It might be, and doubtless was, the most beautiful of the Sussex towns ; but as we had confided to each other before starting from London, we should only stop there long enough to hire a horse and trap. It would be a capital place from which to start.
But Arundel itself had decided quite differently. It was a charming little town, a fact of which it appeared to be almost humanly cognizant. Like all beauties, conscious of its attractions it resented being used for purposes of mere utility. Was Arundel, forsooth, with its grassy banks and its lovely river, its fascinating old Elizabethan streets, its splendid castle, and its bran-new cathedral, to be thus snubbed by two impertinent transatlantic travelers ? Was it to be debased to the level of a livery-stable ? Arundel, fortunately, was a thousand years older than these young American upstarts. She knew a trick or two. She had not gone on fascinating all England for centuries past, without having learned every art that belongs to a consummate coquette. As for these young Americans, she would make short work of them.
And she did. First, she presented us at the railway-station with e huge bouquet. We could even have our choice of three. There were the masses of poppies, dyeing the meadows with their scarlet flames ; there were the fragrant trim hedge-rows, as odorous as a bride’s garland; and there were also the low, sweet-flowering river-banks. These floral offerings were accompanied by a smile. She leaned over the hill, and shot it down at us over the thick-clustering roofs and chimneys, from the very citadel of the huge and noble castle itself.
Alighting at the neat, bright little Arundel station was, in a word, like being dropped into the midst of a blooming garden. What with the odors and honeysuckle perfume, the dashing sparkling river, the town running up the steep hill to the castle’s turreted walls, the rustic setting of the outlying farms, the velvety hills covered with browsing sheep and brilliant-skinned cattle, an enchanting vision of summer and of picturesque beauty appeared to have stepped forth to greet us.
” I think, perhaps, Boston, we might stop over one day,” I remarked, as we drove through the streets of the town to our inn.
” Yes ; it would be a pity to miss seeing the place, now we are here. There seems to be a good deal in it, after all,” Boston replied, quite as if we had arranged it with our imaginations to find it interesting from the outset.
The glimpses which we caught of the town on our drive up the steep High Street were of the fragmentary, incomplete order peculiar to such approaches. We had a confused sense of meadows, of houses closely packed together, of distant vistas of a vast park with the downs beyond as a back-ground, and of the great castle’s turrets, these latter making admirable bits in perspective along the crest of the hillside.
Our experiences with the true life of the little town began with the entrance into our inn.
Quite as a matter of course, we had our choice of two. To have only one inn in a town, and that one good, would make the path of the traveller too smooth. A rival establishment is always started, apparently on the principle that one’s enjoyment in this world must be made as difficult and as complex as possible. Equally, of course, there being two inns, whichever one we chose it would follow that we would regret our choice and repentingly wish we had gone to the other. The Bridges Inn which we had decided against, moved by the higher-sounding Norfolk Arms’ title presented, we found as we passed it, an alluring combination of charms. It stood in an attitude of bewitching grace on the river-bank, looking out upon the meadows, the castle, and the downs through windows embowered in blooming vines.
But once inside of the Norfolk Arms, we knew that happily our first choice had been the right one. The chiefest among the excellences of the Arms was that it stood in the very centre of the little town, on High Street. The neighbor-hood was of the most distinguished, as only a Frenchman knows how to say it. We discovered at once that the Norfolk Arms was nothing if not an aristocrat. In assuming the name of the famous family whose castle walls almost adjoined those of its ambitious namesake, the Arms had evidently made up its mind to maintain the family reputation for dignity and virtue. It announced, at the very outset, a high-bred indifference to ornament which was too obvious to be unintentional. Its external austere simplicity was the protest of the aristocrat against the plebeian aids of picturesque accessories. A single large golden cluster of grapes hung, it is true, from the sign-board ; but this was the only concession to the popular but vulgar demand for symbolic parade. The interior of this most self-respecting inn was in keeping with its outward meagreness of decorative embellishment. The rooms were large and spacious, but. not luxuriously furnished. There was a conscious air of respectability about the tall beds, the stiff upright buffets, and the erect dining-room chairs, as if to assure the inmates of these dignified apartments that they were in the very best society.
We discovered that the epitome of the conscious air of aristocratic rectitude which pervaded this admirable inn was embodied in our waiter. He was more than a person, he was a personage. He appeared to be an individual of high-rank antecedents. From the first he gave us to understand, by a number of disdainful little ways, that his being a provincial at all was purely a matter of accident. This transition had evidently not been effected without disastrous results on his character : it had made him a pessimist. He took the darkest possible views of life in general, and of the travelling public in particular. He appeared, from the start, to have taken a melancholy view of us and of our luggage. The compactness and limited number of our boxes seemed to afflict him with dim forebodings both of the transiency of our stay and of the limitations of our purse. At the end of the second day, however, we noticed that he had become more cheerful.
It must have been the dinner we ordered last evening,” said Boston. “If a little thing like that can raise his spirits, why, we will keep it up. But he is a gloomy specimen, isn’t he ?”
The gloom settled down upon him later the same evening. It was occasioned by a little obtuseness on Boston’s part. Under the impulse of the knowledge that there were a number of interesting places about and in Arundel which must be visited in the next few days, and not having as yet either guide-book or map at hand, Boston sought to extract a little useful information from Walters. Boston was too true an American not to see in every other man a being born for the express purpose of answering questions.
” Walters, when is the castle open ? ”
” The castle, sir, his never hopen to visitors. Honly the dairy and the keep, sir, hare hopen. The tickets can be ‘ad ‘ere, sir.” This was delivered with a commendable alacrity of utterance. The succeeding questions were, however, answered with less and less readiness. Later there came a perceptible deepening of the gloom under which Walters appeared habitually to endure existence. Then came a pause all at once in both questions and answers. During the pause Walters gave Boston’s pocket a pregnant glance.
” Oh ! ” said Boston in an undertone, his fingers obeying mechanically the meaning conveyed in this portentous look. He took out a silver coin. After its contact with Walters’ palm the cloud of his melancholy appeared to lift for a few seconds.
” What nonsense, Boston, to have tipped him!” I protested as he left the room. ” Can’t one ask a question in England without having to pay for it?”
” It appears not. You saw that I only did what was expected of me.”
” That’s because we are Americans. An Englishman would n’t have given him a penny.”
” It is Englishmen who taught him the habit, not Americans. Tipping is a national product. Every one is tipped in England, from the lord to the beggar. Only, when it gets into the upper circles it goes by another name.”
I noticed, however, that in spite of Boston’s philosophic acceptance of this national custom, conversation with Walters, even of the most Socratian order of dialogue, having been found to be expensive, became more and more feeble.
On the following morning we saw such a spectacle in the courtyard as made us still more sensible that certain customs in England are tenaciously rooted. The cook and two assistants were busily handling a number of huge joints, which were suspended on hooks from the inner archway. This archway was the only mode of egress or ingress from the inn-door to the street without. The meats were hanging in full view under the brick arch, as if it had been a butcher’s stall instead of the neat approach to an inn. I cannot say that there was any dripping of gore, but there was an unpleasant suggestion of recent bleeding under the knife.
” The courtyard apparently is the inn’s open-air ice-chest,” I remarked to Boston, after our first start of amazement.
“No; it is an original and altogether inexpensive method of announcing the day’s menu,” Boston replied to my suggestion. Subsequent experiences resulted in our forming even less favorable opinions of the innkeeper’s designs upon his guests. The next morning we noticed that the huge quarter of lamb had disappeared.
” We had best order the beef today, or to-morrow we shall wish that we had.”
” It is altogether the most ingenious method of enforcing speedy consumption of viands that was ever invented. Talk of Yankee ingenuity, indeed ! ” answered Boston, in a semi-burst of indignation.
There was, in truth, no escape from the fate which would befall us in case of a too prolonged indifference to these mute but terrible appeals to our sense of economy. There came upon us, at the last, the grewsome habit of fascinated calculation, as we eyed the meats day after day. We could not help conjecturing how the dampness of one day or the heat of another would affect their complexions, and then critically surveying them to see whether their pink and white had suffered.
This was not the only proof we encountered that the sensibility of English stomachs is of a different order from that of American organs. No one else but ourselves appeared even so much as to glance at the pendent carnivorous array.
Our large sitting-room window opened directly on the town’s main thoroughfare. One little street, at right angles with the larger broader High Street, seemed to have stepped into our windows, so close did its houses appear. Our sitting-room windows, we declared, were thus as good as a stage-box. All the life and the picturesqueness of the town could be enjoyed without stirring from the depths of our easy-chairs. The stage, we discovered on the second day of our arrival, was charmingly set. The brooding quiet had given place to lively activity. The streets were full of noise and bustle, of a true holiday clatter and buzz. It was Saturday, market-day ; and from early morning carts and wagons had been standing about in the open square.
Wagoners and teamsters were soon out shopping. The tiny shops in a half-hour were so full that they were spilling over, country-people swarming out into the open streets and over the narrow sidewalks. The charming old Elizabethan houses, with the rich shadows beneath their deep projecting eaves, the quaint signs, the diamond-shaped panes, needed just this mass of rustic life moving beneath the window-ledges to give to this picturesque frontage this last touch of completeness. The street itself could hardly have happened twice, I think, even in England. It began its existence, as we discovered later, with the bridge which crosses the Arun. Its progress up the hillside had that wandering, straying irregularity peculiar to old streets which have grown up independent of municipal intention. It ended, at the summit of the hill, with some towers and turrets which lanced their crenellated tops among the trees, these towers and turrets being only a portion of the vast corona which adorned the castle’s fortified walls.
We were about to start forth on a visit to the castle when the sound came up to us from the street, through the open sitting-room window, of the scraping of a fiddle. A moment later, snatches of song broke forth from a low window directly opposite. We stopped to listen. There was a moment of hesitation before the song came full and clear ; for voices, like soldiers, must be thoroughly drilled to fall directly into rhythmic accord. Then the song burst out, firm and swelling with the might of the strong male voices. It was a lovely bit of part-singing, with sweet minor changes and full deep bass harmonies in it. Then, after a little, there were pausings and haltings. The singers apparently were at something else besides their singing. We could see, as we leaned out, a group of men in the house. opposite, sitting about a long table. They were playing cards, and there was a huge tankard of beer at each man’s elbow. I devoutly prayed that the depth of the tankard might prolong the length of the song ; but in a few minutes the song was done. The men came out, twenty or more in number, strong, lusty-looking fellows, with the sun’s red seal burnt upon their faces. They climbed into one of the big wagons, gave a deep-throated cheer to their hostess, and were off. The landlady stood looking after them, with both hands in her pockets, smiling a broad farewell. Then the little door swallowed her up.
” What was that singing over the way ?” I asked the chambermaid as we passed her on the stairs. The previous answers of this neat and most respectful of her sex to my questions had not impressed me with the belief that she also was infected with the British habit of turning a passing dialogue into a financial speculation. She had never failed to enliven her civility with a smile.
” It’s a bean feast, mum.”
” A bean feast ? And what is that ?”
” It’s the workingmen’s outings, mum, a kind of harvest feast, mum.”
So rural England still played and sang a little ! There was a time, I know, when she sang better than any one else, when she could beat the world in her own line. In the old madrigal days England was a nest of singing-birds. But I had sup-posed that the cruel fate which overtakes all great singers had come to her : I understood that she had lost her voice. It was pleasant to know that her method had been so good it had survived till now among its grain and bean fields, if abandoned by the great.
What was not so pleasant was the braying of a horrible assemblage of instruments called a band.
This latter was attached to a trick and monkey show which had taken its place, early on this holiday Saturday, at the bottom of High Street. Its hideous blare of sound had kept the village astir and abroad for five long hours. Where the crowds came from that kept the dogs performing and the monkeys playing their monotonous tricks, and how an otherwise sane and sensible English village could endure having its peace and quiet disturbed by such a roar and din as issued from the cracked trumpet and the squeaky fiddle, surpassed comprehension. The band and its torturing music had the pervasiveness of all vulgarity ; it filled the village like an intolerable presence. We shut the windows ; but the discords, like jubilant furies, screamed at us through the key-hole. We sought refuge in the graveyard at the top of the street, this at ten at night, when fatigue and desperation had turned us loose upon the world, seeking where we might hide our tortured ears; but through the darkness of the night caine the blare of that terrible trumpet, like a yell of some devil cheated out of his prey. At eleven, finally, the last villager had seen the last trick, and silence fell like a great peace on the still air. The next morning the great hideous cart had disappeared. It had doubtless moved on to another suffering village.
” Do you suppose it lias gone to Chichester ?” I asked, in despair, of Boston.
” I presume it has. It’s probably doing the towns, it is taking its summer tour, as we are,” was Boston’s comforting answer.
” Then I stay where I am.”
I take pleasure in warning any unwary traveller against a similar fate. The name of that trick and monkey show was Whitcomb’s. Whenever he meets Mr. Whitcomb I advise him to take the next train if it be for Hades.
It was owing to these and other adventures with the more homely features of Arundel’s town-life, that we found ourselves too late that afternoon for a visit to the castle. But the hour was perfect for an inspection of its battlemented walls. To escape them, in whatever direction one turned in the town, would have been difficult. Such a vast architectural mass as Arundel Castle, implanted in Saxon, Roman, and feudal military necessities, strikes its roots deep and wide. The town appeared, in comparison, to be but an accidental projection on the hillside. The walls grow out of the town as the trunks of a great tree shoot forth from the ground,of a different growth, but an integral part of it.
Topographically, Arundel has only a few features, yet they are fine enough to form a rich ensemble. There is the castle, huge, splendid, impressive, set like a great gray pearl on the crown of the hill. On one side spreads the town ; on the other, the tall trees of the castle park begirt its towers and battlements. At the foot of the hill runs the river, a beautiful sinuous stream, which curves its course between the Down hillsides out through the plains to the sea. Whatever may have been the fate of the town in former times, held perhaps at a distance far below in the valley, during troublons times when the castle must be free for the more serious work of assault or defence, it no longer lies at the foot of its great protector. In friendly confidence it seems to sit, if not within its arms, at least beside its knee. But in spite of these changed relations, all the good old prejudices, I fancy, are not done away with. In spite of certain excited statements from our socialistic brotherhood, the castle and the village are hardly as yet on visiting terms. Nothing appears easier than the fulfilment of these and other specious prophecies, away from the proofs. But somehow, when one looks up at such a vast and splendid castle as this, impregnable as its walls, and contrasts the simple bourgeois little town beside it, one’s belief in the glorious principle of the equality of men dwindles into pitiful conjecture. One wonders whether, after all, the castle will not survive these and other agitations and agitators, as its very existence is proof of its power to resist far more formidable sieges.
There is no escaping the conclusion that a duke, when one is confronted with his castle, does seem an awfully real being.
The noise and the clatter of the main thorough-fare, and even the long stretch of the castle walls, we had soon passed, in our walk that afternoon, reaching the quiet of its upper streets. The principal dwelling-streets of the pretty town run laterally across the hillside, as if for once even a village house-builder could prove he knew best how to stand when he wished to look out upon a picture. Beneath us, swimming in light, stretched the great canvas of the open country. Through doorways and open windows there were enchanting views framed in old casements and Tudor pilasters. The eye swept past open doorways into broad halls, with their quaint old-time furniture of high-shouldered chairs and carved settle, straight out to the lovely Sussex .valley, which stretched itself out to the horizon like an endless carpet, with its inwrought pattern of waving grain, oaks, and hayricks. With such pictures to gain, even our best manners were not proof against the temptation presented by the tiny diamond-shaped open lattices. The houses seemed in conspiracy with our impertinence, some of them standing boldly out on the sidewalk, as if bent on looking up and down the street. Others more modest, whose deprecating air of shyness we respected, retreated behind with demurely drawn shutters,timid creatures holding fans before their pretty faces. There were ancient and modern styles apparent, in the architectural fashions we passed in review, the gable-roofed Elizabethan and the broad low Georgian being the most noticeable. There were also modern reproductions of both,very precise and perfect reproductions, which imposed on no one.
What pleased us even better than the houses was the human life that they sheltered, and which looked out at us through the old windows. There were some fresh, fair faces, that only needed ruffs and stomachers to be in admirable keeping with the ancient architectural setting. Fine last-century figures, strong-featured, with gentle eyes, ceased their knitting to glance up, over silver-rimmed spectacles, at the sound of our voices.
One face we met, which seemed strangely out of keeping with such surroundings. It was a curiously un-English face. It belonged to a man who was hurrying past us, with a book in his hand, on the cover of which there was a large gilt cross. The face was long and dark, clean-shaven, with deep-set wary eyes, and a sly curve on the full lips. It needed neither the abbé’s long fluttering coat nor its purple lining to tell us it was the face of a priest. As he neared the great castle gate-way, I saw it open, the keeper within bowing as the abbe passed beyond.
I remembered then that the castle was a great Catholic stronghold, the Dukes of Norfolk being among the few great families which have remained faithful, since the Conquest, to the See of Rome. The present Duke of Norfolk, by reason of the fervor of his piety, his untiring zeal and magnificent generosity, is recognized as the head of the Catholic party in England. To learn that he was at present on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and that such was his yearly custom, seemed to shorten distance for us. It made the old its beliefs, its superstitions, its unquestioning ardor of faith strangely new. It invested the castle, which appealed to our consciousness as something remote and alien, with the reality of its relation to mediaeval life and manners.
The little cathedral which crowns the hill the most prominent object for miles about, after the castle is the gift of the present Duke. It is a pretty structure, pointed Gothic in style, conscientiously reproduced with all the aids of flying buttresses, niches, pinnacles, and arches. It was doubtless a splendid gift. Perhaps in the twenty-first century, when the weather has done its architectural work on the exterior, and when the interior has been finely dimmed with burnt incense, when stained glass and sculptured effigies of saints have been donated by future dukes, it will be a very imposing edifice indeed.
But all the beauty of ecclesiastical picturesqueness lies across the way. Hidden behind the lovely beech-arched gateway rests the old parochial church. In spite of restoration the age of six centuries is written unmistakably on the massive square bell-tower, the thirteenth-century traceries, and the rich old glass. It is guarded by a high wall from the adjoining castle-walls, as if the castle still feared there were something dangerously infectious in the mere propinquity of such heresies.
It has had its turn at the sieges that have beset the castle. From the old tower there came a rattling hail when Waller’s artillery flashed forth its fire upon the Royalist garrison in the castle. The old bells that peal out the Sunday chimes seem to retain something of the jubilant spirit of that martial time. There was a brisk military vigor in their clanging, suggestive of command rather than of entreaty, as if they were more at home when summoning fighters than worshippers.
All is peace now. The old church sits in the midst of its graves, like an old patriarch surrounded by the dead whom he has survived.
We were curious to see which church would have the greater number of worshippers, how many of his townsfolk the Duke had managed to hold faithful to the Pope. The Ducal influence had, we found, prevailed over her Majesty’s less ancient established church. At the little cathedral there was, we found on the first Sunday morning of our stay, a marked Catholic majority. But in spite of the more splendid ceremonial at St. Philip de Neri, in spite of the pomp of scarlet-robed priests and the glory of a double choir, in spite of the subtle intoxication of the incense and the pictorial attractions of burning tapers and flower-decked altars, it was the simpler, the more earnest worship in the old church beneath the cypresses that touched our hearts and made us one with the worshippers. There was a ring in the responses, and a fervor in the way the hymns burst forth from the fresh, strong English throats, drowning the less-meaning music of the birds twittering at the open door, that made one know and feel, with full strength of inherent conviction, just why it is that an Englishman is by instinct a Protestant. His religion must appeal to his understanding ; it must stir his soul. He is not satisfied with being moved superficially. He is not poet enough to possess vast perspectives, or so delicately organized that he can vibrate to purely sensuous imageries. There is precision even in the English imagination, as there are limitations to English sensibilities.
It is good to see, however, that some of the virtues which the Englishman as a Protestant has prayed for, have come to him. Fresh from London and the site of Smithfield, it was edifying to see Catholics and Protestants worshipping, in gentle amity, within sight of one another. Is it by reason of the efficacy of their prayers that this grace of toleration has been borne in upon them, or is it due to the lesson which the inefficacy of their mutual roasting has taught them ?
Doubtless both. The prayers made the martyrs, whose stuff of glorious stubbornness made sizzling under a slow fire appeal to the economies of the nation. It must have seemed, at the last, a waste in kindling -wood. The attempt to roast their religion out of the martyrs was in the end, doubtless, discovered to be only a more expensive method of thoroughly baking in their beliefs.
That all the good townsfolk of Arundel had not been to church on this lovely July morning might have been inferred from the look of the sky and the quality of the air, to breathe which was like sipping perfumed dew.
We ourselves had proof of this backsliding. On Arundel Bridge there was assembled a congregation of open-air worshippers which would have filled a fairly capacious church.
Arundel Bridge possessed an order of attraction, we had found, quite apart from any other feature of the town. It appeared to be the open-air club-room, the fashionable promenade, the lounging -place of the entire population. At whatever hour of the day one chanced to pass it, there was always to be found a knot of idlers gathered about its parapet, leaning on strong elbows, looking out upon the river life. Even the passers-by stopped, took a turn at lounging, and chatted for a brief moment ere they went their way. We also had fallen into this pleasant habit ; as who would not, with a silver river rippling beneath one, banks odorous and green above, the town breaking into charming perspectives, the great castle hanging overhead, and the Down hillsides rushing tumultuously into the plains ? Besides, close at hand, was the Bridges Inn. And we liked to be near it, and watch its prettiness and activity, and talk over our regret at not being there, much as a disappointed lover nurses his hurt and coquets with his despair.
Perhaps there is more in lounging than the never-idle dream of. It may be that the idlers form the ideal leisure class, a class too aristocratic to work for knowledge, yet to whom it comes by sheer force of the long measure of time at their command. Certain it is, that unless we had joined these loungers on the bridge we should never have known so much of the real life and history of the little town. We should never, for instance, have discovered, unless our eyes had proved it to us, that Arundel was a port. Yet such it is. The river banks are prolific with signs of unmistakable maritime activity. Ships we saw, riding in from the sea, looking indeed as if projected into this inland landscape for purely operatic purposes of stage grouping. They anchored along the reedy banks, their cargoes as gravely unloading as if there were nothing incongruous in a full-rigged ship lying at anchor amid the grasses and poppies of an inland meadow.
It is the river that plays stage-manager. It is in league with the sea. Old Ocean’s strong pulse throbs its buoyant life through this slender artery. At noon the river rests, barely breathing in its swoon of sleep. At morn and evening it rises, swelling with tidal fury, rushing past its banks with the zest of an athlete.
Wherever there is a ship, there are always any number of men with their hands in their pockets, and with no visible occupation in life except that of watching her. Why is it that a man never wearies of looking at a ship, as he does, for instance, of contemplating his wife or his house or his horse ? Is it because a ship possesses the ideal feminine charm, is never quite to be counted upon, is fugitive, illusive, a creature of the winds and the tides, ever ready to open her white wings and to sail away from him? In the eyes of the men who are given to watching ships and ship-life, one can detect a peculiar look of intentness, an air of alertness, as if they were perpetually on the lookout for the ship which will surely come in. It is the sea which brings with it this element of expectancy. It is everywhere the breeder of expectation and the renewer of hope, as it is the great mother of energy and ambition.
On this particular morning of our half-hour’s lounging, a little incident occurred to enliven the quiet and the stillness. A boat was coming up river with tremendous swiftness. The tide was flowing inward with the rush of a torrent. The boat with its four oarsmen was borne along on the wings of the wind as if it had been a feather. There was no rowing, the men letting the tide do their work for them. Opposite the Bridges Inn some skilful steering was done, the boat being brought up in workmanlike style. For two of the men to clamber up the iron ladder into an open window of the hotel, while the other two shot the boat out, shoving it into the weeds along the banks, from which it was lifted as if it had been a thing of paper, and carried up the bank, was but the work of a few seconds.
” They ‘re come to breakfast,” was the knowing remark of my next neighbor, a stout villager of florid aspect, addressing no one in particular.
From the fringe of on-lookers there was no response, except that the smoking went on a little more vigorously. After a pause another voice said :
“They’ll be going up stream presently.”
There was again a pause, longer than the first. Then, ” It’ll be sport to see ‘urn,” came from a thin little man with a whistling voice, the whistle that comes through broken or absent teeth.
Another five minutes’ silence was finally broken by a coarser, stronger tone, with solemn accent, as if there were something grim in the coming fun,
” Yes, it will be thot.”
Silence fell again upon the little group. Each man’s gaze sank into the flowing river, as if to plunge anew into the depths of his own reverie.
“How a group of French peasants would have gabbled!” I said to Boston, as we strolled away to take a turn in the fields, determining, however, to return in time for the ” sport.”
” Yes ; and how they would have spoilt it all ! Their eagerness would have anticipated everything. Now we have something to look forward to. An Englishman’s silence is dramatic ; it is full of potentialities,” replied Boston, sententiously.
When we returned in an hour, the knot of vil-lagers had not apparently so much as moved. No one stirred, or even turned his head, as we took our places silently, no one, that is, except the thin little tanner, who readjusted his pipe to the end of his mouth farthest away from me, in the fear, probably, that smoke might be used as a conversational medium.
In the river below, however, there was life and stir enough. The oarsmen were busy filling their boat with baskets of beer and luncheon. It required great care to adjust the baskets rightly ; for the boat was tossing beneath them uneasily, as if in haste to be gone. In another moment the men were seated ; a turn of the oars, and they were off.
” The hother artch, sur, the hother artch,” came from our neighbors lustily enough now, and almost in chorus; for the oarsmen had attempted to go in under the nearer one. In trying to obey instructions, they had struck against the stone abutment.
“Your hoar, sur, your hoar,” was again shouted from the bridge. But the oar was gone ; and so were they nearly, for the strength of the stream was crashing them against the abutment again and again.
” They hall does that, every one ; they never gets clear, down yonder,” was the complacent comment of my neighbor.
” Why not warn them in time ? ” I asked, a trifle indignantly, my sympathies stirred by the spectacle of the struggling crew.
” Why, mum, they likes it ; it ‘s what they comes for, to work a bit.” And a laugh went down the fringe of on-lookers.
Well, if they liked it, they were having enough of it. All the pulling like madmen was not helping to clear them into mid-stream. Finally, as all pulled together with the force of young giants, out the boat flew, free and clear. The clever steering was resumed ; they shot under the arch like a flying bird ; there was a vision of a strong young arm waving a red cap in triumph, of a tawny mustache bristling in the sunlight, and they were far off and out of sight.
We ourselves crossed the bridge to gain the farther side of the river. In a few brief moments we were among the grain-fields and the farms. The object of our walk was to get a really satisfactory view of the castle. In our former walks about the town we had had numberless views of its walls, turret and tower studded, of bits of its huge façade and its venerable keep, fitting into the street corners or rearing their beauty above the low gabled roof-tops. But in the town, through the medium of enclosed streets or through accidental openings between chimney-pots, there had been no chance of seeing the whole in perspective, as essential for a right viewing of such a vast architectural mass as Arundel Castle as it is wise, as a rule, to look on human greatness from an historical distance.
In looking up at the castle from the river, as a foreground, one has a lovely breastwork of trees, the castle resting on the crown of the hill like some splendid jewel. Its grayness makes its strong, bold outlines appear the more distinct against the melting background of the faint blue and white English sky and the shifting sky scenery. In the river that morning there were brilliant touches of color, reflections of the houses, the castle towers, and the brown and gold of the meadow, here and there lit up with the flame of the poppies lining the banks. Beyond, toward the sea, was the long green line of the plain, the one line of rest and repose in the landscape. Over all was the rosy, calm, virile bloom of English health. The bloom looked out at one through a faint mist, like a rosy child in the midst of its bath. The entire scene was suffused with that delicate, vague, misty veil of light, which imparts to all English landscape a certain aqueous quality. It is this moist, ethereal aspect which gives to this scenery its note of individuality. Earth appears to be a more soluble fluid than elsewhere, its outlines melting more easily into the ether of the atmosphere.
The earliest Saxon who built his stronghold where the castle now stands must have had an eye for situation, pictorially considered, as well as that keen martial foresight which told him that the warrior who commanded the first hill from the sea, with that bastion of natural fortifications behind him, the Downs, had the God of battle already ranged on his side. The God of battle has been called on, in times past, to preside over a number of military engagements which have come off on this now peaceful hillside.
There have been few stirring events in English history in which Arundel Castle has not had its share. As Norman barons, the Earls of Arundel could not do less than the other barons of their time, and so quarrelled with their king. When the Magna Charta was going about to gain signers, these feudal Arundel gentlemen figured in the bill, so to speak. The fine Barons’ Hall, which commemorates this memorable signing, in the castle yonder, was built in honor of those remote but far-sighted ancestors. The Englishman, of course, has neither the vanity of the Frenchman nor the pride of the Spaniard. But for a modest people, it is astonishing what a number of monuments are built to tell the rest of the world how free England is. The other events which have in turn destroyed or rent the castle its siege and surrender to Henry I., the second siege by King Stephen, and later the struggle of the Cavaliers and Roundheads for its possession, during the absence abroad of the then reigning Earl have been recorded with less boastful emphasis. The recent restorations, rebuildings, and enlargements have obliterated all traces of these rude shocks. It has since risen a hundred times more beautiful from its ruins. It is due to these modern renovations that the castle presents such a superb appearance. It has, the air of careful preservation which distinguishes some of the great royal residences, such as Windsor, for instance, to which it has often been compared ; its finish and completeness suggest the modern chisel. It is this aspect of completeness, as well as the unity of its fine architectural features, which makes such a great castle as this so impressive. As a feudal stronghold it can hardly fail to appeal to the imagination. As the modern palatial home of an English nobleman, it appeals to something more virile, to the sense that behind the medieval walls the life of its occupants is still representative, is still deep and national in importance and significance. Pictorially, there is nothing unless it be a great cathedral, which brings up quite a different order of impressions and sensations that gives to the landscape such pictorial effect as a castle. It adds the crowning element of the picturesque, that of elegance combined with grandeur. It also invests the land with the emphasis and the dignity of a purpose. English landscape, especially, owes much to its castles. The land, from its high degree of finish and the perfection of its detail, would produce, in the end, the effect of a certain monotony. There might come the sense of tameness, of too perfect a prettiness. But its castles are to its dainty beauty what the figure of a human being is in a parterre of flowers. The castle is the knight, mail-clad and with visor drawn, standing amid the rose-gardens of England. It adds the crowning dignity of a majestic historical completeness.