BOOK THE THIRD - GARNERING
6. Chapter Vi - the Starlight
THE Sunday was a bright Sunday in autumn, clear and cool, when
early in the morning Sissy and Rachael met, to walk in the country.
As Coketown cast ashes not only on its own head but on the
neighbourhood's too - after the manner of those pious persons who
do penance for their own sins by putting other people into
sackcloth - it was customary for those who now and then thirsted
for a draught of pure air, which is not absolutely the most wicked
among the vanities of life, to get a few miles away by the
railroad, and then begin their walk, or their lounge in the fields.
Sissy and Rachael helped themselves out of the smoke by the usual
means, and were put down at a station about midway between the town
and Mr. Bounderby's retreat.
Though the green landscape was blotted here and there with heaps of
coal, it was green elsewhere, and there were trees to see, and
there were larks singing (though it was Sunday), and there were
pleasant scents in the air, and all was over-arched by a bright
blue sky. In the distance one way, Coketown showed as a black
mist; in another distance hills began to rise; in a third, there
was a faint change in the light of the horizon where it shone upon
the far-off sea. Under their feet, the grass was fresh; beautiful
shadows of branches flickered upon it, and speckled it; hedgerows
were luxuriant; everything was at peace. Engines at pits' mouths,
and lean old horses that had worn the circle of their daily labour
into the ground, were alike quiet; wheels had ceased for a short
space to turn; and the great wheel of earth seemed to revolve
without the shocks and noises of another time.
They walked on across the fields and down the shady lanes,
sometimes getting over a fragment of a fence so rotten that it
dropped at a touch of the foot, sometimes passing near a wreck of
bricks and beams overgrown with grass, marking the site of deserted
works. They followed paths and tracks, however slight. Mounds
where the grass was rank and high, and where brambles, dock-weed,
and such-like vegetation, were confusedly heaped together, they
always avoided; for dismal stories were told in that country of the
old pits hidden beneath such indications.