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There was no time; the sun came, saw,
and conquered, and the sheaves were swept from the field. Before yet the reapers had entered one field of ripe wheat, I did indeed for a brief evening obtain a glimpse of the richness and still beauty of an English harvest. The sun was down, and in the west a pearly gray light spread widely, with a little scarlet drawn along its lower border. Heavy shadows hung in the foliage of the elms; the clover had closed, and the quiet moths had taken the place of the humming bees. Southwards, the full moon, a red-yellow disk, shone over the wheat, which appeared the finest pale amber. A quiver of colour-an undulation-seemed to stay in the air, left from the heated day; the sunset hues and those of the red-tinted moon fell as it were into the remnant of day, and filled the wheat; they were poured into it, so that it grew in their colours. Still heavier the shadows deepened in the elms; all was silence, save for the sound of the reapers on the other side of the hedge, slashrustle, slash-rustle, and the drowsy night came down as softly as an eyelid.
While I sat on the log under the oak, every now and then wasps came to the crooked pieces of sawn timber, which had been barked. They did not appear to be biting it—they can easily snip off fragments of the hardest oak,--they merely alighted and examined it, and went on again. Looking at them, I did not notice the lane till something moved, and two young pheasants ran by along the middle of the track and into the cover at the side. The grass at the edge which they pushed through closed behind them, and feeble as it was-grass only-it shut off the interior of the cover as firmly as iron bars. The pheasant is a strong lock upon the woods; like one of Chubb's patent locks, he closes the woods as firmly as an iron safe can be shut. Wherever the pheasant is artificially reared, and a great “head” kept up for battue-shooting, there the woods are sealed. No matter if the wanderer approach with the most harmless of intentions, it is exactly the same as if he were a species of burgiar. The botanist, the painter, the student of nature, all are met with the high-barred gate and the threat of law. Of course, the pheasant-lock can be opened by the silver key; still, there is the fact, that since pheasants have been bred on so large a scale, half the beautiful woodlands of England have been fastened up. Where there is no artificial rearing there is much more freedom ; those who love the forest can roam at their pleasure, for it is not the fear of damage that locks the gate, but the pheasant. In every sense, the so-called sport of battue-shooting is injurious-injurious to the sportsman, to the poorer class, to the community. Every true sportsman should discourage it, and indeed does. I was talking with a thorough sportsman recently, who told me, to my delight, that he never reared birds by hand; yet he had a fair supply, and could always give a good day's sport, judged as any reasonable man would judge sport. Nothing must enter the domains of the hand-reared pheasant; even the nightingale is not safe. A naturalist has recorded that in a district he visited, the nightingales were always shot by the keepers and their eggs smashed, because the singing of these birds at night disturbed the repose of the pheasants! They also always stepped on the eggs of the fern-owl, which are laid on the ground, and shot the bird if they saw it, for the same reason, as it makes a jarring sound at dusk. The fern-owl, or goatsucker, is one of the most harmless of birds-a sort of evening swallow-living on moths, chafers, and similar night-flying insects.
Continuing my walk, still under the oaks and green acorns, I wondered why I did not meet any one. There was a man cutting fern in the wood-a labourer -and another cutting up thistles in a field; but with the exception of men actually employed and paid, I did not meet a single person, though the lane I was following is close to several well-to-do places. I call that a well-to-do place where there are hundreds of large villas inhabited by wealthy people. It is true that the great majority of persons have to attend to business, even if they enjoy a good income; still, making every allowance for such a necessity, it is singular how few, how very few, seem to appreciate the quiet beauty of this lovely country. Somehow, they do not seem to see it—to look over it; there is no excitement in it, for one thing. They can see a great deal in Paris, but nothing in an English meadow. I have often wondered at the rarity of meeting any one in the fields, and yet-curious anomaly—if you point out anything, or describe it, the interest exhibited is marked. Every one takes an interest, but no one goes to see for himself. For instance, since the natural history collection was removed from the British Museum to a separate building at South Kensington, it is stated that the visitors to the Museum have fallen from an average of twenty-five hundred a day to one thousand; the inference is, that out of every twenty-five, fifteen came to see the natural history cases. Indeed, it is difficult to find a person who does not take an interest in some department of natural history, and yet I scarcely ever meet any one in the fields. You may meet many in the autumn far away in places famous for scenery, but almost none in the meadows at home.
I stayed by a large pond to look at the shadows of the trees on the green surface of duckweed. The soft green of the smooth weed received the shadows as if specially prepared to show them to advantage. The more the tree was divided the more interlaced its branches and less laden with foliage, the more it “came out" on the green surface; each slender twig was reproduced, and sometimes even the leaves. From an oak, and from a lime, leaves had fallen, and remained on the green weed; the flags by the shore were turning brown; a tint of yellow was creeping up the rushes, and the great trunk of a fir shone reddish brown in the sunlight. There was colour even about the still pool, where the weeds grew so thickly that the moorhens could scarcely swim through tliem.
A GOOD road is recognized as the groundwork of civilization. So long as there is a firm and artificial track under his feet the traveller may be said to be in contact with city and town, no matter how far they may be distant. A yard or two outside the railway in America the primeval forest or prairie often remains untouched, and much in the same way, though in a less striking degree at first sight, some of our own highways winding through Down districts are bounded by undisturbed soil. Such a road wears for itself a hollow, and the bank at the top is fringed with long rough grass hanging over the crumbling chalk. Broad discs of greater knapweed with stalks like wire, and yellow toad-flax with spotted lip grow among it. Grasping this tough grass as a handle to climb up by, the explorer finds a rising slope of sward, and having walked over the first ridge, shutting off the road behind him, is at once out of civilization. There is no noise. Wherever there are men there is a hum, even in the harvest-field; and in the road below, though lonely, there is sometimes the sharp clatter of hoofs or the grating of wheels on flints. But here the long, long slopes, the