Page images
PDF
EPUB

his trouble, but could not prevail upon him to accept it; though he must have come at least five miles, to put a way-wanderer into the right path. In what part of the British dominions except Wales, (and perhaps the Highlands of Scotland,) would the same disinterested act of kindness have been performed?

Fortunately, Mrs. Hundy was not with me, on this excursion, or it would have formed the subject of a special communication to you, in relating her romantic miseries, which I see, by your second number, she has not yet forgotten.

Right glad I was, after another hour's walking, to see a glimmering light, which announced the vicinity of the Hafod Arms Hotel, at the Devil's Bridge; and still more glad, in about ten minutes, to find myself seated in a comfortable room of the said Hotel, with the cup that "cheers, but not inebriates,” before me, flanked on one side by a hillock of toast, and on the other, by a delicious cold joint of Welch mutton. Having made a lawful and laudable appropriation of these "creature comforts," to the craving necessities of my inward man, I took out my cigar case, and while the fragrant wreaths of that weed which, as the Kentuckian says, "drives away the solemn cholics, and makes a fellow feel so good natured and so comfortable, turning the shillings in his pockets into dollars," were curling round me, I mused, by the additional aid of an excellent glass of brandy and water, upon the next day's anticipated pleasures, till it was time to go to bed.

I awoke early. But alas! what are the hopes of man, in this Protean climate? It was a miserable morning! I descended to the breakfast room. It was a very miserable morning. The rain, ever and anon, dashed in gusty splashes against the window, trickling down the panes, or collecting in large, uncomfortable looking drops on the frames, eight in a row; seldom more, and very often only five. It was one of my amusements to count them. The wind roared above, and the cataract roared beneath, the Devil's Bridge. The tops of the highest mountains were shrouded in undulating wreaths of mist. Kites, on level wing, sailed, wheeled, and poised themselves, up and down the romantic glen that faced my room, through which the turbid Rheidol foamed its way among enormous masses of black rock. To look upon such a scene out of a square hole in a wall, three feet by two, called a window, instead of exploring it, wandering amid its sublime grandeur, and pausing at every step to feel, in silent homage, the stupendous majesty of nature, was a penance which ought to atone for a great many sins.

The air was raw and chilly, and found its way through chinks and crevices, in spite of brown paper, which had been humanely poked into some of them; so that the tips of my fingers grew shrivelled, (although the month was called June in the almanack), the end of my nose was as cold as the North Pole, and my toes absolutely ached. There was a handsome fireplace in the room, and an elegant stove, which only wanted a comfortable turf fire, (such as I smelt in the kitchen) to make me enjoy my breakfast, in spite of all. But the grate was so black, and the bars were so bright, and the very chimney was so shining, as far as it was visible, that I was loth to disfigure such excellent housewifery. To say the truth, indeed, I don't think it had ever had a fire; for, few persons travel this wild part in winter, and by way of hinting, I suppose, that an occasional Lapland day in summer, must be borne with, there were no such implements to be seen as poker, shovel, and tongs.

[ocr errors]

Still the rain rattled against my window, and the wind roared, and the mist on the mountains deepened. A colony of swallows, who had settled themselves under the eaves, seemed the only living things that enjoyed it. I would not swear, however, that their vagaries were meant to indicate their delight; but it certainly appeared to me, as if they could not contain them selves for joy. They popped in and out of their nests, scudded before the wind, dipped, soared, chased each other, with all sorts of frolicsome motions,

darted back to their nests, chirped and twittered, as if it were fine fun to them; and then sallied forth again to repeat their gambols.

Not so a melancholy, respectable looking, elderly rook, whom I watched. Where he had come from, I know not; and he seemed as much puzzled to make out where he had got to. His nest tree must have been miles off; probably, in some part of the noble grounds of Hafod House. He had alighted on the barren peak of a craggy rock which overhangs the grand cataract. Whether he had never seen this cataract before, or whether the seeing it now, reminded him he had missed his way, was a doubtful point: for his caw! caw! was translateable into either "God bless me ! how very fine!" or "The Devil take it! I have come wrong!" A caw! caw! more expressive of surprise, I never heard from a rook in my life; and I should be inclined to say, it was the surprise of vexation; for, after he had turned his head first on one side, then on the other, about half a dozen times, with that knowing air so peculiar to rooks and crows, he set off again from the glen, cawing all the way, like a man who "grumbles in his gizzard audibly," as he trudges back the wrong road to get into the right one.

There was an album lying on a table in one corner of the room. Why is a book, commonly kept by one fool, to be written in by other fools, called an album? "I have not the least idea," said an accomplished young gentleman, to whom I once put the question, just after he had been scribbling some lines in the album of one of our modern Sapphos, which proved he had not the least idea; not even such a little one as would have been large enough for an album.

[ocr errors]

I opened the album of the Devil's Bridge. It was just such a miscellaneous collection of wit and sentiment, as may be found upon the sides of the covered seats in Kensington Gardens, or upon the panes of glass in the windows of any inn, not beyond the ordinary range of cockney excursions, during the rural fever of the dog days. Facetious rhymes, addressed to the Devil, in praise of his work, (the bridge) were innumerable. Then, we were informed, that" Miss Davis, of Llandilo," had been there, and was quite pleased." In another page, "G. Douglas, Esq. and C. Stretton, Esq." modestly contented themselves with inscribing their names only; but an after visitor, (a friend no doubt) had labelled them for posterity, with this addition: "two d-d drunken fellows."-A little further on, I found that "Mr. and Mrs. Emery, of Newport, Monmouthshire," could not eat their mutton at the Hafod Arms, (and better mutton, or mutton better cooked, is not to be met with in the principality) without making it known to all who might thereafter do the same thing. The preceding year, a "Brummagem" attorney, having fixed upon the long vacation for passing his honey moon, had recorded the interesting fact in as many lines as would have cost a client six and eightpence. "Be it held in everlasting remembrance," says he, "that on this day, Sept. 28, 1829, Mr. R. T. P. (Price?) of Birmingham, solicitor, with his wife and her bridesmaid, visited this place on their wedding excursion." Immediately following this everlasting monument of hymeneal bliss, was a poet who began, " Quicumque mecum culmina montium, &c. ;" and he, in his turn, was followed by an amatory swain, who sung, in tender trochaics, of " Love's darts" "piercing the hearts" of "Andrew White, and Mary Brown," both of Lampeter.

I closed the album and walked to the window. I felt the fidgets coming fast upon me. I tried to hum a tune; but nothing could I hum save " the rain, it raineth every day." There were two cards on the chimney piece, one on each side of a grotto made of alum, which I mistook for a petrifaction, and got laughed at by my pretty chambermaid for my blunder, though she assured me many others had made a similar one. I read these cards twice over; criticised the style of both; admired the typographical neatness of one, and smiled at the march-of-intellect pedantry of the other, where Anthony Allen, landlord of the Black Lion at Lampeter, late of the Golden Lion at Narbeth, informed the nobility, gentlemen, and his commercial

[ocr errors]

168]

friends," not that he had good beds, and that they were well aired-but, that he paid "every attention to the sleeping department." This announcement, moreover, was so ingeniously divided, by two ornamental flourishes at the two bottom corners of the card, while the intermediate space was occupied with a notification to anglers, touching the superior advantages of the river Tivy for that sport, that, at first sight, it seemed to read thus—“ Every attention paid to salmon and trout fishing. Tourists will find it a most delightful spot for angling-in the sleeping department."

I can give no stronger proof of my desperately unhappy condition, than this authentic relation of my amusements: and, were it necessary, I could farther tell the colours of the carpet, the pattern of the chairs, the length of Four times in the sofa, the number of cracks in the cornice, and the very board which creaked under my steps, as I paced up and down the room. less than two hours, I saw the strapping cook maid pass under my window, with a heavy basket of turf on her arm, and 1 began to consider whether she was laying in a store for the whole day's consumption, or whether the kitchen fire could possibly burn such a quantity in so short a time. I decided in favor of the former, but could not imagine, as there was no immediate want, why she should paddle through the dirt and rain; unless it were that she knew, from physical prognostics peculiar to the locality, that, bad as the weather then was, it promised to be much worse.

It was now eleven o'clock, and not a sympton of a fine day. The very swallows had left off their gambols, and the kites had departed to their nests among the highest crags. The wind had abated, but the rain had increased to such a degree, as to give me a lively image of the deluge. In no quarter of the heavens could I see a promising bit of blue sky; no where could I behold that semi-transparent appearance in the clouds, which betokens the presence of the glorious sun behind, and foretels his triumph over the spungy element. My pretty chambermaid came into the room. "Shall you sleep here to-night, Sir?" said she.

"Why do you ask, my dear?"

"Because of making your bed, Sir."

"I dont't know; it will depend upon what the day turns out."
Five minutes afterwards, the worthy landlady made her appearance.
"Shall you dine here to-day, Sir?"

"What can I have?"

“Anything you like, Sır."

"Have you any fish?"

"No Sir-we get our sea fish from Aberystwith, and that is twelve miles off." "But you have fine trout in the Mynach."

"We used to catch plenty of trout; but since the smelting houses for the lead mines have been established on the banks, the water that runs from them has played the deuce with the fish, and we don't see one in a month." "You have excellent mutton, I know."

"Yes, Sir, but we are out of mutton, to-day."

"I thought you killed your own mutton?"

"Oh, no, Sir-we get our mutton from Llanidloes, and that is fifteen miles off. But we kill our own chickens."

"Very well, a roasted chicken will do if I am forced to dine here; but it will depend upon the weather."

"Yes, sure, Sir," and she bobbed a courtesy, leaving the room with a detestable smile upon her countenance, as if she was sure of me.

I had now to cut my wishes still shorter. I hate chickens, and I love Welch mutton and trout. I began to think with Dean Swift, that "the stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes;" while I tried to persuade myself with Addison, "a contented mind is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world."

It happens to "After all," I exclaimed," what have I to complain of? rain a little-no, not a little-but little or much, who would not prefer a

thoroughly wet day; amid these picturesque hills, and in sight of that romantic glen with its beautiful waterfall, to a mere April shower, in Fleetstreet or the Strand? I can get neither Welch mutton, nor trout from the Mynach, but what can be better than a barn door chick, hatched out of such eggs as I had for breakfast? Besides, it cannot rain this way for ever, and a lovely evening will be doubly welcome coming after so cheerless a morning." Thus I soliloquised, and concluded with confessing that Sterne was right" there is nothing so bad, which will not admit of something to be said in its defence."

1 took a book out of my pocket, and sat down, as quiet as a lamb, to read it. It was "A Pleasant Conceited Comedy; wherein is shewed how a man may choose a good wife from a bad;" (1602) ascribed, in Garrick's Collection in M.S. to Joshua Cooke. What fulness of thought, what play of the imagination, what nervous simplicity of style, these fellows of the olden time possessed! Their writings have all that freshness and individuality, which are the characteristics of minds that look into themselves. Whether much or little is found, something is sure to be found, better than can be got from the undigested produce of other men's minds. This "Pleasant Conceited Comedy," is an admirable drama, rich in humorous situations, sparkling with wit, original in characters, and containing some scenes and incidents of great force and beauty. It would act well, if adapted to the modern stage by one who had a true feeling of the only alterations it would require for such a purpose. How inimitably Charles Kemble would deliver the following" jest."

Fuller. Love none at all, they will forswear themselves,

And when you urge them with it, their replies

Are, that Jove laughs at lovers' perjuries.

Anselm. You told me of a jest concerning that;

I pr'ythee, let me hear it.

Ful. That thou shalt.

My mistress in a humour had protested,

That above all the world she lov'd me best;

Saying, with suitors she was oft molested,

And she had lodg'd her heart within my breast;
And sware (but me) both by her mask and fan,

She never would so much as name a man.

Not name a man? quoth I; yet be ad vis'd;

Not love a man but me! let it be so.

You shall not think, quoth she, my thought's disguis'd

In flattering language, or dissembling show;

I say again, and I know what I do,

I will not name a man alive but you.

Into her house I came at unaware,

Her back was to me, and I was not seen;

I stole behind her 'till I had her fair,

Then with my hands I closed both her een;
She, blinded thus, beginneth to bethink her

Which of her loves it was, that did hoodwink her.
First she begins to guess and name a man
That I well knew, but she had known far better;
The next I never did suspect till then :
Still of my name I could not hear a letter;
Then mad, she did name Robin, and then James,
'Till she had reckoned up some twenty names;
At length, when she had counted up a score,

As one among the rest, she hit on me ;
I ask'd her if she could not reckon more,
And pluck'd away my hands to let her see;

But when she look'd back, and saw me behind her,

She blush'd, and ask'd if it were I did blind her?

And since I sware, both by her mask and fan,
To trust no she tongue that can name a man.

Y

A bright sunbeam fell upon my page in the second scene of the fifth act, while I was pondering on the bitter truth contained in the first two lines of the following passage, the whole of which had deeply fixed my attention by its simple pathos:

O, misery! thou never found'st a friend;
All friends forsake men in adversity:
My brother hath denied to succour me,
Upbraiding me with name of murderer;
My uncles double-bar their doors against me;
My father hath denied to shelter me,

And curs'd me worse than Adam did vile Eve.
I, that within these two days, had more friends
Than I could number with arithmetic,
Have now no more than one poor cypher is,
And that poor cypher I supply myself:
All that I durst commit my fortunes to,

I have tried, and find none to relieve my wants.
My sudden flight, and fear of future shame,
Left me unfurnished of all necessaries,

And these three days I have not tasted food.

The touch of Ithuriel's spear was not more electrical in restoring Satan to his original shape, than this sunbeam was, in restoring me to my original self. I threw down the book; I sallied forth; the sky was at once stormy and serene. Above me, it was laughing summer; towards the horizon, voluminous masses of dark clouds were rolling themselves away, in every varied form of Alpine mountain, frowning battlements, and vast forests of impenetrable gloom. I stood upon a bold, projecting crag, which overhung the Rheidol, and watched its roaring waters, leaping, thundering, and meandering down the glen, winning its chafed course to the ocean, through a channel strewed with enormous fragments of black, shining rock, which looked as if they could have been hurled there only by giants of a former world, or some terrible convulsion of this. It was a scene of grandeur and desolation, of magnificence and ruin, as much beyond the power of language to describe as of the pencil to pourtray. On every side, as far as the eye could reach, mountains piled upon mountains, reared their majestic summits, and spread their vast sweeps of abrupt or gradual ascent. Some of them were covered with woods, dense, sombre, and interminable; some were entirely barren, and exhibited features of savage beauty in their rugged chasms, beetling promontories, and craggy defiles; some were tinted with the hues of the various mosses which alone clothed their sides; others, fruitful of a short but abundant herbage, had flocks of sheep and cattle browsing along their ridges, and looking no bigger than hares or kids; while here and there might be seen patches of cultivation, the green pasture, and the sloping corn field, reposing in sheltered vallies, spread out at the feet of these gigantic hills. Mountain streams, clear, sparkling, and falling on the ear in lulling murmurs, descended on all sides, sometimes like a silver thread twining along a rocky channel, now partially concealed by trees and underwood, now gushing forth in graceful curves, and then bounding over a jutting crag, forming a pretty cataract in miniature; or, at others, falling in broad sheets over zig-zag ledges of rock, with the most picturesque effect imaginable. Contrasted with these living waters, were the huge, dark fissures, through which in winter, roll the turbid torrents that are formed by the melting snows and heavy rains.

When I had satiated myself, or rather when I grew absolutely fatigued with ecstacy and admiration, I proceeded on my road to a spot called the "Parson's Bridge." Before I left the Hafod Arms, I obtained the requisite information for finding out this place. I was to walk along till I came to a church; and I was to go through the churchyard, and then I should see a path which would lead me to the "Parson's Bridge." I came to the church

« PreviousContinue »