Sir Roger and I get into a carriage—not a coupe this time—and dispose our myriad parcels above our heads, under our feet. Trucks roll, and porters bawl past; luggage is violently shot into vans. The last belated, panting passenger has got in. The doors are slammed-to. Off we go! The train is already in motion when the young man jumps on the step and thrusts in his hand for one parting shake.
“Mon tout,” say I, screwing up my face into a crying shape, and speaking in a squeaky, pseudo-tearful voice, “je ne saurai vous le dire!”
Then he is hustled off by an indignant guard and three porters, and we see him no more. I throw myself back into my corner laughing.
“General,” say I, “I think your young friend is nearly as soft-hearted as the girl in Tennyson who was
‘Tender over drowning flies.’
He looked as if he were going to weep, did not he? and what on earth about?”
“How mother, when we used to stun
Her head wi’ all our noisy fun,
Did wish us all a-gone from home;
But now that some be dead and some
Be gone, and, oh, the place is dumb,
How she do wish wi’ useless tears
To have again about her ears
The voices that be gone!”
We have passed Cologne; have passed Brussels; have passed Calais and Dover; have passed London; we are drawing near home. How refreshing sounds the broad voice of the porters at Dover! Squeamish as I am, after an hour and three-quarters of a nice, short, chopping sea, the sight of the dear green-fustian jackets, instead of the slovenly blue blouses across-Channel, goes nigh to revive me. Adieu, O neatly aquiline, broad-shaved French faces! Welcome, O bearded Britons, with your rough-hewn noses!
To avoid the heat of the day, we go down from London by a late afternoon train. It is evening when, almost before the train has stopped, I insist on jumping out at our station. Imagine if through some accident we were carried on to the next by mistake!
Such a thing has never happened in the annals of history, but still it might.
Sir Roger has some considerable difficulty in hindering me from shaking hands with the whole staff of officials. One veteran porter, who has been here ever since I was born, has a polite but improbable trick of addressing every female passenger as “my lady.” Well, with regard to me, at least, he is right now. I am “my lady.” Ha! ha! I have not nearly got over the ridiculousness of this fact yet, though I have been in possession of it now these four whole weeks.
It has been a hot, parching summer day, and now that the night draws on all the flagging flowers in the cottage-borders are straightening themselves anew, and lifting their leaves to the dews. The pale bean-flowers, in the broad bean-fields, as we pass, send their delicate scent over the hedge to me, as if it were some fair and courteous speech. To me it seems as if they were saying, as plainly as may be, “Welcome home, Nancy!”