voices from the past

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Dot and the Kangaroo

by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)

. . . the story continues . . .

"Oh, without music it would be very dull," explained the Satin Bird. "No one would care to talk. You understand, it would be awkward, someone might overhear what was said."

As the bird spoke the trio reached the place where the bower was situated.

Dot thought it a most curious sight. In the middle of an open space the birds had built the flooring of twigs, and upon that they had erected a bower about three feet high, also constructed of twigs interwoven with grass, and arranged so as nearly to meet at the top in an arched form.

"It's a new bower, and more commodious than our last," said the Satin Bird with an air of great satisfaction. "What do you think of the decorations?"

In a temporary lull of the frog and cricket band and the conversation, Dot and the Kangaroo praised the bower and its decorations, and enquired politely how the birds had managed to procure such a collection of ornaments for their pleasure hall. Several young bower birds came and joined in the chat, and Dot was surprised to see how different their plumage was from the satin blue-black of the old birds. These younger members of the community were of a greenish yellow colour, with dark pencillings on their feathers, and had no glossy sheen like their elders.

Each of them pointed out some ornament that it had brought with which to deck the bower. One had brought the pink feathers of a Galah, which had been stuck here and there amongst the twigs. Others had collected the delicate shells of land snails, and put them round about the entrance. But the birds that were proudest of their contributions were those who had picked up odds and ends at the camps of bushmen.

"That beautiful bright thing I brought from a camp a mile away," said a bird, indicating a tag from a cake of tobacco.

"But it isn't so pretty as mine," said another, pointing to the glass stopper of a sauce bottle.

"Or mine," chimed in another bird, as it claimed a bright piece of tin from a milk-can that was inserted in the twigs just above the entrance of the bower.

"Nonsense, children!" said a grave old Satin Bird, "your trifles are not to be compared with that beautiful object I found to-day and arranged along the top of the bower. The effect is splendid!"

As he spoke, Dot observed that, twined amidst the topmost twigs of the construction was a strip of red flannel from an old shirt, a bedraggled red rag that must have been found in an extinct camp fire, judging by its singed edges.

The day Dot had lost her way she had been threading beads, and she still had upon her finger a ring of the pretty coloured pieces of glass. She saw the old Satin Bird look at this ring longingly, so she pulled it off, and begged that it might be added to the other decorations. It was instantly given the place of honour over the entrance and above the piece of milk tin.

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