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accepted. He was rather a weak young man and had already drunk a good deal of beer, and soon became talkative, and as my brother asked him to take more gin, he did so, and at last he became quite incoherent and so troublesome, though perfectly good-natured, that we had to ask the landlord to take charge of him till he was able to go home. But his speech and actions were so Iudicrous that all present were kept in a roar of laughter, and everybody seemed to think it an excellent and quite harmless bit of fun.
When I was alone at Barton I used frequently to sit in the tap-room with the tradesmen and labourers for a little conversation or to hear their songs or ballads, which I have never had such an opportunity of hearing elsewhere. Some of these were coarse, but not as a rule more so than among men of a much higher class, while purely sentimental songs or old ballads were very frequent, and were quite as much appreciated. I regret that I did not write down all that I heard here, but at that time I did not know that there would be any purpose in doing so, and I cannot remember the actual words of any of them. One that was occasionally sung was the old Masonic Hymn, beginning—
“Come all you freemasons that dwell around the globe,
Which Noah he did wear when in the ark he stood,
but I think it was never sung in its complete form. The well-known poacher's song with its musical refrain–
“Oh 'tis my delight of a shiny night, in the season of the year,”
was also rather a favourite; but there was one ballad about Bonaparte which was often called for, but of which I can remember nothing but a line beginning—
“Then upspoke young Napoleon.”
It was a really good ballad, describing some incidents in Napoleon's early life, and was remarkable as treating him
from quite a heroic point of view, so different from the enormous mass of gross and stupid caricature and abuse which prevailed during the epoch of his military successes throughout Europe.
As there was no work of importance after the maps and reference books of the parish we had been surveying were completed and delivered, and winter was approaching, I went home for a short holiday. My father and mother and my younger brother were then living in Hoddesdon, and as there was no direct conveyance I made the journey on foot. It was, I think, the end of November, and as the distance was about thirty miles, and I was not very strong, I took two days, sleeping on the way at a roadside public-house. I went through Hitchin and Stevenage, and near the former place passed a quarry of a reddish chalk almost as hard as marble, which was used for building. This surprised me, as I had hitherto only seen the soft varieties of chalk, and had been accustomed to look upon it as more earth than stone. The only other thing that greatly interested me was a little beyond Stevenage, where, on a grassy strip by the roadside, were six ancient barrows or tumuli, which I carefully inspected; and whenever I have since travelled by the Great Northern Railway, I have looked out for these six tumuli, near to which the line passes.
Where I slept the night I forget, but its results were long remembered, for I was given a bed which I presume had been occupied by some tramp, and I found that I had brought away with me two different kinds of body-lice, one of which took me a long time and the application of special ointments to get rid of. This was the only time in my life that I suffered from these noisome insects.
After a few weeks at home at Hoddesdon, I went back to Barton, where we had some work till after Christmas. On New Year's Day, 1838, the first section of the London and Birmingham Railway was opened to Tring, and I and my brother took advantage of it to go up to London, where he had some business. We stayed at a quiet hotel in Lamb's Conduit Street, and the next day I walked to Hoddesdon for a short holiday. My brother while in London obtained the Survey for tithe commutation of a parish in Bedfordshire, where I was to meet him on the 14th or 15th of January, at the village of Turvey, eight miles beyond Bedford.
I HAD first to go back to Barton to pay a few bills and pack up the books, instruments, etc., we had left there to be sent by carrier's waggon. I therefore left home on the 12th, and I think walked back to Barton, and the next day did what was required, took leave of my friends there, and on the morning of the 14th, after an early breakfast, started to walk to Turvey through Bedford, a distance of about twenty miles.
The reason I am able, without any diary, note, or letter to refer to, to fix the date of this particular walk is rather a curious one. While I was at home, or shortly before, a new almanack had appeared, which professed to predict the weather on every day of the year, on scientific principles, and the first week was said to be wonderfully correct. I was so much interested in this, and talked so much about it, that my mother procured it for me just before I left home as a New Year's present. It was called “Murphy's Weather Almanack,” and was published, I think, at a shilling. The first three days were marked “Fair, frost,” and the next three “Change.” This was, I believe, nearly correct, but how near I cannot remember. The next fortnight, however, impressed itself upon my memory, partly because I had the book and marked it day by day, and partly on account of the remarkable weather and its exact fulfilment. From the 7th to the 13th every day was set down as “Fair, frost,” and so it was. Then came the 14th, marked “Change; ” then again “Fair, frost,” every day to the 20th, which was marked “Lowest
temperature;” after which the indications were change, followed by rain. Now, as the 14th was the day of my walk to Bedford and Turvey, I was rather anxious, and when I got up in the morning and saw that the sky was clear, I thought the almanack was wrong, and was glad of it; but as soon as I began my journey I found the air milder and the roads decidedly softer than the day before, and this soon increased, till by midday there was a regular thaw, which made the roads quite soft, but as there had been no snow not disagreeably wet. I had, therefore, avery pleasant walk. I dined at Bedford, and reached Turvey before dark. For the next six days we were at work laying out the main lines for the survey of the parish, cutting hedges, ranging flags, ascertaining boundaries, and beginning the actual measurements, and every day the frost continued exactly as predicted by Murphy, culminating in the greatest °old on the 20th, after which there was a break. I may here state that the rest of the year was very inaccurate, though there were certain striking coincidences. The hottest day was nearly, or quite, correct. In August nine days consecutively were exactly as predicted, and in Pecember the very mild weather and fine Christmas Day was Correct, But the perfect accuracy of the fourteen consecutive days with the break on one day of an otherwise continuous frost, and that day being fixed on my memory by the circumstance of my having then to walk twenty miles, forced me to the conclusion that there must have been “something in it"— that this could not have been attained by pure guess-work, Sven once in a year, and though the most striking, it was not by any means the only success. My copy of the almanack disappeared half a century ago, but wishing to refresh my memory of the circumstances, and to fix definitely the year and day of my journey, I applied to the Meteorological Society to lend me the almanack if they possessed it. They very courteously obliged me, sending me the five years, 1838 to 184*. all that ever appeared, bound together. I then found that my