“‘Beloved Vagabonds!’” said Colin, as we turned away, lonely, from our windows, with, I hardly know why, a suspicion of tears in our eyes.
Here for a while a shadow seemed to fall over our trip. No doubt it was the shadow of the great town we were approaching. Not that we have anything against Elmira, though possibly its embattled reformatory, frowning from the hillside, contributed its gloomy associations to our spirits. It was against towns in general that our gorge rose. Did our vagabond ethics necessitate our conscientiously tramping every foot of these “gritty paving-stones,” we asked each other, as we entered upon a region of depressing suburbs, and we called a halt on the spot to discuss the point. The discussion was not long, and it was brought to a cheerful, demoralized end by the approach of the trolley, into which, regardless of right or wrong, we climbed with alacrity, not to alight till not only Elmira was left behind, but more weary suburbs, too, on the other side. That night, as old travellers phrase it, we lay at Waverly, on the frontier of Pennsylvania, a sad, dirty little town, grotesquely belying its romantic name, and only surpassed in squalor by the classically named Athens—beware, reader, of American towns named out of classical dictionaries! Here, however, our wanderings in the brick-and-mortar wilderness were to end, for by a long, romantic, old, covered bridge we crossed the Chemung River, and there once more, on the other side, was Nature, lovelier than ever, awaiting us. Not Dante, when he emerged from Hades and again beheld the stars, drew deeper breaths of escape than we, thus escaping from—Athens!
And soon we were to meet the Susquehanna—beautiful, broad-bosomed name, that has always haunted my imagination like the name of some beautiful savage princess—La belle sauvage. Susquehanna! What a southern opulence in the soft, seductive syllables! Yes, soon we were to meet the Susquehanna. Nor had we long to wait, and little did we suspect what our meeting with that beautiful river was to mean.