Philander Doesticks.

Doesticks: What He Says



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Some were complimentary and some abusive Ц one was from the bar-keeper and hinted at egg-nogg, insinuating that it wasn't paid for Ц and one I know was from Sandie, for it accused me of taking more than half the bed-clothes on cold nights. But I couldn't find out who wrote the good ones, and couldn't lick anybody for writing the bad ones, as the boys all denied it; and as they cost me three cents each, I've regretted ever since that I didn't sell them to the corner grocery man to wrap round sausages, and invest the money in a flannel nightcap.

XXIII
The Kentucky Tavern

The State of Michigan having been the place of my preparation for College, and the Michigan University the scene of my brilliant though premature graduation, I was not wholly unacquainted with occidental geography. As I entered the Institution just mentioned, broke the rules, was tried, convicted, sentenced, punished, fined, suspended, and expelled in an unprecedented short space of time, no one was more fully prepared than I to admit that "this is a great country."

I was somewhat familiar with the entire country known as "out west;" had rode over it, walked over it, and been shot through it by steam; had stopped at all sorts of public-houses from the stylish hotel where you can get your liquor in glass tumblers, have stairs to get to your room with, and can repose on a bedstead, to the unostentatious tavern where the whiskey is served out in a tin dipper, and you have to climb into the garret by a ladder, and sleep on a bundle of straw, under the populous protection of a horse-blanket. But I never so thoroughly understood the discomforts of living at a hotel, as when on one occasion I strayed into the state of Kentucky, the land of good horses, poor jackasses, glorious corn-bread, and lazy darkies, and stopped at the best house of entertainment I could discover.

Having been thoroughly cooked by the broiling sun, which had unremittingly paid me his ardent devotions during the whole day Ц having been alternately melted and blistered Ц having had my skin peeled by the sun like a wet shirt from a little boy's back Ц having made a perfect aqueduct of myself for twelve hours in the fruitless attempt to keep cool, and having swallowed so much dust that I had a large sand-bar in my stomach, I sat down to write in as enviable a state of mind as can perhaps be imagined. I soon found that this was one of those stranger-traps into which unwary travellers are decoyed, and made to pay enormous prices for being rendered supremely unhappy Ц a place where comfort is mercilessly sacrificed to showЦ†where the furniture is too nice to use, the landlord of too much consequential importance to treat people decently, and where there are so many dishes on the table that there is not room for anything to eat Ц where the waiters run in multitudinous directions at the tap of the bell, and seem to occupy most of their time stepping on each other's heels, and spilling soup into the laps of the ladies.

Every one of these woolly-headed nuisances expects to be handsomely fed before he will condescend to pay the slightest attention to a guest, and a stranger must disburse an avalanche of "bits," "pics," and "levys," before he can get even a plate of cold victuals.

My experience at the house of entertainment at present under consideration is somewhat as follows:

I endure the inconveniences of the day with what philosophy I may, and retire, to "sleep, perchance." During the night I endeavor to bear without complaining the savage onslaught of ferocious fleas, the odoriferous attacks of bloodthirsty bed-bugs, and the insatiable and impetuous assaults of musically murderous mosquitoes, and eventually fall into a troubled doze, in which, like a modern Macbeth, who is doomed to "sleep no more," I tumble about until I am roused by the infernal clang of that most diabolical of all human contrivances Ц a gong, a dire invention of the enemy, a metallic triumph of the adversary, compounded of copper, and hammered upon with an "overgrown" drumstick, by a perspiring darkey who does not "waste his sweetness in the desert air" (more's the pity). After an abortive attempt to wash my face in what is truly living water, with a piece of marbleized soap, and hastily drying it upon three inches of towel with a ragged edge and iron rust in the corners, I proceed to dress.

Button off my shirt neck, which, being a matter of course, does not affect my equanimity half as much as finding that one of the sleeves is torn nearly across, and is only connected with the main body by a narrow isthmus of seam, which is momentarily growing "small by degrees and beautifully less."

Begin to grow impatient; second gong for breakfast; everything on but boots Ц open the door and find the porter has brought the wrong ones Ц he always does Ц ring the bell indignantly and sulkily wait (breakfast disappearing the meanwhile), until the blundering darkey explores his subterranean dominions and eventually returns with the missing articles.

Breakfast at last; waiter sets before me a mass of bones, sinews, and tendons, which he denominates chicken, and then brings me something which he calls steak, although but for the timely information I should have supposed it gutta-percha. Pours out a lukewarm muddy mixture supposed to have been originally coffee, which I sweeten with niggery brown sugar, and swallow at a gulp, ignoring the milk pitcher entirely on account of the variety of bugs which have found a "watery grave" therein; bread hard and greasy, butter oily and full of little ditches where the flies have meandered, knife with an edge like a saw, and fork with a revolving handle, table cloth splotchy, eggs hard as pebbles; rest of bill of fare consists of salt ham, red flannel sausages, hash with hairs in it, dip-toast made with sour milk, burned biscuit, peppery codfish, cold potatoes, mutton chops all bones, and mackerel with head, fins, and tail complete. Stay my stomach with half a glass of equivocal looking water, and exit.

Go to the office and order my room regulated immediately; go up in an hour and find two inches of dust over everything, my portfolios untied, books open at the wrong place, tooth-brush out and wet, and several long red hairs in my comb. Considerate, cleanly chambermaid!

Sit down on my carpet-bag and reflect Ц resolve to go back to Michigan.

Pack trunks, pay landlord, fee porter, hurry to the cars, tumble baggage on board, only too happy if by the diabolical ingenuity of the baggage-man it does not get put off at the wrong station. So ends my experience of the "Uncle Tom" State, which is probably the only place in the world where they hitch two jackasses before a dray, and get a big nigger with a red shirt on, up behind to drive 'em tandem.

XXIV
The River Darkies

To a person not accustomed to the unaccountable antics and characteristic monkeyshines of the sable heroes of the corn fields, sugar plantations, flat-boats, and steamboat "'tween decks" of the lower river, a continual fund of amusement is afforded by their fantastic sayings and doings. On the Kentucky river I first observed some of their curious performances Ц the boats on this stream differ from any others in the world Ц the one on which I obtained my experience was peculiarly peculiar, and I find my impressions of the craft and the company recorded as follows: Ч

Steamboat Blue Wing.Ц†Which said boat is very much the shape of a Michigan country-made sausage, and is built with a hinge in the middle to go around the sharp bends in the river, and is manned by two captains, four mates, sixteen darkies, two stewards, a small boy, a big dog, an opossum, two pair of grey squirrels, one clock, and a cream-colored chamber-maid.

Fog so thick you couldn't run a locomotive through it without a snow-plough; night so dark the clerk has two men on each side of him with pitch-pine torches, to enable him to see his spectacles (he wears spectacles); pilot so drunk the boys have painted his face with charcoal and coke berries, till he looks like a rag carpet in the last stages of dilapidation; and he is fast asleep, with his legs (pardon me, but Ц legs), tied to the capstan, his whiskers full of coal-dust and cinders, and the black end of the poker in his mouth.

Boat fast aground, with her symmetrical nose six feet deep in Kentucky mud; there she complacently lies, waiting for the mail boat to come along and pull her out. Passengers elegantly disposed in various stages of don't-care-a-cent-itiveness, and the subscriber, taking advantage of the temporary sobriety of the clerk, and his consequent attendance in the after-cabin to play poker with the mates, embraces the opportunity to write. The silence is of brief duration, for I am interrupted by a grand oratorio by the nigger firemen, much to my delight and edification. It runs somewhat as follows: Ч

(Grand opening chorus) "A-hoo Ц a-hoo Ц hoo-oooo Ц a-hooo Ц a-hoo Ц a-hooo Ц a-hoooo-oo!"

The dashes in the following represent the passages where the superfluity of the harmony prevented the proper appreciation of the poetry.

"Gwin down de ribber Ц a-hoo-a-O!

Good-bye Ц nebber come back Ц debbil Ц beans Ц Grey-haired injun Ц Ya-a Ц a Ц aaaa Ц Ya-a-a-a-a-a-a-a Ч

Ga Ц !" (leader of orchestra) "dirty shirt massa, got de whisky bottle in his hat, dis poor ole boy nebber git none Ч

A-hoo Ц a-hooo Ц a-hooooo!" (ending in an indescribable howl).

(Pensive darkey on the coal heap) Ц "Miss Serefiny good-bye Ц farewell; nebber git no more red pantaloonses from Miss Serefiny Ц Oho Ц Ahooo Ц Ahooo-O!"

(Extemporaneous voluntary by an original nigger with two turkey feathers in his hat, and his hair tied up with yellow strings) Ч

"Corn cake Ц 'lasses on it Ц vaphuns Ц " (meaning waffles) "big ones honey on 'em Ц Ya-a-a-a-a-a."

(Stern rebuke by leader) Ц "Shut up your mouf, you 'leven hundred dollar nigger."

(Leader improvises as follows) "Hard work Ц no matter Ц git to hebben bym-bye Ц don't mind Ц go it boots Ц linen hangs out behind Ц " (here having achieved a rhyme, he indulges in a frantic hornpipe.) "My true lub Ц feather in him boots Ц yaller gal got another sweetheart Ц A-hoo Ц Ahoooooo!†Ц Ahooooooo-OOOO!!!!! Ц Hoe cake done Ц nigger can't git any Ц ole hoss in de parlor playing de pianny Ц You-a-a-a Ц Ga-Ga-Ga." Captain here interferes and orders the orchestra to wood up Ц and so interrupts the concert.

Have got over on the Indiana side, principal difference to be noticed in the inhabitants is in the hogs; on the Kentucky side they are big, fat, and as broad as they are long; on this side they are shaped like a North river steamboat, long and lean.

I just saw two of 'em sharpen their noses on the pavement, and engage in mortal combat; one rushed at his neighbor, struck him between the eyes, split him from end to end; cart came along, run over the two halves, cut them into hams and shoulders in a jiffy Чrequiescat in many pieces. This is decidedly a rich country; the staple productions are big hogs, ragged niggers, and the best horses in the United States. The people live principally on bread made of corn, whisky ditto; and hog prepared in various barbarous ways. They give away whisky and sell cold water. The darkies are mostly slaves; they nail horseshoes over their doors to keep away the witches, indulge in parti-colored hats in the most superlative degree of dilapidation, go barefooted, and have large apertures "in puppes pantalooni." It is a perfect treat to watch their entertaining performances. At the hotel the allowance is fourteen niggers to each guest, and as each one seems to be possessed of the peculiar idea that his province is to do nothing at all, with as many flourishes as possible, the confusion that follows is far from being devoid of entertainment.

They never bring you anything you call for; if you ask for chicken, you will probably get corned beef and cabbage; if you want roast beef, they will assuredly bring you apple dumplings; ask for sweet potatoes, and you'll get fried eggs; send for corn bread, and you're safe to obtain boiled pork; ring the bell for a boot-jack, and you'll get a hand-sled. And when you want to retire at night, instead of providing you with a pair of slippers and a candle, the chances are ten to one the attendant sable angel will give you a red flannel shirt, a shot-gun, a flask of whisky, three boiled eggs, and a pair of smoothing irons.

There is, however, one redeeming feature about the darkies, they won't live in the same country with Irishmen. They can live with hogs, have half a dozen shoats at the dinner-table, a litter of pigs in the family bed, but they can't abide Irish.

The slaves are, as may be imagined, of various colors, ranging from the hue of the beautiful yellow envelope of the Post Office Department, to that of the blackest ink that ever indites a superscription thereon. The theory of "woman's rights" is in practical operation among them; the men cook, set the table, clean up the dishes, do the washing, and spank the babies, while their blacker halves hoe corn, chop wood, go to market, and "run wid de masheen."

Have great fruit in this country; apples big as pumpkins; not very large pumpkins, small-sized pumpkins, diminutive pumpkins, infantile pumpkins, just emerged from blossomhood, and ere they have assumed that golden overcoat which maketh their maturer friends so glorious to the view. And pumpkin pies, manufactured by the sable god of the kitchen; pies enormous to behold; wherein after they are ready to be devoured you might wade up to your knees in that noble compound which filleth the interior thereof, and maketh the pie savory and nectarean; in fact, pies celestial, whereof writers in all ages have discoursed eloquently.

To return to the principal topic Ц the darkies Ц they are all built after the same model; hand like a shoulder of mutton, teeth white as milk, foot of suitable dimensions for a railroad bridge, and mouth big enough for the depot; have all got six toes on each foot, skull like an oak plank, yellow eyes, and nose like a split pear.

XXV
The Thespian Wigwam

It naturally required some considerable time to recover from the tremendous effect produced upon my nervous system, by witnessing the unequalled acting of the "American Tragedian;" so that several weeks elapsed before I felt again disposed to visit a theatre.

At length, however, I began to feel a longing for the green curtain again; and feeling time hang heavy on my hands from the fact that I had an entire evening at my own disposal, I held a great consultation with my inseparable friends, on the most feasible and agreeable method of sacrificing the great horological enemy.

After mature deliberation, we resolved to visit the lately established, "truly gorgeous temple of the 'muses,'" and witness the redemption of one of the pledges of the Directors, who had promised us the restoration of the legitimate classic drama. We believed that there we should find "true artistic taste, displayed in the adornment and decoration of the building," and that we should see "sterling plays acted by performers of the highest merit; where every attention would be paid to propriety and elegance of costume, and splendor and magnificence of stage appointments."

We took a stage and navigated up Broadway until we came opposite Bond street, to the place where a big canvas sign marks the entrance to the "Grand Thespian Wigwam, and Head Quarters of Modern Orpheus."

Through a wedge-shaped green-baize door Ц down a crooked pair of stairs Ц under an overhanging arch Ц and we stood in the parquette.

Took a front seat, and immediately had occasion to commend the economy of the managers in not lighting the gas in the upper boxes Ц then proceeded to admire in detail the many beauties of this superb edifice, which, at first glance, reminded me of an overgrown steamboat cabin.

Looked for a long time at the indefinite Indian over the stage, trying to fix the gender to my satisfaction, and decide whether it is a squaw or an individual of masculinity Ц hard to tell, for it has the face, form, and anatomical developments of the former, and the position and hunting implements of the latter Ц I concluded that it must be an original Woman's Rights female, who, in the lack of breeches, had taken possession of the "traps" of her copper-colored lord and master, and, getting tired of the unusual playthings, had lain down to take a snooze.

Admired the easy and graceful drapery painted on the "drop," which looks as if it was whittled out of a pine shingle Ц took a perplexed view of the assorted landscape depicted thereon Ц endeavored to reconcile the Turkish ruins with the Swiss mountains, or the Gothic castle with the Arab slaves Ц wanted to harmonize the camels and other tropical quadrupeds on the right, with the frozen mill-pond on the left Ц couldn't understand why the man on the other side of the same, among the distant mountains, should be so much larger than the individual close to the shore, who is supposed to be nearer by several miles.

Tried to make out what the man in a turban is doing with his legs crossed under him, on a raft, but gave it up Ц admired exceedingly the two rows of private boxes, which looked like windows in a martin-house, but could not perceive the propriety of having them supported by plaster of paris ladies, without any arms, and their bodies covered up in patent metallic burial-cases. (I was informed that the artist calls them Cary?tides.)

Was impressed with the admirable proportions of the stage; a hundred and eleven feet wide, by four feet ten inches deep Ц reminded me forcibly of an empty seidlitz-powder box, turned up edgeways Ц censured the indelicacy of the managers in permitting the immodest little cupids, who tacitly perform on the impossible lutes and fiddles, to appear before so refined an audience, "all in their bare" Ц (my friend says the drapery was "omitted by particular request.")

Was much chagrined about a mistake I made concerning a picture on one of the proscenium flats, which I mistook for a Kentucky backwoods girl, with a bowie-knife in one hand and a glass of corn-whiskey in the other; but I was told that it represents the tragic muse, with the dagger and poison bowl.

Resolved not to be deceived about the match picture on the other side, and after an attentive scrutiny, I determined that it is either a female rag-picker with a scoop-shovel, or a Virginia wench with a hoe-cake in her hand; and I made up my mind that any one disposed to heathenism might safely worship the same, and transgress no scriptural command, for it certainly is a likeness of "nothing in the heavens above, the earth beneath, or the waters under the earth." Many other barbaric attempts at ornamentation claimed my attention, and would have received particular notice, had I not perceived by the stir in front of the stage that the performance was about to commence.

The multitudinous orchestra came out in a crowd Ц the big fiddle man took the emerald epidermis from off his high-shouldered instrument, and after a half hour preparatory tuning, and forty-one pages of excruciating overture, the little bell didn't ring (they never ring a bell at this aristocratic establishment Ц it smacks of the kitchen), but with a creaking of pulleys, a trampling of feet, a rattling of ropes, and a noise like a full-grown thunderstorm, the curtain went up.

Magnificent forest scene Ц two blue-looking trees on one side Ц a green baize carpet to represent grass Ц blue calico borders over head to suggest sky Ц a bower so low the hero thrice knocked his hat off going under to see his "lady love," and a mossy bank in one corner, made of canvass, stretched over a basswood plank, and painted mud color.

Audience all silent, waiting the coming of the "Evening Star," the lovelorn heroine of the piece Ц at length she comes Ц with a hop, step, and a jump, she blushingly alights in the middle of the stage Ц applause Ц she teeters Ц cheering Ц she teeters lower yet Ц prolonged clapping of hands Ц bouquet hits her on the head; she picks it up and teeters lower still Ц a dozen or so more fall at her feet, or are scattered indiscriminately over the fiddlers and the boys in the front row Ц somebody throws a laurel wreath Ц she again teeters to the very earth, so low that I think she will have to sit flat down and pick herself up by degrees at her leisure, but she ultimately comes up all right.

Melodramatic villain comes on with a black dress, and a blacker scowl on his intellectual visage Ц has some hard words with the heroine Ц she calls him a "cowardly wretch," a "vile thing," defies him to his teeth, tells him to do his worst, and finishes in an exhausted mutter, in which I could only distinguish disconnected words, such as "poison," "vengeance," "heaven," "justice," "blood," "true-love," and "death."

Despairing lover appears in the background, remarkable principally for his spangled dress and dirty tights, at sight of whom the defiant maid immediately changes her tune, and prays powerful villain to spare her beloved Adolphus Ц powerful villain scowls blacker, and turns up his lip Ц heroine gets more distracted than before Ц scowly villain won't relent Ц suffering young lady piles on the agony, and implores him "to save my father from a dungeon, and take this wretched hand."



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