A Kentucky Cardinal/Chapter V
In May I am of the earth earthy. The soul loses its wild white pinions; the heart puts forth its short, powerful wings, heavy with heat and color, that flutter, but do not lift it off the ground. The month comes and goes, and not once do I think of lifting my eyes to the stars. The very sunbeams fall on the body as a warm golden net, and keep thought and feeling from escape. Nature uses beauty now not to uplift, but to entice. I find her intent upon the one general business of seeing that no type of her creatures gets left out of the generations. Studied in my yard full of birds, as with a condensing-glass of the world, she can be seen enacting among them the dramas of history. day, in the secret recess of a walnut, I saw the beginning of the Trojan war. Last week I witnessed the battle of Actium fought out in mid-air. And down among my hedges—indeed, openly in my very barn-yard—there is a perfectly scandalous Salt Lake City.
And while I am watching the birds, they are watching me. Not a little fop among them, having proposed and been accepted, but perches on a limb, and has the air of putting his hands mannishly under his coattails and crying out at me, “Hello! Adam, what were you made for?” “You attend to your business, and I’ll attend to mine,” I answer. “You have one May; I have twenty-five!” He didn’t wait to hear. He caught sight of a pair of clear brown eyes peeping at him out of a near tuft of leaves, and sprang thither with open arms and the sound of a kiss.
But if I have twenty-five Mays remaining, are not some Mays gone? Ah, well! }} Better a single May with the right mate than the full number with the wrong. And where is she—the right one? If she ever comes near my yard and answers my whistle, I’ll know it; and then I’ll teach these popinjays in blue coats and white pantaloons what Adam was made for.
But the wrong one—there’s the terror! Only think of so composite a phenomenon as Mrs. Walters, for instance, adorned with limp nightcap and stiff curl-papers, like garnishes around a leg of roast mutton, waking up beside me at four o’clock in the morning as some gray-headed love-bird of Madagascar, and beginning to chirp and trill in an ecstasy!
The new neighbors have come—mother, younger daughter, and servants. The son is at West Point; and the other daughter lingers a few days, unable, no doubt, to tear herself away from her beloved pennyroyal and dearest Green River. They are quiet; have borrowed nothing from any one in the neighborhood; have well-dressed, well-trained servants; and one begins to be a little impressed. The curtains they have put up at the windows suggest that the whole nest is being lined with soft, cool spotless loveliness, that is very restful and beguiling.
No one has called yet, since they are not at home till June; but Mrs. Walters has done some tall wading lately, and declares that people do not know what to think. They will know when the elder daughter arrives; for it is the worst member of the family that settles what the world shall think of the others.
If only she were not the worst! If only as I sat here beside my large new window, around which the old rose-bush has been trained and now is blooming, I could look across to her window where the white curtains hang, and feel that behind them sat, shy and gentle, the wood-pigeon for whom through Mays gone by I have been vaguely waiting!
And yet I do not believe that I could live a single year with only the sound of cooing in the house. A wood-pigeon would be the death of me.