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TEN years have passed since my first visit
to Riverportthere railways had not yet
penetrated. A lumbering cross between an
omnibus and an ancient stage-coach crawled
up and rumbled down many little hills. We
left the castle and the cathedral, the half-deserted
citymelancholy in spite of gay
uniforms, scarlet and blue; for round-about
railways, rejected by city pride, have taken
away all the trade of thirty-four gallantly
appointed coaches, with consequential coachmen
and Lothario guards, who, bugle in
hand, charmed and broke the hearts of un-numbered

We travelledslowly but steadily; for the
roads were hard and soundsometimes between
high chalk banks, encumbering many
a rood of fertile soil, sometimes between
thin plantations of young upright trees, extending
for miles, where the loud crack of the
driver's whip waked up some combative cock-pheasant
from his doze after an early morning
meal. We passed fields destined for wheat,
where two great strapping fellows, with four
strong horses dragging a clumsy wooden
plough, slowly and with monstrous dignity
turned up miles of light soil. This was a
county of hops, for whose benefit all other
crops were starved. When all his science,
and capital, and credit, had been exhausted
on the hop-garden, the farmer treated the
poor corn-fields to a sort of Barmecide feast,
by scratching them with, a superfluity of horse
and man's labour, and nothing more. Next,
we passed hop-gardens in their winter state.
The creeping vines with the green foliage,
the clustering flowers, and rich perfume, were
gone. The late gardens were a waste, bare
as a deserted camp, with huts (of hop-poles)
left standing. So, first ascending as if by
steps of short ascent, and then as steadily
descending, we reached the brow of the
hill, where the vale of Riverport opened
before us.

It is a vale, such, in summer time, as we
dream of in dreams, or fancy in school-days, if
exiled to some school among the dreary flats
of a fen country, after reading Rasselas. The
last part of the road creeps down along one
side of a steep turf-covered hill, thinly
sprinkled over with yew-trees of unknown
age, that seem stretching their monstrous
arms, and point to where a Druids' cairn
marks the interval between the skin-clad
Britons, whom Caesar conquered, and the
smock-frocked natives, who drink, not mead,
but beer. Sheep feed on the sweet turf of the
hill sides, in great flocks, white-faced and
black-faced: with few traces of the ancient
horned breed of the county, that made the
wealth of the yeomen of Kent in Robin
Hood's day, before the invasion of the "hops,
carp, and pickerel." On the descending side,
the mighty basin, smooth as if scooped out by
Titan navigators' spades, is lined over with
the many divisions of the varying fields.
Here stubble fields, where the brown
partridges cower as we pass. There pastures
dotted with speckled cattle, black and white,
more picturesque in the meadow than
profitable to the butcher,—hop-grounds and the
richly brown red of lately-ploughed fields.
These repeated, again and again, carry the
eye from the steep winding road which we
skid down, beyond the fields, and the high
banked hedges, to an ancient park of
undulating slopes, thickly timbered with oaks,
fast changing colour in the winter winds.
Lower still, Riverport appears, with its
solid church-tower, a grey speck upon the
landscape. Masts and brown sails mysteriously
moving, tell of unseen barges slowly
creeping up a winding river before a favouring
wind. More farms, farm-houses, with
dusky thatched roofs, and long wooden barns.
Then, on the other side the river, up rose,
by degrees, the rounding hills, half-fields and
half-plantations, where more hop-poles grow
and more pheasants breed.

It was very pretty, ten years ago, to look
down on this scene, and to take in the details
as they grew with sight.

But, when we reached the boundary of the
park we had admired in the distance, it was
impossible not to be struck with the signs of
desolation. The park palings broken down
in a score of places; the lodge weather-stained,
covered with mangy thatch; its
little garden overgrown with weeds, and
vegetables run to seed; a brood of dirty
children staring and shouting as we passed;
the mansion itselfa large, many-windowed
brick buildingabsolutely deserted.

Our coachmana cross-breed between an