Frank R. Stockton
Part 2 out of 3
instead of to the left, was a mistake Jone made two or three times when
he began to drive me in England, but he got over it, and since my
grazing the cart it's not likely I shall forget it. As I breathed a
sigh of relief after escaping this danger I took in a breath full of
the scent of wild roses that nearly covered a bit of hedge, and my
spirits rose again.
I had asked Jone and Mr. Poplington to go ahead, because I knew I could
do a great deal better if I worked along by myself for a while, without
being told what I ought to do and what I oughtn't to do. There is
nothing that bothers me so much as to have people try to teach me
things when I am puzzling them out for myself. But now I found that
although they could not be far ahead, I couldn't see them, on account
of the twists in the road and the high hedges, and so I put on steam
and went along at a fine rate, sniffing the breeze like a charger of
the battlefield. Before very long I came to a place where the road
forked, but the road to the left seemed like a lane leading to
somebody's house, so I kept on in what was plainly the main road, which
made a little turn where it forked. Looking out ahead of me, to see if
I could catch sight of the two men, I could not see a sign of them, but
I did see that I was on the top of a long hill that seemed to lead on
and down and on and down, with no end to it.
I had hardly started down this hill when my tricycle became frisky and
showed signs of wanting to run, and I got a little nervous, for I
didn't fancy going fast down a slope like that. I put on the brake, but
I don't believe I managed it right, for I seemed to go faster and
faster; and then, as the machine didn't need any working, I took my
feet off the pedals, with an idea, I think, though I can't now
remember, that I would get off and walk down the hill. In an instant
that thing took the bit in its teeth and away it went wildly tearing
down hill. I never was so much frightened in all my life. I tried to
get my feet back on the pedals, but I couldn't do it, and all I could
do was to keep that flying tricycle in the middle of the road. As far
as I could see ahead there was not anything in the way of a wagon or a
carriage that I could run into, but there was such a stretch of slope
that it made me fairly dizzy. Just as I was having a little bit of
comfort from thinking there was nothing in the way, a black woolly dog
jumped out into the road some distance ahead of me and stood there
barking. My heart fell, like a bucket into a well with the rope broken.
If I steered the least bit to the right or the left I believe I would
have bounded over the hedge like a glass bottle from a railroad train,
and come down on the other side in shivers and splinters. If I didn't
turn I was making a bee-line for the dog; but I had no time to think
what to do, and in an instant that black woolly dog faded away like a
reminiscence among the buzzing wheels of my tricycle. I felt a little
bump, but was ignorant of further particulars.
I was now going at what seemed like a speed of ninety or a hundred
miles an hour, with the wind rushing in between my teeth like water
over a mill-dam, and I felt sure that if I kept on going down that hill
I should soon be whirling through space like a comet. The only way I
could think of to save myself was to turn into some level place where
the thing would stop, but not a crossroad did I pass; but presently I
saw a little house standing back from the road, which seemed to hump
itself a little at that place so as to be nearly level, and over the
edge of the hump it dipped so suddenly that I could not see the rest of
the road at all.
"Now," thought I to myself, "if the gate of that house is open I'll
turn into it, and no matter what I run into, it would be better than
going over the edge of that rise beyond and down the awful hill that
must be on the other side of it." As I swooped down to the little house
and reached the level ground I felt I was going a little slower, but
not much. However, I steered my tricycle round at just the right
instant, and through the front gate I went like a flash.
I was going so fast, and my mind was so wound up on account of the
necessity of steering straight, that I could not pay much attention to
things I passed. But the scene that showed itself in front of me as I
went through that little garden gate I could not help seeing and
remembering. From the gate to the door of the house was a path paved
with flagstones; the door was open, and there must have been a low step
before it; back of the door was a hall which ran through the house, and
this was paved with flagstones; the back door of the hall was open, and
outside of it was a sort of arbor with vines, and on one side of this
arbor was a bench, with a young man and a young woman sitting on it,
holding each other by the hand, and looking into each other's eyes;
the arbor opened out on to a piece of green grass, with flowers of
mixed colors on the edges of it, and at the back of this bit of lawn
was a lot of clothes hung out on clothes-lines. Of course, I could not
have seen all those things at once, but they came upon me like a single
picture, for in one tick of a watch I went over that flagstone path and
into that front door and through that house and out of that back door,
and past that young man and that young woman, and head and heels both
foremost at once, dashed slam-bang into the midst of all that linen
hanging out on the lines.
[Illustration: "AT LAST I DID GET ON MY FEET"]
I heard the minglement of a groan and a scream, and in an instant I was
enveloped in a white, wet cloud of sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths,
and underwear. Some of the things stuck so close to me, and others I
grabbed with such a wild clutch, that nearly all the week's wash, lines
and all, came down on me, wrapping me up like an apple in a
dumpling--but I stopped. There was not anything in this world that
would have been better for me to run into than those lines full of wet
Where the tricycle went to I didn't know, but I was lying on the grass
kicking, and trying to get up and to get my head free, so that I could
see and breathe. At last I did get on my feet, and throwing out my arms
so as to shake off the sheets and pillowcases that were clinging all
over me I shook some of the things partly off my face, and with one
eye I saw that couple on the bench, but only for a second. With a yell
of horror, and with a face whiter than the linen I was wrapped in, that
young man bounced from the bench, dashed past the house, made one clean
jump over the hedge into the road, and disappeared. As for the young
woman, she just flopped over and went down in a faint on the floor.
As soon as I could do it I got myself free from the clothes-line and
staggered out on the grass. I was trembling so much I could scarcely
walk, but when I saw that young woman looking as if she was dead on the
ground I felt I must do something, and seeing a pail of water standing
near by, I held it over her face and poured it down on her a little at
a time, and it wasn't long before she began to squirm, and then she
opened her eyes and her mouth just at the same time, so that she must
have swallowed about as much water as she would have taken at a meal.
This brought her to, and she began to cough and splutter and look
around wildly, and then I took her by the arm and helped her up on the
"Don't you want a little something to drink?" I said. "Tell me where I
can get you something."
She didn't answer, but began looking from one side to the other. "Is he
swallowed?" said she in a whisper, with her eyes starting out of her
"Swallowed?" said I. "Who?"
"Davy," said she.
"Oh, your young man," said I. "He is all right, unless he hurt himself
jumping over the hedge. I saw him run away just as fast as he could."
"And the spirit?" said she. I looked hard at her.
"What has happened to you?" said I. "How did you come to faint?"
She was getting quieter, but she still looked wildly out of her eyes,
and kept her back turned toward the bit of grass, as if she was afraid
to look in that direction.
"What happened to you?" said I again, for I wanted to know what she
thought about my sudden appearance. It took some little time for her to
get ready to answer, and then she said:
"Was you frightened, lady? Did you have to come in here? I'm sorry you
found me swooned. I don't know how long I was swooned. Davy and me was
sitting here talking about having the banns called, and it was a sorry
talk, lady, for the vicar, he's told me four times I should not marry
Davy, because he says he is a Radical; but for all that Davy and me
wants the banns called all the same, but not knowing how we was to have
it done, for the vicar, he's so set against Davy, and Davy, he had just
got done saying to me that he was going to marry me, vicar or no vicar,
banns or no banns, come what might, when that very minute, with an
awful hiss, something flashed in front of us, dazzling my eyes so that
I shut them and screamed, and then when I opened them again, there, in
the yard back of us, was a great white spirit twice as high as the cow
stable, with one eye in the middle of its forehead, turning around like
a firework. I don't remember anything after that, and I don't know how
long I was lying here when you came and found me, lady, but I know what
it means. There is a curse on our marriage, and Davy and me will never
be man and wife." And then she fell to groaning and moaning.
I felt like laughing when I thought how much like a church ghost I must
have looked, standing there in solid white with my arms stretched out;
but the poor girl was in such a dreadful state of mind that I sat down
beside her and began to comfort her by telling her just what had
happened, and that she ought to be very glad that I had found a place
to turn into, and had not gone on down the hill and dashed myself into
little pieces at the bottom. But it wasn't easy to cheer her up.
"Oh, Davy's gone," said she. "He'll never come back for fear of the
curse. He'll be off with his uncle to sea. I'll never lay eyes on Davy
Just at that moment I heard somebody calling my name, and looking
through the house I saw Jone at the front door and two men behind him.
As I ran through the hall I saw that the two men with Jone was Mr.
Poplington and a young fellow with a pale face and trembling legs.
"Is this Davy?" said I.
"Yes," said he.
"Then go back to your young woman and comfort her," I said, which he
did, and when he had gone, not madly rushing into his loved one's arms,
but shuffling along in a timid way, as if he was afraid the ghost
hadn't gone yet, I asked Jone how he happened to think I was here, and
he told me that he and Mr. Poplington had taken the road to the left
when they reached the fork, because that was the proper one, but they
had not gone far before he thought I might not know which way to turn,
so they came back to the fork to wait for me. But I had been closer
behind them than they thought, and I must have come to the fork before
they turned back, so, after waiting a while and going back along the
road without seeing me, they thought that I must have taken the
right-hand road, and they came that way, going down the hill very
carefully. After a while Jone found my hat in the road, which up to
that moment I had not missed, and then he began to be frightened and
they went on faster.
They passed the little house, and as they was going down the hill they
saw ahead of them a man running as if something had happened, so they
let out their bicycles and soon caught up to him. This was Davy; and
when they stopped him and asked if anything was the matter he told
them that a dreadful thing had come to pass. He had been working in the
garden of a house about half a mile back when suddenly there came an
awful crash, and a white animal sprang out of the house with a bit of a
cotton mill fastened to its tail, and then, with a great peal of
thunder, it vanished, and a white ghost rose up out of the ground with
its arms stretching out longer and longer, reaching to clutch him by
the hair. He was not afraid of anything living, but he couldn't abide
spirits, so he laid down his spade and left the garden, thinking he
would go and see the sexton and have him come and lay the ghost.
Then Jone went on to say that of course he could not make head or tail
out of such a story as that, but when he heard that an awful row had
been kicked up in a garden he immediately thought that as like as not I
was in it, and so he and Mr. Poplington ran back, leaving their
bicycles against the hedge, and bringing the young man with them.
Then I told my story, and Mr. Poplington said it was a mercy I was not
killed, and Jone didn't say much, but I could see that his teeth was
We all went into the back yard, and there, on the other side of the
clothes, which was scattered all over the ground, we found my tricycle,
jammed into a lot of gooseberry bushes, and when it was dragged out we
found it was not hurt a bit. Davy and his young woman was standing in
the arbor looking very sheepish, especially Davy, for she had told him
what it was that had scared him. As we was going through the house,
Jone taking my tricycle, I stopped to say good-by to the girl.
"Now that you see there has been no curse and no ghost," said I, "I
hope that you will soon have your banns called, and that you and your
young man will be married all right."
"Thank you very much, ma'am," said she, "but I'm awful fearful about
it. Davy may say what he pleases, but my mother never will let me marry
him if the vicar's agen it; and Davy wouldn't have been here to-day if
she hadn't gone to town; and the vicar's a hard man and a strong Tory,
and he'll always be agen it, I fear."
When I went out into the front yard I found Mr. Poplington and Jone
sitting on a little stone bench, for they was tired, and I told them
about that young woman and Davy.
"Humph," said Mr. Poplington, "I know the vicar of the parish. He is
the Rev. Osmun Green. He's a good Conservative, and is perfectly right
in trying to keep that poor girl from marrying a wretched Radical."
I looked straight at him and said:
"Do you mean, sir, to put politics before matrimonial happiness?"
"No, I don't," said he, "but a girl can't expect matrimonial happiness
with a Radical."
I saw that Jone was about to say something here, but I got in ahead of
"I will tell you what it is, sir," said I, "if you think it is wrong to
be a Radical the best thing you can do is to write to your friend, that
vicar, and advise him to get those two young people married as soon as
possible, for it is easy to see that she is going to rule the roost,
and if anybody can get his Radicalistics out of him she will be the one
to do it."
Mr. Poplington laughed, and said that as the man looked as if he was a
fit subject to be henpecked it might be a good way of getting another
"But," said he, "I should think it would go against your conscience,
being naturally opposed to the Conservatives, to help even by one
"Oh, my conscience is all right," said I. "When politics runs against
the matrimonial altar I stand up for the altar."
"Well," said he, "I'll think of it." And we started off, walking down
the hill, Jone holding on to my tricycle.
When we got to level ground, with about two miles to go before we would
stop for luncheon, Jone took a piece of thin rope out of his pocket--he
always carries some sort of cord in case of accidents--and he tied it
to the back part of my machine.
"Now," said he, "I'm going to keep hold of the other end of this, and
perhaps your tricycle won't run away with you."
I didn't much like going along this way, as if I was a cow being taken
to market, but I could see that Jone had been so troubled and
frightened about me that I didn't make any objection, and, in fact,
after I got started it was a comfort to think there was a tie between
Jone and me that was stronger, when hilly roads came into the question,
than even the matrimonial tie.
_Letter Number Ten_
The place we stopped at on the first night of our cycle trip is named
Porlock, and after the walking and the pushing, and the strain on my
mind when going down even the smallest hill for fear Jone's rope would
give way, I was glad to get there.
The road into Porlock goes down a hill, the steepest I have seen yet,
and we all walked down, holding our machines as if they had been fiery
coursers. This hill road twists and winds so you can only see part of
it at a time, and when we was about half-way down we heard a horn
blowing behind us, and looking around there came the mail-coach at full
speed, with four horses, with a lot of people on top. As this raging
coach passed by it nearly took my breath away, and as soon as I could
speak I said to Jone: "Don't you ever say anything in America about
having the roads made narrower so that it won't cost so much to keep
them in order, for in my opinion it's often the narrow road that
leadeth to destruction."
When we got into the town, and my mind really began to grapple with old
Porlock, I felt as if I was sliding backward down the slope of the
centuries, and liked it. As we went along Mr. Poplington told us about
everything, and said that this queer little town was a fishing village
and seaport in the days of the Saxons, and that King Harold was once
obliged to stop there for a while, and that he passed his time making
war on the neighbors.
Mr. Poplington took us to a tavern called the Ship Inn, and I simply
went wild over it. It is two hundred years old and two stories high,
and everything I ever read about the hostelries of the past I saw
there. The queer little door led into a queer little passage paved with
stone. A pair of little stairs led out of this into another little
room, higher up, and on the other side of the passage was a long,
mysterious hallway. We had our dinner in a tiny parlor, which reminded
me of a chapter in one of those old books where they use f instead of
s, and where the first word of the next page is at the bottom of the
one you are reading.
There was a fireplace in the room with a window one side of it, through
which you could look into the street. It was not cold, but it had begun
to rain hard, and so I made the dampness an excuse for a fire.
"This is antique, indeed," I said, when we were at the table.
"You are right there," said Mr. Poplington, who was doing his best to
carve a duck, and was a little cross about it.
When I sat before the fire that evening, and Jone was asleep on a
settee of the days of yore, and Mr. Poplington had gone to bed, being
tired, my soul went back to the olden time, and, looking out through
the little window in the fireplace, I fancied I could see William the
Conqueror and the King of the Danes sneaking along the little street
under the eaves of the thatched roofs, until I was so worked up that I
was on the point of shouting, "Fly! oh, Saxon!" when the door opened
and the maid who waited on us at the table put her head in. I took this
for a sign that the curfew bell was going to ring, and so I woke up
Jone and we went to bed.
But all night long the heroes of the past flocked about me. I had been
reading a lot of history, and I knew them all the minute my eyes fell
upon them. Charlemagne and Canute sat on the end of the bed, while
Alfred the Great climbed up one of the posts until he was stopped by
Hannibal's legs, who had them twisted about the post to keep himself
steady. When I got up in the morning I went down-stairs into the little
parlor, and there was the maid down on her knees cleaning the hearth.
"What is your name?" I said to her.
"Jane, please," said she.
"Jane what?" said I.
"Jane Puddle, please," said she.
I took a carving-knife from off the table, and standing over her I
brought it down gently on top of her head. "Rise, Sir Jane Puddle,"
said I, to which the maid gave a smothered gasp, and--would you believe
it, madam?--she crept out of the room on her hands and knees. The cook
waited on us at breakfast, and I truly believe that the landlord and
his wife breathed a sigh of relief when we left the Ship Inn, for their
sordid souls had never heard of knighthood, but knew all about
[Illustration: "Rise, Sir Jane Puddle"]
That morning we left Porlock by a hill which compared with the one we
came into it by, was like the biggest Pyramid of Egypt by the side of a
haycock. I don't suppose in the whole civilized world there is a worse
hill with a road on it than the one we went up by. I was glad we had to
go up it instead of down it, though it was very hard to walk, pushing
the tricycle, even when helped. I believe it would have taken away my
breath and turned me dizzy even to take one step face forward down such
a hill, and gaze into the dreadful depths below me; and yet they drive
coaches and fours down that hill. At the top of the hill is this
notice: "To cyclers--this hill is dangerous." If I had thought of it I
should have looked for the cyclers' graves at the bottom of it.
The reason I thought about this was that I had been reading about one
of the mountains in Switzerland, which is one of the highest and most
dangerous, and with the poorest view, where so many Alpine climbers
have been killed that there is a little graveyard nearly full of their
graves at the foot of the mountain. How they could walk through that
graveyard and read the inscriptions on the tombstones and then go and
climb that mountain is more than I can imagine.
In walking up this hill, and thinking that it might have been in front
of me when my tricycle ran away, I could not keep my mind away from the
little graveyard at the foot of the Swiss mountain.
_Letter Number Eleven_
On the third day of our cycle trip we journeyed along a lofty road,
with the wild moor on one side and the tossing sea on the other, and at
night reached Lynton. It is a little town on a jutting crag, and far
down below it on the edge of the sea was another town named Lynmouth,
and there is a car with a wire rope to it, like an elevator, which they
call The Lift, which takes people up and down from one town to another.
Here we stopped at a house very different from the Ship Inn, for it
looked as if it had been built the day before yesterday. Everything was
new and shiny, and we had our supper at a long table with about twenty
other people, just like a boardinghouse. Some of their ways reminded
me of the backwoods, and I suppose there is nothing more modern than
backwoodsism, which naturally hasn't the least alloy of the past. When
the people got through with their cups of coffee or tea, mostly the
last, two women went around the table, one with a big bowl for us to
lean back and empty our slops into, and the other with the tea or
coffee to fill up the cups. A gentleman with a baldish head, who was
sitting opposite us, began to be sociable as soon as he heard us speak
to the waiters, and asked questions about America. After he got through
with about a dozen of them he said:
"Is it true, as I have heard, that what you call native-born Americans
deteriorate in the third generation?"
I had been answering most of the questions, but now Jone spoke up
quick. "That depends," says he, "on their original blood. When
Americans are descended from Englishmen they steadily improve,
generation after generation." The baldish man smiled at this, and said
there was nothing like having good blood for a foundation. But Mr.
Poplington laughed, and said to me that Jone had served him right.
The country about Lynton is wonderfully beautiful, with rocks and
valleys, and velvet lawns running into the sea, and woods and ancestral
mansions, and we spent the day seeing all this, and also going down to
Lynmouth, where the little ships lie high and dry on the sand when the
tide goes out, and the carts drive up to them and put goods on board,
and when the tide rises the ships sail away, which is very convenient.
I wanted to keep on along the coast, but the others didn't, and the
next morning we started back to Chedcombe by a roundabout way, so that
we might see Exmoor and the country where Lorna Doone and John Ridd cut
up their didoes. I must say I liked the story a good deal better before
I saw the country where the things happened. The mind of man is capable
of soarings which Nature weakens at when she sees what she is called
upon to do. If you want a real, first-class, tooth-on-edge Doone
valley, the place to look for it is in the book. We went rolling along
on the smooth, hard roads, which are just as good here as if they was
in London, and all around us was stretched out the wild and desolate
moors, with the wind screaming and whistling over the heather, nearly
tearing the clothes off our backs, while the rain beat down on us with
a steady pelting, and the ragged sheep stopped to look at us, as if we
was three witches and they was Macbeths.
The very thought that I was out in a wild storm on a desolate moor
filled my soul with a sort of triumph, and I worked my tricycle as if I
was spurring my steed to battle. The only thing that troubled me was
the thought that if the water that poured off my mackintosh that day
could have run into our cistern at home, it would have been a glorious
good thing. Jone did not like the fierce blast and the inspiriting
rain, but I knew he'd stand it as long as Mr. Poplington did, and so I
was content, although, if we had been overtaken by a covered wagon, I
should have trembled for the result.
That night we stopped in the little village of Simonsbath at Somebody's
Arms. After dinner Mr. Poplington, who knew some people in the place,
went out, but Jone and me went to bed as quick as we could, for we was
tired. The next morning we was wakened by a tremendous pounding at the
door. I didn't know what to make of it, for it was too early and too
loud for hot water, but we heard Mr. Poplington calling to us, and Jone
jumped up to see what he wanted.
"Get up," said he, "if you want to see a sight that you never saw
before. We'll start off immediately and breakfast at Exford." The hope
of seeing a sight was enough to make me bounce at any time, and I never
dressed or packed a bag quicker than I did that morning, and Jone
wasn't far behind me.
When we got down-stairs we found our cycles waiting ready at the door,
together with the stable man and the stable boy and the boy's helper
and the cook and the chambermaid and the waiters and the other
servants, waiting for their tips. Mr. Poplington seemed in a fine
humor, and he told us he had heard the night before that there was to
be a stag hunt that day, the first of the season. In fact, it was not
one of the regular meets, but what they called a by-meet, and not known
"We will go on to Exford," said he, straddling his bicycle, "for though
the meet isn't to be there, there's where they keep the hounds and
horses, and if we make good speed we shall get there before they start
The three of us travelled abreast, Mr. Poplington in the middle, and on
the way he told us a good deal about stag hunts. What I remember best,
having to go so fast and having to mind my steering, was that after the
hunting season began they hunted stags until a certain day--I forget
what it was--and then they let them alone and began to hunt the does;
and that after that particular day of the month, when the stags heard
the hounds coming they paid no attention to them, knowing very well it
was the does' turn to be chased, and that they would not be bothered;
and so they let the female members of their families take care of
themselves; which shows that ungentlemanliness extends itself even into
When we got to Exford we left our cycles at the inn and followed Mr.
Poplington to the hunting stables, which are near by. I had not gone a
dozen steps from the door before I heard a great barking, and the next
minute there came around the corner a pack of hounds. They crossed the
bridge over the little river, and then they stopped. We went up to
them, and while Mr. Poplington talked to the men the whole of that pack
of hounds gathered about us as gentle as lambs. They were good big
dogs, white and brown. The head huntsman who had them in charge told me
there was thirty couple of them, and I thought that sixty dogs was
pretty heavy odds against one deer. Then they moved off as orderly as
if they had been children in a kindergarten, and we went to the stables
and saw the horses; and then the master of the hounds and a good many
other gentlemen in red coats, in all sorts of traps, rode up, and their
hunters were saddled, and the dogs barked and the men cracked their
whips to keep them together, and there was a bustle and liveliness to a
degree I can't write about, and Jone and I never thought about going in
to breakfast until all those horses, some led and some ridden, and the
men and the hounds, and even the dust from their feet, had disappeared.
I wanted to go see the hunt start off, but Mr. Poplington said it was
two or three miles distant, and out of our way, and that we'd better
move on as soon as possible so as to reach Chedcombe that night; but
he was glad, he said, that we had had a chance to see the hounds and
As for himself, I could see he was a little down in the mouth, for he
said he was very fond of hunting, and that if he had known of this meet
he would have been there with a horse and his hunting clothes. I think
he hoped somebody would lend him a horse, but nobody did, and not being
able to hunt himself he disliked seeing other people doing what he
could not. Of course, Jone and me could not go to the hunt by
ourselves, so after we'd had our tea and toast and bacon we started
off. I will say here that when I was at the Ship Inn I had tea for my
breakfast, for I couldn't bring my mind to order coffee--a drink the
Saxons must never have heard of--in such a place; and since that we
have been drinking it because Jone said there was no use fighting
against established drinks, and that anyway he thought good tea was
better than bad coffee.
_Letter Number Twelve_
As I said in my last letter, we started out for Chedcombe, not abreast,
as we had been before, but strung along the road, and me and Mr.
Poplington pretty doleful, being disappointed and not wanting to talk.
But as for Jone, he seemed livelier than ever, and whistled a lot of
tunes he didn't know. I think it always makes him lively to get rid of
seeing sights. The sun was shining brightly, and there was no reason to
expect rain for two or three hours anyway, and the country we passed
through was so fine, with hardly any houses, and with great hills and
woods, and sometimes valleys far below the road, with streams rushing
and bubbling, that after a while I began to feel better, and I pricked
up my tricycle, and, of course, being followed by Jone, we left Mr.
Poplington, whose melancholy seemed to have gotten into his legs, a
good way behind.
We must have travelled two or three hours when all of a sudden I heard
a noise afar, and I drew up and listened. The noise was the barking of
dogs, and it seemed to come from a piece of woods on the other side of
the field which lay to the right of the road. The next instant
something shot out from under the trees and began going over the field
in ten-foot hops. I sat staring without understanding, but when I saw a
lot of brown and white spots bounce out of the wood, and saw, a long
way back in the open field, two red-coated men on horseback, the truth
flashed upon me that this was the hunt. The creature in front was the
stag, who had chosen to come this way, and the dogs and the horses was
after him, and I was here to see it all.
Almost before I got this all straight in my mind the deer was nearly
opposite me on the other side of the field, going the same way that we
were. In a second I clapped spurs into my tricycle and was off. In
front of me was a long stretch of down grade, and over this I went as
fast as I could work my pedals; no brakes or holding back for me. My
blood was up, for I was actually in a deer hunt, and to my amazement
and wild delight I found I was keeping up with the deer. I was going
faster than the men on horseback.
"Hi! Hi!" I shouted, and down I went with one eye on the deer and the
other on the road, every atom of my body tingling with fiery
excitement. When I began to go up the little slope ahead I heard Jone
puffing behind me.
"You will break your neck," he shouted, "if you go down hill that way,"
and getting close up to me he fastened his cord to my tricycle. But I
paid no attention to him or his advice.
"The stag! The stag!" I cried. "As long as he keeps near the road we
can follow him! Hi!" And having got up to the top of the next hill I
made ready to go down as fast as I had gone before, for we had fallen
back a little, and the stag was now getting ahead of us; but it made me
gnash my teeth to find that I could not go fast, for Jone held back
with all his force (and both feet on the ground, I expect), and I could
not get on at all.
"Let go of me," I cried, "we shall lose the stag. Stop holding back."
But it wasn't any use; Jone's heels must have been nearly rubbed off,
but he held back like a good fellow, and I seemed to be moving along no
faster than a worm. I could not stand this; my blood boiled and
bubbled; the deer was getting away from me; and if it had been Porlock
Hill in front of me I would have dashed on, not caring whether the road
was steep or level.
A thought flashed across my mind, and I clapped my hand into my pocket
and jerked out a pair of scissors. In an instant I was free. The world
and the stag was before me, and I was flying along with a tornado-like
swiftness that soon brought me abreast of the deer. This perfectly
splendid, bounding creature was not far away from me on the other side
of the hedge, and as the field was higher than the road I could see him
perfectly. His legs worked so regular and springy, except when he came
to a cross hedge, which he went over with a single clip, and came down
like India rubber on the other side, that one might have thought he was
measuring the grass, and keeping an account of his jumps in his head.
[Illustration: "In an instant I was free."]
For one instant I looked around for the hounds, and I saw there was not
more than half a dozen following him, and I could only see the two
hunters I had seen before, and these was still a good way back. As for
Jone, I couldn't hear him at all, and he must have been left far
behind. There was still the woods on the other side, and the deer
seemed to run to keep away from that and to cross the road, and he
came nearer and nearer until I fancied he kept an eye on me as if he
was wondering if I was of any consequence, and if I could hinder him
from crossing the road and getting away into the valley below where
there was a regular wilderness of woods and underbrush.
If he does that, I thought, he will be gone in a minute and I shall
lose him, and the hunt will be over. And for fear he would make for the
hedge and jump over it, not minding me, I jerked out my handkerchief
and shook it at him. You can't imagine how this frightened him. He
turned sharp to the right, dashed up the hill, cleared a hedge and was
gone. I gave a gasp and a scream as I saw him disappear. I believe I
cried, but I didn't stop, and glad I was that I didn't; for in less
than a minute I had come to a cross lane which led in the very
direction the deer had taken. I turned into this lane and went on as
fast as I could, and I soon found that it led through a thick wood.
Down in the hollow, which I could not see into, I heard a barking and
shouting, and I kept on just as fast as I could make that tricycle go.
Where the lane led to, or what I should ever come to, I didn't think
about. I was hunting a stag, and all I cared for was to feel my
tricycle bounding beneath me.
I may have gone a half a mile or two miles--I have not an idea how far
it was--when suddenly I came to a place where there was green grass and
rocks in an opening in the woods, and what a sight I saw! There was
that beautiful, grand, red deer half down on his knees and perfectly
quiet, and there was one of the men in red coats coming toward him with
a great knife in his hand, and a little farther back was three or four
dogs with another man, still on horseback, whipping them to keep them
back, though they seemed willing enough to lie there with their tongues
out, panting. As the man with the knife came up to the deer, the poor
creature raised its eyes to him, and didn't seem to mind whether he
came or not. It was trembling all over and fairly tired to death. When
the man got near enough he took hold of one of the deer's horns and
lifted up the hand with the knife in it, but he didn't bring it down on
that deer's throat, I can tell you, madam, for I was there and had him
by the arm.
He turned on me as if he had been struck by lightning.
"What do you mean?" he shouted. "Let go my arm."
"Don't you touch that deer," said I--my voice was so husky I could
hardly speak--"don't you see it's surrendered? Can you have the heart
to cut that beautiful throat when he is pleading for mercy?" The man's
eyes looked as if they would burst out of his head. He gave me a pull
and a push as if he would stick the knife into me, and he actually
swore at me, but I didn't mind that.
[Illustration: "IF YOU WAS A MAN I'D BREAK YOUR HEAD"]
"You have got that poor creature now," said I, "and that's enough. Keep
it and tame it and bring it up with your children." I didn't have time
to say anything more, and he didn't have time to answer, for two of the
dogs who had got a little of their wind back sprang up and made a jump
at the stag; and he, having got a little of his wind back, jerked his
horn out of the hand of the man, and giving a sort of side spring
backward among the bushes and rocks, away he went, the dogs after him.
The man with the knife rushed out into the lane, and so did I, and so
did the man on horseback, almost on top of me. On the other side of the
lane was a little gorge with rocks and trees and water at the bottom of
it, and I was just in time to see the stag spring over the lane and
drop out of sight among the rocks and the moss and the vines.
The man stood and swore at me regardless of my sex, so violent was his
"If you was a man I'd break your head," he yelled.
"I'm glad I'm not," said I, "for I wouldn't want my head broken. But
what troubles me is, that I'm afraid that deer has broken his legs or
hurt himself some way, for I never saw anything drop on rocks in such a
reckless manner, and the poor thing so tired."
The man swore again, and said something about wishing somebody else's
legs had been broken; and then he shouted to the man on horseback to
call off the dogs, which was of no use, for he was doing it already.
Then he turned on me again.
"You are an American," he shouted. "I might have known that. No English
woman would ever have done such a beastly thing as that."
"You're mistaken there," I said; "there isn't a true English woman that
lives who would not have done the same thing. Your mother--"
"Confound my mother!" yelled the man.
"All right," said I; "that's all in your family and none of my
business." Then he went off raging to where he had left his horse by a
The other man, who was a good deal younger and more friendly, came up
to me and said he wouldn't like to be in my boots, for I had spoiled a
pretty piece of sport; and then he went on and told me that it had been
a bad hunt, for instead of starting only one stag, three or four of
them had been started, and they had had a bad time, for the hounds and
the hunters had been mixed up in a nasty way. And at last, when the
master of the hounds and most every one else had gone off over Dunkery
Hill, and he didn't know whether they was after two stags or one, he
and his mate, who was both whippers-in, had gone to turn part of the
pack that had broken away, and had found that these dogs was after
another stag, and so before they knew it they was in a hunt of their
own, and they would have killed that stag if it had not been for me;
and he said it was hard on his mate, for he knew he had it in mind that
he was going to kill the only stag of the day.
He went on to say, that as for himself he wasn't so sorry, for this was
Sir Skiddery Henchball's land, and when a stag was killed it belonged
to the man whose land it died on. He told me that the master of the
hunt gets the head and the antlers, and the huntsman some other part,
which I forget, but the owner of the land, no matter whether he's in
the hunt or not, gets the body of the stag. "There's a cottage not a
mile down this lane," said he, "with its thatch torn off, and my sister
and her children live there, and Sir Skiddery turned them out on
account of the rent, and so I'm glad the old skinflint didn't get the
venison." And then he went off, being called by the other man.
I didn't know what time it was, but it seemed as if it must be getting
on into the afternoon; and feeling that my deer hunt was over, I
thought I had better lose no time in hunting up Jone, so I followed on
after the men and the dogs, who was going to the main road, but keeping
a little back of them, though, for I didn't know what the older one
might do if he happened to turn and see me.
I was sure that Jone had passed the little lane without seeing it, so I
kept on the way we had been going, and got up all the speed I could,
though I must say I was dreadfully tired, and even trembling a little,
for while I had been stag hunting I was so excited I didn't know how
much work I was doing. There was sign-posts enough to tell me the way
to Chedcombe, and so I kept straight on, up hill and down hill, until
at last I saw a man ahead on a bicycle, which I soon knew to be Mr.
Poplington. He was surprised enough at seeing me, and told me my
husband had gone ahead. I didn't explain anything, and it wasn't until
we got nearly to Chedcombe that we met Jone. He had been to Chedcombe,
and was coming back.
Jone is a good fellow, but he's got a will of his own, and he said that
this would be the end of my tricycle riding, and that the next time we
went out together on wheels he'd drive. I didn't tell him anything
about the stag hunt then, for he seemed to be in favor of doing all the
talking himself; but after dinner, when we was all settled down quiet
and comfortable, I told him and Mr. Poplington the story of the chase,
and they both laughed, Mr. Poplington the most.
_Letter Number Thirteen_
It is now about a week since my stag hunt, and Jone and I have kept
pretty quiet, taking short walks, and doing a good deal of reading in
our garden whenever the sun shines into the little arbor there, and Mr.
Poplington spends most of his time fishing. He works very hard at this,
partly for the sake of his conscience, I think, for his bicycle trip
made him lose three or four days he had taken a license for.
It was day before yesterday that rheumatism showed itself certain and
plain in Jone. I had been thinking that perhaps I might have it first,
but it wasn't so, and it began in Jone, which, though I don't want you
to think me hard-hearted, madam, was perhaps better; for if it had not
been for it, it might have been hard to get him out of this comfortable
little cottage, where he'd be perfectly content to stay until it was
time for us to sail for America. The beautiful greenness which spreads
over the fields and hills, and not only the leaves of trees and vines,
but down and around trunks and branches, is charming to look at and
never to be forgotten; but when this moist greenness spreads itself to
one's bones, especially when it creeps up to the parts that work
together, then the soul of man longs for less picturesqueness and more
easy-going joints. Jone says the English take their climate as they do
their whiskey; and he calls it climate-and-water, with a very little of
the first and a good deal of the other.
Of course, we must now leave Chedcombe; and when we talked to Mr.
Poplington about it he said there was two places the English went to
for their rheumatism. One was Bath, not far from here, and the other
was Buxton, up in the north. As soon as I heard of Bath I was on pins
and needles to go there, for in all the novel-reading I've done, which
has been getting better and better in quality since the days when I
used to read dime novels on the canal-boat, up to now when I like the
best there is, I could not help knowing lots about Evelina and Beau
Brummel, and the Pump Room, and the fine ladies and young bucks, and it
would have joyed my soul to live and move where all these people had
been, and where all these things had happened, even if fictitiously.
But Mr. Poplington came down like a shower on my notions, and said that
Bath was very warm, and was the place where everybody went for their
rheumatism in winter; but that Buxton was the place for the summer,
because it was on high land and cool. This cast me down a good deal;
for if we could have gone where I could have steeped my soul in
romanticness, and at the same time Jone could have steeped himself in
warm mineral water, there would not have been any time lost, and both
of us would have been happier. But Mr. Poplington stuck to it that it
would ruin anybody's constitution to go to such a hot place in August,
and so I had to give it up.
So to-morrow we start for Buxton, which, from what I can make out, must
be a sort of invalid picnic ground. I always did hate diseases and
ailments, even of the mildest, when they go in caravan. I like to take
people's sicknesses separate, because then I feel I might do something
to help; but when they are bunched I feel as if it was sort of mean for
me to go about cheerful and singing when other people was all grunting.
But we are not going straight to Buxton. As I have often said, Jone is
a good fellow, and he told me last night if there was any bit of fancy
scenery I'd like to stop on the way to the unromantic refuge he'd be
glad to give me the chance, because he didn't suppose it would matter
much if he put off his hot soaks for a few days. It didn't take me long
to name a place I'd like to stop at--for most of my reading lately has
been in the guide books, and I had crammed myself with the descriptions
of places worth seeing, that would take us at least two years to look
at--so I said I would like to go to the River Wye, which is said to be
the most romantic stream in England, and when that is said, enough is
said for me, so Jone agreed, and we are going to do the Wye on our way
There is going to be an election here in a few days, and this morning
Jone and me hobbled into the village--that is, he hobbled in body, and
I did in mind to think of his going along like a creaky wheelbarrow.
Everybody was agog about the election, and we was looking at some
placards posted against a wall, when Mr. Locky, the innkeeper, came
along, and after bidding us good-morning he asked Jone what party he
belonged to. "I'm a Home Ruler," said Jone, "especially in the matter
of tricycles." Mr. Locky didn't understand the last part of this
speech, but I did, and he said, "I am glad you are not a Tory, sir. If
you will read that, you will see what the Tory party has done for us,"
and he pointed out some lines at the bottom of a green placard, and
these was the words: "Remember it was the Tory party that lost us the
United States of America."
"Well," said Jone, "that seems like going a long way off to get some
stones to throw at the Tories, but I feel inclined to heave a rock at
them myself for the injury that party has done to America."
"To America!" said Mr. Locky, "Did the Tories ever harm America?"
"Of course they did," said Jone; "they lost us England, a very valuable
country, indeed, and a great loss to any nation. If it had not been for
the Tory party, Mr. Gladstone might now be in Washington as a senator
[Illustration: "I'm a Home Ruler"]
Mr. Locky didn't understand one word of this, and so he asked Jone
which leg his rheumatism was in; and when Jone told him it was his left
leg he said it was a very curious thing, but if you would take a
hundred men in Chedcombe there would be at least sixty with rheumatism
in the left leg, and perhaps not more than twenty with it in the right,
which was something the doctors never had explained yet.
It is awfully hard to go away and leave this lovely little cottage with
its roses and vines, and Miss Pondar, and all its sweet-smelling
comforts; and not only the cottage, but the village, and Mrs. Locky and
her husband at the Bordley Arms, who couldn't have been kinder to us
and more anxious to know what we wanted and what they could do. The
fact is, that when English people do like Americans they go at it with
just as much vim and earnestness as if they was helping Britannia to
rule more waves.
While I was feeling badly at leaving Miss Pondar your letter came, dear
madam, and I must say it gave heavy hearts to Jone and me, to me
especially, as you can well understand. I went off into the
summer-house, and as I sat there thinking and reading the letter over
again, I do believe some tears came into my eyes; and Miss Pondar, who
was working in the garden only a little way off--for if there is
anything she likes to do it is to weed and fuss among the rose-bushes
and other flowers, which she does whenever her other work gives her a
chance--she happened to look up, and seeing that I was in trouble, she
came right to me, like the good woman she is, and asked me if I had
heard bad news, and if I would like a little gin and water.
I said that I had had bad news, but that I did not want any spirits,
and she said she hoped nothing had happened to any of my family, and I
told her not exactly; but in looking back it seemed as if it was almost
that way. I thought I ought to tell her what had happened, for I could
see that she was really feeling for me, and so I said: "Poor Lord
Edward is dead. To be sure, he was very old, and I suppose we had not
any right to think he'd live even as long as he did; and as he was
nearly blind and had very poor use of his legs it was, perhaps, better
that he should go. But when I think of what friends we used to be
before I was married, I can't help feeling badly to think that he has
gone; that when I go back to America he will not show he is glad to see
me home again, which he would be if there wasn't another soul on the
whole continent who felt that way."
Miss Pondar was now standing up with her hands folded in front of her,
and her head bowed down as if she was walking behind a hearse with
eight ostrich plumes on it. "Lord Edward," she said, in a melancholy,
respectful voice, "and will his remains be brought to England for
"Oh, no," said I, not understanding what she was talking about. "I am
sure he will be buried somewhere near his home, and when I go back his
grave will be one of the first places I will visit."
A streak of bewilderment began to show itself in Miss Pondar's
melancholy respectfulness, and she said: "Of course, when one lives in
foreign parts one may die there, but I always thought in cases like
that they were brought home to their family vaults."
It may seem strange for me to think of anything funny at a time like
this, but when Miss Pondar mentioned family vaults when talking of Lord
Edward, there came into my mind the jumps he used to make whenever he
saw any of us coming home; but I saw what she was driving at and the
mistake she had made. "Oh," I said, "he was not a member of the British
nobility; he was a dog; Lord Edward was his name. I never loved any
animal as I loved him."
I suppose, madam, that you must sometimes have noticed one of the top
candles of a chandelier, when the room gets hot, suddenly bending over
and drooping and shedding tears of hot paraffine on the candles below,
and perhaps on the table; and if you can remember what that overcome
candle looked like, you will have an idea of what Miss Pondar looked
like when she found out Lord Edward was a dog. I think that for one
brief moment she hugged to her bosom the fond belief that I was
intimate with the aristocracy, and that a noble lord, had he not
departed this life, would have been the first to welcome me home, and
that she--she herself--was in my service. But the drop was an awful
one. I could see the throes of mortified disappointment in her back, as
she leaned over a bed of pinks, pulling out young plants, I am afraid,
as well as weeds. When I looked at her, I was sorry I let her know it
was a dog I mourned. She has tried so hard to make everything all right
while we have been here, that she might just as well have gone on
thinking that it was a noble earl who died.
To-morrow morning we shall have our last Devonshire clotted cream, for
they tell me this is to be had only in the west of England, and when I
think of the beautiful hills and vales of this country I shall not
Of course we would not have time to stay here longer, even if Jone
hadn't got the rheumatism; but if he had to have it, for which I am as
sorry as anybody can be, it is a lucky thing that he did have it just
about the time that we ought to be going away, anyhow. And although I
did not think, when we came to England, that we should ever go to
Buxton, we are thankful that there is such a place to go to; although,
for my part, I can't help feeling disappointed that the season isn't
such that we could go to Bath, and Evelina and Beau Brummel.
_Letter Number Fourteen_
BELL HOTEL, GLOUCESTER
We came to this queer old English town, not because it is any better
than so many other towns, but because Mr. Poplington told us it was a
good place for our headquarters while we was seeing the River Wye and
other things in the neighborhood. This hotel is the best in the town
and very well kept, so that Jone made his usual remark about its being
a good place to stay in. We are near the point where the four principal
streets of the town, called Northgate, Eastgate, Southgate, and
Westgate, meet, and if there was nothing else to see it would be worth
while to stand there and look at so much Englishism coming and going
from four different quarters.
There is another hotel here, called the New Inn, that was recommended
to us, but I thought we would not want to go there, for we came to see
old England, and I don't want to see its new and shiny things, so we
came to the Bell, as being more antique. But I have since found out
that the New Inn was built in 1450 to accommodate the pilgrims who came
to pay their respects to the tomb of Edward II. in the fine old
cathedral here. But though I should like to live in a four-hundred-and
forty-year-old house, we are very well satisfied where we are.
Two very good things come from Gloucester, for it is the well-spring of
Sunday schools and vaccination. They keep here the horns of the cow
that Dr. Jenner first vaccinated from, and not far from our hotel is
the house of Robert Raikes. This is an old-fashioned timber house, and
looks like a man wearing his skeleton outside of his skin. We are sorry
Mr. Poplington couldn't come here with us, for he could have shown us a
great many things; but he stayed at Chedcombe to finish his fishing,
and he said he might meet us at Buxton, where he goes every year for
To see the River Wye you must go down it, so with just one handbag we
took the train for the little town of Ross, which is near the beginning
of the navigable part of the river--I might almost say the wadeable
part, for I imagine the deepest soundings about Ross are not more than
half a yard. We stayed all night at a hotel overlooking the valley of
the little river, and as the best way to see this wonderful stream is
to go down it in a rowboat, as soon as we reached Ross we engaged a
boat and a man for the next morning to take us to Monmouth, which would
be about a day's row, and give us the best part of the river. But I
must say that when we looked out over the valley the prospect was not
very encouraging, for it seemed to me that if the sun came out hot it
would dry up that river, and Jone might not be willing to wait until
the next heavy rain.
While we was at Chedcombe I read the "Maid of Sker," because its scenes
are laid in the Bristol Channel, about the coast near where we was, and
over in Wales. And when the next morning we went down to the boat which
we was going to take our day's trip in, and I saw the man who was to
row us, David Llewellyn popped straight into my mind.
This man was elderly, with gray hair, and a beard under his chin, with
a general air of water and fish. He was good-natured and sociable from
the very beginning. It seemed a shame that an old man should row two
people so much younger than he was, but after I had looked at him
pulling at his oars for a little while, I saw that there was no need
of pitying him.
It was a good day, with only one or two drizzles in the morning, and we
had not gone far before I found that the Wye was more of a river than I
thought it was, though never any bigger than a creek. It was just about
warm enough for a boat trip, though the old man told us there had been
a "rime" that morning, which made me think of the "Ancient Mariner."
The more the boatman talked and made queer jokes, the more I wanted to
ask him his name; and I hoped he would say David Llewellyn, or at least
David, and as a sort of feeler I asked him if he had ever seen a
coracle. "A corkle?" said he. "Oh, yes, ma'am, I've seen many a one and
rowed in them."
I couldn't wait any longer, and so I asked him his name. He stopped
rowing and leaned on his oars and let the boat drift. "Now," said he,
"if you've got a piece of paper and a pencil I wish you would listen
careful and put down my name, and if you ever know of any other people
in your country coming to the River Wye, I wish you would tell them my
name, and say I am a boatman, and can take them down the river better
than anybody else that's on it. My name is Samivel Jones. Be sure
you've got that right, please--Samivel Jones. I was born on this river,
and I rowed on it with my father when I was a boy, and I have rowed on
it ever since, and now I am sixty-five years old. Do you want to know
why this river is called the Wye? I will tell you. Wye means crooked,
so this river is called the Wye because it is crooked. Wye, the crooked
There was no doubt about the old man's being right about the
crookedness of the stream. If you have ever noticed an ant running over
the floor you will have an idea how the Wye runs through this beautiful
country. If it comes to a hill it doesn't just pass it and let you see
one side of it, but it goes as far around it as it can, and then goes
back again, and goes around some other hill or great rocky point, or a
clump of woods, or anything else that travellers might like to see. At
one place, called Symond's Yat, it makes a curve so great, that if we
was to get out of our boat and walk across the land, we would have to
walk less than half a mile before we came to the river again; but to
row around the curve as we did, we had to go five miles.
Every now and then we came to rapids. I didn't count them, but I think
there must have been about one to every mile, where the river-bed was
full of rocks, and where the water rushed furiously around and over
them. If we had been rowing ourselves we would have gone on shore and
camped when we came to the first of these rapids, for we wouldn't have
supposed our little boat could go through those tumbling, rushing
waters; but old Samivel knew exactly how the narrow channel, just deep
enough sometimes for our boat to float without bumping the bottom, runs
and twists itself among the hidden rocks, and he'd stand up in the bow
and push the boat this way and that until it slid into the quiet water
again, and he sat down to his oars. After we had been through four or
five of these we didn't feel any more afraid than if we had been
sitting together on our own little back porch.
As for the banks of this river, they got more and more beautiful as we
went on. There was high hills with some castles, woods and crags and
grassy slopes, and now and then a lordly mansion or two, and great
massive, rocky walls, bedecked with vines and moss, rising high up
above our heads and shutting us out from the world.
Jone and I was filled as full as our minds could hold with the romantic
loveliness of the river and its banks, and old Samivel was so pleased
to see how we liked it--for I believe he looked upon that river as his
private property--that he told us about everything we saw, and pointed
out a lot of things we wouldn't have noticed if it hadn't been for him,
as if he had been a man explaining a panorama, and pointing out with a
stick the notable spots as the canvas unrolled.
The only thing in his show which didn't satisfy him was two very fine
houses which had both of them belonged to noble personages in days
gone by, but which had been sold, one to a man who had made his money
in tea, and the other to a man who had made money in cotton. "Think of
that," said he; "cotton and tea, and living in such mansions as them
are, once owned by lords. They are both good men, and gives a great
deal to the poor, and does all they can for the country; but only think
of it, madam, cotton and tea! But all that happened a good while ago,
and the world is getting too enlightened now for such estates as them
are to come to cotton and tea."
Sometimes we passed houses and little settlements, but, for the most
part, the country was as wild as undiscovered lands, which, being that
to me, I felt happier, I am sure, than Columbus did when he first
sighted floating weeds. Jone was a good deal wound up too, for he had
never seen anything so beautiful as all this. We had our luncheon at a
little inn, where the bread was so good that for a time I forgot the
scenery, and then we went on, passing through the Forest of Dean,
lonely and solemn, with great oak and beech trees, and Robin Hood and
his merry men watching us from behind the bushes for all we knew.
Whenever the river twists itself around, as if to show us a new view,
old Samivel would say: "Now isn't that the prettiest thing you've seen
yet?" and he got prouder and prouder of his river every mile he rowed.
At one place he stopped and rested on his oars. "Now, then," said he,
twinkling up his face as if he was really David Llewellyn showing us a
fish with its eyes bulged out with sticks to make it look fresh, "as we
are out on a kind of a lark, suppose we try a bit of a hecho," and then
he turned to a rocky valley on his left, and in a voice like the man at
the station calling out the trains he yelled, "Hello there, sir! What
are you doing there, sir? Come out of that!" And when the words came
back as if they had been balls batted against a wall, he turned and
looked at us as proud and grinny as if the rocks had been his own baby
saying "papa" and "mamma" for visitors.
Not long after this we came to a place where there was a wide field on
one side, and a little way off we could see the top of a house among
the trees. A hedge came across the field to the river, and near the
bank was a big gate, and on this gate sat two young women, and down on
the ground on the side of the hedge nearest to us was another young
woman, and not far from her was three black hogs, two of them pointing
their noses at her and grunting, and the other was grunting around a
place where those young women had been making sketches and drawings,
and punching his nose into the easels and portfolios on the ground. The
young woman on the grass was striking at the hogs with a stick and
trying to make them go away, which they wouldn't do; and just as we
came near she dropped the stick and ran, and climbed up on the gate
beside the others, after which all the hogs went to rooting among the
As soon as Samivel saw what was going on he stopped his boat, and
shouted to the hogs a great deal louder than he had shouted to the
echo, but they didn't mind any more than they had minded the girl with
the stick. "Can't we stop the boat," I said, "and get out and drive off
those hogs? They will eat up all the papers and sketches."
"Just put me ashore," said Jone, "and I'll clear them out in no time;"
and old Samivel rowed the boat close up to the bank.
But when Jone got suddenly up on his feet there was such a twitch
across his face that I said to him, "Now just you sit down. If you go
ashore to drive off those hogs you'll jump about so that you'll bring
on such a rheumatism you can't sleep."
"I'll get out myself," said Samivel, "if I can find a place to fasten
the boat to. I can't run her ashore here, and the current is strong."
"Don't you leave the boat," said I, for the thought of Jone and me
drifting off and coming without him to one of those rapids sent a
shudder through me; and as the stern of the boat where I sat was close
to the shore I jumped with Jone's stick in my hand before either of
them could hinder me. I was so afraid that Jone would do it that I was
very quick about it.
The minute I left the boat Jone got ready to come after me, for he had
no notion of letting me be on shore by myself, but the boat had drifted
off a little, and old Samivel said:
"That is a pretty steep bank to get up with the rheumatism on you. I'll
take you a little farther down, where I can ground the boat, and you
can get off more steadier."
But this letter is getting as long as the River Wye itself, and I must
_Letter Number Fifteen_
BELL HOTEL, GLOUCESTER
As soon as I jumped on shore, as I told you in my last, and had taken a
good grip on Jone's heavy stick, I went for those hogs, for I wanted to
drive them off before Jone came ashore, for I didn't want him to think
he must come.
I have driven hogs and cows out of lots and yards often enough, as you
know yourself, madam, so I just stepped up to the biggest of them and
hit him a whack across the head as he was rubbing his nose in among
some papers with bits of landscapes on them, as was enough to make him
give up studying art for the rest of his life; but would you believe
it, madam, instead of running away he just made a bolt at me, and gave
me such a push with his head and shoulders he nearly knocked me over? I
never was so astonished, for they looked like hogs that you might think
could be chased out of a yard by a boy. But I gave the fellow another
crack on the back, which he didn't seem to notice, but just turned
again to give me another push, and at the same minute the two others
stopped rooting among the paint-boxes and came grunting at me.
For the first time in my life I was frightened by hogs. I struck at
them as hard as I could, and before I knew what I was about I flung
down the stick, made a rush for that gate, and was on top of it in no
time, in company with the three other young women that was sitting
"Really," said the one next to me, "I fancied you was going to be gored
to atoms before our eyes. Whatever made you go to those nasty beasts?"
I looked at her quite severe, getting my feet well up out of reach of
the hogs if they should come near us.
"I saw you was in trouble, miss, and I came to help you. My husband
wanted to come, but he has the rheumatism and I wouldn't let him."
The other two young women looked at me as well as they could around the
one that was near me, and the one that was farthest off said:
"If the creatures could have been driven off by a woman, we could have
done it ourselves. I don't know why you should think you could do it
any better than we could."
I must say, madam, that at that minute I was a little humble-minded,
for I don't mind confessing to you that the idea of one American woman
plunging into a conflict that had frightened off three English women,
and coming out victorious, had a good deal to do with my trying to
drive away those hogs; and now that I had come out of the little end
of the horn, just as the young women had, I felt pretty small, but I
wasn't going to let them see that.
"I think that English hogs," said I, "must be savager than American
ones. Where I live there is not any kind of a hog that would not run
away if I shook a stick at him." The young woman at the other end of
the gate now spoke again.
"Everything British is braver than anything American," said she; "and
all you have done has been to vex those hogs, and they are chewing up
our drawing things worse than they did before."
Of course I fired up at this, and said, "You are very much mistaken
about Americans." But before I could say any more she went on to tell
me that she knew all about Americans; she had been in America, and such
a place she could never have fancied.
"Over there you let everybody trample over you as much as they please.
You have no conveniences. One cannot even get a cab. Fancy! Not a cab
to be had unless one pays enough for a drive in Hyde Park."
I must say that the hogs charging down on me didn't astonish me any
more than to find myself on top of a gate with a young woman charging
on my country in this fashion, and it was pretty hard on me to have her
pitch into the cab question, because Jone and me had had quite a good
deal to say about cabs ourselves, comparing New York and London,
without any great fluttering of the stars and stripes; but I wasn't
going to stand any such talk as that, and so I said:
"I know very well that our cab charges are high, and it is not likely
that poor people coming from other countries are able to pay them; but
as soon as our big cities get filled up with wretched, half-starved
people, with the children crying for bread at home, and the father glad
enough that he's able to get people to pay him a shilling for a drive,
and that he's not among the hundreds and thousands of miserable men who
have not any work at all, and go howling to Hyde Park to hold meetings
for blood or bread, then we will be likely to have cheap cabs as you
"How perfectly awful!" said the young woman nearest me; but the one at
the other end of the gate didn't seem to mind what I said, but shifted
off on another track.
"And then there's your horses' tails," said she; "anything nastier
couldn't be fancied. Hundreds of them everywhere with long tails down
to their heels, as if they belong to heathens who had never been
"Heathens?" said I. "If you call the Arabians heathens, who have the
finest horses in the world, and wouldn't any more think of cutting off
their tails than they would think of cutting their legs off; and if
you call the cruel scoundrels who torture their poor horses by sawing
their bones apart so as to get a little stuck-up bob on behind, like a
moth-eaten paint-brush--if you call them Christians, then I suppose
you're right. There is a law in some parts of our country against the
wickedness of chopping off the tails of live horses, and if you had
such a law here you'd be a good deal more Christian-like than you are,
to say nothing of getting credit for decent taste."
By this time I had forgotten all about what Jone and I had agreed upon
as to arguing over the differences between countries, and I was just as
peppery as a wasp. The young woman at the other end of the gate was
rather waspy too, for she seemed to want to sting me wherever she could
find a spot uncovered; and now she dropped off her horses' tails, and
began to laugh until her face got purple.
"You Americans are so awfully odd," she said. "You say you raise your
corn and your plants instead of growing them. It nearly makes me die
laughing when I hear one of you Americans say raise when you mean
Now Jone and me had some talk about growing and raising, and the
reasons for and against our way of using the words; but I was ready to
throw all this to the winds, and was just about to tell the impudent
young woman that we raised our plants just the same as we raised our
children, leaving them to do their own growing, when the young woman
in the middle of the three, who up to this time hadn't said a word,
[Illustration: "AND WITH A SCREECH I DASHED AT THOSE HOGS LIKE A STEAM
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear! He's pulled out my drawing of Wilton Bridge. He'll
eat it up. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Whatever shall I do?"
Instead of speaking I turned quick and looked at the hogs, and there,
sure enough, one of them had rooted open a portfolio and had hold of
the corners of a colored picture, which, from where I sat, I could see
was perfectly beautiful. The sky and the trees and the water was just
like what we ourselves had seen a little while ago, and in about half a
minute that hog would chew it up and swallow it.
The young woman next to me had an umbrella in her hand. I made a snatch
at this and dropped off that gate like a shot. I didn't stop to think
about anything except that beautiful picture was on the point of being
swallowed up, and with a screech I dashed at those hogs like a steam
engine. When they saw me coming with my screech and the umbrella they
didn't stop a second, but with three great wiggles and three scared
grunts they bolted as fast as they could go. I picked up the picture of
the bridge, together with the portfolio, and took them to the young
woman who owned them. As the hogs had gone, all three of the women was
now getting down from the gate.
"Thank you very much," she said, "for saving my drawings. It was
awfully good of you, especially--"
"Oh, you are welcome," said I, cutting her off short; and, handing the
other young woman her umbrella, I passed by the impudent one without so
much as looking at her, and on the other side of the hedge I saw Jone
coming across the grass. I jerked open the gate, not caring who it
might swing against, and walked to meet Jone. When I was near enough I
called out to know what on earth had become of him that he had left me
there so long by myself, forgetting that I hadn't wanted him to come at
all; and he told me that he had had a hard time getting on shore,
because they found the banks very low and muddy, and when he had landed
he was on the wrong side of a hedge, and had to walk a good way around
"I was troubled," said he, "because I thought you might come to grief
with the hogs."
"Hogs!" said I, so sarcastic, that Jone looked hard at me, but I didn't
tell him anything more till we was in the boat, and then I just said
right out what had happened. Jone couldn't help laughing.
"If I had known," said he, "that you was on top of a gate discussing
horses' tails and cabs I wouldn't have felt in such a hurry to get to
"And you would have made a mistake if you hadn't," I said, "for hogs
are nothing to such a person as was on that gate."
Old Samivel was rowing slow and looking troubled, and I believe at that
minute he forgot the River Wye was crooked.
"That was really hard, madam," he said, "really hard on you; but it was
a woman, and you have to excuse women. Now if they had been three
Englishmen sitting on that gate they would never have said such things
to you, knowing that you was a stranger in these parts and had come on
shore to do them a service. And now, madam, I'm glad to see you are
beginning to take notice of the landscapes again. Just ahead of us is
another bend, and when we get around that you'll see the prettiest
picture you've seen yet. This is a crooked river, madam, and that's how
it got its name. Wye means crooked."
After a while we came to a little church near the river bank, and here
Samivel stopped rowing, and putting his hands on his knees he laughed
"It always makes me laugh," he said, "whenever I pass this spot. It
seems to me like such an awful good joke. Here's that church on this
side of the river, and away over there on the other side of the river
is the rector and the congregation."
"And how do they get to church?" said I.
"In the summer time," said he, "they come over with a ferry-boat and a
rope; but in the winter, when the water is frozen, they can't get over
at all. Many's the time I've lain in bed and laughed and laughed when
I thought of this church on one side of the river, and the whole
congregation and the rector on the other side, and not able to get
Toward the end of the day, and when we had rowed nearly twenty miles,
we saw in the distance the town of Monmouth, where we was going to stop
for the night.
[Illustration: "In the winter, when the water is frozen, they can't get
Old Samivel asked us what hotel we was going to stop at, and when we
told him the one we had picked out he said he could tell us a better
"If I was you," he said, "I'd go to the Eyengel." We didn't know what
this name meant, but as the old man said he would take us there we
agreed to go.
"I should think you would have a lonely time rowing back by yourself,"
"Rowing back?" said he. "Why, bless your soul, lady, there isn't
nobody who could row this boat back agen that current and up them
rapids. We take the boats back with the pony. We put the boat on a
wagon and the pony pulls it back to Ross; and as for me, I generally go
back by the train. It isn't so far from Monmouth to Ross by the road,
for the road is straight and the river winds and bends."
The old man took us to the inn which he recommended, and we found it
was the Angel. It was a nice, old-fashioned, queer English house. As
far as I could see, they was all women that managed it, and it couldn't
have been managed better; and as far as I could see, we was the only
guests, unless there was "commercial gents," who took themselves away
without our seeing them.
We was sorry to have old Samivel leave us, and we bid him a most
friendly good-by, and promised if we ever knew of anybody who wanted to
go down the River Wye we would recommend them to ask at Ross for
Samivel Jones to row them.
We found the landlady of the Angel just as good to us as if we had been
her favorite niece and nephew. She hired us a carriage the next day,
and we was driven out to Raglan Castle, through miles and miles of
green and sloping ruralness. When we got there and rambled through
those grand old ruins, with the drawbridge and the tower and the
courtyard, my soul went straight back to the days of knights and
ladies, and prancing steeds, and horns and hawks, and pages and
tournaments, and wild revels and vaulted halls.
The young man who had charge of the place seemed glad to see how much
we liked it, as is natural enough, for everybody likes to see us
pleased with the particular things they have on hand.
"You haven't anything like this in your country," said he. But to this
I said nothing, for I was tired of always hearing people speak of my
national denomination as if I was something in tin cans, with a label
pasted on outside; but Jone said it was true enough that we didn't have
anything like it, for if we had such a noble edifice we would have
taken care of it, and not let it go to rack and ruin in this way.
Jone has an idea that it don't show good sense to knock a bit of
furniture about from garret to cellar until most of its legs are
broken, and its back cracked, and its varnish all peeled off, and then
tie ribbons around it, and hang it up in the parlor, and kneel down to
it as a relic of the past. He says that people who have got old ruins
ought to be very thankful that there is any of them left, but it's no
use in them trying to fill up the missing parts with brag.
We took the train and went to Chepstow, which is near the mouth of the
Wye, and as the railroad ran near the river nearly all the way we had
lots of beautiful views, though, of course, it wasn't anything like as
good as rowing along the stream in a boat. The next day we drove to the
celebrated Tintern Abbey, and on the way the road passed two miles and
a half of high stone wall, which shut in a gentleman's place. What he
wanted to keep in or keep out by means of a wall like that, we couldn't
imagine; but the place made me think of a lunatic asylum.
The road soon became shady and beautiful, running through woods along
the river bank and under some great crags called the Wyndcliffe, and
then we came to the Abbey and got out.
Of all the beautiful high-pointed archery of ancient times, this ruined
Abbey takes the lead. I expect you've seen it, madam, or read about it,
and I am not going to describe it; but I will just say that Jone, who
had rather objected to coming out to see any more old ruins, which he
never did fancy, and only came because he wouldn't have me come by
myself, was so touched up in his soul by what he saw there, and by
wandering through this solemn and beautiful romance of bygone days, he
said he wouldn't have missed it for fifty dollars.
We came back to Gloucester to-day, and to-morrow we are off for Buxton.
As we are so near Stratford and Warwick and all that, Jone said we'd
better go there on our way, but I wouldn't agree to it. I am too
anxious to get him skipping round like a colt, as he used to, to stop
anywhere now, and when we come back I can look at Shakespeare's tomb
with a clearer conscience.
* * * * *
After all, the weather isn't the only changeable thing in this world,
and this letter, which I thought I was going to send to you from
Gloucester, is now being finished in London. We was expecting to start
for Buxton, but some money that Jone had ordered to be sent from London
two or three days before didn't come, and he thought it would be wise
for him to go and look after it. So yesterday, which was Saturday, we
started off for London, and came straight to the Babylon Hotel, where
we had been before.
Of course we couldn't do anything until Monday, and this morning when
we got up we didn't feel in very good spirits, for of all the doleful
things I know of, a Sunday in London is the dolefullest. The whole town
looks as if it was the back door of what it was the day before, and if
you want to get any good out of it, you feel as if you had to sneak in
by an alley, instead of walking boldly up the front steps.
Jone said we'd better go to Westminster Abbey to church, because he
believed in getting the best there was when it didn't cost too much,
but I wouldn't do it.
[Illustration: "Who do you suppose we met? Mr. Poplington!"]
"No," said I. "When I walk in that religious nave and into the hallowed
precincts of the talented departed, the stone passages are full of
cloudy forms of Chaucers, Addisons, Miltons, Dickenses, and all those
great ones of the past; and I would hate to see the place filled up
with a crowd of weekday lay people in their Sunday clothes, which would
be enough to wipe away every feeling of romantic piety which might rise
within my breast."
As we didn't go to the Abbey, and was so long making up our minds where
we should go, it got too late to go anywhere, and so we stayed in the
hotel and looked out into a lonely and deserted street, with the wind
blowing the little leaves and straws against the tight-shut doors of
the forsaken houses. As I stood by that window I got homesick, and at
last I could stand it no longer, and I said to Jone, who was smoking
and reading a paper:
"Let's put on our hats and go out for a walk, for I can't mope here
So down we went, and coming up the front steps of the front entrance
who do you suppose we met? Mr. Poplington! He was stopping at that
hotel, and was just coming home from church, with his face shining like
a sunset on account of the comfortableness of his conscience after
doing his duty.
_Letter Number Sixteen_
When I mentioned Mr. Poplington in my last letter in connection with
the setting sun I was wrong; he was like the rising orb of day, and he
filled London with effulgent light. No sooner had we had a talk, and we
had told him all that had happened, and finished up by saying what a
doleful morning we had had, than he clapped his hand on his knees and
said, "I'll tell you what we will do. We will spend the afternoon among
the landmarks." And what we did was to take a four-wheeler and go
around the old parts of London, where Mr. Poplington showed us a lot of
soul-awakening spots which no common stranger would be likely to find
If you are ever steeped in the solemnness of a London Sunday, and you
can get a jolly, red-faced, middle-aged English gentleman, who has made
himself happy by going to church in the morning, and is ready to make
anybody else happy in the afternoon, just stir him up in the mixture,
and then you will know the difference between cod-liver oil and
champagne, even if you have never tasted either of them. The afternoon
was piled-up-and-pressed-down joyfulness for me, and I seemed to be
walking in a dream among the beings and the things that we only see in
Mr. Poplington first took us to the old Watergate, which was the river
entrance to York House, where Lord Bacon lived, and close to the gate
was the small house where Peter the Great and David Copperfield lived,
though not at the same time; and then we went to Will's old
coffee-house, where Addison, Steele, and a lot of other people of that
sort used to go to drink and smoke before they was buried in
Westminster Abbey, and where Charles and Mary Lamb lived afterward, and
where Mary used to look out of the window to see the constables take
the thieves to the Old Bailey near by. Then we went to Tom-all-alone's,
and saw the very grating at the head of the steps which led to the old
graveyard where poor Joe used to sweep the steps when Lady Dedlock came
there, and I held on to the very bars that the poor lady must have
gripped when she knelt on the steps to die.
Not far away was the Black Jack Tavern, where Jack Sheppard and all the
great thieves of the day used to meet. And bless me! I have read so
much about Jack Sheppard that I could fairly see him jumping out of the
window he always dropped from when the police came. After that we saw
the house where Mr. Tulkinghorn, Lady Dedlock's lawyer, used to live,
and also the house where old Krook was burned up by spontaneous
combustion. Then we went to Bolt Court, where old Samuel Johnson lived,
walked about, and talked, and then to another court where he lived when
he wrote the dictionary, and after that to the "Cheshire Cheese" Inn,
where he and Oliver Goldsmith often used to take their meals together.
Then we saw St. John's Gate, where the Knights Templars met, and the
yard of the Court of Chancery, where little Miss Flite used to wait for
the Day of Judgment; and as we was coming home he showed us the church
of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, where every other Friday the bells are
rung at five o'clock in the afternoon, most people not knowing what it
is for, but really because the famous Nell Gwynn, who was far from
being a churchwoman, left a sum of money for having a merry peal of
bells rung every Friday until the end of the world. I got so wound up
by all this, that I quite forgot Jone, and hardly thought of Mr.
Poplington, except that he was telling me all these things, and
bringing back to my mind so much that I had read about, though
sometimes very little.
When we got back to the hotel and had gone up to our room, Jone said to
"That was all very fine and interesting from top to toe, but it does
seem to me as if things were dreadfully mixed. Dr. Johnson and Jack
Sheppard, I suppose, was all real and could live in houses; but when
it comes to David Copperfields and Lady Dedlocks and little Miss
Flites, that wasn't real and never lived at all, they was all talked
about in just the same way, and their favorite tramping grounds pointed
out, and I can't separate the real people from the fancy folk, if we've
got to have the same bosom heaving for the whole of them."
"Jone," said I, "they are all real, every one of them. If Mr. Dickens
had written history I expect he'd put Lady Dedlock and Miss Flite and
David Copperfield into it; and if the history writers had written
stories they would have been sure to get Dr. Johnson and Lord Bacon and
Peter the Great into them; and the people in the one kind of writing
would have been just as real as the people in the other. At any rate,
that's the way they are to me."
On the Monday after our landmark expedition with Mr. Poplington, which
I shall never forget, Jone settled up his business matters, and the
next day we started for Buxton and the rheumatism baths. To our great
delight Mr. Poplington said he would go with us, not all the way, for
he wanted to stop at a little place called Rowsley, where he would stay
for a few days and then go on to Buxton; but we was very glad to have
him with us during the greater part of the way, and we all left the
hotel in the same four-wheeler.
When we got to the station Jone got first-class tickets, for we have
found out that if you want to travel comfortable in England, and have
porters attend to your baggage and find an empty carriage for you, and
have the guard come along and smile in the window and say he'll try to
let you have that carriage all to yourselves if he's able--the ableness
depending a good deal on what you give him--and for everybody to do
their best to make your journey pleasant, you must travel first class.
Mr. Poplington also bought a first-class ticket, for there was no
seconds on this line. As we was walking along by the platform Jone and
I gave a sort of a jump, for there was a regular Pullman car, which
made us think we might be at home. We stopped and looked at it, and
then the guard, who was standing by, stepped up to us and touched his
hat, and asked us if we would like to take the Pullman, and when Jone
asked what the extra charge was, he said nothing at all for first-class
passengers. We didn't have to stop to think a minute, but said right
off that we would go in it, but Mr. Poplington would not come with us.
He said English people wasn't accustomed to that, they wanted to be
more private; and, although he'd like to be with us, he could not
travel in a caravan like that, and so he went off by himself, and we
got into the Pullman.
The guard said we could take any seats we pleased; and when we got in
we found there was only two or three people in it, and we chose two
nice armchairs, hung up our wraps, and made ourselves comfortable and
We expected that the people who engaged seats would soon come crowding
in, but when the train started there was only four people besides
ourselves in that beautiful car, which was a first-class one, built in
the United States, with all sorts of comforts and conveniences. There
was a porter who laid himself out to make us happy, and about one
o'clock we had a nice lunch on a little table which was set up between
us, with two waiters to attend to us, and then Jone went and had a
smoke in a small room at one end of the car.
We thought it was strange that there should be so few people travelling
on this train, but when we came to a town where we made a long stop
Jone got out to talk to Mr. Poplington, supposing it likely that he'd
have a carriage to himself; but he was amazed to see that the train was
jammed and crowded, and he found Mr. Poplington squeezed up in a
carriage with seven other people, four of them one side and four the
other, each row staring into the faces of the other. Some of them was
eating bread and cheese out of paper parcels, and a big fat man was
reading a newspaper, which he spread out so as to partly cover the two
people sitting next to him, and all of them seemed anxious to find
some way of stretching their legs so as not to strike against the legs
of somebody else.
Mr. Poplington was sitting by the window, and Jone couldn't help
laughing when he said:
"Is this what you call being private, sir? I think you would find a
caravan more pleasant. Don't you want to come to the Pullman with us?
There are plenty of seats there, nice big armchairs that you can turn
around and sit any way you like, and look at people or not look at
them, just as you please, and there's plenty of room to walk about and
stretch yourself a little if you want to. There's a smoking-room, too,
that you can go to and leave whenever you like. Come and try it."
"Thank you very much," said Mr. Poplington, "but I really couldn't do
that. I am not prejudiced at all, and I have a good many democratic
ideas, but that is too much for me. An Englishman's house is his
castle, and when he's travelling his railway carriage is his house. He
likes privacy and dislikes publicity."
"This is a funny kind of privacy you have here," said Jone. "And how
about your big clubs? Would you like to have them all divided up into
little compartments with half a dozen men in each one, generally
strangers to each other?"
"Oh, a club is a very different thing," said Mr. Poplington.
Jone was going to talk more about the comfort of the Pullman cars, but
they began to shut the carriage doors, and he had to come back to me.
We like English railway carriages very well when we can have one to
ourselves, but if even one stranger gets in and has to sit looking at
us for all the rest of the trip you don't feel anything like as private
as if you was walking along a sidewalk in London.
But Jone and I both agreed we wouldn't find any fault with English
people for not liking Pullman cars, so long as they put them on their
trains for Americans who do like them. And one thing is certain, that
if our railroad conductors and brakes-men and porters was as polite and
kind as they are in England, tips or no tips, we'd be a great deal
better off than we are.
Whenever we stopped at a station the people would come and look through
the windows at us, as if we was some sort of a travelling show. I don't
believe most of them had ever seen a comfortable room on wheels before.
The other people in our car was all men, and looked as if they hadn't
their families with them, and was glad to get a little comfort on the
sly. When we got to Rowsley we saw Mr. Poplington on the platform,
running about, collecting all his different bits of luggage, and
counting them to see that they was all there, and then, as we had a
window open and was looking out, he came and bid us good-by; and when
I asked him to, he looked into our car.
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" he said. "What a public apartment! I could not
travel like that, you know. Good-by; I will see you at Buxton in a few
[Illustration: Mr. Poplington looking for the luggage]
We talked a good deal with Mr. Poplington about the hotels of Buxton,
and we had agreed to go to one called the Old Hall, where we are now.
There was a good many reasons why we chose this house, one being that
it was not as expensive as some of the others, though very nice; and
another, which had a good deal of force with me, was, that Mary Queen
of Scots came here for her rheumatism, and the room she used to have is
still kept, with some words she scratched with her diamond ring on the
window-pane. Sometimes people coming to this hotel can get this room,
and I was mighty sorry we couldn't do it, but it was taken. If I could
have actually lived and slept in a room which had belonged to the
beautiful Mary Queen of Scots, I would have been willing to have just
as much rheumatism as she had when she was here.
Of course, modern rheumatisms are not as interesting as the rheumatisms
people of the past ages had; but from what I have seen of this town, I
think I am going to like it very much.
_Letter Number Seventeen_
When we were comfortably settled here, Jone went to see a doctor, who
is a nice, kind old gentleman, who looks as if he almost might have
told Mary Queen of Scots how hot she ought to have the water in her
baths. He charges four times as much as the others, and has about a
quarter as many patients, which makes it all the same to him, and a
good deal better for the rheumatic ones who come to him, for they have
more time to go into particulars. And if anything does good to a person
who has something the matter with him, it's being able to go into
particulars about it. It's often as good as medicine, and always more
We unpacked our trunks and settled ourselves down for a three weeks'
stay here, for no matter how much rheumatism you have or how little,
you've got to take Buxton and its baths in three weeks' doses.
Besides taking the baths Jone has to drink the waters, and as I cannot
do much else to help him, I am encouraging him by drinking them too.
There are two places where you can get the lukewarm water that people
come here to drink. One is the public well, where there is a pump free
to everybody, and the other is in the pump-room just across the street
from the well, where you pay a penny a glass for the same water, which
three doleful old women spend all their time pumping for visitors.
[Illustration: Pomona encourages Jonas]
People are ordered to drink this water very carefully. It must be done
at regular times, beginning with a little, and taking more and more
each day until you get to a full tumbler, and then if it seems to be
too strong for you, you must take less. So far as I can find out there
is nothing particular about it, except that it is lukewarm water,
neither hot enough nor cold enough to make it a pleasant drink. It
didn't seem to agree with Jone at first, but after he kept at it three
or four days it began to suit him better, so that he could take nearly
a tumbler without feeling badly. Two or three times I felt it might be
better for my health if I didn't drink it, but I wanted to stand by
Jone as much as I could, and so I kept on.
We have been here a week now, and this morning I found out that all the
water we drink at this hotel is brought from the well of St. Ann, where
the public pump is, and everybody drinks just as much of it as they
want whenever they want to, and they never think of any such thing as
feeling badly or better than if it was common water. The only
difference is, that it isn't quite as lukewarm when we get it here as
it is at the well. When I was told this I was real mad, after all the
measuring and fussing we had had when taking the water as a medicine,
and then drinking it just as we pleased at the table. But the people
here tell me that it is the gas in it which makes it medicinal, and
when that floats out it is just like common water. That may be; but if
there's a penny's worth of gas in every tumbler of water sold in the
pump-room, there ought to be some sort of a canopy put over the town to
catch what must escape in the pourings and pumpings, for it's too
valuable to be allowed to get away. If it's the gas that does it, a
rheumatic man anchored in a balloon over Buxton, and having the gas
coming up unmixed to him, ought to be well in about two days.
When Jone told me his first bath was to be heated up to ninety-four
degrees I said to him that he'd be boiled alive, but he wasn't; and
when he came home he said he liked it. Everything is very systematic in
the great bathing-house. The man who tends to Jone hangs up his watch
on a little stand on the edge of the bathtub, and he stays in just so
many minutes, and when he's ready to come out he rings a bell, and then
he's wrapped up in about fourteen hot towels, and sits in an armchair
until he's dry. Jone likes all this, and says so much about it that it
makes me want to try it too; though as there isn't any reason for it I
haven't tried them yet.
This is an awfully queer, old-fashioned town, and must have been a good
deal like Bath in the days of Evelina. There is a long line of high
buildings curved like a half moon, which is called the Crescent, and at
one end of this is a pump-room, and at the other are the natural baths,
where the water is just as warm as when it comes out of the ground,
which is eighty-two degrees. This is said to chill people; but from
what I remember about summer time I don't see how eighty-two degrees
can be cold.
Opposite the Crescent is a public park called The Slopes, and farther
on there are great gardens with pavilions, and a band of music every
day, and a theatre, and a little river, and tennis courts, and all
sorts of things for people who haven't anything to do with their time,
which is generally the case with folks at rheumatic watering-places.
Opposite to our hotel is a bowling court, which they say has been
there for hundreds of years, and is just as hard and smooth as a boy's
slate. The men who play bowls here are generally those who have got
over the rheumatism of their youth, and whose joints have not been very
much stiffened up yet by old age. The people who are yet too young for
rheumatism, and have come here with their families, play tennis.
The baths take such a little time, not over six or seven minutes for
them each day, and every third day skipped, that there is a good deal
of time left on the hands of the people here; and those who can't play
tennis or bowl, and don't want to spend the whole time in the pavilion
listening to the music, go about in bath-chairs, which, so far as I can
see, are just as important as the baths. I don't know whether you ever
saw a bath-chair, madam, but it's a comfortable little cab on three
wheels, pulled by a man. They take people everywhere, and all the
streets are full of them.
As soon as I saw these nice little traps I said to Jone, "Now this is
the very thing for you. It hurts you to walk far, and you want to see
all over this town, and one of these bath-chairs will take you into
lots of places where you couldn't go in a carriage."
"Take me!" said Jone. "I should say not. You don't catch me being
hauled about in one of those things as if I was in a sort of
wheelbarrow ambulance being taken to the hospital, with you walking
along by my side like a trained nurse. No, indeed! I have not gone so
far as that yet."
I told him this was all stuff and nonsense, and if he wanted to get the
good out of Buxton he'd better go about and see it, and he couldn't go
about if he didn't take a bath-chair; but all he said to that was, that
he could see it without going about, and he was satisfied. But that
didn't count anything with me, for the trouble with Jone is, that he's
too easy satisfied.
It's true that there is a lot to be seen in Buxton without going about.
The Slopes are just across the street from the hotel, and when it
doesn't happen to be raining we can go and sit there on a bench and see
lively times enough. People are being trundled about in their
bath-chairs in every direction; there is always a crowd at St. Ann's
well, where the pump is; all sorts of cabs and carts are being driven
up and down just as fast as they can go, for the streets are as smooth
as floors, and in the morning and evening there are about half a dozen
coaches with four horses, and drivers and horn-blowers in red coats,
the horses prancing and whips cracking as they start out for country
trips or come back again. And as for the people on foot, they just
swarm like bees, and rain makes no difference, except that then they
wear mackintoshes, and when it's fine they don't. Some of these people
step along as brisk as if they hadn't anything the matter with them,
but a good many of them help out their legs with canes and crutches. I
begin to think I can tell how long a man has been at Buxton by the
number of sticks he uses.
One day we was sitting on a bench in The Slopes, enjoying a bit of
sunshine that had just come along, when a middle-aged man, with a very
high collar and a silk hat, came and sat down by Jone. He spoke civilly
to us, and then went on to say that if ever we happened to take a house
near Liverpool he'd be glad to supply us with coals, because he was a
coal merchant. Jone told him that if he ever did take a house near
Liverpool he certainly would give him his custom. Then the man gave us
his card. "I come here every year," he said, "for the rheumatism in my
shoulder, and if I meet anybody that lives near Liverpool, or is likely
to, I try to get his custom. I like it here. There's a good many 'otels
in this town. You can see a lot of them from here. There's St. Ann's,
that's a good house, but they charge you a pound a day; and then
there's the Old Hall. That's good enough, too, but nobody goes there
except shopkeepers and clergymen. Of course, I don't mean bishops; they
go to St. Ann's."
I wondered which the man would think Jone was, if he knew we was
stopping at the Old Hall; but I didn't ask him, and only said that
other people besides shopkeepers and clergymen went to the Old Hall,
for Mary Queen of Scots used to stop at that house when she came to
take the waters, and her room was still there, just as it used to be.
"Mary Queen of Scots!" said he. "At the Old Hall?"
"Yes," said I, "that's where she used to go; that was her hotel."
"Queen Mary, Queen of the Scots!" he said again. "Well, well, I
wouldn't have believed it. But them Scotch people always was
close-fisted. Now if it had been Queen Elizabeth, she wouldn't have
minded a pound a day;" and then, after asking Jone to excuse him for
forgetting his manners and not asking where his rheumatism was, and
having got his answer, he went away, wondering, I expect, how Mary
Queen of Scots could have been so stingy.
But although we could see so much sitting on benches, I didn't give up
Jone and the bath-chairs, and day before yesterday I got the better of
him. "Now," said I, "it is stupid for you to be sitting around in this
way as if you was a statue of a public benefactor carved by
subscription and set up in a park. The only sensible thing for you to
do is to take a bath-chair and go around and see things. And if you are
afraid people will think you are being taken to a hospital, you can put
down the top of the thing, and sit up straight and smoke your pipe.
Patients in ambulances never smoke pipes. And if you don't want me
walking by your side like a trained nurse, I'll take another chair and
be pulled along with you."
The idea of a pipe, and me being in another chair, rather struck his
fancy, and he said he would consider it; and so that afternoon we went
to the hotel door and looked at the long line of bath-chairs standing
at the curbstone on the other side of the street, with the men waiting
for jobs. The chairs was all pretty much alike and looked very
comfortable, but the men was as different as if they had been horses.
Some looked gay and spirited, and others tired and worn out, as if they
had belonged to sporting men and had been driven half to death. And
then again there was some that looked fat and lazy, like the old horses
on a farm, that the women drive to town.
Jone picked out a good man, who looked as if he was well broken and not
afraid of locomotives and able to do good work in single harness. When
I got Jone in the bath-chair, with the buggy-top down, and his pipe
lighted, and his hat cocked on one side a little, so as to look as if
he was doing the whole thing for a lark, I called another chair, not
caring what sort of one it was, and then we told the men to pull us
around for a couple of hours, leaving it to them to take us to
agreeable spots, which they said they would do.
After we got started Jone seemed to like it very well, and we went
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