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The New McGuffey Fourth Reader
by William H. McGuffey, Compiler

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By John Todd

In a distant field stood a large tulip tree, apparently of a

century's growth, and one of the most gigantic. It looked like

the father of the surrounding forest. A single tree of huge

dimensions, standing all alone, is a sublime object.

On the top of this tree, an old eagle, commonly called the

"Fishing Eagle," had built her nest every year, for many years,

and, undisturbed, had raised her young. A remarkable place to

choose, as she procured her food from the ocean, and this tree

stood full ten miles from the seashore. It had long been known as

the "Old Eagle Tree."

On a warm, sunny day, the workmen were hoeing corn in an

adjoining field. At a certain hour of the day, the old eagle was

known to set off for the seaside, to gather food for her young.

As she this day returned with a large fish in her claws, the

workmen surrounded the tree, and by yelling and hooting, and

throwing stones, so scared the poor bird that she dropped her

fish, and they carried it off in triumph.

The men soon dispersed, but Joseph sat down under a bush near by,

to watch, and to bestow unavailing pity. The bird soon returned

to her nest, without food. The eaglets at once set up a cry for

food, so shrill, so clear, and so clamorous that the boy was

greatly moved.

The parent bird seemed to try to soothe them; but their appetites

were too keen, and it was all in vain. She then perched herself

on a limb near them, and looked down into the nest in a manner

that seemed to say, "I know not what to do next."

Her indecision was but momentary; again she poised herself,

uttered one or two sharp notes, as if telling them to "lie

still," balanced her body, spread her wings, and was away again

for the sea.

Joseph was determined to see the result. His eye followed her

till she grew small, smaller, a mere speck in the sky, and then

disappeared. What boy has not thus watched the flight of the bird

of his country!

She was gone nearly two hours, about double her usual time for a

voyage, when she again returned, on a slow weary wing, flying

uncommonly low, in order to have a heavier atmosphere to sustain

her, with another fish in her talons.

On nearing the field, she made a circuit round it, to see if her

enemies were again there. Finding the coast clear, she once more

reached the tree, drooping, faint, and weary, and evidently

nearly exhausted. Again the eaglets set up their cry, which was

soon hushed by the distribution of a dinner, such as, save the

cooking, a king might admire.

"Glorious bird!" cried the boy, "what a spirit! Other birds can

fly more swiftly, others can sing more sweetly, others scream

more loudly; but what other bird, when persecuted and robbed,

when weary, when discouraged, when so far from the sea, would

have done this?

"Glorious bird! I will learn a lesson from thee to-day. I will

never forget hereafter, that when the spirit is determined it can

do almost anything. Others would have drooped, and hung the head,

and mourned over the cruelty of man, and sighed over the wants of

the nestlings; but thou, by at once recovering the loss, hast

forgotten all.

"I will learn of thee, noble bird! I will remember this. I will

set my mark high. I will try to do something, and to be something

in the world; I will never yield to discouragements."


Century, the space of a hundred years.

Gigantic, very large.

Dimensions, size.

Sublime, grand, noble.

Disperse, scattered.

Unavailing, useless.

Eaglets, young eagles.

Clamorous, loud, noisy.

Indecision, want of fixed purpose.

Momentary, for a single moment.

Circuit, movement round in a circle.

Exhausted, wholly tired out.

Nestlings, young birds in the nest.


What lesson may be learned from this story?

Why is the eagle called the bird of our country?

What is meant by the expression "finding the coast clear"?

What is the advantage of setting one's mark high?

Can you think of any other story which teaches the lesson that one should never yield to discouragements?



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