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rejoices with his mute brethren at last in their final victory over their stern impassive enemies.
Through the winter months, life is still ever present beside him. As soon as the swallows and the flycatchers go south to their fashionable winter-quarters on the Nile or in Algeria, he observes that the green plover has come back to England for the Christmas season; the snipe reappears on the wet moorlands and the bill of fare at the London clubs; and the monastic chaffinches congregate sadly for their winter ménage in celibate bands of cocks or hens, each to the utter exclusion of the opposite sex from their austere communities. As soon as the last rose of summer and the last chrysanthemum have finished blooming, the earliest wallflowers burgeon in full bud on the mouldering church tower. By midDecember the mezereon has opened its pinky blossom; before Christmas Day, the yellow jasmine mantles with its naked leafless bloom the cottage porch, the winter aconite has lifted its golden bells through the frozen soil, and the Christmas roses or white hellebores have spread their milk-white petals, somewhat draggled by rain, to the winter winds. He gathers the snowdrop before December dies: he sees an earnest of the coming spring in the hyacinths that show their stout green heads above the ground on the last morning of the old year. The wheat that was sown in October now rears its blades well above the furrow our optimist reads in their sturdy culms the sure and certain hope of a sunshiny April and a golden July.
Old friends, too, comfort him through the gloomy season. The daisy never goes out of fashion: its period for blossoming may be succinctly stated as from the 1st of January to the 31st of December in any given year of the calendar. The purple dead-nettle knows no wintry pause the chickweed flowers in every month of the year: the shepherd's purse is full of its tiny round seeds, like fairy coins, as long as the shepherd has need of its services. On his walks abroad through the wintry fields, our anonymous hero notices with joy these manifold signs of life everywhere around him he watches the groundsel spreading its wee yellow tassels to the chilly
breeze; he sees the stray beetles of January busying themselves with burly hum around the scented trusses of the winter heliotrope in the garden walks; he observes how the barren shoots of stonecrop and saxifrage grow lustily outward through the cold weather, and lay by the material in their long sprays for the tall heads of summer flowers. Every step he takes fortifies him with the thought that winter is only preparation for spring. All creation groans and travails together, and of its labor, in due season, will be born the beautiful luscious April.
By and by, the spring itself approaches not that late spring that most men think of, but that earlier season when Nature first awakes, and the signs of her quickening press thick and fast upon us. The arum pushes up, mayhap, its tender green leaves in the first few weeks of the young year. On New Year's Day itself, peradventure, our Scholar Gypsy hears at times the robin singing the nuptial song that heralds the advent of the annual nesting. Earlier still, before the old year dies, the rooks have resought their clamorous rookeries, and at the first approach of warmer weather set to work, like hotel servants, at their noisy labor of repairing and renovating throughout the bridal chambers for the honeymoon season. In the gardens behind, he sees the polyanthus come into straggling bloom and the crocuses push up their papery sheaths, from the first birththroes of the shivering young January. Soon, the red threads of the female flower-clusters spring in rich tufts on the branches of the hazel bushes: and on that self-same day that the hedgesparrow begins to sing, the very rathest of rathe primroses flowers boldly under shelter of the naked blackthorns on the common. The thrush follows, that thrush in February, whose full song George Meredith has set to poet's music: and then the insects swarm under sunny hedges, and the gray slug creeps out once more from his short hibernation to bask in the rays of the returning sunlight. By a thousand signs our optimist knows in truth that spring is creeping on apace, that the gnats will soon be dancing in the narrow lanes, and that the daffodils and snowdrops
will erelong be courting their insect lovers.
With the advent of the earliest brimstone butterfly, on the morning when the blackbird first whistles from the copse, the spring seems to be really upon us. Then the botanist knowsthere now, how stupid of me! I have let out his name before the proper time, and having found out who he is, you will at once incontinently leave off reading this present article. For what can be duller or more prosaic than a botanist? Well, well, there's no helping it now; so I may as well go on and finish my sentence. Then the botanist knows-who else but he?-it is time to look out for the blossoming of the celandine. To that eternal bore, Peter Bell-I will admit he has become a fearful bore by this time-a yellow primrose by the brim was but a yellow primrose in spite of everything to Peter Bell's creator at Rydal Mount, as to the botanist also, the lesser celandine was, and is, a thing of beauty and a joy forever. It may be rude, indeed, to call it "the meanest flower that blows;" but when you add next instant that it brings you thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears, you immediately apologize to it with ample reparation for your momentary rudeness. Moreover, it has its philosophy too. The celandine is the first of the buttercups to blossom in spring, because it possesses a number of tiny tubers upon its thread-like roots which lay by from last year the stored-up material for the spring flowers, and because it nestles low among the cropped grass, without wasting anything on a tall and expensive but useless stalk. Thrift and economy are the secrets of its success, a simple Philistine moral which Mr. Wordsworth, if he had only known it, would have thrown with enormous delight into very choice Wordsworthian English. The bulbous buttercup, to be sure, runs it hard, for it too lays by over winter against the pressing demands of early spring; but being somewhat less richly stored with food-stuffs in its bulb, it blossoms later; and living in moist meadows, where the grass grows high even in budding spring-time, it has to waste its substance recklessly on a tall and expensive advertising stalk. Other wise, its blossom would never be seen of NEW SERIES.-VOL. XLV., No. 5
flitting insects, and so would doubtless escape the needful fertilization.
Do you think all this is not matter for joy to the observant heart of the poor despised botanist? Do you think he does not feel the genuine thrill of an intense plot-interest as he watches the cuckoo-pint backing its judgment against the warping winds of March, or the coltsfoot venturing to pronounce its verdict for open war against the hoarfrost of February? Do you think it is no small pleasure to him on one particular Sunday in spring to note in his yearly calendar of the seasons how to-day the first flower was seen on the yew; how to-day the field-crickets opened their tunnels in the meadows by the river; how to-day the ring-snake lay basking beside the pond; how to-day the bees buzzed busy among the scented spurs of the wild violets? His science, believe me, is not all technicalities and crabbed latinisms: part of it is the actual and veritable joy of living. Thinkest thou because thou art blind there shall be no more primroses and cowslips? marry, and the song of the lark shall be sweet in the ears too. The world wags on in its own quaint way, eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage, by every copse and moor and hedgerow, whether you are there to chronicle it or not. And if you are there, and see the endless drama all unfolding itself ever fresh before you, then, like the wedding guest, you cannot choose but hear, and cannot fain but be gladdened by that strange life-music.
On an April day, the botanist arises and goes forth blithely into the world. The play is now in full swing, and he has a front stall everywhere reserved for him. Overhead, white fleecy clouds flit across his sky, and show between such deep, deep blue as the Society of Arts fail egregiously to equal. He makes his happy way along the mousling Mole, the sullen Mole that floweth underground, and reaches the slope of Box Hill, past Burford Bridge, where Keats wrote "Endymion," and the beautiful châlet where George Meredith still writes companion romances to Beauchamp's Career" and Richard Feveril. In the river below, the hungry trout, just waking from their winter fast, rise greedily at the midges and May flies that
fall upon its surface. The impatient elder has leaved already; the soberer horse-chestnut is just bursting those dusky sheaths, and with its pale leaflets heralding the summer. The box-trees on the slope have opened their flowers, so the strong scent of the box hangs heavy on the winking air. The elms are flowering, too, red against the sky, and the hum of insects fills the neighborhood with soft music. A louder pæan from the "legioned rooks" in the "clanging rookery' among the woods below (I own up to Shelley and Tennyson), gives deeper resonance to the chord that solemn music strikes in his bosom. profound joy thrills his heart. He pauses awhile upon the close sward of the long hog's back that rises sheer between the two deep combes of that hollowed hillside. The smoke is curling gray from the chimneys of Fanny Burney's cottage in the nearer distance. A wagon drawn by four stout carthorses, tandem, with slipping feet, descends the Pilgrims' Way from the downs opposite-the Pilgrims' Way along whose green track the faithful from the West Country once plodded slow on their wearisome road to St. Thomas's shrine at Canterbury. He pauses long and drinks in the beauty of that exquisite gorge. A touch of Paradise brightens the young verdure on the budding poplars. Like Mr. Silas Wegg, he drops into poetry, as I have almost done unconsciously myself in my secret sympathy for his glad musings.
Still the mute panorama unfolds itself ever before his wondering eyes, more delighted with the spectacle than with the gorgeous processions Mr. Augustus Harris provides for our special delectation at a Drury Lane Christmas pantomime. Not wholly mute either, for hark! from the box-woods there rings at last the voice of a blithe new-comer (I drop once more, again after Mr. Wordsworth); an oft-repeated cry of "Cuckoo," at varying distances, that gladdens his soul still further with the joy of the spring-time. The cuckooflower and the cuckoo-grass were both beforehand with their eponymous hero: as our optimist passed along the shady lanes that April morning, he broke open a purple spathe of the hooded arum we call cuckoo-pint, and saw within it the
little imprisoned flies, with gauze-like wings of iridescent sheen, drunk with the poisonous pollen, like a Chinaman with opium, or a Hindoo devotee with the sacred haschish. Next, the blackthorn paradoxically whitens for him the clumps on the common, and bees set the sloes for the autumnal food of belated birds. As the beeches slowly unroll their wrinkled leaves, shedding the brown coverlets on the ground below, the black-robed swift, latest and daintiest of our summer migrants, returns from his winter villa in Andalusia to his Surrey estate on the squat parapet of Mickleham Church tower. For fifty generations his ancestors have held the undisputed freehold of a sheltered niche beneath the gray old corbel. The swallows and the house-martens, of hardier mould, were back three weeks ago, and hawked for midges above the Castle mill-pond. The whitlow-grass is blossoming, too, on the side of the knolls; no grass at all, save in popular name, but a tiny, graceful, white-flowered annual, that springs up, blooms, and sets its copious seed, and withers away, all within a fortnight, in a hurry to finish its narrow span of life before the taller weeds can rise around to choke and interrupt its petty cycle. terrupt its petty cycle. Dull? technical? uninteresting, say you? Why, his every touch upon the flowers he fingers is a loving caress, and the welling thrill of young love informs his whole life among his chosen favorites.
But what a sultan he is, to be sure, too; with endless slaves forever springing fresh and fair from earth, and all to please and sate his curious taste, as John Milton excellently phrases it. As soon as the fritillaries are gone from the water-meadows-the chequered fritillaries, dappled with lurid purple and white-his orchids rise thick in the pastures beyond: first the green-winged with the helmet-shaped hood; then the flesh-colored male orchid with the spreading wings; and after those, the common spotted dead-men's-fingers, whose very name, instinct with oldworld poetry, recalls vague touches of Shakespeare's white-souled heroines. The orchids alone, indeed, one after the other, like the seven sisters of the Eastern tale, woo our sultan in turn uninterruptedly from spring to autumn with
ever-varying charms. In June, the great white scented butterfly-orchid hangs out its long and slender spikes of delicate blossom, like some dainty exotic, for his caressing hand. In July, the close-cropped front of Box Hill bursts into masses of the fragrant pink species, with deep spurs filled to the brink with brimming nectar, which no insect save certain special butterflies can drain to the bottom for want of a sufficiently long and thin proboscis. August brings the purple-green epipactis, and September takes up the tale at last with the curling lady's-tresses, a wonderful church-tower staircase of winding little blossoms, scented like almonds, and twisted corkscrew fashion in a marvellous spiral. I say nothing of the white helleborine, that springs spontaneous among the fallen larch-needles on the slopes of Denbies; nothing of the strangely long-lipped tway-blade, whose twin pollen masses an enamoured beetle carries about as go-between, gummed tightly by their viscid bases to his mailed forehead, from spike to spike of the uncanny yellowish blossoms; nothing of the man-orchid, in whose ragged form imagination sees the arms and legs and body of a human figure; nothing of the bee-orchid, or the spider, or the fly, which veritably mimic, for their own strange but sufficient reasons, the minutest details of their name-sake insects. Why, the English members of that one Protean and polymorphous family alone might entertain our sultan for a whole long summer with their ever-varying and successive charms. Even if, like the husband of the immortal Scheherazade, he demanded a fresh favorite every day of his life, the British orchids would beguile his leisure for thirty-six separate mornings.
Indeed, the world is almost too full of flowers and fruit for him. Even perpetual change must pall at last. If toujours perdrix is in its way a trifle tedious, yet a constant ringing of changes upon grouse, and pheasants, and ptarmigan, and capercailzie would surely make things very little better. At such moments of satiety, the Eastern despot must sometimes envy that cottage in Britain that Caractacus bragged about, and the one constant love whom a man might watch and know and read in
stinctively in every varying mood and fancy. This joy, too, the botanist can share; for who, like him, can observe in all its passing phases the entire lifehistory of every pet plant in his own small garden? They are gathered there from every spot he has visited with delight in summer holidays. This alpine lady's-mantle, with the silvery sheen upon the leaves below, he dug up by the root beside the tumbling Giesbach it has blossomed thrice in English peatmould, and almost seems, like a dog or a bird, to know the hand that gently strokes it. These tall Canadian lilies spring from bulbs that Montmorenci moistened with its milk-white spray : they could stand beneath their protective covering of snow the northern winter, but an English March nips them to the ground, and it is with difficulty that he tides their too precocious shoots across the dangerous gulf of a mild April. This Pyrenean erinus in the craggy rock work raised its lilac trusses first on the bare walls of the Cirque de Gavarnie it was a tiny shoot when he first planted it in its rough bed of Surrey ironstone: but it has spread amain by suckers over the neighboring stones, and seedlings from its capsules have grown and thriven to three-year-old tufts of feathery blossom. This Himalayan strawberry, with its cinquefoil-flowers and its tasteless fruit, came to him first, dried in a letter, as a mere unnamed specimen for identification: he detected the green sap still alive in its veins, nursed it tenderly in the hospital bed at the sunny southern nook of the garden, and saw it send forth in due time right lusty runners, to colonize the shady spots beneath the laurustinus scrub and the clump of Virginian rhododendrons. Plants such as these are as dear to their owner as a dog or a canary to most other people they have individuality and personality of their own: they seem even to recognize and return his love, when they send up their scapes of blushing flowers for his approbation.
But best of all he loves the June meadows, where every plant, not caged and cabined, bends freely before the free west wind, and drinks in food from each fresh breeze that kisses it. June for him is high carnival tide! The fields then laugh at him from a thousand
faces. The dog-rose then clambers at its own sweet will with lithe sprays over the joyous hedgerows. The waterside is purple with centaury and willowherb. The birds-foot trefoil yellows the pastures. The foxglove turns toward the summer sun its serried rows of big purple thimbles. He pulls them off wantonly for very love, and pops their inflated bells like paper wind bags between his dallying thumb and finger. The four stamens, arranged in even pairs, show whitey-yellow against the spotted roof within, their pollen-bags just shedding the white meal to dust the head of the bumble-bee who now, alas! will never visit them. In the cornfields hard by, the bloom is on the wheat: the wind shakes out the pollen from the quivering sacks: he sees them hanging tremulous in the breeze he sees the feathery stigmas catch the precious dust: and he knows in his heart that the quickened grain is now fairly kerning. Rust-spots show ominous on the barberry-bush in the hedge-a bad sign, for the next stage in the life-cycle of that strangely locomotive and vagrant fungus assumes the form of smut in wheat. If the farmer were well advised, now, he would grub up the barberries: but the farmer, of course, is a practical man, and shares the practical man's common contempt for mere theorists. The barberries have always grown there, he would say; and they shall grow there still-and the smut with them. Our optimist shrugs his shoulders imperceptibly a trick he must have caught from reading De Candolle :-so much the better, he thinks, for the microscopic botanist! The smut fungus is such a pretty object for a low power! A wild valerian blooms beside the ditch. Its feathery calyx, that crowns the seed-like fruit, is just beginning slowly to unroll and form a parachute to waft the seed to some new dwelling-place. Rotation of crops was first invented by Mother Nature. For that end, she wings her seeds with airy gossamer, and coats her stone-fruit in pulpy coverings. He pulls out his platyscopic lens from his pocket-spotted tortoise-shell, a gift from the maker -and proceeds to examine with curious interest the tiny barbs of those plumelike parachutes.
To him, thus engaged in happy un
consciousness, lens at eye and fruit in focus, enter a stout middle-aged gentleman, addicted to stockbroking, and a sentimental young lady of uncertain years, addicted to novels. Our optimist, recognizing at once the guests at the great house where he dined last evening, starts, blushes, and raises his hat; for has he not been caught flagrante delicto, like a naughty schoolboy, in the very act and fact of botanizing? The stockbroking gentleman smiles and nods, and waving his fat unimpressive hand over the country side (as though he had made it), remarks with cheerfulness that it is a fine day, that the view from here is extremely beautiful, and that the summer flowers are really charming. The sentimental young lady pulls the petals of a dog-rose cruelly to pieces before his outraged eyes, and echoes the statement that the sweetbriers and scabiouses are quite too lovely. Our optimist, at peace with all the world, answers with heart unfeigned that the view is in short exactly as described, and that the handiwork of nature is indeed exquisite. A stare from the stockbroking gentleman cuts him short and the sentimental young lady, still massacring the dog-roses, replies archly, "Ah, but you know you don't care for them as we do. don't love them for their own gracefulness and beauty. You go in for nothing but filaments and anthers. You see, Mr. Optimist, you only take a botanical interest in roses and lilies.''
The wiser botanist holds his peace and answers nothing. He knows in his heart how dear to him are the common red robins that hang out of the hedgerows how gladly he recognizes their crinkled seeds upon the damp soil in early autumn; how instantly he perceives their stout spring seedlings, raised in April high above the grasses; how well he remembers from season to season the very day and hour and minute of their wonted blossoming. He knows what friendship subsists between him and the milk-white stitchworts; what sympathy he wastes upon the dandelions and daisies; what unsuspected depths of hidden beauty he finds in the veriest pests and plagues of the cornfield. it is, and none other, who has observed the dainty lemon-colored heads of the