After Jolly Robin had gulped down the fat angleworm with which his father had coaxed him to leave the nest, he clung desperately to the limb. With no food in sight he had plenty of time to look about him and to be alarmed.
The day was not gone before he had a great fright. He tumbled out of the apple tree and fell squawking and fluttering upon the ground.
Luckily, his mother happened to be at home. She went to Jolly at once and told him not to be afraid.
“Nothing will hurt you,” she said, “if you’ll only keep still. But if you squall like that, the cat will find you.”
It may seem strange, but his mother’s words frightened Jolly all the more. They scared him so thoroughly that he stopped making a noise, anyhow. And that was how he learned never to talk when he was on the ground near a house where a cat might live.
“Now,” said Jolly’s mother, as soon as he was still, “I’ll teach you a new game. Just watch me!” And spreading her wings, she flapped them, and sprang into the air.
Soon Jolly was trying to imitate her. And it was not long before he found himself gliding a short distance, skimming along just off the ground.
But in spite of all his efforts, he couldn’t help falling again. Though his mother tried to show him how to fly into a tree-top, Jolly Robin seemed unable to learn the trick.
At last Mr. Robin said to his wife:
“I’ll teach him the rest. You’ve made a good beginning. But he must learn more at once. There’s no telling when the cat may come into the orchard to hunt for field-mice. And you know what would happen then.”
His wife shuddered. But Mr. Robin told her not to worry.
“I’ll soon have this youngster so he can fly as well as anybody,” he declared.
So he went and hopped about on the ground with Jolly for a little while, showing him how to find worms beneath the grass carpet of the orchard.
And then, in a loud voice, Mr. Robin suddenly cried:
“The cat! The cat!” And he flew into an old tree near-by.
Jolly Robin had never seen Farmer Green’s cat. But he had heard that she was a dreadful, fierce creature. And when his father shouted her name Jolly was so startled that he forgot he didn’t quite know how to fly. Before he knew what he was doing, he followed his father right up into the old apple tree and perched himself on a low branch.
That was the way he learned to fly, for he never had the least trouble about it afterward. And as soon as he realized that he had actually flown from the ground to the bough he was so pleased that he began to laugh merrily.
As for the cat, she was not in the orchard at all. Indeed, Jolly’s father had not said that she was. You see, he had played a joke on his son.
Now, up to that time Jolly Robin had not been named. You must remember that he was not two weeks old. And having three other children of the same age, his parents had not been able to think of names for all of them.
But this big youngster laughed so heartily that his father named him “Jolly,” on the spot. And “Jolly” he remained ever afterward.