Last Days in London

IT had been my intention to go again to the little inn and see my friends there, when I returned to London from Paris, but after thinking the matter over I decided that it would be better, perhaps, for me to place myself in a position where I could be more independent. I would have but a short time in London at best, before sailing for New York, and I wanted to use every day to advantage. So I rented a lodging not far from my first London home, where I was free to go and come as I liked, and where I could visit my friends when I had a few minutes to spare.

There was a great deal that I wanted to do in London. In the first place, I wanted to earn some money, so that I could return to America in better style than I had left. After my varied experiences on the Continent, I was sure that I had enough material to furnish some very acceptable articles to my friends among the editors, and as soon as I was settled I went round to call upon those with whom I had dealt during my first stay in the city. They received me with great cordiality, and I had no difficulty in disposing of what I wrote. The prices I received were better, too, than I had previously had, so I saw that it would be possible for me to save up quite a sum of money before starting home. This was a great satisfaction to me ; I had long since given up hoping that I would hear from the American editors while I was in Europe, and if I had failed to sell my work in London I would have been in great difficulty. It would have been very hard to find a chance to work my passage to New York in the month of December, and I would have had to remain in England indefinitely.

Prosperity Comes

After having been so short of cash for so many months, it was good to feel that I had enough to see me safely home, and on this account, as much as any other, the last days I spent in London were among the most pleasant of my trip. I was featured in the papers as the ” American boy traveler,” and some article of mine appeared every day or two. When I had exhausted the accounts of my Continental experiences, the editors were glad to have me write about other things. I gave them my impressions of British boys, and stated frankly that I thought them a rather slow lot. I said, too, that they were content to remain in school and college too long, when they really ought to be out in the world, earning their livelihood. And then the English mothers sent in letters of remonstrance, wanting to know about this youthful Yankee who dared to advise them about the education of their children. The editor considered this good advertising, and asked me to write also my opinion of English girls, and of other British institutions. I’m sure the articles weren’t printed on account of their value as criticisms, but because they were written by a boy of sixteen.

So I was able to ” get along ” very well in London Town. Every day I added something to my savings, and this fact, with the prospect of being able to spend Christmas at home, after a successful trip, made the future bright. At this time I wondered how it was that I ever felt sorry that I had undertaken the trip, and I congratulated myself many times that I had been led to persevere after I started from Chicago.

There were various notable persons whom I wanted to interview before I left London for home, and among others I was very anxious to call upon the Lord Mayor, at the Mansion House. I had always heard that the Lord Mayor of London was a very distinguished person, and I had seen pictures of the present one in his robes of office. The Mansion House, too, with its great pillars and imposing appearance, had aroused my curiosity, so that I decided to call and ask for an audience with his Lordship.

A Visit to the Lord Mayor

I saw people stare when I opened the door at the Mansion House and walk in, but I wasn’t deterred by that. Nor was I discouraged when I encountered a tremendous footman in powdered wig, who told me that the Lord Mayor was very busy at that hour of the day. I asked him to kindly direct me to his Lord-ship’s office, and when I arrived at the door I walked right in. I was met by Sir William Soulsby, the Secretary to the Lord Mayor, and when I explained to him that I was the ” American boy traveler,” and that I wanted to see his Lordship, Sir William laughed, and said that he would try to arrange it for me. He went to consult the Lord Mayor, and when he returned I was ushered at once into the presence of one of the most kindly men I had ever met. I was welcomed as if his Lordship were really glad to see me, and though he said he had but a few moments, I was asked to sit down and was encouraged to tell about myself.

I was rather surprised to find the Lord Mayor attired in a long, velvet gown, which was trimmed with gold and other ornaments, and about his neck was a remarkable collar of gold. When he noticed my interest in this regalia, his Lordship explained that he was about to go into the Mansion House Court, over which he presides on three days of the week, and that this was the official costume for him to wear as judge.

After a short conversation, a man was sent for to show me over the Mansion House. I was greatly interested in the beautiful silver dining-room service, and in the many historical relics contained in the building. I visited all of the rooms on the first floor, including the dining-room and the butler’s pantry, and then I was taken down to the great kitchen, where I saw them roasting meat on a revolving spit before an open fire, just as in the olden time. After being introduced to the cook, I followed my guide upstairs, where we were met by a messenger from the Lord Mayor, who stated that his Lordship desired me to sit beside him on the bench in the courtroom. This was a great surprise; I hadn’t expected such an honor, but I lost no time in accepting the invitation.

A Session of Court

When I was ushered into the little gallery where his Lordship was seated, and took my place beside him, I saw that I was the cynosure of every eye. Doubtless the lawyers and reporters and prisoners in the courtroom below were wondering who that small boy could be. The Lord Mayor was very friendly. ” I thought we would have an excellent chance to visit up here,” he said, ” and I also thought that you might be interested in seeing how an English court is conducted.” I was indeed interested. Some of the cases were very peculiar, and it was an unusual experience for me to be in a courtroom. I liked to watch the barristers in their white wigs, and to listen to their arguments.

I think I was the proudest boy in London that day, and when I left the Mansion House, I wrote an account of my experience for the Westminster Gazette. Englishmen thought it very unusual for a person of my age to be seated beside the Lord Mayor in court, and one of the newspapers, in a sarcastic mood, remarked that I would probably be seen beside the Queen if she were present at the opening of Parliament !

Having seen the Lord Mayor, I was well satisfied with the achievements of my trip, and I hurried my preparations for leaving England. Before the arrival of my sailing day, however, I had a memorable experience with a typical London fog. I had read a great deal about those ” pea-soup ” canopies which are wont to envelop the metropolis, but I didn’t see one for myself until the last week of my stay. Then there were several days when it was impossible to see many feet ahead, and when the street lamps were lighted all day long. The lamps, however, didn’t make much impression upon the yellow haze, and because of the total darkness on one day the trams and ‘buses were unable to run at all. The railways, instead of using lanterns for signals, depended upon torpedoes instead, and even then were unable to run many of their trains. I got lost as soon as I went into the street, and I would have wandered about indefinitely if a kind police-man hadn’t set me right. I rather enjoyed the experience, as a novelty, but I was glad that the fogs are confined to London, and are not native to American atmospheres.

During my last days in England I was fortunate in making many influential friends. Some of them entertained me in their homes, and through this courtesy I was enabled to enjoy a side of English life which I had not experienced during my first visit. I had such a good time, altogether, that I was really sorry, in a way, that it was necessary for me to go home so soon. But, as one of the editors said, it was better for me to leave while I was a success than to wait until every one had tired of reading about me ; then I could return at some future time and be remembered as a person who had attracted attention.

Home as A First-Class Passenger

It was a delightful thing to be able to purchase a first-class passage home, on a first-class steamer. In the first place, it would show the American editors and my friends that I had been able to get along without any help from them, and without any money from the United States. Traveling as a first-class passenger would show more than anything else that my trip had been a success, for I was returning home in much better style than I had gone over.

I laid in a stock of new clothing, because things were cheap in London, and I wanted to appear well from the moment I stepped off the steamer in New York. I also bought a trunk, because I had accumulated a good many curios and other articles during my stay abroad. I was glad to abandon the knapsack, as I had been glad to abandon my bandbox when I left London for the Continent, and the necessity of the trunk was another evidence of the success of my trip.

I made a farewell tour of London on the day before I departed for South Hampton, to take the steamer. There were many places in the great city of which I had grown very fond, and I couldn’t leave without seeing them once again. I spent an hour in Westminster Abbey, and though I had no desire to live in London, I couldn’t help wishing that the Abbey, with its associations, could be transplanted to America. Then I visited the Tower again, and when I walked along the wharves I thought of the day of my arrival and my feelings then. Things were different with me now. Looking back, I shuddered at the uncertainty of my position when I stood alone on the wharf with my bandbox, and with less than twenty-five dollars in my pocket. I decided that I wouldn’t like to do it over again, and I wondered how it was that I was so confident, when I had no idea what was before me.

A special train, bearing the passengers for New York, left Waterloo Station, London, on the morning of the sailing-day, and after a pleasant ride through the hills and dales of the south of England, drew up alongside the great steamer at her dock. The smoke was pouring from her funnels, and when I saw the busy scene about me I was all excitement to be off for America. I had a feeling of sadness on leaving London, but now that the ship was alongside which was to take me home, I was all eagerness to go aboard. And once aboard, I could hardly wait until starting time. When we finally steamed out of the Solent, I remained on deck to watch the receding shores of ” Merrie England.” There were tears in my eyes which were hard to explain. Perhaps they came at the thought of the pleasant experiences I was leaving behind me, but I think it more likely that they came at the thought of the home-coming which was before me.