« AnteriorContinuar »
shoemaker, saddler, wheelwright, or carpenter.
The main cause, however, of the cheerful aspect of Hartington is a pleasant village green; having at one extremity a group of fine lime trees, whose blossoms form the sustenance of all the beehives in the neighbourhood, and whose shade the refuge of the village children during the six brighter months of the year; and at the other a duck-pond, the watering-place and rendezvous of all the carters and cowboys of the place.
On a strip of ground beyond the road skirting one portion of the green, is a sawpit, surrounded by the usual depository of planks and timber; a happy resource for the urchins of Hartington, to form seesaws, or benches when weary of flinging stones at the ducks and injuring the branches of the lime trees.
Around the green are dotted the more thriving and sightly cottages of the village; and, at a turning of the lane leading from its southernmost corner, you catch a glimpse of the wicket-gate of the churchyard : the curious
old Saxon church, of sandstone, standing a trifle back from the road; its stunted tower so completely overgrown with ivy, that it might almost pass for a pollard of one of the stately chestnuts surrounding the venerable structure.
This lane, by the way, forms the chief causeway of the place. For, independent of the grand distinction which entitles it to be called Church Lane, both the blacksmith and wheelwright,-the two kings of Hartington,-have their workshops therein; as may be inferred, even at a distance, from a variety of old broken wheels, deficient some in spoke and some in tyer, that lie crushing the hawthorn hedge opposite the house nearest the church ; while a little farther on, the hedge is not only crushed but withered by the emanation of the adjoining forge.
In compensation for the mischief, however the blacksmith's shop throws ever and anon a cheerful glow upon the surrounding objects, which, in winter-time, assume far from an agreeable aspect; thanks to an overflowing or rather everflowing ditch : the oozings of the
duck-pond on the green making their way to the stream that ripples athwart the bottom of the lane, -rendering it, the greater part of the year, plashy, muddy, and hard to pass.
Still, as has been said before, the green, situated at the highest point of the village, is an unusually pleasant spot. On emerging into it from Warling Wood, some miles in depth, in the skirts of which Hartington lies nestled, the broad sunshine, enhanced by such continuous shade, often appears too bright to live in.
And then, after the stillness of the wood, where nothing louder than the song of the birds is ever audible, the village appears so wide awake! There is so much life in the laughter of the carters, the whooping of the cowboys, the clang of the anvil, the mallet of the wheelwright, the grinding of the sawyer ; the
Village children just let loose from school,
The noisy geese that gabble in the pool. The very dunghill-cock that struts and crows before the door of the little public-house of
the Black Lion, makes more noise in a day than any three of his species elsewhere in the county.
From all this it will be inferred that Hartington is a thriving spot. It was so, at least. Thirty years ago, it might be cited as exceeding prosperous. The larger half of the village belonged to Sir Clement Colston, who resided at an old-fashioned manor-house about a mile distant; and the old baronet being a kind-hearted and careless landlord, letting people and things about him go their own way and do as their fathers had done before them: if he did not interfere to repair their houses or amend their system of morals or education, at least he neither raised their rent nor depressed their spirits.
The consequence was that they flourished. All that they did, whether as husbandmen or artisans, was done in the clumsiest and most slovenly way. But it answered. The system worked well. The unpruned branches bore fruit in due season. Extreme poverty was as unknown at Hartington as extreme comfort.
The venerable father of Sir Clement might have protruded his well-wigged head from the huge slate stone under which he reposed in peace in the parish church, without finding so much as a new hovel on his property; but he might have laid it down again after his survey, satisfied that his tenants were not a jot worse off than when he bequeathed them to his son. Far more than can be said of the Helots of many a more theoretic and more active country baronet.
Among strangers in the county, Sir Clement passed for an old bachelor. And no wonder; for nothing could be more bachelorlike than his ways and appearance.
and appearance. But the families coeval with his own knew better; and were disposed indeed to retrace the oddity of his habits to having been as much married as possible,-married to a woman who gave him so sickening a dose of matrimony, that, on her decease, at the close of a couple of unquiet years, he had relapsed at once into the habits of his single life, in order to drive from his mind all trace of the overbearing,