England – English Railway Travel

English railway seats are dreadfully uncomfortable things in which to sit; the backs are straight and there is nothing against which to put one’s feet. Finally the crowd thinned out; there remained only a young man, a young woman with her baby and myself. I slept a long time, awakening to see the young mother yet sitting bolt upright holding her baby clasped in her arms. I insisted that she should lie down and use my pillow and rug, which at last she consented to do. I do not remember the station at which she wished to alight, but at dawn she seemed troubled. “The way was never so long before, sir,” she said. Then at Stirling I made inquiries and learned that she should have alighted three hours before. She was aghast and frightened, but hastily alighted. I was furious. We had paid a penny a mile, the usual rate of first-class travel in our own land, yet we were denied sleeping car privileges and, to cap the climax the management was so inefficient that in a corridor train it did not take the trouble to send a man through to look at the tickets and tell people where they should get off. But all English railways are not so badly managed as this one; on some lines they now have the American system of tickets and conductors.

To finish the tale of the British managed rail-way, I changed cars once or twice and at last alighted at my destination. No one was astir about the station; no one since I had purchased it had looked at my ticket. In disgust I refused to search for any official to now receive it and walked away with that useless bit of pasteboard in my pocket, as I imagine many others do under such a system. The fact is that travel in the United States rather spoils one for railway travel in other lands. There are in England, however, splendid roadbeds, and splendid swift trains run on them. They are equipped with modern corridor compartment cars, which are very comfortable indeed, and on the bet-ter managed roads they have attendants -who go through the train to collect tickets and to inform the passenger when he has arrived at his destination. Travel is nowhere else so cheap, however, all things considered, as in the United States.

Well, the nightmare of a night was over at last, and a glorious morning had succeeded. The dry, hot summer was drawing to a close and while England was well browned and burned by the heat and drouth, Scotland was deliciously green in its grass lands. Its wheatfields were golden; its oats had a soft, creamy yellow tinge, and its fields of potatoes were richly green. Then there were the forests deeply, richly green, and back of all loomed up the mountains, the heather-clad mountains, in bloom in great patches of purple, acres in extent.

In Kent I had left picturesque little fields of irregular shapes, surrounded by hedges and often with trees along the borders; picturesque, certainly, yet they were rather difficult to farm, one would say. Here I had come to fields, almost American, large, square, divided often by fences, sometimes by stone walls, neat, tidy, pictures of agricultural thrift and orderliness. There were other notable differences. In Kent the villages were most picturesque; the cottages were draped with ivies, with flower gar-dens in front. Here the village cottages were of square stone, solid, everlasting, rather grim, with no ivies and usually with no flowers. I could not but think that the difference typified somewhat the differences in the English and the Scottish types of mind, the English loving a bit of pleasure, a bit of beauty, and the Scottish serious, building well and strong, fearing vanities, maybe, or thinking it a waste to spend time on mere adornments. How-ever, there were also points of resemblance; the roads of Kent and of Perthshire were near perfect and evidently had been thoroughly well looked after, in contrast with our roads in America.

My destination was the farm of William Henderson, of Lawton, at Coupar Angus. I found that Mr. Henderson was at Edinboro, but his sister received me with that warm Scottish hospitality that makes rightly-directed travel so delightful over there. The brother would be at home in the evening; would I not content myself in her care in the meantime? Indeed I would.

The old Lawton farmhouse is stone-built, with floors of stone and quaint passages and comfortable and home-like rooms. There was a dear old white-capped mother, and soon after my arrival she took me out to the garden to see the flowers, the wondrous sweet peas, millions of them, in long rows, the pansies and poppies, the American golden rod, and many things that I can not take the time to set down. In the large garden were strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries—such gooseberries as no one in America ever saw or dreamed of. The bushes fairly drooped to the earth with their bur-dens of fruit. In the great lawn in front stood big trees of California, which were once much planted in Great Britain, growing splendidly, and also enormous lindens. In the enclosure was a mound, for all the world like the mounds one sees in Am-erica made by our “mound builders,” this mound was crowned by a huge tree. It is interesting to think that some day many ages ago there may have lived in Scotland men who made these earthen monuments or possibly temples, and that their ideas seemed so much like the men who dwelt in the corn belt of America.