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A DRIVE TO RICHMOND AND KEW GARDENS
ADELAIDE STAMFORD was Edith's first cousin and lived in London. She was not as strong as Edith, and during the winter her mamma had taken her to Brighton, which is the great winter seaside resort. Although it is also a very fashionable place, many invalids go there to enjoy the warm sunshine. Adelaide was taken up and down the fine promenade in a bath chair, which is a kind of big baby-carriage which a man pulls, or pushes along. She also sat in the glass "shelters" along the sea front, which keep off the wind nicely, and are like small glass houses.
So Adelaide had become much stronger, but the smoky London fog had again made her rather pale and thin, and so she was coming to spend a few weeks with the Howards, to see if Surrey air would not be beneficial.
She was Edith's favourite cousin, and the little girls were nearly of the same age. Edith looked forward to having her share her lessons, and planned many pleasant drives together in their neighbourhood, which is one of the most beautiful and interesting in England.
"My dear, we must not only have roses in our garden, we must get some into your cheeks," said Colonel Howard, as he lifted a little pale-faced girl with dark hair and eyes out of the dog-cart which had brought her from the station.
"She must stay out-of-doors as much as possible, and on the river, and Edith will take her on some of her favourite drives, and we will soon have her looking as plump as our little girl," said her aunt as she kissed her.
Mrs. Howard then took Adelaide up to Edith's room, where another bed had been put up for her.
"Kate will arrange your things in their proper places," said Mrs. Howard, as the neat-capped maid came to take her coat and hat. "I must leave you now, we are very busy. Edith has probably told you that the 'Sunday-school treat' is to be held on our lawn this afternoon, so, when you have rested, come into the garden and help us amuse the little ones."
"A treat" in other words is a picnic, and often only an afternoon picnic, as in this case. The children of the neighbourhood had early gathered in the churchyard, and were marshalled by the vicar and their teachers into a procession.
Marching two by two, they came down the street, and through the big gates of the manor, where they quickly spread themselves in merry groups over the lawns. Soon everybody was in full swing for a good time; games were started, and Clarence with some of the older boys put up a cricket-pitch in one corner of the grounds. The croquet lawn was also well patronized.
Colonel Howard had generously arranged for a small steam-launch to take the children for short trips up the river and back again; this was perhaps more popular than anything else.
Meanwhile Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Whitworth superintended the setting of the tables on the grass under gay red and white awnings.
The summons to tea was welcome, and the children joyfully gathered around the well-filled tables. There were huge plates of sandwiches, cakes, buns, jam, and big strawberries. All the good things melted away so quickly that it kept the older folks running to bring more, while nobody stopped to count the cups of tea that each one stowed away.
There was a little lull after this, while they listened to a band of music placed under the trees.
Adelaide greatly enjoyed it; it was more of a novelty to her than her cousin, and she was much interested in helping feed the swans, who had evidently got wind of the entertainment and knew that their chances for food were good. A number of these graceful birds had gathered along the river bank, and the children were stuffing them with pieces of buns. There was one greedy old swan that amused them very much ; he was always trying to peck the more timid ones away and gobble up everything himself, just like some greedy children we all have seen.
The twilight was closing in when the last band of young people left, singing songs, and waving their hats and handkerchiefs; all of them very grateful for the happy time they had enjoyed so much.
"Miss Green says if we are very good she will take us for a drive in the governess-cart to Richmond and Kew Gardens this afternoon," Edith confidentially whispered to Adelaide, as they went up to the schoolroom the next day. Lessons were learned as by magic that morning, and Tony and the cart were at the door early in the afternoon.
Tony was one of the dearest of ponies, and was almost as much of a playmate with the children as Towser.
"Look at Tony as we get in, Adelaide ; he has the funniest little way of looking around at you." Sure enough, Tony was peering around at them as much as to say, "I'm watching you; aren't you almost ready to start?"
They halted a moment at the vicarage to arrange that Eleanor and Clarence should meet them at the bird-pond in Kew Gardens. Soon they were driving through the beautiful Richmond Park. Miss Green pointed out White Lodge, one of the many royal residences; a rather small, plain, white house in the centre of the park. "It was here," she continued, "that young Prince Edward, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, who will some day be King of England, was born. His birthday was celebrated by a great dinner which was given by the late Queen Victoria to all the children of Richmond. Tables were set under the trees in the old park, at which hundreds of children feasted, and speeches were made in honour of the young prince. Afterward each child was given a mug, on which was a picture of the queen and the date, which they could always keep as a souvenir, or remembrance, of the day:"
"Oh, yes, Miss Green," said Edith, " you remember that Betty's little sister has one of the mugs, and Betty once showed it to me." "Look at the deer, Adelaide," said Edith, as she caught her cousin by the hand. " See, they want to cross the road, and are waiting for us to go past." Sure enough, there stood, watching the cart, a great herd of these graceful creatures, very erect, with their dainty heads crowned with big, branching horns. They were evidently undecided whether or not they had time enough to cross the road before the cart would reach them; then one made up his mind and darted across, another followed, and then the entire herd swept swiftly by, then turned again to look at the cart, as much as to say, "Well, we did it."
"Here is the famous view from Richmond Hill, known all over the world," said Miss Green, as she pulled up Tony for a few minutes, that the girls might admire the winding River Thames, far below them, lying like a silver ribbon between green meadows and wooded hills. "Authors and artists alike have helped to make this view celebrated," said Miss Green, "and that big building on the left is the famous 'Star and Garter' hotel. It used to be the fashion to drive down from London and lunch on its terrace, from which one gets a most beautiful view down the Thames valley."
Edith was trying to point out to Adelaide the tower of Windsor Castle, where the king and the Royal Family live when they are not in London. "We will go over there some day while you are with us, Adelaide."
"Miss Green," continued Edith, as the pony trotted down the long, narrow street into the town, "won't you please stop at the 'Maid of Honor' shop, so we can buy some cakes?"
"I can never get Edith past this place," laughed Miss Green, as she pulled up in front of an old-fashioned shop, painted green, with a big sign over the front: "THE ORIGINAL MAID OF HONOR SHOP."
While the little girls make their purchases you might like to hear the story of these famous cakes.
It is said they were first made for King Henry VIII., by one of the Maids of Honor at his court, and this is why they are called "Maid of Honor" cakes. A Maid of Honor is not really a maid or a servant, but a lady who attends upon the queen -- a companion.
Well, the king thought the cakes tasted so good that many more were made for him, and the recipe was kept safely guarded in a fine chest with a gold lock and key; but somehow it became known, and was handed down until it became the property of the present owner of the shop, who claims that his cakes are still made by the same recipe as those eaten by King Henry hundreds of years ago.
By this time the little girls were driving past the "Green." Every town and village in England has an open grass plot which is either called the "Green" or the "Common," which means that it is common property, and it is here that the young people play games.
"There is all that is left of Richmond Palace," said Miss Green, pointing to an ancient gateway with a part of a dwelling attached. "Once it was a favourite residence of the great Queen Elizabeth.
"Many great men lived during the reign of 'Good Queen Bess,' as she was called, but you must not forget the greatest of them all -- Shakespeare."
"Oh, yes," said Edith, " papa and mamma are going this summer to visit the village where he lived, and they have promised to take me. What is the name of the place, Miss Green? I have forgotten it."
"Stratford-on-Avon, and you must never forget the name of the town where lived the greatest English poet, my dear," replied Miss Green.
"Did not a great many kings and queens live in Richmond, besides Queen Elizabeth?" asked Adelaide.
"Yes, it was a favourite home of royalty, and that is why it was called ` Royal Richmond,' and the town has always been proud of the numbers of great people who have lived here, poets and writers and painters as well as kings and queens.
"I will have the cart put up at one of the little inns near the big gates," said Miss Green, as they drove up to the entrance to Kew Gardens.
Soon our party were strolling over the soft grass and among the lovely flower-beds, for here people can walk and play over the grass as they like, for there are no horrid "Keep off the Grass" signs.
If you want to know what any plant or tree in the whole world looks like, you have only to come here and you will find a specimen of it, either growing out in the open, or in the museum, which makes these gardens of great value. They were begun first by a certain King George, whose palace is still standing in one corner of the gardens, and who afterward made it a present to the nation.
Our party made straight for the pond where they were to meet their little friends.
"There they are now," cried Edith, "and Clarence is feeding that funny old bird that follows everybody around."
"I have given this old fellow two buns already, and he is still begging for more," said Clarence, as the two little girls ran up.
It is a great treat for the children to watch the queer water-birds from all parts of the world whose homes are in and around this pond.
On Saturday afternoons especially, numbers of young people of all ages gather there at the hour when the birds are fed. The birds are petted and fed so much that they are very tame, and the gray gull that Clarence was talking about, follows every one about begging like a kitten or a dog. There are ducks of all kinds, and all colours, that scoot over the water, swallowing the unwary flies and water-bugs who stray in their path, and dive for the bits of cake and bread which are thrown to them by the children. There are beautiful red flamingos, and storks that stand on one leg with their heads under one wing, and all kinds of queer birds with long, stick-like legs. But the funniest of all are the big white pelicans.
"Do look at them," cried Adelaide, "they know their dinner is coming." The five pelicans had been huddled up in a bunch in one corner, with their eyes tight shut, one might think fast asleep. Just then the keeper came down to the water's edge with a big basket of fish. Such a flapping of wings! The pelicans were instantly wide-awake, and, rushing forward, crowded about the keeper, opening their enormously long beaks, to which is attached a kind of natural sack or bag which they use for holding their food until they can better masticate it.
As each one's share of the fish was tossed into its big mouth, it disappeared like lightning. Meanwhile, all the other birds, big and little, had rushed up demanding their share. Such "quacks" and "gowks" and "squeaks"! You never heard such a funny lot of voices. The greedy old gull hopped right under the keeper's feet, until he got the biggest fish of all, and dragged it off into a corner all by himself.
Our young people watched the birds for some time, then went through some of the big greenhouses full of palms, and all sorts of tropical plants, and finally drove back home through the quaint little village of Kew.
"In this churchyard is buried one of our most famous painters," said Miss Green, as they passed the quaint church which stands on one side of the Kew Green, -- "Gainsborough, who was especially fond of painting portraits of beautiful women. But we must not stop longer, as it is growing late," she continued, so touching up Tony, they went along all in high spirits, though Adelaide confessed she did feel a bit tired, and both the little girls were quite ready for their tea when they reached the manor.
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