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III The Penny Bank Window
“That penny bank is to blame for it all,” said Billy Williams. “If it hadn’t been for the bank, nothing would have happened.” The bank was quite full of pennies that Billy had been saving carefully ever since his birthday. It had been given him then with nine times nine bright pennies to put into it. That was because Billy was nine years old.

One afternoon Billy took up the china bank and shook it to hear it rattle. Really, when the bank rattled, it made Billy feel tremendously rich. There was almost a whole dollar in the bank by now! But right here, out fell one dull penny and it rolled along the floor.

Billy let it roll till it stopped and the rattle of the bank seemed quite as big without the missing penny, so he suddenly decided to spend it—but for what? Why, just at that very minute, Billy felt hungry. Mother was[Pg 36] off at work and would not be home to get their dinner till six. Billy was all alone in the rooms over the drygoods shop where he lived with his mother. He had eaten the bread and butter that she left out for his lunch and he was hungry. It suddenly dawned upon him that he wanted a lollypop and that he could find a nice, sweet, red one at the candy store around the corner. “All right!” beamed Billy. He put the dull penny in his pocket and raced off to get the lollypop.

If it hadn’t been for the bank, there would not have been the lollypop. If it had not been for the lollypop, there would have been no penny bank window. So, you see, the bank was responsible. Hardly had Billy bought the red lollypop and torn the paper off than he became quite absorbed in eating it—and he stepped down from the curb at the street corner quite without looking. It was a careless thing to do, for he didn’t see what was coming. What was coming happened to be an automobile that rounded the corner without tooting its horn!

The doctor felt Billy all over and pronounced him a very lucky boy indeed. “There[Pg 37] might have been nothing left of you, my son,” said he. “But there happens to be a good deal left in spite of the fact that your foot got bumped into. You’ll have to keep quiet for a while; then you’ll be as good as new.”

“I suppose I mightn’t be so lucky another time,” grinned Billy, “but I guess I’ll be more careful in crossing streets. It’s the fault of the lollypop.” But it didn’t seem very lucky to be hurt and have to sit all day in a chair while mother was away. It was fearfully lonely. Even though Mrs. Finger from the next-door flat brought in magazines and two picture books; even though, after school, some of the boys came in to play checkers and dominoes and they stayed as long as they could when they really wanted to be outdoors with the other kids. Even though Billy learned to knit for the soldiers; even though he snipped pillows for the Red Cross, it was frightfully lonely till mother came home from work.

After he watched the children pass on their way to school one morning, his eyes roved across the yard where the leafless trees beyond shut off the view of the roofs of other houses.[Pg 38] Below in the quiet street hopped sparrows. It was cold out there and they found nothing to eat. Billy bent forward and lifted the window. From his breakfast tray that mother had left, he took a slice of bread and tossed it far out. The sparrows darted for it and chirped and twittered. Billy laughed. “Don’t I wish they’d come up here to the window,” he sighed. “Guess I’ll try it an’ see if they will.” And there was one venturesome sparrow who did come! Billy was still watching him when the doctor came for his morning visit.

“If I were you, Billy Williams, I’d start a bird window,” the doctor suggested. “My little girl knows all about bird windows and she’s made several at home. The birds come every day. That foot looks as if it were doing well—suppose I ask my little girl to come in and make you a bird window?”

Billy said he’d like it jim dandy. It really was awfully lonesome. Nothing ever passed in the street. If there were birds to watch, it would be fun. “You won’t forget about the bird window,” he cautioned, as the doctor took[Pg 39] up his grip to go. And the doctor said he surely wouldn’t.

Knitting progressed that day rather slowly. All Billy’s bread went into the street to the sparrows. But Billy had reached almost as far as the end of his gray muffler in the afternoon—and the boys had come in from school for a hasty, “Hello, kid, we’re glad you’re alive and gay! We can’t stop because—” Yes, of course, they couldn’t come every day but it was lonesome. Then there came a knock at the door and in came a little girl. She was as bright and cheerful as her crimson cloak.

“Hello,” she greeted. “If you’re the boy that ate the lollypop and got run into, I know all about you. I’m the doctor’s little girl. I came to help you make a bird window—bird windows are my specialty, you know,” she laughed.

“I’ve got some money, if you need to buy anything,” Billy announced. “I want a real jim dandy window! You’ll make me a nice one, won’t you? I like birds and animals, don’t you? I never had any pets but I always did want a bird or something. Maybe I can[Pg 40] tame the birds when they come to my window. How do you fix it?”

“Well, you have to have a shelf of some kind—a box that is shallow will make that,” explained the doctor’s little girl. “I brought some nails and a hammer with me and I brought a lump of suet that the cook gave me. She sometimes won’t give it to me but this time I told her about you and she gave it without another word. She says she’s sorry for you and so’m I. I’m going to fix you up a splendid window.”

The doctor’s little girl thrust up the sash of Billy Williams’ window. “I’m awfully hard up,” she pursued, “or I’d have bought some sunflower seed to bring with me. You ought to have sunflower seed to sprinkle on your bird-shelf, for it brings the chickadees and the purple finches and ever so many other kinds of birds. The woodpeckers come for the suet and if you have peanuts, beautiful big blue jays will come and carry them off. Could I have twenty cents to buy sunflower seed, do you suppose? It costs ten cents a pound at the druggist’s.”

Billy showed her the penny bank and they[Pg 41] shook it and shook it till there was really more money than twenty cents—“If it hadn’t been for the bank, I’d have been running about now,” Billy grumbled. “That bank’s got to give me something nice now anyhow!”

“Well, I’m shaking it to punish it,” laughed the doctor’s little girl. “I’m shaking it ever so hard. I don’t believe it likes to be shaken. You did have ever so much money in it. I don’t wonder that you wanted the lollypop!”

She slipped the money into her purse and went off to make purchases. Billy told her to get anything that the money would buy. He wanted a bird window that would be the best anybody could have. He waited anxiously for her to come back and when she came, her arms were full.

Billy had to laugh. She had a small evergreen tree that she had bought for thirty-five cents. She had two pounds of sunflower seed that had cost twenty cents—oh, ever so much seed comes for that price and it will last a long time, too. She had a shallow grocery box that was long and flat and without any cover. It was about the length of Billy’s window ledge. She had a package that came from the[Pg 42] ten cent store. When it was undone, it showed two tin strainers at five cents apiece. Now, what did all this mean?

The doctor’s little girl rolled up her sleeves and put on Billy Williams’ mother’s blue gingham apron. First, she took the shallow grocery box and nailed it to the window ledge. Billy was surprised to see that the doctor’s little girl could drive a long nail almost as well as he himself!

“That’s the bird-shelf,” she explained. “You sprinkle sunflower seed on it every day. The birds can light on its rim. Some days you’ll have as many as twenty at a time. The chickadees are darling and the purple finches are beautiful and they sing too.”

She took a handful of striped gray and white sunflower seed and sprinkled it on Billy’s new bird-shelf. “You’ll have to wait a while till the birds find out about the shelf,” she said, “but it doesn’t take them long.” Then she took the little green fir tree and some stout cord. She tied the wee tree to one side of Billy’s blind. She tied its trunk at top and at bottom with several twists of heavy string. It made the window pretty—almost as if one[Pg 43] were looking out over the top of a fir tree. The doctor’s little girl paused after her work and smiled at Billy. “I think that’s nice, don’t you?” she asked.

Billy nodded. “What’s it for?” he inquired.

“You tie bits of suet lumps to its limbs,” she explained. “The birds will light on the branches. Suppose you cut up the suet into two or three-inch lumps. Tie string around each and tie the lumps to the different branches. Can you do it?”

Yes, Billy could. The little girl had to help a bit, but not so very much.

“The strainers are to be tacked up. You put seed into them. When it rains, the seed doesn’t get soaked. Birds don’t like the soaked seed, you know.” The strainers went at the other side of Billy’s blind, opposite the fir tree.

It seemed as if the bird window was all done but it wasn’t! The doctor’s little girl took a good-sized tree-twig that she had brought, and nailed this against the window frame to make a perch. There were three perches made this way. She put them near the two strainers and tied suet to each perch.[Pg 44] She said that the woodpeckers would come to these tree-perches; they didn’t come to the fir-tree because—well, woodpeckers couldn’t.

When all this was done, the doctor’s little girl took something else from her pocket. It was what Billy thought—bird-seed. It was a mixture of seed: millet, wheat, rape, cracked corn. She said that one could get it mixed at a grain store—eight cents a pound. If Billy wanted her to, she’d buy some and bring it to him tomorrow, but for today all was done.

It was twilight and almost dark by now, so they shut down the window. The birds must all have gone off to shelter. It was too late to expect anything of the bird window that day, but the doctor’s little girl promised to put a bit of suet on a bush under Billy’s window as she went home. It was to attract the birds and call attention to the window.

That night when mother came home, she thought the bird window a splendid thing. Billy dreamed of it all night. Indeed, he could not wait for morning to come. He woke at four o’clock and kept wondering if any birds would come. Then, because he was so drowsy, he fell asleep. He woke with a[Pg 45] sudden start just at sunrise. Was it true?—Yes, yes! Knock—knock—knock! What kind of bird was it? There was a bird at the suet that was tied to the perch at the window. That must be it! Billy sat up in bed and bent forward to look. There on the perch that was highest was a black and white bird with a bright scarlet cap—it was brother woodpecker busy eating a breakfast of suet!

My, how exciting! Billy hardly dared to draw a breath, he was so afraid that the woodpecker would see him and fly away. Billy had hardly been in his chair near the window for more than a few minutes when there was a flutter of wings and a strange little slate-gray bird lit upon another perch and circled it, making queer, cheerful little noises. The bird had a black head and it seemed full of sociable curiosity. Billy wondered what it was. He did not remember ever to have seen a bird like it before! He resolved to ask the doctor’s little girl what it was. And then came wee little birds that called dee—dee—dee. They were the chickadees, little gray birds with black hoods. They seemed very tame. They came in a cluster and besieged the limbs of the little[Pg 46] green fir tree. While they were there, came birds like sparrows, too. They were not sparrows though—some of them were rosy red in color. Oh, they must be what the doctor’s little girl had called purple finches! My, how exciting! How they quarreled! What fun! They were all over the bird-shelf, eating the striped sunflower seed in a very hungry way. When a big blue jay came screaming toward a near-by tree, they flew off in a hurry and the blue jay with his crest acock carefully reconnoitered the premises and decided to eat from the bird-shelf too. Oh, wasn’t it gay! When the doctor came, he quite agreed that it was jolly and he brought a bird book from his little girl and a package of the mixed seed that he laughingly called “medicine.”

It must have been medicine, for Billy’s foot, so the doctor claimed, grew well in a wonderfully rapid manner from this time on. And the time passed so quickly at the bird window that really the days went by before Billy had time to be lonely. The birds were great company. The same ones came from day to day—the little Miss Chickadees were the tamest. They really learned to take shelled peanuts[Pg 47] from Billy’s fingers and to sit upon his warm hand while they ate. Brother Woodpecker and his wife came early. They needed no alarm clock to wake them. Billy heard the knock—knock before he was in his chair of a morning. Then the curious little nuthatches,—those strange little gray birds with the funny noise that sounded like quack, quack—they came, too, regularly. In snow and sleet and rain and sun, Billy had his bird friends. He had the doctor’s little girl, too, some days. They sat by the window and played games while she told him all she knew about birds. Then, when his foot got so well that the doctor let him go out, Billy’s first trip was to the drugstore to buy more sunflower seed with her.

Everybody came to see Billy’s window and the fame of it spread far and wide. Billy always declared afterwards that it had almost been worth the red lollypop accident, but it was the penny bank that really did it all, you know!

Angelina’s Valentine

THE FEBRUARY SURPRISE

Of course, anybody might guess that the valentine card came in the first pocket of the Surprise Book in February. It did! It was a red heart cut from bright red paper and it had a verse upon it, too. The story for February was a valentine story, too. It was in a pocket that was sealed with an embossed rose. The writing said:

    “Open after school at 3.30 on Valentine’s Day afternoon.”

Marjorie and Dotty watched the clock till the exact seconds had ticked. Then, with the arm of her own Valentine about her, Marjorie read aloud the story of “Angelina’s Valentine.”
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