Calico did not teach them this; neither would their own squirrel mother have taught them. They knew how, to begin with. They knew where after one night of experience, which in this case had to be a night of shivers.
THE SPARROW ROOST
THE SPARROW ROOST
An early December twilight was settling over Boston, a thick foggy murk that soaked down full of smoke and smell and chill. The streets were oozy with a wet snow which had fallen through the afternoon and had been trodden into mud; and draughty with an east wind, that would have passed unnoticed across the open fields, but which drew up these narrow flues and sent a shiver down one’s back in spite of coats. It was half-past five. The stores were closing, their clerks everywhere eddying into the noisy streams of wheels and hoofs still pouring up and down. The traffic tide had turned, but had not yet ebbed away.
And this was evening! the coming night! I moved along with the crowd, homesick for the wideness and quiet of the country, for the soughing of the pines, the distant bang of a barn door, the night cry of guineas from some neighboring farm, when, in the hurry and din, I caught the cry of bird voices, and looking up, found that I had stumbled upon a bird roost—at the very heart of the city! I was in front of King’s Chapel Burial Ground, whose half-dozen leafless trees were alive with noisy sparrows.
The crowd swept on. I halted behind a waste-barrel by the iron fence and forgot the soughing pines and clacking guineas.
Bird roosts of this size are no common find. I remember a huge fireplace chimney that stood near my home, into which a cloud of swallows used to swarm for a few nights preceding the fall migration; I lived some years close to the pines at the head of Cubby Hollow, where great flocks of crows slept nightly throughout the winter; but these, besides now and again a temporary resting-place, a mere caravansary along the route of the migrants, were all I had happened upon. Here was another, bordering a city street, overhanging the street, with a blazing electric light to get into bed by!
Protected by the barrel from the jostle on the sidewalk, I waited by the ancient graveyard until the electric lights grew bright, until every fussing sparrow was quiet, until I could see only little gray balls and blurs in the trees through the misty drizzle that came down with the night. Then I turned toward my own snug roost, five flights up, next the roof, and just a block away, as the sparrows fly, from this roost of theirs. I was glad to have them so near me.