I once decided to visit an acquaintance who had named his country place “The Elms.” I went partly to punish him because his invitation was so evidently hollow and insincere.
He had “The Elms” worked on his clothes, and embossed on his stationery and blown in his glass, and it pained him to eat his food from table linen that didn’t have “The Elms” emblazoned on it. He told me to come and surprise him any time, and shoot in his preserves, and stay until business compelled me to return to town again. He had no doubt heard that I never surprise any one, and never go away from home very much, and so thought it would be safe. Therefore I went. I went just to teach him a valuable lesson. When I go to visit a man for a week, he is certainly thenceforth going to be a better man, or else punishment is of no avail and the chastening rod entirely useless in his case.
“The Elms” was a misnomer. It should have been called “The Shagbark” or “The Doodle Bug’s Lair.” It was supposed to mean a wide sweep of meadow, a vine covered lodge, a broad velvet lawn, and a carriage way, where the drowsy locust, in the sensuous shadow of magnanimous elms, gnawed a file at intervals through the day, while back of all this the mossy and gray-whiskered front and corrugated brow of the venerable architectural pile stood off and admired itself in the deep and glassy pool at its base.
In the first place none of the yeomanry for eight miles around knew that he called his old malarial tank “The Elms,” so it was hard to find. But when I described the looks of the lord of The Elms they wink at each other and wagged their heads and said, “Oh, yes, we know him,” also interjecting well known one syllable words that are not euphonious enough to print.
When I got there he was down cellar sprouting potatoes, and his wife was hanging out upon the clothes line a pair of gathered summer trousers that evidently were made for a man who had been badly mangled in a saw-mill.
The Elms was not even picturesque, and the preserves were out of order. I was received with the same cordiality which you detect on the face of any other kind of detected liar. He wanted to be regarded as a remarkable host and landed proprietor, without being really hospitable. I remained there at The Elms a few days, rubbing rock salt and Cayenne pepper into the wounds of my host, and suggesting different names for his home, such as “The Tom Tit’s Eyrie,” “The Weeping Willow,” “The Crook Neck Squash” and “The Muskrat’s Retreat.” Then I came away. His old look of apprehensive cordiality did not leave him until he had seen me climb on a load of hay with my trunk and start for home.
During my brief sojourn I noticed that the surrounding country was full of people, and I presume there was a larger population of “boarders,” as we were called indiscriminately, than ever before. The number of available points to which the victims of humidity and poor plumbing may retreat in summer time is constantly on the increase, while, so far as I know, all the private and public boarding places are filled to their utmost capacity. Everywhere, the gaudy boarder in flannels and ecru shoes looms upon the green lawn or the brown dirt road, or scales the mountain one day and stays in bed the following week, rubbing James B. Pond’s Extract on his swollen joints.
I scaled Mount Utsa-yantha in company with others. We picked out a nice hot day, and, selecting the most erect wall of the mountain, facing west, we scaled it in such a way that it will not have to be done again till new scales grow on it.