But there is love beneath the earth as well as in the heaven above. Now the moles or, as we call them in Cumberland, the ‘moudiwarps’ bestir themselves, and as is evidenced by their earth castles build themselves homes and lairs for the expected young. Master Squirrel awakes and visits his ‘dray’ to fall asleep again if sunshine fail the restless sprite among the fallen leaves that the February winds have driven into the hedgerow bottoms. There is one leaf the wind still spares; it is the leaf of the beech and hornbeam hedge, and at a time when the colour of the fern is fading from the fell sides we in the Lake Country who care for colour owe large debts to the hands that here and there have fenced their garden grounds or their orchards, or fringed their roadsides with the glorious February sheen of beech. (p. 21)
I said just now that the fern had faded from the fells. How it comes about I know not, but in February this fading of the bracken, and some change in the bleached grasses, some hint of life returning to our lower valley slopes produces the curious effect of coral pink upon our mountain sides which we see at no other time of the year. Very purple, too, are the shales of volcanic ash throughout the month, for February with us at the Lakes is, as it is described, ‘February Fill-dyke,’ and alternate rain and sun is our portion. (pp. 21-22)
It is here where February is so rare and beautiful. There is no month wherein such variations, not only of days but of portions of days, are so interesting. One can never tell on a February morning, dull and grey and misty, whether at noon bright sun and cloudless blue will not be our fortune and delight. In February the whole morning and mid-noon will at times be clouded with a doubt, but at three o’clock all clouds will pass away, and there will be known such serenity of grey-blue heaven and such glorious passing of the sun to golden rest that one might well believe we were back in September once again, or but for leafless wood and hedgerow, think summer time had come. (p. 22)
It is not only that the hours in their passing go through a magic transformation, but days and weeks are Protæan in their change. Thus one day we wake to the sound of the thrush, and he sings us back to our fireside and our rest; we walk through twilit fields that echo to his voice, and feel that when the stars are bright among the tree tops and the owl is hooting, the balm of spring is in the air. Then the wind changes, and we waken to a dumb dawn, to find hills whence winter had all but vanished, milk-white right down to the intaks, with all the lower slopes made ruddy and full of colour by contrast with the winter snow, and all the woods before so tenderly purple and grey, black as night. The shepherds are not sorry, and the farmers are well content with the change. A fair February means promise that will be unfulfilled. They have never forgotten how the Britons of old time handed down a saying to the Welshmen of to-day,
That they would rather see their dam on her bier
Than a fair Februeer.
They know how the Scottish across the Border still say,
A’ the months o’ the year
Curse a fair Februeer.
and they by long and bitter experience have learned that if February is mild, March too often pays back her over-confidence with nipping frost and cold. (pp. 22-23)
(Months at the Lakes, pp. 18-25)