By this time Puss had managed to creep within springing distance of poor Specklems; and just in the midst of one of her smooth oily speeches she made a jump, open-mouthed and clawed, but missed her mark, for the starling gave one flip with his wing and was out of reach in an instant, and then, with a short skim, he alighted on the thin branch of a neighbouring tree, where he sat watching his treacherous enemy, who had fared very differently.
"Wizzle-wizzle, indeed," said Boxer grumpily; "why don't you come down, old sharp-bill, and pull this thorn out of my nose?" "'Tisn't safe," said the starling. "Get out," said Boxer; "why, what do you mean?" "You'd get hold of my tail, perhaps," said Specklems. "Ha-ha-ha," laughed all the birds; "that's capital, so he would." "No, no; honour bright," said Boxer.
And then the vain little bird whistled and sputtered and cizzled away till he was quite out of breath, when his wife laughed at him so merrily, but told him that she liked his whistle better than the finest trill the skylark ever made; and so then Specklems said that after all he thought the crow might be right, but, at all events, the Specklems could do something better than cry "Caw-waw" when they opened their beaks.
"Dear me, how you startled me, Mr Specklems," she said; "who ever would have thought of seeing you there?" and then she began sneaking and sidling up towards the bird, of course with the most innocent of intentions; and though not in the slightest degree trusting Mrs Puss, Specklems sat watching to see what she would do next.
"Of course, gentlemen, it isn't for such a quiet mournful body as me to say anything," said the dove, "but I can't help thinking that the tree is as much mine as Mr Specklems'; but we won't quarrel about that, for just now it belongs to somebody else, and I feel very uncomfortable about my young ones.
As soon as he got up to his place in the cedar all the birds crowded round him to make inquiries; but the daw began to teaze them, and wouldn't tell anything for a few minutes, and then in a half whisper he said something to the starling. "Tchitch!" said Specklems, "is that all? why I'd have two dozen hatchings without making one half of that disturbance.
Sky-high, sky-high; higher higher higher higher, Little matey, watch your flier; Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet; Here the merry breezes meet, Where I twitter, circling higher, Watch me flying higher, higher. Low down, low down, nestling in the tussock brown, Little mate, I'm coming down." "Well, that beats the owl hollow," said Mr Specklems to his wife.
I find that I want fresh air; the heat of the kitchen fire quite upsets me sometimes, and then I come out for a stroll, and get up the trees just to hear the sweet warbling of the songsters." "Humph!" said Specklems to himself, "that's meant for a compliment to my singing; but I know she's after no good." "The kitchen was very, very hot this morning," continued Puss, "and so I came out."
I heard the crow say we were distant relations of his, and no one would for a moment think that he was a singer." "Hark at her now!" said Specklems, "not a singer; why, what does she call that?"
Why, he pinched one of old mother Muddle-dab's ducklings to death with his great black nails." "Well, what's to be done now?" said Specklems, "I'm not going to have him in my tree, and I won't either. I've a good mind to run at him with my sharp bill and stick it into him; and I would, too, if I was sure he wouldn't hurt me.