Vermonters And Their Ways
( Originally Published 1915 )
THERE are travelling Americans who have never seen the inside of the hotel which depends upon commercial men to keep it going. They know the large houses of Florida, the huge structures along the Northern beaches, the caravansaries in New York, but they pass through life without experiencing the soggy " comforters " of the Middle West, the short sheets of the South, oranywhere—the overpowering odour of an abandoned cigar-stub which cannot be found. It is a pity, for this traveller never fully knows the world.
We dined recently at a table of New Yorkers where not one of the women guests present had ever entered the Subway save myself. I realised that I should have very little to say to them, as my main topics of conversation dealt with the events that I witnessed while carrying on a mole-like existence underground.
I was sorry for them, as I appreciated how necessarily limited their experiences must be when they must ever travel to and fro segregated in a limousine, like a lonely wax figure in a show-case. How can they possibly know how the " other side " lives when they meet it only upon platforms of charitable institutions. Even in the excellent course of settlement work, of house-tohouse visiting, one endures but momentary discomfort. But a trip in the Subway at the rush-hour is a great leveller. We are a unit of misery, save that some are sitting down and some are standing.
But, more than this, what there is of humour is also for the massed crowd. I shall never forget my gratitude to one shabby shopgirl talking to another on the first day that I found myself packed in with no room to raise my head or my hand, and rather uncertain about the existence of one of my feet. The desire came to me to scream and to fight my way out, and I might have done so but for the shopgirl. Her conversation was for me, or the next one, or all of them who could hear. " My photos come out all right," she was saying, " but you should 'a' seen Gertie's—taken readin' a book, if you please. And her with a double chin."
This extolling of the seamy side of life may lead one to believe that the Adna Brown comes under the class of the hotels one misses by a strictly conventional life. Yet it is not. It stands as a pleasant warning that these conditions are passing in America, that they have passed in Springfield, Vermont, and that one must be up and about it if he wishes to experience the full value of the poet's verse : " Short sheets make the night seem longer."
In every mill town where there is power you will find your room blazing with light, and you will find each year added private bathrooms, a decorous array of towels, and an inclination on the part of the chambermaid to let one sleep in the morning without rattling the doorknob every five minutes.
This is not due to the automobilist; rather, to the keen little men who arrive with huge packing cases, lay out their wares on long tables, and, I regret to say, leave the door open to stare out as you pass in the hall.
It is the drummer, supposed to be composed entirely of jokes, who is as vigorous in his demands for long sheets as is the motorist for good roads. His presence continues after we have entered a room and he has quitted it, for now we find a Bible in most of the hotels. " Placed in this hotel by the Gideons," is the gold-lettered explanation on the black binding.
This is an oracular statement which occasioned a prompt returning to the office-desk the first time I found such a volume. Whereas an acquaintance of mine, under the impression that they were left as an offering to the next guest, carried off her first three copies, and has but lately stilled her conscience by locating the head-quarters of the Gideons, and sending them a check. For this band, while wanderers in the days of the Old Testament, are now an organised body of travelling men, scattering stories and Bibles and all the commodities of life through-out the land. And since they possess a sense of humour they do not, as did a certain church house who made an effort to spread the gospel in this fashion, chain the holy books to the dressing-tables.
En fin let us thank the commercial men for an excellent night in Springfield, I comfortably in my room during the evening, and W ____ making short flights between his and the office, where a number of mill-owners had chanced to drop in and, hearing of our enterprise, urged us to go over the city in the morning. We rebelled against this, as we do against all effort toward the improvement of our minds, and when morning came motored hastily away, the more hastily as I had made the blunder of tipping one of the hotel clerks under the impression that he was a bell-boy. He had been industriously serving us in many ways, even to the carrying down of the baggage, and it is to his credit that he did not embarrass me by a refusal of the coin, but swept it magnificently into the till for the general good of the Adna Brown.
A bell-boy in a hotel of modest pretensions once told me that he received seven dollars a week from the manager and made twenty-five more out of his tips. The hotel clerks average, I believe, eighteen dollars weekly, and it speaks well for the spirits which " never, never will be slaves " that many bell-boys aspire to be clerks, but no clerks are tempted, by monetary considerations, to be bell-boys. The latter class in America are purely in a transitional stage. Their present servitude does not seem to bar them from a future position when they will be the employers and not the employed.
In spite of their alertness, however, I have not found them a promising set of young men. And I have talked with them of their ambitions until the Illustrator has " ahemmed " at me loudly. After a little practice one can make successful deductions without interrogation. If their hands are large they wish to become prize-fighters; if inclined to stale jokes they are contemplating the gay life of a drummer; and when the hair on the head is long and wavy they expect to go on the stage. I did find one bright-faced lad who was struggling for a college education, but the reason for his efforts was to " put it all over the gang," and while this may be a more general aspiration among university men than is admitted, it is not, let us hope, the spirit of an embryo president.
At this point I have been gently reminded by the man looking over my shoulder that our story was primarily a motoring one, and any wide divergence is not only a breach of style, but one of faith to the man who might wish to know the road to Cornish.
This brings me promptly back to the road, which was a very good one out of Springfield, with the sun shining on both the Illustrator and myself—the unjust and the just—and our chauffeur so elated that I hoped he might be feeling, although a phlegmatic youth, the jubilation of mere living. But it was not that—his deep satisfaction was occasioned by a reduction in the garage bill for the night, as the proprietor had inferred that the chauffeur was hacking the car " because it looked so awful." And while we endeavoured to beam back at him, we were both entertaining the shame that a parent must feel over a dirty baby.
We went on, feebly polishing the brass rail, and not crossing the two bridges when we reached the Connecticut River, but on up the left bank, which affords good going and few travellers. There were skittish horses along the way, which occasioned a gentle manipulation of the car and a great deal of patience. We were reminded of the questions put to a young chauffeur applying for a license.
" What would you do if you met a frightened horse?" severely asked that power that issues licenses.
" Slow down the car," said the aspirant promptly.
" And if still frightened? "
" Stop the car."
" And still frightened?"
" Stop the engine."
" And still frightened? "
" Get out and lead it past."
" And still
" Oh, thunder! Take the car to pieces and hide it in the grass."
This was told us in the desert of the Sahara, as we were coaxing a caravan of camels past our automobile, so I do not present it as a fresh incident it takes many repetitions before a story reaches the Sahara.
With a like benevolent intention, we stopped the car for a black dog, which held to an inclination to suicide by racing us under the wheels. Life seemed uncommonly good to him after his rescue, and he twisted himself gratefully when we descended to sketch his ancestral mansion.
The owner of the black dog (the black dog's name was Brownie) also lived in the house and took me up to see his wife, who thought—out loud, through the window—that she ought to change her apron, but was induced to let it remain, clean and blue-checked.
She was wiry and grey-haired and cheery, and we hippity-hopped together among her flower beds. Many of the posies were planted in old stone jars, which they had found in the house when they took it, and " he " had painted a blue design on the surface, for his father had been a sea captain and he had always liked the Chinese ginger-jars that he once brought home from a cruise. She feared an early frost, as the nights were so cool, and that her late roses might get a nippin', and we deprecated the chill of life, which must " blight us all," as she put it.
I congratulated them upon having a stone house in which to keep warm, and it was then I learned that stone houses were not warm and had an unfortunate, if industrious, way of storing up damp, and letting it out when the winter fires began. The farmer was in a position to know—they had had thirty years of it. The property wasn't " quite clear " yet, he said, with that tight-lipped New England dignity which must tell the truth though it hurt him.
The pathos of thirty years of mortgage! And to think that we ask for them at the bank as an investment, and are disgruntled when they are paid off.
The farmer had a niece in Indiana who was married to a jeweller, but with his honest grey eyes looking at me I could not say that I was acquainted with them, although I should have enjoyed doing so, that we might both exclaim, " How small the world is!" I could truthfully report that the crops had been excellent, for I remembered a phrase in my mother's letter (who writes me solemnly of the crops once a year) to that effect. And he said, rather wistfully, that he guessed they always were good out there.
I looked over his domain, the settled beauty of the old house, the taste of the blue-painted jars, the shimmering river, the stretch of the Connecticut Valley, the hills prodding the sky-line gently, and in all sincerity I thought him better off than in the rich, flat world of the unimaginative Middle West. I said this, and he asked me hesitatingly, as though he ought by right to be talking of pumpkins, why so many authors come from these parts—then.
So I expounded to him my theory : it was be-cause the country was ugly, and living rather mean, that the mind must create its own beauty and the soul must imagine what is not there, giving expression to its fancies by writing them down rather than by experiencing them.
We were quite caught up in the clouds until it came time to shake hands and say good-bye. Shaking hands in America makes us conscious. It is like going to the train to see people off—there is nothing more to be said after the touch of palms. Only the Arabs do this with enthusiasm, the adieux growing to a full crescendo after the hand-shaking. It is their cocktail of good-bye.
" There is no doubt about it," I said to W—, when we were on our way once more, " I like these Vermont people."
Before he could reply our car slacked its pace to ask a pedestrian if we were " right " for Windsor. Yet we were not answered immediately, for the eye of the one accosted lighted upon a friend passing in a buggy, and he put us aside to parley.
" Got a new buggy? "
" Yep," said the occupant of the buggy.
" What you done with the old one? "
" Kep ' it."
" Want to trade it? "
" Go on."
Then we were advised of the route laconically. " Like 'em still? " asked W ____ of me.
" Yep," I answered stoutly.
At Windsor one must cross the river for Cornish, thereby quitting Vermont and entering New Hampshire. Our mapped-out itinerary demanded this, but if we ever find ourselves with leisure on our hands again, we will devote it to the Connecticut Valley, from the source of the stream far up on the Canadian line down through its three hundred sixty miles of sinuous beauty.
As Doctor Holmes says, " it loiters down like a great lord," which, at this point of the river, is a most perfect simile. A historian goes further, recommending it for " the frequency and elegance of its meanders," this praise being sustained by a native along the way, who claims that it meanders so utterly at one point that a man with a gun can stand on the river-bank in New Hampshire, fire across Vermont, and lodge his ball in New Hampshire again. The solution of this can be worked out only by pen and pencil, lacking the gun and particular spot where the river so twists, but it is no more perplexing than the antics of the sun at Panama, which stubbornly sets in the East.
I had been polishing up on the history of the Connecticut Valley while rocking in my comfortable chair (secured for me by the insistent drummers) back in Springfield, and as we went on through the beaming sunlight I almost wished that I hadn't read it. For this gentle length of road over which we were " elegantly meandering " was the trail of the Indians who drove their captives from the settlement in lower Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut—the trail on which they beat them, tortured them, abandoned them to die, selling into slavery to the Frenchmen of Canada such poor fragments as endured.
Whole villages were at times rounded up like cattle and started northward. Each Indian was allotted one or more prizes, and while it was to the interest of the warrior to keep the settlers alive, at the end of every day's march such captives as gave evidence of flagging strength were killed. And yet it was these savages, these creatures of instinctive poetry, who called the river The Smile of God.
I often reflect, without dawn of reason on the subject, upon the white man who gave the first gun to the first Indian. Who began it--what was the value of the bundle of furs that he probably received in return? It is well known that arrows were comparatively ineffectual against guns—it would seem to be the one method of safeguarding the white settlers—yet the ex-change of some commodity or other for muskets must have become general, for even in the wars of 1675 many of the red men possessed firearms.
The number of settlers killed during the early wars is so small to us now, in this age of complete annihilation of regiments, that I hesitate to put it down. Yet, while the toll of dead during the uprising of the Indians under the Massasoit, Philip, was but six hundred in all, that represented one man out of every twenty living in New England. And the expense of the, war, put down as half a million dollars, all but beggared the community.
The Indians may have come down the river in canoes, but one does not read of any such comfortable transportation up the stream with their prisoners—possibly for the reason that it was up the stream, and there may have been a stern resistance in the current of The Smile of God.
Freight as mournful has rested upon the bosom of its waters, mournful if one can apply that word to effort unrecognised. Fourteen years before Robert Fulton paddled his boat, the Clermont, up the Hudson, under steam, Samuel Morey set the Connecticut Valley gaping by a small steamer of his own invention.
He had but one paddle-wheel at first, and his speed was hardly that of a motor-boat. There were some solemn conclaves among the capitalists of the Valley over the advisability of financing this young man toward further endeavour. And it was decided if he could manage to attain a maximum speed of eight miles an hour that the queer craft might have possibilities which would be worth developing.
Morey then added a wheel to the other side of the boat, attained the eight miles, and was deserted, for some reason or other, by his cautious friends of high finance. The history in which I found this story went a little further than chroniclers of dry events generally do, and, entering the realms of psychology, told the reader that the inventor accepted his defeat with great philosophy, sunk his boat, and lived to a genial old age as a market gardener.
I was grateful for this denouement, as it was the only optimistic note I could catch in all the sad story of this peaceful farming country. Yet to see the land itself, evolved from the wilderness by a patience and fearlessness of which a quaking motorist has no grasp, is possibly the cheeriest symbol of optimism to be found in or cut of a chronicle.
It was something of a grief to the Illustrator, who still thrills at Indian lore, that Windsor, which we were rapidly approaching, bore no marks of tomahawks on old oaken doors. In-deed, we have found that the most dramatic events of which we read take place just this side of the point where we " turn in," or just beyond the point where we " turn out."
I tried to tell him that we should be glad we were spared any more definite visualising of the cruelties his own forbears suffered (he is from Vermont—and Virginia—and other states) :, and he replied that he didn't want any one to have been out and out killed there, but scalping does not necessarily cause death. I sat back sternly. It is amazing how men refuse to grow up.
And yet they do ! With the sure instinct of mankind he picked out some one in the far distance to ask more of Windsor, and she was, again, a very pretty girl. She said we could go to the hotel if we wanted to, but she advised the Windsor Club—she was going there herself. So the Illustrator thought that the Windsor Club was much the better place, and we went her way—where she turned out to be a waitress, but, undoubtedly, a head waitress.
The Club has been erected by the mill-owners for the men, and the public have only the privilege of the restaurant and the telephone. We telephoned to our long-suffering friends in Cornish, who had ceased to become friends, we discovered, and had gone off for a day and night. We were sorry to lose them, but there was a sort of motor press on, press ever gleam in our eyes, which placed friends as something better than a dog, but not as dear as a good day's run.
Since our destination was Rutland, we could have motored on up the Valley on the Vermont side, or could, after crossing the river, have clung to the river-bank and continue over the excellent Lebanon Turnpike, recrossing the river at West Lebanon.
But it is foolish to be so near Cornish and not become part of it for a moment, no matter how indifferent the Cornishmen may be about having you there. There is something rustic in the name Cornishmen, but there is nothing rustic about them in reality, with the exception of their gardens—and those are as beautifully cultivated as the minds which own them.
One does not think, as a rule, of minds owning beautiful stretches of property, and houses containing chairs, bolsters, flat silver, Oriental rugs, vacuum-cleaners, a phonograph (behind a Japanese screen), and other essentials to livings We see fat people owning such comfortable resting-places. But Cornish contains a summer colony, noted for minds, and for the best ones, which means that they are not dull, ponderous masses of grey matter which confound you with facts, and fill you with a panicky feeling that you will not understand what they are going to say next.
One of the rewards of increasing years is an experience in proportion, and I have found, with relief, that the really great brain is not wrapped in a garment of perplexity, but is as simple and understandable as a nude figure.
The quality of a retiring mind is charming unless you are a motorist trying to see the great estates in Cornish, then you become exasperated, as the gardens for which the locality is famous are so retired from the road that one gets nothing but R. F. D. boxes, with magical names on the outside to show that any one lives beyond the iron gates but Mother Nature.
We wished that all of the houses could be inns, for an inn may be as modest as a daisy, but, like a daisy, it is indigenous to the roadside and in plain view. We had no sooner crossed the river than we came upon one little white tea-house, with blinds the colour of fresh green lettuce, and a swinging sign painted, we knew immediately, by Maxfield Parrish.
A few yards further on, overlooking the river, is another where one may dine as well as tea, and the traveller would do well to take a meal there. He may argue that he is not hungry, and I can only reply that he will be so by the time he reaches the hotel at White River Junction. Whereas if you are not hungry when you arrive at the Junction you need not stop at that unromantic spot, but can motor on to Woodstock, and replete with food, remain sensible to the beauties of nature. It is difficult to lay too great value on a well-filled stomach when one is out to admire scenery.
We still had a friend—or two—left in Cornish, in spite of those leaving hastily whom we were about to visit. And we asked the way of a delightful miss, on the edge of long skirts, who was sitting on one of the few porches exposed to the naked eye of the passing visitor.
She was bursting with knowledge, for she had often visited our acquaintances, she said, but nothing could have wriggled more in the imparting of the directions unless it was the dachshund squirming in her arms.
" You go," she said, yes-you go at least two miles—pretty straight—and then you come to a church "—she hesitated—" or do you? That's just it." Her agony of mind was terrible to witness. " And then, supposing you do come to the church, you turn to the right. Yes, you do, but oh, horrors ! " she pressed the dachshund to her brow. " Is it before the graveyard or after it? "
As the result of this complete revelation we thought it safer to inquire further at the post-office, and found it was after the cemetery, which was satisfactory in a way, proving, as W ____ said, that these friends would remain friends even beyond the grave. Yet the government official (also a dispenser of garden seed, underwear, and photographs of President Wilson's summer residence) was not entirely right, and it would seem that it is as difficult to define a country residence as to tell the truth in a witness chair.
But we found it, first climbing a little hill to the second house and, being wrong, descending it again to the third house, where we were immediately encircled by a garden, puppies, sleek cats, and our friends. The scene was so lovely that, for an instant, we wondered why our particular inclination has kept us always in a sort of perpetual motion, instead of settling down with one vista for contemplation instead of a ceaseless demand for a continual unfolding of new landscapes.
The regret for our unsettled condition was only for the instant, however. Soon we were in the car again, philosophising that we wouldn't be moving about in this fashion if it was not best suited to our dispositions, and rather blaming it on the Lord. I don't know how some of us could quiet our conscience if we did not reflect that the Lord made us.
Through lovely country lanes we twisted our-selves in and out of various towns, all called Lebanon, and, crossing a bridge again, were reluctantly at White River Junction. I defy any one to name a charming town, or a moderately pretty one, or even a stylish village, that staggers under the appellation of Junction. It is as cruel as naming a girl Eliza or a baby boy Methuselah. The town could as well have been one of the Lebanons—West—West Lebanon possibly, for, while locomotives were busy running up and down in front of the hotel—after the manner of junctions—the name is not the result of the meeting of railroads, but of the engulfing of White River by the waters of the Connecticut.
Although we were hungry, and White River Junction ugly, and the locomotives noisy, we found occasion to liken humanity to this merging of one defined river into another. How the weak feed the strong! How unconscious the strong are that they, in their greed, have sapped up for their expansion all the little thoughts and the individual efforts of such mortals who, by their situation and equipment, can be but tributaries in the scheme of life. And, even so, how right it all is! The great stream serves great purposes—but it is a sustaining thought that it could not do without the little tributaries.
There were several parties of motorists in the hotel dining-room, and out of each party was one fat woman. I have never failed to observe this, although it is still an open question as to whether one acquires flesh from motoring or that one motors who has acquired flesh. It is an uneasy question and has a tendency to the curtailing of soup while touring, and by a hurried. exit resisting the seductive New England pie.
It was our waitress at luncheon who urged the pie upon us. She said it was " all right "--and it was. I had not lifted my eyes to her face until we had reached the sweets. Her body was so trim that I thought her young, but her face was of an alarming plainness, and she went about her work with a sad elimination of bantering, as though such things were not. for her.
I thought of the unlovely way that the truth about herself must have been thrust upon her when she was a young waitress, with an inclination to doubt her mirror and a secret hope that some one of the commercial travellers would find her worthy of his light admiration. But that was long ago, and now with an appreciation of her limitations she wisely chose the air of an ascetic.
Even at her age she could not escape the material sizing up of one gross guest at table. His eye, like mine, had first embraced her delicate waist, but as he worked up to her homely features he winked openly at his companion and gave a loud guffaw. She was impervious to his humour, however, and brought him everything for which he had asked—and this was Christian charity to the limit.
We turned sharply at our right upon leaving White River (I cannot say Junction again) along the valley road of the—a halt to verify the spelling—Ottaquechee.
Two late haymakers, or, rather, two makers of late hay, told us the name of the river. Strangely enough for those who live in the valley, they stumbled in the telling, and, while I am no farmer, they presented an equal incapacity for haymaking. Since their wagons were picturesque, I asked if they would allow me to photograph them. This is not an unusual request in the country, and in any clime the mention of a photograph is a sign for a quick acquiescence, and a certain setting to rights of one's clothing.
But these incapable haymakers continued amazing by a burst of laughter and an acceptance of our offer without the hitching of a suspender. It was trying to my vanity, but I followed the usual formula, and upon the clicking of the camera offered to send them prints if they would give me their names. And at this there was an ill-concealed attempt to muzzle more laughter, consequent with a removing of old straw hats to beg my pardon, for, they told us, they were moving-picture actors rehearsing a scene, and they averaged about ten thousand pictures of themselves a day. The Illustrator rummaged for his flask, and we chatted a little until a large motor came up with their camera man and di-rector.
On the outside was painted the name of the concern in vulgar lettering. There were other actors in the automobile going to their various " locations," and they were so sober and industrious about their " job " that we thought it a pity they must be labelled like zanies in a circus. One might as well paint " Attorney " across the car of a gentleman of that profession, or " Specialist in Ears," or " Minister of the First Baptist Church." Surely the actor is the servant of the public!
But on we went to Woodstock, with our disapproval unexpressed and futile save that no mental disapprobation is without action of some sort, and in a few minutes we were mentally and vocally disapproving of each other in the sketching of an old doorway, which I thought an excellent bit, and the Illustrator said was a " bust." If it is presented here I leave it to the public to judge of my taste.
Besides a doorway I acquired some hairpins in Woodstock and a new valve for my hot-water bottle. One need not feel the necessity of carrying from her native city every essential, as though bound for desert places. Shopping in small towns is pleasantly simple, and the choice, being restricted, is quickly accomplished. We also found ourselves drifting into a carelessness as to our personal appearance that gives us many extra half hours in the open, far from mirrors save those that Nature provides in the stilly pools.
I would never have believed that the correctly veiled person who quitted my apartment four days before could be the same who, with hat on one ear, and an unbecoming hat at that, listened shamelessly to the conversation of others in the delightful inn at Woodstock.
Listening to conversations may be as base as peeping through windows, but it is endlessly amusing. The Illustrator is immediately surrounded by other motor enthusiasts who talk roads, but my sex are not so friendly.
" She looks like a nice woman," one said faint-heartedly of an absent creature who was laid upon the dissecting tea-table.
" Her first name is Cora, isn't it?" inquired Cora's accuser severely. " I never trusted that name."
And that took me back to White River Junction again. Shakespeare is wrong. There's a lot in a name, and mothers should be more careful when they thrust the nominal sign of the adventuress upon a red, squirming infant. I suppose it is difficult for a mother to imagine a red, squirming infant an adventuress at all.
After Woodstock we began a steady ascent toward the Green Mountains, again over a road much better than the Peru Turnpike—and which cost us nothing at all. The stretches of farmland were rich and ever richer. The lush grass grew smoothly to the edges of the streams, and the hills, bounding the valley, resembled a little the lower stretches of the Alps. Yet only a little little, for each country enjoys a topography peculiarly its own, and America is, to me, more individual than any other.
Strange, is it not?, Trees with leaves, cows with horns, dogs with four legs, men and women with two—strange that we should be so dissimilar ! I confided some of these musings to the front seat. I told the chauffeur, for his own enlightenment, that his country could not possibly look like any other country. He replied that he didn't want it to, but he hoped, when he visited other countries, that he would find them all looking like his. And as this was ridiculous, I sat back without any further promulgation of thought.
W ____ was willing to continue the discussion for the hidden reason that, busied with contention, I would not observe the life of the road and call a halt for a further investigation of events along the way. He had secret hopes of arriving, for once, at the end of our day's run before nightfall.
But his methods were too vigorous. At one lonely spot he began to question me so eagerly as to my opinions—opinions in which he had never taken any interest before—that I peered suspiciously over his broad blocking shoulders just in time to espy a very quaint little sign set stiffly on a post in front of a very shabby little house, which he was trying to rush me past.
The sign was gleaming with fresh paint, applied colourfully, but untruthfully, to a row of animals, with the announcement beneath that Home-made Toys were for sale. Knowing that he was worsted he backed back, and we were shortly afterwards on the shabby porch, surrounded by carved dogs, horses, dolls' houses, dolls' chairs, cows, and what I think were bears.
The maker was a man of huge stature, but so crippled by rheumatism that he could no longer work at his trade of carpentry beyond carving out his small wares through the winter and selling them to those motoring past in the summer. I found our young chauffeur looking at him with a sort of sympathetic contempt, but it was as remarkable as it was touching to W-- and myself that this great creature, this maker of homes, was now producing tailless dogs and tailful horses with the enthusiasm if not the skill of an artist.
" The point is," he said, " it's my job. He's a poor man who won't like the thing he can do, and I've grown to like them. It's kind of vain, I guess, but I take a sort of father's pride in them. Oh, yes, madam, people are very kind. The only time my feelings get hurt at all is the way some of the visitors can't tell the dogs from the horses."
I hastily put down one—or other—of these quadrupeds, for I was a little uncertain beyond its being of the animal kingdom, and I bought, after that, creatures with horns, unquestionably cows.
I also took a little chair with a Greek cross cut out on the back. " I like to see a cross on a chair," he said, handling the toy delicately. " It seems to be resting there—kinda, somehow."
" You carry your cross," W ____ responded.
" Always, sir," with a hand to his twisted spine.
We talked of rheumatism and he told us of the man from Bridgeport who had passed that day and, before whirling on, advised the invalid to take a cure in Russia.
" But I couldn't get along without the automobilists," he added gratefully. " Once I thought I couldn't stand the pain, now I know I can."
I told him of one Marcus Aurelius who says: " The pain which is intolerable carries us off, but that which lasts a long time is tolerable, and the mind maintains its own tranquillity by retiring into itself, and the ruling faculty is not made worse."
It did not seem unusual to be quoting the Roman Emperor to this bent giant of Vermont, nor astonishing that he accepted the philosophy with understanding. The man from Bridgeport might be out of place in the Green Mountains, but the Ancients are perfectly fitted to any habitation where dwells the simple spirit.
We put our names in a little book before we left. He showed with the greatest pride the signature of one who had been the First Lady of the Land. He knew the weeks and the days that had passed since her death. In the outer world the transition of her soul had come at a time when grief from appalling havoc made small by comparison any less international sorrow. But here in this quiet countryside we felt that we had stumbled upon an altar to her memory, covered over with fresh flowers.
As a result of the protracted call upon Mr. Bailey, we, as usual, reached our night's resting-place as the electric lights were changing the dusk into an admitted blackness. The authorities of Rutland point the way intelligently by signs arrowing (I have coined this) the business portion of the town and that of the residences. I had hoped the hotel would be on a hill, or a meadow, or even a park, for we were permeated with a sense of the country, and were impatient at the prospect of the lights of the moving-picture houses shining in upon such respectable early-going-to-bed tourists as we had become. But it was squarely in the centre of all the lights in Rutland. A commercial hotel with a stern disinclination to hearken to the appeal of the drummer for its self-improvement.
A disinclination, indeed, to hearken to anything save the honk of the motor horn, and to boost up the prices with the ascending of the motor trunk. It is not that they charge so much, but that they charge too much. Too much in proportion to the comforts to be secured for the same sum at other hotels along the way, which are also recommended by the emblematic shield of a certain Association.
I have long known that a shield signifies protection, and as we went through the country largely influenced as to our choice of stopping-places by this emblem, I had cherished the idea that the armour was to protect the guests. But, arriving at Rutland, I learned that it is the hostelry which hides behind the shield.
Rebellion was not enduring. If we had stopped anywhere else in the world I would never know how, in Rutland, a man can care for a woman. I knew it would be a confidence by the way he glared at me when I chanced to stray into the parlour. I knew she was expecting a confidence by that glad questioning in her eyes and her utter indifference to me. I knew, too, that she cared a lot more for him than he did for her. I could have told her so in advance, but we must learn by our own experience.
" I've got a new horse," he told her.
" Do you drive it to your buggy? "
" You bet I do," he answered.
She beamed upon him.
" Will you be at home to-morrow at four? " he asked.
She said she would.
" You be on the porch."
She said she would.
" I'll drive past and you can see it," said the swain.
If I had not left the parlour there would have been a dead Rutlander.