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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPomona's Travels - Letter Number Eighteen
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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Eighteen Post by :ben.g Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2226

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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Eighteen

BUXTON

I have begun to take the baths. There really is so little to do in this place that I couldn't help it, and so, while Jone was off tending to his hot soaks, I thought I might as well try the thing myself. At any rate it would fill up the time when I was alone. I find I like this sort of bathing very much, and I wish I had begun it before. It reminds me of a kind of medicine for colds that you used to make for me, madam, when I first came to the canal-boat. It had lemons and sugar in it, and it was so good I remember I used to think that I would like to go into a lingering consumption, so that I could have it three times a day, until I finally passed away like a lily on a snowbank.

Jone's been going about a good deal in a bath-chair, and doesn't mind my walking alongside of him. He says it makes him feel easier in his mind, on the whole.

Mr. Poplington came two or three days ago, and he is stopping at our hotel. We three have hired a carriage together two or three times and have taken drives into, the country. Once we went to an inn, the Cat and Fiddle, about five miles away, on a high bit of ground called Axe Edge. It is said to be the highest tavern in England, and it's lucky that it is, for that's the only recommendation it's got. The sign in front of the house has on it a cat on its hind-legs playing a fiddle, with a look on its face as if it was saying, "It's pretty poor, but it's the best I can do for you."

Inside is another painting of a cat playing a fiddle, and truly that one might be saying, "Ha! Ha! You thought that that picture on the sign was the worst picture you ever saw in your life, but now you see how you are mistaken."

Up on that high place you get the rain fresher than you do in Buxton, because it hasn't gone so far through the air, and it's mixed with more chilly winds than anywhere else in England, I should say. But everybody is bound to go to the Cat and Fiddle at least once, and we are glad we have been there, and that it is over. I like the places near the town a great deal better, and some of them are very pretty. One day we two and Mr. Poplington took a ride on top of a stage to see Haddon Hall and Chatsworth.

Haddon Hall is to me like a dream of the past come true. Lots of other old places have seemed like dreams, but this one was right before my eyes, just as it always was. Of course, you must have read all about it, madam, and I am not going to tell it over again. But think of it; a grand old baronial mansion, part of it built as far back as the eleven hundreds, and yet in good condition and fit to live in. That is what I thought as I walked through its banqueting hall and courts and noble chambers. "Why," said I to Jone, "in that kitchen our meals could be cooked; at that table we could eat them; in these rooms we could sleep; in these gardens and courts we could roam; we could actually live here!" We haven't seen any other romance of the past that we could say that about, and to this minute it puzzles me how any duke in this world could be content to own a house like this and not live in it. But I suppose he thinks more of water-pipes and electric lights than he does of the memories of the past and time-hallowed traditions.

As for me, if I had been Dorothy Vernon, there's no man on earth, not even Jone, that could make me run away from such a place as Haddon Hall. They show the stairs down which she tripped with her lover when they eloped; but if it had been me, it would have been up those stairs I would have gone. Mr. Poplington didn't agree a bit with me about the joy of living in this enchanting old house, and neither did Jone, I am sure, although he didn't say so much. But then, they are both men, and when it comes to soaring in the regions of romanticism you must not expect too much of men.

After leaving Haddon Hall, which I did backward, the coach took us to Chatsworth, which is a different sort of a place altogether. It is a grand palace, at least it was built for one, but now it is an enormous show place, bright and clean and sleek, and when we got there we saw hundreds of visitors waiting to go in. They was taken through in squads of about fifty, with a man to lead them, which he did very much as if they was a drove of cattle.

The man who led our squad made us step along lively, and I must say that never having been in a drove before, Jone and I began to get restive long before we got through. As for the show, I like the British Museum a great deal better. There is ever so much more to see there, and you have time to stop and look at things. At Chatsworth they charge you more, give you less, and treat you worse. When it came to taking us through the grounds, Jone and I struck. We left the gang we was with, and being shown where to find a gate out of the place, we made for that gate and waited until our coach was ready to take us back to Buxton.

It is a lot of fun going to the theatre here. It doesn't cost much, and the plays are good and generally funny, and a rheumatic audience is a very jolly one. The people seemed glad to forget their backs, their shoulders, and their legs, and they are ready to laugh at things that are only half comic, and keep up a lively chattering between the acts. It's fun to see them when the play is over. The bath-chairs that have come after some of them are brought right into the building, and are drawn up just like carriages after the theatre. The first time we went I wanted Jone to stop a while and see if we didn't hear somebody call out, "Mrs. Barchester's bath-chair stops the way!" but he said I expected too much, and would not wait.

We sit about so much in the gardens, which are lively when it is clear, and not bad even in a little drizzle, that we've got to know a good many of the people; and although Jone's a good deal given to reading, I like to sit and watch them and see what they are doing.

When we first came here I noticed a good-looking young woman who was hauled about in a bath-chair, generally with an open book in her lap, which she never seemed to read much, because she was always gazing around as if she was looking for something. Before long I found out what she was looking for, for every day, sooner or later, generally sooner, there came along a bath-chair with a good-looking young man in it. He had a book in his lap too, but he was never reading it when I saw him, because he was looking for the young woman; and as soon as they saw each other they began to smile, and as they passed they always said something, but didn't stop. I wondered why they didn't give their pullers a rest and have a good talk if they knew each other, but before long I noticed not very far behind the young lady's bath-chair was always another bath-chair with an old gentleman in it with a bottle-nose. After a while I found out that this was the young lady's father, because sometimes he would call to her and have her stop, and then she generally seemed to get some sort of a scolding.

Of course, when I see anything of this kind going on, I can't help taking one side or the other, and as you may well believe, madam, I wouldn't be likely to take that of the old bottle-nosed man's side. I had not been noticing these people for more than two or three days when one morning, when Jone and me was sitting under an umbrella, for there was a little more rain than common, I saw these two young people in their bath-chairs, coming along side by side, and talking just as hard as they could. At first I was surprised, but I soon saw how things was: the old gentleman couldn't come out in the rain. It was plain enough from the way these two young people looked at each other that they was in love, and although it most likely hurt them just as much to come out into the rain as it would the old man, love is all-powerful, even over rheumatism.

Pretty soon the clouds cleared away without notice, as they do in this country, and it wasn't long before I saw, away off, the old man's bath-chair coming along lively. His bottle-nose was sticking up in the air, and he was looking from one side to the other as hard as he could. The two lovers had turned off to the right and gone over a little bridge and I couldn't see them; but by the way that old nose shook as it got nearer and nearer to me, I saw they had reason to tremble, though they didn't know it.

When the old father reached the narrow path he did not turn down it, but kept straight on, and I breathed a sigh of deep relief. But the next instant I remembered that the broad path turned not far beyond, and that the little one soon ran into it, and so it could not be long before the father and the lovers would meet. I like to tell Jone everything I am going to do, when I am sure that he'll agree with me that it is right; but this time I could not bother with explanations, and so I just told him to sit still for a minute, for I wanted to see something, and I walked after the young couple as fast as I could. When I got to them, for they hadn't gone very far, I passed the young woman's bath-chair, and then I looked around and I said to her, "I beg your pardon, miss, but there is an old gentleman looking for you; but as I think he is coming round this way, you'll meet him if you keep on this path." "Oh, my!" said she unintentionally; and then she thanked me very much, and I went on and turned a corner and went back to Jone, and pretty soon the young man's bath-chair passed us going toward the gate, he looking three-quarters happy, and the other quarter disappointed, as lovers are if they don't get the whole loaf.

From that day until yesterday, which was a full week, I came into the gardens every morning, sometimes even when Jone didn't want to come, because I wanted to see as much of this love business as I could. For my own use in thinking of them I named the young man Pomeroy and the young woman Angelica, and as for the father, I called him Snortfrizzle, being the worst name I could think of at the time. But I must wait until my next letter to tell you the rest of the story of the lovers, and I am sure you will be as much interested in them as I was.

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BUXTONWhen we were comfortably settled here, Jone went to see a doctor, who is a nice, kind old gentleman, who looks as if he almost might have told Mary Queen of Scots how hot she ought to have the water in her baths. He charges four times as much as the others, and has about a quarter as many patients, which makes it all the same to him, and a good deal better for the rheumatic ones who come to him, for they have more time to go into particulars. And if anything does good to a person who has something
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