Puslapio vaizdai

book directs)-to escape the well-known show places that are almost as familiar to us from description, engravings, and photographs, as our own home-to get into a fresh country where the poetry of civilisation has not been sacrificed to the necessities of modern progress, with all its doubtful advantages and all its certain ugliness! It has been truly said that 'the Englishman is curiously hide-bound in his traditions of travel. Either he goes up the Rhine, does Switzerland, and stops at Meurice's; or he valiantly trundles his bicycle round the world, navigates Jordan in a canoe, and takes his life in his hand to the summit of Chimborazo. But the untrodden fields of settled, populous, unheroic lands have no temptation for him.' Unfortunately for English scenery, it is not a long way off; it possesses neither the rare virtue of distance nor of difficulty in getting at it; it entails neither the Channel passage, nor an ocean voyage, nor yet a wearisome railway journey, alas!

A day's drive through some portion of untravelled England is truly a succession of pictures, a revelation of scenic loveliness. You leave your hostel, say, early in the morning; a fresh stage is before you, full of untasted pleasures; the word is given, the traces tighten, and you find yourself driving from under the archway of your inn and along the old-fashioned street of the little country town where we will presume that you have passed the night. Leaving the place, you get at once into the real country, for the town is a finished one, delightfully unprogressive; therefore there are no long-drawn-out, mean outskirts to traverse. Genuine green fields and farms are reached



as soon as you

drive away from the compact little place; your journey becomes beautiful and interesting at the outset.

At first you pass, let us presume, through a purely agricultural land (I am now giving a typical example of a day's drive across country). Then, all unexpectedly, for you know nothing of what is before you, the hedge-bordered road widens out into a wild windswept heath, with an extended uninterrupted prospect on either hand. Here and there are some dark clumps of Scotch firs, that give quite a character to the untamed landscape. A famous place this heath in the olden days for the highwayman, and lonely travellers in times past were relieved when they had safely traversed it without making the undesirable acquaintance of the bold knights of the road. Now there is no fear of meeting a worse personage than a stray tramp, or possibly some gipsies encamping out. Both may beg alms of you, but they will not demand them or your life.

Then the heath is gradually left behind, and a restful pastoral country takes its place. After a time the road again widens out into a gorse-besprinkled common, given over to children and geese, with perhaps the addition of a stray donkey grazing upon the rough herbage. Some old thatched cottages are scattered here and there by the side of the waste ground-picturesque cottages, but not too picturesque or over-neat (as one sometimes sees in pictures) to be real. Near to the cottages will be probably some linen hanging out to dry, fluttering in the fresh wind. A pool of reed-grown water with a bent and aged

willow completes the scene; in this the youthful Waltons practise their 'prentice hand with a stick for a rod, a bit of string for a line, and a bent pin for a hook. The children will look up at the strange carriage as it passes along, and will wave their caps and cheer just as their forefathers did, in the days of their youth, when the coach rattled by.

At the end of the common are four cross roads (where they used to bury suicides); here stands the remains of a useless sign-post, the arms having long ago vanished, and now the post leans as though soon it too would disappear. Near to the post is an old weather-beaten milestone, half hidden by nettles and weeds; on this nothing can be deciphered but an 'I X.'—doubtless referring to the distance in miles from one town to another.

Leaving the common the road takes a sudden turn, and before you, close to the wayside, stands a solitary windmill, set on a height darkly silhouetted against the bright summer sky, its sails slowly revolving round and round, the very poetry of motion. Close by is the neat whitewashed home of the miller; no creepers climb over it, nor are there many flowers in the tiny garden, for on the exposed height the bleak winds blow unrestrained, so that even a hardy stunted thorn has a severe struggle for existence.

Then, as you journey on, the road descends with shady elms on either hand. Upon one side is a pleasant margin of grass, the very spot for a canter, but you have the way all to yourself. Then a bend in the road suddenly reveals an old decayed coaching

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inn, with its rambling, half-deserted stabling, and its grass-grown approach, where formerly not a sign of green was to be seen. An ancient half-timbered structure this, bearing the date of 1668. Notice, as you pass, the large bay windows below and the leaden lattice ones above. By all means, if you will, pull up awhile, and order a glass of ale as an excuse to get a peep inside. You enter; nobody seems about; there are some flowers in the cosy, cool little bar; the floor is sanded, but none the worse for that. Presently the landlord makes his appearance with many apologies; he draws you the ale and does not seem indisposed for a chat, for his must be a lonely life. 'Yes,' he tells you in answer to your queries, 'this were a famous house in the old coaching days; the mails used to change here; seventy or more horses were always kept at the stables then. The farmers around drop in of an evening for their pipe and glass, and they are our best customers.' You take a glance at the coffee room' as you leave; it is long and low, with a beam across the ceiling ; on the walls are some highly coloured prints of the prechromographic age, representing coaching and hunting scenes with impossible horses. The furniture of the room is solid and old-fashioned-undoubtedly the very same that belonged to the inn before railways had ruined road travel.


The sunshine streams in through the ample bay window upon the faded carpet, hangings, and paper, giving, in spite of the general faded look, a cheerful aspect to the little-used chamber. But time will not permit of longer loitering here, and there is no need, for, after all, this is not an ideal hostelry; still, at a

pinch, the weather-overtaken or belated traveller might do worse than rest awhile thereat.

As, however, the day is fortunately young and fine, you will be disposed probably to continue on your way on the chance of coming to a halting-place more 'to your liking. The old inn is chiefly interesting now as a specimen of bygone rural architecture, and as an example of departed prosperity that appeals to you more on account of its past associations than its present desirability as a house of entertainment for the strange wayfarer. The exterior of the ancient hostelry is, however, quaintly picturesque, timetoned and beautified as it is by age. The big sign. still is supported by a mass of wrought-iron scrollwork, raised there in the heyday of the coaching period. Such signs are as much out of fashion now as are the titles thereon. It still remains, however, careless of the world's changes, still swings in the wind as it has done for years long gone by. The design upon it is so bleached by sun and rain that you can hardly make out whether it is intended for the familiar fierce Red Lion, or the equally familiar mild White Hart.

Pleasant farmsteads, with their weather-beaten outbuildings, now meet your view as you journey on, and presently you pass by a well-timbered park, catching a glance of the gleam of silvery water through the fine great branching trees; but the house cannot be seen from the road. The lodge gates are, however, attractively pretty, with their thatched roofs and rough walls covered with green and flowering creepers. Now, after passing through a restful

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