Frank R. Stockton
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Asad Razzaki and PG Distributed Proofreaders
_A Series of Letters to the Mistress of Rudder Grange from her former
FRANK R. STOCKTON
_In Uniform Binding_
_Illustrated by A.B. Frost._
_Illustrated by A.B. Frost._
_On the Four-in-hand_
_Jone overshadows the Waiter_
_The Cottage at Chedcombe_
_Pomona takes a Lodger_
_Pomona expounds Americanisms_
_Jone teaches Young Ladies how to Rake_
_A Runaway Tricycle_
_Pomona slides Backward down the Slope of the Centuries_
_On the Moors_
_Stag-hunting on a Tricycle_
_The Green Placard_
_Pomona and her David Llewellyn_
_Hogs and the Fine Arts_
_With Dickens in London_
_Buxton and the Bath Chairs_
_Mr. Poplington as Guide_
_Angelica and Pomeroy_
_The Countess of Mussleby_
_Pomona and her Gilly_
_They follow the Lady of the Lake_
_Comparisons become Odious to Pomona_
_Searching for Dorkminsters_
_Their Country and their Custom House_
[Illustration: List of Illustrations]
_Vignette Heading to Table of Contents_
_Tail piece to Table of Contents_
_Vignette Heading to List of Illustrations_
_Tail-piece to List of Illustrations_
_Heading and Initial Letter_
_"Boy, go order me a four-in-hand"_
_The Landlady with an "underdone visage"_
_"I looked at the ladder and at the top front seat"_
_"Down came a shower of rain"_
_"Ask the waiter what the French words mean"_
_Vignette Heading and Initial Letter_
_Jone giving an order_
_"You Americans are the speediest people"_
_"That was our house"_
_Vignette Heading and Initial Letter_
_"The young lady who keeps the bar"_
_"I see signs of weakening in the social boom"_
_At the Abbey_
_Vignette Heading and Initial Letter_
_"There, with the bar lady and the Marie Antoinette chambermaid, was
_"At last I did get on my feet"_
_"Rise, Sir Jane Puddle"_
_Vignette Heading and initial Letter_
_"In an instant I was free"_
_"If you was a man I'd break your head"_
_"I'm a Home Ruler"_
_Vignette Heading and Initial Letter_
_"And with a screech I dashed at those hogs like a steam engine"_
_"In the winter, when the water is frozen, they can't get over"_
_"Who do you suppose we met? Mr. Poplington!"_
_Mr. Poplington looking for luggage_
_Vignette Heading and Initial Letter_
_Pomona encourages Jonas_
_"Stop, lady, and I'll get out"_
_Vignette Heading and Initial Letter_
_"Your brother is over there"_
_To the Cat and Fiddle_
_"And did you like Chedcombe?"_
_"Jone looked at him and said that was the Highland costume"_
_Vignette Heading and Initial Letter_
_"I didn't say anything, and taking the pole in both hands I gave it a
wild twirl over my head"_
_Pomona drinking it in_
_Vignette Heading and Initial Letter_
_"A person who was a family-tree-man"_
_"This might be a Dorkminster"_
_Jone didn't carry any hand-bag, and I had only a little one_
* * * * *
This series of letters, written by Pomona of "Rudder Grange" to her
former mistress, Euphemia, may require a few words of introduction.
Those who have not read the adventures and experiences of Pomona in
"Rudder Grange" should be told that she first appeared in that story as
a very young and illiterate girl, fond of sensational romances, and
with some out-of-the-way ideas in regard to domestic economy and the
conventions of society. This romantic orphan took service in the
"Rudder Grange" family, and as the story progressed she grew up into a
very estimable young woman, and finally married Jonas, the son of a
well-to-do farmer. Even after she came into possession of a husband and
a daughter Pomona did not lose her affection for her former employers.
About a year before the beginning of the travels described in these
letters Jonas's father died and left a comfortable little property,
which placed Pomona and her husband in independent circumstances. The
ideas and ambitions of this eccentric but sensible young woman
enlarged with her fortune. As her daughter was now going to school,
Pomona was seized with the spirit of emulation, and determined as far
as was possible to make the child's education an advantage to herself.
Some of the books used by the little girl at school were carefully and
earnestly studied by her mother, and as Jonas joined with hearty
good-will in the labors and pleasures of this system of domestic study,
the family standard of education was considerably raised. In the
quick-witted and observant Pomona the improvement showed itself
principally in her methods of expression, and although she could not be
called at the time of these travels an educated woman, she was by no
means an ignorant one.
When the daughter was old enough she was allowed to accept an
invitation from her grandmother to spend the summer in the country, and
Pomona determined that it was the duty of herself and husband to avail
themselves of this opportunity for foreign travel.
Accordingly, one fine spring morning, Pomona, still a young woman, and
Jonas, not many years older, but imbued with a semi-pathetic
complaisance beyond his years, embarked for England and Scotland, to
which countries it was determined to limit their travels. The letters
which follow were written in consequence of the earnest desire of
Euphemia to have a full account of the travels and foreign impressions
of her former handmaiden. Pruned of dates, addresses, signatures, and
of many personal and friendly allusions, these letters are here
presented as Pomona wrote them to Euphemia.
_Letter Number One_
The first thing Jone said to me when I told him I was going to write
about what I saw and heard was that I must be careful of two things. In
the first place, I must not write a lot of stuff that everybody ought
to be expected to know, especially people who have travelled
themselves; and in the second place, I must not send you my green
opinions, but must wait until they were seasoned, so that I can see
what they are good for before I send them.
"But if I do that," said I, "I will get tired of them long before they
are seasoned, and they will be like a bundle of old sticks that I
wouldn't offer to anybody." Jone laughed at that, and said I might as
well send them along green, for, after all, I wasn't the kind of a
person to keep things until they were seasoned, to see if I liked them.
"That's true," said I, "there's a great many things, such as husbands
and apples, that I like a good deal better fresh than dry. Is that all
the advice you've got to give?"
"For the present," said he; "but I dare say I shall have a good deal
more as we go along."
"All right," said I, "but be careful you don't give me any of it green.
Advice is like gooseberries, that's got to be soft and ripe, or else
well cooked and sugared, before they're fit to take into anybody's
Jone was standing at the window of our sitting-room when I said this,
looking out into the street. As soon as we got to London we took
lodgings in a little street running out of the Strand, for we both want
to be in the middle of things as long as we are in this conglomerate
town, as Jone calls it. He says, and I think he is about right, that it
is made up of half a dozen large cities, ten or twelve towns, at least
fifty villages, more than a hundred little settlements, or hamlets, as
they call them here, and about a thousand country houses scattered
along around the edges; and over and above all these are the
inhabitants of a large province, which, there being no province to put
them into, are crammed into all the cracks and crevices so as to fill
up the town and pack it solid.
When we was in London before, with you and your husband, madam, and we
lost my baby in Kensington Gardens, we lived, you know, in a peaceful,
quiet street by a square or crescent, where about half the inhabitants
were pervaded with the solemnities of the past and the other half bowed
down by the dolefulness of the present, and no way of getting anywhere
except by descending into a movable tomb, which is what I always think
of when we go anywhere in the underground railway. But here we can walk
to lots of things we want to see, and if there was nothing else to keep
us lively the fear of being run over would do it, you may be sure.
But, after all, Jone and me didn't come here to London just to see the
town. We have ideas far ahead of that. When we was in London before I
saw pretty nearly all the sights, for when I've got work like that to
do I don't let the grass grow under my feet, and what we want to do on
this trip is to see the country part of England and Scotland. And in
order to see English country life just as it is, we both agreed that
the best thing to do was to take a little house in the country and live
there a while; and I'll say here that this is the only plan of the
whole journey that Jone gets real enthusiastic about, for he is a
domestic man, as you well know, and if anything swells his veins with
fervent rapture it is the idea of living in some one place continuous,
even if it is only for a month.
As we wanted a house in the country we came to London to get it, for
London is the place to get everything. Our landlady advised us, when we
told her what we wanted, to try and get a vicarage in some little
village, because, she said, there are always lots of vicars who want to
go away for a month in the summer, and they can't do it unless they
rent their houses while they are gone. And in fact, some of them, she
said, got so little salary for the whole year, and so much rent for
their vicarages while they are gone, that they often can't afford to
stay in places unless they go away.
So we answered some advertisements, and there was no lack of them in
the papers, and three agents came to see us, but we did not seem to
have any luck. Each of them had a house to let which ought to have
suited us, according to their descriptions, and although we found the
prices a good deal higher than we expected, Jone said he wasn't going
to be stopped by that, because it was only for a little while and for
the sake of experience--and experience, as all the poets, and a good
many of the prose writers besides, tell us, is always dear. But after
the agents went away, saying they would communicate with us in the
morning, we never heard anything more from them, and we had to begin
all over again. There was something the matter, Jone and I both agreed
on that, but we didn't know what it was. But I waked up in the night
and thought about this thing for a whole hour, and in the morning I had
"Jone," said I, when we was eating breakfast, "it's as plain as A B C
that those agents don't want us for tenants, and it isn't because they
think we are not to be trusted, for we'd have to pay in advance, and so
their money's safe; it is something else, and I think I know what it
is. These London men are very sharp, and used to sizing and sorting all
kinds of people as if they was potatoes being got ready for market, and
they have seen that we are not what they call over here gentlefolks."
"No lordly airs, eh?" said Jone.
"Oh, I don't mean that," I answered him back; "lordly airs don't go
into parsonages, and I don't mean either that they see from our looks
or manners that you used to drive horses and milk cows and work in the
garden, and that I used to cook and scrub and was maid-of-all-work on a
canal-boat; but they do see that we are not the kind of people who are
in the habit, in this country, at least, of spending their evenings in
the best parlors of vicarages."
"Do you suppose," said Jone, "that they think a vicar's kitchen would
suit us better?"
"No," said I, "they wouldn't put us in a vicarage at all; there
wouldn't be no place there that would not be either too high or too low
for us. It's my opinion that what they think we belong in is a lordly
house, where you'd shine most as head butler or a steward, while I'd be
the housekeeper or a leading lady's maid."
"By George!" said Jone, getting up from the table, "if any of those
fellows would favor me with an opinion like that I'd break his head."
"You'd have a lot of heads to break," said I, "if you went through this
country asking for opinions on the subject. It's all very well for us
to remember that we've got a house of our own as good as most rectors
have over here, and money enough to hire a minor canon, if we needed
one in the house; but the people over here don't know that, and it
wouldn't make much difference if they did, for it wouldn't matter how
nice we lived or what we had so long as they knew we was retired
At this Jone just blazed up and rammed his hands into his pockets and
spread his feet wide upon the floor. "Pomona," said he, "I don't mind
it in you, but if anybody else was to call me a retired servant I'd--"
"Hold up, Jone," said I, "don't waste good, wholesome anger." Now, I
tell you, madam, it really did me good to see Jone blaze up and get red
in the face, and I am sure that if he'd get his blood boiling oftener
it would be a good thing for his dyspeptic tendencies and what little
malaria may be left in his system. "It won't do any good to flare up
here," I went on to say to him; "fact's fact, and we was servants, and
good ones, too, though I say it myself, and the trouble is we haven't
got into the way of altogether forgetting it, or, at least, acting as
if we had forgotten it."
Jone sat down on a chair. "It might help matters a little," he said,
"if I knew what you was driving at."
"I mean just this," said I, "as long as we are as anxious not to give
trouble, or as careful of people's feelings, as good-mannered to
servants, and as polite and good-natured to everybody we have anything
to do with, as we both have been since we came here, and as it is our
nature to be, I am proud to say, we're bound to be set down, at least
by the general run of people over here, as belonging to the pick of the
nobility and gentry, or as well-bred servants. It's only those two
classes that act as we do, and anybody can see we are not special
nobles and gents. Now, if we want to be reckoned anywhere in between
these two we've got to change our manners."
"Will you kindly mention just how?" said Jone.
"Yes," said I, "I will. In the first place, we've got to act as if we
had always been waited on and had never been satisfied with the way it
was done; we've got to let people think that we think we are a good
deal better than they are, and what they think about it doesn't make
the least difference; and then again we've got to live in better
quarters than these, and whatever they may be we must make people
think that we don't think they are quite good enough for us. If we do
all that, agents may be willing to let us vicarages."
"It strikes me," said Jone, "that these quarters are good enough for
us. I'm comfortable." And then he went on to say, madam, that when you
and your husband was in London you was well satisfied with just such
"That's all very well," I said, "for they never moved in the lower
paths of society, and so they didn't have to make any change, but just
went along as they had been used to go. But if we want to make people
believe we belong to that class I should choose, if I had my pick out
of English social varieties, we've got to bounce about as much above it
as we were born below it, so that we can strike somewhere near the
"And what variety would you pick out, I'd like to know?" said Jone,
just a little red in the face, and looking as if I had told him he
didn't know timothy hay from oat straw.
"Well," said I, "it is not easy to put it to you exactly, but it's a
sort of a cross between a prosperous farmer without children and a poor
country gentleman with two sons at college and one in the British army,
and no money to pay their debts with."
"That last is not to my liking," said Jone.
"But the farmer part of the cross would make it all right," I said to
him, "and it strikes me that a mixture like that would just suit us
while we are staying over here. Now, if you will try to think of
yourself as part rich farmer and part poor gentleman, I'll consider
myself the wife of the combination, and I am sure we will get along
better. We didn't come over here to be looked upon as if we was the
bottom of a pie dish and charged as if we was the upper crust. I'm in
favor of paying a little more money and getting a lot more
respectfulness, and the way to begin is to give up these lodgings and
go to a hotel such as the upper middlers stop at. From what I've heard,
the Babylon Hotel is the one for us while we are in London. Nobody will
suspect that any of the people at that hotel are retired servants."
[Illustration: "Boy, go order me a four-in-hand"]
This hit Jone hard, as I knew it would, and he jumped up, made three
steps across the room, and rang the bell so that the people across the
street must have heard it, and up came the boy in green jacket and
buttons, with about every other button missing, and I never knew him to
come up so quick before.
"Boy," said Jone to him, as if he was hollering to a stubborn ox, "go
order me a four-in-hand."
But this letter is so long I must stop for the present.
_Letter Number Two_
When Jone gave the remarkable order mentioned in my last letter I did
not correct him, for I wouldn't do that before servants without giving
him a chance to do it himself; but before either of us could say
another word the boy was gone.
"Mercy on us," I said, "what a stupid blunder! You meant four-wheeler."
[Illustration: The Landlady with an "underdone visage"]
"Of course I did," he said; "I was a little mad and got things mixed,
but I expect the fellow understood what I meant."
"You ought to have called a hansom any way," I said, "for they are a
lot more stylish to go to a hotel in than in a four-wheeler."
"If there was six-wheelers I would have ordered one," said he. "I don't
want anybody to have more wheels than we have."
At this moment the landlady came into the room with a sarcastic glimmer
on her underdone visage, and, says she, "I suppose you don't
understand about the vehicles we have in London. The four-in-hand is
what the quality and coach people use when--" As I looked at Jone I saw
his legs tremble, and I know what that means. If I was a wanderin' dog
and saw Jone's legs tremble, the only thoughts that would fill my soul
would be such as cluster around "Home, Sweet Home." Jone was too much
riled by the woman's manner to be willing to let her think he had made
a mistake, and he stopped her short. "Look here," he said to her, "I
don't ask you to come here to tell me anything about vehicles. When I
order any sort of a trap I want it." When I heard Jone say trap my soul
lifted itself and I knew there was hope for us. The stiffness melted
right out of the landlady, and she began to look soft and gummy.
"If you want to take a drive in a four-in-hand coach, sir," she said,
"there's two or three of them starts every morning from Trafalgar
Square, and it's not too late now, sir, if you go over there
"Go?" said Jone, throwing himself into a chair, "I said, order one to
come. Where I live that sort of vehicle comes to the door for its
The woman looked at Jone with a venerative uplifting of her eyebrows.
"I can't say, sir, that a coach will come, but I'll send the boy. They
go to Dorking, and Seven Oaks, and Virginia Water--"
"I want to go to Virginia Water," said Jone, as quick as lightning.
"Now, then," said I, when the woman had gone, "what are you going to do
if the coach comes?"
"Go to Virginia Water in it," said Jone, "and when we come back we can
go to the hotel. I made a mistake, but I've got to stand by it or be
called a greenhorn."
I was in hopes the four-in-hand wouldn't come, but in less than ten
minutes there drove up to our door a four-horse coach which, not having
half enough passengers, was glad to come such a little ways to get some
more. There was a man in a high hat and red coat, who was blowing a
horn as the thing came around the corner, and just as I was looking
into the coach and thinking we'd have it all to ourselves, for there
was nobody in it, he put a ladder up against the top, and says he,
touching his hat, "There's a seat for you, madam, right next the
coachman, and one just behind for the gentleman. 'Tain't often that, on
a fine morning like this, such seats as them is left vacant on account
of a sudden case of croup in a baronet's family."
I looked at the ladder and I looked at that top front seat, and I tell
you, madam, I trembled in every pore, but I remembered then that all
the respectable seats was on top, and the farther front the nobbier,
and as there was a young woman sitting already on the box-seat, I made
up my mind that if she could sit there I could, and that I wasn't
going to let Jone or anybody else see that I was frightened by style
and fashion, though confronted by it so sudden and unexpected. So up
that ladder I went quick enough, having had practice in hay-mows, and
sat myself down between the young woman and the coachman, and when Jone
had tucked himself in behind me the horner blew his horn and away we
[Illustration: "I looked at the ladder and at the top front seat"]
I tell you, madam, that box-seat was a queer box for me. I felt as
though I was sitting on the eaves of a roof with a herd of horses
cavoorting under my feet. I never had a bird's-eye view of horses
before. Looking down on their squirming bodies, with the coachman
almost standing on his tiptoes driving them, was so different from
Jone's buggy and our tall gray horse, which in general we look up to,
that for a good while I paid no attention to anything but the danger of
falling out on top of them. But having made sure that Jone was holding
on to my dress from behind, I began to take an interest in the things
Knowing as much as I thought I did about the bigness of London, I found
that morning that I never had any idea of what an everlasting town it
is. It is like a skein of tangled yarn--there doesn't seem to be any
end to it. Going in this way from Nelson's Monument out into the
country, it was amazing to see how long it took to get there. We would
go out of the busy streets into a quiet rural neighborhood, or what
looked like it, and the next thing we knew we'd be in another whirl of
omnibuses and cabs, with people and shops everywhere; and we'd go on
and through this and then come to another handsome village with country
houses, and the street would end in another busy town; and so on until
I began to think there was no real country, at least, in the direction
we was going. It is my opinion that if London was put on a pivot and
spun round in the State of Texas until it all flew apart, it would
spread all over the State and settle up the whole country.
At last we did get away from the houses and began to roll along on the
best made road I ever saw, with a hedge on each side and the greenest
grass in the fields, and the most beautiful trees, with the very trunks
covered with green leaves, and with white sheep and handsome cattle and
pretty thatched cottages, and everything in perfect order, looking as
if it had just been sprinkled and swept. We had seen English country
before, but that was from the windows of a train, and it was very
different from this sort of thing, where we went meandering along
lanes, for that is what the roads look like, being so narrow.
Just as I was getting my whole soul full of this lovely ruralness, down
came a shower of rain without giving the least notice. I gave a jump in
my seat as I felt it on me, and began to get ready to get down as soon
as the coachman should stop for us all to get inside; but he didn't
stop, but just drove along as if the sun was shining and the balmy
breezes blowing, and then I looked around and not a soul of the eight
people on the top of that coach showed the least sign of expecting to
get down and go inside. They all sat there just as if nothing was
happening, and not one of them even mentioned the rain. But I noticed
that each of them had on a mackintosh or some kind of cape, whereas
Jone and I never thought of taking anything in the way of waterproof or
umbrellas, as it was perfectly clear when we started.
[Illustration: "DOWN CAME A SHOWER OF RAIN"]
I looked around at Jone, but he sat there with his face as placid as a
piece of cheese, looking as if he had no more knowledge it was raining
than the two Englishmen on the seat next him. Seeing he wasn't going to
let those men think he minded the rain any more than they did, I
determined that I wouldn't let the young woman who was sitting by me
have any notion that I minded it, and so I sat still, with as cheerful
a look as I could screw up, gazing at the trees with as gladsome a
countenance as anybody could have with water trickling down her nose,
her cheeks dripping, and dewdrops on her very eyelashes, while the
dampness of her back was getting more and more perceptible as each
second dragged itself along. Jone turned up the hood of my coat, and so
let down into the back of my neck what water had collected in it; but I
didn't say anything, but set my teeth hard together and fixed my mind
on Columbia, happy land, and determined never to say anything about
rain until some English person first mentioned it.
But when one of the flowers on my hat leaned over the brim and exuded
bloody drops on the front of my coat I began to weaken, and to think
that if there was nothing better to do I might get under one of the
seats; but just then the rain stopped and the sun shone. It was so
sudden that it startled me; but not one of those English people
mentioned that the rain had stopped and the sun was shining, and so
neither did Jone or I. We was feeling mighty moist and unhappy, but we
tried to smile as if we was plants in a greenhouse, accustomed to being
watered and feeling all the better for it.
I can't write you all about the coach drive, which was very delightful,
nor of that beautiful lake they call Virginia Water, and which I know
you have a picture of in your house. They tell me it is artificial, but
as it was made more than a hundred years ago, it might now be
considered natural. We dined at an inn, and when we got back to town,
with two more showers on the way, I said to Jone that I thought we'd
better go straight to the Babylon Hotel, which we intended to start out
for, although it was a long way round to go by Virginia Water, and see
about engaging a room; and as Jone agreed I asked the coachman if he
would put us down there, knowing that he'd pass near it. He agreed to
this, would be an advertisement for his coach.
When we got on the street where the Babylon Hotel was he whipped up his
horses so that they went almost on a run, and the horner blew his horn
until his eyes seemed bursting, and with a grand sweep and a clank and
a jingle we pulled up at the front of the big hotel. Out marched the
head porter in a blue uniform, and out ran two under-porters with red
coats, and down jumped the horner and put up his ladder, and Jone and I
got down, after giving the coachman half-a-crown, and receiving from
the passengers a combined gaze of differentialism which had been wholly
wanting before. The men in the red coats looked disappointed when they
saw we had no baggage, but the great doors was flung open and we went
straight up to the clerk's desk.
When we was taken to look at rooms I remembered that there was always
danger of Jone's tendency to thankful contentment getting the better of
him, and I took the matter in hand myself. Two rooms good enough for
anybody was shown us, but I was not going to take the first thing that
was offered, no matter what it was. We settled the matter by getting a
first-class room, with sofas and writing-desks and everything
convenient, for only a little more than we was charged for the other
rooms, and the next morning we went there.
When we went back to our lodgings to pack up, and I looked in the glass
and saw what a smeary, bedraggled state my hat and head was in, from
being rained on, I said to Jone, "I don't see how those people ever
let such a person as me have a room at their hotel."
"It doesn't surprise me a bit," said Jone; "nobody but a very high and
mighty person would have dared to go lording it about that hotel with
her hat feathers and flowers all plastered down over her head. Most
people can be uppish in good clothes, but to look like a scare-crow and
be uppish can't be expected except from the truly lofty."
"I hope you are right," I said, and I think he was.
We hadn't been at the Babylon Hotel, where we are now, for more than
two days when I said to Jone that this sort of thing wasn't going to
do. He looked at me amazed. "What on earth is the matter now?" he said.
"Here is a room fit for a royal duke, in a house with marble corridors
and palace stairs, and gorgeous smoking-rooms, and a post-office, and a
dining-room pretty nigh big enough for a hall of Congress, with waiters
enough to make two military companies, and the bills of fare all in
French. If there is anything more you want, Pomona--"
"Stop there" said I; "the last thing you mention is the rub. It's the
dining-room; it's in that resplendent hall that we've got to give
ourselves a social boom or be content to fold our hands and fade away
"Which I don't want to do yet," said Jone, "so speak out your trouble."
[Illustration: "Ask the waiter what the French words mean"]
"The trouble this time is you," said I, "and your awful meekness. I
never did see anybody anywhere as meek as you are in that dining-room.
A half-drowned fly put into the sun to dry would be overbearing and
supercilious compared to you. When you sit down at one of those tables
you look as if you was afraid of hurting the chair, and when the waiter
gives you the bill of fare you ask him what the French words mean, and
then he looks down on you as if he was a superior Jove contemplating a
hop-toad, and he tells you that this one means beef and the other
means potatoes, and brings you the things that are easiest to get. And
you look as if you was thankful from the bottom of your heart that he
is good enough to give you anything at all. All the airs I put on are
no good while you are so extra humble. I tell him I don't want this
French thing--when I don't know what it is--and he must bring me some
of the other--which I never heard of--and when it comes I eat it, no
matter what it turns out to be, and try to look as if I was used to it,
but generally had it better cooked. But, as I said before, it is of no
use--your humbleness is too much for me. In a few days they will be
bringing us cold victuals, and recommending that we go outside
somewhere and eat them, as all the seats in the dining-room are wanted
for other people."
"Well," said Jone, "I must say I do feel a little overshadowed when I
go into that dining-room and see those proud and haughty waiters, some
of them with silver chains and keys around their necks, showing that
they are lords of the wine-cellar, and all of them with an air of lofty
scorn for the poor beings who have to sit still and be waited on; but
I'll try what I can do. As far as I am able, I'll hold up my end of the
You may think I break off my letters sudden, madam, like the
instalments in a sensation weekly, which stops short in the most
harrowing parts, so as to make certain the reader will buy the next
number; but when I've written as much as I think two foreign stamps
will carry--for more than fivepence seems extravagant for a letter--I
_Letter Number Three_
At dinner-time the day when I had the conversation with Jone mentioned
in my last letter, we was sitting in the dining-room at a little table
in a far corner, where we'd never been before. Not being considered of
any importance they put us sometimes in one place and sometimes in
another, instead of giving us regular seats, as I noticed most of the
other people had, and I was looking around to see if anybody was ever
coming to wait on us, when suddenly I heard an awful noise.
I have read about the rumblings of earthquakes, and although I never
heard any of them, I have felt a shock, and I can imagine the awfulness
of the rumbling, and I had a feeling as if the building was about to
sway and swing as they do in earthquakes. It wasn't all my imagining,
for I saw the people at the other tables near us jump, and two waiters
who was hurrying past stopped short as if they had been jerked up by a
curb bit. I turned to look at Jone, but he was sitting up straight in
his chair, as solemn and as steadfast as a gate-post, and I thought to
myself that if he hadn't heard anything he must have been struck deaf,
and I was just on the point of jumping up and shouting to him, "Fly,
before the walls and roof come down upon us!" when that awful noise
occurred again. My blood stood frigid in my veins, and as I started
back I saw before me a waiter, his face ashy pale, and his knees
bending beneath him. Some people near us were half getting up from
their chairs, and I pushed back and looked at Jone again, who had not
moved except that his mouth was open. Then I knew what it was that I
thought was an earthquake--it was Jone giving an order to the waiter.
[Illustration: Jone giving an order]
I bit my lips and sat silent; the people around kept on looking at us,
and the poor man who was receiving the shock stood trembling like a
leaf. When the volcanic disturbance, so to speak, was over, the waiter
bowed himself, as if he had been a heathen in a temple, and gasping,
"Yes, sir, immediate," glided unevenly away. He hadn't waited on us
before, and little thought, when he was going to stride proudly pass
our table, what a double-loaded Vesuvius was sitting in Jone's chair. I
leaned over the table and said to Jone that if he would stick to that
we could rent a bishopric if we wanted to, and I was so proud I could
have patted him on the back. Well, after that we had no more trouble
about being waited on, for that waiter of ours went about as if he had
his neck bared for the fatal stroke and Jone was holding the cimeter.
The head waiter came to us before we was done dinner and asked if we
had everything we wanted and if that table suited us, because if it did
we could always have it. To which Jone distantly thundered that if he
would see that it always had a clean tablecloth it would do well
[Illustration: The Carver]
Even the man who stood at the big table in the middle of the room and
carved the cold meats, with his hair parted in the middle, and who
looked as if he were saying to himself, as with a bland dexterity and
tastefulness he laid each slice upon its plate, "Now, then, the
socialistic movement in Paris is arrested for the time being, and here
again I put an end to the hopes of Russia getting to the sea through
Afghanistan, and now I carefully spread contentment over the minds of
all them riotous Welsh miners," even he turned around and bowed to us
as we passed him, and once sent a waiter to ask if we'd like a little
bit of potted beef, which was particularly good that day.
Jone kept up his rumblings, though they sounded more distant and more
deep under ground, and one day at luncheon an elderly woman, who was
sitting alone at a table near us, turned to me and spoke. She was a
very plain person, with her face all seamed and rough with exposure to
the weather, like as if she had been captain to a pilot boat, and with
a general appearance of being a cook with good recommendations, but at
present out of a place. I might have wondered at such a person being at
such a hotel, but remembering what I had been myself I couldn't say
what mightn't happen to other people.
"I'm glad to see," said she, "that you sent away that mutton, for if
more persons would object to things that are not properly cooked we'd
all be better served. I suppose that in your country most people are so
rich that they can afford to have the best of everything and have it
always. I fancy the great wealth of American citizens must make their
housekeeping very different from ours."
Now I must say I began to bristle at being spoken to like that. I'm as
proud of being an American as anybody can be, but I don't like the home
of the free thrown into my teeth every time I open my mouth. There's no
knowing what money Jone and I have lost through giving orders to London
cabmen in what is called our American accent. The minute we tell the
driver of a hansom where we want to go, that place doubles its distance
from the spot we start from. Now I think the great reason Jone's
rumbling worked so well was that it had in it a sort of Great British
chest-sound, as if his lungs was rusty. The waiter had heard that
before and knew what it meant. If he had spoken out in the clear
American fashion I expect his voice would have gone clear through the
waiter without his knowing it, like the person in the story, whose neck
was sliced through and who didn't know it until he sneezed and his head
"Yes, ma'am," said I, answering her with as much of a wearied feeling
as I could put on, "our wealth is all very well in some ways, but it is
dreadful wearing on us. However, we try to bear up under it and be
"Well," said she, "contentment is a great blessing in every station,
though I have never tried it in yours. Do you expect to make a long
stay in London?"
As she seemed like a civil and well-meaning woman, and was the first
person who had spoken to us in a social way, I didn't mind talking to
her, and I told her we was only stopping in London until we could find
the kind of country house we wanted, and when she asked what kind that
was, I described what we wanted and how we was still answering
advertisements and going to see agents, who was always recommending
exactly the kind of house we did not care for.
"Vicarages are all very well," said she, "but it sometimes happens, and
has happened to friends of mine, that when a vicar has let his house he
makes up his mind not to waste his money in travelling, and he takes
lodgings near by and keeps an eternal eye upon his tenants. I don't
believe any independent American would fancy that."
"No, indeed," said I; and then she went on to say that if we wanted a
small country house for a month or two she knew of one which she
believed would suit us, and it wasn't a vicarage either. When I asked
her to tell me about it she brought her chair up to our table, together
with her mug of beer, her bread and cheese, and she went into
particulars about the house she knew of.
"It is situated," said she, "in the west of England, in the most
beautiful part of our country. It is near one of the quaintest little
villages that the past ages have left us, and not far away are the
beautiful waters of the Bristol Channel, with the mountains of Wales
rising against the sky on the horizon, and all about are hills and
valleys, and woods and beautiful moors and babbling streams, with all
the loveliness of cultivated rurality merging into the wild beauties of
unadorned nature." If these was not exactly her words, they express the
ideas she roused in my mind. She said the place was far enough away
from railways and the stream of travel, and among the simple peasantry,
and that in the society of the resident gentry we would see English
country life as it is, uncontaminated by the tourist or the commercial
I can't remember all the things she said about this charming cottage in
this most supremely beautiful spot, but I sat and listened, and the
description held me spell-bound, as a snake fascinates a frog; with
this difference, instead of being swallowed by the description, I
When the old woman had given us the address of the person who had the
letting of the cottage, and Jone and me had gone to our room, I said to
him, before we had time to sit down:
"What do you think?"
"I think," said he, "that we ought to follow that old woman's advice
and go and look at this house."
"Go and look at it?" I exclaimed. "Not a bit of it. If we do that, we
are bound to see something or hear something that will make us hesitate
and consider, and if we do that, away goes our enthusiasm and our
rapture. I say, telegraph this minute and say we'll take the house, and
send a letter by the next mail with a postal order in it, to secure the
Jone looked at me hard, and said he'd feel easier in his mind if he
understood what I was talking about.
"Never mind understanding," I said. "Go down and telegraph we'll take
the house. There isn't a minute to lose!"
"But," said Jone, "if we find out when we get there--"
"Never mind that," said I. "If we find out when we get there it isn't
all we thought it was, and we're bound to do that, we'll make the best
of what doesn't suit us because it can't be helped; but if we go and
look at it it's ten to one we won't take it."
"How long are we to take it for?" said Jone.
"A month anyway, and perhaps longer," I told him, giving him a push
toward the door.
"All right," said he, and he went and telegraphed. I believe if Jone
was told he could go anywhere and stay for a month he'd choose that
place from among all the most enchanting spots on the earth where he
couldn't stay so long. As for me, the one thing that held me was the
romanticness of the place. From what the old woman said I knew there
couldn't be any mistake about that, and if I could find myself the
mistress of a romantic cottage near an ancient village of the olden
time I would put up with most everything except dirt, and as dirt and
me seldom keeps company very long, even that can't frighten me.
When I saw the old woman at luncheon the next day and told her what we
had done she was fairly dumfounded.
"Really! really!" she said, "you Americans are the speediest people I
ever did see. Why, an English person would have taken a week to
consider that place before taking it."
"And lost it, ten to one," said I.
She shook her head.
"Well," said she, "I suppose it's on account of your habits, and you
can't help it, but it's a poor way of doing business."
[Illustration: "You Americans are the speediest people"]
Now I began to think from this that her conscience was beginning to
trouble her for having given so fairy-like a picture of the house, and
as I was afraid that she might think it her duty to bring up some
disadvantages, I changed the conversation and got away as soon as I
could. When we once get seated at our humble board in our rural cot I
won't be afraid of any bugaboos, but I didn't want them brought up
then. I can generally depend upon Jone, but sometimes he gets a little
We didn't see this old person any more, and when I asked the waiter
about her the next day he said he was sure she had left the hotel, by
which I suppose he must have meant he'd got his half-crown. Her fading
away in this fashion made it all seem like a myth or a phantasm, but
when, the next morning, we got a receipt for the money Jone sent, and a
note saying the house was ready for our reception, I felt myself on
solid ground again, and to-morrow we start, bag and baggage, for
Chedcombe, which is the name of the village where the house is that we
have taken. I'll write to you, madam, as soon as we get there, and I
hope with all my heart and soul that when we see what's wrong with
it--and there's bound to be something--that it may not be anything bad
enough to make us give it up and go floating off in voidness, like a
spider-web blown before a summer breeze, without knowing what it's
going to run against and stick to, and, what is more, probably lose the
money we paid in advance.
_Letter Number Four_
Last winter Jone and I read all the books we could get about the rural
parts of England, and we knew that the country must be very beautiful,
but we had no proper idea of it until we came to Chedcombe. I am not
going to write much about the scenery in this part of the country,
because, perhaps, you have been here and seen it, and anyway my writing
would not be half so good as what you could read in books, which don't
amount to anything.
All I'll say is that if you was to go over the whole of England, and
collect a lot of smooth green hills, with sheep and deer wandering
about on them; brooks, with great trees hanging over them, and vines
and flowers fairly crowding themselves into the water; lanes and roads
hedged in with hawthorn, wild roses, and tall purple foxgloves; little
woods and copses; hills covered with heather; thatched cottages like
the pictures in drawing-books, with roses against their walls, and thin
blue smoke curling up from the chimneys; distant views of the sparkling
sea; villages which are nearly covered up by greenness, except their
steeples; rocky cliffs all green with vines, and flowers spreading and
thriving with the fervor and earnestness you might expect to find in
the tropics, but not here--and then, if you was to put all these points
of scenery into one place not too big for your eye to sweep over and
take it all in, you would have a country like that around Chedcombe.
I am sure the old lady was right when she said it was the most
beautiful part of England. The first day we was here we carried an
umbrella as we walked through all this verdant loveliness, but
yesterday morning we went to the village and bought a couple of thin
mackintoshes, which will save us a lot of trouble opening and shutting
When we got out at the Chedcombe station we found a man there with a
little carriage he called a fly, who said he had been sent to take us
to our house. There was also a van to carry our baggage. We drove
entirely through the village, which looked to me as if a bit of the
Middle Ages had been turned up by the plough, and on the other edge of
it there was our house, and on the doorstep stood a lady, with a
smiling eye and an umbrella, and who turned out to be our landlady.
Back of her was two other females, one of them looking like a
minister's wife, while the other one I knew to be a servant-maid, by
[Illustration: "THAT WAS OUR HOUSE"]
The lady, whose name was Mrs. Shutterfield, shook hands with us and
seemed very glad to see us, and the minister's wife took our hand
bags from us and told the men where to carry our trunks. Mrs.
Shutterfield took us into a little parlor on one side of the hall, and
then we three sat down, and I must say I was so busy looking at the
queer, delightful room, with everything in it--chairs, tables, carpets,
walls, pictures, and flower-vases--all belonging to a bygone epoch,
though perfectly fresh, as if just made, that I could scarcely pay
attention to what the lady said. But I listened enough to know that
Mrs. Shutterfield told us that she had taken the liberty of engaging
for us two most excellent servants, who had lived in the house before
it had been let to lodgers, and who, she was quite sure, would suit us
very well, though, of course, we were at liberty to do what we pleased
about engaging them. The one that I took for the minister's wife was a
combination of cook and housekeeper, by the name of Miss Pondar, and
the other was a maid in general, named Hannah. When the lady mentioned
two servants it took me a little aback, for we had not expected to have
more than one, but when she mentioned the wages, and I found that both
put together did not cost as much as a very poor cook would expect in
America, and when I remembered we as now at work socially booming
ourselves, and that it wouldn't do to let this lady think that we had
not been accustomed to varieties of servants, I spoke up and said we
would engage the two estimable women she recommended, and was much
obliged to her for getting them.
Then we went over that house, down stairs and up, and of all the
lavender-smelling old-fashionedness anybody ever dreamed of, this
little house has as much as it can hold. It is fitted up all through
like one of your mother's bonnets, which she bought before she was
married and never wore on account of a funeral in the family, but kept
shut up in a box, which she only opens now and then to show to her
descendants. In every room and on the stairs there was a general air of
antiquated freshness, mingled with the odors of English breakfast tea
and recollections of the story of Cranford, which, if Jone and me had
been alone, would have made me dance from the garret of that house to
the cellar. Every sentiment of romance that I had in my soul bubbled to
the surface, and I felt as if I was one of my ancestors before she
emigrated to the colonies. I could not say what I thought, but I
pinched Jone's arm whenever I could get a chance, which relieved me a
little; and when Miss Pondar had come to me with a little courtesy, and
asked me what time I would like to have dinner, and told me what she
had taken the liberty of ordering, so as to have everything ready by
the time I came, and Mrs. Shutterfield had gone, after begging to know
what more she could do for us, and we had gone to our own room, I let
out my feelings in one wild scream of delirious gladness that would
have been heard all the way to the railroad station if I had not
covered my head with two pillows and the corner of a blanket.
After we had dinner, which was as English as the British lion, and much
more to our taste than anything we had had in London, Jone went out to
smoke a pipe, and I had a talk with Miss Pondar about fish, meat, and
groceries, and about housekeeping matters in general. Miss Pondar,
whose general aspect of minister's wife began to wear off when I talked
to her, mingles respectfulness and respectability in a manner I haven't
been in the habit of seeing. Generally those two things run against
each other, but they don't in her.
When she asked what kind of wine we preferred I must say I was struck
all in a heap, for wines to Jone and me is like a trackless wilderness
without compass or binnacle light, and we seldom drink them except made
hot, with nutmeg grated in, for colic; but as I wanted her to
understand that if there was any luxuries we didn't order it was
because we didn't approve of them, I told her that we was total
abstainers, and at that she smiled very pleasant and said that was her
persuasion also, and that she was glad not to be obliged to handle
intoxicating drinks, though, of course, she always did it without
objection when the family used them. When I told Jone this he looked a
little blank, for foreign water generally doesn't agree with him. I
mentioned this afterwards to Miss Pondar, and she said it was very
common in total abstaining families, when water didn't agree with any
one of them, especially if it happened to be the gentleman, to take a
little good Scotch whiskey with it; but when I told this to Jone he
said he would try to bear up under the shackles of abstinence.
This morning, when I was talking with Miss Pondar about fish, and
trying to show her that I knew something about the names of English
fishes, I said that we was very fond of whitebait. At this she looked
astonished for the first time.
"Whitebait?" said she. "We always looked upon that as belonging
entirely to the nobility and gentry." At this my back began to bristle,
but I didn't let her know it, and I said, in a tone of emphatic
mildness, that we would have whitebait twice a week, on Tuesday and
Friday. At this Miss Pondar gave a little courtesy and thanked me very
much, and said she would attend to it.
When Jone and me came back after taking a long walk that morning I saw
a pair of Church of England prayer-books, looking as if they had just
been neatly dusted, lying on the parlor table, where they hadn't been
before, for I had carefully looked over every book. I think that when
it was borne in upon Miss Pondar's soul that we was accustomed to
having whitebait as a regular thing she made up her mind we was all
right, and that nothing but the Established Church would do for us.
Before, she might have thought we was Wesleyans.
Our maid Hannah is very nice to look at, and does her work as well as
anybody could do it, and, like most other English servants, she's in a
state of never-ending thankfulness, but as I can never understand a
word she says except "Thank you very much," I asked Jone if he didn't
think it would be a good thing for me to try to teach her a little
"Now then," said he, "that's the opening of a big subject. Wait until I
fill my pipe and we'll discourse upon it." It was just after luncheon,
and we was sitting in the summer-house at the end of the garden,
looking out over the roses and pinks and all sorts of old-timey flowers
growing as thick as clover heads, with an air as if it wasn't the least
trouble in the world to them to flourish and blossom. Beyond the
flowers was a little brook with the ducks swimming in it, and beyond
that was a field, and on the other side of that field was a park
belonging to the lord of the manor, and scattered about the side of a
green hill in the park was a herd of his lordship's deer. Most of them
was so light-colored that I fancied I could almost see through them, as
if they was the little transparent bugs that crawl about on leaves.
That isn't a romantic idea to have about deers, but I can't get rid of
the notion whenever I see those little creatures walking about on the
At that time it was hardly raining at all, just a little mist, with the
sun coming into the summer-house every now and then, making us feel
very comfortable and contented.
"Now," said Jone, when he had got his pipe well started, "what I want
to talk about is the amount of reformation we expect to do while we're
sojourning in the kingdom of Great Britain."
"Reformation!" said I; "we didn't come here to reform anything."
"Well," said Jone, "if we're going to busy our minds with these
people's shortcomings and long-goings, and don't try to reform them,
we're just worrying ourselves and doing them no good, and I don't think
it will pay. Now, for instance, there's that rosy-cheeked Hannah. She's
satisfied with her way of speaking English, and Miss Pondar understands
it and is satisfied with it, and all the people around here are
satisfied with it. As for us, we know, when she comes and stands in the
doorway and dimples up her cheeks, and then makes those sounds that are
more like drops of molasses falling on a gong than anything else I know
of, we know that she is telling us in her own way that the next meal,
whatever it is, is ready, and we go to it."
"Yes," said I, "and as I do most of my talking with Miss Pondar, and as
we shall be here for such a short time anyway, it may be as well--"
"What I say about Hannah," said Jone, interrupting me as soon as I
began to speak about a short stay, "I have to say about everything else
in England that doesn't suit us. As long as Hannah doesn't try to make
us speak in her fashion I say let her alone. Of course, we shall find a
lot of things over here that we shall not approve of--we knew that
before we came--and when we find we can't stand their ways and manners
any longer we can pack up and go home, but so far as I'm concerned I'm
getting along very comfortable so far."
"Oh, so am I," I said to him, "and as to interfering with other
people's fashions, I don't want to do it. If I was to meet the most
paganish of heathens entering his temple with suitable humbleness I
wouldn't hurt his feelings on the subject of his religion, unless I was
a missionary and went about it systematic; but if that heathen turned
on me and jeered at me for attending our church at home, and told me I
ought to go down on my marrow-bones before his brazen idols, I'd whang
him over the head with a frying-pan or anything else that came handy.
That's the sort of thing I can't stand. As long as the people here
don't snort and sniff at my ways I won't snort and sniff at theirs."
"Well," said Jone, "that is a good rule, but I don't know that it's
going to work altogether. You see, there are a good many people in this
country and only two of us, and it will be a lot harder for them to
keep from sniffing and snorting than for us to do it. So it's my
opinion that if we expect to get along in a good-humored and friendly
way, which is the only decent way of living, we've got to hold up our
end of the business a little higher than we expect other people to hold
I couldn't agree altogether with Jone about our trying to do better
than other people, but I said that as the British had been kind enough
to make their country free to us, we wouldn't look a gift horse in the
mouth unless it kicked. To which Jone said I sometimes got my figures
of speech hind part foremost, but he knew what I meant.
We've lived in our cottage two weeks, and every morning when I get up
and open our windows, which has little panes set in strips of lead, and
hinges on one side so that it works like a door, and look out over the
brook and the meadows and the thatched roofs, and see the peasant men
with their short jackets and woollen caps, and the lower part of their
trousers tied round with twine, if they don't happen to have leather
leggings, trudging to their work, my soul is filled with welling
emotions as I think that if Queen Elizabeth ever travelled along this
way she must have seen these great old trees and, perhaps, some of
these very houses; and as to the people, they must have been pretty
much the same, though differing a little in clothes, I dare say; but,
judging from Hannah, perhaps not very much in the kind of English they
I declare that when Jone and me walk about through the village, and
over the fields, for there is a right of way--meaning a little
path--through most all of them, and when we go into the old church,
with its yew-trees, and its gravestones, and its marble effigies of two
of the old manor lords, both stretched flat on their backs, as large as
life, the gentleman with the end of his nose knocked off and with his
feet crossed to show he was a crusader, and the lady with her hands
clasped in front of her, as if she expected the generations who came to
gaze on her tomb to guess what she had inside of them, I feel like a
character in a novel.
I have kept a great many of my joyful sentiments to myself, because
Jone is too well contented as it is, and there is a great deal yet to
be seen in England. Sometimes we hire a dogcart and a black horse named
Punch, from the inn in the village, and we take long drives over roads
that are almost as smooth as bowling alleys. The country is very hilly,
and every time we get to the top of a hill we can see, spread about us
for miles and miles, the beautiful hills and vales, and lordly
residences and cottages, and steeple tops, looking as though they had
been stuck down here and there, to show where villages had been
_Letter Number Five_
This morning, when Jone was out taking a walk and I was talking to Miss
Pondar, and getting her to teach me how to make Devonshire clotted
cream, which we have for every meal, putting it on everything it will
go on, into everything it will go into, and eating it by itself when
there is nothing it will go on or into; and trying to find out why it
is that whitings are always brought on the table with their tails stuck
through their throats, as if they had committed suicide by cutting
their jugular veins in this fashion, I saw, coming along the road to
our cottage, a pretty little dogcart with two ladies in it. The horse
they drove was a pony, and the prettiest creature I ever saw, being
formed like a full-sized horse, only very small, and with as much fire
and spirit and gracefulness as could be got into an animal sixteen
hands high. I heard afterward that he came from Exmoor, which is about
twelve miles from here, and produces ponies and deers of similar size
and swiftness. They stopped at the door, and one of them got out and
came in. Miss Pondar told me she wished to see me, and that she was
Mrs. Locky, of the "Bordley Arms" in the village.
"The innkeeper's wife?" said I; to which Miss Pondar said it was, and I
went into the parlor. Mrs. Locky was a handsome-looking lady, and
wearing as stylish clothes as if she was a duchess, and extremely
polite and respectful.
She said she would have asked Mrs. Shutterfield to come with her and
introduce her, but that lady was away from home, and so she had come by
herself to ask me a very great favor.
When I begged her to sit down and name it she went on to say there had
come that morning to the inn a very large party in a coach-and-four,
that was making a trip through the country, and as they didn't travel
on Sunday they wanted to stay at the "Bordley Arms" until Monday
"Now," said she, "that puts me to a dreadful lot of trouble, because I
haven't room to accommodate them all, and even if I could get rooms for
them somewhere else they don't want to be separated. But there is one
of the best rooms at the inn which is occupied by an elderly gentleman,
and if I could get that room I could put two double beds in it and so
accommodate the whole party. Now, knowing that you had a pleasant
chamber here that you don't use, I thought I would make bold to come
and ask you if you would lodge Mr. Poplington until Monday?"
"What sort of a person is this Mr. Poplington, and is he willing to
"Oh, I haven't asked him yet," said she, "but he is so extremely
good-natured that I know he will be glad to come here. He has often
asked me who lived in this extremely picturesque cottage."
"You must have an answer now?" said I.
"Oh, yes," said she, "for if you cannot do me this favor I must go
somewhere else, and where to go I don't know."
Now I had begun to think that the one thing we wanted in this little
home of ours was company, and that it was a great pity to have that
nice bedroom on the second floor entirely wasted, with nobody ever in
it. So, as far as I was concerned, I would be very glad to have some
pleasant person in the house, at least for a day or two, and I didn't
believe Jone would object. At any rate it would put a stop, at least
for a little while, to his eternally saying how Corinne, our daughter,
would enjoy that room, and how nice it would be if we was to take this
house for the rest of the season and send for her. Now, Corinne's as
happy as she can be at her grand-mother's farm, and her school will
begin before we're ready to come home, and, what is more, we didn't
come here to spend all our time in one place.
[Illustration: "The young lady who keeps the bar"]
While I was thinking of these things I was looking out of the window at
the lady in the dogcart who was holding the reins. She was as pretty as
a picture, and wore a great straw hat with lovely flowers in it. As I
had to give an answer without waiting for Jone to come home, and I
didn't expect him until luncheon time, I concluded to be neighborly,
and said we would take the gentleman to oblige her. Even if the
arrangement didn't suit him or us, it wouldn't matter much for that
little time. At which Mrs. Locky was very grateful indeed, and said she
would have Mr. Poplington's luggage sent around that afternoon, and
that he would come later.
As she got up to go I said to her, "Is that young lady out there one of
the party who came with the coach and four?"
"Oh, no," said Mrs. Locky, "she lives with me. She is the young lady
who keeps the bar."
I expect I opened my mouth and eyes pretty wide, for I was never so
astonished. A young lady like that keeping the bar! But I didn't want
Mrs. Locky to know how much I was surprised, and so I said nothing
When they had gone and I had stood looking after them for about a
minute, I remembered I hadn't asked whether Mr. Poplington would want
to take his meals here, or whether he would go to the inn for them. To
be sure, she only asked me to lodge him, but as the inn is more than
half a mile from here, he may want to be boarded. But this will have to
be found out when he comes, and when Jone comes home it will have to be
found out what he thinks about my taking a lodger while he's out taking
_Letter Number Six_
When Jone came home and I told him a gentleman was coming to live with
us, he thought at first I was joking; and when he found out that I
meant what I said he looked very blue, and stood with his hands in his
pockets and his eyes on the ground, considering.
"He's not going to take his meals here, is he?"
"I don't think he expects that," I said, "for Mrs. Locky only spoke of
"Oh, well," said Jone, looking as if his clouds was clearing off a
little, "I don't suppose it will matter to us if that room is occupied
over Sunday, but I think the next time I go out for a stroll I'll take
you with me."
I didn't go out that afternoon, and sat on pins and needles until
half-past five o'clock. Jone wanted me to walk with him, but I wouldn't
do it, because I didn't want our lodger to come here and be received by
Miss Pondar. At half-past five there came a cart with the gentleman's
luggage, as they call it here, and I was glad Jone wasn't at home.
There was an enormous leather portmanteau which looked as if it had
been dragged by a boy too short to lift it from the ground, half over
the world; a hat-box, also of leather, but not so draggy looking; a
bundle of canes and umbrellas, a leather dressing-case, and a flat,
round bathing-tub. I had the things taken up to the room as quickly as
I could, for if Jone had seen them he'd think the gentleman was going
to bring his family with him.
It was nine o'clock and still broad daylight when Mr. Poplington
himself came, carrying a fishing-rod put up in parts in a canvas bag, a
fish-basket, and a small valise. He wore leather leggings and was about
sixty years old, but a wonderful good walker. I thought, when I saw him
coming, that he had no rheumatism whatever, but I found out afterward
that he had a little in one of his arms. He had white hair and white
side-whiskers and a fine red face, which made me think of a strawberry
partly covered with Devonshire clotted cream. Jone and I was sitting in
the summer-house, he smoking his pipe, and we both went to meet the
gentleman. He had a bluff way of speaking, and said he was much obliged
to us for taking him in; and after saying that it was a warm evening, a
thing which I hadn't noticed, he asked to be shown to his room. I sent
Hannah with him, and then Jone and I went back to the summer-house.
I didn't know exactly why, but I wasn't in as good spirits as I had
been, and when Jone spoke he didn't make me feel any better.
[Illustration: "I see signs of weakening in the social boom"]
"It seems to me," said he, "that I see signs of weakening in the social
boom. That man considers us exactly as we considered our lodging-house
keeper in London. Now, it doesn't strike me that that sample person you
was talking about, who is a cross between a rich farmer and a poor
gentleman, would go into the lodging-house business." I couldn't help
agreeing with Jone, and I didn't like it a bit. The gentleman hadn't
said anything or done anything that was out of the way, but there was a
benignant loftiness about him which grated on the inmost fibres of my
"I'll tell you what we'll do," said I, turning sharp on Jone, "we won't
charge him a cent. That'll take him down, and show him what we are.
We'll give him the room as a favor to Mrs. Locky, considering her in
the light of a neighbor and one who sent us a cucumber."
"All right," said Jone, "I like that way of arranging the business. Up
goes the social boom again!"
Just as we was going up to bed Miss Pondar came to me and said that the
gentleman had called down to her and asked if he could have a new-laid
egg for his breakfast, and she asked if she should send Hannah early in
the morning to see if she could get a perfectly fresh egg from one of
the cottages. "I thought, ma'am, that perhaps you might object to
buying things on Sunday."
"I do," I said. "Does that Mr. Poplington expect to have his breakfast
here? I only took him to lodge."
"Oh, ma'am," said Miss Pondar, "they always takes their breakfasts
where they has their rooms. Dinner and luncheon is different, and he
may expect to go to the inn for them."
"Indeed!" said I. "I think he may, and if he breakfasts here he can
take what we've got. If the eggs are not fresh enough for him he can
try to get along with some bacon. He can't expect that to be fresh."
Knowing that English people take their breakfast late, Jone and I got
up early, so as to get through before our lodger came down. But, bless
me, when we went to the front door to see what sort of a day it was we
saw him coming in from a walk. "Fine morning," said he, and in fact
there was only a little drizzle of rain, which might stop when the sun
got higher; and he stood near us and began to talk about the trout in
the stream, which, to my utter amazement, he called a river.
"Do you take your license by the day or week?" he said to Jone.
"License!" said Jone, "I don't fish."
"Really!" exclaimed Mr. Poplington. "Oh, I see, you are a cycler."
"No," said Jone, "I'm not that, either, I'm a pervader."
"Really!" said the old gentleman; "what do you mean by that?"
"I mean that I pervade the scenery, sometimes on foot and sometimes in
a trap. That's my style of rural pleasuring."
"But you do fish at home," I said to Jone, not wishing the English
gentleman to think my husband was a city man, who didn't know anything
"Oh, yes," said Jone, "I used to fish for perch and sunfish."
"Sunfish?" said Mr. Poplington. "I don't know that fish at all. What
sort of a fly do you use?"
"I don't fish with any flies at all," said Jone; "I bait my hook with
Mr. Poplington's face looked as if he had poured liquid shoe-blacking
on his meat, thinking it was Worcestershire sauce. "Fancy! Worms! I'd
never take a rod in my hands if I had to use worms. Never used a worm
in my life. There's no sort of science in worm fishing."
"There's double sport," said Jone, "for first you've got to catch your
worm. Then again, I hate shams; if you have to catch fish there's no
use cheating them into the bargain."
"Cheat!" cried Mr. Poplington. "If I had to catch a whale I'd fish for
him with a fly. But you Americans are strange people. Worms, indeed!"
"We don't all use worms," said Jone; "there's lots of fly fishers in
America, and they use all sorts of flies. If we are to believe all the
Californians tell us some of the artificial flies out there must be as
big as crows."
"Really?" said Mr. Poplington, looking hard at Jone, with a little
twinkling in his eyes. "And when gentlemen fish who don't like to cheat
the fishes, what size of worms do they use?"
"Well," said Jone, "in the far West I've heard that the common black
snake is the favorite bait. He's six or seven feet long, and fishermen
that use him don't have to have any line. He's bait and line all in
Mr. Poplington laughed. "I see you are fond of a joke," said he, "and
so am I, but I'm also fond of my breakfast."
"I'm with you there," said Jone, and we all went in.
Mr. Poplington was very pleasant and chatty, and of course asked a
great many questions about America. Nearly all English people I've met
want to talk about our country, and it seems to me that what they do
know about it isn't any better, considered as useful information, than
what they don't know. But Mr. Poplington has never been to America, and
so he knows more about us than those Englishmen who come over to write
books, and only have time to run around the outside of things, and get
themselves tripped up on our ragged edges.
He said he had met a good many Americans, and liked them, but he
couldn't see for the life of him why they do some things English people
don't do, and don't do things English people do do. For instance, he
wondered why we don't drink tea for breakfast. Miss Pondar had made it
for him, knowing he'd want it, and he wonders why Americans drink
coffee when such good tea as that was comes in their reach.
Now, if I had considered Mr. Poplington as a lodger it might have
nettled me to have him tell me I didn't know what was good, but
remembering that we was giving him hospitality, and not board, and
didn't intend to charge him a cent, but was just taking care of him out
of neighborly kindness, I was rather glad to have him find a little
fault, because that would make me feel as if I was soaring still higher
above him the next morning, when I should tell him there was nothing to
So I took it all good-natured, and said to him, "Well, Americans like
to have the very best things that can be got out of every country.
We're like bees flying over the whole world, looking into every blossom
to see what sweetness there is to be got out of it. From the lily of
France we sip their coffee, from the national flower of India, whatever
it is, we take their chutney sauce, and as to those big apple tarts,
baked in a deep dish, with a cup in the middle to hold up the upper
crust, and so full of apples, and so delicious with Devonshire clotted
cream on them that if there was any one place in the world they could
be had I believe my husband would want to go and live there forever,
_they_ are what we extract from the rose of England."
Mr. Poplington laughed like anything at this, but said there was a
great many other things that he could show us and tell us about which
would be very well worth while sipping from the rose of England.
After breakfast he went to church with us, and as we was coming
home--for he didn't seem to have the least idea of going to the inn for
his luncheon--he asked if we didn't find the services very different
from those in America.
"Yes," said I, "they are about as different from Quaker services as a
squirting fountain is from a corked bottle. The Methodists and
Unitarians and Reformed Dutch and Campbellites and Hard-shell Baptists
have different services too, but in the Episcopal churches things are
all pretty much the same as they did this morning. You forget, sir,
that in our country there are religions to suit all sizes of minds. We
haven't any national religion any more than we have a national flower."
"But you ought to have," said he; "you ought to have an established
"You may be sure we'll have it," said Jone, "as soon as we agree as to
which one it ought to be."
_Letter Number Seven_
Last Sunday afternoon Mr. Poplington asked us if we would not like to
walk over to a ruined abbey about four miles away, which he said was
very interesting. It seemed to me that four miles there and four miles
back was a pretty long walk, but I wanted to see the abbey, and I
wasn't going to let him think that a young American woman couldn't walk
as far as an elderly English gentleman; so I agreed and so did Jone.
The abbey is a wonderful place, and I never thought of being tired
while wandering in the rooms and in the garden, where the old monks
used to live and preach, and give food to the poor, and keep house
without women--which was pious enough, but must have been untidy. But
the thing that surprised me the most was what Mr. Poplington told us
about the age of the place. It was not built all at once, and it's part
ancient and part modern, and you needn't wonder, madam, that I was
astonished when he said that the part called modern was finished just
three years before America was discovered. When I heard that I seemed
to shrivel up as if my country was a new-born babe alongside of a
bearded patriarch; but I didn't stay shrivelled long, for it can't be
denied that a new-born babe has a good deal more to look forward to
than a patriarch has.
[Illustration: AT THE ABBEY]
It is amazing how many things in this part of the country we'd never
have thought of if it hadn't been for Mr. Poplington. At dinner he told
us about Exmoor and the Lorna Doone country, and the wild deer hunting
that can be had nowhere else in England, and lots of other things that
made me feel we must be up and doing if we wanted to see all we ought
to see before we left Chedcombe. When I went upstairs I said to Jone
that Mr. Poplington was a very different man from what I thought he
"He's just as nice as he can be, and I'm going to charge him for his
room and his meals and for everything he's had."
Jone laughed, and asked me if that was the way I showed people I liked
"We intended to humble him by not charging him anything," I said, "and
make him feel he had been depending on our bounty; but now I wouldn't
hurt his feelings for the world, and I'll make out his bill in the
morning myself. Women always do that sort of thing in England."
As you asked me, madam, to tell you everything that happened on our
travels, I'll go on about Mr. Poplington. After breakfast on Monday
morning he went over to the inn, and said he would come back and pack
up his things; but when he did come back he told us that those
coach-and-four people had determined not to leave Chedcombe that day,
but was going to stay and look at the sights in the neighborhood, and
that they would want the room for that night. He said this had made him
very angry, because they had no right to change their minds that way
after having made definite arrangements in which other people besides
themselves was concerned; and he had said so very plainly to the
gentleman who seemed to be at the head of the party.
"I hope it will be no inconvenience to you, madam," he said, "to keep
me another night."
"Oh, dear, no," said I; "and my husband was saying this morning that he
wished you was going to stay with us the rest of our time here."
"Really!" exclaimed Mr. Poplington. "Then I'll do it. I'll go to the
inn this minute and have the rest of my luggage brought over here. If
this is any punishment to Mrs. Locky she deserves it, for she shouldn't
have told those people they could stay longer without consulting me."
In less than an hour there came a van to our cottage with the rest of
his luggage. There must have been over a dozen boxes and packages,
besides things tied up and strapped; and as I saw them being carried up
one at a time, I said to Miss Pondar that in our country we'd have two
or three big trunks, which we could take about without any trouble.
"Yes, ma'am," said she; but I could see by her face that she didn't
believe luggage would be luggage unless you could lug it, but was too
respectful to say so.
When Mr. Poplington got settled down in our spare room he blossomed out
like a full-blown friend of the family, and accordingly began to give
us advice. He said we should go as soon as we could and see Exmoor and
all that region of country, and that if we didn't mind he'd like to go
with us; to which we answered, of course, we should like that very
much, and asked him what he thought would be the best way to go. So we
had ever so much talk about that, and although we all agreed it would
be nicer not to take a public coach, but travel private, we didn't find
it easy to decide as to the manner of travel. We all agreed that a
carriage and horses would be too expensive, and Jone was rather in
favor of a dogcart for us if Mr. Poplington would like to go on
horseback; but the old gentleman said it would be too much riding for
him, and if we took a dogcart he'd have to take another one. But this
wouldn't be a very sociable way of travelling, and none of us liked it.
"Now," exclaimed Mr. Poplington, striking his hand on the table, "I'll
tell you exactly how we ought to go through that country--we ought to
go on cycles."
"Bicycles?" said I.
"Tricycles, if you like," he answered, "but that's the way to do it.
It'll be cheap, and we can go as we like and stop when we like. We'll
be as free and independent as the Stars and Stripes, and more so, for
they can't always flap when they like and stop flapping when they
choose. Have you ever tried it, madam?"
I replied that I had, a little, because my daughter had a tricycle, and
I had ridden on it for a short distance and after sundown, but as for
regular travel in the daytime I couldn't think of it.
At this Jone nearly took my breath away by saying that he thought that
the bicycle idea was a capital one, and that for his part he'd like it
better than any other way of travelling through a pretty country. He
also said he believed I could work a tricycle just as well as not, and
that if I got used to it I would think it fine.
I stood out against those two men for about a half an hour, and then I
began to give in a little, and think that it might be nice to roll
along on my own little wheels over their beautiful smooth roads, and
stop and smell the hedges and pick flowers whenever I felt like it; and
so it ended in my agreeing to do the Exmoor country on a tricycle while
Mr. Poplington and Jone went on bicycles. As to getting the machines,
Mr. Poplington said he would attend to that. There was people in London
who hired them to excursionists, and all he had to do was to send an
order and they would be on hand in a day or two; and so that matter
was settled and he wrote to London. I thought Mr. Poplington was a
little old for that sort of exercise, but I found he had been used to
doing a great deal of cycling in the part of the country where he
lives; and besides, he isn't as old as I thought he was, being not much
over fifty. The kind of air that keeps a country always green is
wonderful in bringing out early red and white in a person.
"Everything happens wonderfully well, madam," said he, coming in after
he had been to post his letter in a red iron box let into the side of
the Wesleyan chapel, "doesn't it? Now here we're not able to start on
our journey for two or three days, and I have just been told that the
great hay-making in the big meadow to the south of the village is to
begin to-morrow. They make the hay there only every other year, and
they have a grand time of it. We must be there, and you shall see some
of our English country customs."
We said we'd be sure to be in for that sort of thing.
I wish, madam, you could have seen that great hayfield. It belongs to
the lord of the manor, and must have twenty or thirty acres in it.
They've been three or four days cutting the grass on it with a machine,
and now there's been nearly two days with hardly any rain, only now and
then some drizzling, and a good, strong wind, which they think here is
better for the hay-making than sunshine, though they don't object to a
little sun. All the people in the village who had legs good enough to
carry them to that field went to help make hay. It was a regular
holiday, and as hay is clean, nearly everybody was dressed in good
clothes. Early in the morning some twenty regular farm laborers began
raking the hay at one end of the field, stretching themselves nearly
the whole way across it, and as the day went on more and more people
came, men and women, high and low. All the young women and some of the
older ones had rakes, and the way they worked them was amazing to see,
but they turned over the hay enough to dry it. As to schoolgirls and
boys, there was no end of them in the afternoon, for school let out
early. Some of them worked, but most of them played and cut up
monkey-shines on the hay. Even the little babies was brought on the
field, and nice, soft beds made for them under the trees at one side.
When Jone saw the real farm-work going on, with a chance for everybody
to turn in to help, his farmer blood boiled within him, as if he was a
war-horse and sniffed the smoke of battle, and he got himself a rake
and went to work like a good-fellow. I never saw so many men at work in
a hayfield at home, but when I looked at Jone raking I could see why it
was it didn't take so many men to get in our hay. As for me, I raked a
little, but looked about a great deal more.
Near the middle of the field was two women working together, raking as
steadily as if they had been brought up to it. One of these was young,
and even handsomer than Miss Dick, which was the name of the bar lady.
To look at her made me think of what I had read of Queen Marie
Antoinette and her court ladies playing the part of milkmaids. Her
straw hat was trimmed with delicate flowers, and her white muslin dress
and pale blue ribbons made her the prettiest picture I ever saw
out-of-doors. I could not help asking Mrs. Locky who she was, and she
told me that she was the chambermaid at the inn, and the other was the
cook. When I heard this I didn't make any answer, but just walked off a
little way and began raking and thinking. I have often wondered why it
is that English servants are so different from those we have, or, to
put it in a strictly confidential way between you and me, madam, why
the chambermaid at the "Bordley Arms," as she is, is so different from
me, as I used to be when I first lived with you. Now that young
chambermaid with the pretty hat is, as far as appearances go, as good a
woman as I am, and if Jone was a bachelor and intended to marry her I
would think it was as good a match as if he married me. But the
difference between us two is that when I got to be the kind of woman I
am I wasn't willing to be a servant, and if I had always been the kind
of young woman that chambermaid is I never would have been a servant.
I've kept a sharp eye on the young women in domestic service over here,
having a fellow-feeling for them, as you can well understand, madam,
and since I have been in the country I've watched the poor folks and
seen how they live, and it's just as plain to me as can be that the
young women who are maids and waitresses over here are the kind who
would have tried to be shop-girls and dressmakers and even
school-teachers in America, and many of the servants we have would be
working in the fields if they lived over here. The fact is, the English
people don't go to other countries to get their servants. Their way is
like a factory consuming its own smoke. The surplus young women, and
there must always be a lot of them, are used up in domestic service.
Now, if an American poor girl is good enough to be a first-class
servant, she wants to be something else. Sooner than go out to service
she will work twice as hard in a shop, or even go into a factory.
I have talked a good deal about this to Jone, and he says I'm getting
to be a philosopher; but I don't think it takes much philosophizing to
find out how this case stands. If house service could be looked upon in
the proper way, it wouldn't take long for American girls who have to
work for their living to find out that it's a lot better to live with
nice people, and cook and wait on the table, and do all those things
which come natural to women the world over, than to stand all day
behind a counter under the thumb of a floor-walker, or grind their
lives out like slaves among a lot of steam-engines and machinery. The
only reason the English have better house servants than we have is that
here any girl who has to work is willing to be a house servant, and
very good house servants they are, too.
_Letter Number Eight_
I will now finish telling you about the great hay-making day. Toward
the end of the afternoon a lot of boys and girls began playing a game
which seemed to belong to the hayfield. Each one of the bigger boys
would twist up a rope of hay and run after a girl, and when he had
thrown it over her neck he could kiss her. Girls are girls the whole
world over, and it was funny to see how some of them would run like mad
to get away from the boys, and how dreadfully troubled they would be
when they was caught, and yet, after they had been kissed and the boys
had left them, they would walk innocently back to the players as if
they never dreamed that anybody would think of disturbing them.
At five o'clock everybody--farm hands, ladies, gentlemen,
school-children, and all--took tea together. Some were seated at long
tables made of planks, with benches at the sides, and others scattered
all over the grass. Miss Pondar and our maid Hannah helped to serve the
tea and sandwiches, and I was glad to see that Hannah wore her pointed
white cap and her black dress, for I had on my woollen travelling suit,
and I didn't want too much cart-before-the-horseness in my domestic
After tea the work and the games began again, and as I think it is
always better for people to do what they can do best, I turned in and
helped clear away the tea-things, and after that I sat down by a female
person in black silk--and I am sure I didn't know whether she was the
lady of the manor or somebody else until I heard some h-words come out
in her talk, and then I knew she was the latter--and she told me ever
so much about the people in the village, and why the rector wasn't
there, on account of a dispute about the altar-cloths, and she was just
beginning to tell me about the doctor's wife sending her daughters to a
school that was much too high-priced for his practice, when I happened
to look across the field, and there, with the bar lady at the inn, with
her hat trimmed with pink, and the Marie Antoinette chambermaid, with
her hat trimmed with blue, was Jone, and they was all three raking
together, as comfortable and confiding as if they had been singing
hymns out of the same book.
Now, I thought I had been sitting still long enough, and so I snipped
off the rest of the doctor story and got myself across that field with
pretty long steps. When I reached the happy three I didn't say
anything, but went round in front of them and stood there, throwing a
sarcastic and disdainful glance upon their farming. Jone stopped
working, and wiped his face with his handkerchief, as if he was hot and
tired, but hadn't thought of it until just then, and the two girls they
"He's teaching us to rake, ma'am," said Miss Dick, revolving her
green-gage eyes in my direction, "and really, ma'am, it's wonderful to
see how good he does it. You Americans are so awful clever!"
As for the one with the blue trimmings, she said nothing, but stood
with her hands folded on her rake, and her chiselled features steeped
in a meek resignedness, though much too high colored, as though it had
just been borne in upon her that this world is all a fleeting show, for
man's illusion given, and such felicity as culling fragrant hay by the
side of that manly form must e'en be foregone by her, that I could
have taken a handle of a rake and given her such a punch among her blue
ribbons that her classic features would have frantically twined
themselves around one resounding howl--but I didn't. I simply remarked
to Jone, with a statuesque rigidity, that it was six o'clock and I was
going home; to which he said he was going too, and we went.
[Illustration: "THERE, WITH THE BAR LADY AND THE MARIE ANTOINETTE
CHAMBERMAID, WAS JONE"]
"I thought," said I, as we proceeded with rapid steps across the field,
"that you didn't come to England for the purpose of teaching the
Jone laughed a little. "That young lady put it rather strong," he said.
"She and her friend was merely trying to rake as I did. I think they
got on very well."
"Indeed!" said I--I expect with flashing eye--"but the next time you go
into the disciple business I recommend that you take boys who really
need to know something about farming, and not fine-as-fiddle young
women that you might as well be ballet-dancing with as raking with, for
all the hankering after knowledge they have."
"Oh!" said Jone, and that was all he did say, which was very wise in
him, for, considering my state of feelings, his case was like a
fish-hook in your finger--the more you pull and worry at it the harder
it is to get out.
That evening, when I was quite cooled down, and we was talking to Mr.
Poplington about the hay-making and the free-and-easy way in which
everybody came together, he was a good deal surprised that we should
think that there was anything uncommon in that, coming from a country
where everybody was free and equal. Jone was smoking his pipe, and when
it draws well and he's had a good dinner and I haven't anything
particular to say, he often likes to talk slow and preach little
"Yes, sir," said he, after considering the matter a little while,
"according to the Constitution of the United States we are all free and
equal, but there's a good many things the Constitution doesn't touch
on, and one of them is the sorting out and sizing up of the population.
Now, you people over here are like the metal types that the printers
use. You've all got your letters on one end of you, and you know just
where you belong, and if you happen to be knocked into 'pi' and mixed
all up in a pile it is easy enough to pick you out and put you all in
your proper cases; but it's different with us. According to the
Constitution we're like a lot of carpet-tacks, one just the same as
another, though in fact we're not alike, and it would not be easy if we
got mixed up, say in a hayfield, to get ourselves all sorted out again
according to the breadth of our heads and the sharpness of our points,
so we don't like to do too much mixing, don't you see?" To which Mr.
Poplington said he didn't see, and then I explained to him that what
Jone meant was that though in our country we was all equally free, it
didn't do for us to be as freely equal as the people are sometimes over
here, to which Mr. Poplington said, "Really!" but he didn't seem to be
standing in the glaring sunlight of convincement. But the shade is
often pleasant to be in, and he wound up by saying, as he bid us
good-night, that he thought it would be a great deal better for us, if
we had classes at all, to have them marked out plain, and stamped so
that there could be no mistake; to which I said that if we did that the
most of the mistakes would come in the sorting, which, according to my
reading of books and newspapers, had happened to most countries that
keep up aristocracies.
I don't know that he heard all that I said, for he was going up-stairs
with his candle at the time, but when Jone and me got up-stairs in our
own room I said to him, and he always hears everything I say, that in
some ways the girls that we have for servants at home have some
advantages over those we find here; to which Jone said, "Yes," and
seemed to be sleepy.
_Letter Number Nine_
There was still another day of hay-making, but we couldn't wait for
that, because our cycles had come from London and we was all anxious to
be off, and you would have laughed, madam, if you could have seen us
start. Mr. Poplington went off well enough, but Jone's bicycle seemed a
little gay and hard to manage, and he frisked about a good deal at
starting; but Jone had bought a bicycle long ago, when the things first
came out, and on days when the roads was good he used to go to the
post-office on it, and he said that if a man had ever ridden on top of
a wheel about six feet high he ought to be able to balance himself on
the pair of small wheels which they use nowadays. So, after getting his
long legs into working order, he went very well, though with a snaky
movement at first, and then I started.
Each one of us had a little hand-bag hung on our machine, and Mr.
Poplington said we needn't take anything to eat, for there was inns to
be found everywhere in England. Hannah started me off nicely by pushing
my tricycle until I got it going, and Miss Pondar waved her
handkerchief from the cottage door. When Hannah left me I went along
rather slow at first, but when I got used to the proper motion I began
to do better, and was very sure it wouldn't take me long to catch up
with Jone, who was still worm-fencing his way along the road. When I
got entirely away from the houses, and began to smell the hedges and
grassy banks so close to my nose, and feel myself gliding along over
the smooth white road, my spirits began to soar like a bird, and I
almost felt like singing.
The few people I met didn't seem to think it was anything wonderful for
a woman to ride on a tricycle, and I soon began to feel as proper as if
I was walking on a sidewalk. Once I came very near tangling myself up
with the legs of a horse who was pulling a cart. I forgot that it was
the proper thing in this country to turn to the left, and not to the
right, but I gave a quick twist to my helm and just missed the
cart-wheel, but it was a close scratch. This turning to the right,
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