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Title: Locusts and Wild Honey
Author: Burroughs, John, 1837-1921
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE WRITINGS OF JOHN BURROUGHS
WITH PORTRAITS AND MANY ILLUSTRATIONS


VOLUME IV

LOCUSTS AND WILD HONEY


PREFACE

I am aware that for the most part the title of my book is an allegory
rather than an actual description; but readers who have followed me
heretofore, I trust, will not be puzzled or misled in the present case
by any want of literalness in the matter of the title. If the name
carries with it a suggestion of the wild and delectable in nature, of
the free and ungarnered harvests which the wilderness everywhere
affords to the observing eye and ear, it will prove sufficiently
explicit for my purpose.

ESOPUS-ON-HUDSON, N. Y.


 CONTENTS
    I. THE PASTORAL BEES
   II. SHARP EYES
  III. STRAWBERRIES
   IV. IS IT GOING TO RAIN?
    V. SPECKLED TROUT
   VI. BIRDS AND BIRDS
  VII. A BED OF BOUGHS
 VIII. BIRDS'-NESTING
   IX. THE HALCYON IN CANADA
       INDEX


 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
 JOHN BURROUGHS
      From a photograph
 WHIP-POOR WILL
      From a drawing by L. A. Fuertes
 TROUT STREAM
      From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason
 YELLOW BIRCHES
      From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason
 LEDGES
      From a photograph by Herbert W. Gleason
 KINGFISHER (colored)
      From a drawing by L. A. Fuertes



LOCUSTS AND WILD HONEY



I

THE PASTORAL BEES


The honey-bee goes forth from the hive in spring like the dove from
Noah's ark, and it is not till after many days that she brings back the
olive leaf, which in this case is a pellet of golden pollen upon each
hip, usually obtained from the alder or the swamp willow. In a country
where maple sugar is made the bees get their first taste of sweet from
the sap as it flows from the spiles, or as it dries and is condensed
upon the sides of the buckets. They will sometimes, in their eagerness,
come about the boiling-place and be overwhelmed by the steam and the
smoke. But bees appear to be more eager for bread in the spring than
for honey: their supply of this article, perhaps, does not keep as well
as their stores of the latter; hence fresh bread, in the shape of new
pollen, is diligently sought for. My bees get their first supplies from
the catkins of the willows. How quickly they find them out! If but one
catkin opens anywhere within range, a bee is on hand that very hour to
rifle it, and it is a most pleasing experience to stand near the hive
some mild April day and see them come pouring in with their little
baskets packed with this first fruitage of the spring. They will have
new bread now; they have been to mill in good earnest; see their dusty
coats, and the golden grist they bring home with them.

When a bee brings pollen into the hive he advances to the cell in which
it is to be deposited and kicks it off, as one might his overalls or
rubber boots, making one foot help the other; then he walks off without
ever looking behind him; another bee, one of the indoor hands, comes
along and rams it down with his head and packs it into the cell, as the
dairymaid packs butter into a firkin with a ladle.

The first spring wild-flowers, whose sly faces among the dry leaves and
rocks are so welcome, are rarely frequented by the bee. The anemone,
the hepatica, the bloodroot, the arbutus, the numerous violets, the
spring beauty, the corydalis, etc., woo all lovers of nature, but
seldom woo the honey-loving bee. The arbutus, lying low and keeping
green all winter, attains to perfume and honey, but only once have I
seen it frequented by bees.

The first honey is perhaps obtained from the flowers of the red maple
and the golden willow. The latter sends forth a wild, delicious
perfume. The sugar maple blooms a little later, and from its silken
tassels a rich nectar is gathered. My bees will not label these
different varieties for me, as I really wish they would. Honey from the
maple, a tree so clean and wholesome, and full of such virtues every
way, would be something to put one's tongue to. Or that from the
blossoms of the apple, the peach, the cherry, the quince, the
currant,--one would like a card of each of these varieties to note
their peculiar qualities. The apple-blossom is very important to the
bees. A single swarm has been known to gain twenty pounds in weight
during its continuance. Bees love the ripened fruit, too, and in
August and September will such themselves tipsy upon varieties such
as the sops-of-wine.

The interval between the blooming of the fruit-trees and that of the
clover and the raspberry is bridged over in many localities by the
honey locust. What a delightful summer murmur these trees send forth at
this season! I know nothing about the quality of the honey, but it
ought to keep well. But when the red raspberry blooms, the fountains of
plenty are unsealed indeed; what a commotion about the hives then,
especially in localities where it is extensively cultivated, as in
places along the Hudson! The delicate white clover, which begins to
bloom about the same time, is neglected; even honey itself is passed by
for this modest, colorless, all but odorless flower. A field of these
berries in June sends forth a continuous murmur like that of an
enormous hive. The honey is not so white as that obtained from clover,
but it is easier gathered; it is in shallow cups, while that of the
clover is in deep tubes. The bees are up and at it before sunrise, and
it takes a brisk shower to drive them in. But the clover blooms later
and blooms everywhere, and is the staple source of supply of the finest
quality of honey. The red clover yields up its stores only to the
longer proboscis of the bumblebee, else the bee pasturage of our
agricultural districts would be unequaled. I do not know from what the
famous honey of Chamouni in the Alps is made, but it can hardly surpass
our best products. The snow-white honey of Anatolia in Asiatic Turkey,
which is regularly sent to Constantinople for the use of the grand
seignior and the ladies of his seraglio, is obtained from the cotton
plant, which makes me think that the white clover does not flourish
there. The white clover is indigenous with us; its seeds seem latent in
the ground, and the application of certain stimulants to the soil, such
as wood ashes, causes them to germinate and spring up.

The rose, with all its beauty and perfume, yields no honey to the bee,
unless the wild species be sought by the bumblebee.

Among the humbler plants let me not forget the dandelion that so early
dots the sunny slopes, and upon which the bee languidly grazes,
wallowing to his knees in the golden but not over-succulent pasturage.
From the blooming rye and wheat the bee gathers pollen, also from the
obscure blossoms of Indian corn. Among weeds, catnip is the great
favorite. It lasts nearly the whole season and yields richly. It could
no doubt be profitably cultivated in some localities, and catnip honey
would be a novelty in the market. It would probably partake of the
aromatic properties of the plant from which it was derived.

Among your stores of honey gathered before midsummer you may chance
upon a card, or mayhap only a square inch or two of comb, in which the
liquid is as transparent as water, of a delicious quality, with a
slight flavor of mint. This is the product of the linden or basswood,
of all the trees in our forest the one most beloved by the bees.
Melissa, the goddess of honey, has placed her seal upon this tree. The
wild swarms in the woods frequently reap a choice harvest from it. I
have seen a mountain-side thickly studded with it, its straight, tall,
smooth, light gray shaft carrying its deep green crown far aloft, like
the tulip-tree or the maple.

In some of the Northwestern States there are large forests of it, and
the amount of honey reported stored by strong swarms in this section
during the time the tree is in bloom is quite incredible. As a shade
and ornamental tree the linden is fully equal to the maple, and, if it
were as extensively planted and cared for, our supplies of virgin honey
would be greatly increased. The famous honey of Lithuania in Russia is
the product of the linden.

It is a homely old stanza current among bee folk that

      "A swarm of bees in May
       Is worth a load of hay;
       A swarm of bees in June
       Is worth a silver spoon;
       But a swarm in July
       Is not worth a fly."

A swarm in May is indeed a treasure; it is, like an April baby, sure to
thrive, and will very likely itself send out a swarm a month or two
later: but a swarm in July is not to be despised; it will store no
clover or linden honey for the "grand seignior and the ladies of his
seraglio," but plenty of the rank and wholesome poor man's nectar, the
sun-tanned product of the plebeian buckwheat. Buckwheat honey is the
black sheep in this white flock, but there is spirit and character in
it. It lays hold of the taste in no equivocal manner, especially when
at a winter breakfast it meets its fellow, the russet buckwheat cake.
Bread with honey to cover it from the same stalk is double good
fortune. It is not black, either, but nut-brown, and belongs to the
same class of goods as Herrick's

      "Nut-brown mirth and russet wit."

How the bees love it, and they bring the delicious odor of the blooming
plant to the hive with them, so that in the moist warm twilight the
apiary is redolent with the perfume of buckwheat.

Yet evidently it is not the perfume of any flower that attracts the
bees; they pay no attention to the sweet-scented lilac, or to
heliotrope, but work upon sumach, silkweed, and the hateful snapdragon.
In September they are hard pressed, and do well if they pick up enough
sweet to pay the running expenses of their establishment. The purple
asters and the goldenrod are about all that remain to them.

Bees will go three or four miles in quest of honey, but it is a great
advantage to move the hive near the good pasturage, as has been the
custom from the earliest times in the Old World. Some enterprising
person, taking a hint perhaps from the ancient Egyptians, who had
floating apiaries on the Nile, has tried the experiment of floating
several hundred colonies north on the Mississippi, starting from New
Orleans and following the opening season up, thus realizing a sort of
perpetual May or June, the chief attraction being the blossoms of the
river willow, which yield honey of rare excellence. Some of the bees
were no doubt left behind, but the amount of virgin honey secured must
have been very great. In September they should have begun the return
trip, following the retreating summer south.

It is the making of wax that costs with the bee. As with the poet, the
form, the receptacle, gives him more trouble than the sweet that fills
it, though, to be sure, there is always more or less empty comb in both
cases. The honey he can have for the gathering, but the wax he must
make himself,--must evolve from his own inner consciousness. When wax
is to be made, the wax-makers fill themselves with honey and retire
into their chamber for private meditation; it is like some solemn
religious rite: they take hold of hands, or hook themselves together in
long lines that hang in festoons from the top of the hive, and wait for
the miracle to transpire. After about twenty-four hours their patience
is rewarded, the honey is turned into wax, minute scales of which are
secreted from between the rings of the abdomen of each bee; this is
taken off and from it the comb is built up. It is calculated that about
twenty-five pounds of honey are used in elaborating one pound of comb,
to say nothing of the time that is lost. Hence the importance, in an
economical point of view, of a recent device by which the honey is
extracted and the comb returned intact to the bees. But honey without
the comb is the perfume without the rose,--it is sweet merely, and soon
degenerates into candy. Half the delectableness is in breaking down
these frail and exquisite walls yourself, and tasting the nectar before
it has lost its freshness by contact with the air. Then the comb is a
sort of shield or foil that prevents the tongue from being overwhelmed
by the first shock of the sweet.

The drones have the least enviable time of it. Their foothold in the
hive is very precarious. They look like the giants, the lords of the
swarm, but they are really the tools. Their loud, threatening hum has
no sting to back it up, and their size and noise make them only the
more conspicuous marks for the birds. They are all candidates for the
favors of the queen, a fatal felicity that is vouchsafed to but one.
Fatal, I say, for it is a singular fact in the history of bees that the
fecundation of the queen costs the male his life. Yet day after day the
drones go forth, threading the mazes of the air in hopes of meeting her
whom to meet is death. The queen only leaves the hive once, except when
she leads away the swarm, and as she makes no appointment with the
male, but wanders here and there, drones enough are provided to meet
all the contingencies of the case.

One advantage, at least, results from this system of things: there is
no incontinence among the males in this republic!

Toward the close of the season, say in July or August, the fiat goes
forth that the drones must die; there is no further use for them. Then
the poor creatures, how they are huddled and hustled about, trying to
hide in corners and byways! There is no loud, defiant humming now, but
abject fear seizes them. They cower like hunted criminals. I have seen
a dozen or more of them wedge themselves into a small space between the
glass and the comb, where the bees could not get hold of them, or where
they seemed to be overlooked in the general slaughter. They will also
crawl outside and hide under the edges of the hive. But sooner or later
they are all killed or kicked out. The drone makes no resistance,
except to pull back and try to get away; but (putting yourself in his
place) with one bee a-hold of your collar or the hair of your head, and
another a-hold of each arm or leg, and still another feeling for your
waistbands with his sting, the odds are greatly against you.

It is a singular fact, also, that the queen is made, not born. If the
entire population of Spain or Great Britain were the offspring of one
mother, it might be found necessary to hit upon some device by which a
royal baby could be manufactured out of an ordinary one, or else give
up the fashion of royalty. All the bees in the hive have a common
parentage, and the queen and the worker are the same in the egg and in
the chick; the patent of royalty is in the cell and in the food; the
cell being much larger, and the food a peculiar stimulating kind of
jelly. In certain contingencies, such as the loss of the queen with no
eggs in the royal cells, the workers take the larva of an ordinary bee,
enlarge the cell by taking in the two adjoining ones, and nurse it and
stuff it and coddle it, till at the end of sixteen days it comes out a
queen. But ordinarily, in the natural course of events, the young queen
is kept a prisoner in her cell till the old queen has left with the
swarm. Later on, the unhatched queen is guarded against the reigning
queen, who only wants an opportunity to murder every royal scion in the
hive. At this time both the queens, the one a prisoner and the other at
large, pipe defiance at each other, a shrill, fine, trumpet-like note
that any ear will at once recognize. This challenge, not being allowed
to be accepted by either party, is followed, in a day or two, by the
abdication of the reigning queen; she leads out the swarm, and her
successor is liberated by her keepers, who, in her time, abdicates in
favor of the next younger. When the bees have decided that no more
swarms can issue, the reigning queen is allowed to use her stiletto
upon her unhatched sisters. Cases have been known where two queens
issued at the same time, when a mortal combat ensued, encouraged by the
workers, who formed a ring about them, but showed no preference, and
recognized the victor as the lawful sovereign. For these and many other
curious facts we are indebted to the blind Huber.

It is worthy of note that the position of the queen cells is always
vertical, while that of the drones and workers is horizontal; majesty
stands on its head, which fact may be a part of the secret.

The notion has always very generally prevailed that the queen of the
bees is an absolute ruler, and issues her royal orders to willing
subjects. Hence Napoleon the First sprinkled the symbolic bees over the
imperial mantle that bore the arms of his dynasty; and in the country
of the Pharaohs the bee was used as the emblem of a people sweetly
submissive to the orders of its king. But the fact is, a swarm of bees
is an absolute democracy, and kings and despots can find no warrant in
their example. The power and authority are entirely vested in the great
mass, the workers. They furnish all the brains and foresight of the
colony, and administer its affairs. Their word is law, and both king
and queen must obey. They regulate the swarming, and give the signal
for the swarm to issue from the hive; they select and make ready the
tree in the woods and conduct the queen to it.

The peculiar office and sacredness of the queen consists in the fact
that she is the mother of the swarm, and the bees love and cherish her
as a mother and not as a sovereign. She is the sole female bee in the
hive, and the swarm clings to her because she is their life. Deprived
of their queen, and of all brood from which to rear one, the swarm
loses all heart and soon dies, though there be an abundance of honey in
the hive.

The common bees will never use their sting upon the queen; if she is to
be disposed of, they starve her to death; and the queen herself will
sting nothing but royalty,--nothing but a rival queen.

The queen, I say, is the mother bee; it is undoubtedly complimenting
her to call her a queen and invest her with regal authority, yet she is
a superb creature, and looks every inch a queen. It is an event to
distinguish her amid the mass of bees when the swarm alights; it
awakens a thrill Before you have seen a queen, you wonder if this or
that bee, which seems a little larger than its fellows, is not she,
but when you once really set eyes upon her you do not doubt for a
moment. You know _that_ is the queen. That long, elegant, shining,
feminine-looking creature can be none less than royalty. How
beautifully her body tapers, how distinguished she looks, how
deliberate her movements! The bees do not fall down before her, but
caress her and touch her person. The drones, or males, are large
bees, too, but coarse, blunt, broad-shouldered, masculine-looking.
There is but one fact or incident in the life of the queen that looks
imperial and authoritative: Huber relates that when the old queen
is restrained in her movements by the workers, and prevented from
destroying the young queens in their cells, she assumes a peculiar
attitude and utters a note that strikes every bee motionless and
makes every head bow; while this sound lasts, not a bee stirs, but
all look abashed and humbled: yet whether the emotion is one of fear,
or reverence, or of sympathy with the distress of the queen mother,
is hard to determine. The moment it ceases and she advances again
toward the royal cells, the bees bite and pull and insult her as
before.

I always feel that I have missed some good fortune if I am away from
home when my bees swarm. What a delightful summer sound it is! how they
come pouring out of the hive, twenty or thirty thousand bees, each
striving to get out first! It is as when the dam gives way and lets the
waters loose; it is a flood of bees which breaks upward into the air,
and becomes a maze of whirling black lines to the eye, and a soft
chorus of myriad musical sounds to the ear. This way and that way they
drift, now contracting, now expanding, rising, sinking, growing thick
about some branch or bush, then dispersing and massing at some other
point, till finally they begin to alight in earnest, when in a few
moments the whole swarm is collected upon the branch, forming a bunch
perhaps as large as a two-gallon measure. Here they will hang from one
to three or four hours or until a suitable tree in the woods is looked
up, when, if they have not been offered a hive in the mean time, they
are up and off. In hiving them, if any accident happens to the queen
the enterprise miscarries at once. One day I shook a swarm from a small
pear-tree into a tin pan, set the pan down on a shawl spread beneath
the tree, and put the hive over it. The bees presently all crawled up
into it, and all seemed to go well for ten or fifteen minutes, when I
observed that something was wrong; the bees began to buzz excitedly and
to rush about in a bewildered manner, then they took to the wing and
all returned to the parent stock. On lifting up the pan, I found
beneath it the queen with three or four other bees. She had been one of
the first to fall, had missed the pan in her descent, and I had set it
upon her. I conveyed her tenderly back to the hive, but either the
accident terminated fatally with her, or else the young queen had been
liberated in the interim, and one of them had fallen in combat, for it
was ten days before the swarm issued a second time.

No one, to my knowledge, has ever seen the bees house-hunting in the
woods. Yet there can be no doubt that they look up new quarters either
before or on the day the swarm issues. For all bees are wild bees and
incapable of domestication; that is, the instinct to go back to nature
and take up again their wild abodes in the trees is never eradicated.
Years upon years of life in the apiary seem to have no appreciable
effect towards their final, permanent domestication. That every new
swarm contemplates migrating to the woods, seems confirmed by the fact
that they will only come out when the weather is favorable to such an
enterprise, and that a passing cloud, or a sudden wind, after the bees
are in the air, will usually drive them back into the parent hive. Or
an attack upon them with sand or gravel, or loose earth or water, will
quickly cause them to change their plans. I would not even say but
that, when the bees are going off, the apparently absurd practice, now
entirely discredited by regular bee keepers but still resorted to by
unscientific folk, of beating upon tin pans, blowing horns, and
creating an uproar generally, might not be without good results.
Certainly not by drowning the "orders" of the queen, but by impressing
the bees, as with some unusual commotion in nature. Bees are easily
alarmed and disconcerted, and I have known runaway swarms to be brought
down by a farmer plowing in the field who showered them with handfuls
of loose soil.

I love to see a swarm go off--if it is not mine, and, if mine must go,
I want to be on hand to see the fun. It is a return to first principles
again by a very direct route. The past season I witnessed two such
escapes. One swarm had come out the day before, and, without alighting,
had returned to the parent hive,--some hitch in the plan, perhaps, or
may be the queen had found her wings too weak. The next day they came
out again and were hived. But something offended them, or else the tree
in the woods--perhaps some royal old maple or birch, holding its head
high above all others, with snug, spacious, irregular chambers and
galleries--had too many attractions; for they were presently discovered
filling the air over the garden, and whirling excitedly around.
Gradually they began to drift over the street; a moment more, and they
had become separated from the other bees, and, drawing together in a
more compact mass or cloud, away they went, a humming, flying vortex of
bees, the queen in the centre, and the swarm revolving around her as a
pivot,--over meadows, across creeks and swamps, straight for the heart
of the mountain, about a mile distant,--slow at first, so that the
youth who gave chase kept up with them, but increasing their speed till
only a foxhound could have kept them in sight. I saw their pursuer
laboring up the side of the mountain; saw his white shirtsleeves gleam
as he entered the woods; but he returned a few hours afterward without
any clue as to the particular tree in which they had taken refuge out
of the ten thousand that covered the side of the mountain.

The other swarm came out about one o'clock of a hot July day, and at
once showed symptoms that alarmed the keeper, who, however, threw
neither dirt nor water. The house was situated on a steep side-hill.
Behind it the ground rose, for a hundred rods or so, at an angle of
nearly forty-five degrees, and the prospect of having to chase them up
this hill, if chase them we should, promised a good trial of wind at
least; for it soon became evident that their course lay in this
direction. Determined to have a hand, or rather a foot, in the chase, I
threw off my coat and hurried on, before the swarm was yet fairly
organized and under way. The route soon led me into a field of standing
rye, every spear of which held its head above my own. Plunging
recklessly forward, my course marked to those watching from below by
the agitated and wriggling grain, I emerged from the miniature forest
just in time to see the runaways disappearing over the top of the hill,
some fifty rods in advance of me. Lining them as well as I could, I
soon reached the hilltop, my breath utterly gone and the perspiration
streaming from every pore of my skin. On the other side the country
opened deep and wide. A large valley swept around to the north, heavily
wooded at its head and on its sides. It became evident at once that the
bees had made good their escape, and that whether they had stopped on
one side of the valley or the other, or had indeed cleared the opposite
mountain and gone into some unknown forest beyond, was entirely
problematical. I turned back, therefore, thinking of the honey-laden
tree that some of these forests would hold before the falling of the
leaf.

I heard of a youth in the neighborhood more lucky than myself on a like
occasion. It seems that he had got well in advance of the swarm, whose
route lay over a hill, as in my case, and as he neared the summit, hat
in hand, the bees had just come up and were all about him. Presently he
noticed them hovering about his straw hat, and alighting on his arm;
and in almost as brief a time as it takes to relate it, the whole swarm
had followed the queen into his hat. Being near a stone wall, he coolly
deposited his prize upon it, quickly disengaged himself from the
accommodating bees, and returned for a hive. The explanation of this
singular circumstance no doubt is, that the queen, unused to such long
and heavy flights, was obliged to alight from very exhaustion. It is
not very unusual for swarms to be thus found in remote fields,
collected upon a bush or branch of a tree.

When a swarm migrates to the woods in this manner, the individual bees,
as I have intimated, do not move in right lines or straight forward,
like a flock of birds, but round and round, like chaff in a whirlwind.
Unitedly they form a humming, revolving, nebulous mass, ten or fifteen
feet across, which keeps just high enough to clear all obstacles,
except in crossing deep valleys, when, of course, it may be very high.
The swarm seems to be guided by a line of couriers, which may be seen
(at least at the outset) constantly going and coming. As they take a
direct course, there is always some chance of following them to the
tree, unless they go a long distance, and some obstruction, like a wood
or a swamp or a high hill, intervenes,--enough chance, at any rate, to
stimulate the lookers-on to give vigorous chase as long as their wind
holds out. If the bees are successfully followed to their retreat, two
plans are feasible,--either to fell the tree at once, and seek to hive
them, perhaps bring them home in the section of the tree that contains
the cavity; or to leave the tree till fall, then invite your neighbors
and go and cut it, and see the ground flow with honey. The former
course is more business-like; but the latter is the one usually
recommended by one's friends and neighbors.

Perhaps nearly one third of all the runaway swarms leave when no one is
about, and hence are unseen and unheard, save, perchance, by some
distant laborers in the field, or by some youth plowing on the side of
the mountain, who hears an unusual humming noise, and sees the swarm
dimly whirling by overhead, and, maybe, gives chase; or he may simply
catch the sound, when he pauses, looks quickly around, but sees
nothing. When he comes in at night he tells how he heard or saw a swarm
of bees go over; and perhaps from beneath one of the hives in the
garden a black mass of bees has disappeared during the day.

They are not partial as to the kind of tree,--pine, hemlock, elm,
birch, maple, hickory,--any tree with a good cavity high up or low
down. A swarm of mine ran away from the new patent hive I gave them,
and took up their quarters in the hollow trunk of an old apple-tree
across an adjoining field. The entrance was a mouse-hole near the
ground. Another swarm in the neighborhood deserted their keeper, and
went into the cornice of an out-house that stood amid evergreens in
the rear of a large mansion. But there is no accounting for the taste
of bees, as Samson found when he discovered the swarm in the carcass,
or more probably the skeleton, of the lion he had slain.

In any given locality, especially in the more wooded and mountainous
districts, the number of swarms that thus assert their independence
forms quite a large per cent. In the Northern States these swarms very
often perish before spring; but in such a country as Florida they seem
to multiply, till bee-trees are very common. In the West, also, wild
honey is often gathered in large quantities. I noticed, not long since,
that some wood-choppers on the west slope of the Coast Range felled a
tree that had several pailfuls in it.

One night on the Potomac a party of us unwittingly made our camp near
the foot of a bee-tree, which next day the winds of heaven blew down,
for our special delectation, at least so we read the sign. Another
time, while sitting by a waterfall in the leafless April woods, I
discovered a swarm in the top of a large hickory. I had the season
before remarked the tree as a likely place for bees, but the screen of
leaves concealed them from me. This time my former presentiment
occurred to me, and, looking sharply, sure enough there were the bees,
going out and in a large, irregular opening. In June a violent tempest
of wind and rain demolished the tree, and the honey was all lost in the
creek into which it fell. I happened along that way two or three days
after the tornado, when I saw a remnant of the swarm, those, doubtless,
that escaped the flood and those that were away when the disaster came,
hanging in a small black mass to a branch high up near where their home
used to be. They looked forlorn enough. If the queen was saved, the
remnant probably sought another tree; otherwise the bees soon died.

I have seen bees desert their hive in the spring when it was infested
with worms, or when the honey was exhausted; at such times the swarm
seems to wander aimlessly, alighting here and there, and perhaps in the
end uniting with some other colony. In case of such union, it would be
curious to know if negotiations were first opened between the parties,
and if the houseless bees are admitted at once to all the rights and
franchises of their benefactors. It would be very like the bees to have
some preliminary plan and understanding about the matter on both sides.

Bees will accommodate themselves to almost any quarters, yet no hive
seems to please them so well as a section of a hollow tree,--"gums," as
they are called in the South and West where the sweet gum grows. In
some European countries the hive is always made from the trunk of a
tree, a suitable cavity being formed by boring. The old-fashioned straw
hive is picturesque, and a great favorite with the bees also.

The life of a swarm of bees is like an active and hazardous campaign of
an army; the ranks are being continually depleted, and continually
recruited. What adventures they have by flood and field, and what
hairbreadth escapes! A strong swarm during the honey season loses, on
an average, about four or five thousand a month, or one hundred and
fifty a day. They are overwhelmed by wind and rain, caught by spiders,
benumbed by cold, crushed by cattle, drowned in rivers and ponds, and
in many nameless ways cut off or disabled. In the spring the principal
mortality is from the cold. As the sun declines they get chilled before
they can reach home. Many fall down outside the hive, unable to get in
with their burden. One may see them come utterly spent and drop
hopelessly into the grass in front of their very doors. Before they can
rest the cold has stiffened them. I go out in April and May and pick
them up by the handfuls, their baskets loaded with pollen, and warm
them in the sun or in the house, or by the simple warmth of my hand,
until they can crawl into the hive. Heat is their life, and an
apparently lifeless bee may be revived by warming him. I have also
picked them up while rowing on the river and seen them safely to
shore. It is amusing to see them come hurrying home when there is a
thunder-storm approaching. They come piling in till the rain is upon
them. Those that are overtaken by the storm doubtless weather it as
best they can in the sheltering trees or grass. It is not probable
that a bee ever gets lost by wandering into strange and unknown
parts. With their myriad eyes they see everything; and then their
sense of locality is very acute, is, indeed, one of their ruling
traits. When a bee marks the place of his hive, or of a bit of good
pasturage in the fields or swamps, or of the bee-hunter's box of
honey on the hills or in the woods, he returns to it as unerringly as
fate.

Honey was a much more important article of food with the ancients than
it is with us. As they appear to have been unacquainted with sugar,
honey, no doubt, stood them instead. It is too rank and pungent for the
modern taste; it soon cloys upon the palate. It demands the appetite of
youth, and the strong, robust digestion of people who live much in the
open air. It is a more wholesome food than sugar, and modern
confectionery is poison beside it. Besides grape sugar, honey contains
manna, mucilage, pollen, acid, and other vegetable odoriferous
substances and juices. It is a sugar with a kind of wild natural bread
added. The manna of itself is both food and medicine, and the pungent
vegetable extracts have rare virtues. Honey promotes the excretions,
and dissolves the glutinous and starchy impedimenta of the system.

Hence it is not without reason that with the ancients a land flowing
with milk and honey should mean a land abounding in all good things;
and the queen in the nursery rhyme, who lingered in the kitchen to eat
"bread and honey" while the "king was in the parlor counting out his
money," was doing a very sensible thing. Epaminondas is said to have
rarely eaten anything but bread and honey. The Emperor Augustus one day
inquired of a centenarian how he had kept his vigor of mind and body so
long; to which the veteran replied that it was by "oil without and
honey within." Cicero, in his "Old Age," classes honey with meat and
milk and cheese as among the staple articles with which a well-kept
farmhouse will be supplied.

Italy and Greece, in fact all the Mediterranean countries, appear to
have been famous lands for honey. Mount Hymettus, Mount Hybla, and
Mount Ida produced what may be called the classic honey of antiquity,
an article doubtless in no wise superior to our best products. Leigh
Hunt's "Jar of Honey" is mainly distilled from Sicilian history and
literature, Theocritus furnishing the best yield. Sicily has always
been rich in bees. Swinburne (the traveler of a hundred years ago) says
the woods on this island abounded in wild honey, and that the people
also had many hives near their houses. The idyls of Theocritus are
native to the island in this respect, and abound in bees--"flat-nosed
bees," as he calls them in the Seventh Idyl--and comparisons in which
comb-honey is the standard of the most delectable of this world's
goods. His goatherds can think of no greater bliss than that the mouth
be filled with honeycombs, or to be inclosed in a chest like Daphnis
and fed on the combs of bees; and among the delectables with which
Arsinoë cherishes Adonis are "honey-cakes," and other tidbits made of
"sweet honey." In the country of Theocritus this custom is said still
to prevail: when a couple are married, the attendants place honey in
their mouths, by which they would symbolize the hope that their love
may be as sweet to their souls as honey to the palate.

It was fabled that Homer was suckled by a priestess whose breasts
distilled honey; and that once, when Pindar lay asleep, the bees
dropped honey upon his lips. In the Old Testament the food of the
promised Immanuel was to be butter and honey (there is much doubt about
the butter in the original), that he might know good from evil; and
Jonathan's eyes were enlightened by partaking of some wood or wild
honey: "See, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I
tasted a little of this honey." So far as this part of his diet was
concerned, therefore, John the Baptist, during his sojourn in the
wilderness, his divinity-school days in the mountains and plains of
Judea, fared extremely well. About the other part, the locusts, or, not
to put too fine a point on it, the grasshoppers, as much cannot be
said, though they were among the creeping and leaping things the
children of Israel were permitted to eat. They were probably not eaten
raw, but roasted in that most primitive of ovens, a hole in the ground
made hot by building a fire in it. The locusts and honey may have been
served together, as the Bedas of Ceylon are said to season their meat
with honey. At any rate, as the locust is often a great plague in
Palestine, the prophet in eating them found his account in the general
weal, and in the profit of the pastoral bees; the fewer locusts, the
more flowers. Owing to its numerous wild-flowers, and flowering shrubs,
Palestine has always been a famous country for bees. They deposit
their honey in hollow trees, as our bees do when they escape from the
hive, and in holes in the rocks, as ours do not. In a tropical or
semi-tropical climate, bees are quite apt to take refuge in the rocks;
but where ice and snow prevail, as with us, they are much safer high
up in the trunk of a forest tree.

The best honey is the product of the milder parts of the temperate
zone. There are too many rank and poisonous plants in the tropics.
Honey from certain districts of Turkey produces headache and vomiting,
and that from Brazil is used chiefly as medicine. The honey of Mount
Hymettus owes its fine quality to wild thyme. The best honey in Persia
and in Florida is collected from the orange blossom. The celebrated
honey of Narbonne in the south of France is obtained from a species of
rosemary. In Scotland good honey is made from the blossoming heather.

California honey is white and delicate and highly perfumed, and now
takes the lead in the market. But honey is honey the world over; and
the bee is the bee still. "Men may degenerate," says an old traveler,
"may forget the arts by which they acquired renown; manufactures may
fail, and commodities be debased; but the sweets of the wild-flowers of
the wilderness, the industry and natural mechanics of the bee, will
continue without change or derogation."



II

SHARP EYES


Noting how one eye seconds and reinforces the other, I have often
amused myself by wondering what the effect would be if one could go on
opening eye after eye to the number say of a dozen or more. What would
he see? Perhaps not the invisible,--not the odors of flowers or the
fever germs in the air,--not the infinitely small of the microscope or
the infinitely distant of the telescope. This would require, not more
eyes so much as an eye constructed with more and different lenses; but
would he not see with augmented power within the natural limits of
vision? At any rate, some persons seem to have opened more eyes than
others, they see with such force and distinctness; their vision
penetrates the tangle and obscurity where that of others fails like a
spent or impotent bullet. How many eyes did Gilbert White open? how
many did Henry Thoreau? how many did Audubon? how many does the hunter,
matching his sight against the keen and alert sense of a deer or a
moose, or fox or a wolf? Not outward eyes, but inward. We open another
eye whenever we see beyond the first general features or outlines of
things,--whenever we grasp the special details and characteristic
markings that this mask covers. Science confers new powers of vision.
Whenever you have learned to discriminate the birds, or the plants, or
the geological features of a country, it is as if new and keener eyes
were added.

Of course one must not only see sharply, but read aright what he sees.
The facts in the life of Nature that are transpiring about us are like
written words that the observer is to arrange into sentences. Or the
writing is in cipher and he must furnish the key. A female oriole was
one day observed very much preoccupied under a shed where the refuse
from the horse stable was thrown. She hopped about among the barn
fowls, scolding them sharply when they came too near her. The stable,
dark and cavernous, was just beyond. The bird, not finding what she
wanted outside, boldly ventured into the stable, and was presently
captured by the farmer. What did she want? was the query. What but a
horsehair for her nest which was in an apple-tree near by? and she was
so bent on having one that I have no doubt she would have tweaked one
out of the horse's tail had he been in the stable. Later in the season
I examined her nest, and found it sewed through and through with
several long horsehairs, so that the bird persisted in her search till
the hair was found.

Little dramas and tragedies and comedies, little characteristic scenes,
are always being enacted in the lives of the birds, if our eyes are
sharp enough to see them. Some clever observer saw this little comedy
played among some English sparrows, and wrote an account of it in his
newspaper; it is too good not to be true: A male bird brought to his
box a large, fine goose feather, which is a great find for a sparrow
and much coveted. After he had deposited his prize and chattered his
gratulations over it, he went away in quest of his mate. His next-door
neighbor, a female bird, seeing her chance, quickly slipped in and
seized the feather; and here the wit of the bird came out, for instead
of carrying it into her own box she flew with it to a near tree and hid
it in a fork of the branches, then went home, and when her neighbor
returned with his mate was innocently employed about her own affairs.
The proud male, finding his feather gone, came out of his box in a high
state of excitement, and, with wrath in his manner and accusation on
his tongue, rushed into the cote of the female. Not finding his goods
and chattels there as he had expected, he stormed around awhile,
abusing everybody in general and his neighbor in particular, then went
away as if to repair the loss. As soon as he was out of sight, the
shrewd thief went and brought the feather home and lined her own
domicile with it.

I was much amused one summer day in seeing a bluebird feeding her young
one in the shaded street of a large town. She had captured a cicada or
harvest-fly, and, after bruising it awhile on the ground, flew with it
to a tree and placed it in the beak of the young bird. It was a large
morsel, and the mother seemed to have doubts of her chick's ability to
dispose of it, for she stood near and watched its efforts with great
solicitude. The young bird struggled valiantly with the cicada, but
made no headway in swallowing it, when the mother took it from him and
flew to the sidewalk, and proceeded to break and bruise it more
thoroughly. Then she again placed it in his beak, and seemed to say,
"There, try it now," and sympathized so thoroughly with his efforts
that she repeated many of his motions and contortions. But the great
fly was unyielding, and, indeed, seemed ridiculously disproportioned to
the beak that held it. The young bird fluttered and fluttered, and
screamed, "I'm stuck, I'm stuck!" till the anxious parent again seized
the morsel and carried it to an iron railing, where she came down upon
it for the space of a minute with all the force and momentum her beak
could command. Then she offered it to her young a third time, but with
the same result as before, except that this time the bird dropped it;
but she reached the ground as soon as the cicada did, and taking it in
her beak flew some distance to a high board fence, where she sat
motionless for some moments. While pondering the problem how that fly
should be broken, the male bluebird approached her, and said very
plainly, and I thought rather curtly, "Give me that bug," but she
quickly resented his interference and flew farther away, where she sat
apparently quite discouraged when I last saw her.

The bluebird is a home bird, and I am never tired of recurring to him.
His coming or reappearance in the spring marks a new chapter in the
progress of the season; things are never quite the same after one has
heard that note. The past spring the males came about a week in advance
of the females. A fine male lingered about my grounds and orchard all
that time, apparently waiting the arrival of his mate. He called and
warbled every day, as if he felt sure she was within ear-shot and could
be hurried up. Now he warbled half-angrily or upbraidingly, then
coaxingly, then cheerily and confidently, the next moment in a
plaintive, far-away manner. He would half open his wings, and twinkle
them caressingly, as if beckoning his mate to his heart. One morning
she had come, but was shy and reserved. The fond male flew to a
knothole in an old apple-tree, and coaxed her to his side. I heard a
fine confidential warble,--the old, old story. But the female flew to a
near tree, and uttered her plaintive, homesick note. The male went and
got some dry grass or bark in his beak, and flew again to the hole in
the old tree, and promised unremitting devotion, but the other said,
"Nay," and flew away in the distance. When he saw her going, or rather
heard her distant note, he dropped his stuff, and cried out in a tone
that said plainly enough, "Wait a minute. One word, please," and flew
swiftly in pursuit. He won her before long, however, and early in April
the pair were established in one of the four or five boxes I had put up
for them, but not until they had changed their minds several times. As
soon as the first brood had flown, and while they were yet under their
parents' care, they began another nest in one of the other boxes, the
female, as usual, doing all the work, and the male all the
complimenting. A source of occasional great distress to the mother bird
was a white cat that sometimes followed me about. The cat had never
been known to catch a bird, but she had a way of watching them that was
very embarrassing to the bird. Whenever she appeared, the mother
bluebird would set up that pitiful melodious plaint. One morning the
cat was standing by me, when the bird came with her beak loaded with
building material, and alighted above me to survey the place before
going into the box. When she saw the cat she was greatly disturbed, and
in her agitation could not keep her hold upon all her material. Straw
after straw came eddying down, till not half her original burden
remained. After the cat had gone away the bird's alarm subsided, till
presently, seeing the coast clear, she flew quickly to the box and
pitched in her remaining straws with the greatest precipitation, and,
without going in to arrange them, as was her wont, flew away in evident
relief.

In the cavity of an apple-tree but a few yards off, and much nearer the
house than they usually build, a pair of high-holes, or golden-shafted
woodpeckers, took up their abode. A knothole which led to the decayed
interior was enlarged, the live wood being cut away as clean as a
squirrel would have done it. The inside preparations I could not
witness, but day after day, as I passed near, I heard the bird
hammering away, evidently beating down obstructions and shaping and
enlarging the cavity. The chips were not brought out, but were used
rather to floor the interior. The woodpeckers are not nest-builders,
but rather nest-carvers.

The time seemed very short before the voices of the young were heard in
the heart of the old tree,--at first feebly, but waxing stronger day by
day until they could be heard many rods distant. When I put my hand
upon the trunk of the tree, they would set up an eager, expectant
chattering; but if I climbed up it toward the opening, they soon
detected the unusual sound and would hush quickly, only now and then
uttering a warning note. Long before they were fully fledged they
clambered up to the orifice to receive their food. As but one could
stand in the opening at a time, there was a good deal of elbowing and
struggling for this position. It was a very desirable one aside from
the advantages it had when food was served; it looked out upon the
great, shining world, into which the young birds seemed never tired of
gazing. The fresh air must have been a consideration also, for the
interior of a high-hole's dwelling is not sweet. When the parent birds
came with food, the young one in the opening did not get it all, but
after he had received a portion, either on his own motion or on a hint
from the old one, he would give place to the one behind him. Still, one
bird evidently outstripped his fellows, and in the race of life was two
or three days in advance of them. His voice was loudest and his head
oftenest at the window. But I noticed that, when he had kept the
position too long, the others evidently made it uncomfortable in his
rear, and, after "fidgeting" about awhile, he would be compelled to
"back down." But retaliation was then easy, and I fear his mates spent
few easy moments at that lookout. They would close their eyes and slide
back into the cavity as if the world had suddenly lost all its charms
for them.

This bird was, of course, the first to leave the nest. For two days
before that event he kept his position in the opening most of the time
and sent forth his strong voice incessantly. The old ones abstained
from feeding him almost entirely, no doubt to encourage his exit. As I
stood looking at him one afternoon and noting his progress, he suddenly
reached a resolution,--seconded, I have no doubt, from the rear,--and
launched forth upon his untried wings. They served him well, and
carried him about fifty yards up-hill the first heat. The second day
after, the next in size and spirit left in the same manner; then
another, till only one remained. The parent birds ceased their visits
to him, and for one day he called and called till our ears were tired
of the sound. His was the faintest heart of all. Then he had none to
encourage him from behind. He left the nest and clung to the outer bole
of the tree, and yelped and piped for an hour longer; then he committed
himself to his wings and went his way like the rest.

A young farmer in the western part of New York, who has a sharp,
discriminating eye, sends me some interesting notes about a tame
high-hole he once had.

"Did you ever notice," says he, "that the high-hole never eats anything
that he cannot pick up with his tongue? At least this was the case with
a young one I took from the nest and tamed. He could thrust out his
tongue two or three inches, and it was amusing to see his efforts to
eat currants from the hand. He would run out his tongue and try to
stick it to the currant; failing in that, he would bend his tongue
around it like a hook and try to raise it by a sudden jerk. But he
never succeeded, the round fruit would roll and slip away every time.
He never seemed to think of taking it in his beak. His tongue was in
constant use to find out the nature of everything he saw; a nail-hole
in a board or any similar hole was carefully explored. If he was held
near the face he would soon be attracted by the eye and thrust his
tongue into it. In this way he gained the respect of a number of
half-grown cats that were around the house. I wished to make them
familiar to each other, so there would be less danger of their
killing him. So I would take them both on my knee, when the bird
would soon notice the kitten's eyes, and, leveling his bill as
carefully as a marksman levels his rifle, he would remain so a
minute, when he would dart his tongue into the cat's eye. This was
held by the cats to be very mysterious: being struck in the eye by
something invisible to them. They soon acquired such a terror of him
that they would avoid him and run away whenever they saw his bill
turned in their direction. He never would swallow a grasshopper even
when it was placed in his throat; he would shake himself until he had
thrown it out of his mouth. His 'best hold' was ants. He never was
surprised at anything, and never was afraid of anything. He would
drive the turkey gobbler and the rooster. He would advance upon them
holding one wing up as high as possible, as if to strike with it,
and shuffle along the ground toward them, scolding all the while
in a harsh voice. I feared at first that they might kill him, but
I soon found that he was able to take care of himself. I would turn
over stones and dig into ant-hills for him, and he would lick up
the ants so fast that a stream of them seemed going into his mouth
unceasingly. I kept him till late in the fall, when he disappeared,
probably going south, and I never saw him again." My correspondent also
sends me some interesting observations about the cuckoo. He says a
large gooseberry-bush standing in the border of an old hedge-row, in
the midst of open fields, and not far from his house, was occupied by a
pair of cuckoos for two seasons in succession, and, after an interval
of a year, for two seasons more. This gave him a good chance to observe
them. He says the mother bird lays a single egg, and sits upon it a
number of days before laying the second, so that he has seen one young
bird nearly grown, a second just hatched, and a whole egg, all in the
nest at once. "So far as I have seen, this is the settled practice,--the
young leaving the nest one at a time to the number of six or eight.
The young have quite the look of the young of the dove in many
respects. When nearly grown they are covered with long blue pin-feathers
as long as darning-needles, without a bit of plumage on them. They
part on the back and hang down on each side by their own weight.
With its curious feathers and misshapen body, the young bird is
anything but handsome. They never open their mouths when approached, as
many young birds do, but sit perfectly still, hardly moving when
touched." He also notes the unnatural indifference of the mother bird
when her nest and young are approached. She makes no sound, but sits
quietly on a near branch in apparent perfect unconcern.

These observations, together with the fact that the egg of the cuckoo
is occasionally found in the nests of other birds, raise the inquiry
whether our bird is slowly relapsing into the habit of the European
species, which always foists its egg upon other birds; or whether, on
the other hand, it is not mending its manners in this respect. It has
but little to unlearn or to forget in the one case, but great progress
to make in the other. How far is its rudimentary nest--a mere platform
of coarse twigs and dry stalks of weeds--from the deep, compact, finely
woven and finely modeled nest of the goldfinch or the kingbird, and
what a gulf between its indifference toward its young and their
solicitude! Its irregular manner of laying also seems better suited to
a parasite like our cowbird, or the European cuckoo, than to a regular
nest-builder.

This observer, like most sharp-eyed persons, sees plenty of interesting
things as he goes about his work. He one day saw a white swallow, which
is of rare occurrence. He saw a bird, a sparrow he thinks, fly against
the side of a horse and fill his beak with hair from the loosened coat
of the animal. He saw a shrike pursue a chickadee, when the latter
escaped by taking refuge in a small hole in a tree. One day in early
spring he saw two hen-hawks, that were circling and screaming high in
air, approach each other, extend a claw, and, clasping them together,
fall toward the earth, flapping and struggling as if they were tied
together; on nearing the ground they separated and soared aloft again.
He supposed that it was not a passage of war but of love, and that the
hawks were toying fondly with each other.

He further relates a curious circumstance of finding a hummingbird in
the upper part of a barn with its bill stuck fast in a crack of one of
the large timbers, dead, of course, with wings extended, and as dry as
a chip. The bird seems to have died, as it had lived, on the wing, and
its last act was indeed a ghastly parody of its living career. Fancy
this nimble, flashing sprite, whose life was passed probing the honeyed
depths of flowers, at last thrusting its bill into a crack in a dry
timber in a hay-loft, and, with spread wings, ending its existence!

When the air is damp and heavy, swallows frequently hawk for insects
about cattle and moving herds in the field. My farmer describes how
they attended him one foggy day, as he was mowing in the meadow with a
mowing-machine. It had been foggy for two days, and the swallows were
very hungry, and the insects stupid and inert. When the sound of his
machine was heard, the swallows appeared and attended him like a brood
of hungry chickens. He says there was a continued rush of purple wings
over the "cut-bar," and just where it was causing the grass to tremble
and fall. Without his assistance the swallows would doubtless have gone
hungry yet another day.

Of the hen-hawk, he has observed that both male and female take part in
incubation. "I was rather surprised," he says, "on one occasion, to see
how quickly they change places on the nest. The nest was in a tall
beech, and the leaves were not yet fully out. I could see the head and
neck of the hawk over the edge of the nest, when I saw the other hawk
coming down through the air at full speed. I expected he would alight
near by, but instead of that he struck directly upon the nest, his mate
getting out of the way barely in time to avoid being hit; it seemed
almost as if he had knocked her off the nest. I hardly see how they can
make such a rush on the nest without danger to the eggs."

The kingbird will worry the hawk as a whiffet dog will worry a bear. It
is by his persistence and audacity, not by any injury he is capable of
dealing his great antagonist. The kingbird seldom more than dogs the
hawk, keeping above and between his wings, and making a great ado; but
my correspondent says he once "saw a kingbird riding on a hawk's back.
The hawk flew as fast as possible, and the kingbird sat upon his
shoulders in triumph until they had passed out of sight,"--tweaking his
feathers, no doubt, and threatening to scalp him the next moment.

That near relative of the kingbird, the great crested flycatcher, has
one well-known peculiarity: he appears never to consider his nest
finished until it contains a cast-off snake-skin. My alert
correspondent one day saw him eagerly catch up an onion skin and make
off with it, either deceived by it or else thinking it a good
substitute for the coveted material.

One day in May, walking in the woods, I came upon the nest of a
whip-poor-will, or rather its eggs, for it builds no nest,--two
elliptical whitish spotted eggs lying upon the dry leaves. My foot
was within a yard of the mother bird before she flew. I wondered what
a sharp eye would detect curious or characteristic in the ways of the
bird, so I came to the place many times and had a look. It was always
a task to separate the bird from her surroundings, though I stood
within a few feet of her, and knew exactly where to look. One had
to bear on with his eye, as it were, and refuse to be baffled. The
sticks and leaves, and bits of black or dark brown bark, were all
exactly copied in the bird's plumage. And then she did sit so close,
and simulate so well a shapeless, decaying piece of wood or bark!
Twice I brought a companion, and, guiding his eye to the spot, noted
how difficult it was for him to make out there, in full view upon the
dry leaves, any semblance to a bird. When the bird returned after
being disturbed, she would alight within a few inches of her eggs,
and then, after a moment's pause, hobble awkwardly upon them.

After the young had appeared, all the wit of the bird came into play. I
was on hand the next day, I think. The mother bird sprang up when I was
within a pace of her, and in doing so fanned the leaves with her wings
till they sprang up, too; as the leaves started the young started, and,
being of the same color, to tell which was the leaf and which the bird
was a trying task to any eye. I came the next day, when the same
tactics were repeated. Once a leaf fell upon one of the young birds and
nearly hid it. The young are covered with a reddish down, like a young
partridge, and soon follow their mother about. When disturbed, they
gave but one leap, then settled down, perfectly motionless and stupid,
with eyes closed. The parent bird, on these occasions, made frantic
efforts to decoy me away from her young. She would fly a few paces and
fall upon her breast, and a spasm, like that of death, would run
through her tremulous outstretched wings and prostrate body. She kept a
sharp eye out the meanwhile to see if the ruse took, and, if it did
not, she was quickly cured, and, moving about to some other point,
tried to draw my attention as before. When followed she always alighted
upon the ground, dropping down in a sudden peculiar way. The second or
third day both old and young had disappeared.

The whip-poor-will walks as awkwardly as a swallow, which is as awkward
as a man in a bag, and yet she manages to lead her young about the
woods. The latter, I think, move by leaps and sudden spurts, their
protective coloring shielding them most effectively. Wilson once came
upon the mother bird and her brood in the woods, and, though they were
at his very feet, was so baffled by the concealment of the young that
he was about to give up the search, much disappointed, when he
perceived something "like a slight mouldiness among the withered
leaves, and, on stooping down, discovered it to be a young
whip-poor-will, seemingly asleep." Wilson's description of the young
is very accurate, as its downy covering does look precisely like a
"slight mouldiness." Returning a few moments afterward to the spot to
get a pencil he had forgotten, he could find neither old nor young.

It takes an eye to see a partridge in the woods, motionless upon the
leaves; this sense needs to be as sharp as that of smell in hounds and
pointers, and yet I know an unkempt youth that seldom fails to see the
bird and to shoot it before it takes wing. I think he sees it as soon
as it sees him, and before it suspects itself seen. What a training to
the eye is hunting! to pick out the game from its surroundings, the
grouse from the leaves, the gray squirrel from the mossy oak limb it
hugs so closely, the red fox from the ruddy or brown or gray field, the
rabbit from the stubble, or the white hare from the snow, requires the
best powers of this sense. A woodchuck motionless in the fields or upon
a rock looks very much like a large stone or boulder, yet a keen eye
knows the difference at a glance, a quarter of a mile away.

A man has a sharper eye than a dog, or a fox, or than any of the wild
creatures, but not so sharp an ear or nose. But in the birds he finds
his match. How quickly the old turkey discovers the hawk, a mere speck
against the sky, and how quickly the hawk discovers you if you happen
to be secreted in the bushes, or behind the fence near which he
alights! One advantage the bird surely has, and that is, owing to the
form, structure, and position of the eye, it has a much larger field of
vision,--indeed, can probably see in nearly every direction at the same
instant, behind as well as before. Man's field of vision embraces less
than half a circle horizontally, and still less vertically; his brow
and brain prevent him from seeing within many degrees of the zenith
without a movement of the head; the bird, on the other hand, takes in
nearly the whole sphere at a glance.

I find I see, almost without effort, nearly every bird within sight in
the field or wood I pass through (a flit of the wing, a flirt of the
tail are enough, though the flickering leaves do all conspire to hide
them), and that with like ease the birds see me, though unquestionably
the chances are immensely in their favor. The eye sees what it has the
means of seeing, truly. You must have the bird in your heart before you
can find it in the bush. The eye must have purpose and aim. No one ever
yet found the walking fern who did not have the walking fern in his
mind. A person whose eye is full of Indian relics picks them up in
every field he walks through.

One season I was interested in the tree-frogs, especially the tiny
piper that one hears about the woods and brushy fields,--the hyla of
the swamps become a denizen of the trees; I had never seen him in this
new role. But this season, having hylas in mind, or rather being ripe
for them, I several times came across them. One Sunday, walking amid
some bushes, I captured two. They leaped before me, as doubtless they
had done many times before; but though not looking for or thinking of
them, yet they were quickly recognized, because the eye had been
commissioned to find them. On another occasion, not long afterward, I
was hurriedly loading my gun in the October woods in hopes of
overtaking a gray squirrel that was fast escaping through the treetops,
when one of these lilliput frogs, the color of the fast-yellowing
leaves, leaped near me. I saw him only out of the corner of my eye and
yet bagged him, because I had already made him my own.

Nevertheless the habit of observation is the habit of clear and
decisive gazing: not by a first casual glance, but by a steady,
deliberate aim of the eye, are the rare and characteristic things
discovered. You must look intently, and hold your eye firmly to the
spot, to see more than do the rank and file of mankind. The
sharpshooter picks out his man, and knows him with fatal certainty from
a stump, or a rock, or a cap on a pole. The phrenologists do well to
locate, not only form, color, and weight, in the region of the eye, but
also a faculty which they call individuality,--that which separates,
discriminates, and sees in every object its essential character. This
is just as necessary to the naturalist as to the artist or the poet.
The sharp eye notes specific points and differences,--it seizes upon
and preserves the individuality of the thing.

Persons frequently describe to me some bird they have seen or heard,
and ask me to name it, but in most cases the bird might be any one of a
dozen, or else it is totally unlike any bird found on this continent.
They have either seen falsely or else vaguely. Not so the farm youth
who wrote me one winter day that he had seen a single pair of strange
birds, which he describes as follows: "They were about the size of the
'chippie;' the tops of their heads were red, and the breast of the male
was of the same color, while that of the female was much lighter; their
rumps were also faintly tinged with red. If I have described them so
that you would know them, please write me their names." There can be
little doubt but the young observer had, seen a pair of redpolls,--a
bird related to the goldfinch, and that occasionally comes down to us
in the winter from the far north. Another time, the same youth wrote
that he had seen a strange bird, the color of a sparrow, that alighted
on fences and buildings as well as upon the ground, and that walked.
This last fact showed the youth's discriminating eye and settled the
case. From this and the season, and the size and color of the bird, I
knew he had seen the pipit or titlark. But how many persons would have
observed that the bird walked instead of hopped?

Some friends of mine who lived in the country tried to describe to me a
bird that built a nest in a tree within a few feet of the house. As it
was a brown bird, I should have taken it for a wood thrush, had not the
nest been described as so thin and loose that from beneath the eggs
could be distinctly seen. The most pronounced feature in the
description was the barred appearance of the under side of the bird's
tail. I was quite at sea, until one day, when we were driving out, a
cuckoo flew across the road in front of us, when my friends exclaimed,
"There is our bird!" I had never known a cuckoo to build near a house,
and I had never noted the appearance the tail presents when viewed from
beneath; but if the bird had been described in its most obvious
features, as slender, with a long tail, cinnamon brown above and white
beneath, with a curved bill, any one who knew the bird would have
recognized the portrait.

We think we have looked at a thing sharply until we are asked for its
specific features. I thought I knew exactly the form of the leaf of the
tulip-tree, until one day a lady asked me to draw the outlines of one.
A good observer is quick to take a hint and to follow it up. Most of
the facts of nature, especially in the life of the birds and animals,
are well screened. We do not see the play because we do not look
intently enough. The other day I was sitting with a friend upon a high
rock in the woods, near a small stream, when we saw a water-snake
swimming across a pool toward the opposite bank. Any eye would have
noted it, perhaps nothing more. A little closer and sharper gaze
revealed the fact that the snake bore something in its mouth, which, as
we went down to investigate, proved to be a small catfish, three or
four inches long. The snake had captured it in the pool, and, like any
other fisherman, wanted to get its prey to dry land, although it itself
lived mostly in the water. Here, we said, is being enacted a little
tragedy that would have escaped any but sharp eyes. The snake, which
was itself small, had the fish by the throat, the hold of vantage among
all creatures, and clung to it with great tenacity. The snake knew that
its best tactics was to get upon dry land as soon as possible. It could
not swallow its victim alive, and it could not strangle it in the
water. For a while it tried to kill its game by holding it up out of
the water, but the fish grew heavy, and every few moments its struggles
brought down the snake's head. This would not do. Compressing the
fish's throat would not shut off its breath under such circumstances,
so the wily serpent tried to get ashore with it, and after several
attempts succeeded in effecting a landing on a flat rock. But the fish
died hard. Catfish do not give up the ghost in a hurry. Its throat was
becoming congested, but the snake's distended jaws must have ached. It
was like a petrified gape. Then the spectators became very curious and
close in their scrutiny, and the snake determined to withdraw from
the public gaze and finish the business in hand to its own notions.
But, when gently but firmly remonstrated with by my friend with his
walking-stick, it dropped the fish and retreated in high dudgeon
beneath a stone in the bed of the creek. The fish, with a swollen
and angry throat, went its way also.

Birds, I say, have wonderfully keen eyes. Throw a fresh bone or a piece
of meat upon the snow in winter, and see how soon the crows will
discover it and be on hand. If it be near the house or barn, the crow
that first discovers it will alight near it, to make sure he is not
deceived; then he will go away, and soon return with a companion. The
two alight a few yards from the bone, and after some delay, during
which the vicinity is sharply scrutinized, one of the crows advances
boldly to within a few feet of the coveted prize. Here he pauses, and
if no trick is discovered, and the meat be indeed meat, he seizes it
and makes off.

One midwinter I cleared away the snow under an apple-tree near the
house and scattered some corn there. I had not seen a blue jay for
weeks, yet that very day one found my corn, and after that several came
daily and partook of it, holding the kernels under their feet upon the
limbs of the trees and pecking them vigorously.

Of course the woodpecker and his kind have sharp eyes, still I was
surprised to see how quickly Downy found out some bones that were
placed in a convenient place under the shed to be pounded up for the
hens. In going out to the barn I often disturbed him making a meal off
the bits of meat that still adhered to them.

"Look intently enough at anything," said a poet to me one day, "and you
will see something that would otherwise escape you." I thought of the
remark as I sat on a stump in an opening of the woods one spring day. I
saw a small hawk approaching; he flew to a tall tulip-tree, and
alighted on a large limb near the top. He eyed me and I eyed him. Then
the bird disclosed a trait that was new to me: he hopped along the limb
to a small cavity near the trunk, when he thrust in his head and pulled
out some small object and fell to eating it. After he had partaken of
it for some minutes he put the remainder back in his larder and flew
away. I had seen something like feathers eddying slowly down as the
hawk ate, and on approaching the spot found the feathers of a sparrow
here and there clinging to the bushes beneath the tree. The hawk,
then,--commonly called the chicken hawk,--is as provident as a mouse or
a squirrel, and lays by a store against a time of need, but I should
not have discovered the fact had I not held my eye on him.

An observer of the birds is attracted by any unusual sound or commotion
among them. In May or June, when other birds are most vocal, the jay is
a silent bird; he goes sneaking about the orchards and the groves as
silent as a pickpocket; he is robbing birds'-nests, and he is very
anxious that nothing should be said about it, but in the fall none so
quick and loud to cry "Thief, thief!" as he. One December morning a
troop of jays discovered a little screech owl secreted in the hollow
trunk of an old apple-tree near my house. How they found the owl out is
a mystery, since it never ventures forth in the light of day; but they
did, and proclaimed the fact with great emphasis. I suspect the
bluebirds first told them, for these birds are constantly peeping into
holes and crannies both spring and fall. Some unsuspecting bird had
probably entered the cavity prospecting for a place for next year's
nest, or else looking out a likely place to pass a cold night, and then
had rushed out with important news. A boy who should unwittingly
venture into a bear's den when Bruin was at home could not be more
astonished and alarmed than a bluebird would be on finding itself in a
cavity of a decayed tree with an owl. At any rate, the bluebirds joined
the jays in calling the attention of all whom it might concern to the
fact that a culprit of some sort was hiding from the light of day in
the old apple-tree. I heard the notes of warning and alarm and
approached to within eyeshot. The bluebirds were cautious and hovered
about uttering their peculiar twittering calls; but the jays were
bolder and took turns looking in at the cavity, and deriding the poor,
shrinking owl. A jay would alight in the entrance of the hole, and
flirt and peer and attitudinize, and then fly away crying "Thief,
thief, thief!" at the top of his voice.

I climbed up and peered into the opening, and could just descry the owl
clinging to the inside of the tree. I reached in and took him out,
giving little heed to the threatening snapping of his beak. He was as
red as a fox and as yellow-eyed as a cat. He made no effort to escape,
but planted his claws in my forefinger and clung there with a grip that
soon grew uncomfortable. I placed him in the loft of an outhouse, in
hopes of getting better acquainted with him. By day he was a very
willing prisoner, scarcely moving at all, even when approached and
touched with the hand, but looking out upon the world with half-closed,
sleepy eyes. But at night what a change! how alert, how wild, how
active! He was like another bird; he darted about with wide, fearful
eyes, and regarded me like a cornered cat. I opened the window, and
swiftly, but as silent as a shadow, he glided out into the congenial
darkness, and perhaps, ere this, has revenged himself upon the sleeping
jay or bluebird that first betrayed his hiding-place.



III

STRAWBERRIES


Was it old Dr. Parr who said or sighed in his last illness, "Oh, if I
can only live till strawberries come!" The old scholar imagined that,
if he could weather it till then, the berries would carry him through.
No doubt he had turned from the drugs and the nostrums, or from the
hateful food, to the memory of the pungent, penetrating, and
unspeakably fresh quality of the strawberry with the deepest longing.
The very thought of these crimson lobes, embodying as it were the first
glow and ardor of the young summer, and with their power to unsheathe
the taste and spur the nagging appetite, made life seem possible and
desirable to him.

The strawberry is always the hope of the invalid, and sometimes, no
doubt, his salvation. It is the first and finest relish among fruits,
and well merits Dr. Boteler's memorable saying, that "doubtless God
could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did."

On the threshold of summer, Nature proffers us this her virgin fruit;
more rich and sumptuous are to follow, but the wild delicacy and fillip
of the strawberry are never repeated,--that keen feathered edge greets
the tongue in nothing else.

Let me not be afraid of overpraising it, but probe and probe for words
to hint its surprising virtues. We may well celebrate it with festivals
and music. It has that indescribable quality of all first things,--that
shy, uncloying, provoking barbed sweetness. It is eager and sanguine as
youth. It is born of the copious dews, the fragrant nights, the tender
skies, the plentiful rains of the early season. The singing of birds is
in it, and the health and frolic of lusty Nature. It is the product of
liquid May touched by the June sun. It has the tartness, the briskness,
the unruliness of spring, and the aroma and intensity of summer.

Oh, the strawberry days! how vividly they come back to one! The smell
of clover in the fields, of blooming rye on the hills, of the wild
grape beside the woods, and of the sweet honeysuckle and the spiræa
about the house. The first hot, moist days. The daisies and the
buttercups; the songs of the birds, their first reckless jollity and
love-making over; the full tender foliage of the trees; the bees
swarming, and the air strung with resonant musical chords. The time of
the sweetest and most, succulent grass, when the cows come home with
aching udders. Indeed, the strawberry belongs to the juiciest time of
the year.

What a challenge it is to the taste! how it bites back again! and is
there any other sound like the snap and crackle with which it salutes
the ear on being plucked from the stems? It is a threat to one sense
that the other is soon to verify. It snaps to the ear as it smacks to
the tongue. All other berries are tame beside it.

The plant is almost an evergreen; it loves the coverlid of the snow,
and will keep fresh through the severest winters with a slight
protection. The frost leaves its virtues in it. The berry is a kind of
vegetable snow. How cool, how tonic, how melting, and how perishable!
It is almost as easy to keep frost. Heat kills it, and sugar quickly
breaks up its cells.

Is there anything like the odor of strawberries? The next best thing to
tasting them is to smell them; one may put his nose to the dish while
the fruit is yet too rare and choice for his fingers. Touch not and
taste not, but take a good smell and go mad! Last fall I potted some of
the Downer, and in the winter grew them in the house. In March the
berries were ripe, only four or five on a plant, just enough, all told,
to make one consider whether it were not worth while to kill off the
rest of the household, so that the berries need not be divided. But if
every tongue could not have a feast, every nose banqueted daily upon
them. They filled the house with perfume. The Downer is remarkable in
this respect. Grown in the open field, it surpasses in its odor any
strawberry of my acquaintance. And it is scarcely less agreeable to the
taste. It is a very beautiful berry to look upon, round, light pink,
with a delicate, fine-grained expression. Some berries shine, the
Downer glows as if there were a red bloom upon it. Its core is firm and
white, its skin thick and easily bruised, which makes it a poor market
berry, but, with its high flavor and productiveness, an admirable one
for home use. It seems to be as easily grown as the Wilson, while it is
much more palatable. The great trouble with the Wilson, as everybody
knows, is its rank acidity. When it first comes, it is difficult to eat
it without making faces. It is crabbed and acrimonious. Like some
persons, the Wilson will not ripen and sweeten till its old age. Its
largest and finest crop, if allowed to remain on the vines, will soften
and fail unregenerated, or with all its sins upon it. But wait till
toward the end of the season, after the plant gets over its hurry and
takes time to ripen its fruit. The berry will then face the sun for
days, and, if the weather is not too wet, instead of softening will
turn dark and grow rich. Out of its crabbedness and spitefulness come
the finest, choicest flavors. It is an astonishing berry. It lays hold
of the taste in a way that the aristocratic berries, like the Jocunda
or the Triumph, cannot approximate to. Its quality is as penetrating as
that of ants and wasps, but sweet. It is, indeed, a wild bee turned
into a berry, with the sting mollified and the honey disguised. A quart
of these rare-ripes I venture to say contains more of the peculiar
virtue and excellence of the strawberry kind than can be had in twice
the same quantity of any other cultivated variety. Take these berries
in a bowl of rich milk with some bread,--ah, what a dish!--too good to
set before a king! I suspect this was the food of Adam in Paradise,
only Adam did not have the Wilson strawberry; he had the wild
strawberry that Eve plucked in their hill-meadow and "hulled" with
her own hands, and that, take it all in all, even surpasses the
late-ripened Wilson.

Adam is still extant in the taste and the appetite of most country
boys; lives there a country boy who does not like wild strawberries and
milk,--yea, prefer it to any other known dish? I am not thinking of a
dessert of strawberries and cream; this the city boy may have, too,
after a sort; but bread-and-milk, with the addition of wild
strawberries, is peculiarly a country dish, and is to the taste what a
wild bird's song is to the ear. When I was a lad, and went afield with
my hoe or with the cows, during the strawberry season, I was sure to
return at meal-time with a lining of berries in the top of my straw
hat. They were my daily food, and I could taste the liquid and gurgling
notes of the bobolink in every spoonful of them; and to this day, to
make a dinner or supper off a bowl of milk with bread and
strawberries,--plenty of strawberries,--well, is as near to being a boy
again as I ever expect to come. The golden age draws sensibly near.
Appetite becomes a kind of delicious thirst,--a gentle and subtle
craving of all parts of the mouth and throat,--and those nerves of
taste that occupy, as it were, a back seat, and take little cognizance
of grosser foods, come forth, and are played upon and set vibrating.
Indeed, I think, if there is ever rejoicing throughout one's alimentary
household,--if ever that much-abused servant, the stomach, says Amen,
or those faithful handmaidens, the liver and spleen, nudge each other
delightedly, it must be when one on a torrid summer day passes by the
solid and carnal dinner for this simple Arcadian dish.

The wild strawberry, like the wild apple, is spicy and high-flavored,
but, unlike the apple, it is also mild and delicious. It has the true
rustic sweetness and piquancy. What it lacks in size, when compared
with the garden berry, it makes up in intensity. It is never dropsical
or overgrown, but firm-fleshed and hardy. Its great enemies are the
plow, gypsum, and the horse-rake. It dislikes a limestone soil, but
seems to prefer the detritus of the stratified rock. Where the sugar
maple abounds, I have always found plenty of wild strawberries. We have
two kinds,--the wood berry and the field berry. The former is as wild
as a partridge. It is found in open places in the woods and along the
borders, growing beside stumps and rocks, never in abundance, but very
sparsely. It is small, cone-shaped, dark red, shiny, and pimply. It
looks woody, and tastes so. It has never reached the table, nor made
the acquaintance of cream. A quart of them, at a fair price for human
labor, would be worth their weight in silver at least. (Yet a careful
observer writes me that in certain sections in the western part of New
York they are very plentiful.)

Ovid mentions the wood strawberry, which would lead one to infer that
they were more abundant in his time and country than in ours.

This is, perhaps, the same as the alpine strawberry, which is said to
grow in the mountains of Greece, and thence northward. This was
probably the first variety cultivated, though our native species would
seem as unpromising a subject for the garden as club-moss or
wintergreens.

Of the field strawberry there are a great many varieties,--some growing
in meadows, some in pastures, and some upon mountain-tops. Some are
round, and stick close to the calyx or hull; some are long and pointed,
with long, tapering necks. These usually grow upon tall stems. They
are, indeed, of the slim, linear kind. Your corpulent berry keeps close
to the ground; its stem and foot-stalk are short, and neck it has none.
Its color is deeper than that of its tall brother, and of course it has
more juice. You are more apt to find the tall varieties upon knolls in
low, wet meadows, and again upon mountain-tops, growing in tussocks of
wild grass about the open summits. These latter ripen in July, and give
one his last taste of strawberries for the season.

But the favorite haunt of the wild strawberry is an uplying meadow that
has been exempt from the plow for five or six years, and that has
little timothy and much daisy. When you go a-berrying, turn your steps
toward the milk-white meadows. The slightly bitter odor of the daisies
is very agreeable to the smell, and affords a good background for the
perfume of the fruit. The strawberry cannot cope with the rank and
deep-rooted clover, and seldom appears in a field till the clover has
had its day. But the daisy with its slender stalk does not crowd or
obstruct the plant, while its broad white flower is like a light
parasol that tempers and softens the too strong sunlight. Indeed,
daisies and strawberries are generally associated. Nature fills her
dish with the berries, then covers them with the white and yellow of
milk and cream, thus suggesting a combination we are quick to follow.
Milk alone, after it loses its animal heat, is a clod, and begets
torpidity of the brain; the berries lighten it, give wings to it, and
one is fed as by the air he breathes or the water he drinks.

Then the delight of "picking" the wild berries! It is one of the
fragrant memories of boyhood. Indeed, for boy or man to go a-berrying
in a certain pastoral country I know of, where a passer-by along the
highway is often regaled by a breeze loaded with a perfume of the
o'er-ripe fruit, is to get nearer to June than by almost any course I
know of. Your errand is so private and confidential! You stoop low.
You part away the grass and the daisies, and would lay bare the
inmost secrets of the meadow. Everything is yet tender and succulent;
the very air is bright and new; the warm breath of the meadow comes
up in your face; to your knees you are in a sea of daisies and
clover; from your knees up, you are in a sea of solar light and
warmth. Now you are prostrate like a swimmer, or like a surf-bather
reaching for pebbles or shells, the white and green spray breaks
above you; then, like a devotee before a shrine or naming his beads,
your rosary strung with luscious berries; anon you are a grazing
Nebuchadnezzar, or an artist taking an inverted view of the landscape.

The birds are alarmed by your close scrutiny of their domain. They
hardly know whether to sing or to cry, and do a little of both. The
bobolink follows you and circles above and in advance of you, and is
ready to give you a triumphal exit from the field, if you will only
depart.

      "Ye boys that gather flowers and strawberries,
       Lo, hid within the grass, an adder lies,"

Warton makes Virgil sing; and Montaigne, in his "Journey to Italy,"
says: "The children very often are afraid, on account of the snakes, to
go and pick the strawberries that grow in quantities on the mountains
and among bushes." But there is no serpent here,--at worst, only a
bumblebee's or yellow-jacket's nest. You soon find out the spring in
the corner of the field under the beechen tree. While you wipe your
brow and thank the Lord for spring water, you glance at the initials in
the bark, some of them so old that they seem runic and legendary. You
find out, also, how gregarious the strawberry is,--that the different
varieties exist in little colonies about the field. When you strike the
outskirts of one of these plantations, how quickly you work toward the
centre of it, and then from the centre out, then circumnavigate it, and
follow up all its branchings and windings!

Then the delight in the abstract and in the concrete of strolling and
lounging about the June meadows; of lying in pickle for half a day or
more in this pastoral sea, laved by the great tide, shone upon by the
virile sun, drenched to the very marrow of your being with the warm and
wooing influences of the young summer!

I was a famous berry-picker when a boy. It was near enough to hunting
and fishing to enlist me. Mother would always send me in preference to
any of the rest of the boys. I got the biggest berries and the most of
them. There was something of the excitement of the chase in the
occupation, and something of the charm and preciousness of game about
the trophies. The pursuit had its surprises, its expectancies, its
sudden disclosures,--in fact, its uncertainties. I went forth
adventurously. I could wander free as the wind. Then there were moments
of inspiration, for it always seemed a felicitous stroke to light upon
a particularly fine spot, as it does when one takes an old and wary
trout. You discovered the game where it was hidden. Your genius
prompted you. Another had passed that way and had missed the prize.
Indeed, the successful berry-picker, like Walton's angler, is born, not
made. It is only another kind of angling. In the same field one boy
gets big berries and plenty of them; another wanders up and down, and
finds only a few little ones. He cannot see them; he does not know
how to divine them where they lurk under the leaves and vines. The
berry-grower knows that in the cultivated patch his pickers are very
unequal, the baskets of one boy or girl having so inferior a look
that it does not seem possible they could have been filled from the
same vines with certain others. But neither blunt fingers nor blunt
eyes are hard to find; and as there are those who can see nothing
clearly, so there are those who can touch nothing deftly or gently.

The cultivation of the strawberry is thought to be comparatively
modern. The ancients appear to have been a carnivorous race: they
gorged themselves with meat; while the modern man makes larger and
larger use of fruits and vegetables, until this generation is doubtless
better fed than any that has preceded it. The strawberry and the apple,
and such vegetables as celery, ought to lengthen human life,--at least
to correct its biliousness and make it more sweet and sanguine.

The first impetus to strawberry culture seems to have been given by the
introduction of our field berry (_Fragaria Virginiana_) into England in
the seventeenth century, though not much progress was made till the
eighteenth. This variety is much more fragrant and aromatic than the
native berry of Europe, though less so in that climate than when grown
here. Many new seedlings sprang from it, and it was the prevailing
berry in English and French gardens, says Fuller, until the South
American species, _grandiflora,_ was introduced and supplanted it. This
berry is naturally much larger and sweeter, and better adapted to the
English climate, than our _Virginiana._ Hence the English strawberries
of to-day surpass ours in these respects, but are wanting in that
aromatic pungency that characterizes most of our berries.

The Jocunda, Triumph, Victoria, are foreign varieties of the
Grandiflora species; while the Hovey, the Boston Pine, the Downer, are
natives of this country.

The strawberry, in the main, repeats the form of the human heart, and
perhaps, of all the small fruits known to man, none other is so deeply
and fondly cherished, or hailed with such universal delight, as this
lowly but youth-renewing berry.



IV

IS IT GOING TO RAIN?


I suspect that, like most countrymen, I was born with a chronic anxiety
about the weather. Is it going to rain or snow, be hot or cold, wet or
dry?--are inquiries upon which I would fain get the views of every man
I meet, and I find that most men are fired with the same desire to get
my views upon the same set of subjects. To a countryman the weather
means something,--to a farmer especially. The farmer has sowed and
planted and reaped and vended nothing but weather all his life. The
weather must lift the mortgage on his farm, and pay his taxes, and feed
and clothe his family. Of what use is his labor unless seconded by the
weather? Hence there is speculation in his eye whenever he looks at the
clouds, or the moon, or the sunset, or the stars; for even the Milky
Way, in his view, may point the direction of the wind to-morrow, and
hence is closely related to the price of butter. He may not take the
sage's advice to "hitch his wagon to a star," but he pins his hopes to
the moon, and plants and sows by its phases.

Then the weather is that phase of Nature in which she appears not the
immutable fate we are so wont to regard her, but on the contrary
something quite human and changeable, not to say womanish,--a creature
of moods, of caprices, of cross purposes; gloomy and downcast to-day,
and all light and joy to-morrow; caressing and tender one moment, and
severe and frigid the next; one day iron, the next day vapor;
inconsistent, inconstant, incalculable; full of genius, full of folly,
full of extremes; to be read and understood, not by rule, but by subtle
signs and indirections,--by a look, a glance, a presence, as we read
and understand a man or a woman. Some days are like a rare poetic mood.
There is a felicity and an exhilaration about them from morning till
night. They are positive and fill one with celestial fire. Other days
are negative and drain one of his electricity.

Sometimes the elements show a marked genius for fair weather, as in the
fall and early winter of 1877, when October, grown only a little stern,
lasted till January. Every shuffle of the cards brought these mild,
brilliant days uppermost. There was not enough frost to stop the plow,
save once perhaps, till the new year set in. Occasionally a fruit-tree
put out a blossom and developed young fruit. The warring of the
elements was chiefly done on the other side of the globe, where it
formed an accompaniment to the human war raging there. In our usually
merciless skies was written only peace and good-will to men, for
months.

What a creature of habit, too, Nature is as she appears in the weather!
If she miscarry once she will twice and thrice, and a dozen times. In a
wet time it rains to-day because it rained yesterday, and will rain
to-morrow because it rained to-day. Are the crops in any part of the
country drowning? They shall continue to drown. Are they burning up?
They shall continue to burn. The elements get in a rut and can't get
out without a shock. I know a farmer who, in a dry time, when the
clouds gather and look threatening, gets out his watering-pot at once,
because, he says, "it won't rain, and 'tis an excellent time to apply
the water." Of course, there comes a time when the farmer is wrong, but
he is right four times out of five.

But I am not going to abuse the weather; rather to praise it, and make
some amends for the many ill-natured things I have said, within hearing
of the clouds, when I have been caught in the rain or been parched and
withered by the drought.

When Mr. Fields's "Village Dogmatist" was asked what caused the rain,
or the fog, he leaned upon his cane and answered, with an air of
profound wisdom, that "when the atmosphere and hemisphere come together
it causes the earth to sweat, and thereby produces the rain,"--or the
fog, as the case may be. The explanation is a little vague, as his
biographer suggests, but it is picturesque, and there can be little
doubt that two somethings do come in contact that produce a sweating
when it rains or is foggy. More than that, the philosophy is simple and
comprehensive, which Goethe said was the main matter in such things.
Goethe's explanation is still more picturesque, but I doubt if it is a
bit better philosophy. "I compare the earth and her atmosphere," he
said to Eckermann, "to a great living being perpetually inhaling and
exhaling. If she inhale she draws the atmosphere to her, so that,
coming near her surface, it is condensed to clouds and rain. This state
I call water-affirmative." The opposite state, when the earth exhales
and sends the watery vapors upward so that they are dissipated through
the whole space of the higher atmosphere, he called "water-negative."

This is good literature, and worthy the great poet; the science of it I
would not be so willing to vouch for.

The poets, more perhaps than the scientists, have illustrated and held
by the great law of alternation, of ebb and flow, of turn and return,
in nature. An equilibrium, or, what is the same thing, a straight line,
Nature abhors more than she does a vacuum. If the moisture of the air
were uniform, or the heat uniform, that is, _in equilibrio,_ how could
it rain? what would turn the scale? But these things are heaped up, are
in waves. There is always a preponderance one way or the other; always
"a steep inequality." Down this incline the rain comes, and up the
other side it goes. The high barometer travels like the crest of a sea,
and the low barometer like the trough. When the scale kicks the beam in
one place, it is correspondingly depressed in some other. When the east
is burning up, the west is generally drowning out. The weather, we say,
is always in extremes; it never rains but it pours: but this is only
the abuse of a law on the part of the elements which is at the bottom
of all the life and motion on the globe.

The rain itself comes in shorter or longer waves,--now fast, now
slow--and sometimes in regular throbs or pulse-beats. The fall and
winter rains are, as a rule, the most deliberate and general, but
the spring and summer rains are always more or less impulsive and
capricious. One may see the rain stalking across the hills or coming
up the valley in single file, as it were. Another time it moves in
vast masses or solid columns, with broad open spaces between. I have
seen a spring snowstorm lasting nearly all day that swept down in
rapid intermittent sheets or gusts. The waves or pulsations of the
storm were nearly vertical and were very marked. But the great
fact about the rain is that it is the most beneficent of all the
operations of nature; more immediately than sunlight even, it means
life and growth. Moisture is the Eve of the physical world, the soft
teeming principle given to wife to Adam or heat, and the mother of
all that lives. Sunshine abounds everywhere, but only where the rain
or dew follows is there life. The earth had the sun long before it
had the humid cloud, and will doubtless continue to have it after the
last drop of moisture has perished or been dissipated. The moon has
sunshine enough, but no rain; hence it is a dead world--a lifeless
cinder. It is doubtless true that certain of the planets, as Saturn
and Jupiter, have not yet reached the condition of the cooling and
ameliorating rains, while in Mars vapor appears to be precipitated
only in the form of snow; he is probably past the period of the
summer shower. There are clouds and vapors in the sun itself,--clouds
of flaming hydrogen and metallic vapors, and a rain every drop of
which is a burning or molten meteor. Our earth itself has doubtless
passed through the period of the fiery and consuming rains. Mr.
Proctor thinks there may have been a time when its showers were
downpourings of "muriatic, nitric, and sulphuric acid, not only
intensely hot, but fiercely burning through their chemical activity."
Think of a dew that would blister and destroy like the oil of
vitriol! but that period is far behind us now. When this fearful
fever was past and the earth began to "sweat;" when these soft,
delicious drops began to come down, or this impalpable rain of
the cloudless nights to fall,--the period of organic life was
inaugurated. Then there was hope and a promise of the future. The
first rain was the turning-point, the spell was broken, relief was
at hand. Then the blazing furies of the fore world began to give
place to the gentler divinities of later times.

The first water,--how much it means! Seven tenths of man himself is
water. Seven tenths of the human race rained down but yesterday! It is
much more probable that Alexander will flow out of a bung-hole than
that any part of his remains will ever stop one. Our life is indeed a
vapor, a breath, a little moisture condensed upon the pane. We carry
ourselves as in a phial. Cleave the flesh, and how quickly we spill
out! Man begins as a fish, and he swims in a sea of vital fluids as
long as his life lasts. His first food is milk; so is his last and all
between. He can taste and assimilate and absorb nothing but liquids.
The same is true throughout all organic nature. 'Tis water-power that
makes every wheel move. Without this great solvent, there is no life. I
admire immensely this line of Walt Whitman's:--

      "The slumbering and liquid trees."

The tree and its fruit are like a sponge which the rains have filled.
Through them and through all living bodies there goes on the commerce
of vital growth, tiny vessels, fleets and succession of fleets, laden
with material bound for distant shores, to build up, and repair, and
restore the waste of the physical frame.

Then the rain means relaxation; the tension in Nature and in all her
creatures is lessened. The trees drop their leaves, or let go their
ripened fruit. The tree itself will fall in a still, damp day, when but
yesterday it withstood a gale of wind. A moist south wind penetrates
even the mind and makes its grasp less tenacious. It ought to take less
to kill a man on a rainy day than on a clear. The direct support of the
sun is withdrawn; life is under a cloud; a masculine mood gives place
to something like a feminine. In this sense, rain is the grief, the
weeping of Nature, the relief of a burdened or agonized heart. But
tears from Nature's eyelids are always remedial and prepare the way for
brighter, purer skies.

I think rain is as necessary to the mind as to vegetation. Who does not
suffer in his spirit in a drought and feel restless and unsatisfied? My
very thoughts become thirsty and crave the moisture. It is hard work to
be generous, or neighborly, or patriotic in a dry time, and as for
growing in any of the finer graces or virtues, who can do it? One's
very manhood shrinks, and, if he is ever capable of a mean act or of
narrow views, it is then.

Oh, the terrible drought! When the sky turns to brass; when the clouds
are like withered leaves; when the sun sucks the earth's blood like a
vampire; when rivers shrink, streams fail, springs perish; when the
grass whitens and crackles under your feet; when the turf turns to
dust; when the fields are like tinder; when the air is the breath of an
oven; when even the merciful dews are withheld, and the morning is no
fresher than the evening; when the friendly road is a desert, and the
green woods like a sick-chamber; when the sky becomes tarnished and
opaque with dust and smoke; when the shingles on the houses curl up,
the clapboards warp, the paint blisters, the joints open; when the
cattle rove disconsolate and the hive-bee comes home empty; when
the earth gapes and all nature looks widowed, and deserted, and
heart-broken,--in such a time, what thing that has life does not
sympathize and suffer with the general distress?

The drought of the summer and early fall of 1876 was one of those
severe stresses of weather that make the oldest inhabitant search his
memory for a parallel. For nearly three months there was no rain to wet
the ground. Large forest trees withered and cast their leaves. In
spots, the mountains looked as if they had been scorched by fire. The
salt sea-water came up the Hudson ninety miles, when ordinarily it
scarcely comes forty. Toward the last, the capacity of the atmosphere
to absorb and dissipate the smoke was exhausted, and innumerable fires
in forests and peat-swamps made the days and the weeks--not blue, but a
dirty yellowish white. There was not enough moisture in the air to take
the sting out of the smoke, and it smarted the nose. The sun was red
and dim even at midday, and at his rising and setting he was as
harmless to the eye as a crimson shield or a painted moon. The
meteorological conditions seemed the farthest possible remove from
those that produce rain, or even dew. Every sign was negatived. Some
malevolent spirit seemed abroad in the air, that rendered abortive
every effort of the gentler divinities to send succor. The clouds would
gather back in the mountains, the thunder would growl, the tall masses
would rise up and advance threateningly, then suddenly cower, their
strength and purpose ooze away; they flattened out; the hot, parched
breath of the earth smote them; the dark, heavy masses were re-resolved
into thin vapor, and the sky came through where but a few moments
before there had appeared to be deep behind deep of water-logged
clouds. Sometimes a cloud would pass by, and one could see trailing
beneath and behind it a sheet of rain, like something let down that did
not quite touch the earth, the hot air vaporizing the drops before they
reached the ground.

Two or three times the wind got in the south, and those low, dun-colored
clouds that are nothing but harmless fog came hurrying up and covered
the sky, and city folk and women folk said the rain was at last near.
But the wise ones knew better. The clouds had no backing, the clear
sky was just behind them; they were only the nightcap of the south
wind, which the sun burnt up before ten o'clock.

Every storm has a foundation that is deeply and surely laid, and those
shallow surface-clouds that have no root in the depths of the sky
deceive none but the unwary.

At other times, when the clouds were not reabsorbed by the sky and rain
seemed imminent, they would suddenly undergo a change that looked like
curdling, and when clouds do that no rain need be expected. Time and
again I saw their continuity broken up, saw them separate into small
masses,--in fact saw a process of disintegration and disorganization
going on, and my hope of rain was over for that day. Vast spaces would
be affected suddenly; it was like a stroke of paralysis: motion was
retarded, the breeze died down, the thunder ceased, and the storm was
blighted on the very threshold of success.

I suppose there is some compensation in a drought; Nature doubtless
profits by it in some way. It is a good time to thin out her garden,
and give the law of the survival of the fittest a chance to come into
play. How the big trees and big plants do rob the little ones! there is
not drink enough to go around, and the strongest will have what there
is. It is a rest to vegetation, too, a kind of torrid winter that is
followed by a fresh awakening. Every tree and plant learns a lesson
from it, learns to shoot its roots down deep into the perennial
supplies of moisture and life.

But when the rain does come, the warm, sun-distilled rain; the
far-traveling, vapor-born rain; the impartial, undiscriminating,
unstinted rain; equable, bounteous, myriad-eyed, searching out every
plant and every spear of grass, finding every hidden thing that needs
water, falling upon the just and upon the unjust, sponging off every
leaf of every tree in the forest and every growth in the fields;
music to the ear, a perfume to the smell, an enchantment to the eye;
healing the earth, cleansing the air, renewing the fountains; honey
to the bee, manna to the herds, and life to all creatures,--what
spectacle so fills the heart? "Rain, rain, O dear Zeus, down on the
plowed fields of the Athenians, and on the plains."

There is a fine sibilant chorus audible in the sod, and in the dust of
the road, and in the porous plowed fields. Every grain of soil and
every root and rootlet purrs in satisfaction, Because something more
than water comes down when it rains; you cannot produce this effect by
simple water; the good-will of the elements, the consent and
approbation of all the skyey influences, come down; the harmony, the
adjustment, the perfect understanding of the soil beneath and the air
that swims above, are implied in the marvelous benefaction of the rain.
The earth is ready; the moist winds have wooed it and prepared it, the
electrical conditions are as they should be, and there are love and
passion in the surrender of the summer clouds. How the drops are
absorbed into the ground! You cannot, I say, succeed like this with
your hose or sprinkling-pot. There is no ardor or electricity in the
drops, no ammonia, or ozone, or other nameless properties borrowed from
the air.

Then one has not the gentleness and patience of Nature; we puddle the
ground in our hurry, we seal it up and exclude the air, and the plants
are worse off than before. When the sky is overcast and it is getting
ready to rain, the moisture rises in the ground, the earth opens her
pores and seconds the desire of the clouds.

Indeed, I have found there is but little virtue in a sprinkling-pot
after the drought has reached a certain pitch. The soil will not absorb
the water. 'Tis like throwing it on a hot stove. I once concentrated my
efforts upon a single hill of corn and deluged it with water night and
morning for several days, yet its leaves curled up and the ears failed
the same as the rest. Something may be done, without doubt, if one
begins in time, but the relief seems strangely inadequate to the means
often used. In rainless countries good crops are produced by
irrigation, but here man can imitate in a measure the patience and
bounty of Nature, and, with night to aid him, can make his thirsty
fields drink, or rather can pour the water down their throats.

I have said the rain is as necessary to man as to vegetation. You
cannot have a rank, sappy race, like the English or the German, without
plenty of moisture in the air and in the soil. Good viscera and an
abundance of blood are closely related to meteorological conditions,
unction of character, and a flow of animal spirits, too; and I suspect
that much of the dry and rarefied humor of New England, as well as the
thin and sharp physiognomies, are climatic results. We have rain
enough, but not equability of temperature or moisture,--no steady,
abundant supply of humidity in the air. In places in Great Britain it
is said to rain on an average three days out of four the year through;
yet the depth of rainfall is no greater than in this country, where it
rains but the one day out of four. John Bull shows those three rainy
days both in his temper and in his bodily habit; he is better for them
in many ways, and perhaps not quite so good in a few others: they make
him juicy and vascular, and maybe a little opaque; but we in this
country could well afford a few of his negative qualities for the sake
of his stomach and full-bloodedness.

We have such faith in the virtue of the rain, and in the capacity of
the clouds to harbor and transport material good, that we more than
half believe the stories of the strange and anomalous things that have
fallen in showers. There is no credible report that it has ever yet
rained pitchforks, but many other curious things have fallen. Fish,
flesh, and fowl, and substances that were neither, have been picked up
by veracious people after a storm. Manna, blood, and honey, frogs,
newts, and fish-worms, are among the curious things the clouds are
supposed to yield. If the clouds scooped up their water as the flying
express train does, these phenomena could be easier explained. I myself
have seen curious things. Riding along the road one day on the heels of
a violent summer tempest, I saw the ground swarming with minute hopping
creatures. I got out and captured my hands full. They proved to be
tree-toads, many of them no larger than crickets, and none of them
larger than a bumblebee. There seemed to be thousands of them. The mark
of the tree-toad was the round, flattened ends of their toes. I took
some of them home, but they died the next day. Where did they come
from? I imagined the violent wind swept them off the trees in the woods
to windward of the road. But this is only a guess; maybe they crept out
of the ground, or from under the wall near by, and were out to wet
their jackets.

I have never yet heard of a frog coming down chimney in a shower. Some
circumstantial evidence may be pretty conclusive, Thoreau says, as when
you find a trout in the milk; and if you find a frog or toad behind the
fire-board immediately after a shower, you may well ask him to explain
himself.

When I was a boy I used to wonder if the clouds were hollow and carried
their water as in a cask, because had we not often heard of clouds
bursting and producing havoc and ruin beneath them? The hoops gave way,
perhaps, or the head was pressed out. Goethe says that when the
barometer rises, the clouds are spun off from the top downward like a
distaff of flax; but this is more truly the process when it rains. When
fair weather is in the ascendant, the clouds are simply reabsorbed by
the air; but when it rains, they are spun off into something more
compact: 'tis like the threads that issue from the mass of flax or
roll of wool, only here there are innumerable threads, and the fingers
that hold them never tire. The great spinning-wheel, too, what a
humming it makes at times, and how the footsteps of the invisible
spinner resound through the cloud-pillared chambers!

The clouds are thus literally spun up into water; and were they not
constantly recruited from the atmosphere as the storm-centre travels
along,--was new wool not forthcoming from the white sheep and the black
sheep that the winds herd at every point,--all rains would be brief and
local; the storm would quickly exhaust itself, as we sometimes see a
thunder-cloud do in summer. A storm will originate in the far West or
Southwest--those hatching-places of all our storms--and travel across
the continent, and across the Atlantic to Europe, pouring down
incalculable quantities of rain as it progresses and recruiting as it
wastes. It is a moving vortex, into which the outlying moisture of the
atmosphere is being constantly drawn and precipitated. It is not
properly the storm that travels, but the low pressure, the storm
impulse, the meteorological magnet that makes the storm wherever its
presence may be. The clouds are not watering-carts, that are driven all
the way from Arizona or Colorado to Europe, but growths, developments
that spring up as the Storm-deity moves his wand across the land. In
advance of the storm, you may often see the clouds grow; the
condensation of the moisture into vapor is a visible process; slender,
spiculæ-like clouds expand, deepen, and lengthen; in the rear of the
low pressure, the reverse process, or the wasting of the clouds, may be
witnessed. In summer, the recruiting of a thunder-storm is often very
marked. I have seen the clouds file as straight across the sky toward a
growing storm or thunder-head in the horizon as soldiers hastening to
the point of attack or defense. They would grow more and more black and
threatening as they advanced, and actually seemed to be driven by more
urgent winds than certain other clouds. They were, no doubt, more in
the line of the storm influence. All our general storms are cyclonic in
their character, that is, rotary and progressive. Their type may be
seen in every little whirlpool that goes down the swollen current of
the river; and in our hemisphere they revolve in the same direction,
namely, from right to left, or in opposition to the hands of a watch.
When the water finds an outlet through the bottom of a dam, a suction
or whirling vortex is developed that generally goes round in the same
direction. A morning-glory or a hop-vine or a pole-bean winds around
its support in the same course, and cannot be made to wind in any
other. I am aware there are some perverse climbers among the plants
that persist in going around the pole in the other direction. In the
southern hemisphere the cyclone revolves in the other direction, or
from left to right. How do they revolve at the equator, then? They do
not revolve at all. This is the point of zero, and cyclones are never
formed nearer than the third parallel of latitude. Whether hop-vines
also refuse to wind about the pole there I am unable to say.

All our cyclones originate in the far Southwest and travel northeast.
Why did we wait for the Weather Bureau to tell us this fact? Do not all
the filmy, hazy, cirrus and cirro-stratus clouds first appear from the
general direction of the sunset? Who ever saw them pushing their opaque
filaments over the sky from the east or north? Yet do we not have
"northeasters" both winter and summer? True, but the storm does not
come from that direction. In such a case we get that segment of the
cyclonic whirl. A northeaster in one place may be an easter, a norther,
or a souther in some other locality. See through those drifting,
drenching clouds that come hurrying out of the northeast, and there are
the boss-clouds above them, the great captains themselves, moving
serenely on in the opposite direction.

Electricity is, of course, an important agent in storms. It is the
great organizer and ring-master. How a clap of thunder will shake down
the rain! It gives the clouds a smart rap; it jostles the vapor so that
the particles fall together more quickly; it makes the drops let go in
double and treble ranks. Nature likes to be helped in that way,--likes
to have the water agitated when she is freezing it or heating it, and
the clouds smitten when she is compressing them into rain. So does a
shock of surprise quicken the pulse in man, and in the crisis of action
help him to a decision.

What a spur and impulse the summer shower is! How its coming quickens
and hurries up the slow, jogging country life! The traveler along the
dusty road arouses from his reverie at the warning rumble behind the
hills; the children hasten from the field or from the school; the
farmer steps lively and thinks fast. In the hay-field, at the first
signal-gun of the elements, what a commotion! How the horserake
rattles, how the pitchforks fly, how the white sleeves play and twinkle
in the sun or against the dark background of the coming storm! One man
does the work of two or three. It is a race with the elements, and the
hay-makers do not like to be beaten. The rain that is life to the grass
when growing is poison to it after it becomes cured hay, and it must be
got under shelter, or put up into snug cocks, if possible, before the
storm overtakes it.

The rains of winter are cold and odorless. One prefers the snow, which
warms and covers; but can there be anything more delicious than the
first warm April rain,--the first offering of the softened and pacified
clouds of spring? The weather has been dry, perhaps, for two or three
weeks; we have had a touch of the dreaded drought thus early; the roads
are dusty, the streams again shrunken, and forest fires send up columns
of smoke on every hand; the frost has all been out of the ground many
days; the snow has all disappeared from the mountains; the sun is warm,
but the grass does not grow, nor the early seeds come up. The
quickening spirit of the rain is needed. Presently the wind gets in the
southwest, and, late in the day, we have our first vernal shower,
gentle and leisurely, but every drop condensed from warm tropic vapors
and charged with the very essence of spring. Then what a perfume fills
the air! One's nostrils are not half large enough to take it in. The
smoke, washed by the rain, becomes the breath of woods, and the soil
and the newly plowed fields give out an odor that dilates the sense.
How the buds of the trees swell, how the grass greens, how the birds
rejoice! Hear the robins laugh! This will bring out the worms and the
insects, and start the foliage of the trees. A summer shower has more
copiousness and power, but this has the charm of freshness and of all
first things.

The laws of storms, up to a certain point, have come to be pretty well
understood, but there is yet no science of the weather, any more than
there is of human nature. There is about as much room for speculation
in the one case as in the other. The causes and agencies are subtle and
obscure, and we shall, perhaps, have the metaphysics of the subject
before we have the physics.

But as there are persons who can read human nature pretty well, so
there are those who can read the weather.

It is a masculine subject, and quite beyond the province of woman. Ask
those who spend their time in the open air,--the farmer, the sailor,
the soldier, the walker; ask the birds, the beasts, the tree-toads:
they know, if they will only tell. The farmer diagnoses the weather
daily, as the doctor a patient: he feels the pulse of the wind; he
knows when the clouds have a scurfy tongue, or when the cuticle of the
day is feverish and dry, or soft and moist. Certain days he calls
"weather-breeders," and they are usually the fairest days in the
calendar,--all sun and sky. They are too fair; they are suspiciously
so. They come in the fall and spring, and always mean mischief. When a
day of almost unnatural brightness and clearness in either of these
seasons follows immediately after a storm, it is a sure indication that
another storm follows close,--follows to-morrow. In keeping with this
fact is the rule of the barometer, that, if the mercury suddenly rises
very high, the fair weather will not last. It is a high peak that
indicates a corresponding depression close at hand. I observed one of
these angelic mischief-makers during the past October. The second day
after a heavy fall of rain was the fairest of the fair,--not a speck or
film in all the round of the sky. Where have all the clouds and vapors
gone to so suddenly? was my mute inquiry, but I suspected they were
plotting together somewhere behind the horizon. The sky was a deep
ultramarine blue; the air so transparent that distant objects seemed
near, and the afternoon shadows were sharp and clear. At night the
stars were unusually numerous and bright (a sure sign of an approaching
storm). The sky was laid bare, as the tidal wave empties the shore of
its water before it heaps it up upon it. A violent storm of wind and
rain the next day followed this delusive brightness. So the weather,
like human nature, may be suspiciously transparent. A saintly day may
undo you. A few clouds do not mean rain; but when there are absolutely
none, when even the haze and filmy vapors are suppressed or held back,
then beware.

Then the weather-wise know there are two kinds of clouds, rain-clouds
and wind-clouds, and that the latter are always the most portentous. In
summer they are black as night; they look as if they would blot out the
very earth. They raise a great dust, and set things flying and slamming
for a moment, and that is all. They are the veritable wind-bags of
Æolus. There is something in the look of rain-clouds that is
unmistakable,--a firm, gray, tightly woven look that makes you remember
your umbrella. Not too high nor too low, not black nor blue, but the
form and hue of wet, unbleached linen. You see the river water in them;
they are heavy-laden, and move slow. Sometimes they develop what are
called "mares' tails,"--small cloud-forms here and there against a
heavy background, that look like the stroke of a brush, or the
streaming tail of a charger. Sometimes a few under-clouds will be
combed and groomed by the winds or other meteoric agencies at work, as
if for a race. I have seen coming storms develop well-defined
vertebræ,--a long backbone of cloud, with the articulations and
processes clearly marked. Any of these forms, changing, growing, denote
rain, because they show unusual agencies at work. The storm is brewing
and fermenting. "See those cowlicks," said an old farmer, pointing to
certain patches on the clouds; "they mean rain." Another time, he said
the clouds were "making bag," had growing udders, and that it would
rain before night, as it did. This reminded me that the Orientals speak
of the clouds as cows which the winds herd and milk.

In the winter, we see the sun wading in snow. The morning has perhaps
been clear, but in the afternoon a bank of gray filmy or cirrus cloud
meets him in the west, and he sinks deeper and deeper into it, till, at
his going down, his muffled beams are entirely hidden. Then, on the
morrow, _not_

      "Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,"

but silent as night, the white legions are here.

The old signs seldom fail,--a red and angry sunrise, or flushed clouds
at evening. Many a hope of rain have I seen dashed by a painted sky at
sunset. There is truth in the old couplet, too:--

      "If it rains before seven,
       It will clear before eleven."

An old Indian had a sign for winter: "If the wind blows the snow off
the trees, the next storm will be snow; if it rains off, the next storm
will be rain."

Morning rains are usually short-lived. Better wait till ten o'clock.

When the clouds are chilled, they turn blue and rise up.

When the fog leaves the mountains, reaching upward, as if afraid of
being left behind, the fair weather is near.

Shoddy clouds are of little account, and soon fall to pieces. Have your
clouds show a good strong fibre, and have them lined,--not with silver,
but with other clouds of a finer texture,--and have them wadded. It
wants two or three thicknesses to get up a good rain. Especially,
unless you have that cloud-mother, that dim, filmy, nebulous mass that
has its root in the higher regions of the air, and is the source and
backing of all storms, your rain will be light indeed.

I fear my reader's jacket is not thoroughly soaked yet. I must give him
a final dash, a "clear-up" shower.

We were encamping in the primitive woods, by a little trout lake which
the mountain carried high on his hip, like a soldier's canteen. There
were wives in the party, curious to know what the lure was that
annually drew their husbands to the woods. That magical writing on a
trout's back they would fain decipher, little heeding the warning that
what is written here is not given to woman to know.

Our only tent or roof was the sheltering arms of the great birches and
maples. What was sauce for the gander should be sauce for the goose,
too, so the goose insisted. A luxurious couch of boughs upon springing
poles was prepared, and the night should be not less welcome than the
day, which had indeed been idyllic. (A trout dinner had been served by
a little spring brook, upon an improvised table covered with moss and
decked with ferns, with strawberries from a near clearing.)

At twilight there was an ominous rumble behind the mountains. I was on
the lake, and could see what was brewing there in the west.

As darkness came on, the rumbling increased, and the mountains and the
woods and the still air were such good conductors of sound that the ear
was vividly impressed. One seemed to feel the enormous convolutions of
the clouds in the deep and jarring tones of the thunder. The coming of
night in the woods is alone peculiarly impressive, and it is doubly so
when out of the darkness comes such a voice as this. But we fed the
fire the more industriously, and piled the logs high, and kept the
gathering gloom at bay by as large a circle of light as we could
command. The lake was a pool of ink and as still as if congealed; not a
movement or a sound, save now and then a terrific volley from the cloud
batteries now fast approaching. By nine o'clock little puffs of wind
began to steal through the woods and tease and toy with our fire.
Shortly after, an enormous electric bombshell exploded in the treetops
over our heads, and the ball was fairly opened. Then followed three
hours, with only two brief intermissions, of as lively elemental music
and as copious an outpouring of rain as it was ever my lot to witness.
It was a regular meteorological carnival, and the revelers were drunk
with the wild sport. The apparent nearness of the clouds and the
electric explosions was something remarkable. Every discharge seemed to
be in the branches immediately overhead and made us involuntarily
cower, as if the next moment the great limbs of the trees, or the trees
themselves, would come crashing down. The mountain upon which we were
encamped appeared to be the focus of three distinct but converging
storms. The last two seemed to come into collision immediately over our
camp-fire, and to contend for the right of way, until the heavens were
ready to fall and both antagonists were literally spent. We stood in
groups about the struggling fire, and when the cannonade became too
terrible would withdraw into the cover of the darkness, as if to be a
less conspicuous mark for the bolts; or did we fear that the fire, with
its currents, might attract the lightning? At any rate, some other spot
than the one where we happened to be standing seemed desirable when
those onsets of the contending elements were the most furious.
Something that one could not catch in his hat was liable to drop almost
anywhere any minute. The alarm and consternation of the wives
communicated itself to the husbands, and they looked solemn and
concerned. The air was filled with falling water. The sound upon the
myriad leaves and branches was like the roar of a cataract. We put our
backs up against the great trees, only to catch a brook on our
shoulders or in the backs of our necks. Still the storm waxed. The fire
was beaten down lower and lower. It surrendered one post after another,
like a besieged city, and finally made only a feeble resistance from
beneath a pile of charred logs and branches in the centre. Our garments
yielded to the encroachments of the rain in about the same manner. I
believe my necktie held out the longest, and carried a few dry threads
safely through. Our cunningly devised and bedecked table, which the
housekeepers had so doted on and which was ready spread for breakfast,
was washed as by the hose of a fire-engine,--only the bare poles
remained,--and the couch of springing boughs, that was to make Sleep
jealous and o'er-fond, became a bed fit only for amphibians. Still the
loosened floods came down; still the great cloud-mortars bellowed and
exploded their missiles in the treetops above us. But all nervousness
finally passed away, and we became dogged and resigned. Our minds
became water-soaked; our thoughts were heavy and bedraggled. We were
past the point of joking at one another's expense. The witticisms
failed to kindle,--indeed, failed to go, like the matches in our
pockets. About midnight the rain slackened, and by one o'clock ceased
entirely. How the rest of the night was passed beneath the dripping
trees and upon the saturated ground, I have only the dimmest
remembrance. All is watery and opaque; the fog settles down and
obscures the scene. But I suspect I tried the "wet pack" without being
a convert to hydropathy. When the morning dawned, the wives begged to
be taken home, convinced that the charms of camping-out were greatly
overrated. We, who had tasted this cup before, knew they had read at
least a part of the legend of the wary trout without knowing it.



V

SPECKLED TROUT


I

The legend of the wary trout, hinted at in the last sketch, is to be
further illustrated in this and some following chapters. We shall get
at more of the meaning of those dark water-lines, and I hope, also, not
entirely miss the significance of the gold and silver spots and the
glancing iridescent hues. The trout is dark and obscure above, but
behind this foil there are wondrous tints that reward the believing
eye. Those who seek him in his wild remote haunts are quite sure to get
the full force of the sombre and uninviting aspects,--the wet, the
cold, the toil, the broken rest, and the huge, savage, uncompromising
nature,--but the true angler sees farther than these, and is never
thwarted of his legitimate reward by them.

I have been a seeker of trout from my boyhood, and on all the
expeditions in which this fish has been the ostensible purpose I have
brought home more game than my creel showed. In fact, in my mature
years I find I got more of nature into me, more of the woods, the wild,
nearer to bird and beast, while threading my native streams for trout,
than in almost any other way. It furnished a good excuse to go forth;
it pitched one in the right key; it sent one through the fat and
marrowy places of field and wood. Then the fisherman has a harmless,
preoccupied look; he is a kind of vagrant that nothing fears. He blends
himself with the trees and the shadows. All his approaches are gentle
and indirect. He times himself to the meandering, soliloquizing stream;
its impulse bears him along. At the foot of the waterfall he sits
sequestered and hidden in its volume of sound. The birds know he has no
designs upon them, and the animals see that his mind is in the creek.
His enthusiasm anneals him, and makes him pliable to the scenes and
influences he moves among.

Then what acquaintance he makes with the stream! He addresses himself
to it as a lover to his mistress; he wooes it and stays with it till he
knows its most hidden secrets. It runs through his thoughts not less
than through its banks there; he feels the fret and thrust of every bar
and boulder. Where it deepens, his purpose deepens; where it is
shallow, he is indifferent. He knows how to interpret its every glance
and dimple; its beauty haunts him for days.

I am sure I run no risk of overpraising the charm and attractiveness of
a well-fed trout stream, every drop of water in it as bright and pure
as if the nymphs had brought it all the way from its source in crystal
goblets, and as cool as if it had been hatched beneath a glacier. When
the heated and soiled and jaded refugee from the city first sees one,
he feels as if he would like to turn it into his bosom and let it flow
through him a few hours, it suggests such healing freshness and
newness. How his roily thoughts would run clear; how the sediment would
go downstream! Could he ever have an impure or an unwholesome wish
afterward? The next best thing he can do is to tramp along its banks
and surrender himself to its influence. If he reads it intently enough,
he will, in a measure, be taking it into his mind and heart, and
experiencing its salutary ministrations.

Trout streams coursed through every valley my boyhood knew. I crossed
them, and was often lured and detained by them, on my way to and from
school. We bathed in them during the long summer noons, and felt for
the trout under their banks. A holiday was a holiday indeed that
brought permission to go fishing over on Rose's Brook, or up
Hardscrabble, or in Meeker's Hollow; all-day trips, from morning till
night, through meadows and pastures and beechen woods, wherever the
shy, limpid stream led. What an appetite it developed! a hunger that
was fierce and aboriginal, and that the wild strawberries we plucked as
we crossed the hill teased rather than allayed. When but a few hours
could be had, gained perhaps by doing some piece of work about the farm
or garden in half the allotted time, the little creek that headed in
the paternal domain was handy; when half a day was at one's disposal,
there were the hemlocks, less than a mile distant, with their
loitering, meditative, log-impeded stream and their dusky, fragrant
depths. Alert and wide-eyed, one picked his way along, startled now and
then by the sudden bursting-up of the partridge, or by the whistling
wings of the "dropping snipe," pressing through the brush and the
briers, or finding an easy passage over the trunk of a prostrate tree,
carefully letting his hook down through some tangle into a still pool,
or standing in some high, sombre avenue and watching his line float in
and out amid the moss-covered boulders. In my first essayings I used to
go to the edge of these hemlocks, seldom dipping into them beyond the
first pool where the stream swept under the roots of two large trees.
From this point I could look back into the sunlit fields where the
cattle were grazing; beyond, all was gloom and mystery; the trout were
black, and to my young imagination the silence and the shadows were
blacker. But gradually I yielded to the fascination and penetrated the
woods farther and farther on each expedition, till the heart of the
mystery was fairly plucked out. During the second or third year of my
piscatorial experience I went through them, and through the pasture and
meadow beyond, and through another strip of hemlocks, to where the
little stream joined the main creek of the valley.

In June, when my trout fever ran pretty high, and an auspicious day
arrived, I would make a trip to a stream a couple of miles distant,
that came down out of a comparatively new settlement. It was a rapid
mountain brook presenting many difficult problems to the young angler,
but a very enticing stream for all that, with its two saw-mill dams,
its pretty cascades, its high, shelving rocks sheltering the mossy
nests of the phoebe-bird, and its general wild and forbidding aspects.

But a meadow brook was always a favorite. The trout like meadows;
doubtless their food is more abundant there, and, usually, the good
hiding-places are more numerous. As soon as you strike a meadow the
character of the creek changes: it goes slower and lies deeper; it
tarries to enjoy the high, cool banks and to half hide beneath them; it
loves the willows, or rather the willows love it and shelter it from
the sun; its spring runs are kept cool by the overhanging grass, and
the heavy turf that faces its open banks is not cut away by the sharp
hoofs of the grazing cattle. Then there are the bobolinks and the
starlings and the meadowlarks, always interested spectators of the
angler; there are also the marsh marigolds, the buttercups, or the
spotted lilies, and the good angler is always an interested spectator
of them. In fact, the patches of meadow land that lie in the angler's
course are like the happy experiences in his own life, or like the fine
passages in the poem he is reading; the pasture oftener contains the
shallow and monotonous places. In the small streams the cattle scare
the fish, and soil their element and break down their retreats under
the banks. Woodland alternates the best with meadow: the creek loves to
burrow under the roots of a great tree, to scoop out a pool after
leaping over the prostrate trunk of one, and to pause at the foot of a
ledge of moss-covered rocks, with ice-cold water dripping down. How
straight the current goes for the rock! Note its corrugated, muscular
appearance; it strikes and glances off, but accumulates, deepens with
well-defined eddies above and to one side; on the edge of these the
trout lurk and spring upon their prey.

The angler learns that it is generally some obstacle or hindrance that
makes a deep place in the creek, as in a brave life; and his ideal
brook is one that lies in deep, well-defined banks, yet makes many a
shift from right to left, meets with many rebuffs and adventures,
hurled back upon itself by rocks, waylaid by snags and trees, tripped
up by precipices, but sooner or later reposing under meadow banks,
deepening and eddying beneath bridges, or prosperous and strong in some
level stretch of cultivated land with great elms shading it here and
there.

But I early learned that from almost any stream in a trout country the
true angler could take trout, and that the great secret was this, that,
whatever bait you used, worm, grasshopper, grub, or fly, there was one
thing you must always put upon your hook, namely, your heart: when you
bait your hook with your heart the fish always bite; they will jump
clear from the water after it; they will dispute with each other over
it; it is a morsel they love above everything else. With such bait I
have seen the born angler (my grandfather was one) take a noble string
of trout from the most unpromising waters, and on the most unpromising
day. He used his hook so coyly and tenderly, he approached the fish
with such address and insinuation, he divined the exact spot where they
lay: if they were not eager, he humored them and seemed to steal by
them; if they were playful and coquettish, he would suit his mood to
theirs; if they were frank and sincere, he met them halfway; he was so
patient and considerate, so entirely devoted to pleasing the critical
trout, and so successful in his efforts,--surely his heart was upon his
hook, and it was a tender, unctuous heart, too, as that of every angler
is. How nicely he would measure the distance! how dexterously he would
avoid an overhanging limb or bush and drop the line exactly in the
right spot! Of course there was a pulse of feeling and sympathy to the
extremity of that line. If your heart is a stone, however, or an empty
husk, there is no use to put it upon your hook; it will not tempt the
fish; the bait must be quick and fresh. Indeed, a certain quality of
youth is indispensable to the successful angler, a certain
unworldliness and readiness to invest yourself in an enterprise that
doesn't pay in the current coin. Not only is the angler, like the
poet, born and not made, as Walton says, but there is a deal of the
poet in him, and he is to be judged no more harshly; he is the victim
of his genius: those wild streams, how they haunt him! he will play
truant to dull care, and flee to them; their waters impart somewhat of
their own perpetual youth to him. My grandfather when he was eighty
years old would take down his pole as eagerly as any boy, and step off
with wonderful elasticity toward the beloved streams; it used to try my
young legs a good deal to follow him, specially on the return trip. And
no poet was ever more innocent of worldly success or ambition. For, to
paraphrase Tennyson,--

      "Lusty trout to him were scrip and share,
       And babbling waters more than cent for cent."

He laid up treasures, but they were not in this world. In fact, though
the kindest of husbands, I fear he was not what the country people call
a "good provider," except in providing trout in their season, though it
is doubtful if there was always fat in the house to fry them in. But he
could tell you they were worse off than that at Valley Forge, and that
trout, or any other fish, were good roasted in the ashes under the
coals. He had the Walton requisite of loving quietness and
contemplation, and was devout withal. Indeed, in many ways he was akin
to those Galilee fishermen who were called to be fishers of men. How he
read the Book and pored over it, even at times, I suspect, nodding over
it, and laying it down only to take up his rod, over which, unless the
trout were very dilatory and the journey very fatiguing, he never
nodded!


II

The Delaware is one of our minor rivers, but it is a stream beloved of
the trout. Nearly all its remote branches head in mountain springs, and
its collected waters, even when warmed by the summer sun, are as sweet
and wholesome as dew swept from the grass. The Hudson wins from it two
streams that are fathered by the mountains from whose loins most of its
beginnings issue, namely, the Rondout and the Esopus. These swell a
more illustrious current than the Delaware, but the Rondout, one of the
finest trout streams in the world, makes an uncanny alliance before it
reaches its destination, namely, with the malarious Wallkill.

In the same nest of mountains from which they start are born the
Neversink and the Beaverkill, streams of wondrous beauty that flow
south and west into the Delaware. From my native hills I could catch
glimpses of the mountains in whose laps these creeks were cradled, but
it was not till after many years, and after dwelling in a country where
trout are not found, that I returned to pay my respects to them as an
angler.

My first acquaintance with the Neversink was made in company with some
friends in 1869. We passed up the valley of the Big Ingin, marveling at
its copious ice-cold springs, and its immense sweep of heavy-timbered
mountain-sides. Crossing the range at its head, we struck the Neversink
quite unexpectedly about the middle of the afternoon, at a point where
it was a good-sized trout stream. It proved to be one of those black
mountain brooks born of innumerable ice-cold springs, nourished in
the shade, and shod, as it were, with thick-matted moss, that every
camper-out remembers. The fish are as black as the stream and very wild.
They dart from beneath the fringed rocks, or dive with the hook into
the dusky depths,--an integral part of the silence and the shadows. The
spell of the moss is over all. The fisherman's tread is noiseless, as
he leaps from stone to stone and from ledge to ledge along the bed of
the stream. How cool it is! He looks up the dark, silent defile, hears
the solitary voice of the water, sees the decayed trunks of fallen
trees bridging the stream, and all he has dreamed, when a boy, of the
haunts of beasts of prey--the crouching feline tribes, especially if it
be near nightfall and the gloom already deepening in the woods--comes
freshly to mind, and he presses on, wary and alert, and speaking to his
companions in low tones.

After an hour or so the trout became less abundant, and with nearly a
hundred of the black sprites in our baskets we turned back. Here and
there I saw the abandoned nests of the pigeons, sometimes half a dozen
in one tree. In a yellow birch which the floods had uprooted, a number
of nests were still in place, little shelves or platforms of twigs
loosely arranged, and affording little or no protection to the eggs or
the young birds against inclement weather.

Before we had reached our companions the rain set in again and forced
us to take shelter under a balsam. When it slackened we moved on and
soon came up with Aaron, who had caught his first trout, and,
considerably drenched, was making his way toward camp, which one of the
party had gone forward to build. After traveling less than a mile, we
saw a smoke struggling up through the dripping trees, and in a few
moments were all standing round a blazing fire. But the rain now
commenced again, and fairly poured down through the trees, rendering
the prospect of cooking and eating our supper there in the woods, and
of passing the night on the ground without tent or cover of any kind,
rather disheartening. We had been told of a bark shanty a couple of
miles farther down the creek, and thitherward we speedily took up our
line of march. When we were on the point of discontinuing the search,
thinking we had been misinformed or had passed it by, we came in sight
of a bark-peeling, in the midst of which a small log house lifted its
naked rafters toward the now breaking sky. It had neither floor nor
roof, and was less inviting on first sight than the open woods. But a
board partition was still standing, out of which we built a rude porch
on the east side of the house, large enough for us all to sleep under
if well packed, and eat under if we stood up. There was plenty of
well-seasoned timber lying about, and a fire was soon burning in front
of our quarters that made the scene social and picturesque, especially
when the frying-pans were brought into requisition, and the coffee, in
charge of Aaron, who was an artist in this line, mingled its aroma with
the wild-wood air. At dusk a balsam was felled, and the tips of the
branches used to make a bed, which was more fragrant than soft; hemlock
is better, because its needles are finer and its branches more elastic.

There was a spirt or two of rain during the night, but not enough to
find out the leaks in our roof. It took the shower or series of showers
of the next day to do that. They commenced about two o'clock in the
afternoon. The forenoon had been fine, and we had brought into camp
nearly three hundred trout; but before they were half dressed, or the
first panfuls fried, the rain set in. First came short, sharp dashes,
then a gleam of treacherous sunshine, followed by more and heavier
dashes. The wind was in the southwest, and to rain seemed the easiest
thing in the world. From fitful dashes to a steady pour the transition
was natural. We stood huddled together, stark and grim, under our
cover, like hens under a cart. The fire fought bravely for a time, and
retaliated with sparks and spiteful tongues of flame; but gradually its
spirit was broken, only a heavy body of coal and half-consumed logs in
the centre holding out against all odds. The simmering fish were soon
floating about in a yellow liquid that did not look in the least
appetizing. Point after point gave way in our cover, till standing
between the drops was no longer possible. The water coursed down the
underside of the boards, and dripped in our necks and formed puddles on
our hat-brims. We shifted our guns and traps and viands, till there was
no longer any choice of position, when the loaves and the fishes, the
salt and the sugar, the pork and the butter, shared the same watery
fate. The fire was gasping its last. Little rivulets coursed about it,
and bore away the quenched but steaming coals on their bosoms. The
spring run in the rear of our camp swelled so rapidly that part of the
trout that had been hastily left lying on its banks again found
themselves quite at home. For over two hours the floods came down.
About four o'clock Orville, who had not yet come from the day's sport,
appeared. To say Orville was wet is not much; he was better than
that,--he had been washed and rinsed in at least half a dozen waters,
and the trout that he bore dangling at the end of a string hardly
knew that they had been out of their proper element.

But he brought welcome news. He had been two or three miles down the
creek, and had seen a log building,--whether house or stable he did not
know, but it had the appearance of having a good roof, which was
inducement enough for us instantly to leave our present quarters. Our
course lay along an old wood-road, and much of the time we were to our
knees in water. The woods were literally flooded everywhere. Every
little rill and springlet ran like a mill-tail, while the main stream
rushed and roared, foaming, leaping, lashing, its volume increased
fifty-fold. The water was not roily, but of a rich coffee-color, from
the leachings of the woods. No more trout for the next three days! we
thought, as we looked upon the rampant stream.

After we had labored and floundered along for about an hour, the road
turned to the left, and in a little stumpy clearing near the creek a
gable uprose on our view. It did not prove to be just such a place as
poets love to contemplate. It required a greater effort of the
imagination than any of us were then capable of to believe it had ever
been a favorite resort of wood-nymphs or sylvan deities. It savored
rather of the equine and the bovine. The bark-men had kept their teams
there, horses on the one side and oxen on the other, and no Hercules
had ever done duty in cleansing the stables. But there was a dry loft
overhead with some straw, where we might get some sleep, in spite of
the rain and the midges; a double layer of boards, standing at a very
acute angle, would keep off the former, while the mingled refuse hay
and muck beneath would nurse a smoke that would prove a thorough
protection against the latter. And then, when Jim, the two-handed,
mounting the trunk of a prostrate maple near by, had severed it thrice
with easy and familiar stroke, and, rolling the logs in front of the
shanty, had kindled a fire, which, getting the better of the dampness,
soon cast a bright glow over all, shedding warmth and light even into
the dingy stable, I consented to unsling my knapsack and accept the
situation. The rain had ceased, and the sun shone out behind the woods.
We had trout sufficient for present needs; and after my first meal in
an ox-stall, I strolled out on the rude log bridge to watch the angry
Neversink rush by. Its waters fell quite as rapidly as they rose, and
before sundown it looked as if we might have fishing again on the
morrow. We had better sleep that night than either night before, though
there were two disturbing causes,--the smoke in the early part of it,
and the cold in the latter. The "no-see-ems" left in disgust; and,
though disgusted myself, I swallowed the smoke as best I could, and
hugged my pallet of straw the closer. But the day dawned bright, and a
plunge in the Neversink set me all right again. The creek, to our
surprise and gratification, was only a little higher than before the
rain, and some of the finest trout we had yet seen we caught that
morning near camp.

We tarried yet another day and night at the old stable, but taking our
meals outside squatted on the ground, which had now become quite dry.
Part of the day I spent strolling about the woods, looking up old
acquaintances among the birds, and, as always, half expectant of making
some new ones. Curiously enough, the most abundant species were among
those I had found rare in most other localities, namely, the small
water-wagtail, the mourning ground warbler, and the yellow-bellied
woodpecker. The latter seems to be the prevailing woodpecker through
the woods of this region.

That night the midges, those motes that sting, held high carnival. We
learned afterward, in the settlement below and from the barkpeelers,
that it was the worst night ever experienced in that valley. We had
done no fishing during the day, but had anticipated some fine sport
about sundown. Accordingly Aaron and I started off between six and
seven o'clock, one going upstream and the other down. The scene was
charming. The sun shot up great spokes of light from behind the woods,
and beauty, like a presence, pervaded the atmosphere. But torment,
multiplied as the sands of the seashore, lurked in every tangle and
thicket. In a thoughtless moment I removed my shoes and socks, and
waded in the water to secure a fine trout that had accidentally slipped
from my string and was helplessly floating with the current. This
caused some delay and gave the gnats time to accumulate. Before I had
got one foot half dressed I was enveloped in a black mist that settled
upon my hands and neck and face, filling my ears with infinitesimal
pipings and covering my flesh with infinitesimal bitings. I thought I
should have to flee to the friendly fumes of the old stable, with "one
stocking off and one stocking on;" but I got my shoe on at last, though
not without many amusing interruptions and digressions.

In a few moments after this adventure I was in rapid retreat toward
camp. Just as I reached the path leading from the shanty to the creek,
my companion in the same ignoble flight reached it also, his hat broken
and rumpled, and his sanguine countenance looking more sanguinary than
I had ever before seen it, and his speech, also, in the highest degree
inflammatory. His face and forehead were as blotched and swollen as if
he had just run his head into a hornets' nest, and his manner as
precipitate as if the whole swarm was still at his back.

No smoke or smudge which we ourselves could endure was sufficient in
the earlier part of that evening to prevent serious annoyance from the
same cause; but later a respite was granted us.

About ten o'clock, as we stood round our camp-fire, we were startled by
a brief but striking display of the aurora borealis. My imagination had
already been excited by talk of legends and of weird shapes and
appearances, and when, on looking up toward the sky, I saw those pale,
phantasmal waves of magnetic light chasing each other across the little
opening above our heads, and at first sight seeming barely to clear the
treetops, I was as vividly impressed as if I had caught a glimpse of a
veritable spectre of the Neversink. The sky shook and trembled like a
great white curtain.

After we had climbed to our loft and had lain down to sleep, another
adventure befell us. This time a new and uninviting customer appeared
upon the scene, the _genius loci_ of the old stable, namely, the
"fretful porcupine." We had seen the marks and work of these animals
about the shanty, and had been careful each night to hang our traps,
guns, etc., beyond their reach, but of the prickly night-walker himself
we feared we should not get a view.

We had lain down some half hour, and I was just on the threshold of
sleep, ready, as it were, to pass through the open door into the land
of dreams, when I heard outside somewhere that curious sound,--a sound
which I had heard every night I spent in these woods, not only on this
but on former expeditions, and which I had settled in my mind as
proceeding from the porcupine, since I knew the sounds our other common
animals were likely to make,--a sound that might be either a gnawing on
some hard, dry substance, or a grating of teeth, or a shrill grunting.

Orville heard it also, and, raising up on his elbow, asked, "What is
that?"

"What the hunters call a 'porcupig,'" said I.

"Sure?"

"Entirely so."

"Why does he make that noise?"

"It is a way he has of cursing our fire," I replied. "I heard him last
night also."

"Where do you suppose he is?" inquired my companion, showing a
disposition to look him up.

"Not far off, perhaps fifteen or twenty yards from our fire, where the
shadows begin to deepen."

Orville slipped into his trousers, felt for my gun, and in a moment had
disappeared down through the scuttle hole. I had no disposition to
follow him, but was rather annoyed than otherwise at the disturbance.
Getting the direction of the sound, he went picking his way over the
rough, uneven ground, and, when he got where the light failed him,
poking every doubtful object with the end of his gun. Presently he
poked a light grayish object, like a large round stone, which surprised
him by moving off. On this hint he fired, making an incurable wound in
the "porcupig," which, nevertheless, tried harder than ever to escape.
I lay listening, when, close on the heels of the report of the gun,
came excited shouts for a revolver. Snatching up my Smith and Wesson, I
hastened, shoeless and hatless, to the scene of action, wondering what
was up. I found my companion struggling to detain, with the end of the
gun, an uncertain object that was trying to crawl off into the
darkness. "Look out!" said Orville, as he saw my bare feet, "the quills
are lying thick around here."

And so they were; he had blown or beaten them nearly all off the poor
creature's back, and was in a fair way completely to disable my gun,
the ramrod of which was already broken and splintered clubbing his
victim. But a couple of shots from the revolver, sighted by a lighted
match, at the head of the animal, quickly settled him.

He proved to be an unusually large Canada porcupine,--an old patriarch,
gray and venerable, with spines three inches long, and weighing, I
should say, twenty pounds. The build of this animal is much like that
of the woodchuck, that is, heavy and pouchy. The nose is blunter than
that of the woodchuck, the limbs stronger, and the tail broader and
heavier. Indeed, the latter appendage is quite club-like, and the
animal can, no doubt, deal a smart blow with it. An old hunter with
whom I talked thought it aided them in climbing. They are inveterate
gnawers, and spend much of their time in trees gnawing the bark. In
winter one will take up its abode in a hemlock, and continue there till
the tree is quite denuded. The carcass emitted a peculiar, offensive
odor, and, though very fat, was not in the least inviting as game. If
it is part of the economy of nature for one animal to prey upon some
other beneath it, then the poor devil has indeed a mouthful that makes
a meal off the porcupine. Panthers and lynxes have essayed it, but have
invariably left off at the first course, and have afterwards been found
dead, or nearly so, with their heads puffed up like a pincushion, and
the quills protruding on all sides. A dog that understands the business
will manoeuvre round the porcupine till he gets an opportunity to throw
it over on its back, when he fastens on its quilless underbody. Aaron
was puzzled to know how long-parted friends could embrace, when it was
suggested that the quills could be depressed or elevated at pleasure.

The next morning boded rain; but we had become thoroughly sated with
the delights of our present quarters, outside and in, and packed up our
traps to leave. Before we had reached the clearing, three miles below,
the rain set in, keeping up a lazy, monotonous drizzle till the afternoon.

The clearing was quite a recent one, made mostly by barkpeelers, who
followed their calling in the mountains round about in summer, and
worked in their shops making shingle in winter. The Biscuit Brook came
in here from the west,--a fine, rapid trout stream six or eight miles
in length, with plenty of deer in the mountains about its head. On its
banks we found the house of an old woodman, to whom we had been
directed for information about the section we proposed to traverse.

"Is the way very difficult," we inquired, "across from the Neversink
into the head of the Beaver-kill?"

"Not to me; I could go it the darkest night ever was. And I can direct
you so you can find the way without any trouble. You go down the
Neversink about a mile, when you come to Highfall Brook, the first
stream that comes down on the right. Follow up it to Jim Reed's shanty,
about three miles. Then cross the stream, and on the left bank, pretty
well up on the side of the mountain, you will find a wood-road, which
was made by a fellow below here who stole some ash logs off the top of
the ridge last winter and drew them out on the snow. When the road
first begins to tilt over the mountain, strike down to your left, and
you can reach the Beaverkill before sundown."

As it was then after two o'clock, and as the distance was six or eight
of these terrible hunters' miles, we concluded to take a whole day to
it, and wait till next morning. The Beaverkill flowed west, the
Neversink south, and I had a mortal dread of getting entangled amid the
mountains and valleys that lie in either angle.

Besides, I was glad of another and final opportunity to pay my respects
to the finny tribes of the Neversink. At this point it was one of the
finest trout streams I had ever beheld. It was so sparkling, its bed so
free from sediment or impurities of any kind, that it had a new look,
as if it had just come from the hand of its Creator. I tramped along
its margin upward of a mile that afternoon, part of the time wading to
my knees, and casting my hook, baited only with a trout's fin, to the
opposite bank. Trout are real cannibals, and make no bones, and break
none either, in lunching on each other. A friend of mine had several in
his spring, when one day a large female trout gulped down one of her
male friends, nearly one third her own size, and went around for two
days with the tail of her liege lord protruding from her mouth! A
fish's eye will do for bait, though the anal fin is better. One of the
natives here told me that when he wished to catch large trout (and I
judged he never fished for any other,--I never do), he used for bait
the bullhead, or dart, a little fish an inch and a half or two inches
long, that rests on the pebbles near shore and darts quickly, when
disturbed, from point to point. "Put that on your hook," said he, "and
if there is a big fish in the creek, he is bound to have it." But the
darts were not easily found; the big fish, I concluded, had cleaned
them all out; and, then, it was easy enough to supply our wants with a
fin.

Declining the hospitable offers of the settlers, we spread our blankets
that night in a dilapidated shingle-shop on the banks of the Biscuit
Brook, first flooring the damp ground with the new shingle that lay
piled in one corner. The place had a great-throated chimney with a
tremendous expanse of fireplace within, that cried "More!" at every
morsel of wood we gave it.

But I must hasten over this part of the ground, nor let the delicious
flavor of the milk we had that morning for breakfast, and that was so
delectable after four days of fish, linger on my tongue; nor yet tarry
to set down the talk of that honest, weatherworn passer-by who paused
before our door, and every moment on the point of resuming his way, yet
stood for an hour and recited his adventures hunting deer and bears
on these mountains. Having replenished our stock of bread and salt
pork at the house of one of the settlers, midday found us at Reed's
shanty,--one of those temporary structures erected by the bark jobber
to lodge and board his "hands" near their work. Jim not being at home,
we could gain no information from the "women folks" about the way, nor
from the men who had just come in to dinner; so we pushed on, as near
as we could, according to the instructions we had previously received.
Crossing the creek, we forced our way up the side of the mountain,
through a perfect _cheval-de-frise_ of fallen and peeled hemlocks, and,
entering the dense woods above, began to look anxiously about for the
wood-road. My companions at first could see no trace of it; but knowing
that a casual wood-road cut in winter, when there was likely to be two
or three feet of snow on the ground, would present only the slightest
indications to the eye in summer, I looked a little closer, and could
make out a mark or two here and there. The larger trees had been
avoided, and the axe used only on the small saplings and underbrush,
which had been lopped off a couple of feet from the ground. By being
constantly on the alert, we followed it till near the top of the
mountain; but, when looking to see it "tilt" over the other side, it
disappeared altogether. Some stumps of the black cherry were found, and
a solitary pair of snow-shoes was hanging high and dry on a branch, but
no further trace of human hands could we see. While we were resting
here a couple of hermit thrushes, one of them with some sad defect in
his vocal powers which barred him from uttering more than a few notes
of his song, gave voice to the solitude of the place. This was the
second instance in which I have observed a song-bird with apparently
some organic defect in its instrument. The other case was that of a
bobolink, which, hover in mid-air and inflate its throat as it might,
could only force out a few incoherent notes. But the bird in each case
presented this striking contrast to human examples of the kind, that it
was apparently just as proud of itself, and just as well satisfied with
its performance, as were its more successful rivals.

After deliberating some time over a pocket compass which I carried, we
decided upon our course, and held on to the west. The descent was very
gradual. Traces of bear and deer were noted at different points, but
not a live animal was seen.

About four o'clock we reached the bank of a stream flowing west. Hail
to the Beaverkill! and we pushed on along its banks. The trout were
plenty, and rose quickly to the hook; but we held on our way, designing
to go into camp about six o'clock. Many inviting places, first on one
bank, then on the other, made us linger, till finally we reached a
smooth, dry place overshadowed by balsam and hemlock, where the creek
bent around a little flat, which was so entirely to our fancy that we
unslung our knapsacks at once. While my companions were cutting wood
and making other preparations for the night, it fell to my lot, as the
most successful angler, to provide the trout for supper and breakfast.
How shall I describe that wild, beautiful stream, with features so like
those of all other mountain streams? And yet, as I saw it in the deep
twilight of those woods on that June afternoon, with its steady, even
flow, and its tranquil, many-voiced murmur, it made an impression upon
my mind distinct and peculiar, fraught in an eminent degree with the
charm of seclusion and remoteness. The solitude was perfect, and I felt
that strangeness and insignificance which the civilized man must always
feel when opposing himself to such a vast scene of silence and
wildness. The trout were quite black, like all wood trout, and took the
bait eagerly. I followed the stream till the deepening shadows warned
me to turn back. As I neared camp, the fire shone far through the
trees, dispelling the gathering gloom, but blinding my eyes to all
obstacles at my feet. I was seriously disturbed on arriving to find
that one of my companions had cut an ugly gash in his shin with the axe
while felling a tree. As we did not carry a fifth wheel, it was not
just the time or place to have any of our members crippled, and I had
bodings of evil. But, thanks to the healing virtues of the balsam which
must have adhered to the blade of the axe, and double thanks to the
court-plaster with which Orville had supplied himself before leaving
home, the wounded leg, by being favored that night and the next day,
gave us little trouble.

That night we had our first fair and square camping out,--that is,
sleeping on the ground with no shelter over us but the trees,--and it
was in many respects the pleasantest night we spent in the woods. The
weather was perfect and the place was perfect, and for the first time
we were exempt from the midges and smoke; and then we appreciated the
clean new page we had to work on. Nothing is so acceptable to the
camper-out as a pure article in the way of woods and waters. Any
admixture of human relics mars the spirit of the scene. Yet I am
willing to confess that, before we were through those woods, the marks
of an axe in a tree were a welcome sight. On resuming our march next
day we followed the right bank of the Beaverkill, in order to strike a
stream which flowed in from the north, and which was the outlet of
Balsam Lake, the objective point of that day's march. The distance to
the lake from our camp could not have been over six or seven miles;
yet, traveling as we did, without path or guide, climbing up banks,
plunging into ravines, making detours around swampy places, and forcing
our way through woods choked up with much fallen and decayed timber, it
seemed at least twice that distance, and the mid-afternoon sun was
shining when we emerged into what is called the "Quaker Clearing,"
ground that I had been over nine years before, and that lies about two
miles south of the lake. From this point we had a well-worn path that
led us up a sharp rise of ground, then through level woods till we saw
the bright gleam of the water through the trees.

I am always struck, on approaching these little mountain lakes, with
the extensive preparation that is made for them in the conformation of
the ground. I am thinking of a depression, or natural basin, in the
side of the mountain or on its top, the brink of which I shall reach
after a little steep climbing; but instead of that, after I have
accomplished the ascent, I find a broad sweep of level or gently
undulating woodland that brings me after a half hour or so to the lake,
which lies in this vast lap like a drop of water in the palm of a man's
hand.

Balsam Lake was oval-shaped, scarcely more than half a mile long and a
quarter of a mile wide, but presented a charming picture, with a group
of dark gray hemlocks filling the valley about its head, and the
mountains rising above and beyond. We found a bough house in good
repair, also a dug-out and paddle and several floats of logs. In the
dug-out I was soon creeping along the shady side of the lake, where the
trout were incessantly jumping for a species of black fly, that,
sheltered from the slight breeze, were dancing in swarms just above the
surface of the water. The gnats were there in swarms also, and did
their best toward balancing the accounts by preying upon me while I
preyed upon the trout which preyed upon the flies. But by dint of
keeping my hands, face, and neck constantly wet, I am convinced that
the balance of blood was on my side. The trout jumped most within a
foot or two of shore, where the water was only a few inches deep. The
shallowness of the water, perhaps, accounted for the inability of the
fish to do more than lift their heads above the surface. They came up
mouths wide open, and dropped back again in the most impotent manner.
Where there is any depth of water, a trout will jump several feet into
the air; and where there is a solid, unbroken sheet or column, they
will scale falls and dams fifteen feet high.

We had the very cream and flower of our trout-fishing at this lake. For
the first time we could use the fly to advantage; and then the contrast
between laborious tramping along shore, on the one hand, and sitting in
one end of a dug-out and casting your line right and left with no fear
of entanglement in brush or branch, while you were gently propelled
along, on the other, was of the most pleasing character.

There were two varieties of trout in the lake,--what it seems proper to
call silver trout and golden trout; the former were the slimmer, and
seemed to keep apart from the latter. Starting from the outlet and
working round on the eastern side toward the head, we invariably caught
these first. They glanced in the sun like bars of silver. Their sides
and bellies were indeed as white as new silver. As we neared the head,
and especially as we came near a space occupied by some kind of
watergrass that grew in the deeper part of the lake, the other variety
would begin to take the hook, their bellies a bright gold color, which
became a deep orange on their fins; and as we returned to the place of
departure with the bottom of the boat strewn with these bright forms
intermingled, it was a sight not soon to be forgotten. It pleased my
eye so, that I would fain linger over them, arranging them in rows and
studying the various hues and tints. They were of nearly a uniform
size, rarely one over ten or under eight inches in length, and it
seemed as if the hues of all the precious metals and stones were
reflected from their sides. The flesh was deep salmon-color; that of
brook trout is generally much lighter. Some hunters and fishers from
the valley of the Mill Brook, whom we met here, told us the trout were
much larger in the lake, though far less numerous than they used to be.
Brook trout do not grow large till they become scarce. It is only in
streams that have been long and much fished that I have caught them as
much as sixteen inches in length.

The "porcupigs" were numerous about the lake, and not at all shy. One
night the heat became so intolerable in our oven-shaped bough house
that I was obliged to withdraw from under its cover and lie down a
little to one side. Just at daybreak, as I lay rolled in my blanket,
something awoke me. Lifting up my head, there was a porcupine with his
forepaws on my hips. He was apparently as much surprised as I was; and
to my inquiry as to what he at that moment might be looking for, he did
not pause to reply, but hitting me a slap with his tail which left
three or four quills in my blanket, he scampered off down the hill into
the brush.

Being an observer of the birds, of course every curious incident
connected with them fell under my notice. Hence, as we stood about our
camp-fire one afternoon looking out over the lake, I was the only one
to see a little commotion in the water, half hidden by the near
branches, as of some tiny swimmer struggling to reach the shore.
Rushing to its rescue in the canoe, I found a yellow-rumped warbler,
quite exhausted, clinging to a twig that hung down into the water. I
brought the drenched and helpless thing to camp, and, putting it into a
basket, hung it up to dry. An hour or two afterward I heard it
fluttering in its prison, and cautiously lifted the lid to get a better
glimpse of the lucky captive, when it darted out and was gone in a
twinkling. How came it in the water? That was my wonder, and I can only
guess that it was a young bird that had never before flown over a pond
of water, and, seeing the clouds and blue sky so perfect down there,
thought it was a vast opening or gateway into another summer land,
perhaps a short cut to the tropics, and so got itself into trouble. How
my eye was delighted also with the redbird that alighted for a moment
on a dry branch above the lake, just where a ray of light from the
setting sun fell full upon it! A mere crimson point, and yet how it
offset that dark, sombre background!

I have thus run over some of the features of an ordinary trouting
excursion to the woods. People inexperienced in such matters, sitting
in their rooms and thinking of these things, of all the poets have sung
and romancers written, are apt to get sadly taken in when they attempt
to realize their dreams. They expect to enter a sylvan paradise of
trout, cool retreats, laughing brooks, picturesque views, and balsamic
couches, instead of which they find hunger, rain, smoke, toil, gnats,
mosquitoes, dirt, broken rest, vulgar guides, and salt pork; and they
are very apt not to see where the fun comes in. But he who goes in a
right spirit will not be disappointed, and will find the taste of this
kind of life better, though bitterer, than the writers have described.



VI

BIRDS AND BIRDS


I

There is an old legend which one of our poets has made use of about the
bird in the brain,--a legend based, perhaps, upon the human
significance of our feathered neighbors. Was not Audubon's brain full
of birds, and very lively ones, too? A person who knew him says he
looked like a bird himself; keen, alert, wide-eyed. It is not unusual
to see the hawk looking out of the human countenance, and one may see
or have seen that still nobler bird, the eagle. The song-birds might
all have been brooded and hatched in the human heart. They are typical
of its highest aspirations, and nearly the whole gamut of human passion
and emotion is expressed more or less fully in their varied songs.
Among our own birds, there is the song of the hermit thrush for
devoutness and religious serenity; that of the wood thrush for the
musing, melodious thoughts of twilight; the song sparrow's for simple
faith and trust, the bobolink's for hilarity and glee, the mourning
dove's for hopeless sorrow, the vireo's for all-day and every-day
contentment, and the nocturne of the mockingbird for love. Then there
are the plaintive singers, the soaring, ecstatic singers, the confident
singers, the gushing and voluble singers, and the half-voiced,
inarticulate singers. The note of the wood pewee is a human sigh; the
chickadee has a call full of unspeakable tenderness and fidelity. There
is pride in the song of the tanager, and vanity in that of the catbird.
There is something distinctly human about the robin; his is the note of
boyhood. I have thoughts that follow the migrating fowls northward and
southward, and that go with the sea-birds into the desert of the ocean,
lonely and tireless as they. I sympathize with the watchful crow
perched yonder on that tree, or walking about the fields. I hurry
outdoors when I hear the clarion of the wild gander; his comrade in my
heart sends back the call.


II

Here comes the cuckoo, the solitary, the joyless, enamored of the
privacy of his own thoughts; when did he fly away out of this brain?
The cuckoo is one of the famous birds, and is known the world over. He
is mentioned in the Bible, and is discussed by Pliny and Aristotle.
Jupiter himself once assumed the form of the cuckoo in order to take
advantage of Juno's compassion for the bird.

We have only a reduced and modified cuckoo in this country. Our bird is
smaller, and is much more solitary and unsocial. Its color is totally
different from the Old World bird, the latter being speckled, or a kind
of dominick, while ours is of the finest cinnamon-brown or drab above,
and bluish white beneath, with a gloss and richness of texture in the
plumage that suggests silk. The bird has also mended its manners in
this country, and no longer foists its eggs and young upon other birds,
but builds a nest of its own and rears its own brood like other
well-disposed birds.

The European cuckoo is evidently much more of a spring bird than ours
is, much more a harbinger of the early season. He comes in April, while
ours seldom appears till late in May, and hardly then appears. He is
printed, as they say, but not published. Only the alert ones know he is
here. This old English rhyme on the cuckoo does not apply this side the
Atlantic:--

      "In April
       Come he will,
       In flow'ry May
       He sings all day,
       In leafy June
       He changes his tune,
       In bright July
       He's ready to fly,
       In August
       Go he must."

Our bird must go in August, too, but at no time does he sing all day.
Indeed, his peculiar guttural call has none of the character of a song.
It is a solitary, hermit-like sound, as if the bird were alone in the
world, and called upon the Fates to witness his desolation. I have
never seen two cuckoos together, and I have never heard their call
answered; it goes forth into the solitudes unreclaimed. Like a true
American, the bird lacks animal spirits and a genius for social
intercourse. One August night I heard one calling, calling, a long
time, not far from my house. It was a true night sound, more fitting
then than by day.

The European cuckoo, on the other hand, seems to be a joyous, vivacious
bird. Wordsworth applies to it the adjective "blithe," and says:--

      "I hear thee babbling to the vale
       Of sunshine and of flowers."

English writers all agree that its song is animated and pleasing, and
the outcome of a light heart. Thomas Hardy, whose touches always seem
true to nature, describes in one of his books an early summer scene
from amid which "the loud notes of three cuckoos were resounding
through the still air." This is totally unlike our bird, which does not
sing in concert, but affects remote woods, and is most frequently heard
in cloudy weather. Hence the name of rain-crow that is applied to him
in some parts of the country. I am more than half inclined to believe
that his call does indicate rain, as it is certain that of the
tree-toad does.

The cuckoo has a slender, long-drawn-out appearance on account of the
great length of tail. It is seldom seen about farms or near human
habitations until the June canker-worm appears, when it makes frequent
visits to the orchard. It loves hairy worms, and has eaten so many of
them that its gizzard is lined with hair.

The European cuckoo builds no nest, but puts its eggs out to be
hatched, as does our cow blackbird, and our cuckoo is master of only
the rudiments of nest-building. No other bird in the woods builds so
shabby a nest; it is the merest makeshift,--a loose scaffolding of
twigs through which the eggs can be seen. One season, I knew of a pair
that built within a few feet of a country house that stood in the midst
of a grove, but a heavy storm of rain and wind broke up the nest.

If the Old World cuckoo had been as silent and retiring a bird as ours
is, it could never have figured so conspicuously in literature as it
does,--having a prominence that we would give only to the bobolink or
to the wood thrush,--as witness his frequent mention by Shakespeare, or
the following early English ballad (in modern guise):--

      "Summer is come in,
       Loud sings the cuckoo;
       Groweth seed and bloweth mead,
       And springs the wood now.
            Sing, cuckoo;
       The ewe bleateth for her lamb,
            The cow loweth for her calf,
            The bullock starteth.
       The buck verteth,
       Merrily sings the cuckoo,
       Cuckoo, cuckoo;
       Well sings the cuckoo,
       Mayest thou never cease."


III

I think it will be found, on the whole, that the European birds are a
more hardy and pugnacious race than ours, and that their song-birds
have more vivacity and power, and ours more melody and plaintiveness.
In the song of the skylark, for instance, there is little or no melody,
but wonderful strength and copiousness. It is a harsh strain near at
hand, but very taking when showered down from a height of several
hundred feet.

Daines Barrington, the naturalist of the last century, to whom White of
Selborne addressed so many of his letters, gives a table of the
comparative merit of seventeen leading song-birds of Europe, marking
them under the heads of mellowness, sprightliness, plaintiveness,
compass, and execution. In the aggregate, the songsters stand highest
in sprightliness, next in compass and execution, and lowest in the
other two qualities. A similar arrangement and comparison of our
songsters, I think, would show an opposite result,--that is, a
predominance of melody and plaintiveness. The British wren, for
instance, stands in Barrington's table as destitute of both these
qualities; the reed sparrow also. Our wren-songs, on the contrary, are
gushing and lyrical, and more or less melodious,--that of the winter
wren being preeminently so. Our sparrows, too, all have sweet,
plaintive ditties, with but little sprightliness or compass. The
English house sparrow has no song at all, but a harsh chatter that is
unmatched among our birds. But what a hardy, prolific, pugnacious
little wretch it is! These birds will maintain themselves where our
birds will not live at all, and a pair of them will lie down in the
gutter and fight like dogs. Compared with this miniature John Bull, the
voice and manners of our common sparrow are gentle and retiring. The
English sparrow is a street gamin, our bird a timid rustic.

The English robin redbreast is tallied in this country by the bluebird,
which was called by the early settlers of New England the blue robin.
The song of the British bird is bright and animated, that of our bird
soft and plaintive.

The nightingale stands at the head in Barrington's table, and is but
little short of perfect in all the qualities. We have no one bird that
combines such strength or vivacity with such melody. The mockingbird
doubtless surpasses it in variety and profusion of notes; but falls
short, I imagine, in sweetness and effectiveness. The nightingale will
sometimes warble twenty seconds without pausing to breathe, and when
the condition of the air is favorable, its song fills a space a mile in
diameter. There are, perhaps, songs in our woods as mellow and
brilliant, as is that of the closely allied species, the water-thrush;
but our bird's song has but a mere fraction of the nightingale's volume
and power.

Strength and volume of voice, then, seem to be characteristic of the
English birds, and mildness and delicacy of ours. How much the
thousands of years of contact with man, and familiarity with artificial
sounds, over there, have affected the bird voices, is a question.
Certain it is that their birds are much more domestic than ours, and
certain it is that all purely wild sounds are plaintive and elusive.
Even of the bark of the fox, the cry of the panther, the voice of the
coon, or the call and clang of wild geese and ducks, or the war-cry of
savage tribes, is this true; but not true in the same sense of
domesticated or semi-domesticated animals and fowls. How different the
voice of the common duck or goose from that of the wild species, or of
the tame dove from that of the turtle of the fields and groves! Where
could the English house sparrow have acquired that unmusical voice but
amid the sounds of hoofs and wheels, and the discords of the street?
And the ordinary notes and calls of so many of the British birds,
according to their biographers, are harsh and disagreeable; even the
nightingale has an ugly, guttural "chuck." The missel-thrush has a
harsh scream; the jay a note like "wrack," "wrack;" the fieldfare a
rasping chatter; the blackbird, which is our robin cut in ebony, will
sometimes crow like a cock and cackle like a hen; the flocks of
starlings make a noise like a steam saw-mill; the white-throat has a
disagreeable note; the swift a discordant scream; and the bunting a
harsh song. Among our song-birds, on the contrary, it is rare to hear a
harsh or displeasing voice. Even their notes of anger and alarm are
more or less soft.

I would not imply that our birds are the better songsters, but
that their songs, if briefer and feebler, are also more wild and
plaintive,--in fact, that they are softer-voiced. The British birds,
as I have stated, are more domestic than ours; a much larger number
build about houses and towers and outbuildings. The titmouse with us
is exclusively a wood-bird; but in Britain three or four species of
them resort more or less to buildings in winter. Their redstart also
builds under the eaves of houses; their starling in church steeples
and in holes in walls; several thrushes resort to sheds to nest; and
jackdaws breed in the crannies of the old architecture, and this in a
much milder climate than our own.

They have in that country no birds that answer to our tiny, lisping
wood-warblers,--genus _Dendroica,_--nor to our vireos, _Vireonidoe._
On the other hand, they have a larger number of field-birds and
semi-game-birds. They have several species like our robin; thrushes
like him, and some of them larger, as the ring ouzel, the missel-thrush,
the fieldfare, the throstle, the redwing, White's thrush, the
blackbird,--these, besides several species in size and habits more like
our wood thrush.

Several species of European birds sing at night besides the true
nightingale,--not fitfully and as if in their dreams, as do a few of
our birds, but continuously. They make a business of it. The sedge-bird
ceases at times as if from very weariness; but wake the bird up, says
White, by throwing a stick or stone into the bushes, and away it goes
again in full song. We have but one real nocturnal songster, and that
is the mockingbird. One can see how this habit might increase among the
birds of a long-settled country like England. With sounds and voices
about them, why should they be silent, too? The danger of betraying
themselves to their natural enemies would be less than in our woods.

That their birds are more quarrelsome and pugnacious than ours I
think evident. Our thrushes are especially mild-mannered, but the
missel-thrush is very bold and saucy, and has been known to fly in the
face of persons who have disturbed the sitting bird. No jay nor magpie
nor crow can stand before him. The Welsh call him master of the coppice,
and he welcomes a storm with such a vigorous and hearty song that in
some countries he is known as storm-cock. He sometimes kills the young of
other birds and eats eggs,--a very unthrushlike trait. The whitethroat
sings with crest erect, and attitudes of warning and defiance. The
hooper is a great bully; so is the greenfinch. The wood-grouse--now
extinct, I believe--has been known to attack people in the woods. And
behold the grit and hardihood of that little emigrant or exile to our
shores, the English sparrow! Our birds have their tilts and spats also;
but the only really quarrelsome members in our family are confined to
the flycatchers, as the kingbird and the great crested flycatcher. None
of our song-birds are bullies.

Many of our more vigorous species, as the butcherbird, the crossbills,
the pine grosbeak, the redpoll, the Bohemian chatterer, the shore lark,
the longspur, the snow bunting, etc., are common to both continents.

Have the Old World creatures throughout more pluck and hardihood than
those that are indigenous to this continent? Behold the common mouse,
how he has followed man to this country and established himself here
against all opposition, overrunning our houses and barns, while the
native species is rarely seen. And when has anybody seen the American
rat, while his congener from across the water has penetrated to every
part of the continent! By the next train that takes the family to some
Western frontier, arrives this pest. Both our rat and mouse or mice are
timid, harmless, delicate creatures, compared with the cunning, filthy,
and prolific specimens that have fought their way to us from the Old
World. There is little doubt, also, that the red fox has been
transplanted to this country from Europe. He is certainly on the
increase, and is fast running out the native gray species.

Indeed, I have thought that all forms of life in the Old World were
marked by greater prominence of type, or stronger characteristic and
fundamental qualities, than with us,--coarser and more hairy and
virile, and therefore more powerful and lasting. This opinion is still
subject to revision, but I find it easier to confirm it than to
undermine it.


IV

But let me change the strain and contemplate for a few moments this
feathered bandit,--this bird with the mark of Cain upon him, _Lanius
borealis,_--the great shrike or butcher-bird. Usually the character of
a bird of prey is well defined; there is no mistaking him. His claws,
his beak, his head, his wings, in fact his whole build, point to the
fact that he subsists upon live creatures; he is armed to catch them
and to slay them. Every bird knows a hawk and knows him from the start,
and is on the lookout for him. The hawk takes life, but he does it to
maintain his own, and it is a public and universally known fact. Nature
has sent him abroad in that character, and has advised all creatures of
it. Not so with the shrike; here she has concealed the character of a
murderer under a form as innocent as that of the robin. Feet, wings,
tail, color, head, and general form and size are all those of a
songbird,--very much like that master songster, the mockingbird,--yet
this bird is a regular Bluebeard among its kind. Its only
characteristic feature is its beak, the upper mandible having two sharp
processes and a sharp hooked point. It cannot fly away to any distance
with the bird it kills, nor hold it in its claws to feed upon it. It
usually impales its victim upon a thorn, or thrusts it in the fork of a
limb. For the most part, however, its food seems to consist of
insects,--spiders, grasshoppers, beetles, etc. It is the assassin of
the small birds, whom it often destroys in pure wantonness, or merely
to sup on their brains, as the Gaucho slaughters a wild cow or bull for
its tongue. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Apparently its victims
are unacquainted with its true character and allow it to approach them,
when the fatal blow is given. I saw an illustration of this the other
day. A large number of goldfinches in their fall plumage, together with
snowbirds and sparrows, were feeding and chattering in some low bushes
back of the barn. I had paused by the fence and was peeping through at
them, hoping to get a glimpse of that rare sparrow, the white-crowned.
Presently I heard a rustling among the dry leaves as if some larger
bird was also among them. Then I heard one of the goldfinches cry out
as if in distress, when the whole flock of them started up in alarm,
and, circling around, settled in the tops of the larger trees. I
continued my scrutiny of the bushes, when I saw a large bird, with some
object in its beak, hopping along on a low branch near the ground. It
disappeared from my sight for a few moments, then came up through the
undergrowth into the top of a young maple where some of the finches had
alighted, and I beheld the shrike. The little birds avoided him and
flew about the tree, their pursuer following them with the motions of
his head and body as if he would fain arrest them by his murderous
gaze. The birds did not utter the cry or make the demonstration of
alarm they usually do on the appearance of a hawk, but chirruped and
called and flew about in a half-wondering, half-bewildered manner. As
they flew farther along the line of trees the shrike followed them as
if bent on further captures. I then made my way around to see what the
shrike had caught, and what he had done with his prey. As I approached
the bushes I saw the shrike hastening back. I read his intentions at
once. Seeing my movements, he had returned for his game. But I was too
quick for him, and he got up out of the brush and flew away from the
locality. On some twigs in the thickest part of the bushes I found his
victim,--a goldfinch. It was not impaled upon a thorn, but was
carefully disposed upon some horizontal twigs,--laid upon the shelf, so
to speak. It was as warm as in life, and its plumage was unruffled. On
examining it I found a large bruise or break in the skin on the back of
the neck, at the base of the skull. Here the bandit had no doubt griped
the bird with his strong beak. The shrike's blood-thirstiness was seen
in the fact that he did not stop to devour his prey, but went in quest
of more, as if opening a market of goldfinches. The thicket was his
shambles, and if not interrupted, he might have had a fine display of
titbits in a short time.

The shrike is called a butcher from his habit of sticking his meat upon
hooks and points; further than that, he is a butcher because he devours
but a trifle of what he slays.

A few days before, I had witnessed another little scene in which the
shrike was the chief actor. A chipmunk had his den in the side of the
terrace above the garden, and spent the mornings laying in a store of
corn which he stole from a field ten or twelve rods away. In traversing
about half this distance, the little poacher was exposed; the first
cover going from his den was a large maple, where he always brought up
and took a survey of the scene. I would see him spinning along toward
the maple, then from it by an easy stage to the fence adjoining the
corn; then back again with his booty. One morning I paused to watch him
more at my leisure. He came up out of his retreat and cocked himself up
to see what my motions meant. His forepaws were clasped to his breast
precisely as if they had been hands, and the tips of the fingers thrust
into his vest pockets. Having satisfied himself with reference to me,
he sped on toward the tree. He had nearly reached it, when he turned
tail and rushed for his hole with the greatest precipitation. As he
neared it, I saw some bluish object in the air closing in upon him with
the speed of an arrow, and, as he vanished within, a shrike brought up
in front of the spot, and with spread wings and tail stood hovering a
moment, and looking in, then turned and went away. Apparently it was a
narrow escape for the chipmunk, and, I venture to say, he stole no more
corn that morning. The shrike is said to catch mice, but it is not
known to attack squirrels. He certainly could not have strangled the
chipmunk, and I am curious to know what would have been the result had
he overtaken him. Probably it was only a kind of brag on the part of
the bird,--a bold dash where no risk was run. He simulated the hawk,
the squirrel's real enemy, and no doubt enjoyed the joke.

On another occasion, as I was riding along a mountain road early in
April, a bird started from the fence where I was passing, and flew
heavily to the branch of a near apple-tree. It proved to be a shrike
with a small bird in his beak. He thrust his victim into a fork of a
branch, then wiped his bloody beak upon the bark. A youth who was with
me, to whom I pointed out the fact, had never heard of such a thing,
and was much incensed at the shrike. "Let me fire a stone at him," said
he, and jumping out of the wagon, he pulled off his mittens and fumbled
about for a stone. Having found one to his liking, with great
earnestness and deliberation he let drive. The bird was in more danger
than I had imagined, for he escaped only by a hair's breadth; a
guiltless bird like the robin or sparrow would surely have been slain;
the missile grazed the spot where the shrike sat, and cut the ends of
his wings as he darted behind the branch. We could see that the
murdered bird had been brained, as its head hung down toward us.

The shrike is not a summer bird with us in the Northern States, but
mainly a fall and winter one; in summer he goes farther north. I see
him most frequently in November and December. I recall a morning during
the former month that was singularly clear and motionless; the air was
like a great drum. Apparently every sound within the compass of the
horizon was distinctly heard. The explosions back in the cement
quarries ten miles away smote the hollow and reverberating air like
giant fists. Just as the sun first showed his fiery brow above the
horizon, a gun was discharged over the river. On the instant a shrike,
perched on the topmost spray of a maple above the house, set up a loud,
harsh call or whistle, suggestive of certain notes of the blue jay. The
note presently became a crude, broken warble. Even this scalper of the
innocents had music in his soul on such a morning. He saluted the sun
as a robin might have done. After he had finished, he flew away toward
the east.

The shrike is a citizen of the world, being found in both hemispheres.
It does not appear that the European species differs essentially from
our own. In Germany he is called the nine-killer, from the belief that
he kills and sticks upon thorns nine grasshoppers a day.

To make my portrait of the shrike more complete, I will add another
trait of his described by an acute observer who writes me from western
New York. He saw the bird on a bright midwinter morning when the
thermometer stood at zero, and by cautious approaches succeeded in
getting under the apple-tree upon which he was perched. The shrike was
uttering a loud, clear note like _clu-eet, clu-eet, clu-eet,_ and, on
finding he had a listener who was attentive and curious, varied his
performance and kept it up continuously for fifteen minutes. He seemed
to enjoy having a spectator, and never took his eye off him. The
observer approached within twenty feet of him. "As I came near," he
says, "the shrike began to scold at me, a sharp, buzzing, squeaking
sound not easy to describe. After a little he came out on the end of
the limb nearest me, then he posed himself, and, opening his wings a
little, began to trill and warble under his breath, as it were, with an
occasional squeak, and vibrating his half-open wings in time with his
song." Some of his notes resembled those of the bluebird, and the whole
performance is described as pleasing and melodious.

This account agrees with Thoreau's observation, where he speaks of the
shrike "with heedless and unfrozen melody bringing back summer again."
Sings Thoreau:--

      "His steady sails he never furls
            At any time o' year,
       And perching now on winter's curls,
            He whistles in his ear."

But his voice is that of a savage,--strident and disagreeable.

I have often wondered how this bird was kept in check; in the struggle
for existence it would appear to have greatly the advantage of other
birds. It cannot, for instance, be beset with one tenth of the dangers
that threaten the robin, and yet apparently there are a thousand robins
to every shrike. It builds a warm, compact nest in the mountains and
dense woods, and lays six eggs, which would indicate a rapid increase.
The pigeon lays but two eggs, and is preyed upon by both man and beast,
millions of them meeting a murderous death every year; yet always some
part of the country is swarming with untold numbers of them. [Footnote:
This is no longer the case. The passenger pigeon now seems on the verge
of extinction (1895).] But the shrike is one of our rarest birds. I
myself seldom see more than two each year, and before I became an
observer of birds I never saw any.

In size the shrike is a little inferior to the blue jay, with much the
same form. If you see an unknown bird about your orchard or fields in
November or December of a bluish grayish complexion, with dusky wings
and tail that show markings of white, flying rather heavily from point
to point, or alighting down in the stubble occasionally, it is pretty
sure to be the shrike.


V

Nature never tires of repeating and multiplying the same species. She
makes a million bees, a million birds, a million mice or rats, or other
animals, so nearly alike that no eye can tell one from another; but it
is rarely that she issues a small and a large edition, as it were, of
the same species. Yet she has done it in a few cases among the birds
with hardly more difference than a foot-note added or omitted. The
cedar-bird, for instance, is the Bohemian waxwing or chatterer in
smaller type, copied even to the minute, wax-like appendages that
bedeck the ends of the wing-quills. It is about one third smaller, and
a little lighter in color, owing perhaps to the fact that it is
confined to a warmer latitude, its northward range seeming to end about
where that of its larger brother begins. Its flight, its note, its
manners, its general character and habits, are almost identical with
those of its prototype. It is confined exclusively to this continent,
while the chatterer is an Old World bird as well, and ranges the
northern parts of both continents. The latter comes to us from the
hyperborean regions, brought down occasionally by the great cold waves
that originate in those high latitudes. It is a bird of Siberian and
Alaskan evergreens, and passes its life for the most part far beyond
the haunts of man. I have never seen the bird, but small bands of them
make excursions every winter down into our territory from British
America. Audubon, I believe, saw them in Maine; other observers have
seen them in Minnesota. It has the crest of the cedar-bird, the same
yellow border to its tail, but is marked with white on its wings, as if
a snowflake or two had adhered to it from the northern cedars and
pines. If you see about the evergreens in the coldest, snowiest weather
what appear to be a number of very large cherry-birds, observe them
well, for the chances are that visitants from the circumpolar regions
are before your door. It is a sign, also, that the frost legions of the
north are out in great force and carrying all before them.

Our cedar or cherry bird is the most silent bird we have. Our
neutral-tinted birds, like him, as a rule are our finest songsters;
but he has no song or call, uttering only a fine bead-like note on
taking flight. This note is the cedar-berry rendered back in sound.
When the ox-heart cherries, which he has only recently become
acquainted with, have had time to enlarge his pipe and warm his
heart, I shall expect more music from him. But in lieu of music, what
a pretty compensation are those minute, almost artificial-like,
plumes of orange and vermilion that tip the ends of his wing quills!
Nature could not give him these and a song too. She has given the
hummingbird a jewel upon his throat, but no song, save the hum of his
wings.

Another bird that is occasionally borne to us on the crest of the cold
waves from the frozen zone, and that is repeated on a smaller scale in
a permanent resident, is the pine grosbeak; his _alter ego,_ reduced in
size, is the purple finch, which abounds in the higher latitudes of the
temperate zone. The color and form of the two birds are again
essentially the same. The females and young males of both species are
of a grayish brown like the sparrow, while in the old males this tint
is imperfectly hidden beneath a coat of carmine, as if the color had
been poured upon their heads, where it is strongest, and so oozed down
and through the rest of the plumage. Their tails are considerably
forked, their beaks cone-shaped and heavy, and their flight undulating.
Those who have heard the grosbeak describe its song as similar to that
of the finch, though no doubt it is louder and stronger. The finch's
instrument is a fife tuned to love and not to war. He blows a clear,
round note, rapid and intricate, but full of sweetness and melody. His
hardier relative with that larger beak and deeper chest must fill the
woods with sounds. Audubon describes its song as exceedingly rich and
full.

As in the case of the Bohemian waxwing, this bird is also common to
both worlds, being found through Northern Europe and Asia and the
northern parts of this continent. It is the pet of the pine-tree, and
one of its brightest denizens. Its visits to the States are irregular
and somewhat mysterious. A great flight of them occurred in the winter
of 1874-75. They attracted attention all over the country. Several
other flights of them have occurred during the century. When this bird
comes, it is so unacquainted with man that its tameness is delightful
to behold. It thrives remarkably well in captivity, and in a couple of
weeks will become so tame that it will hop down and feed out of its
master's or mistress's hand. It comes from far beyond the region of the
apple, yet it takes at once to this fruit, or rather to the seeds,
which it is quick to divine, at its core.

Close akin to these two birds, and standing in the same relation to
each other, are two other birds that come to us from the opposite
zone,--the torrid,--namely, the blue grosbeak and his petit duplicate,
the indigo-bird. The latter is a common summer resident with us,--a
bird of the groves and bushy fields, where his bright song may be heard
all through the long summer day. I hear it in the dry and parched
August when most birds are silent, sometimes delivered on the wing and
sometimes from the perch. Indeed, with me its song is as much a
midsummer sound as is the brassy crescendo of the cicada. The memory of
its note calls to mind the flame-like quiver of the heated atmosphere
and the bright glare of the meridian sun. Its color is much more
intense than that of the common bluebird, as summer skies are deeper
than those of April, but its note is less mellow and tender. Its
original, the blue grosbeak, is an uncertain wanderer from the south,
as the pine grosbeak is from the north. I have never seen it north of
the District of Columbia. It has a loud, vivacious song, of which it is
not stingy, and which is a large and free rendering of the indigo's,
and belongs to summer more than to spring. The bird is colored the same
as its lesser brother, the males being a deep blue and the females a
modest drab. Its nest is usually placed low down, as is the indigo's,
and the male carols from the tops of the trees in its vicinity in the
same manner. Indeed, the two birds are strikingly alike in every
respect except in size and in habitat, and, as in each of the other
cases, the lesser bird is, as it were, the point, the continuation, of
the larger, carrying its form and voice forward as the reverberation
carries the sound.

I know the ornithologists, with their hair-splittings, or rather
feather-splittings, point out many differences, but they are
unimportant. The fractions may not agree, but the whole numbers are
the same.



VII

A BED OF BOUGHS


When Aaron came again to camp and tramp with me, or, as he wrote, "to
eat locusts and wild honey with me in the wilderness," It was past the
middle of August, and the festival of the season neared its close. We
were belated guests, but perhaps all the more eager on that account,
especially as the country was suffering from a terrible drought, and
the only promise of anything fresh or tonic or cool was in primitive
woods and mountain passes.

"Now, my friend," said I, "we can go to Canada, or to the Maine woods,
or to the Adirondacks, and thus have a whole loaf and a big loaf of
this bread which you know as well as I will have heavy streaks in it,
and will not be uniformly sweet; or we can seek nearer woods, and
content ourselves with one week instead of four, with the prospect of a
keen relish to the last. Four sylvan weeks sound well, but the poetry
is mainly confined to the first one. We can take another slice or two
of the Catskills, can we not, without being sated with kills and
dividing ridges?"

"Anywhere," replied Aaron, "so that we have a good tramp and plenty of
primitive woods. No doubt we should find good browsing on Peakamoose,
and trout enough in the streams at its base."

So without further ado we made ready, and in due time found ourselves,
with our packs on our backs, entering upon a pass in the mountains that
led to the valley of the Rondout.

The scenery was wild and desolate in the extreme, the mountains on
either hand looking as if they had been swept by a tornado of stone.
Stone avalanches hung suspended on their sides, or had shot down into
the chasm below. It was a kind of Alpine scenery, where crushed and
broken boulders covered the earth instead of snow.

In the depressions in the mountains the rocky fragments seemed to have
accumulated, and to have formed what might be called stone glaciers
that were creeping slowly down.

Two hours' march brought us into heavy timber where the stone cataclysm
had not reached, and before long the soft voice of the Rondout was
heard in the gulf below us. We paused at a spring run, and I followed
it a few yards down its mountain stairway, carpeted with black moss,
and had my first glimpse of the unknown stream. I stood upon rocks and
looked many feet down into a still, sunlit pool and saw the trout
disporting themselves in the transparent water, and I was ready to
encamp at once; but my companion, who had not been tempted by the view,
insisted upon holding to our original purpose, which was to go farther
up the stream. We passed a clearing with three or four houses and a
saw-mill. The dam of the latter was filled with such clear water that
it seemed very shallow, and not ten or twelve feet deep, as it really
was. The fish were as conspicuous as if they had been in a pail.

Two miles farther up we suited ourselves and went into camp.

If there ever was a stream cradled in the rocks, detained lovingly by
them, held and fondled in a rocky lap or tossed in rocky arms, that
stream is the Rondout. Its course for several miles from its head is
over the stratified rock, and into this it has worn a channel that
presents most striking and peculiar features. Now it comes silently
along on the top of the rock, spread out and flowing over that thick,
dark green moss that is found only in the coldest streams; then drawn
into a narrow canal only four or five feet wide, through which it
shoots, black and rigid, to be presently caught in a deep basin with
shelving, overhanging rocks, beneath which the phoebe-bird builds in
security, and upon which the fisherman stands and casts his twenty or
thirty feet of line without fear of being thwarted by the brush; then
into a black, well-like pool, ten or fifteen feet deep, with a smooth,
circular wall of rock on one side worn by the water through long ages;
or else into a deep, oblong pocket, into which and out of which the
water glides without a ripple.

The surface rock is a coarse sandstone superincumbent upon a
lighter-colored conglomerate that looks like Shawangunk grits, and
when this latter is reached by the water it seems to be rapidly
disintegrated by it, thus forming the deep excavations alluded to.

My eyes had never before beheld such beauty in a mountain stream. The
water was almost as transparent as the air,--was, indeed, like liquid
air; and as it lay in these wells and pits enveloped in shadow, or lit
up by a chance ray of the vertical sun, it was a perpetual feast to the
eye,--so cool, so deep, so pure; every reach and pool like a vast
spring. You lay down and drank or dipped the water up in your cup, and
found it just the right degree of refreshing coldness. One is never
prepared for the clearness of the water in these streams. It is always
a surprise. See them every year for a dozen years, and yet, when you
first come upon one, you will utter an exclamation. I saw nothing like
it in the Adirondacks, nor in Canada. Absolutely without stain or hint
of impurity, it seems to magnify like a lens, so that the bed of the
stream and the fish in it appear deceptively near. It is rare to find
even a trout stream that is not a little "off color," as they say of
diamonds, but the waters in the section of which I am writing have the
genuine ray; it is the undimmed and untarnished diamond.

If I were a trout, I should ascend every stream till I found the
Rondout. It is the ideal brook. What homes these fish have, what
retreats under the rocks, what paved or flagged courts and areas, what
crystal depths where no net or snare can reach them!--no mud, no
sediment, but here and there in the clefts and seams of the rock
patches of white gravel,--spawning-beds ready-made.

The finishing touch is given by the moss with which the rock is
everywhere carpeted. Even in the narrow grooves or channels where the
water runs the swiftest, the green lining is unbroken. It sweeps down
under the stream and up again on the other side, like some firmly woven
texture. It softens every outline and cushions every stone. At a
certain depth in the great basins and wells it of course ceases, and
only the smooth-swept flagging of the place-rock is visible.

The trees are kept well back from the margin of the stream by the want
of soil, and the large ones unite their branches far above it, thus
forming a high winding gallery, along which the fisherman passes and
makes his long casts with scarcely an interruption from branch or twig.
In a few places he makes no cast, but sees from his rocky perch the
water twenty feet below him, and drops his hook into it as into a well.

We made camp at a bend in the creek where there was a large surface
of mossy rock uncovered by the shrunken stream,--a clean, free space
left for us in the wilderness that was faultless as a kitchen and
dining-room, and a marvel of beauty as a lounging-room, or an open
court, or what you will. An obsolete wood or bark road conducted us
to it, and disappeared up the hill in the woods beyond. A loose
boulder lay in the middle, and on the edge next the stream were three
or four large natural wash-basins scooped out of the rock, and ever
filled ready for use. Our lair we carved out of the thick brush under
a large birch on the bank. Here we planted our flag of smoke and
feathered our nest with balsam and hemlock boughs and ferns, and
laughed at your four walls and pillows of down.

Wherever one encamps in the woods, there is home, and every object and
feature about the place take on a new interest and assume a near and
friendly relation to one. We were at the head of the best fishing.
There was an old bark-clearing not far off which afforded us a daily
dessert of most delicious blackberries,--an important item in the
woods,--and then all the features of the place--a sort of cave above
ground--were of the right kind.

There was not a mosquito, or gnat, or other pest in the woods, the cool
nights having already cut them off. The trout were sufficiently
abundant, and afforded us a few hours' sport daily to supply our wants.
The only drawback was, that they were out of season, and only palatable
to a woodman's keen appetite. What is this about trout spawning in
October and November, and in some cases not till March? These trout had
all spawned in August, every one of them. The coldness and purity of
the water evidently made them that much earlier. The game laws of the
State protect the fish after September 1, proceeding upon the theory
that its spawning season is later than that,--as it is in many cases,
but not in all, as we found out.

The fish are small in these streams, seldom weighing over a few ounces.
Occasionally a large one is seen of a pound or pound and a half weight.
I remember one such, as black as night, that ran under a black rock.
But I remember much more distinctly a still larger one that I caught
and lost one eventful day.

I had him on my hook ten minutes, and actually got my thumb in his
mouth, and yet he escaped.

It was only the over-eagerness of the sportsman. I imagined I could
hold him by the teeth.

The place where I struck him was a deep well-hole, and I was perched
upon a log that spanned it ten or twelve feet above the water. The
situation was all the more interesting because I saw no possible way to
land my fish. I could not lead him ashore, and my frail tackle could
not be trusted to lift him sheer from that pit to my precarious perch.
What should I do? call for help? but no help was near. I had a revolver
in my pocket and might have shot him through and through, but that
novel proceeding did not occur to me until it was too late. I would
have taken a Sam Patch leap into the water, and have wrestled with my
antagonist in his own element, but I knew the slack, thus sure to
occur, would probably free him; so I peered down upon the beautiful
creature and enjoyed my triumph as far as it went. He was caught very
lightly through his upper jaw, and I expected every struggle and
somersault would break the hold. Presently I saw a place in the rocks
where I thought it possible, with such an incentive, to get down within
reach of the water: by careful manoeuvring I slipped my pole behind me
and got hold of the line, which I cut and wound around my finger; then
I made my way toward the end of the log and the place in the rocks,
leading my fish along much exhausted on the top of the water. By an
effort worthy the occasion I got down within reach of the fish, and, as
I have already confessed, thrust my thumb into his mouth and pinched
his cheek; he made a spring and was free from my hand and the hook at
the same time; for a moment he lay panting on the top of the water,
then, recovering himself slowly, made his way down through the clear,
cruel element beyond all hope of recapture. My blind impulse to follow
and try to seize him was very strong, but I kept my hold and peered and
peered long after the fish was lost to view, then looked my
mortification in the face and laughed a bitter laugh.

"But, hang it! I had all the fun of catching the fish, and only miss
the pleasure of eating him, which at this time would not be great."

"The fun, I take it," said my soldier, "is in triumphing, and not in
being beaten at the last."

"Well, have it so; but I would not exchange those ten or fifteen
minutes with that trout for the tame two hours you have spent in
catching that string of thirty. To see a big fish after days of small
fry is an event; to have a jump from one is a glimpse of the
sportsman's paradise; and to hook one, and actually have him under your
control for ten minutes,--why, that is paradise itself as long as it
lasts."

One day I went down to the house of a settler a mill below, and engaged
the good dame to make us a couple of loaves of bread, and in the
evening we went down after them. How elastic and exhilarating the walk
was through the cool, transparent shadows! The sun was gilding the
mountains, and its yellow light seemed to be reflected through all the
woods. At one point we looked through and along a valley of deep shadow
upon a broad sweep of mountain quite near and densely clothed with
woods, flooded from base to summit by the setting sun. It was a wild,
memorable scene. What power and effectiveness in Nature, I thought, and
how rarely an artist catches her touch! Looking down upon or squarely
into a mountain covered with a heavy growth of birch and maple, and
shone upon by the sun, is a sight peculiarly agreeable to me. How
closely the swelling umbrageous heads of the trees fit together, and
how the eye revels in the flowing and easy uniformity, while the mind
feels the ruggedness and terrible power beneath!

As we came back, the light yet lingered on the top of Slide Mountain.

     "'The last that parleys with the setting sun,'"

said I, quoting Wordsworth.

"That line is almost Shakespearean," said my companion. "It suggests
that great hand at least, though it has not the grit and virility of
the more primitive bard. What triumph and fresh morning power in
Shakespeare's lines that will occur to us at sunrise to-morrow!--

     "'And jocund day
       Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops."

Or in this:--

     "'Full many a glorious morning have I seen
       Flatter the mountain tops with sovran eye.'

There is savage, perennial beauty there, the quality that Wordsworth
and nearly all the modern poets lack."

"But Wordsworth is the poet of the mountains," said I, "and of lonely
peaks. True, he does not express the power and aboriginal grace there
is in them, nor toy with them and pluck them up by the hair of their
heads, as Shakespeare does. There is something in Peakamoose yonder, as
we see it from this point, cutting the blue vault with its dark,
serrated edge, not in the bard of Grasmere; but he expresses the
feeling of loneliness and insignificance that the cultivated man has in
the presence of mountains, and the burden of solemn emotion they give
rise to. Then there is something much more wild and merciless, much
more remote from human interests and ends, in our long, high, wooded
ranges than is expressed by the peaks and scarred groups of the lake
country of Britain. These mountains we behold and cross are not
picturesque,--they are wild and inhuman as the sea. In them you are in
a maze, in a weltering world of woods; you can see neither the earth
nor the sky, but a confusion of the growth and decay of centuries, and
must traverse them by your compass or your science of woodcraft,--a
rift through the trees giving one a glimpse of the opposite range or of
the valley beneath, and he is more at sea than ever; one does not know
his own farm or settlement when framed in these mountain treetops; all
look alike unfamiliar."

Not the least of the charm of camping out is your camp-fire at night.
What an artist! What pictures are boldly thrown or faintly outlined
upon the canvas of the night! Every object, every attitude of your
companion is striking and memorable. You see effects and groups every
moment that you would give money to be able to carry away with you in
enduring form. How the shadows leap, and skulk, and hover about! Light
and darkness are in perpetual tilt and warfare, with first the one
unhorsed, then the other. The friendly and cheering fire, what
acquaintance we make with it! We had almost forgotten there was such an
element, we had so long known only its dark offspring, heat. Now we see
the wild beauty uncaged and note its manner and temper. How surely it
creates its own draught and sets the currents going, as force and
enthusiasm always will! It carves itself a chimney out of the fluid and
houseless air. A friend, a ministering angel, in subjection; a fiend, a
fury, a monster, ready to devour the world, if ungoverned. By day it
burrows in the ashes and sleeps; at night it comes forth and sits upon
its throne of rude logs, and rules the camp, a sovereign queen.

Near camp stood a tall, ragged yellow birch, its partially cast-off
bark hanging in crisp sheets or dense rolls.

"That tree needs the barber," we said, "and shall have a call from him
to-night."

So after dark I touched a match into it, and we saw the flames creep up
and wax in fury until the whole tree and its main branches stood
wrapped in a sheet of roaring flame. It was a wild and striking
spectacle, and must have advertised our camp to every nocturnal
creature in the forest.

What does the camper think about when lounging around the fire at
night? Not much,--of the sport of the day, of the big fish he lost and
might have saved, of the distant settlement, of to-morrow's plans. An
owl hoots off in the mountain and he thinks of him; if a wolf were to
howl or a panther to scream, he would think of him the rest of the
night. As it is, things flicker and hover through his mind, and he
hardly knows whether it is the past or the present that possesses him.
Certain it is, he feels the hush and solitude of the great forest, and,
whether he will or not, all his musings are in some way cast upon that
huge background of the night. Unless he is an old camper-out, there
will be an undercurrent of dread or half fear. My companion said he
could not help but feel all the time that there ought to be a sentinel
out there pacing up and down. One seems to require less sleep in the
woods, as if the ground and the untempered air rested and refreshed him
sooner. The balsam and the hemlock heal his aches very quickly. If one
is awakened often during the night, as he invariably is, he does not
feel that sediment of sleep in his mind next day that he does when the
same interruption occurs at home; the boughs have drawn it all out of
him.

And it is wonderful how rarely any of the housed and tender white man's
colds or influenzas come through these open doors and windows of the
woods. It is our partial isolation from Nature that is dangerous; throw
yourself unreservedly upon her and she rarely betrays you.

If one takes anything to the woods to read, he seldom reads it; it does
not taste good with such primitive air.

There are very few camp poems that I know of, poems that would be at
home with one on such an expedition; there is plenty that is weird and
spectral, as in Poe, but little that is woody and wild as this scene
is. I recall a Canadian poem by the late C. D. Shanly--the only one, I
believe, the author ever wrote--that fits well the distended pupil of
the mind's eye about the camp-fire at night. It was printed many years
ago in the "Atlantic Monthly," and is called "The Walker of the Snow;"
it begins thus:--

     "'Speed on, speed on, good master;
            The camp lies far away;
       We must cross the haunted valley
            Before the close of day.'"

"That has a Canadian sound," said Aaron; "give us more of it."

     "'How the snow-blight came upon me
            I will tell you as we go,--
       The blight of the shadow hunter
            Who walks the midnight snow.'

And so on. The intent seems to be to personify the fearful cold that
overtakes and benumbs the traveler in the great Canadian forests in
winter. This stanza brings out the silence or desolation of the scene
very effectively,--a scene without sound or motion:--

     "'Save the wailing of the moose-bird
            With a plaintive note and low;
       And the skating of the red leaf
            Upon the frozen snow.'

"The rest of the poem runs thus:--

     "'And said I, Though dark is falling,
            And far the camp must be,
       Yet my heart it would be lightsome
            If I had but company.

     "'And then I sang and shouted,
            Keeping measure as I sped,
       To the harp-twang of the snow-shoe
            As it sprang beneath my tread.

     "'Nor far into the valley
            Had I dipped upon my way,
       When a dusky figure joined me
            In a capuchin of gray,

     "'Bending upon the snow-shoes
            With a long and limber stride;
       And I hailed the dusky stranger,
            As we traveled side by side.

     "'But no token of communion
            Gave he by word or look,
       And the fear-chill fell upon me
            At the crossing of the brook.

     "'For I saw by the sickly moonlight,
             As I followed, bending low,
       That the walking of the stranger
            Left no foot-marks on the snow.

     "'Then the fear-chill gathered o'er me,
            Like a shroud around me cast,
       As I sank upon the snow-drift
            Where the shadow hunter passed.

     "'And the otter-trappers found me,
            Before the break of day,
       With my dark hair blanched and whitened
            As the snow in which I lay.

     "'But they spoke not as they raised me;
            For they knew that in the night
       I had seen the shadow hunter
            And had withered in his sight.

     "'Sancta Maria speed us!
            The sun is fallen low:
        Before us lies the valley
            Of the Walker of the Snow!'"

"Ah!" exclaimed my companion. "Let us pile on more of those dry
birch-logs; I feel both the 'fear-chill' and the 'cold-chill'
creeping over me. How far is it to the valley of the Neversink?"

"About three or four hours' march, the man said."

"I hope we have no haunted valleys to cross?"

"None," said I, "but we pass an old log cabin about which there hangs a
ghostly superstition. At a certain hour in the night, during the time
the bark is loose on the hemlock, a female form is said to steal from
it and grope its way into the wilderness. The tradition runs that her
lover, who was a bark-peeler and wielded the spud, was killed by his
rival, who felled a tree upon him while they were at work. The girl,
who helped her mother cook for the 'hands,' was crazed by the shock,
and that night stole forth into the woods and was never seen or heard
of more. There are old hunters who aver that her cry may still be heard
at night at the head of the valley whenever a tree falls in the
stillness of the forest."

"Well, I heard a tree fall not ten minutes ago," said Aaron; "a
distant, rushing sound with a subdued crash at the end of it, and the
only answering cry I heard was the shrill voice of the screech owl off
yonder against the mountain. But maybe it was not an owl," said he
after a moment; "let us help the legend along by believing it was the
voice of the lost maiden."

"By the way," continued he, "do you remember the pretty creature we saw
seven years ago in the shanty on the West Branch, who was really
helping her mother cook for the hands, a slip of a girl twelve or
thirteen years old, with eyes as beautiful and bewitching as the waters
that flowed by her cabin? I was wrapped in admiration till she spoke;
then how the spell was broken! Such a voice! It was like the sound of
pots and pans when you expected to hear a lute."

The next day we bade farewell to the Rondout, and set out to cross the
mountain to the east branch of the Neversink.

"We shall find tame waters compared with these, I fear,--a shriveled
stream brawling along over loose stones, with few pools or deep
places."

Our course was along the trail of the bark-men who had pursued the
doomed hemlock to the last tree at the head of the valley. As we passed
along, a red steer stepped out of the bushes into the road ahead of us,
where the sunshine fell full upon him, and, with a half-scared,
beautiful look, begged alms of salt. We passed the Haunted Shanty; but
both it and the legend about it looked very tame at ten o'clock in the
morning. After the road had faded out, we took to the bed of the stream
to avoid the gauntlet of the underbrush, skipping up the mountain from
boulder to boulder. Up and up we went, with frequent pauses and copious
quaffing of the cold water. My soldier declared a "haunted valley"
would be a godsend; anything but endless dragging of one's self up such
an Alpine stairway. The winter wren, common all through the woods,
peeped and scolded at us as we sat blowing near the summit, and the
oven-bird, not quite sure as to what manner of creatures we were,
hopped down a limb to within a few feet of us and had a good look,
then darted off into the woods to tell the news. I also noted the
Canada warbler, the chestnut-sided warbler, and the black-throated
blue-back,--the latter most abundant of all. Up these mountain
brooks, too, goes the belted kingfisher, swooping around through the
woods when he spies the fisherman, then wheeling into the open space
of the stream and literally making a "blue streak" down under the
branches.

At last the stream which had been our guide was lost under the rocks,
and before long the top was gained. These mountains are horse-shaped.
There is always a broad, smooth back, more or less depressed, which the
hunter aims to bestride; rising rapidly from this is pretty sure to be
a rough, curving ridge that carries the forest up to some highest peak.
We were lucky in hitting the saddle, but we could see a little to the
south the sharp, steep neck of the steed sweeping up toward the sky
with an erect mane of balsam fir.

These mountains are steed-like in other respects: any timid and
vacillating course with them is sure to get you into trouble. One must
strike out boldly, and not be disturbed by the curveting and shying;
the valley you want lies squarely behind them, but farther off than you
think, and if you do not go for it resolutely, you will get bewildered
and the mountain will play you a trick.

I may say that Aaron and I kept a tight rein and a good pace till we
struck a water-course on the other side, and that we clattered down it
with no want of decision till it emptied into a larger stream which we
knew must be the East Branch. An abandoned fishpole lay on the stones,
marking the farthest point reached by some fisherman. According to our
reckoning, we were five or six miles above the settlement, with a good
depth of primitive woods all about us.

We kept on down the stream, now and then pausing at a likely place
to take some trout for dinner, and with an eye out for a good
camping-ground. Many of the trout were full of ripe spawn, and a
few had spawned, the season with them being a little later than on
the stream we had left, perhaps because the water was less cold.
Neither had the creek here any such eventful and startling career.
It led, indeed, quite a humdrum sort of life under the roots and
fallen treetops and among the loose stones. At rare intervals it
beamed upon us from some still reach or dark cover, and won from
us our best attention in return.

The day was quite spent before we had pitched our air-woven tent and
prepared our dinner, and we gathered boughs for our bed in the
gloaming. Breakfast had to be caught in the morning and was not served
early, so that it was nine o'clock before we were in motion. A little
bird, the red-eyed vireo, warbled most cheerily in the trees above our
camp, and, as Aaron said, "gave us a good send-off." We kept down the
stream, following the inevitable bark road.

My companion had refused to look at another "dividing ridge" that had
neither path nor way, and henceforth I must keep to the open road or
travel alone. Two hours' tramp brought us to an old clearing with some
rude, tumble-down log buildings that many years before had been
occupied by the bark and lumber men. The prospect for trout was so good
in the stream hereabouts, and the scene so peaceful and inviting, shone
upon by the dreamy August sun, that we concluded to tarry here until
the next day. It was a page of pioneer history opened to quite
unexpectedly. A dim footpath led us a few yards to a superb spring, in
which a trout from the near creek had taken up his abode. We took
possession of what had been a shingle-shop, attracted by its huge
fireplace. We floored it with balsam boughs, hung its walls with our
"traps," and sent the smoke curling again from its disused chimney.

The most musical and startling sound we heard in the woods greeted our
ears that evening about sundown as we sat on a log in front of our
quarters,--the sound of slow, measured pounding in the valley below us.
We did not know how near we were to human habitations, and the report
of the lumberman's mallet, like the hammering of a great woodpecker,
was music to the ear and news to the mind. The air was still and dense,
and the silence such as alone broods over these little openings in the
primitive woods. My soldier started as if he had heard a signal-gun.
The sound, coming so far through the forest, sweeping over those great
wind-harps of trees, became wild and legendary, though probably made by
a lumberman driving a wedge or working about his mill.

We expected a friendly visit from porcupines that night, as we saw
where they had freshly gnawed all about us; hence, when a red squirrel
came and looked in upon us very early in the morning and awoke us by
his snickering and giggling, my comrade cried out, "There is your
porcupig." How the frisking red rogue seemed to enjoy what he had
found! He looked in at the door and snickered, then in at the window,
then peeked down from between the rafters and cachinnated till his
sides must have ached; then struck an attitude upon the chimney, and
fairly squealed with mirth and ridicule. In fact, he grew so
obstreperous, and so disturbed our repose, that we had to "shoo" him
away with one of our boots. He declared most plainly that he had never
before seen so preposterous a figure as we cut lying there in the
corner of that old shanty.

The morning boded rain, the week to which we had limited ourselves drew
near its close, and we concluded to finish our holiday worthily by a
good square tramp to the railroad station, twenty-three miles distant,
as it proved. Two miles brought us to stumpy fields, and to the house
of the upper inhabitant. They told us there was a short cut across the
mountain, but my soldier shook his head.

"Better twenty miles of Europe," said he, getting Tennyson a little
mixed, "than one of Cathay, or Slide Mountain either."

Drops of the much-needed rain began to come down, and I hesitated in
front of the woodshed.

"Sprinkling weather always comes to some bad end," said Aaron, with a
reminiscence of an old couplet in his mind, and so it proved, for it
did not get beyond a sprinkle, and the sun shone out before noon.

In the next woods I picked up from the middle of the road the tail and
one hind leg of one of our native rats, the first I had ever seen
except in a museum. An owl or fox had doubtless left it the night
before. It was evident the fragments had once formed part of a very
elegant and slender creature. The fur that remained (for it was not
hair) was tipped with red. My reader doubtless knows that the common
rat is an importation, and that there is a native American rat, usually
found much farther south than the locality of which I am writing, that
lives in the woods,--a sylvan rat, very wild and nocturnal in his
habits, and seldom seen even by hunters or woodmen. Its eyes are large
and fine, and its form slender. It looks like only a far-off
undegenerate cousin of the filthy creature that has come to us from the
long-peopled Old World. Some creature ran between my feet and the fire
toward morning, the last night we slept in the woods, and I have little
doubt it was one of these wood-rats.

The people in these back settlements are almost as shy and furtive as
the animals. Even the men look a little scared when you stop them by
your questions. The children dart behind their parents when you look at
them. As we sat on a bridge resting,--for our packs still weighed
fifteen or twenty pounds each,--two women passed us with pails on their
arms, going for blackberries. They filed by with their eyes down like
two abashed nuns.

In due time we found an old road, to which we had been directed, that
led over the mountain to the West Branch. It was a hard pull, sweetened
by blackberries and a fine prospect. The snowbird was common along the
way, and a solitary wild pigeon shot through the woods in front of us,
recalling the nests we had seen on the East Branch,--little
scaffoldings of twigs scattered all through the trees.

It was nearly noon when we struck the West Branch, and the sun was
scalding hot. We knew that two and three pound trout had been taken
there, and yet we wet not a line in its waters. The scene was
primitive, and carried one back to the days of his grandfather, stumpy
fields, log fences, log houses and barns. A boy twelve or thirteen
years old came out of a house ahead of us eating a piece of bread and
butter. We soon overtook him and held converse with him. He knew the
land well, and what there was in the woods and the waters. He had
walked out to the railroad station, fourteen miles distant, to see the
cars, and back the same day. I asked him about the flies and
mosquitoes, etc. He said they were all gone except the "blunder-heads;"
there were some of them left yet.

"What are blunder-heads?" I inquired, sniffing new game.

"The pesky little fly that gets into your eye when you are a-fishing."

Ah, yes! I knew him well. We had got acquainted some days before, and I
thanked the boy for the name. It is an insect that hovers before your
eye as you thread the streams, and you are forever vaguely brushing at
it under the delusion that it is a little spider suspended from your
hat-brim; and just as you want to see clearest, into your eye it goes,
head and ears, and is caught between the lids. You miss your cast, but
you catch a "blunder-head."

We paused under a bridge at the mouth of Biscuit Brook and ate our
lunch, and I can recommend it to be as good a wayside inn as the
pedestrian need look for. Better bread and milk than we had there I
never expect to find. The milk was indeed so good that Aaron went down
to the little log house under the hill a mile farther on and asked for
more; and being told they had no cow, he lingered five minutes on the
doorstone with his sooty pail in his hand, putting idle questions about
the way and distance to the mother while he refreshed himself with the
sight of a well-dressed and comely-looking young girl, her daughter.

"I got no milk," said he, hurrying on after me, "but I got something
better, only I cannot divide it."

"I know what it is," replied I; "I heard her voice."

"Yes, and it was a good one, too. The sweetest sound I ever heard," he
went on, "was a girl's voice after I had been four years in the army,
and, by Jove! if I didn't experience something of the same pleasure in
hearing this young girl speak after a week in the woods. She had
evidently been out in the world and was home on a visit. It was a
different look she gave me from that of the natives. This is better
than fishing for trout," said he. "You drop in at the next house."

But the next house looked too unpromising.

"There is no milk there," said I, "unless they keep a goat."

"But could we not," said my facetious companion, "go it on that?"

A couple of miles beyond I stopped at a house that enjoyed the
distinction of being clapboarded, and had the good fortune to find both
the milk and the young lady. A mother and her daughter were again the
only occupants save a babe in the cradle, which the young woman quickly
took occasion to disclaim.

"It has not opened its dear eyes before since its mother left. Come to
aunty," and she put out her hands.

The daughter filled my pail and the mother replenished our stock of
bread. They asked me to sit and cool myself, and seemed glad of a
stranger to talk with. They had come from an adjoining county five
years before, and had carved their little clearing out of the solid
woods.

"The men folks," the mother said, "came on ahead and built the house
right among the big trees," pointing to the stumps near the door.

One no sooner sets out with his pack upon his back to tramp through the
land than all objects and persons by the way have a new and curious
interest to him. The tone of his entire being is not a little elevated,
and all his perceptions and susceptibilities quickened. I feel that
some such statement is necessary to justify the interest that I felt in
this backwoods maiden. A slightly pale face it was, strong and well
arched, with a tender, wistful expression not easy to forget.

I had surely seen that face many times before in towns and cities, and
in other lands, but I hardly expected to meet it here amid the stumps.
What were the agencies that had given it its fine lines and its
gracious intelligence amid these simple, primitive scenes? What did my
heroine read, or think? or what were her unfulfilled destinies? She
wore a sprig of prince's pine in her hair, which gave a touch
peculiarly welcome.

"Pretty lonely," she said, in answer to my inquiry; "only an occasional
fisherman in summer, and in winter--nobody at all."

And the little new schoolhouse in the woods farther on, with its
half-dozen scholars and the girlish face of the teacher seen through
the open door,--nothing less than the exhilaration of a journey on
foot could have made it seem the interesting object it was. Two of the
little girls had been to the spring after a pail of water, and came
struggling out of the woods into the road with it as we passed. They
set down their pail and regarded us with a half-curious, half-alarmed
look.

"What is your teacher's name?" asked one of us.

"Miss Lucinde Josephine--" began the red-haired one, then hesitated,
bewildered, when the bright, dark-eyed one cut her short with "Miss
Simms," and taking hold of the pail said, "Come on."

"Are there any scholars from above here?" I inquired.

"Yes, Bobbie and Matie," and they hastened toward the door.

We once more stopped under a bridge for refreshments, and took our
time, knowing the train would not go on without us. By four o'clock we
were across the mountain, having passed from the watershed of the
Delaware into that of the Hudson. The next eight miles we had a down
grade but a rough road, and during the last half of it we had blisters
on the bottoms of our feet. It is one of the rewards of the pedestrian
that, however tired he may be, he is always more or less refreshed by
his journey. His physical tenement has taken an airing. His respiration
has been deepened, his circulation quickened. A good draught has
carried off the fumes and the vapors. One's quality is intensified; the
color strikes in. At noon that day I was much fatigued; at night I was
leg-weary and footsore, but a fresh, hardy feeling had taken possession
of me that lasted for weeks.



VIII

BIRDS'-NESTING


Birds's-nesting is by no means a failure, even though you find no
birds'-nests. You are sure to find other things of interest, plenty of
them. A friend of mine says that, in his youth, he used to go hunting
with his gun loaded for wild turkeys, and, though he frequently saw
plenty of smaller game, he generally came home empty-handed, because he
was loaded only for turkeys. But the student of ornithology, who is
also a lover of Nature in all her shows and forms, does not go out
loaded for turkeys merely, but for everything that moves or grows, and
is quite sure, therefore, to bag some game, if not with his gun, then
with his eye, or his nose, or his ear. Even a crow's nest is not amiss,
or a den in the rocks where the coons or the skunks live, or a log
where a partridge drums, or the partridge himself starting up with
spread tail, and walking a few yards in advance of you before he goes
humming through the woods, or a woodchuck hole, with well beaten and
worn entrance, and with the saplings gnawed and soiled about it, or the
strong, fetid smell of the fox, which a sharp nose detects here and
there, and which is a good perfume in the woods. And then it is enough
to come upon a spring in the woods and stoop down and drink of the
sweet, cold water, and bathe your hands in it, or to walk along a trout
brook, which has absorbed the shadows till it has itself become but a
denser shade. Then I am always drawn out of my way by a ledge of rocks,
and love nothing better than to explore the caverns and dens, or to sit
down under the overhanging crags and let the wild scene absorb me.

There is a fascination about ledges! They are an unmistakable feature,
and give emphasis and character to the scene. I feel their spell, and
must pause awhile. Time, old as the hills and older, looks out of their
scarred and weather-worn face. The woods are of to-day, but the ledges,
in comparison, are of eternity. One pokes about them as he would about
ruins, and with something of the same feeling. They are ruins of the
fore world. Here the foundations of the hills were laid; here the
earth-giants wrought and builded. They constrain one to silence and
meditation; the whispering and rustling trees seem trivial and
impertinent.

And then there are birds'-nests about ledges, too, exquisite mossy
tenements, with white, pebbly eggs, that I can never gaze upon without
emotion. The little brown bird, the phoebe, looks at you from her niche
till you are within a few feet of her, when she darts away.
Occasionally you may find the nest of some rare wood-warbler forming a
little pocket in the apron of moss that hangs down over the damp rocks.

The sylvan folk seem to know when you are on a peaceful mission, and
are less afraid than usual. Did not that marmot to-day guess that my
errand did not concern him as he saw me approach from his cover in the
bushes? But when he saw me pause and deliberately seat myself on the
stone wall immediately over his hole, his confidence was much shaken.
He apparently deliberated awhile, for I heard the leaves rustle as if
he were making up his mind, when he suddenly broke cover and came for
his hole full tilt. Any other animal would have taken to his heels and
fled; but a woodchuck's heels do not amount to much for speed, and he
feels his only safety is in his hole. On he came in the most obstinate
and determined manner, and I dare say if I had sat down in his hole,
would have attacked me unhesitatingly. This I did not give him a chance
to do; but, not to be entirely outdone, attempted to set my feet on him
in no very gentle manner; but he whipped into his den beneath me with a
defiant snort. Farther on, a saucy chipmunk presumed upon my harmless
character to an unwonted degree also. I had paused to bathe my hands
and face in a little trout brook, and had set a tin cup, which I had
partly filled with strawberries as I crossed the field, on a stone at
my feet, when along came the chipmunk as confidently as if he knew
precisely where he was going, and, perfectly oblivious of my presence,
cocked himself up on the rim of the cup and proceeded to eat my
choicest berries. I remained motionless and observed him. He had eaten
but two when the thought seemed to occur to him that he might be doing
better, and he began to fill his pockets. Two, four, six, eight of my
berries quickly disappeared, and the cheeks of the little vagabond
swelled. But all the time he kept eating, that not a moment might be
lost. Then he hopped off the cup, and went skipping from stone to stone
till the brook was passed, when he disappeared in the woods. In two or
three minutes he was back again, and went to stuffing himself as
before; then he disappeared a second time, and I imagined told a friend
of his, for in a moment or two along came a bobtailed chipmunk, as if
in search of something, and passed up, and down, and around, but did
not quite hit the spot. Shortly, the first returned a third time, and
had now grown a little fastidious, for he began to sort over my
berries, and to bite into them, as if to taste their quality. He was
not long in loading up, however, and in making off again. But I had now
got tired of the joke, and my berries were appreciably diminishing, so
I moved away. What was most curious about the proceeding was, that the
little poacher took different directions each time, and returned from
different ways. Was this to elude pursuit, or was he distributing the
fruit to his friends and neighbors about, astonishing them with
strawberries for lunch?

But I am making slow headway toward finding the birds'-nests, for I had
set out on this occasion in hopes of finding a rare nest,--the nest of
the black-throated blue-backed warbler, which, it seemed, with one or
two others, was still wanting to make the history of our warblers
complete. The woods were extensive, and full of deep, dark tangles, and
looking for any particular nest seemed about as hopeless a task as
searching for a needle in a haystack, as the old saying is. Where to
begin, and how? But the principle is the same as in looking for a hen's
nest,--first find your bird, then watch its movements.

The bird is in these woods, for I have seen him scores of times, but
whether he builds high or low, on the ground or in the trees, is all
unknown to me. That is his song now,--"twe-twea-twe-e-e-a," with a
peculiar summer languor and plaintiveness, and issuing from the lower
branches and growths. Presently we--for I have been joined by a
companion--discover the bird, a male, insecting in the top of a newly
fallen hemlock. The black, white, and blue of his uniform are seen at a
glance. His movements are quite slow compared with some of the
warblers. If he will only betray the locality of that little domicile
where his plainly clad mate is evidently sitting, it is all we will ask
of him. But this he seems in no wise disposed to do. Here and there,
and up and down; we follow him, often losing him, and as often
refinding him by his song; but the clew to his nest, how shall we get
it? Does he never go home to see how things are getting on, or to see
if his presence is not needed, or to take madam a morsel of food? No
doubt he keeps within earshot, and a cry of distress or alarm from the
mother bird would bring him to the spot in an instant. Would that some
evil fate would make her cry, then! Presently he encounters a rival.
His feeding-ground infringes upon that of another, and the two birds
regard each other threateningly. This is a good sign, for their nests
are evidently near.

Their battle-cry is a low, peculiar chirp, not very fierce, but
bantering and confident. They quickly come to blows, but it is a very
fantastic battle, and, as it would seem, indulged in more to satisfy
their sense of honor than to hurt each other, for neither party gets
the better of the other, and they separate a few paces and sing, and
squeak, and challenge each other in a very happy frame of mind. The
gauntlet is no sooner thrown down than it is again taken up by one or
the other, and in the course of fifteen or twenty minutes they have
three or four encounters, separating a little, then provoked to return
again like two cocks, till finally they withdraw beyond hearing of each
other,--both, no doubt, claiming the victory. But the secret of the
nest is still kept. Once I think I have it. I catch a glimpse of a
bird which looks like the female, and near by, in a small hemlock
about eight feet from the ground, my eye detects a nest. But as I
come up under it, I can see daylight through it, and that it is
empty,--evidently only part finished, not lined or padded yet. Now if
the bird will only return and claim it, the point will be gained. But
we wait and watch in vain. The architect has knocked off to-day, and
we must come again, or continue our search.

While loitering about here we were much amused by three chipmunks, who
seemed to be engaged in some kind of game. It looked very much as if
they were playing tag. Round and round they would go, first one taking
the lead, then another, all good-natured and gleeful as schoolboys.
There is one thing about a chipmunk that is peculiar: he is never more
than one jump from home. Make a dive at him anywhere and in he goes. He
knows where the hole is, even when it is covered up with leaves. There
is no doubt, also, that he has his own sense of humor and fun, as what
squirrel has not? I have watched two red squirrels for a half hour
coursing through the large trees by the roadside where branches
interlocked, and engaged in a game of tag as obviously as two boys. As
soon as the pursuer had come up with the pursued, and actually touched
him, the palm was his, and away he would go, taxing his wits and his
speed to the utmost to elude his fellow.

Despairing of finding either of the nests of the two males, we pushed
on through the woods to try our luck elsewhere. Before long, just as we
were about to plunge down a hill into a dense, swampy part of the
woods, we discovered a pair of the birds we were in quest of. They had
food in their beaks, and, as we paused, showed great signs of alarm,
indicating that the nest was in the immediate vicinity. This was
enough. We would pause here and find this nest, anyhow. To make a sure
thing of it, we determined to watch the parent birds till we had wrung
from them their secret. So we doggedly crouched down and watched them,
and they watched us. It was diamond cut diamond. But as we felt
constrained in our movements, desiring, if possible, to keep so quiet
that the birds would, after a while, see in us only two harmless stumps
or prostrate logs, we had much the worst of it. The mosquitoes were
quite taken with our quiet, and knew us from logs and stumps in a
moment. Neither were the birds deceived, not even when we tried the
Indian's tactics, and plumed ourselves with green branches. Ah, the
suspicious creatures, how they watched us with the food in their beaks,
abstaining for one whole hour from ministering that precious charge
which otherwise would have been visited every moment! Quite near us
they would come at times, between us and the nest, eying us so sharply.
Then they would move off, and apparently try to forget our presence.
Was it to deceive us, or to persuade himself and mate that there was no
serious cause for alarm, that the male would now and then strike up in
full song and move off to some distance through the trees? But the
mother bird did not allow herself to lose sight of us at all, and both
birds, after carrying the food in their beaks a long time, would
swallow it themselves. Then they would obtain another morsel and
apparently approach very near the nest, when their caution or prudence
would come to their aid, and they would swallow the food and hasten
away. I thought the young birds would cry out, but not a syllable from
them. Yet this was, no doubt, what kept the parent birds away from the
nest. The clamor the young would have set up on the approach of the old
with food would have exposed everything.

After a time I felt sure I knew within a few feet where the nest was
concealed. Indeed, I thought I knew the identical bush. Then the birds
approached each other again and grew very confidential about another
locality some rods below. This puzzled us, and, seeing the whole
afternoon might be spent in this manner, and the mystery unsolved, we
determined to change our tactics and institute a thorough search of the
locality. This procedure soon brought things to a crisis, for, as my
companion clambered over a log by a little hemlock, a few yards from
where we had been sitting, with a cry of alarm out sprang the young
birds from their nest in the hemlock, and, scampering and fluttering
over the leaves, disappeared in different directions. This brought the
parent birds on the scene in an agony of alarm. Their distress was
pitiful. They threw themselves on the ground at our very feet, and
fluttered, and cried, and trailed themselves before us, to draw us away
from the place, or distract our attention from the helpless young. I
shall not forget the male bird, how bright he looked, how sharp the
contrast as he trailed his painted plumage there on the dry leaves.
Apparently he was seriously disabled. He would start up as if exerting
every muscle to fly away, but no use; down he would come, with a
helpless, fluttering motion, before he had gone two yards, and
apparently you had only to go and pick him up. But before you could
pick him up, he had recovered somewhat and flown a little farther; and
thus, if you were tempted to follow him, you would soon find yourself
some distance from the scene of the nest, and both old and young well
out of your reach. The female bird was not less solicious, and
practiced the same arts upon us to decoy us away, but her dull plumage
rendered her less noticeable. The male was clad in holiday attire, but
his mate in an every-day working-garb.

The nest was built in the fork of a little hemlock, about fifteen
inches from the ground, and was a thick, firm structure, composed of
the finer material of the woods, with a lining of very delicate roots
or rootlets. There were four young birds and one addled egg. We found
it in a locality about the head-waters of the eastern branch of the
Delaware, where several other of the rarer species of warblers, such as
the mourning ground, the Blackburnian, the chestnut-sided, and the
speckled Canada, spend the summer and rear their young.

Defunct birds'-nests are easy to find; when the leaves fall, then they
are in every bush and tree; and one wonders how he missed them; but a
live nest, how it eludes one! I have read of a noted criminal who could
hide himself pretty effectually in any room that contained the usual
furniture; he would embrace the support of a table so as to seem part
of it. The bird has studied the same art: it always blends its nest
with the surroundings, and sometimes its very openness hides it; the
light itself seems to conceal it. Then the birds build anew each year,
and so always avail themselves of the present and latest combination of
leaves and screens, of light and shade. What was very well concealed
one season may be quite exposed the next.

Going a-fishing or a-berrying is a good introduction to the haunts of
the birds, and to their nesting-places. You put forth your hand for the
berries, and there is a nest; or your tread by the creeks starts the
sandpiper or the water-thrush from the ground where its eggs are
concealed, or some shy wood-warbler from a bush. One day, fishing down
a deep wooded gorge, my hook caught on a limb overhead, and on pulling
it down I found I had missed my trout, but had caught a hummingbird's
nest. It was saddled on the limb as nicely as if it had been a grown
part of it.

Other collectors beside the oölogists are looking for birds'-nests,--
the squirrels and owls and jays and crows. The worst depredator in this
direction I know of is the fish crow, and I warn him to keep off my
premises, and charge every gunner to spare him not. He is a small
sneak-thief, and will rob the nest of every robin, wood thrush, and
oriole he can come at. I believe he fishes only when he is unable to
find birds' eggs or young birds. The genuine crow, the crow with the
honest "caw," "caw," I have never caught in such small business, though
the kingbird makes no discrimination between them, but accuses both
alike.



IX

THE HALCYON IN CANADA


The halcyon or kingfisher is a good guide when you go to the woods. He
will not insure smooth water or fair weather, but he knows every stream
and lake like a book, and will take you to the wildest and most
unfrequented places. Follow his rattle and you shall see the source of
every trout and salmon stream on the continent. You shall see the Lake
of the Woods, and far-off Athabasca and Abbitibbe, and the unknown
streams that flow into Hudson's Bay, and many others. His time is the
time of the trout, too, namely, from April to September. He makes his
subterranean nest in the bank of some favorite stream, and then goes on
long excursions up and down and over woods and mountains to all the
waters within reach, always fishing alone, the true angler that he is,
his fellow keeping far ahead or behind, or taking the other branch. He
loves the sound of a waterfall, and will sit a long time on a dry limb
overhanging the pool below it, and, forgetting his occupation, brood
upon his own memories and fancies.

The past season my friend and I took a hint from him, and, when the
dog-star began to blaze, set out for Canada, making a big detour to
touch at salt water and to take New York and Boston on our way.

The latter city was new to me, and we paused there and angled a couple
of days and caught an editor, a philosopher, and a poet, and might have
caught more if we had had a mind to, for these waters are full of 'em,
and big ones, too.

Coming from the mountainous regions of the Hudson, we saw little in the
way of scenery that arrested our attention until we beheld the St.
Lawrence, though one gets glimpses now and then, as he is whirled along
through New Hampshire and Vermont, that make him wish for a fuller
view. It is always a pleasure to bring to pass the geography of one's
boyhood; 'tis like the fulfilling of a dream; hence it was with partial
eyes that I looked upon the Merrimac, the Connecticut, and the
Passumpsic,--dusky, squaw-colored streams, whose names I had learned so
long ago. The traveler opens his eyes a little wider when he reaches
Lake Memphremagog, especially if he have the luck to see it under such
a sunset as we did, its burnished surface glowing like molten gold.
This lake is an immense trough that accommodates both sides of the
fence, though by far the larger and longer part of it is in Canada. Its
western shore is bold and picturesque, being skirted by a detachment of
the Green Mountains, the main range of which is seen careering along
the horizon far to the southwest; to the east and north, whither the
railroad takes you, the country is flat and monotonous.

The first peculiarity one notices about the farms in this northern
country is the close proximity of the house and barn, in most cases the
two buildings touching at some point,--an arrangement doubtless
prompted by the deep snows and severe cold of this latitude. The
typical Canadian dwelling-house is also presently met with on entering
the Dominion,--a low, modest structure of hewn spruce logs, with a
steep roof (containing two or more dormer windows) that ends in a smart
curve, a hint taken from the Chinese pagoda. Even in the more costly
brick or stone houses in the towns and vicinity this style is adhered
to. It is so universal that one wonders if the reason of it is not in
the climate also, the outward curve of the roof shooting the sliding
snow farther away from the dwelling. It affords a wide projection, in
many cases covering a veranda, and in all cases protecting the doors
and windows without interfering with the light. In the better class of
clapboarded houses the finish beneath the projecting eaves is also a
sweeping curve, opposing and bracing that of the roof. A two-story
country house, or a Mansard roof, I do not remember to have seen in
Canada; but in places they have become so enamored of the white of the
snow that they even whitewash the roofs of their buildings, giving a
cluster of them the impression, at a distance, of an encampment of
great tents.

As we neared Point Levi, opposite Quebec, we got our first view of the
St. Lawrence. "Iliad of rivers!" exclaimed my friend. "Yet unsung!" The
Hudson must take a back seat now, and a good way back. One of the two
or three great watercourses of the globe is before you. No other river,
I imagine, carries such a volume of pure cold water to the sea. Nearly
all its feeders are trout and salmon streams, and what an airing and
what a bleaching it gets on its course! Its history, its antecedents,
are unparalleled. The great lakes are its camping-grounds; here its
hosts repose under the sun and stars in areas like that of states and
kingdoms, and it is its waters that shake the earth at Niagara. Where
it receives the Saguenay it is twenty miles wide, and when it debouches
into the Gulf it is a hundred. Indeed, it is a chain of Homeric
sublimities from beginning to end. The great cataract is a fit sequel
to the great lakes; the spirit that is born in vast and tempestuous
Superior takes its full glut of power in that fearful chasm. If
paradise is hinted in the Thousand Islands, hell is unveiled in that
pit of terrors.

Its last escapade is the great rapids above Montreal, down which the
steamer shoots with its breathless passengers, after which, inhaling
and exhaling its mighty tides, it flows calmly to the sea.

The St. Lawrence is the type of nearly all the Canadian rivers, which
are strung with lakes and rapids and cataracts, and are full of peril
and adventure.

Here we reach the oldest part of the continent, geologists tell us; and
here we encounter a fragment of the Old World civilization. Quebec
presents the anomaly of a mediæval European city in the midst of the
American landscape. This air, this sky, these clouds, these trees, the
look of these fields, are what we have always known; but the houses,
and streets, and vehicles, and language, and physiognomy are strange.
As I walked upon the grand terrace I saw the robin and kingbird and
song sparrow, and there in the tree, by the Wolfe Monument, our summer
warbler was at home. I presently saw, also, that our republican crow
was a British subject, and that he behaved here more like his European
brother than he does in the States, being less wild and suspicious. On
the Plains of Abraham excellent timothy grass was growing and cattle
were grazing. We found a path through the meadow, and, with the
exception of a very abundant weed with a blue flower, saw nothing new
or strange,--nothing but the steep tin roofs of the city and its
frowning wall and citadel. Sweeping around the far southern horizon, we
could catch glimpses of mountains that were evidently in Maine or New
Hampshire; while twelve or fifteen miles to the north the Laurentian
ranges, dark and formidable, arrested the eye. Quebec, or the walled
part of it, is situated on a point of land shaped not unlike the human
foot, looking northeast, the higher and bolder side being next the
river, with the main part of the town on the northern slope toward the
St. Charles. Its toes are well down in the mud where this stream joins
the St. Lawrence, while the citadel is high on the instep and commands
the whole field. The grand Battery is a little below, on the brink of
the instep, so to speak, and the promenader looks down several hundred
feet into the tops of the chimneys of this part of the lower town, and
upon the great river sweeping by northeastward like another Amazon. The
heel of our misshapen foot extends indefinitely toward Montreal. Upon
it, on a level with the citadel, are the Plains of Abraham. It was up
its high, almost perpendicular, sides that Wolfe clambered with his
army, and stood in the rear of his enemy one pleasant September morning
over a hundred years ago.

To the north and northeast of Quebec, and in full view from the upper
parts of the city, lies a rich belt of agricultural country, sloping
gently toward the river, and running parallel with it for many miles,
called the Beauport slopes. The division of the land into uniform
parallelograms, as in France, was a marked feature, and is so
throughout the Dominion. A road ran through the midst of it lined with;
trees, and leading to the falls of the Montmorenci. I imagine that this
section is the garden of Quebec. Beyond it rose the mountains. Our eyes
looked wistfully toward them, for we had decided to penetrate the
Canadian woods in that direction.

One hundred and twenty-five miles from Quebec as the loon flies, almost
due north over unbroken spruce forests, lies Lake St. John, the cradle
of the terrible Saguenay. On the map it looks like a great cuttlefish
with its numerous arms and tentacula reaching out in all directions
into the wilds. It is a large oval body of water thirty miles in its
greatest diameter. The season here, owing to a sharp northern sweep of
the isothermal lines, is two or three weeks earlier than at Quebec. The
soil is warm and fertile, and there is a thrifty growing settlement
here with valuable agricultural produce, but no market nearer than
Quebec, two hundred and fifty miles distant by water, with a hard,
tedious land journey besides. In winter the settlement can have little
or no communication with the outside world.

To relieve this isolated colony and encourage further development of
the St. John region, the Canadian government is building [footnote:
Written in 1877] a wagon-road through the wilderness from Quebec
directly to the lake, thus economizing half the distance, as the road
when completed will form with the old route, the Saguenay and St.
Lawrence, one side of an equilateral triangle. A railroad was projected
a few years ago over nearly the same ground, and the contract to build
it given to an enterprising Yankee, who pocketed a part of the money
and has never been heard of since. The road runs for one hundred miles
through an unbroken wilderness, and opens up scores of streams and
lakes abounding with trout, into which, until the road-makers fished
them, no white man had ever cast a hook.

It was a good prospect, and we resolved to commit ourselves to the St.
John road. The services of a young fellow whom, by reason of his
impracticable French name, we called Joe, were secured, and after a
delay of twenty-four hours we were packed upon a Canadian buckboard
with hard-tack in one bag and oats in another, and the journey began.
It was Sunday, and we held up our heads more confidently when we got
beyond the throng of well-dressed church-goers. For ten miles we had a
good stone road and rattled along it at a lively pace. In about half
that distance we came to a large brick church, where we began to see
the rural population or _habitans._ They came mostly in two-wheeled
vehicles, some of the carts quite fancy, in which the young fellows
rode complacently beside their girls. The two-wheeler predominates in
Canada, and is of all styles and sizes. After we left the stone road,
we began to encounter the hills that are preliminary to the mountains.
The farms looked like the wilder and poorer parts of Maine or New
Hampshire. While Joe was getting a supply of hay of a farmer to take
into the woods for his horse, I walked through a field in quest of wild
strawberries. The season for them was past, it being the 20th of July,
and I found barely enough to make me think that the strawberry here is
far less pungent and high-flavored than with us.

The cattle in the fields and by the roadside looked very small and
delicate, the effect, no doubt, of the severe climate. We saw many rude
implements of agriculture, such as wooden plows shod with iron.

We passed several parties of men, women, and children from Quebec
picnicking in the "bush." Here it was little more than a "bush;" but
while in Canada we never heard the woods designated by any other term.
I noticed, also, that when a distance of a few miles or of a fraction
of a mile is to be designated, the French Canadian does not use the
term "miles," but says it's so many acres through, or to the next
place.

This fondness for the "bush" at this season seems quite a marked
feature in the social life of the average Quebecker, and is one of the
original French traits that holds its own among them. Parties leave the
city in carts and wagons by midnight, or earlier, and drive out as far
as they can the remainder of the night, in order to pass the whole
Sunday in the woods, despite the mosquitoes and black flies. Those we
saw seemed a decent, harmless set, whose idea of a good time was to be
in the open air, and as far into the "bush" as possible.

The post-road, as the new St. John's road is also called, begins twenty
miles from Quebec at Stoneham, the farthest settlement. Five miles into
the forest upon the new road is the hamlet of La Chance, the last house
till you reach the lake, one hundred and twenty miles distant. Our
destination the first night was La Chance's; this would enable us to
reach the Jacques Cartier River, forty miles farther, where we proposed
to encamp, in the afternoon of the next day.

We were now fairly among the mountains, and the sun was well down
behind the trees when we entered upon the post-road. It proved to be a
wide, well-built highway, grass-grown, but in good condition. After an
hour's travel we began to see signs of a clearing, and about six
o'clock drew up in front of the long, low, log habitation of La Chance.
Their hearthstone was outdoor at this season, and its smoke rose
through the still atmosphere in a frail column toward the sky. The
family was gathered here and welcomed us cordially as we drew up, the
master shaking us by the hand as if we were old friends. His English
was very poor, and our French was poorer, but, with Joe as a bridge
between us, communication on a pinch was kept up. His wife could speak
no English; but her true French politeness and graciousness was a
language we could readily understand. Our supper was got ready from our
own supplies, while we sat or stood in the open air about the fire. The
clearing comprised fifty or sixty acres of rough land in the bottom of
a narrow valley, and bore indifferent crops of oats, barley, potatoes,
and timothy grass. The latter was just in bloom, being a month or more
later than with us. The primitive woods, mostly of birch with a
sprinkling of spruce, put a high cavernous wall about the scene. How
sweetly the birds sang, their notes seeming to have unusual strength
and volume in this forest-bound opening! The principal singer was the
white-throated sparrow, which we heard and saw everywhere on the route.
He is called here _le siffleur_ (the whistler), and very delightful his
whistle was. From the forest came the evening hymn of a thrush, the
olive-backed perhaps, like but less clear and full than the veery's.

In the evening we sat about the fire in rude homemade chairs, and had
such broken and disjointed talk as we could manage. Our host had lived
in Quebec and been a school-teacher there; he had wielded the birch
until he lost his health, when he came here and the birches gave it
back to him. He was now hearty and well, and had a family of six or
seven children about him.

We were given a good bed that night, and fared better than we expected.
About one o'clock I was awakened by suppressed voices outside the
window. Who could it be? Had a band of brigands surrounded the house?
As our outfit and supplies had not been removed from the wagon in front
of the door I got up, and, lifting one corner of the window paper,
peeped out: I saw in the dim moonlight four or five men standing about
engaged in low conversation. Presently one of the men advanced to the
door and began to rap and call the name of our host. Then I knew their
errand was not hostile; but the weird effect of that regular alternate
rapping and calling ran through my dream all the rest of the night.
Rat-tat, tat, tat,--La Chance; rat-tat, tat,--La Chance, five or six
times repeated before La Chance heard and responded. Then the door
opened and they came in, when it was jabber, jabber, jabber in the next
room till I fell asleep.

In the morning, to my inquiry as to who the travelers were and what
they wanted, La Chance said they were old acquaintances going
a-fishing, and had stopped to have a little talk.

Breakfast was served early, and we were upon the road before the sun.
Then began a forty-mile ride through a dense Canadian spruce forest
over the drift and boulders of the paleozoic age. Up to this point the
scenery had been quite familiar,--not much unlike that of the
Catskills,--but now there was a change; the birches disappeared, except
now and then a slender white or paper birch, and spruce everywhere
prevailed. A narrow belt on each side of the road had been blasted by
fire, and the dry, white stems of the trees stood stark and stiff. The
road ran pretty straight, skirting the mountains and threading the
valleys, and hour after hour the dark, silent woods wheeled past us.
Swarms of black flies--those insect wolves--waylaid us and hung to us
till a smart spurt of the horse, where the road favored, left them
behind. But a species of large horse-fly, black and vicious, it was not
so easy to get rid of. When they alighted upon the horse, we would
demolish them with the whip or with our felt hats, a proceeding the
horse soon came to understand and appreciate. The white and gray
Laurentian boulders lay along the roadside. The soil seemed as if made
up of decayed and pulverized rock, and doubtless contained very little
vegetable matter. It is so barren that it will never repay clearing and
cultivating.

Our course was an up-grade toward the highlands that separate the
watershed of St. John Lake from that of the St. Lawrence, and as we
proceeded the spruce became smaller and smaller till the trees were
seldom more than eight or ten inches in diameter. Nearly all of them
terminated in a dense tuft at the top, beneath which the stem would be
bare for several feet, giving them the appearance, my friend said, as
they stood sharply defined along the crests of the mountains, of cannon
swabs. Endless, interminable successions of these cannon swabs, each
just like its fellow, came and went, came and went, all day. Sometimes
we could see the road a mile or two ahead, and it was as lonely and
solitary as a path in the desert. Periods of talk and song and jollity
were succeeded by long stretches of silence. A buckboard upon such a
road does not conduce to a continuous flow of animal spirits. A good
brace for the foot and a good hold for the hand is one's main lookout
much of the time. We walked up the steeper hills, one of them nearly a
mile long, then clung grimly to the board during the rapid descent of
the other side.

We occasionally saw a solitary pigeon--in every instance a
cock--leading a forlorn life in the wood, a hermit of his kind, or
more probably a rejected and superfluous male. We came upon two or
three broods of spruce grouse in the road, so tame that one could have
knocked them over with poles. We passed many beautiful lakes; among
others, the Two Sisters, one on each side of the road. At noon we
paused at a lake in a deep valley, and fed the horse and had lunch. I
was not long in getting ready my fishing tackle, and, upon a raft made
of two logs pinned together, floated out upon the lake and quickly took
all the trout we wanted.

Early in the afternoon we entered upon what is called _La Grande
Brûlure,_ or Great Burning, and to the desolation of living woods
succeeded the greater desolation of a blighted forest. All the
mountains and valleys, as far as the eye could see, had been swept by
the fire, and the bleached and ghostly skeletons of the trees alone met
the gaze. The fire had come over from the Saguenay, a hundred or more
miles to the east, seven or eight years before, and had consumed or
blasted everything in its way. We saw the skull of a moose said to have
perished in the fire. For three hours we rode through this valley and
shadow of death. In the midst of it, where the trees had nearly all
disappeared, and where the ground was covered with coarse wild grass,
we came upon the Morancy River, a placid yellow stream twenty or
twenty-five yards wide, abounding with trout. We walked a short
distance along its banks and peered curiously into its waters. The
mountains on either hand had been burned by the fire until in places
their great granite bones were bare and white.

At another point we were within ear-shot, for a mile or more, of a
brawling stream in the valley below us, and now and then caught a
glimpse of foaming rapids or cascades through the dense spruce,--a
trout stream that probably no man had ever fished, as it would be quite
impossible to do so in such a maze and tangle of woods.

We neither met, nor passed, nor saw any travelers till late in the
afternoon, when we descried far ahead a man on horseback. It was a
welcome relief. It was like a sail at sea. When he saw us he drew rein
and awaited our approach. He, too, had probably tired of the solitude
and desolation of the road. He proved to be a young Canadian going to
join the gang of workmen at the farther end of the road.

About four o'clock we passed another small lake, and in a few moments
more drew up at the bridge over the Jacques Cartier River, and our
forty-mile ride was finished. There was a stable here that had been
used by the road-builders, and was now used by the teams that hauled in
their supplies. This would do for the horse; a snug log shanty built by
an old trapper and hunter for use in the winter, a hundred yards below
the bridge, amid the spruces on the bank of the river, when rebedded
and refurnished, would do for us. The river at this point was a swift,
black stream from thirty to forty feet wide, with a strength and a
bound like a moose. It was not shrunken and emaciated, like similar
streams in a cleared country, but full, copious, and strong. Indeed,
one can hardly realize how the lesser water-courses have suffered by
the denuding of the land of its forest covering, until he goes into the
primitive woods and sees how bounding and athletic they are there. They
are literally well fed, and their measure of life is full. In fact, a
trout brook is as much a thing of the woods as a moose or deer, and
will not thrive well in the open country.

Three miles above our camp was Great Lake Jacques Cartier, the source
of the river, a sheet of water nine miles long and from one to three
wide; fifty rods below was Little Lake Jacques Cartier, an irregular
body about two miles across. Stretching away on every hand, bristling
on the mountains and darkling in the valleys, was the illimitable
spruce woods. The moss in them covered the ground nearly knee-deep, and
lay like newly fallen snow, hiding rocks and logs, filling depressions,
and muffling the foot. When it was dry, one could find a most
delightful couch anywhere.

The spruce seems to have colored the water, which is a dark amber
color, but entirely sweet and pure. There needed no better proof of the
latter fact than the trout with which it abounded, and their clear and
vivid tints. In its lower portions near the St. Lawrence, the Jacques
Cartier River is a salmon stream, but these fish have never been found
as near its source as we were, though there is no apparent reason why
they should not be.

There is perhaps no moment in the life of an angler fraught with so
much eagerness and impatience as when he first finds himself upon the
bank of a new and long-sought stream. When I was a boy and used to go
a-fishing, I could seldom restrain my eagerness after I arrived in
sight of the brook or pond, and must needs run the rest of the way.
Then the delay in rigging my tackle was a trial my patience was never
quite equal to. After I had made a few casts, or had caught one fish, I
could pause and adjust my line properly. I found some remnant of the
old enthusiasm still in me when I sprang from the buckboard that
afternoon and saw the strange river rushing by. I would have given
something if my tackle had been rigged so that I could have tried on
the instant the temper of the trout that had just broken the surface
within easy reach of the shore. But I had anticipated this moment
coming along, and had surreptitiously undone my rod-case and got my
reel out of my bag, and was therefore a few moments ahead of my
companion in making the first cast. The trout rose readily, and almost
too soon we had more than enough for dinner, though no "rod-smashers"
had been seen or felt. Our experience the next morning, and during the
day and the next morning, in the lake, in the rapids, in the pools, was
about the same: there was a surfeit of trout eight or ten inches long,
though we rarely kept any under ten, but the big fish were lazy and
would not rise; they were in the deepest water and did not like to get
up.

The third day, in the afternoon, we had our first and only thorough
sensation in the shape of a big trout. It came none too soon. The
interest had begun to flag. But one big fish a week will do. It is a
pinnacle of delight in the angler's experience that he may well be
three days in working up to, and, once reached, it is three days down
to the old humdrum level again. At least it is with me. It was a dull,
rainy day; the fog rested low upon the mountains, and the time hung
heavily on our hands. About three o'clock the rain slackened and we
emerged from our den, Joe going to look after his horse, which had
eaten but little since coming into the woods, the poor creature was so
disturbed by the loneliness and the black flies; I, to make
preparations for dinner, while my companion lazily took his rod and
stepped to the edge of the big pool in front of camp. At the first
introductory cast, and when his fly was not fifteen feet from him upon
the water, there was a lunge and a strike, and apparently the fisherman
had hooked a boulder. I was standing a few yards below, engaged in
washing out the coffee-pail, when I heard him call out:--

"I have got him now!"

"Yes, I see you have," said I, noticing his bending pole and moveless
line; "when I am through, I will help you get loose."

"No, but I'm not joking," said he; "I have got a big fish."

I looked up again, but saw no reason to change my impression, and kept
on with my work.

It is proper to say that my companion was a novice at fly-fishing,
never having cast a fly till upon this trip.

Again he called out to me, but, deceived by his coolness and nonchalant
tones, and by the lethargy a glimpse of the fish, I gave little heed.
of the fish, I gave little heed. I knew very well that, if I had struck
a fish that held me down in that way, I should have been going through
a regular war-dance on that circle of boulder-tops, and should have
scared the game into activity if the hook had failed to wake him up.
But as the farce continued I drew near.

"Does that look like a stone or a log?" said my friend, pointing to his
quivering line, slowly cutting the current up toward the centre of the
pool.

My skepticism vanished in an instant, and I could hardly keep my place
on the top of the rock.

"I can feel him breathe," said the now warming fisherman; "just feel
of that pole!"

I put my eager hand upon the butt, and could easily imagine I felt the
throb or pant of something alive down there in the black depths. But
whatever it was moved about like a turtle. My companion was praying to
hear his reel spin, but it gave out now and then only a few hesitating
clicks. Still the situation was excitingly dramatic, and we were all
actors. I rushed for the landing-net, but being unable to find it,
shouted desperately for Joe, who came hurrying back, excited before he
had learned what the matter was. The net had been left at the lake
below, and must be had with the greatest dispatch. In the mean time I
skipped about from boulder to boulder as the fish worked this way or
that about the pool, peering into the water to catch a glimpse of him,
for he had begun to yield a little to the steady strain that was kept
upon him. Presently I saw a shadowy, unsubstantial something just
emerge from the black depths, then vanish. Then I saw it again, and
this time the huge proportions of the fish were faintly outlined by the
white facings of his fins. The sketch lasted but a twinkling; it was
only a flitting shadow upon a darker background, but it gave me the
profoundest Ike Walton thrill I ever experienced. I had been a fisher
from my earliest boyhood. I came from a race of fishers; trout streams
gurgled about the roots of the family tree, and there was a long
accumulated and transmitted tendency and desire in me that that sight
gratified. I did not wish the pole in my own hands; there was quite
enough electricity overflowing from it and filling the air for me. The
fish yielded more and more to the relentless pole, till, in about
fifteen minutes from the time he was struck, he came to the surface,
then made a little whirlpool where he disappeared again.

But presently he was up a second time, and lashing the water into foam
as the angler led him toward the rock upon which I was perched net in
hand. As I reached toward him, down he went again, and, taking another
circle of the pool, came up still more exhausted, when, between his
paroxysms, I carefully ran the net over him and lifted him ashore,
amid, it is needless to say, the wildest enthusiasm of the spectators.
The congratulatory laughter of the loons down on the lake showed how
even the outsiders sympathized. Much larger trout have been taken in
these waters and in others, but this fish would have swallowed any
three we had ever before caught.

"What does he weigh?" was the natural inquiry of each; and we took
turns "hefting" him. But gravity was less potent to us just then than
usual, and the fish seemed astonishingly light.

"Four pounds," we said; but Joe said more. So we improvised a scale: a
long strip of board was balanced across a stick, and our groceries
served as weights. A four-pound package of sugar kicked the beam
quickly; a pound of coffee was added; still it went up; then a pound of
tea, and still the fish had a little the best of it. But we called it
six pounds, not to drive too sharp a bargain with fortune, and were
more than satisfied. Such a beautiful creature! marked in every respect
like a trout of six inches. We feasted our eyes upon him for half an
hour. We stretched him upon the ground and admired him; we laid him
across a log and withdrew a few paces and admired him; we hung him
against the shanty, and turned our heads from side to side as women do
when they are selecting dress goods, the better to take in the full
force of the effect.

He graced the board or stump that afternoon, and was the sweetest
fish we had taken. The flesh was a deep salmon-color and very rich.
We had before discovered that there were two varieties of trout
in these waters, irrespective of size,--the red-fleshed and the
white-fleshed,--and that the former were the better.

This success gave an impetus to our sport that carried us through the
rest of the week finely. We had demonstrated that there were big trout
here, and that they would rise to a fly. Henceforth big fish were
looked to as a possible result of every excursion. To me, especially,
the desire at least to match my companion, who had been my pupil in the
art, was keen and constant. We built a raft of logs and upon it I
floated out upon the lake, whipping its waters right and left, morning,
noon, and night. Many fine trout came to my hand, and were released
because they did not fill the bill.

The lake became my favorite resort, while my companion preferred rather
the shore or the long still pool above, where there was a rude
makeshift of a boat, made of common box-boards.

Upon the lake you had the wildness and solitude at arm's length, and
could better take their look and measure. You became something apart
from them; you emerged and had a vantage-ground like that of a mountain
peak, and could contemplate them at your ease. Seated upon my raft and
slowly carried by the current or drifted by the breeze, I had many a
long, silent look into the face of the wilderness, and found the
communion good. I was alone with the spirit of the forest-bound lakes,
and felt its presence and magnetism. I played hide-and-seek with it
about the nooks and corners, and lay in wait for it upon a little
island crowned with a clump of trees that was moored just to one side
of the current near the head of the lake.

Indeed, there is no depth of solitude that the mind does not endow with
some human interest. As in a dead silence the ear is filled with its
own murmur, so amid these aboriginal scenes one's feelings and
sympathies become external to him, as it were, and he holds converse
with them. Then a lake is the ear as well as the eye of a forest. It is
the place to go to listen and ascertain what sounds are abroad in the
air. They all run quickly thither and report. If any creature had
called in the forest for miles about, I should have heard it. At times
I could hear the distant roar of water off beyond the outlet of the
lake. The sound of the vagrant winds purring here and there in the tops
of the spruces reached my ear. A breeze would come slowly down the
mountain, then strike the lake, and I could see its footsteps
approaching by the changed appearance of the water. How slowly the
winds move at times, sauntering like one on a Sunday walk! A breeze
always enlivens the fish; a dead calm and all pennants sink, your
activity with your fly is ill-timed, and you soon take the hint and
stop. Becalmed upon my raft, I observed, as I have often done before,
that the life of Nature ebbs and flows, comes and departs, in these
wilderness scenes; one moment her stage is thronged and the next quite
deserted. Then there is a wonderful unity of movement in the two
elements, air and water. When there is much going on in one, there is
quite sure to be much going on in the other. You have been casting,
perhaps, for an hour with scarcely a jump or any sign of life anywhere
about you, when presently the breeze freshens and the trout begin to
respond, and then of a sudden all the performers rush in: ducks come
sweeping by; loons laugh and wheel overhead, then approach the water on
a long, gentle incline, plowing deeper and deeper into its surface,
until their momentum is arrested, or converted into foam; the fish hawk
screams; the bald eagle goes flapping by, and your eyes and hands are
full. Then the tide ebbs, and both fish and fowl are gone.

Patiently whipping the waters of the lake from my rude float, I became
an object of great interest to the loons. I had never seen these birds
before in their proper habitat, and the interest was mutual. When they
had paused on the Hudson during their spring and fall migrations, I had
pursued them in my boat to try to get near them. Now the case was
reversed; I was the interloper now, and they would come out and study
me. Sometimes six or eight of them would be swimming about watching my
movements, but they were wary and made a wide circle. One day one of
their number volunteered to make a thorough reconnoissance. I saw him
leave his comrades and swim straight toward me. He came bringing first
one eye to bear upon me, then the other. When about half the distance
was passed over he began to waver and hesitate. To encourage him I
stopped casting, and taking off my hat began to wave it slowly to and
fro, as in the act of fanning myself. This started him again,--this was
a new trait in the creature that he must scrutinize more closely. On he
came, till all his markings were distinctly seen. With one hand I
pulled a little revolver from my hip pocket, and when the loon was
about fifty yards distant, and had begun to sidle around me, I fired:
at the flash I saw two webbed feet twinkle in the air, and the loon was
gone! Lead could not have gone down so quickly. The bullet cut across
the circles where he disappeared. In a few moments he reappeared a
couple of hundred yards away. "Ha-ha-ha-a-a," said he, "ha-ha-ha-a-a,"
and "ha-ha-ha-a-a," said his comrades, who had been looking on; and
"ha-ha-ha-a-a," said we all, echo included. He approached a second
time, but not so closely, and when I began to creep back toward the
shore with my heavy craft, pawing the water first upon one side, then
the other, he followed, and with ironical laughter witnessed my efforts
to stem the current at the head of the lake. I confess it was enough to
make a more solemn bird than the loon laugh, but it was no fun for me,
and generally required my last pound of steam.

The loons flew back and forth from one lake to the other, and their
voices were about the only notable wild sounds to be heard.

One afternoon, quite unexpectedly, I struck my big fish in the head of
the lake. I was first advised of his approach by two or three trout
jumping clear from the water to get out of his lordship's way. The
water was not deep just there, and he swam so near the surface that his
enormous back cut through. With a swirl he swept my fly under and
turned.

My hook was too near home, and my rod too near a perpendicular to
strike well. More than that, my presence of mind came near being
unhorsed by the sudden apparition of the fish. If I could have had a
moment's notice, or if I had not seen the monster, I should have fared
better and the fish worse. I struck, but not with enough decision, and,
before I could reel up, my empty hook came back. The trout had carried
it in his jaws till the fraud was detected, and then spat it out. He
came a second time and made a grand commotion in the water, but not in
my nerves, for I was ready then, but failed to take the fly, and so to
get his weight and beauty in these pages. As my luck failed me at the
last, I will place my loss at the full extent of the law, and claim
that nothing less than a ten-pounder was spirited away from my hand
that day. I might not have saved him, netless as I was upon my cumbrous
raft; but I should at least have had the glory of the fight, and the
consolation of the fairly vanquished.

These trout are not properly lake trout, but the common brook trout.
The largest ones are taken with live bait through the ice in winter.
The Indians and the _habitans_ bring them out of the woods from here
and from Snow Lake, on their toboggans, from two and a half to three
feet long. They have kinks and ways of their own. About half a mile
above camp we discovered a deep oval bay to one side of the main
current of the river, that evidently abounded in big fish. Here they
disported themselves. It was a favorite feeding-ground, and late every
afternoon the fish rose all about it, making those big ripples the
angler delights to see. A trout, when he comes to the surface, starts a
ring about his own length in diameter; most of the rings in the pool,
when the eye caught them, were like barrel hoops, but the haughty trout
ignored all our best efforts; not one rise did we get. We were told of
this pool on our return to Quebec, and that other anglers had a similar
experience there. But occasionally some old fisherman, like a great
advocate who loves a difficult case, would set his wits to work and
bring into camp an enormous trout taken there.

I had been told in Quebec that I would not see a bird in the woods, not
a feather of any kind. But I knew I should, though they were not
numerous. I saw and heard a bird nearly every day, on the tops of the
trees about, that I think was one of the crossbills. The kingfisher was
there ahead of us with his loud clicking reel. The osprey was there,
too, and I saw him abusing the bald eagle, who had probably just robbed
him of a fish. The yellow-rumped warbler I saw, and one of the kinglets
was leading its lisping brood about through the spruces. In every
opening the white-throated sparrow abounded, striking up his clear
sweet whistle, at times so loud and sudden that one's momentary
impression was that some farm boy was approaching, or was secreted
there behind the logs. Many times, amid those primitive solitudes, I
was quite startled by the human tone and quality of this whistle. It is
little more than a beginning; the bird never seems to finish the strain
suggested. The Canada jay was there also, very busy about some
important private matter.

One lowery morning, as I was standing in camp, I saw a lot of ducks
borne swiftly down by the current around the bend in the river a few
rods above. They saw me at the same instant and turned toward the
shore. On hastening up there, I found the old bird rapidly leading her
nearly grown brood through the woods, as if to go around our camp. As I
pursued them they ran squawking with outstretched stubby wings,
scattering right and left, and seeking a hiding-place under the logs
and débris. I captured one and carried it into camp. It was just what
Joe wanted; it would make a valuable decoy. So he kept it in a box, fed
it upon oats, and took it out of the woods with him.

We found the camp we had appropriated was a favorite stopping-place
of the carmen who hauled in supplies for the gang of two hundred
road-builders. One rainy day near nightfall no less than eight carts
drew up at the old stable, and the rain-soaked drivers, after picketing
and feeding their horses, came down to our fire. We were away, and Joe
met us on our return with the unwelcome news. We kept open house so far
as the fire was concerned; but our roof was a narrow one at the best,
and one or two leaky spots made it still narrower.

"We shall probably sleep out-of-doors to-night," said my companion,
"unless we are a match for this posse of rough teamsters."

But the men proved to be much more peaceably disposed than the same
class at home; they apologized for intruding, pleading the inclemency
of the weather, and were quite willing, with our permission, to take up
with pot-luck about the fire and leave us the shanty. They dried their
clothes upon poles and logs, and had their fun and their bantering amid
it all. An Irishman among them did about the only growling; he invited
himself into our quarters, and before morning had Joe's blanket about
him in addition to his own.

On Friday we made an excursion to Great Lake Jacques Cartier, paddling
and poling up the river in the rude box-boat. It was a bright, still
morning after the rain, and everything had a new, fresh appearance.
Expectation was ever on tiptoe as each turn in the river opened a new
prospect before us. How wild, and shaggy, and silent it was! What
fascinating pools, what tempting stretches of trout-haunted water! Now
and then we would catch a glimpse of long black shadows starting away
from the boat and shooting through the sunlit depths. But no sound or
motion on shore was heard or seen. Near the lake we came to a long,
shallow rapid, when we pulled off our shoes and stockings, and, with
our trousers rolled above our knees, towed the boat up it, wincing and
cringing amid the sharp, slippery stones. With benumbed feet and legs
we reached the still water that forms the stem of the lake, and
presently saw the arms of the wilderness open and the long deep blue
expanse in their embrace. We rested and bathed, and gladdened our eyes
with the singularly beautiful prospect. The shadows of summer clouds
were slowly creeping up and down the sides of the mountains that hemmed
it in. On the far eastern shore, near the head, banks of what was
doubtless white sand shone dimly in the sun, and the illusion that
there was a town nestled there haunted my mind constantly. It was like
a section of the Hudson below the Highlands, except that these waters
were bluer and colder, and these shores darker, than even those Sir
Hendrik first looked upon; but surely, one felt, a steamer will round
that point presently, or a sail drift into view! We paddled a mile or
more up the east shore, then across to the west, and found such
pleasure in simply gazing upon the scene that our rods were quite
neglected. We did some casting after a while, but raised no fish of any
consequence till we were in the outlet again, when they responded so
freely that the "disgust of trout" was soon upon us.

At the rapids, on our return, as I was standing to my knees in the
swift, cold current, and casting into a deep hole behind a huge boulder
that rose four or five feet above the water amidstream, two trout, one
of them a large one, took my flies, and, finding the fish and the
current united too strong for my tackle, I sought to gain the top of
the boulder, in which attempt I got wet to my middle and lost my fish.
After I had gained the rock, I could not get away again with my clothes
on without swimming, which, to say nothing of wet garments the rest of
the way home, I did not like to do amid those rocks and swift currents;
so, after a vain attempt to communicate with my companion above the
roar of the water, I removed my clothing, left it together with my
tackle upon the rock, and by a strong effort stemmed the current and
reached the shore. The boat was a hundred yards above, and when I
arrived there my teeth were chattering with the cold, my feet were numb
with bruises, and the black flies were making the blood stream down my
back. We hastened back with the boat, and, by wading out into the
current again and holding it by a long rope, it swung around with my
companion aboard, and was held in the eddy behind the rock. I clambered
up, got my clothes on, and we were soon shooting downstream toward
home; but the winter of discontent that shrouded one half of me made
sad inroads upon the placid feeling of a day well spent that enveloped
the other, all the way to camp.

That night something carried off all our fish,--doubtless a fisher or
lynx, as Joe had seen an animal of some kind about camp that day.

I must not forget the two red squirrels that frequented the camp during
our stay, and that were so tame they would approach within a few feet
of us and take the pieces of bread or fish tossed to them. When a
particularly fine piece of hard-tack was secured, they would spin off
to their den with it somewhere near by.

Caribou abound in these woods, but we saw only their tracks; and of
bears, which are said to be plentiful, we saw no signs.

Saturday morning we packed up our traps and started on our return, and
found that the other side of the spruce-trees and the vista of the
lonely road going south were about the same as coming north. But we
understood the road better and the buck-board better, and our load was
lighter, hence the distance was more easily accomplished.

I saw a solitary robin by the roadside, and wondered what could have
brought this social and half-domesticated bird so far into these wilds.
In La Grande Brûlure, a hermit thrush perched upon a dry tree in a
swampy place and sang most divinely. We paused to listen to his clear,
silvery strain poured out without stint upon that unlistening solitude.
I was half persuaded I had heard him before on first entering the
woods.

We nooned again at No Man's Inn on the banks of a trout lake, and fared
well and had no reckoning to pay. Late in the afternoon we saw a lonely
pedestrian laboring up a hill far ahead of us. When he heard us coming
he leaned his back against the bank, and was lighting his pipe as we
passed. He was an old man, an Irishman, and looked tired. He had come
from the farther end of the road, fifty miles distant, and had thirty
yet before him to reach town. He looked the dismay he evidently felt
when, in answer to his inquiry, we told him it was yet ten miles to the
first house, La Chance's. But there was a roof nearer than that, where
he doubtless passed the night, for he did not claim hospitality at the
cabin of La Chance. We arrived there betimes, but found the "spare bed"
assigned to other guests; so we were comfortably lodged upon the
haymow. One of the boys lighted us up with a candle and made level
places for us upon the hay.

La Chance was one of the game wardens, or constables appointed by the
government to see the game laws enforced. Joe had not felt entirely at
his ease about the duck he was surreptitiously taking to town, and
when, by its "quack, quack," it called upon La Chance for protection,
he responded at once. Joe was obliged to liberate it then and there,
and to hear the law read and expounded, and be threatened till he
turned pale beside. It was evident that they follow the home government
in the absurd practice of enforcing their laws in Canada. La Chance
said he was under oath not to wink at or permit any violation of the
law, and seemed to think that made a difference.

We were off early in the morning, and before we had gone two miles met
a party from Quebec who--must have been driving nearly all night to
give the black flies an early breakfast. Before long a slow rain set
in; we saw another party who had taken refuge in a house in a grove.
When the rain had become so brisk that we began to think of seeking
shelter ourselves, we passed a party of young men and boys--sixteen of
them--in a cart turning back to town, water-soaked and heavy (for the
poor horse had all it could pull), but merry and good-natured. We
paused awhile at the farmhouse where we had got our hay on going out,
were treated to a drink of milk and some wild red cherries, and when
the rain slackened drove on, and by ten o'clock saw the city eight
miles distant, with the sun shining upon its steep tinned roofs.

The next morning we set out by steamer for the Saguenay, and entered
upon the second phase of our travels, but with less relish than we
could have wished. Scenery hunting is the least satisfying pursuit I
have ever engaged in. What one sees in his necessary travels, or doing
his work, or going a-fishing, seems worth while, but the famous view
you go out in cold blood to admire is quite apt to elude you. Nature
loves to enter a door another hand has opened; a mountain view, or a
waterfall, I have noticed, never looks better than when one has just
been warmed up by the capture of a big trout. If we had been bound for
some salmon stream up the Saguenay, we should perhaps have possessed
that generous and receptive frame of mind-that open house of the
heart--which makes one "eligible to any good fortune," and the grand
scenery would have come in as fit sauce to the salmon. An adventure,
a bit of experience of some kind, is what one wants when he goes
forth to admire woods and waters,--something to create a draught and
make the embers of thought and feeling brighten. Nature, like certain
wary game, is best taken by seeming to pass by her intent on other
matters.

But without any such errand, or occupation, or indirection, we managed
to extract considerable satisfaction from the view of the lower St.
Lawrence and the Saguenay.

We had not paid the customary visit to the falls of the Montmorenci,
but we shall see them after all, for before we are a league from Quebec
they come into view on the left. A dark glen or chasm there at the end
of the Beauport Slopes seems suddenly to have put on a long white
apron. By intently gazing, one can see the motion and falling of the
water, though it is six or seven miles away. There is no sign of the
river above or below but this trembling white curtain of foam and
spray.

It was very sultry when we left Quebec, but about noon we struck much
clearer and cooler air, and soon after ran into an immense wave or puff
of fog that came drifting up the river and set all the fog-guns booming
along shore. We were soon through it into clear, crisp space, with room
enough for any eye to range in. On the south the shores of the great
river appear low and uninteresting, but on the north they are bold and
striking enough to make it up,--high, scarred, unpeopled mountain
ranges the whole way. The points of interest to the eye in the broad
expanse of water were the white porpoises that kept rolling, rolling in
the distance, all day. They came up like the perimeter of a great wheel
that turns slowly and then disappears. From mid-forenoon we could see
far ahead an immense column of yellow smoke rising up and flattening
out upon the sky and stretching away beyond the horizon. Its form was
that of some aquatic plant that shoots a stem up through the water, and
spreads its broad leaf upon the surface. This smoky lily-pad must have
reached nearly to Maine. It proved to be in the Indian country in the
mountains beyond the mouth of the Saguenay, and must have represented
an immense destruction of forest timber.

The steamer is two hours crossing the St. Lawrence from Rivière du Loup
to Tadousac. The Saguenay pushes a broad sweep of dark blue water down
into its mightier brother that is sharply defined from the deck of the
steamer. The two rivers seem to touch, but not to blend, so proud and
haughty is this chieftain from the north. On the mountains above
Tadousac one could see banks of sand left by the ancient seas. Naked
rock and sterile sand are all the Tadousacker has to make his garden
of, so far as I observed. Indeed, there is no soil along the Saguenay
until you get to Ha-ha Bay, and then there is not much, and poor
quality at that.

What the ancient fires did not burn the ancient seas have washed away.
I overheard an English resident say to a Yankee tourist, "You will
think you are approaching the end of the world up here." It certainly
did suggest something apocryphal or antemundane,--a segment of the moon
or of a cleft asteroid, matter dead or wrecked. The world-builders must
have had their foundry up in this neighborhood, and the bed of this
river was doubtless the channel through which the molten granite
flowed. Some mischief-loving god has let in the sea while things were
yet red-hot, and there has been a time here. But the channel still
seems filled with water from the mid-Atlantic, cold and blue-black, and
in places between seven and eight thousand feet deep (one and a half
miles). In fact, the enormous depth of the Saguenay is one of the
wonders of physical geography. It is as great a marvel in its way as
Niagara.

The ascent of the river is made by night, and the traveler finds
himself in Ha-ha Bay in the morning. The steamer lies here several
hours before starting on her return trip, and takes in large quantities
of white birch wood, as she does also at Tadousac. The chief product of
the country seemed to be huckleberries, of which large quantities are
shipped to Quebec in rude board boxes holding about a peck each. Little
girls came aboard or lingered about the landing with cornucopias of
birch-bark filled with red raspberries; five cents for about half a
pint was the usual price. The village of St. Alphonse, where the
steamer tarries, is a cluster of small, humble dwellings dominated,
like all Canadian villages, by an immense church. Usually the church
will hold all the houses in the village; pile them all up and they
would hardly equal it in size; it is the one conspicuous object, and is
seen afar; and on the various lines of travel one sees many more
priests than laymen. They appear to be about the only class that stir
about and have a good time. Many of the houses were covered with
birch-bark,--the canoe birch,--held to its place by perpendicular
strips of board or split poles.

A man with a horse and a buckboard persuaded us to give him twenty-five
cents each to take us two miles up the St. Alphonse River to see the
salmon jump. There is a high saw-mill dam there which every salmon in
his upward journey tries his hand at leaping. A raceway has been
constructed around the dam for their benefit, which it seems they do
not use till they have repeatedly tried to scale the dam. The day
before our visit three dead fish were found in the pool below, killed
by too much jumping. Those we saw had the jump about all taken out of
them; several did not get more than half their length out of the water,
and occasionally only an impotent nose would protrude from the foam.
One fish made a leap of three or four feet and landed on an apron of
the dam and tumbled helplessly back; he shot up like a bird and rolled
back like a clod. This was the only view of salmon, the buck of the
rivers, we had on our journey.

It was a bright and flawless midsummer day that we sailed down the
Saguenay, and nothing was wanting but a good excuse for being there.
The river was as lonely as the St. John's road; not a sail or a
smokestack the whole sixty-five miles. The scenery culminates at Cape
Trinity, where the rocks rise sheer from the water to a height of
eighteen hundred feet. This view dwarfed anything I had ever before
seen. There is perhaps nothing this side the Yosemite chasm that equals
it, and, emptied of its water, this chasm would far surpass that famous
cañon, as the river here is a mile and a quarter deep. The bald eagle
nests in the niches in the precipice secure from any intrusion. Immense
blocks of the rock had fallen out, leaving areas of shadow and clinging
overhanging masses that were a terror and fascination to the eye. There
was a great fall a few years ago, just as the steamer had passed from
under and blown her whistle to awake the echoes. The echo came back,
and with it a part of the mountain that astonished more than it
delighted the lookers-on. The pilot took us close around the base of
the precipice that we might fully inspect it. And here my eyes played
me a trick the like of which they had never done before. One of the
boys of the steamer brought to the forward deck his hands full of
stones, that the curious ones among the passengers might try how easy
it was to throw one ashore. "Any girl ought to do it," I said to
myself, after a man had tried and had failed to clear half the
distance. Seizing a stone, I cast it with vigor and confidence, and as
much expected to see it smite the rock as I expected to live. "It is a
good while getting there," I mused, as I watched its course: down,
down it went; there, it will ring upon the granite in half a breath;
no, down--into the water, a little more than halfway! "Has my arm lost
its cunning?" I said, and tried again and again, but with like result.
The eye was completely at fault. There was a new standard of size
before it to which it failed to adjust itself. The rock is so enormous
and towers so above you that you get the impression it is much nearer
than it actually is. When the eye is full it says, "Here we are," and
the hand is ready to prove the fact; but in this case there is an
astonishing discrepancy between what the eye reports and what the hand
finds out.

Cape Eternity, the wife of this colossus, stands across a chasm through
which flows a small tributary of the Saguenay, and is a head or two
shorter, as becomes a wife, and less rugged and broken in outline.

From Rivière du Loup, where we passed the night and ate our first
"Tommy-cods," our thread of travel makes a big loop around New
Brunswick to St. John, thence out and down through Maine to Boston,--a
thread upon which many delightful excursions and reminiscences might be
strung. We traversed the whole of the valley of the Metapedia, and
passed the doors of many famous salmon streams and rivers, and heard
everywhere the talk they inspire; one could not take a nap in the car
for the excitement of the big fish stories he was obliged to overhear.

The Metapedia is a most enticing-looking stream; its waters are as
colorless as melted snow; I could easily have seen the salmon in it as
we shot along, if they had come out from their hiding-places. It was
the first white-water stream we had seen since leaving the Catskills;
for all the Canadian streams are black or brown, either from the iron
in the soil or from the leechings of the spruce swamps. But in New
Brunswick we saw only these clear, silver-shod streams; I imagined they
had a different ring or tone also. The Metapedia is deficient in good
pools in its lower portions; its limpid waters flowing with a tranquil
murmur over its wide, evenly paved bed for miles at a stretch. The
salmon pass over these shallows by night and rest in the pools by day.
The Restigouche, which it joins, and which is a famous salmon stream
and the father of famous salmon streams, is of the same complexion and
a delight to look upon. There is a noted pool where the two join, and
one can sit upon the railroad bridge and count the noble fish in the
lucid depths below. The valley here is fertile, and has a cultivated,
well-kept look.

We passed the Jacquet, the Belledune, the Nepissisquit, the Miramichi
("happy retreat") in the night, and have only their bird-call names to
report.



INDEX


Anemone.

Angler, a born; eagerness of the.

Arbutus.

Asters.

Audubon, John James.

Aurora borealis, an.

Balsam Lake.

Barrington, Daines, his table of English song-birds.

Basswood, _or_ linden.

Bear, black.

Beaverkill, the; trouting on.

Bee. _See_ Bumblebee _and_ Honeybee.

Berries.

Berrying.

Big Ingin River.

Birch, yellow.

Birds, eyes of; imperfect singers among; human significance of; songs
of English; relative pugnaciousness of English and American; species
common to Europe and America; small and large editions of various
species of; their ingenuity in the concealment of their nests.

Birds of prey.

Biscuit Brook.

Blackbird, European; notes of.

Blackbird, red-winged. _See_ Starling, red-shouldered.

Bloodroot.

Bluebird (_Sialia sialis_), struggling with a cicada; courting; cares
of housekeeping; and screech owl; notes of; nest of.

Blunder-heads.

Bobolink (_Dolichonyx oryzivorus_); song of.

Boy.

Brooks. _See_ Trout streams.

Buckwheat.

Bumble-bee.

Bunting, European, notes of.

Bunting, indigo. _See_ Indigo-bird.

Bunting, snow, or snowflake (_Passerina nivalis_).

Butcher-bird, or northern shrike (_Lanius borealis_); appearance and
habits of; notes of. _See_ Shrike.

Buttercup.

Camp, a thunder-storm in; in the rain; books in.

Camp-fire, the.

Camping, by trout stream and lake; in a log stable; pleasures and
discomforts of; in the Catskills; thoughts of the camper; in Canada.

Canada, an excursion in; dwelling-houses in; churches in.

Cape Eternity.

Cape Trinity.

Caribou.

Catbird (_Galeoscoptes carolinensis_), song of.

Catfish and snake.

Catnip.

Catskill Mountains, camping in.

Cattle, in Canada.

Cedar-bird, _or_ cedar waxwing (_Ampelis cedrorum_), a small edition
of the Bohemian waxwing; plumage of; notes of.

Chickadee (_Parus atricapillus_); notes of.

Chipmunk, frightened by a shrike; stealing strawberries; playing tag;
never more than one jump from home.

Clouds, natural history of; rain-clouds and wind-clouds.

Clover, red.

Clover, white.

Coon. _See_ Raccoon.

Corn, Indian.

Corydalis.

Crossbills.

Crow, American (_Corvus brachyrhynchos_); notes of.

Crow, fish (_Corvus ossifragus_), a sneak thief.

Cuckoo (_Coccyzus_ sp.), parents, eggs, and young; breeding habits of;
appearance and habits of; notes of; nest of.

Cuckoo, European; in literature; notes of.

Daisy, ox-eye.

Dandelion.

Deer, Virginia.

Delaware River.

Dove, mourning (_Zenaidura macroura_).

Drought.

Ducks, wild, voices of.

Eagle, bald (_Haliaëtus leucocephalus_); nest of.

Esopus Creek.

Eyes, of man; of birds.

Farmer, an observing.

Farmers, their dependence on the weather; weather-wisdom of.

Fieldfare; notes of.

Finch, purple (_Carpodacus purpureus_), the alter ego of the pine
grosbeak; song of.

Fishing. _See_ Trout-fishing.

Flicker. _See_ High-hole.

Flies, black.

Flycatcher, great crested (_Myiarchus crinitus_); nest of.

Forest, a spruce; a burnt.

Fox, red, bark of.

French Canadians.

Ghost story, a.

Girl's voice, a.

Goethe, on the weather.

Goldenrod.

Goldfinch, American (_Astragalinus tristis_), a shrike in a flock of.

Goose, wild _or_ Canada (_Branta canadensis_), notes of.

Grande Brûlure, La.

Greenfinch.

Grosbeak, blue (_Guiraca cærulea_), its resemblance to the indigo-bird;
song of; nest of.

Grosbeak, pine (_Pinicola enucleator leucura_); appearance and habits of;
song of.

Grouse, ruffed. _See_ Partridge.

Grouse, spruce _or_ Canada (_Canachites canadensis canace_).

Guide, a Canadian.

Hawk, worried by the kingbird. _See_ Hen-hawk.

Hawk, chicken, a provident.

Hawk, fish, _or_ American osprey (_Pandion haliaëtus carolinensis_).

Hen-hawk, a love passage; in cubating habits.

Hepatica.

Highfall Brook.

High-hole, _or_ golden-shafted woodpecker, _or_ flicker (_Colaptes
auratus luteus_), a household of; a tame young one; nest of.

Honey, as an article of food; with the ancients and in mythology; of
various countries.

Honey-bee, gathering honey and pollen; wax-making; life of the drone;
life of the queen; democratic government; description of queen and
drone; swarming; wildness of; favorite hives; mortality of; acuteness
of sight.

Honey-locust.

Horse-fly.

Hummingbird, ruby-throated (_Trochilus colubris_), strange death of a;
nest of.

Hyla, Pickering's, in the woods.

Indigo-bird, or indigo bunting (_Cyanospiza cyanea_), a petit duplicate
of the blue grosbeak; song of; nest of.

Jackdaw, nest of.

Jacques Cartier River, trouting on.

Jay, blue (_Cyanocitta cristata_); worrying a screech owl.

Jay, Canada (_Perisoreus canadensis_).

Jay, European, notes of.

Junco, slate-colored. _See_ Snowbird.

Kingbird (_Tyrannus tyrannus_), worrying hawks.

Kingfisher, belted (_Ceryle alcyon_); notes of; nest of.

Kinglet (_Regulus sp._).

La Chance.

Lake, nature as seen from a; life in and about a.

Lake Jacques Cartier, Great; an excursion to.

Lake Jacques Cartier, Little; trout-fishing in.

Lake Memphremagog.

Lake St. John.

Lark. _See_ Skylark.

Lark, shore _or_ horned (_Otocoris alpestris_).

Ledges, the fascination of.

Lily, spotted.

Linden. _See_ Basswood.

Locusts, as an article of food.

Longspur, Lapland (_Calcarius lapponicus_).

Loon (_Gavia imber_); laughter of.

Maiden, a backwoods.

Maple, red.

Maple, sugar.

Marigold, marsh.

Marmot. _See_ Woodchuck.

Meadowlark (_Sturnella magna_).

Metapedia River.

Midges.

Mockingbird (_Mimus polyglottos_); song of.

Montmorenci, Falls of.

Moose.

Morancy River.

Mountains, poetry of.

Mouse, common house.

Neversink River, trouting on; trouting on the East Branch of.

New Brunswick, journey through; streams of.

Nightingale, notes of.

Observation, powers and habits of.

Oriole, Baltimore (_Icterus galbula_), nest of.

Osprey, American. _See_ Hawk, fish.

Ouzel, ring.

Oven-bird (_Seiurus aurocapillus_).

Owl, screech (_Megascops asio_), worried by other birds; in captivity;
wail of.

Panther, American, cry of.

Partridge, _or_ ruffed grouse (_Bonasa umbellus_).

Peakamoose.

Pewee, wood (_Contopus virens_), notes of.

Phoebe-bird (_Sayornis phoebe_); nest of.

Pigeon, passenger (_Ectopistes migratorius_); nests of.

Pipit, American, _or_ titlark (_Anthus pensilvanicus_).

Porcupine, Canada, adventure with a; description of; his armor of
quills; at Balsam Lake.

Porpoise, white.

Quebec.

Raccoon, or coon, voice of; den of.

Rain, waves and pulsations of; history of; relaxing effect of;
necessary to the mind; after drought; importance to man of an
abundance; curious things reported to have fallen in; the formation of;
storms; effect of electricity on; in winter and spring; signs of; in
camp. _See_ Thunder-storms and Weather.

Raspberry, red.

Rat.

Rat, wood.

Redpoll (_Acanthis linaria_).

Redstart, European, nest of.

Redwing.

Restigouche River.

Rivière du Loup.

Robin, American (_Merula migratoria_); notes of.

Robin redbreast, song of.

Rondout Creek; camping and trouting on.

Rose.

Rye.

Saguenay River, scenery of.

St. Alphonse.

St. Lawrence; down the.

Salmon.

Sapsucker, yellow-bellied. _See_ Woodpecker, yellow-bellied.

Scenery-hunting.

Schoolhouse, a country.

Shakespeare, quotations from; power and beauty in his poetry.

Shanly, C. D., his poem, _The Walker of the Snow._

Shrike (_Lanius_ sp.).

Shrike, northern. _See_ Butcherbird.

Silkweed.

Skunk, den of.

Skylark, song of.

Snake, and catfish.

Snapdragon.

Snow, a sign of.

Snowbird, _or_ slate-colored junco (_Junco hyemalis_).

Snowflake. _See_ Bunting, snow.

Sparrow, English (_Passer domesticus_), a comedy; notes of.

Sparrow, reed, song of.

Sparrow, song (_Melospiza einerea melodia_), song of.

Sparrow, white-throated (_Zonotrichia albicollis_), song of.

Sparrows, songs of.

Spring-beauty.

Spruce, a Canadian forest of.

Squirrel, gray.

Squirrel, red; playing tag.

Starling, European, notes of; nest of.

Starling, red-shouldered, _or_ red-winged blackbird (_Agelaius
phoeniceus_).

Strawberries, Dr. Parr and Dr. Boteler on; praise of; odor of; Downer;
Wilson; wild; alpine; cultivation of.

Sumach.

Swallow, an albino.

Swallows, on damp days.

Swift, European, notes of.

Tadousac.

Tanager, scarlet (_Piranga erythromelas_), song of.

Thoreau, Henry D.; quotation from.

Throstle.

Thrush, hermit (_Hylocichla guttata pallasii_); song of.

Thrush, missel; pugnaciousness of; notes of.

Thrush, White's.

Thrush, wood (_Hylocichla mustelina_), song of.

Thunder-storms; in the woods.

Titlark. _See_ Pipit, American.

Tree-toads, young.

Trout, brook, markings of; of the Neversink; cannibals; of the
Beaverkill; jumping; of Balsam Lake; spawning of; of the Catskill
waters; an unsuccessful fight with a; a six-pound; two varieties in
Jacques Cartier River.

Trout-fishing, as an introduction to nature; the heart the proper bait
in; on the Neversink; on the Beaverkill; in Balsam Lake; pleasures and
discomforts of an excursion; on the Rondout; on the East Branch of the
Neversink; in Canada; catching a six-pounder.

Trout streams, beauties of; the ideal; at the headwaters of the
Delaware; clearness of; thriving only in the woods.

Violets.

Vireo, song of.

Vireo, red-eyed (_Vireo olivaceus_), song of.

_Walker of the Snow, The_, by C. D. Shanly.

Walking, benefits of.

Wallkill River.

Warbler, Blackburnian (Dendroica blackburniæ).

Warbler, black-throated blue (_Dendroica cærulescens_); finding the
nest and young of; notes of; nest of.

Warbler, Canada (_Wilsonia canadensis_).

Warbler, chestnut-sided (_Dendroica pensylvanica_).

Warbler, mourning (_Geothlypis philadelphia_).

Warbler, yellow-rumped or myrtle (_Dendroica coronata_), rescue of a.

Water, its importance in nature and in the life of man.

Water-wagtail, small, _or_ water-thrush (_Seiurus noveboracensis_).

Waxwing, Bohemian (_Ampelis garrulus_).

Waxwing, cedar. _See_ Cedar-bird.

Weather, the, the farmer's dependence on; human changeableness of;
getting into a rut; in literature; the law of alternation in; dry; laws
of. _See_ Rain and Thunder-storms.

Weather-breeders.

Weather-wisdom.

Wheat.

Whip-poor-will (_Antrostomus vociferus_), mother, eggs, and young; an
awkward walker; nest of.

White, Gilbert.

Whitethroat; notes of.

Whitman, Walt, quotation from.

Wilson, Alexander, quotation from.

Woodchuck, or marmot; hole of.

Wood-grouse.

Woodpecker, downy (_Dryobates pubescens medianus_).

Woodpecker, golden-shafted. _See_ High-hole.

Woodpecker, yellow-bellied, _or_ yellow-bellied sapsucker (_Sphyrapicus
varius_).

Wordsworth, William, quotations from; the poet of the mountains.

Wren, European, song of.

Wren, winter (_Olbiorchilus hiemalis_).

Wrens, songs of.





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