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But let us add that the true Scotland, for which he lived and sang, never slighted and never has forgotten her poet. She gave him an education such as a prince might have been glad of, and many a delightsome hour by Ayr and Nith, and in the breezy wholesome fields. And so long as he was in her safe keeping he was happy, and strong, and spotless, a very model of poetic life and joy and freedom. She has given him a grave besides, and many a tear which would have kept it green, but for the senseless blocks of stone with which it has been heaped over. And wherever the common people from whom he sprang, whom he loved and understood and made known to the world — wherever they meet they sing his songs, they speak his language, they hold his name dear. It is all they ever could do for him. And the others — built his monument. It was late, but it was handsome, or so at least the taste of the time thought. And what more would a Poet have 7
From Macmillan's Magazine. THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A PHAETON.
BY WILLIAM BLACK. AUTHOR OF “A DAUGHTER of HETH,” ETC.
CHAPTER V. QUEEN TITANIA AFLOAT.
“Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen
At length we hit upon one thing that Count von Rosen could not do. When we had wandered down to the side of the Thames, just by Maidenhead Bridge, and opposite the fine old houses, and smooth lawns, and green banks that stand on the other margin of the broad and shallow river, we discovered that the Lieutenant was of no use in a boat. And so, as the young folks would have us go up under the shadows of the leafy hills of Cliefden, there was nothing for it but that Tita and I should resort to the habits of earlier years, and show a later generation how to feather an oar with skill and dexterity. As Queen Titania stood by the boathouse, pulling off her gloves with economic forethought, and looking rather pensively at the landing-place and the boats and the water, she suddenly said –
“Is not this like long ago?" “You talk like an old woman, Tita,” says one of the party. “And yet your eyes are as pretty as they were a dozen years ago, when you used to walk along the beach at Eastbourne, and cry because you were afraid of becoming the mistress of a house. And now the house has been too much for you; and you are full of confused facts, and unintelligible figures, and petty anxieties, until your responsibilities have hidden away the old tenderness of your look, except at such a moment as this when you forget yourself. Tita, do you remember who pricked her finger to sign a document in her own blood, when she was only a school-girl, and who produced it years afterwards with something of a shamefaced pride 2" “Stuff!” says Tita, angrily, but blushing dreadfully all the same ; and so, with a frown and an imperious manner, she stepped down to the margin of the river. Now mark this circumstance. In the old days of which my Lady was then thinking, she used to be very well content with pulling bow-oar when we two used to go out in the evenings. Now, when the Lieutenant and Bell had been comfortably placed in the stern, Tita daintily stepped into the boat and sat down quite naturally to pull stroke. She made no apology. She took the place as if it were hers by right. Such are the changes which a few years of married life produce, So Bell pulled the white tiller-ropes over her shoulder, and we glided out and up the glassy stream, into that world of greenness and soft sounds and sweet odours that lay all around. Already something of Bell's prophecy was likely to come true; for the clouds were perceptibly growing thinner overhead, and a diffused yellow light falling from no particular place seemed to dwell over the hanging woods of Cliefden. It gave a new look, too, to the smooth river, to the rounded elms and tall poplars on the banks and the long aits beyond the bridge, where the swans were sailing close in by the reeds. We had got but a short way up the river' when our coxswain, without a word of warning, shot us into a half-submerged forest that seemed to hide from us a lake on the other side. Tita had so little time to ship her oar that no protest was possible; and then the Lieutenant catching hold of the branches pulled us through the narrow channel, and lo! we were in a still piece of water, with a smooth curve of the river-bank on one side and a long island on the other, and with a pretty little house looking quietly down at us over this inland sea. We were still in the Thames; but this house seemed so entirely to have become owner of the charming landscape around and its stretch of water in front, that Bell asked in a hurry how we could get away. Tita, being still a little indignant answered not, but put her oar into the outrigger again, and commenced pulling. And then our coxswain, who was not so familiar with the tricks of the Thames at Maidenhead as some of us, discovered a
north-west passage by which it was pos
sible to return into the main channel of the stream, and we continued our voyage. When, at length, we had got past the picturesque old mill, and reached the sea of tumbling white water that came rushing down from the weir; it seemed as though the sky had entered into a compact with Bell to fulfil her predictions. For as we lay and rocked in the surge — watching the long level line of foam come tumbling over in spouts, and jets, and white masses, listening to the roar of the fall, and regarding the swirling circles of white bells that swept away downward on the stream — there appeared in the west, just over the line of the weir, a parallel line of dark blood-red. It was but a streak as yet; but presently it widened and grew more intense — a great glow of crimson colour came shining forth — and it seemed as if all the western heavens, just over that line of white foam, were becoming a mass of fire. Bell's transformation-scene was positively blinding; and the bewilderment of the splendid colours was not lessened by the roar of the tumbling river, that seemed strangely wild in the stillness of the evening. But when we turned to drop quietly down stream, the scene around was so lovely that Queen Titania had no heart to pull away from it. For now the hanging woods of beach and birch and oak had caught a glow of the sunset along, their masses of yellow and green, and the broad stream had the purple of its glassy sweeps dashed here and there with red, and in the far east a reflected tinge of pink mingled with the cold green, and lay soft and pure and clear over the low woods, and the river, and the bridge. As if by magic, the world had grown suddenly light, etherial, and full of beautiful colours; and
pearly edges, and a touch of scarlet and gold along their western side.
“What a drive we shall have this evening !” cried Bell. “It will be a clear night when we get to Henley, and there will be stars, over the river, and perhaps a moon, who knows?” “I thought you would have moon, mademoiselle,” said the Lieutenant, gravely. “You have done very well for us this evening — oh! very well indeed. I have not seen any such beautiful picture for many years. , You did very well to keep a dark day all day, and make us tired of cold colours and green trees; and then you surprise us by this picture of magic – oh! it is very well done.” “All that it wants,” said Bell. with a critical eye, “is a little woman in a scarlet shawl under the trees there, and over the green of the rushes— one of those nice fat little women who always wear bright shawls just to please landscape-painters — making a little blob of strong colour, you know, just like a ladybird among green moss. Do you know, I am quite grateful to a pleasant little country woman when she dresses herself ridiculously merely to make a landscape look fine; and how can you laugh at her when she comes near 2 I sometimes think that she wears those colours, especially those in her bonnet, out of mere modesty. She does not know what will please you — she puts in a little of everything to give you a choice. She holds up to you a whole bouquet of flowers, and says, “Please, miss, do you like blue? — for here is corn-cockle ; or red? — for here are poppies; or yellow * – for here are rock-roses." She is like Perdita, you know, going about with an armful of blossoms, and giving to everyone what she thinks will please them.” “My dear,” said Tita, “you are too generous; I am afraid the woman wears those things out of vanity. She does not know what colour suits her complexion best, and so wears a variety, quite sure that one of them must be the right one. And there are plenty of women in town, as well as in the country, who do that too.” “I hope you don't mean me,” said Bell, contritely, as she leant her arm over the side of the boat, and dipped the tips of her fingers into the glassy stream. But if we were to get to Henley that night, there was no time for lingering longer about that bend by the river, with its islands, and mills and woods. That great burst of colour in the west had been
the clouds that still remained overhead the expiring effort of the sun; and when
we got back to the inn, there was nothing left in the sky but the last golden and crimson traces of his going down. The river was becoming grey, and the Cliefden woods were preparing for the night by drawing over themselves a thin veil of mist, which rendered them distant and shadowy, as they lay under the lambent sky. The phaeton was at the door; our bill paid; an extra shawl got out of the Imerial — although, in that operation, the ieutenant nearly succeeded in smashing Bell's guitar. “It will be dark before we get to Henley,” says Tita. “Yes,” I answer obediently. “And we are going now by cross-roads,” she remarks. “The road is a very good one,” I venture to reply. “But still it is a cross-road,” she says. “Very well, then, my dear,” I say, wondering what the little woman is after. “You must drive,” she continues, “for none of us know the road.” “Yes, m’m, please m'm : any more orders ?” “Oh, Bell,” says my Lady, with a gracious air (she can change the expression of her face in a second), “would you mind taking Count von Rosen under your charge until we get to Henley I am afraid it will take both of us to find the road in the dark.” “No, I will take you under my charge, mademoiselle,” said the Lieutenant, frankly, and there with he helped Bell into the phaeton, and followed himself. The consequence of this little arrangement was that while Tita and I were in front, the young folks were behind; and no sooner had we started from the inn, got across the bridge, and were going down the road towards the village of Maidenhead proper, than Titania says, in a very low voice — “Do you know, my dear, our pulling together in that boat quite brought back old times; and — and — and I wanted to be sitting up here beside you for a while, just to recall the old, old drives we used to have. you know, about here, and Henley, and Reading. How long ago is it, do you think 2" That wife of mine is a wonderful creature. You would have thought she was as innocent as a lamb when she uttered these words, looking up with a world of sincerity and pathos in the big, clear, earnest brown eyes. And the courage of the small creature, too, who thought she could deceive her husband by this open, transparent, audacious piece of hypocrisy
“Madam,” I said, with some care that the young folks should not overhear, “your tenderness overwhelms me.” “What do you mean *" she says, suddenly becoming as cold and as rigid as Lot's wife after the accident happened. “Perhaps,” I ventured to suggest, “you would like to have the hood up, and so leave them quite alone o Our presence must be very embarrassing.” “You are insulting Bell in saying such things,” she says warmly, “ or perhaps it is that you would rather have her for a companion than your own wife.” “Well, to tell you the truth, I would.” “She shall not sit by the Lieutenant again.” “I hone you don't mean to strangle her. We should arrive in Edinburgh in a sort of unicorn-fashion.” Tita relapsed into a dignified silence — that is always the way with her when she has been found out; but she was probably satisfied by hearing the Count and Bell chatting very briskly together, thus testifying to the success of her petty stratagem. It was a pleasant drive, on that quiet evening, from Maidenhead across the wild, untenanted country that lies within the great curve of the Thames. Instead of turning off at the corner of Stubbing's Heath, and so getting into the road that runs by Hurley Bottom, we held straight on towards Wargrave, so as to have the last part of the journey lead us up by the side of the river. So still it was The road led through undulating stretches of common and past the edges of silent woods, while the sky was becoming pale and beautiful overhead, and the heights on the northern horizon — between Cookham and Hurley — were growing more and more visionary in the dusk. Sometimes, but rarely, we met a solitary wanderer coming along through the twilight, and a gruff “good-night" greeted us; but for the most part there seemed no life in this lonely part of the country, where rabbits ran across the road in front of us, and the last rooks that flew by in the dusk seemed hastening on to the neighbourhood of some distant village. It was a mild, fresh evening, with the air still damp and odorous after the rain ; but overhead the sky still remained clear, and here and there, in the partings of the thin cloud, a pale star or planet had become faintly visible. At last we got down into the village of Wargrave, and then it was nearly dark. There were a few people, mostly women, standing at the doors of the cottages; and
here and there a ray of yellow light gleamed out from a small window. As we struck into the road that runs parallel with the Thames, there were men coming home from their work; and their talk was heard at a great distance in the stillness of the night. “How far are we from Henley 7" said Bell. “Are you anxious to get there?” replied Queen Titania, smiling quite benignly. “No,” said Bell, “this is so pleasant that I should like to go driving on until midnight, and we could see the moon coming through the trees.” “You have to consider the horses,” said the Lieutenant bluntly. “If you do tire them too much on the first days, they will not go so long a journey. But yet we are some way off. I suppose ; and if mademoiselle will sing something for us, I will get out the guitar." “You’d better get down and light the lamps, rather,” I remark to those indolent young people; whereupon the Count was instantly in the road, striking wax matches, and making use of curious expressions that seemed chiefly to consist of g’s ard r’s. So, with the lamps flaring down the dark road, we rolled along the highway that here skirts the side of a series of heights looking down into the Thames. Sometimes we could see a grey glimmer of the river beneath us through the trees; at other times the road took us down close to the side of the water, and Castor got an opportunity of making a playful little shy or two; but for the most part we drove through dense woods, that completely shut off the starlight overhead. More than once, indeed, we came to a steep descent that was buried in such total darkness that the Lieutenant jumped down and took the horses' heads, lest some unlucky step or stumble should throw us into the river. So far as we could make out, however, there was a sufficient wall on the side of the highway next the stream — a rough old wall, covered with plants and moss, that ran along the high and wooded bank. Suddenly Bell uttered a cry of delight. We had come to a cleft in the glade which showed us the river running by some sixty feet beneath us, and on the surface of the water the young crescent of the moon was clearly mirrored. There was not enough moonlight to pierce the trees, or even to drown the pale light of the stars; but the sharp disc of silvo, as it glimmered on the water, was sufficiently beau
tiful, and contained in itself the promise of many a lovely night. “It has begun the journey with us,” said Bell. “It is a young moon ; it will go with us all the month; and we shall see it on the Severn, and on Windermere, and on the Solway, and on the Tweed. Didn't I promise you all a moon, sooner or later? And there it is " | “. It does not do us much good, Bell,” said the driver, ruefully, the very horses seeming afraid to plunge into the gulfs of darkness that were spectrally peered into by the light of the lamps. “The moon is not for use,” said Bell, “it is for magic ; and once we have got to Henley, and put the horses up, and gone out again to the river, you shall all stand back, and watch in a corner, and let Queen Titania go forward to summon the fairies. And as you listen in the dark, you will hear a little crackling and rustling along the opposite shore, and you will see small blue lights come out from the banks, and small boats, with a glowworm at their prow, come out into the stream. And then from the boats, and from all the fields near – where the mist of the river lies at night — you will see wonderful small men and women of radiant blue flame come forward, and there will be a strange sound like music in the trees, and the river itself will begin to say, in a kind of laugh, “Titania, Titania / you have been so long away — years and years — looking after servants, and the schooling of boys, and the temper of a fractious husband * > * “Bell, you are impertinent.” “There are true words spoken in jest, sometimes,” says Tita, with a dainty malice. “Your bearing-rein in England is a cruelty to the horse — you must take it away to-morrow,” said the Lieutenant; and this continuation of a practical subject recalled these scapegraces from their jibes. Here the road took us down by a gradual dip to the river again, and for the last mile before reaching our destination we had a pleasant and rapid run along the side of the stream. Then the lights of Henley were seen to glimmer before us; we crossed over the bridge, and swerving round to the right drove into the archway of the “Red Lion.” “No, Sir,” remarked Dr. Johnson to Mr. Boswell, “there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” He then repeated, with great emotion, we are told, Shenstone's lines –
“Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round, Where'er his stages may have been, May sigh to think he still has found The warmest welcome at an inn.” And Mr. Boswell goes on to say: “We happened to lie this night at the inn at Henley, where Shenstone wrote these lines.” Now, surely, if ever belated travellers had reason to expect a cordial welsome, it was we four as we drove into the famous hostelry which had awakened enthusiasm in the poets and lexicographers of bygone days. But as Castor and Pollux stood under the archway, looking into the great dark yard before them, and as we gazed round in vain for the appearance of any waiter or other official, it occurred to Tita that the Bell Inn must have changed hands since Shenstone's time. Where was our comfortable welcome * A bewildered maid-servant came out to stare at our phaeton with some alarm. Plaintive howls for the ostler produced a lad from the darkness of the stables, who told us that the ostler was away somewhere. Another maid-servant came out, and also looked alarmed. The present writer, fearing that Tony Lumpkin, transformed into an invisible spirit, had played him a trick, humbly begged this young woman to say whether he had driven by mistake into a private house. The young person looked afraid. “My good girl,” says Tita, with a gracious condescension, “will you tell us if this is the Bell Inn " “Yes, 'm ; of course, 'm 7” “And can we stay here to-night?” “I’ll bring the waiter, ma'am, directly.” Meanwhile the Lieutenant had got down, and was fuming about the yard to rout out the ostler's assistants, or some people who could put up the horses. He managed to unearth no fewer than three men, whom he bronght in a gang. He was evidently determined not to form his grooming of the horses at Twickenham into a precedent. At last there came a waiter, looking rather sleepy and a trifle helpless; whereupon my Lady and Bell departed into the inn, and left the luggage to be sent after them. There appeared to be no one inside the house. The gases were lit in the spacious coffee-room ; some rugs and bags were brought in and placed on the tables; and then Tita and her companion, not daring to remove their bonnets, sat down in arm-chairs and stared at each other. “I fly from pomp, I fly from plate; I fly from falsehood's specious grin; But risk a ten times worser fate In choosing lodgiugs at an inn; ”
—this was what Bell repeated, in a gentle voice, on the very spot that is sacred to
the memory of Shenstone's satisfaction.
I requested the young man in the white tie to assign some reason for this state of affairs; and his answer was immediately forthcoming. There had been a regatta a few days before. The excitement in the small town, and more especially in the Bell, had been dreadful. Now a reaction had set in ; Henley and the Bell were alike deserted; and we were the victims of a collapse. I complimented the waiter on his philosophical acumen, and went ont to see what had befallen Count von Rosen and the horses. I found him standing in a stable that was dimly lighted by a solitary candle stuck against the wall, superintending the somewhat amateurish operations of the man who had undertaken to supply the ostler's place. The Lieutenant had evidently not been hectoring his companions; on the contrary, he was on rather good terms with them, and was making inquiries about the familiar English names for chopped hay and other luxuries of the stable. He was examining the corn, too, and pronouncing opinion on the split beans which he had ordered. On the whole, he was pleased with the place; although he expressed surprise that the ostler of so big an inn should be absent. When, at length, we had seen each of the horses supplied with an ample feed, fresh straw, and plenty of hay, the men were turned out and the stable-door locked. He allowed them on this occasion to retain the key. As we crossed the yard, a rotund, frank, cheery-looking man appeared, who was presumably the ostler. He made a remark or two ; but the nightair was chill. “Now,” said Von Rosen, when we got into the big parlour, “we have to make ourselves pleasant and comfortable. I do think we must all drink whisky. For myself I do not like the taste very much ; but it looks very comfortable to see some people with steaming glasses before them. And I have brought out mademoiselle's guitar, and she will sing us some songs.” “But you must also,” says Bell looking down. “Oh, a hundred l a thousand l as many as you likel" he said; and then, with a sort of sigh, he took his cigar-case out of his pocket and laid it pathetically on the mantlepiece. There was an air of renunciation in his face. Forth with he rang the bell; and the waiter was asked to
bring us certain liquors which, although