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came from the open door, and the atmosphere charged with the fumes of tobacco and spirits; it was a place where carriers lodged or put up,—and the heads of the porters and chairmen, carrying luggage, nearly came in contact with the cage, which was hung at the foot of the staircase; yet even here did this bird sing in as mellow, as sweet, and as sprightly a manner as did those at Geneva.”
The nightingale is naturally timid and solitary, and arrives and departs alone. It appears in England from the middle of April to the beginning of May, according to the season. At first it remains in hedges and thickets on the borders of cultivated ground, where an abundant supply of food can be procured; but as soon as the larger trees are covered with foliage it retires into the woods, and hides in the thickest recesses. The neighbourhood of some purling stream is generally chosen by the bird, and the male usually has two or three favourite trees near the nest, on one or the other of which he constantly sings during the period of incubation, and never allows one of his own species to approach the spot. The nest is usually commenced about the beginning of May, and is formed with coarse weeds and dried oak-leaves on the outside, and with horse-hair, little roots, and cow-hair on the inside. It is placed near the ground in brushwood at the foot of a hedge, or on the low branches of some thick shrub, and is so slightly constructed that an attempt to displace it will often cause it to crumble to pieces. Four or five eggs of a greenish brown colour are deposited in it, and the male supplies food to the female while she is sitting. The little ones have the body covered with feathers in a fortnight from the time they are hatched, and quit the nest before they are able to fly, following their parents, as well as they can, by jumping from branch to branch. When they are fully Hedged the mother-bird leaves them to the care of her mate, and begins to construct a new nest for her second brood.
The full-grown nightingale is a bird of elegant proportions, but of unattractive plumage. It is about five inches long, two and a-half of which belong to the tail. The bill is more than half an inch long, slender, of a dull brown colour, with a yellowish tinge at the base of the lower mandible. The upper parts of the body are yellowish brown, the wings and tail dusky, with a reddish tinge at the margin of the feathers. The sides of the neck and flanks are pale ashen grey, passing into white on the throat and the middle of the belly. None of the colours are by any means decided, and there is nothing striking in the appearance of the bird. The female differs little from the male, but the head is rounder, the eyes are rather smaller, and the throat is not so white. Bechstein notices a striking resemblance between the female redstart and the nightingale, but says of the latter, “ His step and attitude are prouder, and his actions more deliberate. When he walks it is by measured regular hops. After a certain number he stops, looks at himself, shakes his wings, raises his tail gracefully, spreads it a little, stoops his head several times, raises his tail several times, and proceeds. If any object attracts his attention, he bends his head towards it, and generally looks at it with only one eye. It is true that he jumps hastily upon the insects which constitute his food; but he does not seize them as eagerly as other birds; on the contrary, he stops short, and seems to deliberate whether it is prudent to eat them or not. Generally he has a serious circumspect air, but his foresight is not proportioned to it, for he falls readily into all the snares which are laid for him. If he once escapes, however, he is not so easily caught again, and becomes as cunning as any other bird."
Some naturalists affirm that there is a part of the night in which nightingales seldom sing; that they are not, according to their name, “lovers of darkness," Þut hail the moonlight or the dawn of day. Others affirm, that they are silent only on dark and windy nights, but at other times, having once commenced their song, they continue it without intermission the whole night. “ This I know,” says Neville Wood, “ from actual observation, having more than once remained out of doors nearly the whole night, purposely to discover whether the bird or the naturalist would first be wearied. If on a dark and windy night it does not sing, it may generally be roused by imitating its strains; if this be done on a favourable night, it will commence instantly; but on a cold and chilly night it is sometimes very difficult to rouse, though I have seldom been so unfortunate as to fail
entirely. The shutting of an adjoining gate, the striking of a church clock, the passing of a cart or coach, if near a road, or even the hearing passengers walking along the hard turnpike road, will frequently cause it to commence singing; the very incidents which one might have supposed would disturb so shy a bird.”
“May 2nd. A delicious evening ;-bright sunshine; light summer air ; a sky almost cloudless, and a fresh, yet delicate verdure on the hedges and in the fields ;-an evening that seems made for a visit to my newly-discovered haunt, the mossy dell, one of the most beautiful spots in the neighbourhood, which after passing, times without number, the field which it terminates, we found out about two months ago.
“Thither accordingly we bend our way ;-through the village; up the hill; along the common; past the avenue ;
to the edge of a ravine on one side fringed with a low growth of alder, birch, and willow, on the other mossy, turfy, and bare, or only broken by bright tufts of blossomed broom. One or two old pollards almost conceal the winding road that leads across the bridge; and by the mill. How deserted the road is to-night! We have not seen a single acquaintance except poor blind Robert, laden with his sack of grass plucked from the hedges, and the little boy that leads him.
“Now we are at the entrance of the corn-field which leads to the dell, and which commands so fine a view of the Loddon, the mill, the great farm, with its picturesque outbuildings, and the range of woody hills beyond. It is impossible not to pause a moment at that gate, the landscape, always beautiful, is so suited to the season and the hour,--so bright and gay and spring-like.
“At the end of the field, which when seen from the road, seems terminated by a thick dark coppice, we come suddenly down the descent, by the side of which a spring as bright as crystal runs gurgling along. The dell itself is an irregular piece of broken ground, in some parts very deep, intersected by two or three high banks of equal irregularity, now abrupt and bare, and rock-like, now crowned with tufts of the feathery willow or magnificent old thorns. Everywhere the earth is covered by short, fine turf mixed with mosses, soft, beautiful, and various, and embossed with the speckled leaves and lilac flowers of the arum, the paler blossoms of the common orchis, the enamelled blue of the wild hyacinth, so splendid in the evening light, and large tufts of oxlips and cowslips rising like nosegays from the short turf.
“ The ground on the other side of the dell is much lower than the field through which we came, so that it is mainly to the labyrinthine intricacy of these high banks that it owes its singular character of wildness and variety. Now we seemed hemmed in by those green cliffs, shut out from all the world, with nothing visible but those verdant mounds and the deep blue sky; now by some sudden turn we get a peep at an adjoining meadow, where the sheep are lying, dappling its sloping surface like the small clouds on the summer heaven. Poor, harmless, quiet creatures, how still they are! Some socially lying side by side; some grouped in threes and fours; some quite apart. Ah! there are lambs
amongst them! pretty, pretty lambs! nestled in by their mothers. Soft, quiet, sleepy things ! Not all so quiet though! There is a party of those young lambs as wide awake as heart can desire ; half-a-dozen of them playing together, frisking, dancing, leaping, butting, and crying in the young voice which is so pretty a diminutive of the full
How beautiful they are with their innocent spotted faces, their mottled feet, their long curly tails, and their light flexible forms frolicking like so many kittens; but with a gentleness, an assurance of sweetness and innocence which no kitten, nothing that ever is to be a cat can have. How complete and perfect is their enjoyment of existence ! Ah! little rogues, your play has been too noisy; you have awakened your mammas, and two or three of the old ewes are getting up, and one of them marching gravely to the troop of lambs has selected her own, given it a gentle butt and trotted off; the poor rebuked lamb following meekly, but every now and then stopping and casting a longing look at its playmates; who after a moment's awed pause, had resumed their gambols; whilst the stately dam every now and then looked back in her turn to see that her young one was following. At last she lay down and the lamb by her side. I never saw so pretty a pastoral before.
“I have seen one, however, which affected me much more. Walking in the church lane with one of the young ladies of the vicarage, we met a large flock of sheep, with the usual retinue of shepherds and dogs. Lingering after them and almost out of sight, we encountered a straggling ewe, now trotting along, now walking, and every now and then stopping to look back, and bleating. A little behind her came a lame lamb, bleating occasionally, as if in answer to its dam, and doing its very best to keep up with her. It was a lameness of both the fore-feet, the knees were bent, and it seemed to walk on the very edge of the hoof-on tip-toe, if I may venture such an expression. My young friend thought that the lameness proceeded from original malformation; I am rather of opinion that it was accidental, and that the poor creature was wretchedly footsore. However that might be, the pain and difficulty with which it took every step were not to be mistaken; and the distress and fondness of the mother, her perplexity as the flock passed gradually