Silver Donkey Essays

Silver Donkey Essays-82
Here are two people almost identical in blood; pent up together on one small island, so that their intercourse (one would have thought) must be as close as that of prisoners who shared one cell of the Bastille; the same in language and religion; and yet a few years of quarrelsome isolation — a mere forenoon’s tiff, as one may call it, in comparison with the great historical cycles — has so separated their thoughts and ways that not unions, not mutual dangers, nor steamers, nor railways, nor all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, seem able to obliterate the broad distinction.In the trituration of another century or so the corners may disappear; but in the meantime, in the year of grace 1871, I was as much in a new country as if I had been walking out of the Hotel St. I felt a little thrill of pleasure at my heart as I realised the change, and strolled away up the street with my hands behind my back, noting in a dull, sensual way how foreign, and yet how friendly, were the slopes of the gables and the colour of the tiles, and even the demeanour and voices of the gossips round about me.

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When I did so, it flashed upon me that I was in England; the evening sunlight lit up English houses, English faces, an English conformation of street, — as it were, an English atmosphere blew against my face.

There is nothing perhaps more puzzling (if one thing in sociology can ever really be more unaccountable than another) than the great gulf that is set between England and Scotland — a gulf so easy in appearance, in reality so difficult to traverse.

I can excuse a person combating my religious or philosophical heresies, because them I have deliberately accepted, and am ready to justify by present argument. If I prefer tame scenery to grand, a little hot sunshine over lowland parks and woodlands to the war of the elements round the summit of Mont Blanc; or if I prefer a pipe of mild tobacco, and the company of one or two chosen companions, to a ball where I feel myself very hot, awkward, and weary, I merely state these preferences as facts, and do not seek to establish them as principles.

This is not the general rule, however, and accordingly the waitress was shocked, as one might be at a heresy, to hear the route that I had sketched out for myself.

Wandering in this aimless humour, I turned up a lane and found myself following the course of the bright little river.

I passed first one and then another, then a third, several couples out love-making in the spring evening; and a consequent feeling of loneliness was beginning to grow upon me, when I came to a dam across the river, and a mill — a great, gaunt promontory of building, — half on dry ground and half arched over the stream.Then he told me that he had a little raft afloat on the river above the dam which he was going to lend me, in order that I might be able to look back, in after years, upon having done so, and get great pleasure from the recollection.Now, I have a friend of my own who will forgo present enjoyments and suffer much present inconvenience for the sake of manufacturing ‘a reminiscence’ for himself; but there was something singularly refined in this pleasure that the hatmaker found in making reminiscences for others; surely no more simple or unselfish luxury can be imagined.But the road grew sad, and I grew weary; and as I was perpetually haunted with the terror of a return of the tie that had been playing such ruin in my head a week ago, I turned and went back to the inn, and supper, and my bed.The next morning, at breakfast, I communicated to the smart waitress my intention of continuing down the coast and through Whitehaven to Furness, and, as I might have expected, I was instantly confronted by that last and most worrying form of interference, that chooses to introduce tradition and authority into the choice of a man’s own pleasures.He was brushing one Canadian felt hat, and several others had been put to await their turn one above the other on his own head, so that he looked something like the typical Jew old-clothes man.As I drew near, he came sidling out of the doorway to accost me, with so curious an expression on his face that I instinctively prepared myself to apologise for some unwitting trespass.The water was dappled with slanting sunshine, and dusted all over with a little mist of flying insects.There were some amorous ducks, also, whose lovemaking reminded me of what I had seen a little farther down.To the best of our knowledge, the text of this work is in the “Public Domain” in Australia.HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website.


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