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A short story by Abbie Farwell Brown

The Early Girl

Title:     The Early Girl
Author: Abbie Farwell Brown [More Titles by Brown]

There were once two girls who were very dear friends, Zaica and Tourtourelle. One morning Zaica woke up and said, "O Tourtourelle! Last night I had such a strange dream!"

"And so did I!" cried Tourtourelle. "Let us tell each other the dreams. But you first, Zaica."

Zaica began to laugh. "I dreamed I was a pretty bird with a tuft of feathers on my head. I could fly, and, O Tourtourelle! it was great fun! But the most amusing thing of all was that I could sing so finely, and mock all the birds of the forest. Nay, I could even imitate the sounds of animals. I cannot help laughing when I think what a jolly time I had."

"Why, Zaica!" cried Tourtourelle, wondering, "I dreamed the very same thing. I too was a pretty little bird, and I too could imitate all kinds of sounds as I fluttered in the tree-tops. Surely, the dream will come true for one of us. How fine that would be!"

"Yes, let it be for the one of us who first rises to-morrow morning," said Zaica. And so the two friends agreed.

Now when it came night-time Zaica went to bed very early, like a wise little girl who wants to rise with the sun. But Tourtourelle said to herself, "I know what I will do, I will not go to sleep. I will sit up all night, and then I am sure to be the first to rise."

So Tourtourelle perched herself on a high-backed chair and stretched her eyes wide open. For hours and hours she sat there, growing more sleepy every minute. Towards morning she began to nod; she could hardly keep her eyes open, though she tried to prop the lids with her finger tips. Finally, whether she would or no, she fell fast asleep, poor little Tourtourelle, worn out with her long vigil.

When the first morning sunbeam peeped into the chamber Zaica opened her eyes, refreshed and smiling. She sat up in bed remembering the dream, and then jumped lightly to the floor. As she did so she glanced at her feet, which felt queer. Wonderful! They were little bird claws! She looked down at herself. She was covered with soft feathers. She tried to move her arms, and when she did so she rose lightly from the floor and skimmed out of the window into the garden. Zaica had become a pretty little bird, just as she had dreamed. Oh, how happy she was! She heard a Lark singing far up in the sky. Opening her mouth, she warbled and trilled as well as he, until he dropped down quickly to the earth, thinking it must be his mate who sang so sweetly. She spied a Chicken strayed too far from the mother Hen; and chuckling to herself mischievously she imitated the warning cry of a Hawk, till the Chick ran squawking back to the shelter of his mother's wing. She heard a hound baying afar off, and with little trouble echoed the sound so perfectly that a groom came running out of the stable, whistling for the dog which he feared was straying from the kennel. Zaica found that as in her dream she could imitate all the sounds which she heard; and she was so pleased that she sang and sang and sang, hopping from tree to tree, teasing the other birds with her mockery, and puzzling them, too.

As for poor Tourtourelle, when she waked it was very late. She yawned and rubbed her eyes languidly, for she was still sleepy. Then looking across to Zaica's bed she saw that it was empty. Her heart gave a great thump, for she longed and longed to be a bird, but now she feared that she was too late. In her white gown she ran out into the garden looking for Zaica. But first she saw an old man leading his cow to the pasture. And to the cow he said, "Coo-roo, coo-roo!" coaxing her to hasten.

"Coo-roo, coo-roo!" cried Tourtourelle, imitating him, she knew not why. And as she said it she wondered at the strange feeling which came over her. For her body felt very light and it seemed as if she could fly. She looked down and saw that she was no longer covered with a little white gown but with soft feathers of ashy gray, while wings sprouted from her shoulders.

"Oh, I have become a bird!" she tried to say, but all she uttered was--"Coo-roo, coo-roo!" For Tourtourelle was become a beautiful Turtle-Dove, and that is all a Turtle-Dove can say.

"Coo-roo, coo-roo!" mocked a voice from the tree. And cocking her little reddish eye Tourtourelle saw a brilliant Jay hopping in the branches, imitating a Dove. Then it was the song of a Wren that she heard, then a Lark, then a Thrush, then a Sparrow-Hawk,--all these sounds coming from the one little throat of the happy bird on that bough. Tourtourelle tried to do likewise, but all she could sing was "Coo-roo! coo-roo!" And she said mournfully to herself:--

"It is Zaica. She was wiser than I, and earlier, and the dream came true for her. Oh dear! Oh dear!" And to this day Turtle-Dove flies about sadly uttering her monotonous cry, and listening with a longing that would be envy, were she not so good a little bird, to the chatter of her friend the Jay.

For Zaica the Jay is always merry, hopping from tree to tree, playing her jokes upon the other birds whom she deceives with her wonderful voice. And she leads a life so gay and exciting that she never finds time to be sad, even over the disappointment of her dear friend, poor little Tourtourelle.

[The end]
Abbie Farwell Brown's short story: Early Girl