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Title: A Hermit's Wild Friends: or, Eighteen Years in the Woods
Author: Walton, Mason Augustus
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Hermit's Wild Friends: or, Eighteen Years in the Woods" ***

Transcriber Note

Text emphasis is denoted as _Italics_.

              [Illustration: THE "HERMIT" AND HIS HOUSE.]



                        A Hermit's Wild Friends

                      Eighteen Years in the Woods


                            Mason A. Walton

                      (The Hermit of Gloucester)



                         Dana Estes & Company




                           _Copyright, 1903_

                        By Dana Estes & Company

                         _All rights reserved_

                        A HERMIT'S WILD FRIENDS

                        Published October, 1903

                            Colonial Press

            Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.

                        Boston, Mass., U. S. A.

                                To the

                           Lovers of Nature,


                 this volume is fraternally dedicated.


During my eighteen years of hermit life, I claim to have discovered
several new features in natural history, namely:

That the cow-bunting watches over its young, assists the foster parents
in providing food, and gradually assumes full care of the young
bird, and takes it to the pasture to associate with its kind; that
the white-footed mouse is dumb, and communicates with its species by
drumming with its toes; that the wood-thrush conducts a singing-school
for the purpose of teaching its young how to sing; that the chickadee
can count; that the shadbush on Cape Ann assumes a dwarf form, and
grows in patches like the low-bush blueberry, fruiting when less than
a foot in height; that the red squirrel owns a farm or fruit garden,
and locates his male children on territory which he preempts for the
purpose. I am aware that my claims will be vigorously assailed, but I
have verified these discoveries by years of patient observation, and
would say to my critics: "You would better investigate carefully before
denying the probability of any one of these claims."

Thanks are due the publishers of _Forest and Stream_ and _Youth's
Companion_ for permission to republish articles which have appeared in
these respective journals.

                                                          M. A. WALTON.

  _Gloucester, April 5, 1903._


  CHAPTER                                                PAGE

      I. Nature _versus_ Medicine                          11
     II. Satan the Raccoon                                 30
    III. Wabbles                                           52
     IV. Bismarck, the Red Squirrel                        67
      V. Changes in Hermit-life                            99
     VI. The White-footed Mouse                           118
    VII. Three Years Later                                136
   VIII. The Crow                                         140
     IX. Life in the Woods                                156
      X. Mr. and Mrs. Chewink                             172
     XI. Some of the Wild Things                          190
    XII. The Instinct of the Cowbird                      208
   XIII. Bee Hunting                                      223
    XIV. Tiny                                             236
     XV. The Chestnut-sided Warbler                       253
    XVI. Instinct                                         265
   XVII. The Chickadees                                   282
  XVIII. Triplefoot                                       295



  The "Hermit" and His Home                    _Frontispiece_
  Tree Sparrow                                             25
  Fox Sparrow                                              27
  Bay-winged Bunting                                       28
  Blackbird                                                29
  Raccoon's Head                                           30
  "I begun by tying on a nut"                              37
  "With a savage snarl he sprang on to the dude"           47
  Song Sparrow                                             52
  "Wabbles made it his business to awake me at daylight"   54
  Wabbles                                                  65
  Pigeon Hawk                                              69
  "Many a sprinting match of this kind takes place
    in my dooryard"                                        74
  "The winter storehouse was completed"                    85
  Indigo-bird                                              96
  Oven-bird                                                97
  Black-throated Green Warbler                             98
  Cedar-bird                                              102
  The New Cabin                                           103
  Maryland Yellowthroat                                   104
  Red-winged Blackbirds                                   104
  Brown Thrush                                            105
  Swamp Song-sparrow                                      106
  Baltimore Oriole                                        107
  Belted Kingfisher, Watching                             109
  Kingfisher, Striking                                    110
  Kingfisher, Lifting His Catch                           111
  "The distance between them grew less quite rapidly"     114
  "Hermit, you are out"                                   117
  "It carries its victim by the middle"                   125
  Mole                                                    131
  Kingbird                                                141
  Ruffed Grouse                                           145
  "The next sentinel takes up the call"                   151
  "I shot two ducks"                                      158
  Coot's Head                                             159
  Chickadee                                               173
  "I threw a bit of cookie to her"                        174
  English Sparrow                                         186
  Sparrow                                                 189
  "Found his owlship on a low limb"                       191
  Owl Chased                                              193
  Yellow-bellied Woodpecker                               196
  "HE Coiled Around My Arm"                               202
  Blue-winged Yellow Warbler                              211
  Bee Hunting                                             226
  "Again the plucky little bunting set its wing
    and lowered its head"                                 241
  "Made his way to the box, hand over hand"               245
  Chestnut-sided Warbler                                  254
  Blue Jays                                               265
  Wood Thrush                                             275
  The Hermit Thrush                                       278
  Triplefoot's Den                                        298
  "She stopped to look around, and saw me"                303

                        A Hermit's Wild Friends


                      Eighteen Years in the Woods



                       NATURE _versus_ MEDICINE

Eighteen years ago I was in sore straits. Ill health had reduced my
flesh until I resembled the living skeleton of a dime show. I realized
that a few months more of city life would take me beyond the living
stage, and that the world would have no further use for me except to
adorn some scientific laboratory.

A diagnosis of my case would read as follows:

Dyspepsia, aggravated, medicine could give but slight relief. Catarrh,
malignant, persistent. A douche was necessary every morning to relieve
the severe facial pain. A cough that had worried me by day and by
night, and thrived on all kinds of cough medicine. Also, my lungs were
sore and the palms of my hands were hot and dry. I thought that I was
fading away with consumption, but the doctors said my lungs were sound.
I was advised to go into the woods and try life in a pine grove. As
there was no money for the doctors in this advice, I looked upon it as
kind and disinterested, but my mind ran in another direction.

When I was young and full of notions, the idea entered my head that I
should like a change from fresh to salt water. It resulted in a two
months' trip on a fishing schooner. During the trip I had been free
from seasickness, and had gained flesh rapidly. The memory of that
sea voyage haunted me, now that I had become sick and discouraged. It
seemed to me that a few weeks on salt water would save my life.

With high hopes, I boarded the little steamer that plied between
Boston and Gloucester. I thought it would be an easy matter to secure
board on one of the many vessels that made short trips after mackerel.
For three days I haunted the wharves in vain. The "skippers," one and
all, gave the same reason for refusing my offers. "We are going after
fish," said they, "and cannot be bothered with a sick man." At last one
"skipper" discouraged me completely. He said to me: "I once took a sick
man on board, and because we did not strike fish, the fishermen called
the passenger a Jonah, and made his life miserable. Three days after
we returned he died, and I swore then that I never would take another
sick man to sea." This "skipper's" story, and my fruitless efforts
caused me to abandon the salt water cure. I turned now to the hills
around Gloucester. In the end I selected Bond's Hill, because it was
surrounded by pine groves.

I found the hill covered with blueberry and huckleberry bushes, the
latter loaded with fruit. On the brow of the hill the soil had been
washed away, leaving great masses of bed rock (granite) towering above
the cottages that clung to the base of the cliff. On the extreme brow
of the hill I found a spot where the soil had gathered and maintained
a grass-plot. Here I pitched my little tent. Here I lived from August
to December. I called the spot the Eyrie, because it reminded me of
the regions inhabited by eagles. A visit to the spot will disclose the
fitness of the name.

On this spot my eighteen years of hermit life begun. At first I made
it a practice to go to the city every day for one meal, bringing back
food enough to last until another day. I found the huckleberries good
wholesome food that did not aggravate my chronic dyspepsia.

Two weeks of outdoor life had brought a little color to my cheeks and
had made me feel like a new man. About this time I awoke in the morning
to remember that I had not coughed during the night. The cough that
had harassed me night and day for two years, left me then and there,
never to return.

Nature was performing wonders where medicine had failed.

Before the month of September had ended, my catarrh disappeared, and I
no longer had use for the douche. From that time to this, I have been
free from catarrh. I do not have even the symptoms, known as hay-fever.

The dull, heavy pain that I had experienced constantly from dyspepsia,
gradually sub sided and eventually ceased. Since that time I have been
able to eat any kind of food, at any time, day or night, without the
depressing pains of indigestion.

During my first experience, climbing Bond's Hill, on my return from the
city, had been almost beyond my strength. I had to rest three times
before reaching my tent. By the middle of November my strength had
returned nearly to the old standard, and I mounted the hill without a
thought of weariness.

Standing one day on a massive spur of bed rock, near my tent, my
thoughts went back to the statement of the doctors in relation to my
lungs. I had just ascended the hill, without a long breath, and a hale,
hearty feeling pervaded every fibre of my system. I knew, then, that my
lungs were all right, and thanks to Nature, I had recovered my health
and stood there comparatively a well man.

While I was yet weak, I passed many hours at the Eyrie, entranced by
the magnificent panorama spread before me. I could see the larger
part of the city of Gloucester, which extended, in a semicircle, from
Riverdale to Eastern Point.

Later in the season I watched the ebb and flow of the tide on the
marshes that border Annisquam River.

The Outer Harbor, with Ten Pound Island near the entrance of the Inner
Harbor, lay in plain view, and the shifting scenes on its restless
waters possessed a fascination which I could seldom resist.

Day after day I watched the vessels of the fishing fleet as they
rounded Eastern Point, bound outward or inward. These vessels were
models of beauty, and looked as if they were built for racing instead
of fishing. I often compared them with the clumsy coasters that rode at
anchor in the Outer Harbor.

Now and then a vessel, homeward bound, rounded Eastern Point with
her flag half-mast. Mute reminder of the hardships and perils of a
fisherman's life.

Every morning soon after it had become light enough to see, several
boats could be seen rowing shoreward. Usually there was only one
man to a boat. It did not take me long to find out that these lone
rowers coming in out of the night were fishermen that pulled their
lobster-pots after one o'clock in the morning. I saw another lone
fisherman sail out of the harbor every morning when there was wind
enough to fill a dory sail. Day after day he sailed or rowed out to
sea to fish for shore codfish. He supported a large family from the
proceeds of his labor, but the life was lonely and perilous. I watched
his return once when the wind was blowing a fierce gale. The little
boat would careen until the sail trailed in the water and it seemed to
me that she must capsize. At the last moment she would come up into the
wind and right. In this slow, dangerous manner she was worked to the
mouth of Annisquam River and tied up above the Cut Bridge. The next day
I asked the fisherman how he had managed to keep his boat right side
up. "Oh, that was easy. When she heeled too much, I _shook her up_, and
kept her from taking in water." "_Shook her up_," was a new phrase to

Below my Eyrie lay the little hamlet called the Cut. Some of its
cottages had straggled up to the base of the cliff just below the tent.

I could look down on a long stretch of Western Avenue beginning at the
Cut and ending in Ward Five, beyond the Cut Bridge. The latter was a
drawbridge, and when open the city of Gloucester was on an island, with
the exception of Ward Eight, which lies on the west side of Annisquam

I had located in Ward Eight, but at the time did not know anything in
relation to its size, as compared with the other wards of the city. A
glance at the map in the city directory showed me that Ward Eight was
larger in area than all the other wards combined. I also found that it
comprised within its limits the Cut, Fresh Water Cove, West Gloucester,
and Magnolia. It pleased me much to find that it contained about twelve
thousand acres of shrub land and forest.

Two-thirds of the way from the Cut to the drawbridge, Essex Avenue
connects with Western Avenue. Essex Avenue crosses the marsh to West
Gloucester, and is the highway into the city for Essex and other
distant towns. There is a constant stream of travel over this highway,
divided among farmers, icemen, and pleasure-seekers. The travel on
Western Avenue is now, and was then, made up largely from the summer
colonies at Magnolia and Manchester. Showy turnouts passed and
repassed, so that I had enough to attract my attention from sunrise
to sunset. When facing the harbor, I could turn to the left and look
across the marsh to Dogtown Common. I had to look above and beyond
a straggling portion of the city. Dogtown Common, in Revolutionary
days, contained forty dwellings; now it was houseless. I saw only a
boulder-covered region of pasture-land, choked by huckleberry and
blueberry bushes, with here and there large tangles of catbrier.

Some of the sunsets seen from the Eyrie were beautiful beyond
description. Whenever a massive bank of clouds hung above the western
horizon, the setting sun illuminated the city from Riverdale to Eastern
Point, and every window in sight glowed like burnished gold.

Until the middle of November the weather continued mild and balmy,
with but a few stormy days. I recall, with pleasure and satisfaction,
the evenings passed at the Eyrie. Perched on the brow of the cliff,
I studied the city by moonlight, lamplight, and gas-light. On dark
nights the lights of the city took on the shape of a huge monster,
half-coiled, and extended from Riverdale to Eastern Point Light. The
latter is a revolving red light, and it gave the semblance of life to
the one-eyed monster which constantly blinked its great red eye. It
pleased me to call this imaginary monster the sea-serpent. Gloucester
owes her growth to the sea, and she might well take on the shape of the

When the danger-signals were up, the Outer Harbor was crowded with
craft of all kinds. At night time the tossing lights on the vessels
contrasted strangely with the fixed lights on shore.

The twin lights on Thatcher's Island could be seen from the Eyrie,
and I often wondered if these lights were necessary. To the middle of
November I had seen the sea only in comparatively fair weather, when
it was on its good behavior. Afterward a storm that wrecked my tent,
and brought in its wake huge waves that thundered against the headlands
of Cape Ann, caused me to wonder in another direction. It seems
incredible, but it is a fact, that I could feel the solid rock tremble
beneath my tent from the shock of wave against headland, one fourth of
a mile distant.

The storm died out, but it left an impression on my mind that caused me
to look for a locality less exposed to the wind. I found an ideal spot
on the "Old Salem Road." The spot was surrounded by wooded hills, where
a little brook crept out of a swamp and crossed to the south side of
the old highway. After crossing the highway, the waters of the brook
went tumbling and singing down to another swamp, where they were lost
in a tangle of moss, ferns, and marsh-marigolds.

The Old Salem Road had been deserted more than one hundred years,
save as a wood road in winter. At one time it was the connecting link
between Salem and Gloucester. Seven ruined cellars indicate the spots
where dwelling-houses once stood.

I moved my tent from the Eyrie, and put it up within the limits of the
old highway, and begun to build a little log cabin in which to spend
the winter.

While in the tent I experienced zero weather, and it may be of interest
to know how I managed to keep warm. I had picked up two discarded
milk-cans, and these I filled with hard wood coals from a fire which
I maintained near the tent. By closing the flaps of the tent the heat
from the cans would keep up an even temperature through the night. If
it happened to get cold toward morning I would burn a newspaper now and
then, which would warm the tent until light enough to start an outdoor
fire. I baked beans in a hole in the ground, in true Maine camp style.
There would be coals enough under the bean-pot, in the morning, to cook
coffee, and hot coffee and baked beans seemed to go to the right spot
when the thermometer was hanging around zero, and one was living in a
cotton tent.

I did my cooking on a bed of red hot coals, thus avoiding smoked food
and the loss of coffee-pot handle or spout. Hemlock bark from a dead
tree will give the best coals in the shortest time.

By the middle of December I had moved into my log cabin. I put in a
second-hand range, which proved to be an excellent baker and warmed the
cabin in the coldest weather. The remainder of the winter "I was as
snug as a bug in a rug," to use an old familiar adage.

Before the winter months had passed, chickadees, black snow-birds,
and tree-sparrows found their way into the cabin dooryard. I fed lard
to the chickadees on a chip, and the birds would eat this clear fat,
at short intervals, all day, and come around the next morning none
the worse for the strange diet. Certainly such food would kill any
other bird. The snow-birds and sparrows were fed on different kinds
of bird-seed. When I mention sparrows I do not refer to the English
sparrow. I am pleased to state that this undesirable alien does not
come to my dooryard. The tree-sparrow is a native bird, and here on the
Cape, is seen only in winter. It comes to us in October, and leaves by
the first of April. The tree-sparrow is an interesting bird to know. It
comes to us in the winter when the most of our birds are in the South.
It is a handsome bird from a sparrow standpoint.

[Illustration: TREE SPARROW.]

The crown is a bright chestnut, and there are chestnut markings on
the side of the head and on the bend of the wing. The back is boldly
streaked with black, bay, and light gray. There is much white edging
to the feathers of the tail and wings in winter. A few of these birds
stopped about the cabin all winter; but a flock numbering hundreds
wintered on Bond's Hill. On warm days they roamed over the hill, far
and near, always flying low and keeping well down in the shrubby
growth. But when the weather was cold I would find them in a sheltered
spot, where meadowsweet, bayberry, hardhack, blueberry, huckleberry,
and sweet-fern shrubs crowded each other until their interwoven
branches held a mantle of snow. Beneath this shelter the birds seemed
to find food, for they were busy at all hours of the day. I passed
many hours watching them while they were thus secluded. Invariably I
found them chirping to each other, and by listening closely I could
catch snatches of song low and sweet. The last of March their low song
could be heard in the shrub-lands. Later, when the song-sparrows and
bluebirds swelled the chorus, the tree-sparrows silently disappeared.

[Illustration: FOX SPARROW.]

April 3d, in the morning, I found a large flock of fox-sparrows in the
dooryard. It is somewhat singular that for three years they appeared
on the same day of the month. One year, April 3, 1887, I awoke in the
morning to find three feet of snow in the dooryard, and I was obliged
to shovel the snow away in order to feed the sparrows on bare ground.
The fox-sparrow is two-thirds as large as a robin, and may be classed
with the beautiful birds both in form and coloration. The sexes are
alike. The color above is a rich rusty red, deepest and brightest on
the wings, tail, and rump. The head, neck, and shoulders are a dark
ash-color, more or less streaked with rusty red. Below the groundwork
is snow-white, also thickly spotted with rust red. It could be called
a wood-thrush by a careless observer. These birds are migrants with
us, and pass through the State to their breeding-grounds in April, to
return in October. It is usually six weeks from the time the first
flock appears before the loiterers are all gone. The flock that called
on me was a very large one, numbering over one hundred birds. Mornings
they made the woods ring with their delightful music.

[Illustration: BAY-WINGED BUNTING.]

When the birds returned in April and May, I found that I was a
trespasser on the nesting-ground of many a woodland bird. Catbirds,
towhee-buntings, robins, thrushes, and numerous warblers nested around
my cabin.

By this time I had settled down to hermit-life in earnest. I had tried
the experiment of "Nature _versus_ Medicine," and Nature had triumphed.
With good health, with strange birds and flowers to study and identify,
I was content to spend a portion of my rescued life in Dame Nature's

[Illustration: BLACKBIRD.]


                           SATAN THE RACCOON

During the early years of my hermit-life, I had caged many small
animals, such as deer-mice, raccoons, woodchucks, chipmunks,
flying-squirrels, stoats, mink, and red and gray squirrels.

[Illustration: RACCOON'S HEAD.]

My first captive was an artful old coon. I caught him in a small steel
trap, the jaws of which had been wound with cloth as a protection to
the foot. The den was under a boulder near the cabin. I set the trap at
the mouth of the den and covered it with leaves. The next morning the
trap, with clog attached, was missing. There was a trail in the dead
leaves easily followed. While following the zigzag trail I was in plain
sight of the coon, but he remained quiet until he found that he was
discovered, then made frantic efforts to escape. The clog had anchored
him securely to some witch-hazel shrubs. He was full of fight, and I
had to look out for his teeth and claws. I had brought along a stout
piece of duck, which I wrapped around the raccoon, trap and all; thus
secure from his wicked teeth and claws, I toted him to the cabin.

It took me two hours to put a strap on his neck. The struggle was
a desperate one. Without the duck it would have been a victory for
the raccoon. When I had the strap securely fastened and a dog-chain
attached, I removed the trap from his foot, then staked him out near
the cabin. For two weeks he tried night and day to free himself from
collar and chain, then suddenly appeared to be contented.

Instinct plays no part in coon lore. A coon can reason as well as the
average human being. My captive proved to be as artful and wicked as
Beelzebub himself.

Whenever my back was turned he would be up to all sorts of mischief.
When caught red-handed he could put on a look of innocence too comical
for anything. By the end of the first month he had got all of my ways
of life down fine. If I went into the woods with my gun, on my return
he would tear around in his cage anxious for the squirrel he had not
seen, but was sure to get. When I went away without the gun, he paid
no attention on my return. I do not think he was guided by scent, for
sometimes the wind would not be right. Without doubt he connected the
gun and squirrel in his mind, and perhaps knew more about a gun than I

He did not take kindly to cage-life, although his cage was under a
small pine-tree, so when I was about the cabin I chained him to the
tree and let him run outside. I put him into the cage every day before
going to the city for my mail. He resented this, and would run up the
pine-tree when he saw me lock the cabin-door. One day I pulled him
down and whipped him while he lay prone on the ground, with his eyes
covered. I took away his food and water. He must have been downright
hungry before I fed him. He never forgot the lesson. After that, when
he saw me lock up he would sneak into his cage, fearful, I suppose,
that if found outside he would be whipped and starved. He preferred
food in the order herein named: insects, eggs, birds or poultry, frogs,
nuts, red squirrel, rabbit, gray squirrel, and fish. This, without
doubt, was the bill of fare of his wild state. He would not touch green
corn or milk until I had crushed the former into his mouth, and had
dipped his nose into the latter. Afterward he would leave everything
for milk.

The first rabbit I fed to him was about two-thirds grown. It was one
which a mink had chased into my dooryard and killed. It was evident
from the first that the coon was no stranger to this kind of food. He
opened the rabbit's mouth with his fore paws and ate out the tongue,
after which he skinned the head, turning the skin back over the neck.
He crushed the bones of the head and lapped out the brains. On the
third day he had finished the rabbit, and the skin was turned inside
out, even to the ends of the toes. Squirrels were skinned in the same

This coon decided for me a disputed question. I refer to the whimper
or cry of the coon. Night after night, in the nutting season, he would
call to his comrades, and they would answer from the surrounding woods.

When the sweet acorns were ripe, Satan was unusually active early
in the evening. At this early hour the coons were abroad in search
for food, and Satan scented them, and did his best to attract their
attention. One coon passed near the cabin every night and answered
Satan's cries, so I imagined that it was his mate.

Many writers claim that the tremulous cry attributed to the coon is
made by the little screech-owl (_Scops asio_). It is true, doubtless,
that people that do not know both cries may make such a mistake.

The little owls appear to resent my intrusion on their vested rights,
so from early spring to late fall they haunt my sleeping-quarters,
and divide their time between snapping their beaks and uttering their
monotonous notes. As I sleep in the open air nine months out of the
twelve, I have a good chance to study both cries, and could not mistake
one for the other.

The coon is a ventriloquist. His cry seems to come down from the sky. A
friend came in from the city one night to hear the coon cry. It was a
moonlight night, and the coon was staked out in the dooryard. My friend
was not looking when the first cry was uttered, but claimed that the
sound came from the trees overhead. Afterward he saw the coon in the
act, and could not make a mistake.

When Satan uttered the cry, he was always sitting on his haunches. He
would throw his head up until his nose pointed skyward, then blow the
sound out between his half-closed lips.

My friend had brought in a blanket and hammock, and was prepared to
spend the night in the open air. He slung his hammock near mine, and
we turned in about ten o'clock. He was nervous and restless, and said
he could not sleep with the little owls about him. Every fifteen or
twenty minutes he would call to me to ask about some noise of the
night, common enough, but which appeared strange and startling to him
in the strained condition of his nerves. Soon after midnight a small
animal, doubtless a stoat looking for an owl supper, dropped on to my
friend's blanket. There was a smothered cry, full of fear, and a flying
figure that did not stop until my hammock was reached. Nothing that I
could say would induce the frightened man to go back to that hammock.
He suggested at last that he would sleep in the cabin. I assented,
and we soon had a bed arranged in a bunk. The cabin was overrun with
white-footed mice, and I looked for more trouble.

[Illustration: "I BEGUN BY TYING ON A NUT."]

Twenty minutes later I heard several war-whoops, and I saw my friend
tumble out of the cabin into the dooryard. "Are you awake?" cried he.
"Certainly," I answered, "you don't think there is any one asleep in
this county after the racket you have made, do you?" "Oh, let up with
your fooling," said he, "this is a serious thing. I sleep with my mouth
open; suppose one of those mice had run down my throat and choked me to
death? I am going home." And home he did go. I accompanied him through
the woods to Western Avenue, and returned in time to get three hours'
sleep. My friend was like hundreds of other nervous people that I had
known in a lifetime, who were too sensitive to enjoy a night in the
open air. To be in full accord with nature one should get accustomed to
the presence of a snake now and then, in the open-air bed.

Satan was an apt scholar. I taught him to pull in his chain, hand over
hand, sailor-fashion. The chain was twelve feet in length. I begun by
tying on a nut about two feet from the coon. He pulled in the chain
with his fore feet, which he used as hands. I would say to him, "Pull
in the chain. Pull in the chain," and inside of a week he would obey
the order without the use of food. I think he enjoyed the sport.

The boys that visited my cabin thought it great fun to play with Satan.
They would pull the chain out and watch the coon pull it in. When Satan
got tired he would coil the chain and lay on it, and the play was ended
for the time being. After he had rested awhile he would go on with
the play. When he was resting, if a boy offered to reach the chain he
would lay back his ears, growl, and show his teeth. When he was ready
to play he would sit up on his hind feet, prick his ears forward and
look clever; then the boys could reach under him and pull out the chain
without danger.

One day, while the coon was chained to a stake in the dooryard, he
killed a pet bird in a manner so cruel and crafty, that it caused me
to name him Satan then and there. I had placed a piece of matting by
the stake to which the coon was chained. He understood that the matting
was for his use, and he would cry to be fed while chained out. He used
the matting as a dining-table and bed combined. The pet bird that was
killed was a male catbird. Satan had left a piece of cookie on the
matting, and the catbird thought to appropriate it. I was writing,
not thirty feet away, and looked up just in time to see the flash of
Satan's paw. I shouted, and rushed to the rescue. When I reached the
coon the bird had disappeared. Satan looked so innocent and surprised
that I was led to believe that the bird had escaped. I returned to my
writing, and the coon settled down for a nap. An hour later a visitor
from the city called to get the loan of a book on birds. I went to the
cabin for the book, and when I returned Satan was patting down the
edge of the mat. He saw me, and put on his innocent look. He coiled
up as if he were about to try to sleep in a new spot. My suspicion
was aroused. I pulled away the coon and under the mat found the dead
bird. He had killed the bird and placed it under him so swiftly that
I did not detect the trick when I went to the rescue. For a full hour
he simulated sleep while he had the dead bird under him all the time.
When I went to the cabin he hid the dead body under the mat. I gave
him a severe whipping and placed the dead bird on his mat. The next
day I buried the body, so Satan did not profit by his crafty deed. He
remembered the whipping, and ever after did not molest the birds. I
once saw a young towhee-bunting sit on his hind foot and eat from a
cookie that the coon had tried to hide. How it would have fared with
the bird, if I had been absent, is a question.

I don't think Satan had any respect for the Sabbath, but he knew the
day, nevertheless. On week-days, I returned from city about nine
o'clock A. M. Soon after, I would stake Satan in the dooryard, and he
would seem much pleased with the change. I got up every morning at
daybreak. My first duty was to feed the birds and Satan, then get my
breakfast. At first I did not let Satan out of his cage on Sundays,
on account of the dogs that my visitors brought along. Every Sunday
morning I would feed Satan as soon as I was out of my hammock, as I did
on week-day mornings, but he would not eat or drink, and constantly
tried to open the door of the cage. He certainly knew, thus early in
the morning, that it was Sunday, and he would have to remain hived up
in his cage all day. It seemed to me, that if Satan was intelligent
enough to keep run of the days of the week, he ought to know about the
dogs, and was willing to fight them rather than be cooped up all day.
I knew all about the fighting ability of the raccoon. It had been my
good fortune to observe the evolution of a young coon, from a helpless,
sprawling bunch of fat and fur, to an old coon, with a bristling
battery of claws and teeth operated by chain-lightning. After due
consideration I concluded to let Satan take chances with the dogs. The
next Sunday I staked him in the dooryard and awaited developments.

A big Newfoundland dog was the first to appear. The moment he saw the
coon he made a fierce rush, but Satan sprang lightly into the air and
landed on the dog's back. Swiftly and savagely he delivered two blows
on the dog's eyes. The big brute tore himself away from the coon and
frantically rubbed his eyes with his fore paws. When he could see a
little, he "dusted" for home, a sadder but wiser dog.

The next dog was a small one, and Satan gave him a slap under the ear
that landed him outside of the ring, or beyond the length of the coon's
chain. This dog did not go home, but went to his master for sympathy.
He could not be induced afterward to look at the coon.

Dog number three proved to be a yelping cur. He did not attack the
coon, but danced around him, yelping all the time. He distracted the
visitors with his incessant yelping. His master could not call him
off. Satan set a trap for the cur, and caught him, too. He went to the
stake, pulled in the chain, and then pretended to sleep. The dog was
deceived, and got bolder and bolder until he was near enough for Satan
to reach him. The coon made a swift rush and caught the yelping cur,
and handled him so roughly that I was obliged to rescue him. It is
needless to say that the cur was cured of yelping.

Satan whipped two other dogs before night, then for several weeks
had no trouble worth mentioning. Now and then, through the summer, a
strange dog would attack Satan and get whipped.

There is a class of writers that claim that the lower animals cannot
reason. That such animals are controlled by instinct. I have ever found
the lower animals as intelligent in relation to the needs of their
lives as we are to ours. Satan proved to me and to others that he
could reason, also that he could take advantage of new circumstances.
Visitors often gave Satan a dirty nut, which he would clean by rubbing
it between his paws. This trick was played on the coon constantly.
Satan invented a new way to clean a nut. He would take it to the mat
and roll it under his fore paw. How did he find out that he could clean
a nut on the mat? There was no instinct, as I afterward proved. When
visitors were feeding nuts to him I dusted his mat with ashes. Satan
would take a nut and start for the mat, but his keen sight would detect
the ashes, and he would stop, sit up, and clean the nut in the old way.

In November I trapped another coon, a young male. Doubtless he was
the son of Satan, for he was from the same den. I knew, too, that he
was born after Satan was captured, so they could have no knowledge of
each other. I thought I would put the young coon in Satan's cage and
see if the old fellow would recognize his own flesh and blood. If he
did, I would have to admit that it was a case of instinct. When I put
them together a desperate fight took place. The young coon was soon
whipped and tried to hide. Satan followed him up, but suddenly began to
sniff. He dropped his nose on to the young coon's ears, sniffing all
the time. Instantly his savage look changed for one of pleasure. His
ears, that just now were flat on his head, pricked up, and the lips,
which were drawn back, showing the cruel teeth, fell into place. He put
his arms around the young coon's neck and dragged him into the nest.
Then he licked his ears and head, purring all the time like a big cat.
Satan had recognized his son. I had noticed that the sense employed
was of smell, and not of sight. I readily understood the meaning. The
young coon carried the scent of his mother, and Satan had recognized
it, and with subtle reasoning had concluded that he had found his own
offspring. Afterward I trapped five coons. One was an adult. I put the
four young coons, one at a time, into Satan's cage. Two of these were
from the old den, and Satan recognized them at once after sniffing
them. The other two were from a distant den, and as soon as Satan put
his nose on their ears he fell to mauling them, and I was obliged to
take them out to save their lives.

I could handle Satan whenever or however I pleased, and he would not
lose his temper. It would be dangerous for a stranger to put a hand on
him. One could almost step on him and he would not take offence, but
he drew the line at touch. During the nine months that he was in my
possession he attacked but one person. I met the gentleman in question
at Barnum's Show, on Stage Fort. After the people had entered the main
tent I stopped some time in the animal tent. I noticed a dudish-looking
fellow acting in a peculiar manner before a cage containing two lions.
I was interested, and strolled over to the cage. The fellow was a dude
beyond a doubt. He wore a cowboy hat, a checkered coat, a crimson vest,
and lavender colored trousers. He was trying to look the lions out of
countenance. The big African lion, the male, seemed to feel uneasy
under the fixed gaze of the dude, and at last crowded behind his mate.
"See him cower and hide," cried the fellow, addressing me. "The human
eye, intelligently used, can subdue the most ferocious brute living. I
could enter that cage and handle those lions as I would kittens." I did
not dispute his assertion, and he asked if the woods about Gloucester
harbored wild animals. I told him about my raccoon. He suggested that
it would please him to tame the coon for me, and offered to accompany
me home.


When the show was over I missed the lion-tamer, but the next day he
came down the hill to the cabin, resplendent in his checkered coat,
crimson vest, and lavender trousers. As soon as he had said good
morning he threw off his hat and coat and started the circus. He fixed
his gaze on the coon and slowly approached him, stamping his feet while
he cried, in a commanding tone, "Down, sir, down, sir!" Satan looked
at the dude, then looked toward me. This was something new, and he
wanted my opinion. When he found that I remained quiet, he concluded
to act for himself. With a savage snarl he sprang on to the dude and
fastened his claws in the lavender trousers. The dude, half-frightened
to death, jumped backward beyond the length of Satan's chain. Satan
held on, and the trousers were stripped from the hips to the knees.
Fortunately, the coon's claws did not reach the flesh.

The dude put on a pair of my trousers, and with needle and silk I
essayed to mend the lavender wreck. My work was rather clumsy. I should
starve to death if I depended on the needle. I toiled and wrestled for
two hours with that piece of work. It was a warm day, and I was nearly
drowned in my own perspiration.

The dude put on the mended trousers and left me without saying so much
as "thank you." Thus was Hood's "Song of the Shirt" verified.

On the approach of cold weather I made arrangements to winter Satan in
the cabin. I placed a box inside, and the cage outside, and connected
the two by a passage made of boards. The passage was eight inches
square, and near the end that entered the cage I had hung a swinging
door to keep the cold air from the nest inside. I expected Satan would
have to be taught the use of the swinging door. After everything was
arranged I put Satan into the cage, and at once he saw the change that
had been made. He investigated the passage with his handy paws, and
when he found he could move the swinging door he passed through into
the box inside. After he had satisfied himself that the nest was all
right, he came out.

To tell the truth, I was somewhat surprised by the ingenuity displayed.
Satan's comprehension was equal to that of a human being. I removed the
chain and collar, and the coon and I settled down for the winter. I had
arranged a cover to Satan's nest-box, and evenings I would give him
the freedom of the cabin. Inside of a week he knew the contents of the
cabin better than I did. The light puzzled him. Once, and once only, he
touched the lamp-chimney. He would look on gravely while I would blow
out the lamp and relight it again.

One night I forgot to fasten the cover in his nest-box. That night
something touched me on the face and awoke me. I remained quiet, and
soon I felt a cold, soft touch on my cheek. A swift clutch and I had
Satan by one paw. I held him until I had lighted the lamp. He looked
innocent and grieved, and tried to show me that he did not mean any
wrong. He wanted to know if I were asleep or dead. When I released him
he went to his box and raised the cover so quickly and neatly that it
seemed a slight-of-hand performance.

One morning I neglected to secure the door to Satan's cage. When I
returned that night the door was open and the coon was missing. The
next day I took some food to the den under the boulder, but Satan did
not care for food. He was fat enough to go into hibernation, and had
probably entered upon the sleep that would last till spring. The next
spring Satan would come to the mouth of the den and take food from my
hand, but he was so crafty that I could not get hold of his neck. I
thought to arrange a box-trap in which to catch him, when I could get
time. One day I missed him, and when I heard that a farmer had caught
a coon in his poultry-house, and had killed him, I knew that Satan had
sacrificed his life to his appetite for poultry. The reckless act did
not indicate a lack of reason.

Human beings sacrifice their lives to appetite, so which of us will
throw the first stone at Satan?



Wabbles is the name of a wild bird. Not a book name, for the bird is
known to naturalists as the song-sparrow (_Melospiza fasciata_).

[Illustration: SONG-SPARROW.]

I made Wabbles's acquaintance some years ago. On returning to my
log cabin one afternoon, I had found him in the dooryard, wounded,
bleeding, and exhausted. An examination disclosed a number four shot
bedded in the muscle of the wing-joint. While I was removing the lead
Wabbles struggled violently, and when released, hopped into the bushes
and hid himself. I think he held a poor opinion of my surgical skill.
The next day he was about the dooryard with other sparrows, but for
many days his flight was a peculiar wabble, hence his name.

Wabbles was left behind when, on the approach of cold weather, the
song-sparrows migrated southward. He seemed contented, and I thought he
would stop with me through the winter, but one cold day he was missing.

Early in the following March, I looked out upon the snow-banks one
blustering morning, and saw Wabbles in the dooryard. He had returned in
the night, two weeks ahead of his mates. I do not know how far south
he had wintered, but doubtless he had remembered the little log cabin
in the woods, and all the time had understood that food and a welcome
awaited his return.

That spring the sparrows lingered about my dooryard three weeks or
more, and then dispersed to the neighboring fields and pastures, for
the song-sparrow does not nest in the woods. Wabbles did not leave with
the rest, and when spring merged into summer and he yet remained, I
understood the reason. The male song-sparrow is obliged to do battle
for the possession of a mate, and Wabbles, with his tender wing, wisely
forbore to enter the lists. He preferred the cool woods and free food
to the sun-scorched fields and a mate-less life.

Wabbles and I became fast friends. He was constantly hopping about the
dooryard, and was always on hand to greet me whenever I returned from


I slept in the open air in a hammock, with only a canvas roof to keep
off the rain, and Wabbles made it his business to awake me at daylight.
The little rogue pursued the same method each morning. He would hop
about in the bushes near the hammock, and chirp to me in the loud,
sharp call-note peculiar to the sparrow family. If I remained quiet he
would break into song. He confined his singing usually to the morning
and evening hours. But on my return after a long absence, he would
sing for a short time, regardless of the time of day. It was a bird's
method of expressing joy. I thought that he prized my companionship and
disliked to be left alone.

That fall Wabbles migrated with his mates, but the next spring he
returned as before, two weeks ahead of the main flock. He lingered
about the cabin until the mating season approached, when he disappeared
for five days. On his return he brought with him a mate--a shy, demure
little wife.

Wabbles wanted to set up housekeeping in the woods, so he showed Mrs.
Wabbles all the nooks, sly corners, and sheltered spots, but it was
useless; she positively refused to build a nest beneath the trees. She
flew away to the fields, and Wabbles followed her.

Three weeks later, when returning from town, I heard his familiar call
by the roadside. He came hurriedly through the bushes and fluttered
to my feet. He appeared overjoyed to see me, and greedily ate the
cracker-crumbs I gave him. When he flew away, I followed him. He led me
a long distance to a field, where I found Mrs. Wabbles sitting on four
dainty, speckled eggs. The nest was in the open field, beneath a tuft
of grass.

Three baby sparrows were reared from this nest. When they were big
enough to fly, I expected that Wabbles would move his whole family to
the woods, provided Mrs. Wabbles would consent, which I much doubted.
Sure enough, early in autumn Wabbles returned, but he was alone. I
fancied that he had deserted his family for my companionship and a life
in the woods. But not so. His visit was a matter of business. He wanted
to know how the supplies of food held out. After he had satisfied
himself he flew away, but the next day returned with one of the baby
birds. Wabbles fussed over this bird all day long. He called the little
one into the dooryard and stuffed it with crumbs, then into the garden
and stuffed it with insects. He kept up a constant chirping meanwhile,
and I thought he made much of the fuss and bustle to keep the baby from
being homesick. That night he flew away with his charge, and the next
day did not appear. Undoubtedly Mrs. Wabbles had given him a piece of
her mind for taking her baby to the woods.

Three days later, however, Wabbles returned, and brought with him two
of the babies. This day, for fuss and bustle, was like the first, but
that night, instead of taking the birds out to the fields, he put them
to bed in a hemlock-tree near my hammock, after which he flew away. The
next day he brought in the other baby, leaving Mrs. Wabbles childless
and alone. That night Wabbles put the three little ones to bed in the
same hemlock-tree, and then flew back to his deserted mate.

Before dark I looked for the young birds, and found them on a twig
about a man's height from the ground, sitting side by side and
cunningly concealed by hemlock spray. When I approached, three little
heads turned and six bright eyes looked on me, but not with fear. I
suppose Wabbles had told them all about the hermit, and they knew I
would not harm them.

The next morning Wabbles returned, and Mrs. Wabbles was with him. She
at once took charge of her babies, and tried to entice them away. But
Wabbles, the sly rogue, hopped into the dooryard, and I heard him
calling, "_Tsp, tsp_," and the little fellows heard him, too, and,
remembering the food, flew to him. Mrs. Wabbles was obliged to give in.

Wabbles is not wholly unknown to notoriety. Many of the summer
residents that visited my cabin had made his acquaintance, and the
story of the little bird that would desert the fields for a hermit-life
in the woods has doubtless often been told in many a distant home.

Before the birds had departed in migration, Wabbles's little wife
had become contented and happy in the cabin dooryard. She was of
a confiding nature, and in a remarkably short time would take food
from my hand. Wabbles and his family lingered about the cabin until
the thermometer registered ten above. The fifteenth of March Wabbles
returned to my dooryard. His wife and family appeared a week later.

For some reason, known only to bird-life, the male birds of most
species return from the south about a week before the females and young

When the nesting-season approached Wabbles and his wife located their
family in a less wooded growth, on the road to the city. The old birds
returned to the dooryard, and Mrs. Wabbles made a nest where a little
patch of grass had sprung up between the ledges.

Wabbles and I, during the summer, renewed the friendly relations that
had existed when he led the life of a bachelor. He would come to me
for food at all hours of the day. When I gave him his favorite food,
cookie, he would reward me with a song. He would fly to a limb about
four feet above my head and sing one song, and then fly away to his
mate. Sometimes I could coax him to repeat the song by talking to him
earnestly and rapidly. My visitors thought that the song was strange,
and often it was suggested that it was on account of the nearness of
the singer. But the song was not the one with which they were familiar.
It was a new song, low, sweet, and tender, with nothing in it to remind
one of the loud, joyous carol heard in the springtime.

Wabbles called me at daybreak every morning. He was jealous of the
other birds, and drove them away, when he thought they were too
friendly with me. A catbird and a veery hopped about my hammock
mornings, and Wabbles attacked them so furiously that it made me wonder
why they did not keep away for good. Wabbles did not allow other birds
to eat in the dooryard until he had satisfied his appetite. Visitors
asserted that he was a tyrant, but I did not look at his warlike
actions in that light. He thought that he owned the dooryard, and
other birds were trespassers.

Near my cabin there is a notice posted forbidding trespass, and it
alludes sarcastically to "wood-cutting thieves." This sign was put up
because sometimes dead, worthless wood was carried away from the lot.
Wabbles is willing that the birds may enjoy the things in the dooryard
after he is satisfied, but the human fellow preferred to let the wood
rot on the ground.

The feathered biped's humanity contrasts sharply with the human biped's

Mrs. Wabbles soon had four little mouths to feed, and she worked early
and late. The heat was so intense that every little while she would
seek the shade, and rest with her wings drooping and her bill open.
Notwithstanding the strain on her limited strength, she never showed
impatience, but was always the same confiding little bird.

The Wabbles family enjoyed life in the woods. Through the summer and
fall months, Wabbles set up a singing-school and trained his boys to
sing the mating-song of his species.

Late in the fall death entered the family circle. A boy from the city
mistook poor Mrs. Wabbles for an English sparrow and shot her to death.
Wabbles mourned for his little wife, and he was not the only mourner. I
had become attached to the gentle bird, and I was grievously pained by
her tragic death.

Wabbles lost his joyous manner. He watched over his motherless babies
with gentle care, but not a song did I hear after the tragedy. Later,
he conducted the young birds to a warmer climate, and was lost to me
until the next March.

When Wabbles returned in the spring he was alone, and his children did
not appear later. I suppose some motherly bird had adopted the bereaved
family, to take them into the fields or pastures.

In April, Wabbles deserted me for three days, then returned with
another wife. This was an old bird, probably a widow. It was evident
from the first that she thought Wabbles's first wife had spoiled him.
She bossed him around in grand style. I tried to get acquainted with
her, but, with a lordly air, she gave me to understand that she did
not associate with hermits. After two days she ordered Wabbles out to
the fields, and I did not see him again till October. He came in twice
before migration. That was all. Wabbles, the warrior, was henpecked.

The next spring Wabbles returned from the South early in March. I think
he was glad to escape from his wife, but three weeks later she swooped
down on him, and packed him off to the pastures.

For eleven years Wabbles has lived with his second wife. Every spring
he comes to the cabin for a long visit, but I seldom see much of him in
the fall. Once I did not see him at all, and reported that probably he
was dead, but the next spring he turned up as usual.

It is now fourteen years since I removed the shot from Wabbles's wing.
He does not grow old in looks and is yet good for many years, if his
wife does not worry him to death.

Dear old Wabbles. He has blessed me with a friendship as sincere and
lasting as any that can spring from the human heart. As the years go
by, I am more and more impressed with the little bird's individuality.
Long ago he proved to me that he possessed a moral sense.

When Wabbles finds birds in the dooryard he threatens them for a short
time, then darts at the nearest, and the feathers fly. After he has
satisfied his appetite he will let the other birds return to glean
the dooryard. He does not want to deprive them of food, but insists
that they shall await his pleasure. Sometimes he will sing while the
birds are eating. He firmly believes that he holds a mortgage on the
dooryard, or, perhaps, that he is a joint owner with me; but he insists
that his property rights must be respected.

[Illustration: WABBLES.]

One afternoon I found a wounded chickadee in the dooryard. Some wretch
had shot away one leg and had injured a wing besides. I thought Wabbles
would make short work of the helpless bird, but instead he hopped
around him and talked to him in a low tone. There was no threat in
his notes such as he uttered when angry. Up to the time that Wabbles
left in migration the chickadee was allowed the freedom of the cabin

When Wabbles's first wife was alive, he returned one spring the tenth
day of March, and brought with him a male linnet. I was surprised, for
it was peculiar that a linnet should return in migration three weeks
before the usual time. A week later Mrs. Wabbles returned, and with
her was the mate to the linnet. This incident opened up a wide field
for reflection. It proved that two species of the bird family could
communicate ideas to each other.

These birds must have met in the South. In the course of bird gossip
either the linnets or sparrows had announced that the summer home was
on Cape Ann. "That is where we live," is the glad reply, so the birds,
having come from the same locality, associate together. Wabbles tells
them about the hermit and the dooryard crowded with food. In some way
he induced the male linnet to accompany him, three weeks out of season,
with the understanding that Mrs. Wabbles, a week later, would pilot
the female linnet to her husband. It must be remembered that linnets
do not inhabit the woods. Wabbles gave the freedom of the dooryard to
the linnets. They were invited guests, and were treated as such. It
all goes to show that Wabbles knows what belongs to good breeding and
possesses a moral sense.



                      BISMARCK, THE RED SQUIRREL

The red squirrel, or chickaree, leads all the wild things in the
woodlands of Cape Ann for intelligence and the ability to maintain an
existence under adverse circumstances.

His life during the spring and summer months is a grand hurrah, but in
the fall he sobers down and plods and toils in his harvest-fields like
a thrifty farmer.

Right or wrong, it is a fact that the red squirrel bears a disreputable
character. He is called a thief because he takes the farmers' corn, and
a bloodthirsty wretch for robbing birds' nests. From my experience with
the chickaree I am led to believe that he is not so black as painted.
I used to think that he spared neither eggs nor young, but savagely
robbed every bird's nest which he chanced to find. I certainly got this
idea from books, for I cannot recall an instance where a bird's nest
was robbed by a red squirrel.

For years I thought a squirrel was seeking food when he chased the
birds in my dooryard. Now my eyes are open, and I am heartily ashamed
of myself. I awoke from my trance to find that the red squirrel was
simply chasing the birds out of the dooryard and away from the food,
which he claimed as his own.

Twice last summer I saw a red squirrel pounce on a young
towhee-bunting, but both times he let the bird go without the loss of a
feather. It was evident that he did not intend to injure the bird, but
merely desired to frighten it away. The intention was so evident that I
could not ignore it, and it led me to do a lot of thinking.

[Illustration: PIGEON HAWK.]

I carefully examined my notes for proof of the squirrel's guilt, and
found no record against him. The guilty ones were the hawk, the owl,
the snake, the stoat, the crow, the cat, the irrepressible boy, and the
white-footed mouse. For fifteen years birds have nested around my cabin
unmolested by the red squirrel.

It was always a mystery to me why the birds were not afraid of the red
squirrel. Let a hawk, an owl, a weasel, a cat, a snake, or any of the
animals known to prey on birds, enter my dooryard while birds were
rearing their young, and the wildest alarm would prevail so long as
the intruder was in sight. The red squirrel can come and go without a
protest, which proves that the birds do not regard him as an enemy.

Whenever I have detected a squirrel investigating a bird's nest it has
turned out that curiosity was the motive.

A pair of chickadees nested in a box that I had placed in an oak-tree,
and a squirrel that spent the most of his time in the dooryard made it
a duty to investigate the nest several times a day. He did not harm
the young birds, and the old birds did not fear him.

While I was watching a red-eyed vireo's nest last season, I saw a red
squirrel run out to the nest, stretch his full length on the limb (it
was a very warm day), and look down on to the young birds that were
squirming about in their confined quarters. I counted ninety-six before
he left, and I did not begin at first. I think he was on the limb fully
two minutes. These young vireos were not molested, for I saw them leave
the nest when full fledged.

I have a record of an oven-bird that nested at the foot of a pine-tree
which contained a red squirrel's nest. Four young squirrels were reared
in a leafy nest in the top of the pine, and three young oven-birds in a
domed nest on the ground.

My experience with the red squirrel has caused me to change my mind,
and hereafter I shall hold him innocent until he is proved guilty.

The red squirrel in this locality is about seven and a half inches in
length, measuring from the nose to the base of the tail. The tail is
about six and a half inches in length, and is carried in a number of
ways to suit the convenience of its owner. As to color, it seems as
if there are two species, but it is only the difference between the
young and the very old. Young squirrels are bright red on the back and
sides, with the under parts usually a pure white. Old squirrels are red
along the back bone, gray on the sides, and a dirty white below. Some
specimens are shot that are nearly all gray. Gunners claim that such
squirrels are a cross between the red and the gray, but they are simply
old red squirrels.

Dame Nature has been unusually kind to the red squirrel. She has
provided him with powerful weapons of offence and defence. She has
set in his muscular jaws long, cruel teeth, which are whet to a keen
edge on the hard-shelled nuts. She has conferred upon him claws sharp
as needles, and a muscular system which seemingly is controlled by an
electric current. There is a wicked wild fire in his bright eye that
stamps him the bravest wild thing of the forest. He will fight to the
death. He whips his great cousin, the gray squirrel, without effort,
and is a match for the large stoat.

When pursued by a dog he makes a dash for the nearest tree, which
he mounts, calling out "chickaree" as soon as he is out of danger.
He does not, like the gray squirrel, seek a hiding-place in the top
of the tree. No, he is far too bold to hide from a dog. He stops on
a low limb, just out of reach, and fairly boils over with rage and
fury. He barks, spits, and sputters; he makes furious rushes, as if he
intended to come right down the tree, and "whip that dog." He violently
jerks his tail, and pounds the limb with his hind feet, a picture of
impudent, fiery energy.

Every movement of this little squirrel is accomplished without
apparent muscular energy. He seems to float up a tree. If you are near
enough you may hear the pricking of his claws on the bark, but you
cannot detect a muscular effort. He flashes along the limbs in some
mysterious way, never stopping, like the gray squirrel, to measure
distances before a leap. If he misses and falls, he usually catches by
a claw to some twig, thus saving himself. If he falls to the ground,
it does not harm or disconcert him. He is up the tree in a jiffy,
spitefully saying things that sound to the listener very much like

From the middle of April to the first of September the male squirrel
leads a jolly, rollicking life. He is as restless and noisy as a
schoolboy, and as full of fun. He will hang head down, holding on by
his hind claws, just for the fun of the thing. In the tree-tops he
is king. He rules the blue jays and crows, and races them out of the
pine-trees whenever he feels disposed. He hazes the gray squirrel, but
does not unsex him as alleged. This silly tale is on a par with snakes'
stingers and hoop snakes. Any one that has had the opportunity to
observe squirrels the year round, knows that chipmunks, red squirrels,
and gray squirrels show the same appearance of being unsexed, except
in the mating season.

The gray is no match for the red in a tree-top in a trial of speed.
He usually keeps to the ground, where his long leaps give him the
advantage over his fiery little foe. Many a sprinting match of this
kind takes place in my dooryard. If a red surprises a gray squirrel
stealing food, he sounds his war-cry, and in a mad rush is on to
the gray before he can make off with the bit of food which he has
appropriated. The gray, finding that he is hard pressed, runs around
the cabin with the red hot at his heels. Round and round they go, the
gray silent, the red yelling like a little demon. When the gray has had
several narrow escapes, he drops the food and retreats unmolested. The
red picks up the food and takes it to a favorite limb, where he devours
it, talking to himself, meanwhile, about "that gray thief."


In all my years of observation, once only have I known a gray squirrel
to fight a red. I think it was hunger and desperation that induced the
gray to fight. The gray was an old male, certainly three times as large
as the red. The latter was an old male, and had held the dooryard for
several years against all comers. He was a sagacious, grizzled old
warrior, and I named him Bismarck. The fight took place in my dooryard.
It was a bloody battle for bread on a cold, drizzly day in midwinter.
The gray was whipped inside of three minutes. The snow was crimsoned
with his blood, and when he fled he left a bloody trail behind. At no
time was there a ghost of a chance for him to win. The muscular energy
of the red was astounding. His movements were too quick for the eye.
While the fight lasted, all I could see was a bounding mass of red and
gray. The red squirrel did not appear to be severely wounded, anyway he
remained out in the cold and rain to lick his wounds. Perhaps it was
squirrel surgery to prefer the cold to a warm nest.

From my observations I find that the reds seldom chase the grays,
unless the latter enter territory which the reds claim the right to
hold and protect.

Four-footed wild animals, with a few exceptions, own farms, gardens, or
house-lots. That is, they hold exclusive control over a limited area
around their nesting sites. You seldom see two woodchuck holes near
each other, or two rabbit burrows. The red squirrel runs a fruit farm.
He owns and controls trees that bear nuts or cones, and other reds
respect his rights, and do not invade his territory unless there is a
famine. A red squirrel will fight savagely for his home and property,
and usually drives all intruders from his domain.

Young squirrels remain with their parents through the first winter,
but in April the female turns the family over to the male, and makes
another nest of moss, leaves, and dry grass in the top of a tall pine
or hemlock-tree. While she is engaged by new duties, the male looks
after the young squirrels that are now full grown. He finishes their
education, and locates the young males on territory which they ever
after hold. The young females, later on, are mated, and remove to the
locality inhabited by their mates. Whether the parents have anything
to do in selecting sons-in-law is beyond my knowledge. I have known an
old male to fly into a passion when a smart young red tried to flirt
with his daughter. The flirtation was cut short by the angry father,
who run the young dandy off his territory. Kicked him out-of-doors, so
to speak. Another young red that courted the daughter was tolerated, if
not welcomed, by the father. He was the choice of the old fellow beyond
doubt, but I do not know how the young lady decided the matter. Perhaps
she eloped with the smart young red.

Bismarck, the grizzled old warrior, held my dooryard for several
years. One winter, when there was a famine in the land because the nut
crop had failed, a muscular young red thought he could drive Bismarck
away. A fierce battle was the consequence, and Bismarck killed his
antagonist, but was disfigured for life by the loss of the end of his

While Bismarck reigned, the only squirrel that gained a foothold in
the dooryard without his consent was his wife. He chased her away time
after time, but like some human wives, she persisted, and won the day.
Bismarck gave in when, instead of running away, his wife adopted the
plan of running spirally up and down the tree-trunks. Mrs. Bismarck's
favorite tree was a large hemlock, which was about eighteen inches in
diameter. The trunk of the tree was very short, not over eight feet in
length from the ground to the lower limbs. The squirrels made two turns
in either going up or down the tree, and their speed was too swift for
the human eye. A brown band seemed for a moment wound about the tree,
shifting as the squirrels ascended or descended. It was two weeks
before Bismarck would allow his mate to remain in the dooryard. When
peace was declared the two would eat side by side, but with Bismarck
always scolding and growling, while his wife discreetly remained silent.

Bismarck was my schoolmaster. He taught me that squirrels think, plan,
and reason just as human beings do. Every time I threw to him a nut or
bit of bread, I would see him do the thinking act. He would take the
food to a boulder, where he would stop, hold up one foot ready to start
again, and think out a good hiding-place. When he had thought out a
spot, he would run directly to it and conceal the food under leaves or
pine-needles, and return to the dooryard for more. No two nuts or bits
of bread were concealed in the same place. Several times I experimented
to find out how many trips Bismarck would make. The greatest number
was fifty-one. While the experiment was going on, I noted each
hiding-place, as well as I could, and afterward saw the squirrel go to
many. He certainly remembered each spot, and his keen scent did the

Bismarck was a thrifty squirrel. He did not disturb his hidden store
while the food held out in the dooryard. He would call around early
in the morning, and if he found me eating breakfast under the trees,
he would run to a limb just over my head and look down in a cute way
that meant "breakfast for two." If I did not respond he would probably
say to himself, "The hermit don't mean to feed me to-day. I must fall
back on the food that I hid away yesterday. Let me see, that first nut
is under the edge of a boulder just back of the cabin." Off he goes
straight to the spot. He noses out the nut, which he eats on the limb
over my head, scattering the bits of shell on to the breakfast-table.
He is very sociable while eating, for he stops now and then to say
something to me. I do not understand his exact language, but I know by
the tone that he means to be friendly.

Bismarck did not always hide bread beneath pine-needles or leaves. At
a certain season of the year the trees about my cabin were made into
storehouses. This season was governed by the blue jays. When they were
nesting they did not come to the cabin and Bismarck could store food in
the trees without fear of being robbed.

My attention was called early to the fact that a gale of wind did not
dislodge the pieces of bread which the squirrel had stored on the limbs
of a hemlock-tree. I found that each piece was held in place by a small
twig. Scores of times afterward I saw Bismarck lift up a twig with his
hands and then push the piece of bread with his nose to the junction of
twig and limb. Of course the natural spring of the twig held the bread
in place.

Bismarck always stored mushrooms in the trees, for he knew that the
blue jays did not eat such food. He would drop the stem of the mushroom
between the prongs of a forked limb, if there was cap enough left to
hold the same in place, otherwise he treated it just as he would a
piece of bread.

How Bismarck acquired a knowledge of the edible mushrooms is a mystery
beyond my powers. Doubtless, when he attended the Chickaree College,
he studied natural history instead of the dead languages. He knew how
to harvest mushrooms. He gathered them soon after they appeared above
the ground. Gathered thus, they would keep several days, while a few
hours' growth would spoil them if left in the ground.

Bismarck knew how to eat mushrooms. He did not begin on the freshly
gathered ones; he knew they would keep, and he selected those that
would decay shortly. Human beings eat the specked apples from motives
of economy, and the same impulse controls the squirrel.


In the woods about my cabin grow many varieties of the poisonous
mushrooms. One deadly variety--the "Destroying Angel"--possesses a
form most pleasing to the eye. Its symmetrical shape and pearly white
color give it a look of innocence that has lured many a human being to
an early grave. I have never seen a tooth-mark by a squirrel, mouse,
or mole in one of these deadly mushrooms, which goes to prove that the
wild things know more than some human beings.

A few years ago, while out on a walk with the Appalachian Mountain
Club, I told a professor, who was an expert on mushrooms, that I used
the mushrooms which were approved by the squirrels, and no others. He
said that I was risking my life, for he claimed that squirrels could
eat poisonous varieties that might kill human beings. I thought that
the professor knew more about mushrooms than he did about squirrels, so
his warning was wasted on me. Up to date I have found the squirrels all
right, and I feel no fear when eating what they eat.

For years I attended a squirrels' school, and Bismarck was the
schoolmaster. He taught me many things relating to squirrel life. Much
of the knowledge acquired was wholly unknown to me before.

When Bismarck first introduced himself to me I think he was an old
bachelor or a widower. Three years later he excavated a storehouse in
a bank, beneath a boulder, and made a sleeping-nest in a pine-tree,
both in the dooryard. The storehouse was used but little after the
first winter. The next spring he took to himself a mate, but did not
introduce her to the dooryard. Some distance from the cabin, in a
swamp, Bismarck's mate made a neat little nest in a hemlock-tree. Here
she reared two baby squirrels. Bismarck did not take much interest
in his family through the summer. He spent most of the time in the
dooryard, sleeping in his own nest by night. By day his time was
occupied in fighting the crows, and in driving squirrels and birds from
the dooryard.

There was always a good lot of food for Bismarck to choose from, and I
thought he would give up hard work and lead a life of ease. But I did
not know the thrifty ways of the red squirrel. When the harvest season
for hazelnuts drew near, Bismarck buckled down to hard work. He began
his new life by calling often on his family in the hemlock-tree. One
day I found Bismarck and his wife digging beneath a pine-tree that
grew on the high land just out of the swamp. They brought out a great
quantity of pine rootlets during the next two days. There was not much
soil, which indicated that the squirrels had discovered a natural
cavity, partly filled with pine rootlets. The third day, about four
o'clock in the afternoon, the work stopped.


Mrs. Bismarck ran to a pine-root, sat up straight, folded her hands,
and said something. Mr. Bismarck ran to her side, folded his hands, and
made a reply. Both squirrels looked toward the hole beneath the tree
by turning half-way round. Then they looked at each other, and Mrs.
Bismarck ran into the hole, and immediately appeared and said something
that sounded very much like "It is well." Then both squirrels scampered
away. The winter storehouse was completed.

When the hazelnuts were ripe Bismarck and his mate began to fill the
storehouse. Bismarck gathered the hazelnuts about the cabin, while
his mate gathered those around the home nest. Bismarck did a lot of
running, for he carried but one nut at a time. He always worked under
high pressure, running to and fro at the top of his speed.


I noticed that he left many nuts on the bushes, but when I investigated
I found a worm in each nut--a good reason for rejecting them; but as
the husks seemed perfect, how did Bismarck know the worms were there?
I think his keen scent was the secret. By the sense of smell he could
tell a wormy from a sound nut. So could I after the nut was smashed,
but not before.

After the hazelnuts, beechnuts were gathered. But right here
competition was too great for the squirrels. The blue jays haunted the
beech groves, and could load up with from twelve to eighteen nuts, then
could use their wings against the squirrels' legs, so the latter were
usually short on beechnuts.

The acorn followed the beechnut crop, and as the woods of Cape Ann
are made up mostly of oak-trees, there were usually nuts enough for
Bismarck's family and to spare.

Besides being a hard worker, Bismarck proved to me, in many ways, that
he was quick-witted and resourceful. A sweet acorn-tree near my cabin
was loaded with nuts. Beneath the limbs on the south side was a carpet
of pine-needles, while under the limbs on the north side grew a dense
mass of brambles and catbriers. Bismarck did not drop a nut into the
mass of briers, but carried each nut--one at a time--to the clear side
before dropping it. Could human intelligence do more?


When Bismarck and his mate had stowed away food enough for winter, they
made a winter nest in the pine-tree that grew above the storehouse. In
the new nest the whole family passed the winter after the manner of red

The two baby squirrels for the most of the harvest-time remained in
the nest or on the hemlock-tree in which the nest was located. Now and
then they followed the mother to a nut-tree, but were so noisy that I
imagine the fear of enemies caused the discreet mother to drive them

When the family storehouse was well filled, Bismarck stored a few nuts
in the hole at the cabin. I think he would have stored more if it had
not been for the alert wood-mice. He hid a great many nuts around
boulders and trees. These nuts were used in the winter, and often
lasted until late in the spring. In the spring, when the nuts started
to grow, Bismarck dug them up, bit off the sprouts, and buried them

When the nut crop is a failure, the squirrels are face to face with a
famine. Long before the nut season approaches the squirrels know that
they must depend on other food for the winter's supply. During one year
of failure I carefully noted how Bismarck conducted himself, knowing
that he would teach me how the red squirrel provides food when his main
supply is cut off. When September warned the squirrels that the season
for providing food for winter was on, Bismarck turned his attention
to the corn in the dooryard. Years before he had stored corn, when he
was obliged to compete with the blue jays and chipmunks. The latter
could carry away from fourteen to nineteen grains, while Bismarck's
load was but two grains. He soon evened things up by hiding corn in the
dooryard, or near it. When the supply was exhausted, and the blue jays
and chipmunks had disappeared, Bismarck would dig up his corn and carry
it home. It was sharp practice, but the squirrel was justified, when
we consider the circumstances. For several years prior to the famine,
Bismarck had dropped the habit of storing corn, and only gnawed out the
germ, leaving the mutilated grain for the blue jays and chipmunks. Now
Bismarck undertook to store corn, hiding it as of old, but I vetoed the
act, by withholding the corn. The squirrel then turned his attention
to a black cherry-tree, and with the aid of a chipmunk, soon stripped
it of fruit. I think the chipmunk gathered the fruit for the stone. He
gathered an enormous quantity, and surely could not make use of the
soft part. The red squirrel may have gathered for immediate use and
also for a winter supply.

Bismarck's next move was a great surprise. I caught him carrying bones
to his storehouse.


One summer I saw Bismarck sitting on a stone wall, apparently eating a
bone. After he got through he hid the bone in the wall. I found that
the bone was old and partly decayed. I smashed up similar bones, and
Bismarck seemed to relish a meal three or four times a week, but I
never knew him to store bones for winter use before. His next move was
to attack the pine-cones. These were gathered while quite green. They
were left on the ground three or four days and then carried, whole, to
the family storehouse--a great quantity was stored under stumps, trees,
and boulders. The hemlock-cones were gathered later, but were husked at
the foot of the tree on which they grew.

During the following winter Bismarck looked to me for food. A loaf of
bread was wired to a post near the cabin door, from which he could eat,
while he could not carry it away. One cold, rainy day, he sat by the
bread without eating, and whimpered like a little child. He was telling
me in squirrel language that it was cold, rainy, and almost night,
and that I ought to give him some bread to take home to his family.
I understood his appeal, and passed him a biscuit. He scampered away
chuckling over his good luck. After that, fair or foul, all through
the winter days, he would beg for bread to take home, and always
chuckled when he got it. Perhaps he was laughing at me for being an
easy mark, or it may have been squirrel for "I thank you a thousand
times." However that may be, he was welcome, for I thought of the baby
squirrels starving along on a cone-seed diet.

Bismarck would eat all kinds of meat--even fat pork--but he preferred
cooked meat to raw. While the famine was on he turned his attention to
many kinds of food found in the woods. I made a record of each variety,
and religiously tasted of everything he used. Frozen barberries and
chokeberries were preferred to all others. I found the barberries had
lost much of their usual sourness; the chokeberries were sweet and
palatable. While the former remained on the bushes through the winter,
the latter were soon exhausted, for they were food for quail, grouse,
blue jays, and mice. The berries of the greenbrier, staghorn sumach,
and rosehips were used sparingly. The greenbrier berries had a sweetish
taste; the staghorn sumachs were sour and puckery, while the rosehips
had a pleasant flavor at first, ending in a most disagreeable bitter.
Many mushrooms were caught by an early frost, and remained frozen
through the winter. These were food for Bismarck. He would gnaw out the
under part, or gills, rejecting the rest. I tasted the food, but cannot
say that I care for frozen mushroom.

In the spring pussy-willow buds formed a part of Bismarck's food. I
found the buds nearly tasteless, but they crunched between the teeth
like a crisp cucumber. As spring advanced, creeping wintergreen and
partridge-berries appeared here and there where the sun had melted the
snow, and Bismarck greedily devoured the bright red berries. Later
berries formed the greater part of his food until the hazelnuts were
ripe. Wild apple-trees abound on Cape Ann, and Bismarck attacked the
fruit early in the fall. He destroyed great quantities for the seed,
which was the only part stored for winter use. However, he seemed to
relish an apple, if it was not too sour, and all through the winter he
would eat a Baldwin apple, even to the seeds, at one sitting.


The history of Bismarck through a year of famine is the history of
other red squirrels on Cape Ann. It is evident that the red squirrel
is famine proof. If the nut crop is a failure, chickaree turns his
attention to other food sources, and by perseverance and hard work is
able to keep the wolf from the door.

For years Bismarck and the blue jays have matched wits. After nesting,
the blue jays would flock to the cabin and impudently appropriate
all the food found in the trees. Bismarck seemed to know that it was
useless to store food longer in this way, so he would bury it beneath
the pine-needles. The jays were soon on to this trick. When I threw a
piece of bread to the squirrel he would start at once to hide it, while
the jays would follow him, keeping in the trees, just out of reach. The
moment he left, the jays would fly down, dig out the bread and carry
it away. It often happened that Bismarck would fool the robbers by
pretending to bury the bread. He would dig a hole, cover it over, pat
down the pine-needles, but would run away with the bread in his mouth.
While the jays were scratching the pine-needles right and left, in a
useless search, Bismarck would hide the bit of bread, and return to
the dooryard for more. He was not so particular if the food was wheat
bread, but if it was his favorite food--doughnut--the jays were fooled
every time.


Every spring Bismarck taps the trees around the cabin. He begins on the
maples and ends later on the birches. If the tree is small, he taps the
trunk; if large, he works on the limbs. He gnaws through the bark and
into the wood, then clings to the limb or trunk, below the wound, while
he laps the sweet sap. If there is a hollow in the bark into which the
sap flows, Bismarck is sure to find it.

Did the red squirrel learn how to tap trees from the American Indian,
or did the Indian learn from the squirrel?

The habits of the red squirrel are rapidly changing in this locality
on account of a foolish State law. The story is quickly told. Ward 8
(city of Gloucester), where my cabin is located, contains over eleven
thousand square acres. Its area is greater than that of the other
seven wards combined. The bulk of the territory of Ward 8 is made up
of woodland and shrubland, the city proper being in the other seven
wards. Ward 8 contains the delightful summer resort known as Magnolia.
This resort derives its name from Magnolia Swamp, the only spot in New
England where magnolia glauca is found in a wild state. The famous
Coffin's Beach is also in this ward.

The General Court four years ago placed a close time of five years on
small game in the territory east of Ward 8. This protects the seven
wards of the city and the town of Rockport. Two years ago the town
of Essex, which joins Ward 8 on the west, was protected, so that the
gunners from a population of about forty thousand are turned loose in
Ward 8. The extermination of nearly all the game, and of great numbers
of song-birds, has been the result of this peculiar legislation.

[Illustration: INDIGO-BIRD.]

All the wild things are desperately wild. The red squirrel if he hears
the report of a gun instantly rushes to a hiding-place. Well he knows
the deadly meaning of the report. He has turned day into night, and now
harvests his nut crop in the night-time. I sleep in the open air, and
during the harvest season I listen for hours to the sound of dropping
nuts which the industrious but wary squirrels are cutting from the
oak-trees around my cabin.

Bismarck is still in the land of the living, although ten years have
passed since he first introduced himself, and requested me to book him
for table board. He has cost me many dollars, while he has not paid a
cent in the coin of the realm. However, I owe him for teaching and am
ready to balance the books and exchange receipts.

[Illustration: OVEN-BIRD.]

I know that my position in relation to the red squirrel's destruction
of song-birds will be sharply criticized by those who believe in the
squirrel's total depravity. But the truth is that I describe wild life
just as I find it, not as some books say I ought to find it. If the
red squirrel was as destructive as reported, there would not be a young
bird reared around my cabin. My notes show that last year the following
named birds nested near my cabin, and probably every nest was known and
visited by the red squirrel:

                                     Number of nests.
  Chestnut-sided warbler                     3
  Black-throated green warbler               1
  Oven-bird                                  2
  Vireo                                      4
  Canada fly-catching warbler                1
  Robin                                      2
  Towhee-bunting                             2
  Catbird                                    1
  Wilson's thrush                            2
  Indigo-bird                                1
    Total                                   19

A ruffed grouse nest was looted by the crows when it contained but four
eggs, after which the bird resorted to a swamp, and reared a brood.

Several of the nests named were destroyed, but none by the squirrel.
In the light of my observations I cannot consistently denounce the red



                        CHANGES IN HERMIT-LIFE

For several years I had slept in a hammock without a roof to keep off
the night air. I had found this method inconvenient on account of
stormy nights, when I was obliged to seek the shelter of the cabin. I
overcame the difficulty by putting a tent roof over my hammock. The
sides and ends were open so that I was practically exposed to the night
air. The tent roof protected me on stormy nights, and with this slight
shelter I slept out-doors from April 1st until Christmas, unless there
was a heavy, fall of snow, meantime.

I found it inconvenient to cook my breakfast, and then, after eating
it, go to the city. Why I did so was on account of my coffee habit. I
had tried to find a good cup of coffee in the city and had failed, so
had depended on my own brewing.

One morning I dropped into the little store at the head of Pavilion
Beach, and the proprietor asked me to have a cup of coffee. He piloted
me into a back shop, where he told me that he served a light lunch
with coffee, to the farmers. The coffee was just to my taste, and for
twelve years I patronized the coffee trade in that little back shop.
My note-book shows that during the twelve years I had missed only
eighty mornings. I had paid six hundred and forty-five dollars, during
that time, for my lunch and coffee, and had walked, on account of my
breakfast, seventeen thousand two hundred miles. Whew! It makes me feel
poor and tired to recall it. I do not remember that I remained at home
to breakfast on account of a storm. The eighty mornings which I missed
in the twelve years were accounted for by absence from the city.

I would leave my cabin, summer or winter, at half-past five o'clock,
so I could sit down to breakfast in the back shop about six.

In the winter months it was dark at half-past five in the morning, but
that did not disturb me. I did not use a lantern because I would not
be bothered with it, and for another reason. It made one a bright and
shining object for early ghouls or tramps.

For some years past I have discontinued my early morning tramps, but
I love to recall the persistence with which I clung to habit. Those
early walks afforded me much pleasure and some hardships. During the
spring months the frogs and birds enlivened my morning walk with music.
The bird-music along the route to the city was divided according to
locality. Before leaving the cabin, from early daylight, there would be
a variety of bird-songs. In numbers the veery led all the rest. Then
followed the red-eyed vireo. After these, I could hear only one song
each of the following species:


Catbird, towhee-bunting, chestnut-sided warbler, robin, black-throated
green warbler, oven-bird, wood-thrush, and warbling-vireo. Indigo-birds
and cedar-birds some years could be added to the list, but they are
erratic birds, and cannot be depended upon.

[Illustration: CEDAR-BIRD.]

[Illustration: THE NEW CABIN.]

My route to the city was along the deserted old highway. When I had
climbed the first hill (where my new cabin now stands), I could
overlook a rugged territory where the fire and axe had exterminated the
large trees, leaving a low, shrubby growth, just suited to the needs
of the birds. The songs of the catbird, towhee-bunting, and robin were
heard here, and, strange to tell, in a distant corner of the territory,
could be heard the loud carol of the song-sparrow. A few pairs of these
birds had changed their nesting site from pasture to shrub-land. I knew
that these sparrows were descendants of my pet birds, Wabbles and his
first wife. They were born in the woods, and so reared their children
in the same surroundings.

The frog-pond was just beyond the hill, and when the toads and frogs
did not drown their music, birds could be heard singing from morning
till night during the nesting season.

There was a colony of Maryland yellowthroats near this spot, and the
sprightly song could be heard from May 1st to the middle of July. I
have heard the song in September.


A short distance from the frog-pond, on the left, there is another
pond, or shoal bog, where frogs and red-winged blackbirds appear to own
the earth or water. Still farther along the old highway, on the right,
there is a walled-in territory, called the "Sheep Pasture." I think I
could carry the grass in this so-called pasture in my hands. A mass of
boulders and bed-rock, set off by barberry-bushes, comprises the view,
but this rugged pasture (?) is the home of the field-sparrow (_Spizella
agrestis_). This sparrow is not so common as the song-sparrow and
bay-winged bunting.


I consider it a rare treat to listen to this sweet singer. I made it
a practice, during the season of song, to stop by this old pasture,
not only to hear the sparrow, but a brown thrush as well. The thrush
occupied the other side of the old highway, and when he saw me coming,
he would mount to the top of a small tree and sing so long as I
remained to listen.

Farther along on the old road, a pair of redstarts could be found every
spring. The male did his singing in a wild apple-tree. From this spot,
down "Slaughter-house Hill," to Western Avenue, I found song-sparrows
to be the prevailing bird. There were a few chestnut-sided warblers,
robins, and catbirds.

The birds I have mentioned, that nest along the old road, look upon me
with friendly eyes as I pass. When they return in the spring, they give
a greeting which I understand, because the notes are in a higher key,
and are never repeated through the summer. While passing daily over the
road I have made it a practice to talk to the birds, so many of them,
not all, greet me as before mentioned.

[Illustration: SWAMP SONG-SPARROW.]

[Illustration: BROWN THRUSH]

The brown thrush is usually more demonstrative than other birds. His
greeting is almost like the shrill cry of a small boy. Two years ago,
when rounding a turn in the old road, I saw four thrushes before me. I
stopped to observe them, when I heard behind me the laugh of a boy. I
glanced back, but saw no one. Again I heard the laugh, and this time
I located the sound over the wall, and started to call, when a male
thrush flew to the top of a small cherry-tree, and, after laughing as
before, gave me a song. This thrush was my old friend just returned
from the South, and when he saw me looking at his mates, he called out
to let me know where to find him.

[Illustration: BALTIMORE ORIOLE.]

Along Western Avenue the tall elms harbored many singers. The Baltimore
orioles' loud notes could be heard above other bird-songs. Linnets,
chipping-sparrows, bluebirds, and bay-winged-buntings were scattered
along the route to the city. When I had reached the sea-wall, the gulls
were the birds to attract my attention. Some were seen skimming the
surface of the water, while others were anchored in large rafts. The
gulls appeared to be fearless, and swung to and fro near the beach,
but, just the same, the crafty birds did not approach near enough for
a shot. They knew how far the modern gun could shoot, and gauged their
flight accordingly. Whenever one desired to cross the highway to the
marshes beyond, it would rise above gunshot before making the attempt.
Besides the keen sense which the gulls possess, they carry themselves
with true dignity.

From the first of April to the middle of November I looked every
morning for my "lone fisherman." There was a stake near the drawbridge
which a belted kingfisher had preëmëpted. For six years this feathered
fisherman held that stake, while he had to face almost all the travel
in and out of the city. The nest was in a clay-bank that overhung the
beach near Stage Fort.

It is needless for me to tell that I derived great pleasure from my
daily association with the birds that nested along my route to the city.



The hardships which I have mentioned were encountered in the winter
months, when storms prevailed. Cold starlight mornings were my delight.
If there was snow on the ground it added a new pleasure. I always
enjoyed the keen, cutting air. Sometimes there were storms in the
morning with rain or snow. At times, the wind would blow such a furious
gale on the Cut, that it would make it nearly impossible to reach my
haven. When safely housed at last, I always felt satisfied with myself,
because of my victory over the elements. One storm forced me to remain
in the city overnight. The storm had died out, but had created a sea
such as is seldom seen even on the Cape. I went over to Bass Rocks, to
see the waves break, and did not get back to Western Avenue until near
night. I found the street full of snow and sea-water. I waded nearly
to the drawbridge and then mounted the sea-wall. I soon found that the
large waves broke over the wall, and with force enough to wash me
overboard, so I turned back. The street was closed to travel afterward,
by the city officials.


During the summer weather I saw many strange sights when taking my
morning walk. One morning, a pasture-rabbit tore along the old road as
if he were racing for life. He passed me without turning his head, and
was out of sight around a turn in the path before I had recovered from
my surprise. While I was looking, he came back, jumping high and long;
after he had got by the turn, and nearly to my feet, he gave a great
jump sideways, and landed in a clump of weeds. Just then a stoat came
in sight on the rabbit's trail. His leaps were not expended in the air,
but were swift, long, and near the ground. It was evident that the poor
rabbit had no chance to escape from such a supple, bloodthirsty foe
without help. When the stoat was out of sight, the rabbit again took
to the road. He passed me, then turned into the woods. Whether he knew
it or not, it was the best thing to do. It left the hermit to face his
relentless foe. Perhaps the birds had told the rabbit that the hermit
was a friend. The stoat came back, hunting both sides of the road. He
understood just how he had been tricked. When he found the trail in the
weeds, he circled around until satisfied that the rabbit had returned
to the road. When we met, he seemed surprised, but he tried to pass,
spitting spitefully to frighten me. I drove him back, and managed to
keep him from the rabbit's trail until it was too cold to follow.

I expect that this rescue established my reputation with the rabbits,
for from time to time they came into my dooryard when chased by a mink
or stoat. Whenever it occurs on Sunday there are visitors present, who
are invariably excited for the welfare of the rabbit.

The stoat is the large weasel. It turns white in the winter, and is
then the ermine.

[Illustration: The Hermit's Wild Friends]

Of all the incidents that happened during my morning walks, there is
one that I cannot explain without resorting to a belief in hypnotism.
I was on the way to the city when a turn in the path brought into
sight a large mink, apparently coal-black. His peculiar actions caught
my attention first, but soon I saw a ruffed grouse about twelve feet
beyond the mink. Every feather on the grouse stood up, causing the
bird to look as large as a small turkey. The mink was making figure
eights, moving from side to side of the grassy path, which was over
five feet in width. His movements were so rapid the eye could see only
a black streak. While I could not see the mink move toward the grouse,
I saw that the distance between them grew less quite rapidly. Feeling
sure that the grouse was doomed, for it seemed unable to do anything
but follow the rapid motion of the mink, I stepped forward and gave a
shout. The grouse flew away, and the mink turned on me and let out a
yell that was fierce and loud enough for a tiger. He acted as if he
meant to attack me, but thought better of it, and ran into a stone
wall. From this safe retreat he yelled while I was in sight. This case
puzzled me. It appeared almost impossible that such a wary, muscular
bird as the grouse could be hypnotized. The mink was surely but slowly
nearing the grouse when I interfered. I am sorry I did not remain
quiet, and so find out if the grouse was able to fly away before the
danger-point was reached. As it is, I remain in doubt.


Returning from the city one morning in October, I turned off the old
highway into the woods. I thought that some of the wood-folk would
notice my visit and reward me with gossip for my note-book. I stopped
to rest near a red squirrel's nest. The nest was in the top of a tall
hemlock-tree and I was on the ground, but the proprietor knew I could
climb, and so was eager to drive me away. He did not dare to attack
me, for I suppose that sometime in his life he had worked the idea
through his little head that man was too big and powerful to be whipped
by a red squirrel, but he did the next thing. He flew into a passion
and abused me in the expressive and vehement language common to this
squirrel. He would run out on the limbs over my head and dance himself
into a frenzy, and chatter and bark and shriek as if that would drive
me away. He was wound up for a half-hour. After he had run down, he
stretched out on a limb and silently watched me. Soon after, I heard
a slight rustling of leaves, and a gray squirrel appeared from the
underbrush with an acorn in his mouth. The red saw the gray, but
remained silent. The gray squirrel selected a spot and proceeded to
bury the nut. When he had finished and was patting the dirt down, the
red set up a great laugh. The gray cast one look aloft, and instantly
his little paws were making the dirt fly. In less time than it takes me
to write it, he had dug up the nut and had disappeared. I don't think
the red squirrel thought to appropriate the nut. I think he enjoyed the
joke which was on the gray. I know that I did.

A thaw in the winter made trouble for me outside of the sloppy walking.
It brought out the skunk family, and each individual skunk thought he
owned the old highway, and he did, when I met him. Many and many times
I have had to climb through snow, or over ledges, to give the right of
way to some sleepy old fraud, that did not know enough about man to be
afraid of him.

[Illustration: "'HERMIT, YOU ARE OUT.'"]

One evening I went to the well for water, and left the cabin door
open. When I returned, I saw a big skunk climbing over the door-sill.
I shouted, in hopes to make him turn back, but he looked at me as much
as to say, "Hermit, you are out," and so I was. It was a cold, drizzly
evening, and I was in my shirt-sleeves. It was a good half-hour before
the scamp had satisfied himself that my stores were locked up. I was
glad that he did not try his teeth on my cupboard. In that case I
should have had to stop out all night.

[Illustration: The White-footed Mouse]


                        THE WHITE-FOOTED MOUSE

The white-footed mouse, unlike the house mouse, is a handsome fellow.
He sports a chestnut coat, a white vest, reddish brown trousers, and
white stockings. His eyes and ears are uncommonly large, causing his
head to resemble a deer's in miniature. This resemblance has bestowed
upon him the name of "deer-mouse." He is also called "wood-mouse," but
is known to science as _Hesperomys leucopus_.

My object in writing about these mice is to call attention to their
peculiar method of communication. I have summered and wintered them
over fifteen years, and never have I heard one of them utter a vocal
sound. They communicate with each other by drumming with their fore
feet, or, rather, they drum with their toes, for the foot in the act is
held rigid while the toes move.

If any writer has called attention to this peculiar method of
communication, it has escaped my reading. I am well satisfied that the
habit has never been published before, so it must prove interesting to
those who pry into the secrets of Dame Nature.


The white-footed mouse has taken possession of my cabin. Until a year
ago the mice were kept in check by stoats, but for some reason the
stoats have failed to appear, and the mice are increasing rapidly. I
find their nests in every nook and corner. I go bareheaded the most of
the time, so it happens that when I do need a hat I find it occupied by
an enterprising mouse and her family. Now a few mice for company in the
winter evenings would not be objectionable, but I draw the line when
they become so numerous that I am forced to eat and sleep with them.
They are too cunning and intelligent to be kept in check by traps. I
have tried all kinds of traps, only to find them useless. Last winter
I bought a wire rat-trap--the kind with a trencher that tips and slides
the rat into the space below. The trap was a failure. The mice were
highly delighted with the contrivance, and from the first used the
trencher as a door leading into and out of the trap.

How does it happen that these shy inhabitants of the woods are more
intelligent than the cunning citrat?

Some writers tell us that the lower animals cannot reason. In such
case it ought to be an easy matter for man to outwit a lot of foolish
little mice. I tried the experiment by fixing a wire to the trencher
in such a way as to give me full control. When the mice were engaged
on the food in the trap I pulled my wire and made it fast. The next
morning my prisoners numbered twenty-eight. I was about to drown the
lot, when several pets clung to the upper wires of the trap, and the
mute appeal in their great wild eyes softened my foolish heart, and I
thought it would be more humane to lose them in the woods. I carried
them nearly a mile from the cabin, and turned them out near some big
boulders. I left a supply of food, and promised myself to feed them
from time to time. Two nights later they were all back in the cabin.
Upon investigation I found that they had followed my footsteps. I could
see their tracks in the snow where they had trooped along in short
journeys. At the end of each journey the tracks would disappear under
a boulder or a tree, only to appear again, but always heading for the

I baited and fixed the trap, while the mice scampered about, evidently
celebrating their return. I told them plainly that this was their last
night on earth; that I had outwitted them once and would now outwit
them again. But all my boasting came to naught. Not a mouse would enter
that trap while the wire was on the trencher. The third night I removed
the wire, and the mice entered the trap without fear.


Vainglorious man had pitted his wit against the wit of these little
rodents, and the rodents had triumphed. Every sportsman knows how it
is. He finds the wild things just as intelligent and crafty as man with
all his boasted superiority.

I desire to emphasize what I have already stated as to the peculiar
method employed by these mice when communicating with each other.

If any one has been fortunate enough to have heard a vocal sound
uttered by a white-footed mouse, I shall greatly like to hear of the
fact. A daily and nightly knowledge of these little mice for more than
fifteen years has led me to believe that they are completely dumb.
They talk with their toes just as deaf and dumb people talk with their
fingers, only they are guided by the ear instead of the eye. Proof that
they are talking together is found in the fact that they go on with
the drumming when in full view of each other. When calling to attract
attention, they drum a long roll which corresponds to the halloo of the
telephone. The answer is the same; afterward the rolls are variously
interrupted. Through the winter months the mice about my cabin look
to me for food. By catering to their wants I have mastered their calls
for food and water. I keep a loaf of bread on the floor, and it is no
unusual thing to see a dozen mice eating and fighting around the food.
Whenever I forget to supply the bread, the mice come out of their nests
and drum the long roll, the call over their telephone, to attract my
attention. If I am reading or writing and do not heed the call, they
continue the long roll, drumming on books, tinware, papers, and on
the wooden shelves. The moment I look up or speak, all hands drum the
food-call, a long followed by a short roll.

The call for water is two short rolls. The danger-call is two long
rolls drummed rapidly and vigorously. The young mice learn to drum
when nearly full-grown, but understand and answer the drumming of the
mother-mouse when quite young. I have had proof of this more times than
I can remember.


An old mouse, a pet of long standing, on cool nights takes her family
to the roof of the cabin. The roof is warm and makes an ideal
playground for the little ones. Here they race and romp until daylight,
when the mother-mouse puts them to bed for the day. Soon after I hear
the mice on the roof, early in the evening, the old mouse comes down
to see if food and water are on hand. If she finds things all right,
she takes a drink and then calls her family down. As near as I can make
it out, she drums three rolls, a long roll between two short rolls.
Anyhow, the young mice understand, and scamper down and drink and eat,
after a harum-scarum fashion. The old mouse drums to me if there is no
water in the dish. The young mice must hear this drumming, but pay no
attention to it, which proves that they understand the different calls.
The old mouse drums on the tin wash-dish, and her claws make a sound
that rings out loud and clear. She drums first the long roll to attract
my attention, and then drums the water-call. If food is wanted, she
drums the food-call after attracting attention.


The white-footed mouse has a deadly enemy in the weasel family, the
stoat, or ermine, which pursues its defenceless victims every month in
the year. I seldom see a small weasel, but the stoat is common in this

While a stoat is rearing its young, the life of the white-footed
mouse is made miserable. By day and by night its bloodthirsty foe is
on the trail. It is no unusual thing to see a stoat running along
the wall back of the cabin with a mouse in its mouth. It carries its
victim by the middle, and always reminds me of the picture of a tiger
carrying off a Hottentot. Some of the old mice are quick-witted and
full of resource, and escape danger, otherwise the species would soon
be exterminated. There is an auger-hole in one of the logs inside the
cabin that affords a mouse a safe retreat. Several times I have seen a
stoat thrust its paw into the hole, only to jerk it out in hot haste. A
drop of blood on the log would show that the mouse had defended itself
with its sharp teeth.

There are three mice about my cabin that for years have managed to
escape the stoats. Time after time I have saved the lives of these
mice. The three are pets, and intelligent enough to know that I will
protect them from their fierce and relentless foe. In the night-time,
if hard pressed, they dive into my bed, while by day they sound the
danger-call, knowing full well that I will come to the rescue and drive
away their enemy.

To a stranger these mice look as much alike as peas in a pod, but for
me they possess individualities as marked and distinct as could be
found in three human beings. One of the three, the mouse that uses the
roof for a playground, always nests under a stone wall just back of
the cabin. Number two nests in the cabin summer and winter. When the
weather is warm she makes a nest on a high shelf, but in cold weather
her nest is on the floor under a pile of newspapers. Number three nests
where I nest. When I sleep in the cabin, the nest of this mouse is
always there. When I sleep in the open air, under a roof to keep off
the rain, the mouse follows me, nesting under newspapers or in a box
which I supply. If she has a family when I move, it does not prevent
her from following me. She makes ready a nest, and then takes her
family to the new quarters.


For keen intelligence mouse number two takes the lead. All through
the summer months she makes a nest on a high shelf in the cabin. When
there is a fire in the stove the heat becomes oppressive in the top
of the cabin, and the young mice would perish if it were not for the
intelligence of the old mouse.

When I fill the stove with wood the old mouse understands just
what will take place. She knows that I am about to kindle a fire,
and she rushes to a shelf near the stove and frantically drums
the danger-signal. She also does a lot of drumming which I do not
understand. She tries to tell me in her dumb language that a fire will
destroy her little family. When the mouse finds that I do not heed her
appeal, she knows that her family will be destroyed, and can be saved
only by her own hasty efforts. The one thing to do is to remove her
babies to a place far away from the death-dealing heat. If the young
mice are small, in some mysterious way the mother-mouse induces each
youngster to cling to a teat, when the whole family is removed in this
novel manner to a safe retreat beneath the cabin. It is a comical
sight to see the old mouse crawling along a log with eight or ten raw,
shapeless things clinging to her like grim death. The hole in the wall
that leads outside is small, and the old mouse has a long struggle
to get her load safely through. Now and then a young mouse drops off
and remains squirming where it chances to fall. The mother invariably
returns and gathers in the missing.

When the young mice are half-grown, they are removed in a different
manner. They are now too large to be dragged as before. They are
also too large to be carried by the neck. The mother overcomes this
difficulty by doubling up the young mouse and then grasping it by the
crossed legs. The young mouse turns its head inward and holds it in
place by biting on to one of its own legs. In this way a young mouse
is made up into a round, compact bundle. When the hole in the wall is
reached it often happens that the mother cannot push her load through.
After several unsuccessful efforts she turns about and backs through
the hole, dragging the load after her.


All in all, the white-footed mouse has afforded me much pleasure,
but at times it becomes a nuisance. At one time my cabin was haunted
by a strange sound. The sound was simple enough, only a sharp click
repeated over and over. Sometimes, however, the performance would
change to a succession of clicks. For six weeks I vainly tried to solve
the mystery. At last the clicking became downright annoying. It would
break up my line of thought when writing. It would confuse my mind when
reading, and I often jokingly asserted that this mysterious ghostly
click, click would send me to the insane asylum.

At last I traced the sound to a shelf where I had placed an empty
cigar-box. I investigated, and the mystery was solved. A dozen mice
occupied the box as a safe retreat from their enemy, the stoat.
Whenever a mouse entered or left the box the cover was raised, and,
falling into its place again, made the click that had so annoyed me.

The box-cover was heavy enough to severely pinch a mouse's tail, but
the cunning mice had provided for this danger. A hole about the size of
a lead-pencil had been gnawed in the side of the box, just below the
cover, and afforded a channel for the tail, while it was too small to
attract the attention of a stoat.

A more cunningly contrived retreat from an enemy could not be invented.
It shows that this wild mouse of the woods possesses intelligence which
passes far beyond the powers of instinct.

It would take a volume to record the incidents that have transpired in
connection with these mice during the fifteen years of my hermit life.

[Illustration: MOLE.]

Some of these incidents are comical, others pathetic, and, alas! others
are tragic. One in the comical line happened to a young man from the
city who thirsted for more knowledge of the wild things. He stayed one
moonlight evening to see the mice eat. It often happened, when the
mice were gathered about a loaf of bread, that a star-nosed mole would
appear and scatter them in all directions. If I chanced to be sitting
near, it was no unusual thing for a mouse to run up my trousers-leg.
I kindly allowed the young man the post of honor near the bread. Just
what I expected took place. The mole appeared, and a frightened mouse
rushed up the young man's trousers-leg. With a war-whoop that would
have frightened an Indian, he bounded into the dooryard. The mouse
escaped from beneath his coat-collar before he got out of the cabin.
The young fellow danced around like a crazy man. Whenever his clothes
touched him he thought the mouse was getting in its deadly work, and
administered slaps that must have raised blisters. When I could control
my laughter I told him that the mouse had escaped. I could not induce
him to enter the cabin again.

The nests of these mice are globular, but are varied to fit the
surroundings. Near the cabin they are made of bits of paper matted
with cotton-batting and a soft wool manufactured by the mice from my
old clothes.

The nests remote from the cabin are made of bits of dried leaves,
grasses, and plant-down. These last are usually placed in a tangle
of catbrier. Many of these nests are occupied through the winter. I
examined one last week. It was about five inches in diameter, and was
composed of bits of leaves and milk-weed silk. It was rain and frost

I sometimes find nests in tin cans. Once I found a nest in a paper bag.
The paper bag was in a tangle of catbrier. It was nearly three feet
from the ground, and doubtless was lodged where found by the wind.

The mother-mouse is devoted to the welfare of her little family, which
may number anywhere from four to ten. When the young mice are small
they are raw-looking things, but are tough, wiry, and tenacious of
life. At this stage, full-grown moles would destroy a family in a few
seconds, if it were not for the watchful care of the mother.


As the young mice grow they change their coats to a dark lead color,
which they retain until the first moult.

The white-footed mouse will eat about everything edible found in the
woods. It is fond of mushrooms, and never, like human beings, eats of
the poisonous varieties. I am sorry to state that it will eat young
birds if small and helpless. It eats insects, berries, seeds, nuts,
bread, cheese, and all kinds of meat.

It stores up food for winter in holes in the ground and in hollow trees
and logs. The mice about my cabin store food in anything that comes
handy. I sometimes find a shoe half-full of nuts and corn.

The white-footed mouse makes an interesting pet when caged. One that
reared a family in captivity afforded me many proofs of intelligence.

When the cabin was too cold for the little ones she made them warm and
cozy in a globular nest. If the temperature went up she removed the top
of the nest, and if the heat from the stove fell directly into the cage
she piled up the surplus nesting material on the side to protect her

The mole that I mentioned before, the one that scatters the mice, is
a singing mole. He zigzags about the cabin floor, picking up crumbs,
while he sings birdlike notes that are as sweet and distinct as the
canary's low twitter. I see other moles, but I have never heard but
this one sing.

[Illustration: The White-footed Mouse]


                           THREE YEARS LATER

The next spring, after my attempt to thin out the white-footed mice,
the stoats returned. I did not molest them, and they reduced the number
of mice in short order. Mouse number two had a little family in a nest
on a shelf. They were mice-babies, helpless and sprawling. They were
dragged out of the nest by one of the stoats, and were killed one at a
time. The stoat was obliged to make three trips to remove the pile of
dead mice. The mother had escaped by way of the stone wall at the rear
of the cabin. After the slaughter was over, she returned and did a lot
of drumming. I think she was reproaching me because I did not drive
the stoat away. It made me feel guilty, but I had hardened my heart,
on account of a valuable manuscript which this mouse had purloined and
reduced to scraps, with which to decorate her last nest.

The following morning I saw the mother come into the cabin with a baby
mouse in her mouth. I thought it might be one of her own dropped by the
stoat. But I was soon undeceived. The mouse left, and soon returned
with another little one. This time I examined the young mice. They
did not belong to my mouse family. They were strangers to me. The old
mouse cared for these babies as if they were her own. I expect that the
stoats had killed the mother, and my mouse had adopted the orphans.

The young mice increased in size rapidly, and soon took on the
adult form and color. Then I recognized them. They were the gray
_Hesperomys_, while my mice were the fulvous _Hesperomys_. The first
is found in deep woods, the latter near farm-buildings and in the
neighboring woodlands.

I don't know where their foster-parent found the little imps, but it
was a sorry find for her. As they increased in strength, it was evident
that they conspired to take possession of the cabin. They worked in
concert and fought in concert. While they were yet small the two would
attack a full-grown mouse. If it chanced to be an old male, the little
imps were sure to get mauled, until they would flee to their mother for
protection. When full grown, they proved to be a match, single-handed,
for any mouse in the cabin. Together, they were invincible.


The cabin became a battle-field every night. After a few weeks the
white-foots were completely vanquished, and left. The two warriors
drove their foster-mother out-doors, then for three months held
undisputed possession of the food supply.

The white-foots are destructive gnawers, but the new mice could do more
damage in one night than all the others could in a week. I had made a
poor exchange. The two scamps were on friendly terms with me, and did
not allow me to eat a meal without their company. They would come at
my call, and would have proved desirable pets, if it had not been for
the gnawing habit.

I had made up my mind to kill them, for I knew it would be only a
matter of time when they would destroy every book and paper in the
cabin. I got rid of them, however, without resorting to violence. A
young married couple from the city saw and admired the mice, and when
I offered to give them away, gladly accepted the offer. I do not know
what became of them, and do not care to meet any of their race.

In a short time the white-foots returned to the cabin, and are with me
now. The foster-mother that was turned out-doors did not return. She
was one of the missing, and so sacrificed her life, after all her care
of two ungrateful imps.

[Illustration: The Crow]


                               THE CROW

The intelligence of the crow is admitted by those who deny reason to
the lower animals. This bird is so large and is so meddlesome in human
affairs that he has forced mankind to acknowledge his intelligence.

While I admire his ability to look out for number one, I do not believe
that he is in any way beneficial to the farmer. In my opinion, he is a
great deal blacker than he is painted by our wise men at Washington.
After a lifetime knowledge of the crow, with ten years' close
observation of his habits, I have nothing to say in his favor.

[Illustration: KINGBIRD.]

While farming in Maine I was a sworn enemy of the crow. Not because he
pulled up my corn, thinned out my barley, and carried off my chickens;
these things I could provide against; I was his enemy because he robbed
birds' nests by the wholesale. It did not take me long to find out
that this black imp prevented the increase of song-birds in cultivated
fields and the adjoining woodlands.

I brought with me my hatred of the crow when I dropped into the woods
of Cape Ann, and for several years I made life miserable for his kind
with trap and shotgun.

Ten years ago, influenced by the articles in Forest and Stream on
game protection, I laid aside my gun and devoted more time to the
study of the wild things. The crows got the benefit of this change. I
should have continued my warfare if the crows had plundered the birds'
nests in my vicinity. King-birds nested near my cabin, and during the
nesting-season crows and hawks were very careful to give the locality
a wide berth. At other times the king-birds did not go far from home
to attack the crows, and the latter made themselves at home in my
dooryard, after I had ceased to persecute them.

[Illustration: The Crow]

Crows possess a language which enables them to communicate to each
other anything that relates to crow-life. They can hold long confabs,
and then act intelligently from evident conclusions.

In the years when I lived happily with my shotgun, before a divorce was
decreed, I planted a bushel of potatoes in the woods on the west side
of Magnolia Swamp. Fire had cleared the side-hill, and the prospect of
a crop was good.

The crows gathered in some dead trees, out of gunshot, to criticize my
work, and seemed to be highly elated. Raw potatoes are not down on the
crow bill of fare, so I thought there would be a great disappointment
when they investigated my work. The second day after I had finished
planting I visited the spot, and found that the crows had dug up every
hill on the south half of the field. There were three pieces of potato
beside each hill, so the crows did not dig them up for food. Why they
did so much hard work for nothing was beyond my knowledge of crow-life.
I nearly surrounded the other half of the field with white cotton
string, and retired to the swamp to await the crows. Twenty minutes
later a sentinel crow winged his way to a dead tree on the hill, and,
after looking for enemies, called out, "Caw, caw, caw." Immediately
eight crows appeared. They held a consultation, and it seems they
decided that it was a good time to dig up the rest of my potatoes, for
they started for the spot where they had left off. As this part of
the field was under a high ledge, the crows could not see the string
until they had passed the brow of the hill. The first crow over saw the
string, and nearly turned a somersault in trying to stop his speed.
He called out, "Cur-cur-cur. Cur-cur-cur," and instantly every crow
returned to the tree. For ten minutes a great confab took place. The
crow that had discovered the string was eagerly questioned by the
others, and replied in a hasty and excited manner. After talking it
over, a crow flew to the south end of the field, where he could look
to the north and see the string. He turned and reported. Another crow
flew to the north end of the field and stationed himself in a tall
pine-tree. This crow soon discovered that the string did not surround
the whole field; there was a wide gap in front of the pine-tree. He
called "Caw-caw-caw-caw-caw," and the crows flew down to the tree.
They were told about the gap, and one crow boldly flew through and
acted as sentinel from a tree in the potato-field. The other crows soon
followed, and began digging up the seed-potatoes. I think they tasted
of every piece, with the idea that somewhere I had planted something
good to eat. I shot two of the crows and hung them in the potato-field,
but a week later I found the seeds dug up, with the exception of a few
hills beneath the string.

The few hills left made quite a show two years later. They had produced
a crop each year without being discovered by hunters. But when the
weeds and shrubs made a rabbit-cover, "wild potatoes" were discovered
on that side-hill, and I was soon informed of the fact that the potato
was growing in a wild state "away back in the woods."

[Illustration: RUFFED GROUSE.]

I believe that crows destroy fully one-half the quail and grouse on
Cape Ann. A woods fire south of my cabin burned the nest of a ruffed
grouse late in the season. The grouse made a new nest north of my
cabin, and one day I found four eggs in it. The next morning I heard a
strange cry in the direction of the nest, and started to investigate.
I took to the path at the rear of my cabin, and when I had reached
the top of the hill I saw the grouse running toward me. She held one
wing close to her side, but with the other she was striking savagely
at two crows that hazed her as they flew above and around her. Just as
I came in sight of the trio, the grouse dropped an egg from under the
closed wing, and one of the crows seized it and flew so near me that I
could see the egg in his bill. The thing that impressed me most was the
silence of the crows. Not a sound did they utter. The scamps knew that
I was near by, and would be warned of crow mischief if I heard their
cries. The cry made by the grouse was new to me. It was a wild cry in
every sense of the word. The grouse, when she fled with her eggs, took
the path to the cabin, and I think she did it for protection.

[Illustration: The Crow]

Last spring I saw something that added to my knowledge of crow

Fuller Brook runs past my cabin, and after losing itself in a swamp,
takes up its course again between high granite hills, until it falls
into the sea at Fresh Water Cove. In the valley along the brook tall
pine and hemlock trees make an ideal nesting-site for crows and hawks.
Last spring I was much interested in a red-shouldered hawk's-nest
which was in this valley. There were two crow's nests some twenty rods
farther down the valley. One of my visits found the male hawk at home,
and when he discovered me he flew in circles above the trees, uttering
the loud scream that can be heard for a mile or more. Soon two crows
came sneaking through the tree-tops to find out what was disturbing the
hawk. The hawk flew to a tall pine, but continued his cries after he
had alighted. The crows flew to the same pine, and, taking a position
near the hawk, began to talk to him in a low tone. It was evident that
they were telling him that his loud screams would bring all the hunters
of Cape Ann to the spot. The hawk continued to scream, and one crow, in
a loud tone, called out, "Caw-caw-caw-caw-caw." Immediately five other
crows appeared, and all attacked the hawk, striking at him with their
wings until he ceased to scream.

The crafty crows did not care about the hawk's nest, but they did not
intend to have the hawk publish the fact. Well they knew that a search
would expose the two nests down the valley.

The red-shouldered hawk seems to be too slow and clumsy to wage war on
crows, and the birds nest near each other, without trouble, only as I
have related.

The crows in my locality have named me in the crow language. Two caws
is the way the sentinel announces my approach to his mates.

Several years ago I had occasion to pass every night a spot in the
woods where dead horses are buried. The crows would gather there
nightly, but always had a sentinel out. The sentinel took up a position
in a tall oak on a hill where he could overlook all the approaches.
When everything was quiet the sentinel called out, "Caw-caw-caw,"
which means "All is well." If a man approaches, the danger-signal is,
"Cur-cur-cur," sometimes repeated, and it means "Look out there." It is
uttered rapidly.

[Illustration: The Crow]

I noticed one night that the crow in the tree, as soon as he saw me,
called out, "Caw-caw," and in a short time repeated the call. He had
told his mates that the hermit was coming. My path passed within fifty
feet of the crows, but they did not fly away. They had long ago found
that I was not to be feared. Sometimes I had company, and the sentinel
would then give the danger-call, "Cur-cur-cur," and the crows would
fly away before we got in sight. I had this experience throughout the
summer, so there could be no mistake.

This fall a young crow became quite familiar. He would call to me in
the woods, "Caw-caw," and often fly near me. The old crows seemed to
think he was in danger, or they thought he was departing from the ways
of the fathers, and they always drove him away. They would beat him
with their wings until he was forced into flight to save himself. This
young crow had found food in my dooryard, and had heard the older crows
say that "Caw-caw" was harmless, so he wanted to be friendly, no doubt
with an eye to the food supply. I experimented with this fellow, in
hopes that I could tame him, and learn from him and his mates something
of the crow language.

As added to my knowledge of the young crow he proved to be a failure.
I am now convinced that this youngster is not of sound mind. He utters
the cry of a young crow, when calling for food, which shows that he has
not acquired the crow language. The only exception to this rule is when
he calls to me. Somehow he has been taught by other crows that my name
is "Caw-caw," and whenever he sees me he calls out in an eager manner.
Sometimes he steals away from his mates and comes to my dooryard. The
crows hear him when he calls to me, and rush in, and with loud cries
drive him into the woods.

There is another crow that "gobbles," and I have made up my mind that
he is unable to utter the common cries of other crows.

A few years ago I followed this crow for two days. Not a sound escaped
him other than the loud gobble. After this, I saw many things that
convinced me that the crow was deaf and dumb.

There is another deaf and dumb crow about four miles away. He is
located on the line between Gloucester and Essex.

Five years ago a Mr. Clark, a resident of Gloucester, told me about the
last-named crow. Mr. Clark was ninety years of age. He was as straight
and vigorous as a young man, and possessed a fund of amusing stories.
He told how, when he went to his farm and found the crows pulling up
his grain, the sentinel would call out, "Clark, Clark, Clark," and then
another crow would cry, "Bother-the-luck, bother-the-luck."


In the winter months the crows visit the clam-flats for food. A
sentinel is sent down to the woods, overlooking the flats, and when the
tide goes out, this sentinel returns, and, flying in a circle above
the pines, calls out "Caw-caw-caw," continuing the cry until he has
completed the circuit.

This cry can be translated into "Come-come-come," or,
"Clams-clams-clams." Anyhow, the crows understand, and a sentinel flies
to a pine-tree just south of my cabin. Another drops into a large
oak-tree on the hill looking to the east. Two more sentinels seek trees
for observation, one near the clam-flats. The crow near the flats calls
out "Caw-caw-caw," which means "All is well." The next sentinel takes
up the call, and thus it is carried to crows in the woods. The latter
fly to the sentinel-trees, if there is nothing to create fear. If a man
should approach either sentinel with or without a gun, the danger-cry
would be rapidly uttered. This cry "Cur-cur-cur," is usually quickly
repeated, and the crows rush to the shelter of the pines.


Like human beings, crows have courts of justice. The jury, however,
tries, convicts, and punishes the criminal. Sometimes I have witnessed
these trials. Once, while sitting under a sentinel-tree, I saw six
crows flying across the swamp, headed for the tree. Five of the crows
were striking at one crow that was evidently trying to escape. When the
crows reached the tree, the criminal was surrounded by the others. This
was not to his liking, and he flew to an upper limb. One of the crows
said something to him, and he answered in a loud, defiant tone. For ten
minutes the trial went on. Each crow had something to say, while the
criminal replied in the most aggressive style. At last the criminal
seemed to be convicted, when he flew away with a string of caws that
doubtless, in crow language, meant, "Go to hades, the whole blooming
lot of you." One old crow shouted "Car-r-r-r-r," as much as to say, "I
told you so," The crows followed the criminal, and as they disappeared
in the deep woods beyond the swamp, they were making it extremely warm
for him. I do not know how the matter ended, but I am satisfied that
the bad crow received severe punishment.

I have read in books relating to natural history, that crows are in the
habit of playing games. I can only say from my observation that crows
take life very seriously. I have seen nothing like play in a lifetime
of careful watching.

Courting is a serious business. The male rushes at his intended,
mauling her, while he utters loud cries, in which he rolls his r's
in the most approved stage style. When he has forced the young lady
to say "yes," they are mated for life. Then he becomes tender in his
attentions. He will sit for a half-hour or more, singing the crow
love-song. It is not much of a song, but it is the best he can do. He
draws his beak down to his breast while he utters liquid notes that
remind one of the suction of a wooden pump.


This spring the king-birds returned to Bond's Hill, and I hope they
will nest near by. If they do, the crows and hawks will have to walk
Spanish. Last season the crows destroyed many birds'-nests in the woods
in the immediate vicinity of my cabin. One pair of robins had four
nests looted. Only two towhee-buntings were reared, and two nests of
the chestnut-sided warbler escaped. The destruction in so small an area
shows how fearful the havoc must be on a large territory.

If the king-birds do not nest near by, I shall continue the study of
the crow at the muzzle of the shotgun, in defence of the song-birds
that inhabit the woods around me.

Those that praise the crow can have but little knowledge of his
destructive habits.

I sleep in the open air eight months of the twelve, and the crows awake
me each morning before it is fairly light. For a half-hour or more they
keep up a conversation in the crow language. They seem to be debating
and laying out a programme for the day.

They must have a crow almanac, for they know all about the tides.
If the tide is out in the morning they seek the clam-flats without a
report from a scout. At this early hour they make the flight without
posting sentinels. If it is high water they go down to the seashore to
see what the tide has brought in.

[Illustration: The Crow]

It is generally supposed that crows utter but one note, or cry, a loud
caw. The fact is the crow language is not confined to one note, for
"ker" is heard as frequently as "caw."

The cries of the crow can be modulated to express many of the feelings
common to the human voice.

In the old times, when I killed crows right and left, I often threw
dead birds into my cabin dooryard. If a crow passed over, his sharp
eyes always discovered his dead comrades, and he would immediately
circle above the bodies, repeating several times a cry, "ker-r-r-r,"
which most vividly expressed horror and indignation.

[Illustration: Bismark]


                           LIFE IN THE WOODS

The first years of my hermit life were passed rambling the woods of
Ward Eight, Rockport, Essex, and Manchester. I bought a double-barrel
shotgun, not on account of the game to be found in the woods, but
because I was told of the wonderful duck shooting in Ipswich Bay.

For three years there was a great supply of acorns, and gray squirrels
swarmed in the woods of the Cape. The next four years were years of
famine to all animal life that depended on acorns. The gray squirrels
died off by hundreds, and the second year the most of the survivors
migrated. Two years ago there was a great crop of sweet acorns, and
some of the gray squirrels returned. As last year was a nut year for
bitter acorns, the squirrels would have become plentiful if it had not
been for the gunners.

Ward Eight has been cursed by a State law. Rockport and the seven wards
of Gloucester, on the east side of Annisquam River, and the town of
Essex on the west, were given a close time on all kinds of land game
for five years. Ward Eight was the only outlet for the gunners in a
population of forty-five thousand. Every living thing wearing fur or
feathers was shot at, song and insectivorous birds as well as lawful
game. Almost total extermination has been the result of this unwise


One of my first ventures was a flower garden. I had trailed a few vines
over the cabin, and had planted a small bed of favorite garden flowers.
The summer visitors offered to buy the flowers, and I saw an opening
for another year. I cleared away a small spot for a garden, and made me
a hotbed, so the next year, and for the seven following years, I drove
a thriving trade in cut flowers. This flower business did not leave me
much time for gadding the woods.

The care and sale of flowers, and my last trip to Ipswich Bay, decided
me to discard my gun. The study of the wild things at the muzzle of a
shotgun did not give me the satisfaction I thought I could obtain in
some other way. I found the Bay shooting was expensive, and the birds,
which were mostly coots, were not edible so far as I was concerned.

My last trip to Ipswich Bay convinced me that I did not care for such
unsatisfactory dangerous sport. I had engaged a young man, and he
had hired a gunning boat and decoys for one day. We embarked at the
Cut Bridge about midnight. We rowed down the stream, and at daylight
crossed the bar at the mouth of the river. While we were crossing the
bar I saw several boats returning. I hailed the nearest to find out why
they were coming back. "Too much wind," was the answer.

[Illustration: "I SHOT TWO DUCKS."]

[Illustration: COOT'S HEAD]

I should have turned back with the crowd, but like most any other
tenderfoot, I did not understand the danger. We anchored in the Bay,
and put out our decoys. I was pleased to see that we had the shooting
to ourselves. Not a boat was in sight. I shot two ducks, and we slipped
our anchor and picked them up inside of five minutes. When we essayed
to return to our decoys, I found that the wind was kicking up a rough
sea. I think we were over an hour getting back to the decoys. After
this the wind increased, and the choppy sea begun to look ugly. The
boat took in water, and we realized that we were in danger of being
swamped at any moment. The young man wanted to leave the anchor and
decoys, and make for the bar. I was ready to go, but refused to leave
the decoys. I knew that I would have them to pay for, and there was a
good reason for taking them on board: they would help to keep the boat
afloat. The young fellow bailed the boat, while I pulled in the decoys.
We got under way, and for two hours we had all we could do to keep our
boat from going ashore on the rocks. We did not get to the bar. At
the end of two hours there came a lull in the wind, and we gradually
worked the boat toward the bar. When we saw a big wave coming, we
swung the boat bow on, and thus kept from being swamped. After a
terrible struggle, we crossed the bar and made fast to a boat-landing
in the river just in time to escape from a fierce tornado. If we had
encountered such wind while in the bay, some other fellow would have
told this story.


I did not get home until after dark. Supper over, I turned to my
note-book, and the record made was a sorry one. Expense three dollars,
without a pound of meat that I could eat, or the memory of sport
enjoyed, to offset, and besides, I had barely escaped with my life.

This I thought was due to my love of the gun. There was another waste
of time which I laid to the door of the gun. I would feel uneasy
mornings, until at last I would compromise with myself, by thinking
that I would go out for two hours, and then certainly return and put
away the gun. I am sorry to have to admit that it was usually the
gloom of night that sent me back to the cabin. I hardly think that
the gun should be held wholly guilty. My love for nature, and the
keen enjoyment of finding wild flowers, little wayward brooks, or
huge masses of bed rock hid away in the deep recesses of the woods,
accounted for much of the time spent. However, I sold my gun, and did
my hunting with note-book and pencil.

The pupils from the High School botanical class flocked to the woods
about my cabin in search for flowers to identify and mount.

I was employed by the parents of some of these pupils to gather
specimens and tag them with their Latin names. This method saved the
pupil a lot of trouble, but it did not tend to advance the knowledge of
botany. It occupied some of my time in the spring months, and gave me
the pleasure of searching the woods without thinking that I was wasting
my time.

It must be remembered that during my eighteen years of hermit life,
I have been obliged to earn my living expenses, and to feed the
wild things that come to my cabin dooryard as well. Referring to my
note-book, I find that the last item foots up nearly four hundred
dollars, but there are some rebates. I mounted one raccoon, many birds
and squirrels, the receipts for which lessened the debtor side of the

I find that my note-book is filled with notes on flowers and other
things besides birds. Early in the spring, or at other times, when the
frost was coming out of the ground, I noticed that the stones, or small
rocks, in the grassy highway did not fit their beds. There would be a
space around each stone; the width of the space would be gauged by the
shape of the stone. If the stone was conical, the space would be quite
noticeable. If round, the space was much smaller. I suppose the cause
was expansion, owing to the freezing of the ground. It was the water in
the ground that expanded, carrying the dirt and rocks with it. Under
the influence of a thaw, the rocks dropped back to their beds, leaving
a space because the part of the rock above the ground is almost always
smaller than the part underground. That is, a rock stands on its base
and not on its apex.

[Illustration: The Hermit's Wild Friends]

Another thing that has puzzled me is the behavior of dead pine-limbs.
One would suppose a dead limb ought to remain decently quiet and not
move about like some living thing. I had occasion to make a path
through a thick growth of small pines. The dead limbs extended on each
tree from the ground to a height of ten feet. I broke off the limbs so
I could pass under them without trouble. After the path was completed,
it turned cold for two days. When I undertook to pass that way during
the cold spell, the dead limbs were so much depressed that I was
obliged to break the path anew.

I experimented on dead limbs at different times, and found it was
a fact that lifeless pine-limbs will fall in cold and rise in warm
weather. I am unable to give a reason for this movement.

On my way to the city, the first wild flower to greet me in the spring
is the snowy white bloom of the shadbush, or June-berry, as it is
called here. It grows in great masses all along the old highway. Bond's
Hill is pretty well covered with a variety unknown to any botany. I
have referred this variety of the Amelanchier to some of our professors
in botany. I suppose in time it will find its place in the botanical
works. It grows like the dwarf blueberry, fruiting when less than a
foot in height. Some patches of this low variety cover two square rods
or more.

After the shadbush is in full bloom, the other early wild flowers,
that grow beside the old road, come into bloom in rapid succession.
As I pass along to or from the city, I see in the distance patches of
white which, if I did not know better, would lead me to think that I
had discovered some beautiful low white flower. When I reach the spot
I find it is spring everlasting (_Antennaria plantaginifolia_). I give
the scientific name of this insignificant flower, because every spring
scores of woodland ramblers bring it to me and ask its name. Early in
the spring the flower is a very good white, but as the season advances,
it becomes a dirty greenish white. The stem is cottony and the leaves,
when young, are covered with a silky wool. With age, the leaves become
green above and grayish below. One should make its acquaintance early
in the spring, before other and better flowers become plentiful.

There is a clump of bushes near the brook that attracts my attention
early. It is the fly honeysuckle. The pale green leaves appear while
other shrubs can boast only swelling buds. Later, its slender branches
are covered with honey-colored bell-shaped flowers. The flowers hang in
pairs, and are airy and graceful.

On a hillside, near the road, the slender but wiry wild columbine
swings its Chinese lanterns above its humble neighbors, the star-flower
and the windflower. Near Western Avenue, where the bed rock overlooks
the harbor, the cliffs are white with saxifrage. Scattered along the
old highway may be found the common cinquefoil. Its yellow flower
looks like a strawberry blossom, and strawberry blossom it is to most
persons. If one is in doubt let him or her place the two side by side.
The strawberry leaves are in three divisions, while the cinquefoil is
in five. The stems of the strawberry are hairy, while the stems of
cinquefoil are clean, brown, and wiry. The silvery cinquefoil grows all
along the roadsides of Western Avenue, from the Cut to the drawbridge.

In late spring and early summer the viburnums afford a mass of bloom
that makes the old road look like a cultivated shrub garden. Here the
wild roses are a blaze of color. I do not believe that there is another
spot on earth where the wild roses can compete with those on Cape Ann.

The city end of the old highway in mid-summer is white with the
fragrant bloom of the sweet pepperbush. Then, too, the wild orange-red
lily takes possession of the roadsides and waste places.

It is marvellous, that for one hundred and fifty years, this deserted
old highway has maintained an existence.

[Illustration: The Hermit's Wild Friends]

Brave Old Road! You are gullied by frost and flood; you are worried
by catbrier and choked by brambles. You are cursed by poison-ivy, and
blessed by climbing woodbine. By night, yours is the highway of the
skunk, the weasel, the raccoon, the fox, the mink, the woodchuck, and
the rabbit. By day, the grouse and quail seek your grassy spots for
food, and your tiny brooks for water. Birds of all kinds nest and sing
in the shrubby growth that borders your roadsides. May you never lose
the wildness, which, for one hundred and fifty years, you have rescued
from civilization.

I have mentioned poison-ivy and woodbine. It is easy to tell one
from the other. Poison-ivy has three leaflets, and the woodbine has
five. When leafless, examine the method of climbing. The stem of the
poison-ivy is covered thickly with fine rootlets, while the stem of the
woodbine is sparingly supplied with tendrils by which it clings and

Thoreau writes: "It takes a savage or wild taste to appreciate a wild
apple." Again, "What is sour in the house, a bracing walk makes sweet.
Some of these apples might be labelled 'to be eaten in the wind.'"

I suppose my taste must be "savage or wild," for I do appreciate wild
apples. I don't know the wild apple that Thoreau describes, but those
that grow lavishly in the woods of Cape Ann are not to be despised. I
think I am safe in claiming that one-half of the wild trees bear sweet
fruit. Many of the other half bear cooking-apples as good, or better,
than can be found in most cultivated orchards. I know of several trees
that bear fruit resembling the Baldwin in color and taste, and not much
inferior in size. In a secluded spot, where a ledge on one side and a
dense mass of catbrier on all other sides hides it from prying eyes,
stands a wild apple-tree. Its fruit has no peer in woods or orchard. It
is large, with a thin skin greenish-yellow in color. To the taste it is
slightly acid, with a rich spicy flavor. Only three wood-folk know the
secret of this wild apple-tree. A grouse, a rabbit, and a hermit. The
grouse nests just over the ledge, the rabbit has a burrow underneath
the mass of catbrier, and the hermit nests in the open air, and lives
close to Nature, too.

[Illustration: The Hermit's Wild Friends]

Sometimes farmers with orchards offer to load me with windfalls, and
are incredulous when I tell them that I have an abundant supply of
apples, as good as those on their best trees. I am the proud owner
of an orchard as well as the farmer, and my orchard gives greater
enjoyment. The farmer visits his orchard to see how the fruit is
setting. It is a humdrum affair. He walks down this row and up that,
so the inspection is soon over. It takes me several days to inspect
my orchard, while each night I return loaded with wild flowers and
experience. There are no stiff rows to follow. My orchard is laid
out without regard to quadrangles or triangles. It is Nature's plan,
engineered on a grand scale, to supply the wants of the greatest
number of her wild children, the mice, rabbits, grouse, robins, quail,
squirrels, and woodchucks.

Where cattle are pastured in the woods, the evolution of an apple-tree,
as described by Thoreau, is going on now as it did in his day. During
the eighteen years of my hermit life some of the trees have emancipated
themselves, and now toss their branches above their old enemies. The
cattle, however, coolly appropriate the fruit of the trees they had so
persistently tried to browse to death.


                         MR. AND MRS. CHEWINK

It was a May morning, clear and warm, the time was half-past five.
It was my breakfast-hour and a pert chickadee had just whistled
"Tea's ready," to the other birds, when I heard in the bushes near
by a bird voice call out "Chewink," in answer to the chickadee. My
breakfast-table was a dry-goods box and this morning it was under
a pine-tree. A newspaper served for a table-cloth. Breakfast under
the pines was a grand affair, and I was sorry when a year later I
had dropped the custom for a breakfast in the city. When I sat down
to breakfast my woodland orchestra was in full swing. The musicians
numbered one song sparrow, one robin, one chewink, or towhee-bunting,
one catbird, three veeries, two wood-thrushes, and a chestnut-sided
warbler. While I was sipping my coffee, and reading in Thoreau's "Maine
Woods" how to make tea from wild stuff, I again heard the bird voice
call out "Chewink." I looked up and saw a female chewink on the end of
the plank seat, not ten feet away. She had hopped into sight and had
introduced herself by announcing her name.

[Illustration: CHICKADEE.]

In some way, this little wild bird had discovered that I supplied free
food to the wild things, and she had called on me to establish friendly
relations. I threw a bit of cookie to her and it rolled to the ground.
She hopped down, found the food, and ate it on the spot, then looked up
for more. I gave her another piece which she carried to the bushes.

My dinner hour was three o'clock P. M., two meals instead of the usual
three. Miss Chewink was on hand and she was not alone. She had brought
along two young gentlemen, who cared more about showing their fine
clothes than they did about eating. They strutted around with their
tails spread out like fans, and I was soon convinced that they were
rivals. The little lady ignored them completely, while she dined with
me as freely as if she was not a self-invited guest.

I suppose it would be the proper thing to describe my guests. The
chewink, or towhee-bunting is nearly two-thirds the size of a robin.
The male has a coal-black head, black wings and tail. Below he is white
with orange sides. His eyes are red like the dove's. The tail when
spread is bordered with white. The female is a warm brown where the
male is black, otherwise the sexes are alike.

[Illustration: "I THREW A BIT OF COOKIE TO HER."]

[Illustration: Mr and Mrs Chewink]

After dinner my guests departed. Later I looked them up. The female
was perched on a horizontal limb, while about ten feet away the two
dudes strutted and spread their wings and tails, in an effort to affect
the choice of the demure maiden. For three days the rivals showed off
before the little lady in brown and orange. The morning of the fourth
day only two of the birds came to breakfast. The little lady had made
her choice, and was now a bride. The other suitor had disappeared,
perhaps to look up a second choice. Housekeeping was a failure with the
newly wedded pair for two years. Nest after nest was looted by snakes
until the third year. That year the birds reared a family of four.
Mrs. Chewink was very industrious, and worked early and late gathering
straws, rootlets, and bits of weed-stalk for a nest. Mr. Chewink turned
out to be a lazy, good-for-nothing, shiftless fellow. Not even a
feather did he carry to the new home. However, he had one redeeming
quality, he could sing. Somehow, his song seemed to fit into the
glorious spring mornings, and the listener felt that it was in perfect
harmony with wild flowers, with the drowsy hum of insect life and the
tinkling notes of the woodland brook. When the little ones were out of
the shell, Mrs. Chewink had all she could do to supply their wants. She
carried bread from the dooryard, and gleaned bugs and beetles in the
flower garden.

I was deeply interested in the food selected by Mrs. Chewink. As for
herself, she would never eat bread when she could get cup-cake. I
expected that she would feed this favorite food to her babies, and
that the sweet food would kill them, or make them sick, if no more.
I watched carefully, intending to remove the cake before the little
ones were injured. The morning, on which I had pitched to try the
experiment, proved to be rainy. The wet grass and foliage made it
difficult for the little mother to collect food, and I thought that
that would cause her to fall back on the cup-cake. As soon as she found
the cake, she stuffed herself and carried a load to her babies. I
followed, and when I had reached the nest she was feeding the last of
the cake. From what I saw, it was evident that she had divided the food
fairly. I returned to the dooryard, and Mrs. Chewink followed me. She
passed by the cake to load up with bread. The next trip was made up of
bread. The fourth and fifth trips were gleaned from the flower garden.
The sixth trip was again made up of cup-cake. The next trip she carried
bread, and then I removed the bread. When Mrs. Chewink returned, she
looked for bread, but did not offer to take cup-cake in its place.
She flew to the garden and hunted up insects. I tried a great many
experiments with this bird, and I found that she would not feed enough
cup-cake to injure her babies. When they were older and stronger, she
fed more cake to them.

Here was a little wild mother that knew better than to feed to her
babies food that she dearly loved herself. How did she know that such
food would hurt them? Well we know that the wild things manage their
domestic affairs in a way best suited to their needs and natures. But
it is only here and there that a human being can gain the confidence of
the wild things so far as to share the secrets o their lives.

Mrs. Chewink, like many human mothers, was overworked during the
warm weather. Often she would seek the shade for a few seconds'
rest. Her open bill and drooping wings gave evidence of how much she
was suffering from the heat. All this time Mr. Chewink haunted the
cool, shady spots, and left his clamorous family to the care of his
overworked wife. The little ones increased in size very fast, and soon
were as large as the old ones. One morning Mrs. Chewink brought the
brood into the dooryard. I think she wanted to be near the food supply.
Certainly it lessened her labors. She had another object in view,
which appeared later.

Two weeks passed, and one morning Mr. Chewink brought the young birds
to the dooryard. I was much worried, for I thought that my little
pet had been killed. I searched the shrub-land on the hill, and was
delighted to hear her call. She was gathering material for a new nest.
Then I understood why she had brought her family to the dooryard. She
had contemplated putting them under the care of her lazy husband, and
she thought that he would not be overworked where food was so plentiful.

The young birds did not take kindly to Mr. Chewink's care. When they
found that he was their sole dependence, they made his life miserable.
They followed him with open bills and fluttering wings, clamoring for
food. Mr. Chewink acted like a crazy bird. He would fly round and
gather food and jab it into an open bill, often, in his reckless haste,
knocking a little one off its feet. I pitied the poor birds, but there
was a ludicrous side to the whole affair. It proved that bird nature
and human nature are much alike.

[Illustration: Mr and Mrs Chewink]

A little miss, who had come from the city with her parents, was much
interested when I told her that the birds were Mr. Chewink's babies.
She looked on while the babies clamored for food, and when Mr. Chewink
knocked one of the little ones over in his rough, impatient way, the
sympathetic miss cried out: "Oh, mamma, how cross he is! He is just
like papa when the baby cries."

After awhile Mr. Chewink changed his tactics. I think he had grumbled
to his wife, and had threatened to let the hawks get the little
beggars, so she told him how to induce them to pick up their food. Mr.
Chewink took the hint, and dropped food before each bird, and probably
said, "Help yourself or starve." The poor things did get right down
hungry before they found out that they could feed themselves. Another
feature of bird life was brought to my attention two days before the
second brood was hatched out. Mr. Chewink enticed the young birds away
to a bird resort. This resort is a place where there is food and
water, and many birds that rear two broods take the first brood to
the spot, so the mother-bird can feed the second family unmolested.
Mr. Chewink visited the banished birds several times each day. The
bird resort was near a little pond on my road to the city. One of the
young birds was bright enough to remember me, and intelligent enough
to follow me to the cabin. His father found him in the dooryard, and
pecked and beat him and drove him into the bushes. But the plucky
little fellow insisted, and remained in spite of the whippings he got
from his father. I returned from the city one afternoon, and found a
black snake had swallowed the second brood, and was sleeping it off
on a sunny patch of bed-rock. I killed the snake. The next day the
banished birds were brought back.

Mrs. Chewink remained about the dooryard most of the time. She would
go after berries with the rest of the family, but her stay was short.
At meal-time she would hop on the table and look the food over. If
she discovered cup-cake, she helped herself without ceremony. After
dinner, she would preen her feathers standing on a rock near where my
writing-table stood. I liked to have her round, for she seemed to be
more like a human being than a bird. After the breeding season was
over, the old birds shed their feathers, and sorry-looking objects they
were. Mr. Chewink appeared to hate the sight of his wife, and he abused
her most unmercifully. He pecked her, and would not let her eat until
he had satisfied his own appetite. At one time, I threw a bit of cookie
to Mrs. Chewink, and it chanced to fall behind a box. While she was
eating it, I heard the male calling from the bushes, "Towhee, Chewink,"
and soon he came flying into the yard, to see, perhaps, if any dainty
morsels were about. Mrs. Chewink left her cookie and sauntered from
behind the box, as if there was nothing to eat in that spot. She made
a great pretence of eating dry corn and flour bread, but I don't
believe the artful thing swallowed a morsel. Mr. Chewink was just a
bit suspicious, and hopped toward the box, but seeing his wife eating,
he turned back to investigate. When he found she had only common food,
he flew at her, pecked her severely, and then flew away. Mrs. Chewink
returned at once to her cookie. I saw then that this wild bird could
reason. She had exercised thought to control action, with a definite
object in view. The first of November turned clear and cold. There was
a hint of winter in the air by day, and the nights were frosty. The
chewinks lingered awhile, but the cold was too severe for them, and at
last it drove them south. The next spring Mrs. Chewink did not return.
Mr. Chewink soon found a second wife. I do not know what became of
my pet. The chewinks are shot in the Southern rice-fields, and it is
always uncertain about a particular bird coming back in the spring.
Association with my little bird for three seasons had led me to become
so attached to her that her loss really gave me a heartache.

[Illustration: Mr and Mrs Chewink]

Mr. Chewink did not return the next year, and I was not a mourner. He
was tame enough to take food from my hand, although he would not hop on
to the table, but his disposition made him distasteful to me. He abused
his wives and children, and was as selfish as a hog.

Last year the chewinks did not rear a family, owing to the crows. The
year before they were successful in rearing three babies from the
first brood. The crows got the second brood. The intelligence of the
young birds have caused me much surprise. I have made it a practice,
while writing out-doors, to be well supplied with bird-food. Usually
there is a loaf of bread wired down in the dooryard, but the birds
will not eat from it if I will throw to them bits of cookie, cup-cake,
or doughnut. The old birds hop out of the bushes, twenty feet away,
and make a peculiar chuckling note, down in the throat, to attract my
attention. If I throw food, they scramble for it. They will come to
my feet for the food. When the three babies, mentioned before, were
full-grown, they were brought by the old birds to the bushes near the
dooryard. The parents, both male and female, carried bread, and the
food that I supplied, to the young birds. When all were satisfied, the
whole family flew away to the patches of huckleberry-bushes. While
writing one morning, I was surprised to see one of the young birds hop
out of the bushes to eat from the loaf of bread. He soon tired of the
bread, and hopped toward me. When he had approached within ten feet, he
stopped, and made the same notes in his throat common to the old birds
when attracting my attention. I threw to him a piece of doughnut, which
he took to the bushes. Three times he returned for food. That day the
other two went through the same performance. Did these birds learn the
trick by watching from the bushes the manner in which their parents
got the sweet food from me? Or, did their parents tell them what to
do? We must remember that these little wild things were only a few
weeks old, and however we decide, it appeals to us as an exhibition of
intelligence that would be wholly impossible to a human being of the
same age.

[Illustration: ENGLISH SPARROW.]

The English sparrow has not found its way to my cabin. I suppose it is
too far in the woods for these city dwellers. Some boys, of a Sunday,
brought to me a young English sparrow which they had rescued from a
cat. They found the bird near the old barn on the hill just above
Western Avenue. The bird was injured in both wings, with body wounds
beside. I thought the bird was dead, and placed it on a seat near a
tree. Shortly, a lady visitor said, "Your bird is coming to life."
Sure enough, he had got on to his feet, but was sadly crippled. I
gave him some crumbs, and he ate a hearty meal. It was evident that
he did not intend to starve to death if he could get food. That night
he hopped over to the cabin and climbed the banking to where he could
get into a barberry-bush. He could not move his wings, but his feet
were all right. The next day he hopped to me for food and water. I fed
him, then put him on a rock where he could find water for himself. He
did not forget the spot. For three days he followed the same methods,
sleeping in the barberry-bush every night. The fourth day, while I was
feeding him, an old chewink hopped to the loaf of bread and called the
sparrow. The sparrow did not respond at first, but after awhile hopped
over to find out what the chewink wanted. He seemed surprised to find
the bread, and began at once to help himself. The chewink called him
into the bushes. I suppose he intended to give him an introduction to
his family. The next day the sparrow came into the dooryard alone. He
made for the bread and did not look at me. I tried to catch him, but
he hopped into the bushes, apparently filled with terror. I think that
old chewink had told the sparrow that I was a very bad man. The old
fellow might have been jealous, and had frightened the young sparrow,
so that he would fly from me in wild alarm. The next time the sparrow
visited the yard the chewink was with him. They departed together,
and three days later I saw the sparrow near the old barn. He was with
other sparrows, but he knew me, and, more than that, he had lost his
wildness. He would eat from my hand. It was evident that the chewink
had piloted him three-fourths of a mile to his friends. The sparrow had
to hop all the way. The old chewink must have exercised much patience
to have accompanied the sparrow in such a slow way. How did the chewink
know where to take the sparrow? Did he do a deed of charity by
restoring the lost one to his friends, or did he entice him away for
selfish purposes? It is barely possible that he might think that the
sparrow would recover his wing power, and would go out and bring in his
uncles and his aunts, so took him out by devious ways that could not be
held in the memory.

[Illustration: SPARROW.]


                        SOME OF THE WILD THINGS

On Sunday, May 30, 1897, while the church bells were calling saint and
sinner to worship in the city of Gloucester, and a catbird's blithe
music, supplemented by the silvery bells of a veery, was calling me
to worship in my cabin dooryard, I turned to the path that leads to
Magnolia Swamp.

Two years before, on the west side of the swamp, I had discovered a
woodpecker's sap orchard. For two seasons I had carefully noted the
work of the woodpeckers in their curious method of tapping trees, and I
desired now to add to my knowledge by a few hours of observation.


It was a glorious morning, bright with sunshine, tempered by a crisp
air. It was one of the few sunshiny days rescued from a cold, rainy
spring month. The trees were forward, and for the most part covered
with full-grown leaves. The white oaks were late, as usual, their
leaves were tiny, and at a distance looked to be a silvery gray in the
sunshine. The hillsides west of Magnolia Swamp were lighted up by this
immature gray foliage, while here and there the dark green of the pines
afforded a pleasing contrast.

I found the sap orchard deserted. The trees, red maples and
canoe-birches, were dead or dying. The sapsuckers and their
self-invited guests, the humming-birds, had drained the life-blood of
their helpless victims. All of the maples were still standing, but many
of the gray birches had been broken off by the wind just below the belt
of punctures.


While I was searching for another sap orchard, I saw a barred owl, with
something in his bill, fly to a grove of small hemlocks. I followed
on my hands and knees, and found his owlship on a low limb. Evidently
this was his breakfast-hour. The thing in his bill proved to be a
leopard frog. He was preparing to swallow the frog by crushing the
bones of the legs and joints. He did not see me, or, if he did, he
ignored my presence, and continued leisurely to prepare and swallow his
breakfast. Afterward he spent several minutes preening his feathers
before settling down for a Sunday nap. A pair of saucy chickadees,
scouring the woods for a Sunday breakfast, discovered the owl and gave
the alarm. Inside of two minutes I counted thirty-six birds, all called
together by the cries of the chickadees. These birds included cuckoos,
warblers, blue jays, thrushes, vireos, flycatchers, and buntings. How
they did jeer and abuse the owl, but all were careful to keep at a safe
distance. The blue jays seemed to be filled with fury, and if birds can
swear, doubtless that owl listened to some very emphatic language.

For twenty minutes that patch of young hemlocks contained noise and
life enough to stock a first-class aviary. The owl seemed bored, but
was apparently fearless.

[Illustration: OWL CHASED.]

Thirty-two minutes after the first alarm, all the birds had
disappeared, excepting two red-eyed vireos. The vireos continued to
scold vigorously. The owl had intruded on their nesting-ground. Not
twenty feet away a vireo's nest swung lightly from the horizontal limb
of a red beech. It seemed to me that the owl suspected the presence
of the nest, for he thrust out his head and swung it from side to
side as if searching for something. After awhile he discovered the
nest, and flew to the beech limb. When he had commenced to approach
the nest by short hitches along the limb, the vireos changed their
scolding to cries of alarm. Immediately all the birds returned. Again
the owl was told that he was a robber and a great rascal by every bird
in the grove. As he continued to approach the nest, I thought it time
to interfere. "Hold, there!" I shouted, and the effect on the owl was
instantaneous. He stopped short, crouched on the limb, then twisted his
impish face directly into the back of his neck, and glared at me with
a frightened look in his wide-open eyes. After a brief inspection he
tumbled forward off the limb, caught himself on his wings, and floated
as noiseless as a feather into the dark shadows of Magnolia Swamp. I
examined the vireo-nest and found it empty--in fact, it was not yet

It was evident, from what took place, that birds of different species
can communicate with each other.

First, the chickadees call other birds to the spot by cries that
certainly are understood to mean danger.


Afterward, the vireos did the same thing. While the latter were
scolding the owl, other birds paid no attention, but responded at once
to their cries for help.

After the owl had disappeared, the birds scattered as before. The blue
jays and two thrushes stopped back to interview me, and find out if my
intentions were friendly.

When all the birds had disappeared except the vireos, I went in search
of a new sap orchard. I soon found a clump of red maples containing two
trees that had been tapped by woodpeckers. The belt of punctures on
both trees was nearly a foot in width, but the woodpeckers did not show
up during my three hours' tarry.

This woodpecker, the yellow-bellied (_Sphyropicus varius_), does not
nest on the Cape, so had doubtless departed in migration, but three
humming-birds were fighting for the sap-buckets, and a red squirrel
settled matters by driving the hummers from one tree to the other.


The red squirrel was a new feature in a woodpecker's sap orchard. He
did not cling to one spot, as squirrels do when tapping for themselves,
but instead moved rapidly around the tree, thrusting his tongue
into the drills for the sweet sap. I suppose the squirrel owned the
territory where the maple-trees grew, and was more than willing that
the woodpeckers should tap the trees for his benefit.

The drills made by the woodpecker extended through the outside bark and
into the cambium layer. From my observation with a good glass, during
several seasons, I found that the woodpeckers were after the elaborated
sap that descends from the leaves, through the inner bark, and did not
extend the drills into the wood where they would reach the crude sap
flowing up from the roots. The wisdom of this procedure was evident.
The elaborated sap is far richer in nutriment than the crude sap, and
the woodpeckers knew more about the growth of trees than many human
beings, so worked understandingly.

Each drill is made deep enough to hold about two drops of sap. The
upper drills are the only ones to afford sap, which proves that it is
certainly the elaborated sap flowing down from the leaves that the
birds get.

I had read in works on ornithology that the woodpeckers tapped trees so
that the sap would attract insects upon which they could feed. Also
that the birds were after the soft bark, or cambium layer, for food.

While the woodpeckers do catch a fly now and then, it is evident, even
to a careless observer, that it is the sap that is sought. I have seen
them eat small pieces of the cambium layer, but I think they did so
because the soft bark was soaked with sweet sap.

The three humming-birds made that little sunny glade in the forest as
lively as a Mexican fandango. The two males were jealous of each other,
and both birds seemed desperately in love with the demure maid. She
attended strictly to business by drinking from the sap-buckets left
unguarded by the red squirrel. The male hummers spent most of the time
dancing in the air. They took turns in madly pursuing each other; the
pursued never turned tail, but flew backward with a swiftness that was
marvellous. The buzzing of their wings and their shrill cries furnished
the music for the wild dance.

The humming-birds drink from the drills while poised in the air, but
often alight and cling to the bark while drinking, the wings closed
and silent.


Flies and hornets were in evidence, crawling on the bark of the maples,
or flying around the drills. A hornet stung the squirrel on the ear.
When I left, the latter was shaking his head and telling the hornets
what he thought of them.

When I returned to the cabin, I found a pair of catbirds in trouble.
They nested in a dense mass of shrubbery about eighty feet from the
dooryard. The male catbird met me some distance from the nest, and by
his excited cries I knew that some bird enemy was near at hand. When I
came in sight of the nest I discovered the trouble. A black snake was
making his way through the bushes toward the nest, and the mother-bird
was waging a fierce but fruitless battle.

I killed the snake, which was over five feet in length. The nest
contained four eggs. For the time being they were safe.

In due time the nest contained four baby catbirds. One moonlight night,
about ten o'clock, there was a great outcry from the old catbirds.
I had gone to bed, in my hammock, in the open air, with but a roof
over me to keep off the rain, so I could hear the birds and knew that
they were fighting to save their little ones. Before I could go to the
rescue, one of the catbirds flew to the bushes within three feet of my
head, and frantically called to me for help. When I came in sight of
the nest I saw a snake drop to the ground. One of the young catbirds
was missing. A hurried search beneath the bushes in the dim light was
unsuccessful. The snake had silently and swiftly disappeared with his

The old catbirds were pets of mine of several years' standing, and the
tragic fate of the baby-bird caused me to try to save the other three.
I removed the nest and placed it in a covered box in the cabin. The
catbirds followed me to the cabin door, but made no protest. The next
morning before sunrise the birds awoke me by their cries. When I was
dressing they spent the time flying to and fro, from cabin to hammock,
calling to me to hurry up and bring out their babies. Both birds had
insects in their bills. I did not take the nest to the old spot, but
instead placed it in a clump of bushes near the cabin. When I had
secured the nest, the old birds gave the three babies their breakfast.
This programme was followed day after day, until the young birds were
old enough to fly.

About two hundred visitors one Sunday inspected the nest, and the old
birds did not make a protest or show fear. They knew that I would
protect their little ones. A clear case of bird intelligence.


Returning from the city, while the catbirds were rearing their young,
I heard a great outcry from a number of birds in the cabin dooryard.
At first I thought some bird enemy had destroyed the young catbirds,
but I found them all right. Just over the wall in the bushes was a nest
of the veery. This nest was in ruins. That morning it had contained
four newly hatched birds. While I was examining the nest, one of the
catbirds flew to a bush near me, and raised an outcry to attract my
attention. I spoke to the bird, and immediately it flew to the old
wall on the opposite side of the road. I went over, and saw the tail
of a black snake hanging from the Hunting wall. I firmly grasped the
tail, but could not pull the snake from between the rocks. I thought
of a plan to get the reptile out. I pushed the tail into the wall, and
when the snake had loosened his hold, by a strong pull I could gain
a few inches. Twenty minutes' hard work brought the snake out so I
could grasp him by the neck. He coiled around my arm with such power
as to stop the circulation. It reminded me of a wire rope tightened by
machinery. I unwound the coils and took my captive to a large dry-goods
box. I made a cage out of another box by putting wire netting over the
top. I placed the box on its side on some stakes, and introduced the
snake. He tried every inch of that box and netting for means of escape.
Two hours later he settled down for a good long sleep, and when he
awoke he appeared contented. I offered him food, but he would not eat.
For a month he did not eat or drink. I noticed that his skin was loose
in patches.

[Illustration: "HE COILED AROUND MY ARM."]

It was a month before the regular time for the black snake to shed its
skin, but it was evident that this interesting event was about to take
place. I put some rough rocks in the cage, and the snake pulled himself
between them in such a way as to pull off the old skin. Before this,
the snake was totally blind. He shed the skin over his eyes, and his
sight was restored. Shortly after he had shed his skin he glided to
the front of the cage and opened his mouth. I took this to mean food,
and gave him a frog, which he swallowed. After this, whenever he was
hungry, he would look at me with his mouth open. This snake was six
feet and two inches in length, and large accordingly. His muscular
power I had tested, and had found it to correspond to his size.

It is singular how many persons there are that think a snake's tongue
is a stinger. My snake would run his tongue through the wire mesh, and
sometimes I would touch it with a finger. At such times, the most of
the visitors present would cry: "Look out, he'll sting you!"

My snake proved to be fond of music. Evenings I would play on the
flute, while he would come to the front of his cage and listen. Some
tunes would excite him so he would glide about the cage. The Swiss
Waltz would always set him a-going. Shrill, discordant notes would send
him to the darkest spot in his cage, where he would coil and remain so
quiet as to appear lifeless. On the approach of cold weather the snake
became torpid, and he was killed.

Some years, snakes, of all kinds indigenous to this climate, are
numerous enough to destroy the nests of the small birds. Therefore
I kill the snakes that are bird-hunters, because I prefer birds to
snakes. I have found that some snakes, that come to my dooryard for my
pets, are so crafty as to make it nearly impossible to kill them. A
big black snake often came down the hill to the cabin, and when he had
reached a boulder he would look around to see if I was there writing.
This snake had a saucy, independent way of looking at me, as much as
to say, "Are you the hermit?" A movement on my part toward a club sent
the snake into the bushes. Throughout one season I tried my best to
kill that black snake without success. The next year he did not appear.
Very few snakes came out of winter quarters that spring.


Another black snake had determined to swallow a pet toad. The toad
was a monster, and had escaped several times, but his hind legs were
badly scarred. The toad would come to me for protection. Usually he
would hop on to my feet when pursued. The snake was too crafty, to come
near enough for me to use my snake-club. I was telling some visitors
from the city about the toad and snake, when one young lady expressed
a strong desire to see a live snake. While we were talking, I heard
the toad cry out, and I knew that the snake was after him. I told my
visitors to keep quiet and they would see the toad come to me for
protection. The young lady that wanted to see a live snake gathered
up her skirts and fled down the old highway. The toad came in sight,
dragging the snake, which was clinging to a hind leg. When the snake
saw us, he dropped his hold but did not retreat. The toad hopped on
to my feet, nearly exhausted. The snake must have been made bold by
hunger, for he made a rush for the toad. My snake-club was near at
hand, and he was soon killed. The young lady that fled would not return
until fully convinced that the snake was dead. She did not see the
snake when he was alive, for she fled when I said one was coming.

A garter-snake made a home beneath my cabin. He was too small to
injure birds, so I did not disturb him. He became very tame during the
summer. His hole was under the door of my cabin. I could sit in the
doorway, and when he was passing in or out, he would stop for me to
rub his head. The second year he had increased in size. There was a
chestnut-sided warbler's nest near the cabin, containing young birds. I
heard cries of distress from the old birds, and when I investigated,
found the garter-snake trying to get at the nest. I struck him with a
small stick, and he hid in the weeds. That blow severed his friendship
for me. If he returned to the cabin and saw me in the doorway, he would
retreat until the coast was clear. Twice more I caught him at the
birds' nest. He escaped each time. He must have come to the conclusion
that I was protecting the birds for my own eating, for he left them
after that. The next year he ate a pet frog and robbed several bird's
nests. He had moved to an old stone wall, and did most of his hunting
by night. He tried to loot a catbird's nest, but the birds gave the
alarm, and the moon helped me to find the marauder. One blow and it was
all over. It would have been pleasant to study this snake, but I could
not allow my pet birds to be so cruelly persecuted.


                      THE INSTINCT OF THE COWBIRD

The books on ornithology tell us that the cowbird (_Molothrus ater_) is
a common summer resident of New England, without regard to locality.
However true this may be as to other parts, it is a fact that the bird
was unknown to me in Penobscot County, Maine.

Cowbirds are summer residents of Cape Ann, and I have studied their
habits for years. I commenced by requiring answers to the following

Why do birds, when victimized, rear the young cowbird?

Why does the young cowbird desert its foster parents to associate with
its own kind?

Why do young cowbirds lay eggs in other birds' nests, instead of
building nests for themselves?

How did the cowbird acquire this unnatural habit?

Writers on the subject usually answer the first question by the term
"stupidity," and the other three by the word "instinct."

In all my life I have never found the birds stupid. They are as
intelligent as to the requirements of bird life as man is as to the
requirements of human life.

The theory of instinct is only a dream of the uninitiated. Nature's
children are never troubled by such nightmares.


The most of our bird books have the earmarks of the library. An author
may be familiar with a few birds studied afield, but the greater number
are studied in the library. Take the cowbird as an example. One author
after another rings in the same old chestnut about the disreputable
bird that lays its eggs in other birds' nests and deserts its
offspring. These authors wind up by calling attention to the wonderful
instinct that causes the young cowbird to desert its foster-parents
to associate with its kind. I will say now, that long before I had
the opportunity to study the bird, I did not believe it possible for
a young bird, by its own knowledge, to hunt up and associate with
birds of its kind. That would be a miracle, and the days of miracles
are passed. In my study of birds I have found that old birds educate
the young, and I knew that the young cowbird was piloted by its
mother, or the foster-parents turned it over to its kind to be rid of
incumbrances. Few writers have studied the cowbird through the nesting
season. Mr. John Burroughs writes that he found small eggs in the path
that had two pricks in the shell. Afterward he detected the cowbird
removing an egg from a bird's nest. Mr. Burroughs intimates that the
cowbird did this to deceive the owners of the nest. They, finding the
proper number of eggs, would not detect the fraud. I was sincerely
grieved that a delightful writer on natural history should make such
a break. His interpretation would endow the cowbird with a keen
reasoning power, and would make chumps of the others; too senseless
to know their own eggs. In my observations, when the victimized birds
return and find the alien egg, they exhibit great distress.


My first study of the cowbird happened in an unexpected manner. I was
watching the nest of a pair of yellow warblers (_Dendroica æstiva_)
that contained two eggs. While the owners were absent I saw a cowbird
flutter on to the nest and add her parasite egg to its contents. When
the yellowbirds returned they at once discovered what had taken place,
and acted as if wild with alarm and distress. For a half-hour the birds
flew wildly about, uttering plaintive cries, after which they settled
down on a twig, where they could overlook the nest. They now seemed
less excited, and were evidently holding a consultation. After awhile
they seemed to agree on a course of action, for the female went on
to the nest and the male bird tried to sing away the trouble, but I
thought his song less earnest than usual.

No more eggs were laid, which was somewhat remarkable, as the
yellowbird's number is usually four.


I found the young cowbird hatched out just twelve days after the egg
was laid. The next morning I found the two yellowbirds out of the
shell. When the cowbird was two days old he crowded both the little
birds out of the nest. When I found them, one was dead and the other
gasping as if fatally hurt. While I was watching the latter, the
mother-bird appeared with an insect. She offered the food to the dying
bird, and appeared greatly troubled when it was not received. After
awhile she seemed to comprehend that the little one could not eat, and
she fed the insect to the cowbird. Before flying away, she returned to
the gasping bird, and looked at it by turning her head from side to
side, while she uttered a succession of low, plaintive notes.

After this, both yellowbirds had all they could do to supply the black
giant with food. When he was old enough to fly, or, at least, was
completely feathered, his foster-parents coaxed him out of the nest
after the manner of all bird-kind. Birds know when their young are old
enough to leave the nest, and withhold food until the little ones are
downright hungry, and then tempt them out with a dainty morsel. While
tempting the young cowbird from the nest, the yellowbirds made as much
effort and appeared as joyous when successful as if the labor had been
performed for their own bright-eyed, pretty birdlings.


The young cowbird, when once out, did not return to the nest for
shelter. His growing appetite taxed the strength of both birds to the
utmost. Every moment of daylight was occupied in catering to his wants.
One day I missed the female yellowbird, and, after a long search, found
her engaged in building a new nest. She had forsaken her former charge.

Heretofore I have neglected to state that I often saw the mother
cowbird. I think she visited the nest several times a day after the
egg was laid. Her frequent visits had accustomed the young bird to her
presence, thus making possible what followed.

After discovering the new nest, I looked up the young cowbird, and
found the male yellowbird feeding him as usual, but not alone. The
old cowbird was acting as assistant, as if just aroused to the
responsibility of maternal duties. For several days both birds fed the
young cowbird, after which the yellowbird spent much of his time with
his mate, gradually deserting his charge, to return no more when the
second brood was out.

Thus my observations had answered two questions; my first and second.
My first question, "Why the victimized birds rear the parasite?" was
answered to my belief in this way: I believe that the yellowbirds had
had experience with cowbirds before, and intelligently understood that
they must sacrifice their first brood in order to raise a second brood
unmolested. The actions of the birds when they discovered the parasite
egg, their great distress, their consultation and prompt action, their
neglect to lay the usual number of eggs can be construed in no other
light. It is far beyond the province of instinct.

My second question, "Why the young cowbird deserts its foster-parents?"
is already intelligently answered. It is no desertion. The foster
parents turn over the parasite to its own mother, in a matter-of-fact
way, and then go about their own affairs in peace.

My third question, "Why do young cowbirds lay eggs in other birds'
nests instead of building nests for themselves?"


When the cowbird was out of the shell, it was big and black. It was my
first young cowbird, and I thought it was a male. I made it a male in
my note-book. While the bird was in the nest I fastened a bit of copper
wire to its leg, and the next spring, when it returned, I found that
the bird was a female. I saw her with another female, I think it was
the mother, visiting birds' nests. So the young cowbird was educated to
lay its eggs in other birds' nests. Nest-building is educational and
not instinctive.


My fourth question could not be answered by observation.

How did the cowbird acquire this unnatural habit?

The answer to this question is not within the province of proof. It
is fair to assume that the cowbird, in the distant past, reared its
young in a nest of its own. It may have happened that some tragedy had
deprived a family of young cowbirds of their parents. Other birds may
have reared the young ones until they were capable of providing for
themselves. In migration all would remain together, but when nesting
begun the young cowbirds would not be tolerated near a nest. Not
educated in nest building, the female would fly to other nests to drop
her eggs. Other cowbirds may have adopted the same method, finding it
pleasant to have the care of their babies shouldered on to servants,
like some human mothers.

However, the whole thing is mere speculation, and it is not worth while
to follow it further.


A few years ago a cowbird laid an egg in a chewink's nest. The chewink
visited my dooryard. I did not remove the egg, but watched for the
cowbird. Before the egg was hatched I shot the mother. I wanted to see
if a young cowbird, reared without his own mother, would go out to
the cow-pasture where there was a flock of old cowbirds. The chewinks
reared the cowbird and three of their own babies. This was the first
brood. When the mother chewink made a new nest, the father took care of
the four little ones. Before his mate hatched the second brood, he took
his charge to a bird resort near a pond. This was near the cow-pasture,
and the flock of cowbirds resorted to the pond for water. It gave the
young cowbird a good chance to go with its kind. Several times I saw
cowbirds approach the youngster, but he always fled as if he thought
that his life was in danger. He acted just as young tame crows do when
they see other crows near them. That fall all the chewinks, that is,
the old ones and the first brood, with the cowbird, remained about the
dooryard until migration. The second brood of chewinks was destroyed
by a snake, after which the first family was brought back. The next
spring the cowbird did not return with the chewinks. As a matter of
fact, only two of the five chewinks returned. I suppose the others were
killed in the rice-fields. I had wired the cowbird with copper wire, so
looked for him in the different flocks in my locality. He was not to be
found, and was probably shot because he was with the chewinks in the


Two years ago I found a cowbird's egg in the nest of a Maryland
yellowthroat. This nest was under a tussock of cut grass, just over a
stone wall that enclosed the cow-pasture. As usual, it was the first
nest of the Maryland yellowthroats. The young birds, three besides
the cowbird, were crowded out of the nest, but as luck would have it
they fell into a cavity on one side of the nest, and 'were fed by the
parents. I saw the mother cowbird feed her baby before he was out
of the nest, and when he could hop about, his mother led him to the
cow-pasture. Afterward I saw her carry flies from the cows to her
baby, which was in the bushes near the wall. I think the Maryland
yellowthroats covered their own little ones from the night air. Perhaps
one of them protected the cowbird. I did not see the foster-parents
feed the young cowbird after he was able to leave the nest. I watched
one morning for two hours, and saw the birds make many trips with
insects, which they fed to their own birds. The cowbird was near at
hand, over the wall, but the birds did not go near him.

From my observations I am convinced that the cowbird does not desert
its offspring, but; instead, keeps an eye to its welfare, and ends by
assuming the whole care of its food, and leads it to associate with its
kind after it is large, or old enough to fly.


I have a little bird friend, a chestnut-sided warbler, that nests near
my cabin. Three springs running I found a cowbird's egg in my little
friend's nest. The first two eggs I threw out, but the third year I
thought to try an experiment, the same that was afterward tried on
the chewinks, and shot the mother cowbird. The cowbird was out of the
shell before the other eggs had hatched. There were three eggs in the
nest, and the young cowbird managed to break them. The chestnut-sided
warblers had begun to feed the alien, but when they found the broken
eggs, they deserted the nest and left the young cowbird to starve. They
made a new nest not over three rods from the old one. I was sorry that
I had shot the mother cowbird. It would have proved whether a cowbird
would leave her offspring to starve, if deserted by the foster-parents.

I have mentioned putting copper wire on the young cowbird's leg. This
artifice was used on other birds as well. I could easily identify my
birds when they returned in migration. I put two turns of wire around
a young robin's leg one spring. This robin was brought up by catbirds,
with my assistance. I had removed a catbird's egg to a robin's nest,
and a robin's egg to a catbird's nest. The crows destroyed the robin's
nest, but the catbirds reared their family. The young robin proved to
be a male. He associated with the catbirds, and went South with them.
He returned in the spring with the male catbirds. The females and
young returned together about a week later. The young robin remained
about the cabin and the little brook where the catbirds nested until
the last of June. He had a favorite tree, an oak, where he would perch
in the morning and attempt to sing. His song was made up from that of
the robin and catbird. A curious medley. The last of June I missed the
bird, and looked for him in his favorite oak. I found his body lodged
in a small hemlock beneath the oak. He had been shot while singing in
his favorite tree.


[Illustration: Bee Hunting]


                              BEE HUNTING

I have made my title Bee Hunting, while I remember well that down in
Maine we used the term "lining bees." I was enthusiastic over the sport
when farming in Maine, and when I had located on Cape Ann, I searched
the wild flowers for bees. I found bees enough, so made the attempt to
find a wild swarm. All my efforts were unsuccessful the first year. My
bees all lined to tame swarms in hives. The second and third years I
found swarms, but they did not have much honey. These wild bees were
in ledges, and the ants had found the honey and had appropriated the
lion's share. In Maine the bees resorted to hollow trees, mostly pine;
and in the old days many farmers lost swarms, which helped to stock
the woods. In any locality where there are large trees bees can be
found, because some of the trees are sure to be hollow. The amount of
honey made by a wild swarm will run from a few pounds to two hundred
pounds. The size of the hollow in the tree regulates the amount of
honey. If the hollow is large enough to hold the young bees, no swarm
will be sent out, so a large quantity of honey will be stored.


Bee hunting is a sport that can be followed by any number of persons,
without regard to sex. For pure enjoyment it is far ahead of golf.
It can be followed without fatigue, and it allows plenty of time for
social chats. A party could go out at ten o'clock, provided with
a lunch, and could return in time for the six-o'clock dinner. The
discovery of new birds or flowers might add much to the pleasure, and
the uncertainty of the honey hunt would give zest to the sport.

I will briefly give the method adopted by the best bee hunters. First,
as to tools to work with. A compass and a hatchet will be necessary.
The hatchet is used in blazing trees. The most important thing is the
bee-box. This can be made from a wooden candy or lozenge box, with a
slide. Split the box half-way between top and bottom. Place the top
half on the bottom half with the slide down. Connect the two with
hinges. Now you have a double box, hinged in the middle, with the upper
part open. For a cover, set in a piece of glass just the right size, or
you can nail on a wooden cover with a piece of glass inserted over a
hole left for that purpose. It will be a good plan to make a new slide.
It should be long enough to project four or five inches when closed.
You will need two or three pieces of breeding comb, empty of course.
You should take along a bottle containing honey and water. One-third
water. About two ounces of the mixture is enough to mix at one time,
as it will sour in two days. If you use clear honey the bees will take
up much time cleaning their legs and wings; it is too thick and sticky
for good work. A light staff five feet in length, sharp at one end
and with a piece of thin board, say eight inches square, nailed to the
other end, comprises your working outfit, except a good glass.


You are now ready for the field. A hilly pasture is an ideal place for
bee hunting, when it is surrounded by woodland. Waste lands, where fire
has killed the trees, and goldenrod grows abundantly, will be found
to be the best location of all. When you get to the spot selected,
set your staff into the ground ready for the bee-box. Old bee hunters
seldom use a staff, but depend on finding a stump or boulder for a
box-holder. The staff is handy, for you may not find a stump or boulder
near shade, or a spot where one can be seated in comfort. Your box
should be empty. Pull the slide out, and open the box. When you find a
bee on a goldenrod or other flower, quickly place the box over him, and
close it. The bee will seek the glass. Shove in the slide, and you have
your first prisoner. Now you must leave the slide closed while catching
your second bee.

[Illustration: BEE HUNTING.]

When you have him in the lower part of your box, pull out the slide,
and he will seek the glass with your first prisoner. Push in the slide,
and you are ready for the third bee. When you have caught five you
would better stop, for if you carry bees too long in the box they will
refuse to work. Take the box to the staff. Put a piece of comb in the
lower half. Turn on some of the mixture, then close the box. Pull out
the slide, and cover the glass with coat, hat, or hand. Look every
minute to see if the bees have gone down to the honey. When they are
down, open the box gently, and stand back. As soon as a bee is full he
will drop off the box and swing to and fro, until he thinks that he
has fastened the spot in his memory. Then he will begin to circle, to
find landmarks, to guide him to the hive. His circles will increase in
size and height, and he will soon be lost to the eye. It is not worth
while to try to follow the bee's flight at this stage. After he has
made two or three trips he will drop off the box, and go directly to
the hive. He has got his landmarks now. Other bees from the hive will
soon be hunting along the line, for the first bees tell their mates of
the find. If there is only a small amount of honey a few bees will seek
it. Enough bees will come to remove the honey in two days. If there is
a large amount Bee Hunting of honey about all the working bees in a
swarm will turn out. I have taken a basket of comb from strained honey
on to a bee-line, and have had two quarts or more of bees on the comb
at a time. I could walk slowly along the line, and the bees would come
and go as readily as if I was stationary. It is a good plan to hang up
a newspaper, or a flag of some kind, near the box. Some hunters claim
that the bees will find the box by scent, so use the anise bag.


We will now return to the bee-box. There is a lot said about a
bee-line, which is supposed to be a straight line, but the fact is, the
bee flies in a wavy line. He drops off the box and starts for the hive,
swinging from side to side of an imaginary straight line. The swings
will cover about thirty feet, but it is an easy matter to strike a
centre. A bee can be seen for a long distance after he leaves the box.
Suppose you are on a hill, overlooking, to the westward, a valley
covered with trees, and your bees go into, or over, the woodland. Take
out the honeycomb and leave it on the staff. If the box is sticky with
honey, clean it with moss or leaves. Now catch five bees as before.
Take them north sixty rods or more on a right angle line if possible.
Place your box on a boulder or stump, and let the bees go as before.
Before leaving the staff, take a good look along the line the bees are
following. If you can locate a tall tree on the west side of the swamp
so you may know it again, you will find it useful. When the bees get
to work on the new line look for your tall tree. If the bees go to the
right of the tree, the hive is not in the valley. The only thing to do
now is to move to the other side of the valley if there is open land,
and proceed just as you did at first. If the hills beyond the valley
are wooded, you will have to follow your first line. If you can find
the tall tree, it would be a good plan to go to it and set the compass,
and begin to bush a path along the line. As you progress on the line,
hunt all the trees on each side. If you can find an open spot anywhere,
set up your staff and box. You might find that the bees were returning
on the line, then you would know that you had passed the hive. If bees
enter a piece of woods, and there is an open spot beyond, they can be
started from the open spot to decide if they turn back or go on. It is
unnecessary for me to go further into the details of lining. It is a
poor hunter that cannot overcome obstacles that spring up in his way.
When the tree is located, trouble begins. There are two ways of taking
up the honey. One way is to plug the hole where the bees enter the
tree, and then cut or bore a hole near the ground and insert the nose
of an old tea-kettle filled with burning brimstone. The next day the
bees will be dead, and the honey will be cool to handle. This is the
method pursued by market hunters. I never took kindly to the method.
Another method followed is to put on gloves, and for the head a straw
hat with wide brim. Cover the hat with mosquito-netting long enough to
be buttoned under the coat. This will prove a good protection against
stinging. Tie the trousers legs at the ankles, and you are ready to
begin. While cutting down the tree you will have no trouble if the tree
is large and the hole high up. After the tree is down, you will have to
cut into the honey and split off the outside wood. The moment a blow
is struck over the honey the bees will pile on to you. You will have
to brush them off, or you cannot see to chop. When the store is fully
exposed, the bees will give up, and will begin to load with honey. Then
they are harmless, and will not sting unless jammed. As soon as the
bees give up, you may remove your protection, roll your sleeves up, sit
on the tree and help yourself to the choice bits. You need not feel
nervous if bees are flying all about you. The fight is all out of them
as soon as the honey is exposed.


I forgot to say that when the first blow of the ax falls, after the
tree is down, the fierce roar which the bees make would frighten a
nervous person out of his senses. I have seen strong men cringe, and I
can remember cases where fright led to flight.

Some persons are so nervous that they will not face the bees without
protection. A friend that lived near my farm in Maine, came to me
one morning with the story of a wild swarm of bees, which he had not
been able to find, although he had at one time a line to the hive. We
started out to find this swarm the twelfth day of September. The eighth
was noted for wind, and thousands of forest trees had been turned up by
the roots. We found some bees near a highway. They went due west into
or over a bad swamp. The swamp was nearly two miles wide, with a bog
on the west. The bog bordered Pickerel Pond on the south. We took some
bees around the swamp to the open bog. We found that the bees kept on
to the westward to a pine ridge. After hunting two hours, I found the
hive. The tree was a pine, two feet through near the ground. The gale
had broken it where the bees entered and so the part with the honey
in it was on the ground. About a peck of bees had clung to the top of
the stub. The ground around the tree was black with bees. The tree had
split open and honey was slowly running out and dropping on to the pine
needles. There were over two hundred pounds of honey in that tree when
standing. The bees that were carrying away honey were mostly from tame
swarms, but the woods were full of bees hunting for the store. I called
my friend, and while he was coming I chopped out the honey. I did
not disturb the comb, only to break off some to eat. The next day we
returned in a team which we left in a clearing to the north and about
one and a half miles from the honey. My friend was mortally afraid of
bees. He swore that they would follow him into the house and sting him.
I worked on the honey, filling buckets without protection. As it was a
warm day, I worked bare-armed. The bees were completely harmless. My
friend had on a close veil and two pairs of gloves, and all I could say
had no effect. He swore the bees would sting him to death if he should
remove his veil. He could not eat honey, and he was a great honey
fiend. I would eat the best I could find before him, and chaff him
all the time. At last he could stand it no longer. He took a sheet of
well-filled comb and started up the hill. It was his idea to get away
from the bees, where he could remove his gloves and veil and enjoy a


Inside of five minutes I was startled by a succession of yells that
appeared to extend in a line from the top of the hill to the swamp.
Shortly a doleful voice called to me from the swamp. I went down and
found my friend up to his hips in water. He wanted me to go up the
hill and find his gloves and veil. I tried to have him come out, but
he claimed that the bees had stung him until he was nearly blind. He
told such a pitiable story that I believed him and hunted up his lost
property. When he came to the edge of the swamp, I could not see
anything that looked like stings on his face, and told him so. He had
got his gloves and veil, so he simply grinned. When he undertook to
eat his honey on the hill, bees that were hunting for honey had found
him, and buzzed about his ears until he was completely demoralized
with fear. They would not sting any one. My friend could have worked
unprotected, just as I did, but his nerves would not permit it.

There is another method of bee hunting which I must describe, or my
article would be incomplete. This method is pursued late in the season,
when bees cannot be found on flowers. Pressed comb is burned to attract
the bees. Take some of this comb to the woods, where there is likely to
be a swarm, and make a fire. Heat two or three flat rocks, and use one
at a time, sizzling the comb. Have honey handy so the bees will find it
when they follow the scent of the burning comb to the spot. This method
is successful early in the season some years.




In the series of nature studies, published in _Forest and Stream's_
natural history columns, Tiny was briefly introduced to the public.
Tiny is a red squirrel, the son of Bismarck. The latter was a grizzled
old warrior, the hero of many a fierce battle. Why he gave the cabin
dooryard to Tiny is one of the mysteries of squirrel life. He had held
it against all squirrels, red or gray, for ten years, and now gave it
over to Tiny to have and to hold, without reserve.

A return to Bismarck's life history may throw some light on this
peculiar transaction.

Bismarck's family, April, 1900, consisted of a wife and four children.
Mrs. Bismarck, at that time, left her children to the care of her
husband, while she made a new nest in which to rear another family. It
was Bismarck's duty to finish the education of the young squirrels and
to marry off the daughters to young males of another family, and to
locate his sons on territory which they would ever after own, and for
which they would fight to the death.

[Illustration: Bismark and Tiny]

Tiny was not half so big as his only brother. Perhaps that was the
reason why Bismarck favored him, and brought him to the dooryard. It
was an unusual act, for Bismarck insisted that his sons should remain
on the territory upon which he had located them.

When Tiny had acquired full possession, he proved to be a "chip of the
old block." His motto, "No trespass," was impartially enforced. He
raced his brother, sisters, father, mother, as well as strangers, out
of the dooryard, and fiercely attacked any squirrel that did not depart
after the first warning. It was laughable to see Bismarck, the grizzled
old warrior, run as if for life when caught trespassing by Tiny. When
Tiny approaches through the tree-tops and finds a Squirrel in the
dooryard, he stops and sounds his war-cry. This cry is long drawn out,
and is something like the buzzing of an old wooden clock when running
down and striking the hours. After this warning, he makes a rush for
the interloper, and if he catches him the fur flies.


Tiny had a lively experience with a wharf-rat. The rat was a monster.
What caused him to take to the woods is a mystery. Probably he was a
rat Christopher Columbus, and had started out to discover a new world.

When he found my dooryard he seemed satisfied. From a rat's standpoint
it proved to be "a land flowing with milk and honey."

Wheat, corn, meat, bird-seeds, with no bloodthirsty human being to make
life miserable. After two days of feasting the big fellow disappeared,
to appear again three days later with a mate. Doubtless the sly old
rogue thought that he was able to support a family on the fortune he
had discovered in the woods.

I trapped the small rat, but found the big one too crafty to enter a


At first the rat did his foraging in the night-time, so Tiny had no
chance to make his acquaintance. Later he became bold enough to feed
in the daytime, which, in the end, brought him in contact with Tiny. I
was talking to some visitors from one of the big summer hotels, telling
them the history of the rat, while he was eating from a loaf of bread
in the dooryard, when I heard Tiny's war-cry. I told my visitors to
look out for a hot time. Tiny ran out on a limb about six feet above
the rat, and told him in vigorous squirrel language that he was a thief
and a robber. The rat looked up, wondering what the angry little animal
could be, that was talking in an unknown tongue, and pounding the
pine-limb with his hind feet. It never entered his head to be afraid of
such an insignificant foe. Tiny ran down the tree-trunk, landing on the
ground not four feet from the rat. The latter stood on his hind feet
and squealed a warning.


A lady visitor urged me to drive the rat away. "Rats are great
fighters," said she. "The poor little squirrel will be killed." I
offered to bet on the squirrel, but before she could answer, the fight
was on. Tiny caught the rat by the neck. For a few seconds all that
could be seen was something brown whirling in a cloud of pine-needles.
The rat soon found that his little foe was a cyclonic fighter, and he
made desperate efforts to escape. He dragged Tiny to a stone wall,
leaving a trail of blood behind. When he entered the wall, Tiny let go
and returned to the bread and coolly proceeded to eat his dinner, none
the worse for his fierce battle.


The rat did not return. He either died from the effects of Tiny's
savage bites, or, if he survived, left in disgust.


Tiny was not always full of fight. He formed a friendship for a young
towhee-bunting after a singular encounter. The bunting was eating
from a loaf of bread, which was staked down in the dooryard, when
Tiny appeared. The squirrel thought that the bird would run away, but
instead, the latter set its wings and lowered its head in preparation
for battle. Tiny was astonished. He sat up, folded his forepaws on his
breast, and looked on the gamy little bunting with wide-eyed wonder.
The bunting soon turned to the bread. Tiny brought his forepaws down
hard on the ground, evidently to frighten the bird. Again the plucky
little bunting set its wings and lowered its head. Again Tiny sat
up and looked the little fellow over. This time there was a comical
expression on the face of the squirrel that said as plain as words
could tell that he appreciated the situation. That he admired the
pluck of the bunting was evident by his action. He crept quietly to
the opposite side of the loaf of bread, and allowed the bunting to eat
unmolested. After this the two would eat together whenever they chanced
to be in the dooryard at the same time.


Tiny did not allow other buntings near his food, and I thought he
would forget his bird friend when the buntings returned in the spring
migration, but not so. He knew his friend at once, and chuckled some
kind of a greeting, while the bunting said something in bird language
that seemed to my ears to express joy.

The red squirrel is quick-witted and full of resources. If new and
unusual conditions confront him he is equal to the occasion. I have had
proof of this hundreds of times.

I will relate one instance: I feed hemp-seed to the birds. The red
squirrels and chipmunks are fond of the seed, and unless I stand guard,
will manage to get the lion's share. The chipmunks stuff their pouched
cheeks, and would carry away a bushel every day if it was fed to them.

When Tiny is present, no squirrel or chipmunk dares to meddle with the
food. He does not molest the birds, and I really think that he knows
that the seeds belong to them.

Last fall I placed a wire netting over a shallow box, so the birds
could pick out seeds, while the squirrels could not get their noses
through the mesh. The chipmunks were puzzled, and one after another
gave up in disgust, to fall back on bread and corn. When Tiny found
the box he got mad all through. He crowded his nose against the wire
netting, biting savagely meanwhile. I laughed, and Tiny instantly
stopped his efforts and looked in my direction. All at once he got the
idea into his head that I had blocked his game, and had caused the
trouble. In three bounds he landed on the trunk of a pine-tree, and
running to a limb just over my head, he told me in wicked squirrel
language just what he thought of me. In his anger he pounded the
limb with his hind feet, stopping now and then to charge down the
tree-trunk, as if he were about to attack me.


After ten minutes of this hot work he became quiet, except a sob, which
he uttered from time to time. Finding that I would not help him, he
returned to the box. He tried the wire a short time, then sat up and
folded his paws across his breast and fell into a brown study. Like
a flash he came out of his trance, grasped the box, and turned it
completely over, then he began to eat, saying something to me, while he
jerked his tail in a defiant manner. After this, whenever he found seed
in the box, he quickly turned them out. For a week or more I allowed
him to have his way. I wanted my visitors to see how cute the little
scamp could be on a pinch. Later I drove stakes across the box to hold
it down. I returned one day to find that Tiny had managed to dig a hole
beneath the box, and had gnawed through the bottom. I tried another
scheme for the purpose of testing the intelligence of the squirrel. I
stretched a cord between two trees, and half-way suspended a box open
at the top. Tiny saw the birds eating from the box, and he quickly
understood that it was another device of mine to outwit him. He ran up
one of the trees, and tried the limbs that hung over the box. He soon
found a slender limb that would bend under his weight and let him into
the box. After he had used this highway several days I cut the limb


When Tiny found a fresh stub instead of a limb, he understood what
it meant. He knew that I was the guilty one, and he swore at me,
if a squirrel can swear, for twenty minutes. His next move was to
investigate the line where it was attached to the trees. He thought he
could reach the box over the line, and started out. When about a foot
from the tree, the line turned, and Tiny jumped to the ground. He tried
this three times, and met with failure. The fourth time, when the line
turned, he clung to it and made his way to the box, hand over hand. I
thought he deserved a reward for his continued effort and intelligence,
so since then I allow him to eat from the box whenever he feels like it.


Tiny made a cozy nest in November, of moss, leaves, and grass. It was
in the top of a pine-tree that hangs over the cabin dooryard. Some
wretch shot this nest to pieces when I was absent. I returned to find
empty shells in the dooryard, and fragments of the nest hanging to the
tree. Tiny made another nest in a near-by pine, and lives in it at
this time. The past two winters Tiny made his nest in my summer house.
Why he did not occupy the house this winter is a mystery. Perhaps he
heard me say that I should take down this house and put it into a new
log-cabin that I had in contemplation.

[Illustration: Bismark and Tiny]

Tiny is a widower, and childless. His wife and children were shot to
death by the gunners that swarm through the magnolia woods.

I think Bismarck is dead. In cold weather he made it a practice to sly
up to the cabin, just at dusk, for a doughnut or a bit of bread. For
some time I have missed him. I went to his nest, to find it shot to
pieces. Still farther away I found Mrs. Bismarck's nest in ruins, and
silence reigned in that part of the woods.

Tiny is now an orphan, a widower, and is also childless. He occupies in
squirrel life the same relative position that the hermit occupies in
human life. Tiny's misfortune has brought the man and squirrel a little
nearer together.

With few exceptions, writers on outdoor life make it a point to
denounce the red squirrel. They claim that he is a nest-robber of the
worst kind. The most of this abuse bears the earmarks of the library.
One author copies after another, without knowledge of the real life of
one of the most interesting wild things of the woods.

Reliable observers have related isolated cases of nest-robbing, by
the squirrel, which we have no reason to doubt. I believe the thing
is most unusual, and happens only when the food supply is cut off.
If a squirrel in the spring is face to face with a famine, he might
be tempted to kill and eat young birds. I have no record against the
red squirrel, after eighteen years' observation here on the Cape. In
Maine for fifteen years I saw squirrels plentiful enough on my farm. A
small fruit orchard, near the farm buildings, usually harbored several
squirrels. Birds nested in the trees and reared their young unless a
coon cat got them before they could fly. I never knew a squirrel to
molest a birds' nest, and the farmers of that town never complained
of them, so far as I know. When we farmers compared notes on bird
destroyers we invariably agreed upon crows, snakes, and weasels.


I have before me a book on nature, which contains an account of the
red squirrel. The author tells in a delightful way about the wild
things, but some of his statements are based on imagination instead of
observation. He bitterly assails the red squirrel as a nest-robber, but
some things in his story lead me to think he has culled the library
for his statements. This story may fit a chipmunk: "that the squirrel
brought six chest-nuts to his store, which he emptied from his '_cheek
pockets_.'" I venture to say, that no man living ever saw a red
squirrel carry six nuts at one mouthful. This squirrel has no cheek
pouches like the chipmunk, and usually carries one nut, seldom two at
a time. The author has his very bad squirrel come to a bad end. He was
killed by five or six robins while he was carrying off one of their
fledgelings. It is an excellent representation of swift retribution,
but to any one who knows the fighting ability of the little red
whirlwind it can be taken with a grain of salt. It would be impossible
for robins enough to gather around a red squirrel to kill him. In my
cabin dooryard, while I have been writing this article, a desperate
fight has taken place. Ten crows, made bold by hunger, attacked Tiny
and tried to take possession of a loaf of bread. The squirrel never
flinched, but stood over the bread, and whenever a crow got over the
dead-line, filled the dooryard with feathers. I did not interfere, but
saw the fight from the cabin window. The black rogues were obliged to
retreat when Tiny got downright mad. When the fight began Tiny did not
try to hurt the crows. He would run at one and allow him to hop into
the air and take wing. It appeared to me that Tiny was just scaring the
crows away. When he found that they were in earnest, he got mad and
made the feathers fly, and the crows had to leave to save their lives.


I am writing natural history just as I find it, from observation of
the wild things. To some of these wild things I am caterer, protector,
and friend. They do not object to my presence when engaged in domestic
affairs, so my ability to pry into their secrets is increased in
ratio to the confidence accorded me. The red squirrel is one of the
wild things which I have thoroughly studied because I have had the
opportunity to do so. When a writer asserts that the red squirrel is a
poor provider, and without family ties, I know that his observations
have been haphazard, and that he does not understand the life history
of the little animal of which he writes.

The male squirrel assists his mate to fill a storehouse for family
use and then hides stores for himself on territory which he owns.
Most observers see the squirrel hiding nuts here and there, and jump
to the conclusion that he is improvident. When there are nuts the red
squirrel lays up a store for his family and for himself, so that he and
his family are well fed through the winter. There are no emaciated red
squirrels in the spring, which tells the story of careful provision.
The young squirrels do not provide for themselves, as soon as big
enough, as stated by some writers. The young born in April remain with
the female through the winter. The male has a nest of his own, but if
the weather is very cold he stays in the home nest with his family. The
nest is intelligently constructed and the materials used are selected
from supplies near at hand. Tiny's nest is made largely from moss that
I use for packing. The nest is thatched with oak leaves so no rain
can enter. Sometimes it happens that wood-choppers cut a tree that
contains a squirrel's nest. J have examined such nests. The inside is
lined with milk-weed silk and fine shreds of yellow birch bark. There
is always a surplus of this soft material, which is used to stuff into
the entrance to the nest. The squirrels shut the outside door to keep
out the cold. I once investigated a nest in the top of a pine-tree,
when the thermometer registered zero, and found the entrance packed
with soft material. The squirrels knew all about cold weather, and had
made arrangements to keep the nest warm, by laying one side material to
close the entrance when necessary.


When I see an unfinished dwelling-house and know that the family
therein must suffer in cold weather, I think of the cozy dwelling that
the red squirrel provides for his little ones, and I ask myself if the
human being is the only intelligent animal in nature's catalogue?


                      THE CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER

Thursday morning, May 27, 1886, a small bird hopped out of the bushes
into my dooryard. The bird was a female chestnut-sided warbler. She was
collecting dry grass blades for a nest.

May 27, 1897, the same little bird was in my dooryard engaged as
before, collecting nesting material.

Eleven years had been credited to the past for man and bird. The man
had not escaped the weight of the added years. Deeper wrinkles and
gray hair told the story, but the little bird, strange to tell, was
apparently as blithe and young as on that Thursday morning eleven years


I provide an abundance of nesting material for all birds that frequent
my cabin dooryard. The chestnut-sided warbler seemed to appreciate my
motive and gave me her confidence in return. After the first year I
could sit by her nest from the hour the first straw was laid to the day
when the young were large enough to take wing, and she would go on with
her domestic affairs without fear.


During eleven years the bird has constructed thirteen nests. Two nests
were robbed by snakes and were replaced. No two of these nests were
alike. All were loosely built, and with the exception of the last were
saddled on the forks of small bushes. The nest of 1897 was suspended
between two shoots of a currant bush, about twenty inches from the
ground. This was a new departure, and led me to have a picture made
of the nest. There was a bunch of currants in the way and the bird
fastened it to the side of the nest with spiders-web. The currants show
in the picture.

The book informs us that the nest of this warbler is never pensile,
but if the nest in my currant bush was not pensile, what may we call
it? It was fastened at the brim to two upright currant stems without
support at the bottom. The brim was fashioned first. It was composed of
straws, shreds of cedar bark, and dry grass blades. The same material
was fastened to the brim and arranged to cross, thus forming the bottom
and sides. The tying material used was spiders-web and silken threads
from some cocoon unknown to me. The nest was lined with fine straw
and horsehair. All the nests previously made by this bird contained a
liberal amount of plant down on the outside. This last nest was nearly
wanting in plant down, although a good supply was in the dooryard.


Several years ago the bird saddled into the fork of a bayberry bush a
bunch of cotton nearly as large as a baseball, and on this foundation
erected a nest.

I have records of four nests, including the last--the one in the
currant bush. This 1897 nest was three and one half inches in diameter
by two inches in depth inside, and three and one half inches outside.
The foundation was laid May 27th, and the nest was completed June 3d.
It was then deserted for three days. The first egg was deposited June
6th, and thereafter one each day until the 9th, when four eggs made up
the set. The fourth egg was pure white; the other three were white with
a ring of reddish-brown blotches around the larger end.

After the fourth egg was laid the bird remained on the nest nights, but
during the daytime for three days spent the most of the time gadding
about. June 20th, I found one bird out of the shell and the next day
all were out. The young birds are not fed until they are one day old.
They are not great feeders like young robins, and the mother bird has
an easy task to provide food. The birds grow rapidly. At first the
mother can cover her brood while half hid below the brim of the nest,
but before the young birds leave the nest she must stand with a foot on
each side of the brim.

July 2d the young birds were induced to leave the nest. On that day
the mother bird did not feed the young birds, and I think they must
have been downright hungry. Later she tempted them with a plump insect,
while the male fluttered about with cries of encouragement. Soon one
hopped out of the nest on to a twig and was quickly fed. The others
took the hint, and all were soon out of the nest. Most birds pursue the
same method, and it reminds one of teaching baby how to walk.


My little friend has had two mates since we became acquainted. She
was made a widow by a prowling cat during the summer of 1896. The next
spring she returned with a second husband. This newcomer resented any
familiarity on my part. He seemed to think that I was too inquisitive,
and made a great fuss every time he found me near the nest. Frequently
my little friend would fly at him and drive him away. She tried to make
him understand that I was a welcome guest, but he never took kindly to
my presence. In return I thought him most ungrateful, for I had killed
one cat and two snakes to protect his family.


My little friend holds my dooryard and immediate vicinity against all
other chestnut-sided warblers. If some other bird of the same species
starts a nest, the little squatter tyrant drives the interloper away.
She claims sway over a circle about 200 feet in diameter, with my
cabin for a centre. Catbirds, towhee-buntings and oven-birds and two
ruffed grouse have nested on this claim, but for eleven years no
chestnut-sided warbler has succeeded in preempting the claim.


The chestnut-sided warbler is so conspicuously marked that a mere tyro
in bird study cannot mistake it for any other member of the warbler
family. The bright yellow crown, pure white under parts, and chestnut
sides of the old birds are marks not to be mistaken. The young birds
are yellowish green above and silky white below.

An amusing thing happened here some years ago over a bird of this
species. A lady caller, a summer resident, asked me for the name of
a bird which often visited a tree over her sitting-room window. She
claimed that the bird was pure white with red wings. I could not make
her understand that there was no such bird in New England. "Seeing is
believing," she exclaimed, and I was invited to investigate for myself.
While looking from the sitting-room window I saw the bird above my head
on a twig. Sure enough, he was a white bird with red wings. It was a
chestnut-sided warbler. From a distance the effect was enough like a
white bird with red wings to deceive any one not well acquainted with
bird life. Looking up to the bird the chestnut sides resembled red

I sent the lady into an upper room, where she could look down on her
white bird, and she soon returned, and laughingly said, "I always knew
that there were two sides to a story, and now I have just learned that
there are two sides to a bird."


May 27, 1902, five years after the foregoing history was published,
the same little bird hopped to my feet for nesting material. I gave
her some cotton twine, cut to eight-inch lengths, and she carried
away two pieces. She flew to a small hollow about twenty feet south
of my spring. I followed, and seated on a small boulder, watched the
nest building for the next two hours. I could reach out and touch the
bush that contained the nesting material, but the little mother paid
no attention to my presence, only to turn a bright eye on me, after
she had coiled a piece of string or blade of grass in the bottom of
the nest. I think she wanted me to criticise her work. I usually told
her that it was well done, and so it was. The bush was a sweet pepper
bush, and the nest was saddled between the main stem and two twigs.
When I first saw the nest it was but just begun. The bottom was a
small wad of some gray material, which I found afterward was shreds of
wool from an old gray coat that I had discarded. I placed grass and
string on my knee and the bird's keen sight discovered it at once. She
fearlessly hopped from a twig to my knee and examined the material.
She was satisfied with the inspection and took three blades of grass
to the nest. When she had coiled them, one stiff blade insisted on
standing out straight. She put this in place three times, but it would
straighten out each time. She flew away and returned immediately with
some spider-web with which she fastened the blade of grass to one
of the twigs. The male warbler swung from a twig over the nest and
inspected the work. Once he pulled out a piece of string and his wife
caught him in the act, and flew at him in a great rage. I put my hand
on the nest and she pecked my finger and scolded me roundly. After two
hours' hard work, she was coaxed away by her mate and I returned to my
writing. Day by day I watched the nest building until it was finished,
seven days after it was begun. It was lined with horsehair. The little
bird spent most of the seventh day in shaping the nest. She would turn
about, pressing the sides of the nest with her breast, until the whole
nest was made firm and as round as an apple. The nest was deserted for
three days before the first egg was laid. Four eggs, the usual number,
were laid, and then I found the mother bird on the nest toward sunset.
For the next three days she did what all chestnut-sided warblers do,
sit on the nest nights and roam about through the day. After this I
always found her on the nest until the little ones were out.


I made up my mind to tame these young birds so they would come at my
call. I bred some meal worms and began to feed them to the baby birds.
The mother objected at first, but after awhile she appeared to know
that I would not harm them, and she would look on while I was passing
the worms to the birds. After the young birds were out of the nest, and
flying around in the shrubbery, I would hunt them up. One bird would
come to my finger to eat, but the others were shy and as they grew
older they would not remain for the proffered worm. They all drifted
away to the huckleberry fields and I lost them until nearly time for
migration. Then they came to the water in the dooryard to bathe. My
tame bird would take flies and green worms from my hand as of old, but
the three others preferred to feed themselves. When the birds returned
in migration the next spring, I hunted high and low for my tame warbler
but did not find him. The warblers that nest along the old road are
quite tame for wild birds. They will come within four feet of an
observer. They have attracted the attention of visitors by this trait.
I think many of these tame birds are the descendants of my little bird
friend that for sixteen years has consecrated my cabin dooryard.

[Illustration: BLUE JAYS.]



Instinct is the overworked and much abused word of many writers. As
applied to the wild things, we often stumble on to the terms, instinct
of direction, instinct of migration, instinct of song, instinct of
nest building, and so on. Webster gives several definitions as to the
meaning of instinct. The following covers the ground:

"An instinct is an agent which performs blindly and ignorantly a work
of intelligence and knowledge."


To gather acorns in the balmy days of October and store them for
the cold of winter, is a work of intelligence and knowledge. Can we
believe that the blue jays and squirrels perform this work blindly and
ignorantly? If they do, then the storing of a single nut would be a
miracle. Watch a red squirrel while gathering acorns and note carefully
his intelligent acts. If there is a clear spot beneath the oak he drops
the acorns on to it, even if he has to carry each nut from one side
to the other of the tree. Note how carefully he selects the fruit: no
wormy nuts are wanted. In fact, he exercises the same thoughtful care
that a human being would exercise under like conditions. Does he do the
work blindly?


Instinct, as applied to the lives of wild animals, is such an elusive
and meaningless term, that it is a pity it should be used so often
by writers on natural history. The word "instinct" savors of the
supernatural, and was invented in ancient times to separate man from
the brute, when the lower animals were supposed to lack reason. The
word "heredity" is a far better word, for it renders intelligible all
of fact that the word "instinct" implies, without resort to imagination
and the supernatural.

It is claimed by some writers that the sense of direction is an
instinct which guides birds in migration. As one writer states it:
"They may be frightened and become confused, as by being frequently
shot at, but once beyond the danger-line, their instinct regains
control, and they will resume their journey in a direct line for their
ultimate destination, and that, too, without stopping to think which
way is the right way."

If this were true, if birds could launch themselves into the air and
go South without thought, and, if turned aside, miraculously regain
their course without a thought as to the right way, then indeed would
I be forced to admit the supernatural, to acknowledge that the days of
miracles were not past, but it would upset all my preconceived ideas of
Dame Nature and her laws.

Really, before we resort to miracles to explain migration, would it not
be well to turn to natural laws--laws that are explained by intelligent
thought after careful observation?


I have ever found the birds as intelligent in relation to the needs of
their lives as we are to our lives. Migration is not an exception to
the rule.

If man migrates he does so intelligently. Why not grant to birds the
same faculty?

For the sake of illustration we will take the swallows, birds known to
all, and describe their method of migration. Remember, that the old
birds have been South, that they know the way and do not doubt their
ability to pilot the young birds to the new home. They also know, from
experience, the perils and hardships of a long flight while battling
with wind and weather. Full well they know that young birds, just out
of the nest, would not last a day's flight if raw and untrained. So
they intelligently proceed to train the young birds into a suitable
condition. Early in the morning, after the young are fed, they are
marshalled along the wires and fences and drilled in the art of flying.
At first they fly in small squads, just a family group, but later they
gather into companies and practise until the companies are massed in
one grand army corps. When the young birds are thoroughly drilled, that
is, are hard of muscle and capable of keeping their place in the ranks,
to touch elbows, as it were, the old birds are ready to lead the way
South. To avoid straggling the departure is made in the night.

Up to this point we see no indications of instinct. The acts of the
swallows are as intelligent as would be the acts of human beings under
like circumstances. If a general had raw recruits to deal with he would
drill them just as the swallows drill their raw recruits.

Perhaps the manœuvres of swallows gave mankind the idea of military

When we consider the journey of these birds South, why should we claim
that their acts are guided by a supernatural power? Why not allow
intelligence in flight as well as in preparing for flight?


We can readily understand how the old birds, that have made several
journeys and must be familiar with all the landmarks, may make the
journey without the aid of a supernatural power.

We must remember that the sense of sight in birds is developed to a
degree unknown to mankind. It often happens that I startle a ruffed
grouse from its perch in the night. In such case it hurls itself
through the shrubbery with amazing speed. When I think of the keenness
of sight that enables this bird to avoid twigs and limbs, I know that
my sight is nothing but blindness in comparison.

Some birds fly high, and the earth is like a map beneath them, with a
well-defined line between land and water. Birds that are familiar with
the route ought to experience no difficulty in finding the way. Even
the limited sight of man would serve unless handicapped by a dark,
stormy night.

Young birds left to themselves will not go South. Young robins often
get left in this vicinity. They are birds of the last brood usually;
the parent birds are killed before the young learn to associate with
the flocks in the neighborhood. They stay through the winter because
they have no knowledge of the South and no guide to lead the way.
Ducks hatched under hens from wild eggs will not go South. I once
lived near a farmer that hatched out six black ducks. The farmer did
not feed them, and they lived through the summer on a trout brook. In
winter they huddled into a fence corner under some shrubbery. They had
no instinct to send them South, although their flight feathers were
perfect; but they possessed intelligence enough to seek the cattle
tie-up for warmth whenever they found the door open.


It is assumed that the bee, the pigeon, and some variety of ducks, rise
and circle in the air to leave landmarks "out of sight," so that this
remarkable instinct may work more freely. Would it not be well to apply
natural laws to these cases? Suppose we infer that these animals rise
and circle to find familiar landmarks, just as a human being would act
if he had the power of flight and had lost his way. Human beings climb
trees, when lost, to look for landmarks. Why should we deny to bees and
birds the very methods we make use of whenever the occasion requires?


As to bees, I do know that they circle to find landmarks. After years
spent in hunting, or "lining bees," as we call the sport in Maine, I
can speak with no uncertain knowledge. The power to circle in search of
landmarks is limited. If a bee is carried too far from its hive, beyond
its power to circle and find landmarks, it is lost and never returns
to the hive. I have proved this time after time. The carrier-pigeon's
power to circle is a most remarkable feature, but nevertheless it has
its limit. Pigeons that are used for long-distance flight are trained
over the whole distance in short flights, so the bird may become
familiar with landmarks.

Our dogs and cats that return to us when carried sightless to a
distance, may return through the sense of smell. Cape Ann fishermen
tell me that dogs scent the land fifty miles at sea. If we grant to
animals the power of observation which we possess, and then take into
consideration their keen sense of smell, we can account for many things
that seem mysterious. However, dogs and cats are lost every day in the

Nest building is said to be instinctive, but I shall have to take
exceptions to the statement. I do not deny that the art is hereditary,
and that a young bird confined might essay to build something for a
nest, but I do deny that the selection of straws is under the influence
of instinct. I believe young birds examine the nest in which they are
reared intelligently, and are educated by their parents in part in
the selection of material. I once saw an old catbird give her young
daughter a lesson in nest building. The young catbird had carried a
large quantity of rootlets from my garden to a patch of catbrier. She
had placed it so loosely that a good breeze would have upset the whole
affair. While I was looking on wondering what the bird would do if the
wind should rise, the old catbird, the young bird's mother, happened
along to inspect the work.


The moment she saw the shaky structure she tumbled it on to the ground.
Then she laid a foundation that no breeze could dislodge. Her selection
of rootlets long enough to bridge the spaces was something wonderful.
I did not see her make a mistake. If she picked up a rootlet a hair's
breadth short, she dropped it for another of the right length. After
she had laid a secure foundation, she left the young bird to her own
skill and judgment. When the bird had completed the nest, it was as
large as a four-quart measure. It was made up of varied materials.
Newspaper and cloth afforded the larger amount. A departure was the
skin of a garter snake woven into the brim. A few years ago I found a
catbird's nest ornamented with a snake-skin, and the two instances are
the only ones of all my observations.

[Illustration: WOOD THRUSH.]


To read some of our books on ornithology, would lead one to suppose
that birds of the same species constructed nests exactly alike, but
the fact is, that no two nests are alike. A bird will improve in nest
building, usually, with age. I have a little friend, a chestnut-sided
warbler, that has constructed twenty-three nests since I made her
acquaintance. As I remember them the last nest is the neatest and most
substantial. Some have been made almost wholly of rags. Chickadees have
adopted cotton-batting, and call for it if I neglect to keep it in the
dooryard. It often happens that birds select new material, if handy,
instead of hunting the usual nest building material. If birds were
guided by instinct and did not exercise reason, they would select the
same nesting material year after year. The habit would be so securely
fixed that the bird would not be tempted to use new material, no
matter how plentiful or handy it might be. The fact that birds readily
accommodate themselves to new surroundings, is proof positive that
they possess the power to reason. I found a nest, last season, of the
wood-thrush, which was a complete departure from the usual nest. The
bulk of the nest was composed of moss, sphagnum. It was placed on some
bushes of the black-alder which the snow had bent down. Instead of mud
the bird had used a black soil, and the nest was lined with horsehair.
The horsehair, moss, and black mold were all near the nest. If I had
found the nest after the young had left it, it would have proved a
puzzle for me. As it was, the old bird was on the nest when I found it
and so gave me the clue.


Young birds are taught to sing by the old males. This is true of the
birds that have come under my observation. Even the grouse teaches the
young to drum. This is done soon after dark in the fall of the year.
From my hammock I often hear these lessons. The old grouse makes the
woods ring with his drumming. Then he rests while the young grouse try
a hand. Their efforts are not a success, and the old bird again shows
them how to do it. Some nights this will go on for two hours.

There is a test that any one can try, to prove that song is
educational and not instinctive.

Go into the woods inhabited by the wood-thrush, and sit down and
listen. It will soon be evident that you have invited yourself to a
bird's singing school.


In a party of summer residents from Magnolia, there was one lady who
told me she had no patience with my views on song. That a bird would
sing, anyway, because it had a throat adapted to song. She said that
when I heard birds sing out of season, I would claim that they were
teaching their young, when in fact they were only exercising their
voices without a thought of teaching. When they were ready to return
to Magnolia, I offered to show them a path through the woods, a new
way to them. When I had reached a spot where I knew there was a family
of wood-thrushes, I ordered a rest. When we had become quiet the old
thrush tuned up and gave us the song. It is a short song, but loud,
clear, and flute-like. There was no wind, and the song appeared to be
sweeter and louder than usual. When the old thrush had ceased, one
young bird after another took up the strain. Some would give one note,
others two or three notes. Some notes would be hoarse, others would be
shrill. After awhile the birds would forget the lesson and drop out one
after the other. When all were silent, the old thrush would again give
them the right pitch and tone, and again the young thrushes tried to
imitate the singer. For two hours we sat there and listened. The lady
had to admit that the old bird was giving the young birds a lesson. Yet
she claimed that the thrush was an exception. I was glad that she was
ready to admit that one bird of a species was intelligent. I told her
that when she had devoted two hours to all the other birds she would be
converted to my faith.

[Illustration: THE HERMIT THRUSH.]


Of all the thrushes the Hermit is my favorite. Not because he is
a namesake, but for the reason that his is one of the beautiful
bird-songs woven into the memory of my boyhood days. I see him here
only in migration. The last of March or first of April, I see the bird,
and hear the sweet "Tu-le, tu-li-le." A beautiful strain, but only the
prelude to the true song, which is seldom heard away from their summer
home. Years ago I wrote the following description of the song of the
hermit-thrush :

"To me the song of the hermit-thrush is the sweetest sound in nature.
It is not a plaintive, pensive, or tender strain, but satisfies the
senses and clings to the memory like the recollection of some great joy.

"I shall never forget a song I once heard in the woods of northern
Maine. I was in a bark-peeling camp at the time. A rainy day had sent
the crew to their homes in the settlement until the next morning; and I
was left alone.

"The rain poured down in torrents. The wind howled and roared through
the tree-tops, flinging great sheets of water on to the bark roof of
the camp. My spirits were depressed and gloomy. Financial troubles, the
loss of a cherished home, had disheartened me, and life seemed hardly
worth living.


"Just before night the rain suddenly ceased. The sun burst through
the clouds, and the wind completely died out. Save for the sound of
dropping water, the forest was silent and solemn. A glowing sunset,
painting all the clouds of the western sky, aroused me from my
miserable thoughts. Just then the song of the hermit-thrush floated up
from a neighboring swamp. Clear and pure the flute-like notes slowly
echoed through the silent woods. The moist and hollow atmosphere
magnified the slightest sound, and I could distinguish the fine trills
which form a part of this famous song. '_O, phee-re-al, phee-re-al!_'
represents the strain as near as I can give it in words.

"I would that I were able to express in fitting language the
feelings with which I am inspired when I listen to the song of the
hermit-thrush. It satisfies my sense of the beautiful as no other
song can. And yet I am never quite satisfied. There is something I do
not understand. Something beyond me, a shadowy mystery. After I have
listened to the strain, and while its memory still lingers, I find
myself longing to know the whole secret of its charm. However, years
ago I settled the matter in my mind and note-book, as the following
entry will show: 'The song of the hermit-thrush is the Spirit of Nature
chanting the mystery of life. When the mystery is solved we shall
understand the song.'


"Day faded into twilight, and twilight into night, and still that
exalted anthem solemnly pealed through the forest. It was after ten
o'clock when the strain died out in a few broken notes.

"Thanks to the hermit-thrush, my thoughts were turned into a new
and healthy channel. I fell asleep that night on my fragrant bed of
fir-boughs, at peace with the whole world."


                            THE CHICKADEES

The chickadees are with me the year through. In winter they collect
into a flock and remain near the cabin, but when the snow departs, they
drift away in pairs, in search of a good nesting site. From this time,
until the young birds are large enough to fly, the chickadees come to
my cabin in pairs. The domestic life of the chickadee overflows with
love, joy, and devotion. These little birds when once mated are mated
for life. There is no divorce in the bird family, from eagles down to
humming-birds. It is a rare treat to watch a pair of chickadees in the
nesting season. I was walking along the old highway last season, when
I heard one of my chickadees calling to me. This bird had a way of
calling "Dee, dee, dee" whenever she met me in the woods. I usually
carry food along, and she would come to my hand and help herself. After
she had satisfied her appetite, she flew down the side-hill to Magnolia
Swamp. I followed her, and found her mate excavating a nest in a small
dead paper-birch. I expect that his wife told him that I was coming,
but he did not quit work for five minutes. When I had approached, he
bobbed his head out of the entrance, but instantly returned to his
work. When he did come out, he appeared hungry, and attacked a doughnut
with vigor, winding up with hemp-seed. From the way the birds attacked
food, it was evident that they would have had to seek the cabin soon,
if I had not happened along.


I talk to the chickadees as I would to human beings, so when I had
seated myself on a boulder, within four feet of the nest, I told my
friends that I was making them a friendly call, and begged them to keep
right on with their work. The chickadees said something to me in reply,
and may have understood what I said to them, for they returned at
once to enlarging the hole in the birch. The hole in the paper-birch,
which formed the entrance, was one inch and one eighth in diameter, and
round as it could well be. The depth was six inches, and the birds were
at work in the bottom making the hole deeper. While the husband was
eating his breakfast, the little wife was down in the hole, and I could
hear the blows of her sharp bill. After breakfast, the husband flew to
the entrance and called to his wife. She bobbed out and he bobbed in.
Instead of resting, she occupied the time with eating hemp-seed. At
the end of three minutes, the mate appeared with a piece of dead wood
in his bill. He flung the wood one side, and disappeared calling his
mate. She flew to the entrance, and, clinging to the edge of the hole,
she reached down inside and brought up a bill-full of chippings, which
she dropped outside. This was followed up until the chippings were
exhausted. Then the male hammered away, while the female ate some more
hemp-seed. Three minutes later he came out for a rest, and the female
took his place. The birds appeared to work under a regular system, for
the little wife came to the mouth of the hole and called her husband;
he clung to the edge and reached inside for chippings, just as his wife
did. The bird inside must have passed the chippings up to the bird
outside. Quite a scheme to save labor.


From time to time I visited this nest to inspect the work. When the
hole was about nine inches in depth, the birds put in the nesting
material. If these birds had not become partly domesticated, the
foundation of the nest would have been moss (_Sphagnum_), with a lining
of fur or grouse feathers. My chickadees have changed the nesting
habit, using nothing but cotton-batting for foundation and lining.
Eight eggs were laid in this nest, and every one hatched.

The flock of chickadees that have gathered at my cabin this winter for
food will number about fifty. They are so tame that they enter the
cabin and eat from the table. One bird has demonstrated to me that she
possesses a keen memory and an intelligence that is phenomenal. For
four winters she has made it a practice to rap on the window when she
is hungry, or desires to come in the cabin. Her method, followed each
day, is peculiar. She raps if I am inside, and not otherwise. If I am
sitting outside, she never approaches the window. It is evident that
she raps to attract my attention. After rapping, she goes to the door
and waits for me. If I do not respond, she returns to the window and
raps again, louder than before. She waits at the door a short time,
and if I do not come, she returns to the window and stays right there,
and raps vigorously all the time. Not only is it peculiar that she is
intelligent enough to know that she can attract my attention, but it is
also peculiar that she can remember from one winter to another how to
go through the intelligent act.

One of my bird-loving friends, the late "Frank Bolles," for many years
the secretary of Harvard College, was telling me of the intelligence of
the chickadees around Chocorua. I told him that my chickadees could
count four. Mr. Bolles laughed, and said: "I am quite a bird crank, but
I think I will have to draw the line at counting. What have you for
proof?" I called his attention to the method employed by the chickadees
when eating hemp-seed. Not having the stout cone bill of the finch
family, a chickadee was obliged to hold a seed between its toes and
beat off the hull, to get at the meat. A chickadee would fly into the
dooryard after a hemp-seed, then fly to a small twig, and, holding the
seed between its toes, hammer away until the meat was threshed out.
Some of the old birds would carry away as many as four seeds. These
birds let their brains save their wings. When a bird carried away four
seeds, three were usually placed in the rough bark of a limb until
wanted. I fed the chickadees, and a dozen or more were soon busy taking
seed from the dooryard. A pet bird, of long standing, was pointed out
to Mr. Bolles as one that could count four. The bird picked up four
seeds, and flew to a limb over my head. Near the bole of the tree she
deposited three seeds, and took the fourth one to a small twig, about
eight feet away. Before she got through with the first seed, I pushed
one of the three off the limb. Mr. Bolles scouted the idea that the
bird would miss the seed on the ground. After the bird had disposed
of three seeds, it hunted in the bark of the limb at first, and then
dropped to the ground and found the missing seed. If two seeds were
pushed off, the chickadee would hunt for both. Mr. Bolles admitted that
the bird could count four, and possibly more than that number if it was


Mr. Bolles was the author of several books on outdoor life. He
possessed a delightful style, reminding one of John Burroughs. I will
quote from his book, "From Blomidon to Smoky," a record of a visit to
my cabin:

"I have a friend who lives alone, summer and winter, in a tiny hut amid
the woods. The doctors told him he must die, so he escaped from them
to Nature, made his peace with her, and regained his health. To the
wild creatures of the pasture, the oak woods, and the swamps he is no
longer a man, but a faun; he is one of their own kind,--shy, alert,
silent. They, having learned to trust him, have come a little nearer to
men. I once went to his hut when he was absent, and stretched myself in
the sunlight by his tiny doorstep. Presently, two chickadees came to a
box of bird-seed, swinging from the pine-limb overhead, and fed there,
cracking the seeds one by one with their bills. Then from the swamp,
a pair of catbirds appeared, and fed upon crumbs scattered over the
ground just at my feet. A chipmunk ran back and forth past them, coming
almost within reach of my hand; soon after a song-sparrow (Wabbles)
drove away the catbirds, and then sung a little _sotto voce_ song to me
before helping itself to the crumbs. When my friend returned, he told
me the story of this song-sparrow; how he saved its life, and had been
rewarded by three years of gratitude, confidence, and affection on the
part of the brave little bird. He seemed fearful lest I should think
him overimaginative in recital, so he gave me details about the sparrow
and its ways which would have convinced a jury of the bird's identity
and strong individuality. The secret of my friend's friendship with
these birds was that, by living together, each had, by degrees, learned
to know the other."


The chickadees are great bird-wags. In various ways they play tricks
on other birds. When there is hemp-seed in the box, the chickadees are
like a lot of children turned out of school. If a tree-sparrow happens
along, he takes possession by driving the other birds away. A saucy
chickadee will give the danger-call, which sounds to me like "_butcher
bird, butcher bird_." The tree-sparrow darts into the bushes and the
chickadees pile onto the seed-box. The sparrow finding that there is no
enemy about soon returns to the seed-box. Inside of three minutes the
same, or another chickadee, gives the alarm and away goes the sparrow
into the bushes. This time he knows that he has been fooled, so when
he comes back he chases the chickadee through the trees around the
dooryard. The chickadee is too quick for the sparrow; he darts this
way and that, laughing and shouting at the top of his voice. The other
chickadees do a lot of laughing and shouting too, at the same time they
attend to the seed-box. The sparrow always flies away when he hears the
danger-call. I suppose he thinks it better to be safe than to be sorry.


Several years ago I placed a box in the top of an oak-tree, thinking
that bluebirds might be induced to nest therein. While I was nailing
the box to a limb, a pair of chickadees had overlooked the work.
These chickadees were old friends, and naturally thought that I was
making a nest for their benefit. The next day when I had returned from
the city, I found the birds engaged in carrying cotton batting into
the box. These chickadees were old and had made four nests, so the
selection of a box and cotton batting was a marked departure from the
regular nesting habit. While the little lady was sitting I made it a
practice every day to climb the tree and offer her food. When I had
turned the cover back the bird would flutter her wings as young birds
do when begging food. But the little wife would take no food from me
if her husband was present. She would call to him "_chip, chip_," and
he would hop to me for food. When he got it, he would feed his wife,
while she fluttered her wings and acted like a young bird. When eight
little chicks thrust up their open bills for food, the parents appeared
brimful of joy and happiness. They rushed around in search of food,
calling to each other all the time. I climbed the tree one day at
noontime. The young birds were full grown. I took one in my hand and
the mother said something to me in her language. I thought that she
asked me if the bird was old enough to leave the nest. I told her it
was, and the sooner they got out the better, for the nest was too small
and was hot besides. That noon I went over to Cedar Swamp, and did not
return until after sunset. When I had reached the cabin the chickadees
hopped to my shoulder and in heartrending bird language tried to tell
me that something had happened to their babies. I climbed the tree and
found the nest empty. On a boulder I had placed a pair of rubber boots
to dry One of the boots was missing. Two boys had robbed the chickadees
and had carried away the young birds in the rubber boot. The bereaved
birds remained near the cabin all night, and I did not sleep, because
they talked to me in the most pitiful language I had ever heard from a
bird. The next day I traced the wretched thieves, but the little birds
were dead.


Before leaving the chickadees, I wish to mention something that has
impressed itself upon my mind, during the last eighteen years. That is,
that the chackadees would make desirable park-birds. Compare these busy
little birds with the English sparrow, and one can but feel sorry that
we imported the alien, when we already possessed the native.

A flock of my chickadees, if removed to Boston Common, would thrive
and increase rapidly, and from a small beginning all the parks of
the country could be stocked. The chickadees rear two broods in a
season, usually eight in a brood. These birds hunt the trees for insect
life, while the undesirable alien hunts the streets for indigested
food. Contrast the quarrelsome "_chirps_" of the one, with the cheery
"_chickadee, chickadee_" of the other. Then the mating-song. How it
would fit into the glorious spring mornings. This song is called the
"phœbe note of the chickadee" by many writers. The only reason that
explains why this name clings to the chickadee's song, is that some
early writer adopted it, and later writers followed suit without taking
pains to investigate. There is as great difference between the two as
there is between black and white. The song of the phœbe-bird is in
two notes, delivered in a querulous, plaintive tone, while that of
the chickadee is in three notes, as loud and cheery as the whistle of
Whittier's "Barefoot boy." "_Tea's ready_," it seems to say, with the
accent on the first syllable.



I opened up my cabin one winter morning, at daylight, to find the
dooryard covered with two inches of light snow. A mass of fox tracks
centred about a piece of meat, which was nailed to the trunk of a
pine-tree. When the fox left, about daylight, it went down the old
highway, and this is the trail it made:

                        ooo  ooo  ooo  ooo  ooo

[Illustration: Triplefoot]

Two tracks started from a cluster near the meat, followed by a space,
then three tracks followed by another space, and so on, in regular
order, three tracks and a space. I had no difficulty in solving the
mystery. The fox had been trapped sometime in the past, and had
regained its liberty by the loss of a foot. The space in the trail
represented the missing foot. This fox was no stranger to my dooryard,
and months before I had named her Triplefoot, because she travelled on
three feet. She had a charmed life, for the fox-hunters had failed in
their efforts to shoot her, so far, although for over a year she was
the only fox in this locality, and the hounds hazed her night and day.

After breakfast I started on Triplefoot's trail. There was a good
tracking snow, and I was determined to trail the fox to her den. The
trail led down the old highway, but turned off to visit Solomon's
Orchard. This was a spot containing two ruined cellars, a large
clump of barberry-bushes, and some wild apple-trees, descendants of
a cultivated orchard. The fox did some foraging under the barberry
bushes, and a drop or two of blood on the snow indicated that she was
successful in capturing a wood-mouse. While I was looking for the trail
out of the orchard, I heard two hounds give tongue, and the tone
told me that they were hot on the trail. These hounds had come up the
old highway, and had struck the fox's trail just south of Solomon's
Orchard. Triplefoot had scented the hounds, and turned to the west,
into Magnolia Swamp. I pushed my way through the dense shrubbery, the
tracks of two dogs and a fox making a well-defined trail. The trail
led through the swamp and over the ridge to Wallace's Pond. The trail
crossed on the ice, and led me over Magnolia Avenue, just below the
lily-pond. I had come to the conclusion that Triplefoot was hunting
water, so as to throw the hounds of the scent. The cold weather was
against her. All the brooks and ponds were covered with ice. The trail,
after it crossed the road, led along the ridges to Mount Ann. From this
point the fox had shaped her course to Coffin's Beach. It was a long,
weary tramp, but I had enlisted and was bound to see it through.

[Illustration Triplefoot and Chickens]

When I had reached the sand-dunes of Coffin's Beach, I found the
snow had melted under the combined influence of sun and sand. Here
Triplefoot had thrown the hounds off, and had left me out of the hunt,
too. Not a track could be seen in the shifting white sand. It was an
old trick of the foxes, to resort to the sand-dunes, when there was a
dearth of water. There was one of two things for me to do; give up the
hunt and go home, or skirt the woods for Triplefoot's trail, where she
had left the beach. I decided on the latter course, and, as luck was
with me, found the trail in less than ten minutes. The fox returned by
way of Mount Ann and Dyke's Meadow, crossing Magnolia Swamp south of
Solomon's Orchard, and took to the ridges near the old quarry. The den
was under a big boulder, and, strange to tell, was only eight minutes'
walk from my cabin. It was dark when I found the den, so I had thrown
away a whole day looking for a thing that was in my own dooryard, so
to speak. Triplefoot reared a family during the season. In April she
stored two hens and a grouse in her den, so she would not have to hunt
when her cubs were born. I saw the feathers of the fowls, and knew that
the wise creature was putting food in cold storage for a day of need.


[Illustration: TRIPLEFOOT'S DEN.]

When the fox cubs were old enough to come outside and play, I put in
many hours watching them with a good glass. There was no time that I
saw more than three, and I think that was the size of the family. There
was a flat boulder over the den, which sloped from the ground upward.
I was standing on this boulder one eve, when one of the cubs came out
of the den, and was in the act of climbing the ledge when he saw me. He
stopped, with his forepaws on the edge of the ledge, and coolly looked
me over. After he had satisfied his curiosity he went into the den, and
immediately returned with one of his mates. The little imp had probably
asked his brother to come out and name the comical two-legged beast.
The two cubs placed their feet on the ledge and looked at me for two
minutes. They were not over six feet from me, and looked as fat and
stocky as two young pigs.


Triplefoot's life was one of worry and care, to say nothing about the
danger from mankind and the hounds. She had to find food for her hungry
cubs, and whichever way she turned, danger lurked on her trail. If she
hunted for wood-mice, the hounds were there to pick up her trail. Then
she had to seek water to throw them off. It would not do to go to the
den, where the hounds would soon dig out her little cubs, and shake the
life from their tender bodies. If she turned to some poultry-yard, the
chances were that she would find herself looking into the muzzle of
the farmer's shotgun. She was desperately wild, and so were the little
cubs when she was with them. A warning note from the mother worked like
magic. The little ones would crouch and creep to the mouth of the den,
and disappear as silently as three ghosts.

I saw Triplefoot return to the den one Sunday morning, empty-handed.
The cubs came out and whined pitifully when they missed the Sunday
breakfast. The old fox ordered them into the den, and then took the
path for Fresh Water Cove. I knew that a large flock of hens ran in
the bushes, near the highway, and Triplefoot knew it, too. In twenty
minutes she was back to the den with a large hen over her neck. She
called her cubs, and tore the hen to pieces, giving each cub a piece,
but reserving something for herself. The dining-room was about thirty
feet west of the den. It was under some small hemlocks, and the ground
was level and smooth. When all the foxes had had enough, there was a
small piece left. Triplefoot buried this piece under the oak leaves.

[Illustration Triplefoot and Chickens]

There was one thing that puzzled me in Triplefoot's way of hunting. I
could not understand why she did not go after poultry every day. East,
west, north, and south, there were flocks of fowls running at large,
and it would be a trifling exertion to snatch one from the bushes at
any hour of the day. Triplefoot may have reasoned that a fowl now and
then would not be missed, while a wholesale slaughter would attract
attention, and send the farmer to hunting for the den.

Triplefoot's cubs were killed that fall and winter, and she was left
childless. Her mate did not den in this locality, and without doubt was
shot, for Triplefoot did not rear a family the next spring. It happened
during my tramps in the woods that I often met Triplefoot. She soon
understood that I did not covet her glossy pelt, and she separated me
from mankind in general. I have known her to remain at the den when she
knew I was looking at her through a glass. She often led the hounds
through my dooryard, and, if I was about, the hounds got turned off the


[Illustration Triplefoot and Chickens]

I saw Triplefoot fool the hounds one fall. I was resting in the woods
when I heard the hounds in Magnolia Swamp. I understood what was going
on. Triplefoot was trying to throw them off, but the dogs had a good
scent, and all her efforts were useless. Near where I was sitting there
was a pine-tree turned up by the roots. The trunk of the tree was
about two feet from the ground, near the roots, but the ground fell
off rapidly, so the top, with the foliage, was over ten feet in the
air. While I was listening to the hounds, Triplefoot came in sight. She
passed close to the leaning pine, and kept on over the hill. There was
a small pond in the valley, below, and I thought Triplefoot was going
to the water to throw off the dogs. But I had erred. In a few minutes
she returned, doubling on her trail. When she had reached the pine, she
jumped to the tree, where it was four feet from the ground. She stopped
to look around, and saw me. The wind was against her, so she had to
be guided by sight. She seemed satisfied that the man was the hermit,
for she went into the thick foliage of the pine top and awaited the
hounds. The hounds passed by the tree without stopping, but returned
after following the trail to water. Both hounds passed by the tree, to
return in a few minutes. One hound had a suspicion that the tree might
harbor the fox. He put his paws on the tree-trunk, and smelt along as
far as he could reach, then gave it up. Triplefoot had been wise when
she jumped to the tree beyond the dog's reach. After the hounds left,
Triplefoot came out of the tree and circled around me. She wanted to
make sure that I was the hermit. I examined the pine-tree and found the
bark much scratched, where Triplefoot had jumped on to it. The evidence
showed that she had frequently resorted to the trick, to throw off the
hounds. I wish I might end the story of this little three-footed fox
in some happy way, but truth has ordered it otherwise. She was shot
when running before the hounds, but was not immediately killed. I found
her dead body while skirting Magnolia Swamp. She had crawled under a
boulder, and had slowly died from her wounds and exhaustion. I buried
her, and was glad that her beautiful robe and her mutilated body would
not be separated in death.

                               THE END.

[Illustration Triplefoot]

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Note

Minor typos corrected. Many of the blocks marked [Illustration] are
little cartoons added to delight the reader in the printed version.
Paragraphs split by illustrations were rejoined.

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