Elster's Folly

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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BY THE EARLY TRAIN.

The ascending sun threw its slanting rays abroad on a glorious August morning, and the little world below began to awaken into life—the life of another day of sanguine pleasure or of fretting care.

Not on many fairer scenes did those sunbeams shed their radiance than on one existing in the heart of England; but almost any landscape will look beautiful in the early light of a summer's morning. The county, one of the midlands, was justly celebrated for its scenery; its rich woods and smiling plains, its river and gentler streams. The harvest was nearly gathered in—it had been a late season—but a few fields of golden grain, in process of reaping, gave their warm tints to the landscape. In no part of the country had the beauties of nature been bestowed more lavishly than on this, the village of Calne, situated about seven miles from the county town.

It was an aristocratic village, on the whole. The fine seat of the Earl of Hartledon, rising near it, had caused a few families of note to settle there, and the nest of white villas gave the place a prosperous and picturesque appearance. But it contained a full proportion of the poor or labouring class; and these people were falling very much into the habit of writing the village "Cawn," in accordance with its pronunciation. Phonetic spelling was more in their line than Johnson's Dictionary. Of what may be called the middle class the village held few, if any: there were the gentry, the small shopkeepers, and the poor.

Calne had recently been exalted into importance. A year or two before this bright August morning some good genius had brought a railway to it—a railway and a station, with all its accompanying work and bustle. Many trains passed it in the course of the day; for it was in the direct line of route from the county town, Garchester, to London, and the traffic was increasing. People wondered what travellers had done, and what sort of a round they traversed, before this direct line was made.

The village itself lay somewhat in a hollow, the ground rising to a gentle eminence on either side. On the one eminence, to the west, was situated the station; on the other, eastward, rose the large stone mansion, Hartledon House. The railway took a slight détour outside Calne, and was a conspicuous feature to any who chose to look at it; for the line had been raised above the village hollow to correspond with the height at either end.

Six o'clock was close at hand, and the station began to show signs of life. The station-master came out of his cottage, and opened one or two doors on the platform. He had held the office scarcely a year yet; and had come a stranger to Calne. Sitting down in his little bureau of a place, on the door of which was inscribed "Station-master—Private," he began sorting papers on the desk before him. A few minutes, and the clock struck six; upon which he went out to the platform. It was an open station, as these small stations generally are, the small waiting-rooms and offices on either side scarcely obstructing the view of the country, and the station-master looked far out in the distance, towards the east, beyond the low-lying village houses, shading his eyes with his hand from the dazzling sun....