Out for a walk - 4 June 1858

To a man of spirit, two energetic women are a challenge. To a man of the Spirit, they might be an irrelevance. To one without spirit, they are a threat.

Out for a walk on the heath today. We took Charley Dewy along to carry our coats, doncha'know. I could quite take to this 19th century lark.

The lovely stillness in the air. Just the sounds of birdsong and the songs of happy peasants starving in the fields. Now I know that, up in London and in the northern mill towns, the air quality is far worse than anything I ever knew in the 20th or 21st century. I know the Thames is in a hideous state - and if my history is correct I expect this summer to be the worst on record - but out here life is sweeter, with small fields and birds that we had long forgotten.

As we wandered along, we first heard and then saw the Melchester train steaming on its way. Needless to say, Hnaef was immediately rushing across the fields to try to get its number. I remarked to Mrs Hnaef how nostalgic it made one, to see and hear a steam train. And young Charley looked quite startled. Of course, to him this is the cutting edge of technology - as exciting to him as the Etch-a-sketch once was to us.

We had quite a walk across Egdon, and feeling a little thirsty pulled up at an inn. I've no idea whether we did this right, but we went into the "Quiet Woman" and demanded four pints. You should have seen the scowl we received from the landlord's mother. She sits in the fireplace, smoking a clay pipe and growling at the customers. A shame, as Mr John Nonsuch seems to have a nice little place there. The sort of quiet, out-of-the-way inn that tells you of a happy, merry England.

There was also one of the locals in there. When he first saw two women in the inn, Christian Cantle was terrified. I gather he thought we were a couple of lost street-walkers and Hnaef was our - for want of a more genteel word - minder. But after we assured him we were the new owners of Knapwater House, he spent the next hour tugging his forelock and begging us not to send him up to Casterbridge Assizes.

Hnaef had a couple of refills and then we headed on our way - but rapidly realised that the local brew, being heady and rather strong, can have quite a potent effect. I tell you, it was all Mrs Hnaef and I could do to stop Hnaef falling in Shadwater Weir. And all the way home he baffled Charley by singing "Raindrops keep falling on my head". We had to tell him it's a traditional French folk song.

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