Vanishing Roads and Other Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 267 pages of information about Vanishing Roads and Other Essays.
full with unforgotten memories, and my eyes have scarce the hardihood to gaze with the decorum befitting the public streets on many a landmark of vanished hours.  To find London almost as new and strange to me as New York once seemed when I first sighted her soaring morning towers, and yet to know her for an enchanted Ghost-Land; to be able to find my way through her streets—­in spite of the new Kingsway and Aldwych!—­with closed eyes, and yet to see her, it almost seems, for the first time:  surely it is a curious, almost uncanny, experience.

Do I find London changed?—­I am asked.  I have been so busy in rediscovering what I had half-forgotten, in finding engaging novelties in things anciently familiar, that the question is one which I feel hardly competent to answer.  For instance, I had all but forgotten that there was so noble a thing in the world as an old-fashioned English pork-pie.  Yesterday I saw one in a window, with a thrill of recognition, that made a friend with whom I was walking think for a moment that I had seen a ghost.  He knows nothing of the human heart who cannot realize how tremulous with ancient heart-break may seem an old-fashioned English pork-pie—­after ten years in America.

And, again, how curiously novel and charming seemed the soft and courteous English voices—­with or without aitches—­all about one in the streets and in the shops—­I had almost said the “stores.”  I am enamoured of the American accent, these many years, and—­the calumny of superficial observation to the contrary—­I will maintain, so far as my own experience goes, that there is as much courtesy broadcast in America as in any land; more, I am inclined to think than in France.  Yet, for all that, that something or other in the English voice which I had heard long since and lost awhile smote me with a peculiar pleasure, and, though I like the comradely American “Cap” or “Professor,” and am hoping soon to hear it again—­yet the novelty of being addressed once more as “Sir” has had, I must own, a certain antiquarian charm.

Wandering in a quaint by-street near my hotel, and reading the names and signs on one or two of the neat old-world “places of business,” I came on the word “sweep.”  I believe it was on a brass-plate.  For a moment, I wondered what it meant; and then I realized, with a great gratitude, that London had not changed so much, after all, since the days of Charles Lamb.  As I emerged into a broader thoroughfare, my ears were smitten with the sound of minstrelsy.  It is true that the tune was changed.  It was unmistakably rag-time.  Yet, there was the old piano-organ, and in a broad circle of spectators, suspended awhile from their various wayfaring, a young man in tennis flannels was performing a spirited Apache dance with a quite comely short-skirted young woman, who rightly enough felt that she had no need to be ashamed of her legs.  Across the extemporized stage, every now and then, taxicabs tooted cautiously, longing in their hearts

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Vanishing Roads and Other Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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