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quick-sighted to see the little slips of each; and, perhaps, by your so doing, both of you are improved, and your papa and I are saved a great deal of trouble !"
The Robin warbled his sweet note again; but, with the exception of one short-lived moment, the children were soon occupied too seriously with their breakfasts, to do more than look with fitful curiosity at the red and yellow leaves of the trees and shrubs that rose above the flowers, and were grouped around the grass; in the vain hope of distinguishing the little bird that wore the same colours as the leaves, and moved as gently and as silently as the lightest of those which, slightly burdened with the dew, were every moment floating, one after the other, from the spray above, to the littered herbage underneath.
“I am glad, however," said Mrs. Paulett, to her husband, “ that the Robin has found us out again, or come back to his old quarters; for I dare to say that it is the same which we had with us last winter; and now, that all the gayer song-birds of the spring and summer are quite gone, we shall begin to know again the value of the little songs, at evening, and in the morning, of the Wren and Red-breast!"
“I am thinking, my love,” returned Mr. Paulett, “ of the real value of song-birds, in the list of human enjoyments; and therefore quite agree with you. The colours and odours of flowers, and of trees and herbs, and the songs of birds, are certainly substantial points for administering to human use and pleasure."
“We are to judge so, perhaps," replied Mrs. Paulett, “ if it were only from the lively interest which is and ever has been taken in them by all mankind. Witness poets, historians, philosophers, statesmen, and their followers and admirers, men and women, young and old!" “ Yes; and from the dejection and complaints," resumed her husband, “ of those who, unlike ourselves, have ever been placed in situations to make them know what it really is to be without them! I observe, that in the latest book which we have seen concerning New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, the author seriously advises emigrants to carry with them English singing-birds; in order, says he, to promote the breaking of the horrid silence which so often reigns in the vast forests of those countries !!”
“No singing-birds!" interrupted Emily; " why, I never heard of such countries in all my life! I would not live in them, if they were the prettiest countries in the world ;—that is, unless I had a nice aviary, like Miss Fosbrooke's, or a beautiful greenhouse, with little birds flying in it, and gold and silver fish swimming in large globes, like that beautiful new building at Lady Eddington's."
“ Well done, little chatterbox," pursued her papa; “and now I will tell you, that you may the better understand what you have to be thankful for, in the charming prospect from our windows, and in the delicious walks and drives about our village; in the paths over the green fields; in the clear brooks and little bridges; in the slopes, and hills, and valleys; in the cooing of the wood-pigeons; in the songs of the linnets, blackbirds, and thrushes; in the chatter of the furze-chat, and even in the cackle of the poultry, and the crow of the gallant cock;—I will tell you that much of those countries is described as being no less dismal to the eye, than empty to the ear; but especially dull and melancholy, because of the absence of songbirds, and of their consequent excessive silence : for, though we sometimes complain of you and your brother for making more than your share of noise; yet it is true that silence, carried to excess, is one of the things which, if, in civilized life, and in ordinary situations, it could ever fall to our lot to feel it, most distressful to human nature, and probably, therefore, as injurious. This author, whom I am reading, though be talks of occasional magnificence of prospect, and even of Alpine scenery, in New South Wales; yet paints its interior, and even its coasts, and the coasts of all New Holland, as, in the most remarkable degree, flat, naked, solitary, and dreary. Ascending a hill, it must be confessed, of respectable height, he says, that from its summit, he beholds, even to the horizon, or like the prospect of an ocean, immense plains, of the greenest verdure, it is true, but without a single tree! One of the plains, not wholly seen from the hill, was known to be at least twenty-five miles in length, and from five to ten in breadth; and in the whole flat, there must have been at least a hundred thousand acres of land : It would be in vain,' he continues, ‘for me to attempt to convey an idea of the effect of a view over these vast solitudes. The extreme silence which prevails here, almost exceeds what the imagination can conceive. It is true that some emooes, or perhaps a solitary bustard (?), can sometimes be distinguished; but they are generally afar off; and the traveller may frequently ride many miles without seeing a living creature.' Speaking of the shores of New Holland generally (and it is known that New South Wales is a part of New Holland, or, as it is sometimes called, Australia), he says, that they have a most dreary and inhospitable appearance. The eircumference of New Holland is about six thousand miles; and he offers descriptions, from part to part, in order, says he, to give the reader some slight idea how desolate and melancholy must be the general aspect of the shores of this immense island. A feature, too, to be added to the unfortunate landscape, is this, that in the interior there prevails, at the same time, a wide-spread want of water; and often, where rivulets and ponds (called, by courtesy, rivers and lakes) have recently existed, so as even to have received names from the earlier settlers, the names only, and not the waters, at present, from some undiscovered cause, continue*!!”
Oh, what a country,” cried Mrs. Paulett, “ for any body to go to! I often think so, upon account of the poor Mowbrays, and their fine children!"
“This is no description of the whole of the country,” replied her husband; "and in parts, as has appeared, even from our author, there is no want of beauty, nor of forests, rivers, hills, and mountains. In Van Diemen's Land, especially, there is no sort of deficiency of beauties for the eye. But, besides that I wish these young people to understand how much they have to be grateful for, in having been born in any cultivated and civilized country, and especially in their own; I dwell upon the particular which is characteristic and melancholy in all these countries, whether
upon their hills or in their dales, in their woods or in their open grounds; namely, their silence; and this, especially, from their deficiency in singing-birds."
What! no larks nor nightingales,” cried Richard ; nor goldfinches, nor linnets, nor Robin-red-breasts ?
“ These islands of the Southern Hemisphere,” answered his papa,
“ have nothing—not the least example-either animal or vegetable, exactly similar to what we witness in the Northern; or, at least, without such exceptions as are easily accounted for, and which prove the rule* ; but, as to singing or song-birds, not only they have none of ours, but also, they are without any of their own!”
* See Breton's Excursions in New South Wales, &c. &c,
“From all that we have read,” subjoined Mr. Paulett,
" it seems a strange country, this New Holland ! Placed at the other end of the globe, and scarcely risen above the ocean, its rivers run inland, instead of into the
sea ; its lakes are no more than swamps during the rainy season, and sands during the dry; its rivers are either failing at their sources, or else drowning all their banks; its natives are described as of the lowest stage of humanity; its birds and beasts are few, and, for the most part, of the most extraordinary forms; some of its fishes poison those who eat them; it has insects that are as abundant as they are detestable, and as detestable as they are abundant; and, as to its fruits and flowers, what can we say in their favour, whether for number, or for beauty, or for sweetness ? Other new countries beautify our own with treasures without number; but for what new beauties, or new sweetnesses, are we indebted to New Holland ? Look at the heaths, and aloes, and geraniums, and so many other ornaments of our greenhouses and conservatories, from the Cape of Good Hope; at the dahlias, the sumachs, the Virginia creepers, that make our gardens gorgeous, from America; look at the roses from India and Persia, and at the thirty-six varieties of jasmine which we derive from the same countries ;—but what have we to boast of from New Holland ?"
“ Pardon me, my dearest," answered her husband;
This is a question upon which the author of these pages has long since offered notices to the scientific world; and upon which circumstances alone have hitherto delayed the appearance of his fuller observations.