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birds of killingworth.
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow .
Age Rating 8 plus.
Start of Story
It was spring, and the little town of Killingworth told of the joy of
living again. Every little rivulet had broken from its frozen chain,
which had held it fast during the long winter, and was rushing on,
rejoicing at its freedom. The purple buds, holding wonderful secrets of
things to come, were bursting forth from every tree and bush, while from
the topmost boughs the birds called and sang to their mates: "Oh! be
happy, be happy, for spring has come!"
There were all the messengers of spring--the robin, the oriole, and the
bluebird--filling the orchard with their glad melody. The little sparrow
chirped in glee for the very joy of living, and the hungry crows, in
great crowds, called loudly the tidings of spring. But not long could
they stop to sing, for the homes must be made, and soon from every tree
and bush could be seen these dainty, downy nests, and in every nest the
eggs, and in every egg a wonderful secret about which all the happy
birds twittered and sang together.
The farmers, as they plowed their fields and made their gardens that
spring, heard these tree-top concerts, and saw the multitude playing and
working about them, and they shook their heads and said: "Never before
have we had so many birds in Killingworth. We must surely do something,
or they will eat up half of our crops, and take the grain and fruits
that should go to feed our own children." Then it was decided to have a
meeting. All in the town were free to come, and here they were to decide
what was to be done with the troublesome birds. The meeting was held in
the new town hall, and to it came all the great men of the town, and
from far and near the farmers gathered. The great hall was crowded. The
doors and windows were open, and through them came a beautiful flood of
bird music, but the sturdy farmers and great men shook their heads as
they heard it. And then they told how the birds were eating the grains
and spoiling the fruit, and every one said the birds must go. There
seemed to be not a single friend to the singers outside, until one man
arose--the teacher in the town, much loved by the children, and himself
loving everything that God had made. He looked sadly on the men around
him, and then he said:
"My friends, can you drive away these birds that God has made and sent
to us, for a few handfuls of grain and a little fruit? Will you lose all
this music that you hear outside? Think of the woods and orchard without
the birds, and of the empty nests you will see. You say the birds are
robbing you; but instead they are your greatest helpers. With their
bright little eyes they see the little bugs and worms which destroy the
fruit. Think who has made them. Who has taught them the songs and the
secret of building their nests. You will be sorry when they are gone and
will wish them back."
But still the farmers shook their heads and said: "The birds must go."
So the birds of Killingworth were driven away, until not a single note
was heard, and only empty nests were left. The little children of the
town were hoping each day to see their friends again, and a strange
stillness and loneliness seemed to fill the little town, for the music
in the air had ceased.
The summer came, and never before had it been so hot. The little insects
and worms which the little birds had always driven away covered every
tree and bush, eating the leaves until nothing was left but the bare
twigs. The streets were hot and shadeless. In the orchard the fruit
dropped, scorched and dried by the sun. When the grains were gathered
one-half of the crop had been destroyed by the insects. Now the old
farmers said among themselves:
"We have made a great mistake. We need the birds."
One day in the early spring a strange sight was seen in the little town
of Killingworth. A great wagon covered with green branches was driven
down the main street, and among the branches were huge cages, and the
cages were filled with birds. Oh! they were all there--the robin, the
bluebird, the lark and the oriole--birds of every color and kind. When
the great wagon reached the town hall it stopped. The cages were taken
down from the branches of green, and little children, with eager hands
and happy eyes, threw open the doors. Out came the birds and away they
flew to field and orchard and wood, singing again and again:
"Oh! we are glad to be here! We are glad to be here!"
The little children sang, too, and the gray-haired farmers said: "The
birds must always stay in Killingworth."