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England, full liberty is left him to go either right or wrong, with abundant means of information should he prefer the former course; in America, every conceivable facility is afforded for the latter choice, and, indeed, unless a special divinity watches over them, I wonder that the majority of American travellers ever do go right.
At one station we found two trains drawn up, one on each side of the platform, with no distinctive mark whatever. Having been told hurriedly, by an over-driven ticket-clerk, on which side to find our train, we walked to the place and inquired of a bystander whether this was correct. “No!” was the answer. Remembering the clerk's directions, to make assurance doubly sure I asked another. “Yes, this was it.” So we collected our cloaks and umbrellas, and scrambled in, and then received the final information that “it wasn't.” When this train went and another took its place, we dared not tempt the Fates again, but, accepting the first affirmative answer that we got, trusted to Providence, and came all right.
Something of this was repeated on a more vexatious scale at Cleveland (the great junc
tion for Oberlin), for here, at 5 A.M., we found no ticket-office open, and no official of any kind to be seen, though the station was thronged with passengers. By-the-bye, it is no small aggravation of one's difficulties, that what I suppose Americans consider a spirit of independence prevents their wearing an official uniform on the railways, and the marks of office are exceedingly obscure.
However, all difficulties were conquered at last, or at least we hoped so, when “Oberlin!” was shouted at our carriage windows, and we found an omnibus “ for the city" (as they call every village here) waiting outside the station, in the midst of roads so like ploughed fields as to make a conveyance very desirable.
But when we started, a fresh difficulty arose. “To the College !” quoth I. “But the College's all about the place;" we were told, and our fellow-passengers evidently wondered where we could have come from not to know that! So, duly crestfallen, we “concluded” to take our luggage to the inn, and thence find our way on foot to the house of the President, to whom we had letters. .
Begrimed as we were with our night journey, the national instinct claimed some means of ablution. “Can we have a room to wash our hands ?” A rather wondering gaze, and “I guess you can,” preluded our introduction to a small room not yet "red-up," where a basin full of dirty water looked unpromising for our chances. But our host was equal to the emergency, in a moment the said basin was seized, and its contents flung out of window. I thought of the notice we, had seen often at Niagara, “ Stones thrown from above may strike passers below," but gratefully accepted the goods the gods provided, and washed in peace.
We then got a good country breakfast of eggs in all forms (being expected to eat the boiled ones American-wise, smashed up in glasses with milk, &c.), with biscuit, and the rather nice pink tea which always puzzled me as to its matériel. By-the-bye, with the usual American inversion of words, “ biscuit” means hot rolls, hardly once baked, to say nothing of twice.
This meal was served in a queer low diningroom, with posts supporting the ceiling and
beams running across it, the common eatingroom of the house.
After breakfast, we went in search of the President, but, not finding him at home, we left our letters and cards, and proceeded to explore Oberlin.
As we did not find the President at home when we first called on him, he very kindly · paid us a return visit in the course of the afternoon, and gave us the most unqualified welcome to Oberlin, together with offers of personal aid and hospitality, which were, we found, the forerunners of similar kindness, almost without exception, throughout our whole tour of visits in the West, and, indeed, in all parts of the States into which we went. All the professors, teachers, and students with whom we came in contact showed us equal cordiality; and, our object being once understood, we were invited to attend any or all the “recitations” and classes at pleasure, and gladly took large advantage of this permission.
Every English traveller with such an object as ours in view, must, I think, be struck with