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Queer Little Folks Harriet Beecher Stowe

Mother Magpie's Mischief

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"Don't put yourself in a passion, my dear; the more you talk, the more sure I am that your nervous system is running down, or you wouldn't forget good manners in this way. You'd better take my advice, for I understand just what to do,"--and away sails Mother Magpie; and presently young Oriole comes home all in a flutter.

"I say, my dear, if you will persist in gossiping over our private family matters with that old Mother Magpie--"

"My dear, I don't gossip. She comes and bores me to death with talking, and then goes off and mistakes what she has been saying for what I said."

"But you must CUT her."

"I try to, all I can; but she won't BE cut."

"It's enough to make a bird swear," said Tommy Oriole.

Tommy Oriole, to say the truth, had as good a heart as ever beat under bird's feathers; but then he had a weakness for concerts and general society, because he was held to be, by all odds, the handsomest bird in the woods, and sung like an angel; and so the truth was he didn't confine himself so much to the domestic nest as Tom Titmouse or Billy Wren. But he determined that he wouldn't have old Mother Magpie interfering with his affairs.

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"The fact is," quoth Tommy, "I am a society bird, and Nature has marked out for me a course beyond the range of the commonplace, and my wife must learn to accommodate. If she has a brilliant husband, whose success gratifies her ambition and places her in a distinguished public position, she must pay something for it. I'm sure Billy Wren's wife would give her very bill to see her husband in the circles where I am quite at home. To say the truth, my wife was all well enough content till old Mother Magpie interfered. It is quite my duty to take strong ground, and show that I cannot be dictated to."

So, after this, Tommy Oriole went to rather more concerts, and spent less time at home than ever he did before, which was all that Mother Magpie effected in that quarter. I confess this was very bad in Tommy; but then birds are no better than men in domestic matters, and sometimes will take the most unreasonable courses, if a meddlesome Magpie gets her claw into their nest.

But old Mother Magpie had now got a new business in hand in another quarter. She bustled off down to Water-Dock Lane, where, as we said in a former narrative, lived the old music-teacher, Dr. Bullfrog. The poor old doctor was a simple-minded, good, amiable creature, who had played the double-bass and led the forest choir on all public occasions since nobody knows when. Latterly some youngsters had arisen who sneered at his performances as behind the age. In fact, since a great city had grown up in the vicinity of the forest, tribes of wandering boys broke up the simple tastes and quiet habits which old Mother Nature had always kept up in those parts. They pulled the young checkerberry before it even had time to blossom, rooted up the sassafras shrubs and gnawed their roots, fired off guns at the birds, and on several occasions, when old Dr. Bullfrog was leading a concert, had dashed in and broken up the choir by throwing stones.

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Queer Little Folks
Harriet Beecher Stowe

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