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and I discovered that the less I said the better pleased the ladies seemed to be. I found, however, that the best way to get on was to grin amazingly, and, having served a long apprenticeship to the horsecollar, I grinned accordingly. Grinning, in fact, on an American New Year's-day is contagious. The tonsor who "barbed " me in the morning grinned like a Cheshire cat; the Irish waiter who brought me my breakfast grinned like the late Mr. Grimaldi; the ordinarily saturnine driver of the hackney-coach grinned like a comic mask as I entered his vehicle; and the darkey-splendidly got up in a striped jacket, a white neckcloth with a bow as big as a boomerang, and Berlin gloves-who admitted me to No. Washington Square, grinned-as only a nigger can grin.
Ab uno disce omnes. One call was very much like another. I was ushered into one gilt and splendid parlour after another, there to find a charming group of ladies in full dress and blazing with jewellery. I made my best bows, grinned my best grins, and was then asked if I would take some refreshment. I was nothing loath. I think that I began to refresh myself about noon, and that conviviality continued until half-past five P.M., when, as you may imagine, I had no very great appetite for the seven o'clock dinner to which I was bidden at Dei
monico's. But as I subsequently attended a "stag party "-an entertainment attended only by gentlemen-where a conjuror performed some astounding feats of hankey-pankey, and finished the evening with a carpet-dance in West Fourteenth Street, I don't think I took any very great harm by indulgence in the "refreshments" of New Year's-day. They were on the most gorgeous scale, and never failed to comprise oysters. It is said that when the late amiable Earl of Carlisle was in the States, his attention was one evening attracted to an inscription on the door-jambs of an underground saloon in Broadway, "Oysters in every style." The Earl-then Lord Morpethentered the shelly cavern, "Give me oysters in every style," he said to the attendant servitor; and the night was well nigh spent ere the British nobleman was "through" with the successive relays brought him of oysters stewed and oysters fried, of oysters roasted and oysters. steamed, of oysters pickled and oysters scolloped. We had "oysters in every style" on New Year's-day, and, in addition pâtés de foie gras, turtle, venison, canvas-back duck, terrapin, chicken salad, "despatch" and "bashawed" lobster, jambon en surprise, and other good things too numerous to mention. When to these you add "topaz sherry, and Madeira of the "Smoked," and "Sunnyside," and "Governor Fish" varieties, with perhaps an occasional "smile " of very curious old Bourbon whiskey, you may imagine that lunching out on New Year's-day in New York is an enjoyment not unfraught with peril to the dyspeptic.
Such are my personal experiences of a Transatlantic First of January. The custom of paying visits on New Year's-day is universal throughout the States, but is more, I take it, of Dutch or German than of English origin. Indeed, when, two years later, I passed a Christmas in Holland, I could not be reminded by what I saw at the Hague and at Amsterdam of the cheerful and kindly convivialities of New York. There is another New Year's observance too, in New York, which has too clearly been imported from the land of the dykes and dams. I allude to the practice of filling the shoes and stockings of little children on New Year's-eve with pretty toys, and gift-books, and sweetmeats, which the youngsters are told, on New Year's morning, have been dropped down the chimney by "Santa Claus," the patron saint of Manhattan. Now, Santa Claus is the Dutch "Sint Nikolaas "-St. Nicholas, in fact-and precisely the same system of "tipping" the little children prevails among the Mynheers. There is one addition to the custom, however, in Holland, in the fact that in the shoes of
naughty boys and girls are placed, not toys or "goodies," but birchrods, as stern reminders of the fate which will befall them unless they walk in virtue's path. Such a reminder would be without significance across the Atlantic, for, save in a few rigid Puritan families in New England, American children are never whipped. My friend Shirley Brooks, I know, questions this. He has heard that young Columbia sometimes suffers in the flesh, but that, prior to the infliction, his thoughtful pastors and masters administer chloroform to him.
New Year's gifts to grown-up relatives and friends are also common in America at the "festive season," but the system does not reach the positive degree of extortion which has been attained by the "Christmasbox" nuisance in England, or by the still more impudent impost of the Jour de l'An" in Paris.
But here is Mr. Nast, a very humorous American draughtsman, who, with his facile pencil will tell you much more about New Year'sday in New York than I, with a goose-quill, have been enabled to do. Consider his cartoons, and the entire economy of "Visiting Day" in America will be at once revealed to you. It may be mentioned that those who have visiting-lists and neglect to exhaust them to the very dast call, are deemed guilty of an unpardonable act of lese Majesté. Everything may be forgotten but that. However inattentive you may have been to the requirements of etiquette during the year, you have only to make your bow and your grin on the First of January, and all will be forgiven to you. It is the Transatlantic Pardon de Ploermel. But let that day of grace go by, and it is all up with you. Ostracism your doom. You are out of the pale of polite society. You are : accounted a mean man; and to be reckoned "mean" in America is to be deemed the most despicable of mankind. The festivities of New Year's-day mean, however, something more than conversational politeness. They have a sentimental side, and that sentiment is of no mawkish order. The annual interchange of courtesies-the opportunities afforded for making your peace with those from whom you may have been temporarily estranged -heal many a wound, repair many a breach, convert many a coolness into genial warmth, and make many bygones bygones indeed.
It is not to be denied that the duties imposed, both on ladies and gentlemen in this formal payment of the "compliments of the season," are sufficiently onerous. The men-folks find it hard work enough trotting about from house to house in frost and snow; but a "cold
"at Christmas is, in America, rather the rule than the exception. For a whole week prior to the momentous First, the young man of fashion in New York is busily engaged making out lists of the houses to be called at; and in proportion to the status occupied by the caller in society, so does the list swell to more and more formidable proportions. Some young gentlemen, ambitious to excel in the way of numbers, and who have not many acquaintances of their own, will club their lists with others. Some lend friends for the day, and others borrow them. The ladies, too, have serious calls upon their time and patience. To be full-dressed before noon, and to have to sit until sundown, answering bows with graceful manners and reciprocating conciliatory grins with amiable simpers, cannot be esteemed a light matter; yet the dear creatures bear it all with the most charming equanimity. Perhaps the consciousness of being charming, and the opportunity of wearing such bewitching toilettes and such brilliant toilettes, lighten the labours of the engaging souls. What will not woman go through if she can only dress? To sit out the dullest, dreariest piece, played at a remote theatre on a wet night, the obliging fair will array herself in all the colours of the rainbow. Get up a ball in a back parlour, with nothing better than a cracked" cottage" to thrum quadrilles upon, and lovely woman will come, in a low-necked dress, and with a wreath on her dear head; and I have often thought that woman bears bereavement much better than we do, for the reason that that same dear head of hers, in the very midst of her most bitter grief and anguish, runs on the "nice" mourning which her position in society requires that she should wear. Brave Madame Roland, the night before her execution, made herself a dainty robe of white piqué to be guillotined in; and the heroic Flora MacIvor had strength enough to prepare a piece of needlework even more remarkable. Who can read that sad chapter in "Waverley" without tears?
But I grow gloomy. What says the bard
Life and its ills,
My task is to discourse of Christmas, and the New Year, and the Mahogany Tree. One must needs be jolly under the guidance of Mr. Nast. He shows you how every class in New York society participate to