« PreviousContinue »
voices, a myriad cries, debates, discussions. Though ignorant of their language, it was not difficult for us to perceive that they differed among themselves. It may be that the youngest, beguiled by the warm breath of autumn, would fain have lingered longer. But the wiser and more experienced travellers insisted on departure. They prevailed; the black masses, moving all at once like a huge cloud, winged their flight towards the south-east, probably towards Italy. They had scarcely accomplished three hundred leagues (four or five hours' flight) before all the cataracts of heaven were let loose to deluge the earth.
Sheltered in our house, which shook with the furious blast, we admired the wisdom of the winged soothsayers, which had so prudently anticipated the annual epoch of migration. Clearly it was not hunger that had driven them. With a beautiful and still abundant nature around them, they had perceived and seized upon the precise hour, without going too early. The morrow would have been too late. The insects, beaten down by the tempest of rain, would have been undiscoverable; all the life on which they subsisted would have taken refuge in the earth.
Moreover, it is not famine alone, or the forewarning of famine, that decides the movements of the migrating species. If those birds which live on insects are constrained to depart, those which feed on wild berries might certainly remain. What impels them? Is it the cold? Most of them could readily endure it. It is the need of light. Even as the plant follows the day and the sun, the bird, with its sensitive eye, grows melancholy in the shortened days and gathering mists of autumn.
Their resolution is truly bold and courageous, when one thinks on the tremendous journey they must achieve, twice every year, over mountains and seas and deserts, under such diverse climates, by variable winds, through many perils, and such tragical adventures.
The French quail will traverse the Mediterranean, will cross the range of Atlas; sweeping over the Sahara, it will plunge into the kingdom of the negro. These, too, it will leave behind; and finally, if it pauses at the Cape, it is because there the infinite Southern ocean commences, which promises it no nearer shelter than the icy wastes of the pole, and the very winter which exiles it from Egypt.
A swarm of bees settled down in the hollow trunk of a crab-tree. They filled it with the treasure of their honey; and the tree became so proud on that account, that it despised all other trees in comparison with itself.
Then a rose-tree called out to it, What miserable pride on account of borrowed sweets! Is thy fruit therefore less bitter ?
Drive the honey up into it if thou canst, and then mankind will begin to bless thee.
75.—THE REVERIE OF POOR SUSAN.
past-ures At the corner of Wood Street, when daylight
appears, Hangs a thrush that sings loud ; it has sung for
three years. Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has
heard In the silence of morning the song of the bird.
'Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees ;
glide, And a river flows on through the vale of Cheap
Green pastures she views in the midst of the
dale, Down which she so often has tripped with her
And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove's, The only one dwelling on earth that she loves.
She looks, and her heart is in heaven; but they
fade, The mist and the river, the hill and the shade; The stream will not flow, and the hill will not
rise, And the colours have all passed away from her eyes.
76.-THE SURRENDER OF CALAIS TO
THE KING OF ENGLAND.
ob-stin-ate o-pin-i-on par-don-ed
After the departure of the King of France with his army, the people of Calais saw clearly that all hope of help was over. They entreated, therefore, the Lord John de Vienne, their governor, to mount upon the battlements, and make a sign that he wished to speak to the English. The King of England, upon hearing this, sent to him Sir Walter Mauny and Lord Bosset. When they were come near, the governor said to them—“ Dear gentlemen, you who are very valiant knights, know that the King of France, whose subjects we are, has sent us hither to defend this town and castle from all harm and damage: this we have done to the best of our power.
All hopes of help have now left us, and if the gallant king, your lord, have not pity upon us, we must perish of hunger. I therefore entreat that you would beg him to let us depart in the state we are in, and that he will be satisfied with having possession of the town and castle, with all that is within them, as he will find therein riches enough to content him.”
To this Sir Walter replied, “ John, we are not ignorant of what the king our lord's intentions are, for he has told them to us. Know then, that it is not his pleasure you should get off so, for he is resolved that you surrender yourself solely to his will, to allow those whom he pleases to pay ransom, or to put them to death; for the people of Calais have done him so much mischief, and have, by their obstinate defence, cost him so many lives and so much money, that he is mightily enraged." The governor answered, “These conditions are too hard for us.
We are but a small number of knights and squires, who have loyally served our lord and master, as you would have done, and have suffered much ill and disquiet; but we will endure much more before we consent that the smallest boy in the town should fare worse than the best. I therefore once more entreat you to return to the King of England and beg of him to have pity upon us.”
The two lords returned to the king, and related what had passed. The king said he had no intention of granting their request, but should insist on their surrendering, without making any conditions. Sir Walter said, “My lord, you may be to blame in