Page:Summer - from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau.djvu/378

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368
SUMMER.

chickens about a hen; but this mother had so many children she didn't know what to do. Her maternal yearnings must be on a great scale. When one half of the divided school found her out they came down upon her and completely invested her like a small cloud. She was soon joined by another smaller pout, apparently her mate, and all, both old and young, began to be very familiar with me. They came round my legs and felt them with their feelers, and the old pouts nibbled my toes, while the fry half concealed my feet. Probably if I had been standing on the bank, with my clothes on, they would have been more shy. Ever and anon the old pouts dashed aside to drive away a passing bream or perch. The larger one kept circling about her charge as if to keep them together within a certain compass. If any of her flock were lost or drowned she would hardly have missed them. I wondered if there was any calling of the roll at night; whether she, like a faithful shepherdess, ever told her tale under some hawthorn in the river dales. Ever ready to do battle with the wolves that might break into her fold. The young pouts are protected then for a season by the old. Some had evidently been hatched before the others. One of these large pouts had a large velvet black spot which included the right pectoral fin,—a