Not far from Dorchester, I had another delightful view. The country here became so fine, that I positively could not prevail on myself to quit it, and so I laid myself down on the green turf, which was so fresh and sweet, that I could almost have been contented, like Nebuchadnezzar, to have grazed on it. The moon was at the full; the sun darted its last parting rays through the green hedges, to all which was added, the overpowering fragrance of the meadows, the diversified song of the birds, the hills that skirted the Thames, some of them of a light, and others of a dark-green hue, with the tufted tops of trees dispersed here and there among them. The contemplation of all these delightful circumstances well-nigh overcame me.
I arrived rather late at Dorchester. This is only a small place, but there is in it a large and noble old church. As I was walking along, I saw several ladies with their heads dressed, leaning out of their windows, or standing before the houses, and this made me conclude that this was too fine a place for me, and so I determined to walk on three-quarters of a mile farther to Nuneham, which place is only five miles from Oxford. When I reached Nuneham, I was not a little tired, and it was also quite dark.
The place consists of two rows of low, neat houses, built close to each other, and as regular and uniform as a London street. All the doors seemed to be shut, and even a light was to be seen only in a few of them.
At length quite at the end of the place, I perceived a great sign hanging across the street, and the last house to the left was the inn, at which everything seemed to be still in motion.
I entered without ceremony, and told them my errand, which was, that I intended to sleep there that night. "By no means," was the answer, "it was utterly impossible; the whole house was full, and all their beds engaged, and, as I had come so far, I might even as well walk on the remaining five miles to Oxford."
Being very hungry, I requested that, at least, they would give me something to eat. To this they answered that, as I could not stay all night there, it would be more proper for me to sup where I lodged, and so I might go on.
At length, quite humbled by the untowardness of my circumstances, I asked for a pot of beer, and that they did vouchsafe to give me, for ready money only; but a bit of bread to eat with it (for which also I would willingly have paid) they peremptorily refused me.
Such unparalleled inhospitality I really could not have expected in an English inn, but resolving, with a kind of spiteful indignation, to see how far their inhumanity would carry them, I begged that they would only let me sleep on a bench, and merely give me house-room, adding, that if they would grant me that boon only, I would pay them the same as for a bed, for, that I was so tired, I could not possibly go any farther. Even in the moment that I was thus humbly soliciting this humble boon, they banged the door to full in my face.
As here, in a small village, they had refused to receive me, it seemed to be presumption to hope that I should gain admittance at Oxford. What could I do? I was much tired, and so, as it was not a very cold night, I resolved to pass it in the open air; in this resolution, bouncing from this rude inn, I went to look out for a convenient spot for that purpose in an adjoining field, beneath some friendly tree. Just as I had found a place, which I thought would do, and was going to pull off my great coat to lay under my head by way of pillow, I heard someone behind me, following me with a quick pace. At first I was alarmed, but my fears were soon dispelled by his calling after me, and asking "if I would accept of company."
As little as anyone is to be trusted who thus follows you into a field in a dark night, yet it was a pleasure to me to find that there were still some beings not quite inhuman, and at least one person who still interested himself about me, I therefore stopped, and as he came up to me he said that if I was a good walker, we might keep each other company, as he was also going to Oxford. I readily accepted of his proposal, and so we immediately set off together.
Now, as I could not tell whether my travelling companion was to be trusted or not, I soon took an opportunity to let him know that I was poor, and much distressed. To confirm this, I told him of the inhumanity with which I had just been treated at the inn, where they refused a poor wanderer so much as a place to lay his head, or even a morsel of bread for his money.
My companion somewhat excused the people by saying that the house was really full of people who had been at work in the neighbourhood, and now slept there. But that they had refused me a bit of bread he certainly could not justify. As we went along, other topics of conversation were started, and among other things he asked me where I came from that day.
I answered from Nettlebed, and added, that I had attended divine service there that morning.