Theodora Grosvenor Guest.

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and that his ship only runs during the four summer

I went below to our room about four o'clock for tea
and shade, but came up again to watch our entrance
to New York Harbour. It rejoiced in just the same
pretty grey colour as on our arrival, and this entrance
from the North is nearly as fine as the other through
the Narrows. It was crowded with shipping, steam-
ers, sailing-boats, and ferry-boats, some of the latter
hurrying about with detached fragments of trains in
them, and bales and goods of every sort and kind.
We were " on time," as they call punctuality here,
and, indeed, rather before than after, so taking a
friendly leave of our captain, we went below and
stepped ashore, and in two minutes more were on
board a ferry-boat, in company with a crowd of
people, vans, and horses, steaming across the harbour
for Jersey City and the Pennsylvanian Railway

But our day was not over, for our " Wildwood "
having come down " dead-head " on the railroad, we
walked down a long platform, and were again at



home. After a little delay, spent in enjoying an
iced Orange Flower drink, insipid but cold, we
started afresh, and sat outside the car enjoying the
ninety-mile journey to Philadelphia, which was
accomplished in about two hours and a half.

In amusing contrast is the sentence in C. Dickens's
diary in 1 842, when he says : " The journey from New
York to Philadelphia is made by railroad, and two
ferries, and usually occupies between five and six

So we have now completed the circle, and
returned on June n to the point whence we
started on April 30, and have made a circle of just
over 10,000 miles in exactly six weeks.

The heat of the day had been excessive, and
when I looked into my room in the car, I found a
wax hand-candle which lives there, in a most
ridiculous position ; the wax had fainted from the
heat, and, bending over in a gentle curve, was rest-
ing the point of its wick on the table. It had to be
taken to the refrigerator to be set up again ; but it
never was really strong after that.

The cool evening was charming after the burning
heat, and the whole air was lovely, for the bright
steel coloured stars, which I at first thought were
glow worms, took to flying up in the air, and
revealed themselves as brilliant and countless fire-

At Philadelphia, in spite of the lateness of the
hour, we held a sort of levee, and received visits


from many friends, old and new, who most kindly
came to see us. After about an hour there, we
went on, travelling all night, awaking at Harrisburg
at five A.M. on Tuesday morning. We looked out
at the view and watched for ever so long the
Alleghanies in the distance, and the Shenandoah
valley, in which lovely district we soon found our-
selves, pulling up at about eleven o'clock at Luray
in Rappahannock County.

Here we got into an open carriage and drove
about a mile to the entrance of the caves of Luray.
But at the entrance we stopped suddenly, arrested
by an immense noise of insects ; a loud hum, very
shrill, and another noise which made M. say :

" But what bird is that ? "

"All Locusts," was the answer; "they make both


Hundreds and hundreds there were of them, great
things like Hornets, all over the trees, flying from
branch to branch, clinging to the trunks and stems,
and making such a noise as no other insects could
equal, with the odd different note every other
minute. They looked malicious, but are harmless.
They call them " Pharoahs " or the " seventeen-year
Locusts," and say that it is true that they appear in
the different districts every seventeen years only
and that it is exactly seventeen years since they
were seen here (so we were in luck, and had timed
our visit well).

They stay for forty days, and never hum after


five P.M. There is a legend that their appearance
foretells War, and that they carry a capital W on
their wings ; and so they do, for the matter of that,
for the yellow veining on the white gauze wings,
takes that shape, as in many other less prophetic
insects. We caught two or three to take home
they ceased humming before five o'clock.

But now we had to visit these remarkable caves ;
quite as curious, they say, as the Mammoth Cave of
Kentucky, and less fatiguing, as you have to walk
many miles to see the latter, whereas here you have
only to descend some steps, and you find yourself
almost immediately in the most marvellous labyrinth
of passages and caverns, faintly illuminated here and
there by magnesium lights.

Masses of stalactites, stalagmites, and helictites
of the most fantastic forms, grotesque beyond
description, meet the astonished eye. The guide
goes in front with a board constructed to hold any
number of tallow candles, which throw an uncertain
light around, and a great quantity of certain tallow,
too. The caverns are immense ; one of them is one
hundred feet high, and from its roof is suspended
the most enormous stalactite in the world. To
quote Mr. Hovey's description of them, he says ;
" The stalactite display exceeds that of any other
cavern known, and there is hardly a square yard on
the walls or ceiling that is not thus ornamented.
The old material is yellow, brown, or red, and its
wavy surface often shows layers like the gnarled


grain of costly woods. The new stalactites growing
from the old, and made of hard carbonates that had
already once been employed by nature, are usually
white as snow, though often pink, blue, or amber-
coloured. The size attained by single specimens is
surprising. The Empress column is a stalagmite,
thirty-five feet high, rose-coloured, and elaborately
draped." The smaller pendant stalactites are in-
numerable, some pointed, but mostly in folds and
elaborate convolutions, like shells and drapery.
Some are like alabaster scarfs, and so thin and
delicate as to be almost transparent. In one
cave called the Cathedral, the stalactites have a
musical resonance, and the guide, with little sticks,
could play quite a tune, and imitate a peal of

They are a hundred and sixty feet below the
surface, were only discovered some fifteen years ago,
and our walk through them was from a mile and a
half to two miles ; and we might have done more,
but were satisfied at the end of that time to return
to the light of day. This light was burning hot,
and in point of temperature the caverns had the
advantage, being always, they say, about 54
Fahrenheit ; and the walking was easy and dry,
with no excessive difficulties or crawling places.

Two Beetles^ were busy near the entrance rolling
a ball of clay, nearly as big as themselves, and quite
as big as a hazel nut, to a place of safety. It con-

* Scarabceus tiacer.


tained their precious egg, no doubt, and we did not
attempt to spoil sport by interference.

I made a hasty sketch, in gasping heat, from the
balcony of the house of our guide. He had been a
carpenter, and was heart and soul and generally
body, too in these caves ; an intelligent and
respectable man, though, perhaps, he would not have
come under the witness's description, who, in a trial,
was asked by the judge :

" You say you think Mr. X. a respectable man ? "

" Yes, my lord, I do."

" Well, now, can you give us any idea what you
mean by a respectable man ? "

" Oh yes, certainly. I mean one who keeps a


After luncheon in the car, we went for a drive to

the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And
such a drive ! Along a sort of lane with edges
mosaic'd by wild flowers, enlivened by Blue-birds,
and a lovely Red bird not the Scarlet Tanager, but
of a more orange red. A grove of Kalmias was
quite too much for us, and we all got out and
gathered handfuls of those lovely flowers, whose
sparse growth in English gardens gives no idea of
their natural luxuriance. They grew in a little wood
sloping down to the road, which there crossed a
stream, and along the edge of it was crawling a little
land Tortoise, with a turtle's beak and large red
eyes. We picked it up and carried it home, its little
legs clawing the air in vain remonstrance all the


way ; and as soon as we deposited it in the card,
board box which was to be its future home, it laid
a neat white egg ! Our drive was limited by time,
and we only got so far up the Blue Ridge as to have
a view of blue warmth and beauty over a rich un-
dulating country. Classic ground, too, for all over
this part of Virginia raged the fierce war of 1863.

And as a relic I brought home a beautiful butterfly
executed in orange, inlaid with mother-of-pearl-lik e
spots, which Mr. S. caught for me. 1

We passed a pleasant evening in the car, sur-
rounded by the blue hills, and, as they faded away
in the darkness of an almost tropical night, the air
was enlivened by myriads of " Lightning bugs,"^ who
circled around. At midnight a train came down
from the north, caught us up, and at seven next
morning dropped us somewhere in the middle of
Virginia, between a ploughed and a green field, on
a siding. The Blue Ridge was still bounding us
on the east, and great banks clothed with fine
timber trees, with farms and civilisation and
cultivation, had surrounded us for the last hour or
more, during which I had been awake, devouring
all I could of this our southernmost point. At nine
we were ready to go out in a carriage which was
ready for us, under a tree, in a kind of track through
the field hard by, as we were about half a mile from
the station, in a quiet well-chosen spot. We had
about three miles to drive to the Natural Bridge

* Fire-flies.


Hotel, crossing a beautiful river, the James, on our
way there.

Leaving carriage and cloaks at the inn, we
walked by a pretty path with many steps, with a
little cascade trickling down over rocks on the left,
to the edge of the creek ; and there was the
marvellous Natural Bridge before us.

It is a wonderful effort of Nature. An archway
of solid rock, two hundred feet high, and sixty wide.
A glowing red colour chiefly, but streaked with
dark grey in places ; somewhat wider towards the
upper part, and forty feet deep at the top (where a
key-stone should be in a bridge). Below it flows the
little Cedar Creek, murmuring over its rocky bed,
and by its side a most enticing little footpath, along
which we wandered for a mile and more. But first
we stopped to take in the wonderful effect of the
arch before we passed on below it, and it was
difficult to realise that it was so entirely untouched
by hand of man. It belongs to General Parsons*
and is entirely private ground, but he generously
opens it to the public.

Through it you see the beautiful banks of fine
trees which border each side of the creek, and in
spite of the heat we could not resist walking on and
on. We passed under magnificent trees, and the
loveliest undergrowth of weeds, most of them
entirely unknown to me, except the larger Smilax,

* This gentleman was shot dead shortly after we left America by some
ruffian, from motives of private spite, as he was walking in his grounds.


To face p. 248



Columbine leaves, Podophyllin, and exquisite ferns.
It was a delicious stroll, and, as wonders never cease
in America, we stepped aside three steps up a rough
path, and, looking into the mouth of a cavern, we
saw "the Lost River" a great stream of water,
rushing past, which one can see in the half-darkness,
and no one knows whence it comes or whither
going. Mr. S. had brought a glass in his pocket,
and gave us some of the water to drink colourless,
clear, and tasteless, and deliciously cold. It was so
nice in the heat !

We continued our stroll along the path some way
further, till we crossed a little bridge made of three
planks on two prostrate fir-poles, as they mostly
are, with a rail or two of Cedar, smelling hot and
rich ; and here, before us, was a graceful little fall,
the " Lace Fall."

Further we could not go ; so we retraced our steps,
picking up some bits of the sweet-smelling Cedar
(recalling Solomon's Temple), as far as our first view
of the Natural Bridge ; and here, in a shady summer-
house, consisting of a roof and a seat and no walls,
I sat and drew for a happy hour, till we all became
so hungry and thirsty we had to go up to the hotel
for some luncheon.

We had it in a sort of airy pavilion, and it is
impossible to say how many glasses of iced tea we
consumed. Food was a secondary consideration,
but it was a comfort to contemplate the large jug,
like a washing-stand pitcher, in which the tea was


brought in ; there were also goblets of rich cream ;
after this, we adjourned to our rooms above, their
windows opening on to a verandah, where we sat
and rested a little, till M. and I struggled to our
feet, feeling it sinful to lose a moment, with so much
beauty within reach, and we wandered down the
lovely glen again, and nearly to the end of it.

Such trees ! Oaks of all kinds ; the Black Oak
with enormous leaves ; I gathered one at random
and brought it home, eleven inches long by seven
wide ; beautiful Tulip trees, or Tulip-poplars as they
call them, in full flower ; Black Walnuts, Sassafras,
with its curious leaves in three different shapes, and
sweet -smelling wood ; Chestnuts, Sycamore and
Locust trees, Virginian Cedars, and a few Beech.
To-day also we saw fine specimens of the Catalpa or
" Cigar Bean tree." It was covered with its beauti-
ful white flowers, with the finely pencilled red-brown
spots inside ; and its popular name comes from its
seed-pods, some fifteen inches long, and narrow,
which boys love to smoke as cigars.

There were also grand Mulberry-trees and Wild
Cherries and Persimmons, whose sour fruit is uneat-
able till the first frost has passed over it. Whence
the saying, describing a disagreeable old maid, "She's
as sour as Persimmons before the frost."

Again we looked with lingering admiration at the
Great Arch, under which fly everlastingly to and
fro, little brown-backed Martins, whose white chests
flash in the sunlight.


We were back at the hotel by five, rejoining Mr.
S., and started for a drive, first to the top of the
bridge, and very fine it was, looking perpendicularly
down to the creek two hundred feet below us and
finer still when a pair of Cardinal Grosbeaks *
flew across and fluttered about in the trees opposite.
They are gorgeous, scarlet-crested birds, and most
beautiful songsters. To see all this we had to leave
the carriage and walk a little way ; though the high
road goes over the arch one has no idea of it, so
overgrown are the edges and so wide the causeway.
Going on through the forest we passed under
magnificent specimens of the various trees before
mentioned, which the soil and climate of Virginia
bring to the greatest perfection. The driver took
the carriage under one of the many Tulip trees, and
was able to reach a handful of the fine flowers, which
are larger and handsomer than those we see in
England . There were charming birds too, in plenty ;
the King t bird, whose scientific name is given him
from his pugnacity in the breeding season, when
Eagles, Hawks, Crows, and Jays tremble before him,
and fly for a mile or more to escape the dives which
his hard little beak makes at their heads and backs.
He is a great friend to the farmers, and we saw one
hovering over the field in pursuit of the grass-
hoppers which are his favourite diet his only
fault being a fondness for Bees, whence he is some-
times called the Bee Martin.

* Cardinalis Cardinalis. t Tyrannus tyrannm.


There were Cow Troupials * too, whose lazy ways
with respect to their eggs resemble those of our
Cuckoos the Yellow Warblers,t Chipping Sparrows
and Vireos, having to do duty as foster-mothers.
Most of the birds, however except the Yireos will
eject the egg, if laid in their nest before any of their
own are there ; and so great is the annoyance of
the Yellow-bird at the intrusion, that there have
been frequent instances of her having built over the
Cow-bird's egg, leaving it, as it were, on the ground-
floor, and hatching off her own on the first story.
The egg is too large for some of these little birds to
move, and they always make the best of a bad job
and sit on it, if laid after some of their own, and the
worst of it is that the foreigner always hatches off

We drove to the top of a rising ground called
Mount JeafFerson, and as we went up, watched a
great game of Baseball, which was being played
with much energy on a green park-like expanse. It
is the favourite game here, and takes the place of
our English Cricket, which is only popular in a few
localities. From the crest of the hill we had a fine
extensive view of the mountains round us, and of a
thunder-cloud above us, which soon came down, and
we had nothing for it but to drive back to the
" Wild wood" as fast as we possibly could ; and got
well wet in doing so.

The storm passed off while we dined, and ate the

* Molothrus ater. -f- Dendrolea (estiva.


complimentary dish which Byard had prepared to
do honour to the last day a real English plum-
pudding, as good as could be made !

We spent the whole evening, which was not
much the cooler for the storm, sitting on the plat-
form, watching the exquisite " Lightning Bugs " as
they circled and flashed around, and listening to the
melancholy note of many " Whip-poor- Wills," * who
began with the twilight and went on incessantly,
from the plantations near the railway. They repeat
the words very plainly and regularly, with a drawling
accent on the first word, reminding one of a plane at

But alas ! we had to complete our destiny, and at
nine o'clock a train from the south came by and
picked us up ; and so farewell to " Whip-poor- Wills "
arid Locusts, and all the tropical delights that we
had thus touched the fringe of. We travelled on
through the night, back the way we had come,
as far as Riverton, where we branched off for

When we got up on the i4th of June we were
going through a highly cultivated country, dotted
with farm-houses, " Corn " fields, and very black
niggers ploughing between the plants that race
is much darker here than those we saw further
north ; and the little children might be executed in
coal, they are so black and shiny.

Our train drew up at Washington at half-past

* Anstrotomus vociferus.


eight. We had had a great wish to see it again,
and so carry away a fresh impression of this
beautiful town to my mind, the third most
beautiful, putting Venice and Stockholm only
before it. We were soon in an open carriage,
driving to the park, which is in full and luxuriant
foliage now, and the change from when we were
here before, some six or seven weeks ago, is magical.
The large Magnolias are in full flower, and so are the
Catalpas ; and the Horse Chestnuts are gone to seed.
In the conservatories are some fine Palms, an
Anona, which has not yet fruited ; and a variety of
Banana, unluckily one I did not know, was not
labelled, nor did any gardener appear to know the
name of it. At the foot of the Washington
Monument, we got out, and got into the lift, which
was somewhat crowded, and up the interior we
slowly ascended, to the height of five hundred

The ascent occupied some ten or twelve minutes
and gave time to read the inscriptions cut on
various stones, sent by each State as a mark of
respect to the great man of the country. I
thought the one from Virginia simplest and finest :

" Virginia, who gave Washington to America,
gives this granite to his monument."

At the top, fifty feet from the apex, the lift
stopped and we walked round an internal platform,
looking, from windows on the four sides, at the
bird's-eye views of the beautiful city and the broad


Potomac. The view of the country round was very
extensive, reaching as far as the eye could range,
and immediately below the radiating avenues had
a very striking effect. I was glad we went up,
especially when we had come down, as I hate lifts.
There was an old man of seventy-six in the party,
and he too was very proud of himself as we de-
scended safely, for it seemed he had gone up more
particularly to defy his family, who disapproved of
his venture, and had begged him not to attempt it.

We then took a comprehensive turn round the
town to revive our recollections of it, and certainly
the summer foliage was beautiful, but it quite closed
in some of the views of the lovely Capitol. The
Senate was sitting, as its flag waving over it
announced, but the other House was not. This
United States Flag is certainly a very handsome
one, with its white star for each State, and the red
and white stripes below.

Our next call was the post-office for the " P.D.Q."
stamps, and then the jeweller's, where we got some
of the pretty silver buckles and combs so much
in fashion, and carried back our treasures to the
car, in which we re-embarked about twelve o'clock ;
and at a quarter-past we left Washington, having
much enjoyed over three hours there, and found
the " Wild wood " most horridly bare, Byatt having
spent the morning in packing up everything we
possessed. Books, drawing things, papers, and
pamphlets, all cleared away. Desolation reigned,


and nothing was left but the Virginian butterfly,
which M. manipulated on a cork bed in an extinct
chocolate-box, in company with a marvellous insect
with antennae three times his own length ; and two
deceased " Lightning Bugs."

Luncheon followed this suitably melancholy
operation, and we ate it in sadness, and railed on
along the north of the Chesapeake Bay, through the
tunnel under Baltimore, and into Philadelphia by
3.40. Mr. H. met us, and thrust some letters
and congratulations into the car ; an engine took us
by the hand, and, instead of our having to wait
there as we expected, thirty or forty minutes, we
were just whirled out at once, by special, over the
Schuylkill, through the town, and in ten minutes we
were drawn up alongside the well-known Merion
Station, and in the arms of our friends Miss T. and
Miss C., who were there to receive us, full of
welcome and kindness.

But it was a sad moment of partings, for we had
to take leave of Mr. S., whose kindness, prevoyance,
patience, and help, had never failed us for six weeks ;
of Lawrence, who with cool drinks and smiling
willingness and constant attention had forestalled
all our wishes ; of Byard, the cook, an excellent chef,
to whom we owed much ; and, lastly, of our dear
"Wildwood" itself!

Never, no never, shall we have such a good time

Seven weeks of moving panoramas of wonder and


beauty, which must be seen to be believed, and of
which my descriptions are feeble and weak, all
surveyed from our armchairs, with no trouble, no
fatigue, no responsibility, no anxiety of any kind !

Over 11,000 miles of railway- travelling and miles
untold of driving besides, without an accident or a
semblance of one. No contretemps of any kind,
except the little delay at Hope from the "Washout,"
which did not matter the least ; lovely weather, and
universal kindness and courtesy from man, woman,
and child.

No wonder we were sorry it was over ! Nowhere
but in America can one experience such luxury, and
I quite sympathised when Lawrence said :

" The Americans just idolise this kind of travel-



STILL casting lingering looks at the " Wildwood,"
which had been our home for so many weeks, and
whose photograph Mr. S. promised us, we drove up
to the house. " Hughie," who drove, and the chest-
nut, who drew, seemed quite familiar, and the rooms
we returned to looked just as if we had never
left them ; even the same robins whistled a chirping
welcome ; and we had tea in the verandah, whose
straw chairs and red cushions made me more in love
with verandahs than ever. Mr. T. was away at a
big dinner given by Mr. C. at his farm, so we were a
quiet party and not a late one.

Friday was a lovely morning, and there was some-
thing delicious in the American air, like a perpetual
smell of spring. We had a new sensation a morning

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Online LibraryTheodora Grosvenor GuestA round trip in North America → online text (page 15 of 16)