as I was, not as refined and superior in their aspirations,
"Oh," said Fanny, with a glance of defiance at Miss Gale, "if we are to talk nothing but science, it _will_ be a weary world."
After the village there was a long, gradual ascent of about a mile, and then they entered a new country. It was a series of woods and clearings, some grass, some arable. Huge oaks, flung their arms over a road lined on either side by short turf, close-cropped by the gypsies' cattle. Some band or other of them was always encamped by the road-side, and never two bands at once. And between these giant trees, not one of which was ever felled, you saw here and there a glade, green as an emerald; or a yellow stubble, glowing in the sun. After about a mile of this, still mounting, but gradually, they emerged upon a spacious table-land--a long, broad, open, grass plateau, studded with cottages. In this lake of grass Uxmoor drew up at a word from Zoe, to show Miss Gale the scene. The cottages were white as snow, and thatched as at Islip; but instead of vegetable-gardens they all had orchards. The trees were apple and cherry: of the latter not less than a thousand in that small hamlet. It was literally a lawn, a quarter of a mile long and about two hundred yards broad, bordered with white cottages and orchards. The cherries, red and black, gleamed like countless eyes among the cool leaves. There was a little church on the lawn that looked like a pigeon-house. A cow or two grazed peacefully. Pigs, big and little, crossed the lawn, grunting and squeaking satisfaction, and dived into the adjacent woods after acorns, and here and there a truffle the villagers knew not the value of. There was a pond or two in the lawn; one had a wooden plank fixed on uprights, that went in some way. A woman was out on the board, bare-armed, dipping her bucket in for water. In another pond an old knowing horse stood gravely cooling his heels up to the fetlocks. These, with shirts, male and female, drying on a line, and whiteheaded children rolling in the dust, and a donkey braying his heart out for reasons known only to himself, if known at all, were the principal details of the sylvan hamlet; but on a general survey there were grand beauties. The village and its turf lay in the semicircular sweep of an unbroken forest; but at the sides of the leafy basin glades had been cut for drawing timber, stacking bark, etc., and what Milton calls so happily "the checkered shade" was seen in all its beauty; for the hot sun struggled in at every aperture, and splashed the leaves and the path with fiery flashes and streaks, and topaz brooches, all intensified in fire and beauty by the cool adjacent shadows.
Looking back, the view was quite open in most places. The wooded lanes and strips they had passed were little more in so vast a panorama than the black stripes on a backgammon board. The site was so high that the eye swept over all, and rested on a broad valley beyond, with a patchwork pattern of variegated fields and the curling steam of engines flying across all England; then swept by a vast incline up to a horizon of faint green hills, the famous pastures of the United Kingdom. So that it was a deep basin of foliage in front; but you had only to turn your body, and there was a forty-mile view, with all the sweet varieties of color that gem our fields and meadows, as they bask in the afternoon sun of that golden time when summer melts into autumn, and mellows without a chill.
"Oh," cried Miss Gale, "don't anybody speak, please! It is too beautiful!"
They respected an enthusiasm so rare in this young lady, and let her contemplate the scene at her ease.
"I reckon," said she, dogmatically, and nodding that wise little head, "that this is Old England--the England my ancestors left in search of liberty, and that's a plant that ranks before cherry-trees, I rather think. No, I couldn't have gone; I'd have stayed and killed a hundred tyrants. But I wouldn't have chopped their heads off" (to Vizard, very confidentially); "I'd have poisoned 'em."
"Don't, Miss Gale!" said Fanny; "you make my blood run cold."
As it was quite indifferent to Miss Gale whether she made Miss Dover's blood run cold or not, she paid no attention, but proceeded with her reflections. "The only thing that spoils it is the smoke of those engines, reminding one that in two hours you or I, or that pastoral old hermit there in a smock-frock, and a pipe--and oh, what bad tobacco!--can be wrenched out of this paradise, and shrieked and rattled off and flung into that wilderness of brick called London, where the hearts are as hard as the pavement--except those that have strayed there from Barfordshire."