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What dresses, what changes and elegance concealed therein !-conjurors' trunks out of which wonders will spring. Can anything look jollier than a cab overgrown with luggage, like huge barnacles, just starting away with its freight ? One can imagine such a fund of enjoyment on its way in that cab. This happy throng seems to express something that delights the heart. I often used to walk up to the station just to see it, and left feeling better.
THE PINE WOOD.
THERE was a humming in the tops of the young pines as if a swarm of bees were busy at the green cones. They were not visible through the thick needles, and on listening longer it seemed as if the sound was not exactly the note of the bee-a slightly different pitch, and the hum was different, while bees have a habit of working close together. Where there is one bee there are usually five or six, and the hum is that of a group; here there only appeared one or two insects to a pine. Nor was the buzz like that of the humblebee, for every now and then one came along low down, flying between the stems, and his note was much deeper. By-and-by, crossing to the edge of the plantation, where the boughs could be examined, being within reach, I found it was wasps. A yellow wasp wandered over the blue-green needles till he found a pair with a drop of liquid like dew between them. There he fastened himself and sucked at it; you could see the drop gradually drying up till it was gone. The largest of these drops were generally between two needles—those of the Scotch fir or pine grow in pairs—but there were smaller drops on the outside of other needles. In searching for this exuding turpentine the wasps filled the whole plantation with the sound of their wings. There must have been many thousands of them. They caused no inconvenience to any one walking in the copse, because they were high overhead.
Watching these wasps I found two cocoons of pale yellow silk on a branch of larch, and by them a green spider. He was quite green-two shades, lightest on the back, but little lighter than the green larch bough. An ant had climbed up a pine and over to the extreme end of a bough; she seemed slow and stupefied in her motions, as if she had drunken of the turpentine and had lost her intelligence. The soft cones of the larch could be easily cut down the centre with a penknife, showing the structure of the cone and the seeds inside each scale. It is for these seeds that birds frequent the fir copses, shearing off the scales with their beaks. One larch cone had still the tuft at the top-a pineapple in miniature. The loudest sound in the wood was the humming in the trees; there was no wind, no sunshine; a summer day, still and shadowy, under large clouds high up. To this low humming the sense of hearing soon became accustomed, and it served but to render the silence deeper. In time, as I sat waiting and listening, there came the faintest far-off song of a bird away in the trees; the merest thin upstroke of sound, slight in structure, the echo of the strong spring singing. This was the summer repetition, dying away. A willow-wren still remembered his love, and whispered about it to the silent fir tops, as in after days we turn over the pages of letters, withered as leaves, and sigh. So gentle, so
low, so tender a song the willow-wren sang that it could scarce be known as the voice of a bird, but was like that of some yet more delicate creature with the heart of a woman.
A butterfly with folded wings clung to a stalk of grass ; upon the under side of his wing thus exposed there were buff spots, and dark dots and streaks drawn on the finest ground of pearl-grey, through which there came a tint of blue; there was a blue, too, shut up between the wings, visible at the edges. The spots, and dots, and streaks were not exactly the same on each wing; at first sight they appeared similar, but, on comparing one with the other, differences could be traced. The pattern was not mechanical; it was hand-painted by Nature, and the painter's eye and fingers varied in their work.
How fond Nature is of spot-markings!—the wings of butterflies, the feathers of birds, the surface of eggs, the leaves and petals of plants are constantly spotted ; so, too, fish-as trout. From the wing of the butterfly I looked involuntarily at the foxglove I had just gathered; inside, the bells were thickly spotted-dots and dustings that might have been transferred to a butterfly's wing. The spotted meadow-orchis; the brown dots on the cowslips ; brown, black, greenish, reddish dots and spots and dustings on the eggs of the finches, the whitethroats, and so many others—some of the spots seem as if they had been splashed on and had run into short streaks, some mottled, some gathered together at the end; all spots, dots, dustings of minute specks, mottlings, and irregular markings. The histories, the stories, the library of knowledge contained in those signs! It was thought a wonderful thing when at last the strange inscriptions of Assyria were read, made of nail-headed characters whose sound was lost; it was thought a triumph when the yet older hieroglyphics of Egypt were compelled to give up their messages, and the world hoped that we should know the secrets of life. That hope was disappointed; there was nothing in the records but superstition and useless ritual. But here we go back to the beginning; the antiquity of Egypt is nothing to the age of these signs--they date from unfathomable time. In them the sun has written his commands, and the wind inscribed deep thought. They were before superstition began; they were composed in the old, old world, when the Immortals walked on earth. They have been handed down thousands upon thousands of years to tell us that to-day we are still in the presence of the heavenly visitants, if only we will give up the soul to these pure influences. The language in which they are written has no alphabet, and cannot be reduced to order. It can only be understood by the heart and spirit. Look down into this foxglove bell and you will know that; look long and lovingly at this blue butterfly's underwing, and a feeling will rise to your consciousness.
Some time passed, but the butterfly did not move; a touch presently disturbed him, and flutter, flutter went his blue wings, only for a few seconds, to another grass-stalk, and so on from grass-stalk to grass-stalk as compelled, a yard flight at most. He would not go farther; he settled as if it had been night. There was no sunshine, and under the clouds he had no