Philander Doesticks.

Doesticks: What He Says



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Made up my mind that the objects of that feminine institution, a Ladies' Fair, are somewhat as follows:

Firstly, to give the ladies an opportunity to show their new clothes, and to talk with a multitude of unknown gentlemen, without any preliminary introduction.

Secondly, to beg as much money as possible from the gentlemen aforesaid, under the transparent formality of bargain and sale – which sale includes the buyer, who is really the only article fairly "sold" in the whole collection.

Thirdly, to give some money to the ostentatiously poor, if there is any left after paying expenses, and the Committee don't spend it in carriage-hire.

In New York, by a refinement in Benevolence, engendered by the hardness of the times, and the necessity of making the money go as far as it will, charity money answers a double purpose; procuring pleasure for the rich, and soup for the poor.

Thus if you pay three dollars for a ticket to the Opera or Ball, you can enjoy your Aria, or Schottische, with a double relish; and can eat oysters and turkey, and gulp down creams and ices till your stomach "strikes," in the labor of love, with the happy consciousness, that it is all for "sweet charity" – and if the three dollars, before it reach the needy, in whose behalf you gave it, dwindles to three dimes and a tip, you can, knowing you have done your duty, poetically exclaim, with the noble Thane, "Thou can'st not say I did it."

XVII
Millerite Jubilee – How they didn't go up

In company with many others of the same genus and who may be classed under the same general cognomen, my friend Damphool lately became convinced that according to the comfortable prediction of Mr. Miller, the "end of Earth" would become speedily visible to the naked eye, as that amiable gentleman had advertised the world to burn on the nineteenth day of May, 1855. According to the programme, the entertainment was to commence with a trumpet solo by Gabriel (not the one of City Hall celebrity), to be followed by a general "gittin' up stairs," and grand mass meeting of the illustrious defunct – after which "the elect" were to start for Paradise in special conveyances provided for their accommodation – the whole to conclude with a splendid display of fireworks in the evening.

Damphool had done nothing but sing psalms for a week. Bull Dogge, who was also a convert, had packed up his wardrobe in a hat-box, and left the city; saying that he owned forty shares in a Kentucky coal mine, and was going to take possession of his property; and he offered to bet us the drinks that if he stood on a vein of that coal, he would be the last man scorched.

Damphool squared up his board bill, and paid his washerwoman, which left him dead broke; sold his watch to a "blaspheming Jew" to raise money with which to procure an ascension robe; in order to do honor to the occasion, he got one made of linen cambric; it was a trifle too long, and cut him malignantly under the arms, but he bore it like a martyr; he got shaved, took a bath, put on his robe, bid me farewell, and got ready to go up.

I discovered the place from which they were to start, and went up myself to see the operation – in a vacant lot, where there were no trees to catch their skirts in their anticipated flight – large crowd on the ground.

One maiden lady in a long white gown, had also dressed her lap-dog in a similar manner.

Man with a family Bible in his hand, had forgotten his robe, and come in his shirt-sleeves.

Ancient wench in a white night-gown, with red shoes, and a yellow handkerchief round her head, knelt down in a small puddle of rain water, and prayed to take her up easy, and not hurt her sore ancle.

Lady from East Broadway, came in a robe cut low in the neck, and trimmed with five flounces.

Red-haired woman made her appearance with a crying baby, to the consternation of the company, who expected to go to Heaven, and had no relish for a preliminary taste of the other place.

Careful old lady, brought her overshoes in a work-basket, to wear home in case the performance should be postponed.

Little girl, had her doll, and her three year old brother had a hoop, a tin whistle, and a painted kite.

Poor washerwoman came, but as she had only a cotton robe, and a scant pattern at that, the more aristocratic ladies moved farther away, and smelt their cologne, while the poor woman knelt down in the corner, with her face to the fence.

Sixth Avenue lady came in a white satin robe; had a boy to hold up her train, and she had her own hands full of visiting cards.

An African brunette carried a cushion for her mistress to kneel upon, and a man followed behind with a basket containing her certificate of church membership, a gilt-edged prayer-book, two mince-pies and some ham sandwiches.

Old cripple hobbled up, and as he was devoutly saying his prayers, a bad boy (who had not made any preparation for aerial travelling) stole his crutch to make a ball club.

Crowd began to separate into knots, according to their different creeds and beliefs; Unitarians, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists, clustering round their respective preachers.

I noticed that one old lady, evidently believing in the perfect sanctity of her darling minister, and desiring to insure her own passage, had tied herself to his left leg with a fish line.

Baptist man was preaching close communion.

Presbyterian man was descanting on the accountability of infants, and asserting that a child three years old can commit sufficient sin to doom it to the lowest hell.

Sunrise – all knelt down to pray; east wind blew, and it began to rain.

I noticed that Damphool had found a dry place on the lee side of a cider barrel.

Methodist man took off his coat, and made a stump prayer, while all his congregation yelled "Glory."

Baptist man inserted a special clause in his supplication, that he and his crowd might go up in a separate boat.

Ministers all prayed at each other, and for nobody.

Know-Nothing clergyman addressed a long-winded political prayer to the Almighty, detailing the latest election returns, deploring the choice of the opposition candidate, imploring his blessing on the next governor (if the world should stand), insinuated that he expected the nomination himself, and concluded by advising Him to exclude from heaven all foreigners, or they would refuse to live up to the regulations, and would certainly kick up another row among the celestials.

Down-town man, on hand, ready to go up; tried to pray, but from want of practice, could only utter some disjointed sentences about "uncurrent funds," "money market," "Erie down to 36;" (Damphool whispered that if that man ever got to heaven he would melt down the golden harp into coin, and let it out at two per cent. a month.)

Began to rain harder; wind decidedly chilly; their teeth chattered with cold, and they began to wish for the conflagration to commence. Naughty boys on the fence began to throw stones – promiscuous praying on every side. Anxious man stopped in the midst of a long, touching supplication to cuff the ears of a little boy who hit him with a brick; hours slipped away, began to think the entertainment was "postponed on account of the weather."

Noon came; folks were not half so scared as they were in the morning; ministers had got too hoarse to talk, and were passing the time kissing the sisters.

Damphool looked so chilly that I got him a glass of hot whiskey punch; he looked at me with holy horror, and went on with his prayer, but before he got to "amen," the punch had disappeared.

Husband of red-haired woman came and ordered her to go home and wash the breakfast dishes and then mend his Sunday pantaloons.

One o'clock, zeal began to cool off; at two the enthusiasm was below par; at three the rain poured so that I thought an alteration in the Litany would be necessary to make it read, "Have mercy upon us miserable swimmers." Small boy threw a handful of gravel at long man, which hit him in the face, and made him look like a mulatto with the small-pox.

Long man punched small boy with a fence rail.

Four o'clock; Gabriel hadn't come yet. Damphool, much disappointed, muttered something about being "sold;" people evidently getting hungry; no loaves or fishes on the ground; woman with two children said she was going home to put them in the trundle-bed; long man looked round to see that no one was looking, then tucked his robe under his arm, got over the fence, and started for home on a dog trot.

Dark; no signs of fireworks yet; pyrotechnic exhibition not likely to commence for some time. Crowd impatient. (I here missed Damphool, and found him an hour afterwards, paying his devotions to an eighteen-penny oyster stew and a mug of ale.)

Stayed an hour longer, when the crowd began to disperse, with their ascension robes so sadly draggled, that if they had received a second summons to go, it would have taken an extra quantity of soap-suds to make them presentable among decent angels.

Appointed myself a committee of five to inquire into the matter; offered the following resolution, which I unanimously adopted: —

Resolved, That putting on a clean shirt to go to heaven in, don't always result in getting there, even though the tails be of extra length, and that the creed which teaches such a mode of procedure is a farcical theology, fully worthy to be ranked among the many other excellent "sells" of that veteran joker of world-wide celebrity —Jo Miller.

XVIII
The Great "American Tragedian."

The only dramatic performances known in the wild region where I passed some of my early years, are given by companies of strolling players who usually give their classic entertainments in a barn, have a piece of carpet for a drop curtain, four tallow candles for footlights, and who generally go out of town in the night without paying their Tavern bills.

Almost every Drama performed by them, requires more people to represent it than are contained in the entire troupe; the services of a crowd of aspiring country boys are secured for soldiers, citizens, robbers, and other personages who don't have to say anything; but there is still a large gap which can only be filled by the "doubling" of several parts by one performer. Hence it is by no means unusual in the "tragedy of Richard III." to see King Henry, after being deliberately despatched by Gloster in the first act, reappear in the second as the Duke of Buckingham, and then, after his supposed decapitation in obedience to the ferocious order of Richard, "Off with his head," come back in the final scenes, equipped in a full suit of mail, as the Earl of Richmond, and avenging his double murder by killing the "crook-backed tyrant" with a broadsword after a prolonged struggle.

And in Macbeth, King Duncan, after being carved up by his treacherous kinsman with two white handled butcher-knives, returns as Hecate in the witch scenes, and afterwards as court physician to Lady M., besides which he generally blows the flourishes on the trumpet for the entrances of the King, beats the bass drum, and attends to the sheet-iron thunder.

I have always had a passion for theatricals, and was at one time of my variegated existence much more intimately connected with the stage than at present – and on reaching this city I felt, of course, a great desire to behold again the theatre, with all its brilliant fascinations – the light, the music, the varied scenery comprising gardens, chambers, cottages, mountains, "cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces," bar-rooms, churches, huts and hovels – to look again upon the glass jewels, the tinselled robes of mimic royalty, the pasteboard banquets and molasses wine, and all the glory, "pride, pomp and circumstance" and humbug which I once "knew so well," "et quorum magna pars fui."

So, with my trusty friends, Damphool and Bull Dogge, I wended my way to the Metropolitan Theatre No. 1, to see and hear the distinguished Mr. Rantanrave Hellitisplit, the notorious American tragedian, in his great, original, unapproachable, inconceivable, inexplicable, incomprehensible part of "What a bore O, the last of the Vollypogs."

I had heard so much of this great actor in this particular part, that I expected to behold nothing less than the "Eighth wonder of the world."

Opera glasses were continually levelled at us by people who, impelled by a laudable curiosity, were anxious to see all that could be seen. (Damphool says, that when you see a woman with one of these implements, you may be sure she wants to be looked at – and called my attention to the confirmatory fact, that all the ladies with the finest busts, and the best developed forms, wore their dresses the lowest in the neck, and sported the biggest opera glasses). (Bull Dogge asserts that they were invented by the author of "Staring made Easy," and "A Treatise on the Use of Globes.")

After a season of tramping by the intelligent audience, which seemed, by its measured regularity, to intimate that they had learned the motion in the treadmill, the bell jingled and the members of the orchestra entered, one by one.

The audience endured the prolonged tuning of the instruments, conducted in a masterly manner by the leader of the band, the music got "good ready" for a fair start, and at the word "go" they went.

Could not critically analyse the uproar, but it seemed to be composed of these elements: a predominance of drum and cymbals – a liberal allowance of flute and horn – a spasmodic sprinkling of trombone – a small quantity of oboe, and a great deal of fiddle. The tumult was directed by the leader, who waved the fiddle over his head, jumped up and down upon his seat, kicked up his heels, disarranged his shirt collar, threw his arms wildly about, stamped, made faces, and conducted himself as if he was dancing a frantic hornpipe for the gratification of the crazy whims of an audience of Bedlamites.

At length the curtain went up – two men came on and said something, then two others came on and did something – then the scene changed, and some others came on and listened to a shabby-looking general, who seemed to be their "magnus Apollo" and who certainly was very long-winded.

Nothing decisive, however, came to pass until the long-expected entrance of the great Hellitisplit himself eventuated.

I must confess that I was awed by the terrific yet serene majesty of his appearance. When I saw the tragic, codfishy expression of his eyes, I was surprised; when I observed the flexibility of his capacious mouth, opening and shutting, like a dying mud sucker, I was amazed. When my eye turned to his fingers, which worked and clutched, as if feeling for coppers in a dark closet, I was wonder-stricken – but when my attention was called to the magnitude of his legs, I was fairly electrified with admiration, and could not forbear asking Bull Dogge if those calves were capable of locomotion.

What-a-bore-O, is supposed to be an Indian Chief, and although it is the prevailing impression that Indians are beardless, the face of this celebrated performer proved this opinion to be a physiological fallacy.

For upon his chin he wore a tuft of hair, a round black hirsute knob, neither useful nor ornamental, but which looked as if somebody had hit him in the face with a blacking-brush, and a piece had stuck to his lower jaw.

The admiring audience, who had kicked up perfect young earthquake when he came on, only ceased when he squared himself, put out his arm and prepared to speak.

That voice! Ye Gods! that voice! It went through gradations that human voice never before attempted, imitating by turns the horn of the City Hall Gabriel, the shriek of the locomotive, the soft and gentle tones of a forty-horse-power steam sawmill, the loving accents of the scissor-grinder's wheel, the amorous tones of the charcoal-man, the rumble of the omnibus, the cry of the driver appertaining thereto – rising from the entrancing notes of the infuriated house-dog to the terrific cry of the oyster vender – causing the "supes" to tremble in their boots, making the fiddlers look around for some place of safety, and moving the assembled multitude to echo back the roar, feebly, it is true, but still with all their puny strength.

(Bull Dogge says he got that awful voice by eating pebble-stone lunches, like the man in the book.)

Several times during the piece I was much affected – when he wound his arms round his wife, stuck his head over her shoulder, and kissed the back of her neck – when he made a grand exit, with three stamps, a hop, a run, and two long straddles – when he talked grand about the thunder, shook his fist at the man in the flies – when he killed the soldiers in the council room, shouted for them to "come one and all," and then ran away for fear they would – when he swore at the man who did not give him his cue – when he knelt down and said grace over his dead boy, and then got up and stuck his wife with the butcher-knife; but at no part of the whole piece was I so impressed with his pathetic power, his transcendent genius, as when he laid his hand solemnly on his stomach, and said "What a bore O, cannot lie!" (Damphool asked, in a whisper, if Othello's occupation was gone).

And at the death scene, when he was shot, I was again touched to the heart; first he wabbled about like a top-heavy liberty pole in a high wind; then he stuck out one leg, and wiggled it, after the manner of a galvanic bull-frog; then sat down on the floor, opened his eyes and looked around; then grappled an Indian on one side, clutched a soldier on the other, struggled to his feet, staggered about like a drunken Dutchman, made a rush forwards, then a leap sideways, stiffened out like a frozen pig, collapsed like a wet dish-cloth, exerted himself till his face was the color of an underdone beefsteak, then sank back into the arms of the Indians, whispered to let him down easy, rolled up the whites of his eyes, settled himself to die – concluded to have a parting curse at the surrounding people, took a long swear, laid down, and with a noise in his throat like castanets, a couple of vigorous kicks and a feeble groan, gave up the ghost.

Bull Dogge asserted that he would resuscitate, brush the dust off his legs (take some gin and sugar, and come out and make a speech), all of which he did; the butcher boys in the gallery (Damphool says Hellitisplit commenced life as a respectable butcher-boy, but has degenerated into the man he is,) gave three cheers, Hellitisplit opened his mouth four times, shut it thrice (he went off with it wide open), and backed off with a grace which we may suppose would be exhibited by a mudturtle on the tight-rope.

Damphool was in ecstacies – Bull Dogge asked me how I liked the "great American," &c. I replied that I knew not which most to admire, his euphonious voice, or his tremendous straddle, but that (notwithstanding the late appropriation of the name by a rival show-shop), I was ready to maintain with the butcher boys that there was but one Metropolitan Theatre, and Hellitisplit is its profit.

XIX
"Side Shows" of the City

We are all aware that Chatham Street and the Bowery are the legitimate abiding places of those benevolent Hebrews, whose zeal for the public welfare, and pity for ragged humanity, lead them to continually offer their valuable and undoubtedly durable articles of wearing apparel to the needy public "below cost;" and the enviable philosophy with which they bear the "alarming sacrifices" which must daily deplete their ample fortunes, has often been the subject of wondering remark.

The question, what becomes of these philanthropic tradesmen after their ultimate impoverishment, which of course must speedily supervene, is a fruitful subject for the investigation of some inquisitive mind. The charitable supposition is, that as soon as their pecuniary ruin is effectually accomplished, they retire to the shades of private life, happy in the consciousness of having done their little utmost to benefit the human race; seeing in each well dressed man, a perambulating monument of their beneficence, and in each ragged urchin, cause of regret that their altered circumstances cannot afford him a better pair of breeches.

But these Israelitish avenues before mentioned, are not only the headquarters of these philanthropic gentlemen, but are the depot for many other imitations of humanity, and curious specimens of human skill unknown to the unobserving.

Here abound those impassive wooden Indians of some tribe extinct, save in these civilized localities, who stand in the doors of seven by nine tobacco-factories, offering in persevering silence perpetual bunches of basswood cigars to the passer-by.

Here are plentifully sprinkled multitudes of three-cornered shops where patient and eager women, so sharp and shrewd at a bargain, that he who buys must have all his wits about him, offer for sale the most incongruous assortment of second-hand property; from a last year's newspaper to a complete library, from a pint-cup to a seventy ton yacht, from a brass night-key to a steam-engine.



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