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John Ruskin
by [?]

“Yes, serve lunch for us together,” said the ruddy old gentleman as he looked at me and smiled; “to eat alone is bad for the digestion.”

I nodded assent.

“Can you tell me how far it is to Brantwood?” I asked.

“Oh, not far–just across the lake.”

He arose and flung the shutter open so I could see the old, yellow house about a mile across the water, nestling in its wealth of green on the hillside. Soon the waiter brought our lunch, and while we discussed the chops and new potatoes we talked Ruskiniana.

The old gentleman knew a deal more of “Stones of Venice” and “Modern Painters” than I; but I told him how Thoreau introduced Ruskin to America and how Concord was the first place in the New World to recognize this star in the East. And upon my saying this, the old gentleman brought his knife-handle down on the table, declaring that Thoreau and Whitman were the only two men of genius that America had produced. I begged him to make it three and include Emerson, which he finally consented to do.

By and by the waiter cleared the table preparatory to bringing in the coffee. The old gentleman pushed his chair back, took the napkin from under his double chin, brushed the crumbs from his goodly front, and remarked:

“I’m going over to Brantwood this afternoon to call on Mr. Ruskin–just to pay my respects to him, as I always do when I come here. Can’t you go with me?”

I think this was about the most pleasing question I ever had asked me. I was going to request him to “come again” just for the joy of hearing the words, but I pulled my dignity together, straightened up, swallowed my coffee red-hot, pushed my chair back, flourished my napkin, and said, “I shall be very pleased to go.”

So we went–we two–he in his knickerbockers and I in my checks and outing-shirt. I congratulated myself on looking no worse than he, and as for him, he never seemed to think that our costumes were not exactly what they should be; and after all it matters little how you dress when you call on one of Nature’s noblemen–they demand no livery.

We walked around the northern end of Coniston Water, along the eastern edge, past Tent House, where Tennyson once lived (and found it “outrageous quiet”), and a mile farther on we came to Brantwood.

The road curves in to the back of the house–which, by the way, is the front–and the driveway is lined with great trees that form a complete archway. There is no lodge-keeper, no flowerbeds laid out with square and compass, no trees trimmed to appear like elephants, no cast-iron dogs, nor terra-cotta deer, and, strangest of all, no sign of the lawn-mower. There is nothing, in fact, to give forth a sign that the great Apostle of Beauty lives in this very old-fashioned spot. Big boulders are to be seen here and there where Nature left them, tangles of vines running over old stumps, part of the meadow cut close with a scythe, and part growing up as if the owner knew the price of hay. Then there are flowerbeds, where grow clusters of poppies and hollyhocks (purple, and scarlet, and white), prosaic gooseberry-bushes, plain Yankee pieplant (from which the English make tarts), rue and sweet marjoram, with patches of fennel, sage, thyme and catnip, all lined off with boxwood, making me think of my grandmother’s garden at Roxbury.

On the hillside above the garden we saw the entrance to the cave that Mr. Ruskin once filled with ice, just to show the world how to keep its head cool at small expense. He even wrote a letter to the papers giving the bright idea to humanity–that the way to utilize caves was to fill them with ice. Then he forgot all about the matter. But the following June, when the cook, wishing to make some ice-cream as a glad surprise for the Sunday dinner, opened the natural ice-chest, she found only a pool of muddy water, and exclaimed, “Botheration!” Then they had custard instead of ice-cream.