TRAVELS ROUND OUR- VILLAGE.*
A BOOB may change a landscape to the eye of the reader, and the present writer feels that the aspect of a certain piece of country, always watched for by him with interest when travel- ]ing by the Great Western Railway, has been altered by what Miss Hayden has written. The piece of country in question is a broad, swelling upland rising to the chalk downs on one side and falling towards the Thames on the other, great corn- fields with homesteads and the open sky dominating
view of cosmic effects and broad sweeps of cloud and rolling downs, in which details seem unnecessary and forgotten. The passionless calm of the sight is increased by the swift passage of the train, which seems to roll up the great panorama as we pass through. Miss Hayden's book shows us something more of this beautiful country, and tells us of the love to be found "in huts where poor men lie." The deep sympathy with which the book is written has enabled the author to catch the real tone and reveal the true working of the country mind. To say that Miss Hayden brings Barnes into our minds is high praise, but no more than she deserves, for she indeed does in prose many of the things he did in verse. If we do not find his great elegiac emotion, we find much of the combined humour and pathos which make the work of Barnes so delightful and so true to life.
Our readers will no doubt recognise in many of these studies of the village passages which have appeared elsewhere. But these passages have been fused together with new work into a perfectly consistent and artistic whole. There is observation, there is humour, nor is the touch of true poetry wanting, and the style is worthy of the matter. Miss Hayden is at her best when she makes her characters talk. She does not merely make them speak in dialect, but they think in it too. In other words, the men, women, and children in this book are an absolutely real rendering of English village folk. It does not matter whether it is the children fishing in the
• Trateis Round Our Village: a Berkshire Book. By Eleanor G. Hayden. -Vondon ; Constable and Co. pi.. &Li "town bruk," or the older people discoursing of their affairs, either are convincingly real. We will give a few examples for the reader to enjoy. Through the village runs the brook, and of course from the bridge the children fish The greatest piscatorial achievement was the capture of a veteran crayfish that had long defied the children. Let them describe the exploit in their own graceful and suggestive language. Thee noted to be two on 'urn, a liPle crawfish an' a girt 'un as bid in a hole anighst the bridge. We tried a smart few times to catch 'um, but 'um wur too cunnin' an' ndn't quilt the worm. One on us tried to scroop 'un up in his hat, but they 'udn't be scrope, so we fot a close-prop an' hucked out the girt
'un—the 'un he flod away under the arch, wher' us ha'n't sin Pun sence.' " The following is an amusing description of the success of the Moderate party at the Parish Council Elections owing ta the indiscreet zeal of a Progressive candidate r-
" This misguided individual held out as a bribe to the voters the promise of a village bath, which proposal evoked a storm of ridicule and abuse. Baeth, indeed ! Wher's he gwine to mek his baeth, then ? In Town Emir ? An' I'd like to knaw how we be to water the 'arses and wash the caerts, if ea be as the water be all taken fur a baeth. Do he think as we be that dirty then, as we reequires a baeth ? Ifs 'nil baeth him, an' 'nifty quick too !' One old dame tremulously inquired whether folks 'ad be forced to go in the water whether 'um liked it or no ; fur I've never had a baeth all my life long, an' if I takes one now, I'm mortial afeared it med be the death of ma."
The fact of local government that really impresses the vil- lagers is the steam-roller :— " 'To think that we should have that girt thing in this poor little place ; it do sound cheerful-like to year he a-puffin' up-an'-down strit. An' dwun't he mek the roads bea-u-ti-ful ? Sa quick, too! 'Tie a sight betteen thew stwuns a- kickin' about all through the winter. No moor shuckettin' fur we in carriers' caerta Well, well, times be wunnerful changed Bence I wur young, an' I can tell 'ee this, that they ben't no wusser now'n what 'um was then: Ther' sims to be aline summat a-fresh.' Yes, even under our little bridge new water runs."
We wish we could quote the whole of the episode which deals with Tommy and Mrs. Bench. Tommy was a shrewd, miserly, crippled man who bought a " wagglenet what shucked about awful." This he let out to summer visitors at the farm near at a considerable profit. All the conversations are admirable,. as this fragment will show • I be gwine to church a-Sunday ; 'tis a 'mazin' long time sence I went—nigh on fower 'ears—an' I manes to tend regular fur a spell.' Mrs. Dench turned and regarded her husband with genuine concern. Thee doesn't feel theeself bad no'ers, dost Thomas, that thee talks o' gwine to church ? '—'No, lor' love 'ee! I be as well as iver in my life. 'Tis this way, luk 'ee. Parson wants to buy an 'arse an' trap ; I wants to sell ouen, so we med as well have a deal together. I allus likes sellin' to parson, an; it meks a man feel comfeeble-like to go to church now an' ages, 'specially if you've arrathing to sell to parson."
But the scheme was not destined to succeed, for Tommy, feli into the stream dividing his garden from the orchard where he had gone to look at the horse. Being lame, he was unable to get out, and was nearly stifled in the mud, but at last he was rescued and wheeled home in a barrow. Bron- chitis supervened. Now came Mrs. Bench's opportunity; her ambition in life was to have a savings-bank account of her own. Hitherto her husband had taken all her earnings, and invested them in things she disapproved of, such as
" wagglenets "
Betsy resolved upon a deed of derring-do at which she has not ceased to wonder 'I ben't a gwine to as he to buy 'un, she said to herself, 'parson have enuff to do wP his brass weout wastin' it upon a rattle-trap and a hag o' bwnns. I wur barned and bred up in church ; though ten't much I goes there now. Them Methody folks at Cateswick wants summat to get about the country in, so 'um see, an' their money be as good aa arra one's, I reckon."
Mrs. Bench handed over to her husband the original price of the " wagglenet " and horse and a pound profit; what money she received she never revealed, but the savings-bank account was cpened.
The reader must not suppose that only hard, grasping people like this last couple are to be found in "Our village Many are the stories of family love and devotion, of sacrifice, and of romantic love. The charm of Miss Hayden's writing
is that she has the art of uniting pathos and humour as they are united in Nature, so that even the sad story of the two poor old men who lived together for the sake of economy—they both having been turned out of their benefit society on account of their age—is not without its quaint side
n is with the old especially that life comes hardly for the poor, but here again, according to Miss Hayden, there is compensation :— "It is a singular circumstance, and one which cannot but cause some questioning of heart to more sophisticated natures, that though so many of the people lead practically godless lives when in full health and strength, old age as it creeps upon them seems to bring with it a simple childlike piety which enables them to face death unmoved, and, what is a deeper test of faith, to bear suffering—sometimes sharp and prolonged—in unmurmuring patience. "Pie the Lord's afilictionment, and though pain be hard to put up wi' now and agaen' (she had a mortal disease) I prays to Him when it sims a'most too bad an' it passes off; fur niver sends we moor'n we can be'r, if we looks to Him to help we.' These sons of the soil, smirched with vice as they too often are, yet seem to preserve something of the child's heart beneath their crust of worldliness, and it is owing to this, I think, that in old age, when their passions drop away, they move half-uncon- sciously forward towards the Light, drawn gently with the cords of love by Him Who is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
We have no space to tell of the wonderful old cookery-book and traditional recipes, nor of the romantic story of the French prisoner of war and his son, but we must give Miss Hayden's views as to the soldier sons of the village. She says that owing to the influence of a landowner—we suppose the late Lord Wantage, to whom the book is dedicated- Reservemen have no difficulty in finding work, and the mothers declare that those who are in the Army are their best sons. We must end this notice of a really delightful book with the following quotation:— " A bright spot of colour looms against the grey background ; a soldier strides jauntily down the road, and the horizon, that a moment since was so narrow, embraces half the globe. The sight of that one scarlet tunic evokes a crowd of undying memories; it conjures up a vast shadowy host of nameless heroes who have planted the British flag in every quarter of the earth, and watered it with their life blood. Nor in this work has our corner been behindhand. Her sons are no laggards, they ever were fighters, and far and wide they have gone to strive for Sovereign and country. Some of them have come back to live out the remainder of their days in the old home ; others have stayed behind 'over there,' in the six-foot strip of foreign soil which they bought and bequeathed in perpetuity to the Empire—it is rich in such legacies. Among the former is an old veteran who served through the Crimea ; having managed to survive the campaigns, and what was perhaps a greater feat—the hospital at Scutari, he re- turned to England, married a wife, became the proud father of two comely daughters, who are the crown of his old age, and is now tranquilly awaiting Last Post' and Lights Out.' Like all our village soldier-lads who take upon themselves the responsi- bilities of wedded life, he is an excellent, nay, an indulgent, husband ; and being very handy wi' his fingers, a'most as good as an 'ooman,' he is able to relieve his invalid spouse of many household duties. The chief event of his later years was the Jubilee parade of veterans at Chelsea Hospital, when he formed one of the long line in which every breast was shinin' with honour,' to quote his own words."
The book, we should add, is very pleasantly and appropriately illustrated. Mr. Leslie Brooke in these illustrations is happiest in those which are landscape. The bridge and the place where the daffodils grow are two charming pen drawings; the large figures, though right in spirit, are somewhat wanting in construction.