JACK AND THE GARDENER.
“Oh! fie upon you, little birds,
To eat up all our cherries!
Why don’t you go into the woods
And dine upon the berries?”—C. H.
A few days after Tom had shown his cousins his collection of birds’ eggs, Jack, as he was coming away from a visit to Lion, passed by the end of the potting-shed. The gardener was in there, and he called out, “Master Jack, I’ve got something for you in here.”
Jack went into the shed, and the gardener fumbled about on a shelf till he found what he was looking for.
“There,” he said, “is a thrush’s nest; I thought you’d like it. I took it out of one of the trees in the orchard. It has got four pretty eggs in it.”
[Illustration: JACK AND THE THRUSH’S NEST. Page 36.]
“Oh,” said Jack, “how splendid! What a treasure! It does seem a shame, though, to take it from the birds.”
His delight soon got the better of his scruples, especially when he heard the gardener say,—
“There are too many birds about here already. Missus does encourage them so, that they are as bold as possible. I can tell you, Master Jack, who gets most of the cherries. It is not us that does; it’s them birds, especially the thrushes and blackbirds. I’m up early, and I see; and I hear ’em too before I’m up. There they are, at the fruit as soon as ’tis light. They have their breakfasts hours before you get yours. One wouldn’t grudge them a few cherries now and again; but to clear the trees as they do is downright greediness, I say. And I wouldn’t be hard on them for taking a few currants, for we have plenty of them; but they just go and strip off the largest and reddest of them, and leave the stalk hanging, and that’s all that’s left of a fine bunch. Then as to the pease—you like pease, don’t you, Master Jack? your grandpa’s uncommon fond of ’em—well, I have to sow the pease pretty thick, or, I’ll warrant ye, we shouldn’t have a tidy row come up at all. I have to dodge about with netting and scarecrows to keep what we do get; for I hate a patchy row, I do. Last winter was a very cold season. I don’t know how you found it in London, Master Jack, but here there was a long hard frost for three weeks. We’d had a good deal of rain; then it turned to snow, and froze and snowed again till the snow lay pretty thick all over the ground. Then it cleared up, and the sun shone; but the sun hasn’t much power at that time of the year, so it did not melt the snow. It was bitter cold by day, and worse at night. The birds that eat grubs and insects could not get any food at all. So your grandma had a big lump of fat put into a piece of coarse netting, and it was hung up in a likely place—the long branch of a tree—where the birds could get well at it. You should have seen the poor creatures pecking away! It was soon gone, and we had to