Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

to

to is in the form of small discs of ivory, for a stranger to venture in search of his called “chips” or “checks” or “shad” room without the guidance of some one or “ skad,” and the price varies from far more familiar with the devious course twenty-five cents to a hundred dollars of the narrow clearings through the forest per “ skad."

of apartments than the landlord himself. It is expected that every person who Now and then a reckless and adventurous opens an account at bank by eating a proprietor undertakes to make a day's supper there shall buy a number of journey alone through his establishment. ** shad," but not with the view of taking He is never heard of afterwards, – or, if them home to show to his wife and chil- found, is discovered in a remote angle or dren. Yet it is not an uncommon thing loft, in a state of insensibility from bewilfor persons of a stingy and ungrateful derment and starvation. If it were not disposition to spend most of their time in for an occasional negro, who, instigated these benevolent institutions without ever by charitable motives or love of money, spending so much as a dollar for “shad,” slouches about from room to room with an but eating, drinking, and smoking, and empty coal-scuttle as an excuse for his inparticularly drinking, to the best of their trusions, a gentleman stopping at a Washability. This reprehensible practice is ington hotel would be doomed to certain known familiarly in Washington as “buck- death. In fact, the lives of all the guests ing agʻinst the sideboard,” and is thought hang upon a thread, or rather, a wire; by some to be the safest mode of doing for, if the bell should fail to answer, there business at bank.

would be no earthly chance of getting The presiding officer is never called into daylight again. It is but reasonable President. He is called “ Dealer,” –

suppose

that the wires to many rooms perhaps from the circumstance of his have been broken in times past, and it dealing in ivory, — and is not looked is well known in Washington that these up to and worshipped as the influential rooms are now tenanted by skeletons of man of banking-houses is generally. On hapless travellers whose relatives and the contrary, he is for the most part friends never doubted that they had contemned by his best customers, whose been kidnapped or had gone down in heart's desire and prayer are to break his the Arctic. bank and ruin him utterly.

The differential calculus by which all Seeing the multitude of boarding-hous- Washington is computed obtains at the es, oyster-cellars, and ivory-banks, you hotels as elsewhere, with this peculiarity, may suppose there are no hotels in Wash- that the differences are infinitely great, ington. You are mistaken. There are instead of infinitely small. While the plenty of hotels, many of them got up on fronts are very fine, showy, and youthful the scale of magnificent distances that as the Lecompton Constitution, the rears prevails ererywhere, and somewhat on are coarse, common, and old as the Misthe maritime plan of the Departments. souri Compromise. The furniture in the Outwardly, they look like colossal docks, rooms that look upon Pennsylvania Aveerected for the benefit of hacks, large nue is as fresh as the dogma of Squatter feets of which you will always find moor- Sovereignty; that in all other rooms dates ed under their lee, safe from the mon- back to the Ordinance of '87. Some of soon that prevails on the open sea of the apartments exhibit a glaring splenthe Avenue. Inwardly, they are laby- dor; the rest show beds, bureaus, and rinths, through whose gloomy mazes it is washstands which hard and long usage impossible to thread your way without has polished to a sort of newness. Spethe assistance of an Ariadne's clue in the cimens of ancient pottery found on these shape of an Irishman panting under a washstands are now in the British Musetrunk. So obscure and involved are the um, and are reckoned among the finest botel-interiors, that it would be madness of Layard's collections at Nineveh.

The dining-rooms are admirable exam- all varieties of males, and you have a ples of magnificent distance. The room vague notion of the people of Washingis long, the tables are long, the kitchen is ton. a long way off, and the waiters a long It is an axiom in physics, that a part time going and coming. The meals are cannot be greater than the whole; and it long, - so long that there is literally no will be recollected, that, after Epistemon end to them; they are eternal. It is had his head sewed on, he related a tough customary to mark certain points in the story about the occupations of the mighty endless route of appetite with mile-stones dead, and swore, that, in the course of his named breakfast, dinner, and supper; but wanderings among the damned, he found these points have no more positive exis- Cicero kindling fires, Hannibal selling tence than the imaginary lines and an- egg-shells, and Julius Cæsar cleaning gles of the geometrician. Breakfast runs stoves. The story holds good in regard entirely through dinner into supper, and to the mighty personages in Washington, dinner ends with coffee, the beginning but the axiom does not. Men whose of breakfast. Estimating the duration fame fills the land, when they are at home of dinner by the speed of an ordinary or spouting about the country, sink into railroad-train, it is twenty miles from insignificance when they get to Washingsoup to fish, and fifty from turkey to nuts. ton. The sun is but a small potato in But distance, however magnificent, does the midst of the countless systems of the not lend enchantment to a meal. The sidereal heavens. In like manner, the wonder is that the knives and forks are majestic orbs of the political firmament not made to correspond in length with the undergo a cruel lessening of diameter as repasts, — in which case the latter would they approach the Federal City. The be pitchforks, and the former John-Brown greatest of men ceases to be great in the pikes.

presence of hundreds of his peers, and The people of Washington are as va- the multitude of the illustrious dwindle inrious, mixed, dissimilar, and contrasted to individual littleness by reason of their as the edifices they inhabit. Within the superabundance. And when it comes to like area, which is by no means a small occupations, it will hardly be denied that one, the same number of dignitaries can the stranger who beholds a Senator “copbe found nowhere else on the face of pering on the ace,” or a Congressman the globe, - nor so many characters of standing in a bar-room with a lump of doubtful reputation. If the beggars of mouldy cheese in one hand and a glass Dublin, the cripples of Constantinople, of “pony whiskey” in the other, or a and the lepers of Damascus should as- Judge of the Supreme Court wriggling semble in Baden-Baden during a Con- an ugly woman through the ridiculous gress of Kings, then Baden-Baden would movements of the polka in a hotel-parlor, resemble Washington. Presidents, Sen- must experience sensations quite as conators, Honorables, Judges, Generals, Com- founding as any Epistemon felt in Kingmodores, Governors, and the Exs of all dom Come. these, congregate here as thick as pick- In spite of numberless receptions, levpockets at a horse-race or women at a ces, balls, hops, parties, dinners, and othwedding in church. Add Ambassadors, er reunions, there is, properly speakPlenipotentiaries, Lords, Counts, Bar- ing, no society in Washington. Cireles ons, Chevaliers, the great and small fry are said to exist, but, like that in the of the Legations, Captains, Lieutenants, vortex of the whirlpool, they are incesClaim - Agents, Negroes, Perpetual - Mo- santly changing. Divisions purely arbition-Men, Fire - Eaters, Irishmen, Plug- trary may be made in any community. Uglies, Hoosiers, Gamblers, Californians, Hence the circles of Washington society Mexicans, Japanese, Indians, and Organ- may be represented sciagraphically in the Grinders, together with females to match following diagram.

[blocks in formation]

66

a

The Circle of the Mudsill includes Ne does as little work as possible. Its only groes, Clerks, Irish Laborers, Patent and trouble is that "incomparable grief” to other Agents, Hackmen, Faro-Dealers, which Panurge was subject, and “which Washerwomen, and Newspaper-Corre- at that time they called lack of money." spondents. In the Hotel Circle, the New- In truth, the normal condition of Washest Strangers, Harpists, Members of Con- ington society is, to use a vernacular gress, Concertina-Men, Provincial Judg- term,“ busted.” It is not an isolated es, Card-Writers, College Students, Un- complaint. Everybody is “ busted.” No protected Females, “ Star” and “States” matter what may be the state of a man's Boys, Stool-Pigeons, Contractors, Sellers funds when he gets to Washington, no of Toothpicks, and Beau Hickman, are matter how long he stays or how soon he found. The Circle of the White House leaves, to this busted” complexion must embraces the President, the Cabinet, the he come at last. He is in Rome; he must Chiefs of Bureaus, the Embassies, Corco take the consequences. Shall be insult ran and Riggs, formerly Mr. Forney, and the whole city with his solvency ? Ceruntil recently George Sanders and Isa- tainly not. He abandons bis purse and iah Rynders. The little innermost circle his conscience to the madness of the hour, is intended to represent a select body of and, in generous emulation of the preresidents, intense exclusives, who keep vailing recklessness and immorality, disaloof from the other circles and hold them misses every scruple and squanders his all in equal contempt. This circle is last cent. Then, and not till then, does known only by report; in all probability he feel himself truly a Washington-man, it is a myth. It is worthy of remark that able to look anybody in the face with the the circles of the White House and the serene pride of an equal, and without the Hotels rise higher and sink lower than mortification of being accused or even that of the Mudsill, but whether this is a suspected of having in all the earth a fact or a mere necessity of the diagram is dollar that he can call his own. not known.

Where morals are loose, piety is selSociety, such as it is, in the metropolis, dom in excess. But there are a halfis indulgent to itself. It intermeddles not, dozen of churches in Washington, beasks no impertinent questions, and trans- sides preaching every Sunday in the acts its little affairs in perfect peace and House of Representatives. The relative quietude. Vigilant as the Inquisition in size and cost of the churches, as comparmatters political, it is deaf and blind, but ed with the Public Buildings, indicates not dumb, as to all others. It dresses as the true object of worship in Washingit pleases, drinks as much as it chooses, ton. Strange to say, the theatre is smalleats indiscriminately, sleeps promiscuous- er than the churches. Clerical and draly, gets up at all hours of the day, and matic entertainments cannot compete

a

with the superior attractions of the daily but affluence. Its public buildings are rows in Congress and the nightly orgies splendid, its private dwellings generally at the faro-banks. Heaven is regarded squalid. The houses are low, the rents as another Chihuahua or Sonora, occupi- high; the streets are broad, the crossings ed at present by unfriendly Camanches, narrow; the hacks are black, the horses but destined to be annexed some day. white; the squares are triangles, except In the mean time, a very important elec- that of the Capitol, which is oval; and tion is to come off in Connecticut or Penn- the water is so soft that it is hard to drink sylvania. That must be attended to im- it, even with the admixture of alcohol. It mediately. Such is piety in Washington. has a Monument that will never be fin

The list of the unique prodigies of ished, a Capitol that is to have a dome, Washington is without limit. But mar- a Scientific Institute which does nothing vels heaped together cease to be marvel- but report the rise and fall of the therlous, and of all places in the world a mu- mometer, and two pieces of Equestrian seum is the most tiresome. So, amid the Statuary which it would be a waste of whirl and roar of winter-life in Washing- time to criticize. It boasts a streamlet ton, when one has no time to read, write, dignified with the name of the river Tior think, and scarcely time to eat, drink, ber, and this streamlet is of the size and and sleep, when the days fly by like much the appearance of a vein in a dirty hours, and the brain reels under the ex- man's arm. It has a canal, but the cacitement of the protracted debauch, life nal is a mud-puddle during one half the becomes an intolerable bore. Yet the day and an empty ditch during the other. place has an intense fascination for those In spite of the labors of the Smithsonian who suffer most acutely from the tedium Institute, it has no particular weather. vitæ to which every one is more or less a It has the climates of all parts of the habprey; and men and women who have itable globe. It rains, hails, snows, blows, lived in Washington are seldom content freezes, and melts in Washington, all in ed elsewhere. The moths return to the the space of twenty-four hours. After flaming candle until they are consumed. a fortnight of steady rain, the sun shines

In conclusion, it must be admitted that out, and in half an hour the streets are Washington is the Elysium of oddities, filled with clouds of dust. Property in the Limbo of absurdities, an imbroglio Washington is exceedingly sensitive, the of ludicrous anomalies. Planned on a people alarmingly callous. The men are scale of surpassing grandeur, its architec- fine-looking, the women homely. The tural execution is almost contemptible. latter have plain faces, but magnificent Blessed with the name of the purest of busts and graceful figures. The former men, it has the reputation of Sodom. have an imposing presence and an empThe seat of the law-making power, it is ty pocket, a great name and a small conthe centre of violence and disorder which science. Notwithstanding all these imdisturb the peace and harmony of the pediments and disadvantages, Washingwhole Republic, — the chosen resort for ton is progressing rapidly. It is fast beduelling, clandestine marriages, and the coming a large city, but it must always most stupendous thefts. It is a city with remain a deserted village in the summer. out commerce and without manufactures; Its destiny is that of the Union. It will or rather, its commerce is illicit, and its be the greatest capital the world ever manufacturers are newspaper-correspond- saw, or it will be “a parched place in ents, who weave tissues of fiction out of the wilderness, a salt land and not inthe warp of rumor and the web of prevar- habited,” and “ every one that passeth ication. The site of the United States thereby shall be astonished and wag his Treasury, it is the home of everything head.”

a

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

SPRING at last stole placidly into sum- tion than an imperial princess bestows on mer, and Marguerite, who was always the taxes that produce her tiara, turned shivering in the house, kept the company slowly from the apparent apathy thus inin a whirl of out-door festivals.

duced on her modes of thought, passivity ** We have not lived so, Roger,” said lost in a gulf of anxious speculation, while Mrs. McLean, “ since the summer when she watched the theatre of events with a you went away. We all follow the ca- glow, like wine in lamplight, that burnprice of this child as a ship follows the ed behind her dusky eyes till they had little compass-needle."

the steady penetration of some wild creaAnd she made room for the child be- ture's. She may have wondered if Mr. side her in the carriage; for Mr. Raleigh Raleigh's former feeling were yet alive; was about driving them into town, - an she may have wondered if Marguerite exercise which had its particular charm had found the spell that once she found, for Marguerite, not only for the glimpse herself; she may have been kept in thrall it afforded of the gay, bustling inland-city- by ignorance if he had ever read that life, but for opportunities of securing the old confessing note of hers: whatever she reins and of occasioning panics. Lately, thought or hoped or dreaded, she said however, she had resigned the latter nothing, and did nothing. pleasure, and sat with quiet propriety Of all those who concerned themselves by Mrs. McLean. Frequently, also, she in the affair of Marguerite's health and took long drives alone or with one of the spirits, Mr. Raleigh was the only one who children, holding the reins listlessly, and might have solved their mystery. Perranging the highway unobservantly for haps the thought of wooing the child whose miles around.

mother he had once loved was sufficientMrs. Purcell declared the girl was ly repugnant to him to overcome the tenhomesick; Mrs. Heath doubted if the derness which every one was forced to climate agreed with her : she neither feel for so beautiful a creation. I have denied nor affirmed their propositions. not said that Marguerite was this, before,

Mr. Heath came and went from the because, until brought into contrast with city where her father was, without re- her mother, her extreme loveliness was ceiving any other notice than she would too little positive to be felt; now it was have bestowed on a peaceful walking the evanescent shimmer of pearl to the stick; his attentions to her during his vis- deep perpetual fire of the carbuncle. its were unequivocal; she accepted them Softened, as she became, from her versaas nonchalantly as from a waiter at table. tile cheeriness, she moved round like a On the occasion of his last stay, there had moonbeam, and frequently had a bewilbeen a somewhat noticeable change in dered grace, as if she knew not what to his demeanor: he wore a trifle of quite make of herself. Mr. Raleigh, from the novel assurance; his supreme bearing was moment in which he perceived that she not mitigated by the restless sparkle of no longer sought his company, retreated his eye; and in addressing her his com- into his own apartments, and was less pliments, he spoke as one having author- seen by the others than ever.

Returning from the drive on the mornMrs. Laudersdale, so long and so en- ing of Mrs. McLean's last recorded retirely accustomed to the reception of mark, Mr. Raleigh, who had remained to homage that it cost ber no more reflec- give the horses in charge to a servant,

ity.

« PředchozíPokračovat »