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it given to force open the petals of the
ville for special honor by breaking at
Still less could shy young Philomèle hope to dazzle or eclipse in that bright galaxy. Her place, rather, was among the timorous nymphs and sylphid shapes, half of earth, half air, that fly the garish light, mirroring their beauty in dim woodland pools, or dancing by twos and threes, as one sees them in Corot's pictures, along the margin of silvery streams ere morning mists are lifted.
After all, now our story is done, and proud Lorraine left master of the field, does not a doubt intrude that possibly his triumph may prove less enduring than he deems it? And who shall certify that the wrongs of injured Provençe are to pass quite unavenged? Far from M. de Duilly, it is true, was any suspicion of such failure, as he led his bride through the mazes of a Bransles du Haut Barrois, her slender right hand close clasped in his own, to hold and direct so long as life lasts. But not to his iron grasp is
From Belgravia. THE ANCIENT WAY: A TRIVIAL TOPIC. "Monumentum ære perennius."
This is a very old country, and without knowing or heeding it we are all of us more or less in bondage to the past. Our lives are shaped by what is left to us, and whether we turn to the right or to the left every day was really determined for us untold years ago. County councils-more imperious than emperors-cannot alter it; even they, like the rest of us, must work with what they have. For if one searches among the monuments of the work of the dim forgotten dead, there comes out the curious result that some of the commonest and more ancient of them are still in use every day for their original purpose. There are, of course, carbonized stumps of the piles of lake dwellings, and by those that have the skill there are flint instruments to be found by the score. But one would not call a pocket-knife, or even the stump of a gate-post, a monument. and its brethren are so old that no one Stonehenge knows anything whatever about them, but they can hardly be older than the oldest thing in the country, and that is a country road. Before men build a temple or a town, it is without all contradiction that they must make a way to it. But that the road should remain as a monument when town and traffic have passed away seems at first sight unlikely. Yet it is so.
Now, ancient monuments are very precious things. There is a society to protect them, and there is usually rather more outcry when its owner proposes to touch one than when a dozen or so Englishmen are shot down
in Africa. To practical people the ancent monument is dear, because it supplies a reason for archæological picnics, and papers afterwards before (more or less) learned societies, and even-if fates and the editor are kindly-for an article in one of the magazines. And these people work themselves up into a genuine fever of admiration for the beauties of their monuments, which colors their own lives and those of others, so that at this moment there are men in England ready to compel a quarter of Egypt to remain desert rather than allow the stone floor of an island temple which they have never seen, and never will see, to be periodically flooded by the waters of the Nile. But there are others who value the ancient monument, not so much for its beauty (of a truth it is far more often unbeautiful than not), but for the scraps and fragments of unwritten history which cling to it. Now, when things are desired, their value is proportionate to their scarceness, and the older history gets the less there is of it, and so the more precious i. ought to be. Let us see, therefore, whether there are any fragments, even ever so small, to be scraped off that very ancient monument, a country road. But, first of all, is it really so very ancient, after all?
When Mr. Pickwick rode up by coach from Ipswich to Bury St. Edmunds, it took him about three hours, for though the mail-coach of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers is supposed to have gone at least ten miles an hour, that did not allow for stoppages and patches of bad road. Although our ancestors would never have confessed it—a mailcoach drive being considered one of the peculiar glories of Britain-after three hours of it passengers were quite ready to stretch their legs, and began to watch the milestones to the next stopping-place. So, as the coach ran along the broad road between what were then promising young trees, but which have now grown up and arched over the way so as to make it dark at nights and ghostly, all except the unfortunate couple who had the hind seat facing the guard, and got the wind down the back
of their necks, looked steadily ahead towards their destination. They passed (though they did not know it) to the left, buried in a wood, a kind of amphitheatre, of which no man knows the maker or the purpose; but our ancestors, having no imagination to spare except for witches, decided that it was a big bull ring, and so named it. Presently the coach came to the lip of a valley, where the road ran down straight in a steep descent for the better part of a mile, a place not to be adventured at a trot with a light heart. And there in front of them, on the other side of the valley, ought to have been the town they were seeking. Only it was not there at all, but away to the right, looking pretty enough among the trees, which have the mysterious property of hiding themselves away in some manner before you get to them, so as to leave nothing but mean houses and squalid fences. Nevertheless, the road went straight and steep down the face of the hill, paying no regard to the town instead of slanting off to it in a gentle slope. So Mr. Pickwick was carried down one hill and through a brook and up to the top of another hill, where there was a green and cross roads and a sharp turn before he could be driven past the ladies' school on which he made that unlucky raid, through narrow, crooked streets and past a couple of big churches, to his destination. And here it may be said that the reviser and compiler of the posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club has in this instance shown less attention to topography and local detail than he is generally credited with, and though the natives do their best to make things fit in right with Mr. Pickwick's adventures, they cannot manage it satisfactorily anyhow.
Concerning that half-forgotten little town, some things have been written, and many more might be, for there is hardly any collection of habitations except the brand new residential suburb, or the miles of mean streets that cluster round factories in the North and elsewhere, that has not a character of its own which is interesting. One would
be troubled, for instance, to find another town with a public monument (in private grounds) erected to commemorate the fact that Magna Charta was not signed there but somewhere else altogether; nor has even Peebles, which, in the opinion of its inhabitants, in the matter of pure devilment leaves Paris far behind, produced a book by a native author, which triumphantly shows that, even in the eyes of the most giddy follower of pleasure, it is not and cannot be regarded as dull. Our business is not with these things. They belong to the borough, and not to the Ipswich road, away out beyond the Southgate.
Now, why does that unimportant Suffolk road, after going straight along for miles in the most businesslike way, end by making such a despicably bad shot at the town-in fact, not even an "outer," but a complete miss? Simply because the road was there before the town was, and not as a mere trackway, but a regularly built highway that meant money and expense to divert. It so happens that one of the glories of that little town is, perhaps, the oldest building in the country that remains complete and unaltered as it left the builder's hands. It is a solitary tower of pure Norman work, to which nothing has ever been added and very little has been taken away. The surface of the earth itself has risen eight feet since that tower was built, but compared with the road the tower is a baby. One thing, however, the borough has done to the road, though it could not divert it, and that is to bite a bit out of it. If Mr. Pickwick's coach, instead of turning to the right, had gone straight on along the opposite arm of the cross-ways in the direction of Newmarket, it would soon have come to a stoppage. That the road went on straight once upon a time is pretty clear, and it can be picked up again further on, but it has been blocked in that direction for many a year. And the reason of that is that they were in a way exceedingly sharp men of business in the Middle Ages (quite contrary to what our sentimentalists tell us of the days of chivalry); and the Abbots of St. Edmunds, one of
whom proved more than a match for King John himself in a haggle about fees for the confirmation of his election, were hardly likely to allow the traffic of a main road to go past their walls when it might just as well come through and pay tolls at my lord abbot's gates, and provide guests for the profit of the innkeepers who were my lord abbot's tenants. So, though there was not money enough to build a new and better road down the hill straight to the town, there was enough to block up a mile or more of it and turn the traffic off, and any one who knows the place will appreciate how thoroughly and scientifically this was done.
Since this road is such a very old affair, let us get back as far as history will take us, and see what will be found. Now, the prehistoric period lies at different depths in different countries. Like other things, it depends on the latitude, and is by no means the same, for instance, in Rhodesia as it is in Egypt. There is a history of East Anglia of a sort from its foundation, which the Chronicle, by the way, places impossibly late compared with the other early English kingdoms. Some of it is true and much of it is certainly mere make-up. If by history is meant something definite and certainly localized in time and place, then history in West Suffolk goes back through kings and abbots and parliaments, and a "mysterious murder in high life," that nowadays would have been a fortune to the newspapers, and a battle or two of which very little is said, onward to the days of King Edward the Confessor. There it begins to get misty, but still, in a way, it is possible to go back to King Cnut, who, if one may judge old men by modern motives, was an exceedingly clever statesman with a terribly long memory, and if he could be resuscitated would make an excellent colonial secretary. Beyond that, things get very dim indeed, and no one seems to do anything sensible; but right away at the very end-placeless and dateless, without ancestors and without posterity—is a figure labelled Bederic, of whom all that is known is that he was
there before the Abbey of St. Edmunds. Now, concerning this Bederic, it is best to believe that he never existed. Mr. Pickwick would, of course, have accepted him in good faith, as he doubtless accepted King Arthur. But the more we learn the less we know, and the principle that an impossible tale does not become credible, however many years back it may be put, has taken nearly all the picturesque out of history. Taking up the road, then, at the beginning of history at the time of the mythical Bederic, and filling in the piece bitten out, it was very much as it is now, except, of course, that it was in no sort of repair and there were no hedges. Whether there were any dwellings round the green at the cross roads is uncertain; the age of foundations is a terrible thing to determine. But if there were, they moved off under the shelter of the abbey walls, or, rather, within the circuit of the abbey thorn hedge, when that was established. And now, having got beyond the reach of records, it is necessary to go by the nature of things; and the first thing to do is to construct a map of the country as it was in the time of the Roman overlordship and before the coming of the English. The common or grammar school map of Britannia Antiqua is not of the least use. That is a beautifullycolored affair, with Flavia Cæsariensis and so forth upon it in large capitals and Londinium in small capitals. Camulodunum is certainly in the wrong place, and Venta Icenorum doubtful by some miles. But what is worse, the coast line is just the same as in this present year of jubilee. There is no shipway inside Thanet and no island where the Goodwins are now. The mouths of rivers, which were known to be open as late as five hundred years ago, are drawn blocked as now, the lost land of the Norfolk coast is not given, and so little appreciation is shown of the Fenland that the Ouse runs into the sea (per the Eau Brink) at Lynn, instead of at Wisbech, as it used to do. The thing is really no better than what one can make off-hand by the simple process of striking out every name that bears
marks of an English or Danish origin. Out go the wicks and wiches, the hams and tons, the wells and steads, and still more the thorps and bys of the incomers from Germany and Scandinavia. What is left? The result is a curious one; what is left are, roughly speaking, the capitals of the counties. That is the effective way of putting it. The more accurate way would be to say that there are left about one or two places in each county whose names show them to be of the Roman time or older, and whose sites, more often than not, are the same as the modern county town. And the exceptions which make it necessary to say only "more often than not," usually confirm the principle. Huntingdon goes, but there is Godmanchester across the bridge. Cambridge is not really English, in spite of its appearance; and if it were, there is Grantchester two miles to the south. St. Albans goes, but only for Verulamium to be revived, and so forth.
Now, some of the counties are ancient English kingdoms, and some—“the shires"-are the artificial divisions into which the kings of the West Saxons split up for administrative purposes the land conquered from the kingdom of Mercia, or redeemed over again from the Danish invaders. Less than half-adozen, with of course all the Welsh ones, are even later than the Conquest. But whatever its origin, whether the county is the ancient kingdom or the artificially-created shire, it is more or less the district which can be conveniently administered from the county town. These county towns are, in fact, the natural centres and the first places that would be settled. So that the result is reached that, before the coming of the English, Britian was a country of towns, small, of course, but with nothing in the way of villages between them of sufficient permanency to leave a name in the way that quite insignificant rivers and brooks have done. A wild, barren country, with a few shepherds or swineherds or cowboys speaking British while the townsmen spoke Latin; a country "where every place is forty miles from everywhere else"
Australians of the days before the railways, if so be that any are left, will know what that means. Through this desert country from the towns in the midland plain to the sea ran our road straight away in its businesslike manner; but what was the object of it? It was not a military road, built after the Roman pattern and duly marked in our map of Britannia Antiqua. It passed through no towns, and there were no villages to pass through. It could be only one thing, and that is a trade route between the towns of the midland plain and the sea. It ends somewhere among the estuaries of the coast, crossing the Roman roads from Colchester northwards. Those are the estuaries where the big square box which is called a barge is loaded with hay, and waits fine weather to slip round to London; in short, the sort of place that any unnavigable craft can sail from. But if it was a trade route, it points to a trade or which history is absolutely silent. Up the Rhine and over the mountains it would go, as it did again later on in the Middle Ages, in the times when Chaucer's merchant "wolde the sea were kept for anything Betwixte Middelburgh and Orewelle." In those and yet more recent times it had passengers enough, so that to this day the commonest "coin" to rake up in a Suffolk field is the token of a Nuremberg trader-so very old a complaint is, "Made in Germany!" Or it might go up the Meuse and down the Rhone, and so keep always on Celtic ground. But this early trade is in a way a puzzle. Not because there is no mention of it in history. History seldom mentions such things, and says very little indeed about Hans Krawinkel and his other Nuremberg friends. In fact, we should never have known of the amount of business they did in England if it were not for the tokens with their name and city upon them. The trouble is the existence of Ariovistus and Hermann and that sort of people, who were distinctly bad for trade just at the period when the ancient road should have been in full operation. Perhaps it is older than even they. Anyhow, the road went
out of use at the coming of the English into Britain. The making of England has been told by a greater than the present writer (he rather neglected East Anglia, which presented problems of special difficulty), but this much may be said: The invaders formed their new settlements anywhere, on or off the road, without regard to it, and did not even use it as a boundary mark. Hence it happens that at this day the village whose duty it is to repair the road is often two miles or more off it, and gets no good from it whatever. Consequently, the road is in places repaired no better than it need be, and the townsman cyclist coming on a bad mile or two, reviles the county council, which is really trying its best to bribe the recalcitrant parish into doing the work by means of uneconomical grants in aid. The real fault lies with the "Anglo-Saxon" leader, who would fix his settlement in the wrong place; but he and his are gone to Valhalla, and are beyond the reach of reviling. So the road, which has been more than once a main artery of traffic, but now is getting deserted again except by the brewer's dray (even the farmer when he comes to market comes by train nowadays), leads the inquirer into its origin straight up to a puzzle, just the same as do Stonehenge and all the really very ancient monuments.
Now, this road was chosen because it is such a quiet, common road, with no troublesome history written about it, except, of course, the history of Mr. Pickwick, which does not, like formal history, make any pretence of not being all made up. For a change, consider one that was never busier than to-day. It is said that in time a man gets to the end of everything in this world, even of the Edgware-road. In our day his work is shortened for him, for, once upon a time, one of the ends was at Dover and the other somewhere on the shores of the river Dee. Now, here is another clear instance of the bad shots roads make at towns, which is the main proof of their extreme antiquity. Of course, in the present day, when the city of five million souls has