or how far its privileges; but the land about is mostly held in great estates, like most of the land in England, and no doubt there are signorial rights which overlie the popular privileges. I fancied a symbol of these in the game-keeper whom we met coming out of the wood, brown-clad, with a scarcely touched hat, silently sweeping through the gorse, furtive as one of the pheasants or hares to which he must have grown akin in his custody of them. He was the first game-keeper I met in England, and, as it happened, the last, but he now seems to me to have been so perfect in his way that I would not for the sake of the books where I have known so many of his sort have him the least different from what he was.

The English sun, if you do not walk much in it, is usually cool and pleasant, but you must not take liberties. By the time we got back to lunch we could have believed, with no homesick yearning, that we had been in an American heat. But after lunch, and after the talk filling the afternoon till afternoon tea-time, which we were to take at a famous house in the neighborhood, the temperature was all right again; it was more than all right in the cold current of air which the motor created. In the course of that post - luncheon talk our host brought out a small porcelain bust of Washington, in very Continental blue, which he said was one of great numbers made in that neighborhood at the time of our Revolution to express the feeling of our English sympathizers in the struggle which gave English liberty a new lease. One reads of this sympathy, how wide and high it was, and one knows of it in a way, but till then, with that witness, I had to own I had not realized it. The miniature father-of-his-country smiled at our ignorance with his accustomed blandness, and I hope

he will never regret being given to one of us as a testimony of the amity which had largely endured for our nation from and through the most difficult times. The gift lent our day a unique grace, and I could only hope that it might be without a surprise too painful that our English Washington would look upon the American Republic of his creation when we got home with him; I doubted if he would find it altogether his ideal.

The motor-spin was over the high crest of the down to the house where we were going, I do not know how many miles, for our afternoon tea. The house was famous for being the most perfect Tudor house in existence, but I am not going to transfer the burden of my slight knowledge of its past to the mind of the reader. I will only say that it came into the hands of the jovial Henry VIII. through the loss of several of its owners' heads, a means of acquisition not so distasteful to him as to them, and after its restitution to the much decapitated family it continued in their possession till a few years ago. It remains with me a vision of turrets and gables, perfect in their Tudor kind, rising upon a gentle level of fields and meadows, with nothing dramatically picturesque in the view from its straight-browed windows. The present owner, who showed me through its rooms and gardens, hurriedly in consideration of our early train, has the generous passion of leaving the old place as nearly as he can in the keeping of its past; and my satisfaction in this was much heightened by what he was simultaneously saying about the prevalent newspaper unwisdom of not publishing serial fiction: in his own newspaper, he said, he had a story running all the time.

The old and the new kiss each other constantly in

England, and I perceived that this vividly modern possessor of the most perfect Tudor house existing was, with the intense actuality of his interests and ambitions, as English as the most feudal presence in the kingdom. When we came out of the house and walked toward the group we had left under a spreading oak (or it might have been an elm; the two are much of the same habit in England) on the long, wide lawn, one might have fancied one's self in any most picturesque period of the past, if it had not been for the informality of the men's dress. Women are always of the past in the beauty of their attire, and those whom the low sun, striking across the velvet of the grass, now lighted up in their pretty gowns of our day, could easily have stepped out of an old picture, or continued in it as they sat in their wicker chairs around the afternoon tea-table.




N incident of the great midsummer heat, was an excursion down the Thames which took us far from the society atmosphere so relaxing to the moral fibre of the mere witness of the London season. The change was not to the cooler air which had been imagined, but it immersed us for the space of the boat's voyage to and from Greenwich among those social inferiors who are probably the moral betters of their superiors, but whose company does not always seem the spiritual baptism it doubtless is. Our fellow-passengers were distinctly of the classes which are lower as well as middle, and the sole worldly advantage they had of us was that they were going where they wished, and we were going where we must. We had started for Richmond, but as there proved to be no boat for Richmond, we decided to take the boat which was for Greenwich, and consoled ourselves with visions of whitebait, in memory and honor of many parliamentary and literary feasts which that fish has furnished. A whitebait dinner, what would not one suffer of human contiguity for it, even though it could be only a whitebait lunch, owing to the early hour?

It was the flaming heart of the forenoon when the Greenwich boat puffed up to her landing at Westminster Bridge, and the lower middle classes streamed aboard.

She looked very lower middle class herself, poor boat, and she was of a failing line which the London County Council is about to replace by a line of municipal boats, without apparently alarming, in the English, the sensibilities so apprehensive of anarchy with us when there is any talk of government transportation. The official who sold me tickets might have been training himself for a position on the municipal line, he was so civilly explanatory as to my voyage; so far from treating my inquiries with the sardonic irony which meets question in American ticket-offices, he all but caressed me aboard. He had scarcely ceased reassuring me when the boat struck out on the thin solution of dark mud which passes for water in the Thames, and scuttled down the tide towards Greenwich.

Her course lay between the shabbiness of Southwark and the grandeur of the Westminster shore, which is probably the noblest water-front in the world. Near and far the great imperial and municipal and palatial masses of architecture lifted themselves, and, as we passed, varied their grouping with one another, and with the leafy domes and spires which everywhere enrich and soften the London outlook. Their great succession ought to culminate in the Tower, and so it does to the mind's eye, but to the body's eye, the Tower is rather histrionic than historic. It is like a scenic reproduction of itself, like a London Tower on the stage; and if ever, in a moment of Anglo-Saxon expansion, the County Council should think of selling it to Chicago, to be set up somewhere between the Illinois Central and the Lake, New York need not hopelessly envy her the purchase: New York could easily build a London Tower that would look worthier of its memories than the real one, without even making it a sky-scraper.

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »