Philander Doesticks.

Doesticks: What He Says



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In fact, New York, every New Year's Eve, goes to bed with a huge brick in its municipal hat, and, as the legitimate effect of such indiscretion, awakes next morning with a tremendous corporate headache Ц "Young America," for once, is unstarched in appearance; and in deportment, meek as the sucking dove.

XXI
Amusement for the Million Ц A 2.40 Sleigh-ride

Sleigh-riding is an amusement to which I was never partial, for I cannot appreciate the pleasure there is, in a man's deliberately freezing his feet, and congealing his fingers into digital icicles; and for my own part unless there was some unusual charm beyond the ride itself, I would as soon think of seeking an evening's amusement by sitting a given number of hours on a frozen mill pond with my pedal extremities stuck through a hole in the ice into the water below. And in the city there are even more discomforts attending this popular penance than in the open country.

The man who would trustingly endeavor to draw a sherry cobbler out of a clam-shell, make a gin sling from cold potatoes, lard oil from railroad spikes, or a mint-julep out of sea weed and chestnut burs Ц or hopefully essay the concoction of a satisfactory oyster stew from jack-knife-handles and bootlegs, is the only person I can conceive of, sanguine enough to anticipate an evening's pleasure from a city sleigh-ride.

I can readily conceive that in the country, give a man a fast team, a light sleigh, a clear sky, a straight road, a pretty girl, plenty of snow, and a good tavern with a bright ball-room and capital music waiting at his journey's end, the frigid amusement may be made endurable Ц possibly, to a man enthusiastic enough to seek for pleasure with the thermometer at zero, even desirable.

But in New York, we can't get an unadulterated country sleigh-ride, any more than we can get genuine country milk Ц neither will bear importation. In both cases some unbargained-for dash of cold water interferes with the purity of the article, and nips in the bud our delusive anticipations.

The conditions necessary to a thorough-bred sleigh-ride can never be present in a great city. In the first place, the snow (an item of some importance) cannot even reach the earth unsullied; it is met in its quiet journey by some aspiring chimney, some impertinent roof, or ambitious spire, all dust-covered and smoke-begrimed, or by some other of the spontaneous nuisances indigenous to a city, and is robbed of its maiden purity, as its first welcome to the lower world Ц then, mixed with ashes, soot, and pulverulent nastiness of every sort Ц tainted with dainty perfumes of gas, garbage, markets and slaughter-houses, besides all the volatile filth of six hundred thousand perspiring bipeds (not mentioning hogs, horses, rats, dogs, and jackasses), it comes from upper air to us, expectant citylings Ц and even then we have to take it second-hand, for it is stopped in its airy transit by countless awnings, the tops of innumerable houses, stages, drays, and hackney-coaches, and the hats and outside apparel of the peripatetic multitude Ц from all which meddling mediums, it is transferred to the cold charity of the stony pavement, where the first installment, in sorrow for its sullied purity, dissolves itself in discontented tears, and sulkily seeks, by some narrow down-hill track, its grave Ц the common sewer.

But a persevering snow-storm, which gives its whole attention to the work, sometimes succeeds in covering the streets of Gotham with a pepper-colored mixture, which we accept as snow.

When the air is cold, this peculiar substance cuts up into a kind of greyish sand, as much like real snow, as wild geese are like wooden legs Ц and when the weather is moist, it degenerates into a muddy, malicious mixture, in which the city flounders, until a drenching rain dilutes the mass into a coffee-colored flood, which sneaks into rivers through back lanes and dirty alleys, leaving the thoroughfares once more practicable.

One week last winter eight inches of snow set our city people crazy, and turned Broadway into a horse purgatory. From Bloomingdale to the Battery, the street was filled with sleighs, cutters, pungs, jumpers and every variety of sled, all full of screeching, screaming men, women and children, in different stages of frigidity and voluntary discomfort, but all seeming, by their actions, to reiterate the cockney sentiment Ц "Wat's the hodds, long's you're 'appy?"

Every man who could hire or buy a transient interest in a string of bells and a horse, jackass or big dog, went in for an independent ride on his own hook Ц and those who could not compass this luxury, piled pell-mell into the stage sleighs, a hundred in a heap, each bound to have a sixpence-worth of slushy, slippery, horse locomotion.

At this crisis, Sandie proposed to me to join a company who were going to undertake an evening's pleasure, calculating to ride through the city, see the sights, go out of town to a ball, and dance till morning.

Agreed to go, put on my tightest boots, and got ready Ц time came, sleigh arrived, got in, received a promiscuous introduction to seventeen young ladies, by the light of a street lamp. Couldn't of course distinguish their faces so as to tell them apart, and so was continually calling Miss Jones, Miss Snifkins; Miss Loodle, Miss Vanderpants; and addressing Miss Faubob and Miss Wiggins by each other's names; which, as they were ready to scratch each other's eyes out for jealousy, and hadn't been on speaking terms for a year and a half, made the matter decidedly pleasant.

Found a place for my feet among the miscellaneous pedal assortment at the bottom Ц sat down, held on with both hands, and prepared to enjoy myself. After a great deal of whipping of the spirited horses, and some curiously emphatic observations by the driver, we got under way. Driver (an enthusiastic Hibernian with one black eye) took the middle of the street, resolved to give the road to nothing Ц met a young gent in a cutter, he didn't turn out, we didn't turn out, collision ensued, young man got the worst, his hat was smashed, and his delicate person left in a snow-bank Ц his horse started, hit against a lamp-post, then ran away, distributing the ruins of the cutter all along the road, leaving a piece at every corner and telegraph pole, until there wasn't enough left in any one spot to make a rat-trap Ц finally dashing through the show window of a confectioner's shop and being brought to a stand-still by the shafts sticking in a soda fountain.

Met a charcoal cart, run against us and distributed a shower of pulverized nigritude over the company, to the great damage of the clean linen of the gentlemen, and the adornments generally of the ladies, especially those little white rosettes which they had tied on the backs of their heads, and dignified with the fabulous title of bonnets.

Met a stage sleigh, got jammed with us Ц and during the three minutes preceding our violent extrication, I had leisure to take particular notice of the inmates.

Now, even in ordinary times, any kind of an omnibus is a purely democratic institution, but an omnibus sleigh containing ordinarily, anywhere from fifty to a hundred and twenty people, is a most effectual leveller of aristocratic distinctions.

In this particular vehicle, a fashionably dressed Miss, had from necessity, taken her seat in the lap of a Bowery boy, who, in his anxiety to make her comfortable, had put one arm round her waist, and one hand into her muff.

An up-town merchant was carrying a washerwoman's baby, while a dandy, in patent leather boots, was holding her bundle of dirty linen.

A news-boy, stealing a ride, was smoking a Connecticut cigar, and puffing the smoke into the faces of the incongruous assembly.

A negro woman was sustaining her position on the edge of the slippery craft, by holding on with one arm round the neck of a clergyman in a blue cloak with a brass hook and eye at the neck, who had a basket of potatoes with a leg of mutton in it, which a sailor was using for a shield to protect him from the shower of snow balls, fired by the boys on the corner Ц naughty boys Ц one hit one of our ladies on the head, she made a very pretty faint, but was soon revived by a piece of ice which I slipped down her back Ц one blacked the driver's other eye, and a particularly and solidly unpleasant one, hit Sandie in the mouth and waked him up.

Began to be sensible of the pleasures of my situation Ц felt as if my boots were full of ice water, my nose a Croton water pipe, and my fingers carrot-shaped icicles. Each leg seemed a perpendicular iceberg my feet good sized snow-drifts, my head a frozen pumpkin, and the inside of me felt as if I had made my supper on a cast-iron garden-fence.

As, however, these peculiar but unpleasant sensations are inseparable from the sleigh-riding performances, I tried to warm myself by imagining volcanoes and conflagrations; and, indulging in a hope of hot brandy and water at my journey's end, endeavoured to bear my trials like a frozen martyr, as I was.

Got to the hotel at last, waiters rescued us and got us into the house, which was full of parties ahead of us. Burnt the skin off my throat trying to thaw my congealed digestive apparatus, by drinking brandy and water boiling hot; ladies imbibed hot gin sling all round "ad libitum," gentlemen ditto, and "Da Capo."

Ready for a dance; got into the ball-room, which was so full already that each cotillon had only a space about as big as a pickle-tub Ц "balance four" and you stepped on somebody's heels and tore off the skirt of some lady's dress Ц "forward two" and you poked your nose into the whiskers of the gentleman opposite, and felt his neck-tie in your eye, and "promenade all" was the signal for an animated but irregular fancy dance upon the toes of the bystanders.

But this quadrille was voted by most of our ladies to be altogether too antiquated and energetic Ц the truth is, city dancing is no more like a country jig than a dead march is like a hornpipe Ц in the one case the ladies slide about with a die-away air, as if one lively step would annihilate their delicate frames; and in the other, they dance, as if they were made of watch-springs and india rubber.

The only way to get an ordinary city girl really interested in a dance, is to have some moustachoed puppy put his arm round her waist, hug her close up to him, spin her round the room till her head swims.

But the dancing couldn't last for ever, and at length we had to prepare for the ride home.

Towards morning the music got tired, the leading violinist was fiddling on one string on the wrong side of the bridge, and the ophicleide man, unable from sheer exhaustion to convey his potables to his mouth, was pouring them into his instrument, which he had regaled with four mugs of ale and a brandy smash, and the little fifer, with his foot in the big end of the French horn, was wasting his precious breath in trying to coax a quick step out of a drumstick, which he mistook for a flageolet.

Compelled to stop dancing. Ladies went to a private room and repaired their damaged wardrobe with pins and other extemporaneous contrivances, known of them alone. Gentlemen put on what hats and great-coats the preceding parties had left, paid the bill Ц woke up the driver, and all started for home.

Shower came on, making the ladies look like damaged kaleidoscopes, and taking the starch out of the gentlemen's collars Ц the gum out of their hats, and the color out of their whiskers.

Upset Ц females got scattered round loose (horses didn't run away, not a bit of it), one young lady had her foot in my overcoat pocket, and both hands clinched in my hair Ц got out of the snarl at last, and found that I had traps enough hanging to me to manufacture a small-sized new married couple Ц a set of false teeth in my fur glove Ц two pairs of patent moustaches, with the springs broken, in my hat-band, half a head of glossy, ringleted hair in my button-hole, a lace collar hanging to my pantaloons, and my boots full of puff combs.

Righted up at last, hurried over mile-stones, curb-stones, and pebble-stones, till we reached the city Ц took the young ladies home, and was immediately after arrested by a moist watchman for being a suspicious character, and only identified by my friends in the morning, just in time to keep my name out of the papers.

Am completely disgusted with sleigh-riding Ц the enjoyment is purely imaginary, and the expense not at all so. Excitement ain't pleasure, any more than sawdust pudding is roast turkey Ц and then too, the girls are so different Ц girls here are such touch-me-not creatures, that no one understanding the nature of the animal would venture on a kiss, unless he wanted to get his mouth full of magnesia and carmine; fuss, feathers, furbelows and flummery, will never make a woman out of any of these, until a new saddle and pair of gilt spurs will transform a sucking-calf into a race-horse.

A modern belle stands no kind of a chance with a country beauty Ц pale cheeks and dingy complexions may be alleviated by chalk and vermillion; but artificial hues are always evanescent, nature alone paints cheeks in fast colors. Sitting up late and guzzling brandy punches wont put the same kind of crimson in the face that is placed there by getting up in the morning, feeding the chickens, chasing the pigs out of the garden, and drinking sweet milk for breakfast. And not only in looks do they differ, but they


"have yet
Some tasks to learn, some frailties to forget."

An affected giggle won't pass muster for a hearty laugh Ц superficial boarding-school "finishing" is not education, for bad spelling will show, though the pen be held by jewelled fingers Ц and bad French, bad Italian, and worse English, are miserable substitutes for conversation, though uttered by the fairest lips that ever lisped in fashionable drawl.

It is true that in the circle of my limited acquaintance I have the honor to number some ladies whose unaffected manners, natural grace, and true politeness place even my usual awkwardness at perfect ease, while their superior intelligence causes me to feel most deeply my extensive non-acquirementsֆbut to every one of these I have met twenty who, although they could dance, sing, play the piano; paint on velvet, or work in worsted, flowers unknown in botany, and animals to which ordinary natural historians are strangers; couldn't write an intelligible English note, or read anything more difficult than easy words in two syllables; and if told that wheat bread is made out of kidney potatoes wouldn't know the difference.

I repudiate all this tribe of diluted milk-and-water misses, and should I ever feel matrimonially inclined shall commission some country friend to choose me a wife who can darn stockings, and make pumpkin pies anyhow, and hoe and chop cord-wood, if in any case the subscriber shouldn't be able to meet current family expenses.

XXII
Cupid in Cold Weather.†Ц Valentine's Day

In accordance with some heathen custom, the origin of which is unknown to moderns, a certain day is selected in the year, when people send hosts of anonymous letters to other people, generally supposed to be on the subject of love, but which are not unfrequently missives containing angry, malicious, or insulting allusions. This is a day to rejoice the hearts of the penny postmen, who always get their money before they give up the documents. This glorious day is, as most people are aware, the fourteenth of February Ц time when young ladies expect to receive sentimental poetry by the cord, done up in scented envelopes, written upon gilt-edged paper, and blazoned round with cupids, hearts, darts, bows and arrows, torches, flames, birds, flowers, and all the other paraphernalia of those before-folks-laughed-at-but-in-private-learned-by-heart epistles known as "Valentines."

A time when young gentlemen let off their excess of love by lack-a-daisical missives to their chosen fair; praising in anonymous verses their to-other-eyes-undiscoverable-but-to-their-vision Ц brilliantly-resplendent charms Ц poetizing red hair into "auburn ringlets," Ц making skim-milk-colored eyes, "orbs, the hue of heaven's own blue," Ц causing scraggy, freckled necks to become "fair and graceful as Juno's swans," and deifying squat, dumpy young ladies into "first-rate angels."

A time when innumerable people take unauthorised liberties with the name of a venerable Roman, long since defunct, laying themselves under all sorts of obligations, payable in friendship,†Ц pledging any amount of love, and running up tremendous bills of affections, making no solid man responsible therefor, but only signing the all-over-christendom-once-a-year-universally-forged cognomen "Valentine."

Most of these communications are amatory, some sickish, some nauseating, some satirical, some caustic, some abusive; for it seems to be a time which many a man takes advantage of to revenge some fancied slight from scornful lady, by sending her one of those scandalous nuisances, misnamed "comic Valentines;" because he thinks there will be so many of the foul birds upon the wing that his own carrion fledgling cannot be traced to its filthy nest.

Bull Dogge, who is looking over my shoulder, remarks, that the man who would insult a lady, by sending an anonymous letter, would steal the pennies from a blind man, and then coax his dog away to sell to the butcher boys.

And Bull Dogge is right.

A time when the penny postman is looked for with more interest than if he bore the glad tidings so anxiously expected, "Sebastopol not taken," Ц Laura Matilda in the parlor, to whom he brings but one, looks with envious eyes upon Biddy in the kitchen who gets two.

A time when men who haven't got a wife wish they had, and those who are provided with that article of questionable usefulness wish they had another; when maids wish for one husband, and matrons for half a dozen.

A time when nunneries and monasteries go into disrepute, and the accommodating doctrines of Mahomet, and the get-as-many-wives-as-you-can-support-and-keep-them-as-long-as-they-don't-fight principles of Mormonism, are regnant in the land.

And above all, a time when independent bachelors like the deponent, are beset with so many written laudations of the married state, by unknown females, that every single-blessed man in all the land wishes he could take a short nap and wake up with a good-looking wife and nine large-sized children.

On the morning of this traditional pairing-off day, the postman brought me seventeen letters, all unpaid, and all from "Valentine." Retired to my room Ц closed the curtains Ц lit the gas Ц placed before me a mug of ale and two soda crackers, and proceeded to open and examine the documents.

No. 1 was sealed with beeswax and stamped with a thimble; and from its brown complexion, I should think it had fallen into the dishwater, and been dried with a hot flatiron. I couldn't read it very well Ц there wasn't any capitals Ц the g's and y's had tails with as many turns as a corkscrew, the p's bore a strong resemblance to inky hair pins, the h's resembled miniature plum trees; every f looked like a fish-pole, and every z like a frog's foot, and the signature I should judge had been made by the ink bottle, which must have been taken suddenly sea-sick, and have used the paper as a substitute for the wash-bowl.

All I could understand of it was "my penn is poor, my inck is pail, my (something) for yew shal never" do something else, I couldn't make out what.

No. 2 was in a lace envelope Ц cucumber-colored paper, and was perfumed with something that smelt like bumble-bees; handwriting very delicately illegible, proving that it came from a lady Ц spelling very bad, showing that it came from a fashionable lady Ц poetry very unfamiliar, commencing "come rest in this" the next word looked like "boots," but that didn't seem to make sense Ц concluded it must be "barn-yard" as it went on to say "though the herd have fled from thee, thy home is still here." Couldn't make out whether she was in earnest and wanted me to come and see her, or was only trying to insinuate that I was a stray calf, and had better go home to my bovine parent.

(Bull Dogge says he wonders the ladies take such pains to render their correspondence unreadable Ц the up-strokes being just visible to the naked eye, and the down-strokes no heavier than a mosquito's leg Ц and why there is such a universal tendency to make little fat o's and a's just on the line, so that they look like glass beads strung on a horse-hair Ц and why they will persist in making their chirography generally so uncertain and undecided that a page of ordinary feminine handwriting looks like a sheet of paper covered with a half finished web, made by 'prentice spiders, and condemned as awkwardly clumsy by the journeymen spinners).

Will somebody answer Bull Dogge?

I soon threw aside No. 2 in disgust, and went on to the others Ц most of them pictured off with hymeneal designs; plethoric cupids with apostolic necks Ц flowers the like of which never grew anywhere Ц birds, intended for doves, supposed to be "billing and cooing," but which, in reality, more resembled a couple of wooden decoy ducks fastened together by the heads with a tenpenny nail Ц a heart stuck through with an arrow, reminding me of a mud turtle on a fish spear Ц little boy with a feather duster (supposed to represent Hymen with his torch,) standing by a dry-goods box with a marking brush sticking out at the top of it, (put by courtesy for an altar with a flame on it,) going through some kind of a performance with a young couple (supposed to be lovers intent on wedlock,) who appeared as if they had done something they were ashamed of, and deserved to be spanked and put in the trundle-bed Ц besides vines and wreaths, bows, arrows, babies, and other articles, the necessity of which to human happiness I have ever been at a loss to discover.



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