« السابقةمتابعة »
ther, and therefore establishes to demonstration how they ought to live together. Montaigne, as philosophically as prettily, says, that he doubts whether his dog has not as much pleasure in him, as he in his dog ; and I think it clear that even our little Robin-redbreast, however shy of his company, comes to us because he likes us; while the simple fact, that we like his coming, establishes our duty to treat him, when he is come, with peace, if not with bounty. We should take no pleasure in him if nature had not a further object in view ; — that of making us his friend !"
“Oh! papa!” cried Richard and Emily, both at once; " when winter is here, and the poor Robin is hungry, and will show himself at our window, and eat our crumbs; how pleased we shall be to throw them to him upon the snow, and the hard ground, every morning, and every evening; and to hear him sing to us his little song, in the darkest and dullest weather!"
Their papa and mamma praised them for these kind thoughts; and I flew to drink and bathe at the edge of a brook which ran through the garden, thankful that human creatures felt so much goodness toward little Red-breasts, and rejoicing in the prospect of hospitality at Burford Cottage, during the hardships of the approaching season.
A lover of the meadows and the woods
The day, however, had not gone by, before a different scene was spread around me; nor before I thought myself the most deficient in foresight, of all the mortals of the fields and towns, in having ventured to count upon enjoying the comforts acceptable in winter, at the hands of the gentle inhabitants of Burford Cottage!
There lives, in the midst of the village, and near a clump of lowering elm-trees, a Mr. Ephraim Gubbins, a somewhat aged schoolmaster, who with his wife, scarcely younger than himself, and a pretty and amiable daughter, in her twentieth year, are all the inhabitants of a small antique dwelling, once the abode of prouder people; except that in its large oaken parlour, there is assembled, thrice in every day, Sundays, and Wednesday and Saturday afternoons excepted, half of all the boys that belong to the village and its neighbourhood. Mr. Gubbins is a staid person, mild in his manners, and, as I had hitherto thought, one of the worthiest and most hospitable of men. His habits are studious; he reads much; and when he can escape from his school-room, he walks about the fields and lanes, climbs the sides of the hills, penetrates into the deepest woods, and often pauses, either to pick up something which he thinks curious, or to gather flowers, which he carries home to his wife or daughter; or to look into the streams, or at the clouds, or at the stars, or to delight in the open landscape, or to listen to little birds like myself, or to the lark, or to the thrush; or apparently to meditate upon what he sees or hears, or upon the recollections that come into his mind. Sometimes observed, and sometimes otherwise, often have I been the companion of his walks, no less than a guest upon his floor, or have come upon him unawares at the stile, or by the hedge-side, or among the bramble-bushes; and, except that I have been upon my guard against his dog, never did I think myself, either at home or abroad, but as visiting, or meeting, or travelling with a friend to me, and to every thing else around him. Meditation and research seem two of his greatest pleasures; and Mr. Gubbins is even distinguished for the merciful things which he teaches, concerning birds and beasts, and all the animal creation; and especially for his regard to the duties of hospitality to the Red-breast, and his strict commands upon his boys, never to betray the confidence with which our little race enters and risks its safety in the abode of man; lessons in which his wife and daughter echo all that comes from his mouth; his wife adding to his precepts the examples of houses that have trembled, in storms, wherein the Robin had been molested; and his daughter seizing the cat into her arms whenever I alighted near the door, and repeating, to the praise of all my ancestors, the story of the pious cares of the Robin-red-breasts over the Children in the Wood! How, then, could I, a Robin-red-breast, have expected sorrow from any deed of Mr. Ephraim Gubbins?
It is with the second day of the week that I have begun the series of events which belong to my entertaining and instructive history. Upon the morning of Monday, my song attracted the attention of Mr. Paulett and his children; upon that of Tuesday it renewed the conversation at the breakfast-table; and now, the Tuesday afternoon beholds me looking out for part of my supper (as, in the months of autumn, it was my general wont to do) in the garden of Mr. Gubbins. This particular afternoon, however, the shade of the elder-trees, among the dark leaves and purple berries of which latter were now my movements, was lengthened over a delicate and unusual little heap of food, which, somewhat to my surprise, lay upon the ground; and which, though at a distance from the house, had every appearance of household fare, and might have passed for the kind crumblings of cheese, and eggs, and sugar, and the whitest bread, expressly prepared for myself, by the pretty fingers of Mr. Gubbins's daughter, Mary! So choice a meal, and such singular good fortune, were things not to be neglected; and, while I rejoiced in the latter, I scrutinized the former, first with my right eye, and then with my left, as, from perch to perch among the branches, I descended toward the treat! What even satisfied me that the dish had been positively intended for my use, was the peculiarity, that it was carefully concealed and fenced around, upon three sides, hy as many new bricks, carefully and orderly set upon their edges, in such manner as to make a little case or chest (I scarcely know which), and so as to make a perfect parallelogram in figure; while at the top it was almost entirely shut up against all unwelcome guests, by a lid, or door, or covering, formed by another brick, which, in some manner or other, was made to stand aslant, and only to afford room sufficient for me to enter in, and to feed freely upon
the feast! So much apparent care and partiality, for so humble an individual as myself (for I could not doubt that it was I who was the flattered object of all this preparation and contrivance), absolutely pleased my vanity as highly, or more highly, than the prospect of the supper pleased my palate; and, in another instant, I had descended into the little case, and opened upon a crumb of cheese the two mandibles of my bill!
But in what terms shall I describe the catastrophe that followed? A sudden darkness, a loud noise, and an inward shaking of all the bricks, from the surfaces to the very centres of their porous bodies, deprived me, for an instant, of all consciousness, and nearly of all sensation. An earthquake and a total eclipse conjoined, these were the least of the fearful phenomena of nature which I could imagine, unfortunately occurring at the very commencement of my luxurious supper, the very first mouthful of which had fallen untasted from my bill! To enhance, too, the difficulties of the place and situation in which I was, there were timbers between the bricks, of which I had previously taken no account, but which, as I now know, materially assisted the subtle construction of the extraordinary fabric. There was, in the first place, a wooden pile, or low upright stool or pillar, deeply implanted, and occupying the central place between the two bricky sides, while it stood forward in the parallelogram, like the foremast of a ship. Then, there was a forked twig from a tree, clipped at the two ends of the fork, and also behind the point from which they diverged ; and it was upon the two branches of this fork, as well as upon the earth beneath, that the delicate crumbs, beneath the shameful temptation of which I fell, had been laid, with a skill and artifice as marvellous as