Imágenes de páginas

would, I am sure, take a liberty, but we like to beguile the way by setting him on to talk.”

I could perceive nothing either amusing or instructive about the wretch, so I made no reply:

Mr. Tregellis informed me further that the young man opposite was a clergyman in the neighbourhood. He and Mr. Tregellis now fell into talk about some man they mutually knew, when, speaking of his grey hair, Tregellis remarked, " that he was blossoming for eternity !" Here was a fine, vay, a poetic, idea ; and yet the same man who could one moment express himself with elegance and polish, entered Bodmin, whistling between his fingers, trying to outdo the coachman's whistle; their united efforts were perfectly stunning and most disagreeable.

Bodmin is a neat, modern-looking town, situated in a valley; the houses closely wedged in between rising hills, but offering no peculiar beauty. The coachman informed us that a man had here three choices, “ the County Gaol, the Union, and the Lunatics,” which building is a large asylum placed on the summit of a hill just out of the town. Changing horses, we proceeded—the rest of the party having, as we heard from the coachman, partaken of a dinner very much to his mind, his only regret being he had not had time to devour enough ; so he solaced his hungry stomach by incessantly repeating the dainties over and over again, and telling every fresh passenger that came near him of the different dishes, with various epithets and adjectives of admiration. I heard the same thing over and over again so many times, I could not help ending at last by laughing outright, when, for about the twentieth time, came out, “ boiled salmon, cold leg of sheep, sich nice fried ham,” &c. &c.

After leaving Bodmin, which disappointed me, as, instead of being the ancient time-honoured town I had fancied, the capital of such a romantic county as Cornwall was as prim, and neat, and modern, as any little town ten miles from London. We passed through a very pretty valley, bordered with ash-trees, growing in avenues along the road; on the right, under the hill, appeared the ruins of St. Benet's Monastery; to the left, a little further on, was the pretty church of Landlivit, placed among fine trees forming an exceedingly pleasing group. Beyond us rose bare, bleak, barren hills, cold and sterile to the eye, over which we could see our road lying before us for many a dreary mile. This region, so bare to the outward eye, teems with internal riches, and, as Mr. Tregellis informed is full of the most valuable mines. The different enginehouses broke the monotony of the scene ; the whole soil appears as if turned over by an earthquake—rugged, uneven, and uncultivatedcaused, as he said, by its being dug up and sifted for finding tin. From the same cause all the streams were thick and muddy ; and certainly a more dreary or desolate prospect never opened to the traveller's gaze. My attention, however, was now so riveted by Mr. Tregellis and all his stories, I could not think of ennui. He being informed by me that I was journeying to Penzance and the Land's End, made out our whole carte de voyage, mentioning everything he said we ought to see ; he described the Land's End as most striking, “ gloomy, sombre, mysterious masses of rock," he said, “ frowning in awful majesty, and looking like the witnesses of a thousand shipwrecks!” He then proceeded to tell me about the mines through which we were passing; he said, “ The Phe



nicians had first traded to Britain, and that the Romans subsequently had discovered the iron, and that their labours had been a guide to after generations ; but that they were ignorant of the existence of tin, which now formed so valuable a branch of commerce." We passed large dépôts of white clay, gathered in square masses, and thus left to dry, being then cut out into square cakes by women, whom we saw engaged in this ououpation. This, he told me, was the china clay sent in these cakes into Staffordshire, to be there manufactured into ware—the mines through which we were passing being for many miles, he said, tin and copper and this same clay; Cornwall producing every sort of mineral excepting coal.

On an eminence to the right he pointed out to me what appeared in the distance to be a castle, but which he said was the rock of Roche that rises-an enormous solitary mass of stone-out of an earthy soil covered with heath. This strange, isolated rock, seen from an immense distance, is pointed in shape, and contains on the highest elevation a chapel, dedicated to Saint Michael, the favourite Cornwall saint. It is supposed to have been a hermitage, he said, but the last inhabitant is reported to have been a leper.

Thus this strange man continued most agreeably conversing on every subject ; his whole manner and his general choice of language being excellent. All at once he broke off, and began amusing the coachman and the reverend smoker with another tale, coarse enough, as the sequel will show, and in one moment the whole man was vulgarised-manner, voice, and language changed, and he seemed on a par with the lowest wag at a coumtry fair.

He now told of some merchant, who, wishing to save his pocket, resolved to discontinue his usual custom of keeping a traveller, determined to send out in that capacity his son, a simple youth, who made his debut as a bagman in a neighbouring town. After going round to all the shopkeepers without the slightest success, he was sitting in the room at night with some others of his class, and by his downcast and dejected demeanour, and deep sighs, attracted the attention of a veteran in the bagging line, who was present, and asked bim

" What was the matter?”

“ Matter," replied the youth ; "indeed I don't know what to do ; this is my first excursion for orders, and I have been round to all the tradesmen in the town all day long, and not one has given me a single order. Oh, dear me! I am so downbearted I don't know what to do ; how can I go home to father with an empty book ?” "Oh, indeed,” says the old hand, “ that is very


; pray, young man, allow me to ask, are you a freemason ?”

* A freemason !” replied the youth. “No; has that anything to do with the bagging business ?”

“ Yes, everything to do with it,” replied the other. “ If you are not a freemason you have not got the sign, and nobody in this town will give you orders if


don't know the sign." The simple fellow stared, and opened his eyes amain at this intelligence.

“ Lord bless me, sir, I wonder father didn't think of that ; how I should like to be a freemason. Oh, sir, I wish you would just give me a

[ocr errors]

notion of the sign. I am a poor young man, sir, on my first journey, and I should take it exceeding kind of you.”

The old rogue of a bagman wishing no better, after making many difficulties, and protesting it was the greatest favour, declared at last he would initiate him, and told him,

“ That the sign of freemasonry consisted in a certain well-known evolution often practised by small incipient blackguards in the street, performed by placing the right thunib on the point of the nose, at the same time gracefully extending and agitating the fingers. Now," says the old wag, “if you go roud to the shops in the morning and only do that at the master, every one will see at once you are a freemason, and


will get no end of orders '; and harkee, young man, if you do that and find it won't do, put the other hand thus, performing at the same time the usual continuation, joining the thumb of the left to the little finger of the right hand.

Up in the morning got the happy young traveller, and triumphantly posted off to a tradesman, again soliciting his orders, when he refused as before.

“Oh, sir,” says the traveller, “when I came last night I didn't know the sign, sir—the sign of freemasonry, sir -- but I do now, and I'm sure of your custom now, sir;" with that he began shaking his fingers most vigorously in the tradesman's face.

" Holloa, you young devil, what do you mean by that impudence ; you confounded young scamp, get out of the shop-get out, I say, or I'll korsewhip you.” So out he was precipitated, with divers kicks and curses, returning more confused than ever.

This story was received with roars of merriment all round; the coachman walked his horses to listen ; the smoking gentleman forgot his cigar; I shook with internal laughter ; poor Miss D. tried to look grave, and ended by a grin ; one man climbed from behind and sat roaring on the top of the luggage to the imminent risk of breaking his neck; and the little old man in the corner chirped out, “Good-good again; well done, Tregellis ; you're the man for fun. Ha, ha, ha!”

Now I dare say to read this story may appear tame and vulgar, but to hear it told by this strange man, spoken in the most polite manner, clothed in good language, and given with an inimitable point and humour, was positively irresistible, and kept me giggling for half an hour. Mr. Tregellis was now fairly launched in interchanging jibes and jokes with his friend Mr. Simmonds; sally after sally succeeded; and a whistling duet was recommenced that seemed likely to be overwhelming. During a momentary pause I insinuated that I had a headache, which that noise was certainly calculated to increase. In a moment Mr. Tregellis was again the gentleman, 'bowed, and begged my pardon, was 80 sorry Simmonds was such a funny dog, but he would keep him quiet (quite forgetting he had made most noise of the two); with this he vigorously punched the said Simmonds in the ribs, merrily saying, - Whistling-lady's headquiet!" and the coachman not appearing inclined to obey his mandate in an instant, he drew himself up, looked grave, and with all the dignity of a whole bench of magistrates desired “Silence !” The coachman touched his hat and was silent at once; and Mr. Tregellis, turning to me, resumed his conversation about the scenery I was about to visit, recommending various hotels en route, and comparing them with similar establishments in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, making the shrewdest remarks on the relative characters of their inhabitants, and showing such knowledge as could alone be imparted by long travel. On my remarking he seemed a great traveller

“ "Yes," said he, "I passed many years of my life in castle and epitaph hunting, but in my old age I am returned to my native Cornwall, to my mind the finest spot on earth; here I lived, and here I shall die : this is all I desire."

We were now approaching St. Anstle, a dirty little town, only remarkable for a very handsome church - often the case in Cornwall, where the most squalid streets are generally surmounted by some strikingly beautiful church tower. This saint, like so many others of the Cornish martyrology, is almost unknown, but supposed to have been a hermit, as Mr. Tregellis informed me. He also mentioned an extraordinary light visible at a turnpike near the town, which shines almost every night in winter, but becomes invisible when approached, although still seen at a distance. Many efforts have been made to account for this strange phenomenon, but in vain.

At St. Anstle we parted from the clerical gentleman—a brilliant ornament to his cloth, doubtless—and when we proceeded to Truro the night had drawn in, and the country was but dimly seen. I could, however,

I distinguish that the town lay in a pretty valley, well wooded, with many handsome residences near. Finding that to maintain general quiet I must talk constantly to Mr. Tregellis, and, being no way loth, we chatted on pleasantly. I was surprised at his extensive reading, and he ended by quite winning my heart by a warm eulogy on my favourite Dickens, noticing, however, in his shrewd way one defect. I had myself observed his unhappy choice of names for his characters: Dombey, for instance, Snodgrass, Rudge, &c. We agreed that while other pens delineated all the phases of passion (often relate incidents so romantic as only to find a place in the head of a semi-lunatic)-- while people wrote travels, and strung together verses, and published biographies, and searched the heavens above, and the earth beneath, and the waters under the earth for subjects-he, and he alone, stood pre-eminent as the describer of English characters in a manner such as they are daily to be met with, true and genuine ; the best portrait-painter John Bull ever had, viewing his bluff, honest countenance in the most happy point of view, mingling broad humour with melting pathos ; in one moment convulsing his reader with laughter, the next raising tears in his eyes—the humorous and the pathetic alike true to English character.

Mr. Tregellis interrupted me while launching out in this my favourite theme, to draw my attention to a forest of oaks through which we were passing-gigantic ancient trees that Aung their knotted branches across the road, deepening the shades of evening-a splendid grove fit for the Druids, and looking old enough to have existed from those early centuries. The ground was very hilly, and these ancient trees covered for some distance one side of a lofty steep, forming an immense, and apparently endless, forest, stretching out on the opposite hills in lengthening lines, just visible in the darkening night. It is such landscapes as these that render Cornish scenery surpassingly beautiful, and this happy union

of wood and hill, so often recurring and producing such fine scenes of rural beauty.

Either our coachman, Mr. Simmonds, or his horses were now getting fatigued, and we proceeded very lazily. The little old man in the corner having been asleep for some time, and rolling about in imminent risk of tumbling on his head, now awoke, and after divers sighs and groans, thus delivered himself:

“Well, I have had my patience tried—often had it tried; but never nothing like this. Did ever any one endure such driving ? Why a body would


faster in a Kentish van. Talk of driving! I've been driven faster in a fish-cart !”

These depreciating observations of course reached the coachman, who instantly took fire.

“ Drive, sir, I drives very fast, sir ; how the devil can I help it if my ’orses is tired and my infernal guard don't light the lamps.

Keep your temper, Mr. Simmonds— keep your temper—don't be obstropulous,” was the reply.

This admonition seemed to have its usual effect of further incensing Mr. Simmonds, who was beginning to be abusive, when Mr. Tregellis, with a tone of authority, at once stopped the conversation ; he now began to sing the praises of Truro, which town we were now approaching, his native place and residence, the lovely scenery of the Fal, and all the beauties of the vicinity, much regretting the darkness of the night. As we drove into the town he pointed out to me the market-place and town-hall, now in progress, a fine building of granite. The town is particularly pretty, airy, and clean, each side of the street being provided with little streams. On taking leave he thus addressed us :

“ Ladies, I must now bid you adieu. I have derived the greatest pleasure from this accidental meeting—a meeting, I trust, agreeable to both parties—and I flatter myself in having been in some slight degree useful to

you. Should you on your return require any assistance, only ask for Mr. Tregellis, and I am at your service.”

We bowed, and thanked him. His two sons were in waiting for him, whom he warmly greeted, and then left us.

“Ay, ay,” said a man near us, whom I discovered to be a valet to a Quaker (strange anomaly), “ pleasant man that, ladies; only inquire for

the Mimic,' that's what we calls him, and anybody will tell you where he lives."

“ Who is he?" said I.

“Oh, he's a kind of general merchant here, and often does business with my

master. I know him well.” We now proceeded to Falmouth, where we slept; but night having now closed in, I could see nothing, and was only tantalised by being aware that we were in the midst of various beauties.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »