After leaving Sleswick, we passed through several pretty towns; Itzchol particularly pleased me; and the country, still wearing the same aspect, was improved by the appearance of more trees and enclosures. But what gratified me most was the population. I was weary of travelling four or five hours, never meeting a carriage, and scarcely a peasant; and then to stop at such wretched huts as I had seen in Sweden was surely sufficient to chill any heart awake to sympathy, and throw a gloom over my favourite subject of contemplation, the future improvement of the world.
The farmhouses, likewise, with the huge stables, into which we drove whilst the horses were putting to or baiting, were very clean and commodious. The rooms, with a door into this hall-like stable and storehouse in one, were decent; and there was a compactness in the appearance of the whole family lying thus snugly together under the same roof that carried my fancy back to the primitive times, which probably never existed with such a golden lustre as the animated imagination lends when only able to seize the prominent features.
At one of them, a pretty young woman, with languishing eyes of celestial blue, conducted us into a very neat parlour, and observing how loosely and lightly my little girl was clad, began to pity her in the sweetest accents, regardless of the rosy down of health on her cheeks. This same damsel was dressed--it was Sunday--with taste and even coquetry, in a cotton jacket, ornamented with knots of blue ribbon, fancifully disposed to give life to her fine complexion. I loitered a little to admire her, for every gesture was graceful; and, amidst the other villagers, she looked like a garden lily suddenly rearing its head amongst grain and corn-flowers. As the house was small, I gave her a piece of money rather larger than it was my custom to give to the female waiters--for I could not prevail on her to sit down--which she received with a smile; yet took care to give it, in my presence, to a girl who had brought the child a slice of bread; by which I perceived that she was the mistress or daughter of the house, and without doubt the belle of the village. There was, in short, an appearance of cheerful industry, and of that degree of comfort which shut out misery, in all the little hamlets as I approached Hamburg, which agreeably surprised me.
The short jackets which the women wear here, as well as in France, are not only more becoming to the person, but much better calculated for women who have rustic or household employments than the long gowns worn in England, dangling in the dirt.
All the inns on the road were better than I expected, though the softness of the beds still harassed me, and prevented my finding the rest I was frequently in want of, to enable me to bear the fatigue of the next day. The charges were moderate, and the people very civil, with a certain honest hilarity and independent spirit in their manner, which almost made me forget that they were innkeepers, a set of men--waiters, hostesses, chambermaids, &c., down to the ostler, whose cunning servility in England I think particularly disgusting.
The prospect of Hamburg at a distance, as well as the fine road shaded with trees, led me to expect to see a much pleasanter city than I found.
I was aware of the difficulty of obtaining lodgings, even at the inns, on account of the concourse of strangers at present resorting to such a centrical situation, and determined to go to Altona the next day to seek for an abode, wanting now only rest. But even for a single night we were sent from house to house, and found at last a vacant room to sleep in, which I should have turned from with disgust had there been a choice.
I scarcely know anything that produces more disagreeable sensations, I mean to speak of the passing cares, the recollection of which afterwards enlivens our enjoyments, than those excited by little disasters of this kind. After a long journey, with our eyes directed to some particular spot, to arrive and find nothing as it should be is vexatious, and sinks the agitated spirits. But I, who received the cruellest of disappointments last spring in returning to my home, term such as these emphatically passing cares. Know you of what materials some hearts are made? I play the child, and weep at the recollection--for the grief is still fresh that stunned as well as wounded me--yet never did drops of anguish like these bedew the cheeks of infantine innocence--and why should they mine, that never was stained by a blush of guilt? Innocent and credulous as a child, why have I not the same happy thoughtlessness? Adieu!