« AnkstesnisTęsti »
II. ALONG SUNLIT AND MOONLIT ROADS
AVING rested royally by the road, we fared on to Bayside; but first we turned in at a pair of big gates, thinking we were entering some rich man's estate, and caring not at all whether we were desired or not. "But I hope we won't be taken for Bolsheviki," Jim said.
A man in uniform moved here and there, but we did n't pay much attention to this fact, until a building loomed ahead of us that could not possibly be a private dwelling. A sergeant and a corporal sat on the veranda, and as Jim and I were very thirsty, we asked for a drink of water. The sergeant immediately took us within, where it was dim and cool, and I noticed some barred doors immediately in the center of a great space. There was a painful silence all about, but as I went into a little side room to get my drink, I heard a click-click, click-click, as of some one walking up and down with a cane. asked the sergeant what this noise could be, and he pointed to the barred door, and, my eyes having become accustomed to the gloom, I saw the shadowy figure of a young soldier on crutches pacing up and down the corridors of a huge cell.
"Would you like to go in?" the sergeant asked; and when I said I would, for I have always been interested in prison conditions, he unbolted the great door, and the one occupant of the place said, "Good afternoon, sir," and seemed really glad, as I suppose any one in his situation would be, of human companionship. He was lame, and I asked him how it came about that a boy wounded in the war should be undergoing this punishment. "Oh, I overstayed my leave," he said; and then I knew we had come right in to Fort Totten, having left the main road when we entered the gates.
If, ten minutes before, any one had told me that soon I would be talking to a lame and imprisoned soldier in a dark cell, I would have thought him mad. There Jim and I had been dreaming and drowsing under a tree in the pleasant sunshine, and all the while this lame boy, not a hundred yards away, had been confined, with no glimpse of even "that little tent of blue we prisoners call the sky." All the other men, he told us, were out in the fields at work; but he, because of his lameness, was obliged to remain in the ghastly cell. The penalty of courage in the war, I suppose. A strange world, my masters, more inexplicable every day we live in it! But there was one consolation: he was
receiving the best of medical attention, and he told us he had nothing of which to complain.
There is a lovely walk between the fort and Bayside, with little red farmhouses here and there, and more austere, rigorous, dignified homes as you approach the town. The road curves, and there are soft paths if your feet begin to ache; and I remember one house, down by the water, with a splendid row of Lombardy poplars and small shrubs and bushes like giant mushrooms forming a lane to the bay, a bit of French landscape that was indeed enchanting. A stillness seems to brood over this part of the island; but suddenly you find yourself on the outskirts of busy little Bayside, where many actor folk live in the summer, I believe. You see a small Italian villa once in a while the kind of little home you'd like to pick up and put in your pocket and take away with you, it looks so cozy and compact, so like a house bought in a toy-shop.
It was here we got on the main road, where there is always much traffic, and where, in consequence, it is no fun to trudge along on foot. We determined we would ask any one who came by for a lift, and we hailed several cars. They did not stop. I turned to Jim, after the eighth or ninth driver had sailed by us, and said:
"What in heaven's name is the matter with us or with them, rather? Surely we look like respectable piano-tuners, at least."
A flivver came along just then, with two men on the front seat, and a perfectly empty back seat.
"This will do nicely," we decided; and I put up my beautiful Japanese stick, and called out, "Say, won't you give us a lift to Douglaston?"
But they, too, sped on. We could n't understand it. They had proceeded about fifty yards, when we noticed that they slowed up, conversed a bit, and then deliberately backed in our direc
tion. We ran forward, jumped in, and thanked them.
"But would you mind telling us," Jim asked, as we started off at a good clip, "why you did not stop for us at once?"
Our new friends looked embarrassed, and then one of them offered:
"Well, to be honest, we each have a pint flask on our hip, and we thought you might be federal agents."
"We may wear plain clothes, but we are not plain-clothes men," we said, and laughed; and then, before we knew it, we had reached Douglaston, and stopped for a drink of water at a cool-looking well I saw that would have delighted the soul of Pollyanna; for it bore a neat and hospitable sign above it, reading, "All is well."
Just a mile or so away, on the water, is beautiful Douglas Manor, which used to be the estate of Mr. George W. W. Douglas a wealthy gentleman who evidently had a consuming passion for trees. In 1814 he bought this extensive property from the old Van Wyck family,
to whom it had come down as a grant from George III. The oldest oak-tree on Long Island is here. Some one was going to cut this tree down recently, in order to build, but a man with a great sense of civic pride, Mr. James Hoffman, purchased it instead, and now it is, happily, to be forever preserved. The old club-house at the manor is the original Van Wyck homestead, and a beautiful building it is.
In 1819 Mr. Douglas built the present hotel in Douglas Manor, which was his residence. He would have no trees disturbed, and the sidewalks are made to run about the monstrous umbrellas which shield the houses everywhere. There are fourteen varieties of beeches, and about twenty-five different kinds of evergreens, some of them very rare specimens. One fernleaf beech, in particular, is considered a remarkable arboreal thing of splendor. It must be about a hundred years old. In the manor house ancient mahogany bookcases, made in sections, are now here. And yet there are those who say that
sectional bookcases are a comparatively going; but beggars cannot be choosers, new idea!
All over Long Island you see houses with wonderful old shingles. Would that we could get some like them to-day! There is a feeling of permanence about the farm-houses, and some of them look as if they almost resented the growth of the many roads around them, and the encroachments of motors chugging and clattering by. Yet they manage to preserve their aspect of tranquillity, and chickens and pigs and goats loiter on many a farm-house lawn not many miles from New York, as unconcerned by the modern spirit of unrest as if a flivver had never passed the gate. And there seems to be no real poverty on Long Island. You can walk or motor for miles, and though a few houses will look shabby, they never bear that appearance of downright slovenliness you see elsewhere. There is always a garden, however small; and, situated as it is, there is always good fishing along the shores, and a real livelihood may easily be maintained. Before the inevitable arrival of the millionaire, Long Island dreamed its days away in happy peace, and many a prosperous farmer cannot be driven away, despite the walled and formal gardens that often come to his very threshold.
so we bumped contentedly enough along, getting dustier and dustier, and not caring a whit. The farmer was strangely uncommunicative and seemed to take no heed of us at all. It was as though we were a pair of calves he was taking to market; yes, dear reader, I know there is another obvious comparison that could be made. When there came a sudden turning to the right, we jumped off, and thanked him; but he did n't turn his head an inch. We saw that his farm was just at the turning, a simple-enough place, and presently a boy who must have been his son ran to the fence and made strange signs to him; and we realized that our silent host had been a deaf-anddumb man. No wonder he did n't mind having his home at a busy cross-roads. They say the motors whiz by here in battalions of a Sunday.
We got another lift later on. Many towns, like Floral Park, do not live up to their names; they are floral only from the railway station, though that is not to be sneezed at, since many villages are particularly hideous where the trains come in.
It is curious that on the outskirts of Lynbrook, which is a dreary, commonplace, drab, uninteresting little town, there should be a miraculously beautiful inn. It is as though a shabby, poor old lady suddenly pulled out a wonderful French lace handkerchief in a dingy street, and exclaimed, "Just look!" This inn (alas! no longer do we use the charming word "tavern") is off the beaten track, and one has to know of it to reach it; but we wanted to get there for a bite of food, since our hike had made us desperately hungry again. That is one of the many joys of tramping, or staying out all day in the open air: you eat like a giant. And you sleep like a baby.
Beneath an arbor outside, in the moonlight, while our sea-bass and our salad and coffee were being prepared, we watched two gorgeous peacocks disporting themselves, and several pheasants strutted it up and down. You felt as if you were somewhere in France, for French was the language we heard on the other side of the grapes, where several waiters were resting and smok
The farm-wagon was not very easy- ing after the day's work. The big dinner
We had been captivated by Douglas Manor, where, by the way, Jim had taken a swim, and were loath to leave it. Good friends had given us a fine dinner at the inn, but we would not spend the night, determined as we were to push on across the island as far as Lynbrook, begging or stealing rides if we got too tired. There was not much of interest on the way, but with daylight saving there were still many hours of the afternoon left. It was a sunlit road, with turns and shadowy oases now and then to relieve the monotony of our walk. We got as far as the Oakland Golf Club links, when we found we were really tired; so we "hooked" a ride on a farm-wagon. Maps are the most deceptive things in the world. I love to pore over them, but I have no sense of direction at all, and when a road curves I never remember that that makes it all the longer.
crowd from town had long since gone, and the place was completely ours. We had freshened up, and it was well on to eleven o'clock when we sat down to that delicious little supper. But afterward we found, to our regret, that monsieur, who came himself to greet us in a grand chef's costume, with picturesque cap and white apron, had no rooms for us; his was only a restaurant now.
It was a fearful anticlimax to loiter down to the center of the ugly town and have to take stuffy rooms that opened almost on the public square. But any bed was comfortable after the long day outdoors, and though a raucous band played loud tunes beneath us, and motors tooted as they swiftly turned corners, I sank into an easy slumber, from which I did not awaken until a crash of thunder and a vivid flash of lightning came toward dawn.
"The one sluggish waiter on duty"
It had been cool the day before, but this storm, like many another, simply made the atmosphere heavy and more oppressive so heavy that we had n't the heart to go back to our French inn for breakfast, as we had planned to do. Instead, we ate what we could get in a sad room where the chairs were piled on the tables, until they formed a fence around us, and a trying light from a skylight revealed a dirty ball-room floor. Covered drums were on the musicians' stand,-would that they had been muffled during the night!—and the one sluggish waiter on duty wandered about among this tattered place of artificial flowers like a lost soul, fetching a spoon now, a fork later, and some
coffee when it suited his, and the cook's, convenience. The heavy red plush hangings, with the dust only too evident in the garish morning light, were draped back with cheap brass cords, and we could hardly wait to get out of such a place. Any road, no matter how hot, would be better than this. It was like viewing a soiled ball-gown at nine in the morning, with a grotesquely painted face above it.
All the towns and villages along the South Shore between, say, Lynbrook and Bayport are but a means to an end-the reaching of the real outskirts, those more fascinatingly informal places that
lead to Shinnecock Hills. Such spots as Freeport, Massapequa, Merrick (although one must say a kindly word for this charming little residential neighborhood), Babylon, Bay Shore, and even Islip, are too hard-heartedly decent in aspect to give one any sense of comradeship; and Jim and I, like everybody else, had motored through or to them so often that they were an old story to us. One wishes to pass them over on a jaunt such as ours, though remembering bygone happinesses in them, as one would skip uninteresting passages in an otherwise good book-a book one had dipped into many times, so that one knows the very paragraphs to avoid. There are some splendid estates along the Merrick Road, and I suppose the total wealth here would amount to an unbelievable sum; but mixed in with places that the architects have striven to make lovely, and succeeded in their efforts, are too many nouveau-riche dwellings that must belong