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Robin Hood and his merry men in the free old forests
All under the greenwood tree.'
We feel the harness chafe in which we have hitherto so willingly worked, amid the 'fever and the fret' of the busy city, and pine to get away to some place where we can hear the murmur of the sea, or what is nearest the sound-the rustle of the low-bending, and high overhanging branches the summer leaves. We long to lie down beneath beside the stream, that runs dark and bright
THE BOOK OF DAYS.
through shade and sunshine, and watch the blue
yield as much as fifteen pounds of wool each. It is amusing to watch the lambs after the dams are clipped, the way they go smelling about them, and the pitiful bleating they make, until the mother answers, when they at once recognise her voice, and all doubt in a moment ceases.
Sheep-shearing feasts, like harvest-homes, are of ancient date; for we read in the Bible of Nabal, who had three thousand sheep in Carmel, holding a sheep-shearing feast in his house 'like the feast of a king,' and the custom still remains amongst many of our English sheep-breeders in the present day. It is pleasant to know that such old-world customs are still kept up; that when the owner has gathered the wool that clothes him, and the corn that feeds him, he should make glad the hearts of those who have borne the burden and heat of the day. While this busy work is going on, the bean-fields are in bloom, and fill the air around with such a perfume as makes the wayfarer feel languid, longing to lie down in the midst of it, and with half-shut eyes dream dreams.
At every passing gust which ripples the fields, the corn now makes a husky whisper, and there are white spots on the long ears, which tell that it is fast ripening, and that bending reapers will soon be busy with their crooked sickles in the harvest-field. We now see amid the grass that is powdered with summer-dust, the most beautiful of all our wayside-flowers, the pretty pimpernel, which, though but little larger than the bloom of the common chickweed, fairly dazzles the eye like a gem with its rich crimson petals. By the very rim of the cart-rut, and close by the dent of the horse's hoof on the brown highway, it blows, a thing of beauty, that has no peer in garden or stand-green-house, whether blood-red, crimson, or scarlet, for nothing but the flashing blaze of the red poppy of the cornfield, can be compared with it a moment for richness of colour. Country-people call this wayside beauty the poor man's weatherglass, and the shepherd's clock; and it never errs in announcing the approach of rain, for long before we can discover any sign of the coming shower, we find its deep-dyed petals folded up in its green cup. As a time-keeper, it may be relied upon, always closing at noon, no matter how fine the day may be, and never opening again before seven on the following morning. Its leaves are also very beautiful, of a fine clean oval shape, and on the underpart spotted. Often near to it, on the sunnyside of the hedge, may now be found the dull golden-coloured agrimony, with its long spiked head up-coned with little flowers, the favourite 'tea' of the poor cottagers, and a thousand times more delicious than some of the rubbish sold as tea in low neighbourhoods, for it makes a most refreshing beverage. Scarcely a leaf can be found on tree, shrub, or plant, to equal in beauty of form that of the agrimony, so deeply and elegantly are the edges cut, and so richly veined, that they carry the eye from the uppiled head of five-petaled golden flowers, which so gracefully overtop the foliage. The fragrance, too, is quite refreshing; only bruise this elegant leaf between the fingers, and it throws out an aroma that can no more be forgotten than the smell of roses. The next favourite as a tea-making herb among our old country-women, is the wood betony, now in bloom, and which forms a winding
About a week or so after the washing, sheepshearing commences; the reason why clipping' is delayed for this length of time is, that the fleece may regain its oily nature, which it can only do through the wool becoming thoroughly dry, when the shears cut through it easily. This also is a busy time, and we have seen half a score sheepshearers at work at once, the large barn-door having been lifted off its hinges and raised about a foot above the ground, to place the sheep upon, while they were shorn. By night the barn looks like a large wool warehouse, so high rise the piles of rolled up fleeces, and some of our English sheep