Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 2
It was pretty late in the autumn of the year, when the declining sun struggling
through the mist which had obscured it all day, looked brightly down upon a little
Wiltshire village, within an easy journey of the fair old town of Salisbury.
Like a sudden flash of memory or spirit kindling up the mind of an old man, it
shed a glory upon the scene, in which its departed youth and freshness seemed
to live again. The wet grass sparkled in the light; the scanty patches of verdure in
the hedges--where a few green twigs yet stood together bravely, resisting to the
last the tyranny of nipping winds and early frosts--took heart and brightened up;
the stream which had been dull and sullen all day long, broke out into a cheerful
smile; the birds began to chirp and twitter on the naked boughs, as though the
hopeful creatures half believed that winter had gone by, and spring had come
already. The vane upon the tapering spire of the old church glistened from its
lofty station in sympathy with the general gladness; and from the ivy-shaded
windows such gleams of light shone back upon the glowing sky, that it seemed
as if the quiet buildings were the hoarding-place of twenty summers, and all their
ruddiness and warmth were stored within.
Even those tokens of the season which emphatically whispered of the coming
winter, graced the landscape, and, for the moment, tinged its livelier features with
no oppressive air of sadness. The fallen leaves, with which the ground was
strewn, gave forth a pleasant fragrance, and subduing all harsh sounds of distant
feet and wheels created a repose in gentle unison with the light scattering of
seed hither and thither by the distant husbandman, and with the noiseless
passage of the plough as it turned up the rich brown earth, and wrought a
graceful pattern in the stubbled fields. On the motionless branches of some trees,
autumn berries hung like clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled orchards
where the fruits were jewels; others stripped of all their garniture, stood, each the
centre of its little heap of bright red leaves, watching their slow decay; others
again, still wearing theirs, had them all crunched and crackled up, as though they
had been burnt; about the stems of some were piled, in ruddy mounds, the
apples they had borne that year; while others (hardy evergreens this class)
showed somewhat stern and gloomy in their vigour, as charged by nature with
the admonition that it is not to her more sensitive and joyous favourites she
grants the longest term of life. Still athwart their darker boughs, the sunbeams
struck out paths of deeper gold; and the red light, mantling in among their
swarthy branches, used them as foils to set its brightness off, and aid the lustre
of the dying day.
A moment, and its glory was no more. The sun went down beneath the long dark
lines of hill and cloud which piled up in the west an airy city, wall heaped on wall,
and battlement on battlement; the light was all withdrawn; the shining church
turned cold and dark; the stream forgot to smile; the birds were silent; and the
gloom of winter dwelt on everything.