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his wayward course. He prolongs it. He has but a few yards to fly to reach the well-known feedingground by the brook where the grass is short; perhaps it has been eaten off by sheep. It is a straight and easy line as a starling would fly. The plover thinks nothing of a straight line; he winds first with the course of the hedge, then rises aslant, uttering his cry, wheels, and returns; now this way, direct at me, as if his object was to display his snowy breast; suddenly rising aslant again, he wheels once more, and goes right away from his object over above the field whence he came. Another moment and he returns; and so to and fro, and round and round, till with a sidelong, unexpected sweep he alights by the brook. He stands a minute, then utters his cry, and runs a yard or so forward. In a little while a second plover arrives from the field behind. He too dances a maze in the air before he settles. Soon a third joins them. They are visible at that spot because the grass is short, elsewhere they would be hidden. If one of these rises and flies to and fro almost instantly another follows, and then it is, indeed, a dance before they alight. The wheeling, maze-tracing, devious windings continue till the eye wearies and rests with pleasure on a passing butterfly. These birds have nests in the meadows adjoining; they meet here as a common feeding-ground. Presently they will disperse, each returning to his mate at the nest. Half an hour afterwards they will meet once more, either here or on the wing.
In this manner they spend their time from dawn
through the flower-growing day till dusk. When the sun arises over the hill into the sky already blue the plovers have been up a long while. All the busy morning they go to and fro-the busy morning, when the wood-pigeons cannot rest in the copses on the coomb-side, but continually fly in and out; when the blackbirds whistle in the oaks, when the bluebells gleam with purplish lustre. At noontide, in the dry heat, it is pleasant to listen to the sound of water moving among the thousand thousand grass-blades of the mead. The flower-growing day lengthens out beyond the sunset, and till the hedges are dim the lapwings do not cease.
Leaving now the shade of the oak, I follow the path into the meadow on the right, stepping by the way over a streamlet, which diffuses its rapid current broadcast over the sward till it collects again and pours into the brook. This next meadow is somewhat more raised, and not watered; the grass is high and full of buttercups. Before I have gone twenty yards a lapwing rises out in the field, rushes towards me through the air, and circles round my head, making as if to dash at me, and uttering shrill cries. Immediately another comes from the mead behind the oak; then a third from over the hedge, and all those that have been feeding by the brook, till I am encircled with them. They wheel round, dive, rise aslant, cry, and wheel again, always close over me, till I have walked some distance, when, one by one, they fall off, and, still uttering threats, retire. There is a nest in this meadow, and, although it is, no doubt, a long way from the path, my presence even in the field, large as it is, is resented. The couple who imagine their possessions threatened are quickly joined by their friends, and there is no rest till I have left their treasures far behind. OUTSIDE LONDON. .
THERE was something dark on the grass under an elm in the field by the barn. It rose and fell; and we saw that it was a wing—a single black wing, striking the ground instead of the air; indeed, it seemed to come out of the earth itself, the body of the bird being hidden by the grass. This black wing flapped and flapped, but could not lift itself—a single wing of course could not fly. A rook had dropped out of the elm and was lying helpless at the foot of the tree-it is a favourite tree with rooks; they build in it, and at that moment there were twenty or more perched aloft, cawing and conversing comfortably, without the least thought of their dying comrade. Not one of all the number descended to see what was the matter, nor even fluttered half-way down. This elm is their clubhouse, where they meet every afternoon as the sun gets low to discuss the scandals of the day, before retiring to roost in the avenues and tree-groups of the park adjacent. While we looked, a peacock came round the corner of the barn; he had caught sight of the flapping wing, and approached with long deliberate steps and outstretched neck. “Ee-aw! Ee-aw! What's this? What's this ?” he inquired in bird-language. “Ee-aw! Ee-aw! My friends, see here !” Gravely, and step by step, he came nearer and nearer, slowly, and not without some fear, till curiosity had brought him within a yard. In a moment or two a peahen followed and also stretched out her neck-the two long necks pointing at the black flapping wing. A second peacock and peahen approached, and the four great birds stretched out their necks towards the dying rook-a “crowner's quest” upon the unfortunate creature.
If any one had been at hand to sketch it, the scene would have been very grotesque, and not without a ludicrous sadness. There was the tall elm tinted with yellow, the black rooks high above flying in and out, yellow leaves twirling down, the blue peacocks with their crests, the red barn behind, the golden sun afar shining low through the trees of the park, the brown autumn sward, a gray horse, orange maple bushes.
There was the quiet tone of the coming evening—the early evening of October—such an evening as the rook had seen many a time from the tops of the trees. A man dies, and the crowd goes on passing under the window along the street without a thought. The rook died, and his friends, who had that day been with him in the oaks feasting on acorns, who had been with him in the fresh-turned furrows, born perhaps in the same nest, utterly forgot him before he was dead. With a great common caw-a common shout—they suddenly left the tree in a bevy and flew towards the park. The peacocks