply with ſuſtenance; and he himſelf, though his diſease was ſubdued, was almoſt on the point of expiring, for want of ſome reviving cordial.
How came you to be in this condition, good woman? ſaid Mrs. Benſon, to his wife; ſurely you 099 F2r 99 you might have obtained relief before your huſband was reduced to ſuch extremity?
Oh! my good Lady ſaid the woman, we have not been uſed to beg, but to earn an honeſt livelihood by our induſtry; and never till this ſad day, have I known what it was to aſk charity: the firſt time I could bring myſelf to it, I made application at the only great houſe in this village, where I made no doubt there was abundance. I told my diſmal tale to a ſervant, and begged ſhe would make it known to her miſtreſs; but ſhe aſſured me it was in vain to come there, for her Lady had ſuch a family of cats, dogs, monkies, and all manner of creatures, that ſhe had nothing to ſpare for poor people; at the ſame inſtant I ſaw the poulterer bring a rabbit and a fowl, which I found were for the favourite cat and dog. This diſcouraged me from begging; and I had determined to die before I would aſk again; but the ſight of my dear huſband and children in this condition, drives me to it.
Well, comfort yourſelf, ſaid Mrs. Benſon.— Come to my houſe to-morrow morning, and we will ſee what we can do; in the mean time here is ſomething for a preſent ſupply. Mrs. Benſon then departed, as ſhe was fearful of walking late.
Miſs Harriet was greatly affected with this ſcene, and could no longer help exclaiming againſt Mrs. Addis.F2 She 100 F2v 100
She is deſerving of great blame, indeed, ſaid Mrs. Benſon; but I have the pleaſure to ſay, ſuch characters as her’s are very uncommon, I mean in the extreme; though there are numbers of people who fall into the ſame fault in ſome degree, and make themſelves truly ridiculous with their unnatural affections. I wiſh you, while your mind is young, to guard it againſt ſuch a blameable weakneſs.
Miſs Harriet aſſured her mamma, that ſhe ſhould never forget either Mrs. Addis, or the leſſon ſhe had received on the ſubject, and then expreſſed her ſatisfaction that they had met the poor woman. I rejoice ſincerely, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, at having been fortunate enough to come in time to aſſiſt this poor wretched family, and hope, my love, you will, out of your own little purſe, contribute ſomething to-morrow towards their relief. Moſt willingly, ſaid Harriet, they ſhall be welcome to my whole ſtore.
They kept talking on this ſubject till they arrived at home. Little Frederick, who ſat up an hour beyond his time, came out to meet them, and aſſured his ſiſter, that the birds were well and faſt aſleep. I think, ſaid ſhe, it is time for you and I to follow their example; for my part, with my morning and evening walk together, I am really tired, ſo ſhall beg leave to wiſh you a good night, my dear mamma; papa, I ſuppoſe, will not be at home this week? No my dear, nor 101 F3r 101 nor the next, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, for he has many affairs to ſettle in the Weſt. I am rather fatigued alſo, and ſhall ſoon retire to reſt.
We will now return to Robin, whom we left under the protection of Joe the gardener, though the honeſt fellow did not know of his own guardianſhip, and continued his work without perceiving the little cripple, who hopped and ſhuffled about, pecking here and there whatever he could meet with.
When he had been for ſome time by himſelf, his mother made him another viſit, and told him ſhe had interceded with his father, whoſe anger was abated, and he would come to him before he went to reſt. Robin rejoiced to hear that there was a chance of his being reconciled to his father, yet he dreaded the firſt interview: however, as it muſt be, he wiſhed to have it over as ſoon as poſſible; and every wing he heard beat the air, he fancied to be that of his offended parent. In this ſtate of anxious expectation he continued almoſt to the time of ſun-ſetting, when, of a ſudden, F3 he 102 F3v 102 he heard the well-known voice to which he uſed to liſten with joy, but which now cauſed his whole frame to tremble; but obſerving a beam of benignity in that eye, in which he looked for anger and reproach, he caſt himſelf in the moſt ſupplicating poſture at the feet of his father, who could no longer reſiſt the deſire he felt to receive him into favour.
Your preſent humility, Robin, ſaid he, diſarms my reſentment; I gladly pronounce your pardon, and am perſuaded you will never again incur my diſpleaſure? we will therefore ſay no more on a ſubject which gives ſo much pain to both of us.
Yes, my dear, my too-indulgent father, cried Robin, pemitpermit me to make my grateful acknowledgements for your kindneſs, and to aſſure you of my future obedience. The delighted parent accepted his ſubmiſſion, and the reconciliation was compleated. Robin now felt himſelf greatly relieved; but on his father’s aſking him what he intended to do with himſelf at night, his ſpirits ſunk again, and he anſwered, he did not know. Well, ſaid the father, I have thought on an expedient to ſecure you from cold at leaſt.
In a part of the orchard, a very little way from hence, there is a place belonging to our friend the gardener; there I have ſheltered myſelf from ſeveral ſtorms, and am ſure it will afford you a comfortable lodging; ſo follow me, before it is too late. The old bird then led the way, and his ſon 103 F4r 103 ſon followed him; when they arrived, they found the door of the tool-houſe open, and as the threſhold was low, Robin managed to get over it. His father looked carefully about, and at laſt found, in a corner, a parcel of ſhreds, kept for the purpoſe of nailing up trees. Here, Robin, ſaid he, is a charming bed for you, let me ſee you in it, and call your mother to have a peep, and then I muſt bid you good night; ſo ſaying, away he flew, and brought his mate, who was perfectly ſatisfied with the lodging provided for her late undutiful, but now repentant ſon; but reminded by her mate that if they ſtaid longer they might be ſhut in, they took leave, telling Robin they would viſit him early in the morning.
Though this habitation was much better than Robin expected, and he was ready enough to own, better than he deſerved, yet he deeply regretted his abſence from the neſt, and longed to ſee again his brother and ſiſters: however, though part of the night was ſpent in bitter reflections, fatigue at length prevailed over anxiety, and he fell aſleep. The neſtlings were greatly pleaſed to find that Robin was likely to eſcape the dangers of the night, and even the anxious mother at length reſigned herſelf to repoſe.
Before the ſun ſhewed his glorious face in the eaſt, every individual of this affectionate family were awake; the father with impatience waited for the gardener’s opening the tool-houſe; the F4 mother 104 F4v 104 mother prepared her little ones for a new excurſion.
You will be able to deſcend with more eaſe, my dears, to-day, than you did yeſterday, ſhall you not? O yes, mother, ſaid Dicky. I ſhall not be at all afraid; nor I, ſaid Flapſy. Say you ſo? then let us ſee which of you will be down firſt. Come I will ſhow you the way.
On this, with gradual flight, the mother bent her courſe to a ſpot near the place where Robin lay concealed; they all inſtantly followed her, and ſurprized their father, who having ſeen Joe, was every inſtant expecting he would open the door; at length, to the joy of the whole party, the gardener appeared, and they ſoon ſaw him fetch his ſheers and leave the tool-houſe open: on this the mother propoſed that they ſhould all go together and call Robin. There they found him in his ſnug little bed; but who can deſcribe the happy meeting: who can find words to expreſs the raptures which filled every little boſom?
When the firſt tranſports ſubſided, I think, ſaid the father, it will be beſt to retire from hence: if our friend returns, he may take us for a ſet of thieves, and ſuppose that we came to eat his ſeeds, and I ſhould be ſorry he ſhould have an ill opinion of us. Well, I am ready, ſaid his mate, and we, cried the whole brood; they accordingly left the tool-houſe, and hopped about among the currant-buſhes. I think, ſaid the father,ther, 105 F5r 105 ther, that you who have the full uſe of your limbs, could manage to get up theſe low trees, but Robin muſt content himſelf upon the ground a little longer. This was very mortifying, but he had no one to blame excepting himſelf; ſo he forbore to complain, and aſſumed as much cheerfulneſs as he could; his brother and ſiſters begged they might ſtay with him all day, as they could do very well without going up to the neſt; to this the parents conſented.
At the uſual hour of viſiting Mrs. Benſon’s tea-table, the affectionate pair took their morning’s flight, and found the young Gentleman and Lady with their mamma. They had been up a long time, for Frederick hadehad made in his bed-chamber a lodging for the birds, who had awakened both him and his ſiſter at a very early hour, and they roſe with great readineſs to perform the kind office they had impoſed upon themſelves.
The two Blackbirds were perfectly well, but the Linnet looked rather drooping, and they began to be apprehenſive they ſhould not raiſe him, eſpecially when they found he was not inclined to eat. As for the Blackbirds, they were very hungry indeed; and their young benefactors, not conſidering that when fed by their parents young birds wait ſometime between every morſel, ſupplied them too faſt, and filled their crops ſo full, that they looked as if they had great wens on F5 their 106 F5v 106 their necks; and Harriet perceived one of them gaſping for breath. Stop, Frederick, ſaid ſhe, as he was carrying the quill to its mouth, the bird is ſo full he can hold no more; but ſhe ſpoke too late; the little creature gave his eyes a ghaſtly roll, and fell on one ſide ſuffocated with abundance. Oh! he is dead! he is dead! cried Frederick; he is indeed, ſaid Miſs Benſson, but I am ſure we did not deſign to kill him; and it is ſome ſatisfaction to think that we did not take the neſt.
This conſideration was not ſufficient to comfort Frederick, who began to cry moſt bitterly, his mamma hearing him, was apprehenſive he had hurt himſelf, for he ſeldom cried unleſs he was in great pain; ſhe therefore haſtily entered the room, to enquire what was the matter, on which Miſs Harriet related the diſaſter that had happened. Mrs. Benſon then ſat down, and taking him with a kiſs, ſaid, I am ſorry, my love, for your diſappointment, but do not afflict yourſelf, the poor little thing is out of his pain now, and I fancy ſuffered but for a short time. If you keep on crying ſo, you will forget to feed your flock of birds, which I fancy, by the chirping I heard from my window, are beginning to aſſembble. Come, let me take the object of your diſtreſs out of your ſight, it muſt be buried; then carrying 107 F6r 107 carrying the dead bird in one hand, and leading Frederick with the other, ſhe went down ſtairs.
While ſhe was ſpeaking, Miſs Harriet had been watching the other Blackbird, which ſhe had ſoon the pleasure to ſee perfectly at his eaſe.
She then attempted to feed the Linnet, but he would not eat. I fancy Miſs, ſaid the Maid, he wants air. That may be the caſe indeed, replied Miſs Benſon; for you know, Betty, this room, which has been ſhut up all night, muſt be much cloſer than the places birds build in. Saying this ſhe opened the window, and placed the Linnet near it, waiting to ſee the effect of the experiment, which anſwered her wiſhes; and ſhe was delighted to behold how the little creature gradually ſmoothed his feathers, and his eyes reſumed their native luſtre; ſhe once more offered him food, which he took, and quite recovered. Having done all in her power for her little orphans, ſhe went to ſhare with her brother the taſk of feeding the daily penſioners; which being ended, ſhe ſeated herſelf at the breakfaſt-table by her mamma.
I wonder, ſaid Frederick, who had dried up his tears, that the Robins are not come. Conſider, replied his ſiſter, that they have a great deal of buſineſs to do, now their young ones begin to leave the neſt; they will be here by and by, I make no doubt.While 108 F6v 108
While ſhe was ſpeaking the ſervant entered, and informed them that a poor woman was at the gate, who was ordered to attend in the morning. Mr. Benſon deſired ſhe might come up. Well, good woman, ſaid the benevolent Lady, how does your huſband do this morning? Thanks to your goodneſs, Madam, and the bleſſing of God, quite cheery.
I am happy, ſaid the Lady, to find you in better ſpirits than you were last night, and do not doubt you will do very well. I will order ſome meat and bread to be ſent you every day this week, and will alſo aſſiſt you in cloathing the children. Harriet’s eyes gliſtened with benevolence at ſeeing the woman, whoſe diſtreſs had ſo greatly affected her, thus comforted; and ſlipped her purſe, which contained ſeven ſhillings, into her mamma’s hand, begged ſhe would take it for the woman. You ſhall, my dear, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, have the pleaſure of relieving her yourſelf; give this half-crown to her. Miſs Harriet, with a delight which none but the compaſſionate can know, extended the hand of charity. The woman received her benefaction with grateful acknowledgments; and praying that the Almighty might ſhower down his choiceſt bleſſings on this worthy family, reſpectfully took leave and returned to her huſband, who by means of the nouriſhment Mrs. Benſon ſupplied him with, gathered ſtrength hourly.She 109 F7r 109
She was ſcarcely gone out of the room when the Redbreaſts entered, as I before related. The ſight of them perfectly reſtored Frederick’s cheerfulneſs; and after they were departed, he requeſted his mamma, that he and Harriet might go again to the orchard, in hopes of ſeeing the young Robins. That you ſhall do, Frederick, ſaid ſhe, upon condition that you continue a very good boy; but as yeſterday was rather an idle day with you, you muſt apply a little cloſer today; and Harriet has a great deal of buſineſs to do, therefore you muſt wait till evening, and then perhaps I may go with you. Frederick was ſatisfied with this promiſe, and took great pains to learn to read and ſpell. He repeated by heart one of Mr. Barbauld’s hymns, and ſome other little things which he had been taught; and Miſs Benſon applied herſelf to a variety of different leſſons with great aſſiduity, and performed her taſk of work entirely to her mamma’s ſatisfaction.
As ſoon as the old Redbreaſts left their little family, in order to go to Mrs. Benſon’s, Peckſy’s, with great ſolicitude, began to aſk Robin where 110 F7v 110 where he had hurt himſelf, and how he did? Oh! ſaid he, I am much better; but it is a wonder I am now alive, for you cannot think what a dreadful fall I had. With turning about as I did in the air, I became quite giddy, ſo could not make the leaſt exertion for ſaving myſelf as I was falling, and came with great force to the ground; you ſee how my eye is ſtill ſwelled, and it was much more ſo at firſt. My wing is the worſt, and ſtill gives me a good deal of pain; obſerve how it drags on the ground: but as it is not broke, my father ſays it will ſoon be well; and I hope it will be ſo, for I long to be flying, and ſhall be glad to receive any inſtructions for the future. I cannot think how I could be ſo fooliſhly conceited, as to ſuppoſe I knew how to conduct myſelf without my father’s guidance.
Why, young creatures, like us, ſaid Peckſy, certainly ſtand in need of inſtruction, and ought to think ourſelves happy in having parents who are willing to take the trouble of teaching us what is neceſſary for us to know. I dread the day, when I muſt quit the neſt and take care of myſelf. Flapſy ſaid, ſhe made no doubt they ſhould know how to fly, and peck, and do every thing before that time; and for her part, ſhe long dlonged to ſee the world, and to know how the higher ranks of birds behaved themſelves, and what pleaſures they enjoyed; and Dicky declared he reformed the ſame wiſhes, though he muſt confeſsfeſs 111 F8r 111 feſs he had great dread of birds of prey: Oh ſaid Flapſy, they will never ſeize ſuch a pretty creature as you Dicky, I am ſure: why if beauty can prevail againſt cruelty, you will alſo be ſecure my ſweet ſiſter, replied he, for your delicate engaging ſhape muſt plead in your behalf.
Juſt as he had finiſhed his ſpeech, a hawk appeared in ſight, on which the whole party was ſeized with a moſt uncommon ſenſation, and involuntarily threw themſelves on their backs, ſcreaming with all their might; and at the ſame inſtant the cries of numbers of little birds beſides, echoed through the orchard. The Redbreaſts ſoon recovered, and riſing on their feet, looked about to ſee what was become of the cauſe of their conſternation; when they beheld him high in the air, bearing off ſome unhappy victim, a few of whoſe feathers fell near the young family, who on examining them found they belonged to a goldfinch; on which Peckſy obſerved, that it was evident theſe ſavages paid no attention to perſonal beauty. Dicky was ſo terrified he knew not what to do, and had thoughts of flying back to the neſt; but after Robin’s misfortune, was fearful of offending his father; he therefore got up into a currant-buſh, and hid himſelf in the thickeſt part of the leaves. Flapſy followed him, but Robin being obliged to keep on the ground, Peckſy kindly reſolved to bear him company.In 112 F8v 112
In a few minutes their parents returned from Mr. Benſon’s, and found the two latter pretty near where they had left them; but miſſing the others, the mother with great anxiety enquired what was become of them? Robin then related how they had been frightened with a hawk; and while he was doing ſo, they returned to him again.
I am ſurprized, ſaid the father, that a hawk ſhould venture ſo near the ſpot where the gardener was at work. Peckſy informed him that they had not ſeen him ſince he left them: then I dare ſay he is gone to breakfaſt, replied the mother; and this was the caſe, for they at this inſtant ſaw him return with his ſhears in his hand, and ſoon purſue his work. Now you will be ſafe, cried the father; I ſhall therefore ſtay and teach you to fly in different directions, and then your mother and I will make ſome little excurſions, and leave you to practice by yourſelves; but firſt of all let me ſhew you where to get water, for I fear you muſt be very thirſty. No, ſaid they, we have had ſeveral wet worms and juicy caterpillars, which have ſerved us both for victuals and drink, Robin is very quick at finding them. There is nothing like neceſſity to teach birds how to live, ſaid the father; I am glad Robin’s misfortunes have been ſo beneficial to him. What would have become of you, Robin, if you had not exerted yourſelf as I directed?rected? 113 F9r 113 rected? ſaid his mother; you would ſoon have died, had you continued to lie on the ſcorching ground. Remember from this inſtance as long as you live, that it is better to uſe means for your own relief, than to ſpend time in fruitleſs lamentations.
In reſpect to Hawks, ſaid the father, they are frightful creatures to be ſure; but there are very few of them in compariſon of moſt other birds, and they can take but one at a time, therefore it is a very great chance whether any of you is that one; your beſt way will be to keep as near to houſes as you can, and make yourſelves familiar with mankind, and then I think you will be in little danger. By the way, let me obſerve, how greatly indebted you are to this good gardener, whom I hope you no longer call a monster.. Oh no! ſaid Flapſy, he is a dear good creature. But I was going to ſay, cried the father, that at any rate, it would be wrong to make your life unhappy with apprehenſions; you cannot keep Hawks away by fearing them; and it is poſſible, you may never ſee another; beſides, what thouſands eſcape, in compariſon of the few they devour! But come along, Dicky, Flapſy and Peckſy, there is water ſo near, that Robin can hop as far: he then conducted them to a pump, from whence Joe watered the garden, and under its ſpout, they found an ample ſupply of that delightfullightful 114 F9v 114 lightful element, more acceptable to them, than the moſt coſtly wine would have been.
Here they ſtaid ſome time, and were greatly amuſed; ſtill ſo near the gardener, that they regarded themſelves as under his protection. The parents flew up into a tree, and there the father entertained his beloved mate and family with his cheerful muſic; and ſometimes they made various airy excurſions for examples to their little ones, who all longed to be able to imitate them. In this manner the day paſſed happily away, and early in the evening, Flapſy, Peckſy, and Dicky, were conducted to the neſt; they mounted in the air with much more eaſe than the preceding day, and the parents inſtructed them how to fly to the branches of ſome trees, which ſtood near to the ivy wall.
In the mean time they had left Robin by himſelf, thinking he would be ſafe, while the garddener was mowing ſome graſs; but what was the grief of both father and mother when they returned, and could neither ſee nor hear him. The gardener too was gone, they therefore apprehended that a cat or rat had taken him away and killed him, yet none of his feathers were to be ſeen; with the moſt anxious ſearch, they explored every receſs in which they thought it poſſible for him to be, and ſtrained their little voices till they were hoarſe with calling him, but all in vain; the tool-house was locked; but had he been there, he 115 F10r 115 he would have anſwered: at length quite in deſpair of finding him, with heavy hearts they returned to the neſt; a general lamentation enſued, and this lately happy abode, was now the region of ſorrow. The father endeavoured to comfort his mate and ſurviving neſtlings, and ſo far ſucceeded, that they reſolved to bear their loſs with patience.
After a mournful night, the mother left the neſt early in the morning, unwilling to relinquish the hope which ſtill remained, of finding Robin again; but, having ſpent an hour in this manner, ſhe returned to her mate, who was comforting his little ones,
Come ſaid he, let us take a flight, if we ſit lamenting here for ever it will be to no purpoſe: the evils which befal us muſt be borne, and the more quietly we ſubmit to them the lighter they will be. If poor Robin is dead, he will ſuffer no more; and if he is not, ſo much as we fly about, it is a chance but we get tidings of him; ſuppose theſe little ones attempt to fly with us to your benefators? If we ſet out early and let them reſt frequently by the way, I think they may accompliſh it. This was very pleaſing to every one of the little ones, for they longed to go thither; and accordingly it was determined that they ſhould immeditately ſet out, and they accompliſhed the journey by eaſy ſtages; at length they all arrived in the court, juſt after the daily penſioners were gone.Now, 116 F10v 116
Now, ſaid the father, ſtop a little, and let me adviſe you, Dicky, Flapſy, and Peckſy, to behave yourſelves properly; hop only where you ſee your mother and me hop, and do not meddle with any thing, but what is ſcattered on purpoſe. Stay father, ſaid Dicky, my feathers are ſadly rumpled. andAnd ſo are mine, ſaid Flapſy. Well, ſmooth them then, but don’t ſtand finicking for an hour. Peckſy was ready in an inſtant, but the others were very tedious, ſo their father and mother would wait for them no longer, and flew into the window; the others directly followed them, and to the inexpreſſible ſatisfaction of Maſter Benſon alighted on the tea-table, where they met with a very unexpected pleaſure; for who ſhould they find there, as a gueſt, but the poor loſt Robin!
The meeting was, you may be ſure, a happy one for all parties; and the tranſports it occaſioned, may be eaſier conceived than deſcribed. The father poured forth a loud ſong of gratitude; the mother chirped, ſhe bowed her head, clapped her wings, baſked on the tea-table, joined her beak to Robin’s, then touched the hand of Maſter Frederick. As for the young ones, they twittered a thouſand queſtions to Robin; but as he was unwilling to diſturb his father’s ſong, he deſired them to ſuſpend their curiosity to another opportunity. But it is now time to ſatisfy yours, my young 117 F11r 117 young readers, and therefore I ſhall inform you by what means Robin was placed in this happy ſituation.
You may remember, that Maſter Frederick obtained from his mamma a promiſe, that when the buſineſs of daily inſtruction was finiſhed he and his ſiſter ſhould go into the orchard in ſearch of the Robins; as ſoon therefore, as the air was ſufficiently cool, ſhe took them with her, and arrived juſt after the parent birds had taken their young ones back to the neſt. Robin was then left by himſelf, and kept hopping about, and fearing no danger, got into the middle of the walk. Frederick deſcried him at a diſtance, and eagerly called out, There’s one of them, I declare; and before his mamma obſerved him, he ran to the place and clapped his little hand over it, exulting that he had caught it. The preſſure of his hand hurt Robin’s wing, who ſent forth piteous cries; on which Frederick let him go, and ſaid, I won’t hurt you, you little thing.
Miſs Harriet, who saw him catch the bird, ran as faſt as poſſible to prevent his detaining it; and 118 F11v 118 and perceived, that as Robin hopped away he was lame, on which ſhe concluded that her brother had hurt him; but on Frederick’s aſſuring her, that his wing hung down when he firſt ſaw him, Mrs. Benſon ſaid, it was moſt likely he was lamed by ſome accident, which had prevented his going with the others to the neſt; and if that is the caſe, ſaid ſhe, it will be humane and charitable to take care of him.
Frederick was delighted to hear her ſay ſo, and aſked, whether he might carry it home? Yes, ſaid his mamma, provided you can take him ſafely. Shall I carry him Madam? ſaid Joe, he can lie nicely in my hat. This was an excellent ſcheme, and all parties approved of it; ſo Frederick took ſome of the ſoft graſs which was mowed down to put at the bottom, and poor Robin was ſafely depoſited in his vehicle, which ſerved him for a litter; and perceiving into what hands he was fallen, he inwardly rejoiced, knowing that he had an excellent chance of being provided for, as well as of ſeeing his dear relations again. I need not ſay that great care was taken of him, and you will eaſily ſuppoſe he had a more comfortable night than that he had paſſed in the ſhed.
When Maſter and Miſs Benſon aroſe the next morning, one of their firſt cares was to feed the birds, and they had the pleaſure to ſee all their neſtlings in a very thriving condition; both the Linnet 119 F12r 119 Linnet and the Blackbird now hopped out of their neſts to be fed, to the great diverſion of Maſter Frederick: but this pleaſure was ſoon damped by an unlucky accident: for the Blackbird being placed in a window which was open, hopped too near the edge, and fell to the ground, where he was ſnapped up by a dog, and torn to pieces in an inſtant. Frederick began to lament as before; but on his ſiſter’s reminding him, that the creature was paſt the ſenſe of pain, he reſtrained himſelf, and turned his attention to the Linnet, which he put into a cage, that he might not meet the ſame fate. He then went to feed the flock, and to enquire after Robin, whom Mrs. Benſon had taken into her own room, leſt Frederick ſhould handle and hurt him; to his great joy he found him much better, for he could begin to uſe his injured wing. Frederick was therefore truſted to carry him into the breakfaſt parlour, where he placed him as has been already deſcribed.
For ſome time the young Redbreaſts behaved very well; but at length Dicky, familiarized by the kind treatment he met with, forgot his father’s injunctions, and began to hop about in a very rude manner; he even jumped into the plate of bread and butter; and having a mind to taſte the tea, hopped on the edge of a cup, but dipping his foot in the hot liquor, he was glad to make a haſty retreat, to the great diverſion of Maſter Frederick. Flapſy took the freedom of pecking at the ſugar, 120 F12v 120 ſugar, but found it too hard for her tender beak. For theſe liberties their mother reproved them, ſaying, ſhe would never bring them with her again, if they were guilty of ſuch rudeneſs, as to take what was not offered them.
As their longer ſtay would have broke in on a plan which Mrs. Benſon had concerted, ſhe rung her bell, and the footman came to remove the tea things; on which the old birds, having taken leave of Robin, and promised to come again the next day, flew out at the window, followed by Dicky, Flapſy, and Peckſy. Robin was ſafely depoſited in a cage, and paſſed a happy day, being often allowed to hop out in order to be fed.
The parent birds alighted in the court, and conducted their little ones to the water which was ſet out for them, after which they all returned to the neſt; here the young ones reſted till the afternoon, and then their parents took them out in order to ſhew them the orchard.
You have not yet, ſaid the father, ſeen the whole extent of this place, and I wiſh to introduce you to our neighbours. He then led the way 121 G1r 121 way to a pear-tree, in which a Linnet had built her neſt. The old Linnets ſeemed much pleaſed to ſee their friends the Redbreaſts, who with great pride introduced their little family to them. My own neſtlings are juſt ready to fly, ſaid the hen Linnet, and I hope will make acquaintance with them; for birds ſo well inſtructed as, I make no doubt, your offspring are, muſt be very deſirable companions. The little Redbreaſts were quite delighted with the hopes of having ſome agreeable friends; and the old ones replied, that they had themſelves received ſo much pleaſure from ſocial friendſhip, that they wiſhed their young ones to cultivate the ſame.
They then flew on to a cherry-tree, in which were a pair of Chaffinches in great agitation, endeavouring to part one of their own brood and a young Sparrow, who were engaged in a furious battle; but in vain, neither of the combatants would deſiſt, till the Chaffinch dropped dead to the ground. His parents were greatly ſhocked at this accident, on which the cock Redbreaſt attempted to comfort them with his ſtrains; but finding them deaf to his muſic, he begged to know the cauſe of the quarrel, which had had ſo fatal a concluſion?
O! anſwered the hen Chaffinch, my neſtling is loſt through his own folly. I cautioned him repeatedly not to make acquaintance with ſparrows, knowing they would lead him into miſchief; but G no 122 G1v 122 no remonſstrances would prevail. As ſoon as he began to peck about, he formed a friendſhip with one of that voracious breed, who undertook to teach him to fly and provide for himſelf; ſo he left his parents and continually followed the Sparrow, who taught him to ſteal corn, and other things, and to quarrel with every bird he met; I expected to ſee him killed continually. At length his companion grew tired of him, and picked a quarrel, which ended as you have ſeen. However, this is better than if he had been caught by men, and hung up, as I have ſeen many a bird, for a ſpectacle, to deter others from ſtealing.
Let me adviſe you, my young friends, ſaid ſhe, addreſſing herſelf to the little Redbeaſts, to follow your parents direction in every reſpect, and avoid bad company. She then, accompanied by her mate, flew back to her neſt, in order to acquaint the reſt of her family with this dreadful cataſtrophe, and the Redbreaſts took another flight.
They alighted on the ground, and began pecking about, when all of a ſudden they heard a ſtrange noiſe, which rather alarmed the young ones. Their father deſired them to have no fears, but follow him; he led them to the top of a high tree, in which was a neſt of Magpies. They had, the day before, made an excurſion round the orchard, and were converſing on what they had ſeen, but in ſuch a confuſed manner, that there was no ſuch thing as underſtanding them; one chattered 123 G2r 123 chattered of one thing, and one of another. In ſhort, all were eager to ſpeak, and none inclined to hear.
What a ſet of fooliſh ill-bred little creatures are theſe, ſaid the cock Redbreaſt; if they would talk one at a time, what each ſays might afford entertainment to the reſt; but by chattering all together in this manner, they are quite diſagreeable. Take example from them, my neſtlings, and avidavoid the fault which renders them ſo ridiculous.
So ſaying, he flew on, and they ſoon ſaw a Cuckow, ſurrounded by a number of birds, who had been pecking at her till ſhe had ſcarce a feather left upon her breaſt, whilſt ſhe kept repeating her own dull note, Cuckow! Cuckow! inceſſantly. Get back again to your own country, ſaid a Thruſh; what buſineſs have you in ours, ſucking the eggs, and taking the neſts of any bird you meet with? Surely it would be ſufficient, could you have the privilege of building for yourſelf, as we do who are natives; but you have no right to ſeize upon our labors, and devour our offspring. The Cuckow deſerves his fate, ſaid the hen Redbreaſt. Though I am far from bearing enmity to foreign birds in general, I deteſt ſuch characters as his. I wonder mankind do not drive Cuckows away; but I ſuppoſe, it is on account of their being the harbingers of ſummer.G2 How 124 G2v 124
How different is the character of the Swallow; he comes here to enjoy the mildneſs of the climate, and confers a benefit on the land by deſtroying many noxious inſects. I rejoice to ſee that race ſporting in the air, and have had high pleaſure in converſing with them; for as they are great travellers, they have much to relate. But come, let us go on.
They ſoon came to a hollow tree, peep into this hole, ſaid the cock bird to his young ones; they did ſo, and beheld a neſt of young owls. What a ſet of ugly creatures, ſaid Dicky; ſurely you do not intend to ſhew your frightful faces in the world! Did ever any one ſee ſuch dull eyes, and ſuch a frightful muffle of feathers?
Whoever you are that reproach us with the want of beauty, you do not ſhew your own good ſenſe, replied one of the little owls. Perhaps we may have qualities which render us as amiable as yourſelves. You do not appear to know that we are night, and not day birds. The quantity of feathers in which we are muffled up, is very comfortable to us when we are out in the cold; and I can ſhew you a pair of eyes, which, if you are little birds, will frighten you out of your wits; and if I could fly, I would let you ſee what elſe I could do, He then drew back the film which was given him, that the ſtrong light of the day might not injure his ſight, and ſtared full at Dicky, who was ſtruck with aſtoniſhment.At 125 G3r 125
At that inſtant the parent Owl returned, and ſeeing a parcel of ſtrangers looking into her neſt, ſhe ſet up a ſcreeching, which made the whole party take wing. As ſoon as they ſtopped to reſt, the cock Redbreaſt, who was really frightened as well as his mate and family, recollected himſelf, and ſaid, Well, Dicky, how did you like the the Owl’s eyes? I fancy they proved brighter than you expected; but had they even been as ugly as you ſuppoſed, it was very rude and ſilly in you to notice it. You ought never to cenſure any bird for natural deformities, ſince no one contracts them by choice; and what appears diſagreeable to you, may be pleaſing in the eyes of another. Beſides, you ſhould be particularly careful not to inſult ſtrangers, becauſe you cannot know their deſerts, nor what power they may have of revenging themſelves. You may think yourſelf happy if you never meet one of theſe Owls by night, for I aſſure you they often feed upon little birds like us; and you have no reaſon to think they will ſpare you, after the affront you have given them. But come on, let us fly on.
They ſoon alighted on a tree, in which was a Mock-Bird, The Mock-Bird is properly a native of America, but is introduced here for the ſake of the moral. who, inſtead of ſinging any note of his own, kept ſucceſſively imitating thoſe of every bird that inhabited the orchard, and this G3 with 126 G3v 126 with a view of making them ridiculous,. If any one had any natural imperfection in his ſinging, he was ſure to mimic it; or if any was particularly attentive to the duties of his ſtation, he ridiculed him as grave and formal. The young Redbreaſts were exceſſively diverted with this droll creature; but their father deſired them to conſider, whether they ſhould like to hear him mimic them? Every one agreed, that they ſhould be very angry to be ridiculed in that manner. Then, replied the father, neither encourage nor imitate him. The Mock-Bird hearing him, took up his notes, Neither encourage nor imitate him, ſaid he. The cock Redbreaſt on this flew at him with fury, plucked ſome feathers from his breaſt, and ſent him ſcreaming from the place. I have made you ſing a natural note at laſt, ſaid he, and hope you will take care how you practiſe mimickry again. His mate was ſorry to ſee him diſturb his temper, and ruffle his feathers, for ſuch an inſignificant creature; but he told her it was particularly neceſſary as an example to his neſtlings, as mimickry was a fault to which young birds were too apt to incline; and wiſhed to ſhew them the danger they expoſed themſelves to in the practice of it.
The whole Redbreaſt family reſted themſelves for ſome time; and whilſt they ſat ſtill, obſerved a Chaffinch flying from tree to tree, chattering to everybird he had any knowledge of; and his diſcourſecourſe 127 G4r 127 courſe ſeemed to affect his hearers greatly, for they perceived ſome birds flying off in great haſte, and others meeting them; many battles and diſputes enſued. The little Redbreaſts wondered at theſe circumſtances; at length Peckſy enquired the meaning of the buſtle. This Chaffinch, replied the father, is a tell tale; it is inconceivable the miſchief he makes. Not that he has ſo much malice in his nature, but he loves to hear himſelf chatter; and therefore every anecdote he can collect he tells to all he meets, by which means he often raiſes quarrels and animoſities; neither does he ſtop here, for he frequently invents the tales he relates.
As the Redbreaſt was ſpeaking, the Chaffinch alighted on the ſame tree. O, my old friend, ſaid he, are you got abroad in the world again? I heard the Linnett in the pear-tree ſay, you were caught ſtealing corn, and hung up as a ſpectacle, but I thought this could not be true; beſides, the Blackbird in the cherry-tree told me, that the reaſon we did not ſee you as uſual was, that you were rearing a family, to whom, he ſaid, you were ſo ſevere, that the poor little creatures had no comfort of their lives.
Whatever you may have heard, or whatever you may ſay, is matter of indifference to me, replied the Redbreaſt; but as a neighbour, I cannot help adviſing you to reſtrain your tongue a little, and conſider, before you communicate your intelligence,G4 telligence, 128 G4v 128 telligence, whether what you are going to ſay has not a tendancy to diſturb the peace of ſociety.
Whilſt he was thus adviſing him, a flock of birds aſſembled about the tree; it conſiſted of thoſe to whom the Chaffinch had been chattering, who having come to an explanation with each other, had detected his falſities, and determined to expel him the orchard; which they did, with every mark of contempt and ignominy: all the Redbreaſts joined in the purſuit, for even the little ones ſaw his character in a deteſtable light, and formed a determination to avoid his fault. When the tell-tale was gone, the party which purſued him alighted all together in the ſame walk, and amongſt them the Redbreaſts diſcovered many of their old friends, with whom they now renewed their acquaintance, knowing they ſhould ſoon be releaſed from family cares; and the young ones paſſed a happy day in this cheerful aſſembly: but at length the hour of repoſe approached, when each individual fled to his reſting-place; and the Redbreaſts, after ſo fatiguing a day, fell aſleep.
Let us leave them to enjoy the comfort of the neſt, and enquire after their young benefactors.
As ſoon as the breakfaſt things were removed at Mrs. Benſon’s, ſhe informed her ſon and daughter, that ſhe intended to take them with her to Farmer Wilſon’s, where ſhe made no doubt they would paſs a happy day; and deſired them to go and get equipped for the journey, while ſhe dreſſed herſelf. The young folks obeyed without heſitation, and having given their maid very ſtrict injunctions to feed Robin and the Linnett, they attended their mamma to the coach; and after a delightful ride arrived at the farm-houſe, where they were received with the utmoſt reſpect by Mrs. Wilſon.
Farmer Wilſon was a very worthy man, poſſeſſed of a great ſhare of natural good ſenſe and benevolence of heart. He had, by his induſtry, acquired ſufficient to purchaſe the farm he lived on, and had a fair proſpect of making a comforable proviſion for a numerous family, whom he brought up with the greateſt care, and taught them all to be merciful to the cattle which were employed in his buſineſs.
His wife was a moſt amiable woman, and had received a good education from her father, who was formerly Curate of the pariſh. This good man had ſtrongly implanted in his daughter’s mind 130 G5v 130 mind the Chriſtian doctrine of Universal Charity, which ſhe exerciſed, not only towards the human ſpecies, but alſo extended it to poultry, and every living creature which it was her province to manage.
Mrs. Benſon knew that her children would here have an opportunity of ſeeing many different animals treated with propriety; and it was on this account that ſhe took them with her, though ſhe herſelf complied with an invitation ſhe had received the day before, and viſited theſe good people from a motive of ſincere reſpect.
As ſoon as they were ſeated, Mrs. Wilſon regaled her young gueſts with a piece of nice cake, made by her daughter Betſy, a little girl of twelve years old, who ſat by, enjoying with a ſecret delight, the honour which the little Lady and Gentleman did to her performance. It happened fortunately to be a cool day, and Mrs. Benſon expreſſed a deſire to walk about and ſee the farm.
In the firſt place, Mrs. Wilſon ſhewed her the houſe, which was in every reſpect perfectly neat, and in compleat order. She then took her gueſts into her dairy, which was well ſtored with milk and cream, butter and cheeſe. From thence they went to viſit the poultry-yard, where the little Benſons were exceſſively delighted indeed; for there were a number of cocks and hens, and many broods of young chickens, beſides turkies and Guinea hens.All 131 G6r 131
All the fowls expreſſed the greateſt joy at the ſight of Mrs. Wilſon and her daughter Betſy; the cocks celebrated their arrival by loud and cheerful crowings; the hens gave notice of their approach by cackling, and aſſembled their inſtant train to partake of their bounty; the turkies and Guinea fowls ran to meet them; a number of pidgeons alſo alighted from a pidgeon-houſe. Betſy ſcattered amongſt them the grain which ſhe carried in her lap for the purpoſe, and ſeemed to have great pleaſure in diſtributing it.
When their young viſitors were ſatisfied with ſeeing the poultry fed, Mrs. Wilſon ſhewed them the hen-houſe and other conveniences provided for them, which were excellently calculated to make their lives comfortable; and then opened a little door, which led to a meadow, where the fowls were often indulged to ramble and refreſh themſelves. On ſeeing her approach this place the whole party collected, and run into the meadow, like a troop of ſchool-boys into their playground.
You, Mrs. Wilſon, and your daughter, muſt have great amuſement with theſe pretty creatures, ſaid Mrs. Benſon. We have indeed, Madam, and they furniſh us with eggs and chickens, not only for our own uſe, but for the market alſo. And can you prevail on youſelf to kill theſe ſweet creatures? ſaid Miſs Benſon. Indeed, Miſs, I cannot, ſaid Mrs. Wilſon, and never did 132 G6v 232 did kill a chicken in my life; but it is an eaſy matter to find people capable of doing it; and there is an abſolute neceſſity for ſome of them to die, for they breed ſo faſt, that in a ſhort time we ſhould have more than we could poſſibly feed: but I make it a rule to render their lives as happy as poſſible, never ſhut them up to fatten, any longer than I can help, uſe no cruel methods of cramming them, nor confine them in a ſituation where they can ſee other fowls at liberty; neither do I take the chickens from the hen till ſhe herſelf deſerts them, nor ſet hens upon duck eggs.
I often regret, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, that ſo many lives ſhould be ſacrificed to preſerve ours; but we muſt eat animals or they would at length eat us, at leaſt all that would otherwiſe ſupport us.
Whilſt this converſation paſſed, Maſter Frederick had followed the fowls into the meadow, where the turkey-cock, taking him for an enemy, had attacked him, and frightened him ſo much, that he at firſt cried out for help, but ſoon recollected that this was cowardly, ſo pulled of his hat and drove the creature away before Betſy Wilſon arrived who was running to his aſſiſtance.
The farmer’s wife next propoſed (but with many apologies for offering to take them to ſuch a place) to ſhew them her pig-ſties. The name of a pig-ſty generally conveys an idea of naſtineſs, but whoever had ſeen thoſe of Farmer Wilſon’s, would have had a very different one. They were neatly 133 G7r 233 neatly paved, and waſhed down every day; the troughs in which they fed were frequently ſcoured, and the water they drank was always ſweet and wholeſome. The pigs themſelves had an appearance of neatneſs, which no one could have epectedexpected in ſuch kind of animals; and though they had not the ingenuity which the learned pig appears to have, there was really ſomething intelligent in their gruntings, and a very droll arch expreſſion in the eyes of ſome of them. They knew their benefactors, and found means of teſtifying their joy at ſeeing them; which was increaſed when a boy, whom Mrs. Wilſon had ordered to bring ſome bean-ſhells, emptied his baſket before them. Now a conteſt enſued who ſhould have the largeſt ſhare, and each began puſhing the other aſide, and ſtuffing as faſt as he could, leſt they ſhould have more than himſelf.
Miſs Benſon ſaid ſhe could not bear to ſee ſuch greedineſs. It is indeed, replied Mrs. Benſon, very diſagreeable, even in ſuch creatures as theſe, but how much more ſo in the human ſpecies; and yet how frequent is this fault amongſt children in particular? Pray look at theſe pigs, Frederick, and tell me, if you never remember to have met with a little boy who eat ſtrawberries as theſe pigs do bean-ſhells? Frederick’s cheeks at this queſtion were covered with conſcious bluſhes; on which his mamma kindly kiſſed him, 134 G7v 134 him, and ſaid, ſhe hoped he had ſeen enough of greedineſs to-day, to ſerve him for a leſſon as long as he lived.
In a ſeparate ſty was a ſow with a litter of young pigs. This was a very pleaſing ſight indeed to Maſter Frederick, who longed to have one of them to play with; but Mrs. Wilſon told him it would make the ſow very angry, and her gruntings would terrify him more than the turkey-cock had done; on which he dropped his requeſt, but ſaid he ſhould like to keep ſuch a little creature.
If it would always continue little, Frederick, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, it would do very well; but it will perhaps grow as large as its mother, and what ſhall we do then? Familiarized by the kind treatment which I am ſure you would give it, we ſhould have it following you into the parlour, and perhaps run grunting after you into your bed-chamber. I myſelf knew an inſtance of a perſon who nurſed up a ſick pig, which actually ran after her to church, and became the moſt troubleſome thing you can conceive.
I ſuppoſe your hogs are very profitable as well as your poultry, Mrs. Wilſon? ſaid Mrs. Benſon. Yes, Madam, replied ſhe, we cure a good deal of bacon, and pickle a quantity of pork; we ſell a great many ſucking pigs, ſo that we are well paid for keeping them; and I never ſuffer them to be neglected in any particular, and 135 G8r 135 and have the pleaſure of thinking, few pigs are happier than mine. But I fear, Ladies, you will be tired with ſtaying here; will it be agreeable to you to take a walk in the garden? With all my heart, ſaid Mrs. Benſon.
Mrs. Wilſon then conducted her guests into a garden, which abounded with all kinds of vegetables for the table, quantities of fruit, and a variety of flowers. Maſter Frederick longed to taſte ſome of the delicacies which preſented themſelves to his eye, but he had been taught never to gather fruit or flowers without leave, nor aſk for any: however, Mrs. Wilſon, with his mamma’s permiſſion, treated him and his ſiſter with ſome fine apples and pears, which Betſy gathered and preſented in cabbage leaves, and then took them to a ſhady arbour, where they ſat and enjoyed their feaſt. After which they went to ſee the bees, who were at work in the glaſs hives.
The ſight of the bees was a great entertainment, not only to the children, but to Mrs. Benſon alſo, who was exceſſively pleaſed with the ingenuity and induſtry with which theſe inſectsſects 136 G8v 136 ſects collected their honey and wax, formed their cells, and depoſited their ſtore. She had, by books, acquired a knowledge of the natural hiſtory of bees, which enabled her to examine their work with much greater ſatisfaction, than ſhe would have received from the ſight of them, had ſhe been only taught to conſider them as little ſtinging creatures, whom it was dangerous to approach. This is quite a treat to me indeed, ſaid ſhe to Mrs. Wilſon, for I never before had an opportunity of ſeeing bees work in glaſs-hives.
Madam, ſaid the good woman, few will be at the expence of them; and indeed, my neighbours laugh at me, and call me very whimſical and extravagant for indulging myſelf with them; but I find my account in keeping bees thus, even upon a principle of œconomy; for as I do not deſtroy them, I have greater numbers to work for me, and more honey every year than the laſt, notwithſtanding I feed my bees in the winter. I have made acquaintance with the queen of every hive, who will come to me whenever I call her, and you ſhall ſee one of their majeſties if you pleaſe.
On this ſhe called, in a manner which the inhabitants of the hive they were looking at were accuſtomed to, and a large bee ſoon ſettled on her hand; in an inſtant after ſhe was covered from head to foot, with bees.Miſs 137 G9r 137
Miſs Benſon was fearful leſt they ſhould ſting, and Frederick was running away; but Mrs Wilſon aſſured them the little creatures would not do any miſchief, if no one attempted to catch them. Bees are, in their natural diſpoſitions, very harmleſs creatures, I aſſure you, Maſter Benſon, ſaid ſhe; though I own they will certainly ſting little boys who endeavour to catch them in order to ſuck their bag of honey, or take out their ſting: but you ſee, that though I have hundreds about me, and even on my face and arms, not one offers to do me an injury; and I believe waſps ſeldom ſting but in their own defence. She then threw up her hand, which the queenbee regarded as a ſignal of diſmiſſion, and flew away in great ſtate, ſurrounded by her guards, and followed by the reſt of her ſubjects, each ready to loſe his own life in the defence of her’s.
There is ſomething very wonderful, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, in the ſtrong attachment theſe little creatures have to their ſovereign, anand very inſtructive too. I wiſh our good King could ſee all his ſubjects ſo cloſely united in his intereſt! What ſay you, Frederick, would you fight for your King? Yes, mamma, if papa would— That I aſſure you, my dear, he certainly would do, if there were occaſion, as loyally as the beſt bee in the world; and I beg you will remember what I now tell you as long as you live: That it 138 G9v 138 it is your duty to love your King, for he is to be conſidered as the father of his country.
But mamma, ſaid Frederick, it is the Queen that the bees love, and we have a queen too. Yes, my dear, we have ſo; and I believe her majeſty is as much honoured by her ſubjects as a queen bee in her hive, though ſhe has not ſo full a command over them; for it is a king that governs England as your papa governs his family, and the queen is to be conſidered as the mother of the country.
But before we take our leave of the bees, let me obſerve to you, my dears, that ſeveral inſtructive leſſnslessons may be taken from their example.
If ſuch little inſects as theſe perform their daily taſks with ſo much alacrity, ſurely it muſt be a ſhame for children to be idle, and to fret, becauſe they are put to learn things which will be of the utmoſt conſequence to them in the end; and which would indeed conduce to their preſent happineſs, would they but apply to them with a willing mind.
Science of various kinds preſents itſelf to the human race, as the different flowers offer themſelves to bees; and nothing is wanting to extract the ſweets, but an application of thoſe faculties of which they are by nature poſſeſſed. As the induſtrious bee flies ſucceſſively to every fragrant plant within his reach, ſo do you, my dear children,dren, 139 G10r 139 dren, go from one branch of knowledge to another: but obſerve, the bee does not fly giddily from flower to flower, merely to take a tranſient view of its beauties, he reſts on each, till he has obtained all that will anſwer his purpoſe: imitate him in this particular alſo, and be not hurried on, by vain curioſity, from book to book, ſo as to gain only a ſuperficial knowledge in the different branches of education; but remember, that the bee applies the materials he collects to purpoſes valuable to himſelf, and to the community to which he belongs.
But come, Mrs. Wilſon, we muſt, if you pleaſe, think of retiring from this place; for if we ſtay here much longer, we ſhall not have time to enjoy the pleaſures you have in reſerve for us. On this, Mrs. Wilſon ſaid, ſhe was ready to wait on them.
As they walked along, Miſs Benſon took notice of a variety of beautiful inſects, and Frederick ſo far forgot himſelf, as to run after a moth and catch it; but his mamma obliged him to let it go immediately. Don’t you think, Mrs Wilſon, ſaid ſhe, that it is very wrong to let children catch butterflies and moths? Indeed I do, Madam, replied the good woman. Poor little creatures, what injury can they do us by flying about? In that ſtate at leaſt they are harmleſs to us. Catterpillars and ſnails, it is true, we are obliged frequently to deſtroy, on account of their devouring 140 G10v 140 devouring fruit and vegetables; but unleſs they abound ſo as to be likely to do a real injury, I never let them be meddled with. I often think of my good father’s maxim, which was, Never to take away the life of any creature, unleſs it was neceſſary for the benefit of mankind. While there is food and room enough in the world for them and us, let them live and enjoy the bleſſings they were formed for, he would ſay.
When I was a little girl, ſaid Mrs,. Benſon, I had a great propenſity to catch flies and other inſects, but my father had an excellent microſcope, in which he ſhewed me a number of different objects; by this means I learnt, that even the minuteſt creatures might be as ſuſceptible of pain as myſelf; and I declare I cannot put any thing to death, without fancying I hear it bones crack, and that I ſee its blood guſhing from its vains and arteries; and ſo far from having a pleaſure in killing even the diſagreeable inſects which are troubleſome in houſes, I aſſure you I cannot do it myſelf, nor ſee it done without pain; and yet they certainly may be conſidered as enemies, and as ſuch we have a right to deſtroy them.
To be ſure, Madam, ſaid Mrs. Wilſon, for without cleanlineſs we could not enjoy health. It goes againſt me to demoliſh a fine ſpider’s web, and yet they make a houſe look very dirty; but I ſeldom have any in mine, for I took care, when I firſt 141 G11r 141 I firſt came to live in it, to deſtroy the neſts, and the old ſpiders, finding there was no ſecurity for their young ones here, have forſaken the houſe; and I am inclined to think, that the ſame vigilance in reſpect to other diſagreeable inſects, would have the ſame effect.
Doubtleſs, ſaid Mrs. Benſon; but pray tell me, do you deſtroy the webs of garden ſpiders alſo? Not unleſs there are ſo many as to be troubleſome and diſagreeable, replied Mrs. Wilſon. I ſhould not myſelf like to have the fruits of my induſtry demoliſhed, nor my little ones taken out of my arms, or from their warm beds, and cruſhed to death. I am of opinion, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, that it would be a good way to accuſtom one’s ſelf, before one kills any thing, to change ſituations with it in imagination.
For inſtance, if I accidentally diſturb an ant’s neſt, inſtead of cruſhing the little creatures with thoughtleſs inhumanity, as a ſet of inſignificant atoms, I can fancy them appearing to me of the ſame magnitude a microſcope would ſhew them, and one of them addreſſing me in this manner— Step aſide, I entreat you, and let me and my aſſociates paſs in ſafety, that we may repair the miſchief you have done to our city. The magazine of corn is fallen in, and I fear my dear parents are buried in the ruins; I hear the lamentations of my mate for the danger of our little ones; and behold two of my dear friends, whom you 142 G11v 142 you have trod upon, in the agonies of death. Why do you treat with ſuch barbarity a ſet of innocent beings, who have never wilfully done you the leaſt injury? Do we ever ſting the human race but in our own defence? Do you really want the fruit we eat? And can the ſmall quantity of corn we hoard up be miſſed from your plentiful ſtores? Is it not misfortune enough for us that we are the prey of birds, but muſt mankind, to whom thouſands of us would not afford even a ſingle meal, deſtroy us for ſport? Oh, rather ye, whoſe hearts are alive to the ſentiments of humanity, plead our cauſe to the thoughtleſs part of your own ſpecies, and, as lords of the creation, drive away from us thoſe natural enemies, which you may ſee darting down to devour us! If you love your own offſpring, think of ours; if you would be proſperous in your own occupations, protect thoſe who afford a leſſon of induſtry, which the wiſeſt of mankind has recommended to your ſerious conſideration.
Indeed, Madam, ſaid Mrs. Wilſon, I have often wiſhed that poor dumb creatures had ſomebody to ſpeak for them; many an innocent life would then be ſaved, which is now deſtroyed to no end.
Well, ſaid Harriet, I am ſure I ſhall never kill any thing, without firſt magnifying it in my mind, and thinking what it would ſay for itſelf if able to ſpeak. 143 G12r 143 ſpeak. Then, my dear, I will engage for you, replied her mamma, that you will put but very few creatures to death: but in order to have a proper notion of their form, you muſt ſtudy Natural History; from whence you will learn, how wonderful their conſtruction is; how carefully and tenderly the inferior creatures provide for their young; how ingenious their various employments are; how far they are from harbouring malice againſt the human ſpecies; and how excellently they are informed and inſtructed by their great Creator, for the enjoyment of happineſs in their different claſſes of exiſtence, which happineſs we have certainly no right wantonly to diſturb.
Beſides, it is really a meanneſs to deſtroy any creature merely becauſe it is little; and in children, particularly abſurd to do ſo; for, upon this principle, they muſt themſelves expect to be conſtantly ill-treated; though no animal ſtands more in need of tenderneſs than they do for many years, from the time of their coming into the world; and even men and women might expect to be annihilated, by the power of the great creator.
Neither do I know how we can preciſely call any thing great or little, ſince it is only ſo by comparing it with others. An ant or fly may appear to one of its own ſpecies, whoſe eyes are formed 144 G12v 144 formed to ſee thoſe parts which we cannot diſcover without glasses, as conſiderable as men and women do to each other: and to creatures of the dimenſions of a mite, one the ſize of an ant doubtleſs looks formidable and gigantic. I therefore think it but juſtice to view inſects with microſcopic eyes, before we commit cruel devaſtations upon them.
During this converſation Maſter Frederick kept running about, making choice of flowers, which Betty Wilſon gathered and formed into noſegays for his mamma, his ſiſter and himſelf.
The next place Mrs. Wilſon took her gueſts to was a barn-yard, in which was a large horſe-pond,. Here her young viſitors were delighted with the appearance of a number of geeſe and ducks; ſome were ſwimming in the water, ſome diving, others routing in the mud to ſee what fiſh or worms they could find.
It appears very ſtrange to me, ſaid Miſs Benſon, that any creatures can take delight in making themſelves ſo dirty: and yet, replied Mrs. Benſon, how many children do the ſame, without having 145 H1r 145 having any excuſe for it? The ducks and geeſe grub about ſo in ſearch of the neceſſaries of life; but I have ſeen boys do it merely for diverſion, and ſometimes at the hazard of their lives.
Very true, Madam, ſaid Mrs. Wilſon; my little Neddy has like to have been drowned ſo no longer ago than laſt Monday. He is a litle ventureſome rogue, and runs through thick and thin when pleaſure is in view; but I fancy he will not hunt ducks about any more: for my part, I do not like any of my children ſhould make ſport of teazing animals. I wiſh every creature I keep to enjoy happineſs to the day of its death, and when it muſt be killed, to have it diſpatched by the quickeſt means poſſible.
Have you any fiſh here? ſaid Frederick. I believe none of any conſequence, Sir; the ducks and the geeſe would take care that none ſhould grow to any conſiderable ſize; but there are plenty in a pond which you will ſee in the next field, and I hope to have the pleaſure of ſeeing you, at dinner, eat of ſome perch which were caught there. Sometimes we catch fine carp and tench, but only with nets; for neither my good man nor I can bear the cruel diverſion of angling; nor do we allow our children to follow it, from a notion that it hardens the heart and leads to idleneſs.H Pray, 146 H1v 146
Pray, mamma, ſaid Miſs Harriet, is it right to catch fiſh? I ſhould think as they live in water, and we upon land, we have no buſineſs with them. You would wiſh every one then, my dear, to keep to their own element? Your ſentiment is a good one in many reſpects, but it muſt not be extended ſo far as to forbid the catching of fiſh. Man has dominion over the fiſh, as well as over beaſts and fowls, and many of them are excellent food for mankind; and the aſtonishing increaſe of them ſhews that they are deſigned to be ſo; for were all that are ſpawned to grow to full ſize, there would ſoon be more than our ponds, or even than the ſea itſelf would hold, and they would be ſtarved; therefore there are the ſame reaſons for our feeding on them as on poultry, but we ſhould be very careful to diſpatch them as quickly as poſſible.
Some people are cruel enough to roast lobſters alive, whoſe cries I have been told are dreadful to hear; and others will flay eels alive, then put them without their ſkins into a pail of cold water, and afterwards cut them in pieces, and throw them into a frying-pan of boiling fat, where ſometimes every ſeparate piece will wreath about in agony. Thus each poor fiſh ſuffers as many deaths as it is divided into pieces. Now, Harriet, this cannot be right, however authorized by cuſtom; therefore I hope you never will ſuffer ſuch things to be done in your kitchen when you keep houſe, 147 H2r 147 houſe, but always give orders that your lobſters be put into boiling water, which kills them ſoon, and that your eels are killed before they are ſkinned, which may ſoon be done by laying hold of their heads and tails and giving them a ſudden pull, which ſeparates the vertebræ of the back. This is dreadful enough, though little in compariſon of what they ſuffer by the other methods.
Oh, mamma! ſaid Harriet, you make me even ſhudder; I do not believe I ſhall ever deſire to eat eels; I ſhall be ready to make ſpeeches for every piece atas it lies in a diſh before me. But pray tell me, is it cruel to kill frogs and toads? Ask Mrs. Wilſon, my dear, ſhe has more to do with ſuch reptiles than I have. Why Miſs, replied Mrs. Wilſon, I am very ſingular in regard to ſuch kind of creatures; and though I by no means like to have them in my houſe, do not make an outcry, and condemn every one to a violent death which is accidentally found in my cellars, or other places; on the contrary, I generally ſee it thrown into a ditch at ſome diſtance to take its chance. There are many birds and water-fowl that feed on young frogs and toads, which will in general keep them from multiplying, ſo as to be nuiſances to us; and it is time enough for us to take arms againſt them, if there happens to be a very extraordinary increaſe of them. My good man is as particular in reſpect to moles; if he finds them in his garden, or any other part of his grounds where H2 they 148 H2v 148 they can do miſchief, he has them killed, but never ſuffers them to be moleſted when they are harmleſs. Neither does he hunt, or permit any one belonging to him to hunt after ſnakes; for he ſays, that if they are not diſturbed, they will not come from their haunts to annoy us; and to kill, for the ſake of killing, is cruel.
Pray Mrs. Wilſon, ſaid Frederick, do your ſons every go a birds-neſting? No, Sir, ſaid ſhe, I hope I have not a child amongſt my family capable of ſuch barbarity. In the courſe of the ſummer they generally have young birds to nurſe, who fall out of their neſts or loſe their parents, but are ſeldom lucky enough to raiſe them; and we have only one in a cage which they reared laſt ſummer. Yet we have plenty of ſinging; for the ſweet creatures, finding they may enjoy themſelves unmoleſted in the trees, treat us with their harmony from morning to night, of which you had a ſpecimen in the garden. Sparrows, indeed, my huſband is under a neceſſity of deſtroying, for they are ſuch devourers, they would leave him but little corn to carry to market if he did not ſhoot them; but he never kills the Crows, becauſe they are very ſerviceable in picking up grubs, and other things injurious to farmers; we only ſet a little boy to watch our new-ſown grain, and he keeps making a noiſe, which effectually frightens them. O, ſaid Frederick, I nurſe young birds too. I have 149 H3r 149 have got a Linnet and a Robin Redbreaſt, and feed an hundred beſide.
Mrs. Wilſon ſmiled, and addreſſing herſelf to Mrs. Benſon ſaid, Now, Madam, we will, if you pleaſe, return to the houſe, and my huſband and ſons are about coming home.
Mrs. Benſon was a little tired with her ramble, and was really impatient to ſee farmer Wilſon and the reſt of his aimableamiable family. When ſhe drew near the houſe ſhe was met by the worthy man, who gave her a moſt cordial welcome, and ſaid he was proud to ſee ſo much good company. Nancy the eldeſt daughter, to whom the mother had entruſted the care of inſpecting the additional cookery which ſhe had ordered, and who for that reaſon was not to be ſeen in the morning, now made her appearance, dreſſed with the moſt perfect neatneſs; health bloomed in her cheeks, and cheerfulneſs and good-humour ſparkled in her eyes. With this engaging countenance ſhe eaſily prevailed on Maſter Frederick to let her place him by her at the table, round which the two other viſitors, the maſter and miſtreſs of the houſe, and the reſt of their offspring, conſiſting of Thomas, a fine youth of eighteen, four young boys, and little Betſy, were ſoon ſeated.
The table was covered with plain food, but by the good management of Nancy, who had made an excellent pudding, an apple-pie, and ſome deliciousH3 licicous 150 H3v 150 licious cuſtards, it made a very good figure; and Mrs. Benſon afterwards declared, that ſhe had never enjoyed an entertainment ſo much. It was conſiderably heightend by the happy countenances of the whole family.
The farmer, who was a jocoſe man, ſaid a number of droll things, which diverted his little viſitors very much, and ſoon after dinner he begged leave to depart, as he was ſheep-ſhearing; but ſaid, he thought the young gentlefolks might be diverted with the ſight, ſo invited them pay him a viſit in the field, and left Joe and Neddy to conduct Maſter Frederick.
The young farmers were rather ſhy at firſt, being afraid that their gueſts would laugh at their country talk; but when they obſerved how politely they behaved to their ſiſters, they entered into converſation, and told Maſter Benſon an hundred particulars about animals, with which he was before unacquainted; and he in return related all he knew about his Redbreaſts and other penſioners. They then ſhewed him a pretty cat with kittens, and alſo their favourite Daphne 151 H4r 151 Daphne a bitch with two young puppies; the latter were kept in a kennel, and the cat in a ſtable, where they were well ſupplied with food.
As Frederick knew that his ſiſter was remarkably fond of cats, he ſtepped back to call her to look at them, which, with her mamma’s permiſſion, ſhe was greatly pleaſed to do, and longed to have the kittens to nurſe. When ſhe returned, ſhe enquired whether the dogs and cats were ever permitted to come into the houſe?
Not whilſt they have young ones, ſaid Mrs. Wilſon, for they make a great deal of dirt, and are very troubleſome at that time; but when puſs has brought up her family, which is deſigned for the ſtable, ſhe ſhall be admitted amongſt us again; for ſhe is a very uſeful creature, and deſerves to be well treated, but I do not ſuffer my children to handle her; I think it looks very ugly for any one to be all over ſcratches. Daphne is admitted to a greater ſhare of familiarity; ſhe is very faithful, and extremely good-natured; but we never feed her in the houſe, for there is no doing ſo without greaſing the floors.
I am of opinion, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, that a difference ſhould be made between our treatment of cats and dogs. There is ſomething very ſavage in the nature of the former; and though they certainly are deſerving of our kindneſs on account of their uſefulness, yet they cannot make themſelves ſo agreeable as dogs; and there is really H4 ſome- 152 H4v 152 ſomething very formidable in their talons and teeth; and when enraged, a cat is no better than a little tygreſs.
Beſides, were there not danger to one’s ſelf in nurſing cats, there is no doing it without injury to one’s linen; for when puſs is beſt pleaſed, ſhe generally tramples with her talons unſheathed, by which practice many a fine apron has been torn. And even the cleanlineſs of cats is injurious, for they uſually have recourſe to corners of chairs, in order to rub the dirt from their talons. Many people have a great dread of this animal, and on that account it ſhould not be uſed to come into rooms in which a variety of company is received.
As for dogs, they are in general ſo very ſocial, grateful, and pleaſing, that they ſeem formed to be the humble companions of mankind; and if kept in proper order, may be familiarized with ſafety; but then they ſhould be well educated, and taught to know their diſtance. And as there are different ſpecies of them, we ſhould make a prudent ſelection, and not introduce into the houſe great maſtiffs or tall greyhounds: neither muſt we indulge thoſe we domeſticate to too great a degree, for in that caſe they will become as troubleſome as cats.
Mrs. Benſon now expreſſed her deſire to ſee the ſheep-ſhearing; on which Mrs. Wilſon and her daughter conducted her and Miſs Harriet to the field; where they arrived at the concluſion of the 153 H5r 153 the operation; and a very pleaſing ſight it was to behold the happy creatures, who lately waddled under a heavy, heating load, relieved from their burden, leaping and friſking with delight, whilſt the accumulated wool ſeemed as it lay, to promiſe comfortable cloathing for many a naked wretch among the human ſpecies, who, deſtitute of ſuch a ſupply, would be in danger of periſhing with cold in the enſuing winter.
Miſs Harriet obſerved the innocent countenances of the ſheep and lambs, and ſaid ſhe thought it was a thouſand pities to kill them.
It is ſo, my dear, ſaid her mamma, but we muſt not indulge our feelings too far in reſpect to animals which are given us for food; all we have to do is to avoid barbarity. It is happy for them that they have no apprehenſion of being killed, and therefore enjoy life in peace and ſecurity to the very laſt; and even when the knife is lifted to their throats, are ignorant of its deſtination; and a few ſtruggles put an end to their pain for ever. But come, Mrs. Wilſon, will you favour us with a ſight of your cows. With pleaſure, Madam, they are by this time driven up to be milked. She then conducted her viſitors towards the farm-yard.
Perhaps, Madam, ſaid Mrs. Wilſon, as they walked along, the young Lady and Gentleman may be afraid of horned cattle? I believe, replied Mrs. Benſon, I may venture to ſay, that HarrietH5 riet 154 H5v 154 riet has no unreaſonable fears of any living creature; it has been my endeavour to guard the minds of my children againſt ſo diſtreſſing a weakneſs; but whether Frederick’s heart has acquired fortitude enough to enable him to venture near ſo many cows, I cannot tell. O yes, mamma, cried Frederick, I would ſooner get up and ride into the yard on the horns of one of them, than run away. Well, we ſhall ſoon put your courage to the proof, ſaid Mrs. Benſon; ſo come along, ſir.
As for my children ſaid Mrs. Wilſon, they are remarkably courageous in reſpect to animals: all the creatures belonging to us are very harmleſs and gentle, which is the natural conſequence of kind treatment, and no perſon need be afraid of walking in any part of our grounds: but it is difficult to perſuade ſome people that there is no danger, for they are apt to imagine, that every looſe horſe they ſee will gallop over them, and that every creature with horns will gore and toſs them.
Very true, replied Mrs. Benſon; and I have known many as much afraid of a toad, a frog, or a ſpider, as if certain death would be the conſequence of meeting them; when if theſe perſons would but make uſe of their reaſon, they would ſoon be convinced that ſuch fears are ill grounded. Frogs and toads are very harmleſs creatures, and ſo far from offering an injury to any human being they 155 H6r 155 they may chance to meet, hop away with all poſſible expedition, from a dread of being themſelves deſtroyed; and ſpiders drop ſuddenly down, with a view to their own preſervation only: and therefore it is highly ridiculous to be afraid of them.
Horſes and oxen are much more formidable creatures; they certainly could do us a great deal of miſchief, if they were conſcious of their ſuperior ſtrength; but Providence has wiſely ordained that they ſhould not be ſo; and having given mankind dominion over them, has implanted in their natures an awe and dread of the human ſpecies, which occaſion them to yield ſubjection to the Lords of the creation, when they exert their authority in a proper manner.
It is really a very wonderful thing, Mrs. Wilſon, to ſee a fine lively horſe ſubmitting to the bit and harneſs, or a drove of oxen quietly marching under the direction of one man?
Pray, mamma, ſaid Harriet, what do you mean by ſaying, that man is lord of the creation? Are all brute creatures ſubject to every man? I cannot comprehend how this can be.
I will endeavour to explain it to you, my dear, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, the next time we read the Bible together; at preſent, I have only time to inform you, that the dread of mankind, which prevails ſo generally amongſt the inferior creatures, does not exiſt in ſo high a degree, as to render every individual animal of every individual H6 man. 156 H6v 156 man: but the human ſpecies, that is to ſay, all mankind together, have an undoubted ſuperiority and dominion: and there is no ſpecies of animals, which, if collected together, mankind could not ſubdue; for though inferior to many of them in ſtrength, men vaſtly exceed them in number, and having the uſe of reaſon, can employ a variety of means to conquer them: and I make no doubt, that was the experiment poſſible, to aſſemble each individual ſpecies, in oppoſition to the whole race of mankind which exiſt at one time upon the earth, or even an equal number of them, the dread and fear which is inſtinctive in their natures, would operate ſo powerfully on the hearts of the moſt ferocious of them, as to prevent their attempting any conteſt.
It is obſervable, and ſhews at once the goodneſs and wiſdom of our great Creator, that thoſe creatures, which are the moſt uſeful to us, are the eaſieſt tamed; and yield, not only ſingly, but in flocks, to mankind, nay, even to boys.
From what I have ſaid you muſt perceive, that it is a great weakneſs for a a human being to be afraid of animals.
By this time the party were advanced pretty near to the barn-yard and Frederick eſpied one of the cows peeping over the gate; on which, with a countenance expreſſive of fear, he ran haſtily to his mamma and aſked her, whether cows could toſs people over gates and hedges? I will not 157 H7r 157 not anſwer ſo ſilly a queſtion, Frederick, ſaid ſhe; pray look again, and you will perceive, that it is impoſſible for ſuch large heavy creatures to do ſo; and theſe incloſures are made on purpoſe to confine them within proper bounds. But did not you boaſt juſt now, that you could ride on the horns of one of them? That I ſhall not require you to do, for it would very likely make the creature angry, becauſe cows are not accuſtomed to carry any load upon their heads; neither would I allow you to run after them with a ſtick, or to make any attempt to frighten them; but if you approach as a friend, I make no doubt you will be received as ſuch; ſo ſummon your courage and attend us, the cows will not hurt you, I can aſſure you.
Neddy Wilſon then began laughing, from the idea that a boy ſhould be afraid of a cow! which made Frederick aſhamed of himſelf; and quitting his mamma’s gown, by which he had held faſt while ſhe was ſpeaking, he laid hold of Neddy’s hand, and declared his reſoultion to go as near the cows as he would. I will not take upon me to ſay, that his little heart was perfectly free from palpitation; but that lay in his own boſom where none could diſcover its feelings but himſelf; ſo let us give him credit for as much courage as we can, and acknowledge him to have been a noble little fellow, in thus truſting himſelf amongſt a number of horned cattle.
The whole party now entered the farmyard, where they ſaw eight fine cows, fat, ſleek, and beautifully clean, who yielded ſeveral pails of rich milk, the ſteam of which, added to the breath of cows, caſt a delightful fragrance around. Mrs. Wilſon then entreated her company to return to the houſe, where tea was provided, and a delicious ſyllabub.
The farmer now came back, and refreſhed himſelf with a cup of ale, which was very comfortable after the fatigues of the day.
I have had, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, great pleaſure in viewing your farm, Mr. Wilſon, which appears to me to afford all the deſirable comforts and conveniences of life, and I moſt ſincerely wiſh a continuance of your proſperity. If it is not an impertinent queſtion, pray tell me did you inherit it from your father, or was it purchaſed with the fruits of your own induſtry?
Neither my wife nor I have led an idle life, I aſſure you, Madam, replied the farmer; but, next the bleſſing of heaven, I think myſelf in a great degree indebted to my cattle for my good ſucceſs. My father left me maſter of a little farm, with a few acres of land well cropped, three horſes 159 H8r 159 horſes, two cows, ten ſheep, a ſow and pigs, a jack-aſs, and a few poultry; theſe have gradually multiplied to what you now ſee me poſſeſs, beſides numbers that I have ſold; and I have had fine crops of hay and corn; ſo that every year I laid by a little money, till I was able to purchaſe this farm, which has proved a very good one to me.
There is ſomething ſo uncommon in hearing a farmer attribute a part of his ſucceſs in life to his cattle, that I ſhould be obliged to you, Mr. Wilſon, ſaid the Lady, if you would account to me for this circumſtance. Moſt readily, Madam, ſaid he.
When I was a very young man, I heard a fine ſermon from the pulpit, preached by my dear wife’s father, on the ſubject of ſhewing me mercy to brutes, which made a great impreſſion on my mind; and I have ever ſince acted towards all dumb creatures, as I would to mankind, upon the principle of doing as I would be done by.
I always conſidered every beaſt that works for me as my ſervant, and entitled to wages; but as they cannot uſe money, I pay them in things of more value to them; and make it a rule, unleſs in caſe of great neceſſity, (when corn or hay, for inſtance, are likely to be ſpoiled) to let them enjoy reſt on the Sabbath-day.
I am very cautious of not letting any beaſt work beyond its ſtrength, and always give them their 160 H8v 160 their food in due ſeaſon; nor do I ever ſuffer them to be beat or cruelly uſed. Beſides giving them what I call their daily wages, I indulge them with all the comforts I can afford them.
In ſummer, when the buſineſs of the day is over; my horſes enjoy themſelves in a good paſture; and in winter, they are ſheltered from the inclemencies of the weather in a warm ſtable. If they get old, I contrive ſome eaſy taſk for them; and when they can work no longer, let them live on the common without it, till age and infirmities make their lives burthenſome to themſelves, when I have them put to as eaſy a death as poſſible.
Though my cows and ſheep do not work for me, I think them entitled to a recompenſe for the profit I receive from their milk and wool, and endeavour to repay them with the kindeſt uſage: and even my jack-aſs finds mercy from me; for I could not bear to ſee ſo uſeful a creature ill-treated; and as for my dogs, I ſet great ſtore by them on account of their fidelity.
Theſe are excellent rules indeed, Mr. Wilſon, and I wiſh they were generally followed, ſaid Mrs. Benſon; for I believe many poor beaſts ſuffer a great deal from the ill-treatment inflicted on them, the horſes in port-chaiſes and hackney- coaches in London particularly. Yes, Madam, ſaid the farmer, I have heard ſo, and could tell you ſuch ſtories of cruelties exerciſed on brutes in 161 H9r 161 in the country, as would quite ſhock you; and have ſeen in my own family ſuch an inſtance of the ill-effects of neglecting them, as had confirmed me in the notions I learnt from the good ſermon I told you of.
I have a brother, whom I at preſent maintain; my father gaver him an equal portion with myſelf, but neither he nor his wife were induſtrious, nor had they any feeling for dumb creatures. He truſted the care of his horſes to careleſs carters, who uſed to let them go without water, and frequently neglect both to feed and clean them; and indeed, he himſelf grudged them victuals: ſo they grew leaner and leaner, and at laſt were really killed with hard work and hard living.
His cows were kept ſo badly in the winter, that they ſoon loſt their milk; and the calves they had, for want of proper management, died; as did the cows themſelves in a ſhort time afterwards. The ſheep got a diſtemper, which ſoon put an end to them.
His pigs being kept in the moſt dirty way in the world, and ſometimes left without food for two days together, got hide-bound and full of vermin; and his poultry dropped off with the roup and other diſorders, till he had none left.
The jack-aſs uſed to be put to hard drudgery in his own ſervice, or let out to draw a ſand-cart: this exceſſive labour, with ſcarcely time allowed him to ſeek a ſcanty living amongſt the thiſtles and 162 H9v 162 and hedges, ſoon put an end to him. Theſe loſſes my brother had no means to repair, for without cattle he could not cultivate his farm, and was ſoon reduced to poverty; and were I not to maintain him, he muſt be a beggar; for through want of air and exerciſe he loſt his health, and is now incapable of working. His wife died ſome years before of an illneſs, which was the conſequence of indolence and inactivity.
I am much obliged to you for your ſtory, Mr. Wilſon, ſaid Mrs. Benſon, and hope my children will never forget it; for it certainly is a duty to extend our clemency to beaſts and other animals. Nay, we are ſtrictly commanded in the ſcriptures to ſhew compaſſion to the beaſt of others, even to thoſe of our enemies; ſurely, then, thoſe which are our own property, and work for us, have a peculiar claim to it. There is one cuſtom which ſhocks me very much, and that is, pounding of cattle; I fancy, Mr. Wilſon, you do not practiſe that much.
Madam, replied he, I ſhould much rather pound the owners of them, through whoſe neglect or diſhoneſty it generally happens that horſes treſpaſs on other people’s land. If any beaſt accidentally gets into my grounds, I ſend it home to its owner, for it certainly is no wilful fault in the creature to ſeek the beſt paſture it can find; but if I have reaſon to ſuppose his owner turned him in, I then think myſelf obliged to do what the 163 H10r 163 the law directs in that reſpect: but though it is a ſecret I am obliged to keep from my neighbours, I may ſafely confeſs to you, Madam, that I have not the heart to let a poor beaſt starve, in a pound. As there are no Courts of juſtice in which they can ſeek redreſs, I erect one for them in my own breaſt, where humanity pleads their cauſecauſe.
I wiſh they had ſuch an advocate in every breaſt, Mr. Wilſon, ſaid the Lady; but my watch reminds me we muſt now take our leave, which I do with many thanks to you and Mrs. Wilſon, for your kind entertainment and good cheer, and ſhall be happy to return to your civilities at my own houſe, and pray bring your whole family with you.
She then deſired her ſon and daughter to prepare for their departure. Frederick was grown ſo intimate with little Neddy, that he could ſcarcely be prevailed on to leave him, till he recollected Robin and Linnet.
As they returned in the coach, Mrs. Benſon remarked, that farmer Wilſon’s ſtory was enough to make every one who heard it careful of their live ſtock, for their own ſakes: but, ſaid ſhe, the pleaſure and advantage will be greatly increaſed, if it is done from a principle of humanity as well as intereſt. Miſs Benſon anſwered, that ſhe hoped ſhe ſhould neither treat animals ill, nor place her affections on them too ſtrongly. That, my dear, replied her good mamma, is the proper medium 164 H10v 164 medium to be obſerved. The ſpeech you made for the ant, mamma, ſaid Harriet, has ſcarcely ever been out of my head ſince: I ſhould like to hear what you could ſay for every live creature we ſee. I had need have ſtrong lungs, my dear, to perform ſuch a taſk as that, replied Mrs. Benſon. I ſhall, on all proper occaſions, be ready to lend my tongue to the dumb, and to ſpeak for thoſe who cannot utter their own ſorrows and injuries.
In a ſhort time they arrived at home. The maid, to whoſe care the birds had been entruſted, gave a good account of her charge; and Miſs Harriet and Maſter Frederick went to bed in peace, after a day ſpent with ſo much pleaſure and improvement.
The next morning the Redbreaſts attended as uſual, and Robin was ſtill better, but his father began to fear he would never perfectly recover from his accident; however he kept his apprehenſions to himſelf, and ſuffered the little ones to entertain their lame brother with 165 H11r 165 with a relation of what they had ſeen the day before in the orchard. Frederick and Harriet were ſo diverted with the chattering and chirping of the little things, that they did not miſs the parent’s ſong.
When the young ones had ſtaid as long as ſhe thought right, the hen Redbreaſt ſummoned them away, and all took leave of Robin, who longed to go with them, but was not able. The father reminded him, that he had great reaſon to rejoice in his preſent ſituation, conſidering all things; on which he reſumed his cheerfulneſs, and giving a ſprightly twitter, hopped into Maſter Frederick’s hand, which was ſpread open to receive him. The reſt then flew away, and Miſs Harriet and her brother prepared for their morning taſks.
The Redbreaſts alighted as uſual to drink in the court-yard, and were preparing to return to the orchard, when Flapſy expreſſed a deſire to look a little about the world; for ſhe ſaid it would be very mopiſh to be always confined to the orchard; and Dicky ſeconded her requeſt. Peckſy replied, that however her curioſity might be excited, ſhe had known ſo much happineſs in the neſt, that ſhe was ſtrongly attached to the paternal ſpot, and could gladly paſs her life there. The parents both commended her contented diſpoſition; but her father ſaid, that as there was nothing blameable in the inclination Dicky and Flapſy diſcovered for ſeeing the world, pro- 166 H11v 166 provided it was kept within due bounds, he would readily gratify it: then aſking if they were ſufficiently refreſhed, took wing, and led the way to a neighbouring grove, where he placed his little tribe amongſt the branches of a venerable oak.
Here their ears were charmed with a moſt enchanting concert of muſic. On one tree a Blackbird and a Thruſh poured forth their ſtrong melodious notes; on another a number of Linnets joined their ſweet voices: exalted in the air a Sky-Lark modulated his delightful pipe: whilſt a brother of the wood, ſeated on a cool-refreſhing turf, made the grove re-echo with his melody; to theſe the Nightingale joined his enchanting lay. In ſhort, not a note was wanting to complete the harmony.
The little redbreaſts were ſo exceedingly charmed, that for a while they continued liſtening with ſilent rapture; at length Dicky exclaimed, How happy ſhould I be to join the cheerful band, and live for ever in this charming place!
It is, replied his mother, a very pleaſant ſituation, to be ſure; but could you be ſenſible of the ſuperior advantages, which as a Redbreaſt, you may enjoy by taking up your abode in the orchard, you would never wiſh to change it: for my own part, I find myſelf ſo happy in that calm retreat, that 167 H12r 167 that nothing but neceſſity ſhall ever drive me from it.
Peckſy declared, that though ſhe was much delighted with the novelty of the ſcene, and charmed with the muſic, ſhe now felt an ardent deſire to return home; but Flapſy wiſhed to ſee a little more firſt. Well ſaid the father, your deſire ſhall be gratified; let us take a circuit in this grove, for I wiſh you to ſee every thing worth obſervation in every place you go to; and not to fly about the world, as many giddy birds do, without the leaſt improvement from their travels. On this he ſpread his wings as the ſignal of departure, which his family obeyed.
Obſerving a parcel of boys creeping ſilently along, ſtop, ſaid he, let us perch on this tree, and ſee what theſe little monſters are about. Scarcely were they ſeated, when one of the boys mounted an adjacent tree, and took a neſt of half-fledged Linnets, which he brought in triumph to his companions.
At this inſtant, a family of Thruſhes unfortunately chirped, which directed another boy to the place of their habitation; on which he climbed, and eagerly ſeized the unfortunate little creatures. Having met with ſo much ſucceſs, they left the grove to exult, at their own homes, over their wretched captives, for ever ſeparated from their tender parents; who ſoon came back, laden with the 168 H12v 168 the gain of their labour, which they had kindly deſtined for the ſuſtenance of their infant broods.
The little Redbreaſts were now ſpectators of thoſe parental agonies which had been formerly deſcribed to them; and Peckſy cried out, Who would deſire to live in this grove, who had once experienced the comforts of the orchard? Dicky and Flapſy were deſirous to depart, being alarmed for their own ſafety. No, ſaid the father, let us ſtay a little longer—now we will go on.
They accordingly took another flight, and ſaw a man ſcattering feed upon the ground. See there, ſaid Dicky, what fine food that man throws down; I dare ſay he is ſome good creature who is a friend to the feathered race; ſhall we alight and partake of his bounty?
Do not form too haſty an opinion, Dicky, ſaid the father; watch here with me a little while and then do as you think proper. All the little ones ſtretched their necks, and kept a curious eye fixed on the man. In a few minutes a number of Sparrows, Chaffinches, and Linnets deſcended, and began to regale themſelves; but in the midſt of their feaſt, a net was ſuddenly caſt over them, and they were all taken captive. The man, who was a bird-catcher by profeſſion, called to his aſſiſtant, who brought a cage, divided into a number of ſmall partitions, in which the Linnets and Chaffinches were ſeparately depoſited. In this diſmal priſon, where they had ſcarcely room 169 I1r 169 room to flutter, were thoſe little creatures confined, who lately poured forth their ſongs of joy, fearleſs. As for the Sparrows, their necks were wrung, and they were put in a bag together. The little Redbreaſts trembled for themſelves and were in great haſte to take wing. Stay, ſaid the father, Dicky has not yet made acquaintance with this friend of the feathered race. No, ſaid Dicky, nor do I deſire it; defend me and all who are dear to me, from ſuch friends as theſe?. Well, ſaid the father, learn from this inſtance, never to form an haſty judgment, nor to put yourſelf into the power of ſtrangers, who offer you favours you have no right to expect from their hands.
Indeed, my love, ſaid the mother bird, I am very anxious to get home; I have not lately been uſed to be long abſent from it, and every excurſion I make endears it to me. O, the day is not half ſpent, replied her mate; and I hope, that for the gratification of the little ones, you will conſent to complete the ramble. Come, let us viſit another part of the grove; I am acquainted with its inmost receſſes. His mate acquieſced, and they proceeded on their journey.
At length, the father haſtily called out, Turn this way! turn this way! The whole party obeyed the word of command, and found the good effects of their obedience; for in an inſtant they ſaw a flaſh of fire, a thick ſmoke followed it, and I imme- 170 I1v 170 immediately they heard a dreadful ſound, and ſaw a young Redſtart fall bleeding to the ground, on which he ſtruggled juſt long enough to cry, Oh! my dear father! why did I not liſten to your kind admonitions, which I now find, too late, were the dictates of tenderneſs! and then expired.
The little Redbreaſts were ſtruck with conſternation at this dreadful accident; and Peckſy, who recovered the ſooneſt, begged her father would inform her by what means the Redſtart was killed. He was ſhot to death, ſaid he; and had you not followed my directions, it might have been the fate of every one of you: therefore, let it be a leſſon to you, to follow every injunction of your parents with the ſame readineſs for the future.
You may deenddepend on it, our experience teaches us to foreſee many dangers, which ſuch young creatures as you have no notion of; and when we deſire you to do, or to forbear any thing, it is for the ſake of your ſafety or advantage: therefore, Dicky, never more ſtand, as you ſometimes have done aſking why we tell you to do ſo and ſo? for had that been the caſe now, you who were in a direct line with the gunner, would have been inevitably ſhot.
They all ſaid they would obſerve implicit obedience. Do ſo, ſaid he; but in order to do this, you muſt alſo remember to practiſe, in our abſence,ſence 171 I2r 171 ſence, what we enjoin you when preſent. For inſtance, ſome kinds of food are very prejudicial to your health, which we would not, on any account, let you taſte when we are by; theſe you muſt not indulge in when away from us, whatever any other bird may ſay in recommendation of them. Neither muſt you engage in any dangerous enterprize, which others, who have natural ſtrength or acquired agility, go through with ſafety; nor ſhould you go to any places which we have pointed out as dangerous, nor join any company which we have forbid you to make acquaintance with.
This poor Redſtart might have avoided his fate; for I heard his father, when I was laſt in the grove, adviſe him not to fly about by himſelf, till he had ſhewn him the dangers of the world.
Peckſy anſwered, that ſhe knew the value of parental inſtruction ſo well, that ſhe ſhould certainly treaſure up in her heart every maxim of it; and the others promiſed to do the ſame: but, ſaid Flapſy, I cannot underſtand the nature of the accident which occaſioned the death of the Redſtart.
Neither can I explain it to you, my dear, replied the father; I only know, that it is a very common practice with ſome men to carry inſtruments, from which they diſcharge what proves fatal to many a bird; but I have, by attentive obſervation, learnt how to evade the miſchief. I2 When- 172 I2v 172 Whenever I go from the orchard I always get upon a high tree, and look all around me; if I ſee any gunners I take a different courſe, (the thickneſs of the underwood prevented my diſcovering him who ſhot the Redſtart.) I alſo carefully avoid aſſociating with thoſe birds, who do miſchief to the property of mankind; for thoſe that join with thieves and ravagers deſerve, and muſt juſtly expect to ſhare their fate: let me therefore adviſe you to be particularly careful to keep proper company, and gain an honecthoneſt character, as it will enſure you the good opinion of others.
But come, let us deſcend, and refreſh ourſelves a little, as we may do it with ſafety, and then we will ſee if we cannot find a place where you can have amuſement, without being expoſed to ſuch dangers as attend the inhabitants of woods and groves.
Are you ſufficiently reſted to take a pretty long flight? O yes, cried Dicky, who was quite eager to leave the ſpot, in which, a ſhort time before, he had longed to paſs his life: the reſt joined in the ſame with, and every wing was inſtantly expanded.
The father led the way, and in a very ſhort ſpace of time he and his family arrived at the eſtate of a gentleman, who, having a plentiful fortune, endeavoured to collect all that was curious in art and nature, for the amuſement of his own mind, and the gratification of others. He had a houſe like a palace, furniſhed with every expenſive rarity; his gardens, to which the Redbreaſts took their flight, were laid out in ſuch a manner as to afford the moſt delightful variety to the eye.
Amongſt other articles of taſte were an aviary and a menagery. The former was built like a temple, encloſed with braſs wire; the framework was painted green, and ornamented with carving gilt: in the middle a fountain continually threw up freſh water, which fell into a baſon whoſe brink was enamelled with flowers; at one end were partitions for birds neſts, and troughs containing various kinds of ſeed, and materials for building neſts: this part was carefully ſheltered from every inclemency of the weather, and numbers of perches were placed in different parts of the aviary, and it was ſurrounded by a moſt beautiful ſhrubbery.A 174 I3v 174
A habitation like this, in which all the conveniences of life ſeemed to be collected, where abundance was ſupplied without toil, where each gay ſongſter might ſing himſelf to repoſe in the midſt of eaſe and plenty, ſafe from the dangers of the woods, appeared to our young travellers deſirable beyond all the ſituations in the world, and Dicky expreſſed an earneſt wiſh to be admitted into it. Well, ſaid the father, let us not determine haſtily, it will be adviſeable firſt to enquire whether its inhabitants are really happy, before you make intereſt to become one of the number; place yourſelves by me on this ſhrub, and whilſt we reſt ourſelves, we ſhall have an opportunity of obſerving what paſſes.
The firſt bird that attracted their notice was a Dove, who ſat cooing by himſelf in a corner in accents ſo gentle and ſweet, that a ſtranger to his language would have liſtened to them with delight; but the Redbreaſts, who underſtood their import, heard them with ſympathetic concern.
Oh, my dear, my beloved mate, ſaid he, am I then divided from you for ever? What avails it, that I am furniſhed here with all the elegancies and luxuries of life? Deprived of your company, I have no enjoyment of them? the humbleſt morſel, though gained with toil and danger, would be infinitely preferable to me if ſhared with you. Here am I ſhut up for “the 175 I4r 175 the remainder of my days, in ſociety for which I have no reliſh, whiſt ſhe, who has hitherto been the beloved partner of all my joys, is for ever ſeparated from me! In vain will you, with painful wing, purſue your anxious ſearch in queſt of me; never, never more, ſhall I bring you the welcome refreſhment; never ſhall I hear your ſoothing voice, and delight in the ſoft murmurs of the inſtant pair, which you hatched with ſuch care, and nurſed with ſuch tenderneſs! No, my beloved neſtlings, never will your wretched father be at liberty to guide your flight, and inſtruct you in your duty. Here his voice faultered, and overcome with bitter reflections, he reſigned himſelf a prey to ſilent ſorrow.
This Dove is not happy, however, ſaid the hen Redbreaſt to her mate, and no wonder: but let us attend to the notes of that Lark. His eyes were turned up towards the ſky, he fluttered his wings, he ſtrained his throat, and would to a human eye, have appeared in raptures of joy, but the Redbreaſts perceived that he was inflamed with rage. And am I to be conſtantly confined in this horrid place? ſang he. Is my upward flight to be impeded by bars and wires? Muſt I no longer ſoar towards that bright luminary, and make the arch of heaven reſound with my ſinging? Shall I ceaſe to be the herald of the morn, or muſt I be ſo in the contractedI4 “ted 176 I4v 176 ted ſphere? No, ye partners of my captivity, henceforth ſleep on and take ignoble reſt; and may you loſe in ſlumber the remembrance of paſt pleaſures! O cruel and unjuſt man! was it not enough that I proclaimed the approach of day, that ſoothed your ſultry hours, that I heightened the delights of evening, but muſt I, to gratify your unfeeling wantonneſs, be ſecluded from every joy my heart holds dear, and condemned to a ſituation I deteſt? Take your delicious dainties, reſerve your flowing ſtream for thoſe who can reliſh them, but give me liberty? But why do I addreſs myſelf to you who are heedleſs of my miſery? Here caſting an indignant look around, he ſtopt his ſong.
What think you now, Dicky, ſaid the Redbreaſt , have you as high an idea of the happineſs of this place, as you conceived at the firſt view of it? I cannot help thinking ſtill, replied Dicky, that it is a charming retreat, and that it muſt be very comfortable to have every thing provided for one’s uſe. Well, ſaid the father, let usus move, and obſerve thoſe Linnets who are building their neſt. Accordingly they flew to a tree, whoſe branches formed a part of the ſhelter of the aviary, where they eaſily heard, without being themſelves obſerved, all that paſſed in it.
Come, ſaid one of the Linnets, let us go on with our work, and finish the neſt, though it will be rather a melancholy taſk to hatch a ſet of little 177 I5r 177 little priſoners. How different was the caſe when we could anticipate the pleaſure of rearing a family to all the joys of liberty! Men, it is true, now, with officious care, ſupply us with the neceſſary materials, and we may make a very good neſt; but I proteſt I had much rather be at the trouble of ſeeking them.
What pleaſure have we experienced in plucking a bit of wool from a ſheep’s back, in ſearching for moſs, in ſelecting the beſt feather where numbers were left to our choice, in ſtopping to reſt on the top of a tree, which commanded an extenſive proſpect, in joining a choir of ſongſters whom we accidentally met!—But now our days paſs with repeated ſameneſs; variety, ſo neceſſary to give a reliſh to all enjoyment, is wanting. Inſtead of the ſongs of joy we formerly heard from every ſpray, our ears are conſtantly annoyed with the ſound of mournful lamentations, tranſports of rage, or murmurs of diſcontent. Could we reconcile ourſelves to the loſs of liberty, it is impoſſible to be happy here, unleſs we could harden our hearts to every ſympathetic feeling.
True, ſaid his mate; yet I am reſolved to try what patience, reſignation, and employment will effect; and hope, as your young ones will never know what liberty is, they will not pine as we do for it, Saying this ſhe picked up a ſtraw, her mate followed the example, and they purſued their work.I5 At 178 I5v 178
At this inſtant a hen Goldfinch brought forth her brood, who were full fledged. Come, ſaid ſhe, my neſtlings, uſe your wings: I have taught you to fly in all directions. So ſaying, the little ones divided: one flew upwards; but emulous to outdo a little Sparrow which was flying in the air above the aviary, he hit himſelf againſt the wires of the dome, and would have fallen to the bottom, but that he was stopped by one of the perches.
As ſoon as he recovered., Why cannot I ſoar as I ſee other birds do? ſaid he. Alas! cried the mother, we are in a place of confinement, we are ſhut up and can never get out; but here is food in abundance, and every other neceſſary. Never get out? exclaimed the whole brood, then adieu to hapineſs! She attempted to ſooth them but in vain.
The little Redbreaſts rejoiced in their liberty, and Dicky gave up the deſire of living in the aviary, and wiſhed to be gone, Stop, ſaid his father, let us firſt hear what thoſe Canaries are ſaying.
The Canaries had almoſt compleated their neſt. How fortunate is our lot, ſaid the hen bird, in being placed in this aviary! How preferable is it to the ſmall cage we built in laſt year. Yes, replied her mate; yet how comfortable was that, in compariſon with the ſtill ſmaller ones in which we were once ſeparately confined. For my part I have no wiſh to fly “abroad 179 I6r 179 abroad, for I ſhould neither know what to do, nor where to go; and it ſhall be my endeavour to inſpire my young ones with the ſame ſentiments I feel. Indeed, we owe the higheſt gratitude to thoſe who make ſuch kind proviſion for a ſet of foreigners, who have no reſources but their bounty; and my beſt lays ſhall be devoted to them. Nothing is wanted to compleat the happineſs of this place, but to have other kinds of birds excluded. Poor creatures! it muſt be very mortifying to them to be ſhut up here, and ſee others of their kind enjoying full freedom. No wonder they are perpetually quarelling; for my part, I ſincerely pity them, and am ready to ſubmit to the occaſional inſults and affronts I meet with, out of compaſſion.
You now perceive Dicky, ſaid the cock Redbreaſt, that this place is not, as you ſuppoſed, the region of perfect happineſs; you may alſo obſerve that it is not the abode of univerſal wretchedneſs.
It is by no means deſirable to be ſhut up for life, let the place of confinement be ever ſo ſplendid; but ſhould it at any time be your lot to be caught and impriſoned, which may poſſibly be the caſe, adopt the ſentiments of the Linnet and the Canary Bird: employment will paſs away many an hour, that would have been a heavy load if ſpent in grief and anxiety; and reflections on the bleſſings and comforts that are ſtill in your I6 power, 180 I6v 180 power, will leſſen your regret for thoſe which are loſt. But come pick up ſome of the ſeeds which are ſcattered on the outſide of the aviary, for that is no robbery, and then I will ſhew you another ſcene.
As ſoon as they had regaled themſelves with the ſuperfluities of the feathered captives, they took their flight to a different part of the garden, in which was a menagery.
The menagery conſiſted of a number of pens, built round a graſs-plat; in each was a pan of water, a ſort of box containing a bed or neſt, a trough for food, and a perch. In every pen was confined a pair of birds, and every pair was either of a different ſpecies, or diſtinguiſhed for ſome beautiful variety either of form or plumage. The wooden bars which were put in the front, were painted partly green and partly white, which dazzled the ſight at the firſt glance, and ſo attracted the eyes, that there was no ſeeing what was behind without going cloſe up to the pens.
The little Redbreaſts knew not what ſight to expect, and begged their parent to gratify their curioſity. Well, follow me, ſaid the father; but I believe you muſt alight upon the croſs bars, or you will not be able to examine the beauties of theſe fowls. They did ſo, and in the firſt pen was a pair of Partridges.
The ſize of theſe birds, ſo greatly exceeding their own, aſtoniſhed them all; but nothwithſtandingſtanding 181 I7r 181 ſtanding this, the amiable Peckſy was quite intereſted with their modeſt gentle appearance, and ſaid, ſhe thought no one could ever wiſh to injure them.
True, Peckſy, replied the father, they have, from the harmleſſneſs of their diſpoſition, a natural claim to tenderneſs and compaſſion; and yet I believe there are few birds who meet with leſs: for I have obſerved, that numbers ſhare the ſame fate as the Redſtart, which you ſaw die in the grove. I have myſelf ſeen many put to death in that manner.
For a long time, I was exceſſively puzzled to account for this fatality, and reſolved, if poſſible, to gratify my curioſity. At length I ſaw a man kill two and take them away. This very man had ſhewn me great kindneſs, in feeding me when I firſt left my father’s neſt; ſo I had no apprehenſion of his doing me an injury, and reſolved to follow him.
When he arrived at his own houſe I ſaw him deliver the victims of his cruelty to another perſon, who hung them up together by the legs, in a place which had a variety of other dead things in it, the ſight of which ſhocked me exceedingly, and I could ſtay no longer. I therefore flew back to the field in which I had ſeen the murder comitted; and in ſearching about, found the neſt belonging to the poor creatures, in which were ſeveral young ones juſt hatched, who in a ſhort time were 182 I7v 182 were ſtarved to death! How dreadful is the fate of young animals, who loſe their parents before they are able to ſhift for themſelves! and how dutiful ought thoſe to be, to whom the bleſſing of parental inſtruction and aſſiſtance is continued!
When the next morning arrived I went again to ſee after the dead partridges, and found them them hanging as before; and this was the caſe the day after, but the following morning, I ſaw a boy ſtripping all their feathers off. As ſoon as he had compleated this horrid operation, a woman took them, whom I ventured to follow, as the window of the place ſhe entered ſtood open; where, to my aſtoniſhment, I beheld her twiſt their wings about, and faſten them to their ſides, then croſs their legs upon their breaſts, and run ſomething quite through their bodies. After this ſhe put them before a place which glowed with a brightneſs ſomething reſembling the ſetting ſun, which on the woman’s retiring, I approached, and found intolerably hot; I therefore made a haſty retreat; but reſolving to know the end of the Partridges, kept hovering about the houſe; and at laſt looking in at a window, I ſaw them ſmoking hot, ſet before the man who murdered them, who was accompanied by ſeveral others; all of whom eyed them with as much delight as I have ſeen any of you diſcover at the ſight of the fineſt worm of inſect that could be procured. In an inſtant after this the poor Partridges were dividedvided 183 I8r 183 vided limb from limb, and each one of the party preſent had his ſhare, till every bone was picked.
There were ſome other things devoured in the ſame manner; from which I learnt, that men feed on birds and other animals, as we do on thoſe little creatures which are deſtined for our ſuſtenance, only they do not eat them alive. Pray father, ſaid Dicky, do they eat Redbreaſts? I believe not, ſaid he; but I have reaſon to ſuppoſe they make many a meal on Sparrows, for I have beheld vaſt numbers of them killed.
At this inſtant their attention was attracted by one of the Partridges in the pen, who thus addreſſed his mate.
Well, my love, as there is no chance for our being ſet at liberty, I think we may as well prepare our neſt, that you may depoſit your eggs in it. The employment of hatching and raiſing your little ones will, at leaſt, mitigate the weariſomeneſs of confinement, and I promiſe myſelf many happy days yet; for as we are ſo well fed and attended, I think we may form hopes that our offſpring will alſo be provided for; and though they will not be at liberty to range about as we formerly did, they will avoid many of thoſe terrors and anxieties to which our race are frequently expoſed at one ſeaſon of the year in particular.
I am very ready to follow your advice (ſaid the hen Partridge) and the buſineſs will ſoon “be 184 I8v 184 be compleated, for the neſt is in a manner made for us, it only wants little adjuſting: I will therefore ſet about it immediately, and will no longer waſte the hours in fruitleſs lamentations, ſince I am convinced, that content will render every ſituation eaſy in which we can enjoy the company of our deareſt friends, and obtain the neceſſaries of life. So saying, ſhe retired into the place provided for the purpoſe on which ſhe was now intent, and her mate followed, in order to lend her all the aſſiſtance in his power.
I am very glad, ſaid the hen Redbreaſt, that my young ones have had the opportunity of ſeeing ſuch an example as this. You now underſtand what benefit it is of to have a temper of reſignation; more than half the evils of life, I am well convinced, ariſe from fretfulneſs and diſcontent: and would every one, like theſe Partridges, try to make the beſt of their condition, we ſhould ſeldom hear complaints; for there are much fewer real than imaginary misfortunes. But come, let us take a peep into the next pen.
Here they beheld a pair of fine pheaſants, who were quietly picking up ſome grain that was ſcattered for them; from which might be inferred, that they had, like the Partridges, reconciled themſelves to their lot. The little Redbreaſts were much pleaſed with the beauty of the cock bird; but as there was no converſation to be heard 185 I9r 185 heard here, their parents deſired them to fly on; as pleaſures by which the eye only was amuſed, were not deſerving of long attention.
They accordingly hopped to the next partition in which were confined a pair of penciled Pheaſants. Flapſy was quite delighted with the elegance of their form, and the beauty of their plumage, and could have ſtaid the whole day looking at them; but as theſe birds were alſo tame and contented, nothing more could be learnt here, than a confirmation of what the Partridges had taught. Our travellers therefore proceeded ſtill farther, and found a pair of gold pheaſants. Their ſplendid appearance ſtruck the young Redbreaſts with aſtoniſhment, and raiſed ſuch ſentiments of reſpect, that they were even fearful of approaching birds which they eſteemed as ſo much ſuperior to themſelves: but their father deſiring they would never form a judgment of birds from a glittering outſide, placed his family where they had an opportunity of obſerving, that this ſplendid pair had but little intrinſic merit.
They were proud of their fine plumage, and their chief employment was walking backwards and forwards to diſplay it; and ſometimes they endeavoured to puſh through the bars of their priſon, that they might get abroad to ſhow their rich plumage to the world, and exult over thoſe who were, in this reſpect, inferior to them. How hard, ſaid one of them, it is to be ſhut up here where 186 I9v 186 where there are no other birds to admire us, and where we have no little ugly creatures to ridicule.
If ſuch are your deſires, ſaid the hen Redbreaſt, I am ſure you are happier here than at liberty; for you would, by your proud affected airs, excite the contempt of every bird who has right ſentiments, and conſequently meet with continual mortification, to which even the uglieſt might contribute.
Peckſy deſired to know if all fine birds were proud and affected? By no means, replied her mother; you obſerved the other two pair of Pheaſants, who were, in my opinion, nearly equal to theſe for beauty and elegance. How eaſy and unaſſuming were they, and how much were their charms improved by the graces of humility! I often wonder that any bird ſhould indulge itſelf in pride. What have ſuch little creatures as we to boaſt of? The largeſt ſpecies amongſt us is very inferior to many animals we ſee in the world; and man is lord over the greateſt and ſtrongeſt even of theſe. Nay, man himſelf has no cauſe to be proud; for he is ſubject to death as well as the meaneſt of creatures, as I have had opportunities of obſerving. But come, the day wears away, let us view the other parts of this incloſure.
On this, the father conducted his family to a variety of pens, in which were different ſorts of 187 I10r 187 of foreign birds, of whom he could give but little account; and would not ſuffer his young ones to ſtand gazing at them long, leſt they ſhould imbibe injurious notions of them: eſpecially when he heard Dicky cry out, as he left the laſt pen, I dare ſay that bird is a very cruel voracious creature; I make no doubt but he would eat us all one after the other if he could get at us.
Take care, Dicky, ſaid the father, how you form an ill opinion of any one on ſlight grounds. You cannot poſſibly tell what the character of this Stork is, merely from his appearance; you are a ſtranger to his language, and cannot ſee the diſpoſition of his heart. If you give way to a ſuſpicious temper, your own little breaſt will be in a ſtate of conſtant perturbation; you will abſolutely exclude yourſelf from the bleſſings of ſociety, and will be ſhunned and deſpiſed by every bird of every kind. This Stork, whom you thus cenſure, is far from deſerving your ill opinion. He would do you no harm, and is remarkable for his filial affection.
I ſaw him taken priſoner. He was carrying his aged father on his back, whom he had for a long time fed and comforted: the weight of this precious burden impeded his flight; and being at length weary with it, he deſcended to the ground to reſt himſelf, when a cruel man, who was out on the buſineſs of bird-catching, threw a net over them 188 I10v 188 them, and then ſeized him by the neck. His poor father, who was before worn out with age and infirmities, unable to bear this calamity, fell from his back and inſtantly expired. This Stork, after caſting a look of anguiſh on his dear parent, which I ſhall never forget, turned with fury on his perſecutor, whom he beat with his wings with all the ſtrength he had; but it was in vain to contend with a being ſo much more powerful than himſelf; and in ſpite of all his exertions, he was conveyed to this place.
But come, let us pick up a little refreſhment, and then return to the orchard. Saying this, he alighted on the ground, as did his mate and her family, where they met with a plentiful repaſt in the proviſions which had been accidentally ſcattered by the perſon whoſe employment it was to bring food for the inhabitants of the menagery. When they had ſufficiently regaled themſelves, all parties gladly returned to the neſt, and every heart rejoiced in the poſſeſſion of liberty and peace.
For three ſucceſſive days nothing remarkable happened, either at Mr. Benſon’s or the Redbreaſt’s neſt. The little family came daily to the breakfaſt-table, and Robin recovered daily from his accident, though not ſufficiently to fly well; but Dicky, Flapſy, and Peckſy continued ſo healthy, and improved ſo faſt, that they required no further care; and the third morning after their tour to the grove, &c. they did not commit the leaſt error. When they retired from the parlour into the court-yard, to which Robin accompanied them, the father expreſſed great delight that they were at length able to ſhift for themſelves.
And now a wonderful change took place in his own heart. That ardent affection for his young, which had hitherto made him, for their ſakes, patient of toil, and fearleſs of danger, was on a ſudden quenched; but from the goodneſs of his diſpoſition, he ſtill felt a kind of ſolicitude for their future welfare; and calling them around him, he thus addreſſed them.
You muſt be ſenſible, my dear young ones, that from the time you left the egg-ſhell, till the preſent inſtant, both your mother and I have nouriſhed 190 I11v 190 have nouriſhed you with tendereſt love. We have taught you all the arts of life which are neceſſary to procure you ſubſiſtence, and preſerve you from danger. We have ſhewn you a variety of characters in the different claſſes of birds: and pointed out thoſe which are to be ſhunned. You muſt now ſhift for yourſelves; but before we part, let me repeat my admonition, to uſe induſtry, avoid contention, cultivate peace, and be contented with your condition. Let none of your own ſpecies excel you in any amiable quality, for want of your endeavours to equal the beſt; and do your duty in every relation of life, as we have done ours by you. To the gay ſcenes of levity and diſſipation, prefer a calm retirement, for there is the greateſt degree of happineſs to be found. You, Robin, I would adviſe, on account of your infirmity, to attach yourſelf to the family, where you have been ſo kindly cheriſhed.
Whilſt he thus ſpake, his mate ſtood by, who finding the ſame change beginning to take place in her own breaſt, ſhe viewed her young ones with tender regret; and when he ceaſed, cried out: Adieu, ye dear objects of my late cares and ſolicitude! may ye never more ſtand in need of a mother’s aſſiſtance! Though nature now diſmiſſes me from the arduous taſk which I have long daily performed, I rejoice not, but would gladly continue my toil, for the ſake of its attendantant 191 I12r 191 ant pleaſures. O! delightful ſentiments of maternal love, how can I part with you? Let me, my neſtlings, give you a laſt embrace. Then ſpreading her wings, ſhe folded them ſucceſſively to her boſom, and inſtantly recovered her tranquillity.
Each young one expreſſed its grateful thanks to both father and mother, and with theſe acknowledgments filial affection expired in their breaſts; inſtead of which, a reſpectful friendſhip ſucceeded. Thus was that tender tie diſſolved, which had hitherto bound this little family together; for the parents had performed their duty, and the young ones had no need of farther aſſiſtance.
The old Redbreaſts having now only themſelves to provide for, reſolved to be no longer burthenſome to their benefactors; and after pouring forth their gratitude in the moſt lively ſtrains, they took their flight together, reſolving never to ſeparate. Every care now vaniſhed, and their little hearts felt no ſentiments but thoſe of cheerfulneſs and joy. They ranged the fields and gardens, ſipped at the cooleſt ſprings, and indulged themſelves in the pleaſures of ſociety, joining their cheerful notes with thoſe of other gay choriſters, who animate and heighten the delightful ſcenes of rural life.
The firſt morning that the old Redbreaſts were miſſing from Mrs Benſon’s breakfaſt-table, Frederickderick 192 I12v 192 derick and his ſiſter were greatly alarmed for their ſafety; but their mamma ſaid, ſhe was of opinion, that they had left their neſtlings; as it was the nature of animals in general to diſmiſs their young, as ſoon as they were able to provide for themſelves. That is very ſtrange, replied Miſs Harriet; I wonder what would become of my brother and me, were you and papa to ſerve us ſo?
And is a boy of ſix, or a girl of eleven years old, capable of ſhifting for themſelves? ſaid her mamma. No, my dear child, you have need of a much longer continuance of our care than birds and other animals; and therefore God has ordained that parental affection, when once awakened, ſhould always remain in the human breaſt, unleſs extinguiſhed by the undutiful behaviour of a child.
And ſhall we ſee the old Redbreaſts no more? cried Frederick. I do not know that you will, replied Mrs. Benſon, though it is not unlikely that they may viſit us again in the winter; but let not their abſence grieve you, my love, for I dare ſay they are ſafe and happy.
At that inſtant the young ones arrived, and met with a very joyful reception. The amuſement they afforded to Maſter Benſon, reconciled him to the loſs of their parenesparents; but Harriet declared, ſhe could not help being ſorry that they were gone. I ſhall, for the future, mamma ſaid ſhe 193 K1r 193 ſhe, take great deal of notice of animals: for I have had much entertainment in obſerving the ways of theſe Robins. I highly approve your reſolution, my dear, ſaid Mrs Benſon,, and hope the occaſional inſtruction I have at different times given you, has furniſhed you with general ideas reſpecting the proper treatment of animals. I will now inform you, upon what principles the rules of conduct I preſcribe to myſelf on this ſubject are founded.
I conſider, that the ſame almighty and good God, who created mankind, made all other living creatures likewiſe; and appointed them their different ranks in the creation, that they might form either a community, receiving and conferring reciprocal benefits.
There is no doubt that the Almighty deſigned all beings for happineſs, proportionable to the faculties he endued them with; and whoever wantonly deſtroys that happineſs, acts contrary to the will of his Maker.
The world we live in ſeems to have been principally deſigned for the uſe and comfort of mankind, who, by the divine appointment, have dominion over the inferior creatures; in the exerciſe of which, it is certainly their duty to imitate the ſupreme Lord of the Univerſe, by being merciful to the utmoſt of their power. They are endued with reaſon, which enables them to diſcover the different natures of brutes, the faculties they K poſſeſs, 194 K1v 194 poſſeſs, and how they may be made ſerviceable in the world; and as beaſts cannot apply theſe faculties to their own uſe in ſo extenſive a way, and numbers of them (being unable to provide for their own ſuſtenance) are indebted to men for many of the neceſſaries of life, men have an undoubted right to their labour in return.
Several other kinds of animals, which are ſuſtained at the expence of mankind, cannot labour for them; from ſuch they have a natural claim to what ever they can ſupply towards the food and raiment of their benefactors; and therefore, when we take the wool and milk of the flocks and herds, we take no more than our due, and what they can very well ſpare; as they ſeem to have an over-abundance given them, that they may be able to return their obligations to us.
Some creatures have nothing to give us but their own bodies: theſe have been expreſsly deſtined, by the ſupreme Governor, as food for mankind, and he has appointed an extraordinary increaſe of them for this very purpoſe; ſuch an increaſe, as would be very injurious to us if all were ſuffered to live. Theſe we have an undoubted right to kill; but ſhould make their ſhort lives as comfortable as poſſible.
Other creatures ſeem to be of no particular uſe to mankind, but as they ſerve to furniſh our minds with contemplations on the wiſdom, power, and goodneſs of God, and to exhilirate our ſpirits 195 K2r 195 ſpirits by their cheerfulneſs. Theſe ſhould not be wantonly killed, nor treated with the leaſt degree of cruelty, but ſhould be at full liberty to enjoy the bleſſings aſſigned them; unleſs they abound to ſuch a degree, as is to become injurious, by devouring the food which deſigned for man, or for animals more immediately beneficial to him, whom it is his duty to protect.
Some animals, ſuch as wild beaſts, ſerpents, &c. are in their natures ferocious, noxious, or venemous, and capable of injuring the health, or even of deſtroying the lives of men, and other creatures of a higher rank than themſelves: theſe, if they leave the ſecret abodes which are allotted them, and become offenſive, certainly may with juſtice be killed.
In a word, my dear, we ſhould endeavour to regulate our regards according to the utility and neceſſities of every living creature with which we are any ways connected; and conſequently ſhould prefer the happineſs of mankind to that of any animal whatever. Next to theſe (who being partakers of the ſame nature with ourſelves, are more properly our fellow-creatures) we ſhould conſider our cattle and domeſtick animals, and take care to ſupply every creature that is dependent on us with proper food, and keep it in its proper place: after their wants are ſupplied, we ſhould extend our benevolence and compaſſion as far as poſſible to their inferior ranks of beings; K2 and 196 K2v 196 and if nothing farther is in our power, ſhould at leaſt refrain from exerciſing cruelties on them. For my own part, I never willingly put to death, or cauſe to be put to death, any creature but when there is a real neceſſity for it; and have my food dreſſed in a plain manner, that no more lives may be ſacrificed for me, than nature requires for my ſubſiſtence in that way which God has allotted me. But I fear I have tired you with my long lecture, ſo will now diſmiſs you.
While Mrs. Benſon was giving theſe inſtructions to her daughter, Frederick diverted himſelf with the young Robins, who having no kind parents now to admoniſh them, made a longer viſit than uſual: ſo that Mrs. Benſon would have been obliged to drive them away, had not Peckſy, on ſeeing her move from her ſeat, recollected that ſhe and her brother and ſiſter had been guilty of an impropriety; ſhe therefore reminded them that they ſhould no longer intrude, and led the way out at the window; the others followed her, and Mrs. Benſon gave permiſſion to her children to take their morning’s walk before they began their leſſons.
As the old Robins, who were the Hero and Heroine of my tale, are made happy, it is time for me to put an end to it: but my young readers will doubtleſs wiſh to know the ſequel of the hiſtory, I ſhall therefore inform them of it in as few words as poſſible.
Miſs Harriet followed her mamma’s precepts and example, and grew up an univerſal benefactreſs to all people, and all creatures, with whom ſhe was any ways connected.
Frederick was educated upon the ſame plan, and was never known to be cruel to animals, or to treat them with an improper degree of fondneſs: he was alſo remarkable for his benevolence, ſo as to deſerve and obtain the character of a good man.
Miſs Lucy Jenkins was quite reformed by Mrs. Benſon’s lecture, and her friends example; but her brother continued his practice of exerciſing barbarities on a variety of unfortunate animals, till he went to ſchool; where having no opportunity of doing ſo, he gratified his malignant diſpoſition on his ſchool-fellows, and made it his 198 K3v 198 his diverſion to pull the hair, pinch, and teaze the younger boys; and by the time he became a man, had ſo hardened his heart, that no kind of diſtreſs affected him, nor did he care for any perſon but himſelf; conſequently, he was deſpiſed by all with whom he had any intercourſe. In this manner he lived for ſome years; at length, as he was inhumanly beating and ſpurring a fine horſe, merely becauſe it did not go a faſter pace than it was able to do, the poor creature, in its effort to evade his blows, threw his barbarous rider who was killed on the ſpot.
Farmer Wilſon’s proſperity increaſed with every ſucceeding year, and he acquired a plentiful fortune, with which he have portions to each of his children, as opportunities offered, for ſettling them in the world; and he and his wife lived to a good old age, beloved and reſpected by all who knew them.
Mrs. Addis loſt her parrot, by the diſorder with which it was attacked while Mrs. Benſon was viſiting at the house; and before ſhe had recovered the ſhock of this misfortune, as ſhe called it, her grief was renewed by the death of the old lap-dog. About a year afterwards her monkey eſcaped to the top of the houſe from whence he fell and broke his neck. The favourite cat went mad, and was obliged to be killed. In ſhort, by a ſeries of calamities, all her dear darlings were 199 K4r 199 were ſucceſſively deſtroyed. She ſupplied their places with new favourites, who gave her a great deal of fatigue and trouble.
In the mean while her children grew up, and having experienced no tenderneſs from her, they ſcarcely knew they had a mamma; nor did thoſe who had the care of their education inculcate, that her want of affection did not cancel their duty, they therefore treated her with the utmoſt neglect, and ſhe had no friend left. In her old age, when ſhe was no longer capable of amuſing herſelf with cats, dogs, parrots, and monkies, ſhe became ſenſible of her errors, and wiſhed for the comforts which other parents enjoyed; but it was now too late, and ſhe ended her days in ſorrow and regret.
This unfortunate Lady had tenderneſs enough in her diſpoſition for all the purpoſes of humanity; and had ſhe placed it on proper objects, agreeably to Mrs. Benſon’s rule, might have been, like her, a good wife, mother, friend, and miſtreſs, conſequently, reſpectable and happy. But when a child, Mrs. Addis was (under an idea of making her tender-hearted) permitted to laviſh immoderate fondneſs on animals, the care of which engroſſed her whole attention, and greatly interrupted her education; ſo that, inſtead of ſtudying natural hiſtory, and other uſeful things, her time was taken up with pamperingK4 pering 200 K4v 200 pering and attending upon animals, which ſhe conſidered as the moſt important buſineſs in life.
Her children fell into faults of a different nature. Mrs. Addis being, as I obſerved in a former part of this hiſtory, left to the care of ſervants, grew up with very contracted notions. Amongſt other prejudices, ſhe imbibed that of being afraid of ſpiders, frogs, and other harmleſs things; and having been bit by the monkey when it eſcaped, as I before related, and terrified by the cat, when it went mad, ſhe extended her fears to every kind of creature, and could not take a walk in the fields, or even in the ſtreet, without a thouſand apprehenſions. At laſt, her conſtitution, which, from bad nurſing, had become very delicate, was ſtill more weakened by her continual apprehenſions; and a rat happening to run a croſs the path, as ſhe was walking, ſhe fell into fits, which afflicted her, at intervals, during the remainder of her life.
Maſter Addis, as ſoon he became ſenſible of his mother’s foible, conceived an inveterate hatred to animals in general, whom he regarded as his enemies; and thought he was avenging his own cauſe when he treated any with barbarity. Cats and dogs, in particular, he ſingled out as the objects of his revenge, becauſe he conſidered them as his mother’s greateſt favourites; and many 201 K5r 201 many a one fell an innocent victim to his miſtaken ideas.
The parent Redbreaſts viſited their kind benefactors the next winter; but as they were flying along one day, they ſaw ſome crumbs of bread, which had been ſcattered by Miſs Lucy Jenkins, who (as I obſerved before) had adopted the ſentiments of her friend, in reſpect to compaſſion to animals, and reſolved to imitate her in every excellence. The Redbreaſts gratefully picked up the crumbs, and, encouraged by the gentle invitation of her looks, determined to repeat their viſits; which they accordingly did, and found ſuch an ample ſupply, that they thought it more adviſeable to go to her with their next brood, than to be burthenſome to their old benefactors, who had a great number of penſioners to ſupport: but Maſter and Miſs Benſon had frequently the pleaſure of ſeeing them, and knew them from all their ſpecies by ſeveral particularities, which ſo long an acquaintance had given them the opportunity of obſerving.
Robin, in purſuance of his father’s advice, and agreeably to his own inclinations, attached himſelf to Mr. Benſon’s family, where he was an exceeding great favourite. He had before, under the conduct of his parents, made frequent excurſions into the garden, and was, by their direction, enabled to get up into trees, but his wing 202 K5v 202 wing never recovered ſufficiently to enable him to take long flights: however, he found himſelf at liberty to do as he pleaſed, and during the ſummer months, commonly paſſed moſt of his time abroad, and rooſted in trees, but viſited the tea-table every morning; and there he uſually met his ſiſter Peckſy, who took up her abode in the orchard, where ſhe enjoyed the friendſhip of her father and mother. Dicky and Flapſy, who thought their company too grave, flew giddily about together. In a ſhort time they were both caught in a trap-cage, and put into the aviary, which Dicky once longed to inhabit. Here they were at firſt very miſerable; but after a while, recollecting their good parent’s advice, and the example of the Linnets, and Pheaſants, they at length reconciled themſelves to their lot, and each met with a mate, with whom they lived tolerably happy.
From the foregoing examples, I hope my young readers will ſelect the beſt for their own imitation, and take warning by the reſt, otherwiſe my hiſtories have been written in vain.
Happy would it be for the animal creation, if every human being, like good Mrs. Benſon, conſulted the welfare of inferior creatures, and neither ſpoiled them by indulgence, nor injured them 203 K6r 203 them by tyranny! Happy would mankind be, if every one, like her, acted in conformity to the will of their Maker; by cultivating in their own minds, and thoſe of their children, the divine principle of universal benevolence!
Lately publiſhed, by the ſame Author, For Schools and Families,
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