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Penelope Darling And The Birds

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

MR. H. H. HOPE has told a wonderful story of the magical influence of a poor girl, in one of the Southern States, over domestic animals and birds. He says : " It was one of the most beautiful sights my eyes had ever been permitted to behold on earth, to witness the perfect susceptibility of so many birds to the impressions which this girl made upon them. At any time, within two minutes after she came where they were in their little cages, whose doors had been left wide open, where they might be sitting in their nests, hatching their eggs-or on their little roosts, where they might be with their heads curled under their wings, sitting quietly and fast asleep—her presence seemed to work upon them like a spell of power; an insensible and invisible, yet al-mighty presence, seemed to go forth from her, and to rouse them all into the highest degree of excitement.

" I recollect going with her one fine morning, to her great bird-rookery, to see her perform her maternal duties, and play the part of mother to her collection; for I know of no other term so well fitted to express the relations which she seemed to bear toward birds. As soon as the door was opened by her, and she stepped in, the first songster that saluted her was the American brown thrasher or mocking-bird. He seemed to be the leader; and by a few beautiful, soft, yet trilling notes, he rose to the dignity of a matutinal salute. Instantly, hundreds of birds were in a flutter. Their little necks outstretched, heads up-lifted, eyes wide open, feathers fluttering, tails expanded: sitting down, standing up, walking about, trilling chirruping, singing half-notes, little bits of songs, rousing themselves up to receive new instalments of vital energy, and getting themselves organized into proper relations to life.

" Never, elsewhere, have I seen such an exhibition. And the impression was mutual; the girl seemed to be as much affected by it as the birds were. Her face put on a peculiar hue ; her eyes, as compared with their common expression, looked decidedly unnatural ; she seemed suddenly to grow in height ; there was a variation of aspect about her as a whole. Her lips were slightly parted ; her nostrils dilated to the largest extent; the tips of her ears came forward with a sort of natural instinct, as if her whole soul were on the alert to catch every single song sung by the hundreds of these little songsters, all waking up from their rest of the night to a fresh life at morning dawn. For, although it was broad daylight, and even the sun was just peeping over the top of yonder Eastern hill, the building stood so shaded and clustered all around by the large, old apple-trees that the light within its walls seemed to be of that soft, mellow kind which in a bright summer morning is visible at four o'clock. The girl cast a rapid glance over every part of the aviary, and now walking hastily about its outer edges, threw open the doors of such cages as had been closed, and then, taking her way down the middle of it, did the same with the cages that were suspended from its top. Thereupon she began a beautiful carol herself. Instantly, she was responded to by so many and such different voices as to make one think of music of the sweetest, softest, most harmonious, yet most incomprehensible nature. Strange as my feelings were, when I heard these numerous varied notes, which I had no artistic power to separate and arrange in order, and which seemed to be the veriest discord, yet it was the most beautiful discord I had ever heard, I was not so forcibly struck by the music as by the living tableau which presented itself to my sight.

" Within the space of half a minute after this girl began her song, you could not have told whether she was a boy or a girl, white or black, or what she was, so completely was her person covered with feathers, and these feathers on the bodies of the birds. They flew out of the cages in every direction, and alighted upon her till they made her perfectly invisible as far as her external appearance and her countenance were concerned ; and language gave you nothing for its representation but a mass of varied and beautiful plumage. They were on her head and shoulders by the dozen ; they clung to her skirts and to her dress in every direction, and screamed and trilled half-notes with such indescribable excitement as to thoroughly impress me as I never had been impressed before. Some of them were hanging upon her skirts head-downward-some sideways, some were on her shoes—some were on her head—and so wherever they could get a possible chance, they alighted.

" Now, when I tell my readers that from an old owl, whose eyesight began to grow dim as the day began to dawn ; from the eagle, whose eye gleamed darkly among the rest; from a tame crow, whose `caw' filled in like a deep bass 'mid tenor music—clear through the whole list of birds of which we know anything in this country, and some about which we know nothing except as they are imported—they were all on her, around her, about her ; and those who were not able to alight upon her were whirling about her head as if in a most thoroughly excited state, you may judge what sort of a scene was presented.

" During this she stood perfectly still. All at once she gave a little chirk, followed by a little whistle, and they began to go away from her—this one, that one and the other. And so they each went back with as much order and regularity to their cages as ever one saw a puppet move from side to side at the will of its operator. Then she went from cage to cage ; took out single birds, and perching them on her hand, her arm, her shoulder or her head, she would sing as the birds could sing. And it seems to me from my present point of remembrance as if she imitated the natural notes of more than fifty species of birds."

How susceptible the lower animals are to human tenderness and love ! The dog can tell in an instant, almost before a word is spoken, whether the master is pleased or displeased. What a shame and sin to be unduly rough or cruel toward the poor creatures who cannot give any excuses or make any explanations, but who, as a rule, are so loyal in their service to men. How bewitching are the magnetisms of a beautiful heart ! They draw people toward them, filling them with joyfulness and song. What an inexpressible charm there is in a soul charged with the Saviour's love ! Men are drawn from ignorance to intelligence, from rudeness to culture, from sin to holiness, from misery to happiness by its divine magnetisms. Jesus Christ has a divine charm which is drawing the world, with its barbarism, its heathenism, and its wretchedness, to himself, and filling it with purity, joy, life and everlasting love.

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