Imagens das páginas

stances which belong only to the light of day. Ut Pictura Poesis: remember that, ye sons of the morning.

I confess an occasional drowsiness, as I sit in my leathern chair in my library, under the still monotony of the sunny afternoons of autumn. Not a sound comes near me to disturb me; and there I nap, till the shadow of some bird shooting past the sunny window startles my filmy eye, like a flash of lightning, and I awake. The only drawback from my delight in the harvest season is, there is so much pressing work to do, and everybody is so busy, that I feel almost ashamed to saunter about, doing nothing. In the time of the shearing, our village is quite deserted. Knowing this, the pedlars come not near us then; nor wandering tinkers; nor singing sailors (if their hoarse brassy bray, softened only by the squirting out of tobacco juice, can be called singing); nor beggars of any degree: so our hamlet in harvest is a perfect picture of still life. The only waif we have had to break our autumnal quiet this year is a penny orator of the district, who goes about lecturing against the institutions of the country. And certainly it is one of the most pitiful sights in nature to see the small demagogue riding on his donkey through the ripe rich cornfields of our valleys, on his atrabilious way to the next village, there to pour his morbid soul into the ears of the quiet, religious cottars, when they shall have come home at evening from their day's work of manly industry, and rouse them to the miserable belief that they are the veriest serfs and slaves of the oppressed and groaning earth. The redundant horn of yellow plenty is an abomination to his eyes; and fain would this blasted ear of humanity eat up every golden spike of autumn, like his hungry mildewed congeners in Pharaoh's dream. The sweep of the lusty scytheman, laying down by his porridge-fed mastery the rustling oats, full of new porridge for evermore for himself and his family-ten by the "big ha'-Bible" register-sets our little socialist angrily a-cock; and O (says the sinner's soul) that every swath were priests and peers! The merry song of the sunny lasses, peeling the harvest rig with their sweethearts, jars on him like the very sharpening of the shears of Atropos; and tearing the provincial pot-house print, in which he has just been reading the fulsome praises of his own eloquence, he stops his ill-conditioned lugs with it not to hear the lilt of the lasses; and kicking his lean cuddy into a canter, makes off from the music of happy rural life as if chased by the pestilence, till, attempting a ditch in his frenzy of flight, he is tumbled into a standing pool, as green in its mantling filth as his own jaundiced liver.

amusement in this world of tiny myriads that I need not attempt even to touch on them. Just one word on spiders. All the world knows how pugnacious they are. Under no circumstances whatever can they meet each other without fighting. Whoever wishes to see their battles may easily manage it thus: Let him, any fine August or September morning, when the hedges and bushes are swarming with their webs, lift one, web and all, with a twig, and let it down softly by its thread on the centre of another web, where sits a fellow its likely match in point of size, and to it they go immediately. If a fly or any other proper bait be dropped into the web, and four or five other spiders be brought to the prey, the battle rages like Waterloo. The lean red spider with long legs beats all the rest hollow. In their rage their bodies shiver like the feathers of the amorous or threatening turkeycock.

Armed with my microscope, many an autumnal hour do I spend in the woods and moorland places pursuing my entomological recreations. So multitudinous are the points of study and

Having no dislike to the coming on of winter, October is to me the most delightful month of the year. To say nothing of the beauty of the woods at that season, my favourite month is very often a dry one, sufficiently warm, and yet with a fine bracing air that makes exercise delightful. And then what noble exercise for you in your sporting jacket! To saunter through the rustling woodlands; to stalk across the stubble-field. yellow with the last glare of day; to skirt the loin of the hill, and, overleaping the dyke, tumble away among the ferns, and reach your door just as the great red round moon comes up in the east, how invigorating! I say nothing of the clear fire within and the new magazine just laid on your table. Moreover, October is associated with the glad consummation of harvest-home, and all the fat blessings of the year, not forgetting the brewing of brown-stout. Altogether, October is a manly, jolly fellow, and that Spenser knew right well, as thus appears:

"Then came October, full of merry glee;

For yet his noule was totty of the must, Which he was treading in the wine fat's sea; And of the joyous oil whose gentle gust Made him so frolic."

What fine quaint picturesque old words these are! But oh the dismal look of a wet October and a late harvest! The central figure of the dreary picture is the farmer on the first dry breezy evening that comes after a fortnight's incessant rain in the end of the month, bending and looking through his black bean-field, sticking sodden to the ground in every stook, slimy with slugs, all going to slaver, and losing the sprouted pulse from every open pod. The miry hunters riding homeward sink to the fetlocks as they cross the deep clayey country. The hus bandman turns cheerlessly to the higher lands. The small birds, starting from his feet, shriek adown the wind in the watery evening light. The green and yellow (both in one) glint of the oats, tussled by the wind on the edge of the

waste, with the chaff of every top pickle (thrashed out by the windy blasts that have contrived to blow in every interval of the rain) shimmering thin and white to his level eye, fluctuates away before him. They won't be ripe and ready yet for a fortnight to come.

In quantity and quality there is always, of course, a natural correspondence between the wild and home fruit of the season. So the wild, like the home, is very abundant this year upon the whole. Haws, however, are rather scarce. Indeed, the hawthorn is a capricious and delicate plant in this respect, and seldom yields a very full crop. Even in seasons when the flower (chivalrously called "Lady's Meat") covers the long line of hedges as with a snowy sheet, and delights every nose of sensibility in the parish, we are by no means sure of a harvest of haws entirely correspondent, as the blossom, with the first set of the fruit, is exceedingly tender. Well do the boys know the fat ones. Hips (called in some parts of Scotland jupes) are a fair yield this harvest, whether smooth or hairy, hard or buttery. That all-devouring gourmand, the schoolboy, who crams every crudity into his maw, from the sour mouth-screwing crab up (though down in literal position) to the Swedish turnip, sweetened by the frost, riots in the luxury of the hip, caring not how much the downy seeds may canker and chap the wicks of his mouth, and render his nails an annoyance in scratching his neck. See the little urchin slily watching the exit of the long cart from the stackyard, then jumping in from behind, he takes his seat on the cross-bench, or ventures to stand erect by the help of the pitch-fork, his black, dirt-barkened little feet overcrept by earwigs, beetles, and long-legged spinners, the living and hitherand-thither-running residuum of the last cartload of pease; till, when the half-cleared field is reached, Flibbertigibbet, who ought all the while to be "gathering," bolts through a slap in the hedge, and is down upon the buttery hips in the Whitelea braes. Our hedgerows, sandy banks, and wild stony places, are quite black with brambles this autumn. Clean them from the worms of the thousand-and-one flies that feed on them, and they are capital for jelly and jam, and for painting children's faces, as we see every day in the by-lanes around our village. The bramble is called in Roxburghshire (honi soit qui mal y pense) "Lady's Garters." There, however, the land being mostly a stiff clay, it thrives poorly. It loves a sharp sandy soil, and especially those rough stony knowes in the middle of nelds, where also in the warm still sunny days of harvest you startle the whirring partridge, and see her feathers where she has been fluttering in the stour, and where you hear the whins, with their opening capsules, crackling on the sun-scorched braes. Blaeberries were abundant this year and ripe in the beginning of July. The barberry bears a fair crop. In my boyish


days this bush was called gule-tree, and we made yellow ink of it to give a variety of flourish to our valentines to the little lasses, from whom we got pins in return to be played for at teetotum. Ill fares the poor gean-tree by the roadside, torn down and dismantled in all its branches by the village urchins bent at once on provender and papes." Scarcely ever does its fruit see the first blush of red! A guinea for a ripe black gean within three miles of a country school! The juniper is a scarce bush, but it has plenty of fruit this year-green, red, and black-on the different exposures of its close-matted evergreen branches. In my days of childhood I had a sort of religious regard for the juniper, from the "coals of juniper" mentioned in Scripture along with "sharp arrows of the mighty," and also from the circumstance that I had never seen the berries till they were brought me by my grannie, who plucked them on a remote hillside as she came from a Cameronian sacrament. So far as eating them was concerned, their resinous tang of fir helped my veneration, and I never got beyond chewing one or two. I ani compelled to add, however, that my reverence for the holy berries was considerably abated when I found out that the sly old wife had popped a dozen or two of them into her own whisky bottle to give it the flavour of gin. Crabs are not so plentiful as might have been expected, and (as Johnson said of Churchill) their spontaneous abundance being their only virtue, they are below notice this season. But look at the seed of the ashhow thick! The light green bunches of it, relieved against the somewhat darker verdure of the leaf, make it well seen, and the whole thing has a very rich effect. The pods of the pea-tree (laburnum) hang from every branch in clusters. When ripe, the peas are glossy black as jet, and are much sought after by bits of country lasses for making beaded necklaces, for the little monkeys have early notions of finery. They are unsafe to be meddled with, however, as they are very poisonous. It is worthy of remark that, come good year or bad year, the pea-tree never fails to have loads of depending flowers as thick as swarms of bees a-skepping, and the fruit is always equally abundant. Of all plants, and shrubs, and trees, in garden and field, and on the mountain side, none is to be compared in this respect with the prolific pea-tree. It is one of Nature's richest gifts to adorn our hedgerows. The wood, I may add, is extremely beautiful, and that the turner knows right well. The rowan-tree, the beauty of the hills and the terror of witches, is red all over with berries this autumn. May she ever see her fair blushing face in the sleeping crystal of the mountain pool! Her berries are also for beads. The boor-tree, famous for bulletguns, bored with a red-hot old spindle, and towcharged, in the days of boyhood, is also very rich this autumn with her small black purple berries. "Miss Jeanie" would not take the "Laird o'

Cockpen" when she was making the "elder-colour, deadened in the daylight; and the roast flower wine;" let him try her again in this the of sputtering sloes-with an eke of beans.and time of the elder-berry vintage-she is herself potatoes, which provident little Patie has in elder now, and has had time to think better of store-is more to our genial worthies, sitting or his offer, not to say that a sip of the richer berry their hunkers, and nuzzling and fingering among may have softened her heart. Never had the the ashes, than Ossian's "Feast of Shells." And "bummie" such a 66 summer high in bliss" as thus they feast till the day begins to decline. this year among the honeyed flowers of the lime. And then they run to the distant road to ask The autumn of its fruit is not less exuberant; the passing traveller what o'clock it is; and, in the ground where it grows is quite littered with the fearless necessities of rude nature, the questhe small round seed. The broom is all over tion is popped, whether the passer-by be a black with its thin pods; Plantagenet, more charioted buck of seven seals, or a trudging swain-like than king-like, has coined his glory hind who hangs out a crooked sixpence, a simple of summer bullion into a bushel of pease. Mush-spotted shell, or a bit of polished parrot-coal

rooms in their fairy rings in the rich old unploughed pastures are a fair crop this season. By the way, when does the mushroom come first? Tom Campbell, in his "Rainbow," says:

by an affectionate twine of his grandmother's hair. Then come the hoar mornings of November frost, and the sloes begin to crack, and are really not so bad; and "Ill Tam" has another day at Eildon Hills. He finishes the ploy by tearing and wearing his corduroys, up trees and down "slidders," to very reasonable tatters; and thus the light of knowledge is let in by many and wide holes upon his mother at night that her son "has been out;" and her patience being worn out as well as his breeks, a good sound thrashing winds up the day to Thomas. Anything like a full crop of acorns is a very rare harvest indeed. This year, however, they are "plenty as blackberries;" and now that the air is beginning to smell of winter, they are popping down upon your head wherever you go, clean, glossy, and slightly ribbed in their brown and white. They must have been better to eat in the golden age than now, or the stomachs of our simple sires must have been more easily pleased than those of their degenerate and luxurious sons; for hang me from an oak branch! if I could eat an acorn, so harsh and stringently tasteful of the tannin, even to see the lion lie down with the lamb. So my age of gold is not likely to get beyond pinchbeck. But swine can eat acorns, though old bachelors are not so innocent. And therefore I advise all my country friends, after the wants of the nurseryman are served, to turn the snouts of their pigs among the mast, or have it gathered by the bairnies and flung into the trough. The porkers grunt almost graciously over it, and it helps to give that fine flavour to the flesh which touches the tongue so in the wild boar ham.

"The earth to thee its incense yields,
The lark thy welcome sings,

When, glittering in the freshened fields,
The snowy mushroom springs."

Now, the lark ceases to sing early in July; and I rather think, Thomas, the mushroom is rarely seen till August-what say you? But I refer the matter to William Wordsworth, that master martinet of poetical accuracy. Meanwhile, having thrown Thomas this metaphorical nut to crack, I go on to the literal nuts; and I beg to say that their white young clusters are almost the loveliest fruit that grows in glen or shaw. Now, however, they are glossy brown, and lots of them. So mask you, gentle swain, in the most tattered gear you can muster (buckskin breeches, if you have them), as recommended in the said William Wordsworth's poem of "Nutting," and, bag and crook in hand, sally forth with your lady-love, bedizened like Otway's witch in the "Orphan;" and Pan speed you! Sloes, being harsh and salivating in their sourness, are almost always plentiful; for dame Nature is a queer old economist, giving us fine things sparingly, but lots of the coarse. But ah! Flibbertigibbet aforesaid delights in the sloe. No matter how deceptively that blue-purple down, or rather film, of seeming ripeness, veils the sullen green of harsh immaturity -it's all one to "Ill Tam." Away he goes with his pocketful, whooping through the dry stubble fields to the village cow-racily herd boy on the common, who, smitten with the eager hope of company in his cheerless waitingon, perks up his head out of his dirty-brown maud from beyond the bielding heap of divots; starts up with an answering holla; and comes running over the bent to meet his welcome crony, the rush-cap on his head nodding like a mandarin's, and his doggie with its ears laid back in the wind gambolling on before. Straightway the fire of whins and dry barren thistles is set agoing, and sends up what Eschylus calls "its beard of flame," better seen by its wavering smoke-topped flicker than by its gleams of


Spenser does Usher of the White Rod to November thus:

"Next was November; he full gross and fat,

As fed with lard, and that right well might seem ;
For he had been a-fatting hogs of late,
That yet his brows with sweat did reek and steam;
And yet the season was full sharp and breem.
In planting eke he took no small delight."

So sings the Bard of Mulla. And now what a

comfortable fellow is this November, and how unlike that self-hanging and drowning which is laid to his charge! Why, the chap has just been killing his pigs, and is as fat and greasy as Parson Trulliber. How his nose "glitters with ungodly dew!" Moreover, the season is sharp and wholesome for his blood; and he has the exercise of planting his trees besides, to keep his appetite in trim. In addition to all this, his stackyard has just been thatched and his potatoes binged, and October has brewed a brown browst for him; so what has he to care for? Really, a better-conditioned fellow, outwardly, than this November cannot well be imagined. He is the very Cock of the Calendar. And then what sport he has! To the moorland with his greyhounds, over the thistly stubbles with his gun, to the high hoar echoing wood with his fox-hounds, off is he under the glint of morn, with a light heart and a pocket-pistol. The moon guides him home, and he sleeps in Elysium.

It seems to me, on looking back to my boy hood, that not a winter then passed without a magnificent snowstorm, and a month's frost as hard as the nether millstone. Then were the days of snow-battles, and of snow-men as big as Gog and Magog, staring afar with their eyes of smithy danders, and slowly pining through half the spring in their discoloured consumption. Then were the days of raffles among idle masons for a sow or an eight-day clock-pleasant to the boys who picked up the balls when the snow was gone, to run them into leaden pistols to fire on the thick-coming days of Salamanca, Vittoria, and Co. I was just going to sigh over the degeneracy of our modern Decembers, when there came a Frost, worthy of the most puckerbrowed, blue-nosed of his ancestors that ever painted upon glass, or candied over a mill-wheel, bearded with icicles like a he-goat. An old withered chronicler, whose own face was as rough as a frosty drove-road, or the puddled passage of a cattle-admitting gate, remarked to me that we have not had such a black frost since "the ninety-nine." Whether old Anno Domini be right or not I can't exactly say, as my own memory does not reach the hog-score of so remote a tee. But this I will say, that a bolder clearer fortnight, with here and there a stringent night that might have turned the Watery King of the Teetotallers into a pillar of ice, I never rejoiced to live through. The passion for ice here is as keen as the ice itself. Everybody curls, or skates, or slides; nor do we miss the pikestaff, so plain in the simile. At the skreigh-o'-day,

"When hens begin to mutter on the bauks," the village schoolboy, rubbing his eyes, demands of his early dad if the ice will bear, and jumping at the affirmative, however grudgingly given, fumbles his shivering way into his thin cordu

roys, dons his leather-heeled stockings, and clatters forth in his clogs; his unkempt halfstarved hair, unconscious of Macassar, standing out on his head like the ill-conditioned coat of a lean, farrow, family cow, hide-bound on dry fodder, as she comes forth to water at the frosty reeking well, not unbesmirched from the dropping outskirts of the hen-roost in the byre. The icicle at the thatched eaves gives him the first assurance of the frost; he plucks a pillar, and shaking the discoloured drop from its nose, engendered from the dirty rotten thatch, he sucks away at his barley-sugar, hoarsely cracking and braying with his heel the curious white ice, waved and wrought like a pale Scotch pebble, in every horse-foot print in the gnarled road, to try its strength and quality, and guess if the more distant slide will bear. Porridgestrengthened, he has an hour at the old quarryhole before the school goes in; and the dismissal at the droop of day sends him to the remoter cauld; not forgetting, however, to fetch a circuit by the mill, to thrust his hands into the happer for a gowpen of groats, or lie half-an-hour in the seedy killogie with the fire-feeding kilnman, if perchance he may vouchsafe him a roasted potato. Then off to the ice is he till all the stars be out; nor crunches he the crisp spangles of the frosty meadows with his homeward-hieing féet, till the cow-horn of the village has blown supper-time. Nor is this the last of him for the day. We catch another glimpse of the little rogue, as with halfpenny candle depending from his fore-finger-end, he takes every yard-long slide on his way home along the street, till, trying it on one foot, down he comes with a whack, and crushes little dippie into a thousand clots; then gathering himself up, makes the most of his limping leg to cover the disaster of the candle, and roars his way home, and is packed off to bed for his pains by the light of a spunk. But let us not be too hard on the little dog. His elders and betters like the ice as well as he. The thatcher on the north side of the frosty house-the coldest object in creation-clanks his arms on his sides at the foot of his ladder, to raise a glow; looks wistfully up at his unshaven · work; and bears aloft on his poised head a batch of rimy divots, like a bee-skep, which it will be death to manipulate. But now the wind ruffling his unfinished straw takes him so snelly by the nose, that he is fain to look over his shoulder at half-a-dozen roistering masons, red from the quarry, who, glorying in the happy idleness of impossible work in such weather, are on their way to the loch, and call him to come down. Half shaking him from his ladder, as he sticks his knife deep in the thatch, they have him off with them at last, blinking the evening certainty of his wife's displeasure. But what is he worse than others? The shoemaker's wax won't work, and what can Crispin do but curl? The tailor has left his carpet shoes, and is out upon tramps

true to his profession, the butcher nicks the hog; and the cadger breaks a metaphorical egg. "In days o' frost," says the song:

"In days o' frost, wi' writer chiels
Aye letter does for twa;
And doctors let their patients live
Until it comes a thaw."

bed without facing his wife, who, to justify her plea, takes care to let him hear her bustling and working like a fury far later than usual, as if the whole maintenance of the household now lay upon her industrious shoulder.

So writers and doctors are there too, and eke the minister; and thus the poor thatcher's apology is made up, as turned to the orange-tawny west, where the horizon, steaming as with hot discoloured sand, foretells a morrow of still intenser frost, he soberly reflects his way homeward to his wife, and at last ventures to whistle. But, alas for him! his wife has no dinner for himhow can she have? Snatching a bannock to munch at his leisure, he is off from her in a pet, and away to the smithy, the evening howf of the choice spirits of the village. The white and ruddy gleam of the keen, frost-fed, frizzled flame, edged with sulphurous blue, dazzles him as he opens the two halves of the door; shines on a dozen advertisements fixed and displayed on the upper half with the bent tips of horse-nails, the refuse of shoeing; and brings out in interesting chiaro-scuro the black rafters far back, where the remnant wings of what once were owls, and bats, and swallows, hang nailed and extended. Vulcan is bowing away and crooning at his handle tipped with smooth cowhorn turned upward, and watching two be-spectacled seniors playing at draughts on the hearth. Here a knot of masons are vastly improving upon the rink of the day. There a set of chaps are at BlindHarry, ready each in his turn to lend a hand at the fore-hammer, till the finished horse-shoe is flung hissing and hollow-thundering into the bubbling trough. Yonder is a little fellow in the corner, as yet innocent of his first shot, but vastly ambitious of taking a vizzy along the gun, which he finds ready in a nook for the raffle of a ewe-milk cheese on the morrow; and venturing to draw the trigger with a thumping heart, he feels he could have done a cushie. Beyond the draught-players are a set of urchins, on a narrow seat with three legs, fighting, and sprawling, and squealing, till Vulcan, his face waxing red as a nail-string with wrath, as he bends lower on his blast, sends the whole soul of Eolus through his quivering, dancing fire, and blows a tempest of sparks into the flushed begrimed faces of the unruly young rascals, who spring from the settle; and kicking the draughtboard with half its men into the trough, as they scatter away, they achieve their escape from the smithy. A leash of horses, to have their shoes sharpened, now fill the place; and Burnewin', getting illnatured from the quantity of work to do, and giving pithy tokens that his hand is encumbered with company, our poor thatcher is again driven to his shifts, and can make nothing more of it than just slink away home, and get darkling into

A brisk walk in the morning, what time the sun comes up the eastern horizon like a great red globe of fire, and flames on every facing window along the western valley; a hearty breakfast; family prayers; three hours in my library; another "constitutional" in the somewhat mellower noon; an early old-fashioned dinner, to which the concocting genius of a Brillat-Savarin or a Ude could lend no improving sauce; another stout evening walk among the brown forest leaves, along the coarse chapped stubbles and stony moors, over the ferny skirts of the hill, and home by the old quarry-hole, making my way through its withered, empty, cankered thistles, and its dry, hollow, rattling skeleton kexes, bent all the while on the pleasure of starting a hare; tea, talk, reading, or backgammon with sister Mary; another spell in my library; a look at the starry night; supper; devotion; bed; such is the old bachelor's cheerful winter day.

Listen again to Spenser. Thus he sings of December:

"And after him came next the chill December;
Yet he through merry feastings which he made,
And great bonfires did not the cold remember;
His Saviour's birth his mind so much did glad.
Upon a shaggy-bearded goat he rode,
The same wherewith Dan Jove in tender years,
They say, was nourished by the Iæan maid;
And in his hand a broad deep bowl he bears,
Of which he freely drinks a health to all his peers.

The feasting, the goodly punch-bowl, and the rousing fire, are all cordially characteristic of December. And then our village children have "Barring-out Day," "Guisarts," Cake-day,' and "Hansel Monday," this last, however, belonging to the New Year. But in Scotland we have not yet learned to link our grateful happiness with any outward religious observance of the most blessed natal day that ever dawned on earth, as is done in England, where even yet (though more so in the olden time) the very season is considered sacredly wholesome against all unnatural harms:


"Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes,
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to harm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time."

The last hour of the last day of the year is waning away. Born in the confluence of two eternities, in that measured space called Time, let me thank my Maker that He has given me a

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