The Stony Pathway to the Woods

“ The gods talk in the breath of the woods,
They talk in the shaken pine.”

THE way to the woods was by an old road that wound around between the rocks to the top of the ledge, so long unused that it was given over to grass and flowers. Tall feathery meadow rue peeped out from the bushy growth of alders on one side ; white-faced daisies, and buttercups with “ tiny polished urns held up,” waved over the old wheel-track ; while wild roses perfumed the air, and a little farther in,

“ beneath dim aisles, in odorous beds,
The slight Linnæa hung its twin-born heads.”

The woods into which the stony way plunged, the moment it left the main road, were Nature’s own. She had sown her spruces and pines and birches on a bit of the earth almost impassable to man. A jumble of rocks piled in dire confusion, presenting sharp edges at every possible angle, or covered inches deep with soft moss yielding to the feet like a cushion, and all extremely slippery from the fallen spruce leaves of many years ; trees growing wherever they could secure foothold ; dead hanging branches and prostrate trunks bristling with jagged points, — the whole impenetrable except to wings. It was one of Nature’s inimitable wild gardens, —

“ an unkempt zone
Where vines and weeds and spruce-trees intertwine,
Safe from the plough.”

Thanks to the difficulties with which it was surrounded and the little temptation it offered for clearing, it was absolutely untouched by man, excepting here and there in a more practicable spot, where he had made a small inroad. It was a paradise for birds and bird-lovers, though the latter were obliged to content themselves with what they could see on the edge and by looking in.

Up that delectable path was my morning walk. Along its rugged sides certain approximately level rocks made resting-places on which to pause and look about. The first halt was under a low cedar-tree, and in a warbler neighborhood. As soon as I became quiet my ears were assailed by faint notes almost like insect sounds, “ pip ” or “ tic,” sometimes whispered “ smacks ” or squeals, and I watched eagerly for a stirring leaf or a vibrating twig. Many times I was not able, with my best efforts, to see the least movement, for spruce boughs respond but slightly to the light touch of tiny creatures. But usually silence and absolute quiet had their reward. Here I saw the magnolia warbler in his gorgeous dress of black and gold, calling an anxious “ davy-davy ! which is it ? ” and bustling about after a restless youngster the size of a walnut, with the nestling’s down still clinging to his head. Into a low tree across the pathway came often the black-and-white creeper, tiptoeing his way up the trunk and uttering his sibilant “ see-see ! see-see ! ” On one side appeared once or twice a redstart, prancing over the ground in his peculiar “ showing off ” manner, in which he “ folds and unfolds his twinkling tail in sport,” and in his brilliant orange and black looks as much out of place in the simplicity of the woods as a fine lady in full dress. This was also the haunt of a myrtle warbler in sombre black and white, quaintly decorated with four patches of bright yellow, and very much concerned about a nest somewhere in that lovely green world.

In this nook I was visited daily by a chickadee family, — “ droll folk quite innocent of dignity,” as Dr. Coues says, — who fascinated me with their pretty ways and the many strange utterances of their queer husky voices. At first, on finding an uninvited guest in their quarters, they were very circumspect, and carried on their conversation overhead in the oddest little squeaky tones, not to be heard ten feet away. Once an elderly bird got the floor and gave an address, perhaps pointing out the dangers to be feared from the monster sitting so silent under the cedar. The burden of his talk sounded to me like “ chit-it-it-day ! day ! ” but there were varied inflections, and it evidently meant something very serious, for every twitter was hushed, while the discourse was loud, urgent, and snapped out in a way I never thought possible to the

“ Merry little fellow with the cheery little voice.”

The sermon, or lecture, was ended by one of the audience interrupting with the plaintive little two-note song of the family, upon which they all broke out chatting again, and scurried over the trees with a thousand antics. As they grew accustomed to my presence they became more demonstrative and voluble, showing me unsuspected capabilities of chickadese. Such squeaks and calls and remarkable notes, such animated discussions and such irrepressible baby-talk, were altogether enchanting. One infant sometimes came alone, talking to himself, and at intervals essaying in a feeble, unsteady manner the " pe-wee ” note of his race. On one occasion, the head of the family — as I suppose — flew down toward me, alighted just before my face not two feet away, and looked at me sharply. I spoke t.o him quietly in attempted imitation of his language, but my little effort at conversation was not a complete success, for after a short, not too civil answer he flew away.

The crowning delight of my chickadee study was the song to which I was treated one day. A bird was singing when I arrived, so that I stopped short of my seat and listened. The song was so low that it could not be heard unless one were very near, and in a tone so peculiar that I could not believe it came from a chickadee until I saw him. It consisted of the usual utterances differently arranged. There seemed to be, first, a succession of “ dee-dee’s ” followed by a solitary “ chick ” a third lower, then the same repeated and interrupted by the “ pe-wee,” but all slurred together and given in tremolo style utterly unlike any chickadee performance I had ever heard. It was most bewitching, and was kept up a long time.

Having at last settled myself in my usual place, and while waiting for the next caller to show himself, I had leisure to notice and admire the peculiar character of the woods ; for Nature has infinite resources at command, and no two spots are arranged on the same plan. Spruces were most prominent, with birches and maples to soften their severity, lighten their sombreness, and give a needed touch of grace. The mixture was felicitous. The white stems of the birch, “most shy and ladylike of trees,” stood out finely against the dark spruces, just then decked with fresh tips to every twig, which gave somehow a rich velvety appearance to the foliage. The picturesque irregularity of the birch trunks was very noticeable. Hardly one was straight. Some leaned to one side, as if it had been hard to get the delicate branches in between the stiff and angular boughs of the spruces among which they grew ; others had turned this way and that, in wavering uncertainty, as if they had been unable to decide which way they would go, till they were full grown, and the indecisions of youth were perpetuated in a crooked trunk.

There was no appearance of indecision, past or present, about the spruces. Each stem stood as straight as a fresh West Point cadet. There was never an instant’s doubt in what direction one of those sturdy trees had set its heart. Straight up was the aim of every one, and straight up it went; stern, unbending, self-willed, like some of our own race, with branches at right angles on every side, let neighbors less strong of purpose fare as they could.

The beauties and idiosyncrasies of these woods might be enjoyed at leisure, for they possessed one great advantage over any other I have found east of the Rocky Mountains. Through all this month of July which I spent among them, not a fly showed his impertinent head, and mosquitoes appeared but rarely. When any of the latter did make themselves obvious, they presented their little bills in the most modest manner. They asked so very, very little, and asked it so gently, no one could refuse or resent it. It was darkly whispered by those who in the past had outstayed July that the whole season was not so blessed ; that insect hordes were simply biding their time, and later they would come out in force. But later one need not be here.

I noted also with relief that there was another absentee, the red-eyed vireo, common almost everywhere, to whose jerky, hurried, never ending song distance lends enchantment in exact proportion to the number of rods it is removed. Not one of those lovely and well-meaning but woefully misguided birds did I see or hear in the woods of that happy island.

Warblers, however bewitching, — and I admit their claims, — and woods, however suggestive and delightful, could not content me long ; for voices were calling from above, voices most potent of all, — thrushes. After an hour under the cedar I resumed my stony way up the hill to the edge of an opening where trees had been felled, — a “ cut-out,” as it is called, — and there, on a conveniently placed rock, I waited for who might come. One day, as I sat there, a royal guest appeared, alighted on a small tree, and threw up his tail in characteristic fashion ; then his eyes fell upon me, perhaps thirty feet away. I remained motionless while the bird — a hermit thrush — took a long and close look at the intruder upon his grounds. Quiet as I might be, it was plain the beautiful creature was not for a moment deceived. He recognized me as one of the race against whom he must be on his guard. He wished to pass on, but panic or even vulgar haste is not in his nature. He stood a few moments, calmly answered a hermit call from the woods, then without hurry flew to the ground, ran lightly along to a rock, on the highest peak of which he paused again, tossed his tail, and looked at me ; then on again to the next rock, where he repeated the programme. And so he proceeded, greeting me gracefully from the top of every eminence before he ran on to the next, until he gained the cover of the woods across the open, — all in the most dignified way.

This experience seemed to give the bird courage, for the next time he found me in my customary seat he mounted a stump, sang a snatch of his song, ran to a low bush and added a few more notes, came to the ground, where he foraged among the dead leaves a minute, then up again on a bent sapling, bubbling over in joyous notes ; and thus he went on singing and eating in the most captivating way, and in apparent indifference to his unobtrusive but delighted spectator on the rock. I was surprised ; this bird being one of our greatest singers, I had a feeling that a certain amount of “dress parade ” must accompany his performance. Indeed, those of his kind I had seen before had always taken a “ position” to sing.

If the hermit thrush could be persuaded to end his chant with the second clause, he would be unapproachable as a musical performer, as he and his near relations are already in quality of voice. But he seems to be possessed of an unfortunate desire to sing higher than his register, and invariably, so far as I have heard, he persists in this effort, and goes all to pieces on the high note. At least so his song sounds to one listener, who finds the heavenly first clauses sadly marred by the closing one.

Somewhere in this attractive place was hidden an oven-bird’s nest which I wanted much to see. I never thought, however, of undertaking the hopeless task of hunting for it; but one day, when I happened upon one of the birds with worms in her mouth, prepared to feed her brood, I was seized with the hope that she would be simple enough to point it out to me, and at once devoted my whole attention to watching her movements. Her tactics were admirable. When she first saw me she stood on a low bush and stared at me, head feathers erected like a crest, showing plainly the golden crown that gives the name, golden-crowned warbler, and uttering her curious “ smack.” In a few minutes she was joined by her mate, also with a mouthful of squirming provisions.

For some time the pair stood still, doubtless waiting for me to pass on ; but finding that I did not leave, they grew impatient and began moving about. The female would go to the ground with an air of the greatest caution, run about among the leaves and fallen sticks as if she had important business, every moment glancing at me, till she came to a slight ridge of earth, or a small rock or log, behind which she would straightway vanish. In vain did I watch intently for her to reappear on the other side. No doubt as soon as she found herself out of my sight she ran like a mouse, keeping the stone or log well between us as a screen. Meanwhile her mate aided her efforts nobly by making himself most conspicuous, fidgeting about on his bush, mounting a stump and singing “ teacher ! teacher! teacher! ” at the top of his voice, as if calling for help, and in every way trying to keep my attention fixed upon him. After a while the other party to the little game would fly up from a point far away from where she had disappeared, with an empty beak and an innocent air of never having dreamed of a nest, and begin to “ smack ” as when she first discovered me. Then it was her turn to keep me diverted while her mate slipped away. Sometimes they embarrassed me further by separating widely, so that I could not keep my eyes on both. In fact, after some hours given to the beguilements of this brave pair, and much searching among the dead leaves in places they had apparently pointed out, f was obliged to confess myself outwitted by the clever little actors.

But there was a stranger in the woods, a thrush, I judged from the voice and the manner of singing, who had tantalized me from the day I entered that enchanted isle on the coast of Maine. From the distant forest came a strange, loud call in the peculiar tremulous tones of the veery, sounding to me like “ wake up ! Judy ! ” the first two notes with falling, the last two with rising inflection. As evening of that first day drew on, the call to Judy was accompanied by other sounds uttered in the same voice, a loud ringing song or recitative composed of similar ejaculations, with varied modulations that gave it greater resemblance to conversation than to music. Indeed, while I sat and listened through the long twilight to two or three birds calling and answering one another from distant treetops, I could not rid myself of the fancy that they were exchanging opinions across their green world. The next morning I was wakened by an unfamiliar and remarkable bird note, a low liquid “ quit,” sometimes followed by an explosive sound impossible to characterize, — a sort of subdued squawk, or what one might suppose to be as near a squawk as a refined, well - bred bird could accomplish. Naturally, all this mystified me and aroused great interest, and now I was waiting and longing for an opportunity to see the mysterious unknown.

As we have been told, and as some of us know, “ all things come in time to him who can wait.” To me at last came my chance. One afternoon there rolled in upon us, from our restless neighbor the sea, an all-embracing fog, which gradually enfolded us till we were closely wrapped as in a heavy blanket. The fog-bell on a point near by tolled dismally, and a more distant whistling buoy sent out at intervals a groan, as if wailing for all who had found graves beside the rocks it was now set to guard. All night this continued, and in the morning the fog was lighter, but a steady rain was falling. Now, I thought, is my time to see the stranger who has so interested me; for in a steady rain birds find it somewhat less comfortable on the treetops, and incline to get under the leafy roofs for shelter as well as for food. Duly encumbered by wraps and protectors that man has devised as shields from the weather, I hastened to a bit of the woods where for a few rods it was level and penetrable, and where I had heard the luring voice. Here, with some difficulty, I found a spot firm enough to support the legs of my chair, and settled myself to wait.

More conspicuous than ever were the contrasted tree trunks, as the dampness turned the spruces black, and brought out the beauty of the decorative lichens in every shade of green, from almost white to dead black, with here and there bits of pink and drab, all standing up, living and beautiful as always in a soaking rain. Even the rocks were glorified by great patches of these curious plants, which show freshness and life only when wet, the tender blue-green leaves, — if one may call them so, — with their rich brown lining, all expanded in exquisite ruffle-like convolutions.

Spruce trunks had also another peculiarity. As they had grown they had shed their youthful branches. One young tree, not more than ten feet high, had already dropped off twenty-seven branchlets, retaining only a few at the top, and bending all its energies to the task of reaching and penetrating the thick green roof to the sunlight above. Each limb, as it broke off, left a part, a few inches or a foot long, standing straight out from the trunk, the whole forming a sort of circular ladder, by which it seemed one might mount to the upper regions, and, better yet, offering convenient perches for the feathered woodlanders.

While I was absorbed in admiration of my surroundings a bird note fell upon my ear, a low “ quit ” in an unmistakable thrush tone. Turning my eyes quickly, I saw the speaker, standing on a round of the ladder encircling a tall old sprucetree at the outer edge of the little clearing, pioneer of that bit of woods. Very slowly I brought my glass to bear upon him. A thrush, certainly, but none that I knew ; neither hermit, wood, nor tawny. While I tried to see some characteristic by which to identify him, he spoke again, this time the rich “ quit ” with the peculiar added squawk, as I will call it, which had mystified me in the morning. Meanwhile another of the family came noiselessly to a tree over my head, and whispered the same cry in an indescribably sweet and liquid tone. Still I looked in silence, and still the bird remained on the spruce. But after a while the danger of the presence of one of the human family seemed to be borne in upon him, and he suddenly startled me with a new sound, a sort of shriek, loud and on a much higher key. Even then I remained motionless ; at last he grew somewhat more calm, and as if to put my last doubt to rest and to prove that he alone was author of all the sounds that had perplexed me, he began to sing in a low tone many of the strange clauses that I had heard shouted from the treetops. Finally, when confidence was assured by my unvarying stillness, he flew to another tree trunk, then to a second, and at last to the ground, where he busied himself among the dead leaves.

I continued to sit without moving, and presently another of the family came about, with manners somewhat different. He stood on one of the broken branches, in plain sight, and treated me to a curious exhibition. Beginning with the usual “ quit,” very loud and on a high key, he repeated it many times, each repetition being lower in pitch and softer, till it became the merest murmur, almost inaudible at my short distance, with eyes fixed on me all the time. Strangely enough, as he proceeded, one after another of the birds around us — warblers, juncos, and others — was hushed, till not a sound was heard excepting the rain on the leaves overhead. Then, having reduced his small world to absolute silence, he broke into a queer medley, whether song or scold, or a mixture of both, I could only guess. First came the common call uttered in the customary tone, then this call with added squawk, then the startling shriek on a high key, and after that a combination of all with some scraps of song. It was a confused jumble of all his accomplishments, forming a potpourri such as I never heard from thrush before. 1 was greatly interested in this exhibition of his character, and surprised at his versatility. Though he lacked the serene repose, the perfect dignity, of some of his family, he was a bird of marked individuality, and one well worthy of study.

After two hours with the thrush — the olive-backed, or Swainson’s, as I found out later — I turned from the woods and made my way back down the stony pathway, very wet, indeed, but very happy ; for I had added an acquaintance to my delightful list, and henceforth, whenever his peculiar inspiring notes might fall upon my ear, I should know him. Many evenings and mornings were passed listening to his song, and at last I felt familiar with every loud utterance of the bird, and was content to wait till some future summer for the pleasure of seeing him in his domestic relations and knowing him more intimately.

One thing more I must add to this little chronicle of the olive-backed thrush. A friend who had the happiness to see a family of five olive-backed younglings take flight in the woods close by brought me the nest and its surroundings. It was an exquisite affair; being the whole upper part of a young spruce six or seven feet high, with the little homestead two feet from the top, resting on three branchlets and surrounded by many more. And as the leaves fell off, revealing the delicately marked golden-brown twigs forming a complete protection on every side, it was picturesque and beautiful, worthy of a highly original member of one of our most characteristic and interesting bird families.

This quiet corner of my lovely island — Mount Desert by name — was not without the mysteries that all students of bird life find. Before I had been on the ground an hour I was puzzled by a song of four notes deliberately pronounced,— a drowsy, hot-noon kind of strain, in a minor key. 1 hurried out to see the singer, but he was as elusive as he was singular, slipping away through a tangle of bushes and young trees, and avoiding my sight completely. The white - throated sparrow, with his very precise song, was a resident of the vicinity, and the voice and manner of the unknown suggested that bird. But the white-throat’s song as given in the books, and as I had always heard it, is one, or at most two regular arrangements of two or three notes, followed by a trio of triplets, and variously characterized by words, the most familiar being those which give him his popular name in New England, the Peabody bird, “ Old Tom Peabody, Peabody, Peabody.” The unknown, I thought, might be a bird of erratic tastes, a misanthrope, possibly, who had turned the serene and cheerful carol of his tribe into a dismal performance, and I made great efforts to see him in the nook where he always appeared to sing. All in vain. As I came near, the song invariably ceased and the songster vanished. Finally I abandoned the attempt to see him, and confined myself to hearing. Several days or a week he kept to his score, but one day, perhaps in a fit of absence of mind, he added the three triplets of the whitethroat. He might as well have shouted his name, for his identity was at once established. And as a matter of fact, later in the season I saw him, and caught him in the act of uttering his simple minor, then reversing it, and further than that presenting a totally different arrangement of the notes, so that he sang at least three distinct songs. But for weeks he was to me only a voice.

Far more perplexing than this was the conduct of a bird in another part of the island. One day, with a fellow birdlover, I was walking down a shady road that led to the sea. Part of the way the path ran through a bit of woods, wholly old spruces, gloomy and high-arched, with softest carpet of fallen needles and green mosses, where no underbrush was tolerated, — a grim and sombre, yet somehow a noble way, with its peacefulness and its unobscured views on every side. We had emerged from the woods and were passing along the deserted road, listening as usual to various bird notes, — prominent among them, as it invariably is wherever it is heard, that of New England’s bird, the white-throated sparrow. Suddenly, on one side, a rather harsh voice broke out into three or four loud, ringing triplets, — a rough imitation, as it seemed, of part of the whitethroat’s song, though differing from the genuine both in manner and in quality.

“ Some boy’s poor attempt,” I said. “ I could do better myself,” and we went on, a little annoyed at this intrusion upon our quiet.

In a moment we passed beyond the close border of greenery beside the road, and came into view of some very tall old trees farther back. Again the loud, incisive notes rang out, sounding even less birdlike than before; and casting my eyes toward the quarter whence they came, I was astounded to see that they were produced by a bird, perched on the top twig of the tallest spruce. In an instant our glasses were up, but so far away, and against a white cloudy sky, he was unrecognizable. Whoever he might be, he was evidently proud of his achievement, for he stood there in plain sight, and repeated his mockery, till he had every white-throat in the neighborhood wild, singing at the top of his voice, though not one of them could compete with him in power.

But who could this wonderful mimic be ? Hopeless of identifying him that evening, we went home completely mystified, resolved to return in the morning to hunt him down. Long after I reached the house I heard his loud, penetrating notes, though not another bird voice reached me from that distance. Moreover, I found the white-throat near home so excited that he could not sleep, for three or four times during the night, which was very dark, I heard his erratic minor strain.

At the first opportunity we went again down the shady road, and placed ourselves beside a clump of trees, near where the mysterious bird had sung. Before long we heard him afar, and he gradually approached, singing as he came, till at last he obligingly flew to the top of a small tree, perhaps fifteen feet high and twenty feet from us, and, with eccentric flourishes of body, shouted out his extraordinary solo. But again we could not see him well, for the sun was behind him. We carefully studied his unique performance, however, and while in arrangement it greatly resembled part of the song of the white-throat, being three sets of triplets rapidly repeated, it differed in every other way.

The song of the white-throat is dignified, calm, and tranquil in tone and manner, while his clumsy mocker threw his head far back and flung his notes into the air with the utmost vehemence and abandon, and with great apparent effort. He was restless, constantly fidgeting, throwing up his tail, and jerking himself about in the pauses of his song. In the genuine melody the triplets sound like one note “shaken,” but the imitator gave the three as distinct and staccato as if each one were a word. Again, the white-throat is a modest singer, but this stranger allowed us to level our glasses at him, move about, and talk, and he was as unconcerned through all as a robin. Everything indicated that he was a mere mocker, and not a good one at that.

We noted all these points carefully, discussing them freely and comparing our impressions, before the bird flew. This time he alighted farther off, on a taller tree, but the light was in our favor and my glass was good. I saw at once that his throat was white, and when, in one of his pauses, he put his head down to arrange the plumage of his breast, conspicuous stripes over the crown came into view, and I was startled. In a moment he confirmed my sudden suspicion by turning his back to us, thereby showing his sparrow colors.

He was a white-throat himself !

I was more surprised than if I had found him anything else. If he were one of the family, whence this astonishing eccentricity ? Why did he not sing in a white-throat voice, and the proper white-throat song? Why should he so far depart from the ways of his kindred as to shout from the top of the tallest tree in that bold way, and what object could he have in setting the whole tribe frantic ? Had he secured a white-throat mate with that intolerable voice, and had he a family coming up to imitate his unnatural performance ? Or was he a disappointed bachelor, aiming to stir up his domestic brethren ?

All these questions pressed to our lips, but there was no reply ; and as long as we stayed he continued to render his triplets, sometimes prefacing them with the two or three long notes that belong to them, but all on the same key, utterly unlike his fellows, and loud enough to be heard a mile away.

The solo of the white-throated sparrow differs from nearly all other bird songs that I know, being a clear, distinct whistle that may easily be reduced to our musical scale, and perfectly imitated by the human voice; in this latter quality it is almost unique. The notes are very few, usually two, never, I think, more than three ; and the little ditty consists of, first, a single long, deliberate note, then two short repetitions of one a third higher, followed by three triplets at the same pitch. There seems small chance for changes in such a limited register, but I found the song capable of very different arrangements, and on recording those I had heard I was surprised to see that I had noted seventeen distinct ones. How many variations were made by one bird I was not able to determine, from the difficulty of keeping one under observation, now that the young were able to go about and nobody was confined to any special locality. But one, as I have already mentioned, certainly sang three songs, and I know no reason why he may not have sung a dozen. I am obliged to confess that although it is delightful to hear one of these sparrows, or two together, a chorus of a dozen or more must be considered a failure, as music. Each bird has a decided musical pitch of his own, and unless the several singers happen to harmonize they produce an unpleasant discord.

After this disappointing solution to the mystery which had so interested me, and while there still remained ten days of the second summer month, that lovely corner of the world was again wrapped in a smothering fog, which came in the afternoon and remained all night, with rain. The next morning was clear and bright, but a strange hush had fallen upon us. Not a bird note was to be heard save

“ The gossip of swallows all through the sky.”

Warblers and thrushes, white-throats and even juncos, seemed to have departed in a body. All day this unnatural silence continued. I was alarmed. Had migration already begun ? Had the warblers, who heretofore had hardly moved without uttering their little calls and cries, taken leave for the season ? Had the olive-backed thrush, so voluble only the day before, been suddenly stricken dumb?

I sought the records, and found that migrating warblers began to be due in the neighborhood of New York about ten days later, and as I knew they sometimes lingered here and there on their way, it might indeed be true that they had started. My first impulse was to follow, in my slower way; but the country was still beautiful, the weather perfect, they could not all have disappeared in a night, and I resolved to wait. In a day or two some of the whitethroats recovered their voices. The misguided genius down by the sea shouted as usual from afar, though not so often, and my neighbor up by the house sang a little, but not with the old spirit; once or twice a thrush plucked up heart for a few musical remarks, and a robin, whose mate was sitting, down the lane, tried, with indifferent success, to keep up the music. But the glory of summer songs had departed, and now

“ Day after day there were painstaking lessons
To teach sky science and wings delight,”

in preparation for the final hegira.

I made many excursions to see if the birds had really gone so early. Now and then in my rambles I came upon a black-throated green warbler, whose song had heretofore made the woods resound, going about shyly and without a peep ; and a glimpse or two I had of others, preserving the same unaccountable quiet. Even the stony pathway, rallying-place for nearly all the bird population, was now silent as a desert way, and melancholy as a tomb to the birdlover, and I was forced to conclude that if not absolutely departed, these tiny fellow creatures were engaged in putting on their traveling-suits for the long journey, and it was time for me to resume my own, and to return where

“ the noisy world drags by
In the old way, because it must.”

Olive Thorne Miller.