Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

he would teach these mousers better manners, when he happened to be in the humour for giving these small tyrants a great moral lesson ? Does the Mole, as he sits in safety at sunrise—molecatchers and their dogs being still abed—outside the little mound he has turned up in the night in his pursuit of worms, wiping his whiskers from the mould he has worked through—does he ever look upwards at the Lark he has knocked up an hour too soon by undermining his bed, and wish he could mount through the air like him—he can just see him; and sing at heaven's gate like him —he can just hear him 2 And does he, with his purblind eyes— good enough for underground work—wish that he could bear the light of day, and bask and glory in the sunshine early and late, like him 2 Does the Crow—doomed like a curate to an eternal decent suit of black—as he struts in a gutter stop to admire the pomp, and precise steps, and pride, and parade, and fine feathers (which make fine birds) of the Peacock on a wall, thinking of singing, and certainly of showing himself,

“To witch the world with noble peacockship;”

and wish that he had such a tail? Wouldn't he cut a figure then, when returned to the Jackdaws' parliament? Does the grey Goose admire the white Swan, and think the movements of his neck, in elegance, excelling all that is thought graceful in the goose world? Does the Wolf admire the Lamb, his inoffensiveness, his innocent looks, and playful leaps and antic springs, and wish he had his gentleness of heart? Do silly Sheep admire Dick the shepherd's dog Worry, wonder at his sagacity, think him well-meaning though severe, believe in his general accuracy and Mogg-like knowledge of roads and right turnings ; pardon him all his stretches of authority, and the contempt he shows for the whole flock by making a road over their backs to pull the bell-wether by the ear, and put it all down to the score of faithfulness; and do they think him a desirable dog, on the whole : Does the Dog admire his master —but we know he does. “Man is his god,” says Burns; and what lessons in fidelity does he teach his trainer! Does the noble Steed admire his master or masterer, and look on him as “the paragon of animals : " Man—betting man—admires him too well we know, to very weariness of the odds and evens offered on the Derby Day. But Man—especially barber's man—is a great judge of horse-flesh, or affects to be. Again we ask—are animals touched with admiration of each other's gifts and graces, or beauty : Our Fable, if true, avouches that they are capable of admiration and envy; that their admiration is not always wellplaced, and their envy not wise—but envy never is ; and that, if they would weigh their own advantages, and consider their exemptions, and the conditions of their existence, they would be content with the station in which Providence has placed them. Of all the birds of the air, surely there is not one so knowing, and, if we may say so, so nutty on his knowledge—so wise in his own conceit, and so simple withal—as a town-born and town-bred Sparrow. From his nest-days in a birdbottle by the side of a second-floor window, or a hole in the wall, or under the eaves, or between the chimneys, or in the chinks of high garden-walls, to his dying day and sepulchre in some out-of-the-way corner of a housetop, (and these street-sparrows live to a grey, good old age), a Sparrow on town risks his charmed life a thousand times a day by dropping he cares not where, and hopping he minds not where, in the most thronged thoroughfares—at the feet of horses in rapid motion—within an inch of wheels whirling along—under the very noses of cats looking out for him, they for their prey, and he for his: but no harm happens to him, he is so alive and alert, and no sooner in danger than out of it ! A Sparrow, country-bred, and brought to town, would be killed in a week, where he lives safely many years. Even rustic Robin, come to winter in the suburbs of London, where he is always welcome, and lives well, though as wary as bold, the town-born Sparrow would laugh at, in his fashion, as a bumpkin in a red waistcoat and imminent danger of being run over. To say nothing of the traps set for him in backyards and on dwarf-walls, in gutters and on coping-stones, by boys in their first corduroys, (when they get into the Rule of Three and the Latin Accidence they know better,) possessed by no means homestly of four bricks and a tile;—and not to count the eats always on the sneak after him ; and the dogs that dash at him out of fun ; and the stones and bird-bolts aimed at him, which don't hurt him, because they never hit him ; and the dexterous thongs of country coachmen come down to a town-cab, who have picked up many a partridge with their whips—his life in London would seem a precarious one: but a well-educated Sparrow—up and down to everything—manages to make a pleasant, profitable, and lasting life of it; and; on the whole, picks up a decent hand-tomouth living from day to day, thinking nothing of to-morrow. “Let to-morrow provide for himself,”

is his maxim ; and there are many maws, and craws, and “crops” much worse provided for in London than a London sparrow—the more is the pity! It is of a feathered denizen of this sort, whom, for our story's sake, we will call Chummy by name, that we have to relate a remarkable freak of infatuation in a bird so nutty and so knowing; but as it was begotten in his brain by too lively an admiration to imitation of his betters, he rather deserves our pity than our laughter. Born in St. Giles's (in an eyelet-hole in the steeple of the church honouring that holy man, which may account a little for his lofty notions, and his desire to mix in high life), some time in the spring of 1837, he maintained himself there or thereabouts very well till lately, when, falling in with a scamping set of aristocratic sparrows, out on a spree to see low life in London, when they had had their frolic out, he was led by them to pay St. James's park and palace a visit for the first time ; and having seen and admired all the court lions, and hopped in the path of the Prince of Wales, and been called a pretty bird by that gracious young gentleman, and a bold bird and an impudent bird by his gracious parents, he took it into his ambitious head that the air of St. James's was more salubrious than the odours of the Rookery; and made up his mind to live in and about Birdcage Walk for the rest of his days, as he found the sparrow world of those parts polite, and ready to pay him every attention as a stranger. Having taken airy lodgings with a good lookout, in an elm which afforded a noble bird's-eye view of the two parks, the two palaces, and the ornamental waters, he could do nothing for a day or two but admire the Ducks which adorn them, dabbling and diving in the most daring manner ; and as he watched some didappers in particular going down here and coming up there many yards away, he feared that they would overdo their daring, and never come up no more alive. Ducks and their aquatic habits being entirely new to him, he had ..., notion of such fearless feats as he saw them perform, and think nothing of them. He admired, too, almost to envy, the gloss and beauty of their feathering. Wonderful creatures, ducks : What were sparrows beside them 2 Mere fleas—flies—nobodies' He was humbled for a time, but got over it, as humility will, when it is of the right sort; and lost nothing of his first, fresh, unaffected admiration of the exceeding beauty of the new objects of his wonder.

One fine fellow, in particular, a native of Muscovy, won his admiration-he could not take his eyes off him. Wherever he went, except when he went under water, and came up gobbling a fish, as he took it to be, till it almost choked him, he followed him-hovered over him-alighted by him-hopped before him and after him—and looked him so hard in the face, but not impertinently, he trusted, that the Muscovian, taking English admiration of foreigners for English want of good manners, resented his attention as a rudeness, and drove him away at last, with an explosion of sounds which scared poor Chummy out of his five senses. Again he felt his inferiority as a Sparrowa poor, mean, dingy, dirty, cockney Sparrow; and, for the first time, wished he had been born a Duck! What was his weak, wailing “ Chip! chip!” in that open country, in comparison with that grand burst of exclamation? The bursting of a bubble in water, which alarms nothing—not even in the next bubble for its own safety! But as his admiration of the gallant admiral was of the purest, humblest kind, and such a compliment as greatness is, in fact, entitled to receive from the vulgar small, he came at last to endure his presence patiently, and let him pick up his morning meal at the waters' edge by distinguished permission of his right honourable spoonbill; and, ere a month bsd passed away, they became so attached, that they were inseparabit companions from daydawn till daydown, as long as the admirat remained on shore. When he took the command of the channel or canal fleet, and dropped down to St. Helen's, Chummy say him off, of course, and wished he could sail with him ; but his naval friend could take no landlubbers and loblolly boys with him, to be in everybody's mess and nobody's wateh. Oh lor often did Chummy wish to heaven he had been born a Duck, and wish in vain, for he was still a Sparrow, and knew nothing at navigation! How often did he hop along the shore, and envy the entire Duckocracy this great amphibious privilege-when there was nothing to be done on land, to push off, and see what business was to be done in the great waters—in fact, go a fishing Ah happy, highly-favoured aquarians! Oh that he had been born and bred to the service! Would that he was a Duck! BE he was a sparrow-a despised, town-born Sparrow-dingy, dirty, and indecent from roosting so long among chimneypots : for in vain he washed himself and preened his feathers in the orna. mental waters where they were shallowest, the educational dirt he had contracted was not half out of him now : ,

“The scent of the roses would hang round him still !" . . Oh that he dared dive where his friend performed his ablutions, and feared nothing ! But a saucerful of water was deep enough to drown him! He was miserable ; but he persevered in making himself as tidy as he could, till he looked, in two months' time, a smart fellow--for a sparrow, and his naval friend was not ashamed of him-introduced him to his brother aquatics as a friend and wherever you saw the one you saw the other in all parts of the park, in the palace-garden, and its ponds, and in all other fashionable places. Damon and Pythias were not more inseparable.

And so for some months this strangely-assorted pair of friends went waddling and hopping all over the green parts of the Park together, and grubbed together, and wormed together, dividing one worm between the two, and sometimes took short aërial excursions together, till their friendship was the talk of the natural historians of the town, who, as these lovers of the marrellous will do, told many tales which were not very true of them : showing how little Chummy perched sometimes on his Ducal friend's back, between his wings, when he took to the water, and sometimes on his head : how the Duke forbore from diving, on these occasions, out of deference to the fears of his friend : how the minor left his lodgings in the lofty elm, and roosted at night under the wing of the major, in one of the islands : how the other islanders opposed this as an innovation on their privacy, but gave way at last to the humble fellow, as very harmless, and a doating admirer of their tender ducklings, amusing them with his terrors when they first took to the water : with many other traits of Chummy and the Duke, as his friend was commonly called, which were not half so true as they were ingenious.

It was a long time before poor Chummy could bear to look at the frightful plunges down below which the Duke would sometimes in a moment make, as if mad and determined on self-destruction ; and every time he went down in this way without warning, without saying " Farewell, Chummy!" the timid cockney would draw up one leg, (we should throw up both arms in our agony,) and give a cry of horror! But when he saw him-after he had seen no more of him for a minute-come up again afar off, not a whit N0. XXIV.-VOL. IV.

LL

« AnteriorContinuar »