Immediately after breakfast the following morning, my kind host accompanied me for a mile on my walk, and put me on a footpath across the fields, by which I might save a considerable distance on the way to Saffron Walden, where I proposed to spend the Sabbath.  After giving me minute directions as to the course I was to follow, he bade me good-bye, and I proceeded on at a brisk pace through fields of wheat and clover, greatly enjoying the scenery, the air, and exercise.  Soon I came to a large field quite recently ploughed up clean, footpath and all.  Seeing a gate at each of the opposite corners, I made my way across the furrows to the one at the left, as it seemed to be more in the direction indicated by my host.  There the path was again broad and well-trodden, and I followed it through many fields of grain yellowing to the harvest, until it opened into the main road.  This bore a little more to the left than I expected, but, as I had never travelled it before, I believed it was all right.  Thaxted was half way to Saffron Walden, and there I had intended to stop an hour or two for dinner and rest, then push on to the end of the day's walk as speedily as possible.  At about noon, I came suddenly down upon the town, which seemed remarkably similar to the one I had left, in size, situation, and general features.  The parish church, also, bore a strong resemblance to the one I had noticed the previous evening.  These old Essex towns are "as much alike as two peas," and you must make a note of it, as Captain Cuttle says, was the thought first suggested by the coincidence.  I went into a cosy, clean-faced inn on the main street, and addressed myself with much satisfaction to a short season of rest and refreshment, exchanging hot and dusty boots for slippers, and going through other preliminaries to a comfortable time of it.  Rang the bell for dinner, but before ordering it, asked the waiting-maid, with a complacent idea that I had improved my walking pace, and made more than half the way -

"How far is it to Saffron Walden?"

"Twelve miles, sir."

"Twelve miles, indeed!  Why, it is only twelve miles from Great Bardfield!"

"Well, this is Great Bardfield, sir."

"Great Bardfield!  What!  How is this?  What do you mean?"

She meant what she said, and it was as true as two and two make four; and she was not to be beaten out of it by a stare of astonishment, however a discomfited man might expand his eyes with wonder, or cloud his face with chagrin.  It was a patent fact.  There, on the opposite side of the street, was the house in which I slept the night before; and here, just coming up to the door of the inn, was the good lady of my host.  Her form and voice, and other identifications dispelled the mist of the mistake; and it came out as clear as day that I had followed the direction of my host, to bear to the left, far too liberally, and that I had been walking at my best speed in a "vicious circle" for full two hours and a half, and had landed just where I commenced, at least within the breadth of a narrow street of the same point.

My good friends urged me to stop and dine with them, and then make a fair start for the end of my week's journey.  But it was still twelve miles to Saffron Walden, and I was determined to put half of them behind me before dinner.  So, taking a second leave of them in the course of three hours, I set out again on my walk, a wiser man in the practical understanding of the proverb, "The longest way around is the shortest way there."  At 2 p.m.  I reached Thaxted, and rectified my first notion of the town, formed when I mistook it for Bardfield.  Having made six miles extra between the two points, I resumed my walk after a short delay at the latter.

The weather was glorious.  A cloudless sun shone upon a little sky-crystalled world of beauty, smaller in every dimension than you ever see in America.  And this is a feature of English scenery that will strike the American traveller most impressively at the first glance, whether he looks at it by night or day.  It is not that Nature, in adjusting the symmetries of her scenic structures, nicely apportions the skyscape to the landscape of a country merely for artistic effect.  It is not because the island of Great Britain is so small in circumference that the sky is proportioned to it, as the crystal is to the dial of a watch; that it is so apparently low; that the stars it holds to its moist, blue bosom are so near at midnight, and the sun so large at noon.  It comes, doubtless, from that constant humidity of the atmosphere which distinguishes the climate of England, and gives to both land and sky an aspect which is quite unknown to our great western continent.  An American, after having habituated himself to this aspect, on returning to his own country, will be almost surprised at a feature of its scenery which he never noticed before.  He will be struck at the loftiness of the sky; at the vividness of its blue and gold, the sharp, unsoftened light of the stars, and, as it were, the contracted pupil of the sun's eye at mid-day.  The sunset glories of our western heavens play upon a ground of rigid blue.  "The Northern Lights," which, at their winter evening illuminations, seem to have shredded into wavy filaments all the rainbows that have spanned the chambers of the East since the Flood, and to upspring, in mirthful fantasy, to hang their infinitely-tinted tresses to the zenith's golden diadem of stars - even they sport upon the same lofty concave of dewless blue, which looks through and through the lacework and everchanging drapery of their mingled hues in the most witching mazes of their nightly waltz, giving to each a definiteness that our homely Saxon tongue might fit with a name.

But here, on the lower grounds of instructive meditation, is a humbler individuality of the country to notice.  Here is the most sadly abused and melancholy living creature in all England's animal realm that meets me in the midst of these reflections on things supernal and glorious.  I will let the Northern Lights go, with their gorgeous pantomimes and midnight revelries, and have a moment's communing with this unfortunate quadruped.  It is called in derision here a "donkey," but an ass, in a more generous time, when one of his race and size bore upon his back into the Holy City the world's Saviour and Re-Creator.  Poor, libelled, hopeless beast!  I pity you from my heart's heart.  How I wish for Sterne's pen to do you some measure of justice or condolence under this heavy load of opprobrium that bends your back and makes your life so sunless and bitter!  Come here, sir! - here is a biscuit for you, of the finest wheat; few of your race get such morsels; so, eat it and be thankful.  What ears!  No wonder our friend Patrick called you "the father of all rabbits" at first sight.  No! don't turn away your head, as if I were going to strike you.

Most animals are best described from a certain point of view, - in a fixed and quiescent attitude.  But the donkey should be taken in the very act of this characteristic motion.  You put out your hand in the gentlest manner to pat any one of them you meet, and he will instinctively turn away his head for fear of a beating.

There is an interesting speculation now coming up among modern reveries in regard to the immortality of certain animals of great intelligence and domestic virtues.  A large and tender kindness of disposition is the father of the thought, it may be; but the thought seems to gain ground and take shape, that so much of apparently human mind and heart as the dog possesses cannot be destined to annihilation at his death, but must live and enlarge in another sphere of existence.  Having thus opened, if it may be said reverently, a back-door into immortality for sagacious and affectionate dogs and horses, they leave it ajar for the admission of animals of less intelligence - even for all the kinds that Noah took into the ark, perhaps, although the theory is still nebulous and undefined.  Now, I would beg the kind-hearted adherents to this theory not to think I am seeking to play off a satirical pleasantry upon it, if I express a hope, which is earnest and true, that, if there be an immortality for any class of dumb animals, the donkey shall go into it first, and have a better place in it than their parlor dogs or nicely-groomed horses.  Evidently they are building up a claim to this illustrious distinction of another existence for these pets on the sole ground of merit, not of works, even, but of mere intelligence, fidelity, and affection.  Granted; but the donkey should go in first and take the highest place on that basis.  When you come to the standard of moral measurement, it may be claimed as among the highest of human as well as animal virtues, "to learn to suffer and be strong."  And this virtue the donkey has learned and practised incomparably beyond any other creature that ever walked on four legs since the Flood.  Let these good people remember that their fanciful and romantic favoritisms are not to rule in the destinies awarded to the infinitesimally human spirits of domestic animals in another world, if another be in reserve for them.  Let them remember that their softly-cushioned dogs, and horses so delicately clad, and fed, and fondled, have had a pretty good time of it in this life, and that in another, the poor, despised, abused donkey, going about begging, with such a long and melancholy face, for withered cabbage leaves and woody-grained turnips cast out and trodden under feet of happier animals, - that this meek little creature, kicked, cuffed, and club-beaten all the way from hopeless youth to an ignominious grave, will carry into another world merits and mementoes of his earthly lot that will obtain, if not entitle him to, some compensation in the award of a future condition.  It is treading on delicate ground even to set one foot within the pale of their unscriptural theory; but as many of them hold the Christian faith in pureness of living and doctrine, let me remind them of that parable which shows so impressively how the disparities in human condition here are reversed in the destinies of the great hereafter.

But, to return to the earthly lot and position of this poor, libelled animal.  Among all the four-footed creatures domesticated to the service of man, this has always been the veriest scapegoat and victim of the cruellest and crabbedest of human dispositions.  Truly, it has ever been born unto sorrow, bearing all its life long a weight of abuse and contumely which would break the heart of a less sensitive animal in a single week.  From the beginning it has been the poor man's beast of burden; and "pity 'tis 'tis true," poor men, in all the generations of human poverty, have been far too prone to harshness of temper and treatment towards the beasts that serve them and share their lot of humble life.  The donkey is made a kind of Ishmaelite in the great family of domestic animals.  He is made, not born so.  He is beaten about the head unmercifully with a heavy stick, and then jeered at for being stupid and obstinate! just as if any other creature, of four or two legs, would not be stupid after such fierce congestion of the brain.  His long ears subject him to a more cruel prejudice than ever color engendered in the circle of humanity but just above him.  True, he is rather unsymmetrical in form.  His head is disproportionately long and large, quite sufficient in these dimensions to fit a camel.  He is generally a hollow-backed, pot-bellied creature, about the size of a yearling calf, with ungainly, sloping haunches, and long, coarse hair.  But nearly all these deformities come out of the shameful treatment he gets.  You occasionally meet one that might hold up its head in any animal society; with straight back, symmetrical body and limbs, and hair as soft and sleek as the fur of a Maltese cat; with contented face, and hopeful and happy eyes, showing that he has a kind master.

The donkey is really a useful and valuable animal, which might be introduced into America with great advantage to our farmers.  I know of no animal of its size so tough and strong.  It is astonishing, as well as shocking, to see what loads he is made to draw here.  The vehicle to which he is usually harnessed is a heavy, solid affair, frequently as large as our common horse-carts.  He is put to all kinds of work, and is almost exclusively the poor man's beast of burden and travel.  In cities and large towns, his cart is loaded with the infinitely-varied wares of street trade; with cabbages, fish, fruit, or with some of the thousand-and-one nicknacks that find a market among the masses of the common people.  At watering-places, or on the "commons" or suburban playgrounds of large towns, he is brought out in a handsome saddle, or a well got-up little carriage, and let by the hour or by the ride to invalid adults, or to children bubbling over with life.  Here, although the everlasting club, to which he is born, is wielded by his driver, he often looks comfortable and sleek, and sometimes wears a red ribbon at each ear.  It would not pay to bring on to the ground the scrawny, bony creature that generally tugs in the costermonger's cart.  It is in the coal region or trade that you meet with him and his driver in their worst apostacy from all that is seemly in man or beast.  To watch the poor creature, begrimed with coal-dust, wriggling up a long, steep hill, with a load four times his own weight, griping with his little sheep-footed hoofs into the black, slimy pavement of the road, while his tall, sooty-faced and harsh-voiced master, perhaps sitting on the top or on a shaft, is punching and beating him; to see this is enough to stir up the old adam in the meekest Christian to emotions of pugilistic indignation.  It has often cost me a doubtful and protracted effort to keep it down.  Indeed, I have often yielded to it so far as to wish that once more the poor creature might be honored of God with His gift to Balaam's ass, and be able to speak, bolt outright, an indignant remonstrance, in human speech, against such treatment.  It would serve them right! - these lineal descendants of Balaam, who have inherited his club and wield it more cruelly.

A word or two more about this animal, and I will pass on to others of more dignity of position.  He is the cheapest as well as smallest beast of burden to be found in Christendom.  You may buy one here for twenty or thirty English shillings.  I am confident that they would be extremely serviceable in America, if once introduced.  It costs but very little to keep them, and they will do all kinds of work up to the draught of 600 or 800 lbs.  You frequently see here a span of them trotting off in a cart, with brisk and even step.  Sometimes they are put on as leaders to a team of horses.  I once saw on my walk a heavy Lincolnshire horse in the shafts, a pony next, and a donkey at the head, making a team graduated from 18 hands to 6 in height; and all pulling evenly, and apparently keeping step with each other, notwithstanding the disparity in the length of their legs.

It would be unjust to that goodwill to man and beast which is being organised and stimulated in England through an infinite number of societies, if I should omit to state that, at last, a little rill of this benevolence has reached the donkey.  That most valuable and widely-circulated penny magazine, "The British Workman," and its little companion for British workmen's children, "The Band of Hope Review," have advocated the rights and better treatment of this humble domestic for several years.  His cause has also been pleaded in a packet of little papers called "Leaflets of the Law of Kindness for the Children."  And now, at last, a wealthy and benevolent champion, on whom the mantle of Elizabeth Fry, his aunt, has fallen, has taken the lead in the work of raising the useful creature to the level of the other animals of the pasture, stable, and barn-yard.  Up to the present time, every creature that walks on four or two legs, either haired, woolled, or feathered, with the single exception of the donkey has had the door of the Agricultural Exhibition thrown wide open to it, to enter the lists for prizes or "honorable mention," and for general admiration.  A pig, whose legs and eyes have all been absorbed out of sight by an immense rotundity of fat, is often decked with a ribbon, of the Order of the Garter genus, as a reward of merit, or of grace of form and proportions!  Turkeys, geese, ducks, and hens of different breeds, strut or waddle off with similar distinctions.  As for blood-horses, bulls, cows, and sheep, one not versed in such matters might be tempted to think that men, especially the poorer sort, were made for beasts, and not beasts for men.  And yet, mirabile dictu! at these great social gatherings of man-and-animal kind, there has not been even "a negro-pew" for the donkey.  A genuine, raw, Guinea negro might have as well entered the Prince of Wales' Ball in New York bare-footed, and offered to play a voluntary on his banjo for the dancers, as this despised quadruped have hoped to obtain the entree to these grand and fashionable assemblies of the shorter-eared elite of society.

But this prejudice against color and long ears is now going the way of other barbarisms.  The gentleman to whom I have referred, a Member of Parliament, whose means are as large as his benevolence, has taken the first and decisive step towards raising the donkey to his true place in society.  He has offered a liberal prize for the best conditioned one exhibited at the next Agricultural Fair.  Since this offer was made, a very decided improvement has been noticed among the donkeys of the London costermongers, as if the competition for the first prize was to be a very large one.

It will be a kind of St. Crispin's Day to the whole of the long-eared race - a day of emancipation from forty centuries of obloquy and oppression.  Doubtless they will be admitted hereafter to the Royal Agricultural Society's exhibitions, to compete for honors with animals that have hitherto spurned such association with contempt.