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Now the bee, as he hums along, seems to be talking heavily of the heat. Now doors and brick-walls are burning to the hand; and a walled lane, with dust and broken bottles in it, near a brickfield, is a thing not to be thought of. Now a green lane, on the contrary, thick set with hedgerow elms, and having the noise of a brook, "rumbling" in pebble-stone, is one of the pleasantest things in the world. Now youths and damsels walk through hay-fields by chance; and the latter say, "Ha' done, then, William!" and the overseer in the next field calls out to "Let thic thear hay thear bide;" and the girls persist, merely to plague such a frumpish old fellow.
Now, in town, gossips talk more than ever one to another, in rooms, in door-ways, and out of windows, always beginning the conversation with saying that the heat is overpowering. Now blinds are let down, and doors thrown open, and flannel waistcoats left off, and cold meat preferred to hot, and wonder expressed why tea continues so refreshing, and people delight to sliver lettuces into bowls, and apprentices water doorways with tin cannisters that lay several atoms of dust. Now the water-cart, jumbling along the middle of the streets, and jolting the showers out of its box of water, really does something. Now boys delight to have a water-pipe let out, and set it bubbling away in a tall and frothy volume. Now fruiterers' shops and dairies look pleasant, and ices are the only things to those who can get them. Now ladies loiter in baths; and people make presents of flowers; and wine is put into ice; and the after-dinner lounger recreates his head with applications of perfumed water out of long-necked bottles. Now the lounger who cannot resist riding his new horse feels his boots burn him. Now five fat people in a stage-coach, hate the sixth fat one who is coming in, and think he has no right to be so large. Now clerks in offices do nothing, but drink soda-water and spruce-beer, and read the newspaper. Now the old-clothes man drops his solitary cry more deeply into the areas on the hot and forsaken sides of the street; and bakers look vicious; and cooks are aggravated; and the steam of a tavern kitchen catches hold of one like the breath of Tartarus. Now delicate skins are beset with gnats; and boys make their sleeping companion start up, with playing
a burning-glass on his hand; and blacksmiths are supercarbonated ; and cobblers in their stalls almost feel a wish to be transported; and butter is too easy to spread; and the dragoons wonder the Romans liked their helmets ; and old ladies, with their lappets unpinned, walk along in a state of dilapidation; and the servant maids are afraid they look vulgarly hot; and the author who has a plate of strawberries brought him, finds that he has come to the end of his writing.-LEIGH HUNT.
MEADOWS IN SUMMER.
There are few people, says Mr. Jesse, who do not enjoy a walk on a fine, smiling day, in summer, along meadows through which a stream of water takes its restless and meandering course. For my own part, in such a spot, I always find something to interest and amuse me, and especially when the grass is just ready for the scythe. Even the rustic bridge which enables me to quit the sweets of the bean-field for the less powerful, but more delicate perfumes of my favourite meadows, is not without its interest. The trunk of an old pollard-willow thrown across the little streamlet forms the bridge, and on one side, an equally rude rail has been nailed between two small alders to assist the timid in making good their passage ; sedges and meadow-sweet, and here and there a bunch of brambles, mixed with honeysuckles, may be seen along the sides of the clear and silent stream. On
On approaching them a rat jumps into the water, and rapidly makes his way to the opposite bank. At the same time perhaps a water-hen takes the alarm, and may be observed stealing along the sides of the stream, sometimes hidden by the sedges, and then appearing in wind again, giving a sort of jerk with her beak and white tail, and occasionally uttering a plaintive call to induce her little black brood to follow her.
As I pursue my walk along the foot-path, the pretty tufted vetch, the cammock, the great burnet, the cuckooflower, and various other plants attract my attention. I disturb a bitting, or meadow-pipit, and it settles at a little distance on the stalk of a wild sorrel plant, quivering with its wings, and then rising again slowly, it hovers in the air for an instant, and warbles sweetly till it alights on the ground. The skylark sings his song of love over my head, and distant as he is, every note may be heard, owing to the calmness of the day.
Butterflies of various sorts may be seen in every direction, sometimes settling on the flowers, and at others sporting together in the most joyous manner; whilst grasshoppers and numerous other insects produce a sort of harmony which cannot be unpleasing. Such is a meadow scene on a fine summer day.
In pursuing my walk, I come to a small copse of old oak trees, with an underwood of hazels, and a few hollies interspersed here and there. Earlier in the year the ground is covered with a profusion of bluebells and primroses. They have now disappeared, but the tangled honeysuckles, the dog-roses and various other flowers, give a cheerfulness to the spot, and here too I can enjoy the coolness of the shade. The stream has taken a sudden bend, and runs close under the copse. Insects play between the water and the orerhanging branches of an oak tree, while a thrush sings his melodious notes on a topmost bough.
The thrush-haunted copse
Hum drowsy lullabies.
my walk through the copse, I on one occasion disturbed a wren, and soon afterwards found its nest by the side of the stump of an old thorn-tree. I like to see the bustle and activity of these minute birds during the time they have young ones. They then show great anxiety, and appear in a bush or along a hedge more like mice than birds.
The water-crake is sometimes found in the meadows; it is, however, a scarce bird with us, and exceedingly shy and solitary. It is said to form a buoyant nest, which rises and falls with the water, and is moored to the stalk of a reed or bullrush. It shows great ingenuity and perseverance in avoiding dogs, running and skulking among high grass and rushes, so that it is difficult to get it on the wing. The
young ones, both of this bird and the water-ben, do not appear to require the care of the mother for any length of time, as they soon leave her.
It was on my return from a walk in these meadows that I had an opportunity of observing the almost total loss of the power of self-preservation in a rabbit which was pursued by two weasels. It appeared to lose that aetivity and cunning which I have so often observed in it when pursued by dogs. It will then steal from brake to brake on its hind legs, listening to every sound, and will, when necessary, creep into its hole. In the present instance, however, ali its faculties appeared to be paralysed while the weasels were in pursuit. It bounded about in a sort of circle, shrieking with terror, and seemingly incapable of getting away from its enemies, who would soon have destroyed it had it not been for my interference. Its hole is always avoided by a rabbit when pursued by weasels. I have been assured that weasels have been known to hunt hares and rabbits in small packs, and it is certain that they hunt by the scent.
It has always struck me as a curious fact that a dead bird is very rarely met with. When we consider the countless myriads of birds of various kinds, and how few of them, comparatively speaking, are killed by man, or taken alive, it becomes a matter of curious inquiry what becomes of the vast remainder. It
may be thought that when disease or old age overtakes them, they get into holes and hedges and die. But who ever found any in such places ? Or it may be said that vermin devour great numbers, and that many destroy each other; but how seldom is the skeleton or the remnant feathers of a dead bird seen, compared with the multitudes whose existence is not ended untimely.
The fly-catcher is one of the earliest of the migratory birds which leave us. I have sometimes missed them within a fortnight from the time at which the brood have quitted their nest. It is surprising that such young and tender birds should have strength sufficient to perform their migration.
Ye have been fresh and green,
Yo have been filled with Aowers, And ye the walks have been
Where maids have spent their hours. Ye have beheld where they
With wicker arks did come,
The richer cowslips home.
And seen them in a round,
With honeysuckles crowned. But now we see none here
Whose silvery feet did tread, And with disheveli'd hair
Adorned this smoother mead.
Your stock, and needy grown;