Mr and Mrs Glegg at Home

IN order to see Mr and Mrs Glegg at home, we must enter the town of St Ogg's - that venerable town with the redfluted roofs and the broad warehouse gables, where the black ships unlade themselves of their burthens from the far north, and carry away, in exchange, the precious inland products, the well- crushed cheese and the soft fleeces, which my refined readers have doubtless become acquainted with through the medium of the best classic pastorals. It is one of those old, old towns, which impress one as a continuation and outgrowth of nature as much as the nests of the bower birds or the winding galleries of the white ants: a town which carries the traces of its long growth and history, like a millennial tree, and has sprung up and developed in the same spot between the river and the low hill from the time when the Roman legions turned their backs on it from the camp on the hill-side, and the longhaired sea-kings camp up the river and looked with fierce, eager eyes at the fatness of the land. It is a town `familiar with forgotten years.' The shadow of the Saxon hero-king still walks there fitfully, reviewing the scenes of his youth and lovetime, and is met by the gloomier shadow of the dreadful heathen Dane who was stabbed in the midst of his warriors by the sword of an invisible avenger and who rises on autumn evenings like a white mist from his tumulus on the hill and hovers in the court of the old Hall by the river-side - the spot where he was thus miraculously slain in the days before the old Hall was built. It was the Normans who began to build that fine old Hall, which is like the town - telling of the thoughts and hands of widely- sundered generations; but it is all so old that we look with loving pardon at its inconsistencies, and are well content that they who built the stone oriel and they who built the gothic facade and towers of finest small brick-work with trefoil ornament, and the windows and battlements defined with stone, did not sacrilegiously pull down the ancient half-timbered body with its oak-roofed banqueting-hall.

But older even than this old Hall is Perhaps the bit of wall now built into the belfry of the parish church and said to be a remnant of the original chapel dedicated to St Ogg, the patron saint of this ancient town, of whose history I possess several manuscript versions. I incline to the briefest, since if it should not be wholly true, it is at least likely to contain the least falsehood. `Ogg the son of Beorl,' says my private hagiographer, `was a boatman who gained a scanty living by ferrying passengers across the river Floss. And it came to pass one evening when the winds were high, that there sat moaning by the bring of the river a woman with a child in her arms; and she was clad in rags, and had a worn and withered look. And she craved to be rowed across the river. And the men thereabout questioned her, and said `Wherefore dost thou desire to cross the river? Tarry till the morning, and take shelter here for the night: so shalt thou be wise, and not foolish.' Still she went on to mourn and crave. But Ogg the son of Beorl came up, and said, `I will ferry thee across: it is enough that thy heart needs it.' And he ferried her across. And it came to pass when she stepped ashore, that her rags were turned into robes of flowing white, and her face became bright with exceeding beauty and there was a glory around it so that she shed a light on the water like the moon in its brightness. And she said `Ogg, the son of Beorl, thou art blessed, in that thou didst not question and wrangle with the heart's need but wast smitten with pity and didst straightway relieve the same. And from henceforth whose steps into thy boat shall be in no peril from the storm, and whenever it puts forth to the rescue it shall save the lives both of men and beasts.' And when the floods came, many were saved by reason of that blessing on the boat. But when Ogg the son of Beorl died, behold, in the parting of his soul, the boat loosed itself from its moorings and was floated with the ebbing tide in great swiftness to the ocean and was seen no more. Yet it was witnessed in the floods of after-time, that at the coming on of even, Ogg the son of Beorl was always seen with his boat upon the wide-spreading waters, and the Blessed Virgin sat in the prow shedding a light around as of the moon in its brightness, so that the rowers in the gathering darkness took heart and pulled anew.'

This legend, one sees, reflects from a far-off time the visitation of the floods, which even when they left human life untouched, were widely fatal to the helpless cattle, and swept as sudden death over all smaller living things. But the town knew worse troubles even than the floods: troubles of the civil wars when it was a continual fighting place where first puritans thanked God for the blood of the loyalists and then loyalists thanked God for the blood of the puritans. Many honest citizens lost all their possessions for conscience sake in those times and went forth beggared from their native town. Doubtless there are many houses standing now on which those honest citizens turned their backs in sorrow: quaint gabled houses looking on the river, jammed between newer warehouses and penetrated by surprising passages, which turn and turn at sharp angles till they lead you out on a muddy strand overflowed continually by

  By PanEris using Melati.

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