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Chapter 50

Involves a serious Catastrophe.

The little race-course at Hampton was in the full tide and
height of its gaiety; the day as dazzling as day could be; the
sun high in the cloudless sky, and shining in its fullest
splendour. Every gaudy colour that fluttered in the air from
carriage seat and garish tent top, shone out in its gaudiest hues.
Old dingy flags grew new again, faded gilding was re-burnished,
stained rotten canvas looked a snowy white, the very beggars’ rags
were freshened up, and sentiment quite forgot its charity in its
fervent admiration of poverty so picturesque.

It was one of those scenes of life and animation, caught in its
very brightest and freshest moments, which can scarcely fail to
please; for if the eye be tired of show and glare, or the ear be
weary with a ceaseless round of noise, the one may repose, turn
almost where it will, on eager, happy, and expectant faces, and the
other deaden all consciousness of more annoying sounds in those
of mirth and exhilaration. Even the sunburnt faces of gypsy
children, half naked though they be, suggest a drop of comfort. It
is a pleasant thing to see that the sun has been there; to know that
the air and light are on them every day; to feel that they are
children, and lead children’s lives; that if their pillows be damp, it
is with the dews of Heaven, and not with tears; that the limbs of
their girls are free, and that they are not crippled by distortions,
imposing an unnatural and horrible penance upon their sex; that
their lives are spent, from day to day, at least among the waving

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