“There is madness
about thee, and joy divine
In that song of thine.”
One severe winter an immense flock of golden plovers haunted my land and neighbouring farms for some weeks, but they were exceedingly shy, and being perfect strangers, they were difficult to identify, until I brought one down by a very long shot, and we could see what a beautiful bird it was. We could always tell when really severe winter weather was coming, by the flocks of wild geese that passed overhead in V-shaped formation. They were said to be leaving the mouth of the Humber and the East Coast for the warmer shores of the Bristol Channel, evidently quite aware that the latter, within the influence of the Gulf Stream, were more desirable as winter-quarters. Evesham is in the direct line between the two places, and we often heard them calling at night as they passed. In the early spring when the severe weather was-over they returned by the same route.
“The heart is
hard in nature and unfit
For human fellowship, as being void
Of sympathy, and therefore dead alike
To love and friendship both, that is not pleased
With sight of animals enjoying life,
Nor feels their happiness augment his own.”
There are many stories of the affection of the domestic goose for man, and I knew of one which was very fond of a friend of mine. The goose followed him like a dog, and would come with him on to the lawn where we were playing tennis, and sitting close beside him on a garden seat with great dignity would apparently watch the game with interest. My friend was fond of unusual pets; he had a tame hedgehog, for whom he made a most comfortable house with living-room downstairs and sleeping apartment on the first floor. His pet’s name was Jacob, suggested I think by the ladder which night and morning he used for ascending to or descending from his bedroom. Hedgehogs have a bad character as robbers of partridges’ nests, and in our old parish accounts, under the name of “urchins,” we find entries of payments for their destruction at the rate of 4d. apiece.
My younger daughter had a tame duck, Susie by name, who gravely waddled behind her round the garden. In summer at tea-time Susie would much enjoy the company under the wych-elm on the lawn, and took her “dish of tea” out of the saucer in the antique and orthodox manner. Another amusing pet was a jackdaw who had an outdoor residence, though often allowed to be loose. He acquired an exact imitation of my old gardener’s chronic cough, and enjoyed the exhibition of his achievement when the old man was working near the cage, somewhat to the man’s annoyance. He was full of mischief, and was not allowed in the house; but he once got in at my study window, picked out every sheet of notepaper from my stationery case, and scattered them in all directions.