THE VISIT TO MRS. ADDIS'S.
"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 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 shall be by himself." On this they dropped their request, knowing that their parent was the best judge of what was proper to be done, and not doubting but that his affection would lead him to do everything 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 their father and mother frequently took a peep at him. and had the satisfaction of seeing him very safe by their friend 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.
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 sunset, when of a sudden 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 us."
"Yes, my dear indulgent father," cried Robin, "permit me to make my grateful acknowledgments for your kindness, and to assure you of my future obedience." The delighted parent accepted his submission, and the reconciliation was completed.
By this time Robin was greatly exhausted; his kind father therefore conducted him to a pump in the garden, where he refreshed himself with a few drops of water. He now felt himself greatly relieved; but on his father's asking him what he intended to do with himself at night, his spirit sank again, and he answered, he did not know.
"Well," said the father, "I have thought of an expedient to secure you from cold at least. In a part of the orchard, a very little way from here, there is a place belonging to our friend the gardener, where 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 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 stayed 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 showed his glorious face in the east, every individual of this affectionate family was awake: the father with impatience waited for the gardener's opening the tool-house; the 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?"
"Oh 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," said she. "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 surprised 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 shears 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 each 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, "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 brothers 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. It is now time to inquire after Harriet and her brother. These happy children reached home soon after they left the redbreasts, and related every circumstance of their expedition to their kind mamma, who, hearing the 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 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 carriage it was her intention to walk home, 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. Harriet was then dressed to attend her mamma. Mrs. Addis, to whose house they were going, was a widow lady; she had two children,—Charles, a boy of twelve years old, at school, and Augusta, about seven, at home. But these children were quite strangers to the Bensons.
On entering the hall Harriet took notice of a very disagreeable smell, and was surprised with the appearance of a parrot, paroquet, and a macaw, all in most superb 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 a 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.
After the usual compliments were over, Mrs. Benson said, "I have taken the liberty of bringing my daughter with me, in hopes of inducing you to favour us, in return, with the company of Miss Addis."
"You are very obliging," replied the lady, "but indeed I never take my children with me, they are so rude; it will be time enough some years hence for Augusta to go visiting."
"I am sorry to hear you say this," said Mrs. Benson. "You are displeased, then, I fear, at my having brought Harriet with me." This in reality was the case, as Mrs. Benson plainly perceived, for the lady made no answer, and looked very cross.
Harriet was curious to examine the variety of animals which Mrs. Addis had collected together; but as her mamma never suffered her to run about when she accompanied her to other people's houses, she sat down, only glancing her eye first to one part of the room and then to the other, as her attention was successively attracted.
As Mrs. Benson requested to see Miss Addis, her mamma could not refuse sending for her; she therefore rang the bell, and ordered that Augusta might come down 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 misunderstood it. However, on his lady repeating her words, he went up-stairs to tell the nursery-maid the child was to be taken to the drawing-room. "What new fancy is this?" said she; "who would ever have thought of her wanting the child in the drawing-room? I have no stockings clean for her, nor a frock to put on but what is ragged. I wish she would spend less money on her cats and dogs and monkeys, and then her child would appear as she ought to do." "I won't go down-stairs, Nanny," said the child. "But you must," said Nanny; "besides, there's a pretty young lady come to see you, and if you go like a good girl, you shall have a piece of sugared bread and butter for your supper; and you shall carry the new doll which your godmamma gave you, to show to your little visitor."
These bribes had the desired effect, and Miss Addis went into the drawing-room; but instead of entering it like a young lady, she stopped at the door, hung down her head, and looked like a little simpleton. Harriet 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 girl by the hand and lead her to me? I believe she is afraid of strangers." On this Harriet rose to do so; but Augusta, apprehensive that she would snatch her doll away, was going to run out, only she could not open the door.
Mrs. Benson was quite shocked to see how sickly, dirty, and ragged this poor child was, and how vulgar also, for want of education; 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 notice 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 upon the floor. Mrs. Addis, seeing this, flew to the little animal, endeavoured to soothe it with caresses, and was going to beat Augusta for touching it, but Mrs. Benson interceded for her; she was, however, sent away into the nursery. Happily for children, there are not many such mammas as Mrs. Addis.
The tea-things being set, the footman came in with the urn; and, both his hands being employed, he left the door open. To the great terror of Harriet, and even of her mamma too, he was followed by the monkey they saw in the hall, which, having broken his chain, came to make a visit to his lady. Mrs. Addis, far from being disconcerted, seemed highly pleased with his cleverness. "Oh, my sweet dear Pug!" said she, "are you come to see us? Pray show how like a gentleman you can behave." Just as she had said this he leaped upon the tea-table, and took cup after cup and threw them on the ground till he broke half the set; then jumped on the sofa 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 greatly diverted with his wit, was obliged to have him caught and confined; after 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 perfection of her birds and beasts, and a variety of uninteresting particulars were related concerning their wit or misfortunes.
On hearing the clock strike seven, Mrs. Addis begged Mrs. Benson to excuse her, as 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 ill-bred, 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 Harriet was happy to be alone with her mamma; she, however, forbore making 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. Addis should summon them.
Harriet could not refrain 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 Lucy 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 which she ought to feel for her child to creatures which 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 lapdog is, I am sure, a miserable object, full of diseases, the consequence of luxurious living. How enviable is the lot of a spaniel that is at liberty to be the companion of his master's walks, when compared with his! Pug, I am certain, would enjoy himself much more in his native woods; 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 do not wish to prolong my visit."
Saying this, Mrs. Benson 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; this gave them an opportunity of hearing the following discourse, which greatly distressed Mrs. Benson, and perfectly terrified the gentle Harriet.
"Begone, wretch!" said 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," said Mrs. Addis, "so depart this instant. Oh, my poor dear, dear creature! I fear you will never recover.—John!—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 sat 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 everything 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 will never 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 show 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 fellow-creatures, in thus robbing them of the love you owe them, to lavish it away on those animals, which are really sufferers by your kindness."
At this instant the footman entered to inform Mrs. Benson that her servant was come; on which, accompanied by her daughter, she without further ceremony left Mrs. Addis to compose herself as she could.