« VorigeDoorgaan »
go down steep hills; and as the Count Didcot Field, Long Wittenham Field, took off the bearing-reins this morning, and so on-small villages peeped out we may as well hold him responsible for from among the green woods and pasnot letting the horses down."
tures, where a faint blue smoke rose up “I thought perhaps you wanted to into the sunshine. Here, as Bell began sit beside me,” she said, in a low voice. to expound,--for she had been reading
“Well, now you mention it, my dear, “The Scouring of the White Horse" and that was the reason."
various other books to which that ro“It would have been a sufficient mantic monograph had directed her,
a good many years ago," she some great deeds had happened in the said, with a fine affectation of tender- olden time. Along that smooth line of ness ; “but that is all over now. You hill in the south-now lying blue in the have been very rude to me.”
haze of the light--the Romans had cut “Then don't say anything more a road which is still called the Ridgeway about it: receive my forgiveness, Tita.” or Iccleton Street; and in the villages
“ That was not the way you used to of the plain, from Pangbourne in the speak to me when we were at East- south-east to Shellingford in the northbourne,” she said ; and with that she west, traces of the Roman occupation looked
very much as if she were going were frequently found. And then, unto cry. Of course she was not going to derneath that blue ridge of hill and cry.
She has had the trick of looking down lay Wantage, in which King like that from her youth upward ; but Alfred was born ; and further on the as it is really about as pretty and ridge itself becomes Dragon's Hill, where pathetic as the real thing, it invariably St. George slew the beast that ravaged answers the same purpose. It is under- this fair land, and there, as all men stood to be a signal of surrender, a sort know, is the figure of the White Horse of appeal for compassion; and so the cut on the slope to commemorate the rest of this conversation, being of a quite great battle of Ashdown. private nature, need not be made public. “And Ashdown, is that there also ?”
The Count was taking us at a brisk asked the Lieutenant. pace across the bit of common, and then “Well, no,” said Bell, trying to rewe rattled into the little clump of red- member what she had been told ; "I brick houses which forms the picturesque think there is some doubt about it. King village of Nettlebed. Now if he had Alfred, you know, fell back from Readbeen struck_with some recollection of ing, when he was beaten, but he stopped the Black Forest on seeing Nettlebed somewhere on the hills nearWood, imagine his surprise on finding “Why not the hill we have just come the little inn in the village surmounted up?" said the Lieutenant, with a laugh. by a picture of a white deer with a “It is near Reading, is it not ? and there royal crown on its head, a fair resem- you have Assenton, which is Ashenton, blance to the legendary creature that which is Ashendown, which is Ashappeared to St. Hubertus, and that down.” figures in so many of the Schwarzwald Precisely,” says Tita, with a gracious stories and pictures. However, we were smile. you have to do is to change out of Nettlebed before he could properly John into Julius, and Smith into Cæsar, express his astonishment, and in the vast and there you are." picture that was now opening out before “But that is not fair, Tita," said Bell, us there was little that was German. turning round, and pleading quite se
We stopped on the summit of Nuffield riously. “Assenton is the same as AshHeath, and found below us, as far as the endon, and that is the name of the place eye could reach, the great and fertile where the battle was fought. I think plain of Berkshire, with a long and Count von Rosen is quite right." irregular line of hill shutting it in on “Well, if you think so, Bell, that the south. In this plain of Fields as settles it,” said my Lady, looking rather they are called - Wallingford Field, pleased than otherwise.
And so we began to descend into this thy vather, he knaws, too, and he'll gie plain of many memories by a steep road thee thy vairin wi' a good tharn stick that is appropriately called Gangsdown when he comes hwom. A zah thee this Hill. From thence a succession of undu marnin', my lad—thou'lt think nah one lations carried us into the green
wur thear, eh ?” of Crowmarsh Field ; until, finally, we We left this good-natured old gentledrove into the village of Bensington, and man frightening the boy, and went pulled up at the “Crown” there, where round to the outskirts of the village. we proposed to have some luncheon. Here, at least, we found one explanation
“ This is a village of the dead,” said of the inordinate silence of Bensington Tita, looking down the main thorough- --the children were all at their lessons. fare, where not a living soul was to be The door of the plain little building,
which had British School inscribed over But at all events a human being ap the entrance, was open, and from within peared in the yard---not a withered and there issued a low, confused murmur. silent ostler, but a stout, hale, cheerful The Prussian, anxious to see something person, whose white shirt-sleeves and of the interior of an English school, gold chain proclaimed him landlord. walked up to the place; but he had With the aid of a small boy, he under- just managed to cast a glance round on took to put the horses up for an
the rows of children when the door was two; and then we went into the inn. politely shut in his face, and he returned, Here we found that, as the man in the sayingyard was at once landlord and ostler, “I am not an inspector; why need his wife inside was landlady, cook,
they fear ?" and waitress; and in a short space of But when, after wandering about the time she had brought us some excellent suburban gardens and by-ways for a chops. Not much time was spent over space, we returned to Bensington, we the meal, for the parlour in which we found that important village in a state sat-albeit it was a sort of museum of of profound excitement. In the main wonderful curiosities, and was, moreover, thoroughfare a concourse of five people enlivened by the presence of a crack had assembled-three women and two voiced cockatoo was rather small and children—and from the doors of the dark. Accordingly, while the horses houses on both sides of the street innuwere having their rest, we sauntered out merable faces, certainly not less than a to have a look at Bensington.
dozen, were gazing forth. It is true It is probably not the dullest little that the people did not themselves come village in England, but it would be hard out—they seemed rather to shrink from to find a duller. There was an old courting publicity; but they were keenly shepherd with a crook in his hand and alive to what was going on, and Bena well-worn smockfrock on his back, sington had become excited. who was leaning over the wooden pal For there had appeared in the main ings in front of a house, and playfully street a little, dry, odd old man, who talking to a small boy who stood at an was leading a small donkey-cart, and who open door. With many old country was evidently rather the worse for liquor. people it is considered the height of He was a seller of peas.
He had sumraillery to alarm a boy with stories of moned the inhabitants to come out and the punishment he is about to receive buy the peas, and he was offering them at for something, and to visit him with an what we were told were very reasonable intimation that all his sins have been terms. But just as the old man was beginfound out. This old shepherd, with his ning to enjoy the receipt of customs, withered pippin face, and his humorous there drove into the place a sharp, brisk, grin, and his lazy arms folded on the top middle-aged man, with a shiny face, a of the palings, was evidently enjoying fine presence, and a ringing voice. This himself vastly.
man had a neat cart, a handsome pony, “A wur a-watchin' o'thee, a wur, and and his name was printed in large
letters, so that all could read.
but all the same he stuck to his busialso a seller of peas. Now, although ness and drove a thriving trade. How this rude and ostentatious owner of the there came to be on that afternoon so pony was selling his produce at fourpence, many people in Bensington who wished while the humble proprietor of the don- to buy peas must remain a mystery. key sold his at threepence, the women “ And now," said Bell, as we once recalled their children and bade them more got into the phaeton, go to the dearer market. There was be in Oxford in two hours. Do you something in the appearance of the man, think the post-office will be open ? ” in the neatness of his cart, and in the “Very likely,” said Tita, with some ringing cheerfulness of his voice, which surprise; “but do you expect letters told you he sold good peas. This was the
already, Bell ?" cause of the great perturbation in Ben- “ You cannot tell,” said the young sington; for no sooner did the half-tipsy lady, with just a shade of embarrassold man see that his rival was carrying ment, “ how soon Kate may send letters the day before him than he leaned his
And she knows we are to arms over his donkey's head, and began stop a day at Oxford. It will not be to make ironical comments on his enemy too dark to go hunting for the post office, and on the people of Bensington. He will it ?" was apparently in the best of spirits. “But you shall not go," said the You would have thought it delighted Lieutenant, giving a shake to the reins, him to see small girls come timidly for- as if in obedience to Bell's wish. ward to him, and then be warned away “When you have got to the hotel, by a cry from their mothers that they I will go and get your letters for were to go to the other cart. Nay, he
you.” went the length of advertising his “Oh no, thank you," said Bell, in neighbour's wares. He addressed the rather a hurried and anxious
“I assembled multitudes — by this time should prefer much to go for them, there were nearly fifteen people visible myself, thank you." in Bensington - and told them he That was all that was said on the wouldn't sell his peas if he was to get a subject; and Bell, we noticed, was fortune for them.
rather silent for the first few miles of “Pay your foppence," he said to them, our afternoon drive. The Lieutenant in accents which showed he was not of did his best to amuse her, and carried Bensington born, “there are yer right on a lively conversation chiefly by himgood peas. It's all along o' my donkey self. That mention of letters seemed to as you'll not take mine, though they're have left Bell rather serious; and she only thrippence. I wouldn't sell. I was obviously not over-delighted at the won't sell this day. Take back yer prospect of reaching Oxford. money. I won't sell my peas at a crown The road from Bensington thither apiece-darned if I do!"
is pleasant enough, but not particularly And with that he left his donkey and interesting. For the most part it dewent over to the proprietor of the pony. scends by a series of undulations into He was not in a fighting mood—not he. the level plain watered by the Isis, the He challenged his rival to run the pony Cherwell, and the Thames. But the against the donkey, and offered to bet mere notion of approaching that famous the donkey would be in London a week city, which is consecrated with memories before the other. The man in the cart of England's greatest men-statesmen took no notice of these sallies.
and divines, melancholy philosophers brisk, practical, methodical fashion, he and ill-starred poets-is in itself imwas measuring out his peas, and handing pressive, and lends to the rather comthem down to the uplifted bowls that monplace landscape an air of romance. surrounded him. Sometimes he grinned While as yet the old town lies unseen in a good-natured way at the facetious amid the woods that crowd up to the remarks of his unfortunato antagonist; very edge of the sky, one fancies the
bells of the colleges are to be heard, as pulled down. Or shall we follow the Pope heard them when he rode, a soli- hero of the Splendid Shilling, who, tary horseman, over these very hills, and down into the plain, and up to Magda- To Juniper's Magpie or 'Town Hall repairs ?”
“When nightly mists arise, len Bridge. We cared little to look at the villages, strung like beads on the
They, too, are gone.
But as Castor winding thread of the road-Shelling- Pollux, during these moments of ford, Dorchester, Nuneham Courtenay,
doubt and useless reminiscence, are and Sandford-nor did we even turn
still taking us over the rough stones aside to go down to Iffley and the
of the “High,” some decision must be Thames. It was seven when we drew come to ; and so, at a sudden instiganear Oxford. There were people saun- tion, Count von Rosen pulls up in front tering out from the town to have their
of the Mitre, which is an appropriate evening walk. When, at last, we stop- sign for the High Street of Oxford, and ped to pay toll in front of the old lichen- betokens age and respectability. covered bridge across the Cherwell,
The stables of the Mitre are clean, the tower of Magdalen College, and the
well-ventilated, and well-managed magnificent elms on the other side of indeed, no better stables could have the way, had caught a tinge of red from been found for putting up the horses the dusky sunset, and there was a faint
for their next day's rest. When we reflection of crimson down on the still had seen to their comfort, we returned waters that lay among the rank green
to the inn, and found that my Lady and meadows. Then we drove on into the
Bell had not only had all the luggage High Street, and here, in the gathering conveyed to our respective rooms, but dusk, the yellow lamps were beginning had ordered dinner, changed their attire, to glimmer. Should we pull up at the
and were waiting for us in the square, Angel—that famous hostelry of ancient old-fashioned, low-roofed coffee-room times, whose name used to be inscribed which looks out into the High Street. on so many notable coaches ?
A tall waiter was laying the cloth for put up at the Angel Inn," writes Mr. us; the lights were lit all round the Boswell, “ and passed the evening by wall; our only companions were two ourselves in easy and familiar conversa
elderiy gentlemen who sat in a remote tion.” Alas! the Angel has now been corner, and gave themselves up to poli
tics; and Bell, having resolved to post
pone her inquiry about letters until next 1 “Nothing could have more of that melan- morning-in obedience to the very choly which once used to please me, than my last day's journey; for after having passed
urgent entreaties of the Lieutenantthrough my favourite woods in the forest, with
seemed all the more cheerful for that a thousand reveries of past pleasures, I rid
resolution. over hanging hills, whose tops were edged with But if our two friends by the firegroves, and whose feet watered with winding place could not overhear our talk, we rivers, listening to the falls of cataracts below, and the murmuring of the winds above; the
could overhear theirs ; and all the time gloomy verdure of Stonor succeeded to these, we sat at dinner, we were receiving a and then the shades of evening overtook me. vast amount of enlightenment about The moon rose in the clearest sky I ever saw,
the condition of the country. The by whose solemn light I paced on slowly, without company, or any interruption to the range
chief spokesman was a short, stout of my thoughts. About a mile before I reached person, with a fresh, healthy, energetic Oxford, all the bells tolled in different notes ; face, keen grey eyes, bushy grey whisthe clocks of every college answered one another and sounded forth (some in deeper, some in
kers, a bald head, and a black satin a softer tone) that it was eleven at night. All
waistcoat; his companion a taller and this was no ill preparation to the life I have thinner man, with straight black hair, led since among those old walls, venerable sallow cheeks, and melancholy dark galleries, stone porticoes, studious walks, and solitary scenes of the University.”-Pope to
eyes : and the former, in a somewhat Mrs. Martha Blount. (Stonor Park lies about pompous manner, was demonstrating two miles to the right of Bix turnpike.]
the blindness of ordinary politicians to
the wrath that was to come.
Lord interested cliques
our Government Palmerston saw it, he said. There was ready to seize on the most revolutionary no statesman ever like Lord Palmer- schemes to get together a majority and ston—there would never be his like remain in power—selfishness, incompeagain. For was the North not bound tence, indifference becoine paramount to fight the South in every country? —it is horrible, Sir, it is Orrible.” And what should we do if the men of In his anxiety to be emphatic, he left the great manufacturing towns were to out that one “h;” it was his only slip. come down on us? There were two Our Lieutenant turned to Tita, and said: Englands in this island--and the West- “I have met many English people in minster Houses knew nothing of the Germany who have spoken to me like rival camps that were being formed. that. They do seem to have a pride in And did not the North always beat the criticising themselves and their country. South? Did not Rome beat Carthage ? Is it because they feel they are so strong, and the Huns the Romans ? and the and so rich, and so good, that they can Northern States the Southern States ? afford to dispraise themselves ? Is it and Prussia Austria ? and Germany because they feel themselves so very France ? And when the big.limbed safe in this island that they think little and determined men of Birmingham, of patriotism? But I have observed Leeds, Manchester, Preston, Newcastle, this thing-that when it is a foreigner and such towns, rose to sweep aside the who begins to say such things of last feudal institutions of this country, of England, your countryman he instantly what avail would be a protest on the part changes his tone. He may say
himself of the feeble and self-indulgent South ? bad things of his country; but he will “ This kingdom, Sir,” said the gentle- not allow any one else.
That is very man with the satin waistcoat and gold good—very right. But I would rather seals, in such lofty tones that Count have a Frenchman who is very vain of von Rosen scarcely minded his dinner, his country, and says 80 at every
-"this kingdom, Sir, is more divided moment, than an Englishman who is at this moment than it was during the very vain and pretends to disparage it. Wars of the Roses, It is split into The Frenchman is more honest.” hostile factions; and which is the more “But there are many Englishmen patriotic ? Neither. There is no patriot- who think England wants great imism left-only the selfishness of class. provements," said Tita. We care no more for the country as a "Improvements! Yes. But it is country. We are cosmopolitan. The another thing you hear so many Englishscepticism of the first French Revolu- men say, that their country is all wrong tion has poisoned our big towns. We —'going to the dogs' is what you say tolerate a monarchy as a harmless toy. for that. Well, they do not believe it We tolerate an endowed priesthood, true—it is impossible to be true; and because we think they cannot make our they do not look well with us foreigners peasantry more ignorant than they are. when they say so. For myself, I like We allow pauperism to increase and eat to see a man proud of his country, into the heart of the State, because we whatever country it is; and if my think it no business of ours to interfere. country were England, do not you think We see our lowest classes growing up I should be proud of her great history, to starve or steal, in ignorance and dirt; and her great men, and her powers of our middle classes scrambling for wealth filling the world with colonies, andto get out of the state they were born what I think most of all-her courage in ; our upper classes given over to in making the country free to every luxury and debauchery-patriotism gone man, and protecting opinions that she --continental nations laughingatus-our herself does not believe, because it is army a mere handful of men with in
right? When my countrymen hear competent officers—our navy made the Englishmen talk like that, they cannot subject of destructive experiments by understand.”