I feel awfully selfish whenever I look out of the car window. Switzerland which I have never seen is a spot on the map compared to this. The mountains go up with snow on one side and black rows of trees and rocks on the other, and the clouds seem packed down between them. The sun on the snow and the peaks peering above the clouds is all new to me and so very beautiful that I would like to buy a mountain and call it after my best girl. I will finish this when I get to Creede. I expect to make my fortune there. DICK.
A young man in a sweater and top boots met me at the depot and said that I was Mr. Davis and that he was a young man whose life I had written in "There was 90 and 9." He was from Buffalo and was editing a paper in Creede. He said I was to stop with him-- Creede is built of new pine boards and lies between two immense mountains covered with pines and snow. The town is built in the gulley and when the spring freshets come will be a second Johnstown. Faber, the young man, took me to the Grub State Cabin where I found two most amusing dudes and thoroughbred sports from Boston, Harvard men living in a cabin ten by eight with four bunks and a stove, two banjos and H O P E. They own numerous silver mines, lots, and shares, but I do not believe they have five dollars in cash amongst them. They have a large picture of myself for one of the ORNAMENTS and are great good fellows. We sat up in our bunks until two this morning talking and are planning to go to Africa and Mexico and Asia Minor together.--Lots of love. DICK.
Very happy indeed to be back in his beloved town, Richard returned to New York late in March, 1892, and resumed his editorial duties. But on this occasion his stay was of particularly short duration, and in May, he started for his long-wished-for visit to London. The season there was not yet in full swing, and after spending a few days in town, journeyed to Oxford, where he settled down to amuse himself and collect material for his first articles on English life as he found it. In writing of this visit to Oxford, H. J. Whigham, one of Richard's oldest friends, and who afterward served with him in several campaigns, said:
"When we first met Richard Harding Davis he was living, to all practical purposes, the life of an undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford. Anyone at all conversant with the customs of universities, especially with the idiosyncrasies of Oxford, knows that for a person who is not an undergraduate to share the life of undergraduates on equal terms, to take part in their adventures, to be admitted to their confidence is more difficult than it is for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle or for the rich man to enter heaven. It was characteristic of Davis that although he was a few years older than the average university "man" and came from a strange country and, moreover, had no official reason for being at Oxford at all, he was accepted as one of themselves by the Balliol undergraduates, in fact, lived in Balliol for at least a college term, and happening to fall in with a somewhat enterprising generation of Balliol men he took the lead in several escapades which have been written into Oxford history. There is in the makeup of the best type of college undergraduate a wonderful spirit of adventure, an unprejudiced view of life, an almost Quixotic feeling for romance, a disdain of sordid or materialistic motives, which together make the years spent at a great university the most golden of the average man's career. These characteristics Davis was fortunate enough to retain through all the years of his life. The same spirit that took him out with a band of Oxford youths to break down an iron barrier set by an insolent landowner across the navigable waters of Shakespeare's Avon carried him, in after years, to the battlefields where Greece fought against the yoke of Turkey, to the insurrecto camps of Cuba, to the dark horrors of the Congo, to Manchuria, where gallant Japan beat back the overwhelming power of Russia, to Belgium, where he saw the legions of Germany trampling over the prostrate bodies of a small people. Romance was never dead while Davis was alive."
That Richard lost no time in making friends at Oxford as, indeed, he never failed to do wherever he went, the following letters to his mother would seem to show:
OXFORD--May, 1892. DEAR FAMILY:
I came down here on Saturday morning with the Peels, who gave an enormous boating party and luncheon on a tiny little island. The day was beautiful with a warm brilliant sun, and the river was just as narrow and pretty as the head of the Squan river, and with old walls and college buildings added. We had the prettiest Mrs. Peel in our boat and Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain, who was Miss Endicott and who is very sweet and pretty. We raced the other punts and rowboats and soon, after much splashing and exertion, reached the head of the river. Then we went to, tea in New College and to see the sights of the different colleges now on the Thames. The barges of the colleges, painted different colors and gilded like circus band-wagons and decorated with coats of arms and flying great flags, lined the one shore for a quarter of a mile and were covered by girls in pretty frocks and under-grads in blazers. Then the boats came into sight one after another with the men running alongside on the towpath. This was one of the most remarkable sights of the country so far. There were over six hundred men coming six abreast, falling and stumbling and pushing, shouting and firing pistols. It sounded like a cavalry charge and the line seemed endless. The whole thing was most theatrical and effective. Then we went to the annual dinner of the Palmerston Club, where I made a speech which was, as there is no one else to tell you, well received, "being frequently interrupted with applause," from both the diners and the ladies in the gallery. It was about Free Trade and the way America was misrepresented in the English papers, and composed of funny stories which had nothing to do with the speech. I did not know I was going to speak until I got there, and considering the fact, as Wilson says, that your uncle was playing on a strange table with a crooked cue he did very well. The next morning we breakfasted with the Bursar of Trinity and had luncheon with the Viscount St. Cyres to meet Lord and Lady Coleridge. St. Cyres is very shy and well-bred, and we would have had a good time had not the M. P.'s present been filled with awe of the Lord Chief Justice and failed to draw him out. As it was he told some very funny stories; then we went to tea with Hubert Howard, in whose rooms I live and am now writing, and met some stupid English women and shy girls. Then we dined with the dons at New College, so--called because it is eight hundred years old. We sat at a high table in a big hall hung with pictures and lit by candles. The under-grads sat beneath in gowns and rattled pewter mugs. We all wore evening dress and those that had them red and white fur collars. After dinner we left the room according to some process of selection, carrying our napkins with us. We entered a room called the Commons, where we drank wines and ate nuts and raisins. It was all very solemn and dull and very dignified. Outside it was quite light although nine o'clock. Then we marched to another room where there were cigars and brandy and soda, but Arthur Pollen and I had to go and take coffee with the Master of Balliol, the only individual of whom Pollen stands in the least awe. He was a dear old man who said, "O yes, you're from India," and on my saying "No, from America"; he said, "O yes, it's the other one." I found the other one was an Indian princess in a cashmere cloak and diamonds, who looked so proud and lovely and beautiful that I wanted to take her out to one of the seats in the quadrangle and let her weep on my shoulder. How she lives among these cold people I cannot understand. We were all to go to a concert in the chapel, and half of the party started off, but the Master's wife said, "Oh, I am sure the Master expects them to wait for him in the hall. It is always done." At which all the women made fluttering remarks of sympathy and the men raced off to bring the others back. Only the Indian girl and I remained undisturbed and puzzled. The party came back, but the Master saw them and said, "Well, it does not matter, but it is generally done." At which we all felt guilty. When we got to the chapel everybody stood up until the Master's party sat down, but as it was broken in the middle of the procession, they sat down, and then, seeing we had not all passed, got up again, so that I felt like saying, "As you were, men," as they do out West in the barracks. Then Lord Coleridge in taking off his overcoat took off his undercoat, too, and stood unconscious of the fact before the whole of Oxford. The faces of the audience which packed the place were something wonderful to see; their desire to laugh at a tall, red-faced man who looks like a bucolic Bill Nye struggling into his coat, and then horror at seeing the Chief Justice in his shirt-sleeves, was a terrible effort--and no one would help him, on the principle, I suppose, that the Queen of Spain has no legs. He would have been struggling yet if I had not, after watching him and Lady Coleridge struggling with him, for a full minute, taken his coat and firmly pulled the old gentleman into it, at which he turned his head and winked.
I will go back to town by the first to see the Derby and will get into lodgings there. I AM HAVING A VERY GOOD TIME AND AM VERY WELL. The place is as beautiful as one expects and yet all the time startling one with its beauty.