voices from the past


Dot and the Kangaroo

by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)

. . . the story continues . . .

This gift from Dot caused an immediate flow of conversation, because every bird was pleased to have something to talk about. They all began to say how beautiful the beads were. "Quite too lovely!" said one. "What a charming little Human!" exclaimed another. "Just the finish that our bower required," was a general remark, and a great many kept exclaiming, "So tasteful!" "So sweet!" "How elegant!" "Exquisite!" "It's a love!" "It's a dear!" and so on. A great deal more was said, but the oldest bower bird, thinking that all the adjectives were getting used up, told the frogs and crickets to start the music again, so as to keep the excitement going, and all further observations were drowned in the noise.

Presently the younger birds flew down to the bower, and began to play and dance. Like a troop of children, they ran round and round the bower, and to and fro through it, gleefully chasing each other. Then they would assemble in groups, and hop up and down, and dance to one another in what Dot thought a rather awkward fashion; but she was thinking of the elegance and grace of the Native Companions, who can make beautiful movements with their long legs and necks, whilst these little bower birds are rather ungainly in their steps.

What amused her was to see how the young cock birds showed off to the little hens. They were conceited fellows, and only seemed happy when they had five or six little hens looking admiringly at their every movement. At such times they would dance and hop with great delight; and the little hens, in a circle round them, watched their hops and steps with absorbed interest. Immensely pleased with himself, the young dancer would fluff out his feathers, so as to look as big as possible, and after strutting about, would suddenly shoot out a leg and a wing, first on one side and then on the other, then spring high into the air, and do a sort of step dance when his feet touched the earth again. Endless were the tricks he resorted to, to show off his feathers and dancing to the best advantage; and the little hens watched it all with silent intentness.

In the meantime the frogs and crickets stopped to rest, and Dot could hear the conversation of some of the old birds perched near her. A little party of elderly hens were discussing the young birds who were dancing at the bower.

"I must say I don't admire that new step which is becoming so popular amongst the young birds," said one elderly hen; and all her companions rustled their feathers, closed their beaks tightly, and nodded their heads in various ways. One said it was "rough," another that it was "ungainly," and others that it was "unmannerly."

"As for manners," said the first speaker, "the bower birds of this day can't be said to have any!" and all her companions chorused, "No, indeed!"

"In my young day," continued the elderly hen, and all the group were sighing, "Ah! in our young days!" when a young hen perched on a bough above them, and interrupted pertly, "Dear me, can't you good birds find anything more interesting to talk about than ancient history?" At this the group of gossips whispered angrily to one another, "Minx!" "Hussy!" "Wild cat!" etc., and the rude young bird flew back to her companions.

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