Equally wonderful, perhaps more beautiful, is the joint work of Nature and Art on the sweet life and glory of flowers. However many they were, and what they were, that breathed upon the first Spring or Summer day of time, each was a half-sealed gift of God to man, to be opened by his hand when his mind should open to a new sense of beauty and perfection. Flowers, each with a genealogy reaching unbroken through the Flood back to the overhanging blossoms of Eden, have come down to us, as it were, only in their travelling costume, with their best dresses packed away in stamen, or petal, or private seedcase, to be brought out at the end of fifty centuries at the touch of human genius. Those of which Solomon sang in his time, and which exceeded his glory in their every-day array, even "the hyssop by the wall," never showed, on the gala-days of his Egyptian bride, the hidden charms which he, in his wisdom, knew not how to unlock. Flowers innumerable are now, like illuminated capitals of Nature's alphabet, flecking, with their sheen-dots, prairie, steppe, mountain and meadow, the earth around, which, perhaps, will only give their best beauties to the world in a distant age. As the light of the latest-created and remotest stars has not yet completed its downward journey to the eye of man, so to his sight have not these sweet- breathing constellations of the field yet made the full revelation of their treasured hues and forms. Not one in a hundred of them all has done this up to the present moment. When one in ten of those that bless us with their life and being shall put on all its reserved beauty, then, indeed, the stars above and the stars below will stud the firmaments in which they shine with equal glory, and blend both in one great heaven-scape for the eye and heart of man. One by one, in its turn, the key of human genius shall unlock the hidden wardrobe of the commonest flowers, and deck them out in the court dress reserved, for five thousand years, to be worn in the brighter, afternoon centuries of the world. The Mistress of the Robes is a high dignitary in the Household of Royalty, and has her place near to the person of the Queen. But the Floriculturist, of educated perception and taste, is the master of a higher state robe, and holds the key of embroidered vestments, cosmetics, tintings, artistries, hair-jewels, head-dresses, brooches, and bracelets, which no empress ever wore since human crowns were made; which Nature herself could not show on all the bygone birthdays of her being.
This is marvellous. It is an honor to man, put upon him from above, as one of the gratuitous dignities of his being. "An undevout astronomer is mad," said one who had opened his mind to a broad grasp of the wonders which this upper heaven holds in its bosom. The floriculturist is an astronomer, with Newton's telescope reversed; and if its revelations do not stir up holy thoughts in his soul, he is blind as well as mad. No glass, no geometry that Newton ever lifted at the still star-worlds above, could do more than reveal. At the farthest stretch of their faculty, they could only bring to light the life and immortality of those orbs which the human eye had never seen before. They could not tint nor add a ray to one of them all. They never could bring down to the reach of man's unaided vision a single star that Noah could not see through the deck-lights of the ark. It was a gift and a glory that well rewarded the science and genius of Newton and Herschel, of Adams and Le Verrier, that they could ladder these mighty perpendicular distances and climb the rounds to such heights and sweeps of observation, and count, measure, and name orbs and orbits before unknown, and chart the paths of their rotations and weigh them, as in scales, while in motion. But this ge-astronomer, whose observatory is his conservatory, whose telescope and fluxions are his trowel and watering-pot, not only brings to light the hidden life of a thousand earth-stars, but changes their forms, colors their rays, half creates and transforms, until each differs as much from its original structure and tinting as the planet Jupiter would differ from its familiar countenance if Adams or Le Verrier could make it wear the florid face of Mars. This man,—and it is to be hoped he carries some devout and grateful thoughts to his work—sets Nature new lessons daily in artistry, and she works out the new ideals of his taste to their joint and equal admiration. He has got up a new pattern for the fern. She lets him guide her hand in the delicate operation, and she crimps, fringes, shades or shapes its leaflets to his will, even to a thousand varieties. He moistens her fingers with the fluids she uses on her easel, and puts them to the rootlets of the rose, and they transpose its hues, or fringe it or tinge it with a new glory. He goes into the fen or forest, or climbs the jutting crags of lava-mailed mountains, and brings back to his fold one of Nature's foundlings,—a little, pale-faced orphan, crouching, pinched and starved, in a ragged hood of dirty muslin; and he puts it under the fostering of those maternal fingers, guided by his own. Soon it feels the inspiration of a new life warming and swelling its shrivelled veins. Its paralysed petals unfold, one by one. The rim of its cup fills, leaf by leaf, to the brim. It becomes a thing most lovely and fair, and he introduces it, with pride, to the court beauties of his crystal palace.
The agriculturist is taken into this co-partnership of Nature in a higher domain of her activities, measured by the great utilities of human life. We have glanced at the joint-work in her animal kingdom. In the vegetable, it is equally wonderful. Nature contributes the raw material of these great and vital industries, then incites and works out human suggestions. Thus she trains and obeys the mind and hand of man, in this grand sphere of development. Their co-working and its result are just as perceptible in a common Irish potato as in the most gorgeous dahlia ever exhibited. Not one farmer in a thousand has ever read the history of that root of roots, in value to mankind; has ever conceived what a tasteless, contracted, water-soaked thing it was in its wild and original condition. Let them read a few chapters of the early history of New England, and they will see what it was two hundred and fifty years ago, when the strong-hearted men and women, whom Hooker led to the banks of the Connecticut, sought for it in the white woods of winter, scraping away the snow with their frosted fingers. The largest they found just equalled the Malaga grape in size and resembled it in complexion. They called it the ground-nut, for it seemed akin to the nuts dropped by the oaks of different names. No flower that breathes on earth has been made to produce so many varieties of form, complexion, and name as this homely root. It would be an interesting and instructive enterprise, to array all the varieties of this queen of esculent vegetables which Europe and America could exhibit, face to face with all the varieties which the dahlia, geranium, pansy, or even the fern has produced, and then see which has been numerically the most prolific in diversification of forms and features. It should gratify a better motive than curiosity to trace back the history of other roots to their aboriginal condition. Types of the original stock may now be found, in waste places, in the wild turnip, wild carrot, parsnip, etc. "Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little," it may be truly and gratefully said, these roots, internetted with the very life-fibres of human sustenance, have been brought to their present perfection and value. The great governments and peoples of the world should give admiring and grateful thought to this fact. Here nature co-works with the most common and inartistic of human industries, as they are generally held, with faculties as subtle and beautiful as those which she brings to bear upon the choicest flowers. The same is true of grains and grasses for man and beast. They come down to us from a kind of heathen parentage, receiving new forms and qualities from age to age. The wheats, which make the bread of all the continents, now exhibit varieties which no one has undertaken to enumerate. Fruits follow the same rule, and show the same joint-working of Nature and Art as in the realm of flowers.
The wheel within wheel, the circle within circle expand and ascend until the last circumferential line sweeps around all the world of created being, even taking in, upon the common radius, the highest and oldest of the angels. From the primrose peering from the hedge to the premier seraph wearing the coronet of his sublime companionship; from the lowest forms of vegetable existence to the loftiest reaches of moral nature this side of the Infinite, this everlasting law of co-working rules the ratio of progress and development. In all the concentric spheres strung on the radius measured by these extremes, there is the same co-acting of internal and external forces. And mind, of man or angel, guides and governs both. Not a flower that ever breathed on earth, not one that ever blushed in Eden, could open all its hidden treasures of beauty without the co-working of man's mind and taste. No animal that ever bowed its neck to his yoke, or gave him labor, milk or wool, could come to the full development of its latent vitalities and symmetries without the help of his thought and skill. The same law obtains in his own physical nature. Mind has made it what it is to-day, as compared with the wild features and habits of its aboriginal condition. Mind has worked for five thousand years upon its fellow- traveller through time, to fit it more and more fully for the companionship. It was delivered over to her charge naked, with its attributes and faculties as latent and dormant as those of the wild rose or dahlia. Through all the ages long, she has worked upon its development; educating its tastes; taming its appetites; refining its sensibilities; multiplying and softening its enjoyments; giving to every sense a new capacity and relish of delight; cultivating the ear for music, and ravishing it with the concord of sweet sounds; cultivating the eye to drink in the glorious beauty of the external world, then adding to natural sceneries ten thousand pictures of mountain, valley, river, man, angel, and scenes in human and heaven's history, painted by the thought-instructed hand; cultivating the palate to the most exquisite sensibilities, and exploring all the zones for luxuries to gratify them; cultivating the fine finger-nerves to such perception that they can feel the pulse of sleeping notes of music; cultivating the still finer organism that catches the subtle odors on the wing, and sends their separate or mingled breathings through every vein and muscle from head to foot.
The same law holds good in the development of mind. It has now reached such an altitude, and it shines with such lustre, that our imagination can hardly find the way down to the morning horizon of its life, and measure its scope and power in the dim twilight of its first hours in time. The simple fact of its first condition would now seem to most men as exaggerated fancies, if given in the simplest forms of truthful statement. With all the mighty faculties to which it has come; with its capacity to count, name, measure and weigh stars that Adam, nor Moses, nor Solomon ever saw; with all the forces of nature it has subdued to the service of man, it cannot tell what simplest facts of the creation had to be ascertained by its first, feeble and confused reasonings. No one of to-day can say how low down in the scale of intelligence the human mind began to exercise its untried faculties; what apposition and deduction of thoughts it required to individualise the commonest objects that met the eye; even to determine that the body it animated was not an immovable part of the earth itself; to obtain fixed notions of distance, of color, light, and heat; to learn the properties and uses of plants, herbs, and fruits; even to see the sun sink out of sight with the sure faith that it would rise again. It was gifted with no instinct, to decide these questions instantly and mechanically. They had all to pass through the varied processes of reason. The first bird that sang in Eden, built its first nest as perfectly as its last. But, thought by thought, the first human mind worked out conclusions which the dullest beast or bird reached instantly without reason. What wonderful co-working of internal and external influences was provided to keep thought in sleepless action; to open, one by one, the myriad petals of the mind! Nature, with all its shifting sceneries, filled every new scope of vision with objects that hourly set thought at play in a new line of reflection. Then, out of man's physical being came a thousand still small voices daily, whispering, Think! think! The first-born necessities, few and simple, cried, "Think! for we want bread, we want drink, we want shelter and raiment against the cold." The finer senses cried continually, "Give! give thought to this, to that." The Eye, the Ear, the Palate and every other organ that could receive and diffuse delight, worked the mental faculties by day and night, up to the last sunset of the antediluvian world; and all the intellectual result of this working Noah took with him into the ark, and gave to his sons to hand over to succeeding ages. Flowers that Eve stuck in the hair of the infant Abel are just now opening the last casket of their beauty to the favored children of our time. This, in itself, is a marvellous instance of the law we are noticing. But what is this to the processes of thought and observation through which the mind of man has reached its present expansion; through which it has developed all these sciences, arts, industries and tastes, the literature and the intellectual life of these bright days of humanity! The figure is weak, and every figure would be weak when applied to the ratio or the result of this progression; but, at what future age of time, or of the existence beyond time, will the mind, that has thus wrought on earth, open its last petal, put forth no new breathing, unfold no new beauty under the eye of the Infinite, who breathed it, as an immortal atom of His own essence, into the being of man?
Follow the radius up into the next concentric circle, and we see this law working to finer and sublimer issues in man's moral nature. We have glanced at what the mind has done for and through his physical faculties and being; how that being has re-acted upon the mind, and kept all its capacities at work in procuring new delight to the eye, ear, palate, and all the senses that yearned for enjoyment. We have noticed how the inside and outside world acted upon his reasoning powers in the dawn of creation; how slowly they mastered the simplest facts and phenomena of life in and around them, how slowly they expanded, through the intervening centuries, to their present development. The mind is the central personage in the trinity of man's being; linking the mortal and immortal to its life and action; vitalising the body with intelligence, until every vein, muscle, and nerve, and function thrills and moves to the impulse of thought; vitalising the soul with the vigorous activities of reason, giving hands as well as wings to its hopes, faiths, loves, and aspirations; giving a faculty of speech, action, and influence to each, and play to all the tempers and tendencies of its moral nature. Thus all the influences that the mind could inhale from the material world through man's physical being, and all it could draw out of the depths of Divine revelation, were the dew and the light which it was its mission to bring to the fostering, growth, and glory of the human soul. These were man's means wherewith to shape it for its great destiny; these he was to bring to its training and expansion; with these he was to co-work with the Infinite Father of Spirits to fit it for His presence and fellowship, just as he co-works with Nature in developing the latent life and faculties of the rose. What distillations of spiritual influence have dropped down out of heaven, through the ages, to help onward this joint work! What histories of human experience have come in the other direction to the same end!—fraught with the emotions of the human heart, from the first sin and sorrow of Adam to our own griefs, hopes, and joys; and all so many lessons for the discipline of this high-born nature with us!
And yet how slow and almost imperceptible has been the development of this nature! How gently and gradually the expanding influences, human and divine, have been let in upon its latent faculties! See with what delicate fostering the petals of love, faith, and hope were taught to open, little by little, their hidden life and beauty,—taking Moses' history of the process. First, one human being on the earth, surrounded with beasts and birds that could give him no intelligent companionship and no fellow-feeling. Then the beautiful being created to meet these awakening yearnings of his nature; then the first outflow and interchange of human love. The narrative brings us to the next stage of the sentiment. Sin and sorrow afflict, but unite, both hearts in the saddest experience of humanity. They are driven out of the Eden of their first condition, but their very sufferings and fears re-Eden their mutual attachments in the very thorns of their troubles and sorrows. Then another being, of their own flesh, heir to their changed lot, and to these attachments, is added to their companionship. The first child's face that heaven or earth ever saw, opened its baby eyes on them and smiled in the light of their parental love. The history goes on. In process of time, there is a family of families, called a community, embracing hundreds of individuals connected by ties of blood so attenuated that they possess no binding influence. Common interests, affinities, and sentiments supply the place of family relationship, and make laws of amity and equity for them as a population. Next we have a community of communities, or a commonwealth of these individual populations, generally called a nation. Here is a lesson for the moral nature. Here are thousands and tens of thousands of men who never saw each others' faces. Will this expanded orb of humanity revolve around the same centre as the first family circle, or the first independent community? How can you give it cohesion and harmony? Extend the radii of family relationship and influence to its circumference in every direction. Throne the sovereign in a parent's chair, to execute a father's laws. He shall treat them as children, and they each other as brethren. Here is a grand programme for human society. Here is a vigorous discipline for the wayward will and temper of the human heart. How is a man to feel and act in these new conditions? How is he to regulate his hates and loves, his passions and appetites, to comply properly with these extended and complicated relationships?
About half way from Adam's day to ours, there came an utterance from Mount Sinai that anticipated and answered these questions once for all, and for one and all. In that august revelation of the Divine Mind, every command of the Decalogue swung open upon the pivot of a not, except one; and that one referred to man's duty to man, and the promise attached to its fulfilment was only an earthly enjoyment. All the rest were restrictive; to curb this appetite, to bar that passion, to hedge this impulse, to check that disposition; in a word, to hold back the hand from open and positive transgression. Even the first, relating to His own Godhead and requirements, was but the first of the series of negatives, a pure and simple prohibition of idolatry. No reward of keeping this first great law, reaching beyond the boundary of a temporal condition, was promised at its giving out. With the headstrong passions, lusts, appetites, and tempers of flesh and blood bridled and bitted by these restrictions, and with no motives to obedience beyond the awards of a short life on earth, the human soul groped its way through twenty centuries after the Revelation of Sinai, feeling for the immortality which was not yet revealed to it, even "as through a glass darkly." Here and there, but thinly scattered through the ages, divinely illumined men caught, through the parting seams of the veil, a transient glimpse and ray of the life to come. Here and there, obscurely and hesitatingly, they refer to this vision of their faith. Here and there we seem to see a hope climbing up out of a good man's heart into the pathless mystery of a future existence, and bringing back the fragment of a leaf which it believes must have grown on one of the trees of life immortal. Moses, Job, David, and Isaiah give us utterances that savor of this belief; but they leave us in the dark in reference to its influence upon their lives. We cannot glean from these incidental expressions, whether it brought them any steady comfort, or sensibly affected their happiness.
Thus, for four thousand years, the soul of man dashed its wings against the prison-bars of time, peering into the night through the cold, relentless gratings for some fugitive ray of the existence of which it had such strong and sleepless presentiment. It is a mystery. It may seem irreverent to approach it even with a conjecture. Human reason should be humble and silent before it, and close its questioning lips. It may not, however, transcend its prerogative to say meekly, perhaps. Perhaps, then, for two-thirds of the duration that the sun has measured off to humanity, that life and immortality which the soul groped after were veiled from its vision, until all its mental and spiritual faculties had been trained and strengthened to the ability to grasp and appropriate the great fact when it should be revealed. Perhaps it required all the space of forty centuries to put forth feelers and fibres capable of clinging to the revelation with the steady hold of faith. Perhaps it was to prove, by long, decisive probation, what the unaided human mind could do in constructing its idealisms of immortality. Perhaps it was permitted to erect a scaffolding of conceptions on which to receive the great revelation at the highest possible level of thought and instinctive sentiment to which man could attain without supernatural light and help. If this last perhaps is preferable to the others, where was this scaffolding the highest? Over Confucius, or Socrates, or the Scandinavian seer, or Druid or Aztec priest? Was it highest at Athens, because there the great apostle to the Gentiles planted his feet upon it, and said, in the ears of the Grecian sophists, "Him whom ye ignorantly worship declare I unto you?" At that brilliant centre of pagan civilization it might have reached its loftiest altitude, measured by a purely intellectual standard; but morally, this scaffolding was on the same low level of human life and character all the world around. The immortalities erected by Egyptian or Grecian philosophy were no purer, in moral conception and attributes, than the mythological fantasies of the North American Indians. In them all, human nature was to have the old play of its passions and appetites; in some of them, a wider sweep and sway. There was not one in the whole set of Grecian deities half so moral and pure, in sentiment and conduct, as Socrates; nor were Jupiter and his subordinate celestials better than the average kings and courts of Greece. Out of the hay, wood, and stubble of sheer fancy the human mind was left to raise these fantastic structures. They exercised and entertained the imagination, but brought no light nor strength to the soul; no superior nor additional motives to shape the conduct of life. But they did this, undoubtedly, with all their delusions; they developed the thought of immortality among the most benighted races of men. Their most perplexing unrealities kept the mind restless and almost eager for some supplementary manifestation; so that, when the Star of Bethlehem shone out in the sky of Palestine, there were men looking heavenward with expectant eyes at midnight. From that hour to this, and among pagan tribes of the lowest moral perception, the heralds of the Great Revelation have found the thought of another existence active though confused. They have found everywhere a platform already erected, like that on which Paul stood in the midst of Mars Hill, and on which they could stand and say to heathen communities, "Him whom ye ignorantly worship declare I unto you! That future life and immortality which your darkened eyes and hungry souls have been groping and hungering for, bring we to you, bright as the sun, in this great gospel of Divine Love." Had the Star of Bethlehem appeared a century earlier, it might not have met an upturned eye. If the Saviour of Mankind had come into the world in Solomon's day, not even a manger might have been found to cradle His first moments of human life; no Simeon waiting in the temple to greet the great salvation He brought to our race in His baby hands.
Here, then, commences, as it were, the central era of the soul's training in time. Here heaven opened upon it the full sunlight and sunwarmth of its glorious life and immortality. Here fell upon its opening faculties the dews and rays and spiritual influences which were to shape its being and destiny. Here commenced such co-working to this end as can find no measure nor simile in any other sphere of co-operative activities in the world below or above. Here the trinity of man and the Trinity of the Godhead came into a co-action and fellowship overpassing the highest outside wonder of the universe. And all this co-working, fellowship, and partnership has been repeated in the experience of every individual soul that has been fitted for this great immortality. Here, too, this co-working is a law, not an incident; most marvellously, mightily, and minutely a law, as legislatively and executively as that which we have seen acting upon the development of the flower. Had not the great apostle, who was caught up into the third heavens and heard things unutterable, spoken of this law in such bold words, it would seem rash and irreverent in us to approach so near to its sublime revelation. Not ours but his they are; and it is bold enough in us to repeat them. He said it: that He, to whose name every knee should bow, and every tongue confess; to whom belonged and who should possess and rule all the kingdoms of the earth, "was made under the law," not of Moses, not of human nature only, but under this very law of CO-WORKING. Through this the world was to be regenerated and filled with His life and light. Through this a new creation was to be enfolded in the bosom of His glory, of grander dimensions and of diviner attributes than that over which the morning stars sang at the birth of time. Said this law to the individual soul, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure." To will and to do. It is His own good will and pleasure that the soul shall be fitted and lifted up to its high destiny through this co-working. It was His power to raise it to that condition without man's participation or conscious acquiescence; but it was His will and pleasure to enact this law of salvation. Looking across the circumference of the individual soul, what says this law? "Go ye out into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and, lo, I am with you unto the end,"—not as an invisible companion, not merely with the still, small voice of the Comforter to cheer you in trial, weakness and privation; but with you as a co-worker, with the irresistible energies of the Spirit of Power. He might have done the whole work alone. He might have sent forth twelve, and twelve times twelve legions of angels, and given each a voice as loud as his who is to wake the dead, and bid them preach His gospel in the ears of every human being. He might have given a tongue to every breathing of the breeze, an articulate speech to every ray of light, and sent them out with their ceaseless voices on the great errand of His love. It was his power to do this. He did not do it, because it was His will and pleasure to put Himself under this law we have followed so far; to make men His co- workers in this new creation, and co-heirs with Him in all its joy and glory. So completely has He made this law His rule of action, that, for eighteen hundred years, we have not a single instance in which the life and immortality which He brought to light have been revealed to a human soul without the direct and active participation of a human instrumentality. So completely have His meekest servants on earth put themselves under this law, that not one of them dares to expect, hope, or pray that He will reveal Himself to a single benighted heathen mind without this human co-working.
Thus, begin where you will, in the flower of the field or the hyssop by the wall, and ascend from sphere to sphere, until there is no more space in things and beings created to draw another circumferential line, and you will see the action and the result of this great law of Co-operative Activities. When I first looked within the lids of that hollyhock, and was incited to read the rudimental lessons of the new leaves that man's art had added to its scant, original volume, I had no thought of finding so much matter printed on its pages. I have transcribed it here in the order of its paragraphs, hoping that some who read them may see in this life of flowers an interest they may have partially overlooked.
VISIT TO A THREE-THOUSAND-ACRE FARM—SAMUEL JONAS—HIS AGRICULTURAL OPERATIONS, THEIR EXTENT, SUCCESS, AND GENERAL ECONOMY.
The rain having ceased, I resumed my walk, in a southerly direction, to Chrishall Grange, the residence of Samuel Jonas, who may be called the largest farmer in England; not, perhaps, in extent of territory occupied, but in the productive capacity of the land cultivated, and in the values realised from it. It is about four miles east of Royston, bordering on the three counties of Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, and Essex, though lying mainly in the latter. It contains upwards of 3,000 acres, and nearly every one of them is arable, and under active cultivation. It consists of five farms, belonging to four different landlords; still they are so contiguous and coherent that they form substantially one great block. No one could be more deeply impressed with the magnitude of such an establishment, and of the operations it involves, than a New England farmer. Taking the average of our agriculturists, their holdings or occupations, to use an English term, will not exceed 100 acres each; and, including woodland, swamp, and mountain, not over half of this space can be cultivated. To the owner and tiller of such a farm, a visit to Mr. Jonas' occupation must be interesting and instructive. Here is a man who cultivates a space which thirty Connecticut farmers would feel themselves rich to own and occupy, with families making a population of full two hundred souls, supporting and filling a church and school-house. In the great West of America, where cattle are bred and fed somewhat after the manner of Russian steppes or Mexican ranches, such an occupation would not be unusual nor unexpected; but in the very heart of England, containing a space less than the state of Virginia, a tract of such extent and value in the hands of a single farmer is a fact which a New Englander must regard at first with no little surprise. He will not wonder how one man can rent such a space, but how he can till it to advantage; how, even with the help of several intelligent and active sons, he can direct and supervise operations which fill the hands of thirty solid farmers of Massachusetts. Two specific circumstances enable him to perform this undertaking.
In the first place, agriculture in England is reduced to an exact and rigid science. To use a nautical phrase, it is all plain sailing. The course is charted even in the written contract with the landlord. The very term, "course," is adopted to designate the direction which the English farmer is to observe. Skilled hands are plenty and pressing to man the enterprise. With such a chart, and such a force, and such an open sea, it is as easy for him to sail the "Great Eastern" as a Thames schooner. The helm of the great ship plays as freely and faithfully to the motion of his will as the rudder of the small craft. Then the English farmer has a great advantage over the American in this circumstance: he can hire cheaply a grade of labor which is never brought to our market. Men of great skill and experience, who in America would conduct farms of their own, and could not be hired at any price, may be had here in abundance for foremen, at from twelve to sixteen shillings, or from three to four dollars a week, they boarding and lodging themselves. And the number of such men is constantly increasing, from two distinct causes. In the first place there is a large generation of agricultural laborers in England, now in the prime of manhood, who have just graduated, as it were, through all the scientific processes of agriculture developed in the last fifteen years. The ploughmen, cowmen, cartmen, and shepherds, even, have become familiar with the established routine; and every set of these hands can produce one or two active and intelligent laborers who will gladly and ably fill the post of under-foreman for a shilling or two a week of advanced wages. Then, by the constant absorption of small holdings into large farms, which is going on more rapidly from this increased facility of managing great occupations, a very considerable number of small farmers every year are falling into the labor market, being reduced to the necessity of either emigrating to cheaper lands beyond the sea, or of hiring themselves out at home as managers, foremen or common laborers on the estates thus enlarged by their little holdings. From these two sources of supply, the English tenant-farmer, beyond all question, is able to cultivate a larger space, and conduct more extensive operations than any other agriculturist in the world, at least by free labor.
The first peculiarity of this large occupation I noticed, was the extent of the fields into which it was divided. I had never seen any so large before in England. There were only three of the whole estate under 60, and some contained more than 400 acres each, giving the whole an aspect of amplitude like that of a rolling prairie farm in Illinois. Not one of the little, irregular morsels of land half swallowed by its broad-bottomed hedging, which one sees so frequently in an English landscape, could be found on this great holding. The white thorn fences were new, trim, and straight, occupying as little space as possible. The five amalgamated farms are light turnip soil, with the exception of about 200 acres, which are well drained. The whole surface resembles that of a heavy ground swell of the sea; nearly all the fields declining gently in different directions. The view from the rounded crest of the highest wave was exceedingly picturesque and beautiful, presenting a vista of plenty which Ceres of classic mythology never saw; for never, in ancient Greece, Italy, or Egypt, were the crops of vegetation so diversified and contrasting with each other as are interspersed over an English farm of the present day.
It is doubtful if 3,000 acres of land, lying in one solid block, could be found in England better adapted for testing and rewarding the most scientific and expensive processes of agriculture, than this great occupation of Mr. Jonas. Certainly, no equal space could present a less quantity of waste land, or occupy less in hedges or fences. And it is equally certain that no estate of equal size is more highly cultivated, or yields a greater amount of production per acre. Its occupant, also, is what may be called an hereditary farmer. His father and his remote ancestors were farmers, and he, as in the case of the late Mr. Webb, has attained to his present position as an agriculturist by practical farming.
Mr. Jonas cultivates his land on the "Four-course system." This very term indicates the degree to which English agriculture has been reduced to a precise and rigid science. It means here, that the whole arable extent of his estate is divided equally between four great crops; or, wheat, 750 acres; barley and oats, 750; seeds and pulse, 750; and roots, 750. Now, an American farmer, in order to form an approximate idea of the amount of labor given to the growth of these crops, must remember that all these great fields of wheat, oats, barley, turnips, beans, and peas, containing in all over 2,000 acres, are hoed by hand once or twice. His cereals are all drilled in at seven inches apart, turnips at seventeen. The latter are horse-hoed three or four times; and as they are drilled on the flat, or without ridging the surface of the ground, they are crossed with a horse-hoe with eight V shaped blades. This operation leaves the plants in bunches, which are singled out by a troop of children. One hand-hoeing and two or three more horse-hoeings finish the labor given to their cultivation. It is remarkable what mechanical skill is brought to bear upon these operations. In the first place, the plough cuts a furrow as straight and even as if it were turned by machinery. A kind of esprit de corps animates the ploughmen to a vigorous ambition in the work. They are trained to it with as much singleness of purpose as the smiths of Sheffield are to the forging of penknife blades. On a large estate like that occupied by Mr. Jonas, they constitute an order, not of Odd Fellows, but of Straight Furrow-men, and are jealous of the distinction. When the ground is well prepared, and made as soft, smooth, and even as a garden, the drilling process is performed with a judgement of the eye and skill of hand more marvellous still. The straightness of the lines of verdure which, in a few weeks, mark the tracks of the seed-tubes, is surprising. They are drawn and graded with such precision that, when the plants are at a certain height, a horse-hoe, with eight blades, each wide enough to cut the whole intervening space between two rows, is passed, hoeing four or five drills at once. Of course, if the lines of the drill and hoe did not exactly correspond with each other, whole rows of turnips would be cut up and destroyed. I saw this process going on in a turnip field, and thought it the most skilful operation connected with agriculture that I had ever witnessed.
One of the principal advantages Mr. Jonas realises in cultivating such an extent of territory, is the ability to economise his working forces, of man, beast, and agricultural machinery. He saves what may be called the superfluous fractions, which small farmers frequently lose. For instance, a man with only fifty acres would need a pair of stout horses, a plough, cart, and all the other implements necessary for the growth and gathering of the usual crops. Now, Mr. Jonas has proved by experience, that, in cultivating his great occupation, the average force of two and a quarter horses is sufficient for a hundred acres. Here is a saving of almost one half the expense of horse-force per acre which the small farmer incurs, and full one half of the use of carts, ploughs, and other implements. The whole number of horses employed is about seventy-six; and the number of men and boys about a hundred. The whole of this great force is directed by Mr. Jonas and his sons with as much apparent ease and equanimity as the captain of a Cunarder would manifest in guiding a steamship across the Atlantic. The helm and ropes of the establishment obey the motion of one mind with the same readiness and harmony.
A fact or two may serve an American farmer as a tangible measure whereby to estimate the extent of the operations thus conducted by one man. To come up to the standard of scientific and successful agriculture in England, it is deemed requisite that a tenant farmer, on renting an occupation, should have capital sufficient to invest 10 pounds, or $50, per acre in stocking it with cattle, sheep, horses, farming implements, fertilisers, etc. Mr. Jonas, beyond a doubt, invests capital after this ratio upon the estate he tills. If so, then the total amount appropriated to the land which he rents cannot be less than 30,000 pounds, or nearly $150,000. The inventory of his live stock, taken at last Michaelmas, resulted in these figures:—Sheep, 6,581 pounds; horses, 2,487 pounds; bullocks, 2,218 pounds; pigs, 452 pounds; making a grand total of 11,638 pounds. Every animal bred on the estate is fatted, but by no means with the grain and roots grown upon it. The outlay for oil-cake and corn purchased for feeding, amounts to about 4,000 pounds per annum. Another heavy expenditure is about 1,700 pounds yearly for artificial fertilisers, consisting of guano and blood-manure. Mr. Jonas is one of the directors of the company formed for the manufacture of the latter.
The whole income of this establishment is realised from two sources- -meat and grain. And this is the distinguishing characteristic of English farming generally. Not a pound of hay, straw, or roots is sold off the estate. Indeed, this is usually prohibited by the conditions of the contract with the landlord. So completely has Mr. Jonas adhered to this rule, that he could not give me the market price of hay, straw, or turnips per ton, as he had never sold any, and was not in the habit of noticing the market quotations of those products. I was surprised at one fact which I learned in connection with his economy. He keeps about 170 bullocks; buying in October and selling in May. Now, it would occasion an American farmer some wonderment to be told that this great herd of cattle is fed and fatted almost entirely for the manure they make. It is doubtful if the difference between the cost and selling prices averages 2 pounds, or $10, per head. For instance, the bullocks bought in will average 13 or 14 pounds. A ton of linseed-cake and some meal are given to each beast before it is sent to market, costing from 10 to 12 pounds. When sold, the bullocks average 24 or 25 pounds. Thus the cake and the meal equal the whole difference between the buying and selling price, so that all the roots, chaff, and attendance go entirely to the account of manure. These three items, together with the value of pasturage for the months the cattle may lie in the fields, from October to May inclusive, could hardly amount to less than 5 pounds per beast, which, for 170, would be 850 pounds. Then 1,700 pounds are paid annually for guano and artificial manures. Now add the value of the wheat, oat and barley straw grown on 1,500 acres, and mostly thrown into the barn-yards, or used as bedding for the stables, and you have one great division of the fertilising department of Chrishall Grange. The amount of these three items cannot be less than 3,000 pounds. Then there is another source of fertilisation nearly as productive and valuable. Upwards of 3,000 sheep are kept on the estate, of which 1,200 are breeding ewes. These are folded, acre by acre, on turnips, cole, or trefoil, and those fattened for the market are fed with oil-cake in the field. The locusts of Egypt could not have left the earth barer of verdure than these sheep do the successive patches of roots in which they are penned for twenty-four or forty-eight hours, nor could any other process fertilise the land more thoroughly and cheaply. Then 76 horses and 200 fattening hogs add their contingent to the manurial expenditure and production of the establishment. Thus the fertilising material applied to the estate cannot amount to less than 5,000 pounds, or $24,000, per annum.
Sheep are the most facile and fertile source of nett income on the estate. Indeed, nearly all the profit on the production of meat is realised from them. Most of those I saw were Southdowns and Hampshires, pure or crossed, with here and there a Leicester. After being well fattened, they fetch in the market about double the price paid for them as stock sheep. About 2,000, thus fattened, including lambs, are sold yearly. They probably average about 2 pounds, or $10, per head; thus amounting to the nice little sum of 4,000 pounds a year, as one of the sources of income.
Perhaps it would be easier to estimate the total expenditure than the gross income of such an establishment as that of Mr. Jonas. We have aggregated the former in a lump; assuming that the whole capital invested in rent, live stock, agricultural machinery, manures, labor of man and horse, fattening material, etc., amounts to 30,000 pounds. We may extract from this aggregate several estimated items which will indicate the extent of his operations, putting the largest expenditure at the head of the list.
Corn and oil-cake purchased for feeding 4,000l. Guano and manufactured manures 1,700 Labor of 100 men and boys at the average of 20l. per annum 2,000 Labor of 76 horses, including their keep, 20l. per annum 1,500 Use and wear of steam-engine and agricultural machinery 500 Commutation money to men for beer 400 ——- 10,100l.
These are some of the positive annual outlays, without including rent, interest on capital invested, and other items that belong to the debit side of the ledger. The smallest on the list given I would commend to the consideration of every New England farmer who may read these pages. It is stated under the real fact. The capacity of English laborers for drinking strong beer is a wonder to the civilised world. They seem to cling to this habit as to a vital condition of their very life and being. One would be tempted to think that malt liquor was a primary and bread a secondary necessity to them; it must cost them most of the two, at any rate. And generally they are as particular about the quality as the quantity, and complain if it is not of "good body," as well as full tale. In many cases the farmer furnishes it to them; sometimes brewing it himself, but more frequently buying it already made. Occasionally a farmer "commutes" with his men; allowing a certain sum of money weekly in lieu of beer, leaving them to buy and use it as they please. I understood that Mr. Jonas adopts the latter course, not only to save himself the trouble of furnishing and rationing such a large quantity of beer, but also to induce the habit among his men of appropriating the money he gives them instead of drink to better purposes. The sum paid to them last year was actually 452 pounds, or about $2,200! Now, it would be quite safe to say, that there is not a farm in the State of Connecticut that produces pasturage, hay, grain, and roots enough to pay this beer-bill of a single English occupation! This fact may not only serve to show the scale of magnitude which agricultural enterprise has assumed in the hands of such men as Mr. Jonas, but also to indicate to our American farmers some of the charges upon English agriculture from which they are exempt; thanks to the Maine Law, or, to a better one still, that of voluntary disuse of strong drink on our farms. I do not believe that 100 laboring men and boys could be found on one establishment in Great Britain more temperate, intelligent, industrious, and moral than the set employed by Mr. Jonas. Still, notice the tax levied upon his land by this beer-impost. It amounted last year to three English shillings, or seventy-two cents, on every acre of the five consolidated farms, including all the space occupied by hedges, copses, buildings, etc. Suppose a Maine farmer were obliged, by an inexorable law of custom, to pay a beer-tax of seventy-two cents per acre on his estate of 150 acres, or $108, annually, would he not be glad to "commute" with his hired men, by leaving them in possession of his holding and migrating to some distant section of the country where such a custom did not exist?
The gross income of this great holding it would be more difficult to estimate. But no one can doubt the yearly issues of Mr. Jonas' balance-sheet, when he has been able to expand his operations gradually to their present magnitude from the capital and experience acquired by successful farming. Perhaps the principal sources of revenue would approximate to the following figures:—
2,000 fat sheep and lambs at 2l. 4,000l. 150 fat bullocks at 25l. 3,750 200 fat pigs = 40,000 lbs., at 4d 666 22,500 bushels of wheat, at 6s 6,750 9,375 bushels of oats, at 2s 937 7,500 bushels of barley, at 3s 1,125 ——- Total of these estimated items 17,228l.
This, of course, is a mere estimate of the principal sources of income upon which Mr. Jonas depends for a satisfactory result of his balance-sheet. Each item is probably within the mark. I have put down the crop of wheat of 750 acres at the average of thirty bushels per acre, and at 6s. per bushel, which are quite moderate figures. I have assumed 375 acres each for barley and oats, estimating the former at forty bushels per acre, and the latter at fifty; then reserving half of the two crops for feeding and fatting the live stock; also all the beans, peas, and roots for the same purpose. If the estimate is too high on some items, the products sold, and not enumerated in the foregoing list, such as cole and other seeds, will rectify, perhaps, the differences, and make the general result presented closely approximate to the real fact.
As there is probably no other farm in Great Britain of the same size so well calculated to test the best agricultural science and economy of the day as the great occupation of Mr. Jonas, and as I am anxious to convey to American farmers a well-developed idea of what that science and economy are achieving in this country, I will dwell upon a few other facts connected with this establishment. The whole space of 3,000 acres is literally under cultivation, or in a sense which we in New England do not generally give to that term—that is, there is not, I believe, a single acre of permanent meadow in the whole territory. All the vast amount of hay consumed, and all the pasture grasses have virtually to be grown like grain. There is so much ploughing and sowing involved in the production of these grass crops, that they are called "seeds." Thus, by this four-course system, every field passes almost annually under a different cropping, and is mowed two or three times in ten years. This fact, in itself, will not only suggest the immense amount of labor applied, but also the quality and condition of 3,000 acres of land that can be surfaced to the scythe in this manner.
The seeds or grasses sown by Mr. Jonas for pasturage and hay are chiefly white and red clover and trefoil. His rule of seeding is the following:—
Wheat, from 8 to 10 pecks per acre Barley, from 12 to 14 " " " Oats, from 18 to 22 " " " Winter Beans, 8 " " " Red Clover, 20 lbs " " White Clover, 16 lbs " " Trefoil, 30 to 35 lbs. " "
This, in New England, would be called very heavy seeding, especially in regard to oats and the grasses. I believe that twelve pecks of oats to the acre, rather exceed our average rule. Good clover seed should weigh two pounds to the quart, and eight quarts, or sixteen pounds, are the usual seeding with us.
As labor of horse and man must be economised to the best advantage on such an estate, it may be interesting to know the expense of the principal operations. The cost of ploughing averages 7s. 6d., or $1 80c. per acre. For roots, the land is ploughed three or four times, besides harrowing, drilling, and rolling. The hoeing of wheat and roots varies from 2s. to 5s., or from 48c. to $1 20c. per acre.
The sheep are all folded on turnips or grass fields, except the breeding ewes in the lambing season. The enclosures are made of hurdles, of which all reading Americans have read, but not one in a thousand ever has seen. They are a kind of diminutive, portable, post-and-rail fence, of the New England pattern, made up in permanent lengths, so light that a stout man might carry two or three of them on his shoulders at once. The two posts are sawed or split pieces of wood, about two inches thick, three wide, and from five to six feet in length. They are generally square-morticed for the rails, which are frequently what we should call split hoop- holes, but in the best kind are slats of hard wood, about two and a half inches wide and one in thickness. Midway between the two posts, the rails are nailed to an upright slat or brace, to keep them from swaying. Sometimes a farmer makes his own hurdles, thus furnishing indoor work for his men in winter, when they cannot labor in the fields; but most generally they are bought of those who manufacture them on a large scale. Some idea of the extent of sheep-folding on Chrishall Grange may be inferred from the fact, that the hurdling on it, if placed in one straight, continuous line, would reach full ten miles!
A portable steam engine, of twelve-horse power, looking like a common railway locomotive strayed from its track and taken up and housed in a farmer's waggon-shed, performs prodigies of activity and labor. Indeed, search the three realms through and through, and you would hardly find one on its own legs doing such remarkable varieties of work. Briareus, with all his fabled faculties, never had such numerous and supple fingers as this creature of human invention. When set a-going, they are clattering and whisking and frisking everywhere, on the barn-floor, on the hay-loft, in the granary, under the eaves, down cellar, and all this at the same time. It is doubtful if any stationary engine in a machine shop ever performed more diversified operations at once; thus proving most conclusively how a farmer may work motive power which it was once thought preposterous in him to think of using. It threshes wheat and other kinds of grain at the rate of from 400 to 500 bushels a day; it conveys the straw up to a platform across what we call the "great beams," where it is cut into chaff and dropped into a great bay, at the trifling expense of sixpence, or twelve cents, per quantity grown on an acre! While it is doing this in one direction, it is turning machinery in another that cleans and weighs the grain off into sacks ready for the market. Open the doors right and left and you find it at work like reason, breaking oil-cake, grinding corn for the fat stock, turning the grindstone, pitching, pounding, paring, rubbing, grabbing, and twisting, threshing, wrestling, chopping, flopping, and hopping, after the manner of "The Waters of Lodore."
The housings for live stock are most admirably constructed as well as extensive, and all the great yards are well fitted for making and delivering manure. I noticed here the best arrangement for feeding swine that I had ever seen before, and of a very simple character. Instead of revolving troughs, or those that are to be pulled out like drawers to be cleaned, a long, stationary one, generally of iron, extends across the whole breadth of the compartment next to the feeding passage. The board or picket-fence forming this end of the enclosure, from eight to twelve feet in length, is hung on a pivot at each side, playing in an iron ring or socket let into each of the upright posts that support it. Midway in the lower rail of this fence is a drop bolt which falls into the floor just behind the trough. At the feeding time, the man has only to raise this bolt and let it fall on the inner side, and he has the whole length and width of the trough free to clear with a broom and to fill with the feed. Then, raising the bolt, and bringing it back to its first place, the operation is performed in a minute with the greatest economy and convenience.
There was one feature of this great farm home which I regarded with much satisfaction. It was the housing of the laborers employed on the estate. This is done in blocks of well-built, well-ventilated, and very comfortable cottages, all within a stone's throw of the noble old mansion occupied by Mr. Jonas. Thus, no long and weary miles after the fatigue of the day, or before its labor begins, have to be walked over by his men in the cold and dark, as in many cases in which the agricultural laborer is obliged to trudge on foot from a distant village to his work, making a hard and sunless journey at both ends of the day.
Although my visit at this, perhaps the largest, farming establishment in England, occupied only a few hours, I felt on leaving that I had never spent an equal space of time more profitably and pleasantly in the pursuit or appreciation of agricultural knowledge. The open and large-hearted hospitality and genial manners of the proprietor and his family seemed to correspond with the dimensions and qualities of his holding, and to complete, vitalise, and beautify the symmetries of a true ENGLISH FARMER'S HOME.
ROYSTON AND ITS SPECIALITIES—ENTERTAINMENT IN A SMALL VILLAGE—ST. IVES—VISITS TO ADJOINING VILLAGES—A FEN-FARM—CAPITAL INVESTED IN ENGLISH AND AMERICAN AGRICULTURE COMPARED—ALLOTMENTS AND GARDEN TENANTRY—BARLEY GROWN ON OATS.
From Chrishall Grange I went on to Royston, where I found very quiet and comfortable quarters in a small inn called "The Catherine Wheel," for what reason it is not yet clear to my mind, and the landlady could not enlighten me on the subject. I have noticed two inns in London of the same name, and have seen it mounted on several other public houses in England. Why that ancient saint and the machinery of her torture should be alone selected from the history and host of Christian martyrs, and thus associated with houses of entertainment for man and beast, is a mystery which I will not undertake to explore. To be sure, the head of a puncheon of rum is round like a wheel, and if the liquor were not too much diluted with water, it might make a revolving illumination quite interesting, if set on fire and rolled into the gutter. It may possibly suggest that lambent ignition of the brain which the fiery drinks of the establishment produce, and which so many infatuated victims think delightful. Both these inferences, and all others I could fancy, are so dubious that I will not venture further into the meaning of this singular appellation given to a tavern.
Royston is a goodly and comfortable town, just inside the eastern boundary of Hertfordshire. It has its full share of half-legible and interesting antiquities, including the ruins of a royal palace, a cave, and several other broken monuments of the olden time, all festooned with the web-work of hereditary fancies, legends, and shreds of unravelled history dyed to the vivid colors of variegated imagination. It also boasts and enjoys a great, breezy common, large enough to hold such another town, and which few in the kingdom can show. Then, if it cannot cope with Glastonbury in showing, to the envious and credulous world, a thorn-tree planted by Joseph of Arimathaea, and blossoming always at Christmas, it can fly a bird of greater antiquity, which never flapped its wings elsewhere, so far as I can learn. It may be the lineal descendant of Noah's raven that has come down to this particular community without a cross with any other branch of the family. It is called "The Royston Crow," and is a variety of the genus which you will find in no other country. It is a great, heavy bird, larger than his colored American cousin, and is distinguished by a white back. Indeed, seen walking at a distance, he looks like our Bobolink expanded to the size of a large hen-hawk. To have such a wild bird all to themselves, and of its own free will, notwithstanding the length and power of its wings, and the force of centrifugal attractions, is a distinction which the good people of this favored town have good reason to appreciate at its proper value. Nor are they insensible to the honor. The town printer put into my hands a monthly publication called "THE ROYSTON CROW," containing much interesting and valuable information. It might properly have embraced a chapter on entomology; but, perhaps, it would have been impolitic for the personal interests of the bird to have given wide publicity to facts in this department of knowledge. For, after all, there may exist in the neighborhood certain special kinds of bugs and other insects which lie at the foundation of his preference for the locality.
The next day I again faced northward, and walked as far as Caxton, a small, rambling village, which looked as if it had not shaved and washed its face, and put on a clean shirt for a shocking length of time. It was dark when I reached it; having walked twelve miles after three p.m. There was only one inn, properly speaking, in the town, and since the old coaching time, it had contracted itself into the fag-end of a large, dark, seedy-looking building, where it lived by selling beer and other sharp and cheap drinks to the villagers; nineteen-twentieths of whom appeared to be agricultural laborers. The entertainment proffered on the sign-board over the door was evidently limited to the tap-room. Indeed, this and the great, low- jointed and brick-floored kitchen opening into to it, seemed to constitute all the living or inhabited space in the building. I saw, at a glance, that the chance for a bed was faint and small; and I asked Landlord Rufus for one doubtingly, as one would ask for a ready-made pulpit or piano at a common cabinet-maker's shop. He answered me clearly enough before he spoke, and he spoke as if answering a strange and half-impertinent question, looking at me searchingly, as if he suspected I was quizzing him. His "No!" was short and decided; but, seeing I was honest and earnest in the inquiry, he softened his negative with the explanation that their beds were all full. It seemed strange to me that this should be so in a building large enough for twenty, and I hesitated hopefully, thinking he might remember some small room in which he might put me for the night. To awaken a generous thought in him in this direction, I intimated how contented I would be with the most moderate accommodation. But it was in vain. The house was full, and I must seek for lodging elsewhere. There were two or three other public houses in the village that might take me in. I went to them one by one. They all kept plenty of beer, but no bed. They, too, looked at me with surprise for asking for such a thing. Apparently, there had been no demand for such entertainment by any traveller since the stage-coach ceased to run through the village. I went up and down, trying to negotiate with the occupants of some of the best-looking cottages for a cot or bunk; but they had none to spare, as the number of wondering children that stared at me kindly, at once suggested before I put the question.
It was now quite dark, and I was hungry and tired; and the prospect of an additional six miles walk was not very animating. What next? I will go back to Landlord Rufus and try a new influence on his sensibilities. Who knows but it will succeed? I will touch him on his true character as a Briton. So I went back, with my last chance hanging on the experiment. I told him I was an American traveller, weary, hungry, and infirm of health, and would pay an extra price for an extra effort to give me a bed for the night. I did not say all this in a Romanus-civus-sum sort of tone. No! dear, honest Old Abe, you would have done the same in my place. I made the great American Eagle coo like a dove in the request; and it touched the best instincts of the British Lion within the man. It was evident in a moment that I had put my case in a new aspect to him. He would talk with the "missus;" he withdrew into the back kitchen, a short conference ensued, and both came out together and informed me that they had found a bed, unexpectedly vacant, for my accommodation. And they would get up some tea and bread and butter for me, too. Capital! A sentiment of national pride stole in between every two feelings of common satisfaction at this result. The thought would come in and whisper, not for your importunity as a common fellow mortal were this bed and this loaf unlocked to you, but because you were an American citizen.
So I followed "the missus" into that great kitchen, and sat down in one corner of the huge fire-place while she made the tea. It was a capacious museum of culinary curiosities of the olden time, all arranged in picturesque groups, yet without any aim at effect. Pots, kettles, pans, spits, covers, hooks and trammels of the Elizabethan period, apparently the heirlooms of several intersecting generations, showed in the fire-light like a work of artistry; the sharp, silvery brightness of the tin and the florid flush of burnished copper making distinct disks in the darkness. It was with a rare sentiment of comfort that I sat by that fire of crackling faggots, looked up at the stars that dropped in their light as they passed over the top of the great chimney, and glanced around at the sides of that old English kitchen, panelled with plates and platters and dishes of all sizes and uses. And this fire was kindled and this tea-kettle was singing for me really because I was an American! I could not forget that—so I deemed it my duty to keep up the character. Therefore, I told the missus and her bright-eyed niece a great many stories about America; some of which excited their admiration and wonder. Thus I sat at the little, round, three- legged table, inside the out-spreading chimney, for an hour or more, and made as cozy and pleasant a meal of it as ever I ate. Besides all this, I had the best bed in the house, and several "Good nights!" on retiring to it, uttered with hearty good-will by voices softened to an accent of kindness. Next morning I was introduced into the best parlor, and had a capital breakfast, and then resumed my walk with a pleasant memory of my entertainment in that village inn.
I passed through a fertile and interesting section to St. Ives, in Huntingdonshire. Here I remained with some friends for a week, visiting neighboring villages by day and returning at night. St. Ives is a pleasant, well-favored town, just large enough to constitute a coherent, neighborly, and well-regulated community. It is the centre-piece of a rich, rural picture, which, without any strikingly salient features, pleases the eye with lineaments of quiet beauty symmetrically developed by the artistry of Nature. The river Ouse meanders through a wide, fertile flat, or what the Scotch would call a strath, which gently rises on each side into pleasantly undulating uplands. Parks, groves, copses, and hedge-row trees are interspersed very happily, and meadow, pasture, and grain-fields seen through them, with villages, hamlets, farm-houses, and isolated cottages, make up a landscape that grows more and more interesting as you contemplate it. And this placid locality, with its peaceful river seemingly sleeping in the bosom of its long and level meadows, was the scene of Oliver Cromwell's young, fiery manhood. Here, where Nature invites to tranquil occupations and even exercises of the mind, he trained the latent energies of his will for action in the great drama that overturned a throne and transformed a nation. Here, till very lately, stood his "barn," and here he drilled the first squadron of his "Ironsides."
My friend and host drove me one day to see a fen-farm a few miles beyond Ramsey, at which we remained over night and enjoyed the old- fashioned English hospitality of the establishment with lively relish. It was called "The Four-Hundred-Acre-Farm," to distinguish it from a hundred others, laid out on the same dead level, with lines and angles as straight and sharp as those of a brick. You will meet scores of persons in England who speak admiringly of the great prairies of our Western States—but I never saw one in Illinois as extensive as the vast level expanse you may see in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. In fact, the space of a large county has been fished up out of a shallow sea of salt water by human labor and capital. I will not dwell here upon the expense, process, and result of this gigantic operation. It would require a whole chapter to convey an approximate idea of the character and dimensions of the enterprise. The feat of Cyrus in turning the current of the Euphrates was the mere making of a short mill-race compared with the labor of lifting up these millions of acres bodily out of the flood that had covered and held them in quiescent solution since the world began.
This Great Prairie of England, generally called here the Fens, or Fenland, would be an interesting and instructive section for the agriculturists of our Western States to visit. They would see how such a region can be made quite picturesque, as well as luxuriantly productive. Let them look off upon the green sea from one of the upland waves, and it will be instructive to them to see and know, that all the hedge-trees, groves, and copses that intersect and internect the vast expanse of green and gold were planted by man's hands. Such a landscape would convince them that the prairies of Illinois and Iowa may be recovered from their almost depressing monotony by the same means. The soil of this district is apparently the same as that around Chicago—black and deep, on a layer of clay. It pulverises as easily in dry weather, and makes the same inky and sticky composition in wet. To give it more body, or to cross it with a necessary and supplementary element, a whole field is often trenched by the spade as clean as one could be furrowed by the plough. By this process the substratum of clay is thrown up, to a considerable thickness, upon the light, black, almost volatile soil, and mixed with it when dry; thus giving it a new character and capacity of production.
Everything seems to grow on a Californian scale in this fen district. Although the soil thus rescued from the waters that had flooded and half dissolved it, was at first as deep, black, and naturally fertile as that of our prairies, those who commenced its cultivation did not make the same mistake as did our Western farmers. They did not throw their manure into the broad draining canals to get rid of it, trusting to the inexhaustible fertility of the alluvial earth, as did the wheat growers of Indiana and Illinois to their cost; but they husbanded and well applied all the resources of their barn-yards. In consequence of this economy, there is no deterioration of annual averages of their crops to be recorded, as in some of our prairie States, which have been boasting of the natural and inexhaustible fertility of their soil even with the record of retrograde statistics before their eyes. The grain and root crops are very heavy; and a large business is done in growing turnip seed for the world in some sections of this fen country. A large proportion of the quantity we import comes from these low lands.
Our host of the Four-Hundred-Acre Farm took us over his productive occupation, which was in a very high state of cultivation. The wheat was yellowing to harvest, and promised a yield of forty-two bushels to the acre. The oats were very heavy, and the root crops looked well, especially a field of mangel-wurzel. He apportions his land to different crops after this ratio:— Wheat, 120 acres; oats, 80; rye-grass and clover, 50; roots, 60. His live stock consisted of 300 sheep, 50 to 60 head of cattle, and 70 to 80 hogs. His working force was from 10 to 12 men, 14 farm horses, and 4 nags. It may interest some of my American readers to know the number, character, and cost of the implements employed by this substantial English farmer in cultivating an estate of 400 acres. I noted down the following list, when he was showing us his tool-house:—
l. $ l. $ 6 Ploughs at 4 each = 20 24 = 120 6 Horse-carts, at 14 each = 70 84 = 420 1 Large Iron Roller and Gearing, 13 = 65 1 Cambridge Roller 14 = 70 1 Twelve-Coulter Drill 46 = 230 3 Harrows at 3 each = 15 9 = 45 2 Great Harrows at 3 each = 15 6 = 30 —- —- Total cost of these Implements 196l.$980
These figures will represent the working forces and implemental machinery of a well-tilled farm of 400 acres in England. They will also indicate the amount of capital required to cultivate an estate of this extent here. Let us compare it with the amount generally invested in New England for a farm of equal size. Thousands that have been under cultivation for a hundred years, may be bought for 5 pounds, or $25, per acre, including house, barn, and other buildings and appurtenances. It is a very rare thing for a man with us to buy 400 acres at once; but if he did, it would probably be on these conditions:— He would pay 400 pounds, or $2,000, down at the time of purchase, giving his notes for the remaining 1,600 pounds, or $8,000, at 6 per cent. interest payable annually, together with the yearly instalment of principal specified in each note. He would perhaps have 200 pounds, or $1,000, left of his capital for working power and agricultural implements. He would probably divide it after the following manner:—
l. l. $ 2 Yokes of Oxen, at 25 = 50 = 250 1 Horse 20 = 100 2 Ox-carts, at 15 = 30 = 150 1 Waggon 20 = 100 2 Ox-sleds, at 1 = 2 = 10 2 Ox-ploughs, at 2 = 4 = 20 1 Single Horse-plough 1 = 5 2 Harrows 2 = 4 = 20 Cradles, scythes, hoes, rakes, flails, etc. 4 = 20 Fanning-mill, hay-cutter, and corn-sheller. 4 = 20 15 Cows, steers, and heifers 45 = 225 6 Shoats, or pigs, six months old 10 = 50
These figures would indicate a large operation for a practical New England farmer, who should undertake to purchase and cultivate an estate of 400 acres. Indeed, not one in a hundred buying such a large tract of land would think of purchasing all the implements on this list at once, or entirely new. One of his carts, sleds, and harrows would very probably be "second-handed," and bought at half the price of a new one. Thus, a substantial farmer with us would think he was beginning on a very satisfactory and liberal footing, if he had 200 pounds, or $1,000, in ready money for stocking a holding of 400 acres with working cattle and implemental machinery, cows, pigs, etc. Now, compare this outlay with that of our host of the Four-Hundred-Acre Farm in Lincolnshire. We will begin with his- -
l. l. $ 14 Farm horses, at the low figure of 20 each = 280 = 1,400 4 Nags, or saddle and carriage horses 2O each = 8O = 400 300 Stock sheep 1 each = 300 = 1,500 7O Pigs, of different ages 2 each = 140 = 900 5O Head of cattle (cows, bullocks, etc.) 12 each = 600 = 3,000 Carts, drills, rollers, ploughs and other implements 1,000 = 5,000 ——- ——- 2,400 $12,200
The average rent of such land in England must be at least 1 pound 10s. per acre, and the tenant farmer must pay half of this out of the capital he begins with; which, on 400 acres, would amount to 300 pounds. Then, if he buys a quantity of artificial manures equal to the value of 10s. per acre, he will need to expend in this department 200 pounds. Next, if he purchases corn and oil-cake at the same ratio for his cattle and sheep as that adopted by Mr. Jonas, of Chrishall Grange, he will want 1,000 pounds for his 60 head of cattle and 300 sheep. In addition to these items of expenditure, he must pay his men weekly; and the wages of ten, at 10s. per week, for six months, amount to 130 pounds. Add an economical allowance for family expenses for the same length of time, and for incidental outgoes, and you make up the aggregate of 4,000 pounds, which is 10 pounds to the acre, which an English farmer needs to have and invest on entering upon the cultivation of a farm, great or small. This amount, as has been stated elsewhere, is the rule for successful agriculture in this country.
These facts will measure the difference between the amounts of capital invested in equal spaces of land in England and America. It is as ten to one, assuming a moderate average. Here, a man would need 1,500 pounds, or more than $7,000, to begin with on renting a farm of 150 acres, in order to cultivate it successfully. In New England, a man would think he began under favorable auspices if he were able to enter upon the occupancy of equal extent with 100 pounds, or about $500.
On returning from the Fens, I passed the night and most of the following day at Woodhurst, a village a few miles north of St. Ives, on the upland rising gently from the valley of the Ouse. My host here was a farmer, owning the land he tilled, cultivating it and the moral character and happiness of the little community, in which he moved as a father, with an equally generous heart and hand, and reaping a liberal reward from both departments of his labor. He took me over his fields, and showed me his crops and live stock, which were in excellent condition. Harvesting had already commenced, and the reapers were at work, men and women, cutting wheat and barley. Few of them used sickles, but a curved knife, wider than the sickle, of nearly the same shape, minus the teeth. A man generally uses two of them. With the one in his left hand he gathers in a good sweep of grain, bends it downward, and with the other strikes it close to the ground, as we cut Indian corn. With the left-hand hook and arm, he carries on the grain from the inside to the outside of the swath or "work," making three or four strokes with the cutting knife; then, at the end, gathers it all up and lays it down in a heap for binding. This operation is called "bagging." It does not do the work so neatly as the sickle, and is apt to pull up many stalks by the roots with the earth attaching to them, especially at the last, outside stroke.
I was struck with the economy adopted by my host in loading, carting and stacking or ricking his grain. The operation was really performed like clock-work. Two or three men were stationed at the rick to unload the carts, two in the fields to load them, and several boys to lead them back and forth to the two parties. They were all one-horse carts, and so timed that a loaded one was always at the rick and an empty one always in the field; thus keeping the men at both ends fully employed from morning until night, pitching on and pitching off; while boys, at 6d. or 8d. a day, led the horses.
On passing through the stables and housings for stock, I noticed a simple, yet ingenious contrivance for watering cattle, which I am not sure I can describe accurately enough, without a drawing, to convey a tangible idea of it to my agricultural neighbors in America. It may be called the buoy-cock. In the first place, the water is brought into a cistern placed at one end of the stable or shed at a sufficient elevation to give it the necessary fall in all the directions in which it is to be conducted. The pipe used for each cow-box or manger connects each with the cistern, and the distributing end of it rests upon, or is suspended over, the trough assigned to each animal. About one-third of this trough, which was here a cast-iron box, about twelve inches deep and wide, protrudes through the boarding of the stable. In this outside compartment is placed a hollow copper ball attached to a lever, which turns the axle or pivot of the cock. Now, this little buoy, of course, rises and falls with the water in the trough. When the trough is full, the buoy rises and raises the lever so as to shut off the water entirely. At every sip the animal takes, the buoy descends and lets on again, to a drop, a quantity equal to that abstracted from the inside compartment. Thus the trough is always kept full of pure water, without losing a drop of it through a waste-pipe or overflow. Where a great herd of cattle and a drove of horses have to be supplied from a deep well, as in the case of Mr. Jonas, at Chrishall Grange, this buoy-cock must save a great amount of labor.
I saw also here in perfection that garden allotment system which is now coming widely into vogue in England, not only adjoining large towns like Birmingham, but around small villages in the rural districts. It is well worthy of being introduced in New England and other states, where it would work equally well in various lines of influence. A landowner divides up a field into allotments, each generally containing a rood, and lets them to the mechanics, tradespeople and agricultural laborers of the town or village, who have no gardens of their own for the growth of vegetables. Each of these is better than a savings-bank to the occupant. He not only deposits his odd pennies but his odd hours in it; keeping both away from the public-house or from places and habits of idleness and dissipation. The days of Spring and Summer here are very long, and a man can see to work in the field as early as three o'clock in the morning, and as late as nine at night. So every journeyman blacksmith, baker or shoemaker may easily find four or five hours in the twenty-four for work on his allotment, after having completed the task or time due to his employer. He generally keeps a pig, and is on the qui vive to make and collect all the manure he can for his little farm. A field of several acres, thus divided and cultivated in allotments, presents as striking a combination of colors as an Axminster carpet. As every rood is subdivided into a great variety of vegetables, and as forty or fifty of such patches, lying side by side, present, in one coup d'oeil, all the alternations of which these crops and colors are susceptible, the effect is very picturesque.
My Woodhurst friend makes his allotment system a source of much social enjoyment to himself and the poor villagers. He lets forty- seven patches, each containing twenty poles. Every tenant pays 10s., or $2 40c., annual rent for his little holding, Mr. E. drawing the manure for each, which is always one good load a year. Here, too, these little spade-farmers are put under the same regime as the great tenant agriculturists of the country. Each must farm his allotment according to the terms of the yearly lease. He must dig up his land with spade or pick, not plough it; and he is not allowed to work on it upon the Sabbath. But encouragements greatly predominate over restrictions, and stimulate and reward a high cultivation. Eight prizes are offered to this end, of the following amounts:—10s., 7s. 6d., 5s., 4s., 3s., 2s. 6d., 2s. and 1s. Every one who competes must not have more than half his allotment in potatoes. The greater the variety of vegetables the other half contains, the better is his chance for the first prize. The appraiser is some disinterested person of good judgment, perhaps from an adjoining town, who knows none of the competitors. To prevent any possible favoritism, the allotments are all numbered, and he awards prizes to numbers only, not knowing to whom they belong. Another feature, illustrating the generous disposition of the proprietor, characterises this good work. On the evening appointed for paying the rents, he gets up a regular, old-fashioned English supper of roast beef and plum-pudding for them, giving each fourpence instead of beer, so that they may all go home sober as well as cheerful. To see him preside at that table, with his large, round, rosy face beaming upon them with the quiet benevolence of a good heart, and to hear the fatherly and neighborly talks he makes to them, would be a picture and preaching which might be commended to the farmers of all countries.
I saw also a curious phenomenon in the natural world on this farm, which perhaps will be regarded as a fiction of fancy by many a reader. It was a large field of barley grown from oats! We have recently dwelt upon some of the co-workings of Nature and Art in the development of flowers and of several useful plants. But here is something stranger still, that seems to diverge from the line of any law hitherto known in the vegetable world. Still, for aught one can know at this stage of its action, it may be the same general law of development which we have noticed, only carried forward to a more advanced point of progress. I would commend it to the deep and serious study of naturalists, botanists, or to those philosophers who should preside over the department of investigation to which the subject legitimately belongs. I will only say what I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. Here, I repeat, was a large field of heavy grain, ready for harvest. The head and berry were barley, and the stalk and leaves were oat! Here, certainly, is a mystery. The barley sown on this field was the first-born offspring of oats. And the whole process by which this wonderful transformation is wrought, is simply this, and nothing more:—The oats are sown about the last week in June; and, before coming into ear, they are cut down within one inch and a half of the ground. This operation is repeated a second time. They are then allowed to stand through the winter, and the following season the produce is barley. This is the plain statement of the case in the very words of the originator of this process, and of this strange transmutation. The only practical result of it which he claims is this: that the straw of the barley thus produced is stouter, and stands more erect, and, therefore, less liable to be beaten down by heavy wind or rain. Then, perhaps, it may be added, this oat straw headed with barley is more valuable as fodder for live stock than the natural barley straw. But the value of this result is nothing compared with the issue of the experiment as proving the existence of a principle or law hitherto undiscovered, which may be applied to all kinds of plants for the use of man and beast. If any English reader of these notes is disposed to inquire more fully into this subject, I am sure he may apply without hesitation to Mr. John Ekins, of Bruntisham, near St. Ives, who will supply any additional information needed. He presented me with a little sample bag of this oat-born barley, which I hope to show my agricultural neighbors on returning to America.
THE MILLER OF HOUGHTON—AN HOUR IN HUNTINGDON—OLD HOUSES— WHITEWASHED TAPESTRY AND WORKS OF ART—"THE OLD MERMAID" AND "THE GREEN MAN"—TALK WITH AGRICULTURAL LABORERS—THOUGHTS ON THEIR CONDITION, PROSPECTS, AND POSSIBILITIES.
After a little more than a week's visit in St. Ives and neighboring villages, I again resumed my staff and set out in a westerly direction, in order to avoid the flat country which lay immediately northward for a hundred miles and more. Followed the north bank of the Ouse to Huntingdon. On the way, I stopped and dined with a gentleman in Houghton whose hospitality and good works are well known to many Americans. The locality mentioned is so identified with his name, that they will understand whom I mean. There was a good and tender-hearted man who lived in our Boston, called Deacon Grant; and I hope he is living still. He was so kind to everybody in trouble, and everybody in trouble went to him so spontaneously for sympathy and relief, that no one ever thought of him as belonging to a single religious congregation, but regarded him as Deacon of the whole of Boston—a kind of universal father, whose only children were the orphans and the poor men's sons and daughters of the city. The Miller of Houghton, as some of my readers will know, is just such another man, with one slight difference, which is to his advantage, as a gift of grace. He has all of Deacon Grant's self-diffusing life of love for his kind, generous and tender dispositions towards the poor and needy, and more than the Deacon's means of doing good; and, with all this, the indomitable energy and will and even the look of Cromwell. During my stay in the neighborhood, I was present at two large gatherings at his House of Canvas, with which he supplements his family mansion when the latter lacks the capacity of his heart in the way of accommodation. This tent, which he erects on his lawn, will hold a large congregation; and, on both the occasions to which I refer, was well filled with men, women, and children from afar and near. The first was a re- union of the Sunday-school teachers and pupils of the county, to whom he gave a sumptuous dinner; after which followed addresses and some business transactions of the association. The second was the examination of the British School of the village, founded and supported, I believe, by himself. At the conclusion of the exercises, which were exceedingly interesting, the whole company, young and old, adjourned to the lawn, where the visitors and elder people of the place were served with tea and coffee under the tent.
Then came "The Children's Hour." They were called in from their games and romping on the lawn, and formed into a circle fifty feet in diameter. And here and now commenced an entertainment which would make a more interesting picture than the old Apsley House Dinner. The good deacon of the county, with several assistants, entered this charmed circle of boys and girls, all with eyes dilated and eager with expectation, and overlooked by a circular wall of elder people radiant with the spirit of the moment. The host, in his white hat and grey beard, led the way with a basket on his arm, filled with little cakes, called with us gingernuts. He was followed by a file of other men with baskets of nuts, apples, etc. It was a most hilarious scene, exhilarating to all the senses to look upon, either for young or old. He walked around the ring with a grand, Cromwellian step, sowing a pattering rain of the little cakes on the clean-shaven lawn, as a farmer would sow wheat in his field, broadcast, in liberal handfuls. Then followed in their order the nut-sowers, apple-sowers, and the sowers of other goodies. When the baskets were emptied, the circular space enclosed was covered with as tempting a spread of dainties as ever fascinated the eyes of a crowd of little people. For a whole minute, longer than a full hour of ordinary schoolboy enjoyments, they had to stand facing that sight, involuntarily attitudinising for the plunge. At the end of that long minute, the signal sounded, and, in an instant, there was a scene in the ring that would have made the soberest octogenarian shake his sides with the laughter of his youth. The encircling multitude of youngsters darted upon the thickly-scattered delicacies like a flock of birds upon a field of grain, with patter, twitter and flutter, and a tremor and treble of little short laughs; small, eager hands trying in vain to shut fast upon a large apple and several ginger-nuts at one grasp; slippings and trippings, tousling of tresses and crushing of dresses; boys and girls higgledy- piggledy; caps and bonnets piggledy-higgledy; little, red-faced Alexanders looking half sad, because they had filled their small pocket-worlds and both hands with apples and nuts, and had no room nor holding for more; little girls, with broken bonnet-strings, and long, sunny hair dancing over their eyes, stretching their short fingers to grasp another goodie,—all this, with the merry excitement of fathers and mothers, elder brothers and sisters, and other spectators, made it a scene of youthful life and delight which would test the genius of the best painters of the age to delineate. And Sir Roger Coverley Cromwell, the author of all this entertainment, would make a capital figure in the group, taken just as he looked at that moment, with his face illuminated with the upshooting joy of his heart, like the clear, frosty sky of winter with the glow and the flush of the Northern Lights.
The good Miller of Houghton, having added stone to stone until his mills can grind all the wheat the largest county can grow, has recently handed over to his sons the great business he had built up to such magnitude, and retired, if possible, to a more active life of benevolence. One of his late benefactions was a gift of 3,000 pounds, or nearly $15,000, toward the erection of an Independent Chapel in St. Ives.
At Huntingdon, I took tea and spent a pleasant hour with the principal of a select school, kept in a large, dignified and comfortable mansion, once occupied by the poet Cowper. In the yard behind the house there is a wide-spreading and prolific pear-tree planted by his hands. This, too, was one of the thousands of old, stately dwellings you meet with here and there, which have no beginning nor end that you can get at. Cowper lived and wrote in this, for instance; but who lived in it a century before he was born? Who built it? Which of the Two Roses did he mount on his arms? Or did he live and build later, and dine his townsman, the great Oliver, or was he loyal to the last to Charles the First? These are questions that come up, on going over such a building, but no one can answer them, and you are left to the wisdom of limping legends on the subject. The present occupant has an antiquarian penchant; so, a short time after he took possession of the house, he began to make explorations in the walls and wainscotings, as men of the same mind have done at Nineveh and Pompeii. Having penetrated a thick surface of white lava, or a layer of lime, put on with a brush "in an earlier age than ours," he came upon a gorgeous wall of tapestry, with inwoven figures and histories of great men and women, quite as large as life, and all of very florid complexion and luxurious costumes. He has already exhumed a great many square yards of this picturesque fabric, wrought in by-gone ages, and is continuing the work with all the zest and success of a fortunate archaeologist. Now it is altogether probable, that Cowper, as he sat in one of those rooms writing at his beautiful rhymes, had not the slightest idea that he was surrounded by such a crowd of kings, queens, and other great personages, barely concealed behind a thin cloud of white-wash.
It may possibly be true, that a few beautiful, fair-haired heretics in love or religion have been stone-masoned up alive in the walls of abbeys or convents. Sir Walter Scott leaned to that belief, and perhaps had credible history for it. But if the trowel has slain its thousands, the whitewash swab has slain its ten thousands of innocents. Think of the furlongs of richly-wrought tapestry, full of sacred and profane history, and the furlongs of curiously-carved panels, wainscoting, and cornice that floppy, sloppy, vandal brush of pigs' bristles and pail of diluted lime have eclipsed and obliterated for ever, and not a retributive drop of the villainous mixture has fallen into the perpetrator's eye to "make his foul intent seem horrible!" Think of Christian kings of glorious memory, even Defenders of the Faith, with their fair queens, princes of the blood, and knights, noble and brave, all, in one still St. Bartholomew night of that soft, thin, white flood, buried from the sight of the living as completely as the Roman sentinel at his post by the red gulf-stream of Vesuvius! Still, we must not be too hard on these seemingly barbarous transactions. "Not in anger, not in wrath," nor in foolish fancy, was that dripping brush always lifted upon these works of art. Many a person of cultivated taste saw a time when he could say, almost with Sancho Panza, "blessings on the man who invented whitewash! It covers a tapestry, a carving, or a sculpture all over like a blanket;" like that one spoken of in Macbeth. England is just beginning to learn what treasures of art in old mansions, churches and cathedrals were saved to the present age by a timely application of that cheap and healthy fluid. For there was a time when stern men of iron will arose, who had no fear of Gothic architecture, French tapestry, or Italian sculpture before their eyes; who treated things that had awed or dazzled the world as "baubles" of vanity, to be put away, as King Josiah put away from his realm the graven images of his predecessors. And these men thought they were doing good service to religion by pushing their bayonets at the most delicate works of the needle, pencil and chisel; ripping and slitting the most elaborately wrought tapestry,- -stabbing off the fine leaf, and vine-work from carved cornices and wainscoting, and mutilating the marble lace-work of the sculptor in the old cathedrals. The only way to save these choice things was to make them suddenly take the white veil from the whitewasher's brush. Thousands of them were thus preserved, and they are now being brought forth to the light again, after having been shut away from the eye of man for several centuries.
The school-house is still standing in Huntingdon, in good condition and busy occupation, in which Oliver Cromwell stormed the English alphabet and carried the first parallel of monosyllables at the point of the pen. The very form or bench of oak from which he mounted the breach is still occupied by boys of the same size and age, with the same number of inches between their feet and the floor which separated it from his. Had the photographic art been discovered in his day, we might have had his face and form as he looked when seated as a rosy-faced, light-haired boy in the rank and file of the youngsters gathered within those walls. What an overwhelming revelation it would have been to his young, honest and merry mind, if some seer, like him who told Hazael his future, could have given him a sudden glimpse of what he was to be and do in his middle manhood!
After tea, I continued my walk westward to a small, quiet, comfortable village, about five miles from Huntingdon, where I became the guest of "The Old Mermaid," who extended her amphibious hospitalities to all strangers wishing bed and board for the night. Both I received readily and greatly enjoyed under her roof, especially the former. Never did I occupy a bed so fringed with the fanciful artistries of dreamland. It was close up under the thatched roof, and it was the most easy and natural thing in the world for the fancies of the midnight hour to turn that thatching into hair, and to cheat my willing mind with the delusion that I was sleeping with the long, soft tresses of Her Submarine Ladyship wound around my head. It was a delightful vagary of the imagination, which the morning light, looking in through the little checker-work window, gently dispelled.