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CHRISTOPHER AT THE LAKES.
DAYLIGHT has dissolved our dream; and we have fallen to earth from heaven. SHE was ours at last; and, as we folded to our bosom our fainting bride, in her nuptial dress, tall, slender, and white as a lily leaning on a rose, her balmy breath blended with our being, that felt as if both flowers were immortal in the embrace of love. Not so blest was Adam the hour Eve arose, in her dewy prime, among the bowers of Paradise. But the divine agony has shivered our soul out of sleep, and we have awoke-an old bachelor. Yes-we did indeed dream that we were married to an angel. No name had she-no parents-no birthplace-but there she stood there she sank into our arms-an anonymous alien from some celestial clime-and we knew that she was BEAUTY. "Christopher! my adored Christopher! I am thine for ever!" When crash to some cat, we shrewdly suspect, went some crockery in the kitchen below our cubiculum, and the VISION left in our hold only a long lank bolster, the parent apparently of twin-pillows, that in our ecstasy had been sent a-packing across the floor!
Perhaps it is, on the whole, just as well. We should have soon sickened of BEAUTY, and sighed for SUBLIMITY; like Solomon, on high places, worshipping idols. We were not born to be a Benedick. 'Tis fitting we should be the last of our race. For, humbly be it spoken, what son could succeed such a sire, nor seem to be but a shadow! Let our Family, then, on our demise, be extinct-our Fame immortal-our Light shine for ever, like a Pharos over the night-sea of Time!
But where the deuce are we-in Edinburgh, London, Paris,
Vienna, Constantinople, or Jerusalem? In the little wayside Inn beneath its sycamore in SEATHWAITE! Through the "half-uncurtained window" gleams the glorious greenness of that leafy tent. On the honey-dew are already feasting many million dawn-delighting bees, invisible in the murmur that seems to come from the glad tree's heart. God bless thy bonny white breastie, thou most Christian creature of all birds, save and except the Robin, looking out with thy pretty head awry, from thy " procreant cradle," in the windowcorner below the cornice, which from far-off climes thou annually revisitest true as the spring. Thy song is but a twitter, sweet swallow! yet to our heart awakening as nightingale's thick-warbled hymns. But thou has leaped away out into the morning, and art bathing thy wings now in the dews from many a flowering shrub teaming odorous to that bright blue sky. That "cock's shrill clarion" is awakening the village. The slow-rising cows are beginning to low in the pastures; and what curious cry is that, as if from some complaining child? "Tis a nanny-goat bleating her kids along the cliff. But all the air is singing and ringing now, one wide universal aviary where all wings are free. We must be up and doing; but let us not forget to slip on our breeches; though in a few minutes we must let them off again for we must have a plunge in the Black-pool, out of which we shall emerge as red as a lobster.
A commodious bath-only two fields from the Inn. The grass must have been growing during the night, for it is tickling our bare ankles; and sure of all coolness, none so refreshing to the frame as that which follows one's foot-prints on meadow aglitter with morning dews. What a rich promise of nuts! The hazels are in their full beauty now; and almost as fragrant as the birches themselves, while putting forth what we might almost venture to call blossoms. No diver like a water-ousel. But what is the meaning of this? The Black-pool dry! Drawn off perhaps to irrigate these lowlying hay-fields, which prefer the moisture that falls down direct in sunny showers from heaven. No. 'Tis an optical deception played off on us by the GENIUS LOCI. He has changed the water into seeming air
"To touch ethereal of heaven's fiery rod;"
but a shadow-'tis a hawk's- crosses the abyss-and lo! again visible the deepest linn of the Duddon. Here it goes— head-over-heels-like a tumbler-pigeon.
Like the effect of the enunciation of the Reform Bill on
poor Mr John Smith, we declare it has quite taken away our breath." Our hair, however, is not standing on end, like that of Sir Thomas Lethbridge-but the reverse—and our head is as sleek as that of a Methodist minister. One minute of a morning plunge-bath in the Black-pool is sufficient to string up the carcass of Christopher into a well-toned fiddle. We could kick a Cockney-fell a Stot. Don't be alarmed, my pretty girl—but pass on with a blush to the cow-milking; and we shall be with you ere you have wet your pail. Confound that flannel shirt-it is personating a strait-waistcoatand with our arms pinioned in this fashion, we must look like a lunatic escaped from an Asylum. 'Tis lucky it is not linen; but now we are busked, or, in other words, have re-entered into our breeches, and though not exactly fit to appear in church or market, yet at four o'clock of a summer morning, in a meadow, bounded on the east by the river Duddon, and on the west by the village of Seathwaite, our apparel, though scant, is respectable, and preserves, now that it has been got fairly on, the strictest decency; so let us keep our tryst below the hawthorn, though made hurriedly to Cicey as she passed, and, hanging over her as she "does her spiriting gently," contrive, if possible, to keep the milchkine from whisking the tuft of their tails into her rosy countenance. So busy is the industrious creature, that she is not aware of our approach. So we fold our hands suddenly across her eyes, and while we feel the blush beneath the bandage, snatching a kiss, ask the startled maiden to tell the name of the ravisher. Half-frightened, half-ashamed, and wholly not displeased, the innocent nymph giggles, "Mr North! Mr North!" By-and-by, she holds up the pail to our lips-we the while stooping our anointed head, and drinking deep down through the froth into the more solid liquid, wish her with our twinkling eyes a long life and a good husband, to which pious prayer a downcast look, enlivened by a dimple on the cheek of the cunning clerke, seems to breathe fervently "Amen!"
This little love-adventure over, we re-march to the inn as
mighty as Amadis de Gaul. All the people of the house are up and stirring, and eke Jonathan; but those two lazy young fellows, the oldest of them not fifty, are still snoring like owlets in a barn, and we must tweak their nebs. What a couple of unmeaning faces! The mouth to the right has manifestly the advantage in size-but the nose on the left is the master. Like the Shepherd, they are both, we declare, sleeping without shirts! and have kicked, in the sultriness, sheets and blankets over the foot of their beds. Our hands fall very opportunely on these two water-jugs. There, gentlemen, "aren't these two very pretty cascades?"
"Fire! fire! fire! murder! murder! murder!" Why, you fools, what confusion in the elements! But on with your clothes, my lads, for the eggs are in the pan-the bread is baked-the butter churned-the breakfast will be getting impatient; and, as we have a stiff walk, we wish to have a long day before us; so in half an hour we must be off, to the tune of ower the hills and far awa'!"
It was not our intention, originally, to breakfast so soon after supper; but simply to take a whet, and to look forwards to that meal at the Woolpack in Eskdale. But we find it difficult to desert the diet, which has grown upon our hands into a regular repast. 'Tis but a new edition-with additions-of the same poem. We are more remarkable for a steady than a voracious appetite. We play a sure, rather than a dashing game, at whist. To see us set to work, you would think we were not hungry; so composed are all our motions; and so leisurely the openings and the shuttings of our mouth. But ere long you begin to suspect that it is likely to prove something serious; for people are repeatedly calling for bread, and eyeing us as the cause of the unaccountable disappearance of the staff of life. Our plate seems never empty, and never full; yet 'tis not the same, but a different muffin. The eggs, in our immediate vicinity, as if by legerdemain, become egg-shells; and though our fondness for that relish is notorious, nobody ever saw us helping ourselves to more ham. That we are not idle is felt; yet we have the air of a man retired from business, rather than of one actively engaged at victuals. It is one of our peculiarities—one of our characteristics-that the more we eat (except when we happen to be sickly, and then we are ravenous from the first),
the sharper grows our appetite, up to the highest pinnacle; and, which we believe is also rather unusual, from that culminating point our stomach may be said to decline, almost as imperceptibly to the naked eye as the sun westering from the meridian. In all this there is fine philosophical keeping; and the common run of mankind, who devour by fits and starts, "wonder, and of their wondering find no end," on seeing us pursuing our calm career, without one symptom of fatigue or repletion, when they have got to the full length of their tether, and feel, perhaps, as if about to burst. The close of their meal seems sometimes as if it were coeval with the commencement of ours; yet we started together instantly after grace, and by-and-by, if they have not left the table, they will hear us ask a blessing like a bishop.
In walking through a country, we seldom refuse a lift. Cart, waggon, car, cab, shandrydan, gig, postshay, coach, or omnibus-horse, mule, or donkey-we avail ourselves of in our progress through life-and this it is to be pedestrians. The landlord is going into Eskdale, we find, for a load of hay, his winter store being ate out; so with him we shall take a hurl to the house of our old friend Vickars. You two can find your way, with Jonathan, over the mountain, to the Woolpack, by Birker Force. There we shall lunch. Remember, Jonathan, that you have charge of the fowls. Let them not out of the wallet till we meet again—and we had better carry the flask. Go up the Duddon about a mile of meadows, and as soon as they are fairly done, which you will know by a wild scattering of rocks, central among the shiver one cliff like a crushed cathedral, eyes left, and you will see what looks like the deserted bed of a dead river. A long narrow glen, one of the greenest you ever saw all your days, will lead you into the heart of the hills. You will see no more houses, but at its head a sheepfold. You then go right over the mountain, edging westwards; and come down on a wide, flat, rushy moor, beloved by curlews, and in its plashy precincts the wild-ducks breed. Cross it as the crow flies, and you will observe on the hill beyond the remains of a birch wood, and one of the most beautiful hollies that ever brightened solitude. Keep that glittering giant on your right, and in half a mile or so, you will look down from a height, inexplicably crowned with a heap of stones like a cairn-perhaps it covers the