Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > The Surprise Book > VI Angelina’s Bird-Flower
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
VI Angelina’s Bird-Flower
Where the little brown bird came from, neither Maria nor Louisa nor Angelina knew, but he doubtless lived near, for he came every day to the window of the old brown house where the little Italian girls lived, lonely without their mother. It was a year since she had died and the days were long for Maria, Louisa and Angelina after their father left for work at six in the morning.

Maria was always up at five. In the early winter, mornings are dark and it takes courage to get up in a cold room and light the lamp and make the fire and cook breakfast. Maria was but twelve. She took her mother’s place as best she could. She helped her father. She tended Louisa and Angelina and if it had not been that the aunts took the two babies, she would have cared for them gladly too.

[Pg 78]Angelina and Louisa were, for the time, Maria’s “babies.” She let them play and she did the work herself. She had little time for amusement; it was always either school or housekeeping for her. There was breakfast and clearing up in the morning; washing and cleaning after school; dinner-getting and cleaning again at night, beside a hundred and one little things that a mother must see to, mending, tidying, straightening all things. At seven, the father came home tired. Then there was bed in the cold rooms and a new day of responsibility. Louisa and Angelina wore washed and ironed hair-ribbons and well done-up gingham dresses, mended as best Maria could. They took off their shoes and stockings when at home, to save the wear, and did in general as Maria told them except for the little brown bird. They would save their crusts for him in spite of Maria’s scoldings.

He came first on one of the lonely mornings before school time, when Maria was busy with housework and Louisa and Angelina were thawing the frosted window pane with their warm breath to look out at the chilly snow-bound road that led past the old brown house.[Pg 79] Louisa had thrown out a crust because she had not wanted to eat it and there—why, there was a little brown bird tugging at it in the snow!

“What’re you two laughing at so?” demanded Maria, looking up from dishwashing. “Take a-hold somebody and help here! I can’t take time to stand by the window an’ laugh at nothing when there’s work to be done!” But, dish-rag in hand, curiosity got the better of scolding and she peeped over Louisa’s shoulder and saw the little brown bird and his breakfast.

At first she smiled, too, then she frowned. “Louisa,” said she, “you are bad. It is you who threw out the crust of bread!”

There was no denial.

“And when bread costs money—and we cannot get enough to buy Angelina new shoes!”

“I would rather the bird had the crust,” defended Angelina. “The holes are not yet very big.”

But even as mother would have done, Maria watched the family purse, and Louisa ate crusts under her elder sister’s vigilant eye[Pg 80] each meal time. But there were always very big crumbs at Angelina’s plate and medium sized ones at Louisa’s. When it came time to clear the table, Louisa and Angelina, with a glance at each other, picked these up quickly and threw them out on the snow. It was exciting. Nobody knew when Maria would call either little sister to account: “Louisa, give me those crumbs. I will save them and make a pudding.” Always there seemed to be breakfast for the little brown bird in spite of this. He came regularly. Sometimes Louisa and Angelina had to pick the crumbs from the coal-hod where Maria’s over hasty housekeeping threw little ones; but always, always, always, they kept watch for the little brown bird. And the mornings before school time were less lonely because of his cheer. Indeed, as the days went by, he became very tame—tame enough to hop close to the pane as Louisa and Angelina breathlessly watched.

The mornings gradually grew lighter and the days passed on to the latter part of February. Louisa and Angelina talked much of their pet. Where did the little brown bird live? Could they make him so tame he would[Pg 81] come upon their hands? Would he learn to eat from their fingers? Perhaps there might be a nest with little bits of brown birds somewhere near the house next spring! Then, Angelina and Louisa might tame these perhaps! Maria, busy with housework, had no time to answer such questions. She merely sniffed.

“You two are forever talking about that little brown bird,” she said, “I have to think of other things: I think whether there is wood for the fire and whether there is enough food in the house. You, too, Louisa and Angelina, you have mouths to feed!”

It was true. There was not always enough. Louisa and Angelina knew it. They could well understand the little brown bird’s joy at finding plenty to eat. It was good to have a hearty meal. Then one day, before it was time to go to school, Louisa and Angelina missed the little brown bird! “Did you see him this morning?” they asked each other. “Maybe he has gone away and is making a nest.”

But the next day came and no little brown bird appeared. Another morning passed and[Pg 82] still no little brown bird! On their way home from school that day Louisa whispered to Angelina that she was going to hunt for him. And when Maria was busy, they crept out of the door and, barefoot in the cold mud, they searched for nests by the roadside bushes.

They found none.

The search led them hither and thither on and on up the hill near the brown house and toward a cluster of cottages where the Irish immigrants had formed a colony. Maria, shaking her finger violently, as she did when she wished to enforce a command, insisted always that neither Angelina nor Louisa should make friends or play with the Irish children there. “They throw stones—they are badly brought up,” she declared.

Up to this time, good little Angelina and Louisa had never come so close to these other tenements. But they wandered closer in their search for the little brown bird. It was Angelina who first spoke to the little boys that they met flinging stones there. “Have you seen a little brown bird?” she asked. “It might be our little bird that we have lost. Have you seen one anywhere, perhaps?”

[Pg 83]But the little boys simply made up faces and stuck out their tongues. No, they had not seen any brown birds to tell of—nor did they care. They would have thrown stones, had not a little smile from Angelina prevented it. Angelina felt sorry for the bad little boys who were rude.

Louisa drew her away. “Come, Ange, we will look in another place,” she urged. “If he has been hurt we will find him, maybe. I do not think they have hurt him,” she comforted. But in her heart she feared it.

So they pattered back toward home through the black chilly mud, searching the roadside. Quite suddenly Louisa came upon him lying limp and cold under a tree by the way. He would never twitter or chirp again. He would never come to the window or eat from their fingers or build a nest in spring. The two little sisters sat there by the roadside and cried and then they carried the little brown bird home and cried some more. Maria stopped her work and tried to be comforting. There was little to say. She did not scold very hard about the trip abroad in bare feet.

[Pg 84]They put him in the beautiful box that was Maria’s treasure—a box with a picture on its cover, a beautiful picture all red roses. They took him to a sunny spot near the roadside and gathered last autumn’s leaves to cover him. One could see the place from the window.

The mornings that came after the little brown bird went away, Ange and Louisa tried to enthuse over paper dolls that father had brought them, cut from a Sunday newspaper—but somehow they always drifted toward the window, even though they knew he would never come again.

And so time passed, long mornings, school and home-coming. It began to be spring. Grass came by the roadside bushes that showed wee buds to break into soft colors. Maria left the kitchen door open of a morning and Angelina sat on the stone before the doorway, thinking. Her eyes rested for a moment upon the place where they had placed the little brown bird under the leaves. She called to Louisa, “Oh, come—come! Let us see what the bird-flower is! We put him under the leaves in the earth, and there is[Pg 85] grown from him a flower! It is a bird-flower—a bird-flower, Louisa!”

They ran out to look at the little flower that grew over the spot where the little brown bird had been. “Is it so, Ange?” asked Louisa, willing to believe.

Full of excitement, they ran back to busy Maria. “Our little brown bird is grown to be a bird-flower,” they cried. “Come, Maria, come quickly and see! It is such a pretty flower, all like a star and white!”

Maria shook her head. “There are no bird-flowers,” she declared. But she followed them out to the sunny spot where the grass was growing green over the dead leaves and she thought it a beautiful flower. She let Louisa and Angelina talk of their bird-flower, but she smiled to herself.

But why should not little birds who have been stoned waken, with the flowers, in the spring sunlight? Louisa and Angelina believed in their bird-flower and they wondered, too, if all spring flowers came from little birds. At night when their father came home, they asked him. At first he laughed and did not understand. Maria explained.

[Pg 86]“They are children,” she smiled, “and they think a bird is like a bulb or seed. They cannot understand the difference. They watched the little brown bird all winter, and Louisa gave it crusts that she ought to have eaten. And they found it by the roadside where the rude children up the hill had killed it. We put the little bird under the leaves there and now that a flower has come in the place, they call it their bird-flower, father!”

Then he put a hand on each little head. “My little girls,” he said, “is it true—then call it your bird-flower if it comforts you. I will tell you what I think: they say that there are no little birds in heaven, for their souls do not live, they say. Yet I know there are children up there and that wherever the children are there must be birds to sing to them—even the angel children would want them. And I know that your mother would miss them, too, were they not there.”

In the stillness they heard a song sparrow trill from the bushes on the hillside.

“I would like to have our little brown bird sing to our mother,” Angelina suggested softly.

[Pg 87]“He might sing of us,” whispered Louisa.

But Maria was still.

“There are many birds left, my children. You too should sing and not be sad, for that is what is best. We will make happiness and brightness, you, my Angelina, and you, my Louisa. We will make a garden there in the place where you have found your star flower! I will get seeds. We will take Maria from her kitchen to help and there will be plenty to do in the early mornings before school then. Such weeds as you will have to watch for, to care for the beautiful flowers that I will plant! Ah, then your mornings will be so glad among the flowers!”

The three little girls smiled.

And the garden that grew up around Ange’s bird-flower all three of them called the garden of the little brown bird.

Marjorie’s Mystery


Marjorie’s May surprise was a paper May basket, of course. You know all about that. And the story pocket that came in May, Dotty had labelled:

“Open on May Day, too.”

Marjorie opened it right after the first pocket, but she had to keep the story till afternoon to read. She read it to Dotty after they came home. “I chose it because the little girl in the story was named after you,” smiled Dot. And so they had the funny story of “Marjorie’s Mystery.”


All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved