A townsman has many advantages over the countryman sometimes, in government, combination, assemblage, streets, shops, shows, parks, music, etc., all of which go to make an appearance which village life cannot possess; but the latter has more than its reward, if not the better of the argument. Oh! just think of the summer, of the country life, the mossy banks, the clear streams, the flowing fields, the scented hedgerows, the hawthorn fences, with nesting birds; the joyous songs of the youngsters as they enjoy the long summer evenings; and the modest pairs that saunter along the lanes and by-paths, making one sweet season seem a long dozing age of pleasant intoxication and a never to be forgotten delight.
No wonder in after life like this that there should be so much happiness and love of home which in a thousand times is made dear, especially if it be at one of those outside cottages ever to be remembered by its little garden, cherry tree growing and spreading over the stone bench by the door, or the fresh water at the well, which never runs dry. Scenes like these endear all the workmen to their homes on the hillside, to the toilsome day, and the long winter nights; not only this, but everything around is noted and taken into account. The cattle, the farm, and that which is in them, also the stranger that comes within their gate. In a town a beggar is ruthlessly driven from the door of the rich, who have almost lost all feeling for the sufferings of the poor. Not so with a feeling cottager of the country, who feels it a religious duty to give a little, not only for pity’s sake, but as I once heard a very poor but a very dear old mother say when being remonstrated with for giving in this way more than she could afford, “Why; I would rather go without myself than a poor body should want a crust or a drink.” With true Christian charity like this, it often follows that even animals find fond homes, and the surroundings of the place have every consideration; and here comes in the mournful story I have to tell of a hare and a hunt.
The former, an innocent thing, had found a quiet home on a country farm near to the house, where it sat when not disturbed by would-be poachers and cruel hounds. The mother of the house (as is always the case) had a maternal care of the poor thing so harassed by man and beast; not only this, but when storms came such as those of a dark December, when lanes are snowed up, the fields all covered with snow that not a blade of grass is to be found or a bit of food to be picked up — in such a moment the tenderness of the woman and family came in, and the poor beastie, the hare, having gained confidence by previous considerations, came daily to the door to be fed with the birds, etc., etc., so much so that it became an object of endearment, was carefully watched, protected, and daily cared for until the storm had passed; but, alas! nothing lasts. All things human or otherwise change; and so with this fine hare.
One day lately the huntsman’s horn was heard. A merry throng attends him on the hunting morn, with a southerly wind and a cloudy sky. Straight for this country side they make, and as the scent is good they at once find this hare at home, never hoping or dreaming of killing the poor thing, but simply having a good run, which followed up hill and down dale (Tally ho!), and they went right on to the moors, where after a long and a strong run she doubled back for the shelter of the cottage by the wood, which was never to be hers any more, for the dogs in an unlucky moment overtook her, and no one being near to help, she was unhappily destroyed, to the great regret of the hunt and the poignant grief of the dear lady and her family who had nursed the poor innocent thing through the storm of wind and weather to this cruel end.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden