England - Landing At Plymouth, England
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Coming into the harbor was a happy time; we could see with our glasses the fields with grain in shock, with white sheep grazing, with cattle, and the dense forest on the hillsides, vividly green. But all the fields were parched and brown—something that I never before saw in England. The adieus were said, and we boarded the tender and went flying in to the dock with tons and tons of mail and our baggage. Many passengers disembarked, and yet as we left the great ship it seemed black with people waving handkerchiefs to us, and as soon as we cast off, the ship started grimly on the last leg of her voyage to London.
At Plymouth, customs regulations were easy; only one of my things was opened. It was hot weather and I was astonishingly weary, so at the hotel I lay down to rest. Later, I sallied out to explore Plymouth ; a tram car came along and I made a mess of it, trying to board it on the wrong side and then on the wrong end; the motorman courteously awaited me and as I crawled in said, "Take a seat here by me, sir." I did. "I have not learned your English trolleys yet," I remarked. "No, but you will very soon, sir," he courteously replied. So he told me of things as we rode by them and I observed how courteously he helped people on and off and waited for them to come when a little way off. At last we came to the brink of a little hill and started down it. "Are you afraid, sir?" "Oh, no, I am not afraid when you have hold of the wheel," I laughingly replied. "Well, sir, you need not fear; I will take care of us," he replied seriously. That was the end of his run; beyond began the pasture lands, and I went up to look at the good sheep cropping the sun-dried grass; then walked a mile or more in the suburbs seeing now a queer row of houses, or street with two rows, thrust up into a pasture, but fenced off with an unscalable iron fence and with signs "trespassers will be prosecuted." The street was perfectly paved and finished as though in the middle of a city. Unhappily, too often all the houses were alike, what they call "Jerry Builded," I believe.
I saw charming red Devon cattle in a pasture right in the city, and a fine old country place, surrounded by the city and yet retaining acres of land, with its park and trees. I rode on a two-storied trolley, then came back to town and went to the old church. It was late, but I slipped in and found a choir boy at practice. How he did sing, that lad-die. I listened to him with joy.
The church looked very old, though as a matter of fact it was a new church when the Mayflower sailed, as it was built, or rebuilt, in 1600. The original church was of 1100 and something or other. I found a doorway, though, in what must have been once a parish house and on the doorcap, of granite, was cut the date 1539. Then I strolled on up to a great promenade that they call "The Hoe," where thousands of folk were walking backward and for-ward, for what purpose I could not discover. There were many fine hotels thereabouts and these were no doubt largely summer people. The Hoe overlooks the lovely bay; it was pretty quiet, so far as commerce goes.
Coming back, I strolled into the hotel sitting-room and to my astonishment there sat writing a very pretty girl, plainly of part negro blood. She proved to be the daughter of the landlady, and really the daughter is the manageress of the place. She was English-born, only dusky enough to be fine looking, and with a beautiful voice and charming manners, evidently of good education, too, and altogether interesting from an American point of view. As first impressions are valuable, let me record mine. English common people in the mass seem singularly lacking in force of character or force of any sort. They seem very good-natured, kindly, industrious and respectable, but not very interesting, lacking physical vigor and virility. It always so impresses me. I wonder whether it is in part because they live behind closed windows. It was a hot afternoon and evening and yet I was astonished as I walked to see them nearly always behind tightly closed windows and doors, in their homes.