Chapter XIII THE HERMIT
Though Jolly Robin was quite bold for his size, he had a cousin who was actually shy. This timid relation of Jolly’s belonged to the Hermit Thrush family; and Jolly Robin always spoke of him as “The Hermit,” which was a good name for him, because he never strayed from the depths of the swamp near Black Creek. At least, he stayed there all summer long, until the time came for him to go South.
If Jolly Robin wanted to see this shy cousin, he had to go into the swamp. For the Hermit never repaid any of Jolly’s calls. He was afraid of Farmer Green and the other people that lived in the farmhouse. Apple orchards, and gardens and open fields he considered good places to avoid, because he thought them dangerous.
“There’s no place to live that’s quite as safe and pleasant as a swamp,” he often remarked. “I have one brother who prefers an evergreen thicket, which doesn’t make a bad home. And another brother of mine lives in some bushes near a road. But how he can like such a dwelling-place as that is more than I can understand.”
Now, there were two things for which this cousin of Jolly Robin’s was noted. He was an exquisite singer; and he always wore a fine, spotted waistcoat.
Jolly always admired the Hermit’s singing. But he didn’t like his spotted waistcoat at all.
“That cousin of mine is too much of a dandy,” Jolly remarked to his wife one day. “I’m going to pay him a visit this afternoon. And I shall speak to him about that waistcoat he’s so fond of wearing. It’s well enough for city birds to dress in such finery. But it’s a foppish thing for anybody to wear way up here in the country.”
Jolly’s wife told him plainly that he had better mind his own business.
“It’s no affair of yours,” she said. “And you ought not to mention the matter to your cousin.”
Jolly Robin did not answer her. He thought there was no use arguing with his wife. And since the Hermit was his own cousin, he saw no reason why he shouldn’t tell his relation exactly what he thought.
The Hermit appeared glad to see Jolly Robin when he came to the swamp that afternoon. At least, the Hermit said he was much pleased. He had very polished manners for a person that lived in a swamp. Beside him, Jolly Robin seemed somewhat awkward and clownish. But then, Jolly always claimed that he was just a plain, rough-and-ready countryman.
“I never put on any airs,” he often said. “Farmer Green and I are a good deal alike in that respect.”
After the Hermit had inquired about Jolly’s health, and that of his wife as well, he smoothed down his spotted vest, flicked a bit of moss off his tail, and said that if Jolly cared to hear him he would sing one of his best songs.
“I’d like to hear you sing!” Jolly told him.
So the Hermit sang a very sweet and tender melody, which was quite different from Jolly’s cheery carols.
It was a great pleasure to hear such a beautiful song. And Jolly Robin was so delighted that he began to laugh heartily the moment his cousin had finished the final note.
“I wouldn’t laugh, if I were you,” the Hermit reproved him mildly. “That’s a sad song…. If you care to weep, I’d be more than gratified,” he said. And he shuddered slightly, because Jolly’s boisterous laughter grated upon his sensitive nerves.
You can see, just from that, that the Hermit was a very different person from his merry cousin, Jolly Robin.