|Back||1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Next|
"How delightful," cried Augusta, with sudden animation. "What a glorious man your friend must be!"
"Because the snipes and the wild ducks like him? You seem to have greater confidence in their judgment than in mine."
"Of course I have--at least as long as you persist in joking. But, jesting aside, what a wondrously beautiful life he must lead whom Nature takes thus into her confidence; who has, as it were, an inner and subtler sense, corresponding to each grosser and external one; who is keen-sighted enough to read the character of every individual beast, and has ears sensitive to the full pathos of joy or sorrow in the song of the birds that inhabit our woodlands."
"Whether he has any such second set of senses as you speak of, I don't know; but there can be no doubt that his familiarity, not to say intimacy, with birds and beasts gives him a great advantage as a naturalist. I suppose you know that his little book has been translated into French, and rewarded with the gold medal of the Academy."
"Hush! What is that?" Augusta sprang up, and held her hand to her ear.
"Some love-lorn mountain-cock playing yonder in the pine copse," suggested Arnfinn, amused at his cousin's eagerness.
"You silly boy! Don't you know the mountain- cock never plays except at sunrise?"
"He would have a sorry time of it now, then, when there IS no sunrise."
"And so he has; he does not play except in early spring."
The noise, at first faint, now grew louder. It began with a series of mellow, plaintive clucks that followed thickly one upon another, like smooth pearls of sound that rolled through the throat in a continuous current; then came a few sharp notes as of a large bird that snaps his bill; then a long, half-melodious rumbling, intermingled with cacklings and snaps, and at last, a sort of diminuendo movement of the same round, pearly clucks. There was a whizzing of wing-beats in the air; two large birds swept over their heads and struck down into the copse whence the sound had issued.
"This is indeed a most singular thing," said Augusta, under her breath, and with wide-eyed wonder. "Let us go nearer, and see what it can be."
"I am sure I can go if you can," responded Arnfinn, not any too eagerly. "Give me your hand, and we can climb the better."
As they approached the pine copse, which
projected like a promontory from the line of the denser forest, the noise ceased, and only the plaintive whistling of a mountain-hen, calling her scattered young together, and now and then the shrill response of a snipe to the cry of its lonely mate, fell upon the summer night, not as an interruption, but as an outgrowth of the very silence. Augusta stole with soundless tread through the transparent gloom which lingered under those huge black crowns, and Arnfinn followed impatiently after. Suddenly she motioned to him to stand still, and herself bent forward in an attitude of surprise and eager observation. On the ground, some fifty steps from where she was stationed, she saw a man stretched out full length, with a knapsack under his head, and surrounded by a flock of downy, half-grown birds, which responded with a low, anxious piping to his alluring cluck, then scattered with sudden alarm, only to return again in the same curious, cautious fashion as before. Now and then there was a great flapping of wings in the trees overhead, and a heavy brown and black speckled mountain-hen alighted close to the man's head, stretched out her neck toward him, cocked her head, called her scattered brood together, and departed with slow and deliberate wing-beats.
Again there was a frightened flutter over- head, a shrill anxious whistle rose in the air, and all was silence. Augusta had stepped on a dry branch--it had broken under her weight-- hence the sudden confusion and flight. The unknown man had sprung up, and his eye, after a moment's search, had found the dark, beautiful face peering forth behind the red fir-trunk. He did not speak or salute her; he greeted her with silent joy, as one greets a wondrous vision which is too frail and bright for consciousness to grasp, which is lost the very instant one is conscious of seeing. But, while to the girl the sight, as it were, hung trembling in the range of mere physical perception, while its suddenness held it aloof from moral reflection, there came a great shout from behind, and Arnfinn, whom in her surprise she had quite forgotten, came bounding forward, grasping the stranger by the hand with much vigor, laughing heartily, and pouring forth a confused stream of delighted interjections, borrowed from all manner of classical and unclassical tongues.
"Strand! Strand!" he cried, when the first tumult of excitement had subsided; "you most marvelous and incomprehensible Strand! From what region of heaven or earth did you jump down into our prosaic neighborhood? And what in the world possessed you to choose our barns as the centre of your operations, and nearly put me to the necessity of having you arrested for vagrancy? How I do regret that Cousin Augusta's entreaties mollified my heart toward you. Pardon me, I have not introduced you. This is my cousin, Miss Oddson, and this is my miraculous friend, the world-renowned author, vagrant, and naturalist, Mr. Marcus Strand."
Strand stepped forward, made a deep but somewhat awkward bow, and was dimly aware that a small soft hand was extended to him, and, in the next moment, was enclosed in his own broad and voluminous palm. He grasped it firmly, and, in one of those profound abstractions into which he was apt to fall when under the sway of a strong impression, pressed it with increasing cordiality, while he endeavored to find fitting answers to Arnfinn's multifarious questions.
"To tell the truth, Vording," he said, in a deep, full-ringing bass, "I didn't know that these were your cousin's barns--I mean that your uncle"--giving the unhappy hand an emphatic shake--"inhabited these barns."
"No, thank heaven, we are not quite reduced to that," cried Arnfinn, gayly; "we still boast a parsonage, as you will presently discover, and a very bright and cozy one, to boot. But, whatever you do, have the goodness to release Augusta's hand. Don't you see how desperately she is struggling, poor thing?"
|Back||1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Next|
Tales From Two Hemispheres -by- Hjalmar Hjorth BoysenBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.