20 NOVEMBER 1926, Page 11

The Friendly Deer

NOW that, once again, the Rocky Mountains of Canada are some five thousand miles away from me, I find that it is not their pounding avalanches, their thun- derous creeks, that I most often recall, nor the black- hearted forests in the valleys there, nor the blinding- white of the peaks. I think most often of the deer that were so friendly wherever we camped.

In a place so alien and estranged from man, their friendliness was emphasized for me. There were other animals, of course. Bears, for instance. But only once did I experience any real rencontre with a bear, and then but for a moment. I sat by a tiny mountain-stream, reading, the sun caressingly warm on face and hands and bared chest. I looked up ; and there, at my feet, a young bear stood drinking. He was, I should guess, in his second spring. Small, black, glossy. After a while he paused and lifted his head : his small beady eyes seemed to stare straight at me. I hardly breathed. Though I could have touched him with my hands, clearly he did not see me.. The full noon had taken his sight away ; or my scent was blowing in a contrary direction. For some minutes I watched him : staring, drinking, licking, lounging. . . . But I had no protection and I wondered, cub so near, whether mother-bear might not be near, too. I called. He studied me a moment, as some creature new to him, and gallumphed quietly away.

Then there were the shaggy mountain-sheep, and the whiskey-jack that, soon as ever we pitched the teepee, would come whistling round : scavenger, alarum, and playmate all in one. And there were the humming birds that hung poised above the heads of flowers.

But none of these creatures was friendly with the friendliness of the deer. At the fringe of the clearing there would be a rustle of leaves ; and then, one after one, the yearling does would come peeping and prying. On the first day in camp, they would wait until we were all safely out of the way, abed ; and then all night we would hear them, pitter-pattering round, nosing for fragments of food.

Indeed, it was in the night that I saw my first deer.

Everyone else was asleep. In the centre of the teepee the last ashes still glowed. The beds of spruce smelt sweet in the night-air. It was full-moon outside. Hearing a stir, I looked up ; and there in the doorway were two bright eyes framed in rings of black.

They are tremendously curious, these gentlest and most graceful of all earth's creatures. Where we were, in the Rocky Mountain Park, no shooting is allowed ; and the deer, unused to the menace of the gun, seem only to regard men as creatures that have a habit of leaving all sorts of succulent food about the place. They soon preferred our clearing to their own play-ground. When the day began to cool, they would come scouting round ; and it was not long before they were at their pranks, almost in the midst of us, leaping, running, and playing like children. They would vault the fallen trees like puffs of thistledown, head playfully at each other, and turn in excited circles with their eyes gleaming. All except the bucks : they, lordly creatures, would stand watchfully by, keeping a stern look-out. So mildly tolerant they stood, as if to say, " Well, I suppose it's all right, but really they do seem extraordinarily flippant to-night ! "

I said their friendliness was emphasized for me, up in those virgin mountains. Was it, perhaps, that their playfulness did something to mitigate the unpeopled wildness ? Here was no priat of man, and my spirit was afraid in that loneliness. In Europe (in the Black Forest, for instance) you are never far from some trace of man : at the cross-ways a crucifix, in the core of the forest a chapel-of-ease. The spirit of man is at home, even in the most primitive of European forests ; for they hold the echoes still of saint and hermit—St. Christopher here, and there St. Eustace envisioning the Cross.

But the Rockies are pagan, always, everywhere. Save ss here the railway winds miraculously through them, curling in and out the snowy peaks, there is no life save that of the wilds, and never the slightest hint of a traditional past, built up through the ages, out of man's hope and faith in his divinity. Therefore I shall remember, especially, one sight I had of those ghostly deer. Our camp that day was in the clearing of a valley. One way it looked up to a Pass, where the sun rose. I slept in .the open, facing that Pass. With the first light of morning I woke : and there before Me, on a golden cloth of rock-roses, stood a deer—between its antlers, not the Cross, but the fiery globe of the Sun C. HENRY WARREN.