Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

kept for us. I believe you have not seen the Royal George?”

" What, the ship ? ”

“ Ship! No. What should ships have to do with the forest ? It is my hunter, I mean—him that I hunt with his Majesty, when I attends him at the races. I suppose you have been at the races ?

66 Not I.”
• What, not at Ascot ? "

[ocr errors]

66 No.

" Whew! How little of the world you must know. But you are young. Never saw the King, perhaps ? ”

“ Never.”

“Well, then, you have a deal to larn. It's quite beautiful to see him and the queen, and ride a'ter them and the young princes, at the races, or with the hounds; and that's what's being a yeoman pricker, and gives knowledge of the world.”

“ That's what I am travelling for,” observed I, willing to humour him, “and I shall be glad to take a lesson of you."

He touched his jockey cap (for a yeoman pricker disdains a hat), but added at the same time, “ I got a deal of envy about it in the town, yet I don't give myself no airs; only it is a pleasant thing to belong to the court, you know. God bless Lord Hinchingbroke for it.” “ It was he then who made you a yeoman pricker?” To be sure it was.

A great man is that Lord Hinchingbroke.”.

“No doubt," said I.

" Rides and understands a horse well, and is not above speaking to a man below him. That's your true great man. Now there is a little fat cloth-merchant of Reading, who, because he has got a box here in the forest, though he knows no more how to ride than a tailor, thinks himself too good to speak to a yeoman pricker when he meets him. That's what I call true vulgar.”

“ You are right in every thing, I find," replied I. “ But pray, how far are we from Binfield ? ”

“Oh! not above a furlong; and if you will take over that stile there, through Asher's Wood, it will open upon you as you get out of it, all at once; and anybody will shew you the way to Mr. Pope's. My business lies this way, through Squire Neville's park.”

So saying, he turned off, and left me to find out Binfield, which I soon managed.

And open upon me it did; the most lovely village in the kingdom, perhaps in the world; a union of all that was pastoral and all that was elegant. The beautiful fields, full of enchanting verdure, and covered with flocks, made it appear the one; and the number of ornamented cottages, with now and then a considerable mansion among them, gave it the air of the other. The owners of most of these were persons

of rank connected with the court at Windsor, the polish of which seemed to be shed over their pleasant domiciles, in the high keeping of the lawns and gardens that belonged to them. I felt myself immediately in a politer air ; fancied that I was in a sort of Arcadia,

and looked for queens and nobles in the disguise of shepherdesses and shepherds.

Possibly this was the rather occasioned by a very handsome bevy of well-dressed women, accompanied by several well-appointed men, who, issuing from the park-gate of Billingbere, shewed how dignified a region I had got into, in comparison with that I had left. The party seemed to revel in the rural pleasures that courted them, and trode the greensward or roved among the woods as if they had never been acquainted with any thing but the simplicity of a country life. Yet the natural ease, and imposing air of superiority, which always distinguish the high-born, and well-bred, contrasted themselves here very powerfully with the rough exterior and manners which, for the last days, had engaged me, and I could not help secretly exclaiming,

Stay, gentle swains, for though in this disguise,
I see bright honour sparkle in your eyes.

Of famous Arcady ye are.” * In short, though I was always a lover of nature, and preferred it to the most exquisite attainments of art, yet the elegance of fashion had also an attraction for me, which, for one who had seen so little of it, was almost unaccountable.

But here too, perhaps, was an appeal to my prejudices regarding the old Norman nobility, for a reason which the reader will easily comprehend. The party I saw, from the name of the lord of the park whence they emerged, were, I concluded, most of them Nevilles,

• Milton's Arcades.

and I hailed in them the descendants of the Cantilupes, Hastingses, and Beauchamps, and (I am afraid, with less charity) that Earl of Westmoreland who, in Gualtree Forest, by a most unknightly stratagem, ruined the last noble of the house of Bardolfe.

How different were these in their appearance, dress, and manners, from the men and women of those times -those iron men, and those stiff, starched women, who gave little movement to the genial current of the soul in their intercourse with one another. They were conversing with the easy cheerfulness and polite gaiety of their rank and education, and seemed to enjoy the scene around with unfeigned delight; giving me, in this, the first impression of an opinion which never afterwards left me, that there is not a more happy position for a person of any mind to be placed in, than to meet the polish of the world in the seclusion of retirement.

Are we to lament this change of manners, which the advance of civilization has brought along with it, or regret that the frowns of the feudal, and perhaps roystering Baron of Billingbere, of the days of Elizabeth, have been exchanged for the soft accomplishments and kindly smile of his well-bred descendants ? No.

I watched the party which had so struck me, till they were out of sight, perhaps secretly wishing I could be one of them, and thought, I am afraid, too much and too tenderly of the place and of the person who first made me acquainted with the fascinations of female elegance. “But of this, no more,” cried I, and I

paced it vigorously. “My object is man, not woman, except as a part of man.”

Yet I wished that I had not seen these Nevilles, who, by their polish and ease, put me uncomfortably in mind that they, as well as somebody else, were in a sphere to which I did not, and perhaps never could, belong. I recovered myself, however, after they had for some time disappeared, and found out a secret—the knowledge of which expanded the more I lived in the world—that when one is under temptation, separation from the tempting object is a more certain and effectual

cure, than all that the strongest reason can supply. To be sure, the remedy is a little cowardly ;-but who does not know that discretion is the better part of valour?

The graceful and attractive appearance of the Nevilles put me too much in mind of another of the same sphere as theirs, and of my own inferiority to both. While present, this continued, and annoyed me; gone a quarter of an hour, and the lovely face of nature, which I was born to enjoy as well as they, restored

I thought too of my landlord of the Royal Oak, the born philosopher of content, and blushed. The sight of Pope's house completed my recovery.

It was a low-built fabric of dark brown brick, covered in parts with most redundant ivy, which climbed the very chimneys. The windows were partly casements, partly sashed, and, upon the whole, it had a picturesque air.

The interior had nothing very particular to interest one, except a picture, tolerably painted, of what Lord

me.

« ПредишнаНапред »