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well. He is known to the farmer as the deermouse, to the naturalist as the Hesperomys leucopus, a very beautiful creature, nocturnal in his habits, with large ears, and large, fine eyes, full of a wild, harmless look. He leaps like a rabbit, and is daintily marked, with white feet and a white belly.
16. It is he who, far up in the hollow trunk of some tree, lays by a store of beech-nuts for winter use. Every nut is carefully shelled, and the cavity that serves as storehouse lined with grass and leaves. The wood-chopper frequently squanders this precious store. I have seen half a peck taken from one tree, as clean and white as if put up by the most delicate hands, as they were. How long it must have taken the little creature to collect this quantity, to hull them one by one, and convey them up to his fifth-story chamber! He is not confined to the woods, but is quite as common in the fields, particularly in the fall, amid the corn and potatoes.
17. The sharp-rayed track of the partridge adds another figure to this fantastic embroidery upon the winter snow. Her course is a clear, strong line, sometimes quite wayward, but generally very direct, steering for the densest, most impenetrable places,-leading you over logs and through brush, alert and expectant, till, suddenly, she bursts up a few yards from you, and goes humming through the trees,the complete triumph of endurance and vigor. Hardy native bird, may your tracks never be fewer, or your visits to the birch-tree less frequent !
XLIV.—THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
1. The squirrel-tracks-sharp, nervous, and wiry—have their histories also. But who ever saw squirrels in winter ? The naturalist says they are mostly torpid ; yet evidently that little pocket-faced depredator, the chipmunk, was not carrying buckwheat for so many days to his hole for nothing; -was he anticipating a state of torpidity, or the demands of a very active appetite? Red and gray squirrels are more or less active all winter, though very shy, and, I am inclined to think, partially nocturnal in their habits.
2. Here a gray one has just passed, -came down that tree and went up this ; there he dug for a beech-nut, and left the bur on the snow. How did he know where to dig? During an unusually severe winter I have known him to make long journeys to a barn, in a remote field, where wheat was stored. How did he know there was wheat there? In attempting to return, the adventurous creature was frequently run down and caught in the deep snow.
3. His home is in the trunk of some old birch or maple, with an entrance far up amid the branches. In the spring he builds himself a summer-house of small leafy twigs in the top of a neighboring beech, where the young are reared, and much of the time passed. But the safer retreat in the maple is not abandoned, and both old and young resort thither in the fall, or when danger threatens. Whether this temporary residence amid the branches is for elegance or pleasure, or for sanitary reasons or domestic convenience, the naturalist has forgotten to mention.
4. The elegant creature, so cleanly in its habits, so graceful in its carriage, so nimble and daring in its movements, excites feelings of admiration akin to those awakened by the birds and the fairer forms of nature. His passage through the trees is almost a flight. Indeed, the flying squirrel has little or no advantage over him, and in speed and nimbleness cannot compare with him at all. If he miss his footing and fall, he is sure to catch on the next branch; if the connection be broken, he leaps recklessly for the nearest spray or limb, and secures his hold, even if it be by the aid of his teeth.
5. His career of frolic and festivity begins in the fall, after the birds have left us and the holiday spirit of nature has commenced to subside. How absorbing the pastime of the sportsman, who goes to the woods in the still October morning in quest of him! You step lightly across the threshold of the forest, and sit down upon the first log or rock to await the signals. It is so still that the ear suddenly seems to have acquired new powers, and there is no movement to confuse the eye.
6. Presently you hear the rustling of a branch, and see it sway or spring as the squirrel leaps from or to it; or else
you hear a disturbance in the dry leaves, and mark one running upon the ground. He has probably seen the intruder, and, not liking his stealthy movements, desires to avoid a nearer acquaintance. Now he mounts a stump to see if the way is clear, then pauses a moment at the foot of a tree to take his bearings, his tail, as he skims along, undulating behind him, and adding to the easy grace and dignity of his movements.
7. Or else you are first advised of his proximity by the dropping of a false nut, or the fragments of the shucks rattling upon the leaves. Or, again, after contemplating you awhile unobserved, and making up his mind that you are not dangerous, he strikes an attitude on a branch, and commences to quack and bark, with an accompanying movement of his tail. Late in the afternoon, when the same stillness reigns, the same scenes are repeated. There is a black variety, quite rare, but mating freely with the gray, from which he seems to be distinguished only in color.
8. The track of the red squirrel may be known by its smaller size. He is more common and less dignified than the gray, and oftener guilty of petty larceny about the barns and grain-fields. He is most abundant in old bark-peelings, and low, dilapidated hemlocks, from which he makes excursions to the fields and orchards, spinning along the tops of the fences, which afford, not only convenient lines of communication, but a safe retreat if danger threatens. He loves to linger about the orchard; and, sitting upright on the topmost stone in the wall, or on the tallest stake in the fence, chipping up an apple for the seeds, his tail conforming to the curve of his back, his paws shifting and turning the apple, he is a pretty sight, and his bright, pert appearance atones for all the mischief he does.
9. At home, in the woods, he is the most frolicsome and loquacious. The appearance of any thing unusual, if, after contemplating it a moment, he concludes it not dangerous, excites his unbounded mirth and ridicule, and he snickers and chatters, hardly able to contain himself; now darting up the trunk of a tree and squealing in derision, then hopping into a position on a limb and dancing to the music of his own cackle, and all for your special benefit. There is
something very human in this apparent mirth and mockery of the squirrels.
10. It seems to be a sort of ironical laughter, and implies self-conscious pride and exultation in the laugher. “ What a ridiculous thing you are, to be sure !” he seems to say ;“ how clumsy and awkward, and what a poor show for a tail ! Look at me, look at me!”—and he capers about in his best style. Again, he would seem to tease you and to provoke your attention ; then suddenly assumes a tone of good-natured, child-like defiance and derision; that pretty little imp, the chipmunk, will sit on the stone above his den, and defy you, as plainly as if he said so, to catch him before he can get into his hole if you can. You hurl a stone at him, and “No you didn't” comes up from the depth of his retreat.
. XLV.—THE CRICKET.
At the foot of the old oak tree,
A merry song sings he.
The winds may moan
With a hollow tone
The clouds may fly
Through the deep blue sky,
But never a fig cares he;
And never a fig cares he.
2. There's a tiny cricket within thy heart,
And a pleasant song sings he ;
That hourly fall upon thee.
Let him whistle loud and clear,
There's darkness enough on earth, I trow,
Their woe to beguile;
Tell it, in tones of love,
The Land of Life and Love,
Let him sing his merry song.
XLVI.-THREE WORDS OF STRENGTH.
Three words, as with a burning pen,
Upon the hearts of men.
2. Have Hope. Though clouds environ round,
And gladness hides her face in scorn,
No night but hath its morn.
3. Have Faith. Where'er thy bark is driven
The calm's disport, the tempest's mirthKnow this : God rules the hosts of heaven,
The inhabitants of earth.