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Title: A Cotswold Village
Author: Gibbs, J. Arthur
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: _Photo, W. Shawncross, Guildford_.]

[_Frontispiece_. J. ARTHUR GIBBS.]



A COTSWOLD VILLAGE

OR COUNTRY LIFE AND PURSUITS IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE

BY J. ARTHUR GIBBS

     "Go, little booke; God send thee good passage,
      And specially let this be thy prayere
      Unto them all that thee will read or hear,
      Where thou art wrong after their help to call,
      Thee to correct in any part or all."

      GEOFFREY CHAUCER.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS


1918



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION


Before the third edition of this work had been published the author
passed away, from sudden failure of the heart, at the early age of
thirty-one. Two or three biographical notices, written by those who
highly appreciated him and who deeply mourn his loss, have already
appeared in the newspapers; and I therefore wish to add only a few words
about one whose kind smile of welcome will greet us no more in
this life.

Joseph Arthur Gibbs was one of those rare natures who combine a love of
outdoor life, cricket and sport of every kind, with a refined and
scholarly taste for literature. He had, like his father, a keen
observation for every detail in nature; and from a habit of patient
watchfulness he acquired great knowledge of natural history. From his
grandfather, the late Sir Arthur Hallam Elton, he inherited his taste
for literary work and the deep poetical feeling which are revealed so
clearly in his book. On leaving Eton, he wrote a _Vale_, of which his
tutor, Mr. Luxmoore, expressed his high appreciation; and later on,
when, after leaving Oxford, he was living a quiet country life, he
devoted himself to literary pursuits.

He was not, however, so engrossed in his work as to ignore other duties;
and he was especially interested in the villagers round his home, and
ever ready to give what is of greater value than money, personal trouble
and time in finding out their wants and in relieving them. His unvarying
kindness and sympathy will never be forgotten at Ablington; for, as one
of the villagers wrote in a letter of condolence on hearing of his
death, "he went in and out as a friend among them." With all his
tenderness of heart, he had a strict sense of justice and a clear
judgment, and weighed carefully both sides of any question before he
gave his verdict.

Arthur Gibbs went abroad at the end of March 1899 for a month's trip to
Italy, and in his Journal he wrote many good descriptions of scenery and
of the old towns; and the way in which he describes his last glimpse of
Florence during a glorious sunset shows how greatly he appreciated its
beauty. In his Journal in April he dwells on the shortness of life, and
in the following solemn words he sounds a warning note:--

"Do not neglect the creeping hours of time: 'the night cometh when no
man can work.' All time is wasted unless spent in work for God. The best
secular way of spending the precious thing that men call time is by
making always for some grand end--a great book, to show forth the
wonders of creation and the infinite goodness of the Creator. You must
influence for _good_ if you write, and write nothing that you will
regret some day or think trivial."

These words, written a month before the end came, tell their own tale.
The writer of them had a deep love for all things that are "lovely,
pure, and of good report"; and in his book one sees clearly the
adoration he felt for that God whom he so faithfully served. There are
many different kinds of work in this world, and diversities of gifts; to
him was given the spirit to discern the work of God in Nature's glory,
and the power to win others to see it also. He had a remarkable
influence for good at Oxford, and the letters from his numerous friends
and from his former tutor at Christ Church show that this influence has
never been forgotten, but has left its mark not only on his college, but
on the university.

Like his namesake and relative, Arthur Hallam, of immortal memory,
Arthur Gibbs had attained to a purity of soul and a wisdom which were
not of this world, at an earlier age than is given to many men; and so
in love and faith and hope--

     "I would the great world grew like thee,
        Who grewest not alone in power
        And knowledge; but by year and hour
      In reverence and charity."

      LAURA BEATRICE GIBBS.



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

To those of my readers who have ever lived beside a stream, or in an
ancient house or time-honoured college, there will always be a peculiar
charm in silvery waters sparkling beneath the summer sun. To you the
Gothic building, with its carved pinnacles, its warped gables, its
mullioned casements and dormer windows, the old oak within, the very
inglenook by the great fireplace where the old folks used to sit at
home, the ivy trailing round the grey walls, the jessamine, roses, and
clematis that in their proper seasons clustered round the porch,--to you
all these things will have their charm as long as you live. Therefore,
if these pages appeal not to some such, it will not be the subject that
is wanting, but the ability of the writer.

It is not claimed for my Cotswold village that it is one whit prettier
or pleasanter or better in any way than hundreds of other villages in
England; I seek only to record the simple annals of a quiet,
old-fashioned Gloucestershire hamlet and the country within walking
distance of it. Nor do I doubt that there are manor houses far more
beautiful and far richer in history even within a twenty-mile radius of
my own home. For instance, the ancient house of Chavenage by Tetbury, or
in the opposite direction, where the northern escarpments of the
Cotswolds rise out of the beautiful Evesham Vale, those historic
mediaeval houses of Southam and Postlip.

It is often said that in books like these we paint arcadias that never
did and never could exist on earth. To this I would answer that there
are many such abodes in country places, if only our minds are such as to
realise them. And, above all, let us be optimists in literature even
though we may be pessimists in life. Let us have all that is joyous and
bright in our books, and leave the trials and failures for the realities
of life. Let us in our literature avoid as much as possible the painful
side of human nature and the pains and penalties of human weakness; let
us endeavour to depict a state of existence as far as possible
approaching the Utopian ideal, though not necessarily the Nirvana of the
Buddhists nor the paradise of fools; let us look not downwards into the
depths of black despair, but upwards into the starry heavens; let us
gaze at the golden evening brightening in the west. Richard Jefferies
has taught us that such a literature is possible; and if we read his
best books, we may some day be granted that fuller soul he prayed for
and at length obtained. Would that we could all hear, as he heard, the
still small voice that whispers in the woods and among the wild flowers
and the spreading foliage by the brook!

To any one who might be thinking of becoming for the time being "a
tourist," and in that capacity visiting the Cotswolds, my advice is,
"Don't." There is really nothing to see. There is nothing, that is to
say, which may not be seen much nearer London. And I freely confess that
most of the subjects included in this book are usually deemed unworthy
of consideration even in the district itself. Still, there are a few who
realise that every county in England is more or less a mine of interest,
and for such I have written. Realising my limitations, I have not gone
deeply into any single subject; my endeavour has been to touch on every
branch of country life with as light a hand as possible--to amuse rather
than to instruct. For, as Washington Irving delightfully sums up the
matter: "It is so much pleasanter to please than to instruct, to play
the companion rather than the preceptor. What, after all, is the mite of
wisdom that I could throw into the mass of knowledge? or how am I sure
that my sagest deductions may be safe guides for the opinions of others?
But in writing to amuse, if I fail, the only evil is in my own
disappointment. If, however, I can by any lucky chance rub out one
wrinkle from the brow of care, or beguile the heavy heart of one moment
of sorrow; if I can now and then penetrate through the gathering film of
misanthropy, prompt a benevolent view of human nature, and make my
reader more in good humour with his fellow beings and himself, surely,
surely, I shall not then have written in vain."

The first half of Chapter II. originally appeared in the _Pall Mall
Magazine_. Portions of Chapters VII. and VIII., and "The Thruster's
Song," have also been published in _Baily's Magazine_. My thanks are due
to the editors for permission to reproduce them. Chapter XII. owes its
inspiration to Mr. Madden's excellent work on Shakespeare's connection
with sport and the Cotswolds, the "Diary of Master William Silence." We
have no local tradition of any kind about Shakespeare.

I am indebted to Miss E.F. Brickdale for the pen-and-ink sketches, and
to Colonel Mordaunt for his beautiful photographs. Three of the
photographs, however, are by H. Taunt, of Oxford, and a similar number
are by Mr. Gardner, of Fairford.

_September 1898_.



CONTENTS

PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

CHAPTER I.

FLYING WESTWARDS

The Thames Valley--The Old White Horse--Entering the Cotswolds.

CHAPTER II.

A COTSWOLD VILLAGE

Far from the Madding Crowd--An Old Farmhouse and Its Occupants--The
Manor House--Inscription on Porch--Interior of the House--The Garden--A
Fairy Spring--The Village Club--Labouring Folk--Village Politics--The
Trout Stream--Flowing Seawards--Village Architecture--The Charm of
Antiquity--The Spirit of Sacrifice--Wayside Crosses--Tithe Barns.

CHAPTER III.

VILLAGE CHARACTERS

Quaint Hamlet Folk--The Village Impostor--Rural Economy--Stories of the
People--A Curious Analogy--Tom Peregrine, the Keeper--A Standing
Dish--A Great Character--Peregrine's Accomplishments and
Proclivities--Farmers and Foxes--Concerning Churchwardens--The Village
Quack--An Excellent Prescription--His Lecture--How the Old Fox was
Found--A Good Sort--Heroes of the Hamlet--Political Meetings--Humours of
the Poll--Gloucestershire Farmers.

CHAPTER IV.

THE LANGUAGE OF THE COTSWOLDS, WITH SOME ANCIENT SONGS AND LEGENDS

Strange Travellers--Smoking Concerts--The Carter's Song--Village
Choirs--The Chedworth Band--Sense of Humour of the Natives--Their
Geography "a Bit Mixed"--A Large Family--_Noblesse Oblige_--Rustic
Legends--Names of Fields--The Cotswold Dialect--How to Talk It--An
Ancient Ballad--Tom Peregrine Recites--Roger Plowman's Excursion--An
Expensive Luncheon--Oxtail Soup--"The Turmut Hower."

CHAPTER V.

ON THE WOLDS

Varied Amusements--Nature on the Hills--The Mysteries of
Scent--Partridge-Shooting--A Mixed Bag--Plover--Pigeon-Shooting with
Decoys--Bird Life--Sunset on the Downs--A Wild, Deserted Country--An
Old Dog Fox.

CHAPTER VI.

A GALLOP OVER THE WALLS

An October Meet--Cub-Hunting--The Old Fox Again! A Fast Gallop over the
Walls--The Charm of Uncertainty--Fliers of the Hunt--A Narrow Escape--A
Check--A Reliable Hound--Failure of Scent--An Excellent Tonic.

CHAPTER VII.

A COTSWOLD TROUT STREAM

Loch Leven Trout--Curious Capture of an Eel--The Author Catches a
Red-Herring--Macomber Falls--A Sad Episode--South Country
Streams--Course of the Coln--Charles Kingsley on Fishing--A May-Fly
Stream--Evening Fishing--Dry-Fly Dogmas--Flies for the Coln--Scarcity of
Poachers--An Evening Walk by the River--Spring's Delights.

CHAPTER VIII.

WHEN THE MAY-FLY IS UP

Derby Day on the Coln--A Good Sportsman--The Right Fly--Pleasures of the
Country--Peregrine's Quaint Expressions--Sport with the Olive Dun--A
Fine Trout--Effects of Sheep-Washing--A Good Basket--Life by the
Brook--A Summer's Night--In the Heart of England.

CHAPTER IX.

BURFORD, A COTSWOLD TOWN

Curious Names--The Windrush--Burford Priory--An Empty Shell--The
Kingmaker--Lord Falkland--Speaker Lenthall--Bibury Races--An Old
Tradition--Valued Relics--Burford Church--Mr. Oman's Discovery--Burford
during the Civil Wars.

CHAPTER X.

STROLL THROUGH THE COTSWOLDS

The Old Coaching Days--Fairford--Anglo-Saxon
Relics--Hatherop--Coln-St.-Aldwyns--The "Knights Templar" of
Quenington--A Haunt of Ancient Peace--Bibury Village--Ancient
Barrows--The Prehistoric Age--Deserted Villages--The Philosopher's
Stone--True Nobleness--On Battues--Roman Remains--Chedworth Woods--An
Old Manor House.

CHAPTER XI.

COTSWOLD PASTIMES

Whitsun Ale--Sports of Various Kinds--The Peregrine Family at
Cricket--_Prehistoric_ Cricket--A Bad Ground--A "Pretty" Ball--Charles
Dickens on Cricket--Dumkins and Podder, Limited--How Dumkins Hit a
"Sixer"--Downfall of "Podder"--Bourton-on-the-Water C.C.--A
Plague of Wasps--The Treatment of Cricket Grounds--The Author's
Recipe--Reflections on Modern Cricket.

CHAPTER XII.

THE COTSWOLDS THREE HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

The Centre of Elizabethan Sport--A Digression on South Africa--The Halo
of Association--A Day's Stag-Hunting in 1592--A Benighted Sportsman--"A
Goodly Dwelling and a Rich"--An Old English Gentleman--Shakespeare on
Hounds--He Describes the Run--The Death of the Stag--The Ancestral
Peregrine--Bacon not Wanted--A "Black Ousel"--The Charm of
Music--Shakespeare's Dream--A Hawking Expedition--Peregrine, the Parson,
and the Poet--Methods and Language of Falconry--A Flight at a
Heron--Peregrine Views a Fox.

CHAPTER XIII.

CIRENCESTER

Roman Remains--The Corinium Museum--The Church--Cirencester House--The
Park--The Abbey--The "Mop" or Hiring Fair--A Great Hunting Centre--A
Varied Country--The Badminton Hounds--Lord Bathurst's Hounds--The
Cotswold Hounds--Charles Travess--A Born Genius--The Cricklade
Hounds--The Right Sort of Horse--The Oaksey District--The Heythrop
Hounds--A Defence of Hard Riding--A Day in the Vale--A Hunting Poem.

CHAPTER XIV.

SPRING IN THE COTSWOLDS

Habits of Moorhens--Mallard and Swan--Nuthatches--Woodpeckers--Humane
Traps--Badgers--Fox-terriers--Scotch
Deerhounds--Retrievers--Cray-fish--The
Rookery--Jackdaws--Foxes--Artificial Earths--Fox among Sheep--Foxes and
Fowls--Poultry Claims--Observations on Scent--The Hygrometer--How Trout
are Netted--Scarcity of Otters--Water-Voles.

CHAPTER XV.

THE PROMISE OF MAY

Wild Flowers--Cottage Gardens--The Paths of Literature--Description of a
Horse--Beauty of Trees--Their Loss Irreparable as the Loss of Friends--A
Fine Type of Englishman--Lines in Memory of W.D. Llewelyn.

CHAPTER XVI.

SUMMER DAYS ON THE COTSWOLDS

A Walk in the Fields--Hedgerow Flowers--The Brookside--By "the
Pill"--Remarks on Gray--A Fine Piece of Miniature Scenery--The Cricket
Ground--The Book of Nature--At the Ford--Habits of Observation--In the
Conyger Wood--The Home of the Kingfisher--A Limestone Quarry--The Great
Stone Floor of the Earth--Nature's Endless Cycle--Beauty of the
Ash--Hedgehogs--Trout and Snake--Sunset on the Hills.

CHAPTER XVII.

AUTUMN

Remarks on Country Life--Thrashing--The Flail--Gipsies--Harvest
Feasts--Fifty Years Ago--The Wolds in Autumn--By the
Stream--Wildfowl--Migration of Birds--Lapwings--Winter
Visitants--Thunderstorms--Glow-Worms--A Brilliant Meteor--Night on the
Hills--The "Blowing-Stone"--Christmas Day on the Cotswolds--A Solar
Halo--Hamlet Festivities--Tom Peregrine Baffled--The Mummers Play--The
Victorian Era--The True Days of "Merrie England"--_Carpe Diem_.

CHAPTER XVIII.

WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN

A Glorious Panorama--Peregrine as Secretary--The Light of Setting
Suns--Conclusion.

APPENDIX.

GEORGE RIDLER'S OVEN

INDEX



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR, FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY MESSRS. SHAWCROSS.

STOKE POGES CHURCH.

THE OLD MANOR HOUSE.

INSCRIPTION ON PORCH OF MANOR HOUSE.

INTERIOR OF MANOR HOUSE.

IN THE GARDEN.

A COTSWOLD MANOR HOUSE.

COTSWOLD COTTAGES.

A FARMHOUSE BY THE COLN.

AN OLD COTTAGE.

THE HAMLET.

ON THE WOLDS.

OXEN PLOUGHING.

THE OLD CUSTOMER.

THE OLD MILL, ABLINGTON.

THE COLN NEAR BIBURY.

A BRIDGE OVER THE COLN.

A DISH OF FISH.

BURFORD PRIORY.

BURFORD PRIORY.

THE MANOR HOUSE, COLN-ST.-ALDWYNS.

BIBURY STREET.

ARLINGTON ROW.

VILLAGE CRICKETERS.

HAWKING.

BIBURY COURT.

THE ABBEY GATEWAY, CIRENCESTER.

MARKET-PLACE, CIRENCESTER.

AN OLD BARN.

THE "PILL" BRIDGE.

IN BIBURY VILLAGE.

SIDE VIEW OF MANOR HOUSE.

BIBURY MILL.

BELOW THE "PILL".

ABLINGTON MANOR.

AN OLD-FASHIONED LABOURING COUPLE.

COLN-ST.-ALDWYNS.

[Illustration: Stoke Poges Church. 019.png]

A COTSWOLD VILLAGE.



CHAPTER I.

FLYING WESTWARDS.

London is becoming miserably hot and dusty; everybody who can get away
is rushing off, north, south, east, and west, some to the seaside,
others to pleasant country houses. Who will fly with me westwards to the
land of golden sunshine and silvery trout streams, the land of breezy
uplands and valleys nestling under limestone hills, where the scream of
the railway whistle is seldom heard and the smoke of the factory
darkens not the long summer days? Away, in the smooth "Flying Dutchman";
past Windsor's glorious towers and Eton's playing-fields; past the
little village and churchyard where a century and a half ago the famous
"Elegy" was written, and where, hard by "those rugged elms, that
yew-tree's shade," yet rests the body of the mighty poet, Gray. How
those lines run in one's head this bright summer evening, as from our
railway carriage we note the great white dome of Stoke House peeping out
amid the elms! whilst every field reminds us of him who wrote those
lilting stanzas long, long ago.

     "Ah, happy hills! ah, pleasing shade!
       Ah, fields, beloved in vain!
     Where once my careless childhood strayed,
       A stranger yet to pain:
     I feel the gales that from ye blow
     A momentary bliss bestow;
     As waving fresh their gladsome wing
     My weary soul they seem to soothe,
     And redolent of joy and youth,
     To breathe a second spring."

But soon we are flashing past Reading, where Sutton's nursery gardens
are bright with scarlet and gold, and blue and white; every flower that
can be made to grow in our climate grows there, we may be sure. But
there is no need of garden flowers now, when the fields and hedges, even
the railway banks, are painted with the lovely blue of wild geraniums
and harebells, the gold of birdsfoot trefoil and Saint John's wort, and
the white and pink of convolvulus or bindweed. We are passing through
some of the richest scenery in the Thames valley. There, on the right,
is Mapledurham, a grand mediaeval building, surrounded by such a wealth
of stately trees as you will see nowhere else. The Thames runs
practically through the grounds. What a glorious carpet of gold is
spread over these meadows when the buttercups are in full bloom! Now
comes Pangbourne, with its lovely weir, where the big Thames trout love
to lie. Pangbourne used to be one of the prettiest villages on the
river; but its popularity has spoilt it.

As we pass onwards, many other country houses--Purley, Basildon, and
Hardwick--with their parks and clustering cottages, add their charm to
the view. There are the beautiful woods of Streatley: hanging copses
clothe the sides of the hills, and pretty villages nestle amid the
trees. But soon the scene changes: the glorious valley Father Thames has
scooped out for himself is left behind; we are crossing the chalk
uplands. On all sides are vast stretches of unfenced arable land, though
here and there a tiny village with its square-towered Norman church
peeps out from an oasis of green fields and stately elm trees. On the
right the Chiltern Hills are seen in the background, and Wittenham Clump
stands forth--a conspicuous object for miles. The country round Didcot
reminds one very much of the north of France: between Calais and Paris
one notices the same chalk soil, the same flat arable fields, and the
same old-fashioned farmhouses and gabled cottages.

But now we have entered the grand old Berkshire vale. "Fields and
hedges, hedges and fields; peace and plenty, plenty and peace. I should
like to take a foreigner down the vale of Berkshire in the end of May,
and ask him what he thought of old England." Thus wrote Charles Kingsley
forty years ago, when times were better for Berkshire farmers. But the
same old fields and the same old hedges still remain--only we do not
appreciate them as much as did the author of "Westward Ho!"

Steventon, that lovely village with its gables and thatched roofs, its
white cottage walls set with beams of blackest oak, its Norman church in
the midst of spreading chestnuts and leafy elms, appears from the
railway to be one of the most old-fashioned spots on earth. This vale is
full of fine old trees; but in many places the farmers have spoilt their
beauty by lopping off the lower branches because the grass will not grow
under their wide-spreading foliage. It is only in the parks and
woodlands that the real glory of the timber remains.

And now we may notice what a splendid hunting country is this Berkshire
vale. The fields are large and entirely grass; the fences, though
strong, are all "flying" ones--posts and rails, too, are frequent in the
hedges. Many a fine scamper have the old Berkshire hounds enjoyed over
these grassy pastures, where the Rosy Brook winds its sluggish course;
and we trust they will continue to do so for many years to come. Long
may that day be in coming when the sound of the horn is no longer heard
in this delightful country!

High up on the hill the old White Horse soon appears in view, cut in the
velvety turf of the rolling chalk downs. But, in the words of the
old ballad,

     "The ould White Horse wants zettin' to rights."

He wants "scouring" badly. A stranger, if shown this old relic, the
centre of a hundred legends, famous the whole world over, would find it
difficult to recognise any likeness to a fiery steed in those uncertain
lines of chalk. Nevertheless, this is the monument King Alfred made to
commemorate his victory over the Danes at Ashdown. So the tradition of
the country-side has had it for a thousand years, and shall a
thousand more.

The horse is drawn as galloping. Frank Buckland took the following
measurements of him: The total length is one hundred and seventy yards;
his eye is four feet across; his ear fifteen yards in length; his
hindleg is forty-three yards long. Doubtless the full proportions of the
White Horse are not kept scoured nowadays; for a few weeks ago I was up
on the hill and took some of the measurements myself. I could not make
mine agree with Frank Buckland's: for instance, the ear appeared to be
seven yards only in length, and not fifteen; so that it would seem that
the figure is gradually growing smaller. It is the head and forelegs
that want scouring worst of all. There is little sign of the trench, two
feet deep, which in Buckland's time formed the outline of the horse; the
depth of the cutting is now only a matter of a very few inches.

The view from this hill is a very extensive one, embracing the vale from
Bath almost to Reading the whole length of the Cotswold Hills, as well
as the Chilterns, stretching away eastwards towards Aylesbury, and far
into Buckinghamshire. Beneath your feet lie many hundred thousand acres
of green pastures, varied in colour during summer and autumn by golden
wheatfields bright with yellow charlock and crimson poppies. It has
been said that eleven counties are visible on clear days.

The White Horse at Westbury, further down the line, represents a horse
in a standing position. He reflects the utmost credit on his grooms; for
not only are his shapely limbs "beautifully and wonderfully made," but
the greatest care is taken of him. The Westbury horse is not in reality
nearly so large as this one at Uffington, but he is a very beautiful
feature of the country. I paid him a visit the other day, and was
surprised to find he was very much smaller than he appears from the
railway. Glancing over a recent edition of Tom Hughes' book, "The
Scouring of the White Horse," I found the following lines:--

"In all likelihood the _pastime_ of 1857 will be the last of his race;
for is not the famous Saxon (or British) horse now scheduled to an Act
of Parliament as an ancient monument which will be maintained in time to
come as a piece of prosaic business, at the cost of other than Berkshire
men reared within sight of the hill?"

Alas! it is too true. There has been no _pastime_ since 1857.

It would have been a splendid way of commemorating the "diamond jubilee"
if a scouring had been organised in 1897. Forty years have passed since
the last pastime, with its backsword play and "climmin a greasy pole for
a leg of mutton," its race for a pig and a cheese; and, oddly enough,
the previous scouring had taken place in the year of the Queen's
accession, sixty-one years ago. It would be enough to make poor Tom
Hughes turn in his grave if he knew that the old White Horse had been
turned out to grass, and left to look after himself for the rest of
his days!

Those were grand old times when the Berkshire; Gloucestershire, and
Somersetshire men amused themselves by cracking each other's heads and
cudgel-playing for a gold-laced hat and a pair of buckskin breeches;
when a flitch of bacon was run for by donkeys; and when, last, but not
least, John Morse, of Uffington, "grinned agin another chap droo hos
[horse] collars, a fine bit of spwoart, to be sure, and made the folks
laaf." I here quote from Tom Hughes' book, "The Scouring of the White
Horse," to which I must refer my readers for further interesting
particulars.

There are some days during summer when the sunlight is so beautiful that
every object is invested with a glamour and a charm not usually
associated with it. Such a day was that of which we write. As we were
gliding out of Swindon the sun was beginning to descend. From a Great
Western express, running at the rate of sixty miles an hour through
picturesque country, you may watch the sun setting amidst every variety
of scenery. Now some hoary grey tower stands out against the intense
brightness of the western sky; now a tracery of fine trees shades for a
time the dazzling light; then suddenly the fiery furnace is revealed
again, reflected perhaps in the waters of some stream or amid the reeds
and sedges of a mere, where a punt is moored containing anglers in broad
wideawake hats. Gradually a dark purple shade steals over the long range
of chalk hills; white, clean-looking roads stand out clearly defined
miles away on the horizon; the smoke that rises straight up from some
ivy-covered homestead half a mile away is bluer than the evening sky--a
deep azure blue. The horizon is clear in the south, but in the
north-west dark, but not forbidding clouds are rising; fantastic
cloudlets float high up in the firmament; rooks coming home to roost are
plainly visible several miles away against the brilliant western sky.

This Great Western Railway runs through some of the finest bits of old
England. Not long ago, in travelling from Chepstow to Gloucester, we
were fairly amazed at the surpassing beauty of the views. It was
May-day, and the weather was in keeping with the occasion. The sight of
the old town of Chepstow and the silvery Wye, as we left them behind us,
was fine enough; but who can describe the magnificent panorama presented
by the wide Severn at low tide? Yellow sands, glittering like gold in
the dazzling sunshine, stretched away for miles; beyond these a vista of
green meadows, with the distant Cotswold Hills rising out of dreamy
haze; waters of chrysolite, with fields of malachite beyond; the azure
sky overhead flecked with clouds of pearl and opal, and all around the
pear orchards in full bloom.

While on the subject of scenery, may I enter a protest against the
change the Great Western Railway has lately made in the photographs
which adorn their carriages? They used to be as beautiful as one could
wish; lately, however, the colouring has been lavished on them with no
sparing hand. These "photo-chromes" are unnatural and impossible,
whereas the old permanent photographs were very beautiful.

At Kemble, with its old manor house and stone-roofed cottages, we say
good-bye to the Vale of White Horse; for we have entered the Cotswolds.
Stretching from Broadway to Bath, and from Birdlip to Burford, and
containing about three hundred square miles, is a vast tract of hill
country, intersected by numerous narrow valleys. Probably at one period
this district was a rough, uncultivated moor. It is now cultivated for
the most part, and grows excellent barley. The highest point of this
extensive range is eleven hundred and thirty-four feet, but the average
altitude would not exceed half that height. Almost every valley has its
little brook. The district is essentially a "stone country;" for all the
houses and most of their roofs are built of the local limestone, which
lies everywhere on these hills within a few inches of the surface. There
is no difficulty in obtaining plenty of stone hereabouts. The chief
characteristics of the buildings are their antiquity and Gothic
quaintness. The air is sharp and bracing, and the climate, as is
inevitable on the shallow, porous soil of the oolite hills, wonderfully
dry and invigorating. "Lands of gold have been found, and lands of
spices and precious merchandise; but this is the land of _health_" Thus
wrote Richard Jefferies of the downs, and thus say we of the Cotswolds.

And now our Great Western express is gliding into Cirencester, the
ancient capital of the Cotswold country. How fair the old place seems
after the dirt and smoke of London! Here town and country are blended
into one, and everything is clean and fresh and picturesque. The garish
church, as you view it from the top of the market-place, has a charm
unsurpassed by any other sacred building in the land. In what that charm
lies I have often wondered. Is it the marvellous symmetry of the whole
graceful pile, as the eye, glancing down the massive square tower and
along the pierced battlements and elaborate pinnacles, finally rests on
the empty niches and traceried oriel windows of the magnificent south
porch? I cannot say in what the charm exactly consists, but this stately
Gothic fane has a grandeur as impressive as it is unexpected, recalling
those wondrous words of Ruskin's:

"I used to feel as much awe in gazing at the buildings as on the hills,
and could believe that God had done a greater work in breathing into the
narrowness of dust the mighty spirits by whom its haughty walls had been
raised and its burning legends written, than in lifting the rock of
granite higher than the clouds of heaven, and veiling them with their
various mantle of purple flower and shadowy pine."

[Illustration: The Old Manor House. 029.png]



CHAPTER II.

A COTSWOLD VILLAGE.

The village is not a hundred miles from London, yet "far from the
madding crowd's ignoble strife." A green, well-wooded valley, in the
midst of those far-stretching, cold-looking Cotswold Hills, it is like
an oasis in the desert.

Up above on the wolds all is bleak, dull, and uninteresting. The air up
there is ever chill; walls of loose stone divide field from field, and
few houses are to be seen. But down in the valley all is fertile and
full of life. It is here that the old-fashioned villagers dwell. How
well I remember the first time I came upon it! One fine September
evening, having left all traces of railways and the ancient Roman town
of Cirencester some seven long miles behind me, with wearied limbs I
sought this quiet, sequestered spot. Suddenly, as I was wondering how
amid these never ending hills there could be such a place as I had been
told existed, I beheld it at my feet, surpassing beautiful! Below me was
a small village, nestling amid a wealth of stately trees. The hand of
man seemed in some bygone time to have done all that was necessary to
render the place habitable, but no more. There were cottages, bridges,
and farm buildings, but all were ivy clad and time worn. The very trees
themselves appeared to be laden with a mantle of ivy that was more than
they could bear. Many a tall fir, from base to topmost twig, was
completely robed with the smooth, five-pointed leaves of this rapacious
evergreen. Through the thick foliage, of elm and ash and beech, I could
just see an old manor house, and round about it, as if for protection,
were clustered some thirty cottages. A murmuring of waters filled my
ears, and on descending the hill I came upon a silvery trout stream,
which winds its way down the valley, broad and shallow, now gently
gliding over smooth gravel, now dashing over moss-grown stones and rock.
The cottages, like the manor house and farm buildings, are all built of
the native stone, and all are gabled and picturesque. Indeed, save a few
new cottages, most of the dwellings appeared to be two or three hundred
years old. One farmhouse I noted carefully, and I longed to tear away
the ivy from the old and crumbling porch, to see if I could not discern
some half-effaced inscription telling me the date of this relic of the
days of "Merrie England."

This quaint old place appeared older than the rest of the buildings. On
enquiry, I learnt that long, long ago, before the present manor house
existed, this was the abode of the old squires of the place; but for the
last hundred years it had been the home of the principal tenant and his
ancestors--yeomen farmers of the old-fashioned school, with some six
hundred acres of land. The present occupants appeared to be an old man
of some seventy years of age and his three sons. Keen sportsmen these,
who dearly love to walk for hours in pursuit of game in the autumn, on
the chance of bagging an occasional brace of partridges or a wild
pheasant (for everything here is wild), or, in winter, when lake and fen
are frostbound, by the river and its withybeds after snipe and
wildfowl--for the Cotswold stream has never been known to freeze!

In this small hamlet I noticed that there were no less than three huge
barns. At first I thought they were churches, so magnificent were their
proportions and so delicate and interesting their architecture. One of
these barns is four hundred years old.

Fifty years ago, what with the wool from his sheep and the grain that
was stored in these barns year by year, the Cotswold farmer was a rich
man. Alas! _Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis!_ One can picture
the harvest home, annually held in the barn, in old days so cheery, but
now often nothing more than a form. Here, however, in this village, I
learnt that, in spite of bad times, some of the old customs have not
been allowed to pass away, and right merry is the harvest home. And
Christmastide is kept in real old English fashion; nor do the mummers
forget to go their nightly rounds, with their strange tale of "St.
George and the dragon."

As I walk down the road I come suddenly upon the manor house--the "big
house" of the village. Long and somewhat low, it stands close to the
road, and is of some size. Over the doorway of the porch is the
following inscription, engraven on stone in a recess:--

     "PLEAD THOU MY CAVSE; OH LORD."
     "BY JHON COXWEL ANO DOMENY 1590."

Underneath this inscription, and immediately over the entrance, are five
heads, elaborately carved in stone. In the centre is Queen Elizabeth; to
the right are portrayed what I take to be the features of Henry VIII.;
whilst on the left is Mary. The other two are uncertain, but they are
probably Philip of Spain and James I.

I was enchanted with the place. The quaint old Elizabethan gables and
sombre bell-tower, the old-fashioned entrance gates, the luxuriant
growth of ivy, combined together to give that air of peace, that charm
which belongs so exclusively to the buildings of the middle ages.
Knowing that the house was for the time being unoccupied, I walked
boldly into the outer porch, meaning to go no further. But another
inscription over the solid oak door encouraged me to enter:

     "PORTA PATENS ESTO, NULLI CLAUDARIS HONESTO."

I therefore opened the inner door with some difficulty, for it was
heavy and cumbersome, and found myself in the hall. Although nothing
remarkable met my eye, I was delighted to find everything in keeping
with the place. The old-fashioned furniture, the old oak, the grim
portraits and quaint heraldry, all were there. I was much interested in
some carved beams of black oak, which I afterwards learnt originally
formed part of the magnificent roof of the village church. When the roof
was under repair a few years back, these beams were thrown aside as
rotten and useless, and thus found their way into the manor house. Every
atom of genuine old work of this kind is deeply interesting,
representing as it does the rude chiselling which hands that have long
been dust in the village churchyard wrought with infinite pains. That
oak roof, carved in rich tracery, resting for ages on arcades of
dog-tooth Norman and graceful Early English work, had echoed back the
songs of praise and prayer that rose Sunday after Sunday from the lips
of successive generations of simple country folk at matins and at
evensong, before the strains of the Angelus had been hushed for ever by
the Reformation. And who can tell how long before the Conquest, and by
what manner of men, were planted the trees destined to provide these
massive beams of oak?

In the centre of the hall was a round table, with very ancient-looking,
high-backed chairs scattered about, of all shapes and sizes. Portraits
of various degrees of indifferent oil painting adorned the walls of the
hall and staircase. Somebody appeared to have been shooting with a
catapult at some of the pictures. One old gentleman had a shot through
his nose; and an old fellow with a hat on, over the window, had received
a pellet in the right eye![1]

[Footnote 1: The writer, in a fit of infantile insanity, being then aged
about nine, was discovered in the very act of committing this assault on
his ancestors some twenty years ago, in Hertfordshire.]

A copy of the Magna Charta, a suit of mediaeval armour, several rusty
helmets (Cromwellian and otherwise), antlers of several kinds of deer,
and a variety of old swords, pistols, and guns were the objects that
chiefly attracted my attention. The walls were likewise adorned with a
large number of heraldic shields.

I like to see coats-of-arms and escutcheons hanging up in churches and
in the halls of old country houses, for the following simple reasons.
There is meaning in them--deep, mystic meaning, such as no ordinary
picture can boast. Every quartering on that ancient shield emblazoned in
red, black, and gold has a legend attached to it Hundreds of years ago,
in those splendid mediaeval times--nay, farther back than that, in the
dim, mysterious, dark ages--each of those quarterings was a device worn
by some brave knight or squire on his heavy shield. It was his
cognizance in the field of battle and at the tournament. It was borne at
Agincourt perhaps; at Creçy, or Poitiers, or in the lists for some
"faire ladye"; and it is a token of ancient chivalry, an emblem of the
days that have been and never more will be. It was doubtless the sight
of those eighteen great hatchments which still hang in the little
church at Stoke Poges that inspired Gray to attune his harp to such
lofty strains.

     "The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
       And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
     Await alike the inevitable hour
       The paths of glory lead but to the grave."

Among other old masters was a portrait of the "John Coxwel" who built
the house, by Cornelius Jansen, dated 1613. The house did not appear
remarkable either for size or grandeur; yet there is always something
particularly pleasing to me to alight unexpectedly on buildings of this
kind, and to find that although they are obscure and unknown, they are
on a small scale as interesting to the antiquarian as Knole, Hatfield,
and other more famous mediaeval houses. Some lattice windows, evidently
at some time out of doors, but now on the inner walls, showed that in
more recent times the house had been enlarged, and the old courtyard
walled in and made part of the hall. Over one of these windows is the
inscription, "_Post tenebras lux_." The part I liked best, however, was
the old-fashioned passage, with its lattice windows and musty dungeon
savour, leading to the ancient kitchen and to a little oak-panelled
sitting-room: but, knocking my head severely against the oak beam in the
doorway, I nearly brought the whole ceiling down, a catastrophe which
they tell me has happened before now in this rather rickety old manor
house. Opening a door on the other side of the house, I passed out into
the garden. How characteristic of the place!--a broad terrace running
along the whole length of the house, and beyond that a few flower beds
with the old sundial in their midst Beyond these a lawn, and then grass
sweeping down to the edge of the river, some hundred yards away. Beyond
the river again more grass, but of a wilder description, where the
rabbits are scudding about or listening with pricked ears; and in the
background a magnificent hanging wood, crowning the side of the valley,
with a large rookery in it. I was much struck with the different tints
of the foliage; for although autumn had not yet begun to turn the
leaves, the different shades of green were most striking. A gigantic ash
tree on the far side of the river stood out in bold relief, its lighter
leaves being in striking contrast to the dark firs in the background.
Then walnut and hazel, beech and chestnut all offered infinite variety
of shape and foliage. The river here had been broadened to a width of
some ninety feet, and an island had been made. The place seemed to be a
veritable sportsman's paradise! Dearly would Isaac Walton have loved to
dwell here! From the windows of the old house he would have loved to
listen to the splash of the trout, the cawing of the rooks, and the
quack of the waterfowl, while all the air is filled with the cooing of
doves and the songs of birds. At night he could have heard the murmuring
waterfall amid a stillness only broken at intervals by the scream of the
owl, the clatter of the goatsucker, or the weird barking of the foxes:
for not two hundred yards from the house and practically in the garden,
is a fox earth that has never been without a litter of, cubs for
forty years!

In an ivy-covered house in the stable-yard I saw a very large number of
foxes' noses nailed to boards of wood--as Sir Roger de Coverley used to
nail them. They appeared to have been slain by one Dick Turpin, huntsman
to the Vale of White Horse hounds, some thirty or forty years ago, when
a quondam master of those hounds lived in this old place.

What a charm there is in an old-fashioned English garden! The great tall
hollyhocks and phlox, the bright orange marigolds and large purple
poppies. The beds and borders crammed with cloves and many-coloured
asters, the sweet blue of the cornflower, and the little lobelias.
Zinneas, too, of all colours; dahlias, tall stalks of anenome japonica,
and such tangled masses of stocks! As I walked down by the old garden
wall, whereon lots of roses hung their dainty heads, I thought I had
never seen grass so green and fresh looking, except in certain parts
of Ireland.

But the wild flowers by the silent river pleased me best of all. Such a
medley of graceful, fragrant meadow-sweet, and tall, rough-leaved
willow-herbs with their lovely pink flowers. Light blue scorpion-grasses
and forget-me-nots were there too, not only among the sword-flags and
the tall fescue-grasses by the bank, but little islands of them dotted
about a over the brook. Thyme-scented water-mint, with lilac-tinted
spikes and downy stalks, was almost lost amongst the taller wild flowers
and the "segs" that fringed the brook-side.

There are no flowers like the wild ones; they last right through the
summer and autumn--yet we can never have enough of them, never cease
wondering at their marvellous delicacy and beauty.

Darting straight up stream on the wings of the soft south wind comes a
kingfisher clothed in priceless jewelry, sparkling in the sun: sapphire
and amethyst on his bright blue back, rubies on his ruddy breast, and
diamonds round his princely neck. Monarch he is of silvery stream, and
petty tyrant of the silvery fish.

I was told by a labourer that the trout ran from a quarter of a pound to
three pounds, and that they average one pound in weight; that in the
"may-fly" season a score of fish are often taken in the day by one rod,
and that the method of taking them is by the artificial fly, well dried
and deftly floated over feeding fish. These Cotswold streams are fed at
intervals of about half a mile by the most beautiful springs, and from
the rock comes pouring forth an everlasting supply of the purest and
clearest of water. I was shown such a spring in a withybed hard by the
old manor house. I saw nothing at first but a still, transparent pool,
nine feet deep (they told me); it looked but three! But as I gaze at the
beautiful fernlike weeds at the bottom, they are seen to be gently
fanned by the water that rises--never failing even in the hottest and
driest of summers--from the invisible rock below. The whole scene--the
silent pool at my feet, the rich, well-timbered valley, with its marked
contrast to the cold hills that overlook it--reminded me forcibly of
Whyte-Melville's lines at the conclusion of the most impressive poem he
ever wrote: "The Fairies' Spring":

     "And sweet to the thirsting lips of men
      Is the spring of tears in the fairies' glen."

Out of this fairy spring was taken quite recently, but not with the
"dry" fly--for no fish could be deceived in water of such stainless
transparency--a trout that weighed three pounds and a half. He was far
and away the most beautiful trout we ever saw; as silvery as a salmon
that has just left the sea, he was a worthy denizen of the secluded
depths of that crystal spring, still welling up from the pure limestone
rock in the heart of the Cotswold Hills, as it has for a thousand years.

I was told that the place was still owned by the descendants of the
pious John Coxwell who built the manor house and commemorated it by the
quaint inscription over the porch in 1590. Doubtless the architecture of
all our Elizabethan manor houses in the shape of a letter E owes its
origin to the first letter in the name of that great queen.

That year was a fitting time for the building of "those haunts of
ancient peace" that have ever since beautified the villages of rural
England. Not two years before men's minds had been stirred to a pitch of
deep religious enthusiasm by what was then regarded throughout all
England as a divine miracle--the destruction of the Spanish Armada.
Scarce three years had passed since the war with Scotland had terminated
in the execution of the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots. It is difficult
for us, at the close of this nineteenth century, to realise the feelings
of our ancestors in those times of daily terror and anxiety. And when
men were daily executed, and human life was held as cheap as we now
value a sheep or an ox, no wonder John Coxwell was pious, and no wonder
he engraved that pious inscription over those crumbling walls.

In the year 1590 there was a lull in those tempestuous times, and men
were able to turn for a while from the strife of battle and the daily
fear of death and cultivate the arts of peace.

Thus this stately little manor house was reared, and many like it
throughout the kingdom; and there it still stands, and will stand long
after the modern building has fallen to the ground. For not without much
hard toil and sweat of brow did our forefathers erect these monuments of
"a day that is dead"; and they remain to testify to the solid masonry
and laborious workmanship of ancient times.

The descendants of this John Coxwell live on another property of theirs
some twelve miles away; it is nearly seventy years since they have
inhabited this old house. I was pleased to find, however, that the
present occupiers look after the labouring classes; that what rabbits
are killed on the manor are not sold, but distributed in the village.
There is an old ivy-clad building in the grounds, only a few paces from
the manor house. This is the village club. Here squire, farmer, and
labourer are accustomed to meet on equal terms. I was somewhat surprised
to see on the club table the _Times_, the _Pall Mall Gazette_, and other
papers. These wonderful specimens of nineteenth-century literature
contrast strangely with a place that in many respects has remained
unchanged for centuries.

There are few labourers in England, even in these days, who have the
opportunity--if they will take it--of reading the _Times'_ report of
every speech made in parliament. Perhaps, some day, will come forth from
this hamlet

     "Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
      The little tyrant of his fields withstood";

one who from earliest youth has kept himself in touch with the politics
of the day, and has fitted himself to sit in the House of Commons as the
representative of his class. There are still a few "little tyrants" in
the fields in all parts of England, but they are very much scarcer than
was the case fifty years ago.

I was much pleased with a conversation I had with an old-fashioned
labouring man who, though not past middle age, appeared to be
incapacitated from work owing to a "game leg," and whom I found sitting
under a walnut tree in the manor grounds hard by the brook. He informed
me that there was bagatelle at the club for those who liked it, and all
sorts of games, and smoking concerts: that it was a question who was the
best bagatelle player in the club; but that it probably lay between the
squire and his head gardener, though Tom, the carter, was likely to run
them close! I was glad to find so much good feeling existing among all
classes of this little community, and was not surprised to learn that
this was a contented and happy village.

In this description of "a Cotswold village" we have been looking on the
bright side of things, and there is, thank Heaven! many a place,
_mutato nomine_, that would answer to it. Alas! that there should be
another side to the picture, which we would fain leave untouched.

Gloucestershire, nay England, is full of old manor houses and fair,
smiling villages; but in many parts of the country we see buildings
falling out of repair and deserted mansions. Would that we knew the
remedy for agricultural depression! But let us not despair.

     "The future hides in it
        Gladness and sorrow;
        We press still thorow,
      Nought that abides in it
        Daunting us,--onward!"

It is a sad thing when the "big house" of the village is empty. The
labourers who never see their squire begin to look upon him as a sort of
ogre, who exists merely to screw rents out of the land they till. Those
who are dependent on land alone are often the men who do their duty best
on their estates, and, poor though they may be, they are much beloved.
But it is to be feared that in some parts of England men who are not
suffering from the depression--rich tenants of country houses and the
like--are apt to take a somewhat limited view of their duty towards
their poorer neighbours. To be sure, the good ladies at the "great
house" are invariably "ministering angels" to the poor in time of
sickness, but even in these democratic days there is too great a gulf
fixed between all classes. Let all those who are fortunate enough to
live in such a place as we have attempted to describe remember that a
kind word, a shake of the hand, the occasional distribution of game
throughout the village, and a hundred other small kindnesses do more to
win the heart of the labouring man than much talk at election times of
Small Holdings, Parish Councils, or Free Education.

A tea given two or three times a year by the squire to the whole
village, when the grounds are thrown open to them, does much to lighten
the dulness of their existence and to cheer the monotonous round of
daily toil. It is often thoughtlessness rather than poverty that
prevents those who live in the large house of the village from being
really loved by those around them. There are many instances of unpopular
squires whose faces the cottagers never behold, and yet these men may be
spending hundreds of pounds each year for the benefit of those whose
affection they fail to gain.

Alas! that there should exist in so many country places that class
feeling that is called Radicalism. It is perhaps fortunate that under
the guise of politics what is really nothing else but bitterness and
discontent is hidden and prevented from being recognised by its
true name.

There are many country houses that are shut up for the greater part of
the year for other reasons than agricultural depression, often because
the owner, while preferring to reside elsewhere, is too proud to let the
place to a stranger. This should not be. Let these rich men who own
large houses and great estates live _in_ those houses and _on_ those
estates, or endeavour to find a tenant. We repeat that the landowners
who really feel the stress of bad times for the most part do their duty
nobly. They have learnt it in the severe school of adversity. It is the
richer class that we should like to see taking a greater interest in
their humble neighbours; and their power is great. The possessor of
wealth is too often the tacit upholder of the doctrine of _laissez
faire_. The times we live in will no longer allow it. Let us be up and
doing. In many small ways we may do much to promote good fellowship, and
bitterness and discontent shall be no longer known in the rural villages
of England.



II.

In the dead of winter these old grey houses of the Cotswolds are a
little melancholy, save when the sun shines. But to every variety of
scenery winter is the least becoming season of the year, though the hoar
frost or a touch of snow will transform a whole village into fairyland
at a moment's notice. Then the trout stream, which at other seasons of
the year is a never failing attraction, running as it does for the most
part through the woods, in mid winter seldom reflects the light of the
sun, and looks cold and uninviting. One may learn much, it is true, of
the wonders of nature in the dead time of the year by watching the great
trout on the spawn beds as they pile up the gravel day by day, and store
up beautiful, transparent ova, of which but a ten-thousandth part will
live to replenish the stock for future years. But the delight of a clear
stream is found in the spring and summer; then those cool, shaded deeps
and sparkling eddies please us by their contrast to the hot, burning
sun; and we love, even if we are not fishermen, to linger by the bank
'neath the shade of ash and beech and alder, and watch the wonderful
life around us in the water and in the air.

As you sit sometimes on a bench hard by the Coln, watching the crystal
water as it pours down the artificial fall from the miniature lake in
the wild garden above, you may make a minute calculation of the day and
hour that that very water which is flowing past you now will reach
London Bridge, two hundred miles below. Allowing one mile an hour as the
average pace of the current, ten days is, roughly speaking, the time it
will take on its journey. And when one reflects that every drop that
passes has its work to do, in carrying down to the sea lime and I know
not how many other ingredients, and in depositing that lime and all that
it picked up on its way at the bottom of the ocean, to help perhaps in
forming the great rolling downs of a new continent--after this island of
ours has ceased to be--one cannot but realise that in all seasons of the
year a trout stream is a wonderfully interesting and instructive thing.

TO THE COLN.

Flow on, clear, fresh trout stream, emblem of purity and perfect truth;
thou hast accomplished a mighty work, thou hast a mighty work to do. Who
can count the millions of tons of lime that thou hast borne down to the
sea in far-off Kent? Thou hast indeed "strength to remove mountains,"
for day by day the soil that thou hast taken from these limestone hills
is being piled up at the mouth of the great historic river, and some day
perchance it shall become rolling downs again. Fed by clear springs,
thou shalt gradually steal thy way along the Cotswold valleys, draining
foul marshes, irrigating the sweet meadows. Thou shalt turn the wheels
and grind many a hundred sacks of corn ere to-morrow's sun is set. And
then thou shalt change thy name. No longer silvery Coln, but mighty
Thames, shalt thou be called; and many a fair scene shall gladden thy
sight as thou slowly passest along towards thy goal.

Smiling meadows and Gloucestershire vales will soon give place to fair
Berkshire villages, and, further on, to those glorious spires and courts
of Oxford; and here shalt thou make many friends--friends who will
evermore think kindly of thee, ever associate thy placid waters with all
that they loved best and held dearest during their brief sojourning in
those old walls which tower above thy banks. A few short miles, and thou
shalt pass a quiet and sacred spot--sacred to me, and dear above all
other spots; for close to that little village church of Clifton Hampden,
and close to thee, we laid some years ago the mortal body of a noble
man. And when thou stealest gently by, and night mists rise from off thy
glassy face, be sure and drop a tear in silvery dew upon the moss-grown
stone I know so well. And then pass on to Eton, fairest spot on earth.
Mark well the playing-fields, the glorious trees, and Windsor towering
high. Here shalt thou be loved by many a generous heart, and youth and
hope and smiling faces greet thee, as they long since greeted me. Ah
well! those friendships never could have been made so firm and lasting
mid any other scenes save under thy wide-spreading elms, beloved Eton.

But onwards, onwards thou must glide, from scenes of tranquil beauty
such as these. The flag which sails o'er Windsor's stately towers must
soon be lost to sight. Thy course once more through silent fields is
laid; but not for long; for, Hampton Court's fair palace passed, already
canst thou hear the wondrous roar of unceasing footsteps in the busy
haunts of men.

Courage! thy goal is nearly reached: already thou art great, and greater
still shalt thou become. Thy once transparent waters shall be merged
with salt. Thus shalt thou be given strength to bear great ships upon
thy bosom, and thine eyes shall behold the greatest city of the whole
wide world. Nay, more; thou shalt become the most indispensable part of
that city--its very life-blood, of a value not to be measured by gold.
Thou makest England what it is.

Flow on, historic waters, symbolic of all that is good, all that is
great--flow on, and do thy glorious work until this world shall cease;
bearing thy mighty burden down towards the sea, showing mankind what can
be wrought from small beginnings by slow and patient labour day by day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Even in winter I do not know any scene more pleasing to the eye than the
sight of a Cotswold hamlet nestling amid the stately trees in the
valley, if you happen to see it on a fine day. And if there has been a
period of rainy, sunless weather for a month past, you are probably all
the more ready to appreciate the changed appearance which everything
wears. If that peaceful, bright aspect had been habitual, you would
never have noticed anything remarkable to-day. It is this very changeful
nature of our English climate which gives it more than half its charm.

But the great attraction of this country lies in its being one of the
few spots now remaining on earth which have not only been made beautiful
by God, but in which the hand of man has erected scarcely a building
which is not in strict conformity and good taste. One cannot walk
through these Cotswold hamlets without noticing that the architecture of
the country in past ages, as well as in the present day to a certain
degree, shows obedience to some of those divine laws which Ruskin has
told us ought to govern all the works of man's hand.

"The spirit of sacrifice," "the lamp of truth" are manifest in the
ancient churches and manor houses, as well as in the humble farmhouses,
cottages, and even the tithe barns of this district. Two thirds of the
buildings are old, and, as Ruskin has beautifully expressed it: "The
greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, nor in its gold. Its
glory is in its age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern
watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation,
which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves
of humanity. It is in their lasting witness against men, in their quiet
contrast with the transitional character of all things, in the strength
which, through the lapse of seasons and times, and the decline and birth
of dynasties, and the changing of the face of the earth, and of the
limits of the sea, maintains its sculptured shapeliness for a time
insuperable, connects forgotten and following ages with each other, and
half constitutes the identity, as it concentrates the sympathy, of
nations;--it is in that golden stain of time that we are to look for the
real light and colour and preciousness of architecture; and it is not
until a building has assumed this character, till it has been entrusted
with the fame and hallowed by the deeds of men, till its walls have been
witnesses of suffering and its pillars rise out of the shadow of death,
that its existence, more lasting as it is than that of the natural
objects of the world around it, can be gifted with even so much as these
possess of language and of life."

If we would seek a lesson in sacrifice from the men who lived and
laboured here in the remote past, we can learn many a one from those
deep walls of native stone, and that laborious workmanship which was the
chief characteristic of the toil of our simple ancestors. "All old work,
nearly, has been hard work; it may be the hard work of children, of
barbarians, of rustics, but it is always their utmost." They may have
been ignorant of the sanitary laws which govern health, and ill advised
in some of the sites they chose, but they grudged neither hand labour
nor sweat of brow; they spent the best years of their lives in the
erection of the temples where we still worship and the manor houses we
still inhabit.

It is not claimed that there is much _ornamental_ architecture to be
found in these Cotswold buildings; it is something in these days if we
can boast that there is nothing to offend the eye in a district which is
less than a hundred miles from London. There is no other district of
equal extent within the same radius of which as much could be said.

     "Jam pauca aratro jugera regiae
      Moles relinquent."

But here all the houses are picturesque, great and small alike. And
there are here and there pieces of work which testify to the piety and
faith of very early days: fragments of inscriptions chiselled out more
than fifteen hundred years ago--such as the four stones at Chedworth,
discovered some thirty years ago, together with many other interesting
relics of the Roman occupation, by a gamekeeper in search of a ferret.
On these stones were found the Greek letters [GREEK: Ch] and [GREEK: r],
forming the sacred monogram "C.H.R." Fifteen hundred years had not
obliterated this simple evidence of ancient faith, nor had the
devastation of the ages impaired the beauty of design, nor marred the
harmony of colouring of those delicate pavements and tesserae with which
these wonderful people loved to adorn their habitations. Since this
strange discovery the diligent research of one man has rescued from
oblivion, and the liberality of another now protects from further
injury, one of the best specimens of a Roman country house to be found
in England. Far away from the haunts of men, in the depths of the
Chedworth woods, where no sound save the ripple of the Coln and the song
of birds is heard, rude buildings and a museum have been erected; here
these ancient relics are sheltered from wind and storm for the sake of
those who lived and laboured in the remote past, and for the benefit and
instruction of him, be he casual passer-by or pilgrim from afar, who
cares to inspect them.

The ancient Roman town of Cirencester, too, affords many historical
remains of the same era. But it is to the part which English hands and
hearts have played towards beautifying the Cotswold district that I
would fain direct attention; to the stately Abbey Church of Cirencester
and its glorious south porch, with its rich fan-tracery groining within
and its pierced battlements and pinnacles without; to the arched gateway
of twelfth century work, the sole remnant of that once famous
monastery--the mitred Abbey of St. Mary--founded by the piety of the
first Henry, and overthrown by the barbarity of the last king of that
name, who ordained "that all the edifices within the site and precincts
of the monastery should be pulled down and carried away";--it is to the
glorious windows of Fairford Church--the most beautiful specimens
remaining to us of glass of the early part of the sixteenth century--and
to many an ancient church and mediaeval manor house still standing
throughout this wide district, "to point a moral of adorn a tale," that
we must look for traces of the exquisite workmanship of English hands in
bygone days, "the only witnesses, perhaps, that remain to us of the
faith and fear of nations. All else for which the builders sacrificed
has passed away--all their living interests and aims and achievements.
We know not for what they laboured, and we see no evidence of their
reward. Victory, wealth, authority, happiness--all have departed, though
bought by many a bitter sacrifice. But of them, and their life, and
their toil upon earth, one reward, one evidence is left to us in those
grey heaps of deep-wrought stone. They have taken with them to the grave
their powers, their honours, and their errors; but they have left us
their adoration." [2]

[Footnote 2: Ruskin, "Seven Lamps of Architecture."]

Too many of our modern buildings are a sham from beginning to end--sham
marble, sham stonework, sham wallpapers, sham wainscoting, sham carpets
on the ground, and sham people walking about on them: even the very
bookcases are sham. In these old Cotswold houses we have the reverse.
The stonework is real, and the material is the best of its kind--good,
honest, native stone. The oak wainscoting is real, though patched with
deal and painted white in recent times. The same pains in the carving
are apparent in those parts of the house which are never seen except by
the servants, as in the important rooms. And so it is with all the work
of three, four, and five hundred years ago. The builders may have had
their faults, their prejudices, and their ignorances,--their very
simplicity may have been the means of saving them from error,--but they
were at all events truthful and genuine.

In many villages throughout the Cotswolds are to be seen ancient
wayside crosses of exquisite workmanship and design. These were for the
most part erected in the fourteenth century. One of the best specimens
of the kind stands in the market-place of old Malmesbury, hard by the
ancient monastery there. The date of this cross is A.D. 1480. Leland
remarks upon it as follows: "There is a right faire and costely peace of
worke for poor market folks to stand dry when rayne cummeth; the men of
the towne made this peace of worke in _hominum memoriâ_." Malmesbury, by
the bye, is just outside the Cotswold district.

At Calmsden--a tiny isolated hamlet near North Cerney--is a grey and
weather-beaten wayside cross of beautiful Gothic workmanship, erected
(men say) by the Knights Templar of Quenington; and there are ancient
crosses or remnants of them at Cirencester, Eastleach, Harnhill,
Rendcombe, Stow-on-the-Wold, and many other places in the district. But
few of these old village crosses still stand intact in their pristine
beauty. May they never suffer the terrible fate of a very beautiful one
which was erected in the fourteenth century at Bristol! Pope, writing a
century and a half ago, describes it as "a very fine old cross of Gothic
curious work, but spoiled with the folly of _new gilding it_, that takes
away all the venerable antiquity."

Happily there is no likelihood of the ancient crosses in the Cotswolds
being decorated by a coating of gold. The precious metal is all too
scarce there, even if the good taste of the country folk did not
prohibit it.

I have spoken before of the ancient barns. Every hamlet has one or more
of these grand old edifices, and there are often as many as three or
four in a small village. In some of these large barns the tithe was
gathered together in kind, until rather more than sixty years ago it was
converted into a rent charge.

_Tithe_ was made on all kinds of farm produce. The vicar's man went into
the cornfields and placed a bough in every tenth "stook"; then the
titheman came with the parson's horses and took the stuff away to the
barn. The tithe for every cock in the farmyard was three eggs; for every
hen, two eggs. Besides poultry, geese, pigs, and sheep, the parson had a
right to his share of the milk, and even of the cheeses that were made
in his parish.

In an ancient manuscript which the vicar of Bibury lately acquired, and
which contains the history of his parish since the Conquest, are set
down some interesting and amusing details concerning tithe and the cash
compensations that had been paid time out of mind. The entries form part
of a diary kept by a former incumbent, and were made nearly two hundred
years ago.

"For every new Milch Cow three pence.

"For every thorough Milch Cow one penny.

"N.B. Nothing is paid for a dry cow, and therefore tithe in kind must be
paid for all fatting cattle.

"For every calf weaned a half penny.

"For every calf sold four pence or _the left shoulder_.

"For every calf killed in the family four pence or _the left shoulder_.

"I have heard that one or two left shoulders of veal were paid to the
widow Hignall at Arlington when she rented the tithes of Dr. Vannam, but
_I have received none_."

Then follows an annual account of the value of the tithes of the parish
(about five thousand acres), from 1763 to 1802, by which it appears that
the year 1800 was the best during these four decades. Here is
the entry:--

"1800 The crops of this year were very deficient, but corn of all sort
sold at an extraordinary high price. I made of my tithes and living this
year clear £1,200; from the dearness of labourers the outgoing expenses
amounted to £900 in addition."

The worst year seems to have been 1766, when the parson only got £360
clear of all expenses; but even this was not bad for those days.

The architecture of the Cotswold barns is often very beautiful. The
pointed windows, massive buttresses, and elaborate pinnacles are
sufficient indications of their great age and the care bestowed on the
building. Some of the interiors of these Gothic structures have fine old
oak roofs.

The cottages, too, though in a few instances sadly deficient in sanitary
improvements and internal comfort, are not only picturesque, but strong
and lasting. Many of them bear dates varying from 1600 to 1700.

It is evident that in everything they did our ancestors who lived in the
Elizabethan age fully realised that they were working under the eye of
"a great taskmaster." This spirit was the making of the great men of
that day, and in great part laid the foundation of our national
greatness. The glorious churches of Cirencester, Northleach, Burford,
and Bibury, and the ancient manor houses scattered throughout the
Cotswolds are fitting monuments to the men who laboured to erect them.
Would that space allowed a detailed account of all these old manor
houses! Enough has been said, at all events, to show that there are
places little known and little cared for in England where you may still
dwell without, every time you go out of doors, being forcibly reminded
of the utilitarian spirit of the age.

[Illustration: Cotswold Cottages. 057.png]



CHAPTER III.

VILLAGE CHARACTERS.

     "If there's a hole in a' your coats,
        I rede ye tent it;
      A chiel's amang ye takin' notes,
        And, faith, he'll prent it."

      R. BURNS.

Every village seems to possess its share of quaint, curious people; but
I cannot help thinking that our little hamlet has a more varied
assortment of oddities than is usually to be met with in so small
a place.

First of all there is the man whom nobody ever sees. Although he has
lived in robust health for the past twenty years in the very centre of
the hamlet, his face is unknown to half the inhabitants. Twice only has
the writer set eyes on him. When a political contest is proceeding, he
becomes comparatively bold; at such times he has even been met with in
the bar of the village "public," where he has been known to sit
discussing the chances of the candidates like any ordinary being. But an
election is absolutely necessary if this strange individual is to be
drawn out of his hiding-place. The only other occasion on which we have
set eyes on him was on a lovely summer's evening, just after sunset: we
observed him peeping at us over a hedge, for all the world like the
"Spectator" when he was staying with Sir Roger de Coverley. He is
supposed to come out at sunset, like the foxes and the bats, and has
been seen in the distance on bright moonlight nights striding over the
Cotswold uplands. If any one approach him, he hurries away in the
opposite direction; yet he is not queer in the head, but strong and in
the prime of life.

Then there is that very common character "the village impostor." After
having been turned away by half a dozen different farmers, because he
never did a stroke of work, he manages to get on the sick-list at the
"great house." Long after his ailment has been cured he will be seen
daily going up to the manor house for his allowance of meat; somehow or
other he "can't get a job nohow." The fact is, he has got the name of
being an idle scoundrel, and no farmer will take him on. It is some time
before you are able to find him out; for as he goes decidedly lame as he
passes you in the village street, he generally manages to persuade you
that he is very ill. Like a fool, you take compassion on him, and give
him an ounce of "baccy" and half a crown. For some months he hangs about
where he thinks you will be passing, craving a pipe of tobacco; until
one day, when you are having a talk with some other honest toiler, he
will give you a hint that you are being imposed on.

When a loafer of this sort finds that he can get nothing more out of
you, he moves his family and goods to some other part of the country; he
then begins the old game with somebody else, borrowing a sovereign off
you for the expense of moving. As for gratitude, he never thinks of it.
The other day a man with a "game leg," who was, in spite of his
lameness, a good example of "the village impostor," in taking his
departure from our hamlet, gave out "that there was no thanks due to the
big 'ouse for the benefits he had received, for it was writ in the
_manor parchments_ as how he was to have meat three times a week and
blankets at Christmas as long as he was out of work."

It is so difficult to discriminate between the good and the bad amongst
the poor, and it is impossible not to feel pity for a man who has
nothing but the workhouse to look forward to, even if he has come down
in the world through his own folly. To those who are living in luxury
the conditions under which the poorer classes earn their daily bread,
and the wretched prospect which old age or ill health presents to them,
must ever offer scope for deep reflection and compassion.

At the same time it must be remembered that in spite of "hard times"
and "low prices," as affecting the farmers, the agricultural labourer is
better off to-day than he has ever been in past times. Food is very much
cheaper and wages are higher. The farmers seem to be more liberal in bad
times than in good. It is the same in all kinds of business. Except
injustice there is no more hardening influence in the affairs of life
than success. It seems often to dry up the milk of human kindness in the
breast, and make us selfish and grasping.

In the good times of farming there was doubtless much cause for
discontent amongst the Cotswold labourers. The profits derived from
farming were then quite large. The tendency of the age, however, was to
treat the labouring man as a mere machine, instead of his being allowed
to share in the general prosperity. ("Hinc illae lacrymae.") Now things
are changed. Long-suffering farmers are in many cases paying wages out
of their fast diminishing capital. Many of them would rather lose money
than cut down the wages.

Then again agricultural labourers who are unable to find work go off to
the coal mines and big towns; some go into the army; others emigrate. So
that the distress is not so apparent in this district as the badness of
the times would lead one to expect.

The Cotswold women obtain employment in the fields at certain seasons of
the year; though poorly paid, they are usually more conscientious and
hard-working than the men.

Most of the cottages are kept scrupulously clean; they have an air of
homely comfort which calls forth the admiration of all strangers. The
children, too, when they go to church on Sundays, are dressed with a
neatness and good taste that are simply astonishing when one recalls the
income of a labourer on the Cotswolds--seldom, alas! averaging more than
fourteen shillings a week. A boy of twelve years of age is able to keep
himself, earning about five shillings per week. Cheerful and manly
little chaps they are. To watch a boy of fourteen years managing a
couple of great strong cart-horses, either at the plough or with the
waggons, is a sight to gladden the heart of man.

It is unfortunate that there are not more orchards attached to the
gardens on the Cotswolds. The reader will doubtless remember Dr.
Johnson's advice to his friends, always to have a good orchard attached
to their houses. "For," said he, "I once knew a clergyman of small
income who brought up a family very reputably, which he chiefly fed on
_apple dumplings_."

Talking of clergymen, I am reminded of some stories a neighbour of
ours--an excellent fellow--lately told me about his parishioners on the
Cotswolds. One old man being asked why he liked the vicar, made answer
as follows: "Why, 'cos he be so _scratchy after souls_." The same man
lately said to the parson, "Sir, you be an hinstrument"; and being asked
what he meant, he added, "An hinstrument of good in this place."

This old-fashioned Cotswold man was very fond of reciting long passages
out of the Psalms: indeed, he knew half the Prayer-book by heart; and
one day the hearer, being rather wearied, exclaimed, "I must go now, for
it's my dinner-time." To whom replied the old man, "Oh! be off with
thee, then; thee thinks more of thee belly than thee God."

An old bedridden woman was visited by the parson, and the following
dialogue took place:--

"Well, Annie, how are you to-day?"

"O sir, I be so bad! My inside be that comical I don't know what to do
with he; he be all on the ebb and flow."

The same clergyman knew an old Cotswold labourer who wished to get rid
of the evil influence of the devil. So Hodge wrote a polite, though
firm, epistle, telling his Satanic Majesty he would have no more to do
with him. On being asked where he posted his letter, he replied: "A' dug
a hole i' the ground, and popped un in there. He got it right enough,
for he's left me alone from that day to this."

The Cotswold people are, like their country, healthy, bright, clean, and
old-fashioned; and the more educated and refined a man may happen to be,
the more in touch he will be with them--not because the peasants are
educated and refined, so much as because they are not _half_-educated
and _half_-refined, but simple, honest, god-fearing folk, who mind their
own business and have not sought out many inventions. I am referring now
to the labourers, because the farmers are a totally different class of
men. The latter are on the whole an excellent type of what John Bull
ought to be. The labouring class, however, still maintain the old
characteristics. A primitive people, as often as not they are "nature's
gentlemen."

In the simple matter of dress there is a striking resemblance between
the garb of these country people and that of the highly educated and
refined. It is an acknowledged principle, or rather, I should say, an
unwritten law, in these days--at all events as far as men are
concerned--that to be well dressed all that is required of us is _not to
be badly dressed_. Simplicity is a _sine quâ non_; and we are further
required to abstain from showing bad taste in the choice of shades and
colours, and to wear nothing that does not serve a purpose. To simple
country folk all these things come by nature. They never trouble their
heads about what clothes they shall wear. The result is, the eye is
seldom offended in old-fashioned country places by the latest inventions
of tailors and hatters and the ridiculous changes of fashion in which
the greater part of the civilised world is wont to delight. Here are to
be seen no hideous "checks," but plain, honest clothes of corduroy or
rough cloth in natural colours; no absurd little curly "billycocks," but
good, strong broad-brimmed hats of black beaver in winter to keep off
the rain, and of white straw in summer to keep off the heat. No white
satin ties, which always look dirty, such as one sees in London and
other great towns, but broad, old-fashioned scarves of many colours or
of blue "birdseye" mellowed by age. The fact is that simplicity--the
very essence of good taste--is apparent only in the garments of the
_best_-dressed and the _poorest_-dressed people in England. This is one
more proof of the truth of the old saying, "Simplicity is nature's first
step, and the last of art."

The greatest character we ever possessed in the village was undoubtedly
Tom Peregrine, the keeper.

     "A man, take him for all in all,
      I shall not look upon his like again."

The eldest son of the principal tenant on the manor, and belonging to a
family of yeoman farmers who had been settled in the place for a hundred
years, he suddenly found that "he could not a-bear farming," and took up
his residence as "an independent gentleman" in a comfortable cottage at
the gate of the manor house. Then he started a "sack" business--a trade
which is often adopted in these parts by those who are in want of a
better. The business consists in buying up odds and ends of sacks, and
letting them out on hire at a handsome profit. He was always intensely
fond of shooting and fishing; indeed, the following description which
Sir Roger de Coverley gave the "Spectator" of a "plain country fellow
who rid before them," when they were on their way to the assizes, suits
him exactly. "He is a yeoman of about an hundred pounds a year; and
knocks down a dinner with his gun twice or thrice a week. He would be a
good neighbour if he did not destroy so many partridges: in short, he is
a very sensible man, shoots flying, and has been several times foreman
of the petty jury."

Perhaps with regard to the "shoots flying" the reservation should be
added, that should he have seen a covey of partridges "bathering" in a
ploughed field within convenient distance of a stone wall or thick
fence, he might not have been averse to knocking over a brace for supper
on the ground. And we had almost forgotten to explain that it was for
the manor-house table that he used to knock down a dinner with his gun
twice or thrice a week, and not his own--for, some years ago, he
persuaded the squire to take him into his service as gamekeeper. When we
came to take up our abode at the manor, we found that he was a sort of
standing dish on the place. Such a keen sportsman, it was explained, was
better in our service than kicking his heels about the village and on
his father's farm as an independent gentleman. And so this is how Tom
Peregrine came into our service. For my part I liked the man; he was so
delightfully mysterious. And the place would never have been the same
without him; for he became part and parcel with the trees and the fields
and every living thing. Nor would the woods and the path by the brook
and the breezy wolds ever have been quite the same if his quaint figure
had no longer appeared suddenly there. Many a time was I startled by the
sudden apparition of Tom Peregrine when out shooting on the hill; he
seemed to spring up from the ground like "Herne the Hunter"--

     "Shaggy and lean and shrewd. With pointed ears
      And tail cropped short, half lurcher and half cur,
      His dog attends him."

The above lines of Cowper's exactly, describe the keeper's Irish
terrier; the dog was almost as deep and mysterious as the man himself.
When in the woods, Tom's attitude and gait would at times resemble the
movements of a cock pheasant: now stealing along for a few yards,
listening for the slightest sound of any animal stirring in the
underwood; now standing on tiptoe for a time, with bated breath. Did a
blackbird--that dusky sentinel of the woods--utter her characteristic
note of warning, he would whisper, "Hark!" Then, after due deliberation,
he would add, "'Tis a fox!" or, "There's a fox in the grove," and then
he would steal gently up to try to get a glimpse of reynard. He never
looked more natural than when carrying seven or eight brace of
partridges, four or five hares, and a lease of pheasants; it was a
labour of love to him to carry such a load back to the village after a
day's shooting. In his pockets alone he could stow away more game than
most men can conveniently carry on their backs.

He was the best hand at catching trout the country could produce. With a
rod and line he could pull them out on days when nobody else could get a
"rise." He could not understand dry-fly fishing, always using the
old-fashioned sunk fly. "Muddling work," he used to call the floating
method of fly fishing.

But Tom Peregrine was cleverer with the landing-net than with the rod.
Any trout he could reach with the net was promptly pulled out, if we
particularly wanted a fish. Then he would talk all day about any subject
under the sun: politics, art, Roman antiquities, literature, and every
form of sport were discussed with equal facility.

One day, when I was engaged in a slight controversy with his own
father, the keeper said to me: "I shouldn't take any notice whatever of
him"; then he added, with a sigh, "These Gloucestershire folk are
comical people."

"Ah! 'tis a wise son that knows his own father in Gloucestershire, isn't
it, Peregrine?" said I, putting the Shakespearian cart before the horse.

"Yes, it be, to be sure, to be sure," was the reply. "I can't make 'em
out nohow; they're funny folk in Gloucestershire."

He gave me the following account of the "chopping" of one of our foxes:
"I knew there was a fox in the grove; and there, sure enough, he was.
But when he went toward the 'bruk,' the hounds come along and _give him
the meeting_; and then they bowled him over. It were a very comical job;
I never see such a job in all my life. I knew it would be a case," he
added, with a chuckle.

The fact is, with that deadly aversion to all the vulpine race common to
all keepers, he dearly loved to see a fox killed, no matter how or
where; but to see one "chopped," without any of that "muddling round and
messing about," as he delighted to call a hunting run, seemed to him the
very acme of satisfaction and despatch.

And here it may be said that Tom Peregrine's name did not bely him. Not
only were the keen brown eye and the handsome aquiline beak marked
characteristics of his classic features, but in temperament and habit he
bore a singular resemblance to the king of all the falcons. Who more
delighted in striking down the partridge or the wild duck? What more
assiduous destroyer of ground game and vermin ever existed than Tom
Peregrine? There never was a man so happily named and so eminently
fitted to fulfil the destinies of a gamekeeper.

     Who loves to trap the wily stoat?
     Who loves the plover's piping note?
     Who loves to wring the weasel's throat?
                       Tom Peregrine.

     What time the wintry woods we walk,
     No need have we of lure or hawk;
     Have we not Tom to _tower_ and talk?
                       Tom Peregrine?

     When to the withybed we spy,
     A hungry hern or mallard fly,
     "Bedad! we'll bag un by and by,"
                       Tom Peregrine.

     "Creep _up wind_, sir, without a sound,
     And bide thy time neath yonder 'mound,'
     Then knock un over on the ground,"
                       Tom Peregrine.

And so one might go on _ad infinitum_.

A more amusing companion or keener fisherman never stepped. He had all
sorts of quaint Gloucestershire expressions, which rolled out one after
the other during a day's fishing or shooting. Then he was very fond of
reading amusing pieces at village entertainments, often copying the
broad Gloucestershire dialect; apparently he was not aware that his own
brogue smacked somewhat of Gloucestershire too. At home in his own house
he was most friendly and hospitable. If he could get you to "step in,"
he would offer you gooseberry, ginger, cowslip, and currant wine, sloe
gin, as well as the juice of the elder, the blackberry, the grape, and
countless other home-brewed vintages, which the good dames of
Gloucestershire pride themselves on preparing with such skill. Very
excellent some of these home-made drinks are.

The British farmer is remarkably fond of a lord. If you wanted to put
him into a good temper for a month, the best plan would be to ask a lord
to shoot over his land, and tell him privately to make a great point of
shaking the honest yeoman by the hand, and all that kind of thing. By
the bye, I was once told by a coachman that he was sure the Bicester
hounds were a first-rate pack, for he had seen in the papers that no
less than four lords hunted with them. There is little harm in this
extraordinarily widespread admiration for titles; it is common to all
nations. We can all love a lord, provided that he be a gentleman. The
gentlemen of England, whether titled or untitled, are in thought and
feeling a very high type of the human race. But the man I like best to
meet is he who either by natural insight or by the trained habit of his
mind is able to look upon all mortals with eyes unprejudiced by outward
show and circumstance, judging them by character alone. Such a man may
not be understood or be awarded the credit due to him as "lord of the
lion heart" and despiser of sycophants and cringers. The habit of mind,
nevertheless, is worth cultivating; it will be so very useful some day,
when mortal garments have been put off and the vast inequalities of
destiny adjusted, and we all stand unclothed before the Judge.

Tom Peregrine was not a "great frequenter of the church"; indeed, both
father and son often remarked to me that "'Twas a pity there was not a
chapel of ease put up in the hamlet, the village church being a full
mile away." However, when Tom was ailing from any cause or other he
immediately sent for the parson, and told him that he intended in future
to go to church regularly every Sunday. Shakespeare would have enquired
if he was troubled "about some act that had no relish of salvation
in't." "Thomas, he's a terrible coward [I here quote Mrs. Peregrine]. He
can't a-bear to have anything a-wrong with him; yet he don't mind
killing any animal." He made a tremendous fuss about a sore finger he
had at one time; and when the doctor exclaimed, like Romeo, "Courage,
man; the hurt cannot be much," Tom Peregrine replied, with much the same
humour as poor Mercutio: "No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as
a church door; but 'tis enough." I do not mean to infer that he quoted
Shakespeare, but he used words to the same effect. If asked whether he
had read Shakespeare, he might possibly have given the same reply as the
young woman in _High Life Below Stairs_:

"KITTY: Shikspur? Shikspur? Who wrote it? No, I never read Shikspur.

"LADY B.: _Then you have an immense pleasure to come_."

Let it be said, however, that in many respects Tom was an exceedingly
well-informed and clever man. The family of Peregrines were noted, like
Sir Roger de Coverley, for their great friendliness to foxes; and to
their credit let it be said that they have preserved them religiously
for very many years. I scarcely ever heard a word of complaint from
them. All honour to those who neither hunt nor care for hunting, yet who
put up with a large amount of damage to crops and fences, as well as
loss of poultry and ground game, and yet preserve the foxes for a sport
in which they do not themselves take part.

When conversing with me on the subject of preserving foxes, old Mr.
Peregrine would wax quite enthusiastic "You should put a barley rick in
the Conygers, and thatch it, and there would always be a fox." he would
remark. All this I hold to be distinctly creditable. For what is there
to prevent a farmer from pursuing a selfish policy and warning the whole
hunt off his land?

The village parson is quite a character. You do not often see the like
nowadays. An excellent man in every way, and having his duty at heart,
he is one of the few Tories of the old school that are left to us.
Ruling his parish with a rod of iron, he is loved and respected by most
of his flock. In the Parish Council, at the Board of Guardians, his word
is law. He seldom goes away from the village save for his annual
holiday, yet he knows all that is going on in the great metropolis, and
will tell you the latest bit of gossip from Belgravia. He has a good
property of his own in Somersetshire, but to his credit let it be said
that his affections are entirely centred in the little Cotswold village,
which he has ruled for a quarter of a century.

     "Full loth were him to curse for his tithes,
      But rather would be given out of doubt
      Unto his poore parishens about
      Of his off'ring, and eke of his substance.
      He could in little thing have suffisance.
      Wide was his parish and houses far asunder,
      But he ne left not for no rain nor thunder
      In sickness and in mischief to visit
      The farthest in his parish much and lit,
      Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff,
      This noble ensample to his sheep he gaf,
      That first he wrought and afterwards he taught."

      CHAUCER.

Sermons are not so lengthy in our church as they were three hundred
years ago. Rudder mentions that a parson of the name of Winnington used
to preach here for two hours at a time, regularly turning the
hour-glass; for in those days hour-glasses were placed near the pulpit,
and the clergy used to vie with each other as to who could preach the
longest. I do not know if Mr. Barrow was ever surpassed in this respect.
History relates that he succeeded in emptying his church of the whole
congregation, including the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London--one man
only (an apprentice) remaining to the bitter end. Misguided laymen used
to amuse themselves in the same way. Fozbrooke mentions that one Will
Hulcote, a zealous lay preacher after the Reformation, used to mount the
pulpit in a velvet bonnet, a damask gown, and a gold chain. What an ass
he must have looked! This reminds me that at the age of twenty-four I
accepted the office of churchwarden of a certain country parish. I do
not recommend any of my readers to become churchwardens. You become a
sort of acting aide-de-camp to the parson, liable to be called out on
duty at a moment's notice. No; a young man might with some advantage to
others and credit to himself take upon himself the office of Parish
Councillor, Poor Law Guardian, Inspector of Lunatic Asylums, High
Sheriff, or even Public Hangman; but save, oh, save us from being
churchwardens! To be obliged to attend those terrible institutions
called "vestry meetings," and to receive each year an examination paper
from the archdeacon of the diocese propounding such questions as, "Do
you attend church regularly? If not, why not?" etc., etc., is the
natural destiny of the churchwarden, and is more than human nature can
stand: in short, my advice to those thinking of becoming churchwardens
is, "Don't," with a very big _D_.

According to the "Diary of Master William Silence," in the olden times a
pedlar would occasionally arrive at the church door during the sermon,
and proceed to advertise his wares at the top of his voice. Whereupon
the parson, speedily deserted by the female portion of his congregation
and by not a few of the other sex, was obliged to bring his discourse to
a somewhat inglorious conclusion.

We learn from the same work that the churchwardens were in the habit of
disbursing large sums for the destruction of foxes. When a fox was
marked to ground the church bell was rung as a signal, summoning every
man who owned a pickaxe, a gun, or a terrier dog, to lend a hand in
destroying him. We are talking of two or three hundred years ago, when
the stag was the animal usually hunted by hounds on the Cotswolds and in
other parts of England.

Our village is a favourite meet of the V.W.H. foxhounds. An amusing
story is told of a former tenant of the court house--a London gentleman,
who rented the place for a time. He is reported to have made a special
request to the master of the hounds, that when the meet was held at "the
Court," "his lordship" would make the fox pass in front of the
drawing-room windows, "For," said he, "I have several friends coming
from London to see the hunt."

In a hunting district such as this the owners and occupiers of the
various country houses are usually enthusiastic devotees of the chase.
The present holder of the "liberty" adjoining us is a fox-hunter of the
old school. An excellent sportsman and a wonderful judge of a horse, he
dines in pink the best part of the year, drives his four-in-hand with
some skill, and wears the old-fashioned low-crowned beaver hat.

We have many other interesting characters in our village; human nature
varies so delightfully that just as with faces so each individual
character has something to distinguish it from the rest of the world.
The old-fashioned autocratic farmer of the old school is there of
course, and a rare good specimen he is of a race that has almost
disappeared. Then we have the village lunatic, whose mania is "religious
enthusiasm." If you go to call on him, he will ask you "if you are
saved," and explain to you how his own salvation was brought about.
Unfortunately one of his hobbies is to keep fowls and pigs in his house
so that fleas are more or less numerous there, and your visits are
consequently few and far between.

The village "quack," who professes to cure every complaint under the
sun, either in mankind, horses, dogs, or anything else by means of
herbs, buttonholes you sometimes in the village street. If once he
starts talking, you know that you are "booked" for the day. He is rather
a "bore," and is uncommonly fond of quoting the Scriptures in support of
his theories. But there is something about the man one cannot help
liking. His wonderful infallibility in curing disease is set down by
himself to divine inspiration. Many a vision has he seen. Unfortunately
his doctrines, though excellent in theory, are seldom successful in
practice. An excellent prescription which I am informed completely cured
a man of indigestion is one of his mixtures "last thing at night" and
the first chapter of St. John carefully perused and digested on top.

I called on the old gentleman the other day, and persuaded him to give
me a short lecture. The following is the gist of what he said: "First of
all you must know that the elder is good for anything in the world, but
especially for swellings. If you put some of the leaves on your face,
they will cure toothache in five minutes. Then for the nerves there's
nothing like the berries of ivy. Yarrow makes a splendid ointment; and
be sure and remember Solomon's seal for bruises, and comfrey for 'hurts'
and broken bones. Camomile cures indigestion, and ash-tree buds make a
stout man thin. Soak some ash leaves in hot water, and you will have a
drink that is better than any tea, and destroys the 'gravel.'
Walnut-tree bark is a splendid emetic; and mountain flax, which grows
everywhere on the Cotswolds, is uncommon good for the 'innards.' 'Ettles
[nettles] is good for stings. Damp them and rub them on to a 'wapse'
sting, and they will take away the pain directly." On my suggesting that
stinging nettles were rather a desperate remedy, he assured me that
"they acted as a blister, and counteracted the 'wapse.' Now, I'll tell
you an uncommon good thing to preserve the teeth," he went on, "and that
is to _brush_ them once or twice a week. You buys a brush at the
chymists, you know; they makes them specially for it. Oh, 'tis a capital
good thing to cleanse the teeth occasionally!"

He wound up by telling me a story of a celebrated doctor who left a
sealed book not to be opened till after his death, when it was to be
sold at auction. It fetched six hundred pounds. The man who paid this
sum was horrified on opening it to find it only contained the following
excellent piece of advice: "Always remember to keep the feet warm and
the head cool."

As I said good-bye, and thanked him for his lecture, he said: "Those
doctors' chemicals destroy the 'innards.' And be sure and put down rue
for the heart; and burdock, 'tis splendid for the liver."

Nor must mention be omitted of old Isaac Sly, a half-witted labouring
fellow with a squint in one eye and blind of the other, who at first
sight might appear a bad man to meet on a dark night, but is harmless
enough when you know him; he haunts the lanes at certain seasons of the
year, carrying an enormous flag, and invariably greets you with the
intelligence that he will bring the flag up next Christmas the same as
usual, according to time-honoured custom. He is the last vestige of the
old wandering minstrels of bygone days, playing his inharmonious
concertina in the hall of the manor house regularly at Christmas and at
other festivals.

Nor must we forget dear, honest Mr. White, the kindest and most pompous
of men, who, after fulfilling his destiny as head butler in a great
establishment, and earning golden opinions from all sorts and conditions
of men, finally settled down to a quiet country life in a pretty cottage
in our village, where he is the life and soul of every convivial
gathering and beanfeast, carving a York ham or a sirloin with great
nicety and judgment. He has seen much of men and manners in his day, and
has a fund of information on all kinds of subjects. Having plenty of
leisure, he is a capital hand at finding the whereabouts of outlying
foxes; and once earned the eternal gratitude of the whole neighbourhood
by starting a fine greyhound fox, known as the "old customer," out of a
decayed and hollow tree that lay in an unfrequented spot by the river.
He poked him out with a long pole, and gave the "view holloa" just as
the hounds had drawn all the coverts "blank," and the people's faces
were as blank as the coverts; whereupon such a run was enjoyed as had
not been indulged in for many a long day.

But what of our miller--our good, honest gentleman farmer and
miller--now, alas! retired from active business? What can I say of him?
I show you a man worthy to sit amongst kings. A little garrulous and
inquisitive at times, yet a conqueror for all that in the battle
of-life, and one of whom it may in truth be said,

     "And thus he bore without abuse
      The grand old name of gentleman."

As to the morals of the Gloucestershire peasants in general, and of our
village in particular, it may be said that they are on the whole
excellent; in one respect only they are rather casual, not to say
prehistoric.

The following story gives one a very good idea of the casual nature of
hamlet morals:--

A parson--I do not know of which village, but it was somewhere in this
neighbourhood--paid a visit to a newly married man, to speak seriously
about the exceptionally premature arrival of an heir. "This is a
terrible affair," said the parson on entering the cottage. "Yaas; 'twere
a bad job to be sure," replied the man. "And what will yer take
to drink?"

Let it in justice be said that such episodes are the exception and not
the rule.

Among the characters to be met with in our Cotswold hamlet is the
village politician. Many a pleasant chat have we enjoyed in his snug
cottage, whilst the honest proprietor was having his cup of tea and
bread and butter after his work. Common sense he has to a remarkable
degree, and a good deal more knowledge than most people give him credit
for. He is a Radical of course; nine out of ten labourers are _at
heart_. And a very good case he makes out for his way of thinking, if
one can only put oneself in his place for a time. We have endeavoured to
convert him to our way of thinking, but the strong, reflective mind,

     "Illi robur, et aes triplex
      Circa pectus erat,"

is not to be persuaded. He will be true to "the colour"; this is his
final answer, even if your arguments overcome for the time being. And
you cannot help liking the man for his straightforward, self-reliant
nature; he is acting up to the standard he has set himself all
through life.

     "This above all, to thine own self be true,
      And it must follow, as the night the day,
      Thou canst not then be false to any man."

And how many there are in the byways of England acting up to this motto,
and leading the lives of heroes, though their reward is not to be
found here!

There is no nobler sight on this earth than to behold men of all ages
doing their duty to the best of their ability, in spite of manifold
hardships and many a bitter disappointment; cheerfully and manfully
confronting difficulties of all kinds, and training up children in the
fear and knowledge of God. If this is not nobleness, there is no such
thing on earth. And it is owing to the vast amount of real, genuine
Christianity that exists among these honest folk that life is rendered
on the whole so cheerful in these Cotswold villages. Many small faults
the peasants doubtless possess; such are inseparable from human nature.
The petty jealousies always to be found where men do congregate exist
here, and as long as the earth revolves they will continue to exist; but
underneath the rough, unpolished exterior there is a reef of gold, far
richer than the mines of South Africa will ever produce, and as immortal
as the souls in which it lies so deeply rooted and embedded.

For the best type of humanity we need not search in vain among the
humble cottages of the hamlets of England. There shall we find the
courageous, brave souls who "scorn delights and live laborious
days,"--men who estimate their fellows at their worth, and not according
to their social position. Blunt and difficult to lead, not out of
hardness of heart or obstinate pigheadedness, but as Burns has put it:

     "For the glorious priviledge
      Of being independant."

A few such are to be found in all our rural villages if one looks for
them; and if they are the exceptions to the general rule, it must also
be remembered that men with "character" are equally rare amongst the
upper and middle classes.

Talking of village politics, I shall never forget a meeting held at
Northleach a few years ago. It was at a time when the balance of parties
was so even that our Unionist member was returned by the bare majority
of three votes, only to be unseated a few weeks afterwards on a recount.
Northleach is a very Radical town, about six miles from my home; and
when I agreed to take the chair, I little knew what an unpleasant job I
had taken in hand. Our member for some reason or other was unable to
attend. I therefore found myself at 7.30 one evening facing two hundred
"red-hot" Radicals, with only one other speaker besides myself to keep
the ball a-rolling. My companion was one of those professional
politicians of the baser sort, who call themselves Unionists because it
pays better for the working-class politician--in just the same way as
ambitious young men among the upper classes sometimes become Radicals on
the strength of there being more opening for them on the "Liberal" side.

Well, this fellow bellowed away in the usual ranting style for about
three-quarters of an hour; his eloquence was great, but truth was "more
honoured in the breach than in the observance." So that when he sat
down, and my turn came, the audience, instead of being convinced, was
fairly rabid. I was very young at that time, and fearfully nervous;
added to which I was never much of a speaker, and, if interrupted at
all, usually lost the thread of my argument.

After a bit they began shouting, "Speak up." The more they shouted the
more mixed I got. When once the spirit of insubordination is roused in
these fellows, it spreads like wild-fire. The din became so great I
could not hear myself speak. In about five minutes there would have been
a row. Suddenly a bright idea occurred to me. "Listen to me," I shouted;
"as you won't hear me speak, perhaps you will allow me to sing you a
song." I had a fairly strong voice, and could go up a good height; so I
gave them "Tom Bowling." Directly I started you could have heard a pin
drop. They gave, me a fair hearing all through; and when, as a final
climax, I finished up with a prolonged B flat--a very loud and long
note, which sounded to me something between a "view holloa" and the
whistle of a penny steamboat, but which came in nicely as a sort of
_pièce de résistance_, fairly astonishing "Hodge"--their enthusiasm knew
no bounds. They cheered and cheered again. Hand shaking went on all
round, whilst the biggest Radical of the lot stood up and shouted, "You
be a little Liberal, I know, and the other blokes 'ave 'ired [hired]
you." Whether we won any votes that evening I am doubtful, but certain I
am that this meeting, which started so inauspiciously, was more
successful than many others in which I have taken part in a Radical
place, in spite of the fact that we left it amid a shower of stones from
the boys outside.

I do not think there is anything I dislike more than standing up to
address a village audience on the politics of the day. Unless you happen
to be a very taking speaker--which his greatest friends could not accuse
the present writer of being--agricultural labourers are a most
unsympathetic audience. They will sit solemnly through a long speech
without even winking an eye, and your best "hits" are passed by in
solemn silence. To the nervous speaker a little applause occasionally is
doubtless encouraging; but if you want to get it, you must put somebody
down among the audience, and pay them half a crown to make a noise.

I suppose no better fellow or more suitable candidate for a Cotswold
constituency ever walked than Colonel Chester Master, of the Abbey; yet
his efforts to win the seat under the new ballot act were always
unavailing, saving the occasion on which he got in by three votes, and
then was turned out again within a month. An unknown candidate from
London--I will not say a carpet-bagger--was able to beat the local
squire, entirely owing to the very fact that he was a stranger.

There is a good deal of chopping and changing about among the
agricultural voters, in spite of a general determination to be true to
the "yaller" colour or the "blue," as the case may be. As I passed down
the village street on the day on which our last election took place, I
enthusiastically exclaimed to a passer-by in whom I thought I recognised
one of our erstwhile firmest supporters, "We shall have our man in for a
certainty this time." "What--in the brook!" replied the turncoat, with a
glance at the stream, and not without humour, his face purple with
emotion. This was somewhat damping; but the hold of the paid social
agitator is very great in these country places, and it is scarcely
credible what extraordinary stories are circulated on the eve of an
election to influence the voters. At such times even loyalty is at a
discount At a Tory meeting a lecturer was showing a picture of
Gibraltar, and expatiating on the English victory in 1704, when Sir
George Rooke won this important stronghold from the Spaniards. "How
would you like any one to come and take your land away?" exclaimed a
Radical, with a great show of righteous indignation. And his sentiments
received the applause of all his friends.

In these matters, and in the spirit of independence generally, country
folk have much altered. No longer can it be said; as Addison quaintly
puts it in the _Spectator_, that "they are so used to be dazzled with
riches that they pay as much deference to the understanding of a man of
estate as of a man of learning; and are very hardly brought to regard
any truth, how important soever it may be, that is preached to them,
when they know there are several men of five hundred a year who do not
believe it."

In such-like matters the labourers now show a vast deal of common sense,
and the only wonder is that whilst paying but little deference either to
men of estate or men of learning, they yet allow themselves to be
"bamboozled" by the promises and claptrap of the paid agitator.

Narrow and ignorant as is the Toryism commonly displayed in country
districts, it is yet preferable, from the point of view of those whose
motto is _aequam memento_, etc., to the impossible Utopia which the
advanced Radicals invariably promise us and never effect.

A word now about the farmers of Gloucestershire.

It is often asked, How do the Cotswold farmers live in these bad times?
I suppose the only reply one can give is the old saw turned upside down:
They live as the fishes do in the sea; the great ones eat up the little
ones. The tendency, doubtless, in all kinds of trade is for the small
capitalists to go to the wall.

Some of the farmers in this district are yeoman princes, not only
possessing their own freeholds, but farming a thousand or fifteen
hundred acres in addition. Mr. Garne, of Aldsworth, is a fine specimen
of this class. He makes a speciality of the original pure-bred Cotswold
sheep, and his rams being famous, he is able to do very well, in spite
of the fact that there is little demand for the old breed of sheep, the
mutton being of poor quality and the wool coarse and rough. Mr. Garne
carries off all the prizes at "the Royal" and other shows with his
magnificent sheep. A cross between the Hampshire downs and the Cotswold
sheep has been found to give excellent mutton, as well as fine and silky
wool. The cross breed is gradually superseding the native sheep. Mr.
Hobbs, of Maiseyhampton, is famous for his Oxford downs. These sheep are
likewise superior to the Cotswold breed.

Barley does uncommonly well on the light limestone soil of these hills.
The brewers are glad to get Cotswold barley for malting purposes. Fine
sainfoin crops are grown, and black oats likewise do well. The shallow,
porous soil requires rain at least once a week throughout the spring and
summer. The better class of farmer on these hills does not have at all a
bad time even in these days. Very often they lead the lives of squires,
more especially in those hamlets where there is no landowner resident.
Hunting, shooting, coursing, and sometimes fishing are enjoyed by most
of these squireens, and they are a fine, independent class of
Englishman, who get more fun out of life than many richer men, They will
tell you with regard to the labourers that the following adage is still
to be depended upon:--

     "Tis the same with common natures:
        Use 'em kindly they rebel;
      But be rough as nutmeg-graters,
        And the rogues obey you well."

[Illustration: An Old Cottage. 087.png]



CHAPTER IV.

THE LANGUAGE OF THE COTSWOLDS, WITH SOME ANCIENT SONGS AND LEGENDS.

A very marked characteristic of the village peasant is his extraordinary
honesty. Not one in ten would knock a pheasant on the head with his
stick if he found one on his allotment among the cabbages. Rabbit
poachers there are, but even these are rare; and as for housebreaking
and robbery, it simply does not exist. The manor house has a tremendous
nail-studded oak door, which is barred at night by ponderous clamps of
iron and many other contrivances; but the old-fashioned windows could be
opened by any moderately skilful burglar in half a minute. There is
absolutely nothing to prevent access to the house at night, whilst in
the daytime the doors are open from "morn till dewy eve." Most of the
windows are innocent of shutters. When in Ireland recently, I noticed
that the gates in every field were immensely strong, generally of iron,
with massive pillars of stone on either side; but in spite of these
precautions there was usually a gap in the hedge close by, through which
one might safely have driven a waggon. This reminded one of the Cotswold
manor house and its strongly barricaded oak door, surrounded by windows,
which any burglar could open "as easy as a glove," as Tom Peregrine
would say.

A strange-looking traveller, with slouching gait and mouldy wideawake
hat, passes through the hamlet occasionally, leading a donkey in a cart.
This is one of the old-fashioned hawkers. These men are usually poachers
or receivers of poached goods. They are not averse to paying a small sum
for a basket of trout or a few partridges, pheasants, hares or rabbits
in the game season; whilst in spring they deal in a small way in the
eggs of game birds. As often as not this class of man is accompanied by
a couple of dogs, marvellously trained in the art of hunting the coverts
and "retrieving" a pheasant or a rabbit which may be crouching in the
underwood. Hares, too, are taken by dogs in the open fields. One never
finds out much about these gentry from the natives. Even the keeper is
reticent on the subject. "A sart of a harf-witted fellow" is Tom
Peregrine's description of this very suspicious-looking traveller.

The better sort of carrier, who calls daily at the great house with all
kinds of goods and parcels from the big town seven miles off, is
occasionally not averse to a little poaching in the roadside fields
among the hares. The carriers are a great feature of these rural
villages; they are generally good fellows, though some of them are a bit
too fond of the bottle on Saturday nights.

The dogs employed by poachers are taught to keep out of sight and avoid
keepers and such-like folk. They know as well as the poacher himself the
nature of their trade, and that the utmost secrecy must be observed. To
see them trotting demurely down the road you would never think them
capable of doing anything wrong. A wave of the hand and they are into
the covert in a second, ready to pounce like a cat on a sitting
pheasant. One short whistle and they are at their master's heels again.
If in carrying game in their mouths they spied or winded a keeper, they
would in all probability contrive to hide themselves or make tracks for
the high road as quickly as possible, leaving their spoil in the thick
underwood, "to be left till called for."

But to return once more to the honest Cotswold labourer. Occasionally a
notice is put up in the village as follows:--

"There will be a dinner in the manor grounds on July--. Please bring
knives and forks."

These are great occasions in a Cotswold village. Knives and forks mean
meat; and a joint of mutton is not seen by the peasants more than "once
in a month of Sundays." Needless to say, there is not much opportunity
of studying the language of the country as long as the feast is
progressing. "Silence is golden" is the motto here whilst the viands are
being discussed; but afterwards, when the Homeric desire of eating and
drinking has been expelled, an adjournment to the club may lead to a
smoking concert, and, once started, there are very few Cotswold men who
cannot sing a song of at least eighteen verses. For three hours an
uninterrupted stream of music flows forth, not only solos, but
occasionally duets, harmoniously chanted in parts, and rendered with the
utmost pathos. It cannot be said that Gloucestershire folk are endowed
with a large amount of musical talent; neither their "ears" nor their
vocal chords are ever anything great, but what they lack in quality they
make up in quantity, and I have listened to as many as forty songs
during one evening--some of them most entertaining, others extremely
dull. The songs the labourer most delights in are those which are
typical of the employment in which he happens to be engaged. Some of the
old ballads, handed down from father to son by oral tradition, are very
excellent. The following is a very good instance of this kind of song;
when sung by the carter to a good rollicking tune, it goes with a rare
ring, in spite of the fact that it lasts about a quarter of an hour.
There would be about a dozen verses, and the chorus is always sung twice
at the end of each verse, first by the carter and then by the
whole company.

"Now then, gentlemen, don't delay harmony," Farmer Peregrine keeps
repeating in his old-fashioned, convivial way, and thus the ball is kept
a-rolling half the night.

     JIM, THE CARTER LAD.

     "My name is Jim, the carter lad--
        A jolly cock am I;
      I always am contented,
        Be the weather wet or dry.
      I snap my finger at the snow,
        And whistle at the rain;
      I've braved the storm for many a day,
        And can do so again."

      (_Chorus_.)

       "Crack, crack, goes my whip,
          I whistle and I sing,
        I sits upon my waggon,
          I'm as happy as a king.
        My horse is always willing;
          As for me, I'm never sad:
        There's none can lead a jollier life
          Than Jim, the carter lad."

     "My father was a carrier
        Many years ere I was born,
      And used to rise at daybreak
        And go his rounds each morn.
      He often took me with him,
        Especially in the spring.
      I loved to sit upon the cart
        And hear my father sing.
              Crack, crack, etc."

     "I never think of politics
        Or anything so great;
      I care not for their high-bred talk
        About the Church and State.
      I act aright to man and man,
        And that's what makes me glad;
      You'll find there beats an honest heart
        In Jim, the carter lad.
              Crack, crack, etc."

     "The girls, they all smile on me
        As I go driving past.
      My horse is such a beauty,
        And he jogs along so fast.
      We've travelled many a weary mile,
        And happy days have had;
      For none can lead a jollier life
        Than Jim, the carter lad.
              Crack, crack, etc."

     "So now I'll wish you all good night
        It's time I was away;
      For I know my horse will weary
        If I much longer stay.
      To see your smiling faces,
        It makes my heart quite glad.
      I hope you'll drink your kind applause
        To Jim, the carter lad.
              Crack, crack, etc."

The village choirs do very well as long as their organist or vicar is
not too ambitious in his choice of music. There is a fatal tendency in
many places to do away with the old hymns, which every one has known
from a boy, and substitute the very inferior modern ones now to be found
in our books. This is the greatest mistake, if I may say so. A man is
far more likely to sing, and feel deeply when he is singing, those
simple words and notes he learnt long ago in the nursery at home. And
there is nothing finer in the world than some of our old English hymns.

I appeal to any readers who have known what it is to feel deeply; and
few there are to whom this does not apply, if some of those moments of
their lives, when the thoughts have soared into the higher regions of
emotion, have not been those which followed the opening strain of the
organ as it quietly ushered in the old evening hymn, "Abide with me,
fast falls the eventide," or any other hymn of the same kind. It is the
same in the vast cathedral as in the little Norman village church. There
are fifty hymns in our book which would be sufficient to provide the
best possible music for our country churches. The best organists realise
this. Joseph Barnby always chose the old hymns; and you will hear them
at Westminster and St. Paul's. The country organist, however, imagines
that it is his duty to be always teaching his choir some new and
difficult tune; the result in nine cases out of ten being "murder" and a
rapid falling off in the congregation.

The Cotswold folk on the whole are fond of music, though they have not a
large amount of talent for it. The Chedworth band still goes the round
of the villages once or twice a year. These men are the descendants of
the "old village musicians," who, to quote from the _Strand Musical
Magazine_ for September 1897, "led the Psalmody in the village church
sixty years ago with stringed and wind instruments. Mr. Charles Smith,
of Chedworth, remembers playing the clarionet in Handel's _Zadok the
Priest_, performed there in 1838 in honour of the Queen's accession." He
talks of a band of twelve, made up of strings and _wood-wind_.

I am bound to say that the music produced by the Chedworth band at the
present day, though decidedly creditable in such an old-world village,
is rather like the Roman remains for which the district is so famous; it
savours somewhat of the prehistoric. But when the band comes round and
plays in the hall of our old house on Christmas Eve, I have many a
pleasant chat with the Chedworth musicians; they are so delightfully
enthusiastic, and so grateful for being allowed to play. When I gave
them a cup of tea they kept repeating, "A thousand thanks for all your
kindness, sir."

It is inevitable that men engaged day by day and year by year in such
monotonous employ as agricultural labour should be somewhat lacking in
acuteness and sensibility; in no class is the hereditary influence so
marked. Were it otherwise, matters would be in a sorry pass in country
places, for discontent would reign supreme; and once let "ambition mock
their useful toil," once their sober wishes learn to stray, how would
the necessary drudgery of agricultural work be accomplished at all? In
spite, however, of this marked characteristic of inertness--hereditary
in the first place, and fostered by the humdrum round of daily toil on
the farm--there is sometimes to be found a sense of humour and a love of
merriment that is quite astonishing. A good deal of what is called
knowledge of the world, which one would have thought was only to be
acquired in towns, nowadays penetrates into remote districts, so that
country folk often have a good idea of "what's what" I once overheard
the following conversation:

"Who's your new master, Dick? He's a bart., ain't he?"

"Oh no," was the reply; "he's only a _jumped-up jubilee knight_!"

Sense of humour of a kind the Cotswold labourer certainly has, even
though he is quite unable to see a large number of apparently simple
jokes. The diverting history of John Gilpin, for instance, read at a
smoking concert, was received with scarce a smile.

Old Mr. Peregrine lately told me an instance of the extraordinary
secretiveness of the labourer. Two of his men worked together in his
barn day after day for several weeks. During that time they never spoke
to each other, save that one of them would always say the last thing at
night, "Be sure to shut the door."

Oddly enough they thoroughly appreciate the humour of the wonderful
things that went on fifty and a hundred years ago. The old farmer I have
just mentioned told me that he remembers when he used to go to church
fifty years ago, how, after they had all been waiting half an hour, the
clerk would pin a notice in the porch, "No church to-day; Parson C----
got the gout."

As with history so also with geography, the Cotswold labourer sometimes
gets "a bit mixed."

"'Ow be they a-gettin' on in Durbysher?" lately enquired a man at
Coln-St-Aldwyns.

To him replied a righteously indignant native of the same village, "I've
'eard as 'ow the English army 'ave killed ten thousand Durvishers
(Dervishes)."

"Bedad!" answered his friend, "there won't be many left in Durbysher if
they goes on a-killin' un much longer."

Another story lately told me in the same village was as follows:--

An old lady went to the stores to buy candles, and was astonished to
find that owing to the Spanish-American war "candles was riz."

"Get along!" she indignantly exclaimed. "_Don't tell me they fights by
candlelight_"

One of the cheeriest fellows that ever worked for us was a carter called
Trinder. He was the father of _twenty-one children_--by the same wife.
He never seemed to be worried in the slightest degree by domestic
affairs, and was always happy and healthy and gay. This man's wages
would be about twelve shillings a week: not a very large sum for a man
with a score of children. Then it must be remembered that the boys would
go off to work in the fields at a very early age, and by the time they
were ten years old they would be keeping themselves. A large family like
this would not have the crushing effect on the labouring man that it has
on the poor curate or city clerk. Nevertheless, one cannot help looking
upon the man as a kind of hero, when one considers the enormous number
of grandchildren and descendants he will have. On being asked the other
day how he had contrived to maintain such a quiverful, he answered,
"I've always managed to get along all right so far; I never wanted for
vittals, sir, anyhow." This was all the information he would give.

Talking of "vittals," the only meat the labouring man usually indulges
in is bacon. His breakfast consists of bread and butter, and either tea
or cocoa. For his dinner he relies on bread and bacon, occasionally
only bread and cheese. In the winter he is home by five, and once more
has tea, or cocoa, or beer. Coffee is very seldom seen in the cottages.
During the short days there is nothing to do but go to bed in the
evening, unless a walk of over a mile to the village inn is considered
worth the trouble. But being tired and leg weary, a long walk does not
usually appeal to the men after their evening meal; so to bed is the
order of the day,--and, thank Heaven! "the sleep of a labouring man is
sweet." In the longer days of spring and summer there is plenty to do in
the allotments; and on the whole the allotments acts have been a great
blessing to the labourers.

It is during the three winter months that penny readings and smoking
concerts are so much appreciated in the country. Too much cannot be done
in this way to brighten the life of the village during the cold, dark
days of December and January, for the labouring man hates reading above
all things.

Perhaps the fact that these simple folk do not read the newspapers, or
only read those parts in which they have a direct interest--such as
paragraphs indulging in socialistic castles in the air--has its
advantages, inasmuch as it allows their common sense full play in all
other matters, unhampered as it is (except in this one weak point of
socialism) by the prejudices of the day. So that if one wanted to get an
unprejudiced opinion on some great question of right or wrong, in the
consideration of which common sense alone was required--such a question,
for instance, as is occasionally cropping up in these times in our
foreign policy--one would have to go to the very best men in the
country, namely, those amongst the educated classes who think for
themselves, or to men of the so-called lowest strata of society, such as
these honest Cotswold labourers; because there is scarcely one man in
ten among the reading public who is not biassed and confused by the
manifold contradictions and political claptrap of the daily papers, and
led away by side issues from a clear understanding of the rights of
every case. Our free press is doubtless a grand institution. As with
individuals, however, so ought it to be with nations. Let us, in our
criticisms of the policy of those who watch over the destinies of other
countries, whilst firmly upholding our rights, strictly adhere to the
principle of _noblesse oblige_. The press is every day becoming more and
more powerful for good or evil; its influence on men's minds has become
so marked that it may with truth be said that the press rules public
opinion rather than that public opinion rules the press. But the writers
of the day will only fulfil their destiny aright by approaching every
question in a broad and tolerant spirit, and by a firm reliance, in
spite of the prejudices of the moment, on the ancient faith of _noblesse
oblige_. However, the unanimity recently shown by the press in upholding
our rights at Fashoda was absolutely splendid.

The origin of the names of the fields in this district is difficult to
trace. Many a farm has its "barrow ground," called after some old burial
mound situated there; and many names like Ladbarrow, Cocklebarrow, etc.,
have the same derivation. "Buryclose," too, is a name often to be found
in the villages; and skeletons are sometimes dug up in meadows so
called. A copse, called Deadman's Acre, is supposed to have received its
name from the fact that a man died there, having sworn that he would
reap an acre of corn with a sickle in a day or perish in the attempt. It
is more likely, however, to be connected with the barrows, which are
plentiful thereabouts.

Oliver Cromwell's memory is still very much respected among the
labouring folk. Every possible work is attributed to his hand, and even
the names of places are set down to his inventive genius. Thus they tell
you that when he passed through Aldsworth he did not think very much of
the village (it is certainly a very dull little place), so he snapped
his fingers and exclaimed, "That's all 'e's worth!" On arriving at Ready
Token, where was an ancient inn, he found it full of guests; he
therefore exclaimed, "It's already taken!" Was ever such nonsense heard?
Yet these good folk believe every tradition of this kind, and delight in
telling you such stories. Ready Token is a bleak spot, standing very
high, and having a clump of trees on it; it is therefore conspicuous for
miles; so that when this country was an open moor, Ready Token was very
useful as a landmark to travellers. Mr. Sawyer thinks the name is a
corruption from the Celtic word "rhydd" and the Saxon "tacen," meaning
"the way to the ford," the place being on the road to Fairford, where
the Coln is crossed.

One of the chief traditions of this locality, and one that doubtless has
more truth in it than most of the stories the natives tell you, relates
that two hundred years ago people were frequently murdered at Ready
Token inn when returning with their pockets full of money from the big
fairs at Gloucester or Oxford. A labouring friend of mine was telling me
the other day of the wonderful disappearance of a packman and a
"jewelrer," as he called him. For very many years nothing was heard of
them, but about twenty years ago some "skellingtons" were dug up on the
exact spot where the inn stood, so their disappearance was
accounted for.

This same man told me the following story about the origin of Hangman's
Stone, near Northleach:--

"A man stole a 'ship' [sheep], and carried it tied to his neck and
shoulders by a rope. Feeling rather tired, he put the 'ship' down on top
of the 'stwun' [stone] to rest a bit; but suddenly it rolled off the
other side, and hung him--broke his neck."

Hangman's Stone may be seen to this day. The real origin of the name may
be found in Fozbrooke's History of Gloucestershire. It was the place of
execution in Roman times.

"As illuminations in cases of joy, dismissal from the house in quarrels,
wishing joy on New Year's Day, king and queen on twelfth day (from the
Saturnalia), holding up the hand in sign of assent, shaking hands, etc.,
are Roman customs, so were executions just out of the town, where also
the executioner resided. In Anglo-Saxon times this officer was a man of
high dignity."

A very common name in Gloucestershire for a field or wood is "conyger"
or "conygre." It means the abode of conies or rabbits.

Some farms have their "camp ground"; and there, sure enough, if one
examines it carefully, will be found traces of some ancient British
camp, with its old rampart running round it. But what can be the
derivation of such names as Horsecollar Bush Furlong, Smoke Acre
Furlong, West Chester Hull, Cracklands, Crane Furlong, Sunday's Hill,
Latheram, Stoopstone Furlong, Pig Bush Furlong, and Barelegged Bush?

Names like Pitchwells, where there is a spring; Breakfast Bush Ground,
where no doubt Hodge has had his breakfast for centuries under shelter
of a certain bush; Rickbushes, and Longlands are all more or less easy
to trace. Furzey Leaze, Furzey Ground, Moor Hill, Ridged Lands, and the
Pikes are all names connected with the nature of the fields or
their locality.

Leaze is the provincial name for a pasture, and Furzey Leaze would be a
rough "ground," where gorse was sprinkled about. The Pikes would be a
field abutting on an old turnpike gate. The word "turnpike" is never
used in Gloucestershire; it is always "the pike." A field is a "ground,"
and a fence or stone wall is a "mound." The Cotswold folk do not talk
about houses; they stick to the old Saxon termination, and call their
dwellings "housen"; they also use the Anglo-Saxon "hire" for hear. The
word "bowssen," too, is very frequently heard in these parts; it is a
provincialism for a stall or shed where oxen are kept. "Boose" is the
word from which it originally sprang. A very expressive phrase in common
use is to "quad" or "quat"; it is equivalent to the word "squat." Other
words in this dialect are "sprack," an adjective meaning quick or
lively; and "frem" or "frum," a word derived from the Anglo-Saxon
"fram," meaning fresh or flourishing. The latter word is also used in
Leicestershire. Drayton, who knew the Cotswolds, and wrote poetry about
the district, uses the expression "frim pastures." "Plym" is the
swelling of wood when it is immersed in water; and "thilk," another
Anglo-Saxon word, means thus or the same.

A mole in the Gloucestershire dialect is an "oont" or "woont." A barrow
or mound of any kind is a "tump." Anything slippery is described as
"slick"; and a slice is a "sliver." "Breeds" denotes the brim of a hat,
and a deaf man is said to be "dunch" or "dunny." To "glowr" is to
stare--possibly connected with the word "glare."

Two red-coated sportsmen, while hunting close to our village the other
day, got into a small but deep pond. They were said to have fallen into
the "stank," and got "zogged" through: for a small pond is a "stank,"
and to be "zogged" is equivalent to being soaked.

"Hark at that dog 'yoppeting' in the covert! I'll give him a nation good
'larroping' when I catch him!" This is the sort of sentence a
Gloucestershire keeper makes use of. To "larrop" is to beat. Oatmeal or
porridge is always called "grouts"; and the Cotswold native does not
talk of hoisting a ladder, but "highsting" is the term he uses. The
steps of the ladder are the "rongs." Luncheon is "nuncheon." Other words
in the dialect are "caddie" = to humbug; "cham" = to chew; "barken" = a
homestead; and "bittle" = a mallet.

Fozbrooke says that the term "hopping mad" is applied to people who are
very angry; but we do not happen to have heard it in Gloucestershire.
Two proverbs that are in constant use amongst all classes are, "As sure
as God's in Gloucestershire," and, "'Tis as long in coming as Cotswold
'berle'" (barley). The former has reference to the number of churches
and religious houses the county used to possess, the latter to the
backward state of the crops on the exposed Cotswold Hills. To meet a man
and say, "Good-morning, nice day," is to "pass the time of day with
him." Anything queer or mysterious is described as "unkard" or "unket";
perhaps this word is a provincialism for "uncouth." A narrow lane or
path between two walls is a "tuer" in Gloucestershire vernacular.
Another local word I have not heard elsewhere is "eckle," meaning a
green woodpecker or yaffel. The original spelling of the word was
"hic-wall." In these days of education the real old-fashioned dialect is
seldom heard; among the older peasants a few are to be found who speak
it, but in twenty years' time it will be a thing of the past.

The incessant use of "do" and "did," and the changing of _o_'s into
_a_'s are two great characteristics of the Gloucestershire talk. Being
anxious to be initiated into the mysteries of the dialect, I buttonholed
a labouring friend of mine the other day, and asked him to try to teach
it to me. He is a great exponent of the language of the country, and,
like a good many others of his type, he is as well satisfied with his
pronunciation as he is with his other accomplishments. The fact is that

     "His favourite sin
      Is pride that apes humility."

It is _your_ grammar, not his, which is at fault. In the following
verses will be found the gist of what he told me:--

     "If thee true 'Glarcestershire' would know,
      I'll tell thee how us always zays un;
      Put 'I' for 'me,' and 'a' for 'o'.
      On every possible occasion.

      When in doubt squeeze in a 'w'--
      'Stwuns,' not 'stones.' And don't forget, zur,
      That 'thee' must stand for 'thou' and 'you';
      'Her' for 'she,' and _vice versâ_.

      Put 'v' for 'f'; for 's' put 'z';
      'Th' and 't' we change to 'd,'--
      So dry an' kip this in thine yead,
      An' thou wills't talk as plain as we."

The student in the language of the Cotswolds should study a very ancient
song entitled "George Ridler's Oven." Strange to say, there is little or
nothing in it about the oven, but a good deal of the old Gloucestershire
talk may be gleaned from it. It begins like this:

      GEORGE RIDLER'S OVEN.

      A RIGHT FAMOUS OLD GLOUCESTERSHIRE BALLAD.


     "The stwuns, the stwuns, the stwuns, the stwuns,
      The stwuns, the stwuns, the stwuns, _the stwuns_."

This is sung like the prelude to a grand orchestral performance.
Beginning somewhat softly, Hodge fires away with a gravity and emotion
which do him infinite credit, each succeeding repetition of the word
"stwuns" being rendered with ever-increasing pathos and emphasis, until,
like the final burst of an orchestral prelude, with drums, trumpets,
fiddles, etc, all going at the same time, are at length ushered in the
opening lines of the ballad.

     "The stwuns that built Gaarge Ridler's oven,
      And thauy qeum from the Bleakeney's Quaar;
      And Gaarge he wur a jolly ould mon,
      And his yead it graw'd above his yare.

     "One thing of Gaarge Ridler's I must commend.
      And that wur vor a notable theng;
      He mead his braags avoore he died,
      Wi' any dree brothers his zons zshou'd zeng.

     "There's Dick the treble and John the mean
      (Let every mon zing in his auwn pleace);
      And Gaarge he wur the elder brother,
      And therevoore he would zing the beass.

     "Mine hostess's moid (and her neaum 'twur Nell)
      A pretty wench, and I lov'd her well;
      I lov'd her well--good reauzon why,
      Because zshe lov'd my dog and I.

     "My dog has gotten zitch a trick
      To visit moids when thauy be zick;
      When thauy be zick and like to die,
      Oh, thether gwoes my dog and I.

     "My dog is good to catch a hen,--
      A duck and goose is vood vor men;
      And where good company I spy,
      Oh, thether gwoes my dog and I.

     "Droo aal the world, owld Gaarge would bwoast,
      Commend me to merry owld England mwoast;
      While vools gwoes scramblin' vur and nigh,
      We bides at whoam, my dog and I.

     "Ov their furrin tongues let travellers brag,
      Wi' their vifteen neames vor a puddin' bag;
      Two tongues I knows ne'er towld a lie,
      And their wearers be my dog and I.

     "My mwother told I when I wur young,
      If I did vollow the strong beer pwoot,
      That drenk would pruv my auverdrow,
      And meauk me wear a thzreadbare cwoat.

     "When I hev dree zixpences under my thumb,
      Oh, then I be welcome wherever I qeum;
      But when I hev none, oh, then I pass by,--
      'Tis poverty pearts good company.

     "When I gwoes dead, as it may hap,
      My greauve shall be under the good yeal tap
      In vouled earms there wool us lie,
      Cheek by jowl, my dog and I."

GLOSSARY.

_stwuns_ = stones.
_quaar_ = quarry.
_yare_ = hair.
_avoor_ = before.
_auwn_ = own.
_furrin_ = foreign.
_greauve_ = grave.
_thauy_ = they.
_yead_ = head.
_mead_ = made.
_dree_ = three.
_pleace_ = place.
_pwoot_ = pewter.
_yeal_ = ale.
_qeum_ = come.
_graw'd_ = grew.
_braags_ = brag.
_zshou'd_ = should.
_beass_ = bass.
_auverdrow_ = overthrow.
_vouled earms_ = folded arms.
_zitch_ = such.

The song itself is as old as the hills, but I have taken the liberty of
appending a glossary, in order that my readers may be spared the
trouble of making out the meaning of some of the words. It was a long
time before it dawned upon me that "vouled earms" meant "folded arms ";
"auverdrow" likewise was very perplexing. Like many of the old ballads,
it sounds like a rigmarole from beginning to end; but there is really a
great deal more in it than meets the eye. George Ridler is no less a
personage than King Charles I., and the oven represents the cavalier
party. (See Appendix.)

Such songs as these are deeply interesting from the fact that they are
handed down by oral tradition from father to son, and written copies are
never seen in the villages. The same applies to the play the mummers act
at Christmas-time; all has to be learnt from the preceding generation of
country folk. But the great feature of our smoking concerts and village
entertainments has always been the reading of Tom Peregrine. This noted
sportsman, who writes one of the best hands I ever saw, has kindly
copied out a recitation he lately gave us. It relates to the adventures
of one Roger Plowman, a Cotswold man who went to London, and is taken
from a book, compiled some years ago by some Ciceter men, entitled
"Roger Plowman's Excursion to London." It was read at a harvest home
given by old Mr. Peregrine in his huge barn, an entertainment which
lasted from six o'clock till twelve. I trust none of my readers will be
any the worse for reading it. Tom Peregrine declares that when he first
gave it at a penny reading some years ago, one or two of the audience
had to be carried out in hysterics--they laughed so much; and another
man fell backwards off his chair, owing to the extreme comicality of it.
The truth is, our versatile keeper is a wonderful reader, and speaking
as he does the true Gloucestershire accent, in the same way as some of
the squires spoke it a century or more ago, it is extremely amusing to
hear him copying the still broader dialect of the labouring class. He
has a tremendous sense of humour, and his epithet for anything amusing
is "Foolish." "'Tis a splendid tale; 'tis so desperate foolish," he
would often say.



ROGER PLOWMAN'S JOURNEY TO LONDON.

Monday marnin' I wur to start early. Aal the village know'd I wur
a-gwain, an' sum sed as how I shood be murthur'd avoor I cum back. On
Sunday I called at the manur 'ouse an' asked cook if she hed any message
vor Sairy Jane. She sed:

"Tell Sairy Jane to look well arter 'e, Roger, vor you'll get lost, tuck
in, an' done vor."

"Rest easy in yer mind, cook," I zed; "Roger is toughish, an' he'll see
thet the honour o' the old county is well show'd out and kep' up."

Cook wished me a pleasant holiday.

I started early on Monday marnin', 'tarmined to see as much as possible.
I wur to walk into Cizzeter, an' vram thur goo by train to Lunnon.

I wur delighted wi' Cizzeter. The shops an' buildin's round the
market-pleace wur vine; an' the church wur grand; didn't look as how he
wur built by the same sort of peeple as put the shops up.

When the Roomans an' anshunt Britons went to church arm-in-arm it wur
always Whitsuntide, an' arter church vetched their banners out wi' brass
eagles on, an' hed a morris dance in the market-pleace. The anshunt
Britons never hed any tailory done, but thay wur all artists wi' the
paint pot. The Consarvatives painted thurselves bloo, and the Radicals
yaller, an' thay as danced the longest, the Roomans sent to Parlyment to
rool the roost.

I wur show'd the pleace wur the peeple started vor Lunnon. I walked in,
an' thur wur a hole in the purtition, an' I seed the peeple a-payin'
thur money vor bits o' pasteboord. I axed the mon if he could take I
to Lunnon.

He sed, "Fust, second, or thurd?"

I sed, "Fust o' course, not arter; vor Sairy Jane ull be waitin'."

He sed 'twer moor ner a pound to pay.

I sed the paason sed 'twer about eight shillin'.

"That's thurd class," he sed; an' that thay ud aal be in Lunnon at the
same time.

So I paid thurd class, an' he shuved out sum pasteboord, an' I put it in
my pocket, an' walked out; an' thur wur a row o' carridges waitin' vor
Lunnon; an' off we went as fast as a racehoss.

I heerd sum say thay wur off to Cheltenham, Gloucester, Tewkesbury,
North Wales; an' I sed to meself, "I be on the rong road. Dang the
buttons o' that little pasteboord seller! he warn't a 'safe mon' to hev
to do wi'."

I enquired if the peeple hed much washin' to do for the railway about
here, an' thay wanted to know what I required to know vor.

I sed because thur war such a long clothesline put up aal the way
along. An' thay aal bust out a-larfin,' an' sed 'twur the tallergraph;
an' one sed as how if the Girt Western thought as how 'twould pay
better, thay ud soon shet up shop, an' take in washin'.

Never in aal me life did I go at such a rate under and awver bridges an
droo holes in the 'ills. We wur soon at Swindon, wur a lot wur at work
as black as tinkers. We aal hed to get out, an' a chap in green clothes
sed we shood hev to wait ten minits.

Thur wur a lot gwain into a room, an' I seed they wur eatin' and
drinkin'; so I ses to meself, "I be rayther peckish, I'll go in an' see
if I can get summut." So in I goes; an' 'twer a vine pleace, wi' sum
nation good-looking gurls a-waitin'.

"I'll hev a half-quartern loaf," I sed.

"We doan't kip a baker's shop," she sed. "Thur's cakes, an' biskits, an'
sponge cakes."

"Hev 'e got sum good bacon, raythur vattish?" I sed.

"No, sur; but thur's sum good poork sausingers at sixpence."

"Hand awver the pleat, young 'ooman," I sed, "an' I'll trubble you vor
the mustard, an' salt, an' that pleat o' bread an' butter, an' I'll set
down an' hev a bit of a snack."

The sausingers wur very good, an' teasted moorish aal the time; but the
bread an' butter wur so nation thin that I had to clap dree or vour
pieces together to get a mouthful. I didn't seem to want a knife or
vork, but the young 'ooman put a white-handled knife an' silver
vork avoor me.

The pleat o' bread an' butter didn't hold out vor the sausingers, so I
hed another pleat o' bread an' butter, an' wur getting on vine. I seem'd
to want summut to wet me whistle, an' wur gwain to order a quart o' ale,
when I heers a whistle an' a grunt vram a steamer, an' out I goos; an',
begum! he wur off.

I beckuned to the chap to stop the train, wi' me vork as I hed jest
stuck into the last sausinger. I hed clapt a good mouthful in, or I
could hev hollur'd loud enough vor him to heer. The train didn't stop,
an' the vellers in green laughed to see I wur left in the lurch, as I
tell'd them that Sairy Jane would be sure to meet the Lunnon train. Thay
sed I could go in an' vinish the sausingers now, an' that wur what I
intended to do.

I asked the young 'ooman for a bottle o' ale, when she put a tallish
bottle down wi' a beg head; an' as I wur dry I knocked the neck off, an'
the ale kum a-fizzing out like ginger pop,--an' 'twer no use to try to
stop the fizzle. I had aal I could get in a glass, an' it zeemed
goodish. She soon run back wi' another bottle in her hand, an' I tell'd
her 'twer pop she hed put down.

"What hev you bin an' dun, sur?" she sed; "that wur a bottle o' Moses's
shampane, at seven shillin's an' sixpence a bottle."

I tell'd her I know'd 'twer nothin' but pop, as it fizzled so. Thur wur
two or dree gentlemen in, an' thay larfed at the fizzle an' I. It seemed
to meak me veel merryish, an' I zed, "What's to pay, young 'ooman?"

She sed, "Thirteen shillin's, sur."

"Thirteen scaramouches!" I sed. "What vor?"

"Seven sausingers, dree and sixpence; twenty-vour slices o' bread an'
butter, two shillin's; an' a bottle of shampane, seven and
sixpence;--kums to thirteen shillin's," she sed.

"Yer tell'd me as how the sausingers wur sixpence," I sed; "an' the
slices o' bread ud cut off a tuppeny loaf."

She sed the sausingers wur sixpence each, an' twenty-vour slices o'
bread an' butter wur a penny each--two shillin's.

I sed, "Do 'e call that reysonable, young 'ooman? 'cause I bain't
a-gwain to pay thirteen shillin's vor't, an' lose me train, an'
disappoint Sairy Jane. Thirteen shillin's vor two or dree sausingers, a
few slices o' bread an' butter, an' a bottle o' pop--not vor Roger, if
he knows it"

Up kums a chap an' ses, "Be you gwain to pay vor wat you hev hed?"

"To be sure I be. Thur's sixpence vor the sausingers, tuppence vor bread
an' butter, an' dreppence the pop,--that meaks 'levenpence"; an' I drows
down a shillin', and ses, "Thur's the odd penny vor the young 'ooman as
waited upon me."

"You hed thirteen shillin's worth o' grub an' shampane, an' you'll hev
to pay twelve shillin's moor or I shall take 'e away an' lock 'e up vor
the night," he sed.

"Do 'e thenk as how you could do aal that, young man?" I sed. "No
disrespect to 'e though, vor that don't argify; but I could ketch hold
on 'e by the scroff o' yer neck an' the seat o' yer breeches, an' pitch
'e slick into the roadway among the iron."

"Look heer, Meyster Turmot, you'll hev to pay twelve shillin' moor avoor
you gwoes out o' heer, or Lunnon won't hold 'e to-night."

I know'd Sairy Jane ud be a-waitin', an' as he sed the train were moast
ready, I drows down a suverin', an' hed the change, an' as I wur a-gwain
out I hollurs out as how I shood remember Swindleum stashun. I heer'd
the lot a-larfin, an' hed moast a mind to go in an' twirl me ground ash
among um vor thur edification.

I wur soon on the road agen, a-gwain like a house a-vire, an' thur wur
more clotheslines aal the way along on pwosts.

W'en we got nearish to Lunnon I seed sum girt beg round barrels painted
black.[3] I axed a chap what thay wur, an' he sed that thay wur beg
barrels o' stingo, an' thur wur pipes laid on to the peeple's housen vor
thay to draw vram.

[Footnote 3: Gasometers.]

I sed that wur very good accommodashun to hev XXX laid on vor use.

We soon druv into the beggest pleace I wur ever in since I wur born'd.
Thay sed 'twer Paddington, an' that I wur to get out, vor they wurn't
a-gwain to drive no furder. I hed paid to go to Lunnon, an' thay shood
drive all the way when thay wur paid avoor'and.

I wur tell'd Paddington wur the Lunnon stashun by a porter, an' I look'd
round vor Sairy Jane, as she sed as how her ud be heer at one o'clock;
and porter sed 'twer then dree o'clock, an' likely Sairy Jane had gone
away. Drat thay sausingers as mead I too late vor the train!

I set down to wait for Sairy Jane, as I didn't know her directions, an'
hed left the letter she sent at whoam. Arter waitin' for a long while I
started out, an' 'oped to see her in sum part o' Lunnon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another story Tom Peregrine is fond of reading to us relates how a
labouring man was recommended to get some oxtail soup to strengthen him.
He goes into the town and sees "Oxikali Soap" written up on a shop
window. He buys a cake of it, makes his wife boil it up in the pot, and
then proceeds to drink it for his health. When he has taken a spoonful
or two and found it very unpleasant, his wife makes him finish it up,
saying it is sure to do him good; and she consoles him with the
assurance that all medicine is nasty.

At the harvest home in the big barn, after the applause which followed
Tom Peregrine's recitation had died away, a sturdy carter stood up and
sang a very old Gloucestershire song, which runs as follows:--

     THE TURMUT HOWER.

    "I be a turmut hower,
       Vram Gloucestershire I came;
     My parents be hard-working folk,
       Giles Wapshaw be my name.
           The vly, the vly,
           The vly be on the turmut,
           An' it be aal me eye, and no use to try
           To keep um off the turmut.

     "Zum be vond o' haymakin',
      An' zum be vond o' mowin',
    But of aal the trades thet I likes best
      Gie I the turmut howin'.
          The vly, etc.

    "'Twas on a summer mornin',
       Aal at the brake o' day,
     When I tuck up my turmut hower,
       An' trudged it far away.
           The vly, etc.

    "The vust pleace I got work at,
       It wus by the job,
     But if I hed my chance agen,
       I'd rayther go to quod.
           The vly, etc.

    "The next pleace I got work at,
       'Twer by the day,
     Vor one old Varmer Vlower,
     Who sed I wur a rippin' turmut hower.
           The vly, etc.

     "Sumtimes I be a-mowin',
      Sumtimes I be a-plowin',
    Gettin' the vurrows aal bright an' clear
      Aal ready vor turmut sowin'.
          The vly, etc.

    "An' now my song be ended
       I 'ope you won't call encore;
     But if you'll kum here another night,
       I'll seng it ye once more.
           The vly, etc."

[Illustration: On the Wolds. 116.png]



CHAPTER V.

ON THE WOLDS.

Time passes quickly for the sportsman who has the good fortune to dwell
in the merry Cotswolds. Spring gives place to summer and autumn to
winter with a rapidity which astonishes us as the years roll on.

So diversified are the amusements that each season brings round that no
time of year lacks its own characteristic sport. In the spring, ere red
coats and "leathers" are laid aside by the fox-hunting squire, there is
the best of trout-fishing to be enjoyed in the Coln and
Windrush--streams dear to the heart of the accomplished expert with the
"dry" fly. In spring, too, are the local hunt races at Oaksey and
Sherston, at Moreton-in-the-Marsh and Andoversford. Pleasant little
country gatherings are these race meetings, albeit the _bonâ-fide_
hunter has little chance of distinguishing himself between the flags in
any part of England nowadays. The Lechlade Horse Show, too, is a great
institution in the V.W.H. country at the close of the hunting season.

Annually at Whitsuntide for very many centuries "sports" have been held
in all parts of the country. It is said that they are the _floralia_ of
the Romans. Included in these sports are many of those amusements of the
middle ages of which Ben Jonson sang:

     "The Cotswold with the Olympic vies
      In manly games and goodly exercise."

Horse-racing is a great feature in the programme of these Whitsuntide
festivities.

The "may-fly" carnival among the trout, together with lots of cricket
matches, make the time pass all too quickly for those who spend the
glorious summer months in the Cotswolds. By the time the Cirencester
Horse Show is over, the cubs are getting strong and mischievous.
Directly the corn is cut the hounds are out again in the lovely
September mornings. By this time partridges are plentiful, and must be
shot ere they get too wild. So year by year the ball is kept rolling in
the quiet Cotswold Hills; the days go by, yet content reigns amongst
all classes.

     "Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
      Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
      Along the cool, sequestered vale of life
      They kept the noiseless tenor of their way."

Then there is so much to do indirectly connected with sport of all
kinds, if you live in a Cotswold village. Woods and fox coverts must be
kept in good order, so that there may always be cover to shelter game
and foxes. Cricket grounds afford unlimited scope for labour and
experiment.

If you either own or rent a trout stream there is no end to the
improvements that can be made with a little time and labour. Deep holes
or even lakes may be dug, great stones and fir poles may be utilised, to
form eddies and waterfalls and homes for the trout. By means of a little
stocking with fresh blood a stream may often be turned from a worthless
piece of water into a splendid fishery. There is no limit to the
articles of food which can be imported. Gammari, or fresh-water shrimps,
caddis and larvae, and various species of weeds which nourish insects
and snails--notably the _chara flexilis_ from Loch Leven--may all be
procured and transplanted to your water. The beautiful springs which
feed the Coln at various intervals, where the watercress grows freely,
would be of great service in forming lakes; there is so much poor marshy
land even in the fertile valleys that might be utilised, with advantage
and profit for the purpose of trout preserving.

Talking of watercress, this is a branch of farming which appears to be
somewhat neglected on the banks of the Coln. The villagers tell you that
watercress, like the oyster, is good in every month with an "r" in it:
so that all through the year, save in May, June, July, and August,
watercress may be picked and sent to market. But the proprietor of
watercress beds attaches little importance to the fact that he possesses
large beds of this wholesome and reproductive plant, and you will not
see it on his table once in a month of Sundays. In London one eats
watercress all the year round, more especially in the months without an
"r," but it does not come from the Cotswolds.

There is not much covert shooting on these hills. The country is so open
and the coverts so small and deficient in underwood that pheasant
preserving on a large scale is not practicable; for this reason the
preservation of foxes is the first consideration. At Stowell, Sherborne,
Rendcombe, Barnsley, and Cirencester, as well as on a few other large
estates, a large head of game is reared; while foxes are plentiful too.
But the owners and occupiers of most of the manors are content to rely
on nature to supply them with game in due season.

However, for those gunners who, like the writer, are both unskilful and
unambitious, the shooting obtained on the Cotswold Hills is very
enjoyable. In September from ten to twenty brace of partridges are to be
picked up, together with what hares a man cares to shoot, and a few
rabbits. Then landrails or corncrakes, and last, but not least, an
occasional quail, are usually included in the bag. Quails are rather
partial to this district; during the first fortnight of September a few
are generally shot on the manor we frequent. On August 17th this year we
found a nest containing five young quails about half-grown.

But the real pleasure connected with this kind of sport lies in the
sense of wildness. The air is almost as good a tonic as that of the
Scotch moors, whilst there is the additional satisfaction of being at
home in September instead of flying away to the North, and having to put
up with all the discomfort of a long railway journey each way.

There is no time of year one would sooner spend at home on Cotswold than
the month of September. Nature is then at her best: the cold, bleak
hills are clothed with the warmth of golden stubble; the autumnal haze
now softens the landscape with those lights and shades which add so much
of loveliness and sense of mystery to a hill country; the rich aftermath
is full of animal life; birds of all descriptions are less wild and more
easily observed than is the case later on, when the pastures and downs
have been thinned by frost and there is no shelter left. Now you may see
the kestrels hovering in mid air, and the great sluggish heron wending
his ethereal way to the upper waters of the trout stream. You watch him
till he drops suddenly from the heavens, to alight in the little valley
which lies a short mile away, invisible amid the far-stretching
tablelands. Occasionally, too, a marsh-harrier may be met with, but this
is a _rara avis_ even in these outlandish parts. Peregrine falcons are
uncommon too, though one may yet see a pair of them now and then if one
keeps a sharp look-out at all times and seasons. There are wimbrels and
curlews that have been shot here during recent years stuffed and hung up
in glass cases in old Mr. Peregrine's house.

Of other birds which are becoming scarcer year by year in England, the
kingfishers are not uncommon in these parts; you will often see the
brilliant little fellow dart past you as you walk by the stream in
summer. Water-ousels or dippers are scarce; we have seen but one
specimen in the last three years.

In September, as you walk over the fields, the Cotswolds are seen at
their best. Somehow or other a country never looks so well from the
roads as it appears when you are in the fields. The man who prefers the
high road had better not live in the Cotswolds; for these roads, mended
as they are with limestone in the more remote parts of the district,
become terribly sticky in winter, while the grass fields and stubbles
are generally as dry as a bone. There is but a small percentage of clay
in the soil, but a good deal of lime, and five inches down is the hard
rock; therefore this light, stony soil never holds the rain, but allows
it to percolate rapidly through, even as a sieve. When the sun is hot
after a frost the ploughs "carry" certainly, but this is because they
dry so quickly; they seldom remain thoroughly wet for any length of
time. Consequently, in hunting, the feet of hounds, horses, and even of
foxes pick up the sticky, arable soil, instead of splashing through it,
and scent is spoiled thereby. Doubtless the lime in the soil adds to its
stickiness. It is amusing to watch a fox "break" covert and make his way
over a plough which "carries": he travels very badly; we have seen him
fail to jump a sheep hurdle at the first attempt. Fortunately for the
fox, the hounds are also handicapped by these conditions, and scent is
wretched. This might appear at first sight to show that the scent of
foxes is chiefly given off from their feet. We can recall few occasions
on which a plough that "carried" held a "burning scent." But little
though we know of the mysteries of "scent," it is generally agreed that
the "steaming trail" emanates chiefly from the body and breath of a fox,
even though on certain days there is no evidence of any scent, save on
the ground. It is probable, however, that on light ploughlands
evaporation is so great when the sun is shining (unless the wind is
sufficiently cold to counteract the heat of the sun and prevent rapid
evaporation) that all scent from the body and breath of the fox, save
that which happens to cling to the ground, is borne upwards and lost in
the upper air. _The hounds therefore have to fall back on whatever scent
may remain clinging to the soil_, those occasions of course excepted
when the great density or gravity of the air prevents scent from rising
and dispersing, and causes it to hang _breast high_.

After some years of careful experiment with the hygrometer and
barometer, and after an intricate investigation of scent (that
mysterious matter which is given off from the skin and breath of foxes),
I have come to the conclusion that if we could get an Isaac Newton to
"whip in" to a Tom Firr for about a twelvemonth, we might very likely
come to know all about it. In standing on ground whereon "angels fear to
tread," I am fully aware that I speak as a fool. But let me state that
it is on the barometer that I now place my somewhat limited reliance on
a hunting morning, and not on the hygrometer, on the weight of the
column of air on a given point of the surface of the earth, rather than
on the state of the evaporations, the relative humidity, and the dew
point. And I have noticed that the best scenting days have been those
when the thermometer has given readings from 38º up to 46º Fahrenheit in
the shade. A high and steady glass, an almost imperceptible east or
north-east wind, with the ground soaked with moisture and no frost
during the previous night, is the only combination of conditions under
which scent on the grass is a moral certainty. On the other hand, a low
and unsteady glass, a warm, gusty south or west wind, with a hot sun,
following a frost, or a day with cold showers, with bright, sunny
intervals, or during the afternoon (but not always the morning) before a
storm of wind or rain,--such are the conditions which make so many of
our attempts to hunt the fox by scent a miserable farce; yet even on
these days hounds may run during some part of the day. When the
barometer is thoroughly unsettled there may be light local currents,
perfectly imperceptible to man, yet felt by cows and sheep--currents
created like winds by a variation of temperature in different parts of
any given field, and which will scatter the scent and spoil the sport.
These currents, rapid evaporation combined with a lack of steady
atmospheric pressure, and that sticky state of soil which on ploughed
land invariably follows a frost, and in a lesser degree affects grass,
causing a fox to take his pad scent on with him (all the particles that
do not cling to the ground having been diffused and lost in the
air),--these are the curses of modern hunting fields and the chief
causes of bad scenting days.

After September is past the shooting man will not get very much sport on
the Cotswolds, as far as the partridges are concerned, for they are not
numerous enough to be worth driving; they soon become as wild as they
can possibly be. On Hatherop and some other estates good partridge
driving is enjoyed. The farmers are very fond of shooting them under a
"kite,"--this, as it is hardly necessary to explain, is an artificial
representation of the hawk. It is flown high up in the air at some
distance ahead of the guns. The birds, seeing what they take to be a
very large and savage-looking hawk hovering above them, ready to pounce
down at a moment's notice, become frightened, and lie crouching in the
hedges and turnips, until they almost have to be kicked up by the
sportsmen. But when once they do get up they fly straight away, nor do
they come back for a long time. This mode of shooting is all very well
once in a way, but if indulged in habitually it scares the birds,
driving them on to other manors. Not having seen it successfully carried
out, we are not fond of the method, but there are good sportsmen in
these parts who advocate it. Some maintain that this cannot be called a
really sportsmanlike way of shooting partridges, though there is
doubtless room for two opinions on the question.

Later on in the autumn, when November frosts begin to attract snipes to
the withybeds and water meadows by the Coln, the unambitious gunner may
often enjoy the charm of a small and select mixed bag.

Two of us went out for an hour last winter before breakfast, having been
informed that a woodcock was lying in an ash copse by the river. We got
the woodcock--a somewhat _rara avis_ in small, isolated coverts on the
hills; in addition, the bag contained one snipe, one wild duck, two
pheasants, six rabbits, a pigeon, a heron, and some moorhens. Now this
was very good sport, because it was totally unexpected. The majority of
shooting people might not think much of so small a bag, but it must be
remembered that the charm of this kind of shooting is its wildness. It
seems rather hard to kill herons, but anybody who has tried to preserve
trout will agree that herons are the greatest enemies with which the
trout-fisher has to contend. One heron will clear a shallow stream in a
very short time. When the floods are out, trout fall a ready prey to
these rapacious birds. The kingfishers likewise have a very good time.
The fish will gorge themselves with worms picked up on the inundated
meadows, until they are so full that the worms actually begin falling
out of their mouths. I picked several up last autumn which had been
stabbed, I suppose, by a heron. They were unharmed, save for a small
round hole, as if made by a bullet; there was no other mark on them. But
when taken up, the worms came out of their mouths by the score!
Kingfishers are carefully preserved, in spite of their destructiveness,
but one must draw the line at herons.

Waiting for wild duck coming into the "spring" on a frosty night is
cold work, but very good fun. They breed here in fair numbers, and fly
away in August. But when the ground becomes "scrumpety," as the natives
say, with the first severe frost, back they come from the frozen meres
to their old home; and if one can keep out of sight (and this is no easy
matter in December) many a shot can be obtained in the withybeds by the
river. Teal and widgeon may be shot occasionally in the same manner.

Sometimes, when you are upon the hills with Tom Peregrine, the keeper,
trying to pick up a brace or two of partridges for the house, he will
suddenly say, "_Quad down!_" then, throwing himself on to his hands and
knees in breathless anxiety, he will begin whistling for "all he knows."
You imitate him to the best of your ability, and soon, if you are lucky,
an enormous flock of golden plover flash over you. Four barrels are
fired almost instantaneously, and the deadly "twelve-bore" of your
companion is seldom fired in vain.

Green plover, or lapwings, are numerous enough on the Cotswolds. They
are wonderfully difficult to circumvent, nevertheless. You crouch down
under a wall, while your men go ever so far round to drive them to you;
but it is the rarest thing in the world to bag one. Their eggs are very
difficult to find in the breeding season. It is the male bird that, like
a terrified and anxious mother, flies round and round you with piteous
cries; the female bird, when disturbed, flies straight away.

Pigeon-shooting with decoys is a very favourite amusement among the
Cotswold farmers. They manage to bag an enormous quantity in a hard
winter, sometimes getting over a hundred in a day. Wood-pigeons come in
thousands to the stubble fields when the beech nuts have come to an end.
Large flocks of them annually migrate to England from Northern Europe.
Crouching in a hedge or under a wall, you may enjoy as pretty a day's
sport as ever fell to the lot of mortal man. A few dead birds are placed
on the stubble to attract the flocks, and a grand variety of flying
shots may be obtained as the wood-pigeons fly over. The year 1897 was
remarkable for this shooting. Between November 20th and 30th two of our
farmers killed close on a thousand of these birds. Some of them
doubtless were potted on the ground. Tom Peregrine remarked that "he
never saw such a sight of dead pigeons. The cheese-room up at the farm
was full of them." The vast flocks that blacken the skies for a few
short weeks in November disappear as suddenly as they come. After
November they are no more seen.

There would be many more partridges were it not for the rooks and
magpies. Hedges wherein the birds can hide their nests are few and far
between in the wall country, so the keen-eyed rook spies out many a nest
in the spring of the year. For this reason and because they eat the
corn, the farmers hate them. We cannot share their feelings. We should
be sorry to see the old rookery in the garden diminished in the
slightest degree. Jays and magpies are terribly numerous; they are rare
egg-stealers. We have seen as many as twelve of the latter lately
flying all together. Magpies are difficult to get at; they will sit
perched upon the topmost twigs of the trees, but will invariably fly
away before you get within shot.

It is interesting to rear a few pheasants annually. There is no bird
which gives more delight, even if fairly tame; their beautiful colouring
and cheerful crowing are always pleasant in the garden and woods around
your house. If you feed them every day, they will come regularly up to
the very door; and with them come the swans, waddling up from the water,
looking very much out of their element. Sometimes, too, a moorhen will
join the party; whilst two little wild ducks, the sole survivors of a
brood of sixteen, which were attacked and killed by a stoat, will take
food right out of the mouths of the good-natured old swans. Peacocks I
would not care to have round the house; but there is nothing more in
touch with English country life than the glorious red, green, and brown
colouring of a "fine" cock pheasant strutting proudly across the lawn on
his way to his roosting-place in the firs, contrasting as he does with
the majestic form and snowy plumage of the stately swans, which glide
about the silent Coln at the bottom of the garden--the incarnation of
grace and symmetry. Truly some of the most common of animals are also
the most beautiful.

Besides the rooks, there is another bird which the farmers love to wage
incessant war upon. The other day I received the following message
printed on the back of a postcard:--

"A meeting will be held at the Swan Hotel, Bibury, on Friday, November
13th, at 6.30 p.m., to arrange about starting a _Sparrow Club_ for the
district."

       *       *       *       *       *

"_What is a Sparrow Club?_" I anxiously enquired the other day of a
labouring man, a particular friend of mine, whom I happened to fall in
with on his way to chapel. He answered that it was a club for killing
sparrows when they get too numerous--paying boys a farthing a head for
every bird they catch, and giving prizes for the greatest number killed.
Boys may often be seen out at night, with long poles and nets attached
to them, catching sparrows in the trees. But my friend tells me that the
way he likes to catch them is to go into a barn at night with a lantern.
"You must hold the lantern under your coat so as to half screen the
light, and the birds will fly at the light and settle on your
shoulders." He tells me you can pick them off your clothes by the dozen.
I have never tried it, certainly, as, personally, I have no quarrel with
the sparrows. I was disappointed that the "Sparrow Club," for which a
great public meeting had to be convened, was not of a more exciting
nature. One was led to believe by the importance of the printed postcard
that some good old English custom was about to be revived.

A farmer has just brought me in a peregrine falcon that he shot this
morning. He is of course very proud of the achievement. It is useless to
argue with him on the question of preserving birds that are becoming
scarce in England. He considers that a _rara avis_ such as this, which
is "here to-day and gone to-morrow," is a prize which does not often
fall to the lot of the gunner; it must be bagged at all hazards. Nor is
it easy to answer the argument which he seldom fails to put forth, that
if he doesn't shoot it, somebody else will.

Talking of rare birds, I shall never forget seeing a wild swan come
sailing up the Coln during a very hard frost two years ago. Two of us
were out after wild duck, and it was a grand sight to watch this
magnificent bird winging his way rapidly up stream at a height of about
fifty yards. It is rare indeed to see them in these parts, though the
vicar of Bibury tells me that seven wild swans were once seen on the
Coln near that village; but this was some years ago. On the same
authority I learn that a Solan goose, or gannet, has been known to visit
this stream. Tom Peregrine shot one a few years back; also a puffin, a
bird with a parrot-like beak and of the auk tribe. Wild geese frequently
pass over us, following the course of the stream.

On a bright, warm day in October, such a day as we usually have a score
or more of in the course of our much-abused English autumn, it is
pleasant to take one's gun and, leaving behind the quiet, peaceful
valley and the old-world houses of the Cotswold hamlet, to ascend the
hill and seek the great, rolling downs, a couple of miles away from any
sign of human habitation. You may get a shot at a partridge or a
wood-pigeon as you go. Hares you might shoot, if you cared to, in every
field. But on the other hand you will be equally well pleased if your
gun is not fired off, for it is peace and quiet that you are really in
search of,--the noise of a shot and the jar of a gun do not suit your
present mood.

After walking for half an hour you come to a bit of high ground, where
you have often stood before, and, resting your gun against a wall, you
gaze at the view beyond.

     "Quocunque adspicias, nihil est nisi gramen et aer."

Nothing particularly striking, perhaps, is visible to the eye, yet to my
mind there is a charm about it which the pen is quite unable to
describe. Below is a wide expanse of undulating downland, divided into
fifty-acre fields by means of loose, uncemented walls of grey stone. The
grass is green for the time of year, and scattered about are horses,
cattle, and sheep, contentedly nibbling the short fine turf. In the
midst of mile upon mile of rolling downs stands forth prominently one
field of plough, of the richest brown hue; whilst six miles away a long
belt of tall trees, half hidden by haze, marks the outline of Stowell
Park. Save for one ivy-covered homestead, miles away on the right,
nothing else is in sight.

It is past five o'clock, and the sun, which has been shining brightly
all day, with that genial warmth which one only fully appreciates as the
winter approaches, is beginning to descend. It is the lights and shades
which play over this wide stretch of open country which makes the
landscape look so beautiful. And when the wreaths of white, woolly
clouds begin to glow round their furthermost edges like coals of fire on
a frosty night, with all the promise of a brilliant sunset, this stretch
of hill and plain wears an aspect which, once seen, you will never
forget. It takes your thoughts away into the great unknown--the
infinite,--that mysterious world which is ever around us, and which
seems nearer when we are looking at a beautiful sunset or a beautiful
view than at any other time in this life, save, for ought we know,
during the last few moments of our earthly existence. And although no
human habitation is anywhere to be seen, the air is full of the spirits
of bygone generations and of bygone _races_ of men. There are traces of
humanity in all directions, wherever your eye may gaze, but they are the
traces of a forgotten people.

Yonder semicircular ridge was once the rampart of an ancient British
town; though, save in the tangled copse hard by, where the plough has
never been at work, it is fast disappearing. Many a stone lying about
the camp bears unmistakable marks of fire.

A glance of the eye westwards, and your thoughts are carried back to the
Roman invasion; for scarce five miles off lies the ancient Roman villa
of Chedworth. Then, again, tradition has it that a mile away from this
spot, and close to the old manor house, skirmishes were fought in later
days, at the time the Civil Wars were raging, when many a chivalrous
cavalier and many a stern, unbending Puritan lay dead on yonder field,
or, maybe, was carried into the old house to linger and to die in the
very room in which you slept last night. Everywhere in England are
battlefields; but they are, in the words of De Quincey, "battlefields
that nature has long ago reconciled to herself with the sweet oblivion
of flowers."

This very mound on which you are standing, is it not the burying-place
of a race which dwelt on the Cotswolds full three thousand years ago?
And were not human remains found here a few years back, when this, in
common with many other barrows hard by, was opened, and an underground
chamber discovered therein--the earthly resting-place of the bones of
the unknown dead?

"The silence of deep eternities, of worlds from beyond the morning
stars--does it not speak to thee? The unborn ages,--the old graves, with
their long-mouldering dust,--the very tears that wetted it, now all
dry,--do not these speak to thee what ear hath not heard?"

     "Solemn before us
      Veiled the dark Portal--
      Goal of all mortal.
      Stars silent rest o'er us,
      Graves under us silent."

Well has Carlyle translated the great German poet. And the old barrows
that lie scattered over these wide-stretching downs are not dumb; they
are continually speaking to us of those things "which ear hath not
heard"; and at no time have they more to tell than at the close of a
mild, peaceful day in October, when all else, save for the faint
tinkling of the distant sheep-bells, is silent as death, and the sun,
ere once more disappearing, is shedding a solemn glow over the deserted,
mysterious uplands of the Cotswold Hills.

But the partridges are "calling" all around, and a covey actually
passes over your head. Your sporting instincts begin to revive, and you
take up your gun and proceed to stalk that covey, stealing round under a
wall. Then you suddenly remember that the V.W.H. hounds meet in your
village to-morrow, and you begin wondering whether they will once again
find the great dog fox that several times last season led you over the
wide, open country that now lies mapped out before you. _Your_ fox, too,
one of a litter you came upon two springs ago, in a little spinney not
half a mile from where you are standing now, stub-bred and of the
greyhound stamp, fleet of foot and lithe of limb. Each time the hounds
had come to draw he was at home in the covert on the brow of the hill
which shelters the old manor house you inhabit from the cold blast of
winter. Here he loved to dwell, and hunt moorhens and dabchicks and
water-rats all night long by the banks of silvery Coln. But on three
occasions within six weeks, no sooner did the hounds enter the wood than
a shrill scream proclaimed him away on the far side. You were mounted on
a good horse, and were away as soon as the pack. And then for thirty
minutes the "old customer" cantered away over those broad pastures,
hounds and horses tearing after him on a breast-high scent, but never
gaining an inch of ground. Two leagues were quickly traversed ere yonder
distant belt of trees was reached, where the dry leaves lay rotting on
the ground, and there was not an atom of scent. So he saved his life,
and the tired, mud-bespattered sportsmen vow that there never was such
a run seen before, so thrilling is the ecstasy of "pace" and so
enchanting the stride of a well-bred horse.

'Tis a wild, deserted tract of country that stretches from Cirencester
right away to the north of Warwickshire. For fifty miles you might
gallop on across those undulating fields, and meet no human being on
your way. We have ridden forty miles on end along the Fosseway, and,
save in the curious half-forsaken old towns of Moreton-in-the-Marsh and
Stow-on-the-Wold, we scarcely met a soul on the journey. What a
marvellous work was that old Roman Fosseway! Raised high above the level
of the adjoining fields, it runs literally "as straight as an arrow"
through the heart of the grassy Midlands. And what a rare hunting
country it passes through! We saw but one short piece of barbed wire in
our journey of over forty miles. Now that farming is no longer
remunerative, the whole country seems to be given up to hunting. Depend
upon it, it is this sport alone that circulates money through this
deserted land.

Time was when the uplands of Gloucestershire were almost entirely under
the plough, when good scenting days seldom gladdened the heart of the
hunting man, and when, in a ride over the Cotswold tableland, the
excitement of a fast gallop on grass was an impossibility. Those were
the days when land at thirty shillings an acre was eagerly sought after
and the wheat crop amply repaid those who cultivated it. Now, alas!
farms are to be had for the asking, rent free; but nobody will take
them, and the country is rapidly going back to its original
uncultivated state. The farmer, nevertheless, does not lose heart.

To lay down such light land into permanent pasture does not pay; it is
therefore left to its own devices, with the result that in a short time
weeds and moss and rough grasses spring up--less unprofitable than
ploughed fields, and almost as favourable for hunting the fox as the
fair pastures of the Vale of Aylesbury. However,

     "Nihil est ab omni
      Parte beatum."

There are other things to be done in this life besides riding across
country in the wake of the flying pack, glorious and exhilarating though
the pastime be; and the sooner these great wastes of unprolific land are
once more transformed into wheat-growing plough, the better will it be
for all of us.

So you stroll dreamily homewards, musing on these things, and wondering
whether you will have another glorious gallop to-morrow. You will just
go round by that spinney to see if the earth you gave orders to be
stopped up is properly closed. But stop! What is that lying curled up
under the wall not ten yards off? See, he stirs! he rises lazily and
looks round! 'Tis the very fox! Long and lean and wiry is he, fine drawn
and sleek as a trained racehorse, with a brush nearly two feet long!
Brown as the ploughed field you were looking at just now, save for the
tip of his brush, which is white as snow. He trots off along the wall,
offering the easiest of broadside shots if you were villain enough to
take advantage of it. He does not hurry; he stops and looks round after
a bit, as much as to say, "I trust you." But when you steal cautiously
towards him he once more lollops along. You follow, to see where he goes
to when he has jumped over the high wall into the next field. But he
does not jump over, but _on to_ the wall, and there he sits looking at
you until you are once more nearly up to him; then he disappears the
other side, and you run up and peep over. He is nowhere to be seen! You
look along the wall for a hole into which he could have popped, but in
vain. You stoop down and try to track him by scent and the mark of his
pad, but all to no purpose; and from that day to this you have never
discovered what became of him.

[Illustration: "THE OLD CUSTOMER." 138.png]



CHAPTER VI.

A GALLOP OVER THE WALLS.

     "Waken, lords and ladies gay,
      To the greenwood haste away;
      We can show you where he lies,
      Fleet of foot and tall of size."

      SIR WALTER SCOTT.

The next morning you are up betimes, for the hounds meet at the house at
nine o'clock. You are not sorry on looking out of your window to see
that a thick mist at present envelopes the country. With the ground in
the dry state it is in, this mist, accompanied as it is by a heavy dew,
is your only chance of a scent. How else could they hunt the jackal in
India if it was not for this dew? Thus reflecting, you recall pleasant
recollections of gallops over hard ground with the Bombay hounds, and
comfort yourself with the thought that the ground here to-day cannot be
as hard as that Indian soil. You are soon into your breeches and boots
and down to breakfast. In the dining-room a large party is already
assembled, for there are five men and two ladies turning out from the
house, whilst one or two keen sportsmen have already put in an
appearance from afar.

The hounds turn up punctual to the appointed time. How beautiful and
majestic they look as they suddenly come into sight amid beech and ash
and walnut, whilst the bright pageant advances leisurely and in order
over the ancient ivy-covered bridge which spans the silent river, where
the morning mist still hangs, and the grass shines white with silvery
dew. In good condition they look, too--a credit to their huntsman, who
evidently has not neglected giving them plenty of exercise on the roads
during the summer. You greet the genial master; then in answer to his
enquiry as to where you would like him to draw, you point to the hanging
wood on the brow of the hill, and tell him that as you heard them
barking there this very morning it is a certain find. No sooner are the
words out of your mouth than a holloa breaks the silence of the early
morn: the gardener has "viewed" a cub within a hundred yards of the
house. Desperately bold are the cubs at this time of year, before they
have been hunted. Their first experience of being "stopped out" for the
night does not seem to have frightened them at all. They have been
kicking up a rare shindy most of the night in the covert close to
the house.

     "Alas I regardless of their doom,
      The little victims play."

By to-night they will have become sadder and wiser beings. Several
people will be glad of this, the keeper included: for the fowls have
suffered lately; there have also been one or two well-planned and
carefully thought out sallies on the young pheasants--without much
damage, however. Not long ago a bold young cub spent some time in
breaking open the lid of one of the coops, in which were some late
pheasants. He actually forced the wire netting from the roof of the
coop, although it was firmly nailed to the woodwork. But he could not
quite get his head in, for when the keeper arrived on the scene at five
o'clock a.m., there he was, clawing and scratching at the birds. His
efforts met with no success, however, for not a single bird was badly
injured, though some damage might have been done if Master Reynard had
not been interrupted at this critical moment. Young cubs are like
puppies, very mischievous. There are plenty of rabbits about, and they
are the food foxes like best; poultry and pheasants are pursued and
killed out of pure love of mischief.

We must return to the hounds. Our huntsman wisely determines not to go
to the holloa, for he prefers to let the young entry draw for their
game. Besides which, if this cub has gone away, he is one of the right
sort, and does not require schooling. For as we all know, one of the
objects of cub-hunting is to teach the young foxes that if they don't
leave the covert when the hounds are thrown in, they will get a rare
dusting. So, the hounds having been taken to the "up-wind" end of the
wood, the huntsman begins drawing steadily "down wind." Let them have
every chance now; it will be quite early enough to begin drawing up wind
when the leaf is off and Reynard has got a bit shy. Blood is an
excellent thing for young hounds, nay, for all hounds, early in the
season; but we don't want to chop any cubs before they know where they
are or what it all means.

And soon the whole valley re-echoes with hound music, as the pack come
crashing towards us through the thick underwood. We get a splendid view
of the proceedings--for the covert is a long, narrow strip of about ten
acres, running in the shape of a bow round the hill immediately above
the place where we are stationed. There is another small wood of about
the same size on the other side of the little valley. For this our fox
makes, the hounds dashing close after him through the brook. Round and
round they go, and it is evident that this cub (unlike several of his
brethren who have taken their departure, viewed by the whole field, but
_not_ holloaed at) does not intend to face the open country. Scent is
good in covert, perhaps because there are at present few of those dry
leaves on the ground that spoil scent after the "fall of the leaf"; the
result is, we kill a cub. This will be a lesson to the rest of the
family when they return to-night and discover the fearful end that
befalls foxes that "hang in covert." Another cub having gone to ground
in a rabbit-hole, the keeper is given injunctions to have this hole,
together with any other large ones he can find, stopped up, after
allowing a day or two to pass, especially making sure, by the use of
terriers and also by the tracks, that he does not stop any cubs in.

We now leave the home coverts and start away for a withybed about a mile
up the river, where we are told there is a litter. Here, however, we do
not find, though it is the likeliest place in the world for a fox. As
the hounds dash into the withybed a whole string of wild ducks get up,
circle round us, and then fly straight away up stream in the shape of
the letter V--a sight unsurpassed if you happen to be a lover of nature.

Our next draw is an isolated artificial gorse of about six acres. If we
find here, we must have a gallop, for there is no covert of any size
within a four-mile radius; a fine open country lies all around; walls to
jump and large fields of fifty acres apiece to gallop over. There is
some light plough, but each year the plough gets scarcer, for the
Cotswolds are rapidly being allowed to tumble back into grass or,
rather, into _weeds_.

A great proportion of the stone-wall country hereabouts consists of
downs divided into large enclosures; when the walls are low there is no
reason why the pace should not be almost as good as it is in an
unenclosed country. Happily to-day we seem to be in for a quick thing,
for before the whip has had time to get to the end of the covert, hounds
are away, without a sound, and we start off fully two hundred yards
behind them.

The old fox, for a fiver! But there is no stopping them; so, knowing the
country and the earth he is making for, you make tracks, as hard as
your horse can pelt, in the direction in which the hounds are going, and
very soon they turn to you, and you find yourself almost alongside of
them. They are running "mute," with their noses several inches off the
ground; it almost looks as if they had "got a view" of him. But this is
not the case. Scent is "breast high." Two old hounds that you know
well--Crusty and Governor--are leading, though you are glad that one or
two you do not know (evidently some of this year's entry) are not
far behind.

The country, which has so far been rather hilly, now opens out into a
flat tableland. You fly on, thankful that you are on a thoroughbred, and
that he is in good condition. It pays well to keep a horse "up" all the
summer in this country, for some of the quickest things of the season
take place in October. Scent is often good at this time of the year,
because the fields are full of keep: there is plenty of rough grass
about. Later on they will be pared down by sheep, and the frost will
make them as bare as a turnpike road. Then again that abomination, a
"carrying" plough, is not so likely to be met with in October; the white
frosts are not severe enough. Later on they are a constant source of
annoyance to a huntsman, and invariably cause a check.

But your horse, well bred and fit though he be, is doing all he can to
live with the hounds. Fortunately, you know that he is too good to
chance a wall, even when blown. At the pace hounds are going you have
not much time to trot slowly at the walls in the orthodox fashion; you
must take them as they come, high and low alike, at a fair pace, taking
a pull a few strides before your mount takes off. Oh, how exhilarating
is a gallop in this fine Cotswold air in the cool autumnal morning! and
what a splendid view you get of hounds! Here are no tall fences to hide
them from your sight and to tempt a fox to run the hedgerows, no boggy
woodlands where your horse flounders up to his girths in yellow clay, no
ridge and furrow, and no deep ploughed fields.

What is the charm which belongs so exclusively to a fast and _straight_
"run" over this wild, uncultivated region? It does not lie in the
successful negotiation of Leicestershire "oxers," Aylesbury "doubles,"
or Warwickshire "stake-and-bound" fences, for there need be no obstacle
greater than an occasional four-foot stone wall. Perhaps it lies partly
in the fact that in a run over a level stone-wall country, where the
enclosures are large and the turf sound, given a good fox and a "burning
scent," hounds and horses travel at as great a pace as they attain in
any country in England. Here, moreover, if anywhere, is to be found the
"greatest happiness for the greatest number," the maximum of sport with
the minimum of danger; the fine, free air of the high-lying Cotswold
plains; the good fellowship engendered when all can ride abreast; the
very muteness of the flying pack; the onslaught of a light brigade, or
of "a flying squadron under the Admiral of the Red" sailing away over a
sea of grass towards a region almost untrodden by man; the long sweeping
stride of a well-bred horse; the unceasing twang of the horn to
encourage flagging hounds beaten off by the pace and those which got
left behind at the start; lastly, the _glorious uncertainty_! Can it
last? Where will it all end? Shall we run "bang into him" in the open,
or will he beat us in yonder cold scenting woodland standing boldly
forth on the skyline miles ahead? All these things add a peculiar
fascination to a fast run over this wild country.

Sooner or later there is a sudden check, a couple of sharp turns, and
the spell is gone. Hounds may run back ever so well, to the very covert
whence an hour ago they forced him. The pleasure of watching them work
out a scent, growing rapidly colder, may indeed be left to us; but the
glorious possibilities, which lasted as long as a gallant though
invisible "quarry" was leading us _straight away_ from home into
unfamiliar regions, have passed away; the record run, which we thought
had really commenced at last, far, far into the unknown land, into the
country leading to nowhere, is not yet attained,--probably it never will
be, for it existed in the human imagination alone during that thrilling
thirty-minutes' burst, and was beyond the compass of foxes, horses,
and hounds.

As a set off to this it must be admitted that fast runs do not take
place every day on these hills. Perhaps there will not be more than half
a dozen "clinkers" in a season with a "two-day-a-week" pack. For this
reason, as regards all-round sport, the wall country cannot compare with
a vale: a stranger might hunt there for three weeks in March, and at the
end of that time take himself off in disappointment and disgust,
declaring these fast-flying runs he had heard so much about to be an
invention and a myth, and the wall country only fit for fools and
funkers. For good scenting days in this hill country are few and far
between, and a bad day in the wall district is the poorest fun
imaginable. For this the field have generally themselves to thank, since
they will not give the hounds a chance.

But there is a burning scent this morning, as there generally is when
the dew is just going off. For twenty-five minutes hounds do not check
once. The earth our fox has been making for is fortunately closed. This
causes a moment's uncertainty among the hounds, but not a check, for
they drive straight onwards, and it is evident that he is making for
some earths five miles away in a neighbouring hunt's territory, which
instinct tells him will be open.

There they go, old T.K. and J.A., and several ladies, past masters in
the craft of crossing a country with the maximum of elegance and skill
and the minimum of risk to their horses, themselves, or their friends.
Though the hounds are travelling at their greatest possible pace, they
ride alongside them, looking as cool as cucumbers (too cool, I think,
for their own enjoyment; for the more excitable though less experienced
rider probably enjoys himself more). Note how each wall, varying in
height from three to four and a half feet, is taken at a steady pace by
those well-schooled horses; even a five-foot wall, coped with sharp,
jagged stones pointing straight upwards, does not turn them one hair's
breadth from the line. And please note also that each has two hands on
the reins, and no whip hand flung high in the air, or elbows thrust
outwards, you gentlemen who are fond of painting pictures of hunting
scenes for the press!

A good rider sitting at his ease on horseback,

     "As if an angel dropped down from the clouds
      To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
      And witch the world with noble horsemanship,"

resembles a skilful musician seated at a piano or an organ. There is the
same kind of communication between the man and the instrument, whereby
the stricken chords respond to the lightest touch of the master, who
guides as with a silken thread the keys that set the trembling strings
in motion. For the rider's keys are curb and snaffle, and his hands, by
means of the bridle, control the sensitive bars of his horse's
mouth--the most harmonious, delicate organ yet discovered on earth, but
too often, alas! thumped and banged on to such an awful extent by
unsympathetic, heavy hands, as to become considerably out of tune,
whereby discord occasionally reigns supreme instead of sweet
melodious harmony.

Goodness gracious! what's up? Our horse, which has never refused before,
has stopped dead at a wall. We stand up in the stirrups and peep over,
and there below us is a narrow but deep quarry, a veritable death trap
for the unwary sportsman. This is indeed a merciful escape; and how can
we be too thankful that a horse--wise, sagacious animal that he is--has
been endowed with an extraordinary instinct whereby he can _smell_
danger, even though he cannot see it. Writing of this--one of the
numerous escapes a merciful dispensation of Providence has granted us in
the hunting field--we are reminded that no less than five good men and
true have been killed suddenly with the V.W.H. hounds during the last
eighteen years. The list commences with George Whyte Melville, prince of
hunting men, who broke his neck in a ploughed field in 1878. And it is a
very remarkable fact that Mr. Noel Smith was killed in 1896, on
precisely the same day--viz., the first Thursday of December--as that on
which Whyte Melville lost his life eighteen years before.

But soon after crossing a road, hounds suddenly check. After casting
themselves beautifully forward right-and left-handed until they have
completed a half circle, they throw up their heads and look round for
the huntsman. By a sort of instinct, the result of previous observation,
the foremost riders anticipated that check, and did not follow hounds
over the road, though one or two later arrivals press forward rather too
eagerly. The huntsman, who is not far off, seeing at a glance that there
is no other cause for checking, as the hounds are in the middle of a
large grass field, immediately decides that the fox has turned sharp
down wind (he has been running up wind all the way), and casts his
hounds left-handed and back towards the lane without much delay.

"And now," to quote from Mr. Madden's "Diary of Master William Silence,"
"may be seen the advantage of a good character honestly won." Crusty is
busy "feathering" down the road, and as he is an absolutely reliable
hound, the rest of the pack are not long in coming back to him, and
soon, cheered by their huntsman, they are in full cry again.

Our fox has run the road for a quarter of a mile. This manoeuvre has
probably saved his life, for it has given him time to get his breath
back. In addition to this, the instant Reynard turned down wind the
scent changed from a very good one to a most indifferent one. How often
this happens in a run! And it is one of the fox-hunter's chief
consolations that there is scarcely a day throughout the season on which
a run is impossible, if only a fox will set his head resolutely _up
wind_, just as in a ringing run there is a certain amount of consolation
in the thought that a fox _must travel up wind part of the way_.

It is evident that, being beaten, Reynard has given up all idea of going
for the earths three miles away. He is beginning, like all tired foxes,
to twist and turn. There is no scent on the road; the hounds are
therefore laid on in a grass field, and feather across it in an
uncertain sort of way. This gives an opportunity to a sportsman who has
just arrived by the road to proclaim that "as usual they are hunting
hares." However, there is some pretty hunting done by the pack up a
hedgerow and across a ploughed field; but with scent growing less and
less, as is always the case with a tired, twisting fox, we do not get
along very fast. Hares are jumping up in all directions, and a terrible
nuisance they are on this sort of occasion! That hounds will stick to
their fox, twist and turn though he may, in spite of hares, is a fact
that is often proved in this country, when a lucky view has once more
put them on good terms with the hunted fox, at a time when half the
field have been crying "hare." But when a fox's scent has gradually
diminished until it tends to vanishing point, it is useless to attempt
to hunt him. This appears to be the case this morning, for the sun has
scattered the mists, and has been shining the last ten minutes with
tremendous vigour. We are glad when the master decides to give it up,
for we hope to have some more runs with this old fox later on in the
season. Hounds and horses have had enough for the time of year. So we
turn our horses' heads to the cool breeze that is ever present on the
Cotswolds, making the climate there one of the most delightful in the
world in summer and autumn. And as we ride slowly homeward over the
hill, past golden stubble fields, there is much that is picturesque to
be seen on all sides: for some late barley is not yet gathered in;
horses, drawing great yellow waggons, and old-fashioned Cotswold
labourers are busy amongst the sheaves; and there is an air of activity
and animation in the fields that is absent a month or two later. Bleak
and desolate does this country sometimes look in winter, though when the
sun shines it is fair enough. And suddenly, as we ride along, a lovely
valley is seen below: old-world farmhouses and gabled cottages come into
view, nestling amid stately elms and beech trees already touched by
autumn's hand. As we gradually descend the hill, everything looks more
beautiful than ever this morning; for we have had a gallop. For to-day
at least we shall be in a thoroughly good temper. Whatever the morrow
may bring forth, everything will appear to-day in the best possible
light. Such an excellent tonic is a fast gallop over the walls for
banishing dull care away.

[Illustration: The Old Mill, Ablington. 152.png]



CHAPTER VII.

A COTSWOLD TROUT STREAM.

"We may say of angling as Dr. Boteler said of strawberries: Doubtless
God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did; and so,
if I might be judge, God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent
recreation than angling.'"--_The Compleat Angler_.

Very few trout we have caught this season ('98) are pink-fleshed when
cooked. Last year there were a good number. The reason probably is that
they have not been feeding on the fresh-water shrimps or crustaceans,
owing to the abundance of olive duns and other flies that have been on
the water. Last winter, being so mild, was very favourable for the
hatching out of fly in the spring. A hard winter doubtless commits sad
havoc among the caddis and larvae at the bottom of the river; the
trout, not being able to get much fly, are then compelled to fall back
on the crustaceans. The food in these limestone rivers is so plentiful
that the fish are able to pick and choose from a very varied bill of
fare. This is the reason they are so difficult to catch. One is not able
to increase the stock of trout to any great extent, thereby making them
easier to catch, because the fish one introduces into the water are apt
to crowd together in one or two places, with the result that they are
far too plentiful in the shallows, where there is little food, and too
scarce in the deeper water. Of the Loch Leven trout, turned in two years
ago as yearlings, more than two-thirds inhabit the quick-running,
gravelly reaches; in consequence, they have grown very little. The few
that have stayed in the deeper water have done splendidly; they are now
about three-quarters of a pound in weight. No fish, not even sea trout,
fight so well as these bright, silvery "Loch Levens." They have cost us
no end of casts and flies already this season,--not yet a month old.
Experience proves, however, that ordinary _salmo fario_, or common brook
trout, are the best for turning down; for the Loch Leven trout require
deep water to grow to any size.

When a boy, I made a strange recovery of an eel that I had hooked and
lost three weeks before. I was fishing with worms in a large deep hole
in Surrey. My hook was a salmon fly with the feathers clipped off. I
hooked what I believed to be an eel, but he broke the line through
getting it entangled in a stick on the bottom. Three weeks afterwards,
when fishing in the same fashion and in the same place, the line got
fixed up on the bottom. I pulled hard and a stick came away. On that
stick, strange to say, was entangled my old gut casting-line, and at the
end of the line was an eel of two pounds' weight! On cutting him open,
there, sure enough, was the identical clipped salmon fly; it had been
inside that eel for three weeks without hurting him. This sounds like a
regular angler's yarn, and nobody need believe it unless he likes;
nevertheless, it is perfectly true. I had got "fixed up" in the same
stick that had broken my line on the previous occasion.

That fish have very little sense of feeling is proved time after time.
There is nothing unusual in catching a jack with several old hooks in
his mouth. With trout, however, the occurrence is more rare. Last season
my brother lost a fly and two yards of gut through a big trout breaking
his tackle, but two minutes afterwards he caught the fish and recovered
his fly and his tackle. We constantly catch fish during the may-fly time
with broken tackle in their mouths.

Who does not recollect the rapturous excitement caused by the first fish
caught in early youth? My first capture will ever remain firmly
impressed on the tablet of the brain, for it was a red herring--"a
common or garden," prime, thoroughly salted "red herring"! It came about
in this way. At the age of nine I was taken by my father on a yachting
expedition round the lovely islands of the west coast of Scotland. We
were at anchor the first evening of the voyage in one of the beautiful
harbours of the Hebrides, and, noticing the sailors fishing over the
side of the boat, I begged to be allowed to hold the line. Somehow or
other they managed to get a "red herring" on to the hook when my
attention was diverted; so that when I hauled up a fish that in the
darkness looked fairly silvery my excitement knew no bounds. After the
sailors had taken it off the hook, and given it a knock on the head, I
rushed down with it into the cabin, where my father and three others
were dining. Throwing my fish down on to the table, I delightedly
exclaimed, "Look what I have caught, father; isn't it a lovely fish?" I
could not understand the roars of laughter which followed, as one of the
party, with a horrified glance at my capture, shouted, "Take it away,
take it away!" _Non redolet sed olet_. Oddly enough, although after this
I caught any amount of real live fish, I never realised until months
afterwards how miserably I had been taken in by the boat's crew on that
eventful night.

Not long afterwards, whilst fishing with a worm just below the falls at
Macomber, in the Highlands, I made what was for a small boy a remarkable
catch of sea trout. I forget the exact number, but I know I had to take
them back in sacks. They were "running" at the time, and it was very
pretty to see them continually jumping up the seven-foot ladder out of
the Spean into the Lochy. Underneath this ladder, where the water boiled
and seethed in a thousand eddies, hundreds of trout lay ready to jump up
the fall. Into this foaming torrent I threw my heavily leaded bait. No
sooner was the worm in the water than it was seized by a fine sea trout.
Some of them were nearly two pounds; and although I had a strong
casting-line, they were often most difficult to land, for a series of
small cataracts dashed down amongst huge rocks and slippery boulders,
until, a hundred feet below, the calm, deep Macomber pool was reached.
As the fish, when hooked, would often dash down this foaming torrent
into the pool below, they gave a tremendous amount of play before they
were landed. There was an element of danger about it, too, as a false
step might have led to ugly complications amongst the rocks, over which
the water came pouring down at the rate of ten miles an hour. A boy of
twelve years old, as I was then, would not have stood a chance in that
roaring torrent. A terrible accident happened here a few years
afterwards. A party went from the house, where I always stayed, to fish
at Macomber Falls. There were four ladies and two men. Whilst they were
sitting eating their luncheon at this romantic spot, an argument arose
as to whether a man falling into the seething pool below the fall would
be drowned or not. The water was only about two feet deep; but the place
was a miniature whirlpool, and, once started down the pent-in torrent, a
man would be dashed along the rocky bed and carried far out into the
deep Macomber pool beyond. A gentleman from Lincolnshire argued that in
would be impossible for any one to be drowned in such shallow water.
This was at lunch. Little did he imagine that within half an hour his
theory would be put to the test. But so it was; for whilst he was
standing on the rocks fishing, with a large overcoat on, he slipped and
fell in. His fishing-line became entangled round his legs, and he was
borne away at the mercy of the current. Unfortunately only ladies were
present, his friend having gone down stream. Twice he clutched hold of
the rocky bank opposite them, but it was too slippery, and his hold gave
way. A man jumping across the chasm might possibly have saved him by
risking his own life, for it was only fourteen feet wide; but it would
have been madness for any of the ladies to have attempted it. So the
poor fellow was drowned in two feet of water, before their eyes, and in
spite of their brave endeavours to save him. He must have been stunned
by repeated blows from the rocks, or else I think he would have baffled
successfully with the torrent. The overcoat must have hampered him most
dreadfully. It was a terrible affair, reminding one of the death of
"young Romilly" in the Wharfe, of which Wordsworth tells in that
beautiful poem, the "Force of Prayer." Bolton Abbey, as everybody knows,
was built hard by, on the river bank, by the sorrowful mother, in honour
of her boy.

     "That stately priory was reared;
        And Wharf, as he moved along
      To matins, join'd a mournful voice,
        Nor failed at evensong."

How many a beautiful spot in the British Isles has been endowed with a
romance that will never entirely die away owing to some catastrophe of
this kind! Macomber Falls are very beautiful indeed, but one cannot pass
the place now without a shudder and a sigh.

It has been said that "the test of a river is its power to drown a
man." There is doubtless a peculiar grandeur about the roaring torrent;
but to me there is a still greater charm in the gentle flow of a south
country trout stream, such as abound in Hampshire, Wiltshire, and in the
Cotswolds. I do not think the Coln is capable of drowning a man, though
one of the Peregrine family told me the other day that the only two men
who ever bathed in our stream died soon afterwards from the shock of the
intensely cold water! But then, it must be remembered that the old
prejudice against "cold water" still lingers amongst the country folk of
Gloucestershire; so that this story must always be taken _cum
grano salis_.

       *       *       *       *       *

There are few trout streams to our mind more delightful from the
angler's point of view than the Gloucestershire Coln. Rising a few miles
from Cheltenham, it runs into the Thames near Lechlade, and affords some
fifteen miles or more of excellent fishing. The scenery is of that quiet
and homely type that belongs so exclusively to the chalk and limestone
streams of the south of England.

From its source to the point at which it joins the Isis, the Coln flows
continuously through a series of parks and small well-wooded demesnes,
varied with picturesque Cotswold villages and rich water meadows. It
swells out into fishable proportions just above Lord Eldon's Stowell
property, steals gently past his beautiful woods at Chedworth and the
Roman villa discovered a few years ago, then onward through the quaint
old-world villages of Fossbridge to Winson and Coln-St-Dennis. Though
not a hundred miles from London, this part of Gloucestershire is one of
the most primitive and old-fashioned districts in England. Until the new
railway between Andover and Cheltenham was opened, four years ago, with
a small station at Fosscross, there were many inhabitants of these
old-world villages who had never seen a train or a railway. Only the
other day, on asking a good lady, the wife of a farmer, whether she had
ever been in London, I received the reply, "No, but I've been to
Cheltenham." This in a tone of voice that meant me to understand that
going to Cheltenham, a distance of about sixteen miles, was quite as
important an episode in her life as a visit to London would have been.

On leaving Winson the Coln widens out considerably, and for the next two
miles becomes the boundary between Mr. Wykeham-Musgrave's property of
Barnsley and the manor of Ablington. It flows through the picturesque
hamlet of Ablington, within a hundred yards of the old Elizabethan manor
house, over an artificial fall in the garden, and passes onward on its
secluded way through lovely woodland scenery, until it reaches the
village of Bibury; here it runs for nearly half a mile parallel with the
main street of the village, and then enters the grounds of Bibury Court.
I know no prettier village in England than Bibury, and no snugger
hostelry than the Swan. The landlady of this inn has a nice little
stretch of water for the use of those who find their way to Bibury; and
a pleasanter place wherein to spend a few quiet days could not be found.
The garden and old court house of Bibury are sweetly pretty, the house,
like Ablington, being three hundred years old; the stream passes within
a few yards of it, over another waterfall of about ten feet, and soon
reaches Williamstrip. Here, again, the scenery is typical of rural
England in its most pleasing form; and the village of Coln-St.-Aldwyns
is scarcely less fascinating than Bibury.

After leaving the stately pile of Hatherop Castle and Williamstrip Park
on the left, the Coln flows silently onwards through the delightful
demesne of Fairford Park. Here the stream has been broadened out into a
lake of some depth and size, and holds some very large fish. Another
mile and Fairford town is reached, another good specimen of the Cotswold
village--for it is a large village rather than a town--with its lovely
church, famous for its windows, its gabled cottages, and comfortable
Bull Inn. There are several miles of fishing at the Bull, as many an
Oxonian has discovered in times gone by, and we trust will again.

From what we have said, it will easily be gathered that this stream is
unsurpassed for scenery of that quiet, homely type that Kingsley
eulogises so enthusiastically in his "Chalk Stream Studies," and I am
inclined to agree with him in his preference for it over the grander
surroundings of mountain streams:

"Let the Londoner have his six weeks every year among crag and heather,
and return with lungs expanded and muscles braced to his nine months'
prison. The countryman, who needs no such change of air and scene, will
prefer more homelike, though more homely, pleasures. Dearer to him than
wild cataracts or Alpine glens are the still hidden streams which Bewick
has immortalised in his vignettes and Creswick in his pictures. The long
grassy shallow, paved with yellow gravel, where he wades up between low
walls of fern-fringed rock, beneath nut and oak and alder, to the low
bar over which the stream comes swirling and dimpling, as the
water-ouzel flits piping before him, and the murmur of the ringdove
comes soft and sleepy through the wood,--there, as he wades, he sees a
hundred sights and hears a hundred tones which are hidden from the
traveller on the dusty highway above."

But _chacun à son goût_! Let us now see what sort of sport may be had in
the Coln. To begin with, it must be described as a "may-fly" stream.
This means, of course, that there is a tremendous rise of fly early in
June, with the inevitable slack time before and after the may-fly time.

But there is much pleasant angling to be had at other times. The season
begins at the end of March, when a few small fish are rising, and may be
caught with the March brown or the blue and olive duns. Few big fish are
in condition until May, but much fun can be had with the smaller ones
all through April. The half-pounders fight splendidly, and give one the
idea, on being hooked, of pulling three times their real weight. The
April fishing, at all events after the middle of the month, is very
delightful in this river. One does not actually kill many fish, for a
large number are caught and returned.

In May, when the larger fish begin to take up their places for the
summer, one may expect good sport. This season, however, has been very
disappointing; and, judging by the way the fish were feeding on the
bottom for the first fortnight of the month, one is led to expect an
early rise of the may-fly. Until the "fly is up," the April flies,
especially the olive dun, are all that are necessary. For a couple of
weeks before the "fly-fisher's carnival" sport is always uncertain.

If the wind is in a good quarter, sport may be had; but should it be
east, the trout will not leave the caddis, with which the bed of the
river is simply alive at this time. Of late years good sport has been
obtained at the latter end of May with small flies. The may-fly
generally comes up on the higher reaches about the last week in May, or
about June 1st, though at Fairford, lower down, it is a week earlier. A
good season means a steady rise of fly, lasting for nearly three weeks,
but with no great amount of fly on any one day. A bad may-fly season
means, as a rule, a regular "glut" of fly for three or four days, so
that the fish are stuffed full almost to bursting point, and will not
look at the natural fly afterwards, much less at your neatly "cocked"
artificial one.

Large bags can, of course, be made on certain days in the may-fly
season; but I do not know of any better than one hundred and six fish in
three days, averaging one pound apiece.

Sport, however, is not estimated by the number of fish taken, and there
is no better day's fun for the real fisherman than killing four or five
brace of good fish when the trout are beginning to get tired of the fly,
but are still to be caught by working hard for them. The "alder" will
often do great execution at this time, and a small blue dun is sometimes
very killing in the morning or evening.

After the "green-drake" has lived his short life and disappeared, there
is a lull in the fishing, and the sportsman may with advantage take
himself off to London to see the Oxford and Cambridge cricket match. All
through July and August, when the water gets low and clear, the best and
largest fish may be taken from an hour before sunset up to eleven
o'clock at night by the red palmer. Although it savours somewhat of
poaching, I confess to a weakness for evening and night fishing. The
cool water meadows, the setting sun, with its golden glow on the water,
add a peculiar charm to fishing at this time of day in the hot summer
months. And then--the splash of your fish as you hook him! How magnified
is the sound in the dim twilight, when you cannot see, but can only hear
and feel your quarry! And what satisfaction to know that that great
"logger-headed" two-pounder, that was devouring goodness knows how many
yearlings and fry daily, is safe out of the water and in your basket!

On rainy days in these months good sport may be had with the wet fly;
and in September a yellow dun, or a fly that imitates the wasp, will
kill, if only you can keep out of sight, and place a well-dried fly
right on the fish's nose.

The dry fly and up stream is of course the orthodox method of fishing in
this as in other south-country chalk or limestone streams. No flogging
the water indiscriminately all the way up, but marking your fish down,
and stalking him, is the real game. For those who fish "wet" sport is
not so good as it used to be, owing to the "schoolmaster being abroad"
amongst trout as well as amongst men; but on certain windy days this
method is the only one possible. There is a good deal of prejudice
against the "chuck-and-chance-it" style among the advocates of the
dry-fly method of fishing. That a man who fishes with a floating fly
should be set down as a better sportsman than one who allows his fly to
sink is, to my thinking, a narrow-minded argument, and one, moreover,
that is not borne out by facts. True, in some clear chalk streams the
fish can only be killed with the dry fly; and in such cases it is
unsportsmanlike to thrash the water--in the first place, because there
is no chance of catching fish, and in the second, in the interest of
other anglers, because it is likely to make the fish shy. And therefore
it is a somewhat selfish method of fishing.

But let those accomplished exponents of the art of fishing who are too
fond of applying the epithet "poacher" to all those who do not fish in
their own particular style remember that there are but few streams in
England sluggish enough for dry-fly fishing; consequently many
first-rate fishermen have never acquired the art. The dry-fly angler has
no more right to consider himself superior as a sportsman to the
advocate of the old-fashioned method than the county cricketer has to
consider himself superior to the village player. In both cases time and
practice have done their work; but the best fishermen and the most
practised exponents of the game of cricket are very often inferior to
their less distinguished brethren as _sportsmen_. At the same time, were
I asked which of all our English sports requires the greatest amount of
perseverance, the supremest delicacy of hand, the most assiduous
practice, and the most perfect control of temper, in order that
excellence may be attained, I would unhesitatingly answer, "Dry-fly
fishing on a real chalk stream"; and I would sooner have one successful
day under such conditions than catch fifty trout by flogging a
Scotch burn.

In the Coln the fish run largest at Fairford, where the water has been
deepened and broadened; and there three-pounders are not uncommon. Then
at Hatherop and Williamstrip there are some big fish. Higher up the
trout run up to two and a half pounds; and the average size of fish
killed after May 1st is, roughly speaking, one pound. The higher reaches
are very much easier to fish, for the following reason: at Bibury, and
at intervals of about half a mile all the way down, the river is fed by
copious springs of transparent water; the lower down you go, and the
more springs that fall into the river, the more glassy does it become.
The upper reaches of this river may be described as easy fishing. The
water, when in good trim, is of a whey colour, though after June it
becomes low and very clear. The flies I have mentioned are the only ones
really necessary, and if the fish will not take them they will probably
take nothing. They are, to sum up:

     (1) March Brown.
     (2) Olive Dun.
     (3) Blue Dun.
     (4) May-fly.
     (5) Alder.
     (6) Palmer.

"Wykeham's Fancy" and the "Grey Quill Gnat" are the only other flies
that need be mentioned. The former has a great reputation on the river,
but we ourselves have used it but little.

The food on the Coln is most abundant, and to this must be attributed
the extraordinary size of the fish as compared with the depth and bulk
of water. That one hundred and fifty brace of trout, averaging a pound
in weight, are taken with rod and line each year on a stretch of water
two miles in length, and varying in depth from two to three feet, with a
few deep holes, the width of the water being not more than thirty feet
for the most part, is sufficient proof that there is abundance of food
in the river.

Where the water is shallow we have found great advantage accrue by
putting in large stones and fir poles, to form ripples and also homes
for the fish. By this means shallow reaches can be made to hold good
fish, and the eddies and ripples make them easy to catch. The stones add
to the picturesqueness of the stream, for they soon become coated with
moss, and give the idea in some places of a rocky Scotch burn. A
pleasant variety of fishing is thus obtained; for at one time you are
throwing a dry fly on to the still and unruffled surface of the broader
reaches, and a hundred yards lower down you may have to use a wet fly in
the narrower and quicker parts, where the stones cause the water to
"boil up" in all directions, and the eddies give a chance to those who
are uninitiated into the mysteries of dry-fly angling.

The large fish prefer sluggish water, but in these artificial ripples
fish may be caught on days on which the stream would be unfishable under
ordinary circumstances. It would be invidious to make comparisons
between the Coln and the Hampshire rivers--the Itchen and the
Test,--these are larger rivers, with larger fish, and they require a
better fisherman than those stretches of the Coin that we are dealing
with, although the lower reaches of the latter stream are difficult
enough for most people.

Otters used to be considered scarce on the River Coln, but two have
lately been trapped in the parish of Bibury. With pike and coarse fish
we are not troubled on the upper reaches, though lower down they exist
in certain quantities. Of poachers I trust I may say the same. Rumour
has sometimes whispered of nets kept in Bibury and elsewhere, and of
midnight raids on the neighbouring preserves; but though I have walked
down the bank on many a summer night, I have never once come upon
anything suspicious, not even a night-line. The Gloucestershire native
is an honest man. He may think, perhaps, that he has nothing to learn
and cannot go wrong, but burglaries are practically unknown, and
poaching is not commonly practised.

To sum up, the River Coln affords excellent sport amid surroundings
seldom to be found in these days. The whole country reminds one of the
days of Merrie England, so quaint and rural are the scenes. The houses
and cottages are all built of the native stone, which can be obtained
for the trouble of digging, so there is no danger of modern villas or
the inroads of civilisation spoiling the face of the country. And
moreover, these country people; being simple in their tastes, have never
endeavoured to improve on the old style of building; the newer cottages,
with their pointed gables, closely resemble the old Elizabethan houses.
The new stone soon tones down, and every house has a pretty garden
attached to it.

I have just returned from a stroll by the river, with my rod in hand, on
the look-out for a rise. Not a fish was stirring. It is the middle of
May, and this glorious valley is growing more and more glorious every
day. An evening walk by the stream is delightful now, even though you
may begin to wonder if all the fish have disappeared. The air is full of
joyful sounds. The cuckoo, the corncrake, and the cock pheasant seem to
be vieing with each other; but, alas! nightingales there are none. As I
come round a bend, up get a mallard and a duck, and beautiful they look
as they swing round me in the dazzling sunlight. A little further on I
come upon a whole brood of nineteen little wild ducks. The old mothers
are a good deal tamer now than they were in the shooting season. Many a
time have they got up, just out of shot, when I was trying to wile away
the time during the great frost with a little stalking. A kingfisher
shoots past; but I have given up trying to find her nest. There is a
brood of dabchicks, and, a little further on, another family of
wild duck.

The spring flowers are just now in their flush of pride and glory.
Clothing the banks, and reflected everywhere in the blue waters of the
stream, are great clusters of marsh marigolds painting the meadows with
their flaming gold; out of the decayed "stoles" of trees that fell by
the water's edge years and years ago springs the "glowing violet"; here
and there, as one throws a fly towards the opposite bank, a purple glow
on the surface of the stream draws the attention to a glorious mass of
violets on the mossy bank above; myriads of dainty cuckoo flowers,

     "With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head,
      And every flower that sad embroidery wears,"

are likewise to be seen. Farther away from the stream's bank, on the
upland lawn and along the hedge towards the downs, the deep purple of
the hyacinth and orchis, and the perfect blue of the little eyebright or
germander speedwell, are visible even at a distance. In a week the lilac
and sweet honeysuckle will fill the air with grateful redolence.

Ah! a may-fly. But I know this is only a false alarm. There are always a
few stray ones about at this time; the fly will not be "up" for ten days
at least. When it does come, the stream, so smooth and glassy now, will
be "like a pot a-boiling," as the villagers say. You would not think it
possible that a small brook could contain so many big fish as will show
themselves when the fly is up.

In conclusion, we will quote once more from dear old Charles Kingsley,
for what was true fifty years ago is true now--at all events, in this
part of Gloucestershire; and may it ever remain so!

"Come, then, you who want pleasant fishing days without the waste of
time and trouble and expense involved in two hundred miles of railway
journey, and perhaps fifty more of highland road; come to pleasant
country inns, where you can always get a good dinner; or, better still,
to pleasant country houses, where you can always get good society--to
rivers which always fish brimful, instead of being, as these mountain
ones are, very like a turnpike road for three weeks, and then like
bottled porter for three days--to streams on which you have strong
south-west breezes for a week together on a clear fishing water, instead
of having, as on these mountain ones, foul rain spate as long as the
wind is south-west, and clearing water when the wind chops up to the
north,--streams, in a word, where you may kill fish four days out of
five from April to October, instead of having, as you will most probably
in the mountain, just one day's sport in the whole of your
month's holiday."

[Illustration: A bridge over the Coln. 171.png]



CHAPTER VIII.

WHEN THE MAY-FLY IS UP.

     "Just in the dubious point where with the pool
      Is mix'd the trembling stream, or where it boils
      Around the stone, or from the hollow'd bank
      Reverted plays in undulating flow,
      There throw, nice judging, the delusive fly."

      THOMSON'S _Seasons_.

When does the may-fly come, the gorgeous succulent may-fly, that we all
love so well in the quiet valleys where the trout streams wend their
silent ways?

It comes "of a Sunday," answers the keeper, who would fain see the
prejudice against fishing "on the Sabbath" scattered to the four winds
of heaven. He thinks it very contrary of the fly that it should
invariably come up "strong" on the one day in the week on which the
trout are usually allowed a rest.

"'Tis a most comical job, but it always comes up thickest of a Sunday,"
he frequently exclaims. Then, if you press him for further particulars,
he grows eloquent on the subject, and tells you as follows: "We always
reckons to kill the most fish on 'Durby day.' 'Tis a most singular
thing, but the 'Durby day' is always the best."

Now, considering that Derby day is a movable feast, saving that it
always comes on a Wednesday, there would appear to be no more logic in
this statement than there is in the one about the fly coming up strong
on a Sunday. However, so deep rooted is the theory that the Derby and
the cream of the may-fly fishing are inseparably associated that we have
come to talk of the biggest rise of the season as "the Derby day,"
whatever day of the week it may happen to be.

Thus Tom Peregrine, the keeper, when he sees the fly gradually coming
up, will say: "I can see how it will be--next Friday will be Durby day.
You must 'meet' the fly that day; 'be sure and give it the meeting,'
sir. We shall want six rods on the water on Friday." He is so
desperately keen to kill fish that he would sooner have six rods and
moderate sport for each fisherman than three rods and good sport all
round. Wonderfully sanguine is this fellow's temperament:

     "A man he seems of cheerful yesterdays
       And confident to-morrows."

It is always "just about a good day for fishing" before you start; and
if you have a bad day, he consoles you with an account of an
extraordinary day last week, or one you are to have next week. Sometimes
it was last season that was so good; "or it will be a splendid season
next year," for some reason or other only known to himself.

Three good anglers are quite sufficient for two miles of fishing on the
best of days. Experience has taught us that "too many cooks spoil the
broth" even in the may-fly season.

I shall never forget a most lamentable, though somewhat laughable,
occurrence which took place five years ago. Foolishly responding to the
entreaties of our enthusiastic friend the keeper, we actually did ask
five people to fish one "Durby day." As luck would have it they all
came; but unfortunately a neighbouring squire, who owns part of the
water, but who seldom turns up to fish, also chose that day, and with
him came his son. Seven was bad enough in all conscience, but imagine my
feelings when a waggonette drove up, full of _undergraduates from
Oxford_: my brother, who was one of the undergraduates, had brought them
down on the chance, and without any warning. Of course they all wanted
to fish, though for the most part they were quite innocent of the art of
throwing a fly. Result: ten or a dozen fisherman, all in each other's
way; every rising fish in the brook frightened out of its wits; and very
little sport. The total catch for the day was only thirty trout, or
exactly what three rods ought to have caught.

These were the sort of remarks one had to put up with: "I say, old
chap, there's a d----d fellow in a mackintosh suit up stream; he's
bagged my water"; or, "Who is that idiot who has been flogging away all
the afternoon in one place? Does he think he's beating carpets, or is he
an escaped lunatic from Hanwell?"

The whole thing was too absurd; it was like a fishing competition on the
Thames at Twickenham.

Since this never-to-be-forgotten day I have come to the conclusion that
to have too few anglers is better than too many; also, alas! that it is
quite useless to ask your friends to come unless they are accomplished
fishermen. It takes years of practice to learn the art of catching
south-country trout in these days, when every fish knows as well as we
do the difference between the real fly and the artificial. One might as
well ask a lot of schoolboys to a big "shoot," as issue indiscriminate
invitations to fish.

It is a prochronism to talk of the _May_-fly; for, as a matter of fact,
the first ten days of _June_ usually constitute the may-fly season. Of
late years the rise has been earlier and more scanty than of yore. There
are always several days, however, during the rise when all the biggest
fish in the brook come out from their homes beneath the willows, take up
a favourable place in mid stream, and quietly suck down fly after fly
until they are absolutely stuffed. To have fished on one of these days
in any well-stocked south-country brook is something to look back upon
for many a long day. In a reach of water not exceeding one hundred yards
in length there will be fish enough to occupy you throughout the day.
You may catch seven or eight brace of trout, none of which are under a
pound in weight, where you did not believe any large ones existed. The
fact is, the larger fish of a trout stream are more like rats in their
habits than anything else; they stow themselves away in holes in the
bank and all sorts of inconceivable places, and are as invisible by day
as the otter itself.

That man derives the greatest enjoyment from this annual carnival among
the trout who has been tied to London all through May, sweltering in a
stuffy office and longing for the country. Though his sympathies are
bound up heart and soul in country pursuits, he has elected to "live
laborious days" in the busy haunts of men. He does it, though he hates
it; for he has sufficient insight to know that self-denial in some form
or other is the inevitable destiny of mortal man: sooner or later it has
to be undergone by all, whether we like it or not

     "Quanto quisque sibi plura negaverit
      Ab dis plura feret"

Horace never wrote anything truer than that, though we are not to
suppose that the second line will necessarily come true in this life.

We will imagine that our friend is a briefless barrister, but a fine,
all-round sportsman; a crack batsman, perhaps, at Eton and Oxford, or
one of whom it might be said:

     "Give me the man to whom nought comes amiss,
      One horse or another, that country or this--
      Who through falls and bad starts undauntedly still
      Rides up to the motto, 'Be with them I will.'"

There may be good sportsmen enough enjoying life throughout the country
villages of Merrie England, but in my humble opinion the _best_
sportsmen must be sought in stifling offices in London, or serving
"their country and their Queen" under the burning sun of a far country,
or maybe in the reeking atmosphere of the East End, or as missionaries
in that howling wilderness the inhospitable land of "the
heathen Chinee."

Sitting in his dusty chambers, poring over grimy books and legal
manuscripts, our "briefless" friend receives a telegram which he has
been expecting rather anxiously the last few days. As brief as he is
"briefless," it brings a flush to his cheek which has not been seen
there since that great run with the hounds last Christmas holidays. "The
fly is up; come at once." These are the magic words; and no time is lost
in responding to the invitation, for, as prearranged, he is to start for
Gloucestershire directly the wire arrives.

There is no need to rush off to Mr. Farlow and buy up his stock of
may-flies; for though he does not tie his own flies, our angling friend
has a goodly stock of them neatly arranged in rows of cork inside a
black tin box; and, depend upon it, they are the _right_ ones.

Many a fisherman goes through a lifetime without getting the right flies
for the water on which he angles. It is ten to one that those in the
shops are too light, both in the body and the wing; the may-flies
usually sold are likewise much too big. About half life-size is quite
big enough for the artificial fly, and as a general rule they cannot be
too _dark_.

Some years ago we caught a live fly, and took it up to London for the
shopman to copy. "At last," we said to ourselves, "we have got the right
thing." But not a bit of it. The first cast on to the water showed us
that the fly was utterly wrong. It was far too light. The fact is, the
insect itself appears very much darker on the water than it does in the
air. But the artificial fly shows ten times lighter as it floats on the
stream than it does in the shop window.

Dark mottled grey for your wings, and a brown hackle, with a dark rather
than a straw-coloured body, is the kind of fly we find most killing on
the upper Coln. Of course it may be different on other streams, but I
suspect there is a tendency to use too light a fly everywhere, save
among those who have learnt by experience how to catch trout. As Sir
Herbert Maxwell has proved by experiment, trout have no perception of
colour except so far as the fly is light or dark. He found dark blue and
red flies just as killing as the ordinary may-fly.

For the dry-fly fisherman equipment is half the battle. Show me the man
who catches fish; ten to one his rod is well balanced and strong, his
line heavy, though tapered, and his gut well selected and stained. The
fly-book stamps the fisherman even more truly than the topboot stamps
the fox-hunter. Nor does the accomplished expert with the dry fly
disdain with fat of deer to grease his line, nor with paraffin to dress
his fly and make it float. But he keeps the paraffin in a leather case
by itself, so that his coat may not remain redolent for months. From
top to toe he is a fisherman. His boots are thick, even though he does
not require waders; on his knees are leather pads to ward off
rheumatism; whilst on his head is a sober-coloured cap--not a white
straw hat flashing in the sunlight, and scaring the timid trout
to death.

Thus appears our sportsman of the Inner Temple not twelve hours after we
saw him stewing in his London chambers. What a metamorphosis is this!
Just as the may-fly, after two years of confinement as a wretched grub
in the muddy bed of the stream, throws off its shackles, gives its wings
a shake, and soars into the glorious June atmosphere, happy to be free,
so does the poor caged bird rejoice, after grubbing for an indefinite
period in a cramped cell, to leave darkness and dirt and gloom (though
not, like the may-fly, for ever), and flee away on wings the mighty
steam provides until he finds himself once again in the fresh green
fields he loves so well. And truly he gets his reward. He has come into
a new world--rather, I should say, a paradise; for he comes when meadows
are green and trees are at their prime. Though the glory of the lilac
has passed away, the buttercup still gilds the landscape; barley fields
are bright with yellow charlock, and the soft, subdued glow of sainfoin
gives colour to the breezy uplands as of acres of pink carnations. On
one side a vast sheet of saffron, on the other a lake of rubies, ripples
in the passing breeze, or breaks into rolling waves of light and shade
as the fleecy clouds sweep across azure skies. He comes when roses, pink
and white and red, are just beginning to hang their dainty heads in
modest beauty on every cottage wall or cluster round the ancient porch;
when from every lattice window in the hamlet (I wish I could say every
_open_ window) rows of red geraniums peep from their brown pots of
terra-cotta, brightening the street without, and filling the cosy rooms
with grateful, unaccustomed fragrance; when the scent of the sweet,
short-lived honeysuckle pervades the atmosphere, and the faces of the
handsome peasants are bronzed as those of dusky dwellers under
Italian skies.

     No daintie flowre or herbe that grows on ground;
     No arborett with painted blossoms drest,
     And smelling sweete, but there it might be found,
     To bud out faire, and throwe her sweete smels al around.

     E. SPENSER.

What a pleasant country is this in which to spend a holiday! How white
are the limestone roads! how fresh and invigorating is the upland air!
The old manor house is deserted, its occupants having gone to London.
But a couple of bachelors can be happy in an empty house, without
servants and modern luxuries, as long as the may-fly lasts. It is
pleasant to feel that you can dine at any hour you please, and wear what
you please. The good lady who cooks for you is merely the wife of one of
the shepherds; but her cooking is fit for a king! What dinner could be
better than a trout fresh from the brook, a leg of lamb from the farm,
and a gooseberry tart from the kitchen garden? For vegetables you may
have asparagus--of such excellence that you scarcely know which end to
begin eating--and new potatoes.

For my part, I would sooner a thousand times live on homely fare in the
country than be condemned to wade through long courses at London dinner
parties, or, worse still, pay fabulous prices at "Willis's Rooms," the
"Berkeley," or at White's Club.

What a comfort, too, to be without housemaids to tidy up your papers in
the smoking-room and shut your windows in the evening! How healthful to
sleep in a room in which the windows have been wide open night and day
for months past!

Sport is usually to be depended upon in the may-fly time, as long as you
are not late for the rise. Of late years the fly has "come up" so early
and in such limited quantities that but few fishermen were on the
water in time.

We are apt to grumble, declaring that the whole river has gone to the
bad; that the fish are smaller and fewer in numbers than of yore,--but
is this borne out by facts? The year 1896 was no doubt rather a failure
as regards the may-fly; but as I glance over the pages of the game-book
in which I record as far as possible every fish that is killed, I cannot
help thinking that sport has been very wonderful, take it all round,
during six out of seven seasons.

It is a lovely day during the last week in May. There has been no rain
for more than a fortnight; the wind is north-east, and the sun shines
brightly,--yet we walk down to the River Coln, anticinating a good day's
sport among the trout: for, during the may-fly season, no matter how
unpropitious the weather may appear, sport is more of a certainty on
this stream than at any other time of year. Early in the season drought
does not appear to have any effect on the springs; we might get no rain
from the middle of April until half-way through June, and yet the water
will keep up and remain a good colour all the time. But after June is
"out," down goes the water, lower and lower every week; no amount of
rain will then make any perceptible increase to the volume of the
stream, and not until the nights begin to lengthen out and the autumnal
gales have done their work will the water rise again to its normal
height. If you ask Tom Peregrine why these things are so, he will only
tell you that after a few gales the "springs be _frum_." The word
"frum," the derivation of which is, Anglo-Saxon, "fram," or "from" =
strong, flourishing, is the local expression for the bursting of
the springs.

Our friend Tom Peregrine is full of these quaint expressions. When he
sees a covey of partridges dusting themselves in the roads, he will tell
you they are "bathering." A dog hunting through a wood is always said to
be "breveting." "I don't like that dog of So-and-so's, he do 'brevet'
so," is a favourite saying. The ground on a frosty morning "scrumps" or
"feels scrumpety," as you walk across the fields; and the partridges
when wild, are "teert." All these phrases are very happy, the sound of
the words illustrating exactly the idea they are intended to convey.
Besides ordinary Gloucestershire expressions, the keeper has a large
variety that he has invented for himself.

When the river comes down clear, it is invariably described as like
looking into a gin bottle, or "as clear as gin." A trout rising boldly
at a fly is said to "'quap' up," or "boil up," or even "come at it like
a dog." The word "mess" is used to imply disgust of any sort: "I see one
boil up just above that mess of weed"; or, if you get a bit of weed on
the hook, he will exclaim, "Bother! that mess of weed has put him down."
Sometimes he remarks, "Tis these dreadful frostis that spiles
everything. 'Tis enough to sterve anybody." When he sees a bad fisherman
at work, he nods his head woefully and exclaims, "He might as well throw
his 'at in!" Then again, if he is anxious that you should catch a
particular trout, which cannot be persuaded to rise, he always says,
"Terrify him, sir; keep on terrifying of him." This does not mean that
you are to frighten the fish; on the contrary, he is urging you to stick
to him till he gets tired of being harassed, and succumbs to temptation.
All these quaint expressions make this sort of folk very amusing
companions for a day's fishing.

It is eleven o'clock; let us walk down stream until we come to a bend in
the river where the north-east wind is less unfavourable than it is in
most parts. There is a short stretch of two hundred yards, where, as we
fish up stream, the breeze will be almost at our backs, and there are
fish enough to occupy us for an hour or so; afterwards, we shall have to
"cut the wind" as best we can.

As we pass down stream the pale olive duns are hatching out in fair
numbers, and a few fish are already on the move. What lovely, delicate
things are these duns! and how "beautifully and wonderfully are they
made"! If you catch one you will see that it is as delicate and
transparent as it can possibly be. Not even the may-fly can compare with
the dun. And what rare food for trout they supply! For more than six
weeks, from April 1st, they hatch out by thousands every sunny day. The
may-fly may be a total failure, but week after week in the early spring
you may go down to the riverside with but one sort of fly, and if there
are fish to be caught at all, the pale-winged olive dun will catch them;
and in spite of the fact that there are a few may-flies on the water, it
is with the little duns that we intend to start our fishing to-day. The
trout have not yet got thoroughly accustomed to the green-drake, and the
"Durby day" will not be here for a week. It is far better to leave them
"to get reconciled" to the new fly (as the keeper would put it); they
will "quap" up all the better in a few days if allowed, in angling
phraseology, "to get well on to the fly."

On arriving at the spot at which we intend commencing operations, it is
evident that the rise has begun. Happily, everything was in readiness.
Our tapered gut cast has been wetted, and a tiny-eyed fly is at the end.
The gut nearest the hook is as fine as gut can possibly be. Anything
thicker would be detected, for a spring joins the river at this point
and makes the water rather clear. Higher up we need not be so
particular. There is a fish rising fifteen yards above us; so, crouching
low and keeping back from the bank, we begin casting. A leather
kneecap, borrowed from the harness-room, is strapped on to the knee, and
is a good precaution against rheumatism. The first cast is two feet
short of the rise, but with the next we hook a trout. He makes a
tremendous rush, and runs the reel merrily. We manage to keep him out of
the weeds and land him--a silvery "Loch Leven," about three-quarters of
a pound, and in excellent condition. Only two years ago he was put into
the stream with five hundred others as a yearling. The next two rising
fish are too much for us, and we bungle them. One sees the line, owing
to our throwing too far above him, and the other is frightened out of
his life by a bit of weed or grass which gets hitched on to the barb of
the hook, and lands bang on to his nose. These accidents will happen, so
we do not swear, but pass on up stream, and soon a great brown tail
appears for a second just above some rushes on the other side. Kneeling
down again, we manage, after a few casts--luckily short of our fish--to
drop the fly a foot above him. Down it sails, not "cocking" as nicely as
could be wished, but in an exact line for his nose. There is a slight
dimple, and we have got him. For two or three minutes we are at the
mercy of our fish, for we dare not check him--the gut is too fine. But,
lacking condition, he soon tires, and is landed. He is over a pound and
a half, and rather lanky; but kill him we must, for by the size of his
head we can see that he is an old fish, and as bad as a pike for eating
fry. Two half-pounders are now landed in rapid succession, and returned
to the water. Then we hook a veritable monster; but, alas! he makes a
terrific rush down stream, and the gut breaks in the weeds. Of course he
is put down as the biggest fish ever hooked in the water. As a matter of
fact, two pounds would probably "see him." Putting on another olive dun,
we are soon playing a handsome bright fish of a pound, with thick
shoulders and a small head. And a lovely sight he is when we get him out
of the water and knock him on the head.

We now come to a place where some big stones have been placed to make
ripples and eddies, and the stream is more rapid. Glad of the chance of
a rest from the effort of fishing "dry," which is tiring to the wrist
and back, we get closer to the bank, and flog away for five minutes
without success. Suddenly we hear a voice behind, and, looking round,
see our mysterious keeper, who is always turning up unexpectedly,
without one's being able to tell where he has sprung from. "The fish be
all alive above the washpool. I never see such a sight in all my life!"
he breathlessly exclaims.

"All right," we reply; "we'll be up there directly. But let's first of
all try for the big one that lies just above that stone."

"There's one up! ... There's another up! The river's boiling," says our
loquacious companion.

"That's the big fish," we reply, vigorously flogging the air to dry the
fly; for when there is a big fish about, one always gives him as neatly
a "cocked" fly as is possible.

"_Must_ have him! Bang over him!" exclaims Tom Peregrine excitedly.

But there is no response from the fish.

"Keep _terrifying_ of him, keep _terrifying_ of him," whispers Tom;
"he's bound to make a mistake sooner or later." So we try again, and at
the same moment that the fly floats down over the monster's nose he
moves a foot to the right and takes a live may-fly with a big roll and
a flop.

"Well, I never! Try him with a may-fly, sir," says Peregrine.

Thinking this advice sound, we hastily put on the first may-fly of the
season; and no sooner have we made our cast than, as Rudyard Kipling
once said to the writer, there is a boil in the water "like the launch
of a young yacht," a tremendous swirl, and we are fast into a famous
trout. Directly he feels the insulting sting of the hook he rushes down
stream at a terrific rate, so that the line, instead of being taut,
dangles loosely on the water. We gather the line through the rings in
breathless haste--there is no time to reel up--and once more get a tight
strain on him. Fortunately there are no weeds here; the current is too
rapid for them. Twice he jumps clean out of the water, his broad,
silvery sides flashing in the sunlight. At length, after a five minutes'
fight, during which our companion never stops talking, we land the best
fish we have caught for four years. Nearly three pounds, he is as "fat
as butter," as bright as a new shilling, with the pinkest of pink spots
along his sides, and his broad back is mottled green. The head is small,
indicating that he is not a "cannibal," but a real, good-conditioned,
pink-fleshed trout. And it is rare in May to catch a big fish that has
grown into condition.

We have now four trout in the basket. "A pretty dish of fish," as
Peregrine ejaculates several times as we walk up stream towards the
washpool. For thirty years he has been about this water, and has seen
thousands of fish caught, yet he is as keen to-day as a boy with his
first trout. As we pass through a wood we question him as to a small
stone hut, which appeared to have fallen out of repair.

"Oh!" he replied, "that was built in the time of the Romans"; and then
he went on to tell us how a _great_ battle was fought in the wood, and
how, about twenty years ago, they had found "a _great_ skeleton of a
man, nearly seven feet long"--a sure proof, he added, that the Romans
had fought here.

As a matter of fact, there are several Roman villas in the
neighbourhood, and there was also fighting hereabouts in the Civil Wars.
But half the country folk look upon everything that happened more than a
hundred years ago as having taken place in the time of the Romans; and
Oliver Cromwell is to them as mythical a personage and belonging to an
equally remote antiquity as Julius Caesar. The Welsh people are just the
same. The other day we were shown a huge pair of rusty scissors whilst
staying in Breconshire. The man who found them took them to the "big
house" for the squire to keep as a curiosity, for, "no doubt," he said,
"they once belonged to _some great king_"!

To our disgust, on reaching the upper water we found it as thick as
pea-soup. Sheep-washing had been going on a mile or so above us. Never
having had any sport under these conditions in past times, we had quite
decided to give up fishing for the day; but Tom Peregrine, who is ever
sanguine, swore he saw a fish rise. To our astonishment, on putting the
fly over the spot, we hooked and landed a large trout Proceeding up
stream, two more were quickly basketed. When the water comes down as
thick as the Thames at London Bridge, after sheep washing, the big trout
are often attracted out of their holes by the insects washed out of the
wool; but they will seldom rise freely to the artificial fly on such
occasions. To-day, oddly enough, they take any fly they can see in the
thick water, and with a "coch-y-bondu" substituted for the may-fly, as
being more easily seen in the discoloured water, any number of fish were
to be caught. But there is little merit and, consequently, little
satisfaction in pulling out big trout under these conditions, so that,
having got seven fish, weighing nine pounds, in the basket, we are
satisfied.

As a rule, it is only in the may-fly season that the biggest fish rise
freely; an average weight of one pound per fish is usually considered
first-rate in the Coln. On this day, however, although the may-fly was
not yet properly up, the big fish, which generally feed at night, had
been brought on the rise by the sheep-washing.

All the way home we are regaled with impossible stories of big fish
taken in these waters, one of which, the keeper says, weighed five
pounds, "all but a penny piece." As a matter of fact, this fish was
taken out of a large spring close to the river; and it is very rarely
that a three-pounder is caught in the Coln above Bibury, whilst anything
over that weight is not caught once in a month of Sundays. Last January,
however, a dead trout, weighing three pounds eight ounces, was found at
Bibury Mill, and a few others about the same size have been taken during
recent years. At Fairford, where the stream is bigger, a five-pounder
was taken during the last may-fly.

We are pleased to find that our friend from London, who has been fishing
the same water, has done splendidly; he has killed six brace of good
trout, besides returning a large number to the water. With a glow of
satisfaction he

     "Tells from what pool the noblest had been dragg'd;
      And where the very monarch of the brook,
      After long struggle, had escaped at last."

      WORDSWORTH.

We laid our combined bag on the cool stone floor in the game larder;

     "And verily the silent creatures made
      A splendid sight, together thus exposed;
      Dead, but not sullied or deformed by death,
        That seem'd to pity what he could not spare."

      WORDSWORTH.

But the killing of trout is only a small part of the pleasure of being
here when the may-fly is up. How pleasant to live almost entirely in the
open air! after the day's fishing is over to rest awhile in the cool
manor house hard by the stream, watching from the window of the
oak-panelled little room the wonders of creation in the garden through
which the river flows! Now, from the recesses of the overhanging boughs
on the tiny island opposite, a moorhen swims forth, cackling and pecking
at the water as she goes. She is followed by five little balls of black
fur--her red-beaked progeny; they are fairly revelling in the evening
sunlight, diving, playing with each other, and thoroughly enjoying life.

Up on the bough of the old fir, bearing its heavy mantle of ivy from
base to topmost twig, and not twenty yards from the window, a thrush
sits and sings. You must watch him carefully ere you assure yourself
that those sweet, trilling notes of peerless music come from that tiny
throat. A rare lesson in voice production he will teach you. Deep
breathing, headnotes clear as a bell and effortless, as only three or
four singers in Europe can produce them, without the slightest sense of
strain or throatiness--such are the songs of our most gifted denizens of
the woods.

What a wondrous amount of life is visible on an evening such as this!
Among the fast-growing nettles beyond the brook scores of rabbits are
running to and fro, some sitting up on their haunches with ears pricked,
some gamboling round the lichened trunk of the weeping ash tree.

Out of the water may-flies are rising and soaring upwards to circle
round the topmost branches of the firs. Looking upwards, you may see
hundreds of them dancing in unalloyed delight, enjoying their brief
existence in this beautiful world.

Birds of many kinds, swallows and swifts, sparrows, fly-catchers,
blackbirds, robins and wrens, all and sundry are busy chasing the poor
green-drakes. As soon as the flies emerge from their husks and hover
above the surface of the stream, many of them are snapped up. But the
trout have "gone down,"--they are fairly gorged for the day; they will
not trouble the fly any more to-night.

And then those glorious bicycle rides in the long summer evenings, when,
scarcely had the sun gone down beyond the ridge of rolling uplands than
the moon, almost at the full, and gorgeously serene, cast her soft,
mysterious light upon a silent world. One such night two anglers,
gliding softly through the ancient village of Bibury, dismounted from
their machines and stood on the bridge which spans the River Coln. Below
them the peaceful waters flowed silently onwards with all the smoothness
of oil, save that ever and anon rays of silvery moonlight fell in
streaks of radiant whiteness upon its glassy surface.

From beneath the bridge comes the sound of busy waters, a sound, as is
often the case with running water, that you do not hear unless you
listen for it carefully. Close by, too, at the famous spring, crystal
waters are welling forth from the rock, pure and stainless as they were
a thousand years ago. All else is silent in the village. The sky is
flecked by myriads of tiny cloudlets, all separate from each other, and
mostly of one shape and size; but just below the brilliant orb, which
floats serene and proud above the line of mackerel sky, fantastic peaks
of clouds, like far-off snow-capped heights of rugged Alps, are
pointing upwards.

Suddenly there comes a change. A fairy circle of prismatic colour is
gathering round the moon, beautifying the scene a thousandfold; an inner
girdle of hazy emerald hue immediately surrounds the lurid orb, which is
now seen as "in a glass darkly"; whilst encircling all is a narrow rim
of red light, like the rosy hues of the setting sun that have scarcely
died away in the west. The beauty of this lunar rainbow is enhanced by
the framework of shapely ash trees through whose branches it is seen.

Along the river bank, nestling under the hanging wood, are rows of old
stone cottages, with gables warped a little on one side. One light
shines forth from the lattice window of the ancient mill; but in the
cool thick-walled houses the honest peasants are slumbering in deep,
peaceful sleep.

     "Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep.
        The river glideth at his own sweet will:
      Dear God, the very houses seem asleep."

      WORDSWORTH.

We are in the very heart of England. What a contrast to London at night,
where many a poor fellow must be tossing restlessly in the stifling
atmosphere!

As we return towards the old manor house the nightjar, or goatsucker,
is droning loudly, and a nightingale--actually a nightingale!--is
singing in the copse. These birds seldom visit us in the Cotswolds. In
the deserted garden the scent of fresh-mown hay is filling the air, and

     "The moping owl doth to the moon complain
       Of such as wander near her secret bower."

As we go we pluck some sprigs of fragrant honeysuckle and carry them
indoors. And so to bed, passing on the broad oak staircase the weird
picture of the man who built this rambling old house more than three
hundred years ago.

There is a plain everyday phenomenon connected with pictures, and more
especially photographs, which must have been noticed time after time by
thousands of people; yet I never heard it mentioned in conversation or
saw it in print. I allude to the extraordinary sympathy the features of
a portrait are capable of assuming towards the expression of countenance
of the man who is looking at it. There is something at times almost
uncanny in it. Stand opposite a photograph of a friend when you are
feeling sad, and the picture is sad. Laugh, and the mouth of your friend
seems to curl into a smile, and his eyes twinkle merrily. Relapse into
gloom and despondency, and the smile dies away from the picture. Often
in youth, when about to carry out some design or other, I used to glance
at my late father's portrait, and never failed to notice a look of
approval or condemnation on the face which left its mark on the memory
for a considerable time. The countenance of the grim old gentleman in
the portrait on the stairs ("AETATIS SUAE 92. 1614 A.D.") wore a
distinct air of satisfaction to-night as I passed by on my way to bed;
he always looks pleased after there has been a good day with the hounds,
and likewise in the summer when the may-fly is up.

[Illustration: Burford Priory. 194.png]



CHAPTER IX.

BURFORD, A COTSWOLD TOWN.

Burford and Cirencester are two typical Cotswold towns; and perhaps the
first-named is the most characteristic, as it is also the most remote
and old-world of all places in this part of England. It was on a lovely
day in June that we resolved to go and explore the ancient priory and
glorious church of old Burford. A very slow train sets you down at
Bampton, commonly called Bampton-in-the-Bush, though the forest which
gave rise to the name has long since given place to open fields.

There are many other curious names of this type in Gloucestershire and
the adjoining counties. Villages of the same name are often
distinguished from each other by these quaint descriptions of their
various situations. Thus:

     Moreton-in-the-Marsh distinguishes from More-ton-on-Lug.
     Bourton-on-the-Water distinguishes from Bourton-on-the-Hill.
     Stow-on-the-Wold distinguishes from Stowe-Nine-Churches.

Then we find

     Shipston-on-Stour and Shipton-under-Whichwood.
     Hinton-on-the-Green and Hinton-in-the-Hedges.
     Aston-under-Hill and Aston-under-Edge.

It may be noted in passing that the derivation of the word
"Moreton-in-the-Marsh" has ever been the subject of much controversy.
But the fact that the place is on the ancient trackway from Cirencester
to the north, and also that four counties meet here, is sufficient
reason for assigning Morton-hen-Mearc (=) "the place on the moor by the
old boundary" as the probable meaning of the name.

We were fortunate enough to secure an outside seat on the rickety old
"bus" which plies between Bampton and Burford, and were soon slowly
traversing the white limestone road, stopping every now and then to set
down a passenger or deposit a parcel at some clean-looking, stone-faced
cottage in the straggling old villages.

It was indeed a glorious morning for an expedition into the Cotswolds.
The six weeks' drought had just given place to cool, showery weather. A
light wind from the west breathed the fragrance of countless wild
flowers and sweet may blossom from the leafy hedges, and the scent of
roses and honeysuckle was wafted from every cottage garden. After a
month spent amid the languid air and depressing surroundings of London,
one felt glad at heart to experience once again the grand, pure air and
rural scenery of the Cotswold Hills.

What strikes one so forcibly about this part of England, after a sojourn
in some smoky town, is its extraordinary cleanliness.

There is no such thing as _dirt_ in a limestone country. The very mud
off the roads in rainy weather is not dirt at all, sticky though it
undoubtedly is. It consists almost entirely of lime, which, though it
burns all the varnish off your carriage if allowed to remain on it for a
few days, has nothing repulsive about its nature, like ordinary mud.

How pleasant, too, is the contrast between the quiet, peaceful country
life and the restless din and never-ceasing commotion of the "busy
haunts of men"! As we pass along through villages gay with flowers, we
converse freely with the driver of the 'bus, chiefly about fishing. The
great question which every one asks in this part of the world in the
first week in June is whether the may-fly is up. The lovely green-drake
generally appears on the Windrush about this time, and then for ten days
nobody thinks or talks about anything else. Who that has ever witnessed
a real may-fly "rise" on a chalk or limestone stream will deny that it
is one of the most beautiful and interesting sights in all creation?
Myriads of olive-coloured, transparent insects, almost as large as
butterflies, rising out of the water, and floating on wings as light as
gossamer, only to live but one short day; great trout, flopping and
rolling in all directions, forgetful of all the wiles of which they are
generally capable; and then, when the evening sun is declining, the
female fly may be seen hovering over the water, and dropping her eggs
time after time, until, having accomplished the only purpose for which
she has existed in the winged state, she falls lifeless into the stream.
But though these lovely insects live but twenty-four hours, and during
that short period undergo a transformation from the _sub-imago_ to the
_imago_ state, they exist as larvae in the bed of the river for quite
two years from the time the eggs are dropped. The season of 1896 was one
of the worst ever known on some may-fly rivers; probably the great frost
two winters back was the cause of failure. The intense cold is supposed
to have killed the larvae.

The Windrush trout are very large indeed; a five-pound fish is not at
all uncommon. The driver of the 'bus talked of monsters of eight pounds
having been taken near Burford, but we took this _cum grano salis_.

After a five-mile drive we suddenly see the picturesque old town below
us. Like most of the villages of the country, it lies in one of the
narrow valleys which intersect the hills, so that you do not get a view
of the houses until you arrive at the edge of the depression in which
they are built.

Having paid the modest shilling which represents the fare for the five
miles, we start off for the priory. There was no difficulty in finding
our way to it. In all the Cotswold villages and small towns the "big
house" stands out conspicuously among the old cottages and barns and
farmhouses, half hidden as it is by the dense foliage of giant elms and
beeches and chestnuts and ash; nor is Burford Priory an exception to the
rule, though its grounds are guarded by a wall of immense height on one
side. And then once more we get the view we have seen so often on
Cotswold; yet it never palls upon the senses, but thrills us with its
own mysterious charm. Who can ever get tired of the picture presented by
a gabled, mediaeval house set in a framework of stately trees, amid
whose leafy branches the rooks are cawing and chattering round their
ancestral nests, whilst down below the fertilising stream silently
fulfils its never-ceasing task, flowing onwards everlastingly, caring
nothing for the vicissitudes of our transitory life and the hopes and
fears that sway the hearts of successive generations of men?

There the old house stands "silent in the shade"; there are the "nursery
windows," but the "children's voices" no longer break the silence of the
still summer day. Everywhere--in the hall, in the smoking-room, where
the empty gun-cases still hang, and in "my lady's bower,"

     "Sorrow and silence and sadness
      Are hanging over all."

Until we arrived within a few yards of the front door we had almost
forgotten that the place was a ruin; for though the house is but an
empty shell, almost as hollow as a skull, the outer walls are
absolutely complete and undamaged. At one end is the beautiful old
chapel, built by "Speaker" Lenthall in the time of the Commonwealth.
There is an air of sanctity about this lovely white freestone temple
which no amount of neglect can eradicate. The roof, of fine stucco work,
has fallen in; the elder shrubs grow freely through the crevices in the
broken pavement under foot,--and yet you feel bound to remove your hat
as you enter, for "you are standing on holy ground."

     "EXUE CALCEOS, NAM TERRA EST SANCTA."

Over the entrance stands boldly forth this solemn inscription, whilst
angels, wonderfully carved in white stone, watch and guard the sacred
precincts. At the north end of the chapel stands intact the altar, and,
strangely enough, the most perfectly preserved remnants of the whole
building are two white stone tablets plainly setting forth the Ten
Commandments. The sun, as we stood there, was pouring its rays through
the graceful mullioned windows, lighting up the delicate carving,--work
that is rendered more beautiful than ever by the "tender grace of a day
that is dead,"--whilst outside in the deserted garden the birds were
singing sweetly. The scene was sadly impressive; one felt as one does
when standing by the grave of some old friend. As we passed out of the
chapel we could not help reflecting on the hard-heartedness of men fifty
years ago, who could allow this consecrated place, beautiful and fair
as it still is, to fall gradually to the ground, nor attempt to put
forth a helping hand to save it ere it crumbles into dust. How
ungrateful it seems to those whose labour and hard, self-sacrificing
toil erected it two hundred and fifty years ago! Those men of whom
Ruskin wrote: "All else for which the builders sacrificed has passed
away; all their living interests and aims and achievements. We know not
for what they laboured, and we see no evidence of their reward. Victory,
wealth, authority, happiness, all have departed, though bought by many a
bitter sacrifice."

It should be mentioned, however, that Mr. R. Hurst is at the present
time engaged in a laudable endeavour to restore this chapel to its
original state. Inside the house the most noteworthy feature of interest
is a remarkably fine ornamental ceiling. Good judges inform us that the
ballroom ceiling at Burford Priory is one of the finest examples of old
work of the kind anywhere to be seen. The room itself is a very large
and well-proportioned one; the oak panels, which completely cover the
walls, still bear the marks of the famous portraits that once adorned
them. Charles I. and Henry Prince of Wales, by Cornelius Jansen; Queen
Henrietta Maria, by Vandyke; Sir Thomas More and his family, by Holbein;
Speaker Lenthall, the former owner of the house; and many other fine
pictures hung here in former times. The staircase is a fine broad
one, of oak.

But now let us leave the inside of the house, which _ought_ to be so
beautiful and bright, and _is_ so desolate and bare, for it is of no
great age, and let us call to mind the picture which Waller painted,
engravings of which used to adorn so many Oxford rooms: "The Empty
Saddle." For, standing in the neglected garden we may see the very
terrace and the angle of the house which were drawn so beautifully by
him. Then, as we stroll through the deserted grounds towards the
peaceful Windrush, where the great trout are still sucking down the poor
short-lived may-flies, let us try to recollect what manner of men used
to walk in these peaceful gardens in the old, stirring times.

Little or nothing is known of the monastery which doubtless existed
somewhere hereabouts prior to the dissolution in Henry VIII.'s reign.

Up to the Conquest the manor of Burford was held by Saxon noblemen. It
is mentioned in Doomsday Book as belonging to Earl Aubrey; but the first
notable man who held it was Hugh le Despencer. This man was one of
Edward II.'s favourites, and was ultimately hung, by the queen's
command, at the same time that Edward was committed to Kenilworth
Castle. Burford remained with his descendants till the reign of Henry
V., when it passed by marriage to a still more notable man, in the
person of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the "kingmaker." Space does
not allow us to romance on the part that this great warrior played in
the history of those times; Lord Lytton has done that for us in his
splendid book, "The Last of the Barons." Suffice it to say that he left
an undying fame to future generations, and fell in the Wars of the Roses
when fighting at the battle of Barnet against the very man he had set on
the throne. The almshouses he built for Burford are still to be seen
hard by the grand old church.

     "For who lived king, but I could dig his grave?
      And who durst smile, when Warwick bent his brow?
      Lo, now my glory's smear'd in dust and blood!
      My parks, my walks, my manors that I had,
      Even now forsake me; and of all my lands,
      Is nothing left me, but my body's length!"

      3 _King Henry VI_., V. ii.

In the reign of Henry VIII. this manor, having lapsed to the Crown, was
granted to Edmund Harman, the royal surgeon. Then in later days Sir John
Fortescue, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth, got hold of
it, and eventually sold it to Sir Lawrence Tanfield, a great judge in
those times. The latter was buried "at twelve o'clock in the Night" in
the church of Burford; and there is a very handsome aisle there and an
immense monument to his memory. The Tanfield monument, though somewhat
ugly and grotesque, is a wonderful example of alabaster work. The cost
of erecting it and the labour bestowed must have been immense. It was
this knight who built the great house of which the present ruins form
part, and the date would probably be about 1600. But in 1808 nearly half
the original building is supposed to have been pulled down, and what was
allowed to remain, with the exception of the chapel, has been very
much altered.

It was in the time of Lucius Carey's (second Lord Falkland) ownership of
this manor that the place was in the zenith of its fame. This
accomplished man, whose father had married Chief Justice Tanfield's
only daughter, succeeded his grandfather in the year 1625. He gathered
together, either here or at Great Tew, a few miles away, half the
literary celebrities of the day. Ben Jonson, Cowley, and Chillingworth
all visited Falkland from time to time. Lucius Carey afterwards became
the ill-fated King Charles's Secretary of State, an office which he
conscientiously filled until his untimely death.

Falkland left little literary work behind him of any mark, yet of no
other man of those times may it be said that so great a reputation for
ability and character has been handed down to us. Novelists and authors
delight in dwelling on his good qualities. Even in this jubilee year of
1897 the author of "Sir Kenelm Digby" has written a book about the
Falklands. Whyte Melville, too, made him the hero of one of his novels,
describing him as a man in whose outward appearance there were no
indications of the intellectual superiority he enjoyed over his fellow
men. Indeed, as with Arthur Hallam in our own times, so it was with
Falkland in the mediaeval age. Neither left behind them any work of
their own by which future generations could realise their abilities and
almost godlike charm, yet each has earned a kind of immortality through
being honoured and sung by the pens of the greatest writers of his
respective age.

That great, though somewhat bombastic, historian, Lord Clarendon, tells
us that Falkland was "a person of such prodigious parts of learning and
knowledge, of that inimitable sweetness and delight in conversation, of
so flowing and obliging a humanity and goodness to mankind, and of that
primitive simplicity and integrity of life, that if there were no other
brand upon this odious and accursed Civil War than that single loss, it
must be most infamous and execrable to all posterity." From the same
authority we learn that although he was ever anxious for peace, yet he
was the bravest of the brave. At the battle of Newbury he put himself in
the first rank of Lord Byron's regiment, when he met his end through a
musket shot. "Thus," says Clarendon, "fell that incomparable young man,
in the four-and-thirtieth year of his age, having so much despatched the
true business of life that the eldest rarely attain to that immense
knowledge, and the youngest enter not into the world with more
innocency."

When it is remembered that Falkland was not a soldier at all, but a
learned scholar, whose natural proclivities were literature and the arts
of peace, his self-sacrifice and bravery cannot fail to call forth
admiration for the man, and we cannot but regret his untimely end.

King Charles was several times at Burford, for it was the scene of much
fighting in the Civil Wars.

It was in the year 1636 that Speaker Lenthall purchased Burford Priory.
He was a man of note in those troublous times, and even Cromwell seems
to have respected him; for, although the latter came down to the House
one day with a troop of musketeers, with the express intention of
turning the gallant Speaker out of his chair, and effected his object
amid the proverbial cries of "Make way for honester men!" yet we find
that within twelve months the crafty old gentleman had once more got
back again into the chair, and remained Speaker during the Protectorate
of Richard Cromwell. He declared on his deathbed that, although, like
Saul, he held the clothes of the murderers, yet that he never consented
to the death of the king, but was deceived by Cromwell and his agents.

The priory remained in the Lenthall family up to the year 1821. At the
present time it belongs to the Hurst family.

We have now briefly traced the history of the manor from the time of the
Conquest, and, doubtless, all the men whose names occur have spent a
good deal of time on this beautiful spot.

Alas that the garden should be but a wilderness! The carriage drive
consists of rich green turf. In a summer-house in the grounds John
Prior, Speaker Lenthall's faithful servant, was murdered in the year
1697. The Earl of Abercorn was accused of the murder, but was acquitted.

In addition to King Charles I., many other royal personages have visited
this place. Queen Elizabeth once visited the town, and came with
great pomp.

The Burgesses' Book has a note to the effect that in 1663 twenty-one
pounds was paid for three saddles presented to Charles II. and his
brother the Duke of York. Burford was celebrated for its saddles in
those days. It was a great racing centre, and both here and at Bibury
(ten miles off) flat racing was constantly attracting people from all
parts. Bibury was a sort of Newmarket in old days. Charles II. was at
Burford on three occasions at least.

It was in the year 1681 that the Newmarket spring meeting was
transferred to Bibury. Parliament was then sitting at Oxford, some
thirty miles away; so that the new rendezvous was more convenient than
the old. Nell Gwynne accompanied the king to the course. For a hundred
and fifty years the Bibury club held its meetings here. The oldest
racing club in England, it still flourishes, and will in future hold its
meetings near Salisbury.

In 1695 King William III. came to Burford in order to influence the
votes in the forthcoming parliamentary election. Macaulay tells us that
two of the famous saddles were presented to this monarch, and remarks
that one of the Burford saddlers was the best in Europe. William III.
slept that night at the priory. The famous "Nimrod," in his "Life of a
Sportsman," gives us a picture, by Alken, of Bibury racecourse, and
tells us how gay Burford was a hundred years ago:

"Those were Bibury's very best days. In addition to the presence of
George IV., then Prince of Wales, who was received by Lord Sherborne for
the race week at his seat in the neighbourhood, and who every day
appeared on the course as a private gentleman, there was a galaxy of
gentlemen jockeys, who alone rode at this meeting, which has never since
been equalled. Amongst them were the Duke of Dorset, who always rode for
the Prince; the late Mr. Delme-Radcliffe; the late Lords Charles
Somerset and Milsington; Lord Delamere, Sir Tatton Sykes, and many other
first-raters.

"I well remember the scenes at Burford and all the neighbouring towns
after the races were over. That at Burford 'beggars' description; for,
independently of the bustle occasioned by the accommodation necessary
for the club who were domiciled in the town, the concourse of persons of
all sorts and degrees was immense."

Old Mr. Peregrine told me the other day that during the race week the
shopkeepers at Bibury village used to let their bedrooms to the
visitors, and sleep on the shop board, while the rest of the family
slept underneath the counter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah well! _Tempora mutantur!_ "Nimrod" and his "notables" are all gone.

     "The knights' bones are dust,
      And their good swords rust,
      Their souls are with the saints, I trust."

And whereas up to fifty years ago Burford was a rich country town,
famous for the manufacture of paper, malt, and sailcloth--enriched, too,
by the constant passage of numerous coaches stopping on their way from
Oxford to Gloucester--it is now little more than a village--the
quietest, the cleanest, and the quaintest place in Oxfordshire. Perhaps
its citizens are to be envied rather than pitied:

         "bene est cui deus obtulit
     Parca, quod satis est, manu."

Let us go up to the top of the main street, and sit down on the ancient
oak bench high up on the hill, whence we can look down on the old-world
place and get a birdseye view of the quaint houses and the surrounding
country. And now we may exclaim with Ossian, "A tale of the times of
old! The deeds of days of other years!" For yonder, a mile away from the
town, the kings of Mercia and Wessex fought a desperate battle in the
year A.D. 685. Quite recently a tomb was found there containing a stone
coffin weighing nearly a ton. The bones of the warrior who fought and
died there were marvellously complete when disturbed in their
resting-place--in fact, the skeleton was a perfect one.

"Whose fame is in that dark green tomb? Four stones with their heads of
moss stand there. They mark the narrow house of death. Some chief of
fame is here! Raise the songs of old! Awake their memory in the
tomb." [4]

[Footnote 4: Ossian.]

Tradition has it that this was the body of a great Saxon chief,
Aethelhum, the mighty standard-bearer of the Mercian King Ethelbald. It
was in honour of this great warrior that the people of Burford carried a
standard emblazoned with a golden dragon through the old streets on
midsummer eve, annually, for nigh on a thousand years. We are told that
it was only during last century that the custom died out.

How beautiful are some of the old houses in the broad and stately High
Street!

The ancient building in the centre of the town is called the "Tolsey";
it must be more than four hundred years old. The name originated in the
custom of paying tolls due to the lord of the manor in the building.
There are some grand old iron chests here; one of these old boxes
contains many interesting charters and deeds, some of them bearing the
signatures of chancellors Morton, Stephen Gardiner, and Ellesmere. There
are letters from Elizabeth, and an order from the Privy Council with
Arlington's signature attached. "The stocks" used to stand on the north
side of this building, but have lately been removed. Then the houses
opposite the Tolsey are as beautiful as they possibly can be. They are
fifteenth century, and have oak verge-boards round their gables, carved
in very delicate tracery.

Another house has a wonderful cellar, filled with grandly carved
stonework, like the aisle of a church; this crypt is probably more than
five hundred years old. Perhaps this vaulted Gothic chamber is a remnant
of the old monastery, the site of which is not known. Close by is an
ancient building, now turned into an inn; and this also may have been
part of the dwelling-place of the monks of Burford. From the vaulted
cellar beneath the house, now occupied by Mr. Chandler, ran an
underground passage, evidently connected with some other building.

How sweetly pretty is the house at the foot of the bridge, as seen from
the High Street above! The following inscription stands out prominently
on the front:--

     "SYMON WYSDOM ALDERMAN
     THE FYRST FOUNDER OR THE SCHOLE
     IN BURFORD GAVE THE TENEMENES
     IN A.D. 1577."

The old almshouses on the green by the church have an inscription to
the effect that they were founded by Richard Earl of Warwick (the
kingmaker), in the year 1457. They were practically rebuilt about
seventy years ago; but remnants of beautiful Gothic architecture still
remain in the old stone belfry, and here and there a piece of tracery
has been preserved. In all parts of the town one suddenly alights upon
beautiful bits of carved stone--an Early English gateway in one street,
and lancet doorways to many a cottage in another. Oriel windows are also
plentiful. Behind the almshouses is a cottage with massive buttresses,
and everywhere broken pieces of quaint gargoyles, pinnacles, and other
remnants of Gothic workmanship are to be seen lying about on the walls
and in odd corners. A careful search would doubtless reveal many a fine
piece of tracery in the cottages and buildings. At some period, however,
vandalism has evidently been rampant. Happening to find our way into the
back premises of an ancient inn, we noticed that the coals were heaped
up against a wall of old oak panelling.

And now we come to the most beautiful piece of architecture in the
place--the magnificent old church. It is grandly situated close to the
banks of the Windrush, and is more like a cathedral than a village
church. The front of the porch is worked with figures representing our
Lord, St. Mary Magdalene, and St. John the Evangelist; but the heads
were unfortunately destroyed in the Civil Wars. Inside the porch the
rich fan-tracery, which rises from the pilasters on each side, is carved
with consummate skill.

Space does not allow us to dwell on the grandeur of the massive Norman
tower, the great doorway at the western entrance with its splendid
moulding, the quaint low arch leading from nave to chancel, and the
other specimens of Norman work to be seen in all parts of this
magnificent edifice. Nor can we do justice to the glorious nave, with
its roof of oak; nor the aisles and the chancel; nor the beautiful
Leggare chapel, with its oak screen, carved in its upper part in
fifteenth-century tracery, its faded frescoes and ancient altar tomb.
The glass of the upper portion of the great west window and the window
of St Thomas' chapel are indeed "labyrinths of twisted tracery and
starry light" such as would delight the fastidious taste of Ruskin.
Several pages might easily be written in describing the wonderful and
grotesque example of alabaster work known as the Tanfield tomb. The only
regret one feels on gazing at this grand old specimen of the toil of our
simple ancestors is that it is seldom visited save by the natives of
rural Burford, many of whom, alas! must realise but little the
exceptional beauty and stateliness of the lovely old church with which
they have been so familiar all their lives.

A few years ago Mr. Oman, Fellow of All Souls', Oxford, made a curious
discovery. Whilst going through some documents that had been for many
years in the hands of the last survivor of the ancient corporation, and
being one of the few men in England in a position to identify the
handwriting, he came across a deed or charter signed by "the great
kingmaker" himself; it was in the form of a letter, and had reference
to the gift of almshouses he made to Burford in 1457 A.D. The boldly
written "R.I. Warrewyck" at the end is the only signature of the
kingmaker's known to exist save the one at Belvoir. In this letter
prayers are besought for the founder and the Countess Anne his wife,
whilst attached to it is a seal with the arms of Neville, Montacute,
Despencer, and Beauchamp.

On the font in the church is a roughly chiselled name:

     "ANTHONY SEDLEY. 1649. Prisner."

Not only prisoners, but even their _horses_, were shut up in these grand
old churches during the Civil Wars. This Anthony Sedley must have been
one of the three hundred and forty Levellers who were imprisoned here
in 1649.

The register has the following entry:--

"1649. Three soldiers shot to death in Burford Churchyard, buried May
17th."

Burford was the scene of a good deal of fighting during the Civil Wars.
On January 1st, 1642, in the dead of night, Sir John Byron's regiment
had a sharp encounter with two hundred dragoons of the Parliamentary
forces. A fierce struggle took place round the market cross, during
which Sir John Byron was wounded in the face with a poleaxe. Cromwell's
soldiers, however, were routed and driven out of the town.

In the parish register is the following entry :--

"1642. Robert Varney of Stowe, slain in Burford and buried January 1st.

"1642. Six soldiers slain in Burford, buried 2nd January.

"1642. William Junks slain with the shot of musket, buried January 10th.

"1642. A soldier hurt at Cirencester road was buried."

Many other entries of the same nature are to be seen in the parish
register.

The old market cross of Burford has indeed seen some strange things. Mr.
W.J. Monk, to whose "History of Burford" I am indebted for valuable
information, tells us that the penance enjoined on various citizens of
Burford for such crimes as buying a Bible in the year 1521 was as
follows:--

"Everyone to go upon a market day thrice about the market of Burford,
and then to stand up upon the highest steps of the cross there, a
quarter of an hour, with a faggot of wood upon his shoulder.

"Everyone also to beare a faggot of wood before the procession on a
certain Sunday at Burford from the Quire doore going out, to the quire
doore going in, and once to bear a faggot at the burning of a heretic.

"Also none of them to hide their mark [+] upon their cheek (branded
in)," etc., etc.

"In the event of refusal, they were to be given up to the civil
authorities to be burnt."

[Illustration: The Manor-House, Coln St. Aldwyns. 214.png]



CHAPTER X.

A STROLL THROUGH THE COTSWOLDS.

                              "In Gloucestershire
     These high, wild hills and rough, uneven ways
     Draw out our miles, and make them wearisome."

_King Richard II_.

It cannot be said that there are many pleasant walks and drives in the
Cotswold country, because, as a rule, the roads run over the bleak
tableland for miles and miles, and the landscape generally consists of
ploughed fields divided by grey stone walls; the downs I have referred
to at different times are only to be met with in certain districts. Once
upon a time the whole of Cotswold was one vast sheep walk from beginning
to end. It was about a hundred and fifty years ago that the idea of
enclosing the land was started by the first Lord Bathurst. Early in the
eighteenth century he converted a large tract of downland round
Cirencester into arable fields; his example was soon followed by others,
so that by the middle of last century the transformation of three
hundred square miles of downs into wheat-growing ploughed fields had
been accomplished. It is chiefly owing to the depression in agricultural
produce that there are any downs now, for they merely exist because the
tenants have found during the last twenty years that it does not pay to
cultivate their farms, hence they let a large proportion go back
to grass.

But there is one very pleasant walk in that part of the Cotswolds we
know best, and this takes you up the valley of the Coln to the Roman
villa at Chedworth.

The distance by road from Fairford to the Chedworth woods is about
twelve miles; and at any time of the year, but more especially in the
spring and autumn, it is a truly delightful pilgrimage.

And here it is worth our while to consider for a moment how tremendously
the abolition of the stage coach has affected places like Fairford,
Burford, and other Cotswold towns and villages. It was through these
old-world places, past these very walls and gables, that the mail
coaches rattled day after day when they "went down with victory"
conveying the news of Waterloo and Trafalgar into the heart of merry
England. In his immortal essay on "The English Mail Coach," De Quincey
has told us how between the years 1805 and 1815 it was worth paying
down five years of life for an outside place on a coach "going down with
victory." "On any night the spectacle was beautiful. The absolute
perfection of all the appointments about the carriages and the harness,
their strength, their brilliant cleanliness, their beautiful
simplicity--but more than all, the royal magnificence of the
horses--were what might first have fixed the attention. But the night
before us is a night of victory: and behold! to the ordinary display
what a heart-shaking addition! horses, men, carriages, all are dressed
in laurels and flowers, oak leaves and ribbons." The brilliancy of the
royal liveries, the thundering of the wheels, the tramp of those
generous horses, the sounding of the coach horn in the calm evening air,
and last, but not least, the intense enthusiasm of travellers and
spectators alike, as amid such cries as "Salamanca for ever!" "Hurrah
for Waterloo!" they cheered and cheered again, letting slip the dogs of
victory throughout those old English villages,--all these things must
have united the hearts of the classes and masses in one common bond,
rendering such occasions memorable for ever in the hearts of the simple
country folk. In small towns like Burford and Northleach, situated five
or six miles from any railway station, the prosperity and happiness of
the natives has suffered enormously by the decay of the stage coach; and
even in smaller villages the cheering sound of the horn must have been
very welcome, forming as it did a connecting link between these remote
hamlets of Gloucestershire and the great metropolis a hundred
miles away.

Fairford Church is known far and wide as containing the most beautiful
painted glass of the early part of the sixteenth century to be found
anywhere in England. The windows, twenty-eight in number, are usually
attributed to Albert Dürer; but Mr. J.G. Joyce, who published a treatise
on them some twenty years ago, together with certain other high
authorities, considered them to be of English design and workmanship.
They would doubtless have been destroyed in the time of the Civil Wars
by the Puritans had they not been taken down and hidden away by a member
of the Oldysworth family, whose tomb is in the middle chancel.

John Tame, having purchased the manor of Fairford in 1498, immediately
set about building the church. He died two years later, and his son
completed the building, and also erected two other very fine churches in
the neighbourhood--those at Rendcombe and Barnsley. He was a great
benefactor to the Cotswold country. Leland tells us that the town of
Fairford never flourished "before the cumming of the Tames into it."

You may see John Tame's effigy on his tomb, together with that of his
wife, and underneath these pathetic lines:

     "For thus, Love, pray for me.
      I may not pray more, pray ye:
      With a pater noster and an ave:
      That my paynys relessyd be."

If I remember rightly his helmet and other parts of his armour still
hang on the church wall. Leland describes Fairford as a "praty
uplandish towne," meaning, I suppose, that it is situated on high
ground. It is certainly a delightful old-fashioned place--a very good
type of what the Cotswold towns are like. Chipping-Campden and Burford
are, however, the two most typical Cotswold towns I know.

In the year 1850 a remarkable discovery was made in a field close to
Fairford. No less than a hundred and fifty skeletons were unearthed, and
with them a large number of very interesting Anglo-Saxon relics, some of
them in good preservation. In many of the graves an iron knife was found
lying by the skeleton; in others the bodies were decorated with bronze
fibulae, richly gilt, and ornamented in front. Mr. W. Wylie, in his
interesting account of these Anglo-Saxon graves, tells us that some of
the bodies were as large as six feet six inches; whilst one or two
warriors of seven feet were unearthed. All the skeletons were very
perfect, even though no signs of any coffins were to be seen. Bronze
bowls and various kinds of pottery, spearheads of several shapes, a
large number of coloured beads, bosses of shields, knives, shears, and
two remarkably fine swords were some of the relics found with the
bodies. A glass vessel, coloured yellow by means of a chemical process
in which iron was utilised, is considered by Mr. Wylie to be of Saxon
manufacture, and not Venetian or Roman, as other authorities hold.

Whether this is merely an Anglo-Saxon burial-place, or whether the
bodies are those of the warriors who fell in a great battle such as that
fought in A.D. 577, when the Saxons overthrew the Britons and took from
them the cities of Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath, it is impossible
to determine. The natives are firmly convinced that the skeletons
represent the slain in a great battle fought near this spot; but this is
only tradition. At all events, the words of prophecy attributed to the
old Scotch bard Ossian have a very literal application with reference to
this interesting relic of bygone times: "The stranger shall come and
build there and remove the heaped-up earth. An half-worn sword shall
rise before him. Bending above it, he will say, 'These are the arms of
the chiefs of old, but their names are not in song.'" The "heaped-up"
earth has long ago disappeared, for there are no "barrows" now to be
seen. Cottages stand where the old burial mounds doubtless once existed,
and all monumental evidences of those mighty men--the last, perhaps, of
an ancient race--have long since been destroyed by the ruthless hand
of time.

The manor of Fairford now belongs to the Barker family, to whom it came
through the female line about a century ago.

We must now leave Fairford, and start on our pilgrimage to the Roman
villa of Chedworth. At present we have not got very far, having lingered
at our starting-point longer than we had intended. The first two miles
are the least interesting of the whole journey; the Coln, broadened out
for some distance to the size of a lake, is hidden from our view by the
tall trees of Fairford Park. It was along this road that John Keble, the
poet used to walk day by day to his cure at Coln-St.-Aldwyns. His home
was at Fairford. Two eminent American artists have made their home in
Fairford during recent years--Mr. Edwin Abbey and Mr. J. Sargent, both
R.A's. Close by, too, at Kelmscott, dwelt William Morris, the poet.

On reaching Quenington we catch a glimpse of the river, whilst high up
on the hill to our right stands the great pile of Hatherop Castle. This
place, the present owner of which is Sir Thomas Bazley, formerly
belonged to the nunnery of Lacock. After the suppression of the
monasteries it passed through various heiresses to the family of Ashley.
It was practically rebuilt by William Spencer Ponsonby, first Lord de
Mauley; his son, Mr. Ashley Ponsonby, sold it to Prince Duleep Singh,
from whom it passed to the present owner. Sir Thomas Bazley has done
much for the village which is fortunate enough to claim him as a
resident; his estate is a model of what country estates ought to be,
unprofitable though it must have proved as an investment.

As we pass on through the fair villages of Quenington and
Coln-St.-Aldwyns we cannot help noticing the delightful character of the
houses from a picturesque point of view; in both these hamlets there are
the same clean-looking stone cottages and stone-tiled roofs. Here and
there the newer cottages are roofed with ordinary slate; and this seems
a pity. Nevertheless, there still remains much that is picturesque to be
seen on all sides. Roses grow in every garden, clematis relieves with
its rich purple shade the walls of many a cosy little dwelling-house,
and the old white mills, with their latticed windows and pointed
gables, are a feature of every tiny hamlet through which the
river flows.

     "How gay the habitations that adorn
      This fertile valley! Not a house but seems
      To give assurance of content within,
      Embosom'd happiness, and placid love."

      WORDSWORTH.

The beautiful gabled house close to the Norman church of
Coln-St.-Aldwyns is the old original manor house. Inside it is an old
oak staircase, besides other interesting relics of the Elizabethan age.
For many years this has been a farmhouse, but it has recently been
restored by its owner, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, the present Chancellor
of the Exchequer, who intends to make it his country abode. A piece of
carved stone with four heads was discovered by the workmen engaged in
the restoration, and is to be placed over the front door. It is
doubtless a remnant of an old monastery, and dates back to Norman times.

Williamstrip House and Park lie on your right-hand side as you leave the
village of "Coln" behind you. This place also belongs to Sir Michael
Hicks-Beach; it has always seemed to us the _beau-ideal_ of an English
home. A medium-sized, comfortable square house of the time of George I.,
surrounded by some splendid old trees, in a park not too large, a couple
of miles or so of excellent trout-fishing, very fair shooting, and good
hunting would seem to be a combination of sporting advantages that few
country places enjoy. Williamstrip came into the family of the present
owner in 1784. The three parishes of Hatherop, Quenington, and
Coln-St.-Aldwyns practically adjoin each other. Each has its beautiful
church, the Norman doorways in that of Quenington being well worth a
visit. Close to the church of Quenington are the remnants of an ancient
monastery.

The "Knights Templar" of Quenington were famous in times gone by. There
is a fine entrance gate and porch on the roadside, which no doubt led to
the abbey.

There is little else left to remind us of these Knights Templar. Here
and there are an old lancet window or a little piece of Gothic tracery
on an ancient wall, an old worm-eaten roof of oak or a heap of ruined
stones on a moat-surrounded close,--these are all the remnants to be
found of the days of chivalry and the monks of old.

We have now two rather uneventful miles to traverse between
Coln-St.-Aldwyns and Bibury, for we must once more leave the valley and
set out across the bleak uplands. On the high ground we have the
advantage of splendid bracing air at all events. The hills have a charm
of their own on a fine day, more especially when the fields are full of
golden corn and the old-fashioned Cotswold men are busy among
the sheaves.

And very soon we get a view which we would gladly have walked twenty
miles to see. Down below us and not more than half a mile away is the
fine old Elizabethan house of Bibury, standing out from a background of
magnificent trees. Close to the house is the grey Norman tower of the
village church, which has stood there for mote than six centuries.
Nestling round about are the old stone-roofed cottages, like those we
have seen in the other villages we have passed through. A broad reach of
the Coln and a grand waterfall enhance the quiet and peaceful beauty of
the scene. But this description falls very short of conveying any
adequate idea of the truly delightful effect which the old grey
buildings set in a framework of wood and water present on a fine
autumnal afternoon.

Never shall I forget seeing this old place from the hill above during
one September sunset. There was a marvellous glow suffused over the
western sky, infinitely beautiful while it lasted; and immediately below
a silvery mist had risen from the surface of the broad trout stream, and
was hanging over the old Norman tower of the church. Amid the rush of
the waterfall could be heard the distant voices of children in the
village street. Then on a sudden the church clock struck the hour of
six, in deep, solemn tones. Against the russet-tinted woods in the
background the old court house stood out grey and silent under the
shadow of the church tower, preaching as good a sermon as any I
ever heard.

     "An English home, grey twilight poured
        On dewy pastures, dewy trees,
      Softer than sleep,--all things in order stored,
        A haunt of ancient peace."

Bibury Court is a most beautiful old house. Some of it dates back to
Henry VIII.'s time. The most remarkable characteristic of its interior
is a very fine carved oak staircase. The greater part of this house was
built in the year 1623 by Sir Thomas Sackville. It was long the seat of
the Creswell family, before passing by purchase to the family of the
present owner--Lord Sherborne. The fine old church has some Saxon work
in it, whilst the doorways and many other portions are Norman. Its
delightful simplicity and brightness is what pleases one most. On coming
down into the village, one notices a little square on the left, not at
all like those one sees in London, but very picturesque and clean
looking. In the olden times were to be seen in many villages little
courts of this kind; in the centre of them was usually a great tree,
round which the old people would sit on summer evenings, while the
children danced and played around. Gilbert White speaks of one at
Selborne, which he calls the "Plestor." The original name was
"Pleystow," which means a play place. We have noticed them in many parts
of the Cotswold country. Here, too, children are playing about under the
shade of some delightful trees in the centre of the miniature square,
whilst the variegated foliage sets off the gabled cottages which form
three sides of it.

I have often wondered, as I stood by these chestnut trees, whether there
is any architecture more perfect in its simplicity and grace than that
which lies around me here. Not a cottage is in sight that is not worthy
of the painter's brush; not a gable or a chimney that would not be
worthy of a place in the Royal Academy. The little square is bordered
for six months of the year with the prettiest of flowers. Even as late
as December you may see roses in bloom on the walls, and chrysanthemums
of varied shade in every garden. Then, as we passed onwards,

     "On the stream's bank, and everywhere, appeared
        Fair dwellings, single or in social knots;
      Some scattered o'er the level, others perch'd
        On the hill-sides--a cheerful, quiet scene."

      WORDSWORTH.

There is a Gothic quaintness about all the buildings in the Cotswolds,
great and small alike, which is very charming. Bibury is indeed a pretty
village. As you walk along the main street which runs parallel with the
river, an angler is busy "swishing" his rod violently in the air to
"dry" the fly, ere he essays to drop it over the nose of one of the
speckled fario which abound; so be careful to step down off the path
which runs alongside the stream, in case you should put the fish "down"
and spoil the sport. And now on our left, beyond the green, may be seen
a line of gabled cottages called "Arlington Row," a picture of which by
G. Leslie was hung at the Royal Academy this year (1898).

A few hundred yards on you stop to inspect the spring which rises in the
garden of the Swan Hotel. It has been said that two million gallons a
day is the minimum amount of water poured out by this spring. It
consists of the rain, which, falling on a large area of the hill
country, gradually finds its way through the limestone rocks and
eventually comes out here. It would be interesting to trace the course
of some of these underground rivers; for a torrent of water such as this
cannot flow down through the soft rock without in the course of
thousands of years, producing caves and grottoes and underground
galleries and all the wonders of the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, with its
stalactite pillars and fairy avenues and domes--though the Cotswold
caves are naturally on a much smaller scale. At Torquay and on the
Mendip Hills, as everybody knows, there are caves of wondrous beauty,
carved by the water within the living rock.

Probably within a hundred yards of Bibury spring there are beautiful
hidden caves, such as those funny little "palaeolithic" men lived in a
few thousand years ago; but why there have not been more discoveries of
this nature in this part of the Cotswolds it is difficult to say. There
is a cave hereabouts, men say, but the entrance to it cannot now be
found. There is likewise a Roman villa on the hill here which has not
yet been dug out of its earthy bed. A hundred years ago a large number
of Roman antiquities were discovered near this village.

We now leave Bibury behind us, and a mile on we pass through the hamlet
of Ablington, which is very like Bibury on a smaller scale, with its
ancient cottages, tithe barns and manor house; its springs of
transparent water, its brook, and wealth of fine old trees. We have no
time to linger in this hamlet to-day, though we would fain pause to
admire the old house.

     "The pillar'd porch, elaborately embossed;
        The low, wide windows with their mullions old;
      The cornice richly fretted of grey stone;
        And that smooth slope from which the dwelling rose
      By beds and banks Arcadian of gay flowers,
        And flowering shrubs, protected and adorned."

      WORDSWORTH

After leaving Ablington we once more ascend the hill and make our way
along an old, disused road, probably an ancient British track, in
preference to keeping to the highway--in the first place because it is
by far the shortest, and secondly because we intend to go somewhat out
of our way to inspect two ancient barrows, the resting-place of the
chiefs of old, of whom Ossian (or was it Macpherson?)[5] sang: "If fall
I must in the field, raise high my grave. Grey stones and heaped-up
earth shall mark me to future times. When the hunter shall sit by the
mound and produce his food at noon, 'Some warrior rests here,' he will
say; and my fame shall live in his praise."

[Footnote 5: In spite of Dr. Johnson and other eminent critics, one
cannot help believing in the genuineness of some of the poems attributed
to Ossian. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating"; and those
wonderful old songs are too wild and lifelike to have had their origin
in the eighteenth century. Macpherson doubtless enlarged upon the
originals, but he must have had a good foundation to work upon.]

A very large barrow lies about a mile out of our track to the right
hand; as it is somewhat different from the other barrows in the
neighbourhood, we will briefly describe it. It is a "long barrow," with
the two horns at one end that are usually associated with "long"
barrows. In the middle of the curve between these ends stands a great
stone about five feet square, not very unlike our own gravestones,
though worn by the rains of thousands of years. The mound is surrounded
by a double wall of masonry. At the north end, when it was opened forty
years ago, a chamber was found containing human bones. It is supposed
that this mound was the burying-place of a race which dwelt on Cotswold
at least three thousand years ago. From the nature of the stone
implements found, it is conjectured that the people who raised it were
unacquainted with the use of metal.

Now we will have a look at another barrow a few fields away. This is a
mound of a somewhat later age; for it was raised over the ashes of a
body or bodies that had been cremated. It was probably the Celts who
raised this barrow. The other day it was opened for a distinguished
society of antiquaries to inspect; they found that in the centre were
stones carefully laid, encircling a small chamber, whilst the outer
portions were of ordinary rubble. Nothing but lime-dust and dirt was
found in the chamber; but in the course of thousands of years most of
these barrows have probably been opened a good many times by Cotswold
natives in search of "golden coffins" and other treasures.

There is a small, round underground chamber within a short distance of
these barrows, which the natives consider to be a shepherd's hut, put up
about two centuries back, and before the country was enclosed, as a
retreat to shelter the men who looked after the flocks. It has been
declared, however, by those who have studied the question of burial
mounds, that it was built in very early times, and contained bodies that
had not been cremated. The antiquaries who came a short time back to
view these remains describe it as "an underground chamber, circular in
shape, and an excellent sample of dry walling. The roof is dome-shaped,
and gradually projects inwards." I narrowly escaped taking this
"society" for a band of poachers; for when out shooting the other day,
somebody remarked, "Look at all those fellows climbing over the wall of
the fox-covert."

Now the fox-covert is a very sacred institution in these parts; for it
is a place of only four acres, standing isolated in the midst of a fine,
open country--so that no human being is allowed to enter therein save to
"stop the earth" the night before hunting. We rushed up in great haste,
fully prepared for mortal combat with this gang of ruffians, until, when
within a hundred yards, the thought crossed us that we had given leave
to the Cotswold Naturalist Society to make a tour of inspection, and
that one of the barrows was in our fox-covert.

Labouring friends of mine often bring me relics of the stone age which
they have picked up whilst at work in the fields. Quite recently a
shepherd brought me a knife blade and two flint arrow-heads. He also
tells me they have lately found a "himmige" up in old Mr. Peregrine's
"barn-ground." Tom Peregrine possesses a bag of old coins of all dates
and sizes, which he tells you with great pride have been an heirloom in
his family for generations.

When we once more resume our pilgrimage along the track which leads to
Chedworth we find ourselves in a country which is never explored by the
tourist. Far removed from railways and the "busy haunts of men," it is
not even mentioned in the guide-books. Our way lies along the edge of
the hill for the next few miles, and we look down upon the picturesque
valley of the Coln. Four villages, all very like those we have
described, are passed in rapid succession. Winson, Coln Rogers,
Coln-St.-Dennis, and Fossbridge all lie below us as we wend our way
westwards. But although the architecture is of the same massive yet
graceful style, and the old Norman churches still tower their grand old
heads and cast their shadows over the cottages and farm buildings, there
are no manor houses of note in any of these four villages, and no
well-timbered demesnes; so that they are not so interesting as some of
those we have passed through. In all, however, there dwell the good old
honest labouring folk, toiling hard day by day at "the trivial round,
the common task," just earning enough to scrape up a livelihood, but
enjoying few of the amenities of life. The village parsons--good, pious
men--share in the quiet, uneventful life of their flock. And who shall
contemn their lot? As Horace tells us:

     "Vivitur parvo bene, cui paternum
      Splendet in mensa tenui salinum
      Nec leves somnos timor aut cupido
      Sordidus aufert."

These four villages were all built two centuries or more ago, when the
Cotswolds were the centre of much life and activity and the days of
agricultural depression were not known. When we look down on their old,
grey houses nestling among the great trees which thrive by the banks of
the fertilising stream, we cannot but speculate on their future fate.
Gradually the population diminishes, as work gets scarcer and scarcer.
Unless there is an unexpected revival in prices through some measure of
"protection" being granted by law, or the medium of a great European
war, or some such far-reaching dispensation of Providence, terrible to
think of for those who live to see it, but with all its possibilities of
"good arising out of evil" for future generations, these old villages
will contain scarcely a single inhabitant in a hundred year's time. This
part of the Cotswold country will once more become a huge open plain,
retaining only long rows of tumbled-down stone walls as evidences of its
former enclosed state; no longer on Sundays will the notes of the
beautiful bells call the toilers to prayer and thanksgiving, and all
will be desolation. If only the capitalist or wealthy man of business
would take up his abode in these places, all might be well. But, alas!
the peace and quiet of such out-of-the-way spots, with all their
fascinating contrast to the smoke and din of a manufacturing town, have
little attraction for those who are unused to them. And yet there is
much happiness and content in these rural villages. The lot of those who
are able to get work is a thousand times more supportable than that of
the toiling millions in our great cities. There is less drinking and
less vice among these villagers than there is in any part of this world
that we are acquainted with; consequently you find them cheerful,
good-humoured, and, if they only knew it, happy. Grumble they must, or
they would not be mortal. Ah! if they could but realise the blessings of
the elixir of life--pure air, and fresh, clear, spring water, and
sunshine--three inestimable privileges that they enjoy all the year
round, and which are denied to so many of the inhabitants of this
globe--there would be little grumbling in the Cotswolds.

     "From toil he wins his spirits light,
      From busy day the peaceful night;
      Rich from the very want of wealth
      In heaven's best treasures, peace and health."

      GRAY.

"But these villages are so _dull_, and life is so monotonous there," is
the constant complaint. But what part of this earth is there, may I ask,
that is not dull to those who live there, unless we drive out dull care
and _ennui_ by that glorious antidote to gloom and despondency, a fully
occupied mind? There are two chapters in Carlyle's "Past and Present"
that ought to be printed in letters of gold, set in an ivory frame, and
hung up in the sleeping apartment of every man, woman, and child on the
face of this earth. They are called "Labour" and "Reward." In those few
short pages is embodied the whole secret of content and happiness for
the dwellers in quiet country villages and smoky towns alike. They
contain the philosopher's stone, which makes men cheerful under all
circumstances, but especially those who are poor and down-trodden. The
secret is a very simple one; but if the educated classes are continually
losing sight of it, how much easier is it for those who have only the
bare necessaries of life and few of the comforts to become deadened to
its influence! It lies first of all in the realisation of the fact that
the object of life is not to get, still less to enjoy, riches and
pleasure. It teaches for the thousandth time that the humblest and the
highest of us alike are immortal souls imprisoned for threescore years
and ten in a tenement of clay, preparing for a better and higher
existence. It reverses the position of things on earth--placing the
crown of kings on the head of the toiling labourer, and making "the last
first and the first last." Its very essence lies in the dictum of the
old monks, "_Laborare est orare_" ("Work is worship").

It was one of the chief characteristics of the Roman people in the time
of their greatness that their most successful generals were content to
return to the plough after their wars were over. Thus Pliny in his
"Natural History" remarks as follows: "Then were the fields cultivated
by the hands of the generals themselves, and the earth rejoiced, tilled
as it was by a ploughshare crowned with laurels, he who guided the wheel
being himself fresh from glorious victories." And no sooner did honest
hand labour become despised than effeminacy crept in, and this once
haughty nation was practically blotted out from the face of the earth.

Let the Cotswold labourer realise that to work on the land, ploughing
and reaping, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, come weal, come
woe, is no mean destiny for an honest man; there is scope for the
display of a noble and generous spirit in the beautiful green fields as
well as in the smoky atmosphere of the east end of London, in a
Birmingham factory, or a Warrington forge.

"What is the meaning of nobleness?" asks Carlyle. "In a valiant
suffering for others did nobleness ever lie. Every noble crown is, and
on earth will for ever be, a crown of thorns. All true work is sacred.
In all true work, were it but true hand labour, there is something of
divineness. Sweat of the brow; and up from that to sweat of the brain,
sweat of the heart; up to that 'agony of bloody sweat' which all men
have called divine. Oh, brother, if this is not worship, then, I say,
the more pity for worship: for this is the noblest thing yet discovered
under God's sky. Who art thou that complainest of thy life of toil?
Complain not. Look up, my wearied brother; see thy fellow workmen there
in God's eternity surviving those, they alone surviving; peopling, they
alone, the unmeasured solitudes of Time. To thee Heaven, though severe,
is not unkind. Heaven is kind, as a noble mother; as that Spartan
mother, saying, while she gave her son his shield, 'With it, my son, or
upon it, thou, too, shalt return home in honour--to thy far distant home
in honour--doubt it not--if in the battle thou keep thy shield!' Thou in
the eternities and deepest death kingdoms art not an alien; thou
everywhere art a denizen. Complain not; the very Spartans did not
complain."

Would that the toiling labourer in the Cotswolds and in our great smoky
cities might keep these words continually before him, so that he might
grasp, not merely the secret of content and happiness in this life, but
the golden key to the immeasurable blessings of "the sure and certain
hope" of that life which is to come! Then shall he hear the words:

     "King, thou wast called Conqueror;
      In every battle thou bearest the prize."

Conqueror will he be in life's battle if he follow in the footsteps of
the Spartan of old or of Wordsworth's "Happy Warrior":

     "Who, doomed to go in company with pain,
      And fear, and bloodshed--miserable train!--
      Turns his necessity to glorious gain."

Finally, the countryman who feels discontented with his lot--and there
are few indeed who do not occasionally pine for a change of
employment--should go on a railway journey through "the black country"
at night, and mark the fierce light that reddens the murky skies as the
factory fires send forth their livid flames and clouds of sooty smoke.
He should watch the swarms of long-suffering human beings going to and
fro and in and out like busy bees around their hive, toiling, ever
toiling, round about the blazing fires. He should spend an hour in the
streets of Birmingham, where, as I passed through one fine September
morning recently on my way to Ireland, the atmosphere was darkened and
the human lungs stifled by a thick yellow fog. Or he should go down to
the engine-room of a mighty liner, when it is doing its twenty knots
across the seas, and then think of his own life in the happy hamlets and
the fresh, green fields of our English country.

       *       *       *       *       *

Coming once more down the hill into the valley of the Coln, we must
cross the old Roman road known as the Fossway, follow the course of the
stream, and, about a mile beyond the snug little village of Fossbridge,
we reach the great woods of Chedworth.

These coverts form part of the property of Lord Eldon. His house of
Stowell stands well up on the hill. It is a grey, square building of
some size, placed so as to catch all the sun and the breezes too,--very
much more healthy and bright than most of the old houses we have passed,
which were built much too low down in the valley, where the winter
sunbeams seldom penetrate and the river mists rise damp and cold at
night. As we walk along the drive which leads through the woods to the
Roman villa, any amount of rabbits and pheasants are to be seen. And
here take place annually some of those big shoots which ignorant people
are so fond of condemning as unsportsmanlike, simply because they have
not the remotest idea what they are talking about. Why it should be
cruel to kill a thousand head in a day instead of two hundred on five
separate days, one fails to understand. As a matter of fact, the bigger
the "shoot" the less cruelty takes place, because bad shots are not
likely to be present on these occasions, whilst in small "shoots" they
are the rule rather than the exception. Instead of birds and ground game
being wounded time after time, at big _battues_ they are killed stone
dead by some well-known and acknowledged good shot. To see a real
workman knocking down rocketer after rocketer at a height which would be
considered impossible by half the men who go but shooting is to witness
an exhibition of skill and correct timing which can only be attained by
the most assiduous practice and the quickest of eyes. No, it is the
pottering hedgerow shooter, generally on his neighbour's boundary, who
is often unsportsmanlike. We know one or two who would have no
hesitation in shooting at a covey of partridges on the ground, when they
were within shot of the boundary hedge; and if they wounded three or
four and picked them up, they would carry them home fluttering and
gasping, because they are too heartless to think of putting the wretched
creatures out of their sufferings.

The extensive Roman remains discovered some years ago in the heart of
this forest doubtless formed the country house of some Roman squire.
They are well away from the river bank, and about three parts of the way
up the sloping hillside. The house faced as nearly as possible
south-east. In this point, as in many others, the Romans showed their
superiority of intellect over our ancestors of Elizabethan and other
days. Nowadays we begin to realise that houses should be built on high
ground, and that the aspect that gives most sun in winter is south-east.
The old Romans realised this fifteen hundred years ago. In other words,
our ancestors in the dark ages were infinitely behind the Romans in
intellect, and we are just reaching their standard of common sense. The
characteristics of the interior of these old dwellings are simplicity
combined with refinement and good taste. And it is worthy of remark that
the men who are ahead of the thought and feeling of the present day are
crying out for more simplicity in our homes and furniture, as well as
for more refinement and real architectural merit. No useless luxuries
and nick-nacks, but plenty of public baths, and mosaic pavements
laboriously put together by hard hand labour,--these are the points that
Ruskin and the Romans liked in common.

With this grandly timbered valley spread beneath them, no more suitable
spot on which to build a house could anywhere be found. And though the
Romans who inhabited this villa could not from its windows see the sun
go down in the purple west, emblematic of that which was shortly to set
over Rome, they could see the glorious dawn of a new day--boding forth
the dawn that was already brightening over England, even as "The old
order changeth, yielding place to new";--and they could see the
splendours of the moon rising in the eastern sky.

The principal apartment in this Roman country house measures about
thirty feet by twenty; it was probably divided into two parts, forming
the dining-room and drawing-room as well. The tessellated pavements are
wonderfully preserved, though not quite so perfect as a few others that
have been found in England. With all their beautiful colouring they are
merely formed of different shades of local stone, together with a little
terra-cotta. Perhaps these pavements, with their rich mellow tints of
red sandstone, and their shades of white, yellow, brown, and grey,
afforded by different varieties of limestone, are examples of the most
perfect kind of work which the labours of mankind, combined with the
softening influences of time, are able to produce. In one corner the
design is that of a man with a rabbit in his hand; and no doubt there
were lots of rabbits in these woods in those days, as well as deer and
other wild animals long since extinct.

In these woods of Chedworth the rose bay willow herbs grow taller and
finer than is their wont elsewhere. In every direction they spring up in
hundreds, painting the woodlands with a wondrously rich purple glow.
Here, too, the bracken thrives, and many a fine old oak tree spreads its
branches, revelling in the clay soil. On the limestone of the Cotswolds
oaks are seldom seen; but wherever a vein of clay is found, there will
be the oaks and the bracken. Every forest tree thrives hereabouts; and
in the open spaces that occur at intervals in the forest there grow such
masses of wild flowers as are nowhere else to be seen in the Cotswold
district. White spiraea, or meadow-sweet, crowds into every nook and
corner of open ground, raising its graceful stems in almost tropical
luxuriance by the brook-side. Campanula and the blue geranium or meadow
crane's-bill, with flowers of perfect blue, grow everywhere amid the
white blossoms of the spiraea. St John's wort, with its star-shaped
golden flowers, white and red campion, and a host of others, are larger
and more beautiful on the rich loam than they are on the stony hills.
Even the lily-of-the-valley thrives here.

In the bathroom may be seen an excellent example of the hypocaust--an
ingenious contrivance, by means of which the rooms were heated with hot
air, which passed along beneath the floors.

In the museum are portions of the skulls of men and of oxen, the
antlers of red deer, oyster shells, knives, spear-heads, arrow-heads,
bits of locks with keys, and excellent horseshoes, not to speak of such
things as bronze spurs, spoons, part of a Roman weighing-machine, and a
splendid pair of compasses. There are pieces of earthenware with
potter's marks on them, and red tiles bearing unmistakable marks of
fingering, as well as footprints of dogs and goats; these impressions
must have been made when the tiles were in a soft state. But the most
interesting relics are three freestone slabs, on which are inscribed the
Greek letters [Greek: chi] and [Greek: rho]. It was Mr. Lysons who first
noticed this evidence of ancient faith, and he is naturally of the
opinion that the sacred inscription proves that the builder was a
Christian. Another stone in this collection has the word "PRASIATA"
roughly chiselled on it.

There was a British king, by name Prasutagus, said to have been a
Christian, and possibly it was this man who built the old house in the
midst of the Chedworth woods. A mile beyond this interesting relic of
Roman times is the manor house of Cassey Compton, built by Sir Richard
Howe about the middle of the seventeenth century. It stands on the banks
of the Coln, and in olden times was approached by a drawbridge and
surrounded by a moat. The farmer by whom it is inhabited tells me that,
judging by the fish-ponds situated close by, he imagines it was once a
monastery. This was undoubtedly the case, for we find in Fozbrooke that
the Archbishop of York had license to "embattle his house" here in the
reign of Edward I.

A mosaic pavement, discovered here about 1811, was placed in the
British Museum.

It is very sad to come upon these remote manor houses in all parts of
the Cotswold district, and to find that their ancient glory is departed,
even though their walls are as good as they were two hundred years ago,
when the old squires lived their jovial lives, and those halls echoed
the mirth and merriment which characterised the life of "the good old
English gentleman, all of the olden time."

Other fine old houses in this immediate district which have not been
mentioned are Ampney Park, a Jacobean house containing an oak-panelled
apartment, with magnificently carved ceiling and fine stone fireplace;
Barnsley and Sherborne, partly built by Inigo Jones; Missarden,
Duntisborne Abbots, Kemble, and Barrington. Rendcombe is a modern house
of some size, built rather with a view to internal comfort than external
grace and symmetry.

[Illustration: Village cricketers 242.png]



CHAPTER XI.

COTSWOLD PASTIMES.

It is not surprising that in those countries which abound in sunshine
and fresh, health-giving air, the inhabitants will invariably be found
to be not only keen sportsmen, but also accomplished experts in all the
games and pastimes for which England has long been famous. Given good
health and plenty of work mankind cannot help being cheerful and
sociably inclined; for this reason we have christened the district of
which we write the "Merrie Cotswolds." From time immemorial the country
people have delighted in sports and manly exercises. On the north wall
of the nave in Cirencester Church is a representation of the ancient
custom of Whitsun ale. The Whitsuntide sports were always a great
speciality on Cotswold, and continue to the present day, though in a
somewhat modified form.

The custom portrayed in the church of Cirencester was as follows:--

The villagers would assemble together in one of the beautiful old barns
which are so plentiful in every hamlet. Two of them, a boy and a girl,
were then chosen out and appointed Lord and Lady of the Yule. These are
depicted on the church wall; and round about them, dressed in their
proper garb, are pages and jesters, standard-bearer, purse-bearer,
mace-bearer, and a numerous company of dancers.

The reason that a representation of this very secular custom is seen in
the church probably arises from the fact that the Church ales were
feasts instituted for the purpose of raising money for the repair of the
church. The churchwardens would receive presents of malt from the
farmers and squires around; they sold the beer they brewed from it to
the villagers, who were obliged to attend or else pay a fine.

The church house--a building still to be seen in many villages--was
usually the scene of the festivities.

The "Diary of Master William Silence" tells us that the quiet little
hamlets presented an unusually gay appearance on these memorable
occasions. "The village green was covered with booths. There were
attractions of various kinds. The churchwardens had taken advantage of
the unusual concourse of strangers as the occasion of a Church ale.
Great barrels of ale, the product of malt contributed by the
parishioners according to their several abilities, were set abroach in
the north aisle of the church, and their contents sold to the public.
This was an ordinary way of providing for church expenses, against which
earnest reformers inveighed, but as yet in vain so far as Shallow was
concerned. The church stood conveniently near the village green, and the
brisk trade which was carried on all day was not interrupted by the
progress of divine service." The parson's discourse, however, appears to
have suffered some interruption by reason of the numbers who crowded
into the aisles to patronise the churchwardens' excellent ale.

In the reign of James I. one, Robert Dover, revived the old Olympic
games on Cotswold. Dover's Hill, near Weston-under-Edge, was called
after him.

These sports included horse-racing, coursing, cock-fighting, and such
games as quoits, football, skittles, wrestling, dancing, jumping in
sacks, and all the athletic exercises.

The "Annalia Dubrensia" contain many verses about these sports by the
hand of Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson, and others.

     "On Cotteswold Hills there meets
      A greater troop of gallants than Rome's streets
      E'er saw in Pompey's triumphs: beauties, too,
      More than Diana's beavie of nymphs could show
 On their great hunting days."

That hunting was practised here in these days is evident, for Thomas
Randall, of Cambridge, writes in the same volume:

     "Such royal pastimes Cotteswold mountains fill,
      When gentle swains visit Anglonicus hill,
      When with such packs of hounds they hunting go
      As Cyrus never woon'd his bugle to."

Fozbrooke tells us that the Whitsuntide sports are the _floralia_ of the
Romans. They are still a great institution in all parts of the
Cotswolds, though Church ales, like cock-fighting and other barbaric
amusements, have happily long since died out.

Golf and archery are popular pastimes in the merry Cotswolds. It is
somewhat remarkable that this district has produced in recent years the
amateur lady champions of England in each of these fascinating pastimes,
Lady Margaret Scott, of Stowell, being _facile princeps_ among lady
golfers, whilst Mrs. Christopher Bowly, of Siddington, even now holds
the same position in relation to the ancient practice of archery.

The ancient art of falconry is still practised in these parts. Thirty
years ago, when Duleep Singh lived at Hatherop, hawking on the downs was
one of his chief amusements. But the only hawking club hereabouts that
we know of is at Swindon, in Wiltshire.

Coursing is as popular as ever among the Cotswold farmers. These hills
have always been noted for the sport. Drayton tells us that the prize at
the coursing meetings held on the Cotswolds in his day was a
silver-studded collar. Shakespeare, in his _Merry Wives of Windsor_
alludes to the coursing on "Cotsall." There is an excellent club at
Cirencester. The hares in this district are remarkably big and
strong-running. The whole district lends itself particularly to this
sport, owing to the large fields and fine stretches of open downs.



CRICKET.

In an agricultural district such as the Cotswolds it is inevitable that
the game of cricket should be somewhat neglected. Men who work day after
day in the open air, and to whom a half-holiday is a very rare
experience, naturally seek their recreations in less energetic fashion
than the noble game of cricket demands of its votaries. The class who
derive most benefit from this game spring as a rule from towns and
manufacturing centres and those whose work and interests confine them
indoors the greater part of their time. Among the Cotswold farmers,
however, a great deal of interest is shown; the scores of county matches
are eagerly pursued in the daily papers; and if there is a big match on
at Cheltenham or any other neighbouring town, a large number invariably
go to see it. There is some difficulty in finding suitable sites for
your ground in these parts, for the hill turf is very stony and shallow;
it is not always easy to find a flat piece of ground handy to the
villages. A cricket ground is useless to the villagers if it is perched
up on the hill half a mile away. It must be at their doors; and even
then, though they may occasionally play, they will never by any chance
trouble to roll it. We made a ground in the valley of the Coln some
years ago, and went to some expense in the way of levelling, filling up
gravel pits, and removing obstructions like cowsheds; but unless we had
looked after it ourselves and made preparations for a match, it would
have soon gone back to its original rough state again. And yet two of
the young Peregrines in the village are wonderfully good cricketers, and
as "keen as mustard" about it; though when it comes to rolling and
mowing the ground they are not quite as keen. They will throw you over
for a match in the most unceremonious way if, when the day comes, they
don't feel inclined to play. We have often tried to persuade these two
young fellows to become professional cricketers, there being such a poor
prospect in the farming line; but they have not the slightest ambition
to play for the county, though they are quite good enough; so they
"waste their sweetness on the desert air."

Old Mr. Peregrine, a man of nearly eighty years of age, is splendid fun
when he is watching his boys play cricket. He goes mad with excitement;
and if you take them off bowling, however much the batsmen appear to
relish their attack, he won't forgive you for the rest of the day.

His eldest son, Tom--our old friend the keeper--generally stands umpire;
he is not so useful to his side as village umpires usually are, because
he hasn't got the moral courage to give his side "in" when he knows
perfectly well they are "out." The other day, however, he made a slight
error; for, on being appealed to for the most palpable piece of
"stumping" ever seen in the cricket field, the ball bouncing back on to
the wicket from the wicket-keeper's pads while the batsman was two yards
out of his ground, he said, "Not out; it hit the wicket-keeper's pads."
He imagined he was being asked whether the batsman had been bowled, and
it never occurred to him that you could be "stumped out" in this way.
Altogether, Cotswold cricket is great fun.

The district is full of memories of the prehistoric age, and in certain
parts of the country _prehistoric_ cricket is still indulged in. Never
shall I forget going over to Edgeworth with the Winson Cricket XI. to
play a _grand_ match at that seat of Roman antiquities. The carrier
drove us over in his pair-horse brake--a rickety old machine, with a
pony of fourteen hands and a lanky, ragged-hipped old mare over sixteen
hands high in the shafts together. A most useful man in the field was
the honest carrier, whether at point or at any other place where the
ball comes sharp and quick; for, to quote Shakespeare,

               "he was a man
     Of an unbounded stomach."

The rest of our team included the jovial miller; two of the village
carpenter's sons--excellent folk; the village curate, who captained the
side, and stood six feet five inches without his cricket shoes; one or
two farmers; a footman, and a somewhat fat and apoplectic butler.

The colours mostly worn by the Winson cricketers are black, red, and
gold--a Zingaric band inverted (black on top); their motto I believe to
be "Tired, though united."

As the ground stands about eight hundred feet above sea level, all of
us, but especially the fat butler, found considerable difficulty in
getting to the top of the hill, after the brake had set us down at the
village public. But once arrived, a magnificent view was to be had,
extending thirty miles and more across the wolds to the White Horse Hill
in Berkshire. However, we had not come to admire the view so much as to
play the game of cricket. We therefore proceeded to look for the pitch.
It was known to be in the field in which we stood, because a large red
flag floated at one end and proclaimed that somewhere hereabouts was the
scene of combat. It was the fat butler, I think, who, after sailing
about in a sea of waving buttercups like a veritable Christopher
Columbus, first discovered the stumps among the mowing grass.

Evident preparations had been made either that morning or the previous
night for a grand match; a large number of sods of turf had been taken
up and hastily replaced on that portion of the wicket where the ball is
supposed to pitch when it leaves the bowler's hand. There had been no
rain for a month, but just where the stumps were stuck a bucket or two
of water had been dashed hastily on to the arid soil; while, to crown
all, a chain or rib roller--a ghastly instrument used by agriculturists
for scrunching up the lumps and bumps on the ploughed fields, and
pulverising the soil--had been used with such effect that the surface of
the pitch to the depth of about an inch had been reduced to dust.

In spite of this we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. Delightful
old-fashioned people, both farmers and labourers, were playing against
us; quaint (I use the word in its true sense) and simple folk, who
looked as if they had been dug up with the other Saxon and Roman
antiquities for which Edgeworth is so famous.

I was quite certain that the man who bowled me out was a direct
descendant of Julius Caesar. He delivered the ball underhand at a rapid
rate. It came twisting along, now to the right, now to the left; seemed
to disappear beneath the surface of the soil, then suddenly came in
sight again, shooting past the block. Eventually they told me it removed
the left bail, and struck the wicket-keeper a fearful blow on the chest.
It was generally agreed that such a ball had never been bowled before.
"'Twas a _pretty_ ball!" as Tom Peregrine pronounced it, standing umpire
in an enormous wideawake hat and a white coat reaching down to his
knees, and smoking a bad cigar. "A very pretty ball," said my fellow
batsman at the other wicket "A d--d pretty ball," I reiterated _sotto
voce_, as I beat a retreat towards the flag in the corner of the field,
which served as a pavilion.

When I went on to bowl left-handed "donkey-drops," Tom Peregrine (my own
servant, if you please) was very nearly no-balling me. "For," said he,
"I 'ate that drabby-handed business; it looks so awkid. Muddling work, I
calls it." But I am anticipating.

As I prepared myself for the fray, and carefully donned a pair of
well-stuffed pads and an enormously thick woollen jersey for protection,
not so much against the cold as against the "flying ball," it flashed
across me that I was about to personify the immortal Dumkins of Pickwick
fame; whilst in my companion, the stout butler, it was impossible not
to detect the complacent features and rounded form of Mr. Podder. Up to
a certain point the analogy was complete. Let the Winson Invincibles
equal the All Muggleton C.C., while the Edgeworth Daisy Cutters shall be
represented by Dingley Dell; then sing us, thou divine author of
Pickwick, the glories of that never-to-be-forgotten day.

"All Muggleton had the first innings, and the interest became intense
when Mr. Dumkins and Mr. Podder--two of the most renowned members of
that distinguished club--walked bat in hand to their respective wickets.
Mr. Luffy, the highest ornament of Dingley Dell, was pitched to bowl
against the redoubtable Dumkins, and Mr. Struggles was selected to do
the same kind office for the hitherto unconquered Podder...The umpires
were stationed behind the wickets [Tom Peregrine had been suborned for
Winson, and proved the most useful man on the side], the scorers were
prepared to notch the runs. A breathless silence ensued. Mr. Luffy
retired a few paces behind the wicket of the passive Podder, and applied
the ball to his right eye for several seconds. Dumkins [the author]
confidently awaited its coming with his eyes fixed on the motions of Mr.
Luffy. 'Play!' suddenly cried the bowler. The ball flew from his hand
straight and swift towards the centre stump of the wicket. The wary
Dumkins was on the alert; it fell upon the tip of his bat...."

Here, with deep sorrow, let it be stated that the writer failed to
evince the admirable skill displayed by his worthy prototype; the
Dumkins of grim reality was unable to compete with the Dumkins of
fiction. Instead of "sending the ball far away over the heads of the
scouts; who just stooped low enough to let it fly over them," I caught
it just as it pitched on a rabbit-hole, and sent it straight up into the
air like a soaring rocket. "Right, right, I have it!" yelled bowler and
wicket-keeper simultaneously. "Run two, Podder; they'll never catch it!"
shouted Dumkins with all his might. "Catch it in your 'at, Bill!"
screamed the Edgeworth eleven. Never was such confusion! I was already
starting for the second run, whilst my stout fellow batsman was halfway
through the first, when the ball came down like a meteor, and, narrowly
shaving the luckless "Podder's" head, hit the ground with a loud thud
about five yards distant from the outstretched hands of the anxious
bowler, who collided with his ally, the wicket-keeper, in the middle of
the pitch. Half stunned by the shock, and disappointed at his want of
success in his attempt to "judge" the catch, the bowler had yet presence
of mind enough to seize the ball and hurl it madly at the stumps. But
the wicket-keeper being still _hors de combat_, it flew away towards the
spectators, and buried itself among the mowing grass. "Come six,
Podder!" I shouted, amid cries of "Keep on running!" "Run it out!" etc.,
from spectators and scouts alike. And run we did, for the umpire forgot
to call "lost ball," and we should have been running still but for the
ingenuity of one of our opponents; for, whilst all were busily engaged
in searching among the grass, a red-faced yokel stole up unawares, with
an innocent expression on his face, raced poor "Podder" down the pitch,
produced the ball from his trouser pocket, and knocked off the bails in
the nick of time. "Out," says Peregrine, amid a roar of laughter from
the whole field; and Mr. "Podder" had to go.

Now came the question how many runs should be scored, for I had passed
my fellow batsman in the race, having completed seven runs to his five.
Eventually it was decided to split the difference and call it a sixer;
the suggestion of a member of our side that seven should be scored to me
and five to Mr. "Podder" (making twelve in all) being rejected after
careful consideration.

Thus, from the first ball bowled in this historic match there arose the
whole of the remarkable events recorded above. Therein is shown the
complete performances with the bat of two renowned cricketers; for, alas
I in once more trying to play up to the form of Dumkins, I was bowled
"slick" the very next ball, "as hath been said or sung."

There was much good-natured chaff flying about during the match, but no
fighting and squabbling, save when a boundary hit was made, when the
batsman always shouted "Three runs," and the bowler "No, only one." The
scores were not high; but I remember that we won by three runs, that the
carpenter's son got a black eye, that we had tea in an old manor house
turned into an inn, and drove home in the glow of a glorious sunset, not
entirely displeased with our first experience of "prehistoric" cricket.

Some of the pleasantest matches we have ever taken part in have been
those at Bourton-on-the-Water. Owing to the very soft wicket which he
found on arriving, this place was once christened by a well-known
cricketer _Bourton-on-the-Bog_. Indeed, it is often a case of
Bourton-_under_-the-Water; but, in spite of a soft pitch, there is great
keenness and plenty of good-tempered rivalry about these matches.
Bourton is a truly delightful village. The Windrush, like the Coln at
Bibury, runs for some distance alongside of the village street.

The M.C.C., or "premier club"--as the sporting press delight to call the
famous institution at Lord's--generally get thoroughly well beaten by
the local club. For so small a place they certainly put a wonderfully
strong team into the field; on their own native "bog" they are fairly
invincible, though we fancy on the hard-baked clay at Lord's their
bowlers would lose a little of their cunning.

In the luncheon tent at Bourton there are usually more wasps than are
ever seen gathered together in one place; they come in thousands from
their nests in the banks of the Windrush.

If you are playing a match there, it is advisable to tuck your trousers
into your socks when you sit down to luncheon. This, together with the
fact that the tent has been known to blow down in the middle of
luncheon, makes these matches very lively and amusing. What more lively
scene could be imagined than a large tent with twenty-two cricketers and
a few hundred wasps hard at work eating and drinking; then, on the tent
suddenly collapsing, the said cricketers and the said wasps, mixed up
with chairs, tables, ham, beef, salad-dressing, and apple tart, and the
various ingredients of a cricket lunch, all struggling on the floor, and
striving in vain to find their way out as best they can? Fortunately, on
the only occasion that the tent blew down when we were present, it was
not a good wasp year.

Besides the matches at Bourton, there is plenty of cricket at
Cirencester, Northleach, and other centres in the Cotswolds. The "hunt"
matches are great institutions, even though hunting people as a rule do
not care for cricket, and invariably drop a catch. A good sportsman and
excellent fellow has lately presented a cup to be competed for by the
village clubs of this district. This, no doubt, will give a great
impetus to the game amongst all classes; our village club has already
been revived in order to compete. Our only fear with regard to the cup
competition is that when you get two elevens on to a ground, and two
umpires, none of whom know the rules (for cricket laws are the most
"misunderstandable" things in creation), the final tie will degenerate
into a free fight.

Be this as it may, anything that can make the greatest pastime of this
country popular in the "merrie Cotswolds" is a step in the right
direction. It is pleasing to watch boys and men hard at work practising
on summer evenings. The rougher the ground the more they like it.
Scorning pads and gloves, they "go in" to bat, and make Herculean
efforts to hit the ball. And this, with fast bowling and the bumpy
nature of the pitch, is a very difficult thing to do. They play on, long
after sunset,--the darker it gets, and the more dangerous to life and
limb the game becomes, the happier they are. We are bound to admit that
when we play with them, a good pitch is generally prepared. It would be
bad policy to endeavour to compete in the game they play, as we should
merely expose ourselves to ridicule, and one's reputation as the man who
has been known "to play in the papers," as they are accustomed to call
big county matches, would very soon be entirely lost.

I was much amused a few years ago, on arriving home after playing for
Somersetshire in some cricket matches, when Tom Peregrine made up to me
with "a face like a benediction," and asked if I was the gentleman who
had been playing "in the papers."

While on the subject of cricket, for some time past we have made
experiments of all sorts of cricket grounds, and have come to the
conclusion that the following is the best recipe to prepare a pitch on a
dry and bumpy ground. A week before your match get a wheelbarrow full of
clay, and put it into a water-cart, or any receptacle for holding water.
Having mixed your clay with water, keep pouring the mixture on to your
pitch, taking care that the stones and gravel which sink to the bottom
do not fall out. When you have emptied your water-cart, get some more
clay and water, and continue pouring it on to the ground until you have
covered a patch about twenty-two yards long and three yards wide, always
remembering not to empty out the sediment at the bottom of the
water-cart, for this will spoil all. Then, setting to work with your
roller, roll the clay and water into the ground. Never mind if it picks
up on to the roller: a little more water will soon put that to rights.
After an hour's rolling you will have a level and true cricket pitch,
requiring but two or three days' sun to make it hard and true as
asphalt. You may think you have killed the grass; but if you water your
pitch in the absence of rain the day after you have played on it, the
grass will not die. It is chiefly in Australia that cricket grounds are
treated in this way; they are dressed with mud off the harbours, and
rolled simultaneously. Such grounds are wonderfully true and durable.

If the pitch is naturally a clay one, it might be sufficient to use
water only, and roll at the same time; but for renovating a worn clay
pitch, a little strong loamy soil, washed in with water and rolled down
will fill up all the "chinks" and holes. It will make an old pitch as
good as new.

The reason that nine out of ten village grounds are bad and bumpy is
that they are not rolled soon enough after rain or after being watered.
Roll and water them simultaneously, and they will be much improved.

Another excellent plan is to soak the ground with clay and water, and
leave it alone for a week or ten days before rolling. Permanent benefit
will be done to the soil by this method. For golf greens and lawn-tennis
courts situated on light soil, loam is an indispensable dressing. Any
loamy substance will vastly improve the texture of a light soil and the
quality of the herbage. Yet it is most difficult to convince people of
this fact. We have known cases in which hundreds of pounds have been
expended on cricket grounds and golf greens when an application of clay
top-dressing would have put the whole thing to rights at the cost of a
few shillings. One committee had artificial wells made on every "putting
green" of their golf course, in order to have water handy for keeping
the turf cool and green. What better receptacle for water could they
have found than a top-dressing of half an inch of loam or clay,
retaining as it does every drop of moisture that falls in the shape of
dew or rain, instead of allowing it to percolate through like a sieve,
as is the case with an ordinary sandy soil? Yet this clay dressing,
while retaining water, becomes hard, firm, and as level as a billiard
table on the timely application of the roller.

Those who look after cricket grounds and the like have seldom any
acquaintance with the constitution of soils; they are apt to treat all,
whether sand, light loam, strong loam, heavy clay, or even peat, in
exactly the same way, instead of recollecting that, as in agriculture, a
judicious combination will alone give us that _ideal loam_ which
produces the best turf, and the best soil for every purpose. I am quite
convinced that our farmers do not realise how much worthless light land
may be improved by a dressing of clay or loam. Such dressings are
expensive without a doubt, but the amelioration of the soil is so marked
that in favourable localities the process ought to pay in the long run.

Turning to cricket in general, perhaps the modern game, as played on a
good wicket, is in every respect, save one, perfection. If only
something could be done to curtail the length of matches, and rid us of
that awful nuisance the poking, time-wasting batsman, there would be
little improvement possible.

"All the world's a stage," and even at cricket the analogy holds good.
Thus Shakespeare:

     "As in a theatre the eyes of men,
      After a well-graced actor leaves the stage,
      Are idly bent on him that enters next,
      Thinking his prattle to be tedious."

So also one may say of some dull and lifeless cricketer who, after the
famous Gloucestershire hitter has made things merry for spectators and
scouts alike, "enters next":

     "As in a cricket field the eyes of men,
      After a well-_Graced_ player leaves the _sticks_,
      Are idly bent on him that enters next,
      Thinking his _batting_ to be tedious."

On the other hand, if we sow the wild oats of cricket--in other words,
if we risk everything for the fleeting satisfaction of a blind
"slog"--we shall be bowled, stumped, or caught out for a moral
certainty. It is only a matter of time.

Perhaps the addition of another stump might help towards the very
desirable end of shortening the length of matches, and thus enable more
amateurs to take part in them. I cannot agree with those who lament the
improved state of our best English cricket grounds; if only the batsmen
play a free game and do not waste time, the game is far more
entertaining for players and spectators alike, when a true wicket is
provided. The heroes of old,

     "When Bird and Beldham, Budd, and such as they,--
      Lord Frederick, too, once England's chief and flower,--
      Astonished all who came to see them play,"

those "scorners of the ground" and of pads and gloves doubtless
displayed more _pluck_ on their rough, bumpy grounds than is now called
forth in facing the attack of Kortright, Mold, or Richardson. But on the
other hand, on rough grounds much is left to chance and _luck_; cricket,
as played on a billiard-table wicket certainly favours the batsman, but
it admits of a brilliancy and finish in the matter of style that are
impossible on the old-fashioned wicket. Whilst the modern bowler has
learnt extraordinary accuracy of pitch, the batsman has perfected the
art of "timing" the ball. And what a subtle, delicate art is correct
"timing"!--the skilful embodiment of thought in action, depending for
success on that absolute sympathy of hand and eye which only assiduous
practice, confidence, and a good digestion can give. And on uncertain,
treacherous ground confident play is never seen. A ball cannot be "cut"
or driven with any real brilliancy of style when there is a likelihood
of its abruptly "shooting" or bumping. No; if we would leave as little
as possible to chance, our grounds cannot be too good. Even from a
purely selfish point of view, apart from the welfare of our side, the
pleasure derived from a good "innings" on a first-rate cricket ground
is as great as that bestowed by any other physical amusement.

Perhaps one ought not to think of comparing the sport of fox-hunting,
with its extraordinary variety of incident and surroundings, the study
of a lifetime, to the game of cricket. At the same time, for actual
all-round enjoyment, and for economy, the game holds its own against all
amusements.

Bromley-Davenport has said that given a _good_ country and a _good_ fox,
_and_ a burning scent, the man on a _good_ horse with a good _start_,
for twenty or thirty minutes absorbs as much happiness into his mental
and physical organisation as human nature is capable of containing at
one time. This is very true. But how seldom the five necessary
conditions are forthcoming simultaneously the keen hunting man has
learnt from bitter experience. You will be lucky if the real good thing
comes off once for every ten days you hunt. In cricket a man is
dependent on his own quickness of hand and eye; in hunting there is that
vital contingency of the well-filled purse. "'Tis money that makes the
mare to go."

Then what a grand school is cricket for some of the most useful lessons
of life! Its extraordinary fluctuations are bound to teach us sooner
or later

    "Rebus angustis animosus atque
     Fortis appare."

The _rebus angustis_ are often painfully impressed on the memory by a
long sequence of "duck's eggs"; and how difficult is the _animosus atque
fortis appare_ when we return to the pavilion with a "pair of
spectacles" to our credit!

Then, again, cricketers are taught to preserve a mind

     "Ab insolenti temperatam
      Laetitiâ."

We must not permit the _laetitiâ insolenti_ to creep in when we have
made a big score. How often do we see young cricketers over-elated under
these circumstances, and suffering afterwards from temporary
over-confidence and consequent carelessness!

But we must have no more Horace, lest our readers exclaim, with Jack
Cade, "Away with him! away with him! he speaks _Latin_!"

Hope, energy, perseverance, and courage,--all these qualities are learnt
in our grand English game. There is always hope for the struggling
cricketer. In no other pursuit are energy and perseverance so absolutely
sure of bearing fruit, if we only stick to it long enough.

The fact is that cricket, like many other things, is but the image and
prototype of life in general. And the same qualities that, earnestly
cultivated in spite of repeated failure and disappointment, make good
cricketers lead ultimately to success in all the walks of life. In spite
of the improvement in grounds, cricket is still an excellent school for
teaching physical courage. Many grounds are somewhat rough and bumpy to
field on, beautifully smooth though they look from the pavilion. We have
only to stand "mid-off" or "point" on a cold day at the beginning of
May whilst a hard-hitting batsman, well set on a true wicket, is
driving or cutting ball after ball against our hands and shins, to
realise what a capital school for courage the game is!

How exacting is the critic in this matter of fielding! and how
delightfully simple the bowling looks from that admirably safe
vantage-ground, the pavilion! Just as to a man comfortably stationed in
the grand-stand at Aintree nothing looks easier than the way in which
the best horses in the world flit over the five-foot fences, leaving
them behind with scarcely an effort, their riders sitting quietly in the
saddle all the while, so does the pavilion critic pride himself on the
way he would have "cut" that short one instead of merely stopping it, or
blocked that simple ball that went straight on and bowled the wicket.
Everything that is well and gracefully performed appears easy to the
looker-on. But that ease and grace, whether in the racehorse or in the
man, has only been acquired by months and years of training
and practice.

It is seldom that the spectator is able to form a true and unbiassed
opinion as to the varied contingencies which lead to victory or defeat
in cricket. The actual players and the umpires are perhaps alone
qualified to judge to what extent the fluctuations of the game are
affected by the vagaries of weather and ground. For this reason it is
well to take newspaper criticism _cum grano salis_.

What is the cause of the extraordinary fluctuations of form which all
cricketers, from the greatest to the least, are more or less subject to?
It cannot be set down altogether to luck, for a run of bad luck, such
as all men have at times experienced, is often compatible with being in
the very best form. A man who is playing very well at the net often gets
out directly he goes in to bat in a match, whilst many a good player,
who tells you "he has not had a bat in his hand this season," in his
very first innings for the year makes a big score. In subsequent
innings's, oddly enough, he feels the want of net practice. _Confidence_
would seem to be the _sine quâ non_ for the successful batsman. Nothing
succeeds like success; and once fairly started on a sequence of big
scores, the cricketer goes on day by day piling up runs and _vires
acquirit eundo_.

Perhaps "being in form" does not depend so much on the state of the
digestion as on the state of the _mind_. Anxiety or excitement, fostered
by over-keenness, usually results in a blank score-sheet. Some men, like
horses, are totally unable to do themselves credit on great occasions.
They go off their feed, and are utterly out of sorts in consequence. On
the other hand, sheer force of will has often enabled men to make a big
score. Many a good batsman can recall occasions on which he made a
mental resolve on the morning of a match to make a century, and did it.

How curious it is that really good players, from staleness or some
unknown cause, occasionally become absolutely useless for a time! Every
fresh failure seems to bring more and more nervousness, until, from
sheer lack of confidence, their case becomes hopeless, and a child could
bowl them out. Ah well! we must not grumble at the ups and downs of the
finest game in creation: "every dog will have his day" sooner or later;
of that we may be sure.

And not the least of the advantages of cricket is the large number of
friends made on the tented field. For this reason the jolliest cricket
is undoubtedly that which is played by the various wandering clubs.
Whether you are fighting under the banner of the brotherhood whose motto
is "United though untied," [6] or under the flag of the "Red, Black, and
Gold," [7] or with any other of the many excellent clubs that abound
nowadays, you will have an enjoyable game, whether you make fifty runs
or a duck's egg.

[Footnote 6: The Free Foresters.]

[Footnote 7: The I Zingari.]

County cricket is nowadays a little over done. Two three-day matches a
week throughout the summer don't leave much time for other pursuits. A
liberal education at a good public school and university seems to be
thrown away if it is to be followed by five or six days a week at
cricket all through the summer year after year. Most of our best
amateurs realise this, and, knowing that if they go in for county
cricket at all they must play regularly, they give it up, and are
content to take a back seat. They do wisely, for let us always remember
that cricket is a game and not a business.

On the other hand, much good results from the presence in county cricket
of a leavening of gentle; for they prevent the further development of
professionalism. It is doubtless owing to the "piping times of peace"
England has enjoyed during the past fifty years that cricket has
developed to such an abnormal extent. The British public are
essentially hero worshippers, and especially do they worship men who
show manliness and pluck; and those feelings of respect and admiration
that it is to be hoped in more stirring times would be reserved for a
Nelson or a Wellington have been recently lavished on our Graces, our
Stoddarts, our Ranjitsinhjis, and our Steels.

As long as war is absent, and we "live at home at ease," so long will
our sports and pastimes flourish and increase. And long may they
flourish, more especially those in which the quality of courage is
essential for success! It will be a bad day for England when success in
our sports and pastimes no longer depends on the exercise of pluck and
manliness; when hunting gives place to bicycling, and cricket to golf;
when, in fact, the wholesome element of _danger_ is removed from our
recreation and pursuits. Should, in the near future, the long-talked-of
invasion of this country by a combination of European powers become an
accomplished fact, Englishmen may perchance be glad, as the cannon balls
and musket shots are whizzing round their heads, that on the mimic
battlefields of cricket, football, polo, and fox-hunting they learnt two
of the most useful lessons of life--coolness and courage.

[Illustration: Hawking 267.png]



CHAPTER XII.

THE COTSWOLDS THREE HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

Nowadays, thanks in a great measure to Mr. Madden's book, the "Diary of
Master William Silence," it is beginning to dawn on us that the
Cotswolds are more or less connected with the great poet of
Stratford-on-Avon.

Mr. Blunt, in his "Cotswold Dialect," gives no less than fifty-eight
passages from the works of Shakespeare, in which words and phrases
peculiar to the district are made use of. Up to the reign of Queen Anne
this vast open tract of downland formed a happy hunting ground for the
inhabitants of all the surrounding counties. Warwickshire, Oxfordshire,
and Wiltshire, as well as Gloucestershire folk repaired to the wolds for
hunting, coursing, hawking, and other amusements; and in olden times,
even more than to-day, Cotswold was, as Burton described it, "a type of
what is most commodious for hawking, hunting, wood, waters, and all
manner of pleasures." There never was a district so well adapted for
stag-hunting. Nowadays the Cotswold district falls short in one
desideratum, and that a most essential one, of being a first-rate
hunting country. The large extent of ploughed land and the extreme
dryness and poverty of the soil cause it on four days out of five to
carry a most indifferent scent. But to-day we pursue the fox; in
Shakespeare's time the stag was the quarry. And, as hunting men are well
aware, the scent given off by a stag is not only ravishing to hounds,
but it actually increases as the quarry tires, whilst that from a fox
"grows small by degrees and beautifully less."

As with hunting, so also with coursing and hawking; the Cotswolds were
the grand centre of Elizabethan sport. Here it was that Shakespeare
marked the falcon "waiting on and towering in her pride of place." Here
he saw the fallow greyhounds competing for the silver-studded collar.

What an interest and a dignity does a district such as this draw from
even the slenderest association with the splendid name of William
Shakespeare! For my part I freely confess that scenery, however grand
and sublime, appeals but little to the imagination unless it be hallowed
by association or blended in the thoughts with the recollection of those
we have either loved or admired. Thus in India, in Natal and Cape
Colony, in glorious Ceylon, I could admire those wonderful purple
mountains and that tropical luxuriance of fertility and verdure; but I
could not _feel_ them. The boundless wolds of Africa, reminding one so
much of Gloucestershire, yet far grander and far finer than anything of
the kind in England, were to me a dreary wilderness. Passing through the
fine broken hill country of Natal was like visiting chaos, a waste,
inhospitable land,

                            "Where no one comes
     Or hath come since the making of the world."

How well I remember the first sight of the wolds of South Africa! It was
the hour of uncertain light that comes before the dawn; and as our
railway train wound its tortuous course like a snake up the awful
heights that would ultimately end in Majuba Hill--to which ill-fated
spot I was bound--the billowy waves of rolling down seemed gradually to
change to an immensely rough ocean running mountains high, and the
mimosa trees dotting the plain for hundreds of miles appeared like
armies of the souls of all the black men that ever lived on earth since
the world began. There were passes and chasms like the portals of
far-off, inaccessible Paradise,

     "With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms."

And then the scene changed. The hills rose like graves of white men and
barrows to the long-forgotten dead. Great oblong barrows, round Celtic
barrows, and stately sarcophagi. Monumental effigies in alabaster,
granite and porphyry; grim Gothic castles dating back to the foundation
of the world, and grim Gothic cathedrals with long-drawn aisles, where
the "great organ of Eternity" kept thundering ceaselessly. For the
lightning and the thunder are powers to be reckoned with in those awful
realms of chaos. And then the scene changed again. There suddenly uprose
weird shapes of giants and leviathans, huge mammoths and whole regiments
of fantastic monsters that looked like clouds and yet were mountains;
and there were fortresses and towers of silence, with vultures hovering
over them, and cliffs and crags and jutting promontories that looked
like mountains, but were really clouds: for the black clouds and the
frowning hills were so much alike that, save when the lightning shone,
you could not say where the sky ended and the land began. But there was
one gleam of hope in this weird and dismal scene, for on the farthest
verge of the horizon there appeared, as it were, a lake--such a lake as
saw the passing of Arthur, vanishing in mystery and silently floating
away upon a barge towards the east. It was a lake of beryl, whose
far-off golden shores were set with rubies and sardonyx, and beyond
these, again, were the more distant waters of the silver sea; and as
when Sir Bedivere

               "... saw,
     Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand,
     Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the King,
     Down that long water opening on the deep
     Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go
     From less to less and vanish into light.
     And the new sun rose bringing the new year,--"

so over the plains of Africa rose the mighty Alchemist and great
revealer of truth, the scatterer of dreary darkness and secret night,
turning those shadowy hills to purple and those mystic waters in the
eastern sky to gold.

How different are our feelings when we traverse, either in reality or in
fancy, such parts of the earth as are deeply blended in our hearts and
minds with old familiar associations! Whilst wandering through the Lake
District of England, how are we reminded of Wordsworth and the
"Excursion"! How can we visit Devonshire and the West Country without
summoning up pleasant thoughts of Charles Kingsley and Amyas Leigh; of
the men of Bideford, Sir Richard Grenville, Kt., and "The little
Revenge"? How vividly do the Trossachs recall "The Lady of the Lake" and
Walter Scott! How with Edinburgh do we connect the sad story of Mary,
the ill-fated queen! At Killarney, or standing amid the Gothic tracery
of Tintern, how do we think on Alfred Tennyson and "the days that are no
more"! These are only a few of the places in the British Isles that by
universal consent are hallowed by tender associations. Of those spots in
England which are dear to our hearts for personal reasons, there are of
course hundreds. Every man has his own peculiar prejudices in this
respect. To some London is the most sacred spot on earth. And who shall
deny that with all her faults London is not a vastly interesting place?
Is not every street hallowed by its associations with some great name or
some great event in English history? Which of us can stand amid the
Gothic tracery and the crumbling cloisters of Westminster, or under the
shadow of the old grey towers of Whitehall, without recalling
heart-stirring scenes and "paths of glory that lead but to the grave"?
Who can stand unmoved on any of the famous bridges that span the silent
river? Dr. Johnson, who acted up to Pope's well-known motto,

     "The proper study of mankind is man,"

thought Fleet Street the most interesting place on the face of the
earth; and perhaps he was right. Let us hear what he has to say about
this halo of old association: "To abstract the mind from all local
emotion would be impossible if it were endeavoured; and would be foolish
if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses;
whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the
present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me and
from my friends be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent
and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery,
or virtue."

This, then, is the difference between the plains of Africa and the hills
and valleys of England. The one is at present a vast inhospitable chaos,
the other a land in which there is scarcely an acre that has not been
dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. Such are the signs by which we
are to distinguish Cosmos from Chaos.

How far into the Cotswold Hills the halo of Stratford-on-Avon's glory
may be said to extend it is not easy to determine. Let us allow at all
events that the _reflection_ from the arc reaches across the whole
extent of the wolds as far as Dursley. For here on the western edge of
the Cotswolds it is probable that Shakespeare spent that portion of his
life which has always been involved in obscurity--the interval between
his removal from Warwickshire and his arrival in London.

On a fine autumnal evening in the year 1592 a horseman, mounted on a
little ambling nag, neared the Cotswold village of Bibury. Both man and
steed showed unmistakable signs of weariness. The horse especially,
though of that wiry kind known as the Irish hobby, hard as iron, and
accustomed to long journeys, evinced by that sober and even dejected
expression of countenance so well known to hunting men, that he had been
ridden both far and fast. The saddle too, as well as the legs, chest,
and flanks of the nag, appeared wet and mud-stained, as if some brook
had been swum or some deep and muddy river forded, whilst the left
shoulder and knee of the rider bore marks which told tales of a fall.
The personal appearance of the man was not such as to excite the
interest of the casual passer-by; for his dress, though extremly neat,
was that worn by clerks and other townsfolk of the day; yet a keen
observer might have noticed that the features were those of a man of
uncommon character, in whom, as Carlyle would have said, a germ of
irrepressible force had been implanted.

It had indeed been a glorious day. The hounds, after meeting close to
Moreton-in-the-Marsh, in Warwickshire, had found a great hart in the
forest near Seizincote, and had hunted him "at force" over the deep
undrained vale up on to the Cotswold Hills, away past Stow-on-the-Wold
and Bourton-on-the-Water, towards the great woods of Chedworth. But the
stag, after crossing the Windrush close to Mr. Dutton's house at
Sherborne, had failed to make his point, and had "taken soil" in a deep
pool of the river Coln, near the little village of Coln-St-Dennis, where
eventually the mort had sounded. Such a run had not been seen for many a
long day; for it measured no less than fourteen miles "as the crow
flies," and about five-and-twenty as the hounds ran. The time occupied
had been close on seven hours. There had of course been several checks;
but so strong had been the scent of this hart that, in spite of two
"lets" of some twenty minutes' duration, the pack had been able to hunt
their quarry to the bitter end. Only two men had seen the end. The pride
and chivalry of Warwickshire, mounted on their high-priced Flanders
mares, their Galway nags, and their splendid Barbaries, had been
hopelessly thrown out of the chase; and besides the huntsman, on his
plain-bred little English horse, the only remnant of the field was our
friend with his tough and wiry Irish hobby.

It is five o'clock, and the sun as it disappears beyond a high ridge of
the wolds, is tinging the grey walls of an ancient Gothic fane with a
rosy glow. This our sportsman does not fail to notice; but in spite of
his keen appreciation of the beauties of nature, the question uppermost
in his mind, as he jogs along the rough, uneven road or track which
leads to Bibury, is where to spend the night. The thought of returning
home at that late hour does not enter his head; for the stag having
gone away in exactly the opposite direction to that from which the
Warwickshire man had set out early in the morning, there are no less
than three-and-thirty long and weary miles between the hunter and his
home. In the days of good Queen Bess, however, hospitality was
proverbially free, and any decently set up Englishman was tolerably sure
of a welcome at any of the country houses which were then, as now,
scattered at long intervals over this wild, uncultivated district. And
as he rides round a bend in the valley, a fair manor house comes into
view, pleasantly placed in a sheltered spot hard by the River Coln. It
was built in the style which had just come into vogue--the Elizabethan
form of architecture; and in honour of the reigning monarch its front
presented the appearance of the letter E. The windows, instead of being
made of horn, were of glass; and tall stone chimneys (a modern luxury
but lately invented) carried away the smoke from the chambers within.

It so happened that at the moment the stranger was passing, the owner of
the house--a squire of some sixty years of age, but hale and hearty--was
standing in front of his porch taking the evening air. This fact the
horseman did not fail to notice, and with a ready eye to the main
chance, which showed its possessor to be a man of no ordinary
apprehension, he glanced approvingly at the groined porch, the richly
carved pinnacles above it, and at the quaint belfry beyond, exclaiming
with great enthusiasm:

"'Fore God, you have a goodly dwelling and a rich here. I do envy thee
thine house, sir."

"Barren, barren, barren; beggars all, beggars all," [8] was the reply,
to which, after a pause, the squire added, "Marry, good air."

[Footnote 8: _2 Henry IV_, V. iii.]

"Ah, 'tis a good air up on these wolds," replied the sportsman. "But I
am a stranger here in Gloucestershire; these high wild hills and rough,
uneven ways draw out our miles and make them wearisome.[9] How far is it
to Stratford?"

[Footnote 9: _King Richard II._, II. iii.]

"Marry, 'tis nigh on forty mile, I warrant. Thou'll not see Stratford
to-night, sir; thy horse is wappered[10] out, and that I plainly see."

[Footnote 10: _Wappered_ = tired. A Cotswold word.]

To him replied the stranger wearily:

     Where is the horse that doth untread again
     His tedious measures with the unbated fire
     That he did pace them first? All things that are,
     Are with more spirit chased than enjoyed.[11]

[Footnote 11: _Merchant of Venice_, II. vi.]

"Hast been with the hounds to-day?" enquired the honest squire.

"Ah, sir, and that I have," was the reply; "and never have I seen such
sport before. For seven long hours they made the welkin ring, and ran
like swallows o'er the plain." [12]

[Footnote 12: _Titus Andronicus_, II. ii.]

"Please to step in; we be just a-settin' down to supper--a cold capon
and a venison pasty. I'll tell my serving man to take thy nag to yonder
yard, and make him comfortable for the night."

"Thanks, sir, I'll take him round myself, and give the honest beast a
drench of barley broth,[13] and afterwards, to cheer him up a bit, a
handful or two of dried peas." [14]

[Footnote 13: _Henry V_., III. v.]

[Footnote 14: _Midsummer Night's Dream_, IV. i.]

Whilst the hunter was seeing to his nag, the squire thus addressed his
serving man:

"Some pigeons, Davy, a couple of short-legged hens, a joint of mutton,
and any pretty tiny kickshaws, tell William cook." [15]

[Footnote 15: 2 _Henry IV_., V. i.]

DAVY: "Doth the hunter stay all night, sir?"

SQUIRE: "Yes, Davy. I will use him well; good sportsmen are ever welcome
on Cotswold."

The wants of the Irish hobby having been thoroughly attended to, and the
game little fellow having recovered in some measure his natural gaiety
of spirits, the squire ushered the stranger into a long low hall, hung
with pikes and guns and bows, and relics of the chase as well as of the
wars. The stone floor was strewed with clean rushes, and lying about on
tables were trashes, collars, and whips for hounds, as well as hoods,
perches, jesses, and bells for hawks; whilst a variety of odds and ends,
such as crossbows and jumping-poles, were scattered about the apartment.
An enormous wood fire blazed at one end of the hall, and in the
inglenook sat a girl of some twenty summers.

"My daughter, sir," exclaimed the squire; "as good a girl as ever lived
to make a cheese, brew good beer, preserve all sorts of wines, and cook
a capon with a chaudron! Marry! I forgot to ask thee thy name?"

"Oh, my name is Shakespeare--William Shakespeare, sir. I come from
Stratford-on-the-Avon, up to'rds Warwick."

"Shakespy, Shakespy; a' don't know that name. Dost bear arms, sir?"

"I am entitled to them--a spear on a bend sable, and a falcon for my
crest; but we have not yet applied to the heralds for the confirmation.
And you, sir?"

"He writes himself _armigero_ in any bill, warrant, quittance, or
obligation," here put in Davy the serving man.

"Ah, that I do! and have done any time these three hundred years."

"All his successors gone before him hath done it; and all his ancestors
that come after him may," added Davy, with pride.

"To be sure, to be sure," said the squire. "Well, welcome to Cotswold,
Master Shakespeare; good sportsmen are ever welcome on Cotswold. But
tell me, how didst thou get thy downfall?"

"The first was at the mound into the tyning by Master Blackett's house
at Iccomb; old Dobbin breasted it, and the stones did rattle round mine
ears like a house a-coming down. We made a shard[16] that let the rest
of 'em through. It was the only wall that came in the way of the chase
to-day. The second downfall was at the brook by Bourton-Windrush, I
think they call it. Dobbin being a bit short of wind, and quilting
sadly, stuck fast in the mire, and tumbled on to his nose in scrambling
out. Marry, sir, but 'twas a famous chase; the like of it I never saw
before. 'Twas grand at first to see the hart unharboured--a stag with
all his rights, 'brow, bay, and trey.'"

[Footnote 16: A Cotswold word = breach.]

"Thou shouldst know, our hounds at Warwick are a noted pack,

     So flew'd, so sanded, and their beads are hung
     With ears that sweep away the morning dew;
     Crook-knee'd, and dew-lapp'd like Thessalian bulls;
     Slow in pursuit, but matched in mouth like bells,
     Each under each.  A cry more tuneable
     Was never holla'd to, nor cheer'd with horn.'" [17]

[Footnote 17: _Midsummer Night's Dream_, IV. i.]

Then he told how, after leaving behind the deep undrained grass country
round Moreton-in-the-Marsh, they rose the hills by Stow and came across
the moor. How the riders who spurred their horses up the steep uprising
ascent were soon left behind. For

               "To climb steep hills
     Requires slow pace at first; anger is like
     A full hot horse, who, being allowed his way,
     Self mettle tires him."

He told how, after an hour's steady running over the wolds, a "let" [18]
occurred, and "the hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to doubt";[19]
how Mountain, Fury, Tyrant, and Ringwood, who had been leading the rest
of the pack, strove in vain for a considerable time to pick out the cold
scent, until suddenly the cheery sound of the old huntsman's voice was
heard crying:

[Footnote 18: _Two Noble Kinsmen_, III. v.]

[Footnote 19: _Venus and Adonis_, 692.]

"Fury! Fury! There, Tyrant, there! Hark! Hark!" [20]

and the whole pack went "yoppeting" off as happy as the hunt was long.
He told how Belman fairly surpassed himself, and "twice to-day picked
out the dullest scent";[21] and how little Dobbin, the Irish hobby, went
cantering on "as true as truest horse, that yet would never tire." [22]
He told how, after running from scent to view, they came down into the
woodlands of the valley of the Coln, and awoke the echoes with their
"gallant chiding."

[Footnote 20: _Tempest_, IV, i.]

[Footnote 21: _Taming of the Shrew_, Introduction.]

[Footnote 22: _Midsummer Night's Dream_, III. i.]

                       "... besides the groves,
     The skies, the fountains, every region near
     Seem'd all one mutual cry: I never heard
     So musical a discord, such sweet thunder." [23]

[Footnote 23: _Midsummer Night's Dream_, IV.]

And how the noble animal took soil in the Coln,

     "Under an oak whose antique root peeps out
      Upon the brook that brawls along this wood:
      To the which place our poor sequester'd stag
      Did come to languish; and indeed, my lord,
      The wretched animal heaved forth such groans
      That their discharge did stretch his leathern coat
      Almost to bursting, and the big round tears
      Coursed one another down his innocent nose
      In piteous chase.

      Left and abandon'd of his velvet friends,
      ''Tis right,' quoth he: 'thus misery doth part
      The flux of company': anon a careless herd,
      Full of the pasture, jumps along by him,
      And never stays to greet him. 'Ah,' quoth Jaques,
      'Sweep on, you fat and greasy citizens;
      'Tis just the fashion: wherefore do you look
      Upon that poor and broken bankrupt there?'" [24]

[Footnote 24: _As You Like It_, II. i.]

And finally he told how the gallant beast died a soldier's death,
fighting to the bitter end.

"Marry, 'twas a right good chase, and bravely must thy steed have borne
thee. But thou wast too venturesome, Master Shakespeare," exclaimed the
squire, "a-trying to jump that mound into the tyning by Master
Blackett's house."

"Tell me, I prithee," answered Shakespeare, anxious to turn the
conversation from his own share in the day's proceedings, "whose dog won
the silver-studded collar this year in the coursing matches on
Cotswold?" [25]

[Footnote 25: _Merry Wives of Windsor_,]

"Our Bill Peregrine, here, at the farm, carried it off. A prettier bit
of coursing I never did see!"

"Ah! that was the country fellow that turned up when we sounded the mort
by Col-Dene. He seemed to spring up out of the ground. He is a snapper
up of unconsidered trifles, I'll be bound. The fellow claimed the hide:
he said the skin was the keeper's fee." [26]

[Footnote 26: 3 _Henry VI_, III. i.]

"That 'ould be he. I warrant he lent a hand in taking assay and
breaking up the deer. Tis just what he enjoys."

"Ah! I marked him disembowelling the poor dead beast in right good will,
with hands besmeared with blood." [27]

[Footnote 27: _Henry IV._, V. iv.]

Then they fell to talking of other things; and the honest old squire
began to brag about his London days, and how he was once of
Clement's Inn.

"There was I, and little John Doit of Staffordshire, and black George
Barnes, and Francis Pickbone, and Will Squele, a Cotswold man; you had
not four such swinge-bucklers in all the Inns o' Court again." [28]

[Footnote 28: _Henry IV._, III. ii.]

But the old man was far too interested in his own doings to ask if his
guest had ever been in London. It is the prerogative of age to take for
granted that all younger men are of no account, and even as children,
"to be seen and not heard."

"To-morrow," said the squire, "at break of day, we be a-going a-birding,
to try some young falcons Bill Peregrine has lately trained. Wilt join
us, Master Shakespeare?"

"Ah, that I will, sir! I know a hawk from a handsaw, or my name's not
William Shakespeare."

By this time the cold capon and the venison pasty, as well as the
"little tiny kickshaws," together with a gallon of "good sherris-sack,"
had been considerably reduced by the united efforts of the squire, the
famished hunter, and those below the salt. During the meal such scraps
of conversation as this might have been heard:

"Will you please to take a bit of bacon, Master Shakespeare?"

"Not any, I thank you," replied the poet.

"What, no bacon!" put in the serving man from behind, in a voice of
surprise bordering on disappointment.

"No bacon for me, I thank you; _I never take bacon_," repeated
Shakespeare, with some emphasis.

Then the master of the house would occasionally address a remark to his
serving man about the farm, such as, "How a good yoke of bullocks at
Ciren Fair?" or, "How a score of ewes now?" meaning how much are they
worth. Once the serving man took the initiative, asking, "Shall we sow
the headlands with wheat?" receiving the reply, "With red wheat,
Davy." [29]

[Footnote 29: 2 _Henry IV_, V. i.]

Then there was some discussion concerning the stopping of William's
(Peregrine's?) wages, "About the sack he lost the other day at
Hinckley Fair."

SHAKESPEARE: "This Davy serves you for good uses; he is your serving man
and your husbandman."

SQUIRE: "A good varlet, a good varlet, a very good varlet.... By the
mass, I have drunk too much sack at supper! A good varlet." [30]

[Footnote 30: 2 _Henry IV_, V. iii.]

These were the squire's last words that night. He soon slept peacefully,
as was his wont after his evening meal; whereupon the poet, with his
accustomed gallantry, commenced making love in right good earnest to the
fair daughter of the house.

The Cotswold girls, like the Irish, have always been famous for their
beauty. Even amongst the peasants you may nowadays see the most
beautiful and graceful women in the world, though their attire is
usually of a plain and unbecoming character, and but ill adapted to set
off the features and form of the wearer. The squire's daughter, whom we
will call Jessica, was no exception to the rule. She was a handsome
brunette--indeed, the squire called her a "black ousel." Shakespeare
fell in love with her at once, and, forgetting all about the family at
Stratford, he plunged into the most desperate flirtation. The girl, with
that natural perception of the divine in man common to her sex, could
not help feeling a strange admiration for this unexpected, though not
unwelcome, guest. There was something about his countenance which
exercised a peculiar charm and fascination. The thoughtful brow, the
keen hazel eye, and the gentle bearing of the man were what at first
attracted attention. But it was his manner and speech, half serious and
half mirthful, which made such an impression on her mind; and perhaps
she felt that, "to the face whose beauty is the harmony between that
which speaks from within and the form through which it speaks, power is
added by all that causes the outer man to bear more deeply the impress
of the inner."

The surroundings, too, were as romantic as they possibly could be. A
pair of rush candles were shedding their dim light through the long low
oak-panelled apartment; they were the only lights that were burning, and
even these flickered ominously at times, as if threatening to go out and
leave the place in total darkness. A full moon, however, was casting her
silvery beams through the great lattice casement, and in one of the
upper panes of this window were richly emblazoned the arms of which the
squire was so proud.

It was a glorious evening. Opening the window, William Shakespeare
looked out upon the peaceful garden. The moon was shedding a pale light
upon the woods and the stream, "decking with liquid pearl the bladed
grass." A hundred yards away the silent Coln was gliding slowly onwards
towards the sea. Owls were breathing heavily in the hanging wood, and a
pair of otters were hunting in the pool.

As the two sat by the open window, the poet's own life and its prospects
formed the principal topic of conversation. After years of toil in
London his fortunes were beginning at length to improve. He was manager
of a theatre, and was at length earning a moderate competency. He had
already saved a little money, and hoped soon to buy a house at
Stratford. He looked forward some day to returning to his native place
and living a country life. At present he was enjoying a short holiday,
the first for over a year.

As they sat and talked over these matters, a minstrel began to play in
one of the cottages of the village; the sound of the harp added another
charm to the peaceful surroundings, and filled the poet's mind with a
strange delight.

"I am never merry when I hear sweet music," said Jessica.

Whereupon her companion replied:

     "' ... soft stillness and the night
     Become the touches of sweet harmony.
     Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
     Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
     There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
     But in his motion like an angel sings,
     Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
     Such harmony is in immortal souls;
     But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
     Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.'" [31]

[Footnote 31: _Merchant of Venice_, V. i.]

Sweet is the sound of soft melodious music on a moonlight night; sweet
the faint sigh of the breeze among the elms, and the light upon the
silent stream; but sweeter far is music on a moonlight night, sweeter
the faint sigh of the breeze, and the light upon the silent stream, when
hope, renewed after years of sorrow and sadness, flatters once again the
aims and objects of youth, gilding the landscape of life with wondrous
alchemy, shedding rays of happy sunshine on the vague, mysterious
yearnings of the soul of man towards the hidden destinies of the
boundless future.

It was not long, however, before Shakespeare bade the fair Jessica
good-night and retired to his sleeping apartment; for a run of such
uncommon excellence as he had enjoyed that day was calculated to produce
the tired, though not unpleasant, sensation which even now sends the
hunting man sleepy, though happy, to bed.

So, lulled by the strains of the minstrel's harp did William Shakespeare
seek his couch and sleep the sleep of the just But even while the body
was wrapped in slumber, the highly wrought, powerful mind, though yet
unconscious of its awful destiny, was hard at work, "moving about in
worlds not realised." Yonder on the turret of that grey Gothic castle,
whose pinnacles point ever upwards to the skies, they stand and wait, a
glorious throng; and as they stand they wave him onwards. Dante, Homer,
Virgil, Chaucer, Plutarch, Montaigne, and many another hero of old is
waiting there. See the sharp-pointed features of the Italian bard, and
Homer no longer blind! The two are holding animated converse, and ever
beckoning him on. And a voice seemed to speak out loud and clear amid
the solemn silence of eternity:

     "Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
      Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
      Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike
      As if we had them not.  Spirits are not finely touch'd
      But to fine issues." [32]

[Footnote 32: _Measure for Measure_, I. i.]

Can he linger? Away with blank misgivings, fears, and doubts! He will
climb the rugged, steep ascent, and follow even unto the end.

The following morning a little before sunrise saw a party of five
assembled for a hawking expedition on the downs. Besides the squire and
William Shakespeare, the parson had turned up, whilst Bill Peregrine
(ancestor of all the Peregrines, including, no doubt, the famous
Peregrine Pickle) brought one of his brothers from the farm to "help him
out" with the hawks. It was somewhat of a peculiar dawn--one of those
dull grey mornings which often bodes a fine day. The bard was much
interested in the glowing eastern sky, and as the sun began to appear he
turned to William Peregrine and enthusiastically exclaimed:

                  "'.... what envious streaks
     Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
     Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
     Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.'" [33]

[Footnote 33: _Romeo and Juliet_, III. v.]

"To be sure, to be sure, it do look a bit comical, don't it?" answered
the yeoman, with a cackle; and then, turning to his brother, he said,
"Ain't 'e ever seen the sun rise before?"

"Please, squire, who be the gent from Warwickshire?" says Peregrine,
_sotto voce_; "I cannot tell what the dickens his name is!"

"Oh! 'is name's Shakespy, William Shakespy. A good un at his books, I'll
be bound. Get the hawks, Bill; the sun be up. A' must be off to
Stratford shortly," answered the squire, glancing at the poet.

Whereupon the yeoman opened the door of a long covered shed commonly
called the "mews," and shortly appeared again with four hooded
hawks--two falcons, and two males or tiercel-gentles--placed on a wooden
frame or cadge. These he handed to a stout yokel to carry, and the whole
party sallied forth towards the downs. The squire and the parson were
mounted on their palfreys, the rest of the party being on foot.

It was not long before William Peregrine started an interesting
conversation with the stranger somewhat after this manner:

"Did you 'ave a pretty good day's spart yesterday, Master Quakespear?"

"Ah, that we had! I never saw such a day's sport in all my life!"

"I thought ye did. I could see the 'art was tired smartish. I qeum along
by the bruk, and give un the meeting. When I sees un I says, 'I can see
you've 'ad a smartish doing, old boy.' Then the 'ounds qeum yoppeting
along as nice as could be. Then I sees you and the 'untsman lolloping
along arter the dogs, and soon arter I 'urd the trumpets goin'; and so
says I, 'It's a _case_,' and I qeums up and skins un. 'E did skin
beautiful to be sure! I never see a better job in all my life--never!"

"'Twas a fine hart," replied Shakespeare, "and no dull and muddy-mettled
rascal!" [34]

[Footnote 34: _Hamlet_, II. ii.]

"I be fond of a bit of spart like that," continued Peregrine; "but I
never could away with books and larning. Muddling work, I calls it,
messing over books. Do you care for that kind of stuff, Master
Quakespear?"

"I dabble in it when I am away from the country," was the reply.

Then the Warwickshire man began soliloquising again, somewhat after this
manner:

                                     "'In his brain
     He hath strange places crammed with observation,
     The which he vents in mangled forms.'" [35]

[Footnote 35: _As you Like It_ vii.]

"Drat the fellow!" whispered Peregrine, turning to the parson, who
happened to be riding alongside "I don't like un, 'e's so unkit."

PARSON: "What makes him talk so, William?"

PEREGRINE (_touching his forehead_): "It's a case; I'll be bound it's a
case. 'E's unkit."

"Would you mind saying that again, sir," said the bard, producing a
notebook.

Peregrine goes into a fit of giggling, so Shakespeare writes down from
memory; whereupon the yeoman makes up to the squire, and says, "Hist,
squire, we must 'ave a care; 'e's takin' notes 'o anything we says. 'Tis
my belief 'e's got to do with that 'ere case of Tom Barton's they're
makin' such a fuss and do about at Coln. We shall all be 'ung for a set
o' sheep-stealing ruffians."

"Thee be quite right, William," put in the parson "I thought a' looked a
bit suspicious. If I was you, squire, I'd clap the baggage into
Northleach gaol, and exercise the justice of the peace agin un for an
idle varmint."

"Yet a milder mannered man I never saw," said the squire.

PARSON: "Mild-mannered fiddlestick!" Then, raising his voice so that the
stranger should get the full benefit, he added, "He's as mild a mannered
man as ever scuttled ship or cut a throat!"

Shakespeare hurriedly draws out notebook, and smilingly writes down the
parson's words; then, in perfect good humour, he says:

"You must excuse me, gentlemen, but I have somewhat of a passion for
writing down such sayings as suit my humour, lest I forget what good
company I keep."

SQUIRE (_excitedly_): "Let go the hawk, Tom; there's a great lanky
heron risin' at the withybed yonder."

And here it is necessary to say something about the methods and language
of falconry as practised by our forefathers.

Shakespeare tells us to choose "a falcon or tercel for flying at the
brook, and a hawk for the bush." In other words, we are to select the
nobler species, the long-winged peregrine falcon, the male of which was
called a tiercel-gentle, for flying at the heron or the mallard; and a
short-winged hawk, such as the goshawk or sparrow-hawk, for blackbirds
and other hedgerow birds. For as Mr. Madden explains, not only does the
true falcon, be she peregrine, gerfalcon, merlin, or hobby, differ in
size and structure of wing and beak from the short-winged hawks, but she
also differs in her method of hunting and seizing her prey.

The falcons are "hawks of the tower and lure." They tower aloft and
swoop down on partridge, rabbit, or heron, finally returning to the
lure; and be it noted that the lure is a sham bird, with a "train" of
food to entice the falcons back to their master.

The short-winged hawks, on the other hand, are birds of the fist or the
bush. Instead of "towering" and "stooping," they lurch after their prey
in wandering flight, finally returning to their master's fist.

In _Macbeth_ we find allusion to the "falcon towering in her pride of
place"; and indeed there is no prettier sport on a still day than a
flight at the partridge or the heron with the noble peregrine falcon or
her mate the tiercel-gentle.

At the honest squire's word of command, a male peregrine is forthwith
despatched, and, soaring upwards into the air, he is almost lost to
sight in the clouds, though the faint tinkling of the bells attached to
his feet may yet be heard; then, stooping from the skies, the
tiercel-gentle descends from the heavens and strikes his long-beaked
adversary. Down, down they come, fighting and struggling in the air,
until, exhausted by the unequal combat, the heron gradually falls to the
ground, and receives from the falconer his final _coup de grâce_.
Sometimes a pair of hawks are thrown off against a heron.

Now comes a flight at the partridge. First of all the spaniel is
despatched to search the fields for a covey of birds. The desired quarry
being found, he "points" to them, and this time the female peregrine or
true falcon is sent on her way. Away she soars upwards, "waiting on and
towering in her pride of place." Then the birds, lying like stones
beneath her savage ken, are flushed by the dog, and the cruel peregrine,
after selecting her bird, with her characteristic "swoop" brings it to
the ground. If she is unsuccessful in her first attempt, she will tower
again, and renew the attack. The riders have to gallop as fast as their
nags can go, if they would keep in with the sport, for as often as not a
mile or more of ground has to be covered in a long flight, ere the
falcon "souses" [36] her prey. After the flight, a well-trained falcon
will invariably return to the lure with its "train" of food.

[Footnote 36: _King John_. V. ii.]

As Mr. Madden has proved, the whole of Shakespeare's works teem with
allusions to the art of falconry.

       "HENRY: But what a point, my lord, your falcon made,
     And what a pitch she flew above the rest!
     To see how God in all His creatures works!
     Yea, man and birds are fain of climbing high.

       SUFFOLK: No marvel, an it like your majesty,
     My lord protector's hawks do tower so well;
     They know their master loves to be aloft
     And bears his thoughts above his falcon's pitch.

       GLOUCESTER: My lord, 'tis but a base ignoble mind
     That mounts no higher than a bird can soar." [37]

[Footnote 37: 2 _Henry VI_., II. i.]

But it was not the death of the poor partridge that appealed to the
poet's mind so much as the pride and cunning of the mighty peregrine,
and the beauty and stillness of the autumnal morning. He loved to hear
the faint tinkling of the falcon's bells, the homely cry of the plover,
and the sweet carol of the lark; but more than all he felt the mystery
of the downs, wondering by what power and when those old seas were
converted into a sea of grass.

But whilst the hawking party was moving slowly across the wolds to try
fresh ground an event occurred which had the effect of bringing the
morning's sport, as far as hawks were concerned, to an abrupt
conclusion. This was nothing more nor less than the sight of a great
Cotswold fox of the greyhound breed making his way towards a copse on
the squire's demesne. The quick eye of the Peregrine family was the
first to view him, and forthwith both Bill and his brother screamed in
unison: "What's that sneaking across Smoke Acre yonder? 'Tis a fox--a
great, lanky, thieving, villainous fox, darned if it ain't!"

"Where?" said parson and squire excitedly.

"There," said Peregrine, "over agin Smoke Acre."

"By jabbers, so it be!" said the parson. "Now look thee here, Joe
Peregrine, go thee to the sexton and tell 'un to ring the church bells
for the folks to come for a fox; and be sure and tell the
churchwardens."

"Ah!" said the poet, almost as excited as the rest of the party,

     "'And do not stand on quillets how to slay him:
      Be it by gins, by snares, by subtlety,
      Sleeping or waking, 'tis no matter how,
      So he be dead.'" [38]

[Footnote 38: _2 Henry VI._, III. i.]

Thus abruptly ended this hawking expedition on the Cotswolds; for the
whole party made off to the manor house to fetch guns, spades, pickaxes,
and dogs, as was the custom in those days, when a "lanky, villainous
fox" was viewed.

As for Shakespeare, after bidding adieu to the old squire, and thanking
him for his hospitality, he mounted his game little Irish hobby and
steered his course due northward for Stow-on-the-Wold. His track lay
along the old Fossway, a road infested in those days by murderous
highwaymen; yet, unarmed and unattended, unknown and unappreciated, did
that mighty man of genius set cheerfully out on his long and
solitary way.

[Illustration: The Abbey Gateway, Cirencester 295.png]



CHAPTER XIII.

CIRENCESTER.

The ancient town of Cirencester--the Caerceri of the early Britons, the
Corinium of the Romans, and the Saxon Cyrencerne--has been a place of
importance on the Cotswolds from time immemorial. The abbreviations
Cisetre and Cysseter were in use as long ago as the fifteenth century,
though some of the natives are now in the habit of calling it Ciren. The
correct modern abbreviation is Ciceter.

The place is so rich in Roman antiquities that we must perforce devote a
few lines to their consideration. A whole book would not be sufficient
to do full justice to them.

No less than four important Roman roads meet within a short distance of
Cirencester; and very fine and broad ones they are, generally running as
straight as the proverbial arrow.

1. The Irmin Way, between Cricklade and Gloucester, _viâ_ Cirencester.

2. Acman Street connects Cirencester with Bath.

3. Icknield Street, running to Oxford.

4. The Fossway, extending far into the north of England. This
magnificent road may be said to connect Exeter in the south with Lincoln
in the north. It is raised several feet above the natural level of the
country, and in many places there still remain traces of the ancient
ditch which was dug on either side of its course.

In the year 1849 two very fine tessellated pavements were unearthed in
Dyer Street, and removed to a museum which Lord Bathurst built purposely
for their reception and preservation. Another fine specimen of this kind
of work may be seen in its original position at a house called the
"Barton" in the park. It is a representation of Orpheus and his lute;
and the various animals which he is said to have charmed are wonderfully
worked in the coloured pavements. Even as far back as three hundred
years ago these beautiful relics were being discovered in this town; for
Leland in his "Itinerary," mentions the finding of some tesserae;
unfortunately but few have been preserved.

There are two inscribed stones in this collection which deserve special
mention, as they are marvellously well preserved, considering the fact
that they are probably eighteen hundred years old. They are about six
feet in height and about half that breadth; on each is carved the figure
of a mounted soldier, spear in hand. On the ground lies his prostrate
foe, pierced by his adversary's spear. Underneath one of these carvings
are inscribed the following words:--

     DANNICVS. EQES. AIAE.
     INDIAN. TVR. ALBANI.
     STIP. XVI. CIVES. RAVR.
     CVR. FVLVIVS. NATALIS. IT.
     FVLIVS. BITVCVS. EX. TESTAME.
     H S E.

The meaning of the above words is as follows:--

"Dannicus, a horseman of Indus's Cavalry, of the squadron of Albanus. He
had seen sixteen years' service. A citizen of Rauricum. Fulvius Natalis
and Fulvius Bitucus have caused this monument to be made in accordance
with his will. He is buried here."

The other stone has a somewhat similar inscription.

The Romans, who did not use wallpapers, were in the habit of colouring
their plaster with various pigments. Some very interesting specimens of
wall-painting are preserved at Cirencester, and may be seen in the
museum. The most remarkable example of the kind is a piece of coloured
plaster, with the following square scratched on its surface:--

     ROTAS
     OPERA
     TENET
     AREPO
     SATOR

It will be noticed that these five words, the meaning of which is,
"Arepo, the sower, guides the wheels at work," form a kind of puzzle;
they may be read in eight different directions.

A large variety of sepulchral urns have been found at Cirencester. When
dug up they usually contain little besides the ashes of the dead, though
a few coins are sometimes included. There is a very perfect specimen of
a glass urn--a large green bottle, square, wide-mouthed, and absolutely
intact--in this collection. It was found, wrapped in lead and enclosed
in a hollow stone, somewhere near the town about the year 1758.

A fine specimen of a stone coffin is likewise to be seen. When
discovered at Latton it was found to contain an iron axe, a dish of
black ware of the kind frequently discovered at Upchurch in Kent, a
juglike-handled vase of a light red colour, and some human bones.

The various kinds of pottery in the Corinium Museum are interesting on
account of the potters' marks found on them. There must be considerably
over a hundred different marks in this collection, chiefly of the
following kind:--

_Putri M_. (Manû Putri), by the hand of Putrus.

_Mara. F_. (Formâ Marci), from the mould of Marcus.

_Olini Off_. (Officinâ Olini), from the workshop of Olinus.

The museum contains many good specimens of iron and bronze implements,
as well as coins and stonework, and is well worthy of the attention
bestowed on it, not only by antiquaries, but by the public at large.

At a place called the Querns, a short distance from the town, is a very
interesting old amphitheatre called the Bull-ring. This is an ellipse of
about sixty yards long by forty-five wide; it is surrounded by mounds
twenty feet high. Originally the scene of the combats of Roman
gladiators, in mediaeval times it was probably used for the pastime of
bull-baiting, a barbarous amusement which has happily long since
died out.

Amphitheatres of the same type are to be seen at Dorchester, Old Sarum,
Silchester, and other Roman stations.

Mr. Wilfred Cripps, C.B., the head of a family that has been seated at
Cirencester for many hundreds of years, has an interesting private
collection of Roman antiquities which have been found in the
neighbourhood from time to time. He has quite recently discovered the
remnants of the Basilica or Roman law-courts.

Turning to the place as it now stands, one is struck on entering the
town by the breadth and clean appearance of the main street, known as
the market-place. The shops are almost as good as those to be found in
the principal thoroughfares of London.

I have spoken before of the magnificent old church. There is, perhaps,
no sacred building, except St. Mary Redcliffe at Bristol and Beverley
Minster, that we know of in England which for perfect proportion and
symmetry can vie with the imposing grandeur of this pile, as seen from
the Cricklade-street end of Cirencester market-place.

The south porch is a very beautiful and ornamental piece of
architecture. The work is of fifteenth-century design, the interior of
the porch consisting of delicately wrought fan-tracery groining. The
carving outside is most picturesque, there being many handsome niches
and six fine oriel windows. The whole of the _façade_ is crowned with
very large pierced battlements and crocketed pinnacles. Over this porch
is one of those grand old sixteenth-century halls such as were built in
former times in front of the churches. It is called the "Parvise," a
word derived from the same source as Paradise, which in the language of
architecture means a cloistered court adjoining a church. Many of these
beautiful old apartments existed at one time in England, but were pulled
down by religious enthusiasts because they were considered to be out of
place when attached to the church and used for secular purposes. This is
now known as the town hall, and contrasts very favourably with the
hideous erections built in modern times in some of our English towns for
this purpose.

The church of Cirencester contains a large amount of beautiful
Perpendicular work.

In the grand old tower are twelve bells of excellent tone. The Early
English stonework in the chancel and chapels is very curious, a fine
arch opening from the nave to the tower. There is, in fact, a great deal
to be seen on all sides which would delight the lover of architecture.

Some ancient brasses of great interest and beautiful design in various
parts of this church claim attention; the earliest of them is as old as
1360; a pulpit cloth of blue velvet, made from the cape of one Ralph
Parsons in 1478 and presented by him, is still preserved.

Cirencester House stands but a stone's throw from the railway station,
but is hidden from sight by a high wall and a gigantic yew hedge. Behind
it and on all sides, save one, the park--one of the largest in
England--stretches away for miles. So beautiful and rural are the
surroundings that the visitor to the house can hardly realise that the
place is not far removed from the busy haunts of men.

The Cirencester estate was purchased by Sir Benjamin Bathurst rather
more than two hundred years ago. This family has done good service to
their king and country for many centuries. We read the other day that no
less than _six_ of Sir Benjamin's brothers died fighting for the king in
the Civil Wars. Nor have they been less conspicuous in serving their
country in times of peace.

The park, which was designed to a great extent by the first earl, with
the assistance of Pope, has been entirely thrown open to the people of
Cirencester; and "the future and as yet visionary beauties of the noble
scenes, openings, and avenues" which that great poet used to delight in
dwelling upon have become accomplished facts. The "ten rides"--lengthy
avenues of fine trees radiating in all directions from a central point
in the middle of the park--are a picturesque feature of the landscape.

The lover of horses and riding finds here a paradise of grassy glades,
where he can gallop for miles on end, and tire the most obstinate of
"pullers."

Picnic parties, horse shows, cricket matches, and the chase of the fox
all find a place in this romantic demesne in their proper seasons. The
enthusiast for woodland hunting, or the man who hates the sight of a
fence of any description, may hunt the fox here day after day and never
leave the recesses of the park.

The antiquary will find much to delight him. Here is the ancient high
cross, erected in the fourteenth century, which once stood in front of
the old Ram Inn. The pedestal is hewn from a single block of stone, and
beautifully wrought with Gothic arcades and panelled quatrefoils; this
and the shaft are the sole relics of the old cross. We may go into
raptures over the ivy-covered ruin known as Alfred's Hall, fitted up as
it is with black oak and rusty armour and all the pompous simplicity of
the old baronial halls of England. Antiquaries of a certain order are
easily deceived; and this delightful old ruin, though but two hundred
years old, has been so skilfully put together as to represent an ancient
British castle. That celebrated, though indelicate divine, Dean Swift,
was, like Alexander Pope, deeply interested in the designing of
this park.

As long ago as 1733 Alfred's Hall was a snare and delusion to
antiquaries. In that year Swift received a letter stating that "My Lord
Bathurst has greatly improved the Wood-House, which you may remember was
a cottage, not a bit better than an Irish cabin. It is now a venerable
castle, and has been taken by an antiquary for one of King Arthur's."

The kennels of the V.W.H. hounds are in the park. Here the lover of
hounds can spend hours discussing the merits of "Songster" and
"Rosebud," or the latest and most promising additions to the families of
"Brocklesby Acrobat" or "Cotteswold Flier."

In this house are some very interesting portraits. Full-length pictures
of the members of the Cabal Ministry adorn the dining-room--all fine
examples of Lely's brush; then there is a very large representation of
the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo mounted on his favourite charger
"Copenhagen" by Lawrence; two "Romneys," one "Sir Joshua," and several
"Knellers."

Turning to the Abbey, the seat for the last three hundred and thirty
years of the Master family, we find another instance of a large country
house standing practically in a town. The house is situated immediately
behind the church and within a stone's throw of the market-place. But on
the side away from the town the view from this house extends over a
large extent of rural scenery. The site of the mitred Abbey of Saint
Mary is somewhere hereabouts, but in the time of the suppression of the
monasteries every stone of the old abbey was pulled down and carried
away; so that the twelfth-century gateway and some remnants of pillars
are the sole traces that remain. This gateway, which is a very fine one,
is still used as a lodge entrance. Queen Elizabeth granted this estate
to Richard Master in 1564. When King Charles was at Cirencester in the
time of the Rebellion he twice stayed at this house. In 1642 the
townspeople of Cirencester rose in a body, and tried to prevent the lord
lieutenant of the county, Lord Chandos, from carrying out the King's
Commission of Array. For a time they gained their ends, but in the
following year there was a sharp encounter between Prince Rupert's force
and the people of Cirencester, resulting in the total defeat of the
latter. Three hundred of them were killed, and over a thousand taken
prisoners. They were confined in the church, and eventually taken to
Oxford, where, upon their submitting humbly to the king, he pardoned
them, and they were released. This is one account. It is only fair to
state that another account is less complimentary to Charles.

When Charles II. escaped from Worcester he put up at an old hostelry in
Cirencester called the Sun. King James and, still later, Queen Anne paid
visits to this town.

Altogether the town of Cirencester is a very fascinating old place. The
lot of its inhabitants is indeed cast in pleasant places. The grand
bracing air of the Cotswold Hills is a tonic which drives dull care away
from these Gloucestershire people; and when it is remembered that they
enjoy the freedom of Lord Bathurst's beautiful park, that the
neighbourhood is, in spite of agricultural depression, well off in this
world's goods, it is not surprising that the pallid cheeks and drooping
figures to be met with in most of our towns are conspicuous by their
absence here. The Cotswold farmers may be making no profit in these days
of low prices and competition, but against this must be set the fact
that their fathers and grandfathers made considerable fortunes in
farming three decades ago, and for this we must be thankful.

The merry capital of the Cotswolds abounds in good cheer and good
fellowship all the year round; and one has only to pay a visit to the
market-place on a Monday to meet the best of fellows and the most genial
sportsmen anywhere to be found amongst the farming community of England.

One of the old institutions which still remain in the Cotswolds is the
annual "mop," or hiring fair. At Cirencester these take place twice in
October. Every labouring man in the district hurries into the town,
where all sorts of entertainments are held in the market-place,
including "whirly-go-rounds," discordant music, and the usual "shows"
which go to make up a country fair. "Hiring" used to be the great
feature of these fairs. In the days before local newspapers were
invented every sort of servant, from a farm bailiff to a
maid-of-all-work, was hired for the year at the annual mop. The word
"mop" is derived from an old custom which ordained that the
maid-servants who came to find situations should bring their badge of
office with them to the fair. They came with their brooms and mops, just
as a carter would tie a piece of whipcord to his coat, and a shepherd's
hat would be decorated with a tuft of wool. Time was when the labouring
man was never happy unless he changed his abode from year to year. He
would get tired of one master and one village, and be off to Cirencester
mop, where he was pretty sure to get a fresh job. But nowadays the
Cotswold men are beginning to realise that "Two removes are as bad as a
fire." The best of them stay for years in the same village. This is very
much more satisfactory for all concerned. Deeply rooted though the love
of change appears to be in the hearts of nine-tenths of the human race,
the restless spirit seldom enjoys real peace and quiet; and the
discontent and poverty of the labouring class in times gone by may
safely be attributed to their never-ceasing changes and removal of their
belongings to other parts of the country.

Now that these old fairs no longer answer the purpose for which they
existed for hundreds of years, they will doubtless gradually die out.
And they have their drawbacks. An occasion of this kind is always
associated with a good deal of drunkenness; the old market-place of
Cirencester for a few days in each autumn becomes a regular pandemonium.
It is marvellous how quickly all traces of the great show are swept away
and the place once more settles down to the normal condition of an
old-fashioned though well-to-do country town.

There are many old houses in Cirencester of more than average interest,
but there is nothing as far as we know that needs special description.
The Fleece Hotel is one of the largest and most beautiful of the
mediaeval buildings. It should be noted that some of the new buildings
in this town, such as that which contains the post office, have been
erected in the best possible taste. With the exception of some of the
work which Mr. Bodley has done at Oxford in recent years, notably the
new buildings at Magdalen College, we have never seen modern
architecture of greater excellence than these Cirencester houses. They
are as picturesque as houses containing shops possibly can be.

HUNTING FROM CICETER.

But it is as a hunting centre that Ciceter is best known to the world at
large, and in this respect it is almost unique. The "Melton of the
west," it contains a large number of hunting residents who are not mere
"birds of passage," but men who live the best part of the year in or
near the town. The country round about, from a hunting point of view, is
good enough for most people. Five days a week can be enjoyed, over a
variety of hill and vale, all of which is "rideable"; nor can there be
any question but that the sport obtainable compares favourably with that
enjoyed in the more grassy Midlands. Not that there is much plough round
about Cirencester nowadays; agricultural depression has diminished the
amount of arable in recent years. The best grass country round about,
however, with the exception of the Crudwell and Oaksey district, rides
decidedly deep. The enclosures are small and the fences rough and
straggling.

A clever, bold horse, with plenty of jumping power in his quarters and
hocks, is essential. It may safely be said that a man who can command
hounds in the Braydon and Swindon district will find the "shires"
comparatively plain sailing. The wall country of the Cotswold tableland
is exactly the reverse of the vale. The pace there is often tremendous,
but the obstacles are not formidable enough to those accustomed to
walls to keep the eager field from pressing the pack, save on those rare
occasions when, on a burning scent, the hounds manage to get a start of
horses; and then they will never be caught. Well-bred horses are almost
invariably ridden in this wall country; if in hard condition, and there
are no steep hills to be crossed, they can go as fast and stay almost as
long as hounds, for the going is good, and they are always galloping on
the top of the ground.

At the time of writing, there are over two hundred hunters stabled in
the little town of Cirencester, to say nothing of those kept at the
numerous hunting boxes around. More than this need not be said to show
the undoubted popularity of the place as a hunting centre. And a very
sporting lot the people are. Brought up to the sport from the cradle,
the Gloucestershire natives, squires, farmers, all sorts and conditions
of men, ride as straight as a die.

From what has been said it will be readily gathered that the attraction
of the place as a hunting centre lies in the variety of country it
commands. Not only is a different stamp of country to be met with each
day of the week, but on one and the same day you may be riding over
banks, small flying fences, and sound grass, or deep ploughs and pasture
divided by hairy bullfinches, or, again, over light plough and stone
walls; and to this fact may be attributed the exceptional number of good
performers over a country that this district turns out. Both men and
horses have always appeared to us to reach a very high standard of
cleverness.

To Leicestershire, Northants, Warwick, and the Vale of Aylesbury
belongs by undisputed right the credit of the finest grass country in
hunting England. But for Ireland and the rougher shires I claim the
honour of showing not only the straightest foxes, but also the best
sportsmen and the boldest riders. The reason seems to me to be this: in
Leicestershire you find the field composed largely of smart London men;
and after a certain age a man "goes to hounds" in inverse ratio to the
pace at which he travels as a man about town. The latter (with a few
brilliant exceptions to prove the rule) is not so quick and determined
when he sees a nasty piece of timber or an awkward hairy fence as his
reputation at the clubs would lead you to expect; whilst the rougher
countryman, be he yeoman or squire, farmer or peer, endowed with nerves
of iron, is able to cross a country with a confidence and a dash that
are denied to the average dandy, with his big stud, immaculate
"leathers," and expensive cigars. In Gloucestershire many an honest
yeoman goes out twice a week and endeavours to drown for a while all
thoughts of hard times and low prices, content for the day if the fates
have left him a sound horse and the consolation of a gallop over the
grass. Let it here be said that there are no grooms in the world who
better understand conditioning hunters than those of Leicestershire.
Nowhere can you see horses better bred or fitter to go; and he who rides
a-hunting on _fat_ horses must himself be _fat_.

The V.W.H. hounds, on Mr. Hoare's retirement in 1886, were divided into
two packs. Mr. T. Butt Miller hunts three days a week on the eastern
side, with Cricklade as his centre; whilst Lord Bathurst has sufficient
ground for two days on the west, where the country flanks with the Duke
of Beaufort's domain on the south and the Cotswold hounds on the north.
Mr. Miller retains the original pack, and a very fine one it is. Lord
Bathurst likewise, by dint of sparing no pains, and by bringing in the
best blood obtainable from Belvoir, Brocklesby, and other kennels, has
gradually brought his pack to a high state of excellence.

Turning to the week's programme for a man hunting five or six days a
week from Cirencester, Monday is the day for the duke's hounds. Here you
may be riding over some of the best of the grass, where light flying
fences grow on the top of low banks, or else it will be a stone-wall
country of mixed grass and light plough. In either case the country is
very rideable, and sport usually excellent. The Badminton hounds and
Lord Worcester's skill as a huntsman are too well known to require any
description here.

On Tuesday Lord Bathurst's hounds are always within seven miles of the
town, and the country is a very open one, but one that requires plenty
of wet to carry scent. Though on certain days there is but little scent,
in favourable seasons during recent years wonderful sport has been shown
in this country. In the season of 1895-6 especially, a fine gallop came
off regularly every Tuesday from October to the end of February. In '97,
on the other hand, little was done. There is far more grass than there
used to be, owing to so much of the land having gone out of cultivation.
The plough rides lighter than grass does in nine counties out of ten,
the coverts are small, and the pace often tremendous. Every country has
its drawback, and in this case it lies partly in bad scent and partly in
the fences being too easy. Men who know the walls with which the
Cotswold tableland is almost entirely enclosed, ride far too close to
hounds: thus, the pack and the huntsman not being allowed a chance,
sport is often spoiled. Occasionally, when a real scent is forthcoming,
the hounds can run right away from the field; but as a rule they are
shamefully over-ridden. The fact is that in the hunting field, as
elsewhere, John Wolcot's epigram, written a hundred years ago, exactly
hits the nail on the head:

     "What rage for fame attends both great and small!
      Better be d--d than mentioned not at all."

We all want to ride in the front rank, and are, or ought to be, d--d
accordingly by the long-suffering M.F.H.

On Wednesdays the Cotswold hounds are always within easy reach of
Cirencester. There are few better packs than the Cotswold. Started forty
years ago with part of the V.W.H. pack which Lord Gifford was giving up,
the Cotswold hounds have received strains of the best blood of the
Brocklesby, Badminton, Belvoir, and Berkeley kennels. They have
therefore both speed and stamina as well as good noses. Their huntsman,
Charles Travess, has no superior as far as we know; the result is that
for dash and drive these hounds are unequalled. Notwithstanding the
severe pace at which they are able to run, owing to the absence of high
hedges and other impediments--for most of the country is enclosed with
stone walls--they hunt marvellously well together and do not tail; they
are wonderfully musical, too,--more so than any other pack.

Here it is worth our while to analyse briefly the qualities which
combine to make this huntsman so deservedly popular with all who follow
the Cotswold hounds. We venture to say that he pleases all and sundry,
"thrusters," hound-men, and _liver-men_ alike, because he invariably has
a double object in view--he hunts his fox and he humours his field. And
firstly he hunts his fox in the best possible method, having regard to
the scenting capabilities of the Cotswold Hills.

He is quick as lightning, yet he is never in a hurry--that is to say, in
a "_bad_ hurry." When the hounds "throw up" or "check," like all other
good huntsmen he gives them plenty of time. He stands still and he
_makes his field stand still_; then may be seen that magnificent proof
of canine brain-power, the fan-shaped forward movement of a
well-drafted, old-established pack of foxhounds, making good by two
distinct casts--right-and left-handed--the ground that lies in front of
them and on each side. Should they fail to hit off the line, the
advantage of a brilliant huntsman immediately asserts itself. Partly by
certain set rules and partly by a knowledge of the country and the run
of foxes, but more than all by that _daring_ genius which was the
making of Shakespeare and the great men of all time, he takes his hounds
admirably in hand, aided by two quiet, unassuming whippers-in, and in
four cases out of five brings them either at the first or second cast to
the very hedgerow where five minutes before Reynard took his sneaking,
solitary way. It may be "forward," or it may be down wind, right or
left-handed, but it is at all events the _right_ way; thus, owing to
this happy knack of making the proper cast at a large percentage of
checks this man establishes his reputation as a first-class huntsman.

Should the day be propitious, a run is now assured, unless some
unforeseen occurrence, such as the fox going to ground, necessitates a
draw for a fresh one; but in any case, owing to this marvellous knack of
hitting off the line at the first check, our huntsman generally
contrives to show a run some time during the day.

So much for the methods by which this William Shakespeare of the hunting
field is wont to pursue his fox. But we have not done with him yet. What
does he do on those bad scenting days which on the dry and stony
Cotswold Hills are the rule rather than the exception? On such days, as
well as hunting his fox, he humours his field. In the first place,
unless he has distinct proof to the contrary, he invariably gives his
fox credit for being a straight-necked one. He keeps moving on at a
steady pace in the direction in which his instinct and knowledge lead
him, even though there may be no scent, either on the ground or in the
air, to guide the hounds. Every piece of good scenting ground--and he
knows the capabilities of every field in this respect--is made the most
of; "carrying" or dusty ploughs are scrupulously avoided. If he "lifts,"
it is done so quietly and cunningly that the majority of the riders are
unaware of the fact; and the hounds never become wild and untractable.
It is this free and generous method of hunting the fox that pleases his
followers. Travess's casts are not made in cramped and stingy fashion,
but a wide extent of country is covered even on a bad day; there is no
rat-hunting. After a time all save a dozen sportsmen are left several
fields behind. "They won't run to-day," is the general cry; "there is no
hurry." But meantime some large grass fields are met with, or the
huntsman brings the pack on to better terms with the fox, or maybe a
fresh one jumps up, and away go the hounds for seven or eight minutes as
hard as they can pelt. Only a dozen men know exactly what has happened.
Most of the thrusters and all the _liver-men_ have to gallop in earnest
for half an hour to come up with the hunt; indeed, on many days they
never see either huntsman or hounds again, and go tearing about the
country cursing their luck in missing so fine a run! It is the old story
of the hare and the tortoise. But herein lies the "humour" of it: the
hare is pleased and the tortoise is pleased. The former, as represented
by the field, has enjoyed a fine scamper, and lots of air (bother the
currant jelly!) and exercise; the tortoise, on the other hand, has had a
fine hunting run, and possibly by creeping slowly on for some hours it
has killed its fox; whilst several good sportsmen have enjoyed an
old-fashioned hunt in a wild country with a kill in the open.

_Verbum sap:_ If you want to humour your field, you must leave them
behind. It must not be done intentionally, however; the riders must be
allowed, so to speak, to work out their own salvation in this respect.

Major de Freville's country as a whole is more suited to the "houndman"
than for him who hunts to ride. The hills, save in one district, are so
severe that hounds often beat horses; the result is, many are tempted to
station themselves on the top of a hill, whence a wide view is
obtainable, and trust to the hounds coming back after running a ring.
Given the right sort of horse, however--short-backed, thoroughbred if
possible, and with good enough manners to descend a steep place without
boring and tearing his rider's arms almost out of their sockets--many a
fine run may be seen in this wild district. Much of the arable land has
gone back to grass, so that it is quite a fair scenting country; and the
foxes are stronger and more straight-necked than in more civilised
parts. One of the best days the writer ever had in his life was with
these hounds. Meeting at Puesdown, they ran for an hour in the morning
at a great pace, with an eight-mile point; whilst in the afternoon came
a run of one-and-a-half hours, with a point of somewhere about
ten miles.

With the exception of a small vale between Cheltenham and Tewkesbury,
which is very good indeed, the Puesdown country is about the best, the
undulations being less severe than in other parts.

On Thursdays Cirencester commands Mr. Miller's Braydon country. This
country is a very great contrast to that which is ridden over on
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and requires a very stout horse. It rides
tremendously deep at times; and the fences, which come very frequently
in a run, owing to the small size of the enclosures, are both big and
blind. It is practically all grass. But there are several large
woodlands, with deep clay rides, in which one is not unlikely to spend a
part of Thursday; and these woods, owing in part to the shooting being
let to Londoners, are none too plentifully provided with foxes. Wire,
too, has sprung up in some parts of Mr. Miller's Braydon country. Few
people have large enough studs to stand the wear and tear of this fine,
wild country; consequently the fields are generally small. Sport, though
not so good as it used to be, is still very fair, and to run down to
Great Wood in the duke's country is sufficient to tax the powers of the
finest weight-carrying hunter, whilst only the man with a quick eye to a
country can live with hounds. It is often stated that blood horses are
the best for galloping through deep ground. This is true in one way,
though not on the whole. Thoroughbred horses are practically useless in
this sort of country; their feet are often so small that they stick in
the deep clay. A horse with small feet is no good at all in Braydon. A
short-legged Irish hunter, about three parts bred, with tremendous
strength in hocks and quarters, and biggish feet, is the sort the writer
would choose. If up to quite two stone more than his rider's weight,
and a safe and temperate fencer, he will carry you well up with hounds
over any country. A fast horse is not required; for a racer that can do
the mile on the flat at Newmarket in something under two minutes is
reduced in really deep ground to an eight-mile-an-hour canter, and your
short-legged horse from the Emerald Isle will leave him standing still
in the Braydon Vale.

Some countries never ride really deep. The shires, for instance, though
often said to be deep, will seldom let a horse in to any great
extent--the ridge and furrow drains the field so well; and in that sort
of deep ground which is met with in Leicestershire a thoroughbred one
will gallop and "stay" all day. But a ride in Braydon or in the Bicester
"Claydons" will convince us that a stouter stamp of horse is necessary
to combat a deep, undrained clay country.

We must now leave the sporting Thursday country of the V.W.H. and turn
to Friday.

Eastcourt, Crudwell, Oaksey, Brinkworth, Lea Schools--such are some of
Lord Bathurst's Friday meets; and the pen can hardly write fast enough
in singing the praises of this country. Strong, well-preserved coverts,
sound grass fields, flying fences, sometimes set on a low bank,
sometimes without a bank, varied by an occasional brook, with now and
then a fence big enough to choke off all but the "customers"--such is
the bill of fare for Fridays. To run from Stonehill Wood, _viâ_ Charlton
and Garsdon, to Redborn in the duke's country, as the hounds did on the
first day of 1897, is, as "Brooksby" would say, "a line fit for a king,
be that king but well minded and well mounted."

Stand on Garsdon Hill, and look down on the grassy vale mapped out
below, and tell me, if you dare, that you ever saw a pleasanter stretch
of country. How dear to the hunting man are green fields and
sweet-scenting pastures, where the fences are fair and clean and the
ditches broad and deep, where there is room to gallop and room to jump,
and where, as he sails along on a well-bred horse or reclines perchance
in a muddy ditch (Professor Raleigh! what a watery bathos!), he may
often say to himself, "It is good for me to be here!" For when the
hounds cross this country there are always "wigs on the green" in
abundance; and in spite of barbed wire we may still sing with Horace,

     "Nec fortuitum spernere caespitem
      Leges sinebant,"

which, at the risk of offending all classical scholars, I must here
translate: "Nor do the laws allow us to despise a chance tumble on
the turf."

Round Oaksey, too, is a rare galloping ground. Should you be lucky
enough to get a start from "Flistridge" and come down to the brook at a
jumpable place, in less than ten minutes you will be, if not _in_
Paradise, at all events as near as you are ever likely to be on this
earth. This is literally true, for half way between "Flistridge" and
Kemble Wood, and in the midst of Elysian grass fields, is a narrow strip
of covert happily christened "Paradise."

Would that there was a larger extent of this sort of country, for it is
not every Friday that hounds cross it! The duke's hounds have a happy
knack of crossing it occasionally on a Monday, however, and on Thursdays
Mr. Miller's hounds may drive a fox that way.

This district is not so easy for a stranger to ride his own line over as
the Midlands; it is not half so stiff, but it is often cramped and
trappy. But then you must "look before you leap" in most countries
nowadays. In this Friday country wire is comparatively scarce. The
fields run very large on this day,--quite two hundred horsemen are to be
seen at favourite fixtures. About half this number would belong to the
country, and the other half come from the duke's country and elsewhere.
These Friday fields are as well mounted and well appointed as any in
England. And to see a run one must have a good horse,--not necessarily
an expensive one, for "good" and "expensive" are by no means synonymous
terms with regard to horseflesh. It is with regret that we must add that
foxes were decidedly scarce here last season (1897-8).

On Saturdays the Cirencester brigade will hunt with Mr. Miller.
Fairford, Lechlade, Kempsford, and Water-Eaton are some of the meets.
Here we have a totally different country from any yet considered. It is
a wonderfully sporting one; and last season these hounds never had a bad
Saturday, and often a 'clinker' resulted. Here again one can never
anticipate what sort of ground will be traversed; but the best of it
consists of a fine open country of grass and plough intermingled, the
fields being intersected by small flying fences and exceptionally wide
and deep ditches. "Snowstorm"--a small gorse half way between Fairford
and Lechlade stations on the Great Western Railway--is a favourite draw.
If a fox goes away you see men sitting down in their saddles and
cramming at the fences as hard as their horses can gallop. There appears
to be nothing to jump until you are close up to the fence; but
nevertheless pace is required to clear them, for there is hardly a ditch
anywhere round "Snowstorm" that is not ten feet wide and eight feet or
more deep, and if you are unlucky your horse may have to clear fourteen
feet. On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing that a horse going
fast cannot clear almost without an effort if he jumps at all. So you
may ride in confidence at every fence, and take it where you please. The
depth of the ditch is what frightens a timid horse and, I may add, a
timid rider; and if your horse stops dead, and then tries to jump it
standing, you are very apt to tumble in.

A rare sporting country is this district; and as the horses and their
riders know it, there are comparatively few falls. Round Kempsford and
Lechlade the Thames and the canal are apt to get in the way, but once
clear of these impediments a very open country is entered, either of
grass and flying fences or light plough and stone walls. Another style
of country is that round Hannington and Crouch. In old days, before wire
was known, this used to be the best grass country in the V.W.H., but
nowadays you must "look before you leap." With a good fox, however,
hounds may take you into the best of the old Berkshire vale, and
perhaps right up to the Swindon Hills. Round Water-Eaton is a fine grass
country, good enough for anybody; but the increase of wire is becoming
more and more difficult to combat in this as in other grazing districts
of England.

The very varied bill of fare we have briefly sketched for a man hunting
from Cirencester may include an occasional Wednesday with the Heythrop
at "Bradwell Grove." It is not possible to reach the choicest part of
this pleasant country by road from Cirencester, but some of the best of
the stone-wall country of the Cotswold tableland is included in the
Heythrop domain. Everybody who has been brought up to hunting has heard
of "Jem Hills and Bradwell Grove": rare gallops this celebrated huntsman
used to show over the wolds in days gone by; and on a good scenting day
it requires a quick horse to live with these hounds. A fast and
well-bred pack, established more than sixty years ago, they have been
admirably presided over by Mr. Albert Brassey for close on a quarter of
a century. Several pleasant vales intersect this country, notably the
Bourton and the Gawcombe Vale; and there is excellent grass round
Moreton-in-the-Marsh. As, however, the grass country of the Heythrop is
too far from Cirencester to be reached by road, it hardly comes within
our scope.

If hunting is doomed to extinction in the Midlands, owing to the growth
of barbed wire, it is exceedingly unlikely ever to die out in the
neighbourhood of Cirencester; for there is so much poor, unprofitable
land on the Cotswold tableland and in the Braydon district that barbed
wire and other evils of civilisation are not likely to interfere to
deprive us of our national sport; Hunting men have but to be true to
themselves, and avoid doing unnecessary damage, to see the sport carried
on in the twentieth century as it has been in the past. If we conform to
the unwritten laws of the chase, and pay for the damage we do, there
will be no fear of fox-hunting dying out. England will be "Merrie
England" still, even in the twentieth century; the glorious pastime,
sole relic of the days of chivalry, will continue among us, cheering the
life in our quiet country villages through the gloomy winter months;--if
only we be true to ourselves, and do our uttermost to further the
interests of the grandest sport on earth.

As I have given an account of a run over the walls, and as the Ciceter
people set most store on a gallop over the stiff fences and grass
enclosures of their vale, here follows a brief description in verse of
the glories of fifty minutes on the grass. I have called it "The
Thruster's Song," because on the whole I thoroughly agree with
Shakespeare that

     "Valour is the chietest virtue, and
      Most dignifies the haver."

Hard riding and all sports which involve an element of danger are the
best antidotes to that luxury and effeminacy which long periods of peace
are apt to foster. What would become of the young men of the present
day--those, I mean, who are in the habit of following the hounds--if
hard riding were to become unfashionable? I cannot conceive anything
more ridiculous than the sight of a couple of hundred well-mounted men
riding day after day in a slow procession through gates, "craning" at
the smallest obstacles, or dismounting and "leading over." No; hard
riding is the best antidote in the world for the luxurious tendency of
these days. A hundred years ago, when the sport of fox-hunting was in
its infancy and modern conditions of pace were unknown, there was less
need for this kind of recreation, "the image of war without its guilt,
and only twenty-five per cent of its danger." For there was real
fighting enough to be done in olden times; and amongst hunting folk,
though there was much drinking, there was little luxury. Therefore our
fox-hunting ancestors were content to enjoy slow hunting runs, and small
blame to them! But those who are fond of lamenting the modern spirit of
the age, which prefers the forty minutes' burst over a severe country to
a three hours' hunting run, are apt to lose sight of the fact that in
these piping times of peace, without the risks of sport mankind is
liable to degenerate towards effeminacy. For this reason in the
following poem I have purposely taken up the cudgels for that somewhat
unpopular class of sportsmen, the "thrusters" of the hunting field. They
are unpopular with masters of hounds because they ride too close to the
pack; but as a general rule they are the only people who ever see a
really fast run. In Shakespeare's time hounds that went too fast for the
rest of the pack were "trashed for over-topping," that is to say, they
were handicapped by a strap attached to their necks. In the same way in
every hunt nowadays there are half a dozen individuals who have reduced
riding to hounds to such an art that no pack can get away from them in a
moderately easy country. These "bruisers" of the hunting field ought to
be made to carry three stone dead weight; they should be "trashed for
overtopping." However, as Brooksby has tersely put it, "Some men hunt to
ride and some ride to hunt; others, thank Heaven! double their fun by
doing both." There are many, many fine riders in England who will not be
denied in crossing a stiff country, and who at the same time are
interested in the hounds and in the poetry of sport: men to whom the
mysteries of scent and of woodcraft, as well as the breeding and
management of hounds, are something more than a mere name: men who in
after days recall with pleasure "how in glancing over the pack they have
been gratified by the shining coat, the sparkling eye--sure symptoms of
fitness for the fight;--how when thrown in to covert every hound has
been hidden; how every sprig of gorse has bristled with motion; how when
viewed away by the sharp-eyed whipper-in, the fox stole under the hedge;
how the huntsman clapped round, and with a few toots of his horn brought
them out in a body; how, without tying on the line, they 'flew to head';
how, when they got hold of it, they drove it, and with their heads up
felt the scent on both sides of the fence; how with hardly a whimper
they turned with him, till at the end of fifty minutes they threw up;
how the patient huntsman stood still; how they made their own cast: and
how when they came back on his line, their tongues doubled and they
marked him for their own." To such good men and true I dedicate the
following lines:--

A DAY IN THE VALE; OR, THE THRUSTER'S SONG.

You who've known the sweet enjoyment of a gallop in the vale,
Comrades of the chase, I know you will not deem my subject stale.
Stand with me once more beside the blackthorn or the golden gorse,--
Don't forget to thank your stars you're mounted on a favourite horse;
For the hounds dashed into covert with a zest that bodes a scent,
And the glass is high and rising, clouded is the firmament.
When the ground is soaked with moisture, when the wind is in the east
Scent lies best,--the south wind doesn't suit the "thruster" in the least.
Some there are who love to watch them with their noses on the ground;
We prefer to see them flitting o'er the grass without a sound.
We prefer the keen north-easter; ten to one the scent's "breast high";
With a south wind hounds can sometimes hunt a fox, but seldom fly.
Hark! the whip has viewed him yonder; he's away, upon my word!
If you want to steal a start, then fly the bullfinch like a bird;
Gallop now your very hardest; turn him sharp, and jump the stile,
Trot him at it--never mind the bough,--it's only smashed your tile!
Now we're with them. See, they're tailing, from the fierceness of the pace,
Up the hedgerow, o'er the meadow, 'cross the stubble see them race:
Governor--by Belvoir Gambler,--he's the hound to "run to head,"
Tracing back to Rallywood, that fifty years ago was bred;
Close behind comes Arrogant, by Acrobat; and Artful too;
Rosy, bred by Pytchley Rockwood; Crusty, likewise staunch and true.
Down a muddy lane, in mad excitement, but, alas! too late,
Thunders half the field towards the portals of a friendly gate;
Sees a dozen red-coats bobbing in the vale a mile ahead;
Hears the huntsman's horn, and longs to catch those distant bits of red;--
But in vain, for blind the fences, here a fall and there a "peck."
Some one cries, "An awful place, sir; don't go there, you'll break
   your neck."
Not the stiff, unbroken fences, but the treacherous gaps we fear;
"Though in front the post of honour, that of danger's in the rear."
Forrard on, then forrard onwards, o'er the pasture, o'er the lea,
Tossed about by ridge and furrow, rolling like a ship at sea;
Stake and binder, timber, oxers, all are taken in our stride,--
Better fifty minutes' racing than a dawdling five hours' ride.
I am not ashamed to own, with him who loves a steeplechase,
That to me the charm in hunting is the ecstasy of _pace_,--
This is what best schools the soldier, teaches us that we are men
Born to bear the rough and tumble, wield the sword and not the pen.
Some there are who dub hard riders worthless and a draghunt crew--
Tailors who do all the damage, mounted on a spavined screw.
Well, I grant you, hunting men are sometimes narrow-minded fools;
Ignorant of all worth knowing, save what's learnt in riding-schools;
Careless of the rights of others, scampering over growing crops,
Smashing gates and making gaps and scattering wide the turnip tops;--
But I hold that out of all the hunting fields throughout the land
I could choose for active service a large-hearted, gallant band;
I could choose six hundred red-coats, trained by riding in the van,
Fit to go to Balaclava under brave Lord Cardigan.
'Tis the finest school, the chase, to teach contempt of cannon balls,
If a man ride bravely onward, spite of endless rattling falls.
And to be a first-rate sportsman, not a man who merely "rides,"
Is to be a perfect gentleman, and something more besides;
Fearing neither man nor devil, kind, unselfish he must be,
Born to lead when danger threatens--type of ancient chivalry.
When you hear a "houndman" jeering at the "customers" in front,
Saying they come out to ride a steeplechase and not to hunt,
You may bet the "grapes are sour," the fellow's smoked his nerve away;
Once he went as well as they do: "every dog will have his day."
Though to ride about the roads in state may do your liver good,
You see precious little "houndwork" either there or in the wood.
He who loves to mark the work of hounds must ride beside the pack,
Choosing his own line, or following others, if he's lost the knack.
Lookers-on, I grant you, often see the best part of the game,--
Still, to ride the roads and live with hounds are things not quite
   the same.
Now a word to all those gallant chaps who love a hunting day:
In bad times you know that farming is a trade that doesn't pay,
Barbed wire's the cheapest kind of fence; the farmer can't afford
Tempting post-and-rails and timber--for he's getting rather bored.
Therefore, if we want to ride with our old devilry and dash,
We must put our hands in pockets deep and shovel out the cash.
When you want to hire a shooting you will gladly pay a "pony,"
Yet when asked to give it to the hounds you're apt to say you're "stony."
Pay the piper, and the sport you love so well will flourish yet,
Flourish in the dim hereafter; and its sun will never set.
Help the noble cause of freedom; rich and poor together blend
Hands and hearts for ever working for a great and glorious end.

[Illustration: An old barn 329.png]



CHAPTER XIV.

SPRING IN THE COTSWOLDS.

Whilst walking by the river one day in May I noticed a brood of wild
ducks about a week old. The old ones are wonderfully tame at this time
of year. The mother evidently disliked my intrusion, for she started off
up stream, followed by her offspring, making towards a withybed a
hundred yards or so higher up, where a secluded spring gives capital
shelter for duck and other shy birds. What was my surprise a couple of
hours later to see the same lot emerge from some rushes three-quarters
of a mile up stream! They had circumvented a small waterfall, and the
current is very strong in places. Part of the journey must have been
done on dry land.

At the same moment that I startled this brood out of the rushes a
moorhen swam slowly out, accompanied by her mate. It was evident, from
her cries and her anxious behaviour, that she too had some young ones in
the rushes; and soon two tiny little black balls of fur crawled out from
the bank and made for the opposite shore. Either from blindness or
fright they did not join their parents in mid stream, but hurried across
to the opposite bank and scrambled on to the mud, followed by the old
couple remonstrating with them on their foolishness. The mother then
succeeded in persuading one of them to follow her to a place of safety
underneath some overhanging boughs, but the other was left clinging to
the bank, crying piteously. I went round by a bridge in the hope of
being able to place the helpless little thing on the water; but, alas!
by the time I got to the spot it was dead. The exertion of crossing the
stream had been too much for it, for it was probably not twelve
hours old.

When there are young ones about, moorhens will not dive to get out of
your sight unless their children dive too. It is pretty to see them
swimming on the down-stream side of their progeny, buoying them up in
case the current should prove too strong and carry them down. If there
are eggs still unhatched, the father, when disturbed, takes the little
ones away to a safer spot, whilst the mother sticks to the nest. But
they are rather stupid, for even the day after the eggs are hatched, on
being disturbed by a casual passer-by, the old cock swims out into mid
stream. He then calls to his tiny progeny to follow him, though they are
utterly incapable of doing so, and generally come to hopeless grief in
the attempt. Then the old ones are not very clever at finding children
that have been frightened away from the nest. I marked one down on the
opposite bank, and could see it crawling beneath some sticks; but the
old bird kept swimming past the spot, and appeared to neither hear nor
see the little ball of fur. Perhaps he was playing cunning; he may have
imagined that the bird was invisible to me, and was trying to divert my
attention from the spot.

Moorhens are always interesting to watch. With a pair of field-glasses
an amusing and instructive half hour may often be spent by the stream in
the breeding season.

I was much amused, while feeding some swans and a couple of wild ducks
the other day, to notice that the mallard would attack the swans if they
took any food that he fancied. One would have thought that such powerful
birds as swans--one stroke of whose wings is supposed to be capable of
breaking a man's leg--would not have stood any nonsense from an
unusually diminutive mallard. But not a bit of it: the mallard ruled the
roost; all the other birds, even the great swans, ran away from him when
he attacked them from behind with his beak. This state of things
continued for some days. But after a time the male swan got tired of the
game; his patience was exhausted. Watching his opportunity he seized the
pugnacious little mallard by the neck and gave him a thundering good
shaking! It was most laughable to watch them. It is characteristic of
swans that they are unable to look you in the face; and beautiful beyond
all description as they appear to be in their proper element, meet them
on dry land and they become hideous and uninteresting, scowling at you
with an evil eye.

Sometimes as you are walking under the trees on the banks of the Coln
you come across a little heap of chipped wood lying on the ground. Then
you hear "tap, tap," in the branches above. It is the little nuthatch
hard at work scooping out his home in the bark. He sways his body with
every stroke of his beak, and is so busy he takes no notice of you. The
nuthatch is very fond of filberts, as his name implies. You may see him
in the autumn with a nut firmly fixed in a crevice in the bark of a
hazel branch, and he taps away until he pierces the shell and gets at
the kernel. Nuthatches, which are very plentiful hereabouts, are
sometimes to be found in the forsaken homes of woodpeckers, which they
plaster round with mud. The entrance to the hole in the tree is thus
made small enough to suit them. Sometimes when I have disturbed a
nuthatch at work at a hole in a tree, the little fellow would pop into
the hole and peep out at me, never moving until I had departed.

Woodpeckers are somewhat uncommon here: I have not heard one in our
garden by the river for a very long time, though a foolish farmer told
me the other day that he had recently shot one. A mile or so away, at
Barnsley Park, where the oaks thrive on a vein of clay soil, green
woodpeckers may often be seen and heard. What more beautiful bird is
there, even in the tropics, than the merry yaffel, with his emerald back
and the red tuft on his head? The other two varieties of woodpeckers,
the greater and lesser spotted, are occasionally met with on the
Cotswolds. I do not know why we have so few green woodpeckers by the
river, as there are plenty of old trees there; but these birds, which
feed chiefly on the ground among the anthills, have a marked preference
for such woods in the neighbourhood as contain an abundance of oak
trees. The local name for these birds is "hic-wall," which Tom Peregrine
pronounces "heckle." There is no more pleasing sound than the long,
chattering note of the green woodpecker; it breaks so suddenly on the
general silence of the woods, contrasting as it does in its loud,
bell-like tones with the soft cooing of the doves and the songs of the
other birds.

In various places along its course the river has long poles set across
it; on these poles Tom Peregrine has placed traps for stoats, weasels,
and other vermin. Recently, when we were fishing, he pointed out a great
stoat caught in one of these traps with a water-rat in its mouth--a very
strange occurrence, for the trap was only a small one, of the usual
rabbit size, and the rat was almost as big as the stoat. There is so
little room for the bodies of a stoat and a rat in one of these small
iron traps that the betting must be at least a thousand to one against
such an event happening. Unless we had seen it with our eyes we could
not have believed it possible. The stoat, in chasing the rat along the
pole, must have seized his prey at the very instant that the jaws of the
trap snapped upon them both. They were quite dead when we found them.

Every one acquainted with gamekeepers' duties is well aware that the
iron traps armed with teeth which are in general use throughout the
country are a disgrace to nineteenth-century civilisation. It is a
terrible experience to take a rabbit or any other animal out of one of
these relics of barbarism. Sir Herbert Maxwell recently called the
attention of game preservers and keepers to a patent trap which Colonel
Coulson, of Newburgh, has just invented. Instead of teeth, the jaws of
the new trap have pads of corrugated rubber, which grip as tightly and
effectively as the old contrivance without breaking the bones or
piercing the skin. I trust these traps will shortly supersede the old
ones, so that a portion of the inevitable suffering of the furred
denizens of our woods may be dispensed with.

In a hunting country where foxes occasionally find their way into vermin
traps, Colonel Coulson's invention should be invaluable. Instead of
having to be destroyed, or being killed by the hounds in covert, owing
to a broken leg, it is ten to one that Master Reynard would be released
very little the worse for his temporary confinement. Moreover, as Sir
Herbert Maxwell points out, dog owners will be grateful to the inventor
when their favourites accidentally find their way into one of these
traps and are released without smashed bones and bleeding feet. Any kind
of trap is but a diabolical contrivance at best, but these "humane
patents" are a vast improvement, and do the work better than the old, as
I can testify, having used them from the time Sir Herbert Maxwell first
called attention to them, and being quite satisfied with them.

Badgers are almost as mysterious in their ways and habits as the otter.
Nobody believes there are badgers about except those who look for their
characteristic tracks about the fox-earths. Every now and then, however,
a badger is dug out or discovered in some way in places where they were
unheard of before. We have one here now.

A few years ago I saw a pack of foxhounds find a badger in Chearsley
Spinneys in Oxfordshire. They hunted him round and round for about ten
minutes. I saw him just in front of the hounds; a great, fine specimen
he was too. As far as I remember, the hounds killed him in covert, and
then went away on the line of a fox.

A year or two ago three fine young badgers were captured near
Bourton-on-the-Water, on the Cotswolds. When I was shown them I was told
they would not feed in confinement. Finding a large lobworm, I picked it
up and gave it to one of them. He ate it with the utmost relish. His
brown and grey little body shook with emotion when I spoke to him
kindly--just as a dog trembles when you pet him. I am not certain,
however, whether the badger trembled out of gratitude for the lobworm or
out of rage and disgust at being confined in a cage.

Badgers would make delightful pets if they had a little less _scent_:
nature, as everybody knows, has endowed them with this quality to a
remarkable degree; they have the power of emitting or retaining it at
their own discretion.

Badger-baiting with terriers is not an amusement which commends itself
to humane sportsmen. It is hard luck on the terriers, even more than on
the badger. The dogs have a very bad time if they go anywhere near him.

Talking of terriers, how endless are the instances of superhuman
sagacity in dogs of all kinds! I once drove twenty-five miles from a
place near Guildford in Surrey to Windsor. In the cart I took with me a
little liver-coloured spaniel. When I had completed about half the
journey I put the spaniel down for a run of a few miles: this was all
she saw of the country. In Windsor, through some cause or other, I lost
her; but when I arrived home a day or two afterwards, she had arrived
there before me. It should be mentioned that the journey was not along a
high-road, but by cross-country lanes. How on earth she got home first,
unless she came back on my scent, then, finding herself near home, took
a short cut across country, so as to be there before me, it is
impossible to imagine.

How curious it is that all animals seem to know when Sunday comes round!

Fish and fowl are certainly much tamer on the seventh day of the week
than on any other. We had a terrier that would never attempt to follow
you when you were going to church so long as you had your Sunday clothes
on; whilst even when he was following you on a week day, if you turned
round and said "Church" in a decisive tone, he would trot straight back
to the house. As far as we know he had no special training in this
respect. This terrier, who was a rare one to tackle a fox, has on
several occasions spent the best part of a week down a rabbit burrow.
When dug out he seemed very little the worse for his escapade, though
decidedly emaciated in appearance. Poor little fellow! he died a
painless death not long ago from sheer old age. I was with him at the
time, and did not even know he was ill until five minutes before he
expired. The most obedient and faithful, as well as the bravest, little
dog in the world, he could do anything but speak. How much we can learn
from these little emblems of simplicity, gladness, and love. Implicit
obedience and boundless faith in those set over us, to forgive and
forget unto seventy times seven, to give gold for silver, nay, to
sacrifice all and receive back nothing in return,--these are some of the
lessons we may learn from creatures we call dumb. Perhaps they will have
their reward. There is room in eternity for the souls of animals as well
as of men; there is room for the London cab-horse after his life of
hardship and cruel sacrifice; there is room for the innocent lamb that
goes to the slaughter; there is room in those realms of infinity for
every bird of the air and every beast of the field that either the
necessity (that tyrant's plea) or the ignorance of man has condemned to
torture, injustice, or neglect!

The most delightful of all dogs are those rough-haired Scotch deerhounds
the author of "Waverley" loved so well. How timid and subdued are these
trusty hounds on ordinary occasions! yet how fierce and relentless to
pursue and slay their natural quarry, the antlered monarch of the glen!
Once, in Savernake Forest, where the yaffels laugh all day amid the
great oak trees, and the beech avenues, with their Gothic foliations and
lichened trunks, are the finest in the world, a young, untried deerhound
of ours slipped away unobserved and killed a hind "off his own bat."
Though he had probably never seen a deer before, hereditary instinct was
too strong, and he succumbed to temptation. Yet he would not harm a fox,
for on another occasion, when I was out walking, accompanied by this
hound and a fox-terrier, the latter bolted a large dog fox out of a
drain. When the fox appeared the deerhound made after him, and, in his
attempt to dodge, reynard was bowled over on to his back. But directly
he was called, the deerhound came back to our heels, apparently not
considering the vulpine race fair game. I will not vouch for the
accuracy of the story, but our coachman asserts that he saw this
deerhound at play with a fox in our kitchen garden,--not a tame fox, but
a wild one. I believe, myself, that this actually did happen, as the man
who witnessed the occurrence is thoroughly reliable.

There is no dog more knowing and sagacious in his own particular way
than a well-trained retriever. What an immense addition to the pleasure
of a day's partridge-shooting in September is the working of one of
these delightful dogs! Only the other day, when I was sitting on the
lawn, a retriever puppy came running up with something in his mouth,
with which he seemed very pleased. He laid it at my feet with great care
and tenderness, and I saw that it was a young pheasant about a
fortnight old. It ran into the house, and was rescued unharmed a few
hours afterwards by the keeper, who restored it to the hencoop from
whence it came. One could not be angry with a dog that was unable to
resist the temptation to retrieve, but yet would not harm the bird in
the smallest degree.

One does not often see teams of oxen ploughing in the fields nowadays.
Within a radius of a hundred miles of London town this is becoming a
rare spectacle. They are still used sometimes in the Cotswolds, however,
though the practice of using them must soon die out. Great, slow,
lumbering animals they are, but very handsome and delightful beasts to
look upon. A team of brown oxen adds a pleasing feature to the
landscape.

As we come down the steep ascent which leads to our little hamlet, we
often wonder why some of the cottage front doors are painted bright red
and some a lovely deep blue. These different colours add a great deal of
picturesqueness to the cottages; but is it possible that the owners have
painted their doors red and blue for the sake of the charming distant
effect it gives? These people have wonderfully good taste as a rule. The
other day we noticed that some of the dreadful iron sheeting which is
creeping into use in country places had been painted by a farmer a
beautiful rich brown. It gave quite a pretty effect to the barn it
adjoined. Every bit of colour is an improvement in the rather
cold-looking upland scenery of the Cotswolds.

Cray-fishing is a very popular amusement among the villagers. These
fresh-water lobsters abound in the gravelly reaches of the Coln. They
are caught at night in small round nets, which are baited and let down
to the bottom of the pools. The crayfish crawl into the nets to feed,
and are hauled up by the dozen. Two men can take a couple of bucketfuls
of them on any evening in September. Though much esteemed in Paris,
where they fetch a high price as _écrevisse_, we must confess they are
rather disappointing when served up. The village people, however, are
very fond of them; and Tom Peregrine, the keeper, in his quaint way
describes them as "very good pickings for dessert." As they eat a large
number of very small trout, as well as ova, on the gravel spawning-beds,
crayfish should not be allowed to become too numerous in a trout stream.

It is difficult to understand in what the great attraction of
rook-shooting consists. Up to yesterday I had never shot a rook in my
life. The accuracy with which some people can kill rooks with a rifle is
very remarkable. I have seen my brother knock down five or six dozen
without missing more than one or two birds the whole time. One would be
thankful to die such an instantaneous death as these young rooks. They
seem to drop to the shot without a flutter; down they come, as straight
as a big stone dropped from a high wall. Like a lump of lead they fall
into the nettles. They hardly ever move again. It is difficult work
finding them in the thick undergrowth.

About eleven o'clock the evening after shooting the young rooks I was
returning home from a neighbouring farmhouse when I heard the most
lamentable sounds coming from the rookery. There seemed to be a funeral
service going on in the big ash trees. Muffled cawings and piteous cries
told me that the poor old rooks were mourning for their children. I
cannot remember ever hearing rooks cawing at that time of night before.
Saving the lark, "that scorner of the ground," which rises and sings in
the skies an hour before sunrise, the rooks are the first birds to
strike up at early dawn. One often notices this fact on sleepless
nights. About 2.30 o'clock on a May morning a rook begins the grand
concert with a solo in G flat; then a cock pheasant crows, or an owl
hoots; moorhens begin to stir, and gradually the woodland orchestra
works up to a tremendous burst of song, such as is never heard at any
hour but that of sunrise.

     "Now the rich stream of music winds along,
      Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong,
      Through verdant vales."

How often one has heard this grand thanksgiving chorus of the birds at
early dawn!

I wonder if the poor rooks caw all night long after the "slaughter of
the innocents?" They were still at it when I went to bed at 12.30, and
this was within two hours of their time of getting up.

     "Some say that e'en against that season cornea
      In which our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
      The bird of dawning singeth all night long."

Thus wrote Shakespeare of bold chanticleer; and perhaps the rooks when
they are grieving for their lost ones, hold solemn requiem until the
morning light and the cheering rays of the sun make them forget
their woes.

It is difficult to understand what pleasure the farmers find in shooting
young rooks with twelve-bore guns. Ours are always allowed a grand
_battue_ in the garden every year. They ask their friends out from
Cirencester to assist. For an hour or so the shots have been rattling
all round the house and on the sheds in the stable-yard. The horses are
frightened out of their wits. Grown-up men ought to know better than to
keep firing continually towards a house not two hundred yards away. A
stray pellet might easily blind a man or a horse.

Farmers are sometimes very careless with their guns. Out
partridge-shooting one is in mortal terror of the man on one's right,
who invariably carries his gun at such a level that if it went off it
would "rake" the whole line. If you tell one of these gentry that he is
holding his gun in a dangerous way, he will only laugh, remarking
possibly that you are getting very nervous. The best plan is not to ask
these well-meaning, but highly dangerous fellows to shoot with you.
Unfortunately it is probably the eldest son of the principal tenant on
the manor who is the culprit. The best plan in such cases is to speak to
the old man firmly, but courteously, asking him to try to dissuade his
son from his dangerous practices.

It is amusing to watch the jackdaws when they come from the ivy-mantled
fir trees to steal the food we throw every morning on to the lawn in
front of the house for the pheasants, the pigeons, and other birds.
They are the funniest rascals and the biggest thieves in Christendom.
Alighting suddenly behind a cock pheasant, they snatch the food from him
just as he imagines he has got it safely; and terribly astonished he
always looks. Then these greedy daws will chase the smaller birds as
they fly away with any dainty morsel, and compel them to give it up. A
curiously mixed group assembles on the lawn each morning at eight
o'clock in the winter. First of all there are the pheasants crowing
loudly for their breakfast, then come the stately swans, several
pinioned wild ducks, tame pigeons and wild and timid stock doves, four
or five moorhens, any number of daws, as well as thrushes, blackbirds,
starlings, house-sparrows, and finches. One day, having forgotten to
feed them, I was astonished at hearing loud quacks proceeding from the
dining-room, and was horrified to find that the ducks had come into the
house to look for me and demand their grub.

Foxes give one a good deal of anxiety in May and June, when the cubs are
about half grown. On arriving home to-day the first news I hear is that
two dead cubs have been picked up: "one looks as if his head had been
battered in, and the other appears to have been worried by a dog." This
is the only information I can get from the keeper. It is really a
serious blow; for if two have been found dead, how many others may not
have died in their earth or in the woods?

Two seasons ago six dead cubs were picked up here; they had died from
eating rooks which had been poisoned by some farmers. It took us a long
time to get to the bottom of this affair, for no information is to be
got out of Gloucestershire folk; you must ferret such matters
out yourself.

There are still live cubs in the breeding-earth, for I heard them there
this afternoon; so there is yet hope. But twenty acres of covert will
not stand this sort of thing, considering that the hounds are "through"
them once in three weeks, on an average, throughout the winter. Only one
vixen survived at the end of last season, though another one has turned
up since. We have two litters, fortunately. Where you have coverts handy
to a stream of any kind, there will foxes congregate. They love
water-rats and moorhens more than any other food.

A strange prejudice exists among hunting men against cleaning out
artificial earths. There was never a greater fallacy. Fox-earths want
looking to from time to time, say every ten years, for rabbits will
render them practically useless by burrowing out in different places. A
block is often formed in the drain by this burrowing, and the earth will
have to be opened and the channel freed.

The best possible preventive measure against mange is to clear out your
artificial earths every ten years. As for driving the foxes away by this
practice, we cannot believe it. You cannot keep foxes from using a good
artificial drain so long as it lies dry and secluded and the entrance is
not too large. They prefer a small entrance, as they imagine dogs cannot
follow them into a small hole.

A farmer made an earth in a hedgerow last year right away from any
coverts, and, one would have thought, out of the beaten track of
reynard's nightly prowls; yet the foxes took to this earth at the
beginning of the hunting season, and they were soon quite
established there.

There is no mystery about building a fox-drain. Reynard will take to any
dry underground place that lies in a secluded spot. If it faces
south--that is to say, if your earth runs in a half circle, with both
entrances facing towards the south or south-west--so much the better.
The entrance should not be more than about six inches square. Such a
hole looks uncommonly small, no doubt, but a fox prefers it to a larger
one. About half way through the passage a little chamber should be made,
to tempt a vixen to lay up her cubs there. When there are lots of foxes
and not too many earths, they will very soon begin to work a new drain,
so long as it lies in a secluded spot and within easy distance of Master
Reynard's skirmishing grounds.

We have lately made such an earth in a small covert, because the
original earth is the wrong side of the River Coln. All the good country
is on the opposite side of the river to that on which the old earth is
situated. Foxes will seldom cross the stream when they are first found.
It is hoped, therefore, that when they take to the new earth they will
lie in the wood on the right side of the stream. We shall then close the
old earth, and thus endeavour to get the foxes to run the good country.
Much may be done to show sport by using a little strategy of this kind.
Many a good stretch of grass country is lost to the hunt because the
earths are badly distributed. It must be remembered that a fox when
first found will usually go straight to his earth; finding that closed,
he will make for the next earths he is in the habit of using.

The other day, while ferreting in the coverts previous to
rabbit-shooting, the keeper bolted a huge fox out of one burrow and a
cat out of the other. He also tells me that he once found a hare and a
fox lying in their forms, within three yards of one another, in a small
disused quarry. There is no doubt that, like jack among fish, the fox is
friendly enough on some days, when his belly is full. He then "makes up
to" rabbits and other animals, with the intent of "turning on them" when
they least expect it. Without this treacherous sort of cunning, reynard
would often have to go supperless to bed.

In those drains and earths where foxes are known to lie you will often
see traces of rabbits. These little conies are wonderfully confiding in
the way they use a fox-earth. It is difficult to believe that they live
in the drain with the foxes, but they are exceedingly fond of making
burrows with an entrance to an earth. They are a great nuisance in
spoiling earths by this practice. Rabbits invariably establish
themselves in fox-drains which have been temporarily deserted.

Foxes become very "cute" towards the end of the hunting season. They can
hear hounds running at a distance of four or five miles on windy days.
Knowing that the earths are stopped, they leave the bigger woods and
hide themselves in out-of-the-way fields and hedgerows. Last season a
fox was seen to leave our coverts, trot along the high-road, and
ensconce himself among some laurels near the manor house. He was so
easily seen where he lay in the shrubbery that a crowd of villagers
stood watching him from the road. He knew the hounds would not draw this
place, as it is quite small and bare, so here he stayed until dusk;
then, having assured himself that the hounds had gone home, he jumped up
and trotted back to the woods again.

A flock of sheep are not always frightened at a fox. The other day an
old dog fox, the hero of many a good run in recent years from these
coverts (an "old customer," in fact), was observed by the keeper and two
other men trying to cross the river by means of a footbridge. A flock of
sheep, doubtless taking him for a dog, were frustrating his endeavours
to get across; directly he set foot on dry land they would bowl him over
on to his back in the most unceremonious way. This game of romps went on
for about ten minutes. Finally the fox, getting tired of trying to pass
the sheep, trotted back over the footbridge. Fifty yards up stream a
narrow fir pole is set across the water. The cunning old rascal made for
this, and attempted to get to the other side; but the fates were against
him. There was a strong wind blowing at the time, so that when he was
half way across the pool, he was actually blown off sideways into the
water. And a rare ducking he got! He gave the job up after this, and
trotted back into the wood. This is a very curious occurrence, because
the fox was perfectly healthy and strong. He is well known throughout
the country, not only for his tremendous cheek, but also for the
wonderful runs he has given from time to time. He will climb over a
six-foot wire fence to gain entrance to a fowl-run belonging to an
excellent sportsman, who, though not a hunting man, would never allow a
fox to be killed. He is reported to have had fifty, fowls out of this
place during the last few months. When caught in the act in broad
daylight, the fox had to be hunted round and round the enclosure before
he would leave, finally climbing up the wire fencing like a cat, instead
of departing by the open door.

It is very rare that a mischievous fox, given to the destruction of
poultry, is also a straight-necked one. Too often these gentry know no
extent of country; they take refuge in the nearest farmyard when pressed
by the hounds. At the end of a run we have seen them on the roof of
houses and outbuildings time after time. On one occasion last season a
hunted fox was discovered among the rafters in the roof of a very high
barn. The "whipper-in" was sent up by means of a long ladder, eventually
pulling him out of his hiding-place by his brush. Poor brute! perhaps he
might have been spared after showing such marvellous strategy.

It speaks wonders for the good-nature and unselfishness of the farmer
who owns the fowl-run above alluded to that he never would send in the
vestige of a claim to the hunt secretary for the poultry he has lost
from time to time. But he is one of the old-fashioned yeomen of
Gloucestershire--a gentleman, if ever there was one--a type of the best
sort of Englishman. Alas! that hard times have thinned the ranks of the
old yeoman farmers of the Cotswolds! They are the very backbone of the
country; we can ill afford to lose them, with their cheery, bluff
manners and good-hearted natures.

Some of the people round about are not so scrupulous in the way of
poultry claims. We have had to investigate a large number in, recent
years. It is a difficult matter to distinguish _bonâ-fide_ from "bogus"
claims; they vary in amount from one to twenty pounds. Once only have we
been foolish enough to rear a litter of cubs by hand, having obtained
them from the big woods at Cirencester. Before the hunting season had
commenced we had received claims of nineteen and fourteen pounds from
neighbouring farmers for poultry and turkeys destroyed. One bailiff
declared that the foxes were so bold they had fetched a young heifer
that had died from the "bowssen" into the fox-covert. Whether the
bailiff put it there or the foxes "fetched" it I know not, but the
white, bleached skull may be seen hard by the earth to this day.

One of the claimants above named farms three hundred acres on strictly
economical principles. He has allowed the land to go back to grass, and
the only labour he employs on it is a one-legged boy, whom he pays "in
kind." This boy arrived the other day with another poultry claim, when
the following dialogue occurred:--

"I see you have got down sixteen young ducklings on the list?"

"Yaas, the jackdars fetched they."

"How do you know the jackdaws took them?" "'Cos maister said so."

"Do you shut up your fowls at night?"

"Yaas, we shuts the daar, but the farxes gets in. It be all weared out.
There be great holes in the bowssen where they gets through and
fetches them."

How can one pay poultry claims of this kind? It being absolutely
impossible to verify these accounts properly, the only way is to take
the general character of the claimant, paying according as you think him
straightforward or the reverse. It is an insult to an honest man to
offer him anything less than the amount he asks for; therefore claims
which have every appearance of being _bonâ fide_ should be settled in
full. But the hunt can't afford it, one is told. In that case people
ought to subscribe more. If men paid ten pounds for every hunter they
owned, the income of most establishments would be more than doubled.

The farmers are wonderfully long-suffering on the whole, but they cannot
be expected to welcome a whole multitude of strangers; nor can they
allow large fields to ride over their land in these bad times without
compensation of some sort. Slowly, but surely, a change is coming over
our ideas of hunting rights and hunting courtesy; and the sooner we
realise that we ought to pay for our hunting on the same scale as we do
for shooting and fishing, the better will it be for all concerned.

Talking of hunting and foxes reminds me that a short time ago I went to
investigate an earth to see if a vixen was laid down there. Finding no
signs of any cubs, I was just going away when I saw a feather sticking
out of the ground a few yards from the fox-earth. I pulled four young
thrushes, a tiny rabbit, and two young water-rats out of this hole, and
re-buried them. The cubs, it afterwards appeared, were laid up in a
rabbit burrow some distance away. But the old vixen kept her larder near
her old quarters, instead of burying her supplies for a rainy day close
to the hole where she had her cubs. Perhaps she was meditating moving
the litter to this earth on some future occasion.

I shall never forget discovering this litter. When looking down a
rabbit-hole I heard a scuffle. A young cub came up to the mouth of the
hole, saw me, and dashed back again into the earth. This was the
smallest place I ever saw cubs laid up in. The vixen happened to be a
very little one.

It is amusing to watch the cubs playing in the corn on a summer's
evening. If you go up wind you can approach within ten yards of them.
Round and round they gambol, tumbling each other over for all the world
like young puppies. They take little notice of you at first; but after a
time they suddenly stop playing, stare hard at you for half a minute,
then bolt off helter-skelter into the forest of waving green wheat.

One word more about the scent of foxes. Not long ago a man wrote to the
_Field_ saying that he had proved by experiment that on the saturation
or relative humidity of the air the hunter's hopes depend: in fact, he
announced that he had solved the riddle of scent. It so happened that
for some years the present writer had also been amusing himself with
experiments of the same nature, and at one time entertained the hope
that by means of the hygrometer he would arrive at a solution of the
mystery. But alas! it was not to be. On several occasions when the air
was well-nigh saturated, scent proved abominable. That the relative
humidity of the air is not the all-important factor was often proved by
the bad scent experienced just before rain and storms, when the
hygrometer showed a saturation of considerably over ninety per cent. But
there are undoubtedly other complications besides the evaporations from
the soil and the relative humidity of the air to be considered in making
an enquiry into the causes of good and bad scent. The amount of moisture
in the ground, the state of the soil in reference to the all-important
question of whether it carries or not, the temperature of the air, and
last, but not by any means least, the condition of the quarry, be it
fox, stag, or hare, are all questions of vital importance, complicating
matters and preventing a solution of the mysteries of scent.

As the atmosphere is variable, so also must scent be variable. The two
things are inseparably bound up with one another. For this reason, if
after a period of rainy weather we have an anti-cyclone in the winter
without severe frost, and an absence of bright sunny days, we can
usually depend on a scent. Instead of the air rising, there is during an
anti-cyclone, as we all know, a tendency towards a gentle down-flow of
air or at all events a steady pressure, and this causes smoke, whether
from a railway engine or a tobacco pipe, to hang in the air and scent to
lie breast high.

Unfortunately the normal state of the atmospheric fluid is a rushing in
of cold air and a rushing out or upwards of warmer air, causing
unsettled variable equilibrium and unsettled variable scent. The
barometer would be an absolutely reliable guide for the hunting man were
it not for the complications already named above, complications which
prevent either barometer or hygrometer from offering infallible
indications of good or bad scenting days. However, scent often improves
at night when the dew begins to form; and it may also suddenly improve
at any time of day should the dew point be reached, owing to the
temperature cooling to the point of saturation. This is always liable to
occur at some time, on days on which the hygrometer shows us that there
is over ninety per cent of moisture in the air. But here again radiation
comes in to complicate matters; for clouds may check the formation of
dew. It may safely be said, however, that other conditions being
favourable, a fast run is likely to occur at any time of day should the
dew point be reached. Thus the hygrometer is worthy to be studied on a
hunting morning.

In May there is a good deal of weed-cutting to be done on a trout
stream. Our plan is to have a couple of big field days about May 12th.
The weeds on over two miles of water are all cut during that time. As
they are not allowed to be sent down the stream, we get them out in
several different places; they are then piled in heaps, and left to rot.
The operation is repeated at the end of the fishing season. About a
dozen scythes tied together are used. Two men hold the ends and walk up
the stream, one on each side of the river, mowing as they go.

There is a certain amount of management required in weed-cutting. If
much weed is left uncut, the millers grumble; if you cut them bare,
there are no homes left for the fish. The last is the worse evil of the
two. The millers are usually kind-hearted men, whilst poachers can
commit fearful depredations in a small stream that has been cut
too bare.

The way these limestone streams are netted is as follows: About two in
the morning, when there is enough light to commence operations, a net is
laid across the stream and pegged down at each end; the water is then
beaten with long sticks both above and below the net. Nor is it
difficult to drive the trout into the trap; they rush down
helter-skelter, and, failing to see any net, they soon become hopelessly
entangled in its meshes. The bobbing corks intimate to the poachers that
there are some good trout in the net; one end is then unpegged, and the
haul is made.

About ten trout would be a good catch. The operation is repeated four or
five times, until some fifty fish have been bagged. The poachers then
depart, taking care to remove all signs of their night's work, such as
scales of fish, stray weeds, and bits of stick.

In weed-cutting by hand, instead of with the long knives, it is
wonderful how many trout get cut by the scythes. There used to be
several good fish killed this way at each annual cutting, when the men
used to walk up the stream mowing as they went. One would have thought
trout would have been able to avoid the scythes, being such quick,
slippery animals.

Until the present season otters have seldom visited our parts of the
Coln. Unfortunately, however, they have turned up, and are committing
sad havoc among the fish. It is such a terribly easy stream for them to
work. The water is very shallow, and the current is a slow one.

We are not well up in otter-hunting in these parts, there being no
hounds within fifty miles. I have never seen an otter on the Coln. But
one day, at a spot near which we have noticed the billet of an otter and
some fishes' heads, I heard a noise in the water, and a huge wave seemed
to indicate that something bigger than a Coln trout was proceeding up
stream close to the bank all the way. On running up, of course I saw
nothing. But half an hour afterwards I saw another big wave of the same
kind. It was so close to me that if it had been a fish or a rat I must
have seen him. I had a terrier with me, but of course he was unable to
find an otter. A dog unbroken to the scent is worse than useless.

On another occasion I saw a water-vole running away from some larger
animal under the opposite bank of the river. Some bushes prevented my
seeing very well, but I am almost certain it was an otter. "A Son of the
Marshes" mentions in one of his charming books that otters do kill
water-rats. I was not aware of this fact until I read it in the book
called "From Spring to Fall."

The broad shallow reach of the Coln in front of the manor house seems
to be a favourite hunting-ground of the otter during his nocturnal
rambles; for sometimes one is awakened at night by a tremendous tumult
among the wild duck and moorhens that haunt the pool. They rush up and
down, screaming and flapping their wings as if they were "daft."

A few weeks after writing the above we caught a beautiful female otter
in a trap, weighing some seventeen pounds. I have regretted its capture
ever since. Great as the number of trout they eat undoubtedly is, I do
not intend to allow another otter to be trapped, unless they become too
numerous. Such lovely, mysterious creatures are becoming far too scarce
nowadays, and ought to be rigidly preserved. Last October we were
shooting a withybed of two acres on the river bank, when the beaters
suddenly began shouting, "An otter! An otter!" And sure enough a large
dog otter ran straight down the line. This small withybed also contained
three fine foxes and a good sprinkling of pheasants.

The number of water-voles in the banks of this stream seems to increase
year by year. The damage they do is not great; but the millers and the
farmers do not like them, because with their numerous holes they
undermine the banks of the millpound, and the water finds its way
through them on to the meadows. Country folk are very fond of an
occasional rat hunt: they do lay themselves out to be hunted so
tremendously. A rat will bolt out of his hole, dive half way across the
stream, then, taking advantage of the tiniest bit of weed, he will come
up to the surface, poke his nose out of the water and watch you
intently. An inexperienced eye would never detect him. But if a stone is
thrown at him, finding his subterfuge detected, he is apt to lose his
head--either coming back towards you, and being obliged to come up for
air before he reaches his hole, or else swimming boldly across to the
opposite bank. In the latter case he is safe.

Tom Peregrine is a great hand at catching water-voles in a landing-net.
He holds the net over the hole which leads to the water, and pokes his
stick into the bank above. The rat bolts out into the net and is
immediately landed. House-rats--great black brutes--live in the banks of
the stream as well as water-voles. They are very much larger and less
fascinating than the voles. To see one of the latter species crossing
the stream with a long piece of grass in his mouth is a very pretty
sight They are rodents, and somewhat resemble squirrels.

[Illustration: In Bibury Village 358.png]



CHAPTER XV.

THE PROMISE OF MAY.

     "Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus
      Tam cari capitis?"

      HORACE.

About the middle of May the lovely, sweet-scenting lilac comes into
bloom. It brightens up the old, time-worn barns, and relieves the
monotony of grey stone walls and mossy roofs in the Cotswold village.

The prevailing colour of the Cotswold landscape may be said to be that
of gold. The richest gold is that of the flaming marsh-marigolds in the
water meadows during May; goldilocks and buttercups of all kinds are
golden too, but of a slightly different and paler hue. Yellow charlock,
beautiful to look upon, but hated by the farmers, takes possession of
the wheat "grounds" in May, and holds the fields against all comers
throughout the summer. In some parts it clothes the whole landscape like
a sheet of saffron. Primroses and cowslips are of course paler still.
The ubiquitous dandelion is likewise golden; then we have birdsfoot
trefoil, ragwort, agrimony, silver-weed, celandine, tormentil, yellow
iris, St. John's wort, and a host of other flowers of the same hue. In
autumn comes the golden corn; and later on in mid winter we have pale
jessamine and lichen thriving on the cottage walls. So throughout the
year the Cotswolds are never without this colour of saffron or gold.
Only the pockets of the natives lack it, I regret to say.

Every cottager takes a pride in his garden, for the flower shows which
are held every year result in keen competition. A prize is always given
for the prettiest garden among all the cottagers. This is an excellent
plan; it brightens and beautifies the village street for eight months in
the year. In May the rich brown and gold of the gillyflower is seen on
every side, and their fragrance is wafted far and wide by every breeze
that blows.

Then there is a very pretty plant that covers some of the cottage walls
at this time of year. It is the wistaria; in the distance you might take
it for lilac, for the colours are almost identical.

Then come the roses--the beautiful June roses--the _nimium breves
flores_ of Horace. But the roses of the Cotswolds are not so short lived
for all that Horace has sung: you may see them in the cottage gardens
from the end of May until Christmas.

How cool an old house is in summer! The thick walls and the stone floors
give them an almost icy feeling in the early morning. Even as I write my
thermometer stands at 58° within, whilst the one out of doors registers
65° in the shade. This is the ideal temperature, neither too hot nor too
cold. But it is not summer yet, only the fickle month of May.

Tom Peregrine is getting very anxious. He meets me every evening with
the same story of trout rising all the way up the stream and nobody
trying to catch them. I can see by his manner that he disapproves of my
"muddling" over books and papers instead of trying to catch trout. He
cannot understand it all. Meanwhile one sometimes asks oneself the
question which Peregrine would also like to propound, only he dare not,
Why and wherefore do we tread the perilous paths of literature instead
of those pleasant paths by the river and through the wood? The only
answer is this: The _daemon_ prompts us to do these things, even as it
prompted the men of old time.

     "There is a divinity that shapes our ends,
      Rough hew them how we will."

If there is such a thing as a "call" to any profession, there is a call
to that of letters. So with an enthusiasm born of inexperience and
delusive hope we embark as in a leaky and untrustworthy sailing ship,
built, for ought we know, "in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark,"
and at the mercy of every chance breeze are wafted by the winds of
heaven through chaos and darkness into the boundless ocean of words and
of books. When the waves run high they resemble nothing so much as lions
with arched crests and flowing manes going to and fro seeking whom they
may devour, or savage dogs rushing hither and thither foaming at the
mouth; and when old Father Neptune lets loose his hungry sea-dogs of
criticism, then look out for squalls!

But again the _daemon_, that still small voice echoing from the far-off
shores of the ocean of time, whispers in our ear, "In the morning sow
thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest
not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both
shall be alike good."

So we sow in weakness and in fear and trembling, "line upon line, line
upon line; here a little and there a little," sometimes in mirth and
laughter, sometimes in tears. Let us not ask to be raised in power. Let
us resign all glory and honour and power to the Ancient of Days, prime
source of the strength of wavering, weak mankind. Rather let us be
thankful that by turning aside from "the clamour of the passing day" to
tread the narrow paths of literature, however humble, however obscure
our lot may have been, we gained an insight into the nobler destinies of
the human soul, and learnt a lesson which might otherwise have been
postponed until we were hovering on the threshold of Eternity.

In spite of complaints of east winds and night frosts, May is the nicest
month in the year take it all in all. In London this is the case even
more than in the country. The trees in the parks have then the real
vivid green foliage of the country. There is a freshness about
everything in London which only lasts through May. By June the smoke and
dirt are beginning to spoil the tender, fresh greenery of the young
leaves. In the early morning of May 12th, 1897, more than an inch of
snow fell in the Cotswolds, but it was all gone by eight o'clock. In
spite of the weather, May is "the brightest, merriest month of all the
glad New Year." Everything is at its best. Man cannot be morose and
ill-tempered in May. The "happy hills and pleasing shade" must needs "a
momentary bliss bestow" on the saddest of us all. Look at yonder
thoroughbred colt grazing peacefully in the paddock: if you had turned
him out a month ago he would have galloped and fretted himself to death;
but now that the grass is sweet and health-giving, he is content to
nibble the young shoots all day long. What a lovely, satin-like coat he
has, now that his winter garments are put off! There is a picture of
health and symmetry! He has just reached the interesting age of four
years, is dark chestnut in colour, and sixteen hands two and a half
inches in height; grazing out there, he does not look anything like that
size. Well-bred horses always look so much smaller than they really are,
especially if they are of good shape and well proportioned. Alas! how
few of them, even thoroughbreds, have the real make and shape necessary
to carry weight across country, or to win races! You do not see many
horses in a lifetime in whose shape the critical eye cannot detect a
fault. We know the good points as well as the bad of this colt, for we
have had him two years. Deep, sloping shoulders are his speciality; and
they cover a multitude of sins. Legs of iron, with large, broad knees;
plenty of flat bone below the knee, and pasterns neither too long nor
too upright. Well ribbed up, he is at the same time rather
"ragged-hipped," indicative of strength and weight-carrying power. How
broad are his gaskins! how "well let down" he is! What great hocks he
has! But, alas I as you view him from behind, you cannot help noticing
that his hindlegs incline a little outwards, even as a cow's do--they
are not absolutely straight, as they should be. Then as to his golden,
un-docked tail: he carries it well--a fact which adds twenty pounds to
his value; but, strange to say, it is not "well set on," as a
thoroughbred's ought to be. He does not show the quality he ought in his
hindquarters. Still his head, neck and crest are good, though his eye is
not a large one. How much is he worth--twenty, fifty, a hundred, or two
hundred pounds? Who can tell? Will he be a charger, a fourteen-stone
hunter, or a London carriage horse? All depends how he takes to jumping.
His height is against him,--sixteen hands two and a half inches is at
least two inches too big for a hunter. Nevertheless, there are always
the brilliant exceptions. Let us hope he will be the trump card in
the pack.

Talking of horses, how admirable was that answer of Dr. Johnson's, when
a lady asked him how on earth he allowed himself to describe the word
_pastern_ in his dictionary as the _knee_ of a horse. "Ignorance,
madam, pure ignorance," was his laconic reply. So great a man could well
afford to confess utter ignorance of matters outside his own sphere. But
how few of mankind are ever willing to own themselves mistaken about any
subject under the sun, unless it be bimetallism or some equally
unfashionable and abstruse (though not unimportant) problem of the day!

What beautiful shades of colour are noticeable in the trees in the early
part of May! The ash, being so much later than the other trees, remains
a pale light green, and shows up against the dark green chestnuts and
the still darker firs. But what shall I say of the great spreading
walnut whose branches hang right across the stream in our garden in the
Cotswold Valley?

About the middle of May the walnut leaves resemble nothing so much as a
mass of Virginia creeper when it is at its best in September. Beautiful,
transparent leaves of gold, intermingled with red, glisten in the warm
May sunshine,--the russet beauties of autumn combined with the fresh,
bright loveliness of early spring!

Not till the very end of May will this walnut tree be in full leaf. He
is the latest of all the trees. The young, tender leaves scent almost as
sweetly as the verbena in the greenhouse. It is curious that ash trees,
when they are close to a river, hang their branches down towards the
water like the "weeping willows." Is this connected, I wonder, with the
strange attraction water has for certain kinds of wood, by which the
water-finder, armed with a hazel wand, is able to divine the presence
of _aqua pura_ hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth? What
this strange art of rhabdomancy is I know not, but the "weeping" ash in
our garden by the Coln is one of the most beautiful and shapely trees I
ever saw. It will be an evil day when some cruel hurricane hurls it to
the ground. We have lost many a fine tree in recent years, some through
gales, but others, alas I by the hand of man.

A few years ago I discovered a spot about a quarter of a mile from my
home which reminded me of the beautiful Eton playing-fields,

     "Where once my careless childhood stray'd,
      A stranger yet to pain."

It consisted of a few grass fields shut off by high hedges, and
completely encircled by a number of fine elm trees of great age and
lovely foliage. At one end a broad and shallow reach of the Coln
completed the scene.

Having obtained a long lease of the place, I grubbed up the hedges,
turned three small fields into one, and made a cricket ground in the
midst. My object was to imitate as far as possible the "Upper Club" of
the Eton playing-fields.

I had barely accomplished the work, the cricket ground had just been
levelled, when the landlord's agent--or more probably his
"mortgagee"--arrived on the scene, accompanied by a hard-headed,
blustering timber merchant from Cheltenham. To my horror and dismay I
was informed that, money being very scarce, they contemplated making a
clean sweep of these grand old elms. On my expostulating, they merely
suggested that cutting down the trees would be a great improvement, as
the place would be opened up thereby and made healthier.

In the hope of warding off the evil day we offered to pay the price of
some of the finest trees, although they could only legally be bought for
the present proprietor's lifetime.

The contractor, however, rather than leave his work of destruction
incomplete, put a ridiculous price on them. He refused to accept a
larger sum than he could ever have cleared by cutting them down. This is
what Cowper would have stigmatised as

                      "disclaiming all regard
     For mercy and the common rights of man,"

and "conducting trade at the sword's point."

We then resolved to buy the farm. But the stars in their courses fought
against us; we were unsuccessful in our attempt to purchase
the freehold.

And so the contractor's men came with axes and saws and horses and
carts. For days and weeks I was haunted by that hideous nightmare, the
crash of groaning trees as they fell all around, soon to be stripped of
all their glorious beauty. The cruel, blasphemous shouts of the men, as
they made their long-suffering horses drag the huge, dismembered trunks
across the beautifully levelled greensward of the cricket ground, were
positively heart-rending. Ninety great elms did they strike down. A few
were left, but of these the two finest came down in the great gale of
March 1896.

     "Sic transit gloria mundi."

Trees are like old familiar friends, we cannot bear to lose them; every
one that falls reminds us of "the days that are no more." Struck down in
all the pride and beauty of their days, they remind us that

     "Those who once gave promise
      Of fruit for manhood's prime
      Have passed from us for ever,
      Gone home before their time."

They remind me that four of my greatest friends at school, ten short
years ago, are long since dead. Like the trees felled by the woodman's
axe, they were struck down by the sickle of the silent Reaper, even as
the golden sheaves that are gathered into the beautiful barns. Other
trees will spring up and shade the naked earth in the woods with their
mantle of green: so, also,

     "Others will fill our places
      Dressed in the old light blue."

And just as in the woods fresh young saplings are daily springing up, so
also the merry voices of happy, generous boys are ringing, as I write,
in the old, old courts and cloisters by the silvery Thames; their merry
laughter is echoed by the bare grey walls, whereon the names of those
who have long been dust are chiselled in rude handwriting on the
mouldering stone.

Hundreds we knew have gone down. The fatal bullet, the ravaging fever,
the roaring torrent, and the sad sea waves; the slow, sure grip of
consumption, the fall at polo, and the iron hoofs of the favourite
hunter;--all claimed their victims.

Perhaps this is why we love to linger in the woods watching the rays of
golden light reflected upon the warm, red earth, listening to the
heavenly voices of the birds and the hopeful babbling of the brook.
Those purple hills and distant bars of gold in the western sky at the
soft twilight hour are rendered ever so much more beautiful when we
dimly view them through a mist of tears.

And now your thoughts are taken back five short years; you are once more
staying with your old Eton friend and Oxford comrade in his beautiful
home in far-off Wales. All is joy and happiness in that lovely, romantic
home, for in six weeks' time the young squire, the best and most popular
fellow in the world, is to be married to the fair daughter of a
neighbouring house. Is it possible that aught can happen in that short
time to mar the heavenly happiness of those two twin souls? Alas for the
gallant, chivalrous nature I Well might he have cried with his knightly
ancestor of the "Round Table," "Me forethinketh this shall betide, but
God may well foredoe destiny." He had gone down to the lake in the most
beautiful and romantic part of his lovely home, taking with him, as was
his wont, his fishing-rod and his gun. One shot was heard, and one only,
on that ill-fated afternoon, and then all, save for the songs of the
birds and the rippling of the deep waters of the lake, was wrapped in
silence. Then followed the report--whispered through the party assembled
to do honour to the future bride and bridegroom--that "Bill" was
missing. Then came the agonising suspense and the eight hours' search
throughout the long summer evening.

Late that night the father found the fair young form of his boy in a
thick and tangled copse,--there it lay under the silent stars, the face
upturned in its last appeal to heaven; and close by lay the deadly
twelve-bore which had been the cause of all the misery and grief
that followed.

     "Solemn before us
      Veiled the dark portal--
      Goal of all mortal.
      Stars silent rest o'er us;
      Graves under us silent."

He had evidently pursued game or vermin of some sort into the dense
undergrowth of the wood, and in his haste had slipped and fallen over
his gun, for the shot had just grazed his heart

Who that knew him will ever forget Bill Llewelyn, prince of good
fellows, "truest of men in everything"? In all relations of life, as in
the hunting field, he went as straight as a die.

The accidental discharge of a gun shortly after he came of age, and
within a few weeks of his wedding day, has made the England of to-day
the poorer by one of her most promising sons. Infinite charity! Infinite
courage! Infinite truth! Infinite humility! Who could do justice in
prose to those rare and godlike qualities? No: miserable, weak, and
ineffectual though my gift of poesy may be, yet I will not let those
qualities pass away from the minds of all, save the few that knew him
well, without following in the footsteps (though at an immeasurable
distance) of the divine author of "Lycidas," by endeavouring to render
to his cherished memory "the meed of some melodious tear." For as time
goes on, and the future unfolds to our view things we would have given
worlds to have known long before, when the events that influenced our
past actions and shaped our future destinies are seen through the dim
vista of the shadowy, half-forgotten past, we must all learn the hard
lesson which experience alone can teach, exclaiming with the "Preacher"
the old, old words, "I returned, and saw under the sun that the race is
not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.... but time and chance
happeneth to them all"

     LINES IN MEMORY OF

     WILLIAM DILLWYN LLEWELYN.

     It may be chance,--I hold it truth,--
     That of the friends I loved on earth
     The ones who died in early youth
     Were those of best and truest worth.

     The swift, alas! the race must lose;
     The battle goes against the strong,--
     God wills it 'Tis for us to choose,
     Whilst life is given, 'twixt right and wrong

     'Tis not for us to count the cost
     Of losing those we most do love;
     He grudgeth not life's battle lost
     Who wins a golden crown above.

     And oft beneath the shades of night,
     When tempests howl around these walls,
     A vision steals upon my sight,
     A footstep on the threshold falls.

     I see once more that graceful form,
     Once more that honest hand grasps mine.
     Once more I hear above the storm
     The voice I know so well is thine.

     I see again an Eton boy,
     A gentle boy, divinely taught,
     And call to mind bow full of joy
     In friendly rivalry we sought

     The "playing-fields." Then, as I yield
     To fancy's dreams, I see once more
     The hero of the cricket field,
     The oft-tried, trusty friend of yore.

     What tender yearnings, fond regret,
     These thoughts of early friendship bring!
     None but the heartless can forget
     'Mid summer days the friends of spring.

     Now thoughts of Oxford fill my mind:
     My Eton friend is with me still,
     But changed--from boy to man; yet kind
     And large of heart, and strong of will,

     And blythe and gay. I recognise
     The athletic form, the comely face,
     The mild expression of the eyes,
     The high-bred courtesy and grace.

     Once more with patient skill we lure
     The mighty salmon from the deep;
     Once more we tread the boundless moor,
     And wander up the mountain steep.

     With gun in hand we scour the plain,
     Together climb the rocky ways;
     Regardless he of wind and rain
     Who loved to "live laborious days."

       *       *       *       *       *

     I see again fair Penllergare,
     Those woods and lakes you loved so well;
     It seems but yesterday that there
     I parted from you! Who can tell

     The reason thou art gone before?
     It is not given to us to know,
     But doubtless thou wert needed more
     Than we who mourn thee here below.

     Life's noblest lesson day by day
     Thy fair example nobly taught--
     Self-sacrifice--to point the way
     By which the hearts of men are brought

     Nearer to God. This was thy task,
     Humbly, unknowingly fulfilled;
     And it were vain for us to ask
     Why now thy voice is hushed and stilled.

     O gallant spirit, generous heart!
     If thou had'st lived in days gone by,
     Thou would'st have loved to bear thy part
     In glorious deeds of chivalry.

I make no apology for this digression, nor for unearthing from the
bottom of my drawer lines that, written years ago, were never penned
with any idea of publication. For was not the subject of those verses
himself half a Cotswold man?

But now to return once more to the trees, the loss of which caused me
to digress some pages back; there are compensations in all things. Not
every one who becomes a sojourner among the Cotswold Hills is fated to
undergo such a trial as the loss of these ninety elms. And,
notwithstanding this severe lesson, I am still glad that I alighted on
the spot from which I am now writing.

I have learnt to find pleasure in other directions now that my "Eton
playing-fields" have passed away for ever. I have become infected by the
spirit of the downs. I love the pure, bracing air and the boundless
sense of space in the open hills as much as I ever loved the more
concentrated charms of the valley. And even in the valley I have
possessions of which no living man is able to deprive me. From my window
I can see the silvery trout stream, which, after thousands of years of
restless activity, is still slowly gliding down towards the sea; I can
listen on summer nights to the murmuring waterfall at the bottom of the
garden, the hooting of the owls, and the other sounds which break the
awful silence of the night.

Nor can the hand of man disturb the glorious timber round the house; for
it is "ornamental," and therefore safe from the hands of the despoiler.
Storms are gradually levelling the ancient beech and ash trees in the
woods, but it will be many a long day before the hand of nature has
marred the beauty of what has always seemed to me to be one of the
fairest spots on earth.

[Illustration: Bilbury Mill 374.png]



CHAPTER XVI.

SUMMER DAYS ON THE COTSWOLDS

     "What more felicitie can fall to creature
      Than to enjoy delight with libertie,
      And to be lord of all the workes of Nature?"

      E. SPENSER.

The finest days, when the trees are greenest, the sky bluest, and the
clouds most snowy white are the days that come in the midst of bad
weather. And just as there is no rest without toil, no peace without
war, no true joy in life without grief, no enjoyment for the _blasé_, so
there can be no lovely summer days without previous storms and rain, no
sunshine till the tearful mists have passed away.

There had been a week's incessant rain; every wild flower and every
blade of green grass was soaked with moisture, until it could no longer
bear its load, and drooped to earth in sheer dismay. But last night
there came a change: the sun went down beyond the purple hills like a
ball of fire; eastwards the woods were painted with a reddish glow, and
life and colour returned to everything that grows on the face of this
beautiful earth.

                            "It seems a day
     (I speak of one from many singled out),
     One of those heavenly days which cannot die."
                                      WORDSWORTH.

So it is pleasant to-day to wander over the fields; across the crisp
stubbles, where the thistledown is crowding in the "stooks" of black
oats; past stretches of uncut corn looking red and ripe under a burning
sun. White oxeye daisies in masses and groups, lilac-tinted thistles,
and bright scarlet poppies grow in profusion among the tall wheat
stalks. A covey of partridges, about three parts grown, rise almost at
our feet; for it is early August, and the deadly twelve-bore has not yet
wrought havoc among the birds. On the right is a field of green turnips,
well grown after the recent rains, and promising plenty of "cover" for
sportsmen in September. In the hedgerow the lovely harebells have
recovered from the soaking they endured, and their bell-shaped flowers
of perfect blue peep out everywhere. The sweetest flower that grows up
the hedgeside is the blue geranium, or meadow crane's-bill. The humble
yarrow, purple knapweed, field scabious, thistles with bright purple
heads, and St. John's wort with its clean-cut stars of burnished gold
and its pellucid veins, form a natural border along the hedge, where
wild clematis or traveller's joy entwines its rough leaf stalks round
the young hazel branches and among the pink roses of the bramble.

By the roadside, where the dust blew before the rain and covered every
green leaf with a coating of rich lime, there grow small shrubs of
mallow with large flowers of pale purple or mauve; here, too, yellow
bedstraw and bird's-foot lotus add their tinge of gold to the lush green
grass, and the smaller bindweed, the lovely convolvulus, springs up on
the barrenest spots, even creeping over the stone heaps that were left
over from last winter's road mending.

Many another species of wild flower which, "born to blush unseen and
waste its sweetness on the desert air," grows in the quiet Cotswold
lanes might here be named; but even though at times one may feel, with
Wordsworth,

     "To me the meanest flower that blows can give
      Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."

I will leave the humble wayside plants and descend into the vale. For it
is along the back brook that the tallest and stateliest wild flowers may
best be seen. The scythes mowed them all down in May, and again in July,
in the broad "millpound," so that they do not grow so tall by the main
stream; but the back brook, the natural course of the river before the
mills were made, was left unmolested by the mowers, and is a mass of
life and colour.

Here grows the graceful meadow-sweet, fair and tall, and white and
fragrant; here the willow-herb, glorious with pink blossoms, rears its
head high above your shoulders among the sword-flags and the green
rushes and "segs"; the whole bank is a medley of white meadow-sweet,
scorpion-grasses, forget-me-nots, pink willow-herbs, and lilac heads of
mint all jumbled up together. Never was such a delightful confusion of
colour! Great dock leaves two feet wide clothe the path by the
water-side with all the splendour of malachite.

The breeze blows up stream, and the trout are rising incessantly, taking
something small. They will not look at any artificial fly, even in the
rippling breeze; there is nothing small enough in any fly-book to catch
them this afternoon. But when the sun gets low, and the great brown
moths come out and flutter over the water, the red palmer will catch a
dish of fish. Willow trees--"withies" they call them hereabouts--grow
along the brook-side. So white are the backs of their oval leaves that
when the breeze turns them back, the woods by the river look bright and
silvery. To-morrow, when the breeze has almost died away, only the tops
of the willows will be silvered; the next day, if all be calm and still,
all will be green as emerald. Such infinite variety is there in the
woods! Not only do the tints change month by month, but day by day the
colour varies; so that there is always something new, some fresh effect
of light and shade to delight the eye of man in the quiet English
country. Dotted about in the midst of the stream are little islands of
forget-me-nots. The lovely light blue is reflected everywhere in the
water. Very beautiful are the scorpion-grasses both on the banks among
the rushes and scattered about in mid stream.

The meadows are full of life. There are sounds sweet to the ear and
sights pleasing to the eye. In the new-mown water-meadow
grasshoppers--such hosts of them that they could never be numbered for
multitude--are chirping and dancing merrily. "They make the field ring
with their importunate chink, whilst the great cattle chew the cud and
are silent. How like the great and little of mankind!" as Edmund Burke
said years ago. By catching one of these "meagre, hopping insects of the
hour," you will see that their backs are green as emerald and their
bellies gold: some have a touch of purple over the eyes; their thighs,
which are enormously developed for jumping purposes, have likewise a
delicate tinge of purple.

Contrary to the saying of Izaak Walton, the trout do not seem to care
much for grasshoppers nowadays, although perhaps they may relish them in
streams where food is less plentiful. Our trout even prefer the tiny
yellow frogs that are to be found in scores by the brook-side in early
August. We have often offered them both in the deep "pill" below the
garden; and though they would come with a dart and take the little frog,
they merely looked at the grasshopper in astonishment, and seldom
took one.

As we stand on the rustic bridge above the "pill" gazing down into the
smooth flowing water, dark trout glide out of sight into their homes in
the stonework under the hatch. These are the fish that rise not to the
fly, but prey on their grandchildren, growing darker and lankier and
bigger-headed every year. Wherever you find a deep hole and an ancient
hatchway there you will also find these great black trout, always lying
in a spot more or less inaccessible to the angler, and living for years
until they die a natural death.

Was ever a place so full of fish as this "pill"? Looking down into the
deeper water, where the great iron hooks are set to catch the poachers'
nets, I could see dozens of trout of all sizes, but mostly small. At the
tail of the pool are lots of small ones, rising with a gentle dimple. As
the days became hotter and the stream ran down lower and lower, the
trout left the long shallow reaches, and assembled here, where there is
plenty of water and plenty of food.

Standing on the bridge by the ancient spiked gate bristling with sharp
barbs of iron, like rusty spear and arrow-heads (our ancestors loved to
protect their privacy with these terrible barriers), I listened to the
waterfall three hundred yards higher up, with its ceaseless music; the
afternoon sun was sparkling on the dimpling water, which runs swiftly
here over a shallow reach of gravel--the favourite spawning-ground of
the trout. There is no peep of river scenery I like so much as this.
Thirty yards up stream a shapely ash tree hangs its branches, clothed
with narrow sprays, right across the brook, the fantastic foliage
almost touching the water. A little higher up some willows and an elm
overhang from the other side.

There is something unspeakably striking about a country lane or a
shallow, rippling brook overarched with a tracery of fretted foliage
like the roof of an old Gothic building.

Who that has ever visited the village of Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire
will forget the lane by which he approached the home and last
resting-place of the poet Gray? Perhaps you came from Eton, and after
passing along a lane that is completely overhung with an avenue of
splendid trees, where the thrushes sing among the branches as they sing
nowhere else in that neighbourhood, you turned in at a little rustic
gate. Straight in front of your eyes were very legibly written on grey
stone three of the finest verses of the "Elegy." The monument itself is
plain, not to say hideous, but the simple words inscribed thereon are
unspeakably grand when read amongst the surroundings of "wood" and
"rugged elm" and "yew-tree's shade," unchanged as they are after the
lapse of a century and a half. The place, and more especially the lane,
is a fitting abode for the spirit of the poet. One could almost hear the
song of him who, "being dead, yet speaketh":

                   "And the birds in the sunshine above
     Mingled their notes therewith, like voices of spirits departed."

     LONGFELLOW.

Gray is a poet for whom, in common with most Englishmen, the present
writer has a sincere respect. It has been said, however, of the "Elegy"
by one critic that the subject of the poem gives it an unmerited
popularity, and by another--and that quite recently--that it is the
"high-water mark of mediocrity." Although Gray's own modest dictum was
the foundation of the first of these harsh criticisms, we are unable to
allow the truth of the one and must strongly protest against the other.
It has been reported that Wolfe, the celebrated general, after reciting
the "Elegy" on the eve of the assault on Quebec, declared that he would
sooner have written such a poem than win a victory over the French. This
was nearly a century and a half ago. Yet after so long a lapse of time
the verses still retain their hold on the minds of all classes. In spite
of the fact that Matthew Arnold and other admirers have declared that
the "Elegy" was not Gray's masterpiece, yet it was this poem that
brought a man who accomplished but a small amount of work into such
lasting fame. From beginning to end, as Professor Raleigh says of
Milton's work, the "Elegy" "is crowded with examples of felicitous and
exquisite meaning given to the infallible word." Was ever a poem more
frequently quoted or so universally plagiarised? In writing or speaking
about the country and its inhabitants, if we would express ourselves as
concisely as we possibly can, we are bound to quote the "Elegy"; it is
invariably the shortest road to a terse expression of our meaning. Who
can improve on "Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife," or "The
short and simple annals of the poor"? If Gray's "Elegy" is but "a mosaic
of the felicities" of those who went before, let it be remembered that
had he not laboriously pieced together that mosaic, these "felicities"
would have been a sealed book to the majority of Englishmen. Not one man
in a hundred now reads some of the authors from which they were culled.
And as Landor said of Shakespeare, "He is more original than his
originals." Even that strange individual, Samuel Johnson, who was
accustomed whenever Gray's poetry was mentioned either to "crab" it
directly or "damn it with faint praise," towards the end of his career
admitted in his "Lives of the Poets" that "the churchyard abounds with
images which find a mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which
every bosom returns an echo." But the chief value of the work seems
really to lie in this: it has dignified the rural scenes and the honest
rustics of England. It has invested every hoary-headed swain, every busy
housewife, and every little churchyard in the country with a special
dignity and a lasting charm. The traveller cannot look upon these scenes
and faces without unconsciously connecting them with the lines he knows
so well. Gray's "Elegy" will never be forgotten; for it has struck its
roots deep in the national language and far down into the
national heart.

Very similar to the quiet and leafy lane at Stoke Poges is the brook
below the waterfall at A---- in the Cotswolds. On your left as you look
up stream from the bridge of the "pill," a moss-grown gravel path runs
alongside the water under a hanging wood of leafy elms and
smooth-trunked beech trees, where the ringdoves coo all day. A tangled
hedge filled with tall timber trees runs up the right-hand bank. Here
the great convolvulus, queen of wild flowers, twists her bines among the
hedge; the bell-shaped flowers are conspicuous everywhere, large and
lily-white as the arum, so luxuriant is the growth of wild flowers by
the brook-side.

A silver stream is the Coln hereabouts, the abode of fairies and fawns,
and nymphs and dryads. But when the afternoon sun shines upon it, it
becomes a stream of diamonds set in banks of emeralds, with an arched
and groined roof of jasper, carved with foliations of graceful ash and
willow, and over all a sky of sapphire sprinkled with clouds of pearl
and opal. Later on towards evening there will be floods of golden light
on the grass and on the beech trees up the eastern slope of the valley
and on the bare red earth under the trees, red with fifty years' beech
nuts. And later still, when the distant hills are dyed as if with
archil, the sapphire sky will be striped with bars of gold and dotted
with coals of fire; rubies and garnets, sardonyx and chrysolite will all
be there, and the bluish green of beryl, the western sky as varied as
felspar and changing colour as quickly as the chameleon. And as the day
declines the last beams of the setting sun will find their way through
the tracery of foliage that overhangs the brook, and the waters will be
tinged with a rosy glow, even as in some ancestral hall or Gothic
cathedral the sun at eventide pours through the blazoned windows and
floods the interior with rays of soft, mysterious, coloured light.

I have been trying to describe one of the loveliest bits of miniature
scenery on earth; yet how commonplace it all reads! Not a thousandth
part of the beauty of this spot at sunset is here set down, yet little
more can be said. How bitter to think that the true beauty of the trees,
the path by the brook, and the sunlight on the water cannot be passed on
for others to enjoy, cannot be stamped on paper, but must be seen to be
realised! Truly, as Richard Jefferies says somewhere, there is a layer
of thought in the human brain for which there are no words in any
language. We cannot express a thousandth part of the beauty of the woods
and the stream; we can but dimly feel it when we see it with our eyes.

Below the "pill"--for we have been gazing up stream--some sheep are
lying under a gnarled willow on the left bank; some are nibbling at the
lichen and moss on the trunk, others are standing about in pretty groups
of three and four. One of them has just had a ducking. Trying to get a
drink of water, he overbalanced himself and fell in. He walks about
shaking himself, and doubtless feels very uncomfortable. Sheep do not
care much for bathing in cold water. You have only to see the
sheep-washing in the spring to realise how they dislike it. There is a
place higher up the stream called the Washpool, where every day in May
you can watch the men bundling the poor old sheep into the water, one
after the other, and dipping them well, to free the wool from insects of
all kinds. And how the trout enjoy the ticks that come from their
thickly matted coats! One poor sheep is hopping about on the cricket
field dead lame. Perhaps that leg he drags behind is broken! Why does
not the farmer kill the poor brute? There is much misery of this kind
caused in country places by the thoughtlessness of farmers. How much has
yet to be learnt by the very men who love to describe the labourers as
"them 'ere ignorant lower classes"! Alas! that these things can happen
among the green fields and spreading elms and the heavenly sunshine of
summer days! We should have more moral courage, and do as Carlyle bids
us in his old solemn way: "But above all, where thou findest Ignorance,
Stupidity, Brute-mindedness, attack it, I say; smite it, wisely,
unwearily, and rest not while thou livest and it lives; but smite, smite
in the name of God. The Highest God, as I understand it, does audibly so
command thee, still audibly if thou hast ears to hear."

On the cricket pitch, a bare hundred yards away from the river bank, is
a plentiful crop of dandelions, crow's-foot, clover, and, worst of all,
enormous plantains. A gravel soil is very favourable to plantains, for
stones work up and the grass dies. The dreadful plantain seems to thrive
anywhere and everywhere, and on bare spots where grass cannot live he
immediately appears. Rabbits have been making holes all over the pitch,
and red spikes of sorrel, wonderfully rich and varied in colour, rise
everywhere at the lower end of the field towards the river. The cricket
ground has been somewhat neglected of late.

There is a great elm tree down close to the ground--the only tree that
the winter gales had left to shade us on hot summer days. It came down
suddenly, without the slightest warning; and underneath it that most
careless of all keepers, Tom Peregrine, had left the large
mowing-machine and the roller. So careless are some of these
Gloucestershire folk that sooner than do as I had ordered and put the
mowing-machine in the barn hard by, they must leave it in the open air
and under this ill-fated tree. Down came my last beloved elm, smashing
the mowing-machine and putting an end to all thoughts of cricket here
this summer. It will be ages before the village carpenter will come with
his timber cart and draw the tree away. A Gloucestershire man cannot do
a job like this in under two years; they are always so busy, you see, in
Gloucestershire--never a moment to spare to get anything done!

There was a time when the chief delight of summer lay in playing
cricket. What ecstasy it was to be well set and scoring fast on the
hard-baked ground (the harder the better), cutting to the boundary when
the ball pitched short on the off, and driving her hard along the ground
when they pitched one up! What could surpass the joy of scoring a
century in those long summer days? Now we would as soon spend the
holidays in the woods and by the busy trout stream, reading and taking
note of the trees and the birds and the rippling of the waters as they
flow onwards, ever onwards, towards the sea. There comes a time to all
men, sooner or later, when we say to ourselves, _Cui bono?_ In a few
short years I shall no longer be able to hit the ball so hard, and in
the "field" I am already becoming a trifle slow. Then do we take to
ourselves pursuits that we can follow until the limbs are stiffened with
age and the hair is white as snow.

Having spent the best years of life in the pursuit of pleasures that,
however engrossing, nevertheless bore no real and lasting fruit, we
finally fall back on interests that will last a lifetime, perhaps an
eternity--for who knows how much of knowledge we shall take with us to
another world? Aristotle was not far wrong when he described earthly
happiness as a life of contemplation, with a moderate equipment of
external good fortune and prosperity. There is no book so well worthy to
be studied as the book of nature, no melodies like those of the field
and fallow, wood and wold, and the still small voice of the busy streams
labouring patiently onwards day by day.

In the fields beyond the river haymakers are busy with the second crop.
Down to the ford comes a great yellow hay-cart, drawn by two strong
horses, tandem fashion. One small boy alone is leading the big horses.
Arriving at the ford, he jumps on to the leader's back and rides him
through. The horses strain and "scaut," and the cart bumps over the deep
ruts, nearly upsetting. Luckily there is no accident. So much is
entrusted to these little farm lads of scarce fifteen years of age it is
a wonder they do the work so well. From the tops of the firs comes the
sound of pigeons winging their way from the "grove" to the "conygers"
(the latter word means the "place of rabbits"; there are lots of woods
so called in Gloucestershire). It is a curious piping sound that
wood-pigeons make, and, not seeing the birds, you might think it came
from the throat instead of the wings. One day two of us were looking at
a wood-pigeon flying over, when we observed something drop from the
skies and fall into the stream. On going up we saw that it was an egg
she had dropped. There it lay at the bottom of the brook, apparently
unbroken by the fall. Floating on the soft south wind, a heron flies
over so quietly that unless he had given one of his characteristic
croaks it was a hundred to one you did not see him pass. Many a heron
and wild duck must pass over us unobserved on windy days. It is so
difficult to observe when you are thinking. A man absorbed in reverie
cannot see half the things that many country folk with less active
brains never fail to observe. When we find people who live in the
country unversed in the ways of birds, the knowledge of flowers and
trees, and the habits of the simple country folk, we need not
necessarily conclude that they are dull and empty-headed; the reverse is
often the case. A man absorbed in business or serious affairs may love
the country and yet know little of its real life. A good deal of time
must be spent in acquiring this kind of knowledge, and it is not
everybody who has the time or the opportunity to do it. If we come
across a man with plenty of leisure, yet knowing nothing of what is
going on around him, we may then perhaps have cause to complain of
his dulness.

Mr. Aubrey De Vere relates an amusing story about Sir William Rowan
Hamilton which exactly illustrates my meaning: "When he had soared into
a high region of speculative thought he took no note of objects close
by. A few days after our first meeting we walked together on a road, a
part of which was overflowed by a river at its side. Our theme was the
transcendental philosophy, of which he was a great admirer. I felt sure
that he would not observe the flood, and made no remark on it. We walked
straight on till the water was half way up to our knees. At last he
exclaimed, 'What's this? We seem to be walking through a river. Had we
not better return to the dry land?'"

There is a spot in the woods by the River Coln that is almost untrodden
by man. It is the favourite resort of foxes. Nobody but myself and the
earth-stopper has been there for years and years, save that when the
hounds come the huntsman rides through and cheers the pack. It is in the
conyger wood. No path leads through its quiet recesses, where ash and
elm and larch and spruce, mostly self-sown, are mingled together, with a
thick growth of elder spread beneath them. It was here, in an ancient,
disused quarry, that the keeper pointed out not long since the secret
dwelling-house of the kingfishers. A small crevice in the limestone
rock, from which a disagreeable smell of dried fish bones issued forth,
formed the outer entrance to the nest. One could not see the delicate
structure itself, for it appeared to be several feet within the rock. A
mass of powdered fish bones and the pungent odour from within were all
the outward signs of the inner nest. By standing on a jutting ledge of
the soft cretaceous rock, and holding on by another ledge, which
appeared not unlikely to come down and crush you, one could peep into
the hole and comfort oneself with the thought that one was nearer a
kingfisher's nest than is usually vouchsafed to mortal man. It would be
easy to get ladder and pickaxe and break open the rock until the nest
was reached, but why disturb these lovely birds? They have built here
year by year for centuries; even now some of this year's brood may be
seen among the willows by the back brook.

From this quarry was dug in the year 1590 the stone to build the old
manor house yonder. A few miles away toward Burford is the quarry from
which men say Christopher Wren brought some of the stone to raise St.
Paul's Cathedral. Yet the local people do not care a bit for this
beautiful freestone of the Cotswold Hills. They want to bring granite
from afar for their village crosses, and ugly blue slates for the roofs
of the houses. At a parish council meeting the other day it was
seriously proposed to erect a "Jubilee Hall" of _red_ brick in our
village. Anything for a change, you see; these people would not be
mortal if they did not love a change. The pure grey limestone is
commonplace hereabouts; I have actually heard it said that it will not
last. Yet in every village stand the old Norman churches, built entirely
of local stone, walls and roof; and many an old manor house as well lies
in our midst, as good as it was three hundred years ago. To me, this
limestone of the hills is one of the most beautiful features of the
Cotswold country. I love to stand in a limestone quarry and mark the
layers and ponderous blocks of clean white virgin rock--a tiny cleft in
"the great stone floor which stretches over the face of the earth and
under the limitless expanse of the sea." That solid cretaceous mass is
but the remnants of the countless inhabitants of the old seas,--life
changed into solid, hard rock; and even now, as the green grass and the
sweet sainfoin spring up on the surface, feeding the flocks and herds
that will soon in their turn feed mankind, earth is turning back again
into life. Thus onwards in an endless cycle, even as the earth goes
round, and the waters return to the place from whence they came, does
nature's work go on; and when we consider these things, eternity and
infinity lose part of their strangeness. Does it seem strange when we
look upon this glorious country?--in May a sea of golden buttercups, in
summer a sea of waving grass, and in the autumn a sea of golden corn;
once it was a sea of salt water. And these great rounded banks, these
hills and valleys, these billowy wolds,--could they but speak to us
might tell strange things of the passing of the waters and of the
inhabitants of the old ocean ages and ages ago; the mystery of the sea
would be sung in every vale and echoed back by every rolling down.

A very wonderful matter it certainly is that the stone in which the
whole history of the country-side is writ, not only in rolling downs and
limestone streams, but even in church, tithe-barn, farm, and cottage, as
well as in the walls and the roads and the very dust that blows upon
them, should be nothing more nor less than a mass of dead animals that
lived generation after generation, thousands of years ago, at the bottom
of the sea.

There is silence in the woods--the drowsy silence of summer. Most of
the birds have gone to the cornfields. An ash copse is never so full of
birds as the denser woodlands, where the oaks grow stronger on a stiff
clay soil. Here are no laughing yaffels, no cruel, murderous shrikes,
and very few song-birds. Still, there are always the pigeons and the
cushats, the wicked magpies and the screaming "jaypies," as the local
people call the jays. Then, too, there are the birds down among the
watercress and the brooklime in the clear pool below the spring,
moorhens occasionally awakening the echoes by running down a weird
chromatic scale or calling with their loud and mellow note to their
friends and relations over at the brook; here, too, the softer croak of
the mallard and the wild duck is also heard. A hawk, chasing some
smaller bird, is darting and hovering over the tops of the firs, but,
catching a glimpse of me, disappears from sight. Presently a little
bird, with an eye keener even than the cruel hawk's, comes out from the
hazels and perches on a post some ten yards away. It is a fly-catcher.
As he sits he turns his eyes in every direction, on the look-out for
dainty insects. He seems to have eyes at the back of his head, for
instantly he sees a fly in the air right behind him, makes a dash,
catches it, and flies on to the next post. He repeats the performance
there, then once more changes his ground. When he has made another
successful raid, he returns to his first post, always hunting in a
chosen circuit, and always catching flies. He was here yesterday, and
will be here again to-morrow. When you try to approach him, however, he
flies away and hides himself in the firs.

If there are not many birds in the woods just now, still, there is
always the beauty of the trees. How marvellous is the symmetry of form
and colouring in the trunk and branches of a big ash tree! If you put
mercury into a solution of nitrate of silver, and leave them for a few
days to combine, the result will be a precipitation of silver in a
lovely arborescent form, the _arbor Dianae_, beautiful beyond
description. Such are my favourite ash trees when the summer sunshine
sparkles on them. It is their bare, silvered trunks that give the
special charm to these hanging woods. They stand out from dark recesses
filled with alder and beech and ivy-mantled firs, rising in bold but
graceful outline; columns of silver, touched here and there with the sad
gold and green shades of lichen and moss. The moss that mingles with
golden lichens is of a soft, velvety hue, like a mantle of half drapery
on a beautiful white statue. And, oddly enough, though ferns do not grow
on the limestone soil of the Cotswolds, yet on the first story so to
speak of every big ash tree by the river, as well as on the pollard
willows, there is a beautiful little fernery springing up out of the
moss and lichen, which seems to thrive most when the lichen thrives--in
the winter rather than in the summer. Then, too, the foliage of all
kinds of trees and shrubs is not only different in form, but the
minutest serrations vary; so that the leaves of two kinds of trees are
no more alike than any two human faces are alike. The elm leaves are
rough to the touch, like sandpaper, and their edges are clearly
serrated; those of the beeches are smooth as parchment, and though the
edges appear at first sight to be almost clean cut, they have very
slight serrations, as if nature had rounded them with a blunt knife. The
lobed ivy leaves are likewise highly polished, and they have sharp,
pointed tips. The leaves of the common stinging-nettle ("'ettles" the
labourers call them) have deep indents all round them. A great dock
leaf, in which the chives have a strange resemblance to the arteries in
the human frame, has small shallow indents all round it. Hazels are
rough and almost round in form, save for a pointed tip at the end; they
have ragged edges and ill-defined serrations. Everybody knows the
sycamore from its five lobed leaves; and the chestnuts and oaks are,
again, as different as possible. These are only a few instances; one
might go on for a long time showing the endless variations of form
in foliage.

Then there is the remarkable difference in colour and shade; not only
are there a dozen different greens in one wood, but in one and the same
beech you may see a marked contrast in the tone of its leaves. For about
midsummer some trees put forth a second growth of foliage, so that there
is the vivid yellow tint of the fresh shoots and the dark olive of the
older leaves on one and the same branch. Of the rich autumnal shades I
am not speaking; they would require a chapter to themselves.

There are other things to be noted in the woods besides the trees and
the birds: lots of rabbits and squirrels, not to mention an occasional
hedgehog. Squirrels are the most delightful of all the furred denizens
of the woods. Running up the trees, with their long brushes straight out
behind, they are not unlike miniature foxes. The slenderness of the
twigs on which they manage to find support is one of the greatest
wonders of the woods. The harmless hedgehog, as everybody is aware,
rolls himself up into a lifeless ball of bristles on being disturbed. By
staying quietly by him and addressing him in an encouraging tone, I
lately induced a very large hedgehog to unroll himself and creep slowly
along close to my feet.

It is very extraordinary how all wild animals, especially when young,
can be won by kindness. I once came across a young hedgehog about
three-parts grown; he was running about on the grass in front of the
house in broad daylight, and kept poking his little nose into the earth
searching for emmets and grubs. I made friends with him, dug him up some
worms, and in less than half an hour he became as tame as possible. Tom
Peregrine, the keeper, stood by and roared with laughter at his antics,
saying he had never seen such a "comical job" in all his life. And it
really was a curious sight. The hedgehog, with the merriest twinkle in
his eyes, would take the worms out of my hand; and when I dangled them
five or six inches off the ground, he would rear up on his hindlegs and
snatch and grab until he secured them. Then he would sit up and scratch
himself like a dog. He would allow me to take him up in my hands and
stroke him, and yet not retire into his bristly shell. He ate a dozen
worms and a bumble-bee straight off the reel, and then with all the
gluttony of the pig tribe he went searching about for more food. I
noticed that he ate the grass, in the same way as dogs do, for medicinal
purposes. We put him into a large box with some hay in it, and as he
still seemed hungry that evening, we gave him a couple of cockchafers
from the kitchen, which he appeared to relish mightily. The little
fellow was as happy as a king, crying and squeaking whenever we went to
look at him, and hunting round the box for food. But, alas! we had
overfed him. To our intense regret he died the next day from acute
indigestion.

There are but few snakes or vipers in the district of which I am
writing. But quite recently a man found a large trout about eighteen
inches in length lying dead in the Coln, and protruding from the mouth
of the fish was a large snake, also dead. The snake must have been
swimming in the water (as they are known to do occasionally), and the
trout being in a backwater, where food was scarce, must have seized the
snake and choked himself in his efforts to bolt it This was a remarkable
occurrence, because a Coln trout is most particular as to his bill of
fare, and snakes are certainly not usually included in the list. There
is such a plentiful supply of larvae, caddis, "stone-loach," fresh-water
shrimps, crayfish, and other crustaceans, to say nothing of flies,
minnows, and small fry, that a trout would very seldom attack a snake. A
large lobworm, however, as every one knows, is a very attractive bait
for any kind of fresh-water fish except pike.

Stoats with reddish-brown backs and yellow bellies may often be seen
hunting the rabbits, and the little weasels may sometimes be drawn out
of their holes in the walls if one makes a squeaking noise with the
lips. Stoats usually hunt singly, weasels in packs and pairs.

But we must leave the woods, for the evening shadows are lengthening and
the "golden evening brightens in the west." It is time to go up to the
cornfields on the hill and see the sun set. I have said that there is no
path through this wood; it is sacred to foxes. They are not here now,
however; they will not be back till all the corn is cut. The wheatfields
are their summer quarters.

It is no easy matter to get out of a tangled wood in August. The
stinging-nettles are seven feet high in places; we must hold our hands
high above our heads and plough our way through them. When we finally
emerge we are covered from head to foot with large prickly burrs from
the seeding burdocks, as well as with the small round burrs of the
goose-grass. Then

     "On and up where nature's heart
      Beats strong amid the hills."

As we pass onwards over the cornfields towards a piece of high ground
from which it is our wont to watch the sun set, a silvery half-moon
peeps out between the clouds. In the north-west the range of limestone
hills is already tinged with purple. In the highest heaven are bars of
distant cloud, so motionless that they appear to be sailing slowly
against the wind. Lower down, dusky, smoke-like clouds, tinged here and
there with a rosy hue, are flying rapidly onwards, ever onwards, in the
sky. Later on the higher clouds will turn deep red, whilst brighter and
brighter will glow the moon.

Yonder, twenty-five miles away, the old White Horse is just visible upon
the distant chalk downs. Overhead the sky has the deep blue of mazarine,
but westwards and south-west the colour is light olive green, gradually
changing to an intensely bright yellow. Heavy banks of clouds are slowly
rising in the south-west; the bleating of sheep at the ancient homestead
half a mile away is the only sound to be heard. As the sun goes down
to-night it resembles a great ship on fire amidst the breakers on a
rockbound coast; for the western sky is dashed with fleecy clouds, like
the spray that beats against the chalk cliffs on the shore of the mighty
Atlantic; and amid the last plunges of the doomed vessel the spray is
tinged redder and redder, ere with her human cargo she disappears amid
the surf. But no sooner has she sunk into the abyss than the foam and
the fierce breakers die away, and a wondrous calm broods over all
things. In twenty minutes' time nothing is left in the western sky but a
tiny bar of golden cloud that cannot yet quite die away, reminding me,
as I still thought about the burning ship and her ill-fated crew, of

                       "the golden key
     Which opes the palace of Eternity."

But eastwards, above the old legendary White Horse, the "Empress of the
Night," serene and proudly pale, is driving her car across the
darkening skies.

[Illustration: Ablington Manor 399.png]



CHAPTER XVII.

AUTUMN.

I.

It is in the autumn that life in an old manor house on the Cotswolds has
its greatest charm; for one of the chief characteristics of a house in
the depths of the country surrounded by a broad manor is the game. The
whole atmosphere of such a place savours of rabbits and hares and
partridges. There may be no pheasant-rearing and comparatively little
game of any kind, yet the place is, nevertheless, associated with sport
with the gun. Ten to one there are guns, old and new, hanging up in the
hall or the smoking-room, and perhaps fishing-rods too. There is a bond
between the house and the fields around, and the connecting link is the
game. Time was when the squire in these English villages lived on the
produce of the estate: game, fish, and fowl, and the stock at the farm
supplied his simple wants throughout the year. Huge game larders are yet
to be seen in the lower regions of the manor house; you must pass
through them to reach the still more ample wine cellars. Nearer London
there is not much connection nowadays between the house and the
land--you must walk on the roads; but away in the country it is over the
broad fields that you roam. Even on a small manor of two thousand acres
you may walk a dozen miles in an afternoon and not pass the
boundary fence.

It is very surprising that there is not more demand for country houses
in England when one considers that an extensive demesne may be rented at
a price which is paid for a small flat in unfashionable Kensington. The
local term in Gloucestershire for renting a manor is "holding the
liberty"--the old Saxon word. The term is singularly expressive of the
freedom possessed by the man who exchanges the life of the town or the
villa for a manor in one of the remote counties. He who enjoys the
sporting rights, with license (as the leases run) to hunt, fish, course,
hawk, or sport without the labour and loss of farming the land,
possesses all the pleasures of the squire's existence with few of its
drawbacks and responsibilities. Yet many a fine old house in the country
remains unlet because the life is considered a dull one by those who
have not been brought up to it. With nature's book spread so amply
before our eyes, the country is never dull. At no time of life is it too
late to commence the study of this book of nature. The faculty of
observation is one that is easily acquired. It is not a case of
_nascitur non fit_. With tolerably good eyesight and a determination to
learn, a man soon

     "Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
      Sermons in stones, and good in everything."

And the habit of observing once acquired, we can never lose it till we
die.

Of course those who rent a place in preference to purchasing it miss one
of the greatest and most useful privileges the country can confer--that
of following in the footsteps of him who

     "Strove for sixty widow'd years to help his homelier brother
          man,
      Served the poor and built the cottage, rais'd the school
          and drained the fen."

These are the true delights of a country existence; and it is, I think,
incumbent on the really rich men of England, if they have the welfare of
the nation at heart, to hold a stake, however small, in the land, even
at a sacrifice of income. I refer to men with incomes ranging from ten
to a hundred thousand pounds per annum, who would not feel the loss of
interest that would possibly accrue on an exchange of investment from
"the elegant simplicity of the three per cents." to an agricultural
estate in the country. They may be giving gold for silver in the
transaction, but will be amply repaid in a thousand different ways. How
infinitely preferable the existence of the poor countryman, even though
times be hard, to that of the misguided being of whom it may be said:

     "Through life's dark road his sordid way he wends--
      An incarnation of fat dividends "!

      C. SPRAGUE.

It is probable that the bicycle will cause a larger demand for remote
country houses. To the writer, who, previous to this summer, had never
experienced the poetry of motion which a bicycle coasting downhill, with
a smooth road and a favourable wind, undoubtedly constitutes, the
invention seems of the greatest utility. It brings places sixty miles
apart within our immediate neighbourhood. Let the south wind blow, and
we can be at quaint old Tewkesbury, thirty miles away, in less than
three hours. A northerly gale will land us at the "Blowing-stone" and
the old White House of Berkshire with less labour than it takes to walk
a mile. Yet in the old days these twenty miles were a great gulf fixed
between the Gloucestershire natives and the "chaw-bacons" over the
boundary. Their very language is as different as possible. To this day
the villagers who went to the last "scouring of the horse" and saw the
old-fashioned backsword play, talk of the expedition with as much pride
as if they had made a pilgrimage to the Antipodes.

As September draws nigh and the days rapidly shorten, the merry hum of
the thrashing machine is heard all day long. The sound comes from the
homestead across the road, and buzzes in my ears as I sit and write by
the open window. How wonderful the evolution of the thrashing machine!
How rough-and-ready the primitive methods of our forefathers! First of
all there was the Eastern method of spreading the sheaves on a floor of
clay, and allowing horses and oxen to trample on the wheat and tread out
the corn. Not less ancient was the use of the old-fashioned flail--an
instrument only discarded within the memory of living man. Yet what a
wonderful difference there is between the work accomplished in a day
with the flails and the daily output of the modern thrashing machine!

In the porch of the manor house, amid an accumulation of old traps and
other curious odds and ends there hangs an ancient and much-worn flail.
Two stout sticks, the handstaff and the swingle, attached to each other
by a strong band of gut, constitute its simple mechanism. The wheat
having been strewn on the barn floor, the labourer held the handstaff in
both hands, swung it over his head, and brought the swingle down
horizontally on to the heads of ripe corn. Contrast this fearfully
laborious process with the bustling, hurrying machine of to-day. And yet
with all this improvement the corn can scarcely be thrashed out at a
profit. So out of joint are the times and seasons that the foreigner is
allowed to cut out the home producer. Half the life of the country-side
has gone, and no man dare whisper "Protection."

Even in these bad times the man with a head on his shoulders above the
average of his neighbours comes forth to show what can be done with
energy and pluck. Twenty years ago a labouring man, who "by crook or by
hook" had saved a hundred pounds, bought a thrashing machine (probably
second-hand) He took it round to the various farms, and did the
thrashing at so much per day. By and by he had saved enough money to
take a farm. A few years later he had two thrashing machines travelling
the country, and in this poor district is now esteemed a wealthy man. I
always found him an excellent game-preserver and a most straightforward
fellow. Another farming neighbour of mine, however, was always talking
about his ignorance and lack of caste. All classes, from the peer to the
peasant, seem to resent a man's pushing his way from what they are
pleased to consider a lower station into their own.

In the autumn gipsies are to be seen travelling the roads, or sitting
round the camp fire, on their way to the various "feasts" or harvest
festivals. "Have you got the old gipsy blood in your veins?" I asked the
other day of a gang I met on their way to Quenington feast "Always
gipsies, ever since we can remember," was the reply. Fathers,
grandfathers were just the same,--always living in the open air, winter
and summer, and always moving about with the vans. In the winter hawking
is their occupation. "Oh no! they never felt the cold in winter; they
could light the fire in the van if they wanted it."

Although many of the farmers here have given up treating their men to a
spread after the harvest is gathered in, there is still a certain amount
of rejoicing. The villagers have a little money over from extra pay
during the harvest, so that the gipsies do not do badly by going the
round of the villages at this time. The village churches are decorated
in a very delightful manner for these feasts: such huge apples, carrots,
and turnips in the windows and strewn about in odd places; lots of
golden barley all round the pulpit and the font; and perhaps there will
be bunches of grapes, such as grow wild on the cottage walls, hung round
the pulpit. Then what could look prettier against the white carved stone
than the russet and gold leaves of the Virginia creeper? and these they
freely use in the decorations. If one wants to see good taste displayed
in these days, one must go to simple country places to find it. At
Christmas the old Gothic fane is hung with festoons of ivy and of yew in
the old fashion of our forefathers.

I paid a visit to my old friend John Brown the other day, as I thought
he would be able to tell me something about the harvest feasts of bygone
days. He is a dear old man of some seventy-eight summers, though
somewhat of the _laudator temporis acti_ school; but what good-nature
and sense of humour there is in the good, honest face!

"Fifty year ago 'twere all mirth and jollity," he replied to our enquiry
as to the old times. "There was four feasts in the year for us folk.
First of all there was the sower's feast,--that would be about the end
of April; then came the sheep-shearer's feast,--there'd be about fifteen
of us as would sit down after sheep-shearing, and we'd be singing best
part of the night, and plenty to eat and drink; next came the feast for
the reapers, when the corn was cut about August; and, last of all, the
harvest home in September. Ah! those were good times fifty years ago. My
father and I have rented this cottage eighty-six years come Michaelmas;
and my father's grandfather lived in that 'ere housen, up that 'tuer'
there, nigh on a hundred years afore that. I planted them ash trees in
the grove, and I mind when those firs was put in, near seventy years
ago. Ah! there _was_ some foxes about in those days; trout, too, in the
'bruk'--it were full of them. You'll have very few 'lets' for hunting
this season; 'twill be a mild time again. Last night were Hollandtide
eve, and where the wind is at Hollandtide there it will stick best part
of the winter. I've minded it every year, and never was wrong yet The
wind is south-west to-day, and you'll have no 'lets' for hunting
this time."

"Lets" appear to be hindrances to hunting in the shape of frosts. It is
an Anglo-Saxon word, seldom used nowadays, though it is found in the
dictionary; and our English Prayer Book has the words "we are sore let
and hindered in running the race," etc. Shakespeare too employs it to
signify a "check" with the hounds.

As I left, and thanked John Brown for his information, he handed me a
little bit of paper, whereon was written: "to John Brown 1 day minding
the edge at the picked cloos 2s three days doto," etc. I found that this
was his little account for mending the hedge at the "picket close."

A fine stamp of humanity is the Cotswold labourer; and may his shadow
never grow less.

     "Princes and lords may flourish or may fade,
      A breath can make them, as a breath has made;
      But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
      When once destroyed can never be supplied."

Fresh and health-giving is the breeze on the wolds in autumn, like the
driest and oldest iced champagne. In the rough grass fields tough, wiry
bents, thistles with purple flowers, and the remnants of oxeye daisies
on brittle stalks rise almost to the height of your knees. Lovely blue
bell-flowers grow in patches; golden ragwort, two sorts of field
scabious, yellow toad-flax, and occasionally some white campion remain
almost into winter. Where the grass is shorter masses of shrivelled wild
thyme may be seen. The charlock brightens the landscape with its mass of
colour among the turnips until the end of November, if the season be
fairly mild. But the hedges and trees are the glory of "the happy autumn
fields." The traveller's joy gleams in the September sunlight as the
feathery awns lengthen on its seed vessels. What could be more
beautiful! Later on it becomes the "old man's beard," and the hedges
will be white with the snowy down right up to Christmas, until the
winter frosts have once more scattered the seeds along the hedgerow. Of
a rich russet tint are the maple leaves in every copse and fence. On the
blackthorn hang the purple sloeberries, like small damsons, luscious and
covered with bloom. Tart are they to the taste, like the crab-apples
which abound in the hedges. These fruits are picked by the poor people
and made into wine. Crab-apples may be seen on the trees as late as
January. Blackberries are found in extraordinary numbers on this
limestone soil, and the hedges are full of elder-berries, as well as the
little black fruit of the privet. Add to these the red berries of the
hawthorn or the may, the hips and haws, the brown nuts and the succulent
berries of the yew, and we have an extraordinary variety of fruits and
bird food. Woodbine or wild honeysuckle may often be picked during
October as well as in the spring. By the river the trout grow darker and
more lanky day by day as the nights lengthen. The water is very, very
clear. "You might as well throw your 'at in as try to catch them," says
Tom Peregrine. The willows are gold as well as silver now, for some of
the leaves have turned; while others still show white downy backs when
the breeze ruffles them. In the garden by the brook-side the tall
willow-herbs are seeding; the pods are bursting, and the gossamer-like,
grey down--the "silver mist" of Tennyson--is conspicuous all along the
brook. The water-mint and scorpion-grasses remain far into November, and
the former scents more sweetly as the season wanes. But

     "Heavily hangs the broad sunflower,
        Over its grave in the earth so chilly;
      Heavily hangs the hollyhock;
        Heavily hangs the tiger lily."

An old wild duck that left the garden last spring to rear her progeny in
a more secluded spot half a mile up stream has returned to us. Every
morning her ten young ones pitch down into the water in front of the
house, and remain until they are disturbed; then, with loud quacks and
tumultuous flappings, they rise in a long string and fly right away for
several miles, often returning at nightfall. Such wild birds are far
more interesting as occasional visitors to your garden than the fancy
fowl of strange shape and colouring often to be seen on ornamental
water. A teal came during the autumn of 1897 to the sanctuary in front
of the house, attracted by the decoys; she stayed six weeks with us,
taking daily exercise in the skies at an immense height, and circling
round and round. Unfortunately, when the weeds were cut, she left us,
never to return.

By the end of October almost all our summer birds have left us. First of
all, in August, went the cuckoo, seeking a winter resort in the north of
Africa. The swifts were the next to go. After a brief stay of scarce
three months they disappeared as suddenly in August as they came in May.
The long-tailed swallows and the white-throated martins were with us for
six months, but about the middle of October they were no more seen. All
have gone southwards towards the Afric shore, seeking warmth and days of
endless sunshine. Gone, too, the blackcap, the redstart, and the little
fly-catcher; vanishing in the dark night, they gathered in legions and
sped across the seas. One night towards the end of September, whilst
walking in the road, I heard such a loud, rushing sound in front, beyond
a turning of the lane, that I imagined a thrashing machine was coming
round the corner among the big elm trees. But on approaching the spot, I
found the noise was nothing more nor less than the chattering and
clattering of an immense concourse of starlings. The roar of their wings
when they were disturbed in the trees could be heard half a mile away.
Although a few starlings remain round the eaves of the houses throughout
the winter, vast flocks of them assemble at this time in the fields, and
some doubtless travel southwards and westwards in search of warmer
quarters. The other evening a large flock of lapwings, or common plover,
gave a very fine display--a sort of serpentine dance to the tune of the
setting sun, all for my edification. They could not quite make up their
minds to settle on a brown ploughed field. No sooner had they touched
the ground than they would rise again with shrill cries, flash here and
flash there, faster and faster, but all in perfect time and all in
perfect order--now flying in long drawn out lines, now in battalions;
bowing here, bowing there; now they would "right about turn" and curtsey
to the sun. A thousand trained ballet dancer; could not have been in
better time. It was as if all joined hands, dressed in green and white;
for at every turn a thousand white breasts gleamed in the purple sunset.
The restless call of the birds added a peculiar charm to the scene in
the darkening twilight.

Of our winter visitants that come to take the place of the summer
migrants the fieldfare is the commonest and most familiar. Ere the leaf
is off the ash and the beeches are tinged with russet and gold, flocks
of these handsome birds leave their homes in the ice-bound north, and
fly southwards to England and the sunny shores of France. Such a
_rara avis_ as the grey phalarope--a wading bird like the
sandpiper--occasionally finds its way to the Cotswolds. Wild geese,
curlews, and wimbrels with sharp, snipe-like beaks, are shot
occasionally by the farmers. A few woodcocks, snipe, and wildfowl also
visit us. In the winter the short-eared owls come; they are rarer than
their long-eared relatives, who stay with us all the year. The common
barn owl, of a white, creamy colour, is the screech owl that we hear on
summer nights. Brown owls are the ones that hoot; they do not screech.

Curiously enough I missed the corncrake's well-known call in the meadows
by the river in the springtime of 1897; and not one was bagged in
September by the partridge-shooters. This is the first year they have
been absent. I always looked for their pleasing croak in May by the
trout stream, and invariably shot several while partridge-shooting in
former years.

The earthquake of 1895 was very severely felt in the Cotswolds. Next to
an earthquake a bad thunderstorm is the most awe inspiring of all things
to mortals. During last autumn the Cotswold district was visited by a
thunderstorm of short duration, but great severity. A gale was blowing
from the south; thunder and lightning came up from the same direction,
and, travelling at an immense speed, passed rapidly over our house about
ten p.m. The shocks became louder and louder; and whilst five or six of
us were watching the lightning from a large window in the hall, there
was a deafening report as of a dozen canons exploding simultaneously at
close quarters. At the same time a flame of blue fire of intense
brilliancy seemed to fall like a meteor a few yards in front of our
eyes. At first we were sure the house had been struck, so that the first
impulse was to rush out of doors; but the succeeding report being much
less severe, confidence was restored. The general conclusion was that a
thunderbolt had fallen, and, missing the house by a few yards, had
disappeared in the earth. A search next morning on the lawn did not
throw any light on the matter. Probably, if there was a thunderbolt, it
fell into the river; for it is well known that water is a great
conductor of the electric fluid, and thunderstorms often seem to follow
the course of a stream. The summer lightning, which kept the sky in a
blaze of light for two hours after the storm had passed away, was the
finest I remember.

It is a pity mankind is so little addicted to being out of doors after
sunset. Some of the most beautiful drives and walks I have ever enjoyed
have been those taken at night. Driving out one evening from
Cirencester, the road on either side was illuminated with the fairy
lights of countless glow-worms. It is the female insect that is usually
responsible for this wonderful green signal taper; the males seldom use
it. Whereas the former is merely an apterous creeping grub, the latter
is an insect provided with wings. Flying about at night, he is guided to
his mate by the light she puts forth; and it is a peculiar
characteristic of the male glow-worm, that his eyes are so placed that
he is unable to view any object that is not immediately beneath him.

It is early in summer that these wonderful lights are to be seen; June
is the best month for observing them. During July and August glow-worms
seem to migrate to warmer quarters in sheltered banks and holes, nor is
their light visible to the eye after June is out, save on very warm
evenings, and then only in a lesser degree.

The glow-worms on this particular night were so numerous as to remind
one of the fireflies in the tropics. At no place are these lovely
insects more numerous and resplendent than at Kandy in Ceylon. Myriads
of them flit about in the cool evening atmosphere, giving the appearance
of countless meteors darting in different directions across the sky.

In the clear Cotswold atmosphere very brilliant meteors are observable
at certain seasons of the year. Never shall I forget the strange variety
of phenomena witnessed whilst driving homewards one evening in autumn
from the railway station seven miles away. There had been a time of
stormy, unsettled weather for some weeks previously, and the
meteorological conditions were in a very disturbed state. But as I
started homewards the stars were shining brightly, whilst far away in
the western sky, beyond the rolling downs and bleak plains of the
Cotswold Hills, shone forth the strange, mysterious, zodiacal light,
towering upwards into a point among the stars, and shaped in the form of
a cone. It was the first occasion this curious, unexplained phenomenon
had ever come under my notice, and it was awe inspiring enough in
itself. But before I had gone more than two miles of my solitary
journey, great black clouds came up behind me from the south, and I knew
I was racing with the storm. Then, as "the great organ of eternity
began to play" and the ominous murmurs of distant thunder broke the
silence of the night, a stiff breeze from the south seemed to come from
behind and pass me, as if travelling quicker than my fast-trotting nag.
Like a whisper from the grave it rustled in the brown, lifeless leaves
that still lingered on the trees, making me wish I was nearer the old
house that I knew was ready to welcome me five miles on in the little
valley, nestling under the sheltering hill. And soon more clouds seemed
to spring up suddenly, north, south, east, and west, where ten minutes
before the sky had been clear and starry. And the sheet lightning began
to play over them with a continuous flow of silvery radiance, north
answering south, and east giving back to west the reflected glory of the
mighty electric fluid. But the centre of the heavens was still clear and
free from cloud, so that there yet remained a large open space in
front of me, wherein the stars shone brighter than ever. And as I
gazed forward and upward, and urged the willing horse into a
twelve-mile-an-hour trot, the open space in the heavens revealed the
glories of the finest display of fireworks I have ever seen. First of
all two or three smaller stars shot across the hemisphere and
disappeared into eternal space. But suddenly a brilliant light, like an
enormous rocket, appeared in the western sky, far above the clouds.
First it moved in a steady flight, hovering like a kestrel above us;
then, with a flash which startled me out of my wits and brought my horse
to a standstill, it rushed apparently towards us, and finally
disappeared behind the clouds. It was some time before either horse or
driver regained the nerve which had for a time forsaken them; and even
then I was inclined to attribute this wonderful meteoric shower to a
display of fireworks in a neighbouring village, so close to us had this
last rocket-like shooting star appeared to be. A meteor which is
sufficiently brilliant to frighten a horse and make him stop dead is of
rare occurrence. I was thankful when I reached home in safety that I had
not only won my race against the storm, but that I had seen no more
atmospheric phenomena of so startling a nature.

In addition to the wonders of the heaven there are many other
interesting features connected with a drive or walk by the light of the
stars or the moon. A Cotswold village seen by moonlight is even more
picturesque than it is by day. The old, gabled manor houses are a
delightful picture on a cold, frosty night in winter; if most of the
rooms are lit up, they give one the idea of endless hospitality and
cheerfulness when viewed from without. To walk by a stream such as the
Coln on such a night is for the time like being in fairyland. Every eddy
and ripple is transformed into a crystal stream, sparkling with a
thousand diamonds. The sound of the waters as they gurgle and bubble
over the stones on the shallows seems for all the world like children's
voices plaintively repeating over and over again the old strain:

    "I chatter, chatter as I flow
     To join the brimming river,
     For men may come and men may go,
     But I go on for ever."

Now is the time to discover the haunts of wild duck and other shy birds
like the teal and the heron. In frosty weather many of these visitors
come and go without our being any the wiser, unless we are out at night.
Before sunrise they will be far, far away, and will probably never
return any more. Time after time we have been startled by a flight of
duck rising abruptly from the stream, in places where by day one would
never dream of looking for them. Foxes, too, may be seen within a
stone's throw of the house on a moonlight evening. They love to prowl
around on the chance of a dainty morsel, such as a fat duck or a
semi-domestic moorhen. Nor will they take any notice of you at such
a time.

I made a midnight expedition once last hunting season to see that the
"earths" were properly stopped in some small coverts situated on a bleak
and lonely spot on the Cotswold Hills. On the way I had to pass close to
a large barrow. Weird indeed looked the old time-worn stone that has
stood for thousands of years at the end of this old burial mound. A
small wood close by rejoices in the name of "Deadman's Acre." The moon
was casting a ghastly light over the great moss-grown stone and the
deserted wolds. The words of Ossian rose to my lips as I wondered what
manner of men lay buried here. "We shall pass away like a dream. Our
tombs will be lost on the heath. The hunter shall not know the place of
our rest. Give us the song of other years. Let the night pass away on
the sound, and morning return with joy." Then, as the rustling wind
spoke in the lifeless leaves of the beeches, the plain seemed to be
peopled with strange phantasies--the ghosts of the heroes of old. And a
voice came back to me on the whispering breeze:

     "Thou, too, must share our fate; for human life is short.
      Soon will thy tomb be hid, and the grass grow rank on thy grave."

      MACPHERSON'S _Ossian_.

And sometimes when I have been up on the hills by night, and, looking
away over the broad vale stretched out below, have seen in the distance
the gliding lights of some Great Western express--a trusty
weight-carrier bearing through the darkness its precious burden of
humanity--I thought of the time when the old seas ran here. And then
there seemed to come from the direction of the old White Horse and
Wayland Smith's cave the faint murmuring sound of the "Blowing-stone"
("King Alfred's bugle-horn")--that summoner of men to arms a thousand
years ago, like the beacons of later days that "shone on Beachy Head";
and I felt like a man standing at the prow of a mighty liner, "homeward
bound," on some fine though dark and starless evening, when no sound
breaks upon his ear but the monotonous beating of the screw and the
ceaseless flow of unfathomed waters, save that ever and anon in the far
distance the moaning foghorn sounds its note of warning; whilst as he
stands "forward" and inhales the pure health-giving salt distilled from
balmy vapours that rise everlastingly from the surface of the deep,
nothing is visible to the eye--straining westward for a glimpse of
white chalk cliffs, or eastward, perhaps, for the first peep of
dawn--save the intermittent flash from the lighthouse tower, and the
signals glowing weird and fiery that reveal in the misty darkness those
softly gliding phantasies, the ships that pass in the night.



II.

In nine years out of ten autumn lingers on until the death of the old
year; then, with the advent of the new, our English winter begins
in earnest.

It is Christmas Day, and so lovely is the weather that I am sitting on
the terrace watching the warm, grateful sun gradually disappearing
through the grey ash trunks in the hanging wood beyond the river. The
birds are singing with all the promise of an early spring. There is
scarcely a breath of wind stirring, and one might almost imagine it to
be April. Tom Peregrine, clad in his best Sunday homespun, passes along
his well-worn track through the rough grass beyond the water, intent on
visiting his vermin traps, or bent on some form of destruction,--for he
is never happy unless he is killing. My old friend, the one-legged cock
pheasant, who for the third year in succession has contrived to escape
our annual battue, comes up to my feet to take the bread I offer. When
he was flushed by the beaten there was no need to call "Spare him," for
with all the cunning of a veteran he towered straight into the skies
and passed over the guns out of shot. Two fantail pigeons of purest
white, sitting in a dark yew tree that overhangs the stream a hundred
yards away, make the prettiest picture in the world against the
dusky foliage.

Splash!--a great brown trout rolls in the shallow water like a porpoise
in the sea. A two-pounder in this little stream makes as much fuss as a
twenty-pound salmon in the mighty Tweed.

Hark! was that a lamb bleating down in old Mr. Peregrine's meadow? It
was: the first lamb, herald of the spring that is to be. May its little
life be as peaceful as this its first birthday: less stormy than the
life of that Lamb whose birth all people celebrate to-day.

The rooks are cawing, and a faint cry of plover comes from the hill.

Soft and grey is the winter sky, but behold! round the sun in the west
there arises a perfect solar halo, very similar to an ordinary rainbow,
but smaller in its arc and fainter in its hues of yellow and rose--a
very beautiful phenomenon, and one seldom to be seen in England. Halos
of this nature are supposed to arise from the double refraction of the
rays from the sun as the light passes through thin clouds, or from the
transmission of light through particles of ice. It lingers a full
quarter of an hour, and then dies away. Does this bode rough weather?
Surely the cruel Boreas and the frost will not come suddenly on us after
this lovely, mild Christmas! Listen to the Christmas bells ringing two
miles away at Barnsley village I we can never tire of the sound here,
for it is only on very still days that it reaches us across the wolds.

     "Hark! In the air, around, above,
        The Angelic Music soars and swells,
      And, in the Garden that I love
        I hear the sound of Christmas Bells.

     "From hamlet, hollow, village, height,
        The silvery Message seems to start,
      And far away its notes to-night
        Are surging through the city's heart.

     "Assurance clear to those who fret
        O'er vanished Faith and feelings fled,
      That not in English homes is yet
        Tradition dumb, or Reverence dead.

     "Now onward floats the sacred tale,
        Past leafless woodlands, freezing rills;
      It wakes from sleep the silent vale,
        It skims the mere, it scales the hills;

     "And rippling on up rings of space,
        Sounds faint and fainter as more high,
      Till mortal ear no more may trace
        The  music homeward to the sky.

     "To courtly roof and rustic cot
        Old comrades wend from far and wide;
      Now is the ancient feud forgot,
        The growing grudge is laid aside.

     "Peace and goodwill 'twixt rich and poor!
        Goodwill and peace 'twixt class and class!
      Let old with new, let Prince with boor
        Send round the bowl, and drain the glass!"

      ALFRED AUSTIN.

I have culled these lines from the poet laureate's charming "Christmas
Carol," as they are both singularly beautiful and singularly appropriate
to our Cotswold village.

I take the liberty of saying that in our little hamlet there _is_ peace
and goodwill 'twixt rich and poor at Christmas-time.

     "Now is the ancient feud forgot,
      The growing grudge is laid aside."

Our humble rejoicings during this last Christmas were very similar to
those of a hundred years ago. They included a grand smoking concert at
the club, during which the mummers gave an admirable performance of
their old play, of which more anon; then a big feed for every man,
woman, and child of the hamlet (about a hundred souls) was held in the
manor house; added to which we received visits from carol singers and
musicians of all kinds to the number of seventy-two, reckoning up the
total aggregate of the different bands, all of whom were welcomed, for
Christmas comes but once a year, after all, and "the more the merrier"
should be our motto at this time. So from villages three and four miles
away came bands of children to sing the old, old songs. The brass band,
including old grey-haired men who fifty years ago with strings and
wood-wind led the psalmody at Chedworth Church, come too, and play
inside the hall. We do not brew at home nowadays. Even such
old-fashioned Conservatives as old Mr. Peregrine, senior, have at length
given up the custom, so we cannot, like Sir Roger, allow a greater
quantity of malt to our small beer at Christmas; but we take good care
to order in some four or five eighteen-gallon casks at this time. Let it
be added that we never saw any man the worse for drink in consequence
of this apparent indiscretion. But then, we have a butler of the
old school.

When we held our Yuletide revels in the manor house, and the old walls
rang with the laughter and merriment of the whole hamlet (for farmers as
well as labourers honoured us), it occurred to me that the bigotphones,
which had been lying by in a cupboard for about a twelvemonth, might
amuse the company. Bigotphones, I must explain to those readers who are
uninitiated, are delightfully simple contrivances fitted with reed
mouthpieces--exact representations in mockery of the various instruments
that make up a brass band--but composed of strong cardboard, and
dependent solely on the judicious application of the human lips and the
skilful modulation of the human voice for their effect. These being
produced, an impromptu band was formed: young Peregrine seized the
bassoon, the carter took the clarionet, the shepherd the French horn,
the cowman the trombone, and, seated at the piano, I myself conducted
the orchestra. Never before have I been so astonished as I was by the
unexpected musical ability displayed. No matter what tune I struck up,
that heterogeneous orchestra played it as if they had been doing nothing
else all their lives. "The British Grenadiers," "The Eton Boating Song,"
"Two Lovely Black Eyes" (solo, young Peregrine on the bassoon), "A Fine
Hunting Day,"--all and sundry were performed in perfect time and without
a false note. Singularly enough, it is very difficult for the voice to
"go flat" on the bigotphone. Then, not content with these popular songs
we inaugurated a dance. Now could be seen the beautiful and
accomplished Miss Peregrine doing the light fantastic round the stone
floor of the hall to the tune of "See me dance the polka"; then, too,
the stately Mrs. Peregrine insisted on our playing "Sir Roger de
Coverley," and it was danced with that pomp and ceremony which such
occasions alone are wont to show. None of your "kitchen lancers" for us
hamlet folk; we leave that kind of thing to the swells and nobs. Tom
Peregrine alone was baffled. Whilst his family in general were bowing
there, curtseying here, clapping hands and "passing under to the right"
in the usual "Sir Roger" style, he stood in grey homespun of the best
material (I never yet saw a Cotswold man in a vulgar chessboard suit),
and as he stood he marvelled greatly, exclaiming now and then, "Well, I
never; this is something new to be sure!" "I never saw such things in
all my life, never!" He would not dance; but, seizing one of the
bigotphones, he blew into it until I was in some anxiety lest he should
have an apoplectic fit I need scarcely say he failed to produce a
single note.

Thus our Yuletide festivities passed away, all enjoying themselves
immensely, and thus was sealed the bond of fellowship and of goodwill
'twixt class and class for the coming year.

Whilst the younger folks danced, the fathers of the hamlet walked on
tiptoe with fearful tread around the house, looking at the faded family
portraits. I was pleased to find that what they liked best was the
ancient armour; for said they, "Doubtless squire wore that in the old
battles hereabouts, when Oliver Cromwell was round these parts." On my
pointing out the picture of the man who built the house three hundred
years ago, they surrounded it, and gazed at the features for a great
length of time; indeed, I feared that they would never come away, so
fascinated were they by this relic of antiquity, illustrating the
ancient though simple annals of their village.

I persuaded the head of our mummer troop to write out their play as it
was handed down to him by his predecessors. This he did in a fine bold
hand on four sides of foolscap. Unfortunately the literary quality of
the lines is so poor that they are hardly worth reproducing, except as a
specimen of the poetry of very early times handed down by oral
tradition. Suffice it to say that the _dramatis personae_ are five in
number--viz., Father Christmas, Saint George, a Turkish Knight, the
Doctor, and an Old Woman. All are dressed in paper flimsies of various
shapes and colours. First of all enters Father Christmas.

     "In comes I old Father Christmas,
      Welcome in or welcome not,
      Sometimes cold and sometimes hot.
      I hope Father Christmas will never be forgot," etc.

Then Saint George comes in, and after a great deal of bragging he fights
the "most dreadful battle that ever was known," his adversary being the
knight "just come from Turkey-land," with the inevitable result that the
Turkish knight falls. This brings in the Doctor, who suggests the
following remedies:--

     "Give him a bucket of dry hot ashes to eat,
      Groom him down with a bezom stick,
      And give him a yard and a half of pump water to drink."

For these offices he mentions that his fee is fifty guineas, but he
will take ten pounds, adding:

     "I can cure the itchy pitchy,
      Palsy, and the gout;
      Pains within or pains without;
      A broken leg or a broken arm,
      Or a broken limb of any sort.
      I cured old Mother Roundabout," etc.

He declares that he is not one of those "quack doctors who go about from
house to house telling you more lies in one half-hour than what you can
find true in seven years."

So the knight just come from Turkey-land is resuscitated and sent back
to his own country.

Last of all the old woman speaks:

     "In comes I old Betsy Bub;
      On my shoulder I carry my tub,
      And in my hand a dripping-pan.
      Don't you think I'm a jolly old man?

      Now last Christmas my father killed a fat hog,
      And my mother made black-puddings enough to choke a dog,
      And they hung them up with a pudden string
      Till the fat dropped out and the maggots crawled in," etc.

The mummers' play, of which the above is a very brief _résumé_, lasts
about half an hour, and includes many songs of a topical nature.

Yes, Christmas is Christmas still in the heart of old England. We are
apt to talk of the good old days that are no more, lamenting the customs
and country sports that have passed away; but let us not forget that two
hundred years hence, when we who are living now will have long passed
"that bourne from which no traveller returns," our descendants, as they
sit round their hearths at Yuletide, may in the same way regret the
grand old times when good Victoria--the greatest monarch of all
ages--was Queen of England; those times when during the London season
fair ladies and gallant men might be seen on Drawing-room days driving
down St James's Street in grand carriages, drawn by magnificent horses,
with servants in cocked hats and wigs and gold lace; when the rural
villages of merrie England were cheered throughout the dreary winter
months by the sound of horse and hound, and by the sight of beautiful
ladies and red-coated sportsmen, mounted on blood horses, careering over
the country, clearing hedges and ditches of fabulous height and width;
when every man, woman, and child in the village turned out to see the
"meet," and the peer and the peasant were for the day on an equal
footing, bound together by an extraordinary devotion to the chase of
"that little red rover" which men called the fox--now, alas! extinct, as
the mammoth or the bear, owing to barbed wire and the abolition of the
horse; when to such an extent were games and sports a part of our
national life that half London flocked to see two elevens of cricketers
(including a champion "nine" feet high called Grace) fighting their
mimic battle arrayed in white flannels and curiously coloured caps, at a
place called Lords, the exact site of which is now, alas I lost in the
sea of houses; when as an absolute fact the first news men turned to on
opening their daily papers in the morning was the column devoted to
cricket, football, or horse-racing; when in the good old days, before
electricity and the motor-car caused the finest specimen of the brute
creation to become virtually extinct (although a few may still be seen
at the Zoological Gardens), horse-racing for a cup and a small fortune
in gold was only second to cricket and football in the estimation of all
merrie Englanders--the only races now indulged in being those of flying
machines to Mars and back twice a day. Two hundred years hence, I say,
the Victorian era--time of blessed peace and unexampled prosperity--will
be pronounced by all unprejudiced judges as the true days of merrie
England. Let us, then, though not unmindful of the past, pin our faith
firmly on the present and the future. _Carpe diem_ should be our motto
in these fleeting times, and, above all, progress, not retrogression.
Let us, as the old, old sound of the village bells comes to us over the
rolling downs this New Year's eve, recall to mind

           ".... the primal sympathy
     Which having been must ever be."

Let our hearts warm to the battle cry of advancing civilisation and the
attainment of the ideal humanity, soaring upwards step by step,
re-echoing the prayer contained in those lilting stanzas with which
Tennyson greets the New Year:

     "Ring out the old, ring in the new;
          Ring happy bells across the snow:
          The year is going, let him go;
      Ring out the false, ring in the true.

     "Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
        For those that here we see no more
        Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
      Ring in redress to all mankind.

     "Ring out false pride in place and blood,
        The civic slander and the spite;
        Ring in the love of truth and right;
      Ring in the common love of good.

     "Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
        Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
        Ring out the thousand wars of old,
      Ring in the thousand years of peace.

     "Ring in the valiant man and free,
        The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
        Ring out the darkness of the land.
      Ring in the Christ that is to be."

[Illustration: Coln S' Aldwyns 429.png]



CHAPTER XVIII.

WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN.

     "I saw Eternity the other night
      Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
        All calm, as it was bright:--
      And round beneath it, time in hours, days, years,
        Driven by the spheres,
      Like a vast shadow moved, in which the world
        And all her train were hurl'd."

      HENRY VAUGHAN.

It is the end of May; a bright, rainless, and at times bitterly cold
month it has been. But now the chill east wind has almost died away.
Summer has come at last. Once more I am making for the Downs. Very
seldom am I there at this period of the year; but before going away for
several months, I bethought me that I would go and inspect the
improvements at the fox-covert, stopping on my way at the "Jubilee"
gorse covert we lately planted, to see if there is a litter of cubs
there this year. Across the fields we go, ankle deep in buttercups and
clover at one moment, then up the hedge to avoid treading the half-grown
barley. We are so accustomed to take a bee-line across these shooting
grounds of ours that we quite forget that the farmer would not thank us
for trampling down his crops at the end of May. But soon we are on the
Downs, well out of harm's way and far removed from highroads and
footpaths. What a glorious panorama lies all around! Why do we not come
here oftener in summer?--the country is ten times more lovely then than
it is in the shooting season. A field of sainfoin in June, with its
glorious blossoms of pink, is one of the prettiest sights in all
creation. Seen in the distance, amid a setting of green wheatfields and
verdant pastures, it ripples in the garish light of the summer sun like
a lake of rubies.

     "Land and sea
      Give themselves up to jollity;
      And with the heart of May
      Doth every beast keep holiday."

Ah! there will be lots of foxes when the hounds come to the fox-covert
next October. The unpleasant smell at the mouth of the earth tells us
that there are cubs there; and as we stand over it we can hear them
playing down below in the bowels of mother earth. Very distinct, too,
are the tracks--_traffic_, the keeper calls them--leading by sundry
well-trodden paths to the dell below--a nice sunny dell, facing
south-west, where in spring the violets and primroses grow among the
spreading elder. These cubs were not born here. Their mother brought
them from an old hollow stump of a tree by the river, half a mile away.
When she found her lair discovered by an angler who happened to pass
that way, she brought them across the river by the narrow footbridge
right up here on to the hill. The cubs from the tree have disappeared,
so no doubt these are the ones. Well, there are lots of rabbits for
them; the little fellows are popping about all over the place.

How tame all wild animals become in the summer!--all except the ones we
want to circumvent--magpies, jays, stoats, and such small deer. Lapwings
fly round us, crying restlessly, "Go away, go away!" Their shrill treble
accents remind one of a baby's squall. Pigeons and ringdoves, partridges
and hares seem to be plentiful "as blackberries in September." A
gorgeous cock pheasant crows and jumps up close to us, followed by his
mate. This is a pleasing sight up here, for they are wild birds. There
has been no rearing done in these copses on the hills within the
memory of man.

Tom Peregrine suddenly appears out of a hedge, where he has been
watching the antics of the cubs at the mouth of the fox-earth. He has
grown very serious of late, and tells you repeatedly that there is going
to be another big European war shortly. Let us hope his gloomy
forebodings are doomed to disappointment. Surely, surely at the end of
this marvellous nineteenth century, when there are so many men in the
world who have learnt the difficult lessons of life in a way that they
have never been learnt before, nations are no longer obliged to behave
like children, or worse still, with their petty jealousies and
bickerings and growlings, "like dogs that delight to bark and bite."

Tom Peregrine, having done but little work for many months, is now
making himself really useful, for a change, by copying out parts of this
great work; and, to do him justice, he writes a capital, clear hand. He
is very anxious to become secretary to "some great gentleman," he says.
If any of my readers require a sporting secretary, I can confidently
recommend him as a man of "plain sense rather than of much learning, of
a sociable temper, and one that understands a little of backgammon."
There is no fear of his "insulting you with Latin and Greek at your own
table." He would have suited Sir Roger capitally for a chaplain, I often
tell him; and though he hasn't a notion who Sir Roger may be, he
thoroughly enjoys the joke.

The fox-covert presents a strange appearance. It is full of young spruce
trees, and the lower branches have been lopped down, but not cut through
or killed. Under each tree there is now a grand hiding-place for foxes
and rabbits--a sort of big umbrella turned topsy-turvy. The rabbits
appreciate the pains we have been at; but I fear the foxes, for whom it
was intended, at present look on the shelter with suspicion. They
dislike the gum which oozes continually from the gashes in the bark; it
sticks to their coats, and gives an unpleasant sensation when they
roll. They cannot keep their beautiful coats sleek and glossy, as is
their invariable rule, as long as their is any gum sticking to them.

How clearly we can see the Swindon Hills in the bright evening
atmosphere! They must be more than twenty miles away. The grand old
White Horse, making the spot where long, long ago the Danes were
vanquished in fight, is not visible; but he is scarcely to be seen at
all now, as the lazy Berkshire people have neglected their duty. He
really must be scoured again this summer; he is a national institution.
Londoners take a much greater interest in him than do the honest folk
who live bang under his nose.

We must continue our excavations at Ladbarrow copse yonder. Men say it
is the largest barrow in the county, full of "golden coffins" and all
sorts of priceless antiquities! At present all we have discovered are
some bones, with which we stuffed our pockets. When we arrived home,
however, they were found to have belonged to a poor old sheep-dog that
was buried there. But see! the setting sun is tinging the tops of the
slender, shapely ash trees in yonder emerald copse. The whole plain is
changing from a vast arena of golden splendour to a mysterious shadowy
land of dreams. A fierce light still reveals every object on the hill
towards the east; but westwards beneath yon purple ridge all is wrapped
in dim, ambiguous shade.

It is sad to think that I alone of mortal men should be here to see this
glorious panorama. It seems such a waste of nature's bounteous store
that night after night this wondrous spectacle should be solemnly
displayed, with no better gallery than a stray shepherd, who, as he
"homeward plods his weary way," cares little for the grand drama that is
being performed entirely for his benefit. Nature is indeed prodigal of
her charms in out-of-the-way country places.

Sometimes whilst walking over these remote fields on summer evenings, I
have stopped to ask myself this question: Is it possible that these
exquisite wild flowers, these groves and dells of verdant tracery, these
birds with their priceless music, and these wondrous, ineffable effects
of light and shade which form part of the everyday pageant of English
rural scenery are doomed "to waste their sweetness on the desert air"?
Is it possible (to go further afield) that those lovely scenes in
Wales--the fairy glens near Bettws-y-Coed, or the luxuriant valleys of
Carmarthen, further south, where silvery Towey flows below the stately
ruins of Dynevor Castle; those romantic reaches on the Wye, from
Chepstow to the frowning hills of Brecon; those solitary, but
unspeakably grand, mountains and passes of the Highlands, such as
Glencoe, Ben Nevis, or those of the scarcely explored Hebrides; those
smiling waters of the lovely Trossachs; those countless spots in the
"Emerald Isle" that the tourist has never seen, whether in fertile
Wicklow or among the whispering woods and weird waters of the west;
those gorgeous forests of Ceylon; those interminable jungles of the
beautiful East, with their unknown depths of tropical splendour;--is it
possible that these scenes of wondrous beauty are inhabited and enjoyed
by nothing more than is visible to our limited mortal gaze?

I believed, as a boy, and with a romance still unsubdued by time I would
yet fain believe, that when the soul of man escapes from the poor
tenement of clay in which it has been pent up for some threescore years
and ten, it has not far to go. I would fain believe that heaven is not
only above us, but, in some form or other entirely beyond our mortal
ken, all around us, in every beautiful thing we see; that these hills
and vales, these woods of delicately wrought fan-tracery groining, these
mazes of golden light when the sun goes down, are peopled not alone by
human flesh and blood. "There are also terrestrial bodies, and bodies
celestial. But the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the
terrestrial is another."

Who can imagine the shape or form of the immortal soul? As I walked over
those golden fields to-night it seemed as if there were spirits all
around me--glorious, bright spirits of the dead--invisible, intangible,
like rays of pure light, in the clear atmosphere of those Elysian
fields. I cannot but believe that there arise from the secret parts of
this beautiful earth, at dawn of day and at eventide, other voices
besides the ineffable songs of birds, the rustling murmurs that whisper
in the woods, and the plaintive babbling of the brooks--hymns of unknown
depths of harmony, impossible to describe, because impossible to
imagine--crying night and day: "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and
power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb for
ever and ever."

Yes, dear reader,

       "Though inland far we be,
     Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
       Which brought us hither."

When the sun goes down, if you will turn for a little while from the
noise and clamour of the busy world, you shall list to those voices
ringing, ringing in your ears. Words of comfort shall you hear at
eventide, "and sorrow and sadness shall be no more,"--even though, as
the years roll on, perforce you cry, with Wordsworth:

     "What though the radiance which was once so bright
      Be now for ever taken from my sight,
      Though nothing can bring back the hour
      Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower,
          We will grieve not, rather find
          Strength in what remains behind;
          In the primal sympathy
          Which having been must ever be;
          In the soothing thoughts that spring
          Out of human suffering;
          In the faith that looks through death,
          In years that bring the philosophic mind."

THE END.



APPENDIX.

GEORGE RIDLER'S OVEN.

(_Note from the papers of the Gloucestershire Society_)

It is now generally understood that the words of this song have a hidden
meaning which was only known to the members of the Gloucestershire
Society, whose foundation dates from the year 1657. This was three years
before the restoration of Charles II. and when the people were growing
weary of the rule of Oliver Cromwell. The Society consisted of
Loyalists, whose object in combining was to be prepared to aid in the
restoration of the ancient constitution of the kingdom whenever a
favourable opportunity should present itself. The Cavalier or Royalist
party were supported by the Roman Catholics of the old and influential
families of the kingdom; and some of the Dissenters, who were disgusted
with the treatment they received from Cromwell, occasionally lent them a
kind of passive aid. Taking these considerations as the keynote to the
song, attempts have been made to discover the meaning which was
originally attached to its leading words. It is difficult at the present
time to give a clear explanation of all its points. The following,
however, is consistent throughout, and is, we believe, correct:--

     "The stwuns that built Gaarge Ridler's oven,
      And thauy qeum from the Bleakeney's Quaar;
      And Gaarge he wur a jolly ould mon,
      And his yead it graw'd above his yare."

By "George Ridler" was meant King Charles I. The "oven" was the Cavalier
party. The "stwuns" which built the oven, and which "came out of the
Blakeney Quaar," were the immediate followers of the Marquis of
Worcester, who held out to the last steadfastly for the royal cause at
Raglan Castle, which was not surrendered till 1646, and was, in fact,
the last stronghold retained for the king. "His head did grow above his
hair" was an allusion to the crown, the head of the State, and which the
king wore "above his hair."

     "One thing of Gaarge Ridler's I must commend,
      And that wur vor a notable theng;
      He mead his braags avoore he died,
      Wi' any dree brothers his zons zshou'd zeng."

This meant that the king, "before he died," boasted that notwithstanding
his present adversity, the ancient constitution of the kingdom was so
good and its vitality so great that it would surpass and outlive any
other form of government, whether republican, despotic, or protective.

     "There's Dick the treble and John the mean
      (Let every mon zing in his auwn pleace);
      And Gaarge he wur the elder brother,
      And therevoore he would zing the beass."

"Dick the treble, Jack the mean, and George the bass" meant the three
parts of the British constitution--King, Lords, and Commons. The
injunction to "let every man sing in his own place" was intended as a
warning to each of the three estates of the realm to preserve its proper
position and not to attempt to encroach on each other's prerogative.

     "Mine hostess's moid (and her neaum 'twur Nell),
      A pretty wench, and I lov'd her well;
      I lov'd her well--good reauzon why,
      Because zshe lov'd my dog and I."

"Mine hostess's moid" was an allusion to the queen, who was a Roman
Catholic; and her maid, the Church. The singer, we must suppose, was one
of the leaders of the party, and his "dog" a companion or faithful
official of the Society; and the song was sung on occasions when the
members met together socially: and thus, as the Roman Catholics were
Royalists, the allusion to the mutual attachment between the "maid" and
"my dog and I" is plain and consistent.

     "My dog has gotten zitch a trick
      To visit moids when thauy be zick;
      When thauy be zick and like to die,
      Oh, thether gwoes my dog and I."

The "dog"--that is, the official or devoted member of the Society--had
"a trick of visiting maids when they were sick." The meaning here was
that when any of the members were in distress, or desponding, or likely
to give up the royal cause in despair, the officials or active members
visited, consoled, and assisted them.

     "My dog is good to catch a hen,--
      A duck and goose is vood vor men;
      And where good company I spy,
      Oh, thether gwoes my dog and I."

The "dog," the official or agent of the Society, was "good to catch a
hen," a "duck," or a "goose"--that is, any who were well affected to the
royal cause of whatever party; wherever "good company I spy, Oh, thither
go my dog and I"--to enlist members into the Society.

     "My mwother told I when I wur young,
      If I did vollow the strong beer pwoot,
      That drenk would pruv my auverdrow,
      And meauk me wear a thzreadbare cwoat."

"The good ale-tap" was an allusion, under cover of a similarity in the
sound of the words "ale" and "aisle," to the Church, of which it was
dangerous at that time to be an avowed follower, and so the members were
cautioned that indiscretion would lead to their discovery and
"overthrow."

     "When I hev dree zixpences under my thumb,
      Oh, then I be welcome wherever I qeum
      But when I have none, oh, then I pass by,--
      'Tis poverty pearts good company."

The allusion here is to those unfaithful supporters of the royal cause
who "welcomed" the members of the Society when it appeared to be
prospering, but "parted" from them in adversity, probably referring
ironically to those lukewarm and changeable Dissenters who veered about,
for and against, as Cromwell favoured or contemned them. Such could
always be had wherever there were "three sixpence-under the thumb"; but
"poverty" easily parted such "good company."

     "When I gwoes dead, as it may hap,
      My greauve shall be under the good yeal tap;
      In vouled earmes there wool us lie,
      Cheek by jowl, my dog and I."

"If I should die," etc.--an expression of the singer's wish that if he
should die he may be buried with his faithful companion (as representing
the principles of the Society) under the good aisles of the church, thus
evincing his loyalty and attachment to the good old constitution and to
Church and king even in death.



INDEX

Abbey, Edwin
Ablington Manor
Acman Street
Aethelhum, the Saxon
Agriculture
Alder tree
Aldsworth and Oliver Cromwell
Alfred, King
Amphitheatre, Roman
Ampney Park
Angelus, the
Antiquity, charm of
_Arbor Diana_
Architecture, Elizabethan
Aristotle
Arlington Row
Artificial fox-earths
Austin, Alfred

Badgers
Bampton-in-the-Bush
Barnby, Joseph
Barns, tithe
Barometer
Barrows, ancient
Bathurst family
Bathurst, Lord
Battues
Bazley, Sir Thomas
Bettws-y-Coed
Bibury Races
Bibury village
Bigotphones
Blowing-stone, the
Bourton-on-the-Water
Bowly, Mrs. Christopher
Brassey, Albert, M.F.H.
Braydon Forest
Bromley-Davenport, W.
Buckland, Frank
Bull-ring, Roman
Burford
Burton on the Cotswolds

Cadge for hawks
Caesar, Julius
Camps, ancient British
Carlyle, Thomas
Cassey-Compton Manor House
Caves, prehistoric
Characters, village
Charles I.
Charles II.
Charlock
Chaucer
Chavenage
Chedworth
Chepstow, the Wye at
Chiltern Hills
Chivalry, ancient
Choirs, village
"Christmas Carol," Austin's
Christmas festivities
Church ales
Churchwardens
Cirencester
Civil Wars
Clarendon on Falkland
Climate of the Cotswolds
Coats-of-arms
Coffins, old stone
Coln, River
Coln-St.-Aldwyns
Coln-St.-Dennis
Conyger wood
Corinium Museum
Corncrakes, disappearance of
Coulson, Colonel, his trap
County cricket
Coursing on the Cotswolds
Cray-fish
Creswell family
Cricket pitch, how to improve
Cricket, prehistoric
Cricket, the game of
Cripps, Wilfred, C.B.
Crosses, wayside
Cub-hunting
Cubs, fox
Cudgel-playing, old-fashioned
Curlews
Cushats

Deadman's Acre
Deerhounds, Scotch
De Quincey
Derby Day on the Coln
De Vere, Aubrey
Dew
Dew-point
Dialect, Cotswold
Dickens, Charles, on cricket
Dogs
Downs, the mystery of the
Dream, Shakespeare's
Dress, simplicity in
Drayton, Michael
Dry-fly fishing
Ducks, wild
Duleep Singh at Hatherop
Dun, olive
Dürer, Albert

Earthquake of 1895
Earths for foxes
_Écrevisse_
Eel, curious capture of
Elder tree
Eldon, Lord
"Elegy," Gray's
Elizabeth, Queen, at Burford
Elms
"England, Merrie"
Escutcheons
Evening fishing
Excursion, Roger Plowman's

Fairwood
Falconry, the art of
Falkland, Lord, at Burford
Farmers, Cotswold
Feasts, ancient
Ferns growing on ash tree
Fieldfare, return of the
Field names
Firr, Tom
Flails, old-fashioned
Flanders mares
Flies, artificial
Flocks of lapwings
Flowers, wild
Fly-catcher, the
"Flying Dutchman"
Forest, Braydon
Forest, Savernake
Fossbridge
Fosseway
Fox-earths
Foxes
Fozbrooke
Free Foresters' Cricket Club

Galway nags
Gamekeeper, the
Gannet
Garden, an old
Garne of Aldsworth
Geese, wild
"George Ridler's Oven"
Gilbert White
Gilpin, John
Gipsies
Gloucestershire dialect
Glow-worms
Goethe (quoted)
Golf greens, treatment of
Gothic architecture
Grace, W.G.
Grasshoppers, Burke on
Gray's "Elegy"
Green-drake
Greyhound fox
Grounds, treatment of cricket
Gwynne, Nell, at Bibury Races

Hall, King Alfred's
Hallam, Arthur
Halo, solar
Hamilton, Sir William Rowan
Hangman's Stone, origin of
Hard riders
Hares
Harvest home
Hawking described
Hawks
Hedgehogs
Henry VIII.
Heraldry
Herbs
Herons
Hicks-Beach, Right Hon. Sir Michael
Hic-wall or heckle
Hill, White Horse
Hills, Jem
Hobbs of Maiseyhampton
Horse, description of
Horse for the Cotswolds
Hounds, Badminton
Hounds, Bombay
Hounds, Heythrop
Hounds, Lord Bathurst's
Hounds, Mr. T.B. Miller's
Hounds, Shakespeare on
Hunting, fox-
Hunting poem
Hunting, stag-, in olden times
Huntsman, a good
Hygrometer
Hymns
Hypocaust, Roman

Icknield Street
Implements, old stone
Inscribed stones (Roman)
Inscription on porch of manor house
Irmin Way
Irving, Washington (quoted)
Isaac Walton

Jansen, Cornelius, painter
Jefferies, Richard
Johnson, Dr.
Joyce on Fairford windows

Keble, John, at Fairford
Kelmscott
Kemble
Kestrel
Kingfishers
Kingmaker, the
Kipling, Rudyard
Kite, artificial
Knights Templar

Labourers, Cotswold
Lapwings
Larder, vixen's
Leland
Lenthall, Speaker
Leslie, G.
Limestone quarries,
Llewelyn, W. Dillwyn
Loam, use of clay or

Macomber Falls
Macpherson and Ossian
Madden, Right Hon. D.H.
Magpies
Mallard, a pugnacious
Manor parchments
Manuscript, an ancient
Marsh-harrier
Marsh-marigold
Master, Chester, family of
Maxwell, Sir Herbert
May flies
May-fly season
"Merrie England"
Meteor, a large
Miller, T.B., M.F.H.
Miller, the village
Monk, W.J., on Burford
Moorhens, habits of
Mop, Cirencester
Moreton-in-the-Marsh
Morris, William
Mounds, ancient burial
Mummers' play
Museums, Roman
Musicians, old village

Natal, scenery of
Nest, kingfisher's
Netting trout
Newton, Isaac
Nightjar or goatsucker
Night on the hills
Nimrod on Bibury Races
_Noblesse oblige_
Northleach

Oak, old
Oliver Cromwell
Oman's discovery
Ossian
"Oven, George Ridler's"
Owls
Oxen, ploughing with

Partridges
"Parvise," the
Pavements, Roman
Penance at Burford
Peregrine falcons
Peregrine, Thomas, keeper
Pheasants
Pigeon-shooting
Playing-fields, Eton
Pliny
"Plestor," the
Ploughing with oxen
Plover, common
Plover, golden
Plowman, Roger, goes to London
Poachers, scarcity of
Poges, Stoke
Political meetings
Politicians, village
Pope at Cirencester
Pottery, Roman
Prehistoric cricket
Prehistoric relics
Prescription, an excellent
Proverbs, Gloucestershire
Puffin

Quack, the village
Quails
Quarries, limestone
Quenington
Querns, the

Races, Bibury
Ramparts, ancient
Ready Token
Retrievers
Riders, good
Riding, hard
Roads, limestone
Roger de Coverley, Sir
Roman remains
Rookery, the
Rupert, Prince
Ruskin, John

Sainfoin
Sargent, J.
Savernake
Scent of foxes
Scotch deerhound
Scott, Lady Margaret
Scouring the White Horse
Shakespeare on the Cotswolds
Sheep, Cotswold
Sheep-washing
Sherborne House
Sherborne, Lord
Shooting, covert-
Sly, Isaac
Snake eaten by trout
Snipe
Solan goose
Solar halo
Songs, Gloucestershire
South Africa, wolds of
Sparrow-club
Spawn-beds of trout
_Spectator_, the
Sportsman, definition of a good
Spring flowers
Springs, Cotswold
Squirrels
Stag-hunting, wild
Stage-coach
Stoats
Stone age, relics of
Stowell
Stow-on-the-Wold
Sunsets described
Swans

Tame, John
Tanfield family
Teal
Tennyson
Terrier, fox-
Tesselated pavements
Thames
Thrashing
Thrush, song of
Tiercel-gentle
Tithe
Tithe barns
"Tolsey," the
Traps, vermin
Travess, Charles
Trees, beauty of ash
Trossachs, the
Trout eating snake
Trout, habits of
"Tuer," a
Turnip hower, the

Umpires, village
Uncertainty, charm of
Urns, sepulchral

Vale, Berkshire
Vale of White Horse Hounds
Valley, Coln
Valley, Thames
Victorian Era
Voles, water

Waller's pictures
Walnut tree in spring
Warwick, the kingmaker
Wasps, a plague of
Watercress
Wayside crosses
Weasels
Westbury White Horse
Wharfe, River
White Horse Hill
Whitsun ale
Whitsuntide sports
Whyte-Melville
Wildfowl
Williamstrip
Wimbrels,
Windrush, River
Wines, home-made
Winson village
Woodpeckers
Wood-pigeons
Wordsworth
Wren, Christopher

Yaffel
Yuletide

Zingari Cricket Club
Zodiacal light





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