Oxford, June 25.
To what various, singular, and unaccountable fatalities and adventures are not foot-travellers exposed, in this land of carriages and horses! But, I will begin my relation in form and order.
In Windsor, I was obliged to pay for an old fowl I had for supper, for a bedroom which I procured with some difficulty, and not without murmurs, and in which, to complete my misadventures, I was disturbed by a drunken fellow; and for a couple of dishes of tea, nine shillings, of which the fowl alone was charged six shillings.
As I was going away the waiter, who had served me with so very ill a grace, placed himself on the stairs and said, "Pray remember the waiter." I gave him three halfpence, on which he saluted me with the heartiest "G-d d-n you, sir!" I had ever heard. At the door stood the cross maid, who also accosted me with, "Pray remember the chambermaid." "Yes, yes," said I, "I shall long remember your most ill-mannered behaviour and shameful incivility;" and so I gave her nothing. I hope she was stung and nettled at my reproof; however, she strove to stifle her anger by a contemptuous, loud, hoarse laugh. Thus, as I left Windsor, I was literally followed by abuses and curses.
I am very sorry to say that I rejoiced when I once more perceived the towers of Windsor behind me. It is not proper for wanderers to be prowling near the palaces of kings, and so I sat me down, philosophically, in the shade of a green hedge, and again read Milton, no friend of kings, though the first of poets. Whatever I may think of their inns, it is impossible not to admire and be charmed with this country.
I took my way through Slough, by Salthill, to Maidenhead. At Salthill, which can hardly be called even a village, I saw a barber's shop, and so I resolved to get myself both shaved and dressed. For putting my hair a little in order, and shaving me, I was forced to pay him a shilling. Opposite to this shop there stands an elegant house and a neat garden.
Between Salthill and Maidenhead, I met with the first very remarkable and alarming adventure that has occurred during my pilgrimage.
Hitherto I had scarcely met a single foot passenger, whilst coaches without number every moment rolled past me, for there are few roads, even in England, more crowded than this western road, which leads to Bath and Bristol as well as to Oxford. I now also began to meet numbers of people on horseback, which is by no means an usual method of travelling.
The road now led me along a low sunken piece of ground between high trees, so that I could not see far before me, when a fellow in a brown frock and round hat, with a stick in his hand a great deal stronger than mine, came up to me. His countenance immediately struck me as having in it something suspicious. He however passed me; but, before I was aware, he turned back and asked me for a halfpenny to buy, as he said, some bread, as he had eaten nothing that day. I felt in my pocket, and found that I had no halfpence: no, nor even a sixpence; in short, nothing but shillings. I told him the circumstance, which I hoped would excuse me; on which he said, with an air and manner the drift of which I could not understand, "God bless my soul!" This drew my attention still closer to the huge brawny fist, which grasped his stick, and that closer attention determined me immediately to put my hand in my pocket and give him a shilling. Meanwhile a coach came up. The fellow thanked me and went on. Had the coach come a moment sooner, I should not easily have given him the shilling, which, God knows, I could not well spare. Whether this was a footpad or not, I will not pretend to say, but he had every appearance of it.
I now came to Maidenhead bridge, which is five-and-twenty English miles from London.
The English milestones give me much pleasure, and they certainly are a great convenience to travellers. They have often seemed to ease me of half the distance of a journey merely by telling me how far I had already gone, and by assuring me that I was on the right road. For, besides the distance from London, every milestone informs you that to the next place is so many miles, and where there are cross-roads there are direction-posts, so that it is hardly possible to lose one's-self in walking. I must confess that all this journey has seemed but as it were one continued walk for pleasure.
From Maidenhead bridge there is a delightful prospect towards a hill, which extends itself along the right bank of the Thames, and on the top of it there are two beautiful country seats, all surrounded with meadows and parks. The first is called Taplow, and belongs to the Earl of Inchiquin; and a little farther Cliefden, which also belongs to him.
These villas seem all to be surrounded with green meadows, lying along thick woods, and, altogether, are most charming.
From this bridge it is not far to Maidenhead, near which, on the left, is another prospect of a beautiful seat, belonging to Pennyston Powney, Esq.
All this knowledge I have gained chiefly from my English guide; which I have constantly in my hand; and in which everything most worthy of notice in every mile is marked. These notices I get confirmed or refuted by the people at whose houses I stop; who wonder how I, who am a foreigner, have come to be so well acquainted with their country.
Maidenhead is a place of little note; for some mulled ale, which I desired them to make me, I was obliged to pay ninepence. I fancy they did not take me to be either a great, or a very rich man, for I heard them say, as I passed on, "A stout fellow!" This, though perhaps not untrue, did not seem to sound in my ears as very respectful.