APRIL 22, 1938
HAMPTON, Va., Thursday—We took the ferry yesterday afternoon and landed in Yorktown, Virginia, where we went to see the Nelson House. This carried me back to the days of the World War. On one occasion my husband and I went with a party on the "Sylph" to visit the fleet which was anchored off Yorktown. That was the last time I had seen this very beautiful old house. Though the house is open to the public, the owners still use certain rooms and all the rooms have a lived-in atmosphere. There is a small house on the grounds, which the family uses when it is there. The oldest house of all was not built of brick, but of white clapboards, and has just as much charm as the others.
I have been trying to analyze why these gardens in Virginia seem to have such a particular charm of their own and have come to the conclusion that it is largely because they have such unexpected places of seclusion. For instance, at the foot of this garden there is a tree growing in the middle of a little brick floor circle with a hedge around it high enough to shield people from prying eyes. To be sure, the old-fashioned iron seats would not fulfill our modern idea of comfort, but I can imagine that for many generations people have retreated to these little lost spots with a book or a bit of sewing or a friend with whom they wish to converse at ease.
There was a covered archway which had space for seats on either side cut into the hedge. No one would have been discovered sitting there, unless you actually walked up the path.
By the time we reached Williamsburg, our first thought was to find a telegraph office and, luckily, we came in on the main street and found one. Even the desire for sightseeing, once the column was filed, was subordinate to the desire for something to drink and we invaded the first restaurant we found and indulged in ice-cream sodas. We all gloated over the fact that we had no business to take anything so fattening.
I was reminded of the story of a friend of mine who ate a piece of candy before a very young lady and remarked: "I really shouldn't eat it, but I will this once." Whereupon the child said: "All you grown-ups are so funny. You always say you shouldn't do things and then you do them just the same." And so we enjoyed our sodas.
Then we wandered down to look over William and Mary College. We paid particular attention to the Christopher Wren Building. It appears that one of the NYA projects in Williamsburg is to provide student guides to show the numerous visitors around. Our young guide proved very efficient and entertaining. In telling us about the portraits in one of the upstairs rooms, he was careful not to omit the story about the only lady reproduced on the wall. It appears she was a lady of unpleasant disposition who made the lives of those around her very disagreeable, though her face looks as if she must have had much character and some humor.