“What! you will capture Verty, that roving bird?”
“Yes; and make of this roving swallow another bird called a secretary. I suppose you’ve read some natural history, and know there’s such a feathered thing.”
“Very well,” said Mr. Rushton, kicking his horse, and cramming his cocked hat down on his forehead. “I’ll show you how little you know of human nature and character. I’ll take this wild Indian boy, brought up in the woods, and as free and careless as a deer, and in six months I’ll change him into a canting, crop-eared, whining pen-machine, with quills behind his ears, and a back always bending humbly. I’ll take this honest barbarian and make a civilized and enlightened individual out of him—that is to say, I’ll change him into a rascal and a hypocrite.”
With which misanthropic words Mr. Rushton nodded in a surly way to the smiling Squire, and took his way down the road toward Winchester.
“Well, well,” said the old gentleman, looking after him, “Rushton seems to be growing rougher than ever;—what a pity that so noble a heart should have such a husk. His was a hard trial, however—we should not be surprised. Rough-headed fellow! he thinks he can do everything with that resolute will of his;—but the idea of chaining to a writing-desk that wild boy, Verty!”
And the old gentleman re-entered the house smiling cheerfully, as was his wont.
How Verty thought, and played, and dreamed.
Verty took his weary way westward through the splendid autumn woods, gazing with his dreamy Indian expression on the variegated leaves, listening to the far cries of birds, and speaking at times to Longears and Wolf, his two deer hounds.
Then his head would droop—a dim smile would glimmer upon his lips, and his long, curling hair would fall in disordered masses around his burnt face, almost hiding it from view. At such moments Verty dreamed—the real world had disappeared—perforce of that imagination given him by heaven, he entered calm and happy into the boundless universe of reverie and fancy.
For a time he would go along thus, his arms hanging down, his head bent upon his breast, his body swinging from side to side with every movement of his shaggy little horse. Then he would rouse himself, and perhaps fit an arrow to his bow, and aim at some bird, or some wild turkey disappearing in the glades. Happy birds! the arrow never left the string. Verty’s hand would fall—the bow would drop at his side—he would fix his eyes upon the autumn woods, and smile.
He went on thus through the glades of the forest, over the hills, and along the banks of little streams towards the west. The autumn reigned in golden splendor—and not alone in gold: in purple, and azure and crimson, with a wealth of slowly falling leaves which soon would pass away, the poor perished glories of the fair golden year. The wild geese flying South sent their faint carol from the clouds—the swamp sparrow twittered, and the still copse was stirred by the silent croak of some wandering wild turkey, or the far forest made most musical with that sound which the master of Wharncliffe Lodge delighted in, the “belling of the hart.”