+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

by their usually sitting all day long without
food, grieving; towards evening, they move.
When they find they are watched, they
sometimes contrive by hiding behind the trees to
elude observation, and to find the solitude
they desire. The men, less demonstrative
and more determined, escape detection,
and but too often succeed in accomplishing
their purpose. Those who have been restored
to life, after hours of attention in the receiving
house, frequently repay the attendants with,
"Why should I live against my will ? "
Nevertheless it very rarely happens, here, at least,
that a second attempt at suicide is made.

While I have been dwelling upon this
melancholy subject, the shades of evening
have been coming on. The last carriage has
driven off, and the last young man about
town has tapped his teeth with his cane for
the last time, and departed to his club. The
water's edge is only thinly dotted with people,
and the old gentlemen who have been sitting
reading on the seats have gone in to escape
the night air.

Gradually, however, I perceive a gathering
of boys upon the opposite shore; they thicken
apace, and soon the hum of hundreds of small
voices is wafted over towards me; they line
the whole shore for a mile, like little black
dots. As I look, the black dots gradually
become party-coloured.

What are they doing here in the boat-
house ? Getting ready a flag to hoist on the
pole; three boats are also putting off. What
is it that excites and moves to and fro the living
multitude on the other side ? The whole
mass is turning white with frantic rapidity;
up runs the red bunting, and a thousand
youngsters dash simultaneously into the water,
driving it in a huge wave before them. As
far as can be seen along the bank, the water
is studded with heads, like pins in a pin-
cushion; some of the heads move out into the
middle ; the great majority remain timidly
near the shore, splashing and dashing with
hands and feet. The boats have taken up
their different stations, and here they will
remain, ready to go to the rescue so long as
the bathing continues. At nine o'clock the
flag drops, and " All out ! " roared from
stentorian lungs booms over the water ; " All
out ! " is echoed by many silvery young
voices. The opposite bank is again a moving
mass of white specks : these deepen to grey,
soon become black, and then move off across
the green, and all is quiet. Morning and
evening, during the summer months, the
Serpentine is thus made a huge bath for the
children of the labouring classes. The better
classes also, make use of it early in the morning.
One party of gentlemen who have
formed themselves into a club, bathe here
all the year round ; and when the frost is very
hard and the ice is very thick, a space is cut
for them with hatchets, to enable them to take
their diurnal dip.

The twilight deepens. A few children,
feeding the swans upon the margin of the
water, is all the human life to be seen of the
vast tide rolling along so incessantly a short
time ago. Across the glass-like lake the
waterfowl, here and there, are gently sailing,
leaving long trails of silver as they go. On
the opposite bank, so lately thronged, crowning
the gently rising green, and seen through,
clusters of elms, the Crystal Palace rises like
an exhalation. Over the bridge, the foliage
seems to float in a bath of purple haze, and
across the deep amber of the sky a flight of
wildfowl go, in softly moving line. Danby
should be here to paint from it one of his
delicious pictures of evening.



RICHARD, son of the Black Prince, a boy
eleven years of age, succeeded to the Crown
under the title of King Richard the Second.
The whole English nation were ready to
admire him for the sake of his brave father. As
to the lords and ladies about the Court, they
declared him to be the most beautiful, the
wisest, and the besteven of princeswhom
the lords and ladies about the Court, generally
declare to be the most beautiful, the wisest,
and the best of mankind. To flatter a poor
boy in this base manner was not a very likely
way to develop whatever good was in him;
and it brought him to anything but a good
or happy end.

The Duke of Lancaster, the young King's
unclecommonly called John of Gaunt, from
having been born at Ghent, which the
common people so pronouncedwas supposed
to have some thoughts of the throne himself;
but, as he was not popular, and the memory
of the Black Prince was, he submitted to his

The war with France being still unsettled,
the Government of England wanted money to
provide for the expenses that might arise
out of it; accordingly a certain tax, called
the Poll-tax, which had originated in the last
reign, was ordered to be levied on the people.
This was a tax on every person in the
kingdom, male and female, above the age of
fourteen, of three groats (or three fourpenny
pieces) a year; clergymen were charged more,
and only beggars were exempt.

I have no need to repeat that the common
people of England had long been suffering
under great oppression. They were still the
mere slaves of the lords of the land on which
they lived, and were on most occasions harshly
and unjustly treated. But, they had begun
by this time to think very seriously of not
bearing quite so much; and, probably, were
emboldened by that French insurrection I
mentioned in the last chapter.

The people of Essex rose against the Poll-
tax, and being severely handled by the
government officers, killed some of them.
At this very time one of the tax-collectors,