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oth-ers of all col-ours, of which I will beg you pres-ent-ly to tell me the names.
Tutor. That I will, read-i-ly.
William. There was a flock of lap-wings up-on a marsh-y part of the heath, that a-mused me much. As I came near them, some of them kept fly-ing round and round just o-ver my head, and cry-ing pe-wit so distinctly, one might al-most fan-cy they spoke. I thought I should have caught one of them, for he flew as if one of his wings was bro-ken, and oft-en tum-bled close to the ground; but as I came near he al-ways con-trived to get a-way.
Tutor. Ha, ha! you were fine-ly ta-ken in then. This was all an ar-ti-fice of the bird's to en-tice you a-way from its nest; for they build up-on the bare ground, and their nests would eas-i-ly be ob-served, did they not draw off the at-ten-tion of in-tru-ders, by their loud cries, and coun-ter-feit lame-ness.
William. I wish I had known that, for he led me a long chase, oft-en o-ver shoes in wa-ter. How-ev-er, it was the cause of my fal-ling in with an old man and a boy who were cut-ting and pi-ling up turf for fu-el; and I had a good deal of talk with them, a-bout the man-ner of pre-par-ing the turf, and the price it sells at. They gave me, too, a crea-ture I nev-er saw be-fore—a young vi-per, which they had just killed, to-geth-er with its dam. I have seen sev-er-al com-mon snakes, but this is thick-er in pro-por-tion, and of a dark-er col-our than they are.
Tutor. True; vi-pers fre-quent those turf-y, bog-gy grounds pret-ty much, and I have known sev-er-al turfcut-ters bit-ten by them.
William. They are ver-y ven-o-mous, are they not?
Tutor. E-nough so to make their wounds pain-ful and dan-ger-ous, though they sel-doin prove fa-tal.
William. Well. I then took my course up to the wind-mill on the mount. I climbed up the steps of the mill, in or-der to get a bet-ter view of the coun-try round. What an ex-ten-sive pros-pect! I'll tell you what I mean to do, if you will give me leave. Tutor. What is that?
William. I will go a-gain, and take with me a coun-ty map, by which I shall prob-a-bly be a-ble to make out most of the pla-ces.
Tutor. You shall have it; and I will go with you, and take my pock-et spy-ing glass.
William. From the hill I went straight down to the mead-ows be-low, and walked on the side of a brook that runs in-to the riv-er. It was all bor-dered with reeds and flags, and tall flower-ing plants, quite differ-ent from those I had seen on the heath. As I was get-ting down the bank to reach one of them, I heard some-thing plunge in-to the wa-ter near me. It was a large wa-ter rat, and I saw it swim o-ver to the oth-er side, and go in-to its hole. There were a great man-y drag-on flies all a-bout the stream. I caught one of the fi-nest, and have got him here in a leaf. But how I longed to catch a bird that I saw ho-ver-ing o-ver the wa-ter, and ev-er-y now and then dart-ing down in-to it! It was all o-ver a mix-ture of the most beau-ti-ful green and blue, with some orange col-our. It was somewhat less than a thrush, and had a large head and bill, and a short tail.
Tutor. I can tell you what that bird was—a kingfish-er; the cel-e-bra-ted hal-cy-on of the an-cients, a-bout which so man-y tales are told. It lives on fish, which it
catch-es in the man-ner you saw. It builds in holes in the bank; and is a shy, re-tired bird, never to be seen far from the stream which it in-hab-its.
William. I must try to get an-oth-er sight of him, for I nev-er saw a bird that pleased me so much. Well, I fol-lowed this lit-tle brook till it en-tered the riv-er, and then took the path that runs a-long the bank. On the op-pos-ite side I ob-served sev-er-al lit-tle birds running a-long the shore, and ma-king a pi-ping noise. They were brown and white, and a-bout as big as a snipe.
Tutor. I sup-pose they were sand-pi-pers, one of the nu-mer-ous fam-i-ly of birds that get their liv-ing by wa-ding a-mong the shal-lows, and pick-ing up worms and in-sects.
William. There were a great man-y swal-lows, too, sport-ing up-on the sur-face of the wa-ter, that en-tertained me with their mo-tions. Some-times they dashed in-to the stream; some-times they pur-sued one an-oth-er so quick-ly that the eye could scarce-ly fol-low them. In one place, where a high steep sand-bank rose di-rect-ly a-bove the river, I ob-served man-y of them go in and out of holes with which the bank was bored full.
Tutor. Those were sand-mar-tins, the small-est of our four spec-ies of swal-lows. They are of a mouse col-our a-bove and white be-neath. They make their nests and bring up their young in these holes, which run a great depth, and by their sit-u-a-tion are se-cure from all plun-der-ers.
William. Af-ter I had left the mead-ows, I crossed the corn-fields in the way to our house, and passed close by a deep marl-pit. Look-ing in-to it, I saw in one of the sides, a clus-ter of what I took to be shells; and
up-on go-ing down, I picked up a clod of marl which was quite full of them; but how sea-shells could get there I can not i-mag-ine.
Tutor. I do not won-der at your sur-prise, since man-y phil-os-o-phers have been much per-plexed to ac-count for the same ap-pear-ance. It is not un-common to find great quan-ti-ties of shells and rel-ics of ma-rine an-i-mals e-ven in the bow-els of high mountains ver-y re-mote from the sea.
William. I got to the high field next our house just as the sun was set-ting; and I stood look-ing at it till it was quite lost. What a glo-ri-ous sight! 'The clouds were tinged with pur-ple, and crim-son, and yellow of all shades and hues, and the clear sky va-ried from bluo to a fine green at the ho-ri-zon. But how large the sun ap-pears just as it sets! I think it seems twice as big as when it is o-ver head.
Tutor. It does so; and you may prob-a-bly have ob-served the same ap-pa-rent en-large-ment of the moon at ri-sing. William. I have; but praywhat is the rea-son for this?
Tutor. It is an op-ti-cal de-cep-tion, de-pend-ing up-on prin-ci-ples which I can-not well ex-plain to you, till you know more of that branch of sci-ence; but what a num-ber of new i-deas this af-ter-noon's walk has af-ford-ed you! I do not won-der that you found it a-mu-sing; it has been ver-y in-struct-ive too. Did you see noth-ing of these sights, Rob-ert ?
Robert. I saw some of them; but I did not take partic-u-lar no-tice of them.
Tutor. Why not?
Robert. I do not know. I did not care a-bout them; and I made the best of my way home.
Tutor. That would have been right, if you had been sent on a mes-sage; but as you on-ly walked for a-musement, it would have been wi-ser to have sought out as man-y sour-ces of it as pos-si-ble. But so it is; one man walks through the world with his eyes o-pen, and an-oth-er with them shut; and up-on this dif-fer-ence de-pends all the su-pe-ri-or-i-ty of know-ledge the one ac-quires a-bove the oth-er. I have known sail-ors who had been in all quar-ters of the world, and could tell you noth-ing but the signs of the tip-pling-hou-ses they fre-quent-ed in the dif-fer-ent ports, and the price and qual-i-ty of the li-quor. On the oth-er hand, a Frank-lin could not cross the Chan-nel with-out ma-king some ob-ser-va-tions use-ful to man-kind. While man-y a va-cant, thought-less youth is whirled through Eu-rope with-out gain-ing a sin-gle i-dea worth cross-ing a street for; the ob-serv-ing eye and in-qui-ring mind find mat-ter of im-prove-ment and de-light in ev-er-y ram-ble in town or co un-try. Do you, then, Wil-li-am, con-tin-ue to make use of your eyes; and you, Rob-ert, learn that eyes were giv-en you to use.—Br. Aikin.
LESSON XCTII. THE FROST.
The frost looked out one still clear night,
In si-lence I'll take my way.
But I'll be as busy as they."