Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE

FIRST

CLASS READER.

.

I. - ACCOUNT OF A WONDERFUL SKY-LARK.

[This interesting sketch of a remarkable sky-lark, which was domesticated for many years in a family in the south-east of Ireland, is taken from the Illustrated Magazine of Art. After stating that the bird was found in a nest in the grass, when fully fledged, by some mowers, and presented to the young ladies of the family, the narrative pro ceeds as follows:-)

We need scarcely say that we are much opposed to the practice of depriving poor little animals of their natural liberty, and incarcerating them in cages and such like portable prisons, for the mere selfish gratification of vacant minds; and we cannot realize, without horror, Sterne's picture of the captive, shut up in his solitary dungeon, counting the weary moments as they steal sluggishly along, and, at the close of an almost interminable day, adding it to the number of the past on his wooden calendar.

These remarks, however, are not called forth by any thing which poor Tommy's state of confinement obliged him to endure; for the little creature seemed almost as happy as if he had enjoyed his natural liberty. He was brought from the nest before he was old enough to know what liberty was; and yet he was sufficiently old to no longer require the fostering care of the parent bird. A few hours more and he would have stretched far away into the blue expanse of heaven, carolling that beautiful hymn of glory to the Creator which thrills through the heart, while it dies away on the ear, &e the soaring bird disappears in the distance.

But if this was not Tommy's lot, he at least fell into kind hands; and he soon began to repay the tender and judicious care which was shown him, by a docility and tameness truly astonishing. He became familiarized to the presence of

many people by his cage being placed every day near the morning work table of the young ladies of the family, and to that of strangers by the daily call of visitors. At length the eldest of our three young female friends ventured one day to let him out of his place of confinement; and it would appear as if the little creature was alive to the feeling of gratitude; for he seemed to recognize her in a peculiar way as his friend, and ever after treated her as if he held her in the deepest veneration and regard. Indeed, though evidently attached to every member of the family, which he pleased by a thousand little endearing ways, he yet exhibited towards each a different mode of behavior.

When the family were assembled at breakfast, he would fly upon the table, and walk round, picking up small pieces of egg, or crumbs of bread, and sometimes he would hop up on a loaf, and actually allow a slice to be cut under his feet before he would change his position. In the course of the morning, if the ladies sat at their embroidery, or other ingenious works, at which they often amused themselves, Tommy was again permitted to leave his domicile; and on these occasions he always paid a visit to their work table, where he delighted to play sundry droll and mischievous tricks. It was curious to see him watching the operation of threading a needle. When the thread was put ever so little into the eye, he would seize the thread and dexterously pull it through. Sometimes, when the young lady had fastened her thread to her work, and continued sewing, he would make a sudden plunge at it, and pull it out of the needle again, to her great pretended vexation, while he would instantly fly out of reach, and chuckle over the mischief. Sometimes he would hop on her open work box, and seizing the end of a cotton thread, would fly with it to the other side of the apartment, unwinding yards upon yards from the revolving spool. The second of the young ladies to whom we allude was remarkable for the elegance and neatness with which her hair was always braided. This did not escape Tommy's observation, and he frequently made an attack upon it, by taking the end of each ringlet in his bill, and fluttering before her face, would leave it in the most admired disorder. He would then again chuckle as we have heard a magpie do after any act of mischief.

With the youngest of the three ladies his practice was, if possible, to perch on the top of her head, and sing his beautiful song till the music would pierce through her ears, and she was obliged to shake him off; but he never made the same attack upon her hair, though it was always becomingly arranged. From the opportunity we had of watching the development of the little bird's intellect, we are quite convinced he understood every thing that was said to him. There was a gentleman, an intimate friend of the family, who, in his repeated visits, had made himself familiar with Tommy. Whenever he made a morning call, he would say, “Ha! Tommy! good morning to you: are you ready for a game at shuttlecock ?” The little creature would instantly fly to his extended hand, and suffer itself to be thrown into the air like that toy, and fall again into his hand; and so the game would continue for several minutes, until at length Tommy would fly to the ceiling, and with his wings almost touching it, would dart with almost inconceivable rapidity from end to end of the apartment, singing, at the utmost pitch of his voice, that splendid melody which, in his natural state, the lark pours forth as he ascends above the clouds.

Another game which Tommy perfectly understood was “ hide-and-go-seek;" and for this he preferred, as his companion, the second of the three sisters. She would say, “Now, Tommy, I'm going to hide," and then, drawing the room door open, she would place herself behind it, and ery, “Whoop." Tommy would immediately commence strutting up and down the floor, and stretching out his neck, would peer under this, and behind that, as if he were seeking for her. At length, coming opposite to where she stood, he would give a loud scream, and fly up to attack her hair. When this was over, and had again become quiet, she would say, “ Now, Tommy, it is your time to hide.” Immediately the bird would stand still under a table, and she would commence a diligent search. “Where is Tommy? Did any one see Tommy?" In the mean time he would never give, by sound or movement, the least indication that he was in the room; but the moment she thought proper to find him he would again scream, and fly

up to her.

Were we to recount only the twentieth part of the many entertaining little tricks and gambols he used to exhibit, we should trespass too much on the space allotted to our biogra phy-and, perhaps, too, on the patience of our readers. Perching sometimes on the head of the lady who first gave him his liberty, he would walk down her face as she held it up, with outspread wings, and give her a kiss. At other times he would walk round and round her, with his tail in the shape of a fan, and his wings trailing on the ground, just like a turkey cock in miniature, warbling all the time a beautiful, gentle melody in a subdued tone, and quite different from his song of the skies.

The mistress of the house, a little advanced in life, wore spectacles, which he would frequently pull off in his flights, and immediately let fall, as they were too heavy for him to carry; and after every feat of this kind, he would chuckle at his suc

When the dinner things were removed, and the dessert was set on the table, in the long days of summer, it was his practice to come upon the table, and going round it, to do something amusing to each person. He would bite the fingers of the master of the house, and give an exulting chuckle when he pretended to be hurt. At another gentleman's knuckles he would strike like a game cock, and seem to be in wonderful

cess.

passion. Then he would take a sudden flight at a lady's cap, and catching the end of a ribbon, would gracefully flutter before her face, carolling a snatch of a song: and again he would visit his fair friend with the beautiful hair, and, plucking out her combs, would speedily demolish her glossy curls.

There remains, however, one trait of sagacity which those who recollect the entertaining little creature would scarcely pardon us if we omitted. The youngest of the three ladies was accustomed each night, before she retired, to take her candle over to Tommy's cage to bid him “good night.” He would instantly bring out his head from under his wing, and standing up, sing one of the most beautiful little songs you could conceive it possible for a little throat like his to warble

-a song, too, that he never gave forth on any other occasion. And if she attempted to go out of the room without thus coming in to bid him “good night,” although his head was under his wing, and you thought him asleep, he would instantly scream out to put her in mind.. To this may be added the singular fact, that he would not sing the same song for any one else who might take a candle to his cage, though he would respond, by a chirp, to their “good night."

What the duration of a lark's age usually is we cannot say. It is probable that in the natural state they do not live as long as when well taken care of in a tame condition. The frosts of winter, want of food, and other circumstances must cut off large numbers of the older and more weakly birds. However this may be, Tommy himself lived a happy life for thirteen years. As he grew old a curious complaint affected him. He cast the upper chap of his bill every season for a few years before he died. At those periods more than usual care was necessary; he required to be fed with soft food, and he seemed in some degree to languish while the process was going on; but when the new portion of the bill had grown, and the old part was thrown off, he soon recovered his spirits, and became as entertaining as ever

But, alas ! larks must die as well as men. At length Tom.

« PreviousContinue »