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A YEAR AT AMBLESIDE.
BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.
TnE hill on which the church stands is steep; and it would be out of our way to ascend it, in making the circuit of the valley. So I will merely say, in a few words, what lies in that eastern part of our little town. As we go up the ascent, there are houses on each side,— built on limestone, with gushing water within hearing, and on a slope so steep as to make a natural drainage;—yet are these houses, for the most part, undrained, ill supplied with water, close and unwholesome. Dung-heaps and other collections of dirt are before our eyes and under our noses, wherever we turn; and one consequence is,—and a very natural one, —that the men of the place, finding little comfort in an unsavoury home, (which besides is usually over-crowded.) resort to the public houses,—which seem to me to be full whenever I pass them. This is one token of the oldfashioned character of the place. The morals of health have not been preached, or taught, or thought of here; and other morals have a poor chance while such is the state of things. From the time when I became a resident, I saw that something must be done about this. The bad state of health and of morals in the place was evidently a gratuitous evil. The site of the town seemed made for health,—with its slopes, and its abundance of water, and its open position, fronting the valley. The two great evils of there not being houses enough, and of the existing houses being, in a large proportion, unwholesome, seemed to me presently remediable; and we may perhaps see hereafter what the prospect of remedy has become. The houses near the churchyard are the worst; and as for the churchyard itself, the sexton faints when he opens a grave. The small enclosure is surrounded by three roads; so that it is difficult to say how it could be enlarged. But here are hillsides in abundance for a cemetery, if the gentry of the place would set about having one. The idea is, however, too modern for the Ambleside gentry at present. It will probably be some years before they can shake off the impression that there is something irreligious and French, in burying their dead anywhere but within the shadow of the church. There are some charming detached dwellings as high up as the church, and even higher. The nearest is the house of Mr. C., the retired surgeonsretired from such a failure of health as makes
every one glad that he, who can never go out, should have such a bay-window as his, and live enclosed in so pretty a garden. From that window he commands the whole valley, with the lake at one end, and the Rydal Pass at the other, and the Langdale Pikes afar, conspicuous over the whole. A little farther along the lane is Bellevue,—a sort of bridal abode, where a young couple might fairly expect to find their first year of marriage a wondrous experience of paradise. Not much more than a year, however; for in this valley the gentlemen soon grow tired. They go off somewhere to find something to do,—some business, or foreign travel, or hunting. The ladies are satisfied enough; so well, as to be in danger of pride and exclusiveness, and indolence about leaving home: but there are really few gentlemen in the valley but the invalid Mr. C., and two or three aged men, who like the quietness. When the young or middle-aged gentry disappear, they let their houses to widow ladies with daughters, or to single ladies; and these, it is observed, rarely go away again. Thus, the society becomes, in some sort, Amazonian. When I want to make a party to meet my guests, it is a wonder if a single coat and hat can be got. Mr. C. never leaves his house: Dr. B. is crippled, and can be seen only at home, or, as a rare chance, on a fine summer's day, on the road in his wheeled chair. Mr. Wordsworth likes to see his friends at home, but does not visit. Mrs. Arnold's sons are dispersed about the world; and we see two or three of them only on occasion, for a few days. Mr. G. is always flying backwards and forwards between his home and his business in Cheshire. So, for three times out of four, our little parties are composed wholly of ladies; and they happen to be such ladies as leave nothing to be wished. Farther still along the lane is the new parsonage, a goodly house, not yet finished, where the clergyman's eight children are to grow and flourish, in full view of such a prospect as will make every landscape that their windows may command in after life flat and ugly in comparison. The lane is steep and illkept at present; but when the new parsonage is finished it will be improved; and I have my eye upon it for an extension of Ambleside in this direction.
Higher yet up the hill, beyond the church,
is the suburb, called (for some reason unknown) Edinburgh, which has formed itself round the mill,—the bobbin-mill, whose great water-wheel is turned by the beautiful Stock beck, as it comes down foaming and frothing, from the Stock ghyll force, (ghyll, ravine,— force, waterfall,) a quarter of a mile above. There is nothing good about this cluster of houses but its position. It wants purifying, physically and morally; and, till that is done, we will let it alone.
This stream, the Stock, goes leaping, gurgling, and gushing down, overhung by trees and tormented by rocks in its channel, till it passes under the road, near the foot of the hill where we made our pause; after which it flows away in a winding course among the fields, and across the meadows till it enters the Rotha, near the Millar Bridge, which we passed on our way to Fox How. We walk over it on the road, passing the shops of S., the painter, and of the wheelwright, on the left, and of the cooper, and the confectioner, and the shoemaker, on the right. The cooper's shop and ohildren are always neat; though flour and groceries are sold, as well as tubs and bowls, and rolling-pins; and though the children are many, and the mother always busy. She is a great needle-woman, to judge by the large piece of work,—the sheet or shirt,—one sees on her arm, whenever one glances in at her open door. Now we are in view of the corner, round which we are to turn into the little market-place. That corner is shaded by a dark sycamore; but before we reach the sycamore, our attention is fixed by the inn,—the Salutation, whose name is a reminder of a Catholic age, when Gabriel and the Virgin looked down on the approach of wayfarers. This is the principal inn; and the range of stables is rather imposing, and the rubbing down and harnessing of horses seem to be always going forward in the summer season. And there is the civil and good-natured host; once a stable-boy himself, as he likes to tell; now a most important man in the place, and usually out on his great flight of steps, or conferring with travellers in the area in front of his house. The next inn, the Commercial, is on our right, as we turn into the little market-place; and a third, the White Lion, shows its range of back windows opposite. Round the irregular area of the marketplace are the rest of the shops;—the saddler's, the butcher'8, the watchmaker's, the linen-draper's, the ironmonger's, and the lawyer's and carrier's offices on the left; and on the right, the coach-office, the baker's, the milliner's, the druggist's, and the post-office; which is also the place of books and stationary. In the midst stands the dear old market-cross, up its three steps,—the mouldering old stone cross, which tells of past
centuries. And, casting a shadow of antiquity and solemnity over all, is the great rookery; which I make a point of passing at daybreak, in winter, unless I go to the other rookery, in Lady Le Fleming's great beeches, at Rydal. I like the noise of the creatures,—their amazing din in the February mornings, when they are beginning their building; but better still do I like their earliest morning flight,—a higher flight than I ever see them take at other times. I know now how to look for them. When it is still only beginning to be light with us, but when the sky takes the pearly or pinky hue which belongs to a winter dayspring, I look steadily up into the sky, and presently see an immeasurable flock, just at the point of vision, sailing over the valley,—sometimes winging straight for Lady Le Fleming's beeches, sometimes for the Ambleside elms, and sometimes wheeling round, as if they had time for another sweep abroad, and another chance of seeing the sun, before going to work upon their new nests.
The post-office shop is the favourite among these,—all of which yield civil and friendly treatment. The post-mistress, Mrs. Nicholson, is a favourite with us all. The post-mistress of a little country town is always the depositary of much confidence. I doubt whether anything exists, is done, or is suffered, in Ambleside, without Mrs. Nicholson being told of it: yet, never, through a long course of years, has she been charged with saying anything that she ought not. Yet, with all her discretion, she is as open-hearted as the most rash of babblers. She gives her confidence freely; but she is Bo innocent, so simple, and so intimately known by all her neighbours, that I doubt whether she has any secrets of her own, or ever had. I love to go there; but I keep away, if possible, at post-hours, and near the middle of the day, when she and her daughters are busy. A better time is in the early morning, before any other shop is open, when there is always one of the Nicholsons preparing the shop, and willing to serve me with postage-stamps, and spare five minutes for talking over our Building Society, or my cows, or any incident of the time. I never saw more perfect filial conduct than that of the two daughters, who, out of a family of thirteen, remain with their mother. H., the handsome and high-spirited one, and M . the delicate and diminutive and subdued one, are ladies of nature's making, as truly as their old mother; and in nothing do they show it more than in their tender watchfulness over her. She is somewhat infirm and suffering; and the more watchful, and the more tender are they. Mrs. N. can seldom be induced to leave home; and I therefore felt it a great honour when she lately came, with her daughter II., to see my field and my cows, and take tea with me; and as they departed, I felt that never since my house was built, had truer ladies passed its doors.
Our circuit will soon be completed now. We go straight on, past the White Lion, with the surgeon's and chief shoemaker's houses on our right, past the Royal Oak public house, past the smithy, along the highroad to Waterhead. There are a few pretty houses, set down in gardens, by the way: and one very ugly house, Fisherbeck, built for a workhouse, and looking just like it, but now let in lodgings: but the ▼iews into the Brathay valley, opening as we go, and disclosing again the little church on its height, and the overlapping hills, with the Langdale Pikes appearing last of all, engage one's whole attention, till the lake opens full and calm, and we are at the toll-bar again, and within a quarter of a mile of my host's house.
Can any one wonder that I presently dreamed of living in this valley? There was no reason why I should not live where I pleased. Five years and more of illness had broken all bonds of business, and excluded me from all connexion with affairs. I was free to choose how to begin life afresh. The choice lay between London and pure country; for no one would prefer living in a provincial town for any reasons but such as did not exist for me. I love London; and I love the pure country. As for the choice between them now,—I had some dread of a London literary life for both its moral and physical effects. I was old enough to look forward to old age, and to have already some wish for quiet, and command of my own time. Moreover, every woman requires for her happiness some domestic occupation and responsibility,—to have some one's daily happiness to cherish; and a London lodging is poorly supplied with such objects; whereas, in a country home, with one's maids, and one's neighbours, and a weary brother or sister, or nephew, or niece, or friend, coming to rest under one's trees, or bask on one's sunshiny terrace, there is prospect of abundance of domestic interest. If I chose the country, I might as well choose the best; and this very valley was, beyond all controversy, the best. Here, I could write in the serenest repose; here, I could rove at will; here, I could rest. Here, accordingly, I took up my rest; and I have never repented it, while my family and friends regard it as the wisest step I could take. I was so far cautious, that I engaged a lodging for half a year, to allow myself scope for a change of mind; but I was so far from changing my mind, that, before we were far into the summer, I was looking at any empty cottage I could hear of, which was at all likely to serve me as a permanent abode. In the midst of my search, my late
host reminded me that the lowest rent would amount to as much as the interest of the sum which would build me a house of my own planning. I was struck with conviction; and immediately after, some land was offered for sale in the best possible situation. I could not get ready by the auction day, or I would have bid for the lot, which consisted of the green knoll I have mentioned before. I never doubted its being bought up instantly. But, to my amusement, and great satisfaction, this was the lot for which there were no bidders. I bought it, with two low-lying lots below it, which I obtained by some critical negotiation and exchange; and before July was out, I was in possession of that knoll and two acres of ground about it. The builder, John Newton, had received my plan of such a house as I should like, and had sent in his tender of a contract. In October, the first sod was turned; and during the winter, the building went on.
In February, I was living in the cottage under the sycamores, at Waterhead, which we have glanced at before. The windows of my sitting-room looked westwards, across the head of the lake. The winter afternoons were thus splendid, in fine weather; but, to enjoy the beauty of the early morning, it was necessary to go forth under the brightening sky. It is my pleasure at that season to go out before there is any daylight—at half past six; and I have never wished myself at home, whatever the weather might be. If rainy, I was sure to see the mists curling and rolling over the surface of the lake,—showing themselves, or letting a streak of the water be seen whenever there was an opening in the clouds above, through which a star, or a ray of the dawn could be disclosed; and, in the worst weather, there were the birds, making their February din in the woods between the highroad and the lake. It mattered little what the weather was when I stood on a little white pebbly beach, with the waves washing up at my feet, and the noisy birds over my head, making my very heart gay with their merry chirp, and pipe, and whistle, and loud song. They seemed to be trying to drown the dash and rush of the brook which was hurrying from the hills above to help to swell the lake, already rising above its bounds. But, in a clear morning, when the stars were rocked on the surface of the lake, and a fragment of the old moon hung over Wansfell, amidst the clear, greenish eastern sky, what a treat was that early walk! I was sure to see, on my return to breakfast, a sight worthy of Switzerland itself;—the snowy summit of Coniston Old Man peering over the intervening ridge, to show itself in the gray expanse of Windermere, with the first pink lines of sunrise touching its loftiest ridge. Never was there seen a colouring more soft and melting; and melting it was, for in a very few minutes it was gone ;—and when I entered my sitting-room, and found it lighted chiefly by the blazing fire on which my kettle was hissing and steaming, I could hardly believe that 1 had seen daylight so near. But, in the afternoon, I had the very last of the daylight. While candles were lighted everywhere else in the house, I sat in the yellow glow at the window, seeing how the black pines on the rocky promontory were reflected in the orange and crimson waters, stem for stem, distinct and unmoved, while the mountains and their reflection were of the deepest purple, and a full clear planet shone with a glow-worm light in the midst of the ruddy scene. Of all the sunsets of that winter, there is one that stands alone in my remembrance. As my house assumed more and more the air of a dwelling,—that is, from the time the rooftree was on, I seldom returned to dinner at dark without having had a glance at my future home from some point or other. Its gaping doorways and windowspaces looked cold and forlorn; but when once the roof was on, I could overlook that defect from the other side of the valley. Along that other side of the valley I was walking, from Fox How to Waterhead, one bright afternoon, just at sunset; and what did I see ?—my windows glittering in the last yellow rays! How home-like it looked! how completely changed in character from a shell of a dwelling to a home, merely by putting in the window-sashes! I met John Newton, and asked him about it; and he told me that he expected heavy rain, and had put in the sashes in a hurry, to keep the inside dry.
The heavy rains came, hour after hour, almost like a waterspout, with winds which made such a commotion that two panes of my windows were broken. As for the lake, it dashed and rolled all the next day, and seemed to be coming nearer in the night, so that I was not at all surprised to find a flood when I looked
out the next morning. There could be no morning walk, for our house was a peninsula, which afforded only a few yards of dry footing beyond the door. Angry billows rolled over the grass-plat, up against the house walls. In the road, men were pushing themselves about on logs and planks. The little piers were all sunk, and the boat-house seemed likely to blow up. Cascades of white water were leaping and rushing down through trees, and pouring over fences into the road. Logs and faggots were drifting out from the shore, and chips were dancing on the surface. Within the house, my landlady was pulling up her carpets from the ground-floor rooms; and from the windows, the neighbours were calling to each other that no such flood had been witnessed by the existing generation. The rain was over, however, and there was a brisk wind; so that, though the lake would not go down till the tributary streams had done paying in their excess, the river and brooks in the valley would soon subside into their channels, and allow us to go and see what had happened above. By the afternoon, it was thought possible to reach a higher part of the road; and, thickshod, I went forth. Presently, I met the A.'s, all in their thickest boots, coming down to see the flood. They said the meadows in the valley were almost entirely under water. I could not turn back with them, so great was my secret anxiety about my house. It was not for long. When I reached Rotha Bridge, and looked northwards, there was my pretty gray house, high and dry on its green knoll, bright and cheerful-looking, and even with smoke coming out of one chimney. There was not a grate in the house yet; but the carpenters had made a fire under the chimney to heat their glue; and thus it was that this warm domestic token met my eye when I least expected it. Before I had finished my circuit, the wind had subsided; and when I cast my last glance at the knoll, the little column of smoke was as steady as in a summer noon.
AN OLD FABLE NEWLY TRANSLATED.
For Milton*!f fame,
For Dimte'e name, The blockheads all have striven;
The will, if not
The way, they've got To hang their names on heaven.
But if in vain,
They rhyming strain,
And squeeze out feet liy rule*,—
That poets all are fools.
A TALE OF CHICAGO.
BY MAJOR RICHARDSON,
OP "ECAETE," "WACOC8TA," "TIIE CANADIAN BROTHERS," "TECU1I8EB," '.WAR OP 1812," "JACK BRAG IN SPAIn," ETC., ETC.
It was on a beautiful day in the early part of the month 6f April, 1812, that four persons were met in a rude farm-house, situate on the southern branch of the Chicago River, and about four miles distant from the fort of that name. They had just risen from their humble midday meal, and three of them were now lingering near the fire-place, filled with blazing logs, which at that early season diffused a warmth by no means unpleasant, and gave an air of cheerfulness to the interior of the smokediscoloured building.
He who appeared to be the head of the establishment was a tall good-looking man of about forty-five—one who had evidently been long a denizen of the forest; for his bronzed countenance bore traces of care and toil, while his rugged yet well-formed hands conveyed the impression of the unceasing war he had waged against the gigantic trees of this western land. He was dressed in a hunting-frock of gray homespun, reaching about half-way down to his knee, and trimmed with a full fringe of a somewhat darker hue. His trousers were of the same material, and both were girt around his loins by a common belt of black leather fastened by a plain white buckle, into which was thrust a sheath, of black leather also, containing a large knife peculiar to the backwoodsman of that day. His feet were encased in moccasins, and on his head, covered with strong, dark hair, was carelessly donned a slouched hat of common black felt, with several plaited folds of the sweet grass of the adjoining prairie for a band. He was seemingly a man of strong muscular power, while his stern, dark eye denoted firmness and daring.
The elder of the two men, to whom this individual stood evidently in the character of a master, was a short, thick-set person of about fifty, with huge whiskers, that, originally black, had been slightly grizzled by time. His brows were bushy and overhanging, and almost concealed the small and twinkling eyes, which it required the beholder to encounter more than once, before he could decile their true colour to be a dark gray. A blanket coat, that had once been white, but which the action of some half dozen winters had changed into a dirty yellow, enveloped his rather full form, around
which it was confined by a coarse worsted sash of mingled blue and red, thickly studded with minute white beads. His trousers, with broad seams after the fashion of the Indian leggin, were of a dark crimson, approaching to a brickdust colour, and on his feet he wore the stiff shoe pack which, with the bonnet bleu on his grizzled head, and the other parts of his dress already described, attested him to be what he was—a French Canadian. Close at his heels, and moving as he moved, or squatted on his haunches, gazing into the face of his master when stationary, was a large dog of the mongrel breed peculiar to the country, evidently with wolf blood in his veins.
His companion was of a different style of figure and costume. He was a thin, weaklooking man, of middle height, with a complexion and hair that denoted his Saxon origin. Very thin eyebrows, a sharp and rather retroussf nose, and a blue eye in which might be traced an expression half-simple, halfcunning, completed the picture of this personage, whose lank body was encased in an old American uniform of faded blue, so scanty in its proportions that the wrists of the wearer were wholly exposed below the short, narrow sleeves, while the skirts only "shadowed not concealed" that part of the body they had been originally intended to cover. A pair of blue pantaloons, perfectly in keeping, on the score of scantiness and age, with the coat, covered the attenuated lower limbs of the wearer, on whose head moreover was stuck a conical cap, that had all the appearance of having been once a portion of the same military equipment, and had only undergone one change in the loss of its peak. A small black, leather, narrow, ridged stock was clasped around his thin and scarecrow neck, and that so tightly, that it was the wonder of his companions how strangulation had been so long avoided. A dirty and very coarse linen shirt showed itself partially between the bottom of the stock and the uppermost button of the uniform, which was carefully closed; while his feet were protected from the friction of the stiff though nearly worn-out military shoes, by wisps of hay, that supplied the absence of the sock. This man was about five-and-thirty.
The last of this little party was a boy. He was a raw-boned lad of about fourteen years