48 THE SECRET GARDEN
Almost the next moment a wonderful thing happened. She heard a soft little rushing flight through the air — and it was the bird with the red breast flying to them, and he actually alighted on the big clod of earth quite near to the gardener's foot.
" Here he is," chuckled the old man, and then he spoke to the bird as if he were speaking to a child.
" Where has tha' been, tha' cheeky little beggar? " he said. " I've not seen thee before today. Has tha' begun tha' courtin' this early in th' season? Tha'rt too forrad."
The bird put his tiny head on one side and looked up at him with his soft bright eye which was like a black dewdrop. He seemed quite familiar and not the least afraid. He hopped about and pecked the earth briskly, looking for seeds and insects. It actually gave Mary a queer feeling in her heart, because he was so pretty and cheerful and seemed so like a person. He had a tiny plump body and a delicate beak, and slender delicate legs.
"Will he always come when you call him?" she asked almost in a whisper.
" Aye, that he will. I've knowed him ever since he was a fledgling. He come out of th' nest in th' other garden an' when first he flew over th'