Kenilworth (Chapter 9, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 9

Far in the lane a lonely hut he found,
No tenant ventured on the unwholesome ground:
Here smokes his forge, he bares his sinewy arm,
And early strokes the sounding anvil warm;
Around his shop the steely sparkles flew,
As for the steed he shaped the bending shoe.
--GAY'S TRIVIA.

As it was deemed proper by the traveller himself, as well as by Giles
Gosling, that Tressilian should avoid being seen in the neighbourhood of
Cumnor by those whom accident might make early risers, the landlord had
given him a route, consisting of various byways and lanes, which he was
to follow in succession, and which, all the turns and short-cuts duly
observed, was to conduct him to the public road to Marlborough.

But, like counsel of every other kind, this species of direction is much
more easily given than followed; and what betwixt the intricacy of the
way, the darkness of the night, Tressilian's ignorance of the country,
and the sad and perplexing thoughts with which he had to contend, his
journey proceeded so slowly, that morning found him only in the vale of
Whitehorse, memorable for the defeat of the Danes in former days, with
his horse deprived of a fore-foot shoe, an accident which threatened to
put a stop to his journey by laming the animal. The residence of a
smith was his first object of inquiry, in which he received little
satisfaction from the dullness or sullenness of one or two peasants,
early bound for their labour, who gave brief and indifferent answers to
his questions on the subject. Anxious, at length, that the partner of
his journey should suffer as little as possible from the unfortunate
accident, Tressilian dismounted, and led his horse in the direction of a
little hamlet, where he hoped either to find or hear tidings of such an
artificer as he now wanted. Through a deep and muddy lane, he at length
waded on to the place, which proved only an assemblage of five or six
miserable huts, about the doors of which one or two persons, whose
appearance seemed as rude as that of their dwellings, were beginning
the toils of the day. One cottage, however, seemed of rather superior
aspect, and the old dame, who was sweeping her threshold, appeared
something less rude than her neighbours. To her Tressilian addressed the
oft-repeated question, whether there was a smith in this neighbourhood,
or any place where he could refresh his horse? The dame looked him in
the face with a peculiar expression as she replied, "Smith! ay, truly is
there a smith--what wouldst ha' wi' un, mon?"

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