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Kensington, it is stated that the visitors to the Museum have fallen from an average of twenty-five hundred a day to one thousand; the inference is, that out of every twenty-five, fifteen came to see the natural history cases. Indeed, it is difficult to find a person who does not take an interest in some department of natural history, and yet I scarcely ever meet any one in the fields. You may meet many in the autumn far away in places famous for scenery, but almost none in the meadows at home.
I stayed by a large pond to look at the shadows of the trees on the green surface of duckweed. The soft green of the smooth weed received the shadows as if specially prepared to show them to advantage. The more the tree was divided-the more interlaced its branches and less laden with foliage, the more it "came out" on the green surface; each slender twig was reproduced, and sometimes even the leaves. From an oak, and from a lime, leaves had fallen, and remained on the green weed; the flags by the shore were turning brown; a tint of yellow was creeping up the rushes, and the great trunk of a fir shone reddish brown in the sunlight. There was colour even about the still pool, where the weeds grew so thickly that the moorhens could scarcely swim through them.
A GOOD road is recognized as the groundwork of civilization. So long as there is a firm and artificial track under his feet the traveller may be said to be in contact with city and town, no matter how far they may be distant. A yard or two outside the railway in America the primeval forest or prairie often remains untouched, and much in the same way, though in a less striking degree at first sight, some of our own highways winding through Down districts are bounded by undisturbed soil. Such a road wears for itself a hollow, and the bank at the top is fringed with long rough grass hanging over the crumbling chalk. Broad discs of greater knapweed with stalks like wire, and yellow toad-flax with spotted lip grow among it. Grasping this tough grass as a handle to climb up by, the explorer finds a rising slope of sward, and having walked over the first ridge, shutting off the road behind him, is at once out of civilization. There is no noise. Wherever there are men there is a hum, even in the harvest-field; and in the road below, though lonely, there is sometimes the sharp clatter of hoofs or the grating of wheels on flints. But here the long, long slopes, the
endless ridges, the gaps between, hazy and indistinct, are absolutely without noise. In the sunny autumn day the peace of the sky overhead is reflected in the silent earth. Looking out over the steep hills, the first impression is of an immense void like the sea; but there are sounds in detail, the twitter of passing swallows, the restless buzz of bees at the thyme, the rush of the air beaten by a ringdove's wings. These only increase the sense of silent peace, for in themselves they soothe; and how minute the bee beside this hill, and the dove to the breadth of the sky! A white speck of thistledown comes upon a current too light to swing a harebell or be felt by the cheek. The furze-bushes are lined with thistledown, blown there by a breeze now still; it is glossy in the sunbeams, and the yellow hawkweeds cluster beneath. The sweet, clear air, though motionless at this height, cools the rays; but the sun seems to pause and neither to rise higher nor decline. It is the space open to the eye which apparently arrests his movement. There is no noise, and there are no men.
Glance along the slope, up the ridge, across to the next, endeavour to penetrate the hazy gap, but no one is visible. In reality it is not quite so vacant; there may, perhaps, be four or five men between this spot and the gap, which would be a pass if the Downs were high enough. One is not far distant; he is digging flints over the ridge, and, perhaps, at this moment rubbing the earth from a corroded Roman coin which he has found in the pit. Another is thatching, for there are three detached wheat-ricks round a spur of the Down a mile away, where the
plain is arable, and there, too, a plough is at work. A shepherd is asleep on his back behind the furzę a mile in the other direction. The fifth is a lad trudging with a message; he is in the nut-copse, over the next hill, very happy. By walking a mile the explorer may, perhaps, sight one of these, if they have not moved by then and disappeared in another hollow. And when you have walked the mileknowing the distance by the time occupied in traversing it—if you look back you will sigh at the hopelessness of getting over the hills. The mile is such a little way, only just along one slope and down into the narrow valley strewn with flints and small boulders. If that is a mile, it must be another up to the white chalk quarry yonder, another to the copse on the ridge; and how far is the hazy horizon where the ridges crowd on and hide each other? Like rowing at sea, you row and row and row, and seem where you started-waves in front and waves behind; so you may walk and walk and walk, and still there is the intrenchment on the summit, at the foot of which, well in sight, you were resting some hours ago.
Rest again by the furze, and some goldfinches come calling shrilly and feasting undisturbed upon the seeds of thistles and other plants. The birdcatcher does not venture so far; he would if there was a rail near; but he is a lazy fellow, fortunately, and likes not the weight of his own nets. When the stubbles are ploughed there will be troops of finches and linnets up here, leaving the hedgerows of the valley almost deserted. Shortly the fieldfares
will come, but not generally till the redwings have appeared below in the valleys; while the fieldfares go upon the hills, the green plovers, as autumn comes on, gather in flocks and go down to the plains. Hawks regularly beat along the furze, darting on a finch now and then, and owls pass by at night. Nightjars, too, are down-land birds, staying in woods or fern by day, and swooping on the moths which flutter about the furze in the evening. Crows are too common, and work on late into the shadows. times, in getting over the low hedges which divide the uncultivated sward from the ploughed lands, you almost step on a crow, and it is difficult to guess what he can have been about so earnestly, for search reveals nothing-no dead lamb, hare, or carrion, or anything else is visible. Rooks, of course, are seen, and larks, and once or twice in a morning a magpie, seldom seen in the cultivated and preserved valley. There are more partridges than rigid game preservers would deem possible where the overlooking, if done at all, is done so carelessly. Partridges will never cease out of the land while there are untouched downs. Of all southern inland game, they afford the finest sport; for sport in its genuine sense cannot be had without labour, and those who would get partridges on the hills must work for them. Shot down, coursed, poached, killed before maturity in the corn, still hares are fairly plentiful, and couch in the furze and coarse grasses. Rabbits have much decreased; still there are some. But the larger fir copses, when they are enclosed, are the resort of all kinds of birds of prey yet left in the south, and,