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Chapter 21

A DOLEFUL DITTY



Jolly Robin often complained about the wailing of Willie Whip-poor-will. Willie lived in the woods, which were not far from the orchard. And it was annoying to Jolly to hear his call, “Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will,” repeated over and over again for some two hours after Jolly’s bed-time. Neither did Jolly Robin enjoy being awakened by that same sound an hour or two before he wanted to get up in the morning. And what was still worse, on moonlight nights Willie sometimes sang his favorite song from sunset to sunrise.

“What a doleful ditty!” said Jolly Robin. “I must see this fellow and tell him that he ought to change his tune.” But the trouble was that Jolly Robin did not like to roam about at night. He was always too sleepy to do that. And in the daytime Willie Whip-poor-will was silent, resting or sleeping upon the ground in the woods.

But a day came at last when Jolly Robin stumbled upon Willie Whip-poor-will, sound asleep where he lived. And Jolly lost no time in waking him up.

“I’ve been wanting to speak to you for some time,” he told the drowsy fellow.

“What’s the matter?” Willie Whip-poor-will asked, with a startled stare. “Are the woods on fire?”

“No!” said Jolly Robin. “I want to talk with you—that’s all.” And he was as cheerful as anyone could have wished.

But Willie Whip-poor-will looked very cross.

“This is a queer time to make a call!” he grumbled. “I don’t like to be disturbed in broad daylight. I supposed everybody knew that midnight is the proper time for a visit.”

“But I’m always asleep then,” Jolly Robin objected, “unless it’s a moonlight night and you happen to be singing on my side of the woods.”

Willie Whip-poor-will looked almost pleasant when Jolly said that.

“So you stay awake to hear me!” he exclaimed. “I see you like my singing.”

Jolly Robin laughed, because Willie had made such a funny mistake.

“You’re wrong!” he said. “In fact, I’ve been wanting to talk with you about that very thing. I want you to change your song, which is a very annoying one. It’s altogether too disagreeable. I’ll teach you my ‘Cheerily-cheerup’ song. You’ll like it much better, I think. And I’m sure all your neighbors will.... Why not learn the new song right now?” Jolly asked.

But Willie Whip-poor-will made no answer. Looking at him more closely, Jolly Robin was amazed to see that he was sound asleep.

“Here, wake up!” Jolly cried, as he nudged Willie under a wing.

Again Willie Whip-poor-will sprang up with a bewildered expression.

“Hullo!” he said. “What’s the trouble? Did a tree fall?”

“You went to sleep while I was talking to you,” Jolly Robin explained.

“Oh!” said Willie Whip-poor-will. “That doesn’t matter. You must be used to that.” And the words were scarcely out of his mouth before he had fallen asleep again.

Jolly Robin looked at him in a puzzled way. He didn’t see how he could teach Willie his “Cheerily-cheerup” song unless he could keep him awake. But he thought he ought to try; so he gave Willie a sharp tweak with his bill.

“Did you hear what I said about your singing?” he shouted right in Willie’s ear.

Willie Whip-poor-will only murmured sleepily:

“It’s rheumatism. I just felt a twinge of it.”

He had no idea what Jolly Robin was talking about.





Arthur Scott Bailey

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