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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPomona's Travels - Letter Number Eleven
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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Eleven Post by :Ndoki Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :3389

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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Eleven

CHEDCOMBE, SOMERSETSHIRE

On the third day of our cycle trip we journeyed along a lofty road, with the wild moor on one side and the tossing sea on the other, and at night reached Lynton. It is a little town on a jutting crag, and far down below it on the edge of the sea was another town named Lynmouth, and there is a car with a wire rope to it, like an elevator, which they call The Lift, which takes people up and down from one town to another.

Here we stopped at a house very different from the Ship Inn, for it looked as if it had been built the day before yesterday. Everything was new and shiny, and we had our supper at a long table with about twenty other people, just like a boardinghouse. Some of their ways reminded me of the backwoods, and I suppose there is nothing more modern than backwoodsism, which naturally hasn't the least alloy of the past. When the people got through with their cups of coffee or tea, mostly the last, two women went around the table, one with a big bowl for us to lean back and empty our slops into, and the other with the tea or coffee to fill up the cups. A gentleman with a baldish head, who was sitting opposite us, began to be sociable as soon as he heard us speak to the waiters, and asked questions about America. After he got through with about a dozen of them he said:

"Is it true, as I have heard, that what you call native-born Americans deteriorate in the third generation?"

I had been answering most of the questions, but now Jone spoke up quick. "That depends," says he, "on their original blood. When Americans are descended from Englishmen they steadily improve, generation after generation." The baldish man smiled at this, and said there was nothing like having good blood for a foundation. But Mr. Poplington laughed, and said to me that Jone had served him right.

The country about Lynton is wonderfully beautiful, with rocks and valleys, and velvet lawns running into the sea, and woods and ancestral mansions, and we spent the day seeing all this, and also going down to Lynmouth, where the little ships lie high and dry on the sand when the tide goes out, and the carts drive up to them and put goods on board, and when the tide rises the ships sail away, which is very convenient.

I wanted to keep on along the coast, but the others didn't, and the next morning we started back to Chedcombe by a roundabout way, so that we might see Exmoor and the country where Lorna Doone and John Ridd cut up their didoes. I must say I liked the story a good deal better before I saw the country where the things happened. The mind of man is capable of soarings which Nature weakens at when she sees what she is called upon to do. If you want a real, first-class, tooth-on-edge Doone valley, the place to look for it is in the book. We went rolling along on the smooth, hard roads, which are just as good here as if they was in London, and all around us was stretched out the wild and desolate moors, with the wind screaming and whistling over the heather, nearly tearing the clothes off our backs, while the rain beat down on us with a steady pelting, and the ragged sheep stopped to look at us, as if we was three witches and they was Macbeths.

The very thought that I was out in a wild storm on a desolate moor filled my soul with a sort of triumph, and I worked my tricycle as if I was spurring my steed to battle. The only thing that troubled me was the thought that if the water that poured off my mackintosh that day could have run into our cistern at home, it would have been a glorious good thing. Jone did not like the fierce blast and the inspiriting rain, but I knew he'd stand it as long as Mr. Poplington did, and so I was content, although, if we had been overtaken by a covered wagon, I should have trembled for the result.

That night we stopped in the little village of Simonsbath at Somebody's Arms. After dinner Mr. Poplington, who knew some people in the place, went out, but Jone and me went to bed as quick as we could, for we was tired. The next morning we was wakened by a tremendous pounding at the door. I didn't know what to make of it, for it was too early and too loud for hot water, but we heard Mr. Poplington calling to us, and Jone jumped up to see what he wanted.

"Get up," said he, "if you want to see a sight that you never saw before. We'll start off immediately and breakfast at Exford." The hope of seeing a sight was enough to make me bounce at any time, and I never dressed or packed a bag quicker than I did that morning, and Jone wasn't far behind me.

When we got down-stairs we found our cycles waiting ready at the door, together with the stable man and the stable boy and the boy's helper and the cook and the chambermaid and the waiters and the other servants, waiting for their tips. Mr. Poplington seemed in a fine humor, and he told us he had heard the night before that there was to be a stag hunt that day, the first of the season. In fact, it was not one of the regular meets, but what they called a by-meet, and not known to everybody.

"We will go on to Exford," said he, straddling his bicycle, "for though the meet isn't to be there, there's where they keep the hounds and horses, and if we make good speed we shall get there before they start out."

The three of us travelled abreast, Mr. Poplington in the middle, and on the way he told us a good deal about stag hunts. What I remember best, having to go so fast and having to mind my steering, was that after the hunting season began they hunted stags until a certain day--I forget what it was--and then they let them alone and began to hunt the does; and that after that particular day of the month, when the stags heard the hounds coming they paid no attention to them, knowing very well it was the does' turn to be chased, and that they would not be bothered; and so they let the female members of their families take care of themselves; which shows that ungentlemanliness extends itself even into Nature.

When we got to Exford we left our cycles at the inn and followed Mr. Poplington to the hunting stables, which are near by. I had not gone a dozen steps from the door before I heard a great barking, and the next minute there came around the corner a pack of hounds. They crossed the bridge over the little river, and then they stopped. We went up to them, and while Mr. Poplington talked to the men the whole of that pack of hounds gathered about us as gentle as lambs. They were good big dogs, white and brown. The head huntsman who had them in charge told me there was thirty couple of them, and I thought that sixty dogs was pretty heavy odds against one deer. Then they moved off as orderly as if they had been children in a kindergarten, and we went to the stables and saw the horses; and then the master of the hounds and a good many other gentlemen in red coats, in all sorts of traps, rode up, and their hunters were saddled, and the dogs barked and the men cracked their whips to keep them together, and there was a bustle and liveliness to a degree I can't write about, and Jone and I never thought about going in to breakfast until all those horses, some led and some ridden, and the men and the hounds, and even the dust from their feet, had disappeared.

I wanted to go see the hunt start off, but Mr. Poplington said it was two or three miles distant, and out of our way, and that we'd better move on as soon as possible so as to reach Chedcombe that night; but he was glad, he said, that we had had a chance to see the hounds and the horses.

As for himself, I could see he was a little down in the mouth, for he said he was very fond of hunting, and that if he had known of this meet he would have been there with a horse and his hunting clothes. I think he hoped somebody would lend him a horse, but nobody did, and not being able to hunt himself he disliked seeing other people doing what he could not. Of course, Jone and me could not go to the hunt by ourselves, so after we'd had our tea and toast and bacon we started off. I will say here that when I was at the Ship Inn I had tea for my breakfast, for I couldn't bring my mind to order coffee--a drink the Saxons must never have heard of--in such a place; and since that we have been drinking it because Jone said there was no use fighting against established drinks, and that anyway he thought good tea was better than bad coffee.

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CHEDCOMBEAs I said in my last letter, we started out for Chedcombe, not abreast, as we had been before, but strung along the road, and me and Mr. Poplington pretty doleful, being disappointed and not wanting to talk. But as for Jone, he seemed livelier than ever, and whistled a lot of tunes he didn't know. I think it always makes him lively to get rid of seeing sights. The sun was shining brightly, and there was no reason to expect rain for two or three hours anyway, and the country we passed through was so fine, with hardly any houses,
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CHEDCOMBE, SOMERSETSHIREThe place we stopped at on the first night of our cycle trip is named Porlock, and after the walking and the pushing, and the strain on my mind when going down even the smallest hill for fear Jone's rope would give way, I was glad to get there.The road into Porlock goes down a hill, the steepest I have seen yet, and we all walked down, holding our machines as if they had been fiery coursers. This hill road twists and winds so you can only see part of it at a time, and when we was about half-way
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