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WITH TOM AT WINDSOR CASTLE AND ETON
"WHEN do we start, papa, and which way are we to go, and are we to see Tom first, or the castle?" asked Edith, all in one breath, as soon as she had kissed her mamma and papa good morning in the breakfast-room.
"Oh, you little fidget!" said Colonel Howard, good-naturedly, "sit down and eat your breakfast and we will try and answer one question at a time. Now, which would you rather see first, Tom or the castle?"
"Tom, of course," cried Edith, without hesitation, for she and her brother were great chums, though she was only a little girl, while in her eyes, as well as in his own, Master Tom was quite a man.
"Well, then, Tom first, and we will take him to the castle with us. Though he has been there before, he will enjoy the day with us.
"We will drive along the river road, for that is the prettiest way, though the longest, and we will start as soon as mamma is ready. Now, miss, all of your questions are satisfactorily answered, and it only remains for you children not to keep us waiting."
There was no danger of that. The young people were in the carriage before Colonel and Mrs. Howard came down-stairs, and soon they were bowling along the shady road, the hawthorn hedges on either side perfuming the air with their white blossoms.
They passed through several quaint little riverside villages with queer little inns, where those who want to fish or boat on the river go for a lunch or tea, which they can enjoy on a gallery, or in a garden overlooking the water.
"There's Windsor Castle," cried Edith.
"I knew it from the pictures; it is a real story-book castle." And, sure enough, high up over the trees rose the great gray towers and walls at whose very base flowed the Thames.
"There is one of the most historic spots on our river," said Colonel Howard, pointing to a small island covered with trees. "It does not look very important, but tradition says a great event took place there. Way back in the early history of our country the kings had such absolute power that they could do almost anything they liked, and if they were not good men this led them to oppress their subjects and take away their liberties. So the great barons of the country forced King John to give them their 'Charter,' on this little island, called Runnymede. All this is difficult for you little girls to understand, but some day you will read more about it in your history."
"You can see, Edith, over those meadows yonder, where Tom lives. That is Eton, and this is one of the prettiest views of the college," said Mrs. Howard.
In a few minutes they were among the old buildings of the most famous of boys' schools, and found Tom ready for them, full of enthusiasm at the prospect of a day off in company with his family.
The Howard family was a very devoted one, and no wonder they were proud of Tom. He was a fine, healthy, rosy-cheeked boy with frank, blue eyes and short-clipped brown hair. He had on a suit like that worn by all the Eton boys, which has now become the proper dress for English boys of certain ages, especially schoolboys. It consists of long gray trousers and a short black jacket, coming just to the waist, known as the "Eton jacket"; over this is a broad white collar, and they wear with this costume a high silk hat, just like the one your papa wears, except of course it is smaller.
"I wrote to you that I was in the 'eights' that is to row at Henley, papa; well, we are working hard to beat them. By Jove! we have got a strict coach; he is keeping the fellows up to the mark," and Tom talked on with enthusiasm about the boat-races at Henley-on-Thames, at which their crew of eight was to compete for one of the prizes known as "The Ladies' Plate."
As he talked, he led them through the colleges and into the chapel, pointing out everything to the little girls with a lofty air of proprietorship which greatly impressed them with his importance, and when he showed them the "playing fields" where cricket was going on, and spoke in an offhand manner of "our men," the little girls looked at him with great awe and admiration. It was all new to Edith and Adelaide, so Tom took them through some of the old class-rooms, where many celebrated men had learned their lessons. The rough, wooden benches and desks had been hacked and cut up by the knives of schoolboys for many hundred years. It used to be the fashion for the boys to cut their names somewhere on the oak-panelled walls of their schoolrooms, and many names that have since become famous can be seen there to-day. The boys liked to do it all the more, because it was forbidden, but gradually it became the custom, and the proper thing to do.
After Tom had duly impressed the glories of his school upon his sister and cousin, the whole party set out for Windsor Castle, just across the river from Eton.
In a few minutes they were climbing the hill on which the castle stands, and the carriage stopped at the big entrance gate, on either side of which stands a sentry in a bright red coat and a great bearskin helmet on his head.
"Now, my dears, you are really inside the king's home," said Colonel Howard, as with some other visitors they followed the guide through the handsome rooms, with their elegant furniture and valuable pictures. From the windows was a fine view extending many miles over the great park which surrounds the castle.
"On certain days of the week," said Colonel Howard, "a band plays on the terrace below, and then the grounds and terrace are free to all who wish to come, while the Royal Family often sit at these windows and enjoy the music."
They also visited the beautiful chapel, where the king and his family attend service when they are at the castle.
Soon our party came to meet the carriage again outside the great gateway. "Drive to the 'White Swan,' John," said Colonel Howard, "we are going to lunch there."
"That's good," said Tom. "It's a jolly nice place; they will give us a good dinner. Look, papa," he continued, excitedly, "there is Prince Eddie and his brother in that carriage coming toward us. I knew they were staying at 'Frogmore House.'"
The two boy princes, manly-looking young boys, dressed in sailor suits, were chattering gaily with their tutor, who accompanied them, and smilingly returned the bows of Colonel Howard's party as they passed.
They are the two oldest sons of the Prince of Wales; they are fine-looking little fellows, and enjoy nothing better than their home life in the country, cycling around Windsor Park, or fishing and boating on the river.
Our little party enjoyed a bountiful dinner in the cool dining-room of the "White Swan Inn," with its dark, oak-panelled walls, and big sideboard, set out with fine old silver and china.
The solemn, smooth-faced old waiter deftly served them. First they had a delicious fried sole, and then the dish without which no English person thinks dinner is complete, -- a big joint of good English roast beef, which as a matter of fact mostly comes from Scotland.
With the roast beef there are potatoes and vegetables. Afterward there was a pudding, for a real English dinner must always finish with pudding. Then follows cheese, which is eaten with salad, the salad being usually lettuce and eaten only with salt. Sometimes they have coffee after dinner, but the English are not great coffee drinkers. You must have found out by this time that they are much more fond of tea.
"Let's go for a row on the river," was the first suggestion after they had left the table and were seated in the garden of the inn, from Tom, who was eager to show his skill in handling the oars.
"I am sure your mother and I prefer to rest awhile; we are not so keen for exertion just after dinner," said Colonel Howard, "but you can take the two girls, only don't go too far, for we have a long ride before us."
So the young people enjoyed a half-hour's row; then Tom was driven back to his school, all promising to meet again at Henley.
It was the cool of the evening when John drove through the manor gates, and needless to say our two little girls slept that night like tops. Somehow this toy has the reputation of being a very sound sleeper. Can somebody explain why?
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