The Bird in the Monkey-tree
LIFE, it seems to me now, ought always to be lived just a few degrees below delirium. That is one of the things I have discovered during the last week or so. Another is that illness is a luxury which ought always to be reserved for the month of February.
It was the bird in the monkey-tree that put these thoughts into my head. Every morning while I was ill he would come and perch among the prickly boughs and sing. I felt sorry—no, ashamed—that we had 'nothing better to offer him than a monkey-tree. For of all trees that is the most ungainly, the most treacherous, the most unarboreal. In fact, it isn't a tree at all ; and none but a really kindly disposed bird would pretend to mistake it for one.
Wherefore, I give my blackbird the greater thanks. Perhaps he guessed that I had nothing to do with it. Perhaps he guessed that if I had my way quite anothci kind of tree should grow there, whose leaves were really leaves and whose boughs were not a snare and a delusion.
Anyway, there he used to sit. And the song he sang, morning after morning, seemed to me the very voice of the oncoming spring.
I asked my landlady, as she stood over me with the first horrid potion of the day, whether she had heard it. " Heard what ? " she asked, and stayed not for an answer. '" Now come along," she said instead, " take this quick." For my landlady is not one to waste her time on birds, not at that hour of the day, anyhow.
MoreoVer, she admires her monkey-tree. Quaintness, and not freeness, is her criterion when she considers it.
But whether my landlady heard the bird singing in the Monkey-tree or not, certain it is that I heard him ; and certain it is that his song filled me with a superb and foolish hopefulness. " Spring is coming ! " he sang. And though, at that moment; the fields might be grey with rain, it was not I who was in the mood to deny him. " Of course it's coming, you silly old thing ! " my answer would have been; " I can feel it in my bones just as well as you can."
And all day long I would make plans for the time when I should be out and about again. Even in my bedroom I could sense a hint of Spring in the air. Not all the medicinal odours could deny it ; and though my heels were weighed down with blankets they seemed to be sprouting wings. Indeed, my only fear was lest the Spring should come too soon. Should I be fit in time ? I had only to put my feet to the floor for my legs to shake like willows in the wind. Should I get them strong again in time ? And meanwhile, " Spring is coming ! " the bird in the monkey-tree continued to shout : " Spring is coming ! "
But what, you may well ask, has all this to do with living just a few degrees below delirium and reserving the luxury of illness for the month of February ?
Evetything in the world, I answer. For I am well again now, and out and about. And I believe I have that bird to thank for it. My legs are no longer like blown willow-bands. There is no longer a constant odour of medicine about the house. I am no more beholden to my landlady for every little thing. All the same, there is no feeling now of wings upon my heels. I have not oiled My walking-boots and shaken the dust off my rucksack. And to-morrow morning, I know quite well, I shall take the usual train to town, sit down to the usual routine, and behave myself like the usual citizen I am supposed to be.
The strange thing is that I am not at all resentful about it, either. Spring ? Bah ! whoever heard such nonsense ? I have walked in the lanes, but I did not notice any hint of the Spring in the air.. A bird- or two sang in the trees ; but then there are birds foolish enough to sing even in the depths of winter. No, it is still February ; downright, fill-the-dyke February ; and March is still to come " There will be snow before morning," says my matter-of-fact landlady ; and I quite believe her.
What puzzles me, however, is that bird in the monkey- tree. I have delayed my rising several mornings since, waiting for him ; but he doesn't come. It is my belief that he never sang in the tree at all—not to say sang. Tootle, he may have done ; but I could almost doubt even that. I could almost doubt whether he ever came to the monkey-tree at all. What bird in his senses would ?
Nevertheless, I am well : bird or no bird, Spring or no Spring, I am well. I am myself again. C. HENRY WARREN.