« ПредишнаНапред »
many respects, scarcely less marvellous people. To him, in common with every other child of village or hamlet, however remote, the name of London had been familiar almost from the cradle. He knew not the time when he knew it first ; and the idea presented by it was that of some great, undefined, and unknown place, which had no equal in the world nor resemblance,-(save in that it was composed of buildings and endless streets,)—to anything he had ever seen. It was a vast spectre, without shape, and measureless, looming in the misty atmosphere of a doubtful mind, like the ideal pictures of cities and the wonderful palaces of gnomes and genii, after reading some marvellous Arabian tale. Then, with the rustic inhabitants of every remote place, anything uncommon or superior is always presumed to have come from London; and to say that it came thence, is at once to confer upon it a higher ideal value. Many a worthless trinket brought by some wandering pedlar is purchased, and afterwards miraculously preserved from juvenile spoliation amidst the wreck of all other toys, merely because it came from London. The very appearance in a village of an individual of more than usual gentility, startling the bumpkins with a “sight" on some fine summer's morning, is of itself taken as presumptive evidence that he very probably came from London. Any innovation or improvement in dress or manners, is promptly and naturally supposed to have had its origin in London. London is the place, in short, where everything is great,—where everything of the best is made, —where all the first people of the world do congregate,—where it is very needful to look sharp about you lest your very eyes get picked out without your knowing it until they are gone, where the most cunning thieves are always at your elbow,-where everything worth seeing is to be seen, and worth hearing to be heard,—where anybody may chance to succeed, though he could succeed nowhere else,-and where, finally, for some one or other or all of these causes, every man, woman, girl, and boy express a wish to go before they die.
Thus is London generally regarded by the rural people of the provinces; and thus was it in degree that Colin thought, as he paced about the quiet streets of York. What to do when he should get there he did not know ; but go somewhere he must. There was still room left for many more in London than himself. Accordingly he walked into a coach-office, and, after making some inquiries, took his place by a coach, which, though it travelled an indirect route, had the advantage of being about to start in half an hour. That interval he employed in writing another letter home, expressive of the intention he had just formed, and stating that he should write again as soon as he arrived in London.
The public vehicle being now nearly ready, Colin climbed awkwardly up and took his seat; and after all the important preparations incident to such an occasion had been duly made, an expert ostler ingeniously twitched off the horses' coverings as they were starting, and within a short time Colin was whirled away on this his first day of foreign travel.
Never having been on a public stage before, our hero felt delighted. The pleasant and rapid motion, and the continual change of scenery, almost made him wonder why those people who could afford it did not ride on the top of a public coach every day of their
lives. Village, town, and then long spaces of cultivated fields alternately came on the horizon, and were left behind ; foot-passengers by the road-side appeared to him almost at a stand-still and the speed of such irritable curs as barked and ran after the horses, little greater than that of a mole. Towards evening, however, these things lost much of their attraction, and he began to grow weary. With weariness came despondency, and he almost felt as though he were lost.
The sun went down somewhere in the direction of the home he had left last night. What were his mother and Fanny doing now? What doubt were they not in, and what misery enduring through his (to them) unaccountable absence ! It was evident enough, too, that Palethorpe knew him,—and that his design had been found
What evil reports would they not spread concerning him to the dismay and shame of Fanny and his mother! Mr. Lupton, also, might hear them, and perhaps refuse to take any notice of his letters; though he himself, were he there, could explain all this to everybody's satisfaction. Tears both of sorrow and vexation swam in his eyes, and he wished it was but possible the coachman could drive him back again. Night 'came on, and at a great town (Leicester, I believe) two flaring lamps were put up, which cast upon the ground a sharp light on either side, as though they flew with a pair of fiery wings. Passers-by, tree-trunks, and mile-stones shot out of the darkness before, and into that behind, almost before they could be seen ; while occasionally might be observed other bright rayless lights, glancing through the hedges, or staring boldly down the road before them, like the eyes of a monstrous dragon. Then came the rattle of another coach, a shout of recognition between the coachmen, a tip upwards of the whip, and all was dark again. The passengers were silent, and Colin grew doubly melancholy. The coachman now and then looked round at his fares, as much as to say he very much doubted whether he was driving a hearse or not; yet all sat as quiet as corpses. He asked “the box” if he were cold? The box said " No," and then turned up his coatcollar and pretended to go to sleep.
The coachman sung himself a song, and beat his whip-hand upon his left shoulder to keep the blood stirring. The guard shouted to him, and he shouted back again—"the bag of corn was to be left at So-an-so, and old Joe was to see and send that harness back in the morning.'
Colin took no interest in all this, so he shut his eyes, and, after awhile, fell asleep. The horn blowing for a change of horses, awoke him again. Again he went to sleep, and the same pleasing tune was played in his vexed ears, and on the same occasion, repeatedly during the night. When morning broke, he was chilled almost to death ; his feet felt as though undergoing amputation : he could never have believed it was so cold in summer at any part of the twenty-four hours as he now found it. The night had been fine and dry, and daylight began with only a few thin clouds. He longed for a ray of the sun, and watched his increasing light with desire unfelt before. As he rose, however, the mists gathered thicker and thicker as it grew lighter. Then they swept like a storm over the hills in front, and filled the valleys with a damp fog as thick as any in November. At two or three hours after sunrise, all was clear again, and he basked delightfully in the burning heat.
They now began to pass droves of sheep, and herds of cattle, hundreds together, and often recurring, yet all bending the same way as themselves : they were going to London to be devoured. None seemed to come back again. They ascended a steep hill ; and to the right Colin saw the longest-bodied church, with the shortest tower he had ever seen in his life : it was St. Albans. Here a man of business, escaped from the metropolis the night before, and now fresh from sleep and breakfast, and with a “shining morning face,” gave the coachman a familiar nod and word, and jumped up to return to his ledger. The stable-boys looked at Colin, and regarding him as a “green ’un,” winked at each other, and smiled. The coachman took no notice of him, as being considerably beneath his observation. But Colin, without troubling himself concerning other people's thoughts of him, looked at the long signs about posting at so much per mile, and at those which advertised Messrs. Mangel Wursel and Co's Entire, and wondered what in the world they meant. Another hour or two passed, and the road seemed to our hero to be alive with all kinds of vehicles describable and nondescript. Dog-horses drawing lumbering old coaches, and dog-carts filled with country-baked bread, intermingled with spring vehicles carrying soda-water, and carriers' carts laden with crockery, were jumbled together in all the glorious confusion and dust of a dry summer morning. Occasionally some butcher's boy, without his hat, would drive from amongst them, as though his very life depended on his speed, and shoot a-head, until, in character with all of his fraternity, he outstripped everybody ; and after the fashion of the good deities of the Heathen mythology, vanished in a cloud of his own raising.
The coach approached a high archway in the road. Through it Colin saw what he took to be a mass of horizontal cloud ; and peering above it in solitary grandeur, like one lone rock above a wilderness of ocean, the dome of a great cathedral. To the left, on descending the hill, stood what he took to be a palace; and still farther on, in Holloway, and Islington, so many things of a totally new character presented themselves to him, that he scarcely believed himself in the same world as he was yesterday. The turnpikes, and the Angel Inn, the coaches and the cabs, the rabble and noise, the screaming of hawkers, the causeways lined with apple-women and flower-girls, the running and scrambling of men carrying bundles of newspapers, as they bawled to the passengers of outward-bound stages, “ Times, sir !-Chronicle—Morning Post !" the swearing of coachmen, the thrashing of drovers, the barking of dogs, and the running of frightened sheep and over-goaded cattle, formed altogether such a Babel, as made him for the time utterly forget himself.
City, young man, or get down here ?" demanded the coachman. “ Where are we ?" asked Colin. “Islington. Where are you going to ?” “ London," replied Colin.
" I say, Jim," remarked the coachman to his friend the guard, " that's a neatish cove now, is'nt he, to come here ?"
“ Wot do I care, d his eyes! Pick up that basket, and go on, without you mean to stop here all day!”
Whereupon the driver folded up his waybill, and elbowed his passage through a crowd of miserable, perishing, be-coated and
be-capped night-travellers, who blocked up the causeway with trunks, carpet-bags, and hat-boxes. Their pallid visages and heavy eyes, indeed, conveyed to the spectator no indifferent idea of so many unfortunate ghosts just landed on the far side of the Styx.
“So you are for London, young ’un, are you?" asked the coachman, when again on his seat.
“Yes, sir," replied Colin, “and I suppose we are not far from it now ?"
“Jim !" shouted the coachman, as he leaned half round to catch a glimpse of the guard, “ this chap wants to know how far he is from London, if you can tell him!” And this humorous remark he rounded off with a weasing chuckle, that appeared to have its origin in a region far below the thick superstratum of coat and shawl with which the coachman himself was covered. He then deliberately eyed Colin from head to foot several times, with a look of great self-satisfaction, and again inquired, "Wot did your
from home for ?" “Nobody sent me,” said Colin ; “I came of my own accord.”
“Wot, you're going i' sarvis, then? or, have you come up to get made Lord Mayor ?"
Our hero had felt sufficiently his own loneliness before ; but this last observation made him feel it doubly. He coloured deeply.
“Come, I didn't mean that,” said the driver,—“it was only a joke to raise your spirits. I don't want to spile your feelin's, young man.
“I assure you, sir,” replied Colin, with emotion, “I have no place to go to, and I do not know a single soul in London. When I get off this coach, I shall not know where to turn, nor what to do !"
“ Then wot did you come for ?" inquired the coachman.
don't know where to put up ?" « No."
“Humph! Well, m'happen I can tell you. How much money have you got?”.
Colin satisfied the inquirer on this particular; and in return received the coachman's promise to direct him to a respectable house, at which he might put up until he had done one of two things, either obtained a situation, or “got himself cleaned out."
SONG OF THE OAK.*
had their birth,
My limbs were the first
As I rear'd my green head, * I have sometimes considered it very scriously, what should move Pliny to make a whole chapter of one only line : Glandiferi maximè generis omnes, quibus honos apud Romanos perpetuus.-(Lib. vi. cap. 3.) It is for the esteem which these wise and glorious people had of this tree, above all others, that I will first begin with the oak,” saith Evelyn.
That the Monarch of Woods, -
Should I be when Time
To the “ King of the Gods” alonet
My pride do I bend
And his oracles send
His lightning not hurld,
I joy in my power
It is true that I'm rough and old ;
But I've spirits within
That think it foul sin
Sweet Dryads that tends
-And sometimes I give,
My head has seen fifty score
Of years rolling by ;
And I mean not to die
In the home I love best,
When at length I decline,
The celebrated ship, built at Iolchos in Thessaly, for Jason, was formed of the oak of the Dodonæan forest. + The oak was sacred to Jupiter.
For this see the classics, passim.
Else unadorned with many a gay festoon
The strength they borrow with the grace they lend ! 1 Dryads and Hamadryads :--these latter so called from äpa, together, and spus, oak; because it was believed that they were co-eval and co.mortal with the trees intrusted to their care.
** Montium custos nemorumque Virgo.-Hor. lib. iii.
+ Arcas, preserving an old oak by watering its roots, had the nymph who resided in it bestowed on him in marriage.