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George, "you always think of such nice plans. for us."
The spades were brought out, and under such good direction, they began to prepare a bed; but before it was finished, the dinner-bell rang, and the young planters were obliged to leave their work.
The next day the acorns were planted, and they wished to sow a bed of radishes, but the gardener said they had better put it off a few days, till the ground was a little drier. He also recommended the same thing for Emily's ranunculus roots, which she had asked Mathews to plant, as her mamma did not allow her to begin gardening until later in the season.
Before the month ended, the thrush and the skylark were heard, and the rooks were busy among the tall elms. They seemed to be holding consultations as to the branches they should choose for building their nests upon. In the dove-cote there were already some young pigeons; and Emily's pretty white fan-tail was sitting on her delicate eggs. In the hedges the catkins of the hazel were seen hanging like long tassels, and in the gardens, the gooseberry bushes and currant-trees were beginning to unfold their buds. The gorse was in bloom on the heath, the never-failing daisy was becoming more and more abundant in the pastures, and here and there the lesser celandine spread its bright golden stars on the banks.
Mr. Leslie pointed out to the children one morning the little green buds of the yew, which a few
sunny days would expand into flowers, though not very gay ones; and then he told them of fine yewtrees he had seen in different parts of the country. The last remarkable one he had visited, he said, grew in a village near Winchester. It stands in the churchyard, and is preserved with great care. A board fastened to it contains a request that no kind of injury should be done to the tree-no boughs
broken off, nor names cut in the bark. a seat round it, and the spreading boughs form a thick canopy.
Some lover of yew-trees, years ago, had secured the safety of this tree by leaving a small sum, to be paid every year to some person for taking care of it.
"So," said Mr. Leslie, "the tree is endowed,
and I hope it will continue many years to adorn the village churchyard, and to secure to some poor man a little addition to his means of living."
Papa's history of the village yew-tree interested all the party, and they said they could fancy how carefully the guardian of the tree would watch to prevent its being injured. Emily hoped he would not forbid the poor blackbirds to peck the berries which she had often seen them picking from the yew hedge, as if they were considered dainties by them.
"I hope so too," said Mr. Leslie, “since the fruit agrees with the birds. In fact, the pulpy fruit is harmless, but the seeds are poisonous. Last summer, three little children belonging to a cottager's family were in great danger of losing their lives from eating yew-berries.
"In the garden of an uninhabited house near the cottage, there were some old yew-trees full of pink berries. The children asked a boy to shake some down for them, and they ate about half-a-pint between them. They soon felt ill, and one little thing tottered home, and fell senseless on the floor of the cottage. Presently, the other two children came in, and likewise fell senseless, to the great terror of the poor mother. The father was at hand, and there were kind neighbours to help them. The doctor came, and by the use of emetics and careful nursing the children recovered. If anything had prevented such timely attention, they would all have died, no doubt. So beware of yew-berries, my little Augusta, and do not mistake them for red currants."
In the evening, George remarked to Miss Elmer that they must add the yew flowering to their Table for February.
Scarcely for February, George; it is but in bud. It may possibly unfold, if the three remaining days of the month should be very mild and sunny; but it is safer to leave it for the March list."
"Well, then," said Harry, "I know one thing to put in,—the elder showing its leaves. I noticed it on the tree in the sunny corner of the orchard this morning."
Every one had some suggestion to make for the Tables; and George said, "Really, every month seems fuller of curious and beautiful things to notice. I think we shall never be able to set them all down."
"We must be content with a selection," replied his father; "and truly we have a good bill of fare already, for any one who has a healthy appetite for country pleasures, such as I hope my children will always have. I assure you, it almost makes me feel young again, to look over these tables of Natural History, especially for the spring months. Many pleasures which we value in our youth seem worthless when we grow older; but the pleasures arising from a study of Nature never lose their relish; and many can say that they have even more enjoyment in such subjects in advanced life, because they see in them more clearly the wisdom and goodness of Him by whose will they were created, to show forth his glory."