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The morning came, when neighbour Hodge,
Climb'd, like a squirrel, to his dray,*
'Tis Providence alone secures
But in the sunshine strikes the blow.-Cowper. * Dray.] Waggon. The nest was so placed that Hodge could reach it by climbing upon his waggon.
EYES AND NO EYES; OR, THE ART OF
WELL, Robert, where have you been walking this afternoon? (said Mr. Andrews to one of his pupils at the close of a holiday.)
R. I have been, Sir, to Broom-heath, and so round by the windmill upon Camp-mount, and home through the meadows by the river-side.
Mr. A. Well, that's a pleasant round.
R. I thought it very dull, Sir; I scarcely met with a single person. I had rather by half have gone along the turnpike-road.
Mr. A. Why, if seeing men and horses is your object, you would indeed be better entertained on the high-road. But did you see William ?
R. We set out together, but he lagged behind in the lane, so I walked on and left him.
Mr. A. That was a pity. He would have been company for you.
R. Oh, he is so tedious, always stopping to look to this thing and that! I had rather walk alone. I dare say he is not got home yet.
Mr. A. Here he comes. Well, William, where have you been?
W. Oh, Sir, the pleasantest walk! I went all over Broom-heath, and so up to the mill at the top of the hill, and then down among the green meadows by the side of the river.
Mr. A. Why, that is just the round Robert has been taking, and he complains of its dulness, and prefers the high-road!
W. I wonder at that. I am sure I hardly took a step that did not delight me, and I have brought my handkerchief full of curiosities home.
Mr. A. Suppose, then, you give us some account of what amused you so much. I fancy it will be as new to Robert as to me.
W. I will, Sir. The lane leading to the heath, you know, is close and sandy, so I did not mind it much, but made the best of my way. However, I spied a curious thing enough in the hedge. It was an old crab-tree, out of which grew a great bunch of something green, quite different from the tree itself. Here is a branch of it.
Mr. A. Ah! this is misseltoe, a plant of great
fame for the use made of it by the Druids of old in their religious rites. It bears a very slimy white
berry, of which bird-lime may be made (whence its Latin name of Viscus). It is one of those plants which do not grow in the ground by a root of their own, but fix themselves upon other plants; whence they have been styled parasitical, because the word parasite is the name given to a hanger-on or dependant. It was the misseltoe of the oak that the Druids particularly honoured.
W. A little further on I saw a green woodpecker fly to a tree, and run up the trunk like a cat.
Mr. A. That was to seek for insects in the bark, on which they live. They bore holes with their strong bills for that purpose, and do much damage to the trees by it.
W. What beautiful birds they are!
Mr. A. Yes; they have been called, from their colour and size, the English parrot.
W. When I got upon the open heath, how charming it was! The air seemed so fresh, and the prospect on every side so free and unbounded! Then it was all covered with gay flowers, many of which I had never observed before. There were at least three kinds of heath (I have got them in my handkerchief here), and gorse, and broom, and bellflower, and many others of all colours that I will beg you presently to tell me the names of.
Mr. A. That I will readily.
W. I saw, too, several birds that were new to me. There was a pretty greyish one, of the size of a lark, that was hopping about some great stones; and when he flew he showed a great deal of white above his tail.
Mr. A. That was a wheatear.
They are reckoned
very delicious birds to eat, and frequent the open downs in Sussex, and some other counties, in great numbers.
W. There was a flock of lapwings upon a marshy part of the heath that amused me much. As I came near them, some of them kept flying round and round, just over my head, and crying pee-wit so distinctly, one might almost fancy they spoke. I thought I should have caught one of them, for he flew as if one of his wings was broken, and often tumbled close to the ground; but as I came near he always made a shift to get away.
Mr. A. Ha, ha! you were finely taken in then! This was all an artifice of the bird's to entice you away from its nest; for they build upon the bare ground, and their nests would easily be observed, did they not draw off the attention of intruders by their loud cries and counterfeit lameness.
W. I wish I had known that, for he led me a long chase, often over shoes in water. However, it was the cause of my falling in with an old man and a boy, who were cutting and piling up turf for fuel, and I had a good deal of talk with them about the manner of preparing the turf, and the price it sells at. Well-I then took my course up to the windmill on the mount. I climbed up the steps of the mill, in order to get a better view of the country round. What an extensive prospect! I counted fifteen churchsteeples; and I saw several gentlemen's houses peeping out from the midst of green woods and plantations; and I could trace the windings of the river all along the low grounds, till it was lost behind a ridge of hills.
EYES AND NO EYES; OR, THE ART OF
Mr. A. You must have had a very fine prospect. W. From the hill I went straight down to the meadows below, and walked on the side of a brook that runs into the river.
It was all bordered with
reeds and flags and tall flowering plants, quite different from those I had seen on the heath. As I was getting down the bank to reach one of them, I heard something plunge into the water near me. It was a large water-rat, and I saw it swim over to the other side, and go into its hole. There were a great many large dragon-flies all about the stream; I caught one of the finest and have got him here in a leaf. But how I longed to catch a bird that I saw hovering over the water, and every now and then darting down into it! It was all over a mixture of the most beautiful green and blue with some orangecolour. It was somewhat less than a thrush, and had a large head and bill, and a short tail.
Mr. A. I can tell you what that bird was,—a kingfisher (the celebrated halcyon of the ancients, about which so many tales are told). It lives on fish, which it catches in the manner you saw. It builds in holes in the banks, and is a shy retired bird, never to be seen far from the stream where it inhabits.
W. I must try to get another sight of him, for I never saw a bird that pleased me so much. WellI followed this little brook till it entered the river, and then took the path that runs along the bank.