Put roses in their hair, put precious stones on their breasts; see that they are clothed in purple and scarlet, with other delights; that they also learn to read the gilded heraldry of the sky; and upon the earth be taught not only the labors of it but the loveliness.
At Windermere, a good friend, told me that I must abandon all hope of seeing Mr. Ruskin; for I had no special business with him, no letters of introduction, and then the fact that I am an American made it final. Americans in England are supposed to pick flowers in private gardens, cut their names on trees, laugh boisterously at trifles, and often to make invidious comparisons. Very properly, Mr. Ruskin does not admire these things.
Then Mr. Ruskin is a very busy man. Occasionally he issues a printed manifesto to his friends requesting them to give him peace. A copy of one such circular was shown to me. It runs, “Mr. J. Ruskin is about to begin a work of great importance, and therefore begs that in reference to calls and correspondence you will consider him dead for the next two months.” A similar notice is reproduced in “Arrows of the Chace,” and this one thing, I think, illustrates as forcibly as anything in Mr. Ruskin’s work the self-contained characteristics of the man himself.
Surely if a man is pleased to be considered “dead” occasionally, even to his kinsmen and friends, he should not be expected to receive with open arms an enemy to steal away his time. This is assuming, of course, that all individuals who pick flowers in other folks’ gardens, cut their names on trees, and laugh boisterously at trifles, are enemies. I therefore decided that I would simply walk over to Brantwood, view it from a distance, tramp over its hills, row across the lake, and at nightfall take a swim in its waters. Then I would rest at the Inn for a space and go my way.
Lake Coniston is ten miles from Grasmere, and even alone the walk is not long. If, however, you are delightfully attended by “King’s Daughters” with whom you sit and commune now and then on the bankside, the distance will seem to be much less. Then there is a pleasant little break in the journey at Hawkshead. Here one may see the quaint old schoolhouse where Wordsworth when a boy dangled his feet from a bench and proved his humanity by carving his initials on the seat.
The Inn at the head of Coniston Water appeared very inviting and restful when I saw it that afternoon. Built in sections from generation to generation, half-covered with ivy and embowered in climbing roses, it is an institution entirely different from the “Grand Palace Hotel” at Oshkosh. In America we have gongs that are fiercely beaten at stated times by gentlemen of color, just as they are supposed to do in their native Congo jungles. This din proclaims to the “guests” and to the public at large that it is time to come in and be fed. But this refinement of civilization is not yet in Coniston, and the Inn is quiet and homelike. You may go to bed when you are tired, get up when you choose, and eat when you are hungry.
There were no visitors about when I arrived, and I thought I would have the coffeeroom all to myself at luncheon-time; but presently there came in a pleasant-faced old gentleman in knickerbockers. He bowed to me and then took a place at the table. He said that it was a fine day and I agreed with him, adding that the mountains were very beautiful. He assented, putting in a codicil to the effect that the lake was very pretty.
Then the waiter came for our orders.
“Together, I s’pose?” remarked Thomas, inquiringly, as he halted at the door and balanced the tray on his finger-tips.