Life At A Watering Place, Old Port Springs

by Charles Astor Bristed

"Hold on a minute," said Harry, as they were about to take the stage, after a very fair three-o'clock dinner at Constantinople (the Occidental, not the Oriental city of that name); "there goes an acquaintance of ours whom you must know. He has arrived by the Westfield train, doubtless."

Away sped Benson after the acquaintance, arm-in-arm with whom he shortly returned, and, with all the exultation of an American who has brought two lions into the same cage, introduced M. le Vicomte Vincent Le Roi to the honorable Edward Ashburner.

Ashburner was rather puzzled at Le Roi, whose personal appearance did not in any way answer, either to his originally conceived idea of a Frenchman, or to the live specimens he had thus far met with. The Vicomte looked more like an Englishman, or perhaps like the very best kind of Irishman. He was a middle-sized man, of thirty or thereabout, with brown hair and a florid complexion; and very quietly dressed, his clothes being neither obtrusively new nor cut with any ultra-artistic pretension. Except his wearing a moustache and (of course) not speaking English, there was nothing continental about his outward man, or the first impression he gave of himself. Fortunately, he was also bound for the Springs, so that Ashburner would have abundant opportunity to study his character, if so disposed.

The stage in which our tourists were to embark was not unlike a French diligence, except that it had but one compartment instead of three; in which compartment there were three seats, and on each seat more or less room for three persons, and two more could sit with the driver. All the baggage was carried on the top. The springs were made like coach-springs, or C-springs, as they are always called in America (just as in England a pilot-coat is called a P-jacket), only they were upright and perpendicular to the axletree instead of curving; and the leathern belts connected with them, on which the carriage swung, were of the thickest and toughest description. As the party, with the addition of Le Roi, amounted to eight, Benson managed, by a little extra expenditure of tin and trouble, to secure the whole of one vehicle, and for the still greater accommodation of the ladies and child, the gentlemen were to sit on the box two at a time by turns. Benson's first object was to get hold of the reins, for which end he began immediately to talk around the driver about things in general. From the price of horses they diverged to the prospects of various kinds of business, and thence slap into the politics of the country. The driver was a stubborn Locofoco, and Benson did not disdain to enter into an elaborate argument with him. Ashburner, who then occupied the other box-seat, was astonished at the man's statistical knowledge, the variety of information he possessed upon local topics, and his accurate acquaintance with the government and institutions of his country. It occurred to him to prompt Benson, through the convenient medium of French, to sound him about England and European politics. This Harry did, not immediately, lest he might suspect the purport of their conversational interlude, but by a dexterous approach to the point after sufficient preliminary; and it then appeared that he had lumped "the despotic powers of the old world" in a heap together, and supposed the Queen of England to be on a par with the Czar of Russia as regarded her personal authority and privileges. However, when Benson set him right as to the difference between a limited and an absolute monarchy, he took the information in very good part, listened to it attentively, and evidently made a mental note of it for future reference.

The four-horse team was a good strong one, but the stage with its load heavy enough, and the roads, after the recent storm, still heavier, besides being a succession of hills. The best they could do was to make six miles an hour, and they would not have made three but for a method of travelling down-hill, entirely foreign to European ideas on the subject. When they arrived at the summit there was no talk of putting on the drag, nor any drag to put on, but away the horses went, first at a rapid trot, and soon at full gallop; by which means the equipage acquired sufficient momentum to carry it part of the way up the next hill before the animals relapsed into the slow walk which the steepness of the ascent imposed upon them. Indeed this part of the route would have been a very tedious one (for the country about was almost entirely devoid of interest), had it not been for Le Roi, who came out in great force. He laughed at every thing and with every body; told stories, and good ones, continuously, and only ceased telling stories to break forth into song. In fine, he amused the ladies so much, that when he took his turn on the box they missed him immediately, and sent Benson outside again on the first opportunity; whereat the Vicomte, being very much flattered, waxed livelier and merrier than ever, and kept up a constant fire of jest and ditty. As to Ashburner, who had a great liking for fresh air, and an equal horror of a small child in a stage-coach, he remained outside the whole time; for which the fair passengers set him down as an insensible youth, who did not know how to appreciate good company; until the evening becoming somewhat chilly by comparison with the very hot day they had undergone, both he and Harry took refuge in the interior, and a very jolly party they all made.

While they were outside together, Benson had been giving Ashburner some details about Le Roi—in fact, a succinct biography of him; for be it noted, that every New-Yorker is able to produce off-hand a minute history of every person, native or foreign, at all known in society: for which ability he is indebted partly to the inquisitive habits of the people, partly to their communicative disposition, partly to their remarkable memory of small particulars, and partly to a fine imagination and power of invention, which must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Benson, we say, had been, telling his friend the story of his other friend or acquaintance; how he was of good family and no fortune; how he had written three novels and three thousand or more feuilletons; how he had travelled into some out-of-the-way part of Poland, where no one had ever been before or since, and about which he was, therefore, at liberty to say what he pleased; how, besides his literary capabilities, such as they were, he played, and sang, and danced, and sketched—all very well for an amateur; how he was altogether a very agreeable and entertaining man, and, as such, was supposed to have been sent out by a sort of mutual-benefit subscription-club, which existed at Paris for the purpose of marrying its members to heiresses in different countries. Ashburner had once heard rumors of such a club in Germany, but was never able to obtain any authentic details concerning it, or to determine whether it was any thing more than a traveller's traditionary legend. Even Benson was at fault here, and, indeed, he seemed rather to tell the club part of the story as a good joke, than to believe it seriously himself.

As they approached the termination of their journey, their talk naturally turned more and more on the Springs. The Vicomte was in possession of the latest advices thence; the arrivals and expected arrivals, and the price-current of stock: that is, of marriageable young gentlemen, and all other matters of gossip; how the whole family of the Robinsons was there in full force, with an unlimited amount of Parisian millinery; how Gerard Ludlow was driving four-in-hand, and Lowenberg had given his wife no end of jewelry; how Mrs. Harrison, who ought not to have been (not being of our set), nevertheless was the great lioness of the season; how Miss Thompson, the belle expectant, had renounced the Springs altogether, and shut herself up at home somewhere among the mountains—all for unrequited love of Hamilton White, as was charitably reported; last, but not least, how Tom Edwards had invented six new figures for the German cotillon. Ashburner did not at first altogether understand the introduction of this personage into such good company, supposing from his familiar abbreviation and Terpsichorean attributes that he must be the fashionable dancing-master of Oldport, or perhaps of New-York; but he was speedily given to understand that, on the contrary, Mr. Edwards was a gay bachelor of good family and large fortune, who, in addition to gambling, intriguing, and other pleasant little propensities, had an insatiable passion for the dance, and was accustomed to rotate morning, noon, and night, whenever he was not gambling, &c. as aforesaid. "And," continued Benson, "I'll lay you any bet you please, that the first thing we see on arriving at our hotel, will be Tom Edwards dancing the polka; unless, indeed, he happen to be dancing the Redowa."

"Very likely," said Mrs. Benson, "seeing we shall arrive there at ten o'clock, and this is a ball-night."

Both Harry and his wife were right; they arrived at half-past ten, just as the ball was getting into full swing. On the large portico in front of the large hotel opened a large room, with large windows down to the floor,—the dining-room of the establishment, now cleared for dancing purposes. All the idlers of Oldport, male and female, black and white, congregated at these windows and thronged the portico; and almost into the very midst of this crowd our party was shot, baggage and all. While Ashburner was looking out of a confused heap of people and luggage, he heard one of the assistant loafers say to another, "Look at Mr. Edwards!" Profiting by the information not originally intended for him, he followed the direction of the speaker's nose, and beheld a little showily-dressed man flying down the room with a large showily-dressed woman, going the poursuite of the Redowa at a terrific rate. So that, literally, the first thing he saw in Oldport was Tom Edwards dancing. But there was no opportunity to make a further study of this, "one of the most remarkable men among us," for the party had to look up their night quarters. Benson had dispatched in advance to Mr. Grabster, proprietor of the Bath Hotel at Oldport Springs, a very particular letter, stating the number of his party, the time he meant to be there, and the number of rooms he wanted, and had also sent his horses on ahead; but though the animals had arrived safe and found stable-room, there was no preparation for their master. Ashburner, at the request of the ladies, followed Benson into the office (for the Bath Hotel being, nominally at least, the first house in the place, had its bar-room and office separate), and found Harry in earnest expostulation with a magnificently-dressed individual, whom he took for Mr. Grabster himself, but who turned out to be only that high and mighty gentleman's head book-keeper. The letter had been dispatched so long beforehand that, even at the rate of American country posts, it ought to have arrived, but no one knew any thing about it. Both the young men suspected—uncharitably, perhaps, but not altogether unnaturally—that Mr. Grabster and his aids, finding a prospect of a full season, had not thought it worth their while to trouble themselves about the application, or to keep any rooms. Ashburner suggested trying another hotel, but the roads were muddy, and vehicles scarce at that time of night, so that altogether there seemed a strong probability of their being compelled to "camp out" on the portico. But it was not in Benson "to give it up so." He possessed, as we have already hinted, that faculty so alarmingly common in his country, which polite people call oratory, and vulgar ones the "gift of the gab;" and he was not the man to throw away the opportunity of turning any of his gifts to account. Warming with his subject, he poured out upon the gorgeously-attired Mr. Black such a flood of conciliatory and expostulatory eloquence, that that gentleman absolutely contrived to find some accommodation for them. The ladies, child, and servants were huddled together into one tolerably large room, in the third story. Benson had a sort of corner-cupboard in the fourth, that might, perhaps, have accommodated a mouse with a small family; and to Ashburner and Le Roi were assigned two small chambers in the fifth. As to the baggage, that was all piled up in the office, with the exception of a few indispensable articles. Supper was out of the question, there being no room to eat it in because of the dancers. The ladies did not want supper; they only regretted not being able to unpack their trunks, and dress for the ball then and there going on; their eyes lighted up at the sound of the music, and their little feet began to beat the floor incontinently. The gentlemen took a drink all round by way of substitute for something more solid. Ashburner had mounted to his dormitory—no small journey—and was sitting on his bed, wishing he had some contrivance for pulling off all his clothes at once without the trouble of removing them piece by piece, when he heard in the passage the voice of Le Roi, quantum mutatus ab illo! The Vicomte had sworn up all his own language, and was displaying a knowledge of English expletives that quite surprised his fellow-traveller. On investigation, the cause of his wrath proved to be this: a semi-civilized Irish waiter had shown him to No. 296, in accordance with Mr. Black's directions. But Mr. Black, in the multiplicity of his affairs, had forgotten that No. 296 was already tenanted, to wit, by a Western traveller, who did, indeed, intend to quit it by an early stage next morning, but had not the least idea of giving up his quarters before that time; and accordingly, as if from a presentiment that some attempt would be made to dislodge him, had, in addition to the ordinary not very strong fastenings of the door, so barricaded it with trunks and furniture, that it could have stood a considerable amount of siege. The waiter had gone off, leaving Le Roi to shift for himself. Bells were scarce in the upper stories of the Bath Hotel, nor was there any light throughout the long corridor, except the one tallow candle which his useless guide had deposited on the floor. Utterly upset at the idea of having to tramp down four pair of stairs and back again in search of accommodation, the unlucky Gaul was seeking a momentary relief in the manner above stated, when Ashburner came to the rescue. His bed happened to be rather a large one—so large, comparatively, that it was a mystery how it had ever found its way into the little room, the four walls of which seemed to have grown or been built up around it; and this bed he instantly proposed to share with Le Roi for the night. The Frenchman mercied, and couldn't think of such a thing for five minutes, edging into the room and pulling off his coat and boots all the time; then he gave a glorious exemplification of cessanta causa, for all his rage vanished in a moment, and he was the same exuberantly good-natured and profusely loquacious man that he had been all day. On he streamed in a perpetual flow of talk long after both were in bed, until Ashburner began to feel as a man might to whom some fairy had given a magical instrument, which discoursed sweet music at first, but could never be made to stop playing. And when at length the Vicomte, having lighted on the subject of women, poured out an infinity of adventures with ladies of all countries, of all which stories Vincent Le Roi was, of course, the hero, his fellow-traveller, unable to help being disgusted at his vanity and levity, turned round to the wall, and without considering whether he was acting in accordance with bienseance, fell fast asleep in the midst of one of the most thrilling narratives.

When Ashburner awoke next morning, the first thing he was conscious of was Le Roi talking. It required very little exercise of the imagination to suppose that he had been going on uninterruptedly all night. Afterwards he became aware of a considerable disturbance, evidently originating in the lower story of the house, but sufficiently audible all over it, which he put down to the account of numerous new arrivals. By the time they had completed their toilettes (which did not take very long, for the room being just under the roof, was of a heat that made it desirable for them to evacuate it as soon as possible), Benson made his appearance. He had obtained possession of his baggage, and arrayed himself in the extreme of summer costume:—a white grass-cloth coat, about the consistency of blotting-paper, so transparent that the lilac pattern of his check shirt was distinctly visible through the arms of it; white duck vest, white drilled trousers, long-napped white hat, a speckled cravat to match his shirt, and highly varnished shoes, with red and white striped silk stockings,—altogether very fresh and innocent-looking. He came to show them the principal spring, which was not far from the hotel—just a pleasant walk before breakfast, though it was not likely they would meet many people so early, on account of last night's ball.

"I am afraid your quarters were not very comfortable," said Harry, as the three strolled arm-in-arm down a sufficiently sandy road; "but we shall have better rooms before dinner to-day."

"The house must be very full," Ashburner remarked; "and were there not a great many arrivals this morning? From the noise I heard, I thought at least fifty people had come."

"No; I glanced at the book, and there were not a dozen names on it. Hallo!" and Benson swore roundly in Spanish, apparently forgetting that his friend understood that language.

Ashburner looked up, and saw meeting them a large Frenchman and a small Irish boy. The Frenchman had an immense quantity of hair of all sorts on his face, nearly hiding his features, which, as what was visible of them had a particularly villainous air, was about the best thing he could have done to them; and on his head he carried a something of felt, which indisputably proved the proposition that matter may exist without form. The Irish youth sported a well-meant, but not very successful attempt at a moustache, and a black cloth cap pitched on one side of his head. In other respects, they were attired in the usual costume of an American snob; that is to say, a dress-coat and full suit of black at seven in the morning. Ashburner noticed that Benson spit ostentatiously while passing them; and after passing he swore again, this time in downright English.

Le Roi had seen in his acquaintance with European watering-places, a goodly amount of scamps and blacklegs, and Ashburner was not without some experience of the sort, so that they were not disposed to be curious about one blackguard more or less in a place of the kind; but these two fellows had such a look of unmitigated rascality, that both the foreigners glanced inquiringly at their friend, and were both on the point of asking him some questions, when he anticipated their desire.

"God forgive me for swearing, but it is too provoking to meet these loafers in respectable quarters. The ancients used to think their journey spoiled if they met an unclean animal on starting, and I feel as if my whole stay here would go wrong after meeting these animals the first thing in the first morning."

"Mais qu'est ce qu'ils sont donc, ces vaut-riens?" asked Le Roi.

"The Frenchman is a deported convict, who is doing us the honor to serve out his time here; the Irishman is a refugee, I believe. They have come here to report for The Sewer."

They cooled their virtuous indignation in the spring, and were returning.

"Hallo, Benson! Hallo! I thought that was you!" shouted somebody, a quarter of a mile off, from the hotel steps.

"Ah," said Harry, "I understand now why you heard so much noise this morning. Bird Simpson has arrived."

Mr. Simpson, popularly known as "the bird" (why no one could tell exactly, but people often get such names attached to them for some inexplicable reason), came on a half-run to meet them. He was a tall, showy, and rather handsome, though not particularly graceful man; very flashily got up in a blue cutaway with gilt buttons, wide blue stripes down the sides of his white trousers, a check shirt of enormous crimson pattern, and a red and white cravat; no waistcoat, and wide embroidered braces, the work of some lady friend. He seemed to have dressed himself on the principle of the tricolor, and to have carried it out in his face—his cheeks being very red, his eyes very blue, and his hair very white. After having pump-handled Benson's arm for some time, he made an attack on Le Roi, whom he just knew by name, and inquired if he had just come de l'autre côte, meaning the other side of the Atlantic, according to a common New-York idiom; but the Vicomte not unnaturally took it to mean from the other side of the road, and gave a corresponding answer in English as felicitous as Mr. Simpson's French. Then he digressed upon Ashburner, whom he saw to be an Englishman, in so pointed a manner, that Benson was obliged to introduce them; and the introduction was followed by an invitation on Simpson's part to the company to take a drink, which they did, somewhat to the consternation of the Frenchman, who knew not what to make of iced brandy and mint before breakfast. Then Simpson, having primed himself for the morning meal, set about procuring it, and his departure visibly relieved Benson, who was clearly not proud of his acquaintance. Le Roi also went after his breakfast, taking care to get as far as possible from the corner of the room where Simpson was.

"There," said Benson, "is a very fair specimen of 'second set.' He is B, No. 1, rather a great man in his own circle, and imports French goods. To hear him talk about French actresses and eating-houses, you would think him a ten-years' resident of that city, instead of having been there perhaps four times in his life, a week each time. But you know we Americans have a wonderful faculty of seeing a great deal in a little time. Just so with Italy; he was there two months, and professes to know all about the country and the people. But he doesn't know the set abroad or at home. Sometimes you meet him at a ball, where he does his duty about supper time; but you will never see him dancing with, or talking to, the ladies who are 'of us.' Nevertheless, they will avail themselves of his services sometimes, when they want to buy silks at wholesale prices, or to have something smuggled for them; for he is the best-natured man in the world. And, after all, he is not more given to scandal than the exquisites, and is a great deal honester and truer. Once I caught a fever out on the north-eastern boundary, and had not a friend with me, or any means of getting help. This man nursed me like a brother, and put himself to no end of trouble for me until we could fetch Carl on. I would certainly rather have been under such an obligation to some other men I know than to Simpson; but having incurred it, I do not think it can be justly paid off with a 'glad-to-know-you-when-I'm-at-Bath-again' acquaintance; and I feel bound to be civil to him, though he does bother me immensely at times with his free-and-easy habits,—walking into my parlor with his hat on and cigar in his mouth; chaffing me or my wife in language about as elegant as an omnibus driver's; or pawing ladies about in a way that he takes for gallantry. Talking of ladies, I wish mine would show themselves for breakfast. Ah, here are two men you must know; they are good types of two classes of our beaux—the considerably French and the slightly English—the former class the more numerous, you are probably aware. Mr. White, Mr. Ashburner—Mr. Ashburner, Mr. Sumner."

Hamilton White was a tall, handsome man, some few years on the wrong side of thirty, broader-shouldered and deeper-chested than the ordinary American model, elaborately but very quietly dressed, without any jewelry or showy patterns. There was something very Parisian in his get-up and manner, yet you would never take him for a Frenchman, still less for a Frenchified-Englishman. But he had the look of a man who had lived in a gay capital, and quite fast enough for his years: his fine hair was beginning to go on the top of his head, and his face wanted freshness and color. His manner, slightly reserved at first, rapidly warmed into animation, and his large dark eyes gave double expression to whatever he said. His very smallest talk was immensely impressive. He would tell a stranger that he was happy to make his acquaintance with an air that implied all the Spaniard's mi casa a la disposicion de usted, and meant about as much; and when you saw him from the parquet of the Opera talking to some young lady in the boxes, you would have imagined that he was making a dead set at her, when in fact he was only uttering some ordinary meteorological observation. Apart from his knack of looking and talking sentiment, he had no strongly-marked taste or hobby: danced respectably, but not often; knew enough about horses to pick out a good one when he wanted a mount for a riding-party; drank good wine habitually, without being pedantic about the different brands of it; and read enough of the current literature of the day to be able to keep up a conversation if he fell among a literary circle. He was not a marrying man, partly because his income, sufficient to provide him with all bachelor luxuries, was not large enough to support a wife handsomely; partly because that a man should tie himself to one woman for life was a thing he could not conceive, much less practice: but he very much affected the society of the softer sex, and was continually amusing himself with some young girl or young wife. He rather preferred the latter—it was less compromising; still he had no objection to victimize an innocent débutante, and leave her more or less broken-hearted. (It must be observed, however, for the credit of American young ladies, that they are not addicted to dying of this complaint, so often fatal in novels; many of Hamilton's victims had recovered and grown absolutely fat upon it, and married very successfully.) Wherever there was a fiancée, or a probable fiancée, or a married belle with an uxorious husband,—in short, wherever he could make himself look dangerous and another man jealous or foolish, he came out particularly strong; at the same time, being adroit and not over belligerent, he always contrived to stop or get out of the way in time if the other party showed open signs of displeasure.

Frank Sumner was rather shorter than White, rather younger, and rather more dressed. He had the same broad shoulders, which in America, where most of the beaux are either tall and thin or short and thin, find favor with the ladies; just as blondes create a sensation in southern countries, because they are so seldom seen. In almost all other particulars, the two men were totally unlike, and Sumner might have passed for an English gentleman put into French clothes. He was reserved in his conversation, and marked in the expression of his likes and dislikes. With no more intention of marrying than White, he took care never to make love to any woman, and if any woman made love to him, he gave her no encouragement. He was not richer than White, not so good-looking, and certainly not so clever, but more respected and more influential; for the solid and trustworthy parts of his character, backed by a bull-dog courage and an utter imperturbability, got the better in the long run of the other's more brilliant qualities.

Some of these things Ashburner observed for himself, some of them Benson told him after White and Sumner, who did not ask the stranger to take a drink, had passed on. He had noticed that the latter's manner, though perfectly civil, was very cold compared with the empressement which the former had exhibited.

"He doesn't like your countrymen," said Harry, "and nothing can vex him more than to be told, what is literally the truth, that he resembles an Englishman in many respects. I believe it is about the only thing that can vex him. What an immovable man it is! I have seen a woman throw a lighted cigar into his face, and another cut off one end of his moustache (that was when we were both younger, and used to see some queer scenes abroad), and a servant drop half a tureen of soup over him, and none of these things stirred him. Once at Naples, I recollect, he set our chimney on fire. Such a time we had of it; every one in the house tumbling into our room, from the piccolo, with no coat and half a pair of pants, to the proprietor in his dressing-gown and spectacles—women calling on the Virgin, men running after water—and there sat Frank, absolutely radiating off so much coolness, that he imparted a portion of it to me, and we sat through the scene as quietly as if they had only been laying the cloth for dinner. A rum pair they must have thought us! The day before we had astonished the waiter by lighting brandy over a pudding. I suppose we left them under the impression that the Anglo-Saxons had a propensity to set fire to every thing they came in contact with."

"It is very odd that so many of your people should be afraid of resembling us, and take the French type for imitation in preference to the English. The original feeling of gratitude to France for having assisted you in the war of independence, does not seem sufficient to account for it."

"Certainly not; for that feeling would naturally diminish in succeeding generations, whereas the Gallicism of our people is on the increase,—in fact its origin is of comparatively recent date. But we really are more like the French in some senses. Politically the American is very Anglo-Saxon. So he is morally; but socially, so far as you can separate society from morals, he is very French. The Englishman's first idea of his duty in society is non-interference; the Frenchman's and American's, amusement. An Englishman does not think it his business to endeavor to amuse the company in which he happens to be; an Englishwoman does not think it her duty to make any attempt to entertain a man who is introduced to her. A Frenchman will rather talk trash, knowing that he is talking trash, than remain silent and let others remain silent. So will an American. But an Englishman, unless he is sure of saying something to the point, will hold his tongue. The imperturbable self-possession of the English gentleman is generally understood by us, any more than it is by the French. His minding his own business is attributed to selfish indifference. The picture that half our people form of an Englishman is, a heavy, awkward man, very badly dressed, courageous, and full of learning; but devoid of all the arts and graces of life, and caring for nobody but himself. It is a great pity that there is not a better understanding; but, unfortunately, the best Englishmen who come here seldom stay long enough to be appreciated, and the best Americans who go to England seldom stay there long enough to appreciate the country. Whenever an American chances to stay some years among you, he ends by liking England very much; but it is very seldom that he has any provocation, unless compelled by business, to stay some years, for acquaintances are harder to make in London than in any other city, while it has less resources for a man without acquaintances than any other city—besides being so dear. But here come the ladies at last; now for breakfast."

Breakfast was the best managed meal at the Bath Hotel. The table d'hôte began at half past seven, but fresh relays of rolls and eggs, ham, chops, and steaks, were always to be obtained until half-past ten or eleven by those who had interest with the waiters. After breakfast the company went to work promenading. There was a very wide hall running through the hotel, and up and down this, and up and down the two broadest sides of the portico, all the world walked—"our set" being conspicuous from the elegance of their morning costume. One side of the portico was devoted to the gentlemen and their cigars, and there Ashburner and Benson took a turn, leaving with the ladies Le Roi and a small beau or two who had joined them. Suddenly Benson pressed his friend's arm.

"Here comes really 'one of the most remarkable men'—the very god of the dance; behold Tom Edwards!"

Ashburner beheld a little man, about five feet and a half high. If he could have stood on his bushy black beard it would have lifted him full three inches higher. Besides this beard he cherished a small moustache, very elaborately curling-tongsed at the ends into the shape of half a lyre. Otherwise he had not much hair on his head, but what he had was very carefully brushed. His features were delicate, and not without intelligence, but terribly worn by dissipation. To look at his figure, you would take him for a boy of nineteen; to look at his face, for a man of thirty: he was, probably, about half way between the two ages. Every thing about him was wonderfully neat: a white coat and hat like Benson's; cream-colored waistcoat and pearl-colored trousers; miraculously small feet in resplendent boots, looking more like a doll's extremities than a man's; a fresh kid glove on one of his little hands, and on the other a sapphire ring, so large that Ashburner wondered how the little man could carry it, and thought that he should, like Juvenal's dandies, have kept a lighter article for summer wear. Then he had a watch-chain of great balls of blue enamel, with about two pounds of chatelaine charms dependent therefrom; and delicate little enamelled studs, with sleeve-buttons to match. Altogether he was a wonderful lion, considering his size. Even Benson had not the courage to stop and introduce his friend until he passed the great dancer more than once, in silent admiration, and with a respectful bow.

And as they passed he detailed to Ashburner, with his usual biographical accuracy, the history of Tom Edwards, which he had begun in the stage-coach. Tom had been left in his infancy with a fortune and without a father, to be brought up by relatives who had an unlucky preference of Parisian to American life. Under their auspices and those of other Mentors, whom he found in that gay capital, his progress was so rapid, that at a very early age he was known as the banker of two or three distinguished lorettes, and the pet pupil of the renowned Cellarius. Indeed, he had lived so much in the society of that gentleman and his dancing girls, that he took the latter for his standard of female society, and had a tendency to behave to all womankind as he behaved to them. To married ladies he talked slightly refined double-entendre: to young ladies he found it safest to say very little, his business and pleasure being to dance with them; if they did not dance, he gave them up for uncivilized beings, and troubled himself no further about them. Of old people of either sex he took no further notice than to order them out of the way when they impeded the polkers, or dance bodily over them when they disobeyed. Still it must be said, in justice to him, that dancing was not his sole and all-absorbing pursuit. Having an active turn of mind and body, he found leisure for many other profitable amusements. He was fond of that noble animal, the horse, gambled habitually, ate and drank luxuriously,—in short, burned his candle at a good many ends: but the dance was, though not his sole, certainly his favorite passion; and he was never supremely happy but when he had all the chairs in the house arranged in a circle, and all the boys and women of "our set" going around them in the German cotillon, from noon to midnight at a (so-called) matinée, or from midnight to daybreak at a ball.

"And now," said Benson, "I think my cousin Gerard must be up by this time; he and Edwards are generally the last to come down to breakfast. Perhaps we shall find him at the ten-pin alley; I see the ladies are moving that way."

To the ten-pin alley they went. Down stairs, men were playing, coat off and cigar in mouth; while others waited their turn, with feet distributed in various directions. Above, all was decorum; the second story being appropriated to the ladies and their cavaliers. And very fond of the game the ladies were, for it afforded them an opportunity of showing off a handsome arm, and sometimes a neat ankle. Gerard was not there; they had to wait some time for alleys: altogether Benson was a little bored, and whispered to his friend that he meant to console himself by making a little sensation.

"By your play?" asked Ashburner.

"No, but by taking off my coat."

"Why, really, considering the material of your coat, I think it might as well be on as off. Surely you can't find it an impediment?"

"No, but I mean to take it off for fun,—just to give the people here something to talk about; they talk so much about so little. They will be saying all over by to-morrow that Mr. Benson was in the ladies' room half undressed."

After an hour's rolling they turned hotelwards again, and as they did so a very spicy phaeton, with gray wheelers and black leaders, drove up to the door. A tall, handsome man, handed out a rather pretty and very showily-dressed little woman; and Ashburner recognized Gerard Ludlow.

It was not the first time he had seen Gerard. They had travelled half over Greece together, having accidentally fallen upon the same route. As the Honorable Edward had all the national fear of compromising himself, and Gerard was as proud and reserved as any Englishman, they went on together for days without speaking, although the only Anglo-Saxons of the party. At last, Ludlow having capsized, horse and all, on a particularly bad road, Ashburner took the liberty of helping to pick him up, and then they became very good friends. Gerard was at that time in the full flush of youth and beauty, and the lion of the Italian capital which he had made his headquarters, where it was currently reported that a certain very desirable countess had made desperate love to him, and that a rich nobleman (for there are some rich noblemen still left on the continent) had tried very hard to get the handsome foreigner for a son-in-law. Knowing this and some other similar stories about him, Ashburner was a little curious to see Mrs. Ludlow, and confessed himself somewhat disappointed in her; he found her rather pretty, and certainly not stupid; lively and agreeable in her manners, like most of her countrywomen; but by no means remarkably distinguished either for beauty or wit. Benson explained to him that his cousin "had married for tin."

"But Ludlow always talked of his father as a rich man, and his family as a small one. I should have supposed money about the last thing he would have married for."

"Yes, he had prospects of the best; but he wanted ready money and a settled income. He was on a small allowance; he knew the only way to get a handsome one was to marry, and that the more money his wife brought, the more his father would come down with. So as Miss Hammersley had eight thousand a year, old Ludlow trebled it; and Gerard may build as many phaetons as he likes. I don't mean to say that the match is an uncongenial one—they have many tastes alike; but I do mean to say that love had nothing to do with it."

"Well, I used to think that in your unsophisticated Republican country, people married out of pure love; but now it looks as if the fashionables, at least, marry for money about as often as we do."

"They don't marry for any thing else," replied Benson, using one of the slang phrases of the day.

While the two friends were gossiping, Sumner and Le Roi had carried off the ladies; and an assemblage of juvenile beaux and young girls, and some few of the younger married women, had extemporized a dance in the largest of the public parlors, which they kept up till two o'clock, and then vanished—to dress, as it appeared, for the three o'clock dinner. Benson's party had obtained their apartments at last,—a parlor and two bedrooms for the ladies on the first floor, and chambers for the three men in the second story, of a recently built wing, popularly known as "the Colony," where most of the gay bachelors, and not a few of the young married men, slept. At dinner the ladies presented themselves as much dressed as they could be without being décolletées; and the men had doffed their grass-cloth or linen garments, and put on dress-coats, or, at least, black coats. Ashburner was a good-looking young man enough, and had sufficient vanity to take notice, in the course of the morning, that he was an object of attention; at dinner many looks were directed towards him, but with an expression of disappointment which he did not exactly understand at the time, but afterwards learned the reason of from his friend. Though making no pretensions to the title of exquisite, he happened to have a very neat shooting-jacket, unexceptionable in material and fit; and "our set," having approved of this, were curious to see what sort of costume he would display at dinner. When, therefore, he came to table,

Avec les mêmes bas et la même cravate,

and the shooting-jacket unchanged, they were visibly disappointed. Benson, to keep him in countenance, had retained his white coat, on the plea of its being most wanted then, as they were in the hottest part of the day, which excuse did not enable him to escape some hints from his sister-in-law, and a direct scolding from his wife.

Our Englishman thought the dinner hardly worth so much dressing for. The dishes, so far as he had an opportunity of judging, were tolerably cooked; but their number was not at all proportionate to that of the guests; in short, it was a decided case of short commons, and the waiters were scarce to match. There were but two parties well attended to. One was the family of an old gentleman from the South, who was part owner of the building, and who, besides this advantage, enjoyed the privilege of letting his daughter monopolize the piano of the public parlor half the day, to sing Italian arias shockingly out of tune, much to the disgust of the boarders generally, and especially of the dancing set, who were continually wanting the instrument themselves for polking purposes. The other was——the reporters of The Sewer; who had a choice collection of dishes and waiters always at their command. To be sure they had their end of the table to themselves, too, for not a person sat within three chairs of them on either side; but this they, no doubt, accepted as a complimentary acknowledgment of their formidable reputation. Every one else was famished. The married women grumbled, and scolded their husbands—those convenient scapegoats of all responsibility; the young ladies tried to look very sentimental, and above all such vulgar anxiety as that of meat and drink, but only succeeded in looking very cross; the men swore in various dialects at the waiters whenever they could catch them flying, and the waiters being used to it didn't mind it; and Ashburner, as a recollection of a former conversation flitted across his mind, could not help letting off a tu quoque at his friend.

"I say, Benson," quoth he, "is this one of the hotels that are so much better than ours, and that our people ought to take a lesson from?"

Harry looked half-a-dozen bowie-knives at him. Besides the natural irritation produced by hunger, his wife and sister-in-law had been whipping him over each other's shoulders for the last half-hour, and now this last remark made him ready to boil over. For a few seconds his face wore an expression positively dangerous, but in another moment the ridiculous side of the case struck him. With a good-humored laugh he called for some wine—the only thing one was sure to get, as it was an extra, and a pretty expensive one, too, on the hills—and they drowned their hunger in a bumper of tolerable champagne.

The fact was, that the Bath Hotel had been a most excellent house three or four summers previous, and the "enterprising and gentlemanly" landlord (to borrow an American penny-a-liner's phrase) having made a fortune, as he deserved, had sold out his lease, with the good-will and fixtures of the establishment, to Mr. Grabster. The latter gentleman was originally a respectable farmer and market-gardener in the vicinity of Oldport; and having acquired by his business a fair sum of money, was looking about for some speculation in which to invest it. He commenced his new profession with tolerably good intentions, but having as much idea of keeping a hotel as he had of steering a frigate, and finding a balance against him at the end of the first season from sheer mismanagement, he had been endeavoring ever since to make up for it by screwing his guests in every way. People naturally began to complain. Two courses were open to him—to improve his living, or to tip an editor to puff him. He deemed the latter course the cheaper, and bought The Sewer, which, while uttering the most fulsome adulation of every thing connected with the Bath Hotel, frightened the discontented into silence through dread of its abuse. Ludlow, and some of the other exclusives, had, in the beginning of the present season, contrived a remedy, which, for the time, was perfectly successful. They held a private interview with the cook, and made up a weekly contribution for him, on condition of their having the best of every thing, and enough of it, for dinner; and the waiters were similarly retained. For a time this worked to a marvel, and the subscribers were as well fed as they could desire. But the other guests began to make an outcry against the aristocracy and exclusiveness of private dishes on a public table, and the servants soon hit upon a compromise of their own, which was to take the money without rendering the quid pro quo. This, of course, soon put an end to the payments, and things were on the old starvation footing again.

After dinner, every body who had horses rode or drove. The roads about Oldport were heavy and sandy, and terrible work the dust made with the ladies' fine dresses and the gentlemen's fine coats.

"Rather different from the drives about Baden-Baden," said Benson.

"Yes; but I suppose we must console ourselves on moral grounds, and remember, that there we owe the beautiful promenades to the gambling-table, while here we are without the roads, and also without the play."

"Ah, but isn't there play here! only all sub rosâ. Wait a while, and you'll find out."

And Ashburner did find out before many nights, when the footsteps and oaths of the young gamblers returning at four in the morning to their rooms in the "Colony," woke him out of his first sleep. After the drive, tea—still at the table-d'hôte—and after tea, dressing for the ball, which this night was at the Bellevue House, appropriately so called from commanding a fine view of nothing. As the Bellevue was not a fashionable hotel (although the guests were sufficiently fed there), some of the exclusive ladies had hesitated about "assisting" on the occasion; but the temptation of a dance was too strong to be resisted, and they all ultimately went. Le Roi accompanied the Bensons in the all-accommodating Rockaway. The Bellevue had a "colony," too, in the second story of which was the ballroom. As they ascended the stairs, the lively notes of La Polka Sempiternelle, composée par Josef Bungel, et dédiée à M. T. Edwards, reached their ears; and hardly were they over the threshold when Edwards himself hopped up before them, and without other preface or salutation than a familiar nod, threw his arm round Mrs. Benson's waist, and swung her off in the dance; while Sumner, who had simultaneously presented himself to Miss Vanderlyn, took similar possession of her.

"Do you dance?"

"No, I thank you."

While Benson asked the question, Le Roi dived at a girl and whirled her away: almost before Ashburner had answered it, his friend shot away from him, making point at a young married lady in the distance; and his bow of recognition ended in the back-step of the polka, as the two went off together at a killing pace. In five seconds from the time of entrance, Ashburner was left standing alone at one end of the room, and his companions were twirling at the other. For so habituated were the dancers to their fascinating exercise, that they were always ready to go at the word, like trained horses. And certainly the dancing was beautiful. He had never seen gentlemen move so gracefully and dexterously in a crowded room as these young Americans did. Le Roi and Röwenberg, who, by virtue of their respective nationalities, were bound to be good dancers, looked positively awkward alongside of the natives. As to the ladies, they glided, and swam, and realized all the so-often-talked-of-and-seldom-seen "poetry of motion." Indeed Ashburner thought they did it too well. He thought of Catiline's friend, commemorated by Sallust, who "danced better than became a modest woman." He thought some of their displays were a little operatic, and that he had seen something like them at certain balls in Paris—not the balls of the Faubourg St. Germain. He thought that the historian's aphorism might be extended to the male part of the company,—and that they danced better than became intelligent men. He thought—but as he prudently kept thoughts to himself, and as some of his foreign prejudice may have been at the bottom of them, we will not stop to record them all. By and by there was a quadrille for the benefit of the million, during which the exclusives rested, and Ashburner had full opportunity of observing them. The first thing that struck him was the extreme youth of the whole set, and more especially of the masculine portion of it. Old men there were none. The old women, that is to say, the mammas and aunts, were stuck into corners out of the way, and no one took any notice of them. Hamilton White was quite an old beau by comparison—almost superannuated. Sumner would have been nearly off the books but for his very superior dancing. Even Benson seemed a middle-aged man compared with the majority of "our set," who averaged between boys of seventeen and young men of twenty-four. And the more juvenile the youth, the larger and stiffer was his white tie. Some of these neck-fastenings were terrific to behold, standing out a foot on each side of the wearer. All the Joinvilles that Ashburner had ever seen, on all the gents in London or elsewhere, faded into insignificance before these portentous cravats. He could not help making some observations on this fashion to Benson, as he encountered him promenading with a fair polkiste.

"Did you ever notice the whiffletrees of my team-trotting wagon, how they extend on each side beyond the hubs of the wheels? They serve for feelers in a tight place: wherever you clear your whiffletrees, you can clear your wheels; and these cravats are built on the same principle—wherever you clear your tie, you can clear your partner."

By one in the morning the democracy of the ballroom had had enough of four hours' dancing and looking on. "Our set" was left in full possession of the floor. Forthwith they seized upon all the chairs, and the interminable German cotillon commenced. It lasted two hours—and how much longer Ashburner could not tell. When he went away at three, the dancers looked very deliquescent, but gave no symptoms of flagging. And so ended his first day's experience of an American watering-place.