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on crops and kine, when a startling rap was heard at the door, and in a few moments a stranger soiled with travel, and bearing in his hand a small carpet-bag, was before them.
“I hope, mistress,” said he to the hostess who opened the door, "you can accommodate me with a bed to-night ?”
The landlady did not on the instant vouchsafe a reply, as if, forsooth, she nurtured certain misgivings as to the desirableness of entertaining so strange a visitor at so late an hour. At length, however, after a more thorough scrutiny of his person, she answered in the affirmative, and the traveller, after depositing his carpet-bag in the window-sill, drew a chair to the fire, and by way of introduction to those already seated, he volunteered some trifling observation on the weather, bristled up his hair, rubbed his hands, and assumed an expression of homely good humour.
“ 'Tis a lonely walk for a stranger, and in the dark, from the De Bohun Arms to this village," observed the wayfarer after a short pause.
Farmer Fallow, whose eyes had been constantly fixed on the stranger since he entered, nodded assent, and the Gamaliel enunciated a monosyllabic affirmative, then vigirously puffed forth huge volumes of smoke; which writhed themselves into all possible contortions as they dissolvingly ascended.
“Having come a long journey, I shall be glad of some refreshment,” said he to the landlady; "anything you chance to have in the house, I am not particular; a sharp appetite they say is the best sauce, and that I certainly happen to have.”
Fallow gave a faint smile, and his companion at that precise moment puffed out such a cloud that his features were obscured, but it could just be seen that he faintly smiled too. In due course of time the repast was placed on the table, and it is but just to the traveller, in this relation to state, that he did ample justice to the viands before him. The two villagers ever and anon cast furtive glances at the stranger, and only wondered how a pale-faced person of his stomachic dimensions could possibly stow away so much provender. Ere he had finished his supper, the trio were less reserved, the villagers became more communicative, and before long the conversation in no wise flagged. When the replete traveller turned his chair once more to the hearth, various topics were hit upon; he took up a six-days’old newspaper, stained with beer and soiled with agricultural thumbs, and cast his eye on the parliamentary summary.
Certain measures on the tapis were briefly discussed, and on his happening to observe that he was acquainted with the late Mr. Pitt, and call Sheridan in the familiar diminutive of “my friend, Old Sherry," the Elleringaytonians stared, and almost fancied the gentleman in their presence some eccentric M.P., who was taking a tour for agricultural information.
“Depend upon it gentlemen,” said he, “this country, after all, possesses more security and more happiness than any kingdom under the sun. Every man can respire the air of freedom, and sit under his own fig-tree in peace. Look at the laws of England; why, gentlemen,
they are of no mushrom growth, many of them descend from the Great Alfred himself, and they were moddled on the codes of antiquity, Our trial by jury, habeas corpus act, representative government, freedom of press,
aná a thousand other glorious advantages, conduce in no slight degree to make men naturally great, greater still. In what country, gentlemen, will you find a legislature so desirous of framing laws to suit the exigencies of every class ? For some years I have had the honour of being connected with these legislative decisions, and I must confess the more I have studied recent enactments, the more I have been struck with the consummate wisdom in their framing. Recollect it is the unwearied endeavour of your representatives to pass laws containing the greatest possible amount of freedom compatible with the safety and independence of the country.”
Farmer Fallow gave an asking look to his more learned friend the dominie as if to enquire what were his opinions of the stranger, who indeed talked so glibly on these matters, that he began to fancy they had the honour of being in the presence of some great personage. A little self-interest creeping into the breast of worthy Fallow, he, in a deferential tone, asked the unknown what he thought relative to landed interest.
“ Farming, my good man,” replied the wayfarer patronizingly, as his acuteness at once perceived, that he was now regarded as an individual of some degree of importance; “farming, my good man, must in this country always be a staple occupation. England, recollect, is essentially an agricultural-corn growing, beef and mutton growing country, -and to the end of time the glebe will be tilled, and the valleys be pastured. They may, it is true, erect spinning-jennies, and blacken the air with polluting smoke, cotton
may ape their betters, and so-called enterprise convert quiet respectable provincial towns into workshops and morally debasing factories; but depend upon it, Sir, the respectability and the reliance of this country are mainly based upon the broad shoulders of the British yeomen; that very peculair class, Sir, which has not its analogy in any other