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Our Village by Mary Russell Mitford

Part 3 out of 3

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of this volume. Let not the unwary reader opine, that in assigning
the same name to three several individuals, I am acting as an humble
imitator of the inimitable writer who has given immortality to the
Peppers and the Mustards, on the one hand; or showing a poverty of
invention or a want of acquaintance with the bead-roll of canine
appellations on the other. I merely, with my usual scrupulous
fidelity, take the names as I find them. The fact is that half the
handsome spaniels in England are called Dash, just as half the tall
footmen are called Thomas. The name belongs to the species.
Sitting in an open carriage one day last summer at the door of a
farmhouse where my father had some business, I saw a noble and
beautiful animal of this kind lying in great state and laziness on
the steps, and felt an immediate desire to make acquaintance with
him. My father, who had had the same fancy, had patted him and
called him 'poor fellow' in passing, without eliciting the smallest
notice in return. 'Dash!' cried I at a venture, 'good Dash! noble
Dash!' and up he started in a moment, making but one spring from the
door into the gig. Of course I was right in my guess. The
gentleman's name was Dash.


September 26th.--One of those delicious autumnal days, when the air,
the sky, and the earth seem lulled into a universal calm, softer and
milder even than May. We sallied forth for a walk, in a mood
congenial to the weather and the season, avoiding, by mutual
consent, the bright and sunny common, and the gay highroad, and
stealing through shady, unfrequented lanes, where we were not likely
to meet any one,--not even the pretty family procession which in
other years we used to contemplate with so much interest--the
father, mother, and children, returning from the wheat-field, the
little ones laden with bristling close-tied bunches of wheat-ears,
their own gleanings, or a bottle and a basket which had contained
their frugal dinner, whilst the mother would carry her babe hushing
and lulling it, and the father and an elder child trudged after with
the cradle, all seeming weary and all happy. We shall not see such
a procession as this to-day; for the harvest is nearly over, the
fields are deserted, the silence may almost be felt. Except the
wintry notes of the redbreast, nature herself is mute. But how
beautiful, how gentle, how harmonious, how rich! The rain has
preserved to the herbage all the freshness and verdure of spring,
and the world of leaves has lost nothing of its midsummer
brightness, and the harebell is on the banks, and the woodbine in
the hedges, and the low furze, which the lambs cropped in the
spring, has burst again into its golden blossoms.

All is beautiful that the eye can see; perhaps the more beautiful
for being shut in with a forest-like closeness. We have no prospect
in this labyrinth of lanes, cross-roads, mere cart-ways, leading to
the innumerable little farms into which this part of the parish is
divided. Up-hill or down, these quiet woody lanes scarcely give us
a peep at the world, except when, leaning over a gate, we look into
one of the small enclosures, hemmed in with hedgerows, so closely
set with growing timber, that the meady opening looks almost like a
glade in a wood; or when some cottage, planted at a corner of one of
the little greens formed by the meeting of these cross-ways, almost
startles us by the unexpected sight of the dwellings of men in such
a solitude. But that we have more of hill and dale, and that our
cross-roads are excellent in their kind, this side of our parish
would resemble the description given of La Vendee, in Madame
Laroche-Jacquelin's most interesting book.* I am sure if wood can
entitle a country to be called Le Bocage, none can have a better
right to the name. Even this pretty snug farmhouse on the hillside,
with its front covered with the rich vine, which goes wreathing up
to the very top of the clustered chimney, and its sloping orchard
full of fruit--even this pretty quiet nest can hardly peep out of
its leaves. Ah! they are gathering in the orchard harvest. Look at
that young rogue in the old mossy apple-tree--that great tree,
bending with the weight of its golden-rennets--see how he pelts his
little sister beneath with apples as red and as round as her own
cheeks, while she, with her outstretched frock, is trying to catch
them, and laughing and offering to pelt again as often as one bobs
against her; and look at that still younger imp, who, as grave as a
judge, is creeping on hands and knees under the tree, picking up the
apples as they fall so deedily,** and depositing them so honestly in
the great basket on the grass, already fixed so firmly and opened so
widely, and filled almost to overflowing by the brown rough fruitage
of the golden-rennet's next neighbour the russeting; and see that
smallest urchin of all, seated apart in infantine state on the turfy
bank, with that toothsome piece of deformity a crumpling in each
hand, now biting from one sweet, hard, juicy morsel and now from
another--Is not that a pretty English picture? And then, farther up
the orchard, that bold hardy lad, the eldest born, who has scaled
(Heaven knows how) the tall, straight upper branch of that great
pear-tree, and is sitting there as securely and as fearlessly, in as
much real safety and apparent danger, as a sailor on the top-mast.
Now he shakes the tree with a mighty swing that brings down a
pelting shower of stony bergamots, which the father gathers rapidly
up, whilst the mother can hardly assist for her motherly fear--a
fear which only spurs the spirited boy to bolder ventures. Is not
that a pretty picture? And they are such a handsome family too, the
Brookers. I do not know that there is any gipsy blood, but there is
the true gipsy complexion, richly brown, with cheeks and lips so
red, black hair curling close to their heads in short crisp rings,
white shining teeth--and such eyes!--That sort of beauty entirely
eclipses your mere roses and lilies. Even Lizzy, the prettiest of
fair children, would look poor and watery by the side of Willy
Brooker, the sober little personage who is picking up the apples
with his small chubby hands, and filling the basket so orderly, next
to his father the most useful man in the field. 'Willy!' He hears
without seeing; for we are quite hidden by the high bank, and a
spreading hawthorn bush that overtops it, though between the lower
branches and the grass we have found a convenient peep-hole.
'Willy!' The voice sounds to him like some fairy dream, and the
black eyes are raised from the ground with sudden wonder, the long
silky eyelashes thrown back till they rest on the delicate brow, and
a deeper blush is burning on those dark cheeks, and a smile is
dimpling about those scarlet lips. But the voice is silent now, and
the little quiet boy, after a moment's pause, is gone coolly to work
again. He is indeed a most lovely child. I think some day or other
he must marry Lizzy; I shall propose the match to their respective
mammas. At present the parties are rather too young for a wedding--
the intended bridegroom being, as I should judge, six, or
thereabout, and the fair bride barely five,--but at least we might
have a betrothment after the royal fashion,--there could be no harm
in that. Miss Lizzy, I have no doubt, would be as demure and
coquettish as if ten winters more had gone over her head, and poor
Willy would open his innocent black eyes, and wonder what was going
forward. They would be the very Oberon and Titania of the village,
the fairy king and queen.

*An almost equally interesting account of that very peculiar and
interesting scenery, may be found in The Maid of La Vendee, an
English novel, remarkable for its simplicity and truth of painting,
written by Mrs. Le Noir, the daughter of Christopher Smart, an
inheritrix of much of his talent. Her works deserve to be better

**'Deedily,'--I am not quite sure that this word is good English;
but it is genuine Hampshire, and is used by the most correct of
female writers, Miss Austen. It means (and it is no small merit
that it has no exact synonym) anything done with a profound and
plodding attention, an action which engrosses all the powers of mind
and body.

Ah! here is the hedge along which the periwinkle wreathes and twines
so profusely, with its evergreen leaves shining like the myrtle, and
its starry blue flowers. It is seldom found wild in this part of
England; but, when we do meet with it, it is so abundant and so
welcome,--the very robin-redbreast of flowers, a winter friend.
Unless in those unfrequent frosts which destroy all vegetation, it
blossoms from September to June, surviving the last lingering
crane's-bill, forerunning the earliest primrose, hardier even than
the mountain daisy,--peeping out from beneath the snow, looking at
itself in the ice, smiling through the tempests of life, and yet
welcoming and enjoying the sunbeams. Oh, to be like that flower!

The little spring that has been bubbling under the hedge all along
the hillside, begins, now that we have mounted the eminence and are
imperceptibly descending, to deviate into a capricious variety of
clear deep pools and channels, so narrow and so choked with weeds,
that a child might overstep them. The hedge has also changed its
character. It is no longer the close compact vegetable wall of
hawthorn, and maple, and brier-roses, intertwined with bramble and
woodbine, and crowned with large elms or thickly-set saplings. No!
the pretty meadow which rises high above us, backed and almost
surrounded by a tall coppice, needs no defence on our side but its
own steep bank, garnished with tufts of broom, with pollard oaks
wreathed with ivy, and here and there with long patches of hazel
overhanging the water. 'Ah, there are still nuts on that bough!'
and in an instant my dear companion, active and eager and delighted
as a boy, has hooked down with his walking-stick one of the lissome
hazel stalks, and cleared it of its tawny clusters, and in another
moment he has mounted the bank, and is in the midst of the nuttery,
now transferring the spoil from the lower branches into that vast
variety of pockets which gentlemen carry about them, now bending the
tall tops into the lane, holding them down by main force, so that I
might reach them and enjoy the pleasure of collecting some of the
plunder myself. A very great pleasure he knew it would be. I
doffed my shawl, tucked up my flounces, turned my straw bonnet into
a basket, and began gathering and scrambling--for, manage it how you
may, nutting is scrambling work,--those boughs, however tightly you
may grasp them by the young fragrant twigs and the bright green
leaves, will recoil and burst away; but there is a pleasure even in
that: so on we go, scrambling and gathering with all our might and
all our glee. Oh, what an enjoyment! All my life long I have had a
passion for that sort of seeking which implies finding (the secret,
I believe, of the love of field-sports, which is in man's mind a
natural impulse)--therefore I love violeting,--therefore, when we
had a fine garden, I used to love to gather strawberries, and cut
asparagus, and above all, to collect the filberts from the
shrubberies: but this hedgerow nutting beats that sport all to
nothing. That was a make-believe thing, compared with this; there
was no surprise, no suspense, no unexpectedness--it was as inferior
to this wild nutting, as the turning out of a bag-fox is to
unearthing the fellow, in the eyes of a staunch foxhunter.

Oh, what enjoyment this nut-gathering is! They are in such
abundance, that it seems as if there were not a boy in the parish,
nor a young man, nor a young woman,--for a basket of nuts is the
universal tribute of country gallantry; our pretty damsel Harriet
has had at least half a dozen this season; but no one has found out
these. And they are so full too, we lose half of them from
over-ripeness; they drop from the socket at the slightest motion.
If we lose, there is one who finds. May is as fond of nuts as a
squirrel, and cracks the shell and extracts the kernel with equal
dexterity. Her white glossy head is upturned now to watch them as
they fall. See how her neck is thrown back like that of a swan, and
how beautifully her folded ears quiver with expectation, and how her
quick eye follows the rustling noise, and her light feet dance and
pat the ground, and leap up with eagerness, seeming almost sustained
in the air, just as I have seen her when Brush is beating a
hedgerow, and she knows from his questing that there is a hare
afoot. See, she has caught that nut just before it touched the
water; but the water would have been no defence,--she fishes them
from the bottom, she delves after them amongst the matted grass--
even my bonnet--how beggingly she looks at that! 'Oh, what a
pleasure nutting is!--Is it not, May? But the pockets are almost
full, and so is the basket-bonnet, and that bright watch the sun
says it is late; and after all it is wrong to rob the poor boys--is
it not, May?'--May shakes her graceful head denyingly, as if she
understood the question--'And we must go home now--must we not? But
we will come nutting again some time or other--shall we not, my


October 27th.--A lovely autumnal day; the air soft, balmy, genial;
the sky of that softened and delicate blue upon which the eye loves
to rest,--the blue which gives such relief to the rich beauty of the
earth, all around glowing in the ripe and mellow tints of the most
gorgeous of the seasons. Really such an autumn may well compensate
our English climate for the fine spring of the south, that spring of
which the poets talk, but which we so seldom enjoy. Such an autumn
glows upon us like a splendid evening; it is the very sunset of the
year; and I have been tempted forth into a wider range of enjoyment
than usual. This WALK (if I may use the Irish figure of speech
called a bull) will be a RIDE. A very dear friend has beguiled me
into accompanying her in her pretty equipage to her beautiful home,
four miles off; and having sent forward in the style of a running
footman the servant who had driven her, she assumes the reins, and
off we set.

My fair companion is a person whom nature and fortune would have
spoiled if they could. She is one of those striking women whom a
stranger cannot pass without turning to look again; tall and finely
proportioned, with a bold Roman contour of figure and feature, a
delicate English complexion, and an air of distinction altogether
her own. Her beauty is duchess-like. She seems born to wear
feathers and diamonds, and to form the grace and ornament of a
court; and the noble frankness and simplicity of her countenance and
manner confirm the impression. Destiny has, however, dealt more
kindly by her. She is the wife of a rich country gentleman of high
descent and higher attainments, to whom she is most devotedly
attached,--the mother of a little girl as lovely as herself, and the
delight of all who have the happiness of her acquaintance, to whom
she is endeared not merely by her remarkable sweetness of temper and
kindness of heart, but by the singular ingenuousness and openness of
character which communicate an indescribable charm to her
conversation. She is as transparent as water. You may see every
colour, every shade of a mind as lofty and beautiful as her person.
Talking with her is like being in the Palace of Truth described by
Madame de Genlis; and yet so kindly are her feelings, so great her
indulgence to the little failings and foibles of our common nature,
so intense her sympathy with the wants, the wishes, the sorrows, and
the happiness of her fellow-creatures, that, with all her
frank-speaking, I never knew her make an enemy or lose a friend.

But we must get on. What would she say if she knew I was putting
her into print? We must get on up the hill. Ah! that is precisely
what we are not likely to do! This horse, this beautiful and
high-bred horse, well-fed, and fat and glossy, who stood prancing at
our gate like an Arabian, has suddenly turned sulky. He does not
indeed stand quite still, but his way of moving is little better--
the slowest and most sullen of all walks. Even they who ply the
hearse at funerals, sad-looking beasts who totter under black
feathers, go faster. It is of no use to admonish him by whip, or
rein, or word. The rogue has found out that it is a weak and tender
hand that guides him now. Oh, for one pull, one stroke of his old
driver, the groom! how he would fly! But there is the groom half a
mile before us, out of earshot, clearing the ground at a capital
rate, beating us hollow. He has just turned the top of the hill;--
and in a moment--ay, NOW he is out of sight, and will undoubtedly so
continue till he meets us at the lawn gate. Well! there is no great
harm. It is only prolonging the pleasure of enjoying together this
charming scenery in this fine weather. If once we make up our minds
not to care how slowly our steed goes, not to fret ourselves by vain
exertions, it is no matter what his pace may be. There is little
doubt of his getting home by sunset, and that will content us. He
is, after all, a fine noble animal; and perhaps when he finds that
we are determined to give him his way, he may relent and give us
ours. All his sex are sticklers for dominion, though, when it is
undisputed, some of them are generous enough to abandon it. Two or
three of the most discreet wives of my acquaintance contrive to
manage their husbands sufficiently with no better secret than this
seeming submission; and in our case the example has the more weight
since we have no possible way of helping ourselves.

Thus philosophising, we reached the top of the hill, and viewed with
'reverted eyes' the beautiful prospect that lay bathed in golden
sunshine behind us. Cowper says, with that boldness of expressing
in poetry the commonest and simplest feelings, which is perhaps one
great secret of his originality,

'Scenes must be beautiful, which, daily seen,
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years.'

Every day I walk up this hill--every day I pause at the top to
admire the broad winding road with the green waste on each side,
uniting it with the thickly timbered hedgerows; the two pretty
cottages at unequal distances, placed so as to mark the bends; the
village beyond, with its mass of roofs and clustered chimneys
peeping through the trees; and the rich distance, where cottages,
mansions, churches, towns, seem embowered in some wide forest, and
shut in by blue shadowy hills. Every day I admire this most
beautiful landscape; yet never did it seem to me so fine or so
glowing as now. All the tints of the glorious autumn, orange,
tawny, yellow, red, are poured in profusion among the bright greens
of the meadows and turnip fields, till the eyes are satiated with
colour; and then before us we have the common with its picturesque
roughness of surface tufted with cottages, dappled with water,
edging off on one side into fields and farms and orchards, and
terminated on the other by the princely oak avenue. What a richness
and variety the wild broken ground gives to the luxuriant
cultivation of the rest of the landscape! Cowper has described it
for me. How perpetually, as we walk in the country, his vivid
pictures recur to the memory! Here is his common and mine!

'The common overgrown with fern, and rough
With prickly gorse, that, shapeless and deform'd
And dangerous to the touch, has yet its bloom,
And decks itself with ornaments of gold;--
--------------- there the turf
Smells fresh, and, rich in odoriferous herbs
And fungous fruits of earth, regales the sense
With luxury of unexpected sweets.'

The description is exact. There, too, to the left is my
cricket-ground (Cowper's common wanted that finishing grace); and
there stands one solitary urchin, as if in contemplation of its past
and future glories; for, alas! cricket is over for the season. Ah!
it is Ben Kirby, next brother to Joe, king of the youngsters, and
probably his successor--for this Michaelmas has cost us Joe! He is
promoted from the farm to the mansion-house, two miles off; there he
cleans shoes, rubs knives, and runs on errands, and is, as his
mother expresses it, 'a sort of 'prentice to the footman.' I should
not wonder if Joe, some day or other, should overtop the footman,
and rise to be butler; and his splendid prospects must be our
consolation for the loss of this great favourite. In the meantime
we have Ben.

Ben Kirby is a year younger than Joe, and the school-fellow and
rival of Jem Eusden. To be sure his abilities lie in rather a
different line: Jem is a scholar, Ben is a wag: Jem is great in
figures and writing, Ben in faces and mischief. His master says of
him, that, if there were two such in the school, he must resign his
office; and as far as my observation goes, the worthy pedagogue is
right. Ben is, it must be confessed, a great corrupter of gravity.
He hath an exceeding aversion to authority and decorum, and a
wonderful boldness and dexterity in overthrowing the one and
puzzling the other. His contortions of visage are astounding. His
'power over his own muscles and those of other people' is almost
equal to that of Liston; and indeed the original face, flat and
square and Chinese in its shape, of a fine tan complexion, with a
snub nose, and a slit for a mouth, is nearly as comical as that
matchless performer's. When aided by Ben's singular mobility of
feature, his knowing winks and grins and shrugs and nods, together
with a certain dry shrewdness, a habit of saying sharp things, and a
marvellous gift of impudence, it forms as fine a specimen as
possible of a humorous country boy, an oddity in embryo. Everybody
likes Ben, except his butts (which may perhaps comprise half his
acquaintance); and of them no one so thoroughly hates and dreads him
as our parish schoolmaster, a most worthy King Log, whom Ben
dumbfounds twenty times a day. He is a great ornament of the
cricket-ground, has a real genius for the game, and displays it
after a very original manner, under the disguise of awkwardness--as
the clown shows off his agility in a pantomime. Nothing comes amiss
to him. By the bye, he would have been the very lad for us in our
present dilemma; not a horse in England could master Ben Kirby. But
we are too far from him now--and perhaps it is as well that we are
so. I believe the rogue has a kindness for me, in remembrance of
certain apples and nuts, which my usual companion, who delights in
his wit, is accustomed to dole out to him. But it is a Robin
Goodfellow nevertheless, a perfect Puck, that loves nothing on earth
so well as mischief. Perhaps the horse may be the safer conductor
of the two.

The avenue is quite alive to-day. Old women are picking up twigs
and acorns, and pigs of all sizes doing their utmost to spare them
the latter part of the trouble; boys and girls groping for
beech-nuts under yonder clump; and a group of younger elves
collecting as many dead leaves as they can find to feed the bonfire
which is smoking away so briskly amongst the trees,--a sort of
rehearsal of the grand bonfire nine days hence; of the loyal
conflagration of the arch-traitor Guy Vaux, which is annually
solemnised in the avenue, accompanied with as much of squibbery and
crackery as our boys can beg or borrow--not to say steal. Ben Kirby
is a great man on the 5th of November. All the savings of a month,
the hoarded halfpence, the new farthings, the very luck-penny, go
off in fumo on that night. For my part, I like this daylight
mockery better. There is no gunpowder--odious gunpowder! no noise
but the merry shouts of the small fry, so shrill and happy, and the
cawing of the rooks, who are wheeling in large circles overhead, and
wondering what is going forward in their territory--seeming in their
loud clamour to ask what that light smoke may mean that curls so
prettily amongst their old oaks, towering as if to meet the clouds.
There is something very intelligent in the ways of that black people
the rooks, particularly in their wonder. I suppose it results from
their numbers and their unity of purpose, a sort of collective and
corporate wisdom. Yet geese congregate also; and geese never by any
chance look wise. But then geese are a domestic fowl; we have
spoiled them; and rooks are free commoners of nature, who use the
habitations we provide for them, tenant our groves and our avenues,
but never dream of becoming our subjects.

What a labyrinth of a road this is! I do think there are four
turnings in the short half-mile between the avenue and the mill.
And what a pity, as my companion observes--not that our good and
jolly miller, the very representative of the old English yeomanry,
should be so rich, but that one consequence of his riches should be
the pulling down of the prettiest old mill that ever looked at
itself in the Loddon, with the picturesque, low-browed, irregular
cottage, which stood with its light-pointed roof, its clustered
chimneys, and its ever-open door, looking like the real abode of
comfort and hospitality, to build this huge, staring, frightful,
red-brick mill, as ugly as a manufactory, and this great square
house, ugly and red to match, just behind. The old buildings always
used to remind me of Wollett's beautiful engraving of a scene in the
Maid of the Mill. It will be long before any artist will make a
drawing of this. Only think of this redness in a picture! this
boiled lobster of a house! Falstaff's description of Bardolph's
nose would look pale in the comparison.

Here is that monstrous machine of a tilted waggon, with its load of
flour, and its four fat horses. I wonder whether our horse will
have the decency to get out of the way. If he does not, I am sure
we cannot make him; and that enormous ship upon wheels, that ark on
dry land, would roll over us like the car of Juggernaut. Really--Oh
no! there is no danger now. I should have remembered that it is my
friend Samuel Long who drives the mill team. He will take care of
us. 'Thank you, Samuel!' And Samuel has put us on our way, steered
us safely past his waggon, escorted us over the bridge and now,
having seen us through our immediate difficulties, has parted from
us with a very civil bow and good-humoured smile, as one who is
always civil and good-humoured, but with a certain triumphant
masterful look in his eyes, which I have noted in men, even the best
of them, when a woman gets into straits by attempting manly
employments. He has done us great good though, and may be allowed
his little feeling of superiority. The parting salute he bestowed
on our steed, in the shape of an astounding crack of his huge whip,
has put that refractory animal on his mettle. On we go! past the
glazier's pretty house, with its porch and its filbert walk; along
the narrow lane bordered with elms, whose fallen leaves have made
the road one yellow; past that little farmhouse with the
horse-chestnut trees before, glowing like oranges; past the
whitewashed school on the other side, gay with October roses; past
the park, and the lodge, and the mansion, where once dwelt the great
Earl of Clarendon;--and now the rascal has begun to discover that
Samuel Long and his whip are a mile off, and that his mistress is
driving him, and he slackens his pace accordingly. Perhaps he feels
the beauty of the road just here, and goes slowly to enjoy it. Very
beautiful it certainly is. The park paling forms the boundary on
one side, with fine clumps of oak, and deer in all attitudes; the
water, tufted with alders, flowing along on the other. Another
turn, and the water winds away, succeeded by a low hedge, and a
sweep of green meadows; whilst the park and its palings are replaced
by a steep bank, on which stands a small, quiet, village alehouse;
and higher up, embosomed in wood, is the little country church, with
its sloping churchyard and its low white steeple, peeping out from
amongst magnificent yew-trees:--

'Huge trunks! and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and invet'rately convolved.'

No village church was ever more happily placed. It is the very
image of the peace and humbleness inculcated within its walls.

Ah! here is a higher hill rising before us, almost like a mountain.
How grandly the view opens as we ascend over that wild bank,
overgrown with fern, and heath, and gorse, and between those tall
hollies, glowing with their coral berries! What an expanse! But we
have little time to gaze at present; for that piece of perversity,
our horse, who has walked over so much level ground, has now,
inspired, I presume, by a desire to revisit his stable, taken it
into that unaccountable noddle of his to trot up this, the very
steepest hill in the county. Here we are on the top; and in five
minutes we have reached the lawn gate, and are in the very midst of
that beautiful piece of art or nature (I do not know to which class
it belongs), the pleasure-ground of F. Hill. Never was the
'prophetic eye of taste' exerted with more magical skill than in
these plantations. Thirty years ago this place had no existence; it
was a mere undistinguished tract of field and meadow and common
land; now it is a mimic forest, delighting the eye with the finest
combinations of trees and shrubs, the rarest effects of form and
foliage, and bewildering the mind with its green glades, and
impervious recesses, and apparently interminable extent. It is the
triumph of landscape gardening, and never more beautiful than in
this autumn sunset, lighting up the ruddy beech and the spotted
sycamore, and gilding the shining fir-cones that hang so thickly
amongst the dark pines. The robins are singing around us, as if
they too felt the magic of the hour. How gracefully the road winds
through the leafy labyrinth, leading imperceptibly to the more
ornamented sweep. Here we are at the door amidst geraniums, and
carnations, and jasmines, still in flower. Ah! here is a flower
sweeter than all, a bird gayer than the robin, the little bird that
chirps to the tune of 'mamma! mamma!', the bright-faced fairy, whose
tiny feet come pattering along, making a merry music, mamma's own
Frances! And following her guidance, here we are in the dear round
room time enough to catch the last rays of the sun, as they light
the noble landscape which lies like a panorama around us, lingering
longest on that long island of old thorns and stunted oaks, the
oasis of B. Heath, and then vanishing in a succession of gorgeous

October 28th.--Another soft and brilliant morning. But the
pleasures of to-day must be written in shorthand. I have left
myself no room for notes of admiration.

First we drove about the coppice: an extensive wood of oak, and
elm, and beech, chiefly the former, which adjoins the park-paling of
F. Hill, of which demesne, indeed, it forms one of the most
delightful parts. The roads through the coppice are studiously
wild; so that they have the appearance of mere cart-tracks: and the
manner in which the ground is tumbled about, the steep declivities,
the sunny slopes, the sudden swells and falls, now a close narrow
valley, then a sharp ascent to an eminence commanding an immense
extent of prospect, have a striking air of natural beauty, developed
and heightened by the perfection of art. All this, indeed, was
familiar to me; the colouring only was new. I had been there in
early spring, when the fragrant palms were on the willow, and the
yellow tassels on the hazel, and every twig was swelling with
renewed life; and I had been there again and again in the green
leafiness of midsummer; but never as now, when the dark verdure of
the fir-plantations, hanging over the picturesque and unequal
paling, partly covered with moss and ivy, contrasts so remarkably
with the shining orange-leaves of the beech, already half fallen,
the pale yellow of the scattering elm, the deeper and richer tints
of the oak, and the glossy stems of the 'lady of the woods,' the
delicate weeping birch. The underwood is no less picturesque. The
red-spotted leaves and redder berries of the old thorns, the scarlet
festoons of the bramble, the tall fern of every hue, seem to vie
with the brilliant mosaic of the ground, now covered with dead
leaves and strewn with fir-cones, now, where a little glade
intervenes, gay with various mosses and splendid fungi. How
beautiful is this coppice to-day! especially where the little
spring, as clear as crystal, comes bubbling out from the old
'fantastic' beech root, and trickles over the grass, bright and
silent as the dew in a May morning. The wood-pigeons (who are just
returned from their summer migration, and are cropping the ivy
berries) add their low cooings, the very note of love, to the slight
fluttering of the falling leaves in the quiet air, giving a voice to
the sunshine and the beauty. This coppice is a place to live and
die in. But we must go. And how fine is the ascent which leads us
again into the world, past those cottages hidden as in a pit, and by
that hanging orchard and that rough heathy bank! The scenery in
this one spot has a wildness, an abruptness of rise and fall, rare
in any part of England, rare above all in this rich and lovely but
monotonous county. It is Switzerland in miniature.

And now we cross the hill to pay a morning visit to the family at
the great house,--another fine place, commanding another fine sweep
of country. The park, studded with old trees, and sinking gently
into a valley, rich in wood and water, is in the best style of
ornamental landscape, though more according to the common routine of
gentlemen's seats than the singularly original place which we have
just left. There is, however, one distinctive beauty in the grounds
of the great house;--the magnificent firs which shade the terraces
and surround the sweep, giving out in summer odours really Sabaean,
and now in this low autumn sun producing an effect almost magical,
as the huge red trunks, garlanded with ivy, stand out from the deep
shadows like an army of giants. Indoors--Oh I must not take my
readers indoors, or we shall never get away! Indoors the sunshine
is brighter still; for there, in a lofty, lightsome room, sat a
damsel fair and arch and piquante, one whom Titian or Velasquez
should be born again to paint, leaning over an instrument* as
sparkling and fanciful as herself, singing pretty French romances,
and Scottish Jacobite songs, and all sorts of graceful and airy
drolleries picked up I know not where--an English improvisatrice! a
gayer Annot Lyle! whilst her sister, of a higher order of beauty,
and with an earnest kindness in her smile that deepens its power,
lends to the piano, as her father to the violin, an expression, a
sensibility, a spirit, an eloquence almost superhuman--almost
divine! Oh to hear these two instruments accompanying my dear
companion (I forgot to say that she is a singer worthy to be so
accompanied) in Haydn's exquisite canzonet, "She never told her
love,"--to hear her voice, with all its power, its sweetness, its
gush of sound, so sustained and assisted by modulations that
rivalled its intensity of expression; to hear at once such poetry,
such music, such execution, is a pleasure never to be forgotten, or
mixed with meaner things. I seem to hear it still.

As in the bursting spring time o'er the eye
Of one who haunts the fields fair visions creep
Beneath the closed lids (afore dull sleep
Dims the quick fancy) of sweet flowers that lie
On grassy banks, oxlip of orient dye,
And palest primrose and blue violet,
All in their fresh and dewy beauty set,
Pictured within the sense, and will not fly:
So in mine ear resounds and lives again
One mingled melody,--a voice, a pair
Of instruments most voice-like! Of the air
Rather than of the earth seems that high strain,
A spirit's song, and worthy of the train
That soothed old Prospero with music rare.

*The dital harp.


The Shaw, leading to Hannah Bint's habitation, is, as I perhaps have
said before, a very pretty mixture of wood and coppice; that is to
say, a tract of thirty or forty acres covered with fine growing
timber--ash, and oak, and elm, very regularly planted; and
interspersed here and there with large patches of underwood, hazel,
maple, birch, holly, and hawthorn, woven into almost impenetrable
thickets by long wreaths of the bramble, the briony, and the
brier-rose, or by the pliant and twisting garlands of the wild
honeysuckle. In other parts, the Shaw is quite clear of its bosky
undergrowth, and clothed only with large beds of feathery fern, or
carpets of flowers, primroses, orchises, cowslips, ground-ivy,
crane's-bill, cotton-grass, Solomon's seal, and forget-me-not,
crowded together with a profusion and brilliancy of colour, such as
I have rarely seen equalled even in a garden. Here the wild
hyacinth really enamels the ground with its fresh and lovely purple;

'On aged roots, with bright green mosses clad,
Dwells the wood-sorrel, with its bright thin leaves
Heart-shaped and triply folded, and its root
Creeping like beaded coral; whilst around
Flourish the copse's pride, anemones,
With rays like golden studs on ivory laid
Most delicate; but touch'd with purple clouds,
Fit crown for April's fair but changeful brow.'

The variety is much greater than I have enumerated; for the ground
is so unequal, now swelling in gentle ascents, now dimpling into
dells and hollows, and the soil so different in different parts,
that the sylvan Flora is unusually extensive and complete.

The season is, however, now too late for this floweriness; and
except the tufted woodbines, which have continued in bloom during
the whole of this lovely autumn, and some lingering garlands of the
purple wild vetch, wreathing round the thickets, and uniting with
the ruddy leaves of the bramble, and the pale festoons of the
briony, there is little to call one's attention from the grander
beauties of the trees--the sycamore, its broad leaves already
spotted--the oak, heavy with acorns--and the delicate shining rind
of the weeping birch, 'the lady of the woods,' thrown out in strong
relief from a background of holly and hawthorn, each studded with
coral berries, and backed with old beeches, beginning to assume the
rich tawny hue which makes them perhaps the most picturesque of
autumnal trees, as the transparent freshness of their young foliage
is undoubtedly the choicest ornament of the forest in spring.

A sudden turn round one of these magnificent beeches brings us to
the boundary of the Shaw, and leaning upon a rude gate, we look over
an open space of about ten acres of ground, still more varied and
broken than that which we have passed, and surrounded on all sides
by thick woodland. As a piece of colour, nothing can be well finer.
The ruddy glow of the heath-flower, contrasting, on the one hand,
with the golden-blossomed furze--on the other, with a patch of
buck-wheat, of which the bloom is not past, although the grain be
ripening, the beautiful buck-wheat, whose transparent leaves and
stalks are so brightly tinged with vermilion, while the delicate
pink-white of the flower, a paler persicaria, has a feathery fall,
at once so rich and so graceful, and a fresh and reviving odour,
like that of birch trees in the dew of a May evening. The bank that
surmounts this attempt at cultivation is crowned with the late
foxglove and the stately mullein; the pasture of which so great a
part of the waste consists, looks as green as an emerald; a clear
pond, with the bright sky reflected in it, lets light into the
picture; the white cottage of the keeper peeps from the opposite
coppice; and the vine-covered dwelling of Hannah Bint rises from
amidst the pretty garden, which lies bathed in the sunshine around

The living and moving accessories are all in keeping with the
cheerfulness and repose of the landscape. Hannah's cow grazing
quietly beside the keeper's pony; a brace of fat pointer puppies
holding amicable intercourse with a litter of young pigs; ducks,
geese, cocks, hens, and chickens scattered over the turf; Hannah
herself sallying forth from the cottage-door, with her milk-bucket
in her hand, and her little brother following with the

My friend, Hannah Bint, is by no means an ordinary person. Her
father, Jack Bint (for in all his life he never arrived at the
dignity of being called John, indeed in our parts he was commonly
known by the cognomen of London Jack), was a drover of high repute
in his profession. No man, between Salisbury Plain and Smithfield,
was thought to conduct a flock of sheep so skilfully through all the
difficulties of lanes and commons, streets and high-roads, as Jack
Bint, aided by Jack Bint's famous dog, Watch; for Watch's rough,
honest face, black, with a little white about the muzzle, and one
white ear, was as well known at fairs and markets as his master's
equally honest and weather-beaten visage. Lucky was the dealer that
could secure their services; Watch being renowned for keeping a
flock together better than any shepherd's dog on the road--Jack, for
delivering them more punctually, and in better condition. No man
had a more thorough knowledge of the proper night stations, where
good feed might be procured for his charge, and good liquor for
Watch and himself; Watch, like other sheep dogs, being accustomed to
live chiefly on bread and beer. His master, though not averse to a
pot of good double X, preferred gin; and they who plod slowly along,
through wet and weary ways, in frost and in fog, have undoubtedly a
stronger temptation to indulge in that cordial and reviving
stimulus, than we water-drinkers, sitting in warm and comfortable
rooms, can readily imagine. For certain, our drover could never
resist the gentle seduction of the gin-bottle, and being of a free,
merry, jovial temperament, one of those persons commonly called good
fellows, who like to see others happy in the same way with
themselves, he was apt to circulate it at his own expense, to the
great improvement of his popularity, and the great detriment of his

All this did vastly well whilst his earnings continued proportionate
to his spendings, and the little family at home were comfortably
supported by his industry: but when a rheumatic fever came on, one
hard winter, and finally settled in his limbs, reducing the most
active and hardy man in the parish to the state of a confirmed
cripple, then his reckless improvidence stared him in the face; and
poor Jack, a thoughtless, but kind creature, and a most affectionate
father, looked at his three motherless children with the acute
misery of a parent who has brought those whom he loves best in the
world to abject destitution. He found help, where he probably least
expected it, in the sense and spirit of his young daughter, a girl
of twelve years old.

Hannah was the eldest of the family, and had, ever since her
mother's death, which event had occurred two or three years before,
been accustomed to take the direction of their domestic concerns, to
manage her two brothers, to feed the pigs and the poultry, and to
keep house during the almost constant absence of her father. She
was a quick, clever lass, of a high spirit, a firm temper, some
pride, and a horror of accepting parochial relief, which is every
day becoming rarer amongst the peasantry; but which forms the surest
safeguard to the sturdy independence of the English character. Our
little damsel possessed this quality in perfection; and when her
father talked of giving up their comfortable cottage, and removing
to the workhouse, whilst she and her brothers must go to service,
Hannah formed a bold resolution, and without disturbing the sick man
by any participation of her hopes and fears, proceeded after
settling their trifling affairs to act at once on her own plans and

Careless of the future as the poor drover had seemed, he had yet
kept clear of debt, and by subscribing constantly to a benefit club,
had secured a pittance that might at least assist in supporting him
during the long years of sickness and helplessness to which he was
doomed to look forward. This his daughter knew. She knew also,
that the employer in whose service his health had suffered so
severely, was a rich and liberal cattle-dealer in the neighbourhood,
who would willingly aid an old and faithful servant, and had,
indeed, come forward with offers of money. To assistance from such
a quarter Hannah saw no objection. Farmer Oakley and the parish
were quite distinct things. Of him, accordingly, she asked, not
money, but something much more in his own way--'a cow! any cow! old
or lame, or what not, so that it were a cow! she would be bound to
keep it well; if she did not, he might take it back again. She even
hoped to pay for it by and by, by instalments, but that she would
not promise!' and, partly amused, partly interested by the child's
earnestness, the wealthy yeoman gave her, not as a purchase, but as
a present, a very fine young Alderney. She then went to the lord of
the manor, and, with equal knowledge of character, begged his
permission to keep her cow on the Shaw common. 'Farmer Oakley had
given her a fine Alderney, and she would be bound to pay the rent,
and keep her father off the parish, if he would only let it graze on
the waste;' and he too, half from real good nature--half, not to be
outdone in liberality by his tenant, not only granted the requested
permission, but reduced the rent so much, that the produce of the
vine seldom fails to satisfy their kind landlord.

Now Hannah showed great judgment in setting up as a dairy-woman.
She could not have chosen an occupation more completely unoccupied,
or more loudly called for. One of the most provoking of the petty
difficulties which beset people with a small establishment in this
neighbourhood, is the trouble, almost the impossibility, of
procuring the pastoral luxuries of milk, eggs, and butter, which
rank, unfortunately, amongst the indispensable necessaries of
housekeeping. To your thoroughbred Londoner, who, whilst grumbling
over his own breakfast, is apt to fancy that thick cream, and fresh
butter, and new-laid eggs, grow, so to say, in the country--form an
actual part of its natural produce--it may be some comfort to learn,
that in this great grazing district, however the calves and the
farmers may be the better for cows, nobody else is; that farmers'
wives have ceased to keep poultry; and that we unlucky villagers sit
down often to our first meal in a state of destitution, which may
well make him content with his thin milk and his Cambridge butter,
when compared to our imputed pastoralities.

Hannah's Alderney restored us to one rural privilege. Never was so
cleanly a little milkmaid. She changed away some of the cottage
finery, which, in his prosperous days, poor Jack had pleased himself
with bringing home, the china tea-service, the gilded mugs, and the
painted waiters, for the useful utensils of the dairy, and speedily
established a regular and gainful trade in milk, eggs, butter,
honey, and poultry--for poultry they had always kept.

Her domestic management prospered equally. Her father, who retained
the perfect use of his hands, began a manufacture of mats and
baskets, which he constructed with great nicety and adroitness; the
eldest boy, a sharp and clever lad, cut for him his rushes and
osiers; erected, under his sister's direction, a shed for the cow,
and enlarged and cultivated the garden (always with the good leave
of her kind patron the lord of the manor) until it became so ample,
that the produce not only kept the pig, and half kept the family,
but afforded another branch of merchandise to the indefatigable
directress of the establishment. For the younger boy, less quick
and active, Hannah contrived to obtain an admission to the
charity-school, where he made great progress--retaining him at home,
however, in the hay-making and leasing season, or whenever his
services could be made available, to the great annoyance of the
schoolmaster, whose favourite he is, and who piques himself so much
on George's scholarship (your heavy sluggish boy at country work
often turns out quick at his book), that it is the general opinion
that this much-vaunted pupil will, in process of time, be promoted
to the post of assistant, and may, possibly, in course of years,
rise to the dignity of a parish pedagogue in his own person; so that
his sister, although still making him useful at odd times, now
considers George as pretty well off her hands, whilst his elder
brother, Tom, could take an under-gardener's place directly, if he
were not too important at home to be spared even for a day.

In short, during the five years that she has ruled at the Shaw
cottage, the world has gone well with Hannah Bint. Her cow, her
calves, her pigs, her bees, her poultry, have each, in their several
ways, thriven and prospered. She has even brought Watch to like
butter-milk, as well as strong beer, and has nearly persuaded her
father (to whose wants and wishes she is most anxiously attentive)
to accept of milk as a substitute for gin. Not but Hannah hath had
her enemies as well as her betters. Why should she not? The old
woman at the lodge, who always piqued herself on being spiteful, and
crying down new ways, foretold from the first she would come to no
good, and could not forgive her for falsifying her prediction; and
Betty Barnes, the slatternly widow of a tippling farmer, who rented
a field, and set up a cow herself, and was universally discarded for
insufferable dirt, said all that the wit of an envious woman could
devise against Hannah and her Alderney; nay, even Ned Miles, the
keeper, her next neighbour, who had whilom held entire sway over the
Shaw common, as well as its coppices, grumbled as much as so
good-natured and genial a person could grumble, when he found a
little girl sharing his dominion, a cow grazing beside his pony, and
vulgar cocks and hens hovering around the buck-wheat destined to
feed his noble pheasants. Nobody that had been accustomed to see
that paragon of keepers, so tall and manly, and pleasant looking,
with his merry eye, and his knowing smile, striding gaily along, in
his green coat, and his gold-laced hat, with Neptune, his noble
Newfoundland dog (a retriever is the sporting word), and his
beautiful spaniel Flirt at his heels, could conceive how askew he
looked, when he first found Hannah and Watch holding equal reign
over his old territory, the Shaw common.

Yes! Hannah hath had her enemies; but they are passing away. The
old woman at the lodge is dead, poor creature; and Betty Barnes,
having herself taken to tippling, has lost the few friends she once
possessed, and looks, luckless wretch, as if she would soon die
too!--and the keeper?--why, he is not dead, or like to die; but the
change that has taken place there is the most astonishing of all--
except, perhaps, the change in Hannah herself.

Few damsels of twelve years old, generally a very pretty age, were
less pretty than Hannah Bint. Short and stunted in her figure, thin
in face, sharp in feature, with a muddled complexion, wild sunburnt
hair, and eyes whose very brightness had in them something
startling, over-informed, super-subtle, too clever for her age,--at
twelve years old she had quite the air of a little old fairy. Now,
at seventeen, matters are mended. Her complexion has cleared; her
countenance has developed itself; her figure has shot up into height
and lightness, and a sort of rustic grace; her bright, acute eye is
softened and sweetened by the womanly wish to please; her hair is
trimmed, and curled and brushed, with exquisite neatness; and her
whole dress arranged with that nice attention to the becoming, the
suitable both in form and texture, which would be called the highest
degree of coquetry, if it did not deserve the better name of
propriety. Never was such a transmogrification beheld. The lass is
really pretty, and Ned Miles has discovered that she is so. There
he stands, the rogue, close at her side (for he hath joined her
whilst we have been telling her little story, and the milking is
over!)--there he stands--holding her milk-pail in one hand, and
stroking Watch with the other; whilst she is returning the
compliment by patting Neptune's magnificent head. There they stand,
as much like lovers as may be; he smiling, and she blushing--he
never looking so handsome nor she so pretty in all their lives.
There they stand, in blessed forgetfulness of all except each other;
as happy a couple as ever trod the earth. There they stand, and one
would not disturb them for all the milk and butter in Christendom.
I should not wonder if they were fixing the wedding day.


November 6th.--The weather is as peaceful to-day, as calm, and as
mild, as in early April; and, perhaps, an autumn afternoon and a
spring morning do resemble each other more in feeling, and even in
appearance, than any two periods of the year. There is in both the
same freshness and dewiness of the herbage; the same balmy softness
in the air; and the same pure and lovely blue sky, with white fleecy
clouds floating across it. The chief difference lies in the absence
of flowers, and the presence of leaves. But then the foliage of
November is so rich, and glowing, and varied, that it may well
supply the place of the gay blossoms of the spring; whilst all the
flowers of the field or the garden could never make amends for the
want of leaves,--that beautiful and graceful attire in which nature
has clothed the rugged forms of trees--the verdant drapery to which
the landscape owes its loveliness, and the forests their glory.

If choice must be between two seasons, each so full of charm, it is
at least no bad philosophy to prefer the present good, even whilst
looking gratefully back, and hopefully forward, to the past and the
future. And of a surety, no fairer specimen of a November day could
well be found than this,--a day made to wander

'By yellow commons and birch-shaded hollows,
And hedgerows bordering unfrequented lanes;'

nor could a prettier country be found for our walk than this shady
and yet sunny Berkshire, where the scenery, without rising into
grandeur or breaking into wildness, is so peaceful, so cheerful, so
varied, and so thoroughly English.

We must bend our steps towards the water side, for I have a message
to leave at Farmer Riley's: and sooth to say, it is no unpleasant
necessity; for the road thither is smooth and dry, retired, as one
likes a country walk to be, but not too lonely, which women never
like; leading past the Loddon--the bright, brimming, transparent
Loddon--a fitting mirror for this bright blue sky, and terminating
at one of the prettiest and most comfortable farmhouses in the

How beautiful the lane is to-day, decorated with a thousand colours!
The brown road, and the rich verdure that borders it, strewed with
the pale yellow leaves of the elm, just beginning to fall; hedgerows
glowing with long wreaths of the bramble in every variety of
purplish red; and overhead the unchanged green of the fir,
contrasting with the spotted sycamore, the tawny beech, and the dry
sere leaves of the oak, which rustle as the light wind passes
through them; a few common hardy yellow flowers (for yellow is the
common colour of flowers, whether wild or cultivated, as blue is the
rare one), flowers of many sorts, but almost of one tint, still
blowing in spite of the season, and ruddy berries glowing through
all. How very beautiful is the lane!

And how pleasant is this hill where the road widens, with the group
of cattle by the wayside, and George Hearn, the little post-boy,
trundling his hoop at full speed, making all the better haste in his
work, because he cheats himself into thinking it play! And how
beautiful, again, is this patch of common at the hilltop with the
clear pool, where Martha Pither's children,--elves of three, and
four, and five years old,--without any distinction of sex in their
sunburnt faces and tattered drapery, are dipping up water in their
little homely cups shining with cleanliness, and a small brown
pitcher with the lip broken, to fill that great kettle, which, when
it is filled, their united strength will never be able to lift!
They are quite a group for a painter, with their rosy cheeks, and
chubby hands, and round merry faces; and the low cottage in the
background, peeping out of its vine leaves and china roses, with
Martha at the door, tidy, and comely, and smiling, preparing the
potatoes for the pot, and watching the progress of dipping and
filling that useful utensil, completes the picture.

But we must go on. No time for more sketches in these short days.
It is getting cold too. We must proceed in our walk. Dash is
showing us the way and beating the thick double hedgerow that runs
along the side of the meadows, at a rate that indicates game astir,
and causes the leaves to fly as fast as an east-wind after a hard
frost. Ah! a pheasant! a superb cock pheasant! Nothing is more
certain than Dash's questing, whether in a hedgerow or covert, for a
better spaniel never went into the field; but I fancied that it was
a hare afoot, and was almost as much startled to hear the whirring
of those splendid wings, as the princely bird himself would have
been at the report of a gun. Indeed, I believe that the way in
which a pheasant goes off, does sometimes make young sportsmen a
little nervous, (they don't own it very readily, but the observation
may be relied on nevertheless), until they get as it were broken in
to the sound; and then that grand and sudden burst of wing becomes
as pleasant to them as it seems to be to Dash, who is beating the
hedgerow with might and main, and giving tongue louder, and sending
the leaves about faster than ever--very proud of finding the
pheasant, and perhaps a little angry with me for not shooting it; at
least looking as if he would be angry if I were a man; for Dash is a
dog of great sagacity, and has doubtless not lived four years in the
sporting world without making the discovery, that although gentlemen
do shoot, ladies do not.

The Loddon at last! the beautiful Loddon! and the bridge, where
every one stops, as by instinct, to lean over the rails, and gaze a
moment on a landscape of surpassing loveliness,--the fine grounds of
the Great House, with their magnificent groups of limes, and firs,
and poplars grander than ever poplars were; the green meadows
opposite, studded with oaks and elms; the clear winding river; the
mill with its picturesque old buildings, bounding the scene; all
glowing with the rich colouring of autumn, and harmonised by the
soft beauty of the clear blue sky, and the delicious calmness of the
hour. The very peasant whose daily path it is, cannot cross that
bridge without a pause.

But the day is wearing fast, and it grows colder and colder. I
really think it will be a frost. After all, spring is the
pleasantest season, beautiful as this scenery is. We must get on.
Down that broad yet shadowy lane, between the park, dark with
evergreens and dappled with deer, and the meadows where sheep, and
cows, and horses are grazing under the tall elms; that lane, where
the wild bank, clothed with fern, and tufted with furze, and crowned
by rich berried thorn, and thick shining holly on the one side,
seems to vie in beauty with the picturesque old paling, the bright
laurels, and the plumy cedars, on the other;--down that shady lane,
until the sudden turn brings us to an opening where four roads meet,
where a noble avenue turns down to the Great House; where the
village church rears its modest spire from amidst its venerable yew
trees: and where, embosomed in orchards and gardens, and backed by
barns and ricks, and all the wealth of the farmyard, stands the
spacious and comfortable abode of good Farmer Riley,--the end and
object of our walk.

And in happy time the message is said and the answer given, for this
beautiful mild day is edging off into a dense frosty evening; the
leaves of the elm and the linden in the old avenue are quivering and
vibrating and fluttering in the air, and at length falling crisply
on the earth, as if Dash were beating for pheasants in the
tree-tops; the sun gleams dimly through the fog, giving little more
of light and heat than his fair sister the lady moon;--I don't know
a more disappointing person than a cold sun; and I am beginning to
wrap my cloak closely round me, and to calculate the distance to my
own fireside, recanting all the way my praises of November, and
longing for the showery, flowery April, as much as if I were a
half-chilled butterfly, or a dahlia knocked down by the frost.

Ah, dear me! what a climate this is, that one cannot keep in the
same mind about it for half an hour together! I wonder, by the way,
whether the fault is in the weather, which Dash does not seem to
care for, or in me? If I should happen to be wet through in a
shower next spring, and should catch myself longing for autumn, that
would settle the question.

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