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Yet only two years ago it seemed altogether daring and unusual for four of us college girls to plan a trip through a country unfamiliar to us, alone and on foot. But we were daring and didn't much mind being unusual. And besides, we talked it over for a whole year before we did it.
For a year in advance "the walk was our constant companion. We became as attached to it as was Sairey Gamp to "Mrs. Harris," "Mrs. Harris," and our friends considered it as much of a myth. But time so familiarized us with the project that we drifted into. the trip as naturally as our skeptical friends followed care-taking papas and mammas for the more conventional summer at the shore.
A TRAMP THROUGH THE BERKSHIRE HILLS
If my experience entitles me to offer a word of advice, let me counsel every woman and girl in the land who has two fairly faithful feet and can make
HE fashion of being strong and a little time, to hasten to treat herself athletic has sprung up among to a walking-tour, short or long, here women with astonishing swiftness, or there, now or later, the sooner the as is the way with fashions. The woman better, the longer the better, the of the present day, from the society farther away the better-though, for "bud" to the domestic matron, has the matter of that, any country, even mounted her bicycle and scorched if you have driven over it thousands of away from her bikeless pursuers, Mrs. times, will be new to you on your first Grundy et al., into the estate of walk. Emancipated Womanhood."
Plan this trip as far as possible in advance, anticipate it until you take it, and "reminisce" until you plan another. It will make a new woman of you. Not one of those intense, one-ideaed, be-bloomered, imaginary creations of the newspapers, but a strong, vigorous, right-minded, "new" woman who sees life steadily and sees it whole." For big doses of sun and wind and deep draughts of outdoor air are great steadiers, and muscles aching with pure bodily fatigue are better brain producers than all the fish that ever were caught.
The very first question in our plans was a "woman's question." What should we wear? And especially, what should we wear on our feet? Our party of four unanimously admitted that there was but one scientific and perfect way for a pedestrian's feet to be dressed. But!—one girl chose spring heels; another wore heavy boots; a third in
A TRAMP THROUGH THE BERKSHIRE HILLS.
sisted upon boots "just to fit her foot"; and one foolish virgin wore low shoes.
Now the theory of boots just to fit the foot had been the most hotly contested and had received the most subtle and attenuated demonstration, during all the advance discussion of our trip. When the test came, therefore, all eyes were upon its promulgator. On the first day of actual experience she wore a strained look about the mouth; on the second, she frankly limped. The rest of us were polite, however. We I felt that next to defeat there is nothing so sad as victory. So we listened credulously to casual anathemas upon mythical cobble nails, and mercifully refrained from suggesting that she hammer them out. Nevertheless privately we found a majority against boots that exactly fit the foot, and as a result of these several experiments I am impartially convinced that the ideal outfit consists of soft, heavy, woolen hose to protect the foot from the wear-and-tear of hard roads, and soft, low-heeled, moderately heavy, laced boots, wide enough at the base of the toes to allow for the great spread of the foot there.
Of course we all wore short skirts, a costume less noticeable now, since last summer's bicycle rage. At that time we grew so accustomed to being the observed of all observers that we felt a decided lack when long skirts reduced us again to mere undifferentiated units in the general universe. Yes, to be sure, people stared. How could they help staring at our short skirts, queer caps, and generally travel-stained appearance? But they were uniformly kind, which means polite. Perhaps all the kinder, because something aside from the ordinary called them out of themselves for a moment and bespoke their interest in the existence of others. Indeed they were so kind that we Westerners, proud of our much vaunted hospitality though we are, admitted that never in our lives had we ex
perienced such whole-souled hospitality as in that eastern part of the country, the scene of our walk.
There was much to call out such cordiality, of course: we were girls; we were girls doing a novel thing; and, more than all, we were most palpably happy girls. All the world loves a happy person whether he be lover or tramp. Tramps we certainly were, and looked quot homines, tot sententiæ, our costumes, like our boots, being constructed on as many different orders as there were girls in the party. Particularly rough looking tramps, too, grass-stained, rain-stained, mud-stained; for tramps can't have light hearts and heavy baggage. We chose light hearts.
One bag of linen had to do for each two persons. Beside these two bags we had a kodak, and one girl carried the sweaters and jackets for the crowd. This was a burdensome part of the luggage during the heat of the day, but since she she walked burden-free evenings and mornings, when each wore her own wrap, it was a fair division of labor.
It was the linen bags that wore on us most. Little humps and bumps, possessed of the spirit of a Caliban, stuck into our shoulders; straps broke in the most inopportune places and scattered these humps and bumps in the form of brushes and liniment bottles about the road; and, worst of all, when it rained, the contents of the bags got wet. If the sun came out soon and we could walk until the clothes in the bags as well as the clothes upon our backs dried, the rain was not much of a drawback. But if the sun did not come out and we were compelled to employ precious sleeping-hours sitting in one set of wet clothes, waiting for another set to dry, the situation was depressing. Some one should invent
a bag, rain-proof and yet light. And effectually to prevent by her cries the preparation of our supper, until, attracted by my gorgeous red cap, she left them off in favor of me as an amusement. When much weariness of body had determined us to seek shelter at this house my pedometer registered nineteen miles; but upon retiring it pointed unmistakably to twenty-one miles. For a moment my confidence in pedometers was shaken, until I recollected how many times I had paced the floor to soothe the resentful infant.
Indeed, farmhouses with their restricted conveniences have many disadvantages, greatest of all being the impossibility of the hot baths so necessary after, and the cold baths so important before, a day's tramp. After our first night we chose hotels, as by far the best lodging places, especially in a country which boasts such numbers of quiet and attractive inns as the Berkshire region. We didn't very much mind being gazed at by the curious and bediamonded ladies who were seeking in vain to find the charms of these lovely little inns. In fact we thought the shock we gave them was good for them, and we liked having the best there was even though we came to town in rags and tags.
Of course one has to eat simple lunches to make up for extravagances in night's lodging, which with dinner and breakfast usually amounted to about $1.75. That is, one must, if one wishes to make the entire trip of a hundred miles for less than $10.00 apiece, as we did.
even then one should reduce her wardrobe to the minimum and keep clean by becoming her own laundress each night.
In laying out our route we planned as few hard-and-fast details as were consistent with safety from unpleasant experiences. We knew that we should travel through the Berkshire Hills from Williamsburg, Massachusetts, to Hudson, New York. Further we knew only that we would take the roads whose beauties allured us most, rest in the most restful spots, eat when we were hungriest and sleep when we were weariest. This indefinite wandering upon the face of the earth we found safe even for girls alone; for we were sensible young people and a little good judgment and common sense is usually as good as a chaperon, and much less cumbersome.
Conceivably there are regions where young women would find neither chaperons nor common sense suited to all the exigencies of the situation. The Berkshire country is not of them. Shelter here was never far off, yet never so obtrusively near but that we felt as free and independent as the birds of the air-of which we saw many, and the beasts of the field-of which we saw none, except peacefully grazing cows.
To accord with the casual and unpremeditated aspect which we wished to give our trip, likewise with one eye on the æsthetic values and the other on economy, we thought to spend our nights at farmhouses, and on the first night out we invaded a nice one which chance threw in our way. But lo! it was only after much piteous pleading that our hostess consented to raise up from stones, as it were, bed and board for her four ravening guests. She was a very kind hostess, however, and we must always remember her with gratitude; but the informality of the arrangement developed disadvantages for us as well as for her. The baby, awakened by our arrival, threatened
Not only did we wish to be independent of our surrounding in all ways, but of one another. To this end we had chosen each other with the nicest discrimination; there were no clingers among us; we were comrades, with all the trustworthiness, independence, and good fellowship that the dear old word implies. Ever and anon our company divided into squads of two or even one; the more energetic steaming ahead at a pace set by their ambition, while the slothful strolled along
A TRAMP THROUGH THE BERKSHIRE HILLS.
in the rear. Yet often were the first last and the last first, for the loiterers got the first chance at "hitches."
An incident that occurred on the road between Lenox and Stockbridge hardened my heart against this system of compensations entirely and forever. I was proudly leading the van that day, stepping along in in the overbearing manner of one who has left her fellow travelers far behind; when at the warning jangle of silver-mounted harness I stepped aside to allow an elegant carriage the privilege of the
road. Could my eyes deceive me? There, reclining upon the luxurious upholstery in the ennuied attitudes of approved swelldom, sat my quondam companions, the sole occupants (except the coachman) of the carriage. Being foot-sore and weary, in spite of my superior manner, I looked upon this chance to ride as a bit of Fortune's tactful thoughtfulness in my behalf. Shouts of congratulatory hallelujahs sprang to my lips, but they perished unuttered when with languid bows my perfidious friends whirled stolidly out of sight. Apologies were profuse when next we met, but I failed to be pacified by the explanations that the coachman was a stiff and haughty gentleman who had silently but decidedly resented their intrusion. They had taken possession in a matter-of-fact manner which had put the case beyond dispute; but still they preferred not to add the straw which might bring matters to an unfavorable crisis, by stopping for me. It was not pleasing to me to be called a straw and I resented the whole affair to the extent of rebuking their conduct toward this coachman as high-handed. Hitches, as this incident suggests, we considered our legitimate prey, and it was seldom that we had to beg our ride. People who drive cannot understand walking for pleasure, and, regarding us thus as luckless wayfarers, would ask us, even at an inconvenience to themselves, to share
what they considered their happier lot. One gallant Irishman indeed made a stopping place several miles short of what we suspected was his real destination because his enfeebled steed was unequal to us, and the kind man had not the heart to let us walk while he drove.
These hitches partook plentifully of the spice of life. Carriages and carts, farmers and "fine people" (as they have it in book), were hailed with equal joy and found equally congenial. Sometimes we jogged contentedly along the beautiful country roads in a lumber-wagon, listening to the confidence of the old farmer who had "a gal jest about the age" of one of us. Again we would chat sedately with the occupants of a splendid victoria as we bowled along some fashionable drive.
One weary, hot day when, in attempting to take a side jaunt, we had lost our way; and not only our way, but one of our number, who sat waiting us with our baggage, caps, and purses (for the jaunt was up a mountain and we wished to be in climbing trim), at a certain mysterious and elusive cross road we were fain to stretch our several and weary lengths in a coffincart, which was the first available hitch. It was well worth the experience, too, to discover that those black-whiskered, blackgloved, black hatted wooden men who drive the black horse that pulls the black cart are real flesh and blood, men who have homes and families and other ordinary human connections, and-if our friend was a fair specimen— are very merry gentlemen withal. fact it was so pleasant a drive that the incongruity of the situation did not strike us until the coffin-cart man left us, with a flourish, at the door of the very fashionable Lion's Inn which adorns the village of Great Barrington.
Something in the faces of the by
standers caused us then to see ourselves as others saw us. So confused was I by the revelation that, though I discovered its loss immediately, I allowed my jacket to be driven away in the coffin-cart rather than to connect ourselves still further with the now conventionally melancholy and wooden driver, by calling after him. A shabby trick to play a friend and one destined to receive its proper punishment.
After vowing never again to complicate our route by a system of devious side-trips and uncertain reunions at unfamiliar cross roads, we entertained plans for the recovery of our lost sister, and incidentally our purses, caps, and bags. We reasoned among ourselves that she also might be seeking a solution of the difficulties in Great Barrington, and accordingly summoned what dignity our hatless and forlorn state would permit, to stalk across the interminable office of the Lion's Inn and ask severely, as if to discountenance any idea that this question was not an usual one:
"Has a young lady in short skirts and with a great deal of luggage asked here to-day for three young ladies without caps?" She had not. So much the outrageously mirthful clerk
finally managed to make clear. More than ever ruffled we sallied forth to repeat our inquiries at the other hotels. We expected small boys galore to be rudely attentive to us in spite of the extra dignity of our gait, which was supposed to compensate for a certain scantiness of skirt, and an extra severity of countenance surely compensatory for the entire absence of hat. But matters went beyond our wildest fears when one from a group of urchins seized me by the sleeve. I turned to administer several condemnatory phrases which the occasion had brought to mind, when he shouted, "Say! Miss, there's a coat at the undertaker's as b'longs to somebody with your looks."
The kind attention hardly softened
for us the tactless reference to our looks, and with scant thanks we hurried on. Not only the street boys but the men regarded us attentively. They did not exchange stage confidences about our appearance, as is the custom with loafers. Instead they seemed to be taking us seriously, to be minutely observing us with reference to some standard or ideal. The mystery of
this unwonted treatment was solved when an anxious-looking man planted himself in front of us and, addressing all three impartially, announced in stentorian shouts: "There's a coat at the undertaker's belongs to some girls dressed like you!"
In self-defense I inquired my way to the undertaker's and recovered my lost jacket with much more thankfulness than I would have thought probable before I knew that the village of Great Barrington had assumed the responsibility for its recovery.
The darkness of night was upon us before we had finished the undertaker feature of our Great Barrington experiences and it reminded us that our last meal had been an early breakfast. Having no visible means of support we could not demand a meal and we were determined not to beg until we had made a last effort to recover our lost possessions and friend. To this end we entered into a deal with a liveryman, who furnished the capital in the shape of a horse and carriage, which we were to use in recovery of our possessions, on condition of his receiving a certain small percentage (from a liveryman's point of view) of the possessions when recovered.
After a short drive we were rewarded by the sight of a peddler with snaillike gait, who, on nearer view, proved to be our friend converted into an animated baggage-cart and hat-rack for the occasion.
We hastened to explain that we had sought the village in order to organize a searching posse. She doggedly ad