A Last Sketch And A Night Run
( Originally Published 1915 )
This is the last chapter. It was my plan to write thirteen, as I have faith in the lucky number, but my verbosity has ever been my curse.
I did not admit to W ___that the Fall River boat, going down to New York, had set my heart to singing, not from any love of boats, but, upon analysis, from the thought that it was going to New York, that it would be turning out its sleepy passengers just as we were waking, and that it would be back in Newport, rolling off winter hats, before we had passed the police station in Bronx Park—which cheerily marks the entrance to the city proper.
I was finding that the deep regret occasioned by the swift approaching end of our tour was blended with another regret that we were not ending it more swiftly. I looked at our buff motor-car reprovingly, as the hotel porter was packing in the things. I knew it was not its fault, but ours, that we had straggled over the route, yet I was unconsciously despising it be-cause a Sound steamer could so outstrip it.
While I did not express this uncontrollable longing to get on, I noticed that the Illustrator was ready earlier than usual, that he had put on his best motor-coat, and that the chauffeur had removed his derby from the hatbox and was carrying it in a paper-bag among the pedals. He made no mention of this, but he affirmed that the engine was working better than ever, and he thought we would make Bridgeport early. It was plain that Bridgeport stood for New York, and, once there, that we had but to turn the corner to find ourselves before our apartment house, exchanging greetings with the elevatorboy—if he himself had not been exchanged since our departure for another elevator-boy, which was highly probable.
In spite of this, the Call of the City did not outroar the Call of the Road. We had a great day ahead of us, and, although it consisted, for a time, of riding about on ferries in an effort to get started, the joy from the revolution of the wheels was not entirely occasioned by the fact that we were revoluting toward home.
Our first ferry took us to Conanicut Island. It would not have taken us had our motor not raced to be among the first in line, for many are called but few are chosen on this poorly equipped route. They were not all motors that were waiting. Many grocery wagons were going off with their families for an airing. I did not take these tradesmen, who had descended from the wide front seat to walk about the ferry, for what they were. There was one Englishman who, in appearance, was as perfectly fitted to enter the front as the back door of the great houses on the Cliff. He was confident, considerate, quiet, and awed by no man. I watched his wife with a like interest, and even when she regained the high seat, to gather up the reins thrown upon the back of their fine horse, I found her entirely suited to what is generally termed a better class than her own. America has done this for them, and I rejoiced in my country which brings assurance with success.
We outstripped the carts on the run across the island to the second ferry which carried us to the mainland. This was a more prepossessing vessel with an upper deck, on which sat serving-maids coming home from mass. They were attended—a friendship of the moment, I fancy—by soldiers in khaki, carrying bags of mail, and all were chaffing one another, the women, as usual, hitting at those who employed them, while the soldiers avoided the subject in a sort of military loyalty.
" It's not me that would be blacking boots," said a fine Irish girl, " if I served my country."
And while the orderly squirmed he made no reply. I stared coldly at the maid who, from the instinct of her race, was inciting to violence, but, to my unmilitary mind, she was speaking more than half the truth.
In the gay lithographs that are hung out be-fore an enlisting station there are no enticing scenes of a soldier valeting his superior officer. He stands in the lithograph, brilliant in uniform, with a gun in his hand, and sometimes a short sword pendent from his belt. And while I haven't an idea how they could arrange matters other than they do—for I suppose a colonel must have studs in his shirt—I should think it would be fairer if the recruiting officer hinted upon this possibility of menial service.
The Illustrator said, when I commented upon the matter, that if I " put it in the book " some one would write me a letter. And while I enjoy letters, and love to have them shoved under the hall door by the elevator-boy, with a single ting of the bell, to show that it is not important, I hope I shall not get one about this. But if you must send me one, have it arrive with the morning's mail before the Illustrator is awake.
I was troubled about it as far as Narragansett Pier, for I suppose we all like to be liked, and for all the engaging qualities of this famous re-sort my mind could have remained ill at ease. It is a mistake to form too definite an idea of a place. I have always imagined it a sparkling pier, gay red parasols sticking up out of the sand, bejewelled ladies sitting under them, and men and women, like the front cover of Life in August, standing sole deep in the water. We saw some of these things, but not to the extent that I hoped.
Perhaps I did not look about me as I should when I descended from the car to make a little promenade. But it was difficult to lift my eyes from the ground, for I was seeking the diamond horseshoes, pearl dog's-heads, and sapphire alligators, which are continually being lost at Narragansett Pier. I have never been fortunate in finding things, but I figured that, with close attention, I ought to pick up some small object in proportion to the vast number of jewels that the New York papers claim are disappearing there daily.
Yet I found nothing, finally bumping into an old gentleman who, at least, had a ruby nose. We were at that moment in front of a huge brown house, such as Thackeray would have writ-ten about, if not admired, and which, upon inquiry of the ruby-nosed one, was called Kenyon's Folly.
He told me all about it as we edged along like two crabs, I trying to get away from him and he trying not to let me. I do not know why I am always pursued by such unlovely types, unless it is to drive me back to W ___, with a feeling that things could be worse. So my experience in glittering Narragansett was limited to a history of Captain Kenyon, who spent what he made out of steamers on a palace that eventually served as a lunatic asylum for his exasperated family. The moral being, that sailors should never go ashore.
The guidebooks say there is little of interest between the Pier and Stonington. I am always glad to read this, for it averts the necessity of watching for monuments. The Illustrator never reads up his guidebook until he has covered the ground, and he has a solemn way of looking at me from over the top of his book and saying, " Did you see the monument on the lower road? " All of which forces me to answer that I did see it whether I did or not, and I do not like to do this, as an untruth is corroding to the soul.
With no monuments to look for I could now lie back and let the first falling leaves blow into my face, and give time to the wild asters and the early goldenrod. When a roadbed is good and through a pleasant countryside, how can any guide find it devoid of interest. " I must have time to reflect," I said to myself. " I must sum up matters, I must arrive at a decision concerning such things along the way as are still unexplained. About those arrows, for instance. But, good heavens, there hasn't been any time to think back. It's all been noticing, admiring, and going on."
Even the subject of arrows, which are put up to point the way, diverges into another branch of reflection. We were passing a number along the shore, green in colour, and shaped like a fish. And I was now wondering if an arrow could have been modelled in the first place from a fish. Not a fish with much eating on it, still one with a fair head and a very good tail.
Every object designed by man is not entirely original with him, but suggested by some earlier form. I sat back in the car and reviewed my designing of clothes, and, while it was good for my vanity, I was obliged to admit that every frill or tuck or gusset (I say gusset to please the men, as it is all they know of feminine apparel) had been worn to advantage ever since there was first felt a necessity for costumes. I suppose, really, that the only entirely . original sartorial creations were those " figge-tree leaf breeches," which, after 1590, were decided to be too inelegant to talk about.
I touch upon this subject as it is allied feebly with the tour that we were now closing. I very much want other people to follow this same route, partly for their own happiness and partly out of compliment to us. And I hope that you will not say, " we want something original," for you will not be doing anything original if you keep to the road—which is the proper place for an automobile. We were far from the first to plan this itinerary, and we are glad we were not the first, as that trip was, probably, very fearful "going."
There is a good deal of sneering at the " beaten track," and we all talk about wanting to get off it. But the beaten track is more suggestive of a level way, and ensuing motoring comforts, than the unbroken trail. Besides that, I believe that the beaten track embraces most of the beauty spots of the country, otherwise it would not have become smooth by the feet of the pilgrims. They would have learned that there were more lovely spots elsewhere and they would have gone to them. For it is instinctive in us to find the best.
I was so intent upon this subject that I missed the only monument on the way, or the only one that W ___ saw. He looked back at me, removing a leaf from his mouth before he could reproach me for not observing the marking of the state line between Rhode Island and Connecticut. " You are in Connecticut," he said, as though this was a special blessing, but he could not be severe, for it was like saying, " you are at home," and no one can mouth " home " in an ugly fashion.
We were nowhere near home and we knew it, but Connecticut is a neighbour whom we visit every Sunday, and while we did not have any great affection for this far-off end of the state, we held it in as much esteem as we might a second cousin once removed.
The state line is at Westerly, and I may have missed it by looking at acres of dahlias. The labourers were cutting the blossoms, and packing them in big boxes to send down to the City, and again a strange rebellion rose within me that they would be looking out of a Fifth Avenue shop-window before I could be looking in at one. The chauffeur was worse than I. He said he thought dahlias were prettier in shops than they were in fields, and this so savoured of the city boy that I feared he would leap out at the first railway station to take a train down.
As if to tempt him further, we struck a trail of arrows affixed to telegraph poles, when we neared Stonington, which led us directly to the " depot," and which stopped there with the last arrow pointing to the ticket office. Yet this misuse of an emblem which we motorists have taken entirely to ourselves outraged us, and we again became fierce partisans of the road, the last arrow at the ticket office winning the chauffeur over to our side. I have seen a great deal of money go into a driver's pocket, but little come out of it.
There had been other arrows at branch roads at our left, pointing toward Watch Hill. Watch Hill is one of those resorts that we heard about in the West, when a trip to New York meant a paragraph in the social column, and going East for the summer sent a reporter to your door to write up your wardrobe.
I never got to 'Watch Hill, but my fond little neighbour spent a month there. She had a bathing suit to wear into the OCEAN. It was dark blue flannel with white braid. One could hardly call it a novel suit either in material, colour, or cut, but I longed for it, and I thought of her all July. I dreamed myself there, in blue flannel and white braid also, saving her from drowning—saving every one from drowning.
When she returned the bathing suit was as fresh as ever, for she had been afraid to go into the ocean, and I am inclined to think that, with my dreams, I had the more exciting summer after all.
I have had no mental association with this resort since, until last June, when my French professor wrote, " The school is sad without you," and asked for letters of introduction to Watch Hill cottagers. I was obliged to admit that I had known but one Watch Hill cottager, and she was a young woman of ten, who had summered there many years ago and didn't get her bathing suit wet. It was not easy to express this in French —in my French—the professor taking the pleasantry about bathing suits as the end-of-the-century joke regarding ladies who pose upon the sand for the benefit of mankind. Or, in the words of the old song, those who " hang their clothes on a hickory limb and don't go near the water."
He answered my letter in what he thought was a like vein, dwelling upon the reprehensible on the plage, and I so feared meeting him if we followed one of the arrows, and of ensuing difficulties of speech, that it was no temptation to pass them by—and Watch Hill went out of my life again.
I do not mean to speak lightly of him, for I stopped at the school recently, to see if it had recovered from its sadness, and found that he had been among the first to go to the war—and among the first to be shot. I stood for an instant in the doorway after I had gained the street, and to the astonishment of a conventional gentle-man, trying to pass me, I repeated the gallant, Gallic phrase this the little professor had earlier applied to me : " L'ecole est triste sans vous." It wasn't must of a service for the dead.
We lunched on a battlefield, for the Pequots had warred with the Colonists through this part of the country. The meal was not taken in picnic fashion, but at the old Stonington Manor set back among fine trees, which were too young for the Indians to have hidden behind, but offered pleasant shelter for young lovers.
It was early for luncheon, but we could not withstand the charm of that old house once we were within its forbidding walls. One would not expect such an exquisite display of taste in furnishings, to judge by the Victorian exterior. An old negro bowed us into the house and waved me up the wide staircase to the sleeping rooms above " jes for a look about." The doors of many of the rooms were open, and I walked in and out of the unoccupied apartments, fearing to awake. Here was a hotel furnished not only as a hotel should be, but as a home should be. It was as though the hosts had stepped out an a would return at any moment. And they would be nice hosts who would enjoy my walking about, and not arrest me for burglarising.
Each room was individual in its colour and style, each expressing a personality, not one personality for them all, but of several, as though the occupant had as much right to a room to fit his tastes as he had to a choice of viands at table. Fresh flowers were on the mantelpieces, hairpins in little tufted cushions which one can stab into, and coloured pins, such as it is a sin to steal, on chintz trays.
I sat down in my room—it was in deep rose—and looked out of the window at the stream on the estate twisting itself, like the Indians of old, among the trees. How fortunate that we had not begun our tour by going through Bronx Park and on to Bridgeport, New Haven, and Stonington. For, if we had done that I should have met the rose-room earlier, and never gone on at all. How unfortunate was it, on the other hand, that on the last day I should see this perfect bedroom, for New York was now calling me while the rose draperies were softly folding me about and bidding me stay.
I groped in my mind for some sustaining philosophical thought, but none came. Only the chauffeur's derby rose before me, an ugly thing, and his proud air, when he would wear it home to tell his family all about the trip. I wondered if the tan bedroom with the lacquer furniture would hold out any inducement to him. But I felt that it would not. W found me there after a time, and while he admired the black apartment with the green parokeets, which I had picked out for him, he thought if I had some luncheon I would feel differently about it.
After luncheon, which was on inexpensive but lovely china, it occurred to me that this Stoning-ton Manor was going to remain there, and that some day (on that future day when there would be " plenty of time ") I could go there and rest for a while.
We motored off, only to back back again attracted by loud if cracked shouts from the ancient servitor, who was waving my jacket. It had clung to the newell post under the impression that the home was ours. The barkeeper, who was fleeter of foot than the old darky, ran through the woods with it, and while the Illustrator claims that I have mentioned the bar-keeper in this graceful fashion to set at rest the mind of any future patron about the nightly highball, I am sure the reader can only be grateful to me.
We are always glad to hear of barkeepers doing friendly acts like this. It gives a tone to their profession and justifies us in patronising them. They come out very well, nowadays, both in dramas and books, running a close second in popularity to thieves. And never, never have I seen a barkeeper in a moving picture take a drink, or offer one to others. His sole duty appears to be to warn mankind against the evil, which gives him, of course, the " sympathy of the audience," but is a little hard on the saloon keeper who employs him.
W ___ aroused me from my reverie over the liquor business, to hope that I was going to have some history in this last chapter. He has a formula for motoring literature. It should be about two-eighths road, one-eighth weather, one-eighth personalities, and four-eighths history. This is all very well for him who doesn't have to read up on these things, and who is modestly disinterested in himself. But I am a modernist. I am interested in men and women of to-day. To go into it more deeply, I am a suffragist (sort of a one) and am interested in women, and above all I am an individualist, interested in myself. It's a creed with me. And I beg, if you have grown maddened by the way the I's flash along like a picket fence, that you will remember this is only the observance of my religion.
But to please the Illustrator : do not fail, as you follow this route, to observe the Pequot Battle Monument at Mystic; nor, as you approach Groton, the splendid shaft of stone which commemorates the battle of Groton Heights. To save me, I cannot remember seeing either of these. In Mystic, which is plain before me as a rare old town, I was on the lookout for a friend of mine who has kennels, and who sends me calendars with adorable puppies' heads sticking up over January.
I have never met this friend, but once I said something in print, that she liked, about a horse, and, while she was sorry it was not about dogs, in which she specialises, she feels that I am an animal lover, and decorates my desk yearly with her welcome gift.
There is no excuse for my not seeing the monument at Groton, except that I was peering about for the boys of Groton School. Famous boys come from Groton, or perhaps I should say famous men develop from boys who went to Groton. While at school they were not unusual, except, as a rule, being unusually bad or unusually dull. I like to see boys at this stage. I feel that each one of them is a little embryo monument of their day. They may never leave the world anything but a small round stone, which heads their grave, but, again, they may mark their generation with the gift of a great intellect. An intellect that soars above our little workaday minds, but which we can look up to, yes, and aspire to, and point out to posterity.
That I think is a real monument, quite as great as (to quote directly from the guide) "The Obelisk---on the east side of the river (ferry 4c.)-erected to commemorate the burning of the town by Arnold, and the massacre of Fort Griswold on Sept. 6th, 1781 (view from the top ; adm. 10c.) ." Pretty things to commemorate !
But we saw no Groton boys,* and my interest was diverted from them by a fear that we might miss the ferry across to New London. One al-ways speaks of a ferry as the ferry, as though there would never be another, and, while we do not dash our heads against a subway post when we miss an express, we take on the grief of those with a Lost Cause when we see one of these flat creatures leaving the slip.
We got the ferry, and were held up on the other side for the long train to pass which was going down to New York. We could see happy New Yorkers at the windows who would get there ahead of us. It was very trying to our young driver. Even with a three-dollar-andfifty-cent fare, he might have deserted us but that I had removed his derby from among the pedals, and had my feet on it. His nostrils did not quiver, for he was not the kind of a boy to have quivering nostrils. If they had quivered he would have been a bad chauffeur, and we still would have been sitting in the Vermont mud. But he scrouched down with a sort of groan, and acting on an impulse (for W had gone to buy the New York papers, and I could indulge myself in impulses) I asked him, in a hasty whisper, if he was in love.
And he was !
Of course he wanted to get back to her, and of course I wanted him to, and before the New York papers were plunked down at my feet I had more than suggested that we reach the City that night. He was at the wheel for the next two hours while the Illustrator read headlines with difficulty. Now and then he would look at the speedometer and at the boy, who would pull down the throttle hurriedly—and twitch it up again by degrees.
We scarcely saw New London. We included it in the itinerary because it is the home of American yachting and boat racing, where every inland motorist should linger. Before this metropolitan fever had swept over me I had hoped to visit the little schoolhouse where Nathan Hale had taught. He is one of my heroes, and frequently I have a " pretend " to myself, which consists of leading a small boy of my own about whose name is Nathan.
Once upon a time I knew a Nathan, although his last name was not that of the hero, but he played his part as well, for he went into a flaming house to save a little boy (who, I hope, was worth the saving), and he got out the little boy but went back for others—and they found him the next day. One does not need a Christan name for what we call a Christian deed. And that is another reason why my little boy is named Nathan in my "pretend."
The Illustrator would say to me occasionally (call to me with his hands hollowed, as though it was impossible to be heard with all this gravel flying) that he had always hoped to linger along this route, and make sketches in color. This was after we had swept through Lyme as though it were not. Some of America's greatest painters go there, and at the spring exhibitions we see in the galleries quiet houses bathed in moonlight, or a ragged road leading to a hilltop, the picture stopping there and leaving us to imagine the scene on the other side of the canvas, I suppose it would be. Rich men pay many thousands of dollars for them. The rich men would hate most awfully to live in these houses or climb the ragged roads, but still they buy the pictures, and it must be, in the rush of their lives, that they find a sort of vicarious peace in having them on the walls of their great palaces.
Yet the Illustrator was undoubtedly enjoying the pace. As I have said before, the mechanic in him is ever striving to master the artist. " A sketch!" cries the artist within him as we pass a fine composition. " Speed on! " urges the mechanic. And Art, figuratively, climbs into the back seat with me.
Art has learned that sometimes one stops for gasoline. It was hoping we would do so at Guilford, but the tank showed no disposition for a drink, and before we knew it we saw, from afar, the war monument of East Rock, and knew that we were nearing New Haven. For years I have seen that monument going up to Boston, and seen it coming back from Boston (I mean, I was going up—the monument has never stirred), and on that remote, leisurely day on our way to Stonington, with a stop-off for sketching at Lyme, I hope to get close to that tall shaft, and see what it is all about.
The guidebooks say that New Haven is known as the " City of Elms," but I think it would be a poor way of buying a railway ticket with this destination in view. The necessary sum poked under the bars at the railway station, and a re-quest for " Yale," would meet with instant response, and, of late, to judge by the pride of the citizens, one might get a ticket to New Haven by asking for " The Taft."
This would not mean our ex-President, although he would not be difficult to find there; at least he would not be difficult to find if he chanced to be there (but that is worn-out humour). At last New Haven has a hotel, a big hotel, with auto-mobiles from the whole countryside gathered about at tea-time, and proud mothers come to visit their sons, who are unhappily doing the honours.
There was no escaping gasoline in New Haven, and as soon as the car settled down to its draught, the young chauffeur and I witnessed the artist gaining the ascendency over the mechanic. The Illustrator brought out his materials. He was ruddy with the rush through the sun, so that he looked very unlike an artist. And he was glad of that, as one never outgrows the fear of the ridicule of college boys, but he was firm of purpose. He stalked toward the campus, muttering something about the beauty of the old church on the green.
He was going to make a sketch ! He was going to make a sketch! There was no use in opposing him. Artistic inclinations feed on opposition as many a paterfamilias knows. I wasn't altogether sorry, for I could walk up Hillhouse Avenue, which, next to State Street in Portland, is the loveliest in the world. But I knew the young driver was grieving, and doubtless saying to himself: " It's all very well for you two. He's got you and you've got him. But how about me and her? "
My friends were not at home when I rang a Hillhouse Avenue doorbell. I could have lifted the great knocker, but in these days of electricity it frightens the maids when the sound goes rattat-a-tat through the house. Electricity has no awe for them—that is perfectly simple.
A great football authority lives in this house, and once I was taking tea with the lady of the manor while he was having a conference with the team. She made me go in for a moment as " the boys would be so proud to meet me." I thought of the thousands of girls who, with the liberality of youth, would give ten years of their age (old age) to meet those boys, to say nothing of what my own something-over-thirty pride was. They were so delightful, shuffling uncomfortably, and falling over each other, and sitting down gingerly on chairs which creaked under them.
The family were entirely given over to football. I remember their huge son who, when in strict training, asked at luncheon if he could have a second cup of coffee, and the cold, amazed looks that were turned upon him. He was not even answered. " Oliver Twist had asked for more ! "
It was quite a boy-day with me, and ever my heart warmed toward our young driver who had never known Groton, never longed for Yale, and yet, just like the rest of them, was interested in this marrying business—and would see it through long before the university men could man-age it.
With renewed resolve I hunted out the Illustrator, who was also hunting me out. He had put away his block of paper and was back to his map, and he greeted me with the elaborate manner which he believes to be diplomatic. He asked me how I felt and I said I felt well, and he told me then, yawning casually, that the whole distance from Newport to New York was but one hundred seventy-seven miles. I stood still, but my heart kept on running. It was so splendid that he wanted to go down to New York that night, and wanted me to suggest it. It was not splendid that he wanted me to make the suggestion. He had his reason for that. If anything went wrong, then it would be my fault. Not that he would blame me—I grant him a good sportsman—but that I couldn't blame him.
So I said in a very small voice, " Let's have a night ride to New York." And he pretended that he couldn't believe his ears, but I pointed out that we had not driven through the night on our entire tour, and that it was due " the book." This seemed to clinch the matter. " Of course," I added, " we will have to cut out the history and monuments." And he thought, striding toward the car, that perhaps the reader would be generous, since riding into the night would be so very pleasant for us.
In the early twilight we went toward Bridge-port, taking the short cut instead of going by the water's edge through Savin Rock and Woodmont. We were punished for closing our hearts to the appeal of nature by suddenly and unreasonably getting lost, and finding ourselves miles from Bridgeport but near Derby. To this day W cannot solve how he managed it, but I am inclined to believe that it was caused by the chauffeur's hat—like calling unto like. The way of the digressor is hard, I said to the Illustrator, who from a limited acquaintance with the text thought I was quoting correctly, and said there were a lot of good things in the Bible.
It made us late for dinner at the Stratfield Hotel, but was this not a fitting ending to our little journey in the world? We had generally been late. It is such a specialty of ours that a householder invites us to dine a half hour ahead of the other guests, and if by any chance we arrive at the time given us, we have a melancholy reward sitting in an empty drawing-room while the hostess is getting herself fastened up.
We fought off the bell-boys, who showed an inclination to take everything off the car, and went in to dinner—which we determined to make a good one. The chauffeur insisted upon eating in an Owl Lunch across the street so that he could keep his eye on the machine. Nothing but the theft of the automobile could separate him much longer from the home of his birth.
The Stratfield owed us a good dinner. Once before we had gone to Bridgeport to attend the try-out of a new comedy. The playwright was with us, the manager and the star, all so sick with anxiety that we caught the contagion of misery and could only stare at the courses as they were set down before us, and make futile passes with our knives and forks. I remember how we ate our late supper at the night lunch of the chauffeur, and how gay we were, now that the play was over—and a " hit," and how good were the onion sandwiches.
Yes, even Bridgeport was tinged with city life. I need no longer observe, for I knew the road and the people on either side of it, and while we had seventy miles to go, I knew I could take the train in, yet deceive the wariest reader into believing that I had covered the distance notebook in hand.
Here at last was the opportunity for the resume of the trip, for figuring out about those arrows, for asking why I had not given more time to the scenery and less to myself, for wondering if I had really made fun of the Illustrator when I—really—like the man, for mentally retracting anything that would give offence to any one. I have never been troubled with a sense of pride, and I have always found that "eating my words " was not a bad meal after all.
I would have time, also, to think of the misstatements I have made, the confusing of historical events, and that chief crime to a locality: calling a good road a bad one. I grew a little afraid to sit alone in the back seat, alone with this responsibility, and I communicated this to W , who suggested that he and I make the trip together and stow away the chauffeur in the rear. The boy climbed in among the folderols, and I did not look back at him, for I knew he was eating peanuts and would have to be reprimanded. He was alone with peanuts and his girl, and the Illustrator and I were alone, as we had been so many times on nigh flights through the Latin countries.
One may ask why I did not sit on the front seat with him earlier on the tour. And it is difficult to answer this unless the reader is a nervous woman herself and hopes to " hold him." I have never outgrown the measuring eye. The eye that sees the dog or the child or the oncoming motor, and wonders just how far we can go before we will have to turn out for these objects. And this is not conducive to the " rest and change " for which one makes a trip.
Nor is it conducive to the good temper of the driver. In early motoring days I could not believe that the Illustrator saw the dog or the child or the oncoming motor. I alone saw them, and out of kindness of heart I would tell him of these objects ahead. He was always gentle about it up till noon, but later in the day he would appear to be talking through clenched teeth as he would respond, " I see it, I see it," or sometimes merely, "I have eyes, dear."
As I became more skilled in motoring etiquette I ceased telling him, flatly, what I saw, but referred to the obstacles in a veiled manner as though from an affectionate interest in them.
" That's a curious-looking dog ahead," I would exclaim; or, " What a pretty little child running down the road! "; or, again, " Do look at this oncoming car, what make can it be?"
But it did not deceive him, and I admit it was rather mean, for in nine years' motoring through the crowded ways of Europe there is only the toll of a dog—and the acquiring of some mysterious chicken feathers on the radiator.
Another sensation which I have never been able to overcome, and which other motorists may share, is the one that creeps over me as we pass a sleek horse. I always feel that we are going to take a slice off that animal's side as it protrudes richly over the shaft. In my vanity, I feel our own car to be as big as a motor bus, and that nothing can hurt us. There are women who say that they don't look down the road as they travel. But as long as I sat up in front, it seemed to be necessary to look, that we would surely run into something if I didn't look, even though I controlled my vocal exclamations and turned them into gay snatches of song.
There was one emotion which could be classed as satisfactory during those early days, and that was occasioned by the relieving discovery, whenever we passed some scary object, that our car didn't " shy." Although I knew the vehicle we were travelling in was propelled by mechanical means, I could not help hoping, for a long time, that paper would not blow up the road, nor little boys yell at us. And I always felt a glow of kindliness for the motor when it ran over the paper with perfect sangfroid, and, restrainedly, did not run over the little boys.
When we acquired a back seat I was relegated to it, where I could hide behind the driver's back, and enjoy the wayside scenes which, as scenes ahead, might have filled me with concern. I can-not recommend a back seat too strongly as a method for " preserving the home." How few of us realize, as we fly to all parts of the country for easy divorces, that the real trouble began with the first runabout!
But at night the roads are clear, one can lie with one's head on the back of the seat and watch the stars without feeling any necessity for watching for chickens. Or one can talk to the driver, for the motor seems to work more quietly. The headlights make a lane for us which we cannot run into, no matter how fast we go. At a curve in the road one might fear the light will not get there in time to show the turn, but this is always managed.
It was delightfully wicked—this going over famous country without paying the smallest attention to it. There was once a member of a Cook's party who came back on the boat with us. She was worn out from sightseeing, for their guide had kept them at it early and late. " But do you know," she said with a hysterical giggle, looking over her shoulder as though she expected Monsieur Cook to pounce down upon her, " in Geneva I didn't go into the cathedral at all! "
One knows Geneva for its jewelled lake but not for its cathedral, just as we had known these little towns we were passing through for pleasant places to spend a week-end. We give little time to think of a shaping of a country, of the sufferings that must be endured before these present-day comforts—before this graciousness of country-house life—can be offered to us.
Although I had not expected it, as we sped over the Boston Post Road in the quiet of the night, this came to me more strongly than when fortified by historical facts. Our humming motor was the evolution of the post-boy on horseback, of the mail-coach, and, in the wake of that lumbering vehicle, of the rude efforts of rail and steam. What will come after us—I wonder—after this present day of wonders.
A gentle wind arose when we reached Norwalk and we stopped for an instant before the Royal James Inn to put on heavier coats. The proprietor strolled down to greet us, and, because I didn't have to be, I grew interested in the old house. The land on which it stands was a grant to the James family from an English king. The landlord sent us a letter with a more complete history later, the main romantic facts lingering in my memory that one of the Jameses had expected to marry " a young lady of the town," and had built this house for her, but ere it was completed she had married some one else.
This proved a shock to Mr. James, who kept the house closed for twenty years, which may have been one of the reasons that it eventually became an inn. The idea is more embracing than Mr. James may have entertained, for it now gives enjoyment to many happy couples instead of one. The thought of the jilt must be disquieting to prospective young husbands engaged in building dove-cotes, especially in these days of carpenters' strikes. And one would advise them to put a time limit on the period of construction.
The proprietor stood under the sheltering elms and waved us good-bye, as not many other proprietors had done—although they usually had elms to stand under. I settled back and thought about elms. New Haven, the " Elm City? " Every New England town has a just claim to that title. How they grow for the Yankees- these trees! How they grow for all people and villages! Whoever heard of an elm forest? They are like dogs, they must have human beings about them. They are the lovely watch trees of man's habitation. They are the true family trees of this part of our country. They are _____
" Stamford " said the Illustrator.
I looked uneasily up a street which leads to New Canaan. I have a confession to make to the owner of a New Canaan country house. I have often wondered how I could manage to break the news to her, and it has occurred to me that if I put it in a book she may read it, and forgive me without my blundering through an apology.
It all comes of raising chickens scientifically. No, it comes of going to church Sunday morning. Or, perhaps, it comes from not being a stern hostess and forcing guests to go to church While she was gone I strayed among the chick-ens and some got out, and in a wild panic (not the chickens in a panic, they were enjoying them-selves in the flower beds) I caught them and threw them over the wire nettings back into their homes. But in my panic I threw the wrong chickens into the wrong homes, and now there is a blending of Plymouth Rocks and White Leg-horn and Black Spanish on that scientific farm which my hostess, with her fixed principles about the rearing of everything, cannot possibly understand. But she does from now on, and that is another thing for which I hope to be forgiven.
Then came Greenwich, and Rye, with white doors along the way closed for the first time against us. I patted the arm of my seat affectionately, for this staunch little car had done away with the horrors of catching trains for Sunday visiting; of early morning snappings at each other because we had to leave on schedule time; of watching the hour at country dinner-tables so that we could get the crowded last train back. How these annoyances have faded from our memory, just as the recollection of the pale rays from gas illumination has been effaced by the glare of electricity!
We were now among the inns of gentle name and vigorous hospitality. The voice of W was heard now and then, not romantically but reminiscently, as we passed them by: " Got a drink there—dried your hat here—they stole the wrench at that joint." Not romantic, but life, and more of life before us, long stretches of life. For to all death may be near to the next man—but not to us. It must be a soldier's sustaining thought—his own invulnerability.
I may have been thinking about the first man who put up the first arrow to mark the way, so that I did not notice the distance covered, but from out the semi-gloom of Bronx Park the sharp voice of an officer cried : " Headlights out! " And we were in New York.
We waited for our chauffeur to leap from the back seat, probably wearing the derby, to do his last duty. He did not stir. I had imagined him wrapped in dreams, and so he was—but with his mouth open, snoring comfortably. It was trying, as I remembered his anxiety to get to Her. But the Illustrator and I had remained awake—and, on second thoughts, it was rather entrancing that the middle-aged couple in the front seat were more stirred than youth by the warmth of swift motion, and scented darkness, and far-off villages, and Fifth Avenue—inviting us the length of its mirroring asphalt.
We did find a new elevator-boy who said, when we mumbled something about ourselves, that "Mistah an' Mis' Hale am out of town." But we took off the baggage just the same, for Mistah an' Mis' Hale am at HOME.