But what to me were these shadowy figures by the side of the group of my early friends and companions, that came up before me in all the freshness of their young manhood? The memory of them recalls my own youthful days, and I need not go to Florida to bathe in the fountain of Ponce de Leon.
In the afternoon we went to a garden-party given by the Princess Louise at Kensington Palace, a gloomy-looking edifice, which might be taken for a hospital or a poorhouse. Of all the festive occasions which I attended, the garden-parties were to me the most formidable. They are all very well for young people, and for those who do not mind the nipping and eager air, with which, as I have said, the climate of England, no less than that of America, falsifies all the fine things the poets have said about May, and, I may add, even June. We wandered about the grounds, spoke with the great people, stared at the odd ones, and said to ourselves,--at least I said to myself,--with Hamlet,
The waste that careless Nature owns;
I should find it hard to account for myself during our two short stays in London in the month of August, separated by the week we passed in Paris. The ferment of continued over-excitement, calmed very much by our rest in the various places I have mentioned, had not yet wholly worked itself off. There was some of that everlasting shopping to be done. There were photographs to be taken, a call here and there to be made, a stray visitor now and then, a walk in the morning to get back the use of the limbs which had been too little exercised, and a drive every afternoon to one of the parks, or the Thames Embankment, or other locality. After all this, an honest night's sleep served to round out the day, in which little had been effected besides making a few purchases, writing a few letters, reading the papers, the Boston "Weekly Advertiser" among the rest, and making arrangements for our passage homeward. The sights we saw were looked upon for so short a time, most of them so very superficially, that I am almost ashamed to say that I have been in the midst of them and brought home so little. I remind myself of my boyish amusement of skipping stones,--throwing a flat stone so that it shall only touch the water, but touch it in half a dozen places before it comes to rest beneath the smooth surface. The drives we took showed us a thousand objects which arrested our attention. Every street, every bridge, every building, every monument, every strange vehicle, every exceptional personage, was a show which stimulated our curiosity. For we had not as yet changed our Boston eyes for London ones, and very common sights were spectacular and dramatic to us. I remember that one of our New England country boys exclaimed, when he first saw a block of city dwellings, "Darn it all, who ever see anything like that 'are? Sich a lot o' haousen all stuck together!" I must explain that "haousen" used in my early days to be as common an expression in speaking of houses among our country-folk as its phonetic equivalent ever was in Saxony. I felt not unlike that country-boy.
The week passed away rapidly enough, and we made ready for our departure. It was no easy matter to get a passage home, but we had at last settled it that we would return in the same vessel in which we had at first engaged our passage to Liverpool, the Catalonia. But we were fortunate enough to have found an active and efficient friend in our townsman, Mr. Montgomery Sears, who procured staterooms for us in a much swifter vessel, to sail on the 21st for New York, the Aurania.