Unexpected and alternative spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation punctuation, possible typographer's errors and omitted words, and incorrectly numbered chapters and page numbers have been retained as they appear in the original publication. Where the lead character's name has been spelt with an OE or oe ligature, the spelling has been represented as Phoemie or PHOEMIE. Accents on words in the French language have been removed, and the ae ligature changed to ae.
PHEMIE FROST'S EXPERIENCES.
MRS. ANN S. STEPHENS.
AUTHOR OF "FASHION AND FAMINE," "REJECTED WIFE," "OLD HOMESTEAD," ETC., ETC., ETC.
NEW YORK: G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers. LONDON: S. LOW, SON & CO. M.DCCC.LXXIV.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by G. W. CARLETON & CO., In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Maclauchlan, Stereotyper and Printer, 56, 58 and 60 Park Street, New York.
FRANK LESLIE, ESQ.,
ONE OF THE BEST-TRIED AND MOST VALUED FRIENDS I HAVE,
THE LIGHT AMUSEMENT OF MY LEISURE HOURS,
ANN S. STEPHENS.
ST. CLOUD HOTEL, } NEW YORK, March, 1874. }
Thistle down, thistle down, cast to the wind So lightly and wildly, you scarcely can find A glimpse of it here, or a gleam of it there, As it trembles, a silvery mist, on the air.
Like the wide thorny leaves whence the mother root threw Up its crown of rich purple, bejewelled with dew, These feathery nothings, barbed, sparsely, with seeds, Must struggle for life with the brambles and weeds.
I.—Leaving Home. 11
II.—Phoemie's First Visit. 25
III.—About Girls. 28
IV.—More About Girls. 33
V.—Poor Children. 39
VI.—He Has Come. 41
VII.—The French Dress-maker. 45
VIII.—The Genuine Madame. 48
IX.—Ready to Land. 51
X.—Down the Bay. 54
XI.—The Grand Duke. 57
XII.—Tickets for the Ball. 60
XIII.—The Grand Duke's Ball. 63
XIV.—The Natural History Philanthropist. 67
XV.—Christmas in New York. 74
XVI.—The Night Before Christmas. 78
XVII.—Early Service. 81
XVIII.—High Church. 84
XIX.—Christmas Morning. 88
XX.—About Lions. 90
XXI.—Dining in the Dark. 95
XXII.—New Year's Day. 99
XXIII.—The New Year's Reception. 102
XXIV.—Mignon: A Night at the Grand Opera. 108
XXV.—The Black Crook. 114
XXVI.—Living Apart. 120
XXVII.—More About Fisk. 124
XXVIII.—She Would Go. 128
XXIX.—Mr. Greeley's Birthday Party. 132
XXX.—Leap Year. 135
XXXI.—A Man that Wouldn't Take Money. 140
XXXII.—A Democratic Lunch. 144
XXXIII.—Dempster Proposes a Trip. 149
XXXIV.—In Washington. 152
XXXV.—Getting Information. 157
XXXVI.—The Liederkranz Ball. 161
XXXVII.—How Did the Papers Know? 165
XXXVIII.—Reception of the Japanese. 168
XXXIX.—The Japanese. 171
XL.—That Diplomatic Stag Party. 174
XLI.—The Dinner. 179
XLII.—In the Basement of the Capitol. 182
XLIII.—Phoemie Dines with a Senator. 186
XLIV.—Marble Halls. 191
XLV.—Randolph Rogers' Bronze Doors. 194
XLVI.—Was it a Meeting-house? 197
XLVIII.—A Church Higher Yet. 204
XLIX.—Easter Sunday. 206
L.—That Man with the Lantern. 211
LI.—Mrs. Grant's Reception. 215
LII.—Representative Women. 220
LIII.—A Literary Party. 223
LIV.—Dressing for a Party. 227
LV.—Foreign Ministers. 230
LVI.—Good Clothes. 237
LVII.—The Party of the Season. 241
LVIII.—Down the Potomac. 245
LIX.—Mount Vernon. 250
LX.—Mr. Greeley's Nomination. 253
LXI.—Women and Things. 258
LXII.—A Trip to Annapolis. 263
LXIII.—Among the Cadets. 267
LXIV.—American Authors. 271
LXV.—The Statue of Shakespeare. 275
LXVI.—Racing Dresses. 279
LXVII.—The First Horse-race. 282
LXVIII.—Off Again. 288
LXIX.—The Steeple-chase. 293
LXX.—Preparing for Sea. 296
LXXII.—Music that is Music. 304
LXXIV.—Thunders of Music. 308
LXXV.—Saratoga Trunks. 312
LXXVI.—The Dolly Varden. 314
LXXVII.—Starting for Long Branch. 320
LXXVIII.—That Hair-trunk. 323
LXXIX.—At the Branch. 326
LXXX.—The Race-course. 328
LXXXI.—Climbing Sea Cliff. 332
LXXXII.—Fighting for the Body. 335
LXXXIII.—Lions and Lambs. 337
LXXXV.—The Second Day. 342
LXXXVI.—The Blacksmith's Conversion. 347
LXXXVII.—That Ovation of Fire. 352
LXXXVIII.—Let Him Go. 359
LXXXIX.—Done Up in a Hurry. 362
XC.—The Yellow Flag. 367
XCI.—The Man that Saved Me. 370
XCII.—Pleasure Bay. 375
XCIII.—Netting Crabs. 379
XCIV.—Extra Politeness. 384
XCV.—The Clam-bake. 387
XCVI.—That Clam-bake. 390
XCVII.—One Hour of Heaven. 392
XCVIII.—C. O. D. 309
XCIX.—Taken In. 404
PHOEMIE FROST'S EXPERIENCES.
I have made up my mind. Having put my hand to the plough, it isn't in me to back out of a duty when duty and one's own wishes sail amicably in the same canoe. I am going to give myself up to the good of mankind and the dissemination of great moral ideas.
Selected by the Society of Infinite Progress as its travelling missionary, with power to spread the most transcendental of New England ideas throughout the world, I shall take up my cross and go forth.
The evening after the Society had crowned me with this honor, I asked Aunt Kesiah and Uncle Ben Frost, who have been working the farm on shares ever since my father died, if they could not make out to do without me for some months, or weeks, or years, just as duty or my own feelings took a notion to stay.
Aunt Kesiah sat right down in the rocking-chair, and looked straight in my face for a whole minute without speaking.
"What," says she at last, "going away from home at your age—a female woman all alone in the world! You and the Society just take my breath away, Phoemie. Where on arth are you a going to?"
"Well," says I, "it seems to be my duty to seek a field where there is the most sin and iniquity a going on, where dishonesty rides rampagnatious as a roaring lion, and fashion flaunts herself like a peacock with moons in every tail feather. First of all, the field of my duty lies in York, that Babylon of cities."
"But whose a going to bear the expenses?" says Uncle Ben, who always was 'cute as a miser about money matters. "Duty is sumtimes rayther expensive."
"The Society," answers I. "The members are a picking up produce now, I shan't go empty-handed on my mission. All the members are wide awake about that. Crops have been first-rate."
"Yes," says Uncle Ben, "I give in there."
"And hens never laid better since chickens were hatched," continued I.
"Jes' so," says Aunt Kesiah, "if the pesky creturs wouldn't run off and hide their nests."
"Hams are plenty, smoked beef ditto, to say nothing of dried apples. I mean to sell everything at a profit and settle accounts with the Society."
"I reckon you'll get cut short; up to this time there has bin lots of talking in that Society. When it comes to giving—but never mind—we shall see!"
"There, there, Benjamin, don't you go to pouring cold water on our Phoemie's missionary work. She is sot on going, so let her go."
"Is she sot?" says Uncle Ben, looking at me sort of anxious.
"Yes," says I, "my face is turned to the mark of the prize of the high calling."
"Jes' so," says Uncle Ben, "got your hand on the prow with a hard grip? That being the fact, old woman, the best thing is for you to lend a helping hand and send her off comfortably. She can try anyhow, though I have a notion that the world has got to be so wicked since the war, that one female woman—"
"Girl!" says I.
"Well, girl—may fall short of regenerating the hull of it all to once. Still there is no knowing what any one can do till they try."
"When do you lay out to start?" says Aunt Kesiah, all in a flutter.
"Right off," says I.
"By land or water?"
"Both," says I.
"Oh, dear! what if you should get shipwrecked, and all the produce and garden sass with you!" says she.
"There now, don't skeer the girl, Kesiah," says Uncle Ben. "The Sound don't rage to any great extent, neither are the engines alles a busting as a general thing."
"Well, well, if she's sot on going, I'll do my best to help get her off," says Aunt Kesiah, and she goes right to putting lard in a kettle, and while it was a heating, rolled out a lot of doughnuts, which article of food she excels in. For two whole days that good soul devoted herself to making crullers, doughnuts, and turnover pies, as if she thought I should not find anything to eat till I got home again.
Well, by and by the day came for me to start. That tea-party and a prayer-meeting at Deacon Pettibone's house was a season that none of us will ever forget. Mrs. Pettibone, our president, is a wonderfully gifted woman, and that night she seized right hold of the horns of the altar and fairly beat herself. Oh, sisters, it was a touching time when I drove with Uncle Ben through Sprucehill a bowing from one window to another, for every member of the Society seemed to rush heart and soul to the windows; and when I found your executive committee on that platform, the tears that had been standing in my eyes just burst out and overflowed my soul.
There I sat on my trunk in your midst, with a bandbox at my feet, and a new satchel, large, plump, and shiny, in my hand, ready to start, but feeling the responsibility of my trust, and the danger of a young girl going forth into the world all alone. No wonder some of you thought I should give up and take my hand from the plough. It was a trying situation. I felt it; I suffered; but, knowing that the eyes of all Sprucehill were upon me, I was firm. Yes, even when Aunt Kesiah placed that satchel in my lap, and told me with tears in her eyes to take special care of it, for she did not know what I should do if it got lost.
She said this so loud, and with such deep sobs, that a tall gentleman who stood on the platform with a satchel in his hand, seemed to be greatly affected by the touching scene, and kept close to us till the train come lumbering and snorting in.
Then, sisters, you remember how we fell upon each other's neck, and wept and kissed each other, then tore apart. How I went weeping into the cars leaving the satchel behind, and how Uncle Ben pushed it through the window, telling me to be awful careful of its precious contents so loud that everybody heard, and I have no doubt wondered how many thousand dollars it held. Well, the contents of that bag were miscellaneously precious. I had seen Aunt Kesiah pack it, with a feeling that made me homesick before I left the old farm. Doughnuts, crullers, turn-over pies, with luscious peach juice breaking through the curves. A great hunk of maple sugar, another of dried beef, some cheese, and a pint bottle of cider. It nearly broke Aunt Kesiah's heart because she couldn't top things off with a pot of preserves, but I wasn't sorry, thinking they might be unhandy to carry.
Well, I took the satchel, set it upon my lap, and looked out of the window at you all, as well as I could for crying, till the train gave a jerk that made my teeth rattle, and moved on.
When I lost sight of you, sisters, I felt awfully lonesome and almost 'fraid to trust myself among so many masculine men as filled the cars. Being an unprotected female, with a certain amount of promiscuous property in my charge, I felt a commercial and moral responsibility that weighed down my shoulders till I felt like a camel with an enormous load to carry.
Had I been travelling with nothing but my own self to take care of, the sense of responsibility would have been less; but I could not help thinking that the dignity of our Society was in my keeping, and the anxieties of all Sprucehill followed me swifter than the cars could run or the snorting engine draw. So I pulled my dust-colored veil tight over my face, and, with my feet planted firm on the floor, sat bolt-upright, holding the satchel on my lap with both hands, kind of shivering for fear some man might attempt to sit down by me. I couldn't think of this without feeling as if I should sink right through the red velvet cushions that I sat on.
I was so anxious that my heart jumped right into my mouth when that man I had seen on the platform come my way. While he was looking around, the breath stood still on my lips, and I gave my satchel a grip which would have hurt it if such things have any feeling. I have no doubt that the austerity of my countenance scared all the rest of them off, for most of 'em passed on, after giving me a regretful glance; but when he come in swinging his new satchel, so independent, I moved a little; for I knew he was a gentleman by the way he wore his hat—clear back on his head—by the great seal, with a red stone in it, on his finger, and by the heavy gold chain swinging across his breast.
When I saw this man's eyes fixed on my seat so beseeching, I kind of moved a little more and then let my eyes droop downward, determined not to help his presumptuous design to sit by me a single bit.
"Thank you," says he, sitting down close to me, and chucking his satchel under the seat. "If there is a superior person in the car, I'm certain to have the luck and the honor to sit beside her. Some people prefer to look out of the window, but I would rather gaze on a sweet, pretty face, by a long shot—especially if it does not belong to a girl with airs."
I felt myself blushing all over at this delicate compliment, and observed, with becoming diffidence and great originality, that "beauty was only skin-deep at the best, and not by any manner of means to be compared with Christian piety and high intellect."
The man—he was a stalwart, handsome man; not pursey like Deacon Pettibone, nor slim to bean-poleishness like the circuit preachers that live about, and only pick up a little roundness at camp-meetings; but tall, and what young ladies call imposing. Well, the man gave me another long look at this, and says he:
"But when all these things jibe in together so beautifully, who is to say which it is that captivates a man's fancy? Not I. It is my weakness to take lovely woman into the core of my heart as a whole; but, if there is one quality that I prize more than another, it is piety."
I blushed with thrilling consciousness of the grace that has been in me so long that it has become a part of my being; but his praise did not satisfy me. One hates to take sweet things in driblets, with a spoon, when the soup-ladle is handy.
"Piety is a thing to be had for praying, fasting, and unlimited devotion. Anybody can have it who grapples the horn of the altar in deadly earnest. In short, if there is anything that everybody on earth has a right to, it's religion. The only aristocracy there is about it, comes when one reaches the high point of perfect sanctification—a state that some people do reach, though it is sometimes so difficult to point out the particular person."
"Ah, indeed!" said he. "But I have penetration, madam, great penetration. Do not torture your sensitive modesty by an attempt to conceal extraordinary perfection from one who can so fully appreciate it, and who grieves to say how uncommon it is."
I said nothing, but dropped my eyes, and sat up straighter than ever.
"Permit me," says my polite fellow-traveller, gently laying his hand on my satchel; "this is too heavy for the lap of a delicate female. Supposing we place it side by side with mine under the seat?"
I held on to the satchel, afraid that he might mash one of the turn-over pies.
"Do allow me. I really tremble to see a person so formed by nature borne down by such a weight," says my fellow-traveller, with great impressiveness. "It isn't to be thought of."
"But—but I don't feel the weight so very much," says I, loosening my grip a trifle.
"But, my dear madam, remember that the life and health of a person like you is of consequence to the whole universe. Remember the siotic nerve."
"The what nerve?" says I.
"Siotic," says he. "That nerve which is so tender in very pious people. They say that the Pope has been suffering agonies with it."
"Dear me," says I, "is it anything mixed up with a heart disease?"
"Not at all; it is a strain upon the great sensitive nerve that runs like a whip-cord from I don't know where down the back of the le—"
Oh! sisters, he almost had that terrible word out, but I gave such a start and blushed so that he turned it right round on his tongue, and says he with great emphasis, "limb."
"Oh!" says I, with a gasp of relief, "now you speak so that a modest New England woman can understand. So there is a nerve!"
"Peculiarly susceptible in religious and intellectual persons," says he.
"Running down the limb!" says I.
"Both limbs," says he, "which a weight carried on the lap is sure to exasperate if it does not end in kinking up the siotic and crippling the l—limbs."
"Are you a doctor?" says I.
"A sort of one," says he, and, without more words, he took my satchel and sat it down by his, under the seat, as sociable as could be.
After that, he took hold of my hand, as if he was a-going to feel my pulse, looking sweetly anxious.
"Is there a siotic there?" says I.
He gave my hand a hard squeeze, and seemed to ruminate.
"It takes a little time to discover," says he, half closing his eyes. "Be tranquil; there is no danger now. The arm has been in one position rather too long; change was necessary. But this is a change."
Then he gave my hand another squeeze, and, leaning back, shut his eyes entirely.
That minute the engine gave out a sharp yell that nearly scared me to death. The cars heaved a jerk and a jolt, the man on the platform sung out something, and before I could say Jack Robinson, my fellow-passenger made a dive under the seat, dragged out his satchel, and made for the door, bowing as he went, and hustling out something about its being his station.
While I was a-staring after him with all the eyes in my head, the cars gave another jerk, and, splash-bang, away we went, so fast that the man scooting along that platform, waving his hand backwards, seemed to be swimming in fog.
Sisters, I must say that a feeling of lonesomeness fell upon me after he went; his conversation had been so scientific and interesting that I felt the loss.
Besides that, I felt a little hungry, and thought I'd take a bite of something to eat. So I stooped down, lifted the satchel to my lap, and tried to open it.
The lock, it seemed to me, had got a stubborn twist, and wouldn't open; just then the conductor came along, and I gave him a pitiful look.
"Please, sir, help me a little," says I; "it won't open all I can do."
The conductor came forward, snatched hold of the satchel, and wrenched it open.
"Thank you," says I, lifting my eyes to his gaze, and diving my hand down into the satchel, for I meant to give him a doughnut for his politeness; but instead of that luscious cake, my hands sank into a half peck of sawdust packed close in the satchel my fellow-passenger had left behind.
"Look there," says I; "isn't it dreadful, and I an unprotected female?"
"Was your money in the bag?" asks the conductor.
"No," says I, putting one hand up to my bosom, to make sure it was safe. "I always keep my money where—no matter, the—the handsome upstart will have a splendid feast of turnovers and doughnuts, besides a lively drink of cider; but as for money, that is in a safe place."
"And your ticket?"
"That," says I, "not being private property, like money, is kept handier."
With that, I took the ticket from inside of my glove and handed it to him.
"All right," says he, "the scamp hasn't made so much of a haul as he expected."
"But he'll have a sumptuous meal," says I, a little down in the mouth; for I was growing hungry, and not a bite left. Just then a boy came into the cars with a basketful of popped corn on his arm. It looked awfully tempting, for every kernel was turned wrong side out, white as snow. I bought a popped corn of the boy, and pacified myself with that till the cars stopped ten minutes, where there was a mean chance to get something more substantial to eat. I went in with the crowd, helter skelter; wrestled my way to a long counter, got a cup of tea which I swallowed scalding hot, and, after a hard struggle for it, carried a wedge of custard pie off with the palm of my hand for a plate, and skivered back to the cars, nibbling it as I ran; for the bell was ringing and the conductor yelling "all aboard!" so loud that half the passengers went back coughing and choking, and muttering some kind of wickedness as they went.
Well, all the rest of my car ride was just like this, only once in a while a little more so, till I got onto the Sound. There a great large steamboat, a quarter of a mile long, took a part of us in, and carried us right out to sea.
I was just a little disappointed in that roaring element. The air that came above it was salty and light, and the waves sparkled beautifully, but they did not rage worth a cent. Still the shores away off on both sides looked dreamy, and we cut through the water so swift that it made me dizzy.
Two or three stylish sort of men seemed as if they were hankering to speak to me as I sat there all alone on deck; but I didn't seem to see it, and they contented themselves with looking at me as if I was the most cruel creature on earth; which I meant to be. The loss of one satchel full of doughnuts and things is as much as I can afford on one trip.
By and by that part of the ocean we travelled on kept growing narrower and narrower, till you could see houses on both shores, and splendiferous houses they were, with great meadows a-sloping down to the water; tall trees shading them, and bushes growing together in clumps. Some were of stone, some of wood, with pointed roofs and cupolas, and great wide stoops, in which you could see people sitting and moving about. Some with spy-glasses in their hands, a-watching us sweep by them like a house afire.
I felt lonesome and almost homesick, but for all that the sight was exhilarating—very.
"Haven't we got almost to New York," says I to the captain; "it seems to me as if the sea was shutting in."
"Oh, we are almost there," says he, "close on to Hell Gate now."
"To what?" says I, almost hopping from the stool I sat on.
"Hell Gate," says he.
"Oh, mercy! you don't tell me it is so bad as that? I knew York was an awful wicked place, but I didn't think an innocent missionary would have to go in it through that gate!"
"It is a little dangerous for sail crafts," says he, smiling, I suppose, to comfort me; "but you are safe. We shall go through with a rush."
I caught my breath.
"But supposing He were on the watch?"
"Don't ask me; I'd rather not mention his name, being a female who abhors profanity."
All at once the captain's eyes began to sparkle as if he were just longing for a tussle with the evil one.
"Don't be afraid," says he, "I reckon we shall make the gate without much trouble. The blasting won't stop us yet awhile."
"Yes; they'll have the all-firedest upheave there, before long, that ever tore a hole in the bottom of the sea."
"Blasting! with fire and brimstone?"
"And nitro-glycerine," says he, as calm as skim milk.
"And you mean to take this big steamboat right through it with me on board?"
He laughed right there in my frightened and pale face.
"I really don't know any other way to reach New York," says he.
"Let me ashore," says I, a starting up, "me and my hair-trunk; I don't care for the produce; it may serve to cool their tongues down there. But put me and my hair trunk on any land. It is all I ask."
"It's impossible," says he.
"But I won't go through that in—that awful gate," says I.
"Why, we are in it now; don't you see the whirl of the waters?"
"In it now. Oh, mercy!"
I fell down upon my seat, and buried my face in my shawl, shaking from head to foot.
Sisters, that cruel man laughed. O, how hardened he must have got, going through that sulphurious gate.
"I say, madam, there is no danger, we are almost through now."
"Is he there? Have you seen anything of his blasting hosts?" says I under my breath. "Do they mean to fire up just yet?"
"No, no, we are all safe. Quite through—New York is in sight."
I let my shawl drop a little, and peeped out. There was no sign of a gale; the water was a little bubbly and rough, as if it had been rushing through a race-way, but that was all. That captain of ours must have been on good terms with the old serpent that keeps the gate, or he never could have got through so easy. Now that it was over, I almost wished I had found grit enough to see how it was done. As it was, my eyes were hid, and I did not even see the awful old gate.
Well, at last I rose up slowly and looked forward. There was New York City, right before me; just one pile of roofs and walls with cupolas, pointed fronts, and steeples; looking through the smoky haze acres and acres of houses, miles and miles—a whole island laid down with stone. All around it, just as far as I could see, the water was thick with ships, steamboats, and small boats, all flying up and down and across, like living things, each with an errand of its own. There, along the edges of the city, was what seemed to me like a forest of dead trees, without a leaf or a sign of greenness upon them.
"Well," says the captain, "you see that we have run the gate. Never been here before, I reckon?"
"No, never," says I, "and hope I never shall be again."
"I thought things seemed a little green," says he.
"From the Green Mountains," says I.
"Exactly," says he. "Well, how do you like the looks of the city?"
"Hazy," says I; "dry as tinder. All stone walls, and too many dead trees about for my notion."
"Dead trees? I have never seen any," says he, a-looking around.
"Must be awful short-sighted," says I. "Just look down there; it is like a burnt faller."
He looked ahead where my finger was pointing, and laughed right out.
"Why, that is the shipping," says he.
"Shipping," says I. "Don't tell me that! I wasn't brought up in the woods not to know tree trunks when I see them, dead or alive."
"But I assure you those are the masts of vessels. You can see the hulls now."
I did see the hulls, and felt dreadfully; what would the captain think of me! At once I looked up.
"Yes," says I. "There is no question about it. Those are the hulls of ships, and the others are masts; but I was right."
He laughed: "But you said they were dead trees."
"Just so. Isn't a mast made out of a tree?"
"And isn't the tree dead before it can be made into a mast?"
"Why, yes," says he, and now it was his turn to be down in the mouth.
"Well, then, isn't the edge of the water there chuck full of dead trees?"
At first the captain sort of choked a little; but the next minute he burst out a laughing.
"Do you want to know my opinion?" says he.
"Well, rather," says I.
"Well, it's this: Green Mountain or not, if anybody buys a certain lady I know of for a fool, he'll get awfully taken in."
"Shouldn't wonder," says I.
With that, I picked up my umbrella, tied my bonnet a little tighter, took my bandbox in one hand, and followed the crowd across a plank bridge, and got into about the dirtiest road that my foot ever trod on.
"Want a carriage? Want a carriage?" I never saw men more polite than the drivers with whips were. It seemed as if they couldn't do enough for me. It really was a strife which should take me in his carriage. Their attentions really were flattering. It was like a welcome in this strange place.
It was like being in a little room all cushioned seats and windows when I got into the great double carriage so kindly offered me.
The cushions were soft as down, and gave so, when I seated myself, that I couldn't help catching my breath. "Where to," says the driver, a-leaning through the window.
"First," says I, "if it won't be too much trouble, I will go somewhere and buy a new satchel; I really don't feel at home without one. Then you may take me to a boarding-house in Bleecker Street. You'll know where it is by inquiring about a little. The name is Smith, and they come from Vermont. Their daughter married and settled on Sprucehill. Smith. You can't help but find them."
"Have you got a number?" says the man.
"No," answers I, "only one family."
"But the house."
"No," says I again. "I haven't got any house, but the old homestead on Sprucehill."
"But Bleecker is a long street."
"And I must have a number."
"Why, isn't one street of a name enough?" says I, getting out of patience. "What on earth do you want?"
"I want the name of the people."
"And the number of the house they live in."
"Oh, then, houses go by numbers, not names, here in York, do they? Stop a minute!"
Here I took a slip of paper from my pocket-book which Smith's daughter had written, and gave it to him.
"All right," says he, hopping up the wheel, and going to his seat. Then away we rolled, genteel as could be.
I bought the satchel at a store we drove by, and then we went on and on and on, till at last he stopped before a brick house with a good deal of iron about it.
The driver jumped down, ran up the steps, pulled a rusty knob fastened to the door stone, and faced round towards his horses.
A girl I should consider as hired help opened the door.
"Is Mrs. Smith at home?" says I, a-putting my head out of the window.
"Yes," says she.
"I'll get out," says I.
The driver unfolded a lot of steps that had been hid away under the windows. I went down them with a genteel trip. The man had been so polite, I stopped to thank him.
"Three dollars," says he, a holding out his hand.
"Three dollars? What for?" says I, all in a flutter.
"For bringing you here," says he. "Stopping on the way, and so on."
"But you invited me."
The fellow grinned, and held out his hand harder than ever. The help on top of the steps giggled.
"Come, look sharp, I can't wait all day," says he, as pert as a fox.
"Well," says I; "being an unprotected female in a strange place, I can't help myself, I guess; but they do sell politeness awful dear in York. It must be scarce."
I gave him three dollars without another word, feeling like a robbed princess as I did it. Then I took the bandbox and new satchel in my hand, and walked into Smith's boarding-house, about the homesickest creature that ever bore a cross.
PHOEMIE'S FIRST VISIT.
Sisters:—Some of you must remember my cousin Emily Elizabeth Frost, that married a Dempster ten years ago when most of us were little mites of things sewing our over-and-over seams. She was a smart creature enough, and as her mother was a proper, nice woman, it was reasonable to hope that she could be depended on to bring up her children; for her father was a deacon in the church, and her mother just the salt of the earth. Well, as soon as I got settled in my boarding-house, I took it into my head to go and see Cousin Elizabeth. She hadn't been to Vermont lately, and I'd rather lost track of her; so I gave one morning to hunting her up.
Some useful things can be found in a great city like this. Now, I tell you, amongst them is a great, fat dictionary, crowded full of names, where everybody that keeps a decent house sets down the number, which is a convenience for strangers like me.
I found the name of Cousin Elizabeth's husband, who keeps a bank somewhere down town, the book said, and got into the first street car that went towards the Central Park. After a while I got out and hunted up the number, feeling awfully anxious, for the houses about there were what the papers call palatial—a word we have not much use for in our parts. I just stopped on the other side of the street and took a general survey before I attempted to go in, feeling more and more fidgety every minute, for that house just took me down with its sumptuousness. Such great windows, with one monstrous pane in a sash, and lace and silk and tassels shining through! The front was four stories high and ended off with the steepest roof you ever saw, just sloping back a trifle, and flattening off at the top, with windows in it, and all sorts of colors in the shingles, which they call "tiles" here. Then the stone steps wound up to a platform with a heavy stone railing on each side, and a great shiny door, sunk deep into the wall, was wide open, and beyond it was one of glass, frosted over like our windows on a snapping cold morning, and under my feet was a checkered marble floor. I found the knob of a bell sunk into the door jamb, and pulled it a little, feeling half-scared to death. Then I just stepped in and waited in front of the glass door.
A colored person of remarkably genteel appearance opened the door, and gave me a look from head to foot that riled the old Adam in my bosom; then he muttered something about the basement; but I put him down with just that one lift of my finger.
"Is my cousin, Mrs. Dempster, at home?" says I.
"I—I'll inquire," says he, as meek as Moses; "walk in."
Walk in I did.
"Have you a card?" says he.
"No," says I; "as a general thing cards ain't desirable among relations, nor moral under any circumstances with religious friends. Say that Miss Frost is here—Miss Phoemie Frost, from the State of Vermont. No cards!"
The fellow opened a door on one side of the hall, and I went through. Don't expect me to describe that room. It isn't in me to give the least idea of it. Great chunks of glass like the hub of a wheel, with crooked spokes of glass starting every way from it, and what seemed like hundreds of icicles falling from them, dropped down from the ceiling. When the negro opened the blinds and let in a drift of sunshine, they turned into a snarl of rainbows that fairly blinded me. Then there was a carpet soft as spring grass in a meadow, and bright as a flower-garden; chairs shining with gold and silk; marble women, white as milk, with not a thing on worth speaking of, and looking-glasses half as large as our spring ponds.
I turned my looks away from the women without clothes, while that colored person was by; but gave them a skimpy peep or two the minute he was gone. Really, it was dreadful. I would not have believed such things of Cousin Elizabeth.
Oh mercy on me! while I was looking, in came a gentleman, who bowed, and took a chair, and sat smiling on those creatures just as if he was used to it. Talk of blushing—my face was one blaze of fire.
While I was wondering what I should do, a girl, or what ought to have been a little girl, came sidling into the room, gave me a look as if I'd been a dog in the wrong place, and went up to the gentleman.
"Mamma will be down directly, and has sent me to entertain you," says she, shaking out her short skirts, and almost sitting down on the crimpy hair that half covered them behind. "Ah! I see you are admiring our crouching Venus. Lovely, isn't it? The curving lines are so perfect. The limbs—have you observed the foreshortening of that limb?"
The foreshortening of that limb? Mercy on me, I couldn't stand it. Another minute and I should have boxed her ears, for all the blood that burned in my face went tingling down to my fingers. That was too much; so I up and said I would call again, and marched right out of the house. Girls indeed!
Dear Sisters:—You ask a puzzling and painful question—What kind of girls do the children I write about make?
My dear friends, girls—modest, rosy, bright-eyed school-girls, such as you are a-thinking of—are scarce as hen's teeth in this great city, and not to be found in profuseness anywhere. They went out with pink calico sun-bonnets, and ain't likely to come in again yet awhile, I tell you! Republican institutions can be carried to a great extent; and our young ones have found it out, and trample down all the good, wholesome old fashions before their little feet quite get out of baby shoes. At this moment I can't find a girl of twelve years old that don't know a thousand times more than her mother, and wouldn't attempt to teach law to her father if he was a judge in the Supreme Court. Yet, it's a shocking truth, the little upstarts don't know how to read like Christians, or spell half their words. The tip-top fashionable school-marms here are quite above teaching such common things as reading and spelling, and turn up their noses at any study that hasn't some "ology" or "phy" at the end of it.
I should just like to have a string of the girls that walk in squads up and down the Fifth Avenue, with short dresses and hair streaming loose down their backs, in a district school-house, with no books but Webster's Spelling-book and the Columbian Reader. Wouldn't I astonish them with science? I guess they would understand the meaning of a spelling-class by the time I got through with 'em!
As for arithmetic, they don't know what it is in these high-falutin seminaries; mathematics is the word; A B roots and squaring circles, as if circles ever would be square. Of course they can't, having been tried and kept round as an O all the time. But these A's and B's, and roots and such like, are considered as arithmetic for girls here; so the end of it is, they can, maybe, tell you how many square feet there are in a building lot, but couldn't add up ten shillings to save their lives; of course they forget how to estimate the square feet for want of having unlimited building lots to work on, while the washing bill and girl's wages and such things, come up every day all through their lives.
What do girls learn at the schools?
Oh, a mighty deal that some good women pass half through a lifetime without knowing, and are just as likely as not all the better for it. Some of the lessons are paid for, and some are given free gratis for nothing by the scholars to each other, and what some of them don't know in the way of flirting, drooping the eyes, and things you never dreamed of, ain't worth keeping secret.
"A little leaven leavens the whole lump." That passage has always relieved my feelings about the old patriarchs; for it's a proof that they and their families had raised bread in those old Bible times; and light bread, even if saleratus has to be used, is a blessing on the domestic hearth. For that reason, I'm astonished that bread-making is left to men-bakers here in York. But this passage sometimes puts you in mind of something beside turnpike emptins. I should like to promulgate some genuine old-fashioned ideas into these tip-top schools, where one bold, forward girl with unwholesome ideas in her head, would set them working like leaven in every innocent young soul in the seminary. Somehow, more or less, girls always do manage to give a good deal of knowledge that isn't set down in the bill, though that is generally long enough, goodness knows.
I wish you could see one of these bills with the extras. Now in our district schools, there isn't much chance for the scholars to get over intimate. They don't sleep and eat and work together, like canary birds crowded in one cage and huddled together on one roost; the weak don't catch the faults of the strong, and if they did, the free breezes of our hills would sweep them away before the poison struck in. Flirtations do not become a science with them before they can spell "baker," and they don't often learn such things from their New England mothers, anyhow.
Well, I would give a good deal to see a genuine girl who did not think herself a marvel of superior knowledge at twelve, or had not plunged into a heart disease at the sight of some hotel lounger at fourteen. I tell you, sisters, these young creatures have too much liberty; they have no wholesome growth either of body or mind. They know too much at fifteen, and will know a great deal too little at forty.
The girl of twelve—which is about the age you are thinking of—has a great deal more assurance than some of our church members at fifty. Baby boys and girls haven't gone quite out of fashion, but they are getting scarcer every year, people tell me; and regular-built, wholesome children are as hard to find here as green gooseberries in October. I've seen plenty of little men and women, that couldn't speak plain to save their lives, dressed out like soldiers on a training day, with short frocks or tunics, and legs as bare as bare could be; but such boys and girls as we remember are not to be found anywhere nowadays, I tell you.
What does all this mean? Just this: Mothers don't trust their young ones out of fashion long enough to grow. Besides, there isn't, only now and then, one who gets acquainted with her own child well enough to know what is good for it. Why, these city women would go crazy to see a little girl, six years old, swing upon a gate or riding horseback on a rusty old farm-horse, gripping the mane with both hands, and sending up shouts of fun if she happened to tumble off. Children, in the natural state, love water, like ducks and goslings. It used to be a sight to watch them, knee-deep in the brooks, with their tenty-tointy feet shining through the ripples, as they hunted for water-cresses and sweet flag-root; but catch one of your new-fangled young ones at anything with so much human nature in it. All the water they see is in the bottom of a bath-tub, rubbed on their skimpy limbs by an Irish girl's hands. Not the mother's. Oh, no! Care of one's own children is too much for a healthy young woman nowadays. Being a professor and member of a church, I want to speak accordingly, and just drop the mothers here. Christian language isn't up to the occasion.
Well, as I was saying, the meanness of these mothers in hiving up their young ones and cheating 'em out of the very best years of life, is enough to make a saint mad. The rough-and-tumble season, which gives a child sound lungs, strong limbs, and a brain that thinks of nothing but high play, is just knocked out of their lives. It's an awful swindle on the poor little things, and I'm not afraid to say it openly and above-board here in my very first report.
If I haven't a right to speak on this subject, I should like to know who has. That's all. I never had a child of my own, which is, perhaps, natural to a state of single blessedness, and so had plenty of time to make other people's children a speciality. Besides, haven't I kept district school, and boarded round enough to get an inside view of a good many family circles? Haven't I seen droves of young ones, in loose calico slips or cosey-fitting jackets and trousers, coming miles to school, only setting their dinner baskets down now and then to stone a squirrel, or climb up among the burrs of some great chestnut limb which offered to give them a ride to Boston or a trip to Canterbury.
Dear me, I think I see them now running "like split," as they said, to catch up time, with such a lively color rushing through the tan on their faces, hats off, and sun-bonnets flying out by the strings.
There, that's what I call childhood. You and I, sister, know something about it; now don't we? Do you remember that little red school-house where we learned our letters, and the old broken-limbed apple-tree behind it? No wonder the limbs got scraggly; they couldn't stand horse for a whole school, year after year, without some wear and tear, could they?
Well, may be you and I owe to that old patriarch more than we know of. The apples were so sour the pigs wouldn't eat 'em, but they never hurt us. Then the limbs stretching out every which way—weren't they splendid to swing on, and in a hot day the shade was like a tent.
You and I have been tough and hearty all our lives, just as like as not on account of that old tree and the long road home, and the pine woods it ran through, with the good wholesome samp and milk when we got there. There was generally a little red light in the sky from the sunset when we went to bed, and just a streak of rosy yellow when we got up, with dew enough on the grass to wash our faces in before breakfast.
That's what I call life for a child; all out-doors for a playground, good, sound sleep, plenty of wholesome food, three times a day, and always hungry at that. Why, the few years after you begin to toddle, and before you learn to read, if you're properly let alone, are choke-full of happiness that ripples like a brook through your whole life. I say, once more, it's a sin and a shame to cheat a child out of that which is just God's portion of a human life.
Now I ask you, isn't it probable, between you and I, that the Saviour picked out just such bright, happy little creatures as these, when He took 'em in His arms and blessed 'em, and said of such is the kingdom of heaven. If the apostles wanted to hunt up one of the kind now, they'd have to catch it in the cradle. Just think of bringing forward one of the little things we meet in the avenues here, to be held up as a monument—all flutings and lace, kid gaiters, pink and blue sashes, long white feathers, and parasols. Yes, believe it or not, I say parasols about the size of a poppy. Oh, don't mention it! The whole thing makes me sick. The children you meet here in York look like little barefooted scarecrows, or else like motto papers afloat.
But are all the little folks you see painted like a dahlia, and pink as hollyhocks. You are asking this question in the Society. I know it. Well, I should rather think not. These whipper-snappers go tipping down the avenues, and ride with their mothers' lap-dogs in the Park, a-looking like their own French dolls, and are about as likely to make men and women.
MORE ABOUT GIRLS.
Sisters:—My cousin's little girl has just upset me. Remember she is my own flesh and blood; and genuine honest blood in Vermont is as pure as the sap in our maple-trees, and ought to keep sweet as the sugar we make from it, wherever it is found. Being my second cousin in her own right, I expected to find her a model of what the rising generation ought to be, and went to that house, exalting myself accordingly. I shall find, thought I, a genteel, modest, seemly little lady, polite, and cordially glad to see a relative that wants to love her and exalt her into a pattern and a monument of female promise. But instead of that, just read my last report, though it must fall short of giving you any idea how heavy my heart was, and how my brain burned with disappointment.
Has female modesty died out since you and I came into the world? or was it burnt over during the war, like the great prairies, where the hot flames parch up all the sweet green grass and the bright flowers, killing them root and blossom, snakes likewise? One thing is certain, my dear sisters in the cause, honesty among men and modesty among women go hand in hand all over the earth. When women degenerate, it is because the moral atmosphere which they breathe is tainted and unwholesome. Something has gone awfully wrong both with the men and women of America in these latter years. The fraud and demoralization of the thing they call "shoddy" has settled down upon our social life everywhere. I shudder to think of it! With a constitution made strong with fresh air from the Green Mountains, and morals consolidated in the oldest congregation of the State, I feel afraid of myself and almost weary of well-doing. It has become so miserably unfashionable to be honest, that people seem to think me crazy when I speak my mind.
Do not start and say that Phoemie Frost is ready to give up her mission; because she isn't of that sort. Her hand is on the plough—they spell it plow here, which takes away half the strength of that agricultural word—on the plough, is she, a female, to turn back because rocks and roots choke up the furrow? Not if Miss Frost knows anything of herself!
Speaking of female modesty, between my little cousin and that marble girl, the poor naked creature seemed to have the most of it. She did scrouch down and try to hide herself behind herself, as if she was ashamed that the man who made her had forgot to cover her up a little. But the live girl did not seem to feel for her a mite; in fact, I think she enjoyed seeing her scrouch, because of the foreshortenings, you know.
It's of no use denying it, I did feel down in the mouth about this girl; and seeing my duty clear, determined to do it or perish in the attempt.
Once more I stood in front of that "palatial residence," and, with a hand made firm by a powerful sense of duty, pulled the silver knob in the jamb of the door. The same finified youngster came and asked me with his saucy eyes what I wanted there. This time I had written out a square piece of paper, on which he had the pleasure of reading: "Miss Phoemie Frost, Home Missionary and Special Plenipotentiary from the Society of Infinite Progress, Sprucehill, Vermont." "Think," says I, when I handed him the paper, "if this don't fetch them all down a notch or two, nothing will."
And it did!
Yes, I have the pleasure of saying pretension and pomposity do have a wonderful effect here in New York. I don't know whether it was the missionary or the plenipotentiary that brought my cousin to her oats, but rather think it was the latter—having a foreign twang to it, of course, it impressed her aristocratically.
The waiter-man took me into the drawing-room, as he called it, but why, no human being could have told; for there wasn't a sign of drawing paper, pencil, nor painting things in sight. In fact, it was the self-same room that I went into the last time I was there. A little darker and more sunsetty, because the red curtains swept close, and blinds were rolled down under the lace. There was that marble girl, too, a-looking at me as if half-scared to death; but in that light she seemed dressed in a veil of pink gauze, and looked just lovely. There being no man by I really could have kissed her, she seemed so sweet, and so awfully ashamed of herself huddled down as if she longed to creep out of sight.
The door opened, and that fellow came in simpering like a chessy cat, and asked if I would be so good as to walk up to the boudor.
"To the what?" says I.
"To the ladies' boudor," says he, a turning his head, and trying to choke off a laugh. "This way!"
I took my satchel from a table all framed in gold, and checkered with precious stones, where I had laid it down. Then, bowing my head and lifting my forefinger, told that servile creature to proceed, with an air of command that quenched his saucy smile in no time.
Up the stairs he went, and I followed after; treading a carpet that gave to the feet like a meadow in its first spring grass. Through an open door I saw my cousin lifting herself up from a sofa, covered with blue silk and open-worked lace. Then she dawdled towards me with one hand out, and the laziest smile you ever saw about her mouth.
"Cousin Emily," says I, "how do you do?"
"My dear Miss Frost," says she, "I'm happy to make your acquaintance."
Happy to make my acquaintance, and I her first cousin. Did you ever?
At first I was taken aback, and felt as if I should choke. Hadn't I learned that great white creature her letters? Hadn't I spent dollars on her for slates and pencils, besides taking her to the maple camps when she was a little girl, and giving her no end of sweet sap to drink. Who was it but me that turned down her first over-and-over seam, and gave her a tentie-tointy silver thimble to take the stitches with. I wonder what she did with it? Now she was happy to make my acquaintance, and dragged a double winrow of worked flounces, topped off with a muslin skirt and scarlet training jacket, across the room to tell me so. Our mothers were sisters; pray remember that!
"Take that seat," says she, a-dropping down to the sofa as a great white hen turkey settles onto its nest. "How long have you been in the city? Do you make anything of a visit? So thoughtful and kind of you to give me an early call."
There I sat, straight as a sign-post, with my satchel in my lap, and both hands on that, riling up like an Irish girl's coffee, and feeling the wrath within me grow stronger and stronger while she settled back and half-shut her eyes, and seemed to be quite satisfied that she had done her best. I could see that her half-shut eyes were turned on my alpaca dress, which was a trifle dusty, and on my cotton gloves, that were clean and whole, at any rate. While she examined them, I took an observation of her. Mercy, how she has changed! Five times the hair she ever had before hung in great, heavy braided loops down her back. There must be some way of making the hair grow, 'specially here in York, that we never heard of. And her figure, which was slim and graceful as the droop of a willow when she married, has swelled out fearfully behind, which makes her seem to stoop, and gives one the most humpy idea of a camel in motion of anything I know, which, being Scriptural, is, I dare say, the only religious idea she has kept firm to.
"You called the other day," says she. "I was so sorry not to have seen you; but I was dressing to go out. Still, you saw my little girl?"
"Yes," says I, "I saw your little girl; and, to tell you the honest truth, that is what brings me here now. I haven't had a minute's rest since I was here. Why, Cousin Emily, I expected to see a child. Instead of that—"
She roused up at this, opened her eyes wide, and interrupted me.
"Instead of that," says she, turning a great gold bracelet on her arm, and smiling as if what she was saying swelled her out with pride—"instead of that, you found a finished young lady. No wonder you were surprised."
"A finished young lady!" says I, riling into strength. "That is what no child ever can be; and let me tell you, the attempt to force one into such an unnatural creature is abominable. You can polish every bit of the modesty and innocence of childhood out of a little girl; but all that you can get for it is affectation and self-sufficient impertinence, becoming neither to the child nor the woman. Why, cousin, the little creature I saw in your parlor—sent there, as she said, to entertain a gentleman—was just an absurdity to him, and to me something dreadful. I asked myself what a child like that would become at forty years of age. Why, cousin, when she is at her meridian she will feel herself at least a hundred and fifty. You have cut off all the bloom and richness of a young life; you have made a dainty little monster of her—swept away all companionship with children, and made it presumption and impertinence when she attempts to force herself among her elders. I could not be so cruel to a dog as you have been to that child."
Cousin Emily woke up now with a vengeance. Her sleepy eyes flashed lightning. "Cruel!" says she. "I cruel to my only daughter? Why, there is not a child in America who has had such care—such abundant chances for improvement. She has been to the most expensive schools."
"Exactly," says I.
"She has had masters at home—music, dancing, the languages—"
"Exactly," says I.
"Things that I never thought of learning she has mastered."
"Just so," says I.
"She had a French nurse before she could speak. No expense has been spared by her father. I never had such chances; and we are determined to give her a splendid education. In fact, she might come out this season, so far as that is concerned; but I have resolved to be rigid—not a day before she is seventeen. Then her education will be complete."
"Her education complete at seventeen! Why, Cousin Emily, a woman's education is never complete. At the best schools we get but a dreamy sort of idea of the things we must bring all the faculties of a well-regulated mind to understand in after years. A well-educated woman is one who studies and learns something every day of her life—who thinks about what she sees, and acts upon what she knows."
Cousin Emily lifted up both hands, all covered with shining rings, as if to choke me off. I stopped. Far be it from Phoemie Frost to force the opinions of our Society upon unwilling ears; but I lifted my forefinger in solemn admonishment, and says I:
"Oh, Cousin Emily, Cousin Emily, has it got so that you hold up both hands against common-sense!"
"Not against common-sense," says she, "but against your uncommonly long sentences. Why, Miss Frost, it is like our old-fashioned country preaching."
"Which has died out of your heart, I dare say. Oh, Emily, Emily, what would your sainted mother, my aunt, say?"
This brought the misguided woman to her tears. She sat up on that lace-silk sofa, straight and listening, as I have seen her many a time on the a b c bench at school, when her little feet couldn't touch the floor.
"Cousin Phoemie," says she, "I am trying to do what is right."
"I hope so," says I, with tears of thankfulness in my eyes, for the "Cousin Phoemie" went straight to my heart. "But my mind isn't quite equal to more of this conversation this morning. The next time I come this way we shall both be more like our natural selves."
With that I tightened my cotton gloves, took up my satchel, and left that house, feeling that I had paved the way to a good work hereafter.
Are there no genuine children among the poor of New York?
Beloved sisters, your question wrings the heart in my bosom. I asked it of myself this very morning, and resolved to investigate.
I hadn't found a child that could be called a child outside a perambulator, which means a little carriage pushed by an Irish girl, with a cap on, along the avenues. So I took my mission down among the tenement-houses. There I found young ones on the sidewalks, the doorsteps, and in the gutters, thick as grasshoppers in a dry pasture lot, all hard at work, trying to play. But the play seemed more like fighting than fun. Two girls stopped me on the sidewalk, swinging the dirty end of a rope, while another tried to jump it, but only tripped up, and went at it again. Shaking her loose hair, and—yes, I say it with tears in my eyes—swearing at the other two.
I laid my hand on her head, and gently expostulated. She was a little mite of a girl, with a sharp, knowing face. The first word she spoke made my nerves creep. Why, that little thing had the wickedness of an old sinner on her baby mouth, and couldn't speak it out plain yet.
Oh! my dear sister, and you, my friend, in the great course of infinite progress and general perfection, had you been with me, almost broken-hearted among that rabble of children, who will never, never know what childhood is, the last pound of butter and dozen of eggs in our village would be freely given to support my mission here. Barefooted, bareheaded, barelegged, and, it seemed to be, bare of soul, these little wretches swarmed around me when I kindly asked the baby girls not to swear, all making faces at me. The boys, that sat with their feet in the gutters, flung away the oyster-shells and lobster claws they had just raked from an ash-barrel, and began to hoot at me. One little wretch—forgive me for calling names—not more than five years old, had a cigar in his mouth half as long as his own arm. When I stooped down to take it from him, he gave a great puff right into my eyes, and scampered off, with his dirty fingers twirling about his face like the handle of a coffee-mill.
As a New England woman, whose duty, I take it, is to set everybody right, I wasn't to be put down by a boy like that, but caught him by the collar of his jacket, snatched the cigar from his lips, and flung it into the gutter, where it sizzled itself out. Then I lifted my forefinger as I do in Sunday-class, and began to admonish him. But instead of listening, he got the skirt of my alpaca dress between his teeth and ground a great hole in it, swearing like a trooper betweenwhiles.
Oh, sister! that was a trying season! In less than three minutes the sidewalk was swarming with dirty-faced children. I might as well have been in a wasps' nest. The spiteful imps buzzed around me so—little girls, with lank hair falling over their eyes; lazy boys, swaggering like drunken men, and swearing like troopers; and a woman—the boy who smoked called her mother—who stood on a doorstep, with a hand on each hip, scolding like fury. I kept my finger up. They would not hear a word I said, but I felt it my duty to do that much, when a very gentlemanly man in blue regimentals touched my arm, and observed in the kindest way that things were getting so mixed and unpleasant perhaps I would permit him to escort me round the corner. You know, sister, I always had a power in the lift of my finger. It was wonderfully manifest just as this gentleman crossed the street, and must have astonished him, for the children hushed up at once, and huddled back to the doorstep like a flock of lambs, which was an evidence of moral suasion I take pride in reporting to the Society.
HE HAS COME.
Sisters:—As a representative of your august body, I ought now to have been in an atmosphere of royalty—Imperial royalty, which counts at A No. 1, as kings are put down. The young potentate of all the Russias, with all his ships and things, ought to have been on hand a week ago; but he still lingers on the "rolling sea and briny deep," a prey, it is dreadfully to be feared, to sea-sickness—which, they tell me, is heart-rending—and storms which are liable to aggravate the sea-sickness.
I sympathize with that young man in all the depths of my feminine nature—which are getting bottomless from the great need of compassion which human life exhibits to the thinking mind. He ought to have been here when our enthusiasm was at its hottest point. Then he would have had the stormiest sort of a welcome. The soldiers were ready to file out any minute; the mouths of ever so many cannon were burning to let off fire; all the ships would have burst into a storm of flags at the first gun. People couldn't but just keep from shouting every time they met each other. But the young man didn't come. He hasn't come yet, and all the enthusiasm is burning down to cinders and ashes. When he does come, I'm afraid it'll be like putting a mess of apples into an oven after the pan of baked pork and beans has been drawn out—half roasted, and hard at the core when you cut 'em.
This is a great country, my friends—in fact, very extensive—but you can't wake it up to an earthquake of enthusiasm about the same person more than once. That prince had better have struck when the iron was red-hot. He didn't, and so I can't tell you anything about him, except that he isn't more at sea than the rest of us. When he does come, depend upon it, there will be an uprising among the females of this great city; and foremost of her sex will be your representative, faithful to her trust, and ready, with a modest helping hand, to lead this young person into the paths of propriety.
He has come at last, but the bitter-sweet of hope and fear has been given us as daily food for two weeks past, and the wormwood of ceaseless apprehension took the place of the yellow berries, and nightshade darkness settled down upon us. Lovely young girls cried over their ball-dresses of illusion, and wondered if their hopes would thin off into the same slimpsy nothingness. Middle-aged ladies, whose hair needs no powder, and whose teeth never ache, began to falter in the dancing steps practised in the private recesses of their own palatial homes, and wondered if their joints were to be twisted and racked into new-born graces, only to settle down into rusty stiffness again without having fascinated the Russian soul out of that princely bosom.
Of course it is right and proper that an opportunity to study the antiquities of a nation should be offered to every potentate and prince that honors our Republican shores by setting his high-born foot upon them, and it is highly proper that first-class specimens should be in readiness the moment he enters a ball-room. That is what people tell me has always been the custom at balls given to princes, and it isn't likely that new rules are to be laid down for the benefit of a lot of girls, anyhow. Governors and mayors are not often so young as they have been. As a general thing, their wives are not troubled with an epidemic of youth and beauty. It is an awful omission in the laws, but these dignified chaps can't get up young and dashing wives for the occasion, when a great high potentate from over seas shines down upon us in the dancing way. I haven't a doubt they would like to sacrifice themselves and astonish the world by so doing, but common people would be apt to call it bigamy. So they have to do the very best they can with such wives as they have got, and furbish them up with diamonds, laces, flounces, and a dancing-master, till they answer to begin with.
I don't mean to be hard or sarcastical on this subject, but in these times, when it is so easy for a man to put away his wife, couldn't this official potentate get a temporary divorce just for the occasion, especially if the kingly visitor happens to be young and very fond of dancing. It would give us young girls a chance.
Don't think that I am putting on airs, or that I don't feel reverential when age is mentioned, but Emperors' sons don't come to our free land of liberty every day, and girls are so plenty that old folks ought to stand back. Far be it from Phoemie Frost, on her own humble merits, to build upon opening that ball with the Imperial Duke of all the Russias; but a Society like ours has its social, moral, and scientific claims. As for literature, since my reports have been honored by publication, I must maintain the dignity of the position. If dignity and age is to lead in this grand ceremonial, I have kept school, and—well, yes—no, one could say that I—in fact, as to years, am I not competent to open the ball with any prince that can come across the ocean, be he boy or patriarch? There, that sentence is off my mind, and I can go on without a hitch of the pen.
In other respects I have been silently but surely preparing myself. The Society has been liberal, and most of my savings were in the bank, rolling up interest beautifully, when I came from my childhood's home. Then there was a handsome profit on the donation of eggs and butter and maple-sugar which came in the freight train before I started. I attended to the sale myself at the market, and had nothing to do with that Mr. Middleman people talk so awfully about as a cheat and a general grabber. Well, I dickered the things off at a good price, as I was a-saying, and have got the money safe in my bosom—a hiding-place sacred to myself alone.
Thus lifted above all mercenary anxieties, I gave my attention entirely to the self-improvement necessary to my appearance before his highness as a representative character on whom the eyes of all Sprucehill were fixed. I would say the world—only for the modest consciousness that comes over me when I think of myself as a genius.
THE FRENCH DRESS-MAKER.
Alpaca does make a first-class dress for our social gatherings and literary circles in Sprucehill, and when puffed out behind, and trimmed promiscuously with flutings, it sometimes has a sumptuous appearance elsewhere; but for a ball, in which one aims to dance with a great grand Archduke of all the Russias—excuse me for saying it, but alpaca is not quite the thing. Doubtful of my own imperfect judgment, I asked a fashionable dress-maker in the Third Avenue, who had "Madame" spelt with an E on her tin sign at the door, and she said: "It wasn't the thing for a lady entirely, by no manner of means," and her tongue had a rich roll to it, which satisfied me that Ireland had sympathized with France in her troubles, to the extent of getting the language a little mixed.
"No," says she, a leaning both elbows on her counter, and a looking at me from head to foot. "Madame should have a robe de silk, very complete, with flowers in her hair entirely, and an overskirt to the fore, garnitured with Limerick point."
"An overskirt before," says I, lifting both hands, satchel and all. "Why, every skirt that I've seen in the street, or anywhere else, was puckered and bunched up behind," says I. "Excuse me, but I really couldn't think of wearing 'em in any other way."
The French dress-maker—I know she was French by the letter E after Madam, and because the sign said she was from Paris. Well, she colored up, and looked every which way at first, but then she gave a skimping laugh, and said that I didn't understand French. I—I didn't understand French! I who had studied "French without a Master" as a speciality, with the most intelligent member of our circle, and conversed in the language as directed by that excellent book so fluently that the pronunciation sounded almost like English nipped off a little! This was too much.
The clear grit, which lies at the bottom of every New England woman's heart, riled up in mine when that cherished accomplishment was cast into disrepute.
"Madame," says I, putting a keen emphasis on that E, "I came here to inquire about the most fashionable way of making a dress, not to give or take a lesson in the languages. Permit me to say I never could submit to wear an overskirt in the way you speak of—wrong side before—why, it would look dreadfully."
"But Madame does not understand; I speak English so much in this country that my own language gets knocked into smithereens. I beg pardon—into confusion. Madame must be very perfect herself to detect it."
I felt a smile creeping over my lips. Really, sisters, I had been too hard on the poor woman. It was not her fault if my ear was so very correct that nothing but the purest accent could satisfy me. She saw this look dawning upon my face, and I knew that she felt relieved by the way her elbows settled down on the counter again.
"If madame will take a chair—that is, repose herself. Madame—"
"Excuse me," says I, benignly, for I didn't want to hurt her feelings again. "Mademoiselle, if you please."
"Pardon me," says she, humbly.
"Just so," says I, benignly. "Now supposing we go on about this ball-dress. How much silk will it take?"
The woman sat and thought to herself ever so long. Then she counted her fingers over once or twice. Then she said she didn't exactly know how much, which is the way with dress-makers all over the world, I do believe.
"But one won't buy a dress without knowing how much to ask for," says I. "Say twelve yards now?"
The woman lifted herself right off from the counter, and sat staring at me.
"Twelve!" says she, "eighteen at the least."
I felt as if some one had struck me. Eighteen yards for a dress, and gored all to pieces at that!
"Some of your dress-makers in Broadway would want more than that!" says she, "and send for more and more after that."
I made no answer, but took up my satchel and walked straight out of the door.
Eighteen yards of silk for a dress! The thought of it kept me awake all night.
The next morning I went right up to the palatial residence of my cousin, Emily Elizabeth Dempster, feeling that she would expect me to enter on that subject about bringing up children, which was my duty; but I was so down in the mouth about that dress, that everything like a moral idea had just swamped itself in those eighteen yards of silk; and instead of giving advice, I went into that house to beg for it, feeling all the time as if somebody had dumped me down from a mighty high horse onto that stone doorstep, and left me to travel home afoot. In fact, I felt as if coming to that house to ask about ball-dresses, instead of giving instruction, was a mean sort of business. But the ambition of a great, worldly idea was burning in my bosom, and I resolved to press forward to the mark of the prize of the high calling.
Mercy on me! it is a ball-dress, not a class-meeting, that I am writing about. Oh, my sisters! is it true that black angels and white angels ever do get to fighting in a human soul, just as they do down South? If so, they had a tussle in my bosom that morning, and the black fellow came out best, with a gorgeous silk dress a-floating and a-rustling out from his triumphant right hand, and the splendid shadow of a great Grand Duke following after.
Cousin Emily Elizabeth was just coming downstairs, flounced and puffed and tucked up about the waist, till she was all over in a flutter of silk, and lace, and black beads, with a dashing bonnet on her head high enough for a trooper's training-cap, all shivery with lace and bows, with one long feather curling half way round it, and a white tuft sticking up straight on the top, looking so 'cute and saucy.
Emily Elizabeth looked a little scared when she saw me coming in with my satchel; but when I told her what I wanted, her eyes brightened up, and she laughed as easy as a blackbird sings. "Oh, is that all!" says she. "I thought it was about the children. I'll give you a note to my dress-maker. Styles all French, and so recherche." Look in the dictionary, sisters, and you will discover that this means something first-class.
She took out a pencil and a square piece of paper with her name printed on it, and wrote something French, with the number of a house, which I won't give, not wanting any of my friends to be talked out of a year's growth, as I was.
"There," says she. "The cream-on-cream all go to her. She'll fit you out splendidly. Leave it all to her. Good-morning, cousin; I must go; but my daughter is in the drawing-room—she will entertain you."
"Just so," says I, putting the card in my satchel, and making swift tracks for the out-door; "but I haven't time to be entertained."
THE GENUINE MADAME.
Well, I went straight down to that dress-maker's house, and handed the square paper cousin had written on to a lady who was fluttering round among a lot of girls, all hard at work sewing, like bumble-bees in a rose-bush.
She looked at the paper; then she gave my alpaca dress an overhauling with her scornful eyes. Then she began to talk; but, my goodness, her French was awful. I couldn't understand a word of it. Once in a while she would chuck an English word in, and rush on again like a mill-dam.
When I tried to put in a word of genuine French or pure English, she lifted her hands, hitched up her shoulders, and seemed as if she was swearing at me one minute and wanted to kiss me the next. I couldn't stand that.
"How much will you ask—how many yards will it take. La pre la pre?" says I, bursting into French.
The woman looked around on her girls, spread her hands as if praying for help, and then, all red in the face, she burst into English. Then I knew she did not understand her own native tongue, and gave her a sarcastic smile.
"I find everything. How many yards? Oh, that depends on the idea, the invention. I have it here growing in my brain. The price? Ah, I cannot tell. When the work is complete then we know. There will be crepe and point—"
"But I don't want points," says I. "Talk in English if you don't understand your own language. The price, the price!"
"Oh, very well, it shall be to your own satisfaction—perfect," says she, and then the creature shook out her hands as if she was shewing chickens from a corn-crib, and before I could say another word she shewed me on to the steps and shut the door.
Well, I went back to my boarding-house, beat out and worried almost to death. Figures are satisfactory to the New England mind; but when you have only a whirlpool of broken words, ending with satisfaction, with a woman's hands spread out on her bosom, and nothing more, it is tantalizing. But I reckon the figures will come by and by, only I should like to have an idea of what they will count up to.
As I was saying in the beginning of my report, ten thousand anxious female bosoms thrilled with expectations every night, and existence dragged wofully in literary and fashionable circles until that auspicious moment arrived when the son of an Imperial Emperor cast refulgence on our Western Hemisphere. But the waiting of us young girls was lonesome, very.
I had done my best. For the first time in my life I had twisted my front hair into little wire tongs they call crimping-pins; maybe it was their tightness that held my eyes so wide open last night. I was trying with all my strength to shut them, when the sound of a cannon, ever so far off, brought me up in the bed, with my hand clasped and the heart in my bosom trembling like a frightened chicken.
"He has come," says I to myself. "Alexis has come. To-morrow we shall see him—handsome, young, filled with Imperial royalty from the crown of his noble head to the soles of his patent-leather boots. But will he wear his crown in the procession, or only keep it for the grand ball. What if he should rest that crown on the head of some distinguished American, selecting a literary lady?" This thought impressed me; both hands went up to my lofty brow. Alas! they only sent the crimping-pins ploughing across my head with a thorny sharpness that filled my throat with screeches.
My dress has come home—I am stunned:
Thirty yards of silk, $10 per yard $300.00 One piece French crape 25.00 Ten yards Brussels point 100.00 Linings 10.00 Making 50.00 Materials 35.00 Silk buttons 12.00 Passementerie, etc. 15.50 ———- $547.50
I have just recovered from a long fainting fit. They have taken the crimping-pins out of my hair and deluged it with crystal water. I am lying on my couch faint and exhausted. Oh, my sisters, the paths of royalty are beautiful, but full of thorns. That bill has been enough to destroy all my pleasure in the visit of the Grand Duke Alexis.
READY TO LAND.
The great Grand Duke of all the Russias has been thrown upon our shore by an upheaving of the mighty deep, and is now rocking at his ease in the iron-clad cradle of a great nation. Oh, he had a terrible time. Winds tossed him, storms pitched that noble vessel end foremost into the very bowels of the sea, then hove it up on great mountain waves, where it rocked and tottered and trembled, while the rain washed its decks—rendering mops useless—and the lightning got so tangled in the spars and rigging that you couldn't tell which was rope and which was fire.
Out of all this danger the great Grand Duke was blown upon our shore, with a good deal less fuss than Jonah had when he took to his life-boat with fins and tail, and discharged cargo on a desert shore, without the first chance of an imperial reception, and nothing but an upstart guard to offer him the hospitalities of the country.
Before daylight, Sunday morning, the vessel which bore that noble youth, all weather-beaten as a rusty potash kettle, but grand and majestic after its tussle with the storms, shot out her anchor in the lower bay—for New York has two bays, and two fine old rivers empty into them. The squadron—which means three or four other ships from Russia—had been waiting there till their great iron hearts nearly burst with fear that the imperial vessel had foundered; and when they saw it careering in amongst 'em, they set up a shout that made the very fishes in the bay rest on their fins and wonder what it could mean, for they had never heard Russians before, and it seemed as if the alphabet had been shaken ten thousand times over from as many pepper-boxes, and rained down on the water in one great shout.
Nobody has told me yet how his imperial dukeship took this, and I haven't liked to inquire too closely. Supposing him asleep in the sweet privacy of his own upper berth, it wouldn't be quite proper, you know, but it must have been soul-stirring to hear those native syllables raining down blessings like tacks and brad-awls on his noble head.
How our imperial guest spent the Sabbath-day is a mystery that Russia and the Russians only can solve. But I am credibly informed that ten thousand upper-crust females betook themselves to secret devotions in their own rooms, in crimping-pins and curl papers, the moment we got news that he was here.
As for myself, I confess—no, our Society is not a confessional, and the secrets of a lady's get-up don't belong to a report for the public eye. So I say nothing on that point.
Sunday night I couldn't sleep a wink; my heart was full of noble aspirations, and it seemed as if some wild Indian of the forest had got his grip in my hair and might scalp me any minute, everything was twisted so tight in that direction. In fact, to say nothing of sleeping, I couldn't have winked to save my life. But I bore it with Christian fortitude, determined to press forward to the mark of the prize. Oh, dear! will I ever remember that this report isn't a class-meeting confession? Well, the morning came, and oh, my sisters, it was pouring cats and dogs. When I heard this, I rose up in bed, covered my face with both hands, and just boo-hooed out a crying. I knew well enough that ten thousand other young girls were weeping like the skies; but that only made me feel worse and worse, for mine has always been a sympathetic heart, and I felt for them—I did indeed.
I did not know what on earth to do. Cousin Emily Elizabeth Dempster had promised to come and take me down to the Mary Powell, a steamboat which the committee had engaged to take itself and all its wives and their friends, down to welcome the great Grand Duke, and bring him up to the city.
Cousin Emily Elizabeth's husband was a head cockalorum in this committee, which being the creme on creme—excuse French, it will break in somehow in spite of me—well, which being the creme on creme that had skimmed itself off from all the common milk of New York society, puffed Cousin E. E. up like—like a ripe button-ball.
Since my reports have appeared in what the newspapers call the world of letters—I say it modestly, but truth is truth—Cousin E. E. has been sweet as maple-sugar to me, I can tell you. She had her eye teeth cut in Vermont, and understood that Queen Victoria knew there was one notch above the crown when she took to writing books. I say nothing; but there is an aristocracy that cuts its own way through all social flummery, like an eagle among chippen birds. That is real live genius; and if New England hasn't got her share of that, I don't know where its head-quarters are.
Well, I and the clouds shed tears together for a good while; then I started up. "What if it does pour?" says I to myself; "the Grand Duke has been in storms before this; he ain't sugar nor salt, to melt at anything less than the glance of a loving eye. What's the good of being down in the mouth about a little rain? I'll get up—I'll unskewer my hair—I'll put on that dress, if I die for it." I started out of bed; I stood before the looking-glass; I began to untwist, to unroll; I did the corkscrew movement; I jerked—I shook my hair out—ripple, ripple, ripple, it fell over my shoulders. Then I rested awhile, and winked my eyes with exquisite satisfaction—for freedom is sweet both to the head and heart.
I felt like a new creature—a delicious looseness settled on my temples—a feeling of feminine triumph swelled my soul. Could he resist the fleecy softness of that hair—the thousand ripples breaking up the sunshine—only there wasn't any sunshine to break. Not a silver thread was visible; if there had been several the night before, it was nobody's business but my own. My arms were tired with continual undoing; but, sisters, am I one to faint by the way? No, no, a thousand times no.
I began to roll, to braid, to puff; I planted hair-pins in my head as thick as bean-poles in a garden. Heavy braids—expensive but lovely—fell down the back of my head; fluff on fluff shaded my lofty forehead. I say nothing; but my literary success, great as it is, has not been more satisfactory than this.
I put on that dress in a great hurry, for Cousin E. E. was at the door in her carriage. How it glistened in the glass! How it swept out on the carpet, a peacock's tail is a trifle compared to it! I tucked it up; I turned the lining inside out, pinned it, puckered it round the waist, and then put on my new bonnet, which looked like a black beehive with a bird perched on the top. Then, with a burning heart, that fairly turned against it, I put on my waterproof cloak and pulled the hood over my poor bonnet.
I opened my cotton umbrella, and went down. Cousin E. E. was waiting, and a tall fellow in half regimentals held the door open. I jumped in as spry as a cricket, and away we went.
DOWN THE BAY.
The Mary Powell lay huddled up close to the wharf, with a great white flag crossed with blue stripes at one end, and the glorious old star-spangled banner at the other. In fact, she was all dressed out in flags. They were soaked through and through till their slimpsiness was distressing. In fact, the steamboat looked like a draggled rooster with no fence or cart to hide under.
The committee were all there, with a whole swarm of ladies in waterproof cloaks, huddled together like chickens in a coop. There were generals, too, with gold epaulets on their shoulders: one that I'd heard of in the war, General McDowell, and some others, that lighted up the deck a little with their gold lace and sword-handles.
She moved—I mean the Mary Powell. The sea was gray, the sky was black. Now and then I saw a flag fluttering by on some vessel, like a poor frightened bird searching for shelter, and pitied it. Then all at once bang went a gun. I hopped right up, and screamed out:
"The salute," says a gentleman close by me. "A salute for the Grand Duke."
I sat down astonished.
"Sir," says I, "I can't believe it. I—I've been saluted myself before this, and I know what it is. No human lips could have made that noise."
The man looked at me, and puckered up his lips a trifle, as if he were trying to choke back a laugh.
"I'm speaking of guns," says he, "not the sweet little salutes in your mind."
"Oh," says I, "that makes a difference, though I never heard firing off guns by that name before."
"The Grand Duke will have twenty-two of 'em," says he.
"Well, then, I'm glad it's only the guns," says I, and a great big sigh of relief came up from my jealous bosom.
Then we all went on again, till I heard some one call out that we'd got to heave-to. This scared me dreadfully. I looked around. Which two of all these females did they mean to heave into the vasty deep? Not me for one. If Russia is barbarous enough to want that sort of cannibal hospitality, I'm counted out.
Shivering with fear, I drew back into the crowd, but watched things like a cat. Drifting through the fog, I saw a little vessel coming close to us, as if she had something to do with this heathen ceremony. The ladies in their waterproofs crowded to the side of the steamboat, as if they rather panted for the glory of being drowned then and there for the pleasure of the great Grand Duke.
I heard a splash, but could not see if any one had been flung over, and when I got up to look, there was a magnificent old fellow, with ribbons in his coat and brooches set thick with shining stones on his bosom, a-coming up the side of the boat. He looks so proud and puffy, that I should have took him for the great Grand Duke, only that he wasn't near young enough.
"Who is it?" says I to the old gentleman.
"Catacazy," says he.
"Cat—what?" says I, categorically.
"Catacazy, the Russian Minister," says he.
"Minister," says I; "do they mean to get up a prayer-meeting on board?"
The old gentleman simmered down the laugh that was on his lips into a smile, and said he thought not.
This pacified me, and I sat still while we went down through the upper bay, which seemed wrapped in waterproofs too, and into the lower bay, which heaved and rolled as if it was half-choked up with sweltering wet blankets. Then we came in sight of the ships, and saw the flags a-battling with the storm; but no one on board seemed to care a continental cent whether New York sent out her creme on creme or not. This silence made my heart sink.
Then the minister went to the side of the vessel, leaned over, and swung his hat. By and by a boat came from the great Grand Duke's vessel, in which an imperial-looking man stood upright, like a high-born monarch, and lifted his cap as if it had been a crown.
"It is—it is—oh, yes, it is the Duke!"
This was on every lip but mine. I could not speak; exquisite emotion forbade it.
No one came on board; but the minister with that catish name got into the boat, and then some of the committee, which skimmed itself again, and thickened up its cream considerably.
There we waited and waited.
They came back at last. That young gentleman was not the great Grand Duke. He wasn't coming till next day.
Oh, how we wilted! Some of us almost burst out a-crying. I did not speak; I could not. Ever since we reached the lower bay, I had felt dreadfully discouraged; now a strange sinking of the heart seized upon me—a faint dizziness, an agony of disappointment seemed raging in my stomach. Oh, my sisters! these exquisite sensibilities are a proof of greatness, I know, but the sufferings they bring, no human being but the creature of genius can tell.
I am better. The glorious sight which followed that stormy day has relieved me. I have seen ten thousand flags blazing along Broadway—I have seen three times ten thousand republican worshippers waving their hats and handkerchiefs in acclamations for the son of an imperial despot. I have heard the glorious music of an imperial serenade—I have seen HIM.
THE GRAND DUKE.
Sisters:—I have seen him. This hand has been pressed—significantly pressed—by the soft, rosy palm of imperial royalty. If a tablet to my memory should ever be sunk in the walls of our meeting-house, I charge you, dear sisters in the cause, to have this honor cut in Roman capitals deep into the marble; for what is an exaltation to me is glory to the Society, and, in fact, to all Vermont.
I have been on the same steamboat with the great Grand Duke; his splendid blue eyes have looked into mine, and in that glance we grappled each other, soul to soul. He has smiled upon me through the yellow glory of that silky mustache, under which his plump, red lips shone like cherries, ripe enough to swallow, stones and all. He speaks English; reveres genius, and knows that it can never grow old.
I saw him in Broadway, when all the New York militia turned out, which was a training day worth looking at. A snow-storm of handkerchiefs burst out of the windows; ten thousand female hands waved him forward. Shouts rose from the multitude; little children were crowded back into the gutters; women were jammed together on doorsteps and curbstones. In fact, the skim milk of society was compelled to flow in awful narrow channels, while the creme on creme—excuse French once more—rolled smoothly through the city in carriages, with royalty leading the way, a regiment of trainers leading him, and a band of music leading the whole.
I saw the whole glorious procession. From block to block I flitted, like some aspiring bird on the crest of a wave. My heart was full, my eyes fixed on one object—that tall, noble figure, with a blue watered silk scarf across his royal bosom, and a half-moon hat, with dipping points, gracefully lifted from his head. He must have been dazzled; he must have been impressed by this proof that republics scorn monarchies and trample them under foot.
I flitted onward through the crowd, waving my handkerchief from a doorstep now and then. That handkerchief the idol of this august occasion seemed to follow eagerly with his eyes, as a sort of beacon light which kindred sympathy impelled him to recognize, for wherever I went he lifted that half-moon hat from his royal brow and smiled. I felt this compliment to the depths of my soul—it thrilled me.
When I lifted myself out of the skim milk, and flowed in with the cream of cream on that stand in Union Square with my cousin and the elite of society, he saw me again and recognized me once more, which irritated my cousin's jealousy a little, for she insisted that he lifted his black half-moon to the whole of us. But I know!
I watched the carriage that bore him with a blushing cheek and a beating heart. There was General Dix, a real nice-looking old gentleman, sitting in front of him; there was Catacazy, the ambassador of all Russia, also a nice gentleman as you want to see, with his hat off, a-bowing and a-bowing. We flung up our handkerchiefs—we clapped our hands.
The Clarendon Hotel stands near one corner of the Union Square; it has a skimpy piazza in front made of iron, and I've seen bigger hotels anyhow. But it is considered tip-top, and is always brimming over with the cream of cream. That is why Mr. Catacazy took my Grand Duke there. There was such a crowd of folks and trainers that I lost sight of him. By and by out he came into the piazza, and stood right before our aristocratic stand, which was fringed round with red cloth, and over which the star-spangled banner waved itself meekly to the nest of black eagles that streamed out over that noble scion of all the Russias.
I could not see him plainly, as my heart panted to, so I borrowed my cousin's glass—a little spy-glass, understand—not specs, which I haven't come to by a long way. Well, I unscrewed the eye-glass, wound it up to the right notch, and brought him almost to my face; and there I stood, choke-full of heavenly satisfaction, all the while he looked down on the general training of soldiers that marched stream on stream between him and me.
While my soul was going out luminously through these eyes, Cousin Emma Elizabeth Dempster touched my elbow, and says she: