CHAPTER THE FIRST.
hree birds of very favourable repute in these regions met together one evening—a Thrush, a Lark, and a Nightingale. And all for what purpose, think you? It was a queer one—to hold a solemn conference about a Dewdrop!
Yes, it must be allowed it was an original thought which brought these three feathered friends thus into council; and a pretty talk to be sure they had about it.
They selected, as an appropriate time for preliminaries, the close of a bright day in early summer; just when things in outer nature were looking their best. The snowdrop and crocus had long ago hid their faces to make way for more ambitious rivals. That always pleasant season was a great way past, when you see the drowsy plants (after being tucked up—it may have been for weeks—in a white snowy coverlet), first roused from their sound winter sleep, yawning and stretching themselves, and rubbing their little eyes, and looking; wonderingly about them, saying—"What! is it now time to wake up and dress?" The tree foliage was approaching, if it had not already reached, perfection; all the mosses, too, looked so green and fresh; and how prettily the various ferns were uncoiling themselves among the rocks and shady nooks by the stream; while on this particular occasion the very Sun seemed to have coaxed his setting beams into the production of most gorgeous colouring. Belts of golden cloud were streaking the western sky; such long trails of them, that it was impossible to say whether the great ball of fire, which gave them their glory, had actually gone down behind the horizon, or was just about to do so. At all events, it was unmistakably sundown: though the scene was far removed from northern latitudes, it might be designated by the familiar Scotch "gloamin'." The groves, and dells, and hedgerows, which had kept up a goodly concert the livelong day, were now silent. Their winged tenants had, one after another, slunk to their nests, with very tired throats. They had left, apparently, all, or nearly all the music to the aforesaid brook in the dell. A stone's-throw higher up the valley, this latter, fed by recent rains, rattled in gleeful style over a bed of white and grey pebbles—the tiny limpid waves chasing one another as if they were playing at hide-and-seek amid the sedges, king-cups, and rushes. But it had now reached a quieter spot where, however, it still kept up a gentle, soothing evensong, a lullaby peculiar to itself, as if it wanted to hush the little birds asleep in their varied leafy cradles. The very cattle, that had been seen lying lazily out of the heat under the beech-trees, had ceased their lowings. In fact, Nature had rung her curfew bell, and the sentry stars were coming out, one by one, to keep their night-watch.
Let me first, however, say a word about this Dewdrop, which had awakened so much curiosity as to gather three representative members of the bird-world together.
It was a great puzzle, this Dewdrop was. It was a puzzle where it came from; what it had come about; and a still greater puzzle, what it was made of. It was evidently a visitor from some unknown land. Very quietly, too, it had travelled to its adopted country. These birds, in succession (with the curiosity birds generally have), had endeavoured by stealth to track its dainty fairy footsteps, and learn its past history....