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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPomona's Travels - Letter Number Thirteen
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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Thirteen Post by :gabby Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1915

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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Thirteen

CHEDCOMBE, SOMERSETSHIRE

It is now about a week since my stag hunt, and Jone and I have kept pretty quiet, taking short walks, and doing a good deal of reading in our garden whenever the sun shines into the little arbor there, and Mr. Poplington spends most of his time fishing. He works very hard at this, partly for the sake of his conscience, I think, for his bicycle trip made him lose three or four days he had taken a license for.

It was day before yesterday that rheumatism showed itself certain and plain in Jone. I had been thinking that perhaps I might have it first, but it wasn't so, and it began in Jone, which, though I don't want you to think me hard-hearted, madam, was perhaps better; for if it had not been for it, it might have been hard to get him out of this comfortable little cottage, where he'd be perfectly content to stay until it was time for us to sail for America. The beautiful greenness which spreads over the fields and hills, and not only the leaves of trees and vines, but down and around trunks and branches, is charming to look at and never to be forgotten; but when this moist greenness spreads itself to one's bones, especially when it creeps up to the parts that work together, then the soul of man longs for less picturesqueness and more easy-going joints. Jone says the English take their climate as they do their whiskey; and he calls it climate-and-water, with a very little of the first and a good deal of the other.

Of course, we must now leave Chedcombe; and when we talked to Mr. Poplington about it he said there was two places the English went to for their rheumatism. One was Bath, not far from here, and the other was Buxton, up in the north. As soon as I heard of Bath I was on pins and needles to go there, for in all the novel-reading I've done, which has been getting better and better in quality since the days when I used to read dime novels on the canal-boat, up to now when I like the best there is, I could not help knowing lots about Evelina and Beau Brummel, and the Pump Room, and the fine ladies and young bucks, and it would have joyed my soul to live and move where all these people had been, and where all these things had happened, even if fictitiously.

But Mr. Poplington came down like a shower on my notions, and said that Bath was very warm, and was the place where everybody went for their rheumatism in winter; but that Buxton was the place for the summer, because it was on high land and cool. This cast me down a good deal; for if we could have gone where I could have steeped my soul in romanticness, and at the same time Jone could have steeped himself in warm mineral water, there would not have been any time lost, and both of us would have been happier. But Mr. Poplington stuck to it that it would ruin anybody's constitution to go to such a hot place in August, and so I had to give it up.

So to-morrow we start for Buxton, which, from what I can make out, must be a sort of invalid picnic ground. I always did hate diseases and ailments, even of the mildest, when they go in caravan. I like to take people's sicknesses separate, because then I feel I might do something to help; but when they are bunched I feel as if it was sort of mean for me to go about cheerful and singing when other people was all grunting.

But we are not going straight to Buxton. As I have often said, Jone is a good fellow, and he told me last night if there was any bit of fancy scenery I'd like to stop on the way to the unromantic refuge he'd be glad to give me the chance, because he didn't suppose it would matter much if he put off his hot soaks for a few days. It didn't take me long to name a place I'd like to stop at--for most of my reading lately has been in the guide books, and I had crammed myself with the descriptions of places worth seeing, that would take us at least two years to look at--so I said I would like to go to the River Wye, which is said to be the most romantic stream in England, and when that is said, enough is said for me, so Jone agreed, and we are going to do the Wye on our way north.

There is going to be an election here in a few days, and this morning Jone and me hobbled into the village--that is, he hobbled in body, and I did in mind to think of his going along like a creaky wheelbarrow.

Everybody was agog about the election, and we was looking at some placards posted against a wall, when Mr. Locky, the innkeeper, came along, and after bidding us good-morning he asked Jone what party he belonged to. "I'm a Home Ruler," said Jone, "especially in the matter of tricycles." Mr. Locky didn't understand the last part of this speech, but I did, and he said, "I am glad you are not a Tory, sir. If you will read that, you will see what the Tory party has done for us," and he pointed out some lines at the bottom of a green placard, and these was the words: "Remember it was the Tory party that lost us the United States of America."

"Well," said Jone, "that seems like going a long way off to get some stones to throw at the Tories, but I feel inclined to heave a rock at them myself for the injury that party has done to America."

"To America!" said Mr. Locky, "Did the Tories ever harm America?"

"Of course they did," said Jone; "they lost us England, a very valuable country, indeed, and a great loss to any nation. If it had not been for the Tory party, Mr. Gladstone might now be in Washington as a senator from Middlesex."

(Illustration: "I'm a Home Ruler")

Mr. Locky didn't understand one word of this, and so he asked Jone which leg his rheumatism was in; and when Jone told him it was his left leg he said it was a very curious thing, but if you would take a hundred men in Chedcombe there would be at least sixty with rheumatism in the left leg, and perhaps not more than twenty with it in the right, which was something the doctors never had explained yet.

It is awfully hard to go away and leave this lovely little cottage with its roses and vines, and Miss Pondar, and all its sweet-smelling comforts; and not only the cottage, but the village, and Mrs. Locky and her husband at the Bordley Arms, who couldn't have been kinder to us and more anxious to know what we wanted and what they could do. The fact is, that when English people do like Americans they go at it with just as much vim and earnestness as if they was helping Britannia to rule more waves.

While I was feeling badly at leaving Miss Pondar your letter came, dear madam, and I must say it gave heavy hearts to Jone and me, to me especially, as you can well understand. I went off into the summer-house, and as I sat there thinking and reading the letter over again, I do believe some tears came into my eyes; and Miss Pondar, who was working in the garden only a little way off--for if there is anything she likes to do it is to weed and fuss among the rose-bushes and other flowers, which she does whenever her other work gives her a chance--she happened to look up, and seeing that I was in trouble, she came right to me, like the good woman she is, and asked me if I had heard bad news, and if I would like a little gin and water.

I said that I had had bad news, but that I did not want any spirits, and she said she hoped nothing had happened to any of my family, and I told her not exactly; but in looking back it seemed as if it was almost that way. I thought I ought to tell her what had happened, for I could see that she was really feeling for me, and so I said: "Poor Lord Edward is dead. To be sure, he was very old, and I suppose we had not any right to think he'd live even as long as he did; and as he was nearly blind and had very poor use of his legs it was, perhaps, better that he should go. But when I think of what friends we used to be before I was married, I can't help feeling badly to think that he has gone; that when I go back to America he will not show he is glad to see me home again, which he would be if there wasn't another soul on the whole continent who felt that way."

Miss Pondar was now standing up with her hands folded in front of her, and her head bowed down as if she was walking behind a hearse with eight ostrich plumes on it. "Lord Edward," she said, in a melancholy, respectful voice, "and will his remains be brought to England for interment?"

"Oh, no," said I, not understanding what she was talking about. "I am sure he will be buried somewhere near his home, and when I go back his grave will be one of the first places I will visit."

A streak of bewilderment began to show itself in Miss Pondar's melancholy respectfulness, and she said: "Of course, when one lives in foreign parts one may die there, but I always thought in cases like that they were brought home to their family vaults."

It may seem strange for me to think of anything funny at a time like this, but when Miss Pondar mentioned family vaults when talking of Lord Edward, there came into my mind the jumps he used to make whenever he saw any of us coming home; but I saw what she was driving at and the mistake she had made. "Oh," I said, "he was not a member of the British nobility; he was a dog; Lord Edward was his name. I never loved any animal as I loved him."

I suppose, madam, that you must sometimes have noticed one of the top candles of a chandelier, when the room gets hot, suddenly bending over and drooping and shedding tears of hot paraffine on the candles below, and perhaps on the table; and if you can remember what that overcome candle looked like, you will have an idea of what Miss Pondar looked like when she found out Lord Edward was a dog. I think that for one brief moment she hugged to her bosom the fond belief that I was intimate with the aristocracy, and that a noble lord, had he not departed this life, would have been the first to welcome me home, and that she--she herself--was in my service. But the drop was an awful one. I could see the throes of mortified disappointment in her back, as she leaned over a bed of pinks, pulling out young plants, I am afraid, as well as weeds. When I looked at her, I was sorry I let her know it was a dog I mourned. She has tried so hard to make everything all right while we have been here, that she might just as well have gone on thinking that it was a noble earl who died.

To-morrow morning we shall have our last Devonshire clotted cream, for they tell me this is to be had only in the west of England, and when I think of the beautiful hills and vales of this country I shall not forget that.

Of course we would not have time to stay here longer, even if Jone hadn't got the rheumatism; but if he had to have it, for which I am as sorry as anybody can be, it is a lucky thing that he did have it just about the time that we ought to be going away, anyhow. And although I did not think, when we came to England, that we should ever go to Buxton, we are thankful that there is such a place to go to; although, for my part, I can't help feeling disappointed that the season isn't such that we could go to Bath, and Evelina and Beau Brummel.

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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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