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Queer Little Folks Harriet Beecher Stowe

Mother Magpie's Mischief

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This was not the worst of it. The little varlets had a way of jeering at the simple old doctor and his concerts, and mimicking the tones of his bass-viol. "There you go, Paddy-go-donk, Paddy-go-donk- -umph--chunk," some rascal of a boy would shout, while poor old Bullfrog's yellow spectacles would be bedewed with tears of honest indignation. In time, the jeers of these little savages began to tell on the society in the forest, and to corrupt their simple manners; and it was whispered among the younger and more heavy birds and squirrels that old Bullfrog was a bore, and that it was time to get up a new style of music in the parish, and to give the charge of it to some more modern performer.

Poor old Dr. Bullfrog knew nothing of this, however, and was doing his simple best, in peace, when Mother Magpie called in upon him one morning.

"Well, neighbour, how unreasonable people are! Who would have thought that the youth of our generation should have no more consideration for established merit? Now, for my part, I think your music-teaching never was better; and as for our choir, I maintain constantly that it never was in better order, but--Well, one may wear her tongue out, but one can never make these young folks listen to reason."

"I really don't understand you, ma'am," said poor Dr. Bullfrog.

"What! you haven't heard of a committee that is going to call on you, to ask you to resign the care of the parish music?"

"Madam," said Dr. Bullfrog, with all that energy of tone for which he was remarkable, "I don't believe it,--I CAN'T believe it. You must have made a mistake."

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"I mistake! No, no, my good friend; I never make mistakes. What I know, I know certainly. Wasn't it I that said I knew there was an engagement between Tim Chipmunk and Nancy Nibble, who are married this very day? I knew that thing six weeks before any bird or beast in our parts; and I can tell you, you are going to be scandalously and ungratefully treated, Dr. Bullfrog."

"Bless me, we shall all be ruined!" said Mrs. Bullfrog; "my poor husband--"

"Oh, as to that, if you take things in time, and listen to my advice," said Mother Magpie, "we may yet pull you through. You must alter your style a little,--adapt it to modern times. Everybody now is a little touched with the operatic fever, and there's Tommy Oriole has been to New Orleans and brought back a touch of the artistic. If you would try his style a little,--something Tyrolean, you see."

"Dear madam, consider my voice. I never could hit the high notes."

"How do you know? It's all practice; Tommy Oriole says so. Just try the scales. As to your voice, your manner of living has a great deal to do with it. I always did tell you that your passion for water injured your singing. Suppose Tommy Oriole should sit half his days up to his hips in water, as you do,--his voice would be as hoarse and rough as yours. Come up on the bank and learn to perch, as we birds do. We are the true musical race."

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Queer Little Folks
Harriet Beecher Stowe

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