Doesticks: What He Saysскачать книгу бесплатно
(I noticed this last remarkable fact a long time since.)
Give us joy, for we have found a place where things are done up right, where we can choose our own viands, where the beef is positively tender, where there are no little red ants in the sugar, where the potatoes are not waxy, and where, if anything goes wrong, we can inflate the waiter.
In fact, we are suited; if anything runs short, "John gets particular fits" and "nuthin' shorter;" where we can eat when we please, and call for what we please; where charges are moderate, and it is permitted to grumble at the waiter for nothing.
And here, in this Elysian spot, have Bull Dogge and I taken our daily bread (beans and butter included) for the past month, "without fear and without reproach."
As our poetical friend, Thomas Plus, has remarked,
"Joy, joy, forever, our task is done,
Our trials are past, and our Restaurant is some."
Damphool says my concluding quotation is not strictly correct, but what does he know about it?
The Potency of Croton Water, or an aqueous quality hitherto unknown
It has been a cherished superstition of our ancestors that water as a beverage is innocuous; I myself was laboring under this infatuated delusion when I left the shades of private life, and the sweet retiracy of the swamps of Michigan, to become a denizen of the Island City.
Believing that my previous experience in the article justified me in drinking freely of the treacherous liquid, I did not hesitate on my arrival here to imbibe on various occasions as much of the undiluted Croton as my thirsty body seemed to need.
How I was deceived in the potency of the fluid a single night's experience will show; I am confident that on this particular occasion I was bewitched by the mischievous God of the stream called the Croton, and that, if I had given him any further opportunities to exercise his craft, my name would positively have appeared in the Police Reports some morning, and Doesticks would have been therein stigmatized as "Drunk and Disorderly."
But the imputation would be slanderous, – I will lay before the public the events of a single night, and its verdict shall be a triumphant vindication of my character, – shall exculpate the Deity Bacchus (now resident in Ohio,) from the grave charge of leading me astray, – and lay the entire blame of the transaction upon the rascal River God.
Only once in my life have I been drunk. It was a youthful inebriation, caused by partaking too freely of cider made from apples with worms in them. At present I am sober. If, since my sojourn in this city, I have been intoxicated, then the time has arrived when any person who wishes to have a regular "drunk" need only apply to the nearest hydrant.
Heretofore I have supposed water to be a beverage innocent and harmless; but now – well; no matter – I will not anticipate.
Listen while I relate a "plain, unvarnished tale."
I left my boarding-house in company with a friend, intending to witness the Shakspearian revival at Burton's – the "Midsummer Night's Dream." Before leaving the hotel, at his suggestion, we partook of a potable, known, I think, as punch —whiskey punch. I watched attentively the preparation of this agreeable beverage, and I am certain that there entered into its composition a certain amount of water – Croton water, as I have every reason to believe; and I am also sure that in that treacherous draught I imbibed the first instalment of that villanous liquid which produced the diabolical state of facts I am about to describe; and also that the second and third of those ingenious inventions (both of which we drank on the spot) were as guilty, in this respect, as their "illustrious predecessor!"
And I furthermore conscientiously state that my glass of brandy (one of a couple we ordered soon afterwards), and which, according to my invariable custom, should have been "straight," was also surreptitiously diluted with the same detestable fluid by the malicious bar-keeper, for I remember experiencing a slight confusion on going out, and mistaking a topsail schooner for the Broadway theatre.
We immediately entered another saloon to procure the wherewith to steady our nerves, when we partook of two gin cocktails and a brandy smash individually, and I state, according to the best of my knowledge and belief, that our principal ingredient in each and every one of these compounds was water – Croton water – culpably introduced therein by some evil-disposed persons without my knowledge or consent.
On leaving this saloon, I noticed that my friend, although a single man, had by some mysterious process of multiplication become two. I kept fast hold of both, and, after doubling, with a great deal of difficulty, a great number and variety of corners, we reached Burton's. Tickets being mysteriously procured, we entered, and eventually obtained seats. Finding, after prolonged trial, that it was impracticable to put my hat in my vest pocket, I placed it on the floor, and put both feet in it. The theatre generally seemed to be somewhat mixed up. The parquette, gallery, and dress circle were all one; and the stage was whirling round at a rate which must have been extremely inconvenient to the revolving actors.
At length, after a liberal allowance of overture, the curtain went up, and I was enabled, by the most unremitting attention, to concentrate the actors sufficiently to understand the performance. And many things which I hitherto deemed dramatically incorrect were presented to my wondering vision then and there.
"Hippolyta" was dressed in knee-breeches and brogans, and "Titania" did not, to me, present a very fairy-like appearance in a fireman's red shirt and a three-cocked hat. "Oberon" was not so objectionable (being a gentleman,) in a talma and plaid pantaloons, though even he might have blacked his boots and omitted the spurs. I fear I did not properly appreciate the rest of the fairies, who had their heads decorated with sunflowers and their hands full of onions.
At last the entertainment was concluded, and I remember consulting with my duplicated friend as to the feasibility of a return to Brooklyn, to our boarding-house. On our journey thither we witnessed many strange things about which I desire information.
In the first place, is it the custom, as a general thing, for the City Hall and Barnum's Museum to indulge in an animated contra-dance up and down Broadway in the middle of the night, accompanied in their fantastic movements, by the upper story of Stewart's and the Bible Society's building? For they certainly did on that eventful evening, and I feel called upon to enter my solemn protest against these nocturnal architectural saltatory exhibitions, as unworthy the dignity of the Empire City.
And I would, with all humility, suggest, that if the stony goddess of Justice, whose appropriate place is on the top of the City Hall, will desert her responsible post, she might choose a more becoming amusement than sitting cross-legged on the top of a Houston street stage, playing the jews-harp.
I am now convinced that Bowling-Green fountain is not permanently located on the top of Trinity Church cross; but that it was on that memorable night, my wondering eyes bore ample testimony.
I am sufficiently well acquainted with the city to know that the Astor House should be found on the corner of Barclay street, but I am ready to take my oath that on that particular occasion it plied as an opposition ferry-boat between Whitehall street and Hamilton avenue. The last thing I distinctly recollect is trying to pay the fare for three on this novel craft, with a single piece of money (which I now know to have been a Bungtown copper), and demanding two-and-sixpence change, which I didn't get.
In the morning I found myself in bed with my overcoat on, and afterwards discovered my boots under the pillow – my hat in the grate, with my pantaloons and hair-brush in it – my watch in the water-jug, and my latch-key in the bird-cage. I presume I had tried to write a letter to some one with my tooth-brush, as I found that article in my inkstand.
Now, if Croton water interferes with my susceptible system in this unaccountable manner, what shall I drink? I would resort to milk, but I fear our city edition of the lacteal contains sufficient of the aqueous enemy to again upset my too delicate nerves. I exclaim, like C?sar, when he, too, was afflicted with superfluity of water, "Help me, Cassius, or I sink!"
What would be the effect of brandy and water without any water, and a little lemon?
It has been asserted, that no humbug can be invented which is so improbable that it will find no believers. No theory is too ridiculous, no folly too great to turn the stomach of the modern wonder-seeking Public; it opens its staring eyes, perhaps, a little wider than usual at some transcendent tomfoolery, but its sapient optics have as yet discerned nothing in all the superfluous deceptions and jugglery of the age, too hugely nonsensical to be swallowed without even a single qualm.
Hence, all the "pathies" and "isms" of medical Empiricism, all the newly discovered charlatanry of the legal trade, and even the latest form of religious quackery, that new device of bashful, half-grown, bastard Infidelity, denominated Spiritualism, which would be impious if it was not idiotic, have all received from the wise ones of the nineteenth century belief and credence.
For at this time of triumphant and successful humbug – when indiscriminate puffery is freely used to boost into notice all kinds of sham, deception, and deceit, which thereupon grow fat and thrive – when vermin exterminators, lucifer matches, and patent blacking employ such high-flown language in commendation of their merits, that inventions of real merit and importance must resort to the basest bombast to keep pace with the foolery of their neighbors – when solid merit which would succeed, must vie in euphuistic phrase with brainless emptiness which will– when, in Literature, inane collections of stolen wit, diluted humor, and feeble fiction are spawned in scores from weak-brained fops and aspiring women, inflated by unsparing puffery into a transient notoriety, and palmed upon the public as works of sterling merit – when even these Doestick Letters are purchased and perused, it may easily be imagined that no impudent humbug, if properly managed, will turn the stomach of the enlightened Yankee Nation.
It is not astonishing, that, in a sort of gross imitation of the clairvoyants and spirit-seers, other persons not quite so intellectual perhaps, but fully as reliable should also profess to hold converse with invisible beings.
The fortune-tellers of the city are these, and they certainly deserve praise for attempting to apply their pretended knowledge to some practical use, instead of dealing entirely with abstractions. In New York these people are numerous, and they pick up as many coppers in quite as honest a way as their fellows in the art of table-tipping notoriety.
Having read the advertisement of a Grand street fortune-teller, who advertised herself the "seventh daughter of a seventh daughter," a lineal descendant from some one of the Egyptian magicians who couldn't kill the frogs – I straightway resolved to pay her a visit.
Since that memorable day my destiny is no longer a mystery. I know it all. I know what kind of a woman I'm to marry, how many children we're to have, how many will die of measles, and how many will be choked with the croup, and can calculate to a quart how much castor oil I shall have to lay in for family consumption. I've had my fortune told by a witch.
The witches of modern time do not frequent graves and gibbets at midnight – they hold no nocturnal orgies with dancing skeletons and corpses, brought by the black art back to temporary life – they now-a-days take no pains to conceal their trade, but advertise it in the daily papers.
Their believers are not now the great men and wise women of the earth alone, but chamber-maids and servant girls who want love-powders to win some noble swain – or some verdant countryman anxious to recover the pilfered eelskin which contained his treasured pennies. They easily satisfy these gullible customers, by promising the first no end of rich, handsome princes, who are to appear some day and carry off their brides in four-horse coaches; and the latter by an extemporaneous description of the thief, and a wish that he may suffer pains in his head, heart, liver, and all other important parts of his body, until the property is restored.
Witchcraft is rife in our midst, and we do not hang or burn the hags and beldames who practice it, or stick them full of needles, or duck them in the horse-ponds, as in the good old days of Salem – more's the pity.
In this day of railroads and three-cent stages, they have no occasion to perform their journeys upon broomsticks; and in our city, where cream is only traditionary, they cannot bewitch their neighbors' churnings, or throw their dire enchantments over the incipient cheese – so the protective horse-shoe is of no avail.
They have robbed the trade of all its mystery and romance; we hear no more of mighty magician, with hoary beard and flowing robe, with magic wand and attendant spirits; no more "weird sisters," with talon fingers and sunken eyes; not even romantic wandering gipsies – but ugly women, with unwashed hands, who can't spell.
The calling has degenerated, and the necromantic trade has passed into the hands of unworthy successors, who would steal their living, if cheating wasn't easier. And the trade thrives, and the swindling practisers thereof flaunt in silks, while honest virtue staves off destitution by making "hickory" shirts at eight cents a piece.
Went up town, found the house, rung the bell, and was shown into a shabby room by a stuttering girl, who informed me by instalments that her mistress would see me presently. Examined the furniture – rickety table, ditto chairs, bare floor with knot-holes in it, unctuous mirror, two hair trunks, a clothes basket, and a hat-box.
Enter mistress – minus youth, beauty, hair-pins and clean stockings.
She wore no flowing robe figured with cabalistic signs, she bore no sable wand of magic, but she was clad in a calico dress, and had a brass candlestick in her hand – she drew no mystic circle, she performed no inscrutable incantations, she spoke in no unknown tongue – but she put the candlestick on the rickety table, sat down in a cane-bottomed chair, and asked me what my name was, and what I wanted.
Told her I wanted to find out who I was going to marry, and wanted her to tell me a lucky number in the lottery, which should draw a prize big enough to support the family – also wanted a description of the man who stole my jack-knife, and a knowledge of the place where I could find the same.
Now she began to work – she did not consult the stars – she did not cast my horoscope – she did not even ask me where I was born, or what my father did for a living – she exhibited no strange paraphernalia of sorcery and conjuration – no obscure language, suggestive of a divination or enchantment, fell from her prophetic lips.
She only asked me if I had any moles on my person, and what I dreamed about last night – then plunging her hand through a slit in the side of her dress, she fished out from some unknown depth a pack of cards. Greasy were they, and well worn – the knave of spades had his legs torn off, the queen of diamonds had her face scratched with a thimble, two of the aces were stuck together with beeswax, and the king of clubs had evidently been used to skim flies out of the molasses.
After much shuffling of the royal and plebeian members of the pack, she got them fixed to her satisfaction, and I proceeded to draw therefrom nine cards, which she disposed in three symmetrical piles; then looked them over – bit her lip – stamped her foot; then told me that my knife had been stolen by a squint-eyed Irishman, who had disposed of it to his uncle for a dozen cotton night-caps, sixty cigars and thirty cents ready money, and that if I was anxious to reclaim it, I would find it at No. 1 Round the Corner.
Asked her if I was big enough to lick the Irishman, at which she waxed indignant, and for a moment I half feared she would turn me into some horrible monster; that, like Circe of old, she would exercise her magic power, and qualify me to play a star engagement at the Metropolitan Theatre by transforming me into an elephant, a she-wolf, or a Bengal tiger.
But, as my mouth didn't get any larger, my toe nails grow any longer, or my fingers change to claws; as I felt no growing appetite for blood, and my nose didn't elongate into a trunk, I soon recovered my equanimity.
Then she went on to say that No. 67 would draw me a prize in the lottery, and that I could get it of "Sam" – that I would marry a red-haired woman, who would die and leave me with a nursing baby – that I would then be "jilted" by a widow, and finally wed a lady whose description corresponds exactly with my present washer-woman; our family is to increase to seventeen; my second son is to be President, and my eldest daughter is to run away with the Czar of all the Russias. She wasn't exactly positive about the manner of my death, but from the looks of the jack of clubs, she "judged I should break my neck coming home from a clam-bake."
Gave her a dollar, and left. A month has passed – 67 seems a promising number – hav'n't got my knife yet, but live in hope – have seen my future wife, hav'n't yet proposed, but have reason to suppose she would not object.
She was in Catharine street, and had a basket on her head full of shrimps.
City Target Excursion
In this City, which, even in cholera seasons, is most heroically nasty, when the filth in Broadway gets so deep as to stop the stages and throw the cars off the track, men are sent round by the City to expend an infinity of labor in hoeing it into symmetrical heaps, like miniature fortifications. In fact, if plenitude of mud could avail to protect a town from invading foes, New York might bid the world defiance, for all the allied powers of all the earth could no more reduce our (in that case) impregnable City, than the late chivalrous Lord Forth could take Sebastopol, by lying flat on his back, and calling for his ma to come and take him home. As the City authorities content themselves with erecting these picturesque monuments, and do not trouble themselves to remove the same, but leave them to adorn the landscape, of course the first rain metamorphoses the fragrant mass from an embryo mountain to a diminutive lake, almost disgusting enough to make a street contractor sick. No lady attempts the perilous navigation of our streets, unless she has been a couple of seasons at Newport or Rockaway, and learned to swim like a mermaid. And any man who would black his boots in the morning, would be taken to the Lunatic Asylum before night. A search for a dry crossing would be a hopeless pilgrimage, and he who would find a get-over-able-without-getting-your-shoes-full-of-mud street in this metropolis, would wear his life out in a fruitless exploration, and be prematurely planted in Greenwood, with his object unattained. In ordinary times the ladies sweep the sidewalks tolerably clean with their trailing skirts, but now they seem to have thrown up their contract. Coming down town the other day in a stage, our reckless driver tried the depth of one of the above mentioned municipal lakes – the wheels stuck fast – the vehicle settled into the hopeless depth – one scream from the ladies – one unanimous curse from the men – one frantic, furious, ineffectual struggle of the horses, and in another instant we were floating a hopeless wreck. Every one for himself. I saw one of the ladies dragged safely out by the hair – men eventually reached the land in safety, but I rejoiced to see a malignant baby, (which during our journey had screamed and kicked one half the time, and the other half persisted in calling me "Daddy," and soiling my shirt-front with its sticky fingers,) go to the bottom amid a universal chorus of thanksgiving from the company. Got ashore myself, with my coat spoiled, my hat minus, my boots full of water, and my whole person "dripping from the recent flood," like a he-Venus rising from an odoriferous ocean.
As a consequence of my involuntary bath, I have since been afflicted with a severe toothache, pleading which comfortable and soothing ail, I obtained leave of absence for a day from the popular establishment where I have the honor to sell peanuts and pop-corn to the confiding public, and I resolved to employ the unusual holiday in attending one of the peculiar institutions of grown-up New York, denominated a "target shoot."
From the incongruous population of the village aforesaid, target companies spring up with the rapidity and profusion of mushrooms in an old pasture. In all other cities they are exotics, and never have a vigorous and healthy existence – here only are they indigenous, and on Manhattan Island do they flourish in native luxuriance.скачать книгу бесплатно
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