Often during this visit they would have games at “harking,” as they called it; for they said, “We may as well hear as much as we can, as our father and uncle and aunts did when they were children.” They would shut their eyes for some minutes, and then they would tell each other what they had heard. I can tell you their ears grew very sharp with all this practice; for, like other children, they had their quiet moods, when under the lofty forest trees or in the garden nooks they would listen, not for fun but for enjoyment.
TOM’S BIRDS’ EGGS.
“The goldfinch, and blackbird, and thrush,
Are brimful of music and glee;
They have each got a nest in some bush,
And the rook has built his on a tree.”
About a mile off, at the other end of the wood, was a village, which joined an old town so closely that they seemed to be only one place.
The old town was quiet now; but it had been a very busy place many years ago, in the old coach days. I cannot tell you how many coaches daily ran through it, or changed horses at the different inns, on their way from London to towns in distant parts of England.
Now the railway had stopped every coach, and in the valley, through these very woods, the trains rushed along, panting and puffing as if they were running a race with Time.
Fortunately, the trains ran through a tunnel at this spot, so the beauty of the woods was not disturbed.
There was a large green belonging to the village, on the edge of which lived the children’s aunt Lizzie, who had married a doctor. She had two children—Tom, who was eleven years old, and Katey, who was nine. They went to school daily in the adjoining town, so they were unable to see much of their cousins, excepting upon half-holidays, as it was now school time.
But you must not suppose that Jack and his sisters did nothing but play during this long visit. As soon as they had settled down, grandmamma engaged a young lady to come to teach them for about two hours every morning. Woodside was too far from the town for the children to go to school with their cousins. When they were at home they went to a kindergarten school, where they learned in the wisest and pleasantest fashion.
[Illustration: TOM SHOWING THE REDBREAST’S EGGS. Page 29.]
The children always looked forward to the half-holidays, when they either went up to their cousins’ home, or Tom and Katey came down to them.
One Saturday afternoon, when they went to the green, Tom showed them his collection of birds’ eggs. He kept them in shallow boxes full of bran, so that they should not get broken, for he was very careful over them.
Tom’s mother told him never to take more than one egg from each nest, unless there were a great many, as there are in wrens’ nests, so that the mother bird might not grieve.