How Robin Redbreast Stopped Worrying about Counting her Eggs
or, The Power of Water in a Jar
One day Meldrake the Raven went calling at his friend Robin Redbreast’s house. When he arrived, Robin was very upset, and nearly didn’t let him come in. Finally, though, she did, but only after Meldrake promised to help her however he could.
“Oh Meldrake, what can I do? I’ve lost one of my eggs!” cried Robin. She was distraught, flapping her wings and fluttering around the small kitchen of her home.
“There, there, Robin. I will help you. Where was the last place you saw it?” said Meldrake. He was trying to stay calm so that Robin would be calm too. It wasn’t working.
“I don’t remember, Meldrake! I was just baking a pie here in the kitchen, and I thought the eggs would like being near the warm stove, so I brought the nest in here for a while.” Robin pointed to the large woven basket on the counter filled with straw. On top of the pile of straw lay her eggs, which were light blue with dark blue spots. “I know that I have twenty-nine eggs, and I count them at least three times a day. Sometimes I get worried about losing one of them, though, so I count them four or five or even six times. It’s very tiring.”
Meldrake agreed that it sounded very tiring.
“Let’s try retracing your steps,” said Meldrake. “I often find that I find what I’m looking for that way, and I only ever search in the places I’ve been. Obviously, we’ll start here in the kitchen,” he added.
“Yes, let’s,” Robin Redbreast agreed, starting to sound a bit calmer now that she had a friend along to help her.
And so they two, raven and robin, searched the kitchen high and low. They searched behind the icebox, and under the counter. They searched through all the baskets that hung from the ceiling, and the silverware drawer, too. Then they searched some more. After all that, though, they hadn’t found the egg.
“Where were you before you were in the kitchen?” asked Meldrake.
“I was at the dining room table having my tea,” said the robin.
“Then that’s where we’ll go,” replied Meldrake.
And so they went to the dining room, and they looked under the table. And both Meldrake and Robin were surprised to see a blue egg, sitting on the dining room floor under the table, as if nothing had happened.
“I have no idea how that got there,” said Robin.
“Well, you know those eggs. They can be tricky,” said Meldrake. “You’ll have to watch them carefully from now on.”
“But I already do!” cried Robin Redbreast. “I count the eggs at least three times a day, all twenty-nine of them. What more is a mother supposed to do?”
“It’s okay. I can show you. Do you have a large jar? One big enough to fit all the eggs, and then some?” asked Meldrake.
“Let me see,” said Robin as she dug around in her many, full cabinets. After some clanging of pots, and some clinking of dishes and cups, there emerged from the back of one dusty cupboard a jar as big as a small barrel.
“Is this big enough?” she wondered.
“I think so. Like I said, it needs to be big enough to put all of the eggs in it,” said the raven Meldrake.
“Why? I already have a container for them, with a nice soft bed of straw to boot,” replied the Robin.
“Just trust me. I’m going to show you a trick,” said the raven. “First, put a gallon of water in the jar.”
Robin Redbreast put a gallon of water in the jar.
Meldrake took a piece of charcoal from the kitchen fireplace and made a mark on the jar, right at the water’s edge.
“Okay, now put all the eggs in,” said Meldrake.
“I can’t put them in there, they won’t be able to breathe!” cried Robin, who was starting to get worried again.
“It’s alright, they won’t be in there for very long,” Meldrake assured her.
And so Robin placed her twenty-nine eggs very carefully into the jar with the water. As she did so, the water level began to rise, until the jar was almost full.
Meldrake took his piece of charcoal, and made another mark at the new level of the water.
“This is how high the water should be if you have all of your eggs,” said Meldrake. “You can still count if you want to, since it’s quicker, but with my method you can be absolutely sure you have all your eggs. Try taking one out and see.”
Robin pulled one egg from the top of the jar. The water level dipped below the second mark Meldrake had made.
“Now try putting it back in,” said the raven.
Robin Redbreast put the egg back in the jar, and the water rose back to the second mark exactly.
“This is great, Meldrake! Now instead of counting my eggs, and wondering if I made a mistake, and then counting them again and again, I can just use the water and the jar! Thank you so much!” Robin Redbreast sang in her sweetest voice.
“You’re very welcome, my good friend,” replied the raven Meldrake. “Just remember to look under the table next time; I told you those eggs can be tricky.”