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THE LOVE OF THE COUNTRY.
beheld so marvellous a scene, but for all was glad to get away to a less wonderful land. Well now do I remember at the time how I longed with a great longing for a glimpse of a bit of my own dearly loved English country, so sest-bestowing, friendlylooking, and companionable ;' not too beautiful or astonishing for every-day exstence; not exciting, yet never depressing or duli-only lovable ! It seems so near to one's heart, it is so winsome, so homelike ; and therein lies the special charm of rural England-a charm that may be felt, but which is beyond the power of mere words adequately to convey.
There are certain people, however (let us hope that their number is few), upon whom even the most lovely scenery palls unless it has more or less human associations connected with it. Like Scott, they look on scenery as a mere background to these ; unlike Wordsworth they cannot love the country for the sake of its own simple beauty. Such men there are, and one of the most famous of these was Dr. Johnson, who, as it will be remembered, when, during his Scotch tour, he was being shown a prospect of exceeding beauty, asked to have the inn pointed out to him! Of such peculiarly constituted persons it may truly be said that it is not the rock jutting over the sea that is admired in itself, but this only claims attention as a firm foundation for the ruined castle in which proud and chivalrous knights and fair ladies dwelt : not the field, with its waving ears of corn and its hedgerows with all the delicate colours and the world of graceful lines of the growth within it, belted by wood and dale, but the field upon which
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Roundheads and Cavaliers fought for the Parliament or King Charles . . . and the atmosphere is bright, is clear or dismal, as it best suits the lonely horseman muffled in his cloak.' Truly human associations give the glamour of an added interest to even the fairest scene, but they do not make its beauty, and when these associations are absent the beauty is none the less.
At last we emerged from the winding, puzzling, pleasant lanes into the wide high-road, soon after which we found ourselves in the long one-streeted town of Epping, where we obtained comfortable quarters at the Cock Inn (if I remember the title aright). An old-fashioned hostelry is the Cock, homely as best pleased us, with a good-natured landlady to sum up its unostentatious attractions. We were agreeably surprised to come upon such a comfortable little hostelry here, for as a rule we have found the first stage out of London, and the last stage in, to be the worst provided with hotels. Travellers nowadays when within twenty miles or so of town generally prefer to take the rail to London and sleep there, so that there is but small encouragement for hotel-keepers near to town, though houses of entertainment of other kinds abound. We discovered from a chat with our landlady that the secret of the quiet prosperity of her inn was owing to the fact that people often come down here for a day or so, and sometimes not unfrequently for a week or more, to see and explore the forest, and now and again a stray artist finds his way to the homely hostel and makes it his headquarters for a while.
The inn still retains the old-time familiar feature of the ample courtyard behind, so that manifestly it was once a coaching house, and, possibly owing to the fact that it still owns a considerable and a profitable custom, it looks much to-day as it did before the iron horse had driven the one of flesh and blood from off the road ; it seems never to have been added to or taken from since the last coach changed horses there.
Leaving Epping we drove through the forest to Chingford, and a very pleasant drive it was through the wild woodlands, wild if not exactly “forest primæval. Of deer we saw none, so that we had to take their existence for granted. We did not have the road all to ourselves as we had been accustomed to almost the whole of our journey since we left Brentwood save when in the close neighbourhood of towns, for we met a number of empty carts (returning, we judged, from Covent Garden Market); most of the drivers of these were comfortably--or uncomfortably-ensconced in sacks, lying down in the bottom of their separate conveyances, fast asleep! Possibly they had been awake since the early morning, and when they had threaded their way through the London streets and got into the straight forest road, had dropped off to sleep half unconsciously. Not being aware of this fact at the time, and seeing the first cart we met coming along apparently without any driver, he being effectually hidden at the bottom of the conveyance, we gave a loud blast upon
the horn ; the result was to rouse the slumberer, who pulled his horse right on the grass, then, as
we approached him, he abused us for having awakened him, and coolly settled down to sleep again! The next cart we met also had no visible driver, but as the sward by the side of the way happened to be level, so that we could drive upon it in case of emergency, we determined to pull up and see what would happen. The horse came quietly along right in the middle of the road, the reins hanging loosely over his head ; when, however, he approached us, without any guiding hand the intelligent animal went over to his right side of the way, leaving ample room
This course was exactly repeated by other horses whose drivers were indulging in a similar rest, apparently utterly oblivious of the outer world. Evidently they were used to this sort of thing, and after a time we got used to it too, and even took a delight in watching the sagacity of the hard-worked animals. After they had passed us we noticed that they resumed the centre of the road, and went on their way contentedly and we went on ours.
Presently we came to a cross-road, with a signpost at the corner having ‘To the Royal Forest Hotel'inscribed thereon. Here we left the highway and soon found ourselves at Chingford, where we drove straight into the stable-yard of the hotel. A compact, business-like stable-yard this, quite a different thing from the picturesque and ample courtyards of the old coaching inns. The Royal Forest Hotel we found to be a large and not unpleasing halftimbered structure; it would, perhaps, have been more in keeping with its surroundings had the building been a trifle less stately, but this is a small matter,
perhaps hardly generous to suggest, when the desire to build picturesquely is so evident.
A crowded excursion break, with four jaded-looking horses, was standing at the door, the excursionists singing loudly if not musically. We went within the hotel ; it was crowded, and so we came out again, determined to have a picnic in some quiet recess of the forest, for we always carried with us in the phaeton a spirit lamp, a small allowance of whisky, tea, and preserved provisions, as, when on the road, it is pleasant to be able to rest awhile at some tree-shaded spot and take an al fresco meal. Such wayside picnics are always delightful, and we indulged in them upon every excuse, the horses upon such occasions being allowed a few mouthfuls of fresh grass, much to their manifest enjoyment. And after a picnic thus in some quiet out-of-the-world nook, how delightful it is to lie down upon one of the rugs from the phaeton and smoke the pipe of peace, listening to the singing and chirping of the birds, or it may be to the gurgling of some silvery stream, watching the while through the interlacing branches of the trees overhead the careless, white summer clouds go drifting across the deep blue sky, whilst the softened sunshine filters to you through the multitude of lambent leaves, forming glinting patterns of glowing green and gold upon the green grass around your feet. Could there be anything more soothing or peacebestowing ?
The Royal Forest Hotel is to the East-Londoner what the Star and Garter is to the West-ender. Of the two buildings the Forest Hotel, if not quite as