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Vol. VI. PHILADELPHIA, JUNE, 1850. No. 6.
A YEAR AT AMBLESIDE.
BY HARRIET MARTI NEAU.
Junr 21st: the longest day. Of all days of the year, that the longest should be that on which I must forego my early walk! But there is so much before me to-day, that I must husband my strength. There is the walk to Bowness; and rowing and fishing for the rest of the day. As I throw up the sash at six o'clock, and see how cool the shadows lie under the eastern heights, and how dewy the garden is, it seems a pity that I cannot start off at once, and accomplish the walk before the sun grows too tyrannical. But the mail will not pass for three hours yet; and I must not go without my letters. It does not follow that I must remain within doors. I will gather a glorious bouquet for F. M.
The grass is dewy. What a pity not to mow the two pieces that want it so much,—the plot at the end of the terrace, and that in the quarry! J. brings me the scythe and whetstone, and says she thinks there are green peas enough for a small dish, if I like to carry some to Miss M. So, off she goes to gather them, and such gooseberries as she can find, while I mow my grass. The harebells wave so prettily on the little bank under the oaks, that it grieves me to cut them down; but that slope must be kept sunny and warm; and the grass is too tall. Down they all come! The crisp fall of the grass under the scythe in the dewy morning, is as sweet a sensation as the sweeping sound. There is a heap of fresh food for my tenant's cow; and the quarry will presently yield another. What a sweet place this quarry is,—the honeysuckle climbing up by the jutting roots of the oak, over the face of the rock, and ferns and rook-weeds sprouting out of every
crevice, and heaths tufting the ledges! And what wealth of roses in the parterre in the middle! Few are full blown yet; but nothing is prettier than a bouquet of buds. Ah! J. has left me little to do by the time the mowing is finished. She says there is such a basketfull that, if I please, she must go with me to carry some of my load. Well; she may go half-way. She may go as far as Calgarth. I must call on the L.'s, and we shall have a rest there. And now to breakfast!
Not yet! As I am wiping the scythe at the tool-house door, I see a great commotion in my neighbour W.'s garden; and M. comes to tell me that his bees are swarming with the swarm that we are to have. Our bee-house has long been ready, and the smell of paint quite gone; and now J. is rubbing our new hive with sweet herbs and honey. There it goes, with its clean white cloth; and before I have done breakfast, it is properly placed on its stand in the beehouse, and all alive with inhabitants. I hope they will have a happy life. We have done what we can for them in surrounding them with flowers, and beds of sweet herbs; but there is a better resource for them in the mountain heather. In six weeks' time, Loughrigg will be growing crimson and purple with heather blossom; and it is certain that the bees do stretch their flight that far, and some say, even to the higher slopes of Wansfell,— which is a long flight for them. I wonder bees are not universally kept in such a district. As I have to pay £1 for this swarm, they must be less common than they need be. My hive must swarm well next year, that I may give my maids a stock of bees. It will be a pretty source of interest and of profit to them.
"The mail is in sight, ma'am." Then we may go in five minutes. We must give the H.'s that much time to sort the letters. It is still early enough for pleasure in our walk, we find when we reach the road, and see that the dust is still damped down by the dew. My letters and newspapers are ready for me; and there is no proof-sheet, or other business which need spoil the completeness of my holiday. Here is a whole day to be passed without touching pen, book, or thimble! It now occurs to J. and me that the walk will not be half a mile further, and that it will be much pleasanter, if we leave the highroad, and go up Wansfell, to follow the track through its wood to the lane above Low-wood. It is a toilsome ascent at first,— stony and hot and close; but by the time that we come out upon the brook, a sweet air blows upon us from the lake. We sit down on the low wall above the clear pool, and enjoy the dash of the little fall, and remind each other that for a long way now, our path lies under the trees. Between the trees, as we proceed, noble views open upon us of the two valleys at the head of the lake,—now reeking in the heat of the sun, and the air flickers between our eyes and the pale Langdale Pikes, now standing out clear and sultry, under a sky from which every remnant of mist seems melted away.
At the end of our shaded path there is a gate, and we come out upon the bare heath; but the breeze is more than a match for the sun, and we grow cooler as we advance. Who would have thought of finding a spring and cistern, hung with water-weeds and half hidden by ferns, in such a place as this? It seems more appropriate to some retired lane, than to a bare mountain slope. Now we begin to descend,—into the field, through the paddock, past the old-fashioned farm-house, down and down into Trout-beck lane, and down again into the highroad.
After another mile, we are at Calgarth gate. How could Bishop Watson contrive to be otherwise than happy here? He built the house, he planted the woods, and he blessed the whole neighbourhood by planting the hills around, so that the Calgarth woods are the glory of the district. Is it possible that, in the midst of such privileges, a man and a clergyman should be disturbed and querulous, because he was Bishop of Llandaff, and not Bishop of some higher and richer see? Far happier is the present tenant of the mansion, who desires nothing more than to spend his life in rowing about the lake. It is a pity that he is to succeed to a baronetcy. His station, and its requirements, will be purely embarrassing and
irksome to him. As long as he can carry out his pet theory, that twelve o'clock is the middle of the day, and have his breakfast, with his children round him, at four in the morning, and his dinner at ten, and his supper at five in the afternoon, and be in bed at eight; and hammer away at his boats, and spend all his fair weather on the water, and not be required to wear stock or cravat except at church, he is happy; and, in as far as his inheritance of a baronetcy interferes with all this, it will be a misfortune to him. Here he comes, under the trees, bareheaded, his coat hanging on his arm, his shirt open to the waist, and the sleeves rolled up to the shoulders; his plush pantaloons half-covered with square patches, so clumsy that no tailor could have put them on. It must be a specimen of his own mending. What a good face it is, amidst all this oddity! And what a charming voice and address and tone of conversation! How strangely come such a voice and address from one with such a weather-beaten face, and such a mop of grizzled hair! He told me once that one of the afflictions of his boating-life is, that sounds come so far and so clear as they do over calm water. He hears conversation in boats distant from him half the width of the lake, and sometimes such conversation is about himself;—-about who he is, and where he came from, and what a queer fellow he is. He often has to row himself out of earshot. And F. M. makes the same complaint,—hears herself pointed out as the Lady of the Lake,—a foreign lady, who fishes and shoots, and the like. What could possess the Bishop to build his house down in a hollow, and with its back to the lake? How its pink plastered walls are discoloured by damp; and how much one hears of rheumatism from the inmates! And here, where one would think it hardly possible to get out of the way of a noble view, the front windows command little more than a sloping field!
Here J. may rest herself before returning home; and, as the lady of the house is absent, I ask leave to show J. the portrait of Bishop Watson, and his celebrated library. She never saw so many books in one collection before, and will never again think so much of our library at home. Here come the children! They desire me to go to Bowness by the short cut through their field and the woods, and say they will go with me and carry my basket and bring me out at Hayrigg, within a mile of Bowness. Away we go, therefore, walking between hedges of tall grass, nearly ready for the mowers, and then winding through the woods where the wood-sorrel clusters about the roots of the old oaks, and blue-bells dye all the shadows, while a few daffodils remain in the sunny places. How cool is the pale-green light under the young beeches; and how the white butterflies play about their smooth stems, and follow one another up among the branches! Is this the path,—almost in the water? Yes; but it is firm white shingle, and will not wet our feet. This must be charming after sunset; but the sun beats hot from the lake at present, and we are glad to turn up the ravine behind the boat-house. A steep ascent, beside the tumbling brook, brings us out upon the road.
This u, after all, the finest view in our whole neighbourhood,—from the lofty mountain-peaks in the north, down over the valleys, down over the spreading Calgarth woods, and along the whole lake, from end to end, with all its bays and promontories, and alluvial bottoms, and steep skirting sides, and wooded islands, and seats of the gentry, and farmsteads of the statesmen,—with the white sails of pleasureboats gliding hither and thither, and the plodding steamer seen far off beyond the Ferry House. Is it most beautiful now,—all verdure and gleams and deep shadows,—or as I have seen it in January, when, at sunset, there was a bar of red-hot snow on the ridge of Wansfell, and the islands lay purple in the crimson lake, the Calgarth woods standing so still as that not a single twig let fall its burden of snow? Each season decides in favour of itself.
And now, to Bowness! After passing the hotel and shops, I must take my way through the churchyard, for the sake of the old yews and firs, all garlanded with ivy. I know of no churchyard more distinguished by its growth of funereal trees, and their black shade is eminently weleome on a hot day like this. The square tower and long nave of the church seem to tell of its age. So this is one of the good works of the supposed murderer, King Richard III.! In 1485 he granted a warrant for five marks (£3 Gs. Sil.) towards building this church, and its style is Norman accordingly. Now, a few yards more from the gate under the yews, past the great ash, which is the advertising station of Bowness (how its trunk is stuck over with handbills!), and I am at my friend's door. There is Carlo's bark! He and his mistress are on the watch for me.
There is claret and water on the table. While I am resting and refreshing, we lay our scheme for the day. I meant to call at the parsonage, where one may always hear something of Mrs. Hemans (who was guide and friend to the curate in his youth), and where I love to see the most old-fashioned parsonage I know of; and I wished to pay my respects to the aged daughters of Bishop Watson, who are curious and interesting specimens of the literary ladies of the last century, of whom we have very few left: but F. M. tells me I shall not go to-day. It is too hot, and
both houses are too far off; I must come another day for these purposes. One visit, however, she does not oppose my making, but flushes with pleasure at the proposal;—to her landlord's shed, to see how her new boat gets on. It is just at hand, and a cool place. So we go, after desiring to have dinner at two o'clock. Carlo runs before us, to see the curious boat in which he will have to sit so still, that he may not turn his mistress and himself over into the water. It is a curiosity —this new boat,—of mahogany, thirty-three feet long, and only twenty-six inches wide in the middle. It will be a pretty sight—the shooting of this arrow-like skiff over the smooth lake,—with the one graceful rower and her demure friend Carlo seated in front of her. She vows I shall never set foot in it. She is not a whit afraid for herself; but she will admit no one but Carlo into so nicely balanced an affair. What grace there is in her freedom of action [ Who would have thought of boatbuilding being a graceful operation? Yet now, when she cannot hold her hand off the work, how beautifully she uses the hammer, and rapidly makes a row of copper-headed nails shine along the side!
While waiting for dinner, and having taken note of any new fishing-rod, boat-model, or fowling-piece hung against the wall, or any new miniature of my friend's painting, or workbox of her construction, I get her to give me the literal English of some passages of Humboldt's Kosmos, which seem to me wrongly rendered in all our published translations. She confirms me, and I am truly glad; for it is painful to suppose Humboldt inconsistent with himself, or timidly complying with popular prejudice. Meantime, Carlo waits upon us,— opens or shuts the door, rings the bell, and even sings when desired, or when bribed by a mouthful of our dinner. Was ever anything more ridiculous than a handsome dog on his hind legs, looking up to the ceiling, and modulating his whine and howl into a doleful song? Dinner done, and the young peas much praised, down we go to the boat, not to return till, perhaps, midnight; and, therefore, carrying with us biscuits, a bottle of claret, and glasses. F. M. takes the oars first, as I shall have my turn by-and-by. We wander for an hour down and across the lake, visiting particular points of view,—passing Storr's Hall, putting in near the Ferry, and then betaking ourselves to the shades of Curwen's Island, till the sun shall have sunk lower. And what could we do better than moor our boat in this little cool cove, where the birch and ash hang over almost into the water? In such a place as this it was that Wordsworth, being hoaxed by a wag, accosted my friend in a way which somewhat astonished her. Having been assured that she was a gipsy, he naturally felt some curiosity about her; and, one hot day, when she was lying at the bottom of her boat reading, in one of these coves, he came up, and asked questions about her origin and supposed wanderings. Her replies did not remove his fixed impression; and it was with extreme surprise that he soon after met and recognised her in an evening party.
The hours slip away as we lie couched among the ferns, reading our newspapers, or amusing each other by narratives of our wide travels. If F. M. tells me of the Pyrenees or the Danube, I tell her of the Mississippi, or Pharpar and Abana, the rivers of Damascus, or of adventures in Nubia. And then we walk round the island, which is a mile in circuit, or play duck and drake from the white pebbly beaches, on the still waters. At length, we agree that the shadows are deep enough under the wooded steep to the west; and, as in another hour it will be moonlight, we may now set about our fishing.
Carlo looks on demurely while F. M. arranges her lines, and I take charge of the oars. We first go under the western shore, and float among the islands, where we have the waters pretty much to ourselves. For two hours we hardly speak. I row gently, dipping as softly as I may; and F. M. starts with delight at 'pull at her trolling lines. It is not with
BY EDITH MAY.
Since we know her for an angel,
Bearing meek the common load, Let us call bur Theodora.
Gift of God I
Still so young, that every summer
Is a rose upon her brow,
She is vory slight, and graceful
As the bending of a fern;
In her eyes aro tranquil shadows
If you speak, the slow returning
Of her spirit from afar
No one marvels at her beauty;
Blended with a perfect whole, Beauty seems the just expression Of her soul.
For her lightest word, or fancy,
Unarrayed for human ear, Might be echoed by an angel
Be a theme however homely,
It is glorious at her will.
By a master's skill.
And her words, severely simple,
As a drapery Grecian-wrought, Show the clear, symmetric outline Of ber thought.
To disguise her limbs with grandeur,
Would seem strange as to dispose Gold and velvet round a statue's Pale repose.
But a robe of simplest texture
Should be gathered to her throat. And her rippled locks, part braided. Part afloat.
While a pendent spray of lilies
In their folds should be arrayed. Or a waxen white camelia