« AnteriorContinuar »
captain of the wild North Sea, all making merry over their glasses and jokes. The modern traveller in the modern hotel is alas ! less sociable, and takes himself over seriously, and seldom even smiles. But happily there seems to be something about the old English inn that thaws the formality and taciturnity out of strangers. I think this must be due to the sense of homeliness and comfort that pervades it, with the delightful absence of all pretence and show.
From our inn we looked across the wide market square right on to the splendid and spacious church with its tall and graceful tower, a veritable triumph of the builder's craft. It chanced to be market-day, and so the large square was filled with stalls, and was chiefly in the possession of picturesquely-clad country folk displaying their goods,—fruits, Powers, vegetables, eggs, poultry, and the like, whilst the townsfolk gathered round to make their purchases the transactions being carried on with much mutual bargaining and leisurely chattering; and the hum of many blended voices came upwafted to us, not as a disturbing noise, but with a slumberous sound as restful as the summer droning of innumerable bees. The ear may be trained to listen with pleasure, as well as the eye to discern with delight, and it is the peace-suggesting country sounds, the clean, fresh air laden with sweet odours from flower, field, and tree, as well as the vision, that cause a rural ramble to be so rewarding and so enjoyable. There must surely be something in the moist air of the Fenland that makes musical melody of noises; for we noticed
FROM AN INN WINDOW
that even the clanging of bells, the shrill whistling of locomotives, and the metallic rush of trains seemed strangely and pleasantly mellowed there ; moreover, the traffic on the stony streets of Boston appeared subdued, and had none of that nerve-irritating din that rises so often from the London thoroughfares.
It was a morning of sunshine and shower, an April day that had lost itself in September, and not readily shall I forget the shifting scene below with its moving mosaic of colour, nor the effect of the constantly changing light and shade on the stately church tower. Now it would be a deep purple-gray, dark almost to blackness as seen against a mass of white vapour, then suddenly it would be all lightened up to a pale orange tint against a sombre rain-cloud, its tracery and sculpturings outlined by the delicate shadows they cast, giving them a soft effect as of stone embroidery. A wonderfully effective and beautiful structure is this tower, and, in my opinion, after Salisbury's soaring spire, the most beautiful and graceful in England, which is saying much in a land where so many fine examples of ecclesiastical architecture abound. This splendid church of St. Botolph arose out of the piety and prosperity of a past generation. History has it that it was built over a small Norman church that formerly stood on the site, and that worship went on in the earlier structure during the time of building, and not until the new edifice was completed was the ancient one removed-a curious, and I should imagine a unique fact, that may account for the great height and size of the nave.
It being market-day, we sought the bar of our hotel for a while, in order to study any odd characters we might perchance find gathered there, and we discovered a curious mixture of agricultural and town folk, with a sprinkling of seafaring men. The talk was as varied as the company. During the general hum of conversation we could not help noticing how many expressions were used manifestly of nautical origin, though they were employed apparently wholly by landsmen in concerns having no connection with the sea or shipping. We jotted down some of these as follows, just as they came to us :—"He's been on the rocks so lately"; "he's in smooth water now”; “it's all plain sailing"; "it's not all above board”; “he had to take in sail”; “now stow that away”; “it took the wind out of his sails”; “any port in a storm, you know”—and others of a like nature. A civil engineer with whom we got into conversation here, and who we gleaned was employed on the Fen drainage, expressed his unstinted admiration for the old Roman embankment that still follows the contour of a goodly portion of the Lincolnshire coast, and was designed and constructed as a bulwark against the encroachments of the sea, a purpose it has admirably served. This embankment, he told us, was in the main as strong and serviceable, in spite of ages of neglect, as when first raised all those long and eventful centuries ago ; and furthermore, he stated as his honest opinion that, in spite of all our boasted advantages and progress, we could not to-day construct such enduring work.
Wandering in a desultory fashion about the
THE MAKING OF HISTORY
rambling old town, we came across a quaint old half-timber building known as Shodfriars Hall, that, with its gable-ends facing the street and projecting upper stories, showed how picturesquely our ances tors built. How pleasantly such an arrangement of gables breaks the skyline and gives it an interest that is so sadly wanting in our modern towns! Then we chanced upon the old town hall with its ancient and historic prisons; these consist of iron cages ranged along one side of the gloomy interior, cages somewhat resembling those that the lions and tigers are accommodated with at the zoological gardens, but minus the light, sunshine, and fresh air that the latter possess. Here in these small cages, within the dark and dreary hall, some of the Pilgrim Fathers were confined, and most uncomfortable they must have been ; but they were men with stout hearts and dauntless spirits—men who made history in spite of circumstance! The sailing of the little ship Mayflower from Boston, in 1620, with the Pilgrim Fathers on board was at the time a seemingly trivial event, yet it has left its mark in the annals of the world ; and in new America of to-day to trace your descent to one of that little and humble band is to be more than lord, or duke, or king! Some there are who have made light of the episode of the sailing of those few brave men for an unknown world across the wide and stormy ocean solely because they would be free:
Thou who makest the tale thy mirth,
Half-redeemed from the evil hold
Seated safely and comfortably in a cosy arm-chair, how easy it is to sneer!
Then wandering on we espied a charming specimen of old-world building in the shape of an ancient grammar school, beautified with the bloom of centuries, which was, we learnt by a Latin inscription thereon, built in the year 1567. This interesting and picturesque structure is approached from the road by a courtyard, the entrance to which is through a fine old wrought-iron gateway. Verily Boston is a town of memories; its buildings are histories, and oftentimes pictures!
Not far away, on the opposite side of the road, stands a comfortable-looking red-brick building of two stories in the so-called Queen Anne style. It is an unpretentious but home-like structure, noteworthy as being the birthplace of Jean Ingelow, the popular Lincolnshire poetess and novelist. Then to our right the houses ceased, and the slow-gliding and, let it be honestly confessed, muddy river Witham took their place. Here and there the stream was crossed by ferry-boats, to which you descend by