Part 2 out of 3
daughter-in-law of Lord Londonderry will live after him in the house
where his father and mother lived before him? Did that ever occur to
you, my dear?"
"Mr. Potiphar," she replied, "do you mean to go by the example of
foreign noblemen? I thought you always laughed at me for what you call
"So I do, and so I will continue to do, Mrs. Potiphar; only I thought
that, perhaps, you would like to know the fact, because it might make
you more lenient to me when I regretted leaving our old house here. It
has an aristocratic precedent."
Poor, dear little Mrs. P.! It didn't take as I meant it should, and I
said no more. Yet it does seem to me a pity that we lose all the
interest and advantage of a homestead. The house and its furniture
become endeared by long residence, and by their mute share in all the
chances of our life. The chair in which some dear old friend so often
sat--father and mother, perhaps--and in which they shall sit no more;
the old-fashioned table with the cuts and scratches that generations
of children have made upon it; the old book-cases; the heavy
side-board; the glass, from which such bumpers sparkled for those who
are hopelessly scattered now, or for ever gone; the doors they opened;
the walls that echoed their long-hushed laughter,--are we wise when we
part with them all, or, when compelled to do so, to leave them
I remember my brother James used to say: "What is our envy for our
country friends, but that their homes are permanent and
characteristic? Their children's children may play in the same
garden. Each annual festival may summon them to the old hearth. In
the meeting-house they sit in the wooden pews where long ago they sat
and dreamed of Jerusalem, and now as they sit there, that long ago is
fairer than the holy city. Through the open window they see the grass
waving softly in the summer air, over old graves dearer to them than
many new houses. By a thousand tangible and visible associations they
are still, with a peculiar sense of actuality, near to all they love."
Polly would call it a sentimental whim--if she could take
Mrs. Croesus's advice before she spoke of it--but what then? When I
was fifteen, I fell desperately in love with Lucy Lamb. "Pooh, pooh,"
said my father, "you are romantic, it's til a whim of yours."
And he succeeded in breaking it up. I went to China, and Lucy married
old Firkin, and lived in a splendid house, and now lies in a splendid
tomb of Carrara marble, exquisitely sculptured.
When I was forty, I came home from China, and the old gentleman said,
"I want you to marry Arabella Bobbs, the heiress. It will be a good
I said to him,
"Pooh, pooh, my dear father, you are mercenary; it's all a whim of
"My dear son, I know it," said he, "the whole thing a whim. You can
live on a hundred dollars a year, if you choose. But you have the whim
of a good dinner, of a statue, of a book. Why not? Only be careful in
following your whims, that they really come to something. Have as many
whims as you please, but don't follow them all."
"Certainly not," said I; and fell in love with the present
Mrs. Potiphar, and married her off-hand. So, if she calls this
genuine influence of association a mere whim--let it go at that. She
is a whim, too. My mistake simply was in not following out the
romantic whim, and marrying Lucy Lamb. At least it seems to me so,
this morning. In fact sitting in my very new "palatial residence," the
whole business of life seems to me rather whimsical.
For here I am, come into port at last. No longer young,--but worth a
good fortune,--master of a great house,--respected down town,--husband
of Mrs. Potiphar,--and father of Master Frederic ditto. Per contra; I
shall never be in love again,--in getting my fortune I have lost my
real life,--my house is dreary,--Mrs. Potiphar is not Lucy Lamb,--and
Master Frederic--is a good boy.
The game is all up for me, and yet I trust I have good feeling enough
left to sympathize with those who are still playing. I see girls as
lovely and dear as any of which poets have sung--as fresh as
dew-drops, and beautiful as morning. I watch their glances, and
understand them better than they know.--for they do not dream that
"old Potiphar" does any thing more than pay Mrs. P.'s bills. I see the
youths nervous about neckcloths, and anxious that their hair shall be
parted straight behind. I see them all wear the same tie, the same
trowsers, the same boots. I hear them all say the same thing, and
dance with the same partners in the same way. I see them go to Europe
and return--I hear them talk slang to show that they have exhausted
human life in foreign parts and observe them demean themselves
according to their idea of the English nobleman. I watch them go in
strongly for being "manly," and "smashing the spoonies"--asserting
intimacies with certain uncertain women in Paris, and proving it by
their treatment of ladies at home. I see them fuddle themselves on
fine wines and talk like cooks, play heavily and lose, and win, and
pay, and drink, and maintain a conservative position in politics,
denouncing "Uncle Tom's Cabin," as a false and fanatical tract; and
declaring that our peculiar institutions are our own affair, and that
John Bull had better keep his eyes at home to look into his coal
mines. I see this vigorous fermentation subside, and much clear
character deposited--and, also, much life and talent muddled forever.
It is whimsical, because this absurd spectacle is presented by
manikins who are made of the same clay as Plutarch's heroes-because,
deliberately, they prefer cabbages to roses. I am not at all angry
with them. On the contrary, when they dance well I look on with
pleasure. Man ought to dance, but he ought to do something else,
too. All genial gentlemen in all ages have danced. Who quarrels with
dancing? Ask Mrs. Potiphar if I ever objected to it. But then, people
must dance at their own risk. If Lucy Lamb, by dancing with young
Boosey when he is tipsy, shows that she has no self-respect, how can
I, coolly talking with Mrs. Lamb in the corner, and gravely looking
on, respect the young lady? Lucy tells me that if she dances with
James she must with John. I cannot deny it, for I am not sufficiently
familiar with the regulations of the mystery. Only this; if dancing
with sober James makes it necessary to dance with tipsy John--it seems
to me, upon a hasty glance at the subject, that a self-respecting Lucy
would refrain from the dance with James. Why it should be so, I
cannot understand. Why Lucy must dance with every man who asks her,
whether he is in his senses, or knows how to dance, or is agreeable to
her or not, is a profound mystery to Paul Potiphar. Here is a case of
woman's wrongs, decidedly. We men cull the choicest partners, make the
severest selections, and the innocent Lucys gracefully submit. Lucy
loves James, and a waltz with him (as P. P. knows very well from
experience) is "a little heaven below" to both. Now, dearest Lucy, why
must you pay the awful penance of immediately waltzing with John,
against whom your womanly instinct rebels? And yet the laws of social
life are so stern, that Lucy must make the terrible decision, whether
it is better to waltz with James or worse to waltz with John!
"Whether," to put it strongly with Father Jerome, "heaven is
pleasanter than hell is painful."
I say that I watch these graceful gamesters, without bitter
feeling. Sometimes it is sad to see James woo Lucy, win her, marry
her, and then both discover that they have made a mistake. I don't see
how they could have helped it; and when the world, that loves them
both so tenderly, holds up its pure hands of horror, why, Paul
Potiphar, goes quietly home to Mrs. P., who is dressing for Lucy's
ball, and says nothing. He prefers to retire into his private room,
and his slippers, and read the last number of _Bleak House_, or a
chapter in _Vanity Fair_. If Mrs. Potiphar catches him at the
latter, she is sure to say:
"There it is again; always reading those exaggerated sketches of
society. Odious man that he is. I am sure he never knew a truly
"Polly, when he comes back in September I'll introduce him to you," is
the only answer I have time to make, for it is already half past ten,
and Mrs. P. must be off to the ball.
I know that our set is not the world, nor the country, nor the city. I
know that the amiable youths who are in league to crush spooneyism are
not many, and well I know, that in our set (I mean Mrs. P.'s) there
are hearts as noble and characters as lofty as in any time and in any
land. And yet, as the father of a family (viz. Frederic, our son), I
am constrained to believe that our social tendency is to the wildest
extravagance. Here, for instance, is my house. It cost me eighty-five
thousand dollars. It is superbly furnished. Mrs. P. and I don't know
much about such things. She was only stringent for buhl, and the last
Parisian models, so we delivered our house into the hands of certain
eminent upholsterers to be furnished, as we send Frederic to the
tailor's to be clothed. To be sure, I asked what proof we had that the
upholsterer was possessed of taste. But Mrs. P. silenced me, by saying
that it was his business to have taste, and that a man who sold
furniture, naturally knew what was handsome and proper for my house.
The furnishing was certainly performed with great splendor and
expense. My drawing-rooms strongly resemble the warehouse of an ideal
cabinetmaker. Every whim of table--every caprice of chair and sofa,
is satisfied in those rooms. There are curtains like rainbows, and
carpets, as if the curtains had dripped all over the floor. There are
heavy cabinets of carved walnut, such as belong in the heavy
wainscotted rooms of old palaces, set against my last French pattern
of wall paper. There are lofty chairs like the thrones of archbishops
in Gothic cathedrals, standing by the side of the elaborately gilded
frames of mirrors. Marble statues of Venus and the Apollo support my
mantels, upon which _or molu_ Louis Quatorze clocks ring the
hours. In all possible places there are statues, statuettes, vases,
plates, teacups, and liquor-cases. The woodwork, when white, is
elaborated in Moresco carving--when oak and walnut, it is heavily
moulded. The contrasts are pretty, but rather sudden. In truth, my
house is a huge curiosity shop of valuable articles,--clustered
without taste, or feeling, or reason. They are there, because my
house was large and I was able to buy them; and because, as
Mrs. P. says, one must have buhl and _or molu_, and new forms of
furniture, and do as well as one's neighbors, and show that one is
rich, if he is so. They are there, in fact, because I couldn't help
it. I didn't want them, but then I don't know what I did want. Somehow
I don't feel as if I had a home, merely because orders were given to
the best upholsterers and fancy-men in town to send a sample of all
their wares to my house. To pay a morning call at Mrs. Potiphar's is,
in some ways, better than going shopping. You see more new and costly
things in a shorter time. People say, "What a love of a chair!" "What
a darling table!" "What a heavenly sofa!" and they all go and tease
their husbands to get things precisely like them. When Kurz Pacha the
Sennaar Minister, came to a dinner at my house, he said:
"Bless my soul! Mr. Potiphar, your house is just like your
I know it. I am perfectly aware that there is no more difference
between my house and Croesus's, than there is in two ten dollar bills
of the same bank. He might live in my house and I in his, without any
confusion. He has the same curtains, carpets, chairs, tables, Venuses,
Apollos, busts, vases, etc. And he goes into his room, and thinks
it's all a devilish bore, just as I do. We have each got to refurnish
every few years, and therefore have no possible opportunity for
attaching ourselves to the objects about us. Unfortunately Kurz Pacha
particularly detested precisely what Mrs. P. most liked, because it is
the fashion to like them. I mean the Louis Quatorze and the Louis
"Taste, dear Mrs. Potiphar," said the Pacha, "was a thing not known in
the days of those kings. Grace was entirely supplanted by
grotesqueness, and now, instead of pure and beautiful Greek forms, we
must collect these hideous things. If you are going backward to find
models, why not go as far as the good ones? My dear madame, an _or
molu_ Louis Quatorze clock would have given Pericles a fit. Your
drawing-rooms would have thrown Aspasia into hysterics. Things are
not beautiful because they cost money; nor is any grouping handsome
without harmony. Your house is like a woman dressed in Ninon de
l'Enclos's bodice, with Queen Anne's hooped skirt, who limps in
Chinese shoes, and wears an Elizabethan ruff round her neck, and a
Druse's horn on her head. My dear madam, this is the kind of thing we
go to see in museums. It is the old stock joke of the world."
By Jove! how mad Mrs. Potiphar was! She rose from table, to the great
dismay of Kurz Pacha, and I could only restrain her by reminding her
that the Sennaar Minister had but an imperfect idea of our language,
and that in Sennaar people probably said what they thought when they
"You'd better go to Sennaar, then, yourself, Mr. Potiphar," said my
wife, as she smoothed her rumpled feathers.
"'Pon my word, madam, it's my own opinion," replied I.
Kurz Pacha, who is a philosopher (of the Sennaar school), asks me if
people have no ideas of their own in building houses. I answer, none,
that I know of, except that of getting the house built. The fact is,
it is as much as Paul Potiphar can do, to make the money to erect his
palatial residence, and then to keep it going. There are a great many
fine statues in my house, but I know nothing about them: I don't see
why we should have such heathen images in reputable houses. But
Mrs. P. says:
"Pooh! have you no love for the fine arts?"
There it is. It doesn't do not to love the fine arts; so Polly is
continually cluttering up the halls and staircases with marble, and
sending me heavy bills for the same.
When the house was ready, and my wife had purchased the furniture, she
came and said to me:
"Now, my dear P., there is one thing we haven't thought of."
"Pictures, you know, dear."
"What do you want pictures for?" growled I, rather surlily, I am
"Why, to furnish the walls; what do you suppose we want pictures for?"
"I tell you, Polly," said I, "that pictures are the most extravagant
kind of furniture. Pshaw! a man rubs and dabbles a little upon a
canvas two feet square, and then coolly asks three hundred dollars for
"Dear me, Pot," she answered, "I don't want home-made pictures. What
an idea! Do you think I'd have pictures on my walls that were painted
in this country?--No, my dear husband, let us have some choice
specimens of the old masters. A landscape by Rayfel, for instance; or
one of Angel's fruit pieces, or a cattle scene by Verynees, or a
Madonna of Giddo's, or a boar hunt of Hannibal Crackkey's."
What was the use of fighting against this sort of thing? I told her to
have it her own way. Mrs. P. consulted Singe the pastry cook, who
told her his cousin had just come out from Italy with a lot of the
very finest pictures in the world, which he had bribed one of the
Pope's guard to steal from the Vatican, and which he would sell at a
They hang on my walls now. They represent nothing in particular; but
in certain lights, if you look very closely, you can easily recognize
something in them that looks like a lump of something brown. There is
one very ugly woman with a convulsive child in her arms, to which
Mrs. P. directly takes all her visitors, and asks them to admire the
beautiful Shay douver of Giddo's. When I go out to dinner with people
that talk pictures and books, and that kind of thing, I don't like to
seem behind, so I say, in a critical way, that Giddo was a good
painter. None of them contradict me, and one day when somebody asked,
"Which of his pictures do you prefer?" I answered straight, "His Shay
douver," and no more questions were asked.
They hang all about the house now. The Giddo is in the dining room. I
asked the Sennaar Minister if it wasn't odd to have a religious
picture in the dining-room. He smiled, and said that it was perfectly
proper if I liked it, and if the picture of such an ugly woman didn't
take away my appetite.
"What difference does it make," said he, in the Sennaar manner, "it
would be equally out of keeping with every other room in your
house. My dear Potiphar, it is a perfectly unprincipled house, this of
yours. If your mind were in the condition of your house, so
ill-assorted, so confused, so overloaded with things that don't belong
together, you would never make another cent. You have order,
propriety, harmony, in your dealings with the Symmes's Hole Bore Co.,
and they are the secrets of your success. Why not have the same
elements in your house? Why pitch every century, country, and fashion,
higgledy-piggledly into your parlors and dining-room? Have everything
you can get, in heaven's name, but have everything in its place. If
you are a plodding tradesman, knowing and caring nothing about
pictures, or books, or statuary, or _objets de vertu_; don't have
them. Suppose your neighbor chooses to put them in his house. If he
has them merely because he had the money to pay for them, he is the
butt of every picture and book he owns."
When I meet Mr. Croesus in Wall street, I respect him as I do a king
in his palace, or a scholar in his study. He is master of the
occasion. He commands like Nelson at the Nile. I, who am merely a
diplomatist, skulk and hurry along, and if Mr. Croesus smiles, I
inwardly thank him for his charity. Wall street is Croesus's sphere,
and all his powers play there perfectly. But when I meet him in his
house, surrounded by objects of art, by the triumphs of a skill which
he does not understand, and for which he cares nothing,--of which, in
fact, he seems afraid, because he knows any chance question about them
would trip him up,--my feeling is very much changed. If I should ask
him what _or molu_ is, I don't believe he could answer, though
his splendid _or molu_ clock rang, indignant, from the mantel.
But if I should say, 'Invest me this thousand dollars,' he would
secure me eight per cent. It certainly isn't necessary to know what
_or molu_ is, nor to have any other _objet de vertu_ but
your wife. Then why should you barricade yourself behind all these
things that you really cannot enjoy, because you don't understand? If
you could not read Italian, you would be a fool to buy Dante, merely
because you knew he was a great poet. And, in the same way, if you
know nothing about matters of art, it is equally foolish for you to
buy statues and pictures, although you hear on all sides that, as
Mrs. P. says, one must love art.
"As for learning from your own pictures, you know perfectly well, that
until you have some taste in the matter, you will be paying money for
your pictures blindly, so that the only persons upon whom your display
of art would make any impression, will be the very ones to see that
you know nothing about it.
"In Sennaar, a man is literally 'the master of the house.' He isn't
surrounded by what he does not understand; he is not obliged to talk
book, and picture, when he knows nothing about these matters. He is
not afraid of his parlor, and you feel instantly upon entering the
house, the character of the master. Please, my dear Mr. Potiphar,
survey your mansion, and tell me what kind of a man it indicates. If
it does not proclaim (in your case) the President of the Patagonia
Junction, a man shrewd, and hard, and solid, without taste or liberal
cultivation, it is a painted deceiver. If it tries to insinuate by
this chaotic profusion of rich and rare objects, that you are a
cultivated, accomplished, tasteful, and generous man, it is a bad lie,
because a transparent one. Why, my dear old Pot., the moment your
servant opens the front door, a man of sense perceives the whole
thing. You and Mrs. Potiphar are bullied by all the brilliancy you
have conjured up. It is the old story of the fisherman and the
genii. And your guests all see it. They are too well-bred to speak of
it; but I come from Sennaar, where we do not lay so much stress upon
that kind of good-breeding.
"Mr. Paul Potiphar, it is one thing to have plenty of money, and quite
another to know how to spend it."
Now, as I told him, this kind of talk may do very well in Sennaar, but
it is absurd in a country like ours. How are people to know that I'm
rich, unless I show it? I'm sorry for it, but how shall I help it,
having Mrs. P. at hand?
"How about the library?" said she one day.
"What library?" inquired I.
"Why, our library, of course."
"I haven't any."
"Do you mean to have such a house as this without a library?"
"Why," said I plaintively, "I don't read books--I never did, and I
never shall; and I don't care anything about them. Why should I have a
"Why, because it's part of a house like this."
"Mrs. P., are you fond of books?"
"No, not particularly. But one must have some regard to
appearances. Suppose we are Hottentots, you don't want us to look so,
I thought that it was quite as barbarous to imprison a lot of books
that we should never open, and that would stand in gilt upon the
shelves, silently laughing us to scorn, as not to have them if we
didn't want them. I proposed a compromise.
"Is it the looks of the thing, Mrs. P.?" said I.
"That's all," she answered.
"Oh! well, I'll arrange it."
So I had my shelves built, and my old friends Matthews and Rider
furnished me with complete sets of handsome gilt covers to all the
books that no gentleman's library should be without, which I arranged
carefully, upon the shelves, and had the best looking library in
town. I locked 'em in, and the key is always lost when anybody wants
to take down a book. However, it was a good investment in leather, for
it brings me in the reputation of a reading man and a patron of
Mrs. P. is a religious woman--the Rev. Cream Cheese takes care of
that--but only yesterday she proposed something to me that smells very
strongly of candlesticks.
"Pot., I want a _prie-dieu_."
"Pray-do what?" answered I.
"Stop, you wicked man. I say I want a kneeling-chair."
"A kneeling-chair?" I gasped, utterly confused.
"A _prie-dieu_--a _prie-dieu_--to pray in, you
My Sennaar friend, who was at table, choked. When he recovered, and
we were sipping the "Blue seal," he told me that he thought
Mrs. Potiphar in a _prie-dieu_ was rather a more amusing idea
than Giddo's Madonna in the dining-room.
"She will insist upon its being carved handsomely in walnut. She will
not pray upon pine. It is a romantic, not a religious, whim. She'll
want a missal next; vellum or no prayers. This is piety of the 'Lady
Alice' school. It belongs to a fine lady aid a fine house precisely as
your library does, and it will be precisely as genuine. Mrs. Potiphar
in a _prie-dieu_ is like that blue morocco Comus in your
library. It is charming to look at, but there's nothing in it. Let her
have the _prie-dieu_ by all means, and then begin to build a
chapel. No gentleman's house should be without a chapel. You'll have
to come to it, Potiphar. You'll have to hear Cream Cheese read morning
prayers in a purple chasuble,--_que sais-je_? You'll see
religion made a part of the newest fashion in houses, as you already
see literature and art, and with just as much reality and reason."
Privately, I am glad the Sennaar minister has gone out of town. It's
bad enough to be uncomfortable in your own house without knowing why;
but to have a philosopher of the Sennaar school show you why you are
so, is cutting it rather too fat. I am gradually getting resigned to
my house. I've got one more struggle to go through next week in Mrs.
Potiphar's musical party. The morning soirees are over for the season,
and Mrs. P. begins to talk of the watering places. I am getting
gradually resigned; but only gradually.
"Oh! dear me, I wonder if this is the "home, sweet home" business the
girls used to sing about! Music does certainly alter cases. I can't
quite get used to it. Last week I was one morning in the basement
breakfast-room, and I heard an extra cried. I ran out of the area
door--dear me!--before I thought what I was bout, I emerged bareheaded
from under the steps, and ran a little way after the boy. I know it
wasn't proper. I am sorry, very sorry. I am afraid Mrs. Croesus saw
me; I know Mrs. Gnu told it all about that morning: and Mrs. Settum
Downe called directly upon Mrs. Potiphar, to know if it were really
true that I had lost my wits, as everybody was saying. I don't know
what Mrs. P. answered. I am sorry to have compromised her so. I went
immediately and ordered a pray-do of the blackest walnut. My
resignation is very gradual. Kurz Pacha says they put on gravestones
in Sennaar three Latin words--do you know Latin? if you don't come and
borrow some of my books. The words are: _ora pro me!_"
FROM THE SUMMER DIARY OF MINERVA
It certainly is not papa's fault that he doesn't understand French;
but he ought not to pretend to. It does put one in such uncomfortable
situations occasionally. In fact, I think it would be quite as well if
we could sometimes "sink the paternal," as Timon Croesus says. I
suppose everybody has heard of the awful speech pa made in the parlor
at Saratoga. My dearest friend, Tabby Dormouse, told me she had heard
of it everywhere, and that it was ten times as absurd each time it was
repeated. By the by, Tabby is a dear creature, isn't she? It's so
nice to have a spy in the enemy's camp, as it were, and to hear
everything that everybody says about you. She is not handsome,--poor,
dear Tabby! There's no denying it but she can't help it. I was
obliged to tell young Downe so, quite decidedly, for I really think he
had an idea she was good-looking. The idea of Tabby Dormouse being
handsome! But she is a useful little thing in her way; one of my
The true story is this.
Ma and I had persuaded pa to take us to Saratoga, for we heard the
English party were to be there, and we were anxious they should see
_some_ good society at least. It seems such a pity they shouldn't
know what handsome dresses we really do have in this country! And I
mentioned to some of the most English of our young men, that there
might be something to be done at Saratoga. But they shrugged their
shoulders, especially Timon Croesus and Gauche Boosey, and said--
"Well, really, the fact is, Miss Tattle, all the Englishmen I have
ever met are--in fact--a little snobbish. However."
That was about what they said. But I thought, considering their
fondness of the English model in dress and manner, that they might
have been more willing to meet some genuine aristocracy. Yet, perhaps,
that handsome Col. Abattew is right in saying with his grand military
"The British aristocracy, madam,--the British aristocracy is vulgar."
Well, we all went up to Saratoga. But the distinguished strangers did
not come. I held back that last muslin of mine, the yellow one,
embroidered with the Alps, and a distant view of the isles of Greece
worked on the flounces, until it was impossible to wait longer. I
meant to wear it at dinner the first day they came, with the pearl
necklace and the opal studs, and that heavy ruby necklace (it is a
low-necked dress). The dining-room at the "United States" is so large
that it shows off those dresses finely, and if the waiter doesn't let
the soup or the gravy slip, and your neighbor, (who is, like as not,
what Tabby Dormouse, with her incapacity to pronounce the _r_,
calls "some 'aw, 'uff man from the country,") doesn't put the leg of
his chair through the dress, and if you don't muss it sitting
down--why, I should like to know a prettier place to wear a low-necked
muslin, with jewels, than the dining-room of the "United States" at
Kurz Pacha, the Sennaar minister, who was up there, and who is so
smitten with Mrs. Potiphar, said that he had known few happier moments
in this country than the dining hour at the "United States."
"When the gong sounds," says he, "I am reminded of the martial music
of Sennaar. When I seat myself in the midst of such splendor of
toilette, and in an apartment so stately and so appropriate for that
display, I recall the taste of the Crim Tartars, to whose ruler I had
the honor of being first accredited ambassador. When I behold, with
astonished eyes, the entrance of that sable society, the measured echo
of whose footfalls so properly silences the conversation of all the
nobles, I seem to see the regular army of my beloved Sennaar investing
a conquered city. This, I cry to myself, with enthusiasm, this is the
height of civilization; and I privately hand one of the privates in
that grand army, a gold dollar, to bring me a dish of beans. Each
green bean, O greener envoy extraordinary, I say to myself, with
rapture, should be well worth its weight in gold, when served to such
a congress of kings, queens, and hereditary prince royals as are
assembled here. And I find," continues the Pacha, "that I am right.
The guest at this banquet is admitted to the freedom of corn and
potatoes, only after negotiations with the sable military. It is quite
the perfection of organization. What hints I shall gather for the
innocent pleasure-seekers of Sennaar who still fancy that when they
bargain for a draught of rose sherbet, they have tacitly agreed for a
glass to drink it from!
"Why, the first day I came," he went on, "I was going to my room, and
met the chambermaid coming out. Now, as I had paid a colored gentleman
a dollar for my dinner, in addition to the little bill which I settle
at the office, I thought it was equally necessary to secure my bed by
a slight fee to the goddess of the chambers. I therefore pulled out my
purse, and offered her a bill of a small amount. She turned the color
"'Sir,' exclaimed she, and with dignity, 'do you mean to insult me?'
"'Good heavens, miss,' cried I, 'quite the contrary,' and thinking it
was not enough, I presented another bill of a larger amount.
"'Sir,' said she, half sobbing, 'you are no gentleman; I shall leave
"I was very much perplexed. I began again:
"'Miss--my dear--I mean madam--how much _must_ I pay you to
secure my room?'
"'I don't understand you, sir,' replied the chambermaid, somewhat
"'Why, my dear girl, if I paid Sambo a dollar for my dinner, I expect
to pay Dolly something for my chamber, of course.'
"'Well, sir, you are certainly very kind,--I--with pleasure, I'm
sure,' replied she, entirely appeased, taking the money and vanishing.
"I," said Kurz Pacha, "entered my room and locked the door. But I
believe I was a little hasty about giving her the money. The
perfection of civilization has not yet mounted the stairs. It is
confined to the dining-room. How beautiful is that strain from the
_Favorita_, Miss Minerva, tum, tum, ti ti, tum tum, tee tee," and
the delightful Sennaar ambassador, seeing Mrs. Potiphar in the parlor,
danced humming away.
There are few pleasanter men in society. I should think with his
experience he would be hard upon us, but he is not. The air of courts
does not seem to have spoiled him.
"My dear madam," he said one evening to Mrs. Potiphar, "if you laugh
at anything, your laughing is laughed at next day. Life is short. If
you can't see the jewel in the toad's head, still believe in it. Take
it for granted. The _Parisienne_ says that the English woman has
no _je ne sais quoi_, The English woman says the _Parisienne_ has no
_aplomb_. Amen! When you are in Turkey--why gobble. Why should I
decline to have a good time at the Queen's drawing-room, because
English women have no _je ne sais quoi_, or at the grand opera,
because French women lack _aplomb_? Take things smoothly. Life is a
merry-go-round. Look at your own grandfather, dear Mrs. Potiphar,--
fine old gentleman, I am told,--rather kept in what the artists call
the middle-distance, at present,--a capital shoemaker, who did his
work well--Alexander and John Howard did no more:--well here you are,
you see, with liveries and a pew in the right church, and altogether
a front seat in the universe--merry-go-round, you know; here we go up,
up, up; here we go down, down, down, etc. By the bye, pretty strain
that from Linda; tum tum, ti, tum tum," and away hopped the Sennaar
Mrs. Potiphar was angry. Who wouldn't have been? To have the old
family shoes thrown in one's teeth! But our ambassador is an
ambassador. One must have the best society, and she swallowed it as
she has swallowed it a hundred times before. She quietly remarked--
"Pity Kurz Pacha drinks so abominably. He quite forgets what he's
I suppose he does, if Mrs. P. says so; but he seems to know well
enough all the time: as he did that evening in the library at
Mrs. Potiphar's, when he drew Cerulea Bass to the book-shelves, and
began to dispute about a line in Milton, and then suddenly looking up
at the books, said--
"Ah! there's Milton; now we'll see." But when he opened the case,
which was foolishly left unlocked, he took down only a bit of wood,
bound in blue morocco, which he turned slowly over, so that everybody
saw it, and then quietly returned it to the shelf saying only--
"I beg pardon."
Old Pot, as Mrs. P. calls him, happened to be passing at the moment,
and cried out in his brusque way--
"Oh! I haven't laid in my books yet. Those are only
samples--pattern-cards, you know. I don't believe you'll find there a
single book that a gentleman's library shouldn't be without. I got old
Vellum to do the thing up right, you know. I guess he knows about the
books to buy. But I've just laid in some claret that you'll like, and
I've got a sample of the Steinberg. Old Corque understands that kind
of thing, if anybody does." And the two gentlemen went off to try the
I am astonished that a man of Kurz Pacha's tact should have opened the
book-case. People have no right to suppose that the pretty bindings on
one's shelves are books. Why, they might as well insist upon trying if
the bloom on one's cheek, or the lace on one's dress, or, in fact,
one's figure, were real. Such things are addressed to the eye. No
gentleman uses his hands in good society. I've no doubt they were
originally put into gloves to keep them out of mischief.
I am as bad as dear Mrs. Potiphar about coming to the point of my
story. But the truth is, that in such engrossing places as Saratoga
and Newport, it is hardly possible to determine which is the
pleasantest and most important thing among so many. I am so fond of
that old, droll Kurz Pacha, that if I begin to talk about him I forget
everything else. He says such nice things about people that nobody
else would dare to say, and that everybody is so glad to hear. He is
invaluable in society. And yet one is never safe. People say he isn't
gentlemanly; but when I see the style of man that is called
gentlemanly, I am very glad he is not. All the solemn, pompous men who
stand about like owls, and never speak, nor laugh, nor move, as if
they really had any life or feeling are called "gentlemanly." Whenever
Tabby says of a new man--"But then he is so gentlemanly!" I
understand at once. It is another case of the well-dressed wooden
image. Good heavens! do you suppose Sir Philip Sidney, or the
Chevalier Bayard or Charles Fox, were "gentlemanly" in this way?
Confectioners who undertake parties might furnish scores of such
gentlemen, with hands and feet of any required size, and warranted to
do nothing "ungentlemanly." For my part, I am inclined to think that a
gentleman is something positive, not merely negative. And if sometimes
my friend the Pacha says a rousing and wholesome truth, it is none the
less gentlemanly because it cuts a little. He says it's very amusing
to observe how coolly we play this little farce of life,--how placidly
people get entangled in a mesh at which they all rail, and how
fiercely they frown upon anybody who steps out of the ring. "You
tickle me and I'll tickle you; but at all events, you tickle me," is
the motto of the crowd.
"_Allons!_" says he, "who cares? lead off to the right and
left--down the middle and up again. Smile all round, and bow
gracefully to your partner; then carry your heavy heart up chamber,
and drown in your own tears. Cheerfully, cheerfully, my dear Miss
Minerva.--Saratoga until August, then Newport till the frost, the city
afterwards; and so an endless round of happiness."
And he steps off humming _Il segreto per esser felice!_
Well, we were all sitting in the great drawing-room at the "United
States." We had been bowling in our morning dresses, and had rushed in
to ascertain if the distinguished English party had arrived. They had
not. They were in New York, and would not come. That was bad, but we
thought of Newport and probable scions of nobility there, and were
consoled. But while we were in the midst of the talk, and I was
whispering very intimately with that superb and aristocratic Nancy
Fungus, who should come in but father, walking towards us with a
wearied air, dragging his feet along, but looking very well dressed
for him. I smiled sweetly when I saw that he was quite presentable,
and had had the good sense to leave that odious white hat in his room,
and had buttoned his waistcoat. The party stopped talking as he
approached; and he came up to me.
"Minna, my dear," said he, "I hear everybody is going to Newport.
"Oh! yes, dear father," I replied, and Nancy Fungus smiled. Father
looked pleased to see me so intimate with a girl he always calls "so
aristocratic and high-bred looking," and he said to her--
"I believe your mother is going, Miss Fungus?"
"Oh! yes, we always go," replied she, "one must have a few weeks at
"Precisely, my dear," said poor papa, as if he rather dreaded it, but
must consent to the hard necessity of fashion. "They say, Minna, that
all the _parvenus_ are going this year, so I suppose we shall
have to go along."
There was a blow! There was perfect silence for a moment, while poor
pa looked amiable as if he couldn't help embellishing his conversation
with French graces. I waited in horror; for I knew that the girls
were all tittering inside, and every moment it became more
absurd. Then out it came. Nancy Fungus leaned her head on my shoulder,
and fairly shook with laughter. The others hid behind their fans, and
the men suddenly walked off to the windows and slipped on to the
piazza. Papa looked bewildered, and half smiled. But it was a very
melancholy business, and I told him that he had better go up and dress
It was impossible to stay after that. The unhappy slip became the
staple of Saratoga conversation. Young Boosey (Mrs. Potiphar's witty
friend) asked Morris audibly at dinner, "Where do the _parvenus
sit?_ I want to sit among the _parvenus_."
"Of course you do, sir," answered Morris, supposing he meant the
circle of the _crême de la crême_.
And so the thing went on multiplying itself. Poor papa doesn't
understand it yet, I don't dare to explain. Old Fungus who prides
himself so upon his family (it is one of the very ancient and
honorable Virginia families, that came out of the ark with Noah, as
Kurz Pacha says of his ancestors when he hears that the founder of a
family "came over with the Conqueror,") and who cannot deny himself a
joke, came up to pa in the bar-room, while a large party of gentlemen
were drinking cobblers, and said to him with a loud laugh:
"So all the _parvenus_ are going to Newport: are they, Tattle?"
"Yes!" replied pa, innocently, "that's what they say. So I suppose we
shall all have to go, Fungus."
There was another roar that time, but not from the representative of
Noah's Ark. It was rather thin joking but it did very well for the
warm weather, and I was glad to hear a laugh against anybody but poor
We came to Newport, but the story came before us, and I have been very
much annoyed at it. I know it is foolish for me to think of it. Kurz
"My dear Miss Minerva, I have no doubt it would pain you more to be
thought ignorant of French than capable of deceit. Yet it is a very
innocent ignorance of your father's. Nobody is bound to know French;
but you all lay so much stress upon it, as if it were the whole duty
of women to have an 'air' and to speak French, that any ignorance
becomes at once ludicrous. It's all your own doing. You make a very
natural thing absurd, and then grieve because some friend becomes a
victim. There is your friend Nancy Fungus, who speaks 'French as well
as she does English.' That may be true; but you ought to add, that one
is of just as much use to her as the other--that is of no use at all,
except to communicate platitudes. What is the use of a girl's learning
French to be able to say to young _Téle de Choux_, that it is a
very warm day, and that will hardly be _spirituelle_ in her
exotic French. It edge of French is going to supply her with ideas to
express. A girl who is flat in her native English will hardly be
_spirituelle_ in her exotic French. It is a delightful language
for the natives, and for all who have thoroughly mastered its
spirit. Its genius is airy and sparkling. It is especially the
language of society, because society is, theoretically, the playful
encounter of sprightliness and wit. It is the worst language I know of
for poetry, ethics, and the habit of the Saxon mind. It is wonderful
in the hands of such masters as Balzac and George Sand, and is
especially adapted to their purposes. Yet their books are forbidden to
Nancy Fungus, Tabby Dormouse, Daisy Clover, and all their relations.
They read _Telemaque_, and long to be married, that they may pry
into _Leila and Indiana_: their French meanwhile, even if they
wanted to know anything of French literature,--which is too absurd an
idea,--serves them only to say nothing to uncertain hairy foreigners
who haunt society, and to understand their nothings, in response. I am
really touched for this Ariel, this tricksy sprite of speech when I
know that it must do the bidding of those who can never fit its airy
felicity to any worthy purpose. I have tried these accomplishel
damsels who speak French and Italian as well as they do English. But
our conversation was only a clumsy translation of English
commonplace. And yet, Miss Minerva, I think even so sensible a woman
as you, looks with honor and respect upon one of that class. Dear me!
excuse me! What am I thinking of? I'm engaged to drive little Daisy
Clover on the beach at six o'clock. She is one of those who garnish
their conversation with French scraps. Really you must pardon me, if
she is a friend of yours; but that dry gentlemanly fellow, D'Orsay
Firkin, says that Miss Clover's conversation is a dish of _téte de
veau farci_. Aren't you coming to the beach? Everybody goes
to-day. Mrs. Gnu has arrived, and the Potiphars are here,--that is,
Mrs. P. Old Pot. arrives on Sunday morning early, and is off again on
Monday evening. He's grown very quiet and docile. Mrs. P. usually
takes him a short drive on Monday morning, and he comes to dinner in a
white waistcoat. In fact, as Mrs. Potiphar says, 'My husband has not
the air _distingué_ which I should be pleased to see in him, but
he is quite as well as could be expected.' Upon which Firkin twirls
his hat in a significant way; you and I smile intelligently, dear Miss
Minerva; Mrs. Green and Mrs Settum Downe exchange glances; we all
understand Mrs. Potiphar and each other, and Mrs. Potiphar understands
us, and it is all very sweet and pleasant, and the utmost propriety is
observed, and we don't laugh loud until we're out of hearing, and then
say in the very softest whispers, that it was a remarkably true
observation. This is the way to take life, my dear lady. Let us go
gently. Here we go backwards and forwards. You tickle, and I'll
tickle, and we'll all tickle, and here we go round--round--roundy!"
And the Sennaar minister danced out of the room.
He is a droll man, and I don't quite understand him. Of course I don't
entirely like him for it always seems as if he meant something a
little different from what he says. Laura Larmes, who reads all the
novels, and rolls her great eyes around the ball room,--who laughs at
the idea of such a girl as Blanche Amory in Pendennis,--who would be
pensive if she were not so plump,--who likes "nothing so much as
walking on the cliff by moonlight,"--who wonders that girls should
want to dance on warm summer nights when they have Nature, "and such
nature" before them,--who, in fact, would be a mere emotion if she
were not a bouncing girl,--Laura Larmes wonders that any man can be
so happy as Kurz Pacha.
"Ah! Kurz Pacha," she says to him as they stroll upon the piazza,
after he has been dancing (for the minister dances, and swears it is
essential to diplomacy to dance well), "are you really so very happy?
Is it possible you can be so gay? Do you find nothing mournful in
"Nothing, my best Miss Laura," he replies, "to speak of; as somebody
said of religion. You, who devote yourself to melancholy, the moon,
and the source of tears, are not so very sad as you think. You cry a
good deal, I don't doubt. But when grief goes below tears, and forces
you in self-defence to try to forget it, not to sit and fondle
it,--then you will understand more than you do now. I pity those of
your sex upon whom has fallen the reaction of wealth,--for whom there
is no career,--who must sit at home and pine in a splendid ennui,--who
have learned and who know, spite of sermons and 'sound sensible view
of things,' that to enjoy the high 'privilege of reading books,--of
cultivating their minds; and, when they are married, minding their
babies, and ministering to the drowsy, after-dinner ease of their
husbands, is not the fulfilment of their powers and hopes. But, my
amiable Miss Larmes, this is a class of girls and women who are not
solicitous about wearing black when their great-aunt in Denmark dies,
whom they never saw, nor when the only friend who made heaven possible
to them, falls dead at their sides. Nor do they avoid Mrs. Potiphar's
balls as a happiness which they are not happy enough to enjoy--nor do
they suppose that all who attend that festivity--dancing to Mrs. P.'s
hired music and drinking Mr. P.'s fines wines--are utterly given over
to hilarity and superficial enjoyment. I do not even think they would
be likely to run--with rounded eyes, deep voice, and in very exuberant
health--to any one of us jaded votaries of fashion, and say, How can
you be so happy? My considerate young friend, 'strong walls do not a
prison make'--nor is a man necessarily happy because he hops. You are
certainly not unhappy because you make eyes at the moon, and adjudge
life to be vanity and vexation. Your mind is only obscured by a few
morning vapors. They are evanescent as the dew, and when you remember
them at evening they will seem to you but as pensive splendors of the
Laura has her revenge for all this snubbing, of course. She does not
attempt to disguise her opinion that Kurz Pacha is a man of "foreign
morals," as she well expresses it. "A very gay, agreeable man, who
glides gently over the surface of things, but knows nothing of the
real trials and sorrows of life," says the melancholy Laura Larmes,
whose appetite continues good, and who fills a large armchair
It is my opinion, however, that people of a certain size should
cultivate the hilarious rather than the unhappy. Diogenes, with the
proportions of Alderman Gobble, could not have succeeded as a Cynic.
Here at Newport there is endless opportunity of detecting these little
absurdities of our fellow-creatures. In fact, one of the greatest
charms of a watering-place, to me, is the facility one enjoys of
understanding the whole game, which is somewhat concealed in the
city. Watering-place life is a full dress parade of social
weaknesses. We all enjoy a kind of false intimacy, an accidental
friendship. Old Carbuncle and young Topaz meet on the common ground
of a good cigar. Mrs, Peony and Daisy Clover are intimate at all
hours. Why? Because, on the one hand, Mrs. P. knows that youth, and
grace and beauty, are attractive to men, and that if Miss Rosa Peony,
her daughter, has not those advantages, it is well to have in the
neighborhood a magnet strong enough to draw the men.
On the other hand, Daisy Clover is a girl of good sense enough to
know--even if she didn't know it by instinct--that men in public
places like the prestige of association with persons of acknowledged
social position, which, by hook or by crook, Mrs. Peony undoubtedly
enjoys. Therefore, to be of Mrs. P.'s party is to be well placed in
the catalogue--the chances are fairer--the gain is surer. Upon seeing
Daisy Clover with quiet little Mrs. Clover, or plain old aunt
Honeysuckle,--people would inquire, Who are the Clovers? And no one
would know. But to be with Mrs. Peony, morning, noon, and night, is to
answer all questions of social position.
But, unhappily, in the city things are changed. There no attraction
is necessary but the fine house, gay parties, and understood rank of
Mrs. Peony to draw men to Miss Rosa's side. In Newport it does very
well not to dance with her. But in the city it doesn't do not to be at
Mrs. Peony's ball. Who knows it so well as that excellent lady?
Therefore darling Daisy is dropped a little when we all return.
"Sweet girl," Mrs. P. says, "really a delightful companion for Rosa in
the summer, and the father and mother are such nice, excellent
people. Not exactly people that one knows, to be sure--but Miss Daisy
is really amiable and quite accomplished."
Daisy goes to an occasional party at the Peonys. But at the opera and
the theatre, and at the small intimate parties of Rosa and her
friends, the darling Daisy of Newport is not visible. However, she has
her little revenges. She knows the Peonys well: and can talk
intelligently about them, which puts her quite on a level with them in
the estimation of her own set. She rules in the lower sphere if not in
the higher, and Daisy Clover is in the way of promotion. Yes, and if
she be very rich, and papa and mamma are at all presentable, or if
they can be dexterously hushed up, there is no knowing but Miss Daisy
Clover will suddenly bloom upon the world as Mrs. P.'s daughter-in-law,
wife of that "gentlemanly" young man, Mr. Puffer Peony.
Naturally it pains me very much to be obliged to think so of the
people with whom I associate. But I suppose they are as good as
any. As Kurz Pacha says: "If I fly from a Chinaman because he wears
his hair long like a woman, I must equally fly the Frenchman because
he shaves his like a lunatic. The story of Jack Spratt is the
apologue of the world." It is astonishing how intimate he is with our
language and literature. By-the-bye, that Polly Potiphar has been mean
enough to send out to Paris for the very silk that I relied upon as
this summer's _cheval de bataille_, arid has just received it
superbly made up. The worst of it is that it is just the thing for
her. She wore it at the hall the other night, and expected to have
crushed me, in mine. Not she! I have not summered it at Newport
for--well, for several years, for nothing, and although I am rather
beyond the strict white muslin age, I thought I could yet venture a
bold stroke. So I arrayed _à la_ Daisy Clover--not too much,
_pas trop jeune_. And awaited the onset.
Kurz Pacha saw me across the room, and came up, with his peculiar
smile. He did not look at my dress, but he said to me, rather
wickedly, looking at my bouquet:
"Dear me! I hardly hoped to see spring flowers so late in the summer."
Then he raised his eyes to mine, and I am conscious that I blushed.
"It's very warm. You feel very warm, I am sure, my dear Miss Tattle,"
he continued, looking straight at my face.
"You are sufficiently cool, at least, I think," replied I.
"Naturally," said he, "for I've been in the immediate vicinity of the
boreal pole for half an hour--a neighborhood in which, I am told, even
the most ardent spirits sometimes freeze--so you must pardon me if I
am more than usually dull, Miss Minerva."
And the Pacha beat time to the waltz with his head.
I looked at the part of the room from which he had just come, and
there, sure enough, in the midst of a group, I saw the tall, and
stately, and still Ada Aiguille.
"He is a hardy navigator," continued Kurz Pacha, "who sails for the
boreal pole. It is glittering enough, but shipwreck by daylight upon a
coral reef, is no pleasanter than by night upon Newport shoals."
"Have you been shipwrecked, Kurz Pacha?" asked I suddenly.
He laughed softly: "No, Miss Minerva, I am not one of the hardy
navigators; I keep close in to the shore. Upon the slightest symptom
of an agitated sea, I furl my sails, and creep into a safe harbor.
Besides, dear Miss Minna I prefer tropical cruises to the Antarctic
And the old wretch actually looked at my black hair. I might have said
something--approving his taste, perhaps, who knows?--when I saw
Mrs. Potiphar. She was splendidly dressed in the silk, and it's a
pity she doesn't become a fine dress better. She made for me
"Dear Minna, I'm so glad to see you. Why how young and fresh you look
to-night. Really, quite blooming! And such a sweet pretty dress, too,
and the darling baby-waist and all--"
"Yes," said that witty Gauche Boosey, "permit me, Miss Tattle,--quite
an incarnate seraphim, upon my word."
"You are too good," replied I, "my dear Polly, it is your dress which
deserves admiration, and I flatter myself in saying so, for it is the
very counterpart of one I had made some months ago."
"Yes, darling, and which you have not yet worn," replied she. "I said
to Mr. P., 'Mr. P.' said I, 'there are few women upon whose amiability
I can count as I can upon Minerva Tattle's, and, therefore, I am going
to have a dress like hers. Most women would be vexed about it, and say
ill-natured things if I did so. But if I have a friend, it is Minerva
Tattle; and she will never grudge it to me for a moment.' It's
pretty; isn't it? Just look here at this trimming."
And she showed me the very handsomest part of it, and so much
handsomer than mine, that I can never wear it.
"Polly, I am so glad you know me so well," said I. "I'm delighted with
the dress. To be sure, it's rather _prononce_ for your style; but
Just then a polka struck up. "Come along! give me this turn," said
Boosey, and putting his arm round Mrs. Potiphar's waist, he whirled
her off into the dance.
How I did hope that somebody would come to ask me. Nobody came.
"You don't dance?" asked Kurz Pacha, who stood by during my little
talk with Polly P.
"Oh, yes," answered I, and hummed the polka.
Kurz Pacha hummed too, looked on at the dancers a few minutes then
turned to me, and looking at my bouquet, said:
"It is astonishing how little taste there is for spring-flowers."
At that moment young Croesus "came in" warm with the whirl of the
dance, with Daisy Clover.
"It's very warm," said he, in a gentlemanly manner.
"Dear me! yes, very warm," said Daisy.
"Been long in Newport?"
"No; only a few days. We always come, after, Saratoga for a couple of
weeks. But isn't it delightful?"
"Quite so," said Timon, coolly, and smiling at the idea of anybody's
being enthusiastic about anything. That elegant youth has pumped life
dry; and now the pump only wheezes.
"Oh!" continued Daisy, "it's so pleasant to run away from the hot
city, and breathe this cool air. And then Nature is so beautiful. Are
you fond of Nature, Mr. Croesus?"
"Tolerably,"' returned Timon.
"Oh! but Mr. Croesus! to go to the glen and skip stones, and then walk
on the cliff, and drive to Bateman's, and the fort, and to go to the
beach by moonlight; and then the bowling-alley, and the archery, and
the Germania. Oh! it's a splendid place. But perhaps, you don't like
natural scenery, Mr. Croesus?"
"Perhaps not," said Mr. Croesus.
"Well, some people don't," said darling little Daisy, folding up her
fan, as if quite ready for another turn.
"Come, now; there it is," said Timon, and, grasping her with his right
arm, they glided away.
"Kurz Pacha," said I, "I wonder who sent Ada Aiguille that bouquet?"
"Sir John Franklin, I presume," returned he.
"What do you mean by that," asked I.
Before he could answer, Boosey and Mrs. Potiphar stopped by us.
"No, no, Mr. Boosey," panted Mrs. P., "I will not have him
introduced. They say his father actually sells dry goods by the yard
"Well, but _he_ doesn't, Mrs. Potiphar.
"I know that, and it's all very well for you young men to know him,
and to drink, and play billiards, and smoke, with him. And he is
handsome to be sure, and gentlemanly, and I am told, very
intelligent. But, you know, we can't be visiting our shoemakers and
shopmen. That's the great difficulty of a watering-place, one doesn't
know who's who. Why Mrs. Gnu was here three summers ago, and there sat
next to her, at table, a middle-aged foreign gentleman, who had only a
slight accent, and who was so affable and agreeable, so intelligent
and modest, and so perfectly familiar with all kinds of little ways,
you know, that she supposed he was the Russian Minister, who, she
heard, was at Newport incognito for his health. She used to talk with
him in the parlor, and allowed him to join her upon the piazza.
Nobody could find out who he was. There were suspicions, of
course. But he paid his bills, drove his horses, and was universally
liked. Dear me! appearances are so deceitful! who do you think he
"I'm sure I can't imagine."
Well, the next spring she went to a music store in Philadelphia, to
buy some guitar strings for Claribel, and who should advance to sell
them but the Russian Minister! Mrs. Gnu said she colored--"
"So I've always understood," said Gauche, laughing.
"Fie! Mr. Boosey," continued Mrs. P. smiling. "But the music-seller
didn't betray the slightest consciousness. He sold her the strings,
received the money, and said nothing, and looked nothing. Just think
of it! She supposed him to be a gentleman, and he was really a
music-dealer. You see that's the sort of thing one is exposed to here,
and though your friend may be very nice, it isn't safe for me to know
him. In a country where there's no aristocracy one can't be too
exclusive. Mrs. Peony says she thinks that in future she shall really
pass the summer in a farm-house or if she goes to a watering-place,
confine herself to her own rooms and her carriage, and look at the
people through the blinds. I'm afraid, myself, it's coming to
that. Everybody goes to Saratoga now, and you see how Newport is
crowded. For my part I agree with the Rev. Cream Cheese, that there
are serious evils in a republican form of government. What a hideous
head-dress that is of Mrs. Settum Downe's! What a lovely
"So it is, by Jove! Come on," replied the gentlemanly Boosey, and they
swept down the hall.
"_Ah! ciel!_" exclaimed a voice close by us--Kurz Pacha and I
turned at the same moment. We beheld a gentleman twirling his
moustache and a lady fanning. They were smiling intelligently at each
other, and upon his whispering something that I could not hear, she
said, "_Fi! donc_" and folding her fan and laying her arm upon
his shoulder, they slid along again in the dance.
"Who is that?" inquired the Pacha.
"Don't you know Mrs. Vite?" said I, glad of my chance. "Why, my dear
sir, she is our great social success. She shows what America can do
under a French _regime_. She performs for society the inestimable
service of giving some reality to the pictures of Balzac and George
Sand, by the quality of her life and manners. She is just what you
would expect a weak American girl to be who was poisoned by
Paris,--who mistook what was most obvious for what was most
characteristic,--whose ideas of foreign society and female habits were
based upon an experience of resorts, more renowned for ease than
elegance,--who has no instinct fine enough to tell her that a
_lionne_ cannot be a lady,--who imitates the worst manners of
foreign society, without the ability or opportunity of perceiving the
best,--who prefers a _double entendre_ to a _bon-mot_,--who
courts the applause of men whose acquaintance gentlemen are careless
of acknowledging,--who likes fast driving and dancing, low jokes, and
low dresses, who is, therefore, bold without wit, noisy without mirth,
and notorious without a desirable reputation. That is Mrs. Vite."
Kurz Pacha rolled up his eyes.
"Good Jupiter! Miss Minerva," cried he, "is this you that I hear? Why
you are warmer in your denunciation of this little wisp of a woman
than you ever were of fat old Madame Gorgon, with her prodigious paste
diamonds. Really, you take it too hard. And you, too, who used to
skate so nimbly over the glib surface of society, and cut such
coquettish figures of eight upon the characters of your friends. You
must excuse me, but it seems to me odd that Miss Minerva Tattle, who
used to treat serious things so lightly, should now be treating light
things so seriously. You ought to frequent the comic opera more, and
dine with Mrs. Potiphar once a week. If your good humor can't digest
such a _hors d'oeuvre_ as little Mrs. Vite, what will you do with
such a _pièce de résistance_ as Madame Gorgon?"
Odious plain speaker! Yet I like the man. But, before I could reply,
up came another couple--Caroline Pettitoes and Norman de Famille.
"You were at the bowling-alley?" said he.
"Yes," answered Caroline.
"You saw them together?"
"Well, what do you think?"
"Why, of course, that if he is not engaged to her he ought to be. He
has taken her out in his wagon three times, he has sent her four
bouquets, he waltzes with her every night, he bowls with her party
every morning, and if that does not mean that he wants to marry her, I
should like to know what it does mean," replied Caroline, tossing her
Norman de Famille smiled, and Caroline continued with rather a flushed
face, because Norman had been doing very much the same thing with her:
"What is a girl to understand by such attentions?"
"Why, that the gentleman finds it an amusing game, and hopes she is
equally pleased," returned De Famille.
"_Merci_, M. de Famille," said Caroline, with an energy I never
suspected in her, "and at the end of the game she may go break her
heart, I suppose."
"Hearts are not so brittle, Miss Pettitoes," replied Norman. "Besides,
why should you girls always play for such high stakes?"
They were just about beginning the waltz again, when the music
stopped, and they walked away. But I saw the tears in Caroline's
eyes. I don't know whether they were tears of vexation, or of
disappointment. The men have the advantage of us because they can
control their emotions so much better. I suppose Caroline blushed and
cried, because she found herself blushing and crying, quite as much as
because she fancied her partner didn't care for her.
I turned to Kurz Pacha, who stood by my side, smiling, and rubbing his
"A charming evening we have had of it, Miss Minerva," said he, "an
epitome of life--a kind of last-new-novel effect. The things that we
have heard and seen here, multiplied and varied by a thousand or so,
produce the net result of Newport. Given, a large house, music,
piazzas, beaches, cliff, port, griddle-cakes, fast horses,
sherry-cobblers, ten-pins, dust, artificial flowers, innocence,
worn-out hearts, loveliness, black-legs, bank-bills, small men, large
coat-sleeves, little boots, jewelry, and polka-redowas _ad
libitum_, to produce August in Newport. For my part, Miss Minerva,
I like it. But it is a dizzy and perilous game. I profess to seek and
enjoy emotions, so I go to watering-places. Ada Aiguille says she
doesn't like it. She declares that she thinks less of her
fellow-creatures after she has been here a little while. She goes to
the city afterward to refit her faith, probably. Daisy Clover thinks
it's heavenly. Darling little Daisy! life is an endless German
cotillion to her. She thinks the world is gay but well-meaning, is
sure that it goes to church on Sundays and never tells lies. Cerulea
Bass looks at it for a moment with her hard, round, ebony eyes, and
calmly wonders that people will make such fools of themselves. And
you, Miss Minerva, pardon me,--you come because you are in the habit
of coming--because you are not happy out of such society, and have a
tantalizing sadness in it. Your system craves only the piquant sources
of scandal and sarcasm, which can never satisfy it. You wish that you
liked tranquil pleasures and believed in men and women. But you get no
nearer than a wish. You remember when you did believe, but you
remember with a shudder and a sigh. You pass for a brilliant
woman. You go out to dinners and balls; and men are, what is called,
'afraid of you.' You scorn most of us. You are not a favorite, but
your pride is flattered by the very fear on the part of others which
prevents your being loved. Time and yourself are your only enemies,
and they are in league, for you betray yourself to him. You have found
youth the most fascinating and fatal of flirts, but he, although your
heart and hope clung to him despairingly, has jilted you and thrown
you by. Let him go, if you can, and throw after him the white muslin
and the baby-waist. Give up milk and the pastoral poets. Sail, at
least, under your own colors; even pirates hoist a black flag. An old
belle who endeavors to retain by sharp wit and spicy scandal the place
she held only in virtue of youth and spirited beauty is, in a new
circle of youth and beauty, like an enemy firing at you from the
windows of your own house. The difficulty of your position, dear Miss
Minerva, is, that you can never deceive those who alone are worth
deceiving. Daisy Clover and Young America, of course, consider you a
talented, tremendous kind of woman. Daisy Clover wonders all the men
are not in love with you. Young America sniffs and shakes its little
head, and says disapprovingly, 'Strong-minded woman!' But you fail,
you know, notwithstanding. You couldn't bring old Potiphar to his
knees when he first came home from China, and he must needs plunge in
love with Miss Polly, whom you despised, but who has certainly
profited by her intimacy with Mrs. Gnu, Mrs. Croesus, and Mrs. Settum
Downe, as you saw by her conversation with you this evening.
"Ah, Miss Minerva, I am only a benighted diplomat from Sennaar, but
when I reflect upon all I see around me in your country; when I take
my place with terror in a railroad car, because the certainty of
frightful accidents fills all minds with the same vague apprehensions
as if a war were raging in the land; when I see the universal rush and
fury--young men who never smile, and who fall victims to paralysis;
old men who are tired of life and dread death; young women pretty and
incapable; old women listless and useless; and both young and old, if
women of sense, perishing of ennui, and longing for some kind of a
career;--why, I don't say that it is better anywhere else,--perhaps it
isn't,--in most ways it certainly is not. I don't say certainly, that
there's a higher tone of life in London or Paris than in New York, but
only that, whatever it may be there, this, at least, is rather a
"What is your theory of life, then?" asked I. "What do you propose?"
Kurz Pacha smiled again.
"Suppose, Miss Minerva, I say the Golden Rule is my _theory_ of
life. You think it vague; but it is in that like most theories. Then I
propose that we shall all be good. Don't you think it a feasible
proposition? I see that you think you have effectually disposed of all
complaint by challenging the complainer to suggest a remedy. But it is
clear to me that a man in the water has a right to cry out, although
he may not distinctly state how he proposes to avoid drowning. Your
reasoning is that of those excellent Americans who declare that
foreign nations ought not to strike for a republic until they are fit
for a republic--as if empires and monarchies founded colleges to
propagate democracy. Probably you think it wiser that men shouldn't go
into the water until they can swim. Mr. Carlyle, I remember, was
bitterly reproached for grumbling in his "Chartism," and other works,
as if a man had no moral right to complain of hunger until he had
grasped a piece of bread. 'What do you propose to do, Mr. Carlyle?'
said they, 'what with the Irish, for instance?' Mr. C. said that he
would compel every Irishman to work, or he would sink the island in
the sea. 'Barbarous man, this is your boasted reform!' cried they in
indignant chorus, unsuited either way, and permitting the Irish to go
to the dogs in the meanwhile. So suffer me, dearest Miss Minerva, to
regret a state of things which no sensible man can approve. Even if it
seems to you light, allow me, at least, to treat it seriously, nor
suppose I love anything less, because I would see it better. You are
the natural fruit of this state of things, O Minerva Tattle! By thy
fruits ye shall know them."
After a few moments, he added in the old way:
"Don't think I am going to break my heart about it, nor lose my
appetite. Look at the absurdity of the whole thing. I am preaching to
you in your baby-waist, here in a Newport ball-room at midnight. I
humbly beg your pardon. There are more potent preachers here than
I. Besides, I'm engaged to Mrs. Potiphar's supper at 12. Take things
more gently, dear Miss Minerva. Don't make faces at Mrs. Vite, nor
growl at your darling Polly. Women as smart as you are, will say
precisely as smart thing of you as you say of them. We shall all
laugh, first with you, and then at you. But don't deny yourself the
pleasure of saying the smart things in hope that they will also
refrain. That's vanity, not virtue. People are much better than you
think, but they are also much worse. I might have been king of
Sennaar, but I am only his ambassador. You might have been only a
chambermaid, but you are the brilliant and accomplished Miss
Tattle. Tum, tum, tum, ti, ti, ti,--what a pretty waltz! Here come
Daisy and Timon Croesus, and now Mrs. Potiphar and Gauche Boosey, and
now again Caroline Pettitoes and De Famille. She is smiling again, you
see. She darts through the dance like a sunbeam as she is. Caroline is
a philosopher. Just now, you remember, it was down, down, down,--now
it is up, up, up. It is a good world, if you don't rub it the wrong
way. Sit in the sun as much as possible. One preserves one's
complexion, but gets so cold in the shade. Ah! there comes
Mrs. Potiphar. Why, she is radiant! She shakes her fan at me. Adieu,
Miss Minerva. Sweet dreams. To-morrow morning at the Bowling Alley at
eleven, you know, and the drive at six. _Au revoir_."
And he was gone. The ball was breaking up. A few desperate dancers
still floated upon the floor. The chairs were empty. The women were
shawling, and the men stood attendant with bouquets. I went to a
window and looked out. The moon was rising, a wan, waning moon. The
broad fields lay dark beneath, and as the music ceased, I heard the
sullen roar of the sea. If my heart ached with an indefinite
longing,--if it felt that the airy epicurism of the Pacha was but a
sad cynicism, masquerading in smiles,--if I dreaded to ask whether the
wisest were not the saddest,--if the rising moon, and the plunging
sea, and the silence of midnight, were mournful, if I envied Daisy
Clover her sweet sleep and vigorous waking,--why, no one need ever
know it, nor suspect that the brilliant Minerva Tattle is a failure.
THE POTIPHARS IN PARIS.
A LETTER FROM MISS CAROLINE PETTITOES TO MRS. SETTUM DOWNE.
MY DEAR MRS. DOWNE,--Here we are at last! I can hardly believe
it. Our coming was so sudden that it seems like a delightful
dream. You know at Mrs. Potiphar's supper last August in Newport, she
was piqued by Gauche Boosey's saying, in his smiling, sarcastic way:
"What! do you really think this is a pretty supper? Dear me!
Mrs. Potiphar, you ought to see one of our _petits soupers_ in
Paris, hey Croesus?" and then he and Mr. Timon Croesus lifted their
brows knowingly, and smiled, and glanced compassionately around the
"Paris, Paris!" cried Mrs. Potiphar; "you young men are always talking
about Paris, as if it were heaven. Oh! Mr. P., do take me to
Paris. Let's make up a party, and slip over. It's so easy now, you
know. Come, come, Pot. I know you won't deny me. Just for two or three
months, The truth is," said she, turning to D'Orsay Firkin, who wore
that evening the loveliest shirt-bosom I ever saw, "I want to send
home some patterns of new dresses to Minerva Tattle."
They all laughed, and in the midst Kurz Pacha, who was sitting at the
side of Mrs. Potiphar, inquired:
"What colors suit the Indian summer best, Mrs. Potiphar?"
"Well, a kind of misty color," said Boosey, laughingly, and
emphasizing _missed_, as if he meant some pun upon the word.
"Which conceals the outline of the landscape," interrupted Mrs. Gnu.
"Cajoling you with a sense of warmth on the very edge of winter, eh?"
asked the Sennaar minister.
Another loud laugh rang round the table.
"I thought Minerva Tattle was a friend of yours, Kurz Pacha," said
Mrs. Gnu, smiling mischievously, and playing with her beautiful
bouquet, which Mrs. Potiphar told me Timon Croesus had sent her.
"Certainly, so she is," replied he. "Miss Minerva and I understand
each other perfectly. I like her society immensely. The truth is, I am
always better in autumn; the air is both cool and bright."
As he said this he looked fixedly at Mrs. Gnu, and there was not quite
so much laughing. I am sure I don't know what they meant by talking
about autumn. I was busy talking with Mr. Firkin about Daisy Clover's
pretty morning dress at the Bowling Alley, and admiring his
shirt-bosom. Suddenly there was a knock at the door, and an exquisite
bouquet was handed in for Kurz Pacha.
"Why didn't you wait until to-morrow?" said he, sharply.
The man stammered some excuse, and the ambassador took the
flowers. Mrs. Gnu looked at them closely, and praised them very much,
and quietly glanced at her own, which were really splendid. Kurz
Pacha showed them to all the ladies at table, and then handed them to
Mrs. Potiphar, saying to her, as he half looked at Mrs. Gnu:
"There is nothing autumnal here."
"Mrs. Potiphar thanked him with real delight, and he turned toward
Mrs. Gnu, at whom he had been constantly looking, and who was playing
placidly with her bouquet, and said with an air of one paying a great
"To offer _you_ a bouquet, madame, would be to throw pearls
We were all silent for a moment, and then the young men sprang up
together, while we women laughed, half afraid.
"Good heavens! Kurz Pacha, what do you mean?" cried Mrs. Potiphar.
"Mean?" answered he, evidently confused, and blushing; "why, I'm
afraid I have made some mistake. I meant to say something very
polite, but my English sometimes gives way."
"Your impudence never does," muttered Mrs. Gnu, who was unbecomingly
red in the face.
"My dear madame," said the minister to her, "I assure you I meant only
to use a proverb in a complimentary way; but somehow I have got the
wrong pig by the ear."
There was another burst of laughter. The young men fairly lay down and
screamed. Mr. Potiphar exploded in great ha ha's and ho ho's, from the
end of the table.
"Mrs. Potiphar," said Mrs. Gnu, with dignity, "I didn't suppose I was
to be insulted at your table."
And she went toward the door.
"Mrs. Gnu, Mrs. Gnu," said Polly, smothering her laughter as well as
she could, "don't go. Kurz Pacha will explain. I'm sure he means no
Here she burst out laughing again; while the poor Sennaar Ambassador
stood erect, and utterly confounded by what was going on.
"I'm sure--I didn't know--I didn't--I wouldn't--Mrs. Gnu knows;" said
he, in the greatest embarrassment. "I beg your pardon sincerely,
madame." And he looked so humble and repentant that I was really
sorry for him; but I saw Mr. Firkin laughing afresh every time he
looked at the Ambassador, as if he saw something sly behind his
"Perhaps," said Firkin at last, "Kurz Pacha means to say that to offer
flowers to a lady who has already so beautiful a bouquet, would be to
carry coals to Newcastle."
"That is it," cried the Pacha; "to Newcastle,"--and he bowed to
"Come, Mrs. Gnu, it's only a mistake," said Mrs. Potiphar.
But Mrs. Gnu looked rather angry still, although Gauche Boosey tried
very hard to console her, saying as many _bon mots_ as he could
think of--and you know how witty he is. He said at last;
"Why is Mrs. Gnu like Rachel?"
"Rachel who?" asked I.
I'm sure it was an innocent question; but they all fell to laughing
again, and Mr. Firkin positively cried with fun.
"D'ye give it up?" asked Mr. Boosey.
"Yes," said Mrs. Potiphar.
"Why, because she will not be comforted."
There wasn't half so much laughing at this as at my question--although
Mrs. Potiphar said it was capital, and I thought so too, when I found
out who Rachel was.
But Mrs. Gnu continued to be like Rachel, and Mr. Boosey continued to
try to amuse her. I think it was very hard she wouldn't be amused by
such a funny man; and he said at last aloud to her, meaning all of us
"Well, Mrs. Gnu, upon my honor, it is no epicure to try to console
She did laugh at this, however, and so did the others.
"Have you ever been in Sennaar, Mr. Boosey?" said Kurz Pacha.
"Why, I thought we might have learned English at the same school."
Mr. Boosey looked puzzled; but Mr. Potiphar broke in:
"Well, Mrs. Gnu, I'm glad to see you smile at last. After all, the
remark of the Ambassador's was only what they would call in France, 'a
perfect bougie of a joke.'"
"Good evening, Mrs. Potiphar," cried the Sennaar Minister, rising
suddenly, and running toward the door. We heard him next under the
window going off in great shouts of laughter, and whistling in the
intervals, "Hail Columbia!" What shocking habits he has for a
minister! I don't know how it was that Mr. Potiphar was in such good
humor; but he promised his wife that she should go to Paris, and that
she might select her party. So she invited us all who were at the
table. Mrs. Gnu declined: but I knew mamma would let me go with the
"Dear Pot.," said Mrs. P., "we shall be gone so short a time, and
shall be so busy, and hurrying from one place to another, that we had
better leave little Freddy behind. Poor, dear little fellow, it will
be much better for him to stay."
Mr. P. looked a little sober at this; but he said nothing except to
"Shall you all be ready to sail in a fortnight?"
"Certainly, in a week," we all answered.
"Well, then, we must hurry home to prepare," said he. "I shall write
for state-rooms for us in Monday's boat, Polly."
"Very well; that's a dear Pot.," said she; and as we all rose she went
up to him, and took his arm tenderly. It was an unusual sight: I never
saw her do it before. Mrs. Gnu said to me:
"Well, really, that's rather peculiar. I think people had better make
love in private."
"No, by Jove," whispered Mr. Boosey to me; and I am afraid he had
drank freely, as I have once or twice before heard that he did; but
the world is such a gossip!--no, she doesn't let _her_ good works
of that kind shine before men."
"Why, Mr. Boosey," said I, "how can you?"
"Will you believe, darling Mrs. Downe, that instead of answering, he
sort of winked at me, and said, under his voice, 'Good night,
Caroline.' I drew myself up, you may depend, and said coldly:
"Good evening, Mr. Boosey."
He drew himself up too, and said:
"I called you Caroline, you called me Mr. Boosey."
And then looking straight and severely at me, he actually winked
Then of course, I knew he was not responsible for his actions.
Ah me, what things we are! Just as I was leaving the room with
Mrs. Gnu, who had matronized me, Mr. Boosey came up with such a soft,
pleading look in his eyes that seemed to say, "please forgive me," and
put out his hand so humbly, and appeared so sorry and so afraid that I
would not speak to him, that I really pitied him: but when, in his
low, rich voice, he said:
"Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered!"--
I couldn't hold out; wasn't it pretty? So I put out my hand, and he
shook it tenderly, and said "tomorrow" in a way--well, dear
Mrs. Downe, I will be frank with you--that made me happy all night.
At this rate I shall never get to Paris. But the next day it was known
everywhere we were going and everybody congratulated us. Our party met
at the Bowling Alley, and we began to make all kinds of plans.
"Oh! _we'll_ take care of all the arrangements," said Mr. Boosey,
nodding toward Mr. Croesus and Mr. Firkin.
"Mr. Boosey, were you presented to the Emperor?" inquired Kurz Pacha.
"Certainly I was," replied he; "I have a great respect for Louis
Napoleon. Those Frenchmen didn't know what they wanted; but he knew
well enough what he wanted: they didn't want him, perhaps, but he did
want them, and now he has them. A true nephew of his uncle, Kurz
Pacha; and you can see what a man the great Napoleon must have been,
when the little Napoleon succeeds so well upon the strength of the
"Why, you are really enthusiastic about the Emperors," said the
"Certainly," replied Mr. Boosey, "I have always been a great
Kurz Pacha stared at him a moment, and then took a large pinch of
snuff solemnly. I think it's very ill bred to stare as he does
sometimes, when somebody has made a remark. I saw nothing particular
in that speech of Mr. Boosey's; and yet D'Orsay Firkin smiled to
himself as he told Mrs. Gnu it was her turn.
"I wonder, my dear Mrs. Potiphar," said the Sennaar Minister seating
himself by her side, as the game went on, "that Europeans should have
so poor an idea of America and Americans, when such crowds of the very
best society are constantly crossing the ocean. Now, you and your
friends are going to Paris, perhaps to other parts of Europe, and I
should certainly suppose that, without flattery, (taking another pinch
of snuff,) the foreigners whom you meet might get rid of some of their
prejudices against the Americans. You will go, you know, as the
representatives of a republic where social ranks are not organized to
the exclusion of any; but where talent and character always secure
social consideration. The simplicity of the republican idea and
system will appear in your manners and modes of life. Leaving to the
children of a society based upon antique and aristocratic principles,
to squander their lives in an aimless luxury, you will carry about
with you, as it were the fresh airs and virgin character of a new
country and civilization. When you go to Paris, it will be like a
sweet country breeze blowing into a perfumer's shop. The customers
will scent something finer than the most exquisite essence, and will
prefer the fresh fragrance of the flower to the most elaborate
distillation. Roses smell sweeter than attar of roses. You and your
party, estimable lady, will be the roses. You will not (am I right
_this_ time?) carry coals to Newcastle; for if any of your
companions think that the sharp eye of Paris will not pierce their
pretensions, or the satiric tongue of Paris fail to immortalize it,
they mistake greatly. You cannot beat Paris with its own weapons; and
Paris will immensely respect you if you use your own. Poor little
Mrs. Vite thinks she passes for a _Parisienne_ in Paris. Why,
there is not a _chiffonier_ in the street at midnight that
couldn't see straight through the little woman, and nothing would
better please the _Jardin Mabille_ than to have her for a
butt. My dear madame, the ape is a very ingenious animal, and his form
much resembles the human. Moles, probably, and the inhabitants of the
planet Jupiter, do not discern the difference; but I rather think we
do. A ten-strike by Venus! well done, Mrs. Gnu," cried the Ambassador;
"now, Mrs. Potiphar."
The Pacha didn't play; but he asked Mr. Firkin what was a good average
for a man, in the game.
"Well, a spare every time," said he.
"Mr. Firkin," asked Mrs. Gnu, "what is a good woman's average?"
"Does any lady here know that?" inquired the Pacha, looking round.
"No," said Mr. Boosey; "we must send and inquire of Miss Tattle."
"How pleasantly the game goes on, dear Mrs. Gnu," said the Pacha;
"but Miss Minerva ought to be here, she always holds such a good hand
at every game."
"I think," said Mrs. Gnu, "that if she once got a good hold of any
hand, she wouldn't let it go immediately."
"Good!" shouted Mr. Boosey.
"Hi! hi!" roared Mr. Potiphar.
The Pacha took snuff placidly, and said quietly:
"You've fairly trumped my trick, and taken it, Mrs. Gnu."
"I should say the trick has taken her," whispered Mr. Firkin at my
elbow to Kurz Pacha.
The Sennaar Ambassador opened his eyes wide, and offered Mr. Firkin
Monday came at length. It was well known that we were all going--the
Potiphars and the rest of us. Everybody had spoken of the difficulty
of getting state-rooms on the steamer to town, and hoped we had spoken
"I have written and secured my rooms," said Mr. Potiphar to everybody
he met; "I am not to be left in the lurch, my dear sir, it isn't my
way." And then he marched on, Gauche Boosey said, as if at least both
sides of the street were his way. He's changed a great deal lately.
The De Familles were going the same day. "Hope you've secured rooms,
De Famille," said Mr. Potiphar blandly to him.
"No," answered he, shortly; "no, not yet; it isn't my way; I don't
mean to give myself trouble about things; I don't bother; it isn't my
And each went his own way up and down the street. But early on Monday
afternoon Mr. De Famille and his family drove toward Fall Kiver, from
which place the boat starts.
Monday evening the Potiphars and the rest of us went to the wharf at
Newport, and presently the boat came up. We bundled on board, and as
soon as he could get to the office Mr. Potiphar asked for the keys of
"Why, sir," said the clerk, "Mr. De Famille has them. He came on board
at Fall Eiver and asked for your keys, as if the rooms had been
secured for him."
"What does that mean?" demanded Mr. Potiphar.
"Oh! ah! I remember now," said Mr. Boosey. "I saw the De Familles all
getting into a carriage for a little drive, as Mr. De F., said, about
two o'clock this afternoon."
Mr. Potiphar looked like a thunder-storm. "What the devil does it
mean?" asked he of the clerk, while the passengers hustled him, and
punched him, and the hook of an umbrella-stick caught in his
cravat-knot, and untied it.
"Send up immediately, and say that Mr. Potiphar wants his
state-rooms," said he to the clerk.
In a few minutes the messenger returned and said--
"Mr. De Famille's compliments to Mr. Potiphar. Mr. De Famille and his
family have retired for the night, but upon arriving in the morning he
will explain everything to Mr. Potiphar's satisfaction.
"Jolly!" whispered Mr. Boosey, rubbing his hands, to Mr. Firkin, on
whose arm I was leaning.
"Are you fond of the Italian opera, Mr. Potiphar?" inquired Kurz
Pacha, blandly, Mrs. P. sat down upon a settee and looked at nothing.
"O Patience! do verify the quotation and smile," said the Ambassador
"It's a mean swindle," said Mr. Potiphar. "I'll have
satisfaction. I'll go break open the door," and he started.
"My dear, don't be in a passion," said Mrs. Potiphar, "and don't be a
fool. Remember that the De Familles are not people to be insulted. It
won't do to quarrel with the De Familles."
"Splendid!" ejaculated Kurz Pacha.
"I've no doubt he'll explain it all in the morning," continued
Mrs. Potiphar, "there's some mistake; why not be cool about it?
Besides, Mr. De Famille is an elderly gentleman and requires his
rest. I do think you're positively unchristian, Mr. Potiphar. The
idea of insulting the De Familles!"
And Mrs. Potiphar patted her little feet upon the floor in front of
the ladies' cabin, where we were all collected.
"Where are you going to sleep?" asked Mr. Potiphar mildly.
"I'm sure I don't know," answered she.
We had an awful night. It was worse than any night at sea. Mrs. P. was
propped up in one corner of a settee and I in the other, and when I
was fixed comfortably there would come a great sea, and the boat would
lurch, and I had to disarrange my position. It was horrid. But
Mr. Potiphar was very good all night. He kept coming to see if Polly
wanted anything, and if she were warm enough, and if she were
well. Gauche Boosey, who was on the floor in the saloon, said he saw
Mr. P. crawl up softly and try his state-room door. But it was locked,
"and the snoring of old De Famille, who was enjoying his required
rest," said he, "came in regular broadsides through the blinds."
I don't know how Mr. De Famille explained. I only know Mrs. P. charged
old Pot. to be satisfied with anything.
"There are some people, my darling Caroline," she said to me, "with
whom it does not do to quarrel. It isn't christian to quarrel. I
can't afford to be on bad terms with the De Familles."
"It is odd, isn't it," said Kurz Pacha to Mrs. P., as we were sailing
down the harbor on our way to Europe, and talking of the circumstance
of the state-rooms, "it is so odd, that in Sennaar, where to be sure,
civilization has scarcely a foothold--I mean such civilization as you
enjoy--this proceeding would have been called dishonest! They do have
the oddest use of terms in Sennaar! Why, I remember that I once bought
a sheep, and as it was coming to my fold in charge of my shepherd, a
man in a mask came out of a wood and walked away with the sheep, and
appropriated the mutton-chops to his own family uses. And those
singular people in Sennaar called it stealing. Shall I ever get
through laughing at them when I return! There ought to be missionaries
sent to Sennaar. Do you think the Rev. Cream Cheese would go? How
gracefully he would say: 'Benighted brethren, in my country when a man
buys a sheep or a state-room, and pays money for it, and another man
appropriates it, depriving the rightful buyer of his chops and sheep,
what does the buyer do? Does he swear? Does he rail? Does he complain?
Does he even ask for the cold pickings? Not at all, brethren; he does
none of these things. He sends Worcestershire sauce to the thief, or a
pillow of poppies, and says to him, Friend, all of mine is thine, and
all of thine is thine own. This, benighted people of Sennaar, is the
practice of a Christian people. As one of our great poets says, 'It
is more blessed to give than to receive.' Think how delicately the
Rev. Cream would pat his mouth with the fine cambric handkerchief,
after rounding off such a homily! He might ask you and Mrs. Potiphar
to accompany him as examples of this Christian pitch of
self-sacrifice. On the whole, I wouldn't advise you to go. The rude
races of Sennaar, might put that beautiful forgiveness of yours to
extraordinary proofs. Holloa! there's a sea!"
We were dismally sea-sick. And I cared for nothing but arriving. Oh!
dear, I think I would even have given up Paris, at least I thought so.
But, oh! how _could_ I think so! Just fancy a place where not
only your own maid speaks French, but where everybody, the porters,
the coachmen, the chambermaids, can't speak anything else! Where the
very beggars beg, and the commonest people swear, in French! Oh! it's
inexpressibly delightful. Why, the dogs understand it, and the
horses--"everybody," as Kurz Pacha said to me, the morning after our
arrival (for he insisted upon coming, "it was such a freak," he said,)
"everybody rolls in a luxury of French, and, according to the
boarding-school standard, is happy."
Everybody--but poor Mr. Potiphar!
He has a terrible time of it.
When we arrived we alighted at Meurice's,--all the fashionable people
do; at least Gauche Boosey said Lord Brougham did, for he used to read
it in Galignani and I suppose it is fashionable to do as Lord Brougham
does. D'Orsay Firkin said that the Hotel Bristol was more
"Does that mean cheaper?" inquired Mr. Potiphar.
Mr. Firkin looked at him compassionately.
"I only want," said Mr. Potiphar, in a kind of gasping way, for it was
in the cars on the way from Boulogne to Paris that we held this
consultation--"I only want to go where there is somebody who can speak
"My dear sir, there are Commissionaires at all the hotels who are
perfect linguists," said Mr. Firkin in a gentlemanly manner.
"Oh! dear me!" said Mr. P. wiping his forehead with the red bandanna
that he always carries, despite Mrs. P., "what is a commissionaire?"
"An interpreter, a cicerone," said Mr. Firkin.
"A guide, philosopher, and friend," said Kurz Pacha.
"Kurz Pacha, do you speak French?" inquired Mr. P. nervously, as we
"Oh! yes," replied he.
"Oh! dear me!" said Mr. Potiphar, looking disconsolately out of the
We arrived soon after.
"We are now at the _Barrière_" said Mr. Firkin.
"What do we do there?" asked Mr. Potiphar.
"We are inspected," said Mr. Firkin.
Mr. Potiphar drew himself up with a military air.
We alighted and walked into the room where all the baggage was
"_Est-ce qu'il y a quelque chose à déclarer?_" asked an officer,
addressing Mr. Potiphar.
"Good heavens! what did you say?" said Mr. P., looking at him.
The officer smiled, and Kurz Pacha said something, upon which he bowed
and passed on. We stepped outside upon the pavement, and I confess
that even I could not understand everything that was said by the crowd
and the coachmen. But Kurz Pacha led the way to a carriage, and we
drove off to Meurice's.
"It's awful, isn't it?" said Mr. Potiphar, panting.
When we reached the hotel, a gentleman (Mr. Potiphar said he was sure
he was a gentleman, from a remark he made--in English) came bowing
out. But before the door of the carriage was opened, Mr. P. thrust
his head out of the window, and holding the door shut, cried out, "Do
you speak English here?"
"Certainly, sir," replied the clerk; and that was the remark that so
pleased Mr. Potiphar.
My room was next to the Potiphars, and I heard a great deal, you may
be sure. I didn't mean to, but I couldn't help it. The next morning,
when they were about coming down, I heard Polly say--
"Now, Mr. Potiphar, remember, if you want to speak of your room it is
_numero quatre-vingt cinq_" and she pronounced it very slowly. "Now
try, Mr. P."
"Oh! dear me. Kattery vang sank," said he.
"Very good," answered she; "_au troisième_; that means, on the
third floor. Now try."
"O tror--Otrorsy--O trorsy--Oh! dear me!" muttered he in a tone of
"_ème_," said Mrs. P.
"Aim," said he.
"Well?" said Mrs. P.
"O trorsyaim," said he.
"That's very well, indeed!" said Mrs. Potiphar, and they went out of
the room. I joined them in the hall, and we ran on before Mr. P., but
we soon heard some one speaking, and stopped.
"_Monsieur, veut il prendre un commissionaire?_"
"Kattery--vang--sank," replied Mr. Potiphar, with great emphasis.
"_Comment?_" said the other.
"O tror--O tror--Oh! Polly--seeaim--seeaim!" returned Mr. P.
"You speak English," said the commissionaire.
"Why! good God! do _you?_" asked Mr. P., with astonishment.
"I speaks every languages, sare," replied the other, "and we will use
the English, if you please. But Monsieur speaks _très bien_ the
"Are you speaking English now?" asked Mr. Potiphar.
The commissionaire answered him that he was,--and Mr. P. thrust his
arm through that of the commissionaire and said--
"My dear sir, if you are disengaged I should be very glad if you would
accompany me in my walks through the town."
"Mr. Potiphar!" said Polly, "come!"
"Coming, my dear," answered he, as he approached with the
commissionaire. It was in vain that Mrs. P. winked and frowned. Her
husband would not take hints. So taking his other arm, and wishing the
commissionaire good morning, she tried to draw him away. But he clung
to his companion and said,
"Polly, this gentleman speaks English."
"Don't keep his arm," whispered she; "he is only a servant."
"Servant, indeed!" said he; "you should have heard him speak French,
and you see how gentlemanly he is."
It was some time before Polly was able to make her husband comprehend
"Ah!" said he, at length; "Oh! I understand."
All our first days were full of such little mistakes. Kurz Pacha come
regularly to see us, and laughed more than I ever saw him laugh
before. The young men were away a great deal, which was hardly kind.
But they said they must call upon their old acquaintances; and Polly
and I expected every day to be called upon by their lady friends.
"It's very odd that the friends of these young men don't call upon
us," said Mrs. Potiphar to Kurz Pacha; "it would be only civil."