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and rock a cradle with his foot, for whole hours together.
9. In addition to his other vocations he was the singing-master of the neighborhood, and picked up many bright shillings by instructing the young folks in psalmody. It was a matter of no little vanity to him, on Sundays, to take his station in front of the church gallery, with a band of chosen singers, where, in his own mind, he completely carried away the palm from the parson.
10. Certain it is, his voice resounded far above all the rest of the congregation; and there are peculiar quavers still to be heard in that church, and which may even be heard half a mile off, quite to the opposite side of the millpond, on a still Sunday morning, which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod Crane. Thus, by divers little makeshifts in that ingenious way which is commonly denominated by hook and by crook,” the worthy pedagogue got on tolerably enough, and was thought, by all who understood nothing of the labor of headwork, to have a wonderfully easy life of it.
11. From his half-itinerant life, also, he was a kind of travelling gazette, carrying the whole budget of local gossip from house to house; so that his appearance was always greeted with satisfaction. He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read several books quite through.
12. He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple credulity. His appetite for the marvellous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his resi
dence in this spellbound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow. It was often his delight, after his school was dismissed in the afternoon, to stretch himself on the rich bed of clover bordering the little brook that whimpered by his schoolhouse and there con over old direful tales, until the gathering dusk of the evening made the printed page a mere mist before his eyes.
XXXVIII. - A FEATHERED BANDIT.
1. Usually, the character of a bird of prey is well defined; there is no mistaking him. His claws, his beak, his head, his wings, in fact his whole build, point to the fact that he subsists upon live creatures; he is aimed to catch them and slay them. Every bird knows a hawk and knows him from the start, and is on the lookout for him.
2. The hawk takes life, but he does it to maintain his own; and it is a public and universally known fact. Nature has sent him abroad in that character, and has advised all creatures of it. Not so with the shrike or butcher bird; here she has concealed the character of a murderer under a form as innocent as that of the robin. Feet, wings, tail, color, head, and general forn and size are all those of a song-bird, — very much like that master songster the mocking-bird, — yet this bird is a regular Bluebeard among its kind. Its only characteristic
feature is its beak, the upper mandible having two sharp processes and a sharp hooked point. It cannot fly away to any distance with the bird it kills, nor hold it in its claws to feed upon it. It usually impales its victim upon a thorn or thrusts it in the fork of a limb. For the most part, however, its food seems to consist of insects — spiders, grasshoppers, beetles, etc. It is the assassin of these small birds, whom it often destroys in pure wantonness, or merely to sup on their brains.
3. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Apparently its victims are unacquainted with its true character and allow it to approach them, when the fatal blow is given. I saw an illustration of this the other day. A large number of goldfinches in their full plumage, together with snow-birds and sparrows, were feeding and chattering in some low bushes back of the barn.
4. Presently I heard a rustling among the dry leaves as if some larger bird was also among them. Then I heard one of the goldfinches cry out as if in distress, when the whole flock of them started up in alarm, and, circling around, settled in the tops of the larger trees.
5. I continued my scrutiny of the bushes and saw a large bird with some object in its beak, hopping along on a low branch near the ground. It disappeared from my sight for a few moments, then came up through the undergrowth into the top of a young maple; and I beheld the shrike. The little birds avoided him and flew about the trees, their pursuer following. I made my way about to see what the shrike had done with his prey.
6. As I approached the bushes I saw him hastening back. Seeing my movements he had returned for his game; but I was too quick for him. On some twigs in the thickest part of the bushes I found his victim, - a goldfinch. It was not impaled upon a thorn, but carefully disposed upon some horizontal twigs, – laid upon a shelf so to speak.
7. On examining it I found a large bruise or break in the skin, on the back of the neck at the base of the skull. Here the bandit had, no doubt, griped the bird with his strong beak. The shrike's bloodthirstiness was seen in the fact that it did not stop to devour its prey but went in quest of more, as if opening a market of goldfinches.
The shrike is called a butcher from the habit of sticking his meat upon hooks and points.
Pleasantly rose one morn the sun on the village of
Grand-Pré. Pleasantly gleamed in the soft, sweet air the Basin of
Minas, Where the ships, with their wavering shadows, were
riding at anchor.
Life had long been astir in the village, and clamorous
labor Knocked with its hundred hands at the golden gates of
Now from the country around, from the farms and the
neighboring hamlets, Come in their holiday dresses the blithe Acadian peas
ants. Many a glad good-morrow and jocund laugh from the
Made the bright air brighter, as up from the numerous
meadows Where no path could be seen but the track of wheels in
the greensward, Group after group appeared, and joined, or passed on
Long ere noon, in the village all sounds of labor were
silenced. Thronged were the streets with people; and noisy groups
at the house-doors Sat in the cheerful sun, and rejoiced and gossipped
together. Every house was an inn, where all were welcomed and
feasted; For with this simple people, who lived like brothers
together, All things were held in common, and what one had