Verbiny and Her Birds (May 1922)

The conclusion of the Verbiny trilogy. Although its title includes “Part Two”, Barbara crossed out the page number 12 and began this installment at page 1.

Verbiny and Her Birds (May 1922)

Part Two: Verbiny and Her Birds

[Chapter I]

Even with her butterflies and animals Verbiny was not content. She wanted birds. So one day she told her father so.

“For heaven’s sake, child, how many things are you going to tame?”

“Why, t-t-that was t-the l-last one I w-was thi-inking of t-taming,” said Verbiny, frightened at her father’s speech.

“All right,” said the king, “do you want water-birds or land-birds?”

“I will have first water-birds and then land-birds,” said Verbiny. “Why do you want to know?”

“Why, I wanted to know what kind of cage to build for them, of course,” said the king, surprised.

“Of course,” said Verbiny, ashamed at herself and turning from the porch she went to the pearl-room to think things over. “First I will have water-ducks,” she thought, “then finourios, iristio, and rockarteen, then fisheens fresh-water, silvery, and short-billed fisheens, and I guess that will be all, and any strange little bird that I don’t know. No, instead of doing that I will wait until I see some little bird, and catch anything that I think is pretty. But how foolish I am, every little bird is pretty. Well then, I will catch every little bird. But how foolish I am. If I caught every little bird that I saw, I should have thousands of the common birds and very few of the rare ones. Well then, I will catch one of a kind. But that is silly, too. How can I catch one of a kind when there are more kinds than there are in this country, and besides some of the females are no different from the males that I can’t tell them apart. So I will catch a male or a female or both of the kind that I want. I won’t have two male finourios or two female finourios but one of either or each. There now, I guess I have got my bird-breeding fairly planned.”

So she went down and told her grandmother what she was going to do.

“So with all the pleasures you have got you are going to have birds, you rascal,” said her grandmother. “But still, birds are very interesting. But you must have a high cage for them and lots of bushes and small trees for them to build their nests on.”

“Of course,” said Verbiny, “but why a high cage?”

“So that you can get the trees and bushes in,” said her grandmother.

“Oh yes, I forgot,” said Verbiny, “but I must go up and see if father has made the cage yet.”

When Verbiny got to the screened-in porch, she could not find her father. So she went to the white marble steps to the field where she found her father busily lining the cage with mud because you see it was to be the water-birds’ cage. It was made of fine wood with not a crack in it and inside of that was iron. It was a sort of tub rectangular in shape, with nice high walls. When the king had put a lot of mud in the bottom, he took the hose and filled it with water. Verbiny knew what kind of water-birds she wanted. Water-ducks. She told her father so, and he smiled.

“Tomorrow we shall go to Loopland, and go to the beach there, where there is that nice patch of bushes on one side. There are scores of ducks’ nests there,” he said, and began making a screened-in place where there was no water but bushes planted in each. Above the water-level of the tub was a hole so that the ducks could fly in to the screened-in spot as it was on the right side of the tub to make their nests. Hung on the bushes were some strings for the ducks to make their nests out of.

“That is fine,” said Verbiny, jumping up and down she was so excited. “If there are loads of ducks’ nests there must be as many ducks, and that is what we want.”

Chapter II

The next day Verbiny and her father went to Loopland, a pretty little country place with not a house in it and mostly woods and water. They went to a lovely beach on Lake Feevry called Eelip shore or Duckooner, because there were so many ducks there. When they got to Eelip shore the first thing they saw was a mother duck taking her babies out for a swim. It was great fun to watch them. Sometimes one or two would fall behind the others and instead of swimming along, without the least bit of fear would paddle as fast as its legs would go to catch up. Once the mother duck went under water. The babies swam over the place where she had disappeared. Evidently that was what the mother had been waiting for because she bobbed up again with two of the babies on her back. “I will give them a surprise,” she was thinking. Fortunately for the babies they didn’t know what she was going to do. She swam so fast with the babies that they fell off her back, and that was a surprise to them. Finally they all got tired and came back to the shore. Now this was what the king had been waiting for, because the babies hadn’t left their nest yet and they all got into the nest and there sat over them to keep them warm because they were chilly after the cold swim. He went up to them and slipped the butterfly net that Verbiny had over them all and brought them home on the nest, and put them in the cage and put the nest in the bushes where they could go to it or make a new nest. Then they went back to Loopland to catch the father duck. They found him on the shore looking for the nest, and caught him the same way they had caught the others.

“Oh father, aren’t they sweet, and look at the mother dive for something to eat.” Just then she dove to the bottom and came up with a nice fat worm in her mouth which she had found in the mud at the bottom of the cage, and gave it to the babies. The father then did the same thing.

“They are very cunning,” said the king. “I think they like the new home, they don’t look afraid.”

“The babies don’t,” said Verbiny, “but I think the mother and father look worried.”

“Oh, they are worried all right,” said her father, “but I don’t think they look it. Now see here Miss Verbiny, you have no business to contradict me like that.”

“I was just telling you what I thought,” answered Verbiny. “I don’t call that contradicting.”

“You heard what I said,” said the king, and Verbiny said no more. However, she got a large basin and a piece of netting to fit on top of the basin and, scooping the little duck that was swimming about there, put the netting over it and carried the duckling to the pearl-room, for you must know that Verbiny herself was going to sleep up there and she wanted the duckling for company. In the night she put him in the cage, but when she was lonely she went up to the pearl-room with him.

Chapter III

The next day Verbiny went outdoors to find where there were some birds living. Meanwhile her father made a lovely cage for them. It was all wire, and square, large and roomy, so that the birds could fly about easily. In it was a little square room with a hole in it for the birds to go in, and it was a food place. Planted inside of the cage were lots of bushes and low trees for the birds to build their nest in. There were tiny cherry-trees just beginning to bear fruit they were so little, tiny oak-trees, and there were wild strawberries planted in there for the birds to eat. There were also witch-hazel bushes, fire-bushes, lilacs purple and white, magnolias, azaleas of all kinds, and quantities of tall plants like sunflowers. In another part of the cage there were small flowers, buttercups, daisies, black-eyed susans, clover white and pink, anemones, violets white, yellow, purple, and blue, and above all the sweet blossom of the trailing arbutus. In another part of the cage there were garden flowers, lily-of-the-valley, daffodils, tulips, and a bell-shaped blue flower with white stripes in it, with white stamens sticking out of the flower and up with an orange tip. These flowers grow on a stalk and attract humming-birds very much. There was another variety of this flower with a red centre, which is very furry, and humming-birds pluck it to line their nests with.

When Verbiny was out looking for birds, she found a nest of young greenits, and a mother orine sitting on eggs. When she came back after a long all-day bird-hunt she found the cage all made and was amazed at the beautiful flowers that it was filled with.

“How many bird-nests did you find?” asked Verbiny’s father.

“I found two nests, a greenit’s and an orine’s,” said Verbiny in a sleepy way.

“But how did you know that they were greenit’s and orine’s?” asked Verbiny’s father, apparently very much interested.

“Because one was full of young greenits, and an orine was sitting on the other one,” said Verbiny in a still more sleepy tone of voice.

“What is the matter?” asked the king.

“What is the matter? Why, nothing,” said Verbiny, yawning.

“But something is the matter or else you wouldn’t speak in such a sleepy tone of voice.”

“Well I am sleepy,” said Verbiny, crossly.

“Child,” said the king, “what has come over you? You were never so cross.”

“One is always cross when they are sleepy,” growled Verbiny in a very cross way, and turning away went up the marble steps to the screened-in porch up to the pearl-room, and went to bed.

“I am glad to have you go when you are so cross,” muttered the king after her. Verbiny had stopped then, and scowled and went on up.

Chapter IV

That night Verbiny had a lovely dream. She dreamed that she was walking in the most beautiful flower garden ever seen. The form of a woman flashed before her eyes and vanished. Verbiny shut her eyes and when she opened them she saw a lovely fan floating in the air. It was white with flowers of all colors painted on it. But in another minute she saw that it was not floating but resting on a flight of six golden steps. A voice kept saying: “Up, up, up,” very feebly and rising higher at each “up.” In a flash Verbiny understood that she was to go up the golden steps, and she went. When she got to the top she found herself in a lovely room with flowers of all colors painted on the floor just as there had been on the fan. The walls and ceiling were covered with painted flowers, too. As the room was fan-shaped Verbiny soon saw that it was the fan that she had seen on the golden steps, only with a wall and ceiling, and it was ever so much larger. “I guess that woman I saw was a fairy and changed this fan into a room for me,” thought Verbiny. “I must see her again at any rate, she was so lovely.”

In a few minutes she went down the steps to the flower garden, where she did not see the woman but an old woman with white hair and a black dress, trimmed with black lace.

“Can you tell me,” said Verbiny in a trembling voice, “where the beautiful lady in a dress of many brilliant colors is?” The woman slipped off her black dress and there stood the lady in a pink dress with white lace on it. “What do you want of me?” she asked.

“I wanted to see you, you were so lovely,” said Verbiny.

“Well then,” said the lady, “come to this mossy spot for three nights at twelve o’clock, the first night that you come here being two nights before the full moon. You will like it best when the moon is full.” And she vanished, leaving Verbiny alone.

The next night in Verbiny’s dream, Verbiny got up at twelve, and as it was two nights before the full moon Verbiny felt sure that she would see some wonderful things. And indeed she did, for in two minutes the lady came dancing in a circle with a white dress on. The dress looked like cotton and was very lovely. After she had completed seven small circles, she disappeared and Verbiny saw her no more.

Verbiny went home delighted, but she was very curious to know what would happen on the next night. When she went to the mossy spot at twelve she saw the lady in blue, and this time she made six larger circles, and then disappeared as she had before.

When the last night had come Verbiny hurried over to the mossy spot because the lady had said that she would enjoy it most then, and indeed she did, for the lady was dressed in brilliant orange and she was loveliest then. She completed five still larger circles and then went for good. Verbiny lay down on the moss and went to sleep and when she woke up she was sitting up in her own bed. “My! but that was a lovely dream,” said Verbiny to herself.

Chapter V

“Father, I am so sorry I was so nasty to you last night,” said Verbiny after she had got up, “but I was worn out after hunting for birds all day.”

Her father didn’t hear her but however she thought he did, and went outdoors to see what the baby ducks were doing. She found the mother trying to show her babies how to dive and get food for themselves. Sometimes they did it pretty well, but it was often that no one came up with a worm in his mouth, because the babies were afraid to stay under long enough to find one.

Before long (I don’t know how it could happen), Verbiny saw a water-snake swimming about in the duck’s cage. He almost caught one of the little ducks but the duckling flew into the bushes just in time. Verbiny’s father killed the snake and found that she was full of little ones which they gave to the ducklings to gobble up. And gobble up they did, for in about five minutes every one of the baby snakes had disappeared, and there were fifty of them.

“They certainly like baby water-snakes,” said Verbiny laughing a the haste in which the ducklings ate them.

“They most certainly do,” agreed her father. “That is one thing that ducklings like.”

“And the big water-snake evidently liked baby ducks, too,” said Verbiny.

“Yes, that is true, too,” agreed her father. “That is one thing that water-snakes like.”

“Come on,” cried Verbiny, jumping up and down, “and get the birds if we can. I am positive that they will like their cage. It is perfectly wonderful,” admired Verbiny, “and what a lot of strength you must have to dig up bushes the way you have for the cage.”

So off went Verbiny’s father and Verbiny to the place where Verbiny had seen the greenit’s nest, with a ladder and Verbiny’s butterfly net. The mother orine was sitting on the eggs but she seemed to be very uncomfortable. After a while she covered the eggs up and went to get her exercise. I will tell you why she was uncomfortable. Because the eggs were hatching and the beaks of the babies were sticking into her. The mother bird went quite a little way off. Then Verbiny’s father put the ladder up against the tree where the nest was, climbed up it, took the little nest, and gave it to Verbiny. Then he caught the mother bird while she was on the ground. Then he took her home on the nest. He put the nest in a crotch of an azalea tree and went off again to catch the greenits. The mother bird was sitting on all the young greenits. Verbiny’s father caught them the same way he had caught the ducks and put the nest in the crotch of a magnolia tree, and then left some of the material that these two birds make their nests out of there. The birds’ nests had been battered by handling and so they made new nests.

Chapter VI

After Verbiny’s father had put the birds in the cage he took a spade and a tin can and went to a bare place in the ground on one side of the house. Verbiny wondered what he was going to do but asked no questions for fear of making him cross. He was going to dig for worms for the birds, but, as it had been dry and hot weather for weeks and weeks there were none near the surface and it would be altogether too much work and labor to dig down where there would be some. The next day they found hundreds, and this is the reason.

That afternoon Verbiny was playing outdoors and it suddenly began to grow very dark. It startled Verbiny, and when she looked up there was a great black cloud coming from the north, and of course as the house was facing south the cloud was behind the house. Verbiny ran inside, and the whole family began tearing around the house shutting the windows that would be necessary. Then it began. The rain came pitter-patter on the roof. A blinding flash of lightning struck a great pine in the woods and sent it rearing and crackling to the ground. Soon a fire would have spread if the rain had not poured down in a torrent and prevented it. The leaves of the trees were drenched with the rain and were bedraggled with the force of the great drops. A few of the leaves that had been insect-eaten fell off the trees. It was like a wild ocean tossing about every direction possible until it looked as if the ocean itself had flooded on to the land in a great wind. It grew so cold that the drops turned to hailstones, and one of them struck one of the windows of the house and broke it, and the stone came through on to the floor. Verbiny picked it up and ate it, but it was getting very serious for hailstones were breaking little chips out of the windows in every direction, and they opened the windows as wide as they could open and stuffed the curtains around the remaining. They also put blankets over the open spaces. While Verbiny was doing this, in came a big hailstone and struck her in the forehead and made a bad there [sic] and pained exceedingly, but it was forgotten in a minute and the whole household was busy once more with the windows.

When it was over the sun broke out gloriously and Verbiny’s father went out the next day and as I have told you got hundreds of worms.

Chapter VII

The next day Verbiny became aware that the greenit was not much around. She went into the cage and pushed the bushes round, but she could not find the greenit. The beautiful orine was hopping about, but she looked very proud and often looked as if she was hunting for something. The reason for the greenit’s absence was this, though neither Verbiny or her father knew it. The baby birds had already learned to fly very well and their mother no longer took care of them, but she had laid more eggs and was sitting on them, so of course she was not much around.

The reason for the orine’s proudness was this. The eggs that she had been sitting on when Verbiny had found her had already hatched and of course she was very proud of her little ones. The reason that she was looking around was of course because she had to find food for the babies. But alas, her secret was known though she did not know it. Verbiny found, one day, in a low azalea tree a beautiful nest of the orine. In it were eight fuzzy brown baby orines. How happy her little voice was when she explained it to her father and grandmother. A few days afterward the greenit came hopping around and was absent no longer, only she had the same proud look the orine had had, and for the same reason as you shall see. As I told you before Verbiny did not know that the greenit was absent because she had eggs, and for some time it never came into her head to look for the nest, but when she saw the greenit looking proud the way the orine had she had at once guessed that she had had eggs again and then she knew why she had been absent. So now she went into the cage and began to look for the nest. She looked and looked until she was tired, and at last she thought she would go over to the other side of the cage and take a peep at the baby birds. But it was about half-past six and the mother bird was on the nest. She did not go very near for fear of disturbing her, but thought that she ought to go in and have supper (for she was very hungry and it was almost supper time). But when she started out for the gate she went in the opposite direction of it and was soon lost in the bird-cage. She lay down amongst the bushes and tried hard to go to sleep, but the mosquitoes bothered her until she was crazy. She jumped up and called her father as loudly as she could. He heard her and went tearing out of the house to see what was the matter with his darling. He judged from the sound that she was in the bird-cage, and he went straight in and found her sitting among the tall plants. Of course he asked her what was the matter and she told him all about what had happened to her in the bird-cage, and they started out for the gate together and on the way they found the greenit’s nest, and lo, in it were six fuzzy white babies, with a tinge of yellow in the tip of the wing.

The next day Verbiny found and caught the lovely common finourio, but it was not common to Verbiny who loved it even more than the orine and the greenit, which she adored.

Verbiny caught all the birds that are in my make-up birds and watched them build their nests and have babies, and she saw the golden woodchuck lay its four pretty eggs. And I think that is enough about Verbiny and all her friends. I am sure you can imagine yourself what she did next.


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