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A LOOK IN AT RIPON.



191



hidden in its interior, when the Town Crier
happened to pass, and I went to the door, think-
ing I might require his services, and there I dis-
covered I had come into the wrong hotel, so, with
a sigh of relief, I entered the right one, having
ransacked the other and never met a soul !

I believe these excellent hostelries are
crammed in the summer time by tourists, a
great number of
them Ameri- ' '"^
cans, who put
up in this pict-
uresque spot,
and thence
make pilgrim-
ages to Fountain
Abbey, Hackfall,
Newby Hall, and
other places of
interest abound-
ing in this neighborhood. The first night
I was in Ripon I had hardly finished dinner
when I heard a most diabolical sound,
long drawn out and thrice repeated, like the
mournful wail of an asthmatical fog-horn. In
reply to my inquiry as to whence it came, my
good host informed me that this was a relic of




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192 FLYING VISITS.

the days of the curfew, and that the sound
emanated from a horn which was blown in the
market-place at nine o'clock every night. The
horn -blower was brought in, and, while I
was making a sketch of him, amused me by
telling me incidents that
ccurred during the
e of his profession,
e occasion a tem-
perance preacher
asked to be allowed
to blow the horn.
He had a try, but
suit was a miserable
upon which he asked
rn -blower if he were
Dtaller, to which our
replied emphatically,
!*'

It then, my good
_ continued the orator,

" your soul will be con-
demned to eternal purgatory ! "

** Gaw on," said he of the powerful lungs.
'* What dis Shaakespeare say ? Whoy, 'e that
drinketh sleepeth, and *e that sleepeth com-
mitteth naw sin."



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A LOOK IN AT RIPON, I93

This completely stumped the temperance
man, and the horn-blower went on to tell us
that later on the preacher was fervently orating
on the evils of alcohol outside a public-house,
and that all the customers had come out to
listen to him. The proprietor, seeing this,
put a card in the window with the short and
concise notice on it, ** Free beer within ! " and
in an instant the temperance enthusiast found
himself vehemently declaiming to airy nothing.
'* And t* finish was that the temperance man
went int' f pub himself,'* concludes the worthy
performer on the horn.

But how strange it is that in a place where
railways are kept at a distance, where the old
curfew still is sounded, where everything is
typical of slowness, inactivity, and antiquity,
where good York ham and fine old English
ale gladden the heart and stomach of the
traveller, and in an inn, too, that is famous
all over the world for the strong personality of
its old " Boots," who was one of the curiosities
of the last century, that here, even here, you

find the German waiter. We all object

to cheap German importations, from German
toys to German beer, but I am not one of
those who object to the German waiter. I



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194 FLYING VISITS.

have always found him obliging, quiet, and
clean, in strong contrast to his more in-
attentive and not always polite English
confrere. This Old Boots that I mentioned
** has," to quote the inscription accompanying
an old portrait of him in the inn, '* by nature
and habit, acquired the power of holding a
piece of money between his nose and chin."
But Old Boots has long since gone, and when
the German waiters follow his example, I
to see their places taken
at - handed and neatly -
d Phyllises, such as the
one I show in my sketch,
. but at present this is but
an ideal. Before leaving
the old place I was
ky enough to witness the
arterly procession of the
lyor to the Cathedral,
ich I suppose takes the
ce of our metropolitan
rd Mayor's Show. The
ictacle of the Mayor,
attended by a few policemen and ordinary-
looking gentlemen with fur-trimmed coats,
is satisfactory to Ripon, although a contrast to



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A LOOK IN AT RIPON.



195



the London cere-
mony ; and
when the func-
tion is over the
Mayor walks
home to his
butcher's
shop, with the
mace - bearer
solemnly pac-
ing in front of
him, and next
day he puts o




iped apron again and
weighs out at 5s. 4d."
ls I am leaving on my way
the commercial centres of
e North, I see a contrast
to the young lady and the
commercial gentleman
who were there when I
arrived, in the back
views of two Spaldings
waiting for the up train,
who probably before
long will be saying, '' We
don t like London."



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w



Ripon,



My dear J/.,

/ find that Saturday evenings in large
toivnSy although they are good for theatrical business^
are not so for other entertainments ; so I generally find
myself shelved off to a comparatively small town for
those nights^ which means being landed there for the

Sunday as well ; so
this explains my
writing you now
from Ripon. . .

. . . Until
I visited Cathedral
towns it was always
a mystery to me that
a bishop should re-
ceive such a large
honorarium. The Bishop of Ripon receives £lh^OO



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FLYING VISITS, igj

per annunty and I am not surprised to learn that it is not
often he is seen in the place, I would not take three
times that amount and live in Ripon^ if I had to
amuse or instruct the inhabitants^ although the coun-
try round about is beautiful and suitable enough for a
quiet country life. It poured on Sunday^ and al-
though we found a little excitement ifi the morning in
watching tlu grooms from country houses in the neigh-
borhood dash up on horseback to the post-offt^ce oppo-
site for the letters ; when this subsided all zvas quiet ^
and the dismal courtyard-looking square was left in
solitude until the time came to make preparations for
the great quarterly event — the procession in state of
the Mayor to the Cathedral^ which I have described in
^^ Black and White y^ a7id which caused just about as
much excitement and crowd as the sight of a barrister
zvith his wig on in the street in the vicinity of the Law
Courts would do in London. In the evening the place
was as still as the Arctic Regions until we ivere
startled by the lugubrious wail of the nine o'clock
horn ; and I really believe that if the Sunday League
commenced operations here they would only be sup-
ported by the horn-blower, one policeman, and Mary
Jane, if it were her Simday out. It is not so in the
" canny toon " of Newcastle, which is our next move.
You will recollect my telling you what audiences I had



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198 FLYING VISITS,

there on Sunday evenings in the old Tyne Theatre ;
it was packed from floor to ceiling. . . .

. . . The Professor has a great contempt for the
old Boots who Used to do duty at this hotels and whose
only qualification to have his name inscribed on the
scroll of fame was the fact of his being able to hold
a coin between his nose and chin. The Professor had
heard of or had known^ or knew someone who had
heard of or had known^ of a zvaiter who could bite bits
off his ears : a man who could stick a knitting-needle
through the calf of his legy and who delighted in con-
verting his arms into pin-cushions ; and a Buttons
who fairly revelled in sandwiches made out of can-
dle-grease and shoe-blackings washed down with
paraffin oil / . . .

Yoursy &c.y




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MEMS. ON THE MERSEY.



A Cosmopolitan Spot — Landing Stage Dramas— Playing His
First Part — A Busy Watery Highway— The Ferries —
Business and Pleasure — Mr. Simpson — A Polar Picture —
A Suggestion to Dramatists.

All the world's a stage, truly, but the narrow
floating quay on the Mersey is a stage for all
the world. Innumerable types of humanity
from all parts stand upon it, and the observer
could not find a happier hunting ground for
the study of his fellow man. The busy man
of commerce rubs shoulder with the loafer ;
the sun-tanned sailor from the Southern seas
stands side by side with the intrepid explorer
of the Polar regions ; the hungry, hunted ne'er-
do-weel with eager, longing eyes watches tons
of splendid meat being rapidly landed, and as
rapidly carted away ; while the rich Colonial
throws his fragrant Havana languidly away, to
be quickly snatched up by the poor dog less
fortunate than himself.

There is many a touch of tragedy upon
that stage. Talk of free theatres! This is
the freest of all ! See that good-looking youth



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MEMS. ON THE MERSEY. 20I

quickly pass to the tender'bound for the large
ocean steamer, which with steam up is signi-
fying with hoarse whistles its readiness to start ;
his clothes are neat and new, and his luggage
shows little mark of travel ; he nervously
shows histicket as he steps on to the gangway
of the boat ; a coupk of ordinary-looking men
are standing close by ; he glances at them ;
their gaze is firm ; he winces ; one approaches
and hands him a paper ; the paddles begin to
revolve, and the tender steams off minus one
passenger ! A couple next attracts your atten-
tion — a youth even younger than the last, with
nothing of the clerk about him ; he is of aris-
tocratic mien, and on his arm has a pretty
young lady. He looks determined ; she pale
and anxious. As they board the next tender
his eyes are fixed on the steamer in the distance,
while hers are peering nervously around. Their
luggage on board, off they go ! The nervous
tension is relaxed, and with a sigh of heartfelt
relief she sinks down upon the seat ; he care-
lessly lights a cigar. They turn round and
face the landing-stage as the tug churns its
way through the thick water of the muddy
Mersey.

Suddenly she starts up and utters a fright-



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202 FLYING VISITS.

ened cry, he drops his cigar and mutters a

curse between his clenched teeth — a figure has

rushed on to the stage. The angry father is

quickly in pursuit upon another tug — it is the

old, old story ; indeed, there is very little new

material in this mixture of comedies and

tragedies in real life which is day by day

enacted on the Liverpool landing-stage, and

the bystanders are callous. But late at night

and early in the morning

may be noticed a youthful

actor playing his first part.

^ In all probability he has

been mingling with the

crowd all day, anxiously

waiting to seize the merest

chance of escape from the

chill poverty and distress

of his fatherland to those

► sunny climes far away

across the sea, flowing

— with milk and honey,

Elysian fields which have often passed in

ecstatic review through his juvenile brain.

Tired out and disappointed, he falls asleep

in a corner of the landing-stage, but is

awoke from the phantasy of his troubled



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MEMS. ON THE MERSEY, 203

dreams by a kindly official, one who has saved
many and many a lad from a fatal mistake,
and is frustrated in his foolish endeavor.
When I write my next article on Liverpool, I
will include a sketch both in pen and pencil of
this worthy, philanthropic man.

Perhaps no greater contrast could be found
to the Twickenham ferry of song than the
Liverpool ferry of everyday life. The ferry-
man of the Thames and his sweetheart would
be out of place in this busy liquid highway of
commerce. The ferries that ply on the Mersey
are a perfect army of watery conveyances. As



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2Q4 FLYING VISITS.

stream of city traffic yclept " The Bank," when
there is a block of vehicles, and float it whole-
sale, that would convey to you some idea of the
deck of one of the goods ferries that ply on
the Mersey. ' They are ponderous, ungainly,
almost circular craft.

Alongside the stage the solid gangway is let
down ; and truly it may well be solid, for over
it pass brewers' drays, pantechnicon vans, and
butchers' carts, which, with hand-carts, bales
of goods, and other miscellaneous articles, help
to constitute a most varied and nondescript
deck cargo. Since the Mersey Tunnel was
opened busy men of commerce, to whom time



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MEMS, ON THE MERSEY. 205

IS money, speed along under the river instead
of skimming over its surface ; but when time
permits and the weather is fine, you may find
Cheeryble Brothers chatting over the day*s
fluctuations in stocks and shares, and discuss-
ing the latest market quota-
tions in one con
boat ; while I ms
of a young lady, ;
shire lass of the
class, who was <
dently seeking
antidote to the cl
atmosphere of
city in the fresh ri
breeze. For the
sum of sixpence
you can get a
fair sample of
this commodity
by taking a
return ticket to
New Brighton,

at the mouth of the river. Looking back at
the busy scene you are leaving as your boat
ploughs along down the river, it is most
curious to note the vast numbers of tugs,



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206 FLYING VISITS.

tenders, and ferries importantly puffing their
way about the river in all directions — it is a
gigantic, ever-changing kaleidoscope, not very
much varied, in color, it is true, but active
in the extreme.

One feature of the landing-stage departed

some years ago in the person of Mr, Simpson,

whose temperance buffet was so



1



1

1

A.

3-/1



\*



Mr. Simpson was more aristocratic, and had
actually run for Parliament. However, he was
more at home on the landing-stage, feeding the
birds and smoking his cigar, than delivering
political harangues upon the platform.



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MEMS. ON THE MERSEY. 20/

Even the very waters of the Mersey savor
of business ; there is nothing sluggish about
them, and taking their character from the
banks from which they roll, they hurry along
seaward as if time were precious to them. I
remember going down to Liverpool about ten
years ago, during that very severe winter, to
sketch the effects of the storm of snow and
ice, and I shall never forget the extraordinary
picture the Mersey then presented. Snow-
bound ships, frozen boats, and huge masses of
floating ice, canopied over by a dull leaden sky,
combined to make up a scene worthy of the
Polar regions, and the worthy Mr. Simpson I
rnentioned before was busier than ever, trying
to keep the poor weather-beaten birds alive.
In the principal thoroughfare of the town itself
stood a roofless house undergoing repairs.
Icicles hung from the top of the building down
to the ground, from every rafter and ever^
projection ; and some enterprising speculator
had hit upon the happy idea of allowing the
British public to go in at so much a head to
view this curiosity of Nature. Paradoxical as
it may seem, this show was not a frost.

But, as I said before, the centre of interest
on the Mersey is the landing-stage, and I



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208 FLYING VISITS.

rather wonder that Mr. Pinero or Mr. Henry
Arthur Jones has never taken this stage for his
own. They could bring in well-known people
of to-day, which seems to be becoming the
fashion in present-day drama. The Lyceum
company starting for America, surrounded by
their friends ; Mr. Terriss jumping into the
chill waters of the Mersey to save one more
life, in his usual melodramatic fashion ; Mr.
Wyndham, ever thirsting for sensation, follow-
ing the steamer in a canoe, capsizing in mid-
stream, and saving himself by means of the
patent Criterion safety-belt — which, when
collapsed, resembles a German dictionary ;
and they must not forget to introduce Mr.
Beerbohm Tree, and our old friend Mr. Toole.
Of course, several politicians might be brought
in, and Major Pond might be chaperoning
someone of light and learning to the land of
the brave and the free. As for singers, I have
more than once met the genial Mr. Edward
Lloyd upon the landing-stage ; and if Mr.
Pinero or Mr. Jones wants to fill up a corner,
I am open to stand there, notebook in hand,
to sketch these notabilities.



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Liverpool.

My dear M,^

In rummaging among my papers I came
across the following^ which I intended for publication
as an article^ and I send it to you to show you what
a complete transformation has been effected in six
months^ time,

" / arrived in one of the largest towns in England
for the purpose of giving my entertaintnent ; and de-
clinifig the hospitality of friends ^ as I had a great
deal of work to do^ I engaged rooms at the leading
hotels an establishment as well known to the traveller
in the provinces as is Westminster Abbey or the
Tower to the cockney born and bred. Everything
connected with it was old and crusted^ and thoroughly
* English^ you know^ The same hall-porter had
opened the door to our fathers^ and guided them to
bed in the small hours of the morning ; the same head-
chambermaid had heard the strong language with



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2IO FLYING VISITS.

which they used to relieve their feelings when the but-
ton at the back of their collar flew off, and she it was
who was requisitioned to sew another on for them.
Aye, some of the old port and Chdteau Lafitte still re-
main in the cellars, and the head-waiter brings it to
you in the same wicker cradle wherein he had con-
veyed many a bottle to your father, and zvith the same
scientific care ; but the hand is now enfeebled that
pours out the liquid link which connects the past with
the present''

As I ran tip the steps of the hotel old John opened
the door to me, but the welcoming smile with which
he was wont to greet me was absent from his counte-
nance, and in place of it he wore an air of deep and
unwonted gravity, which betokened something wrong.
Immediately following me came a small party of
Americans, and in the go-ahead style peculiar to their
race they very soon monopolized old John,

^^ And how's John— fit, eh? Now, John, fetch
down the old lady from the first-floor right quick ; I
want her to know my wife straight away. She knows
all about Maggie, I guess / "

" Sorry to say she hain't 'ere no more, sir," replies
John, sadly.

" What ? You don't say Mag's joined the major-
ity ? I've been lookiyi forward to shakin' the old gal
by the hand! "

*' She's joined the majority of the rest of the hotel



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FLYING VISITS. 211

servants^ sirj' pathetically whispered John. " We're
all going — / leave to-night. ' Place been bought by
railway company ; clean sweep from top to bottom ;
furniture all to be sold ; and hall of hus goes as
well/''

" Well, I'm darned ! It's a tarnation shame ! I
don't want new faces and new furniture to this hotel ;
I ivant the old smiles and old friends ! Here's a dol-
lar for yoUy John, and good luck to you. I reckon we'll
go over the way ; " and with a sad longing look at the
old door y the Yankee departed with his friends.

I went in.

" Hang it ! What in the name of creation's
that?"

That was a considerable quantity of cement and dust
which had descended on my head.

" Werry sorry ^ sir," came apparently from a pair
of feet on a ladder over my head; " I'm removing the
old sign."

^^ And put up a tablet to the old hands" I said,
passing on to the office.

I found I was in a hotel that was in process of
transformation. I could not go elsewhere, as I had
made my appointments and had given the name of
the hotel as my address to my numerous correspond-
ents ; but I shall never forgive myself for not follow-
ing the example of the Yankee in taking rooms some-
where else.



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212 FLYING VISITS.

" This way, sir ; the staircase is under repairs, so
zve must use the servants' stairs''

I slipped, stumbled, and fell over bricks, piles of
mortar, and disjointed doors ; and I was just enter-
ing the room pointed out to me as mine when I found
myself caught by the neck and nearly strangled. My
unseen assassin turned out to be one of the bell zvires
which were hanging down across the threshold. I
had to make a perilous journey to my bedroom ; but
once I was inside it, I found I couldn't get out. The
builders had erected a barricade outside the door, and
were vigorously banging at the walls, so that my ap-
pealing voice was drowned, and I thought that every
minute the walls would collapse. I at last managed
to crawl out through the ladders, and eventually got
to work in my sitting-room. As the evening closed in
the place seemed like a haunted hotel. The mysteri-
ous noises in the walls and the hollowness of the
echoes were trying to one's nerves after a long rail-
way journey, particularly to one engaged on imagina-
tive work. However, I went on undisturbed until a
cold something or other tickled me on the top of my
head, and then seemed to run all dozvn my spine.
Horrorstruck, I started up, when to my relief I found
it ivas a wire which was dangling down from a hole
in the ceiling. At that moment the door opened, and
a man peeped in and said: ^^ Excuse me, sir, but
we're getting the electric light wires in here'' I



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FLYING VISITS. 213

had received the first shock already. The next morn -
ing, while peaceably at work in the same room^ ifi
walked a dumpy gentleman in a thick overcoat and
muddy boots, followed by another man holding a
note-book and pencil in his hand. "An arrest^'
thought I ; " mistaken identity / " Shock No. 2.
My fears proved to be groundless, and I was relieved
to hear that they were
only making an inven-
tory of the contents of
the room. The dumpy
gentleman in the thick
coat and muddy boots
measured some of the
things, rapped others,
pommelled the rest^

and sneered at all, ^^ — ^r— ^

while the other gentleman wrote down the report. I
was simply petrified to see that they included my goods
and chattels in the inventory ; and when the dumpy
gentleman in the thick coat and muddy boots cast his
eagle eye upon me, I fully expected to hear him say,
" One stuffed figure, 5 feet 2\ inches high, well stuffed,
little worn on the top of the head, modern design,
value trivial ! "

" Table d'h6te was served on the staircase, and we
had to use the kitchen as a smoking-room. . . ."

However, I think this is enough to show you the



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214 FLYING VISITS.

topsy-turvydom I was in the midst of. I am writing
now from this identical hotel ; but when I arrived I
received shock No. 3 — the transformation was so mar-
vellotis and so complete. As everything was dully
gloomy y rough-and-ready looking in the old days^ so it
is the acme of modern luxury and convenience now —
a Jiotel a Sybarite would feel at home in, and which
must be seen to be believed. The vulgar ringing of
bells is done away with, and in its stead hangs by
every bedstead the latest patent in telephones, the only
drawback to which is the fact that you cannot escape
from anyone who wants to ring you up, and who is
switched on to you from the hotel office; in fact I
was woke up at six o'clock this morning to hear the
fearful news that there had been a big fire at the
docks, and that fourteen men had been burnt alive.
Need I say that the Professor was at the other end of
the wire f . . .

Ever yours.




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•'THE GRANITE CITY."



My First and Last Haggis— The Granite— Noises by Day and
Night — The Tintinnabulation of the Bells— Festivities in
connection therewith — My Banquet — My Host — The
Scotch Humorist—" Auld Lang Syne," and the Effects
it Produces — ** Linked Arms, Long Drawn Out."

i SHOULD like to
ft be a little more
personal in this
etter " On Tour "
than I have
^ been in those
preceding the
present, and
^ in doing so
Jt dwell upon
the great hos-
pitality of the
Scotch people.
Before you
cross the border, invitations and letters of
welcome reach you in shoals from all
sides ; but unfortunately the chief object
of my tour, that of entertaining the public,
prevents my allowing myself to be enter-



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2l6 FLYING VISITS.

tained by them, except upon rare occa-
sions. I had not been in Edinburgh many
hours before I was introduced to my first
haggis, but, alas ! my English palate had not
been educated to appreciate a dish so savory ;
indeed, to be frank, I relished it as little as a
teetotaller would have done the whiskey which,*
in obedience to the Scotch mandates apper-
taining to the haggis, must immediately follow
it Business men threw down their office
pens, and, arming themselves with their
favorite golf-clubs, they escorted me to the
links ; in fact, all seem to vie with each other
in showering hospitality and kindness upon
the stranger.

The furthermost point I reached was


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Online LibraryHarry FurnissFlying visits → online text (page 8 of 11)