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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

''Pigeons are not flesh eaters


Esther

had placed herself on one of the hard wooden chairs, but now she rose and went nearer the birds, standing before them in great admiration. Slowly then she went from one thing in the room to another, pausing to contemplate each. A beautiful white owl, very large and admirably mounted, held her eyes for some time.

'That is the Great Northern Owl,' observed her companion. 'They are found far up in the regions around the North Pole, and only now and then come so far south as this.'

'What claws!' said Esther.

'Talons. Yes, they would carry off a rabbit very easily.'

'Do they!' cried Esther, horrified.

'I don't doubt that fellow has carried off many a one, as well as hosts of smaller fry--squirrels, mice, and birds.'

'He looks cruel,' observed Esther, with an abhorrent motion of her shoulders.

'He does, rather. But he is no more cruel than all the rest.'

'The rest of what?' said Esther, turning towards him.

'The rest of creation--all the carnivorous portion of it, I mean.'

'Are they all like that? they don't look so. The eyes of pigeons, for instance, are quite different.'

'Pigeons are not flesh-eaters.'

style="text-align: justify;">'Oh!' said Esther wonderingly. 'No, I know; they eat bread and grain; and canary birds eat seeds. Are there _many_ birds that live on flesh?'

'A great many, Queen Esther. All creation, nearly, preys on some other part of creation--except that respectable number that are granivorous, and herbivorous, and graminivorous.'

Esther stood before the owl, musing; and Dallas, who was studying the child now, watched her.

'But what I want to know, is,' began Esther, as if she were carrying on an argument, '_why_ those that eat flesh look so much more wicked than the others that eat other things?'

'Do they?' said Dallas. 'That is the first question.'

'Why, yes,' said Esther, 'they do, Pitt. If you will think. There are sheep and cows and rabbits, and doves and chickens'--

'Halt there!' cried Dallas. 'Chickens are as good flesh-eaters as anybody, and as cruel about it, too. See two chickens pulling at the two ends of one earthworm.'

'Oh, don't!' said Esther. 'I remember they do; and they haven't nice eyes either, Pitt. But little turkeys have.'

Dallas burst out laughing.

'Well, just think,' Esther persisted. 'Think of horses' beautiful eyes; and then think of a tiger.'

'Or a cat,' said Dallas.

'But why is it, Pitt?'

'Queen Esther, my knowledge, such as it is, is all at your majesty's service; but the information required lies not therein.'

'Well, isn't it true, what I said?'

'I am inclined to think, and will frankly admit, that there is something in it.'

'Then don't you think there must be a _real_ difference, to make them look so different? and that I wasn't wrong when I called the owl cruel!'


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