IN a small valley not very far from the noisy little cataract of Tallulah, between two ragged foot-hills, there flows a tiny stream, a mere beck, as clear as crystal. It is short, being measured by a few reverse curves, like Hogarth's beauty-line and two or three brilliant tumbles. At one end the source, a bubbling spring, at the other a dimpled frith, and all between a melodious hubbub. There is no better description at my command. Moreover, descriptions are an offense to Nature in her sacred nooks.
From the point where this little thread of water loses itself in a considerable brooklet, you may have a peep at a noble blue mountain in the north-east, from the flat top of a great rock fragment; but all around you, low, ragged trees shut out every other line of vision. The hills are like the waves of a choppy sea; the hollows are deep, narrow and rocky, filled with twilight half the day.
But it is a place like this to which one must go for a taste of primitive delight out of flagons older than the earliest pottery shards of Egypt. I have had my fill of it, and must needs write; for scarcely sweeter is experience in such lines than the comfort of going over it with the pen. I wax imaginative while I step back again into that nook of absolute solitude.
Beside a lichen-splotched stone fragment almost as large as the proverbial meeting-house I built my temporary home, a lean-to shed most primitive in its form. Some poles slanted against the rock's side and covered with bark, filched from an ancient stack of it made in the days when the forests of chestnut-oak-trees were peeled for the old-fashioned tanner's use—that was all and under this roof I lived for a blessed while with my archery tackle and the Greek Anthology.
It is not every man who can eat, sleep and walk that I would trust to get pleasure out of a week's stay in solitude with a bark hut for headquarters; but the right sort of man will profit amazingly by such an outing; for example, myself, begging all pardon, as I hope to disclose. I had it in mind to be free, absolutely free, for seven days and seven nights, and meantime do no violence to civilized morals. I purposed to study birds as nearly as possible from the bird's point of view, and at the same time to have a sennight of recreation according to the standard of the sportsman who smacks his lips over bird-meat.
The Georgia hills, up there in the region where four States are so close together that, as a mountaineer once expressed it to me, they "hev terstan' pigeon-toed," are dry, wrinkled and at first sight uninteresting; but soon enough they offer generous entertainment to the open-eyed observer. Birds make those foot-hills and mountain-slopes a midway station on their spring route from Florida and the far South.
A man who is cunning in the ways of wild life knows just how to rob such a wilderness of its best secrets. His first act is to identify himself with the spirit of his surroundings. He takes him alair, he shakes off conventional limitations and lets the ancient simple animal man have its way. He hastens to forget that his skin is not furry, his feet are shod, and his nostrils are not cleft.