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HOME AND ITS PLEASURES IN THE COUNTRY.
BY A LOVER OF THE COUNTRY.
Having on many former occasions, and under various signatures, commencing as far back as the year 1831, been admitted a contributor to your journal, I am induced to transmit to you the following communication descriptive of home scenes, and the relation of which, like the first gladdening prospect of the rich green foliage of coming summer to the pent-up citizen's anxious gaze, may, perhaps, give some respite to the weary and jaded spirits of those whose destiny denies them the solace and pleasures derived from the peaceful occupations of a country life.
The amusements of home, if they do not furnish any very stirring events, may yet afford opportunities of recounting incidents, though trivial in themselves, which will tend to awaken in others the memory of the past, and revive again a thousand reminiscences of bygone hopes and joys-now, alas! except in recollection, mingled with the
The very name of home, in most cases, brings with it feelings connected with happiness; though, perhaps, there are instances where some alloy is mixed with the brighter sensations of delight which beamed around that much-loved spot: disappointed expectations of the world's anticipated allurements, the ingratitude of those from whom we least expected it, illness, and other misfortunes, may have thrown their dark shade over the sunshine of early life; but still, beneath those shadows of the past, memory will fondly cling to the recollection of home and the scenes we have there enjoyed.
Your various readers will probably each recall to himself his own distant home, as it appeared when the warm exuberant spirits of youthful feeling decked it out in all the rainbow hues of poetic fancy; but when the subduing hand of time has chilled these bright colours, how altered seems the reality when we look upon it again in afteryears, though no outward change may possibly have happened, still how tranquillizing to the weary mind is a visit once more to our cherished home, notwithstanding our now saddened feelings, as compared with the aspirations of former days!
Amongst the amusements of home, fishing is, perhaps, one of the most fascinating and pleasing of all country recreations, though it may not be so exciting as some others. Whatever complaints may be made of railroads having destroyed in so many places the charm of rural quiet and privacy, by the influx of strangers into almost every part of the kingdom, still the advantage must not be forgotten which arises to those who are anxious to get away, if even for a few days only, from the turmoil, carc, and vexation
which many have to endure who reside in large towns. For many months of the year, the bustling strife and selfishness, which is so often met with, wears out the mind and body, and the fevered spirit is but too glad to seek a short repose amidst the tranquillizing scenes of country life. The change from the one to the other is like some fairy dream or magical delusion. Fatigued and worn down by constant excitement, how delighted and elastic the mind feels the moment we reach the country, and are released from the anxieties and annoyances inseparable from our daily intercourse with the crowds we have left behind! The first breath of pure morning air, as we look out on the cheerful refreshing prospect around, seems to renovate and invigorate the drooping feelings, as if our very natures had been suddenly changed; the early walk gives fresh energy at every step; the boughs waving in the gentle breeze, the perfume of flowers, and the ever-varied song of the busy birds-all appear united to welcome us home. Then the breakfast hour, with windows wide open, fresh and wholesome; no town cares to intrude or intercept the amusements which await us, in the anticipated ramble over the adjacent country, or the enjoyment of a day's fishing, and, while so employed, of admiring the beautiful and placid scenery that meets our view on every side. First, the fishing-rod has to be got ready, then the line to be rung, and the most tempting flies to be selected, so as to be instantly ready; when, by some mishap, one is lost in an overhanging bough; or too eager at seeing a fish rise, fish and fly both disappear together. The tackle so far ready, then the basket and landing net have to be obtained. When thus equipped, how joyfully we wander forth to the neighbouring stream, all anxiety to try the spots most likely! and, perhaps, just as some goodly fish is seen about to take the fly, a rat or water-hen starts forth from beneath our feet, scaring away our intended victim, and following the course of the water, contrives to destroy every chance of success for a long way down the stream. Sometimes a fine trout is fast hooked, and getting round a root or bough, there is no possibility of securing it without going into the water, and then comes all the agony of its apprehended escape, before it can be got out; but fearful of delay, the rod is put down, the landing net got out, and plunging into the shallow part of the brook, such a thickness of sand and mud arises that, until it has had time to clear away, it is hopeless attempting to discover whereabout the fish really is; at last, little by little, the water brightens, and anxiously peering down to catch the first glimpse beneath, we perceive the line is still fast, but the fish, alas! is gone. Then to sit down on some neighbouring bank, and renovate the tackle, ready for another trial— all of which gives pleasure, though mixed with minor disappointments. If the weather is too hot, the water too clear, or the fish wont rise till later in the day, then the line is lapped up, the rod stuck fast in the ground, the basket and net left behind; we wander along the margin of the stream, admiring its overhanging flowers and rushy banks, or seeking shelter under some hedge or over-shadowing tree, sit down, and watch the passing birds and clouds, conscious of the glorious comfort of being alone, and free to roam about and do as we please unmolested by any one. Or perhaps we slumber away the sultry hour, till suddenly awakened by some distant noise, or the cuckoo's note
close by, wondering where we can possibly be; all seems so quietthe bright sun above us, the passing clouds, the sweet fresh air, the rippling brook, the sounds of cows or sheep near at hand-everything so different from the noisy sounds we have lately left; at length renewed consciousness tells us we are now in the country, amidst all its happy tranquil pleasures. More successful in our next attempts, a fair quantity of the finny tribe fill the basket, and tired with the sport, or having caught enough, we stroll slowly homewards. If there is a companion there, to join in the social feast, and with whom we can converse on the joyful gifts which nature spreads around us, what more can be desired? But if not, then Nature herself forms a companion, and welcomes us with her ever-grateful smile; and perhaps some four-footed favourite, faithful and attached, begs to share our company and kindness. Refreshed, again we saunter forth, and watch the setting sun and active motions of the flocks and herds busy in collecting their evening meal, while we listen to the notes of the various kinds of birds singing and chirping around us, preparatory to seeking their quiet roosting places for the night; or perhaps tempted again to try our fortune once more, now the trout are eagerly on their feed; the side of the stream is regained, and the best flies selected; the swallows are still circling about-the water rats quietly swimming from point to point, carrying a mouthful of grass or rush to their young, or to make a nest with; the moor-hens are skulking along under the banks, and flitting up their white and velvet tails, uttering their low sharp cry; the owl comes sailing slowly up the meadows, hunted and mobbed by the smaller birds; pheasants and other game are seen emerging from their mid-day haunts, to seek their food in the distant corn fieids; starlings are wheeling above the sedges of the neighbouring pools, where they intend to nestle for the night; the little hedgehog has trotted forth from its concealment, and is busily employed in hunting for beetles and other food; different sorts of flies are thickly out, hovering over the stream, and the trout seem almost maddened at their quantity and near approach, as they alight for a moment on the water, or are suspended upon some over-hanging reed; the daring swift skimming along close beneath the fisherman's rod, snatches up hundreds of the beautiful May-flies, and thus their brief summer's day of life is ended. And now the fisherman's skill is well repaid; for as long as he can see sufficiently to avoid catching his line on twigs and other impediments, he will find the fish become more and more voracious for their food as the night advances, till no longer able to distinguish the over-hanging bushes from the water, the twilight puts an end to his occupation, and he is obliged at length to cease; and wandering homeward in the dusk of the closing evening, after perhaps whiling away another hour in watching the cattle and other animals, all then eagerly feeding, to make up for the heat of the past day, or in observing the lonely heron sailing along upon motionless wings as it approaches its feeding place, the fisherman concludes his happy, quiet day, with fervent gratitude for the one that is past, and pleasing anticipations that the next will bring again the like enjoy
Such are some of the feelings derived from the innocent amusement of a day's fishing, always eschewing the use of any kind of live bait;
but others, who are unacquainted with the true facts as connected with this pursuit, may think more lightly of it, and give to it a very different description and designation.
Some of the amusing incidents I have witnessed, while following this sport, have already appeared in former numbers of your journal, under the head "Sporting Reminiscences." When at home, I am often accompanied by a great favourite-a black retriever, which, from possessing a white tip to his nose, rejoices in the name "Tip,"-a more beautiful, good-tempered, but occasionally self-willed dog, cannot be met with, and while carrying his game, he is tender of it as is the first gentle pressure of lovely woman's hand, when assenting to the urgent suit of her admiring lover; yet will Tip, if occasion requires it, up with his blood and take upon him a resolute determination of purpose which quite surprises the unhappy cat or unsuspecting dog on which he turns his wrath. Tip is one of the most extraordi nary water dogs I ever saw or heard of: his delight at being permitted to dash into the water after a wild duck, stick, or other object thrown in for him, is unexampled; the bound he makes into the water in the coldest weather is marvellous to see, and if the thing thrown in for him happens to sink, short is the time before Tip is over-head trying to find it underneath; his coaxing ways to induce one to throw in for him the stick which he has found, and brings on purpose that he may fetch it out again, and the rapturous joy he shews at seeing it whirling through the air, is quite a pleasure to behold, and one which many of his friends are fond of frequently indulging him in. But Tip is also a dog of deep sagacity, and a most extraordinary adept at picking up some live article or another. During his perambulations he is almost sure, whether while out shooting or otherwise, to bring something for the pot or the pockets-a young rabbit or moor-hen, rat or small bird, or what not, depositing them at one's feet in the most careful manner, except the rats: these he makes sure of, by an extra squeeze, to prevent their doing to him as they are being done by, and biting him; often and often the things when put down scuttle away in all haste, and none the worse, when Tip, looking up, says as plainly as a dog can speak, "There's a pretty to do! I brought it to you, and now you've let it run away again." Accustomed as I was to many of Tip's tricks, he on one occasion surprised me not a little by his impudent and persevering confidence in wilful deception: we were passing along one of the sequestered walks near the house where there were a number of young rabbits about, when the dog happened to see amongst the periwinkles with which the place abounded, a most diminutive rabbit, a little tiny creature that could hardly crawl, and had never been out before, to his mother's knowledge, and probably had made this his very first venture in the wide wide world. Tip espied this unhappy apology for a quadruped, and though meaning no harm, he unfortunately closed his mouth rather too forcibly upon this morsel of life, and most unintentionally, if it did not die from fright, extinguished it at once. I took it away from him, at the same time remonstrating with Tip for his cruel conduct, and put the little innocent on the top of a post whilst I did a little carpentering at a rail close by; the dog lay beside me perfectly quiet for some time, as he was wont to do, till I chanced to perceive
the little rabbit was gone from off the post, and Tip had moved off also. I called him sharply, thinking he had taken it away; and forth came Tip, but with no rabbit; and supposing he had put it down in play, I scolded him and charged him with the felony, adding "You rascal, what have you done with the rabbit? where have you put it?" Whereupon the dog, looking up in my face, and seeing I was in earnest, immediately ran to the foot of a neighbouring tree, began jumping up the trunk, and barking and whining at the bottom most vehemently, and showed so evident a desire to make me believe the poor forlorn rabbit had come again to life, and had run up the tree, that I doubt if Albert Smith himself could exceed him in his powers of persuasion, who, it is said, if he meets a dog in the street with four legs, and he chooses, can make the creature go away and think he has eight. As to the little rabbit, it being too small for domestic purposes, Tip had eaten it up. I must, however, do Tip the justice to say, he had in general an eye to filling the bag. On one occasion, as was our custom in the summer time, we were taking a walk, after dinner, with the gun, in pursuit of rabbits, of which we generally obtained from two to three couple. During our ramble round the house and lawn, as we passed along by the side of a hedge near a gorse covert, I saw the dog suddenly raise his head and look forward, as a deerhound does when gazing at some distant stag; but I saw nothing to cause any excitement. Tip, however, looking at me most entreatingly, and jumping up at the same time, seemed to implore me to let him go forward for some purpose of his own, which it would be really a cruelty to deny him. I accordingly consented, and told him "Be off then," and away went Tip at his best pace. After about ten minutes' delay, at which I was somewhat surprised, as his travels were, I knew, of no great extent, Tip returned along the other side of the hedge, jumped over the fence at the bottom, and meeting me in front, deposited at my feet a very fine Tom-cat, whose life, like the little rabbit's, he had snuffed out, but not until after a severe fight, as the shaking of his head and ears too clearly proved. Ever after this occurrence, a cat hunt was one of his favourite enjoyments, and there was but one choice left to either of the animals when they met, for he was sure to be instantly on the cat's back, if the cat was not first on his; but if the latter event took place, Tip took a roll on the ground, and then came his turn; and yet was this dog the tender-mouthed creature under all other circumstances as before described, and would carry any of the smallest birds, or even fish, without ruffling a feather or turning a scale-a glove, or anything put down, he would fetch and carry for hours. This facility of fetching and carrying puts me in mind of an occurrence which happened in the Lincolnshire fens long years ago, whither I was then accustomed to go annually for snipe shooting, then in perfection; but since the immense extent of land which has been drained and reclaimed from fens, the shooting has greatly fallen off, if not become entirely spoilt. One of the guides who accompanied me had an excellent water dog, which he was most anxious to prevail upon me to purchase; and, as a test of his good qualities, he would drop a glove unseen by the dog, and when we had proceeded half a mile or more, his master gave a gentle "hem " as a signal to the dog, rather than speak aloud, and this he had taught the dog in order that