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"Ay, scores of them," replied Michael, resuming his employment; for though a labouring man in the country has something else to do than to stand still, gazing up at the heavens, yet in returning home, after unyoking the oxen, or turning off the team, or quitting the hay-field, or bringing home the loaded wagon from the corn-field, or when working in the garden, I have often seen the sky streaked in that manner. Before now, I have fancied that the angels above had done it, on purpose to draw the thoughts of mankind upwards, that they might think more ardently of heaven and holy things; for true it is, that 'the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy-work,' Psa. xix. 1.
Child of the earth! oh! lift thy glance
I have seen glorious skies in my time, especially at sunrise and sunset, or just before a storm, in summer or autumn; but it would be useless to try to describe them. The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein,' Psa. cxi. 2.
"I wish you would tell me," said Maurice, "all that you have seen in the country, from the
beginning to the end of the year; and I think you might, for it would not hinder you in your work. If you will begin, I will get my little spade, and help you to dig the while. Do, Michael, there is a good man, for that mackerel sky has put me just in the humour for it."
Michael never stood in need of persuasion to give pleasure to any one, when he thought that he could at the same time make it profitable to him ; he therefore readily fell in with the proposal of young Maurice, so far as to enter on a short description of such things as were to be seen in the different months of the year, by one living in the country. Maurice ran for his spade, and in five minutes they were both very industriously at work, entering at the same time on the following conversation, in which old Michael took the lead.
"The first month in the year is not the most pleasant to spend in the country, but still there is always something stirring there, or something to be seen that is worth notice. At one time the trees and bushes are covered over with rime, appearing so beautiful, that the heart of him who looks at them dances in his bosom. Every tree is hung with the finest net-work, and every bush is You feel that you
covered over with embroidery.
are in a world of God's own making, and that man has had nothing to do with it."
"Yes, I have seen the trees on a rimy morning, beautiful."
and they are very "Indeed they are; God hath made every thing beautiful in his time,' Eccles. iii. 11. The leaves of the red-berried holly seem edged with lace, and the slender, feathery, hanging branches of the birch, are enough to make us hold up both hands with amazement at their beauty. At another time, the trees and the ground are covered with snow,
and the brooks and the ponds are frozen over. Often have they brought to my mind the words of the psalmist, He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoar frost like ashes. He casteth forth
his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?" Psa. cxlvii. 16, 17.
"Ay, there is rare sliding then, I will be bound for it; but the worst of it is, no work can be done.'
"You are quite wrong in that opinion, for there is always something to be done in the country. When it is very frosty, the labouring men set to work with the teams to carry out manure, and spread it on the ground, while others put on their mittens, and go abroad with their bill-hooks to mend the hedges, or thresh out wheat for flour, or barley to make malt with. They take care, also, to break the edges of some of the ponds, that the cattle and horses may be able to get at the water. But if the weather be not frosty, they
are otherwise employed."
"What do they do then?"
Many things; they plough up their fallows and beans, and dress the meadows, levelling and spreading all the ant-hills and mole-hills they can find. Then they clean out the ditches and watercourses, and repair the banks, and attend to twenty other sorts of farm-work. The cowherd sees to the cattle, and the shepherd to the sheep."
Country people must be very hardy, or they would never stand the cold weather."
"They are brought up to it, and the back is suited to the burden. We should be but badly off without them. The poet says,
'Princes and lords may flourish or may fade;
"There are no birds to sing in the winter, and no flowers springing up in the fields and coppices."
"Oh, yes! There are both the one and the other. Most of the birds that are to be seen in the country remain there through the winter, if they do not sing much; and though there are not many flowers, yet some are to be found."
"What flowers are there in January?"
"As I said before, not many; but if you were to look for them, you would find, either in the field or by the way-side, the red dead-nettle and the chickweed in bloom, to say nothing of the catkins of the hazel; and then there are the garden flowers, such as the white snowdrop, the yellow crocus, and the red Christmas rose!"
"I did not think there were so many."
"I have often heard the throstle and the blackbird sing in January. Flocks of larks fly in winter time to the warm stubble for shelter and food in the narrow lanes, too, the wren may