WE left Rutland late the next morning, for the reason that the chauffeur was not to be found. As a rule the earliest bird at the garage, he was not there when W _____ went over finally to see what was wrong.
Nor could he be located by telephoning to the various small hotels patronised by chauffeurs. I was sitting in the lobby, surrounded by bags, when W returned expressing the conviction
loudly that the boy had been ” done away with.” It was very absurd for one who had been born in New York to go to Rutland, Vermont, for the drinking of knock-out drops, and I said this by way of calming the Illustrator.
While it did not calm him it did inspire him, and he went on to develop a theory that this disappearance of our young man was probably the result of an extraordinary justice. Think, he continued, of all those from the country who have, from time to time in New York City, drunk of the cup of oblivion in a rear saloon, and been relieved of their small roll.
For all we know there is now a secret society among the Green Mountain Boyswho have had small opportunity to right wrongs of latea society whose members carry small vials containing sleeping potions. And these they pour into the coffee cups of visiting chauffeurs as they sit on the stools of the Owl Lunch Wagon.
The Illustrator had a little difficulty in continuing with his theory after this, as he did not know how the Green Mountain Boys could get their victims out of the Owl Lunch Wagon. There is no more respectable place in the world than a night lunch, especially if it is called the White House. Besides, the genial proprietor, making egg and onion sandwiches in a very compressed space, could not allow them to sleep away on the few stools, as it would spoil trade. Yet, on the other hand, it would attract attention if the city men were dragged out and robbed under the wheels of the wagon.
We grew very uneasy over the situation, bell-boys were beginning to gather about us, and I don’t know how we would have worked the thing out had not, at that moment, a perfectly new White House passed along the street with a number of children sitting up in front, going into the country for a Sunday’s airing.
In swift sweeps of the mind we then decided that the Green Mountain Boys controlled one or more of these wagons, and that it was their custom to daze the New York chauffeurs as they drank their coffee, then hastily drive out of the town, deposit them on the ground (generously leaving a nickel in their pockets for carfare), and return to the village for more strangers to the great country.
” And it is particularly fitting that Rutland should be the first to establish this sure justice,” completed W , ” as the Howe scales are made here. Did you ever see a statue of Justice without a pair of Howe scales in her hand? ”
This appeared to settle the matter, and we were so enjoying our extravaganza that it was a little disappointing to us when our car bounced before the door, and the driver, knocked out by nothing but the sleep of beautiful youth, began to cry hurried apologies.
It is but fair to Rutland County that it has overcome its ominous name by good roads, in spite of the fact that this part of the state has been largely quarried. I recall the fearful condition of the roads in Italy near the great Carrara marbles, cut by heavy hauling and liberally be-sprinkled with samples of their specialite du pays. Possibly the American is too thrifty to scatter about pieces of marble large enough for grave stones of-at leastinconspicuous mortals. Since the quarries of Vermont are marble, I asked a clerk in a beautiful inn at Brandon why it was called the Granite State, and he replied that he did not know it was.
This so confused me, fearing I was wrong, that I backed away and confined my observations to visual, not mental, efforts. There was a series of excellent prints on the wall, pictures of gentle-men with side whiskers and silk hats racing one another in quaint sleighs, while Central Park was fully expressed by ladies in hoop-skirts whizzing along in cabriolets.
I looked at them rather wistfully, for there was a great deal of action in the pictures, whereas Brandon, although decorously beautiful, was choked into insensibility by the Sabbath calm.
The man who must spend a Sunday in New England is fortunate to be motoring in and out of the villages. In the country there is the continual assurance that life is going on, whereas there is no such optimistic note in a village. And, mark you, it is the houses that are to blame. Not even people are as deeply affected by a strict closing as are habitations. They are in natural opposition to nature anyway, for they have no individual power to expand into more rooms, or a new porch even, while a mustard seed goes on expressing itself as extensively as it wishesand with no regard for Sundays.
I admit that the residents of houses are frequently affected by the stiff manner their enveloping walls acquire on Sunday. But to justify my contention I beg the automobilist to watch the houses of the small town on Sunday, and on Monday. Then, even if it be wash-day, he will observe a certain winking joyousness about the windows which was not manifest twenty-four hours before.
Such inhabitants as we met upon the street were all going to or from church, glad to be out of their stiff homes with such narrow views. Even through the country they were walking along the paths, and, apart from the ethical ad-vantage of church-going, I was impressed anew with the great social opportunity that worship offers to the isolated. Men in this district once carried their guns on their shoulders when they escorted their females to and from the service. And I wonder if it was not the pleasant mixing of humanity, as well as the God-fearing impulse, which brought them to court an Indian attack by their weekly assembling.
To the traveller of the road a church generally stands as a landmark, past which you go or don’t go. In Brandon we were to go past it, and would have done so without difficulty but we were detained by the falling of a trolley wire upon the top of our car. It was the only live thing in Brandon, yet had we not been travelling with the top up we might have been less alive now than we were then.
The top subject is not extraneous matter. It is, strangely enough, considering its position on the car, the base of many an unsuccessful motoring day. I like the top lifted and W does not. He says one cannot ” see up,” that it is not going to rain, but if it does the canopy can be raised in less than a minute.
This is not the truth and he knows it. It takes longer than a minute; indeed, in our particular internecine strife it covers an indefinite period. If, by chance, we should start off on a cloudy day with W ____ as conqueror (that is, with the canopy folded up) and the rain, in spite of him, should begin to fall, he does not see it or feel it.
It does not seem to rain on the front seat and he is surprised when I call attention to the fact that I am getting wet. He is very cheerful over my damp condition. He says he thinks the storm is passing, anyway that we are passing, and will soon be ” out of it.” He says, too, that the wind will dry me off in no time.
As we go on and the downpour continues, he sometimes shakes the raindrops off his lashes surreptitiously, and asks me if I want the top up. And when I answer, frozenly, that I do, he wonders if I would mind taking from the receptacle formed by the folds of canvas the laundry bag, his golf shoes, a bottle of whiskey, one of hair tonic, and some old shirts to be used for waste while he and the chauffeur make ready to lift the thing.
This frequently weakens me in my resolve, but if I hold out and the top is put up, as sure as my cause is just and life is an enigma, the sun will come out, and the scenery be limited to mountain peaks overhanging the road. W ____ will then sigh deeply. ” It must be very pretty along here,” he says.
However, you have all had that experience and wonderfully enough gone on speaking to each other, so I need spend no more time on the subject, and did not in this present instance in Brandon, beyond asking the Illustrator three times if he was not glad the top was up, and our lives saved.
On we went, wireless, stopping as little as possible, yet continually, like an accommodation train that has acquired the habit. Beyond Pitts-ford was a roadside monument to Caleb Hough-ton, who was killed by the Indiansnot at this point, but half a mile away, for the monument served the double purpose of commemorating his death and the site of Fort Vengeance.
Fort Vengeance! Not a lovely name for the conciliation of two races, and in this land now oozing peace and plenty a name seemingly remote. In spite of historical records and such wayside tablets, it is difficult to imagine New England as ever the home of the red men. The wide plains of the far West lend themselves more perfectly to savagery. There is a sense of breadth and space in the topography which one can associate with the uncontrolled spirit. And I am inclined to believe that, in time, the Indians of this locality would have become civilised by the limitations of their environment if continual warfare had not exterminated them.
This may be only foolish conjecture. One historian so disagrees with me as to state that ” war is the delight of the savage. It furnishes an excitement necessary to his happiness.” While this is opposed to my theory, I would like to agree with the chronicler. We all have something of the savage within us, and in these distressful times it is a relief to believe that the warfare of to-day may be in the nature of a joy to the man in the trenches.
We were now heading for Lake Champlain.
The tall peaks of the Green Mountains which enclose Rutland still watching over us, while, as we slipped over the curve of the earth, in the far West we espied the faint outlines of the Adirondacks. Between the two ranges lies the long lake, and at its southernmost tip is old Ticonderoga, a fort on the alert for three centuries and now, alas! sleeping lazily through the Sabbath day.
It is dangerous to have this generally known, for any one of the enemyIndian, French, American, or Briton, to name the besiegers in their turncould seize the fort, single-handed, as it snoozes through a Sunday.
We did not learn this until we had turned south at Sudbury and descended at Hyde Manor for luncheon. It was Mr. Hyde who told us. From father to son for over a century this fine old house has been open to guests. It is far enough from the centre of things now to satisfy a Thoreau or John Burroughs, but once it was the main posting inn on the highway leading up from Albany.
Summer boarders are now entertained theresummer boarders with ” references “the only chilling thought to be associated with a place of so much evident good cheer. By assuming our best manner we remained for an hour or two without creating distrust, and so far as I am concerned I could have put off our trip indefinitely to sit by the side of the present Boniface and learn of Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Skenesborough, and all those acres round about, which had been fought over from the wars of the seventeenth century to the last battle on the lake in 1814.
In the writing-room of the Manor there is a high black marble mantelpiece. We were accustomed to smaller affairs of this Victorian mould in our houses of the Middle West. But this generously proportioned specimen had been made for a Southern plantation in 1860, and the Civil War, enforcing camp-fires for warm hearths, had so curtailed the orders that Vermont house-holders had been able to buyno doubt at a bargainthe extravagances of their enemy.
There was a scrap of a fire in the grate, and comfortable chairs of an earlier period drawn up before the blaze, and there is no more comfort-able way of acquiring knowledge than to sit in one of these chairs and listen to Mr. Hyde as he sits in another. Mr. Hyde’s father was one of those who carried a gun when he attended service on Sunday, and he knew what he was talking about. But I did not always agree with him, although I did not say so, mindful that we had no ” references ” with us and must be circumspect in our behaviour.
Although ” Fort Ti ” was built to resist the French and the Indians, our most thrilling association with it is its surrender by the British to Captain Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold. I did not know until recently that Benedict Arnold accompanied Ethan Allen on this expedition. As far back as Bennington I fear I spoke of Allen sending him flying with the flat of his sword when he presented his commission which gave him the right to take charge of the Green Mountain Boys for this attack upon the British. Bennington would probably say, ” That’s my story and I’ll stick to it,” but I always felt uncertain about the facts, as Arnold was a soldier of fortune, accustomed to swords, and in the end had the temerity to turn traitor. I do not admit that turning traitor is commendable, but I still claim it takes courage, as he courted death and, need-less to add, received it.
According to my latest historian it was left to the subordinate officers of Allen’s regiment as to the disposal of this question of leadership, and, with a good deal of tact for green Mountain Boys, it was decided that they should both be leaders, Arnold acting as assistant to Allen.
This worked fairly well until they neared the fort, when an altercation again arose as to which leader should go first. Once more the subordinates were consulted, and once more it was decided that they should go shoulder to shoulder, not one before the other. This they did, crossing the lake in boats, and leaving Seth Warner with another detachment to bring up the rear.
There was no resistance made when they arrived at the fort, and while I am a good American, I don’t see how there could have been. Allen had two hundred seventy men in all and there were but forty-eight garrisoning a fort largely gone to pieces.
Although I would not say this to Mr. Hyde, I can go further as an iconoclast, and venture that if any one at all cried, ” Surrender in the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress! ” it was as apt to be Benedict Arnold as Ethan Allen. Perhaps, upon the advice of their men, they said it together, or, quite as likely, it was never said at all.
I have noticed (in my limited attendance upon history-making moments) that men are particularly inarticulate under great stress. It is after-wards, in the polishing of the tale, that rounded aphorisms steal in which one cannot decry, for the nobility of the phrase stands very fittingly for the nobility of the deed.
It is an awful thought, however. Did Nelson exhort: ” England expects every man to do his duty.” Did General Stark utter: ” There are the Red Coats, and they are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow.” And did, oh did Admiral Dewey quietly command: ” You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”
I hasten to add that, on second thoughts, Admiral Dewey probably uttered this order. There are too many alive to rise up and confute me. Indeed, there could be no simpler method of expressionnor one more modest. It is not the form in this instance, but our admiration of the man, that has given the words any great significance. Yes, ” You may fire when you are ready, Gridley,” savours of the inarticulate. I trust it will go down in history without further trimmings.
This leaving behind of Seth Warner was no fault of the gallant officer, but it recalls an expression of one of the Revolutionary leaders, which I did not glean from Mr. Hyde, but by predatory raids upon the Public Library. In a later conflict, which ended in victory for the patriots, Seth Warner, in coming up with reinforcements, ” moved so extremely slow that he saved his own men and hurt none of his enemy.” And it passes through my minda mind averse to warfare of any sortthat a little less activity in ” getting there ” might be the solution of most of our contentions in life. A little late with the hot retort, a little late with the ” come-back,” and when we did arrive to find the difficulty adjusted by the dignity of silence-and of absence.
But I am moralising again! I venture into this imaginative realm only to show that one can glean even from chronicles anything he wants to find. And there is humour in all things. I like to think that our ragged soldiers in those days got some fun out of itfun besides the savage happiness of warfare, which remains debatable.
They had fun at Skenesborough. We visited the hamlet mentally with Mr. Hyde before the high black mantelpiece. The patriot, Captain Herrick, with thirty men, acquired this nearby village, taking the Tory, Major Skene, twelve negroes, and thirty dependents. In searching the Major’s house they found something more.
In the cellar was Mrs. Skene, deceased for many years, but unburied. She was the elder Mrs. Skene, and “sojourning in Europe ” was her husband, collecting an annuity which was granted her, so ran the will of a relative, ” as long as she remained above ground.” It is said that Captain Herrick buried her immediately in the garden, thus, like a good patriot, cutting off the enemy’s revenue.
After luncheon I was pulled away from Hyde Manor, feeling the desire to go limp like a bad child clinging to the hand of a parent. On we went up the post road toward Burlington, wonderfully early for us, as I was lured into the car by the promise that we would go out in a small boat on the lake if we arrived before dusk.
The Illustrator was as full of hope of arriving before dusk as though he had ever done it. He said, while he had sworn to travel by no, method of transportation other than a motor, that we could doubtless get a motor-boat. We met a party on the road just beyond the Manor with this usual determination of the automobilist. At least they were sticking to the car, although a pair of horses was drawing it.
We could hear them laugh consciously as we passed, but we did not look their waywe had been in that same predicament ourselves, and we could see, without looking, that gay defiant expression which each was wearing. Why do we take mechanical misdemeanors so much to heart? It isn’t as though a motor had been born and brought up with us. As the wife said of her husband : ” Thank heaven he’s no blood relation.”
Possibly it is not wounded vanity, but a more right-minded sensation in finding ourselves worsted by a few cogs, a blue spark, and an ill-smelling commodity. Even the occupants of the back seat share the shame of the mechanician, and feel enormously tall when other motorists meet them.
I have often wanted to lean out, in passing such unfortunates, and ask them if they were ever pulled by a cow which the owner insisted upon milking en route in the streets of a French village, but W ____ declares that the retailing of the episode would be too magnanimous for any one to comprehend. The incident recurred to us, however, revivified by the presence of many cows in the pastures. The fields were no longer enclosed by stone fences. The roots of trees, resembling lines of unbroken cacti, made the barriers. There were few fences in front of the houses, the green lawns sloping charmingly to the white road. On each porch there were milk pails, huge ones, such as drive through our New York streets.
In truth, they do drive through our streets, for the milk of this district is bought up by a great concern who tempt you with picture displays in the Subway of their own cows and their own pastures. The farmers’ cows seem quite as sleek as the cattle in the advertisements, and as all of the milk undergoes some process of renovating, like a continual spring house cleaning, I suppose it matters very little who owns them.
Before we reached Vergennes the Illustrator made a sketchand swore at the sun. It was a lovely silent old farmhouse, with nobody at home save the cat, looking severely at us through a closed window. There was an old sofa on the porch. There are old sofas on most of the porches, and an odd rocker or two, but I have no recollection now of any one resting’ on them.
I have thought much of the chairs of the rich. It is rather a mania with me. The chairs of those rich who have no social place, chairs all over the house that have never been sat uponnor ever will be sat upon. Gems of chairs, with inviting arms, in a far corner of a drawing-room that no one ever visitshospitable creations unfulfilling their mission. But these unoccupied couches are just as disquieting, for in every house is a woman too busy to drop down and rest for an instant. Surely a woman’s work is never done.
We stopped at Vergennes for post-cards, but found the day bitterly opposed to any purchasing. W , who is a hysterical lover of boats for a man born inland, had hoped to find some prints of the old American fleet of 1812 that had been fitted out here. Vergennes is some distance from Lake Champlain, but Otter Creek, as well as many another inlet, is navigable, and while our men were busy in the shipyards the British were taking apart their ocean-going vessels, carrying them over the rapids of Richelieu, and economically putting them together again for use on the lake.
One may wonder why this ninety miles of glittering water, looking now as though created only for summer visitors, should have been for so long a bone of contention. But before the days of steam and rail it was considered the key between Canada and New York. More than that, it was necessary for the Americans to prove themselves victors on the lake to encourage the uneasy settlers round about into believing that patriotism, like honesty, was the best policy.
It was evident, as we continued on the long white way, that our best policy was a moderate pace. Along the miles of good turnpike were posted signs at regular intervals forbidding us to go faster than six miles an hour, which is but the jog trot of a slow horse. And while we did not heed the mandate entirely, one is always affected by it. The Selectmen who made the lawsand were probably scooting around the country in Fordsare as cruel in giving us good roads and forbidding us to enjoy them as would be a host who prepares a feast for a hungry man and dares him to eat it.
We suffered as did Tantalus most of the day, for everything we wanted as we passed through the villages was staring out at us from show-windows, while the doors remained locked. Even the road-houses were forbidding, one displaying the sinister sign, ” Auto parties kept here,” which too ominously suggested the county jail to en-courage lingering.
Back at Middlebury (it came before Vergennes, proving I am a poor pathfinder), we had taken on gasoline, filling the tank to overflowing in the desire to buy something. I understand that the best day in the shops of any city is Monday, the result, I now deduce, from that enforced inactivity of the purse-strings during the day previous. To get out and BUY somethingthat is the craving of the American.
But nature continued prodigal without price. We now had the Green Mountains to the right of us, while beyond the shimmering water on our left were the well-defined ranges of the Adirondacks. The valley between was green and fertile. We felt that the ground had been worth fighting for, and were selfishly glad that it had all been arranged before we came a-motoring along. Then, too, the sun was still shining and we were not far from Burlington.
” Boat, boat, boat,” the Illustrator cried enticingly whenever I wanted to get out and watch the cowson the other side the root fences. In fact, he said boat once too often, for our present vehicle, resenting his desire to abandon it, saw a nail. in the road, picked it up with great skill, and in a few moments was lolling wickedly at the wayside with a tire downand I was going up to a kitchen door to talk to the children.
There was a choice of kitchen doors, for houses lay on both sides the turnpike, but a white placard was tacked to the porch of one, and, while I could not read it from a distance, I feared it might bear an inhospitable reference to visitors. It might only be ” Cream separator used here ” (which is not conducive to my mind to the buying of milk), yet it might read : ” No conversation on Sunday.”
So I straggled past a porch with a shabby sofa, up the worn path to the kitchen of the placardless house, and I nodded to the children peering through the closed windowalthough the day was mildand I waited.
I knocked twice. The dime in my hand for a glass of milk began to grow smaller, and I was wondering if I could not hurriedly substitute a quarter, so nervous does one become when one feels unwelcome (How generous are we to the indifferent!), before I was heeded.
The door was opened by a tired young mother with the north New England accent, which is very pleasant to the ear. I had a chance of judging, for she talked more than I didand seemed glad to do it. But she would not let me in, for her children had been exposed to infantile paralysisyesthey had it across the street where the placard was. I asked a questionyes, where the milk cans were waiting. Her children had played with their neighbours’ childrenand her baby wasn’t very well. Her voice did not break, but all the wires of her soul were taut.
With an over-dramatic imagination, prompted by a desire to be of service, I admitted the disease in my own familya family particularly free from such ailments. And to encourage her completely I added that they all got well.
She considered me gravely. ” There is a sight of it in this part of the country,” she said. ” There are two little boys near by. They lived too. But they never got over it.”
I suggested that she had everything on her side. I tried to enumerate them, but I could find nothing on her side save country air. It was very lame. I didn’t believe it any more than did she.
The older children came out and I gave them chocolates. They were thin-chested as was the mother. She eyed themand then me, to see how much she could let herself say to a stranger. ” Could it “she ventured” could it come from tuberculosis? ”
” No,” I answered, stoutly concealing my ignorance, ” from a weak condition of the bones.”
Her face cleared for the moment. ” Our bones are strong,” she said.
It was dusk when we reached Burlington! And too late to go out in the boat, but I didn’t care much. It seemed that the joy of going out in the boat, added to this swift flying away from sorrow, was too much for an individual replete with blessings that she did not particularly deserve. I was almost glad that the rooms shown us were not attractive. And I was straightway rewarded for accepting them in the proper spirit, as a very pleasant clerk quitted his desk and came up jangling keys himself to show us others that looked out upon the lake.
This was more after the fashion of foreign inns. Although Burlington was a city and this a commercial as well as a summer hotel, I was glad we stopped at the Van Ness, instead of the newer house across the way, for there is nothing so effective as courtesy.
After supper I sent off some letters from the writing-room. I could look into the lobby and watch W being strongly advised to take certain roads on the morrow. The adviser was a brisk young man who knew so much that, mindful of my own imaginary flights, I held him in poor esteem. And, at that, as it developed the next day, I esteemed him too highly.
A local politician who had successfully over-come the Sunday liquor law came in, dripping cigars. W ______ avoided him, but later I discovered our young chauffeur, with his derby on, smoking a large one (cigar, not derby), while two more protruded from his pocket. I think the general impression was that he owned the car and was taking us on a trip.
The roof garden was but a flight above our bedrooms, and we sat there for a while, watching the lights of the ploughing steamers, which would have filled even the stout heart of General Champlain with fear, could he have awakened from his three centuries of sleep. But all else was so quiet that he probably would have put down this progress as a bad dream and turned and slept again.