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Huntingtonshire was one of those Puritan counties which sent out so many emigrants in the days when men departed from the wrath present and wrath to come, from England to America. It was Cromwell's county, his birthplace, and until he became a prominent soldier, his residence. I thought I detected in the accent of the people some traces of that “Yankee twang" so much laughed at by the English now-a-days, but which is said to have been originally imported from England. St. Ives consists principally of one great, wide, stony street, which is used for a cattle market. Along this are hitching-racks, mouldering with age, to which the bullocks are tied. The street slopes to a still stream bordered with great bulrushes. It is a soft-gliding, stealthy sort of river, and called, I think, the Ouse. By the banks of the stream, “where grow the rushes, oh,” is the church of St. Ives, very, very old. I found the owner of my letter after a while, an astonishingly vigorous man of about eighty years. He skipped along so fast that I had trouble to keep up with him, and he told me all about St. Ives. He had that quickness of movement that they call “being spry” in New England; and the sharp glance of his eye and his rapid speech, as well as the general business-like character and shrewdness of his remarks, made me think of the smart old Vermonters I knew when I was a boy. He was born in Norfolk; and away back in the early part of the century his brothers had stepped out without telling him, and had gone to America. He had lived fifty years in St. Ives, and had done well, reasonably well — pretty fair, at least. He had bought the house in which Cromwell once lived, and of which he showed me a drawing, and had built on the site of it his own house; and he owned all the houses on two sides of the little square, and he called the locality Cromwell Place. He had stuck to business, and, God be praised, had got along comfortably, and was a little ahead in fact. But he had no sons to inherit his name, though he was the father of several daughters, and the rest of the old stock having gone to America, the name of Climinson would die with him in England, as far as he knew. Very friendly was the old gentleman of St. Ives, and a prodigy of business knowledge. He walked with me up to the station, and told me all about farming in that region, giving the figures for everything; and very astonishing figures they were, to me. Land £60 an acre at the least, and renting at £2 108., and an outlay for stocking a tenant farm, amounting to enough to buy a princely domain in Kansas. In such talk passed pleasantly away two hours at the market-town of St. Ives, a place so out of the high road of tourists that I could well imagine myself the first American who had ever been there.
From this on, the country grew wider and more level, and when I woke up next morning I was in Lincolnshire - at the venerable city of Lincoln, where people every day go back and forth under a Roman arch nearly or quite as old as Christianity. From Lincoln I wished to go into the country, to the village of Mareham-le-Fen. It was astonishing how many people in Lincoln did not know where Mareham-le-Fen was — a village heaven knows how old, in their own county; but a gazetteer which I found at the Blue Anchor told me at last that I must go to Tattershall, on the railway to Boston, first, and thence across the country.
Lincolnshire is a wet country, and when I first saw it, a rain had been falling steadily for about twenty-four hours. It is, for the most part, a low green plain, cut up by long, straight ditches and canals. It is the native county of Tennyson, and if you would know how it looks through all the varying year, you should read again the “Queen o' the May.” Here I saw, all along the way, stirred softly by the laggard wind and the slow-falling rain,
“The oat-grass and the sword-grass, and the bulrush in the pool.”
On stepping out of the little station at Tattershall, the first object one sees is a great brick tower, a hundred feet high, standing in the midst of the ruins of what must have been once a very extensive building. The tower is a part of Tattershall Castle, and the only ruin I ever saw in England where brick had been the material used in the structure. All the information that I could gain from the “bystanders” was, that it had been reduced to its present state by the cannon of Cromwell. According to common report, all the ruins in England are the work of either Henry VIII or Cromwell. Ruined castles and abbeys are a feature of rural England. These, especially the abbeys, are very numerous, and you come upon them in the most unexpected places. One naturally looks to find these crumbling walls in solitary valleys, but often as you fly past in the train, you catch a glimpse of the broken, gray ches, adorned with that “rare old plant, the ivy green,” close beside the railroad track, while the telegraph wires hum all day in the wind where once rose matin, and even song. But to get back to Tattershall. The village is a mile away from the railway, which, crooked as it generally is in England, cannot go around to all the villages; and at the village it was necessary to hire a trap at the inn— the Fortescue Arms. Reader, if you ever visit England, stop, sometime or somewhere, at a village inn like the Fortescue Arms. How cosy and clean it looked on that rainy day; how brilliant was the array of pewter,
silver and earthen ware on the dresser; how brightly shone the fire in the open grate; how spotless as a lady's handkerchief was the red brick floor; how capacious and comfortable was the armchair in the "ingle nook;" how cheery was the landlord, with his red cheeks and his frosty whiskers. Yes, reader, if thou art a purse-proud and most obdurate donkey, thou wilt stop at the "Imperial,” or the “Victoria;” but if thou, being a sensible man, wouldst take thine ease at thine inn, thou wilt bestow thy weary frame at the “White Bear,” or the “Pig and Whistle," or the “Bull and Mouth,” or, perchance, at the "Elephant and Castle.”
The landlord of the Fortescue Arms soon had a two-wheeled vehicle at the door in charge of the “boy,” a healthy kid of about forty-five years, and so we journeyed to Marebam-le-Fen. The "section line" is unknown in England, and so the road does not run on it, but zigzags, or rather winds about after a fashion of its own. Each side of the way rise high and thick hedges, shutting in the view at times; and along the hedges are great trees, limes or elms, which lock their branches over your head; and you may depend that as the road looks now, so it has always looked, and so it always will. The “boy” was born in Tattershall, and the road which he had known all his days had never been changed in his time. I suppose all the crooks in it were there when Cromwell's hoarse guns echoed over the fens two hundred years ago.
Mareham-le-Fen is a type of an English village when undisturbed by the railway- single, crooked street, lined with one and two-story houses, varying from the low-roofed thatched cottage to the more modern brick house. There were the little shops, where everything is sold from sugar to stockings, and the
"restored" parish church of the Establishment, originally built by the Saxons, and two Dissenting chapels, new and smart, and frequented by the bulk of the villagers; and near by is the park and residence of the “gentleman” of the neighborhood — in the case of Mareham-le-Fen, a member of the family of Stanhope, which once furnished a nobleman who invented a printing press, and also that very singular being, Lady Hester Stanhope, who turned Arab.
A village on the upper waters of the Solomon or Republican would not have conveyed to me anything like the sense of seclusion felt at this village on the border of the fens of Lincolnshire. In Spreadeagleville, Kansas, we expect to be incorporated by the next Legislature as a city of the second class; and we can almost see the track-layers on the St. Augustine, Mound City & Vancouver Railroad: but, at Mareham-le-Fen, or other rural hamlet in England, nothing is to be expected. As things have been, so they are now and ever shall be. Human hearts, however, are the same everywhere, and I met a kindly welcome at this out-of-theway spot in a strange country. We sat by the fire and heard the rain outside, and, in return for talk about America, I was told all about the fens. In the old time the ocean came in all along the coast, and there was a vast country untilled by man; squatters lived about in the “hammocks," as they say in Florida, and killed moor-fowl and caught fish, and were half wild themselves. In time, as land became worth more, embankments were constructed, and when the ocean withdrew it could not get back except through flood-gates. And so in the course of years the dreary fen became pasture and wheat-fields, than which there are no finer in England. Mareham-le-Fen is, then, Mareham-of-the-fens, or was once, for