EYES, AND NO EYES; OR, THE ART OF
BY JOHN AIKIN
 WELL, Robert, where have you been walking this afternoon? (said
Mr. Andrews to one of
his pupils at the close of a holiday.
Robert. I have been, sir, to Broom-heath,
and so round by the windmill upon Campmount, and home
through the meadows by the river side.
Mr. Andrews. Well, that's a pleasant round.
Robert. I thought it very dull sir; I
scarcely met with a single person. I had rather by half have
gone along the turnpike road.
Mr. Andrews. Why, if seeing men and horses
is your object, you would, indeed, be better entertained on
the high-road. But did you see William?
Robert. We set out together, but he lagged
behind in the lane; so I walked on and left him.
Mr. Andrews. That was a pity. He would have
been company for you.
Robert. Oh, he is so tedious, always
stopping to look at this thing and that! I had rather walk
alone. I dare say he is not got home yet.
Mr. Andrews. Here he comes. Well, William,
where have you been?
William. Oh, sir, the pleasantest walk! I
went all over Broom-heath, and so up to the mill at the top
of the hill, and then down among the green meadows by the
side of the river.
Mr. Andrews. Why, that is just the round
Robert has been taking, and he complains of its dullness,
and prefers the high-road.
William. I wonder at that. I am sure I
hardly took a step that did not delight me; and I have
brought my handkerchief full of curiosities home.
Mr. Andrews. Suppose, then, you give us some
account of what amused you so much. I fancy it will be as
new to Robert as to me.
William. I will, sir. The lane leading to
the heath, you know, is close and sandy, so I did not mind
it much, but made the best of my way. However, I spied a
curious thing enough in the hedge. It was an old crab-tree,
out of which grew a great bunch of something green, quite
different from the tree itself. Here is a branch of it.
Mr. Andrews. Ah! this is mistletoe, a plant
of great fame for the use made of it by the Druids of old in
their religious rites and incantations. It bears a very
slimy white berry, of which bird-lime may be made, whence
its Latin name of Viscus. It is one of those plants which do
not grow in the ground by a root of their own, but fix
themselves upon other plants; whence they have been
humorously styled parasitical, as being hangers-on or
dependents. It was the mistletoe of the oak that the Druids
William. A little farther on I saw a green
woodpecker fly to a tree, and run up the trunk like a cat.
Mr. Andrews. That was to seek for insects in
the bark, on which they live. They bore holes with their
strong bills for that purpose, and do much damage to the
trees by it.
William. What beautiful birds they are!
Mr. Andrews. Yes; they have been called,
from their color and size, the English Parrot.
William. When I got upon the open heath, how
charming it was! The air seemed so fresh, and the prospect
on every side so free and unbounded! Then it was all covered
with gay flowers, many of which I had never observed before.
There were at least three kinds of heath (I have got them in
my handkerchief here), and gorse, and broom, and
bell-flower, and many others of all colors, that I will beg
you presently to tell me the names of.
Mr. Andrews. That I will, readily.
William. I saw, too, several birds that were
new to me. There was a pretty grayish one, of the size of a
lark, that was hopping about some great stones; and when he
flew, he showed a great deal of white above his tail.
Mr. Andrews. That was a wheatear. They are
reck-  oned very delicious birds to eat, and frequent the open downs in
Sussex, and some other counties, in great numbers.
William. There was a flock of lapwings upon
a marshy part of the heath, that amused me much. As I came
near them, some of them kept flying round and round just
over my head, and crying pewit so distinctly, one might
almost fancy they spoke. I thought I should have caught one
of them, for he flew as if one of his wings was broken, and
often tumbled close to the ground; but as I came near, he
always made a shift to get away.
Mr. Andrews. Ha, ha! You were finely taken
in then! This was all an artifice of the bird to entice you
away from its nest: for they build upon the bare ground, and
their nests would easily be observed, did they not draw off
the attention of intruders by their loud cries and
William. I wish I had known that, for he led
me a long chase, often over shoes in water. However, it was
the cause of my falling in with an old man and a boy who
were cutting and piling up turf for fuel, and I had a good
deal of talk with them about the manner of preparing the
turf, and the price it sells at. They gave me, too, a
creature I never saw before—a young viper, which they
had just killed, together with its dam. I have seen several
common snakes, but this is thicker in proportion, and of a
darker color than they are.
Mr. Andrews. True. Vipers frequent those
turfy, boggy grounds pretty much, and I have known several
turf-cutters bitten by them.
William. They are very venomous, are they
Mr. Andrews. Enough so to make their wounds
painful and dangerous, though they seldom prove fatal.
William. Well—I then took my course up
to the windmill on the mount. I climbed up the steps of the
mill in order to get a better view of the country round.
What an extensive prospect! I counted fifteen church
steeples; and I saw several gentlemen's houses peeping out
from the midst of green woods and plantations; and I could
trace the windings of the river all along the low grounds,
till it was lost behind a ridge of hills. But I'll tell you
what I mean to do, sir, if you will give me leave.
Mr. Andrews. What is that?
William. I will go again, and take with me
Carey's county map, by which I shall probably be able to
make out most of the places.
Mr. Andrews. You shall have it, and I will
go with you, and take my pocket spying-glass.
William. I shall be very glad of that.
Well—a thought struck me that as the hill is called
Campmount, there might probably be some remains of ditches
and mounds with which I have read camps were surrounded. And
I really believe I discovered something of that sort running
round one side of the mount.
Mr. Andrews. Very likely you might. I know
antiquaries have described such remains as existing there,
which some suppose to be Roman, others Danish. We will
examine them further when we go.
William. From the hill I went straight down
to the meadows below, and walked on the side of a brook that
runs into the river. It was all bordered with reeds and
flags, and tall flowering plants, quite different from those
I had seen on the heath. As I was getting down the bank to
reach one of them, I heard something plunge into the water
near me. It was a large water rat, and I saw it swim over to
the other side, and go into its hole. There were a great
many large dragon flies all about the stream. I caught one
of the finest, and have got him here in a leaf. But how I
longed to catch a bird that I saw hovering over the water,
and every now and then darting down into it! It was all over
a mixture of the most beautiful green and blue, with some
orange color. It was somewhat less than a thrush, and had a
large head and bill, and a short tail.
Mr. Andrews. I can tell you what that bird
was,—a kingfisher, the celebrated haleyon of the
ancients, about which so many tales are told. It lives on
fish, which it catches in the manner you saw. It builds in
holes in the banks, is a shy, retiring bird, never to be
seen far from the stream where it inhabits.
 William. I must try to get another sight of
him, for I never saw a bird that pleased me so much.
Well—I followed this little brook till it entered the
river, and then took the path that runs along the bank. On
the opposite side I observed several little birds running
along the shore, and making a piping noise. They were brown
and white, and about as big as a snipe.
Mr. Andrews. I suppose they were sandpipers,
one of the numerous family of birds that get their living by
wading among the shallows, and picking up worms and insects.
William. There were a great many swallows,
too, sporting upon the surface of the water, that
entertained me with their motions. Sometimes they dashed
into the stream: sometimes they pursued one another so
quick, that the eye could scarcely follow them. In one
place, where a high, steep sand bank rose directly above the
river, I observed many of them go in and out of holes with
which the bank was bored full.
Mr. Andrews. Those were sandmartins, the
smallest of our four species of swallows. They are of a
mouse color above, and white beneath. They make their nests
and bring up their young in these holes, which run a great
depth, and by their situation are secure from all
William. A little farther I saw a man in a
boat, who was catching eels in an odd way. He had a long
pole with broad iron prongs at the end, just like Neptune's
trident, only there were five instead of three. This he
pushed straight down among the mud in the deepest parts of
the river, and fetched up the eels sticking between the
Mr. Andrews. I have seen this method. It is
called spearing of eels.
William. While I was looking at him, a heron
came flying over my head, with his large flagging wings. He
lit at the next run of the river, and I crept softly behind
the bank to watch his motions. He had waded into the water
as far as his long legs would carry him, and was standing
with his neck drawn in, looking intently on the stream.
Presently he darted his long bill as quick as lightning into
the water, and drew out a fish, which he swallowed. I saw
him catch another in the same manner. He then took alarm at
some noise I made, and flew away slowly to a wood at some
distance, where he settled.
Mr. Andrews. Probably his nest was there,
for herons build upon the loftiest trees they can find, and
sometimes live in society together, like rooks. Formerly,
when these birds were valued for the amusement of hawking,
many gentlemen had their heronries, and a few are still
William. I think they are the largest wild
birds we have.
Mr. Andrews. They are of a great length and
spread of wing, but their bodies are comparatively small.
William. I then turned homeward across the
meadows, where I stopped a while to look at a large flock of
starlings, which kept flying about at no great distance. I
could not tell at first what to make of them; for they rose
all together from the ground as thick as a swarm of bees,
and formed themselves into a kind of black cloud, hovering
over the field. After taking a short round, they settled
again, and presently rose again in the same manner. I dare
say there were hundreds of them.
Mr. Andrews. Perhaps so; for in the fenny
countries their flocks are so numerous as to break down
whole acres of reeds by settling on them. This disposition
of starlings to fly in close swarms was remarked even by
Homer, who compares the foe flying from one of his heroes,
to a cloud of stares retiring dismayed at the approach of
William. After I had left the meadows, I
crossed the corn-fields in the way to our house, and passed
by a deep marle pit. Looking into it, I saw in one of the
sides a cluster of what I took to be shells; and upon going
down, I picked up a clod of marle, which was quite full of
them; but how sea shells could get there, I cannot imagine.
Mr. Andrews. I do not wonder at your
surprise, since many philosophers have been much perplexed
to account for the same appearance. It is not uncommon to
find great quantities of shells and relics of marine animals
even in the bowels of high  mountains, very remote from
the sea. They are certainly proofs that the earth was once
in a very different state from what it is at present; but in
what manner, and how long ago these changes took place, can
only be guessed at.
William. I got to the high field next our
house just as the sun was setting, and I stood looking at it
till it was quite lost. What a glorious sight! The clouds
were tinged purple and crimson and yellow, of all shades and
hues, and the clear sky varied from blue to a fine green at
the horizon. But how large the sun appears just as it sets!
I think it seems twice as big as when it is over head.
Mr. Andrews. It does so; and you many
probably have observed the same apparent enlargement of the
moon at its rising.
William. I have; but pray what is the reason
Mr. Andrews. It is an optical deception
depending upon principles which I cannot well explain to you
till you know more of that branch of science. But what a
number of new ideas this afternoon's walk as afforded you! I
do not wonder that you found it amusing; it has been very
instructive too. Did you see nothing of all these sights,
Robert. I saw some of them, but I did not
take particular notice of them.
Mr. Andrews. Why not?
Robert. I don't know. I did not care about
them, and I made the best of my way home.
Mr. Andrews. That would have been right, if
you had been sent on a message; but as you only walked for
amusement, it would have been wiser to have sought out as
many sources of it as possible. But so it is—one man
walks through the world with his eyes open, and another with
them shut; and upon this difference depends all the
superiority of knowledge the one acquires above the other. I
have known sailors who had been in all the quarters of the
world, and could tell you nothing but the signs of the
tippling-houses they frequented in different parts, and the
price and quality of the liquor. On the other hand, a
Franklin could not cross the channel without making some
observations useful to mankind. While many a vacant
thoughtless youth is whirled throughout Europe without
gaining a single idea worth crossing a street for, the
observing eye and inquiring mind finds matter of improvement
and delight in every ramble in town or country. Do you then,
William, continue to make use of your eyes; and you, Robert,
learn that eyes were given you to use.
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