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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesShawl-straps - Chapter 6. London
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Shawl-straps - Chapter 6. London Post by :runtonk Category :Long Stories Author :Louisa May Alcott Date :May 2012 Read :2577

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Shawl-straps - Chapter 6. London

Chapter VI. LONDON

'From this moment I cease to be the commander-in-chief. Livy adores England, can speak the language, understands the money, and knows all about London; so _she shall be leader, and I will repose after my long labour.' With this remark Amanda retired from office covered with glory, and her mates voted to erect a statue in her honour as a token of their undying gratitude.

Lavinia took the lead from the moment they landed at St. Catherine's Warf; and though somewhat demoralized by a rough passage of eighteen hours from Antwerp, was equal to the occasion. She did love England, and thought London the most delightful city in the world, next to Boston. Its mud and fog were dear to her; its beef and beer were nectar and ambrosia, after the continental slops and messes; its steady-going, respectable citizens, beautiful in her eyes, and the words 'home' and' comfort' were not an idle mockery here.

Therefore the old lady joyfully sniffed the smoky air, gazed with tenderness on the grimy houses, and cast herself, metaphorically speaking, into the arms of a stout, ruddy-faced porter, as if at last she had found a man and a brother.

Nobly did the burly Briton repay her confidence and earn the shilling which in England makes all things possible. He bore them to the station, got tickets, checked luggage, put the ladies in a first-class compartment, gave them all necessary directions about the hotel they were after, and when the bell rang touched his cap with a smile upon his dear, red face, which caused Lavinia to add a sixpence to the shilling she gave him with a mental blessing.

'This is truly a decent country. See how well one is cared for, how civil everybody is, how honest, how manly,' began Livy, as she mounted her hobby, and prepared for a canter over the prejudices of her friend; for Amanda detested England because she knew nothing of it.

'The cabman cheated us, asking double fares,' replied the dear girl, wrapping herself in many cloaks and refusing to admire the fog.

'Not at all,' cried Livy; 'the trunks were immense, and you'll find we shall have to pay extra for them everywhere. It is the same as having them weighed and paying for the pounds, only this saves much time and trouble. Look at the handsome guard in his silver-plated harness. How much nicer he is than a gabbling Italian, or a Frenchman who compliments you one minute and behaves like a brute the next! It does my soul good to see the clean, rosy faces, and hear good English instead of gibberish.'

'Never in my life have I seen such tall, fine-looking men, only they are all fair, which isn't my style,' observed Matilda, with a secret sigh for the dark-eyed heroes from Turin.

Thus conversing, they soon came to the G---- Hotel just at the end of the railway, and without going out of the station found themselves settled in comfortable rooms.

'Regard, if you please, these toilette arrangements--two sorts of bath-pan, two cans of cold water, one of hot, two big pitchers, much soap, and six towels about the size of table-cloths. I call that an improvement on the continental cup, saucer, and napkin accommodation,' said Lavinia, proudly displaying a wash-stand that looked like a dinner-table laid for a dozen, such was the display of glass, china, and napery.

'The English certainly are a clean people,' replied Amanda, softening a little as she remembered her fruitless efforts to find a bath-pan in Brittany, where the people said the drought was caused by the English using so much water.

'They need more appliances for cleanliness than any other race, because they live in such a dirty country,' began Matilda, removing the soot from her face in flakes.

What more she might have said is unknown; for Livy closed her mouth with a big sponge, and all retired to repose after the trials of the past night.

'Now, my dears, you shall have food fit for Christian women to eat. No weak soup, no sour wine, no veal stewed with raisins, nor greasy salad made of all the weeds that grow. Beef that will make you feel like giants, and beer that will cheer the cockles of your hearts; not to mention cheese which will make you wink, and bread with a little round button atop of the loaf like the grand Panjandrum in the old story.'

Thus Lavinia enthusiastically, as she led her flock of two into the eating-room at luncheon time. Being seated at a little table by one of the great windows, the old lady continued to sing the praises of Britannia while wafting for the repast.

'Isn't this better than a stone-floored _cafe with nine clocks all wrong, seven mirrors all cracked, much drapery all dirty, a flock of _garcons who fly about like lunatics, and food which I shudder to think of? Look at this lofty room; this grave thick carpet; that cheerful coal-fire; these neat little tables; these large, clean windows; these quiet, ministerial waiters, who seem to take a paternal interest in your wants, and best of all in this simple, wholesome, well-cooked food.'

Here the arrival of a glorified beefsteak and a shining pint-pot of foaming ale give an appropriate finish to Livy's lecture. She fell upon her lunch like a famished woman, and was speechless till much meat had vanished, and the ale was low in the pot.

'It _is good,' admitted Amanda, who took to her beer like a born Englishwoman, and swallowed some of her prejudices with her delicious beef.

'It's such a comfort to know that I am not eating a calf's brains or a pig's feet, that I can enjoy it with a free mind, and the sight of those two beautiful old gentlemen gives it an added relish,' said Matilda, who had been watching a pair of hale old fellows eat their lunch in a solid, leisurely way that would have been impossible to an American.

'It is so restful to see people take things calmly, and not bolt their meals, or rush about like runaway steam-engines. It is this moderation that keeps Englishmen so hearty, jolly, and long-lived. They don't tear themselves to pieces as we do, but take time for rest, exercise, food, and recreation, like sensible people as they are. It is like reposing on a feather-bed to live here, and my tired nerves rejoice in it,' said Lavinia, eating bread and cheese as if that was her mission in life.

'A slight amount of haste will be advisable, my Granny, unless we intend to spend all our substance on these restful comforts of yours. This hotel is delightfully cosy, but expensive; so the quicker we go into lodgings the better for us,' suggested the thrifty Amanda, seeing that Livy was too infatuated to care for cost.

'I'll go the first thing to-morrow and look at the rooms Mrs. Blank recommended to us. This afternoon we will rest and write letters, unless some one comes to call,' said Livy, leading her girls to the reading-room, where sleep-inviting chairs, tables supplied with writing-materials, and groves of newspapers, wooed the stranger to repose.

Hardly were they seated, however, than Jeames brought in the card of a friend who had been told when they would arrive, and hastened at once to meet them. How pleasant is the first familiar face one sees in a strange land! Doubly pleasant was Mr. C.'s, because he brought hospitable invitations from other friends, kind welcomes, and tickets to several of the art exhibitions then open.

Hardly had he gone, after a half-hour's chat, than another card was handed, and the name it bore caused a slight flutter in the dove-cot. A friend of Miss Livy's, in Boston, had sent orders to his brother in London to devote himself to the wandering ladies when they came. They had never met; the poor man didn't care to have his quiet invaded by strange women, and to do the honours of London is no small task: yet this heroic gentleman obeyed orders without a murmur; and, leaving his artistic seclusion, shouldered his burden with the silent courage of a Spartan.

A grave, dark, little man, with fine eyes, quiet manners, and a straight-forward way with him that suited blunt Livy excellently. How he dared to face the three unknown women so calmly, listen to their impossible suggestions so politely, and offer himself as a slave so cheerfully, will for ever remain a mystery to those grateful souls.

His first service was to pack them into a cab and bear them safely to the bankers for letters and money; and this he followed up by several weeks of servitude, which must have been worse than Egyptian bondage.

Two more large ladies joined the party after they were settled in lodgings at Kensington; but, undaunted by the fact, this long-suffering man escorted the whole five to galleries and theatres, trips into the city, and picnics in the country; went shopping with them, lugged parcels, ran errands, paid bills, and was in fact the sheet-anchor of the whole party. Imagine the emotions of one shy man when called upon to lead a flock of somewhat imposing ladies everywhere; to have two cabs full on all occasions; to be obliged to support the invalids to follow the caprices of the giddy, to gratify the demands of the curious, and to hear the gabble of the whole five day after day.

Buerger's Brave Man was a coward compared to him; for he not only gave his days, but his evenings also, joining in endless games of whist, drinking much weak tea, and listening to any amount of twaddle on all subjects.

The society was not such as intelligent men enjoy, being composed of two Egyptian boys and three fussy old ladies. One of them was immensely stout, wore a bright green cap, with half-a-pint of scarlet cherries bobbing on her brow. She talked on all subjects, and handed round an album full of her own poems on all occasions. The second must have been a sister of 'Mr. T.'s Aunt,' so grim and incoherent was she. Sitting in the corner, she stared at the world around her with an utterly expressionless countenance, and when least expected broke out with some startling remark, such as, 'If that fence had been painted green we should get to heaven sooner,' or 'Before I had fits my memory was as good as anybody's, but my daughter married a clergyman, and took it with her.'

The third antiquity was the hostess, a buxom lady, much given to gay attire and reminiscences of past glory, 'Before me 'usband went into public life.' The strangers innocently supposed the departed Mr. K. to have been an M.P. at least, and were rather taken aback on learning that he had been a pawnbroker.

The Egyptian youths were handsome, dark lads, with melodious voices, lustrous eyes, and such fiery tempers that one never knew whether they were going to pass the bread or stab one with the carving-knife.

As a slight mitigation of this slow society, the Russian from Pension Paradis appeared with his broadcloth more resplendent than ever. The ladies had seen him in Rome; but the fever scared him away, and he was now fleeing from another lodging-house, where the hostess evidently intended to marry him to her daughter, in the MacStinger fashion.

In this varied circle did the devoted being afore-mentioned pass many hours after the day's hard labour was happily over, and when anyone pitied him for leading the life of a galley-slave, he hid his anguish and answered with a smile,--

'My brother told me to do it, and I never disobey Tom. In fact, I find I rather like it.'

That last fib was truly sublime, and the name of Cassabianca pales before that of one who obeyed fraternal commands to the letter, and tried to love his duty, heavy as it was. If, as has been sometimes predicted, England had gone under just then, it might truly have been said,--


Though prince and peer and poet rare
Were sunk among the piles,
The noblest man who perished there
Was faithful W. N----s.

The sight-seeing fever raged fiercely at first, and the flock of Americans went from Windsor Castle to the Tower of London, from Westminster Abbey to Madame Taussaud's Waxwork Show, with a vigour that appalled the natives. They would visit two or three galleries in the morning, lunch at Dolly's (the dark little chop-house which Johnson, Goldsmith, and the other worthies used to frequent in the good old times), go to Richmond in the afternoon and dine at the 'Star and Garter,' or to Greenwich and eat 'white baits fish,' as the Russian called that celebrated dish, and finish off the evening at some theatre, getting home at midnight, in a procession of two cabs and a hansom.

When the first excitement was over, Lavinia and Matilda took a turn at society, having friends in London. Amanda could not conquer her prejudices sufficiently to accompany them, and, falling back on the climate as her excuse, stayed at home and improved her mind.

'I feel now like girls in novels. You are the Duchess of Devonshire and I am Lady Maud Plantagenet, going to a ball at Buckingham Palace. I know that I was made to sit in the lap of luxury: it agrees with me so well,' said Matilda, as the two rolled away to Aubrey House in a brougham, all lamps, glass, and satin. Her long blue train lay piled up before her, the light flashed on her best Roman ear-rings, her curls were in their most picturesque array, and--crowning joy of all--cream-coloured gloves, with six buttons, covered her arms, and filled her soul with happiness, because they were so elegant and cost so little, being bought in Rome just after the flood.

Dowager Livy responded gravely from the depths of her silver-grey silk, enlivened with pink azaleas,--

'My child, thank your stars that you are a free-born Yankee, and have no great name or state to keep up. Buckingham Palace is all very well, and I shouldn't mind calling on Mrs. Guelph, or Saxe Coburg, whichever it is, but I much prefer to be going to the house of a Radical M.P., who is lending a hand to all good works. Mrs. T. is a far more interesting woman to me than Victoria, for her life is spent in helping her fellow-creatures. I consider her a model Englishwoman--simple, sincere, and accomplished; full of good sense, intelligence, and energy. Her house is open to all, friend and stranger, black and white, rich and poor. Great men and earnest women meet there; Mazzini and Frances Power Cobbe, John Bright and Jean Ingelow, Rossetti the poet, and Elizabeth Garrett the brave little doctor. Though wealthy and living in an historical mansion, the host is the most unassuming man in it, and the hostess the simplest dressed lady. Their money goes in other ways, and the chief ornament of that lovely spot is a school, where poor girls may get an education. Mrs. T. gave a piece of her own garden for it, and teaches there herself, aided by her friends, who serve the poor girls like mothers and sisters, and help to lift them up from the slough of despond in which so many sink. That beats anything you'll find in Buckingham Palace, sister Mat.'

'If they want a drawing-teacher I'll offer myself, for I think that is regularly splendid,' said Matilda warmly, as Livy paused for breath after her harangue.

With these new ideas in her head, Lady Maud enjoyed her party, while the Duchess revelled in radicals to her heart's content; for Aubrey House was their head-quarters, and all were out in full force. It was cheering to our spinster to find that things had moved a good deal since a former visit, five or six years before, when Mill had carried into the House of Commons a Woman's Rights petition that filled both arms. People laughed then, and the stout-hearted women laughed also, but said, 'Our next petition shall be so big it will have to go in a wheel-barrow.' Now the same people talked over the question soberly, and began to think something besides fun might come of it. The pioneers rejoiced over several hard-won battles, and the scoffers came to see that the truest glory was won by those who did the hard work, and stood by a good cause when most unpopular; not by those who kept out of the field till the fight was over, and then came in to wave the flags and beat the drums over victories they had not helped to win.

'It seems to me that these Englishwomen make less noise and do more work than we Americans. I shouldn't dare to say so in public; but their quiet, orderly ways suits me better than the more demonstrative performances of my friends at home. Slow coaches as we call them, I should not be surprised if they got the suffrage before we did, as the tortoise won in the fable,' was Lavinia's secret thought as they drove away, after a very charming evening.

Perhaps the fact that reforms of all sorts had been poured into her ears till her head was like a hive of bees, may account for this unpatriotic thought. Or it may be the pleasant effect of the healthful aspect of these English workers. Old or young, all seemed to have cheerful, well-balanced minds, in strong, healthy bodies. No one complained of her nerves, or let them unconsciously put a sharp edge to her tongue, give a blue tinge to the world, or sour the milk of human kindness in her heart. Less quick and bright, perhaps, than the ladies over the sea, but more womanly, and full of a quiet tenacity of purpose better than eloquence.

Miss Livy's tastes being of a peculiar sort, and pictures having palled upon her to such a degree that she couldn't even look at an ornamental sign-board without disgust, she often left her more artistic friends and went forth on excursions of her own. As she never used either map or guide book, it was a wonder how she found her way; and the infants were often on the point of sending for the city crier, if there is such a functionary, to find the lost duenna. But old Livy always turned up at last, mud to the eyes, tired out, and more deeply impressed than ever with the charms of London.

One day she set forth to hear Spurgeon. Being told that Lambeth was a wretched quarter of the city, that the Tabernacle was two or three miles away, and very difficult to enter when found, only added zest to the thing, and she departed, sure of finding adventures, if not Spurgeon.

If an omnibus conductor had not befriended her, she would probably have found herself at Hampstead or Chelsea, for London busses are as bewildering as London streets. Thanks to this amiable man, who evidently felt that the stranger in his gates needed all his care, the old lady safely reached the Elephant and Castle, and was dismissed with a moss rose-bud from the lips of her friend, a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and a paternal ''Ere yer are, my dear,' which unexpected attentions caused her to depart with speed.

There certainly was need of a Tabernacle in that quarter, for the poverty and wickedness were very dreadful. Boys not yet in their teens staggered by half-tipsy, or lounged at the doors of gin-shops. Bonnetless girls roamed about singing and squabbling. Forlorn babies played in the gutter, and men and women in every stage of raggedness and degradation marred the beauty of that fair Sunday morning.

Crowds were swarming into the Tabernacle: but, thanks to the order a friend had given her, Miss Livy was handed to a comfortable seat, with a haggard Magdalen on one side and a palsy-stricken old man on the other. Staring about her, she saw an immense building with two galleries extending round three sides, and a double sort of platform behind and below the pulpit, which was a little pen lifted high that all might see and hear.

Every seat, aisle, window-ledge, step, and door-way, was packed with a strange congregation; all nations, all colours, all ages, and nearly all bearing the sad marks of poverty or sin. They all sung, cried out if anything affected or pleased them in the sermon, and listened with interest to the plain yet fervent words of the man who has gathered together this flock of black sheep and is so faithful a shepherd to them.

Every one knows how Spurgeon looks in pictures, but in the pulpit he reminded Livy of Martin Luther. A square, florid face, stout figure, a fine keen eye, and a natural, decided manner, very impressive. A strong, clear voice of much dramatic power, and a way of walking the pulpit like Father Taylor.

His sermon was on 'Small Temptations,' and he illustrated it by facts and examples taken from real life, pointing out several of his congregation, and calling them by name, which original proceeding seemed to find favour with his people. He used no notes, but talked rather than preached; and leaning over the railing, urged, argued, prayed, and sang with a hearty eloquence, very effective, and decidedly refreshing after High Church mummery abroad, and drowsy Unitarianism at home. Now and then he stopped to give directions for the comfort of his flock in a free and easy manner, which called up irresistible smiles on the faces of strangers.

'Mrs. Flacker, you'd better take that child into the ante-room: he's tired.' 'Come this way, friends: there's plenty of room.' 'Open all the windows, Manning: it's very warm.' And when a sad sort of cry interrupted him, he looked down at an old woman shaking with epilepsy, and mildly remarked, 'Don't be troubled, brethren: our sister is subject to fits,' and preached tranquilly on.

For two hours he held that great gathering, in spite of heat, discomfort, and other afflictions of the flesh, and ended by saying, in a paternal way,--

'Now remember what I've said through the week, and next Sunday show me that I haven't talked in vain.'

He read a list of meetings for every night in the week. One especially struck Livy, as it was for mothers to meet and talk over with him the best ways of teaching and training their children. Spurgeon evidently does not spare his own time and strength; and whatever his creed may be, he is a good Christian in loving his neighbour _better than himself, and doing the work his hand finds to do with all his might.

'That is a better church than most of those I enter where respectable saints have the best seats, and there is no place for sinners,' said Livy when she got home. 'Spurgeon's congregation preached more eloquently to me than he did. The Magdalen cried as if her heart was broken, and I am sure those tears washed some of her sins away. The feeble old man looked as if he had found a staff for his trembling hands to lay hold upon, and the forlorn souls all about me, for a time at least, laid down their burdens and found rest and comfort in their Father's house. It did me more good than the preaching of all the bishops in London, or the finest pageant at St. Paul's; and I am truly glad I went, though the saucy conductor did smirk at me over the rosebud.'

In contrast to this serious expedition, the old lady had a very jolly one not long afterward. A certain congenial Professor asked her one day what person, place, or thing in London she most desired to see.

Clasping her hands with the energy of deep emotion, she replied,--

'The home of the immortal Sairy Gamp. Long ago I made a vow, if I ever came to London I'd visit that spot. Let me keep my vow.'

'You shall!' responded the Professor with a responsive ardour, which caused Livy to dive into her waterproof without another word.

Away they went in a pouring rain, and what people thought of the damp but enthusiastic couple who pervaded the city that day I can't say; I only know a merrier pair of pilgrims never visited those grimy shrines. They met several old friends, and passed several familiar spots by the way. Major Bagstock and Cousin Phenix stared at them from a club-house window. Tigg Montague's cab dashed by them in Regent Street, more gorgeous than ever. The brothers Cheeryble went trotting cityward arm in arm, with a smile and ha'penny for all the beggars they met; and the Micawber family passed them in a bus, going, I suppose, to accompany the blighted Wilkins to gaol.

In a certain grimly genteel street they paused to stare up at a row of grimly respectable houses; for, though the name wasn't on any of the doors, they were sure Mr. Dombey still lived there. A rough dog lay on one of the doorsteps, and a curtain fluttered at an open upper window. Poor Di was growling in his sleep, and above there little Paul was watching for the golden water on the wall, while faithful Florence sung to him, and Susan Nipper put away derisive sniffs and winks in closets and behind doors for the benefit of 'them Pipchinses.'

Coming to a poorer part of the city, they met Tiny Tim tapping along on his little crutch, passed Toby Veck at a windy street-corner, and saw all the little Tetterbys playing in the mud.

'Come down this street, and take a glimpse at St. Giles's, the worst part of London,' said the Professor; and, following, Livy saw misery enough in five minutes to make her heart ache for the day. A policeman kept near them, saying it wasn't safe to go far there alone.

Vice, poverty, dirt, and suffering reigned supreme within a stone's throw of one of the great thoroughfares, and made Alsatia dangerous ground for respectable feet. Here, too, they saw familiar phantoms: poor Jo, perpetually moving on; and little Oliver led by Nancy, with a shawl over her head and a black eye; Bill Sykes, lounging in a doorway, looking more ruffianly than ever; and the Artful Dodger, who kept his eye on them as two hopeful 'plants' with profitable pockets ready for him.

They soon had enough of this, and hurried on along High Holborn, till they came to Kingsgate Street, so like the description that I am sure Dickens must have been there and taken notes. They knew the house in a moment: there were the two dingy windows over the bird-shop; the checked curtains were drawn, but of course the bottomless bandboxes, the wooden pippins, green umbrella, and portrait of Miss Harris were all behind them. It seemed so real that they quite expected to see a red, snuffy old face appear, and to hear a drowsy voice exclaim: 'Drat that bell: I'm a coming. Don't tell me it's Mrs. Wilkins, without even a pincushion prepared.'

While Livy stood gazing in silent satisfaction (merely regretting that the name on the door was Pendergast, not Sweedle-pipes), the Professor turned to a woman, and asked with admirable gravity, 'Can you tell me where Mrs. Gamp lives?'

'What's her business?' demanded the matron, with interest.

'A nurse, ma'am.'

'Is she a little fat woman?'

'Fat, decidedly, and old,' returned the Professor, without a smile on his somewhat cherubic countenance.

'Well, she lives No. 5, round the corner.'

On receiving this unexpected reply, they looked at one another in comic dismay; but would certainly have gone to No. 5, and taken a look at the modern Sairy, if the woman hadn't called out as they moved on--

'I b'lieve that nuss's name is Britiain, not Gamp; but you can ask.'

Murmuring a hasty 'thank you,' they fled precipitately round the corner, and there enjoyed a glorious laugh under an umbrella, to the great amazement of all beholders.

Being on a Dickens pilgrimage, they went to Furnival's Inn, where he wrote 'Pickwick' in a three-story room, and read it to the old porter. The same old porter told them all about it, and quite revelled in the remembrance. It did one's heart good to see the stiff, dried-up old fellow thaw and glow with the recollection of the handsome young man who was kind to him long ago, before the world had found him out.

'Did you think the book would be famous when he read it to you in 1834, as you say?' asked the Professor, beaming at him in a way that would have melted the heart of the stiff-tailed lion of the Northumberlands, if he'd possessed such an organ.

'O dear, yes, sir; I felt sure it would be summat good, it made me laugh so. _He didn't think much of it; but I know a good thing when I see it;' and the old man gave an important nod, as if all the credit of the blessed 'Pickwick' belonged to him. 'He married Miss Hogarth while livin' here; and you can see the room, if you like,' he added, with a burst of hospitality, as the almighty sixpence touched his palm.

Up they went, over the worn stairs; and, finding the door locked, solemnly touched the brass knob, read the name 'Ed Peck' on the plate, and wiped their feet on a very dirty mat. It was ridiculous, of course; but hero-worship is not the worst of modern follies, and when one's hero has won from the world some of its heartiest smiles and tears, one may be forgiven for a little sentiment in a dark entry.

Next they went to the Saracen's Head, where Mr. Squeers stopped when in London. The odd old place looked as if it hadn't changed a particle. There was the wooden gallery outside, where the chamber-maids stood to see the coach off; the archway under which poor Nicholas drove that cold morning; the office, or bar, where the miserable little boys shivered while they took alternate sips out of one mug, and bolted hunches of bread and butter as Squeers 'nagged' them in private and talked to them like a father in public. Livy was tempted to bring away a little porter-pot hanging outside the door, as a trophy; but fearing Squeers's squint eye was upon her, she refrained, and took a muddy pebble instead.

They took a peep at the Temple and its garden. The fountain was not playing, but it looked very pleasant, nevertheless; and as they stood there the sun came out, as if anxious that they should see it at its best. It was all very well to know that Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' was played in Middle Temple Hall, that the York and Lancaster roses grew here, that Dr. Johnson lived No. 1 Inner Temple Lane, and that Goldsmith died No. 2 Brick Court, Middle Temple; these actual events and people seemed far less real than the scenes between Pendennis and Fanny, John Westlock and little Ruth Pinch. For their sakes Livy went to see the place; and for their sakes she still remembers that green spot in the heart of London, with the June sunshine falling on it as it fell that day.

The pilgrimage ended with a breathless climb up the Monument, whence they got a fine view of London, and better still of Todgerses. Livy found the house by instinct; and saw Cherry Pecksniff, now a sharp-nosed old woman, sitting at the back window. A gaunt, anxious-looking lady, in a massive bonnet, crossed the yard, with a basket in her hand; and the Professor said at once, 'That's Mrs. Todgers, and the amount of gravy single gentlemen eat is still weighing heavy on her mind.' As if to make the thing quite perfect, they discovered fitful glimpses of a tousled-looking boy, cleaning knives or boots, in a cellar-kitchen; and all the lawyers in London couldn't have argued them out of their firm belief that it was young Bailey, undergoing his daily torment in company with the black beetles and the mouldy bottles.

That nothing might be wanting to finish off the rainy-day ramble in an appropriate manner, when Livy's companion asked what she'd have for lunch, she boldly replied,--

'Weal pie and a pot of porter.'

As she was not fond of either, it was a sure proof of the sincerity of her regard for the persons who have made them immortal. They went into an eating-house, and ordered the lunch, finding themselves objects of interest to the other guests. But, though a walking doormat in point of mud, and somewhat flushed and excited by the hustling, climbing, and adoring, it is certain there wasn't a happier spinster in this 'Piljin Projess of a wale,' than the one who partook of 'weal pie' in memory of Sam Weller, and drank 'a modest quencher' to the health of Dick Swiveller at the end of that delightful Dickens day.

Much might be written about the domestic pleasures of English people, but as the compiler of this interesting work believes in the sacredness of private life, and has a holy horror of the dreadful people who outrage hospitality by basely reporting all they have seen and heard, she will practise what she preaches, and firmly resist the temptation to describe the delights of country strolls with poets, cosey five-o'clock teas in famous drawing-rooms, and interviews with persons whose names are household words.

This virtuous reticence leaves the best untold, and brings the story of two of our travellers to a speedy end. Matilda decided to remain and study art, spending her days copying Turner at the National Gallery, and her evenings in the society of the eight agreeable gentlemen who adorned the house where she abode.

Amanda hurried home with friends to enjoy a festive summer among the verdant plains of Cape Cod. With deep regret did her mates bid her adieu, and nothing but the certainty of soon embracing her again would have reconciled Livy to the parting; for in Amanda she had found that rare and precious treasure, a friend.

'Addio, my beloved Granny; take care of your dear bones and come home soon,' said Amanda, in the little back entry, while her luggage was being precipitated downstairs.

'Heaven bless and keep you safe, my own Possum. I shall not stay long because I can't possibly get on without you,' moaned Livy, clinging to the departing treasure as Diogenes might have clung to his honest man, if he ever found him; for, with better luck than the old philosopher, Livy had searched long years for a friend to her mind, and got one at last.

'Don't be sentimental, girls' said Matilda, with tears in her eyes, as she hugged her Mandy, and bore her to the cab.

'Rome and Raphael for ever!' cried Amanda, as a cheerful parting salute.

'London and Turner!' shouted Matilda with her answering war-cry.

'Boston and Emerson!' sobbed Lavinia, true to her idols even in the deepest woe.

Then three damp pocket-handkerchiefs waved wildly till the dingy cab with the dear Egyptian nose at the window, and the little bath-pan clattering frantically up aloft, vanished round the corner, leaving a void behind that all Europe could not fill.

A few weeks later Livy followed, leaving Mat to enjoy the liberty with which American girls may be trusted when they have a purpose or a profession to keep them steady. And so ended the travels of the trio, travels which had filled a year with valuable experiences, memorable days, and that culture which a larger knowledge of the world, our fellow-men, and ourselves gives to the fortunate souls to whom this pleasure is permitted.

One point was satisfactorily proved by the successful issue of this partnership; for, in spite of many prophecies to the contrary, three women, utterly unlike in every respect, had lived happily together for twelve long months, had travelled unprotected safely over land and sea, had experienced two revolutions, an earthquake, an eclipse, and a flood, yet met with no loss, no mishap, no quarrel, and no disappointment worth mentioning.

With this triumphant statement as a moral to our tale, we would respectfully advise all timid sisters now lingering doubtfully on the shore, to strap up their bundles in light marching order, and push boldly off. They will need no protector but their own courage, no guide but their own good sense and Yankee wit, and no interpreter, if that woman's best gift, the tongue, has a little French polish on it.

Dear Amandas, Matildas, and Lavinias, why delay? Wait on no man, but take your little store and invest it in something far better than Paris finery, Geneva jewellery, or Roman relics. Bring home empty trunks, if you will, but heads full of new and larger ideas, hearts richer in the sympathy that makes the whole world kin, hands readier to help on the great work God gives humanity, and souls elevated by the wonders of art and the diviner miracles of Nature.

Leave _ennui and discontent, frivolity and feebleness, among the ruins of the Old World, and bring home to the New the grace, the culture, and the health which will make American women what now they just fail of being, the bravest, brightest, happiest, and handsomest women in the world.


(THE END)
Louisa May Alcott's Book: Shawl-Straps

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