Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

bastinado some Hungarian woman, per deposited the child with its mother, and haps, or get stuck under the short ribs then sent back a series of annihilating themselves by a loving Italian compatriot. frowns at poor Bison. It would have been These paternal governments do take such all day with him, if a man could be killed fatherly care of all their poor suffering now, as in the times of the basilisk, by children!

shots from the eye-batteries. Laibach we reached in time for a late But just then the horn blew, and the but edifying breakfast. I should like to locomotive snorted, and I hurried my have gone to the Lake of Zirknitz, not far valorous Yankee into the cars. Every away, a sheet of water some four miles body, I noticed as we entered, was looking wide and long, which takes a notion to out of the windows at one side.

6 What vanish entirely once in a while; but Bison is going forward ?" asked I of a broad-botargued that if the lake should chance to tomed old Austrian that in his eagerness have disappeared there would be nothing had thrust precisely one half of his person to see, except a heap of dead fish, which are outside, but he gave me no answer.

Preno curiosity; while on the other hand, if it sently the two ladies and the child, accomremained, it was not much of a lake to panied by the whiskers and frogged coat, see; and I was convinced by his logic. appeared on the platform. Ali he peo"If we could only catch it in the act of ple raised their hats and bowed, and our disappearing,” he added, " that might be broad-bottomed Austrian friend exclaimsomething."

ed, quite overcome, “Ach mein Gott! We accordingly repaired to the Station see, see her serene-transparent-high-wellof the imperial railroad, passing on the born, illustrious and never-to-be equalled way a pillar erected in the market-place Highness, the Princess!” to Mademoiselle the “Mondbezwinge “The Princess who ?” I asked timidly. rinn," or Crescent Conqueress, a famous The Austrian, with great contempt statue of a Virgin, who when the infidel grunted out, "What Princess ? why, the Turks were besieging the town, walked Princess Louise D'Este !!!” from her pedestal, like the Commandatore I was not overwhelmed nor was Bison, in Don Juan, put herself at the head of though I thought that model democrat the native troops, and led them to glorious looked a little self-complacent when he victory. Bison, the coarse, unimaginative was told that he had been hugging the creature, no better than an infidel Turk daughter of a Princess, and the near rehimself, said boldly that he didn't believe lation of I don't know how many Empera word of the story.

While we were loitering in the first “Who knows,” he remarked inquiringclass saloon (Americans always travel in ly, “but the chap in the huge whiskers, the first-class cars, though it is just as was the Emperor of Russia himself? I've comfortable and much cheaper to take the heard that he is on a visit to these second), two ladies entered, with a little girl about four years of age. The latter “ More likely the chief-cook and bottlewas attracted by the great gold chain and washer of Her Highness's suite," I sugpendent jewelry that Bison always wears, gested, but Bison did not relish a suggesand went towards him; thereupon he tion which deprived him of the glory of took her on his lap and caressed her. having had an encounter with the Great The mother, as I supposed one of the wo Bear. It would have been such a story men to be, simled graciously: and I began to tell amid the night-watches on Red to envy the easy way in which the man River. was insinuating himself into the good gra All the way along the imperial car, with ces of both parent and child. All at once a the Crown on the top, attracted great athuge Croat of a fellow, in a frowsy gray tention, and wherever the Princess got moustache, and impenetrable whiskers, his out, for any purpose, she was received by coat befrogged and begilt like that of a a file of soldiers under a present arms, Circus-Master, and a long sword dangling and long lines of admiring people. We at his heels, came into the room, accosted, were ourselves, indeed, so taken up with the ladies with a bow like a Mandarin's these movements and the talk excited by and then seeing Bison with the child, the noble party, that we saw nothing of rushed across the room, caught her off his the country through which we rode. But lap, and strode away with a look as fero we fortunately left them at Grätz, and cious as Bluebeard's.

then recovered our self-possession. Bison * What the devil !" said Bison, puffing was anxious to stop, but when I told him into a small undischarged thunder-gust, that there was nothing to see in this chief66 what does that overgrown baboon town of Styria, but a Mausoleum of that mean?"

famous hunter of Protestants, Ferdinand The baboon, meantime, had solemnly II., who burned ten thousand heretical VOL. 1.-12

ors.

parts !"

see.

man.

books in the square, and aided in the mur passengers over the Soemmering to Glockder of his successful champion Wallen nitz. It was already dark when we got stein, he consented to give up all hope of there, and I was separated from Bison ; further acquaintance with the Princess, but jumping into the rotonde of the only and go on.

coach unoccupied, I left him to take care This railroad we found one of the best of himself. There was only one passenin the world. It was constructed mainly ger, whose face in the darkness I did not by the Austrian Government, is substan After a while, as he was smoking tially built, and owing to the mountainous and I did not care to sleep, I ventured a nature of the region through which it little conversation. runs, has had to overcome difficulties that “ Wann Denkie Sie, Mynheer, das are almost incredible. It is also well Wir ankommen werden? (When shall managed, and the cars of the first-class we get there?") I asked in tolerable Gerare as sumptuous as the saloons of the Sultan. All the way along the scenery is “ No-chaw pees-co," he replied in intolmagnificent; sometimes we were coursing erable Italian. the banks of the rapid Mur, sometimes

" Eh bien ! Monsieur! Donc vous whirling around the base of precipitous parlez le Français;" I continued courcrags, castle-crowned, or covered with dark ageously, determined to address him in firs that shot elean up into the skies: his vernacular; Ung pugh ;" he replied ; again, beaming valleys stretched away into and so we contrived to keep up a costive the blue distance where cities slumbered, or and exhausting talk in execrable French the mountains rose into the snows: here,

for an hour or more. the Styrian damsels, in their bright cos What countryman he took me for, I tumes, came out of the station-houses, to did not know ; but I had made up my mind serve us with the creamy Styrian ale, of that he was a Hindoo, or some other which Bison always took two glasses, not Oriental not familiar with the European for the love of it, but to get a longer look tongues. at the mountain Ganymedes; there, a stu Just as we reached Glocknitz, my compendous viaduct, with noble galleries, sculp- panion lost his cigar, and uttered an untured from the primitive rock, divided the mistakable dhills, or passed under giant fortresses “Sir," exclaimed I,“ do you speak Engon the brows;-in short, every where, at lish ?" every turn, grand and picturesque objects "I don't speak any thing else!” said caught the eye, -ruined abbeys, rock he. built castles, gloomy defiles, impending We both roared with laughter; and, cliffs, vast fir-woods, grotesque villages in

when we found Bison at the hotel, he the plains or on the mountain sides, grace laughed too, especially as he had discoverful cascades, rushing streams.

ed that my mate was the servant of an The road is not completed, however, — English officer, returning from India by we found herds of women as well as men way of Constantinople. working upon it, as we approached Murz Resuming the cars, I slept soundly till züschlag, whence the Eilwagen carries we reached Vienna.

n.

“OUR BEST SOCIETY."

IF gilt were only gold, or sugar-candy (you being yourself a cobbler?s daughter); what a

talk much “ society would be! If to lavish money your aristocratic foreign friends; to deupon objets de vertu, to wear the most spise labor; to prate of “good society;" to costly dresses, and always to have them travesty and parody, in every conceivable cut in the height of the fashion; to build way, a society which we know only in houses thirty feet broad, as if they were books and by the superficial observation palaces; to furnish them with all the lux of foreign travel, which arises out of a urious devices of Parisian genius; to give social organization entirely unknown to superb banquets, at which your guests us, and which is opposed to our fundalaugh, and which make you miserable; to mental and essential principles; if all this drive a fine carriage and ape European were fine, what a prodigiously fine society liveries, and crests, and coats-of-arms; to would ours be! resent the friendly advances of your ba This occurred to us upon lately receiving ker's wife, and the lady of your butcher a card of invitation to a brilliant ball. We

were quietly ruminating over our evening had perfected our toilette many times, to fire, with D’Israeli's Wellington speech, meet this same society, so magnificently "all tears," in our hand, with the account described, and had found it the least" best 39 of a great man's burial, and a little man's of all. Who compose it? Whom shall triumph across the channel. So many we meet if we go to this ball? We shall great men gone, we mused, and such great meet three classes of persons: 1st, those crises impending! This democratic move who are rich, and who have all that moment in Europe; Kossuth and Mazzini ney can buy; 2d, those who belong to waiting for the moment to give the word; what are technically called “ the good old the Russian bear watchfully sucking his families,” because some ancestor was a paws; the Napoleonic empire redivivus; man of mark in the state or country, or Cuba, and annexation, and slavery; Califor was very rich, and has kept the fornia and Australia, and the consequent con tune in the family ; and 3dly, a swarm siderations of political economy; dear ine! of youths who can dance dexterously, and exclaimed we, putting on a fresh hodful who are invited for that purpose. Now of coal, we must look a little into the state these are all arbitrary and factitious disof parties.

tinctions upon which found so profound As we put down the coal-scuttle there a social difference as that which exists in was a knock at the door. We said, “come American, or, at least, in New-York soin," and in came a neat Alhambra-watered ciety. 1st, as a general rüle, the rich men envelope, containing the announcement of every community who make their own that the queen of fashion was “at home” money are not the most generally intelthat evening week. Later in the evening, ligent and cultivated. They have a shrewd came a friend to smoke a cigar. The card talent which secures a fortune, and which was lying upon the table, and he read it keeps them closely at the work of amasswith eagerness. “You'll go, of course,” ing from their youngest years until they said he, "for you will meet all the best are old. They are sturdy men, of simple society.'"

tastes often. Sometimes, though rarely, Shall we, truly ? shall we really see the very generous, but necessarily with an al“best society of the city," the picked together false and exaggerated idea of the flower of its genius, character, and beauty ? importance of money. They are a rather What makes the best society” of men rough, unsympathetic, and, perhaps, selfish and women? The noblest specimens of class, who, themselves, despise purple and each, of course. The men who mould the fine linen, and still prefer a cot-bed and a time, who refresh our faith in heroism bare room, although they may be worth and virtue, who make Plato, and Zeno, millions. But they are married to schemand Shakspeare, and all Shakspeare's ing or ambitious or disappointed women, gentlemen, possible again. The women, whose life is a prolonged pageant, and they whose beauty and sweetness, and dignity, are dragged hither and thither in it, are. and high accomplishment and grace, make bled of their golden blood, and forced into us understand the Greek Mythology, and a position they do not covet and which weaken our desire to have some glimpse they despise. Then there are the inheritof the most famous women of history. ors of wealth. How many of them inThe best society” is that in which the herit the valiant genius and hard frugality virtues are most shining, which is the which built up their fortunes ; how many most charitable, forgiving, long-suffering, acknowledge the stern and heavy responmodest, and innocent. The “best society" sibility of their opportunities ; how many is, in its very name, that in which there is refuse to dream their lives away in a Sythe least hypocrisy and insincerity of all barite luxury ; how many are smitten kinds, which recoils from, and blasts, arti with the lofty ambition of achieving an ficiality, which is anxious to be all that enduring name by works of a perinanent human nature can be, and which sternly value ; how many do not dwindle into reprobates all shallow pretence, all cox dainty dilettanti, and dilute their mancombry and foppery, and insists upon sim hood with factitious sentimentality instead plicity, as the infallible characteristic of of a hearty, human sympathy ; how many true worth. That is the “best society," are not satisfied with having the fastest which comprises the best men and wo horses and the “crackest” carriages, and

an unlimited wardrobe, and a weak affecHad we recently arrived from the tation and puerile imitation of foreign moon, we might, upon hearing that we life? were to meet the best society," have And who are these of our 2dly, these fancied that we were about to enjoy an “old families"? The spirit of our time opportunity not to be overvalued. But and of our country knows no such thing, unfortunately we were not so freshly ar but the habitué of “society,” hears conrived. We had received other cards, and stantly of “a good family.” It means,

men.

simply, the collective mass of children, Our 3dly, is a class made by sundry grandchildren, nephews, nieces and de French tailors, bootmakers, dancing-masscendants of some man who deserved well ters, and Mr. Brown. They are a corps-deof his country, and whom his country ballet, for the use of private entertainhonors. But sad is the heritage of a ments. They are fostered by society for great name! The son of Burke will ine

the use of young debutantes, and hardier vitably be measured by Burke. The niece damsels, who have dared two or three of Pope must show some superiority to years of the “tight” polka. They are other women (so to speak), or her equality cultivated for their heels, not their heads. is inferiority. The feeling of men attri Their life begins at ten o'clock in the butes some magical charm to blood, and evening, and lasts until four in the we look to see the daughter of Helen as morning. They go home and sleep until fair as her mother, and the son of Shak nine; then they reel, sleepy, to countspeare, musical as his sire. If they are ing-houses and offices, and doze on desks not so, if they are merely names, and until dinner-time. Or, unable to do common persons—if there is no Burke, nor that, they are actively at work all day, Shakspeare, nor Washington, nor Bacon and their cheeks grow pale, and their lips in their words, or actions, or lives, then thin, and their eyes bloodshot and hollow, we must pity them, and pass gently on, and they drag themselves home at evening not upbraiding them, but regretting that to catch a nap until the ball begins, or to it is one of the laws of greatness that it

dine and smoke at their club, and be very dwindles all things in its vicinity, which manly with punches and coarse stories; would otherwise show large enough. and then to rush into hot and glittering Nay, in our regard for the great man, we rooms, and seize very décolleté girls may even admit to a compassionate closely around the waist, and dash with honor, as pensioners upon our charity, them around an area of stretched linen, those who bear and transmit his name. saying in the panting pauses, “ How very But if these heirs should presume upon

hot it is !” “ How very pretty Miss Podge that fame, and claim any precedence of looks!” “What a good redowa!” “ Are living men and women because their dead you going to Mrs. Potiphar's ?grandfather was a hero,—they must be Is this the assembled flower of manshown the door directly. We should hood and womanhood, called “best so dread to be born a Perey, or a Colonna, or ciety,” and to see which is so envied a a Bonaparte. We should not like to be privilege ? If such are the elements, can the second Duke of Wellington, nor we be long in arriving at the present Charles Dickens, jr. It is a terrible thingstate, and necessary future condition of one would say, to a mind of honorable parties? feeling, to be pointed out as somebody's "Vanity Fair" is peculiarly a picture of son or uncle, or granddaughter, as if the modern society. It aims at English folexcellence were all derived. It must be a lies, but its mark is universal, as the madlittle humiliating to retlect that if your

ness is.

It is called a satire, but after great uncle had not been somebody, you much diligent reading, we cannot discover would be nobody;-that, in fact, you are the satire. A state of society not at all only a name, and that. if you should con superior to that of “Vanity Fair" is not sent to change it for the sake of a fortune, unknown to our experience; and, unless as is sometimes done. you would cease to truth-telling be satire ; unless the most be any thing but a rich man. “My father tragically real portraiture be satire; unless was President, or Governor of the State," scalding tears of sorrow, and the bitter some pompous man may say. But, by Ju regret of a manly mind over the miserapiter, king of gods and men, what are you? ble spectacle of artificiality, wasted powers, is the instinctive response. Do you not misdirected energies, and lost opportunisee, our pompons friend, that you are ties, be satirical ; we do not find satire in only pointing your own unimportance ? that sad story. The reader closes it with If your father was Governor of the State, a grief beyond tears. It leaves a vague what right have you to use that fact only apprehension in the mind, as if we should to fatten your self-conceit ? Take care, suspect the air to be poisoned. It suggood care; for whether you say it by gests the terrible thought of the enfeebling your lips or by your life, that withering of moral power, and the deterioration of response awaits you.--" then what are noble character, as a necessary consequence you?. If your ancestor was great, you of contact with “society.” Every man are under bonds to greatness. If you are looks suddenly and sharply around him, small, make haste to learn it betimes, and, and accosts himself and his neighbors, to thanking Heaven that your name has been ascertain if they are all parties to this made illustrious, retire into a corner and corruption. Sentimental youths and keep it, at least, untarnished.

maidens, upon velvet sofas, or in calf

bound libraries, resolve that it is an in riad objets de goût, and if you caught us sult to human nature-are sure that their in a corner at the next ball, putting away velvet and calf-bound friends are not like a fair share of dinde aux truffes, we the dramatis personæ of “ Vanity Fair," know you would have at us in a tone and that the drama is therefore hideous of great moral inclignation, and wish to and unreal. They should remember, know why we sneaked into great houses. what they uniformly and universally for eating good suppers and drinking choice get, that we are not invited, upon the wines, and then went away with an indirising of the curtain, to behold a cosmo gestion, to write dyspeptic disgusts at sorama, or picture of the world, but a rep

ciety. resentation of that part of it called We might reply that it is necessary to Vanity Fair. What its just limits are know something of a subject before writhow far its poisonous purlieus reach-how ing about it, and that if a man wished to much of the world's air is tainted by it, describe the habits of South Sea Islanders, is a question which every thoughtful man it is useless to go to Greenland; we might will ask himself, with a shudder, and look also confess a partiality for paté, and a sadly around, to answer. If the senti tenderness for truffes, and acknowledge mental objectors rally again to the charge, that, considering our single absence would and declare that, if we wish to improve not put down extravagant pompous parthe world, its virtuous ambition must be ties, we were not strong enough to let the piqued and stimulated by making the morsels drop into unappreciating mouths; shining heights of “the ideal” more radi or we might say, that if a man invited us ant; we reply, that none shall surpass us to see his new house, it would not be unin honoring the men whose creations of gracious nor insulting to his hospitality, to beauty inspire and instruct mankind. But point out whatever weak parts we might if they benefit the world, it is no less detect in it, nor to declare our candid contrue that a vivid apprehension of the viction, that it was built upon wrong prindepths into which we are sunken or may ciples and could not stand. He might sink, nerves the soul's courage quite as believe us if we had been in the house, but much as the alluring mirage of the happy he certainly would not, if we had never heights we may attain. “ To hold the seen it. Nor would it be a very wise remirror up to Nature,” is still the most ply upon his part, that we might build a potent method of shaming sin and strength better if we didn't like that. We are not ening virtue.

fond of David's pictures, but we certainly If * Vanity Fair" is a satire, what novel could never paint half so well; nor of of society is not ? Are “ Vivian Grey,” Pope's poetry, but posterity will never and " Pelham," and the long catalogue of hear of our verses. Criticism is not conbooks illustrating English, or the host of struction, it is observation. If we could Balzacs, Sands, Sues, and Dumas, that surpass in its own way every thing which paint French, society, any less satires ? displeased us, we should make short work Nay, if you should catch any dandy in of it, and instead of showing what fatal Broadway, or in Pall-Mall, or upon the blemishes deform our present society, we Boulevards, this very morning, and write should present a specimen of perfection, a coldly true history of his life and actions directly. his doings and undoings, would it not be We went to the brilliant ball. There the most scathing and tremendous satire ? was too much of every thing. Too much -if by satire you mean the consuming light, and cating, and drinking, and danmelancholy of the conviction, that the life cing, and flirting, and dressing, and feignof that pendant to a moustache, is an in ing, and smirking, and much too many sult to the possible life of a man?

people. Good taste insists first upon fitWe have read of a hypocrisy SO But why had Mrs. Potiphar given thorough, that it was surprised you this ball ? We inquired industriously, and should think it hypocritical; and we learned it was because she did not give have bitterly thought of the saying, when one last year. Is it then essential to hearing one mother say of another mo do this thing biennially ? inquired we ther's child, that she had “made a good with some trepidation. “Certainly,” was match,” because the girl was betrothed to the bland reply, " or society will forget a stupid boy whose father was rich. The you.”• Every body was unhappy at Mrs. remark was the key of our social feeling. Potiphar's, save a few girls and boys, who

Let us look at it a little, and, first of all, danced violently all the evening. Those let the reader consider the criticism, and who did not dance walked up and down not the critic. We may like very well, in the rooms as well as they could, squeezing our individual capacity, to partake of the by non-dancing ladies, causing them to delicacies prepared by our hostess's chef, swear in their hearts as the brusque we may not be averse to paté and a my broadcloth carried away the light out

ness.

« PoprzedniaDalej »