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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/119

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111
BIRDS' JUDGMENTS OF MEN.

one of the windows of my room open. All at once I heard a sound of wings, and perceived a redthroat, its bill still bordered with the yellow characteristic of infancy, fluttering frightened across the room. It had probably, in its first attempt at flight, met a cat or a squirrel, and had taken refuge with me under the stress of a panic-stricken terror. It was so frightened that, in trying to get out, it did not see the open window, and beat obstinately against the glass of those which were shut. I thought it best not to interfere, lest I might frighten it still more; hoping, besides, that it would be more perspicacious when it had recovered its self-possession. It soon desisted from its attempts and perched itself on a corner of my bookcase. I watched it with the corners of my eyes without moving; I observed that its respiration gradually became more regular, and its expression resumed its calm. It completely recovered itself in a few moments, but, instead of trying to escape, it stayed where it was, uttering frequent light cries. In response to these calls, another redthroat came in, adult and experienced, evidently the father of our frightened one. He flew rapidly round in my room, like one examining the resources and means of the country; then, having beaten his wings for a few seconds before his offspring to encourage him to follow him, I fancied, he went out alone with a jerk of his wings, without missing the window. Here, I thought, is a father who takes things philosophically; sure that his chick will be in no danger, he plants it there and goes back to his business. But I judged too hastily. In less than a minute the father came back, bringing a caterpillar in his bill; he gave it to the little one, then went out, returned, and made twenty journeys for provisions, bringing in all sorts of insects, to the great satisfaction of the young one, which became quite contented and made itself well at home, erecting its feathers, smoothing them, working itself into a ball, and peeping. But its skill did not correspond with its appetite: it dropped the insects on my books, not to my pleasure; then there came a spider of respectable size, when, having a horror of spiders as unreasonable as unconquerable, and disliking the litter left by the little bird on my books, I thought it was time to give these creatures to understand that their familiarity was a little in excess of the limits. I opened all the windows, and, shaking my handkerchief, sent them to continue their feast in the woods.

Among our birds are a pair of redstarts which faithfully return to us every April. We are old acquaintances, and a degree of confidence is established between us above anything that can be imagined. These birds habitually make their nests, within reach of the hand, in a large ivy that grows on the wall near the garden gate. Whether this situation had ceased to please them, or some accident had happened to a first nest that we did not see,