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remained to be harvested-the hops.
Beautiful are the hop-plantations in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and Worcestershire. This year they were remarkably fine and free from blight.
"O do come with us to the hop-ground, Mamma," said Emily; "we are going to choose some beautiful branches to send the Beresfords. Charles
Neville is going to his uncle's to-morrow, and he says he will take a basketful if we wish it."
Willingly did Mrs. Leslie join in selecting the
hop-wreaths for Maria and Adelaide.
difficult to keep within due bounds, when they began to gather for such a purpose. just this one branch," said George. said Harry; "it is the finest I have gathered." "No more, no more," said Mrs. Leslie; "we have quite enough." "Just this little branch, please Mamma," pleaded Emily. “It has a king-hop* it, and Maria said she had never seen a king-hop."
"Now, my children, this really must be the last. We will leave the hop-ground, and get out of the way of temptation.'
"See, Mamma, what a lovely branch this is. I shall put a ticket on it, 'A wreath for Adelaide.' You know, Mamma, she always liked to have some pretty flower twisted round her hat."
The gifts from the hop-ground were joyfully received by the Beresfords. They were worn in the hair, round hats and bonnets, and hung round the picture-frames in the library.
It was not in the vegetable world alone that the signs of the advancing season were to be seen. The birds were sensible of it. In the book of Jeremiah it is written, "The stork in the heaven
By a king-hop is meant a hop blossom with a few small green leaves, growing out of the centre of the flower, and sometimes at its points; as this peculiarity usually occurs with a luxuriant blossom, the effect is a very handsome hop. It is admired, therefore, both for its beauty and its rarity; some years scarcely any are seen.
knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming." All these were migrating birds in the time of the prophet, and such they are still.
It is in this month that many birds prepare for flight. The cuckoo, the quail, the turtle-dove, the black-caps and the reed-sparrows, were already gone. The swallows and martins had begun to assemble, as if to consult about plans for their departure. The starlings, after living in pairs all the summer, were assembling in large flocks, according to their autumnal habits. They always dwell together in large companies all through the autumn and winter months.
Mr. Leslie began to doubt the fitness of giving these birds the protection he had hitherto afforded them. They multiply so rapidly, that a small number of starlings will become a large colony in the course of a few years. At this time, they had increased so much, as to render their presence near the preserves a great inconvenience. When the roosting-place of these birds is frequented by large numbers of them, it becomes so offensive that the game avoid the spot. Mr. Leslie had so much pleasure in watching their wheeling flight, when they assembled in the autumn evenings and winter afternoons, that hitherto he had not allowed them to be shot. At length, he came home one day, exclaiming, "Really these starlings are beyond all bearing. Much as I like to see them hovering
over the plantations, I am now convinced that they so infect the air, that their increase must be stopped. I have just given orders that anybody shall be at liberty to shoot starlings." Young Elliot, who was present, observed that the owner of Shirehampton Park found it necessary to give a similar order last year. In those noble plantations the starlings had so increased as to become a great nuisance. The air for a considerable distance round their roosting place was infected with the offensive odour arising from it. "I never saw such numbers as in that place," he added; "many people go constantly on the hill which commands a view of the plantations, to watch the assembling of the starlings. They come up in large numbers from every quarter, flock after flock, darkening the air as they fly. You know how, after settling a little while, they rise again in companies, and fly round in whirls, sweeping the sky in a way peculiar to themselves. I was there a few weeks after the permission to shoot them had been given, and no doubt many a starling had been brought down and placed within the crust of pie or pudding. There was, however, no observable difference in their numbers. The birds were still to be seen by thousands, crossing and re-crossing each other, and at last sinking down like a descending cloud on the plantations, to remain till morning.
"That sudden descent of the starlings to their roosting-place is something very surprising, when
you first witness it," said Charles.
"All the sky
seems full of them; and then in one instant they disappear altogether."
"Yes," said Bruce; "does it not remind you of Roderic Dhu?—
"Short space he stood-then waved his hand;
Each warrior vanish'd where he stood
It seem'd as if their mother earth
On bracken green, and cold grey stone."
"Well, Papa, you have not so many starlings as that gentleman yet," said George.
"No, my dear boy; nor do I intend ever to have so many. I wish to give them a quiet home; but I see they must be kept within bounds.”
Have you ever made acquaintance with a starling that has learned to talk, George?" asked Clara Elliot.
George had heard of talking starlings, but never seen one. He supposed they were not the same bird as those in the plantations.