“When they heard this the Bob Lincolns were grieved at heart. They loved their gay black and white uniforms and sorrowed at the thought of parting with them. So they humbly begged the Master of Life to let them keep their gay clothing and tell them some other way of escaping their enemies.
“‘There is no other way,’ said he. ’But tell me, when do you suffer least from your enemies? Is it when you are dwelling in your old northern home, or when you are dwelling in the sunny Southland?’ ‘When we are dwelling in our old homes,’ answered the Bob Lincolns.
“‘Very well, then,’ said the Master of Life, ’while you are dwelling in your old home, all the male Bob Lincolns may wear their black and white garments. Nevertheless they shall suffer for their vanity, for their enemies shall find and slay many of them.
“’But your wives and sisters must be content with a quieter dress. It is they who have the most to do with tending your nests and rearing your young ones. If they should wear your gay black and white garments, your enemies would find and kill you all, and the Bob Lincoln family would perish from the earth,’
“That is the story,” said Bob Lincoln, “that my grandfather told me long ago in our distant winter home in the Southland. If you keep watch, little boy, for a month or so, you will see me put off my black and white suit for one just like Mrs. Bob Lincoln’s. Then you will know that we are getting ready for our journey to our distant winter home in the sunny Southland, far away across the great, salt sea.”
“Now,” said Bob Lincoln, when he had finished his story, “it’s time for me to be off to see how Mrs. Bob Lincoln is getting along.”
And off he flew before little Luke had time to thank him for his pleasant story. The little boy sat quietly for a while under the old apple tree. Then he got up and went slowly back to the house.
During the long summer days little Luke went often to visit the Bob Lincolns. The more he watched them, the more he grew to love them. Bob Lincoln himself was the merriest, jolliest fellow of all the little boy’s feathered friends.
Little Luke saw the baby birds as soon as they had broken their shells. He watched the anxious parents feed them. And how those young Bob Lincolns could eat! How their busy parents had to work to support the little family! Back and forth over the meadow the old birds flew hour after hour, searching for food for their hungry babies. And they were always hungry! Whenever they heard anyone coming, they would close their eyes, stretch their long necks, and open wide their yellow mouths.
The young birds grew larger and hungrier every day. And every day Bob Lincoln became busier and quieter. Little Luke noticed that the jolly little fellow did not sing so much and that his gay coat was becoming rusty. One by one his bright feathers fell out and dull brown or yellow ones took their place, until at last he looked just like his little wife.