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MOORLAND IDYLLS 



BOOKS BY GRANT ALLEN. 

The Evolutionist at Large. Crown 8vo, cloth extra, 6s. 
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LONDON : CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY. 



D,o\ 



MOORLAND IDYLLS 



GRANT ALLEN 

AUTHOR OF "THE EVOLUTIONIST AT LARGE.' 




LONDON 

CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY 

1896 



TO A. L. B. 

FROM G. A. AND N. A. 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

I. THE NIGHT-JAR ... ... ... i 

II. PROPHETIC AUTUMN ... ... 10 

III. OUR WINGED HOUSE-FELLOWS ... 17 

IV. A NEIGHBOURLY GOSSIP ... 26 
V. A RABBIT OF THE WORLD ... 33 

VI. THE ADDER'S SIESTA ... ... 42 

VII. A FLIGHT OF QUAILS ... ... 49 

VIII. IN LEAFLESS WOODS ... ... 58 

IX. A BUTTERFLY EPISODE ... ... 65 

X. THE FROZEN POND ... ... 74 

XI. THE GNARLED PINE-TREE ... 81 

XII. IVY IN THE COPSE ... ... go 

XIII. A DESPERATE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE ... 97 

XIV. COLTSFOOT FLOWERS ... ... 106 

XV. A HEATHER EPISODE ... ... 113 

XVI. THE CHRYSALIS YEAR ... 122 

XVII. A SUMMER STROLL ... ... 129 

XVIII. A MOOELAND FIRE ... ... 138 

XIX. THE ARCADIAN DONKEY ... ... 145 

XX. A LIFE-AND-DEATH STRUGGLE 153 
vii 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

XXI. THE SHRIKE'S LARDER ... ... 160 

XXII. NESTS AND No NESTS ... 167 

XXIII. THE CROUCH OAK ... ... 176 

XXIV. A SPOTTED ORCHIS ... ... 183 

XXV. THE ROOT OF THE MATTER ... 192 

XXVI. THE DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL ... 199 

XXVII. THE LARK IN AUTUMN ... ... 207 

XXVIII. THE SQUIRREL'S HARVEST ... 215 

XXIX. A DRAINED FISHPOND ... ... 223 

XXX. AN INTERVIEW WITH A COCK-SPARROW 230 

XXXI. THE GREEN WOODPECKER ... 237 

XXXII. THE HAREBELL ... ... ... 244 

XXXIII. THE UNTAMABLE SHREW ... 251 



Vlll 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

i. 

THE NIGHT-JAR. 
WE sat late on the verandah last night, 

o ' 

listening to the low trilling croon of the 
night-jar. It was a balmy evening, one of 
the few this summer ; the sunset was linger- 
ing over the heather-clad moors, and the 
lonely bird sat perched on one bough of 
the wind-swept pine-tree by Martin's Corner, 
calling pathetically to his mate with that 
deep passionate cry of his. I know not 
why, but the voice of the night-jar seems 
to me fuller of unspoken poetry than that 
of any more musical and articulate songster. 

I B 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

Away down in the valley a nightingale was 
pouring his full throat among the oak-brush ; 
but we hardly heeded him. Up -on the 
open moorland, in the twilight solitude, that 
grey bird of dusk sat keening and sobbing 
his monotonous love-plaint ; and it moved 
us more than alt the nightingale's gamut. 
I think it must be because we feel in- 
stinctively he is in terrible earnest. Those 
profound catches in the throat are the very 
note of true love ; they have in them some- 
thing of high human passion. And we 
could see the bird himself, too, on his half- 
leafless perch, craning his neck as he 
crooned, and looking eagerly for his lady- 
love. It was a delicious moment. We mur- 
mured as we sat George Meredith's lines 

" Lovely are the curves of the white owl sweeping 

Wavy in the dusk lit by one large star. 
Lone on the fir-branch, his rattle-note unvaried, 
Brooding o'er the gloom, spins the brown eve-jar." 

We were fortunate indeed in our mise-en- 
scene; for the poet's picture had realized 

2 



THE NIGHT-JAR. 

itself before us. And, as usual, art had 
reacted upon nature. The cry, that was 
so beautiful and romantic in itself, gained 
an added touch of beauty and romance from 
the great word-painter's exquisite images. 

Perhaps, too, some part of the charm 
in the night-jar and his kind may be due 
to the sense that here at least we stand 
face to face with a genuine relic of the older, 
the wilder, and the freer England. He is 
a bird of the night, of the heather and the 
bracken, of the unbroken waste, of the 
unpeopled solitude. When man invades 
his high home, he moves afield before the 
intruder. Here on the great moors we hear 
him nightly in summer ; but only when no 
other sound assails the ear, save the boom 
of the cockchafer, and the myriad hum of 
the flies and moths of dusk among the 
heather. He belongs, in fact, to that elder 
fauna which inhabited England before the 
whirr of wheels and the snort of steam drove 
the wild things far from us. The perky 

3 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

sparrow can accommodate himself without 
an effort to the bustle of towns, and can 
dispute for grains of corn under the horses' 
hoofs in Cheapside ; the rook can follow 
close the ploughman's heels, in search of 
worms turned up by the share in the 
furrows ; but the night-jar lives aloof among 
the solitary fern-wastes, and flies amain 
before the intrusion of our boisterous 
humanity. 

" Fern-owls " the country people here- 
abouts call them ; and very owl-like indeed 
they are in outer appearance, with their soft 
mottled plumage, all brown and grey and 
melting white, as is the wont of nocturnal 
or crepuscular creatures. But they are not 
owls at all by descent, for all that, being 
in reality big fly-hunting cousins of the 
swifts and the humming-birds. All birds 
that hawk after insects on the wing have 
a wide gaping mouth ; the house martins 
have it, and the swallows, and the swifts ; 
but in the night-jar this width of gape is 

4 



THE NIGHT-JAR. 

pushed to a singular and almost grotesque 
extreme, though not of course beyond the 
limit laid 'by the needs and habits of the 
animal. It is the enormous mouth, fringed 
with its strange line of coarse bristles along 
the beak, that has gained for our night-jar 
its common European name of goatsucker. 
And indeed, if you watch close on southern 
upland farms, among the Apennines or the 
Atlas, you will see the night-jars at twilight 
hovering close by the udders of the goats 
and cattle as they lie stretched in the 
meadows. But they are not milking them, 
as the Italian peasant firmly believes ; it is 
as friends and allies that they come, not as 
enemies. Peer hard through the gloom, on 
a moonlit evening, and you can make 
out at last that nocturnal flies are annoying 
the beasts, and that as fast as they gather 
the night-jar snaps them up, while the cattle 
seem to recognize this friendly office by 
never whisking their tails so long as the 
bird attends to them. It is a mutual 

5 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

convenience, an early form of that consorting 
for purposes of common advantage which 
reaches at last its highest development in 
the nest of ants, with their associated beetles 
and their cow-like aphides. 

Here in England, our night-jar is but a 
summer migrant, a visitor to the moors 
while insects abound ; and we listen for 
him eagerly in warm May weather. He 
comes to us from South Africa, where he 
winters among the Zulus, or, rather, escapes 
the chill of winter altogether in the opposite 
hemisphere. For he must have insects, 
flying insects on the wing, and plenty of 
them. We welcome his first churring among 
the pines and bracken as a sign of summer ; 
for he is a prudent bird, and seldom makes 
a mistake, knowing the marks of the 
weather well, like Mr. Robert Scott, and 
delaying his arrival till insects have hatched 
out in sufficient numbers from the cocoons 
over the heather-clad uplands. You see 
him but rarely, for he loves the dusk, and, 

6 



THE NIGHT-JAR. 

though far from a timid bird, he usually 
alights on the ground, hardly perching on 
a tree, I think, except to utter his love-call. 
When he does perch, it is always lengthwise 
to the bough, not crosswise, as is the fashion 
with most other birds ; he seems afraid of 
falling ; and then, this position also assorts 
better with his passionate attitude of craning 
expectancy as he leans forward on the 
branch to summon his helpmate. If you 
disturb him from the ground, he rises with 
flapping wings in an awkward and noisy 
way, bringing his pinions together above 
his body, somewhat after the lapwing's 
fashion ; but when he hawks on the open 
after flies, with his big mouth agape, his 
long arcs of flight are equable, swift, and 
graceful. Night-jars are fearless beasts ; 
they rear their young in the open, without 
pretence or concealment. The two veined 
and marbled eggs are laid boldly in some 
hard patch among the brake and gorse, on 
the bare ground, without a nest of any sort ; 

7 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

and though they are beautifully coloured 
when you come to examine them in detail, 
they so closely imitate the soil and the dry 
heath around in general effect, that you may 
easily pass them by, even when you have 
marked their approximate place by disturb- 
ing the sitting mother. Few British birds, 
indeed, show higher and closer adaptation 
to special conditions than our dreamy night- 
jars, essential insect-hawkers of the dusk on 
open and treeless uplands. Their large and 
mysterious eyes, their gaping mouths, their 
straining fringe of bristles, their delicate 
owl-like plumage, their swift and silent flight, 
their agile movements, their eerie cry, their 
curious love-sick nature all mark them out 
as marvellously modified nocturnal variants 
on the general type of the swifts and 
trogons. They are, in fact, specialized 
descendants of the same primitive ancestral 
form, whose bodies and souls have undergone 
weird and beautiful changes in adaptation 
to a wild and poetical life in the shades of 

8 



THE NIGHT-JAR. 

dusk on the unpeopled moorlands. For 
birds of twilight have always passionate cries 
and passionate natures ; not accident alone 
has given us the whip-poor-will and the 
nightingale. 



II. 
PROPHETIC AUTUMN. 

THE year used once to begin in March. 
That was simple and natural to let it start 
on its course with the first warmer breath 
of returning spring. It begins now in 
January which has nothing to recommend 
it. I am not sure that Nature does not 
show us it really begins on the first of 
October. 

" October ! " you cry, " when all is changing 
and dying! when trees shed their leaves, 
when creepers crimson, when summer singers 
desert our woods, when flowers grow scanty 
in field or hedgerow ! What promise then 
of spring ? What glad signs of a beginning ? " 

Even so things look at a superficial glance. 
10 



PROPHETIC AUTUMN. 

Autumn, you would think, is the season of 
decay, of death, of dissolution, the end of all 
things, without hope or symbol of rejuve- 
nescence. Yet look a little closer as you 
walk along the lanes, between the golden 
bracken, more glorious as it fades, and you 
will soon see that the cycle of the year's life 
begins much more truly in October than at 
any other date in the shifting twelvemonth 
you can easily fix for it. Then the round 
of one year's history draws to a beautiful 
close, while the round of another's is well 
on the way to its newest avatar. 

Gaze hard at the alders by the side of this 
little brook in the valley, for example, or at 
the silvery-barked birches here on the wind- 
swept moorland. They have dropped their 
shivering leaves, all wan yellow on the 
ground, and the naked twigs now stand 
silhouetted delicately in Nature's etching 
against the pale grey-blue background. But 
what are those dainty little pendulous 
cylinders, brown and beaded with the mist, 

1 1 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

that hang in tiny clusters half-unnoticed on 
the branches ? Those ? Why, can't you 
guess? They are next April's .catkins. 
Pick them off, and open one, and you will 
find inside it the wee yellowish-green 
stamens, already distinctly formed, and rich 
with the raw material of future golden pollen. 
The birch and the alder toiled, like La Fon- 
taine's ant, through all the sunny summer, 
and laid by in their tissues the living stuff 
from which to produce next spring's fluffy 
catkins. But that they may lose no time 
when April comes round again, and may 
take advantage of the first sunshiny day 
with a fine breeze blowing for the dispersal 
of their pollen, they just form the hanging 
masses of tiny flowers beforehand, in the 
previous autumn, keep them waiting in stock, 
so to speak, through the depth of winter, and 
unfold them at once with the earliest hint 
of genial April weather. Observe, though, 
how tightly the flowerets are wrapped in the 
close-fitting scales, overlapping like Italian 

12 



PROPHETIC AUTUMN. 

tiles, to protect their tender tissues from the 
frost and snow ; and how cleverly they are 
rolled up in their snug small cradles. As 
soon as spring breathes warm on them, how- 
ever, the close valves will unfold, the short 
stamens will lengthen into hanging tassels, 
and the pollen will shake itself free on the 
friendly breezes, to be wafted on their wings 
to the sensitive surface of the female flowers. 
Look, again, at the knobs which line the 
wand-like stems and boughs of the willows. 
Do you know what they are ? Buds, you 
say. Yes, leaves for next spring, ready-made 
in advance, and curled up in embryo, await- 
ing the summer. If you unfold them care- 
fully with a needle and pocket-lens, you will 
find each miniature leaf is fully formed 
beforehand : the spring has even now begun 
by anticipation ; it only waits for the sun 
to unfold and realize itself. Or see, once 
more, the big sticky buds on the twigs of 
the horse-chestnut, how tightly and well 
they protect the new leaves; and notice at 

13 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

the same time the quaint horseshoe scar, 
with marks as of nails, left where the old 
leaves have just now fallen off, the nails 
being, in point of fact, the relics of the 
vascular bundles. Death, says the old 
proverb, is the gate of life. " Le roi est 
mort; vive le roi!" No sooner is one 
summer fairly over than another summer 
begins to be, under the eyes of the observer. 
To those among us who shrink with dread 
from the Stygian gloom of English winter, 
there is something most consoling in this 
cheerful idea of Prophetic Autumn this 
sense that winter is but a temporary sleep, 
during which the life already formed and 
well on its way to flower and foliage just 
holds its breath awhile in expectation of 
warmer weather. Nay, more, the fresh 
young life of the new year has even begun 
in part to show itself already. Autumn, not 
spring, is the real season of seedlings. Cast 
your eyes on the bank by the roadside 
yonder, and what do you see ? The ground 



PROPHETIC AUTUMN. 

is green with tiny baby plants of prickly 
cleavers and ivy-leaved veronica. The seeds 
fall from the mother-plant on the soil in 
August, sprout and germinate with the Sep- 
tember rains, and have formed a thick carpet 
of spring-like verdure by the middle of 
October. That is the common way with 
most of our wild annuals. Unlike so many 
pampered garden flowers, but like " fall " 
wheat in cold climates, they sow themselves 
in autumn, come up boldly at once, straggle 
somehow through the winter, of course with 
enormous losses, and are ready by spring to 
welcome the first rays of returning sunshine. 
Even the animals in like manner are busy 
with their domestic preparations for next 
summer. The foundress wasps, already 
fertilized by the autumn brood of drones, 
are retiring with their internal store of eggs 
to warm winter quarters, ready to lay and 
rear them in the earliest May weather. The 
dormouse is on the look-out for a snug 
hiding-place in the hazels. The caterpillars 

15 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

are spinning cocoons or encasing themselves 
in iridescent chrysalis shells, from which to 
emerge in April as full-fledged moths or 
gay cabbage butterflies. Everything is pre- 
paring for next summer's idyll. Winter is 
but a sleep, if even that ; thank Heaven, I 
see in autumn the " promise and potency " 
of all that makes June sweet or April vocal. 



16 



III. 
OUR WINGED HOUSE-FELLOWS. 

WE have been sitting this afternoon in the 
Big Drawing-room, enjoying the view from 
its extensive windows. It is a spacious 
apartment for so small a house about three 
acres large, with windows that open all round 
over miles of moorland. The carpet has a 
groundwork of fallen pine-needles and green 
grass and bracken, irregularly threaded with 
a tiny pattern of brocaded flowers yellow 
tormentil, white bedstraw, golden stonecrop, 
red sheep-sorrel ; while by way of roof the 
room is covered by a fretted ceiling of inter- 
lacing fir-branches, through which one can 
catch at frequent intervals deep glimpses of 
a high and bright blue dome that overarches 

17 c 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

with its vast curve the entire Big Drawing- 
room. No finer throne-hall has any earthly 
king ; it is quite good enough for ourselves 
and our visitors. 

But as we leaned back in our easy-chairs 
spring seats of brake, backed with a bole 
of red pine-bark we gazed upward over- 
head through the gaps in the boughs, and 
saw our winged house-fellows, the black- 
and-white martins, sweeping round in long 
curves after flies in the sunshine. It was 
immensely picturesque for the martins and 
ourselves ; how the flies regard the question 
I forbear to inquire at the present juncture. 
We had lamb chops for lunch ; let him that 
is without sin amongst us for example, the 
editor of the Vegetarian Times cast the 
first stone at the house-martins. For my- 
self, I am too conscious of carnivorous and 
other sinful tastes to cast stones at anybody. 
We are all human, say I, or at any rate 
vertebrate ; let us agree to take things with 
vertebrate toleration. 

18 



OUR WINGED HOUSE-FELLOWS. 

The house-martins abide under the same 
roof with ourselves ; literally under the same 
roof, for their tiny mud nests cling close 
beneath the eaves of our two spare bed- 
rooms, familiarly known as the Maiden's 
Bower and the Prophet's Chamber the 
last because it is most often inhabited 
by our friend the curate, and furnished, 
after the scriptural precedent, with "a 
bed, and a table, and a stool, and a 
candlestick" "Every luxury that wealth 
can afford," said the Shunammite lady. 
" Under our roof," we say, when we speak 
of it ; but the house-martins think otherwise. 
" Goodness gracious," I heard one of them 
twitter amazed to his wife the day we moved 
in for the first time to our newly - built 
cottage, " how terribly inconvenient ! Here 
are some of those great nasty creatures, that 
walk so awkwardly erect, come to live in 
o^lr house without so much as asking us. 
How they'll frighten the children ! " For to 
tell you the truth, they were here before us. 

19 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

They came while the builders were still 
occupied in giving those "finishing touches" 
which are never finished ; and they regarded 
our arrival as an unwarrantable intrusion. 
I could tell it from the aggrieved tone in 
which they chirped and chattered : " Gross 
infringement of the liberty of the subject ; " 
" In England, every martin's nest is called 
his castle ; " " Was it for this our fathers 
fought and bled at Agincourt against the 
intrusive sparrows ? " and so forth ad in- 
finitum. But after a day or two, they cooled 
down and established a modiis Vivendi, the 
terms of the concordat being that we 
mutually agreed to live and let live, they 
under the eaves, and we in the interior. 
Since then, this arrangement has been so 
honourably carried out on both sides by the 
high contracting parties, that the martins 
allow us to stand close under them on the 
garden terrace, and watch while they bring 
flies in their mouths to their callow young, 
which poke out their gaping mouths at the 

20 



OUR WINGED HOUSE-FELLOWS. 

nest door to receive them. They know us 
individually, and return with punctuality and 
despatch to their accustomed home each 
summer. But when strangers stand by, I 
notice that, though the parent birds dart 
back to the nest with a mouthful of flies, 
they do not dare to enter it or to feed their 
young ; they turn hurriedly on the wing, 
three inches from the door, with a dis- 
appointed twitter, a sharp cheep of disgust, 
and won't return to their crying chicks, 
which strain their wide mouths and crane 
their necks to be fed, till the foreign element 
has been eliminated from the party. 

For myself, I will admit, I just love the 
house-martins. They may be given to 
eating flies ; but what of that ? The sky- 
lark himself Shelley's skylark, Meredith's 
skylark affects a diet of worms, and nobody 
thinks one penny the worse of him. Even 
Juliet, I don't doubt, ate lamb chops like the 
rest of us. Indeed, it happened to me a 
few mornings since, during some very hot 

21 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

weather, to be positively grateful for these 
insectivorous tastes on the part of our 
feathered fellow-citizens. We were sitting 
on the verandah, much tried by a plague of 
flies ; it was clear that " the blood of an 
Englishman " attracted whole swarms of 
midges and other unwelcome visitors. As 
soon as the house-martins became aware of 
this fact, they drew nearer and nearer to us 
in their long curves of flight, swooping down 
upon the insects attracted by our presence 
before they had time to arrive at the 
verandah. We sat quite still, taking no 
notice of the friendly birds' manoeuvres ; till 
after a while they mustered up courage to 
come close to our faces, flying so low and 
approaching us so boldly, that we might 
almost have put out our hands and caught 
them. I am aware, of course, that the 
martins merely regarded us from the selfish 
point of view, as fine bait for midges ; while 
we in return were glad to accept their ser- 
vices as vicarious flycatchers. But on what 

22 



OUR WINGED HOUSE-FELLOWS. 

else are most human societies founded save 
such mutual advantage ? And do we not 
often feel real friendship for those who serve 
us for hire well and faithfully ? In the 
midst of so much general distrust of man, 
I accept with gratitude the confidence of the 
house-martins. 

All members of the British swallow-kind 
are amply represented in and about our 
three acres. The common swallows breed 
under the thatched eaves of the ruined shed 
in the Frying Pan, and hawk all day over 
the shallow trout-stream that bickers down 
its middle. You can tell them on the wing 
by their very forked tail. It is, I think, in 
part a distinguishing mark by which they 
recognize their own kind, and discriminate it 
from the martins ; for the outer-tail feathers 
are particularly long and noticeable in the 
male birds, whence I take them to be of 
the nature of attractive ornaments. At the 
beginning of the breeding season, too, the 
males assume a beautiful pinky blush on 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

the lighter parts of the plumage, which may 
specially be observed as they turn flashing 
for a moment in bright April sunshine. 
The sand-martins, again, the engineers of 
their race, have excavated their long tun- 
nelled nests in the crumbling yellow cliff 
that flanks the cutting on the high road 
opposite ; I love to see them fly in with 
unerring aim at the narrow mouth as they 
return all agog from their aerial hunting 
expeditions on cool summer evenings. They 
are the smallest and dingiest of our swal- 
lows ; they have no sheeny blue-black 
plumage like their handsome cousins, but 
are pale brown above, and dirty white below. 
The house-martin, last of all, can be recog- 
nized at once upon the wing by his conspicuous 
belt of pure white plumage, almost dazzling 
in its brilliancy, which stretches in a band 
across the lower half of his back ; as he 
pirouettes on the wing, -this badge of his 
kind gleams for a moment against the sky, 
and then fades as if by magic. His shorter 

24 



OUR WINGED HOUSE-FELLOWS. 

tail scarcely shows forked at a distance, but 
when you watch him at close quarters, it is 
delightful to observe how he broadens or 
narrows it as he flies, to steady and steer him- 
self. In order fully to appreciate this point, 
however, you must have the quick keen eye 
of the born observer. As for the pure black 
swifts those canonical birds that haunt the 
village steeple they are not swallows at all, 
but dark and long-winged northern represen- 
tatives of the humming-birds and trogons. 
All these alike are summer migrants in 
England, for they can but come to us when 
insects on the wing are cheap and plentiful. 



IV. 

A NEIGHBOURLY GOSSIP. 

I LOVE gossip. For my own part, I can 
never see the point of the objections which 
some people raise against talking over the 
concerns of your neighbours' families. They 
are always so interesting. I like to know 
all about them. I like to pry into their 
most intimate secrets. I like to find out 
what they do with themselves all day long ; 
and what they have to eat for dinner ; and 
how they make their living ; and where or 
in whose company they spend their evenings. 
I like to watch where they build their homes, 
and how many eggs they lay, and how they 
hatch them out, and what becomes of the 
fledgelings. I like to spy out where others 

26 



A NEIGHBOURLY GOSSIP. 

hibernate in the woods, and what store of 
nuts and fruits they have laid by to provide 
against the Christmas scarcity. You may 
think this sort of Paul Pry interest in the 
affairs of your fellow-creatures is undignified 
and unphilosophic ; but I confess, to me it 
appears only neighbourly. 

For example, there are my friends the 
missel-thrushes, who have just lately returned 
for the winter months to their commodious 
quarters in the hanger below me. A week 
or two since I noticed them flying home to 
the woods and parks in their thousands. 
They have been spending the summer 
months as usual on their moors in Norway ; 
but food having lately begun to fail them on 
the fjelds, they are coming back now in great 
straggling flocks to their English residences. 
For, unlike the song-thrush, who is one of 
their closest and most distinguished relations, 
they stay with us in the winter only, and 
move north again betimes in late spring, as 
soon as their broods are reared and whortle- 

27 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

berries are getting plentiful in the northern 
moorlands. 

Questions of commissariat, indeed, have 
most to do with the migrations of birds ; it 
is not weather, as weather, but the condition 
of the food-supply that mainly regulates their 
periodical movements. Now, the missel- 
thrush is almost entirely vegetarian in his 
habits ; whereas his cousin, the song-thrush, 
subsists for the most part on a regimen of 
worms and other miscellaneous unsavoury 
animals. Hence it follows, of course, that the 
missel-thrush must needs go where berries 
are in season ; he follows them closely across 
the face of Europe, from province to province 
He cannot stand great cold, however, and 
often freezes to death in severe winters ; 
which is another reason why he comes south 
for warmth when Norwegian hills rise white 
with snow, and fjords are blocked with ice, 
and crystal-frosted pine-trees glisten in the 
sun with innumerable diamonds. Family 
parties of missel-thrushes may be seen in 

28 



A NEIGHBOURLY GOSSIP. 

our fields the whole winter through ; but 
they are timid and wary, and fly off in a 
body at .the faintest suspicion of coming 
danger. You can tell them as they rise on 
the wing by the conspicuous white patch 
under the pinions, which seems, like the 
rabbit's tail, to act as a danger-signal to the 
rest of the household. No sooner does one 
of them scent a stranger afar off than he 
rises silently, and the others, alarmed by his 
contagious fear, rise after him one by one 
in a picturesque line, somewhat as one often 
sees in the case of wild-fowl. In February 
and March your missel-thrush begins to 
build in the hawthorns and apple-trees ; and 
the moment his nestlings are strong enough 
of wing to buffet the strong winds of the 
German Ocean, the whole family flits north 
again to its Norwegian estate for the cloud- 
berry season. The nests, however, though 
built somewhat overtly on bare and leafless 
boughs, are most difficult to find ; for the 
cunning little architects, knowing well they 

29 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

will get no protection from a canopy of 
foliage, conceal their homes adroitly with an 
outer coat of woven moss and lichen, which 
so harmonizes with the grey and lichen- 
covered branches around them as to make 
them almost indistinguishable. The eggs 
are stone-grey, daintily spotted and blotched 
with round blobs of brown ochre. 

But by far the most interesting point about 
the missel-thrush is that curious connection 
between the bird and the mistletoe which 
was observed so long since even by our 
prehistoric ancestors as to have given the 
species its vernacular name in all European 
languages. Turdus viscivorzis the mistletoe- 
eating thrush is Linnaeus's scientific Latin 
title for the creature, and he well deserves it. 
He is almost or altogether the only bird that 
will eat the mistletoe berries, and on him 
accordingly the mistletoe depends for the 
dispersal of its seeds and the propagation 
of its mystic parasitic seedlings. The berries 
themselves are very " viscid," as we say 

30 



A NEIGHBOURLY GOSSIP. 

the word itself being derived from the Latin 
name of mistletoe and the seeds cling close, 
as if gummed or glued, to the bird's beak 
and feet in a disagreeable fashion. So, to 
get rid of them, he alights on an apple-tree 
or a poplar, which are his favourite perches, 
betakes him at once to an angle of a bough, 
and rubs off the annoying and sticky objects 
in the fork of the branches. There they 
fasten themselves, and germinate. Now, 
this arrangement exactly suits the mistletoe, 
for apple and poplar are just the two trees 
best adapted for its depredations, while a 
fork in a bough is the one likely place where 
it has a chance of rooting itself. A great 
many unobservant people imagine to-day 
that mistletoe grows chiefly on oaks, because 
they have heard about the sanctity of oak- 
grown mistletoes in the eyes of the Druids. 
The real fact is, as you may learn for your- 
self if you will look at nature instead of 
merely reading about it at second or third 
hand, that mistletoe on an oak-tree is ex- 
Si 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

tremely rare ; the Druids prized it because 
they thought it the life or soul of the oak, 
which was the sacred tree of Celtic mytho- 
logy. I notice, indeed, that missel-thrushes 
very seldom perch on ; oaks ; and even when 
they do by chance dislodge a stray seed of 
mistletoe on one, it has difficulty in fixing 
its young suckers on the alien bark, and 
draining the tree's nutritious juices. The 
truth is, the mistletoe and the missel-thrush 
are developed for one another; they have 
struck up an alliance from time immemorial 
on terms of mutual service and accommo- 
dation. 



V. 

A RABBIT OF THE WORLD. 

A LITERARY Lady, sentimental as was the 
wont of literary ladies before the incarnation 
of the New Woman, went once to call on 
a Great Poet, who pervaded these regions. 
But the Great Poet was coy, says the legend, 
and listened not to the voice of the Literary 
Lady, charmed she never so wisely. He 
refused to be drawn by her cunning blandish- 
ments, but smoked on in peace, glaring 
gruffly from his chimney corner. So at last 
the Great Poet's wife, feeling that the situa- 
tion grew slightly strained, endeavoured to 
create a diversion by saying, " My dear, 
won't you take Mrs. Gusherville to see 
the garden ? " The Great Poet, thus 

33 D 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

checkmated, rose unwillingly from his scat, 
and strode three paces ahead through the 
shrubbery paths, followed, longo intervallo, by 
the panting Mrs. Gusherville. Never a word 
did he say as he paced the lawn with his 
heavy tread ; but at last, as he approached 
one garden border, he turned towards his 
visitor. Speech trembled on his lips; Mrs. 
Gusherville leant forward to catch the im- 
mortal accents. The Poet spoke. " D mn 
those rabbits ! " he said ; and then relapsed 
into silence. That was all Mrs. Gusherville 
got out of her interview. 

I am reminded of this episode, which if 
not true to fact is at any rate true to human 
nature, by the short sharp barking of Fan, 
my neighbour's spaniel, resounding from the 
heather in the direction of the Frying Pan. 
Each bark is an eager impatient snap, and 
its burden is " Rabbits ! " Now, I sympa- 
thize with every living thing that breathes ; 
yet if it were not for a constitutional objec- 
tion to unnecessary vigour of language, I 

34 



A RABBIT OF THE WORLD. 

could almost back Fan, and echo the Great 
Poet's indignant exclamation. For whatever 
we try to plant among the heather, by way 
of beautifying our small patch of moorland 
(as who should paint the lily or gild refined 
gold), those unscrupulous rodents immedi- 
ately proceed to treat as their private pro- 
perty. Not one of our white brooms has 
survived their attacks ; and the way they 
have devoured our periwinkles and our St. 
John's wort is a credit to their appetites, 
and a testimonial to the magnificent air of 
this healthy neighbourhood. The lad who 
attends to my garden (we call it a garden 
by courtesy, not to hurt its feelings) is always 
saying to me, " Let me set a trap for 'em, 
sir." But grave as their misdemeanours are, 
I can't bear to trap them. I remember that 
after all they were the earliest inhabitants. 
They dwelt here before me ; and when I 
plumped down my cottage in the midst of 
their moor, I seriously interfered with their 
domestic economy. " There's a horrid house 

35 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

built," said the mother rabbit : " I suspect 
a dog will follow, and perhaps a gun too." 
" Never mind," said the father, who was a 
rabbit of the world ; " they'll more than make 
it up to us, I predict, by planting greenstuff, 
which is a deal juicier, after all, than gorse 
or bracken." 

And, indeed, I feel I owe a duty to these 
earlier inhabitants ; I love their fellowship, 
and do what I can to encourage their un- 
interrupted residence. The night-jar still 
perches nightly on one accustomed branch 
of the big lone fir-tree ; the cuckoo comes 
and calls to us from the clump of stunted 
pines by the dining-room window ; the merry 
brown hares dart obliquely across the ill- 
grown green patch of tennis-lawn ; and the 
baby bunnies themselves, all unconscious of 
their misdemeanours against the growing 
shrubs, brush their faces before our eyes 
with their tiny grey paws as we sit upon 
the terrace. My neighbour has a shot at 
them with gun and dog; and even as I 

36 ' 



A RABBIT OF THE WORLD. 

write, I can hear the ping, ping of his 
murderous cartridges and the quick cries of 
Fan in the adjoining plot of moor ; but for 
myself I refrain. I would rather have the 
gambolling of such innocent fellow-creatures 
on my patch of grass in the dusk of even- 
ing than all the rhododendrons and azaleas 
and cypresses the florist can palm upon 
me. 

And how pretty they are, those harmless 
little malefactors ! How they frolic across 
the sward with tiny irregular jumps, like a 
sportive kitten, only ten times more guileless 
no tinge of bloodthirstiness in their liquid 
eye, no stealthy cruelty in their honest grey 
faces ! Your rabbit is a decent and in- 
offensive vegetarian. Besides, its mode of 
life sorts well with the uplands ; it never 
disfigures nature, but accommodates itself 
to the environment like a good working 
evolutionist. When we first thought of 
building here, a clever Girton girl, whom 
we met at the little inn, held up her hands 

37 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

in horror. " Why build on Hartmoor at all ? 
Why not simply burrow ? " And the rabbits 
burrow. The hill-top is just honey-combed 
with their underground palaces. There they 
lurk for the most part during the heat of 
the day, and come out at night to feed on 
the furze-bushes that protect and conceal the 
mouths of their burrows. Indeed, the very 
shape of the furze-bush, as we ordinarily 
know it, depends on the constant activity of 
the hungry and greedy bunnies. Naturally, 
gorse, if left to itself, would grow feathery 
from the soil upward, without any gaunt 
stretch of naked stem at its base ; but the 
rabbits eat off the growing shoots just as 
high as they can reach by standing tip-toe 
on their hind feet ; so that the resulting 
shape is a product, so to speak, of rabbit 
into gorse-bush. Where the soil is light 
and sandy, as here, burrowing is universal ; 
but on cold wet moors, the rabbits avoid 
the chance of rheumatism by construct- 
ing long tunnels above ground instead, 

38 



A RABBIT OF THE WORLD. 

through matted galleries of heather and 
herbage. 

Cowardice is the principal defence of the 
rabbit, as of all other unarmed rodents. At 
the first alarm, he flies headlong to his 
burrow. What swiftness of foot does for 
the open-nesting hare, that swiftness of 
retreat does for his underground cousin. 
Natural selection in such a case favours the 
most cowardly ; for to be brave is to court 
immediate extinction. That is why rabbits 
have the noticeable patch of white under 
their tails their scuts, as sportsmen very 
aptly call them. At first sight you would 
suppose such a conspicuous white mark 
must be a source of danger. In reality it 
has been evolved as a patent safety-signal. 
For while the rabbits crouch and feed, un- 
seen in the grey grass, they are very little 
conspicuous ; but the moment one of them 
spies any cause of alarm, off it scampers to 
its hole ; and, raising the danger-signal as 
it goes, it warns the whole warren, all whose 

39 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

members scuttle after it apace without wait- 
ing to inquire into the nature of the panic. 
The mouth of the burrow runs quite straight 
just at first, so that the retreating bunny 
can dash into it at full speed without check- 
ing his pace ; but at a convenient point, a 
few feet in, it begins to bend and divaricate, 
besides branching and subdividing as a pre- 
caution against weasels and other vermin 
enemies. It has also at least two entrances 
and exits, like a room at the theatre, in case 
of pursuit ; and it is cunningly engineered 
against the chance of intrusion. But the 
nursing - chamber, where the timid wee 
mother hides her naked and shapeless 
young, is quite differently contrived with 
but a single mouth, and is fitted up with 
every internal luxury. The good parent 
lines it with soft fur pulled from her own 
warm coat, and goes stealthily by night to 
suckle her little ones. When she comes 
away, she plasters up the entrance with 
earth to conceal it as well as she can from 

40 



A RABBIT OF THE WORLD. 

prying enemies ; and there the baby rabbits 
remain alone in the dark till her next visit. 
Three or four such broods are produced each 
year, for your rabbit is indeed an uxorious 
creature. 



VI. 
THE ADDER'S SIESTA. 

Two " hedgers and tiners," demolishing a 
bank of earth at Turner's Corner as I 
walked along the Headley Road this morn- 
ing, came, to their great surprise and no 
little horror, on a coiled and twisted colony 
of hibernating adders. I paused in my stroll 
for ten minutes to watch the unearthing. 
It was a curious sight ; the lithe and sinuous 
creatures, recognizable at once as genuine 
vipers by the zigzag pattern of dark 
diamond-shaped spots down their glossy 
green backs, lay curled and entwined with 
one another in snaky amity, fast asleep 
past waking, and completely filling up, as 
with a living mass of inextricable knots, 

42 



THE ADDER'S SIESTA. 

the curves and crannies of the underground 
hole where they had taken refuge. They 
were there, of course, for their little winter 
siesta, which occupies them for a trifle of 
six months at a sitting. I pleaded hard for 
their lives with the men, explaining most 
earnestly that they would do much more 
good than harm, from the point of view 
of those whose talk is of beeves, and who 
regard standing corn as the one really sacred 
object in this beautiful universe. But I 
need hardly say my special pleading proved 
of no avail ; the hedgers chopped them up 
fine before my eyes with their murderous 
spades, on the familiar antique principle 
of "laming them to be adders." Poor 
helpless creatures, expiating thus unaware 
the delicta, majorum! They would have 
killed more mice in a week than the men 
could catch in a summer; but they were 
snakes for all that, and your rustic hates 
and shrinks from snakes, et dona ferentes. 
The adder's siesta is just as much a part 
43 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

of his fixed yearly cycle as the fall of the leaf 
is to the tree, or migration towards warmer 
lands is to the swallow or house-martin. 
Snakes can't migrate; because, of course, 
they've got no wings to migrate with ; and 
being chilly creatures, evolving little animal 
heat of their own from their sluggish circu- 
lation, and warmed by the sun alone into 
spasmodic activity, they are compelled to 
bury themselves in holes in the ground, 
where they lie close to all others of their 
species that they can find, so as to utilize 
in common, by mutual aid, whatever trifle 
of bodily warmth they possess between 
them. Indeed, a snake, like a tree, can 
only be said really to live for half 
its lifetime ; the other half these Perse- 
phones of the north spend underground in 
the torpid condition. The heart almost 
entirely ceases to beat ; the lungs cease to 
act ; sensation is suspended ; and the animal 
dozes away his time unconsciously till the 
summer warmth of the surface soil begins 

44 



THE ADDER'S SIESTA. 

once more to revive him. Then he ventures 
forth timorously from his hole on some 
bright May morning, to see how things 
are progressing in the upper world ; and 
meeting, peradventure, some belated shrew- 
mouse or some early spring chicken, makes 
a dash at it at once with what life he has 
left in him, strikes it with his poison-fang, 
and, swallowing it whole, straightway regains 
fresh fuel for the battle of existence. 

Adders were always friends of mine. 
They are numerous hereabouts, on our 
heathy uplands ; and for my own part, I 
do my best to protect and preserve them. 
For we have not so many wild creatures 
left in England that we can afford to despise 
any lingering element of our native fauna. 
Besides, they do next to no practical harm ; 
occasionally, indeed, they may spring at a 
dog who provokes their otherwise placid 
and meditative tempers by treading on 
them in the heather ; and they will still 
more rarely make a dash at a man who 

45 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

incautiously handles them ; but as a rule they 
are timid and rather sluggish creatures, 
much more likely to take fright and flee 
when discovered than to turn and -rend one. 
I come across them frequently on basking 
paths among the heath in summer; they 
lie sunning themselves on the warm sand ; 
but when I endeavour to rouse them to 
resistance by poking at them with my stick, 
they refuse, as a rule, to show fight, and 
after a few minutes of hesitation and lazy 
reluctance to move, they retire in high dis- 
pleasure to their home among the bracken. 
Never once have I known them try actively 
to resent my intentional intrusion on their 
post-prandial reflections. 

We have but two kinds of snakes, all told, 
in England, popular prejudice to the con- 
trary notwithstanding. One of them is the 
harmless and pretty ring-snake, easily dis- 
tinguished by the absence of the rhomboidal 
zigzag markings ; the other, who may as 
easily be recognized by their presence, is 

46 



THE ADDER'S SIESTA. 

the venomous adder, known also under his 
frequent alias as the viper, and often sup- 
posed to be two distinct creatures. In 
reality, one reptile doubles the parts, as 
an actor would say, being but a single snake 
under two disguises. The adder is remark- 
able for bringing forth its young alive, 
instead of hatching them out of eggs, like 
most typical serpents ; and the very name 
viper is short for vivipara. As for the blind- 
worm, or slow-worm, who is also one animal 
masquerading under two aliases, he must 
not be considered a snake at all, being a 
legless lizard, who tries deceptively to pass 
himself off in serpent's clothing. Nay, he 
is not even, strictly speaking, legless, for he 
has rudimentary limbs, with bones to match, 
though they never quite succeed in pushing 
themselves through the scaly integument. 
He is a lizard, in short, arrested on his road 
to complete serpenthood. Neither the ring- 
snake nor the blind-worm is in the slightest 
degree dangerous ; but when in doubt as 

47 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

to whether a particular crawling animal is 
an adder or otherwise, it would be safer to 
give him and yourself the benefit of the 
doubt, by abstaining from handling him. 
The poison-fangs of the viper are two in 
number, set in the upper jaw ; they are 
hollow, perforated, and erectile at will by 
the muscles of the animal. Their poison 
is secreted by a gland at the back, which 
communicates through a tube with the canal 
in the fang ; and it is not really so very 
venomous. But if you provoke an adder 
overmuch, and he sees a chance of remon- 
strating with you, I do not deny that he 
will throw back his smooth head, erect his 
angry fangs, dart quickly forward, and 
express his disagreement by inflicting a 
bite upon the offender's trousers. In this 
he acts much as you and I would do if 
he were a man and we were adders. Put 
yourself in his place, and you will think less 
ill of him. 



48 



VII. 

A FLIGHT OF QUAILS. 

IT is one of the wonders and delights of 
the moorland that here alone Nature pays 
the first call, instead of demurely waiting 
to be called upon. Near great towns she 
is coy ; and even in the fields that abut on 
villages, she shows but a few familiar aspects ; 
while aloof on the open heath she reveals 
herself unreservedly, like a beautiful woman 
to her chosen lover. She exhibits all her 
moods and bares all her secrets. This 
afternoon, late, we were lounging on the 
low window-seat by the lattice that gives 
upon the purple spur of hillside, when sud- 
denly a strange din as of half-human voices 
aroused our attention. " Look, look ! " Elsie 

49 E 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

cried, seizing my arm in her excitement. 
And, indeed, the vision was a marvellous 
and a lovely one. From the lonely pine- 
tree that tops the long spur above the 
Golden Glen, a ceaseless stream of brown 
birds seemed to flow and disengage itself. 
It was a living cataract. By dozens and 
hundreds they poured down from their 
crowded perch ; and the more of them 
poured down, the more there were left of 
them. What a miracle of packing ! They 
must have hustled and jostled one another 
as thick on the boughs as swarming bees 
that cling in a cluster round their virgin 
queen ; while as for the ground beneath, it 
seethed and swelled like an ant-heap. For 
several minutes the pack rose from its camp, 
and fluttered and flowed down the steep side 
of the moor toward Wednesday Bottom, 
flying low in a serried mass, yet never 
seeming to be finished. They reminded me 
of those cunning long processions at the 
play, when soldiers and village maidens 

50 



A FLIGHT OF QUAILS. 

stream in relays from behind the wings, and 
disappear up the stage, and keep moving 
eternally. Only that is clever illusion, and 
this was reality. 

" Lonely," people say ! " No life on the 
hilltop ! " Why, here was more life at a 
single glance than you can see in a whole 
long week in Piccadilly ; an army on the 
march, making the heather vocal with the 
" wet-my-feet, wet-my-feet " of ten thousand 
voices ! 

But you must live in the uplands to enjoy 
these episodes. Nature won't bring them 
home to you in the populous valleys. A 
modest maid, she is chary of her charms ; 
you must woo her to see them. She seldom 
comes halfway to meet you. But if you 
dwell by choice for her sake in her chosen 
haunts, your devotion touches her : she will 
show you life enough rare life little dreamt 
of by those who tramp the dead flags of 
cities, where no beast moves save the 
draggled cab-horse. For you, the curlew 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

will stalk the boggy hollows ; for you, the 
banded badger will creep stealthily from his 
earth and disport himself at dusk among 
his frolicsome cublets ; for you, the- dappled 
adder will sun his zigzag spots, and dart 
his tremulous tongue, all shivering and 
quivering; for you, the turbulent quail will 
darken the ground in spring, or spread 
cloud-like over the sky on cloudless summer 
evenings. 

And what poetry, too, in their sudden 
entrance on the scene, dropped down from 
heaven, one would think, as on Israel in 
the wilderness! Small wonder the marvel- 
loving Hebrew annalist took those multi- 
tudinous birds for the subject of a miracle. 
But yesterday, perhaps, they were fattening 
their plump crops among the vine-shoots 
of Capri, the lush young vine-shoots with 
their pellucid pink tendrils ; and to-day, 
here they are among the dry English 
heather, as quick and eager of eye as by 
Neapolitan fig-orchards. Swift of flight and 
52 



A FLIGHT OF QUAILS. 

/ 

patient of wing, they will surmount the 
Apennines and overtop the Alps in a single 
night ; leave Milan in its plain and Lucerne 
by its lake when the afterglow lights up the 
snow on the Jungfrau ; speed unseen in the 
twilight over Burgundy or the Rhineland ; 
cross the English Channel in the first grey 
dawn ; and sup off fat slugs before twelve 
hours are past, when the shadows grow deep 
in the lanes of Surrey. Watt and Stephen- 
son have enabled us poor crawling men to 
do with pain and discomfort, at great ex- 
pense, in the chamber of torture described 
with grim humour as a train de luxe, what 
these merry brown birds, the least of the 
partridge tribe, can effect on their own stout 
wings in rather less time, without turning 
a feather. If you watch them at the end 
of their short European tour from Rome 
to England at a burst, you will find them 
as playful and as bickering at its close as 
if they had just gone out for an evening 
constitutional. 

53 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

Quails are the younger brothers of the 
partridge group ; but, unlike most of their 
kind, they are gregarious and migratory. 
They spend their winters in the south, as 
is the wont of fashionable invalids, and come 
northward with the spring, in quest of cooler 
quarters. Myriads of them cross the Medi- 
terranean from Africa with the early sciroccos, 
and descend upon Calabria and the Bay of 
Naples in those miraculous flights which 
Browning has immortalized in " The English- 
man in Italy." Quail-netting is then a 
common industry of the country about Sor- 
rento and Amalfi ; thousands of the pretty 
little gray-and-buff birds are sent to market 
daily, with their necks wrung, and their 
beautiful banded heads, " specked with white 
over brown like a great spider's back," all 
dead and draggled. Many of the flocks 
stop on during the season among the vine- 
yards in Italy ; but other and more ad- 
venturous hordes, tired of southern slugs 
and fat southern beetles, wing their way 

54 



A FLIGHT OF QUAILS. 

still further north, to Germany, Scandinavia, 
England, and Scotland. At one time they 
were far from uncommon visitors in our 
southern counties ; but brick and mortar 
have disgusted them, and their calls are 
nowadays liker to angels' visits than in the 
eighteenth century. Yet a few still loiter 
through the winter in Devonshire or Kerry ; 
while in summer they still reach to the 
Orkneys, Shetland, and the Outer Hebrides. 
Beautiful as quails are, both to look upon 
and to eat, they are not personally amiable 
or admirable creatures. Their character is 
full of those piquant antitheses which seven- 
teenth-century satire delighted to discover 
in the human subject. They are gregarious, 
but unsociable ; fond of company, yet 
notoriously pugnacious ; abandoned poly- 
gamists, with frequent lapses into the 
strictest monogamy ; fighters destitute of 
the sense of honour ; faithless spouses, but 
devoted, affectionate, and careful mothers. 
I fancy, too, they must have a wonderful 

55 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

instinct in the matter of commissariat, in- 
creased, no doubt, by ages of strategical 
evolution : for it can be by no means easy 
to find supplies for so large an army on the 
march ; yet quails seem always so to time 
their arrival at each temporary stopping- 
place as exactly to fall in with some glut 
in the insect-market. Only a few days 
before they came here, for example, not a 
beetle was to be seen upon the parched-up 
heath ; but day before yesterday it rained 
insects, so to speak ; and last night one 
could hardly take a step down the Long 
Valley without crushing small beetles under- 
foot, against one's will, by the dozen. The 
quails must somehow have got wind of the 
fact that there was corn in Egypt, be it by 
scent, or scouts, or some mysterious instinct ; 
and here they are to-night, swarming up in 
their thousands, to enter into possession of 
their ancestral heritage. You should see 
them wage war on the helpless longicorn ! 
I hope they will nest here, as it is amusing 

56 



A FLIGHT OF QUAILS. 

to watch them. Each little Turk of a 
husband keeps a perfect harem of demure 
brown hens, looking slily askance from the 
corners of their eyes, and watches over them 
close by with all the jealousy of a Mahmoud 
or a Sultan Soleyman. The rival who tries 
to poach on his lordship's preserves has, 
indeed, a hard time of it ; he will retire, 
well pecked, from his rash encounter. Quails, 
in fact, are still in the Mohammedan stage 
of social evolution, while our more advanced 
and enlightened English partridges have 
attained already to a civilized and Western 
domestic economy. 



57 



VIII. 

IN LEAFLESS WOODS. 

YES : these bare boughs, I take it, are not 
all pure loss. They have their consolations ; 
they have their artistic and intellectual value. 
They show us, after all, the true inwardness 
of the tree ; they enable us to realize, as 
none could otherwise do, the infinite diversity 
of architecture and ground-plan in the design 
and execution of the forest denizens. While 
dense masses of foliage clothe and obscure 
the boughs with their gay greenery we can 
gain but a rough idea of the underlying 
structure. But just as a Leonardo or a 
Luca Signorelli must needs pry beneath skin 
and muscle to discover the actual framework 
and bony supports of the body, so the lover 

53 



IN LEAFLESS WOODS. 

of the trees desires from time to time to 
catch some glimpse of the very limbs and 
joints of oak or maple to get rid of the 
green covering in favour of the naked under- 
lying reality. So only can one enjoy the 
delicate lissom twigs of the silver birch, 
etched in tender grey against the hard blue 
sky ; so only can one observe the forked 
upright branches of the Lombardy poplar, 
like natural candelabra, in striking contrast 
with the long hanging boughs of the weep- 
ing-willow, divided and subdivided into 
pendulous twigs, and losing themselves at 
last in fine spray of living threads, like a 
wind-driven cataract. Every kind of forest- 
dweller has thus its own special beauty of 
architectural plan ; and every one of them 
can be realized in all its naked grace and 
variety of outline only when relieved of the 
glorious green weight that so richly con- 
cealed it. 

And bare boughs are instructive, too, as 
well as beautiful. They suggest to one the 

59 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

endless vicissitudes and cataclysms in the 
history of growth ; they show us how the 
knotted trunk acquires its final form, and by 
what course of evolution branch -added to 
branch builds up at last the whole noble 
shape of the buttressed beech or the spread- 
ing horse-chestnut. Take, for example, our 
dear old friend the ash. In summer you 
can hardly discern through a canopy of 
green the outline of his bent boughs, curved 
downwards by their own weight of heavy 
feathery foliage, each leaf a little branch 
with numerous spreading leaflets. But when 
autumn comes, and the heavy leaves drop 
off one by one, you get revealed at once the 
peculiar beauty of his mode of growth that 
delicious combination of angular and curved 
form which makes the ash the acknowledged 
king of the winter woodland. All the 
branches dip gracefully in a long arch to- 
wards the end, and then rise again with an 
abrupt curve ; this hooked type of terminal 
bough being so distinctive and so well 

60 



IN LEAFLESS WOODS. 

marked an ashy feature that you can tell 
an ash by it afar off in its wintry nakedness 
as you whirl by in a train at a mile's dis- 
tance, especially if it happens to be sil- 
houetted against the sky on a bare ridge 
or hilltop. The growth of the oak, on the 
other hand, so gnarled and irregular, is quite 
equally characteristic ; while the disposition 
of the buds soon reveals the fact that this 
very irregularity itself owes its origin in 
the last resort to a survival of the fittest 
among many abortive branches. For the 
oak tries, as it were, to grow symmetrically 
like a conifer ; but frost and wind play such 
havoc with its delicate young shoots that it 
never succeeds in realizing its ideal, but 
grows habitually distorted against its will 
by external agencies. 

Nor does our winter leave us wholly 
leafless. Even in England we have a fair 
sprinkling of native-born evergreens. And 
I really don't know that I would wish them 
more frequent ; for nothing can be more 
61 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

monotonous, more sickly sweet, than the 
unvarying green of tropical forests ; while 
the grateful contrast of drooping birch twigs 
or big-budded bare oak branches 'with the 
dark and sombre verdure of our northern 
Scotch firs, is in itself one of the chief charms 
of English winter. During the Tertiary 
period, indeed, our English woods were full 
of large-leaved evergreens of the southern 
types camphors and cinnamons, and rhodo- 
dendrons and liquidambars ; but with the 
coming on of the Great Ice Age those lush 
southern forms were driven southward for 
ever, leaving us only the Scotch fir, the yew, 
and the juniper, with a few broader-leaved 
kinds of shiny evergreen, of which holly, ivy, 
and box are the most familiar examples. 
These, with the exotic laurels and aucubas, 
the daphnes and the laurustinuses, are quite 
enough to diversify pleasantly our northern 
scenery. Then our recent acquisitions of 
exotic conifers, like the Douglas pines, the 
sequoias, and the beautiful glaucous firs, " the 

62 



IN LEAFLESS WOODS. 

greenest of things blue, the bluest of things 
green," which now abound in plantations, 
have done much to redeem the surviving 
reproach of the glacial epoch. 

Not that any of these plants are really 
evergreen in the stricter sense that most 
people imagine. All our foliage alike is, 
strictly speaking, annual, and all alike deci- 
duous ; but while oaks and beeches shed 
their dead leaves in our climate in autumn, 
pines, firs, and hollies retain theirs on the 
tree till the succeeding spring, and then let 
them drop quietly off, unperceived amid the 
pale glory of the fresh green foliage. The 
larch is a well-known example of a conifer 
which behaves in this respect like the oak 
or the birch ; while its ally, the spruce fir, 
keeps on the dead or dying leaves through 
the winter months, and then shufBes them 
off unobtrusively as the new foliage develops. 
The evergreens get the advantage of utiliz- 
ing any stray scrap of winter sunshine ; but 
then they have to protect their living green 

63 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

material with a thick coat of glazed outer 
cells ; the deciduous trees, on the other 
hand, withdraw all the living protoplasm 
in autumn into the live layer of .the bark, 
drop the dead skeletons of the leaves on the 
ground, and utilize the protoplasm afresh for 
the formation of young leaves when spring 
comes round once more in due season. 
Nothing is lost; everything is economized, 
hoarded, and finally used up again. 



IX. 

A BUTTERFLY EPISODE. 

HE was an airy, fairy orange - tip. 
He had just emerged from the chrysalis, 
and stood poised for a moment, like a 
hesitating Psyche, on the flat - topped 
blossoming branches of a big white cow- 
parsnip. For the most part, he sat there, 
irresolute, plimming his untried wings, and 
half opening them tentatively from time 
to time, as if wondering to himself how the 
dickens they got there. And well might 
he wonder ; for remember, he was bred a 
common green caterpillar. Never till this 
moment did it dawn across his mind that 
such a motion as flight could exist in the 
universe. So there he sat still, uncertain 

65 F 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

what strange change had come over him 
unawares. Six well-formed legs, in place 
of the creeping suckers on which he crawled 
in his youth ; and what could these thin 
vans mean these light and airy vans, that 
moved so dubiously on his soft woolly 
shoulders ? 

While his wings remained erect and 
closed, the under surface alone showed ; 
and that was chequered green and white, 
like the flowers he sat upon. Indeed, so 
exactly did groundwork and insect har- 
monize with one another in hue and mark- 
ings, that even a quick eye might easily 
have passed my orange-tip by unnoticed, 
were it not for the quivering movement of 
those uncertain wings, whose opening and 
shutting betrayed him, as I passed, to my 
scrutinizing survey. And this in itself was 
odd. For " How did he know," thought 
I "he who till lately was but a small 
green grub, feeding on the lush leaves 
and stems of cresses that he ought now 

66 



A BUTTERFLY EPISODE. 

to make straight, on his emergence from 
the chrysalis, for this white-flowered cow- 
parsnip ; which, indeed, is the favourite 
perching-place of all his race, and which 
effectually conceals him from the prying 
eyes of birds that fain would prey upon 
him, yet of whose very existence he, a 
crawling caterpillar, was till this moment 
ignorant ? Surely that shows in his small 
brain some curious pre-existent picture, as 
it were, of this unknown cow-parsnip a 
picture which enabled him to recognize it 
offhand when seen, and to steer for it at 
once with unerring instinct." 

As I watched, the timid creature, feel- 
ing his wings at last, made up his tiny 
mind to spread those untried vans, and 
venture into the unknown on the undreamt- 
of pinions. So he opened them wide, and 
displayed himself in _his glory as a full- 
fledged orange-tip. His colours were still 
quite fresh, his feathery scales unspoiled 
by rain, or wind, or enemies. I gazed at 

67 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

him in delight, with sympathetic joy for 
his pure joy of living, as he unfolded those 
white wings, with their brilliant orange badge 
and their fringe of dark purple.' For a 
second or two he darted off in the brilliant 
sunshine, rejoicing ; he seemed to learn, 
as he went, to recall of a sudden some dim 
but recurring ancestral memory. All at 
once, as he fluttered somewhat doubtfully 
in mid-air, he caught sight from afar of a 
female brimstone. " Will he chase her ? " 
I thought to myself; though, indeed, I 
knew well, had I chosen to recollect it, 
that inherited instinct is far too strong in 
these little creatures to admit for a moment 
such egregious errors. Our great Bashaw 
just glanced at her with unobservant eye ; 
no gleam of recognition lighted up the tiny 
face. He passed on without one word ; not 
a curve of the feeble flight ; not a divergent 
pirouette of the orange - tipped pinions. 
Then a Clouded Yellow floated past, pur- 
sued by two rivals of her own swift-winged 

68 



A BUTTERFLY EPISODE. 

race. They are the fleetest of our butter- 
flies. My orange-tip just glanced at them 
as who should say, " Strange that insects 
of taste should put up with such colouring. 
Why, she's almost pure white. I wouldn't 
look twice at her." The words had scarcely 
thrilled through his fatuous little brain when 
up loomed from windward a small yellowish 
butterfly, not wholly unlike himself: green 
and white underneath, fringed with black 
above, but without the orange spot which 
made my lord so attractive. In a second 
I recognized her : it was a female orange- 
tip a virgin female. But, quicker far than 
myself, her natural master had seen her 
and known her instinctively as the mate 
predestined for him. Hi, presto ! as I 
looked, all the world was one maze ; the 
pretty things were at once in the thick of 
their courtship. 

And what a courtship that was ! How 
dainty ! how ethereal ! He, rising on the 
breeze and displaying with pride his beautiful 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

orange tips ; she, coquetting and curvetting, 
dancing coyly through the air, now pre- 
tending to fly away, now affecting disdain, 
now returning to his side, now darting 
off on light wings just as he thought he 
had captivated that capricious small heart 
of hers. So they continued for ten minutes 
their dainty aerial minuet ; and when last I 
caught sight of them they were still circling 
undecided above the sprays of wild rose in 
the hedgerow by the valley. 

A familiar country sight. And yet, great 
heavens, what a miracle ! For bethink you 
that that orange-tip was born and bred 
a small green-and- white caterpillar. He 
did not know, as you and I do, that his 
father and mother were orange-tip butter- 
flies. He never saw or knew them. They 
were dead and gone before he emerged from 
the egg ; and when he came out into the 
world, he met none of his own kind, save, 
it may be, some other small green-and-white 
caterpillars. His sole business in life was 

70 



A BUTTERFLY EPISODE. 

to gorge himself with cresses. At last, one 
fine day, when he had eaten his soul's fill, 
some inner impulse seized him. He began 
to transform himself, half unconsciously to 
his own mind, into a boat-shaped chrysalis. 
There he lay as in a mummy-case, melting 
slowly away into organic pulp, and growing 
again by degrees into a full-formed butterfly. 
All his organs changed ; strange legs and 
wings budded out on him incontinently. 
Yet even when he emerged once more from 
the mummy-case, he had no intuitive know- 
ledge of himself as a male orange-tip. Still 
less had he any distinct conception of the 
female of his species. But, as he floated 
about on his untried wings, he took no 
notice at all of any other butterflies, till 
the moment a mate of his own appeared 
upon the scene, and then he instantly and 
unerringly recognized her. The sole ex- 
planation of this marvel, it seems to me, 
lies in the fact that his nervous system has 
in it by inheritance a form or mould if I 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

may be allowed so material a metaphor 
into which the image of his own kind and 
of his own mate falls and fits exactly. The 
moment that mould is completely filled and 
satisfied, the creature that fills it he loves 
as instinctively as Miranda loved Ferdinand, 
the first human being she had ever beheld 
save her father, Prospero. 

And what is thus true of the butterfly is 
true, I believe, mutatis mutandis, of all of 
us. On the human brain there is impressed 
by anticipation a blank form or model of 
the human face and the human figure. Our 
central type of human beauty is thus found 
for us by nature and ancestral experience : 
the nearer a man and a woman approach to 
that central type, the more beautiful, on the 
average, other things equal, do normal 
judges consider them. I do not doubt, 
of course, that many other and more general 
elements come in to complete the developed 
concept. White teeth, rosy cheeks, bright 
eyes, delicate curves, have of themselves a 

72 



A BUTTERFLY EPISODE. 

certain intrinsic and universal aesthetic 
value as colour and lustre, as shape and 
softness. But dainty pink is not so beauti- 
ful on the nose as on the cheeks or lips ; 
nor are curves as desirable in the lines 
of the spine as in the external contour. 
Indeed, even expression itself has its stereo- 
typed value ; for a baby in arms will smile 
responsive to a smile from its nurse, and 
will cry at a frown, independently of 
experience. 



73 



X. 
THE FROZEN POND. 

THE pond on the moor is frozen over. What 
an epoch in the history of all its inhabitants ! 
For they are not mostly long-lived creatures, 
these pond-dwellers ; a summer forms an 
appreciable part of their short existence. 
Theirs is but a precarious life at the best 
of times ; they have always to steer close 
between the Scylla of drought and the 
Charybdis of freezing. Half their days are 
spent in enforced seclusion. In the summer 
the pond, which is their universe, is apt to 
dry up and fail them ; in winter it stands its 
even chance of freezing solid and entombing 
them. To meet these two extreme con- 
tingencies, all the world of the pond has had 

74 



THE FROZEN POND. 

to accommodate itself to the possible chances 
of its fickle environment. The newts, for 
example, come here to breed every spring. 
They must needs do so, indeed, because 
their young have gills like a salmon or a 
herring, and can only breathe in their earlier 
stages the diffuse oxygen held in suspension 
in water. Newts, in fact, start in life as 
fish, but develop, half-way through, into 
lizard-like animals with lungs and legs, 
because of the annual drying up of their 
native waters. All higher life, indeed, was 
originally aquatic ; it is only just because 
ponds dry up in summer that the ancestors 
of beasts and birds and reptiles ever 
ventured on dry land, at first for a brief 
excursion, and afterwards for a permanence. 
We are all in the last resort the descendants 
of amphibians. There are two kinds of 
newt in this pond, each with its own peculiar 
plan for meeting the difficulty of winter 
quarters. The great crested newt, who is 
the most confirmed water-haunter of the two, 

75 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

retires to the mud at the bottom of the pond 
in late autumn, and there lies torpid as long 
as the frost lasts, returning to the surface to 
breathe when the weather improves again. 
But the smaller newt, a more adventurous 
soul, goes ashore in summer, when the pond 
dries up, and stops there for the winter, 
lurking in long grass at the bottoms of 
ditches, or hiding in caves and damp vaults 
or cellars. 

There are no fish in the pond, of course, 
because it is not permanent ; it dries up in 
August. But there are frogs and tadpoles 
by the thousand in due season ; and, what 
is odder still, the frogs are there now, though 
you cannot see them. Indeed, frogs and 
newts are merely slight variations on the 
fishy type, evolved to meet this very want 
and to fill this very place in the economy of 
nature : practically speaking, they are fish 
which turn at last into terrestrial reptiles. 
During the earlier spring days, when the 
ponds are full, the parents lay their spawn 

76 



THE FROZEN POND. 

among the sunk leaves of water-weeds ; and 
soon the tadpoles emerge from their jelly- 
like eggs, and swarm at the edge in a 
seething black mass of bustling and jostling 
life. Then, as the pond gets low, and 
breathing becomes difficult, they proceed by 
degrees to drop their gills, and develop the 
rudimentary swim-bladder into a pair of 
true lungs. Soon four weak little legs with 
sprawling fingers bud out at their sides ; 
and, hi, presto ! they hop or crawl ashore 
as full-fledged air-breathers. At this point 
grave differences appear between them. 
The newts retain their tails through life, 
but the more advanced frogs drop or absorb 
theirs, and assume the shape of thorough- 
going land animals. In winter, however, 
the frogs return once more to the pond, and 
bury themselves in the oozy mud at the 
bottom, often huddled together in close- 
packed groups, for warmth and company. 
At first sight you might think they would 
be warmer on dry land ; but this is not so, 

77 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

for they have little animal heat of their own, 
being cold-blooded creatures, and they would 
therefore get frozen whenever the surface 
temperature fell below freezing-point. But 
the pond seldom or never freezes solid ; 
in other words, the degree of cold at the 
bottom never goes down to freezing ; and 
so the frogs are comparatively safe in the 
mud of the bed. If you dig in the ooze in 
winter, you may turn up whole spadefuls of 
frogs and great crested newts in certain 
cosy corners, lying torpid and half dead, but 
waiting patiently for the returning sun of 
spring to warm them. So that even the 
frozen pond has a great deal more life in 
it than the casual townsman would at first 
imagine. 

As for the snails and beetles, and other 
small fry of the pond, they mostly retire, 
like their enemies the frogs, to the depths 
for protection. The summer is their life ; 
winter to them is merely a time to be 
dozed through and tided over. Many of 

78 



THE FROZEN POND. 

the shorter-lived kinds, indeed, die out alto- 
gether at the first touch of autumn, leaving 
only their eggs or their pupae to represent 
them through the cold season. In these 
cases, therefore, we might almost say that 
the species, not the individual, lies dormant 
through the winter. It ceases to exist 
altogether for the time, and is only vouched 
for by the eggs or spawn, so that each 
generation knows nothing by sight of the 
generation that preceded it. 

But when spring comes round again, 
there is a sudden waking up into spas- 
modic activity on the part of the pond 
and all its inhabitants. The season has 
set in, and life is to the fore again. The 
greater newt, in imitation of the poet's 
wanton lapwing, " gets himself another 
crest," and adorns his breast with brilliant 
spots of crimson and orange. The mating 
proceeds apace ; frogs pair and spawn ; the 
water swarms once more with layer upon 
layer of wriggling black tadpoles. Now the 

79 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

great pond-snail floats at the top, and lays 
its oblong bunch of transparent eggs ; now 
the water-crowfoot flowers ; the diver beetles 
disport themselves amain ; strange long- 
legged beasts that walk the water like insect 
Blondins, begin to stalk the surface on their 
living stilts ; and dancing little " whirligigs," 
who skim the pond, coquette and pirouette 
in interlacing circles. All nature is alive. 
Winter is forgotten ; eating and drinking, 
marrying and giving in marriage, are the 
order of the day in pond and hedgerow. 
Then the crested newt proceeds to devour 
his smaller relative, and the tadpole to elbow 
his neighbour out of existence ; and all 
goes merrily as wedding bells in the world 
of the pond till winter comes again. 



80 



XI. 

THE GNARLED PINE-TREE. 

MORE than once in these papers I have 
mentioned, as I passed, the wind-swept and 
weather-beaten Scotch fir on which the 
night-jar perches, and which forms such a 
conspicuous object in the wide moorland 
view from our drawing-room windows. I 
love that Scotch fir, for its very irregularity 
and rude wildness of growth ; a Carlyle 
among trees, it seems to me to breathe forth 
the essential spirit of these bold free up- 
lands. Not that any one would call it 
beautiful who has framed his ideas of beauty 
on the neatness and trimness of park-like 
English scenery ; it has nothing in common 
with the well -grown and low -feathering 

81 G 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

Douglas pines which the nursery gardener 
plants out as " specimen trees " on the 
smooth velvety sward of some lawn in the 
lowlands. No, no ; my Scotch fir is gnarled 
and broken-boughed, a great gaunt soldier, 
scarred from many an encounter with fierce 
wintry winds, and holding its own even 
now, every January that passes, by dint of 
hard struggling against enormous odds with 
obstinate endurance. Life, for it, is a battle. 
And I love it for its scars, its toughness, 
its audacity. It has chosen for its post the 
highest summit of the ridge, where north- 
east and south-west alternately assault it ; 
and it meets their assaults with undiminished 
courage, begotten of long familiarity with 
fire and flood, with lightning and tempest. 

Has it never occurred to you how such 
a tree must grow ? what attacks it must 
endure, what assaults of the evil one it must 
continually fight against ? Its whole long 
life is one endless tale of manful struggle 
and dear-bought victory. What survives 

82 



THE GNARLED PINE-TREE. 

of it now in its prime for it is still a young 
tree, as trees go on our upland is at best 
but a maimed and mutilated relic. From 
its babyhood upward it has suffered, like 
man, an eternal martyrdom. It began life 
as a winged seed, blown about by the 
boisterous wind which shook it rudely adrift 
from the sheltering cone of its mountain- 
cradled mother. Many a sister seed floated 
lightly with the breeze to warm nooks in 
the valley, where the tree that sprang from 
it now grows tall and straight, and equally 
developed on every side into a noble Scotch 
fir of symmetrical dimensions. But ad- 
ventures are to the adventurous ; you and 
I, my tree, know it. You were caught in 
its fierce hands by some mighty sou'wester, 
that whirled you violently over the hilltop 
till you reached the very summit of the 
long straight spur ; and there, where it 
dropped you, you fell and rooted in a wind- 
swept home on a wind-swept upland. Your 
growth was slow. For many and many a 

83 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

season your green sprouting top was browsed 
down by wandering cattle or gnawing rabbits ; 
you had some thirty rings of annual growth, 
I take it, in your stunted rootstock, just 
below the level of the soil, before you could 
push yourself up three inches towards the 
free and open air of heaven. Year after 
year, as you strove to rise, those ever-present 
assailants cropped you close and stunted 
you ; yet still you persevered, and nathless 
so endured, till, in one lucky season, you 
made just enough growth, under the sun's 
warm rays, to overtop and outwit their 
continual aggression. Then, for a while, 
you grew apace; you put forth lush green 
buds, and you looked like a sturdy young 
tree indeed, with branches sprouting from 
each side, when, with infinite pains, you 
had reached to the height of a man's 
shoulder. 

But your course was still chequered. Life 
is hard on the hilltops. You had to stand 
stress and strain of wind and weather. Like 

84 



THE GNARLED PINE-TREE. , 

every other tree on our open moor, I notice 
you are savagely blown from the south- 
west ; for the south-west wind here is by 
far our most violent and dangerous enemy, 
blowing great guns at times up the narrow 
funnel-shaped valleys, and so much more 
to be dreaded than the bitter north-east, 
which is elsewhere so inhospitable. " Blown 
from the south-west," we say as a matter of 
course in our bald human language ; and so 
indeed it seems. I suppose most casual 
spectators who look upon you now really 
believe it is the direct blowing of the wind 
that so distorts and twists you. You and I 
know better. We know that each spring, 
as the sap rises in your veins, you put forth 
afresh lush green sprouts symmetrically from 
the buds at your growing points ; and that 
if these sprouts were permitted to develop 
equally and evenly in every direction, you 
would have grown from the first as normally 
and formally as a spruce-fir or a puzzle- 
monkey. But not for us are such joys. 

85 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

We must grow as the tempests and the 
hail-storms permit us. Soon after you have 
begun each year to put forth your tender 
green shoots comes a frost a nipping frost 
whirled along on the wide wings of some 
angry sou'wester. We, your human neigh- 
bours, lie abed in our snug cottage, and 
tremble at the groaning and shivering of 
our beams, and silently wonder in the dark 
amid the noise how much of our red-tiled 
roof will remain over us by morning. (Five 
pounds' worth of tiles went off, I recollect, 
in last Thursday week's tempest.) But you, 
on your open hilltop, feel the fierce cold 
wind blow through and through you ; till 
all the buds on your south-western face are 
chilled and killed ; while even the others, 
more sheltered on the leeward side, have 
got nipped and checked, so that they 
develop irregularly. It is this lawless check- 
ing of growth in your budding and sprouting 
stage that really ' ' blows you on one side," 
as we roughly state it. Only on your 

6 



THE GNARLED PINE-TREE, 

sheltered half do you ever properly realize 
the ground-plan of your nature. Your 
growth is the resultant of the incident 
energies. And that, after all, is the case 
with most of us ; especially with the stormy 
petrels of our human menagerie. 

Yet even to you, too, have come the 
consolations of love. " Not we alone," says 
the poet, " have yearnings hymeneal." Late 
developed on your cold spur, checked and 
gnarled as you grew, there came to you yet 
a day when your branches burgeoned forth 
into tender pink cones, with dainty soft 
ovules, all athirst for pollen ; while on your 
budding shoots grew thick rings of rich 
stamens, that flung their golden powder 
adrift on the air with a lavish profusion 
right strange in so slenderly endowed an 
economy. But it is always so in nature. 
These gnarled hard lives, as people think 
them, are gilded brightest by the glow 
and fire of love ; these poorest of earth's 
children are made richest at last in the 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

holiest and best of her manifold blessings. 
It was nothing to you, I know, my tree, 
that the fire which swept over the heath 
some five years since charred all your 
lower branches and killed half your live 
bark ; you had courage to resist and heart 
to prevail ; and though those poor burnt 
boughs are dead and gone for all time, you 
still put forth smiling bundles of green 
needles above quite as bravely as ever. 
It was nothing to you that the great storm 
of last autumn rent one huge branch in 
twain, and tore off a dozen lesser arms 
from your bleeding trunk in a wild out- 
burst of fury. The night-jar now sits and 
croons to you every evening in the after- 
glow from those self-same stumps ; and 
struggling sheaths of young buds push 
through on the blown boughs that just es- 
caped with their lives the fury of the tempest. 
No wonder the Eastern fancy sees curled 
dragons in the storms that so rend and 

O 

assail us ; but we like them, you and I, 

88 



THE GNARLED PINE-TREE. 

for the sake of the breadth, the height, the 
air, the space, the freedom. What matters 
it to us though fire rage and wind blow, so 
long as they leave us our love in peace, and 
permit us to spread our sheltering shade 
over our strong young saplings ? The hill- 
tops are free : the hilltops are open : from 
their peaks we can catch betimes some 
crimson glimpses of the sunrise and the 
morning. 

So, now, my Scotch fir, gnarled and 
broken on the ridge, you know how I love 
you, and why I sympathize with you. 



89 



XII. 

IVY IN THE COPSE. 

SEE what a beautiful creeping spray of ivy 
dark green, with russet veins from the 
ground beneath the copse here ! How close 
it keeps to the earth ! how exquisitely the 
leaves fit in with one another, like a living 
mosaic ! That is why the ivy-leaf is shaped 
as we know it, with re-entrant angles, very 
abrupt and deep-lobed. The plant, as a 
whole, crawls snake- like over the ground 
in shady spots, or climbs up the face of 
stony cliffs, or mantles walls and ruins, or 
clambers boldly over the trunks of trees 
which last, though its most conspicuous, 
is not by any means its commonest or most 
natural situation. It is a haunter of the 

90 



IVY IN THE COPSE. 

shade ; therefore it wants to utilize to the 
uttermost every inch of space and every 
ray of sunlight. So it clings close to the 
soil or to its upright support, and lays its 
leaves out flat, each occupying its own 
chosen spot of earth without encroaching 
on its neighbour's demesne, and none ever 
standing in the light of another. That 
shows one at once the secret reason for 
the angular foliage : it is exactly adapted 
to the ivy's habitat. All plants which grow 
in the same way, half trailing, half climbing, 
have leaves of similar shape. Three well- 
known examples, each bearing witness to 
the resemblance in their very names, are 
the ivy-leaved veronica, the ivy-leaved cam- 
panula, and the ivy-leaved toad-flax. Or 
look once more at the pretty climbing 
ivy-leaved geranium or pelargonium, so 
commonly grown in windows. Contrast all 
these angular leaves of prostrate creepers 
with the heart-shaped or arrow-headed 
foliage of the upright twining or tendril- 

91 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

making climbers, such as convolvulus, black 
bindweed, black bryony, and bittersweet, 
and you will recognize at once how different 
modes of life almost necessarily beget 
different types of leaf-arrangement. 

Nay, more. If you watch the ivy itself 
in its various stages, you will see how the 
self-same plant adapts its different parts 
from time to time to every variation in the 
surrounding conditions. Here in the copse, 
left to itself, as nature made it, it spreads 
vaguely along the ground at first with its 
lower branches, developing small leaves as 
it goes, narrow-lobed and angular, which are 
pressed flat against the soil in such a way 
as to utilize all possible air and sunshine. 
They cover the ground without mutual inter- 
ference. And they are evergreen, too, so 
as to make the best of the scanty light that 
struggles through the trees in early spring 
and late autumn, while the oaks and ashes 
are all bare and leafless. But the main 
stem, prying about, soon finds out for itself 

92 



IVY IN THE COPSE. 

some upright bank or trunk, up which it 
climbs, adhering to its host by the aid of 
its innumerable short root-like excrescences. 
Here its foliage assumes still the same type 
as on the ground, but is not quite so closely 
appressed to the support, nor yet so sharply 
angular. The mode of the mosaic, too, has 
altered a little to suit the altered circum- 
stances ; the leaves now stand out more 
freely from the stem, yet in such a way 
as not to interfere with or overshadow 
each other. By-and-by, however, the ivy, 
as it grows, reaches the top of the bank, 
or some convenient flowering place on the 
friendly trunk ; and then it begins to send up 
quite different blossoming branches. These 
rise straight into the air, without support 
on any side ; unlike the creeping stems, 
they are stout enough and strong enough 
to stand alone to bear their own weight 
and that of the prospective flowers and 
berries. Besides, they wish to be seen 
from all sides at once, so as to attract from 

93 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

far and near a whole circle of amicable 
birds and insects. And now observe that 
on these upright flowering branches the 
shape of the leaves changes entirely, so 
that you would hardly recognize them at 
first sight for ivy. They stand round the 
branch on all sides equally, and therefore 
have no longer any need to fit in and dove- 
tail with one another. Each leaf is now 
somewhat oval in form, though sharply 
pointed ; there are no more lobes or angles ; 
and the outline as a whole is far fuller 
and usually unbroken. Yet they still avoid 
standing in one another's light, and are so 
arranged in spirals round the stem as to 
interfere as little as possible with one 
another's freehold. 

The little yellowish-green flowers which 
top these branches appear in late autumn. 
They are not particularly conspicuous, and 
their petals are insignificant ; yet they distil 
abundant honey on a disk in the centre, and 
they breathe forth a curious half-putrescent 

94 



IVY IN THE COPSE. 

scent, which seems highly attractive to 
many carrion flies and other foul feeders. 
Hence you will find that butterflies seldom 
or never visit them ; but they are frequented 
and fertilized by hundreds of smaller insects, 
for whose sake the copious honey is stored 
on the open disk, where it is easily accessible 
to even the stumpiest proboscis. Ivy, in 
short, is a democratic flower : it lays by no 
rich store of secret nectar in hidden recesses, 
like the honeysuckle or the nasturtium, 
where none but the Norman-nosed aris- 
tocrats of the insect world can reach it ; 
it is all for the common plebs. "A fair 
field and no favour" is the motto it acts 
upon. When the berries have been thus 
fertilized, they lie by over winter, slowly 
ripening and swelling, to blacken at last in 
the succeeding summer. The ripe fruit is 
then eaten by birds, such as hawfinches and 
certain of the thrush tribe, which disperse 
the hard nut-like seeds undigested. Black 
or dark blue are rare colours for flowers, 

95 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

but common for fruits ; partly perhaps 
because birds are less fond of bright reds 
and yellows than the aesthetic insects ; but 
partly also because such dusky hues are 
readily seen on a tree or bush against the 
snows of winter, the grey brown of late 
autumn, or the delicate wan green of early 
spring foliage. 



XIII. 

A DESPERATE 
STRUGGLE FOR LIFE. 

ALAS, alas ! most of the pretty white fox- 
gloves we planted out by the boggy hollow 
just below the tennis-lawn have come to 
nothing. The heather and bracken of the 
moor have outgrown them and throttled 
them. They made a hard fight for life, 
in their petty Thermopylae one or two of 
them, indeed, are still battling with inex- 
haustible courage against the countless hordes 
of sturdy natives that choke and overshadow 
them ; but die they must in the end, unless 
I step in betimes as earthly providence to 
thin out the furze and enrich the niggard 
soil for the struggling strangers. They 
97 H 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

remind me of the Pilgrim Fathers in Mas- 
sachusetts. Foxgloves, you know, cannot 
compete with ling or Scotch heather on its 
native heath. They are denizens of a deeper 
and richer mould, growing generally on fat 
wayside banks or in the ditches by hedge- 
rows always the wealthiest and most 
luxuriantly manured of any wild places, 
because there birds perch, and wild animals 
take refuge, and snails and beetles die, and 
robins perish, that hedgerow weeds may 
batten on their decaying bodies. The 
hedge, in point of fact, is the main shelter 
and asylum for beasties great and small in 
our workaday England. There the hedge- 
hog skulks, and the field-mouse hides, and 
the sparrow builds her nest, and the slow- 
worm suns himself; there the rabbit burrows, 
and the thrush sits mocking, and the dor- 
mouse dreams, and the lizard lies in wait 
for the dancing midges. All the waste 
richness of the field finds its rest at last by 
the roots of the whitethorn, to reappear in 
98 



A STRUGGLE FOR LIFE. 

clue time as red campion and herb-robert, as 
faint-scented may and tall military spikes 
of purple foxglove. 

But when you sow or transplant these 
lush herbs of the hedgerow on to the bare 
and open heath, they come into competition 
at once with other and far hardier upland 
bushes. The plants of the moor are indeed 
unlike such pampered odalisques of the deep 
banks and rich lowlands. Stern children of 
the heights, their stems are hard and wiry, 
their leaves small and dry ; their flowers 
feel like tissue-paper ; their growing shoots 
have none of that luxuriant tenderness, that 
translucent delicacy, which characterizes the 
long sprays of hedgerow dogrose and hedge- 
row bramble. All is arid and parsimonious, 
as in some Highland cottage. Our daintily 
bred foxgloves, decayed gentlewomen, 
stunted and dwarfed in that inhospitable 
soil, can scarce find nutriment in the thirsty 
sand to send up a feeble parody of their 
purple spikes ; in long droughts they droop 

99 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

and fail for lack of a drop of water. You 
must make a deep pocket of garden mould 
in the midst of the heath if you want them 
to thrive ; and even then, unless you keep 
constantly cutting down the heather and 
gorse about them, they are overtopped and 
outlived by the native vegetation. 

To dwellers in towns, that mere phrase, 
" the struggle for life among plants," seems 
a quaint exaggeration. They cannot believe 
that creatures so rooted and so passive as 
plants can struggle at all for anything. The 
pitched battles of the animals they can 
understand, because they can see the kestrel 
swooping down upon the linnet, the weasel 
scenting the spoor of the rabbit to his 
burrow. But the pitched battle of the 
plants sounds to them but a violent meta- 
phor, a poetical trick of language, a notion 
falsely pressed into the service of the 
naturalist by some mistaken analogy. In 
reality, those few of us who have fully read 
ourselves into the confidence and intimacy 
100 



A STRUGGLE FOR LIFE. 

of the beautiful green things, know well that 
nowhere on earth is the struggle for life so 
real, so intense, so continuous, so merciless 
as among the herbs and flowers. Every 
weed in the meadows, every creeper in the 
woodland, is battling for its own hand each 
day and all day long against a crushing 
competition. It is battling for food and 
drink, for air and sunlight, for a place to 
stand in, for a right to existence. Its rivals 
around are striving hard with their roots to 
deprive it of its fair share of water and of 
manure ; are striving hard with their leaves 
to forestall it in access to carbonic acid and 
sunshine ; are striving hard with their 
flowers to entice away the friendly bee and 
the fertilizing beetle ; are striving hard with 
their winged or protected seeds to anticipate 
the vacant spots on which it fain would 
cast its own feeble offspring. A struggle 
for the Hinterland goes on without ceasing. 
The very fact that plants can hardly move 
at all from the spot where they grow makes 

IOJ 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

the competition in the end all the fiercer. 
They are perpetually intriguing among 
stones and crannies to insinuate their roots 
here, and to get beforehand on their rivals 
with their seedlings there ; they fight for 
drops of water after summer showers, like 
the victims shut up in the Black Hole of 
Calcutta ; they spread their leaves close in 
rosettes along the ground, so as to monopo- 
lize space and kill down competition ; they 
press upward toward the sun so as to catch 
the first glance of the bountiful rays, and to 
grasp before their neighbours at every float- 
ing speck of carbonic acid. 

This is no poetic fancy. It is sober and 
literal biological truth. The green fields 
around us are one vast field of battle. And 
you can realize it at once if you only think 
what we mean by a flower-garden. We 
want to induce peonies and hollyhocks and 
geraniums and roses to smile around our 
houses, and what do we do for them ? We 
" make a bed," as we say ; in other words, 
102 



A STRUGGLE FOR LIFE. 

we begin by clearing away all the stouter 
and better-adapted native competitors. Go, 
dock and thistle ; go, grass and nettle ! We 
will have pansies here, and sweet-peas, and 
gilly-flowers ! So we root them all up, 
turn and break the stiff clods, put in rich 
leaf-mould, manure it from the farmyard, 
and plant at measured distances the com- 
ponents of our nosegay. Tall white garden 
lilies take the place of knotweed ; the lark- 
spur mocks the sky where the dandelion 
spread before its golden constellations. Yet 
even so, we have not permanently secured 
our end. Original sin reappears as ragwort 
and hawkweed. Every day or two we 
must go round and "weed the beds," as 
we say ; the very familiarity of phrase and 
act blinds our minds to the truth that what 
we are really doing is to limit the struggle, 
to check the competition. We pull up here 
a shepherd's-purse and there a chickweed, 
that the Iceland poppies may have room 
to raise their black-capped buds, and that 
103 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

the groundsel may not steal all the light 
and air from our shrinking nemophilas. 
Relax your care for a week or two, and 
what then do you find ? The goosefoots 
and couch-grasses have lived down the 
mignonette ; the russet docks are over- 
shadowing your white Japanese anemones. 
Abandon the garden for a year, and the 
native vegetation has avenged itself on the 
intruders in a war of extermination. The 
thistles have cut off the lilies-of-the-valley, 
as Israel cut off the Canaanites ; not a spike 
remains of your sky-blue monkshood before 
the purple standard of the victorious bur- 
docks. Here and there, it is true, some 
hardy perennial, some stout iris or sweet- 
william, armed with its sword-shaped foliage, 
will continue the unequal strife for a miser- 
able year or two of guerrilla warfare, like 
Hereward Wake in the Isle of Ely ; but 
sooner or later the stronger will win, and 
your garden will become a mere nur- 
sery of weeds, whose flying thistle-down 
104 



A STRUGGLE FOR LIFE. 

will invade and usurp the neighbouring 
meadows. 

Plants, in point of fact, have more needs 
than animals ; therefore, perforce, they 
struggle harder. The beasts require but 
food and drink ; the herbs require from 
the soil water and nitrogenous matter for 
their roots ; they require from the air, 
carbon, which is their true solid food, for 
their leaves ; they need sunlight, which is 
the motive power, for their growth and 
assimilation ; insects to fertilize them, birds 
or breezes to disperse their seeds. For all 
these they struggle ceaselessly among them- 
selves; and the struggle is all the deadlier 
because it is carried on at such very close 
quarters. 



105 



XIV. 

COLTSFOOT FLOWERS. 

DOWN by the streamlet in the Frying Pan, 
in the heavy clay soil of the bank, I see this 
morning the flower-scapes of the coltsfoot 
are lifting betimes their curious bent heads. 
Two days more, and they will star the bare 
earth with their golden blossoms. That is 
a sure sign that winter is over, the labourers 
will tell you, weatherwise in their ancestral 
lore ; 'and, indeed, the coltsfoot is a prudent 
and a wary herb, which I have seldom known 
go wrong in its calculation of probabilities. 
It makes its own weather forecast, inde- 
pendently of the Meteorological Office, and 
it backs its opinion. As long as it thinks 
frost is likely to recur, it " lies low," like 
1 06 



COLTSFOOT FLOWERS. 

Br'er Rabbit ; but as soon as it feels pretty 
confident the worst is past, and no more 
hard weather will come to nip it in the bud, 
it boldly sends up its leafless flower-stem, 
looking more like a shoot of asparagus than 
anything else, with which most people are 
familiar. I have never seen it make a 
serious mistake, even in the sunniest and 
most treacherous English spring weather. 

Who gave it its wisdom ? to parody Mr. 
Swinburne. How did it come so well to 
time itself as the earliest among our con- 
spicuous spring flowers ? Well, coltsfoot is 
a composite, belonging to the same minor 
group as the common ragworts its very 
leaf, indeed, being a good deal like some 
of the larger ragworts in type, especially 
those handsome exotics of the race, so 
much cultivated in greenhouses under the 
name of cinerarias. But living in cold 
northern climates, on the banks of streams, 
in deep clay soil, where it spreads most 
vigorously, it has learned by experience 
107 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

to accommodate itself to its environment. 
It did so, in fact, many thousand years 
before Mr. Herbert Spencer taught poor 
recent humanity that latter-day catchword. 
Growing in thickset places, by running 
water, where its own large leaves and those 
of its neighbours would overshadow and 
hide its dainty blossoms in the height of 
summer, it has acquired the odd trick of 
sending them up naked, on the naked clay, 
in very early spring, when they court and 
easily attract the attention of the first spring 
insects to visit and fertilize them. In order 
to do this it must lay by material the summer 
before, and that material the prudent plants 
bury deep out of harm's way, in their creep- 
ing underground rootstock. Owing to the 
dampness and chilliness of the clay, which 
suits its constitution best, coltsfoot hides its 
rootstock exceptionally deep in the earth, 
and this precaution affords it, on the whole, 
a safe protection alike against cold and 
against burrowing enemies. As long as the 
1 08 



COLTSFOOT FLOWERS. 

frozen earth remains chilly underneath, the 
buds make no stir ; but as soon as the sub- 
soil begins to rise in temperature to a very 
modest point the flower-heads grow apace 
from the buried material, exactly as hyacinths 
do from a bulb when placed in water in a 
slightly warm atmosphere. And such a 
raising of temperature in the subsoil is one 
of the surest signs that winter has spent 
itself. 

The flower-stem of coltsfoot rises bare 
and leafless, save for a few small scales, 
such as one sees on asparagus ; but it is 
thickly covered with a warm cottony wool, 
to keep out winter, and the buds are bent 
clown so as to protect them at once from 
chill and from injury. Each stem termi- 
nates in a single pretty fluffy yellow flower- 
head, composed of innumerable golden florets 
of two kinds those of the ray very narrow 
and ragged, giving the entire head its 
characteristic tasselled appearance ; while 
those of the central disk are much larger, 
109 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

and bell-shaped. The entire blossom looks 
like a dandelion at first sight to a careless 
observer ; but when you come to examine 
it closely, it is a far more dignified and 
beautiful flower. The tone of its yellow is 
richer, yet mellower, and its fluffy little ray- 
florets have a Japanesque charm in their 
flowing looseness. 

So long as the flowers continue to bloom, 
you see no leaves ; whence it comes about 
that many people know well the blossoms 
of coltsfoot in spring, and the foliage in 
summer, without having the faintest idea 
that they belong to one another. But if you 
keep your eye on the place where the yellow 
stars arose, after the flowers have withered 
and the white heads have blown away in 
copious flights, their wee feathery fruitlets, 
you will see by-and-by some big broad 
angular leaves, very thick and noticeable, 
rising high into the air from the same buried 
rootstock in the self-same position. Few 
leaves are more remarkable, with their heart- 
no 



COLTSFOOT FLOWERS. 

shaped bases and their obtrusive angles ; 
while the under side is thickly covered 
throughout with a cottony wool, loose, white, 
and abundant. They are big, because they 
overtop the other leaves about, and so gain 
free access to the air and sunshine. They 
have elbow-room to spread in. Their busi- 
ness (like that of all leaves) is to catch and 
eat carbonic acid, which the sunlight assimi- 
lates for them. For this reason they are 
green above, with a transparent skin, which 
skin forms a water-layer for absorbing the 
gas and conducting it to the living green 
tissue beneath, where it is duly digested 
and assimilated. But why the cotton below ? 
Well, the upper and under surfaces of leaves 
perform in nature quite different functions. 
The upper side, which is thick and firm, 
eats carbonic acid and receives the incident 
sunlight to digest it ; but the under side, 
which is looser and spongier, gives off 
vapour of water transpires, as we say by 
innumerable little mouths, which are its 
in 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

outward breathing-pores. Now, these pores 
must not be allowed to get clogged with 
dew ; so in wet meadows and by river-banks, 
where everything reeks with dew 'from sun- 
set till late in the succeeding morning, almost 
all the plants protect the breathing-pores on 
their under side by such an unwettable felt 
of thickly matted cotton. Meadow-sweet 
is a familiar English example, and so is a 
close relation of our coltsfoot, the butterbur. 



112 



XV. 

A HEATHER EPISODE. 

I FLUNG myself on the heath outside the 
house just now, with my friend the Editor. 
He edits a London literary journal, and dis- 
believes in everything. He is critical and 
sceptical. When he inherits glory (as he 
surely must do in time, for his is the noblest 
and purest and best of souls at bottom, in 
spite of its gruffness), I believe he will gaze 
about him at the golden floor and the walls 
of chrysoprase, and murmur to himself, 
" Humph ! Not all it's cracked up to be ! " 
Yet he is as tender as a woman, and as 
simple as a child ; though he has found out 
the fact that the world is hollow, and that 
the human doll is stuffed with sawdust. 
113 i 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

We lay beside a clump of tall flaming 
rose-bay fire-weed, as they call it over 
yonder in America. There, in the great 
woodlands, on whose lap I was nursed, a 
wandering child of the primeval forest, you 
may see whole vast sheets of that flam- 
boyant willow-herb covering the ground for 
miles on bare glades in the pinewood. 
Most visitors fancy it gets its common 
American name from its blaze of colour ; 
and, indeed, it often spreads like a sea of 
flame over acres and acres of hillside to- 
gether. But the prosaic backwoodsman 
gave it its beautiful title for a more practical 
reason : because it grows apace wherever a 
forest fire has killed out and laid waste the 
native vegetation. Like most of the willow- 
herbs, it has a floating seed winged with 
cottony threads, which waft it through the 
air on pinions of gossamer ; and thus it 
alights on the newly burnt soil, and springs 
up amain after the first cool shower. Within 
twelve months it has almost obliterated the 
114 



A HEATHER EPISODE. 

signs of devastation on the ground under 
foot ; only the great charred stems and 
gaunt blackened branches rise above its 
smiling mass of green leaves and bright 
blossoms, to tell anew the half-forgotten tale 
of ruin and disaster. 

Here in England the rose-bay is a less 
frequent denizen, for it loves the wilds, and 
feels most at home in deep rich meadow 
bottoms unoccupied by tillage. Now, in 
Britain these conditions do not often occur 
since the Norman conquest ; still, I have 
seen vast sheets of its tall pink pyramids of 
bloom at John Evelyn's Wootton ; while 
even up here, on our heathery uplands, it 
fights hard for life among the gorse and 
bracken. Its beautiful spikes of irregular 
flowers, wide open below and tapering at 
the top into tiny knobs of bud, are among 
the loveliest elements in the natural flora of 
my poor three acres. 

We were lying beside them, then, out of 
the eye of the sun, under the shadow of one 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

bare and weather-beaten pine-tree, when 
talk fell by chance on the small brown 
lizards that skulk among the sandy soil of 
our hilltop. I said, and I believe, that the 
lizard population of the British Isles must 
outnumber the human by many, many 
millions. For every sandy heath is just a 
London of lizards. They pullulate in the 
ling like slum-children in Whitechapel. 
They were about us, I remarked, as thick 
as Hyde Park demonstrators ; only, instead 
of demonstrating, they prefer to lie low 
and conceal their identity. The policeman 
hawks and the owls on night duty have 
taught them that wisdom stern Draconian 
officers of nature's executive, who know no 
gentler punishment than the death penalty 
for the slightest misdemeanour. 

The Editor smiled that sceptical smile 
which is the terror of young contributors of 
Notes on Novels. He rejected the lizards 
like unsuitable copy. He didn't believe in 
them. He doubted there were any on the 
116 



A HEATHER EPISODE. 

heath at all. He had walked over square 
miles of English moorland, but never a 
lizard had he seen, out of all their millions. 
Imagination, he observed, was an invaluable 
property to poets and naturalists. It was 
part of their stock-in-trade. He didn't seek 
to deprive them of it. As Falstaff says, a 
man may surely labour at his vocation. 

I was put on my mettle. For once in 
my life, I did a rash thing ; I ventured 
to prophesy. " If you wish," I cried, " I'll 
catch a lizard, and show you." The Editor's 
face was a study to behold. Phil May 
would have paid him ten guineas for the 
copyright. " As you like," he answered 
grimly. " Produce your lizards." 

Fortune favours the brave. But I confess 
I trembled. Never before had I bragged ; 
and now I wondered whether Fortune or 
Nemesis would carry it. 'Twas two to one 
on Nemesis. Yet the gods, as Swinburne 
tells us in " Les Noyades," are sometimes 
kindly. We lay still on the heather still 
117 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

as mice and waited. Presently, to my 
great and unexpected joy, a sound as of 
life ! a rustling among the bilberry. bushes ! 
One sharp brown head, and then another, 
with beady black eyes as keen as a 
beagle's, peeped forth from the miniature 
jungle of brake and cross-leaved heath in 
the bank beside us. I raised my lids, and 
looked mutely at the Editor. He followed 
my glance, and saw the tiny lithe creatures 
glide slowly from their covert, and crawl 
with heads held slyly on one side, and then 
on the other, into the open patch, on which 
we lay like statues. How they listened and 
looked ! How they raised their quaint small 
heads, on the alert against the first faint 
breath of danger ! I sat still as a mouse 
again, holding my breath in suspense, and 
waiting anxiously for developments. Then 
a miracle happened. Miracles do happen 
now and again, as once at Bolsena, to con- 
vince the sceptical. My hand lay motionless 
on the ground at my side. I would not have 
118 



A HEATHER EPISODE. 

moved it just then for a sovereign. One 
wee brown lizard, gazing cautiously around, 
crept over it with sly care, and, finding it all 
right, walked up my sleeve as far as the 
elbow. I checked my heart and watched 
him. Never in my life before had such a 
thing happened to me but I did not say so 
to the sceptical Editor ; on the contrary, I 
looked as totally unconcerned as if I had 
been accustomed to lizards taking tours on 
me daily from my childhood upward, "Are 
you convinced ? " I asked, with a bland 
smile of triumph. Even the Editor ad- 
mitted, with a grudging sniff, that seeing is 
believing. 

And, indeed, there are dozens of lizards to 
the square yard in England, though I never 
before knew one of them to assail me of its 
own accord. I have caught them a hundred 
times by force or fraud among the heaths 
and sand-pits. The commonest sort here- 
abouts is the dingy brown viviparous lizard, 
which lays no eggs, but brings forth its 
119 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

young alive, and tends them like a mother. 
It is an agile, wee thing, that creeps from 
its hole or nest during the noontide hours, 
and basks lazily in the sun in search of 
insects. But let a fly come near it, and 
quick as lightning it turns its tiny head, darts 
upon him like fate, and crunches him up 
between those sharp small teeth with the 
ferocity of a crocodile. We have sand- 
lizards, too, a far timider and wilder species ; 
they bite your hand when caught, and refuse 
to live in captivity at the bottom of a flower- 
pot like their viviparous cousins. These 
pretty wee reptiles are often delicately 
spotted or banded with green ; they lay 
a dozen leathery eggs in a hole in the 
sand, where the sun hatches out the poor 
abandoned little orphans without the aid of 
their unnatural mother. Still, they are much 
daintier in their colouring than the more 
domestic brown kind ; and, after all, in a lizard 
I demand beauty rather than advanced moral 
qualities. I may be wrong ; but such is my 
1 20 



A HEATHER EPISODE. 

opinion. It is all very well to be ethical at 
Exeter Hall ; but too sensitive a conscience 
is surely out of place in the struggle for life 
on the open moorland. 



121 



XVI. 

THE CHRYSALIS YEAR. 

IN warm spots under hedges, I see, the first 
spring insects now begin to appear, timidly 
and tentatively, from the shelter of their 
cocoons. Some few of them, indeed, like 
the lady-birds, the wasps, and the bumble- 
bees, have struggled through the winter in 
the winged or perfect form, having hibernated 
among warm moss or under the bark of 
trees in favoured situations. These adven- 
turous kinds passed through their larval 
and pupal stages last year, and a tithe of 
them live on with difficulty through the 
winter frosts, to become the mothers and 
founders of fresh insect communities as 
April comes round again. But by far the 
122 



THE CHRYSALIS YEAR. 

greater number eat and grow as grubs or 
caterpillars through the summer months, 
and when autumn approaches turn into 
cocoons or chrysalides, to lie by for the 
winter in a snug retreat, well wrapped up in 
a warm silky or woollen coverlet, and pro- 
tected underground from snow or hoarfrost. 
As soon as cold weather approaches, these 
prudent insects retire from public life, cease 
from active pursuits, melt themselves up 
into a sort of organic pulp, lose almost every 
distinguishable organ or feature, and remain 
dormant, in a state of indefinite protoplasm, 
which gradually takes shape again as moth, 
beetle, or butterfly. Mummies we some- 
times call them, but they are not even 
mummies, for they lose almost entirely their 
form and limbs ; they tide over the winter 
for the most part in an all but structureless 
mass, which yet encloses the potentiality 
of rebuilding in due course the shape and 
members of the ancestral insect. Slowly 
new limbs grow out within the protecting 
123 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

chrysalis case, wings bud from the side, and 
the grub or caterpillar changes by degrees 
into the totally unlike image of the beetle 
or butterfly. As soon as warmer weather 
sets in, the winged forms emerge with the 
first sunny day from their broken shell. I 
have seen nettle-butterflies abroad in a spell 
of genial warmth in the last week of January; 
a brimstone has been tempted forth to seek 
his lady-love on St. Valentine's Day ; and 
fritillaries are abundant in early March 
sunshine. Lesser insects, whose names are 
enshrined in scientific Latin alone, often 
emerge from their mummy-cases even earlier 
than these familiar and conspicuous 
lepidoptera. 

The moment they peep forth, lo and 
behold ! they find the plant world, for its 
part, ready decked to greet them. The very 
same morning that sees the first butterfly 
and the first bee on the wing, sees also 
the first crocus opening wide its shining 
cup in the full sun to woo them. The 
124 



THE CHRYSALIS YEAR. 

brimstone is no sooner out than the coltsfoot 
and the celandine and the bulbous butter- 
cup spread their gold to allure him. And 
has it ever struck you that the plants, no 
less than the animals, pass through the 
winter period in the chrysalis condition ? 
This is no mere figurative flower of speech ; 
it is the scientific statement of a real and 
profound analogy. During the summer 
months the leaves of the crocus, the tulip, 
and the hyacinth have been eating and 
laying by, exactly as the caterpillar did, 
to provide material for next year's flowering 
season. When winter blows cold, the leaves 
die down the plant, as it were, retires 
underground into its bulb, like the cater- 
pillar into the cocoon, and there remains, 
formless and organless, a mere pupa-like 
potentiality of future buds and blossoms. 
But when warm weather recurs, the bulb 
once more begins to germinate : it takes 
fresh form as a vigorous flower -head. 
Observe, too, that the flowering stem, like 
125 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

the winged stage of the insect, is the sexual 
epoch of the plant, an avatar told off, as the 
butterfly by the caterpillar, to produce the 
seeds which are the eggs of the' species. 
In each case a certain definite period of 
time is passed in laying by material, in eating 
and storing only ; then comes a quiescent 
epoch of rest and rebuilding ; and this again 
is followed by a mature stage of marriage 
and reproduction. Notice, too, in either 
instance, that the reproductive stage is more 
beautifully formed and more attractively 
coloured than the mere accumulative and 
storing mechanism. 

What is thus true of the crocus and of the 
butterfly is true, to a great extent, of all 
plants and animals in temperate or cold 
climates. They enter every winter into 
a chrysalis stage, from which in early spring 
they emerge once more, still more beautiful 
than before, freshly adorned for the mating 
and nesting period. Trees lose their leaves, 
and withdraw their protoplasmic and starchy 
126 



THE CHRYSALIS YEAR. 

material in a shapeless mass into the per- 
manent tissues ; but they hold it there, 
ready to manufacture it once more into 
bright green foliage and tasselled catkins, 
into blushing apple-blossoms, or tall spikes 
of horse-chestnut flower, or pink bloom of 
elms,[with the first spring sunshine. Squirrels 
hibernate ; moles sleep away the dead of 
winter ; frogs retire to the depths of ponds ; 
slugs bury themselves in the soil ; dormice 
doze in well-lined crannies among the boles 
of hazels. Many species only tide over the 
cold weather, indeed, in the most potential 
form, as eggs or seeds ; they are annuals, 
like the poppy or the aphides of roses. In 
such cases the whole race is represented 
for some months by its germs alone: one 
generation never sees or knows the exist- 
ence of another. In other instances, some- 
what higher, the species survives as pupa 
or as bulb, adult, no doubt, though in a 
relatively formless or indefinite shape, yet 
ready to come forth full-fledged and perfect 
127 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

at the first faint breath of returning summer. 
Still other kinds, again, struggle through as 
mature and fully formed insects, or birds, 
or mammals, and as evergreen trees or 
shrubs, though they live for the most part 
a life of low grade, and on accumulated 
materials. Nature is almost dormant in our 
zone through the winter months ; life is 
then one vast and varied chrysalis. 



128 



XVII. 

A SUMMER STROLL. 

MY friend the Poet and I walk the world 
together on somewhat different principles. 
It is a fixed belief of his that illusion is far 
more beautiful than reality. He likes to see 
the distant hills through some dim veil of 
mist ; he likes to believe the skylark feeds 
on dew and sunshine, and he is revolted 
when I explain to him, in spite of Shelley, 
the actual staples of its unromantic diet. 
To him, it seems, everything loses just half 
its beauty when he knows all about it. 
Analysis, he says, is destructive of pleasure. 
Only in an imagined and unrealized world 
can he find the pure elements that delight 
his fancy. 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

But to me the actual world as it stands is 
beautiful. I love to descry the very contour 
of the hills ; I love to watch from afar the 
saucer-shaped combes on the flanks of the 
South Downs, when the afternoon light 
floods and bathes them in its glory. Illusion 
to my mind is less lovely than reality. 
Nothing on earth seems more beautiful than 
Truth. I love to catch her face behind the 
clouds that conceal her. 

And now it is the plain unvarnished Truth 
I am going to give you in this Moorland 
Idyll. I am going to tell you just what we 
saw to-day, without one episode or incident 
save what really occurred to us. I could 
not make that stroll more exquisite than I 
found it, if I tried till Doomsday. It was an 
idyll of real life. May many more so come 
to me! 

We strayed together the Poet, Elsie, 
Lucy, and myself across the moor to High- 
field, in search of strawberries. Highfield 
lies some two miles off, at the beginning of 
130 



A SUMMER STROLL. 

the valley ; a lost old-world farm, in a dell 
of the moors, with a market-garden. You 
poor Londoners, when you go to buy straw- 
berries, go to buy them prosaically at a 
commercial fruiterer's in a noisy street ; but 
we moorlanders go with our basket in our 
hands to some lonely grange across the 
heather-clad upland. The first part of our 
walk lay high over the ridge, where the 
heath was burnt in the Jubilee year by the 
great fire ; you can still plainly mark the 
point up to which the flames made a clear 
sweep of the heather, and the point where 
they left off, held in check by the beaters. 
For heather is really a forest-tree of some 
fifty years' growth ; and the waste where the 
fire raged is still covered to this day with 
a shorter crop of young seedling gorse and 
ling and whortleberry, while the older vege- 
tation unburnt beyond rises tall and bush- 
like. The blasted part, too, shows by far 
the finest and deepest purple of any ; not 
because the flowers are really bigger or 
ill 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

thicker, but because where the plants are 
still short the Tyrian purple of the Scotch 
heather is seen to greatest advantage ; 
whereas, when they rise higher, the Scotch 
heather is overtopped by the bushier and 
coarser and taller-growing ling, with its 
somewhat insipid pale pink blossoms. The 
Poet thinks the fire makes the heath burn 
brighter. I think myself it keeps the Jing 
lower. 

Anyhow, that spur is one blaze of glory. 
Not a spot on the moor flares so splendid a 
purple. We passed through it, single file, 
by the narrow footpath, where the ling rises 
knee-high on either side, and the little brown 
lizards dart wildly to their holes at first 
sound of a footfall. Along the ridge, past 
the broom-bushes, now hanging with silvery 
pods, we continued on the path till we 
reached the white beam-tree. There the 
trail diverges a little suddenly to the left; 
a cock-pheasant broke with a shrill cry on 
the wing ; his whirr as he rose startled the 
132 



A SUMMER STROLL. 

shallow valley. A wood-pigeon, alarmed at 
his alarm, flapped afield from the pinewood ; 
the low cooing of his fellows from the larches 
beyond died away at the sound of his warn- 
ing signal. Then we turned into the middle 
trail, where it dips towards the lowland. 

All at once Elsie started, and gave a little 
cry " A fox ! a fox ! " And, sure enough, 
there was one. He ran on before us, with 
his red brush depressed, fifty yards or more 
along the path on the open. Seldom have 
I caught a longer or clearer view of him 
unhunted in England. We were but ten 
yards behind, and had fairly surprised him. 
However, he took his discovery like a 
gentleman, and instead of skulking away 
to right or left, where the heath rose high, 
he ran on along the open, so as to give 
us a fine stare at him. Lucy, who is a 
visitor, unused to country ways, save as 
townsfolk know them, had never seen a 
live fox in the wild state before, and the 
incident charmed her. He was so lithe and 
133 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

red, and he ran so well, with his sharp 
head held low, and with the wild air of his 
species. 

By the chestnut plantation, where a grassy 
little lane dips close between the trees, 
cropped and cut for hop-poles, we began to 
descend in real earnest to the valley. A 
rabbit just dashed across the sward on the 
slope of path ; his twinkling white tail scarce 
betrayed him for a moment. Two hawks 
hovered above, but held off for fear of us. 
Rustlings in the fallen foliage beneath the 
sapling chestnuts to right and left gave 
sign of other rabbits, unseen, but scurrying 
burrow-ward. As we reached the open we 
disturbed a young covey of nursling par- 
tridges. Most of them disappeared after 
their prudent mother before we could catch 
a glimpse of them ; but one poor little chick, 
belated and terrified, darted with its tiny 
half-naked wings erect in an agony of alarm 
in the opposite direction. It found covert 
in the chestnuts, its tiny heart throbbing. 
134 



A SUMMER STROLL. 

Alas, that it should have conceived at so 
early an age so justly unfavourable an idea 
of humanity ! 

Beyond the plantation we turned aside 
into a field, and oh ! such a field ! Have I 
words to picture it ? It had been sown 
for grass ; but no grass was there. " Bad 
season," says the farmer. " Thank Heaven 
for these slovenly farms," says the botanist. 
Blue cornflowers grew in it, thick as stars 
in heaven ; and huge spikes of viper's 
bugloss as tall as a man's waist and more 
lovely than a turquoise. Who shall de- 
scribe their hue, their form, their fashion ? 
A great spotted stem, like a lizard's skin, 
green flecked with russet brown, and un- 
canny to look upon ; on either side, long 
twisted spirals of red-and-blue blossoms, 
each curled like a scorpion's tail, very strange 
and lurid. The individual blossom is bright 
blue, when fully opened, with crimson sta- 
mens ; the buds are deep red ; the dead 
flowers dry violet. Altogether, a most 
135 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

weird and witch-like plant. I think one 
might use it with great advantage for incan- 
tations and sorcery. The Poet decided to 
try its effect next time he would rid himself 
of a discarded lady-love. We plucked great 
armfuls, and carried them along with us as 
far as Highfield. Other flowers were there, 
too, of less poetic interest bright yellow 
corn-marigolds, and scented white campion ; 
scarlet poppies by the score, with waving 
panicles of not a few tall grasses. We 
gathered of them all, and they stand before 
me now, gladdening my eyes as I write, in 
the coarse red pots of plain Hampshire 
earthenware. 

They had no strawberries left, after all, 
at Highfield. We had our walk for nothing 
if that be nothing ! So we used the empty 
basket to carry back our trophies. But, 
returning by the lane, we filled our vacant 
arms once more with foxgloves ; and the 
fox himself crossed our path for a second 
again at the selfsame turning, without 
136 



A SUMMER STROLL. 

seeking to reclaim them. Even the Poet 
admitted we had saved one day from Time's 
devouring maw. And that's how we live, 
up here in the moorland. 



XVIII. 
A MOORLAND FIRE. 

THE frosts of last winter that terrible, 
pitiless winter killed down two-thirds of 
the gorse in England ; and now that summer 
has come again, the dry brown branches 
stand bare and leafless in mute accusation 
in every moor and common in the country. 
Only an exceptionally hardy bush here and 
there puts forth, in a straggling and tentative 
fashion, a few timid shoots, or struggles in- 
effectually into feeble bloom on a protected 
bough or so. The bumble-bees wander 
about, disconsolate, like the hungry sheep 
in " Lycidas," and are not fed ; thousands 
and thousands of them have died this spring 
from so unexpected a failure of their staple 
138 



A MOORLAND FIRE. 

food-stuff. Honey and pollen have been 
quoted for the bees at starvation prices. 
We have natural selection here on a large 
scale in actual action before our very eyes : 
only the hardiest furze-bushes have this 
year survived the bitter frost ; only the 
busiest, strongest, and most enterprising 
bumble-bees are now surviving the serious 
loss of their accustomed provender. Even 
heather has suffered much, which is a sur- 
prising fact, for heather belongs to a high 
sub-arctic type, that spreads in both its 
familiar British forms far north into Scotland, 
Scandinavia, and even Russia ; while gorse, 
a shrub of much more southern and western 
nature, is rare in the Highlands, unknown 
in Norway or Sweden, and, in its smaller 
form, at least, incapable of enduring the 
severe winters of Germany to the east of the 
Rhine. 

As a consequence of this dryness and 
deadness of the gorse, and to some extent 
of the heather-tops, heath fires have raged 
139 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

this spring in England with a fierceness and 
commonness I have never seen equalled. 
Every year, of course, especially about 
Eastertide, when furze and heather are 
normally at their driest, owing to the winter 
sleep, heath fires are frequent enough in 
times of drought on all sandy moorlands ; 
but, as a rule, they cease altogether for the 
year when the gorse begins to burgeon and 
the heath to send up its long green summer 
shoots. As the sap mounts in the plants, and 
the spiky leaves grow green, the amount 
of moisture in stem and branches suffices 
to preserve the commons and moors from 
the danger of burning. This summer, how- 
ever, the dead dry gorse-bushes catch a 
spark like tinder ; and in the district where 
I live, among pines and heather, we have 
been nightly surrounded for many weeks 
by constant heath fires. Sometimes, perhaps, 
they are kindled of malice prepense, or out 
of pure boyish mischief; more often, how- 
ever, I fancy they are due to mere human 
140 



A MOORLAND FIRE. 

carelessness in flinging down a match among 
the arid fuel. A bicyclist's cigarette thrown 
lightly by the roadside, a labourer's pipe 
turned out casually upon the footpath any 
such small thing is enough to set it going ; 
and once lighted, the flames spread before 
the wind with astonishing rapidity, licking 
up with their fiery tongues whole leagues 
of dry gorse, and leaping with frantic glee 
and in crackling haste from bough to bough 
of the pines and hollies. 

It is a strange sight, indeed, to see at 
night one of these lurid deluges, sweeping 
onward irresistibly, amid clouds of smoke 
and loud snapping of boughs, on its work 
of devastation. Terrible as it all is, it is 
yet beautiful while it lasts : the red sibilant 
flames, the fierce glare on the sky, the 
beaters beating it down on its leeward edge 
with branches of pine-trees, and silhouetted 
in black against the bright glow of the fire, 
all unite to make up a weird and intensely 
impressive picture. But to the beasts and 
141 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

birds whose home is on the moor, it is a 
cataclysm inexpressible, appalling, unthink- 
able. Lizards run before the advancing 
phalanx of flames in trembling terror till it 
catches them by the hundred, and calcines 
them as they run into fine white ashes ; rats 
squeal from their holes in the bank with 
piteous screams of agony, as they are slowly 
roasted alive by the remorseless inundation ; 
rabbits wait in silence in their stifling bur- 
rows, and are burned without one sound, 
for, true to their instincts, they prefer to 
meet death in their own scorching homes, 
rather than expose themselves to the dogs 
who follow every fire, and pounce with mad 
joy on hapless creatures that run for dear 
life from its devouring onslaught. 

Next day ah ! next day the area over 
which the flames have swept is pitiful to 
behold : blackened soil, charred bushes, 
naked boughs of burnt fir-trees. Among 
them, one morning, I saw a poor belated 
squirrel, exposed on the open, and picking 
142 



A MOORLAND FIRE. 

his way painfully over the smoking ground. 
Beneath his paws the loose black peat still 
smouldered sullenly. With dazed and 
doubtful steps, like a stupefied thing, he 
picked his way among the burning tufts. 
He had lost his mate, no doubt his mate, 
and his little ones. The whole world he 
knew had been blotted out and effaced in 
one wild half-hour of indescribable terrors. 
Now he walked gingerly on tip-toe over the 
burning soil, as you and I might walk over 
the ashes of Mayfair if a fissure eruption 
had spread hot sheets of lava above the site 
of London. Just such a catastrophe to my 
squirrel was that awful night's work. He 
was stunned and mazed by it. I thought, 
indeed, for a time, he was half dead and 
roasted, till a dog ran after him ; then, quick 
as lightning, he darted up a charred tree, 
and looked down from the bare boughs upon 
his baffled pursuer. But none of the usual 
sly triumph was there in his look ; the mani- 
fold experiences of that deadly night had 
143 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

killed all slyness and all archness out of him 
for ever. He wandered like a ghost among 
the blackened branches ; his universe was 
gone ; his life was blasted. I never saw a 
more pathetic sight, nor one that brought 
home to me in sadder colours the ruthlessness 
of nature. 



144 



XIX. 

THE ARCADIAN DONKEY. 

ON the slope by the mountain-ashes, where 
the ridge curves downward into the combe 
with the plantation of young larch-trees, I 
met Peter Rashleigh leading his donkey 
Arcades ambo. "Jenny looks fat enough, 
Peter," I said with a nod as I passed on 
the narrow footpath ; " and yet there isn't 
much grass up here for her to feed upon." 
" Lard bless your soul, sir," Peter answered 
with an expansive smile, " grass ain't what 
she wants. It don't noways agree with her. 
She's all the better with bracken and furzen- 
tops. Furzen-tops is good, like mobled 
queen." And I believe he was right, too. 
Jenny's ancestors from all time have been 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

unaccustomed to rich meadow-feeding, and 
when their descendants nowadays are turned 
out into a field of clover they overeat them- 
selves at once, and suffer agonies of mind 
from the unexpected repletion. 

All the dwellers on our moor, in like 
manner, are poor relations, so to speak, as 
the donkey is to the horse. They are losers 
in the struggle for life, yet not quite hope- 
less losers ; creatures that have adapted 
themselves to the worst positions, which 
more favoured and successful races could 
not endure for a moment. The naked 
Fuegian picks up a living somehow among 
snow and ice on barren rocks, where a well- 
clad European would starve and freeze, 
finding nothing to subsist upon. Just so 
on the moor ; heather, furze, and bracken 
eke out a precarious livelihood on the sandy 
soil, where grasses and garden flowers die out 
at once, unless we artificially enrich the earth 
for them with leaf-mould from the bottoms 
and good manure from the farmyards. 
146 



THE ARCADIAN DONKEY. 

More than that, you may take it as a 
general rule that where grass will grow 
there is no chance for heather. Not that 
the heather doesn't like rich soil, and flourish 
in it amazingly when it can get it. If you 
sow it in garden borders, and keep it well 
weeded, it will thrive apace, as it never 
throve in its poor native loam, among the 
stones and rubble. But the weeding is the 
secret of its success under such conditions. 
It isn't that the heather won't grow in rich 
soil, any more than that beggars can't live 
on pheasant ; but grasses and dandelions, 
daisies and clovers, can easily give it points 
in such spots, and beat it. In a very few 
weeks you will find the lowland plants have 
grown tall and lush, while the poor distanced 
heather has been overtopped and crowded 
out by its sturdier competitors. That is 
the reason why waterside .irises, or Alpine 
gentians, will grow in garden beds under 
quite different circumstances from those 
under which we find them in the state of 
147 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

nature ; the whole secret lies in the fact that 
we restrict competition. Cultivation means 
merely digging out the native herbs, and 
keeping them out, once ousted, in favour 
of other plants which we choose to protect 
against all their rivals. In rich lowland 
soils the grasses and other soft succulent 
herbs outgrow such tough shrubs as ling 
and Scotch heather. But in the poverty- 
stricken loam of the uplands, the grasses 
and garden weeds find no food to batten 
upon ; and there the heather, to the manner 
born, gets at last a fair field and no favour. 
It is adapted to the moors, as the camel is 
to the desert ; both have been driven to 
accommodate themselves to a wretched and 
thirsty environment ; but both have made 
a virtue of necessity, and risen to the occa- 
sion with commendable ingenuity. 

Everything about the heather shows long- 
continued adaptation to arid conditions. Its 
stems are wiry ; its leaves are small, very 
dry, uninviting as foodstuffs, curled under 
148 



THE ARCADIAN DONKEY. 

at the edge, and so arranged in every way 
as to defy evaporation. Rain sinks so 
rapidly through the sandy soil the plant 
inhabits that it does its best to economize 
every drop, just as we human inhabitants 
of the moorland economize it by constructing 
big tanks for the storage of the rain-water 
that falls on our roof-trees. Warping winds 
sweep ever across the wold with parching 
effect ; so the heather makes its foliage 
small, square, and thickly covered by a hard 
epidermis, as a protection against undue or 
excessive dryness. It aims at being drought- 
proof. Its purple bells, in like manner, in- 
stead of being soft and fleshy, as is the case 
with the corollas of meadow-blossoms like 
the corn-poppy, or woodland flowers like 
the wild hyacinth, are hard and dry, so as 
to waste no water ; dainty waxen petals, like 
those of the dog-rose or the cherry-blossom, 
would wilt and wither at once before the 
harsh, dry blasts that career unchecked over 
the open moorland. Yet the heather-bells, 
149 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

though quite dead and papery to the touch, 
are brilliantly coloured to attract the upland 
bees, and form such wide patches of purple 
and pink as you can nowhere match among 
the largely wind-fertilized herbage of the 
too grass-green water-meadows. Upland 
conditions, indeed, always produce rich 
flowers. The most beautiful flora in Europe 
is that of the Alps, just below the snow-line ; 
it has been developed by the stray Alpine 
moths and butterflies. Larger masses of 
colour are needed to attract these free-flying 
insects than serve to catch the eyes of the 
more business-like and regular bees who go 
their rounds in lowland districts. 

Is not the donkey himself a product of 
somewhat similar conditions ? Oriental in 
his origin, he seems to be merely the modern 
representative of those ancestral horses which 
did not succeed in the struggle for existence. 
Every intermediate stage has now been dis- 
covered between the true horses, with their 
flowing tails and silky coats, and the true 



THE ARCADIAN DONKEY. 

donkeys, with their tufted tails and shaggy 
hair, the middle terms being chiefly found 
in the northern plains of Asia. Now, our 
horses, I take it, are the descendants of 
those original horse-and-donkey-like creatures 
which took to the grassy meadows, and so 
waxed fat, and kicked, and developed ex- 
ceedingly ; while our donkeys, I imagine, 
are the poor, patient offspring of those less 
lucky brothers or cousins which were pushed 
by degrees into the deserts and arid hills, 
and there grew accustomed to a very sparse 
diet of the essentially prickly and thorny 
shrubs which always inhabit such spots, just 
as gorse and heather inhabit our British 
uplands. That is why the donkey thrives 
so excellently to this day on thistles and 
nettle-tops : they represent the ancestral 
food of his kind for many generations. 
Certainly, at the present time, wherever we 
find horses wild it is in broad, grass-clad 
plains, or steppes, or pampas ; wherever we 
find donkeys, or donkey-like animals, wild, 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

it is among desert or half-desert rocks, and 
on arid hillsides. It would seem as though 
the horse was in the last resort a donkey 
grown big and strong by dint of good living 
and free space to roam over ; while the 
donkey, on the other hand, is in the last 
resort a horse grown small and ill-pro- 
portioned through want of good food and 
insufficient elbow-room. It is noteworthy 
that in small islands, like the Shetlands, small 
breeds of horses are developed in adaptation 
to the environment ; though, the food being 
still good pasture in a well-watered country, 
they retain in most respects their horse-like 
aspect. But a vengeance o' Jenny's case ! 
I have wandered far afield from Peter 
Rashleigh's donkey, to have got so soon 
into evolutionary biology ! 



152 



XX. 

A LIFE-AND-DEATH STRUGGLE. 

IT isn't often a man can stand at his own 
drawing-room window and be the interested 
spectator at a combat of wild beasts, where 
one antagonist not only conquers, but also 
fairly devours the other ! Yet such Roman 
sport I have just this moment been unlucky 
enough to witness. Unlucky enough, I say, 
because the victor did not first kill and 
then eat his victim, as any combatant with 
a spark of chivalry in his nature would 
have done, but slowly chewed him up alive 
before my eyes, with no more consideration 
for the feelings of the vanquished than 
if the unfortunate creature had been a 
vegetable. I don't mean to pretend it was 

153 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

tiger versus cobra. The assailant was a 
thrush, the defender an earthworm. Now, 
thrushes, we all know, are sweet songsters 
when they have dined. Has not George 
Meredith hymned them, as Shelley the sky- 
lark ? But if you want to see the poetry 
taken clean out of a thrush, just watch him 
as he catches and devours an earthworm ! 
The poor unsuspicious annelid, feeling the 
joy of spring stir in his sluggish veins, 
comes to the surface for a moment in 
search of those fallen leaves which form 
the staple of his blameless vegetarian diet. 
No mole shakes the earth ; the sod is 
fresh and moist ; here seems a propitious 
moment for an above-ground excursion. 
So the earthworm pokes out his head and 
peers around him inquiringly ; peers, I 
venture to say, blind beast though he be, 
because his method of feeling his way and 
exploring by touch is so human and in- 
quisitive. But embodied Fate is on the 
watch, silent, keen-eyed, immovable ; and 
154 



A LIFE-AND-DEATH STRUGGLE. 

no sooner does that slimy soul poke his 
nose above the ground than the thrush is 
upon him, quick and deadly as lightning. 
In one second the creature feels himself 
seized by one of his scaly rings, held fast 
in an iron vice, and slowly chewed piece- 
meal with the utmost deliberation. He 
wriggles and squirms, but all in vain ; the 
thrush munches calmly on, now with this 
side of his bill, now that, drawing the worm 
ring by ring from the soil to which he 
desperately clings, and enjoying him as he 
goes with most evident gusto. 

Both are intruders here. When first we 
came to our hill-top there were no thrushes 
and no earth-worms, no house-martins and 
no sparrows. But the building of one 
simple red-tiled cottage set up endless 
changes in the fauna and flora. A whole 
revolution was inaugurated over a realm 
of three acres. The house-martins were 
the first to come ; they settled in before 
us. Ancestral instinct has taught them to 
-155 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

know well that where a house is built there 
will be eaves to nest under, and people 
will inhabit it, who throw about meat and 
fruit, which attract the flies ; and flies are 
the natural diet of house-martins. The 
sparrows came next ; but the thrushes 
loitered longer. And the manner of their 
coming was after this fashion 

The powers that be had decided on a 
tennis-lawn. Previously nothing but heather 
and gorse spread over the hill-top ; that is 
the native vegetation of this light sand- 
stone upland. But in order to have tennis 
you must needs have a sward ; so, much 
against the grain, we grubbed up wild 
heath enough to make a court, and sowed 
it for a tennis-lawn. Grass cannot grow, 
however, on such poor light soil as suits 
heather best, so we imported a few cart- 
loads of mould and manure from a farm 
in the valley. With the mould came 
worms, who, finding a fair field, began to 
be fruitful and multiply and replenish the 
156 



A LIFE-AND-DEATH STRUGGLE. 

earth with laudable rapidity. Few or no 
earthworms live in the shallow sand of the 
open moor ; and, though a mole or two 
can just eke out a precarious living here 
and there in the softer and grassier hollows 
I see their mounds every day as I cross 
the common worms are not nearly abun- 
dant enough to tempt the epicurean and 
greedy thrushes from the shelter of the 
valley. For the mole, you see, goes out 
hunting underground on the trail of the 
earth-worm ; but the thrush must needs 
depend upon the few stray stragglers which 
come to the surface morning and evening. 

No sooner had worms begun to make 
castings on the lawn, however, than some 
Columbus thrush discovered a new world 
was opened to him. He and his mate took 
formal possession of the patch of green, 
which they hold as their own, using it 
regularly as a private hunting-ground. 
Every other tennis-lawn in the neighbour- 
hood similarly supports its pair of thrushes, 
157 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

as (according to the poet) every rood of 
ground in England once "maintained its 
man." One of our neighbours has three 
lawns, terraced off in steps, and each has 
been annexed by a particular thrush family, 
which holds it stoutly against all comers. 
It is a curious sight in spring, when the 
nestlings are young, to see the parent 
birds going carefully over the ground 
surveying it in squares, as it were the 
cock a little in front, the hen hopping after 
him at some distance on one side, and 
making sure that not an inch of the super- 
ficial area remains unhunted. They eat 
many snails, too, breaking the shells against 
big stones ; and they hunt for slugs now 
and then in the moist ditch by the road- 
way. While the nestlings are unfledged 
the industry of the elder birds is ceaseless ; 
for they lay in early spring, and have to 
rear their young while food is still far from 
cheap or abundant. And, oh ! but it is a 
gruesome sight to see them teaching the 

158 



A LIFE-AND-DEATH STRUGGLE. 

young idea of their kind how to tackle 
a worm how to drag him from his burrow, 
ring after ring, as he struggles, to chop 
him up and mangle him till resistance and 
escape are absolutely hopeless, and then 
to devour him piecemeal. But in autumn 
the fierce heart of the carnivore softens ; 
worms being then scarce, he condescends 
to berries. 



159 



XXI. 

THE SHRIKE'S LARDER. 

YES ; there is no denying it this is a 
shrike's larder ! The poor small beasts 
impaled here must have been hung ;upon 
thorns by that crudest of executioners. 
The hoard belongs, I think, to a red-backed 
shrike, whom I have seen more than once 
flitting through the trees of this copse on 
the hillside ; for the great grey shrike has 
gone long since he comes to us only as a 
winter visitor in the hardest seasons while 
woodchats and smaller grey shrike hardly 
occur at all in this out-of-the-way district. 
Indeed, the red-backed bird is the only true- 
born Briton of the entire family ; he alone 
nests and rears his young here regularly. 
1 60 






THE SHRIKE'S LARDER. 

Butcher-birds, the gamekeepers call them, 
and well they deserve the title ; for they 
catch and spit alive on the thorns of their 
larder all the bumble-bees and beetles, all 
the field-mice and robins they can swoop 
down upon and surprise from their bosky 
ambush. Cruel and ruthless birds, they 
seize whatever they can hold ; but, instead 
of killing and eating their prey at once, they 
keep it deliberately alive as long as possible, 
on the stout thorn of a sloe-tree. Look 
at that poor shrew-mouse, for example, 
wriggling feebly on his stake, which the 
cunning bird has so managed to intertwine 
among the twigs as to make escape impos- 
sible ; he must have been hanging there in 
torture for a week by his look, but the 
shrike will not eat him till the last possible 
moment, unless so minded. And that poor 
lizard, again, with his wonderful tenacity of 
life ; he may have been impaled for a fort- 
night, yet the skin on his ribs still rises 
and falls with a faint breathing action. 
1 6 1 M 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

More merciful than nature, we will put him 
out of his pain ; though, after all, what good 
have we done by it ? The shrike will catch 
another to replace him. 

We talk of beautiful instincts and beautiful 
adaptations, so I suppose we may also talk 
of hateful ones ; and this instinct of the 
shrike's is decidedly hateful. Yet such con- 
duct is the rule in the world of animals : 
each species thinks only of its own comfort 
and pleasure ; none takes the slightest heed 
of the pains of others. As Tennyson put 
it long ago 

"Nature is one with rapine, a harm no preacher can 

heal; 
The mayfly is torn by the swallow, the sparrow spear'd 

by the shrike, 
And the whole little wood where I sit is a world of 

plunder and prey." 

Assuredly no creature is worse in this 
respect than our red-backed butcher-bird. 
Yet he is a handsome wretch, for all that, 
especially in his beautiful and delicate spring 
plumage, when he first returns to us from 
162 






THE SHRIKE'S LARDER. 

his African winter quarters chestnut and 
reddish brown above, melting into dainty 
grey-blue about the head and neck, not 
unrelieved by bold patches of pure black 
and pure white on the tail and forehead. 
Moreover, strange to say, he is an accom- 
plished musician. But there is an ugly look 
about him, none the less, for all his fine 
song and all his fine feathers. He has a 
cruel, falcon-like expression of face ; and 
any one who has ever seen him engaged 
in calmly spiking a harvest-mouse or a frog 
on a thick spine of blackthorn, without the 
faintest regard to his helpless victim's writh- 
ing, cannot fail to recognize the evil element 
in his eye, whenever he gives one the rare 
chance of viewing him. 

Old-fashioned ornithologists used to think 
the shrikes were related to the birds of 
prey ; and, indeed, they do somewhat 
resemble the smaller hawks in external 
features. But the likeness is purely super- 
ficial and adaptive curved bill, strong 
163 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

talons, hard bristles on the beak, the keen 
eye of the hunter : it is the kind of 
similarity that must always exist among 
animals whose mode of life is closely similar. 
We know nowadays that structure depends 
upon habit, not habit upon structure. If 
you take to earning your living by rapine, 
you will acquire certain traits of strength 
and keenness inevitable in predatory forms ; 
and that is why the shrikes, which are 
related by descent to the wrens and thrushes, 
have grown to resemble in external confor- 
mation the sparrowhawks and kestrels. 

On the rare occasions when you do catch 
sight of a shrike, he is usually seated, half 
in ambush, on some perch in a tall hawthorn, 
or even openly on the telegraph-wires that 
cross a patch of likely hunting country. 
There he peers about and watches with 
his keen hazel eyes till mouse, frog, or lizard, 
bee, beetle, or dragon-fly, stirs in the meadow 
beneath him. Then, swift as thought, he 
swoops down upon his quarry from his 
164 



THE SHRIKE'S LARDER. 

invisible seat, not hovering and casting a tell- 
tale shadow like the hawk, but waiting his 
chance unseen under cover of the thicket. 
His favourite food, indeed, consists of bees 
and other soft-bodied insects ; these he 
generally eats at once, returning forthwith 
to his perch and his peering. But if he 
catches any bigger prey, such as a frog, 
a field-mouse, a tomtit, or a partridge chick, 
he flies off with it to the larder, and there 
spears the wretched victim on a stout sharp 
spine, to devour it at his leisure. Even 
beetles and dragon-flies he will sometimes 
keep in stock, especially if his appetite is 
assuaged for the moment. Nevertheless, 
the butcher-bird is in the main an insect- 
eater ; he is commonest on warm sandy 
soils, like that of these Surrey moors, where 
bumble-bees and cockchafers abound, and 
enable him to make an easy living. Indeed, 
all beasts and birds are mostly regulated 
in their distribution by the abundance or 
scarcity of their food or prey. Shrikes 

165 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

have, doubtless, no native objection to cold 
thick clay, as such ; but bees being rare 
on moist soils, and field-mice or lizards still 
rarer, the shrike learns to avoid damp, chilly 
bottoms as herbivores avoid a dry desert 
country. 



1 66 



XXII. 

NESTS AND NO NESTS. 

STROLLING across the moor in the sunshine 
to-day, past the lonely pine where the night- 
jar sits crooning to his lady-love in the 
twilight, I came suddenly across his grey 
mate herself, and saw her flutter up sleepily 
in dazed surprise from the bare ground 
where she was sitting. As she flapped her 
mottled wings and sailed slowly away, like 
a blinking owl disturbed in the daytime, I 
noticed that I had lighted unawares upon 
her nest, or rather, her eggs, for she lays 
them on the open, without bed of any sort. 
I left them untouched, for I am no collector. 
A few minutes later, I came abreast of the 
low cliff where the sand-martins have 
167 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

established their twittering colony. The soft 
yellow sandstone that forms the cutting is 
honeycombed with their tunnels ; and as I 
leaned on my stick and looked, I saw the 
busy brown birds gliding in and out, with 
their long curved flight, and carrying back 
mouthfuls of gnats and mayflies to their 
fledgelings in the burrows. It was beautiful 
to watch them swooping in great arcs over 
the gorse and bracken, and then darting 
straight, with unerring accuracy, to the mouth 
of their tunnels. They alight at the very 
door with all the skill of born pilots, never 
missing or overshooting the mark by one 
inch, but steering upon it so truly that they 
look as though failure or miscalculation were 
impossible. 

These two little episodes coming together 
set me thinking; 'tis a bad habit one in- 
dulges in when one walks too much alone 
in the open. In towns one doesn't think, 
because the shop-windows, and the horses, 
and the noise, and the people, and the 
168 



NESTS AND NO NESTS. 

omnibuses distract one ; but in the country, 
one gives way a great deal too readily to 
what Plato calls the "divine disease" of 
thinking. I began to philosophize. How 
curious, I said to myself, that we have but 
five kinds of bird in England that hawk on 
the wing after insects in the open ; and of all 
those five, not one builds a proper respect- 
able nest, woven of twigs and straws, like a 
sparrow or a robin ! Every one of them 
has some peculiar little fancy of his own 
goes in for some individual freak of 
originality. The night-jar, which is the 
simplest and earliest in type of the group, 
lays its eggs on the bare ground, and rises 
superior in its Spartan simplicity to such 
petty luxuries as beds and bedding. The 
swift, that ecclesiologically - minded bird, 
which loves the chief seats in the synagogue, 
the highest pinnacles of tower or steeple, 
gums together a soft nest of floating thistle- 
down and feathers, by means of a sticky 
secretion from its own mouth, distilled in the 
169 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

last resort from the juices of insects. The 
swallow and the house-martin, again, make 
domed mud huts, and line them inside with 
soft floating materials. Finally, the sand- 
martin excavates with its bill the soft 
sandstone of cliffs or roadside cuttings, 
and strews a bed within for its callow 
young of cotton-grass and dandelion para- 
chutes. 

Why this curious variety among them- 
selves, and this equally curious divergence 
from the common practice of bird-kind in 
general ? Clearly, thought I, it must bear 
some definite relation to the habits and 
manners of the birds which exhibit it. Let 
me think what it means. Aha, aha, eureka ! 
I have found it ! The insect-hawking birds 
are not a natural group ; by descent they 
have nothing at all to do with one another. 
Closely as the swift resembles the swallow 
in form, in flight, in shape of bill, in habits 
and manners, we now know that the swift is 
a specialized woodpecker, while the swallow 
170 



NESTS AND NO NESTS. 

and the martins are specialized sparrows. (I 
use both words, bien entendu, in quite their 
widest and most Pickwickian evolutionary 
acceptation.) The swift and the night-jar 
belong to one great family of birds ; the 
swallow, the house-martin, and the sand- 
martin to another. The likeness in form 
and in mode of flight has been brought 
about by similarity in their style of living. 
Two different birds of two different types 
both took, ages since, to hawking after flies 
and midges in the open air. Each group was 
thus compelled to acquire long and powerful 
wings, a light and airy body, a good steering 
tail, a wide gape of mouth, and a rapid 
curved flight, so as to swoop down upon and 
catch its petty prey unsuspected. So, in the 
long run, the two types which hawk most 
in the open, the swifts and the swallows, 
have grown so like that only by minute 
anatomical differences can we refer the 
remoter ancestry of one species to the 
woodpeckers and humming-birds, and the 
171 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

remoter ancestry of the other to the tits and 
sparrows. 

How does their manner of life affect their 
mode of nesting, however ? Indirectly, in 
this way. Birds that live largely off seeds 
and fruits and hard-shelled beetles, have 
hard short beaks to grind their food with, 
and sit much in thickets, scrub, or hedge- 
rows. But birds that hawk on the wing 
after small soft flies must have wide soft 
bills, and a gaping mouth ; they can hardly 
perch at all on trees or bushes, and their 
feet are too weak to be of much use for 
walking. Indeed, if a swift once alights 
on the ground, he can scarcely get up again, 
so difficult is it for the long wings to work 
in a narrow space, and so slight a power of 
jumping have the feeble little legs. Hence 
it follows that birds of the hedgerow type 
can readily build nests of twigs and straws, 
which they gather as they perch, or seek on 
the ground ; and they are enabled to weave 
them with their hard bills and active feet ; 
172 



NESTS AND NO NESTS. 

while birds of the hawking type cannot pick 
up sticks or gather straws on the ground, 
and have beaks quite unadapted for dealing 
with such intractable materials. The conse- 
quence is they have been compelled to find 
out each some new plan for itself, and to 
build their nest out of such stray material as 
their habits permit them. 

The night-jar, a stranded nocturnal bird 
of early type, with very few modern improve- 
ments and additions, solves the problem in 
the easiest and rudest way by simply going 
without a nest at all, and laying her eggs 
unprotected in the open. Nocturnal creatures, 
indeed, are, to a great extent, the losers in 
the struggle for existence ; they always 
retain many early and uncivilized ways, if 
I may speak metaphorically. They are the 
analogues of the street arabs who sleep in 
Trafalgar Square under shelter of a news- 
paper. The sand-martin, an earlier type 
than the swallow or the house-martin, burrows 
in sandstone cliffs, which are pre-human 
173 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

features, though man's roads and railways 
have largely extended his field of enterprise. 
But the house-martin and the swallow, later 
and far more civilized developments, have 
learned to take advantage of our barns and 
houses ; they nest under the eaves ; and 
being largely water - haunters, skimming 
lightly over the surface of ponds and lakes, 
they have naturally taken advantage of the 
mud at the edges as a convenient building 
material. Last of all, the soaring swift, the 
most absolutely aerial type of the entire 
group, unable to alight on the ground at all, 
has acquired the habit of catching cottony 
seeds, and thistledown, and floating feathers 
in his mouth as he flies, and gumming them 
together into a mucilaginous nest with his 
own saliva. The Oriental sea-swifts have 
no chance of finding even such flying 
materials among their caves and cliffs, and 
they have consequently been driven into 
erecting nests entirely of their own inspis- 
sated saliva, without any basis of down or 
174 



NESTS AND NO NESTS. 

feathers. These are the famous edible 
birds'-nests of the Chinese ; they look like 
gelatine, and they make excellent soup, 
somewhat thick and gummy. 



175 



XXIII. 

THE CROUCH OAK. 

THE old Crouch Oak on Walford Green is 
one of the sights of Surrey. It raises its 
gnarled and hollow trunk in the centre of 
the Ploy-Field, an ancient common meadow, 
and though decayed in its heart, is reckoned 
still among the principal bounds of Ringmer 
Forest. Its girth at the height of a man's 
arms is over twenty feet. Beneath its 
spreading branches stands an upright stone 
of immemorial antiquity, which only the 
righteous wrath of a local archaeologist 
succeeded in preserving a few years since 
from the modern desecration of a Jubilee 
inscription. This close combination of 
sacred tree and sacred stone is frequent 
176 



THE CROUCH OAK. 

and significant ; it occurs all the world 
over, from Britain to the New Hebrides; 
it is found in India, in Syria, in Germany, 
in Ceylon, in civilized Rome, in barbaric 
New Guinea. Wherever the sacred tree 
spreads its brooding circle of welcome 
shade, there under its huge boughs the 
sacred stone bears witness to antique or 
still surviving rites of human sacrifice. 

It is this, indeed, that gives our British 
Gospel Oaks their unique interest amid 
the public monuments of England. Alone 
among the temples of our old heathen 
faith they have outlived the overwhelming 
deluge of Christianity. In the south of 
Europe we have still the Parthenon and 
the columns of Paestum to testify boldly 
to the older creeds. In the north, where 
temples made with hands were rarer, where 
art had not learned to raise such colossal 
piles as Karnak or Denderah, the sacred 
oak alone remains to us now as a linger- 
ing memorial of the cult of our ancestors. 
177 N 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

Even these, too, have been Christianized, 
in accordance with Gregory's well-known 
advice to Augustine. The holy sites of 
the ancient faiths, said the wise Pope, in 
his epistle, were still to be respected ; but 
the demons who inhabited them were 
to be exorcised by the use of Christian 
symbols, and the temples were to be 
sanctified to Christian worship. In accord- 
ance with this policy, a figure of the 
cross was marked upon the bark of the 
old sacred tree in Wai ford Ploy- Field, 
which thus became known as the Crouch 
or Cross Oak ; for the Latin crux came 
first into our language under the truer 
English form of crouch, and only assumed 
its later pronunciation of cross under 
northern influences. Similar Christiani- 
zation of holy oaks, shire oaks, boundary 
oaks, Druid oaks, and other heathen 
temples or heathen termini, went on all 
over England ; so that what were once 
Thunor's trees and Woden's trees, or still 
178 



THE CROUCH OAK. 

earlier, the sacred haunts of native Celtic 
deities, became in the end those " Gospel 
Oaks," under which, at the annual beating 
of the bounds, the priest stopped with his 
acolytes to read a few verses of St. Luke 
or St. Matthew. Sometimes, indeed, hardly 
more than the memory of some particular 
episode in the history of the sacred tree 
now survives, as at Addlestone, near 
Chertsey, where there is also a crouch 
oak, chiefly famous at present from a local 
tradition that Wickliffe once preached under 
its canopy of branches. But the older 
holy and even phallic virtue of this sacred 
trunk is proved by the fact that decoctions 
of its bark taken internally, after a well- 
known and almost world-wide fashion, are 
still considered by the girls of the village 
to operate as a love-charm. 

The history of these ancient trees, so 
far as we can reconstruct it from the piece- 
meal evidence, is picturesque and singular. 
Originally, I believe, they were planted as 
179 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

saplings over the barrow or tumulus of some 
barbaric chieftain ; not a few of them, indeed 
like the King's Oak at Tilford, near 
Farnham still retain some title which recalls 
their royal or funereal origin. The sacred 
stone, which in every case seems once to 
have stood under their dense shade, was 
doubtless at first the standing-stone or 
gravestone of the buried chief; though 
later it probably served as an unhewn altar 
for the village sacrifices, like that offering 
of the lamb which till recent years was still 
torn to pieces on an anniversary festival 
in the Ploy-Field at Holne, in Devonshire. 
Every year, in point of fact, the people of 
each village used once to perambulate their 
bounds, as at the Roman Terminalia, and 
offer up at each holy tree and each terminus 
stone, which formed the main landmarks, a 
human sacrifice. The victims were usually 
boys most probably captives from neigh- 
bouring tribes or villages ; failing that, they 
were " bought with a price " within the tribe 
1 80 



THE CROUCH OAK. 

itself from their unnatural parents. Traces 
of these customs survive all the world over, 
while the practice itself is closely bound up 
with the worship of Terminus and other 
boundary spirits. In later and milder days, 
however, though the habit of beating the 
bounds survived, the incidents that accom- 
panied it were considerably mitigated. The 
ceremony at first was essentially an exorcism, 
or driving of evil spirits beyond the village 
limits ; and the boys seem to have been 
slaughtered as boundary guardians, in order 
that their ghosts might protect and maintain 
the local frontier. They were also scourged 
before being put to death, after a common 
superstition, so that their tears might act 
as a sympathetic rain-charm. But in later 
Christian days it began to be felt that to 
read the Gospels under the sacred oak of 
the boundary would sufficiently drive away 
all evil influences ; and though the boys 
were still beaten at each terminus as a 
rain-charm, the meaning of the incident was 
181 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

so wholly forgotten that it was commonly 
interpreted as a means of impressing the 
boundaries on their memories a foolish 
gloss of the usual fatuous eighteenth-century 
rationalizing type. Thus the Gospel Oak 
at Cheriton is now only remembered as the 
tree under which the Gospel was read at 
the perambulation of the bounds ; the 
Crouch Oak at Addlestone has sunk into 
a prosaic legal boundary-mark of Windsor 
Forest ; and the Twelve Apostles at Burley, 
near Ringwood, now reduced to five, have 
been finally Christianized out of all recog- 
nition, so that I cannot even conjecturally 
reconstruct their original dedication to some 
ancient Celtic or Teutonic deities. 



182 



XXIV. 

A SPOTTED ORCHIS. 

LIKE Mr. Chamberlain, I too am an orchid- 
grower. I own three acres (without a cow) 
on a heather-clad hilltop, and no small 
proportion of that landed estate is "down 
under orchids." Not that I mean to say 
the species I cultivate, or rather allow to 
grow wild, on my wild little plot would 
excite the envy of the magnate of Highbury. 
They are nothing more than common 
English spotted orchids, springing free and 
spontaneous among the gorse and heather. 
But, oh ! how beautiful they are ! how much 
more beautiful than the dendrobiums and 
cattleyas, the flowering spiders and blossom- 
ing lizards of the rich man's hothouse ! 
183 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

How proudly they raise their tall spikes 
of pale bloom, true sultanas of the 
moorland ! how daintily they woo the big 
burly bumble bees ! how gracefully they 
bend their nodding heads before the bold 
south-west that careers across the country ! 
They seem to me always such great regal 
flowers, yet simple with the simplicity of the 
untrodden upland. 

Take a spike and look at it close ; or, 
better still, grub it up by the roots with 
the point of your umbrella, and examine 
it all through from its foundation upward. 
It springs from two tubers, not unlike a 
pair of new potatoes to look at, but deeply 
divided below into finger-like processes. 
Those divisions it was that gave the plant 
its quaint old English title of " dead men's 
fingers " for, indeed, there is something 
clammy and corpse-like about the feel of 
the tubers ; while that " coarser name " 
to which Shakespeare alludes in passing, 
is due to their general shape, and is still 
184 



A SPOTTED ORCHIS. 

enshrined in the Greek word "orchid" 
which everybody now applies to them with- 
out thinking for a moment of its unsavoury 
meaning. But the two tubers are not of 
the same age. One is old and wilted ; the 
other is young and fresh, and, as the 
advertisements say, "still growing." The 
first is last year's reserve-fund for this year's 
flowering stem ; the second is this year's 
storehouse of food for next year's blossom. 
Thus each season depends for its flowers 
upon the previous year's income ; the leaves, 
which are the mouths and stomachs of the 
plants, lay by material in due season ; and 
the spike of bells proceeds from the tubers 
or consolidated reserve-fund as soon as the 
summer is sufficiently advanced for the 
process of flowering. Few plants with 
handsome heads or trusses of bloom, indeed, 
can afford to produce them upon the current 
season's income ; therefore you will find 
that most large-flowered forms, like lilies, 
tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils, if they wish 

185 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

to blossom early in the year, depend for 
their food-supply upon a bulb or tuber of 
last season's making. Only in the orchids, 
however, do you find this curious device 
of a pair of tubers at once side by side, 
one being filled and fed, while the other is 
being slowly devoured and depleted. By 
the end of the season the new tuber is rich 
and full to bursting, while the old one is 
withered, flaccid, and empty. 

From the tuber, in early spring, start the 
pretty lance-shaped leaves green, dappled 
with leopard spots of some deep brown 
pigment. The use and meaning of these 
beautiful spots on the glossy green foliage 
no one has yet deciphered; it remains as 
one of the ten thousand insoluble mysteries 
of plant existence. That is always so in 
life. We tell what we know ; but what we 
know not, who shall count it or number it ? 
Yet the flowers, after all, are the true centre 
of interest in the English orchid. Thirty of 
them in a spike, pale lilac or white, all 
186 



A SPOTTED ORCHIS. 

starred and brocaded with strange flecks 
of purple, they rank among the most 
marvellous of our native flowers in shape 
and structure. The long spur at the back 
is the factory and reservoir for the abundant 
honey. The face of the blossom consists 
of a broad and showy lip, the flaunting 
advertisement to bee or butterfly of the 
sweets within ; it is flanked by two slender 
spreading wings, above which a third sepal 
arches over the helmet-like petals. Beneath 
this hood, or dome, in the centre of the 
column, the club-shaped pollen-masses lie 
half concealed in two pockets, or pouches 
dainty little purses, as it were, like fairy 
wallets slit open in front for the bee's 
convenience. The base of the pollen-masses 
is sticky or gummy ; and they are so 
arranged, of set purpose, in their pouches, 
that the moment the bee's head touches 
them, they cling to it automatically, by their 
gummy end, and are carried off without 
his knowledge or consent to the next flower 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

he visits. But if you want to see exactly 
how this pretty little drama of plant life 
is enacted, you need not wait, as I have 
often done, silent on the heath for half an 
hour together, till some blustering bumble 
bee bustles in, all importance. It suffices 
for demonstration just to pick a spike and 
insert into the mouth of the honey-spur a 
stem of grass, which does duty for the bee's 
head and proboscis, when straightway "the 
figures will act," as they say on the penny- 
in-the-slot machines, and the pollen-masses 
will gum themselves by automatic action to 
the imaginary insect. 

The reason for this curious and highly 
advanced device is that orchids are among 
the plants most absolutely specialized for 
insect-fertilization. Most species of orchid, 
in fact, can never set their seeds at all 
without the intervention of these flying 
" marriage priests," as Darwin quaintly 
called them. If left to themselves, the 
flowers must wither on their virgin thorn 
188 



A SPOTTED ORCHIS. 

unwed, and no seed be set in the twisted 
ovary. But when the bee goes to them in 
search of honey, the pollen-masses gum 
themselves to the front of his head, though 
just at first they point upward and inward. 
Then, after a short time, as he flies through 
the air, they contract in drying, and so 
point forward, in the direction in which he 
will enter the next flower he visits. This 
brings the pollen directly into contact with 
the sensitive cushion or pad of the ovary 
in the flower so visited, and thus results 
in the desired cross-fertilization. For the 
ovary, too, is gummy, to make the pollen 
stick to it. 

A roundabout way, you think, to arrive, 
after all, at so simple a conclusion ? Well, 
that is the habit of Nature. And again, 
bethink you, good, easy-going human being, 
how great are the difficulties she has to 
contend with, especially in the case of the 
plant creation. Put yourself in the orchid's 
place, and you will see the reason. For 
189 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

remember how absolutely fixed and limited 
are plants, each rooted to the soil in a 
single small spot, each tied by strict con- 
ditions of rock, and water-supply,' and air, 
and wind, and sun, and climate, from which 
none can escape, try they all their hardest. 
The opposite sides of a road are to them 
as the two poles, one with a sunny and 
southward-looking bank, the other with a 
cold and forbidding northern aspect ; so that 
what flourishes apace on the first would 
shiver and die of chill winds on the second. 
Remember, too, that, save in the mildest 
degree, plants have no power of spontaneous 
or independent movement ; they cannot stir 
from their birthplace, were it but for a 
single inch, nor move their own limbs save 
as the wind may sway them. Creatures 
thus narrowly and inevitably bound down 
must needs take advantage of the power 
of movement in all other kinds, wherever 
it will benefit them. Hence the use plants 
make of insects as common carriers of 
190 



A SPOTTED ORCHIS. 

pollen ; the use they make of birds as 
dispersers of seeds ; the use they make 
of natural agencies, such as wind or stream, 
to waft winged thistle-down, to carry the 
parachutes of the dandelion and the willow, 
or to float the male blossoms of such water- 
weeds as vallisneria. Behold ! I show you 
a mystery. The secret of the whole thing 
is that plants, being fixed themselves, must 
needs employ birds and insects as their 
Pickford vans must rely on wind or stream 
for such casual services as wind or stream 
can easily afford them. Only in a few 
species can they effect anything like active 
movement for themselves, as one sees in 
the rooting runners of strawberries, or the 
wandering tubers of certain vagrant orchids, 
which spread far afield from last season's 
nesting-place. These are clever devices for 
securing fresh virgin soil " rotation of 
crops," as the farmers put it. 



191 



XXV. 

THE ROOT OF THE MATTER. 

EVERY Girton girl (vice Macaulay's school- 
boy, retired from overwork) every Girton 
girl knows that a well-conducted British 
oak " spreads its roots as far and wide 
through the soil beneath as it rears its 
boughs above toward the air of heaven." 
Every Girton girl is probably also of 
opinion that the British oak does this 
mainly or solely in order to fix itself by 
firm anchors in the soil to withstand 
the battling winds and the constant pull 
of hostile gravitation. But what every 
Girton girl does not, perhaps, quite so con- 
fidently know is this that, on the whole, 
the tips of the roots and the tips of the 
192 



THE ROOT OF THE MATTER. 

branches correspond roughly in situation 
with one another, so that if you were to 
unearth and expose the entire tree you 
would find it composed of two tolerably 
similar domes or hemispheres one erect 
and aerial, and one inverted and earth- 
bound, each occupying approximately equal 
areas, and each circumscribed by fairly 
equal circles. 

Why should this be so ? It is clear 
enough, of course, that in order to fasten 
a big tree firmly in the ground, it must 
have numerous large and strong founda- 
tions. But wherefore this approximate 
equality in the areas occupied by roots 
and frondage ? The answer is, because 
every large tree forms a sort of umbrella, 
a domed roof or catchment basin for the 
rain that falls upon it ; and it has always 
its own peculiar and admirably adapted 
arrangement for conducting all the water 
it intercepts to certain special spots or 
drinking-places in the ground, where it 
193 o 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

sets the roots, and especially the rootlets, 
or absorbent terminals, intended to soak 
that water up and convey it to the branches. 
If you stand under an oak-tree during a 
summer shower a mode of passive scientific 
observation for which nature has afforded 
quite ample opportunities during the last 
few weeks you will notice at once that 
the round mass of its foliage acts exactly 
like a huge umbrella, and conducts all the 
rain that falls upon its surface outward 
and downward towards the circumference 
of the circle. The drops that alight upon 
the central and tallest part of the tree 
are shed by the veined and channelled 
leaves till they fall off the tips on to the 
layer immediately below and outside them ; 
this layer again conveys them to the next 
in order, and so on, till at last a little 
gathering stream drips from the ends of 
the lowest and longest outward-pointing 
boughs on to the soil beneath them. The 
ground in the centre remains perfectly 
194 



THE ROOT OF THE MATTER. 

dry, while a circle at the circumference is 
hollowed into a sort of irregular trench, or 
rude round of tiny pits, by the continuous 
dripping of the collected gutters. 

Now, of course, the plant wants to utilize 
to the utmost all the rain it thus intercepts. 
It would be quite too silly of it to produce 
rootlets and absorbent terminals in the dry 
central space covered by the dense umbrella 
of foliage. But all around the circumference, 
and especially at the spots just under the 
runnels, where the water drops from the ends 
of the boughs, exactly as it drops from the 
rib-points of the silk-and-steel umbrella, the 
tree develops numerous minute rootlets, 
which suck up the rain as fast as it falls, 
and convey it by fixed pipes to the leaves 
and growing-points. Every tree and every 
large herb is thus a regular and well- 
organized catchment-basin, with its own 
mains and services ; and it utilizes its water- 
supply by a cunningly adapted system of 
sucking rootlets, all placed at the exact spots 
195 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

where they will most surely absorb the 
amount of water that in each case runs 
down to them. So much is this true that 
in transplanting trees foresters and ' nursery- 
men know well you must lop the roots and 
the branches so as to cover equal super- 
ficial areas, or else the water will not fall 
on the parts best adapted to receive it ; 
for, just as the lopped branches put forth 
new leaves and twigs at the point of 
section, so do the lopped roots put forth new 
rootlets and absorbent hairs at the place 
where they are now most urgently needed. 

Not every kind of plant, however, man- 
ages its water-supply on the self-same system. 
There are dodges and devices. For herbs 
with leaves that spring from the rootstock 
alone, for example, without any visible above- 
ground stem, two main plans have been very 
widely adopted. One plan is that invented 
by plants like rhubarb, which have chan- 
nelled leaves with grooved leaf-stalks, con- 
ducting all the water that falls upon their 
196 



THE ROOT OF THE MATTER. 

surface centrally towards the root. This is 
the centripetal type. Such plants resemble 
rather a funnel than an umbrella. They 
have always a straight tap-root, like a 
carrot ; and this tap-root gives off numerous 
short rootlets on every side, which absorb 
all the water as it trickles down along the 
tapering surface of the inverted cone. The 
other plan the centrifugal type is adopted 
by certain plants with heart-shaped or arrow- 
shaped leaves, which have round leaf-stalks. 
In these cases the individual leaves point 
outward and downward, and the water drips 
from them not inward towards the centre, 
but outward towards the circumference. 
Their principle is rather umbrella-like than 
funnel-like. To meet this catchment system 
they have no long and descending tap-root, 
but just a short knobby root, which gives 
off long fibres radially in every direction ; 
and these fibres terminate in knots or groups 
of absorbent rootlets exactly beneath the 
points where each leaf drips the knobs or 
197 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

tags of the umbrella, to carry out our con- 
venient metaphor. Examination of other 
and more complex plants reveals always the 
action of the same general law ; each species 
has a peculiar catchment system of its own, 
more or less complicated, by means of which, 
directly or indirectly, all the water that falls 
upon its foliage is finally conducted to 
certain specified spots or drinking-places ; 
and at those specified spots the plant pro- 
vides beforehand an elaborate system of 
absorbent organs, exactly sufficient to suck 
up and utilize the average amount of water 
it expects to obtain and store at each of 

them. If London were a plant, now 

But hush ! I am silent. A gathering- frown 
on the reader's brow warns me in time to 
steer clear of such human and political 
analogies. 



198 



XXVI. 

THE DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL. 

ON Sunday the boys came home for their 
half-term holiday, so we strolled in the 
morning into the Devil's Punchbowl. That 
is the name of the basin-shaped valley that 
lies behind the house a deep circular glen, 
scooped out in a softer portion of the sand- 
stone mass that forms the moor by rain and 
denudation. Thor owned it, I doubt not, 
long before it was claimed by its present 
possessor, for the parish is Thursley ; and 
some Celtic god, whose name is only known 
to Professor Rhys, may have used it as his 
drinking -cup long before the Norseman 
brought his Thor, or the Saxon his Thunor, 
into the Surrey uplands. But the devil is 
199 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

now the heir-general and residuary legatee 
of all heathen gods deceased, be they late or 
early ; he has come into titular ownership of 
their entire property. A steep pa'th leads 
zigzag down the side of the escarpment into 
the bowl-shaped hollow ; at its bottom a tiny 
stream oozes out in a spring as limpid as 
Bandusia. Water lies in the rock, indeed, 
at about two hundred and fifty feet below 
the surface of the moor, to which depth we 
have, accordingly, to sink our wells on the 
hilltop ; and it is at about the same level 
that the springs gush forth which form the 
headwaters of our local rivers.^ 

When we came upon the brook, as good 
luck would have it, a couple of farm labourers, 
in their workaday clothes, regardless of the 
Sabbath, lay at full length upon the bank, 
engaged in the picturesque, if not strictly 
legal, occupation of tickling trout. The 
boys were, of course, delighted ; they had 
never seen the operation performed before, 
and were charmed at its almost mesmeric 
200 



THE DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL. 

magic. At first the men, seeing gentlefolk 
approach, regarded us with disfavour, as 
their natural enemies, no doubt in league 
with the preserving landlord ; but as 
soon as they discovered we were "the 
right sort," in full sympathy with the 
fine old poaching proclivities of the up- 
land population, they returned forthwith to 
their tickling with a zest, and landed a 
couple of trout, not to mention a crayfish, 
before the very eyes of the delighted school- 
boys. 

Tickling trout is an ancient and honour- 
able form of sport, which admits of much 
skill and address in the tickler. The fish 
lurk quietly under overhanging banks, where 
an undermined green sod impends the tiny 
stream ; and the operator passes his hand 
gently over their sides once or twice till he 
has established confidence ; then, taking 
advantage of the friendship thus formed, he 
suddenly closes his hand and whips the 
astonished victim unawares out of the water. 
20 1 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

It has been urged by anglers (who are in- 
terested parties) that such conduct contains 
an element of treachery ; but all is fair in 
love and war, of which last our contest with 
the wild creatures of nature is but a minor 
variety ; and I cannot see that it matters 
much, ethically, whether you land your trout 
on the bank under pretence of titillating his 
sense of touch, or treacherously hook him 
by false show of supplying him with a dainty 
dinner. Indeed, all the trout I have inter- 
viewed on the subject are unanimously of 
opinion that, if you must be caught and 
eaten at all, they had rather be caught by a 
gentle pressure of the naked hand than have 
their mouths and feelings cruelly lacerated 
by a barbed hook disguised as a mayfly. 
Which reminds me of the charming French 
apologue of the farmer who called his 
turkeys together in order to ask them with 
what sauce they would prefer to be eaten. 
" Please, your Excellency," said the turkeys, 
" we don't want to be eaten at all." " My 
202 



THE DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL. 

friends," said the farmer, " you wander from 
the question." 

It is curious, though, to see how this mere 
thread of water supports a whole isolated 
colony of its own, composed of many dozen 
kinds of fish, insects, and crustaceans, who 
know no more of other members of their 
race than the people on a small Pacific 
island knew of the human family before 
Captain Cook burst upon them from the 
blue, with the blessings of Christianity, rum, 
and extermination. These trout, for ex- 
ample, are a group apart ; they are always 
small, even when adult, because there is 
little food for them, and the stream is little. 
In big rivers, where there is space to turn, 
and provisions are plentiful, a successful 
trout of the self-same species runs to five 
or six pounds, while the very near variety 
which frequents great lakes not infrequently 
grows to forty-five or fifty. But here, in 
this upland rill, an ounce or two is the limit. 
They live mostly in pairs, like well-conducted 
203 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

fish, one couple to each pool or overhung 
basin ; yet, strange to say, if one is tickled 
or otherwise enticed away, the widowed 
survivor seems always to have found a mate 
before three hours are over. I know most 
of them personally, and love to watch their 
habits and manners. They are brilliantly 
speckled here, because the water is clear 
and the bottom pebbly ; for the spots on 
trout depend on the bed, and come out 
brighter and more ornamental by far during 
the breeding season. This is still more 
conspicuously the case with the aesthetic 
stickleback, the dandy of the fresh waters ; 
he puts on the most exquisite iridescent 
hues when he goes a-courting, and exhibits 
himself to his mate more gorgeously clad 
than Solomon in all his glory. Unfortunately, 
the colours are very fugacious, for they die 
away at once when he is taken out of 
the water; but while they last, they out- 
shine in brilliancy the humming-bird or 
the butterfly. Both species are great and 
204 



THE DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL. 

determined fighters, as always happens with 
brilliantly decorated birds, fishes, reptiles, 
and insects. None but the brave deserve 
the fair ; and bravery and aesthetic taste 
seem to go together. Indeed, the courageous 
little trout will face and drive away a 
murderous pike who menaces his home, 
while stickleback will engage one another 
in such sanguinary fights for the possession 
of their mates that only the Kilkenny cats 
can be named in the same day with them. 

The other inhabitants of the tiny brook 
are far more numerous than you would 
imagine. Miller's-thumbs poke their big 
black heads out of holes in the clay bank 
at every quiet corner. Crayfish hide among 
the weeds or dart between the sedges. 
Stone-loach flit down stream like rapid 
shadows when you lift the bigger pebbles, 
under which they lie skulking. As for 
caddis-worms and water-spiders and the 
larvae of dragon-flies, they are there by the 
hundred ; while the full-blown insects living 
205 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

flashes of light, as Tennyson calls them 
poise their metallic blue bodies for a second 
over the ragged-robins that grow in the 
boggy hollows, and then dart away like 
lightning to the willow-herb in the distance. 
It is a world apart, this wee world of the 
streamlet ; it has its own joys, its own fears, 
its own tragedies. The big solemn cows, 
with their placid great eyes, come down to 
drink at it unheeding, and blunder over the 
bank, and slide their cloven hoofs to the 
bottom through the clay, unaware that they 
have crushed a dozen maimed lives, and 
spread terror like an earthquake over fifty 
small fishes. But the trout and the loaches 
stand with tremulous fins beating the water 
meanwhile ten yards below, and aghast at 
the cataclysm that has altered for ever their 
native reach. Not for fully twenty minutes 
do they recover heart enough to sneak up 
stream once more to their ruined bank, and 
survey with strange eyes the havoc in their 
homesteads, 

206 



XXVII. 

THE LARK IN AUTUMN. 

MEN are out on the ridge hard by catching 
larks with mirrors. Catching skylarks for 
table ! Just think of the sacrilege ! Listen ! 
As I write I can hear the dear birds carol- 
ling loud even now in the divine sunshine ; 
singing gaily at heaven's gate, as they 
sang for Shakespeare ; pouring their full 
hearts, in their joy, as they poured them 
forth for Shelley ! And these London jail- 
birds, slouching figures in short jackets 
and round-brimmed hats, have come down 
from their slums to our free Surrey moors, 
to catch and kill them ! How I hope they 
will fail ! To the lover of nature, in spite 
of the proverb, a bird in the bush is 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

worth two in the hand or, indeed, two 
thousand. 

At this moment, to tell you true, our 
meadows and pastures are just thronged 
with skylarks. We have always dozens 
of them, proclaiming their gladness every 
sunshiny day in rich cataracts of music. 
But within the last few days the dozens 
have turned into scores and hundreds, for 
it is the time of the great influx of Con- 
tinental larks over sea into England. 
There is a difference, too, though a slight 
one, between our true home birds and 
the hungry refugees who flock here for 
food and warmth in winter. Our native 
and resident skylark is the smaller bird 
of the two, and more russet in colour; the 
migrants who join him in our winter fields 
are both larger and darker. Their ashy 
isabelline plumage, cold grey granite in 
hue, has less of a generous rufous tinge 
to relieve it than in the true-born Briton. 
Such minor differences, indeed, between 
208 



THE LARK IN AUTUMN. 

local races of allied type occur often in 
nature ; they are the first beginnings out 
of which new kinds may in time be de- 
veloped by natural selection. For instance, 
each important river of Britain has its own 
breed of salmon, to be recognized at sight 
so they say by the experienced fly- 
fisher. Thus, again, in the matter of 
skylarks, our English type differs slightly 
in shape and hue from the Continental 
just about as much as your John Bull 
differs from a Frenchman, or a German. 
As we approach the Mediterranean, a still 
paler and lighter form begins to take the 
place of the northern bird, and has been 
honoured (without due reason, I should 
think) with a separate Latin name, as a 
distinct species. It stands to our own 
ruddy-brown English skylark in something 
the same relation as the Moor or the 
Syrian stands to the Western European. 
This pale form, once more, straggles through 
Anatolia and across Central Asia ; but 
209 p 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

merges in the Himalayas, Japan, and China 
into a russet mountain type, which is also 
regarded by systematic naturalists as a 
distinct species. The truth is, however, 
when you take any large area of the world 
together, it is impossible to draw distinct 
lines anywhere between one animal or plant 
and another. Kind melts into kind for 
the most part by imperceptible stages. 

Even in the dreariest months our skylark 
still sings to us, at rarer intervals, on bright 
frosty mornings. He hovers over the grass 
when it sparkles and scintillates with crystal 
filigree. His music it is that so endears 
him to all of us. He is busy at work now, 
I see, in the stubble of the corn-fields, where, 
a useful ally of the agricultural interest, he 
picks out the seeds of black bindweed and 
corn-poppy not unmixed, it is true, with 
occasional grains of wheat or barley. But 
he does far more good than harm, for all 
that. Natives and foreigners live amicably 
side by side, though they do not breed 
210 



THE LARK IN AUtUMN. 

together; for the immigrants, mindful of 
their Baltic homes, go off again in early 
spring, leaving the smaller British birds to 
mate and nest and keep up the true blue 
blood of the Britannic skylark. While hard 
weather lasts, the families flock together in 
large mixed bodies, for mutual protection, I 
suppose, or else for love of companionship ; 
but at the beginning of March they separate 
and pair, and during this tremulous season 
of love and courtship their song falls from 
the clouds still blither and louder and more 
constant than ever. It showers down upon 
us with lavish profusion. The male birds 
rise emulously, singing as they go, and dis- 
playing with pride their powers of song and 
flight before their mates and their rivals. 
Often they join battle at their giddy height 
for some coveted mate, and fight it out in 
the sky ; she sits demure below on the dewy 
grass meanwhile, watching their deeds of 
prowess, listening to their bursting hearts, 
and ready to bestow herself, like ladies at a 

211 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

tournament, on the lover who proves himself 
the stoutest and the worthiest. For we 
must always remember that those liquid 
notes which thrill our souls on glad spring 
mornings have been acquired by the bird, 
not for our human delight, but as a charm 
for the ears of his own love-sick partner. 
For her he modulates his swelling throat ; 
for her he showers down that fountain spray 
of melody. Time was when birds had no 
such musical skill, no such art of courtship ; 
and traces still remain to us in many lands 
of that more primitive period. Just as 
man is most advanced, most civilized, most 
modern in Europe, so birds are most ad- 
vanced, most developed, most musical of 
voice in the eastern continent. And just 
as primitive races linger on in South Africa, 
Polynesia, the Andaman Islands, to give us 
some pregnant hint of our own early an- 
cestry, so more antique and less evolved 
types of bird linger on in South America 
and Australia, to show us some relics of the 
212 



THE LARK IN AUTUMN. 

primitive winged fauna in the days before 
the sense of song was developed. South 
American species, belonging to the same 
great group of perchers as our own sweetest 
songsters the nightingale, the thrush, the 
skylark, the linnet are not only voiceless, 
but do not even possess the necessary 
organs for producing song. European and 
Asiatic birds, in other words, acquired their 
singing habits at a later period than the one 
at which their ancestors parted company for 
good with their South American relatives. 
Indeed, it is pleasant for the evolutionist to 
think that the whole course of the world's 
evolution has been in one constant stream 
towards beauty and sweetness towards 
lovelier plumage, daintier spots and dap- 
plings, more graceful antlers, more waving 
crests, diviner song, intenser colour and 
scent of flowers. The subtlest perfumes 
belong to the newest types and families of 
blossom ; the mellowest notes belong to the 
newest types and families of birds ; the 
213 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

highest beauty belongs to the newest and 
most spiritual races of civilized humanity. 
The world, thank God ! grows ever more 
lovely, more pure, more harmonious. ' 



214 



XXVIII. 

THE SQUIRREL'S HARVEST. 

Now is the squirrel's harvest. Beech-mast 
and acorns are now in season. I was sitting 
this morning close to the smooth grey 
mottled trunk of an immemorial beech at 
Waggoner's Wells when pat-a-pat, pat a 
noise hard by, as of hurrying and scurrying 
feet, attracted my attention. So loud it was, 
one might have almost said a troop of 
skirmishers from Aldershot at double-quick 
through the woodland, save that it came 
from overhead ; and overhead skirmishing, 
from " the nations' airy navies, grappling in 
the central blue," is happily as yet a thing 
of the poet's prophetic imagination. I 
looked up into the tree, and there, to my 
2I 5 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

surprise and delight, lo ! half a dozen merry 
squirrels, all foraging together after the rich 
beech-mast, which forms the larger part of 
their winter's provender. Even as I watched, 
one of the pretty harvesters descended the 
trunk nimbly with his sharp small claws, and 
approached unawares within a few feet of 
the spot where I was sitting. No sooner 
did he see me, however, than he gave me 
one sharp glance from his keen black eyes, 
perpended for a second whether to trust me 
or not, and then, this way and that dividing 
the swift mind, came quickly at the end to 
the safe conclusion that men were bad lots, 
even when they pretend to be playing the 
observant philosopher. So up the smooth 
bark he darted, quick as thought, finding 
his foothold by magic, as is the wont of his 
race, all ignorant of Newton's troublesome 
theory of gravitation. Then, when he knew 
himself well out of reach and secure from 
pursuit, he turned and laughed back at me 
with those beady black eyes of his, in merry 
216 



THE SQUIRREL'S HARVEST. 

mood, as who should say, " Ah, great 
clumsy creature, you can't follow me here ! 
Don't you wish you had a gun ? Wouldn't 
you like to catch me ? " 

This quaint quality of roguishness, so 
sadly rare in northern animals, the squirrel 
possesses, with not a few other monkey-like 
peculiarities. Such mental traits seem, 
indeed, to spring direct from the wild life 
of the woodland. The freedom which the 
squirrel enjoys in his native trees the 
power he possesses of evading pursuit by 
darting along the small twigs at the end 
of a bough gives him a sense of triumph 
over dog or man which often results in a 
positive habit of nothing less than conscious 
mockery. The opossum and the monkeys, 
equally tree-haunting beasts, have acquired 
from similar causes the same delight in 
insulting and ridiculing their baffled enemies. 
Very monkey-like, too, is the squirrel's 
pretty way of holding an acorn between 
his two fore-paws to feed himself; while in 
217 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

general intelligence and sense of humour he 
hardly at all falls short of his southern com- 
petitor. The woods are everywhere great 
developers of intelligence : all the cleverest 
beasts and birds, including parrots and 
toucans, are almost without exception con- 
firmed tree-dwellers. 

I notice, too, that the squirrels are just 
now doubly preparing for winter; not only 
are they prudently stocking their larders, 
but they are also putting on their light 
suits for the season. For squirrels, even in 
England, still retain to some extent the 
ancestral habit, acquired, no doubt, during 
the great Ice Age, of changing their coats 
for a lighter one during the snowy months. 
In Lapland and Siberia, indeed, the local 
squirrels imitate the ptarmigan and the 
ermine by turning grey in winter ; in Britain, 
they have lost that habit as a regular climatic 
change, but the fur, nevertheless, gets in- 
terspersed in places with a number of whitish 
hairs as the cold season approaches. It is 
218 



THE SQUIRREL'S HARVEST. 

a trick of atavism. Your squirrel sleeps 
away the worst months in his cosy nest, 
with his bushy tail wrapped like a blanket 
or a martial cloak around him. Thus, that 
pretty adjunct serves a double purpose : in 
summer squirrels employ it as a balance, 
like the rope-dancer's pole ; in winter they 
use it as a convenient coverlet. Now and 
then, in February, if a warm day turns up, 
they wake from their doze for a short spell, 
and visit one of the granaries where their 
nuts are stored. But, like prudent beasts 
that they are, they never lay by their 
treasure in their own nests, because their 
too frequent going and coming while hoard- 
ing nuts might attract attention, and so 
betray them unawares to the too observant 
stoat or the inquisitive weasel. They even 
take the precaution to spread their invest- 
ments widely, so to speak, by garnering 
nuts and acorns in several holes at once 
among the trees that surround their own 
family residence. 

219 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

When spring returns the squirrel emerges, 
a sadder and decidedly a thinner beast. But 
there are now no nuts, no seeds, no grains ; 
so he takes, against his will, to the young 
bark and tender shoots of the trees around 
him. About the same time, too, the 
squirrel's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of 
love ; the young of last year's brood begin 
to mate themselves. And a pretty sight the 
mating is, indeed. I was strolling one day 
through the Nower at Dorking a lightly 
wooded park when I saw by chance one of 
the daintiest little idylls of real life I have 
ever yet been lucky enough to witness. A 
tiny female squirrel emerged all at once from 
a hole in an oak-tree, hotly pursued close 
behind by two ardent suitors. Round and 
round the trunk they ran, now up, now 
down, all regardless of my presence ; the 
little lady once and again pretending to let 
one or other of her wooers overtake her, 
then pausing and looking back at him with 
her roguish black eyes, and finally darting 
220 



THE SQUIRREL'S HARVEST. 

away with true feminine coquetry just as he 
thought he had caught her. Ha, ha ! the 
wooing o't ! I stood and watched the pretty 
little comedy for full twenty minutes ; and 
all the time it was as clear as crystal for 
which of her two admirers that arrant little 
flirt had the greater inclination. Not that 
she ever let him see it himself too plainly ; 
she sometimes encouraged him awhile, and 
sometimes his rival. She was coy, she was 
forward, she was bewitching, she was cold ; 
she employed every art known to female 
wiles in one word, she was a woman. I 
wished those who doubt the reality of 
selective preferences in the lower animals 
could have been there to see. It was a 
sweet little courtship. At last the tiny 
coquette made her choice quite plain ; and 
then the discomfited suitor went on his way, 
crestfallen, while his successful rival, too 
overtly triumphant, and rejoicing in his luck, 
gazed after him and jeered at him. 

I am happy to add, however, that squirrels, 
221 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

once mated, are models of propriety in their 
domestic relations. They are strictly mono- 
gamous ; they pair for life ; and they con- 
stantly inhabit the same dwelling. That 
last is surely a pitch of respectability to 
which not even the blameless London clerk 
who " always comes home to tea " has as yet 
attained. He has been known to flit on 
quarter-days. 



222 



XXIX. 

A DRAINED FISHPOND. 

I CALLED in at my neighbour Major Warren 
Pauncefote's this afternoon, and found he 
was just engaged in draining the fishpond 
by his garden. He is going to deepen it 
and to puddle the bottom, so as to make 
it fit for his boys to swim in. Meanwhile 
he has transferred all the larger carp to a 
stone trough in the back yard, where I saw 
at once there was not half enough water 
for them. I'm sure he didn't mean to be 
cruel, for he is the humanest soldier that 
ever spitted Fuzzy-wuzzy in the Soudan 
on his sword ; but all the same, to any 
one who understands the prime needs of 
fish-life, the condition of those poor carp 
223 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

was most sad to look at. As every one 
knows, they breathe the oxygen dissolved 
in water; and as hundreds of them were 
confined in this Black Hole of Calcutta, the 
amount at their disposal was, of course, 
quite inadequate. Some of the poor things 
were dead or dying, turning on their lustre- 
less sides in the pathetically helpless way 
of suffocating fish ; the others kept coming 
up every now and then to the surface, 
gasping for breath, and gulping down great 
open-jawed mouthfuls of air, to relieve their 
misery. No doubt the oxygen they thus 
swallow enters the body-cavity, and slightly 
assists them in aerating the blood, though 
much of it, also, may pass in the ordinary 
way through the gills, which are the regular 
and normal respiratory organs. It is always 
interesting to me, however, to watch fish 
when they come up thus to drink air at 
the surface, as goldfish often do when 
thoughtlessly confined in too small a glass 
basin ; for in this instinctive act, as modern 
224 



A DRAINED FISHPOND. 

biologists now generally allow, we have the 
first faint beginnings of the evolution of 
lungs and the habit of air-breathing. Nay, 
more, terrestrial life itself, as a whole, 
depends in the last resort upon just such 
first feeble gaspings and gulpings. For 
lungs are nothing more, anatomically speak- 
ing, than developed swim-bladders, con- 
nected by a definite passage with the 
external air, and provided with a more 
or less perfect muscular mechanism for 
inhaling and expelling it. 

In most fish, and in all the rudest types, 
the swim-bladder is merely a float or balloon, 
which can be filled with air, and compressed 
or expanded, so as to make the animal rise 
or sink at pleasure. But many fish exist 
in tropical ponds and shallow swamps to 
whom what has happened artificially to 
the carp in my friend's ornamental water 
happens naturally every dry season ; the 
marshy sheets in which they live evaporate 
altogether, and they are therefore compelled 
225 Q 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

to lie dormant in the mud without food or 
drink for many weeks at a time. Under 
these peculiar circumstances, their air-bladder 
has gradually developed into a true lung ; 
and, what is odder still, we possess in various 
countries distinct specimens at all the inter- 
mediate stages from air-bladder to lung in 
proportion as the ponds which they haunt 
become dry for longer or shorter periods. 
The bow-fin of the United States, for 
example, lives in turbid waters which do 
not quite dry up, but it has acquired the 
habit of rising to the surface every now 
and then, and gulping in large mouthfuls 
of air, which enter its swim-bladder. It 
does so most frequently when the water is 
foul, and there has been little rainfall in 
other words, when there is a scarcity of 
oxygen. Accordingly, its air-bladder 
though not yet a true lung is spongy 
and cellular in structure, being adapted for 
aerating the blood that passes through it. 
The mud-fish of Queensland, again, to take 
226 



A DRAINED FISHPOND. 

a further stage, is a six-foot-long fish which 
inhabits loaded streams, where its gills do 
not suffice it for proper respiration ; it has 
therefore altered its swim-bladder into a 
rudimentary lung, more advanced than the 
bow-fin's, and full of air-cells, richly supplied 
with blood-vessels, but consisting still of a 
single cavity. Nevertheless, even this im- 
perfect lung enables the mud-fish to stroll 
away from its native streams at night, and 
wander at large on dry land by means of 
fins which are almost legs, and which act 
like the sprawling limbs of certain southern 
lizards. In that unnatural environment it 
browses on green leaves, and otherwise 
behaves in a most unfishlike manner. 
Finally, to complete our rough survey, the 
African lepidosiren makes its home in waters 
which dry up completely during the hot 
season ; and it therefore hibernates (or rather, 
aestivates) for months together in a cocoon 
of hard mud, where it breathes at its ease 
by means of true lungs, completely divided 
227 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

into lateral halves, and approaching in struc- 
ture those of an air-breathing reptile. 

This interesting series of living evolu- 
tionary fossils links that are not missing 
is completed for us in some ways by the 
frogs and toads, which recapitulate, as it 
were, in their own lifetime just such an 
ancestral developmental history. Each ot 
them begins life as essentially a fish that 
is to say, as a tadpole breathing oxygen 
dissolved in water, by means of gills, and 
possessed of no limbs for terrestrial loco- 
motion ; he ends it as essentially a full- 
grown land-reptile, breathing atmospheric 
air by means of lungs, having discarded his 
now needless fin-fringed tail, and possessed 
of jumping legs of great muscular power. 
And the metamorphosis he thus undergoes 
answers exactly to just such a drying-up of 
the ponds that bore him. In early spring, 
when the temporary puddles are full of 
water, the parent frogs lay their spawn by 
hundreds in the ancestral element ; and soon 
228 



A DRAINED FISHPOND. 

the little black tadpoles true fish of a 
primitive type in all but name swarm forth 
and swim in seething masses in the momen- 
tary medium. But as the sun begins to dry 
up the water in their dwelling-place they 
lose their fins and gills, pass from fish to 
amphibians, and shortly hop ashore, pro- 
vided with four legs and a pair of lungs 
specially adapted for direct air-breathing. 
There we have a marvellous piece of evolu- 
tionary magic still going on every day before 
our eyes, which would sound incredible to us 
if a man of science reported it for the first 
time from Central Africa or New Guinea. 
The frog, in short, shows us successively 
in his own person the self-same stages of 
development which the various mud-fish 
preserve for us in distant regions, as types 
of distinct and unrelated species. 



229 



XXX. 

AN INTERVIEW WITH 
A COCK-SPARROW. 

" BELIEVE me," said the sparrow, "it pays to 
be civilized." 

" You seem to have found it so," I 
answered. " You and the rook, I take it, 
are just the two of our birds which have 
lost nothing and gained much by man's 
presence in our island." 

" I believe you," said the sparrow, cocking 
his head on one side. He seemed ill to 
recognize the solemnity of being interviewed, 
which to the human subject is like having 
your photograph taken, combined with a 
compound visit to the dentist. " We are a 
dominant race, you see ; that's just where it 
230 



THE COCK-SPARROW. 

is. We have adapted ourselves to the en- 
vironment. Birds like jays and hawfinches, 
now, are too shy and retiring : as civiliza- 
tion advances, they retreat and skulk and 
can't march with the age ; but we and 
the rooks, we take advantage of every in- 
crease of human population to redouble our 
numbers. As fast as cultivation grows, we 
grow ; man exists to provide us with food 
and shelter." 

" Then you think your race has increased, 
and is still increasing ? " I asked. 

" Not a doubt of it, my dear sir. We 
have multiplied enormously. Before the age 
of tillage, we were probably a small and un- 
important group, no more conspicuous or 
remarkable in any way than the wretched 
little siskins, or the grasshopper-warblers. 
But as cultivation develops, we develop, if 
you will excuse my Latin, pari passu. (Oh, 
yes, I know Latin well, because a near cousin 
of mine is the Passer Italics?) However, as 
I was going to say when you interrupted 
231 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

me with a question, we have spread about 
everywhere that grain will grow in Europe. 
That's because we are bold, courageous 
birds, not afraid of every passing object we 
see, like the bluethroats and the creepers; 
while at the same time we are cautious, 
quick, eager, and wary, and get out of the 
way of danger at a moment's notice. My 
own opinion is that even in Europe we must 
have been a mere handful of birds before 
cultivation spread, and that since that time 
we have pushed ourselves by our energy and 
enterprise into a leading position. About 
great cities alone, we may be reckoned by 
our myriads ; and then, just look at our 
colonial expansion ! " 

" You have emigrated largely, I believe," 
I said, " to America and the Colonies ? " 

" Bless my soul, yes ; we have followed 
European civilization almost everywhere. 
We allow mankind to go ahead of us for 
a few years, just to prepare the way, and 
get our corn and oats into working order; 
232 



THE COCK-SPARROW. 

and then we gain a foothold in the newly 
acquired lands, and naturally oust the un- 
civilized natives. We have annexed America, 
and are killing out inferior types in many 
other regions. What do I mean by inferior 
types ? Why, non-sparrows, of course ; such 
lower grades, don't you know, as Australians 
and New Zealanders." 

" Excuse my asking a delicate question, 
but do you do much damage, from the 
farmer's point of view, to the crops and the 
gardens ? You see, we men have a narrow- 
minded way of regarding these things from 
a somewhat restricted human standpoint." 

The sparrow gazed at me hard out of the 
corner of his eye. " Well, I don't want it 
put in print," he said confidentially, "for 
farmers are so unreasonable ; but I will 
admit that at certain times of the year we 
do pick up a good many seeds out of fields 
and gardens. But then, consider how many 
insects we help to eat up. Why, I lived for 
a week last year upon aphides what the 
233 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

farmers call bean - bugs. We must be 
philosophical, my dear sir ; we must be 
philosophical. There's a give-and-take in 
these affairs, you may depend upon it." 

He ruffled his neck as he spoke, and I 
observed it was marked by a conspicuous 
black band I had never before noticed. 

" That's a pretty cravat of yours," I in- 
terposed, just to change the subject. 

" Yes, it is pretty," he admitted, swelling 
himself out a bit as he said it. " Our women 
don't have them, you know, nor the young 
ones either. This beautiful decoration is 
the peculiar glory and special distinction of 
the adult cock-sparrow." And anything 
cockier than he looked at that moment it 
would be hard to imagine. 

It occurred to me as he spoke that I had 
seldom seen a slenderer form of masculine 
adornment on which to pride one's self, till I 
suddenly recollected that a black moustache 
on a human face must be as relatively in- 
conspicuous to any other species ; and I 
234 



THE COCK-SPARROW. 

have never noticed that the possessors of 
well-grown black moustaches under-rated 
their importance. 

"You have a large family, I believe," 
I remarked, as he chirped to his mate 
cheerily. 

" Oh, several of them," he answered with 
a nonchalant air; "sometimes as many as 
three yearly. We are a dominant race, you 
know, and we don't always trouble to build 
our own nests ; we just drive out a house- 
martin, or take possession of a sand-martin's 
burrow in a cutting. Arbitrary, did you 
say ? Oh, well, you see, we are sparrows ; 
and, of course, we can make a much better 
use of them. Poor devils of martins, they 
have to go elsewhere, and house themselves 
as best they may the survivors, that is to 
say, for a good many of them get killed and 
torn to pieces in the process of readjustment. 
They're such savages, you see ; we're obliged 
to be sharp with them. Why, I've known 
a horde of house-martins fight in defence of 
235 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

their wretched mud hovels till we were 
compelled to exterminate them. Well, I'm 
off now ; ta-ta ! Mind you send me a copy 
of your paper with this interview. ' And oh, 
by the way, if you describe my wife, just 
make the most you can of that pale streak 
over her eye, will you ? It is all she has 
to be proud of, poor thing. She's not as 
distinguished-looking as I am, of course ; but 
let her down gently, please ; do let her down 
gently." 



236 



XXXI. 

THE GREEN WOODPECKER. 

WE live so closely and familiarly with nature 
on the isolated hilltop, where my cottage is 
perched, that we often behold from our own 
drawing-room windows pretty rural sights, 
which seem intensely strange to more town- 
bred visitors. A little while since, for 
example, I was amused at reading in an 
evening newspaper a lament by a really 
well-informed and observant naturalist on 
the difficulty of actually seeing the nightjar, 
or fern-owl, alight upon a tree, and stand, 
as is his wont, lengthwise, not transversely 
to the branch that bears him. Now, from 
our little bay lattice that doubting Thomas 
might see the weird bird nightly, not twenty 
237 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

yards off, the whole summer through, croon- 
ing its passionate song, full in view of our 
house, from a gnarled old fir-tree. So 
again this morning, at breakfast, we raised 
our eyes from the buttered eggs and coffee, 
and they fell at once on a big green wood- 
pecker, creeping upward, after his fashion, 
along a russet-brown pine-trunk, not fifteen 
feet from the place at table where we were 
quietly sitting. One could make out with 
the naked eye the dark olive-green of his 
back, relieved by the brilliant crimson patch 
on his gleaming crown. For several minutes 
he stood there, clambering slowly up the 
tree, though we rose from our seats and 
approached quite close to the open window 
to examine him. When he turned his head, 
and listened intently after his tapping, with 
that characteristic air of philosophic inquiry 
which marks his species, the paler green of 
his under parts flashed for a second upon 
us ; and when at last, having satisfied himself 
there was nothing astir under the bark of 
238 



THE GREEN WOODPECKER. 

the stunted pine, he flew away to the next 
clump, we caught the glint of his wings and 
the red cap on his head in motion through 
the air with extraordinary distinctness. 

The yaffle, as we call our red-headed 
friend in these parts, is one of the largest 
and handsomest of our woodland wild birds. 
About a foot in length, by the actual 
measurement, "from the end of his beak to 
the tip of his tail," he hardly impresses one 
at first sight with a sense of his full size, 
because of his extreme concinnity and neat- 
ness of plumage. A practical bird, he is 
built rather for use than for vain gaudy 
display ; for, though his colour is fine, and 
evidently produced by many ages of aesthetic 
selection, he yet sedulously avoids all crests 
and top-knots, all bunches and bundles of 
decorative feathers protruding from his body, 
which would interfere with his solid and 
business-like pursuit of wood - burrowing 
insects. How well-built and how cunningly 
evolved he is, after all, for his special purpose ! 
239 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

His feet are so divided into opposite pairs 
of toes one couple pointing forward and 
the other backward that he can easily 
climb even the smooth-barked beech-tree, by 
digging his sharp claws into any chance 
inequality in its level surface. He alights 
head upward, and moves on a perpendicular 
plane as surely and mysteriously as a lizard. 
Nothing seems to puzzle him ; the straightest 
trunk becomes as a drawing-room floor to 
his clinging talons. But in his climbing he 
is also aided not a little by his stiff and 
starched tail, whose feathers are so curiously 
rigid, like a porcupine's quills, that they 
enable him to hold on and support himself 
behind with automatic security. Long an- 
cestral habit has made it in him " a property 
of easiness." A practised acrobat from the 
egg, he thinks nothing of such antics ; and 
when he wishes to descend he just lets him- 
self drop a little, like a sailor on a rope, 
sliding down head uppermost, and stopping 
himself when he wishes by means of his 
240 



THE GREEN WOODPECKER. 

claws and tail, as the sailor stops himself by 
tightening his bent fingers and clinging legs 
round the cable he is descending. 

But, best of all, I love to watch him 
tapping after insects. How wise he looks 
then ! how intent ! how philosophic ! When 
he suspects a grub, he hammers awhile at 
the bark ; after which he holds his head 
most quaintly on one side with a quiet 
gravity that always reminds me of John 
Stuart Mill listening, all alert, to an op- 
ponent's argument, and ready to pounce 
upon him. If a grub stirs responsive to 
the tap, tap, tap of his inquiring bill if his 
delicate ear detects a cavity, as a doctor 
detects a weak spot in a lung with his 
prying stethoscope in a second our bird 
has drilled a hole with that powerful augur, 
his wedge-shaped beak, has darted out his 
long and extensile tongue, and has extracted 
the insect by means of its barbed and 
bristled tip. The whole of this mechanism, 
indeed, is one of the most beautiful examples 
241 R 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

I know of structures begotten by long 
functional use, and perfected by the action 
of natural selection. It is not only that the 
bill is a most admirable and efficient boring 
instrument ; it is not only that the tongue 
is capable of rapid and lightning-like pro- 
trusion ; but further still, the barbs at its 
ends are all directed backward, like the 
points of a harpoon, while the very same 
muscles which produce the instantaneous 
forward movement of the tongue press at 
the same time automatically on two large 
salivary glands, which pour forth in response 
a thick and sticky secretion, not unlike bird- 
lime. The insect, once spotted, has thus no 
chance of escape ; he is caught and devoured 
before he can say "Jack Robinson" in his 
own dialect. 

But though the green woodpecker is so 
exceedingly practical and sensible a bird, 
built all for use and very little for show, he 
is not wholly devoid of those external adorn- 
ments which are the result of generations of 
242 



THE GREEN WOODPECKER. 

aesthetic preference. Dominant types always 
show these peculiarities. His ground-tone 
of green, indeed, serves, no doubt, a mainly 
protective function, by enabling him to escape 
notice among the leaves of the woodland ; 
and even on a tree-trunk he readily assi- 
milates with the tone of the background ; 
but his brilliant crimson cap is a genuine 
piece of decorative adornment, which owes 
its origin, no doubt, to the selective pre- 
ferences of his female ancestors for endless 
generations. 



2 43 



XXXII. 

THE HAREBELL. 

FEW English flowers are better known than 
the harebell ; yet I wonder what proportion 
of all those who love it well in its summer 
beauty would be able to account for its 
botanical name of Round-leaved Campanula. 
" Round-leaved ! " most people would say ; 
"why, its leaves are slender and narrow 
and grass-like." And so they are, indeed, 
in the later state in which you pick in 
July the graceful pensile blossoms. But 
the flowering stage of every plant is, after 
all, but its momentary reproductive period ; 
it represents, so to speak, the golden prime 
of the full-grown individual. Before that 
stage is attained, the plant itself has to 
244 



THE HAREBELL. 

grow and prepare for flowering ; it has 
to pass through its adolescence and its 
formative epoch. Now, the harebell is a 
herb whose two ages of life are singu- 
larly different ; if you saw it in its green 
youth, when it is devoting itself wholly to 
feeding and storage, you would never 
imagine it was the selfsame plant as that 
whose tall and very slender stem supports 
in later life the scattered group of droop- 
ing blue bell-flowers with which you are 
familiar. 

Here on the dry sandbank, beside the 
path that runs obliquely across the rnoor, 
I see half a dozen harebell-worts in the 
first, or caterpillar, stage of their existence. 
The metaphor is less violent by far than 
you would at first imagine, for in its earlier 
days the harebell, like the caterpillar, does 
nothing but eat and lay by for the future ; 
while in its second or flowering stage it 
does nothing but put forth its tender blue 
blossoms, which answer to the butterfly 

245 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

both in their attractive beauty and in the fact 
that they serve to produce the seeds (which 
are the analogues of eggs) for the coming 
generation. In the purely preparatory, or 
hard-eating, stage, the harebell has no stem 
or branches to speak of; it consists of a 
rosette of large orb-like leaves, often heart- 
shaped towards the stalk, and pressed close 
to the ground in a spreading circle. Each 
such rosette springs in April from a buried 
rootstock, which, in loose loamy soil, like 
that of these Surrey moors, is often intricate ; 
it burrows in and out with strange instinct 
among the dry sand and stones, in search 
of such rare moisture as it can manage 
to find for itself. But though water is 
scarce, access to light and air is easy ; 
so the large round leaves, lying close on 
the bare ground, get sunshine in abundance, 
and feed to their hearts' content upon their 
proper food the carbon in the atmosphere 
while vegetation around is still low and 
backward. In this stage they may be 
246 



THE HAREBELL. 

compared to the rosettes of London-pride, 
which are similarly clustered, but which 
do not die down as the flower-stem ad- 
vances. 

About June, however, the harebell plant 
has eaten and drunk enough to venture upon 
leaving its caterpillar stage behind, and 
sending up the loose cluster of waving blue 
flowers which represent its butterfly. In 
order to do this, and overtop the tall grasses 
which have sprouted meanwhile, it with- 
draws the whole of the living green-stuff 
from its heart-shaped root-leaves, and uses 
up the active material they contain in build- 
ing its flower-stem. Thus, as the stem 
lengthens, and the buds begin to swell, the 
lower leaves die away altogether ; only a 
few quite dissimilar and very narrow blades 
on the ascending branches now represent 
the original foliage. After the flowers have 
set, even these last disappear, or dry up 
on the stem, their living material being 
withdrawn in turn to supply food for the 
247 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

developing seeds. This may seem odd at 
first, but it is a common incident in many 
life-histories of plants and animals. As a 
rule, indeed, the butterfly or winged stage 
of most insect lives is wholly devoted to 
a marriage flight ; and there are several 
winged insects which never feed at all in 
the perfect state ; they use themselves up 
in the formation of eggs, and then die of 
inanition. 

Most of the sister campanulas, like Canter- 
bury bells, are stiff and coarse and hairy 
plants, without grace or elegance ; but that 
is because they haunt woods and copses, 
or overgrown hedgerows, where they are 
sheltered from the wind, and enabled to grow 
large and rampant. The harebell, on the 
contrary the oread of its race is a denizen 
of the open, wind-swept uplands ; it loves 
the moors and heaths, the bare hilly pas- 
tures ; and it has learnt in consequence to 
bend lightly before the breeze, springing 
up again as those invisible feet pass on, 
248 



THE HAREBELL. 

which gives it its familiar slenderness and 
elegance. The hanging domes of the flowers 
are entered from below by bumble-bees, 
which are strong enough to push aside the 
fringed and close-set teeth that edge the 
base of the stamens, put there on purpose 
to baffle less useful honey-thieving visitors. 
Equally strange is the egg-shaped capsule 
which, later on, contains the seeds ; it opens 
by five short clefts near the top. The actual 
reason for this arrangement is itself a some- 
what odd one. The seeds can only drop 
out through the pores or clefts when a high 
wind blows and sways the waving stem 
violently. At such times the little grains 
get carried by the breeze to considerable 
distances ; and this serves not only to dis- 
seminate the kind, but also to carry the 
majority of the seeds to unoccupied spots, 
where rotation of crops can thus be secured 
by letting the young plants sprout at a 
distance from the soil exhausted by their 
mother. Similar devices for securing rotation 
249 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

are common in nature ; they often occur 
in species like this, whose seeds seem at 
first sight wholly unprovided with wings, or 
floats, or other means of locomotion. 



250 



XXXIII. 

THE UNTAMABLE SHREW. 

Bv the hedgerow in the garden my terrier, 
Freckle, has just come across two pugnacious 
shrews, engaged in one of their sanguinary 
battles. The high belligerent parties are 
not exactly formidable to outsiders, it is 
true, being not quite three inches long 
apiece from snout to haunches, not counting 
an inch and a half of tail, oddly square in 
outline, to finish off their appearance. Yet 
they are savage fighters, for all that, in 
their intertribal quarrels. When shrew 
meets shrew, then comes the tug of war. 
It very seldom happens that they do not 
join battle, and the victor in the fray 
usually kills and eats his discomfited rival. 
251 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

So fierce a heart in so small a body is 
rare, but the shrew knows not what fear 
means. This particular pair of combatants 
were so automatically intent on the fortunes 
of war that Freckle was upon them and 
investigating their nature with her in- 
quisitive nose before they even woke up 
to the fact of her presence. 

Most people seem to confuse shrews 
with mice ; but, indeed, our small com- 
batants are widely different creatures from 
those timid little beasts ; they belong to a 
wholly different group of mammals. Mice 
are rodents, descendants of the same 
common ancestor with the rats and dor- 
mice, and not remotely related to the 
squirrels and the rabbits. Shrews, on the 
other hand, are insectivores, first cousins 
of the moles, the hedgehogs, and the 
desmans. Externally, it is true, they 
resemble considerably the mice and voles ; 
but those who have followed the course 
of recent natural history must be aware 
252 



THE UNTAMABLE SHREW. 

by this time that " appearances are deceitful.'* 
If an animal looks very much like some- 
thing else, the chances are that it is 
altogether different. This is particularly 
the case with the insectivores and the 
marsupials, each of which great groups has 
independently developed a series of forms 
absurdly like the mice, the squirrels, the 
porcupines, and the jerboas, because each 
fills approximately the same place in nature. 
For example, small mammals which creep 
about among grass and matted herbage 
are likely to assume a mouse-like shape. 
This has happened among rodents in the 
case of the mice and field-voles, among 
invectivores in the case of the shrews, and 
among Australian marsupials in the case of 
the pouched kangaroo-mice. Our English 
shrew is a pretty little creature of this common 
type, with thick soft fur like a mouse's, 
only a trifle redder, and so mousey in 
shape that it is seldom discriminated from 
the true mice, save by naturalists and 
253 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

gamekeepers. Even externally, however, it 
differs much from mice in its long pointed 
snout a marked insectivorous feature 
as well as in its square and abruptly 
cut-off tail, where the mouse's is rounded, 
tapering, and slender. When you come 
to the teeth and internal anatomy, however, 
the creature is an insectivore, displaying at 
once quite a separate character. 

Mice, as everybody knows, feed mainly 
on seeds and grains, though they are fairly 
omnivorous, and do not despise either bees 
or beetles. But the shrew, less promiscuous, 
eschews all vegetable foods ; he makes his 
diet entirely of insects, worms, and slugs, 
of which he devours an incredible number. 
Hence he haunts for the most part dry 
fields and gardens, where such prey is 
abundant. His preference is also for a 
soft sandy or light loamy soil, in which he 
can burrow with ease with the muzzle 
alone, for his slender feet are ill adapted 
for digging through hard earth or clay. A 
254 



THE UNTAMABLE SHREW. 

relative of the mole, he makes long runs, 
like his cousin, through the soft surface-soil 
in search of insects ; but, unlike the mole 
again, he has preserved his small, keen eyes 
intact, and lives, on the whole, as much 
above ground as beneath it. Yet his 
cousinship stands him in small stead with 
his big purblind relation ; for moles catch 
and eat shrews in considerable numbers. 
This is not to be wondered at, perhaps, 
when one reflects that the unnatural shrews 
also eat one another. Cannibalism, indeed, 
is an unamiable trait common to man and 
the insectivores. Weasels, owls, and cats 
are also great shrew-killers ; though, strange 
to say, the shrew, when killed, is by no 
means always eaten. I put this down in 
the main to the powerful scent-glands, 
which run along the side of the body, or 
occur at the root of the tail, in most species 
of shrew, and which secrete a very strong 
and odorous liquid. This liquid, I fancy, 
is partly protective, partly attractive to the 
255 



MOORLAND IDYLLS. 

opposite sex. It would seem to be dis- 
tasteful to outsiders, but not unpleasant to 
insectivores themselves, for cats will kill a 
shrew from pure love of sport, or by mistake 
for a mouse, but will seldom or never eat 
it, whereas shrews themselves and moles 
have no such prejudice. Owls, also, eat 
shrews, in spite of their flavour. I believe 
such sexually attractive scents almost always 
coexist with the pugnacious temperament. 
All musky-perfumed animals fight savagely 
with one another for possession of their 
females, as do also those with marked frills 
or top-knots. 

Shrews, though comparatively seldom seen 
by incurious eyes, abound by myriads in 
most parts of England. Every summer 
they increase sevenfold ; but as autumn 
approaches, and food grows scarce, they die 
off in their thousands from cold and hunger, 
as I gather. So many of them then strew 
the footpaths in sandy districts that country 
people have a quaint superstition about 
256 



THE UNTAMABLE SHREW. 

them ; they say a shrew cannot cross a 
church-path without dying instantly. What 
constitutes a church-path is somebody having 
once gone to church along it. The truth is, 
dead shrews abound equally in the grass 
and thickets ; but, of course, only those are 
seen which happen to die in the open. 
This is but one out of many hundred odd 
superstitions about the shrew, which may 
be regarded, indeed, as the most wizard-like 
animal now left in England. 



THE END. 



257 



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Phillstia. 

Strange Stories. 

Labylon. 

lor Maimie's Sake, 

In all Shades. 

The Beckoning Hand. 

The Devil's Die. 

This Mortal Coil. 

The Tents of Bhem. 



The Great Taboo. 
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Duchess of Powyslaud. 
Blood Royal. 
Ivan Greets Master- 
piece. 

The Scallywag. 
At Market Value. 
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Othello's Occupation. 

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Phra the Phoenician. 

The Constable of St. Nicholas. 

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Bed Spider. I Eve. 

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In a Steamer Chair. | From Whose Bourne. 
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The Woman of the Iron Bracelets. 

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Vashti and Esther. 

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My Little Girl. 

With Harp and Crown. 

This Son of Vulcan. 

The Golden Butterfly. 

The Monks of Theiema. 



Chaplain of the Fleet. 
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In Trafalgar's Bay. 
The Ten Years Tenant. 

By Sir WALTER BESANT. 

All Sorts and Condi- For Faith and Freedom. 
To Call Her Mine. 
The Bell of St. Paul's. 
The Holy Rose. 
Armorel of Lyonesse. 



tions of Men. 
The Captains Room. 
All in a Garden Fair. 
Dorothy Forster. 
Uncle Jack 



The World Went Very 



S. Katherine's by Tower 
Verbena Camellia fete- 



Well Then. phanotis. 

Children of Gibeon. The Ivory Gate. 

Herr Faulus. The Rebel Queen. 

By ROBERT BUCHANAN 
Shadow of the Sword. 
A Child of Nature. 
God and the Man. 
Martyrdom of Madeline 
Love Me for Ever. 
Annan Water. 
Foxglove Manor. 
ROB. BUCHANAN & HY. MURRAY 
The Charlatan. 

By J. MITCHELL CHAPPLE. 
The Minor Chord, 



The New Abelard. 
Matt. | Rachel Dene. 
Master of the Mine. 
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Woman and the Man. 
Red and White Heather. 



The Frozen Deep. 
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The Black Robe. 
Heart and Science. 
' I Say No.' 
Little Novels. 
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The Legacy of Cain. 
A Rogue's Life. 
Blind Love. 



Armadale. 

After Dark. 

No Name. ' " 

Antonina. 

Basil. 

Hide and Seek. 

The Dead Secret. 

Queen of Hearts. 

My Miscellanies. 

The Woman in White. 

The Moonstone. 

Man and Wife. 

Poor Miss Finch. 

Miss or Mrs. ? 

The New Magdalen. 

By DUTTON COOK. 
Paul Foster s Daughter. 

By E. H. COOPER. 

Geoffory Hamilton. 

By V. CECIL COTES. 

Two Girls on a Barge. 

By C. EGBERT CRADDOCK, 

His Vanished Star. 

By H. N. CRELLIN. 

Romances of the Old Seraglio. 

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The Adventures of a Fair Rebel. 

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Tales of Our Coast. 

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Diana Harrington. 
Proper Pride. 
A Family Likeness. 
Pretty Miss Neville. 
A Bird of Passage. 



To Let.' 
Mr. Jervis. 
Village Tales & Jungl 

Tragedies. 
The Real Lady Hilda. 



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Hearts of Gold. 

By ALPHONSE DAUDET. 

The Evangelist ; or. Port Salvation. 

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Mr. Sadler's Daughters. 

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The Fountain of Youth. 

By JAMES DE MILLE. 
A Castle in Spain. 



28 



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THE PICCADILLY (3/6) NOVELS continued. 

By. J. LEITH DERWENT. 

Our Lady of Tears. | Circe's Lovers. 

By DICK DONOVAN. 

Tracked to Doom. 1 Man from Manchester. 

By A. CONAN DOYLE. 

The Firm of Girdlestone. 

By S. JEANNETTE DUNCAN. 

A Daughter of To-day. | Vernon'g Aunt. 

By Q. MANV1LLE FENN. 

The New Mistress. I The Tiger Lily. 
Witness to the Deed. | The White Virgin. 

By PERCY FITZGERALD. 

Fatal Zero. 

By R. E. FRANCILLON. 



One by One. 

A Dog and his Shadow. 

A Real Queen. 



King or Knave 7 

Ropes of Sand. 

Jack Doyie's Daughter. 



Prefaced by Sir BARTLE FRERE. 
Fandurang Hari. 

BY EDWARD GARRETT. 
The Capel Girls. 

By PAUL GAULOT. 

The Red Shirts. 

By CHARLES GIBBON. 

Robin Gray. I The Golden Shaft. 

Loving a Dream. 

By E. GLANVILLE. 

The Lost Heiress. I The Fossicker. 

A Fair Colonist. 

By E. J. GOODMAN. 

The Fate of Herbert Wayne. 

By CECIL GRIFFITH. 

Corinthia Marazion. 

By SYDNEY GRUNDY. 

The Days of his Vanity. 

By THOMAS HARDY. 

Under the Greenwood Tree. 

By BRET HARTE. 

A Waif of the Plains. Sns; 
A Ward of the Golden 

Gate. 
A Sappho of Green 

Springs. 
Col. Starbottle's Client. 

By JULIAN HAWTHORNE. 

Garth. 

Ellice Quentin. 

Sebastian Strome. 

Dust. 

Fortune's Fool. 

By Sir A. HELPS. 
Ivan de Birou. 

By I. HENDERSON. 
Agatha Page. 

By G. A. HENTY. 

Rujub the Juggler. I Dorothy s Double. 

By JOHN HILL. 
The Common Ancestor. 

By Mrs. HUNGERFORD. 

J ady Verner's Flight. I The Ked-House Mystery. 
The Three Graces. | 

By Mrs. ALFRED HUNT. 

The Leaden Casket. I Self-Condemned. 
That Other Person. | Mrs. Juliet. 

By C. J. CUTCLIFFE HYNE. 

Honour of Thieves. 

By R. ASHE KING. 

A Drawn Game. 

The Wearing of the Green.' 



>y- 

Sally Dows. 

A Protegee of Jack 

Hamlin's. 

Bell-Ringer of Angel's. 
Clarence. 



Beatrix Randolph. 

David Poindexter's Dis- 
appearance. 

The Spectre of the 
Camera. 



By EDMOND LEPELLETIER. 

Madame Sans-Gene. 

By HARRY LINDSAY. 

Ehoda Roberts. 

By E. LYNN LINTON. 

Patricia Kemball. Sowing the Wind. 

Under which Lord ? The Atonement of Learn 

' My Love 1 ' Dundas. 

lone. The World Well Lost. 

Fasten Carew. The One Too Many. 

By H. W. LUCY. 

Gideon Fleyce. 

By JUSTIN MCCARTHY. 

A Fair Sazon. ' Miss Misanthrope. 
Lialey Rochford. Donna Quixote. 

Dear Lady Disdain. Red Diamonds. 

Cazniola. Maid of Athens. 



Waterdale Neighbours. 



The Dictator. 

The Comet of a Season. 



My Enemy's Daughter. 

By JUSTIN H. MCCARTHY. 

A London Legend. 

By GEORGE MACDONALD. 

Heather and Snow. | Phantasies. 

By L. T. MEADE. 

A Soldier of Fortune. | In an Iron Grip. 
By BERTRAM M1TFORD. 

The Gun-Kunuer. I The King s Assegai. 

Tne Luck of Gerard Kenshaw Fanning'! 
Ridgeley. | Quest. 

By J. E. MUDDOCK. 

Maid Marian and Robin Hood. 
Basile the Jester. 

By D. CHRISTIE MURRAY. 



A Life's Atonement. 
Joseph's Coat. 
Coals of Fire. 
Old Blazer's Hero. 
Val Strange. | Hearts. 
A Model Father. 
By the Gate of the Sea. 
A Bit of Human Nature. 



First Person Singular. 
Cynic Fortune. 
The Way of the World. 
BobMartin's Little Girt. 
Time's Revenges. 
A Wasted Crime. 
In Direst Peril. 
Mount Despair. 



By MURRAY and HERMAN. 

The Bishops' Bible. 1 Paul Jones's Alias. 
One Traveller Returns. | 

By HUME NISBET. 

' Bail Up I ' 

By W. E. NORRIS. 

Saint Ann's. | Billy Beliew. 

By G. OHNET. 
A Weird Gift. 

By OUIDA. 



Held in Bondage. 

Strathmore. 

Cnandos. 

Under Two Flags. 

Idalia. 

Cecil Castlemaine's 

Gage. 
Tricotrin. 
Puck. 

Folle Farine. 
A Dog of Flanders. 
Pascarel. 
bigna. 

Princess Napraxine. 
Ariadne. 

By MARGARET A. PAUL. 
Gentle and Simple. 

By JAMES PAYN. 
Lost Sir Massmgberd. High Spirits 
Lass Black tliau We're ~ 

Painted. 

A Confidential Agent. 
A Grape from a Thorn. 
In Peril and Privation. 
The Mystery of Mir- 
By Proxy. [bridge. 
The Canon's Ward. 
Walter s Word. 



Two Little Woodc.n 

Shoes. 

In a Winter City. 
Friendship. 
Moths. 
Kuffino. 
Pipistrello. 
A Village Commune. 
Bimbi. 
Wanda. 

Frescoes. | Othmar. 
In Maremma. 
Byrlm. | Guilderoy. 
Santa Barbara. 
Two Offenders. 



Under One Koof. 
Glow-worm Taies. 
The Talk of the Town, 
Holiday Tasks. 
For Cash Only. 
The Burnt Million. 
The Word and the Will. 
Sunny Stories. 
A Trying Patient. 



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THE PICCADILLY (3/6) NOVELS continued, 

By Mrs. CAMPBELL PRAED. 

Outlaw and Lawmaker. | Christina Chard. 

By E. C. PRICE. 

Valentlna. I Mrs. Lancaster's Rival. 

The Foreigners. 

By RICHARD PRYCE. 
Mlra Maxwell's Affections. 

By CHARLES READE. 



It Is Never Too Late to 

Mend. 

The Double Marriage. 
Love Me Little, Love 

Me Long. 
The Cloister and the 

Hearth. 
The Coarse of True 

Love. 
The Autobiography of 



Singleheart andDouble- 

face. 
Good Stories of Men 

and other Animals. 
Hard Cash. 
Peg Wofflugton. 
Christie Johnstone. 
Griffith Gaunt. 
Foul Play. 
The Wandering Heir. 



a Thief. A Woman-Hater. 

Put Yourself in Hisi A Simpleton. 



Place. 
A Terrible Temptation. 



A Perilous Secret. 
Readiana. 



The Jilt. 

By Mrs. J. H. RIDDELL. 

Weird Stories. 

By AMELIE RIVES. 

Barbara Dermp. 

By F. W. ROBINSON. 

The Hands of Justice. 

By DORA RUSSELL. 

A Country Sweetheart. | The Drift of Fate. 

By W. CLARK RUSSELL. 
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My Shipmate Louise. The Good bhip 'Mo- 
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Guy Waterman. I The Two Dreamers. 

Bound to the Wheel. | The Lion in the Path. 

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Margaret and Elizabeth I Heart Salvage. 
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The High Mills. 

By ADELINE SERGEANT. 

Dr. Endicott's Experiment. 



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Without Love or Licence. 

By T. W. SPEIGHT. 
A Secret of the Sea. | The Grey Monk. 
By ALAN ST. AUBYN. 



A Fellow of Trinity. 
The Junior Dean. 
Master of St.Benedict'a. 



In Face of the World. 

Orchard Damerel 

The Tremlett Diamonds. 



To his Own Master. 

By R. A. STERNDALE. 

The Afghan Knife. 

By BERTHA THOMAS. 

Proud Maisie. | The Violin-Player. 

By ANTHONY f ROLLOPE. 

The Way we Live Now. I Scarborough's Family. 
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By FRANCES E. TROLLOPE. 

Like Ships upon the I Anne Furness. 
Sea. | Mabel's Progress. 

By IVAN TURGENIEFF, &c. 

Stories from Foreign Novelists. 

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The American Claimant. 
The1.0CO,OOOBank-note. 



Pudd nhead Wilson. 
Tom Sawyer .Detective. 



Tom Sawyer Abroad. 

By C. C. FRASER-TYTLER. 

Mistress Judith. 

By SARAH TYTLER. 

Lady Bill. I The Blackball Ghosts. 

Buried Diamonds. | The Macdonald Lass. 

By ALLEN UPWARD. 

The Queen against Owen. 
The Prince of Balkistan. 

By E. A. VIZETELLY. 

The Scorpion : A Romance of Spain. 

By J. S. WINTER. 
A Soldier's Children. 

By MARGARET WYNMAN. 
My Flirtations. 

By E. ZOLA. 

The Downfall. I Money. | Lonrdes. 

The Dream. The Fat and the Thin. 

Dr. Pascal. | Rome. 



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By EDMOND ABOUT. 

The Fellah. 

By HAMILTON AIDE. 

Carr of Carrlyon. | Confidences. 

By MARY ALBERT. 

Brooke Finchley's Daughter. 

By Mrs. ALEXANDER. 

Maid, Wife or Widow 7 | Valerie s Fate. 

By GRANT ALLEN. 

Philistia. I The Great Taboo 

Strange Stories. 

Babylon 

For Maimie's Sake. 

In all Shades. 

The Beckoning Hand. 

The Devil's Die. 

The Tents of Shorn. 



Dumaresq'a Daughter. 
Duchess of Powysland. 
lUood Royal. 
Ivan Greet's Master- 
piece. 

The Scallywag. 
Tills Mortal Coil. 



By E. LESTER ARNOLD. 

Phra the Phoenician. 

By Rev. S. BARING-GOULD. 

Red Spider. f tve. 



BY FRANK BARRETT. 



Fettered for Life. 
Little Lady Linton. 
Between Life & Death. 
She Sin of Olga Zassou- 

lich. 

Folly Morrison. 
Lieut. Barnabas. 



Honest Davie. 
A Prodigals Progress. 
Found Guilty. 
A Recoiling vengeance. 
For Love and Honour. 
John Ford ; and Hii 
Helpmate. 



By SHELSLEY BEAUCHAMP. 

Grantley Grange. 

By Sir W. BESANT and J. RICE. 

Ready- Money Mortiboy By Celia's Arbour. 
My Little Girl. Chaplain of the Fleet. 

With Harp and Crown. The Seamy Side. 
This Son of Vulcan. The Case of Mr. Lucraft. 
The Golden Butterfly. | In Trafalgar s Bay. 
The Monks of Thelema. i The Ten Years' Tenant. 

By Sir WALTER BESANT. 



All Sorts and Condi 

tions of Men. 
The Captains Room. 
All in a Garden Fair. 
Dorothy Forster. 
Uncle Jack. 
The World Went Very 

Well Then. 
Children of Gibeon. 
Herr Paulus. 



For Faith and Freedom. 
To Call Her Mine. 
The Bell of St. Pauls. 
The Holy Rose. 
Armorel of Lyonesse. 
S.Katheririe's by Tower, 



phanotis. 
The Ivory Gate. 
The Rebel Queen. 



CHATTO & WINDUS, PUBLISHERS, PICCADILLY. 



TWO-SHILLING NOVELS continued. 

By AMBROSE BIERCE. 

In'.the Midst of Life. 

By FREDERICK BOYLE. 

Camp Notes. I Chronicles of No-man's 

Bavage Life. I Land. 

BY BRET HARTE. 



Californian Stories. 

Gabriel Conroy. 

The Luck of Eoaring 



Flip. I Maruja. 

A Phyllis of the Sierras. 
A Waif of the Plains. 
A Ward of the Golden 
Gate. 



Camp. 
An Heiress of Red Dog. 

By HAROLD BRYDGES. 
tTncle Sam at Home. 

By ROBERT BUCHANAN. 



The Martyrdom of Ma- 
deline. 

Annan Water. 
The New Abelard. 
Matt. 
The Heir of Linne. 



Shadow of the Sword. 
A Child of Nature. 
God and the Man. 
Love Me for Ever. 
Foxglove Manor. 
The Master of the Mine. 

By HALL CA1NE. 

The Shadow of a Crime. I The Deemster. 
A Son of Hagar. 

By Commander CAMERON. 
The Cruise of the Black Prince.' 

By Mrs. LOVETT CAMERON. 
Deceivers Ever. I Juliet's Guardian. 

By HAYDEN CARRUTH. 
The Adventures of Jones. 

By AUSTIN CLARE. 
For the Love of a Lass. 

By Mrs. ARCHER CLIVE. 

Paul Ferroll. 

Why Paul Ferroll Killed his Wife. 

By MACLAREN COBBAN. 

The Cure of Souls. | The Red Sultan. 
By C. ALLSTON COLLINS. 
The Bar Sinister. 
By MORT. & FRANCES COLLINS. 

Sweet Anne Page. I Sweet and Twenty. 
Transmigration. _ The Village Comedy. 



From Midnight to Mid- 

night. 
A Fight with Fortune. 



You Play me False. 
Blacksmith and Scholar 
Frances 



By WILKIE COLLINS. 

Armadale. [ My Miscellanies. 



The Woman in White. 

The Moonstone. 

Man and Wife. 

Poor Miss Finch. 

The Fallen Leaves. 
. Jezebel's Daughter. 
) The Black Kobe. 

Heart and Science. 

1 1 Say No !' 

The Evil Genius. 

Little Novels. 

Legacy of Cain. 

Blind Love. 



After Dark. 

No Name. 

Antonina. 

Basil. 

Hide and Seek. 

The Dead Secret. 

Queen of Hearts. 

Miss or Mrs. ? 

The New Magdalen. 

The Frozen Deep. 

The Law and the Lady. 

The Two Destinies. 

The Haunted Hotel. 

A Rogue's Life. I 

By M. J. COLQUHOUN. 

Every Inch a Soldier. 

By DUTTON COOK. 

Leo. I Paul Foster's Daughter. 

By C. EGBERT CRADDOCK. 
The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains. 

By MATT CRIM. 
The Adventures of a Fair Rebel. 

By B. M. CROKER. 
Pretty Miss Neville. I A Bird of Passage. 
Diana Barrington. I Proper Pride. 
To Let.' I A Family Likeness. 

By W. CYPLES. 
Hearts of Gold. 

By ALPHONSE DAUDET. 
The Evangelist ; or, Port Salvation. 

By ERASMUS DAWSON. 

The Fountain of Youth. 



By JAMES DE MILLE. 

A Castle in Spain. 

By J. LEITH DERWENT. 

Our Lady of Tears. | Circe's Lovers. 

By CHARLES DICKENS. 

Sketches by Boz. I Nicholas Nickleby. 

Oliver Twist. 

By DICK DONOVAN. 



From Information Re- 
ceived. 

Tracked to Doom. 

Link by Link 

Suspicion Aroused. 

Dark Deeds. 

The Long Arm of the 
Law. 



The Man-Hunter. 
Tracked and Taken. 
Caught at Last I 
Wanted I 
Who Poisoned Hetty 

Duncan ? 

Man from Manchester. 
A Detective's Triumphs 
In the Grip of the Law. 

By Mrs. ANNIE EDWARDES. 
A Point of Honour. . Archie Lovell. 

By M. BETHAM-EDWARDS. 
Felicia. | Kitty. 

By EDWARD EGGLESTON. 

7 ' By O. MANVILLE FENN. 
The New Mistress. j Witness to the Deed. 

By PERCY FITZGERALD. 

Bella Donna. Second Mrs. Tillotson. 

Never Forgotten. Seventy - five Brooke 

Polly. Street. 

Fatal Zero, The Lady of Bran tome. 

By P. FITZGERALD and others. 

Strange Secrets. 

By ALBANY DE FONBLANQUE. 

Filthy Lucre. 

By R. E. FRANCILLON. 

01ympia L King or Knave ? 



One by One. 
A Real Queen. 
Queen Cophetua. 



Romances of the Law. 

Ropes of Sand. 

A Dog and his Shadow. 



By HAROLD FREDERIC. 

Beth's Brother's Wife. | The Lawton Girl. 

Prefaced by Sir BARTLE FRERE. 

Fandurang Hari. 

By HAIN FRISWELL. 

One of Two. 

By EDWARD GARRETT. 

The Capel Girls. 

By GILBERT GAUL. 
A Strange Manuscript. 

By CHARLES GIBBON. 



In Honour Bound. 
Flower of the Forest. 
The Braes of Yarrow. 
The Golden Shaft. 
Of High Degree. 
By Mead and Stream. 
Loving a Dream. 
A Hard Knot. 
Heart's Delight. 
Blood-Money. 



Robin Gray. 

Fancy Free. 

For Lack of Gold. 

What will the World 

Say? 

In Love and War. 
For the King. 
In Pastures Green. 
Queen of the Meadow. 
A Heart's Problem. 
The Dead Heart. 

By WILLIAM GILBERT. 

Dr. Austin's Guests. I The Wizard of the 
James Duke. | Mountain. 

By ERNEST GLANVILLE. 
The Lost Heiress. I The Fossicker. 

A Fair Colonist. 

By HENRY GREVILLE. 
A Noble Woman. | Nikanor. 

By CECIL GRIFFITH. 
Corinthia Marazion. 

By SYDNEY GRUNDY. 
The Days of his Vanity. 

By JOHN HABBERTON. 
Brueton's Bayou. | Country Luck. 

By ANDREW HALL1DAY. 
Every-day Papers. 

By Lady DUFFUS HARDY. 
Paul Wynter's Sacrifice. 



CHAfTO &. WINDUS, PUBLISHERS, PICCADILLY. 



3 



OTWO-SHILLING NOVELS continued. 

By THOMAS HARDY. 

Under the Greenwood Tree. 

By J. BERWICK HARWOOD. 

The Tenth Earl. 

By JULIAN HAWTHORNE. 



Garth. 

Ellice Quentln. 

Fortune's Fool. 

Miss Cadogna. 

Sebastian Strome. 

Dust. 



Beatrix Randolph. 
Love or a Name. 
David Poindexter s Dis- 

appearance. 
The Spectre 

Camera. 



of the 



By Sir ARTHUR HELPS. 

Ivan de Biron. 

By HENRY HERMAN. 

A Leading Lady. 

By HEADON HILL. 

Zambra the Detective. 

By JOHN HILL. 

Treason Felony. 

By Mrs. CASHEL HOEY. 

The Lover's Creed. 

By Mrs. GEORGE HOOPER. 

The House of Raby. 

By TIQHE HOPKINS. 

Twixt Love and Duty. 

By Airs. HUNGERFORD 



A Mental Straggle. 
A Modern Circe. 
Lady Verner's Flight. 



A Maiden all Forlorn. 
In Durance Vile. 
Marvel. 

By Mrs. ALFRED HUNT. 

Thornicroft's Model. I Self-Condemned. 
That Other Person. | The Leaden Casket. 

By JEAN INGELOW. 

Fated to be Free. 

By WM. JAMESON. 

My Dead Self. 

By HARRIETT JAY. 

The Dark Colleen. | Queen of Connaught. 

By MARK KERSHAW. 
Colonial Facts and Fictions. 

By R. ASHE KING. 



A Drawn Game. 
4 The Wearing of the 
Green.' 



Passion's Slave. 
Bell Barry. 



By JOHN LEYS. 
The Lindsays. 

By E. LYNN LINTON. 



The Atonement of Learn 

Dundas. 

With a Silken Thread. 
The Rebel of the 

Family. 
Sowing the Wind. 



Patricia Kemball. 
The World Well Lost. 
IFnder which Lord ? 
Paston Carew. 
My Love 1 ' 
lone. 

By HENRY W. LUCY. 

Gideon Fieyce. 

By JUSTIN MCCARTHY. 

Dear Lady Disdain. 
Waterdale Neighbours. 
My Enemy's Daughter. 
A Fair Saxon. 
Linley Rochford. 
Miss Misanthrope. 

By HUGH MACCOLL. 
Mr. Stranger's Sealed Packet. 

By AGNES MACDONELL. 

Quaker Cousins. 

By KATHARINE S. MACQUOID. 

The Evil Eye. | Lost Rose. 

By W. H. MALLOCK. 

A Romance of the Nine- I The New Republic, 
teen tii Century. 



Donna Quixote. 
Maid of Athens. 
The Comet of a Season. 
The Dictator. 
Red Diamonds. 



By FLORENCE MARRYAT. 

Open ! Sesame I I A Harvest of Wild Oata. 

Fighting the Air. | Written in Fire. 

By J. MASTERMAN. 
Half-a-dozen Daughters. 

By BRANDER MATTHEWS. 
A Secret of the Sea. 

By LEONARD MERRICK. 
The Man who was Good. 

By JEAN MIDDLEMASS. 
Touch and Go. | Mr. Dorillion. 

By Mrs. MOLESWORTH. 

Hathercourt Rectory. 

By J. E. MUDDOCK. 



Stories Weird and Won- 



derful. 
The Dead Man's Secret. 

By D. CHRISTIE MURRAY. 



From the Bosom of the 
Deep. 



A Model Father. 

Joseph's Coat. 

Coals of Fire. 

Val Strange. 

Old Blazer s Hero. 

Hearts. 

The Way of the World 



A Life's Atonement. 
By the Gate of the Sea. 
A Bit of Human Nature. 
First Person Singular. 
Bob Martin's Little 

Girl. 

Time's Revenges. 
A Wasted Crime. 



Cynic Fortune. 

By MURRAY and HERMAN. 

One Traveller Returns. I The Bishops' Bibla. 
Paul Jones's Alias. | 

By HENRY MURRAY. 

A Game of Bluff. | A Song of Sixpence. 

By HUME NISBET. 
1 Bail Up ! ' | Dr.Beruard St. Vincent. 

By ALICE O'HANLON. 
The Unforeseen. | Chance ? or Fate ? 

By GEORGES OHNET. 
Dr. Rameau. I A Weird Gift. 

A Last Love. 

By Mrs. OLIPHANT. 

Whiteladies. I The Greatest Heiress la 

The Primrose Path. I England. 

By Mrs. ROBERT O'REILLY. 

Phoebe s Fortunes. 



Held In Bondage. 

Strathmore. 

Chandos. 

Idalia. 

Under Two Flags. 

Cecil Castlemaine'sGage 

Tricotrin. 

Puck. 

Folle FaHne. 

A Dog of Flanders. 

Pascarel. 

Signa. 

Princess Napraxlne. 

In a Winter City. 

Ariadne. 

Friendship. 



By OUIDA. 



Wooden 



Two Little 

Shoes. 
Moths. 
Bimbi. 
Pipistrello. 
A Village Commune. 
Wanda. 
Othmar. 
Frescoes. 
In Maremma. 
Guilderoy. 
Ruffino. 
Syrlin. 

Santa Barbara. 
Ouida's Wisdom, Wit. 

and Pathos. 



By MARGARET AGNES PAUL. 

Gentle and Simple. 

By C. L. PIRKIS. 

Lady Lovelace. , 

By EDGAR A. POE. 

The Mystery of Marie Roget. 

By Mrs. CAMPBELL PRAED. 

The Romance of a Station. 
The Soul of Countess Adrian. 
Outlaw and Lawmaker. 

By E. C. PRICE. 

Valentina. I Mrs. Lancaster's Rival. 

The Foreigner. | Gerald. 

By RICHARD PRYCE. 

Miss Maxwell's Affections. 



CHATTO & WINDUS, PUBLISHERS, PICCADILLY. 



TWO-SHILLING NOVELS continued. 
By JAMES PAYN. 



Bentinck's Tutor. 

Murphy's Master. 

A County Family. 

At Her Mercy. 

Cecil s Tryst. 

The CiyCards of Clyffe. 

The Foster Brothers. 

Found Dead. 

The Best of Husbands. 

Walter a Word. 

Halves. 

Fallen Fortunes. 

Humorous Stories. 

200 Reward. 

A Marine Residence. 

Mirk Abbey. 

By Proxy. 

Under One Roof. 

High Spirits. 

Carlyon's Year. 

From Exile. 

For Cash Only. 

Kit. 

The Canon Ward. 



The Talk of the Town. 

Holiday Tasks. 

A Perfect Treasure. 

What He Cost Her. 

A Confidential Agent. 

Glow-worm Tales. 

The Burnt Million. 

Sunny Stories. 

Lost Sir Massmgberd. 

A Woman's Vengeance. 

The Family Scapegrace. 



Gwendoline s Hal . 

Like Father. Like Son. 
Married Beneath Him. 
Not Wooed, but Won. 
Less Black than We're 

Fainted. 

Some Private Views. 
A Grape from a Thorn. 
The Mystery of Mir- 

bridge. 

The Word and the Will. 
A Prince of the Blood. 
A Trying Patient. 
By CHARLES READE. 
It is Never Too Late to A TerribleTemptation. 



Mend. 
Christie Johnstone. 
The Double Marriage. 
Put Yourself in His 

Place 
Love Me Little, Love 

Me Long. 
The Cloister and the 

Hearth. 
The Course of True 



Foul Play. 

The Wandering Heir. 

Hard Cash. 

Singleheart and Double- 
face. 

Good Stories of Men and 
other Animals. 

Peg Woffington. 

Griffith Gaunt. 

A Perilous Secret. 



Love. A Simpleton. 

The Jilt. Keadiana. 

The Autobiography of , A Woman-Hater. 

a Thief. 

By Mrs. J. H. RIDDELL. 



Weird Stories. 
Fairy Water. 
Her Mother s Darling. 
The Prince of Wales's 
Garden Party. 



The Uninhabited House. 
The Mystery in Palace. 

Gardens. 
The Nun's Curse. 
Idle Tales. 



By AMELIE RIVES. 

Barbara Dering. 

By F. W. ROBINSON. 

Women are Strange. ] The Hands of Justice. 
By JAMES RUNCIMAN. 

Skippers and Shellbacks. 
Grace Balmaign's Sweetheart. 
(Schools and Scholars. 

By W. CLARK RUSSELL. 

Round the Galley Fire. The Romance of Jenny 

Harlowe . 

An Ocean Tragedy. 
My Shipmate Louise. 



Alone on a Wide Wide 
Sea. 



On the Fo'k'sle Head. 

In the Middle Watch. 

A Voyage to the Cape. 

A Book for the Ham- 
mock. 

The Mystery of the 
Ocean Star.' i 

By GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA. 

Gaslight and Daylight. 

By JOHN SAUNDERS. 

Guy Waterman. I The Lion in the Path. 

The Two Dreamers. | 

By KATHARINE SAUNDERS. 

Joan Merry-weather. 



The High Mills. 
Heart Salvage 



Sebastian. 

Margaret and Eliza- 
beth. 



By GEORGE R. SIMS. 

Rogues and Vagabonds, i Tinkletop s Crime 



The Ring o' Bells 
jMary Jane's Memoirs. 
Mary Jane Married. 
Tales of To day. 

Dramas of Life. 

By ARTHUR SKETCHLEY. 
ti. Match in the Dark. 



Zeph. 

My Two Wives. 
Memoirs of a Landlady. 
Scenes from the Show. 
Ten Commandments. 



The LoudwaterTragedy 
Burgo s Romance. 
Quittance in Full. 



By HAWLEY SMART. 

Without Love or Licence. 

By T. W. SPEIGHT. 

The Mysteries of Heron ; Back to Life. 

Dyke. 

The Golden Hoop. 
Hoodwinked. 
By Devious Ways. 

By ALAN ST. AUBYN. 

A Fellow of Trinity. I Master of St.Eenedict* 
Tie Junior Dean. | To His Own Master. 

By R. A. STERNDALE. 

The Afghan Knife. 

By R. LOUIS STEVENSON. 

New Arabian Nights. ] Prince Otto. 

By BERTHA THOMAS. 

Cressida. I The Violin- Player. 

Proud Maisie. 

By WALTER THORNBURY. 

Tales for the Marines. | Old Stories Retold. 
By T. ADOLPHUS TROLLOPE. 

Diamond Cut Diamond. 

By F. ELEANOR TROLLOPE. 

Like Ships upon the I Anne Furness. 
Sea. I Mabel's Progress. 

By ANTHONY TROLLOPE. 

Fran Frohmann. t The American Senator. 



Mr. Scarborough'i 

Family. 
The Golden Lion of 

Granpere. 



Marion Fay, 
Kept in the Dark. 
John Caldigate. 
The Way We Live Now. 
The Land-Leaguers. 

By J. T. TROWBRIDGE. 

Farnell s Folly. 

By IVAN TURGENIEFF, &c. 

Stories from Foreign Novelists. 

By MARK TWAIN. 



A Pleasure Trip on the 



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The Gilded Age. 
Huckleberry Finn. 
MarkTwain's Sketches. 
Tom Sawyer. 
A Tramp Abroad. 
Stolen White Elephant. 

By C. C. FRASER-TYTLER. 

Mistress Judith. 



Life on the Mississippi. 



The Prince and the 

Pauper. 
A Yankee at the Court 

of King Arthur. 
The 1,000,000 Bank- 

Note. 



By SARAH TYTLER. 



The Huguenot Family. 
The Blackball Ghosts. 
What SheCameThrough 
Beauty and the Beast. 
Citoyenne Jaqueline. 



The Bride s Pass. 
Buried Diamonds. 
St. Mungo s City. 
Lady Bell. 
Noblesse Oblige. 
Disappeared. 

By ALLEN UPWARD. 

The Queen against Owen. 

By AARON WATSON and LILLIAS 
WASSERMANN. 

The Marquis of Caracas. 

By WILLIAM WESTALL. 

Trust- Money. 

By Mrs. F. H. WILLIAMSON. 

A Child Widow. 

By J. S. WINTER. 

Cavalry Life. | Regimental Legend*. 

By H. F. WOOD. 
The Passenger from Scotland Yard. 
The Englishman of the Rue Cain. 

By Lady WOOD. 

Sabina. 
By CELIA PARKER WOOLLEY. 

Rachel Armstrong ; or, I.ove and Theology. 

By EDMUND YATES. 

The Forlorn Hope. I Castaway. 
Land at Last. 



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