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that stood helplessly right in the very centre of the road, so that it was extremely doubtful if there were sufficient room left for us to pass by; and if we failed to do this and our wheels went over the edge of the embankment we were on, which was fenceless on both sides, the dog-cart and horses might very probably follow suit. Some men were busily hammering and tinkering at the engine; they said that she had broken down an hour ago, and they had not been able to get her to move since, but fortunately there had been no traffic coming along, and we were the first party to arrive on the scene. All of which was very entertaining and informative, but not very helpful as to how we were to proceed. Did they think we could possibly get by ? Well, they did not know, they hardly thought so; but they would measure the width of our carriage and the width of the roadway left. This being duly done, it was discovered that there was just room, but not even the proverbial inch to spare. Thereupon we naturally concluded that the margin for safety was insufficient ! Here was a pleasant predicament to be in! We could not well go back ; on the other hand the men confessed that they had no idea when they would be able “ to get the thing to work again.” The steam was up, but when turned on the iron monster snorted, creaked, and groaned, but resolutely refused to budge. “Something has given way, and we be trying to mend it” was the only consolation offered us, beyond the fact that they had sent a man over to Spalding for help, but when he would return they
did not know; “It were certainly bad luck that we should have been right in the middle of the road when she gave out, but you see we never expected anything of the kind.” It was an unfortunate position of affairs ; if we decided to attempt to drive by, and our horses shied or swerved ever so little in the attempt, a serious accident was almost a certainty ; so, after considering the matter well, a happy, if troublesome, way out of the difficulty occurred to us : this was to unharness both horses and lead them past the obstructing engine, then to wheel the dog-cart after as best we could. Just as we had decided to do this, the monster gave another spasmodic snort or two and began to move in a jerky fashion, only to break down again, then the men set to work once more a-hammering. How long would this go on? we wondered. However, the few yards that the engine had managed to move was to one side, which gave us a little more room to pass, whereupon, acting under a sudden impulse, we whipped the horses up, and taking tight hold of the reins dashed safely by, but it was “a touch and go” affair ; our horses did swerve a trifle, and we just missed bringing our tour to a conclusion on the spot, but “all's well that ends well,” and “a miss is as good as a mile!”
After this little episode we had a peaceful progress on to Spalding undisturbed by further adventure. The approach to this essentially old-worldlooking town from the Crowland direction alongside the river Welland—which is here embanked and made to run straight, canal fashion, and has shady
trees and grassy margins on either side—is exceedingly Dutch-like and very pleasant. Few English towns have so attractive an approach ; it gave us a favourable impression of the place at once—so imperceptibly the country road became the town street, first the trees, then the houses. Spalding is a place that seems more of a natural growth, an integral part of the scenery, so in harmony is it therewith, rather than a conglomeration of houses built merely for man's convenience. Such charmingly oldfashioned, prosperous, but delightfully unprogressive towns are not to be met with every day, when the ambition of most places appears to be more or less a second-hand copy of London ; and at a sacrifice of all individuality they strive after this undesirable ideal. How refreshing is a little originality in this world, that grows more sadly commonplace and colourless year by year! Alas! we live in an age of civilised uniformity, an age that has given us railways and ironclads in far - off Japan, and tramway lines and French tables d'hôte in the very heart of ancient Egypt! Soon the only ground the unconventional traveller will have left to him will be the more remote spots of rural England! It is far more primitive and picturesque to-day than rural new America with its up-to-date villages lighted with electricity, and stores provided with all the latest novelties of Chicago or New York! Where will the next-century mortal find the rest and repose of the past?
Driving into Spalding we noticed the ancient hostelry of the “White Hart” facing the market
“ HARPER YE HOST"
square, a hostelry that was ancient when the railways still were young, and on the lamp that projected over the centre of this old house we further noticed the quaint legend“ Harper ye Host,” a conceit that pleased us much. “A host must surely be one of the right sort thus to proclaim himself,” we reasoned, “we will place ourselves under his care"; so without more ado we drove beneath the archway into the courtyard, and confidently handed our horses over to the ready ostler's charge, and sought for ourselves entertainment and shelter beneath the sign of the “White Hart.”
Spalding—“Ye Olde White Horse Inne "-An ancient hall and
quaint garden -- Epitaph-hunting — A signboard joke-Across the Fens—A strange world—Storm and sunshine-An awkward predicament-Brown-Birthplace of Hereward the Wake--A medieval railway station !—Tombstone verses.
We determined that we would devote the next morning to leisurely exploring Spalding, armed with sketch-book and camera, for the ancient town promised, from the glance we had of it whilst driving in, to provide plenty of picturesque and quaint material for both pencil and lens.
We had not to search long for a subject, for in less than five minutes we came upon a tempting architectural bit in the shape of a past-time inn, with a thatched roof, high gables, and dormer windows, whose swinging signboard proclaimed it to be “Ye Olde White Horse Inne." It was a building full of a certain quiet character that was very pleasing-a home-like and unpretentious structure whose picturesqueness was the outcome of necessity, and all the more charming for its unconsciousness.
Then wandering by the waterside we chanced upon a beautiful and ancient house called Ayscough Hall, gray-gabled, time-toned, and weather-worn, with a great tranquil garden of the old-fashioned sort