Some subtle intimation they surely had that summer was ephemeral and the season waning, for the burden of their song was, Let us now be merry. The scarlet head of a woodpecker showed brilliantly from the bare dead boughs of a chestnut-oak, which, with its clinging lichens of green and gray, was boldly projected against the azure sky.
A leather belt around his waist supported his powder-horn and shot-pouch, for his accoutrements were exactly such as might have been borne a hundred years ago by a hunter of Old Bear Mountain, and his gun leaned against the trunk of a chestnut-oak.
And the woodpecker still was solemnly tapping, high up in the chestnut-oak tree. Birt, meanwhile, was trudging along in the woods, hardly seeing where he went, hardly caring. He had not had even a vague premonition when the tanner told him that he might have the rest of the day off. He did not now want the holiday which would once have so rejoiced him, and he said as much.
The broad-leaved maple and mountain maple are found mostly in the cool canyons at the head of the Valley, spreading their branches in beautiful arches over the foaming streams. Scattered here and there are a few other trees, mostly small the mountain mahogany, cherry, chestnut-oak, and laurel. The Forest Trees in General
Again the boughs of the chestnut-oak above the roof crashed together. Did a fitful blast stir the door? He lifted his eyes mechanically. A cold thrill ran through every fibre. For there, close by the door, somebody something was peering through the space between the logs of the wall. The face was invisible, but the shape of a man's head was distinctly defined.
There were many stumps about the margin of the woods, the felled trees, stripped of their bark, often lying among them still, for the supply of timber exceeded the need. In penetrating the wilderness you might mark, too, here and there, a vacant space, where the chestnut-oak, prized for its tannin, had once grown on the slope. A little log house was in the midst of the clearing.
Despite his absorption, Birt paused to put them up, remembering the vagrant mountain cattle that might stray in upon the corn. He found the familiar little job difficult enough, for it seemed to him that there was never before so black a night. Even looking upward, he could not see the great wind-tossed boughs of the chestnut-oak above his head.
A fine tree it is, too, this same chestnut-oak, with its masquerading foliage of deep green, its upright and substantial habit, its rather long and aristocratic-looking acorns. The authorities tell that its wood, too, is brownish and valuable; but we tree-lovers are not enthusiastic over mere timber values, because that means the killing of the trees.
There are some oaks, however, that have borrowed the foliage of other trees so cunningly that one at first scouts the possibility of the Quercus parentage, until he sees an undeniable acorn thrusting itself forward. Then he is sure that what seemed a rather peculiarly shaped chestnut tree, with somewhat stumpy foliage, is none other than the chestnut-oak.
He glanced up to note that Odalie sat still wide awake with her back against the trunk of a great chestnut-oak, her eyes on the fire, the child in her arms. They exchanged a glance which said as plain as speech that he and Hamish and she would divide the watch. Each would rest for two or three hours and watch while the others slept. It behooved them to be cautious and guard against surprise.