« PreviousContinue »
scarcely any sort of bird that comes within the groundsel in the world would never, I am very compass
of moderate means which he has not sure, reconcile me to a cage, do not so heartily possessed at one period or another. Once sympathize in this taste of my dear father's as during the twenty years that we lived in a I do in most of his other pursuits — even I, large country-house, with its spacious lawn, albeit no bird-fancier, could not help being ocits extensive paddock, and noble piece of wa- casionally diverted by the saucy, chattering ter, he assembled a great quantity of domestic jays, starlings, and jackdaws, which it was game, if such a phrase be admissible; pretty the especial delight of that saucy, chattering, speckled partridges - too pretty to be eaten; diverting personage, Master Ben, our factopheasants of all varieties, from the splendid tum, (groom, gardener, page, and jester,) to English bird to its eastern rivals, the golden bring about the place. "Pre-eminent over all and the silver; and a large assortment of wa- other talking-birds, and unrivalled since the ter-fowl, from the queenly swan down to the days of Vert-vert, was the magpie in question. trim little Dutch teal. King Charles himself He, for a wonder, was not of Ben's importing. never had a more extensive collection, or took Whence he came nobody knew, although the greater delight in tending and cherishing his old molecatcher, who was also the parish sexfeathered subjects. But these half-civilized ton, and whom he followed for a whole hour savages proved attractive to two orders of mis- in the twilight as he was setting his traps to creants,-poachers pursued them by day, and catch an underground enemy that infested my thieves by night; and, dead or alive, shot or pansy-beds, alternately shouting to him by his stolen, the domesticated partridges and tame name of Peter Tomkins in one ear, and imiwild ducks gradually disappeared. To them tating the tolling of a bell in the other, insinusucceeded all manner of curious poultry--pea- ated to me, with a look of great horror, that cocks, pied and white; together with that the fewer questions were asked upon that subcommoner but most gorgeous kind, who flaunts ject the better; the creature was certainly no his starry train over the grass, and whose better than he should be. Nobody could tell graceful vanity so becomes his stately beauty, for whom that bel] would toll next.' And off adorned our farm-yard, accompanied by Mus- shuffled poor Peter, fancying himself a doomed covy ducks, Poland fowls, Friezland hares, man. For certain, Mag's first appearance had crested bantams, and so forth. Then followed been somewhat in character with the good pigeons of all denominations fantails, pouters, sexton's suspicions. He had hopped down carriers, nuns, and dragons crowded our dove the walk and stopped opposite the glass-door cote. But somehow or other our ill-luck con- of our garden-room, where we were sitting tinued. The poultry had a trick of dying, and with several friends, and one amongst them the pigeons flew away; so that my father re- happened to inquire the hour. • What's solved to confine himself to the aviary, and o'clock?' reiterated Mag, in a soft, slow, distook to breeding canaries, and had the honour tinct voice; • Half-past four.' And upon conof carrying away the prize for three birds of sulting watches, and that very true time-teller, the three orthodox kinds, jonque, pied, and the sun, as he threw his beams upon the old mealy, from nearly two hundred competitors. dial, half-past four it was; and everybody Long, too long would it be to tell of all the stared at the bird as he stood upon one leg, smaller songsters, the larks, linnets, thrushes, with his head a little on one side, looking very and blackbirds, the bullfinches, goldfinches, knowing and exceedingly ragged and dirty, as and all the finches of the grove,' as well as your tame magpie is apt to do. Everybody of the owls, hawks, crows, and ravens, the stared at the bird, and laughed, and said that birds of day and the birds of night, which have it was a strange coincidence, as everybody at different times occupied his attention. Suf- does say upon such occasions. fice it to say, that in the month of August last Mag's further proceedings were in keeping our feathered family consisted of two nightin- with this oracular entrée. A saucy bird he gales, one of which had been in our possession was, and a mischievous; singing, whistling, for sixteen months, singing all day (for in a sneezing, coughing, blowing his nose, laughcage the nightingale only sings during day-ing, crying, knocking at doors, ringing of light) with matchless strength and power, bells, thieving, and hiding with singular dexfrom the first of October to the last of June; a terity. He caught up and repeated with repiping bullfinch, a linnet, two starlings, and markable facility all that was said, and really the magpie whose adventures and accomplish- seemed as if he understood its purport. For ments form the subject of this true history. instance, I one day said to him, Mag, if you Amongst our infinite variety of feathered bi- bite my finger, I will never give you any more peds, the class which in default of a better fruit or sugar.' And although I regularly did name I shall take leave to denominate talking-feed him every day with sugar and fruit, mine birds, had been upon the whole the most dis- were the only fingers in the house that remained tinguished. Even I, who, partly on account unbitten. He certainly, too, could apply names of the tragical termination of many of our pets, to their rightowners. One of his great delights partly because I so dearly love freedom and was to summon all the servants about him; the greenwood, that all the hemp-seed and sometimes in his own soft, distinct tone; some
times by imitating, with a wonderful clearness, | tire night, he had taken care to re-appear in my voice or his master's. •Ben! John! Mar- the morning at Ben's bedroom window with tha! Lucy! Marianne!' And when he had got his usual tap, tap, tap, against the glass, and them all around him, "Go, he would say, the grave business-like summons,— Past six • Go to — ;' and when everybody was ex- o'clock, Ben! Time to get up!'.—wherewith pecting something as naughty as Vert-vert he was wont, as regularly as the clock struck, would have said, after his voyage in the coche to awaken that trusty domestic. Only the d'eau had contaminated his manners, he would Tuesday before, Mag had been absent for a suddenly break into a laugh, and finish his sen- longer period than common; but, directed by tence with ‘Go to Jerusalem! Go to Jerusalem!' a singular noise of fierce and angry jabbering, He never failed to call over this bead roll of something like the scolding of women in a names at least once a day, and if the wrong per- passion, he had been discovered in a field at son answered, Lucy for Marianne, or Martha for the bottom of the garden, engaged in a furious Lucy, he would stamp his little foot, and scold, disputation with two wild birds of his own and storm, and refuse to be pacified until the species, earnestly defending a bare and dirty offender begged pardon and asked him to begin bone, his own property doubtless, from the inhis catalogue again. Sometimes he added the cursions of these intruders. That Mag had dogs to the list, and the greyhounds—a sim- fought with other weapons than his tongue, ple, credulous, innocent race – readily an- and been worsted—that he was very glad when swered to his call. Once, and but once, he our approach frightened away his opponentstook in Flush, a beautiful little brown cocking was quite plain; but they being gone, be spaniel, a greater pet even than himself, and gladly followed us home in the opposite direcinfinitely more sagacious. •Flush!' said tion, and had, up to this unfortunate Friday, Mag, with an imitation of my voice that was (for it was upon this day of ill-luck that we even startling; and Flush, who was looking missed our poor bird,) conducted himself with forward to our evening walk, threw down his a degree of prudence and discretion that showed bone and ran to answer the summons. • Flush! him to have taken warning by his contest and repeated Mag, in the same tone, with a nod and discomfiture. On that Friday, however, he a laugh! In my life I never saw such a mix- was missing from noon to night; the next ture of shame and anger as my beautiful pet's morning dawned—six o'clock struck-but no large bright eyes exhibited. Mag tried the magpie tapped at the window to call Ben; he trick again. But it failed. The perfect good was neither in the house nor the garden, on faith of the gentle and faithful little creature, the trees or the chimneys. That the poor bird who, never deceiving, could not suspect deceit, was lost seemed indisputable; and so strong had enabled the knavish bird to cheat him was the general impression of his attachment once; but the imposition once detected, be- to us, and of his sagacity, that we were pretty came, so far as Flush was concerned, altoge- generally convinced that he must have been ther powerless.
stolen. Who might be the thief was not so Nevertheless, there was no resisting a cer- easy to determine. Aberleigh is situated upon tain degree of liking for the poor bird, whose a well-frequented road leading from one great stock of drollery-for every day he came out town to another, and our cottage stands in the with something fresh — really seemed inex- centre of the village street. Moreover, hold-' haustible. He had a cage, to which, being ing a sort of middle station between the gentry, generally fed there, he frequently retired of his to whom we belong by birth, and habits, and own free-will. One day, ver, he was old associations, and the country people, almissing; that tongue of his was a thing to be most our equals in fortune, who all resort to! missed, just as the near neighbours of a mill my dear father for advice and assistance in or a church-steeple would soon feel the absence their little difficulties, there is scarcely a perof the clapper and the chimes. He had left son within ten miles who does not occasionally the premises more than once before, and had pay a visit to our habitation. Then Ben's ac.' led Ben and John a dance amongst all the quaintance! gardeners, gamekeepers, crickettrees and cottages of Aberleigh-appearing and ers, grooms! Ben knows the whole county! disappearing—now on the ground and now on And although it would be rather too affronting the house-top, and playing at bo-peep among to suspect one's friends and acquaintances of the roofs and chimneys in a manner more pro- thievery, yet they amongst whom the magpie voking than words can tell; so that Ben, after was deservedly popular, had of course confairly lodging his new straw hat on the branches tributed to diffuse his reputation. of a pear-tree from the topmost bough of which On that unlucky Friday, too, we had had Mag, swinging much at his ease, had thought even more visiters than common. Two or fit to hail him with his usual • How d'ye do, three sets of people had come from London by Master Ben ?' had fairly given up the chase in railway; five or six neighbouring families had despair. Once, twice, thrice, had Mag eloped ; called; the coursing-season was coming on, but then the tricksy spirit had never failed to and two or three brace of greyhounds had been make itself audible ; and even when, upon one brought by their respective owners to be comcreasion, he had absented himself for one en-pared with our dogs; a flower-show was ap
proaching, and half-a-dozen gardeners had of the boats, consisting of four lovely young
been backward and forward amongst zinnias women, singing like nightingales, and, as it and dahlias; a cricket-match was pending, and seemed, from the same impulse of a full and the greater part of the two elevens had come joyous heart, who went backward and forward to arrange the day and the hour; one constable upon the water, spreading abroad melody, as had arrived for orders to send off an encamp- the sun diffuses light, or the roses their perment of gipsies, who had established them- fume. That craft was naturally looked to as selves in Woodcock-lane, and another had the one from which we should derive most come for a warrant to take up a party of va- pleasure, but we hardly, on embarking, antigrants caught in the fact of poaching and sus- cipated the kind of amusement which it was pected of sheep-stealing at Hinton-Down. destined to afford. It so happened, that one Who was the thief was still a mystery! But of their rowers was accidentally detained, when day after day had passed over, and no and another compelled to take the managetidings arrived of our bird, that he was stolen ment of the boat containing the children, so became the firm conviction of our whole that our pretty songstresses fell to the charge family. Sorry, however, as we were for the of one solitary boatman, who, taking care that merrry, saucy little creature, whose spirit of no real harm should befall them, seemed to enjoyment and activity of intellect seemed so find some diversion in plunging them and himdisproportioned to his diminutive form and low self into small difficulties; and, the rudder rank in the scale of living beings, still the being unshipped, they, so to say, staggered recollection began to wear away; and when, about upon the water as if the boat were tipsy; at the expiration of a week, we sallied forth to now running aground upon an island, now partake of a déjeûner in the beautiful grounds taking a snag, (to borrow a phrase current of Aberleigh Great House, our domestic cala- upon the Mississippi ;) now caught (by veil mity was, to say the truth, pretty nearly for- and bonnet) in the bushes upon one bank, now gotten. Never was a more delightful little entangled in the sedges upon the other, until party than assembled by the side of the clear the sirens of the Loddon, half-frightened and I brimming Loddon on a glorious afternoon, half-amused, mixed screams and squalls with near the end of August. The day was so the sweet strains of the Canadian boat-song, sultry that the tables were laid under some and shrieks of laughter with • A boat, a boat magnificent elms upon the lawn, forming, with unto the ferry.' its adjuncts of picturesque architecture, of ex After shooting the bridge, matters grew quisite scenery, of lovely young women and worse. They had sailed from harbour so long thrice lovely children, a picture of gay and before our boat, that we had hitherto, only courtly elegance worthy of Watteau. The looked and laughed at the strange tacks, voldéjeuner, however, sumptuous and luxurious untary and involuntary, which their skift had as it was, formed by no means the chief at- taken. But now, gallantly manned and ably traction of the day. Under the long, lofty steered, we shot ahead of them, drowning o terrace, crowned with old firs and lime trees, Pescator dell'onde' by such a torrent of river which forms the boundary of Aberleigh Park, wit as shall not be exceeded from Gravesend the Loddon, spreading for nearly a mile into to Kew. At last, when, amid laughing and an almost lake-like expanse, rivals the Thames singing, and quiet enjoyment, the mists were in consequence, whilst it far surpasses it in rising in the meadows, and the moon looking beauty; and then, narrowing as it is spanned down into that bright mirror, the still smooth by the low arches of the bridge, glides along stream, we took our fair damsels in tow, and amongst quiet water-meadows with a pastoral prepared to return homeward. Looking up as seclusion and tranquillity which would have we were about to shoot the centre arch of the enchanted Izaak Walton. A row up this bridge, I saw a strange vagabondizing gipsy bright river was the express intention of the sort of light cart, that looked as if it had never party; and accordingly, the grand question of paid any duty, passing above it; and while oars or sculls being decided, water bailed out, our mermaids were singing, with a delightful rowlocks and thowls examined, we set forth unity of their young voices, in three as pretty skiffs as may be seen be
" Oft in the stilly night, tween Battersea and Putney Bridge; ourselves
Ere slumber's charm hasas merry and happy a set of people as are often assembled in this work-a-day world.
• bound me,' they would have added, but that Some were sailors — one especially, most charm was broken by a well-known voice from worthy of that honoured name, which is the above, which pronounced with startling dissynonyme of all that is frank, and kind, and tinctness, «Go, go, go to Jerusalem! Was true-hearted in man; and one who, by some it my magpie, or was it his wraith? Of course, mistake in destiny, is not really a sailor, but by night, a good mile from our landing-place, who possesses all the attributes and almost and then a mile back again to the bridge, all the skill-some were sailors, some were sol- search or inquiry was hopeless. I told the diers, some gentlemen at large; but the charm story when I got home, and found the whole of the party was felt to be the freight of one / village divided in opinion. Some thought with
me that the gipsies had hold of him ; some old mansion of Bramshill, and the parsonage with my father that he had been stolen by the at Heckfield, where Mrs. Trollope passed her more regular thieves; some thought that it was early days, to the left. Then we pass through a trick ; some that it was a mistake; and some a succession of wild woodland country, to the held with Peter Tompkins that the magpie was little town of Odiham; plunging again into no magpie after all, but an incarnation of the forest-like glades, until we cross a high, barEvil One in black and white plumage. Again ren, heathy ridge called the Hog's Back, the was poor Mag forgotten, as, one bright Šep- view from the top of which forms a superb and tember morning, we set forth towards Farn- extensive panorama. Descending this long, ham, a pretty old-fashioned town, overlooked steep, and lofty hill, we find ourselves once by the bishop's palace, with its stately trees more amidst cultivation ; quaint old-fashioned and extensive park, and famous for its hop- villages, sunk deep in the valley, and patches gardens, and for Mr. Garth's geraniums, where of hop-gardens intersecting the fields. The in one small greenhouse he rivals in splendour, hop-gatherers were busy in taking down and although not in extent, Mr. Foster's exquisite stripping the long poles, the English vintage; collection, and equals him in hospitality and and the vines hung like garlands in rich kindness. It is something remarkable, I wreaths of leaves and flowers intertwined one think, something pleasant as well as remark- with another, and diffusing around the bitter able, and peculiar to our age and country, that racy aroma of the fragrant plant, dear to the two English gentlemen should surpass, by the lovers of mighty ale. A pretty scene it was mere effect of taste and skill, the efforts of the and a stirring. We stopped the carriage at working gardeners, whose livelihood depends the gate, to view it more closely, and listen upon their flowers, with the strong stimulus of to the gay jests and merriment of the many the desire of gain on the one hand, and the groups collected on the ground. There is enormous resources of wealth as lavished in something contagious in real, hearty mirth, the green-houses of our great noblemen on the and Ben, our driver, without knowing why,
other. To raise a magnificent geranium is to joined in the laugh. Apparently his peculiar increase and multiply beauty, and to strengthen laughter was recognised; for in a moment we and diffuse the feeling of the beautiful in this heard from the other side of the gate, · Ben! work-a-day world. Art herself does little how d’ye do, Ben? Glad to see you, Master more. The road from Aberleigh to Farnham Ben! Go to Jerusalem ! in Mag's most tripasses through very pretty and very interesting umphant tones ; and this time we did not hear; scenery. We leave Strathfieldsaye and Sil- in vain. We recovered our bird ; and here he chester, emblems of the present and the past, is at this moment, happiest, sauciest and most to the right; and Sir John Cope's magnificent sagacious of magpies.
MISS MITFORD'S POETICAL WORKS.
FOSCARI, A TRAGEDY.
A different track she follows-Oh! forgive
THE subject of the following Play is taken from a domestic tragedy in the history of Venice, and was suggested to the Authoress by an interesting narrative of that event in Dr. Moore's Travels. It is scarcely, perhaps, necessary to say here in prose, what the Prologue repeats in verse, that her piece was not only completed, but actually presented to Covent Garden Theatre, before the publication of Lord Byron's well-known drama : a fact which hap pily exculpates her from any charge of a vain imitation of the great Poet, or of a still vainer rivalry.
Foscari, Doge of Venice.
St. Mark's Place.
For riches famed of yore, and once as free As her own element, the bounding sea, Fair Venice now, fall'n from her“ palmy stale," Broods o'er her palace-city desolate; Each mart deserted, each Palladian hall Vacant and ruinous, proclaims her fall. Yet still one triumph of her ancient fame Gilds her decay, and lingers round her name ; "Tis that beneath the proud Venetian dome The Tragic Muse hath fixed her favourite home ; "T is that her very name makes young hearts glow With deep remembrance of some glorious woe. There Shylock whelted his relentless knife ; There poor Othello won his murdered wife; 'There Pierre, stout traitor, the awed State defied; There Jaffier loved, and Belvidera died. And there the immortal Bard, who all too soon Fell in the blaze of Fame's effulgent noon, Lamented Byron! twice a tale hath told of princely anguish in the days of old : How 'gainst the Senate Faliero fired With vengeful hate by their stern doom expired; And his severer fate, condemned to try His guiltless son, the good Doge Foscari. That tale of woe, but with an humbler flight And weaker wing, our Authoress of to-night Hath brought before ye. Deem not of it worse That 't is a theme made sacred by his verse. Ere his bold Tragedy burst into day, Her trembling hand had closed this woman's play.
Count Erizzo and Celso meeting Donato.
What, Celso, thou turned courtier!
What is your suit?
None more capable.
Scarcely, I think ; and yet