(from Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories)
Here is the prettiest bird story I think I have ever heard. It’s about a little chaffinch that lived - and may still live, for aught I know - at Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Saundersfoot, by the way, is a dear little seaside village, with just a few old-fashioned houses and a delightful stretch of sandy beach. A long lane, running between flower-decked hedgerows, separates it from the nearest railway station. I know, because I went there once in search of a friend - and found he had left two hours before I got there! I also missed the chaffinch, and of that I am more sorry still.
One stormy day not very long ago this little bird, wearied perhaps by the wind, flew through an open window into one of the houses in the village.
Now it so happened that in the room was a little invalid girl, Kathleen by name, who was delighted to see her little visitor. She gave it some food and cared for it tenderly all the night till the storm was over. Then in the morning the chaffinch flew away.
But the next day, to Kathleen’s surprise and delight, it returned, took some food, and flew away again! The next day it did the same, and for quite a time there was not a morning passed that the chaffinch did not come for breakfast.
Then one day the visits ceased, and poor Kathleen thought the bird must surely have been killed. She waited and waited, keeping some food close to the window, but in vain.
A week later, however, the chaffinch came again, but with a wound in its little breast. Kathleen was very sorry for it and nursed it till it was well again, watching it eat from a tiny tray on her bed. They became fast friends.
Then an extraordinary thing happened. One day Kathleen’s aunt came into the room while the little girl was asleep, and saw a strange piece of ribbon lying on her hair. She wondered how it could have got there, and Kathleen, when he woke up, said she knew nothing about it.
But the next day the aunt found a piece of pink gauze lying against the child’s cheek. They were now thoroughly puzzled, but as they were talking about it, what do you supposed happened? In through the open window flew the chaffinch with another little gift, this time a piece of blue ribbon, in its beak. It dropped the ribbon on the pillow and flew away.
After that this dear little bird with the kindly heart brought, among other gifts, some lace, a snail’s shell, some thistledown, a tiny piece of bracken, some coloured wool, and a small curtain ring.
What a lesson in gratitude! Evidently the chaffinch was trying in its feeble way to say thank you for all the sick girl’s kindness. And as I heard the story I thought of the Master’s words, “She hath done what she could!”