Fragrance in Nature Literature-Old Plymouth Trails, by Winthrop Packard

Free on-line books by and about Winthrop Packard


Old Plymouth Trails, by Winthrop Packard

On less uproarious days one gets all along the downs the rich, ozonic odor of the deep sea for a fundamental delight. And always with it are the perfumes of the blossoming land. There is tradition of heavy oak timbers once growing on Nantucket, but only the tradition remains. Here now are low forests of stunted pitch pines, sending their rich resinous aroma on all winds. Arid in late April with these comes the spicy smell of the trailing arbutus, which hides all along the ground among poverty weed, gray cladium moss, and Indian wood grass, sometimes starring the mossy mats of mealy-plum with the pinky-white of its blooms. The mealy-plum itself shows faint coral edging of pink young buds, and here and there a thistle plant, stemless as yet, looks like a green and bristly starfish in the grass. Isolated red cedars on this wind-swept down grow round balls of dense green foliage four or five feet in diameter, looking as if it needed but a blow of an axe at the butt to send them rolling down wind like big tumble weeds. Scrub oaks curiously take the same form, and clumps of bayberry, black huckleberries and sweet fern are often rounded off to hemispheres.

Yet, now and then the balance is not exactly disturbed, but rather readjusted by some alien that seems to find a foothold through all opposition and establishes a place through pure vigor and sweetness of character. Of such is the apple tree that came out of the East with other beginnings of civilization, reaching the shores of Western Europe by way of Greece and Rome. Thence it passed with the early Puritans to New England. A pampered denizen of the orchard and garden for a century or two the tree, so far as New England is concerned, seems to be steadily passing to the wild state. Old orchards grow up to pasture and woodland and the trees of a century ago hold on, if at all, in spite of the encroachments of their surroundings. Thus the best of grafted trees pass to the wild state through decay and regrowth, the strength and sweetness of the wood seeming to bear up against all adversity. The old-time trunk rots away, but sprouts from below the graft spring up and the tree reverts to the primitive in habit as well as surroundings. Or seeds, planted by bird or squirrel grow up in rich, modest humus among rough rocks where never a plough could pass and we have some new variety, a veritable wild apple with no semblance of the original fruit about it but often a delectable, wild tang, a flavor and perfume such as no cultivated variety ever had. No tree gives more beauty to the wildest of New England woods and pastures today than this. Innocent of pruning knife or fertilizer its growth has a rugged picturesqueness about it that makes the well trained tree look pusillanimously conventional beside it. I think the perfume of its blossoms is richer and carries farther and I know the pink of the petals is fairer. The wild apple is the queen of all pasture trees today and does not need to bear a tag for the most citified man, the most boudoir-encysted woman to know it. To get beneath an apple tree, even in the wildest and most unfrequented portion of the pasture or woodland, is to all of us like finding one's roof-tree once more. The race seems to have been brought up beneath it and I take it for a sign of decadence in the New England character that we no longer plant orchards. It is fortunate for us all that the wild creatures are doing what man will not and it may be that their planting will some day give us so beautiful and well flavored a wild apple that we too shall be moved to plant and the country blossom with orchards once more. All the best varieties were thus seedlings originally and have been perpetuated by transferring their buds to the limbs of less valued stock.

Soon now the snow of falling petals will whiten the ground beneath all wild apple trees, carrying an inexpressible purity and fragrance to the rich wild earth beneath. Whither these melt it is hard to say. They whiten the ground for a few brief hours and are gone. I can fancy the wee sprites of earth in whatever form they happen to dwell at the moment, beetle or bumblebee, eft or elve, gathering these eagerly by scent and by sight, to store them away below ground for slow transmutations of their own. If wrapped in bed-clothing like this it is no miracle that rough grubs should come forth gauzy winged and beautiful insects that flit by and delight the eye of the naturalist. If fed upon these it is no wonder that summer wild flowers of the deep woods can show us delicate tints and woo us with dainty perfumes, the very memory of which is happiness for long after. Thus the tree makes kindly messengers of even the rough winds of March that sometimes charge back upon us for a day, obliging them to carry the very essence of the gentle good will and fondness of the spring farther than it might otherwise reach and finally bidding them faint and die for very love of the perfume and beauty they bear. Thus the wild apple tree, still the brooding mother of all woodland things, sends fragrant love and kindness questing far through the rougher woodland till its gentle spirit seems to imbue all things. In all the pastures there is none like it.

At the thought I see more clearly still and each plant becomes a slender personality of the forest, a nymph whose purple life-blood runs clear in delicate veins under a skin of transluscent green. Out of what trees they stepped seems not difficult to tell. Surely this one came down out of a pasture elm to bathe slim feet in the cool spring water. Here are smaller, more slender creatures that came from white birches, and that group of stately ones stepped out of the tall white pines that stand on the slope nearby. No wonder the other creatures of the glade adore these slim green dryads of the swamp. The misty green bedstraw fawns about their feet and makes lace for their gowns. The polygonum blushes pink and stretches long arms toward them. The white alders, to whose tips beauty and fragrance still cling bend over them and toss white petals and perfume their way, while even the homely bur-marigold seems to glow a little better yellow in fondness, though it very properly keeps its distance. Rough rushes nod three-cornered approval and I am sure the spinulose wood ferns crowd down into wetter spots than anywhere else, just to get sight of them. In fact they stand in such wet ground that you might think them Nephrodium cristatum instead of Nephrodium spinulosum were it not for the delicate fringing of their fronds which no other fern can equal. While these things happen I think I can see the dryads quiver with delight and their jewels dance and flash, living creatures rather than gems. Surely if anyone may wear living jewels it should be dryads. They have a trick of facing you, these jewels, and looking like golden butterflies just spreading petal wings for a flight. At such times I am minded not to move suddenly lest they go off over the treetops like a flock of goldfinches. If they should I should not be surprised. With a change of light or position they change appearance again and become tiny gold dragons, winged dragons with gaping mouths and little keen brown eyes that size you up. Again each is but an ear-pendant, beaten of thin gold hanging beneath the shell-green ear of the dryad.

The turtle-heads have none of the frail loveliness of the jewel-weeds that suggest half-visible dryads, but they have a stanch beauty of their own which I think makes them seem very comely. Each corolla is a smooth, opaque white through which no light may pass. It is easy to know how it looks inside a jewel of the jewel-weed. From without the imagination can appreciate that glow of pale gold which must there suffuse all things. To such tiny midges and beetles, spiders and moths as may enter it must be like walking about in the heart of the Tiffany yellow diamond. The bumblebee might tell how it seems in the turtlehead petal, if he knows. I fancy, however, he is so everlastingly busy and so mad with the filaments when he is inside that he has no time to think of atmosphere. Often the pure white of this flower is tinged with a soft shading of delicate rose near the tip of the petal. It is an unobtrusive shading, as shy as the bloom itself. Ashes of roses might describe the tint better, for it is as gentle as the fading pink of a sunset sky, a shade that has dropped thence to the lips of these blossoms hiding in the dusk of the swamp. You see it best by looking close into the very face of the flower as the bumblebee does when about to alight on it, and I think it is set there to show him the way. By the time he has seen that, he is near enough to be drawn by the faint but ravishing perfume which is breathed out by the flower. It is so faint that you must come like the bee to the very lip of the corolla before you will find it. It is so tender and of such refinement that when once you get it you will think no blossom has its equal. The white alder at this time of year is prodigal of rich and delectable odors. The jewel-weed with all its beauty has none that my sense can perceive. But that of Chelone glabra, as modest and withdrawn as the flower itself, seems hardly to belong in the swamp for all the beauty of the place. It should rather be that of some delicately nurtured plant, some rare orchid of sheltered conservatories, it is so delicate and delightful.

The brook tells me more of nature than it does of man, perhaps because it has known man for so short a time, though I should say shows rather than tells. A hundred forms of life live in it and on it, while through the air above float a thousand more, or the evidences of them. Downstream come the scents of the flowers in bloom above. Just a week or two ago the dominant odor among these was the sticky sweetness of the azalea. It is an odor that breathes of laziness. Only the hot, damp breath of the swamp carries it and lulls to languor and to sensuous dreams. Mid-August is near and though here and there a belated azalea bloom still glows white in the dusk of the swamp its odor seems to have no power to ride the wind. Instead a cleaner, finer perfume dances in rhythmic motion down the dell, swaying in sprightly time to the under rhythm of the brook's tone, a scent that seems to laugh as it greets you, yet in no wise losing its inherent, gentle dignity. The wild clematis is the fairest maiden of the woodland. She, I am convinced, knows all the brook says and loves to listen to it, twining her arms about the alder shrubs, bending low 'till her starry eyes are mirrored in the dimpled surface beneath her, and always sending this teasing, dainty perfume out upon the breeze that it may call to her new friends. Long ago the Greeks named the Clematis Virgin's Power, but our wild variety is more than that. It is the virgin.

To smell the perfume of the clematis on the lazy wind and to watch the myriad people of the brook is joy enough for an August afternoon. Bird songs come to me from the trees overhead, far and near, some of them melodious, others songs only by courtesy. Down stream a red-eyed vireo preaches persistently in an elm top. Across the pasture I hear the rich voice of an oriole stopping his caterpillar hunting long enough to trill a round phrase or two from the apple-tree bough. A flock of chickadees, old and young, comes through, nervously active in their hunting and with voices in which there is a tang of the coming autumn. Up in the pines a blue jay clamors with the same clarion ring in his tones. I do not know whether the different quality is in the air, or in the birds, but I am sure that after the first of August is past I could tell it by the notes of these two even if I had lost all track of the calendar. A black and white creeping warbler comes head first down a nearby tree, and then sits right side up a moment to squeak the half-dozen squeaks which are his best in the way of melody. Like a fine accompaniment the brook's voice blends with all these, mellows and supplements them till in the woodland symphony there is no jarring note. Nature has this wonderful faculty for soothing and harmonizing in all things. She will take colors that placed side by side in silks would cry to heaven for a separation, and combine them in a flower group, or sometimes indeed in a single flower, so skilfully that we accept the whole as beautiful without a question.

Such a glimpse of the submarine life of the brook the muskrat has given me with the musky odor of his passing. After a little all is quiet down there and I have a chance to admire the life which flits above the surface. The hawking dragonflies weave gossamer fabrics of dreams in their unending flight to and fro and the lull of the forest symphony bids one yield to these as the waning afternoon builds up its shadows from all hollows and glens. In the open pastures the heat still quivers, but here the woodland deities are building night, block on block, for the cooling and soothing of the world. The heliographing ceases. The foam writing blurs in the shadows. Down long aisles of perfumed green the voice of the wood thrush rings mellow and serene. Here is a woodland chorister who sings of peace and calls to holy thoughts, voicing the evening prayer of the woodland world. As his angelus rings out I fancy all wild heads bowed in adoration. Certainly the wood thrush's call touches that chord in the human breast. To listen to it with open heart is to know all things are for good and that a peace from mystic spaces far above the woodland is descending upon it. Heard through this song the tone of the brook's voice changes and instead of swift-syllabled gossip I seem to hear it softly crooning a hymn.

In the twilight of twenty-four hours after, all my wood-rimmed world of pasture and meadow was filled with, the eerie presence of the rain. It was not like a gentle shower of summer when the patter of falling drops is like a tinkle of fairy music and showers spell laughter. The coming of a local shower at nightfall is as gentle and seems as homelike as the gathering of the birds in the grove. In this east storm brought from far spaces on the wings of the east wind there was something of wild unrest. The cool, salt flavor of the air spoke of wild stretches of the North Atlantic where sea-fogs have touched the eerie loneliness of Greenland bergs and passed it on to the wind. In this ghostly dusk of driving mist the smear of the rain across the face is like a touch of phantom hands coming out of unfathomed spaces, gentle but uncanny. All the soft perfumes of wood and field seem beaten to the ground by this rain which brings with its salt tang faint breathings of some distant spiciness.

I think the daintiest scent that can be found in the woodland in these last days of September is that of the coral-root flower, which looks like a wan, tan ghost of a blossom, but nevertheless is sweet and succulent. The plant is by no means common in my world. Many a year goes by without my seeing it at all. In autumn it grows from among dry pine leaves, a slender spike that has neither root leaves nor stem leaves, but looks like the dried flower scape of some spring blooming plant. So protective is its coloration that I stand among its blooms and look long before I see them at all. It is only by getting very close that one can see that the tiny forests scattered along the pale brown scape are themselves beautifully colored with purple and white on the same soft tan foundation as the scape. They have, too, the quaintly mysterious formation of all orchid blooms and that alluring, elusive odor which must be sought intimately to be known. You must get this dainty perfume where it grows. If you pluck the blooms and take them home they will hold their beauty and color for days, but the scent will have strangely slipped from them and trembled along the still, soft air back to the woodland haunts whence it came. You might find it there, wandering disconsolate in the lonely brown spaces seeking for its own heart of bloom, but from under your roof it has departed.

The wood warblers disappeared at the border line of the open fields at Wakeby and the home-loving birds appeared again in numbers, robins, bluebirds, swallows and the sparrow kind. The downy woodpeckers and flickers, to be sure, passed to and from both zones, though they, too, seemed to love the trees of the open rather than those of the deeper wood, but in the main the boundary line, as usual, was quite distinctly marked. The noon sun was high and the north wind's chill had been fairly combed out of it by the bristly harrows of a thousand pine tops. In its place was a warm, resinous fragrance, an incense to the season. The heart of the Cape forest is passed at Wakeby and the blue waters of a great lake lap in crystal clearness on the clean sands. The Cape sands are a vast water filter and strain out of the streams all sediment. The ponds are liquid crystals in narrow settings of pale gold.

I do not blame the red men for holding the cedar sacred and ascribing to it certain mystic powers. They burned cedar twigs as incense in some of their sacred ceremonies, and surely they could have found no finer aroma. Some of tribes always set a cedar pole for the centre of their ghost dance, and they gave the tree an untranslatable name which referred to power, mystery and immortality. The Dakotas burned cedar to drive away ghosts, and in the lodge at night when anyone lay sick there was always a fire of cedar wood to protect from evil spirits. Often a cedar bough lay across the door of the lodge. It is thus that we ourselves hang up horseshoes.

The heath family, all the way from clethra which begins it to cranberry which ends it, dwells in beauty and diversity all about in the Plymouth woods, making them fragrant the year round. Some of them help feed the world, notably the cranberries and the huckleberries of a score of varieties from the pale, inch high, earliest sweet blueberries growing on the dry hillsides to the giants of the deep swamp, hanging out of reach above your head sometimes and as big as a thumb end. These provide manna for all who will gather it, from late June till early September, when the checkerberries ripen, to hang on all winter. Others make the world better for their beauty and fragrance and of these the ground laurel, the trailing arbutus, the mayflower, is best known and loved.

It is easy to fancy some sombre Pilgrim, weary with the woes of that first winter, his heart hungry for "the may" of English hedgerows, stepping forth some raw April morning which as yet showed no sign of opening spring buds, stopping as his feet rustled in brown oak leaves up Town Brook way, puzzled by the endearing, enticing fragrance on the wings of the raw wind. I always think of him as stopping for a moment to dream of home, looking about in a discouraged way for hawthorn which he knows is not there, then spying the little cluster of evergreen leaves with their pink and white blossoms nestling among the oak leaves at his very feet and kneeling to pluck and sniff them in some thing like adoration. It may not have been that way at all, but someone found that first mayflower and loved and named it.

The trailing arbutus is peculiarly the flower of Plymouth. Not that it grows there alone, indeed within easy reach of the landing place of the Pilgrims it is not easy now to find it. Once, no doubt, it blossomed about the feet of the pioneers, sending up its fragrance to them as they trod sturdily along their first street and through their new found fields that first spring after their arrival. My, but their hearts must have been homesick for the English May they had left behind! and in memory of the pink and white of the hawthorn hedges they called this pink and white flower which peered from the oval-leaved vines trailed about their feet, mayflower. It surely must have grown on the slopes of Burial Hill, down toward Town Brook, but now one will look in vain for it there. I found my first blossom of the year by following the brook up to its headwaters in Billington Sea. The brook itself is greatly changed since Bradford's day. Its waters are now held back by dams where it winds through the sand hills and one mill after another sits by the side of the ponds thus formed. Yet the "sea" itself must be much the same in itself and its surroundings as it was in Billington's time. Nor do I wholly believe the legend which has it that Billington thought it was a sea in very truth. It is too obviously a pond to have deceived even this unsophisticated wanderer. It covers but little over three hundred acres including its islands and winding coves.

The arbutus does not trail in all spots beneath the oaks, even in this secluded wilderness. Sometimes one thinks he sees broad stretches green with its rounded leaves only to find last year's checkerberries grinning coral red at him, instead of the soft pink tints and spicy odor of the Epigaea blooms. Sometimes the pyrola simulates it and cracks the gloss on its leaves with a wan wintergreen smile at the success of the deception. But after a little the eye learns to discriminate in winter greens and to know the outline of the arbutus leaf and its grouping from that of the others. Then success in the hunt should come rapidly. After all Epigaea and Gaultheria are vines closely allied, and it is no wonder that there is a family resemblance. The checkerberry's spicy flavor permeates leaves, stem and fruit. That of the arbutus seems more volatile and ethereal. It concentrates in the blossom and lifts from that to course the air invisibly an aromatic fragrance that the little winds of the woods sometimes carry far to those who love it, over hill and dale. Given a day of bright sun and slow moving soft air and one may easily hunt the Plymouth mayflower by scent. Even after the grouped leaves are surely sighted the flowers are still to be found. The winds of winter have strewn the ground deep with oak leaves and half buried the vines in them for safety from the cold. Out from among these the blossoms seem to peer shyly, like sweet little Pilgrim children, ready to draw back behind their mother's aprons if they do not like the appearance of the coming stranger. Perhaps they do withdraw at discretion, and this is very likely why some people who come from far to hunt find many mayflowers, while others get few or none.

But for all the lure of Plymouth woods with their fragrance of trailing arbutus, from all the grandeur of the wide outlook from Manomet Heights, the hearts of all who come to Plymouth must lead them back to the resting place of the fathers on the brow of the little hill in the midst of the town. There where the grass was not yet green and the buttercups that will later shine in gold have put forth but the tiniest beginnings of their fuzzy, three-parted leaves, I watched the sun sink, big and red in a golden mist, over a land of whose coming material greatness Bradford and his fellow Pilgrims could have had no inkling. Seaward the tropic bloom of the water was all gone, and there as the sun passed I saw the cool steel of the bay catch the last rays in little dimples of silver light. Manomet withdrew, blue and mysterious in the haze of nightfall. Out over the Gurnet, beyond, the sky caught purples from the colors in the west, and there, dropping below the horizon line, east northeast toward England, I saw a sail vanish in the soft haze as if it might be the first Mayflower, sailing away from the heavy-hearted Pilgrims, toward England and home. The sun's last ray touched it with a fleck of rose as it passed, a rose-like that which tipped the petals of the mayflowers that I held in my hand, mayflowers that sent tip to me in the coolness of the gathering April night a fragrance as aromatic and beloved as is the memory of the lives of the Pilgrims that slept all about me on the brow of Burial Hill. Bradford wrote gravely and simply the chronicles of these, and no more, yet the fervent faith and sturdy love for fair play, unquenchable in the hearts of these men, breathes from every page, a fragrance that shall go forth on the winds of the world forevermore.

Other surprises meet men in the pasture this spring. There is a particularly beautiful corner which many city people have come to share with me. On holidays and Sundays they troop to their bungalow on the pond shore by the hundred. Yet they must love barberry bushes and sweetfern, red cedar and white pine, as I do, for they have not intruded upon them, but have let their own presence slip quietly into the vacant places, leaving the original proprietors of the spot unvexed. In this I see a new variety of city man and woman growing up. A score of years ago the advent of such a horde would have meant more disaster than the winter's ice storms could have wrought. Between these more kindly adventurers and the pasture folk have grown up a friendly intimacy which is beginning to teach city ways to the pasture denizens. Therein lies the cause of my surprise. Under the soft mists of a cool May day I brushed the dew from the wood grasses and unrolling croziers of cinnamon fern to pause in admiration at shrubs and trees bearing calling cards. Here is a red cedar announcing on a Dennison tag, "I am Juniperus virginiana, known to my intimates as savin." Out of its nimbus of pale yellow flame "Berberis vulgaris" hands me a bit of pasteboard, and dangling from a resinous bough is the statement that it is "Pinus strobus" that welcomes me to fragrant shade. Like many city manners which are new to country folk these seem to be a bit obtrusive at first. Yet on second thought I find it an excellent custom which ought to be enlarged upon in various ways. I can fancy people coming to the bungalow for a day's intercourse with the pasture shrubs that have never before met them, and feeling awkward and disconcerted at not being able to recall names after a wholesale introduction. I have felt that way myself after undergoing a rapid-fire presentation to a room full of people. If, like the pasture shrubs in this particular corner of the pasture world, all these could have worn a name and address on coat-lapel or corsage, I had come up to the second round able to call each fearlessly by name and oftentimes save mutual embarrassment.

Just as in man bone and sinew count really for little and it is only the subtle essence of being, the spirit behind and within, that matters, so it is the sweet and kindly soul within the apple tree that radiates love to all comers. In apple-blossom time the bees will desert all other flowers for them, not because the honey is sweeter or more plentiful within them but because the wooing fragrance has more of a pull on their heart strings than any other. Again in the late autumn they come to the ripe fruit for final winter stores, drawn by the same subtle essence, distilled from disintegrating, pulpy cells. I believe the first cider making was a rude attempt to imprison and perpetuate this charm, rather than to simply make a spirituous liquor. So richly does the apple tree give forth this spirit of generous delight that to all of us the trees seem to brood and radiate a feeling of parental protection. Man often voices this, and in ancient times there were ceremonies which recognized the tree as a kindly deity to whom reverence was done and thanks given. To "wassail" the trees was more than a jovial excuse for cider and song, it had roots in a deeper feeling of reverence and gratitude. But those humbler than men have the same feeling. In the pastures I often find the apple trees literally brooding seedling cedars which seem to flock beneath the outstretched and low-hanging boughs as chickens huddle beneath the mother hen for protection and warmth. Where tender nurslings of this sort are scattered wide in other portions of the pastures to find them grouped here by the score means that some selective thought has brought it all about. I cannot, of course, say that the seedlings consciously choose. Nevertheless, somehow, that spirit of protecting love of which I am, myself, definitely conscious when I come near an apple tree has somehow drawn beneath it these plants of other fibre that need its shelter.

In my town, summer, whom the almanack calmly orders out on August 31st, refuses to be evicted in person and lingers serenely while the furniture is being removed, often until late September. In these September days I think we love her best, perhaps because we know that soon we shall lose her, and already the parting has begun. It is not that certain flowers that came joyously in June are now but dry bracts and seed pods. She has given us other beauties and fragrance to take their places. It is rather that summer herself is gently breaking with us, giving us the full joy of her warmth through the day, but discreetly withdrawing at nightfall and lingering late in her own apartments of crisp mornings when there is a tonic as of frost in the air, whereby October woos us.

But the tides bring to the marsh and the island in it, to all shores that they touch here on our Atlantic seaboard, more than this. They bear deep in their emerald hearts, generated in their cool, clear depths, a rich vivific principle that bears vigor to all that they touch and sends rich emanations forth on the air beyond. Today on the inland hills and land-bound pastures the sun beat in sullen insolence and the wind from the west scorched and wilted the life in all things. The same wind, coming to me across two miles of salt marsh, had in its cool, salty aroma a life-giving principle that set the pulse to bounding and renewed vigor. It had gathered up from the marsh this tonic of the tides, this elixir vitae which all the doctors of the world have sought in vain. Some day some one of them, wiser than the rest, will distil its potency from the cool salt of sea tides, and humanity, poor hitherto, will find itself rich in possibilities of physical immortality. Sea captains have a foolish custom of settling down at eighty to enjoy life on shore, else there is no knowing how long they would live. They have breathed the aroma of this life-giving essence all their lives.

At dusk of the still winter day the cold of interstellar space drops down among the treetops and seems to reflect back toward one's marrow from the snow beneath. Then I like to preface the homeward trip by one more campfire. A grove of young white pines provides the best material for a quick fire. The upper boughs of such trees so shade the lower ones that they die, but remain dry and brittle on the trees, full of pitch, making the finest kindling material in the woods. It takes but a strong pull to break such limbs off near the trunk and they may be broken into stove length over the knee or in the hands. Even in a rain the tiny twigs of these limbs will light at the touch of a match and no snow can be so deep in the winter woods but they are immediately available. They make a smokeless fire that gives off a fine aroma and much heat. In its ruddy glow is home, its flickering flames weaving an ever-changing tapestry on the gathering dusk, the black pines standing like beneficient genii watching over the altar flame in the snow.

From the watch tower one looks down many-flued chimneys and sees a score or so of railed-in platforms on the very housetops, often surrounding the chimney. These are the "shipmaster's walks," often known as the "wives' walks." From these one gets a good look off to sea and can readily fancy wives and sweethearts climbing to them to watch for some whaleship that left port perhaps three years before. I fancy them too high, too breezy and too conspicuous for much walking by these. Thence one may see the island round, and get a broad view of the open downs to southward that tempt one to tramp, seeking the edge of the Gulf Stream, led by the steady roar of its breakers pulsing against the clay cliffs. On the downs one gets a sense of the whole of the island as nowhere else. Here it is a ship at sea, unsinkable and steady, blown upon by the free winds of all the world. In the half-gale out of the west I note the smell of the shoals, a suggestion of bilge in the brine, not altogether pleasant. I fancy a heavy sea stirs the slimy depths and brings their ooze uppermost. I had noticed this from an incoming liner's deck when off the lightship before, but charged it to the ship. Now I know it for a strange odor of the sea. It makes me half believe the humorous, oft-told tale of skipper Hackett, who knew his location by tasting the ooze on the tip of the lead.He who
roared to Marden
Nantucket's sunk and here we are
Right over old Marm Hackett's garden.
In a northwest gale the Nantucketer, though far to the southeast, should be able to locate the shoals and steer home by the smell of the wind.

Often we dwellers far inland get more than a cool breath of the sea. Then for a day or two a northeaster comes pelting over the seaward range of hills, murking the sky with dun clouds, whining about the eaves and roaring down the chimney, bringing deluges of rain to the heat-browned pastures and draping them in obscurity of gray mists, blotting out the roar of cities and the flurry of modern life, making us believe for a little that we are children of the farm once more. On sunny days we do not quite get this. Even in the east wind we smell the soot as well as the sea, but the genuine northeaster shuts all that out.

When the wind is east Sumner's Islands seems to tug at its moorings like a cruiser swinging at a short hawser in the shelter of Stony beach. If you will stand on the tip of its gray rock prow and face the sea it is hard not to feel the rise and fall of surges under you, and in fancy you have one ear cocked for the boatswain's whistle and the call to the watch to bear a hand and get the anchor aboard. Just a moment and you will feel the pulse of the screw, hear the clink-clank of shovels and slice-bars, tinkling faintly up the ventilator; one bell will sound in the engine room and under slowest speed she will fall away from the sheltering beach, round the fragrant greenery of the Glades rocks and, free from their buttressing, prance exultantly to four bells and a jingle out into the surgent tumult of the roaring sea. Wow! but the fancy sets your blood to bubbling and your pulse to swinging in rhythm with the long surges that leap about Minot's and froth white over Chest ledge and the Willies, that come on to drown the inner Osher rocks in exultant whirlpools and fluff the loose stones of the beach into a foam that ripples over the breakwater into the road that snuggles behind it.

Looking westward from the island at high tide this morning you could see already deep hints of this coming autumn coloring, swelling out of the deep green of grasses that make up the main carpeting of the marsh, touches of brown and olive that are singularly pleasing to the eye under the summer blue of the sky and its fleecy flecking of white clouds. Amid these, scattered here and there, round eye-like pools reflect this summer blue and fleecy whiteness and all along the island's verge and that of other islands and the borders of the Glades was the pink of wild roses and morning glories, both of which seem to thrive better and bloom later in the season here than inland. But the softest and loveliest coloring that the marsh will ever get is that which the gray mists of early morning seem to have brought in and left like a fragrant memory of themselves, the lavender gray of the marsh-rosemary. "There's rosemary; that's for remembrance," said Ophelia, and many a lover of sea and marsh-side will carry longest in memory the gentle sadness that the tint of the sea-lavender gives the marsh when all its other colors are still those of the flush joy of summer. Remembering Ophelia, marsh-rosemary seems its best name, though you have a right to sea-lavender if you wish. If the sea fogs did not bring it as an essence of the first glimpse of dawn in gray ocean spaces, then I am convinced that the loving tides bear it as a gift to the island and scatter it shyly at its feet, after dark.

Nor can you take from the things of the sea this life-giving essence, once they have attained it through growth during immersion in its depths, though perchance, as Emerson sang, "they left their beauty on the shore, with the sun and the sand and the wild uproar." The shell on the mantel shelf of the mariner's inland home may be unsightly and out of place. But put your ear to it. Out of the common noises of the day, it weaves for you the song of the deep tides, the murmur of ocean caves and the croon of the breakers on the outer reef, and dull indeed is your inner ear if you cannot hear these things, and at the sound see the perfect curl of green waves and smell that cool fragrance which comes only from their breaking.

To the marshes in summer come the farmers from far inland, making holiday for themselves while they work. They cut the short salt hay that seems so stiff and tough, that is so soft and velvety, in fact, and pile it on their wains and take it home to the cattle that like it better than any English hay that they can cut from the carefully tilled home fields. Indeed the cattle ought to like this hay. It is soft as the autumn rowen, and mixed with all the delicate, fragrant herbs of the marsh. The tang of the sea salt is in it, and no man knows what delicate essence borne far on the wandering tides to the flavoring of its fibre. No matter how long you may leave this hay in the mow you have but to stir it to get the soft rich flavor of the sea and breathe a little of that salty vigor which seems to go to the seasoning of the best of life. I have an idea the cattle love it for this too, and as they chew its cud inherited memory stirs within them, and they roam the marshes with the aurochs and tingle with the savage joy of freedom.

Out along the rocks to seaward at low tide go the mossers and with long rakes rip the carragheen from its hold and load their dories with its golden-brown masses. Then they bring it ashore and spread it out in the sun as the farmers do their hay, that it may dry and bleach. Just as the salt hay, touched for a brief happy hour at each tide with the cool strength of the sea, retains the flavor of it always, so the Irish moss that grows in the depths and is hardly awash at the lowest of the ebb, overflows with it and is so bursting with this fragrance of the unknown that no change that comes to it can drive it out. When the wind is off-shore and you may not scent the sea, when the sun bakes the hot sand and dries the blood so that it seems as if the only way to prolong life is to wade out neck deep in the surges and there stay until the wind comes from the east again, you have but to go to the leeward of these piles of bleaching carragheen to find it giving forth the same cooling fragrance which the tides have made a part of its structure. You may take this moss home with you and cook it, but the heat of your fire will no more destroy its essence than did the heat of the sun, and in your first mouthful of the produce, which may in appearance give no hint of its origin, you taste the cool sea depths and feel yourself nourished as if with some vital principle.

Always during August Jupiter Pluvius is wont to change all this. He sends us not showers, but a rain that wets us for a day and a night and perhaps longer, and, however greedily the parched earth may suck it up, finally irrigates all the waste places and covers all the sore earth with a soothing, healing salve of mud. Such rains come in to us riding on the broad back of the east wind, as rode the prince in Andersen's fairy tale, and as the big drops fall upon us we catch intoxicating scents borne to us from far Cathay. On the east wind's back the prince rode into paradise itself, which still lies hidden beneath hills to the eastward of the Himalayas. We should not blame him for kissing the fairy princess and being banished, for if he had not done so he had not brought back the tale and we should not know whence came the soothing odors that drip with the rain from the wings of the east wind. Fragrance of spice and of flowers, bloom of ripe fruit, of grape and fig and pomegranate and quaint odor of olive, scents that have ripened long in the purple dusk of paradise, the east wind caught in his garments and bore back to the cold forests of Northern Germany that night that the prince rode with him. Nor has he since lost them altogether in crossing the storm-tossed Atlantic to our shores. Instead the rich vigor of the brine subtends them and bears them, tanged with salt, to our deeper delectation. In long carriage they have lost potency, one needs keen scent to find them, but all the subtle essence of dreams is in them still, and as the rain brings down early twilight you know that the prince saw true.

There are worse tales and more of them, but I fear that cold type chills out the subtle aroma of probability with which Jotham always manages to invest them. One needs to hear them told with the fragrance of a barn full of new-made hay in the nostrils, the swish of the northeaster to accompany the voice in his ears, and with his eye on the distant hillside pastures all hung with mysterious draperies of mist to make a proper background of quaint shadows of romance. Then he can really appreciate the folk lore that goes with us by the familiar title of "Jotham stories."

As the storm progressed, the lower needles of the spike caught such as got by the filled tops and soon all the needles of the young trees were filled with fluffy white snow, until the trees from tip to butt were no longer green but white, most royally robed in spotless purity. There was no soot in this whiteness, all that the air held had been swept from it by the very first of the storm. No cherry tree in the full fragrance of May bloom could show such dainty beauty, such endearing florescence as these young pines on the borders of the deep wood. Nor could the pines do better for their own protection than this. Ice which encases their tender rootlets in the frozen ground and holds them warm and safe through the most severe cold, came out of the sky with the storm for the safety of tender twigs and young buds. Snow crystals hold entangled within their mass eight or ten times their own bulk of air. It is this entangled air, whether in the fluff of a woolen blanket or in a snowfall, that fends from the cold. The first clear night after a snowfall is almost sure to be a bitter one. Calm follows the storm, the sky is clear and the radiation from the snow-clad surface of the earth is great. This radiation lowers the temperature, and as we look at our frost-bitten thermometers in the early morning after, we do not wonder that the mercury has shrunken to the zero mark or below. But what do the young pines care? This radiation is only from the very surface of the evaporating snow crystals. Robed in this regal ermine fluff from top to toe, they hold their life warmth secure behind the entangled mass of non-conducting air and are safe from all disaster.

Yet howsoever vivid the life or astounding by its multiplicity it is not impressions of these that linger long after one has come up from the bottom of the ebb. It is rather that here one has breathed the air of the deep life laboratory of the world, that into his lungs and pores and all through his marrow has thrilled a breath of that subtle essence, that life renewing principle which Fernando de Soto sought in the fountain of youth which he thought bubbled from Florida sands but which in reality foamed beneath his furrowing keel as he ploughed the sea in search of it. It is the same thrill which the wilting west wind steeps from the salt marsh as it comes across, some baffling and alluring ether distilled from under-sea caverns where cool green mermen tend emerald fires. The scent of it levitates from the wash of every wave and if you will watch with pure eyes and clear sight you may of moonlight nights see white-bodied mermaids flashing through the combers to drink of it. No wonder these are immortal.



Monday afternoon when there was just the promise of rain in the air the pine woods were so friendly a place that all the birds flocked in and seemed to be full of soft and gentle jubilation because of this promise. The spaces that have been so quiet of late were full of feathers as they had been in June. Here were robins innumerable, flitting jerkily about and crying "tut, tut" in a subdued and genial way that was positively ladylike. Partridge woodpeckers flocked in, drolly jollying each other and making much talk, sotto voce. Not one of them cried aloud and though in their humorous antics more than one cried, "flicker, flicker, flicker," there was in it none of the usual horse-laugh tone of the high-hole when he is on a rampage. It was reduced to a gentle whinny that seemed to vie with the boudoir-built notes of the robins. Bluejays were there too, but there was no clamor, just a gentle murmur of subdued tones in the soft, resin-scented twilight.

On such days the work of the farm ceases. What hay is out is cocked and capped, snugged down to wait for fair weather. The weeds in the garden drink and drink again and forget the hoe which idles in the tool-house corner, and Jotham putters about the barn, making pretence of indoor work but really luxuriating in idleness. The place is redolent of the rich, sweet odor of the new hay and mingled with, this comes that salt tang of the east wind bearing scent also of all the hills and pastures over which it has blown. You may if you will tell what gust touched the elders in white bloom down by the brook, which one lingered in the swamp a moment to caress the azaleas, and which stopped only long enough to snatch a kiss from the sweet fern on the pasture hill-top.

It is by such subtle hints as this that autumn announces her presence among us. The prevailing tone of the upland wood is yet that of summer. Hardly will you see a splash of color in all the miles of green. It is in shady woods where no frost has yet penetrated, spots like that in which the coral-root is sheltered and befriended that nevertheless you read the open tale of what is to come. In low-lying open meadows the frost has spoken. In these on one night the chill of frozen space weighed down and turned the dew to ice and wrecked some tender herbage, leaving it brown as if touched by fire instead of frost. But it is only here and there in places peculiarly subject to this warning that this has happened. In shielding forest depths the coverlets of multiple green leaves have kept the tender things of the wood wrapped warm through the nights and the frost has said no word. Yet there too the message has penetrated, by what means I cannot say. The ferns have heard it and have turned pale. The tender, slender fronds of the hay-scented Dicksonia are very wan and the odor from them now as you tramp through is not so much that of new-mown hay, as it was in June, but rather that of the stack or the mow, always with their own inimitable woodsy flavor added. The brake whose woody stems have held its ternate, palm-like fronds bravely aloft all summer is now a sallow yellow, and the lovely Osmundas and stately Struthiopteris are bowing their heads in brown acquiescence with the inevitable. I doubt if it is a message from the air. It is rather a command from the nerve centres at the base of the stalk, a message from the brain of the heart-roots that gives the fronds warning that their day is over. If it were in the air the polypodys, the Christmas ferns and the spinulose wood ferns would have lost their color also. It is different with these. There is a hardier quality in their nature and they seem to revel in the killing frosts of late autumn and the ice and snow of winter; I find them as green and as hearty in December as I do now.