R. Oh, he is so tedious, always stopping to look at this thing and that! I had rather walk alone. I dare say he is not got home yet.
Mr. A. Here he comes. Well, William, where have you been?
W. Oh, sir, the pleasantest walk! I went all over Broom-heath, and so up to the mill at the top of the hill, and then down among the green meadows by the side of the river.
Mr. A. Why, that is just the round Robert has been taking, and he complains of its dullness, and prefers the highroad.
W. I wonder at that. I am sure I hardly took a step that did not delight me, and I have brought home my handkerchief full of curiosities.
Mr. A. Suppose, then, you give us some account of what amused you so much. I fancy it will be as new to Robert as to me.
W. I will, sir. The lane leading to the heath, you know, is close and sandy, so I did not mind it much, but made the best of my way. However, I spied a curious thing enough in the hedge. It was an old crab-tree, out of which grew a great bunch of something green, quite different from the tree itself. Here is a branch of it.
Mr. A. Ah! this is mistletoe, a plant of great fame for the use made of it by the Druids of old in their religious rites and incantations. It bears a very slimy white berry, of which birdlime may be made, whence its Latin name of Viscus. It is one of those plants which do not grow In the ground by a root of their own, but fix themselves upon other plants; whence they have been humorously styled parasitical, as being hangers-on, or dependents. It was the mistletoe of the oak that the Druids particularly honored.
W. A little farther on I saw a green woodpecker fly to a tree, and run up the trunk like a cat.
Mr. A. That was to seek for insects in the bark, on which they live. They bore holes with their strong bills for that purpose, and do much damage to the trees by it.
W. What beautiful birds they are!
Mr. A. Yes; they have been called, from their color and size, the English parrot.
W. When I got upon the open heath, how charming it was! The air seemed so fresh, and the prospect on every side so free and unbounded! Then it was all covered with gay flowers, many of which I had never observed before. There were at least three kinds of heath (I have got them In my handkerchief here), and gorse, and broom, and bellflower, and many others of all colors, that I will beg you presently to tell me the names of.
Mr. A. That I will readily.
W. I saw, too, several birds that were new to me. There was a pretty grayish one, of the size of a lark, that was hopping about some great stones; and when he flew he showed a great deal of white above his tail.
Mr. A. That was a wheatear. They are reckoned very delicious birds to eat, and frequent the open downs in Sussex, and some other countries, in great numbers.