The Book of Small

The Bishop and the Canary

Small had earned the canary and loved him. How she did love him!

When they had told her, “You may take your pick,” and she leaned over the cage and saw the four fluffy yellow balls, too young to have even sung their first song, her breath and her heart acted so queerly that it seemed as if she must strangle.

She chose the one with the topknot. He was the first live creature she had ever owned.

“Mine! I shall be his God,” she whispered.

How could she time her dancing feet to careful stepping? She was glad the cage protected him sufficiently so that she could hug it without hurting him.

Save for the flowers that poked their faces through the fences, and for the sunshine, the long street was empty. She wished that there was someone to show him to—someone to say, “He is lovely!”

A gate opened and the Bishop stepped into the street. The Bishop was very holy—everybody said so. His eyes were blue, as if by his perpetual contemplation of Heaven they had taken its colour. His gentle voice, vague and distant, came from up there too. His plump hands were transparent against the clerically black vest.

Though she played ladies with his little girls, Small stood in great awe of the Bishop. She had never voluntarily addressed him. When they were playing in his house, the children tiptoed past his study. God and the Bishop were in there making new hymns and collects.

Her lovely bird! Because there was no one else to show him to she must show him to the Bishop. Birds belonged to the sky. The Bishop would understand. She was not at all afraid now. The bird gave her courage.

She ran across the street.

“Look, Bishop! Look at my bird!”

The Bishop’s thoughts were too far away, he did not heed nor even hear the cry of joy.

She stood before him with the cage held high. “Bishop! Oh please Bishop, see!”

Dimly the Bishop became aware of some object obstructing his way. He laid a dimpled hand upon the little girl’s head.

“Ah, child, you are a pretty picture,” he said, and moved her gently from his path.

The Bishop went his way. The child stood still.

“My beautiful bird!”

The look of hurt fury which she hurled at the Bishop’s back might have singed his clerical broadcloth.


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This work (The Book of Small by Emily Carr) is free of known copyright restrictions.