The White Mountains Ahead – New England Travel

I WAS awakened the next morning by a song. It was a pretty song, although not well sung, for the Illustrator was making the music.

” Down the mountainside we will smoothly glide,” he warbled, ending up in a series of fearful yodelings spelled something like: ” Ede-la-yla-y-la-y-ooh.”

I did not remonstrate with him, for this burst into a Tyrolean air at such an hour was an indication of the complete immersion of the artist into the motorist. He no longer awoke for. the delightful purpose of turning over and going to sleep again. He now opened his eyes with the immediate intention of bathing, breakfasting, and getting into the car as soon as possible.

He was a man with a Purpose. I am not sure that it makes much difference what our purpose is in life so long as we have one. This morning it was the attainment of the White Mountains.

A definite point ahead is a stimulus to the mind. One must have a goal in motoring, as in life. The achievement of it earns a night’s repose, and the failure to realise it but increases our endeavour. It is the best inducement I can offer a traveller of the road for a mapped-out itinerary.

The White Mountains was some goal. The prospect rendered our previous meanderings among the Berkshire and the Green Mountains, along rivers, around lakes, and across valleys, weak and inconsequential.

Soon we were eating griddle-cakes lavishly garnished with Vermont maple syrup (very pale) and I was asking the white waitress why they never have coloured girls in the dining-room when they have coloured boys in the office. She looked at me in frozen horror and withdrew. And, al-though I lingered to assure her that I didn’t want coloured girls—I simply wanted to get her opinion on the subject—she did not return. So, no doubt the coloured boy, who, as omnibus, gathered up the dishes, gathered up my quarter intended for her.

But why is it that we never see negro waitresses when in almost all of the large hotels in New England we find negro boys double shuffling about with bags and stationery and ice water. The darky never ceases to be a joy. His presence in America atones, in a measure, I watched one as he put on the luggage. He described so many curves during the operation that an Efficiency Expert would have gone mad over the lost motions. He skated, he slid, he swooped bags about, and, as he packed each article around me, he so alluringly bowed that I felt every coin in my purse trying to get out and reach his palm.

Tips are said to be an evil of our times, but the man who has to give them makes the statement—that vast number which receives the largesse has probably found it no crime. There is much to be said on both sides, but I cannot think that it is a system which should be, indeed can be abolished, for the giving of a tip is the recognition of personal service. It is the only way one can thank a man who is not, in his present capacity at least, in the class of the one who dispenses the coin. And there is another reason—to argue for the other side—that was most beautifully exemplified in a story which came to me recently.

A friend of mine took into service as indoor man one who had attracted her attention as a most perfect waiter in a hotel. She paid him the same amount that he averaged as a waiter, and she found him as satisfactory in her own home as she had expected him to be. Yet at the end of a few months he begged to return to his more exhausting duties in a great caravansary.

“I don’t know as I can make it plain to you, madam,” he said to her earnestly. ” But it’s the tips that I look forward to; not that they are any more on the whole than I get here, but there’s always an uncertainty about it. I keep wondering if I am to get a good deal, or very little, and it makes the day interesting. It’s a kind of an adventure, in a manner of speaking, madam.”

Ah, the Great Adventure! not so much of a one but his, and life would be flat, indeed, if we were not playing a game of some sort. Remember this: each time that we dig into our pockets we add to the romance of greyer souls than ours.

While W admits this he regrets that it requires larger and still larger sums yearly to colour these grey souls. He is glad that a quarter still lends a rosy tinge, but deplores that a ten-cent-piece adds so little nowadays to the glow of the spirit, and he broods sadly over the good old days when a five-cent-piece would have metamorphosed the dullest of shades into a crimson rambler.

This extravagance is the fault of the giver fearing to be niggardly we grow lavish. And if there are any of us left who tip in accordance to the service bestowed, he is still contributing to the pleasure of the dependent, for I infer from the story of the waiter that it is the element of chance which composes largely the joy of the adventure.

Satisfied, satiated, the domestic scraped up the steps backwards as we left the hotel, and a traffic policeman bade us keep straight on for the White Mountains. We had no thought of making any detour about the charming town, al-though we should have done so. We have learned little of Burlington beyond the fact that the first town meeting was held in 1787, and a gentleman named Orange Smith ran the first store—presumably a fruit store.

We have put down Burlington for a future attack. In pursuance of some such idea, I have in a drawer of my desk a mass of clippings, programmes, and various souvenirs that I plan pasting into a scrapbook—when I break my legs. I did not know why I am counting on this en-forced idleness which will come to me, nor is there any place for the discussion of it here, but it is with some such sop to my conscience that I hasten away from the New England towns which particularly attract us. As surely as I am going to break my legs, I shall return to these places—with a like leisure and a great deal more of enjoyment.

We swept into the East with greater success than another car which stopped firmly on the crossing, in spite of the traffic policeman, who said it couldn’t be done. The husband was driving while his wife, shrouded in a green veil, sat in the back seat. (I know it was his wife because she was in the back seat.) There is a satisfaction in sweeping around another car while they are trying to awaken it to activity again—a satisfaction that is always punished. But one does not reflect upon this as one sweeps.

A block or so on we made another quick curving out to avoid a sawhorse, which fell from the rear of a cart. The carter was unconscious of his loss, nor did he awake to it when I oracularly cried as we passed him : ” You have lost your horse.” He had not lost his horse, as he was driving it, and he looked at me in disgust, continuing on without recovering the sawbuck. We never saw the carter again, so there is no end to this slice of life, but—alas—we again saw the wife with the green veil. A few miles out of the town an old friend of ours passed away, bursting with a loud report. It was not an unexpected death. He had accompanied us for over a year, developing protuberances which were unlovely as time went on, and, of late, a flapping elephant ear. It hit the ground with a resounding whack more often in a minute than one would have thought possible for a car of moderate pace.

As there were children about, I hoped to give the old casing to them, and the Illustrator hoped that he would be generous enough to do it also, for he is fond of children. You could see him struggling with his love for children and his love for old things, but he strapped it on the car in the end because ” I have had it for so long.” It is a family trait. He has a great-aunt who boasts that she has never thrown away a cork.

He placated the children by sending in some magazines to their mother. Never leave a magazine in a hotel for an indifferent chambermaid to pitch into the waste-basket. I believe, with chocolate in one hand, magazines in the other, and six courteous phrases of the language of the country in your mouth, you can make friends in any clime.

The wife with the green veil sailed past us as I was looking for an inner-tube in the hatbox. She did not stop nor glance our way, but a young man, driving a gay little nag, drew up alongside, and we fell into violent conversation. I found him a most pleasant young man in the beginning.

It was evident from his first speech that he kept abreast of the times.

It was not until later that I discovered he not only kept abreast, but outstripped them. At least he outstripped me, and now that I look back upon our swift meeting and parting I realise that the young man and I were extraordinarily alike. So alike that we could never have hit it off very well anyway, so perhaps it was best that we separated when we did.

There was nothing I had ever thought of that the young man had not thought of before me. We were applying the engine to the tube for the pumping up of the tire, and I told him that I had declared seven years ago that this should be invented. He said he had told his wife the same thing eight years back.

I then remarked that nine years ago I had insisted to the Illustrator that there ought to be some way to generate sufficient electricity to start a car. He remembered that he had spoken of the same thing to his cousin ten years ago—he wasn’t married then.

In a great rush so as to get ahead of me he now quickly claimed he was the first human being to think of using the batteries for lighting the car, and the invention of the Klaxon was all in his head. I swallowed the statement, for it was beneath my dignity to question his being the very first to ponder on these things when I was older than he and may have worked it out in my cradle. But I triumphantly hinted that I was at present working on a device for signalling automobiles behind us as we turned to the right or left. I would not say overmuch, for one should not who has an invention still unperfected.

I shall never forget the way he gathered up the reins just as an actor leaves the stage upon the delivery of an exit speech. ” I got one of them on my car already,” was his parting shot.

W ____ endeavoured to soothe me when he had gone out of my life. ” All that either of you did was to think of the inventions,” he said ; ” why didn’t you work them out? ” Yes, why didn’t we? That young man and I were too much alike,

I turned my attention to the landscape. Who was it said, ” Nature never did desert the heart that loves her “—or words to that effect? I know nothing more remarkable than the way we fly to her when mankind disappoints us. Nothing more remarkable, at least, unless it is the way we fly from her when mankind again beckons his finger toward us.

After all, I wonder how much are green fields and wide vistas food for the soul. We were now in a broad fertile valley with far views of lovely hills. Sleek cattle were in the pastures, but the farmhouses were poor and mean. Even those with the large milk cans before the door had broken window-panes stuffed with sacking from the ever-useful Minnesota flour mills. We could look into the uncurtained rooms of the upper stories and see ill-made, sagging beds.

The views from the doorsteps were inspiring, but I wonder if a View carries much solace when the comforts of the creature are lacking. Can the soul feed the body? It is one of my eternal questions—I cannot answer it. But I have an uncomfortable suspicion that a decently-nourished body will go as far as a mountain view toward elevating the spirit.

The valley that I am now iconoclastically traversing is that of the Winooski River. The name fills me with regret, regret that we did not cling to this Indian appellation for the vegetable we designate as onion when we took upon our-selves the Indian country. Much of the prejudice against the homely bulb might never have developed had we termed it by this fanciful word.

There is an elegance about it that would nullify criticism. We would feel more lenient toward our neighbour in the next apartment when, as we entered our hallway, it was made certain that they were having winooskis for dinner. The young man could take longer chances with his dinner before going to call upon his inamorata, although he takes fairly long chances now. ” Excuse me, I have been eating winooskis,” would win an instant pardon. Even the young woman who, in terror of ” losing him,” circumscribes her diet closely would be forgiven for anything as charming in sound as a ” winooski breath.”

I spoke of these things to W ___, but he was indifferent to my suggestion that we have the name changed by Act of Congress. This was the result of selfishness. In the adoption of another name it would do away forever with his own Bill, which he has been for years eager to bring to Washington. One of the Illustrator’s noblest aspirations is to have one night of each week devoted to the eating of onions. Actors, artists, mere business men—with money—can all breathe upon one another without apology. The whole world would be full of the odour of onions and no one would know it. It is, upon reflection, rather a gigantic scheme and I admire him for it. So much so that I have not blackened his dream by asking what he will do with those who cannot partake of the delicacy.

But I can go no further with this thought.

He has called in from his workroom to ask what I am writing of now, and in a terrible panic I have called back Jonesville. Jonesville is part of our motoring day, and keeps him placidly at his drawing-board, whereas ” Onions ” or even ” Winooskis ” will bring him raging in to say I am ruining the sale of the book—and who will see his illustrations?

Jonesville is in no way worthy of commemoration beyond the general store which sells clothes-dryers. As this was washday we discovered a curious type of clothes-dryers all along the route. It is a most excellent arrangement of wooden strips, which let down and unfold and pull out, until it holds a washing heavy enough for the most representative of households. Yielding to my earnest plea we slacked our pace before one farmhouse long enough to enable me to ask of the apparatus and to suggest delicately that I would like to know where it came from.

I had visaged it arriving parcel post from a great mail-order house. I could imagine the triumph of the first resident of the valley who had chosen this particular kind of dryer from out the printed catalogue, and had set the fashion for the country-side. I spent a year once in a lonely orange grove, and I remember the blissful evenings hovering over the catalogue of these mysterious shops where the purchaser is never seen, and the clerks must be the greatest readers in the world of character from handwriting.

So it was a surprise to me to learn that I could buy them at Jonesville and at Jonesville only. True enough, when we passed through the ham-let, there was one alluringly displayed on the sidewalk. I stared at it longingly. I stuttered something to W ___ about its being no worse in appearance if tied to the car than an old tire. He grew very excited. He said it would be impossible to go to all those fashionable hotels in the White Mountains with a clothes dryer strapped to the tire case. ” I am not up to it—I am simply not up to it ! ” he cried despairingly. I gazed at him with pity. He saw that I knew he was a coward, and he grew cunning. He slowed down. ” But get it if you want to. It’s no doubt in-vented by that friend you made when our tire burst.”

” March on,” I said sternly.

There was an inclination on the part of the citizens at Waterbury to keep us there for lunch-eon when we stopped to ask the distance to Montpelier. We did not ask a ” grown-up ” at first how to get to Montpelier, for the reason that we did not know how to pronounce it. We knew the Montpellier of France well, but we hesitated to plunge into a French accent, yet there were so many other ways of pronouncing it, if it was Anglicised, that we would be sure to be wrong.

We did not deplore this accommodating of a French word to an English-speaking people. We Americans, or such of us as are familiar with another tongue, find it amusing when a foreign word, employed in social usage, is pronounced after our own fashion. Yet there is no reason why we should not cling to our English rules. The French never embody an English word into their language without sounding it after their own laws of pronunciation. In this way they keep their language pure and their accent inviolate. Let us do away with ” restaurang,” ” valeys,” and, as in this case, ” Mong-pel-ya.”

We picked upon a boy, in the far distance, before reaching Waterbury, with the idea of pointing out the word on the map and repeating his pronunciation after him. He was a pleasant but stupid little boy, who excused his inability to read by saying he was in the ” C ” grade, and when we enticingly asked him to name some towns roundabout, he could think only of Jonesville.

We spied another boy a little further on, but he was not in a mood for answering questions. He was standing on the apex of a woodpile pitching sticks of wood into a shed, and he was very much annoyed at being obliged to do this. One cannot blame him, as it was the noon recess and the workman’s hour of delightful ease. He was red in the face, and muttering horrible things about his cruel mother, and, just as we passed, he inadvertently hurled a neat little log through the kitchen window. Above the crash of glass we could hear the expostulations of the tyrant who had set him to work, but a curve in the road blotted out the scene—which probably became, very shortly, more painful than it had been. That is one of the drawbacks of motoring: we rarely see both cause and effect.

It was a garage-keeper in Waterbury who finally set us straight, by informing us that the hotel of his town was better than the one at ” Mount-Peel-yer.” Garages are dispensers of information to motorists, just as drug stores are to pedestrians. They are generally truthful, al-though it is hard for them to admit that the roads are not excellent going in and out of their town, and that their hotel is not the best in the state. With a rock-bound civic pride they will not even give you the distance to the next town, if the traveller asks at meal time. Nothing extorts the truth from them but our intimation that we do not lunch.

We acquired Montpelier before the dining room doors had closed, although they were closeing as we slipped through them, and banged so vindictively after us that we felt like unhappy flies in a spider’s web. A very amiable spider reversed the order of things which generally goes on in a web, overcoming as much as possible the dreariness of the architecture by an array of food which might be put down as agreeable interior decoration.

This building of oversized hotels and opera houses in undersized towns is done, I imagine, to lure the village to growing up to them, unmindful that there is nothing so dwarfing as a standard too high to reach. Since Montpelier is the state capital, the hotel may be full of Solons (as we insist upon calling them in the newspapers) when the legislature is in session. Legislators,, especially when called Solons, are so important in appearance that a very few can fill the largest hotel to repletion.

We walked over to the State House to see the statue of Ethan Allen in the portico. An art editor once told the Illustrator that the sculptor had managed workaday clothes on the figure, and, more than that, he had suggested, by the rugged appearance of Allen’s countenance, that he was probably one of the most profane men of his day.

This last was undoubtedly what held the Illustrator. He has some faults of his own, and while not sure of the statue to keep his memory green, he intends forbidding any possibility of one in his will if those irascibilities peculiar to him were going to be put out in marble, and set up for all the world to stare at. Reflect upon the endurance of a marble fault.

This statue is not the only artistic display in Montpelier. By fishing out the Baedeker I made a discovery all my own. There has been no mention of the Baedeker before, as I have been rather shy about admitting that we needed a German ‘guidebook, compiled by an English-man, to get us over our own country. Indeed we have not needed it, but our motor-car felt so much at ease with the familiar red book in its tonneau that we took it along as a sort of coach dog.

It is not an enthusiastic volume—it dislikes our cab system—but it is honest, and no town is too small for a word as to its merits or demerits. It was in a Baedeker that we learned of the art gallery of Montpelier ” chiefly consisting of paintings (original and copied) by Thomas W. End.” I did not tell this to W—, for I knew it would embitter him to have Thomas W. End go down to posterity when from cover to cover there is no mention of his name, and, unless he can manage a beautiful untruthful statue for himself, there probably never will be.

But I thought long after we motored on of the Thomas W. Ends in life, and of the quality they have of getting into print. In the home towns of all of us there is ever an individual who appears in the papers oftener than we do, and, since we are not that man, he seems to be in no way worthy of such attention. In this case, as long as Baedekers are bought by tourists visiting America Thomas W. End will be es-teemed as a painter, and, since he furnishes a complete art gallery, as a prolific one. They may even buy his pictures, and, on the boat home, ask one another if they were so fortunate as to secure a Thomas W. End. There will be no finality to the man at all—except his name.

But, seriously, or as seriously as one can be who is going blithely over a good road toward the White Mountains, how little stress can be or should be laid on the artistic endeavours of our young country when so much can be said of its natural beauty. How little the height of the dome of a court house matters when that court house is in a long street shaded by elms, in the possession of a loveliness that no other land can claim. For of this I was sure at the end of eight days of motoring in ” my ain countree.”

Having arrived at this satisfactory conclusion we sank into the mud beyond Danville and gave every evidence of remaining there indefinitely. We need not have gone this way; it was not the right way, but was the result of the Smart Alec back in Burlington who knew all about routes, and whom I had suspected from his verbosity of never having been in a motor-car. We were warned that the road was in process of new construction, but the Smart Alec had told us to pay no attention to these signs, so we had bumped along over broken stones with workmen stepping aside for us until the rich soil of Vermont took us unto itself.

The roadmakers behaved very well about it and our chauffeur worked like a fiend tearing down some farmer’s carefully-built wooden fence, and making a little plank path for our car to walk. It was one, two, three, let in the clutch, and all push, and just as we were getting out the wife with the green veil passed us, triumphantly making the turn we should have taken. We had seen her at Montpelier, as she and her husband were going in to view the Thomas W. Ends, and the hope that we had met them for the last time was engendered not only from an antipathy to green veils, but to the conclusion that the green veil brought us misfortune.

After we were out of the worst of the mire we stayed so long offering sustenance to the roadmakers from a flask that we sank into the soft road again and were pushed out of it once more by our new friends. I wished to repeat the convivial offer, but as they themselves unselfishly reminded me, any further lingering would bring the same results, we finally wavered up the hill, crossed a pasture, and worked back to the main road.

Still we didn’t regret meeting them. They were fine, capable young fellows, much more worthy of a place in Baedeker than the height of a court house dome, and to be classed with the landscape as part of the charms of American touring.

The valley had been narrowing since Montpelier, and by the time we reached St. Johns-bury we were quivering with the certainty that the White Mountains would be ours—and before dusk. It was not our intention to pass the night in the heart of them, rather in the foothills, giving up the next day to peaks and fastnesses.

I should have enjoyed stopping over in St. Johnsbury. The hotel was new and shining, but it was not yet dusk and habit was too strong for us. Besides, the Illustrator was impressed by the placarded appeal Bethlehem was making to us from every fence rail. It was brief and unvarying, and to my mind not stimulating, for its continual boast was: ” Bethlehem—Thirty Hotels.”

I pointed out to him that we could spend the night in but one of the hotels anyway, but he had visions of driving slowly through the town before we made our choice, with all the porters of all the Thirty running out to meet us, and •twenty-nine of them being disappointed. Hotel porters in America do not run out to wave you into their courtyards as they do in Europe, and he had missed this attention. And he figured if we were ever to receive it, it would come to us in Bethlehem.

We strayed into a bakery in St. Johnsbury where coffee was served, and drank the mildly-concocted beverage, while the chauffeur went among the shops to buy a new shirt. I do not know what this boy did with all the shirts he bought, but he had a way of collecting them with the same fervour that other travellers buy souvenir postal cards. It is not a bad idea—this purchasing of raiment en route. For years after-wards each day’s equipping of himself can bring to mind his trip.

” I bought this shirt in St. Johnsbury,” he can say to his wife—for all chauffeurs marry young. Then he will sigh, and she will be delicately piqued into loving him the more as she wonders what dear association he holds for the purple and green stripes.

There was love in the bakery. The young lady who was doing up the evening’s bread for various customers never turned her face from the street. She found bread, paper, and twine with the sureness of the blind, and when criticised rather irritably by one dyspectic old gentleman, admitted brazenly that she was watching for her sweet-heart.

” Didn’t know you had one,” said the dyspeptic, laying down ten cents for his gluten bread.

” Didn’t? ” she answered. ” Look at me.”

We all looked at her. She was plain, yet there was that about her which, we knew, meant sweethearting from the cradle to the grave. I did not begrudge her this quality. It was highly satisfactory to see a woman commanding attention whose hair was not curly and whose wrinkles were rather ensnaring than otherwise. Both W and myself felt more comfortable over our faces which Time had already begun to pat and paw with firm if kindly fingers.

We left the bakery, mentally at least, hand in hand. As we came to a long hill which we must climb, we met a young couple in a roadster who might have been ourselves ten years back—except that a smart bulldog was riding cosily between them. But as we had always wanted a dog, we felt that the picture of this pleasant trio was a mirroring of what we would have liked to have been.

Their car was covered with banners, ” Safety First ” being prominently displayed, and they were living up to this by turning back to St. Johnsbury for the night and leaving the steep hill for broad daylight. Our cars stopped by mutual consent. And quite without preface we talked together for some time. They said they might see us on the morrow, although we would probably outstrip them. As we had outstripped nothing but a steam-roller so far, owing to our predilection to lingering, we assured them of an-other meeting. We parted without any exchange of names and this is the true spirit of motoring, the young couple scampering back over the easiest road, our older selves climbing the long hill, for life has taught us that we must go for-ward.

We were rewarded by an orange sunset from the mountain top, which brought warmth to the chill of our years, and coincident with the dwindling of the day came the lights in the houses along the roadside. We peeked in curiously. Some were at supper, some weaving rugs, a hand was lifted to a sick face, a baby in a mother’s arms—we flashed by them. Ah life! a moving picture that never tires, and grows richer in interest as we grow older.

Before Littleton we came suddenly upon a toll gate. We would have passed it unwittingly had not the pole been swung across the road. A young woman came from out the little lighted house. She said she did not as a rule put down the bar, she trusted to one’s honour, but a car had just passed without so much as a howdy-do. She dwelt a good deal upon this breach of country etiquette, and as she had bounced out in time to get the number she was about to paste it up on the board for all the world to read their shame. She was very proud of this method of degradation.

It was not surprising to me that the occupant of the rear seat had been a lady with a green veil. Apart from the satisfaction at hearing of her dishonesty, I was full of the fear that we might sail past her again, and swift retribution follow in a third accident to us.

Tremulously we approached Littleton, and just as we left Vermont and acquired New Hampshire our headlights picked out a floating green veil. W ___ was very bitter. He wished to get to his ” Thirty Hotels ” before thick night. To do so he must pass her, yet if he did pass her he would probably crack the cylinder and never get anywhere.

I will say this for the lady: she got us out of the difficulty herself, for her car suddenly took a fork to the right, and as our course was over the other road we left her far behind without arousing her malevolence.

Even so, we had some trouble reaching the ” Thirty Hotels.” We had made a wrong turn and found it strangely difficult to get the proper direction for our destination. Our young driver obligingly descended to make inquiries at door-steps, but the result was a curious confusion both on his part and that of the householders. At one long parley W climbed out after him

—I heard murmurs, ejaculations, laughter. The Illustrator returned to the car in advance:

” Did you know this boy’s last place was with a Jewish family?” he asked me.

” Well, what’s that got to do with it?” ” He’s been asking for Bethelheim.”