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Title: A Bird-Lover in the West
Author: Miller, Olive Thorne, 1831-1918
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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 A BIRD-LOVER IN THE WEST


 BY

 OLIVE THORNE MILLER



 BOSTON AND NEW YORK
 HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
 The Riverside Press, Cambridge
 1900



 Copyright, 1894,
 BY H. M. MILLER.

 _All rights reserved._


 _The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._
 Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.



INTRODUCTORY.


The studies in this volume were all made, as the title indicates, in the
West; part of them in Colorado (1891), in Utah (1893), and the remainder
(1892) in what I have called "The Middle Country," being Southern Ohio,
and West only relatively to New England and New York, where most of my
studies have been made.

Several chapters have appeared in the "Atlantic Monthly" and other
magazines, and in the "Independent" and "Harper's Bazar," while others
are now for the first time published.

 OLIVE THORNE MILLER.



CONTENTS.

 IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.

                                                                PAGE

     I. CAMPING IN COLORADO                                         3

    II. IN THE COTTONWOODS                                         17

           Western wood-pewee. _Contopus richardsonii._
           Western house wren. _Troglodytes aëdon aztecus._
           Towhee. _Pipilo erythrophthalmus._

   III. AN UPROAR OF SONG                                          32

           Western meadow-lark. _Sturnella magna neglecta._
           Horned lark. _Otocoris alpestris leucolæma._
           Yellow warbler. _Dendroica æstiva._
           Western wood-pewee. _Contopus richardsonii._
           Humming-bird. _Trochilus colubris._
           Long-tailed chat. _Icteria virens longicauda._

    IV. THE TRAGEDY OF A NEST                                      42

           Long-tailed chat. _Icteria virens longicauda._

     V. A FEAST OF FLOWERS                                         52

    VI. A CINDERELLA AMONG FLOWERS                                 60

   VII. CLIFF-DWELLERS IN THE CAÑON                                70

           Cañon wren. _Catherpes mexicanus conspersus._
           American dipper. _Cinclus mexicanus._


 IN THE MIDDLE COUNTRY.

  VIII. AT FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING                             95

           Purple grackle. _Quiscalus quiscula._
           Mourning dove. _Zenaidura macroura._
           Red-headed woodpecker. _Melanerpes erythrocephalus._
           Blue jay. _Cyanocitta cristata._
           Cardinal grosbeak. _Cardinalis cardinalis._
           American robin. _Merula migratoria._
           Golden-wing woodpecker. _Colaptes auratus._
           House sparrow. _Passer domesticus._

    IX. THE LITTLE REDBIRDS                                       113

           Cardinal grosbeak. _Cardinalis cardinalis._
           House sparrow. _Passer domesticus._

     X. THE CARDINAL'S NEST                                       119

           Cardinal grosbeak. _Cardinalis cardinalis._
           Bobolink. _Dolichonyx oryzivorus._
           Meadow-lark. _Sturnella magna._

    XI. LITTLE BOY BLUE                                           126

           Blue jay. _Cyanocitta cristata._

   XII. STORY OF THE NESTLINGS                                    136

           Blue jay. _Cyanocitta cristata._

  XIII. BLUE JAY MANNERS                                          144

           Blue jay. _Cyanocitta cristata._

   XIV. THE GREAT CAROLINIAN                                      154

           Great Carolina wren. _Thryothorus ludovicianus._
           Yellow-billed cuckoo. _Coccyzus americanus._
           Crested flycatcher. _Myiarchus crinitus._

    XV. THE WRENLINGS APPEAR                                      172
           Great Carolina wren. _Thryothorus ludovicianus._

   XVI. THE APPLE-TREE NEST                                       183

           Orchard oriole. _Icterus spurius._

  XVII. CEDAR-TREE LITTLE FOLK                                    194

           Mourning dove. _Zenaidura macroura._


 BESIDE THE GREAT SALT LAKE.

 XVIII. IN A PASTURE                                              207

           Louisiana tanager. _Piranga ludoviciana._
           Green-tailed towhee. _Pipilo chlorurus._
           Magpie. _Pica pica hudsonica._

   XIX. THE SECRET OF THE WILD ROSE PATH                          231

           Long-tailed chat. _Icteria virens longicauda._
           Western robin. _Merula migratoria propinqua._
           Black-headed grosbeak. _Habia melanocephala._

    XX. ON THE LAWN                                               259

           Lazuli-painted finch. _Passerina amœna._
           Broad-tailed humming-bird. _Trochilus platycercus._
           House sparrow. _Passer domesticus._



IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.

 Trust me, 't is something to be cast
 Face to face with one's self at last,
 To be taken out of the fuss and strife,
 The endless clatter of plate and knife,
   The bore of books, and the bores of the street,
 From the singular mess we agree to call Life.

        *       *       *       *       *

   And to be set down on one's own two feet
 So nigh to the great warm heart of God,
   You almost seem to feel it beat
 Down from the sunshine and up from the sod;
   To be compelled, as it were, to notice
 All the beautiful changes and chances
 Through which the landscape flits and glances,
     And to see how the face of common day
     Is written all over with tender histories.

 JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.



A BIRD-LOVER IN THE WEST.



I.

CAMPING IN COLORADO.


This chronicle of happy summer days with the birds and the flowers, at
the foot of the Rocky Mountains, begins in the month of May, in the year
eighteen hundred and ninety-two.

As my train rolled quietly out of Jersey City late at night, I uttered a
sigh of gratitude that I was really off; that at last I could rest. Up
to the final moment I had been hurried and worried, but the instant I
was alone, with my "section" to myself, I "took myself in hand," as is
my custom.

At the risk of seeming to stray very far from my subject, I want at this
point to say something about rest, the greatly desired state that all
busy workers are seeking, with such varying success.

A really re-creative recreation I sought for years, and

 "I've found some wisdom in my quest
 That's richly worth retailing,"

and that cannot be too often repeated, or too urgently insisted upon.
What is imperatively needed, the sole and simple secret of rest, is
this: To go to our blessed mother Nature, and to go with the whole
being, mind and heart as well as body. To deposit one's physical frame
in the most secret and sacred "garden of delights," and at the same time
allow the mind to be filled, and the thoughts to be occupied, with the
concerns of the world we live in year after year, is utterly useless;
for it is not the external, but the internal man that needs recreation;
it is not the body, but the spirit that demands refreshment and relief
from the wearing cares of our high-pressure lives. "It is of no use,"
says a thoughtful writer, "to carry my body to the woods, unless I get
there myself."

Let us consult the poets, our inspired teachers, on this subject. Says
Lowell,--

 "In June 't is good to lie beneath a tree
 While the blithe season comforts every sense,
 Steeps all the brain in rest, and heals the heart,
 Brimming it o'er with sweetness unawares,
 Fragrant and silent as that rosy snow
 Wherewith the pitying apple-tree fills up
 And tenderly lines some last-year's robin's nest."

And our wise Emerson, in his strong and wholesome, if sometimes rugged
way,--

 "Quit thy friends as the dead in doom,
 And build to them a final tomb.

        *       *       *       *       *

 Behind thee leave thy merchandise,
 Thy churches and thy charities.

        *       *       *       *       *

 Enough for thee the primal mind
 That flows in streams--that breathes in wind."

Even the gentle Wordsworth, too; read his exquisite sonnet, beginning,--

 "The world is too much with us; late and soon,
 Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers."

All recognize that it is a mental and spiritual change that is needed.

With the earnest desire of suggesting to tired souls a practicable way
of resting, I will even give a bit of personal history; I will tell the
way in which I have learned to find recreation in nature.

When I turn my back upon my home, I make a serious and determined effort
to leave behind me all cares and worries. As my train, on that beautiful
May evening, passed beyond the brick and stone walls, and sped into the
open country, and I found myself alone with night, I shook off, as well
as I was able, all my affairs, all my interests, all my
responsibilities, leaving them in that busy city behind me, where a few
burdens more or less would not matter to anybody. With my trunks
checked, and my face turned toward the far-off Rocky Mountains, I left
the whole work-a-day world behind me, departing--so far as possible--a
liberated soul, with no duties excepting to rejoice and to recruit.
This is not an easy thing to do; it is like tearing apart one's very
life; but it can be done by earnest endeavor, it has been done, and it
is a charm more potent than magic to bring restoration and recreation to
the brain and nerve-weary worker.

To insure any measure of success I always go alone; one familiar face
would make the effort of no avail; and I seek a place where I am a
stranger, so that my ordinary life cannot be recalled to me. When I
reach my temporary home I forget, or at least ignore, my notions as to
what I shall eat or drink, or how I shall sleep. I take the goods the
gods provide, and adjust myself to them. Even these little things help
one out of his old ways of thought and life. To still further banish
home concerns, I mark upon my calendar one week before the day I shall
start for home, and sternly resolve that not until I reach that day will
I give one thought to my return, but will live as though I meant to stay
always. I take no work of any sort, and I banish books, excepting a few
poets and studies of nature.

Such is the aim of my honest and earnest striving; that I do not quite
reach my goal is merely to say I am human. Letters from home and friends
will drag me back to old interests, and times will come, in sleepless
nights and unguarded moments, when the whole world of old burdens and
cares sweep in and overwhelm me. But I rouse my will, and resolutely,
with all my power, push them back, refuse to entertain them for a
moment.

The result, even under these limitations, is eminently satisfactory.
Holding myself in this attitude of mind, I secure a change almost as
complete as if I stepped out of my body and left it resting, while I
refreshed myself at the fountain of life. A few weeks in the country
make me a new being; all my thoughts are turned into fresh channels; the
old ruts are smoothed over, if not obliterated; nerves on the strain all
the year have a chance to recreate themselves; old worries often weaken
and fade away.

The morning after I left home that balmy evening in May dawned upon me
somewhere in western New York, and that beautiful day was passed in
speeding through the country, and steadily getting farther and farther
from work and care.

And so I went on, day after day, night after night, till I entered
Kansas, which was new to me. By that time I had succeeded in banishing
to the farthest corner of my memory, behind closed and locked doors, all
the anxieties, all the perplexities and problems, all the concerns, in
fact, of my home life. I was like a newly created soul, fresh and eager
to see and enjoy everything. I refused the morning papers; I wished to
forget the world of strife and crime, and to get so into harmony with
the trees and flowers, the brooks and the breezes, that I would realize
myself

 "Kith and kin to every wild-born thing that thrills and blows."

In one word, I wished as nearly as possible to walk abroad out of my
hindering body of clay.

I looked out of the windows to see what the Cyclone State had to give
me. It offered flowers and singing birds, broad fields of growing grain,
and acres of rich black soil newly turned up to the sun. Everything was
fresh and perfect, as if just from the hands of its maker; it seemed the
paradise of the farmer.

From the fertile fields and miles of flowers the train passed to bare,
blossomless earth; from rich soil to rocks; from Kansas to Colorado.
That part of the State which appeared in the morning looked like a vast
body of hardly dry mud, with nothing worth mentioning growing upon it.
Each little gutter had worn for itself a deep channel with precipitous
sides, and here and there a great section had sunken, as though there
was no solid foundation. Soon, however, the land showed inclination to
draw itself up into hills, tiny ones with sharp peaks, as though
preparing for mountains. Before long they retreated to a distance and
grew bigger, and at last, far off, appeared the mountains, overtopping
all one great white peak, the

 "Giver of gold, king of eternal hills."

A welcome awaited me in the summer home of a friend at Colorado Springs,
in the presence of the great Cheyenne Range, with the snow-cap of Pike's
Peak ever before me. Four delightful days I gave to friendship, and then
I sought and found a perfect nook for rest and study, in a cottonwood
grove on the banks of the Minnelowan (or Shining Water). This is a mad
Colorado stream which is formed by the junction of the North and South
Cheyenne Cañon brooks, and comes tumbling down from the Cheyenne,
rushing and roaring as if it had the business of the world on its
shoulders, and must do it man-fashion, with confusion and noise enough
to drown all other sounds.

Imagine a pretty, one-story cottage, set down in a grove of
cottonwood-trees, with a gnarly oak and a tall pine here and there, to
give it character, and surrounded as a hen by her chickens, by tents,
six or eight in every conceivable position, and at every possible angle
except a right angle. Add to this picture the sweet voices of birds, and
the music of water rushing and hurrying over the stones; let your
glance take in on one side the grand outlines of Cheyenne Mountain,

 "Made doubly sacred by the poet's pen
 And poet's grave,"

and on the other the rest of the range, overlooked by Pike's Peak,
fourteen thousand feet higher than the streets of New York. Do this, and
you will come as near to realizing Camp Harding as one can who is
hundreds of miles away and has never seen a Colorado camp.

Do not think, however, that such camps are common, even in that land of
outdoors, where tents are open for business in the streets of the towns,
and where every householder sets up his own canvas in his yard, for the
invalids to sleep in, from June to November. The little settlement of
tents was an evolution, the gradual growth of the tent idea in the mind
of one comfort-loving woman. She went there seven or eight years before,
bought a grove under the shadow of Cheyenne, put up a tent, and passed
her first summer thus. The next year, and several years thereafter, she
gradually improved her transient abode in many ways that her womanly
taste suggested,--as a wooden floor, a high base-board, partitions of
muslin or cretonne, door and windows of wire gauze. The original
dwelling thus step by step grew to a framed and rough-plastered house,
with doors and windows _en règle_.

Grouped picturesquely around the house, however, were some of the most
unique abiding-places in Colorado. On the outside they were permanent
tents with wooden foundations; on the inside they were models of
comfort, with regular beds and furniture, rugs on the floor, gauzy
window curtains, drapery wardrobes, and even tiny stoves for cool
mornings and evenings. They combined the comforts of a house with the
open air and delightful freshness of a tent, where one might hear every
bird twitter, and see the dancing leaf shadows in the moonlight. Over
the front platform the canvas cover extended to form an awning, and a
wire-gauze door, in addition to one of wood, made them airy or snug as
the weather demanded.

The restfulness craved by the weary worker was there to be had for both
soul and body, if one chose to take it. One might swing in a hammock all
day, and be happy watching "the clouds that cruise the sultry sky"--a
sky so blue one never tires of it; or beside the brook he might "lie
upon its banks, and dream himself away to some enchanted ground." Or he
might study the ever-changing aspect of the mountains,--their dreamy,
veiled appearance, with the morning sun full upon them; their deep
violet blueness in the evening, with the sun behind them, and the
mystery of the moonlight, which "sets them far off in a world of their
own," as tender and unreal as mountains in a dream.

He _might_ do all these things, but he is far more likely to become
excited, and finally bewitched by guide-books, and photographs, and talk
all about him of this or that cañon, this or that pass, the Garden of
the Gods, Manitou, the Seven Sisters' Falls, the grave of "H. H.;" and
unless a fool or a philosopher, before he knows it to be in the full
swing of sight-seeing, and becoming learned in the ways of burros, the
"Ship of the Rockies," so indispensable, and so common that even the
babies take to them.

This traveler will climb peaks, and drive over nerve-shaking roads, a
steep wall on one side and a frightful precipice on the other; he will
toil up hundreds of steps, and go quaking down into mines; he will look,
and admire, and tremble, till sentiment is worn to threads, purse
depleted, and body and mind alike a wreck. For this sort of a traveler
there is no rest in Colorado; there always remains another mountain to
thrill him, another cañon to rhapsodize over; to one who is greedy of
"sights," the tameness of Harlem, or the mud flats of Canarsie, will
afford more rest.

For myself I can always bear to be near sights without seeing them. I
believed what I heard--never were such grand mountains! never such
soul-stirring views! never such hairbreadth roads! I believed--and
stayed in my cottonwood grove content. I knew how it all looked; did I
not peer down into one cañon, holding my breath the while? and, with
slightly differing arrangement of rocks and pine-trees and brooks, are
not all cañons the same? Did I not gaze with awe at the "trail to the
grave of H. H.," and watch, without envy, the sight-seeing tourist
struggle with its difficulties? Could I not supply myself with
photographs, and guide-books, and poems, and "H. H.'s" glowing words,
and picture the whole scene? I could, I did, and to me Colorado was a
delightful place of rest, with mountain air that it was a luxury to
breathe (after the machinery adjusted itself to the altitude), with
glorious sunshine every morning, with unequaled nights of coolness, and
a new flower or two for every day of the month.

If to "see Colorado" one must ascend every peak, toil through every
cañon, cast the eyes on every waterfall, shudder over each precipice,
wonder at each eccentric rock, drink from every spring, then I have not
seen America's Wonderland. But if to steep my spirit in the beauty of
its mountains so that they shall henceforth be a part of me; to inhale
its enchanting air till my body itself seemed to have wings; if to paint
in my memory its gorgeous procession of flowers, its broad mesa crowned
with the royal blossoms of the yucca, its cosy cottonwood groves, its
brooks rushing between banks of tangled greenery; if this is to "see
Colorado," then no one has ever seen it more thoroughly.

The "symphony in yellow and red," which "H. H." calls this wonderland,
grows upon the sojourner in some mysterious way, till by the time he has
seen the waxing and waning of one moon he is an enthusiast. It is
charming alike to the sight-seer whose jaded faculties pine for new and
thrilling emotions, to the weary in brain and body who longs only for
peace and rest, and to the invalid whose every breath is a pain at home.
To the lover of flowers it is an exhaustless panorama of beauty and
fragrance, well worth crossing the continent to enjoy; to the mountain
lover it offers endless attractions.

Nothing is more fascinating to the stranger in Colorado than the
formation of its cañons, not only the grand ones running up into the
heart of the mountains, but the lesser ones cutting into the high
table-land, or mesa, at the foot of the hills. The above mentioned
cottonwood grove, for example, with its dozen of dwellings and a
natural park of a good many acres above it, with tall pines that bear
the marks of age, is so curiously hidden that one may come almost upon
it without seeing it. It is reached from Colorado Springs by an electric
road which runs along the mesa south of the town. As the car nears the
end of the line, one begins to look around for the grove. Not a tree is
in sight; right and left as far as can be seen stretches the treeless
plain to the foot of the eternal hills; not even the top of a tall pine
thrusts itself above the dead level. Before you is Cheyenne--grim,
glorious, but impenetrable. The conductor stops. "This is your place,"
he says. You see no place; you think he must be mistaken.

"But where is Camp Harding?" you ask. He points to an obscure
path--"trail" he calls it--which seems to throw itself over an edge. You
approach that point, and there, to your wonder and your surprise, at
your feet nestles the loveliest of smiling cañon-like valleys, filled
with trees, aspen, oak, and pine, with here and there a tent or red roof
gleaming through the green, and a noisy brook hurrying on its way
downhill. By a steep scramble you reach the lower level, birds singing,
flowers tempting on every side, and the picturesque, narrow trail
leading you on, around the ledge of rock, over the rustic bridge, till
you reach the back entrance of the camp. Before it, up the narrow
valley, winds a road, the carriage-way to the Cheyenne cañons.



II.

IN THE COTTONWOODS.


A cottonwood grove is the nearest approach to our Eastern rural
districts to be found in Colorado, and a cotton storm, looking exactly
like a snowstorm, is a common sight in these groves. The white, fluffy
material grows in long bunches, loosely attached to stems, and the fibre
is very short. At the lightest breeze that stirs the branches, tiny bits
of it take to flight, and one tree will shed cotton for weeks. It clings
to one's garments; it gets into the houses, and sticks to the carpets,
often showing a trail of white footprints where a person has come in; it
clogs the wire-gauze screens till they keep out the air as well as the
flies; it fills the noses and the eyes of men and beasts. But its most
curious effect is on the plants and flowers, to which it adheres, being
a little gummy. Some flowers look as if they were encased in ice, and
others seem wrapped in the gauziest of veils, which, flimsy as it looks,
cannot be completely cleared from the leaves.

It covers the ground like snow, and strangely enough it looks in June,
but it does not, like snow, melt, even under the warm summer sunshine.
It must be swept from garden and walks, and carted away. A heavy rain
clears the air and subdues it for a time, but the sun soon dries the
bunches still on the trees, and the cotton storm is again in full blast.
This annoyance lasts through June and a part of July, fully six weeks,
and then the stems themselves drop to, the ground, still holding enough
cotton to keep up the storm for days. After this, the first rainfall
ends the trouble for that season.

In the midst of the cottonwoods, in beautiful Camp Harding, I spent the
June that followed the journey described in the last chapter,--

 "Dreaming sweet, idle dreams of having strayed
 To Arcady with all its golden lore."

The birds, of course, were my first concern. Ask of almost any resident
not an ornithologist if there are birds in Colorado, and he will shake
his head.

"Not many, I think," he will probably say. "Camp birds and magpies. Oh
yes, and larks. I think that's about all."

This opinion, oft repeated, did not settle the matter in my mind, for I
long ago discovered that none are so ignorant of the birds and flowers
of a neighborhood as most of the people who live among them. I sought
out my post, and I looked for myself.

There are birds in the State, plenty of them, but they are not on
exhibition like the mountains and their wonders. No driver knows the way
to their haunts, and no guide-book points them out. Even a bird student
may travel a day's journey, and not encounter so many as one shall see
in a small orchard in New England. He may rise with the dawn, and hear
nothing like the glorious morning chorus that stirs one in the Atlantic
States. He may search the trees and shrubberies for long June days, and
not find so many nests as will cluster about one cottage at home.

Yet the birds are here, but they are shy, and they possess the true
Colorado spirit,--they are mountain-worshipers. As the time approaches
when each bird leaves society and retires for a season to the bosom of
its own family, many of the feathered residents of the State bethink
them of their inaccessible cañons. The saucy jay abandons the
settlements where he has been so familiar as to dispute with the dogs
for their food, and sets up his homestead in a tall pine-tree on a slope
which to look at is to grow dizzy; the magpie, boldest of birds, steals
away to some secure retreat; the meadow-lark makes her nest in the
monotonous mesa, where it is as well hidden as a bobolink's nest in a
New England meadow.

The difficulties in the way of studying Colorado birds are several,
aside from their excessive suspicion of every human being. In the first
place, observations must be made before ten o'clock, for at that hour
every day a lively breeze, which often amounts to a gale, springs up,
and sets the cottonwood and aspen leaves in a flutter that hides the
movements of any bird. Then, all through the most interesting month of
June the cottonwood-trees are shedding their cotton, and to a person on
the watch for slight stirrings among the leaves the falling cotton is a
constant distraction. The butterflies, too, wandering about in their
aimless way, are all the time deceiving the bird student, and drawing
attention from the bird he is watching.

On the other hand, one of the maddening pests of bird study at the East
is here almost unknown,--the mosquito. Until the third week in June I
saw but one. That one was in the habit of lying in wait for me when I
went to a piece of low, swampy ground overgrown with bushes. Think of
the opportunity this combination offers to the Eastern mosquito, and
consider my emotions when I found but a solitary individual, and even
that one disposed to coquette with me.

I had hidden myself, and was keeping motionless, in order to see the
very shy owners of a nest I had found, when the lonely mosquito came as
far as the rim of my shade hat, and hovered there, evidently meditating
an attack--a mosquito hesitating! I could not stir a hand, or even shake
my leafy twig; but it did not require such violent measures; a light
puff of breath this side or that was enough to discourage the gentle
creature, and in all the hours I sat there it never once came any
nearer. The race increased, however, and became rather troublesome on
the veranda after tea; but in the grove they were never annoying; I
rarely saw half a dozen. When I remember the tortures endured in the
dear old woods of the East, in spite of "lollicopop" and pennyroyal, and
other horrors with which I have tried to repel them, I could almost
decide to live and die in Colorado.

The morning bird chorus in the cottonwood grove where I spent my June
was a great shock to me. If my tent had been pitched near the broad
plains in which the meadow-lark delights, I might have wakened to the
glorious song of this bird of the West. It is not a chorus, indeed, for
one rarely hears more than a single performer, but it is a solo that
fully makes up for want of numbers, and amply satisfies the lover of
bird music, so strong, so sweet, so moving are his notes.

But on my first morning in the grove, what was my dismay--I may almost
say despair--to find that the Western wood-pewee led the matins! Now,
this bird has a peculiar voice. It is loud, pervasive, and in quality of
tone not unlike our Eastern phoebe, lacking entirely the sweet
plaintiveness of our wood-pewee. A pewee chorus is a droll and dismal
affair. The poor things do their best, no doubt, and they cannot prevent
the pessimistic effect it has upon us. It is rhythmic, but not in the
least musical, and it has a weird power over the listener. This morning
hymn does not say, as does the robin's, that life is cheerful, that
another glorious day is dawning. It says, "Rest is over; another day of
toil is here; come to work." It is monotonous as a frog chorus, but
there is a merry thrill in the notes of the amphibian which are entirely
wanting in the song. If it were not for the light-hearted tremolo of the
chewink thrown in now and then, and the loud, cheery ditty of the summer
yellow-bird, who begins soon after the pewee, one would be almost
superstitious about so unnatural a greeting to the new day. The evening
call of the bird is different. He will sit far up on a dead twig of an
old pine-tree, and utter a series of four notes, something like "do, mi,
mi, do," repeating them without pausing till it is too dark to see him,
all the time getting lower, sadder, more deliberate, till one feels
like running out and committing suicide or annihilating the bird of
ill-omen.

I felt myself a stranger indeed when I reached this pleasant spot, and
found that even the birds were unfamiliar. No robin or bluebird greeted
me on my arrival; no cheerful song-sparrow tuned his little pipe for my
benefit; no phœbe shouted the beloved name from the peak of the barn.
Everything was strange. One accustomed to the birds of our Eastern
States can hardly conceive of the country without robins in plenty; but
in this unnatural corner of Uncle Sam's dominion I found but one pair.

The most common song from morning till night was that of the summer
yellow-bird, or yellow warbler. It was not the delicate little strain we
are accustomed to hear from this bird, but a loud, clear carol, equal in
volume to the notes of our robin. These three birds, with the addition
of a vireo or two, were our main dependence for daily music, though we
were favored occasionally by others. Now the Arkansas goldfinch uttered
his sweet notes from the thick foliage of the cottonwood-trees; then the
charming aria of the catbird came softly from the tangle of rose and
other bushes; the black-headed grosbeak now and then saluted us from the
top of a pine-tree; and rarely, too rarely, alas! a passing meadow-lark
filled all the grove with his wonderful song.

And there was the wren! He interested me from the first; for a wren is a
bird of individuality always, and his voice reminded me, in a feeble
way, of the witching notes of the winter wren, the

 "Brown wren from out whose swelling throat
 Unstinted joys of music float."

This bird was the house wren, the humblest member of his musical family;
but there was in his simple melody the wren quality, suggestive of the
thrilling performances of his more gifted relatives; and I found it and
him very pleasing.

The chosen place for his vocal display was a pile of brush beside a
closed-up little cottage, and I suspected him of having designs upon
that two-roomed mansion for nesting purposes. After hopping all about
the loose sticks, delivering his bit of an aria a dozen times or more,
in a most rapturous way, he would suddenly dive into certain secret
passages among the dead branches, when he was instantly lost to sight.
Then, in a few seconds, a close watcher might sometimes see him pass
like a shadow, under the cottage, which stood up on corner posts, dart
out the farther side, and fly at once to the eaves.

One day I was drawn from the house by a low and oft-repeated cry, like
"Hear, hear, hear!" It was emphatic and imperative, as if some
unfortunate little body had the business of the world on his shoulders,
and could not get it done to his mind. I carefully approached the
disturbed voice, and was surprised to find it belonged to the wren, who
was so disconcerted at sight of me, that I concluded this particular
sort of utterance must be for the benefit of his family alone. Later,
that kind of talk, his lord-and-master style as I supposed, was the most
common sound I heard from him, and not near the cottage and the brush
heap, but across the brook. I thought that perhaps I had displeased him
by too close surveillance, and he had set up housekeeping out of my
reach. Across the brook I could not go, for between "our side" and the
other raged a feud, which had culminated in torn-up bridges and barbed
wire protections.

One day, however, I had a surprise. In studying another bird, I was led
around to the back of the still shut-up cottage, and there I found, very
unexpectedly, an exceedingly busy and silent wren. He did sing
occasionally while I watched him from afar, but in so low a tone that it
could not be heard a few steps away. Of course I understood this
unnatural circumspection, and on observing him cautiously, I saw that
he made frequent visits to the eaves of the cottage, the very spot I
had hoped he would nest. Then I noted that he carried in food, and on
coming out he alighted on a dead bush, and sang under his breath. Here,
then, was the nest, and all his pretense of scolding across the brook
was but a blind! Wary little rogue! Who would ever suspect a house wren
of shyness?

I had evidently done him injustice when I regarded the scolding as his
family manner, for here in his home he was quiet as a mouse, except when
his joy bubbled over in trills.

To make sure of my conclusions I went close to the house, and then for
the first time (to know it) I saw his mate. She came with food in her
beak, and was greatly disturbed at sight of her uninvited guest. She
stood on a shrub near me fluttering her wings, and there her anxious
spouse joined her, and fluttered his in the same way, uttering at the
same time a low, single note of protest.

On looking in through the window, I found that the cottage was a mere
shell, all open under the eaves, so that the birds could go in and out
anywhere. The nest was over the top of a window, and the owner thereof
ran along the beam beside it, in great dudgeon at my impertinent
staring. Had ever a pair of wrens quarters so ample,--a whole cottage to
themselves? Henceforth, it was part of my daily rounds to peep in at
the window, though I am sorry to say it aroused the indignation of the
birds, and always brought them to the beam nearest me, to give me a
piece of their mind.

Bird babies grow apace, and baby wrens have not many inches to achieve.
One day I came upon a scene of wild excitement: two wrenlings flying
madly about in the cottage, now plump against the window, then tumbling
breathless to the floor, and two anxious little parents, trying in vain
to show their headstrong offspring the way they should go, to the
openings under the eaves which led to the great out-of-doors. My face at
the window seemed to be the "last straw." A much-distressed bird came
boldly up to me behind the glass, saying by his manner--and who knows
but in words?--"How can you be so cruel as to disturb us? Don't you see
the trouble we are in?" He had no need of Anglo-Saxon (or even of
American-English!). I understood him at once; and though exceedingly
curious to see how they would do it, I had not the heart to insist. I
left them to manage their willful little folk in their own way.

The next morning I was awakened by the jolliest wren music of the
season. Over and over the bird poured out his few notes, louder, madder,
more rapturously than I had supposed he could. He had guided his family
safely out of their imprisoning four walls, I was sure. And so I found
it when I went out. Not a wren to be seen about the house, but soft
little "churs" coming from here and there among the shrubbery, and every
few minutes a loud, happy song proclaimed that wren troubles were over
for the summer. Far in among the tangle of bushes and vines, I came upon
him, as gay as he had been of yore:--

 "Pausing and peering, with sidling head,
 As saucily questioning all I said;
 While the ox-eye danced on its slender stem,
 And all glad Nature rejoiced with them."

The chewink is a curious exchange for the robin. When I noticed the
absence of the red-breast, whom--like the poor--we have always with us
(at the East), I was pleased, in spite of my fondness for him, because,
as every one must allow, he is sometimes officious in his attentions,
and not at all reticent in expressing his opinions. I did miss his voice
in the morning chorus,--the one who lived in the grove was not much of a
singer,--but I was glad to know the chewink, who was almost a stranger.
His peculiar trilling song was heard from morning till night; he came
familiarly about the camp, eating from the dog's dish, and foraging for
crumbs at the kitchen door. Next to the wood-pewee, he was the most
friendly of our feathered neighbors.

He might be seen at any time, hopping about on the ground, one moment
picking up a morsel of food, and the next throwing up his head and
bursting into song:--

 "But not for you his little singing,
 Soul of fire its flame is flinging,
 Sings he for himself alone,"

as was evident from the unconscious manner in which he uttered his notes
between two mouthfuls, never mounting a twig or making a "performance"
of his music. I have watched one an hour at a time, going about in his
jerky fashion, tearing up the ground and searching therein, exactly
after the manner of a scratching hen. This, by the way, was a droll
operation, done with both feet together, a jump forward and a jerk back
of the whole body, so rapidly one could hardly follow the motion, but
throwing up a shower of dirt every time. He had neither the grace nor
the dignity of our domestic biddy.

Matter of fact as this fussy little personage was on the ground, taking
in his breakfast and giving out his song, he was a different bird when
he got above it. Alighting on the wren's brush heap, for instance, he
would bristle up, raising the feathers on head and neck, his red eyes
glowing eagerly, his tail a little spread and standing up at a sharp
angle, prepared for instant fight or flight, whichever seemed desirable.

I was amused to hear the husky cry with which this bird expresses most
of his emotions,--about as nearly a "mew," to my ears, as the catbird
executes. Whether frolicking with a comrade among the bushes, reproving
a too inquisitive bird student, or warning the neighborhood against some
monster like a stray kitten, this one cry seemed to answer for all his
needs, and, excepting the song, was the only sound I heard him utter.

Familiar as the chewink might be about our quarters, his own home was
well hidden, on the rising ground leading up to the mesa,--

                           "An unkempt zone,
 Where vines and weeds and scrub oaks intertwine,"

which no one bigger than a bird could penetrate. Whenever I appeared in
that neighborhood, I was watched and followed by anxious and disturbed
chewinks; but I never found a nest, though, judging from the conduct of
the residents, I was frequently "very warm" (as the children say).

About the time the purple aster began to unclose its fringed lids, and
the mariposa lily to unfold its delicate cups on the lower
mesa,--nearly the middle of July,--full-grown chewink babies, in brown
coats and streaked vests, made their appearance in the grove, and after
that the whole world might search the scrub oaks and not a bird would
say him nay.

                       "All is silent now
 Save bell-note from some wandering cow,
 Or rippling lark-song far away."



III.

AN UPROAR OF SONG.


The bird music of Colorado, though not so abundant as one could wish, is
singularly rich in quality, and remarkable for its volume. At the
threshold of the State the traveler is struck by this peculiarity. As
the train thunders by, the Western meadow-lark mounts a telegraph pole
and pours out such a peal of melody that it is distinctly heard above
the uproar of the iron wheels.

This bird is preëminently the bird of the mesa, or high table-land of
the region, and only to hear his rare song is well worth a journey to
that distant wonderland. Not of his music could Lucy Larcom say, as she
so happily does of our bird of the meadow,--

 "Sounds the meadow-lark's refrain
     Just as sad and clear."

Nor could his sonorous song be characterized by Clinton Scollard's
exquisite verse,--

 "From whispering winds your plaintive notes were drawn."

For the brilliant solo of Colorado's bird is not in the least like the
charming minor chant of our Eastern lark. So powerful that it is heard
at great distances in the clear air, it is still not in the slightest
degree strained or harsh, but is sweet and rich, whether it be close at
one's side in the silence, or shouted from the housetop in the tumult of
a busy street. It has, moreover, the same tender winsomeness that charms
us in our own lark song; something that fills the sympathetic listener
with delight, that satisfies his whole being; a siren strain that he
longs to listen to forever. The whole breadth and grandeur of the great
West is in this song, its freedom, its wildness, the height of its
mountains, the sweep of its rivers, the beauty of its flowers,--all in
the wonderful performance. Even after months of absence, the bare memory
of the song of the mesa will move its lover to an almost painful
yearning. Of him, indeed, Shelley might truthfully say,--

 "Better than all measures
   Of delightful sound,
 Better than all treasures
   That in books are found,
 Thy skill to poet were,
   Thou scorner of the ground."

Nor is the variety of the lark song less noteworthy than its quality.
That each bird has a large _répertoire_ I cannot assert, for my
opportunities for study have been too limited; but it is affirmed by
those who know him better, that he has, and I fully believe it.

One thing is certainly true of nearly if not quite all of our native
birds, that no two sing exactly alike, and the close observer soon
learns to distinguish between the robins and the song-sparrows of a
neighborhood, by their notes alone. The Western lark seems even more
than others to individualize his utterances, so that constant surprises
reward the discriminating listener. During two months' bird-study in
that delightful cañon-hidden grove at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain, one
particular bird song was for weeks an unsolved mystery. The strain
consisted of three notes in loud, ringing tones, which syllabled
themselves very plainly in my ear as "Whip-for-her."

This unseemly, and most emphatic, demand came always from a distance,
and apparently from the top of some tall tree, and it proved to be most
tantalizing; for although the first note invariably brought me out,
opera-glass in hand, I was never able to come any nearer to a sight of
the unknown than the sway of a twig he had just left.

One morning, however, before I was up, the puzzling songster visited the
little grove under my windows, and I heard his whole song, of which it
now appeared the three notes were merely the conclusion. The
performance was eccentric. It began with a soft warble, apparently for
his sole entertainment, then suddenly, as if overwhelmed by memory of
wrongs received or of punishment deserved, he interrupted his tender
melody with a loud, incisive "Whip-for-her!" in a totally different
manner. His nearness, however, solved the mystery; the ring of the
meadow-lark was in his tones, and I knew him at once. I had not
suspected his identity, for the Western bird does not take much trouble
to keep out of sight, and, moreover, his song is rarely less than six or
eight notes in length.

Another unique singer of the highlands is the horned lark. One morning
in June a lively carriage party passing along the mountain side, on a
road so bare and bleak that it seemed nothing could live there, was
startled by a small gray bird, who suddenly dashed out of the sand
beside the wheels, ran across the path, and flew to a fence on the other
side. Undisturbed, perhaps even stimulated, by the clatter of two horses
and a rattling mountain wagon, undaunted by the laughing and talking
load, the little creature at once burst into song, so loud as to be
heard above the noisy procession, and so sweet that it silenced every
tongue.

"How exquisite! What is it?" we asked each other, at the end of the
little aria.

"It's the gray sand bird," answered the native driver.

"Otherwise the horned lark," added the young naturalist, from his
broncho behind the carriage.

Let not his name mislead: this pretty fellow, in soft, gray-tinted
plumage, is not deformed by "horns;" it is only two little tufts of
feathers, which give a certain piquant, wide-awake expression to his
head, that have fastened upon him a title so incongruous. The nest of
the desert-lover is a slight depression in the barren earth, nothing
more; and the eggs harmonize with their surroundings in color. The whole
is concealed by its very openness, and as hard to find, as the
bobolink's cradle in the trackless grass of the meadow.

Most persistent of all the singers of the grove beside the house was the
yellow warbler, a dainty bit of featherhood the size of one's thumb. On
the Atlantic coast his simple ditty is tender, and so low that it must
be listened for; but in that land of "skies so blue they flash," he
sings it at the top of his voice, louder than the robin song as we know
it, and easily heard above the roar of the wind and the brawling of the
brook he haunts.

Before me at this moment is the nest of one of these little sprites,
which I watched till the last dumpy infant had taken flight, and then
secured with the branchlet it was built upon. It was in a young oak, not
more than twelve feet from the ground, occupying a perpendicular fork,
where it was concealed and shaded by no less than sixteen twigs,
standing upright, and loaded with leaves. The graceful cup itself, to
judge by its looks, might be made of white floss silk,--I have no
curiosity to know the actual material,--and is cushioned inside with
downy fibres from the cottonwood-tree. It is dainty enough for a fairy's
cradle.

The wood-pewee, in dress and manners nearly resembling his Eastern
brother,

 "The pewee of the loneliest woods,
 Sole singer in the solitudes,"

has a strange and decidedly original utterance. While much louder and
more continuous, it lacks the sweetness of our bird's notes; indeed, it
resembles in quality of tone the voice of our phœbe, or his beautiful
relative, the great-crested flycatcher. The Westerner has a great deal
to say for himself. On alighting, he announces the fact by a single
note, which is a habit also of our phœbe; he sings the sun up in the
morning, and he sings it down in the evening, and he would be a
delightful neighbor if only his voice were pleasing. But there is little
charm in the music, for it is in truth a dismal chant, with the air and
cheerfulness of a funeral dirge--a pessimistic performance that inspires
the listener with a desire to choke him then and there.

This bird's nest, as well as his song, is unlike that of our wood-pewee.
Instead of a delicate, lichen-covered saucer set lightly upon a
horizontal crotch of a dead branch,--our bird's chosen home,--it is a
deeper cup, fastened tightly upon a large living branch, and, at least
in a cottonwood grove, decorated on the outside with the fluffy cotton
from the trees.

Even the humming-bird, who contents himself in this part of the world
with a modest hum, heard but a short distance away, at the foot of the
Rocky Mountains may almost be called a noisy bird. The first one I
noticed dashed out of a thickly leaved tree with loud, angry cries,
swooped down toward me, and flew back and forth over my head, scolding
with a hum which, considering his size, might almost be called a roar. I
could not believe my ears until my eyes confirmed their testimony. The
sound was not made by the wings, but was plainly a cry strong and harsh
in an extraordinary degree.

The Western ruby-throat has other singularities which differentiate him
from his Eastern brother. It is very droll to see one of his family take
part in the clamors of a bird mob, perching like his bigger fellows,
and adding his excited cries to the notes of catbird and robin, chewink
and yellow-bird. Attracted one morning by a great bird outcry in a dense
young oak grove across the road, I left my seat under the cottonwoods
and strolled over toward it. It was plain that some tragedy was in the
air, for the winged world was in a panic. Two robins, the only pair in
the neighborhood, uttered their cry of distress from the top of the
tallest tree; a catbird hopped from branch to branch, flirting his tail
and mewing in agitation; a chewink or two near the ground jerked
themselves about uneasily, adding their strange, husky call to the
hubbub; and above the din rose the shrill voice of a humming-bird. Every
individual had his eyes fixed upon the ground, where it was evident that
some monster must be lurking. I expected a big snake at the very least,
and, putting the lower branches aside, I, too, peered into the
semi-twilight of the grove.

No snake was there; but my eyes fell upon an anxious little gray face,
obviously much disturbed to find itself the centre of so much attention.
As I appeared, this bugaboo, who had caused all the excitement,
recognized me as a friend and ran toward me, crying piteously. It was a
very small lost kitten!

I took up the stray little beastie, and a silence fell upon the
assembly in the trees, which began to scatter, each one departing upon
his own business in a moment. But the humming-bird refused to be so
easily pacified; he was bound to see the end of the affair, and he
followed me out of the grove, still vigorously speaking his mind about
the enemy in fur. I suspected that the little creature had wandered away
from the house on the hill above, and I went up to see. The hummer
accompanied me every step of the way, sometimes flying over my head, and
again alighting for a minute on a branch under which I passed. Not until
he saw me deliver pussy into the hands of her own family, and return to
my usual seat in the grove, did he release me from surveillance and take
his leave.

The yellow-breasted chat, the long-tailed variety belonging to the West,
delivers his strange medley of "chacks" and whistles, and rattles and
other indescribable cries, in a voice that is loud and distinct, as well
as sweet and rich. He is a bird of humor, too, with a mocking spirit not
common in his race. One day, while sitting motionless in a hidden nook,
trying to spy upon the domestic affairs of this elusive individual, I
was startled by the so-called "laugh" of a robin, which was instantly
repeated by a chat, unseen, but quite near. The robin, apparently
surprised or interested, called again, and was a second time mocked.
Then he lost his temper, and began a serious reproof to the levity of
his neighbor, which ended in a good round scolding, as the saucy chat
continued to repeat his taunting laugh. This went on till the red-breast
flew away in high dudgeon.

Why our little brothers in feathers are so much more boisterous than
elsewhere,

 "Up in the parks and the mesas wide,
 Under the blue of the bluest sky,"

has not, so far as I know, been discovered.

Whether it be the result of habitual opposition to the strong winds
which, during the season of song, sweep over the plains every day, or
whether the exhilaration of the mountain air be the cause--who can
tell?



IV.

THE TRAGEDY OF A NEST.


Near to the Camp, a little closer to beautiful Cheyenne Mountain, lay a
small park. It was a continuation of the grove, through which the brook
came roaring and tumbling down from the cañons above, and, being several
miles from the town, it had never become a popular resort. A few winding
paths, and a rude bench here and there, were the only signs of man's
interference with its native wildness; it was practically abandoned to
the birds--and me.

The birds had full possession when I appeared on the scene, and though I
did my best to be unobtrusive, my presence was not so welcome as I could
have wished. Every morning when I came slowly and quietly up the little
path from the gate, bird-notes suddenly ceased; the grosbeak, pouring
out his soul from the top of a pine-tree, dived down the other side; the
towhee, picking up his breakfast on the ground, scuttled behind the
bushes and disappeared; the humming-bird, interrupted in her morning
"affairs," flew off over my head, scolding vigorously; only the
vireo--serene as always--went on warbling and eating, undisturbed.

Then I made haste to seek out an obscure spot, where I could sit and
wait in silence, to see who might unwittingly show himself.

I was never lonely, and never tired; for if--as sometimes happened--no
flit of wing came near to interest me, there before me was beautiful
Cheyenne, with its changing face never twice alike, and its undying
associations with its poet and lover, whose lonely grave makes it
forever sacred to those who loved her. There, too, was the wonderful sky
of Colorado, so blue it looked almost violet, and near at hand the
"Singing Water," whose stirring music was always inspiring.

One morning I was startled from my reverie by a sudden cry, so loud and
clear that I turned quickly to see what manner of bird had uttered it.
The voice was peculiar and entirely new to me. First came a scolding
note like that of an oriole, then the "chack" of a blackbird, and next a
sweet, clear whistle, one following the other rapidly and vehemently, as
if the performer intended to display all his accomplishments in a
breath. Cheyenne vanished like "the magic mountain of a dream," blue
skies were forgotten, the babbling brook unheard, every sense was
instantly alert to see that extraordinary bird,--

 "Like a poet hidden,
 Singing songs unbidden."

But he did not appear. Not a leaf rustled, not a twig bent, though the
strange medley kept on for fifteen minutes, then ceased as abruptly as
it had begun, and not a whisper more could be heard. The whole thing
seemed uncanny. Was it a bird at all, or a mere "wandering voice"? It
seemed to come from a piece of rather swampy ground, overgrown with
clumps of willow and low shrubs; but what bird of earthly mould could
come and go, and make no sign that a close student of bird ways could
detect? Did he creep on the ground? Did he vanish into thin air?

Hours went by. I could not go, and my leafy nook was "struck through
with slanted shafts of afternoon" before I reluctantly gave up that I
should not see my enchanter that day, and slowly left the grove, the
mystery unexplained.

Very early the next morning I was saluted by the same loud, clear calls
near the house. Had then the Invisible followed me home? I sprang up and
hurried to the always open window. The voice was very near; but I could
not see its author, though I was hidden behind blinds.

This time the bird--if bird it were--indulged in a fuller _répertoire_.
I seized pencil and paper, and noted down phonetically the different
notes as they were uttered. This is the record: "Rat-t-t-t-t" (very
rapid); "quit! quit! quit!" (a little slower); "wh-eu! wh-eu!" (still
more deliberately); "chack! chack! chack!" (quite slow); "crē,
crē, crē, crē" (fast); "hu-way! hu-way!" (very sweet). There
was a still more musical clause that I cannot put into syllables, then a
rattle exactly like castanets, and lastly a sort of "Kr-r-r! kr-r-r!" in
the tone of a great-crested flycatcher. While this will not express to
one who has not heard it the marvelous charm of it all, it will at least
indicate the variety.

Hardly waiting to dispose of breakfast, I betook myself to my "woodland
enchanted," resolved to stay till I saw that bird.

 "All day in the bushes
 The woodland was haunted."

The voice was soon on hand, and once more I was treated to the
incomparable recitative.

This day, too, my patience was rewarded; the mystery was solved; I saw
the Unknown! While my eyes were fixed upon a certain bush before me, the
singer incautiously ventured too near the top of a twig, and I saw him
plainly, standing almost upright, and vehemently chanting his fantasia,
opening his mouth very wide with every call. I knew him at once, the
rogue! from having read of him; he was the yellow-breasted chat. It was
well, indeed, that I happened to be looking at that very spot, and that
I was quick in my observation; for in a moment he saw the blunder he had
made, and slipped back down the stem, too late for his secret--I had him
down in black and white.

From that time the little park was never lonely, nor did I spend much
time dreaming over Cheyenne. The moment I appeared in the morning my
lively host began his vocal gymnastics, while I sat spellbound,
bewitched by the magic of his notes. In spite of being absorbed in
listening to him, I retained my faculties sufficiently to reflect that
the chat had probably other employment than entertaining me, and that
doubtless his object was to distract my attention from looking about me,
or to reproach me for intruding upon his private domain. In either case
there was, of course,

         "A nest unseen
 Somewhere among the million stalks;"

and, delightful as I found the unseen bird, his nest was a treasure I
was even more anxious to see.

Not to disturb him more than necessary, I spent part of an evening
studying up the nesting habits of the chat,--the long-tailed,
yellow-breasted, as I found him to be,--and the next morning made a
thorough search through the swamp, looking into every bush and examining
every thicket. An hour or two of this hard work satisfied me for the
day, and I went home warm and tired, followed to the very door by the
mocking voice, triumphing, as it seemed, in my failure.

The next day, however, fortune smiled upon me; I came upon a nest, not
far above the ground, among the stems of a clump of shrubs, which
exactly answered the description of the one I sought. Careful not to lay
a finger on it, I slightly parted the branches above, and looked in upon
three pinkish-white eggs, small in size and dainty as tinted pearls.
Happy day, I thought, and the forerunner of happy to-morrows when I
should watch

 "The green nest full of pleasant shade
 Wherein three speckled eggs were laid,"

and see and delight in the family life centring about it.

To study a bird so shy required extraordinary precautions; I therefore
sought, and found, a post of observation a long way off, where I could
look through a natural vista among the shrubs, and with my glass bring
the bush and its precious contents into view. For greater seclusion in
my retreat, so that I should be as little conspicuous as possible, I
drew down a branch of the low tree over my seat, and fastened it with a
fine string to a stout weed below. Then I thought I had a perfect
screen; I devoutly hoped the birds would not notice me.

Vain delusion! and labor as vain! Doubtless two pairs of anxious eyes
watched from some neighboring bush all my careful preparations, and then
and there two despairing hearts bade farewell to their lovely little
home, abandoned it and its treasures to the spy and the destroyer, which
in their eyes I seemed to be.

This conclusion was forced upon me by the experiences of the next few
days. The birds absolutely would not approach the nest while I was in
the park. The first morning I sat motionless for nearly two hours, and
not a feather showed itself near that bush; it was plainly "tabooed."
During the next day the chat called from this side and that, moving
about in his wonderful way, without disturbing a twig, rustling a leaf,
or flitting a wing--as silently, indeed, as if he were a spirit
unclothed.

While waiting for him to show himself, making myself as nearly a part of
nature about me as a mortal is gifted to do, I congratulated myself upon
the one good look I had secured, for, with all my efforts and all my
watching, I saw him but twice more all summer. The enigma of that
remarkable voice would have been maddening indeed, if I could not have
known to whom it belonged.

After several days of untiring observation I had but two glimpses to
record. On one occasion a chat alighted on the top sprig of the fateful
shrub, as if going to the nest, but almost on the instant vanished. The
same day, a little later, one of these birds flitted into my view,
without a sound. So perfectly silent were his movements that I should
not have seen him if he had not come directly before my eyes. He, or
she, for the pair are alike, alighted in a low bush and scrambled about
as if in search of insects, climbing, not hopping. He stayed but a few
seconds and departed like a shadow, as he had come.

On the tenth day after my discovery of the nest with its trio of eggs I
went out as usual, for I could not abandon hope. In passing the nest I
glanced in and saw one egg; I could never see but one as I went by, but,
not liking to go too near, I presumed that the other two were there, as
I had always found them, and slipped quietly into my usual place.

In a few moments the chat shouted a call so near that it fairly startled
me. From that he went on to make his ordinary protest, but, as happened
nearly every time, I was not able to see him. I saw something--something
that took my breath away. A shadowy form creeping stealthily through the
shrubs five or six feet from me. It glided across the opening in front,
and in a moment went to the bush I was watching. In silence, but with
evident excitement, it moved about, approached the nest, and in a few
seconds flew quickly across the path in plain sight, holding in its mouth
something white which was large for its beak. I was reminded of an
English sparrow carrying a piece of bread as big as his head, a sight
familiar to every one. In a minute or two the same bird, or his twin,
came to the nest again and disappeared on the other side.

When I left my place to go home, I looked with misgivings into the nest
on which I had built so many hopes. Lo! it was empty!

Now I identified that stealthy visitor absolutely, but I shall never
name him. I have never heard him accused of nest-robbing, and I shall
not make the charge; for I am convinced that the chat had deserted the
nest, and that this abstracter of eggs knew it, and simply took the good
things the gods threw in his way--as would the best of us.

After that unfortunate ending the chat disappeared from the little park;
but a week later I came upon him, or his voice, in a private and rarely
visited pasture down the road, where many clumps of small trees and much
low growth offered desirable nesting-places. He made his usual protest,
and feeling that I had been the cause of the tragedy of the first nest,
though I had grieved over it as much as the owners could, the least I
could do, to show my regret, was to take myself and my curiosity out of
his neighborhood. So I retired at once, and left the whole broad pasture
to the incorrigible chat family, who, I hope, succeeded at last in
enriching the world by half a dozen more of their bewitching kind.



V.

A FEAST OF FLOWERS.

 When first the crocus thrusts its point of gold
 Up through the still snow-drifted garden mould,
 And folded green things in dim woods unclose
 Their crinkled spears, a sudden tremor goes
 Into my veins and makes me kith and kin
 To every wild-born thing that thrills and blows.

 T. B. ALDRICH.


My feast of flowers began before I entered Colorado. For half the
breadth of Kansas the banks of the railroad were heavenly blue with
clustered blossoms of the spiderwort. I remember clumps of this flower
in my grandmother's old-fashioned garden, but my wildest dreams never
pictured miles of it, so profuse that, looking backward from the train,
the track looked like threads of steel in a broad ribbon of blue.

Through the same State, also, the Western meadow-larks kept us company,
and I shall never again think of "bleeding Kansas," but of smiling
Kansas, the home of the bluest of blossoms and the sweetest of singers.
The latter half of the way through the smiling State was golden with
yellow daisies in equal abundance, and beside them many other flowers.
Beginning at noon, I counted twenty-seven varieties, so near the track
that I could distinguish them as we rushed past.

The Santa Fé road enters Colorado in a peculiarly desolate region.
Flowers and birds appear to have stayed behind in Kansas, and no green
thing shows its head, excepting one dismal-looking bush, which serves
only to accentuate the poverty of the soil. As we go on, the mud is
replaced by sand and stones, from gravel up to big bowlders, and flowers
begin to struggle up through the unpromising ground.

Nothing is more surprising than the amazing profusion of wild-flowers
which this apparently ungenial soil produces. Of a certainty, if
Colorado is not the paradise of wild-flowers, it is incomparably richer
in them than any State east of the Mississippi River and north of "Mason
and Dixon's Line." To begin with, there is a marvelous variety. Since I
have taken note of them, from about the 10th of June till nearly the
same date in July, I have found in my daily walk of not more than a mile
or two, each time from one to seven new kinds. A few days I have found
seven, many times I have brought home four, and never has a day passed
without at least one I had not seen before. That will average, at a low
estimate, about a hundred varieties of flowers in a month, and all
within a radius of four miles. What neighborhood can produce a record
equal to this?

Then, again, the blossoms themselves are so abundant. Hardly a root
contents itself with a single flower. The moccasin-plant is the only one
I have noticed as yet. One root will usually send up from one to a dozen
stems, fairly loaded with buds--like the yucca--which open a few every
day, and thus keep in bloom for weeks. Or if there is but one stem, it
will be packed with buds from the ground to the tip, with new ones to
come out for every blossom that falls.

One in the vase on my stand at this moment is of this sort. It is a stem
that sometimes attains a height of four or five feet. I think it
lengthens as long as it is blossoming, and, to look at its preparations,
that must be all summer. Every two or three inches of the stout stem is
a whorl of leaves and buds and blossoms. Except the number of buds, it
is all in fours. Opposite each other, making a cross, are four leaves,
like a carnation leaf at first, but broadening and lengthening till it
is two inches at the base and eight or ten long. Rising out of the axil
of each leaf are buds, of graduated size and development up to the open
blossom. That one stem, therefore, is prepared to open fresh flowers
every day for a long time.

The plant is exquisitely beautiful, for the whole thing, from the stem
to the flower petals, is of a delicate, light pea-green. The blossom
opens like a star, with four stamens and four petals. The description
sounds mathematical, but the plant is graceful--a veritable symphony in
green.

A truly royal bouquet stands on my table--three spikes of yucca flowers
in a tall vase, the middle one three feet high, bearing fifty blossoms
and buds, of large size and a pink color; on its right, one a little
less in size, with long creamy cups fully open; and on the left another,
set with round greenish balls, not so open as cups. They are distinctly
different, but each seems more exquisite than the other, and their
fragrance fills the room. In fact it is so overpowering that when at
night I close the door opening into the grove, I shut the vase and its
contents outside.

This grand flower is the glory of the mesa or table-land at the foot of
this range of the Rocky Mountains--the Cheyenne Range. Where no
grass--that we name grass--will grow, where trees die for want of water,
these noble spikes of flowers dot the bare plains in profusion.

It is the rich possessor of three names. To the flower-lover it is the
yucca; to the cultivator, or whosoever meddles with its leaves, it is
the Spanish-bayonet; to the utilitarian, who values a thing only as it
is of use to him, it is the soap-weed--ignoble name, referring to
certain qualities pertaining to its roots. When we remember that this
flower is not the careful product of the garden, but of spontaneous
growth in the most barren and hopeless-looking plains, we may well
regard it as a type of Colorado's luxuriance in these loveliest of
nature's gifts.

Of a surly disposition is the blossom of a cactus--the "prickly-pear,"
as we call it in Eastern gardens, where we cultivate it for its oddity,
I suppose. When the sojourner in this land of flowers sees, opening on
all sides of this inhospitable-looking plant, rich cream-colored cups,
the size of a Jacqueminot bud, and of a rare, satiny sheen, she cannot
resist the desire to fill a low dish with them for her table.

Woe to her if she attempts to gather them "by hand"! Properly warned,
she will take a knife, sever the flower from the pear (there is no stem
to speak of), pick it up by the tip of a petal, carry it home in a paper
or handkerchief, and dump it gently into water--happy if she does not
feel a dozen intolerable prickles here and there, and have to extract,
with help of magnifying-glass and tweezers, as many needle-like barbs
rankling in her flesh. She may as well have spared herself the trouble.
The flowers possess the uncompromising nature of the stock from which
they sprung; they will speedily shut themselves up like buds again--I
almost believe they close with a snap--and obstinately refuse to display
their satin draperies to delight the eyes of their abductors. This
unlovely spirit is not common among Colorado flowers; most of them go on
blooming in the vase day after day.

Remarkable are the places in which the flowers are found. Not only are
they seen in crevices all the way up the straight side of rocks, where
one would hardly think a seed could lodge, but beside the roads, between
the horses' tracks, and on the edge of gutters in the streets of a city.
One can walk down any street in Colorado Springs and gather a bouquet,
lovely and fragrant, choice enough to adorn any one's table. I once
counted twelve varieties in crossing one vacant corner lot on the
principal street.

One of the richest wild gardens I know is a bare, open spot in a
cottonwood grove, part of it tunneled by ants, which run over it by
millions, and the rest a jumble of bowlders and wild rosebushes,
impossible to describe. In this spot, unshaded from the burning sun,
flourish flowers innumerable. Rosebushes, towering far above one's head,
loaded with bloom; shrubs of several kinds, equally burdened by delicate
white or pink blossoms; the ground covered with foot-high pentstemons,
blue and lavender, in which the buds fairly get in each other's way; and
a curious plant--primrose, I believe--which opens every morning, a few
inches from the ground, a large white blossom like the magnolia, turns
it deep pink, and closes it before night; several kinds of yellow
flowers; wild geraniums, with a look of home in their daintily penciled
petals; above all, the wonderful golden columbine. I despair of
picturing this grand flower to eyes accustomed to the insignificant
columbine of the East. The blossom is three times the size of its
Eastern namesake, growing in clumps sometimes three feet across, with
thirty or forty stems of flowers standing two and a half feet high. In
hue it is a delicate straw color, sometimes all one tint, sometimes with
outside petals of snowy white, and rarely with those outsiders of
lavender. It is a red-letter day when the flower-lover comes upon a
clump of the lavender-leaved columbine. Far up in the mountains is found
still another variety of this beautiful flower, with outside petals of a
rich blue. This, I believe, is the State flower of Colorado.

I am surprised at the small number of flowers here with which I am
familiar. I think there are not more than half a dozen in all this
extraordinary "procession of flowers" that I ever saw before. In
consequence, every day promises discoveries, every walk is exciting as
an excursion into unknown lands, each new find is a fresh treasure.



VI.

A CINDERELLA AMONG FLOWERS.

 Like torches lit for carnival,
 The fiery lilies straight and tall
 Burn where the deepest shadow is;
 Still dance the columbines cliff-hung,
 And like a broidered veil outflung
 The many-blossomed clematis.

 SUSAN COOLIDGE.


A rough, scraggy plant, with unattractive, dark-green foliage and a
profusion of buds standing out at all angles, is, in July, almost the
only growing thing to be seen on the barren-looking mesa around Colorado
Springs. Anything more unpromising can hardly be imagined; the coarsest
thistle is a beauty beside it; the common burdock has a grace of growth
far beyond it; the meanest weed shows a color which puts it to shame.
Yet if the curious traveler pass that way again, late in the afternoon,
he shall find that "Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of
these." He will see the bush transfigured; its angular form hidden under
a mass of many pointed stars of snowy whiteness, with clusters of pale
gold stamens. Then will stand revealed the "superb mentzelia," a true
Cinderella, fit only for ignominious uses in the morning, but a suitable
bride for the fairy prince in the evening.

To look at the wide-stretching table-lands, where, during its season,
this fairy-story transformation takes place daily, so burned by the sun,
and swept by the wind, that no cultivated plant will flourish on it, one
would never suspect that it is the scene of a brilliant "procession of
flowers" from spring to fall. "There is always something going on
outdoors worth seeing," says Charles Dudley Warner, and of no part of
the world is this more true than of these apparently desolate plains at
the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Rich is the reward of the daily
stroller, not only in the inspiration of its pure, bracing air, the
songs of its meadow-larks, and the glory of its grand mountain view, but
in its charming flower show.

This begins with the anemone, modest and shy like our own, but three
times as big, and well protected from the sharp May breezes by a soft,
fluffy silk wrap. Then some day in early June the walker shall note
groups of long, sword-shaped leaves, rising in clusters here and there
from the ground. He may not handle them with impunity, for they are
strong and sharp-edged, and somewhat later the beauty they are set to
guard is revealed. A stem or two, heavy and loaded with hard green
balls, pushes itself up among them day by day, till some morning he
stands spellbound before the full-blown bells of the yucca, cream-tinted
or pink, and fragrant as the breath of summer.

Before the Nature-lover is tired of feasting his eyes upon that stately
flower, shall begin to unfold the crumpled draperies of the great
Mexican poppy, dotting the hillsides and the mesa with white, as far as
the eye can reach. Meanwhile, the earth itself shall suddenly turn to
pink, and a close look disclose a tiny, low-growing blossom, sweet as
the morning, with the glow of the sunrise in its face; a little bunch of
crazy-looking stamens, and tiny snips of petals standing out at all
angles, and of all shades on one stem, from white to deep red; the whole
no bigger than a gauzy-winged fly, and shaped not unlike one, with a
delicious odor that scents the air.

Next day--or next week--wandering over the pathless barrens, the
observer may come upon a group of cream-colored satin flowers, wide open
to the sun, innocent looking and most tempting to gather. But the great
fleshy leaves from which they spring give warning; they belong to the
cactus family, and are well armed to protect their treasures from the
vagrant hand. The walker--if he be wise--will content himself with
looking, nor seek a nearer acquaintance.

While these royal beauties are adorning the highlands, others, perhaps
even more lovely, are blooming in the cañons, under the trees, and
beside the noisy brooks. First, there is a "riot of roses"--the only
expression that adequately suggests the profusion of these beautiful
flowers. They grow in enormous bushes, far above one's head, in
impenetrable thickets, extending for yards each way.

         "Rose hedges
 Abloom to the edges."

Every country road is walled in by them; every brookside is glorified by
their rich masses of color; and no rocky wall is so bare but here and
there a tiny shoot finds root, and open its rosy bloom. All these
bushes, from the low-growing sort that holds its mottled and shaded
petals three inches above the ground, to that whose top one cannot
reach, are simply loaded with blossoms of all shades, from nearly white
to deepest rose-color, filling the air with perfume.

The first time one comes upon this lavish display, he--or more probably
she--picks a spray from the first bush; she cannot resist the next
variety, and before she knows it her arms are full, with temptations as
strong as ever before her. She may at last, like "H. H.," take home her
roses by the carriage load, or, overwhelmed by their numbers, leave them
all on their stems, and enjoy them in mass.

Shyly hiding under the taller shrubs beside the running water, the
experienced seeker will find the gilia, one of the gems of Colorado's
bouquet. This plant consists of one slender stem two feet or more tall,
swayed by every breeze, and set for several inches of its length with
daintiest blossoms,--

 "Like threaded rubies on its stem."

They are like fairy trumpets, in many shades, from snow white to deep
rose, and brilliant scarlet, with great variety of delicate marking
visible only under a glass. The stem is so sticky that the flowers must
be arranged as they are gathered; for they cling to each other more
closely than the fabled "brother," and an attempt to separate them will
result in torn flowers.

Anything more exquisite than a vase of gilias alone is rarely seen. The
buds are as lovely as the blossoms; new ones open every day, and even
the faded ones are not unsightly; their petals are simply turned
backward a little. One minute every morning spent in snipping off
blossoms that are past their prime insures the happy possessor a
bouquet that is a joy forever, even in memory; lovely and fresh, in
ever-changing combinations of color and form.

Some day shall be made memorable to the enthusiast by the discovery of a
flower which should be named for "H. H.,"--the one which looked so
charming from the moving train that her winning tongue brought the iron
horse to a pause while it was gathered, "root and branch," for her
delectation. Finding the gorgeous spike of golden blossoms without a
common name, she called it--most happily--the golden prince's feather.
It is to be presumed that it has an unwieldy scientific cognomen in the
botanies; but I heard of no common one, except that given by the poet.

While this royal flower is still in bloom, may be found the mariposa, or
butterfly lily, small and low on the burning mesa, but more generous in
size, and richer of hue, in the shaded cañons.

 "Like a bubble borne in air
   Floats the shy Mariposa's bell,"

says Susan Coolidge in her beautiful tribute to her beloved friend and
poet. The three petals of this exquisite flower form a graceful cup of
differing degrees of violet hue, some being nearly white, with the color
massed in a rich, deep-toned crescent, low down at the heart of each
petal, while others are glowing in the most regal purple.

All these weeks, too, have been blossoming dozens, yes, hundreds of
others; every nook and corner is full; every walk brings surprises. Some
of our most familiar friends are wanting. One is not surprised that the
most common wayside flower of that golden region is the yellow daisy, or
sunflower it is called; but she remembers fondly our fields of white
daisies, and clumps of gay little buttercups, and she longs for
cheery-faced dandelions beside her path. A few of the latter she may
find, much larger and more showy than ours; but these--it is said in
Colorado Springs--are all from seed imported by an exile for health's
sake, who pined for the flowers of home.

Several peculiarities of Colorado flowers are noteworthy. Some have
gummy or sticky stems, like the gilia, already mentioned, and others
again are "clinging," by means of a certain roughness of stem and leaf.
The mentzelia is of this nature; half a dozen stalks can with difficulty
be separated; and they seem even to attract any light substance, like
fringe or lace, holding so closely to it that they must be torn apart.

Many of the prettiest flowers are, like our milkweed, nourished by a
milky juice, and when severed from the parent stem, not only weep thick
white tears, which stain the hands and the garments, but utterly refuse
to subsist on water, and begin at once to droop. Is it the vitality in
the air which forces even the plants to eccentricities? Or can it be
that they have not yet been subdued into uniformity like ours? Are they
unconventional--nearer to wild Nature? So queries an unscientific lover
of them all.

This slight sketch of a few flowers gives hardly a hint of the richness
of Colorado's flora. No words can paint the profusion and the beauty. I
have not here even mentioned some of the most notable: the great golden
columbine, the State flower, to which our modest blossom is an
insignificant weed;

 "The fairy lilies, straight and tall,
 Like torches lit for carnival;"

the primrose, opening at evening a disk three or four inches across,
loaded with richest perfume, and changed to odorless pink before
morning; exquisite vetches, with bloom like our sweet pea, and of more
than fifty varieties; harebells in great clumps, and castilleias which
dot the State with scarlet; rosy cyclamens "on long, lithe stems that
soar;" and mertensias, whose delicate bells, blue as a baby's eyes, turn
day by day to pink; the cleome, which covers Denver with a purple veil;
the whole family of pentstemons, and hundreds of others.

An artist in Colorado Springs, who has given her heart, almost her life,
to fixing in imperishable color the floral wealth about her, has painted
over three hundred varieties of Colorado wild-flowers, and her list is
still incomplete.

It is not pleasant to mar this record of beauty, but one thing must be
mentioned. The luxuriance of the flowers is already greatly diminished
by the unscrupulousness of the tourists who swarm in the flower season,
especially, I am sorry to say, women. Not content with filling their
hands with flowers, they fill their arms and even their carriage, if
they have one. Moreover, the hold of the plant on the light, sandy soil
is very slight; and the careless gatherer, not provided with knife or
scissors, will almost invariably pull the root with the flower, thus
totally annihilating that plant. When one witnesses such greediness, and
remembers that these vandals are in general on the wing, and cannot stay
to enjoy what they have rifled, but will leave it all to be thrown out
by hotel servants the next morning, he cannot wonder at the indignation
of the residents toward the traveler, nor that "No admittance" notices
are put up, and big dogs kept, and that "tourist" is a name synonymous
with "plunderer," and bitterly hated by the people.

I have seen a party of ladies--to judge by their looks--with arms so
full of the golden columbine that it seemed they could not hold another
flower, whose traveling dress and equipments showed them to be mere
transient passers through, who could not possibly make use of so many.
Half a dozen blossoms would have given as much pleasure as half a
hundred, and be much more easily cared for, besides leaving a few for
their successors to enjoy. The result is, of course, plain to see: a few
more years of plunder, and Colorado will be left bare, and lose half her
charm.

One beautiful place near Colorado Springs, Glen Eyrie, belonging to
General Palmer, was generously left open for every one to enjoy by
driving through; but, incredible as it seems, his hospitality was so
abused, his lovely grounds rifled, not only of wild-flowers, but even of
cultivated flowers and plants, that he was forced at last to put up
notices that the public was allowed to "drive through _without
dismounting_."



VII.

CLIFF-DWELLERS IN THE CAÑON.

                                   Glad
 With light as with a garment it is clad
 Each dawn, before the tardy plains have won
 One ray; and often after day has long been done
 For us, the light doth cling reluctant, sad to leave its brow.

 H. H.


The happiest day of my summer in the Rocky Mountains was passed in the
heart of a mountain consecrated by the songs and the grave of its lover,
"H. H.,"--beautiful Cheyenne, the grandest and the most graceful of its
range.

Camp Harding, my home for the season, in its charming situation, has
already been described. The fortunate dwellers in this "happy valley"
were blessed with two delectable walks, "down the road" and "up the
road." Down the road presented an enchanting procession of flowers,
which changed from day to day as the season advanced; to-day the scarlet
castilleia, or painter's-brush, flaming out of the coarse grasses;
to-morrow the sand lily, lifting its dainty face above the bare sand;
next week the harebell, in great clumps, nodding across the field, and
next month the mariposa or butterfly lily, just peeping from behind the
brush,--with dozens of others to keep them company. As one went on, the
fields grew broader, the walls of the mesa lowered and drew apart, till
the cañon was lost in the wide, open country.

This was the favorite evening walk, with all the camp dogs in
attendance,--the nimble greyhound, the age-stiffened and sedate spaniel,
the saucy, ill-bred bull-terrier, and the naïve baby pug. The loitering
walk usually ended at the red farmhouse a mile away, and the walkers
returned to the camp in the gloaming, loaded with flowers, saturated
with the delicious mountain air, and filled with a peace that passeth
words.

Up the road led into the mountain, under thick-crowding trees, between
frowning rocks, ever growing higher and drawing nearer together, till
the carriage road became a burro track, and then a footpath; now this
side the boisterous brook, then crossing by a log or two to the other
side, and ending in the heart of Cheyenne in a _cul-de-sac_, whose high
perpendicular sides could be scaled only by flights of steps built
against the rocks. From high up the mountain, into this immense rocky
basin, came the brook Shining Water, in seven tremendous leaps, each
more lovely than the last, and reached at bottom a deep stone bowl,
which flung it out in a shower of spray forbidding near approach, and
keeping the rocks forever wet.

The morning walk was up the road, in the grateful shade of the trees,
between the cool rocks, beside the impetuous brook. This last was an
ever fresh source of interest and pleasure, for nothing differs more
widely from an Eastern brook than its Western namesake. The terms we
apply to our mountain rivulets do not at all describe a body of water on
its way down a Rocky Mountain valley. It does not murmur,--it roars and
brawls; it cannot ripple,--it rages and foams about the bowlders that
lie in its path. The name of a Colorado mountain stream, the Roaring
Fork, exactly characterizes it.

One warm morning in June, a small party from the camp set out for a walk
up the road. By easy stages, resting here and there on convenient rocks,
beguiled at every step by something more beautiful just ahead, they
penetrated to the end of the cañon. Of that party I was one, and it was
my first visit. I was alternately in raptures over the richness of
color, the glowing red sandstone against the violet-blue sky, and
thrilled by the grandeur of places which looked as if the whole
mountain had been violently rent asunder.

But no emotion whatever, no beauty, no sublimity even, can make me
insensible to a bird note. Just at the entrance to the Pillars of
Hercules, two towering walls of perpendicular rock that approach each
other almost threateningly, as if they would close up and crush between
them the rash mortal who dared to penetrate farther,--in that impressive
spot, while I lingered, half yielding to a mysterious hesitation about
entering the strange portal, a bird song fell upon my ear. It was a
plaintive warble, that sounded far away up the stern cliff above my
head. It seemed impossible that a bird could find a foothold, or be in
any way attracted by those bare walls, yet I turned my eyes, and later
my glass that way.

At first nothing was to be seen save, part way up the height, an
exquisite bit of nature. In a niche that might have been scooped out by
a mighty hand, where scarcely a ray of sunlight could penetrate, and no
human touch could make or mar, were growing, and blooming luxuriantly, a
golden columbine, Colorado's pride and glory, a rosy star-shaped blossom
unknown to me, and a cluster of

 "Proud cyclamens on long, lithe stems that soar."

When I could withdraw my eyes from this dainty wind-sown garden, I
sought the singer, who proved to be a small brown bird with a
conspicuous white throat, flitting about on the face of the rock,
apparently quite at home, and constantly repeating his few notes. His
song was tender and bewitching in its effect, though it was really
simple in construction, being merely nine notes, the first uttered
twice, and the remaining eight in descending chromatic scale.

Now and then the tiny songster disappeared in what looked like a slight
crack in the wall, but instantly reappeared, and resumed his siren
strains. Spellbound I stood, looking and listening; but alas! the hour
was late, the way was long, and others were waiting; I needs must tear
myself away. "To-morrow I will come again," I said, as I turned back.
"To-morrow I shall be here alone, and spend the whole day with the cañon
wren."

Then we retraced our steps of the morning, lingering among the pleasant
groves of cottonwood, oak, and aspen; pausing to admire the cactus
display of gorgeous yellow, with petals widespread, yet so wedded to
their wildness that they resented the touch of a human hand, resisting
their ravisher with needle-like barbs, and then sullenly drawing
together their satin petals and refusing to open them more; past great
thickets of wild roses, higher than our heads and fragrant as the
morning; beside close-growing bushes, where hid the

 "Golden cradle of the moccasin flower,"

and the too clever yellow-breasted chat had mocked and defied me; and so
home to the camp.

At an early hour the next morning, the carriage of my hostess set me
down at the entrance of Cheyenne Cañon proper, with the impedimenta
necessary for a day's isolation from civilization. I passed through the
gate,--for even this grand work of nature is claimed as private
property; but, happily, through good sense or indifference,
"improvements" have not been attempted, and one forgets the gate and the
gate-keeper as soon as they are passed.

Entering at that unnatural hour, and alone, leaving the last human being
behind,--staring in astonishment, by the way, at my unprecedented
proceeding,--I began to realize, as I walked up the narrow path, that
the whole grand cañon, winding perhaps a mile into the heart of this
most beautiful of the Rocky Mountains, was mine alone for three hours.
Indeed, when the time arrived for tourists to appear, so little did I
concern myself with them that they might have been a procession of
spectres passing by; so, in effect, the cañon was my solitary possession
for nine blissful hours.

The delights of that perfect day cannot be put into words. Strolling up
the path, filled with an inexpressible sense of ownership and seclusion
from all the world, I first paused in the neighborhood of the small
cliff-dweller whose music had charmed me, and suggested the enchanting
idea of spending a day with him in his retreat. I seated myself opposite
the forbidding wall where the bird had hovered, apparently so much at
home. All was silent; no singer to be heard, no wren to be seen. The
sun, which turned the tops of the Pillars to gold as I entered, crept
down inch by inch till it beat upon my head and clothed the rock in a
red glory. Still no bird appeared. High above the top of the rocks, in
the clear thin air of the mountain, a flock of swallows wheeled and
sported, uttering an unfamiliar two-note call; butterflies fluttered
irresolute, looking frivolous enough in the presence of the eternal
hills; gauzy-winged dragonflies zigzagged to and fro, their intense blue
gleaming in the sun. The hour for visitors drew near, and my precious
solitude was fast slipping away.

Slowly then I walked up the cañon, looking for my singer. Humming-birds
were hovering before the bare rock as before a flower, perhaps sipping
the water-drops that here and there trickled down, and large hawks, like
mere specks against the blue, were soaring, but no wren could I see. At
last I reached the end, with its waterfall fountain. Close within this
ceaseless sprinkle, on a narrow ledge that was never dry, was placed--I
had almost said grew--a bird's nest; whose, it were needless to ask. One
American bird, and one only, chooses perpetual dampness for his
environment,--the American dipper, or water ouzel.

Here I paused to muse over the spray-soaked cradle on the rock. In this
strange place had lived a bird so eccentric that he prefers not only to
nest under a continuous shower, through which he must constantly pass,
but to spend most of his life in, not on the water. Shall we call him a
fool or a philosopher? Is the water a protection, and from what? Has
"damp, moist unpleasantness" no terrors for his fine feathers? Where now
were the nestlings whose lullaby had been the music of the falling
waters? Down that sheer rock, perhaps into the water at its foot, had
been the first flight of the ouzel baby. Why had I come too late to see
him?

But the hours were passing, while I had not seen, and, what was worse,
had not heard my first charmer, the cañon wren. Leaving these perplexing
conundrums unsolved, I turned slowly back down the walk, to resume my
search. Perhaps fifty feet from the ouzel nest, as I lingered to admire
the picturesque rapids in the brook, a slight movement drew my attention
to a little projection on a stone, not six feet from me, where a small
chipmunk sat pertly up, holding in his two hands, and eagerly
nibbling--was it, could it be a strawberry in this rocky place?

Of course I stopped instantly to look at this pretty sight. I judged him
to be a youngster, partly because of his evident fearlessness of his
hereditary enemy, a human being; more on account of the saucy way in
which he returned my stare; and most, perhaps, from the appearance of
absorbing delight, in which there was a suggestion of the unexpected,
with which he discussed that sweet morsel. Closely I watched him as he
turned the treasure round and round in his deft little paws, and at last
dropped the rifled hull. Would he go for another, and where? In an
instant, with a parting glance at me, to make sure that I had not moved,
he scrambled down his rocky throne, and bounded in great leaps over the
path to a crumpled paper, which I saw at once was one of the bags with
which tourists sow the earth. But its presence there did not rouse in my
furry friend the indignation it excited in me. To him it was a
treasure-trove, for into it he disappeared without a moment's
hesitation; and almost before I had jumped to the conclusion that it
contained the remains of somebody's luncheon, he reappeared, holding in
his mouth another strawberry, bounded over the ground to his former
seat, and proceeded to dispose of that one, also. The scene was so
charming and his pleasure so genuine that I forgave the careless
traveler on the spot, and only wished I had a kodak to secure a
permanent picture of this unique strawberry festival.

As I loitered along, gazing idly at the brook, ever listening and
longing for the wren song, I was suddenly struck motionless by a loud,
shrill, and peculiar cry. It was plainly a bird voice, and it seemed to
come almost from the stream itself. It ceased in a moment, and then
followed a burst of song, liquid as the singing of the brook, and
enchantingly sweet, though very low. I was astounded. Who could sing
like that up in this narrow mountain gorge, where I supposed the cañon
wren was king?

At the point where I stood, a straggling shrub, the only one for rods,
hung over the brink. I silently sank to a seat behind it, lest I disturb
the singer, and remained without movement. The baffling carol went on
for some seconds, and for the only time in my life I wished I could put
a spell upon brook-babble, that I might the better hear.

Cautiously I raised my glass to my eyes, and examined the rocks across
the water, probably eight feet from me. Then arose again that strange
cry, and at the same instant my eye fell upon a tiny ledge, level with
the water, and perhaps six inches long, on which stood a small
fellow-creature in great excitement. He was engaged in what I should
call "curtsying"; that is, bending his leg joint, and dropping his plump
little body for a second, then bobbing up to his fullest height,
repeating the performance constantly,--looking eagerly out over the
water the while, evidently expecting somebody. This was undoubtedly the
bird's manner of begging for food,--a very pretty and well-bred way,
too, vastly superior to the impetuous calls and demands of some young
birds. The movement was "dipping," of course, and he was the dipper, or
ouzel baby, that had been cradled in that fountain-dashed nest by the
fall. He was not long out of it, either; for though fully dressed in his
modest slate-color, with white feet, and white edgings to many of his
feathers, he had hardly a vestige of a tail. He was a winsome baby, for
all that.

While I studied the points of the stranger, breathless lest he should
disappear before my eyes, he suddenly burst out with the strange call I
had heard. It was clearly a cry of joy, of welcome, for out of the
water, up on to the ledge beside him, scrambled at that moment a
grown-up ouzel. He gave one poke into the wide-open mouth of the infant,
then slipped back into the water, dropped down a foot or more, climbed
out upon another little shelf in the rock, and in a moment the song
arose. I watched the singer closely. The notes were so low and so
mingled with the roar of the brook that even then I should not have been
certain he was uttering them if I had not seen his throat and mouth
distinctly. The song was really exquisite, and as much in harmony with
the melody of the stream as the voice of the English sparrow is with the
city sounds among which he dwells, and the plaintive refrain of the
meadow-lark with the low-lying, silent fields where he spends his days.

But little cared baby ouzel for music, however ravishing. What to his
mind was far more important was food,--in short, worms. His pretty
begging continued, and the daring notion of attempting a perilous
journey over the foot of water that separated him from his papa plainly
entered his head. He hurried back and forth on the brink with growing
agitation, and was seemingly about to plunge in, when the singer again
entered the water, brought up another morsel, and then stood on the
ledge beside the eager youngling, "dipping" occasionally himself, and
showing every time he winked--as did the little one, also--snowy-white
eyelids, in strange contrast to the dark slate-colored plumage.

This aesthetic manner of discharging family duties, alternating food for
the body with rapture of the soul, continued for some time, probably
until the young bird had as much as was good for him; and then supplies
were cut off by the peremptory disappearance of the purveyor, who
plunged with the brook over the edge of a rock, and was seen no more.

A little later a grown bird appeared, that I supposed at first was the
returning papa, but a few moments' observation convinced me that it was
the mother; partly because no song accompanied the work, but more
because of the entirely different manners of the new-comer. Filling the
crop of that importunate offspring of hers was, with this Quaker-dressed
dame, a serious business that left no time for rest or recreation. Two
charmed hours I sat absorbed, watching the most wonderful evolutions one
could believe possible to a creature in feathers.

At the point where this little drama was enacted, the brook rushed over
a line of pebbles stretching from bank to bank, lying at all angles and
of all sizes, from six to ten inches in diameter. Then it ran five or
six feet quietly, around smooth rocks here and there above the water,
and ended by plunging over a mass of bowlders to a lower level. The bird
began by mounting one of those slippery rounded stones, and thrusting
her head under water up to her shoulders. Holding it there a few
seconds, apparently looking for something, she then jumped in where the
turmoil was maddest, picked an object from the bottom, and, returning to
the ledge, gave it to baby.

The next moment, before I had recovered from my astonishment at this
feat of the ouzel, she ran directly up the falls (which, though not
high, were exceedingly lively), being half the time entirely under
water, and exactly as much at her ease as if no water were there; though
how she could stand in the rapid current, not to speak of walking
straight up against it, I could not understand.

Often she threw herself into the stream, and let it carry her down, like
a duck, a foot or two, while she looked intently on the bottom, then
simply walked up out of it on to a stone. I could see that her plumage
was not in the least wet; a drop or two often rested on her back when
she came out, but it rolled off in a moment. She never even shook
herself. The food she brought to that eager youngling every few minutes
looked like minute worms, doubtless some insect larvæ.

Several times this hard-working mother plunged into the brook where it
was shallow, ran or walked down it, half under water, and stopped on the
very brink of the lower fall, where one would think she could not even
stand, much less turn back and run up stream, which she did freely. This
looked to me almost as difficult as for a man to stand on the brink of
Niagara, with the water roaring and tumbling around him. Now and then
the bird ran or flew up, against the current, and entirely under water,
so that I could see her only as a dark-colored moving object, and then
came out all fresh and dry beside the baby, with a mouthful of food. I
should hardly dare to tell this, for fear of raising doubts of my
accuracy, if the same thing had not been seen and reported by others
before me. Her crowning action was to stand with one foot on each of two
stones in the middle and most uproarious part of the little fall, lean
far over, and deliberately pick something from a third stone.

All this was no show performance, even no frolic, on the part of the
ouzel,--it was simply her every-day manner of providing for the needs of
that infant; and when she considered the duty discharged for the time,
she took her departure, very probably going at once to the care of a
second youngster who awaited her coming in some other niche in the
rocks.

Finding himself alone again, and no more dainties coming his way, the
young dipper turned for entertainment to the swift-running streamlet. He
went down to the edge, stepping easily, never hopping; but when the
shallow edge of the water ran over his pretty white toes, he hastily
scampered back, as if afraid to venture farther. The clever little rogue
was only coquetting, however, for when he did at last plunge in he
showed himself very much at home. He easily crossed a turbulent bit of
the brook, and when he was carried down a little he scrambled without
trouble up on a stone. All the time, too, he was peering about after
food; and in fact it was plain that his begging was a mere pretense,--he
was perfectly well able to look out for himself. Through the whole of
these scenes not one of the birds, old or young, had paid the slightest
attention to me, though I was not ten feet from them.

During the time I had been so absorbed in my delightful study of
domestic life in the ouzel family, the other interesting resident of the
cañon--the elusive cañon wren--had been forgotten. Now, as I noticed
that the day was waning, I thought of him again, and, tearing myself
away from the enticing picture, leaving the pretty baby to his own
amusements, I returned to the famous Pillars, and planted myself before
my rock, resolved to stay there till the bird appeared.

No note came to encourage me, but, gazing steadily upward, after a time
I noticed something that looked like a fly running along the wall.
Bringing my glass to my eyes, I found that it was a bird, and one of the
white-throated family I so longed to see. She--for her silence and her
ways proclaimed her sex--was running about where appeared to be nothing
but perpendicular rock, flirting her tail after the manner of her race,
as happy and as unconcerned as if several thousand feet of sheer cliff
did not stretch between her and the brook at its foot. Her movements
were jerky and wren-like, and every few minutes she flitted into a tiny
crevice that seemed, from my point of view, hardly large enough to admit
even her minute form. She was dressed like the sweet singer of
yesterday, and the door she entered so familiarly was the same I had
seen him interested in. I guessed that she was his mate.

The bird seemed to be gathering from the rock something which she
constantly carried into the hole. Possibly there were nestlings in that
snug and inaccessible home. To discover if my conjectures were true, I
redoubled my vigilance, though it was neck-breaking work, for so narrow
was the cañon at that point that I could not get far enough away for a
more level view.

Sometimes the bustling little wren flew to the top of the wall, about
twenty feet above her front door, as it looked to me (it may have been
ten times that). Over the edge she instantly disappeared, but in a few
minutes returned to her occupation on the rock. Upon the earth beneath
her sky parlor she seemed never to turn her eyes, and I began to fear
that I should get no nearer view of the shy cliff-dweller.

Finally, however, the caprice seized the tantalizing creature of
descending to the level of mortals, and the brook. Suddenly, while I
looked, she flung herself off her perch, and fell--down--down--down--
disappearing at last behind a clump of weeds at the bottom. Was she
killed? Had she been shot by some noiseless air-gun? What had become
of the tiny wren? I sprang to my feet, and hurried as near as the
intervening stream would allow, when lo! there she was, lively and fussy
as ever, running about at the foot of the cliff, searching, searching
all the time, ever and anon jumping up and pulling from the rock
something that clung to it.

When the industrious bird had filled her beak with material that stuck
out on both sides, which I concluded to be some kind of rock moss, she
started back. Not up the face of that blank wall, loaded as she was,
but by a strange path that she knew well, up which I watched her wending
her way to her proper level. This was a cleft between two solid bodies
of rock, where, it would seem, the two walls, in settling together for
their lifelong union, had broken and crumbled, and formed between them a
sort of crack, filled with unattached bowlders, with crevices and
passages, sometimes perpendicular, sometimes horizontal. Around and
through these was a zigzag road to the top, evidently as familiar to
that atom of a bird as Broadway is to some of her fellow-creatures, and
more easily traversed, for she had it all to herself.

The wren flew about three feet to the first step of her upward passage,
then ran and clambered nearly all the rest of the way, darting behind
jutting rocks and coming out the other side, occasionally flying a foot
or two; now pausing as if for an observation, jerking her tail upright
and letting it drop back, wren-fashion, then starting afresh, and so
going on till she reached the level of her nest, when she flew across
the (apparent) forty or fifty feet, directly into the crevice. In a
minute she came out, and without an instant's pause flung herself down
again.

I watched this curious process very closely. The wren seemed to close
her wings; certainly she did not use them, nor were they in the least
spread that I could detect. She came to the ground as if she were a
stone, as quickly and as directly as a stone would have fallen; but just
before touching the ground she spread her wings, and alighted lightly on
her feet. Then she fell to her labor of collecting what I suppose was
nesting material, and in a few minutes started up again by the
roundabout road to the top. Two hours or more, with gradually stiffening
neck, I spent with the wren, while she worked constantly and silently,
and not once during all that time did the singer appear.

What the scattering parties of tourists, who from time to time passed
me, thought of a silent personage sitting in the cañon alone, staring
intently up at a blank wall of rock, I did not inquire. Perhaps that she
was a verse-writer seeking inspiration; more likely, however, a harmless
lunatic musing over her own fancies.

I know well what I thought of them, from the glimpses that came to me as
I sat there; some climbing over the sharp-edged rocks, in tight boots,
delicate kid gloves, and immaculate traveling costumes, and panting for
breath in the seven thousand feet altitude; others uncomfortably seated
on the backs of the scraggy little burros, one of whom was so interested
in my proceedings that he walked directly up and thrust his long,
inquiring ears into my very face, spite of the resistance of his rider,
forcing me to rise and decline closer acquaintance. One of the
melancholy procession was loaded with a heavy camera, another equipped
with a butterfly net; this one bent under the weight of a big basket of
luncheon, and that one was burdened with satchels and wraps and
umbrellas. All were laboriously trying to enjoy themselves, but not one
lingered to look at the wonder and the beauty of the surroundings. I
pitied them, one and all, feeling obliged, as no doubt they did, to "see
the sights;" tramping the lovely cañon to-day, glancing neither to right
nor left; whirling through the Garden of the Gods to-morrow; painfully
climbing the next day the burro track to the Grave, the sacred point
where

 "Upon the wind-blown mountain spot
 Chosen and loved as best by her,
 Watched over by near sun and star,
 Encompassed by wide skies, she sleeps."

Alas that one cannot quote with truth the remaining lines!

 "And not one jarring murmur creeps
 Up from the plain her rest to mar."

For now, at the end of the toilsome passage, that place which should be
sacred to loving memories and tender thoughts, is desecrated by placards
and picnickers, defaced by advertisements, strewn with the
wrapping-paper, tin cans, and bottles with which the modern
globe-trotter marks his path through the beautiful and sacred scenes in
nature.[1]

In this uncomfortable way the majority of summer tourists spend day
after day, and week after week; going home tired out, with no new idea
gained, but happy to be able to say they have been here and there,
beheld this cañon, dined on that mountain, drank champagne in such a
pass, and struggled for breath on top of "the Peak." Their eyes may
indeed have passed over these scenes, but they have not _seen_ one
thing.

Far wiser is he (and more especially she) who seeks out a corner obscure
enough to escape the eyes of the "procession," settles himself in it,
and spends fruitful and delightful days alone with nature; never hasting
nor rushing; seeing and studying the wonders at hand, but avoiding
"parties" and "excursions;" valuing more a thorough knowledge of one
cañon than a glimpse of fifty; caring more to appreciate the beauties of
one mountain than to scramble over a whole range; getting into such
perfect harmony with nature that it is as if he had come into possession
of a new life; and from such an experience returning to his home
refreshed and invigorated in mind and body.

Such were my reflections as the sun went down, and I felt, as I passed
out through the gate, that I ought to double my entrance fee, so much
had my life been enriched by that perfect day alone in Cheyenne Cañon.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Since the above was written, I am glad to learn that,
because of this vandalism, the remains of "H. H." have been removed to
the cemetery at Colorado Springs.]



IN THE MIDDLE COUNTRY.



 For all the woods are shrill with stress of song,
   Where soft wings flutter down to new-built nests,
 And turbulent sweet sounds are heard day long,
   As of innumerable marriage feasts.

 CHARLES LOTIN HILDRETH.



VIII.

AT FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING.


Four o'clock in the morning is the magical hour of the day. I do not
offer this sentiment as original, nor have I the slightest hope of
converting any one to my opinion; I merely state the fact.

For years I had known it perfectly well; and fortified by my knowledge,
and bristling with good resolutions, I went out every June determined to
rise at that unnatural hour. Nothing is easier than to get up at four
o'clock--the night before; but when morning comes, the point of view is
changed, and all the arguments that arise in the mind are on the other
side; sleep is the one thing desirable. The case appeared hopeless.
Appeals from Philip drunk (with sleep) to Philip sober did not seem to
avail; for whatever the latter decreed, the former would surely disobey.

But last June I found my spur; last summer I learned to get up with
eagerness, and stay up with delight. This was effected by means of an
alarm, set by the evening's wakefulness, that had no mercy on the
morning's sleepiness. The secret is--a present interest. What may be
going on somewhere out of sight and hearing in the world is a matter of
perfect indifference; what is heard and seen at the moment is an
argument that no one can resist.

I got my hint by the accident of some shelled corn being left on the
ground before my window, and so attracting a four o'clock party,
consisting of blackbirds, blue jays, and doves. I noticed the corn, but
did not think of the pleasure it would give me, until the next morning,
when I was awakened about four o'clock by loud and excited talk in
blackbird tones, and hurried to the window, to find that I had half the
birds of the neighborhood before me.

Most in number, and most noisy, were the common blackbirds, who just at
that time were feeding their young in a grove of evergreens back of the
house, where they had set up their nurseries in a crowd, as is their
custom. It is impossible to take this bird seriously, he is so
irresistibly ludicrous. His manners always suggest to me the peculiar
drollery of the negro; one of the old-fashioned sort, as we read of him,
and I promised myself some amusement from the study of him at short
range; I was not disappointed.

My greeting as I took my seat at the open window, unfortunately without
blinds to screen me, was most comical. A big pompous fellow turned his
wicked-looking white eye upon me, drew himself into a queer humped-up
position, with all his feathers on end, and apparently by a strong
effort _squeezed_ out a husky and squeaky, yet loud cry of two notes,
which sounded exactly like "Squee-gee!"

I was so astounded that I laughed in his face; at which he repeated it
with added emphasis, then turned his back on me, as unworthy of notice
away up in my window, and gave his undivided attention to a specially
large grain of corn which had been unearthed by a meek-looking neighbor,
and appropriated by him, in the most lordly manner. His bearing at the
moment was superb and stately in a degree of which only a bird who walks
is capable; one cannot be dignified who is obliged to hop.

I thought his greeting was a personal one to show contempt--which it did
emphatically--to the human race in general, and to me in particular, but
I found later that it was the ordinary blackbird way of being offensive;
it was equivalent to "Get out!" or "Shut up!" or some other of the curt
and rude expressions in use by bigger folk than blackbirds.

If a bird alighted too near one of these arrogant fellows on the ground,
he was met with the same expletive, and if he was about the same size
he "talked back." The number and variety of utterances at their command
was astonishing; I was always being surprised with a new one. Now a
blackbird would fly across the lawn, making a noise exactly like a boy's
tin trumpet, and repeating it as long as he was within hearing,
regarding it, seemingly, as an exceptionally great feat. Again one would
seize a kernel of corn, burst out with a convulsive cry, as if he were
choking to death, and fly off with his prize, in imminent danger of his
life, as I could not but feel.

The second morning a youngster came with his papa to the feast, and he
was droller, if possible, than his elders. He followed his parent
around, with head lowered and mouth wide open, fairly bawling in a loud
yet husky tone.

The young blackbird does not appear in the glossy suit of his parents.
His coat is rusty in hue, and his eye is dark, as is proper in youth. He
is not at all backward in speaking his mind, and his sole desire at this
period of his life being food, he demands it with an energy and
persistence that usually insures success.

In making close acquaintance with them, one cannot help longing to
prescribe to the whole blackbird family something to clear their
bronchial tubes; every tone is husky, and the student involuntarily
clears his own throat as he listens.

I was surprised to find the blackbirds so beautiful. When the sun was
near setting, and struck across the grass its level rays, they were
really exquisite; their heads a brilliant metallic blue, and all back of
that rich bronze or purple, all over as glossy as satin. The little
dames are somewhat smaller, and a shade less finely dressed than their
bumptious mates; but that does not make them meek--far from it! and they
are not behind their partners in eccentric freaks. Sometimes one would
apparently attempt a joke by starting to fly, and passing so near the
head of one of the dignitaries on the ground that he would involuntarily
start and "duck" ingloriously. On one occasion a pair were working
peaceably together at the corn, when she flirted a bit of dirt so that
it flew toward him. He dashed furiously at her. She gave one hop which
took her about a foot away, and then it appeared that she coveted a
kernel of corn that was near him when the offense was given, for she
instantly jumped back and pounced upon it as if she expected to be
annihilated. He ran after her and drove her off, but she kept her prize.

Eating one of those hard grains was no joke to anybody without teeth,
and it was a serious affair to one of the blackbirds. He took it into
his beak, dropped both head and tail, and gave his mind to the cracking
of the sweet morsel. At this time he particularly disliked to be
disturbed, and the only time I saw one rude to a youngster was when
struggling with this difficulty. While feeding the nestlings, they broke
the kernels into bits, picked up all the pieces, filling the beak the
whole length, and then flew off with them.

But they were not always allowed to keep the whole kernel. They were
generally attended while on the ground by a little party of thieves,
ready and waiting to snatch any morsel that was dropped. These were, of
course, the English sparrows. They could not break corn, but they liked
it for all that, so they used their wits to secure it, and of sharpness
these street birds have no lack. The moment a blackbird alighted on the
grass, a sparrow or two came down beside him, and lingered around,
watching eagerly. Whenever a crumb dropped, one rushed in and snatched
it, and instantly flew from the wrath to come.

The sparrows had not been at this long before some of the wise
blackbirds saw through it, and resented it with proper spirit. One of
them would turn savagely after the sparrow who followed him, and the
knowing rascal always took his departure. It was amusing to see a
blackbird working seriously on a grain, all his faculties absorbed in
the solemn question whether he should succeed in cracking his nut, while
two or three feathered pilferers stood as near as they dared, anxiously
waiting till the great work should be accomplished, the hard shell
should yield, and some bits should fall.

About five days after the feast was spread, the young came out in force,
often two of them following one adult about on the grass, running after
him so closely that he could hardly get a chance to break up the kernel;
indeed, he often had to fly to a tree to prepare the mouthfuls for them.
The young blackbird has not the slightest repose of manner; nor, for
that matter, has the old one either. The grown-ups treated the young
well, almost always; they never "squee-gee'd" at them, never touched
them in any way, notwithstanding they were so insistent in begging that
they would chase an adult bird across the grass, calling madly all the
time, and fairly force him to fly away to get rid of them.

Once two young ones got possession of the only spot where corn was left,
and so tormented their elders who came that they had to dash in and
snatch a kernel when they wanted one. One of the old ones danced around
these two babies in a little circle a foot in diameter, the infants
turning as he moved, and ever presenting open beaks to him. It was one
of the funniest exhibitions I ever saw. After going around half a dozen
times, the baffled blackbird flew away without a taste.

When the two had driven every one else off the ground by their
importunities, one of them plucked up spirit to try managing the corn
for himself. Like a little man he stopped bawling, and began exercising
his strength on the sweet grain. Upon this his neighbor, instead of
following his example, began to beg of him! fluttering his wings,
putting up his beak, and almost pulling the corn out of the mouth of the
poor little fellow struggling with his first kernel!

Sometimes a young one drove his parent all over a tree with his
supplications. Higher and higher would go the persecuted, with his
tormentor scrambling, and half flying after, till the elder absolutely
flew away, much put out.

Long before this time the corn had been used up. But I could not bear to
lose my morning entertainment, for all these things took place between
four and six A. M.--so I made a trip to the village, and bought
a bag of the much desired dainty, some handfuls of which I scattered
every night after birds were abed, ready for the sunrise show.
Blackbirds were not the only guests at the feast; there were the
doves,--mourning, or wood-doves,--who dropped to the grass, serene as a
summer morning, walking around in their small red boots, with mincing
steps and fussy little bows. Blue jays, too, came in plenty, selected
each his grain and flew away with it. Robins, seeing all the excitement,
came over from their regular hunting-ground, but never finding anything
so attractive as worms, they soon left.

The corn feast wound up with a droll excitement. One day a child from
the house took her doll out in the grass to play, set it up against a
tree trunk, and left it there. It had long light hair which stood out
around the head, and it did look rather uncanny, but it was amusing to
see the consternation it caused. Blue jays came to trees near by, and
talked in low tones to each other; then one after another swooped down
toward it; then they all squawked at it, and finding this of no avail,
they left in a body.

The robins approached cautiously, two of them, calling constantly, "he!
he! he!" One was determined not to be afraid, and came nearer and
nearer, till within about a foot of the strange object and behind it,
when suddenly he started as though shot, jumped back, and both flew in a
panic.

Soon after this a red-headed woodpecker alighted on the trunk of the
elm, preparatory to helping himself to a grain of corn. The moment his
eyes fell upon madam of the fluffy hair, he burst out with a loud, rapid
woodpecker "chitter," gradually growing higher in key and louder in
tone. The blue jay flew down from the nest across the yard, and another
came from behind the house; both perched near and stared at him, and
then began to talk in low tones. A robin came hastily over and gazed at
the usually silent red-head, and apparently it was to all as strange a
performance as it was to me, or possibly they recognized that it was a
cry of warning against danger.

After he had us all aroused, the bird suddenly fell to silence, and
resumed his ordinary manner, but he did not go after corn. I suppose the
harangue was addressed to the doll.

That was the last scene in the first act of the corn feast, for the
blackbirds had become so numerous and so noisy that they made morning
hideous to the whole household, and I stopped the supplies for several
days, till these birds ceased to expect anything, and so came no more,
and then I spread a fresh breakfast-table for more interesting guests,
whose manners and customs I studied for weeks.

I was invariably startled wide awake on these mornings by a bird note,
and sprang up, to see at one glance that

 "Day had awakened all things that be,
 The lark and the thrush, and the swallow free,"

and that my party was already assembled; one or two cardinals--or
redbirds, as they are often called--on the grass, with the usual
attendance of English sparrows, and the red-headed woodpecker in the
elm, surveying the lawn, and considering which of the trespassers he
should fall upon. It was the work of one minute to get into my wraps and
seat myself, with opera glass, at the wide-open window.

My first discovery made, however, during the blackbird reign, was that
four o'clock is the most lovely part of the day. All the dust of human
affairs having settled during the hours of sleep, the air is fresh and
sweet, as if just made; and generally, just before sunrise, the foliage
is at perfect rest,--the repose of night still lingering, the world of
nature as well as of men still sleeping.

The first thing one naturally looks for, as birds begin to waken, is a
morning chorus of song. True bird-lovers, indeed, long for it with a
longing that cannot be told. But alas, every year the chorus is
withdrawing more and more to the woods, every year it is harder to find
a place where English sparrows are not in possession; and it is one of
the most grievous sins of that bird that he spoils the song, even when
he does not succeed in driving out the singer. A running accompaniment
of harsh and interminable squawks overpowers the music of meadow-lark
and robin, and the glorious song of the thrush is fairly murdered by it.
One could almost forgive the sparrow his other crimes, if he would only
lie abed in the morning; if he would occasionally listen, and not
forever break the peace of the opening day with his vulgar brawling. But
the subject of English sparrows is maddening to a lover of native birds;
let us not defile the magic hour by considering it.

The most obvious resident of the neighborhood, at four o'clock in the
morning, was always the golden-winged woodpecker, or flicker. Though he
scorned the breakfast I offered, having no vegetarian proclivities, he
did not refuse me his presence. I found him a character, and an amusing
study, and I never saw his tribe so numerous and so much at home.

Though largest in size of my four o'clock birds, and most fully
represented (always excepting the English sparrows), the golden-wing was
not in command. The autocrat of the hour, the reigning power, was quite
a different personage, although belonging to the woodpecker family. It
was a red-headed woodpecker who assumed to own the lawn and be master of
the feast. This individual was marked by a defect in plumage, and had
been a regular caller since the morning of my arrival. During the
blackbird supremacy over the corn supply he had been hardly more than a
spectator, coming to the trunk of the elm and surveying the assembly of
blue jays, doves, blackbirds, and sparrows with interest, as one looks
down upon a herd with whom he has nothing in common. But when those
birds departed, and the visitors were of a different character, mostly
cardinals, with an occasional blue jay, he at once took the place he
felt belonged to him--that of dictator.

The Virginia cardinal, a genuine F. F. V., and a regular attendant at my
corn breakfast, was a subject of special study with me; indeed, it was
largely on his account that I had set up my tent in that part of the
world. I had all my life known him as a tenant of cages, and it struck
me at first as very odd to see him flying about freely, like other wild
birds. No one, it seemed to me, ever looked so out of place as this
fellow of elegant manners, aristocratic crest, and brilliant dress,
hopping about on the ground with his exaggerated little hops, tail held
stiffly up out of harm's way, and uttering sharp "tsips." One could not
help the feeling that he was altogether too fine for this common
work-a-day existence; that he was intended for show; and that a gilded
cage was his proper abiding-place, with a retinue of human servants to
minister to his comfort. Yet he was modest and unassuming, and appeared
really to enjoy his life of hard work; varying his struggles with a
kernel of hard corn on the ground, where his color shone out like a
flower against the green, with a rest on a spruce-tree, where

 "Like a living jewel he sits and sings;"

and when he had finished his frugal meal, departing, if nothing hurried
him, with a graceful, loitering flight, in which each wing-beat seemed
to carry him but a few inches forward, and leave his body poised, an
infinitesimal second for another beat. With much noise of fluttering
wings he would start for some point, but appear not to care much whether
he got there. He was never in haste unless there was something to hurry
him, in which he differed greatly from some of the fidgety, restless
personages I have known among the feathered folk.

The woodpecker's way of making himself disagreeable to this
distinguished guest, was to keep watch from his tree (an elm overlooking
the supply of corn) till he came to eat, and then fly down, aiming for
exactly the spot occupied by the bird on the ground. No one, however
brave, could help "getting out from under," when he saw this tricolored
whirlwind descending upon him. The cardinal always jumped aside, then
drew himself up, crest erect, tail held at an angle of forty-five
degrees, and faced the woodpecker, calm, but prepared to stand up for
his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of his breakfast. Sometimes
they had a little set-to, with beaks not more than three inches apart,
the woodpecker making feints of rushing upon his _vis-à-vis_, and the
cardinal jumping up ready to clinch, if a fight became necessary. It
never went quite so far as that, though they glared at each other, and
the cardinal uttered a little whispered "ha!" every time he sprang up.

The Virginian's deliberate manner of eating made peace important to him.
He took a grain of hard corn in his mouth, lengthwise; then working his
sharp-edged beak, he soon succeeded in cutting the shell of the kernel
through its whole length. From this he went on turning it with his
tongue, and still cutting with his beak, till the whole shell rolled out
of the side of his mouth in one long piece, completely cleared from its
savory contents.

The red-head, on the contrary, took his grain of corn to a branch, or
sometimes to the trunk of a tree, where he sought a suitable crevice in
the bark or in a crotch, placed his kernel, hammered it well in till
firm and safe, and then proceeded to pick off pieces and eat them
daintily, one by one. Sometimes he left a kernel there, and I saw how
firmly it was wedged in, when the English sparrow discovered his store,
fell upon it, and dug it out. It was a good deal of work for a
strong-billed, persistent sparrow to dislodge a grain thus placed. But
of course he never gave up till he could carry it off, probably because
he saw that some one valued it; for since he was unable to crack a grain
that was whole, it must have been useless to him. Sometimes the
woodpecker wedged the kernel into a crevice in the bark of the trunk,
then broke it up, and packed the pieces away in other niches; and I have
seen an English sparrow go carefully over the trunk, picking out and
eating these tidbits. That, or something else, has taught sparrows to
climb tree trunks, which they do, in the neighborhood I speak of, with
as much ease as a woodpecker. I have repeatedly seen them go the whole
length of a tall elm trunk; proceeding by little hops, aided by the
wings, and using the tail for support almost as handily as a woodpecker
himself.

The red-head's assumption of being monarch of all he surveyed did not
end with the breakfast-table; he seemed to consider himself guardian and
protector of the whole place. One evening I was drawn far down on the
lawn by a peculiar cry of his. It began with a singular performance
which I have already described, a loud, rapid "chit-it-it-it-it,"
increasing in volume and rising in pitch, as though he were working
himself up to some deed of desperation. In a few minutes, however, he
appeared to get his feelings under control, and dropped to a single-note
cry, often repeated. It differed widely from his loud call, "wok! wok!
wok!" still more from the husky tones of his conversation with others of
his kind; neither was it like the war-cries with which he intimated to
another bird that he was not invited to breakfast. I thought there must
be trouble brewing, especially as mingled with it was an occasional
excited "pe-auk!" of a flicker. When I reached the spot, I found a
curious party, consisting of two doves and three flickers, assembled on
one small tree, with the woodpecker on an upper branch, as though
addressing his remarks to them.

As I drew near the scene of the excitement, the doves flew, and then the
golden-wings; but the red-head held his ground, though he stopped his
cries when he saw help coming. In vain I looked about for the cause of
the row; everything was serene. It was a beautiful quiet evening, and
not a child, nor a dog, nor anything in sight to make trouble. The tree
stood quite by itself, in the midst of grass that knew not the clatter
of the lawn-mower.

I stood still and waited; and I had my reward, for after a few minutes'
silence I saw a pair of ears, and then a head, cautiously lifted above
the grass, about fifteen feet from the tree. The mystery was solved; it
was a cat, whom all birds know as a creature who will bear watching when
prowling around the haunts of bird families. I am fond of pussy, but I
deprecate her taste for game, as I do that of some other hunters, wiser
if not better than she. I invited her to leave this place, where she
plainly was unwelcome, by an emphatic "scat!" and a stick tossed her
way. She instantly dropped into the grass and was lost to view; and as
the woodpecker, whose eyes were sharper and his position better than
mine, said no more, I concluded she had taken the hint and departed.



IX.

THE LITTLE REDBIRDS.


When the little redbirds began to visit the lawn there were exciting
times. At first they ventured only to the trees overlooking it; and the
gayly dressed father who had them in charge reminded me of nothing so
much as a fussy young mother. He was alert to the tips of his toes, and
excited, as if the whole world was thirsting for the life of those
frowzy-headed youngsters in the maple. His manner intimated that nobody
ever had birdlings before; indeed, that there never had been, or could
be, just such a production as that young family behind the leaves. While
they were there, he flirted his tail, jerked himself around, crest
standing sharply up, and in every way showed his sense of importance and
responsibility.

As for the young ones, after they had been hopping about the branches a
week or so, and papa had grown less madly anxious if one looked at them,
they appeared bright and spirited, dressed in the subdued and tasteful
hues of their mother, with pert little crests and dark beaks. They were
not allowed on the grass, and they waited patiently on the tree while
their provider shelled a kernel and took it up to them. The cardinal
baby I found to be a self-respecting individual, who generally waits in
patience his parents' pleasure, though he is not too often fed. He is
not bumptious nor self-assertive, like many others; he rarely teases,
and is altogether a well-mannered and proper young person. After a
while, as the youngsters learned strength and speed on the wing, they
came to the table with the grown-ups, and then I saw there were three
spruce young redbirds, all under the care of their gorgeous papa.

No sooner did they appear on the ground than trouble began with the
English-sparrow tribe. The grievance of these birds was that they could
not manage the tough kernels. They were just as hungry as anybody, and
just as well-disposed toward corn, but they had not sufficient strength
of beak to break it. They did not, however, go without corn, for all
that. Their game was the not uncommon one of availing themselves of the
labor of others; they invited themselves to everybody's breakfast-table,
though, to be sure, they had to watch their chances in order to secure a
morsel, and escape the wrath of the owner thereof.

The cardinal was at first a specially easy victim to this plot. He took
the whole matter most solemnly, and was so absorbed in the work, that if
a bit dropped, in the process of separating it from the shell, as often
happened, he did not concern himself about it till he had finished what
he had in his mouth, and then he turned one great eye on the ground, for
the fragments which had long before been snatched by sparrows and gone
down sparrow throats. The surprise and the solemn stare with which he
"could hardly believe his eyes" were exceedingly droll. After a while he
saw through their little game, and took to watching, and when a sparrow
appeared too much interested in his operations, he made a feint of going
for him, which warned the gamin that he would better look out for
himself.

It did not take these sharp fellows long to discover that the young
redbird was the easier prey, and soon every youngster on the ground was
attended by a sparrow or two, ready to seize upon any fragment that
fell. The parent's way of feeding was to shell a kernel and then give it
to one of the little ones, who broke it up and ate it. From waiting for
fallen bits, the sparrows, never being repulsed, grew bolder, and
finally went so far as actually to snatch the corn out of the young
cardinals' beaks. Again and again did I see this performance: a sparrow
grab and run (or fly), leaving the baby astonished and dazed, looking
as if he did not know exactly what had happened, but sure he was in some
way bereaved.

One day, while the cardinal family were eating on the grass, the mother
of the brood came to a tree near by. At once her gallant spouse flew up
there and offered her the mouthful he had just prepared, then returned
to his duties. She was rarely seen on the lawn, and I judged that she
was sitting again.

Sometimes, when the youngsters were alone on the ground, I heard a
little snatch of song, two or three notes, a musical word or two of very
sweet quality. The woodpecker, autocrat though he assumed to be, did not
at first interfere with the young birds; but as they became more and
more independent and grown up, he began to consider them fair game, and
to come down on them with a rush that scattered them; not far, however;
they were brave little fellows.

At last, after four weeks of close attention, the cardinal made up his
mind that his young folk were babies no longer, and that they were able
to feed themselves. I was interested to see his manner of intimating to
his young hopefuls that they had reached their majority. When one begged
of him, in his gentle way, the parent turned suddenly and gave him a
slight push. The urchin understood, and moved a little farther off; but
perhaps the next time he asked he would be fed. They learned the lesson,
however, and in less than two days from the first hint they became
almost entirely independent.

One morning the whole family happened to meet at table. The mother came
first, and then the three young ones, all of whom were trying their best
to feed themselves. At last came their "natural provider;" and one of
the juveniles, who found the grains almost unmanageable, could not help
begging of him. He gently but firmly drove the pleader away, as if he
said, "My son, you are big enough to feed yourself." The little one
turned, but did not go; he stood with his back toward his parent, and
wings still fluttering. Then papa flew to a low branch of the
spruce-tree, and instantly the infant followed him, still begging with
quivering wings. Suddenly the elder turned, and I expected to see him
annihilate that beggar, but, to my surprise, he fed him! He could not
hold out against him! He had been playing the stern parent, but could
not keep it up. It was a very pretty and very human-looking performance.

A day or two after the family had learned to take care of themselves,
the original pair, the parents of the pretty brood, came and went
together to the field, while the younglings appeared sometimes in a
little flock, and sometimes one alone; and from that time they were to
be rated as grown-up and educated cardinals. A brighter or prettier trio
I have not seen. I am almost positive there was but one family of
cardinals on the place; and if I am right, those youngsters had been
four weeks out of the nest before they took charge of their own food
supply. From what I have seen in the case of other young birds, I have
no doubt that is the fact.



X.

THE CARDINAL'S NEST.


While I had been studying four o'clock manners, grave and gay, other
things had happened. Most delightful, perhaps, was my acquaintance with
a cardinal family at home. From the first I had looked for a nest, and
had suffered two or three disappointments. One pair flaunted their
intentions by appearing on a tree before my window, "tsipping" with all
their might; she with her beak full of hay from the lawn below; he,
eager and devoted, assisting by his presence. The important and
consequential manner of a bird with building material in mouth is
amusing. She has no doubt that what she is about to do is the very most
momentous fact in the "Sublime Now" (as some college youth has it). Of
course I dropped everything and tried to follow the pair, at a distance
great enough not to disturb them, yet to keep in sight at least the
direction they took, for they are shy birds, and do not like to be spied
upon. But I could not have gauged my distance properly; for, though I
thought I knew the exact cedar-tree she had chosen, I found, to my
dismay and regret afterward, that no sign of a nest was there, or
thereabout.

Another pair went farther, and held out even more delusive hopes; they
actually built a nest in a neighbor's yard, the family in the house
maintaining an appearance of the utmost indifference, so as not to alarm
the birds till they were committed to that nest. For so little does
madam regard the labor of building, and so fickle is she in her fancies,
that she thinks nothing of preparing at least two nests before she
settles on one. The nest was made on a big branch of cedar, perhaps
seven feet from the ground,--a rough affair, as this bird always makes.
In it she even placed an egg, and then, for some undiscovered reason, it
was abandoned, and they took their domestic joys and sorrows elsewhere.

But now, at last, word came to me of an occupied nest to be seen at a
certain house, and I started at once for it. It was up a shady country
lane, with a meadow-lark field on one side, and a bobolink meadow on the
other. The lark mounted the fence, and delivered his strange sputtering
cry,--the first I had ever heard from him (or her, for I believe this is
the female's utterance). But the dear little bobolink soared around my
head, and let fall his happy trills; then suddenly, as Lowell
delightfully pictures him,--

 "Remembering duty, in mid-quaver stops,
   Just ere he sweeps o'er rapture's tremulous brink,
 And 'twixt the winrows most demurely drops,
   A decorous bird of business, who provides
   For his brown mate and fledglings six besides,
 And looks from right to left, a farmer mid his crops."

Nothing less attractive than a cardinal family could draw me away from
these rival allurements, but I went on.

The cardinal's bower was the prettiest of the summer, built in a
climbing rose which ran riot over a trellis beside a kitchen door. The
vine was loaded with buds just beginning to unfold their green wraps to
flood the place with beauty and fragrance, and the nest was so carefully
tucked away behind the leaves that it could not be seen from the front.
Whether from confidence in the two or three residents of the cottage, or
because the house was alone so many hours of the day,--the occupants
being students, and absent most of the time,--the birds had taken no
account of a window which opened almost behind them. From that window
one could look into, and touch, if he desired, the little family. But no
one who lived there did desire (though I wish to record that one was a
boy of twelve or fourteen, who had been taught respect for the lives
even of birds), and these birds became so accustomed to their human
observers that they paid no attention to them.

The female cardinal is so dainty in looks and manner, so delicate in all
her ways, that one naturally expects her to build at least a neat and
comely nest, and I was surprised to see a rough-looking affair, similar
to the one already mentioned. This might be, in her case, because it was
the third nest she had built that summer. One had been used for the
first brood. The second had been seized and appropriated to their own
use by another pair of birds. (As this was told me, and I cannot vouch
for it, I shall not name the alleged thief.) This, the third, was made
of twigs and fibres of bark,--or what looked like that,--and was
strongly stayed to the rose stems, the largest of which was not bigger
than my little finger, and most of them much smaller.

On my second visit I was invited into the kitchen to see the family in
the rosebush. It appeared that this was "coming-off" day, and one little
cardinal had already taken his fate in his hands when I arrived, soon
after breakfast. He had progressed on the journey of life about one
foot; and a mere dot of a fellow he looked beside his parents, with a
downy fuzz on his head, which surrounded it like a halo, and no sign of
a crest. The three nestlings still at home were very restless,
crowding, and almost pushing each other out. They could well spare their
elder brother, for before he left he had walked all over them at his
pleasure; and how he could help it in those close quarters I do not see.

While I looked on, papa came with provisions. At one time the food
consisted of green worms about twice as large as a common knitting
needle. Three or four of them he held crosswise of his beak, and gave
one to each nestling. The next course was a big white grub, which he did
not divide, but gave to one, who had considerable difficulty in
swallowing it.

I said the birds did not notice the family, but they very quickly
recognized me as a stranger. They stood and glared at me in the cardinal
way, and uttered some sharp remonstrance; but business was pressing, and
I was unobtrusive, so they concluded to ignore me.

The advent of the first redbird baby seemed to give much pleasure, for
the head of the family sang a good deal in the intervals of feeding; and
both of the pair appeared very happy over it, often alighting beside the
wanderer, evidently to encourage him, for they did not always feed. The
youngster, after an hour, perhaps, flew about ten feet to a peach-tree,
where he struggled violently, and nearly fell before he secured a hold
on a twig. Both parents flew to his assistance, but he did not fall, and
soon after he flew to a grape trellis, and, with a little clambering, to
a stem of the vine, where he seemed pleased to stay,--perhaps because
this overlooked the garden whence came all his food.

I stayed two or three hours with the little family, and then left them;
and when I appeared the next morning all were gone from the nest. I
heard the gentle cries of young redbirds all around, but did not try to
look them up, both because I did not want to worry the parents, and
because I had already made acquaintance with young cardinals in my four
o'clock studies.

The place this discerning pair of birds had selected in which to
establish themselves was one of the most charming nooks in the vicinity.
Kept free from English sparrows (by persistently destroying their
nests), and having but a small and quiet family, it was the delight of
cardinals and catbirds. Without taking pains to look for them, one might
see the nests of two catbirds, two wood doves, a robin or two, and
others; and there were beside, thickets, the delight of many birds, and
a row of spruces so close that a whole flock might have nested there in
security. In that spot "the quaintly discontinuous lays" of the catbird
were in perfection; one song especially was the best I ever heard,
being louder and more clear than catbirds usually sing.

As I turned to leave the grounds, the relieved parent, who had not
relished my interest in his little folk, mounted a branch, and,

 "Like a pomegranate flower
 In the dark foliage of the cedar-tree,
 Shone out and sang for me."

And thus I left him.



XI.

LITTLE BOY BLUE.

 "The crested blue jay flitting swift."


To know the little boy blue in his domestic life had been my desire for
years. In vain did I search far and wide for a nest, till it began to
look almost as if the bird intentionally avoided me. I went to New
England, and blue jays disappeared as if by magic; I turned my steps to
the Rocky Mountains, and the whole tribe betook itself to the
inaccessible hills. In despair I abandoned the search, and set up my
tent in the middle country, without a thought of the bonny blue bird.
One June morning I seated myself by my window, which looked out upon a
goodly stretch of lawn dotted with trees of many kinds, and behold the
long-desired object right before my eyes!

The blue jay himself pointed it out to me; unconsciously, however, for
he did not notice me in my distant window. From the ground, where I was
looking at him, he flew directly to a pine-tree about thirty feet high,
and there, near the top, sat his mate on her nest. He leaned over her
tenderly; she fluttered her wings and opened her mouth, and he dropped
into it the tidbit he had brought. Then she stepped to a branch on one
side, and he proceeded to attend to the wants of the young family, too
small as yet to appear above the edge.

The pine-tree, which from this moment became of absorbing interest, was
so far from my window that the birds never thought of me as an observer,
and yet so near that with my glass I could see them perfectly. It was
also exactly before a thick-foliaged maple, that formed a background
against which I could watch the life of the nest, wherever the sunlight
fell, and whatever the condition of the sky; so happily was placed my
blue jay household.

I observed at once that the jay was very gallant and attentive to his
spouse. The first mouthful was for her, even when babies grew clamorous,
and she took her share of the work of feeding. Nor did he omit this
little politeness when they went to the nest together, both presumably
with food for the nestlings. She was a devoted mother, brooding her
bantlings for hours every day, till they were so big that it was hard to
crowd them back into the cradle; and he was an equally faithful father,
working from four o'clock in the morning till after dusk, a good deal
of the time feeding the whole family. I acquired a new respect for
_Cyanocitta cristata_.

I had not watched the blue jays long before I was struck with the
peculiar character of the feathered world about me, the strange absence
of small birds. The neighbors were blackbirds (purple grackles),
Carolina doves, golden-winged and red-headed woodpeckers, robins and
cardinal grosbeaks, and of course English sparrows,--all large birds,
able to hold their own by force of arms, as it were, except the
foreigner, who maintained his position by impudence and union, a mob
being his weapon of offense and defense. Beside him no small bird lived
in the vicinity. No vireo hung there her dainty cup, while her mate
preached his interminable sermons from the trees about; no phœbe
shouted his woes to an unsympathizing world; no sweet-voiced goldfinch
poured out his joyous soul; not a song-sparrow tuned his little lay
within our borders. Unseen of men, but no doubt sharply defined to
clearer senses than ours, was a line barring them out.

Who was responsible for this state of things? Could it be the one pair
of jays in the pine, or the colony of blackbirds the other side of the
house? Should we characterize it as a blue jay neighborhood or a
blackbird neighborhood? The place was well policed, certainly; robins
and blue jays united in that work, though their relations with each
other bore the character of an armed neutrality, always ready for a few
hot words and a little bluster, but never really coming to blows. We
never had the pleasure of seeing a stranger among us. We might hear him
approaching, nearer and nearer, till, just as the eager listener fancied
he might alight in sight, there would burst upon the air the screech of
a jay or the war-cry of a robin, accompanied by the precipitate flight
of the whole clan, and away would go the stranger in a most sensational
manner, followed by outcries and clamor enough to drive off an army of
feathered brigands. This neighborhood, if the accounts of his character
are to be credited, should be the congenial home of the
kingbird,--tyrant flycatcher he is named; but as a matter of fact, not
only were the smaller flycatchers conspicuous by their absence, but the
king himself was never seen, and the flying tribes of the insect world,
so far as dull-eyed mortals could see, grew and flourished.

Close scrutiny of every movement of wings, however, revealed one thing,
namely, that any small bird who appeared within our precincts was
instantly, without hesitation, and equally without unusual noise or
special publicity, driven out by the English sparrow; and I became
convinced that he, and he alone, was responsible for the presence of
none but large birds, who could defy him.

One of the prettiest sights about the pine-tree homestead was the way
the jay went up to it. He never imitated the easy style of his mate, who
simply flew to a branch below the three that held her treasure, and
hopped up the last step. Not he; not so would his knightly soul mount to
the castle of his sweetheart and his babies. He alighted much lower,
often at the foot of the tree, and passed jauntily up the winding way
that led to them, hopping from branch to branch, pausing on each, and
circling the trunk as he went; now showing his trim violet-blue coat,
now his demure Quaker-drab vest and black necklace; and so he ascended
his spiral stair.

There is nothing demure about the blue jay, let me hasten to say, except
his vest; there is no pretension about him. He does not go around with
the meek manners of the dove, and then let his angry passions rise, in
spite of his reputation, as does that "meek and gentle" fellow-creature
on occasion. The blue jay takes his life with the utmost seriousness,
however it may strike a looker-on. While his helpmeet is on the nest, it
is, according to the blue jay code, his duty, as well as it is plainly
his pleasure, to provide her with food, which consequently he does;
later, it is his province not only to feed, but to protect the family,
which also he accomplishes with much noise and bluster. Before the young
are out comes his hardest task, keeping the secret of the nest, which
obliges him to control his naturally boisterous tendencies; but even in
this he is successful, as I saw in the case of a bird whose mate was
sitting in an apple-tree close beside a house. There, he was the soul of
discretion, and so subdued in manner that one might be in the vicinity
all day and never suspect the presence of either. All the comings and
goings took place in silence, over the top of the tree, and I have
watched the nest an hour at a time without being able to see a sign of
its occupancy, except the one thing a sitting bird cannot hide, the
tail. And, by the way, how providential--from the bird student's point
of view--that birds have tails! They can, it is true, be narrowed to the
width of one feather and laid against a convenient twig, but they cannot
be wholly suppressed, nor drawn down out of sight into the nest with the
rest of the body.

When the young blue jays begin to speak for themselves, and their
vigilant protector feels that the precious secret can no longer be kept,
then he arouses the neighborhood with the announcement that here is a
nest he is bound to protect with his life; that he is engaged in
performing his most solemn duty, and will not be disturbed. His air is
that so familiar in bigger folk, of daring the whole world to "knock a
chip off his shoulder," and he goes about with an appearance of
important business on hand very droll to see.

The bearing of the mother of the pine-tree brood was somewhat different
from that of her mate, and by their manners only could the pair be
distinguished. Whatever may be Nature's reason for dressing the sexes
unlike each other in the feathered world,--which I will leave for the
wise heads to settle,--it is certainly an immense advantage to the
looker-on in birddom. When a pair are facsimiles of each other, as are
the jays, it requires the closest observation to tell them apart;
indeed, unless there is some defect in plumage, which is not uncommon,
it is necessary to penetrate their personal characteristics, to become
familiar with their idiosyncrasies of habit and manner. In the pine-tree
family, the mother had neither the presence of mind nor the bluster of
the partner of her joys. When I came too near the nest tree, she greeted
me with a plaintive cry, a sort of "craw! craw!" at the same time
"jouncing" herself violently, thus protesting against my intrusion;
while he saluted me with squawks that made the welkin ring. Neither of
them paid any attention to me, so long as I remained upon a stationary
bench not far from their tree; they were used to seeing people in that
place, and did not mind them. It was the unexpected that they resented.
Having established our habits, birds in general insist that we shall
govern ourselves by them, and not depart from our accustomed orbit.

On near acquaintance, I found the jay possessed of a vocabulary more
copious than that of any other bird I know, though the flicker does not
lack variety of expression. When some aspiring scientist is ready to
study the language of birds, I advise him to experiment with the blue
jay. He is exceedingly voluble, always ready to talk, and not in the
least backward in exhibiting his accomplishments. The low-toned,
plaintive sounding conversation of the jays with each other, not only
beside the nest, but when flying together or apart, or in brief
interviews in the lilac bush, pleased me especially, because it was
exactly the same prattle that a pet blue jay was accustomed to address
to me; and it confirmed what I had always believed from his manner, that
it was his most loving and intimate expression, the tone in which he
addresses his best beloved.

Beside the well-known squawk, which Thoreau aptly calls "the brazen
trump of the impatient jay," the shouts and calls and war-cries of the
bird can hardly be numbered, and I have no doubt each has its definite
meaning. More rarely may be heard a clear and musical two-note cry,
sounding like "ke-lo! ke-lo!" This seems to be something special in the
jay language, for not only is it peculiar and quite unlike every other
utterance, but I never saw the bird when he delivered it, and I was long
in tracing it home to him. Aside from the cries of war and victory, jays
have a great variety of notes of distress; they can put more anguish and
despair into their tones than any other living creature of my
acquaintance. Some, indeed, are so moving that the sympathetic hearer is
sure that, at the very least, the mother's offspring are being murdered
before her eyes; and on rushing out, prepared to risk his life in their
defense, he finds, perhaps, that a child has strayed near the tree, or
something equally dreadful has occurred. Jays have no idea of relative
values; they could not make more ado over a heart-breaking calamity than
they do over a slight annoyance. Some of their cries, notably that of
the jay baby, sound like the wail of a human infant. As to one curious
utterance in the jay _répertoire_, I could not quite make up my mind
whether it was a real call to arms, or intended as a joke on the
neighborhood. When a bird, without visible provocation, suddenly burst
out with this loud two-note call, instantly every feathered individual
was on the alert,--sprang to arms, as it were. Blue jays joined in,
robins hurried to the tops of the tallest trees and added their excited
notes, with jerking wings and tail, and at the second or third
repetition the whole party precipitated itself as one bird--upon what?
Nothing that I could discover.



XII.

STORY OF THE NESTLINGS.


While I was studying the manners and customs of the bird in blue, babies
were growing up in the pine-tree nest. Five days after I began to
observe, I saw little heads above the edge. On the sixth day they began,
as mothers say, to "take notice," stirring about in a lively way,
clambering up into sight, and fluttering their draperies over the edge.
Now came busy and hungry times in the jay family; the mother added her
forces, and both parents worked industriously from morning till night.

On the seventh day I was up early, as usual, and, also as usual, my
first act was to admire the view from my window. I fancied it was the
most beautiful in the early morning, when the sun, behind the rampart of
locust and other trees, threw the yard into deep shade, painting a
thousand shadow pictures on the grass; but at still noon, when every
perfect tree stood on its own shadow, openings looked dark and
mysterious, and a bird was lost in the depths, then I was sure it was
never so lovely; again at night, when wrapped in darkness, and all
silent except the subdued whisper of the pine, with its

     "Sound of the Sea,
     O mournful tree,
 In thy boughs forever clinging,"

I knew it could not be surpassed. I was up early, as I said, when the
dove was cooing to his mate in the distance, and before human noises had
begun, and then I heard the baby cry from the pine-tree,--a whispered
jay squawk, constantly repeated.

On this day the first nestling mounted the edge of his high nursery, and
fluttered his wings when food approached. Every night after that it grew
more and more difficult to settle the household in bed, for everybody
wanted to be on top; and no sooner would one arrange himself to his mind
than some "under one," not relishing his crushed position, would
struggle out, step over his brothers and sisters, and take his place on
top, and then the whole thing would have to be done over. I think that
mamma had often to put a peremptory end to these difficulties by sitting
down on them, for frequently it was a very turbulent-looking nest when
she calmly placed herself upon it.

Often, in those days, I wished I could put myself on a level with that
little castle in the air, and look into it, filled to the brim with
beauty as I knew it was. But I had not long to wait, for speedily it
became too full, and ran over into the outside world. On the eighth day
one ambitious youngster stepped upon the branch beside the nest and
shook himself out, and on the ninth came the plunge into the wide, wide
world. While I was at breakfast he made his first effort, and on my
return I saw him on a branch about a foot below the nest, the last step
on papa's winding stair. Here he beat his wings and plumed himself
vigorously, rejoicing, no doubt, in his freedom and in plenty of room.
Again and again he nearly lost his balance, in his violent attempts to
dress his beautiful plumage, and remove the last remnant of nest
mussiness. But he did not fall, and at last he began to look about him.
One cannot but wonder what he thought when he

 "First opened wondering eyes and found
 A world of green leaves all around,"

looking down upon us from his high perch, complete to the little black
necklace, and lacking only length of tail of being as big as his
parents.

After half an hour of restless putting to rights, the little jay sat
down patiently to wait for whatever might come to him. The wind got up
and shook him well, but he rocked safely on his airy seat. Then some one
approached. He leaned over with mouth open, and across the yard I heard
his coaxing voice. But alas! though he was on the very threshold, the
food-bearer omitted that step, and passed him by. Then the little one
looked up wistfully, apparently conscious of being at a disadvantage.
Did he regret the nest privileges he had abandoned? Should he retrace
his steps and be a nestling? That the thought passed through his head
was indicated by his movements. He raised himself on his legs, turned
his face to his old home, and started up, even stepped one small twig
nearer. But perish the thought! he would not go back! He settled himself
again on his seat.

All things come in time to him who can wait, and the next provision
stopped at the little wanderer. His father alighted beside him and fed
him two mouthfuls. Thus fortified, his ambition was roused, and his
desire to see more, to do more. He began to jump about on his perch,
facing first this way, then that; he crept to the outer end of the
branch he was on, and was lost to view behind a thick clump of pine
needles. In a few minutes he returned, considered other branches near,
and, after some study, did really go to the nearest one. Then, step by
step, very deliberately, he mounted the winding stair of his father,
using, however, every little twig that the elder had vaulted over at a
bound. Finally he reached the branch opposite his birthplace, only the
tree-trunk between. The trunk was small, home was invitingly near, he
was tired; the temptation was too great, and in a minute he was cuddled
down with his brothers, having been on a journey of an hour. In the
nest, all this time, there had been a hurry and skurry of dressing, as
though the house were to be vacated, and no one wished to be late. After
a rest and probably a nap, the ambitious young jay took a longer trip:
he flew to the next tree, and, I believe, returned no more.

The next day was spent by all the nestlings in hopping about the three
branches on which their home was built, making beautiful pictures of
themselves every moment; but whenever the bringer of supplies drew near,
each little one hastened to scramble back to the nest, to be ready for
his share. The last day in the old home had now arrived. One by one the
birdlings flew to the maple, and turned their backs on their native tree
forever; and that night the "mournful tree" was entirely deserted.

The exit was not accomplished without its excitement. After tea, as I
was congratulating myself that they were all safely out in the world,
without accident, suddenly there arose a terrible outcry, robin and blue
jay voices in chorus. I looked over to the scene of the fray, and saw a
young jay on the ground, and the parents frantic with anxiety.
Naturally, my first impulse was to go to their aid, and I started; but I
was saluted with a volley of squawks that warned me not to interfere. I
retired meekly, leaving the birds to deal with the difficulty as they
best could, while from afar I watched the little fellow as he scrambled
around in the grass. He tried to fly, but could not rise more than two
feet. Both the elders were with him, but seemed unable to help him, and
night was coming on. I resolved, finally, to "take my life in my hands,"
brave those unreasoning parents, and place the infant out of the way of
cats and boys.

As I reached the doorstep I saw that the youngster had begun to climb
the trunk of a locust-tree. I stood in amazement and saw that baby climb
six feet straight up the trunk. He did it by flying a few inches,
clinging to the bark and resting, then flying a few inches more. I
watched, breathless, till he got nearly to the lowest branch, when alas!
his strength or his courage gave out, and he fell back to the ground.
But he pulled himself together, and after a few minutes more of
struggling through the grass he came to the trunk of the maple next his
native pine. Up this he went in the same way, till he reached a branch,
where I saw him sitting with all the dignity of a young jay (old jays
have no dignity). While he was wrestling with fate and his life was in
the balance, the parents had kept near him and perfectly silent, unless
some one came near, when they filled the air with squawks, and appeared
so savage that I honestly believe they would have attacked any one who
had tried to lend a hand.

But still the little blue-coat had not learned sufficient modesty of
endeavor, for the next morning he found himself again in the grass. He
tried climbing, but unfortunately selected a tree with branches higher
than he could hold out to reach; so he fell back to the ground. Then
came the inexorable demands of breakfast, with which no one who has been
up since four o'clock will decline to comply. On my return, the
straggler was mounted on a post that held a tennis net, three or four
feet from the ground. One of the old birds was on the rope close by him,
and there I left them. Once more I saw him fall, but I concluded that
since he had learned to climb, and the parents would not accept my
assistance any way, he must take care of himself. I suppose he was the
youngest of the brood, who could not help imitating his elders, but was
not strong enough to do as they did. On the following day he was able to
keep his place, and he came to the ground no more.

From that day I saw, and, what was more evident, heard the jay babies
constantly, though they wandered far from the place of their birth.
Their voices waxed stronger day by day; from morning to night they
called vigorously; and very lovely they looked as they sat on the
branches in their brand-new fluffy suits, with their tails a little
spread, and showing the snowy borderings beautifully. Twenty-two days
after they bade farewell to the old home before my window they were
still crying for food, still following their hard-working parents, and,
though flying with great ease, never coming to the ground (that I could
see), and apparently having not the smallest notion of looking out for
themselves.



XIII.

BLUE JAY MANNERS.


Early in my acquaintance with the jay family, wishing to induce the
birds of the vicinity to show themselves, I procured a quantity of
shelled corn, and scattered a few handfuls under my window every night.
This gave me opportunity to note, among other things, the jay's way of
conducting himself on the ground, and his table manners. To eat a kernel
of dry corn, he flew with it to a small branch, placed it between his
feet (the latter of course being close together), and, holding it thus,
drew back his head and delivered a blow with that pickaxe beak of his
that would have broken a toe if he had missed by the shadow of an inch
the grain for which it was intended. I was always nervous when I saw him
do it, for I expected an accident, but none ever happened that I know
of. When the babies grew clamorous all over the place, the jay used to
fill his beak with the whole kernels. Eight were his limit, and those
kept the mouth open, with one sticking out at the tip. Thus loaded he
flew off, but was back in two minutes for another supply. The
red-headed woodpecker, who claimed to own the corn-field, seemed to
think this a little grasping, and protested against such a wholesale
performance; but the overworked jay simply jumped to one side when he
came at him, and went right on picking up corn. When he had time to
spare from his arduous duties, he sometimes indulged his passion for
burying things by carrying a grain off on the lawn with an air of most
important business, and driving it into the ground, hammering it well
down out of sight.

The blue jay's manner of getting over the ground was peculiar, and
especially his way of leaving it. He proceeded by high hops, bounding up
from each like a rubber ball; and when ready to fly he hopped farther
and bounded higher each time, till it seemed as if he were too high to
return, and so took to his wings. That is exactly the way it looked to
an observer; for there is a lightness, an airiness of bearing about this
apparently heavy bird impossible to describe, but familiar to those who
have watched him.

Some time after the blue jay family had taken to roaming about the
grounds, I had a pleasing little interview with one of them in the
raspberry patch. This was a favorite resort of the neighboring birds,
where I often betook myself to see who came to the feast. This morning
I was sitting quietly under a spruce-tree, when three blue jays came
flying toward me with noise and outcries, evidently in excitement over
something. The one leading the party had in his beak a white object,
like a piece of bread, and was uttering low, complaining cries as he
flew; he passed on, and the second followed him; but the third seemed
struck by my appearance, and probably felt it his duty to inquire into
my business, for he alighted on a tree before me, not ten feet from
where I sat. He began in the regular way, by greeting me with a squawk;
for, like some of his bigger (and wiser?) fellow-creatures, he assumed
that a stranger must be a suspicious personage, and an unusual position
must mean mischief. I was very comfortable, and I thought I would see if
I could not fool him into thinking me a scarecrow, companion to those
adorning the "patch" at that moment. I sat motionless, not using my
glass, but looking him squarely in the eyes. This seemed to impress him;
he ceased squawking, and hopped a twig nearer, stopped, turned one
calmly observant eye on me, then quickly changed to the other, as if to
see if the first had not deceived him. Still I did not move, and he was
plainly puzzled to make me out. He came nearer and nearer, and I moved
only my eyes to keep them on his. All this time he did not utter a
sound, but studied me as closely, and to all appearances as carefully,
as ever I had studied him. Obviously he was in doubt what manner of
creature it was, so like the human race, yet so unaccountably quiet. He
tried to be unconcerned, while still not releasing me from strict
surveillance; he dressed his feathers a little, uttering a soft whisper
to himself, as if he said, "Well, I never!" then looked me over again
more carefully than before. This pantomime went on for half an hour or
more; and no one who had looked for that length of time into the eyes of
a blue jay could doubt his intelligence, or that he had his thoughts and
his well-defined opinions, that he had studied his observer very much as
she had studied him, and that she had not fooled him in the least.

The little boy blue is one of the birds suffering under a bad name whom
I have wished to know better, to see if perchance something might be
done to clear up his reputation a bit. I am not able to say that he
never steals the eggs of other birds, though during nearly a month of
hard work, when, if ever, a few eggs would have been a welcome addition
to his resources, and sparrows were sitting in scores on the place, I
did not see or hear anything of the sort. I have heard of his destroying
the nest, and presumably eating the eggs or young of the English
sparrow, but the hundred or two who raised their broods and squawked
from morning to night in the immediate vicinity of the pine-tree
household never intimated that they were disturbed, and never showed
hostility to their neighbors in blue. Moreover, there is undoubtedly
something to be said on the jay's side. Even if he does indulge in these
little eccentricities, what is he but a "collector"? And though he does
not claim to be working "in the interest of science," which bigger
collectors invariably do, he is working in the interest of life, and
life is more than science. Even a blue jay's life is to him as precious
as ours to us, and who shall say that it is not as useful as many of
ours in the great plan?

The only indications of hostilities that I observed in four weeks' close
study, at the most aggressive time of bird life, nesting-time, I shall
relate exactly as I saw them, and the record will be found a very modest
one. In this case, certainly, the jay was no more offensive than the
meekest bird that has a nest to defend, and far less belligerent than
robins and many others. On one occasion a strange blue jay flew up to
the nest in the pine. I could not discover that he had any evil
intention, except just to see what was going on, but one of the pair
flew at him with loud cries, which I heard for some time after the two
had disappeared in the distance, and when our bird returned, he perched
on an evergreen, bowing and "jouncing" violently, his manner plainly
defying the enemy to "try it again." At another time I observed a savage
fight, or what looked like it, between two jays. I happened not to see
the beginning, for I was particularly struck that morning with the
behavior of a bouquet of nasturtiums which stood in a vase on my table.
I never was fond of these flowers, and I noticed then for the first time
how very self-willed and obstinate they were. No matter how nicely they
were arranged, it would not be an hour before the whole bunch was in
disorder, every blossom turning the way it preferred, and no two looking
in the same direction. I thought, when I first observed this, that I
must be mistaken, and I took them out and rearranged them as I
considered best; but the result was always the same, and I began to feel
that they knew altogether too much for their station in the vegetable
world. I was trying to see if I could discover any method in their
movements, when I was startled by a flashing vision of blue down under
the locusts, and, on looking closely, saw two jays flying up like
quarrelsome cocks,--only not together, but alternately, so that one was
in the air all the time. They flew three feet high, at least, all their
feathers on end, and looking more like shapeless masses of blue feathers
than like birds. They did not pause or rest till one seemed to get the
other down. I could not see from my window well enough to be positive,
but both were in the grass together, and only one in sight, who stood
perfectly quiet. He appeared to be holding the other down, for
occasionally there would be a stir below, and renewed vigilance on the
part of the one I could see. Several minutes passed. I became very
uneasy. Was he killing him? I could stand it no longer, so I ran down.
But my coming was a diversion, and both flew. When I reached the place,
one had disappeared, and the other was hopping around the tree in great
excitement, holding in his beak a fluffy white feather about the size of
a jay's breast feather. I did not see the act, and I cannot absolutely
declare it, but I have no doubt that he pulled that feather from the
breast of his foe as he held him down; how many more with it I could not
tell, for I did not think of looking until it was too late.

Again one day, somewhat later, when blue jay and catbird babies were
rather numerous, I saw a blue jay dive into a lilac bush much frequented
by catbirds, young and old together. Instantly there arose a great cry
of distress, as though some one were hurt, and a rustling of leaves,
proclaiming that a chase, if not a fight, was in progress. I hurried
downstairs, and as I appeared the jay flew, with two catbirds after him,
still crying in a way I had never heard before. I expected nothing less
than to find a young catbird injured, but I found nothing. Whether the
blue jay really had touched one, or it was a mere false alarm on the
part of the very excitable catbirds, I could not tell. This is the only
thing I have seen in the jay that might have been an interference with
another bird's rights; and the catbirds made such a row when I came near
their babies that I strongly suspect the only guilt of the jay was
alighting in the lilac they had made their headquarters.

The little boy blue in the apple-tree, already spoken of, did not get
his family off with so little adventure as his pine-tree neighbor. The
youngling of this nest came to the ground and stayed there. The people
of the house returned him to the tree several times, but every time he
fell again. Three or four days he wandered about the neighborhood, the
parents rousing the country with their uproar, and terrorizing the
household cat to such a point of meekness that no sooner did a jay begin
to squawk than he ran to the door and begged to come in. At last, out of
mercy, the family took the little fellow into the house, when they saw
that he was not quite right in some way. One side seemed to be nearly
useless; one foot did not hold on; one wing was weak; and his breathing
seemed to be one-sided. The family, seeing that he could not take care
of himself, decided to adopt him. He took kindly to human care and human
food, and before the end of a week had made himself very much at home.
He knew his food provider, and the moment she entered the room he rose
on his weak little legs, fluttered his wings violently, and presented a
gaping mouth with the jay baby cry issuing therefrom. Nothing was ever
more droll than this sight. He was an intelligent youngster, knew what
he wanted, and when he had had enough. He would eat bread up to a
certain point, but after that he demanded cake or a berry, and his
favorite food was an egg. He was exceedingly curious about all his
surroundings, examined everything with great care, and delighted to look
out of the window. He selected his own sleeping-place,--the upper one of
a set of bookshelves,--and refused to change; and he watched the
movements of a wounded woodcock as he ran around the floor with as much
interest as did the people. Under human care he grew rapidly stronger,
learned to fly more readily and to use his weak side; and every day he
was allowed to fly about in the trees for hours. Once or twice, when
left out, he returned to the house for food and care; but at last came a
day when he returned no more. No doubt he was taken in charge again by
his parents, who, it was probable, had not left the neighborhood.

After July came in, and baby blue jays could hardly be distinguished
from their parents, my studies took me away from the place nearly all
day, and I lost sight of the family whose acquaintance had made my June
so delightful.



XIV.

THE GREAT CAROLINIAN.


All through June of that summer I studied the birds in the spacious
inclosure around my "Inn of Rest." But as that month drew near its end,

 "The happy birds that change their sky
 To build and brood, that live their lives
 From land to land,"

almost disappeared. Blue jay babies wandered far off, where I could hear
them it is true, but where--owing to the despair into which my
appearance threw the whole jay family--I rarely saw them; orchard and
Baltimore orioles had learned to fly, and carried their ceaseless cries
far beyond my hearing; catbirds and cardinals, doves and golden-wings,
all had raised their broods and betaken themselves wherever their fancy
or food drew them, certainly without the bounds of my daily walks. It
was evident that I must seek fresh fields, or remove my quarters to a
more northerly region, where the sun is less ardent and the birds less
in haste with their nesting.

Accordingly I sought a companion who should also be a guide, and turned
my steps to the only promising place in the vicinity, a deep ravine,
through which ran a little stream that was called a river, and dignified
with a river's name, yet rippled and babbled, and conducted itself
precisely like a brook.

The Glen, as it was called, was a unique possession for a common
work-a-day village in the midst of a good farming country. Long ago
would its stately trees have been destroyed, its streamlet set to
turning wheels, and Nature forced to express herself on those many
acres, in corn and potatoes, instead of her own graceful and varied
selection of greenery; or, mayhap, its underbrush cut out, its slopes
sodded, its springs buried in pipes and put to use, and the whole
"improved" into dull insipidity,--all this, but for the will of one man
who held the title to the grounds, and rated it so highly, that, though
willing to sell, no one could come up to his terms. Happy delusion! that
blessed the whole neighborhood with an enchanting bit of nature
untouched by art. Long may he live to keep the deeds in his possession,
and the grounds in their own wild beauty.

The place was surrounded by bristling barbed fences, and trespassers
were pointedly warned off, so when one had paid for the privilege, and
entered the grounds, he was supposed to be safe from intrusion, except
of others who had also bought the right. The part easily accessible to
hotel and railroad station was the scene of constant picnics, for which
the State is famous, but that portion which lay near my place of study
was usually left to the lonely kingfisher--and the cows. There the shy
wood dwellers set up their households, and many familiar upland birds
came with their fledglings; that was the land of promise for
bird-lovers, and there one of them decided to study.

We began with the most virtuous resolves. We would come at five o'clock
in the morning; we would catch the birds at their breakfast. We did; it
was a lovely morning after a heavy rain, on which we set out to explore
the ravine for birds. The storm in passing had taken the breeze with it,
and not a twig had stirred since. Every leaf and grass blade was loaded
with rain-drops. Walking in the grass was like wading in a stream; to
touch a bush was to evoke a shower. But though our shoes were wet
through, and our garments well sprinkled, before we reached the barbed
fence, over or under or through or around which we must pass to our
goal, we would not be discouraged; we went on.

As to the fence, let me, in passing, give my fellow drapery-bearers a
hint. Carry a light shawl, or even a yard of muslin, to lay across the
wire you can step over (thus covering the mischievous barbs), while a
good friend holds up with strong hand the next wire, and you slip
through. Thus you may pass this cruel device of man without accident.

Having circumvented the fence, the next task was to descend the steep
sides of the ravine. The difficulty was, not to get down, for that could
be done almost anywhere, but to go right side up; to land on the feet
and not on the head was the test of sure-footedness and climbing
ability. We conquered that obstacle, cautiously creeping down rocky
steps, and over slippery soil, steadying ourselves by bushes, clasping
small tree-trunks, scrambling over big ones that lay prone upon the
ground, and thus we safely reached the level of the stream. Then we
passed along more easily, stooping under low trees, crossing the beds of
tiny brooks, encircling clumps of shrubbery (and catching the night's
cobwebs on our faces), till we reached a fallen tree-trunk that seemed
made for resting. There we seated ourselves, to breathe, and to see who
lived in the place.

One of the residents proclaimed himself at once,

                     "To left and right
 The cuckoo told his name to all the hills,"--

and in a moment we saw him, busy with his breakfast. His manner of
hunting was interesting; he stood perfectly still on a branch, his beak
pointed upward, but his head so turned that one eye looked downward.
When something attracted him, he almost fell off his perch, seized the
morsel as he passed, alighted on a lower branch, and at once began
looking around again. There was no frivolity, no flitting about like a
little bird; his conduct was grave and dignified, and he was absolutely
silent, except when at rare intervals he mounted a branch and uttered
his call, or song, if one might so call it. He managed his long tail
with grace and expression, holding it a little spread as he moved about,
thus showing the white tips and "corners."

While we were absorbed in cuckoo affairs the sun peeped over the trees,
and the place was transfigured. Everything, as I said, was charged with
water, and looking against the sun, some drops hanging from the tip of a
leaf glowed red as rubies, others shone out blue as sapphires, while
here and there one scintillated with many colors like a diamond, now
flashing red, and now yellow or blue.

               "The humblest weed
 Wore its own coronal, and gayly bold
 Waved jeweled sceptre."

In that spot we sat an hour, and saw many birds, with whom it was
evidently a favorite hunting-ground. But no one seemed to live there;
every one appeared to be passing through; and realizing as we did, that
it was late in the season, our search for nests in use was rather
half-hearted anyway. As our breakfast-time drew near we decided to go
home, having found nothing we cared to study. Just as we were taking
leave of the spot I heard, nearly at my back, a gentle scolding cry, and
glancing around, my eyes fell upon two small birds running down the
trunk of a walnut sapling. A few inches above the ground one of the pair
disappeared, and the other, still scolding, flew away. I hastened to the
spot--and there I found my great Carolinian.

The nest was made in a natural cavity in the side of a stump six or
eight inches in diameter and a foot high. It seemed to be of moss,
completely roofed over, and stooping nearer its level I saw the bird,
looking flattened as if she had been crushed, but returning my gaze,
bravely resolved to live or die with her brood. I noted her color, and
the peculiar irregular line over her eye, and then I left her, though I
did not know who she was. Nothing would have been easier than to put my
hand over her door and catch her, but nothing would have induced me to
do so--if I never knew her name. Time enough for formal introductions
later in our acquaintance, I thought, and if it happened that we never
met again, what did I care how she was named in the books?

I did not at first even suspect her identity, for who would expect to
find the great Carolina wren a personage of less than six inches! even
though he were somewhat familiar with the vagaries of name-givers, who
call one bird after the cat, whom he in no way resembles, and another
after the bull, to whom the likeness is, if possible, still less. What
was certain was that the nest belonged to wrens, and was admirably
placed for study; and what I instantly resolved was to improve my
acquaintance with the owners thereof.

The little opening in the woods, which became the Wren's Court, when
their rank was discovered, was a most attractive place, shaded enough to
be pleasant, while yet leaving a goodly stretch of blue sky in sight,
bounded on one side by immense forest trees--walnut, butternut, oak, and
others--which looked as if they had stood there for generations; on the
other side, the babbling stream, up and down which the kingfisher flew
and clattered all day. One way out led to the thicket where a
wood-thrush was sitting in a low tree, and the other, by the Path
Difficult, up to the world above. The seat, across the court from the
nest, had plainly been arranged by some kind fate on purpose for us. It
was the trunk of a tree, which in falling failed to quite reach the
ground, and so had bleached and dried, and it was shaded and screened
from observation by vigorous saplings which had sprung up about it. The
whole was indeed an ideal nook, well worthy to be named after its
distinguished residents.

Thoreau was right in his assertion that one may see all the birds of a
neighborhood by simply waiting patiently in one place, and into that
charming spot came "sooner or later" every bird I had seen in my
wanderings up and down the ravine. There sang the scarlet tanager every
morning through July, gleaming among the leaves of the tallest trees,
his olive-clad spouse nowhere to be seen, presumably occupied with
domestic affairs. There the Acadian flycatcher pursued his calling,
fluttering his wings and uttering a sweet little murmur when he
alighted. Into that retired corner came the cries of flicker and blue
jay from the high ground beyond. On the edge sang the indigo-bird and
the wood-pewee, and cardinal and wood-thrush song formed the chorus to
all the varied notes that we heard.

Upon our entrance the next morning, my first glance at the nest was one
of dismay--the material seemed to be pulled out a little. Had it been
robbed! had some vagabond squirrel thrust lawless paws into the little
home! I looked closely; no, there sat, or rather there lay the little
mother. But she did not relish this second call. She flew, fluttering
and trailing on the ground, as if hurt, hoping, of course, to attract us
away from her nest. Seeing that of no avail, however, which she quickly
did, she retreated to a low branch, threw back her head, and uttered a
soft "chur-r-r," again and again repeated, doubtless to her mate. But
that personage did not make his appearance, and we examined the nest.
There were five eggs, white, very thickly and evenly specked with fine
dots of dark color. An end of one that stuck up was plain white, perhaps
the others were the same; we did not inquire too closely, for what did
we care for eggs, except as the cradles of the future birds?

Very soon we retired to our seat across the court and became quiet, to
wait for what might come. Suddenly, with almost startling effect,

 "A bird broke forth and sung
 And trilled and quavered and shook his throat."

It was a new voice to us, loud and clear, and the song, consisting of
three clauses, sounded like "Whit-e-ar! Whit-e-ar! Whit-e-ar!" then a
pause, and the same repeated, and so on indefinitely. It came nearer and
still nearer, and in a moment we saw the bird, a tiny creature,
red-brown on the back, light below--the image of the little sitter in
the stump, as we remarked with delight; we hoped he was her mate. He did
not seem inclined to go to the nest, but stayed on a twig of a dead
branch which hung from a large tree near by.

While the stranger was pouring out his rhapsody, head thrown back, tail
hanging straight down, and wings slightly drooped, I noticed a movement
by the nest, and fixed my eyes upon that. The little dame had stolen out
of her place, and now began the ascent of the sapling which started out
one side of her small stump. Up the trunk she went with perfect ease,
running a few steps, and then pausing a moment before she took the next
half-dozen. She did not go bobbing up like a woodpecker, nor did she
steady herself with her tail, like that frequenter of tree-trunks; she
simply ran up that almost perpendicular stick as a fly runs up the wall.
Meanwhile her mate, if that he were, kept up his ringing song, till she
reached the top of the sapling, perhaps seven or eight feet high, and
flew over near him. In an instant the song ceased, and the next moment
two small birds flew over our heads, and we heard chatting and
churring, and then silence.

Without this hint from the wren we should rarely have seen her leave the
nest; we should naturally have watched for wings, and none might come or
go, while she was using her feet instead. She returned in the same way;
flying to the top, or part way up her sapling, she ran down to her nest
as glibly as she had run up. The walnut-trunk was the ladder which led
to the outside world. This pretty little scene was many times repeated,
in the days that we spent before the castle of our Carolinians; the male
announcing himself afar with songs, and approaching gradually, while his
mate listened to the notes that had wooed her, and now again coaxed her
away from her sitting, for a short outing with him. Sometimes, though
rarely, she came out without this inducement, but during her sitting
days she usually went only upon his invitation.

Before many days we had fully identified the pair. The song had puzzled
me at first, for though extraordinary in volume for a bird of his size,
and possessing that indefinable wren quality, that abandon and
unexpectedness, as if it were that instant inspired, it had yet few
notes, and I missed the exquisite tremolo that makes the song of the
winter-wren so bewitching. But I "studied him up," and learned that his
finest and most characteristic song is uttered in the spring only. After
nesting has begun, he gives merely these musical calls, which, though
delightful, do not compare--say the books--with his ante-nuptial
performance. I was too late for that, but I was glad and thankful for
these.

Moreover, the wren varied his songs as the days went on. There were from
two to five notes in a clause, never more, and commonly but three. This
clause he repeated again and again during the whole of one visit; but
the next time he came he had a new one, which likewise he kept to while
he stayed. Again, when, some days later, he took part in feeding, he
frequently changed the song as he left the nest. Struck by the variety
he gave to his few notes, after some days I began to take them down in
syllables as they expressed themselves to my ear, for they were sharp
and distinct. Of course, these syllables resemble his sound about as a
dried flower resembles the living blossom, but they serve the same
purpose, to reproduce them in memory. In that way I recorded in three
days eighteen different arrangements of his notes. Doubtless there were
many more; indeed, he seemed to delight in inventing new combinations,
and his taste evidently agreed with mine, for when he succeeded in
evolving a particularly charming one, he did not easily change it. One
that specially pleased me I put down as "Shame-ber-ee!" and this was his
favorite, too, for after the day he began it, he sang it oftener than
any other. It had a peculiarly joyous ring, the second note being a
third below the first, and the third fully an octave higher than the
second. I believe he had just then struck upon it, his enjoyment of it
was so plain to see.

The Wren's Court was a distracting spot to study one pair of small
birds. So many others came about, and always, it seemed, in some crisis
in wren affairs, when I dared not take my eyes from my glass, lest I
lose the sequence of events. There appeared sometimes to be a thousand
whispering, squealing, and smacking titmice in the trees over my head,
and a whole regiment of great-crested flycatchers and others on one
side. I was glad I was familiar with all the flicker noises, or I should
have been driven wild at these moments, so many, so various, and so
peculiar were their utterances; likewise thankful that I knew the row
made by the jay on the bank above was not a sign of dire distress, but
simply the tragic manner of the family.

Again, when the wind blew, it was impossible to see the little folk
that chattered and whispered and "dee-dee'd" overhead, and though we
were absolutely certain a party of tufted tits and chickadees and black
and white creepers, who always seemed to travel in company, were
frolicking about, we could not distinguish them from the dancing and
fluttering leaves.

When the day was favorable, and the wren had gone his way, foraging in
silence over the low ground at our back, and an old stump that stood
there, and the sitter had settled herself in her nest for another half
hour, we could look about at whoever happened to be there. Thus I made
further acquaintance with the great-crested flycatcher. Hitherto I had
known these birds only as they travel through a neighborhood not their
own, appearing on the tops of trees, and crying out in martial tones for
the inhabitants to bring on their fighters, a challenge to all whom it
may concern. It was a revelation, then, to see them quietly at home like
other birds, setting up claims to a tree, driving strangers away from
it, and spending their time about its foot, seeking food near the
ground, and indulging in frolics or fights, whichever they might be,
with squealing cries and a rushing flight around their tree. In the
latter part of our study, the great-crest babies were out, noisy little
fellows, who insisted on being fed as peremptorily as their elders
demand their rights and privileges.

To make the place still more maddening for study, the birds seemed to
sweep through the woods in waves. For a long time not a peep would be
heard, not a feather would stir; then all at once

 "The air would throb with wings,"

and birds would pour in from all sides, half a dozen at a time, making
us want to look six ways at once, and rendering it impossible to confine
ourselves to one. Then, after half an hour of this superabundance, one
by one would slip out, and by the time we began to realize it, we were
alone again.

We had watched the wren for nine days when there came an interruption.
It happened thus: A little farther up the glen we had another study, a
wood-thrush nest in a low tree, and every day, either coming or going,
we were accustomed to spend an hour watching that. Our place of
observation was a hidden nook in a pile of rocks, where we were entirely
concealed by thick trees, through which, by a judicious thinning out of
twigs and leaves, we had made peepholes, for the thrush mamma would not
tolerate us in her sight. To reach our seats and not alarm the
suspicious little dame, we always entered from the back, slowly and
cautiously climbed the rocks by a rude path which already existed, and
slipped in under cover of our leafy screen.

On the morning of the tenth day we entered the ravine from the upper
end, and made our first call upon the thrush. We had been seated in
silence for ten or fifteen minutes, and I was beginning to get uneasy
because no bird came to the nest, when a diversion occurred that drove
thrush affairs out of our minds. We heard footsteps! It must be
remembered that we were alone in this solitary place, far from a house,
and naturally we listened eagerly. The steps drew nearer, and then we
heard loud breathing. We exchanged glances of relief--it was a cow! But
while we were congratulating ourselves began a crashing of branches, a
fiercer breathing, a rush, and a low bellow!

This was no meek cow! we turned pale,--at any rate we felt pale,--but we
tried to encourage each other by suggesting in hurried whispers that he
surely would not see us. Alas! the next instant he broke through the
bushes, and to our horror started at once up our path to the rocks; in a
moment he would be upon us! We rose hastily, prepared to sell our lives
dearly, when, as suddenly as he had come, he turned and rushed back.
Whether the sight of us was too much for his philosophy, or whether he
had gone for reinforcements, we did not inquire. We instantly lost our
interest in birds and birds' nests; we gathered up our belongings and
fled, not stopping to breathe till we had put the barbiest of barbed
wire fences between us and the foe.

Once outside, however, we paused to consider: To give up our study was
not to be thought of; to go every day in fear and dread was equally
intolerable. I wrote to the authorities of whom I had purchased the
right to enter the place. They promptly denied the existence of any such
animal on the premises. I replied to the effect that "seeing is
believing," but they reaffirmed their former statement, assuring me that
there were none but harmless cows in the glen. I did not want to waste
time in an unprofitable correspondence, and I did want to see the wrens,
and at last a bright thought came,--I would hire an escort, a country
boy used to cattle, and warranted not afraid of them. I inquired into
the question of day's wages, I looked about among the college students
who were working their way to an education, and I found an ideal
protector,--an intelligent and very agreeable young man, brought up on a
farm, and just graduated, who was studying up mathematics preparatory to
school-teaching in the fall. The bargain was soon made, and the next
morning we started again for the glen, our guardian armed with his
geometry and a big club. Three days, however, had been occupied in
perfecting this arrangement, and I approached the spot with anxiety;
indeed, I am always concerned till I see the whole family I am watching,
after only a night's interval, and know they have survived the many
perils which constantly threaten bird-life, both night and day.



XV.

THE WRENLINGS APPEAR.


The moment we entered the court I saw there was news. My eyes being
attracted by a little commotion on a dogwood-tree, I saw a saucy tufted
titmouse chasing with cries one of the wrens who had food in its beak.
With most birds this proclaims the arrival of the young family as
plainly as if a banner had been hung on the castle walls. Whether the
tit was after the food, or trying to drive the wren off his own ground,
we could not tell, nor did we much care; the important fact was that
babies were out in the walnut-tree cottage. The food bearer went to the
nest, and in a moment came up the ladder, so joyous and full of song
that he could not wait to get off his own tree, but burst into a
triumphant ringing "Whit-e-ar!" that must have told his news to all the
world--who had ears to hear.

The mother did not at once give up her brooding, nor did I wonder when I
peeped into the nest while she was off with her spouse, and saw what
appeared to be five big mouths with a small bag of skin attached to
each. Nothing else could be seen. She sat an hour at a time, and then
her mate would come and call her off for a rest and a change, while he
skipped down the ladder and fed the bairns. His way in this matter, as
in everything else, was characteristic. He never went to the nest till
he had called her off by his song. It was not till several days later,
when she had given up brooding, that I ever saw the pair meet at the
nest, and then it seemed to be accidental, and one of them always left
immediately.

During the first few days the young parents came and went as of old, by
way of the ladder, and I learned to know them apart by their way of
mounting that airy flight of steps. He was more pert in manner, held his
head and tail more jauntily, though he rarely pointed his tail to the
sky, as do some of the wren family. He went lightly up in a dancing
style which she entirely lacked, sometimes jumping to a small shoot that
grew up quite near the walnut, and running up that as easily as he did
the tree. Her ascent was of a business character; she was on duty, head
and tail level with her body, no airs whatever. He was so full of
happiness in these early days that frequently he could not take time to
go to the top, but, having reached a height of two or three feet, he
flew, and at once burst into rapturous song, even sang while flying
over to the next tree. From this time they almost abandoned the ladder
they had been so fond of, and flew directly to the nest from the ground,
where they got all their food. This change was not because they were
hard worked; I never saw birds who took family cares more easily. At the
expiration of three days the mother brooded no more, and indeed it would
have troubled her to find a place for herself, the nest was so full.

Every morning on entering the court I called at the nest, and always
found five yellow beaks turned to the front. On the third day the heads
were covered with slate-colored down; on the fourth, wing-feathers began
to show among the heads, but the body was still perfectly bare; on the
fifth, the eyes opened on the green world about them,--they were then
certainly five days old, and may have been seven; owing to our
unfortunate absence at the critical time I cannot be sure. On the
seventh day the red-brown of the back began to show, and the white of
the breast made itself visible, while the heads began to look feathery
instead of fuzzy. Even then, however, they took no notice when I put my
finger on them.

Long before this time the manner of the parents had changed. In the
first place, they were more busy; foraging industriously on the ground,
coming within ten or fifteen feet of us, without appearing to see us at
all. In fact they had, after the first day, paid no attention to us, for
we never had disturbed them, never went to the nest till sure that both
were away, and kept still and quiet in our somewhat distant seat.

About this time they began to show more anxiety in their manner. The
first exhibition was on the fourth day since we knew the young were
hatched (and let me say that I _believe_ they were just out of the shell
the morning that we found the father feeding). On this fourth day the
singer perched near the nest-tree, three or four feet from the ground,
and began a very loud wren "dear-r-r-r! dear-r-r-r! dear-r-r-r!"
constantly repeated. He jerked himself about with great apparent
excitement, looking always on the ground as if he saw an enemy there. We
thought it might be a cat we had seen prowling about, but on examination
no cat was there. Gradually his tone grew lower and lower, and he calmed
down so far as a wren can calm, though he did not cease his cries. I did
not know he could be still so long, but I learned more about wren
possibilities in that line somewhat later.

During this performance his mate came with food in her beak, and
evidently saw nothing alarming, for she went to the nest with it. Still
he stood gazing on the ground. Sometimes he flew down and returned at
once, then began moving off, a little at a time, still crying, exactly
as though he were following some one who went slowly. The call, when
low, was very sweet and tender; very mournful too, and we got much
wrought up over it, wishing--as bird students so often do--that we could
do something to help. He was roused at last by the intrusion of a bird
into his domain, and his discomfiture of this foe seemed to dispel his
unhappy state of mind, for he at once broke out in joyous song, to our
great relief. That was not the last exhibition of the wren's
idiosyncrasy; he repeated it day after day, and finally he went so far
as to interpolate low "dear-r-r's" into his sweetest songs. Perhaps that
was his conception of his duty as protector to the family; if so, he was
certainly faithful in doing it. It was ludicrously like the attitude of
some people under similar circumstances.

While the young father was manifesting his anxiety in this way, the
mother showed hers in another; she took to watching, hardly leaving the
place at all. When she had her babies well fed for the moment, she went
up the trunk a little, in a loitering way that I had never seen her
indulge in before,--and a loitering wren is a curiosity. It was plain
that she simply wished to pass away the time. She stepped from the
trunk upon a twig on one side, stayed a little while, then passed to one
on the other side, lingered a few moments, and so she went on. When she
arrived at the height of two feet she perched on a small dead twig, and
remained a long time--certainly twenty minutes--absolutely motionless.
It was hard to see her, and if I had not watched her progress from the
first, I should not have suspected her presence. A leaf would hide her,
even the crossing of two twigs was ample screen, and when she was still
it was hopeless to look for her. The only way we were able to keep track
of either of the pair was by their incessant motions.

The Great Carolinian had a peculiar custom which showed that his coming
with song was a ceremony he would not dispense with. He would often
start off singing, gradually withdraw till fifty or seventy-five feet
away, singing at every pause, and then, if one watched him closely, he
might see him stop, drop to the ground, and hunt about in silence. When
he was ready to come again, he would fly quietly a little way off, and
then begin his singing and approaching, as if he had been a mile away.
He never sang when on the ground after food, but so soon as he finished
eating, he flew to a perch at least two feet high, generally between six
and ten, and sometimes as high as twenty feet, and sang.

After a day or two of the wren's singular uneasiness, we discovered at
least one object of his concern. It was a chipmunk, whom we had often
noticed perched on the highest point of the little ledge of rocks near
the nest. He seemed to be attending strictly to his own affairs, but
after a good deal of "dear-r-r"-ing, the wren flew furiously at him,
almost, if not quite, hitting him, and doing it again and again. The
little beast did not relish this treatment and ran off, the bird
following and repeating the assault. This was undoubtedly the foe that
he had been troubled about all the time.

On the tenth or eleventh day of their lives (as I believe) I examined
the babies in the nest a little more closely than before. I even touched
them with my finger on head and beak. They looked sleepily at me, but
did not resent it. If the mother were somewhat bigger, I should suspect
her of giving them "soothing syrup," for they had exactly the appearance
of being drugged. They were not overfed; I never saw youngsters so much
let alone. The parents had nothing like the work of the robin, oriole,
or blue jay. They came two or three times, and then left for half an
hour or more, yet the younglings were never impatient for food.

The morning that the young wrens had reached the age of twelve days
(that we knew of) was the 22d of July, and the weather was intensely
warm. On the 21st we had watched all day to see them go, sure that they
were perfectly well able. Obviously it is the policy of this family to
prepare for a life of extraordinary activity by an infancy of unusual
stillness. Never were youngsters so perfectly indifferent to all the
world. In storm or sunshine, in daylight or darkness, they lay there
motionless, caring only for food, and even that showed itself only by
the fact that all mouths were toward the front. The under one of the
pile seemed entirely contented to be at the bottom, and the top ones not
to exult in their position; in fact, so far as any show of interest in
life was concerned, they might have been a nestful of wooden babies.

On this morning, as we dragged ourselves wearily over the hot road to
the ravine, we resolved that no handful of wrenlings should force us
over that road again. Go off this day they should, if--as my comrade
remarked--"we had to raise them by hand." My first call was at the nest,
indifferent whether parents were there or not, for I had become
desperate. There they lay, lazily blinking at me, and filling the nest
overfull. The singer came rushing down a branch, bristled up,
blustering, and calling "Dear-r-r-r!" at me, and I hoped he would be
induced to hurry up his very leisurely brood.

We took our usual seats and waited. Both parents remained near the
homestead, and little singing was indulged in; this morning there was
serious business on hand, as any one could see. We were desirous of
seeing the first sign of movement, so we resolved to cut away the last
few leaves that hid the entrance to the nest. We had not done it before,
partly not to annoy the birds, and partly not to have them too easily
discovered by prowlers.

Miss R---- went to the stump, and cut away half a dozen leaves and twigs
directly before their door. The young ones looked at her, but did not
move. Then, as I had asked her to do, she pointed a parasol directly at
the spot, so that I, in my distant seat, might locate the nest exactly.
This seemed to be the last straw that the birdlings could endure; two of
them flew off. One went five or six feet away, the other to the ground
close by. Then she came away, and we waited again. In a moment two more
ventured out and alighted on twigs near the nest. Then the mother came
home, and acted as surprised as though she had never expected to have
them depart. She went from a twig beside the tree to the nest, and back,
about a dozen times, as if she really could not believe her eyes.

Anxious to see everything that went on, we moved our seats nearer, but
this so disconcerted the pair that we did not stay long. It was long
enough to hear the wren baby-cry, a low insect-like noise, and to see
something that surprised and no less disgusted me, namely, every one of
those babies hurry back to the tree, climb the trunk, and scramble back
into the nest!--the whole exit to be begun again! It could not be their
dislike of the "cold, cold world," for a cold world would be a luxury
that morning.

Of any one who would go back into that crowded nest, with the
thermometer on the rampage as it was then, I had my opinion, and I began
to think I didn't care much about wrens anyway; we stayed, however, as a
matter of habit, and I suppose they all had a nap after their tremendous
exertion. But they manifestly got an idea into their heads at last, a
taste of life. After a proper amount of consideration, one of the
nestlings took courage to move again, and went so far as a twig that
grew beside the door, looked around on the world from that post for a
while, then hopped to another, and so on till he encircled the home
stump. But when he came again in sight of that delectable nest, he could
not resist it, and again he added himself to the pile of birds within.
This youth was apparently as well feathered as his parents, and, except
in length of tail, looked exactly like them; many a bird baby starts
bravely out in life not half so well prepared for it as this little
wren.

After nearly three hours of waiting, we made up our minds that these
young folk must be out some time during the day, unless they had decided
to take up permanent quarters in that hole in the stump, and what was
more to the point, that the weather was too warm to await their very
deliberate movements. So we left them, to get off the best way they
could without us, or to stay there all their lives, if they so desired.

The nest, which at first was exceedingly picturesque--and I had resolved
to bring it away, with the stump that held it--was now so demolished
that I no longer coveted it. The last and sweetest song of the wren,
"Shame-ber-ee!" rang out joyously as we turned our faces to the north,
and bade a long farewell to the Great Carolinians.



XVI.

THE APPLE-TREE NEST.

 All day long in the elm, on their swaying perches swinging,
   New-fledged orioles utter their restless, querulous notes.

 HARRIET PRESCOTT SPOFFORD.


The little folk let out the secret, as little folk often do, and after
they had called attention to it, I was surprised that I had not myself
seen the pretty hammock swinging high up in the apple boughs.

It was, however, in a part of the grounds I did not often visit, partly
because the trees close by, which formed a belt across the back of the
place, grew so near together that not a breath of air could penetrate,
and it was intolerable in the hot June days, and partly because my
appearance there always created a panic. So seldom did a human being
visit that neglected spot, that the birds did not look for guests, and a
general stampede followed the approach of one.

On the eventful day of my happy discovery I was returning from my daily
call upon a blue jay who had set up her home in an apple-tree in a
neighbor's yard. The moment I entered the grounds I noticed a great
outcry. It was loud; it was incessant; and it was of many voices.
Following the sound, I started across the unmown field,

 "Through the bending grasses,
   Tall and lushy green,
 All alive with tiny things,
 Stirring feet and whirring wings
   Just an instant seen,"

and soon came in sight of the nest near the topmost twig of an old
apple-tree.

It was about noon of a bright, sunny day, and I could see only that the
nest was straw-color, apparently run over with little ones, and both the
parents were industriously feeding. The cries suggested the persistence
of young orioles, but it was not a Baltimore's swinging cradle, and the
old birds were so shy, coming from behind the leaves, every one of which
turned itself into a reflector for the sunlight, that I could not
identify them.

Later in the day I paid them another visit, and finding a better post of
observation under the shade of a sweet-briar bush, I saw at once they
were orchard orioles, and that the young ones were climbing to the edge
of the nest; I had nearly been too late!

Four o'clock was the unearthly hour at which I rose next morning to
pursue my acquaintance with the little family in the apple-tree, fearful
lest they should get the start of me. The youngsters were calling
vociferously, and both parents were very busy attending to their wants
and trying to stop their mouths, when I planted my seat before their
castle in the air, and proceeded to inquire into their manners and
customs. My call was, as usual, not received with favor. The mother,
after administering the mouthful she had brought, alighted on a twig
beside the nest and gave me a "piece of her mind." I admitted my bad
manners, but I could not tear myself away. The anxious papa, very
gorgeous in his chestnut and black suit, scenting danger to the little
brood in the presence of the bird-student with her glass, at once
abandoned the business of feeding, and devoted himself to the protection
of his family,--which indeed was his plain duty. His way of doing this
was to take his position on the tallest tree in the vicinity, and fill
the serene morning air with his cry of distress, a two-note utterance,
with a pathetic inflection which could not fail to arouse the sympathy
of all who heard it. It was not excited or angry, but it proclaimed that
here was distress and danger, and it had the effect of making me ashamed
of annoying him. But I hardened my heart, as I often have to do in my
study, and kept my seat. Occasionally he returned to the lower part of
his own tree, to see if the monster had been scared or shamed away, but
finding me stationary, he returned to his post and resumed his mournful
cry.

At length the happy thought came to me that I might select a position a
little less conspicuous, yet still within sight, so I moved my seat
farther off, away back under a low-branched apple-tree, where a redbird
came around with sharp "tsip's" to ascertain my business, and a catbird
behind the briar-bush entertained me with delicious song. The oriole
accepted my retirement as a compromise, and returned to his domestic
duties, coming, as was natural and easiest, on my side of the tree. His
habit was to cling to the side of the nest, showing his black and
red-gold against it, while his mate alighted on the edge, and was seen a
little above it. After feeding, both perched on neighboring twigs and
looked about for a moment before the next food-hunting trip. I thought
the father of the family exhibited an air of resignation, as if he
concluded that, since the babies made so much noise, there was no use in
trying longer to preserve the secret.

As a matter of fact, both our orioles need a good stock of patience as
well as of resignation, for the infants of both are unceasing in their
cries, and fertile in inventing variations in manner and inflection,
that would deceive those most familiar with them. Two or three times in
the weeks that followed, I rushed out of the house to find some very
distressed bird, who, I was sure, from the cries, must be impaled alive
on a butcher-bird's meat-hook, or undergoing torture at the hands--or
beak of somebody. It was rather dangerous going out at that time (just
at dusk), for it was the chosen hour for young men and maidens, of whom
there were several, to wander about under the trees. Often, before I
gave up going out at that hour, my glass, turned to follow a flitting
wing, would bring before my startled gaze a pair of sentimental young
persons, who doubtless thought I was spying upon them. My only safety
was in directing my glass into the trees, where nothing but wings could
be sentimental, and if a bird flitted below the level of branches, to
consider him lost. On following up the cry, I always found a young
oriole and a hard-worked father feeding him. The voice did not even
suggest an oriole to me, until I had been deceived two or three times
and understood it.

The young ones of the orchard oriole's nest lived up to the traditions
of the family by being inveterate cry-babies, and making so much noise
they could be heard far around. Sometimes their mother addressed them
in a similar tone to their own, but the father resigned himself to the
inevitable, and fed with dogged perseverance.

The apple-tree nest looked in the morning sun of a bright flax color,
and two of the young were mounted on the edge, dressing their yellow
satin breasts, and gleaming in the sunshine like gold.

A Baltimore oriole, passing over, seemed to be attracted by a familiar
quality of sound, for he came down, alighted about a foot from the nest,
and looked with interest upon the charming family scene. The protector
of the pretty brood was near, but he kept his seat, and made no
objections to the friendly call. Indeed, he flew away while the guest
was still there, and having satisfied his curiosity, the Baltimore also
departed upon his own business.

When the sun appeared over the tree-tops, he came armed with all his
terrors. The breeze dwindled and died; the very leaves hung lifeless on
the trees, and though, knowing that

 "Somewhere the wind is blowing,
   Though here where I gasp and sigh
 Not a breath of air is stirring,
   Not a cloud in the burning sky,"

the memory might comfort me, it did not in the slightest degree make me
comfortable--I wilted, and retired before it. How the birds could
endure it and carry on their work, I could not understand.

At noon I ventured out over the burning grass. The first youngster had
left the nest, and was shouting from a tree perhaps twenty feet beyond
the native apple. The others were fluttering on the edge, crying as
usual. As is the customary domestic arrangement with many birds, the
moment the first one flew, the father stopped coming to the nest, and
devoted himself to the straggler, which was a little hard on the mother
that hot day, for she had four to feed.

While I looked on, the second infant mustered up courage to start on the
journey of life. A tall twig led from the nest straight up into the air,
and this was the ladder he mounted. Step by step he climbed one
leaf-stem after another, with several pauses to cry and to eat, and at
last reached the topmost point, where he turned his face to the west,
and took his first survey of the kingdoms of the earth. A brother
nestling was close behind him, and the pretty pair, seeing no more steps
above them, rested a while from their labors. In the mean time the first
young oriole had gone farther into the trees, and papa with him.

The little dame worked without ceasing, though it must have been an
anxious time, with nestlings all stirring abroad. I noticed that she
fed oftenest the birdlings who were out, whether to strengthen them for
further effort, or to offer an inducement to those in the nest to come
up higher where food was to be had, she did not tell. I observed, also,
that when she came home she did not, as before, alight on the level of
the little ones, but above them. Perhaps this was to coax them upward;
at any rate, it had that effect: they stretched up and mounted the next
stem above, and so they kept on ascending. About three o'clock I was
again obliged to surrender to the power of the sun, and retire for a
season to a place he could not enter, the house.

Some hours passed before I made my next call, and I found that oriole
matters had not rested, if I had; the two nestlings had taken flight to
the tree the first one had chosen, and three were on the top twig above
the nest, which latter swung empty and deserted. Mamma was feeding the
three in her own tree, while papa attended as usual to the outsiders,
and found leisure to drop in a song now and then.

While I watched, number three took his life in his hands (as it were)
and launched out upon the air. He reached a tree not so far away as his
brothers had chosen, and his mother sought him out and fed him there.
But he did not seem to be satisfied with his achievement, or possibly
he found the position rather lonely; at any rate, the next use of his
wings was to return to his native apple, to the lower part. During this
visit, the mother of the little brood, seeing, I suppose, her labors
growing lighter, indulged herself and delighted me with a scrap of song,
very sweet, as the song of the female oriole always is.

It was with forebodings that I approached the tree the next morning,
foreboding speedily confirmed--the whole family was gone! Either I had
not stayed late enough or I had not got up early enough to see the
flitting; that song, then, meant something--it was my good-by.

Indeed it turned out to be my farewell, as I thought, for the whole
tribe seemed to have vanished. Usually it is not difficult to hunt up a
little bird family in its wanderings, during the month following its
leaving the nest, but this one I could neither see nor hear, and I was
very sure those oriole babies had not so soon outgrown their crying;
they must have been struck dumb or left the place.

Nearly three weeks later I was wandering about in what was called the
glen, half a mile or more from where the apple-tree babies had first
seen the light. It was a wild spot, a ravine, through which ran a
stream, where many wood-birds sang and nested. On approaching a
linden-tree loaded with blossoms, and humming with swarms of bees, I was
saluted with a burst of loud song, interspersed with scolding. No one
but an orchard oriole could so mix things, and sure enough! there he
was, scrambling over the flowers. Something he found to his taste,
whether the blossoms or the insects, I could not decide. On waiting a
little, I heard the young oriole cry, much subdued since nesting days,
and the tender "ye-ep" of the parent. The whole family was evidently
there together, and I was very glad to see them once more.

The nest, which I had brought down, was a beautiful structure, made, I
think, of very fine excelsior of a bright straw-color. It was suspended
in an upright fork of four twigs, and lashed securely to three of them,
while a few lines were passed around the fourth. Though it was in a
fork, it did not rest on it, but was suspended three inches above it, a
genuine hanging nest. It was three inches deep and wide, but drawn in
about the top to a width of not more than two inches, with a bit of
cotton and two small feathers for bedding. How five babies could grow up
in that little cup is a problem. The material was woven closely
together, and in addition stitched through and through, up and down, to
make a firm structure. Around and against it hung still six apples,
defrauded of their manifest destiny, and remaining the size of
hickory-nuts. Three twigs that ran up were cut off, but the fourth was
left, the tallest, the one sustaining the burden of the nest, and upon
which the young birds, one after another, had mounted to take their
first flight.

This pretty hammock, in its setting of leaves and apples, still swinging
from the apple boughs, I brought home as a souvenir of a charming bird
study.



XVII.

CEDAR-TREE LITTLE FOLK.

 'T is there that the wild dove has her nest,
   And whenever the branches stir,
 She presses closer the eggs to her breast,
   And her mate looks down on her.

 CLARE BEATRICE COFFEY.


One of the voices that helped to make my June musical, and one more
constantly heard than any other, was that of the

 "Mourning dove who grieves and grieves,
 And lost! lost! lost! still seems to say,"

as the poet has it.

Now, while I dearly love the poets, and always long to enrich my plain
prose with gems from their verse, it is sometimes a little embarrassing,
because one is obliged to disagree with them. If they would only look a
little into the ways of birds, and not assert, in language so musical
that one can hardly resist it, that

 "The birds come back to last year's nests,"

when rarely was a self-respecting bird known to shirk the labor of
building anew for every family; or sing, with Sill,

 "He has lost his last year's love, I know,"

when he did not know any such thing; and add,

 "A thrush forgets in a year,"

which I call a libel on one of our most intelligent birds; or cry, with
another singer,

 "O voiceless swallow,"

when not one of the whole tribe is defrauded of a voice, and at least
one is an exquisite singer; or accuse the nightingale of the superfluous
idiocy of holding his (though they always say her) breast to a thorn as
he sings, as if he were so foolish as to imitate some forms of human
self-torture,--if they would only be a little more sure of their facts,
what a comfort it would be to those who love both poets and birds!

No bird in our country is more persistently misrepresented by our sweet
singers than the Carolina or wood dove--mourning dove, as he is
popularly called; and in this case they are not to be blamed, for prose
writers, even natural history writers, are quite as bad.

"His song consists," says one, "of four notes: the first seems to be
uttered with an inspiration of the breath, as if the afflicted creature
were just recovering its voice from the last convulsive sob of distress,
and followed by three long, deep, and mournful moanings, that no person
of sensibility can listen to without sympathy." "The solemn voice of
sorrow," another writer calls it. All this is mere sentimentality, pure
imagination; and if the writers could sit, as I have, under the tree
when the bird was singing, they would change their opinion, though they
would thereby lose a pretty and attractive sentiment for their verse. I
believe there is

 "No beast or bird in earth or sky,
 Whose voice doth not with gladness thrill,"

though it may not so express itself to our senses. Certainly the coo of
the dove is anything but sad when heard very near. It has a rich,
far-off sound, expressing deep serenity, and a happiness beyond words.

First in the morning, and last at night, all through June, came to me
the song of the dove. As early as four o'clock his notes began, and
then, if I got up to look out on the lawn, where I had spread breakfast
for him and other feathered friends, I would see him walking about with
dainty steps on his pretty red toes, looking the pink of propriety in
his Quaker garb, his satin vest smooth as if it had been ironed down,
and quite worthy his reputed character for meekness and gentleness.

But I wanted to see the dove far from the "madding crowd" of blackbirds,
blue jays, and red-heads, who, as well as himself, took corn for
breakfast, and I set out to look him up. At first the whole family
seemed to consist of the young, just flying about, sometimes accompanied
by their mother. Apparently the fathers of the race were all off in the
cooing business.

So early as the second of June I came upon my first pair of young doves,
two charming little creatures, sitting placidly side by side. Grave,
indeed, and very much grown-up looked these drab-coated little folk,
silent and motionless, returning my gaze with an innocent openness that,
it seemed to me, must disarm their most bitter enemy. When I came upon
such a pair, as I frequently did, on the low branch of an apple-tree or
a limb of their native cedar, I stopped instantly to look at them. Not
an eyelid of the youngsters would move; if a head were turned as they
heard me coming, it would remain at precisely that angle as long as I
had patience to stay. They were invariably sitting down with the
appearance of being prepared to stay all day, and almost always side by
side, though looking in different directions, and one was always larger
than the other. A lovely and picturesque group they never failed to
make, and as for any show of hunger or impatience, one could hardly
imagine they ever felt either. In every way they were a violent
contrast to all their neighbors, the boisterous blue jays, lively
catbirds, blustering robins, and vulgar-mannered blackbirds.

Sometimes I chanced upon a mother sitting by her youngling, and although
when I found her alone she always flew, beside her little charge she was
dignified and calm in bearing, and looked at me with fearless eyes,
relying, as it appeared, upon absolute stillness, and the resemblance of
her color to the branches, to escape observation; a ruse which must
generally be successful.

The nest, the remains of which I often saw on the tree where I found an
infant, was the merest apology, hardly more than a platform, just enough
to hold the pair of eggs which they are said always to contain. Indeed,
no baby but a serene dove, with the repose of thirty generations behind
it, could stay in it till his wings grew. As it is, he must be forced to
perch, whether ready or not, for the structure cannot hold together
long. The wonder is that the eggs do not roll out before they are
hatched.

Several things made the bird an interesting subject for study; his
reputation for meekness, his alleged silence,--except at wooing
time,--and the halo of melancholy with which the poets have invested
him. I resolved to make acquaintance with my gentle neighbor, and I
sought and found a favorite retreat of the silent family. This was a
grove away down in the southeast corner of the grounds, little visited
by people, and beloved by birds of several kinds. Till June was half
over, the high grass, that I could not bear to trample, prevented
exploration in that direction, but as soon as it was cut I made a trip
to the little grove, and found it a sort of doves' headquarters, and
there, in many hours of daily study, I learned to know him a little, and
respect him a good deal.

It was a delightful spot the doves had chosen to live in, and so
frequented by birds that whichever way I turned my face, in two minutes
I wished I had turned it the other, or that I had eyes in the back of my
head. With reason, too, for the residents skipped around behind me, and
all the interesting things went on at my back. I could hear the flit of
wings, low, mysterious sounds, whispering, gentle complaints and
hushings, but if I turned--lo! the scene shifted, and the drama of life
was still enacted out of my sight. Yet I managed, in spite of this
difficulty, to learn several things I did not know before.

No one attends to his own business more strictly than the dove. On the
ground, where he came for corn, he seemed to see no other bird, and paid
not the slightest heed to me in my window, but went about his own
affairs in the most matter-of-fact way. Yet I cannot agree with the
common opinion, which has made his name a synonym for all that is meek
and gentle. He has a will of his own, and a "mild but firm" way of
securing it. Sometimes, when all were busy at the corn, one of my
Quaker-clad guests would take a notion, for what reason I could not
discover, that some other dove must not stay, and he would drive him (or
her) off. He was not rude or blustering, like the robin, nor did he make
offensive remarks, after the manner of a blackbird; he simply signified
his intention of having his neighbor go, and go he did, _nolens volens_.

It was droll to see how this "meek and gentle" fellow met blackbird
impudence. If one of the sable gentry came down too near a dove, the
latter gave a little hop and rustled his feathers, but did not move one
step away. For some occult reason the blackbird seemed to respect this
mild protest, and did not interfere again.

Would one suspect so solemn a personage of joking? yet what else could
this little scene mean? A blackbird was on the ground eating, when a
dove flew down and hovered over him as though about to alight upon him.
It evidently impressed the blackbird exactly as it did me, for he
scrambled out from under, very hastily. But the dove had no intention
of the sort; he came calmly down on one side.

The first dove baby who accompanied its parent to the ground to be fed
was the model of propriety one would expect from the demure infant
already mentioned. He stood crouching to the ground in silence,
fluttering his wings a little, but making no sound, either of begging,
or when fed. A blackbird came to investigate this youngster, so
different from his importunate offspring, upon which both doves flew.

There is a unique quality claimed for the dove: that with the exception
of the well-known coo in nesting time he is absolutely silent, and that
the noise which accompanies his flight is the result of a peculiar
formation of the wing that causes a whistle. Of this I had strong
doubts. I could not believe that a bird who has so much to say for
himself during wooing and nesting time could be utterly silent the rest
of the year; nor, indeed, do I believe that any living creature, so
highly organized as the feathered tribes, can be entirely without
expression.

I thought I would experiment a little, and one day, observing that a
young dove spent most of his time alone on a certain cedar-tree, where a
badly used-up nest showed that he had probably been hatched, or feeding
on the ground near it, I resolved to see if I could draw him out. I
passed him six times a day, going and coming from my meals, and I always
stopped to look at him--a scrutiny which he bore unmoved, in dove
fashion. So one morning, when I stood three feet from him, I began a
very low whistle to him. He was at once interested, and after about
three calls he answered me, very low, it is true, but still
unmistakably. Though he replied, however, it appeared to make him
uneasy, for while he had been in the habit of submitting to my staring
without being in any way disconcerted, he now began to fidget about. He
stood up, changed his place, flew to a higher branch, and in a few
moments to the next tree; all the time, however, answering my calls.

I was greatly interested in my new acquaintance, and the next day I
renewed my advances. As before, he answered, looking bright and eager,
as I had never seen one of his kind look, and after three or four
replies he became uneasy, as on the previous day, and in a moment he
flew. But I was surprised and startled by his starting straight for me.
I thought he would certainly alight on me, and such, I firmly believe,
was his inclination, but he apparently did not quite dare trust me, so
he passed over by a very few inches, and perched on the tree I was
under. Then--still replying to me--he flew to the ground not six feet
from me, and step by step, slowly moved away perhaps fifteen feet, when
he turned and flew back to his own tree beside me. I was pleased to
notice that the voice of this talkative dovekin was of the same quality
as the "whistling" said to be of the wings, when a dove flies.

The last interview I had with the dear baby, I found him sitting with
his back toward me, but the instant I whistled he turned around to face
me, and seated himself again. He replied to me, and fluttered his wings
slightly, yet he soon became restless, as usual. He did not fly,
however, and he answered louder than he had done previously, but I found
that my call must be just right to elicit a response. I might whistle
all day and he would pay no attention, till I uttered a two-note call,
the second note a third above the first and the two slurred together. I
was delighted to find that even a dove, and a baby at that, could "talk
back." He was unique in other ways; for example, in being content to
pass his days in, and around, his own tree. I do not believe he had ever
been farther than a small group of cedars, ten feet from his own. I
always found him there, though he could fly perfectly well. This
interview was, I regret to say, the last; the next morning my little
friend was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps mamma thought he was getting too
friendly with one of a race capable of eating a baby dove.

After this episode in my dove acquaintance, I was more than ever
interested in getting at the mode of expression in the family, and I
listened on every occasion. One day two doves alighted over my head when
I was sitting perfectly still, and I distinctly heard very low talk,
like that of my lost baby; there was, in addition, a note or two like
the coo, but exceedingly low. I could not have heard a sound ten feet
from the tree, nor if I had been stirring myself. I observed also that a
dove can fly in perfect silence; and, moreover, that the whistle of the
wings sometimes continues after the bird has become still. I heard the
regular coo--the whole four-note performance--both in a whisper and in
the ordinary tone, and the latter, though right over my head, sounded a
mile away. At the end of my month's study I was convinced that the dove
is far from being a silent bird; on the contrary, he is quite a talker,
with the "low, sweet voice" so much desired in other quarters. And
further, that the whistling is not produced wholly (if at all) by the
wings, and it is a gross injustice to assert that he is not capable of
expressing himself at all times and seasons.



BESIDE THE GREAT SALT LAKE.



 Up!--If thou knew'st who calls
 To twilight parks of beach and pine
 High o'er the river intervals,
 Above the plowman's highest line,
 Over the owner's farthest walls!
 Up! where the airy citadel
 O'erlooks the surging landscape's swell!

 EMERSON.



XVIII.

IN A PASTURE.


The word "pasture," as used on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, conveys
no true idea to one whose associations with that word have been formed
in States east of the Rocky Mountains. Imagine an extensive inclosure on
the side of a mountain, with its barren-looking soil strewn with rocks
of all sizes, from a pebble to a bowlder, cut across by an irrigating
ditch or a mountain brook, dotted here and there by sage bushes, and
patches of oak-brush, and wild roses, and one has a picture of a Salt
Lake pasture. Closely examined, it has other peculiarities. There is no
half way in its growths, no shading off, so to speak, as elsewhere; not
an isolated shrub, not a solitary tree, flourishes in the strange soil,
but trees and shrubs crowd together as if for protection, and the clump,
of whatever size or shape, ends abruptly, with the desert coming up to
its very edge. Yet the soil, though it seems to be the driest and most
unpromising of baked gray mud, needs nothing more than a little water,
to clothe itself luxuriantly; the course of a brook or even an
irrigating ditch, if permanent, is marked by a thick and varied border
of greenery. What the poor creatures who wandered over those dreary
wastes could find to eat was a problem to be solved only by close
observation of their ways.

"H. H." said some years ago that the magnificent yucca, the glory of the
Colorado mesas, was being exterminated by wandering cows, who ate the
buds as soon as they appeared. The cattle of Utah--or their owners--have
a like crime to answer for; not only do they constantly feed upon
rose-buds and leaves, notwithstanding the thorns, but they regale
themselves upon nearly every flower-plant that shows its head; lupines
were the chosen dainty of my friend's horse. The animals become expert
at getting this unnatural food; it is curious to watch the deftness with
which a cow will go through a currant or gooseberry bush, thrusting her
head far down among the branches, and carefully picking off the tender
leaves, while leaving the stems untouched, and the matter-of-course way
in which she will bend over and pull down a tall sapling, to despoil it
of its foliage.

In a pasture such as I have described, on the western slope of one of
the Rocky Mountains, desolate and forbidding though it looked, many
hours of last summer's May and June "went their way," if not

 "As softly as sweet dreams go down the night,"

certainly with interest and pleasure to two bird-students whose ways I
have sometimes chronicled.

Most conspicuous, as we toiled upward toward our breezy pasture, was a
bird whose chosen station was a fence--a wire fence at that. He was a
tanager; not our brilliant beauty in scarlet and black, but one far more
gorgeous and eccentric in costume, having, with the black wings and tail
of our bird, a breast of shining yellow and a cap of crimson. His
occupation on the sweet May mornings that he lingered with us, on his
way up the mountains for the summer, was the familiar one of getting his
living, and to that he gave his mind without reserve. Not once did he
turn curious eyes upon us as we sauntered by or rested awhile to watch
him. Eagerly his pretty head turned this way and that, but not for us;
it was for the winged creatures of the air he looked, and when one that
pleased his fancy fluttered by he dashed out and secured it, returning
to a post or the fence just as absorbed and just as eager for the next
one. Every time he alighted it was a few feet farther down the fence,
and thus he worked his way out of our sight, without seeming aware of
our existence.

This was not stupidity on the part of the crimson-head, nor was it
foolhardiness; it was simply trust in his guardian, for he had one,--one
who watched every movement of ours with close attention, whose vigilance
was never relaxed, and who appeared, when we saw her, to be above the
need of food. A plain personage she was, clad in modest, dull
yellow,--the female tanager. She was probably his mate; at any rate, she
gradually followed him down the fence, keeping fifteen or twenty feet
behind him, all the time with an eye on us, ready to give warning of the
slightest aggressive movement on our part. It would be interesting to
know how my lord behaves up in those sky-parlors where their summer
homes are made. No doubt he is as tender and devoted as most of his race
(all his race, I would say, if Mr. Torrey had not shaken our faith in
the ruby-throat), and I have no doubt that the little red-heads in the
nest will be well looked after and fed by their fly-catching papa.

Far different from the cool unconcern of the crimson-headed tanager were
the manners of another red-headed dweller on the mountain. The
green-tailed towhee he is called in the books, though the red of his
head is much more conspicuous than the green of his tail. In this bird
the high-bred repose of his neighbor was replaced by the most fussy
restlessness. When we surprised him on the lowest wire of the fence, he
was terribly disconcerted, not to say thrown into a panic. He usually
stood a moment, holding his long tail up in the air, flirted his wings,
turned his body this way and that in great excitement, then hopped to
the nearest bowlder, slipped down behind it, and ran off through the
sage bushes like a mouse. More than this we were never able to see, and
where he lived and how his spouse looked we do not know to this day.

Most interesting of the birds that we saw on our daily way to the
pasture were the gulls; great, beautiful, snowy creatures, who looked
strangely out of place so far away from the seashore. Stranger, too,
than their change of residence was their change of manners from the
wild, unapproachable sea-birds, soaring and diving, and apparently
spending their lives on wings such as the poet sings,--

 "When I had wings, my brother,
   Such wings were mine as thine;"

and of whose lives he further says,--

 "What place man may, we claim it,
 But thine,--whose thought may name it?
 Free birds live higher than freemen,
 And gladlier ye than we."

From this high place in our thoughts, from this realm of poetry and
mystery, to come down almost to the tameness of the barnyard fowl is a
marvelous transformation, and one is tempted to believe the solemn
announcement of the Salt Lake prophet, that the Lord sent them to his
chosen people.

The occasion of this alleged special favor to the Latter Day Saints was
the advent, about twenty years ago, of clouds of grasshoppers, before
which the crops of the Western States and Territories were destroyed as
by fire. It was then, in their hour of greatest need, when the food upon
which depended a whole people was threatened, that these beautiful
winged messengers appeared. In large flocks they came, from no one knows
where, and settled, like so many sparrows, all over the land, devouring
almost without ceasing the hosts of the foe. The crops were saved, and
all Deseret rejoiced. Was it any wonder that a people trained to regard
the head of their church as the direct representative of the Highest
should believe these to be really birds of God, and should accordingly
cherish them? Well would it be for themselves if other Christian peoples
were equally believing, and protected and cherished other winged
messengers, sent just as truly to protect their crops.

The shrewd man who wielded the destinies of his people beside the Salt
Lake secured the future usefulness of what they considered the
miraculous visitation by fixing a penalty of five dollars upon the head
of every gull in the Territory. And now, the birds having found
congenial nesting-places on solitary islands in the lake, their
descendants are so fearless and so tame that they habitually follow the
plow like a flock of chickens, rising from almost under the feet of the
indifferent horses and settling down at once in the furrow behind,
seeking out and eating greedily all the worms and grubs and larvæ and
mice and moles that the plow has disturbed in its passage. The Mormon
cultivator has sense enough to appreciate such service, and no man or
boy dreams of lifting a finger against his best friend.

Extraordinary indeed was this sight to eyes accustomed to seeing every
bird who attempts to render like service shot and snared and swept from
the face of the earth. Our hearts warmed toward the "Sons of Zion," and
our respect for their intelligence increased, as we hurried down to the
field to see this latter-day wonder.

Whether the birds distinguished between "saints" and sinners, or whether
their confidence extended only to plow-boys, they would not let us come
near them. But our glasses brought them close, and we had a very good
study of them, finding exceeding interest in their ways: their quaint
faces as they flew toward us; their dignified walk; their expression of
disapproval, lifting the wings high above the back till they met; their
queer and constant cries in the tone of a child who whines; and, above
all, their use of the wonderful wings,--"half wing, half wave," Mrs.
Spofford calls them.

To rise from the earth upon these beautiful great arms, seemed to be not
so easy as it looks. Some of the graceful birds lifted them, and ran a
little before leaving the ground, and all of them left both legs
hanging, and both feet jerking awkwardly at every wing-beat, for a few
moments on starting, before they carefully drew each flesh-colored foot
up into its feather pillow,

 "And gray and silver up the dome
   Of gray and silver skies went sailing,"

in ever-widening circles, without moving a feather that we could
perceive. It was charming to see how nicely they folded down their
splendid wings on alighting, stretching each one out, and apparently
straightening every feather before laying it into its place.

Several hours this interesting flock accompanied the horses and man
around the field, taking possession of each furrow as it was laid open,
and chattering and eating as fast as they could; and the question
occurred to me, if a field that is thoroughly gleaned over every spring
furnishes so great a supply of creatures hurtful to vegetation, what
must be the state of grounds which are carefully protected from such
gleaning, on which no bird is allowed to forage?

As noon approached, the hour when "birds their wise siesta take,"
although the plow did not cease its monotonous round, the birds retired
in a body to the still untouched middle of the field, and settled
themselves for their "nooning," dusting themselves--their snowy
plumes!--like hens on an ash heap, sitting about in knots like parties
of ducks, preening and shaking themselves out, or going at once to
sleep, according to their several tastes. Half an hour's rest sufficed
for the more active spirits, and then they treated us, their patient
observers, to an aërial exhibition. A large number, perhaps three
quarters of the flock, rose in a body and began a spiral flight. Higher
and higher they went, in wider and wider circles, till, against the
white clouds, they looked like a swarm of midges, and against the blue
the eye could not distinguish them. Then from out of the sky dropped one
after another, leaving the soaring flock looking wonderfully ethereal
and gauzy in the clear air, with the sun above him, almost like a spirit
bird gliding motionless through the ether till he alighted at last
quietly beside his fellows on the ground. In another half hour they were
all behind the plow again, hard at work.

When we had looked our fill, we straightway sought out and questioned
some of the wise men among the "peculiar people." This is what we
learned: that when plowing is over the birds retire to their home, an
island in the lake, where, being eminently social birds, their nests are
built in a community. Their beneficent service to mankind does not end
with the plowing season, for when that is over they turn their attention
to the fish that are brought into the lake by the fresh-water streams,
at once strangled by its excess of salt, and their bodies washed up on
the shore. What would become of the human residents if that animal
deposit were left for the fierce sun to dispose of, may perhaps be
imagined. The gull should, indeed, be a sacred bird in Utah.

What drew us first to the pasture--which we came to at last--was our
search for a magpie's nest. The home of this knowing fellow is the Rocky
Mountain region, and, naturally, he was the first bird we thought of
looking for. There would be no difficulty in finding nests, we thought,
for we came upon magpies everywhere in our walks. Now one alighted on a
fence-post a few yards ahead of us, earnestly regarding our approach,
tilting upward his long, expressive tail, the black of his plumage
shining with brilliant blue reflections, and the white fairly dazzling
the eyes. Again we caught glimpses of two or three of the beautiful
birds walking about on the ground, holding their precious tails well up
from the earth, and gleaning industriously the insect life of the horse
pasture. At one moment we were saluted from the top of a tall tree, or
shrieked at by one passing over our heads, looking like an immense
dragonfly against the sky. Magpie voices were heard from morning till
night; strange, loud calls of "mag! mag!" were ever in our ears. "Oh,
yes," we had said, "we must surely go out some morning and find a nest."

First we inquired. Everybody knew where they built, in oak-brush or in
apple-trees, but not a boy in that village knew where there was a nest.
Oh, no, not one! A man confessed to the guilty secret, and, directed by
him, we took a long walk through the village with its queer little
houses, many of them having the two front doors which tell the tale of
Mormondom within; up the long sidewalk, with a beautiful bounding
mountain brook running down the gutter, as if it were a tame irrigating
ditch, to a big gate in a "combination fence." What this latter might be
we had wondered, but relied upon knowing it when we saw it,--and we did:
it was a fence of laths held together by wires woven between them, and
we recognized the fitness of the name instantly. Then on through the
big gate, down a long lane where we ran the gauntlet of the family cows;
over or under bars, where awaited us a tribe of colts with their anxious
mammas; and at last to the tree and the nest. There our guide met us and
climbed up to explore. Alas! the nest robber had anticipated us.

Slowly we took our way home, resolved to ask no more help, but to seek
for ourselves, for the nest that is _known_ is the nest that is robbed.
So the next morning, armed with camp-chairs and alpenstocks,
drinking-cups and notebooks, we started up the mountain, where we could
at least find solitude, and the fresh air of the hills. We climbed till
we were tired, and then, as was our custom, sat down to rest and
breathe, and see who lived in that part of the world. Without thought of
the height we had reached, we turned our backs to the mountain, rising
bare and steep before us, and behold! the outlook struck us dumb.

There at our feet lay the village, smothered in orchards and
shade-trees, the locusts, just then huge bouquets of graceful bloom and
delicious odor, buzzing with hundreds of bees and humming-birds; beyond
was a stretch of cultivated fields in various shades of green and brown;
and then the lake,--beautiful and wonderful Salt Lake,--glowing with
exquisite colors, now hyacinth blue, changing in places to tender green
or golden brown, again sparkling like a vast bed of diamonds. In the
foreground lay Antelope Island, in hues of purple and bronze, with its
chain of hills and graceful sky-line; and resting on the horizon beyond
were the peaks of the grand Oquirrhs, capped with snow. Well might we
forget our quest while gazing on this impressive scene, trying to fix
its various features in our memories, to be an eternal possession.

We were recalled to the business in hand by the sudden appearance on the
top of a tree below us of one of the birds we sought. The branch bent
and swayed as the heavy fellow settled upon it, and in a moment a
comrade came, calling vigorously, and alighted on a neighboring branch.
A few minutes they remained, with flirting tails, conversing in
garrulous tones, then together they rose on broad wings, and passed
away--away over the fields, almost out of sight, before they dropped
into a patch of oak-brush. After them appeared others, and we sat there
a long time, hoping to see at least one that had its home within our
reach. But every bird that passed over turned its face to the mountains;
some seemed to head for the dim Oquirrhs across the lake, while others
disappeared over the top of the Wasatch behind us; not one paused in
our neighborhood, excepting long enough to look at us, and express its
opinion in loud and not very polite tones.

It was then and there that we noticed our pasture; the entrance was
beside us. Shall we go in? was always the question before an inclosure.
We looked over the wall. It was plainly the abode of horses, meek
work-a-day beings, who certainly would not resent our intrusion.
Oak-brush was there in plenty, and that is the chosen home of the
magpie. We hesitated; we started for the gate. It was held in place by a
rope elaborately and securely tied in many knots; but we had learned
something about the gates of this "promised land,"--that between the
posts and the stone wall may usually be found space enough to slip
through without disturbing the fastenings.

In that country no one goes through a gate who can possibly go around
it, and well is it indeed for the stranger and the wayfarer in "Zion"
that such is the custom, for the idiosyncrasies of gates were endless;
they agreed only in never fitting their place and never opening
properly. If the gate was in one piece, it sagged so that it must be
lifted; or it had lost one hinge, and fell over on the rash individual
who loosened the fastenings; or it was about falling to pieces, and must
be handled like a piece of choice bric-a-brac. If it had a latch, it
was rusty or did not fit; and if it had not, it was fastened, either by
a board slipped in to act as a bar and never known to be of proper size,
or in some occult way which would require the skill of "the lady from
Philadelphia" to undo. If it was of the fashion that opens in the
middle, each individual gate had its particular "kink," which must be
learned by the uninitiated before he--or, what is worse, she--could
pass. Many were held together by a hoop or link of iron, dropped over
the two end posts; but whether the gate must be pulled out or pushed in,
and at exactly what angle it would consent to receive the link, was to
be found out only by experience.

But not all gates were so simple even as this: the ingenuity with which
a variety of fastenings,--all to avoid the natural and obvious one of a
hook and staple,--had been evolved in the rural mind was fairly
startling. The energy and thought that had been bestowed upon this
little matter of avoiding a gate-hook would have built a bridge across
Salt Lake, or tunneled the Uintas for an irrigating ditch.

Happily, we too had learned to "slip through," and we passed the gate
with its rope puzzle, and the six or eight horses who pointed inquiring
ears toward their unwonted visitors, and hastened to get under cover
before the birds, if any lived there, should come home.

The oak-brush, which we then approached, is a curious and interesting
form of vegetation. It is a mass of oak-trees, all of the same age,
growing as close as they can stand, with branches down to the ground. It
looks as if each patch had sprung from a great fall of acorns from one
tree, or perhaps were shoots from the roots of a perished tree. The
clumps are more or less irregularly round, set down in a barren piece of
ground, or among the sage bushes. At a distance, on the side of a
mountain, they resemble patches of moss of varying shape. When two or
three feet high, one is a thick, solid mat; when it reaches an altitude
of six to eight feet, it is an impenetrable thicket; except, that is,
when it happens to be in a pasture. Horses and cattle find such scanty
pickings in the fields, that they nibble every green thing, even oak
leaves, and so they clear the brush as high as they can reach. When
therefore it is fifteen feet high, there is a thick roof the animals are
not able to reach, and one may look through a patch to the light beyond.
The stems and lower branches, though kept bare of leaves, are so close
together and so intertwined and tangled, that forcing one's way through
it is an impossibility. But the horses have made and kept open paths in
every direction, and this turns it into a delightful grove, a cool
retreat, which others appreciate as well as the makers.

Selecting a favorable-looking clump of oak-brush, we attempted to get in
without using the open horse paths, where we should be in plain sight.
Melancholy was the result; hats pulled off, hair disheveled, garments
torn, feet tripped, and wounds and scratches innumerable. Several
minutes of hard work and stubborn endurance enabled us to penetrate not
more than half a dozen feet, when we managed, in some sort of fashion,
to sit down, on opposite sides of the grove. Then, relying upon our
"protective coloring" (not evolved, but carefully selected in the
shops), we subsided into silence, hoping not to be observed when the
birds came home, for there was the nest before us.

A wise and canny builder is Madam Mag, for though her home must be large
to accommodate her size, and conspicuous because of the shallowness of
the foliage above her, it is, in a way, a fortress, to despoil which the
marauder must encounter a weapon not to be despised,--a stout beak,
animated and impelled by indignant motherhood. The structure was made of
sticks, and enormous in size; a half-bushel measure would hardly hold
it. It was covered, as if to protect her, and it had two openings under
the cover, toward either of which she could turn her face. It looked
like a big, coarsely woven basket resting in a crotch up under the
leaves, with a nearly close cover supported by a small branch above.
The sitting bird could draw herself down out of sight, or she could
defend herself and her brood, at either entrance.

In my retreat, I had noted all these points before any sign of life
appeared in the brush. Then there came a low cry of "mag! mag!" and the
bird entered near the ground. She alighted on a dead branch, which swung
back and forth, while she kept her balance with her beautiful tail. She
did not appear to look around; apparently she had no suspicions and did
not notice us, sitting motionless and breathless in our respective
places. Her head was turned to the nest, and by easy stages and with
many pauses, she made her way to it. I could not see that she had a
companion, for I dared not stir so much as a finger; but while she moved
about near the nest there came to the eager listeners on the ground low
and tender utterances in the sweetest of voices,--whether one or two I
know not,--and at last a song, a true melody, of a yearning, thrilling
quality that few song-birds, if any, can excel. I was astounded! Who
would suspect the harsh-voiced, screaming magpie of such notes! I am
certain that the bird or birds had no suspicion of listeners to the home
talk and song, for after we were discovered, we heard nothing of the
sort.

This little episode ended, madam slipped into her nest, and all became
silent, she in her place and I in mine. If this state of things could
only remain; if she would only accept me as a tree-trunk or a misshapen
bowlder, and pay no attention to me, what a beautiful study I should
have! Half an hour, perhaps more, passed without a sound, and then the
silence was broken by magpie calls from without. The sitting bird left
the nest and flew out of the grove, quite near the ground; I heard much
talk and chatter in low tones outside, and they flew. I slipped out as
quickly as possible, wishing indeed that I had wings as she had, and
went home, encouraged to think I should really be able to study the
magpie.

But I did not know my bird. The next day, before I knew she was about,
she discovered me, though it was plain that she hoped I had not
discovered her. Instantly she became silent and wary, coming to her nest
over the top of the trees, so quietly that I should not have known it
except for her shadow on the leaves. No talk or song now fell upon my
ear; calls outside were few and subdued. Everything was different from
the natural unconsciousness of the previous day; the birds were on
guard, and henceforth I should be under surveillance.

From this moment I lost my pleasure in the study, for I feel little
interest in the actions of a bird under the constraint of an unwelcome
presence, or in the shadow of constant fear and dread. What I care to
see is the natural life, the free, unstudied ways of birds who do not
notice or are not disturbed by spectators. Nor have I any pleasure in
going about the country staring into every tree, and poking into every
bush, thrusting irreverent hands into the mysteries of other lives, and
rudely tearing away the veils that others have drawn around their
private affairs. That they are only birds does not signify to me; for me
they are fellow-creatures; they have rights, which I am bound to
respect.

I prefer to make myself so little obvious, or so apparently harmless to
a bird, that she will herself show me her nest, or at least the leafy
screen behind which it is hidden. Then, if I take advantage of her
absence to spy upon her treasures, it is as a friend only,--a friend who
respects her desire for seclusion, who never lays profane hands upon
them, and who shares the secret only with one equally reverent and
loving. Naturally I do not find so many nests as do the vandals to whom
nothing is sacred, but I enjoy what I do find, in a way it hath not
entered into their hearts to conceive.

In spite of my disinclination, we made one more call upon the magpie
family, and this time we had a reception. This bird is intelligent and
by no means a slave to habit; because he has behaved in a certain way
once, there is no law, avian or divine, that compels him to repeat that
conduct on the next occasion. Nor is it safe to generalize about him, or
any other bird for that matter. One cannot say, "The magpie does thus
and so," because each individual magpie has his own way of doing, and
circumstances alter cases, with birds as well as with people.

On this occasion we placed ourselves boldly, though very quietly, in the
paths that run through the oak-brush. We had abandoned all attempt at
concealment; we could hope only for tolerance. The birds readily
understood; they appreciated that they were seen and watched, and their
manners changed accordingly. The first one of the black-and-white gentry
who entered the grove discovered my comrade, and announced the presence
of the enemy by a loud cry, in what somebody has aptly called a
"frontier tone of voice." Instantly another appeared and added his
remarks; then another, and still another, till within five minutes there
were ten or twelve excited magpies, shouting at the top of their voices,
and hopping and flying about her head, coming ever nearer and nearer, as
if they meditated a personal attack. I did not really fear it, but I
kept close watch, while remaining motionless, in the hope that they
would not notice me. Vain hope! nothing could escape those sharp eyes
when once the bird was aroused. After they had said what they chose to
my friend, who received the taunts and abuse of the infuriated mob in
meek silence, lifting not her voice to reply, they turned the stream of
their eloquence upon me.

I was equally passive, for indeed I felt that they had a grievance. We
have no right to expect birds to tell one human being from another, so
long as we, with all our boasted intelligence, cannot tell one crow or
one magpie from another; and all the week they had suffered persecution
at the hands of the village boys. Young magpies, nestlings, were in
nearly every house, and the birds had endured pillage, and doubtless
some of them death. I did not blame the grieved parents for the
reception they gave us; from their point of view we belonged to the
enemy.

After the storm had swept by, and while we sat there waiting to see if
the birds would return, one of the horses of the pasture made his
appearance on the side where I sat, now eating the top of a rosebush,
now snipping off a flower plant that had succeeded in getting two leaves
above the ground, but at every step coming nearer me. It was plain that
he contemplated retiring to this shady grove, and, not so observing as
the magpies, did not see that it was already occupied. When he was not
more than ten feet away, I snatched off my sun hat and waved it before
him, not wishing to make a noise. He stopped instantly, stared wildly
for a moment, as if he had never seen such an apparition, then wheeled
with a snort, flung out his heels in disrespect, and galloped off down
the field.

The incident was insignificant, but the result was curious. So long as
we stayed in that bit of brush, not a horse attempted to enter, though
they all browsed around outside. They avoided it as if it were haunted,
or, as my comrade said, "filled with beckoning forms." Nor was that all;
I have reason to think they never again entered that particular patch of
brush, for, some weeks after we had abandoned the study of magpies and
the pasture altogether, we found the spot transformed, as if by the wand
of enchantment. From the burned-up desert outside we stepped at once
into a miniature paradise, to our surprise, almost our consternation.
Excepting the footpaths through it, it bore no appearance of having ever
been a thoroughfare. Around the foot of every tree had grown up clumps
of ferns or brakes, a yard high, luxuriant, graceful, and exquisite in
form and color; and peeping out from under them were flowers, dainty
wildings we had not before seen there. A bit of the tropics or a gem out
of fairyland it looked to our sun and sand weary eyes. Outside were the
burning sun of June, a withering hot wind, and yellow and dead
vegetation; within was cool greenness and a mere rustle of leaves
whispering of the gale. It was the loveliest bit of greenery we saw on
the shores of the Great Salt Lake. It was marvelous; it was almost
uncanny.

Our daily trips to the pasture had ceased, and other birds and other
nests had occupied our thoughts for a week or two, when we resolved to
pay a last visit to our old haunts, to see if we could learn anything of
the magpies. We went through the pasture, led by the voices of the birds
away over to the farther side, and there, across another fenced pasture,
we heard them plainly, calling and chattering and making much noise, but
in different tones from any we had heard before. Evidently a magpie
nursery had been established over there. We fancied we could distinguish
maternal reproof and loving baby talk, beside the weaker voices of the
young, and we went home rejoicing to believe, that in spite of nest
robbers, and the fright we had given them, some young magpies were
growing up to enliven the world another summer.



XIX.

THE SECRET OF THE WILD ROSE PATH.

     "Shall I call thee Bird,
 Or but a wandering Voice?"


Wordsworth's lines are addressed to the cuckoo of the Old World, a bird
of unenviable reputation, notorious for imposing his most sacred duties
upon others; naturally, therefore, one who would not court observation,
and whose ways would be somewhat mysterious. But the American
representative of the family is a bird of different manners. Unlike his
namesake across the water, our cuckoo never--or so rarely as practically
to be never--shirks the labor of nest-building and raising a family. He
has no reason to skulk, and though always a shy bird, he is no more so
than several others, and in no sense is he a mystery.

There is, however, one American bird for whom Wordsworth's verse might
have been written; one whose chief aim seems to be, reversing our
grandmothers' rule for little people, to be heard, and not seen. To be
seen is, with this peculiar fellow, a misfortune, an accident, which he
avoids with great care, while his voice rings out loud and clear above
all others in the shrubbery. I refer to the yellow-breasted chat
(_Icteria virens_), whose summer home is the warmer temperate regions of
our country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, and whose
unbirdlike utterances prepare one to believe the stories told of his
eccentric actions; this, for example, by Dr. Abbott:--

 "Aloft in the sunny air he springs;
     To his timid mate he calls;
 With dangling legs and fluttering wings
     On the tangled smilax falls;
       He mutters, he shrieks--
         A hopeless cry;
       You think that he seeks
         In peace to die,
 But pity him not; 't is the ghostly chat,
 An imp if there is one, be sure of that."

I first knew the chat--if one may be said to know a creature so shy--in
a spot I have elsewhere described, a deserted park at the foot of
Cheyenne Mountain. I became familiar with his various calls and cries
(one can hardly call them songs); I secured one or two fleeting glimpses
of his graceful form; I sought and discovered the nest, which thereupon
my Lady Chat promptly abandoned, though I had not laid a finger upon it;
and last of all, I had the sorrow and shame of knowing that my
curiosity had driven the pair from the neighborhood. This was the
Western form of _Icteria_, differing from the Eastern only in a greater
length of tail, which several of our Rocky Mountain birds affect, for
the purpose, apparently, of puzzling the ornithologist.

Two years after my unsuccessful attempt to cultivate friendly relations
with "the ghostly chat," the middle of May found me on the shore of the
Great Salt Lake, where I settled myself at the foot of the Wasatch
Mountains, at that point bare, gray, and unattractive, showing miles of
loose bowlders and great patches of sage-bush. In the monotonous
stretches of this shrub, each plant of which looks exactly like every
other, dwelt many shy birds, as well hidden as bobolinks in the meadow
grass, or meadow-larks in the alfalfa.

But on this mountain side no friendly cover existed from which I could
spy out bird secrets. Whatever my position, and wherever I placed
myself, I was as conspicuous as a tower in the middle of a plain; again,
no shadow of protection was there from the too-ardent sun of Utah, which
drew the vitality from my frame as it did the color from my gown; worse
than these, the everywhere present rocks were the chosen haunts of the
one enemy of a peaceful bird lover, the rattlesnake, and I hesitated to
pursue the bird, because I invariably forgot to watch and listen for the
reptile. Bird study under these conditions was impossible, but the place
presented a phase of nature unfamiliar to me, and for a time so
fascinating that every morning my steps turned of themselves "up the
stony pathway to the hills."

The companion of my walks, a fellow bird-student, was more than
fascinated; she was enraptured. The odorous bush had associations for
her; she reveled in it; she inhaled its fragrance as a delicious
perfume; she filled her pockets with it; she lay for hours at a time on
the ground, where she could bask in the sunshine, and see nothing but
the gray leaves around her and the blue sky above.

I can hardly tell what was the fascination for me. It was certainly not
the view of the mountains, though mountains are beyond words in my
affections. The truth is, the Rocky Mountains, many of them, need a
certain distance to make them either picturesque or dignified. The range
then daily before our eyes, the Wasatch, was, to dwellers at its feet,
bleak, monotonous, and hopelessly prosaic. The lowest foothills, being
near, hid the taller peaks, as a penny before the eye will hide a whole
landscape.

Let me not, however, be unjust to the mountains I love. There is a
range which satisfies my soul, and will rest in my memory forever, a
beautiful picture, or rather a whole gallery of pictures. I can shut my
eyes and see it at this moment, as I have seen it a thousand times. In
the early morning, when the level sun shines on its face, it is like one
continuous mountain reaching across the whole western horizon; it has a
broken and beautiful sky line; Pike's Peak looms up toward the middle,
and lovely Cheyenne ends it in graceful slope on the south; lights and
shadows play over it; its colors change with the changing sky or
atmosphere,--sometimes blue as the heavens, sometimes misty as a dream;
it is wonderfully beautiful then. But wait till the sun gets higher;
look again at noon, or a little later. Behold the whole range has sprung
into life, separated into individuals; gorges are cut where none had
appeared; chasms come to light; cañons and all sorts of divisions are
seen; foothills move forward to their proper places, and taller peaks
turn at angles to each other; shapes and colors that one never suspected
come out in the picture: the transformation is marvelous. But the sun
moves on, the magical moment passes, each mountain slips back into line,
and behold, you see again the morning's picture.

Indulge me one moment, while I try to show you the last picture
impressed upon my memory as the train bore me, unwilling, away. It was
cloudy, a storm was coming up, and the whole range was in deep shadow,
when suddenly through some rift in the clouds a burst of sunshine fell
upon the "beloved mountain" Cheyenne, and upon it alone. In a moment it
was a smiling picture,

                                   "Glad
 With light as with a garment it was clad;"

all its inequalities, its divisions, its irregularities emphasized, its
greens turned greener, its reds made more glowing,--an unequaled gem for
a parting gift.

To come back to Utah. One morning, on our way up to the heights, as we
were passing a clump of oak-brush, a bird cry rang out. The voice was
loud and clear, and the notes were of a peculiar character: first a
"chack" two or three times repeated, then subdued barks like those of a
distressed puppy, followed by hoarse "mews" and other sounds suggesting
almost any creature rather than one in feathers. But with delight I
recognized the chat; my enthusiasm instantly revived. I unfolded my camp
chair, placed myself against a stone wall on the opposite side of the
road, and became silent and motionless as the wall itself.

My comrade, on the contrary, as was her custom, proceeded with equal
promptness to follow the bird up, to hunt him out. She slipped between
the barbed wires which, quite unnecessarily, one would suppose, defended
the bleak pasture from outside encroachment, and passed out of sight
down an obscure path that led into the brush where the bird was hidden.
Though our ways differ, or rather, perhaps, _because_ our ways differ,
we are able to study in company. Certainly this circumstance proved
available in circumventing the wily chat, and that happened which had
happened before: in fleeing from one who made herself obvious to him, he
presented himself, an unsuspecting victim, to another who sat like a
statue against the wall. To avoid his pursuer, the bird slipped through
the thick foliage of the low oaks, and took his place on the outside, in
full view of me, but looking through the branches at the movements
within so intently that he never turned his eyes toward me. This gave me
an opportunity to study his manners that is rare indeed, for a chat off
his guard is something inconceivable.

He shouted out his whole _répertoire_ (or so it seemed) with great
vehemence, now "peeping" like a bird in the nest, then "chacking" like a
blackbird, mewing as neatly as pussy herself, and varying these calls by
the rattling of castanets and other indescribable sounds. His perch was
half way down the bush; his trim olive-drab back and shining golden
breast were in their spring glory, and he stood nearly upright as he
sang, every moment stretching up to look for the invader behind the
leaves. The instant she appeared outside, he vanished within, and I
folded my chair and passed on. His disturber had not caught a glimpse of
him.

My next interview with a chat took place a day or two later. Between the
cottage which was our temporary home and the next one was a narrow
garden bordered by thick hedges, raspberry bushes down each side, and a
mass of flowering shrubs next the street. From my seat within the house,
a little back from the open window, I was startled by the voice of a
chat close at hand. Looking cautiously out, I saw him in the garden,
foraging about under cover of the bushes, near the ground, and there for
some time I watched him. He had not the slightest repose of manner; the
most ill-bred tramp in the English sparrow family was in that respect
his superior, and the most nervous and excitable of wrens could not
outdo him in posturing, jerking himself up, flirting his tail, and
hopping from twig to twig. When musically inclined, he perched on the
inner side of the bushes against the front fence, a foot or two above
the ground, and within three feet of any one who might pass, but
perfectly hidden.

The performance of the chat was exceedingly droll; first a whistle,
clear as an oriole note, followed by chacks that would deceive a
red-wing himself, and then, oddest of all, the laugh of a feeble old
man, a weak sort of "yah! yah! yah!" If I had not seen him in the act, I
could not have believed the sound came from a bird's throat. He
concluded with a low, almost whispered "chur-r-r," a sort of private
chuckle over his unique exhibition. After a few minutes' singing he
returned to his foraging on the ground, or over the lowest twigs of the
bushes, all the time bubbling over with low joyous notes, his graceful
head thrown up, and his beautiful golden throat swelling with the happy
song. The listener and looker behind the screen was charmed to absolute
quiet, and the bird so utterly unsuspicious of observers that he was
perfectly natural and at his ease, hopping quickly from place to place,
and apparently snatching his repast between notes.

The chat's secret of invisibility was thus plainly revealed. It is not
in his protective coloring, for though his back is modest of hue, his
breast is conspicuously showy; nor is it in his size, for he is almost
as large as an oriole; it is in his manners. The bird I was watching
never approached the top of a shrub, but invariably perched a foot or
more below it, and his movements, though quick, were silence itself. No
rustle of leaves proclaimed his presence; indeed, he seemed to avoid
leaves, using the outside twigs near the main stalk or trunk, where they
are usually quite bare, and no flit of wing or tail gave warning of his
change of position. There was a seemingly natural wariness and
cautiousness in every movement and attitude, that I never saw equaled in
feathers.

Then, too, the clever fellow was so constantly on his guard and so alert
that the least stir attracted his attention. Though inside the house, as
I said, not near the window, and further veiled by screens, I had to
remain as nearly motionless as possible, and use my glass with utmost
caution. The smallest movement sent him into the bushes like a shot,--or
rather, like a shadow, for the passage was always noiseless. Suspicion
once aroused, the bird simply disappeared. One could not say of him, as
of others, that he flew, for whether he used his wings, or melted away,
or sank into the earth, it would be hard to tell. All I can be positive
about is, that whereas one moment he was there, the next he was gone.

After this exhibition of the character of the chat, his constant
watchfulness, his distrust, his love of mystery, it may appear strange
that I should try again to study him at home, to find his nest and see
his family. But there is something so bewitching in his individuality,
that, though I may be always baffled, I shall never be discouraged.
Somewhat later, when it was evident that his spouse had arrived and
domestic life had begun, and I became accustomed to hearing a chat in a
certain place every day as I passed, I resolved to make one more effort
to win his confidence, or, if not that, at least his tolerance.

The chat medley for which I was always listening came invariably from
one spot on my pathway up the mountain. It was the lower end of a large
horse pasture, and near the entrance stood a small brick house, in which
no doubt dwelt the owner, or care-taker, of the animals. The wide gate,
in a common fashion of that country, opened in the middle, and was
fastened by a link of iron which dropped over the two centre posts. The
rattle of the iron as I touched it, on the morning I resolved to go in,
brought to the door a woman. She was rather young, with hair cut close
to her head, and wore a dark cotton gown, which was short and scant of
skirt, and covered with a "checked apron." She was evidently at work,
and was probably the mistress, since few in that "working-bee" village
kept maids.

I made my request to go into the pasture to look at the birds.

"Why, certainly," she said, with a courtesy that I have found everywhere
in Utah, though with a slow surprise growing in her face. "Come right
in."

I closed and fastened the gate, and started on past her. Three feet
beyond the doorsteps I was brought to a standstill: the ground as far as
I could see was water-soaked; it was like a saturated sponge. Utah is
dominated by Irrigation; she is a slave to her water supply. One going
there from the land of rains has much to learn of the possibilities and
the inconveniences of water. I was always stumbling upon it in new
combinations and unaccustomed places, and I never could get used to its
vagaries. Books written in the interest of the Territory indulge in
rhapsodies over the fact that every man is his own rain-maker; and I
admit that the arrangement has its advantages--to the cultivator. But
judging from the standpoint of an outsider, I should say that man is not
an improvement upon the original providence which distributes the staff
of life to plants elsewhere, spreading the vital fluid over the whole
land, so evenly that every grass blade gets its due share; and as all
parts are wet at once, so all are dry at the same time, and the surplus,
if there be any, runs in well-appointed ways, with delight to both eye
and ear. All this is changed when the office of Jupiter Pluvius devolves
upon man; different indeed are his methods. A man turns a stream loose
in a field or pasture, and it wanders whither it will over the ground.
The grass hides it, and the walker, bird-student or botanist, steps
splash into it without the slightest warning. This is always unpleasant,
and is sometimes disastrous, as when one attempts to cross the edge of a
field of some close-growing crop, and instantly sinks to the top of the
shoes in the soft mud.

On the morning spoken of, I stopped before the barrier, considering how
I should pass it, when the woman showed me a narrow passage between the
house and the stone wall, through which I could reach the higher ground
at the back. I took this path, and in a moment was in the grove of young
oaks which made her out-of-doors kitchen and yard. A fire was burning
merrily in the stove, which stood under a tree; frying-pans and
baking-tins, dippers and dishcloths, hung on the outer wall of her
little house, and the whole had a camping-out air that was captivating,
and possible only in a rainless land. I longed to linger and study this
open-air housekeeping; if that woman had only been a bird!

But I passed on through the oak-grove back yard, following a path the
horses had made, till I reached an open place where I could overlook
the lower land, filled with clumps of willows with their feet in the
water, and rosebushes

 "O'erburdened with their weight of flowers,
   And drooping 'neath their own sweet scent."

A bird was singing as I took my seat, a grosbeak,--perhaps the one who
had entertained me in the field below, while I had waited hour after
hour, for his calm-eyed mate to point out her nest. He sang there from
the top of a tall tree, and she busied herself in the low bushes, but up
to that time they had kept their secret well. He was a beautiful bird,
in black and orange-brown and gold,--the black-headed grosbeak; and his
song, besides being very pleasing, was interesting because it seemed
hard to get out. It was as if he had conceived a brilliant and beautiful
strain, and found himself unable to execute it. But if he felt the
incompleteness of his performance as I did, he did not let it put an end
to his endeavor. I sat there listening, and he came nearer, even to a
low tree over my head; and as I had a glimpse or two of his mate in a
tangle of willow and roses far out in the wet land, I concluded he was
singing to her, and not to me. Now that he was so near, I heard more
than I had before, certain low, sweet notes, plainly not intended for
the public ear. This undertone song ended always in "sweet! sweet!
sweet!" usually followed by a trill, and was far more effective than
his state performances. Sometimes, after the "sweet" repeated half a
dozen times, each note lower than the preceding one, he ended with a
sort of purr of contentment.

I became so absorbed in listening that I had almost forgotten the object
of my search, but I was suddenly recalled by a loud voice at one side,
and the lively genius of the place was on hand in his usual rôle.
Indeed, he rather surpassed himself in mocking and taunting cries that
morning, either because he wished, as my host, to entertain me, or, what
was more probable, to reproach me for disturbing the serenity of his
life. Whatever might have been his motive, he delighted me, as always,
by the spirit and vigor with which he poured out his chacks and whistles
and rattles and calls. Then I tried to locate him by following up the
sound, picking my way through the bushes, and among the straggling arms
of the irrigating stream. After some experiments, I discovered that he
was most concerned when I came near an impenetrable tangle that skirted
the lower end of the lot. I say "near:" it was near "as the crow flies,"
but for one without wings it may have been half a mile; for between me
and that spot was a great gulf fixed, the rallying point of the most
erratic of wandering streamlets, and so given over to its vagaries that
no bird-gazer, however enthusiastic, and indifferent to wet feet and
draggled garments, dared attempt to pass. There I was forced to pause,
while the bird flung out his notes as if in defiance, wilder, louder,
and more vehement than ever.

In that thicket, I said to myself, as I took my way home, behind that
tangle, if I can manage to reach it, I shall find the home of the chat.
The situation was discouraging, but I was not to be discouraged; to
reach that stronghold I was resolved, if I had to dam up the irrigator,
build a bridge, or fill up the quagmire.

No such heroic treatment of the difficulty was demanded; my problem was
very simply solved. As I entered the gate the next morning, my eyes fell
upon an obscure footpath leading away from the house and the watery way
beyond it, down through overhanging wild roses, and under the great
tangle in which the chat had hidden. It looked mysterious, not to say
forbidding, and, from the low drooping of the foliage above, it was
plainly a horse path, not a human way. But it was undoubtedly the key to
the secrets of the tangle, and I turned into it without hesitation.
Stooping under the branches hanging low with their fragrant burden, and
stopping every moment to loosen the hold of some hindering thorn, I
followed in the footsteps of my four-footed pioneers till I reached the
lower end of the marsh that had kept me from entering on the upper side.
On its edge I placed my chair and seated myself.

It was an ideal retreat; within call if help were needed, yet a solitude
it was plain no human being, in that land where (according to the
Prophet) every man, woman, and child is a working bee, ever invaded;

                               "A leafy nook
 Where wind never entered, nor branch ever shook,"

known only to my equine friends and to me. I exulted in it! No
discoverer of a new land, no stumbler upon a gold mine, was ever more
exhilarated over his find than I over my solitary wild rose path.

The tangle was composed of a varied growth. There seemed to have been
originally a straggling row of low trees, chokecherry, peach, and
willow, which had been surrounded, overwhelmed, and almost buried by a
rich growth of shoots from their own roots, bound and cemented together
by the luxuriant wild rose of the West, which grows profusely everywhere
it can get a foothold, stealing up around and between the branches, till
it overtops and fairly smothers in blossoms a fair-sized oak or other
tree. Besides these were great ferns, or brakes, three or four feet
high, which filled up the edges of the thicket, making it absolutely
impervious to the eye, as well as to the foot of any straggler. Except
in the obscure passages the horses kept open, no person could penetrate
my jungle.

I had hardly placed myself, and I had not noted half of these details,
when it became evident that my presence disturbed somebody. A chat cried
out excitedly, "chack! chack! whe-e-w!" whereupon there followed an
angry squawk, so loud and so near that it startled me. I turned quickly,
and saw madam herself, all ruffled as if from the nest. She was plainly
as much startled as I was, but she scorned to flee. She perked up her
tail till she looked like an exaggerated wren; she humped her shoulders;
she turned this way and that, showing in every movement her anger at my
intrusion; above all, she repeated at short intervals that squawk, like
an enraged hen. Hearing a rustle of wings on the other side, I turned my
eyes an instant, and when I looked again she had gone! She would not run
while I looked at her, but she had the true chat instinct of keeping out
of sight.

She did not desert her grove, however. The canopy over my head, the roof
to my retreat, was of green leaves, translucent, almost transparent. The
sun was the sun of Utah; it cast strong shadows, and not a bird could
move without my seeing it. I could see that she remained on guard,
hopping and flying silently from one point of view to another, no doubt
keeping close watch of me all the time.

Meanwhile the chat himself had not for a moment ceased calling. For some
time his voice would sound quite near; then it would draw off, growing
more and more distant, as if he were tired of watching one who did
absolutely nothing. But he never got far away before madam recalled him,
sometimes by the squawk alone, sometimes preceding it by a single clear
whistle, exactly in his own tone. At once, as if this were a
signal,--which doubtless it was,--his cries redoubled in energy, and
seemed to come nearer again.

Above the restless demonstrations of the chats I could hear the clear,
sweet song of the Western meadow-lark in the next field. Well indeed
might his song be serene; the minstrel of the meadow knew perfectly well
that his nest and nestlings were as safely hidden in the middle of the
growing lucern as if in another planet; while the chat, on the contrary,
was plainly conscious of the ease with which his homestead might be
discovered. A ruthless destroyer, a nest-robbing boy, would have had the
whole thing in his pocket days ago. Even I, if I had not preferred to
have the owners show it to me: if I had not made excuses to myself, of
the marsh, of bushes too low to go under; if I had not hated to take it
by force, to frighten the little folk I wished to make friends
with,--even I might have seen the nest long before that morning. Thus I
meditated as, after waiting an hour or two, I started for home.

Outside the gate I met my fellow-student, and we went on together. Our
way lay beside an old orchard that we had often noticed in our walks.
The trees were not far apart, and so overgrown that they formed a deep
shade, like a heavy forest, which was most attractive when everything
outside was baking in the June sun. It was nearly noon when we reached
the gate, and looking into a place

               "So curtained with trunks and boughs
 That in hours when the ringdove coos to his spouse
 The sun to its heart scarce a way could win,"

we could not resist its inviting coolness; we went in.

As soon as we were quiet, we noticed that there were more robins than we
had heretofore seen in one neighborhood in that part of the world; for
our familiar bird is by no means plentiful in the Rocky Mountain
countries, where grassy lawns are rare, and his chosen food is not
forthcoming. The old apple-trees seemed to be a favorite nesting-place,
and before we had been there five minutes we saw that there were at
least two nests within fifty feet of us, and a grosbeak singing his
love song, so near that we had hopes of finding his home, also, in this
secluded nook.

The alighting of a bird low down on the trunk of a tree, perhaps twenty
feet away, called the attention of my friend to a neighbor we had not
counted upon, a large snake, with, as we noted with horror, the color
and markings of the dreaded rattler. He had, as it seemed, started to
climb one of the leaning trunks, and when he had reached a point where
the trunk divided into two parts, his head about two feet up, and the
lower part of his body still on the ground, had stopped, and now rested
thus, motionless as the tree itself. It may be that it was the sudden
presence of his hereditary enemy that held him apparently spellbound, or
it is possible that this position served his own purposes better than
any other. Our first impulse was to leave his lordship in undisputed
possession of his shady retreat; but the second thought, which held us,
was to see what sort of reception the robins would give him. There was a
nest full of young on a neighboring tree, and it was the mother who had
come down to interview the foe. Would she call her mate? Would the
neighbors come to the rescue? Should we see a fight, such as we had read
of? We decided to wait for the result.

Strange to say, however, this little mother did not call for help. Not
one of the loud, disturbed cries with which robins greet an innocent
bird-student or a passing sparrow hawk was heard from her; though her
kinsfolk sprinkled the orchard, she uttered not a sound. For a moment
she seemed dazed; she stood motionless, staring at the invader as if
uncertain whether he were alive. Then she appeared to be interested; she
came a little nearer, still gazing into the face of her enemy, whose
erect head and glittering eyes were turned toward her. We could not see
that he made the slightest movement, while she hopped nearer and nearer;
sometimes on one division of the trunk, and sometimes on the other, but
always, with every hop, coming a little nearer. She did not act
frightened nor at all anxious; she simply seemed interested, and
inclined to close investigation. Was she fascinated? Were the old
stories of snake power over birds true? Our interest was most intense;
we did not take our eyes from her; nothing could have dragged us away
then.

Suddenly the bird flew to the ground, and, so quickly that we did not
see the movement, the head of the snake was turned over toward her,
proving that it was the bird, and not us, he was watching. Still she
kept drawing nearer till she was not more than a foot from him, when our
sympathy with the unfortunate creature, who apparently was unable to
tear herself away, overcame our scientific curiosity. "Poor thing,
she'll be killed! Let us drive her away!" we cried. We picked up small
stones which we threw toward her; we threatened her with sticks; we
"shooed" at her with demonstrations that would have quickly driven away
a robin in possession of its senses. Not a step farther off did she
move; she hopped one side to avoid our missiles, but instantly fluttered
back to her doom. Meanwhile her mate appeared upon the scene, hovering
anxiously about in the trees overhead, but not coming near the snake.

By this time we had lost all interest in the question whether a snake
can charm a bird to its destruction; we thought only of saving the
little life in such danger. We looked around for help; my friend ran
across the street to a house, hurriedly secured the help of a man with a
heavy stick, and in two minutes the snake lay dead on the ground.

The bird, at once relieved, flew hastily to her nest, showing no signs
of mental aberration, or any other effect of the strain she had been
under. The snake was what the man called a "bull snake," and so closely
resembled the rattler in color and markings that, although its
exterminator had killed many of the more famous reptiles, he could not
tell, until it was stretched out in death, which of the two it was. This
tragedy spoiled the old orchard for me, and never again did I enter its
gates.

Down the wild rose path I took my way the next morning. Silently and
quickly I gained my seat of yesterday, hoping to surprise the chat
family. No doubt my hope was vain; noiseless, indeed, and deft of
movement must be the human being who could come upon this alert bird
unawares. He greeted me with a new note, a single clear call, like "ho!"
Then he proceeded to study me, coming cautiously nearer and nearer, as I
could see out of the corner of my eye, while pretending to be closely
occupied with my notebook. His loud notes had ceased, but it is not in
chat nature to be utterly silent; many low sounds dropped from his beak
as he approached. Sometimes it was a squawk, a gentle imitation of that
which rang through the air from the mouth of his spouse; again it was a
hoarse sort of mewing, followed by various indescribable sounds in the
same undertone; and then he would suddenly take himself in hand, and be
perfectly silent for half a minute.

After a little, madam took up the matter, uttering her angry squawk, and
breaking upon my silence almost like a pistol shot. At once I forgot her
mate, and though he retired to a little distance and resumed his
brilliant musical performance, I did not turn my head at his
beguilements. She was the business partner of the firm whose movements I
wished to follow. She must, sooner or later, go to her nest, while he
might deceive me for days. Indeed, I strongly suspected him of that very
thing, and whenever he became bolder in approaching, or louder and more
vociferous of tongue, I was convinced that it was to cover her
operations. I redoubled my vigilance in watching for her, keeping my
eyes open for any slight stirring of a twig, tremble of a leaf, or quick
shadow near the ground that should point her out as she skulked to her
nest. I had already observed that whenever she uttered her squawks he
instantly burst into energetic shouts and calls. I believed it a
concerted action, with the intent of drawing my attention from her
movements.

On this day the disturbed little mother herself interviewed me. First
she came silently under the green canopy, in plain sight, stood a moment
before me, jerking up her beautiful long tail and letting it drop slowly
back, and posing her mobile body in different positions; then suddenly
flying close past me, she alighted on one side, and stared at me for
half a dozen seconds. Then, evidently, she resolved to take me in hand.
She assumed the rôle of deceiver, with all the wariness of her family;
her object being, as I suppose, carefully to point out where her nest
was _not_. She circled about me, taking no pains to avoid my gaze. Now
she squawked on the right; then she acted "the anxious mother" on the
left; this time it was from the clump of rosebushes in front that she
rose hurriedly, as if that was her home; again it was from over my head,
in the chokecherry-tree, that she bustled off, as if she had been
"caught in the act." It was a brilliant, a wonderful performance, a
thousand times more effective than trailing or any of the similar
devices by which an uneasy bird mother draws attention from her brood.
It was so well done that at each separate manœuvre I could hardly be
convinced by my own eyes that the particular spot indicated did not
conceal the little homestead I was seeking. Several times I rose
triumphant, feeling sure that "now indeed I _do_ know where it is," and
proceeded at once to the bush she had pointed out with so much simulated
reluctance, parted the branches, and looked in, only to find myself
deceived again. Her acting was marvelous. With just the properly
anxious, uneasy manner, she would steal behind a clump of leaves into
some retired spot admirably adapted for a chat's nest, and after a
moment sneak out at the other side, and fly away near the ground,
exactly as all bird-students have seen bird mothers do a thousand
times.

After this performance a silence fell upon the tangle and the solitary
nook in which I sat,--and I meditated. It was the last day of my stay.
Should I set up a search for that nest which I was sure was within
reach? I could go over the whole in half an hour, examine every shrub
and low tree and inch of ground in it, and doubtless I should find it.
No; I do not care for a nest thus forced. The distress of parents, the
panic of nestlings, give me no pleasure. I know how a chat's nest looks.
I have seen one with its pinky-pearl eggs; why should I care to see
another? I know how young birds look; I have seen dozens of them this
very summer. Far better that I never lay eyes upon the nest than to do
it at such cost.

As I reached this conclusion, into the midst of my silence came the
steady tramp of a horse. I knew the wild rose path was a favorite
retreat from the sun, and it was very hot. The path was narrow; if a
horse came in upon me, he could not turn round and retreat, nor was
there room for him to pass me. Realizing all this in an instant, I
snatched up my belongings, and hurried to get out before he should get
in.

When I emerged, the chat set up his loudest and most triumphant shouts.
"Again we have fooled you," he seemed to say; "again we have thrown
your poor human acuteness off the scent! We shall manage to bring up our
babies in safety, in spite of you!"

So indeed they might, even if I had seen them; but this, alas, I could
not make him understand. So he treated me--his best friend--exactly as
he treated the nest-robber and the bird-shooter.

I shall never know whether that nest contained eggs or young birds; or
whether perchance there was no nest at all, and I had been deceived from
the first by the most artful and beguiling of birds. And through all
this I had never once squarely seen the chat I had been following.

 "Even yet thou art to me
 No bird, but, an invisible thing,
 A voice, a mystery."



XX.

ON THE LAWN.


The first thing that strikes an Eastern bird-student in the Rocky
Mountain region, as I have already said, is the absence of the birds he
is familiar with. Instead of the chipping sparrow everywhere, one sees
the lazuli-painted finch, or the Rocky Mountain bluebird; in place of
the American robin's song, most common of sounds in country
neighborhoods on the Atlantic side of the continent, is heard the silver
bell of the towhee bunting, sometimes called marsh robin, or the harsh
"chack" of Brewer's blackbird; the music that opens sleepy eyes at
daybreak is not a chorus of robins and song-sparrows, but the ringing
notes of the chewink, the clear-cut song of the Western meadow-lark, or
the labored utterance of the black-headed grosbeak; it is not by the
melancholy refrain of the whippoorwill or the heavenly hymns of thrushes
that the approach of night is heralded, but by the cheery trill of the
house wren or the dismal wail of the Western wood-pewee.

Most of all does the bird-lover miss the thrushes from the feathered
orchestra. Some of them may dwell in that part of the world,--the books
affirm it, and I cannot deny it,--but this I know: one whose eye is
untiring, and whose ear is open night and day to bird-notes, may spend
May, June, July, yes, and even August, in the haunts of Rocky Mountain
birds, and not once see or hear either of our choice singing thrushes.

However the student may miss the birds he knows at home, he must rejoice
in the absence of one,--the English sparrow. When one sees the charming
purple finch and summer yellow-bird, nesting and singing in the streets
of Denver, and the bewitching Arkansas goldfinch and the beautiful
Western bluebird perfectly at home in Colorado Springs, he is reminded
of what might be in the Eastern cities, if only the human race had not
interfered with Nature's distribution of her feathered families. In
Utah, indeed, we meet again the foreigner, for in that unfortunate
Territory the man, wise in his own conceit, was found to introduce him,
and Salt Lake, the city of their pride and glory, is as completely
infested by the feathered tramp as New York itself. Happy is Colorado
that great deserts form her borders, and that chains of mountains
separate her from her neighbors; for, since the sparrow is as fond of
the city as Dr. Johnson, it may be hoped that neither he, nor his
children, nor his grandchildren, will ever cross the barriers.

In Utah, as everywhere, the English sparrows are sharp-witted rogues,
and they have discovered and taken possession of the most comfortable
place for bird quarters to be found, for protection from the terrible
heat of summer, and the wind and snow of winter; it is between the roof
and the stone or adobe walls of the houses. Wherever the inequalities of
the stones or the shrinkage of the wood has left an opening, and made
penetration possible, there an English sparrow has established a
permanent abode.

The first bird I noticed in the quiet Mormon village where I settled
myself to study was a little beauty in blue. I knew him instantly, for I
had met him before in Colorado. He was dining luxuriously on the
feathery seeds of a dandelion when I discovered him, and at no great
distance was his olive-clad mate, similarly engaged. They were
conversing cheerfully in low tones, and in a few minutes I suppose he
called her attention to the superior quality of his dandelion; for she
came to his side, and he at once flew to a neighboring bush and burst
into song. It was a pretty little ditty, or rather a musical rattle on
one note, resembling the song of the indigo bird, his near relative.

The lazuli-painted finch should be called the blue-headed finch, for the
exquisite blueness of his whole head, including throat, breast, and
shoulders, as if he had been dipped so far into blue dye, is his
distinguishing feature. The bluebird wears heaven's color; so does the
jay, and likewise the indigo bird; but not one can boast the lovely and
indescribable shade, with its silvery reflections, that adorns the
lazuli. Across the breast, under the blue, is a broad band of chestnut,
like the breast color of our bluebird, and back of that is white, while
the wings and tail are dark. Altogether, he is charming to look upon.
Who would not prefer him about the yard to the squawking house sparrow,
or even the squabbling chippy?

My catching the pair at dinner was not an accident; I soon found out
that they lived there, and had settled upon a row of tall raspberry
bushes that separated the garden from the lawn for their summer home.
Madam was already at work collecting her building materials, and very
soon the fragile walls of her pretty nest were formed in an upright
crotch of the raspberries, about a foot below the top.

Naturally, I was greatly interested in the fairy house building, and
often inspected the work while the little dame was out of sight. One
day, however, as I was about to part the branches to look in, I heard
an anxious "phit," and glanced up to see the owner alight on the lowest
limb of a peach-tree near by. Of course I turned away at once,
pretending that I was just passing, and had no suspicion of her precious
secret in the raspberries, and hoping that she would not mind. But she
did mind, very seriously; she continued to stand on that branch with an
aggrieved air, as if life were no longer worth living, now that her home
was perhaps discovered. Without uttering a sound or moving a muscle, so
far as I could see, she remained for half an hour before she accepted my
taking a distant seat and turning my attention to dragonflies as an
apology, and ventured to visit her nest again. After that I made very
sure that she was engaged elsewhere before I paid my daily call.

The dragonflies, by the way, were well worth looking at; indeed, they
divided my interest with the birds. So many and such variety I never
noticed elsewhere, and they acted exactly like fly-catching birds,
staying an hour at a time on one perch, from which every now and then
they sallied out, sweeping the air and returning to the perch they had
left. Sometimes I saw four or five of them at once, resting on different
dead twigs in the yard the other side of the lawn, and I have even seen
one knock a fellow-dragonfly off a favorite perch and take it himself.

They were very beautiful, too: some with wings of transparent white or
light amber barred off by wide patches of rich dark brown or black;
others, again, smaller, and all over blue as the lazuli's head; and a
third of brilliant silver, which sparkled as it flew, as if covered with
spangles. One alighted there with wings which seemed to be covered with
a close and intricate design in the most brilliant gold thread. I went
almost near enough to put my hand on him, and I never saw a more
gorgeous creature; beside his beautiful wings his back was of old gold,
coming down in scallops over the black and dark blue under part.

In due time four lovely blue eggs filled the nest of the lazuli, and
about the middle of June madam began to sit, and I had to be more
careful than ever in timing my visits.

Some birds approach their nest in a loitering, aimless sort of way, as
if they had no particular business, in that quarter, and, if they see
any cause for alarm, depart with an indifferent air that reveals nothing
of their secret. Not thus the ingenuous lazuli. She showed her anxiety
every moment; coming in the most businesslike way, and proclaiming her
errand to the most careless observer, till I thought every boy on the
street would know where her eggs were to be found. She had a very pretty
way of going to the nest; indeed, all her manners were winning. She
always alighted on the peach-tree branch, looked about on all sides,
especially at me in my seat on the piazza, flirted her tail, uttered an
anxious "phit," and then jumped off the limb and dived under the bushes
near the ground. It is to be presumed that she ascended to her nest
behind the leaves by hopping from twig to twig, though this I could
never manage to see.

And what of her gay little spouse all this time? Did he spend his days
cheering her with music, as all the fathers of feathered families are
fabled to do? Indeed he did not, and until I watched very closely, and
saw him going about over the poplars in silence, I thought he had left
the neighborhood. Once in the day he had a good singing time, about five
o'clock in the morning, two hours before the sun rose over the
mountains. If one happened to be awake then, he would hear the most
rapturous song, delivered at the top of his voice, and continuing for a
long time. But as it grew lighter, and the human world began to stir, he
became quiet again, and, if he sang at all, he went so far from home
that I did not hear him.

But the wise little blue-head had not deserted; he was merely cautious.
Every time that the little sitter went off for food she met him
somewhere, and he came back with her. Occasionally he took a peep at the
treasures himself, but he never entered by her roundabout way. He always
flew directly in from above.

Ten days passed away in this quiet manner, my attention divided between
the birds, the dragonflies, and the clacking grasshopper, who went
jerking himself about with a noise like a subdued lawn-mower, giving one
the impression that his machinery was out of order.

The tenth day of sitting we had a south wind. That does not seem very
terrible, but a south wind on the shore of the Great Salt Lake is
something to be dreaded.

 "A wind that is dizzy with whirling play,
 A dozen winds that have lost their way."

It starts up suddenly, and comes with such force as to snap off the
leaves of trees, and even the tender twigs of shrubs. As it waxes
powerful it bends great trees, and tries the strength of roofs and
chimneys. From the first breath it rolls up tremendous clouds of dust,
that come and come, and never cease, long after it seems as if every
particle in that rainless land must have been driven by. It is in the
"Great Basin," and the south wind is the broom that sweeps it clean. Not
only dust does the south wind bring, but heat, terrible and
suffocating, like that of a fiery furnace. Before it the human and the
vegetable worlds shrink and wither, and birds and beasts are little
seen.

Such a day was the birthday in the little nest in the raspberries, and
on my usual morning call I found four featherless birdlings, with beaks
already yawning for food. Every morning, of course, I looked at the
babies, but it was not till the eighth day of their life that I found
their eyes open. Before this they opened their mouths when I jarred the
nest in parting the branches, thus showing they were not asleep, but did
not open their eyes, and I was forced to conclude that they were not yet
unclosed.

Sometimes the daily visit was made under difficulties, and I was
unpleasantly surprised when I stepped upon the grass of the little lawn
that I was obliged to cross. The grass looked as usual; the evening
before we had been sitting upon it. But all night a stream had been
silently spreading itself upon it, and my hasty step was into water two
or three inches deep, which swished up in a small fountain and filled a
low shoe in an instant.

This is one of the idiosyncrasies of irrigation, which it seemed I
should never get accustomed to, and several times I was obliged to turn
back for overshoes before I could pay my usual call. A lawn asoak is a
curious sight, and always reminds me of Lanier's verses,

                               "A thousand rivulets run
 'Twixt the roots of the soil; the blades of the marsh grass stir;
     ... and the currents cease to run,
     And the sea and the marsh are one."

The morning the lazulis were ten days old, before I came out of the
house, that happened which so often puts an end to a study of bird
life,--the nest was torn out of place and destroyed, and the little
family had disappeared. The particulars will never be known. Whether a
nest-robbing boy or a hungry cat was the transgressor, and whether the
nestlings were carried off or eaten, or had happily escaped, who can
tell? I could only judge by the conduct of the birds themselves, and as
they did not appear disturbed, and continued to carry food, it is to be
presumed that part, if not all, of the brood was saved from the wreck of
their home.

Happily, to console me in my sorrow for this catastrophe, the lazuli was
not the only bird to be seen on the lawn, though his was the only nest.
I had for some time been greatly interested in the daily visits of a
humming-bird, a little dame in green and white, who had taken possession
of a honeysuckle vine beside the door, claiming the whole as her own,
and driving away, with squeaky but fierce cries, any other of her race
who ventured to sip from the coral cups so profusely offered.

The season for humming-birds opened with the locust blossoms next door,
which were for days a mass of blooms and buzzings, of birds and bees.
But when the fragrant flowers began to fall and the ground was white
with them, one bird settled herself on our honeysuckle, and there took
her daily meals for a month. Being not six feet from where I sat for
hours every day, I had the first good opportunity of my life to learn
the ways of one of these queer little creatures in feathers.

After long searching and much overhauling of the books, I made her out
to be the female broad-tailed humming-bird, who is somewhat larger than
the familiar ruby-throat of the East. Her mate, if she had one, never
came to the vine; but whether she drove him away and discouraged him, or
whether he had an independent source of supply, I never knew. She was
the only one whose acquaintance I made, and in a month's watching I came
to know her pretty well.

In one way she differed strikingly from any humming-bird I have seen:
she alighted, and rested frequently and for long periods. Droll enough
it looked to see such an atom, such a mere pinch of feathers, conduct
herself after the fashion of a big bird; to see her wipe that
needle-like beak, and dress those infinitesimal feathers, combing out
her head plumage with her minute black claws, running the same useful
appendages through her long, gauzy-looking wings, and carefully removing
the yellow pollen of the honeysuckle blooms which stuck to her face and
throat. Her favorite perch was a tiny dead twig on the lowest branch of
a poplar-tree, near the honeysuckle. There she spent a long time each
day, sitting usually, though sometimes she stood on her little wiry
legs.

But though my humming friend might sit down, there was no repose about
her; she was continually in motion. Her head turned from side to side,
as regularly, and apparently as mechanically, as an elephant weaves his
great head and trunk. Sometimes she turned her attention to me, and
leaned far over, with her large, dark eyes fixed upon me with interest
or curiosity. But never was there the least fear in her bearing; she
evidently considered herself mistress of the place, and reproved me if I
made the slightest movement, or spoke too much to a neighbor. If she
happened to be engaged among her honey-pots when a movement was made,
she instantly jerked herself back a foot or more from the vine, and
stood upon nothing, as it were, motionless, except the wings, while she
looked into the cause of the disturbance, and often expressed her
disapproval of our behavior in squeaky cries.

The toilet of this lilliputian in feathers, performed on her chosen twig
as it often was, interested me greatly. As carefully as though she were
a foot or two, instead of an inch or two long, did she clean and put in
order every plume on her little body, and the work of polishing her beak
was the great performance of the day. This member was plainly her pride
and her joy; every part of it, down to the very tip, was scraped and
rubbed by her claws, with the leg thrown over the wing, exactly as big
birds do. It was astonishing to see what she could do with her leg. I
have even seen her pause in mid-air and thrust one over her vibrating
wing to scratch her head.

Then when the pretty creature was all in beautiful order, her
emerald-green back and white breast immaculate, when she had shaken
herself out, and darted out and drawn back many times her long
bristle-like tongue, she would sometimes hover along before the tips of
the fence-stakes, which were like laths, held an inch apart by
wires,--collecting, I suppose, the tiny spiders which were to be found
there. She always returned to the honeysuckle, however, to finish her
repast, opening and closing her tail as one flirts a fan, while the
breeze made by her wings agitated the leaves for two feet around her.
Should a blossom just ready to fall come off on her beak like a coral
case, as it sometimes did, she was indignant indeed; she jerked herself
back and flung it off with an air that was comical to see.

When the hot wind blew, the little creature seemed to feel the
discomfort that bigger ones did: she sat with open beak as though
panting for breath; she flew around with legs hanging, and even alighted
on a convenient leaf or cluster of flowers, while she rifled a blossom,
standing with sturdy little legs far apart, while stretching up to reach
the bloom she desired.

Two statements of the books were not true in the case of this bird: she
did not sit on a twig upright like an owl or a hawk, but held her body
exactly as does a robin or sparrow; and she did fly backward and
sideways, as well as forward.

Toward the end of June my tiny visitor began to make longer intervals
between her calls, and when she did appear she was always in too great
haste to stop; she passed rapidly over half a dozen blossoms, and then
flitted away. Past were the days of loitering about on poplar twigs or
preening herself on the peach-tree. It was plain that she had set up a
home for herself, and the mussy state of her once nicely kept breast
feathers told the tale,--she had a nest somewhere. Vainly, however, did
I try to track her home: she either took her way like an arrow across
the garden to a row of very tall locusts, where a hundred humming-birds'
nests might have been hidden, or turned the other way over a neighbor's
field to a cluster of thickly grown apple-trees, equally impossible to
search. If she had always gone one way I might have tried to follow, but
to look for her infinitesimal nest at opposite poles of the earth was
too discouraging, even if the weather had been cool enough for such
exertion.

When at last I could endure the wind and the dust and the heat no
longer, and stood one morning on the porch, waiting for the most
deliberate of drivers with his carriage to drive me to the station, that
I might leave Utah altogether, the humming-bird appeared on the scene,
took a sip or two out of her red cups, flirted her feathers saucily in
my very face, then darted over the top of the cottage and disappeared;
and that was the very last glimpse I had of the little dame in green.



INDEX.


 Acadian flycatcher, 161.

 Arkansas goldfinch, 23.

 At four o'clock in the morning, 95.


 Barbed wire fence, 157.

 Behind the tangle, 246.

 Birds:
   and poets, 194.
   a strange song, 73.
   different ways, 264.
   hard to study, 20.
   in Colorado, 18.
   in Colorado Springs, 260.
   in Denver, 260.
   in the "Wrens' Court," 161, 166, 168.
   leave nesting place, 154.
   morning chorus, 21, 22, 105.
   music in Colorado, 32.
   not on exhibition, 19.
   not sing alike, 34.
   panic among, 39.
   unfamiliar, 23, 259.
   Utah, 260.

 Black-headed grosbeak, 244, 251.
   song of, 244.

 Blue jay, 126.
   and doll, 103.
   and red-headed woodpecker, 104.
   apple-tree nest, 151.
   a struggle, 149.
   attentive to mate, 127.
   bad name, 147.
   devoted mother, 127.
   eating, 144.
   getting over the ground, 145.
   home deserted, 140.
   interview with, 146.
   joke or war-cry? 134.
   manners, 130, 132, 144.
   my search for nest, 126.
   no pretense, 130.
   pine-tree nest, 126.
   vocabulary, 133.
   when babies are noisy, 131.
   with a stranger, 148.
   with catbirds, 150.

 Blue jay, the young:
   accident to, 140.
   beauty of, 143.
   climber, 141.
   first outing, 138.
   imperfect, 152.
   intelligence in house, 152.
   on edge of nest, 137.
   returned to parents, 153.

 Bobolink song, 120.

 Burro an investigator, 89.


 Camp Harding, 9.

 Camping in Colorado, 3.

 Cañon wren, the, 74.
   manners, 86, 87.
   song, 74.

 Cardinal grosbeak, 107.
   abandoning the nest, 120.
   as a father, 113.
   confidence in people, 121.
   delight of parents, 123.
   eating corn, 109, 115.
   importance of the builder, 119.
   kindness to young, 117.
   manners, 107.
   nest, 122.
   on grass, 105, 107.
   politeness to mate, 116.
   reception of woodpecker, 108.
   rose trellis nest, 121.
   speeding the parting guest, 125.
   victim of English sparrow, 114.

 Cardinal, the young, 113.
   characteristics, 114.
   first baby out, 122.
   food of, 123.
   song of, 116.
   training, 116.
   with sparrows, 114, 115.

 Carolina wren, the great:
   babies appear, 172.
   ceremony of approaching, 177.
   father disturbed, 175.
   first sight of, 159.
   fighting a chipmunk, 178.
   hard to see, 177.
   interruption to study, 168.
   manners, 163, 173, 175.
   mother anxious, 176.
   nest, 149, 182.
   song, 162, 164.
   trailing, 162.
   "Wrens' Court," 160.

 Carolina wren, the young:
   cries of, 181.
   delay in taking flight, 179.
   development of, 174.
   first sallies, 180, 181.
   manners, 178.

 Catbird song, 23.

 Cat on lawn, 112.

 Cedar-tree little folk, 194.

 Charming nook, a, 124.

 Chat, long-tailed, yellow-breasted, 40, 232.
   alertness of, 240.
   bewitching, 241.
   comes in sight, 237.
   eccentric, 232.
   egg stolen, 50.
   farewell, 51.
   first sight of, 45.
   hard to study, 47.
   haunts of, 241.
   home of, 246.
   humor, 40.
   manners, 44, 46, 238, 239, 240.
   nest, 47, 48.
   on hand, 245.
   saucy, 41.
   secret of invisibility, 239.
   studies me, 254,
   triumphant, 257.
   voice, 40, 43, 45, 236, 237, 239.

 Chat, the madam:
   interviews me, 255.
   keeps her mate up to duty, 249.
   manners, 248.
   squawks, 254.
   wonderful acting, 256.

 Chewink, or towhee bunting:
   babies, 31.
   green-tailed towhee, 210.
   husky cry, 30.
   manners, 28, 29.
   nest, 30.
   song, 29.

 Cheyenne Cañon, 15.
   solitary possession of, 75.

 Cheyenne Mountain, 43.

 Chipmunk, 78.

 Cinderella among the flowers, a, 60.

 Cliff-dwellers in the cañon, 70.

 Colorado, a restful way to see, 13.
   the wonderland, 14.

 Cotton storm, a, 17.

 Cottonwoods, in the, 17.

 Cuckoo, 157, 231.


 Doll as a bogy, 103.

 Dragonflies in Utah, 263.


 English or house sparrow:
   as a climber, 110.
   autocrat, 129.
   in Utah, 261.
   robbing blackbirds, 100.
   robbing red-headed woodpecker, 110.


 Feast of flowers, the, 52.

 Flicker a character, 106.

 Flowers:
   abundance of bloom, 54.
   anemone, 61.
   cactus, 56, 62, 74.
   castilleia, 67.
   cleome, 67.
   columbine, 58, 67.
   cyclamen, 67.
   extermination by cattle, 208.
   extermination by tourists, 68.
   geranium, 58.
   gilia, 64.
   golden prince's feather, 65.
   gummy and clinging stems, 66.
   harebells, 67.
   in a niche, 73.
   in Kansas, 52.
   mariposa lily, 65.
   mentzelia, 60.
   mertensia, 67.
   Mexican poppy, 62.
   milky juice, 66.
   moccasin plant, 54, 75.
   nasturtium, self-willed, 149.
   ox-eye daisy, 66.
   painter of, 68.
   paradise of, 53.
   pentstemon, 58.
   pink stranger, 62.
   primrose, 58, 67.
   roses, 58, 63, 75.
   spiderwort, 52.
   symphony in green, 55.
   varieties, 53, 57.
   vetches, 67.
   wild garden, 57.
   wild mignonette, 62.
   yellow daisies, 52.
   yucca, 55, 62.


 Gates, idiosyncrasies of, 220.

 Getting up in the morning, 95.

 Glen, a beautiful, 155.
   frightened out of, 169.

 Grasshopper, a clacking, 266.

 Grave of "H. H.," 90, 91.

 Great-crested flycatcher, 167.

 Gull, the herring, 211.
   following the plow, 213.
   flight, 215.
   manners, 213.
   nesting, 216.
   nooning, 215.
   penalty for killing, 212.
   sent to the "Chosen People," 212.
   value of, 216.


 Horned lark:
   horns, 36.
   nest, 36.
   song, 35.

 Horse, a scared, and result, 228.
   drive me away, 257.

 House wren, the Western, 24.
   babies, 27, 28.
   disturbed, 27.
   manners, 24.
   nest, 25.
   song, 27.
   strange cry, 25.

 Humming-bird:
   collecting spiders, 271.
   different from the Eastern, 38.
   dislike of heat, 272.
   in cañon, 76.
   last glimpse, 273.
   manners, 269.
   nesting, 272.
   noisy, 38.
   precious beak, 271.
   scolding, 42.
   surveillance, 40.
   the broad-tailed, 268.
   toilet of, 271.


 Ideal retreat, an, 247.

 In a pasture, 207.

 In the Middle Country, 93.

 In the Rocky Mountains, 1.

 Irrigation vagaries, 242, 245, 267.


 Kansas, 7.

 Kitchen, an al fresco, 243.

 Kitten, a lost, 39.


 Lazuli-painted finch, 261.
   anxiety of mother, 263.
   babies, 267.
   manners, 262, 265.
   nest, 262.
   nest destroyed, 268.


 Magpie:
   discover us, 225.
   manners, 216, 219, 224.
   nest, 223.
   nursery, 230.
   reception to us, 227.
   search for nest, 216.
   song, 224.

 Meadow-lark, the Western, 249.
   cry, 120.
   song, 24, 32, 34.

 Morning tramp, a, 156.

 Mosquito, absence of, 20.
   a lonely, 21.

 Mourning dove, 103.
   headquarters, 199.
   joke of, 200.
   manners, 196, 198, 199.
   nest, 198.
   silence of, 201, 204.
   song, 195, 204.
   talk, 204.
   wing whistle, 204.
   young, interview with, 201.
   young, manners of, 197, 201.


 Oak-brush, the, 222.

 On the lawn, 259.

 Orchard, an old, 250.

 Orchard oriole:
   a later view, 191.
   anxiety of parents, 185.
   baby cries, 186.
   babies' first flight, 189, 190.
   call from a Baltimore, 188.
   called by nestlings, 184.
   manners, 186, 190.
   nest, 184, 192.
   song of female, 191.
   song of male, 192.


 Park, a deserted, 42.

 Pewee, Western wood, 22.
   nest, 38.
   song, 22, 37.
   voice, 37.

 Purple grackle, the, 96.
   discouraging them, 104.
   eating, 100.
   greeting to me, 97.
   husky tones, 98.
   humor, 99.
   no repose of manner, 101.
   plumage, 99.
   robbed by sparrows, 100.
   strange utterances, 98.
   treatment of young, 101.
   young, 98, 101, 102.
   young, persistence of, 102.


 Red-headed woodpecker:
   autocrat, 106.
   eating corn, 109.
   protecting the place, 110.
   treatment of cardinal grosbeak, 108.
   treatment of doll, 104.

 Rest, to find, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11.

 Robin, absence of, 28.
   and corn, 103.
   and doll, 103.
   not plentiful, 250.
   reception of snake, 250.

 Rocky Mountains:
   a pasture on, 207.
   Cheyenne range, 235.
   Wasatch range, 233, 234.


 Sage-bush, 233.

 Sage the delight of my friend, 234.

 Salt Lake, view of, 218.

 Secret of the Wild Rose Path, 231.

 Seven Sisters' Falls, 72.

 Sight-seeing travelers, 12.

 South wind, 266.

 Strange character of feathered world, 128.

 Strangers not allowed, 129.

 Study of birds, my way, 226.

 Study of birds, two ways, 236.


 Tents to live in, 11.

 Thrushes absent, 260.

 Tourist, 89, 91.

 Tourist, the unscrupulous, 68.

 Towhee (see Chewink).

 Tragedy of a nest, 42.


 Uproar of song, an, 32.


 Vagaries of name-givers, 160.

 View, a beautiful, 136.


 Walks from the camp, 70.
   the evening, 70.
   the morning, 72.
   up to the cañon, 72.

 Water ouzel, or American dipper:
   baby, 80, 85.
   cry, 79.
   "dipping," 80.
   feats in the water, 83.
   manners, 80, 81.
   nest, 77.
   song, 79, 81.
   the mother, 82.

 Wood-thrush nest, 168.


 Yellow warbler:
   nest, 36, 37.
   song, 23, 36.



    +----------------------------------------------+
    | Transcriber's Note:                          |
    |                                              |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:  |
    |                                              |
    | Page  72  standstone changed to sandstone    |
    | Page 153  Word "to" added before "one side"  |
    | Page 250  cooes changed to coos              |
    | Page 277  " added to "Wrens' Court,          |
    +----------------------------------------------+





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