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ninepin, and, through Hamlet's agency, knocking it down again. Certainly poor Osric is knocked very flat, for Hamlet outdoes him in his own jargon, and forces him to fall back on plain English. While all the tragedy of the play has gone on, Osric has doubtless been airing his fine clothes and composing his elegant phrases, perfectly unconscious of anything more important than settling a bet or following the latest fashion. But perhaps Hamlet is a trifle hard on the foolish creature, who is not meant to be taken too seriously, and who has an excuse not always shared by his modern imitators he is very young, and may get wiser in time.
Though these outside people are thus brought into the story, reminding us of the indifferent world, their very carelessness of Hamlet and his troubles helps to indicate how closely all the rest are bound to him, and how inseparable they are from him. In harmony with his dark fortunes, a shadow rests on the play from beginning to end, even the rough soldier walking his rounds on the fortress walls, is not only nipped by the biting cold, but sick at heart as well; and we may observe that there are none of those outbreaks of enjoyment of natural beauty which occur so frequently in the earlier plays, for instance, in Romeo and Juliet, relieving the sadness of the tragedy with a tender delight. But here, either the subject was too profoundly sorrowful to admit of such relief, or the poet was too sad to seek for it. The only indications of scenery which are given suggest the windswept platform before the castle, the bleak cliff towering over a wintry sea, and the barren heaths of Denmark. It may be accidental, but it is certainly curious that the only references to scenes of a softer character are inseparably connected with violence and death, the retired orchard where King Hamlet is murdered, the lonely willow where Ophelia meets her death, and the churchyard where her mutilated funeral is performed. As for the interior of Hamlet's home, no possible material brilliancy could disperse the mental gloom which hangs over it.
Yet we come back to the point from which we started. With all the sadness, all the mysteries, all the deep unanswered questions which abound in it, Hamlet remains one of the best known, if not best loved, of all the plays. Perhaps the very fact of the mystery hanging about it adds to the fascination which it and its sad-hearted, enigmatical hero have possessed and still possess for the generations which keep on coming and going, as they have done ever since the arch enchanter formed the magic circle in which Hamlet stands immortal.
HOPPING IN EAST KENT.
THE HOPPERS. KENT being the great English hopping centre, the season no sooner sets in, than the county is inundated with hoppers from all parts. This is more especially the case in mid-Kent; gangs of roughs from the very lowest slums of London, and other large towns, arriving in whole train-loads, and pouring into the rural districts, where during their stay they often give much trouble by their unruly and riotous behaviour.
These rowdies, however, do not come much beyond Canterbury, so that we in East Kent are comparatively free from them. Indeed, the whole of the hopping in this part is done by local pickers, or by those gathered from the surrounding towns and villages, whence whole families are often engaged, who, having locked up their homes, take with them their goods and chattels, and proceed to the scene of their labours, mostly in carts or waggons sent for them by the growers. They are lodged, some in barns and in low wooden buildings erected for the purpose, whilst others (the more respectable portion) take up their quarters in adjacent villages; all hoppers, however, are obliged to find their own food.
As I write (Sept., 1886), hopping is in full swing' all round about, and the air is literally laden with the scent of the hops, and both pickers and growers are in the best of spirits, for this season in East Kent is an unusually good one, in fact, the best there has been for many years. As an instance of this, I may state that a farmer living near Canterbury has just realised £6 a cwt. for his hops, the yield of which was considerably over a ton per acre.
The hops are cut down and taken to the pickers by an individual, known as the 'bin-man.' This is done in two ways: the older method being to cut the bine near the foot, and to remove it, hop-poles and all, to where the pickers are at work. The other and newer way, is for the 'bin-man' to cut the bine, and then, by means of an instrument made for the purpose, strip it from its poles, leaving them standing in their original position, whilst the bine alone is taken to the pickers. This plan seems to have its advantages, for by its adoption the binman's labour is considerably lightened, whilst the pickers find the bine much more easy to manipulate when disencumbered of its heavy poles.
PICKING THE HOPS.
The hops here are not picked into boxes as in America, but into circular baskets, each of which contain five bushels. When one of these is full, the tally-man is called, and he and the bin-man together empty the hops into a large sack, holding generally about two baskets. As these sacks are filled, they are loaded up on a waggon, and carted away about three times a day to the oast-house, where the hops are dried.
The hop-pickers are not paid by the day, but by the quantity picked, and the pay, per basket, varies according to the season. If it be a good one like the present, and the hops are large, and fill up quickly, the price given is usually about one sbilling a basket; but if it be a bad year, and the hops consequently small and shrivelled, they lie so closely in the baskets, that they take a very much longer time in filling, and the pay is then often as much as three or four shillings.
He is rather an important personage in his way, and derives his name from carrying a number of pieces of flat wood called tallies, about a foot long and an inch wide. Each tally is numbered, and has a duplicate piece of wood numbered the same, and corresponding in every way to its fellow, so that when one is fitted over the other the two appear as one piece. As soon as the farmer has engaged his pickers, the tally-man goes his rounds, and presents to each one of these tallies, retaining its duplicate, which is slung on a cord round his neck. The object of the tallies is to enable the hopper to know the exact number of baskets he has picked during the season, which lasts from four to six weeks. For every basket picked, a notch is filed on the tally and its duplicate, and this is done by the tally-man placing one exactly over the other, and filing the notch across the two edges simultaneously; thus any attempt at cheating is prevented, and everything rendered fair and square. About half an hour before the hoppers' dinner, the tally-man shouts at the top of his voice the order to‘load light.' This signifies to the bin-man that no more hops are to be pulled than can be disposed of within the ensuing half-hour, as if they were left cut they soon fade, which deteriorates from their value. The same order is given half an hour before clearing-up' time, which takes place whenever the oast-house is fully charged.
THE OAST-HOUSE. These curiously shaped buildings, with their circular walls and tall extinguisher-like roofs, form a striking feature in the Kentish landscape.
Every grower of any pretensions possesses one or more of these, in
which the freshly-picked hops are dried before being pressed. The lower part or ground floor is occupied almost entirely by a large fire or furnace, which is kept burning night and day. Over the circular brickwork which surrounds the fire, is placed sheet iron, and above that again is stretched a large and strong cloth. The heated iron diffuses an equal degree of warmth over the whole surface of the cloth on which the hops are spread to be dried, the steam rising from them, and the smoke from the furnace, being both carried off through a curiously shaped cowl, which is turned by the wind, and is mounted on the topmost point of the roof.
Drying one batch of hops generally takes about twelve hours, at the expiration of which time they are taken from the cloth and spread upon the floor of the cooling-room, which is situated in the upper part of a building communicating with the oast-house. In the centre of the floor of this room is a round hole, made just large enough to contain the open mouth of a pocket (as the large sack into which the hops are pressed is called). When the dried hops are sufficiently cooled, one of these pockets is suspended in the hole, its mouth being just level with the floor, and a certain quantity of hops is then swept into it. Next the hop-press, which stands exactly over the hole, is screwed down into the pocket, until the hops are as tight as caked tobacco, when the press is raised, and the process is repeated again and again till the pocket is literally crammed full. The mouth is then sewn up and the hops are ready to be sampled, which is done by a man employed for the purpose, and who is paid twopence for every sample made. This is done by cutting a small slit in the hop pocket, and extracting from thence a wedge of compressed hops, which is made into a parcel and labelled, and is sent with many others to London, in order that the buyers may be able to judge of the quality of the hops before purchasing any large quantities.
E. J. C. BAIRD. ! THREE MONTHS IN COLORADO.
BY CAROLINE W. LATIMER.
De ruts an' de stones
With these lines from an old negro camp-meeting hymn running in my head, I descended from the train on which I had spent three days and nights, while coming a distance of two thousand miles, and found myself at Colorado Springs.
This little town, which has of late years become a place of resort for invalids, and especially consumptives, is situated on a high plateau six thousand feet above sea level, and surrounded by the open prairie, except on one side, where the magnificent chain of the Rockies rises up, with Pike's Peak towering over all.
I myself knew almost nothing of the place or its inhabitants; my home had always been in Maryland, on the borders of the Southern States, and the West was, to my imagination, peopled almost exclusively with Indians and cow-boys. I supposed that I should find the place to which I was coming composed mainly of log-cabins and wigwams, and I had provided myself with every conceivable necessary and convenience, under the impression that I should not be able to procure so much as a paper of pins in the howling wilderness of my imagination. My ideas therefore received something of a shock as I drove through streets filled with shops of every description, and further on came to pretty villas with grounds laid out around them, and on descending from the carriage found myself in one of the most charming houses I ever saw, full of books, beautiful china, and ornaments, and every description of comfort and luxury.
I arrived in the midst of a driving rain, so that it was not until the afternoon of the next day that I could catch a glimpse of the Rockies, and when I did I was in some respects much disappointed. I believe that almost every one experiences this feeling when they first see them, for they have expected loveliness as well as grandeur, and as they rise up bald and rugged, with the timber-line distinctly marked, and the bright red colour of the earth painfully vivid, one feels greatly the want of something to soften and refine their harsh outlines. This defect is owing in a great measure to the extreme clearness and rarity of the air which makes them stand out sharply defined, and entirely without atmosphere. C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la beauté is, if I may take the liberty of misquoting, what best