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Regularity of Birds of Passage.
number in the flock, it was not the first. In the flock I mention there were at least two hundred birds. Now in all the first flocks that I have seen arrive there never were more than twenty birds, who seemed to be the advanced guard of the great mass that came a few days later; and, supposing that the same thing happens in France and in Scotland, I should say that the first oie.cravant arrives on the same day here that the brent-goose does in the bays of Ireland and Scotland."
On this subject, hear a voice from t'other side the Atlantic. Mr. Hind, in his interesting Explorations of Labrador, tells us the Brent-geese are found on all parts of that coast. They visit it twice a year, in spring and in autumn, as with us, but the marvellous coincidence is in the day of their autumnal arrival from their breeding ground: “They come from the interior with other species of geese, about September 15-remain about a month, then strike direct to the south.”1 St. John's experience on the east coast of Scotland does not quite coincide. He records that the flocks of Brent-geese appear on the coast of the Moray Firth in the first week of October, “or even as early as the end of September," continually increasing by new arrivals, and staying all winter in the wide firth and the Bay of Cromarty.-(P. 44.)
We hope we have shown our readers that Mr. Campbell's Life in Normandy is not a book of sport alone, nor entirely of natural history, nor of both together, like Mr. St. John's. It professes to describe “ingenious foreign devices and engines for ensnaring, growing, and gathering food, and for making it eatable,” and it fulfils that undertaking. That such economical purposes are consistent with the other objects of sport is a recommendation which no sportsman should slight. It may enlarge the circle of his game. It will, at any rate, furnish him with useful occupation connected with his pastime. The bag of the sportsman must always derive its value, even in his eyes, from the acceptability of the contents in the kitchen. No doubt a woodcock is esteemed quite out of proportion to the quantity of food it affords. But that is because the delicate quality makes up for the little size. The love of victory cannot long entice a sportsman to make war on animals useless when killed. Shooting swallows is as difficult as killing snipes; but no grown man derives amusement from swallow-shooting, and it becomes quite irksome to spend a long day in landing salmon uneatable because out of season, however ready to take the fly. It is not only the falcon and kite which go free from the net, according to the Terentian proverb
Namque ex his nihil lucri est.” ' Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula. Henry Youle Hind, 2 vols. London, 1863, vol. i. p. 17.
These volumes are illustrated with some clever drawings of Norman costume and scenery, very well lithographed.
But what is country life in England without fox-hunting ? And what fox hunter is to be named before “ Tom th”?
Thomas Assheton Smith, while not coming up to our idea of the “ English country gentleman,” as his friendly biographer characterizes him, was a type of the English fox-hunter, and embodied many of the qualities that go to make up the character of John Bull. He was good at all exercises and sports—could swim, row, fence, box, and play cricket with any man in England. He was a determined man, a man of strong will
, brave as a lion. At Eton he fought "Jack Musters” in a battle which lasted an hour and a half, and was “ drawn” at last; and throughout life he was quite willing to right himself by a “turn-up" with a coal-heaver or a rustic champion confident in youth and weight. Hasty, often even violent in language, he was yet just, generous, and humane-the John Bull of the French stage, the English country gentleman of our own middle comedy.
Of a good gentleman's family, born to a large fortune, which greatly increased in his hands, with no children to provide for, no other expensive tastes to drain his purse, Mr. Assheton Smith -“Tom Smith” of the sporting world--devoted a large share of his income and his time for half a century to keeping hounds and fox-hunting, and was by unanimous consent the foremost rider, the leader of the English sport, the king of the chase. If he made fox-hunting somewhat too much the business of his life, he proved on the other hand that the rough sport does not harden a gentle nature. He loved his good horse, and could make the most ungovernable do his will—-(let it be recorded in passing, Mr. Smith held a horse to be a more sensible animal than a dog)— he mourned over the death of a hound as he would over a dear human companion. And his love was returned. When the hounds were at the covert side waiting his arrival, Dick Burton, the huntsman, used to say, “ Master is coming, I perceive by the hounds,” and when he came in sight the pack bounded to meet him. So, in the morning, when first unkennelled, they used to rush to his study window or to the hall door, and stand there till he came out. Although he ranked the horse higher, he loved and valued his hounds. He used to say, there is a gravity and importance of demeanour in the countenance of a good hound, as if he knew his superiority over the rest of the canine species. Nor was this great foxhunter affectionate only to his horses and hounds. “ He had at several times several pet robins whom he constantly fed in the conservatory; and his favourite rooks, who used to come
“ Tom Smith” and Life at Tedworth.
close to his library windows during the severe weather, were never sent empty away."
With a robust constitution, invigorated by exercise and great temperance, in spite of innumerable accidents—for he had had a fall in almost every field of his Tedworth country—Mr. Assheton Smith seemed to bid defiance to the infirmities of age. He was Master of Hounds for fifty years, and hunted for the most part six days in the week. Until he had reached his eightieth year, says his biographer, he showed no signs of physical or mental decay. His head was as clear, and his hand as firm, as they had been twenty years before. If he felt not quite well of a morning, he used to plunge his head into cold water, and hold it there as long as he could. This, he said, always put him to rights. At that age he had restricted himself to four days' hunting in the week, it is true ; but on those days the farmers were delighted to see him vault on horseback as usual, and gallop down the sheep-fed hill-sides with all the joyous alacrity of a boy of eighteen. Once, when he was gathering himself up after a bad fall, and a brother sportsman asked if he were hurt, the old man answered gaily—“Thank you, nothing ever hurts Tom Smith !" He lived to be eighty-two, and he hunted regularly till within two years of his death. His biographer, Sir John Eardley Wilmot, gives us a sketch of life at Tedworth:
“Let us cross from the kennels to the beautifully smooth lawn in front of the dining-room at Tedworth. The spectator, standing at one of the windows, looks into an open part of the park, studded here and there with noble timber. It is the first morning in November, somewhat dark and lowering, but the clouds, sailing through the sky steadily from the south-west, give indications of a good hunting-day. The leaf has not yet wholly fallen, but the gust is sweeping it in eddies from each group of trees over the stately hall. The woods which fringe the distant hills are clothed with their richest mantle of russet and gold. The best pack in the kennel are already rolling themselves and disporting upon the grass; the huntsman and whippers-in are not far off, splendidly mounted, and, with their equipments, a sight to look at. In every direction are pouring in horsemen of every age and calling, coats of every colour, but the 'pink' far predominating, and a sprinkling of the loveliest women in the world, either on horseback or in carriages. It is the opening meet of the season, and Tedworth's hospitable mansion is thrown open to every comer. In the midst is the squire on one of his well-known steeds, to all cordial and affable, for all a hearty welcome, for some a sporting joke, for others a jovial laugh. Here may be seen a throng of eager sportsmen, discussing with enthusiasm the prospects and pleasures of the season now about to commence; there a group encircling a lovely horsewoman, to be the subject of many a toast by and by, when the claret circulates
freely after the toils and perils of the chase. In the meanwhile what capital cheer within the hall, what barons of beef, what interminable venison pasties! Breakfast ended-and no superfluous time is wasted in despatching it-away go the field."
The mighty hunter died in 1858. When arrangements were making for his funeral, George Carter, his old huntsman, sought an interview with the family friend who had the management, and with much earnestness thus addressed him: “I hope, sir, when I and Jack Fricker and Will Bryce (the whips) die, we may be laid alongside master in the mausoleum, with Ham Ashley and Paul Potter (favourite horses) and three or four couples of his favourite hounds, in order that we may be all ready to start again together in the next world."
The authors of the last two books whose titles are prefixed to this paper, are clergymen; the one an Englishman, the other a Scot, both lovers of nature and the country. The Rev. Mr. Johns dates from “ Wilton House, near Winchester;" and from some of his stories we gather that he receives pupils, and attends to their education there. If so, happy is the boy who gets his preparatory schooling in that house; who has the run of the garden so full of birds' nests; who may accompany the parson in his walk on the common; gather mosses, collect shells, tend an aquarium, help at a cherry harvest, or at that famous pear-gathering, where the fun was at least equal to the work.
Mr. Johns and Charles St. John should have been acquainted. How St. John would have liked to introduce his brotherobserver to his tame mallards, his pet pochard, his peregrine, or the pet roe; to show him his wider range of sport and bird-study! How it would have delighted him to watch the birds' banquet in Mr. Johns' garden during a hard frost, where the pugnacious redbreasts tyrannized over chaffinches and sparrows, and were carrying on war even with the warlike Tom-tits, till a common enemy, in shape of the house-cat, scatters the combatants. With what pleasure he would have watched the drama of the young cuckoo, whom Mr. Johns billeted upon the pair of flycatchers, who were so proud of their monster nursling! The two naturalists would have differed on some points; and so much the better. St. John persuaded himself and some of his readers, that the bullfinches and small birds are beneficial to fruit-trees. Mr. Johns lives in a cherry country; and even his love for the little birds cannot blind him to their destructiveness.
“May 8th.—I watched for some time this evening a Great Tit, busily occupied in a cherry-tree. He seemed to be searching intently
The Live Toad in the Rock.
for insects among the tufts of flowers, but his movements were accompanied by an incessant dropping of blossoms, all nipt off close to the calyx. I examined a large number of these, and found that in every case the flower was nipped off either across the tube of the calyx, just below the sepals, or that it contained a hole large enough to admit the beak of a bird, and too large to have been the work of an insect perforating for honey. Query,—does the Tit enlarge a hole in quest of an insect lodged there, or is it the prime originator of the mischief, plucking the blossom for the sake of the honey contained in the calyxtube? I am inclined to the latter opinion; and if this be the true solution, I can account for the attachment displayed by chaffinches to my polyanthuses, scores of which lie scattered on my flower-beds, nipped off just below the expanded petals. The ovary of the cherry blossom I found in every instance uninjured."
“ August 4th.-A young Garden Warbler was shot yesterday in a neighbouring cherry orchard, having on its beak unmistakable evidence that in the fruit season it is not exclusively an insect-eater. Black cherries are a tell-tale fruit; at this season, not only are the beaks of birds stained of a dark purple hue, but every child one meets declares, without opening his lips, how abundant and popular is this wholesome fruit. But children are not the only cherry eaters ; if you meet a grown-up person in this neighbourhood, and hazard the assertion,
You have been eating cherries,' ten to one that the party addressed grins a confession, and, to prove the charge, shows his blackened teeth. Two years since, a high wind set in at the time when the black cherries were ripe, the effect of which was that the ground was thickly strewed with them. My cherry-trees stand in the same meadow in which I keep my cows. These speedily fell in with the popular taste : they lost their relish for grass, and picked up the scattered fruit with surprising adroitness, presenting a rueful appearance as to their lips."
Mr. Johns is disposed to question Mr. St. John's observation of the water-ouzel walking and feeding at the bottom of the burn. St. John is corroborated by Dr. Kinahan. On the other side are Mr. Waterton and M'Gillivray. Mr. Johns does not rashly decide. He calls for further observation—and so do we.
Another controversy among naturalists is noticed by Mr. Johns, and we can see how his opinion inclines ; but in the old, old quarrel about the toad imbedded in solid rock, he again chooses to call for a fair field and no favour. There is some new evidence; Mr. Godfrey Sinclair indeed comes into the witness-box, without having much to tell of his own knowledge. Still, he has put it to Lord Tankerville, whether the marvellous legend of his Lordship’s drawing-room chimneypiece at Chillingham giving birth to a toad, be true; and his Lordship’s silence is significant.
The next witness is one who speaks from personal observa