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It hung at the end of the thread, uttering cries, and sometimes raising itself, as if making an effort to fly away.
11. "All the swallows in and around Paris, and perhaps from places more remote, soon assembled, to the number of several thousands. Their flight was like a cloud; all uttering a cry of pity and alarm. After some hesitation and a tumultuous council, one of them hit upon a device for delivering their companion, communicated it to the rest, and all at once began to put it into execution.
12. "They arranged themselves in a long line, flew rapidly past the poor prisoner, and, in passing, struck the pack of thread with their bills. These efforts, directed to one point, were continued for half an hour, when the thread was severed and the captive set free. But the flock remained until night, chattering continually in a tone which no longer betrayed anxiety, and seeming to be congratulating each other, and talking over the story of their achievements."15
13. The todies, which are a small family of beautiful birds, somewhat resembling the kingfishers, are found chiefly within the tropics of both hemispheres. The bright red spot on the throat of the green tody of the West Indies is said to attract insects, just as a candle attracts moths. The trogons are also a small family, but one pre-eminent in beauty and brilliancy of coloring, which is usually a metallic golden-green, strongly contrasted with scarlet, black, and brown.
14. The kingfishers, which are generally birds of gay plumage, are distributed over the world; but the warmer parts of India, Africa, and South America have the greatest share. This bird delights in murmuring streams and falling waters; not, however, merely that they may soothe his ear, but for a gratification somewhat more substantial. Amid the roar of the cataract, or over the foam of a torrent, he sits perched upon an overhanging bough, glancing his piercing eye in every direction below for his scaly prey, which, with a sudden circular plunge, he sweeps from its native element, and swallows in an instant. The kingfisher has a loud and harsh voice, and builds his nest in holes which he digs in the banks of streams. When the mother-bird is disturbed on the nest, she will frequently drop on the water, as if severe
ly wounded, and flutter as if unable to rise from the stream, in order to induce the intruder to wade or swim after her.
"THE FOWLS OF THE AIR SHALL TEACH THEE."
A SWALLOW, in the spring,
Day after day she toiled
With patient art'; but ere her work was crowned',
And dashed it to the ground.
She found the ruin wrought;
Yet not cast down, forth from her place she flew,
But scarcely had she placed
The last soft feather on its ample floor,
When wicked hand, or chance, again laid waste
But still her heart she kept,
What truth is here, O man'?
R. S. S. ANDROS.
THE SWALLOW PARTY.
To my reed roof your nest of clay,
At the gray dawn of day."-CHARLOTTE SMITH.
3. Two barn swallows came into our wood-shed in the spring-time. Their busy, earnest twitterings led me at once to suspect that they were looking out a building-spot; but, as a carpenter's bench was under the window, and hammer
ing, sawing, and planing were frequently going on, I had lit tle hope they would choose a location1 under our roof.
4. To my surprise, however, they soon began to build in the crotch of a beam over the open door-way. I was de lighted, and spent much time in watching them. It was, in fact, a beautiful little drama2 of domestic love; the motherbird was so busy and important, and her mate was so attentive. He scarcely ever left the side of the nest. There he was, all day long, twittering in tones that were most obviously the outpourings of love.
5. Sometimes he would bring in a straw or a hair to be interwoven in the precious little fabric. One day my attention was arrested by a very unusual twittering, and I saw him circling round with a large downy feather in his bill. He bent over the unfinished nest, and offered it to his mate with the most graceful and loving air imaginable; and when she put up her mouth to take it, he poured forth such a gush of gladsome sound! It seemed as if pride and affection had swelled his heart till it was almost too big for his little bosom.
6. During the process of incubation3 he volunteered to perform his share of household duty. Three or four times a day he would, with coaxing twitterings, persuade his patient mate to fly abroad for food; and the moment she left the eggs, he would take her place, and give a loud alarm whenever cat or dog came about the premises. When the young ones came forth he shared in the mother's toil, and brought at least half the food for his greedy little family.
7. When the young became old enough to fly, the gravest philosopher would have laughed to watch their manœuvres. Such chirping and twittering! such diving down from the nest, and flying up again! such wheeling round in circles, talking to the young ones all the while! such clinging to the sides of the shed with their sharp claws, to show the timid little fledgelings that there was no need of falling!
8. For three days all this was carried on with increasing activity. It was obviously an infant flying-school. But all the talking and twittering were of no avail. The little downy things looked down, and then looked up, and, alarmed at the wide space around them, sank down into the nest again.
9. At length the parents grew impatient, and summoned their neighbors. As I was picking up chips one day, I found my head encircled by a swarm of swallows. They flew up to the nest, and chattered away to the young ones; they clung to the walls, looking back to tell how the thing was done; they dived, and wheeled, and balanced, and floated in a manner perfectly beautiful to behold.
10. The pupils were evidently much excited. They jumped up on the edge of the nest, and twittered, and shook their feathers, and waved their wings, and then hopped back again, as if they would have said, "It is pretty sport, but we can not do it."
11. Three times the neighbors came in and repeated their graceful lessons. The third time two of the young birds gave a sudden plunge downward, and then fluttered, and hopped, till they alighted on a small log. And O, such praises as were warbled by the whole troop! the air was filled with their joy! Some flew round, swift as a ray of light; others perched on the hoe-handle and the teeth of the rake; multitudes clung to the wall; and two were swinging, in the most graceful style, on a pendents hoop. Never, while memory lasts, shall I forget that swallow party.
12. The whole family continued to be our playmates until the falling leaves gave token of approaching winter. For some time the little ones came home regularly to their nest at night. Their familiarity was wonderful. If I hung my gown on a nail, I found a little swallow perched on the sleeve. If I took a nap in the afternoon, my waking eyes were greeted by a swallow on the bedpost: in the summer twilight they flew about the sitting-room in search of flies, and sometimes lighted on chairs and tables. But at last they flew away to more genial skies, with a whole troop of relations and neighbors. It was painful to me to think that I should never know them from other swallows, and that they would have no recollection of me.
14 FLEDGE'-LING, a young bird just furnished with feathers.
LO-CA'-TION, situation; building-place. 2 DRA'-MA, representation; act of a play.
9 IN-CU-BA'-TION, sitting on eggs for the 5 PEND'-ENT, hanging. purpose of hatching young.
6 GE-NI-AL, mild; cheerful; pleasant.