An Anachronism Or Missing Ones Coach can be found in






AN ANACHRONISM, OR MISSING ONE'S COACH

KIND and credulous reader, and I wish for no other, be it known to you that 1 am one of those who dip into antiquarian lore, and that 1 am moreover like some of the same tribe, fond of long and solitary rambles on foot, in quest of the wrecks and relics of things forgotten, or forgotten by all but the family of the " Dryasdusts." Nor ought I to conceal the fact that I am (when a day's march has failed to bring me in the way of the monuments of remote ages) much given to the indulgence of splendid philosophicopoetical speculations concerning the future; thus borrowing from the time to come, entertainment for the time present, in place of that which should have been furnished me by the times that are past. Many a road-side "St. George and the Dragon," or "Robin Hood," where I have found shelter for the night, has witnessed the cheap felicity I have created for myself amid these Janus-like meditations.

During several sultry days of last August, or, if you please, of some other August, 1 had risen at the earliest dawn, and had held on my pilgrim path until sunset, carefully tracking the course of the Piet's wall, from the shores of Solway Firth, eastward. Toward the close of the last of these days, all my musings upon the past, at well as every bright and fair dream respecting the future, had been dispelled, or had lost its wonted charm over my imagination, partly by the now overpowering sensations of bodily fatigue and mental exhaustion, and partly by the obtrusion, on every side, of objects utterly at variance with sentiment and Speculation of whatever sort, and whether retrospective or anticipative; and which forbad any thing to be thought of but the bustling in* terests of the generation extant. Who, I ask, can be poetical, or who sublimely philosophical, within ten miles of Newcastle-upon-Tyne?

Yet let me not be thought to disparage. the town and neighbourhood whence incalculable chaldrons of cbmfort, cookery, and gas-illumination are emanating every day, and are blessing all our eastern shores 1 This radiating, if not radiant coal mart, l entered about five o'clock in the afternoon—limping, hungry, thirsty, grimed with dust, and shorn of all sentimentality; and notwithstanding the' horror 1 have—an instinctive horror, not to be reasoned with—of large commercial and manufacturing towns, 1 Yas how so thoroughly broken down in spirit and so foot-sore too, that I quietly resigned myself to the thought of spending the night at the best inn which would deign to receive a dusty pedestrian, with a wallet on his back. Thus purposing, I made a discreet choice among the caravanseries of Newcastle, lowering my pride to the dimensions of a fourth-rate hotel; and there, by assuming some airs of importance, 1 actually so far secured the good opinion and services of waiters, boots, and chambermaid, as to get myself renovated, in the course of two hours, and found myself a new man, or rather my own self again; that is to say, neither very new, nor very old; but now—shaved, dressed, cooled, rested, dined, and enlivened moreover by a sober pint of execrable sherry. In a word, by seven o'clock, I was beginning to readmit, and to dally with swarms of " fine ideas," which came crowding upon my rather fevered senSorium.

In this mood I felt it to be out of the question to remain, as a prudent man could have done, where 1 was, in a dusky, smoke-stained coffee-room; and in the very heart of a Babylon, like Newcastle. Although, therefore, any man in my case, would have thought he had had foot-work enough for the day, i rysbed forth; yet intending nothing elsie but to occupy the bed 1 had engaged; and meaning ortty to muse away the twilight hour by the river's side, if I could find free space there, for a time. It happened, however, that, in limping across the tnarket-place, on my way to the quays, t was almost run bver by the impetuous " Edinburgh and Leeds Mercury," which, at the moment, swung round the corner with its reeking four. It stopped—and I stopped—and, soarcely thinking what I meant, I accosted the guard as he reached the pavement* with the laconic question—" Room outside?" to which I received the not more wordy answer—

"For one, sir."

"When do you start?"

"In ten minutes, at the fullest."

"Keep a place for me in front, then."

The comparison that rushed upon, my mind, at first sight of the " Mercury," between a stifling chamber m a murky inn, for the night, and the splendours of heaven, and the glories of the ensuing dawn—never better enjoyed than on the outside of a night-coach, during the summer months—this instantaneous comparison, carried away all my plans, and actually seemed to dispel my bodily sensations of fatigue. I hurried back to the den within which I had thought tohave gasped till morning, paid my reckoning—lavished gratuities upon waiters, boots, and chambermaid; snatched up my knapsack, and with the precipitation of a man who has scaled the walls of his prison, and in listening for pursuit, hobbled toward the great " Commercial," whence I was to start. I found that the fresh cattle had not yet come out. I caught the guard by the sleeve, and telling him that I should be on the road, set forward, as if to realize the unexpected pleasure of my escape from Newcastle; or as if to exclude any possible disappointment, although, with this view, it would have been far more wise, as the event proved, to have occupied my seat on the coach, and to have endured the smutty atmosphere of the town a few minutes longer, But the suggestions of vulgar prudence contemned, I made my way, with a hurried, hobbling step through the descending streets, and over the bridge that strides the deep-dved waters of the Tyne, thence ascending the steep opposite hill on the Durham road, from the brow of which a prospect wide (and fair, if not fouled with smoke) stretches east and west.

An Antuskroniem; or, Minting Ones Coach. Perhaps a restive leader, flinging .over the traces, or a lagging passenger, had delayed the Mercury so much beyond the " ten minutes" allowed me .by the guard. In fact, when I reached the summit of the hill, I listened in?ain for either the rattling wheels, or the bugle. Iu that luckless—or, shall 1 «ay lucky—moment, I descried,a little to the left, a rising ground, whence the course of the river might advantageously be seen. At the risque (al,most the certainty) of losing my place, I darted toward this eminence; and finding, when 1 reached it, a tempting neat, upon the gnarled roots of a decayed oak, I sat down; yes, I sat; -and as my sceptical reader will tell me, nodded and slept. This explanation -of what follows I am, however, resolved not to admit; and yet even if this were granted, it would be not the less certain that I looked around me, ns I sat with as clear a consciousness of plain reality, as I had had a while before in taking my steak at the Swan. There may, perhaps, be those who will insult me by insinuating that, worn out ms I confess myself to have been, I had fallen sound asleep in my box in the Coffee-room, with the last half-glass of the M execrable sherry" before me; and that the whole affair of the " Mercury" is no better than a midsummer night's dream. I shall not condescend to argue the point with any such objectors, too wise already iu their own conceits; but shall go on in all simplicity to relate how that, seated in the aforesaid natural arm chair, I looked around and looked beneath, and looked in vain for the roofs, and chimneys, and spires ©f the dingy Newcastle—...

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