Philander Doesticks.

Doesticks: What He Says



скачать книгу бесплатно

XXXIV
Keeping the Maine Law

By the enduring perseverance of the lovers of cold water, laws have been passed in most of the Western States forbidding the sale of those beverages which make men rich, happy, dizzy, and drunk, all in the space of half an hour; so that now a good horn is not, as formerly, to be purchased at every corner grocery, and travellers are forced to carry a couple of "drunks" in a willow-covered flask in their overcoat pocket.

The usual "bitters" are not forthcoming in the morning, and old topers who have for years regularly paid their morning devotions to the decanter or the black bottle, must now perforce become votaries of the hydrant and the rain water barrel.

Not a few men have, within the last four months, drunk more water than for years before, to the great astonishment of their stomachs, which would, at first, almost rebel against the unusual visitor.

Many an habitual guzzler whose convivial habits have generally sent him to bed at five o'clock every afternoon, has been amazed to discover what a difference the new drink makes in the stability of the village constituents; and it will be a matter of wonder to find that at four in the afternoon the town is in comparatively the same situation it was in the morning; that the tavern sign is not over the shoe-maker's shop, nor the horse-trough in the front-parlor; that the pump is in the street instead of the church belfry, the confectioner's shop not in the livery stable, the livery horses not in the bakery, the bakery not a hardware store, the hardware store not full of shingles and building stuff; that the poplar-trees in front of the minister's house are right end up, and the flower-garden of the minister's wife is in a state of ordinary propriety, with no snow-balls growing on the strawberry vines, or strawberries on the lilacs; no blue-bells on the locust-trees, violets on the currant bushes, or lilies in the onion-beds; that there are no tulips on the pickets, and no moss-rose buds springing from the shed, – and that the boy who waters the stage-coach horses every afternoon as the clock strikes quarter to five, does not lead them tail first up the church lightning rod, and make them drink from the ridge-pole, as he had always thought.

In short he finds a serious and sudden change in the world around him, and that all the curious phenomena before mentioned and which formerly were always present in the afternoon to his confused vision, immediately after imbibing his seventeenth glass of rum and water, have ceased to occur, and that every thing is now right side up, and front end foremost to his ever before bewildered optics.

And not a few men who would be ashamed to own that they really care anything for the drop of spirits which they occasionally take for the "stomach's sake" will be seriously incommoded by this new stringency in temperance principles; and the deacon or elder who in the privacy of his closet kept a spiritual comforter of half pint dimension will miss, more seriously than he would like to own, even to himself, this pious dram.

Longer faces and sourer tempers will be the result, and many a young aspirant to church membership will be found deficient in necessary Christian graces, which the charitable eyes of his thirsty examiners might have found in abundance, had not the Maine Law interfered with the generosity of their judgment, and made their vision less clear than usual.

But these are things it will not do to speak of; only the gross appetites of the three cent drinker should be made matters of common conversation.

Travelling lately through the thirsty State of Ohio, I had many opportunities of observing how they get round and over the letter of the Law.

In that state the framers of the law, with a commendable regard for the commercial welfare of their constituents, many of whom are large vine-growers, inserted a special clause allowing the traffic in beer and native wine to remain unmolested.

Travellers will therefore find in this State now a greater variety of wine than is grown in any other one country in the world.

Liquors which he, in another place, would recognise as brandy, rum, or gin, are partially disguised under transparent cognomens as native wine.

Brandy-"smashes," rum-punches, gin-cock-tails, sherry-cobblers, mint-juleps, and every kind of desirable potable, are all manufactured from "Longworth's Sparkling" – old corn-whiskey is known as "Still Catawba" – and a vast deal of the "lager-beer" is put up in brandy casks, and tastes exceedingly like the genuine article.

Being in the vicinity of the Pork city (where they have a ham on the top of the tallest church spire in the place, pointing with the knuckle end to Heaven,) I had an opportunity to visit a large wine-cellar which belonged to Damphool's uncle, who was to accompany us, and had also from him permission to taste the different vintages.

Got to the place, went down cellar, boy gave each of us a long stick with a tallow candle on the end; got down; wine everywhere, in big casks, in long bottles, in small bottles, in tin dippers, in glass vials, and in little puddles on the floor.

Bottles ranged in regiments all wrong side up with cobwebs on the corks.

Every one had the year of the vintage painted on the bottom, as if it was a British baby and its age had to be registered by the parish.

One cask was big enough to float a scow-boat or hold a common-sized church if the steeple wasn't too tall.

Damphool senior wanted to get in and swim – was afraid he'd get corned and couldn't get out, wouldn't let him try.

He would insist on getting on top of the reservoir – had a glass pump in his hand – pumped up wine for every body – put the spout into his mouth, and pumped into himself for an hour, – first fifteen minutes made him rich; second quarter of an hour made him tearful; at the end of forty-five minutes he was helpless but happy; and when the hour was up he tumbled off the top of the machine and we stowed him away in a corner, where he lay until he revived sufficiently to be able to partake of some bread and butter which the Dutch housekeeper gave us, and which he insisted was lobster salad, and kept calling for boiled eggs, olive oil, and mustard to dress it with.

At last he was taken violently sick, and we took him out doors, set him on top of a basswood stump, when he looked like "Patience on a monument smiling" – although he tried to convince us that he was D.

Webster, Esq., and insisted on making a speech to convince us that he "still lived."

Never before had I seen wine of such tremendous power. One of our party was addressing a number of pint bottles alternately as "Fellow citizens," "Gentlemen of the Jury," and "Ladies of the Committee."

Another had seated himself in a small puddle of Still Catawba on the brick floor, and was calling out for soap, towels, and a black boy to scrub his shoulders.

A third had emptied four bottles of "sparkling" into his vest-pockets to take home to the children, and put the fragments of the glass into his hat under the impression that they were hickory nuts, which he tried to crack with the carriage lamps, evidently supposing them to be nut-crackers.

My most intimate friend was trying to feed the horse some oats, by which appellation he called a three-cornered harrow and a breaking-up plough, and had filled the buggy with wild flowers, as he supposed, but which were, in reality, two year old grape vines, which he had pulled up by the roots.

Did not allow myself to become affected in like manner, as I had to spend the evening with the family of one of the "solid men" of Porkopolis, an ardent supporter of the Maine Law, who always keeps a large variety of liquors in his cellars, and insists, whenever his friends spend an evening with him, on making them pass their time drinking whiskey-punch, with seven whiskeys to one water. Passed a delightful evening, called the children by French names, mistook the piano for the hat-rack, hung my hat on the harp-pedal, and laid my gloves on the key-board. Met Damphool's uncle as I was going to the hotel; he had brought home the glass-pump, thinking it was our carriage-whip, but was otherwise sensible.

Is going to sell his vineyard, and turn teetotaler.

XXXV
Theatricals once more. – Shakspeare darkeyized. – Macbeth in high colors

In a street of the city, not more than four miles from the City Hall, in humble imitation of the magnificent temples of the Drama erected by ambitious managers in more pretentious portions of the town, the sable portion of our population have also built an appropriate mansion wherein is supposed to reside the dingy Genius of Ebony Theatricals.

A portrait of some sable Garrick adorns the drop curtain; a thick-lipped lady of dark complexion on one side of the proscenium represents the Goddess of Tragedy; and on the other a woolly-headed brunette in short skirts is supposed to stand for the Goddess of Comedy.

What though the portrait of the African Roscius in the drop centre, instead of Classic Roman robes, is attired in a swallow-tailed coat, with brass buttons and a red velvet collar? and what if the two ladies before mentioned are resplendent in sky-blue dresses and yellow turbans? perhaps their unusual garb is quite as appropriate to the atmosphere of the place, as the more elaborate, more classic, more costly, but considerably less gaudy wardrobe allotted to corresponding divinities in more fashionable Theatres.

The appointments generally at this place might not be considered very tasteful by the "white trash," who get their ideas of propriety from Wallack's or Burton's; but any impartial observer will admit that the scenery is more creditable than the dirty green and brick-red abomination of the Metropolitan, or the paint and canvas hash with Dutch metal seasoning, which has been for years a standing dish at the Broadway, and which is still served up nightly to a surfeited audience.

The female visitors who attend the delectable performances of the talented corps of this colored establishment, do not make themselves quite so ridiculous with their dress as their white competitors, but it is only because they have not the money to be as fashionable; the desire is probably fully as strong, but the cash don't hold out.

And as the white folks, in the construction of their pieces for dramatic representation, sometimes represent in a peculiar light the warmer blooded passions of their "dark complected" neighbors, in retaliation the colored dramatists reverse the order and make the white men in their drama wait upon the colored heroes, black their boots, groom their imaginary horses, brush their coats, and perform all the varied round of servile duties which in representatives of the same plays by white men are assigned to them.

The play of Othello is the single exception – they make the Venetian warrior a white man in a red roundabout, who makes fierce love to Desdemona, who is the molasses-colored child of a respectable darkey whitewasher.

Lorgnettes, Opera-hoods, and white kids are not exhibited here in such profusion as in some other places of amusement; on the contrary, green spectacles, sun-bonnets, and calico dresses are rather in the ascendant.

As a phase of city life which does not often turn its side to the public, and as a place to enjoy an unlimited amount of fun for a little money, the Church street colored Theatre is well worth visiting.

A grand Shakspearean festival was lately announced to come off here, on which occasion the tragedy of Macbeth was to be performed with "all the original music, new and gorgeous scenery, rich and elegant costumes, magnificent scenic appointments, &c.," according to the time-honored "gag" in such case made and provided.

The novelty of seeing a black Macbeth with the entire tragedy done in colors by the best artists, promised to be almost as good a burlesque as the bearded Indian exhibition made by the great American Tragedian at the Broadway; and so with a varied assortment of friends I started to witness the unusual spectacle of a Bowery darkey representing a Scotch king.

Paid the entrance fee all in dimes, as the door-keeper couldn't read the Counterfeit Detector, and wouldn't take bills for fear he would get stuck with bad money.

Orchestra consisted of a bass-drum, one violin, and a cornet-?-piston. Seats, new benches with coffee-sacks spread over those constituting the Dress Circle.

Orchestra essayed the Prima Donna Waltz, which gradually degenerated into "Wait for the Wagon," and concluded in "Few Days."

Great deal of whispering and shuffling about behind the scenes, a great deal of emphatic ordering about from the unseen prompter, who was trying, as nearly as I could judge, to have Macduff take his chew of tobacco out of his mouth, and at last the curtain rolled up.

Macbeth was a fat gentleman of jetty hue who might have been head-cook at Delmonico's for twenty years, and who would, had he been subjected to a melting process, have furnished soap and candles enough for a small chandlery business.

Whether he intended to give the tragedy a gastronomical interpretation or not is uncertain, but it is a veritable fact that he dressed the character in a cook's apron, had a paper cap with a long turkey feather in it on his head, his steel by his side, a butcher-knife in his hand, and the cover of the soup-pot for a shield.

Macduff was attired more like a Lake Superior Indian than anything else, with a superfluity of red flannel fringe, and silver rings in his ears and nose.

Lady Macbeth rejoiced in a tin crown with seven points, each one with a crescent on top, brass-heeled gaiters, a dress with a purple waist, and a green baize train, two cameo bracelets, and lemon-colored kid gloves.

Old King Duncan was a young man who seemed to labor under the impression that to support his royal dignity it was only necessary to grin incessantly, and turn his toes in when he walked; his royal highness had on a high hat with a red feather, plaid pantaloons (being the only symptom of Scotch costume visible during the evening), and an embroidered vest, through which, as he wore no coat, the sleeves of his blue shirt appeared in agreeable contrast; he sported a silver watch, four seal rings, an opera glass, and a gold-headed cane.

All the other characters were dressed with equal regard to propriety and elegance of costume, and with equal disregard to expense.

The warlike paraphernalia were on the same appropriate scale; instead of Scottish claymores and basket-hilted swords, muskets were introduced which had probably seen service in some target company, until too battered and damaged for further use; shields were dispensed with except in the single case of Macduff, – instead of daggers, many were provided with horse-pistols, and one aspiring individual had a sword-cane and a slung-shot.

Several of the "supes" were painted like Indians, and carried banners made of horse-blankets, nailed to barrel staves – the three witches had each a hoe and a stable-fork, and Hecate was equipped with a straw-hat and a pair of linen drawers put on hindside foremost.

The play commenced, and every thing proceeded in the greatest harmony until the caldron scene, when the apparitions, instead of rising through the trap into the caldron, deliberately crawled from the ring on their hands and knees, and stuck their heads through a hole in a board which was painted in admirable imitation of a dinnerpot, and delivered their prophetic speeches in a huge whisper to the anxious Thane.

The apparition of a "child's head crowned," as the stage direction reads, was done by a fat piccaninny, who was drawn on screaming and kicking in a willow basket by a hidden rope, and the speech was read by the prompter, who squatted down behind the basket, and held his hand over the baby's mouth in a vain effort to stop his noise.

During this scene Macbeth, who was too obese to stand for so long a time comfortably, seated himself composedly on a three-legged stool which did duty afterwards as a throne, – and in fact, whenever during the performance he found himself incommoded by the warmth, he would sit flat down on the most convenient resting-place.

His rendering of the dagger scene was peculiarly original – he took his butcher-knife, tied it by a tow string to a pitch-fork which he stuck in the middle of the stage, sat flat down on the floor before it, and proceeded to deliver the speech with great force and emotion; pausing occasionally to mop his forehead with a yellow bandana handkerchief, and refresh himself by long sips from a pewter mug of beer which he had bestowed in his original shield.

The rest of the company got along very well, managing the removal of Birnam wood in rather a unique manner – when the soldier spoke of a "moving wood" a back scene opened and discovered four darkies carrying pine kindling wood from a wagon with a jackass team, down cellar into a coal-hole.

Whenever an actor forgot his part the prompter would rush out from his hiding place, put the offending artist in the proper position, read his lines for him, and suddenly disappear, until some fresh delinquency called for another shirt-sleeve advent.

Matters progressed towards the close of the piece – Lady Macbeth had played the lighted candle scene (using a bed-lamp, a candle not being forthcoming) – had made her last exit, leaving the green baize train, which had come untied, in the middle of the stage, a sad memorial of her fate – the soldiers had met in a pitched battle (every "Supe" had insisted on dying a death of his own, in order to display his tragic genius), and had expired in various uncomfortable positions; one sitting up against the flat, with his leg through a trap-door, and his mouth open, and another with his head through a bushel basket which he had brought on to use as a shield – all the minor business of the piece was got along with, and it only remained for Macduff and the rotund Macbeth to have their fight, say their say, die their die, and finish the play.

They entered arm in arm, being evidently determined, like prize-fighters, to do their "bloody business" amicably, and as old friends ought.

Macduff remarked to the audience that they were going to "settle that little quarrel" – they then proceeded to strip for the contest.

Macduff retired to one corner and pulled off his boots and spectacles, Macbeth went to another and laid down his jacket and shield – then they met in the middle, shook hands – one flourished a long toasting-fork – the other wielded a rolling-pin – Macbeth made the last speech as follows —

"Come on!!! Macduff be damned!!!" both pitched in – first round, toasting-fork ahead, rolling-pin in the corner with his nose bloody – second round, toasting-fork knocks rolling-pin through a parlor scene and falls back exhausted – third round, both come to time with difficulty, toaster hits roller in the stomach, roller shies his weapon at toaster's head, toaster spears at roller's toes, and breaks his fork.

All their munitions of war being exhausted, they close in an expiring wrestle, and Macbeth eventually dies, having first in the terrific struggle suffered amputation of the pantaloons immediately above both knees.

Macduff recovers his rolling-pin, and stands over the conquered Macbeth in a grand saw-buck attitude of victory and triumph.

XXXVI
Young America in Long Dresses – Great Excitement in Babydom

The late grand convention of precocious and pinguid children, created such a stir throughout the country, that the news, by some unknown conveyance, penetrated even to the obscure Wolverine hamlet wherein Damphool had for four months been content to vegetate. The infantile humbug promised something new in the way of sight-seeing, and as he desired to meet all his relatives and namesakes who would be certain to be present on that eventful occasion, and wished to improve this noble opportunity of contemplating the infant Damphools of the country, who were to be there exhibited by their stultified progenitors, he took the next train of cars and started for Gotham, to view this first congress of rudimentary "humans."

His immediate care, on reaching the city, was to repair to the establishment where I, his former friend, am generally to be found, – having discovered the object of his search, he had some considerable difficulty in convincing me of the utility of such a show, or the absolute necessity that existed of visiting such a promiscuous assemblage of everybody's brats; and paying twenty-five cents to hear a squalling chorus by the unregulated voices of the young ones, and to view the prolific women who had so increased the population of the country, in some cases by as many as four at a single litter.

I had some old fashioned notions that babies should be kept at home, and allowed to take their necessary allowance of nutriment, and soil their un-necessary allowance of linen (a baby is always wrapped up in cloth enough to full-rig a topsail schooner, from the middle of which its insignificant head sticks out, like a lap-dog which has been rolled up by mistake in the parlor carpet), within the limits of the domestic circle; and not paraded before the public to perform these pleasing functions in the presence of an assemblage, composed in great part, of modest young men and bashful maidens, uninitiated as yet, in the mysteries of baby life.



скачать книгу бесплатно

страницы: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16