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The Foot-path Way
by Bradford Torrey
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[Transcriber's Note: Author's irregular hyphenation has been kept.]



Books by Mr. Torrey.

BIRDS IN THE BUSH. 16mo, $1.25.

A RAMBLER'S LEASE. 16mo, $1.25.

HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO. BOSTON AND NEW YORK.



THE FOOT-PATH WAY

BY

BRADFORD TORREY

Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way, And merrily hent the stile-a: A merry heart goes all the day, Your sad tires in a mile-a.

THE WINTER'S TALE

BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY The Riverside Press, Cambridge 1893

Copyright, 1892, BY BRADFORD TORREY.

All rights reserved.

SECOND EDITION.

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



CONTENTS. PAGE

JUNE IN FRANCONIA. 1

DECEMBER OUT-OF-DOORS. 36

DYER'S HOLLOW. 67

FIVE DAYS ON MOUNT MANSFIELD. 90

A WIDOW AND TWINS. 111

THE MALE RUBY-THROAT. 135

ROBIN ROOSTS. 153

THE PASSING OF THE BIRDS. 176

A GREAT BLUE HERON. 197

FLOWERS AND FOLKS. 205

IN PRAISE OF THE WEYMOUTH PINE. 232



THE FOOT-PATH WAY.



JUNE IN FRANCONIA.

"Herbs, fruits, and flowers, Walks, and the melody of birds." MILTON.

There were six of us, and we had the entire hotel, I may almost say the entire valley, to ourselves. If the verdict of the villagers could have been taken, we should, perhaps, have been voted a queer set, familiar as dwellers in Franconia are with the sight of idle tourists,—

"Rapid and gay, as if the earth were air, And they were butterflies to wheel about Long as the summer lasted."

We were neither "rapid" nor "gay," and it was still only the first week of June; if we were summer boarders, therefore, we must be of some unusual early-blooming variety.

First came a lady, in excellent repute among the savants of Europe and America as an entomologist, but better known to the general public as a writer of stories. With her, as companion and assistant, was a doctor of laws, who is also a newspaper proprietor, a voluminous author, an art connoisseur, and many things beside. They had turned their backs thus unseasonably upon the metropolis, and in this pleasant out-of-the-way corner were devoting themselves to one absorbing pursuit,—the pursuit of moths. On their daily drives, two or three insect nets dangled conspicuously from the carriage,—the footman, thrifty soul, was never backward to take a hand,—and evening after evening the hotel piazza was illuminated till midnight with lamps and lanterns, while these enthusiasts waved the same white nets about, gathering in geometries, noctuids, sphinges, and Heaven knows what else, all of them to perish painlessly in numerous "cyanide bottles," which bestrewed the piazza by night, and (happy thought!) the closed piano by day. In this noble occupation I sometimes played at helping; but with only meagre success, my most brilliant catch being nothing more important than a "beautiful Io." The kind-hearted lepidopterist lingered with gracious emphasis upon the adjective, and assured me that the specimen would be all the more valuable because of a finger-mark which my awkwardness had left upon one of its wings. So—to the credit of human nature be it spoken—so does amiability sometimes get the better of the feminine scientific spirit. To the credit of human nature, I say; for, though her practice of the romancer's art may doubtless have given to this good lady some peculiar flexibility of mind, some special, individual facility in subordinating a lower truth to a higher, it surely may be affirmed, also, of humanity in general, that few things become it better than its inconsistencies.

Of the four remaining members of the company, two were botanists, and two—for the time—ornithologists. But the botanists were lovers of birds, also, and went nowhere without opera-glasses; while the ornithologists, in turn, did not hold themselves above some elementary knowledge of plants, and amused themselves with now and then pointing out some rarity—sedges and willows were the special desiderata—which the professional collectors seemed in danger of passing without notice. All in all, we were a queer set. How the Latin and Greek polysyllables flew about the dining-room, as we recounted our forenoon's or afternoon's discoveries! Somebody remarked once that the waiters' heads appeared to be more or less in danger; but if the waiters trembled at all, it was probably not for their own heads, but for ours.[1]

[1] Just how far the cause of science was advanced by all this activity I am not prepared to say. The first ornithologist of the party published some time ago (in The Auk, vol. v. p. 151) a list of our Franconia birds, and the results of the botanists' researches among the willows have appeared, in part at least, in different numbers of the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. As for the lepidopterist, I have an indistinct recollection that she once wrote to me of having made some highly interesting discoveries among her Franconia collections,—several undescribed species, as well as I can now remember; but she added that it would be useless to go into particulars with a correspondent entomologically so ignorant.

Our first excursion—I speak of the four who traveled on foot—was to the Franconia Notch. It could not well have been otherwise; at all events, there was one of the four whose feet would not willingly have carried him in any other direction. The mountains drew us, and there was no thought of resisting their attraction.

Love and curiosity are different, if not incompatible, sentiments; and the birds that are dearest to the man are, for that very reason, not most interesting to the ornithologist. When on a journey, I am almost without eyes or ears for bluebirds and robins, song sparrows and chickadees. Now is my opportunity for extending my acquaintance, and such every-day favorites must get along for the time as best they can without my attention. So it was here in Franconia. The vesper sparrow, the veery, and a host of other friends were singing about the hotel and along the roadside, but we heeded them not. Our case was like the boy's who declined gingerbread, when on a visit: he had plenty of that at home.

When we were nearly at the edge of the mountain woods, however, we heard across the field a few notes that brought all four of us to an instant standstill. What warbler could that be? Nobody could tell. In fact, nobody could guess. But, before the youngest of us could surmount the wall, the singer took wing, flew over our heads far into the woods, and all was silent. It was too bad; but there would be another day to-morrow. Meantime, we kept on up the hill, and soon were in the old forest, listening to bay-breasted warblers, Blackburnians, black-polls, and so on, while the noise of the mountain brook on our right, a better singer than any of them, was never out of our ears. "You are going up," it said. "I wish you joy. But you see how it is; you will soon have to come down again."

I took leave of my companions at Profile Lake, they having planned an all-day excursion beyond, and started homeward by myself. Slowly, and with many stops, I sauntered down the long hill, through the forest (the stops, I need not say, are commonly the major part of a naturalist's ramble,—the golden beads, as it were, the walk itself being only the string), till I reached the spot where we had been serenaded in the morning by our mysterious stranger. Yes, he was again singing, this time not far from the road, in a moderately thick growth of small trees, under which the ground was carpeted with club-mosses, dog-tooth violets, clintonia, linnaea, and similar plants. He continued to sing, and I continued to edge my way nearer and nearer, till finally I was near enough, and went down on my knees. Then I saw him, facing me, showing white under parts. A Tennessee warbler! Here was good luck indeed. I ogled him for a long time ("Shoot it," says Mr. Burroughs, authoritatively, "not ogle it with a glass;" but a man must follow his own method), impatient to see his back, and especially the top of his head. What a precious frenzy we fall into at such moments! My knees were fairly upon nettles. He flew, and I followed. Once more he was under the glass, but still facing me. How like a vireo he looked! For one instant I thought, Can it be the Philadelphia vireo? But, though I had never seen that bird, I knew its song to be as different as possible from the notes to which I was listening. After a long time the fellow turned to feeding, and now I obtained a look at his upper parts,—the back olive, the head ashy, like the Nashville warbler. That was enough. It was indeed the Tennessee (Helminthophila peregrina), a bird for which I had been ten years on the watch.

The song, which has not often been described, is more suggestive of the Nashville's than of any other, but so decidedly different as never for a moment to be confounded with it. "When you hear it," a friend had said to me several years before, "you will know it for something new." It is long (I speak comparatively, of course), very sprightly, and peculiarly staccato, and is made up of two parts, the second quicker in movement and higher in pitch than the first. I speak of it as in two parts, though when my companions came to hear it, as they did the next day, they reported it as in three. We visited the place together afterwards, and the discrepancy was readily explained. As to pitch, the song is in three parts, but as to rhythm and character, it is in two; the first half being composed of double notes, the second of single notes. The resemblance to the Nashville's song lies entirely in the first part; the notes of the concluding portion are not run together or jumbled, after the Nashville's manner, but are quite as distinct as those of the opening measure.

As there were at least two pairs of the birds, and they were unmistakably at home, we naturally had hope of finding one of the nests. We made several random attempts, and one day I devoted an hour or more to a really methodical search; but the wily singer gave me not the slightest clue, behaving as if there were no such thing as a bird's nest within a thousand miles, and all my endeavors went for nothing.

As might have been foreseen, Franconia proved to be an excellent place in which to study the difficult family of flycatchers. All our common eastern Massachusetts species were present,—the kingbird, the phoebe, the wood pewee, and the least flycatcher,—and with them the crested flycatcher (not common), the olive-sided, the traill, and the yellow-bellied. The phoebe-like cry of the traill was to be heard constantly from the hotel piazza. The yellow-bellied seemed to be confined to deep and rather swampy woods in the valley, and to the mountain-side forests; being most numerous on Mount Lafayette, where it ran well up toward the limit of trees. In his notes, the yellow-belly may be said to take after both the least flycatcher and the wood pewee. His killic (so written in the books, and I do not know how to improve upon it) resembles the chebec of the least flycatcher, though much less emphatic, as well as much less frequently uttered, while his twee, or tuwee, is quite in the voice and manner of the wood pewee's clear, plaintive whistle; usually a monosyllable, but at other times almost or quite dissyllabic. The olive-sided, on the other hand, imitates nobody; or, if he does, it must be some bird with which I have yet to make acquaintance. Que-que-o he vociferates, with a strong emphasis and drawl upon the middle syllable. This is his song, or what answers to a song, but I have seen him when he would do nothing but repeat incessantly a quick trisyllabic call, whit, whit, whit; corresponding, I suppose, to the well-known whit with which the phoebe sometimes busies himself in a similar manner.

Of more interest than any flycatcher—of more interest even than the Tennessee warbler—was a bird found by the roadside in the village, after we had been for several days in the place. Three of us were walking together, talking by the way, when all at once we halted, as by a common impulse, at the sound of a vireo song; a red-eye's song, as it seemed, with the faintest touch of something unfamiliar about it. The singer was in a small butternut-tree close upon the sidewalk, and at once afforded us perfectly satisfactory observations, perching on a low limb within fifteen feet of our eyes, and singing again and again, while we scrutinized every feather through our glasses. As one of my companions said, it was like having the bird in your hand. There was no room for a question as to its identity. At last we had before us the rare and long-desired Philadelphia greenlet. As its song is little known, I here transcribe my notes about it, made at two different times, between which there appears to have been some discussion among us as to just how it should be characterized:—

"The song is very pretty, and is curiously compounded of the red-eye's and the solitary's, both as to phrase and quality. The measures are all brief; with fewer syllables, that is to say, than the red-eye commonly uses. Some of them are exactly like the red-eye's, while others have the peculiar sweet upward inflection of the solitary's. To hear some of the measures, you would pass the bird for a red-eye; to hear others of them, you might pass him for a solitary. At the same time, he has not the most highly characteristic of the solitary's phrases. His voice is less sharp and his accent less emphatic than the red-eye's, and, so far as we heard, he observes decidedly longer rests between the measures."

This is under date of June 16th. On the following day I made another entry:—

"The song is, I think, less varied than either the solitary's or the red-eye's, but it grows more distinct from both as it is longer heard. Acquaintance will probably make it as characteristic and unmistakable as any of our four other vireo songs. But I do not withdraw what I said yesterday about its resemblance to the red-eye's and the solitary's. The bird seems quite fearless, and keeps much of the time in the lower branches. In this latter respect his habit is in contrast with that of the warbling vireo."

On the whole, then, the song of the Philadelphia vireo comes nearest to the red-eye's, differing from it mainly in tone and inflection rather than in form. In these two respects it suggests the solitary vireo, though it never reproduces the indescribably sweet cadence, the real "dying fall," of that most delightful songster. At the risk of a seeming contradiction, however, I must mention one curious circumstance. On going again to Franconia, a year afterwards, and, naturally, keeping my ears open for Vireo philadelphicus, I discovered that I was never for a moment in doubt when I heard a red-eye; but once, on listening to a distant solitary,—catching only part of the strain,—I was for a little quite uncertain whether he might not be the bird for which I was looking. How this fact is to be explained I am unable to say; it will be least surprising to those who know most of such matters, and at all events I think it worth recording as affording a possible clue to some future observer. The experience, inconsistent as the assertion may sound, does not in the least alter my opinion that the Philadelphia's song is practically certain to be confused with the red-eye's rather than with the solitary's. Upon that point my companions and I were perfectly agreed while we had the bird before us, and Mr. Brewster's testimony is abundantly conclusive to the same effect. He was in the Umbagog forests on a special hunt for Philadelphia vireos (he had collected specimens there on two previous occasions), and after some days of fruitless search discovered, almost by accident, that the birds had all the while been singing close about him, but in every instance had passed for "nothing but red-eyes."[2]

[2] Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, vol. v. p. 3.

For the benefit of the lay reader, I ought, perhaps, to have explained before this that the Philadelphia vireo is in coloration an exact copy of the warbling vireo. There is a slight difference in size between the two, but the most practiced eye could not be depended upon to tell them apart in a tree. Vireo philadelphicus is in a peculiar case: it looks like one common bird, and sings like another. It might have been invented on purpose to circumvent collectors, as the Almighty has been supposed by some to have created fossils on purpose to deceive ungodly geologists. It is not surprising, therefore, that the bird escaped the notice of the older ornithologists. In fact, it was first described,—by Mr. Cassin,—in 1851, from a specimen taken, nine years before, near Philadelphia; and its nest remained unknown for more than thirty years longer, the first one having been discovered, apparently in Canada, in 1884.[3]

[3] E. E. T. Seton, in The Auk, vol. ii. p. 305.

Day after day, the bare, sharp crest of Mount Lafayette silently invited my feet. Then came a bright, favorable morning, and I set out. I would go alone on this my first pilgrimage to the noble peak, at which, always from too far off, I had gazed longingly for ten summers. It is not inconsistent with a proper regard for one's fellows, I trust, to enjoy now and then being without their society. It is good, sometimes, for a man to be alone,—especially on a mountain-top, and more especially at a first visit. The trip to the summit was some seven or eight miles in length, and an almost continual ascent, without a dull step in the whole distance. The Tennessee warbler was singing; but perhaps the pleasantest incident of the walk to the Profile House—in front of which the mountain footpath is taken—was a Blackburnian warbler perched, as usual, at the very top of a tall spruce, his orange throat flashing fire as he faced the sun, and his song, as my notebook expresses it, "sliding up to high Z at the end" in his quaintest and most characteristic fashion. I spent nearly three hours in climbing the mountain path, and during all that time saw and heard only twelve kinds of birds: redstarts, Canada warblers (near the base), black-throated blues, black-throated greens, Nashvilles, black-polls, red-eyed vireos, snowbirds (no white-throated sparrows!), winter wrens, Swainson and gray-cheeked thrushes, and yellow-bellied flycatchers. Black-poll and Nashville warblers were especially numerous, as they are also upon Mount Washington, and, as far as I have seen, upon the White Mountains generally. The feeble, sharp song of the black-poll is a singular affair; short and slight as it is, it embraces a perfect crescendo and a perfect decrescendo. Without question I passed plenty of white-throated sparrows, but by some coincidence not one of them announced himself. The gray-cheeked thrushes, which sang freely, were not heard till I was perhaps halfway between the Eagle Cliff Notch and the Eagle Lakes. This species, so recently added to our summer fauna, proves to be not uncommon in the mountainous parts of New England, though apparently confined to the spruce forests at or near the summits. I found it abundant on Mount Mansfield, Vermont, in 1885, and in the summer of 1888 Mr. Walter Faxon surprised us all by shooting a specimen on Mount Graylock, Massachusetts. Doubtless the bird has been singing its perfectly distinctive song in the White Mountain woods ever since the white man first visited them. During the vernal migration, indeed, I have more than once heard it sing in eastern Massachusetts. My latest delightful experience of this kind was on the 29th of May last (1889), while I was hastening to a railway train within the limits of Boston. Preoccupied as I was, and faintly as the notes came to me, I recognized them instantly; for while the gray-cheek's song bears an evident resemblance to the veery's (which I had heard within five minutes), the two are so unlike in pitch and rhythm that no reasonably nice ear ought ever to confound them. The bird was just over the high, close, inhospitable fence, on the top of which I rested my chin and watched and listened. He sat with his back toward me, in full view, on a level with my eye, and sang and sang and sang, in a most deliciously soft, far-away voice, keeping his wings all the while a little raised and quivering, as in a kind of musical ecstasy. It does seem a thing to be regretted—yes, a thing to be ashamed of—that a bird so beautiful, so musical, so romantic in its choice of a dwelling-place, and withal so characteristic of New England should be known, at a liberal estimate, to not more than one or two hundred New Englanders! But if a bird wishes general recognition, he should do as the robin does, and the bluebird, and the oriole,—dress like none of his neighbors, and show himself freely in the vicinity of men's houses. How can one expect to be famous unless he takes a little pains to keep himself before the public?

From the time I left my hotel until I was fairly above the dwarf spruces below the summit of Lafayette, I was never for many minutes together out of the hearing of thrush music. Four of our five summer representatives of the genus Turdus took turns, as it were, in the serenade. The veeries—Wilson's thrushes—greeted me before I stepped off the piazza. As I neared the Profile House farm, the hermits were in tune on either hand. The moment the road entered the ancient forest, the olive-backs began to make themselves heard, and halfway up the mountain path the gray-cheeks took up the strain and carried it on to its heavenly conclusion. A noble processional! Even a lame man might have climbed to such music. If the wood thrush had been here, the chorus would have been complete,—a chorus not to be excelled, according to my untraveled belief, in any quarter of the world.

To-day, however, my first thoughts were not of birds, but of the mountain. The weather was all that could be asked,—the temperature perfect, and the atmosphere so transparent as to be of itself a kind of lens; so that in the evening, when I rejoined my companions at the hotel, I found to my astonishment that I had been plainly visible while at the summit, the beholders having no other help than an opera-glass! It was almost past belief. I had felt some dilation of soul, it was true, but had been quite unconscious of any corresponding physical transformation. What would our aboriginal forerunners have said could they have stood in the valley and seen a human form moving from point to point along yonder sharp, serrated ridge? I should certainly have passed for a god! Let us be thankful that all such superstitious fancies have had their day. The Indian, poor child of nature,

"A pagan suckled in a creed outworn,"

stood afar off and worshiped toward these holy hills; but the white man clambers gayly up their sides, guide-book in hand, and leaves his sardine box and eggshells—and likely enough his business card—at the top. Let us be thankful, I repeat, for the light vouchsafed to us; ours is a goodly heritage; but there are moods—such creatures of hereditary influence are we—wherein I would gladly exchange both the guide-book and the sardine box for a vision, never so indistinct and transient, of Kitche Manitoo. Alas! what a long time it is since any of us have been able to see the invisible. "In the mountains," says Wordsworth, "did he feel his faith." But the poet was speaking then of a very old-fashioned young fellow, who, even when he grew up, made nothing but a peddler. Had he lived in our day, he would have felt not his faith, but his own importance; especially if he had put himself out of breath, as most likely he would have done, in accomplishing in an hour and forty minutes what, according to the guide-book, should have taken a full hour and three quarters. The modern excursionist (how Wordsworth would have loved that word!) has learned wisdom of a certain wise fowl who once taught St. Peter a lesson, and who never finds himself in a high place without an impulse to flap his wings and crow.

For my own part, though I spent nearly three hours on the less than four miles of mountain path, as I have already acknowledged, I was nevertheless somewhat short-winded at the end. So long as I was in the woods, it was easy enough to loiter; but no sooner did I leave the last low spruces behind me than I was seized with an importunate desire to stand upon the peak, so near at hand just above me. I hope my readers are none of them too old to sympathize with the boyish feeling. At all events, I quickened my pace. The distance could not be more than half a mile, I thought. But it was wonderful how that perverse trail among the boulders did unwind itself, as if it never would come to an end; and I was not surprised, on consulting a guide-book afterwards, to find that my half mile had really been a mile and a half. One's sensations in such a case I have sometimes compared with those of an essay-writer when he is getting near the end of his task. He dallied with it in the beginning, and was half ready to throw it up in the middle; but now the fever is on him, and he cannot drive the pen fast enough. Two days ago he doubted whether or not to burn the thing; now it is certain to be his masterpiece, and he must sit up till morning, if need be, to finish it. What would life be worth without its occasional enthusiasm, laughable in the retrospect, perhaps, but in itself pleasurable almost to the point of painfulness?

It was a glorious day. I enjoyed the climb, the lessening forest, the alpine plants (the diapensia was in full flower, with its upright snowy goblets, while the geum and the Greenland sandwort were just beginning to blossom), the magnificent prospect, the stimulating air, and, most of all, the mountain itself. I sympathized then, as I have often done at other times, with a remark once made to me by a Vermont farmer's wife. I had sought a night's lodging at her house, and during the evening we fell into conversation about Mount Mansfield, from the top of which I had just come, and directly at the base of which the farmhouse stood. When she went up "the mounting," she said, she liked to look off, of course; but somehow what she cared most about was "the mounting itself."

The woman had probably never read a line of Wordsworth, unless possibly, "We are Seven" was in the old school reader; but I am sure the poet would have liked this saying, especially as coming from such a source. I liked it, at any rate, and am seldom on a mountain-top without recalling it. Her lot had been narrow and prosaic,—bitterly so, the visitor was likely to think; she was little used to expressing herself, and no doubt would have wondered what Mr. Pater could mean by his talk about natural objects as possessing "more or less of a moral or spiritual life," as "capable of a companionship with man, full of expression, of inexplicable affinities and delicacies of intercourse." From such refinements and subtleties her mind would have taken refuge in thoughts of her baking and ironing. But she enjoyed the mountain; I think she had some feeling for it, as for a friend; and who knows but she, too, was one of "the poets that are sown by Nature"?

I spent two happy hours and a half at the summit of Lafayette. The ancient peak must have had many a worthier guest, but it could never have entertained one more hospitably. With what softly temperate breezes did it fan me! I wish I were there now! But kind as was its welcome, it did not urge me to remain. The word of the brook came true again,—as Nature's words always do, if we hear them aright. Having gone as high as my feet could carry me, there was nothing left but to go down again. "Which things," as Paul said to the Galatians, "are an allegory."

I was not asked to stay, but I was invited to come again; and the next season, also in June, I twice accepted the invitation. On the first of these occasions, although I was eight days later than I had been the year before (June 19th instead of June 11th), the diapensia was just coming into somewhat free bloom, while the sandwort showed only here and there a stray flower, and the geum was only in bud. The dwarf paper birch (trees of no one knows what age, matting the ground) was in blossom, with large, handsome catkins, while Cutler's willow was already in fruit, and the crowberry likewise. The willow, like the birch, has learned that the only way to live in such a place is to lie flat upon the ground and let the wind blow over you. The other flowers noted at the summit were one of the blueberries (Vaccinium uliginosum), Bigelow's sedge, and the fragrant alpine holy-grass (Hierochloa alpina). Why should this sacred grass, which Christians sprinkle in front of their church doors on feast-days, be scattered thus upon our higher mountain-tops, unless these places are indeed, as the Indian and the ancient Hebrew believed, the special abode of the Great Spirit?

But the principal interest of this my second ascent of Mount Lafayette was to be not botanical, but ornithological. We had seen nothing noteworthy on the way up (I was not alone this time, though I have so far been rude enough to ignore my companion); but while at the Eagle Lakes, on our return, we had an experience that threw me into a nine days' fever. The other man—one of the botanists of last year's crew—was engaged in collecting viburnum specimens, when all at once I caught sight of something red in a dead spruce on the mountain-side just across the tiny lake. I leveled my glass, and saw with perfect distinctness, as I thought, two pine grosbeaks in bright male costume,—birds I had never seen before except in winter. Presently a third one, in dull plumage, came into view, having been hidden till now behind the bole. The trio remained in sight for some time, and then dropped into the living spruces underneath, and disappeared. I lingered about, while my companion and the black flies were busy, and was on the point of turning away for good, when up flew two red birds and alighted in a tree close by the one out of which the grosbeaks had dropped. But a single glance showed that they were not grosbeaks, but white-winged crossbills! And soon they, too, were joined by a third bird, in female garb. Here was a pretty piece of confusion! I was delighted to see the crossbills, having never before had the first glimpse of them, summer or winter; but what was I to think about the grosbeaks? "Your determination is worthless," said my scientific friend, consolingly; and there was no gainsaying his verdict. Yet by what possibility could I have been so deceived? The birds, though none too near, had given me an excellent observation, and as long as they were in sight I had felt no uncertainty whatever as to their identity. The bill alone, of which I had taken particular note, ought in all reason to be held conclusive. So much for one side of the case. On the other hand, however, the second trio were unmistakably crossbills. (They had been joined on the wing by several others, as I ought to have mentioned, and with their characteristic chattering cry had swept out of sight up the mountain). It was certainly a curious coincidence: three grosbeaks—two males and a female—had dropped out of a tree into the undergrowth; and then, five minutes later, three crossbills—two males and a female—had risen out of the same undergrowth, and taken almost the very perch which the others had quitted! Had this strange thing happened? Or had my eyes deceived me? This was my dilemma, on the sharp horns of which I tried alternately for the next eight days to make myself comfortable.

During all that time, the weather rendered mountain climbing impracticable. But the morning of the 28th was clear and cold, and I set out forthwith for the Eagle Lakes. If the grosbeaks were there, I meant to see them, though I should have to spend all day in the attempt. My botanist had returned home, leaving me quite alone at the hotel; but, as good fortune would have it, before I reached the Profile House, I was overtaken unexpectedly by a young ornithological friend, who needed no urging to try the Lafayette path. We were creeping laboriously up the long, steep shoulder beyond the Eagle Cliff gorge, and drawing near the lakes, when all at once a peculiarly sweet, flowing warble fell upon our ears. "A pine grosbeak!" said I, in a tone of full assurance, although this was my first hearing of the song. The younger man plunged into the forest, in the direction of the voice, while I, knowing pretty well how the land lay, hastened on toward the lakes, in hopes to find the singer visible from that point. Just as I ran down the little incline into the open, a bird flew past me across the water, and alighted in a dead spruce (it might have been the very tree of nine days before), where it sat in full sight, and at once broke into song,—"like the purple finch's," says my notebook; "less fluent, but, as it seemed to me, sweeter and more expressive. I think it was not louder." Before many minutes, my comrade came running down the path in high glee, calling, "Pine grosbeaks!" He had got directly under a tree in which two of them were sitting. So the momentous question was settled, and I commenced feeling once more a degree of confidence in my own eyesight. The loss of such confidence is a serious discomfort; but, strange as it may seem to people in general, I suspect that few field ornithologists, except beginners, ever succeed in retaining it undisturbed for any long time together. As a class, they have learned to take the familiar maxim, "Seeing is believing," with several grains of allowance. With most of them, it would be nearer the mark to say, Shooting is believing.

My special errand at the lakes being thus quickly disposed of, there was no reason why I should not accompany my friend to the summit. Lafayette gave us a cold reception. We might have addressed him as Daniel Webster, according to the time-worn story, once addressed Mount Washington; but neither of us felt oratorically inclined. In truth, after the outrageous heats of the past few days, it seemed good to be thrashing our arms and crouching behind a boulder, while we devoured our luncheon, and between times studied the landscape. For my own part, I experienced a feeling of something like wicked satisfaction; as if I had been wronged, and all at once had found a way of balancing the score. The diapensia was already quite out of bloom, although only nine days before we had thought it hardly at its best. It is one of the prettiest and most striking of our strictly alpine plants, but is seldom seen by the ordinary summer tourist, as it finishes its course long before he arrives. The same may be said of the splendid Lapland azalea, which I do not remember to have found on Mount Lafayette, it is true, but which is to be seen in all its glory upon the Mount Washington range, in middle or late June; so early that one may have to travel over snow-banks to reach it. The two flowers oftenest noticed by the chance comer to these parts are the Greenland sandwort (the "mountain daisy"!) and the pretty geum, with its handsome crinkled leaves and its bright yellow blossoms, like buttercups.

My sketch will hardly fulfill the promise of its title; for our June in Franconia included a thousand things of which I have left myself no room to speak: strolls in the Landaff Valley and to Sugar Hill; a walk to Mount Agassiz; numerous visits—by the way, and in uncertain weather—to Bald Mountain; several jaunts to Lonesome Lake; and wanderings here and there in the pathless valley woods. We were none of us of that unhappy class who cannot enjoy doing the same thing twice.

I wished, also, to say something of sundry minor enjoyments: of the cinnamon roses, for example, with the fragrance of which we were continually greeted, and which have left such a sweetness in the memory that I would have called this essay "June in the Valley of Cinnamon Roses," had I not despaired of holding myself up to so poetic a title. And with the roses the wild strawberries present themselves. Roses and strawberries! It is the very poetry of science that these should be classified together. The berries, like the flowers, are of a generous turn (it is a family trait, I think), loving no place better than the roadside, as if they would fain be of refreshment to beings less happy than themselves, who cannot be still and blossom and bear fruit, but are driven by the Fates to go trudging up and down in dusty highways. For myself, if I were a dweller in this vale, I am sure my finger-tips would never be of their natural color so long as the season of strawberries lasted. On one of my solitary rambles I found a retired sunny field, full of them. To judge from appearances, not a soul had been near it. But I noticed that, while the almost ripe fruit was abundant, there was scarce any that had taken on the final tinge and flavor. Then I began to be aware of faint, sibilant noises about me, and, glancing up, I saw that the ground was already "pre-empted" by a company of cedar-birds, who, naturally enough, were not a little indignant at my poaching thus on their preserves. They showed so much concern (and had gathered the ripest of the berries so thoroughly) that I actually came away the sooner on their account. I began to feel ashamed of myself, and for once in my life was literally hissed off the stage.

Even on my last page I must be permitted a word in praise of Mount Cannon, of which I made three ascents. It has nothing like the celebrity of Mount Willard, with which, from its position, it is natural to compare it; but to my thinking it is little, if at all, less worthy. Its outlook upon Mount Lafayette is certainly grander than anything Mount Willard can offer, while the prospect of the Pemigewasset Valley, fading away to the horizon, if less striking than that of the White Mountain Notch, has some elements of beauty which must of necessity be lacking in any more narrowly circumscribed scene, no matter how romantic.

In venturing upon a comparison of this kind, however, one is bound always to allow for differences of mood. When I am in tune for such things, I can be happier on an ordinary Massachusetts hilltop than at another time I should be on any New Hampshire mountain, though it were Moosilauke itself. And, truly, Fortune did smile upon our first visit to Mount Cannon. Weather conditions, outward and inward, were right. We had come mainly to look at Lafayette from this point of vantage; but, while we suffered no disappointment in that direction, we found ourselves still more taken with the valley prospect. We lay upon the rocks by the hour, gazing at it. Scattered clouds dappled the whole vast landscape with shadows; the river, winding down the middle of the scene, drew the whole into harmony, as it were, making it in some nobly literal sense picturesque; while the distance was of such an exquisite blue as I think I never saw before.

How good life is at its best! And in such

"charmed days, When the genius of God doth flow,"

what care we for science or the objects of science,—for grosbeak or crossbill (may the birds forgive me!), or the latest novelty in willows? I am often where fine music is played, and never without being interested; as men say, I am pleased. But at the twentieth time, it may be, something touches my ears, and I hear the music within the music; and, for the hour, I am at heaven's gate. So it is with our appreciation of natural beauty. We are always in its presence, but only on rare occasions are our eyes anointed to see it. Such ecstasies, it seems, are not for every day. Sometimes I fear they grow less frequent as we grow older.

We will hope for better things; but, should the gloomy prognostication fall true, we will but betake ourselves the more assiduously to lesser pleasures,—to warblers and willows, roses and strawberries. Science will never fail us. If worse comes to worst, we will not despise the moths.



DECEMBER OUT-OF-DOORS.

"December's as pleasant as May." Old Hymn.

For a month so almost universally spoken against, November commonly brings more than its full proportion of fair days; and last year (1888) this proportion was, I think, even greater than usual. On the 1st and 5th I heard the peeping of hylas; Sunday, the 4th, was enlivened by a farewell visitation of bluebirds; during the first week, at least four sorts of butterflies—Disippus, Philodice, Antiopa, and Comma—were on the wing, and a single Philodice (our common yellow butterfly) was flying as late as the 16th. Wild flowers of many kinds—not less than a hundred, certainly—were in bloom; among them the exquisite little pimpernel, or poor man's weather-glass. My daily notes are full of complimentary allusions to the weather. Once in a while it rained, and under date of the 6th I find this record,—"Everybody complaining of the heat;" but as terrestrial matters go, the month was remarkably propitious up to the 25th. Then, all without warning,—unless possibly from the pimpernel, which nobody heeded,—a violent snow-storm descended upon us. Railway travel and telegraphic communication were seriously interrupted, while from up and down the coast came stories of shipwreck and loss of life. Winter was here in earnest; for the next three months good walking days would be few.

December opened with a mild gray morning. The snow had already disappeared, leaving only the remains of a drift here and there in the lee of a stone-wall; the ground was saturated with water; every meadow was like a lake; and but for the greenness of the fields in a few favored spots, the season might have been late March instead of early December. Of course such hours were never meant to be wasted within doors. So I started out, singing as I went,—

"While God invites, how blest the day!"

But the next morning was pleasant likewise; and the next; and still the next; and so the story went on, till in the end, omitting five days of greater or less inclemency, I had spent nearly the entire month in the open air. I could hardly have done better had I been in Florida.

All my neighbors pronounced this state of things highly exceptional; many were sure they had never known the like. At the time I fully agreed with them. Now, however, looking back over my previous year's notes, I come upon such entries as these: "December 3d. The day has been warm. Found chickweed and knawel in bloom, and an old garden was full of fresh-looking pansies." "4th. A calm, warm morning." "5th. Warm and rainy." "6th. Mild and bright." "7th. A most beautiful winter day, mild and calm." "8th. Even milder and more beautiful than yesterday." "11th. Weather very mild since last entry. Pickering hylas peeping to-day." "12th. Still very warm; hylas peeping in several places." "13th. Warm and bright." "14th. If possible, a more beautiful day than yesterday."

So much for December, 1887. Its unexpected good behavior would seem to have made a profound impression upon me; no doubt I promised never to forget it; yet twelve months later traditionary notions had resumed their customary sway, and every pleasant morning took me by surprise.

The winter of 1888-89 will long be famous in the ornithological annals of New England as the winter of killdeer plovers. I have mentioned the great storm of November 25th-27th. On the first pleasant morning afterwards—on the 28th, that is—my out-of-door comrade and I made an excursion to Nahant. The land-breeze had already beaten down the surf, and the turmoil of the waters was in great part stilled; but the beach was strewn with sea-weeds and eel-grass, and withal presented quite a holiday appearance. From one motive and another, a considerable proportion of the inhabitants of the city had turned out. The principal attraction, as far as we could perceive, was a certain big clam, of which great numbers had been cast up by the tide. Baskets and wagons were being filled; some of the men carried off shells and all, while others, with a celerity which must have been the result of much practice, were cutting out the plump dark bodies, leaving the shells in heaps upon the sand. The collectors of these molluscan dainties knew them as quahaugs, and esteemed them accordingly; but my companion, a connoisseur in such matters, pronounced them not the true quahaug (Venus mercenaria,—what a profanely ill-sorted name, even for a bivalve!) but the larger and coarser Cyprina islandica. The man to whom we imparted this precious bit of esoteric lore received it like a gentleman, if I cannot add like a scholar. "We call them quahaugs," he answered, with an accent of polite deprecation, as if it were not in the least to be wondered at that he should be found in the wrong. It was evident, at the same time, that the question of a name did not strike him as of any vital consequence. Venus mercenaria or Cyprina islandica, the savoriness of the chowder was not likely to be seriously affected.

It was good, I thought, to see so many people out-of-doors. Most of them had employment in the shops, probably, and on grounds of simple economy, so called, would have been wiser to have stuck to their lasts. But man, after all that civilization has done for him (and against him), remains at heart a child of nature. His ancestors may have been shoemakers for fifty generations, but none the less he feels an impulse now and then to quit his bench and go hunting, though it be only for a mess of clams.

Leaving the crowd, we kept on our way across the beach to Little Nahant, the cliffs of which offer an excellent position from which to sweep the bay in search of loons, old-squaws, and other sea-fowl. Here we presently met two gunners. They had been more successful than most of the sportsmen that one falls in with on such trips; between them they had a guillemot, two horned larks, and a brace of large plovers, of some species unknown to us, but noticeable for their bright cinnamon-colored rumps. "Why couldn't we have found those plovers, instead of that fellow?" said my companion, as we crossed the second beach. I fear he was envious at the prosperity of the wicked. But it was only a passing cloud; for on reaching the main peninsula we were speedily arrested by loud cries from a piece of marsh, and after considerable wading and a clamber over a detestable barbed-wire fence, such as no rambler ever encountered without at least a temptation to profanity, we caught sight of a flock of about a dozen of the same unknown plovers. This was good fortune indeed. We had no firearms, nor even a pinch of salt, and coming shortly to a ditch, too wide for leaping and too deep for cold-weather fording, we were obliged to content ourselves with opera-glass inspection. Six of the birds were grouped in a little plot of grass, standing motionless, like so many robins. Their novelty and their striking appearance, with two conspicuous black bands across the breast, their loud cries, and their curious movements and attitudes were enough to drive a pair of enthusiasts half crazy. We looked and looked, and then reluctantly turned away. On getting home we had no difficulty in determining their identity, and each at once sent off to the other the same verdict,—"killdeer plover."

This, as I say, was on the 28th of November. On the 3d of December we were again at Nahant, eating our luncheon upon the veranda of some rich man's deserted cottage, and at the same time enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful scene.

It was a summery spot; moths were flitting about us, and two grasshoppers leaped out of our way as we crossed the lawn. They showed something less than summer liveliness, it is true; it was only afterwards, and by way of contrast, that I recalled Leigh Hunt's

"Green little vaulter in the sunny grass, Catching his heart up at the feel of June."

But they had done well, surely, to weather the recent snow-storm and the low temperature; for the mercury had been down to 10 deg. within a fortnight, and a large snow-bank was still in sight against the wall. Suddenly a close flock of eight or ten birds flew past us and disappeared behind the hill. "Pigeons?" said my companion. I thought not; they were sea-birds of some kind. Soon we heard killdeer cries from the beach, and, looking up, saw the birds, three of them, alighting on the sand. We started down the hill in haste, but just at that moment an old woman, a miserable gatherer of drift rubbish, walked directly upon them, and they made off. Then we saw that our "pigeons," or "sea-birds," had been nothing but killdeer plovers, which, like other long-winged birds, look much larger in the air than when at rest. Returning towards Lynn, later in the afternoon, we came upon the same three birds again; this time feeding among the boulders at the end of the beach. We remarked once more their curious, silly-looking custom of standing stock-still with heads indrawn. But our own attitudes, as we also stood stock-still with glasses raised, may have looked, in their eyes, even more singular and meaningless. As we turned away—after flushing them two or three times to get a view of their pretty cinnamon rump-feathers—a sportsman came up, and proved to be the very man on whose belt we had seen our first killdeers, a week before. We left him doing his best to bag these three also. He will never read what I write, and I need not scruple to confess that, seeing his approach, we purposely startled the birds as badly as possible, hoping to see them make off over the hill, out of harm's way. But the foolish creatures could not take the hint, and alighted again within a few rods, at the same time calling loudly enough to attract the attention of the gunner, who up to this moment had not been aware of their presence. He fired twice before we got out of sight, but, to judge from his motions, without success. A man's happiness is perhaps of more value than a plover's, though I do not see how we are to prove it; but my sympathies, then as always, were with the birds.

Within a week or so I received a letter from Mrs. Celia Thaxter, together with a wing, a foot, and one cinnamon feather. "By this wing which I send you," she began, "can you tell me the name of the bird that owned it?" Then after some description of the plumage, she continued: "In the late tremendous tempest myriads of these birds settled on the Isles of Shoals, filling the air with a harsh, shrill, incessant cry, and not to be driven away by guns or any of man's inhospitable treatment. Their number was so great as to be amazing, and they had never been seen before by any of the present inhabitants of the Shoals. They are plovers of some kind, I should judge, but I do not know." On the 16th she wrote again: "All sorts of strange things were cast up by the storm, and the plovers were busy devouring everything they could find; always running, chasing each other, very quarrelsome, fighting all the time. They were in poor condition, so lean that the men did not shoot them after the first day, a fact which gives your correspondent great satisfaction. They are still there! My brother came from the Shoals yesterday, and says that the place is alive with them, all the seven islands."

Similar facts were reported—as I began in one way and another to learn—from different points along the coast; especially from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where hundreds of the birds were seen on the 28th and 29th of November. The reporter of this item[4] pertinently adds: "Such a flight of killdeer in Maine—where the bird is well known to be rare—has probably not occurred before within the memory of living sportsmen." Here, as at the Isles of Shoals, the visitors were at first easily shot (they are not counted among game birds where they are known, on account of their habitual leanness, I suppose); but they had landed upon inhospitable shores, and were not long in becoming aware of their misfortune. In the middle of December one of our Cambridge ornithologists went to Cape Cod on purpose to find them. He saw about sixty birds, but by this time they were so wild that he succeeded in getting only a single specimen. "Poor fellows!" he wrote me; "they looked unhappy enough, that cold Friday, with the mercury at 12 deg. and everything frozen stiff. Most of them were on hillsides and in the hollows of pastures; a few were in the salt marshes, and one or two on the beach." Nobody expected them to remain hereabouts, as they normally winter in the West Indies and in Central and South America;[5] but every little while Mrs. Thaxter wrote, "The killdeers are still here!" and on the 21st of December, as I approached Marblehead Neck, I saw a bird skimming over the ice that covered the small pond back of the beach. I put up my glass and said to myself, "A killdeer plover!" There proved to be two birds. They would not suffer me within gunshot,—though I carried no gun,—but flew off into some ploughed ground, with their usual loud vociferations. (The killdeer is aptly named Aegialitis vocifera.)

[4] Mr. N. C. Brown, in The Auk, January, 1889, page 69.

[5] It seems probable that the birds started from some point in the Southern States for a long southward flight, or perhaps for the West Indies, on the evening of November 24th, and on getting out to sea were caught by the great gale, which whirled them northward over the Atlantic, landing them—such of them, that is, as were not drowned on the way—upon the coast of New England. The grounds for such an opinion are set forth by Dr. Arthur P. Chadbourne in The Auk for July, 1889, page 255.

During the month with the history of which we are now especially concerned, I saw nothing more of them; but by way of completing the story I may add that on the 28th of January, in the same spot, I found a flock of seven, and there they remained. I visited them four times in February and once in March, and found them invariably in the same place. Evidently they had no idea of making another attempt to reach the West Indies for this season; and if they were to remain in our latitude, they could hardly have selected a more desirable location. The marsh, or meadow, was sheltered and sunny, while the best protected corner was at the same time one of those peculiarly springy spots in which the grass keeps green the winter through. Here, then, these seven wayfarers stayed week after week. Whenever I stole up cautiously and peeped over the bank into their verdant hiding-place, I was sure to hear the familiar cry; and directly one bird, and then another, and another, would start up before me, disclosing the characteristic brown feathers of the lower back. They commonly assembled in the middle of the marsh upon the snow or ice, where they stood for a little, bobbing their heads in mutual conference, and then flew off over the house and over the orchard, calling as they flew.

Throughout December, and indeed throughout the winter, brown creepers and red-bellied nuthatches were surprisingly abundant. Every pine wood seemed to have its colony of them. Whether the extraordinary mildness of the season had anything to do with this I cannot say; but their presence was welcome, whatever the reason for it. Like the chickadee, with whom they have the good taste to be fond of associating, they are always busy and cheerful, appearing not to mind either snow-storm or low temperature. No reasonable observer would ever tax them with effeminacy, though the creeper, it must be owned, cannot speak without lisping.

Following my usual practice, I began a catalogue of the month's birds, and at the end of a fortnight discovered, to my astonishment, that the name of the downy woodpecker was missing. He had been common during November, and is well known as one of our familiar winter residents. I began forthwith to keep a sharp lookout for him, particularly whenever I went near any apple orchard. A little later, I actually commenced making excursions on purpose to find him. But the fates were against me, and go where I would, he was not there. At last I gave him up. Then, on the 27th, as I sat at my desk, a chickadee chirped outside. Of course I looked out to see him; and there, exploring the branches of an old apple-tree, directly under my window, was the black-and-white woodpecker for whom I had been searching in vain through five or six townships. The saucy fellow! He rapped smartly three or four times; then he straightened himself back, as woodpeckers do, and said: "Good-morning, sir! Where have you been so long? If you wish to see me, you had better stay at home." He might have spoken a little less pertly; for after all, if a man would know what is going on, whether in summer or winter, he must not keep too much in his own door-yard. Of the thirty birds in my December list, I should have seen perhaps ten if I had sat all the time at my window, and possibly twice that number had I confined my walks within the limits of my own town.

While the migration is going on, to be sure, one may find birds in the most unexpected places. Last May I glanced up from my book and espied an olive-backed thrush in the back yard, foraging among the currant-bushes. Raising a window quietly, I whistled something like an imitation of his inimitable song; and the little traveler—always an easy dupe—pricked up his ears, and presently responded with a strain which carried me straight into the depths of a White Mountain forest. But in December, with some exceptions, of course, birds must be sought after rather than waited for. The 15th, for example, was a most uncomfortable day,—so uncomfortable that I stayed indoors,—the mercury only two or three degrees above zero, and a strong wind blowing. Such weather would drive the birds under shelter. The next forenoon, therefore, I betook myself to a hill covered thickly with pines and cedars. Here I soon ran upon several robins, feeding upon the savin berries, and in a moment more was surprised by a tseep so loud and emphatic that I thought at once of a fox sparrow. Then I looked for a song sparrow,—badly startled, perhaps,—but found to my delight a white-throat. He was on the ground, but at my approach flew into a cedar. Here he drew in his head and sat perfectly still, the picture of discouragement. I could not blame him, but was glad, an hour later, to find him again on the ground, picking up his dinner. I leveled my glass at him and whistled his Peabody song (the simplest of all bird songs to imitate), but he moved not a feather. Apparently he had never heard it before! He was still there in the afternoon, and I had hopes of his remaining through the winter; but I never could find him afterwards. Ten days prior to this I had gone to Longwood on a special hunt for this same sparrow, remembering a certain peculiarly cozy hollow where, six or eight years before, a little company of song sparrows and white-throats had passed a rather severe winter. The song sparrows were there again, as I had expected, but no white-throats. The song sparrows, by the way, treated me shabbily this season. A year ago several of them took up their quarters in a roadside garden patch, where I could look in upon them almost daily. This year there were none to be discovered anywhere in this neighborhood. They figure in my December list on four days only, and were found in four different towns,—Brookline (Longwood), Marblehead, Nahant, and Cohasset. Like some others of our land birds (notably the golden-winged woodpecker and the meadow lark), they seem to have learned that winter loses a little of its rigor along the sea-board.

Three kinds of land birds were met with at Nahant Beach, and nowhere else: the Ipswich sparrow,—on the 3d and 26th,—the snow bunting, and the horned lark. Of the last two species, both of them rather common in November, I saw but one individual each. They were feeding side by side, and, after a short separation,—under the fright into which my sudden appearance put them,—one called to the other, and they flew off in company towards Lynn. It was a pleasing display of sociability, but nothing new; for in winter, as every observer knows, birds not of a feather flock together. The Ipswich sparrow, a very retiring but not peculiarly timid creature, I have now seen at Nahant in every one of our seven colder months,—from October to April,—though it is unquestionably rare upon the Massachusetts coast between the fall and spring migrations. Besides the species already named, my monthly list included the following: herring gull, great black-backed gull, ruffed grouse, hairy woodpecker, flicker, goldfinch, tree sparrow, snowbird, blue jay, crow, shrike, white-bellied nuthatch (only two or three birds), golden-crowned kinglet, and one small hawk.[6]

[6] To this list my ornithological comrade before mentioned added seven species, namely: white-winged scoter, barred owl, cowbird, purple finch, white-winged crossbill, fox sparrow, and winter wren. Between us, as far as land birds went, we did pretty well.

The only birds that sang during the month—unless we include the red-bellied nuthatches, whose frequent quaint twitterings should, perhaps, come under this head—were the chickadees and a single robin. The former I have down as uttering their sweet phoebe whistle—which I take to be certainly their song, as distinguished from all their multifarious calls—on seven of the thirty-one days. They were more tuneful in January, and still more so in February; so that the titmouse, as becomes a creature so full of good humor and high spirits, may fairly be said to sing all winter long. The robin's music was a pleasure quite unexpected. I was out on Sunday, the 30th, for a few minutes' stroll before breakfast, when the obliging stranger (I had not seen a robin for a fortnight, and did not see another for nearly two months) broke into song from a hill-top covered with pitch-pines. He was in excellent voice, and sang again and again. The morning invited music,—warm and cloudless, like an unusually fine morning in early April.

For an entire week, indeed, the weather had seemed to be trying to outdo itself. I remember in particular the day before Christmas. I rose long before daylight, crossed the Mystic River marshes as the dawn was beginning to break, and shortly after sunrise was on my way down the South Shore. Leaving the cars at Cohasset, I sauntered over the Jerusalem Road to Nantasket, spent a little while on the beach, and brought up at North Cohasset, where I was attracted by a lonesome-looking road running into the woods all by itself, with a guide-board marked "Turkey Hill." Why not accept the pleasing invitation, which seemed meant on purpose for just such an idle pedestrian as myself? As for Turkey Hill, I had never heard of it, and presumed it to be some uninteresting outlying hamlet. My concern, as a saunterer's ought always to be, was with the road itself, not with what might lie at the end of it. I did not discover my mistake till I had gone half a mile, more or less, when the road all at once turned sharply to the right and commenced ascending. Then it dawned upon me that Turkey Hill must be no other than the long, gradual, grassy slope at which I had already been looking from the railway station. The prospect of sea and land was beautiful; all the more so, perhaps, because of a thick autumnal haze. It might be called excellent Christmas weather, I said to myself, when a naturally prudent man, no longer young, could sit perched upon a fence rail at the top of a hill, drinking in the beauties of the landscape.

At the station, after my descent, I met a young man of the neighborhood. "Do you know why they call that Turkey Hill?" said I. "No, sir, I don't," he answered. I suggested that probably somebody had killed a wild turkey up there at some time or other. He looked politely incredulous. "I don't think there are any wild turkeys up there," said he; "I never saw any." He was not more than twenty-five years old, and the last Massachusetts turkey was killed on Mount Tom in 1847, so that I had no doubt he spoke the truth. Probably he took me for a simple-minded fellow, while I thought nothing worse of him than that he was one of those people, so numerous and at the same time so much to be pitied, who have never studied ornithology.

The 25th was warmer even than the 24th; and it, likewise, I spent upon the South Shore, though at a point somewhat farther inland, and in a town where I was not likely to lose myself, least of all in any out-of-the-way woodland road. In short, I spent Christmas on my native heath,—a not inappropriate word, by the bye, for a region so largely grown up to huckleberry bushes. "Holbrook's meadows," and "Norton pasture!"—the names are not to be found on any map, and will convey no meaning to my readers; but in my ears they awaken memories of many and many a sunny hour. On this holiday I revisited them both. Warm as it was, boys and girls were skating on the meadows (in spite of their name, these have been nothing but a pond for as long as I can remember), and I stood awhile by the old Ross cellar, watching their evolutions. How bright and cheery it was in the little sheltered clearing, with nothing in sight but the leafless woods and the ice-covered pond! "Shan't I take your coat?" the sun seemed to be asking. At my elbow stood a bunch of lilac bushes ("laylocks" they were probably called by the man who set them out[7]) that had blossomed freely in the summer. The house has been gone for these thirty years or more (alas! my sun must be rapidly declining when memory casts so long a shadow), but the bushes seem likely to hold their own for at least a century. They might have prompted a wise man to some wise reflections; but for myself, it must be acknowledged, I fell instead to thinking how many half days I had fished—and caught nothing, or next to nothing—along this same pleasant, willow-bordered shore.

[7] So they were called, too, by that lover of flowers, Walter Savage Landor, who, as his biographer says, followed a pronunciation "traditional in many old English families."

In Norton pasture, an hour or two later, I made myself young again by putting a few checkerberries into my mouth; and in a small new clearing just over the brook ("Dyer's Run," this used to be called, but I fear the name is falling into forgetfulness) I stumbled upon a patch of some handsome evergreen shrub, which I saw at once to be a novelty. I took it for a member of the heath family, but it proved to belong with the hollies,—Ilex glabra, or ink-berry, a plant not to be found in the county where it is my present lot to botanize. So, even on my native heath, I had discovered something new.

The flora of a Massachusetts December is of necessity limited. Even in the month under review, singularly favorable as it was, I found but sixteen sorts of wild blossoms; a small number, surely, though perhaps larger by sixteen than the average reader would have guessed. The names of these hardy adventurers must by no means go unrecorded: shepherd's purse, wild pepper-grass, pansy, common chickweed (Stellaria media), mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium viscosum), knawel, common mallow, witch-hazel, cinque-foil (Potentilla Norvegica,—not argentea, as I should certainly have expected), many-flowered aster, cone-flower, yarrow, two kinds of groundsel, fall dandelion, and jointweed. Six of these—mallow, cinque-foil, aster, cone-flower, fall dandelion, and jointweed—were noticed only at Nahant; and it is further to be said that the jointweed was found by a friend, not by myself, while the cone-flower was not in strictness a blossom; that is to say, its rays were well opened, making what in common parlance is called a flower, but the true florets were not yet perfected. Such witch-hazel blossoms as can be gathered in December are of course nothing but belated specimens. I remarked a few on the 2d, and again on the 10th; and on the afternoon of Christmas, happening to look into a hamamelis-tree, I saw what looked like a flower near the top. The tree was too small for climbing and almost too large for bending, but I managed to get it down; and sure enough, the bit of yellow was indeed a perfectly fresh blossom. How did it know I was to pass that way on Christmas afternoon, and by what sort of freemasonry did it attract my attention? I loved it and left it on the stalk, in the true Emersonian spirit, and here I do my little best to embalm its memory.

One of the groundsels (Senecio viscosus) is a recent immigrant from Europe, but has been thoroughly established in the Back Bay lands of Boston—where I now found it, in perfect condition, December 4th—for at least half a dozen years. In Gray's "Flora of North America" it is said to grow there and in the vicinity of Providence; but since that account was written it has made its appearance in Lowell, and probably in other places. It is a coarse-looking little plant, delighting to grow in pure gravel; but its blossoms are pretty, and now, with not another flower of any sort near it, it looked, as the homely phrase is, "as handsome as a picture." Its more generally distributed congener, Senecio vulgaris,—also a foreigner—is, next to the common chickweed, I should say, our very hardiest bloomer. At the beginning of the month it was in flower in an old garden in Melrose; and at Marblehead Neck a considerable patch of it was fairly yellow with blossoms all through December and January, and I know not how much longer. I saw no shepherd's purse after December 27th, but knawel was in flower as late as January 18th. The golden-rods, it will be observed, are absent altogether from my list; and the same would have been true of the asters, but for a single plant. This, curiously enough, still bore five heads of tolerably fresh blossoms, after all its numberless companions, growing upon the same hillside, had succumbed to the frost.

Of my sixteen plants, exactly one half are species that have been introduced from Europe; six are members of the composite family; and if we omit the cone-flower, all but three of the entire number are simple whites and yellows. Two red flowers, the clover and the pimpernel, disappointed my search; but the blue hepatica would almost certainly have been found, had it come in my way to look for it.

Prettier even than the flowers, however, was the December greenness, especially of the humbler sorts: St. John's-wort, five-finger, the creeping blackberries,—whose modest winter loveliness was never half appreciated,—herb-robert, corydalis, partridge-berry, checkerberry, wintergreen, rattlesnake-plantain, veronica, and linnaea, to say nothing of the ferns and mosses. Most refreshing of all, perhaps, was an occasional patch of bright green grass, like the one already spoken of, at Marblehead, or like one even brighter and prettier, which I visited more than once in Swampscott.

As I review what I have written, I am tempted to exclaim with Tennyson:—

"And was the day of my delight As pure and perfect as I say?"

But I answer, in all good conscience, yes. The motto with which I began states the truth somewhat strongly, perhaps (it must be remembered where I got it), but aside from that one bit of harmless borrowed hyperbole, I have delivered a plain, unvarnished tale. For all that, however, I do not expect my industrious fellow-citizens to fall in at once with my opinion that winter is a pleasant season at the seashore (it would be too bad they should, as far as my own enjoyment is concerned), and December a month propitious for leisurely all-day rambles. How foreign such notions are to people in general I have lately had several forcible reminders. On one of my jaunts from Marblehead to Swampscott, for example, I had finally taken to the railway, and was in the narrow, tortuous cut through the ledges, when, looking back, I saw a young gentleman coming along after me. He was in full skating rig, fur cap and all, with a green bag in one hand and a big hockey stick in the other. I stopped every few minutes to listen for any bird that might chance to be in the woods on either hand, and he could not well avoid overtaking me, though he seemed little desirous of doing so. The spot was lonesome, and as he went by, and until he was some rods in advance, he kept his head partly turned. There was no mistaking the significance of that furtive, sidelong glance; he had read the newspapers, and didn't intend to be attacked from behind unawares! If he should ever cast his eye over these pages (and whatever he may have thought of my appearance, I am bound to say of him that he looked like a man who might appreciate good literature), he will doubtless remember the incident, especially if I mention the field-glass which I carried slung over one shoulder. Evidently the world sees no reason why a man with anything better to do should be wandering aimlessly about the country in midwinter. Nor do I quarrel with the world's opinion. The majority is wiser than the minority, of course; otherwise, what becomes of its divine and inalienable right to lay down the law? The truth with me was that I had nothing better to do. I confess it without shame. Surely there is no lack of shoemakers. Why, then, should not here and there a man take up the business of walking, of wearing out shoes? Everything is related to everything else, and the self-same power that brought the killdeers to Marblehead sent me there to see them and do them honor. Should it please the gods to order it so, I shall gladly be kept running on such errands for a score or two of winters.



DYER'S HOLLOW.

"Quiet hours Pass'd among these heaths of ours By the grey Atlantic sea." MATTHEW ARNOLD.

I lived for three weeks at the "Castle," though, unhappily, I did not become aware of my romantic good fortune till near the close of my stay. There was no trace of battlement or turret, nothing in the least suggestive of Warwick or Windsor, or of Sir Walter Scott. In fact, the Castle was not a building of any kind, but a hamlet; a small collection of houses—a somewhat scattered collection, it must be owned,—such as, on the bleaker and sandier parts of Cape Cod, is distinguished by the name of village. On one side flowed the river, doubling its course through green meadows with almost imperceptible motion. As I watched the tide come in, I found myself saying,—

"Here twice a day the Pamet fills, The salt sea-water passes by."

But the rising flood could make no "silence in the hills;" for the Pamet, as I saw it, is far too sedate a stream ever to be caught "babbling." It has only some three miles to run, and seems to know perfectly well that it need not run fast.

My room would have made an ideal study for a lazy man, I thought, the two windows facing straight into a sand-bank, above which rose a steep hill, or perhaps I should rather say the steep wall of a plateau, on whose treeless top, all by themselves, or with only a graveyard for company, stood the Town Hall and the two village churches. Perched thus upon the roof of the Cape, as it were, and surmounted by cupola and belfry, the hall and the "orthodox" church made invaluable beacons, visible from far and near in every direction. For three weeks I steered my hungry course by them twice a day, having all the while a pleasing consciousness that, however I might skip the Sunday sermon, I was by no means neglecting my religious privileges. The second and smaller meeting-house belonged to a Methodist society. On its front were the scars of several small holes which had been stopped and covered with tin. A resident of the Castle assured me that the mischief had been done by pigeon woodpeckers,—flickers,—a statement at which I inwardly rejoiced. Long ago I had announced my belief that these enthusiastic shouters must be of the Wesleyan persuasion, and here was the proof! Otherwise, why had they never sought admission to the more imposing and, as I take it, more fashionable orthodox sanctuary? Yes, the case was clear. I could understand now how Darwin and men like him must have felt when some great hypothesis of theirs received sudden confirmation from an unexpected quarter. At the same time I was pained to see that the flickers' attempts at church-going had met with such indifferent encouragement. Probably the minister and the class leaders would have justified their exclusiveness by an appeal to that saying about those who enter "not by the door into the sheepfold;" while the woodpeckers, on their part, might have retorted that just when they had most need to go in the door was shut.

One of my favorite jaunts was to climb this hill, or plateau, the "Hill of Storms" (I am still ignorant whether the storms in question were political, ecclesiastical, or atmospheric, but I approve the name), and go down on the other side into a narrow valley whose meanderings led me to the ocean beach. This valley, or, to speak in the local dialect, this hollow, like the parallel one in which I lived,—the valley of the Pamet,—runs quite across the Cape, from ocean to bay, a distance of two miles and a half, more or less.

At my very first sight of Dyer's Hollow I fell in love with it, and now that I have left it behind me, perhaps forever, I foresee that my memories of it are likely to be even fairer and brighter than was the place itself. I call it Dyer's Hollow upon the authority of the town historian, who told me, if I understood him correctly, that this was its name among sailors, to whom it is a landmark. By the residents of the town I commonly heard it spoken of as Longnook or Pike's Hollow, but for reasons of my own I choose to remember it by its nautical designation, though myself as far as possible from being a nautical man.

To see Dyer's Hollow at its best, the visitor should enter it at the western end, and follow its windings till he stands upon the bluff looking out upon the Atlantic. If his sensations at all resemble mine, he will feel, long before the last curve is rounded, as if he were ascending a mountain; and an odd feeling it is, the road being level, or substantially so, for the whole distance. At the outset he is in a green, well-watered valley on the banks of what was formerly Little Harbor. The building of the railway embankment has shut out the tide, and what used to be an arm of the bay is now a body of fresh water. Luxuriant cat-tail flags fringe its banks, and cattle are feeding near by. Up from the reeds a bittern will now and then start. I should like to be here once in May, to hear the blows of his stake-driver's mallet echoing and re-echoing among the close hills. At that season, too, all the uplands would be green. So we were told, at any rate, though the pleasing story was almost impossible of belief. In August, as soon as we left the immediate vicinity of Little Harbor, the very bottom of the valley itself was parched and brown; and the look of barrenness and drought increased as we advanced, till toward the end, as the last houses were passed, the total appearance of things became subalpine: stunted, weather-beaten trees, and broad patches of bearberry showing at a little distance like beds of mountain cranberry.

All in all, Dyer's Hollow did not impress me as a promising farming country. Acres and acres of horseweed, pinweed, stone clover, poverty grass,[8] reindeer moss, mouse-ear everlasting, and bearberry! No wonder such fields do not pay for fencing-stuff. No wonder, either, that the dwellers here should be mariculturalists rather than agriculturalists. And still, although their best garden is the bay, they have their gardens on land also,—the bottoms of the deepest hollows being selected for the purpose,—and by hook or by crook manage to coax a kind of return out of the poverty-stricken soil. Even on Cape Cod there must be some potatoes to go with the fish. Vegetables raised under such difficulties are naturally sweet to the taste, and I was not so much surprised, therefore, on a certain state occasion at the Castle, to see a mighty dish of string beans ladled into soup-plates and exalted to the dignity of a separate course. Here, too,—but this was in Dyer's Hollow,—I found in successful operation one of the latest, and, if I may venture an unprofessional opinion, one of the most valuable, improvements in the art of husbandry. An old man, an ancient mariner, no doubt, was seated on a camp-stool and plying a hoe among his cabbages. He was bent nearly double with age ("triple" is the word in my notebook, but that may have been an exaggeration), and had learned wisdom with years. I regretted afterward that I had not got over the fence and accosted him. I could hardly have missed hearing something rememberable. Yet I may have done wisely to keep the road. Industry like his ought never to be intruded upon lightly. Some, I dare say, would have called the sight pathetic. To me it was rather inspiring. Only a day or two before, in another part of the township, I had seen a man sitting in a chair among his bean-poles picking beans. Those heavy, sandy roads and steep hills must be hard upon the legs, and probably the dwellers thereabout (unlike the Lombardy poplars, which there, as elsewhere, were decaying at the top) begin to die at the lower extremities. It was not many miles from Dyer's Hollow that Thoreau fell in with the old wrecker, "a regular Cape Cod man," of whom he says that "he looked as if he sometimes saw a doughnut, but never descended to comfort." Quite otherwise was it with my wise-hearted agricultural economists; and quite otherwise shall it be with me, also, who mean to profit by their example. If I am compelled to dig when I get old (to beg may I ever be ashamed!), I am determined not to forget the camp-stool. The Cape Cod motto shall be mine,—He that hoeth cabbages, let him do it with assiduity.

[8] In looking over the town history, I was pleased to come upon a note in defense of this lowly plant, on the score not only of its beauty, but of its usefulness in holding the sand in place; but, alas, "all men have not faith," and where the historian wrote Hudsonia tomentosa the antipathetic compositor set up Hudsonia tormentosa. That compositor was a Cape Cod man,—I would wager a dinner upon it. "Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges," I hear him mutter, as he slips the superfluous consonant into its place.

This aged cultivator, not so much "on his last legs" as beyond them, was evidently a native of the soil, but several of the few houses standing along the valley road were occupied by Western Islanders. I was crossing a field belonging to one of them when the owner greeted me; a milkman, as it turned out, proud of his cows and of his boy, his only child. "How old do you think he is?" he asked, pointing to the young fellow. It would have been inexcusable to disappoint his fatherly expectations, and I guessed accordingly: "Seventeen or eighteen." "Sixteen," he rejoined,—"sixteen!" and his face shone till I wished I had set the figure a little higher. The additional years would have cost me nothing, and there is no telling how much happiness they might have conferred. "Who lives there?" I inquired, turning to a large and well-kept house in the direction of the bay. "My nephew." "Did he come over when you did?" "No, I sent for him." He himself left the Azores as a cabin boy, landed here on Cape Cod, and settled down. Since then he had been to California, where he worked in the mines. "Ah! that was where you got rich, was it?" said I. "Rich!"—this in a tone of sarcasm. But he added, "Well, I made something." His praise of his nearest neighbor—whose name proclaimed his Cape Cod nativity—made me think well not only of his neighbor, but of him. There were forty-two Portuguese families in Truro, he said. "There are more than that in Provincetown?" I suggested. He shrugged his shoulders. "Yes, about half the people." And pretty good people they are, if such as I saw were fair representatives. One boy of fourteen (unlike the milkman's heir, he was very small for his years, as he told me with engaging simplicity) walked by my side for a mile or two, and quite won my heart. A true Nathanael he seemed, in whom was no guile. He should never go to sea, he said; nor was he ever going to get married so long as his father lived. He loved his father so much, and he was the only boy, and his father couldn't spare him. "But didn't your father go to sea?" "Oh, yes; both my fathers went to sea." That was a puzzle; but presently it came out that his two fathers were his father and his grandfather. He looked troubled for a moment when I inquired the whereabouts of the poorhouse, in the direction of which we happened to be going. He entertained a very decided opinion that he shouldn't like to live there; a wholesome aversion, I am bound to maintain, dear Uncle Venner to the contrary notwithstanding.

A stranger was not an every-day sight in Dyer's Hollow, I imagine, and as I went up and down the road a good many times in the course of my visit, I came to be pretty well known. So it happened that a Western Islands woman came to her front door once, broom in hand and the sweetest of smiles on her face, and said, "Thank you for that five cents you gave my little boy the other day." "Put that in your pocket," I had said, and the obedient little man did as he was bidden, without so much as a side glance at the denomination of the coin. But he forgot one thing, and when his mother asked him, as of course she did, for mothers are all alike, "Did you thank the gentleman?" he could do nothing but hang his head. Hence the woman's smile and "thank you," which made me so ashamed of the paltriness of the gift (Thackeray never saw a boy without wanting to give him a sovereign!) that my mention of the matter here, so far from indicating an ostentatious spirit, ought rather to be taken as a mark of humility.

All things considered, I should hardly choose to settle for life in Dyer's Hollow; but with every recollection of the place I somehow feel as if its score or two of inhabitants were favored above other men. Why is it that people living thus by themselves, and known thus transiently and from the outside as it were, always seem in memory like dwellers in some land of romance? I cannot tell, but so it is; and whoever has such a picture on the wall of his mind will do well, perhaps, never to put the original beside it. Yet I do not mean to speak quite thus of Dyer's Hollow. Once more, at least, I hope to walk the length of that straggling road. As I think of it now, I behold again those beds of shining bearberry ("resplendent" would be none too fine a word; there is no plant for which the sunlight does more), loaded with a wealth of handsome red fruit. The beach-plum crop was a failure; plum wine, of the goodness of which I heard enthusiastic reports, would be scarce; but one needed only to look at the bearberry patches to perceive that Cape Cod sand was not wanting in fertility after a manner of its own. If its energies in the present instance happened to be devoted to ornament rather than utility, it was not for an untaxed and disinterested outsider to make complaint; least of all a man who was never a wine-bibber, and who believes, or thinks he believes, in "art for art's sake." Within the woods the ground was carpeted with trailing arbutus and a profusion of checkerberry vines, the latter yielding a few fat berries, almost or quite a year old, but still sound and spicy, still tasting "like tooth-powder," as the benighted city boy expressed it. It was an especial pleasure to eat them here in Dyer's Hollow, I had so many times done the same in another place, on the banks of Dyer's Run. Lady's-slippers likewise (nothing but leaves) looked homelike and friendly, and the wild lily of the valley, too, and the pipsissewa. Across the road from the old house nearest the ocean stood a still more ancient-seeming barn, long disused, to all appearance, but with old maid's pinks, catnip, and tall, stout pokeberry weeds yet flourishing beside it. Old maid's pinks and catnip! Could that combination have been fortuitous?

No botanist, nor even a semi-scientific lover of growing things, like myself, can ever walk in new fields without an eye for new plants. While coming down the Cape in the train I had seen, at short intervals, clusters of some strange flower,—like yellow asters, I thought. At every station I jumped off the car and looked hurriedly for specimens, till, after three or four attempts, I found what I was seeking,—the golden aster, Chrysopsis falcata. Here in Truro it was growing everywhere, and of course in Dyer's Hollow. Another novelty was the pale greenbrier, Smilax glauca, which I saw first on the hill at Provincetown, and afterward discovered in Longnook. It was not abundant in either place, and in my eyes had less of beauty than its familiar relatives, the common greenbrier (cat-brier, horse-brier, Indian-brier) of my boyhood, and the carrion flower. This glaucous smilax was one of the plants that attracted Thoreau's attention, if I remember right, though I cannot now put my finger upon his reference to it. Equally new to me, and much more beautiful, as well as more characteristic of the place, were the broom-crowberry and the greener kind of poverty grass (Hudsonia ericoides), inviting pillows or cushions of which, looking very much alike at a little distance, were scattered freely over the grayish hills. These huddling, low-lying plants were among the things which bestowed upon Longnook its pleasing and remarkable mountain-top aspect. The rest of the vegetation was more or less familiar, I believe: the obtuse-leaved milkweed, of which I had never seen so much before; three sorts of goldenrod, including abundance of the fragrant odora; two kinds of yellow gerardia, and, in the lower lands at the western end of the valley, the dainty rose gerardia, just now coming into bloom; the pretty Polygala polygama,—pretty, but not in the same class with the rose gerardia; ladies' tresses; bayberry; sweet fern; crisp-leaved tansy; beach grass; huckleberry bushes, for whose liberality I had frequent occasion to be thankful; bear oak; chinquapin; chokeberry; a single vine of the Virginia creeper; wild carrot; wild cherry; the common brake,—these and doubtless many more were there, for I made no attempt at a full catalogue. There must have been wild roses along the roadside and on the edge of the thickets, I should think, yet I cannot recollect them, nor does the name appear in my penciled memoranda. Had the month been June instead of August, notebook and memory would record a very different story, I can hardly doubt; but out of flower is out of mind.

In the course of my many visits to Dyer's Hollow I saw thirty-three kinds of birds, of the eighty-four species in my full Truro list. The number of individuals was small, however, and, except at its lower end, the valley was, or appeared to be, nearly destitute of feathered life. A few song sparrows, a cat-bird or two, a chewink or two, a field sparrow, and perhaps a Maryland yellow-throat might be seen above the last houses, but as a general thing the bushes and trees were deserted. Walking here, I could for the time almost forget that I had ever owned a hobby-horse. But farther down the hollow there was one really "birdy" spot, to borrow a word—useful enough to claim lexicographical standing—from one of my companions: a tiny grove of stunted oaks, by the roadside, just at the point where I naturally struck the valley when I approached it by way of the Hill of Storms. Here I happened upon my only Cape Cod cowbird, a full-grown youngster, who was being ministered unto in the most devoted manner by a red-eyed vireo,—such a sight as always fills me with mingled amusement, astonishment, admiration, and disgust. That any bird should be so befooled and imposed upon! Here, too, I saw at different times an adult male blue yellow-backed warbler, and a bird of the same species in immature plumage. It seemed highly probable, to say the least, that the young fellow had been reared not far off, the more so as the neighboring Wellfleet woods were spectral with hanging lichens, of the sort which this exquisite especially affects. At first I wondered why this particular little grove, by no means peculiarly inviting in appearance, should be the favorite resort of so many birds,—robins, orioles, wood pewees, kingbirds, chippers, golden warblers, black-and-white creepers, prairie warblers, red-eyed vireos, and blue yellow-backs; but I presently concluded that a fine spring of water just across the road must be the attraction. Near the spring was a vegetable garden, and here, on the 22d of August, I suddenly espied a water thrush teetering upon the tip of a bean-pole, his rich olive-brown back glistening in the sunlight. He soon dropped to the ground among the vines, and before long walked out into sight. His action when he saw me was amusing. Instead of darting back, as a sparrow, for instance, would have done, he flew up to the nearest perch; that is, to the top of the nearest bean-pole, which happened to be a lath. Wood is one of the precious metals on Cape Cod, and if oars are used for fence-rails, and fish-nets for hen-coops, why not laths for bean-poles? The perch was narrow, but wide enough for the bird's small feet. Four times he came up in this way to look about him, and every time alighted thus on the top of a pole. At the same moment three prairie warblers were chasing each other about the garden, now clinging to the side of the poles, now alighting on their tips. It was a strange spot for prairie warblers, as it seemed to me, though they looked still more out of place a minute later, when they left the bean-patch and sat upon a rail fence in an open grassy field. Cape Cod birds, like Cape Cod men, know how to shift their course with the wind. Where else would one be likely to see prairie warblers, black-throated greens, and black-and-white creepers scrambling in company over the red shingles of a house-roof, and song sparrows singing day after day from a chimney-top?

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