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used to work the hedgerows in autumn and winter with his spaniels on the look-out for pheasant or rabbit or hare. Then the fencing was seen and it was worth doing well. Now no one takes much note of it—and so too often it is done anyhow. But let us get away from men and their doings and occupations, from the farm and the labourers. Country life is not made up of these interests wholly. There is the realm of Nature around us, and we may go and hold sweet though silent intercourse with it, learning some of its secrets and making friends with its countless inhabitants. Someone has said, someone who evidently had seen too much of the arts and artifices of town life, that you find no adulteration, nor any flimsily-made things in Nature. No shoddy-dressed birds can be discovered. No painted flower discloses its sham on nearest approach. Everything is perfect and beautiful. Take a ramble in the wood in spring-time. Watch the rabbits at their play, running round and round, and crossing and re-crossing, and skipping, as though they were dancing a quadrille to the songs of the birds above. And look at those nimble little squirrels as they run round and up the trunk of that tree, dodging each other, as it seems, at a game of touch-who-touch-can. There! they see you, and are off along the boughs and springing from tip to tip of the branches as though the trees were their highway, as indeed they are. And look at those beautiful but mischievous jays, as they gleam in the sunlight, their shaded backs and blue-touched wings glistening like gems. What a hoarse and unpleasant cry from such well-favoured birds. Ah, that cry means something in the way of news or delight. See they have found a wood pigeon's nest and are helping themselves to the two white eggs. No doubt they are
preserving the balance of Nature, though their ways seem out of harmony with the song and murmur of life around us. There is Philomel trilling a tiny lay in the sunlight. We shall not hear more than a few notes of her rippling song at this hour ; but you may encourage a repetition by imitating that first plaintive note. 'Tis as though she were practising some difficult passages for performance to-night, when all other voices are silent. Just above our heads bursts out a flood of song little short of the nightingale's in beauty. It is the blackcap, and as we stand to listen, we are suddenly aware that within three yards of our feet two soft dark eyes are peering at us with wistful glance, as who should say, “Please go away." It is a pheasant upon her nest, and we would not disturb or frighten her on any account. What is that tap, tap, tap, like someone hammering nails into wood? There it is, somewhere in yonder oak tree. It is a little bird with an elongated bill and the shape of a kingfisher—a nuthatch, busily at work culling out the insects that lie hidden in the crevices of the bark. And here is the nest of the blue tit so exquisitely fashioned in the midst of a thorn bush. Beneath our feet is a carpet of bright and varied hue, the delicate primrose and wild hyacinth set-off by the background of varied green. Let us step down to the banks of the river or burn, and spend a time watching its inhabitants and attendants. The water as it flows along, now calm and peaceful, now tumbling over rock and rapid, now tossed down the fall and throwing its bright spray like diamonds over the mossy fern-covered banks of the pool below, is full of movement and life. The ousel, the kingfisher, the dipper make sport amongst the boulders, or under the waterfall, or in the crevices of the banks. The cautious heron rises from his patient fishing at man's approach, and slowly cleaves the air as he soars on high to seek a safer spot. The water rat, more bold, runs along the bank and lets you watch his movements without concern. Here is an overhanging tree whose branches spread out above the stream. Let us take a quiet seat amongst the leaves and watch the fish beneath. Quick of sight beyond measure the trout will see the smallest move, but up here amongst the branches, motionless, we may observe him. No sign of him at first, for he is disturbed by our movement. Presently a fine fellow comes into sight, swimming very leisurely up the stream, with nose near the surface. He is on the feed and watches every tiny speck that the stream carries down. If he likes the look of it he will rise, open his mouth and suck it in. If it turn out a delusion, such as the empty case of some fly or moth, he will disgorge at once. All this is done in a listless, lazy way, with scarce a movement of the fins or tail. But here comes floating down a may fly, not long set free from its case, with wings erect, gauze-like, and shimmering in the sun. He sees it. The listlessness is gone, and with a dart and a plunge he secures the delicate morsel. Presently a damaged bee floats by. He hurries up to it, looks it over, swims round it, looks at it again, seems irresolute for a moment, then springs out of the water and strikes the insect with his tail as he descends, thus making sure of his death by drowning before he will mouth him. Thus does our trout feed by the hour at certain times in the day, always working up a short piece of water and turning at a certain point and coming down to his starting place again; and should a smaller fish venture upon this hunting ground he is quickly driven off and put to flight. Perhaps few things strike the town-dweller when first going into the country so much as the absolute stillness and hush of country life. In these days of steam tramways, underground railways, express trains, and noisy pavements, added to the ordinary turmoil of a town, the urban inhabitant lives in the midst of a din to which he becomes indeed accustomed, but which, it may well be surmised, works a heavy wear and tear on his nerves. Nor is it until he goes into the country that he perceives what it is he lives in-the turmoil, the din, the continual roar of city life. He exclaims “How peaceful, how restful is the country!” And when in the warm summer months this peacefulness may be enjoyed in quiet ease amongst the green fields and ripening corn, the flowery hedgerows and beautiful gardens, the leafy woods and shaded watercourses, who would then exchange the country for the town 2 Many a man who has fancied himself entirely devoted to town life, but has been forced into the country, has found out what a mistake he had been making, and how infinitely preferable the country is to the town to live in ; how full of interests it is, and how those interests increase and grow, making what, after all, is the great desideratum of humanity—a little world of our own, from which we may go forth at will, and mix with others and sharpen mind with mind, and to which we may return, bringing our experiences and our knowledge, be they for better or for worse—a microcosm into which we may retire and be at rest when weary of the turmoil and strife of the world around us—a circle of interests which are not dependent upon excitement, nor upon the goodwill of others, nor upon fashion, but which spring from Nature, and may be enjoyed naturally.
By JOHN JONES, F.R.G.S.,
Author of various articles on “India " : Vice-President of the Horological Society of
Great Britain : Past Master of the Zurmers' Company; Member of the Society of
Arts : formerly Member of the Honourable East India Company; and a well-known speaker at the Bank of England and other City Meetings.
THE pleasure of a country home is that of a home with Nature, her seasons in their varied moods of kindness and unkindness come before you with full simplicity and grandeur. The great concave of the hemispherical sky, bounded by the horizon, whether of the water of the sea, or the hills of the land, is a home that belongs to a king, and daily presents phenomena that expand and exalt the thoughts. Why is the visible sky thus arched 2–is it not the result of our own ocular configuration, the photographic plate of our own retina 2 yet how needful it is to form the modes of measurement, which determine time and place. The aspect of the clouds is a continual charm, now in dark battalions sailing along one knows not where, now resting idly suspended in light fleecy vapours beneath the all-spreading blue. The earth responds to every changing influence of the sky; clay fields become solid as concrete beneath the sun, but broken into multiform segments. Sandy land loses its cohesion, and would almost attempt the enterprise of migration.