Having now pursued a westerly direction until I was in the range of a continuous upland section of country, I took a northward course and walked on to Oundle, a goodly town in Northamptonshire, as unique as its name.  On the way, in crossing over to another turnpike road, I passed through a large tract of land in a very deshabille condition, rough, boggy and bushy.  I soon found it was a game-growing estate, and very productive of all sorts of birds and small quadrupeds.  The fields I crossed showed a promising crop of hares and rabbits; and doubtless there were more partridges on that square mile than in the whole State of Connecticut.  This is a characteristic of the country which will strike an American, at his first visit, with wonder.  He will see hares and rabbits bobbing about on common farms, and partridges in broods, like separate flocks of hens and chickens, in fields of grain, within a stone's throw of the farmer's house.  I doubt if any county in New England produces so many in a year as the holding of Mr. Samuel Jonas already described.  Rabbits have been put out of the pale of protection somewhat recently, I believe, and branded with the bad name of vermin; so that the tenant farmer may kill them on his occupation without leave or license from the landlord.  It may indicate their number to state the fact, that one hundred and twenty-five head of them were killed in one day's shooting on Mr. Jonas's estate by his sons and some of their friends.

It was market day in Oundle, and I had the pleasure of sitting down to dinner with a large company of farmers and cattle and corn-dealers.  They were intelligent, substantial-looking men, with no occupational peculiarity of dress or language to distinguish them from ordinary middle-class gentlemen engaged in trade or manufacture.  Indeed, the old-fashioned English farmer, of the great, round, purply-red face, aldermanic stature, and costume of fifty years ago, speaking the dialect of his county with such inimitable accent, is fast going out.  I have not seen one during my present sojourn in England.  I fear he has disappeared altogether with the old stage-coach, and that we have not pictures enough of him left to give the rising generation any correct notion of what he was, and how he looked.  It may be a proper and utilitarian change, but one can hardly notice without regret what transformations the railway regime has wrought in customs and habits which once individualised a country and people.  A kind of French centralisation in the world of fashion has been established, which has over-ridden and obliterated all the dress boundaries of civilised nations.  All the upper and middle classes of Christendom centre themselves to one focus of taste and merge into one plastic commonwealth, to be shaped and moulded virtually by a common tailor.  Their coats, vests, pantaloons, boots and shoes are made substantially after the same pattern.  For a while, hats stood out with some show of pluck and patriotism, and made a stand for national individuality, but it was in vain.  They, too, succumbed to the inexorable law of Uniformity.  That law was liberal in one respect.  It did not insist that the stove-pipe form should rule inflexibly.  It admitted several variations, including wide-awakes, pliable felts, and that little, squat, lackadaisical, round-crown, narrow-brimmed thing worn by the Prince of Wales in the photographs taken of him and the Princess at Sandringham.  But this has come to be the rule: that hats shall no longer represent distinct nationalities; that they shall be interchangeable in all civilised communities; in a word, that neither Englishman, American, French nor German shall be known by his hat, whatever be the form or material of its body or brim.  If there were a southern county in England where the mercury stood at 100 degrees in the shade for two or three summer months, the upper classes in it would don, without any hesitation, the wide, flappy broadbrims of California, and still be in the fashion, - that is, variety in uniformity.  The peasantry, or the lowest laboring classes of European countries, are now, and will remain perhaps for a century to come, the only conservators of the distinctive national costumes of bygone generations.

During the conversation at the table, a farmer exhibited a head of the Hallett wheat, which he had grown on his land.  I never saw anything to equal it, in any country in which I have travelled.  It was nearly six inches in length, and seeded large and plump from top to bottom.  This is a variety produced by Mr. Hallett, of Brighton, and is creating no little interest among English grain-growers.  Lord Burghley, who had tested its properties, thus describes it, in a speech before the Northamptonshire Agricultural Society last summer: -

"At the Battersea Show last year, my attention was called to some enormous ears of wheat, which I thought could not have been grown in England.  For, although the British farmer can grow corn with anyone, I had never seen such wheat here, and thought it must be foreign wheat.  I went to the person who was threshing some out, and having been informed that it was sown only with one seed in a hole, I procured some of Mr. Hallett, of Brighton; and, being anxious to try the system, I planted it according to Mr. Hallett's directions - one grain in a hole, the holes nine and a half inches apart, with six inches between the rows.  To satisfy myself on the subject, I also planted some according to Stephen's instructions, who said three grains in a hole would produce the most profitable return.  I also planted some two grains in a hole.  I sowed the grain at the end of last September, on bad land, over an old quarry, and except some stiff clay at the bottom of it, there was nothing in it good for wheat.  The other day I counted the stalks of all three.  On Mr. Stephen's plan of three grains in a hole, there were eighteen stalks; with two grains in a hole, there was about the same number; but with one seed in a hole, the lowest number of stalks was sixteen, and the highest twenty-two.  I planted only about half an acre as a trial, and when I left home a few days since, it looked as much like eight quarters (sixty-four bushels) to the acre as any I have seen.  The ears are something enormous.  I would certainly recommend every farmer to make his own experiments, for if it succeeds, it will prove a great economy of seed; and drills to distribute it fairly are to be had."

Truly one of Hallett's wheat ears might displace the old cornucopia in that picture of happy abundance so familiar to old and young.  Here are twenty ears from one seed, containing probably a thousand grains.  The increase of a thousand-fold, or half that ratio, is prodigious, having nothing to equal it in the vegetable world that we know of.  If one bushel of seed wheat could be so distributed by a drill as to produce 500 or 250 bushels at the harvest, certainly the staff of life would be greatly cheapened to the millions who lean upon it alone for subsistence.

From Oundle I walked the next day to Stamford, a good, solid, old English town, sitting on the corners of three counties, and on three layers of history, Saxon, Dane and Norman.  The first object of interest was a stone bridge over the Nen at Oundle.  It is a grand structure to span such a little river.  It must have cost three times as much as "The Great Bridge" over the Connecticut at Hartford; and yet the stream it crosses is a mere rivulet compared with our New England river.  "The bridge with wooden piers" is a fabric of fancy to most English people.  They have read of such a thing in Longfellow's poems, but hardly realise that it exists still in civilised countries.  Here bridges are works of art as well as of utility, and rank next to the grand old cathedrals and parish churches for solidity and symmetry.  Their stone arches are frequently turned with a grace as fine as any in St. Paul's, and their balustrades and butments often approach the domain of sculpture.

Crossing the Nen, I followed it for several miles in a northerly direction.  I soon came to a rather low, level section of the road, and noticed stones placed at the side of it, at narrow intervals, for a long distance to the very foot of a village situated on a rising ground.  These stones were evidently taken from some ancient edifice, for many of them bore the marks of the old cathedral or castle chisel.  They were the foot-tracks of a ruined monument of dark and painful history.  More than this might be said of them.  They were the blood-drops of a monstrosity chased from its den and hunted down by the people, who shuddered with horror at its sanguinary record of violence and wrong.  As I approached the quiet village, whose pleasant-faced houses, great and small, looked like a congregation of old and young sitting reverently around the parish church and listening to the preaching of the belfry, I saw where these stones came from.  There, on that green, ridgy slope, where the lambs lay in the sun by the river, these stones, and a million more scattered hither and thither, once stood in walls high, hideous and wrathful, for half a dozen centuries and more.  If the breathings of human woe, if the midnight misery of wretched, broken hearts, could have penetrated these stones, one might almost fancy that they would have sweat with human histories in the ditch where they lay, and discolored the puddles they bridged with the bitter distilment of grief centuries old.  On that gentle rising from the little Nen stood Fotheringay Castle.  That central depression among the soft-carpeted ridges marks the site of the donjon huge and horrid, where many a knight and lady of noble blood was pinioned or penned in darkness and hopeless duress centuries before the unfortunate Mary was born.  There nearly half the sad years of her young life and beauty were prisoned.  There she pined in the sickness of hope deferred, in the corroding anguish of dread uncertainty, for a space as wide as that between the baptismal font and presentation at Elizabeth's court.  There she laid her white neck upon the block.  There fell the broad axe of Elizabeth's envy, fear and hate.  There fell the fair-haired head that once gilded a crown and wore all the glory of regal courts - still beautiful in the setting light of farewell thoughts.

It may be truly said of Fotheringay Castle, that not one stone is left upon another to mark its foundations.  Not Fleet-street Prison, nor the Bastille itself, went out under a heavier weight of popular odium.  Although public sentiment, as well as the personal taste and interest of their proprietors, has favored the preservation of the ruins of old castles and abbeys in Great Britain, Fotheringay bore, branded deep in its forehead, the mark of Cain, and every man's hand, of the last generation, seemed to have been turned against it.  It has not only been demolished, but the debris have been scattered far and wide, and devoted to uses which they scarcely honor.  You will see the well-faced stones for miles around, in garden walls, pavements, cottage hearths and chimneys, in stables and cow-houses.  In Oundle, the principal hotel, a large castellated building, shows its whole front built of them.

The great lion of Stamford is the Burghley House, the palace of the Marquis of Exeter.  It may be called so without exaggeration of its magnificence as a building or of the extent and grandeur of its surroundings.  The edifice itself would cut up into nearly half a dozen "White Houses," such as we install our American Presidents in at Washington.  Certainly, in any point of view, it is large and splendid enough for the residence of an emperor and his suite.  Its towers, turrets and spires present a picturesque grove of architecture of different ages, and its windows, it is said, equal in number all the days of the year.  It was not open to the public the day I was in Stamford, so I could only walk around it and estimate its interior by its external grandeur.

But there was an outside world of architecture in the park of sublimer features to me than even the great palace itself, with all its ornate and elaborate sculpture.  It was the architecture of the majestic elms and oaks that stood in long ranks and folded their hands, high up in the blue sky, above the finely-gravelled walks that radiated outward in different directions.  They all wore the angles and arches of the Gothic order and the imperial belt of several centuries.  I walked down one long avenue and counted them on either side.  There were not sixty on both; yet their green and graceful roofage reached a full third of a mile.  Not sixty to pillar and turn such an arch as that!  I sat down on a seat at the end to think of it.  There was a morning service going on in this Cathedral of Nature.  The dew-moistened, foliated arches so lofty, so interwebbed with wavy, waky spangles of sky, were all set to the music of the anthem.  "The street musicians of the heavenly city" were singing one of its happiest hymns out of their mellow throats.  The long and lofty orchestra was full of them.  Their twittering treble shook the leaves with its breath, as it filtered down and flooded the temple below.  Beautiful is this building of God!  Beautiful and blessed are these morning singing-birds of His praise!  Amen!

But do not go yet.  No; I will not.  Here is the only book I carry with me on this walk - a Hebrew Psalter, stowed away in my knapsack.  I will open it here and now, and the first words my eye lights upon shall be a text for a few thoughts on this scene and scenery.  And here they are, - seemingly not apposite to this line of reflection, yet running parallel to it very closely:


The best English that can be given of these words we have in our translation: "Blessed is he who, passing through the valley of Baca, maketh it a well."  Why so?  On what ground?  If a man had settled down in that valley for life, there would have been no merit in his making it a well.  It might, in that case, have been an act of lean-hearted selfishness on his part.  Further than this, a man might have done it who could have had the heart to wall it in from the reach of thirsty travellers.  No such man was meant in the blessing; nor any man resident in or near the valley.  It was he who was "passing through" it, and who stopped, not to search for a dribbling vein of water to satisfy his own momentary thirst, but to make a well, broad and deep, after the oriental circumference, at which all future travellers that way might drink with gladness.  That was the man on whom the blessing rested as a condition, not as a wish.  Look at the word, and get the right meaning of it.  It is [HEBREW WORD], not [HEBREW WORD]; it is a blessedness, not a benediction.  It means a permanent reality of happiness, like that of Obededom, not a cheap "I thank you!" or "the Lord bless you!" from here and there a man or woman who appreciates the benefaction.

And he deserves the same who, "passing through" the short years of man's life here on earth, plants trees like the living, lofty columns of this long cathedral aisle.  How unselfish and generous is this gift to coming generations!  How inestimable in its value and surpassing the worth of wealth! - surpassing the measurement of gold and silver!  From my seat here, I look up to the magnificent frontage of that baronial palace.  I see its towers, turrets and minarets; its grand and sculptured gateways and portals through this long, leaf-arched aisle.  Not forty, but nearer four hundred years, doubtless, was that pile in building.  Architecture of the pre-Norman period, and of all subsequent or cognate orders, diversifies the tastes and shapings of the structure.  Suppose the whole should take fire to-night and burn to the ground.  The wealth of the owner could command genius, skill and labor enough to rebuild it in three years, perhaps in one.  The Czar of all the Russias did as large a thing once as this last, in the reconstruction of a palace.  Perhaps the building is insured for its positive value, and the insurance money would erect a better one.  But lift an axe upon that tall centurion of these templed elms.  Cut through the closely-grained rings that register each succeeding year of two centuries.  Hear the peculiar sounding of the heart-strokes, when the lofty, well-poised structure is balancing itself, and quivering through every fibre and leaf and twig on the few unsevered tendons that have not yet felt the keen edge of the woodman's steel.  See the first leaning it cannot recover.  Hear the first cracking of the central vertebra; then the mournful, moaning whir in the air; then the tremendous crash upon the green earth; the vibration of the mighty trunk on the ground, like the writhing and tremor of an ox struck by the butcher's axe; the rebound into the air of dismembered branches; the frightened flight of leaves and dust, and all the other distractions of that hour of death and destruction.  Look upon that ruin!  The wealth, genius and labor that could build a hundred Windsor Castles, and rebuild all the cathedrals of England in a decade, could not rebuild in two centuries that elm to the life and stature you levelled to the dust in two hours.

Put, then, the man who plants trees for posterity with him who, "passing through the valley of Baca, maketh it a well."  Put him under the same blessing of his kind, for he deserves it.  He gives them the richest earthly gift that a man can give to a coming generation.  In a practical sense, he gives them time.  He gives them a whole century, as an extra.  If they would pay a gold sovereign for every solid inch of oak, they could not hire one built to the stature of one of these trees in less than two centuries' time, though they dug about it and nursed it as the man did the vine in Scripture.  Blessed be the builders of these living temples of Nature!  Blessed be the man, rich or poor, old or young, especially the old, who sets his heart and hand to this cheap but sublime and priceless architecture.

Let connoisseurs who have seen Memphis, Nineveh, Athens, Rome, or any or all of the great cities of the East, ancient or modern, come and sit here, and look at this lofty corridor, and mark the orders and graces of its architecture.  What did the Ptolemies, their predecessors or successors in Egypt, or sovereigns of Chaldaic names, in Assyria, or ambitious builders in the ages of Pericles or Augustus, in Greece or Rome?  Their structures were the wonders of the world.  Mighty men they were, whose will was law, whose subjects worked it out to its wildest impulse without a murmur or a reward.  But who built this sixty-columned temple, and bent these lofty arches?  Two or three centuries ago, two men in coarse garb, and, it may be, in wooden shoes, came here with a donkey, bearing on its back a bundle of little elms, each of a finger's girth.  They came with the rude pick and spade of that time; and, in the first six working hours of the day, they dug thirty holes on this side of the aisle, and planted in them half the tiny trees of their bundle.  They then sat down at noon to their bread and cheese and, most likely, a mug of ale, and talked of small, home matters, just as if they were dibbling in a small patch of wheat or potatoes.  They then went to work again and planted the other row; and, as the sun was going down, they straightened their backs, and, with hands stayed upon their hips, looked up and down the two lines and thought they would pass muster and please the master.  Then they shouldered their brightened tools and went home to their low, dark cottages, discussing the prices of bread, beer and bacon, and whether the likes of them could manage to keep a pig and make a little meat in the year for themselves.

That is the story of this most magnificent structure to which you look up with such admiration.  Those two men in smock frocks, each with a pocket full of bread and cheese, were the Michael Angelos of this lofty St. Peter's.  That donkey, with its worn panniers, was the only witness and helper of their work.  And it was the work of a day!  They may have been paid two English shillings for it.  The little trees may have cost two shillings more, if taken from another estate.  The donkey's day was worth sixpence.  O, wooden-shoed Ptolemies! what a day's work was that for the world!  They thought nothing of it - nothing more than they would of transplanting sixty cabbages.  They most likely did the same thing the next day, and for most of the days of that year, and of the next year, until all these undulating acres were planted with trees of every kind that could grow in these latitudes.  How cheap, but priceless, is the gift of such trees to mankind!  What a wealth, what a glory of them can even a poor, laboring man give to a coming generation!  They are the most generous crops ever sown by human hands.  All others the sower reaps and garners into his own personal enjoyment; but this yields its best harvest to those who come after him.  This is a seeding for posterity.  From this well of Baca shall they draw the cooling luxury of the gift when the hands that made it shall have gone to dust.

And this is a good place and time to think of home - of what we begin to hear called by her younger children, Old New England.  Trees with us have passed through the two periods specified by Solomon - "a time to plant and a time to pluck up."  The last came first and lasted for a century.  Trees were the natural enemies to the first settlers, and ranked in their estimation with the wild Indians, wolves and bears.  It was their first, great business to cut them down, both great and small.  Forests fell before the woodman's axe.  It made clean work, and seldom spared an oak or an elm.  But, at the end of a century, the people relented and felt their mistake.  Then commenced "the time to plant;" first in and around cities like Boston, Hartford, and New Haven, then about villages and private homesteads.  Tree-planting for use and ornament marks and measures the footsteps of our civilization.  The present generation is reaping a full reward of this gift to the next.  Every village now is coming to be embowered in this green legacy to the future; like a young mother decorating a Christmas-tree for her children.  Towns two hundred years old are taking the names of this diversified architecture, and they glory in the title.  New Haven, with a college second to none on the American Continent, loves to be called "The Elm City," before any other name.  This generous and elevating taste is making its way from ocean to ocean, even marking the sites of towns and villages before they are built.  I believe there is an act of the Connecticut Legislature now in force, which allows every farmer a certain sum of money for every tree he plants along the public roadside of his fields.  The object of this is to line all the highways of the State with ornamental trees, so that each shall be a well-shaded avenue.  What a gift to another generation that simple act is intended to make!  What a world of wonder and delight will our little State be to European travellers and tourists of the next century, if this measure shall be carried out!  If a few miles of such avenues as Burghley Park and Chatsworth present, command such admiration, what sentiments would a continuous avenue of trees of equal size from Hartford to New Haven inspire!

While on this line of reflection, I will mention a case of monumental tree-planting in New England, not very widely known there.  A small town, in the heart of Massachusetts, was stirred to the liveliest emotion, with all the rest in her borders, by the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  Different communities expressed their sense of the importance of this event in different ways, most of which were noisy and excited.  But the good people of this rural parish came together, and, at a happy suggestion from some one of their number, agreed to spend the day in planting trees to commemorate the momentous transaction.  They forthwith set to work, young and old, and planted first a double row on each side of the walk from the main road up "The Green" to their church door; then a row on each side of the public highway passing through the village, for nearly a mile in each direction.  There was a blessed day's work for them, their children and children's children.  Every hand that wielded a spade, or held up a treelet until its roots were covered with earth, has long since lost its cunning; but the tall, green monuments they erected to the memory of the most momentous day in American history, stand in unbroken ranks, the glory of the village.

Although America will never equal England, probably, in compact and picturesque "plantations," or "woods," covering hundreds of acres, all planted by hand, our shade-trees will outnumber hers, and surpass them in picturesque distribution and arrangement, when our popular programme is fully carried out.  In two or three important particulars, we have a considerable advantage over this country in respect to this tasteful embellishment.  In the first place, all the farmers in America own the lands they cultivate, and, on an average, two sides of every farm front upon a public road.  Two or three days' work suffices for planting a row of trees the whole length of this frontage, or the roadside of the farmer's fence or wall.  This is being done more and more extensively from year to year, generally under the influence of public taste and custom, and sometimes under the stimulus of governmental compensation, as in Connecticut.  Thus, in the life of the present generation, all our main roads and cross-roads may become arched and shaded avenues, giving the whole landscape of the country an aspect which no other land will present.

Then we have another great advantage which England can never attain until she learns how to consume her coal smoke.  Our wood and anthracite fires make no smoke to retard the growth or blacken the foliage of our trees.  Thus we may have them in standing armies, tall and green, lining the streets, and overtopping the houses of our largest cities; filtering with their wholesome leafage the air breathed by the people.  New Haven and Cleveland are good specimens of beautifully-shaded towns.

There is a third circumstance in our favor as yet, and of no little value.  The grand old English oak and elm are magnificent trees, in park or hedge-row here.  The horse-chestnut, lime, beech and ash grow to a size that you will not see in America.  The Spanish chestnut, a larger and coarser tree than our American, reaches an enormous girth and spread.  The pines, larches and firs abound.  Then there are tree-hunters exploring all the continents, and bringing new species from Japan and other antipodean countries.  But as yet, our maples have never been introduced; and without these the tree-world of any country must ever lack a beautiful feature, both in spring, summer and autumn, especially in the latter.  Our autumnal scenery without the maple, would be like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out; or like a royal court without a queen.  Few Americans, even loudest in its praise, realise how much of the glory of our Indian summer landscape is shed upon it by this single tree.  At all the Flower Shows I have seen in England and France, I have never beheld a bouquet so glorious and beautiful as a little islet in a small pellucid lake in Maine, filled to the brim, and rounded up like a full-blown rose, with firs, larches, white birches and soft maples, with a little sprinkling of the sumach.  An early frost had touched the group with every tint of the rainbow, and there it stood in the ruddy glow of the Indian summer, looking at its face in the liquid mirror that smiled, still as glass, under its feet.

I was much pleased to notice what honor was put upon one of our humble and despised trees in Burghley House park, as in the grounds of other noblemen.  There was not one that spread such delicate and graceful tresses on the breeze as our White Birch; not one that fanned it with such a gentle, musical flutter of silver-lined leaves; not one that wore a bodice of such virgin white from head to foot, or that showed such long, tapering fingers against the sky.  I was glad to see such justice done to a tree in the noblest parks in England, which with us has been treated with such disdain and contumely.  When I saw it here in such glory and honor, and thought how, notwithstanding its Caucasian complexion, it is regarded as a nuisance in our woods, meadows and pastures, so that any man who owns, or can borrow an axe, may cut it down without leave or license wherever he finds it - when I saw this disparity in its status in the two Englands, I resolved to plead its cause in my own with new zeal and fidelity.