FROM spring to summer lies between the fading broom and the blossoming hawthorn - through a gateway overhung by lilac and laburnum. Neither lilac nor laburnum is native, by right of long hold of the soil, although both are so closely woven in with our earliest recollections of the season, that it is hard - to me impossible - to picture it without them. If not found in our lists of wild flowers, it only shows how very fine are the lines that are drawn, and how strangely they are made to curve in and out. Both grow so freely beyond the garden walls, and wander so far into the depths of the surrounding country, that they seem to have as good a claim as many another form of no older date, and which most of us never saw.
The fenceless path through the field, by which the children, now in their sunny-weather pinnies, go to the farm for milk, is overhung all the way. Never was there a brighter arch. Each alternate tree is a laburnum, some' of whose drooping racemes come just far enough down for little hands to reach. What a handful of flowers to get all at once! Broom stretches from trunk to trunk, forming a second lower yellow line.
No pathway in the country is pleasanter to me than that. I have gone up a thousand times, morning and evening, just at this season. - And yet the farmer, who shares the charm in larger measure than others as he drives up and down in his gig, has of late been shaking his head.
"Unwelcome intruders into his domain," he calls what was there while he was yet in his cradle; and, shutting his eyes to escape the glow, lest it might touch him, he breathes out threaten-ings and slaughter.
"They keep the sun from his grain."
He always looks in the morning or afternoon, when the shadow is half across to the next hedge.
"They rob the land along the edge of the field."
As if everyone did not know that he manures largely with old boots. Plainly, he has no belief in such close proximity between utility and beauty.
One day, when the blossom is off and there is nothing left to weaken his purpose, he will carry out his threat. Some are fearfully looking forward, while others say that his bark is worse than his bite. After that, he will have many a year to drive up a bare road. Serves him right! Possibly, he will not care, but that is all the more his loss.
The gateway to the farm has its summer arch. The cream of the bourtree meets the white of the rowan. Blossoms and scents mingle overhead.
The hawthorn ought to flower on the first of May, for which reason it has got the name of the month. But that is in England, where everything is earlier.
"Oh, that was past before we came away."
Such is the tantalising comment of our visitors from the south; while all is yet fresh to us, and, in the innocence of our hearts, we are pointing to the opening buds.
Our village maidens are yet simple in their ways and thoughts, with just a lingering touch of rustic superstition. They rise before dawn on that magic morning, the same to-day as it was six centuries ago.
The busy lark, messager of day, Salueth in hire song the morwe gray; And fyry Phoebus ryseth up so bright, That all the orient laugheth of the light.
In quest of dew they go forth, between hedgerows which are green as yet, to shady nooks if they be wise. And should they gather but as much as will wet their cheeks, the freshness of May will be there every morning of the year. Surely the purity of some of these complexions is worth preserving.
With us there is no maypole or queen, or pageant of any kind, although the children have a game in which they dance round in a ring, to some refrain, which sounds like a corruption of "Merry May Day." Since dew for the cheek can lie on the green blade, there is not the same need of blossom for the pole. Mayhap we have no pole because we have no blossom, and turn to the dew as all we can get.
Be that as it may, our hedges delay breaking into white till about the twentieth of the fresh month; after which, for many weeks, especially when rain-washed, they are delightfully pure and fragrant, all over our country-sides. So that we would willingly part with many a flower before "The May."
The glory of summer is the hedge. The glory of the hedge is the wild plants, which straggle, at their own sweet will, and know not when to stay. In such wanderers, especially of the flowering kinds, Scotland is not very rich. Many of these are lovers of chalk, of which we have none; and the rest seem to prefer milder quarters.
No "traveller's joy," fitly so called, such as lends a wealth of beauty to the waysides of the southern counties of England, is ours. One bush grows against a gable hard by, covering it in the summer - time from side to side, and sending straggling twigs away above the chimneys. And it is hard to convince those who see it for the first time, that such things are really wild.
No bryony breaks out of all bounds, running on either side away from its roots, and over the tops of the hedges. Nor does the convolvulus hang its great white bells over the green.
And yet our hedges are not without their charm, part of which may lie in their very reserve. They seem to make up in their sweetness for want of luxuriance. At least we don't seem to want them to be other than they are. We have got to like them. Perhaps the only hard-wooded climber we have is the woodbine; and this is a host in itself.
The interval between the fading of the white - here we call it simply "blossom," as if there were none other to compare with it - and the reddening of the fruit is all filled up. The pretty dog-roses, tinted pink and white, like a country cheek returning from its May morning dew bath, never lose their charm, however many seasons old we are. Clumps of sweet briar are seldom so far apart as to leave any portion of the lane unscented.