Story-Book England

`Oh, is it raining?' was Katy's first question next morning, when the maid came to call her. The pretty room, with its gaily-flowered chintz, and china, and its brass bedstead, did not look half so bright as when lit with gas the night before, and a dim grey light struggled in at the window, which in America would certainly have meant bad weather coming or already come.

`Oh, no, h'indeed, ma'am, it's a very fine day not bright, ma'am, but very dry,' was the answer.

Katy couldn't imagine what the maid meant, when she peeped between the curtains and saw a thick dull mist lying over everything, and the pavements opposite her window shining with wet. Afterwards, when she understood better the peculiarities of the English climate, she too learned to call days not absolutely rainy `fine', and to be grateful for them; but on that first morning her sensations were of bewildered surprise, almost vexation.

Mrs Ashe and Amy were waiting in the coffee room when she went in search of them.

`What shall we have for breakfast,' asked Mrs Ashe - `our first meal in England? Katy, you order it.'

`Let's have all the things we have read about in books and don't have at home,' said Katy eagerly. But when she came to look over the bill of fare there didn't seem to be many such things. Soles and muffins she finally decided upon, and, as an afterthought, gooseberry jam.

`Muffins sound so very good in Dickens, you know,' she explained to Mrs Ashe, `and I never saw a sole.'

The soles when they came proved to be nice little pan fish, not unlike what in New England are called `scup' All the party took kindly to them, but the muffins were a great disappointment, tough and tasteless, with a flavour about them as of scorched flannel.

`How queer and disagreeable they are!' said Katy. `I feel as if I were eating rounds cut from an old ironing blanket and buttered! Dear me! What did Dickens mean by making such a fuss about them, I wonder? And I don' care for gooseberry jam, either; it isn't half as good as the jams we have at home. Books are very deceptive.'

`I am afraid they are. We must make up our minds to find a great many things not quite so nice as they sound when we read about them,' replied Mrs Ashe.

Mabel was breakfasting with them, of course, and was heard to remark at this juncture that she didn't like muffins either, and would a great deal rather have waffles; whereupon Amy reproved her, and explained that nobody in England knew what waffles were, they were such a stupid nation, and that Mabel must learn to eat whatever was given her and not find fault with it!

Alter this moral lesson it was found to be dangerously near train-time, and they all hurried to the station, which, fortunately, was close by. There was rather a scramble and confusion for a few moments, for Katy, who had undertaken to buy the tickets, was puzzled by the unaccustomed coinage, and Mrs Ashe, whose part was to see after the luggage, found herself perplexed and worried by the absence of checks, and by no means disposed to accept the porter's statement, that if she'd only bear in mind that the trunks were in the second van from the engine, and get out to see that they were safe once or twice during the journey, and call for them as soon as they reached London, she'd have no trouble - `please remember the porter, ma'am!' However, all was happily settled at last, and without any serious inconveniences they found themselves established in a first-class carriage, and presently after running smoothly at full speed across the rich English Midlands toward London and the eastern coast.

The extreme greenness of the October landscape was what struck them at first, and the wonderfully orderly and trim aspect of the country, with no ragged, stump-dotted fields or reaches of wild untended woods. Late in October as it was, the hedgerows and meadows were still almost summer-like in colour, though the trees were leafless. The delightful old manor houses and farmhouses of which they had

  By PanEris using Melati.

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