« AnteriorContinuar »
spend in the Northern States, or in Canada, or in any part of America that is mountainous.
If you are fond of wild hunting, you will be very much amused by going out with the Backwoodsmen. The best part of the country for hunting expeditions is in the neighbourhood of the great Lakes, where game of all kinds is very plentiful, and where you would at the same time have an opportunity of seeing a great deal of the native Indians, and if a naturalist, of collecting specimens for the illustration of Zoology.
I conclude my advice to the traveller by bidding him keep in mind, what some persons are too proud to recollect, that good temper, and a willingness to conform to the customs of the country, are particularly necessary in America.
THE RETURN OF SPRING-HORSE-RACE AT LONG ISLAND
I took a last farewell of the Ohio at Wheeling, and retraced my steps towards Washington, along the great national road. As I was now on horseback, I had a much better opportunity of seeing the beauties of the scenery, than when I before went the same road in the stage. The day I crossed the Laurel mountain was remarkably fine, and the view from the summit delightful. Indeed after journeying through interminable forests, I felt my mind as it were expanded, at seeing the blue expanse resting on the earth, instead of being shut in by a constant barrier of gigantic trees.
After crossing the Alleghanies and proceeding towards the East, one cannot but remark how the timber decreases in size. I well recollect indeed the disappointment I experienced, when at my first arrival in America, I found the trees so much smaller than I had expected; for till I went into the Western States, I saw none larger than those which are to be met with in the generality of the parks of English gentlemen.
On arriving at Washington I parted with my horse, and that with no small regret; for he had carried me 1500 miles without being either sick or lame a single day. The whole distance I travelled, from my leaving Washington, till I returned there, was 2,345 miles.
Unlike our European Spring, which advances with slow and measured steps, the most delightful of seasons comes on at once in this part of America, with scarcely any notice of its approach, Nature throwing off the whole of her winter garb in an instant. It is impossible for a person unacquainted with a land of forests, to form any idea of the wonderful beauty of this sudden change. The leaves, as if by magic, burst forth almost in a single night; and the woods, that lately presented a desolate appearance of uniform sombreness, are now decked with a thousand various tints of the most beautiful green. .
The Locust and Tulip trees are very common in all the woods; and indeed in many places form a large part of them. They grow to a size unknown in Europe; and when, covered with flowers, they thrust their white heads from among the darkgreen foliage that surrounds them, they form a picture never to be seen any where but in America. The Locust tree, in addition to the beauty of its flowers, fills the woods with the most delightful perfume. There are numberless other flowerbearing trees which contribute to the fine effect of vernal beauty; and I very much regret, that my ignorance or want of recollection prevents me from being able to name them,
The birds, which had emigrated to the South at the commencement of winter, now re-appeared. But although in the splendour and variety of their colours they far exceed our birds, yet they are not only deficient in that variety of song remarked in our nightingale, lark, blackbird, and thrush, but even to the best of my knowledge, there are few of them capable of producing a single musical note.* I must however of course except the Mocking-bird (turdus polyglottus), that most charming of all songsters, which is very common near Washington, and in a great measure atones for the silence, or the discordant notes, of the rest of the feathered inhabitants of the woods. One of them will perch upon an old stump or the topmost branch of a tree, and imitate the notes of any of the birds that are within his hearing. Sometimes he will do this so exactly, that he appears to offend the other birds, who are silent as soon as he begins. I have often heard one imitate a gentleman, who used to amuse himself with whistling to them. When kept in a cage, a Mocking-bird will not only sing and whistle, but will squall like a cat, ehyckle like a hen, and imitate any strange noise he has heard, changing from one cry to another in the most amusing manner imaginable.
• Țo speak in mathematical language, the song of birds varies inversely with their plumage. The observation has been made by all naturalists, and is nowhere more true than in America.
Near the house of a gentleman with whom I stayed some time at Washington, was a very large Trumpet Honeysuckle, the constant resort of half a dozen Humming-birds. I was delighted to watch these beautiful pigmies of the feathered creation, as they kept hovering over a flower, and thrusting into it their long slender bills. The better to observe them, I fastened to the branches of the honeysuckle some quills full of sugar and water,
, which these little fairies, hovering over them for a minute or two at a time, drank up with every appearance of the greatest possible delight. The motion of their wings is so rapid, as to be almost invisible; and their bodies, which are scarcely larger than those of humble-bees, appear as if poised in the air by their mere lightness. Their plumage exceeds in beauty and brilliancy that of all other birds. Its colours are indeed quite metallic; and one would think that they were covered with the most brilliant red, blue, and green foil, such as the jewellers use for setting off precious stones.
There is also found near Washington another bird, of which I cannot resist the desire of giving some slight description. It is called the Whippoor-Will, from its peculiar and melancholy cry, which exactly resembles the sound of these words, It is, I believe, quite silent during the day time, when it is principally employed in the destruction of flies and musquitoes. I have seen it wheeling through clouds of these insects in the neighbour