The great egret, too, was there, with its snowy plumage and orange bill; the delicately-formed Louisiana heron, with droves of sand-hill cranes, appearing in the distance like flocks of white sheep. Pelicans, with their pouched throats and scythe-like bills, stood in melancholy attitudes, and beside them were the white and scarlet ibis, and the purple gallinule.
Here and there a Florida gallinule put up its head among the leaves, or took flight as we pressed too closely upon it; but I saw them to no advantage, and with a single exception they were dumb. One bird, as it dashed into the rushes, uttered two or three cries that sounded familiar.
Nearly every such place contained at least one Florida gallinule; but where were the "purples," about which we kept talking, the "royal purples," concerning whose beauty my boy was so eloquent? "They are not common yet," he would say. "By and by they will be as thick as Floridas are now." "But don't they stay here all winter?" "No, sir; not the purples." "Are you certain about that?"
The Florida gallinule is in general pretty silent, I think; but he has a noisy season; then he is indeed noisy enough.
He took my reproof in good part, protesting that he had had only a glimpse of the bird, and had taken it for a possible gallinule. Three days afterward we went up the river. There were a thousand, at least. They had an air of being not so very shy, but they were nobody's fools.
Here was a clear example, not only of the abundance of life in the tropics, but of the keen competition. The jacana invariably lays four eggs, and the gallinule, at this latitude, six or eight, yet only a fraction of the young had survived even to this tender age.
"Oh," he said, "game is plenty out where we are going, about eight miles, and I take the gun along." "What kind of game?" "Well, sir, we may sometimes find a partridge." I smiled at the anti-climax, but was glad to hear Bob White honored for once with his Southern title. A good many of my jaunts took me past the gallinule swamp before mentioned, and almost always I stopped and went near.
He bites human beings every day and as the consequence thereof becomes sinful and travels through a varied round of rebirths. That man of foolish understanding who steals ghee has to take birth as a gallinule. That wicked person who steals fish has to take birth as a crow. By stealing salt one has to take birth as a mimicking bird.
The three last cases devoted to wading birds, contain the varieties of the British and North American Rails: the varieties of the Gallinule, including the European purple gallinule, the South American variety, and the Australian black-backed variety; and the Finfoots of Africa and America.
In one place he had the good-luck to raise a flock of water birds, which he took for purple gallinule and spur-wing plover, although they were unlike any he had ever seen. In some scattered groves beyond he bagged a pigeon and missed a quail which unexpectedly whirred out of a thicket.