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 subline 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 a 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 nearby, to watch, and to bestow unfailing 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 patient 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 determine 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 there again. 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 do this?
"Glorious bird! I will learn a lesson from thee today. 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 want 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 discouragement."
Is it any wonder that the eagle, as our nation's most recognizable symbol, exemplifies the true character and spirit of America?
-A Story Taken From McGuffey's Fourth Eclectic Reader