From Stamford to Oakham was an afternoon walk which I greatly enjoyed.  This was the first week of harvest, and the first of August.  How wonderfully the seasons are localised and subdivided.  How diversified is the economy of light and heat!  That field of wheat, thick, tall and ripe for the sickle, was green and apparently growing through all the months of last winter.  What a phenomenon it would have been, on the first of February last, to a New England farmer, suddenly transported from his snow-buried hills to the view of this landscape the same day!  Not a spire of grass or grain was alive when he left his own homestead.  All was cold and dead.  The very earth was frozen to the solidity and sound of granite.  It was a relief to his eye to see the snow fall upon the scene and hide it two feet deep for months.  He looks upon this, then upon the one he left behind.  This looks full of luxuriant life, as green as his in May.  It has three months' start of his dead and buried crop.  He walks across it; his shoes sink almost to the instep in the soft soil.  He sees birds hopping about in it without overcoats.  Surely, he says to himself, this is a favored land.  Here it lies on the latitudes of Labrador, and yet its midwinter fields are as green as ours in the last month of Spring.  At this rate the farmers here must harvest their wheat before the ears of mine are formed.  But he counts without Nature.  The American sun overtakes and distances the English by a full month.  Here is the compensation for six consecutive months in which the New England farmer must house his plough and not turn a furrow.

Doubtless, as much light and heat brighten and warm one country as the other in the aggregate of a year.  But there is a great difference in the economy of distribution.  In England, the sun spreads its warmth more evenly over the four seasons of the year.  What it withholds from Summer it gives to Winter, and makes it wear the face of Spring through its shortest and coldest days.  But then Spring loses a little from this equalising dispensation.  It is not the resurrection from death and the grave as it is in America.  Children are not waiting here at the sepulchre of the season, as with us, watching and listening for its littleBluebird angel to warble from the first budding tree top, "It is risen!"  They do not come running home with happy eyes, dancing for joy, and shouting through the half open door, "O, mother, Spring has come!  We've heard the Bluebird!  Hurrah!  Spring has come.  We saw the Phebee on the top of the saw-mill!"  Here Spring makes no sensation; takes no sudden leap into the seat of Winter, but comes in gently, like the law of primogeniture or the British Constitution.  It is slow and decorous in its movements.  It is conservative, treats its predecessor with much deference, and makes no sudden and radical changes in the face of things.  It comes in with no Lord Mayor's Day, and blows no trumpets, and bends no triumphal arches to grace its entree.  Few new voices in the tree-tops hail its advent.  No choirs of tree-toads fiddle in the fens.  No congregation of frogs at twilight gather to the green edges of the unfettered pond to sing their Old Hundred, led by venerable Signor Cronker, in his bright, buskin doublet, mounted on a floating stump, and beating time with a bulrush.  No Shad-spirits with invisible wings, perform their undulating vespers in the heavens, to let the fishermen know that it is time to look to their nets.  Even the hens of the farm-yard cackle with no new tone of hope and animation at the birth of the English Spring.  The fact is, it is a baby three months old when it is baptised.  It is really born at Christmas instead of Easter, and makes no more stir in the family circle of the seasons than any familiar face would at a farmer's table.

In a utilitarian point of view, it is certainly an immense advantage to all classes in this country, that Nature has tempered her climates to it in this kindly way.  I will not run off upon that line of reflection here, but will make it the subject of a few thoughts somewhere this side of John O'Groat's.  But what England gains over us in the practical, she loses in the poetical, in this economy of the seasons.  Her Spring does not thrill like a sudden revelation, as with us.  It does not come out like the new moon, hanging its delicate silver crescent in the western pathway of the setting sun, which everybody tries to see first over the right shoulder, for the very luck of the coincidence.  Still, both countries should be contented and happy under this dispensation of Nature.  The balance is very satisfactory, and well suited to the character and habits of the two peoples.  The Americans are more radical and sensational than the English; more given to sudden changes and stirring events.  Sterne generally gets the credit of saying that pretty thought first, "Providence tempers the wind to the shorn lamb."  A French writer puts it the other way, and more practically: "Providence tempers the wool of the lamb to the wind."  This is far better and more natural.  But it may be truly said that Providence tempers the seasons to the temperaments and customs of the two nations.

Just before reaching Oakham, I passed a grand mansion, standing far back from the turnpike road, on a commanding eminence, flanked with extensive plantations.  The wide avenue leading to it looked a full mile in length.  Lawns and lakes, which mirrored the trees with equal distinctness, suffused the landscape of the park like evening smiles of Nature.  It was indeed a goodly heritage for one man; and he only mounted a plain Mr. to his name, although I learned that he could count his farms by the dozen.  I was told that the annual dinner given to his tenant farmers came off the previous day at the inn where I lodged.  A sumptuous banquet was provided for them, presided over by the steward of the estate; as the great Mr. did not honor the plebeian company with his presence.  This is a feature of the structure of English society which the best read American would not be likely to recognise without travelling somewhat extensively in the country.  The British Nobility, the great, world-renowned Middle Class, and the poor laboring population, constitute the three great divisions of the people and include them all in his mind.  He is apt to leave out of count the Gentry, the great untitled MISTERS, who come in between the nobility and middle-men, and constitute the connecting link between them.  "The fine old English gentleman, all of the olden time," is supposed to belong to this class.  They make up most of "the old county families," of which you hear more than you read.  They are generally large landholders, owning from twenty to one hundred farms.  They live in grand old mansions, surrounded with liveried servants, and inspire a mild awe and respectful admiration, not only in the common country people, but in the minds of persons in whom an American would not look for such homage to untitled rank.  They hunt with horses and dogs over the grounds of their tenant farmers, and the latter often act as game-beaters for them at their "shootings."  When one of them owns a whole village, church and all, he is generally called "the Squire," but most of them are squired without the definite article.  They still boast of as good specimens of "the fine old English gentleman" as the country can show; and I am inclined to think it is not an unfounded pretension, although I have not yet come in contact with many of the class.

One of this county squirocracy I know personally and well, - and other Americans know him as well as myself, - who, though living in a palace of his own, once occupied by an exiled French sovereign, is just as simple and honest as a child in every feature of his disposition and deportment.  Every year he has a Festival in his park, lasting two or three days.  It is a kind of out-door Parliament and a Greenwich Fair combined, as it would seem at first sight to an incidental spectator.  I do not believe anything in the rest of the wide world could equal this gathering, for many peculiar features of enjoyment.  It is made up of both sexes and all ages and conditions; especially of the laboring classes.  They come out strong on these occasions.  The round and red faced boys and girls of villages and hamlets for a great distance around look forward to this annual frolic with exhilarating expectation.  Never was romping and racing and the amorous forfeit plays of the ring got up under more favorable auspices, or with more pleasant surroundings.  It would do any man's heart good, who was ever a genuine boy, to see the venerable squire and his lady presiding over a race between competing couples of ploughmens' boys, from ten to fifteen years of age, running their rounds in the park, bare-footed, bare-headed, with faces as round and red as a ripe pumpkin, and hair of the same color whipping the air as they neck-and-neck it in the middle of the heat.  When the winners of the prizes receive their rewards at his hands, his kind words and the radiant benevolence of his face they value more than the conquest and the coins they win.

Then there are intellectual entertainments and deliberative proceedings of grave moment arranged for the elder portion of the great congregation.  While groups of blushing lads and lasses are hunting the handkerchief in the hustle and tussle of the ring under the great, solemn elms, a scene may be witnessed on the lawn nearer the mansion that ought to have been painted long ago.  Two or three double-horse wagons are ranged end to end in the shade, and planks are placed along from one end to the other, making a continuous seat for a score or two of orators.  In front of this dozen-wheeled tribune rows of seats, capable of holding several hundred persons, are arranged within hearing distance.  When these are filled and surrounded by a standing wall of men and women, three or four deep, and when the orators of the day ascend over the wheels to the long wagon-seat, you have a scene and an assembly the like of which you find nowhere else in Christendom.  No Saxon parliament of the Heptarchy could "hold a candle to it."  Never, in any age or country of free speech, did individual ideas, idiosyncrasies, and liberty of conscience have freer scope and play.  Never did all the isms of philanthropy, politics, or of social and moral reform generally have such a harmonious trysting time of it.  Never was there a platform erected for discussing things local and general so catholic as the one now resting upon the wheels of those farm wagons.  Every year the bland and venerable host succeeds in widening the area of debate.  I was invited to be present at the Festival this year, but was too far on the road to John O'Groat's to participate in a pleasure I have often enjoyed.  But I read his resume of the year's doings, aspects and prospects from Japan to Hudson's Bay with lively interest and valuable instruction.  He seldom presides himself as chairman, but leaves that post of honor to be filled, if possible, by the citizen of some foreign country, if he can speak English tolerably.  This gives a more cosmopolitan aspect to the assembly.  But he himself always makes what in Parliament would be called "a financial statement," without the reference to money matters.  He sums up the significance of all the great events of the year, bearing upon human progress in general, and upon each specific enterprise in particular.  With palatial mansions, parks, and farms great and small, scattered through several counties, he is the greatest radical in England.  He distances the Chartists altogether in his programme, and adds several new points to their political creed.  He not only advocates manhood suffrage, but womanhood suffrage, and woman-seats in Parliament.  Then he is a great friend of a reform which the Chartists grievously overlook, and which would make thousands of them voters if they would adopt it.  That is, Total Abstinence from Tobacco, as well as from Ardent Spirits.  Thus, no report of modern times equals the good Squire's summing-up, which he gives on these occasions, from the great farm-wagon tribune, to the multitudinous and motley congregation assembled under his park trees.  This year it was unusually rich and piquant, from the expanded area of events and aspects.  In presenting these, as bearing upon the causes of Temperance, Peace, Anti-War, Anti-Slavery, Anti-Tobacco, Anti-Capital Punishment, Anti-Church-Rates, Free Trade, Woman's Rights, Parliamentary Reform, Social Reform, Scientific Progress, Discovery of the Sources of the Nile, and other important movements, he was necessarily obliged to be somewhat discursive.  But he generalised with much ease and perspicuity, and conducted the thread of his discourse, like a rivulet of light, through the histories of the year; transporting the mind of his audience from doings in Japan to those in America, from Poland to Mexico, and through stirring regions of Geography, Politics, Philanthropy, Social Science and Economy, by gentle and interesting transitions.  This annual statement is very valuable and instructive, and should have a wider publicity than it usually obtains.

When "the fine old English gentleman all of the olden time" has concluded his resume of the year's progress, and the prospects it leaves to the one incoming, the orators of the different causes which he has thus reported, arise one after the other, and the bright air and the green foliage of the over-spreading trees, as well as the listening multitude below are stirred with fervid speeches, sometimes interspersed with "music from the band."  The Festival is wound up by a banquet in the hall, given by the munificent host to a large number of guests, representing the various good movements advocated from the platform described.  Many Americans have spoken from that rostrum, and sat at that banquet table in years gone by, and they will attest to the correctness of these slight delineations of the character of the host and of the annual festival that will perpetuate his name in long and pleasant remembrance.

Oakham is a goodly and pleasant town, the chief and capital of Rutlandshire.  It has the ruins of an old castle in its midst, and several interesting antiquities and customs.  It, too, has its unique speciality or prerogative.  I was told that every person of title driving through the town, or coming to reside within the jurisdiction of its bye-laws, must leave his card to the authorities in the shape of a veritable horse-shoe.  It is said that the walls of the old town hall are hung with these iron souvenirs of distinguished visits; thus constituting a museum that would be instructive to a farrier or blacksmith, as well as to the antiquarian.

From Oakham I walked to Melton Mowbray, a cleanly, good-looking town in Leicestershire, situated on the little river Eye.  One cannot say exactly in regard to Rutlandshire what an Englishman once said to the authorities of a pigmy Italian duchy, who ordered him to leave it in twenty-four hours.  "I only require fifteen minutes," said cousin John, with a look and tone which Jonathan could not imitate.  This rural county is to the shire-family of England what Rhode Island is to the American family of States - the smallest, but not least, in several happy characteristics.

I spent a quiet Sabbath in Melton Mowbray; attended divine service in the old parish church and listened to two extemporaneous sermons full of simple and earnest teaching, and delivered in a conversational tone of voice.  Here, too, the parish church was seated in the midst of the great congregation which had long ceased to listen to the call of its Sabbath bells.  It was a beautiful and touching arrangement of the olden time to erect the House of Prayer in the centre of "God's Acre," that the shadow of its belfry and the Sabbath voice of its silvery bells might float for centuries over the family circles lying side by side in their long homes around the sanctuary.  There was a good and tender thought in making up this sabbath society of the living and the dead; in planting the narrow pathway between the two Sions with the white milestones of generations that had travelled it in ages gone, leaving here and there words of faith, hope and admonition to those following in their footsteps.  It is one of the contingencies of "higher civilization" that this social economy of the churchyard, that linked present and past generations in such touching and instructive companionship, has been suspended and annulled.

Melton Mowbray has also a very respectable individuality.  It is a great centre for the scarlet-coated Nimrods who scale hedges and ditches, in well-mounted squadrons, after a fox preserved at great expense and care to become the victim of their valor.  But this is a small and frivolous distinction compared with its celebrated manufacture of pork-pies.  It bids fair to become as famous for them as Banbury is for buns.  I visited the principal establishment for providing the travelling and picnicking world with these very substantial and palatable portables.  I went under the impulse of that uneasy, suspicious curiosity to peer into the forbidden mysteries of the kitchen which generally brings no satisfaction when gratified, and which often admonishes a man not only to eat what is set before him without any questions for conscience sake, but also for the sake of the more delicate and exacting sensibilities of the stomach.  I must confess my first visit to this, the greatest pork-pie factory in the world, savored a little of the anxiety to know the worst, instead of the best, in regard to the solid materials and lighter ingredients which entered into the composition of these suspiciously cheap luxuries.  There were points also connected with the process of their elaboration which had given me an undefinable uneasiness in the refreshment rooms of a hundred railway stations.  I was determined to settle these moot points once for all.  So I entered the establishment with an eye of as keen a speculation as an exciseman's searching a building for illicit distillery, and I came out of it a more charitable and contented man.  All was above board, fair and clean.  The meat was fresh and good.  The flour was fine and sweet; the butter and lard would grace the neatest housewife's larder; the forms on which the pies were moulded were as pure as spotless marble.  The men and boys looked healthy and bright; their hands were smooth and clean, and their aprons white as snow.  Not one of them smoked or took snuff at his work.  I saw every process and implement employed in the construction of these pies for the market; the great tubs of pepper and spice, the huge ovens, the cooling racks, the packing room; in a word, every department and feature of the establishment.  And the best thing that I can say of it is this: that I shall eat with better satisfaction and relish hereafter the pies bearing the brand of Evans, of Melton Mowbray, than I ever did before.  The famous Stilton cheese is another speciality of this quiet and interesting town, or of its immediate neighborhood.  So, putting the two articles of luxury and consumption together, it is rather ahead of Banbury with its cakes.

On Monday, August 11th, I resumed my walk northward, and passed through a very highly cultivated and interesting section.  About the middle of the afternoon, I reached Broughton Hill, and looked off upon the most beautiful and magnificent landscape I have yet seen in England.  It was the Belvoir Vale; and it would be worth a hundred miles' walk to see it, if that was the only way to reach it.  It lay in a half-moon shape, the base line measuring apparently about twenty miles in length.  As I sat upon the high wall of this valley, that overlooks it on the south, I felt that I was looking upon the most highly-finished piece of pre-Raphaelite artistry that could be found in the world, - the artistry of the plough, glorious and beautiful with the unconscious and involuntary pictures which patient human labor paints upon the canvas of Nature.  Never did I see the like before.  If Turner had the shaping of the ground entirely for an artistic purpose, it could not have been more happily formed for a display of agricultural pictures.  What might be called the physical vista made the most perfect hemiorama I ever looked upon.  The long, high, wooded ridge, including Broughton Hill, eclipsed, as it were, just half the disk of a circle twenty miles in diameter, leaving the other half in all the glow and glory that Nature and that great blind painter, Agricultural Industry, could give to it.  The valley with its foot against this mountainous ridge, put out its right arm and enfolded to its bosom a little, beautiful world of its own of about fifty miles girth.  In this embrace were included hundreds of softly-rounded hills, with their intervening valleys, villages, hamlets, church spires and towers, plantations, groves, copses and hedge-row trees, grouped by sheer accident as picturesquely as Turner himself could have arranged them.  The elevation of the ridge on which I sat softened down all these distant hills, so that they looked only like little undulating risings by which the valley gently ascended to the blue rim of the horizon on the north.

It was an excellent standpoint on which to balance Nature and Human Industry; to estimate their separate and joint work upon that vast landscape.  A few centuries ago, perhaps about the time that the Mayflower sighted Plymouth Rock, this valley, now so indescribably beautiful, was almost in the state of nature.  Wolves and wild boars may have been prowling about in the woods and tangled thickets that covered this ridge back for several leagues.  Bushes, bogs and briers, and coarse prairie grass roughened the bottom of this valley; matted heather, furze, broom and clumps of shrubby trees, all those hills and uplands arising in the background to the northward horizon.  This declining sun, and the moon and stars that will soon follow in the pathway of its chariot, like a liveried cortege, shone upon that scene with all the light they will give this day and night.  The rain and dew, and all the genial ministries of the seasons, did their unaided best to make it lovely and beautiful.  The sweetest singing-birds of England came and tried to cheer its solitude with their happy voices.  The summer breezes came with their softest breath, whispering through brake, bush and brier the little speeches of Nature's life.  The summer bees came and filled all those heather-purpled acres with their industrial lays, and sang a merry song in the door of every wild-flower that gave them the petalled honey of its heart.  All the trained and travelling industrials and all the sweet influences of Nature came and did all they could without man's help to make this great valley most delightful to the eye.  But the wolves still prowled and howled; the briers grew rough and rank; the grass, coarse and thin; the heathered hills were oozy and cold in their watery beds; the clumpy, shrubby trees wore the same ragged coats of moss; and no feature of the scene mended for the better from year to year.

Then came the great Blind Painter, with his rude, iron pencils, to the help of Nature.  He came with the Axe, Plough and Spade, her mightiest allies.  With these he had driven wild Druidic Paganism back mile by mile from England's centre; back into her dark fastnesses.  With the Axe, Spade and Plough he chased the foul beasts and barbarisms from the island.  Two centuries long was he in painting this Beautiful Valley.  Nature ground and mixed the colors for him all the while, for he was blind.  He was poor; often cold and hungry, and his children, with blue fingers and pale, silent eyes, sometimes asked for bread in winter he could not give.  He lived in a low cottage, small, damp and dark, and laid him down at night upon a bed of straw.  He could not read; and his thoughts of human life and its hereafter were few and small.  He had no taste for music, and seldom whistled at his work.  He wore a coarse garment, of ghostly pattern, called a smock-frock.  His hat just rounded his head to a more globular and mindless form.  His shoes were as heavy as a horse's with iron nails.  He had no eye nor taste for colors.  If all the trees, if all the crops of grain, grass and roots on which he wrought his life long, had come out in brickdust and oil, it would have been all the same to him, if they had sold as high in the market, and beer and bread had been as cheap for the uniformity.  And yet he was the Turner of this great painting.  He is the artist that has made England a gallery of the finest agricultural pictures in the world.  And in no country in Christendom is High Art so appreciated to such pecuniary patronage and valuation as here.  In none is the genius of the Pencil so treasured, so paid, and almost worshipped as here.  The public and private galleries of Britain hold pictures that would buy every acre of the island at the price current of it when Elizabeth was queen.  One of Turner's landscapes would pay for a whole Highland county at its valuation when Mary held her first court at Holyrood.

I sit here and look off upon this largest, loveliest picture the Blind Painter has given to England.  I note his grouping of the ivy-framed fields, of every size and form, panelling the gently-rounded hills, and all the soft slopes down to the foot of the valley; the silvery, ripe barley against the dark-green beans; the rich gold of the wheat against the smooth, blue-dashed leaves of the mangel wurzel or rutabaga; the ripening oats overlooking a foreground of vividly green turnips, with alternations of pasture and meadow land, hedges running in every direction, plantations, groves, copses sprinkled over the whole vista, as if the whole little world, clear up to the soft, blue fringe of the horizon, were the design and work of a single artist.  And this, and ten thousand pictures of the same genius, were the work of the Briarean-handed BLIND PAINTER, who still wears a smock-frock and hob-nailed shoes, and lives in a low, damp cottage, and dines on bread and cheese among the golden sheaves of harvest!

O, Mother England! thou that knightest the artists while living, and buildest their sepulchres when dead; thou that honorest to such stature of praise the plagiarists upon Nature, and clothest the copyists of patient Labor's pictures in such purple and fine linen; thou whose heart is softening to the sweet benevolences of Christian charity in so many directions, - wilt thou not think, with a new sentiment of kindness and sympathy, on this Blind Painter, who has tapestried the hills and valleys of thy island with an artistry that angels might look upon with admiration and wonder!

Wilt thou not build him a better cottage to live in?

Wilt thou not give him something better than dry bread and cold bacon for dinner in harvest?

Wilt thou not teach all his children to read the alphabet and the blessed syllables of the Great Revelation of God's Love to man?

Wilt thou not make a morning-ward door in his dwelling and show him a future with a sun in it, in this world, as well as the world to come?

Wilt thou not open up a pathway through the valley of his humiliation by which his children may ascend to the better conditions of society?