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Among English Inns
THE QUEEN'S ARMS
THE steamer that goes between Havre and Southampton was just rounding the Isle of Wight, when three dejected-looking young women stepped out of a deck cabin into the clear air of the July morning. They had survived and endured with bitter complaints one of those noted passages which the English Channel has the monopoly.
The waves had dashed furiously all night long against the small ship; it had groaned and shivered in response, and these three women had groaned and shivered in concert with each creaking timber.
They had denied themselves the pleasure of longer wanderings in lovely France for the sake of a short tour through rural England. My persuasive tongue it was which had brought them to this decision and over the rough waters of the Channel. I had therefore not only suffered with seasickness myself through all the wild night, but had joined to physical pain the mental agonies of responsibility and remorse. The bright sun now above, smooth water around, and green land within sight dispelled regrets and reproaches; we met with smiling faces.
"Here comes Polly, as fresh and rosy as the morn," exclaimed the chief Invalid, as the youngest of our quartette appeared smiling at the gangway door.
"She must get us some coffee."
"She can't," answered the blooming Polly. "There is neither tea nor coffee fit to drink on board. I have tried both. A jovial old Englishman suggested beer, but as I did not wish to spoil my record as a good sailor, I declined that morning beverage."
"Here are some tablets of chocolate, one for each."
I had forgotten in my despairing mood that I had wisely provided food for this very emergency.
"Must all these other poor seasick creatures travel to London without food?" sighed the sympathetic Invalid. The Southampton docks being now within sight, we lost interest in everything but the business of landing. We seized our bags and left the boat as rapidly as possible.
Pennies liberally distributed, and the simple formalities of the English Customs passed, we crossed the dockyard and turned down the street toward the Great South Western Hotel, and breakfast! Our normal appetites had returned with increased vigour after we felt firm ground beneath our feet. We were followed on our way by our small luggage, piled upon a hand-cart and drawn by a red-headed porter.
Breakfast soon waited our pleasure in the sunny dining-room. Toasted muffins, hot coffee, marmalade, and all the various accessories of that most comfortable English meal, while the proprietor of the hand-cart went away murmuring because, having demanded three shillings, Polly gave him but half that amount, – quite enough for his service. Such encounters are sport for Polly. We have constituted her Treasurer and Financier-in-chief of the party. She proved so able in France, that we have voted unanimously to continue her in office on our present journey. To speak truly, she alone of the entire quartette does not consider arithmetic simply a matter of fingers.
The cheery breakfast so completely restored the entire party that the Invalid and the Matron began to make anxious inquiry about our immediate destination. "Just take us where you like, and surprise us," both the Invalid and the Matron had entreated when they constituted me guide of the party, and now two cups of coffee had excited them to indiscreet curiosity.
The Matron, be it told right here, is not so venerable as the name would imply. She is young, but owes her title to the possession of a husband. He is concealed somewhere in the mazes of the United States, engaged in the most fascinating sport of money-making, while she assumes, as a consequence of his existence, a dignity we spinsters do not presume to imitate. She also has an excuse to retire and write letters to the absent gentleman whenever she feels bored in our society.
"You promised to ask no questions," says my lieutenant, the Treasurer. "The tickets are in my pocket, the luggage is labelled, and the train will be ready in half an hour to bear us away to Alton, where we are to take carriage for Selborne."
"Gilbert White's Selborne?" inquires the Invalid, in a whisper. Before any one bothers to answer, we are rolling away from Southampton, past Winchester, to Alton. The Treasurer puts us into third-class carriages; she insists that two cents a mile is quite all we can pay. The Invalid and the Matron felt at first inclined to rebel at the economy, but finding third-class so much better than they expected, they spend half the time of the journey talking about it.
One of the eccentricities of the British railway system is the aversion the officials display to calling out the name of a station. At the extreme end of each small platform, hidden among brilliant invitations to "Use Pear's Soap " or "Take Beecham's Pills," the name of the town is shyly concealed by a modest gray sign. My party almost refused to follow me, when I began to pull down the bags at Alton.
"How do you know where we are?" asked the Matron.
There was no time to explain, so I bundled her on to the platform and quieted her fears by introducing her to the host of the Queen's Arms, who sat on the box of his wagonette waiting to drive us to Selborne. We had sent him a telegram from Winchester.
The town of Alton saves itself from hopeless dulness only by the pretty curve its High Street describes. I have read somewhere that Mrs. Gaskell was building a house in Alton when she died, yet the place itself possesses no visible attractions. A barrel-bodied, piebald horse, mounted on a rolling platform by four sticks of legs, and hanging in a most perilous and unnatural position outside a quaint shop, excited the Matron so profoundly that she vowed that Alton was a veritable picture-book town, but her imagination is broad.
Alton, situated in the centre of a hop-growing region, is a brewing town. The solemn brick Georgian houses look comfortable and ugly. Public houses, mere drinking-places, supply all the picturesque element by their names: the French Horn, the Hop Poles, the Jug of Ale, and the pretentious Star, "patronized by Royalty."
The green once passed, and the homely little town behind us, we become aware of the charm which induced Mrs. Gaskell to choose Alton as a dwelling-place. The road branches where we leave the last houses; one way leads us over low hills to our destination, the other is a shaded road to Chawton, where lived Jane Austen's brother, who inherited the manor-house, and the cottage in which that gentle authoress spent the last years of her life.
Over the hills and far away goes the road to Selborne, past fields where festoons of the hop-vines make bowers of green. The highway winds up and down for five miles through copse and farm lands. We see noisy rooks gleaning the fields, and men ploughing with oxen; these last a rare sight in England. From the high points of the road we look down into the sunny valley on the little village of Chawton, and see the noonday smoke rising from the cottages. At the top of the last steep hill on our drive, the long, low ridge before us is pointed out to us as the "Hanger," and nestling at its base lies the village of Selborne.
None of the party, excepting the writer, has ever before seen an English village inn. They are at first inclined to be disappointed because "The Queen's Arms" does not more exactly resemble the comic opera counterfeit. When the bedrooms are assigned us, the Matron discovers we fill the house.
"A whole inn to ourselves! Could anything be more perfect!"
We reach our bedrooms and our long narrow sitting-room by an antiquated staircase, shut off with a door at the bottom from the neat old-fashioned bar. At the "Queen's Arms" the bar, true to its name, is a broad shelf of wood, lifted or put down at the will of the innkeeper's pretty daughter, when she serves cider, or more potent drinks, to thirsty customers. To be invited into the family parlour, behind the bar, is the privilege of only the chosen few.
Our private stairway is decorated with stuffed birds and porcelain tableware, all brilliant in colour but more or less dilapidated by age and use. Our sitting-room possesses as an object of luxury a grand piano, dating from the very earliest days of grand pianos. Like many ancient singers, both its voice and most of its teeth are gone, but, unlike a prima donna, its exterior has grown more beautiful with each passing decade. The old French mahogany case is a joy to the artistic eye. The mantel ornaments are frankly from Birmingham, and bear the stamp of the peddler's pack; all ugly and useless. The pictures evidently came from the same source many years ago. A hideous coloured landscape and an impossible Joan of Arc disfigure the quaint, venerable walls, but the lattice window opens wide on a scene so lovely that the interior of the room is forgotten.
Behind the diamond panes a gay flower-garden stretches away to broad fields, and past these are the dark beech-trees in the long, narrow valley of the Lythe.
Our travel-stimulated appetites do full justice when lunch appears. It consists of chops, new potatoes, and gooseberry tart, an excellent specimen of many of the same kind which we are destined to consume before our trip comes to an end.
"The sweet simplicity of English cooking probably had its origin when salt was highly taxed," observed Polly with solemnity, as she emptied the salt-cellar on her plate.
"We did not come here to criticize the food," interposed the Invalid, sternly. "Still, salt is a healthy condiment; you might ring for some more." Polly has not left a single grain in the diminutive glass dish.
The village of Selborne has but a single street which is honoured with a name, Gracious Street. It is now little better than a deep, shady lane, which skirts the park of that comfortable small estate where, more than a century ago, lived Gilbert White, the naturalist, the genial writer of those graceful letters which delight the reader of "The Natural History of Selborne." In the time of Gilbert White, Gracious Street was the road through Chawton to Alton. It was then even more of a lane than it is to-day, and Selborne a nearly inaccessible hamlet.
The main village street, on which stands our inn, boasts no name, yet it is lovely to look upon. It is lined with thatched-roofed cottages in raised gardens that blush with roses and bright-faced flowers. Vines climb over the white-curtained casements, in which stand pots of gay blooming plants, and each cottage door is closed by a bar. This is done to keep the little toddlers we see peeping out curiously from tumbling among the carefully tended garden-beds. A bird-cage well out of the reach of the family cat hangs on nearly every cottage wall, with finches chirruping gaily in their wicker prisons.
The ancient church dominates the entire village. The square, squat Norman tower is shaded by a huge yew-tree, reported to be a thousand years old; its dense foliage and wide-spreading branches almost hide the body of the church. Near the church is the vicarage. The old house in which Gilbert White was born has been replaced by a modern dwelling, but the lovely garden where he took his first steps among the flowers still thrives and flourishes under the watchful care of the present vicar, Mr. Kaye. The yew-hedge, planted over two hundred and fifty years ago, is now a superb wall of green, and beyond its impenetrable foliage lies the churchyard. In a nook made by an angle in the transept wall is the grave of Gilbert White. A worn stone, in which are roughly carved the letters "G. W.," marks his last resting-place. He was born in 1720; his grandfather was vicar of Selborne at that time. Here in the vicarage he was at home until he entered Oriel College at Oxford, and here he returned before taking up his residence at The Wakes and assuming the duties of curate at Faringdon. While the colonies in America were fighting the mother country, and France her royalty, Gilbert White, in a village nearly cut off from the world by bad roads, was writing of the insect world to his friends. In 1776, he is more interested in a cat who has mothered a leveret than in the Declaration of Independence. In 1793, when royal heads are falling across the Channel, he writes chiefly of sand-martins and their young.
Since the death of Gilbert White there have been some additions to his home by later owners, but the new building has all been done in the spirit of the original dwelling. The comfortable modern drawing-room and the pleasant dining-room are in harmony with the old study used by the naturalist, now the favourite den of the present owner. Out of the drawing-room a passage through a well-filled conservatory leads to the lawns and beautiful gardens, but little changed since the days of the naturalist. The trees he planted are carefully preserved, and the sun-dial on which he noted the passage of the hours still stands on the lawn.
Looking over the churchyard stile, on the side of the Plestor (a playground for the village children), we see The Wakes on the other side of the sloping space. The long, rambling brick house, placed close upon the street, is shrouded to the very gables by trees and shrubs, which hide the windows from inquisitive eyes.
The early evening hours, in a country where the twilight lasts until nearly ten o'clock, are the most delightful times for walking. We climbed the Hanger after tea, with the comfortable feeling that dinner could wait until we came back. There is a steep path, called the Zigzag, said to have been cut by Gilbert White, but we chose to gain the hilltop by a long, sloping ascent winding up with an easy sweep under the beeches. At the top, from a bench placed there for the comfort of wayfarers, through a clearing in the wood, we looked down upon the sunny garden of The Wakes, and its windows hung with ivy. Behind the house the church lifted its tower, and still farther on the dusky trees of the Lythe twisted away like a monster green serpent to the misty hills of the horizon. On the right, smoke rising above the cottage roofs, buried in foliage, told of the preparations for the evening meal, while on the left, down the yellow road which winds along the steep hill toward Alton, came the ploughmen and their horses.
A sheep-common stretches all over the top of the Hanger, and a misleading path among the bracken and scrub-oaks goes to a most interesting little hamlet, Newton Valance.
"Who wants to see a haunted house?"
I march boldly ahead, with my friends straggling behind. Fortunately for my reputation, the many lovely views they get of the valley absorb their attention and save me from utter disgrace. When I finally hail with glee an avenue of gloomy pine-trees, I have, unknown to my comrades, lost and found the way not less than five times.
The haunted house – so called – is built almost within the Newton Valance churchyard. The gloomy entrance, the neglected park, the empty glass-house, the forsaken aviary, and the huge dilapidated stone barns tell a dreary tale. The falling mansion is only to be described as a solid Elizabethan manor-house with a Greek villa tacked on to the front. Any more incongruous mixture of architecture it would be difficult to imagine. The country folk have invented weird tales on the strength of some bones found inside one of the plaster statues which embellish the Greek porch.
"They do say all sorts of things, but we ain't never seen no ghosts," the caretaker tells us. She lives in the only habitable part of the decayed mansion, which is the great kitchen, with a large family of children. Their laughter and games perhaps frighten ghosts away. The original house was evidently built in Elizabethan days for lavish hospitality, but that was before the owner with shabby Greek taste appeared. Inside, in the ancient part, the rafters are rotting, while in the modern addition the gay French-mirrored doors are cracked and the walls covered with mould.
A long avenue, grass-grown and disused, goes straight down the other side of the Hanger, past two fallen lodges, and then through rusty gates, hanging each by a single hinge, out on to a pretty, cheerful road, along which Gilbert White lingered often to contemplate the wonders of his beloved mistress, Dame Nature. He was curate of the little village of Faringdon, through which this highway passes before it skirts the borders of Chawton Park.
The Chawton of to-day is much as it was in the time of the authoress who there wrote "Pride and Prejudice," as well as all her later novels. The square brick house in which Jane Austen lived when her brother became lord of the manor is opposite the tiny inn, on a picturesque road of thatched cottages hiding behind verdure-grown garden walls, over which nod masses of tall, yellow flowers.
We were lucky in coming to Selborne in July. Then occur the most festive days of the summer, the flower-show, and the county policeman's dinner.
The flower-show is held in a large tent pitched on the lawn in the park of The Wakes. The many gardens which the villagers have carefully tended all through the year then give up their choicest specimens for this exhibition. The schoolchildren spend hours gathering wild flowers to compete for the prize given that little one who shall show the greatest variety arranged with the best taste.
The love which the English rustic has for flowers, and the skill shown in growing and arranging them, comes out fully at a village flower-show. The Invalid and the Matron were most enthusiastic when they saw the successful efforts of the children and the outcome of the gardens. They had formed their judgment of British taste by the dress of the women.
The prizes were plentiful and substantial. They were distributed by the charming wife of the squire. The villagers looked pleased and happy, but the only noise and applause was furnished by the squire's pet bulldog, who accompanied the announcement of each prize-winner with loud barks and wild leaps of joy, to the intense disgust of the vicar's poodle, who sat by with the dignified bearing his station in life required.
There was music and dancing in the park, while just beyond the gates a shabby caravan from Petersfield, a near-by town, waited with its swings, carrousel, and shooting-gallery to swallow up the prize-money.
The squire's hospitality is responsible for the policeman's dinner. It is his entertainment. The constabulary is a valuable and imposing institution in rural England. During the hop-picking season Selborne and the country for miles around is overrun by rough men and women from the dregs of the London streets, who come to work in the hop-fields.
That muscular member of the county police who keeps the peace in Selborne has proved himself such a terror to the evil-doers among these hordes that the squire, with a desire to show his appreciation for the protection afforded his village by this athletic policeman, once a year gives a dinner in his name to all the members of the constabulary for miles around. For many days before the great event the innkeeper's wife and daughter are busy all day roasting joints, baking cakes, and preparing dainties. Our meals are irregular; the Invalid murmurs; the Matron makes excuses; but we only get fed after a fashion until the great day arrives.
As early on that morning as is consistent with British habits (between ten and eleven) the guests drive into the yard of the inn. They bring their wives and children, their sisters and mothers. They come in busses, they come in wagonettes, in dog-carts, and every description of vehicle drawn by horses. In the coffee-room, in the parlour behind the bar, and in the tap-room tables are set. We were invited to go down and admire the flowers and the wealth of good things in which the British palate delights.
The County Constabulary is a very important institution, but the annual dinner of the County Constabulary is a much more important institution. We were greatly disappointed, being females all, and Americans as well, to find that the invited guests did not come in uniform. We finally decided that it would never do to damage the immaculate smartness of the village policeman's official attire by risking its glory at games on the green. The men came therefore in those spick and span garments in which every Englishman manages to array himself on Sunday. The women were as dowdy as the men were trim, the children were cherubs, like all English children, and the horses groomed until they shone like satin.
The visitors drove into the yard with either a flourish of whips or of horns, as the style of vehicle demanded. The women and children were helped out, and went their various ways, to visit in the cottages, or to admire the gardens. Before the men even glanced into that most inviting tap-room, the fat, sleek horses were taken from the shafts, led away to shelter and comfort, and the carriage cushions turned over to save them from the sun. When these necessary duties had been performed according to the tidy ways of this most tidy people, mild sounds of mirth began to issue from the tap-room. It would not be consistent for the chosen representatives of the sternness of the British code to be other than mild.
The landlady and her daughters were busy showing the culinary triumphs in the coffee-room to the women visitors. These gazed and admired, but dared not taste. The feast was not for them until their lords had eaten their fill. The inn is too small to accommodate all; the occasion being a policeman's dinner, the policemen ate first. After the women had looked and approved, the men marched slowly in to the banquet; we watched them from the window above. A period of perfect silence told loudly of the merits of the viands, but after a time the guests waxed merry. When the Squire came in to the dinner, he was greeted with song: "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," which, nobody venturing to deny, was repeated countless times.
After the meal was over came games at The Wakes. We had fortunately received an invitation to be present. We sat on the lawn under the glorious old trees and watched the game of cricket, which we did not understand in the least; a tug of war pleased us better, it came quite within our limits of comprehension.
The host of the occasion wandered about talking with old and young. We were exceedingly interested in the relations between the classes here displayed. It was a novel sight for republicans, no equality, no condescension, yet not the slightest sign of servility.1
The policeman's feast is given before the stern duties of the late August hop-picking season demand their entire attention. When that strenuous time is past, Selborne sinks back into reposeful quiet. There are no market-days to disturb the peace, nor any unruly visitors. After the morning eruption of children on their way to school, the village street is given up to an old labourer with a full sack on his bent back, varied by an occasional carriage with showy livery, driven rapidly, and bearing ladies on their way to call upon neighbours probably five miles distant. To vary the scene comes the carrier's cart from Alton. It draws up in the inn yard, and, while the carrier lounges in the tap-room, his panting dog rests in the shadow under the cart.
"I have been to The Wakes and borrowed a male escort for our walks," said the Matron one morning. "Where is he?" demanded Polly. "Outside on the door-step," answered the Matron. "How rude to leave him there!" Polly exclaimed. "He refused to come in. I could not force him." "Then he is the rude one. How did you meet him?" "I was introduced to him yesterday, just after he had finished a peppery meal of wasps. He is a Scotchman with four legs, a tail twice as long as his body, and a passion for wasps. When I first saw him he was chained to his kennel, giving forth the most remarkable growls and yelps I ever heard. 'Them's Dirky's wasping growls,' said the coachman, to reassure me. 'You see, ma'am, he 'ave marmalade for 'is tea. The wasps come around and make 'im angry, but after 'ees eat five or six 'is tea tastes better.'" Dirky's tea consisted of bread and jam, which naturally attracted the voracious Hampshire wasps in great numbers, but, after Dirky had executed a war-dance, accompanied by the death-song, they left him in peace to devour his delectable dish.
We found Dirky a most amiable and willing guide. He trotted ahead and we followed to the church, where he exchanged amenities through the fence with the vicar's poodle, while we visited the Templars' Tombs. As soon as we came out, he resumed the lead, and away we went through an opening in the churchyard hedge. A slippery turf path took us down, faster than we intended, to Barton Cottage, at the entrance to the Lythe. While we strolled across a quaint foot-bridge, Dirky took to the brook, and came out dripping before us on the path which skirts the valley under the beeches. The ancient road to the Priory led this way; we had just seen the church the Priors founded. The Priory was suppressed as long ago as when Magdalen College in Oxford was founded. William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, dispersed the Selborne Priors for their unparalleled wickedness, and bestowed their lands on his new institution of learning. No sign now remains of the once rich Priory, its chapter-house, refectory, or dormitories, except the stones which are incorporated into the walls and cottages of the neighbourhood. Magdalen College holds the lands, and has the living of Selborne in its gift.
The Lythe path was a favourite ramble of Gilbert White. He mentions it constantly in his letters. It leads over stiles and through underbrush to the Priory Farm, a relic in name only of the former home of the gay monks who vanished with many other monasteries less deserving of the fate.
Along a rough bit of road, over low hills and through corn-fields, on a beaten track so narrow that we are forced to go in single file, with Dirky wagging solemnly on ahead, we come again upon the village. From the height we stop to gaze enchanted at the perfect peace and quiet of the scene. The warlike Hampshire flies, who have pursued us throughout the entire walk with the tenacity of their kind, are the only blot on the landscape.
The bicycle is a great blessing to an English tourist. The popularity of these machines has not waned as it has in the United States. Motor-cars are plenty, but they are beyond the reach of travellers like our party; we are glad that we learned to ride wheels. The roads about Selborne are in fine condition. Through Wollmer Forest and past Lord Selborne's estate at Blackmoor is a long stretch with very few hills to mount. We rode in the long twilight through deep-cut lanes and through moorland purple with heather.
The sun does not give us here at its setting the brilliant fireworks with which it often favours us at home, but, when we sit in the smiling garden of the Queen's Arms after dinner, we are content to see the trees in the Lythe slowly change to every conceivable shade of green with the fading light. At this hour, a long line of white geese, who spend their days in the paddock back of the garden, can be seen marching gravely home, in single file, in answer to a whistle from the farm where they belong. A dozen or more tiny black pigs, who are growing up in the same field, do their best to break up the military goose line with their gambols, to the intense delight of the innkeeper's tame magpie, who sits on the fence with his black head popping up among the sweet-pea blossoms and squawks.
We spent a good part of our last day in Selborne deciding how to proceed on our journey. Winchester lies on our route to Devonshire, and it is but twelve miles by road from Selborne to Winchester. We counted shillings, and finally concluded to take the first stage of our journey by carriage. Our bicycles had been returned to the man in Alton, from whom we hired them, but, even had we owned the wheels, the rumour of a mighty hill with three miles of continuous ascent would have prevented our using them on the road.
Many of our countrywomen would have disdained the simplicity of our inn, which lacked all the luxuries to which most Americans are accustomed, but we left it with keen regret, glancing back until a fall of the road hid village and inn completely from our sight.
The way to Winchester leads over through pretty villages clustering along the banks of the river Itchen, which here, as a tiny stream, gives little promise of the huge mouth it opens in Southampton.
We stopped for tea at the uninteresting-looking town of Arlesford. The pilgrims in the Middle Ages, on their way to Canterbury, halted at old Arlesford. It is now fast asleep, except on market-days, but there is good hunting hereabouts, as the inn signs proclaim. "The Hare and Hounds," "The Horse and Groom," "The Fox" mean sporting patrons. These houses of entertainment date from stage-coach days. Their picturesque charms are quite ruined now by the ever-present brewer's advertisement which invariably disfigures the quaint architecture.
Itchen Abbas, a most delicious stretch of comfortable homes behind high hedges and smooth lawns and shaded by great trees, is our last halt before entering Winchester. We appropriately halt at "The Coach and Horses" to water the horses. Carriages, with smart liveries, rolling to and from Winchester caused Polly to declare: "Here live the gentry!" She talks of "gentry" with the delight every one takes in a word seldom needed. While she is still turning it over on her tongue, we clatter through a fine carved gateway at the head of the High Street, and go down to "The George," where to welcome us the saint and his dragon are painted in glowing colours on the corner of the house.
The Matron casts a longing glance across the street at a black swan carved in high relief with a proud motto underneath and a gold crown upon his head. She thinks that an inn with such a fine sign must have very superior accommodations, but to The George we have been taken, so at The George we remain. This hostelry has existed as an inn for several centuries; now, very much restored and reconstructed, it has dropped the homelier name of inn for the grander title of hotel. The old courtyard into which the coaches drove has become a glass-covered palm-garden, and the coffee-room has its duplicate in every other cathedral town, yet there hangs about the house an old-fashioned air of comfort which is never found in the newer hotels.
The fluent writers of the Penny Guides give full descriptions of the glories of Winchester Cathedral, and a guide-book, which costs sixpence, fairly overflows with information. We did not follow strictly these learned writers' advice. Polly refused to admire the graceful perpendicular architecture of the nave, and the Matron could not be torn away from the dream of knights and ladies, induced by the grandeur of the rude Norman transepts, while the Invalid lingered entranced before the delicate carvings of the rich mortuary chapels in the choir.
"If architecture is frozen music, each one of these is a sonata," she exclaims. One of the most lovely of these monuments a barbarian called " Pummel " has disfigured with his hideous name.
There is nothing more wonderful to my mind, among all the wonders of Winchester Cathedral, than the beautifully coloured effigies of bishops and prelates, which fortunately escaped the vandals of the iconoclastic days of the early Reformation. Cardinal Beaufort, a son of that very turbulent gentleman, John of Gaunt, lies here carved in marble, clad in magnificent red robes, looking prosperous and satisfied. He was rich, powerful, and generous, for it is said he gave four hundred thousand pounds to improve the condition of the poor prisoners of his time.
The ancient kings of England are more interesting in Winchester than they are in history. Their remains, here gathered together in chests as dainty as jewel-caskets, are placed high above on the choir screen. Their names and the dates of their reigns were the plague of my school-days. When the wise verger who was guiding us about mentioned casually that one painted casket on the right contained, as remains of one of the many Ethels, four skulls and six thigh bones, and another on the left was filled with assorted biceps belonging to an Edward, no one was the least surprised. Our child's history taught us these kings were capable of an unlimited number of heads and countless minor members.
The patron saint of the cathedral, unlucky St. Swithin, lies low in the hospital for damaged carvings behind the high altar.
"Serves him right," observes the irreverent Polly, whose nerves are affected by the weather.
At the side of the great portal there hangs on the wall some exquisite grille work. These fragments were parts of the former gates used to keep the evil-smelling pilgrims out of the choir. Through open ironwork they could witness the ceremonies, and yet not bring contagion to the monks. These gates are soon to be replaced for the sake of their artistic value; evil odours have now quite departed from this fresh island.
At the entrance to the cathedral, along with the prohibition which curbs a man's desire to marry his grandmother, hangs an urgent request that "all worshippers shall leave their dogs at home, lest their antics disturb the congregation."
A few steps in front of the grand portal is the tomb of Private Fletcher, a grenadier whose only claim to perpetuated memory is that he died from drinking small beer when overheated. What small beer may be none of this party has ever heard. It is evidently much more deadly than any other kind. His comrades and grenadiers of succeeding generations have deplored his fate in a lengthy inscription on his fine tombstone.
The turbulence of old times in Winchester, when the king sent messengers to defy the Church, the Pope sent cardinals to intimidate the king; when the bishops came here to quarrel with the nobles, and there was war among all parties, has given place to a placid old city in which all the excitement is supplied by the schoolboys of the Winchester College. How far the young gentlemen of the preparatory school, founded by William of Wykeham, respect their motto, "Manners maketh man," we had no chance to judge. The long vacation had deprived Winchester of even that source of gaiety.
Winchester College also has an ideal conception of the servant question. Above the entrance hangs "The Trusty Servant," not pretty to look at, but how valuable one may judge from the description:
"The Padlock shut, no secret he'll disclose; Patient the Ass, his master's wrath to bear; Swiftness in errant, the Stag's feet declare; Loaded his Left Hand, apt to labour saith; The dress, his neatness. Open Hand his faith; Girt with his sword, his Shield upon his arm, Himself and Master he'll protect from harm."
1 The estate of The Wakes has changed hands since the above was written. It is now owned by Mr. Andrew Pears, who will doubtless preserve all the traditions.
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