BESS of Hardwick numbers among her descendants many of the most noble families of England. Within riding distance of the birthplace of their ancestress, the Duke of Portland, the Duke of Newcastle, and Earl Manvers, all members of the same distinguished family, have those great estates in and about Sherwood Forest, which are embraced under the title of The Dukeries. These great landed properties were acquired by Bess during her lifetime. She built one house at Welbeck, and began another great manor at Worksop.
We drove the first five miles from Hardwick Inn to Bolsover over a delightful country road without seeing the sign of a collier anywhere. For a mile or more, after leaving the inn, the road goes through the park, and then past several charming farmhouses toward Bolsover.
Here there is a fine castle built by Sir Charles Cavendish, one of the sons of Bess of Hardwick. An old keep, dating from Norman times, furnished the foundations of the present house, and there are also remains in a great riding-school or stable of some of the work done here by King John.
Sir Charles evidently admired his mother’s taste in architecture, for Bolsover bears a close resemblance to the Hall at Hardwick. A short distance from the smaller house, on the keep, Sir Charles built a magnificent palace fronting a wide terrace. This was erected for the reception and entertainment of King Charles the First and his queen. Within its walls the monarch abode on three occasions, and here for the royal pleasure ” rare Ben Jonson ” wrote his masque, ” Love’s Welcome.” The poet was master of ceremonies during an entertainment which cost Sir Charles Cavendish £70,000. This splendid dwelling-place for royalty was dismantled by the Roundheads, and has now become one of the most picturesque ruins in England. The great windows and doors are draped with ivy, and stupid sheep now climb down the ruined steps and browse along the terrace where once the gay courtier strutted on his high heels, making love to the simpering coquette of the court of King Charles.
The Duke of Portland owns Bolsover, and in the ancient house first built by Sir Charles no one now is living. It is in perfect repair, and among other curious decorations is a room which the loyal Sir Charles built in imitation of the Star Chamber of hated memory.
We found that we could only see the interior of the house by means of a ticket from the agent of the estate, which we had neglected to secure. Neither shillings nor pence (we did not try pounds) could shake the guardian’s sense of duty, so we were forced to content ourselves by staring at the outside of the windows, and by wandering about among the grass-grown halls of the great ruins.
Polly and I almost slid down the steep hill trying to get to the railroad station, where we proposed to go to find out for ourselves the very best train for Edwinstowe. We left the Matron and the Invalid to go back into the town and order something we might eat before we started on our journey.
Looking up from the station, Bolsover Castle resembles a captain of the Middle Ages leading a straggling company of soldiery. Behind the tall pinnacles and points of the house on the keep, rising sheer from the top of the trees which cling to the sides of the precipice, Bolsover streams away on the top of the ridge, and the many-coloured roofs give a motley air to the crowd. At the end trail stand two miserable corrugated iron huts, looking like shabby camp followers.
We found the Invalid and the Matron in the village street engaged in a heated discussion with the town policeman. They were standing before the Swan Inn, which has a most enchanting exterior, and is quoted as the chief hostelry in Bolsover by the guide-books. Yet the Matron had been obliged to appeal to the police to get even such little food as we needed.
” Inns there are in plenty. We have been to them all, but they only sell drink, not a morsel of food, and we are very hungry,” explained the Invalid, as she threw one of her appealing glances at the man. He at once breaks forth into offers of assistance. He marched sternly at the head of the party to the Devonshire Arms, gave a thundering knock at the door, whereupon a trembling female appeared and offered to provide us with everything she had, ” ham and eggs and a little tea.”
“Bolsover lives on simple diet,” whispered Polly to me, with a sigh.
” I thought perhaps the policeman would take us to his home after your fascinating appeal,” said the Matron to the Invalid.
” Perhaps he has nothing there to eat, but beer,” answered the Invalid, as we mounted the stairs to an uninviting sitting-room and prepared to satisfy our longing for food.
” What a horrible town to be caught in at night-time,” said one.
” No beds, nothing to eat, and nobody here but drinking miners,” offered another.
” You forget the policeman,” put in a third.
” I can hardly bring myself to believe that such inhospitality exists in England,” was the sigh of the fourth.
Bolsover was once a markettown. The picturesque old inns, the Swan and the Angel, were in those days not given over entirely, as at present, to the sale of liquid refreshment. The Devonshire Arms, where we were so unwillingly served with ham and eggs, is a new hotel. Polly questioned the small red-headed servant who waited upon us, and she said that food was seldom asked by the colliers and their friends. There were no lodgings at any inn in the town.
We shook the dust of inhospitable Bolsover gladly from our heels, as we scampered down the hill to the train. We had enjoyed a fine ruin, seen a noble castle, and nearly starved to death. The train we took stopped at countless small stations; the engine puffed and worked hard to pull us up steep grades before we saw Edwinstowe in large letters on the station sign-board.
” I thought we were coming to Sherwood Forest. Where is the wood? ” asked the Matron.
A huge plain with a track winding off on a high bank extended as far as we could see.
” There are certainly no trees here,” cried the others in chorus.
A porter stood ready to take our bags; the daylight was waning; dinner-hour was near at hand. I had never been near Sherwood Forest in my life, but I waved my hand vaguely toward some bushes in the distance, saying: ” Look! the trees are over there.”
The cloudy evening came to my rescue, for the daylight kindly flickered and went out.
The porter took us to the Dukeries Hotel, which the Matron had chosen from a picture in the guide-book.
” This house is modern enough!” said Polly, as we entered. ” It is nothing but an American seaside hotel, with an English coat on.”
As soon as we were inside the door, we saw before us the cheap stairway with machine-carved banisters, a stained-glass window on the landing, and we were led to narrow bed-rooms with hotel furniture that would bring blissful memories to the heart of the true citizen of the United States.
” Do you suppose we shall have buckwheat cakes for breakfast? ” plaintively sighed the Matron.
But if the architecture of the exterior dated from the fifteenth century, and the interior workmanship from the last sweet fashion of New Jersey’s coast, the bill of fare at the Dukeries is, and always will remain, truly British. We need no menu. We know what we shall have to eat without that: Clear soup, fish, roast mutton, potatoes, perhaps Polly’s favourite, vegetable marrow, and a tart. A sweetly simple cuisine, innocent of flavour, with as little salt as possible.
The following morning at breakfast, the Invalid began conversation by remarking that Sherwood Forest seemed very far away and the coal-trains very near.
” Several times last night I expected an engine or two to run in and share my bed,” she wailed.
” I am sure I heard a man being murdered in the house,” chimed Polly, cheerfully.
” Nonsense!” said I. ” He had the night-mare. I have heard those same sort of groans before. The walls are so thin, I could hear every one of you women breathe.”
” Come find the forest; it must be hiding in the neighbourhood,” said Polly.
” When we find it, we will stay there,” said the Invalid.
The forest proved to be not so very far away. We walked through the village street of Edwinstowe, an ugly little collection of houses all packed close together on a road lacking even the usual village curve. Two manor-houses are hidden away behind high garden walls, a few uninviting hostelries, some modern brick houses, and a shop in which everything, from canned corn to a photograph, is sold. A cottage at the end of the street is made pretty by festoons of Virginia creeper, but otherwise there is very little that is attractive about Edwinstowe. Finally comes a strip of common, and then we plunge from sunshine into the heart of a forest.
” The glades of the poets and the oaks of the drawing-book! ” was Polly’s admission.
Under our feet lay a carpet of ferns, and great oak-trees towered over our heads. The sunlight shot down thin bright rays between the green bowers, touching here and there the silver trunk of a graceful birch, or the smooth bark of a great beech-tree.
” It is the real Robin Hood wood out of the picture-books. Where is Friar Tuck? He must be waddling along here somewhere.”
” There are the Merry Men under the trees.”
But the Merry Men turned out to be only labourers picking up the dead branches, which look like long bows. The Matron declared Fontainebleau but a puny duchy compared to this kingdom of green. Here veteran oaks stand about in companies, nodding stiffly to one another like aged men, while their great roots grasp the green earth with mammoth claws. Solemn, dignified, taciturn, they lift their bodies, gnarled and ancient, above all the other trees.
In Sherwood Forest the strong individuality of the oak is very marked. If its life be truly, as they tell us, three thousand years, some of these forest oaks before us must have looked down upon mighty changes, for they now seem nearing their term of existence. Misshapen and buffeted by storm and wind, their hearts are so consumed by age that we can crawl into some of the hollow trunks and find there room to lie down. Models of tenacity and courage, these aged oaks refuse to give up life, and send out from the wreck of their existence one or two branches bearing shining, bright, green, healthy leaves.
The oaks at Hardwick seemed sad. They are trees for a forest, not for a park. Like sturdy peasants, they will not thrive in high society. In Sherwood, however, the oaks are with their kind in a great wood, as they have grown for centuries; the birches and the beeches keep company apart, while the firs look on from a distance.
Polly admitted that, while ” all trees seem human to her, the oak has the strongest personality.”
Paths are cut through the forest in many ways under the thick trees, and roads branch off in all directions. The strong mossy turf takes no mark from the hoofs of passing horses, and on its smooth surface wheel tracks make little impression. The general public may not drive upon the grassy avenues, but all persons may walk wherever they will. No flowers grow here under the greenwood trees; the air is filled with the songs of birds, the rabbits frisk, and the cock pheasants strut about boldly. We caught sight of the red brush of a slinking fox, stealing along after his prey.
Sherwood was the haunt of Robin Hood, Little John, and Will Scarlet and the Merry Men all. Here the outlaws followed the lucrative profession of robbing the rich and slaughtering the king’s deer. The great oak where Robin Hood hung his venison is still pointed out, and there is another huge one under which he fought the Lion-hearted Richard. (The guide-book says so.) Neither of these trees show any signs of decay, so incredulous Polly pretended they were bushes in Robin Hood’s day.
Thoresby Park, the estate of Lord Manvers, is in the depths of Sherwood Forest. Within the park limits are the most magnificent old trees and a wood as wild as it was centuries ago. Earl Manvers will not allow one of the oaks to be felled until Nature herself, or the elements at her command, shall lay them low.
The hall at Thoresby is of modern construction, and was built in the Elizabethan style. It is not open to the public, but the house can be seen from the road through the park. Monday, Thursday, and Saturday are the days on which the public may drive through the three great estates which join one another between Worksop and Edwinstowe. The road goes through the private grounds of Earl Manvers, the Duke of Newcastle, and the Duke of Portland. We spent our afternoon sitting under the oaks and sent Polly to make arrangements for The Dukeries drive.
THE DUKERIES POSTING ASSOCIATION
Fares from Edwinstowe
To Welbeck, Carburton, Clumber, Appley Head
Head, Normanton Inn, and Thoresby 3s. 6d.
Welbeck, Clumber, and Thoresby 3s.
Welbeck, Carburton, and Budby 2s. 6d.
Thoresby and Clurnber 2s.
Thoresby, via Buck Gates 1s.
Major Oak 6d.
Our itinerary included a trip to Rufford Abbey, about three miles distant, and quite as much an object of interest as the oak-trees. The road leading there is bare and uninteresting. The abbey is now the property of the Savilles, but the modern repairs have quite obliterated all remains of the ancient monastery. The Matron flatly refused to go. She said she preferred old oaks to new houses, a term not strictly proper for Rufford Abbey.
” You will find us by the Major Oak when you have settled the carriage business,” the Invalid told Polly. We trudged off with a tea basket, and, before the kettle was boiling, Polly appeared to tell us of the arrangements made. We are to have another morning in the forest, and then start off after an early lunch on the road through the parks of Thoresby, Clumber, and Welbeck, and from there we are to go on to Worksop to stop over-night. Four shillings apiece our drive will cost, and our bags and bundles will go with us. One more night made hideous by the coal-trains to the light sleepers of our party, and then we are off to new sights and sounds.
We took farewell glimpses in the morning of the light filtering down through the trees in the forest before we started off under a heavenly blue sky, in a comfortable wagonette, on one of the most perfect drives possible.
Thoresby House we only saw across the water of a small lake. The formal garden near the mansion is the only artificial note in the entire landscape. The whole park is in the wildest part of Sherwood Forest, and the Matron insisted upon being disappointed be-cause Earl Manvers did not bury his house in the wood like a fairy castle, therefore Polly instantly entered on a long discussion of the subject with her. Polly is practical, and likes warmth and sunshine more than poetical surroundings. She approves of the open formal garden. The drive through Thoresby Park took us past miles of splendid oak-trees, and then out of the gates into Clumber, where the Duke of Newcastle has his domain. Here the grizzled oaks grow scarce, but all around fir and larch mingle with the silver birch, and in the famous Lime Drive, aft avenue of perfect trees which goes on for three miles, the foliage is so dense and so beautiful that the trunks of the trees are almost invisible. At the end of this quadruple row of magnificent limes we came out in full view of Clumber House. A great sheet of water bathes the steps of the terrace. Clumber House was built at the time of the Georges, and is no more picturesque than any of the other princely dwellings of that period, but the view across the water rather softens the imperfections in the architecture, and the broad lake and background of waving green lends a charm the house otherwise would not possess. There are great treasures of art and literature in the vast rooms, but the Invalid and the Matron refused decidedly to leave the sunshine to be hurried about by the housekeeper; Polly and I also found it remarkably easy to deny ourselves that questionable pleasure.
” We can read all about it in the guide-book,” said the indifferent Invalid.
” I for one,” announced the Matron, ” do not care at all to see other people’s houses unless they give me some suggestions for my own. These palaces are of no use to me.”
Polly and I were struck dumb by the Matron’s peculiar reason. Imagine any one gleaning ideas for a small country house from a palace the size of Clumber.
The estate of Welbeck joins Clumber, and we drove on through a woody park, much more carefully laid out than either of those we have seen, until we arrived at the gate, where we left the carriage to visit the sights seen at Welbeck Abbey. The many tales we have read of the late duke, of his eccentricities, and the underground apartments he built, had filled us with delightful curiosity. Our disappointment was great, therefore, when we found we could visit nothing but the Riding-School, which is frankly above ground, the kitchen-garden, and the shrubberies.
This was another case of what Polly calls ” the vagaries of British information.” The guide-books we bought assured us that it was easy to see the famous underground rooms; the keeper of the Dukeries Hotel declared that any one could visit these apartments, and even our driver reiterated the statement that they were open to the public, ” but you may have to give an extra fee.”
This condition we were more than willing to fulfil; therefore, after paying the customary shilling, and receiving a ticket of admission to the Riding-School and the kitchen-garden, Polly stealthily approached the civil guide allotted our party. To our surprise she fell back from his side with a despairing look on her face.
” For two years past, these rooms have been closed to the public. All the furniture of Welbeck Abbey is packed into the underground apartments, while the house is being restored after a very bad fire,” she told us.
It will be three or four years more before the house will be opened again to the public, the work is going so slowly. We were forced to content ourselves with the little we were allowed to see. The Riding-School was built by the late Duke of Portland, who, like his ancestress, Bess of Hardwick, was afflicted with the building mania. He had an army of men working about Welbeck all the time, and he accomplished an enormous amount of building. If the work done by his architect did not suit him, as sometimes happened, after it was quite finished, he simply summoned the workmen and pulled it all down again. Underground rooms and long tunnels through the ground, and passages only lighted from above, this queer duke constructed in all directions.
It is a disputed question why this very peculiar man fled from the sight of his fellow men and enjoyed living underground. The splendid Riding-School is an extravagant piece of work. The birds of England, each nesting in its favourite tree, are finely wrought in beautiful coloured bronze to make a frieze running around the ring 380 feet long by 104 feet in width. The great glass roof is arched and springs from graceful iron pillars which divide the centre ring from the broad passage running around the sides. We were treated to a glimpse of one concealed passage as we left the Riding-School. It leads to the house and is lighted by skylights which are concealed on the outside by the shrubbery and the turf. The walls, damp and green, extend for nearly a mile under the earth. From this passage we came out upon a most lovely sunken winter garden, and we here could see the doors and windows which led to the noted underground picture-gallery and ballroom, said to be the largest rooms in all England.
Our guide had been five years in the service of the eccentric duke before he died. He told us that any servant found wandering in these concealed passages during the old duke’s lifetime was instantly discharged. From the winter garden we stepped out into a rose-garden four hundred feet long and half as wide, sunken below the turf of the lawn. The old duke had built here great walls of Portland cement, and had planned an apartment which he called a Bachelor’s Hall (although he in-tended admitting no bachelor but himself to its privacy) . He died before these walls were covered in, and the present duke, a cousin, loves air and the sun, and has draped the unfinished room with ivy and planted the great floor with beautiful roses.
The lake at Welbeck is the biggest, the deer park is the biggest, everything is the biggest. The offices and the stables and the houses of the employees form a town; there is a fire department. We, being simple folk, found our minds somewhat confused by all this vastness, but we could not refrain from admiring the wonderful order and great care bestowed upon this huge park, the lake, the garden, and all the buildings on the estate.
Welbeck has thirty-two acres of kitchen-garden and an immense glass-house for tropical plants, fruits, and vegetables. We walked through an arbour four hundred feet long, of which one side was formed by pear-trees and the other by apple-trees trained over iron arches and mingling their fruit over our heads. Along by the side of this remarkable arbour is an apricot wall of equal length, the trees in espalier all thick with shining fruit hanging from the branches, spread out to catch every ray of the sun.
The house is not very beautiful from an architectural standpoint. It is vast in its dimensions, but quainter and older than Chatsworth. The pleasure-grounds around the mansion, which reach down to the great lake, are lovely in the extreme, and on the green slope opposite browse a herd of pure white deer.
Outside the great gate, but still within the limits of the estate, is a picturesque little group of houses called ” The Winnings.” The Duke of Portland has erected these houses as homes for his aged servitors with the money won by his race-horses. The origin of these artistic little dwellings is explained by an inscription carved in stone on the central house:
” These houses were erected by the Sixth Duke of Portland at the request of his wife for the benefit of the poor, and to commemorate the success of his race-horses in the years 1888, 1889, and 1890:
” AyrshireTwo thousand guineas and Derby, 1888.
” DonovanDerby and St. Leger, 1889. ” Memoir The Oaks and St. Leger, 1890.
” Semolina One thousand guineas, 1890.”
There are six houses, each with two bed-rooms, a sitting-room, and a kitchen, and all are artistically and comfortably furnished.
The way on to Worksop is through one of the long tunnels built by the late duke. We passed the remains of Worksop Manor-house, which was begun by Bess of Hardwick. Al-though the building was never finished, the manor-house as it now stands is a mansion by no means to be despised for its size.
Worksop is a commonplace little English town, with all the characteristics of one of that sort. The wagonette left us at the Royal, a little slice of a hotel in the principal street, sandwiched between a bank and a bake-shop. It is spotless and clean, if not very large. The Matron’s bedroom took up the entire front of the house, and the rest of our rooms fill a whole wing at the back of the house. The Invalid looked out of her window upon a blank wall and heaved a mighty sigh of relief because the noise of no coal-train can reach her ears to-night. Worksop has the ruins of a fine priory with a superb gateway, now fast falling into decay, which led into the monastery grounds. The Church of the Priors has been restored; it has fragments of Norman work about the doors, and in the nave and side aisles. Other than by these, our walk in Worksop was unrewarded by any subject of interest save a photographer’s shop, and even there we could get no good pictures of Sherwood Forest. After our walk, we had our supper, and each one food to her own liking. Polly ordered eggs, the Invalid fish, the Matron chicken, and I, a slice cut from the joint. After this feast, which put us in high good humour, we retired to the Matron’s sumptuous bedroom to talk over future plans, and had just settled our affairs for the morrow, when Polly sat down on a deceptively comfortable chair in the corner. Being a fraud and a delusion, with only three legs, the comfortable seat collapsed at once. This incident broke up the meeting, but not before we had decided for Lincolnshire the next morning, to see the Fen Country and Old Boston Town, which some of our ancestors left for the bleak coast of New England.
We bid good-bye to Worksop early in the morning, knowing we must change our train at Mansfield. The stupidity of a railway porter made us miss our train, so, instead of reaching Boston at two o’clock, we did not get there until nearly sundown. This loss in the end proved a gain. Polly and I, who were highly indignant at what we supposed would be a long wait in Mansfield, were busily making life miserable for the booking-agent, who was serenely listening to our re-marks behind his little window, when a pleas-ant old gentleman standing by said, civilly: “Why do you ladies not go to Newstead Abbey instead of spending four hours in Mansfield? Today is visiting-day, and I am sure you can get back in time for your train.”
Thanking the old gentleman for the welcome proposal, we returned to the attack on the booking-agent.
” Is Newstead so near?”
” Only five miles,” said the booking-agent. ” There will be a train going in five minutes. Three single thirds? Sixpence each.”
We seized the tickets, got a porter in hot haste, deposited all our bags in the cloak-room, and hurried the Invalid and the Matron over the bridge into a waiting train. Before they had time to ask us where they were going, we were rushing along between green mounds and great black hills of refuse, thrown from the coal-pits, before we explained to them that we were not on the way to Boston.
Between Mansfield and Newstead we passed Annesley, the home of Byron’s early love, Mary Chaworth. We could not see the house from the windows of the train. It is among the thick trees on the slope of the hill. About the station at Newstead are piled black, uninviting signs of prosperity and coal, but the lodge-gates of the abbey are near and when they are passed the wide meadow-lands extend far on either side of the avenue.
The distance from the station to Newstead Abbey is a good long mile, and the private road begins almost at the station gates. The first half-mile of the avenue is planted on either side with very young trees. It must have been that the wicked Byron, who pre-ceded the poet as owner of the estate, cut down the forest trees. At the second lodge, the destruction was arrested by an injunction served upon the miserable old uncle, and thence the avenue winds about wooded knolls covered with fine trees and thick underbrush. When the little gem of a monkish dwelling appears in the hollow, it stands against a back-ground of thick green. The clear blue sky made colour in the great ruined window of the dismantled church, while the fine foliage of the garden trees was seen through the doors and portal of its ruined façade. The garden covers the space once occupied by the church. The house, which extends along beside the ruin, has been restored nearly to the same state in which it was when the monks were driven forth. The long windows of the abbot’s refectory, now the great hall, are above the low entrance door to the abbey. Colonel Wild-man, who bought the estate from Byron, spent £100,000 in restoring and fitting up the house. What he left undone has been finished by W. F. Webb, Esq., whose descendants now live here.
The Byrons were a sad lot, as every one knows, and had not Lord Byron made a place for orgies out of the mansion he so loved and of which he was so proud, he might have kept the estate with which he was forced to part.
We found here in Newstead Abbey a most interesting and interested housekeeper who showed us through. She was as much enamoured of Lord Byron as were the ladies in his own time. She kept repeating to us, as she took us through the rooms in which he had lived, and exhibiting some relics of the poet:
” Pore thing! Pore fellow! I think that he might have been better, and quite different perhaps, if some one had only loved him.”
To be sure, his mother was not exactly the kind of a woman calculated to train in the right way the sort of nature which Lord Byron possessed, but the sentimental house-keeper’s admiration was not shared by Polly.
The old Chapel House, wherein Lord Byron kept his dogs, and which was in a most ruined condition during his lifetime, has been restored by the present owners. The little dining-room, where he and his boon companions sat often and long, is exactly as he left it; so is his bedchamber, and the room (said to be haunted) where slept his page. The cloisters, the almonry, and the stone staircases appear as though left by the abbots but yesterday. The water trickles from a quaint old fountain, with weird beasts carved upon it, in the close, and the furnishing and fitting of the house is in every respect appropriate for the severe style of architecture. The lake, when we saw it, was being drained and cleaned. At the time when Byron nearly drowned in it, he was saved from death by his faithful Newfoundland dog, Boatswain, and the tomb of this devoted friend is in the garden within sight of the windows of the great drawing-room. The painting of the first Lord Byron, to whom the king gave this estate, hangs here on the wall, together with the well-known painting of the poet.
The little housekeeper lamented sorely that Byron had not known of the presence of coal at Newstead. Her affection for the dead poet was touching.
” He would have saved all this if he’d only had that money,” she told us. She always loved his poetry, she said, and admired his personality when she was a young girl, and the privilege of now living in his former home was a romantic joy to her. It was a novel pleasure to meet an English housekeeper who permitted her mind to entertain other ideas than those connected with the mere duties of her position. Only the fear of losing another train forced us away from this entertaining little guide.
Newstead Abbey has harboured other distinguished guests since Byron left it. Livingstone, the explorer, often lived here for months at a time with Mr. Webb, who was his friend, and here he wrote much of his great work. There are several interesting relics of the discoverer in the same gallery where is preserved the uniform worn by Byron during his last days in Greece.
” Shall we ever get to Boston?” asked the Matron, falling panting into the train for Mansfield. Polly’s entertaining quotations from The Real Lord Byron had so absorbed our attention that we had deliberately walked out of Newstead Abbey gates into the wrong station, and were only saved by an accident from sitting there all day. Both the Great Northern and the Midland Railroad have stations at Newstead, and both lines run very near the park gates. This we had not noticed when we arrived, and on our departure we went carelessly into the first station we saw. Luckily our sixpence back to Mansfield had not been paid, and when, at ten minutes of train-time, no booking-agent appeared, Polly started off on an exploring expedition. Presently we saw her at the extreme end of the platform, talking to a porter, and making wild gestures to us, then quickly starting off to run down the road. We followed her blindly, we invariably did, and reached the Midland Station just in time to tumble into a carriage.
” So glad you got here,” gasped Polly. ” I ran ahead, because I knew the obliging train-guard would wait for you if I asked him.”
In the Mansfield station, where passengers change cars and lose trains and wait hours, there is no refreshment-room. By asking many questions, and asking them of many people, we learned that the town proper, and food, lay within five minutes’ walk of the station.
” It is lucky for us that we have not, as usual, two miles to tramp before we come to the market-place,” was the Invalid’s comment, as we started down the steep hill beside the station and entered on a broad space filled with booths. It was market-day, but, as no signs of “Luncheon served ” appeared in any window of the market-place, we turned hurriedly down a narrow street, where Polly pointed with glee to the sign, ” Oriental Café.”
These establishments, not as Eastern as the name promises, are to be found in all provincial towns, and they are an oasis in the desert to the hungry English tourist. We got an excellent cup of real coffee, together with a light, substantial luncheon, for a very reasonable sum.