by Charlotte Maria Tucker
"Oh, Poll! Poll!" cried the little spaniel Fidele to the new favorite of the family, "how every one likes you and pets you!"
"No wonder," replied the parrot, cocking her head on one side with a very conceited air. "Just see how pretty I am! With your rough hairy coat and your turned-up nose, who would look at you beside me! Just observe my plumage of crimson and green, and the fine feather head-dress which I wear!"
"I know that you are a beauty," said Fidele, "and that I'm only an ugly little dog."
"Then how clever I am," continued Miss Parrot, after a nibble at her biscuit. "No human beings are likely to care for you, for you can't speak one word of their language."
"I wish that I could learn it," said Fidele.
"You've only to copy me." And then in her harsh grating voice, the parrot cried, "What's o'clock?"
"Bow-wow!" barked Fidele.
"Do your duty!" screamed the bird.
"Bow-wow!" barked the dog.
"There's not a chance that any one will ever care for you, ugly stupid spaniel," cried Miss Poll. "You may just creep off to your kennel, you are not fit company for a learned beauty like me."
Poor Fidele made no complaint, but he felt sad as he trotted off to his corner. Before Poll's arrival at the Hall, the spaniel had been the favorite playmate of all Mrs. Donathorn's children. They had taught him to fetch and carry, to toss up a biscuit placed on his nose and catch it cleverly in his mouth, or to jump into the water and bring a stick that had been flung to ever so great a distance. But as soon as pretty Poll came, no one seemed to care for Fidele any more. To teach the parrot to speak was the great delight of the children. They shouted and clapped their hands when she screamed out, "Pretty Poll," "What's o'clock?" or, "Do your duty." Stupid Fidele! He could not be taught to speak. Ugly Fidele! Who could for a moment compare him to a beautiful parrot. So all the kind words and soft pats and sweet biscuits were given to Poll. It is true that she made little Tommy once cry out with pain from a bite from her sharp beak, and that the least thing that displeased her would make her ruffle up her feathers in a very ill-tempered way, but still she was petted and praised for her cleverness and her beauty. And she quite despised poor Fidele, who was nothing but an ugly hairy dog.
One fine summer's day, the children carried the stand of their favorite to the bank of the pretty little river which flowed through their mother's grounds. Bessy and Jemmy amused themselves by feeding and chatting with the parrot, while little Tommy gathered daisies and buttercups, or rolled about on the grass. No one cared for Fidele. No one noticed what he was doing.
Presently Bessy and Jemmy were startled by a scream and then a sudden splashing noise in the water. Poor little Tommy, eager to pull some blue forget-me-nots which grew quite close to the brink, had overbalanced himself and tumbled right into the stream. Oh, what was the terror of the children when they heard the splash and saw the wide circles on the water where their poor little brother was sinking.
"Do your duty!" screamed the parrot, merely talking by rote and not caring a feather for the danger of the child or the distress of his brother and sister.
At that moment, there was heard another splash in the water and then the brown nose and hairy back of Fidele were seen in the stream, as the little dog swam with all his might to save the drowning child. He caught little Tommy by his clothes. He pulled—he tugged—he dragged him towards the shore, just within reach of the eagerly stretched-out hands of Jemmy.
"Oh, he is saved! he is saved!" cried Bessy, as Tommy was dragged out of the river, dripping, choking, spluttering, crying, but not seriously hurt. He was instantly carried back to the house, undressed, and put into a warm bed, and the little one was soon none the worse for his terrible dunking and fright.
"Oh, you dear—you darling dog!" cried Bessy, as she caught up Fidele, all wet as he was, and hugged him with grateful affection. "I will always love you and care for you, for you were a true friend in need."
"Pretty Poll!" screamed the parrot, who did not like any one to be noticed but herself.
"Fidele is better than pretty. He is brave and useful and good," cried Bessy.
"Do your duty!" screamed out Miss Poll.
"Ah, Poll, Poll, it is one thing to prate about duty and another thing to do it," said Bessy. "Fine words are good, to be sure, but fine acts are a great deal better."
Beauty and cleverness may win much notice for a time, but it is he who is faithful, good, and true who is valued and loved at the end.
Edited by Pam Takahashi
Proofed by Deborah Gardner
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