« VorigeDoorgaan »
drove off. We were visiting almost without a plan this storied and noble city, which so much merited to be carefully and intelligently seen, and it was by mere grace of chance that we now happened upon one of the most interesting houses in it. In the graveyard of St. Peter's Church the hapless poet Richard Savage was buried at the cost of the jailer of the debtor's prison where he died, and we must have passed the tablet to his memory in finding our unheeding way to St. Peter's Hospital behind the church. This is one of the most splendid survivals of the statelier moods of the past in that England which is full of its records. A noted alchemist built it, whether for his dwelling or whether for the mystic uses of his art, in the thirteen-hundreds, but it is gabled and timbered now in the fashion of the sixteenth century, and serves as the official home of the Bristol Board of Guardians. Once it belonged to a company of merchant adventurers, and their ships used to float up to its postern-gate, and show their spars through the leaden sash of its windows, still kept in their primal picturesqueness. The whole place within is a wonder of carven mantels and friezes and ceilings; and so sound that it might well hold its own for yet five hundred years longer.
It was the first of those medieval houses which gave us a sense of English comfort hardly yet surpassed in modern English interiors; and here first we noted the devotion of the English themselves to the monuments of their past. The Americans who visit objects of interest on the continent are apt to find themselves equalling in number, if not outnumbering their fellowAnglo-Saxons of English birth; but in England they are a most insignificant minority. The English are not merely globe-trotters, they are most incessant travellers
in their own island. They are always going and coming in it, and as often for pleasure as business, apparently. At any rate the American who proposes coming into a private heritage of the past when he visits his ancestral country finds himself constantly intruded upon by the modern natives, who seem to think they have as good right to it as he. This is very trying when he does not think them half so interesting as himself, or half so intelligently appreciative. He may be the most dissident of dissenters, the most outrageously evangelical of • low-churchmen, but when he is pushed by a clericallooking family of English country folk, father, mother, sister-in-law, and elderly and younger daughters, almost out of hearing of the vergeress's traditions of St. Peter's Hospital, he cannot help feeling himself debarred of most of the rights established by our Revolution. It is perhaps a confusion of emotions; but it will be a generous confusion if he observes, amidst his resentment, the listless inattention of the young girl, dragged at the heels of her family, and imaginably asking herself if this is their notion of the promised holiday, the splendid gayety of the long-looked-for visit to Bristol!
Before my own visit to that city my mind was much on a young Welsh girl whose feet used to be light in its streets, more than a hundred years ago, and who used in her garb of Quaker grandmother to speak of her childhood days there. She had come an orphan from Glamorganshire, to the care of an aunt and uncle at Bristol, and there she grew up, and one day she met a young Welshman from Breconshire who had come on some affair of his father's woollen-mills to the busy town. She was walking in the fields, and when they passed, and she looked back at him, she found he was looking back at her; and perhaps if it were not for this
surprising coincidence, some other hand than mine might now be writing this page. In her Bristol days she did not wear the white kerchief crossed at her neck above the gown of Quaker drab, nor the cap hiding the gray hair, but some youthful form of the demure dress in which one could better fancy her tripping across the field and looking back, in the path where she still pauses, in a dear and gentle transmutation of girlhood and grandmotherhood.
It might have been over the very field where she walked that we drove out to the suburb of Clifton, where Bristol mostly lives. It is the more beautiful Allegheny City of a less unbeautiful Pittsburg, but otherwise it bears the same relation to Bristol as the first of these American towns bears to the last. Nobody dwells in Bristol who can dwell in Clifton, and Clifton has not only the charm of pleasant houses and gardens, with public parks and promenades, and schools and colleges, and museums and galleries, as well as almost a superabundance of attractive hotels, but it is in the midst of nature as grand as that of the Niagara River below the falls. The Avon's currents and tides flow between cliffs, spanned by Brunel's exquisite and awful suspensionbridge, that rise thickly and wildly wooded on one side, and on the other, built over to its stupendous verge with shapes of the stately and dignified architecture, civic and domestic, which characterizes English towns. The American invader draws a panting breath of astonishment in the presence of scenery which eclipses his native landscape in savage grandeur as much as in civilized loveliness, and meekly wonders, on his way through that mighty gorge of the Avon, how he could have come to England with the notion that she was soft and tame in her most spectacular moods. He does not call upon the
hills to hide his shame, lest the cliffs that beetle dizzyingly above him should only too complaisantly comply. But he promises himself, if he gets back to Bath alive, to use the first available moment for taking a reef in his national vanity where it has flapped widest. Of course it will not do in Bath to wound the local susceptibilities by dwelling upon the surviving attractions of Clifton as a watering-place, but he may safely and modestly compare them with those of Saratoga.
BY WAY OF SOUTHAMPTON TO LONDON
E left Bath on the afternoon of a day which remained behind us in doubt whether it was sunny or rainy; but probably the night solved its doubt in favor of rain. It was the next to the last day of March, and thoughtful friends had warned us to be very careful not to travel during the impending Bank holidays, which would be worse than usual (all Bank holidays being bad for polite travellers), because they would also be Easter holidays. We were very willing to heed this counsel, but for one reason or another we were travelling pretty well all through those Easter Bank holidays, and except for a little difficulty in finding places in the train up from Southampton to London, we travelled without the slightest molestation from the holiday-makers. The truth is that the leisure classes in England are so coddled by the constitution and the by-laws that they love to lament over the slightest menace of discomfort or displeasure, and they go about with bated breath warning one another of troubles that
Special trains are run on all lines at Bank holiday times, and very particularly special trains were advertised for those Easter Bank holidays in the station at Bath, but as we were taking a train for Southampton on the Saturday before the dread Monday which was to