A Bay-Window in Florida

ORNITHOLOGY is one of the natural sciences, the study of which may be said to be enjoined by Holy Writ. For in the good book the fowls of the air are set before us as a pattern of right living. “Behold them,” said the Master; and he meant to say, “ Do as they do.” Well, one of the most strikingly characteristic of their doings is their annual flight toward the tropics as the frost begins to show its hand in the so-called temperate region where they were born, and where, with a patriotism that one must often wonder at, they continue to claim a residence. As years and wisdom increase, I grow better and better persuaded that their example is a good one; and being so persuaded, here I am again in Florida. I have followed the birds; for how is a man to behold them, unless he goes where they are ?

I arrived on Friday, two days before Christmas. Two days before that, having a few hours between trains in Washington (how happy are our exemplars, I often think, who make the passage by the overhead route, breathing all the way!), I went up to see the great library, with its wealth of mural decoration (“like a Fall River steamboat,” remarks an irreverent critic at my elbow), and on the side of Capitol Hill stopped to offer an expectant-looking gray squirrel a bit of water cracker, the only edible thing I could find about me. The fellow took the crumb from my fingers readily enough, but dropped it with still greater readiness upon the sidewalk, and trotted away without so much as a “Thank you.” No Bent’s cracker for him! “Has the price of peanuts gone up, that you are reduced to eating such tasteless fodder?” I imagined him asking. Then, before I could answer him, a sleigh driving past me up the hill distracted my attention: an old - fashioned, straight - backed, yellowpainted country sleigh, such as New England families rode to “meeting” in on Sundays, half a century ago. The sight pleased me; for the moment I was a child again, cuddled under a buffalo robe (but we said “buffalo” simply, unless I misremember), with my grandfather to lean against. “So there is sometimes good sleighing, even in Washington,” I said to myself, as the old time slipped away again into forgetfulness; “I should hardly have thought it.” And all the evening, while the engine, doing its best to make up for a late start, hurried us across the state of Virginia, the country lay white under the full moon. The South was still beyond us.

But in the morning it was another story. We had gone to bed in January, so to say, and had risen in April. No more snow; only the thinnest of white frost. Presently, the train still speeding, we began to see bare-legged black children staring after us, with men in their shirtsleeves standing lazily about. So, not in dream, but in sober reality,—

“ Bare Winter suddenly was changed to Spring;

” and before night we were flying past Florida dooryards that were dressed like June. Less than twenty-four hours from sleigh-bells to garden roses! “Good!” said I; “I am glad I came.”

All this was nothing new ? It was as new as Eden was to Adam, or as a Massachusetts May is after a Massachusetts winter. Unless it be to a dead man, some things are always new.

That night I slept in Jacksonville, and the next noon was at my journey’s end on the banks of the Halifax, “Welcome to Ormond,” said a friendly voice, as I stepped from the car; and the owner of the voice, a true neighbor in the biblical sense of the word, took me at once into her carriage (my own host, as it turned out, having missed connection with the mail), and brought me across the bridge to the house in which I am now writing.

Yes, here I am; and, whether indoors or out, my eyes are never sated with seeing. It is for their sake, in great part, that I am here. “If possible, let me have the room that Mr. and Mrs. F—occupied last season.” So I had written to the lord of the mansion; for though I had never lived in the house, I had walked past it for some weeks almost daily, and always with a covetous glance at a certain spacious bay-window. To sit at that window, with a book in one’s lap and the orange trees outside, — that, I thought, for the odd hours of the day, would be pretty good winter living. And so it proves. The prospect, it must be owned, is not extensive, nor, in the ordinary way of regarding such matters, is it to be described as fine. The season is winter — for all the June roses; and winter without snow must always be more or less unhandsome. It lays about itself with what Shakespeare calls a ragged hand; its business is to destroy; and, surprising as the statement may sound, nowhere is its work more conspicuously effective than in a subtropical climate. The truth is, I am surprised myself; all my previous comings this way, as I now discover, having shown me not so much a Southern winter as a Southern spring. I have never arrived in this part of Florida until February; and February, it appears, is a vernal month, a month of new leaves and new blossoms. Not so December. To New England eyes it looks like the fag-end of autumn. Tall hickory trees are all in dull yellow, and sumachs—too few and too remotely scattered to be of great account — are of a brilliant red. In this latitude, as well as a newcomer can judge, all trees tend to become evergreen. An elm, the only one along the river, transplanted, no doubt, by some Northern settler sick for home amid the alien palmettos and live-oaks, still retained a goodly share of its last summer’s leaves as late as January 4, when its branches were already in full bloom. The poor thing seemed to be quite put out of its reckoning. And the red maples, though more at home, are even worse bewildered. Some are in red leaf, others are loaded with full-grown red fruit, while others display an almost equal profusion of flowers and fruit together. Like the apostle, they are trying to be all things to all men. If some were only in new leafage, the cycle would be full.

As for the birds, with their “trusty almanac,” they are naturally less at sea. Let the day be never so summerish, so that a walker sheds his coat and puts up an umbrella against the sun, they are not to be fooled. A ph—be may now and then be heard calling after his emphatic, reiterative manner; a wren may whistle (one is doing so at this minute from the edge of the wood as I sit at the open window, — and a right sweet whistle it is, to speak after the pleasant Southern manner); a white-eyed vireo, as fond of hearing himself as of hiding himself, may possibly let slip a bit of tune as you pass his leafy thicket; but with a few such exceptions the conduct of every bird here says as plainly as need be, “Now’ is the winter of our discontent.” Not that they seem exactly discontented, either; but, like the majority of their superiors, they are in Florida, not for business nor, strictly speaking, for pleasure, but to pass away the time, — eating, sleeping, and waiting for the spring. And say what you will, that is not so very bad a life. If there is a time for everything under the sun, with all the rest there must be a time to be idle. As a rule, neither birds nor drivers of the pen can be always productive;1 though

1 I am not infrequently asked whether our Northern birds (" double-lived in regions new ”) breed again during their winter in the South ! exceptions must be allowed for, of course, especially among novelists, some of whom, like the poet’s cuckoo, seem to have no winter in their year, however much of sorrow may be discoverable in their song. Even the patient earth must be allowed its annual period of lying fallow. And the birds, to whose wise example our too faithless and over - careful humanity is bidden to attend, know how to be idle with a good grace. Though they have but a few years allotted to them, and though it is probably true that time once past never returns, they see the months go by without fretting. Strange and immoral as it may seem to a business man or a scholar,it has never entered into their heads that the world will cease to move whenever they cease to push it.

“ No hour without a dollar,
No day without a line; ”

with proverbial foolishness like this they have never been infected.

The happy creatures! How completely their example suits the mood of the hour and the place! I mean to profit by it. I “behold” them with joy. If all Scripture could be obeyed thus comfortably, methinks more of us would be saints.

The compensations of an indolent life are just now a good deal in my thoughts for another reason. One of my most constant companions, as I sit in my baywindow, is the autobiography of a man who squandered his youth and all his early manhood; who studied nothing, and almost believed in studying nothing, except as the whim of the moment dictated; who had no education, and was incapable of learning anything, even the things that interested him most, except in the most desultory and inefficient manner; the merest creature of impulse, low in his taste, so that he married (if he ever did marr) and lived contentedly with a woman who was so nearly an imbecile that she could never be taught to read, or to remember the order of the months; a man who fooled away his life, if any one ever did, and then, in almost his old age, wrote of a sudden two or three books that became with equal suddenness the rage of the day. He might fairly have said with Keats’s thrush: —

“ O fret not after knowledge — I have none,
And yet the Evening listens.”

One of his books, we are assured, was rented by the hour at circulating libraries, was wept over by great ladies (the author himself was always a fountain of tears), and, sentimental love-story though it was, robbed the great Kant, for the only time in his life, of his daily constitutional. Which latter circumstance, by the bye, is an argument for the homogeneousness of the race: famous philosophers, it is plain, cannot be so utterly different from the rest of us. More wonderful still, and incomparably more important, these same books, almost unreadable as they have now become, so fickle a thing is literary reputation, — or literary fashion, — have probably exercised, for good or ill, a greater influence upon the life of Europe and America than all other books written in their century. And I say to myself, as I follow the man’s strange history: “Well, now, there is something else worth considering besides industry and a sound method.” Whatever genius is or is not, it must be as far as possible from a mere capacity for hard work, as some hardworking body was once silly enough to say, and other hardworking bodies have been silly enough to repeat after him. And given the genius (or, Heaven be thanked, given the lack of genius), perhaps it would be well for most of us to take ourselves, and what we call our work, somewhat more quietly. Even of knowledge itself we may say that a little with contentment is not the worst of portions.

The example of Rousseau — who, as might have been expected, became quite insane at the last — is bad enough, and melancholy enough; I make no question about that; but it is interesting (tragedies as a class have so much to be said for them), and is not without its lessons. It suggests encouragement for all who like to believe that the lame and the hindered, not to say the weak and the foolish, may after all have what the world calls a “show,” though it be only a small one. In some ways it chimes in with the teaching of the birds, and so far it sounds good, here in the midst of a Florida winter. For all the poor man’s weaknesses, I shall go on with his book.

More industriously still I shall continue, according to the word of our great American poet, to “ loaf and invite my soul.” At proper seasons, neither short nor infrequent, this, I believe,is a paying business. There is no other way, or none that I know of, to keep on the right side of Nature. And who would not do that ? Such a friend as she is! There is none like her. She is made of good stuff. She has a thousand moods, but she never changes. If you seek her, she is there. She is ever speaking, yet always silent. And her voice is inspiration and rest, tonic and balm. It will answer to all a man’s moods, — provided he is neither busy nor base. On such Nature knows better than to waste herself. If a man is running to a fire, or chasing a dollar, earth and sky will let him pass; the sunset has no word for him; to the pine tree and the blossoming rosebush he is as if he were not.

For myself, I shall be in no danger of such orphanage, I trust, so long, at least, as I have nothing more strenuous to do than to stroll up and down the river road, or to sit holding a book, half the time shut, here in this Ormond bay-window.

My outlook, as I have said, is narrow; and it is narrower than it need be, though it may seem ill-mannered to say so, because of the elegant looped lace curtains which the careful housewife (not in the least like Jean Jacques’ Theresa, as this one circumstance would abundantly certify, — there were no fine draperies, we may be sure, in the fourth-story window at which that strange couple were accustomed to eat their frugal supper of bread and cheese and cherries, the windowsill doing duty as a table) insists upon keeping in place. The house looks better for them; they “finish”a room, — such,I think, is the word; — and of course a transient lodger must submit to the demands of the higher civilization, which, as defined by a recent writer in the Atlantic, is nothing more nor less than “the process of making the world ladylike.” It may be admitted, too, that the effect of the curtains is not unqualifiedly a damage. Like Wordsworth’s cliffs (if they were cliffs, for Wordsworth is not with me), they serve to impress upon a secluded scene thoughts of more deep seclusion. A landscape is a picture; and a picture — so I make the best of things — takes beauty from a frame.

Of my three windows, the middle one, facing northward, looks straight into the orange grove, the view being limited by a big, sombre, weather-stained, unoccupied log-house (some rich “winterman’s” freak) and a line of uncommonly tall trees, including one most extraordinary liveoak, wide-spreading and moss-hung, a marvel that all passers along the road turn again and again to admire. Under the northeast window is another part of the orange grove, backed by a dense forest of oaks and pines, beyond which is the ocean, whose incessant beat upon the sand, a glorious organ-point, is always to be heard, night or day, unless the wind is contrary. Best of all, out of the northwest window I can see, through vistas of massive oak trunks (a group of five, springing from one root) and waving palmetto fronds,—like the sea itself forever in motion,— the smooth Halifax River, half a mile in width, and the long line of woods beyond.

Does the reader get the picture ? I fear not, unless he knows already what a Florida orange grove and a Florida river (as well as Florida woods) are like. Words can never express beauty.

The grove itself, at this midwinter season, is hardly to be accounted pretty, whatever may be true of it in summer time. The sandy ground is matted with coarse, dry weeds of one sort and another, chiefest and most troublesome of which are the sand-spurs. You can never come away without them, for they lie in wait everywhere, and stick closer than a poor relation. These, with loose piles of dead wood scattered about, — ready for the torch should a falling thermometer threaten mischief, — give to the place a neglected, untidy appearance, suiting badly with the almost too regular style of the citrus trees (orange, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, lime, and kumquat), whose branches just now droop gracefully under their precious burden till they all but sweep the ground.

After a little, however, here as elsewhere, a wise man’s eyes accustom themselves to see what is best worth attention, — in this case the trees themselves (not forgetting two leafless Japanese persimmons, every branch hung with brilliant scarlet fruit, a wonder to many,—there are no other trees in the neighborhood that elicit half so many inquiries), passing over the infelicity of their surroundings. “ A wise man’s eyes,” I say; Imean,of course, a pair such as those whose report of things the present scribe is endeavoring so vainly to put upon the page. Enumeration, alas, is a poor substitute for description. But what shall a man do ? Can any one picture in words a blossoming New England apple tree ? And fruit-laden, glossy-leaved orange trees, as they are little less beautiful, are hardly less difficult a subject. But describe them or not, at least I can see them; and the sight is good to live with. Their beauty is most effective, I have discovered, in the early morning, shortly before sunrise. At that time the ground lies somewhat in shadow, while the golden fruit amid the dark foliage shines with a heightened splendor that makes of the grove a kind of fairy place, amazingly different from what it becomes an hour or two later. The owner tells me that he found there a few days ago a single spray of unseasonable bloom; but the orchard will not really blossom for perhaps two months. Then, with leaf, fruit, and flower all in perfection together, it will be — what shall Isay ?—fairyland itself. Then beds of lovely parti-colored phlox, and other beds of purple verbena (self-sown both), will brighten the ground now so littered and defaced. Then, in short, it will be spring. At present, for all the beauty of the trees, the river, and the sky, and for all the garden roses and nasturtiums, and the violets (not many) in the grass, it is only “old December’s bareness” that I am looking at. Even as I write, nevertheless, I lift my eyes from the page and behold beyond the grove that majestic, far-spreading, leafy oak top; and, December or June, my eyes are satisfied. What a grand creation! And what an impotent thing is language ! Let me say it again: It is not in words to express beauty.

For a stroller, a lover of his own society, devoted to what Thoreau, in his lofty way of speaking, called the “great art” of sauntering, this barren midwinter time has at least one weighty consideration in its favor: it leaves a man pretty much to himself. Whether in the road or on the beach, his privacy is little intruded upon. He may read a book, or shout or sing (as the poorest of us, it is to be hoped, must sometimes feel like doing), or he may stand stock still for minutes together, gazing at the sea or the sky, a tree or a bird, or merely letting his fancy roam, and there will be nobody to mind his unconventional behavior. It is good for a man, once in a while, as Thoreau said again, to “cherish his moodiness;” and this is his opportunity. By and by — within a few days — the great hotel will be open. Then farewell, Il Penseroso,

With eev’n step, and musing gate,
And looks commercing with the skies ;

and hail, L’Allegro, while

Young and old com forth to play
On a Sunshine Holyday.

Where now is only the rustle of palmetto leaves or the “surgy murmur of the lonely sea,” there will be

The busie humm of men,
Where throngs of Knights and Barons bold,
In weeds of Peace high triumphs hold,
With store of Ladies, whose bright eies
Rain influence, and judge the prise —

the “prise,” for better or worse, not of wit or arms, but of golf tournaments and automobile races.

Without doubt, the stroller (in whose lap, as the attentive reader will have guessed, along with Rousseau’s Confessions, is a book out of which he has been reading Milton’s verse as Milton wrote it, John Milton in the original, so to speak) — the stroller, no doubt, will even then know how to find here and there an unfrequented nook; but Ormond will not be then what it is now. All the more reason, say I, for redeeming the time by a course of diligent idleness.

I have spoken of the beach. In these happily depopulous days it is one of the best of my resorts. It was there I sat on Christmas forenoon, thankful for the shade of a palmetto-thatched summerhouse, while a group of bathers, a quarter of a mile away, made merry in the surf; and there I have sat or walked many a cooler day since. Forenoon or afternoon, indeed, every day finds me on the sands for at least an hour or two. It is a place without bounds, except on the landward side. North and south the beach runs to the horizon, and eastward is the open sea. Once only, during the three weeks, I have seen a sail in the offing. Otherwise, so far as visibilities count, the processional porpoises and the few sea and shore birds have had the ocean mostly to themselves: flocks of sanderlings, gulls of three or four sorts, and an occasional tern or two, with pelicans, gannets, cormorants, and, rarely, a larger or smaller flock of ducks. The sanderlings, as a matter of course, are always intensely active. I should like to see them once when they were not. Their very existence seems always to be dependent upon the next mouthful, which they must seize before the wave that is even now rushing up the beach can drag it away. Hither and thither they run, their legs fairly twinkling over the wet sand, they run so fast, till all at once something startles them, or a new notion enters into their heads, and away they go in close order on the wing. Save the crowd of laborers who are working night and day preparing the great hotel for its season’s occupancy, the sanderlings, I should say, are perhaps the busiest people in Ormond.

The seabirds, on the other hand, so far as a looker-on can judge, are for the most part taking life easy. With them, as just now it is with me, winter seems to be a loafing time. Even so, they must live, of course. Once in a while a pelican or a gannet tries his hand at fishing (I love to see the plunge), and not infrequently the terns follow suit. The terns, indeed, with their bright red bills pointing downward (their looks commercing with the waves), have generally a much more industrious air than the gulls. As for these last, how they live is a matter best known to themselves. Two small species, the laughing gull and the dainty little Bonaparte, both moderately numerous, spend the day, to all appearance, in rather aimless flights up and down the shore, or resting in dense companies, by the hour together, upon the surface of the water.

One afternoon a score or two of Bonapartes dropped into the surf, or rather into a shallow inside the surf, where there was barely water enough for them to swim in. They were but a few rods from where I happened to be standing, and before long I was attracted by what seemed their very peculiar proceedings. I do not know quite how to describe them. The birds, without being greatly excited, were continually in a flutter, as if certain of their number could not find their rightful places; keeping all the while in a close bunch, they would rise, two at once, a little distance into the air, chase each other about for a few seconds, and anon, with more or less jostling, settle back again among their fellows. After a while I perceived that the birds were of two sizes, and that whenever these disturbances occurred, it was always a larger bird that was pursuing a smaller one. In short, there were four or five laughing gulls (larger and wearing darker mantles) among the others, and either in earnest or in play—I could not be certain which—were teasing them. Finally, while my attention was distracted, the laughers all made off, and the little surfgulls (so, for my own pleasure, I am accustomed to call the Bonapartes) settled down to enjoy themselves in the spot they had chosen. They made the prettiest kind of a picture.

Of the seabirds named above,—among which, as I now perceive, I have failed to include a single great blue heron, who comes over from the river now and then to fish in the surf, though I have yet to see him catch anything, — the ones that interest me most are the gannets. I saw them here on my first visit, a dozen years ago. Then, as now, they were always far out, and though I called them gannets, and wrote of them under that name in this magazine, my identification was based avowedly on something less than absolute proof. They looked and acted like gannets, and for aught I could see, it was impossible for them to be anything else. Three years ago I was here again, and found them still present, a daily spectacle. I use the word advisedly; their performances deserve it.

Some time afterward, however, I happened upon a statement by Mr. Cory (who, if any one, may be accounted the Florida ornithologist par excellence) to the effect that gannets are “occasionally” to be seen off the coast. That word “occasionally ” took me aback. My birds were by no means to be thus spoken of; and Mr. Cory certainly should know. Had my determination been erroneous ? and if so, what on earth could my birds have been ?

Well, last winter I paid Ormond a third visit; and the first birds that I desired to see were my supposititious gannets. Sure enough, they were here. Day after day they were to be seen, far, far out, shooting this way and that at headlong speed, and every little while plunging like mad into the ocean. Now, I said, I must have patience. If I watch long enough, I shall some day catch one of them nearer shore, be it only by accident, where, if he is really a gannet, I shall be able to detect the pale yellow color of his head and neck.

Weeks passed, and I was almost in despair, when one morning I went over to the beach early, and there, sitting in the water just beyond the breakers, was the very bird I had been waiting for, in adult black-and-white plumage,—and his head and neck were yellow! And, as if to settle the matter once for all, he presently rose and began displaying his prowess as a fisherman. And the next day two other good men and myself saw the same bird, or one like him, at almost equally short range, and to all of us the tell-tale color was plainly visible. Score one, said I, for the field-glass as an ornithological weapon.

This year the gannets are here again, though I missed them for the first few days. Since that time they have performed daily for my delight; and I never weary of watching them. The pelican’s dive is a grand one; but the gannet, with his long outstretched neck, flies commonly at a greater height, is much speedier on the wing, and dives with greater verve. In truth, no words can express the spirit with which he sets his sharp black-and-white wings and drops like a thunderbolt into the sea. Given a flock of fifteen or twenty birds, with the fishing good, and it is a show hard to beat.

Almost equal enjoyment, of a dissimilar sort, my New England eyes have found over in a clearing, or partial clearing (a Southern clearing), beside the Tomoka road, on the opposite side of the Halifax. There, among girdled live-oaks and living palmettos, a flock of some hundreds of bluebirds appear to be spending the winter; and with them, or in the same neighborhood, are perhaps equal numbers of chipping sparrows and a smaller collection of robins. “ My New England eyes,” I said; and now the reader may see the pertinency of the words. Hundreds of bluebirds, with chippers and robins! No wonder a Yankee feels himself at home in such company. No wonder he finds himself, every few days, taking the long walk that leads to such communion.

There are plenty of chipping sparrows, with fewer white-throats and song sparrows, at points nearer home; but with a single exception I have found robins and bluebirds nowhere else. The exception is significant, and deserves mention. At a certain place in the low pine woods by the railroad track is a pair of bluebirds; and the same was true last season and two seasons before. Those, I have little doubt, are Florida bluebirds; they will nest in that spot; while the great flock in the clearing are Northern born. Not one of them, probably, but remembers a birdbox or a hole in some apple tree or fence-post, in a far-off country, very, very different from this. Can any of them, I wonder, be the same that I saw in those bright September days, so little a while ago, up among the pleasant farms and hedgerows of my old Franconia Valley ?

A flock of red-winged blackbirds that live in some small cat-tail beds along the bank of the river, and are much on the bridge foraging for predigested breakfast food in the track of the horses (a sorry day it will be for many kinds of birds if electricity and gasoline ever drive horses quite out of business), are, I think, Floridians; my opinion being based upon two considerations: first, that they have (or had a year ago, I have yet to hear it this season, though I am daily expecting it) a conkaree, with what I call the Florida termination, an extra syllable, or coda, never heard, to the best of my knowledge, in New England; and secondly, that the flock is a mixed one, — the two sexes wintering in company.

Concerning the birds observed from my window, I can give no great account. The part of the orange grove that falls within my ken is less frequented than the part that lies south of the house; for the reason, as I suppose, that for some distance the southern half of the grove is shut in from the road, not by a wire fence, but by a kind of abattis of dead brush, the best of all coverts from a small bird’s point of view. At any minute in the day a hawk may happen along, in which contingency a tangle of this kind is a sure defense, stronger than a Port Arthur, into which the hunted can fly and be safe.

Even on my side of the house, however, the grove is not quite deserted. Black vultures and turkey buzzards cast frequent shadows upon it; a pair of cardinals come now and then to brighten it (the red male makes a brave show in an orange tree); a phœbe has been known to flirt his tail from the fence-post nearest the window; and not so very seldom the leafy branches of my five-stemmed live-oak are alive all at once with warblers, kinglets, gnatcatchers, and tufted tits, a small division of the great army of such birds that are in movable winter quarters hereabout. The immense majority of the host are myrtle birds, but in any considerable detachment there are likely to be one or two yellow-throats. And whenever this happens, I know one man from whom the myrtle birds receive but scant attention. Fine feathers and novelty taken together are bound to carry the day. Blue jays and mocking birds are things of course, but up to this time (January 13) the mockers have not sung so much as a note. The whistle of the Carolina wren has already been chronicled, and the dainty little ground doves (not yet cooing) count among my most constant visitors. Red-bellied woodpeckers (checkerbacks) are not uncommon. Better still, my oak tree one day held four flickers at once, a larger number, I think, than I have seen in all my wanderings hereabout put together. And my mention of them reminds me to speak of an old book which one of the winter cottagers here, a reading man, — for many years a justice of the Supreme Court at Washington, — has been kind enough to put into my possession, and in which there is a note bearing, as it seems, upon one of the flicker’s many vernacular names.

The book, first published in 1544, is entitled Turner on Birds: A Short and Succinct History of the Principal Birds Noticed by Pliny and Aristotle. In at least three places Dr. Turner uses the word Huhol (Hewhole) as the name of a British woodpecker. My neighbor, in giving me the volume, called attention to this fact, adding, what looks to me most reasonable, that our American name “ high-hole " may be nothing but a corruption of this more appropriate English name; especially as the bird to which the name high-hole is applied is well known to build its nest as a rule within ten feet of the ground.

In the same old book I find it stated, on the authority of Pliny (and Dr. Turner gives no sign of demurring), that “pelicans, when they find their young killed by a serpent, mourn, and beat themselves upon their sides, and with the blood discharged they bring back to life the bodies of the dead.” This I call a good story. It is hard to get ahead of the ancients, even in a thing so modern as “nature writing.”

All in all, then, to return from what I hope will be esteemed an interesting digression, window birds are not conspicuous. A few terns and gulls, with a chance cormorant occasionally, a sparrow hawk, once, and a great blue heron that stands for a considerable part of every day (on one leg, like a twentieth-century Simeon Stylites) at the top of a post in the river,

— these complete the list; unless we add a brood of domestic fowls, one sex of which, no longer “the bird of dawning,” crows at all hours of the night, while a representative of the other sex, a few nights ago, with no moon to encourage her, gave the unmistakable cackle of satisfaction over a new-laid egg, directly under my window, at eight o’clock in the evening. Better late than never, I thought. Butpossibly I misjudged her; for how was I to know whether it was that day’s egg or the morrow’s ? Possibly, like the housekeeper who hung out her week’s washing on Friday, she was not behind time, but ahead.

Truth to tell, the country as a whole is far less birdy now than it will be a month hence, if my previous experience here counts for anything. December and January are winter months. So the silent mocking birds tell me, and to the same effect speaks my Boston newspaper, two days old, with its reports of snow and ice, slippings upon the sidewalk, and deaths from exposure. Yes, yes, I say, it is winter; but it is difficult to keep the fact in mind where one sees roses in bloom and butterflies and dragon-flies on the wing. Not that cool weatheris unknown,even in this latitude. One night lately, water froze, and on more than one night orange-growers have suffered a scare. Some of them, less than a week ago, sat up till near daylight watching the mercury, which, after grazing the danger mark, took at the last minute an upward turn. A little more, and I should have seen the grove illuminated. But even at the worst no real harm has been done, and within a day or two shirt-sleeves and surf-bathing have been again in order.

Under such conditions, and if one does not make too hard work of it, beholding the fowls of the air is surely a pleasant business. If that were all, as I said before, gospel obedience would be an easy yoke.