Their Pilgrimage

Author: Charles Dudley Warner

XIII Richfield Springs, Cooperstown

After weeks of the din of Strauss and Gungl, the soothing strains of the Pastoral Symphony. Now no more the kettle-drum and the ceaseless promenade in showy corridors, but the oaten pipe under the spreading maples, the sheep feeding on the gentle hills of Otsego, the carnival of the hop-pickers. It is time to be rural, to adore the country, to speak about the dew on the upland pasture, and the exquisite view from Sunset Hill. It is quite English, is it not? this passion for quiet, refined country life, which attacks all the summer revelers at certain periods in the season, and sends them in troops to Richfield or Lenox or some other peaceful retreat, with their simple apparel bestowed in modest fourstory trunks. Come, gentle shepherdesses, come, sweet youths in white flannel, let us tread a measure on the greensward, let us wander down the lane, let us pass under the festoons of the hop-vines, let us saunter in the paths of sentiment, that lead to love in a cottage and a house in town.

Every watering-place has a character of its own, and those who have given little thought to this are surprised at the endless variety in the American resorts. But what is even more surprising is the influence that these places have upon the people that frequent them, who appear to change their characters with their surroundings. One woman in her season plays many parts, dashing in one place, reserved in another, now gay and active, now listless and sentimental, not at all the same woman at Newport that she is in the Adirondack camps, one thing at Bar Harbor and quite another at Saratoga or at Richfield. Different tastes, to be sure, are suited at different resorts, but fashion sends a steady procession of the same people on the round of all.

The charm of Richfield Springs is in the character of the landscape. It is a limestone region of gentle slopes and fine lines; and although it is elevated, the general character is refined rather than bold, the fertile valleys in pleasing irregularity falling away from rounded wooded hills in a manner to produce the impression of peace and repose. The lay of the land is such that an elevation of a few hundred feet gives a most extensive prospect, a view of meadows and upland pastures, of lakes and ponds, of forests hanging in dark masses on the limestone summits, of fields of wheat and hops, and of distant mountain ranges. It is scenery that one grows to love, and that responds to one’s every mood in variety and beauty. In a whole summer the pedestrian will not exhaust the inspiring views, and the drives through the gracious land, over hills, round the lakes, by woods and farms, increase in interest as one knows them better. The habitues of the place, year after year, are at a loss for words to convey their peaceful satisfaction.

In this smiling country lies the pretty village of Richfield, the rural character of which is not entirely lost by reason of the hotels, cottages, and boardinghouses which line the broad principal street. The centre of the town is the old Spring House and grounds. When our travelers alighted in the evening at this mansion, they were reminded of an English inn, though it is not at all like an inn in England except in its atmosphere of comfort. The building has rather a colonial character, with its long corridors and pillared piazzas; built at different times, and without any particular plans except to remain old-fashioned, it is now a big, rambling white mass of buildings in the midst of maple-trees, with so many stairs and passages on different levels, and so many nooks and corners, that the stranger is always getting lost in it -turning up in the luxurious smoking-room when he wants to dine, and opening a door that lets him out into the park when he is trying to go to bed. But there are few hotels in the country where the guests are so well taken care of.

This was the unbought testimony of Miss Lamont, who, with her uncle, had been there long enough to acquire the common anxiety of sojourners that the newcomers should be pleased, and who superfluously explained the attractions of the place to the artist, as if in his eyes, that rested on her, more than one attraction was needed. It was very pleasant to see the good comradeship that existed between these two, and the frank expression of their delight in meeting again. Here was a friendship without any reserve, or any rueful misunderstandings, or necessity for explanations. Irene’s eyes followed them with a wistful look as they went off together round the piazza and through the parlors, the girl playing the part of the hostess, and inducting him into the mild gayeties of the place.

The height of the season was over, she said; there had been tableaux and charades, and broom-drills, and readings and charity concerts. Now the season was on the sentimental wane; every night the rooms were full of whist-players, and the days were occupied in quiet strolling over the hills, and excursions to Cooperstown and Cherry Valley and "points of view," and visits to the fields to see the hop-pickers at work. If there were a little larking about the piazzas in the evening, and a group here and there pretending to be merry over tall glasses with ice and straws in them, and lingering good-nights at the stairways, why should the aged and rheumatic make a note of it? Did they not also once prefer the dance to hobbling to the spring, and the taste of ginger to sulphur?

Of course the raison d’etre of being here is the sulphur spring. There is no doubt of its efficacy. I suppose it is as unpleasant as any in the country. Everybody smells it, and a great many drink it. The artist said that after using it a week the blind walk, the lame see, and the dumb swear. It renews youth, and although the analyzer does not say that it is a "love philter," the statistics kept by the colored autocrat who ladles out the fluid show that there are made as many engagements at Richfield as at any other summer fair in the country.

There is not much to chronicle in the peaceful flow of domestic life, and, truth to say, the charm of Richfield is largely in its restfulness. Those who go there year after year converse a great deal about their liking for it, and think the time well spent in persuading new arrivals to take certain walks and drives. It was impressed upon King that he must upon no account omit a visit to Rum Hill, from the summit of which is had a noble prospect, including the Adirondack Mountains. He tried this with a walking party, was driven back when near the summit by a thunder, storm, which offered a series of grand pictures in the sky and on the hills, and took refuge in a farmhouse which was occupied by a band of hop-pickers. These adventurers are mostly young girls and young men from the cities and factory villages, to whom this is the only holiday of the year. Many of the pickers, however, are veterans. At this season one meets them on all the roads, driving from farm to farm in lumber wagons, carrying into the dull rural life their slang, and "Captain Jinks" songs, and shocking free manners. At the great hop fields they lodge all together in big barracks, and they make lively for the time whatever farmhouse they occupy. They are a "rough lot," and need very much the attention of the poet and the novelist, who might (if they shut their eyes) make this season as romantic as vintage-time on the Rhine, or "moonshining " on the Southern mountains. The hop field itself, with its tall poles draped in graceful vines which reach from pole to pole, and hang their yellowing fruit in pretty festoons and arbors, is much more picturesque than the vine-clad hills.

Mrs. Bartlett Glow found many acquaintances here from New York and Philadelphia and Newport, and, to do her justice, she introduced Irene to them and presently involved her in so many pleasure parties and excursions that she and King were scarcely ever alone together. When opportunity offered for a stroll a deux, the girl’s manner was so constrained that King was compelled to ask the reason of it. He got very little satisfaction, and the puzzle of her conduct was increased by her confession that she loved him just the same, and always should.

"But something has come between us," he said. "I think I have the right to be treated with perfect frankness."

"So you have," she replied. "There is nothing—nothing at least that changes my feeling towards you."

"But you think that mine is changed for you?"

"No, not that, either, never that;" and her voice showed excitement as she turned away her head. "But don’t you know, Stanhope, you have not known me very long, and perhaps you have been a little hasty, and—how shall I say it?—if you had more time to reflect, when you go back to your associates and your active life, it might somehow look differently to you, and your prospects—"

"Why, Irene, I have no prospects without you. I love you; you are my life. I don’t understand. I am just yours, and nothing you can do will ever make it any different for me; but if you want to be free—"

"No, no," cried the girl, trying in vain to restrain her agitation and her tears, "not that. I don’t want to be free. But you will not understand. Circumstances are so cruel, and if, Stanhope, you ever should regret when it is too late! It would kill me. I want you to be happy. And, Stanhope, promise me that, whatever happens, you will not think ill of me."

Of course he promised, he declared that nothing could happen, he vowed, and he protested against this ridiculous phantom in her mind. To a man, used to straightforward cuts in love as in any other object of his desire, this feminine exaggeration of conscientiousness is wholly incomprehensible. How under heavens a woman could get a kink of duty in her mind which involved the sacrifice of herself and her lover was past his fathoming.

The morning after this conversation, the most of which the reader has been spared, there was an excursion to Cooperstown. The early start of the tally-ho coaches for this trip is one of the chief sensations of the quiet village. The bustle to collect the laggards, the importance of the conductors and drivers, the scramble up the ladders, the ruses to get congenial seat-neighbors, the fine spirits of everybody evoked by the fresh morning air, and the elevation on top of the coaches, give the start an air of jolly adventure. Away they go, the big red-and-yellow arks, swinging over the hills and along the well-watered valleys, past the twin lakes to Otsego, over which hangs the romance of Cooper’s tales, where a steamer waits. This is one of the most charming of the little lakes that dot the interior of New York; without bold shores or anything sensational in its scenery, it is a poetic element in a refined and lovely landscape. There are a few fishing-lodges and summer cottages on its banks (one of them distinguished as "Sinners’ Rest"), and a hotel or two famous for dinners; but the traveler would be repaid if there were nothing except the lovely village of Cooperstown embowered in maples at the foot. The town rises gently from the lake, and is very picturesque with its church spires and trees and handsome mansions; and nothing could be prettier than the foreground, the gardens, the allees of willows, the long boat wharves with hundreds of rowboats and sail-boats, and the exit of the Susquehanna River, which here swirls away under drooping foliage, and begins its long journey to the sea. The whole village has an air of leisure and refinement. For our tourists the place was pervaded by the spirit of the necromancer who has woven about it a spell of romance; but to the ordinary inhabitants the long residence of the novelist here was not half so important as that of the very distinguished citizen who had made a great fortune out of some patent, built here a fine house, and adorned his native town. It is not so very many years since Cooper died, and yet the boatmen and loungers about the lake had only the faintest impression of the man-there was a writer by that name, one of them said, and some of his family lived near the house of the great man already referred to. The magician who created Cooperstown sleeps in the old English-looking church-yard of the Episcopal church, in the midst of the graves of his relations, and there is a well-worn path to his head-stone. Whatever the common people of the town may think, it is that grave that draws most pilgrims to the village. Where the hillside cemetery now is, on the bank of the lake, was his farm, which he visited always once and sometimes twice a day. He commonly wrote only from ten to twelve in the morning, giving the rest of the time to his farm and the society of his family. During the period of his libel suits, when the newspapers represented him as morose and sullen in his retirement, he was, on the contrary, in the highest spirits and the most genial mood. "Deer-slayer" was written while this contest was at its height. Driving one day from his farm with his daughter, he stopped and looked long over his favorite prospect on the lake, and said, "I must write one more story, dear, about our little lake. At that moment the "Deerslayer " was born. He was silent the rest of the way home, and went immediately to his library and began the story.

The party returned in a moralizing vein. How vague already in the village which his genius has made known over the civilized world is the fame of Cooper! To our tourists the place was saturated with his presence, but the new generation cares more for its smart prosperity than for all his romance. Many of the passengers on the boat had stopped at a lakeside tavern to dine, preferring a good dinner to the associations which drew our sentimentalists to the spots that were hallowed by the necromancer’s imagination. And why not? One cannot live in the past forever. The people on the boat who dwelt in Cooperstown were not talking about Cooper, perhaps had not thought of him for a year. The ladies, seated in the bow of the boat, were comparing notes about their rheumatism and the measles of their children; one of them had been to the funeral of a young girl who was to have been married in the autumn, poor thing, and she told her companion who were at the funeral, and how they were dressed, and how little feeling Nancy seemed to show, and how shiftless it was not to have more flowers, and how the bridegroom bore up-well, perhaps it’s an escape, she was so weakly.

The day lent a certain pensiveness to all this; the season was visibly waning; the soft maples showed color, the orchards were heavy with fruit, the mountain-ash hung out its red signals, the hop-vines were yellowing, and in all the fence corners the golden-rod flamed and made the meanest high-road a way of glory. On Irene fell a spell of sadness that affected her lover. Even Mrs. Bartlett-Glow seemed touched by some regret for the fleeting of the gay season, and the top of the coach would have been melancholy enough but for the high spirits of Marion and the artist, whose gayety expanded in the abundance of the harvest season. Happy natures, unrestrained by the subtle melancholy of a decaying year!

The summer was really going. On Sunday the weather broke in a violent storm of wind and rain, and at sunset, when it abated, there were portentous gleams on the hills, and threatening clouds lurking about the sky. It was time to go. Few people have the courage to abide the breaking of the serenity of summer, and remain in the country for the more glorious autumn days that are to follow. The Glows must hurry back to Newport. The Bensons would not be persuaded out of their fixed plan to "take in," as Mr. Benson expressed it, the White Mountains. The others were going to Niagara and the Thousand Islands; and when King told Irene that he would much rather change his route and accompany her, he saw by the girl’s manner that it was best not to press the subject. He dreaded to push an explanation, and, foolish as lovers are, he was wise for once in trusting to time. But he had a miserable evening. He let himself be irritated by the lightheartedness of Forbes. He objected to the latter’s whistling as he went about his room packing up his traps. He hated a fellow that was always in high spirits. "Why, what has come over you, old man?" queried the artist, stopping to take a critical look at his comrade. "Do you want to get out of it? It’s my impression that you haven’t taken sulphur water enough."

On Monday morning there was a general clearing out. The platform at the station was crowded. The palace-cars for New York, for Niagara, for Albany, for the West, were overflowing. There was a pile of trunks as big as a city dwelling-house. Baby-carriages cumbered the way; dogs were under foot, yelping and rending the tender hearts of their owners; the porters staggered about under their loads, and shouted till they were hoarse; farewells were said; rendezvous made—alas! how many halffledged hopes came to an end on that platform! The artist thought he had never seen so many pretty girls together in his life before, and each one had in her belt a bunch of goldenrod. Summer was over, sure enough.

At Utica the train was broken up, and its cars despatched in various directions. King remembered that it was at Utica that the younger Cato sacrificed himself. In the presence of all the world Irene bade him good-by. "It will not be for long," said King, with an attempt at gayety. "Nothing is for long," she said with the same manner. And then added in a low tone, as she slipped a note into his hand," Do not think ill of me."

King opened the note as soon as he found his seat in the car, and this was what he read as the train rushed westward towards the Great Fall:

"MY DEAR FRIEND,—How can I ever say it? It is best that we
separate. I have thought and thought; I have struggled with myself.
I think that I know it is best for you. I have been happy—ah me!
Dear, we must look at the world as it is. We cannot change it—if
we break our hearts, we cannot. Don’t blame your cousin. It is
nothing that she has done. She has been as sweet and kind to me as
possible, but I have seen through her what I feared, just how it is.
Don’t reproach me. It is hard now. I know it. But I believe that
you will come to see it as I do. If it was any sacrifice that I
could make, that would be easy. But to think that I had sacrificed
you, and that you should some day become aware of it! You are free.
I am not silly. It is the future I am thinking of. You must take
your place in the world where your lot is cast. Don’t think I have
a foolish pride. Perhaps it is pride that tells me not to put
myself in a false position; perhaps it is something else. Never
think it is want of heart in IRENE

As King finished this he looked out of the window.

The landscape was black.


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Chicago: Charles Dudley Warner, "XIII Richfield Springs, Cooperstown," Their Pilgrimage, ed. Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937 and trans. Townsend, R.S. in Their Pilgrimage (New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1916), Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2024,

MLA: Warner, Charles Dudley. "XIII Richfield Springs, Cooperstown." Their Pilgrimage, edited by Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937, and translated by Townsend, R.S., in Their Pilgrimage, Vol. 22, New York, A. L. Burt Company, 1916, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Warner, CD, 'XIII Richfield Springs, Cooperstown' in Their Pilgrimage, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, Their Pilgrimage, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2024, from