« PreviousContinue »
swamp or a tuft of heather without finding in it a fairy tale of which I could but decipher here and there a line or two, and yet found them more interesting than all the books, save one, which were ever written upon earth."
[NotE.—I would recommend all young people who indulge in Pets to read Mrs. Brightwen's two books, “Wild Nature won by Kindness,” and “More about Wild Nature,” published by Mr. T. Fisher Unwin.]—C. F. D.
SOME PLEASURES OF A COUNTRY LIFE.
By “HERMIT,” Contributor to Zhe Field, etc.
THE difference between the town and the country has been said to be that man makes the town, God made the country. If this be a somewhat arbitrary distinction, yet at least it may be granted that in the town we see man's artifices in perfection, whereas in the country we see “Nature unadorned.” And so it might be argued, and with Something of logical truth, that life in the town is, to a great extent, artificial, whilst life in the country is, or ought to be, natural. It is to be feared, however, that the artificiality of town life is too often transferred to the country, and this much to the detraction of country life. For what can be more absurd than to see your out-andout town dweller producing himself, with the aid of several attendants, in all the precision and beauty and polish of his town “get up,” to dawdle away the weary hours of a visit to the country, abusing the weather, the mud, the awkward stiles and ditches, and the all-round discomfort he naturally feels in so unnatural a position. For to enjoy the country and its life it should be an axiom that man must put off artifice and study Nature. It is very well for the superior metropolitan to speak disparagingly of his country cousins as country clowns, but when these clowns get him down into the country he probably soon finds out what a fool they can make of him. Let the axiom above alluded to be accepted, and much of the nonsense and artifice of modern luxury, which is being too frequently transferred from town to country, will be renounced, and visitors to or dwellers in the country will determine to be in the country what countrymen ought to be—natural. Nay, probably many visitors would become dwellers were they once to throw off the slavery under which they serve in town life. Not the least of this tyranny arises from the multiplication of servants. It is true that in the town servants are required for a host of purposes, and that their masters and mistresses cannot well be expected to supervise, or take any great interest in, most of their work. In the country it is different. And here perhaps would come the first revolt against the artificial life of the town for anyone going to live—really live—in the country. There must be servants in the country too, but many of their duties are such that their masters or mistresses can take, and would be the better for taking, an interest in them. There is the farmyard, the poultry yard, the garden, the stables, the kennels, the apiary, the farm— all full of interest, and most of them requiring the utmost intelligence to work well and satisfactorily. Breeding, feeding and fatting are matters quite worthy the attention of the most superior dweller in Belgravia, whose risibility, so far as that vulgar affection is allowed to assert itself, would become almost uncontrollable were he to see his country cousin, bespattered with mud, prodding and poking his well-favoured beasts. Hatching, feeding and rearing geese, fowls, ducks, pigeons, turkeys is a scientific matter, and one in which we are behind-hand in this country—probably from leaving these things entirely to those who have not the intelligence to rightly perform them. “The garden for the gardener” is a theory that many a younger member, at least, of the country-dwelling families has resented, and it is one indeed that brings an unbearable tyranny. But how comes it to exist 2 Because the gardener, too often, is the only person who knows what should be known about a garden, its fruits and vegetables and seeds, its flowers and frames, hot and cold, its forcing houses with their delicate crops of melons, pines, peaches and so forth. There is indeed some pity for the gardener whose efforts are only appreciated in the results he produces, in the fine flowers and the well-flavoured fruits he can bring to table, and yet whose efforts are sometimes frustrated by “young Miss,” whose nimble fingers act the part of procurer to her longing eyes. But if young and old alike had some intelligent interest in the raising of flowers or fruit from seed, the pruning of fruit trees, the management of plants, and all the thousand other matters that make a garden interesting, there would be less tension between gardeners and their employers, and there would be a source of pleasure perennially open to dwellers in the country. The stable there is less need to speak of for most of the interest of country houses may be said to centre around the horses. But the dogs, though often spoilt and petted, are not so generally understood and made to supply that interest without which country life must be dull. There are, indeed, dogs and dogs—some for show, some for fancy, some for tricks, and some for use. The latter, including setters, pointers, spaniels and retrievers, supply much pleasure to their owners, if they will study them and break them to work themselves. Few things are more beautiful than to see a well-broken field-dog working. And to know that you hold control over him, and that much that he does is your own teaching, is greatly to enhance the pleasure of having and using these intelligent creatures. The study of bees is becoming more general every year. Sir John Lubbock has drawn attention to these busy and interesting insects. Their use in the garden is now becoming so generally understood that few fruit growers are without them. And not only are their ways full of interest to the observer, but their work is very profitable also, and bee farms are likely to be heard of more extensively than heretofore. When we leave the immediate neighbourhood of the country house, with its garden and farmyard, and go out into the woods, or over the land, or upon the water, we find our microcosm teeming with life and with many things beside which are worthy our attention. The work of the agricultural labourer is not without interest, and it would probably improve in many respects if more notice were taken of it by those who employ this labour. Thatching forms a very important part of such labour, and the way in which it is done is of considerable value, or loss, to the farmer—be he amateur or otherwise. Where thatched cottages survive the march of improvement there is further need for the perfecting of the thatcher's art. And probably nothing improves his work more than the appreciative interest shown in it by those whose opinion he values. Then there is the hedging and ditching which are so necessary, but often so badly done. Much skill may be shown in laying a good hedge, but too often Hodge cares not for the look nor for the well-being of the hedgerow, but hacks away, cutting out what ought to be turned down, and filling up gaps with usgless branches. It would hardly be so if more notice wereoaken of his work, and a word of praise, or for that .* small reward, were bestowed on him for excel