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heavy pine or redwood timber. Another variety is spoken of as the Richardson grouse, varying only in a tail-marking. In the fall of the year, the blue grouse leaves the lower strata of vegetation, where it is
liable to be buried in the snows, and where it has to dispute its occupancy with many stronger neighbors, and betakes itself to the upper plane of the pine-tree tops. There, two hundred feet or more from ground, it finds ample shelter in the dense perpetual verdure, and unlimited supply of buds for food, and safety even from the eyes of man. No retreat could be so absolutely secure,nothing but the lightning and the tempest can reach it, and its morning crow heralds the day while yet the trunk of the tree and the humbler birds that live near it are wrapped in darkness. When winter is passed, and little sprouts come forth out of the ground, the grouse descends to its old resorts and builds its nest, and shuffles in the sandy bank as it did the summer before. This is a true bird of the mountain, and has the resinous odor of the woods in its flesh. It reminds one of its noble congener of Scotland, the black cock,-and of all his wild ways and glossy plumage, and the long days on the heather, and of the moorlands at Dumfries, and of the old song:
"And if up a bonnie black cock should spring,
May his mountain fastnesses protect him from extermination for future ages, so that other explorers may be charmed as we have, amid sterility, weariness, and hunger, by his beauty of form and delicacy of flesh!
We have thus told our tale of the North American grouse. The distinctive features of the genus are the bare and bright-colored patch over the eye, a short, curved bill, with the nostril covered with feathers, and a hairy leg, with bare toes. Our story is not a book-story, or a compilation,-it is out of the head, it may be somewhat out of the heart. It does not claim to be learned, and its writer will not dispute about a feather; but all of the birds named are old friends, and he dare not caricature them.
There is another genus of this same Tetraonida family,-the genus Lagopus, or hair-foot. These have the toes as well as the legs covered with feathers. This genus includes in North America, the ptarmigan, the white-tail ptarmigan, and an Arctic ptarmigan, called the rock ptarmigan. Their habitat seems to be the whole Arctic zone. They form the chief delicacy of the Arctic explorer, and hang plentifully in the larders. of the posts of the Hudson's Bay Fur Company. When the winter is severe, they come down into the Canadas, and one winter a hunting friend on the Saguenaygood luck to him!-sent us a barrelful. Such friends are above all price.
outer feather on each side of the tail, which The white ptarmigan is all white save the outer feather is black. The white-tailed ptarmigan is as immaculate as snow, including all the tail-feathers. The remarkable feature of
these birds is, that they change the colors of their dress to suit the varying year, as does a fashionable lady, only the birds vary the style by dressing white in winter and brown in summer. This is one of those prudent plans of Dame Nature to preserve a race. On the spotless plains of winter a brown bird would be a conspicuous object to every fox and snowy owl; so he is draped in drift. In the summer foliage his whiteness snowy white, and squats unnoticed on the would allure each passing hawk, but the brown, mottled color of his summer dress matches well the bracken and the lichen, and he thus escapes observation. This same care nature bestows on the snow-bird and the great northern hare, both of which frequent the snowy plains.
But a summer evening is not long enough to write the story of their lives. To obtain
It is November of 185-, and Blossom is going back across the plains to her home. Seventeen years before, a baby had been born within a rude fort upon the Arkansas River to the post-sutler Stubbs and his wife; and this baby was Blossom.
It is but just to say that earlier in life this man Stubbs had borne another name, which had been lost beyond finding again somewhere in the western wilderness. Or, to be exact, his odd, stunted figure had won for him this sobriquet, before which his rightful cognomen burnt dimly for a while, and finally went out altogether. He resigned his name without much of an effort to retain it, thereby showing little of pride or spirit. But rights of any kind were held here only at the muzzle of a revolver, and had
been gradually narrowed down until they involved little more than life and liberty; to contend for anything less was hardly worth the powder; and then one name was as good as another, or even better, if it carried an idea,-which Stubbs certainly did. The early trappers and traders of the far West were not given to much speaking. Each brief word was suggestive, and the names bestowed in praise or derision were mostly biographies in miniature. Sometimes they were but personally descriptive,-as in this case, or they were made to serve as a perpetual exclamationpoint after a man.
But however expressive such titles might be when applied to one individual, they become incongruous, not to say absurd, when made to include a family. What could be more appropriate, more sharply descriptive of the broad-shouldered, serene
faced, stumpy little man who bore it than the name of Stubbs? But it was a grim sarcasm upon the woman who had shared his quarters for a dozen years before the baby's eyes opened upon them.
She was tall, she was gaunt as a gray wolf in winter. She was strong of arm and stout of nerve, with a talent for devising and a will for executing almost any work. She could serve a dinner to a tolerably straitened garrison that would tempt a king, or she could steady a rifle and drop a red-skin, if need be, at three hundred yards. There was even a rough kind of femininity about the woman, who was by no means disagreeable to look at, with her bright black eyes and her brown cheeks showing a subdued flame. She had been known more than once to nurse a wounded man back to life when the surgeons had given him up, with just scolding enough, it must be owned, to spur him on to convalescence. Add to these the aggressive qualities of thrift and neatness, and we shall have a perfect character, you will say. Oh no; do you fancy that all the natural graces as well as the Christian virtues are to be found in one individual? She was envious. (But that is not so rare a fault that it. need be dwelt upon.) She was crafty and unscrupulous. But the first she concealed by the second; and the third, in tending upon the other two, kept in the background. And then she was comely to look at,-and that is a better cloak than charity, even,with her sleek black hair and the fresh color just deadened by the tan on her cheeks. Comely to look at, if one could forget the embers in her eyes, which a gust of passion might blow into a blaze. After all, it was a kind of beauty which a man might like to look upon, but would hardly covet for his own.
As for her thrift and neatness, the sutler's quarters showed the effect of these good qualities, which were a kind of stockade about the real woman. Her home was tidy and inviting, or would have been, but that the tidiness became tyrannical at times. Gradually a kind of cabaret of a most respectable pattern was established here, where the officers dropped in of an evening to order a bit of supper, which the mistress of the house was not above cooking with her own hands. A well-thumbed pack of cards was brought into requisition while waiting for this to be served, and rumor did say that many a pile of government gold changed hands over the table here. But rumor is always malicious, and this may or
may not have been true. Drinking there certainly was, but no brawling over the cards or wine, or the friendly pipe with Stubbs himself, who was a quiet, shrewd man, an excellent listener at all times-and what could be more desirable in a companion? He could even tell a story of his own when Mrs. Stubbs was not by. For the post-sutler stood somewhat in awe of his energetic help-meet. There was not her equal this side the Rocky Mountains, he often declared; and as this assertion included not only the plains, but that mystical region, "the states," it was a rare compliment, indeed. Still, it must be owned that she was a kind of moral car of Juggernaut to the man. And not to Stubbs alone, but to all the frequenters of the house, not one of whom would have dared offer anything but the most exaggerated respect to its mistress. In her own domain she ruled a queen. She served, it is true, but by favor, and woe to any man who forgot what was due from a guest to his hostess. For a warm corner in the little family-room was not to be despised of a winter night, when the snow covered them in, and the wind howled a dismal chorus outside, while the rusty stove at the officers' quarters gave out smoke without heat.
Here the fire was always bright, with an apple or two puffing and spitting steam before it, or the red-hot poker innocently but significantly blinking among the coals. The rough plastered walls were covered with prints, which Stubbs had found in trading expeditions to the states, or Mrs. Stubbs had scissored thriftily from illustrated journals, and were volumes in themselves of history, biography, and travel. But since the titles had been mostly sacrificed to space, there was a tantalizing indefiniteness about the whole, which possibly enhanced its interest. A Mexican blanket covered the center of the floor upon extraordinary occasions, with rude skins spread here and there for softer comfort. Scant curtains of red moreen hid the tiny windows, and gave color to the place, while the furniture was made up of odd pieces brought by the sutler at various times from Independence, that outpost of civilization at this time. It had been chosen with an eye for but one quality,-durability,
and even this had required an eye of faith. But its "exceeding lastingness," like that in Kalander's house, had almost made it appear by this time exceeding beautiful. Comfortable it was, at least.
And this was the home into which, after
a dozen childless years spent in as many rough, rude places, the baby came to the post-sutler Stubbs and his wife.
It was an event to stir the foundations of their world; but it brought little change. Sergeant Duckling improvised a cradle from the half of an old flour-barrel, which Mrs. Stubbs covered with gay flowered chintz, ferreted from Stubbs's stock of unsalable wares, and set up in a corner seemingly devised expressly for it. To be sure, the pipes were banished now to the adjoining store, but the baby more than made up for any such deficiency. It was passed from hand to hand, and tossed and dandled in air in a way that would have agonized a less courageous mother. But Mrs. Stubbs bore it all with the equanimity of pride and ignorance. And the child laughed and crowed its delight at the involuntary gymnastics it was made to perform in the arms of its rough friends. A pale, delicate little flower this was which had blossomed upon Mrs. Stubbs's bosom. The ways of Providence are indeed past finding out. A wolf's cub, a young coyote would have been more akin to the woman. But no; wolf-cubs are born into sheep-folds, and lambs lie down by lions, and no one knows the reason why. Still, something of softening did come to her with motherhood, as well as a deeper craft and a more grasping ambition. The one growing purpose of her life had been to push Stubbs on in the world,-where, or toward what end, she hardly knew. They had schemed, and worked, and hoarded,the man, at least, honestly enough,-until they had become rich,-rich even for "the settlements," where Mrs. Stubbs's eyes and desires were wont to turn. But now, what would she not do for the child! There was no limit to her desires, or to the vague dreams over that rude cradle.
But no ambitious dreams disturbed the father. There is a vein of poetry in the nature of every man, and the coming of the baby was like sinking a shaft into Stubbs's soul, though very little of the precious ore ever came to the surface-a few trifling specimens only to show the richness of the lode. He was by no means a godly man, but cradling the child in his arms, he would croon over her hour after our,-not the rollicking songs of a camp, but quaint, awful hymns, enough to strike terror to the heart of an ordinary man, and picked up
no one knew where.
"Great spoils I shall win,
From death, hell, and sin,"
sang the father, in a hoarse, broken voice, and with many a twist and turn to the weird air.
The child looked up into his face, and smiled her contentment. What were death, hell, and sin to her happy babyhood! It was he who first called her Blossom; and a frail little blossom she was, with her white face, her solemn, brown eyes, and her hair like the fluff on the dandelions in summertime. And Blossom she came to be to all the garrison,-from the stern colonel in command down to little Bob White, who made the last in the line on dress parade. Not that this was her baptismal name. For christened she was one Sabbath afternoon in summer, in the presence of the whole garrison,-through the zeal of the new chaplain, it must be owned, rather than from any desire of her parents. The poor man had but scant opportunity for wearing his bands or performing the rites of his church here, and could not allow such an one as this to go by unimproved. The child looked gravely, but without fear, upon the assembled company, until she caught sight of Sergeant Duckling's good-natured face, when she broke into an irreverent, gurgling laugh, ending in a most uncompromising crow, greatly to the embarrassment of the chaplain, who was young and unmarried. The colonel tried to frown down the smile awakened by this undignified conduct of the candidate, but there was a twinkle in his own eye. Dear me! Had he not dandled the child in his own arms by the hour, when his wife had borrowed her for the afternoon ?
"Name this child," said the chaplain, hastily.
He was alarmed for his own dignity and the solemnity of the service he had inaugurated.
Mrs. Stubbs stood like a drum-major by her husband's side, gorgeous in a new pink bonnet, fashioned directly after that of the colonel's wife. She gave him a nudge with her elbow, to remind him to speak up promptly, which only served to rout every idea from poor Stubbs's mind. It was only when this domestic spur had been applied the second time that he succeeded in stammering out a name which nobody could understand. The chaplain, however, took it up, and repeated it in a sonorous voice. To tell the truth, he had it upon a bit of paper in his hand all the time. The asking was but a form.
It was his mother's name over which