MRS. PARTRIDGE’S BABIES
ONG, long ago, when the world was very young indeed, the Birds and Animals used to send their children to school, to Mother Magpie’s kindergarten. All the morning long the babies learned their lessons which it was needful for them to know. And when the noon hour came their various mammas came to the school bringing lunches for the children. You can imagine how gladly they were received by the hungry little scholars.
One day Mrs. Partridge was very busy with her house-cleaning, and when the noontime came she could not leave her work to go to the school with her babies’ lunch.
“Dear me,” she said, looking out of the nest, “here it is noon and the little Partridges will be so very hungry. But I really cannot leave home now. What shall I do? If only some other mamma were going that way.”
She craned her neck and looked eagerly in every direction. And finally she spied Madame Tortoise plodding along towards the school, with the lunch for her little Turtlets.
“Oho, neighbor, oho! Stop a minute!” cried Mrs. Partridge, waving a wing at Tortoise. “Are you going schoolward, as I think? Oh, dear Madame Tortoise, if you knew how busy I am to-day. I don’t think any one was ever so busy as I am with my house-cleaning. Will you do me a favor, please?”
The Tortoise sniffed. “Well, I am a busy woman myself,” she said, “but I am willing to oblige a neighbor. What is it you wish, ma’am?”
“Oh, thank you so much!” cried the Partridge. “Dear Madame Tortoise, I shall never forget your kindness. Now, will you take this bunch of nice wiggly worms to my little ones for their lunch? I shall be so very grateful.”
“Don’t mention it,” snapped the Tortoise, who was rather tired of hearing Mrs. Partridge’s shrill thanks. “I’m perfectly willing to take the lunch, since I am going to the same place. But I don’t know your babies. What do they look like, ma’am?”
“Oh, that is easily told,” cried Mrs. Partridge. “They are the most beautiful little creatures in the school. They are said greatly to resemble me. You will have no trouble in recognizing them. When you come to the school just look around at all the children, and pick out the three most beautiful of all. Those are certain to be mine. Give them the wiggly worms, please, with my love. And oh, thank you, Madame Tortoise, so very much! Some time I will do as much for you. So neighborly! Thank you!”
“Don’t mention it!” snapped the Tortoise again, very much bored by all this chatter. She sniffed as she moved slowly along towards the school, with the second lunch carried carefully on her broad shell-back. “They are nice fat worms,” she said.
Now when the Tortoise came to the school it was high noon, and all the children were waiting open-mouthed for their mammas and the lunches which they expected. Such rows and rows of wide hungry mouths! Madame Tortoise moved slowly up and down and round and round, eyeing the various children who begged for the nice wiggly worms. “H’m!” she said to herself, “hungry children seem to look considerably alike, and none of them are so wondrously beautiful when their mouths are wide open greedily. I wonder which are Mrs. Partridge’s children. She told me to give this lunch to the handsomest babies here. Well, I will, and if I make a mistake it will not be my fault. Hello! Here are my dear little Turtlets! Bless the babies, how pretty they are! Why, I declare, I never realized that they were so handsome. Certainly, they are the best-looking children in the school. Then I must give them Mrs. Partridge’s luncheon, for so I promised. Yes, my little ones, here is your lunch which I brought for you. And when you have finished that, here is another, some nice, fat, wiggly worms which mother collected on the way,—a prize for the handsomest children in the school.”
So the little Turtlets fared wonderfully well that day; but the poor little Partridges went hungry, and had dreadful headaches, and went home peeping sadly to their silly mother. And Mrs. Partridge had no more sense than to be angry with Madame Tortoise, which I think was very unfair, don’t you? For the latter had only done as she was bidden by her silly and conceited neighbor.
But after that the Tortoise and the Partridge never spoke to each other, and their children would not play together at school.
And, tomorrow, another story will be posted!
Project Gutenberg's The Curious Book of Birds, by Abbie Farwell Brown This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Curious Book of Birds Author: Abbie Farwell Brown Illustrator: E. Boyd Smith Release Date: June 27, 2005 [EBook #16140] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1