One afternoon we had gone out to a cozy corner in the glassed-in veranda of our winter home, for our accustomed hour with the Journal and Sentinel, when attention was at once attracted to a fluttering little something,—a small wonder of color and daintiness, gleaming in spots like burnished metal, and beating the airiest of wings against the panes in a futile effort to escape. Just how long the hum and burr of so small a visitor had been going on, we could divine somewhat from a certain droop of the little head of the tiniest of humming-birds, which curiosity or some spirit of venturesomeness had drawn to our corner of the world. He was too far up on the small square panes to catch, or to coax into changing his methods for release, so we went indoors for a long-handled broom. Returning presently, we found him still struggling to be free, but with all his arduous efforts turned in a wrong direction. So, poising the broom above him, and very gently persuading him from one bit of glass and framework to another still nearer, he was finally within reach of our hand. Realizing the suddenness of our acquaintance, his unaccustomed surroundings, and the weary and prolonged efforts for liberty, we could not doubt his discomfort, so stepping to the open porch, we opened wide our palm and he soared out upon his untrammeled way, a momentary flash of brilliance across lawns and gardens. Then we turned once more to our corner, reviewing this brief but momentous visit, and pondered the lesson it brought so vividly to mind.

Had our friend turned ever so little, he would have found all about him wide-open spaces through which to reach the goal of freedom beyond. Could he have become quiet enough to glance in the direction from whence he had traveled, turned toward it, he could have freely and easily retraced his way, to find stretches of garden all abloom to satisfy his needs and his tastes. What was it but fear that kept him struggling with those resisting panes, through which he was trying to beat—alas! in vain—to what he saw beyond. Did anything but fear prevent him from returning to the point from which he had ventured with more valor than wisdom? And who shall say how long he might have fluttered and struggled but for the friendly hand that had set him free. Speedily came the inference that fear, rather than ignorance, had confused him. For though he might not have understood the nature of the obstruction in his pathway, instinct would doubtless have come to his rescue had not dread—he scarcely knew of what—impelled him to spend his energy in a wrong direction, staying his power of more intelligent inquiry as to right means of escape to his own natural, unbarred realm of activity.

December 7, 1912

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