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An essay by Elizabeth Brightwen

Blanche, The Pigeon

Title:     Blanche, The Pigeon
Author: Elizabeth Brightwen [More Titles by Brightwen]

Pigeons possess a great deal more individuality of character than any one would suppose who has only seen them in flocks picking up grain in a farmyard, like domestic fowls.

They show to better advantage when only a few pairs are kept and fed daily at some settled place; but to make really interesting pets two are quite sufficient, and may be made very amusing companions. Some species may possess more mental capacity than others. Those I have to speak of were snow-white trumpeters. A pair was sent to me, but, to my sorrow, I found on opening the basket that the male bird had escaped on the way; so I could only put the solitary hen in a cage, and do all that was possible in the way of plentiful food and kind care to make her happy; but all to no purpose. The poor bird pined and grew weaker every day, till she became unable to get up to her perch. I used, therefore, to go to her every evening and place her comfortably for the night; and she soon grew tame enough to like being caressed and talked to. When spring returned I obtained a male pigeon, and hoped Blanche would accept him for a mate, but she showed a great deal of temper, and made him so unhappy that he had to be exchanged for another--a fine snow-white bird like herself, and, happily, of such a forbearing disposition as to endure being considerably "hen-pecked." Now began the curious part of Blanche's history. The pair built a nest in a small pigeon-house close to my window, so that I was able to watch all the family arrangements with much interest. Blanche liked to be with me for some hours in the morning, sitting on the table pluming herself, quite at ease, and when that operation was ended she generally seated herself on a large Bible which lay at one end of the dining-table, and there she usually went to sleep; a white dove resting on the Word suggested to one's mind many a beautiful emblematic thought. These visits to me were paid most regularly when a nest was finished and the eggs were being hatched; she then shared the duties of incubation by turns with her mate. He would sit patiently for four hours on the nest, while Blanche spent that time with me; then, punctually at the right moment, she would wake up, and, lazily stretching her wings, would fly out at the open window to see how affairs were getting on at home, and take her place on the nest for her appointed four hours.

She was a most eccentric bird in the matter of laying eggs. I sometimes found she had made me a present of one, neatly placed amongst my working materials! In fact, wherever she happened to be upon the table would be deemed by her a suitable place for laying; and, as I always conveyed the eggs to her nest, her little freaks did not much matter. But at last she took it into her wilful little head to lay her eggs in the coal-scoop, an arrangement which by no means improved her snowy plumage. She had a pretty crest, which curved over her head, and her feet were clothed with rather long feathers reaching to the claws. At our breakfast-time she would often sit close to my plate, letting me stroke her and draw out her pretty wings. I must own she was as conceited as any peacock, throwing herself on her side and stretching out a feathered foot, little dreaming how she was being laughed at for her affected attitudes. If she had a fault, it was her temper! I have seen her go up to her mate and give him a most uncalled-for peck, and he--amiable bird!--would bear all her unkindness so meekly, only answering by a propitiatory coo. Blanche reared many sons and daughters, but none were so interesting as herself. I ascribe her unusual tameness to the loving care bestowed upon her in her long illness. When once a bird's affections are won in that way they generally remain firm friends for life.

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Elizabeth Brightwen's essay: Blanche, The Pigeon