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herd, and the white dress of the farmer's handsome daughter? Near and more near draws the huge square-headed boat, the splashing sound of the water broken by the bleating of the lambs, the lowing of oxen, and the voices of the passengers ; heard for a moment, then lost again, just as the breeze rises and falls at intervals. How clear is the figure of the ferryman reflected, with his weather-stained jacket, as he leans over with the long boat-hook, rearing it at first, like a mast, above his head, then lessening it as the lumbering craft advances, now reaching but a yard above him, then coming to a level with his brawny shoulders, against which it rests, while with all his strength he walks the whole length of the boat, and red in the face as a lion, pushes her across the river. Up comes the long boat-hook once more, from out the clear water under which it was buried, high up in the sky it rears, making a hundred pretty dimples with the drops that fall from it, the same Herculean arm again plants it in the river-bed, if it slips, overboard he goes, as he has done many a time; on, onward another length he walks, he has given her plenty of head-way now, and she will soon come grinding upon the gravelly shore.
Dost thou love beautiful pictures which bring before the eye, the still green rural scenes of pastoral England ? If so look on this. That white-washed old-fashioned building (partly covered with ivy), with its bay windows reflected in the river, is as ancient as the tall elm trees that overtop it. It has been a public-house ever since it was built, and never was known by any other name than the Old Ferry House. It stood as it does now, with its twisted chimneys and gable-ends, when one summer morning four of Cromwell's iron-sided soldiers, who bore on their helmets the marks of Marston Moor, came across, " fiery red with speed,” to hunt out an old royalist,
who resided in the Elizabethan manor-house, which is still standing in the village. One may almost picture the old Puritans, with their pistols in their belts, and the bridles thrown over their arms, as they stand ready to leap out on the opposite shore. It would look well on canvas: one might tell by a glance at the countenance of the sturdy ferryman, that they would obtain but little information from him about the hiding-place of the brave cavalier. Look at the brown high road, which comes bending down the brow of the hill from the centre of the wood that shadows its summit, until it dips into the very edge of the river. That road is almost as old as the hill over which it stretches; over there and across the river has been the highway to the neighbouring market-town behind us ever since the time of the Saxons, for there was a ferry here when William the Norman compiled that gloomy catalogue, called “Doomsday Book.” There was once a wooden bridge a mile or two lower down the river, but it was swept away ages ago by a winter-flood, and was never again rebuilt. Tradition says that the ferryman who then lived, went down in his boat in the night, and sawed the middle piles of the wooden bridge asunder; but this is an old-world-story, and all such ancient places abound in traditions. What groups descend the hilly road ! How slowly that boy comes creeping down with his lambs: if he does not move quicker, the farmer on his chestnut horse will be at the ferry before him. How steadily the old woman comes trudging along in her scarlet cloak, with her black gipsy bonnet tied over her arm, and the basket steadied on her head; she has outstripped the old man in the blue frock, driving the donkey with its huge pair of panniers, which are filled with peas and new potatoes. That young lady in the riding-habit, who comes cantering along on her long-tailed
pony, is the daughter of one of the richest farmers in the village; she is off a-shopping, and the young drapers will put on their best bows when she arrives. You should see with what grace she will enter the shop of the head milliner in the market-place, carrying her riding whip in her hand, and holding up her habit as a duchess does her train on a drawing-room day: she has pulled up to gossip with the old woman in the scarlet cloak, who is one of her father's tenants; she will listen until they reach the ferry, and hear all about old John's rheumatics, and the goose the fox carried off the other night; the storm that blew down so many young apples; the fence the pigs broke through, and the cabbages and lettuces they consumed; and how near the old woman's daughter Deborah was of being married, when James " come to his harm” by a kick from the horse. And the young lady will persuade her father to mend the fence, and replace the goose, and old John's rheumatics will be attended to--for the lady's grandmother is still alive, and grows no end of herbs in one corner of the garden, and has bottles filled with decoctions and lotions, which, with her presents of chicken broth and jellies, are found very strengthening.
Another ferry stands where the river rolls between two wild marshes, far removed from either town or village, the roads, which are said to have been thrown up by the Romans, run straight as a line within view of each other, stretching away for miles. Here the ferryman truly passes his life in solitude, for saving at fair times or on market days, but few pass along that lonely road. His hut is the only human habitation which catches the eye in that vast extent of landscape. On both sides of the river the wide marshes are laid out for rass, and when the hay is harvested, hundreds of heads of cattle are turned loose, and may be heard lowing in
the wide solitude. No hedge rises up to break the monotony of the scene, the boundary lines are long water-sluices, where the bulrush bows and the water-flag waves, and acres of rushes grow up and wither year after year, uncut or unclaimed by living man. If “Boat-a-hoy!” is hailed by some stray traveller, up start hundreds of tufted plovers, wheeling and shrieking above the wild sedge, and flying farther away, to allure the intruder from their concealed nests, which are often trampled into the sinking soil by the heavy bullock. When the marshes are cleared of cattle, and silent, and the eye sees only for miles thousands of acres covered with long grass, catching every reflection from the sky, sunshine, and cloud, and the breeze that sweeps across, the scene looks not unlike a vast ocean, whose eddying waves are without a sound. There is a silent grandeur in its loneliness.
Beside the river stands the ferryman's hut, a low lonely looking building, its roof rising but little higher than the old Roman road, and his long straggling garden, saving for its few trees, scarcely distinguishable from the green wilderness that spreads behind. An old ferry-boat, years ago sunk at the front of his house, and now filled with river mud, stands just as it was thrown, leaning upon the bank, by the flood, and is his chief defence against the
of the current; but for this wreck his hut might have been carried away long ago, like the summer-house he had built at the end of his garden, which, together with his large potato bed, were all washed away in one night, after the breaking up of the ice on the river. In winter, when the waters are high, and roar and foam between the banks, his life is often in danger; more than once he has lost his boat-hook, and been carried away by the current, and cast upon a rugged wear, over which the water foams, and boils, and whitens, with a
deafening noise, which must have rung terribly in his ears, when we remember that he never looked upon the sea in his life. Talk to him about the perils of the ocean, and he will shake his head, bid you consider the large ships, which he has been told sail upon it, then, pointing to his own ferry-boat, show as plain as can be, that if you compare the size of the two vessels, the danger is equal. He is well read in Robinson Crusoe, and beside his cat and dog, keeps several tame “pewets,” and a lame raven, which is almost as old as himself.
Thirty years ago he was near getting married; but as the moments of his courtship extended not beyond the time he ferried the fair damsel across the river, and this only for a fortnight, during the summer months, the match somehow or another was broken off. Rumour says, that love commenced one market day, by the maiden remarking, that he must be very lonely; to which he made no reply until the fortnight following, when he aeknowledged he was: but in that time the fair one had forgot all about it, and he never made any further advances saving once, when he inquired if she was fond of fish, and gave her two he had caught. So he continues to live alone; wind, and rain, and darkness find him ever at his post; a day's illness, he says, he never knew; his brown, hard, weather-beaten features are a living picture of health. Few would like to live in that lonely spot which is inhabited by the old ferryman.
Let us pass further north, to the Humber, to that arm of the sea, which stretches into the German ocean; and from Barton to Hull, we must cross a ferry nearly five miles in width. We know not what the ferry-boats are now,
but twenty years ago, we were bundled into an open boat, amongst Yorkshire horse-dealers and Lincolnshire graziers,