Dr. Charles c. Abbott. in Philadelphia Ledger.
To the docile eye a meadow spring can furnish a tide of discourse. I chanced upon a sloping bank to day, brilliant as a garden tilled with care. Nature at times is a fantastic florist. Yellow, red, and white blooms were profusely scattered in the rank grass, yet free of all rough, weedy character. The bees hummed no less happily because positive wilderness was lacking, and the cricket's cheery chirp ing rang out as gladly as where the tangled briars hid what remained of a long neglected fence. Here Imight have gathered strawberries a month ago, and raspberries later, for this spot had once been a garden, I am more than sure ; there still is a trace of a boxwood hedge. The canes of the raspberries were richly colored, and would have warmed the landscape had it not been an August day They sprawled over the ground and looked like gigantic purple spiders with their long, limp legs at rest ; or, like the after scene of a great battle among such creatures, their brilliant purple legs, victors and vanquished alike, in a hopeless tangle. I have often noticed a scarcely defined purple cloud along the horizon, indeed, it is seldom absent on sunny days ; but here were the richest tones of the royal color near at hand.
But I was not on a color hunt, nor yet desirous of much bird music; neither did the shade of sturdy oaks woo me. Nothing that suggested even active thoughts could induce me to turn from my pathless, aimless wander ing. August now, and the fittest time for day dreams, for chasing idle nothings in a languid way, for loitering where my last step led me, and, turning to the object nearest at hand, I plucked the bloom from a bush yarrow, and revelled in its pungent, fancy stirring odor.
Curled at the foot of a beech, where only greenest moss and silky grasses grow, I held the yarrow blossoms to my nose until my lungs were filled with the subtle odor that revived all my waning energies. It is not a summer scent that recalls June roses or the blossoms of fruit trees. It is heavy, rich, penetrating; a nut-like, oily, autumn odor that charges the landscape ; a transporting perfume that blots out the present and pictures the future without its blemishes; gives us the spirit of autumn and veils its frost-scared body. The bloom of the yarrow is as potent as the fruit of the fabled lotus.
Has not the landscape changed. It is August, and the first day of it, too, and yet, with yarrow blossoms in my hand, I do not see so much of summer as I did. The towering shell barks that like sentinels stand out upon the meadows, the hillside walnuts, the wayside chestnut, and even the shy hazel bushes hidden along the wild brook's weedy bank—all these must be laden with ripened fruit, I fancy. It is crisp October, with its painted leaves, to day, not August ; such is the magic of the yarrow bloom.
Is it all fancy ? What I did not see before is plainly set before me now. There on that gnarly sour gum tree, scattered all over it, from topmost twig to its lowest trailing branches, are bright crimson leaves That surely is a sign of autumn. No frost ripened foliage, later, will shine with greater glory, and beyond, where the rank weeds have held their own against the cropping cows that have tramped through them all summer, is that wealth of dull gold, the trailing dodder, a gilded web of a gigantic spider—the one with purple legs, perhaps, that we saw not far ofl', this very day. This, too, is an autumnal plant in its suggestions; its color like the leaves of oaks and beeches when the cool nights come. So much in this world is what it suggests rather than what it really is ! With what horror would we look upon the world if it was merely facts jumbled and tumbled together like a load of bricks dumped from the cart. I have in mind such an unfortunate who is zealously
digging for what he supposes is never upon the surface. Never a pebble but is a pebble only to him and not a water worn fragment of a great rock formation. And what, after all, are these naked facts to him who cannot use them? My friend has hedged himself in with facts. He has built a stone wall about him that his ignorance cannot stray, and in such a funny predicament he poses as an apostle of wisdom No facts without fancy, if you please. They will do to dash out your brains with; but rather let death come uninvited, and every fact remain clothed and in its right mind of fanciful interpretation. It is a safe course, for no healthy fancy ever yet proved a liar ; but what of many a dealer in naked facts ?
The almanac gives me no concern when I flourish yarrow blooms about me. My nose is on duty, not my eyes to day, and why have this much neglected sense of smell if we put it to no better use than as a guide to lead us from unpleasant places ? How few people detect the subtle odors distilled by nature in every field and forest, by the wide river or its skirting meadows. Yet these odors are full of significance the student cannot afford to overlook. They are many and marked and full of meaning. If I were blind I think I could make many a clever guess as to the date, and, perhaps, the time of day Much is lost if we are sensitive only to the malodorous waves of tainted air that at times cross our paths as fleeting shadows dim the bright light of day.
I take my fill again of the fragrance of yarrow, and in doing so anticipate the coming autumn. Much of the prosy side of life is given over to anticipation. Why not some of its pleasanter phases P There is little real attractiveness in an August day. It is the old age of summer, and not a very vigorous, cheerful old age, either. Did I look straight before me and see nothing but a green landscape bathed in dreamy sunshine, I should grow as stolid as these huge trunks about me are sturdy and unmoved. The yarrow suggests the changes that are coming, as if autumn in advance had stored her sweetness in this wayside weed, and so it is autumn to all my senses The eye and nose have led me until now, and now my ears catch faint, far off sounds, as if I heard in the distance Autumn's light footsteps. Mere fancy counts for nothing now. It is not one sound, suggesting another, but the real thing. The thrushes of the early morning have long been silent, the catbirds are not complaining, the wood peewee is even too busy just now to sing, and so it would be silent here were there not noisy nuthatches overhead. They are climbing over the rough bark, and as they peep into the innumerable crannies they are chattering incessantly. This is a wholesale autumn sound, heard often when its y accompaniment is the dropping of dead leaves, and yet this August day it over tops all other sounds save the rapid rush of water over the pebbles and boulders in the bed of the brook. We must close our eyes to realize the full significance of these autumn notes of resident birds. The landscape must rest on our memory, and not upon the retina. That querulous refrain belongs to drearier days than these, even to November and its fogs and pitiless rains. It is an all-pervading sound then and fits well with the surroundings, and the August sunshine to-day does not shut off the fog and rain when I close my eyes an lis‘en to the nuthatches overhead.
But other birds pass by ; birds that have learned all the merits of my life long haunts and keep me company throughout the year. There, in the near-by thicket, is that never failing source of cheerfulness, the Carolina wren. When the world wore is most deserted, worn out look last winter. this wren came every morning and sang a new soul into the wasting skeletons of every weed. The bare twigs trembled with the joy of a new found faith that spring would surely come again and clothe them anew with bright green leaves. When early summer’s tuneful host fillsthe warm air with melody we are all too apt to forget the brave winter birds ; but, happily, they do not forget themselves. It was so to day. The wren found the world too quiet for its fancy and awoke the sleepy echoes. It sounded a challenge to all drowsiness and banished noontide naps from the hillside. Like the odor of the yarrow, it called up other days, another season with its wealth of fruits, and how the nuts and apples of October fell about me as I listened to its wonderful song, the same that I have heard these many years, when the thrushes have departed and not a warbler is left of the nesting host that thronged the blossoming orchard.
However sultry the midsummer day, a whiff of yarrow carries us forward to the coming coolness of September mornings. However quiet the midsummer noon, let but a single note fall from a winter songster, and frosty October is spread about us. In short, if we have not smothered our fancy in our rage for facts, be summer what it may, it never conceals from those who know where to look the secret of conjuring up at will delightful, reviving, faithsustaining foretastes of Autumn.—Charles Abbott