That same day I carried out some bright-colored bits of worsted and ribbon, and scattered them on the grass. The birds soon found them and used them in completing their nest. For a while a gayer little dwelling was never seen in a tree. The bright bits of color in the soft gray of the walls gave the nest always a holiday appearance, in good keeping with the high spirits of the orioles. But by the time the young had chipped the shell, and the joyousness of nest-building had given place to the constant duties of filling hungry little mouths, the rains and the sun of summer had bleached the bright colors to a uniform sober gray.
That was a happy family from beginning to end. No accident ever befell it; no enemy disturbed its peace. And when the young birds had flown away to the South, I took down the nest which I had helped to build, and hung it in my study as a souvenir of my bright little neighbors.
VI. THE BUILDERS.
A curious bit of wild life came to me at dusk one day in the wilderness. It was midwinter, and the snow lay deep. I was sitting alone on a fallen tree, waiting for the moon to rise so that I could follow the faint snowshoe track across a barren, three miles, then through a mile of forest to another trail that led to camp. I had followed a caribou too far that day, and this was the result—feeling along my own track by moonlight, with the thermometer sinking rapidly to the twenty-below-zero point.
There is scarcely any twilight in the woods; in ten minutes it would be quite dark; and I was wishing that I had blankets and an axe, so that I could camp where I was, when a big gray shadow came stealing towards me through the trees. It was a Canada lynx. My fingers gripped the rifle hard, and the right mitten seemed to slip off of itself as I caught the glare of his fierce yellow eyes.
But the eyes were not looking at me at all. Indeed, he had not noticed me. He was stealing along, crouched low in the snow, his ears back, his stub tail twitching nervously, his whole attention fixed tensely on something beyond me out on the barren. I wanted his beautiful skin; but I wanted more to find out what he was after; so I kept still and watched.
At the edge of the barren he crouched under a dwarf spruce, settled himself deeper in the snow by a wriggle or two till his feet were well under him and his balance perfect, and the red fire blazed in his eyes and his big muscles quivered. Then he hurled himself forward—one, two, a dozen mighty bounds through flying snow, and he landed with a screech on the dome of a beaver house. There he jumped about, shaking an imaginary beaver like a fury, and gave another screech that made one’s spine tingle. That over, he stood very still, looking off over the beaver roofs that dotted the shore of a little pond there. The blaze died out of his eyes; a different look crept into them. He put his nose down to a tiny hole in the mound, the beavers’ ventilator, and took a long sniff, while his whole body seemed to distend with the warm rich odor that poured up into his hungry nostrils. Then he rolled his head sadly, and went away.