Of course we saw all the sights of the Abbey in a hurried way, yet with such a guide and expositor as Archdeacon Farrar our two hours' visit was worth a whole day with an undiscriminating verger, who recites his lesson by rote, and takes the life out of the little mob that follows him round by emphasizing the details of his lesson, until "Patience on a monument" seems to the sufferer, who knows what he wants and what he does not want, the nearest emblem of himself he can think of. Amidst all the imposing recollections of the ancient edifice, one impressed me in the inverse ratio of its importance. The Archdeacon pointed out the little holes in the stones, in one place, where the boys of the choir used to play marbles, before America was discovered, probably,-- centuries before, it may be. It is a strangely impressive glimpse of a living past, like the graffiti of Pompeii. I find it is often the accident rather than the essential which fixes my attention and takes hold of my memory. This is a tendency of which I suppose I ought to be ashamed, if we have any right to be ashamed of those idiosyncrasies which are ordered for us. It is the same tendency which often leads us to prefer the picturesque to the beautiful. Mr. Gilpin liked the donkey in a forest landscape better than the horse. A touch of imperfection interferes with the beauty of an object and lowers its level to that of the picturesque. The accident of the holes in the stone of the noble building, for the boys to play marbles with, makes me a boy again and at home with them, after looking with awe upon the statue of Newton, and turning with a shudder from the ghastly monument of Mrs. Nightingale.
And listen, till I do beget
We left Boston on the 29th of April, 1886, and reached New York on the 29th of August, four months of absence in all, of which nearly three weeks were taken up by the two passages; one week was spent in Paris, and the rest of the time in England and Scotland.
With the exception of my call at the office of the American Legation, I made but a single visit to any person in Paris. That person was M. Pasteur. I might have carried a letter to him, for my friend Mrs. Priestley is well acquainted with him, but I had not thought of asking for one. So I presented myself at his headquarters, and was admitted into a courtyard, where a multitude of his patients were gathered. They were of various ages and of many different nationalities, every one of them with the vague terror hanging over him or her. Yet the young people seemed to be cheerful enough, and very much like scholars out of school. I sent my card in to M. Pasteur, who was busily engaged in writing, with his clerks or students about him, and presently he came out and greeted me. I told him I was an American physician, who wished to look in his face and take his hand,--nothing more. I looked in his face, which was that of a thoughtful, hard-worked student, a little past the grand climacteric,--he was born in 1822. I took his hand, which has performed some of the most delicate and daring experiments ever ventured upon, with results of almost incalculable benefit to human industries, and the promise of triumph in the treatment of human disease which prophecy would not have dared to anticipate. I will not say that I have a full belief that hydrophobia--in some respects the most terrible of all diseases--is to be extirpated or rendered tractable by his method of treatment. But of his inventive originality, his unconquerable perseverance, his devotion to the good of mankind, there can be no question. I look upon him as one of the greatest experimenters that ever lived, one of the truest benefactors of his race; and if I made my due obeisance before princes, I felt far more humble in the presence of this great explorer, to whom the God of Nature has entrusted some of her most precious secrets.
Resistless burns the fever of renown,
On Thursday, the 22d of July, we left Salisbury for Brighton, where we were to be guests at Arnold House, the residence of our kind host. Here we passed another delightful week, with everything around us to contribute to our quiet comfort and happiness. The most thoughtful of entertainers, a house filled with choice works of art, fine paintings, and wonderful pottery, pleasant walks and drives, a visitor now and then, Mr. and Mrs. Goldwin Smith among the number, rest and peace in a magnificent city built for enjoyment,--what more could we have asked to make our visit memorable? Many watering-places look forlorn and desolate in the intervals of "the season." This was not the time of Brighton's influx of visitors, but the city was far from dull. The houses are very large, and have the grand air, as if meant for princes; the shops are well supplied; the salt breeze comes in fresh and wholesome, and the noble esplanade is lively with promenaders and Bath chairs, some of them occupied by people evidently ill or presumably lame, some, I suspect, employed by healthy invalids who are too lazy to walk. I took one myself, drawn by an old man, to see how I liked it, and found it very convenient, but I was tempted to ask him to change places and let me drag him.
In thinking of how much I missed seeing, I sometimes have said to myself, Oh, if the carpet of the story in the Arabian Nights would only take me up and carry me to London for one week,--just one short week,--setting me down fresh from quiet, wholesome living, in my usual good condition, and bringing me back at the end of it, what a different account I could give of my experiences! But it is just as well as it is. Younger eyes have studied and will study, more instructed travellers have pictured and will picture, the great metropolis from a hundred different points of view. No person can be said to know London. The most that any one can claim is that he knows something of it. I am now just going to leave it for another great capital, but in my concluding pages I shall return to Great Britain, and give some of the general impressions left by what I saw and heard in our mother country.
Nature had sent one cuckoo from her aviary to sing his double note for me, that I might not pass away from her pleasing show without once hearing the call so dear to the poets. It was the last day of spring. A few more days, and the solitary voice might have been often heard; for the bird becomes so common as to furnish Shakespeare an image to fit "the skipping king:"--
Caught from the strong contagion of the gown: