Here to return to
LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN was at first a disappointment. I went home discouraged. The place was spoiled, I thought. About the fine inn were cheap cottages, — as if one had come to a second-class summer resort; while the lower elopes of the mountain, directly under Lookout Point on the side toward the city, were given up to a squalid negro settlement, and, of all things, a patent-medicine factory, — a shameful desecration, it seemed to me. I was half ready to say I would go there no more. The prospect was beautiful, — so much there was no denying; but the air was thick with smoke, and, what counted for ten times more, the eye itself was overclouded. A few northern warblers were chirping in the evergreens along the edge of the summit, between the inn and the Point, — black-polls and bay-breasts, with black-throated greens and Carolina wrens; and near them I saw with pleasure my first Tennessee phœbes. In the street car, on the way back to Chattanooga, I had for my fellow-passengers a group of Confederate veterans from different parts of the South, one of whom, a man with an empty sleeve, was showing his comrades an interesting war-time relic, — a bit of stone bearing his own initials. He had cut them in the rock while on duty at the Point thirty years before, I heard him say, and now, remembering the spot, and finding them still there, he had chipped them off to carry home. These are all the memories I retain of my first visit to a famous and romantic place that I had long desired to see.
My second visit was little more remunerative, and came to an untimely and inglorious conclusion. Not far from the inn I noticed what seemed to be the beginning of an old mountain road. It would bring me to St. Elmo, a passing cottager told me; and I somehow had it fast in my mind that St. Elmo was a particularly wild and attractive woodland retreat somewhere in the valley, — a place where a pleasure-seeking naturalist would find himself happy for at least an hour or two, if the mountain side should insufficiently detain him. The road itself looked uncommonly inviting, rough and deserted, with wild crags above and old forest below; and without a second thought I took it, idling downward as slowly as possible, minding the birds and plants, or sitting for a while, as one shady stone after another offered coolness and a seat, to enjoy the silence and the prospect. Be as lazy as I could, however, the road soon gave signs of coming to an end; for Lookout Mountain, although it covers much territory and presents a mountainous front, is of a very modest elevation. And at the end of the way there was no sylvan retreat, but a village; yes, the same dusty little suburb that I had passed, and looked away from, on my way up. That was St. Elmo! — and, with my luncheon still in my pocket, I boarded the first car for the city. One consolation remained: I had lived a pleasant hour, and the mountain road had made three additions to my local ornithology, — a magnolia warbler, a Blackburnian warbler, and a hairy woodpecker.
There was nothing for it but to laugh at myself, and try again; but it was almost a week before I found the opportunity. Then (May 7) I made a day of it on the mountain, mostly in the woods along the western bluffs. An oven-bird’s song drew me in that direction, to begin with; and just as the singer had shown himself, and been rewarded with an entry as “No. 79” in my Tennessee catalogue, a cuckoo, farther away, broke into a shuffling introductory measure that marked him at once as a black-bill. Till now I had seen yellow-bills only, and though the voice was perhaps a sufficient identification, a double certainty would be better, especially in the retrospect. Luckily it was a short chase, and there sat the bird, his snowy throat swelling as he cooed, while his red eye-ring and his abbreviated tail-spots gave him a clear title to count as “No. 80.”
As I approached the precipitous western edge of the mountain, I heard, just below, the sharp, wiry voice of a Blackburnian warbler; a most splendid specimen, for in a moment more his orange-red throat shone like fire among the leaves. From farther down rose the hoarse notes of a black-throated blue warbler and two or three black-throated greens.
Here were comfortable, well-shaded boulders and delightful prospects, — a place to stay in; but behind me stood a grove of small pine-trees, out of which came now and then a warbler’s chip; and in May, with everything on the move, and anything possible, invitations of that kind are not to be refused. Warbler species are many, and there is always another to hope for. I turned to the pines, therefore, as a matter of course, and was soon deeply engaged with a charming bevy of northward-bound passengers, — myrtle-birds, palm warblers, black-throated blues (of both sexes), a female Cape May warbler (the first of her sex that I had seen) magnolias, bay-breasts, and many black-polls. It makes a short story in the telling; but it was long in the doing, and yielded more excitement than I dare try to describe. To and fro I went among the low trees (their lowness a most fortunate circumstance), slowly and with all quietness, putting my glass upon one bird after another as something stirred among the needles, and hoping every moment for some glorious surprise. In particular, I hoped for a cerulean warbler; but this was not the cerulean’s day, and, if I had but known it, these were not the cerulean’s trees. None but enthusiasts in the same line will be able to appreciate the delight of such innocent “collecting,” — birds in the memory instead of specimens in a bag. Even on one’s home beat it quickens the blood; how much more, then, in a new field, where a man is almost a stranger to himself, and rarities and novelties seem but the order of the day. Again and again, morning and afternoon, I traversed the little wood, leaving it between whiles for a rest under the big oaks on the edge of the cliffs, whence, through green vistas, I gazed upon the farms of Lookout Valley and the mountains beyond. A scarlet tanager called, — my second one here, — wood thrush voices rang through the mountain side forest, a single thrasher was doing his bravest from the tip of a pine (our “brown mockingbird” is anything but a skulker when the lyrical mood is on him), while wood pewees, red-eyed vixens, yellow-throated vireos, black-and-white creepers, and I do not remember what else, joined in the chorus. Just after noon an oven-bird gave out his famous aerial warble. To an aspiring soul even a mountain top is but a perch, a place from which to take wing.
All these birds, it will be noticed, were such as I might have seen in Massachusetts; and indeed, the general appearance of things about me was pleasantly homelike. Here was much of the pretty striped wintergreen, a special favorite of mine, with bird-foot violets, the common white saxifrage (dear to memory as the “Mayflower” of my childhood), the common wild geranium (cranesbill, which we were told was “good for canker”), and maple-leaved viburnum. One of the loveliest flowers was the pink oxalis, and one of the commonest was a pink phlox; but I was most pleased, perhaps, with the white stonecrop (Sedum ternatum), patches of which matted the ground, and just now were in full bloom. The familiar look of this plant was a puzzle to me. I cannot remember to have seen it often in gardens, and I am confident that I never found it before in a wild state except once, fifteen years ago, at the Great Falls of the Potomac. Yet here on Lookout Mountain it seemed almost as much an old friend as the saxifrage or the cranesbill.
I ate my luncheon on Sunset Rock, which literally overhangs the mountain side, and commands the finest of valley prospects; and then, after another turn through the pines, where the warblers were still busy with their all-day meal, — but not the new warbler, for which I was still looking, — I crossed the summit and made the descent by the St. Elmo road, as before. How long I was on the way I am unable to tell; I had learned the brevity of the road, and, like a schoolboy with his tart, I made the most of it. Midway down I caught sudden sight of an olive bird in the upper branch of a tree, with something black about the crown and the cheek. “What’s that?” I exclaimed; and on the instant the stranger flew across the road and up the steep mountain side. I pushed after him in hot haste, over the huge boulders, and there he stood on the ground, singing, — a Kentucky warbler. Seeing him so hastily, and on so high a perch, and missing his yellow under-parts, I had failed to recognize him. As it was, I now heard his song for the first time, and rejoiced to find it worthy of its beautiful author: klurwée, klurwée, klurwée, klurwée, klurwée; a succession of clear, sonorous dissyllables, in a fuller voice than most warblers possess, and with no flourish before or after. Like the bird’s dress, it was perfect in its simplicity. I felt thankful, too, that I had waited till now to hear it. Things should be desired before they are enjoyed. It was another case of the schoolboy and his tart; and I went home good-humored. Lookout Mountain was not wholly ruined, after all.
The next day found me there again, to my own surprise, for I had promised myself a trip down the river to Shellmound. In all the street cars, as well as in the city newspapers, this excursion was set forth as supremely enjoyable, a luxury on no account to be missed, — a fine commodious steamer, and all the usual concomitants. The kind people with whom I was sojourning, on Cameron Hill, hastened the family breakfast that I might be in season; but on arriving at the wharf I found no sign of the steamer, and, after sundry attempts to ascertain the condition of affairs, I learned that the steamer did not run now. The river was no longer high enough, it was explained; a smaller boat would go, or might be expected to go, some hours later. Little disposed to hang about the landing for several hours, and feeling no assurance that so doing would bring me any nearer to Shellmound, I made my way back to the Read House, and took a car for Lookout Mountain. In it I sat face to face with the same conspicuous placard, announcing an excursion for that day by the large and commodious steamer So-and-So, from such a wharf, at eight o’clock. But I then noticed that intending passengers were invited, in smaller type, to call at the office of the company, where doubtless it would be politely confided to them that the advertisement was a “back number.” So the mistake was my own, after all, and, as the American habit is, I had been blaming the servants of the public unjustly.
I was no sooner on the summit than I hastened to the pine wood. At first it seemed to be empty, but after a little, hearing the drawling kree, kree, kree, of a black-throated blue, I followed it, and found the bird. Next a magnolia dropped into sight, and then a red-checked Cape May, the second one I had ever seen, after fifteen or twenty years of expectancy. He threaded a leafless branch back and forth on a level with my eyes. I was glad I had come.
Soon another showed himself, and presently it appeared that the wood, as men speak of such things, was full of them. There were black-polls, also, with a Blackburnian, a bay-breast, and a good number of palm warblers, (typical palmarum, to judge from the pale tints); but especially there were Cape Mays, including at least two females. As to the number of males it is impossible to speak; I never had more than two under my eye at once, but I came upon them continually, — they were always in motion, of course, being warblers, — till finally, as I put my glass on another one, I caught myself saying, in a tone of disappointment, “Only a Cape May.” But yesterday I might as well have spoken of a million dollars as “only a million.” So soon does novelty wear off. The magnolia and the Blackburnian were in high feather, and made a gorgeous pair as chance brought them side by side in the same tree. They sang with much freedom; but the Cape Mays kept silence, to my deep regret, notwithstanding the philosophical remarks just now volunteered about the advantages derivable from a bird’s gradual disclosure of himself. Such pieces of wisdom, I have noticed, when by chance they do not fall into the second or third person, are commonly applied to the past rather than the present; a man’s past being, in effect, not himself, but another. In morals, as in archery, the target should be set at a fair distance. The Cape May’s song is next to nothing, — suggestive of the black-poll’s, I am told, — but I would gladly have bought a ticket to hear it.
The place might have been made on purpose for the use to which it was now put. The pinery, surrounded by hard-wood forest, was like an island; and the warblers, for the most part, had no thought of leaving it. Had they been feeding in the hard wood, — miles of tall trees, — I should have lost them in short order. At the same time, the absence of undergrowth enabled me to move about with all quietness, so that none of them took the least alarm. Not a black-throated green was seen or heard, though yesterday they had been in force both among the pines and along the cliffs. A flock of myrtle warblers were surprisingly late, it seemed to me; but it was my last sight of them.
The reader will perceive that I was not exploring Lookout Mountain, and am in no position to set forth its beauties. It is eighty odd miles long, we are told, and in some places more than a dozen miles wide. I visited nothing but the northern point, the Tennessee end, the larger part of the mountain being in Georgia; and even while there I looked twice at the birds, and once at the mountain itself.
At noon, I lay for a long time upon a flat boulder under the tall oaks of the western bluff, looking down upon the lower woods, now in tender new leaf and most exquisitely colored. There are few fairer sights than a wooded mountain side seen from above; only one must not be too far above, and the forest should be mainly deciduous. The very thought brings before my eyes the long, green slopes of Mount Mansfield as they show from the road near the summit, — beauty inexpressible and never to be forgotten; and miles of autumn color on the sides of Kinsman, Cannon, and Lafayette, as I have enjoyed it by the hour, stretched in the September sunshine on the rocks of Bald Mountain. Perhaps the earth itself will never be fully enjoyed till we are somewhere above it. The Lookout woods, as I now saw them, were less magnificent in sweep, but hardly less beautiful. And below them was the valley bottom, — Lookout Valley, once the field of armies, now the abode of peaceful industry: acres of brown earth, newly sown, with no trace of greenness except the hedgerows along the brooks and on the banks of Lookout Creek. And beyond the valley was Raccoon Mountain, wooded throughout; and behind that, far away, the Cumberland range, blue with distance.
A phœbe came and perched at my elbow, dropping a curtsey with old-fashioned politeness by way of “How are you, sir?” and a little afterward was calling earnestly from below. This is one of the characteristic birds of the mountain, and marks well the difference in latitude which even a slight elevation produces. I found it nowhere in the valley country, but it was common on Lookout and on Walden’s Ridge. Then, behind me on the summit, another northern bird, the scarlet tanager, struck up a labored, rasping, breathless tune, hearty, but broken and forced. I say labored and breathless; but, happily, the singer was unaware of his infirmity (or can it be I was wrong?), and continued without interruption for at least half an hour. If he was uncomfortably short-breathed, he was very agreeably long-winded. Oven-birds sang at intervals throughout the day, and once I heard again the black-billed cuckoo. Yes, Hooker was right: Lookout Mountain is Northern, not Southern. But then, as if to show that it is not exactly Yankee land, in spite of oven-bird and black-bill, and notwithstanding all that Hooker and his men may have done, a cardinal took a long turn at whistling, and a Carolina wren came to his support with a cheery, cheery. A faraway crow was cawing somewhere down the valley, no very common sound hereabout; a red-eye, our great American missionary, was exhorting, of course; a black-poll, on his way to British America, whispered something, it was impossible to say what; and a squirrel barked. I lay so still that a black-and-white creeper took me for a part of the boulder, and alighted on the nearest tree-trunk. He goes round a bole just as he sings, in corkscrew fashion. Now and then I caught some of the louder phrases of a distant brown thrush, and once, when every one else fell silent, a catbird burst out spasmodically with a few halting, disjointed eccentricities, highly characteristic of a bird who can sing like a master when he will, but who seems oftener to enjoy talking to himself. Lizards rustled into sight with startling suddenness; and one big fellow disappeared so instantaneously — in “less than no time,” as the Yankee phrase is — that I thought “quick as a lizard” might well enough become an adage. Here and there I remarked a chestnut-tree, the burs of last year still hanging; and chestnut oaks were among the largest and handsomest trees of the wood, as they were among the commonest. The temperature was perfect, — so says my penciled note. Let the confession not be overlooked, after all my railing at the fierce Tennessee sun. It made all the pleasure of the hour, too, that there were no troublesome insects. I had been in that country for ten days, the mercury had been much of the time above 90°, and I had not seen ten mosquitoes.
I left my boulder at last, though it would have been good to remain there till night, and wandered along the bluffs to the Point. Here it was apparent at once that the wind had shifted. For the first time I caught sight of lofty mountains in the northeast; the Great Smokies, I was told, and could well believe it. I sat down straightway and looked at them, and had I known how things would turn, I would have looked at them longer; for in all my three weeks’ sojourn in Chattanooga, that was the only half-day in which the atmosphere was even approximately clear. It was unfortunate, but I consoled myself with the charm of the foreground, — a charm at once softened and heightened, with something of the magic of distance, by the very conditions that veiled the horizon and drew it closer about us.
It is truly a beautiful world that we see from Lookout Point: the city and its suburbs; the river with its broad meanderings, and, directly at our feet, its great Moccasin Bend; the near mountains, — Raccoon and Sand mountains beyond Lookout Valley, and Walden’s Ridge across the river; and everywhere in the distance hills and high mountains, range beyond range, culminating in the Cumberland Mountains in one direction, and the Great Smokies in another. And as we look at the fair picture we think of what was done here, — of historic persons and historic deeds. At the foot of the cliffs on which we stand is white House plateau, the battlefield of Lookout Mountain. Chattanooga itself is spread out before us, with Orchard Knob, Cameron Hill, and the national cemetery. Yonder stretches the long line of Missionary Ridge, and farther south, recognizable by at least one of the government towers, is the battlefield of Chickamauga. Here, if anywhere, we may see places that war has made sacred.
The feeling of all this is better enjoyed after one has grown oblivious to the things which at first do so much to cheapen the mountain, — the hotels, the photographers shanties, the placards, the hurrying tourists, and the general air of a place given over to showmen. Much of this seeming desecration is unavoidable, perhaps; at all events, it is the part of wisdom to overlook it, as, fortunately, by the time of my third visit I was pretty well able to do. If that proves impossible, if the visitor is of too sensitive a temperament, — to call his weakness by no worse a name, — he can at least betake himself to the woods, and out of them see enough, as I did from my boulder, to repay him for all his trouble.
The battlefield, as has been said, lies at the base of the perpendicular cliffs which make the bold northern tip of the mountain, — Lookout Point. I must walk over it, though there is little to see, and after a final look at the magnificent panorama I descended the steps to the head of the “incline,” or, as I should say, the cable road. The car dropped me at a sentry-box marked “Columbus” (it was easy to guess in what year it bad been named), and thence I strolled across the plateau, — so called in the narratives of the battle, though it is far from level, — past the Craven house and Cloud Fort, to the western slope looking down into Lookout Valley, out of which the Union forces marched to the assault. The place was peaceful enough on that pleasant May afternoon. The air was full of music, and just below me were apple and peach orchards and a vineyard.
In such surroundings, half wild, half tame, I had hope of finding some strange bird; it would be pleasant to associate him with a spot so famous. But the voices were all familiar: wood. thrushes, Carolina wrens, bluebirds, summer tanagers, catbirds, a Maryland yellow-throat, vireos (red-eyes and white-eyes), goldfinches, a field sparrow (the dead could want no sweeter requiem than he was chanting, but the wood pewee should have been here also), indigo-birds, and chats. In one of the wildest and roughest places a Kentucky warbler started to sing, and I plunged downward among the rocks and bushes (here was maiden-hair fern, I remember), hoping to see him. It was only my second hearing of the song, and it would be prudent to verify my recollection; but the music ceased, and I saw nothing. At the turn, where the land begins to decline westward, I came to a low, semicircular wall of earth. Here, doubtless, on that fateful November morning, when clouds covered the mountain sides, the Confederate troops meant to make a stand against the invader. Now a wilderness of young blue-green persimmon-trees had sprung up about it, as about the Craven house was a similar growth of sassafras. I had already noticed the extreme abundance of sassafras (shrubs rather than trees) in all this country, and especially on Missionary Ridge.
With my thoughts full of the past, while my senses kept watch of the present, I returned slowly to the “incline,” where I had five minutes to wait for a downward car. It had been a good day, a day worth remembering; and just then there came to my ear the new voice for which I had been on the alert: a warbler’s song, past all mistake, sharp, thin, vivacious, in perhaps eight syllables, — a song more like the redstart’s than anything else I could think of. The singer was in a tall tree, but by the best of luck, seeing how short my time was, the opera-glass fell upon him almost of itself, — a hooded warbler; my first sight of him in full dress (he might have been rigged out for a masquerade, I thought), as it was my first hearing of his song. If it had been also my last hearing of it, I might have written that the hooded warbler, though a frequenter of low thickets, chooses a lofty perch to sing from. So easy is it to generalize; that is, to tell more than we know. The fellow sang again and again, and, to my great satisfaction, a Kentucky joined him, — a much better singer in all respects, and much more becomingly dressed; but I gave thanks for both. Then the car stopped for me, and we coasted to the base, where the customary gang of negroes, heavily chained, were repairing the highway, while the guard, a white man, stood over them with a rifle. It was a strange spectacle to my eyes, and suggested a considerable postponement of the millennium; but I was glad to see the men at work.
Two days afterward (May 10), in spite of “thunder in the morning” and one of the safest of weather saws, I made my final excursion to Lookout, going at once to the warblers’ pines. There were few birds in them. At all events, I found few; but there is no telling what might have happened, if the third specimen that came under my glass — after a black-poll and a bay-breast — had not monopolized my attention till I was driven to seek shelter. That was the day when I needed a gun; for I suppose it must be confessed that even an opera-glass observer, no matter how much in love he may be with his particular method of study, and no matter how determined he may be to stick to it, sees a time once in a great while when a bird in the hand would be so much better than two in the bush that his fingers fairly itch for something to shoot with. From what I know of one such man, I am sure it would be exaggerating their tenderness of heart to imagine observers of this kind incapable of taking a bird’s life under any circumstances. In fact, it may be partly a distrust of their own self-restraint, under the provocations of curiosity, that makes them eschew the use of firearms altogether.
My mystery on the present occasion was a female warbler, — of so much I felt reasonably assured; but by what name to call her, that was a riddle. Her upper parts were “not olive, but of a neutral bluish gray,” with light wing-bars, “not conspicuous, but distinct,” while her lower parts were “dirty, but unstreaked.” What at once impressed me was her “bareheaded appearance” (I am quoting my penciled memorandum), with a big eye and a light eye-ring, — like a ruby-crowned kinglet, for which, at the first glance, I mistook her. If my notes made mention of any dark streaks or spots underneath, I would pluck up courage and hazard a glorious guess, to be taken for what it might be worth. As it is, I leave guessing to men better qualified, for whose possible edification or amusement I have set down these particulars.
While I was pursuing the stranger, but not till I had seen her again and again, and secured as many “points” as a longer ogling seemed likely to afford me, it began thundering ominously out of ugly clouds, and I edged toward some woodland cottages not far distant. Then the big drops fell, and I took to my heels, reaching a piazza just in time to escape a torrent against which pine-trees and umbrella combined would have been as nothing. The lady of the house and her three dogs received me most hospitably, and as the rain lasted for some time we had a pleasant conversation (I can speak for one, at least) about dogs in general and particular (a common interest is the soul of talk); in illustration and furtherance of which the spaniel of the party, somewhat against his will, was induced to “sit up like a gentleman,” while I boasted modestly of another spaniel, Antony by name, who could do that and plenty of tricks beside, — a perfect wonder of a dog, in short. Thus happily launched, we went on to discuss the climate of Tennessee (whatever may be the soul of talk, the weather supplies it with members and a bodily substance) and the charms of Lookout Mountain. She lived there the year round, she said (most of the cottagers make the place a summer resort only), and always found it pleasant. In winter it wasn’t so cold there as down below; at any rate, it didn’t feel so cold, — which is the main thing, of course. Sometimes when she went to the city, it seemed as if she should freeze, although she hadn’t thought of its being cold before she left home. It is one form of patriotism, I suppose, — parochial patriotism, perhaps we may call it, — that makes us stand up pretty stoutly for our own dwelling-place before strangers, however we may grumble against it among ourselves. In the present instance, however, no such qualifying explanation seemed necessary. In general, I was quite prepared to believe that life on a mountain top, in a cottage in a grove, would be found every whit as agreeable as my hostess pictured it.
The rain slackened after a while, though it was long in ceasing altogether, and I went to the nearest railway station (Sunset Station, I believe) and waited half an hour for a train to the Point, chatting meanwhile with the young man in charge of the relic-counter. Then, at the Point, I waited again — this time to enjoy the prospect and see how the weather would turn — till a train passed on “the broad gauge” below. Just beyond Fort Cloud it ran into a fine old forest, and a sudden notion took me to go straight down through the woods and spend the rest of the day rambling in that direction. The weather had still a dubious aspect, but, with motive enough, some things can be trusted to Providence, and, the steepness of the descent accelerating my pace, I was soon on the sleepers, after which it was but a little way into the woods. Once there, I quickly forgot everything else at the sound of a new song. But was it new? It bore some resemblance to the ascending scale of the blue yellow-back, and might be the freak of some individual of that species. I stood still, and in another minute the singer came near and sang under my eye; the very bird I had been hoping for, — a cerulean warbler in full dress; as Dr. Cones says, “a perfect little beauty.” He continued in sight, feeding in rather low branches, — an exception to his usual habit, I have since found, — and sang many times over. His complaisance was a piece of high good fortune, for I saw no second specimen. The strain opens with two pairs of notes on the same pitch, and concludes with an upward run much like the blue yellow-back’s, or perhaps midway between that and the prairie warbler’s. So I heard it, I mean to say. But everything depends upon the ear. Audubon speaks of it as “extremely sweet and mellow” (the last a surprising word), while Mr. Ridgway is quoted as saying that the bird possesses “only the most feeble notes.”
The woods of themselves were well worth a visit: extremely open, with broad barren spaces; the trees tall, largely oak, — chestnut oak, especially, — but with chestnut, hickory, tupelo, and other trees intermingled. Here, as afterward on Walden’s Ridge, I was struck with the almost total absence of mosses, and the dry, stony character of the soil — a novel and not altogether pleasing feature in the eyes of a man accustomed to the mountain forests of New England, where mosses cover every boulder, stump, and fallen log, while the feet sink into sphagnum as into the softest of carpets.
Comfortable lounging-places continually invited me to linger, and at last I sat down under a chestnut oak, with a big broken-barked tupelo directly before me. Over the top of a neighboring boulder a lizard leaned in a praying attitude and gazed upon the intruder. Once in a while some loud-voiced tree-frog, as I suppose, uttered a grating cry. A blue-gray gnatcatcher was complaining, — snarling, I might have said; a red-eye, an indigo-bird, a field sparrow, and a Carolina wren took turns in singing; and a sudden chat threw himself into the air, quite unannounced, and, with ludicrous teetering motions, flew into the tupelo and eyed me saucily. A few minutes later, a single cicada (seventeen-year locust) followed him. With my glass I could see its monstrous red eyes and the orange edge of its wing. It kept silence; but without a moment’s cessation the musical hum of distant millions like it filled the air, — a noise inconceivable.
I would gladly have sat longer, as I would gladly have gone much farther into the woods, for I had seen none more attractive; but a rumbling of thunder, a rapid blackening of the sky, and a recollection of the forenoon’s deluge warned me to turn back. And now, for the first time, although I had been living within sound of locusts for a week or more, I suddenly came to trees in which they were congregated. The branches were full of them. Heard thus near, the sound was no longer melodious, but harsh and shrill.
It seemed cruel that my last day on Lookout Mountain should be so broken up, and so abruptly and unseasonably concluded, but so the Fates willed it. My retreat became a rout, and of the remainder of the road I remember only the hurry and the warmth, and two pleasant things, — a few wild roses, and the scent of a grapevine in bloom; two things so sweet and homelike that they could be caught and retained by a man on the run.