The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 289 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.

Few things in the United States are more pleasing than the widespread habits of kindness to animals (most American whips are, as far as punishment to the horse is concerned, a mere farce).  Yet no American seems to have any scruple about adding an extra hundred weight or two to an already villainously overloaded horse-car; and I have seen a score of American ladies sit serenely watching the frantic straining of two poor animals to get a derailed car on to the track again, when I knew that in “brutal” Old England every one of them would have been out on the sidewalk to lighten the load.

In England that admirable body of men popularly known as Quakers are indissolubly associated in the public mind with a pristine simplicity of life and conversation.  My amazement, therefore, may easily be imagined, when I found that an entertainment given by a young member of the Society of Friends in one of the great cities of the Eastern States turned out to be the most elaborate and beautiful private ball I ever attended, with about eight hundred guests dressed in the height of fashion, while the daily papers (if I remember rightly) estimated its expense as reaching a total of some thousands of pounds.  Here the natural expansive liberality of the American man proved stronger than the traditional limitations of a religious society.  But the opposite art of cheese-paring is by no means unknown in the United States.  Perhaps not even canny Scotland can parallel the record of certain districts in New England, which actually elected their parish paupers to the State Legislature to keep them off the rates.  Let the opponents of paid members of the House of Commons take notice!

Amid the little band of tourists in whose company I happened to enter the Yosemite Valley was a San Francisco youth with a delightful baritone voice, who entertained the guests in the hotel parlour at Wawona by a good-natured series of songs.  No one in the room except myself seemed to find it in the least incongruous or funny that he sandwiched “Nearer, my God, to thee” between “The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo” and “Her golden hair was hanging down her back,” or that he jumped at once from the pathetic solemnity of “I know that my Redeemer liveth” to the jingle of “Little Annie Rooney.”  The name Wawona reminds me how American weather plays its part in the game of contrasts.  When we visited the Grove of Big Trees near Wawona on May 21, it was in the midst of a driving snow-storm, with the thermometer standing at 36 degrees Fahrenheit.  Next day, as we drove into Raymond, less than forty miles to the west, the sun was beating down on our backs, and the thermometer marked 80 degrees in the shade.

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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