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Suburban Sketches by W.D. Howells

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which gradually changes to one of suspicion, and of wonder as to what
those fellows can possibly want of _him,_ till at last the prevailing
expression is one of contrite desire to atone for the first reluctance by
any sort of service. The contributor professes to have observed these
changing phases in the visages of those whom he that night called from
their dreams, or arrested in the act of going to bed; and he drew the
conclusion--very proper for his imaginable connection with the garroting
and other adventurous brotherhoods--that the most flattering moment for
knocking on the head people who answer a late ring at night is either in
their first selfish bewilderment, or their final self-abandonment to their
better impulses. It does not seem to have occurred to him that he would
himself have been a much more favorable subject for the predatory arts
that any of his neighbors, if his shipmate, the unknown companion of his
researches for Mr. Hapford, had been at all so minded. But the faith of
the gaunt giant upon which he reposed was good, and the contributor
continued to wander about with him in perfect safety. Not a soul among
those they asked had ever heard of a Mr. Hapford,--far less of a Julia
Tinker living with him. But they all listened to the contributor's
explanation with interest and eventual sympathy; and in truth,--briefly
told, with a word now and then thrown in by Jonathan Tinker, who kept at
the bottom of the steps, showing like a gloomy spectre in the night, or,
in his grotesque length and gauntness, like the other's shadow cast there
by the lamplight,--it was a story which could hardly fail to awaken pity.

At last, after ringing several bells where there were no lights, in the
mere wantonness of good-will, and going away before they could be answered
(it would be entertaining to know what dreams they caused the sleepers
within), there seemed to be nothing for it but to give up the search till
morning, and go to the main street and wait for the last horse-car to the

There, seated upon the curbstone, Jonathan Tinker, being plied with a few
leading questions, told in hints and scraps the story of his hard life,
which was at present that of a second mate, and had been that of a cabin-
boy and of a seaman before the mast. The second mate's place he held to be
the hardest aboard ship. You got only a few dollars more than the men, and
you did not rank with the officers; you took your meals alone, and in
every thing you belonged by yourself. The men did not respect you, and
sometimes the captain abused you awfully before the passengers. The
hardest captain that Jonathan Tinker ever sailed with was Captain Gooding
of the Cape. It had got to be so that no man would ship second mate under
Captain Gooding; and Jonathan Tinker was with him only one voyage. When he
had been home awhile, he saw an advertisement for a second mate, and he
went round to the owners'. They had kept it secret who the captain was;
but there was Captain Gooding in the owners' office. "Why, here's the man,
now, that I want for a second mate," said he, when Jonathan Tinker
entered; "he knows me."--"Captain Gooding, I know you 'most too well to
want to sail under you," answered Jonathan. "I might go if I hadn't been
with you one voyage too many already."

"And then the men!" said Jonathan, "the men coming aboard drunk, and
having to be pounded sober! And the hardest of the fight falls on the
second mate! Why, there isn't an inch of me that hasn't been cut over or
smashed into a jell. I've had three ribs broken; I've got a scar from a
knife on my cheek; and I've been stabbed bad enough, half a dozen times,
to lay me up."

Here he gave a sort of desperate laugh, as if the notion of so much misery
and such various mutilation were too grotesque not to be amusing. "Well,
what can you do?" he went on. "If you don't strike, the men think you're
afraid of them; and so you have to begin hard and go on hard. I always
tell a man, 'Now, my man, I always begin with a man the way I mean to keep
on. You do your duty and you're all right. But if you don't'--Well, the
men ain't Americans any more,--Dutch, Spaniards, Chinese, Portuguee,--and
it ain't like abusing a white man."

Jonathan Tinker was plainly part of the horrible tyranny which we all know
exists on shipboard; and his listener respected him the more that, though
he had heart enough to be ashamed of it, he was too honest not to own it.

Why did he still follow the sea? Because he did not know what else to do.
When he was younger, he used to love it, but now he hated it. Yet there
was not a prettier life in the world if you got to be captain. He used to
hope for that once, but not now; though he _thought_ he could
navigate a ship. Only let him get his family together again, and he would--
yes, he would--try to do something ashore.

No car had yet come in sight, and so the contributor suggested that they
should walk to the car-office, and look in the "Directory," which is kept
there, for the name of Hapford, in search of whom it had already been
arranged that they should renew their acquaintance on the morrow. Jonathan
Tinker, when they had reached the office, heard with constitutional phlegm
that the name of the Hapford, for whom he inquired was not in the
"Directory." "Never mind," said the other; "come round to my house in the
morning. We'll find him yet." So they parted with a shake of the hand, the
second mate saying that he believed he should go down to the vessel and
sleep aboard,--if he could sleep,--and murmuring at the last moment the
hope of returning the compliment, while the other walked homeward, weary
as to the flesh, but, in spite of his sympathy for Jonathan Tinker, very
elate in spirit. The truth is,--and however disgraceful to human nature,
let the truth still be told,--he had recurred to his primal satisfaction
in the man as calamity capable of being used for such and such literary
ends, and, while he pitied him, rejoiced in him as an episode of real life
quite as striking and complete as anything in fiction. It was literature
made to his hand. Nothing could be better, he mused; and once more he
passed the details of the story in review, and beheld all those pictures
which the poor fellow's artless words had so vividly conjured up: he saw
him leaping ashore in the gray summer dawn as soon as the ship hauled into
the dock, and making his way, with his vague sea-legs unaccustomed to the
pavements, up through the silent and empty city streets; he imagined the
tumult of fear and hope which the sight of the man's home must have caused
in him, and the benumbing shock of finding it blind and deaf to all his
appeals; he saw him sitting down upon what had been his own threshold, and
waiting in a sort of bewildered patience till the neighbors should be
awake, while the noises of the streets gradually arose, and the wheels
began to rattle over the stones, and the milk-man and the ice-man came and
went, and the waiting figure began to be stared at, and to challenge the
curiosity of the passing policeman; he fancied the opening of the
neighbor's door, and the slow, cold understanding of the case; the manner,
whatever it was, in which the sailor was told that one year before his
wife had died, with her babe, and that his children were scattered, none
knew where. As the contributor dwelt pityingly upon these things, but at
the same time estimated their aesthetic value one by one, he drew near the
head of his street, and found himself a few paces behind a boy slouching
onward through the night, to whom he called out, adventurously, and with
no real hope of information,--

"Do you happen to know anybody on this street by the name of Hapford?"

"Why no, not in this town," said the boy; but he added that there was a
street of the same name in a neighboring suburb, and that there was a
Hapford living on it.

"By Jove!" thought the contributor, "this is more like literature than
ever;" and he hardly knew whether to be more provoked at his own stupidity
in not thinking of a street of the same name in the next village, or
delighted at the element of fatality which the fact introduced into the
story; for Tinker, according to his own account, must have landed from the
cars a few rods from the very door he was seeking, and so walked farther
and farther from it every moment. He thought the case so curious, that he
laid it briefly before the boy, who, however he might have been inwardly
affected, was sufficiently true to the national traditions not to make the
smallest conceivable outward sign of concern in it.

At home, however, the contributor related his adventures and the story of
Tinker's life, adding the fact that he had just found out where Mr.
Hapford lived. "It was the only touch wanting," said he; "the whole thing
is now perfect."

"It's _too_ perfect," was answered from a sad enthusiasm. "Don't
speak of it! I can't take it in."

"But the question is," said the contributor, penitently taking himself to
task for forgetting the hero of these excellent misfortunes in his delight
at their perfection, "how am I to sleep to-night, thinking of that poor
soul's suspense and uncertainty? Never mind,--I'll be up early, and run
over and make sure that it is Tinker's Hapford, before he gets out here,
and have a pleasant surprise for him. Would it not be a justifiable
_coup de th��tre_ to fetch his daughter here, and let her answer his
ring at the door when he comes in the morning?"

This plan was discouraged. "No, no; let them meet in their own way. Just
take him to Hapford's house and leave him."

"Very well. But he's too good a character to lose sight of. He's got to
come back here and tell us what he intends to do."

The birds, next morning, not having had the second mate on their minds
either as an unhappy man or a most fortunate episode, but having slept
long and soundly, were singing in a very sprightly way in the way-side
trees; and the sweetness of their notes made the contributor's heart light
as he climbed the hill and rang at Mr. Hapford's door.

The door was opened by a young girl of fifteen or sixteen, whom he knew at
a glance for the second mate's daughter, but of whom, for form's sake, he
asked if there were a girl named Julia Tinker living there.

"My name's Julia Tinker," answered the maid, who had rather a
disappointing face.

"Well," said the contributor, "your father's got back from his Hong-Kong

"Hong-Kong voyage?" echoed the girl, with a stare of helpless inquiry, but
no other visible emotion.

"Yes. He had never heard of your mother's death. He came home yesterday
morning, and was looking for you all day."

Julia Tinker remained open-mouthed but mute; and the other was puzzled at
the want of feeling shown, which he could not account for even as a
national trait. "Perhaps there's some mistake," he said.

"There must be," answered Julia: "my father hasn't been to sea for a good
many years. _My_ father," she added, with a diffidence indescribably
mingled with a sense of distinction,--"_my_ father's in State's
Prison. What kind of looking man was this?"

The contributor mechanically described him.

Julia Tinker broke into a loud, hoarse laugh. "Yes, it's him, sure
enough." And then, as if the joke were too good to keep: "Miss Hapford,
Miss Hapford, father's got out. Do come here!" she called into a back

When Mrs. Hapford appeared, Julia fell back, and, having deftly caught a
fly on the door-post, occupied herself in plucking it to pieces, while she
listened to the conversation of the others.

"It's all true enough," said Mrs. Hapford, when the writer had recounted
the moving story of Jonathan Tinker, "so far as the death of his wife and
baby goes. But he hasn't been to sea for a good many years, and he must
have just come out of State's Prison, where he was put for bigamy. There's
always two sides to a story, you know; but they say it broke his first
wife's heart, and she died. His friends don't want him to find his
children, and this girl especially."

"He's found his children in the city," said the contributor, gloomily,
being at a loss what to do or say, in view of the wreck of his romance.

"O, he's found 'em has he?" cried Julia, with heightened amusement. "Then
he'll have me next, if I don't pack and go."

"I'm very, very sorry," said the contributor, secretly resolved never to
do another good deed, no matter how temptingly the opportunity presented
itself. "But you may depend he won't find out from _me_ where you
are. Of course I had no earthly reason for supposing his story was not

"Of course," said kind-hearted Mrs. Hapford, mingling a drop of honey with
the gall in the contributor's soul, "you only did your duty."

And indeed, as he turned away he did not feel altogether without
compensation. However Jonathan Tinker had fallen in his esteem as a man,
he had even risen as literature. The episode which had appeared so perfect
in its pathetic phases did not seem less finished as a farce; and this
person, to whom all things of every-day life presented themselves in
periods more or less rounded, and capable of use as facts or
illustrations, could not but rejoice in these new incidents, as
dramatically fashioned as the rest. It occurred to him that, wrought into
a story, even better use might be made of the facts now than before, for
they had developed questions of character and of human nature which could
not fail to interest. The more he pondered upon his acquaintance with
Jonathan Tinker, the more fascinating the erring mariner became, in his
complex truth and falsehood, his delicately blending shades of artifice
and _na�vet�._ He must, it was felt, have believed to a certain point
in his own inventions: nay, starting with that groundwork of truth,--the
fact that his wife was really dead, and that he had not seen his family
for two years,--why should he not place implicit faith in all the fictions
reared upon it? It was probable that he felt a real sorrow for her loss,
and that he found a fantastic consolation in depicting the circumstances
of her death so that they should look like his inevitable misfortunes
rather than his faults. He might well have repented his offense during
those two years of prison; and why should he not now cast their dreariness
and shame out of his memory, and replace them with the freedom and
adventure of a two years' voyage to China,--so probable, in all respects,
that the fact should appear an impossible nightmare? In the experiences of
his life he had abundant material to furnish forth the facts of such a
voyage, and in the weariness and lassitude that should follow a day's
walking equally after a two years' voyage and two years' imprisonment, he
had as much physical proof in favor of one hypothesis as the other. It was
doubtless true, also, as he said, that he had gone to his house at dawn,
and sat down on the threshold of his ruined home; and perhaps he felt the
desire he had expressed to see his daughter, with a purpose of beginning
life anew; and it may have cost him a veritable pang when he found that
his little ones did not know him. All the sentiments of the situation were
such as might persuade a lively fancy of the truth of its own inventions;
and as he heard these continually repeated by the contributor in their
search for Mr. Hapford, they must have acquired an objective force and
repute scarcely to be resisted. At the same time, there were touches of
nature throughout Jonathan Tinker's narrative which could not fail to take
the faith of another. The contributor, in reviewing it, thought it
particularly charming that his mariner had not overdrawn himself, or
attempted to paint his character otherwise than as it probably was; that
he had shown his ideas and practices of life to be those of a second mate,
nor more nor less, without the gloss of regret or the pretenses to
refinement that might be pleasing to the supposed philanthropist with whom
he had fallen in. Captain Gooding was of course a true portrait; and there
was nothing in Jonathan Tinker's statement of the relations of a second
mate to his superiors and his inferiors which did not agree perfectly with
what the contributor had just read in "Two Years before the Mast,"--a book
which had possibly cast its glamour upon the adventure. He admired also
the just and perfectly characteristic air of grief in the bereaved husband
and father,--those occasional escapes from the sense of loss into a brief
hilarity and forgetfulness, and those relapses into the hovering gloom,
which every one has observed in this poor, crazy human nature when
oppressed by sorrow, and which it would have been hard to simulate. But,
above all, he exulted in that supreme stroke of the imagination given by
the second mate when, at parting, he said he believed he would go down and
sleep on board the vessel. In view of this, the State's Prison theory
almost appeared a malign and foolish scandal.

Yet even if this theory were correct, was the second mate wholly
answerable for beginning his life again with the imposture he had
practiced? The contributor had either so fallen in love with the literary
advantages of his forlorn deceiver that he would see no moral obliquity in
him, or he had touched a subtler verity at last in pondering the affair.
It seemed now no longer a farce, but had a pathos which, though very
different from that of its first aspect, was hardly less tragical. Knowing
with what coldness, or, at the best, uncandor, he (representing Society in
its attitude toward convicted Error) would have met the fact had it been
owned to him at first, he had not virtue enough to condemn the illusory
stranger, who must have been helpless to make at once evident any
repentance he felt or good purpose he cherished. Was it not one of the
saddest consequences of the man's past,--a dark necessity of misdoing,--
that, even with the best will in the world to retrieve himself, his first
endeavor must involve a wrong? Might he not, indeed, be considered a
martyr, in some sort, to his own admirable impulses? I can see clearly
enough where the contributor was astray in this reasoning, but I can also
understand how one accustomed to value realities only as they resembled
fables should be won with such pensive sophistry; and I can certainly
sympathize with his feeling that the mariner's failure to reappear
according to appointment added its final and most agreeable charm to the
whole affair, and completed the mystery from which the man emerged and
which swallowed him up again.


On that loveliest autumn morning, the swollen tide had spread over all the
russet levels, and gleamed in the sunlight a mile away. As the contributor
moved onward down the street, luminous on either hand with crimsoning and
yellowing maples, he was so filled with the tender serenity of the scene,
as not to be troubled by the spectacle of small Irish houses standing
miserably about on the flats ankle deep, as it were, in little pools of
the tide, or to be aware at first, of a strange stir of people upon the
streets: a fluttering to and fro and lively encounter and separation of
groups of bareheaded women, a flying of children through the broken fences
of the neighborhood, and across the vacant lots on which the insulted
sign-boards forbade them to trespass; a sluggish movement of men through
all, and a pause of different vehicles along the sidewalks. When a sense
of these facts had penetrated his enjoyment, he asked a matron whose snowy
arms, freshly taken from the wash-tub, were folded across a mighty chest,
"What is the matter?"

"A girl drowned herself, sir-r-r, over there on the flats, last Saturday,
and they're looking for her."

"It was the best thing she could do," said another matron grimly.

Upon this answer that literary soul fell at once to patching himself up a
romantic story for the suicide, after the pitiful fashion of this fiction-
ridden age, when we must relate everything we see to something we have
read. He was the less to blame for it, because he could not help it; but
certainly he is not to be praised for his associations with the tragic
fact brought to his notice. Nothing could have been more trite or obvious,
and he felt his intellectual poverty so keenly that he might almost have
believed his discomfort a sympathy for the girl who had drowned herself
last Saturday. But of course, this could not be, for he had but lately
been thinking what a very tiresome figure to the imagination the Fallen
Woman had become. As a fact of Christian civilization, she was a spectacle
to wring one's heart, he owned; but he wished she were well out of the
romances, and it really seemed a fatality that she should be the principal
personage of this little scene. The preparation for it, whatever it was to
be, was so deliberate, and the reality had so slight relation to the
French roofs and modern improvements of the comfortable Charlesbridge
which he knew, that he could not consider himself other than as a
spectator awaiting some entertainment, with a faint inclination to be

In the mean time there passed through the motley crowd, not so much a cry
as a sensation of "They've found her, they've found her!" and then the one
terrible picturesque fact, "She was standing upright!"

Upon this there was wilder and wilder clamor among the people, dropping by
degrees and almost dying away, before a flight of boys came down the
street with the tidings, "They are bringing her--bringing her in a wagon."

The contributor knew that she whom they were bringing in the wagon, had
had the poetry of love to her dismal and otherwise squalid death; but the
history was of fancy, not of fact in his mind. Of course, he reflected,
her lot must have been obscure and hard; the aspect of those concerned
about her death implied that. But of her hopes and her fears, who could
tell him anything? To be sure he could imagine the lovers, and how they
first met, and where, and who he was that was doomed to work her shame and
death; but here his fancy came upon something coarse and common: a man of
her own race and grade, handsome after that manner of beauty which is so
much more hateful than ugliness is; or, worse still, another kind of man
whose deceit must have been subtler and wickeder; but whatever the person,
a presence defiant of sympathy or even interest, and simply horrible. Then
there were the details of the affair, in great degree common to all love
affairs, and not varying so widely in any condition of life; for the
passion which is so rich and infinite to those within its charm, is apt to
seem a little tedious and monotonous in its character, and poor in
resources to the cold looker-on.

Then, finally, there was the crazy purpose and its fulfillment: the
headlong plunge from bank or bridge; the eddy, and the bubbles on the
current that calmed itself above the suicide; the tide that rose and
stretched itself abroad in the sunshine, carrying hither and thither the
burden with which it knew not what to do; the arrest, as by some ghastly
caprice of fate, of the dead girl, in that upright posture, in which she
should meet the quest for her, as it were defiantly.

And now they were bringing her in a wagon.

Involuntarily all stood aside, and waited till the funeral car, which they
saw, should come up toward them through the long vista of the maple-shaded
street, a noiseless riot stirring the legs and arms of the boys into
frantic demonstration, while the women remained quiet with arms folded or
akimbo. Before and behind the wagon, driven slowly, went a guard of ragged
urchins, while on the raised seat above sat two Americans, unperturbed by
anything, and concerned merely with the business of the affair.

The vehicle was a grocer's cart which had perhaps been pressed into the
service; and inevitably the contributor thought of Zenobia, and of Miles
Coverdale's belief that if she could have foreboded all the _post-
mortem_ ugliness and grotesqueness of suicide, she never would have
drowned herself. This girl, too, had doubtless had her own ideas of the
effect that her death was to make, her conviction that it was to wring one
heart, at least, and to strike awe and pity to every other; and her
woman's soul must have been shocked from death could she have known in
what a ghastly comedy the body she put off was to play a part.

In the bottom of the cart lay something long and straight and terrible,
covered with a red shawl that drooped over the end of the wagon; and on
this thing were piled the baskets in which the grocers had delivered their
orders for sugar and flour, and coffee and tea. As the cart jolted through
their lines, the boys could no longer be restrained; they broke out with
wild yells, and danced madly about it, while the red shawl hanging from
the rigid feet nodded to their frantic mirth; and the sun dropped its
light through the maples and shone bright upon the flooded date.


I believe I have no good reason for including among these suburban
sketches my recollections of the Peace Jubilee, celebrated by a monster
musical entertainment at Boston, in June, 1869; and I do not know if it
will serve as excuse for their intrusion to say that the exhibition was
not urban in character, and that I attended it in a feeling of curiosity
and amusement which the Bostonians did not seem to feel, and which I
suspect was a strictly suburban if not rural sentiment.

I thought, on that Tuesday morning, as our horse-car drew near the Long
Bridge, and we saw the Coliseum spectral through the rain, that Boston was
going to show people representing other parts of the country her Notion of
weather. I looked forward to a forenoon of clammy warmth, and an afternoon
of clammy cold and of east wind, with a misty nightfall soaking men to the
bones. But the day really turned out well enough; it was showery, but not
shrewish, and it smiled pleasantly at sunset, as if content with the
opening ceremonies of the Great Peace Jubilee.

The city, as we entered it, gave due token of excitement, and we felt the
celebration even in the air, which had a holiday quality very different
from that of ordinary workday air. The crowds filled the decorous streets,
and the trim pathways of the Common and the Public Garden, and flowed in
an orderly course towards the vast edifice on the Back Bay, presenting the
interesting points which always distinguish a crowd come to town from a
city crowd. You get so used to the Boston face and the Boston dress, that
a coat from New York or a visage from Chicago is at once conspicuous to
you; and in these people there was not only this strangeness, but the
different oddities that lurk in out-of-way corners of society everywhere
had started suddenly into notice. Long-haired men, popularly supposed to
have perished with the institution of slavery, appeared before me, and men
with various causes and manias looking from their wild eyes confronted
each other, let alone such charlatans as had clothed themselves quaintly
or grotesquely to add a charm to the virtue of whatever nostrum they
peddled. It was, however, for the most part, a remarkably well-dressed
crowd; and therein it probably differed more than in any other respect
from the crowd which a holiday would have assembled in former times. There
was little rusticity to be noted anywhere, and the uncouthness which has
already disappeared from the national face seemed to be passing from the
national wardrobe. Nearly all the visitors seemed to be Americans, but
neither the Yankee type nor the Hoosier was to be found. They were
apparently very happy, too; the ancestral solemnity of the race that
amuses itself sadly was not to be seen in them, and, if they were not
making it a duty to be gay, they were really taking their pleasure in a
cheerful spirit.

There was, in fact, something in the sight of the Coliseum, as we
approached it, which was a sufficient cause of elation to whoever is
buoyed up by the flutter of bright flags, and the movement in and about
holiday booths, as I think we all are apt to be. One may not have the
stomach of happier days for the swing or the whirligig; he may not drink
soda-water intemperately; pop-corn may not tempt him, nor tropical fruits
allure; but he beholds them without gloom,--nay, a grin inevitably lights
up his countenance at the sight of a great show of these amusements and
refreshments. And any Bostonian might have felt proud that morning that
his city did not hide the light of her mercantile merit under a bushel,
but blazoned it about on the booths and walls in every variety of printed
and painted advertisement. To the mere aesthetic observer, these vast
placards gave the delight of brilliant color, and blended prettily enough
in effect with the flags; and at first glance I received quite as much
pleasure from the frescoes that advised me where to buy my summer
clothing, as from any bunting I saw.

I had the good fortune on the morning of this first Jubilee day to view
the interior of the Coliseum when there was scarcely anybody there,--a
trifle of ten thousand singers at one end, and a few thousand other people
scattered about over the wide expanses of parquet and galleries. The
decorations within, as without, were a pleasure to the eyes that love
gayety of color; and the interior was certainly magnificent, with those
long lines of white and blue drapery roofing the balconies, the slim,
lofty columns festooned with flags and drooping banners, the arms of the
States decking the fronts of the galleries, and the arabesques of painted
muslin everywhere. I do not know that my taste concerned itself with the
decorations, or that I have any taste in such things; but I testify that
these tints and draperies gave no small part of the comfort of being where
all things conspired for one's pleasure. The airy amplitude of the
building, the perfect order and the perfect freedom of movement, the ease
of access and exit, the completeness of the arrangements that in the
afternoon gave all of us thirty thousand spectators a chance to behold the
great spectacle as well as to hear the music, were felt, I am sure, as
personal favors by every one. These minor particulars, in fact, served
greatly to assist you in identifying yourself, when the vast hive swarmed
with humanity, and you became a mere sentient atom of the mass.

It was rumored in the morning that the ceremonies were to begin with
prayer by a hundred ministers, but I missed this striking feature of the
exhibition, for I did not arrive in the afternoon till the last speech was
being made by a gentleman whom I saw gesticulating effectively, and whom I
suppose to have been intelligible to a matter of twenty thousand people in
his vicinity, but who was to me, of the remote, outlying thirty thousand,
a voice merely. One word only I caught, and I report it here that posterity
may know as much as we thirty thousand contemporaries did of


. . . . . . . (_sensation_.) . . . . . . .
. . . (_cheers_.). . . . refinement . . . .
. . . . . . (_great applause_.)

I do not know if I shall be able to give an idea of the immensity of this
scene; but if such a reader as has the dimensions of the Coliseum
accurately fixed in his mind will, in imagination, densely hide all that
interminable array of benching in the parquet and the galleries and the
slopes at either end of the edifice with human heads, showing here crowns,
there occiputs, and yonder faces, he will perhaps have some notion of the
spectacle as we beheld it from the northern hill-side. Some thousands of
heads nearest were recognizable as attached by the usual neck to the
customary human body, but for the rest, we seemed to have entered a world
of cherubim. Especially did the multitudinous singers seated far opposite
encourage this illusion; and their fluttering fans and handkerchiefs
wonderfully mocked the movement of those cravat-like pinions which the
fancy attributed to them. They rose or sank at the wave of the director's
baton; and still looked like an innumerable flock of cherubs drifting over
some slope of Paradise, or settling upon it,--if cherubs _can_

[Illustration: "The spectacle as we beheld it."]

The immensity was quite as striking to the mind as to the eye, and an
absolute democracy was appreciable in it. Not only did all artificial
distinctions cease, but those of nature were practically obliterated, and
you felt for once the full meaning of unanimity. No one was at a
disadvantage; one was as wise, as good, as handsome as another. In most
public assemblages, the foolish eye roves in search of the vanity of
female beauty, and rests upon some lovely visage, or pretty figure; but
here it seemed to matter nothing whether ladies were well or ill-looking;
and one might have been perfectly ascetic without self-denial. A blue eye
or a black,--what of it? A mass of blonde or chestnut hair, this sort of
walking-dress or that,--you might note the difference casually in a few
hundred around you; but a sense of those myriads of other eyes and
chignons and walking-dresses absorbed the impression in an instant, and
left a dim, strange sense of loss, as if all women had suddenly become
Woman. For the time, one would have been preposterously conceited to have
felt his littleness in that crowd; you never thought of yourself in an
individual capacity at all. It was as if you were a private in an army, or
a very ordinary billow of the sea, feeling the battle or the storm, in a
collective sort of way, but unable to distinguish your sensations from
those of the mass. If a rafter had fallen and crushed you and your
unimportant row of people, you could scarcely have regarded it as a
personal calamity, but might have found it disagreeable as a shock to that
great body of humanity. Recall, then, how astonished you were to be
recognized by some one, and to have your hand shaken in your individual
character of Smith. "Smith? My dear What's-your-name, I am for the present
the fifty-thousandth part of an enormous emotion!"

It was as difficult to distribute the various facts of the whole effect,
as to identify one's self. I had only a public and general consciousness
of the delight given by the harmony of hues in the parquet below; and
concerning the orchestra I had at first no distinct impression save of the
three hundred and thirty violin-bows held erect like standing wheat at one
motion of the director's wand, and then falling as if with the next he
swept them down. Afterwards files of men with horns, and other files of
men with drums and cymbals, discovered themselves; while far above all,
certain laborious figures pumped or ground with incessant obeisance at the
apparatus supplying the organ with wind.

What helped, more than anything else, to restore you your dispersed and
wandering individuality was the singing of Parepa-Rosa, as she triumphed
over the harmonious rivalry of the orchestra. There was something in the
generous amplitude and robust cheerfulness of this great artist that
accorded well with the ideal of the occasion; she was in herself a great
musical festival; and one felt, as she floated down the stage with her
far-spreading white draperies, and swept the audience a colossal courtesy,
that here was the embodied genius of the Jubilee. I do not trust myself to
speak particularly of her singing, for I have the natural modesty of
people who know nothing about music, and I have not at command the
phraseology of those who pretend to understand it; but I say that her
voice filled the whole edifice with delicious melody, that it soothed and
composed and utterly enchanted, that, though two hundred violins
accompanied her, the greater sweetness of her note prevailed over all,
like a mighty will commanding many. What a sublime ovation for her when a
hundred thousand hands thundered their acclaim! A victorious general, an
accepted lover, a successful young author,--these know a measure of bliss,
I dare say; but in one throb, the singer's heart, as it leaps in
exultation at the loud delight of her applausive thousands, must out-enjoy
them all. Let me lay these poor little artificial flowers of rhetoric at
the feet of the divine singer, as a faint token of gratitude and eloquent

When Parepa (or Prepper, as I have heard her name popularly pronounced)
had sung, the revived consciousness of an individual life rose in
rebellion against the oppression of that dominant vastness. In fact, human
nature can stand only so much of any one thing. To a certain degree you
accept and conceive of facts truthfully, but beyond this a mere
fantasticality rules; and having got enough of grandeur, the senses played
themselves false. That array of fluttering and tuning people on the
southern slope began to look minute, like the myriad heads assembled in
the infinitesimal photograph which you view through one of those little
half-inch lorgnettes; and you had the satisfaction of knowing that to any
lovely infinitesimality yonder you showed no bigger than a carpet-tack.
The whole performance now seemed to be worked by those tireless figures
pumping at the organ, in obedience to signals from a very alert figure on
the platform below. The choral and orchestral thousands sang and piped and
played; and at a given point in the _scena_ from Verdi, a hundred
fairies in red shirts marched down through the sombre mass of puppets and
beat upon as many invisible anvils.

This was the stroke of anti-climax; and the droll sound of those anvils,
so far above all the voices and instruments in its pitch, thoroughly
disillusioned you and restored you finally to your proper entity and
proportions. It was the great error of the great Jubilee, and where almost
everything else was noble and impressive,--where the direction was
faultless, and the singing and instrumentation as perfectly controlled as
if they were the result of one volition,--this anvil-beating was alone
ignoble and discordant,--trivial and huge merely. Not even the artillery
accompaniment, in which the cannon were made to pronounce words of two
syllables, was so bad.

The dimensions of this sketch bear so little proportion to those of the
Jubilee, that I must perforce leave most of its features unnoticed; but I
wish to express the sense of enjoyment which prevailed (whenever the
anvils were not beaten) over every other feeling, even over wonder. To the
ear as to the eye it was a delight, and it was an assured success in the
popular affections from the performance of the first piece. For my own
part, if one pleasurable sensation, besides that received from Parepa's
singing, distinguished itself from the rest, it was that given by the
performance of the exquisite Coronation March from Meyerbeer's "Prophet;"
but I say this under protest of the pleasure taken in the choral rendering
of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Closely allying themselves to these great
raptures were the minor joys of wandering freely about from point to
point, of receiving fresh sensations from the varying lights and aspects
in which the novel scene presented itself with its strange fascinations,
and of noting, half consciously, the incessant movement of the crowd as it
revealed itself in changing effects of color. Then the gay tumult of the
fifteen minutes of intermission between the parts, when all rose with a
_susurrus_ of innumerable silks, and the thousands of pretty singers
fluttered about, and gossiped tremulously and delightedly over the glory
of the performance, revealing themselves as charming feminine
personalities, each with her share in the difficulty and the achievement,
each with her pique or pride, and each her something to tell her friend of
the conduct, agreeable or displeasing, of some particular him! Even the
quick dispersion of the mass at the close was a marvel of orderliness and
grace, as the melting and separating parts, falling asunder, radiated from
the centre, and flowed and rippled rapidly away, and left the great hall
empty and bare at last.

And as you emerged from the building, what bizarre and perverse feeling
was that you knew? Something as if all-out-doors were cramped and small,
and it were better to return to the freedom and amplitude of the interior?

On the second day, much that was wonderful in a first experience of the
festival was gone; but though the novelty had passed away, the cause for
wonder was even greater. If on the first day the crowd was immense, it was
now something which the imperfect state of the language will not permit me
to describe; perhaps _awful_ will serve the purpose as well as any
other word now in use. As you looked round, from the centre of the
building, on that restless, fanning, fluttering multitude, to right and
left and north and south, all comparisons and similitudes abandoned you.
If you were to write of the scene, you felt that your effort, at the best,
must be a meagre sketch, suggesting something to those who had seen the
fact, but conveying no intelligible impression of it to any one else. The
galleries swarmed, the vast slopes were packed, in the pampa-like parquet
even the aisles were half filled with chairs, while a cloud of placeless
wanderers moved ceaselessly on the borders of the mass under the

When that common-looking, uncommon little man whom we have called to rule
over us entered the house, and walked quietly down to his seat in the
centre of it, a wild, inarticulate clamor, like no other noise in the
world, swelled from every side, till General Grant rose and showed
himself, when it grew louder than ever, and then gradully subsided into
silence. Then a voice, which might be uttering some mortal alarm, broke
repeatedly across the stillness from one of the balconies, and a thousand
glasses were leveled in that direction, while everywhere else the mass
hushed itself with a mute sense of peril. The capacity of such an
assemblage for self-destruction was, in fact, but too evident. From fire,
in an edifice of which the sides could be knocked out in a moment, there
could have been little danger; the fabric's strength had been perfectly
tested the day before, and its fall was not to be apprehended; but we had
ourselves greatly to dread. A panic could have been caused by any mad or
wanton person, in which thousands might have been instantly trampled to
death; and it seemed long till that foolish voice was stilled, and the
house lapsed back into tranquillity, and the enjoyment of the music. In
the performance I recall nothing disagreeable, nothing that to my
ignorance seemed imperfect, though I leave it to the wise in music to say
how far the great concert was a success. I saw a flourish of the
director's wand, and I heard the voices or the instruments, or both,
respond, and I knew by my programme that I was enjoying an unprecedented
quantity of Haydn or Handel or Meyerbeer or Rossini or Mozart, afforded
with an unquestionable precision and promptness; but I own that I liked
better to stroll about the three-acre house, and that for me the music
was, at best, only one of the joys of the festival.

There was good hearing outside for those that desired to listen to the
music, with seats to let in the surrounding tents and booths; and there
was unlimited seeing for the mere looker-on. At least fifty thousand
people seemed to have come to the Jubilee with no other purpose than to
gaze upon the outside of the building. The crowd was incomparably greater
than that of the day before; all the main thoroughfares of the city roared
with a tide of feet that swept through the side streets, and swelled
aimlessly up the places, and eddied there, and poured out again over the
pavements. The carriage-ways were packed with every sort of vehicle, with
foot-passengers crowded from the sidewalks, and with the fragments of the
military parade in honor of the President, with infantry, with straggling
cavalrymen, with artillery. All the paths of the Common and the Garden
were filled, and near the Coliseum the throngs densified on every side
into an almost impenetrable mass, that made the doors of the building
difficult to approach and at times inaccessible.

The crowd differed from that of the first day chiefly in size. There were
more country faces and country garbs to be seen, though it was still, on
the whole, a regular-featured and well-dressed crowd, with still very few
but American visages. It seemed to be also a very frugal-minded crowd, and
to spend little upon the refreshments and amusements provided for it. In
these, oddly enough, there was nothing of the march of mind to be
observed; they Were the refreshments and amusements of a former
generation. I think it would not be extravagant to say that there were
tons of pie for sale in a multitude of booths, with lemonade, soda-water,
and ice-cream in proportion; but I doubt if there was a ton of pie sold,
and towards the last the venerable pastry was quite covered with dust.
Neither did people seem to care much for oranges or bananas or peanuts, or
even pop-corn,--five cents a package and a prize in each package. Many
booths stood unlet, and in others the pulverous ladies and gentlemen,
their proprietors, were in the enjoyment of a leisure which would have
been elegant if it had not been forced. There was one shanty, not
otherwise distinguished from the rest, in which French soups were declared
to be for sale; but these alien pottages seemed to be no more favored than
the most poisonous of our national viands. But perhaps they were not
French soups, or perhaps the vicinage of the shanty was not such as to
impress a belief in their genuineness upon people who like French soups.
Let us not be too easily disheartened by the popular neglect of them. If
the daring reformer who inscribed French soups upon his sign will reappear
ten years hence, we shall all flock to his standard. Slavery is abolished;
pie must follow. Doubtless in the year 1900, the managers of a Jubilee
would even let the refreshment-rooms within their Coliseum to a cook who
would offer the public something not so much worse than the worst that
could be found in the vilest shanty restaurant on the ground. At the
Jubilee, of which I am writing, the unhappy person who went into the
Coliseum rooms to refresh himself was offered for coffee a salty and
unctuous wash, in one of those thick cups which are supposed to be proof
against the hard usage of "guests" and scullions in humble eating-houses,
and which are always so indescribably nicked and cracked, and had pushed
towards him a bowl of veteran sugar, and a tin spoon that had never been
cleaned in the world, while a young person stood by, and watched him,
asking, "Have you paid for that coffee?"

The side-shows and the other amusements seemed to have addressed
themselves to the crowd with the same mistaken notion of its character and
requirements; though I confess that I witnessed their neglect with regret,
whether from a feeling that they were at least harmless, or an unconscious
sympathy with any quite idle and unprofitable thing. Those rotary, legless
horses, on which children love to ride in a perpetual sickening circle,--
the type of all our effort,--were nearly always mounted; but those other
whirligigs, or whatever the dreadful circles with their swinging seats are
called, were often so empty that they must have been distressing, from
their want of balance, to the muscles as well as the spirits of their
proprietors. The society of monsters was also generally shunned, and a cow
with five legs gave milk from the top of her back to an audience of not
more than six persons. The public apathy had visibly wrought upon the
temper of the gentleman who lectured upon this gifted animal, and he took
inquiries in an ironical manner that contrasted disadvantageously with the
philosophical serenity of the person who had a weighing-machine outside,
and whom I saw sitting in the chair and weighing himself by the hour, with
an expression of profound enjoyment. Perhaps a man of less bulk could not
have entered so keenly into that simple pleasure.

There was a large tent on the grounds for dramatical entertainments, with
six performances a day, into which I was lured by a profusion of high-
colored posters, and some such announcement, as that the beautiful serio-
comic danseuse and world-renowned cloggist, Mile. Brown, would appear.
About a dozen people were assembled within, and we waited a half-hour
beyond the time announced for the curtain to rise, during which the
spectacle of a young man in black broadcloth, eating a cocoa-nut with his
pen-knife, had a strange and painful fascination. At the end of this half-
hour, our number was increased to eighteen, when the orchestra appeared,--
a snare-drummer and two buglers. These took their place at the back of the
tent; the buglers, who were Germans, blew seriously and industriously at
their horns; but the native-born citizen, who played the drum, beat it
very much at random, and in the mean time smoked a cigar, while his
humorous friend kept time upon his shoulders by striking him there with a
cane. How long this might have lasted, I cannot tell; but, after another
delay, I suddenly bethought me whether it were not better not to see Mile.
Brown, after all? I rose, and stole softly out behind the rhythmic back of
the drummer; and the world-renowned cloggist is to me at this moment only
a beautiful dream,--an airy shape fashioned upon a hint supplied by the
engraver of the posters.

What, then, did the public desire, if it would not smile upon the swings,
or monsters, or dramatic amusements that had pleased so long? Was the
music, as it floated out from the Coliseum, a sufficient delight? Or did
the crowd, averse to the shows provided for it, crave something higher and
more intellectual,--like, for example, a course of the Lowell Lectures?
Its general expression had changed: it had no longer that entire gayety of
the first day, but had taken on something of the sarcastic pathos with
which we Americans bear most oppressive and fatiguing things as a good
joke. The dust was blown about in clouds; and here and there, sitting upon
the vacant steps that led up and down among the booths, were dejected and
motionless men and women, passively gathering dust, and apparently
awaiting burial under the accumulating sand,--the mute, melancholy
sphinxes of the Jubilee, with their unsolved riddle, "Why did we come?" At
intervals, the heavens shook out fierce, sudden showers of rain, that
scattered the surging masses, and sent them flying impotently hither and
thither for shelter where no shelter was, only to gather again, and move
aimlessly and comfortlessly to and fro, like a lost child.

So the multitude roared within and without the Coliseum as I turned
homeward; and yet I found it wandering with weary feet through the Garden,
and the Common, and all the streets, and it dragged its innumerable aching
legs with me to the railroad station, and, entering the train, stood up on
them,--having paid for the tickets with which the companies professed to
sell seats.

How still and cool and fresh it was at our suburban station, when the
train, speeding away with a sardonic yell over the misery of the
passengers yet standing up in it, left us to walk across the quiet fields
and pleasant lanes to Benicia Street, through groups of little idyllic
Irish boys playing base-ball, with milch-goats here and there pastorally
cropping the herbage!

In this pleasant seclusion I let all Bunker Hill Day thunder by, with its
cannons, and processions, and speeches, and patriotic musical uproar,
hearing only through my open window the note of the birds singing in a
leafy coliseum across the street, and making very fair music without an
anvil among them. "Ah, signer!" said one of my doorstep acquaintance, who
came next morning and played me Captain Jenks,--the new air he has had
added to his instrument,--"never in my life, neither at Torino, nor at
Milano, nor even at Genoa, never did I see such a crowd or hear such a
noise, as at that Colosseo yesterday. The carriages, the horses, the feet!
And the dust, O Dio mio! All those millions of people were as white as so
many millers!"

On the afternoon of the fourth day the city looked quite like the mill in
which these millers had been grinding; and even those unpromisingly
elegant streets of the Back Bay showed mansions powdered with dust enough
for sentiment to strike root in, and so soften them with its tender green
against the time when they shall be ruinous and sentiment shall swallow
them up. The crowd had perceptibly diminished, but it was still great, and
on the Common it was allured by a greater variety of recreations and
bargains than I had yet seen there. There were, of course, all sorts of
useful and instructive amusements,--at least a half-dozen telescopes, and
as many galvanic batteries, with numerous patented inventions; and I
fancied that most of the peddlers and charlatans addressed themselves to a
utilitarian spirit supposed to exist in us. A man that sold whistles
capable of reproducing exactly the notes of the mocking-bird and the
guinea-pig set forth the durability of the invention. "Now, you see this
whistle, gentlemen. It is rubber, all rubber; and rubber, you know, enters
into the composition of a great many valuable articles. This whistle,
then, is entirely of rubber,--no worthless or flimsy material that drops
to pieces the moment you put it to your lips,"--as if it were not utterly
desirable that it should. "Now, I'll give you the mocking-bird, gentlemen,
and then I'll give you the guinea-pig, upon this pure _India_-rubber
whistle." And he did so with a great animation,--this young man with a
perfectly intelligent and very handsome face. "Try your strength, and
renovate your system!" cried the proprietor of a piston padded at one end
and working into a cylinder when you struck it a blow with your fist; and
the owners of lung-testing machines called upon you from every side to try
their consumption cure; while the galvanic-battery men sat still and
mutely appealed with inscriptions attached to their cap-visors declaring
that electricity taken from their batteries would rid you of every ache
and pain known to suffering humanity. Yet they were themselves as a class
in a state of sad physical disrepair, and one of them was the visible prey
of rheumatism which he might have sent flying from his joints with a
single shock. The only person whom I saw improving his health with the
battery was a rosy-faced school-boy, who was taking ten cents' worth of
electricity; and I hope it did not disagree with his pop-corn and soda-

Farther on was a picturesque group of street-musicians,--violinists and
harpers; a brother and four sisters, by their looks,--who afforded almost
the only unpractical amusement to be enjoyed on the Common, though not far
from them was a blind old negro, playing upon an accordion, and singing to
it in the faintest and thinnest of black voices, who could hardly have
profited any listener. No one appeared to mind him, till a jolly Jack-tar
with both arms cut off, but dressed in full sailor's togs, lurched heavily
towards him. This mariner had got quite a good effect of sea-legs by some
means, and looked rather drunker than a man with both arms ought to be;
but he was very affectionate, and, putting his face close to the other's,
at once entered into talk with the blind man, forming with him a picture
curiously pathetic and grotesque. He was the only tipsy person I saw
during the Jubilee days,--if he was tipsy, for after all they may have
been real sea-legs he had on.

If the throng upon the streets was thinner, it was greater in the Coliseum
than on the second day; and matters had settled there into regular working
order. The limits of individual liberty had been better ascertained; there
was no longer any movement in the aisles, but a constant passing to and
fro, between the pieces, in the promenades. The house presented, as
before, that appearance in which reality forsook it, and it became merely
an amazing picture. The audience supported the notion of its unreality by
having exactly the character of the former audiences, and impressed you,
despite its restlessness and incessant agitation, with the feeling that it
had remained there from the first day, and would always continue there;
and it was only in wandering upon its borders through the promenades, that
you regained possession of facts concerning it. In no other way was its
vastness more observable than in the perfect indifference of persons one
to another. Each found himself, as it were, in a solitude; and,
sequestered in that wilderness of strangers, each was freed of his
bashfulness and trepidation. Young people lounged at ease upon the floors,
about the windows, on the upper promenades; and in this seclusion I saw
such betrayals of tenderness as melt the heart of the traveller on our
desolate railway trains,--Fellows moving to and fro or standing, careless
of other eyes, with their arms around the waists of their Girls. These
were, of course, people who had only attained a certain grade of
civilization, and were not characteristic of the crowd, or, indeed, worthy
of notice except as expressions of its unconsciousness. I fancied that I
saw a number of their class outside listening to the address of the agent
of a patent liniment, proclaimed to be an unfailing specific for neuralgia
and headache,--if used in the right spirit. "For," said the orator, "we
like to cure people who treat us and our medicine with respect. Folks say,
'What is there about that man?--some magnetism or electricity.' And the
other day at New Britain, Connecticut, a young man he come up to the
carriage, sneering like, and he tried the cure, and it didn't have the
least effect upon him." There seemed reason in this, and it produced a
visible sensation in the Fellows and Girls, who grinned sheepishly at each

Why will the young man with long hair force himself at this point into a
history, which is striving to devote itself to graver interests? There he
stood with the other people, gazing up at the gay line of streamers on the
summit of the Coliseum, and taking in the Anvil Chorus with the rest,--a
young man well-enough dressed, and of a pretty sensible face, with his
long black locks falling from under his cylinder hat, and covering his
shoulders. What awful spell was on him, obliging him to make that figure
before his fellow-creatures? He had nothing to sell; he was not,
apparently, an advertisement of any kind. Was he in the performance of a
vow? Was he in his right mind? For shame! a person may wear his hair long
if he will. But why not, then, in a top-knot? This young man's long hair
was not in keeping with his frock-coat and his cylinder hat, and he had
not at all the excuse of the old gentleman who sold salve in the costume
of Washington's time; one could not take pleasure in him as in the negro
advertiser, who paraded the grounds in a costume compounded of a consular
_chapeau bras_ and a fox-hunter's top-boots--the American diplomatic
uniform of the future--and offered every one a printed billet; he had not
even the attraction of the cabalistic herald of Hunkidori. Who was he?
what was he? why was he? The mind played forever around these questions in
a maze of hopeless conjecture.

Had all those quacks and peddlers been bawling ever since Tuesday to the
same listeners? Had all those swings and whirligigs incessantly performed
their rounds? The cow that gave milk from the top of her back, had she
never changed her small circle of admirers, or ceased her flow? And the
gentleman who sat in the chair of his own balance, how much did he weigh
by this time? One could scarcely rid one's self of the illusion of
perpetuity concerning these things, and I could not believe that, if I
went back to the Coliseum grounds at any future time, I should not behold
all that vast machinery in motion.

It was curious to see, amid this holiday turmoil men pursuing the ordinary
business of their lives, and one was strangely rescued and consoled by the
spectacle of the Irish hod-carriers, and the bricklayers at work on a
first-class swell-front residence in the very heart of the city of tents
and booths. Even the locomotive, being associated with quieter days and
scenes, appealed, as it whistled to and fro upon the Providence Railroad,
to some soft bucolic sentiment in the listener, and sending its note,
ordinarily so discordant, across that human uproar, seemed to "babble of
green fields." And at last it wooed us away, and the Jubilee was again
swallowed up by night.

There was yet another Jubilee Day, on the morning of which the thousands
of public-school children clustered in gauzy pink and white in the place
of the mighty chorus, while the Coliseum swarmed once more with people who
listened to those shrill, sweet pipes blending in unison; but I leave the
reader to imagine what he will about it. A week later, after all was over,
I was minded to walk down towards the Coliseum, and behold it in its
desertion. The city streets were restored to their wonted summer-afternoon
tranquillity; the Public Garden presented its customary phases of two
people sitting under a tree and talking intimately together on some theme
of common interest,--

"Bees, bees, was it your hydromel?"--

of the swans sailing in full view upon the little lake of half a dozen
idlers hanging upon the bridge to look at them; of children gayly dotting
the paths here and there; and, to heighten the peacefulness of the effect,
a pretty, pale invalid lady sat, half in shade and half in sun, reading in
an easy-chair. Far down the broad avenue a single horse-car tinkled
slowly; on the steps of one of the mansions charming little girls stood in
a picturesque group full of the bright color which abounds in the lovely
dresses of this time. As I drew near the Coliseum, I could perceive the
desolation which had fallen upon the festival scene; the white tents were
gone; the place where the world-renowned cloggist gave her serio-comic
dances was as lonely and silent as the site of Carthage; in the middle
distance two men were dismantling a motionless whirligig; the hut for the
sale of French soups was closed; farther away, a solitary policeman moved
gloomily across the deserted spaces, showing his dark-blue figure against
the sky. The vast fabric of the Coliseum reared itself, hushed and
deserted within and without; and a boy in his shirt-sleeves pressed his
nose against one of the painted window-panes in the vain effort to behold
the nothing inside. But sadder than this loneliness surrounding the
Coliseum, sadder than the festooned and knotted banners that drooped
funereally upon its facade, was the fact that some of those luckless
refreshment-saloons were still open, displaying viands as little edible
now as carnival _confetti_. It was as if the proprietors, in an
unavailing remorse, had condemned themselves to spend the rest of their
days there, and, slowly consuming their own cake and pop-corn, washed down
with their own soda-water and lemonade, to perish of dyspepsia and


Any study of suburban life would be very imperfect without some glance at
that larger part of it which is spent in the painful pursuit of pleasures
such as are offered at the ordinary places of public amusement; and for
this reason I excuse myself for rehearsing certain impressions here which
are not more directly suburban, to say the least, than those recounted in
the foregoing chapter.

It became, shortly after life in Charlesbridge began, a question whether
any entertainment that Boston could offer were worth the trouble of going
to it, or, still worse, coming from it; for if it was misery to hurry from
tea to catch the inward horse-car at the head of the street, what sullen
lexicon will afford a name for the experience of getting home again by the
last car out from the city? You have watched the clock much more closely
than the stage during the last act, and have left your play incomplete by
its final marriage or death, and have rushed up to Bowdoin Square, where
you achieve a standing place in the car, and, utterly spent as you are
with the enjoyment of the evening, you endure for the next hour all that
is horrible in riding or walking. At the end of this time you declare that
you will never go to the theatre again; and after years of suffering you
come at last to keep your word.

While yet, however, in the state of formation as regards this resolution,
I went frequently to the theatre--or school of morals, as its friends have
humorously called it. I will not say whether any desired amelioration took
place or not in my own morals through the agency of the stage; but if not
enlightened and refined by everything I saw there, I sometimes was
certainly very much surprised. Now that I go no more, or very, very
rarely, I avail myself of the resulting leisure to set down, for the
instruction of posterity, some account of performances I witnessed in the
years 1868-69, which I am persuaded will grow all the more curious, if not
incredible, with the lapse of time.

There is this satisfaction in living, namely, that whatever we do will one
day wear an air of picturesqueness and romance, and will win the fancy of
people coming after us. This stupid and commonplace present shall yet
appear the fascinating past; and is it not a pleasure to think how our
rogues of descendants--who are to enjoy us aesthetically--will be taken in
with us, when they read, in the files of old newspapers, of the quantity
of entertainment offered us at the theatres during the years mentioned,
and judge us by it? I imagine them two hundred years hence looking back at
us, and sighing, "Ah! there was a touch of the old Greek life in those
Athenians! How they loved the drama in the jolly Boston of that day! That
was the golden age of the theatre: in the winter of 1868-69, they had
dramatic performances in seven places, of every degree of excellence, and
the managers coined money." As we always figure our ancestors going to and
from church, they will probably figure us thronging the doors of theatres,
and no doubt there will be some historical gossiper among them to sketch a
Boston audience in 1869, with all our famous poets and politicians grouped
together in the orchestra seats, and several now dead introduced with the
pleasant inaccuracy and uncertainty of historical gossipers. "On this
night, when the beautiful Tost�e reappeared, the whole house rose to greet
her. If Mr. Alcott was on one of his winter visits to Boston, no doubt he
stepped in from the Marlborough House,--it was a famous temperance hotel,
then in the height of its repute,--not only to welcome back the great
actress, but to enjoy a chat between the acts with his many friends. Here,
doubtless, was seen the broad forehead of Webster; there the courtly
Everett, conversing in studied tones with the gifted So-and-so. Did not
the lovely Such-a-one grace the evening with her presence? The brilliant
and versatile Edmund Kirke was dead; but the humorous Artemas Ward and his
friend Nasby may have attracted many eyes, having come hither at the close
of their lectures, to testify their love of the beautiful in nature and
art; while, perhaps, Mr. Sumner, in the intervals of state cares, relaxed
into the enjoyment," etc. "Vous voyez bien le tableau!"

That far-off posterity, learning that all our theatres are filled every
night, will never understand but we were a theatre-going people in the
sense that it is the highest fashion to be seen at the play; and yet we
are sensible that it is not so, and that the Boston which makes itself
known in civilization--in letters, politics, reform--goes as little to the
theatre as fashionable Boston.

The stage is not an Institution with us, I should say; yet it affords
recreation to a very large and increasing number of persons, and while it
would be easy to over-estimate its influence for good or evil even with
these, there is no doubt that the stage, if not the drama, is popular.
Fortunately an inquiry like this into a now waning taste in theatricals
concerns the fact rather than the effect of the taste otherwise the task
might become indefinitely hard alike for writer and for reader. No one can
lay his hand on his heart, and declare that he is the worse for having
seen "La Belle H�l�ne," for example, or say more than that it is a thing
which ought not to be seen by any one else; yet I suppose there is no one
ready to deny that "La Belle H�l�ne" was the motive of those performances
that have most pleased the most people during recent years. There was
something fascinating in the circumstances and auspices under which the
united Irma and Tost�e troupes appeared in Boston--_op�ra bouffe_ led
gayly forward by _finance bouffe_, and suggesting Erie shares by its
watered music and morals; but there is no doubt that Tost�e's grand
reception was owing mainly to the personal favor which she enjoyed here
and which we do not vouchsafe to every one. Ristori did not win it; we did
our duty by her, following her carefully with the libretto, and in her
most intense effects turning the leaves of a thousand pamphlets with a
rustle that must have shattered every delicate nerve in her; but we were
always cold to her greatness. It was not for Toste�s singing, which was
but a little thing in itself; it was not for her beauty, for that was no
more than a reminiscence, if it was not always an illusion; was it because
she rendered the spirit of M. Offenbach's operas so perfectly, that we
liked her so much? "Ah, that movement!" cried an enthusiast, "that swing,
that--that--wriggle!" She was undoubtedly a great actress, full of subtle
surprises, and with an audacious appearance of unconsciousness in those
exigencies where consciousness would summon the police--or should; she was
so near, yet so far from, the worst that could be intended; in tones, in
gestures, in attitudes, she was to the libretto just as the music was, now
making it appear insolently and unjustly coarse, now feebly inadequate in
its explicit immodesty.

To see this famous lady in "La Grande Duchesse" or "La Belle H�l�ne" was
an experience never to be forgotten, and certainly not to be described.
The former opera has undoubtedly its proper and blameless charm. There is
something pretty and arch in the notion of the Duchess's falling in love
with the impregnably faithful and innocent Fritz; and the extravagance of
the whole, with the satire upon the typical little German court, is
delightful. But "La Belle Helene" is a wittier play than "La Grande
Duchesse," and it is the vividest expression of the spirit of _op�ra
bouffe_. It is full of such lively mockeries as that of Helen when she
gazes upon the picture of Leda and the Swan: "J'aime � me recueiller
devant ce tableau de famille! Mon p�re, ma m�re, les voici tous les deux!
O mon p�re, tourne vers ton enfant un bec favorable!"--or of Paris when he
represses the zeal of Calchas, who desires to present him at once to
Helen: "Soit! mais sans lui dire qui je suis;--je d�sire garder le plus
strict incognito, jusq'au moment o� la situation sera favorable � un coup
de th��tre." But it must be owned that our audiences seemed not to take
much pleasure in these and other witticisms, though they obliged
Mademoiselle Tost�e to sing "Un Mari sage" three times, with all those
actions and postures which seem incredible the moment they have ceased.
They possibly understood this song no better than the strokes of wit, and
encored it merely for the music's sake. The effect was, nevertheless,
unfortunate, and calculated to give those French ladies but a bad opinion
of our morals. How could they comprehend that the taste was, like
themselves, imported, and that its indulgence here did not characterize
us? It was only in appearance that, while we did not enjoy the wit we
delighted in the coarseness. And how coarse this travesty of the old fable
mainly is! That priest Calchas, with his unspeakable snicker his avarice,
his infidelity, his hypocrisy, is alone infamy enough to provoke the
destruction of a city. Then that scene interrupted by Menelaus! It is
indisputably witty, and since all those people are so purely creatures of
fable, and dwell so entirely in an unmoral atmosphere, it appears as
absurd to blame it as the murders in a pantomime. To be sure there is
something about murder, some inherent grace or refinement perhaps, that
makes its actual representation upon the stage more tolerable than the
most diffident suggestion of adultery. Not that "La Belle H�l�ne" is open
to the reproach of over-delicacy in this scene, or any other, for the
matter of that, though there is a strain of real poetry in the conception
of this whole episode of Helen's intention to pass all Paris's love-making
off upon herself for a dream,--poetry such as might have been inspired by
a muse that had taken too much nectar. There is excellent character, also,
as well as caricature in the drama; not only Calchas is admirably done,
but Agamemnon, and Achilles, and Helen, and Menelaus, "pas un mari
ordinaire ... un mari �pique,"--and the burlesque is good of its kind. It
is artistic, as it seems French dramatic effort must almost necessarily
be. It could scarcely be called the fault of the _op�ra bouffe_ that
the English burlesque should have come of its success; nor could the
public blame it for the great favor the burlesque won in those far-off
winters, if indeed the public wishes to bestow blame for this. No one,
however, could see one of these curious travesties without being reminded,
in an awkward way, of the _morale_ of the _op�ra bouffe_, and of
the _personnel_--as I may say--of "The Black Crook," "The White
Fawn," and the "Devil's Auction." There was the same intention of
merriment at the cost of what may be called the marital prejudices, though
it cannot be claimed that the wit was the same as in "La Belle H�l�ne;"
there was the same physical unreserve as in the ballets of a former
season; while in its dramatic form the burlesque discovered very marked
parental traits.

This English burlesque, this child of M. Offenbach's genius, and the now
somewhat faded spectacular muse, flourished at the time of which I write
in three of our seven theatres for months,--five, from the highest to the
lowest being in turn open to it,--and had begun, in a tentative way, to
invade the deserted stage even so long ago as the previous summer; and I
have sometimes flattered myself that it was my fortune to witness the
first exhibition of its most characteristic feature in a theatre into
which I wandered one sultry night because it was the nearest theatre. They
were giving a play called "The Three Fast Men," which had a moral of such
powerful virtue that it ought to have reformed everybody in the
neighborhood. Three ladies being in love with the three fast men, and
resolved to win them back to regular hours and the paths of sobriety by
every device of the female heart, dress themselves in men's clothes,--such
is the subtlety of the female heart in the bosoms of modern young ladies
of fashion,--and follow their lovers about from one haunt of dissipation
to another and become themselves exemplarily vicious,--drunkards,
gamblers, and the like. The first lady, who was a star in her lowly orbit,
was very great in all her different _r�les_, appearing now as a
sailor with the hornpipe of his calling, now as an organ-grinder, and now
as a dissolute young gentleman,--whatever was the exigency of good morals.
The dramatist seemed to have had an eye to her peculiar capabilities, and
to have expressly invented edifying characters and situations that her
talents might enforce them. The second young lady had also a personal
didactic gift, rivaling, and even surpassing in some respects, that of the
star; and was very rowdy indeed. In due time the devoted conduct of the
young ladies has its just effect: the three fast men begin to reflect upon
the folly of their wild courses; and at this point the dramatist delivers
his great stroke. The first lady gives a _soir�e dansante et
chantante_, and the three fast men have invitations. The guests seat
themselves, as at a fashionable party, in a semicircle, and the gayety of
the evening begins with conundrums and playing upon the banjo; the
gentlemen are in their morning-coats, and the ladies in a display of
hosiery which is now no longer surprising, and which need not have been
mentioned at all except for the fact that, in the case of the first lady,
it seemed not to have been freshly put on for that party. In this instance
an element comical beyond intention was present, in three young gentlemen,
an amateur musical trio, who had kindly consented to sing their favorite
song of "The Rolling Zuyder Zee," as they now kindly did, with flushed
faces, unmanageable hands, and much repetition of

The ro-o-o-o-
The ro-o-o-o-
The ro-o-o-o-ll-
Ing Zuyder Zee,
Zuyder Zee,
Zuyder Zee-e-e!

Then the turn of the three guardian angels of the fast men being come
again they get up and dance each one a breakdown which seems to establish
their lovers (now at last in the secret of the generous ruse played upon
them) firmly in their resolution to lead a better life. They are in nowise
shaken from it by the displeasure which soon shows itself in the manner of
the first and second ladies. The former is greatest in the so-called
Protean parts of the play, and is obscured somewhat by the dancing of the
latter; but she has a daughter who now comes on and sings a song. The
pensive occasion, the favorable mood of the audience, the sympathetic
attitude of the players, invite her to sing "The Maiden's Prayer," and so
we have "The Maiden's Prayer." We may be a low set, and the song may be
affected and insipid enough, but the purity of its intention touches, and
the little girl is vehemently applauded. She is such a pretty child with
her innocent face, and her artless white dress, and blue ribbons to her
waist and hair, that we will have her back again; whereupon she runs out
upon the stage, strikes up a rowdy, rowdy air, dances a shocking little
dance, and vanishes from the dismayed vision, leaving us a considerably
lower set than we were at first, and glad of our lowness. This is the
second lady's own ground, however, and now she comes out--in a way that
banishes far from our fickle minds all thoughts of the first lady and her
mistaken child--with a medley of singing and dancing, a bit of breakdown,
of cancan, of jig, a bit of "Le Sabre de mon P�re," and of all memorable
slang songs, given with the most grotesque and clownish spirit that ever
inspired a woman. Each member of the company follows in his or her _pas
seul_, and then they all dance together to the plain confusion of the
amateur trio, whose eyes roll like so many Zuyder Zees, as they sit lonely
and motionless in the midst. All stiffness and formality are overcome. The
evening party in fact disappears entirely, and we are suffered to see the
artists in their moments of social relaxation sitting as it were around
the theatrical fireside. They appear to forget us altogether; they
exchange winks, and nods, and jests of quite personal application; they
call each other by name, by their Christian names, their nicknames. It is
not an evening party, it is a family party, and the suggestion of home
enjoyment completes the reformation of the three fast men. We see them
marry the three fast women before we leave the house.

On another occasion, two suburban friends of the drama beheld a more
explicit precursor of the coming burlesque at one of the minor theatres
last summer. The great actress whom they had come to see on another scene
was ill, and in their disappointment they embraced the hope of
entertainment offered them at the smaller playhouse. The drama itself was
neither here nor there as to intent, but the public appetite or the
manager's conception of it--for I am by no means sure that this whole
business was not a misunderstanding--had exacted that the actresses should
appear in so much stocking, and so little else, that it was a horror to
look upon them. There was no such exigency of dialogue, situation, or
character as asked the indecorum, and the effect upon the unprepared
spectator was all the more stupefying from the fact that most of the
ladies were not dancers, and had not countenances that consorted with
impropriety. Their faces had merely the conventional Yankee sharpness and
wanness of feature, and such difference of air and character as should say
for one and another, shop-girl, shoe-binder, seamstress; and it seemed an
absurdity and an injustice to refer to them in any way the disclosures of
the ruthlessly scant drapery. A grotesque fancy would sport with their
identity: "Did not this or that one write poetry for her local newspaper?"
so much she looked the average culture and crudeness, and when such a one,
coldly yielding to the manager's ideas of the public taste, stretched
herself on a green baize bank with her feet towards us, or did a similar
grossness, it was hard to keep from crying aloud in protest, that she need
not do it; that nobody really expected or wanted it of her. Nobody? Alas!
there were people there--poor souls who had the appearance of coming every
night--who plainly did expect it, and who were loud in their applauses of
the chief actress. This was a young person of a powerful physical
expression, quite unlike the rest,--who were dyspeptic and consumptive in
the range of their charms,--and she triumphed and wantoned through the
scenes with a fierce excess of animal vigor. She was all stocking, as one
may say, being habited to represent a prince; she had a raucous voice, an
insolent twist of the mouth, and a terrible trick of defying her enemies
by standing erect, chin up, hand on hip, and right foot advanced, patting
the floor. It was impossible, even in the orchestra seats, to look at her
in this attitude and not shrink before her; and on the stage she visibly
tyrannized over the invalid sisterhood with her full-blown fascinations.
These unhappy girls personated, with a pathetic effect not to be
described, such arch and fantastic creations of the poet's mind as
Bewitchingcreature and Exquisitelittlepet, and the play was a kind of
fairy burlesque in rhyme, of the most melancholy stupidity that ever was.
Yet there was something very comical in the conditions of its performance,
and in the possibility that public and manager were playing at cross-
purposes. There we were in the pit, an assemblage of hard-working Yankees
of decently moral lives and simple traditions, country-bred many of us and
of plebeian stock and training, vulgar enough perhaps, but probably not
depraved, and, excepting the first lady's friends, certainly not educated
to the critical enjoyment of such spectacles; and there on the stage were
those mistaken women, in such sad variety of boniness and flabbiness as I
have tried to hint, addressing their pitiable exposure to a supposed
vileness in us, and wrenching from all original intent the innocent
dullness of the drama, which for the most part could have been as well
played in walking-dresses, to say the least.

The scene was not less amusing, as regarded the audiences, the ensuing
winter, when the English burlesque troupes which London sent us, arrived;
but it was not quite so pathetic as regarded the performers. Of their
beauty and their abandon, the historical gossiper, whom I descry far down
the future, waiting to refer to me as "A scandalous writer of the period,"
shall learn very little to his purpose of warming his sketch with a color
from mine. But I hope I may describe these ladies as very pretty, very
blonde, and very unscrupulously clever, and still disappoint the
historical gossiper. They seemed in all cases to be English; no Yankee
faces, voices, or accents were to be detected among them. Where they were
associated with people of another race, as happened with one troupe, the
advantage of beauty was upon the Anglo-Saxon side, while that of some
small shreds of propriety was with the Latins. These appeared at times
almost modest, perhaps because they were the conventional
_ballerine_, and wore the old-fashioned ballet-skirt with its volumed
gauze,--a coyness which the Englishry had greatly modified, through an
exigency of the burlesque,--perhaps because indecorum seems, like
blasphemy and untruth, somehow more graceful and becoming in southern than
in northern races.

As for the burlesques themselves, they were nothing, the performers
personally everything. M. Offenbach had opened Lempri�re's Dictionary to
the authors with "La Belle H�l�ne," and there, was commonly a flimsy
raveling of parodied myth, that held together the different dances and
songs, though sometimes it was a novel or an opera burlesqued; but there
was always a song and always a dance for each lady, song and dance being
equally slangy, and depending for their effect mainly upon the natural or
simulated personal charms of the performer.

It was also an indispensable condition of the burlesque's success, that
the characters should be reversed in their representation,--that the men's
_r�les_ should be played by women, and that at least one female part
should be done by a man. It must be owned that the fun all came from this
character, the ladies being too much occupied with the more serious
business of bewitching us with their pretty figures to be very amusing;
whereas this wholesome man and brother, with his blonde wig, his
_panier_, his dainty feminine simperings and languishings, his
falsetto tones, and his general air of extreme fashion, was always
exceedingly droll. He was the saving grace of these stupid plays; and I
cannot help thinking that the _cancan_, as danced, in "Ivanhoe," by
Isaac of York and the masculine Rebecca, was a moral spectacle; it was the
_cancan_ made forever absurd and harmless. But otherwise, the
burlesques were as little cheerful as profitable. The playwrights who had
adapted them to the American stage--for they were all of English
authorship--had been good enough to throw in some political allusions
which were supposed to be effective with us, but which it was sad to see
received with apathy. It was conceivable from a certain air with which the
actors delivered these, that they were in the habit of stirring London
audiences greatly with like strokes of satire; but except where Rebecca
offered a bottle of Medford rum to Cedric the Saxon, who appeared in the
figure of ex-President Johnson, they had no effect upon us. We were cold,
very cold, to suggestions of Mr. Reverdy Johnson's now historical speech-
making and dining; General Butler's spoons moved us just a little; at the
name of Grant we roared and stamped, of course, though in a perfectly
mechanical fashion, and without thought of any meaning offered us; those
lovely women might have coupled the hero's name with whatever insult they
chose, and still his name would have made us cheer them. We seemed not to
care for points that were intended to flatter us nationally. I am not
aware that anybody signified consciousness when the burlesque supported
our side of the Alabama controversy, or acknowledged the self-devotion
with which a threat that England should be made to pay was delivered by
these English performers. With an equal impassiveness we greeted allusions
to Erie shares and to the late Mr. Fiske.

The burlesque chiefly betrayed its descent from the spectacular ballet in
its undressing; but that ballet, while it demanded personal exposure, had
something very observable in its scenic splendors, and all that marching
and processioning in it was rather pretty; while in the burlesque there
seemed nothing of innocent intent. No matter what the plot, it led always
to a final great scene of breakdown,--which was doubtless most impressive
in that particular burlesque where this scene represented the infernal
world, and the ladies gave the dances of the country with a happy
conception of the deportment of lost souls. There, after some vague and
inconsequent dialogue, the wit springing from a perennial source of humor
(not to specify the violation of the seventh commandment), the dancing
commenced, each performer beginning with the Walk-round of the negro
minstrels, rendering its grotesqueness with a wonderful frankness of
movement, and then plunging into the mysteries of her dance with a kind of
infuriate grace and a fierce delight very curious to look upon. I am aware
of the historical gossiper still on the alert for me, and I dare not say
how sketchily these ladies were dressed or indeed, more than that they
were dressed to resemble circus-riders of the other sex, but as to their
own deceived nobody,--possibly did not intend deceit. One of them was so
good a player that it seemed needless for her to go so far as she did in
the dance; but she spared herself nothing, and it remained for her merely
stalwart friends to surpass her, if possible. This inspired each who
succeeded her to wantoner excesses, to wilder insolences of hose, to
fiercer bravadoes of corsage; while those not dancing responded to the
sentiment of the music by singing shrill glees in tune with it, clapping
their hands, and patting Juba, as the act is called,--a peculiarly
graceful and modest thing in woman. The frenzy grew with every moment,
and, as in another Vision of Sin,--

"Then they started from their places,
Moved with violence, changed in hue,
Caught each other with wild grimaces,
Half-invisible to the view,
Wheeling with precipitate paces
To the melody, till they flew,
Hair, and eyes, and limbs, and faces
Twisted hard in fierce embraces,
Like to Furies, like to Graces,"--

with an occasional exchange of cuffs and kicks perfectly human. The
spectator found now himself and now the scene incredible, and indeed they
were hardly conceivable in relation to each other. A melancholy sense of
the absurdity, of the incongruity, of the whole absorbed at last even a
sense of the indecency. The audience was much the same in appearance as
other audiences, witnessing like displays at the other theatres, and did
not differ greatly from the usual theatrical house. Not so much fashion
smiled upon the efforts of these young ladies, as upon the _cancan_
of the Signorina Morlacchi a winter earlier; but there was a most fair
appearance of honest-looking, handsomely dressed men and women; and you
could pick out, all over the parquet, faces of one descent from the
deaconship, which you wondered were not afraid to behold one another
there. The truth is, we spectators, like the performers themselves, lacked
that tradition of error, of transgression, which casts its romance about
the people of a lighter race. We had not yet set off one corner of the
Common for a Jardin Mabille; we had not even the concert-cellars of the
gay and elegant New Yorker; and nothing, really, had happened in Boston to
educate us to this new taste in theatricals, since the fair Quakers felt
moved to testify in the streets and churches against our spiritual
nakedness. Yet it was to be noted with regret that our innocence, our
respectability, had no restraining influence upon the performance; and the
fatuity of the hope cherished by some courageous people, that the presence
of virtuous persons would reform the stage, was but too painfully evident.
The doubt whether they were not nearer right who have denounced the
theatre as essentially and incorrigibly bad would force itself upon the
mind, though there was a little comfort in the thought that, if virtue had
been actually allowed to frown upon these burlesques, the burlesques might
have been abashed into propriety. The caressing arm of the law was cast
very tenderly about the performers, and in the only case where a spectator
presumed to hiss,--it was at a _pas seul_ of the indescribable,--a
policeman descended upon him, and with the succor of two friends of the
free ballet, rent him from his place, and triumphed forth with him. Here
was an end of ungenial criticism; we all applauded zealously after that.

The peculiar character of the drama to which they devoted themselves had
produced, in these ladies, some effects doubtless more interesting than
profitable to observe. One of them, whose unhappiness it was to take the
part of _soubrette_ in the Laughable Commedietta preceding the
burlesque, was so ill at ease in drapery, so full of awkward jerks and
twitches, that she seemed quite another being when she came on later as a
radiant young gentleman in pink silk hose, and nothing of feminine modesty
in her dress excepting the very low corsage. A strange and compassionable
satisfaction beamed from her face; it was evident that this sad business
was the poor thing's _forte_. In another company was a lady who had
conquered all the easy attitudes of young men of the second or third
fashion, and who must have been at something of a loss to identify herself
when personating a woman off the stage. But Nature asserted herself in a
way that gave a curious and scarcely explicable shock in the case of that
dancer whose impudent song required the action of fondling a child, and
who rendered the passage with an instinctive tenderness and grace, all the
more pathetic for the profaning boldness of her super masculine dress or
undress. Commonly, however, the members of these burlesque troupes, though
they were not like men, were in most things as unlike women, and seemed
creatures of a kind of alien sex, parodying both. It was certainly a
shocking thing to look at them with their horrible prettiness, their
archness in which was no charm, their grace which put to shame. Yet
whoever beheld these burlesque sisters, must have fallen into perplexing
question in his own mind as to whose was the wrong involved. It was not
the fault of the public--all of us felt that: was it the fault of the
hard-working sisterhood, bred to this as to any other business, and not
necessarily conscious of the indecorum which pains my reader,--obliged to
please somehow, and aiming, doubtless, at nothing but applause? "La Belle
H�l�ne" suggests the only reasonable explanation: _"C'est la


I would not willingly repose upon the friendship of a man whose local
attachments are weak. I should not demand of my intimate that he have a
yearning for the homes of his ancestors, or even the scenes of his own
boyhood; that is not in American nature; on the contrary, he is but a poor
creature who does not hate the village where he was born; yet a sentiment
for the place where one has lived two or three years, the hotel where one
has spent a week, the sleeping car in which one has ridden from Albany to
Buffalo,--so much I should think it well to exact from my friend in proof
of that sensibility and constancy without which true friendship does not
exist. So much I am ready to yield on my own part to a friend's demand,
and I profess to have all the possible regrets for Benicia Street, now I
have left it. Over its deficiencies I cast a veil of decent oblivion, and
shall always try to look upon its worthy and consoling aspects, which were
far the more numerous. It was never otherwise, I imagine, than an ideal
region in very great measure; and if the reader whom I have sometimes
seemed to direct thither, should seek it out, he would hardly find my
Benicia Street by the city sign-board. Yet this is not wholly because it
was an ideal locality, but because much of its reality has now become
merely historical, a portion of the tragical poetry of the past. Many of
the vacant lots abutting upon Benicia and the intersecting streets
flourished up, during the four years we knew it, into fresh-painted wooden
houses, and the time came to be when one might have looked in vain for the
abandoned hoop-skirts which used to decorate the desirable building-sites.
The lessening pasturage also reduced the herds which formerly fed in the
vicinity, and at last we caught the tinkle of the cow-bells only as the
cattle were driven past to remoter meadows. And one autumn afternoon two
laborers, hired by the city, came and threw up an earthwork on the
opposite side of the street, which they said was a sidewalk, and would add
to the value of property in the neighborhood. Not being dressed with coal-
ashes, however, during the winter, the sidewalk vanished next summer under
a growth of rag-weed, and hid the increased values with it, and it is now
an even question whether this monument of municipal grandeur will finally
be held by Art or resumed by Nature,--who indeed has a perpetual motherly
longing for her own, and may be seen in all outlying and suburban places,
pathetically striving to steal back any neglected bits of ground and
conceal them under her skirts of tattered and shabby verdure. But whatever
is the event of this contest, and whatever the other changes wrought in
the locality, it has not yet been quite stripped of the characteristic
charms which first took our hearts, and which have been duly celebrated in
these pages.

When the new house was chosen, we made preparations to leave the old one,
but preparations so gradual, that, if we had cared much more than we did,
we might have suffered greatly by the prolongation of the agony. We
proposed to ourselves to escape the miseries of moving by transferring the
contents of one room at a time, and if we did not laugh incredulously at
people who said we had better have it over at once and be done with it, it
was because we respected their feelings, and not because we believed them.
We took up one carpet after another; one wall after another we stripped of
its pictures; we sent away all the books to begin with; and by this subtle
and ingenious process, we reduced ourselves to the discomfort of living in
no house at all, as it were, and of being at home in neither one place nor
the other. Yet the logic of our scheme remained perfect; and I do not
regret its failure in practice, for if we had been ever so loath to quit
the old house, its inhospitable barrenness would finally have hurried us
forth. In fact, does not life itself in some such fashion dismantle its
tenement until it is at last forced out of the uninhabitable place? Are
not the poor little comforts and pleasures and ornaments removed one by
one, till life, if it would be saved, must go too? We took a lesson from
the teachings of mortality, which are so rarely heeded, and we lingered
over our moving. We made the process so gradual, indeed, that I do not
feel myself all gone yet from the familiar work-room, and for aught I can
say, I still write there; and as to the guest-chamber, it is so densely
peopled by those it has lodged that it will never quite be emptied of
them. Friends also are yet in the habit of calling in the parlor, and
talking with us; and will the children never come off the stairs? Does
life, our high exemplar, leave so much behind as we did? Is this what
fills the world with ghosts?

In the getting ready to go, nothing hurt half so much as the sight of the
little girl packing her doll's things for removal. The trousseaux of all
those elegant creatures, the wooden, the waxen, the biscuit, the india-
rubber, were carefully assorted, and arranged in various small drawers and
boxes; their house was thoughtfully put in order and locked for
transportation; their innumerable broken sets of dishes were packed in
paper and set out upon the floor, a heart-breaking little basketful.
Nothing real in this world is so affecting as some image of reality, and
this travesty of our own flitting was almost intolerable. I will not
pretend to sentiment about anything else, for everything else had in it
the element of self-support belonging to all actual afflictions. When the
day of moving finally came, and the furniture wagon, which ought to have
been only a shade less dreadful to us than a hearse, drew up at our door,
our hearts were of a Neronian hardness.

"Were I Diogenes," says wrathful Charles Lamb in one of his letters, "I
would not move out of a kilderkin into a hogshead, though the first had
nothing but small beer in it, and the second reeked claret." I fancy this
loathing of the transitionary state came in great part from the rude and
elemental nature of the means of moving in Lamb's day. In our own time, in
Charlesbridge at least, everything is so perfectly contrived, that it is
in some ways a pleasant excitement to move; though I do not commend the
diversion to any but people of entire leisure, for it cannot be denied
that it is, at any rate, an interruption to work. But little is broken,
little is defaced, nothing is heedlessly outraged or put to shame. Of
course there are in every house certain objects of comfort and even
ornament which in a state of repose derive a sort of dignity from being
cracked, or scratched, or organically debilitated, and give an idea of
ancestral possession and of long descent to the actual owner; and you must
not hope that this venerable quality will survive their public exposure
upon the furniture wagon. There it instantly perishes, like the
consequence of some country notable huddled and hustled about in the
graceless and ignorant tumult of a great city. To tell the truth, the
number of things that turn shabby under the ordeal of moving strikes a
pang of unaccustomed poverty to the heart which, loving all manner of
makeshifts, is rich even in its dilapidations. For the time you feel
degraded by the spectacle of that forlornness, and if you are a man of
spirit, you try to sneak out of association with it in the mind of the
passer-by; you keep scrupulously in-doors, or if a fancied exigency
obliges you to go back and forth between the old house and the new, you
seek obscure by-ways remote from the great street down which the wagon
flaunts your ruin and decay, and time your arrivals and departures so as
to have the air of merely dropping in at either place. This consoles you;
but it deceives no one; for the man who is moving is unmistakably stamped
with transition.

Yet the momentary eclipse of these things is not the worst. It _is_
momentary; for if you will but plant them in kindly corners and favorable
exposures of the new house, a mould of respectability will gradually
overspread them again, and they will once more account for their presence
by the air of having been a long time in the family; but there is danger
that in the first moments of mortification you will be tempted to replace
them with new and costly articles. Even the best of the old things are
nothing to boast of in the hard, unpitying light to which they are
exposed, and a difficult and indocile spirit of extravagance is evoked in
the least profuse. Because of this fact alone I should not commend the
diversion of moving save to people of very ample means as well as perfect
leisure; there are more reasons than the misery of flitting why the
dweller in the kilderkin should not covet the hogshead reeking of claret.

But the grosser misery of moving is, as I have hinted, vastly mitigated by
modern science, and what remains of it one may use himself to with no
tremendous effort. I have found that in the dentist's chair,--that
ironically luxurious seat, cushioned in satirical suggestion of impossible
repose,--after a certain initial period of clawing, filing, scraping, and
punching, one's nerves accommodate themselves to the torment, and one
takes almost an objective interest in the operation of tooth-filling; and
in like manner after two or three wagon-loads of your household stuff have
passed down the public street, and all your morbid associations with them
have been desecrated, you begin almost to like it. Yet I cannot regard
this abandon as a perfectly healthy emotion, and I do not counsel my
reader to mount himself upon the wagon and ride to and fro even once, for
afterwards the remembrance of such an excess will grieve him.

Of course, I meant to imply by this that moving sometimes comes to an end,
though it is not easy to believe so while moving. The time really arrives
when you sit down in your new house, and amid whatever disorder take your
first meal there. This meal is pretty sure to be that gloomy tea, that
loathly repast of butter and toast, and some kind of cake, with which the
soul of the early-dining American is daily cast down between the hours of
six and seven in the evening; and instinctively you compare it with the
last meal you took in your old house, seeking in vain to decide whether
this is more dispiriting than that. At any rate that was not at all the
meal which the last meal in any house which has been a home ought to be in
fact, and is in books. It was hurriedly cooked; it was served upon
fugitive and irregular crockery; and it was eaten in deplorable disorder,
with the professional movers waiting for the table outside the dining-
room. It ought to have been an act of serious devotion; it was nothing but
an expiation. It should have been a solemn commemoration of all past
dinners in the place, an invocation to their pleasant apparitions. But I,
for my part, could not recall these at all, though now I think of them
with the requisite pathos, and I know they were perfectly worthy of
remembrance. I salute mournfully the companies that have sat down at
dinner there, for they are sadly scattered now; some beyond seas, some
beyond the narrow gulf, so impassably deeper to our longing and tenderness
than the seas. But more sadly still I hail the host himself, and desire to
know of him if literature was not somehow a gayer science in those days,
and if his peculiar kind of drolling had not rather more heart in it then.
In an odd, not quite expressible fashion, something of him seems dispersed
abroad and perished in the guests he loved. I trust, of course, that all
will be restored to him when he turns--as every man past thirty feels he
may when he likes, and has the time--and resumes his youth. Or if this
feeling is only a part of the great tacit promise of eternity, I am all
the more certain of his getting back his losses.

I say that now these apposite reflections occur to me with a sufficient
ease, but that upon the true occasion for them they were absent. So, too,
at the first meal in the new house, there was none of that desirable sense
of setting up a family altar, but a calamitous impression of irretrievable
upheaval, in honor of which sackcloth and ashes seemed the only wear. Yet
even the next day the Lares and Penates had regained something of their
wonted cheerfulness, and life had begun again with the first breakfast. In
fact, I found myself already so firmly established that, meeting the
furniture cart which had moved me the day before, I had the face to ask
the driver whom they were turning out of house and home, as if my own
flitting were a memory of the far-off past.

Not that I think the professional mover expects to be addressed in a
joking mood. I have a fancy that he cultivates a serious spirit himself,
in which he finds it easy to sympathize with any melancholy on the part of
the moving family. There is a slight flavor of undertaking in his manner,
which is nevertheless full of a subdued firmness very consoling and
supporting; though the life that he leads must be a troubled and
uncheerful one, trying alike to the muscles and the nerves. How often must
he have been charged by anxious and fluttered ladies to be very careful of
that basket of china, and those vases! How often must he have been vexed
by the ignorant terrors of gentlemen asking if he thinks that the library-
table, poised upon the top of his load, will hold! His planning is not
infallible, and when he breaks something uncommonly precious, what does a
man of his sensibility do? Is the demolition of old homes really
distressing to him, or is he inwardly buoyed up by hopes of other and
better homes for the people he moves? Can there be any ideal of moving?
Does he, perhaps, feel a pride in an artfully constructed load, and has he
something like an artist's pang in unloading it? Is there a choice in
families to be moved, and are some worse or better than others? Next to
the lawyer and the doctor, it appears to me that the professional mover
holds the most confidential relations towards his fellow-men. He is let
into all manner of little domestic secrets and subterfuges; I dare say he
knows where half the people in town keep their skeleton, and what manner
of skeleton it is. As for me, when I saw him making towards a certain
closet door, I planted myself firmly against it. He smiled intelligence;
he knew the skeleton was there, and that it would be carried to the new
house after dark.

I began by saying that I should wish my friend to have some sort of local
attachment; but I suppose it must be owned that this sentiment, like pity,
and the modern love-passion, is a thing so largely produced by culture
that nature seems to have little or nothing to do with it. The first men
were homeless wanderers; the patriarchs dwelt in tents, and shifted their
place to follow the pasturage, without a sigh; and for children--the pre-
historic, the antique people, of our day--moving is a rapture. The last
dinner in the old house, the first tea in the new, so doleful to their
elders, are partaken of by them with joyous riot. Their shrill trebles
echo gleefully from the naked walls and floors; they race up and down the
carpetless stairs; they menace the dislocated mirrors and crockery;
through all the chambers of desolation they frolic with a gayety
indomitable save by bodily exhaustion. If the reader is of a moving
family,--and so he is as he is an American,--he can recall the zest he
found during childhood in the moving which had for his elders--poor
victims of a factitious and conventional sentiment!--only the salt and
bitterness of tears. His spirits never fell till the carpets were down; no
sorrow touched him till order returned; if Heaven so blessed him that his
bed was made upon the floor for one night, the angels visited his dreams.
Why, then, is the mature soul, however sincere and humble, not only
grieved but mortified by flitting? Why cannot one move without feeling the
great public eye fixed in pitying contempt upon him? This sense of
abasement seems to be something quite inseparable from the act, which is
often laudable, and in every way wise and desirable; and he whom it has
afflicted is the first to turn, after his own establishment, and look with
scornful compassion upon the overflowing furniture wagon as it passes. But
I imagine that Abraham's neighbors, when he struck his tent, and packed
his parlor and kitchen furniture upon his camels, and started off with
Mrs. Sarah to seek a new camping-ground, did not smile at the procession,
or find it worthy of ridicule or lament. Nor did Abraham, once settled,
and reposing in the cool of the evening at the door of his tent, gaze
sarcastically upon the moving of any of his brother patriarchs.

To some such philosophical serenity we shall also return, I suppose, when
we have wisely theorized life in our climate, and shall all have become
nomads once more, following June and October up and down and across the
continent, and not suffering the full malice of the winter and summer
anywhere. But as yet, the derision that attaches to moving attends even
the goer-out of town, and the man of many trunks and a retinue of linen-
suited womankind is a pitiable and despicable object to all the other
passengers at the railroad station and on the steamboat wharf.

This is but one of many ways in which mere tradition oppresses us. I
protest that as moving is now managed in Charlesbridge, there is hardly
any reason why the master or mistress of the household should put hand to
anything; but it is a tradition that they shall dress themselves in their
worst, as for heavy work, and shall go about very shabby for at least a
day before and a day after the transition. It is a kind of sacrifice, I
suppose, to a venerable ideal; and I would never be the first to omit it.
In others I observe that this vacant and ceremonious zeal is in proportion
to an incapacity to do anything that happens really to be required; and I
believe that the truly sage person would devote moving-day to paying
visits of ceremony in his finest clothes.

[Illustration: "Vacant and ceremonious zeal."]

As to the house which one has left, I think it would be preferable to have
it occupied as soon as possible after one's flitting. Pilgrimages to the
dismantled shrine are certainly to be avoided by the friend of
cheerfulness. A day's absence and emptiness wholly change its character,
though the familiarity continues, with a ghastly difference, as in the
beloved face that the life has left. It is not at all the vacant house it
was when you came first to look at it: for then hopes peopled it, and now
memories. In that golden prime you had long been boarding, and any place in
which you could keep house seemed utterly desirable. How distinctly you
recall that wet day, or that fair day, on which you went through it and
decided that this should be the guest chamber and that the family room, and
what could be done with the little back attic in a pinch! The children
could play in the dining-room; and to be sure the parlor was rather small
if you wanted to have company; but then, who would ever want to give a
party? and besides, the pump in the kitchen was a compensation for
anything. How lightly the dumb waiter ran up and down,--

"Qual piuma al vento!"

you sang, in very glad-heartedness. Then estimates of the number of yards
of carpeting; and how you could easily save the cost from the difference
between boarding and house-keeping. Adieu, Mrs. Brown! henceforth let your
"desirable apartments, _en suite_ or single, furnished or
unfurnished, to gentlemen only!"--this married pair is about to escape
forever from your extortions.

Well, if the years passed without making us sadder, should we be much the
wiser for their going? Now you know, little couple, that there are
extortions in this wicked world beside Mrs. Brown's; and some other
things. But if you go into the empty house that was lately your home, you
will not, I believe, be haunted by these sordid disappointments, for the
place should evoke other regrets and meditations. Truly, though the great
fear has not come upon you here, in this room you may have known moments
when it seemed very near, and when the quick, fevered breathings of the
little one timed your own heart-beats. To that door, with many other
missives of joy and pain, came haply the dispatch which hurried you off to
face your greatest sorrow--came by night, like a voice of God, speaking
and warning, and making all your work idle and your aims foolish. These
walls have answered, how many times, to your laughter; they have had
friendly ears for the trouble that seemed to grow by utterance. You have
sat upon the threshold so many summer days; so many winter mornings you
have seen the snows drifted high about it; so often your step has been
light and heavy upon it. There is the study, where your magnificent
performances were planned, and your exceeding small performances were
achieved; hither you hurried with the first criticism of your first book,
and read it with the rapture that nothing but a love-letter and a
favorable review can awaken. Out there is the well-known humble prospect,
that was commonly but a vista into dreamland; on the other hand is the
pretty grove,--its leaves now a little painted with the autumn, and
faltering to their fall.

Yes, the place must always be sacred, but painfully sacred; and I say
again one should not go near it unless as a penance. If the reader will
suffer me the confidence, I will own that there is always a pang in the
past which is more than any pleasure it can give, and I believe that he,
if he were perfectly honest,--as Heaven forbid I or any one should be,--
would also confess as much. There is no house to which one would return,
having left it, though it were the hogshead out of which one had moved
into a kilderkin; for those associations whose perishing leaves us free,
and preserves to us what little youth we have, were otherwise perpetuated
to our burden and bondage. Let some one else, who has also escaped from
his past, have your old house; he will find it new and untroubled by
memories, while you, under another roof, enjoy a present that borders only
upon the future.

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