The Burial of Cock Robin

by Edith Marion Patch

From the Patch Sampler

The beetle really did come to the burial of Cock Robin. The gardener said that she did not bring any thread and needle but he saw her come and work very very hard at digging the grave. Yes, the beetle dug the grave of Cock Robin all right. There is no doubt about that for the gardener watched her a long time and knows. Her name is Sexton Beetle so it seems quite proper to find her helping at such times.

You see Cock Robin was dead. The gardener had found him that very morning near the tulip bed and just as he was thinking he would have to get his trowel and take care of him, he heard a whirring sound and then something came down on the ground with a little thud right close to the dead robin.

“Well, well,” said the gardener, “What’s this?” and he stooped over to see for he likes to know about all the little creatures that live in the garden. He says it helps to keep things interesting. Anyway it paid to look this time for there was a big, black Sexton Beetle with her wing covers bobbed off so short she looked as though she had on a short skirt. There was a row of bright orange spots near the bottom of this skirt so the little Sexton was very pretty. Her legs were strong and the gardener said to himself that he guessed it was a good thing they were, considering the sort of work she did.

“Now, see here,” said the gardener, “I was just going to get my trowel and bury that bird myself but if you want to do it I’ll let you. You are a nice, interesting, useful beetle to have around and I’d just as lief there would be some more in this garden as not.”

Sexton Beetle did not pay a bit of attention to these kind words but she had already walked up to Cock Robin and poked around a little. Then she went to work. She pushed in under the body of the dead bird and began to throw out the earth from underneath. After she had been at work a while the gardener could see that the bird was slowly sinking down into the grave that was being dug for him.

Now, Sexton Beetle was not two inches long and Cock Robin was a full sized bird so you see it was no easy task that she had undertaken. But she was vigorous and strong and did not seem to get tired. Anyway she did not give it up. O, no indeed. Why, that was just what she had come to do and she kept right on digging. It was very important to Sexton Beetle, in fact, that she get Cock Robin buried and the quicker the better.

In a few hours she had got the grave quite deep enough and had the bird all covered up just as well as the gardener could have done it with his trowel. He said so himself. When it was all done she flew away and you might think that was the end of the matter. But it was not the end. It was the beginning in fact, for in a few days some little eggs hatched out in the grave and the queer little things that came out of them were as hungry for buried bird as you are sometimes for nice cold, sliced chicken. And there was enough right handy. Their mother, Sexton Beetle, had looked out for their welfare all right, and there was nothing for them to do but eat and eat until they should grow strong like their mother. They did not look much like her at first, – not any more than a caterpillar looks like a butterfly, for they were just grubby little things without any pretty red spots or any wings to have them on. They never could have found Cock Robin and buried him themselves. But as their mother had attended to that, all they had to do was to eat and so they got on very well for there was certainly nothing the matter with their jaws.

One day a big blue, blow fly came buzzing through the garden near the grave of Cock Robin, but she did not find him because he was so nicely buried. It was a very good thing for the baby grubs that she did not because baby blow flies eat dead birds, too, and they grow so much faster than little beetles that they get all the food and so leave nothing for the other insects.

O, it was a very good thing for them that Sexton Beetle came whizzing through the air right straight to the very place where Cock Robin lay for they had been put into a safe place where they had plenty of food and it did not make any difference to them how many big blue blow flies came buzzing along.

In due time these little grubs ate enough so that they were full sized grubs. After taking a long rest they changed into black beetles with orange red spots on their short wing covers and flew away when they smelled something that needed to be buried. The gardener must have known what Sexton Beetle was about when he said he would just as lief there would be more of them in the garden as not and sure enough there were.