Dot and the Kangaroo
by Ethel C. Pedley (1860 - 1898)
. . . the story continues . . .
"What I object to most in young birds," said another elderly hen, "is their appearance. Some of them do nothing all day but preen their feathers. Look at the over-studied arrangements of their wing flights, and the affected exactness of their tall feathers! One looks in vain for sweetness and simplicity in the present-day young bower birds."
"Even that is better than the newer fashion of scarcely preening the feathers at all," observed another of the group. "Many of the young birds take no pride in their feathers whatever, but devote all their time to studying the habits of out-of-the-way insects." A chorus of disapproval from all present supported this remark. "Studies that interfere with a young hen's appearance should not be permitted," said one bird.
"What is the good of knowing all about insects, when we live on berries and fruit!" exclaimed another.
"The sight of insects gives one the creeps!" said a third.
"I am thankful to say all my little hens care for nothing beyond playing at the Bower and preening their feathers," said an affectionate bower bird mother. "They get a deal of attention paid to them."
No young Satin Bird would look at a learned little bower-hen, said the bird who had first objected to untidy and studious young hens. "For my part, I never allow a chick of mine even to mention insects, unless they are well known beetles!"
Dot thought this chattering very stupid, so she went round a bush to where the old fathers of the bower birds were perched. They were grave old fellows, arrayed in their satin blue-black plumage, and she found them all, more or less, in a grumbling humour.
"Birds at our time of life should not have to attend parties," said several, and Dot wondered why they came. "How are you, old neighbour?" said one to another. "Terribly bored!" was the reply. "How long must we stay, do you think?" asked another. "Oh! until these young fools have finished amusing themselves," answered its friend. The only satin birds who seemed to Dot to be interested in one another, were some engaged in discussing the scarcity of berries and the wrongs done to bower birds by White Humans destroying the wild fig and lillipilli trees. This grievance, and the question as to what berries or figs agreed best with each old bower bird's digestion, were the only topics discussed with any animation.
Dot soon tired of listening to the birds, and returned to the Kangaroo, who asked her if she cared to stay longer. The little girl said she had seen and heard enough, and, judging by this one, she didn't care for parties.
"Neither do I," whispered the Kangaroo; "they make me feel tired; and, somehow, they seem to remind one of everything one knows that's sad, in spite of all the gaiety."
"Is it gay?" enquired Dot, hesitating a little in her speech, for she had felt rather dull and miserable.