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to feel your feet on the turf, with the sweet
fresh air blowing round you, and that soft
silence, broken only by the pipe of bird or hum
of insect, which is the greatest of all rural
charms to an overworked Londoner. Wollops
was too far for the host of genius, as they
could not have got back at night, so we only
had our own friends and The Family. I am
happy to say that the croquet parties at Wollops
were the cause of marrying off my wife's two
younger sisters: one to a revising barrister, and
the other to a county court judge: while the
elder girls, who had been very uncivil about
what they called the "goings on" at Agatha
Villa, were so delighted with Wollops that they
forgave us off hand, and each came and stayed a
month. All this was during the summer weather;
the autumn of that year was as good as summer,
warm, clear, and sunny, and we were thoroughly
happy. But, one fatal morning in the middle of
November we got up and found winter had
arrived; the wind roared through the old house, and
moaned and shrieked in the long corridors; the
rain dashed against the badly fitting romantic
windows, and lodged in large pools on their
inner sills; the water-pipe along the house
was choked, overflowed, soaked through the old
red brick, which was just like sponge, and,
coming through the drawing-room wall, spoilt
my proof copy of Landseer's Titania. The big
bare trees outside, rattled and clashed their huge
arms, the gardeners removed everything from
the beds, the turf grew into rank grass, and the
storms from Harrow to Highgate were awful in
their intensity. Inside the house, the fires would
not light for some time, and then the chimneys
smoked awfully, and the big grates consumed
scuttles of coals and huge logs of wood without
giving out the smallest heat. The big hall
was like a well; after dark the children
were afraid to go about the passages; and the
servants came in a body and resigned, on account
of the damp of the stone kitchen. Gradually
the damp penetrated everywhere; lucifers would
not strike, a furry growth came upon the
looking-glass, the leather chairs all stuck to us
when we attempted to rise. My wife wanted
us to leave Wollops, but I was firmfor two
nights afterwards; then the rats, disturbed by
the rains from their usual holes, rushed into our
bedroom and danced wildly over us. The next
morning at six A.M. I despatched the gardener
to town, to bring out three cabs, and removed
my family in those vehicles to lodgings in
Cockspur-street, where I am at present.


THE violets, in bunches of purple,
Bloom sweet on the bosom of Spring;
The thrushes, up high on the larches,
Of summer, of summer-time sing.
The primroses light the green shadows
Of fir woods, odorous, dim;
And deep in the darkest of coverts
The nightingale chanteth his hymn.

That's at dusk; but I speak of the morning,
When sunbeams glance into the wood,
And lay in long passages, golden,
Like paths for the spirits of good.
The thrushes are singing in chorus,
The blackbird outwhistles them all;
Up there on the aspen he carols
The aspen so light and so tall.

The squirrels sport up in the beeches,
The bees on the furze-blossom sleep,
The lark o'er the green corn and clover,
The ricks and the close huddled sheep,
Soars, soars, and in ecstasy singing,
Bears upward his prayer unto Heaven:
He's the priest of the blue upper region,
Nor rests he a day in the seven.

'Tis a time full of hope and of promise,
This youth of the blossoming year,
All is pleasure on earth and in ether,
No clouding of sorrow nor fear.
There is love singing loud from the branches,
There is love in each wavering flower,
Yes, love in each blade of the barley,
That steals to the light every hour.


I FEEL now, at this cool and collected moment,
that for a whole week I have been going about,
with straws in my haira raving maniac. Here
are the straws lying before me in a tangled
wisp: a pewter medal, with an effigy in profile of
the Immortal Bard on one side, and a front
elevation view of his birthplace on the other; item,
a triple badge in Coventry ribbon with the
Bard's lineaments in floss silk, and woven
representations of natal spot, and church containing
dust; item, button with rosy-cheeked miniature
of the Bard in enamel; item, blue scarf with
full length Bard in an impossible but traditional
attitude, pointedly calling attention to a scroll
inscribed with a passage from his own works, of
which, I am led to infer, he was particularly

Now, considering that for six days I have
been rushing about in a frantic state of
excitement with all these straws in my hair, I
take it as highly generous on the part of my
relatives that they have abstained from procuring
ing the certificate of two qualified medical
practitioners, and locking me up in Bedlam. When
the mania seized upon me, I resolved to do two
things which the Bard himself, in his profound
philosophy, never could have dreamt of. I
resolved to assist at the planting of a tree in
London, and to be present at a display of fireworks
in Stratford-upon-Avon, on one and the
same day. I carried my resolve into execution.
I was on Primrose-hill at three o'clock, and I
was on the bridge at Stratford-upon-Avon at
nine. But I had entered upon my mad career
before this.

At the witching hour of the previous night,
when the last stroke of twelve ushered in the
natal day, I betook myself to a famous hostelrie
to sup in the Bard's honour, in the exclusive
company of the living illustrators of his works.
I will not attempt to conceal that I was drawn
thither, not altogether by reverence for the