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Maxim Gorky

The Little Sparrow

The Little Sparrow

Translated by Robert Daglish
freebooksforkids.net
Illustrated by P.Repkin

Sparrows are just like people. The grown-ups are dull as ditchwater and everything they say sounds as if it came out of a book, but the young ones have minds of their own.

The Little Sparrow

Once upon a time there lived a baby sparrow and his name was Poodik. He lived on top of a bath-house window, just behind the surround, in a nice warm nest made of tow, bits of moss and other soft stuff.

The Little Sparrow

He had not yet tried to fly, but already he was flapping his little wings and poking his head out of the nest. He was very impatient to know what the outside world was like and whether it was good enough for him.

The Little Sparrow

“Tweet, tweet — what are you up to?” Mother Sparrow would ask him.

The Little Sparrow

And Poodik would shake his wings and, peeping down at the ground, would chirrup back:

“It’s ch-err-ibly dark down there! Ch-err-ibly dark!”

The Little Sparrow

Then Father Sparrow would come home with some insects for them to eat and start boasting.

The Little Sparrow

“I'm the chief! I'm the chief!”

And Mother Sparrow would chirrup approvingly: “Yes, chief! Yes, chief!”

The Little Sparrow

But Poodik just swallowed the insects and thought to himself: “They give you a worm with legs on it and talk as if it was a miracle!”

And he would keep putting his head out of the nest and looking round.

The Little Sparrow

“Now, child! Now, child!” his mother chirruped at him. “Mind you don’t fall out!”

The Little Sparrow

“Chuck it! How could I?” Poodik chirruped back.

“It’ll be chuck you, if there’s a cat about! He’ll gobble you up!” his father explained as he set off on another hunt.

The Little Sparrow

And so the days went by, but Poodik’s wings were in no hurry to grow.

One day a strong wind sprang up.

“Twee-ee-eet! Twee-ee-eet! What’s this?” Poodik wanted to know.

“It’s the wind ” his mother told him. “And it may blow you out of the nest. Then — whoops! Down you go to the cat!”

Poodik didn’t like the sound of that, so he said:

“Why are the trees swaying like this? Let them stop swaying, then there won’t be any wind.”

The Little Sparrow

His mother tried to explain to him that this was not how things worked, but he would not believe her.

The Little Sparrow

He had his own explanation for everything.

The Little Sparrow

A man walked past the bath-house, swinging his arms.

The Little Sparrow

“His wings must have been twisted off by a cat,” Poodik tweeted. “Only the bones are left.”

“He’s a man. They don’t have wings!” his mother said.

“Why not?”

“That’s their job — living without wings. All they can do is hop about on their two legs, see?”

“But why?”

“Because if they had wings, they would come after us just as Daddy and I do, after the insects.”

The Little Sparrow

“That’s twash!” Poodik tweeted. “Twash and twaddle! Everyone ought to have wings. It can’t be so good on the ground as it is in the air! When I grow up, I’ll see that everyone can fly.”

The Little Sparrow

So Poodik refused to trust his mother. He was still too young to know that if you don’t trust your mother things will turn out badly.

So he perched on the very edge of the nest, chirping out a song he had made up himself:

Wingless human beings all,
Your legs are useless things!
You may be big, you may be tall
But you each insect bites and stings.
Now look at me, small as can be,
I feed on insects, as you see.

The Little Sparrow

And he went on singing till he fell out of the nest.

The Little Sparrow

Down went Mother Sparrow after him.

The Little Sparrow

And the cat — a big ginger one with green eyes — there he was!

The Little Sparrow

Poodik was frightened out of his feathers. He spread his little wings and, trembling on his small grey legs, twittered timidly:

“Highly honoured to see you, I'm sure.”

The Little Sparrow

But his mother pushed him aside and with all her feathers ruffled up looked very brave and terrible, her open beak aimed straight at the cat’s eye.

“Off you go!” she cried. “Up on the window, Poodik! Fly!...”

The Little Sparrow

Fear lifted the little sparrow off the ground. He took one jump, flapped his wings once and then again...

The Little Sparrow

and there he was on the window ledge.

The Little Sparrow

And after him came Mother. She had lost her tail but she was full of joy. She gave him a good peck on the back of the head and said: “Well?”

The Little Sparrow

“Well what?” said Poodik. “You can’t learn everything at once!”

The Little Sparrow

And the cat sat on the ground, picking Mother Sparrow’s feathers off his paw, looked up at them and miaowed with regret:

“Miaow! What a sweet little spar-r-riow! Just like a miaowse! Miaow!”

The Little Sparrow

So it all came right in the end, that is, if we don’t count the loss of Mummy’s tail.

The Little Sparrow

Author: Gorky M.; illustrated by Repkin P.

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