Puslapio vaizdai

proud of these distinguishing features of their houses, and generally being men of substance and prosperous withal, they were not to be outdone by their rivals in such a matter. Large sums were expended upon the production of these signs, and in special cases artists of repute were employed to devise and paint them. As much as 50/. was by no means an out-ofthe-way sum for the owner of a thriving coaching inn to give for the painting of his sign, and not unfrequently much larger sums were devoted to the purpose: indeed it is on record that the once farfamed inn of Scole in Norfolk (the most renowned and popular hostel in the county of the period) possessed an elaborate sign that was erected there in 1655 at a cost of over 1,000l. ; a truly vast sum, bearing in mind the relative value of money then and now. Unfortunately, in these days an artist of repute would hardly condescend to paint an inn sign; still there does exist more than one sign-board I wot of, the work of well-known artists, but the work was done for love and not for gain. Inn signs nowadays are mostly the work of the village painter's prentice hand, rude and spiritless, as is to be expected, when not absolutely an eyesore or a vulgar absurdity; of quaint conceits and cunning devices what can such a one know? he is a workman (and often an unskilled one at that), not an artist. And the crude performance of the rural painter, how pitifully it contrasts with the grand mass of wrought ironwork that upholds it, so charged this latter with the spirit of freedom and enjoyed handicraft; for the iron standards have outlasted the winter storms of unnumbered



years, years that long ago have weathered the old Red Lion or Green Dragon, that erst gave heraldic welcome on the ancient board, out of all recognition.

These past-time inns, the outcome of the picturesque coaching days, when they have not been altered or improved to suit modern requirements, how they delight the eye of the nineteenth-century traveller along the old high roads! Oh! the charm of these quaint and comfortable hostels; when they have been simply maintained, neither restored nor yet allowed to go to decay, wayside pictures they! Moreover, have such not the added charm of romance? The flavour of the past seems to linger over them. Standing in one of their rambling courtyards, almost if not quite deserted in this railway-travelling age (or standing in the roadway looking upon their long many-gabled fronts), one can conjure to oneself without a great strain upon the imagination, how the old place must have appeared in the heyday of its prosperity, when the coaches drew up at the great arched doorway, and the change of horses stood there, restlessly awaiting the well-known sound of the horn. There is the boots standing ready with the traveller's luggage who is going on, and for the moment everyone connected with the hostel, from the jovial-looking landlord in his frilled shirt and top-boots (John Bull personified), the very embodiment of good nature and portly prosperity, to the chamber-maid peering over the gallery within, to get a look at what is going on outside, or it may be to exchange love glances with the ruddy-faced

coachman who is friendly with everybody and seems upon excellent terms with himself. But there is no time to be wasted, for is not the Quicksilver Mail the fastest on the road-and the famous mail keeps time to the minute, so that the country folk even set their clocks by it as it passes? The horses are quickly changed, the passenger with his limited allowance of luggage has taken his place, the horn sounds musically, the word is given, the horses spring into their collars, and the coach rattles away and is soon out of both sight and hearing. Then the old inn (not so old then as now by the way) relapses into its usual quiet and restful repose, but only for a time. Presently my lord' comes posting along in hot haste Londonward bound; he is not delayed, post-boys booted and spurred, and post-horses harnessed are ever ready; 'Next turn' is shouted, and scarcely has 'my lord' exchanged greetings with mine host' before he is again hasting along the smooth and well-kept turnpike road.

The landlords of these old coaching hostelries were of necessity men of property, and held an important position in the travelling world, so they were on familiar, if indeed it would not be more correct to say friendly terms, with the nobles of the land, and from these downward to the simple yeoman or sturdy farmer on his way across country who might patronise or put up at their inns. But the railway has robbed us of the romance as well as of the inconvenience of travel; it has given us speed in exchange for picturesqueness, and the ancient friendliness begotten of prolonged companionship



upon journeys that took days instead of hours to accomplish is a thing of the past. We have not time now to make friends when we travel, hardly time indeed to be civil one to another. We take our seat, read our paper, see little, and know nothing of the country we pass through, and care less; only impatiently desire to get to our destination as fast as ever steam will carry us, and we would go even faster did we know how. We often rush down from town to some seaside watering-place, and when we get there, after all our hurrying we scarcely know what to do with ourselves, when we might have driven thither by road and have had a pleasant outing, besides the novelty of the unaccustomed mode of travel.

To the antiquary or archæologist Colchester is one of the most interesting towns in the kingdom. It was a Roman colony of the first importance, and many relics of the occupation have been dug up from time to time; Roman bricks and considerable portions of Roman work still appear in its castle, church towers, town walls, and other buildings. Our first ramble in Colchester was to the museum, appropriately situated in the ancient weather-beaten. castle ; this museum contains one of the most interesting collections of antiquities in the country. We were fortunate enough to meet there the curator, who, observing that we were strangers, most kindly offered to show us over the building, which act of courtesy added greatly to the enjoyment and interest of our visit, for with thoughtful consideration he pointed out to us what was best worth seeing in the

unique collection, and as far as he knew explained their purport and history.

The gem of the museum is a sphinx of Roman work, finely carved in stone; this fabulous creature is represented holding beneath her a man's head, hands, and bones, being the remains of the victim that she is supposed to have killed and eaten-the fate of all those who could not guess the riddle she proposed. We also saw here the old Colchester stocks, which appeared to be still in serviceable condition; they were last used, our guide informed us, in 1858, for the punishment of a woman for drunkenness. Even in this day, in some out-of-theway villages, we have seen similar stocks in situ, as well as iron rings in the walls and pillars of old buildings, to which men were tied by their hands and publicly whipped for certain offences in the good old days.' A ducking stool we have not come upon-out of a museum.

But what interested us most in the rich collection of rare things-antique vases, lamps, cinerary urns, drinking vessels, celts, etc.—was a leaden coffin, very ancient, but of uncertain date, discovered only shortly before our visit. This coffin. had ornamentation upon it, but the extraordinary thing about it was that from the lid and just over where the head of the body presumably would be, a pipe led to the top of the ground. This is the sole instance on record of such a strange arrangement. It is difficult to understand for what reason this pipe was so attached unless for a supply of air, and the first conjecture upon this curious find' being dis

« AnkstesnisTęsti »