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perfection-lightness, handiness, workmanship, and performance of the very best. It is said that you can change from a single-barrel shot-gun to a sporting rifle and shoot with the rifle almost at once; while many who have been used to the slap-dash double cannot do anything for some time with a rifle. More than one African explorer has found his single-barrel smooth-bore the most useful of all the pieces in his battery; though, of course, of much larger calibre than required in our fields.


It is never so much winter in the country as it is in the town. The trees are still there, and in and about them birds remain. "Quip! whip!" sounds from the elms; "Whip! quip!" Redwing thrushes threaten with the "whip" those who advance towards them; they spend much of the day in the elm-tops. Thick tussocks of old grass are conspicuous at the skirt of a hedge; half green, half grey, they contrast with the bare thorn. From behind one of these tussocks a hare starts, his black-tipped ears erect, his long hinder limbs throwing him almost like a grasshopper over the sward-no creature looks so handsome or startling, and it is always a pleasant surprise to see him. Pheasant or partridge do not surprise in the least they are no more than any other bird; but a hare causes quite a different feeling. He is perfectly wild, unfed, untended, and then he is the largest animal to be shot in the fields. A rabbit slips along the mound, under bushes and behind stoles, but a hare bolts for the open, and hopes in his speed. He leaves the straining spaniel behind, and the distance between them increases as they go. The spaniel's broad hind paws are thrown wide apart as he runs, striking outwards as well as backwards,

and his large ears are lifted by the wind of his progress. Overtaken by the cartridge, still the hare, as he lies in the dewy grass, is handsome; lift him up and his fur is full of colour, there are layers of tint, shadings of brown within it, one under the other, and the surface is exquisitely clean. The colours are not really bright, at least not separately; but they are so clean and so clear that they give an impression of warmth and brightness. Even in the excitement of sport regret cannot but be felt at the sight of those few drops of blood about the mouth which indicate that all this beautiful workmanship must now cease to be. Had he escaped the sportsman would not have been displeased.

The black bud-sheaths of the ash may furnish a comparison for his ear-tips; the brown brake in October might give one hue for his fur; the yellow or buff bryony leaf perhaps another; the clematis is not whiter than the white part. His colours, as those of so many of our native wild creatures, appear selected from the woods, as if they had been gathered and skilfully mingled together. They can be traced or paralleled in the trees, the bushes, grasses, or flowers, as if extracted from them by a secret alchemy. In the plumage of the partridge there are tints that may be compared with the brown corn, the brown ripe grains rubbed from the ear; it is in the corn-fields that the partridge delights. There the young brood are sheltered, there they feed and grow plump. The red tips of other feathers are reflections of the red sorrel of the meadows. The grey fur of the rabbit resembles the grey ash hue of the underwood in which he hides.


A common plant in moist places, the figwort, bears small velvety flowers, much the colour of the red velvet topknot of the goldfinch, the yellow on whose wings is like the yellow bloom of the furze which he frequents in the winter, perching cleverly on its prickly extremities. In the woods, in the bark of the trees, the varied shades of the branches as their size diminishes, the adhering lichens, the stems of the underwood, now grey, now green; the dry stalks of plants, brown, white, or dark, all the innumerable minor hues that cross and interlace, there is suggested the woven texture of tints found on the wings of birds. For brighter tones the autumn leaves can be resorted to, and in summer the finches rising from the grass spring upwards from among flowers that could supply them with all their colours. But it is not so much the brighter as the undertones that seem to have been drawn from the woodlands or fields. Although no such influence has really been exerted by the trees and plants upon the living creatures, yet it is pleasant to trace the analogy. Those who would convert it into a scientific fact are met with a dilemma to which they are usually oblivious, i.e. that most birds migrate, and the very tints which in this country might perhaps, by a stretch of argument, be supposed to conceal them, in a distant climate with a different foliage, or none, would render them conspicuous. Yet it is these analogies and imaginative comparisons which make the country so delightful.

One day in autumn, after toiling with their guns, which are heavy in the September heats, across the

fields and over the hills, the hospitable owner of the place suddenly asked his weary and thirsty friend which he would have, champagne, ale, or spirits. They were just then in the midst of a cover, the trees kept off the wind, the afternoon sun was warm, and thirst very natural. They had not been shooting in the cover, but had to pass through to other cornfields. It seemed a sorry jest to ask which would be preferred in that lonely and deserted spot, miles from home or any house whence refreshment could be obtained-wine, spirits, or ale ?-an absurd question, and irritating under the circumstances. As it was repeated persistently, however, the reply was at length given, in no very good humour, and wine chosen. Forthwith putting down his gun, the interrogator pushed in among the underwood, and from a cavity concealed beneath some bushes drew forth a bottle of champagne. He had several of these stores hidden in various parts of the domain, ready whichever way the chance of sport should direct their footsteps.

Now the dry wild parsnip, or "gicks," five feet high, stands dead and dry, its jointed tube of dark stem surmounted with circular frills or umbels; the teazle heads are brown, the great burdocks leafless, and their burs, still adhering, are withered; the ground, almost free of obstruction, is comparatively easy to search over, but the old sportsman is too cunning to bury his wine twice in the same place, and it is no use to look about. No birds in last year's nests-the winds have torn and upset the mossy structures in the bushes; no champagne in last year's cover. The driest place is under the firs,

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