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caught his eye; and instantly his bearing of haughty and warlike self-confidence changed to one of alarm. My bullet smote through his shoulder-blades, and he plunged wildly forward, and fell full length on the blood-stained snow.1
V. THE MOCKING-BIRD
ONCE I listened to a mocking-bird singing the livelong spring night, under the full moon, in a magnolia tree; and I do not think I shall ever forget its song.
It was on the plantation of Major Campbell Brown, near Nashville, in the beautiful, fertile mid-Tennessee country. The mocking-birds were prime favorites on the place; and were given full scope for the development, not only of their bold friendliness towards mankind, but also of that marked individuality and originality of character in which they so far surpass every other bird as to become the most interesting of all feathered folk.
On the evening in question the moon was full. My host kindly assigned me a room of which the windows opened on a great magnolia tree, where, I was told, a mocking-bird sang every night and all night long. I went to my room about ten. The moonlight was shining in through the open window, and the mocking-bird was already in the magnolia. The great tree was bathed in a flood of shining silver; I could see each twig, and mark every action of the singer, who was pouring forth such a rapture of ringing melody as I have never listened to before or since. Sometimes he would perch motionless for
· From The Wilderness Hunter. Copyright, 1893. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London, publishers.
many minutes, his body quivering and thrilling with the outpour of music. Then he would drop softly from twig to twig, until the lowest limb was reached, when he would rise, fluttering and leaping through the branches, his song never ceasing for an instant, until he reached the summit of the tree and launched into the warm, scent-laden air, floating in spirals, with outspread wings, until, as if spent, he sank gently back into the tree and down through the branches, while his song rose into an ecstasy of ardor and passion. His voice rang like a clarionet, in rich, full tones, and his execution covered the widest possible compass; theme followed theme, a torrent of music, a swelling tide of harmony, in which scarcely any two bars were alike. I stayed till midnight listening to him; he was singing when I went to sleep; he was still singing when I woke a couple of hours later; he sang through the livelong night.
THE "pleasant and gentle feat of arms at Ashby-de-laZouch” was a trifle compared to the meet here yesterday.
I cannot say how I, and indeed all of us, wished that yourself and spouse were here; I know you would have enjoyed it. The weather was glorious, and everything went off without a hitch; the entire neighborhood turned out in drags, tandems, etc. The field was only about thirty-five in number, mostly in red; but at least
1 From The Wilderness Hunter. Copyright, 1893. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London, publishers.
twenty-five were as hard riding men, mounted on as good hunters, as are to be found on either side the Atlantic; every crack rider of the Meadowbrook and Essex clubs was here, each mounted on his very best horse, and each bound to force the pace from start to finish. The country was too stiff for any timid rider to turn out.
We opened over a necessarily small field with fences by actual measurement from four feet six to five feet; and the fun grew fast and furious very rapidly. The run was for ten miles with one check, over the country you saw. Douglas took my sister's mare out to school her; at the third fence she turned a couple of handsprings and literally “knocked him silly"; and took half the skin off his face; he rode along the roads the rest of the way. A great many men had falls, and about halfway through I came to grief. Frank is stiff, and the company was altogether too good for him; I had pounded the old fellow along pretty well up with the first rank, but he was nearly done out. Then we came to a five-foot fence, stiffer than iron, that staggered the best; my old horse, completely blown, struck the top rail, did n't make an effort to recover, and rolled over on me among a lot of stones. I cut my face to pieces and broke my left arm (which accounts for my superordinarily erratic handwriting). After that I fell behind, as with one hand I could not always make Frank take his fences the first time; however, three or four miles farther on a turn in the line enabled me again to catch up, and I was in at the death, not a hundred yards behind the first half-dozen. I looked pretty gay, with one arm dangling, and my face and clothes like the walls
of a slaughter-house. I guess my hunting is over for this season, as my arm will be in splints for a month or six weeks; anyhow, Frank is shut up, gone both before and behind. I have had my money's worth out of him, however, not to mention a healthy variety of experiences on and off his back.1
II It was very good of you and your wife to write even before you heard from me. You need n't feel in the least melancholy about me; I viewed the affair from the first as mainly comic in character. Now I can dress myself all right, and do about everything but ride and row; all I minded was missing the rest of the hunting season — and I question if Frank would carry me much longer at the pace at which I care to go. My face will not be scarred except across the nose - which, however, will not be handsome. The accident did not keep me in five minutes. I rode straight through the rest of the hunt - the arm hurt very little, and indeed I did not know it was actually broken until after going about six fields, when the bones slipped up past each other went out to dinner that night, and next day took a three hours' walk through the woods with Mrs. Blank (a piece of heroic self-sacrifice I know you will appreciate). Douglas nearly had concussion of the brain; he did not intend to follow, but the mare went so beautifully at and over the first fence that he thought she was a natural hunter.
A couple of days ago I walked over the course we
1 Letter to Henry Cabot Lodge, dated Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, October 25, 1885. By courtesy of Mr. Lodge.
went and measured the jumps, having now plenty of time on my hands. We opened over a four-foot sixinch fence, then took a four-foot two, then a double, four-foot seven and four-foot one, where Douglas fell, then a four-foot eleven, which was as high as any we had. Where I fell was only four feet eight; still, that is a big jump in the hunting field, much bigger than in the club after dinner. When riding with one hand I did not have any very big fences, though I went over about twenty; any very big one almost always had the top rail taken off somewhere by one of the men in front; I then had nothing higher than four feet three, and half of them down almost to three feet six. Old Frank was blown or he would n't have fallen. Ralph must be a dandy; but I don't like a horse that gets too hot in the hunting field; Toronto 1 is more my kind.
I would n't mind the broken arm a bit if I was engaged in some work, so that I was occupied; I wish I had got started on the Mexican War; but I am afraid my bolt is shot, in literature as well as politics. At any rate, yours is n't.
I don't grudge the broken arm a bit; I would willingly pay it for the fun I have had on Frank. I have hunted him just eight times; seven times I have been in at the death, and three times took the brush, over a very stiff country and against very hard riders. I am always willing to pay the piper when I have had a good dance; and every now and then I like to drink the wine of life with brandy in it. ?
1 “Ralph” and “Toronto” were Mr. Lodge's hunters.
* Letter to Henry Cabot Lodge, dated Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, October 30, 1885. By courtesy of Mr. Lodge.