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SOLID, unromantic Liverpool, whose greatness is entirely of modern growth, though its charter dates back to the twelfth century, will not detain us; for it is too much like Boston, or one of our own large commercial cities.
Red-walled Chester, also, which is invariably the next step of an American traveler who longs to see something of Old England, -something different from what he sees at home, - has been so often described, that I will begin my story at once in the railway carriage flying out of Chester westward to Bangor; for I intend to take my reader to London around by the way of North Wales, which is by far the most interesting route, and which, if not taken at first, is not apt to be passed over upon one's
Emerson calls an English railway carriage, a cushioned cannon-ball." There is a wonderfully smooth rapidity upon an English railway; and yet with all this speed, one has a great sense of personal
security. Were the American system of checking luggage adopted, there would be an improvement. It depends upon word-of-mouth communication whether one's trunks go with one and stop with one; and thus by mere good luck they are shifted and passed along. Sometimes a label is pasted, but at most places one is told that labels are not used; for the idea seems to be that the owner himself should mark, or at least look out for, his own luggage. This may be done for considerable distances, but it is impracticable for tourists making frequent stops in the course of a day. It is the best plan for a traveler in England, to take with him a simple portmanteau that he can carry in his hand. The first-class carriage is truly luxurious, light and splendid with plate-glass sides, and furnished with capacious springy seats, and with every accommodation for the bestowing of bundles, hats, and umbrellas. The second-class carriage forms a lamentable contrast to this; it is as hard, bare, and uncomely a box as oak boards can make it; its seats are uncushioned, and frequently dirtied by the baskets and boots of railway workmen, market-men, and "tramps." There seems to be little or no distinction between the second and third class carriages excepting in this, that the second-class carriages are resorted to by the most respectable people, on account of the expensiveness of the first. But let me say a word of commendation of the English railway porters: they are true friends of the traveler, being easily distinguishable in a
crowd from their dress of black velveteen, and are always at the right spot to afford assistance, to relieve one of his parcels, to point out the booking office, to put the luggage in the right carriage, in fact to do all that can be done, — and to expect no
fee for it. I was always tempted to break the strict letter of the law, and to reward these men for such efficient service.
On leaving Chester the railway runs along the artificial canal made for the channel of the Dee. The river widens toward its mouth into a shallow bay, forming an enormous bed of shifting sand, covered grandly with the water at full tide, but shrinking into dribbling rills and petty ditches at ebb. As one speeds along he catches distant views of the Welsh Mountains on the left, and on the right lies the broad river Dee, and soon the sea itself. The green valleys run up into the highlands, and now and then a castellated mansion, or ruined tower, or genuine old castle is seen, hanging on the slope of the hills. The road from about this point to Bangor is a triumph of engineering skill. Sometimes the track is crowded between the mountains and the sea so narrowly, that in stormy weather the cars are dashed by the waves. The tunnels and the tubular and suspension bridges at Conway are stupendous works. With the solid piers of the bridges, and the massive old castle above, Conway is a city of the Anakim. After crossing the bridge here one comes into Caernarvonshire, which of all the Welsh counties con
tains the most rugged and characteristic Welsh scenery. Soon the track runs around the projecting rocks of Penmaen-bach and Penmaen-maur, precipitous crags jutting out like great foreheads into the sea, and which were the former terror of travelers. Dr. Johnson records the peril he felt in climbing the dizzy road which once crept around their sea-face. Now these formidable crags are tunnelled, the first cut being six hundred and thirty yards long, through flint rock.
Bangor (derived from "ban gor or the "great circle," a generic British word for a "religious congregation or "fraternity") is situated along a narrow ravine, with a mountain at its back, and Beaumaris Bay in front. It is the seat of a bishopric, and is one of the oldest centres of a still more primitive faith; for here doubtless existed a pure Christianity before the time of Augustine, the reputed apostle of England. A profound spirituality still characterizes the religion of these Welsh people. They are held, even by Englishmen, to be the best kind of dissenters, because they are firmly attached to their own ancient and simple forms, rather than jealously antagonistic to the forms of the Established Church. That the Spirit of God can reach them through their more rigid modes of thought and worship, the many powerful reformations of religion which have visited them, and especially that of 1860, which spread over and lighted up these old mountains, may testify.
Travelers must be allowed to talk and even
grumble about hotels; for these are often the only "interiors" they see, and they sometimes form the only means strangers have of judging of the style of living, and of a hundred little things in the common life of a people. One is made exceedingly comfortable at a first-class English hotel, but there is a stiffness about it which is not apt to be found in the best American or Continental hotels. Seldom is there a public table; and if the party comprise ladies, one is forced, even if staying for a single day, to take a private parlor. But I am quite converted to the English private parlor. After a long day's journey in heat and dust, struggling on with an eager and vexed human current, to be ushered into one's own room, quiet as a room at home, furnished often with books and every luxury and comfort, this goes some way toward recompensing the traveler for the exclusiveness of the thing. He is, it is true, entirely isolated. If his dearest friend were dying in the next room, he would not find it out, for seldom is there a registrybook kept in an English hotel. And one rarely risks a question to the dignified and taciturn waiter, with gravity and white cravat enough to be the Dean of Westminster.
The best English hotels have one feature that it were surely well for us to imitate. They are not altogether confined to interior magnificence and showy upholstery, but have generally a pleasant breathing-space of ornamental grounds and garden about them. In the dry heart of busy cities, there