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BOYS AT CHEQUASSET; OR, “ A LITTLE LEAVEN.”
BY THE AUTHOR OF "THE GAYWORTHYS.”
with us, to look for birds' nests. Howard WOOD-PATHS.
wants some cedar-birds' eggs, and there are TOHN had had a lesson—a lesson of fear lots of 'em there." S -such an one as impresses upon the “And then,” added Howard, “we'll keep mind some especial point of duty, which is on along the brook, up towards the woods not apt to be again neglected. He was and find some vireos'.” warned now, for his lifetime, against taking “I've got ten eggs already for my collecupon himself any trust, however small, and tion,” said Stephen, "and four or five dupliheedlessly failing in his obligation. He cates that I'll give you. We got blue birds”, would doubtless be more careful, more and robins', and cat-birds’, in the lanes, yes. faithful henceforth in matters involving a | terday; and wrens' and song-sparrows' just promise or pledge. He would be pretty for stepping out of the house. There's a certain at any rate not to mislay or lose cunning little house-wren has built in our again the key of his father's barn.
| wood-shed, and laid seven eggs ; and father But would he, in his general habits, be let us take two of them, “as an exception,' any more orderly ?
he said. Many birds don't lay such a lot for Ah, the lessons of fear that we get for one hatching. I tell you it's jolly fun!” the most part teach us only to avoid—and | John asked his mother's leave for the exthat certain special risks; not to become pedition, and whether he mightn't begin his to attain higher and wholly.
collection to-day. After he had explained It must be a lesson of beauty to teach us all that Howard and Stephen had told him that.
about it, and adduced the arguments that In a few days Kathie was nearly well. had had weight with Mr. Sellinger, Mrs. Meantime Johnnie quite devoted himself to Osburn said that she saw no objection herher. All the gentle and affectionate side of self, provided they kept to the conditions ; his character was drawn out. The despised but she thought there would be great temp. spools were collected, and he improvised tation, where three boys went exploring tonumberless school and family scenes, in gether, to secure more than one egg from a which they were made the puppets. They single nest. She gave him permission, howall had names ; and by the hour at a time ever, to go and share in the expedition of Johnnie sat by the little table that was this morning; but he was not to consider drawn up for Kathie beside the bed, and that full consent had been given for him to manæuvred them for her amusement. continue the pursuit, until his father also
One morning, just as they were both should have been consulted. growing rather tired of this employment, John agreed to all this ; and the three and Kathie had declared that she was "get- boys, with a basket containing their lunch. ting quite worn out with having so much eons, in case they should get so far from care of all these children,” and that she home as to remain out beyond the dinner“believed she would send them off to bed, hour, set off, in high spirits, over Cedar and read Rosamond awhile," John heard Bridge. voices below inquiring for him, and on Out in the pasture, and along the brook. running down to the door found Stephen side, the air was full of the notes of differand Howard Sellinger.
ent birds, that John, in his city-bred igno“Come, Johnnie,” said the former, “ we rance, could not distinguish from oneanother; want you to go up into the High Pasture and had it not been for the assurances of Howard, he would no sooner have dreamed of 'em.” It was just the place for them. of the possibility of tracing them to their Only a short flight either way took them little, mysterious homes, and spying out their into orchards and gardens on the one hand, domestic arrangements, than of finding the and wide pastures on the other, where was fairies and getting a peep into Elfland. promise of endless store of fruits and ber
But Howard looked about him, and lis- ries the summer long; and meantime there tened with a very confident air.
were raids to be made upon hordes of worms “Hark !” said he, presently, with a ges- and slugs, and caterpillars, that would else ture for the others to pause. “There's a spoil alike their feast and the farmer's profit. brown thrush! I think he's somewhere in Back they would come, after these flights of that clump of bushes off at the right. Wait forage and frolic, among the still, spicy here a minute."
evergreens, and gather cosily in little groups, John and Stephen stood still, and Howard four or five on a branch, talking over, in a moved cautiously on a little distance up the gentle, gossiping way, their late exploits, brook-side.
or pluming their feathers for another foray. Presently, as he made his way among the The boys went slowly along among the bushes from which the sound proceeded, scattered trees, looking carefully up in each there was a sudden change in the character as they passed, and trusting, as Howard said, of the notes. They expressed fright and that " if they came upon one nest, they'd be anxiety. Then there was a flutter of wings, sure to find more, for these little fellows and out from the little thicket flew, first the almost always build in neighbourhoods." merry singer and then his mate, still circling. They got farther in, among the cedars and in the air, however, around the spot, the pines that belted the pasture,—where it was male bird uttering a threatening and re- stiller and more shady,—and by-and-by, in proachful cry.
the first crotch of a cedar-tree, at least four. It was hardly a moment, however, that teen feet from the ground, Howard's obser. Howard kept them in their suspense ; for vant eye caught a glimpse of a little nest, almost immediately he emerged again, as securely lodged, and built of grass and roots, cautiously as he had entered, and came and bits of pine and hemlock. quickly back towards his companions. As | “There it is!” he cried, “and the thing is he reached them, he held up his prize,- an how to get at it! The little robbers are like egg, about as large as a robin's, of a green- | the old scribes,—they like high seats in the ish-white colour, dusted thickly all over with synagogue. Steenie, can you shin ?" little freckles of brown.
“Try me and see,” replied Steeņie. “We'll get them the best way we can,” “We're like the three brothers that always said he, “and then divide spoils afterwards. went travelling together, in the old fairy I went in because I knew where to look, and tales,” said Howard. “What one can't do just what sort of a nest to look for. There another can. It'll be your turn next, John. were three eggs, just one a-piece, if we had nie.” been rapacious enough to take 'em. The “I don't see what I can do," answered bird wasn't sitting. They generally lay five, Johnnie, with a shade of dissatisfaction, as I believe. Maybe we'll find another nest | he looked up at Stephen, who had got, by before we go home. Now let's keep on up this time, hand over hand, half way up the the hill, among the pines and hemlocks, and tree. “I can't climb much-yet," he added, look after cedar-birds. Where's your box, with an emphasis that seemed to imply he Steenie ?”
| didn't mean to be a great while learning. Stephen produced a box, filled partially “Oh, you'll do it in a week as well as with cotton-wool, wherein Howard placed Steenie. Well, old fellow, what d'ye see ?" the egg carefully, and then they kept on up “I see four eggs,” replied Stephen. “The over the slope of the pasture.
bird's off.” The sociable Little cedar-birds, or wax- “Drop one into my cap," said Howard, wings, were there, as Stephen had said, “lots holding it up high above his head.
Down came a little, grayish egg, splashed | I started up a bobolink. They're among with dark brown spots, into the very middle the very rarest sort of nests to find. You of the soft crown of the cap; and down never know where to look for them. They're came Stephen, like a lamplighter along the just like any other patch of grass, and the side of his ladder.
birds generally keep so still and close,-Searching still from tree to tree, they sometimes even if you're right upon them. found, within a short distance, two other However, Mrs. Lincoln skedaddled this time, nests, of like situation and construction, as and one of her little, blotchy eggs is safe in Howard had predicted ; and taking an egg my box at home.” from each, that each boy might have a spe. After the boys were well rested and recimen, they passed on, along the open ridge freshed, they set off once more across the of high land beyond the trees, quite elated brook, and plunged again beyond, into the with their success.
deep, green wood, through which lay their It was a long tramp, and the least plea- circuit home, and among whose leafy nooks, sant part of their excursion, over the back they knew, were lodged invisibly, all about bone of the hill, round towards the western them, the little dwellings of which they had slope that brought them down into the edge come in search. of pleasant woods again, where they struck There was something in the still beauty the course of the brook, and presently would and seclusion of the forest that impressed have to cross the high road, which here Johnnie, who had lived nearly all his life in passed through a fragrant grove of pine. the bareness and bustle of city streets, Beyond, they would keep on, until they had very strongly and wonderfully. It was like made a large circuit, of which Mr. Osburn's walking, wide awake, into a dream. He house was very nearly the centre, and would saw and felt what heretofore had only come emerge by the old oak, near Farmer Sim- to him through his imagination; and a mons's field, where Howard traced the night- whole infinity of life and delight seemed hawk, and so home through the lane. opening before him, as he came to know
They were very glad when they reached what a world was lying close around him ; the shelter of the wood by the brook, to sit that the real, veritable woods, where the down for awhile, and eat the luncheon from birds and squirrels truly lived, and might their basket, and have a drink of cool water any day be seen and watched, were thus from the tin cup that was tied to its handle. within only a ten or fifteen minutes' ramble
“I suppose," said Howard, as he threw from his father's door. himself down against the mossy knoll at He had been used to walk down to the the foot of a chestnut, “if we had looked Charles River, and look away, over its blue about for them, we might have found che- waters, to the shores of Roxbury and Cam. winks' nests up there on the ridge. It's just bridge, where the country began,” with a the place for them. But the sun was so feeling that a great wealth and mystery lay blazing hot, it would hardly pay. We'll somewhere there in the distance,-fields and go there some other time, when it's cooler, forests, such as he read of in his story books, or earlier or later in the day. They hide but never expected to get really into, any their nests very cunningly on the ground. more than he thought of ever travelling off You might stumble right into one before to the westward far enough to put his hand you saw it."
upon the blue sky that seemed to drop down “Did you find the night-hawk's nest the there, a way off, and rest against the hills. other day ?” asked John.
He had nearer glimpses sometimes, when “No nest,” answered Howard. “They he took summer drives with his father and don't care for such conveniences. Two mother ; but such a spot as this he had great, muddy-looking, speckled eggs, just never, in all the ten years of his life, been tumbled together in the gravel. And I had let loose in before. the greatest luck, coming back, over the | The very breath of the forest, that came farmer's field. Just in the edge of his rye,' through oaks, and pines, and beeches, and chestnuts, and over beds of fern and moss, | direction but the right one, as if she really touched him with a sort of awe, as if the couldn't find her own nest. solitudes it was born in had made it almost “ Just go the way she does’nt," said How. holy. It gave him the same feeling- ard. “That's the way to manage cunning though he did not analyze his sensations, or folks. You must always take them by con. compare them together, as I am doing, traries. She started from somewhere here.” that he once had, when he got into a great and looking closely into the little thicket city church on a week-day, and explored the where they first surprised her, and away choir, and felt the organ pipes, and climbed from which she was artfully trying to lead up into the pulpit, and laid his hand, with them, they found her treasure,-more than a a childish reverence, on the minister's great dozen dainty, cream-coloured eggs. Bible.
Such abundance was hard for the boys to All about them they heard, at intervals, resist. the various songs of the forest birds. The “I'm sure,” said Stephen, “my father tiny.wood-sparrow thrilled its simple strain would say this might be an exception to the unceasingly. The shy quail called out, from rule. If we can take one egg where there the underbrush, “More wet! more wet !” are only two or three, I should think we Now and then, the piercing “chee, chee!” of might take three out of a dozen,-shouldn't the oven-bird was reiterated in a shrill cres. | you?” cendo ; and the vireo, with untiring warble, Howard didn't know. He supposed they seemed to overflow in irrepressible music. ought not to make the exceptions them.
If John had come here merely for a walk, / selves. and the pleasantness of it, he would have John was looking with longing eyes at just noticed, probably, that the birds were the nest; but for a minute or two he was singing, and that would have been all. He quite silent. He was trying to settle the would not have received separate impres- question between his judgment and his con. sions of the different notes. But as his science. He could see no reason why they companions distinguished them, and named might not each take an egg, if Mr. Sellinger the birds, one after another, through their had not objected to taking two from the recognition of the songs, his wonder and his wren's nest, where there were seven. He interest grew greater; and he peered with felt very sure, if his mother were there, she curious eyes in bush and branch, to get, if would release him from his promise in this he might, a “sight-acquaintance” with the case ; but still,—it was a promise. John, little winged people.
with whatever other faults he might have, “Look well under your feet, boys,” said was honest. Howard, “and among the bushes. We shall He put his hands in his pockets, and very likely come upon a partridge nest; and turned off rather quickly at last, speaking if we could only light upon an oven-bird's!” | out his conclusion with a little gruffness
They did find the former, and not very that betokened the effort he had made. long after Howard had spoken ; but they “Any way,” said he, “I can't have one. were not to have all their good luck in one I promised my mother I would not take any day. The oven-bird's nest is by no means from the same nest you did; and I suppose to be met with every time one walks in a it don't make any difference whether there's wood.
two or twenty." The partridge nest was a little hollow “Well,” said Howard, “I suppose I might scratched out under a bush, and lined with manage it, if I had a mind. I haven't made grass and leaves. The shy and crafty little any promise ; and my father always lets me mother, on the approach of their accidental judge whether it will do to take more than footsteps, had scrambled hastily from off her one. He knows I never rob a nest. But I eggs; and they first caught sight of her, don't like anything that looks like dodging." limping about among the underbrush, and so they came to the decision at last, to poking her head here and there, in every | take but one; but to note the spot, and re
port the whole case at home, and if permis- " that seeing a bird isn't finding his nest by sion were given, to come back again for two any means. We see a good deal in this more eggs.
world that we never get at." This turned out to have been the very Which was a very sententious utterance wisest way possible ; for Mr. Sellinger and for a boy of fourteen. Mr. Osburn were convinced by this scrupu- The wood-path they followed next led lousness as to the letter of the promise that them down over a rough, rocky slope, the boys might be trusted to keep it in its through a thicket of savin and other bushes, spirit; and they were allowed to govern till they came out into a lovely, wild, little themselves in all such cases thenceforth, by opening, where, from between high banks Howard's judgment on the spot. If they to the left, poured down over its narrow had taken an unauthorized latitude, on this bed of stones and moss one of the scores of first day of their birds’-nesting excursions, little, singing, gurgling streams that, fed by with however good a show of reason, their hidden springs in the deep heart of the parents might have distrusted the tendency wood, strayed hither and thither, falling of the whole thing. As it was, by refrain from hollow to hollow among the shadows, ing from the inch, they gained the ell; and / or glancing out suddenly into the sunlight, their honesty and good faith proved empha till they found their way to the brook par tically their best policy.
eminence, that gathered them all in, and
bustled on to carry its accumulated wealth “What is that?” exclaimed John, catch to the great river. ing Howard by the arm and checking him Ferns and herbs grew close down and into in his walk, as he pointed to the trunk of a its edges, and tall wood-grasses bent down tall, dead pine, up which, round and round, their lithe spires into its ripples, and drifted
- pausing here and there, and tapping so- out their full length on the current; and the norously upon the hollow stem,—something water drew to itself their wild juices, and black and white was crawling, so close to | turned a deep, clear coffee-brown ; and so the tree that at first Johnnie could hardly poured itself---rich in who knows what make out whether it really were a bird or elixirs of healing-out and on among the not.
sedges, between which it spread into little “Oh, that's a woodpecker! Let me see! | dusky pools, and seemed to pause a space A hairy woodpecker, I think. I wish we to take breath and determine whither next. could find his nest. They dig way into a “That's what old Aunt Patty Pulsifer dead branch, or a rotten fence-post. Some would call yarb tea,'” said Stephen, as he times you'll find one in a hollow stump. bestrode the stream just where it leaped out I'm afraid that fellow has got his pretty safe from the last shady nook into the shallow. out of our reach, if it's anywhere about that “Have a drink?" and he caught up a dipold shell he's climbing."
perful, and offered it to Johnnie. The pine-tree was very tall, and had been John threw out his hand, with a backward broken off at the top. They could discover movement that sent the dipper whirling up nothing that looked like an opening, as far into an alder bush, and the water showering as they could see up the sides of the stem ; about in scattered drops, to find its level, and Stephen thought it would be rather use and creep into the current again as best it less trying to “shin” after the woodpecker, might. who, while they were talking, had reached | “Hallo, Johnnie !” cried out Howard, the very summit, and sat there, in proud from.a clump of bushes higher up. “Here's inaccessibility, uttering a shrill whistle, as if a chance for the youngest of the three broof triumph.
thers at last! Come here, will you ?” "I wouldn't give up,” said John. “We John hastened up to where Howard was might hunt out his nest somewhere, maybe standing, on a gray, mossy rock, above I don't believe it's away up there."
which, high over his head, swung from the “Oh, you'll soon find out,” said Howard, I outmost forked twig of a young maple-tree,