IN THE SNOW
It was a bright, wintry day. The frost jewels sparkled on the snow. The winds blew cutting cold from the north.
Phyllis, in her scarlet coat and cap, and long, warm leggings, waded in the deepest drifts she could find.
Out by the garden fence was the greatest drift. After floundering through it, Phyllis climbed up and perched on the top rail of the fence.
She sat quite still, for she was almost breathless after her struggle in the snow.
Suddenly, just over her head, Phyllis heard a whistle. She started so that she almost fell from the fence.
Again came the whistle, clear, sweet, and long drawn out. Phyllis looked up, and there on the branch of the elm-tree sat a cheery little bird.
With a third whistle he flew down to the fence and perched beside Phyllis.
He came quite close and stared at the little girl in a gay, curious manner, as though he might be looking for a playfellow.
"Who are you?" asked Phyllis, looking like a great red bird as she perched on the fence.
"Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee-dee-dee!" twittered the little fellow. It seemed to Phyllis that he laughed because she did not know him.
"Oh, to be sure," said she. "How stupid of me not to remember. I have met you a hundred times.
"I should have remembered your black head and throat. The sides of your head and neck are white. Your breasts and sides are light yellow. Your tail and wings are of a much darker shade, and how daintily they are edged with white!"
The chickadee fluttered about for a moment, and noticing the friendliness in Phyllis's tones he perched a little closer to her side.
"I do not believe you noticed the large white feathers in my shoulders," he said. "You may always know a chickadee by the white markings there."
"I did not notice your white shoulders at first," said Phyllis, "but I saw at once what fine downy feathers you have. They are beautifully soft. Do they make a warm winter dress? How do you chance to be here in the winter-time?
"I think it is time you were in the South, Mr. Chickadee! Did your family leave you behind?"
"No, indeed," replied Mr. Chickadee. "No, indeed, Phyllis! My entire family are wintering here in the North. We never go South for the winter.
"We are quite happy to remain here at home, and to come out on sunshiny days and whistle and sing and be happy.
"Only half an hour ago some boys went coasting down that hill. I whistled at them but they did not hear me.
"Soon they came up the hill, drawing their sleds behind them. I whistled again and called my name.
"'Why, hello,' cried a boy in a blue reefer and a blue stocking cap. 'Hello, chickadee, you're a jolly little fellow! We call you our fair weather friend because you sing so cheerily on these clear frosty days.'
"'Oho!' laughed another boy, who had a big scratch on his nose, 'I saw a chickadee flying about among the fir-trees on that very stormy day last week. He sang just as cheerily through the storm.' Then the boy whistled back to me and called my name."
"That was my brother Jack," laughed Phyllis....