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Essays of Travel by Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 2 out of 4

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me like a dog. This is one of my grounds for supposing that what
are called the upper classes may sometimes produce a disagreeable
impression in what are called the lower; and I wish some one would
continue my experiment, and find out exactly at what stage of
toilette a man becomes invisible to the well-regulated female eye.

Here on shipboard the matter was put to a more complete test; for,
even with the addition of speech and manner, I passed among the
ladies for precisely the average man of the steerage. It was one
afternoon that I saw this demonstrated. A very plainly dressed
woman was taken ill on deck. I think I had the luck to be present
at every sudden seizure during all the passage; and on this
occasion found myself in the place of importance, supporting the
sufferer. There was not only a large crowd immediately around us,
but a considerable knot of saloon passengers leaning over our heads
from the hurricane-deck. One of these, an elderly managing woman,
hailed me with counsels. Of course I had to reply; and as the talk
went on, I began to discover that the whole group took me for the
husband. I looked upon my new wife, poor creature, with mingled
feelings; and I must own she had not even the appearance of the
poorest class of city servant-maids, but looked more like a country
wench who should have been employed at a roadside inn. Now was the
time for me to go and study the brass plate.

To such of the officers as knew about me--the doctor, the purser,
and the stewards--I appeared in the light of a broad joke. The
fact that I spent the better part of my day in writing had gone
abroad over the ship and tickled them all prodigiously. Whenever
they met me they referred to my absurd occupation with familiarity
and breadth of humorous intention. Their manner was well
calculated to remind me of my fallen fortunes. You may be
sincerely amused by the amateur literary efforts of a gentleman,
but you scarce publish the feeling to his face. 'Well!' they would
say: 'still writing?' And the smile would widen into a laugh.
The purser came one day into the cabin, and, touched to the heart
by my misguided industry, offered me some other kind of writing,
'for which,' he added pointedly, 'you will be paid.' This was
nothing else than to copy out the list of passengers.

Another trick of mine which told against my reputation was my
choice of roosting-place in an active draught upon the cabin floor.
I was openly jeered and flouted for this eccentricity; and a
considerable knot would sometimes gather at the door to see my last
dispositions for the night. This was embarrassing, but I learned
to support the trial with equanimity.

Indeed I may say that, upon the whole, my new position sat lightly
and naturally upon my spirits. I accepted the consequences with
readiness, and found them far from difficult to bear. The steerage
conquered me; I conformed more and more to the type of the place,
not only in manner but at heart, growing hostile to the officers
and cabin passengers who looked down upon me, and day by day
greedier for small delicacies. Such was the result, as I fancy, of
a diet of bread and butter, soup and porridge. We think we have no
sweet tooth as long as we are full to the brim of molasses; but a
man must have sojourned in the workhouse before he boasts himself
indifferent to dainties. Every evening, for instance, I was more
and more preoccupied about our doubtful fare at tea. If it was
delicate my heart was much lightened; if it was but broken fish I
was proportionally downcast. The offer of a little jelly from a
fellow-passenger more provident than myself caused a marked
elevation in my spirits. And I would have gone to the ship's end
and back again for an oyster or a chipped fruit.

In other ways I was content with my position. It seemed no
disgrace to be confounded with my company; for I may as well
declare at once I found their manners as gentle and becoming as
those of any other class. I do not mean that my friends could have
sat down without embarrassment and laughable disaster at the table
of a duke. That does not imply an inferiority of breeding, but a
difference of usage. Thus I flatter myself that I conducted myself
well among my fellow-passengers; yet my most ambitious hope is not
to have avoided faults, but to have committed as few as possible.
I know too well that my tact is not the same as their tact, and
that my habit of a different society constituted, not only no
qualification, but a positive disability to move easily and
becomingly in this. When Jones complimented me--because I 'managed
to behave very pleasantly' to my fellow-passengers, was how he put
it--I could follow the thought in his mind, and knew his compliment
to be such as we pay foreigners on their proficiency in English. I
dare say this praise was given me immediately on the back of some
unpardonable solecism, which had led him to review my conduct as a
whole. We are all ready to laugh at the ploughman among lords; we
should consider also the case of a lord among the ploughmen. I
have seen a lawyer in the house of a Hebridean fisherman; and I
know, but nothing will induce me to disclose, which of these two
was the better gentleman. Some of our finest behaviour, though it
looks well enough from the boxes, may seem even brutal to the
gallery. We boast too often manners that are parochial rather than
universal; that, like a country wine, will not bear transportation
for a hundred miles, nor from the parlour to the kitchen. To be a
gentleman is to be one all the world over, and in every relation
and grade of society. It is a high calling, to which a man must
first be born, and then devote himself for life. And, unhappily,
the manners of a certain so-called upper grade have a kind of
currency, and meet with a certain external acceptation throughout
all the others, and this tends to keep us well satisfied with
slight acquirements and the amateurish accomplishments of a clique.
But manners, like art, should be human and central.

Some of my fellow-passengers, as I now moved among them in a
relation of equality, seemed to me excellent gentlemen. They were
not rough, nor hasty, nor disputatious; debated pleasantly,
differed kindly; were helpful, gentle, patient, and placid. The
type of manners was plain, and even heavy; there was little to
please the eye, but nothing to shock; and I thought gentleness lay
more nearly at the spring of behaviour than in many more ornate and
delicate societies. I say delicate, where I cannot say refined; a
thing may be fine, like ironwork, without being delicate, like
lace. There was here less delicacy; the skin supported more
callously the natural surface of events, the mind received more
bravely the crude facts of human existence; but I do not think that
there was less effective refinement, less consideration for others,
less polite suppression of self. I speak of the best among my
fellow-passengers; for in the steerage, as well as in the saloon,
there is a mixture. Those, then, with whom I found myself in
sympathy, and of whom I may therefore hope to write with a greater
measure of truth, were not only as good in their manners, but
endowed with very much the same natural capacities, and about as
wise in deduction, as the bankers and barristers of what is called
society. One and all were too much interested in disconnected
facts, and loved information for its own sake with too rash a
devotion; but people in all classes display the same appetite as
they gorge themselves daily with the miscellaneous gossip of the
newspaper. Newspaper-reading, as far as I can make out, is often
rather a sort of brown study than an act of culture. I have myself
palmed off yesterday's issue on a friend, and seen him re-peruse it
for a continuance of minutes with an air at once refreshed and
solemn. Workmen, perhaps, pay more attention; but though they may
be eager listeners, they have rarely seemed to me either willing or
careful thinkers. Culture is not measured by the greatness of the
field which is covered by our knowledge, but by the nicety with
which we can perceive relations in that field, whether great or
small. Workmen, certainly those who were on board with me, I found
wanting in this quality or habit of the mind. They did not
perceive relations, but leaped to a so-called cause, and thought
the problem settled. Thus the cause of everything in England was
the form of government, and the cure for all evils was, by
consequence, a revolution. It is surprising how many of them said
this, and that none should have had a definite thought in his head
as he said it. Some hated the Church because they disagreed with
it; some hated Lord Beaconsfield because of war and taxes; all
hated the masters, possibly with reason. But these failings were
not at the root of the matter; the true reasoning of their souls
ran thus--I have not got on; I ought to have got on; if there was a
revolution I should get on. How? They had no idea. Why?
Because--because--well, look at America!

To be politically blind is no distinction; we are all so, if you
come to that. At bottom, as it seems to me, there is but one
question in modern home politics, though it appears in many shapes,
and that is the question of money; and but one political remedy,
that the people should grow wiser and better. My workmen fellow-
passengers were as impatient and dull of hearing on the second of
these points as any member of Parliament; but they had some
glimmerings of the first. They would not hear of improvement on
their part, but wished the world made over again in a crack, so
that they might remain improvident and idle and debauched, and yet
enjoy the comfort and respect that should accompany the opposite
virtues; and it was in this expectation, as far as I could see,
that many of them were now on their way to America. But on the
point of money they saw clearly enough that inland politics, so far
as they were concerned, were reducible to the question of annual
income; a question which should long ago have been settled by a
revolution, they did not know how, and which they were now about to
settle for themselves, once more they knew not how, by crossing the
Atlantic in a steamship of considerable tonnage.

And yet it has been amply shown them that the second or income
question is in itself nothing, and may as well be left undecided,
if there be no wisdom and virtue to profit by the change. It is
not by a man's purse, but by his character that he is rich or poor.
Barney will be poor, Alick will be poor, Mackay will be poor; let
them go where they will, and wreck all the governments under
heaven, they will be poor until they die.

Nothing is perhaps more notable in the average workman than his
surprising idleness, and the candour with which he confesses to the
failing. It has to me been always something of a relief to find
the poor, as a general rule, so little oppressed with work. I can
in consequence enjoy my own more fortunate beginning with a better
grace. The other day I was living with a farmer in America, an old
frontiersman, who had worked and fought, hunted and farmed, from
his childhood up. He excused himself for his defective education
on the ground that he had been overworked from first to last. Even
now, he said, anxious as he was, he had never the time to take up a
book. In consequence of this, I observed him closely; he was
occupied for four or, at the extreme outside, for five hours out of
the twenty-four, and then principally in walking; and the remainder
of the day he passed in born idleness, either eating fruit or
standing with his back against a door. I have known men do hard
literary work all morning, and then undergo quite as much physical
fatigue by way of relief as satisfied this powerful frontiersman
for the day. He, at least, like all the educated class, did so
much homage to industry as to persuade himself he was industrious.
But the average mechanic recognises his idleness with effrontery;
he has even, as I am told, organised it.

I give the story as it was told me, and it was told me for a fact.
A man fell from a housetop in the city of Aberdeen, and was brought
into hospital with broken bones. He was asked what was his trade,
and replied that he was a TAPPER. No one had ever heard of such a
thing before; the officials were filled with curiosity; they
besought an explanation. It appeared that when a party of slaters
were engaged upon a roof, they would now and then be taken with a
fancy for the public-house. Now a seamstress, for example, might
slip away from her work and no one be the wiser; but if these
fellows adjourned, the tapping of the mallets would cease, and thus
the neighbourhood be advertised of their defection. Hence the
career of the tapper. He has to do the tapping and keep up an
industrious bustle on the housetop during the absence of the
slaters. When he taps for only one or two the thing is child's-
play, but when he has to represent a whole troop, it is then that
he earns his money in the sweat of his brow. Then must he bound
from spot to spot, reduplicate, triplicate, sexduplicate his single
personality, and swell and hasten his blows., until he produce a
perfect illusion for the ear, and you would swear that a crowd of
emulous masons were continuing merrily to roof the house. It must
be a strange sight from an upper window.

I heard nothing on board of the tapper; but I was astonished at the
stories told by my companions. Skulking, shirking, malingering,
were all established tactics, it appeared. They could see no
dishonesty where a man who is paid for an bones work gives half an
hour's consistent idling in its place. Thus the tapper would
refuse to watch for the police during a burglary, and call himself
a honest man. It is not sufficiently recognised that our race
detests to work. If I thought that I should have to work every day
of my life as hard as I am working now, I should be tempted to give
up the struggle. And the workman early begins on his career of
toil. He has never had his fill of holidays in the past, and his
prospect of holidays in the future is both distant and uncertain.
In the circumstances, it would require a high degree of virtue not
to snatch alleviations for the moment.

There were many good talkers on the ship; and I believe good
talking of a certain sort is a common accomplishment among working
men. Where books are comparatively scarce, a greater amount of
information will be given and received by word of mouth; and this
tends to produce good talkers, and, what is no less needful for
conversation, good listeners. They could all tell a story with
effect. I am sometimes tempted to think that the less literary
class show always better in narration; they have so much more
patience with detail, are so much less hurried to reach the points,
and preserve so much juster a proportion among the facts. At the
same time their talk is dry; they pursue a topic ploddingly, have
not an agile fancy, do not throw sudden lights from unexpected
quarters, and when the talk is over they often leave the matter
where it was. They mark time instead of marching. They think only
to argue, not to reach new conclusions, and use their reason rather
as a weapon of offense than as a tool for self-improvement. Hence
the talk of some of the cleverest was unprofitable in result,
because there was no give and take; they would grant you as little
as possible for premise, and begin to dispute under an oath to
conquer or to die.

But the talk of a workman is apt to be more interesting than that
of a wealthy merchant, because the thoughts, hopes, and fears of
which the workman's life is built lie nearer to necessity and
nature. They are more immediate to human life. An income
calculated by the week is a far more human thing than one
calculated by the year, and a small income, simply from its
smallness, than a large one. I never wearied listening to the
details of a workman's economy, because every item stood for some
real pleasure. If he could afford pudding twice a week, you know
that twice a week the man ate with genuine gusto and was physically
happy; while if you learn that a rich man has seven courses a day,
ten to one the half of them remain untasted, and the whole is but
misspent money and a weariness to the flesh.

The difference between England and America to a working man was
thus most humanly put to me by a fellow-passenger: 'In America,'
said he, 'you get pies and puddings.' I do not hear enough, in
economy books, of pies and pudding. A man lives in and for the
delicacies, adornments, and accidental attributes of life, such as
pudding to eat and pleasant books and theatres to occupy his
leisure. The bare terms of existence would be rejected with
contempt by all. If a man feeds on bread and butter, soup and
porridge, his appetite grows wolfish after dainties. And the
workman dwells in a borderland, and is always within sight of those
cheerless regions where life is more difficult to sustain than
worth sustaining. Every detail of our existence, where it is worth
while to cross the ocean after pie and pudding, is made alive and
enthralling by the presence of genuine desire; but it is all one to
me whether Croesus has a hundred or a thousand thousands in the
bank. There is more adventure in the life of the working man who
descends as a common solder into the battle of life, than in that
of the millionaire who sits apart in an office, like Von Moltke,
and only directs the manoeuvres by telegraph. Give me to hear
about the career of him who is in the thick of business; to whom
one change of market means empty belly, and another a copious and
savoury meal. This is not the philosophical, but the human side of
economics; it interests like a story; and the life all who are thus
situated partakes in a small way the charm of Robinson Crusoe; for
every step is critical and human life is presented to you naked and
verging to its lowest terms.


As we drew near to New York I was at first amused, and then
somewhat staggered, by the cautious and the grisly tales that went
the round. You would have thought we were to land upon a cannibal
island. You must speak to no one in the streets, as they would not
leave you till you were rooked and beaten. You must enter a hotel
with military precautions; for the least you had to apprehend was
to awake next morning without money or baggage, or necessary
raiment, a lone forked radish in a bed; and if the worst befell,
you would instantly and mysteriously disappear from the ranks of

I have usually found such stories correspond to the least modicum
of fact. Thus I was warned, I remember, against the roadside inns
of the Cevennes, and that by a learned professor; and when I
reached Pradelles the warning was explained--it was but the far-
away rumour and reduplication of a single terrifying story already
half a century old, and half forgotten in the theatre of the
events. So I was tempted to make light of these reports against
America. But we had on board with us a man whose evidence it would
not do to put aside. He had come near these perils in the body; he
had visited a robber inn. The public has an old and well-grounded
favour for this class of incident, and shall be gratified to the
best of my power.

My fellow-passenger, whom we shall call M'Naughten, had come from
New York to Boston with a comrade, seeking work. They were a pair
of rattling blades; and, leaving their baggage at the station,
passed the day in beer saloons, and with congenial spirits, until
midnight struck. Then they applied themselves to find a lodging,
and walked the streets till two, knocking at houses of
entertainment and being refused admittance, or themselves declining
the terms. By two the inspiration of their liquor had begun to
wear off; they were weary and humble, and after a great circuit
found themselves in the same street where they had begun their
search, and in front of a French hotel where they had already
sought accommodation. Seeing the house still open, they returned
to the charge. A man in a white cap sat in an office by the door.
He seemed to welcome them more warmly than when they had first
presented themselves, and the charge for the night had somewhat
unaccountably fallen from a dollar to a quarter. They thought him
ill-looking, but paid their quarter apiece, and were shown upstairs
to the top of the house. There, in a small room, the man in the
white cap wished them pleasant slumbers.

It was furnished with a bed, a chair, and some conveniences. The
door did not lock on the inside; and the only sign of adornment was
a couple of framed pictures, one close above the head of the bed,
and the other opposite the foot, and both curtained, as we may
sometimes see valuable water-colours, or the portraits of the dead,
or works of art more than usually skittish in the subject. It was
perhaps in the hope of finding something of this last description
that M'Naughten's comrade pulled aside the curtain of the first.
He was startlingly disappointed. There was no picture. The frame
surrounded, and the curtain was designed to hide, an oblong
aperture in the partition, through which they looked forth into the
dark corridor. A person standing without could easily take a purse
from under the pillow, or even strangle a sleeper as he lay abed.
M'Naughten and his comrade stared at each other like Vasco's
seamen, 'with a wild surmise'; and then the latter, catching up the
lamp, ran to the other frame and roughly raised the curtain. There
he stood, petrified; and M'Naughten, who had followed, grasped him
by the wrist in terror. They could see into another room, larger
in size than that which they occupied, where three men sat
crouching and silent in the dark. For a second or so these five
persons looked each other in the eyes, then the curtain was
dropped, and M'Naughten and his friend made but one bolt of it out
of the room and downstairs. The man in the white cap said nothing
as they passed him; and they were so pleased to be once more in the
open night that they gave up all notion of a bed, and walked the
streets of Boston till the morning.

No one seemed much cast down by these stories, but all inquired
after the address of a respectable hotel; and I, for my part, put
myself under the conduct of Mr. Jones. Before noon of the second
Sunday we sighted the low shores outside of New York harbour; the
steerage passengers must remain on board to pass through Castle
Garden on the following morning; but we of the second cabin made
our escape along with the lords of the saloon; and by six o'clock
Jones and I issued into West Street, sitting on some straw in the
bottom of an open baggage-wagon. It rained miraculously; and from
that moment till on the following night I left New York, there was
scarce a lull, and no cessation of the downpour. The roadways were
flooded; a loud strident noise of falling water filled the air; the
restaurants smelt heavily of wet people and wet clothing.

It took us but a few minutes, though it cost us a good deal of
money, to be rattled along West Street to our destination:
'Reunion House, No. 10 West Street, one minutes walk from Castle
Garden; convenient to Castle Garden, the Steamboat Landings,
California Steamers and Liverpool Ships; Board and Lodging per day
1 dollar, single meals 25 cents, lodging per night 25 cents;
private rooms for families; no charge for storage or baggage;
satisfaction guaranteed to all persons; Michael Mitchell,
Proprietor.' Reunion House was, I may go the length of saying, a
humble hostelry. You entered through a long bar-room, thence
passed into a little dining-room, and thence into a still smaller
kitchen. The furniture was of the plainest; but the bar was hung
in the American taste, with encouraging and hospitable mottoes.

Jones was well known; we were received warmly; and two minutes
afterwards I had refused a drink from the proprietor, and was going
on, in my plain European fashion, to refuse a cigar, when Mr.
Mitchell sternly interposed, and explained the situation. He was
offering to treat me, it appeared, whenever an American bar-keeper
proposes anything, it must be borne in mind that he is offering to
treat; and if I did not want a drink, I must at least take the
cigar. I took it bashfully, feeling I had begun my American career
on the wrong foot. I did not enjoy that cigar; but this may have
been from a variety of reasons, even the best cigar often failing
to please if you smoke three-quarters of it in a drenching rain.

For many years America was to me a sort of promised land; 'westward
the march of empire holds its way'; the race is for the moment to
the young; what has been and what is we imperfectly and obscurely
know; what is to be yet lies beyond the flight of our imaginations.
Greece, Rome, and Judaea are gone by forever, leaving to
generations the legacy of their accomplished work; China still
endures, an old-inhabited house in the brand-new city of nations;
England has already declined, since she has lost the States; and to
these States, therefore, yet undeveloped, full of dark
possibilities, and grown, like another Eve, from one rib out of the
side of their own old land, the minds of young men in England turn
naturally at a certain hopeful period of their age. It will be
hard for an American to understand the spirit. But let him imagine
a young man, who shall have grown up in an old and rigid circle,
following bygone fashions and taught to distrust his own fresh
instincts, and who now suddenly hears of a family of cousins, all
about his own age, who keep house together by themselves and live
far from restraint and tradition; let him imagine this, and he will
have some imperfect notion of the sentiment with which spirited
English youths turn to the thought of the American Republic. It
seems to them as if, out west, the war of life was still conducted
in the open air, and on free barbaric terms; as if it had not yet
been narrowed into parlours, nor begun to be conducted, like some
unjust and dreary arbitration, by compromise, costume forms of
procedure, and sad, senseless self-denial. Which of these two he
prefers, a man with any youth still left in him will decide rightly
for himself. He would rather be houseless than denied a pass-key;
rather go without food than partake of stalled ox in stiff,
respectable society; rather be shot out of hand than direct his
life according to the dictates of the world.

He knows or thinks nothing of the Maine Laws, the Puritan sourness,
the fierce, sordid appetite for dollars, or the dreary existence of
country towns. A few wild story-books which delighted his
childhood form the imaginative basis of his picture of America. In
course of time, there is added to this a great crowd of stimulating
details--vast cities that grow up as by enchantment; the birds,
that have gone south in autumn, returning with the spring to find
thousands camped upon their marshes, and the lamps burning far and
near along populous streets; forests that disappear like snow;
countries larger than Britain that are cleared and settled, one man
running forth with his household gods before another, while the
bear and the Indian are yet scarce aware of their approach; oil
that gushes from the earth; gold that is washed or quarried in the
brooks or glens of the Sierras; and all that bustle, courage,
action, and constant kaleidoscopic change that Walt Whitman has
seized and set forth in his vigorous, cheerful, and loquacious

Here I was at last in America, and was soon out upon New York
streets, spying for things foreign. The place had to me an air of
Liverpool; but such was the rain that not Paradise itself would
have looked inviting. We were a party of four, under two
umbrellas; Jones and I and two Scots lads, recent immigrants, and
not indisposed to welcome a compatriot. They had been six weeks in
New York, and neither of them had yet found a single job or earned
a single halfpenny. Up to the present they were exactly out of
pocket by the amount of the fare.

The lads soon left us. Now I had sworn by all my gods to have such
a dinner as would rouse the dead; there was scarce any expense at
which I should have hesitated; the devil was in it, but Jones and I
should dine like heathen emperors. I set to work, asking after a
restaurant; and I chose the wealthiest and most gastronomical-
looking passers-by to ask from. Yet, although I had told them I
was willing to pay anything in reason, one and all sent me off to
cheap, fixed-price houses, where I would not have eaten that night
for the cost of twenty dinners. I do not know if this were
characteristic of New York, or whether it was only Jones and I who
looked un-dinerly and discouraged enterprising suggestions. But at
length, by our own sagacity, we found a French restaurant, where
there was a French waiter, some fair French cooking, some so-called
French wine, and French coffee to conclude the whole. I never
entered into the feelings of Jack on land so completely as when I
tasted that coffee.

I suppose we had one of the 'private rooms for families' at Reunion
House. It was very small, furnished with a bed, a chair, and some
clothes-pegs; and it derived all that was necessary for the life of
the human animal through two borrowed lights; one looking into the
passage, and the second opening, without sash, into another
apartment, where three men fitfully snored, or in intervals of
wakefulness, drearily mumbled to each other all night long. It
will be observed that this was almost exactly the disposition of
the room in M'Naughten's story. Jones had the bed; I pitched my
camp upon the floor; he did not sleep until near morning, and I,
for my part, never closed an eye.

At sunrise I heard a cannon fired; and shortly afterwards the men
in the next room gave over snoring for good, and began to rustle
over their toilettes. The sound of their voices as they talked was
low and like that of people watching by the sick. Jones, who had
at last begun to doze, tumbled and murmured, and every now and then
opened unconscious eyes upon me where I lay. I found myself
growing eerier and eerier, for I dare say I was a little fevered by
my restless night, and hurried to dress and get downstairs.

You had to pass through the rain, which still fell thick and
resonant, to reach a lavatory on the other side of the court.
There were three basin-stands, and a few crumpled towels and pieces
of wet soap, white and slippery like fish; nor should I forget a
looking-glass and a pair of questionable combs. Another Scots lad
was here, scrubbing his face with a good will. He had been three
months in New York and had not yet found a single job nor earned a
single halfpenny. Up to the present, he also was exactly out of
pocket by the amount of the fare. I began to grow sick at heart
for my fellow-emigrants.

Of my nightmare wanderings in New York I spare to tell. I had a
thousand and one things to do; only the day to do them in, and a
journey across the continent before me in the evening. It rained
with patient fury; every now and then I had to get under cover for
a while in order, so to speak, to give my mackintosh a rest; for
under this continued drenching it began to grow damp on the inside.
I went to banks, post-offices, railway-offices, restaurants,
publishers, booksellers, money-changers, and wherever I went a pool
would gather about my feet, and those who were careful of their
floors would look on with an unfriendly eye. Wherever I went, too,
the same traits struck me: the people were all surprisingly rude
and surprisingly kind. The money-changer cross-questioned me like
a French commissary, asking my age, my business, my average income,
and my destination, beating down my attempts at evasion, and
receiving my answers in silence; and yet when all was over, he
shook hands with me up to the elbows, and sent his lad nearly a
quarter of a mile in the rain to get me books at a reduction.
Again, in a very large publishing and bookselling establishment, a
man, who seemed to be the manager, received me as I had certainly
never before been received in any human shop, indicated squarely
that he put no faith in my honesty, and refused to look up the
names of books or give me the slightest help or information, on the
ground, like the steward, that it was none of his business. I lost
my temper at last, said I was a stranger in America and not learned
in their etiquette; but I would assure him, if he went to any
bookseller in England, of more handsome usage. The boast was
perhaps exaggerated; but like many a long shot, it struck the gold.
The manager passed at once from one extreme to the other; I may say
that from that moment he loaded me with kindness; he gave me all
sorts of good advice, wrote me down addresses, and came bareheaded
into the rain to point me out a restaurant, where I might lunch,
nor even then did he seem to think that he had done enough. These
are (it is as well to be bold in statement) the manners of America.
It is this same opposition that has most struck me in people of
almost all classes and from east to west. By the time a man had
about strung me up to be the death of him by his insulting
behaviour, he himself would be just upon the point of melting into
confidence and serviceable attentions. Yet I suspect, although I
have met with the like in so many parts, that this must be the
character of some particular state or group of states, for in
America, and this again in all classes, you will find some of the
softest-mannered gentlemen in the world.

I was so wet when I got back to Mitchell's toward the evening, that
I had simply to divest myself of my shoes, socks, and trousers, and
leave them behind for the benefit of New York city. No fire could
have dried them ere I had to start; and to pack them in their
present condition was to spread ruin among my other possessions.
With a heavy heart I said farewell to them as they lay a pulp in
the middle of a pool upon the floor of Mitchell's kitchen. I
wonder if they are dry by now. Mitchell hired a man to carry my
baggage to the station, which was hard by, accompanied me thither
himself, and recommended me to the particular attention of the
officials. No one could have been kinder. Those who are out of
pocket may go safely to Reunion House, where they will get decent
meals and find an honest and obliging landlord. I owed him this
word of thanks, before I enter fairly on the second {1} and far
less agreeable chapter of my emigrant experience.


Very much as a painter half closes his eyes so that some salient
unity may disengage itself from among the crowd of details, and
what he sees may thus form itself into a whole; very much on the
same principle, I may say, I allow a considerable lapse of time to
intervene between any of my little journeyings and the attempt to
chronicle them. I cannot describe a thing that is before me at the
moment, or that has been before me only a very little while before;
I must allow my recollections to get thoroughly strained free from
all chaff till nothing be except the pure gold; allow my memory to
choose out what is truly memorable by a process of natural
selection; and I piously believe that in this way I ensure the
Survival of the Fittest. If I make notes for future use, or if I
am obliged to write letters during the course of my little
excursion, I so interfere with the process that I can never again
find out what is worthy of being preserved, or what should be given
in full length, what in torso, or what merely in profile. This
process of incubation may be unreasonably prolonged; and I am
somewhat afraid that I have made this mistake with the present
journey. Like a bad daguerreotype, great part of it has been
entirely lost; I can tell you nothing about the beginning and
nothing about the end; but the doings of some fifty or sixty hours
about the middle remain quite distinct and definite, like a little
patch of sunshine on a long, shadowy plain, or the one spot on an
old picture that has been restored by the dexterous hand of the
cleaner. I remember a tale of an old Scots minister called upon
suddenly to preach, who had hastily snatched an old sermon out of
his study and found himself in the pulpit before he noticed that
the rats had been making free with his manuscript and eaten the
first two or three pages away; he gravely explained to the
congregation how he found himself situated: 'And now,' said he,
'let us just begin where the rats have left off.' I must follow
the divine's example, and take up the thread of my discourse where
it first distinctly issues from the limbo of forgetfulness.


I was lighting my pipe as I stepped out of the inn at Cockermouth,
and did not raise my head until I was fairly in the street. When I
did so, it flashed upon me that I was in England; the evening
sunlight lit up English houses, English faces, an English
conformation of street,--as it were, an English atmosphere blew
against my face. There is nothing perhaps more puzzling (if one
thing in sociology can ever really be more unaccountable than
another) than the great gulf that is set between England and
Scotland--a gulf so easy in appearance, in reality so difficult to
traverse. Here are two people almost identical in blood; pent up
together on one small island, so that their intercourse (one would
have thought) must be as close as that of prisoners who shared one
cell of the Bastille; the same in language and religion; and yet a
few years of quarrelsome isolation--a mere forenoon's tiff, as one
may call it, in comparison with the great historical cycles--has so
separated their thoughts and ways that not unions, not mutual
dangers, nor steamers, nor railways, nor all the king's horses and
all the king's men, seem able to obliterate the broad distinction.
In the trituration of another century or so the corners may
disappear; but in the meantime, in the year of grace 1871, I was as
much in a new country as if I had been walking out of the Hotel St.
Antoine at Antwerp.

I felt a little thrill of pleasure at my heart as I realised the
change, and strolled away up the street with my hands behind my
back, noting in a dull, sensual way how foreign, and yet how
friendly, were the slopes of the gables and the colour of the
tiles, and even the demeanour and voices of the gossips round about

Wandering in this aimless humour, I turned up a lane and found
myself following the course of the bright little river. I passed
first one and then another, then a third, several couples out love-
making in the spring evening; and a consequent feeling of
loneliness was beginning to grow upon me, when I came to a dam
across the river, and a mill--a great, gaunt promontory of
building,--half on dry ground and half arched over the stream. The
road here drew in its shoulders and crept through between the
landward extremity of the mill and a little garden enclosure, with
a small house and a large signboard within its privet hedge. I was
pleased to fancy this an inn, and drew little etchings in fancy of
a sanded parlour, and three-cornered spittoons, and a society of
parochial gossips seated within over their churchwardens; but as I
drew near, the board displayed its superscription, and I could read
the name of Smethurst, and the designation of 'Canadian Felt Hat
Manufacturers.' There was no more hope of evening fellowship, and
I could only stroll on by the river-side, under the trees. The
water was dappled with slanting sunshine, and dusted all over with
a little mist of flying insects. There were some amorous ducks,
also, whose lovemaking reminded me of what I had seen a little
farther down. But the road grew sad, and I grew weary; and as I
was perpetually haunted with the terror of a return of the tie that
had been playing such ruin in my head a week ago, I turned and went
back to the inn, and supper, and my bed.

The next morning, at breakfast, I communicated to the smart
waitress my intention of continuing down the coast and through
Whitehaven to Furness, and, as I might have expected, I was
instantly confronted by that last and most worrying form of
interference, that chooses to introduce tradition and authority
into the choice of a man's own pleasures. I can excuse a person
combating my religious or philosophical heresies, because them I
have deliberately accepted, and am ready to justify by present
argument. But I do not seek to justify my pleasures. If I prefer
tame scenery to grand, a little hot sunshine over lowland parks and
woodlands to the war of the elements round the summit of Mont
Blanc; or if I prefer a pipe of mild tobacco, and the company of
one or two chosen companions, to a ball where I feel myself very
hot, awkward, and weary, I merely state these preferences as facts,
and do not seek to establish them as principles. This is not the
general rule, however, and accordingly the waitress was shocked, as
one might be at a heresy, to hear the route that I had sketched out
for myself. Everybody who came to Cockermouth for pleasure, it
appeared, went on to Keswick. It was in vain that I put up a
little plea for the liberty of the subject; it was in vain that I
said I should prefer to go to Whitehaven. I was told that there
was 'nothing to see there'--that weary, hackneyed, old falsehood;
and at last, as the handmaiden began to look really concerned, I
gave way, as men always do in such circumstances, and agreed that I
was to leave for Keswick by a train in the early evening.


Cockermouth itself, on the same authority, was a Place with
'nothing to see'; nevertheless I saw a good deal, and retain a
pleasant, vague picture of the town and all its surroundings. I
might have dodged happily enough all day about the main street and
up to the castle and in and out of byways, but the curious
attraction that leads a person in a strange place to follow, day
after day, the same round, and to make set habits for himself in a
week or ten days, led me half unconsciously up the same, road that
I had gone the evening before. When I came up to the hat
manufactory, Smethurst himself was standing in the garden gate. He
was brushing one Canadian felt hat, and several others had been put
to await their turn one above the other on his own head, so that he
looked something like the typical Jew old-clothes man. As I drew
near, he came sidling out of the doorway to accost me, with so
curious an expression on his face that I instinctively prepared
myself to apologise for some unwitting trespass. His first
question rather confirmed me in this belief, for it was whether or
not he had seen me going up this way last night; and after having
answered in the affirmative, I waited in some alarm for the rest of
my indictment. But the good man's heart was full of peace; and he
stood there brushing his hats and prattling on about fishing, and
walking, and the pleasures of convalescence, in a bright shallow
stream that kept me pleased and interested, I could scarcely say
how. As he went on, he warmed to his subject, and laid his hats
aside to go along the water-side and show me where the large trout
commonly lay, underneath an overhanging bank; and he was much
disappointed, for my sake, that there were none visible just then.
Then he wandered off on to another tack, and stood a great while
out in the middle of a meadow in the hot sunshine, trying to make
out that he had known me before, or, if not me, some friend of
mine, merely, I believe, out of a desire that we should feel more
friendly and at our ease with one another. At last he made a
little speech to me, of which I wish I could recollect the very
words, for they were so simple and unaffected that they put all the
best writing and speaking to the blush; as it is, I can recall only
the sense, and that perhaps imperfectly. He began by saying that
he had little things in his past life that it gave him especial
pleasure to recall; and that the faculty of receiving such sharp
impressions had now died out in himself, but must at my age be
still quite lively and active. Then he told me that he had a
little raft afloat on the river above the dam which he was going to
lend me, in order that I might be able to look back, in after
years, upon having done so, and get great pleasure from the
recollection. Now, I have a friend of my own who will forgo
present enjoyments and suffer much present inconvenience for the
sake of manufacturing 'a reminiscence' for himself; but there was
something singularly refined in this pleasure that the hatmaker
found in making reminiscences for others; surely no more simple or
unselfish luxury can be imagined. After he had unmoored his little
embarkation, and seen me safely shoved off into midstream, he ran
away back to his hats with the air of a man who had only just
recollected that he had anything to do.

I did not stay very long on the raft. It ought to have been very
nice punting about there in the cool shade of the trees, or sitting
moored to an over-hanging root; but perhaps the very notion that I
was bound in gratitude specially to enjoy my little cruise, and
cherish its recollection, turned the whole thing from a pleasure
into a duty. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that I soon
wearied and came ashore again, and that it gives me more pleasure
to recall the man himself and his simple, happy conversation, so
full of gusto and sympathy, than anything possibly connected with
his crank, insecure embarkation. In order to avoid seeing him, for
I was not a little ashamed of myself for having failed to enjoy his
treat sufficiently, I determined to continue up the river, and, at
all prices, to find some other way back into the town in time for
dinner. As I went, I was thinking of Smethurst with admiration; a
look into that man's mind was like a retrospect over the smiling
champaign of his past life, and very different from the Sinai-
gorges up which one looks for a terrified moment into the dark
souls of many good, many wise, and many prudent men. I cannot be
very grateful to such men for their excellence, and wisdom, and
prudence. I find myself facing as stoutly as I can a hard,
combative existence, full of doubt, difficulties, defeats,
disappointments, and dangers, quite a hard enough life without
their dark countenances at my elbow, so that what I want is a
happy-minded Smethurst placed here and there at ugly corners of my
life's wayside, preaching his gospel of quiet and contentment.


I was shortly to meet with an evangelist of another stamp. After I
had forced my way through a gentleman's grounds, I came out on the
high road, and sat down to rest myself on a heap of stones at the
top of a long hill, with Cockermouth lying snugly at the bottom.
An Irish beggar-woman, with a beautiful little girl by her side,
came up to ask for alms, and gradually fell to telling me the
little tragedy of her life. Her own sister, she told me, had
seduced her husband from her after many years of married life, and
the pair had fled, leaving her destitute, with the little girl upon
her hands. She seemed quite hopeful and cheery, and, though she
was unaffectedly sorry for the loss of her husband's earnings, she
made no pretence of despair at the loss of his affection; some day
she would meet the fugitives, and the law would see her duly
righted, and in the meantime the smallest contribution was
gratefully received. While she was telling all this in the most
matter-of-fact way, I had been noticing the approach of a tall man,
with a high white hat and darkish clothes. He came up the hill at
a rapid pace, and joined our little group with a sort of half-
salutation. Turning at once to the woman, he asked her in a
business-like way whether she had anything to do, whether she were
a Catholic or a Protestant, whether she could read, and so forth;
and then, after a few kind words and some sweeties to the child, he
despatched the mother with some tracts about Biddy and the Priest,
and the Orangeman's Bible. I was a little amused at his abrupt
manner, for he was still a young man, and had somewhat the air of a
navy officer; but he tackled me with great solemnity. I could make
fun of what he said, for I do not think it was very wise; but the
subject does not appear to me just now in a jesting light, so I
shall only say that he related to me his own conversion, which had
been effected (as is very often the case) through the agency of a
gig accident, and that, after having examined me and diagnosed my
case, he selected some suitable tracts from his repertory, gave
them to me, and, bidding me God-speed, went on his way.


That evening I got into a third-class carriage on my way for
Keswick, and was followed almost immediately by a burly man in
brown clothes. This fellow-passenger was seemingly ill at ease,
and kept continually putting his head out of the window, and asking
the bystanders if they saw HIM coming. At last, when the train was
already in motion, there was a commotion on the platform, and a way
was left clear to our carriage door. HE had arrived. In the hurry
I could just see Smethurst, red and panting, thrust a couple of
clay pipes into my companion's outstretched band, and hear him
crying his farewells after us as we slipped out of the station at
an ever accelerating pace. I said something about it being a close
run, and the broad man, already engaged in filling one of the
pipes, assented, and went on to tell me of his own stupidity in
forgetting a necessary, and of how his friend had good-naturedly
gone down town at the last moment to supply the omission. I
mentioned that I had seen Mr. Smethurst already, and that he had
been very polite to me; and we fell into a discussion of the
hatter's merits that lasted some time and left us quite good
friends at its conclusion. The topic was productive of goodwill.
We exchanged tobacco and talked about the season, and agreed at
last that we should go to the same hotel at Keswick and sup in
company. As he had some business in the town which would occupy
him some hour or so, on our arrival I was to improve the time and
go down to the lake, that I might see a glimpse of the promised

The night had fallen already when I reached the water-side, at a
place where many pleasure-boats are moored and ready for hire; and
as I went along a stony path, between wood and water, a strong wind
blew in gusts from the far end of the lake. The sky was covered
with flying scud; and, as this was ragged, there was quite a wild
chase of shadow and moon-glimpse over the surface of the shuddering
water. I had to hold my hat on, and was growing rather tired, and
inclined to go back in disgust, when a little incident occurred to
break the tedium. A sudden and violent squall of wind sundered the
low underwood, and at the same time there came one of those brief
discharges of moonlight, which leaped into the opening thus made,
and showed me three girls in the prettiest flutter and disorder.
It was as though they had sprung out of the ground. I accosted
them very politely in my capacity of stranger, and requested to be
told the names of all manner of hills and woods and places that I
did not wish to know, and we stood together for a while and had an
amusing little talk. The wind, too, made himself of the party,
brought the colour into their faces, and gave them enough to do to
repress their drapery; and one of them, amid much giggling, had to
pirouette round and round upon her toes (as girls do) when some
specially strong gust had got the advantage over her. They were
just high enough up in the social order not to be afraid to speak
to a gentleman; and just low enough to feel a little tremor, a
nervous consciousness of wrong-doing--of stolen waters, that gave a
considerable zest to our most innocent interview. They were as
much discomposed and fluttered, indeed, as if I had been a wicked
baron proposing to elope with the whole trio; but they showed no
inclination to go away, and I had managed to get them off hills and
waterfalls and on to more promising subjects, when a young man was
descried coming along the path from the direction of Keswick. Now
whether he was the young man of one of my friends, or the brother
of one of them, or indeed the brother of all, I do not know; but
they incontinently said that they must be going, and went away up
the path with friendly salutations. I need not say that I found
the lake and the moonlight rather dull after their departure, and
speedily found my way back to potted herrings and whisky-and-water
in the commercial room with my late fellow-traveller. In the
smoking-room there was a tall dark man with a moustache, in an
ulster coat, who had got the best place and was monopolising most
of the talk; and, as I came in, a whisper came round to me from
both sides, that this was the manager of a London theatre. The
presence of such a man was a great event for Keswick, and I must
own that the manager showed himself equal to his position. He had
a large fat pocket-book, from which he produced poem after poem,
written on the backs of letters or hotel-bills; and nothing could
be more humorous than his recitation of these elegant extracts,
except perhaps the anecdotes with which he varied the
entertainment. Seeing, I suppose, something less countrified in my
appearance than in most of the company, he singled me out to
corroborate some statements as to the depravity and vice of the
aristocracy, and when he went on to describe some gilded saloon
experiences, I am proud to say that he honoured my sagacity with
one little covert wink before a second time appealing to me for
confirmation. The wink was not thrown away; I went in up to the
elbows with the manager, until I think that some of the glory of
that great man settled by reflection upon me, and that I was as
noticeably the second person in the smoking-room as he was the
first. For a young man, this was a position of some distinction, I
think you will admit. . . .


'Nous ne decrivons jamais mieux la nature que lorsque nous nous
efforcons d'exprimer sobrement et simplement l'impression que nous
en avons recue.'--M. ANDRE THEURIET, 'L'Automne dans les Bois,'
Revue des Deux Mondes, 1st Oct. 1874, p.562. {2}

A country rapidly passed through under favourable auspices may
leave upon us a unity of impression that would only be disturbed
and dissipated if we stayed longer. Clear vision goes with the
quick foot. Things fall for us into a sort of natural perspective
when we see them for a moment in going by; we generalise boldly and
simply, and are gone before the sun is overcast, before the rain
falls, before the season can steal like a dial-hand from his
figure, before the lights and shadows, shifting round towards
nightfall, can show us the other side of things, and belie what
they showed us in the morning. We expose our mind to the landscape
(as we would expose the prepared plate in the camera) for the
moment only during which the effect endures; and we are away before
the effect can change. Hence we shall have in our memories a long
scroll of continuous wayside pictures, all imbued already with the
prevailing sentiment of the season, the weather and the landscape,
and certain to be unified more and more, as time goes on, by the
unconscious processes of thought. So that we who have only looked
at a country over our shoulder, so to speak, as we went by, will
have a conception of it far more memorable and articulate than a
man who has lived there all his life from a child upwards, and had
his impression of to-day modified by that of to-morrow, and belied
by that of the day after, till at length the stable characteristics
of the country are all blotted out from him behind the confusion of
variable effect.

I begin my little pilgrimage in the most enviable of all humours:
that in which a person, with a sufficiency of money and a knapsack,
turns his back on a town and walks forward into a country of which
he knows only by the vague report of others. Such an one has not
surrendered his will and contracted for the next hundred miles,
like a man on a railway. He may change his mind at every finger-
post, and, where ways meet, follow vague preferences freely and go
the low road or the high, choose the shadow or the sun-shine,
suffer himself to be tempted by the lane that turns immediately
into the woods, or the broad road that lies open before him into
the distance, and shows him the far-off spires of some city, or a
range of mountain-tops, or a rim of sea, perhaps, along a low
horizon. In short, he may gratify his every whim and fancy,
without a pang of reproving conscience, or the least jostle to his
self-respect. It is true, however, that most men do not possess
the faculty of free action, the priceless gift of being able to
live for the moment only; and as they begin to go forward on their
journey, they will find that they have made for themselves new
fetters. Slight projects they may have entertained for a moment,
half in jest, become iron laws to them, they know not why. They
will be led by the nose by these vague reports of which I spoke
above; and the mere fact that their informant mentioned one village
and not another will compel their footsteps with inexplicable
power. And yet a little while, yet a few days of this fictitious
liberty, and they will begin to hear imperious voices calling on
them to return; and some passion, some duty, some worthy or
unworthy expectation, will set its hand upon their shoulder and
lead them back into the old paths. Once and again we have all made
the experiment. We know the end of it right well. And yet if we
make it for the hundredth time to-morrow: it will have the same
charm as ever; our heart will beat and our eyes will be bright, as
we leave the town behind us, and we shall feel once again (as we
have felt so often before) that we are cutting ourselves loose for
ever from our whole past life, with all its sins and follies and
circumscriptions, and go forward as a new creature into a new

It was well, perhaps, that I had this first enthusiasm to encourage
me up the long hill above High Wycombe; for the day was a bad day
for walking at best, and now began to draw towards afternoon, dull,
heavy, and lifeless. A pall of grey cloud covered the sky, and its
colour reacted on the colour of the landscape. Near at hand,
indeed, the hedgerow trees were still fairly green, shot through
with bright autumnal yellows, bright as sunshine. But a little way
off, the solid bricks of woodland that lay squarely on slope and
hill-top were not green, but russet and grey, and ever less russet
and more grey as they drew off into the distance. As they drew off
into the distance, also, the woods seemed to mass themselves
together, and lie thin and straight, like clouds, upon the limit of
one's view. Not that this massing was complete, or gave the idea
of any extent of forest, for every here and there the trees would
break up and go down into a valley in open order, or stand in long
Indian file along the horizon, tree after tree relieved, foolishly
enough, against the sky. I say foolishly enough, although I have
seen the effect employed cleverly in art, and such long line of
single trees thrown out against the customary sunset of a Japanese
picture with a certain fantastic effect that was not to be
despised; but this was over water and level land, where it did not
jar, as here, with the soft contour of hills and valleys. The
whole scene had an indefinable look of being painted, the colour
was so abstract and correct, and there was something so sketchy and
merely impressional about these distant single trees on the horizon
that one was forced to think of it all as of a clever French
landscape. For it is rather in nature that we see resemblance to
art, than in art to nature; and we say a hundred times, 'How like a
picture!' for once that we say, 'How like the truth!' The forms in
which we learn to think of landscape are forms that we have got
from painted canvas. Any man can see and understand a picture; it
is reserved for the few to separate anything out of the confusion
of nature, and see that distinctly and with intelligence.

The sun came out before I had been long on my way; and as I had got
by that time to the top of the ascent, and was now treading a
labyrinth of confined by-roads, my whole view brightened
considerably in colour, for it was the distance only that was grey
and cold, and the distance I could see no longer. Overhead there
was a wonderful carolling of larks which seemed to follow me as I
went. Indeed, during all the time I was in that country the larks
did not desert me. The air was alive with them from High Wycombe
to Tring; and as, day after day, their 'shrill delight' fell upon
me out of the vacant sky, they began to take such a prominence over
other conditions, and form so integral a part of my conception of
the country, that I could have baptized it 'The Country of Larks.'
This, of course, might just as well have been in early spring; but
everything else was deeply imbued with the sentiment of the later
year. There was no stir of insects in the grass. The sunshine was
more golden, and gave less heat than summer sunshine; and the
shadows under the hedge were somewhat blue and misty. It was only
in autumn that you could have seen the mingled green and yellow of
the elm foliage, and the fallen leaves that lay about the road, and
covered the surface of wayside pools so thickly that the sun was
reflected only here and there from little joints and pinholes in
that brown coat of proof; or that your ear would have been
troubled, as you went forward, by the occasional report of fowling-
pieces from all directions and all degrees of distance.

For a long time this dropping fire was the one sign of human
activity that came to disturb me as I walked. The lanes were
profoundly still. They would have been sad but for the sunshine
and the singing of the larks. And as it was, there came over me at
times a feeling of isolation that was not disagreeable, and yet was
enough to make me quicken my steps eagerly when I saw some one
before me on the road. This fellow-voyager proved to be no less a
person than the parish constable. It had occurred to me that in a
district which was so little populous and so well wooded, a
criminal of any intelligence might play hide-and-seek with the
authorities for months; and this idea was strengthened by the
aspect of the portly constable as he walked by my side with
deliberate dignity and turned-out toes. But a few minutes'
converse set my heart at rest. These rural criminals are very tame
birds, it appeared. If my informant did not immediately lay his
hand on an offender, he was content to wait; some evening after
nightfall there would come a tap at his door, and the outlaw, weary
of outlawry, would give himself quietly up to undergo sentence, and
resume his position in the life of the country-side. Married men
caused him no disquietude whatever; he had them fast by the foot.
Sooner or later they would come back to see their wives, a peeping
neighbour would pass the word, and my portly constable would walk
quietly over and take the bird sitting. And if there were a few
who had no particular ties in the neighbourhood, and preferred to
shift into another county when they fell into trouble, their
departure moved the placid constable in no degree. He was of
Dogberry's opinion; and if a man would not stand in the Prince's
name, he took no note of him, but let him go, and thanked God he
was rid of a knave. And surely the crime and the law were in
admirable keeping; rustic constable was well met with rustic
offender. The officer sitting at home over a bit of fire until the
criminal came to visit him, and the criminal coming--it was a fair
match. One felt as if this must have been the order in that
delightful seaboard Bohemia where Florizel and Perdita courted in
such sweet accents, and the Puritan sang Psalms to hornpipes, and
the four-and-twenty shearers danced with nosegays in their bosoms,
and chanted their three songs apiece at the old shepherd's
festival; and one could not help picturing to oneself what havoc
among good peoples purses, and tribulation for benignant
constables, might be worked here by the arrival, over stile and
footpath, of a new Autolycus.

Bidding good-morning to my fellow-traveller, I left the road and
struck across country. It was rather a revelation to pass from
between the hedgerows and find quite a bustle on the other side, a
great coming and going of school-children upon by-paths, and, in
every second field, lusty horses and stout country-folk a-
ploughing. The way I followed took me through many fields thus
occupied, and through many strips of plantation, and then over a
little space of smooth turf, very pleasant to the feet, set with
tall fir-trees and clamorous with rooks making ready for the
winter, and so back again into the quiet road. I was now not far
from the end of my day's journey. A few hundred yards farther,
and, passing through a gap in the hedge, I began to go down hill
through a pretty extensive tract of young beeches. I was soon in
shadow myself, but the afternoon sun still coloured the upmost
boughs of the wood, and made a fire over my head in the autumnal
foliage. A little faint vapour lay among the slim tree-stems in
the bottom of the hollow; and from farther up I heard from time to
time an outburst of gross laughter, as though clowns were making
merry in the bush. There was something about the atmosphere that
brought all sights and sounds home to one with a singular purity,
so that I felt as if my senses had been washed with water. After I
had crossed the little zone of mist, the path began to remount the
hill; and just as I, mounting along with it, had got back again,
from the head downwards, into the thin golden sunshine, I saw in
front of me a donkey tied to a tree. Now, I have a certain liking
for donkeys, principally, I believe, because of the delightful
things that Sterne has written of them. But this was not after the
pattern of the ass at Lyons. He was of a white colour, that seemed
to fit him rather for rare festal occasions than for constant
drudgery. Besides, he was very small, and of the daintiest
portions you can imagine in a donkey. And so, sure enough, you had
only to look at him to see he had never worked. There was
something too roguish and wanton in his face, a look too like that
of a schoolboy or a street Arab, to have survived much cudgelling.
It was plain that these feet had kicked off sportive children
oftener than they had plodded with a freight through miry lanes.
He was altogether a fine-weather, holiday sort of donkey; and
though he was just then somewhat solemnised and rueful, he still
gave proof of the levity of his disposition by impudently wagging
his ears at me as I drew near. I say he was somewhat solemnised
just then; for, with the admirable instinct of all men and animals
under restraint, he had so wound and wound the halter about the
tree that he could go neither back nor forwards, nor so much as put
down his head to browse. There he stood, poor rogue, part puzzled,
part angry, part, I believe, amused. He had not given up hope, and
dully revolved the problem in his head, giving ever and again
another jerk at the few inches of free rope that still remained
unwound. A humorous sort of sympathy for the creature took hold
upon me. I went up, and, not without some trouble on my part, and
much distrust and resistance on the part of Neddy, got him forced
backwards until the whole length of the halter was set loose, and
he was once more as free a donkey as I dared to make him. I was
pleased (as people are) with this friendly action to a fellow-
creature in tribulation, and glanced back over my shoulder to see
how he was profiting by his freedom. The brute was looking after
me; and no sooner did he catch my eye than he put up his long white
face into the air, pulled an impudent mouth at me, and began to
bray derisively. If ever any one person made a grimace at another,
that donkey made a grimace at me. The hardened ingratitude of his
behaviour, and the impertinence that inspired his whole face as he
curled up his lip, and showed his teeth, and began to bray, so
tickled me, and was so much in keeping with what I had imagined to
myself about his character, that I could not find it in my heart to
be angry, and burst into a peal of hearty laughter. This seemed to
strike the ass as a repartee, so he brayed at me again by way of
rejoinder; and we went on for a while, braying and laughing, until
I began to grow aweary of it, and, shouting a derisive farewell,
turned to pursue my way. In so doing--it was like going suddenly
into cold water--I found myself face to face with a prim little old
maid. She was all in a flutter, the poor old dear! She had
concluded beyond question that this must be a lunatic who stood
laughing aloud at a white donkey in the placid beech-woods. I was
sure, by her face, that she had already recommended her spirit most
religiously to Heaven, and prepared herself for the worst. And so,
to reassure her, I uncovered and besought her, after a very staid
fashion, to put me on my way to Great Missenden. Her voice
trembled a little, to be sure, but I think her mind was set at
rest; and she told me, very explicitly, to follow the path until I
came to the end of the wood, and then I should see the village
below me in the bottom of the valley. And, with mutual courtesies,
the little old maid and I went on our respective ways.

Nor had she misled me. Great Missenden was close at hand, as she
had said, in the trough of a gentle valley, with many great elms
about it. The smoke from its chimneys went up pleasantly in the
afternoon sunshine. The sleepy hum of a threshing-machine filled
the neighbouring fields and hung about the quaint street corners.
A little above, the church sits well back on its haunches against
the hillside--an attitude for a church, you know, that makes it
look as if it could be ever so much higher if it liked; and the
trees grew about it thickly, so as to make a density of shade in
the churchyard. A very quiet place it looks; and yet I saw many
boards and posters about threatening dire punishment against those
who broke the church windows or defaced the precinct, and offering
rewards for the apprehension of those who had done the like
already. It was fair day in Great Missenden. There were three
stalls set up, sub jove, for the sale of pastry and cheap toys; and
a great number of holiday children thronged about the stalls and
noisily invaded every corner of the straggling village. They came
round me by coveys, blowing simultaneously upon penny trumpets as
though they imagined I should fall to pieces like the battlements
of Jericho. I noticed one among them who could make a wheel of
himself like a London boy, and seemingly enjoyed a grave pre-
eminence upon the strength of the accomplishment. By and by,
however, the trumpets began to weary me, and I went indoors,
leaving the fair, I fancy, at its height.

Night had fallen before I ventured forth again. It was pitch-dark
in the village street, and the darkness seemed only the greater for
a light here and there in an uncurtained window or from an open
door. Into one such window I was rude enough to peep, and saw
within a charming genre picture. In a room, all white wainscot and
crimson wall-paper, a perfect gem of colour after the black, empty
darkness in which I had been groping, a pretty girl was telling a
story, as well as I could make out, to an attentive child upon her
knee, while an old woman sat placidly dozing over the fire. You
may be sure I was not behindhand with a story for myself--a good
old story after the manner of G. P. R. James and the village
melodramas, with a wicked squire, and poachers, and an attorney,
and a virtuous young man with a genius for mechanics, who should
love, and protect, and ultimately marry the girl in the crimson
room. Baudelaire has a few dainty sentences on the fancies that we
are inspired with when we look through a window into other people's
lives; and I think Dickens has somewhere enlarged on the same text.
The subject, at least, is one that I am seldom weary of
entertaining. I remember, night after night, at Brussels, watching
a good family sup together, make merry, and retire to rest; and
night after night I waited to see the candles lit, and the salad
made, and the last salutations dutifully exchanged, without any
abatement of interest. Night after night I found the scene rivet
my attention and keep me awake in bed with all manner of quaint
imaginations. Much of the pleasure of the Arabian Nights hinges
upon this Asmodean interest; and we are not weary of lifting other
people's roofs, and going about behind the scenes of life with the
Caliph and the serviceable Giaffar. It is a salutary exercise,
besides; it is salutary to get out of ourselves and see people
living together in perfect unconsciousness of our existence, as
they will live when we are gone. If to-morrow the blow falls, and
the worst of our ill fears is realised, the girl will none the less
tell stories to the child on her lap in the cottage at Great
Missenden, nor the good Belgians light their candle, and mix their
salad, and go orderly to bed.

The next morning was sunny overhead and damp underfoot, with a
thrill in the air like a reminiscence of frost. I went up into the
sloping garden behind the inn and smoked a pipe pleasantly enough,
to the tune of my landlady's lamentations over sundry cabbages and
cauliflowers that had been spoiled by caterpillars. She had been
so much pleased in the summer-time, she said, to see the garden all
hovered over by white butterflies. And now, look at the end of it!
She could nowise reconcile this with her moral sense. And, indeed,
unless these butterflies are created with a side-look to the
composition of improving apologues, it is not altogether easy, even
for people who have read Hegel and Dr. M'Cosh, to decide
intelligibly upon the issue raised. Then I fell into a long and
abstruse calculation with my landlord; having for object to compare
the distance driven by him during eight years' service on the box
of the Wendover coach with the girth of the round world itself. We
tackled the question most conscientiously, made all necessary
allowance for Sundays and leap-years, and were just coming to a
triumphant conclusion of our labours when we were stayed by a small
lacuna in my information. I did not know the circumference of the
earth. The landlord knew it, to be sure--plainly he had made the
same calculation twice and once before,--but he wanted confidence
in his own figures, and from the moment I showed myself so poor a
second seemed to lose all interest in the result.

Wendover (which was my next stage) lies in the same valley with
Great Missenden, but at the foot of it, where the hills trend off
on either hand like a coast-line, and a great hemisphere of plain
lies, like a sea, before one, I went up a chalky road, until I had
a good outlook over the place. The vale, as it opened out into the
plain, was shallow, and a little bare, perhaps, but full of
graceful convolutions. From the level to which I have now attained
the fields were exposed before me like a map, and I could see all
that bustle of autumn field-work which had been hid from me
yesterday behind the hedgerows, or shown to me only for a moment as
I followed the footpath. Wendover lay well down in the midst, with
mountains of foliage about it. The great plain stretched away to
the northward, variegated near at hand with the quaint pattern of
the fields, but growing ever more and more indistinct, until it
became a mere hurly-burly of trees and bright crescents of river,
and snatches of slanting road, and finally melted into the
ambiguous cloud-land over the horizon. The sky was an opal-grey,
touched here and there with blue, and with certain faint russets
that looked as if they were reflections of the colour of the
autumnal woods below. I could hear the ploughmen shouting to their
horses, the uninterrupted carol of larks innumerable overhead, and,
from a field where the shepherd was marshalling his flock, a sweet
tumultuous tinkle of sheep-bells. All these noises came to me very
thin and distinct in the clear air. There was a wonderful
sentiment of distance and atmosphere about the day and the place.

I mounted the hill yet farther by a rough staircase of chalky
footholds cut in the turf. The hills about Wendover and, as far as
I could see, all the hills in Buckinghamshire, wear a sort of hood
of beech plantation; but in this particular case the hood had been
suffered to extend itself into something more like a cloak, and
hung down about the shoulders of the hill in wide folds, instead of
lying flatly along the summit. The trees grew so close, and their
boughs were so matted together, that the whole wood looked as dense
as a bush of heather. The prevailing colour was a dull,
smouldering red, touched here and there with vivid yellow. But the
autumn had scarce advanced beyond the outworks; it was still almost
summer in the heart of the wood; and as soon as I had scrambled
through the hedge, I found myself in a dim green forest atmosphere
under eaves of virgin foliage. In places where the wood had itself
for a background and the trees were massed together thickly, the
colour became intensified and almost gem-like: a perfect fire
green, that seemed none the less green for a few specks of autumn
gold. None of the trees were of any considerable age or stature;
but they grew well together, I have said; and as the road turned
and wound among them, they fell into pleasant groupings and broke
the light up pleasantly. Sometimes there would be a colonnade of
slim, straight tree-stems with the light running down them as down
the shafts of pillars, that looked as if it ought to lead to
something, and led only to a corner of sombre and intricate jungle.
Sometimes a spray of delicate foliage would be thrown out flat, the
light lying flatly along the top of it, so that against a dark
background it seemed almost luminous. There was a great bush over
the thicket (for, indeed, it was more of a thicket than a wood);
and the vague rumours that went among the tree-tops, and the
occasional rustling of big birds or hares among the undergrowth,
had in them a note of almost treacherous stealthiness, that put the
imagination on its guard and made me walk warily on the russet
carpeting of last year's leaves. The spirit of the place seemed to
be all attention; the wood listened as I went, and held its breath
to number my footfalls. One could not help feeling that there
ought to be some reason for this stillness; whether, as the bright
old legend goes, Pan lay somewhere near in siesta, or whether,
perhaps, the heaven was meditating rain, and the first drops would
soon come pattering through the leaves. It was not unpleasant, in
such an humour, to catch sight, ever and anon, of large spaces of
the open plain. This happened only where the path lay much upon
the slope, and there was a flaw in the solid leafy thatch of the
wood at some distance below the level at which I chanced myself to
be walking; then, indeed, little scraps of foreshortened distance,
miniature fields, and Lilliputian houses and hedgerow trees would
appear for a moment in the aperture, and grow larger and smaller,
and change and melt one into another, as I continued to go forward,
and so shift my point of view.

For ten minutes, perhaps, I had heard from somewhere before me in
the wood a strange, continuous noise, as of clucking, cooing, and
gobbling, now and again interrupted by a harsh scream. As I
advanced towards this noise, it began to grow lighter about me, and
I caught sight, through the trees, of sundry gables and enclosure
walls, and something like the tops of a rickyard. And sure enough,
a rickyard it proved to be, and a neat little farm-steading, with
the beech-woods growing almost to the door of it. Just before me,
however, as I came upon the path, the trees drew back and let in a
wide flood of daylight on to a circular lawn. It was here that the
noises had their origin. More than a score of peacocks (there are
altogether thirty at the farm), a proper contingent of peahens, and
a great multitude that I could not number of more ordinary barn-
door fowls, were all feeding together on this little open lawn
among the beeches. They fed in a dense crowd, which swayed to and
fro, and came hither and thither as by a sort of tide, and of which
the surface was agitated like the surface of a sea as each bird
guzzled his head along the ground after the scattered corn. The
clucking, cooing noise that had led me thither was formed by the
blending together of countless expressions of individual
contentment into one collective expression of contentment, or
general grace during meat. Every now and again a big peacock would
separate himself from the mob and take a stately turn or two about
the lawn, or perhaps mount for a moment upon the rail, and there
shrilly publish to the world his satisfaction with himself and what
he had to eat. It happened, for my sins, that none of these
admirable birds had anything beyond the merest rudiment of a tail.
Tails, it seemed, were out of season just then. But they had their
necks for all that; and by their necks alone they do as much
surpass all the other birds of our grey climate as they fall in
quality of song below the blackbird or the lark. Surely the
peacock, with its incomparable parade of glorious colour and the
scannel voice of it issuing forth, as in mockery, from its painted
throat, must, like my landlady's butterflies at Great Missenden,
have been invented by some skilful fabulist for the consolation and
support of homely virtue: or rather, perhaps, by a fabulist not
quite so skilful, who made points for the moment without having a
studious enough eye to the complete effect; for I thought these
melting greens and blues so beautiful that afternoon, that I would
have given them my vote just then before the sweetest pipe in all
the spring woods. For indeed there is no piece of colour of the
same extent in nature, that will so flatter and satisfy the lust of
a man's eyes; and to come upon so many of them, after these acres
of stone-coloured heavens and russet woods, and grey-brown
ploughlands and white roads, was like going three whole days'
journey to the southward, or a month back into the summer.

I was sorry to leave Peacock Farm--for so the place is called,
after the name of its splendid pensioners--and go forwards again in
the quiet woods. It began to grow both damp and dusk under the
beeches; and as the day declined the colour faded out of the
foliage; and shadow, without form and void, took the place of all
the fine tracery of leaves and delicate gradations of living green
that had before accompanied my walk. I had been sorry to leave
Peacock Farm, but I was not sorry to find myself once more in the
open road, under a pale and somewhat troubled-looking evening sky,
and put my best foot foremost for the inn at Wendover.

Wendover, in itself, is a straggling, purposeless sort of place.
Everybody seems to have had his own opinion as to how the street
should go; or rather, every now and then a man seems to have arisen
with a new idea on the subject, and led away a little sect of
neighbours to join in his heresy. It would have somewhat the look
of an abortive watering-place, such as we may now see them here and
there along the coast, but for the age of the houses, the comely
quiet design of some of them, and the look of long habitation, of a
life that is settled and rooted, and makes it worth while to train
flowers about the windows, and otherwise shape the dwelling to the
humour of the inhabitant. The church, which might perhaps have
served as rallying-point for these loose houses, and pulled the
township into something like intelligible unity, stands some
distance off among great trees; but the inn (to take the public
buildings in order of importance) is in what I understand to be the
principal street: a pleasant old house, with bay-windows, and
three peaked gables, and many swallows' nests plastered about the

The interior of the inn was answerable to the outside: indeed, I
never saw any room much more to be admired than the low wainscoted
parlour in which I spent the remainder of the evening. It was a
short oblong in shape, save that the fireplace was built across one
of the angles so as to cut it partially off, and the opposite angle
was similarly truncated by a corner cupboard. The wainscot was
white, and there was a Turkey carpet on the floor, so old that it
might have been imported by Walter Shandy before he retired, worn
almost through in some places, but in others making a good show of
blues and oranges, none the less harmonious for being somewhat
faded. The corner cupboard was agreeable in design; and there were
just the right things upon the shelves--decanters and tumblers, and
blue plates, and one red rose in a glass of water. The furniture
was old-fashioned and stiff. Everything was in keeping, down to
the ponderous leaden inkstand on the round table. And you may
fancy how pleasant it looked, all flushed and flickered over by the
light of a brisk companionable fire, and seen, in a strange, tilted
sort of perspective, in the three compartments of the old mirror
above the chimney. As I sat reading in the great armchair, I kept
looking round with the tail of my eye at the quaint, bright picture
that was about me, and could not help some pleasure and a certain
childish pride in forming part of it. The book I read was about
Italy in the early Renaissance, the pageantries and the light loves
of princes, the passion of men for learning, and poetry, and art;
but it was written, by good luck, after a solid, prosaic fashion,
that suited the room infinitely more nearly than the matter; and
the result was that I thought less, perhaps, of Lippo Lippi, or
Lorenzo, or Politian, than of the good Englishman who had written
in that volume what he knew of them, and taken so much pleasure in
his solemn polysyllables.

I was not left without society. My landlord had a very pretty
little daughter, whom we shall call Lizzie. If I had made any
notes at the time, I might be able to tell you something definite
of her appearance. But faces have a trick of growing more and more
spiritualised and abstract in the memory, until nothing remains of
them but a look, a haunting expression; just that secret quality in
a face that is apt to slip out somehow under the cunningest
painter's touch, and leave the portrait dead for the lack of it.
And if it is hard to catch with the finest of camel's-hair pencils,
you may think how hopeless it must be to pursue after it with
clumsy words. If I say, for instance, that this look, which I
remember as Lizzie, was something wistful that seemed partly to
come of slyness and in part of simplicity, and that I am inclined
to imagine it had something to do with the daintiest suspicion of a
cast in one of her large eyes, I shall have said all that I can,
and the reader will not be much advanced towards comprehension. I
had struck up an acquaintance with this little damsel in the
morning, and professed much interest in her dolls, and an impatient
desire to see the large one which was kept locked away for great
occasions. And so I had not been very long in the parlour before
the door opened, and in came Miss Lizzie with two dolls tucked
clumsily under her arm. She was followed by her brother John, a
year or so younger than herself, not simply to play propriety at
our interview, but to show his own two whips in emulation of his
sister's dolls. I did my best to make myself agreeable to my
visitors, showing much admiration for the dolls and dolls' dresses,
and, with a very serious demeanour, asking many questions about
their age and character. I do not think that Lizzie distrusted my
sincerity, but it was evident that she was both bewildered and a
little contemptuous. Although she was ready herself to treat her
dolls as if they were alive, she seemed to think rather poorly of
any grown person who could fall heartily into the spirit of the
fiction. Sometimes she would look at me with gravity and a sort of
disquietude, as though she really feared I must be out of my wits.
Sometimes, as when I inquired too particularly into the question of
their names, she laughed at me so long and heartily that I began to
feel almost embarrassed. But when, in an evil moment, I asked to
be allowed to kiss one of them, she could keep herself no longer to
herself. Clambering down from the chair on which she sat perched
to show me, Cornelia-like, her jewels, she ran straight out of the
room and into the bar--it was just across the passage,--and I could
hear her telling her mother in loud tones, but apparently more in
sorrow than in merriment, that THE GENTLEMAN IN THE PARLOUR WANTED
TO KISS DOLLY. I fancy she was determined to save me from this
humiliating action, even in spite of myself, for she never gave me
the desired permission. She reminded me of an old dog I once knew,
who would never suffer the master of the house to dance, out of an
exaggerated sense of the dignity of that master's place and

After the young people were gone there was but one more incident
ere I went to bed. I heard a party of children go up and down the
dark street for a while, singing together sweetly. And the mystery
of this little incident was so pleasant to me that I purposely
refrained from asking who they were, and wherefore they went
singing at so late an hour. One can rarely be in a pleasant place
without meeting with some pleasant accident. I have a conviction
that these children would not have gone singing before the inn
unless the inn-parlour had been the delightful place it was. At
least, if I had been in the customary public room of the modern
hotel, with all its disproportions and discomforts, my ears would
have been dull, and there would have been some ugly temper or other
uppermost in my spirit, and so they would have wasted their songs
upon an unworthy hearer.

Next morning I went along to visit the church. It is a long-backed
red-and-white building, very much restored, and stands in a
pleasant graveyard among those great trees of which I have spoken
already. The sky was drowned in a mist. Now and again pulses of
cold wind went about the enclosure, and set the branches busy
overhead, and the dead leaves scurrying into the angles of the
church buttresses. Now and again, also, I could hear the dull
sudden fall of a chestnut among the grass--the dog would bark
before the rectory door--or there would come a clinking of pails
from the stable-yard behind. But in spite of these occasional
interruptions--in spite, also, of the continuous autumn twittering
that filled the trees--the chief impression somehow was one as of
utter silence, insomuch that the little greenish bell that peeped
out of a window in the tower disquieted me with a sense of some
possible and more inharmonious disturbance. The grass was wet, as
if with a hoar frost that had just been melted. I do not know that
ever I saw a morning more autumnal. As I went to and fro among the
graves, I saw some flowers set reverently before a recently erected
tomb, and drawing near, was almost startled to find they lay on the
grave a man seventy-two years old when he died. We are accustomed
to strew flowers only over the young, where love has been cut short
untimely, and great possibilities have been restrained by death.
We strew them there in token, that these possibilities, in some
deeper sense, shall yet be realised, and the touch of our dead
loves remain with us and guide us to the end. And yet there was
more significance, perhaps, and perhaps a greater consolation, in
this little nosegay on the grave of one who had died old. We are
apt to make so much of the tragedy of death, and think so little of
the enduring tragedy of some men's lives, that we see more to
lament for in a life cut off in the midst of usefulness and love,
than in one that miserably survives all love and usefulness, and
goes about the world the phantom of itself, without hope, or joy,
or any consolation. These flowers seemed not so much the token of
love that survived death, as of something yet more beautiful--of
love that had lived a man's life out to an end with him, and been
faithful and companionable, and not weary of loving, throughout all
these years.

The morning cleared a little, and the sky was once more the old
stone-coloured vault over the sallow meadows and the russet woods,
as I set forth on a dog-cart from Wendover to Tring. The road lay
for a good distance along the side of the hills, with the great
plain below on one hand, and the beech-woods above on the other.
The fields were busy with people ploughing and sowing; every here
and there a jug of ale stood in the angle of the hedge, and I could
see many a team wait smoking in the furrow as ploughman or sower
stepped aside for a moment to take a draught. Over all the brown
ploughlands, and under all the leafless hedgerows, there was a
stout piece of labour abroad, and, as it were, a spirit of picnic.
The horses smoked and the men laboured and shouted and drank in the
sharp autumn morning; so that one had a strong effect of large,
open-air existence. The fellow who drove me was something of a
humourist; and his conversation was all in praise of an
agricultural labourer's way of life. It was he who called my
attention to these jugs of ale by the hedgerow; he could not
sufficiently express the liberality of these men's wages; he told
me how sharp an appetite was given by breaking up the earth in the
morning air, whether with plough or spade, and cordially admired
this provision of nature. He sang O fortunatos agricolas! indeed,
in every possible key, and with many cunning inflections, till I
began to wonder what was the use of such people as Mr. Arch, and to
sing the same air myself in a more diffident manner.

Tring was reached, and then Tring railway-station; for the two are
not very near, the good people of Tring having held the railway, of
old days, in extreme apprehension, lest some day it should break
loose in the town and work mischief. I had a last walk, among
russet beeches as usual, and the air filled, as usual, with the
carolling of larks; I heard shots fired in the distance, and saw,
as a new sign of the fulfilled autumn, two horsemen exercising a
pack of fox-hounds. And then the train came and carried me back to


At the famous bridge of Doon, Kyle, the central district of the
shire of Ayr, marches with Carrick, the most southerly. On the
Carrick side of the river rises a hill of somewhat gentle
conformation, cleft with shallow dells, and sown here and there
with farms and tufts of wood. Inland, it loses itself, joining, I
suppose, the great herd of similar hills that occupies the centre
of the Lowlands. Towards the sea it swells out the coast-line into
a protuberance, like a bay-window in a plan, and is fortified
against the surf behind bold crags. This hill is known as the
Brown Hill of Carrick, or, more shortly, Brown Carrick.

It had snowed overnight. The fields were all sheeted up; they were
tucked in among the snow, and their shape was modelled through the
pliant counterpane, like children tucked in by a fond mother. The
wind had made ripples and folds upon the surface, like what the
sea, in quiet weather, leaves upon the sand. There was a frosty
stifle in the air. An effusion of coppery light on the summit of
Brown Carrick showed where the sun was trying to look through; but
along the horizon clouds of cold fog had settled down, so that
there was no distinction of sky and sea. Over the white shoulders
of the headlands, or in the opening of bays, there was nothing but
a great vacancy and blackness; and the road as it drew near the
edge of the cliff seemed to skirt the shores of creation and void

The snow crunched under foot, and at farms all the dogs broke out
barking as they smelt a passer-by upon the road. I met a fine old
fellow, who might have sat as the father in 'The Cottar's Saturday
Night,' and who swore most heathenishly at a cow he was driving.
And a little after I scraped acquaintance with a poor body tramping
out to gather cockles. His face was wrinkled by exposure; it was
broken up into flakes and channels, like mud beginning to dry, and
weathered in two colours, an incongruous pink and grey. He had a
faint air of being surprised--which, God knows, he might well be--
that life had gone so ill with him. The shape of his trousers was
in itself a jest, so strangely were they bagged and ravelled about
his knees; and his coat was all bedaubed with clay as tough he had
lain in a rain-dub during the New Year's festivity. I will own I
was not sorry to think he had had a merry New Year, and been young
again for an evening; but I was sorry to see the mark still there.
One could not expect such an old gentleman to be much of a dandy or
a great student of respectability in dress; but there might have
been a wife at home, who had brushed out similar stains after fifty
New Years, now become old, or a round-armed daughter, who would
wish to have him neat, were it only out of self-respect and for the
ploughman sweetheart when he looks round at night. Plainly, there
was nothing of this in his life, and years and loneliness hung
heavily on his old arms. He was seventy-six, he told me; and
nobody would give a day's work to a man that age: they would think
he couldn't do it. 'And, 'deed,' he went on, with a sad little
chuckle, ''deed, I doubt if I could.' He said goodbye to me at a
footpath, and crippled wearily off to his work. It will make your
heart ache if you think of his old fingers groping in the snow.

He told me I was to turn down beside the school-house for Dunure.
And so, when I found a lone house among the snow, and heard a
babble of childish voices from within, I struck off into a steep
road leading downwards to the sea. Dunure lies close under the
steep hill: a haven among the rocks, a breakwater in consummate
disrepair, much apparatus for drying nets, and a score or so of
fishers' houses. Hard by, a few shards of ruined castle overhang
the sea, a few vaults, and one tall gable honeycombed with windows.
The snow lay on the beach to the tidemark. It was daubed on to the
sills of the ruin: it roosted in the crannies of the rock like
white sea-birds; even on outlying reefs there would be a little
cock of snow, like a toy lighthouse. Everything was grey and white
in a cold and dolorous sort of shepherd's plaid. In the profound
silence, broken only by the noise of oars at sea, a horn was
sounded twice; and I saw the postman, girt with two bags, pause a
moment at the end of the clachan for letters.

It is, perhaps, characteristic of Dunure that none were brought

The people at the public-house did not seem well pleased to see me,
and though I would fain have stayed by the kitchen fire, sent me
'ben the hoose' into the guest-room. This guest-room at Dunure was
painted in quite aesthetic fashion. There are rooms in the same
taste not a hundred miles from London, where persons of an extreme
sensibility meet together without embarrassment. It was all in a
fine dull bottle-green and black; a grave harmonious piece of
colouring, with nothing, so far as coarser folk can judge, to hurt
the better feelings of the most exquisite purist. A cherry-red
half window-blind kept up an imaginary warmth in the cold room, and
threw quite a glow on the floor. Twelve cockle-shells and a half-
penny china figure were ranged solemnly along the mantel-shelf.
Even the spittoon was an original note, and instead of sawdust
contained sea-shells. And as for the hearthrug, it would merit an
article to itself, and a coloured diagram to help the text. It was
patchwork, but the patchwork of the poor; no glowing shreds of old
brocade and Chinese silk, shaken together in the kaleidoscope of
some tasteful housewife's fancy; but a work of art in its own way,
and plainly a labour of love. The patches came exclusively from
people's raiment. There was no colour more brilliant than a
heather mixture; 'My Johnny's grey breeks,' well polished over the
oar on the boat's thwart, entered largely into its composition.
And the spoils of an old black cloth coat, that had been many a
Sunday to church, added something (save the mark!) of preciousness
to the material.

While I was at luncheon four carters came in--long-limbed, muscular
Ayrshire Scots, with lean, intelligent faces. Four quarts of stout
were ordered; they kept filling the tumbler with the other hand as
they drank; and in less time than it takes me to write these words
the four quarts were finished--another round was proposed,
discussed, and negatived--and they were creaking out of the village
with their carts.

The ruins drew you towards them. You never saw any place more
desolate from a distance, nor one that less belied its promise near
at hand. Some crows and gulls flew away croaking as I scrambled
in. The snow had drifted into the vaults. The clachan dabbled
with snow, the white hills, the black sky, the sea marked in the
coves with faint circular wrinkles, the whole world, as it looked
from a loop-hole in Dunure, was cold, wretched, and out-at-elbows.
If you had been a wicked baron and compelled to stay there all the
afternoon, you would have had a rare fit of remorse. How you would
have heaped up the fire and gnawed your fingers! I think it would
have come to homicide before the evening--if it were only for the
pleasure of seeing something red! And the masters of Dunure, it is
to be noticed, were remarkable of old for inhumanity. One of these
vaults where the snow had drifted was that 'black route' where 'Mr.
Alane Stewart, Commendatour of Crossraguel,' endured his fiery
trials. On the 1st and 7th of September 1570 (ill dates for Mr.
Alan!), Gilbert, Earl of Cassilis, his chaplain, his baker, his
cook, his pantryman, and another servant, bound the Poor
Commendator 'betwix an iron chimlay and a fire,' and there cruelly
roasted him until he signed away his abbacy. it is one of the
ugliest stories of an ugly period, but not, somehow, without such a
flavour of the ridiculous as makes it hard to sympathise quite
seriously with the victim. And it is consoling to remember that he
got away at last, and kept his abbacy, and, over and above, had a
pension from the Earl until he died.

Some way beyond Dunure a wide bay, of somewhat less unkindly
aspect, opened out. Colzean plantations lay all along the steep
shore, and there was a wooded hill towards the centre, where the
trees made a sort of shadowy etching over the snow. The road went
down and up, and past a blacksmith's cottage that made fine music
in the valley. Three compatriots of Burns drove up to me in a
cart. They were all drunk, and asked me jeeringly if this was the
way to Dunure. I told them it was; and my answer was received with
unfeigned merriment. One gentleman was so much tickled he nearly
fell out of the cart; indeed, he was only saved by a companion, who
either had not so fine a sense of humour or had drunken less.

'The toune of Mayboll,' says the inimitable Abercrummie, {3}
'stands upon an ascending ground from east to west, and lyes open
to the south. It hath one principals street, with houses upon both
sides, built of freestone; and it is beautifyed with the situation
of two castles, one at each end of this street. That on the east
belongs to the Erle of Cassilis. On the west end is a castle,
which belonged sometime to the laird of Blairquan, which is now the
tolbuith, and is adorned with a pyremide [conical roof], and a row
of ballesters round it raised from the top of the staircase, into
which they have mounted a fyne clock. There be four lanes which
pass from the principall street; one is called the Black Vennel,
which is steep, declining to the south-west, and leads to a lower
street, which is far larger than the high chiefe street, and it
runs from the Kirkland to the Well Trees, in which there have been
many pretty buildings, belonging to the severall gentry of the
countrey, who were wont to resort thither in winter, and divert
themselves in converse together at their owne houses. It was once
the principall street of the town; but many of these houses of the
gentry having been decayed and ruined, it has lost much of its
ancient beautie. Just opposite to this vennel, there is another
that leads north-west, from the chiefe street to the green, which
is a pleasant plott of ground, enclosed round with an earthen wall,
wherein they were wont to play football, but now at the Gowff and
byasse-bowls. The houses of this towne, on both sides of the
street, have their several gardens belonging to them; and in the
lower street there be some pretty orchards, that yield store of
good fruit.' As Patterson says, this description is near enough
even to-day, and is mighty nicely written to boot. I am bound to
add, of my own experience, that Maybole is tumbledown and dreary.
Prosperous enough in reality, it has an air of decay; and though
the population has increased, a roofless house every here and there
seems to protest the contrary. The women are more than well-
favoured, and the men fine tall fellows; but they look slipshod and
dissipated. As they slouched at street corners, or stood about
gossiping in the snow, it seemed they would have been more at home
in the slums of a large city than here in a country place betwixt a
village and a town. I heard a great deal about drinking, and a
great deal about religious revivals: two things in which the
Scottish character is emphatic and most unlovely. In particular, I
heard of clergymen who were employing their time in explaining to a
delighted audience the physics of the Second Coming. It is not
very likely any of us will be asked to help. if we were, it is
likely we should receive instructions for the occasion, and that on
more reliable authority. And so I can only figure to myself a
congregation truly curious in such flights of theological fancy, as
one of veteran and accomplished saints, who have fought the good
fight to an end and outlived all worldly passion, and are to be
regarded rather as a part of the Church Triumphant than the poor,
imperfect company on earth. And yet I saw some young fellows about
the smoking-room who seemed, in the eyes of one who cannot count
himself strait-laced, in need of some more practical sort of
teaching. They seemed only eager to get drunk, and to do so
speedily. It was not much more than a week after the New Year; and
to hear them return on their past bouts with a gusto unspeakable
was not altogether pleasing. Here is one snatch of talk, for the
accuracy of which I can vouch-

'Ye had a spree here last Tuesday?'

'We had that!'

'I wasna able to be oot o' my bed. Man, I was awful bad on

'Ay, ye were gey bad.'

And you should have seen the bright eyes, and heard the sensual
accents! They recalled their doings with devout gusto and a sort
of rational pride. Schoolboys, after their first drunkenness, are
not more boastful; a cock does not plume himself with a more
unmingled satisfaction as he paces forth among his harem; and yet
these were grown men, and by no means short of wit. It was hard to
suppose they were very eager about the Second Coming: it seemed as
if some elementary notions of temperance for the men and seemliness
for the women would have gone nearer the mark. And yet, as it
seemed to me typical of much that is evil in Scotland, Maybole is
also typical of much that is best. Some of the factories, which
have taken the place of weaving in the town's economy, were
originally founded and are still possessed by self-made men of the
sterling, stout old breed--fellows who made some little bit of an
invention, borrowed some little pocketful of capital, and then,
step by step, in courage, thrift and industry, fought their way
upwards to an assured position.

Abercrummie has told you enough of the Tolbooth; but, as a bit of
spelling, this inscription on the Tolbooth bell seems too delicious
to withhold: 'This bell is founded at Maiboll Bi Danel Geli, a
Frenchman, the 6th November, 1696, Bi appointment of the heritors
of the parish of Maiyboll.' The Castle deserves more notice. It
is a large and shapely tower, plain from the ground upwards, but
with a zone of ornamentation running about the top. In a general
way this adornment is perched on the very summit of the chimney-
stacks; but there is one corner more elaborate than the rest. A
very heavy string-course runs round the upper story, and just above
this, facing up the street, the tower carries a small oriel window,
fluted and corbelled and carved about with stone heads. It is so
ornate it has somewhat the air of a shrine. And it was, indeed,
the casket of a very precious jewel, for in the room to which it
gives light lay, for long years, the heroine of the sweet old
ballad of 'Johnnie Faa'--she who, at the call of the gipsies'
songs, 'came tripping down the stair, and all her maids before
her.' Some people say the ballad has no basis in fact, and have
written, I believe, unanswerable papers to the proof. But in the
face of all that, the very look of that high oriel window convinces
the imagination, and we enter into all the sorrows of the
imprisoned dame. We conceive the burthen of the long, lack-lustre
days, when she leaned her sick head against the mullions, and saw
the burghers loafing in Maybole High Street, and the children at
play, and ruffling gallants riding by from hunt or foray. We
conceive the passion of odd moments, when the wind threw up to her
some snatch of song, and her heart grew hot within her, and her
eyes overflowed at the memory of the past. And even if the tale be
not true of this or that lady, or this or that old tower, it is
true in the essence of all men and women: for all of us, some time
or other, hear the gipsies singing; over all of us is the glamour
cast. Some resist and sit resolutely by the fire. Most go and are
brought back again, like Lady Cassilis. A few, of the tribe of
Waring, go and are seen no more; only now and again, at springtime,
when the gipsies' song is afloat in the amethyst evening, we can
catch their voices in the glee.

By night it was clearer, and Maybole more visible than during the
day. Clouds coursed over the sky in great masses; the full moon
battled the other way, and lit up the snow with gleams of flying
silver; the town came down the hill in a cascade of brown gables,
bestridden by smooth white roofs, and sprangled here and there with
lighted windows. At either end the snow stood high up in the
darkness, on the peak of the Tolbooth and among the chimneys of the
Castle. As the moon flashed a bull's-eye glitter across the town
between the racing clouds, the white roofs leaped into relief over
the gables and the chimney-stacks, and their shadows over the white
roofs. In the town itself the lit face of the clock peered down
the street; an hour was hammered out on Mr. Geli's bell, and from
behind the red curtains of a public-house some one trolled out--a
compatriot of Burns, again!--'The saut tear blin's my e'e.'

Next morning there was sun and a flapping wind. From the street
corners of Maybole I could catch breezy glimpses of green fields.
The road underfoot was wet and heavy--part ice, part snow, part
water, and any one I met greeted me, by way of salutation, with 'A
fine thowe' (thaw). My way lay among rather bleak bills, and past
bleak ponds and dilapidated castles and monasteries, to the
Highland-looking village of Kirkoswald. It has little claim to
notice, save that Burns came there to study surveying in the summer
of 1777, and there also, in the kirkyard, the original of Tam o'
Shanter sleeps his last sleep. It is worth noticing, however, that
this was the first place I thought 'Highland-looking.' Over the
bill from Kirkoswald a farm-road leads to the coast. As I came
down above Turnberry, the sea view was indeed strangely different
from the day before. The cold fogs were all blown away; and there
was Ailsa Craig, like a refraction, magnified and deformed, of the
Bass Rock; and there were the chiselled mountain-tops of Arran,
veined and tipped with snow; and behind, and fainter, the low, blue
land of Cantyre. Cottony clouds stood in a great castle over the
top of Arran, and blew out in long streamers to the south. The sea
was bitten all over with white; little ships, tacking up and down
the Firth, lay over at different angles in the wind. On Shanter
they were ploughing lea; a cart foal, all in a field by himself,
capered and whinnied as if the spring were in him.

The road from Turnberry to Girvan lies along the shore, among sand-
hills and by wildernesses of tumbled bent. Every here and there a
few cottages stood together beside a bridge. They had one odd
feature, not easy to describe in words: a triangular porch
projected from above the door, supported at the apex by a single
upright post; a secondary door was hinged to the post, and could be
hasped on either cheek of the real entrance; so, whether the wind
was north or south, the cotter could make himself a triangular
bight of shelter where to set his chair and finish a pipe with
comfort. There is one objection to this device; for, as the post
stands in the middle of the fairway, any one precipitately issuing
from the cottage must run his chance of a broken head. So far as I
am aware, it is peculiar to the little corner of country about
Girvan. And that corner is noticeable for more reasons: it is
certainly one of the most characteristic districts in Scotland, It
has this movable porch by way of architecture; it has, as we shall
see, a sort of remnant of provincial costume, and it has the
handsomest population in the Lowlands. . . .



Perhaps the reader knows already the aspect of the great levels of
the Gatinais, where they border with the wooded hills of
Fontainebleau. Here and there a few grey rocks creep out of the
forest as if to sun themselves. Here and there a few apple-trees
stand together on a knoll. The quaint, undignified tartan of a
myriad small fields dies out into the distance; the strips blend
and disappear; and the dead flat lies forth open and empty, with no
accident save perhaps a thin line of trees or faint church spire
against the sky. Solemn and vast at all times, in spite of
pettiness in the near details, the impression becomes more solemn
and vast towards evening. The sun goes down, a swollen orange, as
it were into the sea. A blue-clad peasant rides home, with a
harrow smoking behind him among the dry clods. Another still works
with his wife in their little strip. An immense shadow fills the
plain; these people stand in it up to their shoulders; and their
heads, as they stoop over their work and rise again, are relieved
from time to time against the golden sky.

These peasant farmers are well off nowadays, and not by any means
overworked; but somehow you always see in them the historical
representative of the serf of yore, and think not so much of
present times, which may be prosperous enough, as of the old days
when the peasant was taxed beyond possibility of payment, and
lived, in Michelet's image, like a hare between two furrows. These
very people now weeding their patch under the broad sunset, that
very man and his wife, it seems to us, have suffered all the wrongs
of France. It is they who have been their country's scapegoat for
long ages; they who, generation after generation, have sowed and
not reaped, reaped and another has garnered; and who have now
entered into their reward, and enjoy their good things in their
turn. For the days are gone by when the Seigneur ruled and
profited. 'Le Seigneur,' says the old formula, 'enferme ses
manants comme sous porte et gonds, du ciel a la terre. Tout est a
lui, foret chenue, oiseau dans l'air, poisson dans l'eau, bete an
buisson, l'onde qui coule, la cloche dont le son au loin roule.'
Such was his old state of sovereignty, a local god rather than a
mere king. And now you may ask yourself where he is, and look
round for vestiges of my late lord, and in all the country-side
there is no trace of him but his forlorn and fallen mansion. At
the end of a long avenue, now sown with grain, in the midst of a
close full of cypresses and lilacs, ducks and crowing chanticleers
and droning bees, the old chateau lifts its red chimneys and peaked
roofs and turning vanes into the wind and sun. There is a glad
spring bustle in the air, perhaps, and the lilacs are all in
flower, and the creepers green about the broken balustrade: but no
spring shall revive the honour of the place. Old women of the
people, little, children of the people, saunter and gambol in the
walled court or feed the ducks in the neglected moat. Plough-
horses, mighty of limb, browse in the long stables. The dial-hand
on the clock waits for some better hour. Out on the plain, where
hot sweat trickles into men's eyes, and the spade goes in deep and
comes up slowly, perhaps the peasant may feel a movement of joy at
his heart when he thinks that these spacious chimneys are now cold,
which have so often blazed and flickered upon gay folk at supper,
while he and his hollow-eyed children watched through the night
with empty bellies and cold feet. And perhaps, as he raises his
head and sees the forest lying like a coast-line of low hills along
the sea-level of the plain, perhaps forest and chateau hold no
unsimilar place in his affections.

If the chateau was my lord's, the forest was my lord the king's;
neither of them for this poor Jacques. If he thought to eke out
his meagre way of life by some petty theft of wood for the fire, or
for a new roof-tree, he found himself face to face with a whole
department, from the Grand Master of the Woods and Waters, who was
a high-born lord, down to the common sergeant, who was a peasant
like himself, and wore stripes or a bandoleer by way of uniform.
For the first offence, by the Salic law, there was a fine of
fifteen sols; and should a man be taken more than once in fault, or
circumstances aggravate the colour of his guilt, he might be
whipped, branded, or hanged. There was a hangman over at Melun,
and, I doubt not, a fine tall gibbet hard by the town gate, where
Jacques might see his fellows dangle against the sky as he went to

And then, if he lived near to a cover, there would be the more
hares and rabbits to eat out his harvest, and the more hunters to
trample it down. My lord has a new horn from England. He has laid
out seven francs in decorating it with silver and gold, and fitting
it with a silken leash to hang about his shoulder. The hounds have
been on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Mesmer, or Saint Hubert

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