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A HOT DAY.
Now the rosy and lazy-fingered Aurora, issuing from her saffron-house, calls up the moist vapours to surround her, and goes veiled with them as long as she can; till Phoebus, coming forth in his power, looks everything out of the sky, and holds sharp uninterrupted empire from his throne of beams. Now the mower begins to make his sweeping cuts more slowly, and resorts oftener to the beer. Now the carter sleeps a-top of his load of hay, or plods with double slouch of shoulder, looking out with eyes winking under his shaking hat, and with a hitch upwards of one side of his mouth. Now the little girl at her grandmother's cottagedoor watches the coaches that go by, with her hand held up to her sunny forehead. Now labourers look well, resting in their white shirts, at the doors of rural ale-houses.
Now an elm is fine there, with a seat under it; and horses drink out of their trough, stretching their yearning necks with loosened collars; and the traveller calls for his glass of ale, having been without one for more than two minutes, and his horse stands wincing at the flies, giving sharp shivers of his skin, and moving to and fro his ineffectual docked tail; and now Miss Betty Wilson, the host's daughter, comes streaming forth in a flowered gown and ear-rings, carrying with four of her beautiful fingers, the foaming glass, for which, after the traveller has drank it, she receives with an indifferent eye, looking another way, the lawful twopence, that is to say, unless the traveller, nodding his ruddy face, pays some gallant compliment to her before he drinks, such as, "I'd rather kiss you, my dear, than the tumbler!" or, "I wait for you, my love, if you'll marry me;" upon which, if the man is good-looking, and the lady in good humour, she smiles and bites her lips, and says, "Ah !—men can talk fast enough;" upon which the old stage-coachman, who is sucking something near her, before he sets off, says, in a hoarse voice, "So can women too for that matter," and John Boots grins through his ragged red locks, and doats on the repartee all the day after. Now grasshoppers "fry," as Dryden says. Now cattle stand in water, and ducks are envied. Now boots and shoes, and trees by the road side, are thick with dust, and dogs rolling in it, after issuing out of the water, into which they have been thrown to fetch sticks, come scattering horror among the legs of the spectators. Now a fellow who finds he has three miles farther to go in a pair of tight boots is in a pretty situation. Now rooms with the sun upon them become intolerable; and the apothecary's apprentice, with a bitterness beyond aloes, thinks of the pond he used to bathe in at school. Now men with powdered heads, especially if thick, envy those who are unpowdered, and stop to wipe them up hill, with countenances that seem to expostulate with destiny. Now boys assemble round the village pump with a ladle to it, and delight to make a forbidden splash and get wet through. Now, also, they make suckers of leather, and bathe all day long in rivers and ponds, and say millions of "my eyes! at tittle-bats.
Now the bee, as he hums along, seems to be talking heavily of the heat. Now doors and brick-walls are burning to the hand; and a walled lane, with dust and broken bottles in it, near a brickfield, is a thing not to be thought of. Now a green lane, on the contrary, thick set with hedgerow elms, and having the noise of a brook, "rumbling" in pebble-stone, is one of the pleasantest things in the world. Now youths and damsels walk through hay-fields by chance; and the latter say, "Ha' done, then, William!" and the overseer in the next field calls out to "Let thic thear hay thear bide;" and the girls persist, merely to plague such a frumpish old fellow.
Now, in town, gossips talk more than ever one to another, in rooms, in door-ways, and out of windows, always beginning the conversation with saying that the heat is overpowering. Now blinds are let down, and doors thrown open, and flannel waistcoats left off, and cold meat preferred to hot, and wonder expressed why tea continues so refreshing, and people delight to sliver lettuces into bowls, and apprentices water doorways with tin cannisters that lay several atoms of dust. Now the water-cart, jumbling along the middle of the streets, and jolting the showers out of its box of water, really does something. Now boys delight to have a water-pipe let out, and set it bubbling away in a tall and frothy volume. Now fruiterers' shops and dairies look pleasant, and ices are the only things to those who can get them. Now ladies loiter in baths ; and people make presents of flowers; and wine is put into ice; and the after-dinner lounger recreates his head with applications of perfumed water out of long-necked bottles. Now the lounger who cannot resist riding his new horse feels his boots burn him. Now five fat people in a stage-coach, hate the sixth fat one who is coming in, and think he has no right to be so large. Now clerks in offices do nothing, but drink soda-water and spruce-beer, and read the newspaper. Now the old-clothes man drops his solitary cry more deeply into the areas on the hot and forsaken sides of the street; and bakers look vicious; and cooks are aggravated; and the steam of a tavern kitchen catches hold of one like the breath of Tartarus. Now delicate skins are beset with gnats; and boys make their sleeping companion start up, with playing
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a burning-glass on his hand; and blacksmiths are supercarbonated; and cobblers in their stalls almost feel a wish to be transported; and butter is too easy to spread; and the dragoons wonder the Romans liked their helmets; and old ladies, with their lappets unpinned, walk along in a state of dilapidation; and the servant maids are afraid they look vulgarly hot; and the author who has a plate of strawberries brought him, finds that he has come to the end of his writing.—Leigh Hunt.
MEADOWS IN SUMMER.
There are few people, says Mr. Jesse, who do not enjoy a walk on a fine, smiling day, in summer, along meadows through which a stream of water takes its restless and meandering course. For my own part, in such a spot, I always find something to interest and amuse me, and especially when the grass is just ready for the scythe. Even the rustic bridge which enables me to quit the sweets of the bean-field for the less powerful, but more delicate perfumes of my favourite meadows, is not without its interest. The trunk of an old pollard-willow thrown across the little streamlet forms the bridge, and on one side, an equally rude rail has been nailed between two small alders to assist the timid in making good their passage; sedges and meadow-sweet, and here and there a bunch of brambles, mixed with honeysuckles, may be seen along the sides of the clear and silent stream. On approaching them a rat jumps into the water, and rapidly makes his way to the opposite bank. At the same time perhaps a water-hen takes the alarm, and may be observed stealing along the sides of the stream, sometimes hidden by the sedges, and then appearing in wind again, giving a sort of jerk with her beak and white tail, and occasionally uttering a plaintive call to induce her little black brood to follow her.
As I pursue my walk along the foot-path, the pretty tufted vetch, the cammock, the great burnet, the cuckooflower, and various other plants attract my attention. I disturb a bitting, or meadow-pipit, and it settles at a little distance on the stalk of a wild sorrel plant, quivering with its wings, and then rising again slowly, it hovers in the air for an instant, and warbles sweetly till it alights on the ground. The skylark sings his song of love over my head, and distant as he is, every note may be heard, owing to the calmness of the day.
Butterflies of various sorts may be seen in every direction, sometimes settling on the flowers, and at others sporting together in the most joyous manner; whilst grasshoppers and numerous other insects produce a sort of harmony which cannot be unpleasing. Such is a meadow scene on a fine summer day.
In pursuing my walk, I come to a small copse of old oak trees, with an underwood of hazels, and a few hollies interspersed here and there. Earlier in the year the ground is covered with a profusion of bluebells and primroses. They have now disappeared, but the tangled honeysuckles, the dog-roses and various other flowers, give a cheerfulness to the spot, and here too I can enjoy the coolness of the shade. The stream has taken a sudden bend, and runs close under the copse. Insects play between the water and the overhanging branches of an oak tree, while a thrush sings his melodious notes on a topmost bough.
The thrush-haunted copse
In my walk through the copse, I on one occasion disturbed a wren, and soon afterwards found its nest by the side of the stump of an old thorn-tree. I like to see the bustle and activity of these minute birds during the time they have young ones. They then show great anxiety, and appear in a bush or along a hedge more like mice than birds.
The water-crake is sometimes found in the meadows; it is, however, a scarce bird with us, and exceedingly shy and solitary. It is said to form a buoyant nest, which rises and falls with the water, and is moored to the stalk of a reed or bullrush. It shows great ingenuity and perseverance in avoiding dogs, running and skulking among high grass and rushes, so that it is difficult to get it on the wing. The