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POSTING ACROSS COUNTRY.
Branches.' We were both pleased and surprised to find posting by road still so much resorted to in Norfolk. The railways there, it would seem, have not monopolised all the traffic, nor have, the Fates be praised! the good old quiet inns been superseded by the restless station hotels, for which fact the comfortloving traveller has reason to be supremely grateful.
In the coffee-room of the Black Boys we met with an architect and his wife, out on a sketching tour, and actually posting through the country. I wonder whether (in this nineteenth century, in which the land is gridironed all over with railways) there is any other county wherein a tourist could post thus about from one town to another. As a rule, in the greater portion of rural England, the landlord of a country hotel would be about as much astonished at being asked for a post horse as though he were requested to mention the hour at which the next up or down coach was due.
We had a very agreeable and interesting chat with the architect and his wife, and compared notes as to scenery and buildings with mutual profit. These chance friendships on the way added greatly to the pleasures of our journey. Strange though it may seem in these days of cheap travel and rapid transit (when one may go from London to Scotland and not exchange a word with a fellow traveller), during our leisurely wanderings by road through various parts of Great Britain, we made many friends, and have kept them. The kindly feeling of everyone we came across was one of the most marked features of our journey. Of course the majority of
those we met with we never saw or heard of again; but such pleasant companionship, though temporary, tends to enliven and give an added zest to an outing like ours.
Like as a plank of driftwood
Meets, touches, and parts again,
On life's uncertain sea
They meet, they greet, and sever,
Our inn at Aylsham faced the wide market-place, which, with its surroundings of old-fashioned houses and shops, formed a very pretty picture, not so much for any beauty it possessed as for its simple naturalness. There were no rows of shops or houses all after one plan, each structure bore the impress of individuality; the sky-line was pleasantly broken by the irregular forms of gabled roof and clustering chimney. The buildings too were timetoned to a restful harmony; the only things that marred the scene were the glaring, crude colours of some wretched iron enamel advertisements of London firms, setting forth the supreme merits of somebody's soap, baking powder, and the like. They appeared strangely out of keeping with their mellow surroundings. And here, perhaps, I may remark, that glancing in the shop windows of the country towns, from time to time we observed that a large proportion of the goods displayed were of foreign origin. I do not allude to such articles as tea, coffee, sugar, etc., which of necessity must come from abroad, but to such commodities as flour, bacon,
cheese, preserved meats and vegetables of different kinds, eggs, and so forth. It certainly seemed to us strange, that with farms unlet, some even going out of cultivation, we should import so much produce that could be grown at home. There are acres of land in England untilled, because, we were told, it will not pay to till it, and yet we import yearly much of what that land might produce for us at home. I am not, I am thankful to say, a political conomist, but common sense tells me this is not as it should be, nor can I see the point of emigration meetings to send Englishmen out of England whilst penniless foreigners flock hither to take their place.
A farmer of whom we sought information told us that farming now was a losing business. I've been a farmer all my life,' he said, 'but I would not take a wheat farm rent free. Stock farming may pay, but wheat growing won't. My sons have gone to Canada, and if I were a young man I'd go there too.' It certainly does appear astonishing that land should be going out of cultivation in crowded England, with all the advantages of cheap labour and the home market close at hand. As the farmer seemed an intelligent man, we further ventured to question him as to whether he could suggest any reason for this strange state of affairs. 'I can't say as how I can give you the cause,' he replied, but it's a fact: farming in England don't pay these times. I've lost money at it, and so have lots of others that I know, and some keeps on losing, hoping for better times. that never come. I do not say as how I could not get some sort of a living on some farms, with a
struggle, but it would be hard work and constant anxiety. I might just manage to live, perhaps, but I could put nothing by for old age. It's the big manufacturing towns that makes the laws now, and they care nought for agricultural interests-leastways, that's my opinion. But if all our best country folk have to leave, where will England be, I wonder?' And we wondered too.
Aylsham possesses a very fine old church-an art education in itself. John of Gaunt is reputed to have been the builder of it, and his arms are sculptured on the beautiful old font, so that there may be something in the tradition. Wandering around the old churchyard, groping amongst the ancient, mossencrusted, lichen-stained, and almost undecipherable tombstones in quest of quaint inscription or curious epitaph, we came upon a piece of ground by the side of the chancel railed off and laid out as a garden, with beds of blooming and sweet-smelling roses bounded by boxwood borders and tiny gravel paths. The little garden was well cared for. On the wall above it was the following inscription, which we copied :
IN THIS GARDEN IS BURIED THE
HUMPHRY REPTON, ESQRE.
Not like Egyptian Tyrants consecrate,
We were unsuccessful in our search for epitaphs,
but we came upon several tombstones raised to the memory of devoted wives and husbands, with spaces left for the surviving husband's or wife's name to be added when they died in due course; but in several cases no further addition has been made to the inscriptions. We presume, therefore, that in these cases both the surviving husbands and wives had consoled themselves with other partners, and rest elsewhere.
The porch of the church is very fine, and is decorated with flint and stone panelling-so effective and frequent in Norfolk. It possesses an elaborately carved niche, from which the figure has been removed, probably at the Reformation; doubtless this contained an image of the Virgin Mary and Child. The ancient royal arms are also carved upon the porch. The tower of the church is fine, and shows markings plainly proving that the roof of the structure was formerly of a much higher pitch. This tower is protected by a lightning conductor. 'Nothing special about that, or worthy of mention,' you will probably exclaim, kind reader ; but, as a matter of fact, there are, as far as our experience goes, exceedingly few church towers protected from lightning; the so-called conductors that most have attached to them are simply no protection whatever. In the first place, these are frequently of iron, worn and rusted away, sometimes of copper rope so thin as to be useless, and not unfrequently carefully disconnected from the building by glass or porcelain holders, so that if the lightning were to strike any other part of the structure the