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A WAYSIDE INN.

353

pastoral country, pleasanter than any picture to look upon, you come to a little village, asleep in the soft summer sunshine ; very charming does this appear with its ivy-grown church tower and cosy rectory close at hand; an enviable peaceful home seems that snug garden-surrounded rectory.

The village looks neat and clean, and you wonder who lives in the one or two old large red-brick houses there that stand well back from the street behind

gh moss-grown walls. As you drive along you pass by a primitive 'public, but can see no inn; just, however, as the village street ends, you perceive, some short way ahead, a sign-board projecting on a post with a great green dragon depicted thereon. This sign rejoices in a fresh coat of paint to give the traveller heraldic welcome. Then, almost immediately after, the high-pitched gables of the hostelry itself come into view. From experience of road travel, a glance satisfies you that this hostelry will suit. It is a long, low, two-storied building, with quaint dormer windows in its great roof; an arched approach in the centre leads to the courtyard beyond. You drive in confidently, and throw down the reins to the waiting ostler, who, having heard the well-known sound of horses' feet, is standing prepared to receive you.

The courtyard is a picture with its irregular rambling outbuildings. The stables prove to be good, the corn sound, the hay sweet. You are fortunate to have put up at an inn that is much frequented by hunting men in the season. Hunting men and fishermen—long life to them !-support many a

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charming wayside hostelry that otherwise might have disappeared altogether, or at least have lost much of its ancient cosiness and comfort. The horses will be well done to,' the ostler remarks, touching his forelock, being without any head covering. Feeling satisfied on this point, you enter your inn. A stout, motherly-looking landlady receives you here, not a landlord ; and I have never yet known an inn to fail its promise when the landlady pleases. You are hungry with your morning drive in the bracing air, and ask if you can have some lunch, or dinner, if you prefer dining in the middle of the day. “Certainly, sir !' is the reply. We can get you a nice little dinner if you care to wait, or you can have some cold beef or lamb at once.' You are shown into a charming old-fashioned, low-ceilinged room that has an inviting look: there are flowers in the window, and on the table a London paper three days old, and a county one one day older, with sundry odd copies of the Illustrated London News,' the 'Graphic,' and a stray number or two of Punch.' Presently a neat maid comes in to prepare for your meal ; and if with a good appetite you do not do it, and the cool, clear, sparkling ale, ample justice, it is not the fault of the viands or the home-brewed beer.

After your repast, whilst the horses are resting, you light your pipe and proceed to take a ramble round the place, and most likely you are attracted first to the ancient church. On your way you stop at the blacksmith's shop, the only busy place in the village, and ask where the clerk lives. You are told that he is away for the day in the country ; so you

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proceed boldly to the snug rectory to ask there for the keys. Whilst you are making the request the grey-haired rector himself comes out. Perhaps he does not quite like entrusting the keys to a perfect stranger, so volunteers to go himself with you to the church. Arriving there, he points out a curious altar-tomb, with the recumbent figure of a crosslegged Crusader, and tells something of the longdeparted warrior's history that he has unearthed from certain valued but ponderous tomes at home. Then he calls attention to a quaintly figured and inscribed brass on the chancel floor. This, he says, has been inspected by a number of antiquaries, some of whom say that it is intended to represent ... and here follows a long argument as to the exact meaning of the archaic wording of the brass and the unusual engraving of the figure. Finding that you take an interest in these things, the rector begins to take an interest in you ; he has much studied information to impart, and manifestly rejoices to impart it, and is delighted to find a willing listener. By this time you will have discovered that the rector is an enthusiastic antiquary. He then shows you some faint traces of former frescoes that had been whitewashed over, either by the Puritans or by others, in order to preserve them from destroying hands. Then he shows you all over the little church, pointing to a bit of ancient tracery here and there, to the remains of a Norman arch built up, revealing by these the changes and chances of the sacred structure's long life's history.

As you take your leave of the rector, upon thank

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a very in

ing him for his courtesy, he tells you

of teresting old house only half a mile away by a footpath. This house, he hints, is well worth seeing, if you can spare the time; it was once, you learn, a moated grange, but now is a farmhouse. Thanking your informant, you proceed by the pleasant footpath as directed, and soon come to the old place—and a charming bit of building it is-a poem in bricks and mortar, with its lichen-laden roof, its Tudor chimneys, mullioned windows; surrounded, this delightfully picturesque abode, by an old garden with prim but untidy walks and yew-bordered lawn. This garden is enclosed by a weed-grown moat, which now is crossed by a moss-encrusted stone bridge, only wide enough for a foot-passenger. By the side of the bridge is a great pigeon-house, larger than many a labourer's cottage, and better built than many a modern mansion.

Crossing the moat, a short straight gravel walk brings you to the front door—an elaborate bit of carved work, with the shield, crest, and motto of the former knightly owner cut in bold relief over it, much weather-worn and half hidden by creeping ivy, this heraldic device. On inquiry you are told that the occupier of the old home does not allow people to go over the place, but you are very welcome to wander where you will outside.' You feel disappointed at not being able to see the interior, but you cannot resent the polite refusal ; for has not every man a right to enjoy his home in peace without having his quiet enjoyment disturbed by strangers ? and you duly appreciate the good-natured permission

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so readily granted to roam over the old garden and sketch the romantic exterior of the ancient house. As you

stroll about, however, you do manage to get a glimpse through an open window of an oakpanelled chamber, with a genuine old-fashioned inglenook (a little room in itself). This ingle-nook is lined with quaint blue Dutch tiles, and on the hearth you can just perceive some curious iron fire-dogs, on which rest mighty logs of oak. What a charming corner on a cold winter's night! The mantel above is of dark oak,

Carved with figures strange and sweet,
All made out of the carver's brain.

All this you take in at a rapid glance, and, were it not for its low situation and the suggestion of rats and dampness, owing to the close proximity of the moat, you feel that you would much like to change homes with the farmer. Such a picturesque old moated house no other country but England could show.

But the hours are slipping by, and only half of your pleasant day's pilgrimage is done ; you feel that it is time to be getting back to your inn, or you may be belated on the road ; so you retrace your steps to the Green Dragon, though on your way you feel half a mind to spend the night there, and further inspect at your leisure the rambling village and its quaint old-world surroundings; but, after due consideration, decide to proceed, reasoning truly enough that, were you to stop the day over at every charming spot you come to, you would hardly get home

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