WHEN I state that ray name is A. Bratley Chylde, I presume that I am already sufficiently introduced.
My patronymic establishes my fashionable position. Chylde, the distinguished monosyllable, is a card of admission everywhere, — everywhere that is anywhere.
And my matronymic, Bratley, should have established my financial position for life. It should have — allow me a vulgar term — “ indorsed ” me with the tradesmen who have the honor to supply me with the glove, the boot, the general habiliment, and all the requisites of an elegant appearance upon the carpet or the troiloir.
But, alas! I am not so indorsed — pardon the mercantile aroma of the word — by the name Bratley.
The late Mr. A. Bratley, my grandfather, was indeed one of those rude, laborious, and serviceable persons whose office is to make money — or perhaps I should say to accumulate the means of enjoyment —for the upper classes of society.
But my father, the late Mr. Harold Chylde, had gentlemanly tastes.
llow can I blame him ? I have the same.
He loved to guide the rapid steed along the avenue.
I also love to guide the rapid steed.
He could not persuade his delicate lungs — pardon my seeming knowledge of anatomy— to tolerate the confined air in offices, counting-houses, banks, or other haunts of persons whose want of refinement of taste impels them to the crude distractions of business-life.
I have the same delicacy of constitution. Indeed, unless the atmosphere I breathe is rendered slightly narcotic by the smoke of Cabañas and slightly stimulating by the savor of heeltaps, — excuse the technical term, — I find myself debilitated to a degree. The open air is extremely offensive to me. I confine myself to clubs and billiard-rooms.
My late father, being a man distinguished for bis clear convictions, was accustomed to sustain the statement of those convictions by wagers. The inherent generosity of his nature obliged him often to waive his convictions in behalf of others, and thus to abandon the receipt of considerable sums. He also found the intellectual excitement of games of chance necessary to his mental health.
I cannot blame him for these and similar gentlemanly tastes. My own are the same.
The late Mr. A. Bratley, at that time in his dotage, and recurring to the crude idioms of bis homely youth, constantly said to my father,—
“ Harold, you are a spendthrift and a rake, and are bringing up your son the same.”
I object, of course, to his terms ; but since lie foresaw that my habits would be expensive, it is to be regretted that be did not make suitable provision for their indulgence.
He did not, however, do so. Persons of low-breeding never can comprehend their duties to the more refined.
The respective dusts of my father and grandfather were consigned to the tomb the same week, and it was found that my mother’s property had all melted away, as — allow me a poetical figure — icecream melts between the lips of beauty heated after the German.
Yes, —all was gone, except a small pittance in the form of an annuity. I will not state the ridiculously trifling amount. I have seen more than our whole annual income lost by a single turn of a card at the establishment of the late Mr. P. Hearn, and also in private circles.
Something must be done. Otherwise. that deprivation of the luxuries of life which to the aristocratic is starvation.
I stated my plans to my mother. They were based in part upon my well-known pecuniary success at billiards, — I need not say that I prefer the push game, as requiring no expenditure of muscular force. They were also based in part upon my intimacy with a distinguished operator in Wall Street. Our capital would infallibly have been quadrupled, — what do I say? decupled, centupled, in a short space of time.
My mother is a good, faithful creature. She looks up to me as a Bratley should to a Chylde. She appreciates the honor my father did her by his marriage, and I by my birth. I have frequently remarked a touching fidelity of these persons of the lower classes of society toward those of higher rank.
" I would make any sacrifice in the world,” she said, “ to help you, my dear A-.”
“ Hush ! ” I cried.
I have suppressed my first name as unmelodious and connecting me too much with a religious persuasion meritorious for its wealth alone. Need I say that I refer to the faith of the Rothschild ?
“ All that I have is yours, my dear Bratley,” continued my mother.
Quite touching! was it not ? I was so charmed, that I mentally promised her a new silk when she went into halfmourning, and asked her to go with me to the opera as soon as she got over that feeble tendency to tears which kept her eyes red and unpresentable.
" would gladly aid you,” the simplehearted creature said, “ in any attempt to make your fortune in an honorable and manly way.”
" Brava! brava ! ” I cried, and I patted applause, as she deserved. " And you had better make over your stocks to me at once,” I continued.
" I cannot without your Uncle Bratlev’s permission. He is my trustee. Go to him, my dear son.”
I went to him very unwillingly. My father and I had always as much as possible ignored the Bratley connection. They live in a part of New York where self-respect does not allow me to be seen. They are engaged in avocations connected with the feeding of the lower classes. My father had always required that the females of their families should call on my mother on days when she was not at home to our own set, and at hours when they were not likely to be detected. None of them, I am happy to say, were ever seen at our balls or our dinners.
I nerved myself, and penetrated to that Ultima Thule where Mr. Bratley resides. His house already, at that early hour of two, smelt vigorously of dinner. Nothing but the urgency of my business could have induced me to brave these odors of plain roast and boiled.
A mob of red-faced children rushed to see me as I entered, and I heard one of them shouting up the stairs, —
" Oh, pa ! there’s a stilly waiting to see you.”
The phrase was new to me. I looked for a mirror, to see whether any inaccuracy in my toilet might have suggested it.
Positively there was no mirror in the salon.
Instead of it, there were nothing but distressingly bright pictures by artists who had had the bad taste to paint raw Nature just as they saw it.
My uncle entered, and quite overwhelmed me with a robust cordiality which seemed to ignore my grief.
" Just in time, my boy,” said he, " to take a cut of rare roast beef and a hot potato and a mug of your Uncle Sam’s beer with us.”
I shuddered, and rebuked him with the intelligence that I had just lunched at the club, and shoidd not dine till six.
Then I stated my business, curtly.
He looked at me with a stare, which I have frequently observed in persons of limited intelligence.
“ So you want to gamble away your mother’s last dollar,” said he.
In vain I stated and restated to him my plans. The fellow, evidently jealous of my superior financial ability, constantly interrupted me with ejaculations of “ Pish ! ” “ Bosh ! ” “ Psliaw ! ” “ No go! ” and finally, with a loud thump on a table, covered with such costly but valueless objects as books and plates, he cried,
“ What a d—d fool ! ”
I was glad to perceive that he began to admit my wisdom and his stolidity. And so I told him.
“ A-,” said he, using my abhorred name in full, “ I believe you are a greater ass than your father was.”
“ Sir,” said I, much displeased, “ these intemperate ebullitions will necessarily terminate our conference.”
“ Conference be hanged ! ” he rejoined. “ You may as well give it up. You are not going to get the first red cent out of me.”
“ Have I referred, Sir,” said I, “ to the inelegant coin you name ? ”
The creature grinned. “ I shall pay your mother’s income quarterly, and do the best I can by her,” he continued; “ and if you want to make a man of yourself, I ’ll give you a chance in the bakery with me ; or Sam Bratley will take you into his brewery ; or Bob into his pork-packery.”
I checked my indignation. The vulgarian wished to drag me, a Chyide, down to the Bratley levelBut I suppressed my wrath, for fear he might find some pretext for suppressing the quarterly income, and alleged my delicate health as a reason for my refusing his insulting offer.
“ Well,” said he, “ I don’t see as there is anything else for you to do, except to find some woman fool enough to marry you, as Betsey did your father. There’s a hundred dollars ! ”
I have seldom seen dirtier bills than those he produced and handed to me. Fortunately I was in deep mourning and my gloves were dark lead color.
“ That’s right,” says he, — “ grab ’em and fob ’em. Now go to Newport and try for an heiress, and don’t let me see your tallow face inside of my door for a year.”
He had bought the right to be despotic and abusive. I withdrew and departed, ruminating on his advice. Singularly, I had not before thought of marrying. I resolved to do so at once.
Newport is the mart where the marriageable meet. I took my departure for Newport next day.
I NEED hardly say, that, on arriving at Newport, one foggy August morning, I drove at once to the Millard.
The Millard attracted me for three reasons: First, it was new; second, it was fashionable; third, the name would be sure to be in favor with the class I had resolved to seek my spouse among. The term spouse I select as somewhat less familiar than wife, somewhat more permanent than bride, and somewhat less amatory than the partner of my bosom. I wish my style to be elevated, accurate, and decorous. It is my object, as the reader will have already observed, to convey heroic sentiments in the finest possible language.
It was upon some favored individual of the class Southern Heiress that I designed to let fall the embroidered handkerchief of affectionate selection. At the Millard I was sure to find her. That enormously wealthy and highly distinguished gentleman, her father, would naturally avoid the Ocean House. The adjective free, so intimately connected with the substantive ocean, would constantly occur to his mind and wound his sensibilities. The Atlantic House was still more out of the question. The name must perpetually remind the tenants of that hotel of a certain quite objectionable periodical devoted to propagandism. In short, not to pursue this process of elimination farther, and perhaps offend some friend of the class Hotel-Keeper, the Millard was not only about the cheese, per se, — I punningly allude here to the creaminess of its society, — but inevitably the place to seek my charmer.
The clock of the Millard was striking eleven as I entered the salle à manger for a late breakfast after my night-journey from New York by steamboat.
I flatter myself that I produced, as I intended, a distinct impression. My deep mourning gave me a most interesting look, which I heightened by an air of languor and abstraction as of one lost in grief. My shirt-studs were jet. The plaits of my shirt were edged with black. My Clarendon was, of course, black, and from its breast-pocket appeared a handkerchief dotted with spots, not dissimilar to black peppermint-drops on a white paper. In consequence of the extreme heat of the season, I wore waistcoat and trousers of white duck; but they, too, were qualified with sombre contrasts of binding and stripes.
The waiters evidently remarked me. It may have been the hope of pecuniary reward, it may have been merely admiration for my dress and person ; but several rushed forward, diffusing that slightly oleaginous perfume peculiar to the waiter, and drew chairs for me.
I had, however, selected my position at the table at the moment of my entrance. It was vis-a-vis a party of four persons,— two of the sterner, two of the softer sex. A back view interpreted them to me. There is much physiognomy in the backs of human heads, because — and here I flatter myself that I enunciate a profound truth—people wear that wellknown mask, the human countenance, on the front of the human head alone, and think it necessary to provide such concealment nowhere else.
“ A rich Southern planter and his family ! ” I said to myself, and took my seat opposite them.
“Nothing, Michel,” I replied to the waiter’s recital of his bill-of-fare. “Nothing but a glass of iced water and bit of dry toast. Only that,thank you, Michel.”
My appetite was good, particularly as, in consequence of the agitation of the water opposite Point Judith, my stomach had ceased to be occupied with relics of previous meals. My object in denying myself, and accepting simply hermit fare, was to convey to observers my grief for my bereavement. I have always deemed it proper for persons of distinguished birth to deplore the loss of friends in public. Hunger, if extreme, can always be reduced by furtive supplies from the pastry-cook.
I could not avoid observing that the party opposite had each gone throug the whole breakfast bill-of-fare in a des ultory, but exhaustive manner.
As I ordered my more delicate meal, the younger of the two gentlemen cast upon me a look of latent truculence, such as I have often remarked among my compatriots of the South, He seemed to detect an unexpressed sarcasm in the contrast between my gentle refection and his robust déjeuner.
I hastened to disarm such a suspicion by a half-articulate sigh. No one, however crass, could have failed to be touched by this token of a grief so bitter as to refuse luxurious nutriment.
As I sighed, I glanced with tender meaning at the young lady. Her feminine heart, I hoped, would interpret and pity me.
I fancied, that, at my look, her cheeks, though swarthy, blushed. She was certainly interested, and somewhat confused, and paused a moment in her mastication. Ham was the viand she was engaged upon, and she (playfully, I have no doubt) ate with her knife. I have remarked the same occasional superiority to what might be called Fourchettism and its prejudices in others of established position in society.
I lavished a little languid and not too condescending civility upon the party by passing them, when Michel was absent, the salt, the butter, the bread, and other commonplace condiments. Presently I withdrew, that my absence might make me desired. Before I did so, however, I took pains, by the exhibition of the “ New York Herald ” in my hands, to show that my political sentiments were unexceptionable.
I lost no time in consulting the books of the hotel for the names and homes of the strangers.
I read as follows: —
Sachary Mellasys and Lady, Miss Saccharissa Mellasys, Mellasys Ptickaman, } Bayou La Farouche, La
Saccharissa Mellasys! I rolled the name like a sweet morsel under my tongue. I forgot that she was not beautiful in form, feature, or complexion. How slight, indeed, is the charm of beauty, when compared with other charms more permanent! Ah, yes!
The complexion of Miss Mellasys announced a diet of alternate pickles and pralines during her adolescent years,— the pickles taken to excite an appetite for the pralines, the pralines absorbed to occupy the interval until pickle-time approached. Neither her form nor her features were statuesque. But the name glorified the person.
Sachary Mellasys was, as I was well aware, the great sugar-planterof Louisiana, and Saccharissa his only child.
I am an imaginative man. I have never doubted, that, if I should ever give my fancies words, they would rank with the great Creations of genius. At the dulcet name of Mellasys a fairy scene grew before my eyes. I seemed to see an army of merry negroes cultivating the sugar-cane to the inspiring music of a banjo band. Ever and anon a company of the careless creatures would pause and dance for pure gayety of heart. Then they would recline under the shade of the wild bandanna-tree,— I know this vegetable only through the artless poetry of the negro minstrels,— while sleek and sprightly negresses, decked with innocent finery, served them beakers of iced eau sucré.
As I was shaping this Arcadian vision, Mr. Mellasys passed me on his way to the bar-room. I hastened to follow, without the appearance of intention.
My reader is no doubt aware that at the fashionable bar-room the cigars are all of the same quality, though the prices mount according to the ambition of the purchaser. I found Mr. Mellasys gasping with efforts to light a dime cigar. Between his gasps, profane expressions escaped him.
" Sir,” said I, “ allow a stranger to offer you a better article.”
At the same time I presented my case filled with choice Cabanas,—smuggled. My limited means oblige me to employ these judicious economies.
Mr. Mellasys took a cigar, lighted, whiffed, looked at me, whiffed again, —
“ Sir,” says he, “ dashed if that a’n’t the best cigar I ’ve smoked sence I quit Bayou La Farouche !”
“ Ah ! a Southerner ! ” said I. “Pray, allow the harmless weed to serve as a token of amity between our respective sections.”
Mr. Mellasys grasped my hand.
“ Take a drink, Mr.-?” said he.
“ Bratley Chylde,” rejoined I, filling the hiatus, — “ and I shall be most happy.”
The name evidently struck him. It was a combination of all aristocracy and all plutocracy. As I gave my name, I produced and presented my card. I was aware, that, with the uncultured, the possession of a card is a proof of gentility, as the wearing of a coat-of-arms proves a long line of distinguished ancestry.
Mr. Mellasys took my card, studied it, and believed in it with refreshing naivetè.
“ I ’m proud to know you, Mr. Chylde,” said he. “ I have n’t a card; but Mellasys is my name, and I ’ll show it to you written on the hotel-books.”
“ We will waive that ceremony,” said I. “ And allow me to welcome you to Newport and the Millard. Shall we enjoy the breeze upon the piazza ?”
Before our second cigar was smoked, the great planter and I were on the friendliest terms. My political sentiments he found precisely in accord with his own. Indeed, our general views of life harmonized.
“ I dare say you have heard,” said Mellasys, “ from some of the bloated aristocrats of my section that I was a slavedealer once.”
“ Such a rumor has reached me,” rejoined I. “ And I was surprised to find, that, in some minds of limited intelligence and without development of the logical faculty, there was a prejudice against the business.”
“ You think that buyin’ and sellin’ ’em is just the same as ownin’ ’em ? ”
“ I do.”
“ Your hand!” said he, fervently.
“Mr. Mellasys,” said I, “let me take this opportunity to lay down my platform, — allow me the playful expression. Meeting a gentleman of your intelligence from the sunny South, I desire to express my sentiments as a Christian and a gentleman.”
Here I thought it well to pause and spit, to keep myself in harmony with my friend.
“ A gentleman,” I continued, “ I take to be one who confines himself to the cultivation of his tastes, the decoration of his person, and the preparation of his whole being to shine in the salon. Now to such a one the condition of the laboring classes can be of no possible interest. As a gentleman, I cannot recognize either slaves or laborers. But here Christianity comes in. Christianity requires me to read and interpret my Bible. In it I find such touching paragraphs as, ' Cursed be Canaan!’ Canaan is of course the negro slave of our Southern States. Curse him ! then, I say. Let us have no weak and illogical attempts to elevate his condition. Such sentimentalism is rank irreligion. I view the negro as a man permanently upon the rack, who is to be punished just as much as he will bear without diminishing his pecuniary value. And the allotted method of punishment is hard work, hard fare, the liberal use of the whip, and a general negation of domestic privileges.”
“ Mr. Chylde,” said Mr. Mellasys, rising, "this is truth! this is eloquence! this is being tip to snuff ! You are a hightoned gentleman ! you are an old-fashioned Christian ! you should have been my partner in slave-driving! Your hand!”
The quality of the Mellasys hand was an oleaginous clamminess. My only satisfaction, in touching it, was, that it seemed to suggest a deficient circulation of the blood. Mr, Mellasys would probably go off early with an apoplexy, and the husband of Miss Mellasys would inherit without delay.
“ And now,” continued the planter, “ let me introduce you to my daughter.”
I felt that my fortune was made.
I knew that she would speedily yield to my fascinations.
And so it proved. In three days she adored me. For three days more I was coy. In a week she was mine.
THE SUNNY SOUTH.
WE were betrothed, Saccharissa Mellasys and I.
In vain did Mellasys Pliekaman glower along the corridors of the Millard. I pitied him for his defeat too much to notice his attempts to pick a quarrel. Firm in the affection of my Saccharissa and in the confidence of her father, I waived the insults of the aggrieved and truculent cousin. He had lost the heiress. I had won her. I could afford to be generous.
We were to be married in December, at Bayou La Farouche. Then we were to sail at once for Europe. Then, after a proud progress through the principal courts, we were to return and inhabit a stately mansion in New York, How the heart of my Saccharissa throbbed at the thought, of bearing the elevated name of Chylde and being admitted to the sacred circles of fashion, as peer of the most elevated in social position !
I found no difficulty in getting a liberal credit from my tailor. Upon the mere mention of my engagement, that worthy artist not only provided me with an abundant supply of raiment, but, with a most charming delicacy, placed banknotes for a considerable amount in the pockets of my new trousers. I was greatly touched by this attention, and very gladly signed an acknowledgment of debt.
I regret, that, owing to circumstances hereafter to be mentioned, the diary kept jointly by Saccharissa and myself during our journey to the sunny South has passed out of my possession. Its pages overflowed with tenderness. How beautiful were our dreams of the balls and soirées we were to give ! How we discussed the style of our furniture, our carriage, and our coachman ! How I fed Saccharissa’s soul with adulation ! She was ugly, she was vulgar, she was jealous, she was base, she had had flirtations of an intimate character with scores ; but she was rich, and I made great allowances.
At last we arrived at Bayou La Farouche.
I cannot state that the locality is an 'attractive one. Its land scenery is composed of alligators and mud in nearly equal proportions.
I never beheld there my fancy realized of a band of gleeful negroes hoeing cane to the music of the banjo. There are no wild bandanna-trees, and no tame ones, either. The slaves of Mr. Mellasys never danced, except under the whip of a very noisome person who acted as overseer. There were no sleek and sprightly negresses in gay turbans, and no iced eau sucré. Canaan was cursed with religious rigor ou the Mellasys plantation at Bayou La Farouche.
All this time Mellasys Plickaman had been my bête noir.
I know nothing of polities. Were our country properly constituted, I should be in the House of Peers. The Chylde family is of sublime antiquity, and I am its head in America. But, alas! we have no hereditary legislators; and though I feel myself competent to wear the strawberry-leaves, or even to sit upon a throne, I have not been willing to submit to the unsavory contacts of American political life. Mr. Mellasys Plickaman took advantage of my ignorance.
When several gentlemen of the neighborhood were calling upon me in the absence of Mr. Mellasys, my defeated rival introduced the subject of politics
“ I suppose you are a good Democrat, Mr. Chylde ? ” said one of the strangers.
“ No, I thank you,” replied I, sportively,—meaning, of course, that they should understand I was a good Aristocrat.
“ Who ’s your man for President ? ” my interlocutor continued, rather roughly.
I had heard in conversation, without giving the fact much attention, that an election for President was to take place in a few days. These struggles of commonplace individuals for the privilege of residing in a vulgar town like Washington were without interest to me. So I answered, —
“ Oh, any of them. They are all alike to me.”
“ You don’t mean to say,” here another of the party loudly broke in, “ that Breekenridge and Lincoln are the same to you ? ”
The young man wore long hair and a black dress-coat, though it was morning. His voice was nasal, and his manner intrusive. I crushed him with a languid “ Yes.” He was evidently abashed, and covered his confusion by lighting a cigar and smoking it with the lighted end in his mouth. This is a habit of many persons in the South, who hence are called Fire-Eaters.
Mellasys Plickaman here changed the subject to horses, which I do understand, and my visitors presently departed.
as the poet has it. My Saccharissa and myself are both persons of a romantic and dreamy nature. Often for hours we would sit and gaze upon each other with only occasional interjections, — “ How warm ! ” “ How sleepy ! ” “ Is it not almost time for lunch ? ” As Saccharissa was not in herself a beautiful object, I accustomed myself to see her merely as a representative of value. Her yellowish complexion helped me in imagining her, as it were, a golden image which might be cut up and melted down. I used to fancy her dresses as made of certificates of stock, and her ribbons as strips of coupons. Thus she was always an agreeable spectacle.
So time flew, and the sun of the sixth of November gleamed across the scaly backs of the alligators of Bayou La Farouche.
In three days I was to be made happy with the possession of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) on the nail, — excuse the homely expression, — great expectations for the future, and the hand of my Saccharissa.
For these I exchanged the name and social position of a Chylde, and my own, I trust, not unattractive person.
I deemed that I gave myself away dirtcheap, — excuse again the colloquialism; the transaction seems to require such a phrase, — for there is no doubt that Mr. Mellasys was greatly objectionable. It was certainly very illogical; but his neighbors who owned slaves insisted upon turning up their noses at Mellasys, because lie still kept up his slave-pen on Touclipitchalas Street, New Orleans. Besides, — and here again the want of logic seems to culminate into rank absurdity,— he was viewed with a purely sentimental abhorrence by some, because he had precluded a reclaimed fugitive from repeating his evasion by roasting the soles of his feet before a fire until the fellow actually died. The. fact, of course, was unpleasant, and the loss considerable,— a prime field-hand, with some knowledge of carpentry and a good performer on the violin, — but evasions must be checked, and I cannot see why Mr. Mellasys’s method was too severe. Mr. Mellasys was also considered a very unscrupulous person in financial transactions,— indeed, what would be named in some communities a swindler; and I have heard it whispered that the estimable, but somewhat obese and drowsy person who passed as his wife was not a wife, ceremonially speaking. The dusky hues of her complexion were also attributed to an infusion of African blood. There was certainly more curl in her hair than I could have wished; and Saccharissa’s wiggy locks waged an irrepressible confliet with the unguents which strove to reduce their crispness.
Indeed, why should I not be candid? Mellasys per se was a pill, Mrs. Mellasys was a dose, and Saccharissa a bolus, to one of my refined and sensitive taste.
But the sugar coated them.
To marry the daughter of the great sugar-planter of Louisiana I would have taken medicines far more unpalatable and assafætidesque than any thus far offered.
Meanwhile Mr. Mellasys Plickaman, cousin of my betrothed, had changed his tactics and treated me with civility and confidence. We drank together freely, sometimes to the point of inebriation. Indeed, unless he put me to bed, on the evening before the day of the events I am about to describe, I do not know how I got there.
Morning dawned on the sixth of November.
I was awakened, as usual, by the outcries of the refractory negroes receiving their matinal stripes in the whippinghouse. Feeling a little languid and tame, I strolled down to witness the spectacle.
It stimulated me quite agreeably. The African cannot avoid being comic. He is the grotesque element in our civilization. He will be droll even under the severest punishment. His contortions of body, his grimaces, his ejaculations of “ O Lor’! O Massa ! ” as the paddle or the lash strikes his flesh, are laughable in the extreme.
I witnessed the flagellation of several pieces of property of either sex. The sight of their beating had the effect of a gentle tickling upon me. The tone of my system was restored. I grew gay and lightsome. I exchanged jokes with the overseer. He appreciated my mood, and gave a farcical turn to the incidents of the occasion.
I enjoyed my breakfast enormously. Saccharissa never looked so sweet; Mr. Mellasys never so little like — pardon the expression — a cross between a hog and a hyena; and I began to fancy that my mother-in-law’s general flabbiness of flesh and drapery was not so very offensive.
After breakfast, Mr. Mellasys left us. It was, he said, the day of the election for President. How wretched that America should not be governed by hereditary sovereigns and an order of nobles trained to control!
The day passed. It was afternoon, and I sat reading one of the novels of my favorite De Balzac to my Saccharissa. At the same time my imagination, following the author, strayed to Paris, and recalled to me my bachelor joys in that gay capital. I resolved to repeat them again, on our arrival there, at my bride’s expense. How charming to possess a hundred thousand dollars, ($100,000,) even burdened with a wife !
My reading and my reverie were interrupted by the tramp of horses without. Six persons in dress-coats rode up, dismounted, and approached. All were smoking cigars with the lighted ends in their mouths. Mellasys Plickaman led the party. I recognized also the persons who had questioned me as to my polities. They entered the apartment where I sat alone with Saccharissa.
“ Thar he is! ” said Mellasys Plickaman. “ Thar is the d—d Abolitionist!”
Seeing that he indicated me, and that his voice was truculent, I looked to my betrothed for protection. She burst into tears and drew a handkerchief.
An odor of musk comhated for an instant with the whiskey reek diffused by Mr. Plickaman and his companions. The balmy odor was, however, quelled by the ruder scent.
“ I am surprised, Mr. Plickaman,” said I, mildly, but conscious of tremors, “ at your use of opprobrious epithets in the presence of a lady.”
“ Oh, you be blowed ! ” returned he, with unpardonable rudeness. “You can’t skulk behind Saccharissy.”
“ To what is this change in tone and demeanor owing, Sir ? ” I asked, with dignity.
“ Don’t take on airs, you little squirt!” said he.
It will be observed that I quote his very language. His intention was evidently insulting.
“Mr. Chylde,” remarked Judge Pyke, one of the gentlemen who had been inquisitive as to my political sentiments, “ The Vigilance Committee of Fire-Eaters of Bayou La Farouche have come to the conclusion that you are a spy, an Abolitionist, and a Friend of Beecher and Phillips. We intend to give you a fair trial; but I may as well state that we have all made up our minds as to the law, the facts, and the sentence. Therefore, prepare for justice. Colonel Plickaman, have you given directions about the tar ? ”
“ It ’ll be b’ilin’ in about eight minutes,” replied my quondam rival, with a boo-hoo of vulgar laughter.
“ Culprit ! ” said Judge Pyke, looking at me with a truly terrible expression, “ I have myself heard you avow, with insolent audacity, that you were not a Democrat. Do you not know, Sir, that nothing but Democrats are allowed to breathe the zephyrs of Louisiana ? Silence, culprit! Not a word ! The court cannot be interrupted. I have also heard you state that the immortal Breckenridge, Kentucky’s favorite son, was the same to you as the tiger Lincoln, the deadly foe of Southern institutions. Silence, culprit ! ”
Here Saccharissa moaned, and wafted a slight flavor of musk to me from her cambric wet with tears.
“ Colonel Plickaman,” continued the Judge, “ produce the letters and papers of the culprit.”
I am aware that a rival has rights, and that a defeated suitor may, according to the code, calumniate and slander the more fortunate one. I have done so myself. But it seems to me that there should be limits ; and I cannot but think that Mr. Mellasys Plickaman overstepped the limits of fair play, when he took advantage of my last night’s inebriety to possess himself of my journal and letters. I will not, however, absolutely commit myself on this point. Perhaps everything is fair in love. Perhaps I may desire to avail myself of the same privilege in future.
I had spoken quite freely in my journal of the barbarians of Bayou La Farouche. Each of the gentlemen now acting upon my jury was alluded to. Colonel Plickaman read each passage in a pointed way, interjecting,—“Do you hear that, Billy Sangaree ? ” “ How do you like yourself now, Major Licklickin ?” “ Here’s something about your white cravat, Parson Butterfut.”
The delicacy and wit of my touches of character chafed these gentlemen. Their aspect became truly formidable.
Meantime I began to perceive an odor which forcibly recalled to me the asphaltum-kettles of the lively Boulevards of Paris.
“ Wait awhile, Fire-Eaters,” said Plickaman, “ the tar is n’t quite ready yet.”
The tar ! What had that viscous and unfragrant material to do with the present interview ?
“ I won’t read you what he says of me,” resumed the Colonel.
“Yes, — out with it!” exclaimed all.
Suffice it to say that I had spoken of Mr. Mellasys Plickaman as a person so very ill-dressed, so very lavish in expectoration, so entirely destitute of the arts and graces of the higher civilization, merited. His companions required that he should read his own character. lie did so. I need not say that I was suffering extremities of apprehension all this time; but still I could not refrain from a slight sympathetic smile of triumph as the others roared with laughter at my accurate analysis of my rival.
“ You ’ll pay for this, Mr. A. Bratley Chyldde ! ” says Plickaman.
So long as my Saccharissa was on my side, I felt no special fear of what my foes might do. I knew the devoted nature of the female sex. “ Elles meurent, où elles s’attachenl,"— beautiful thought! These riflers of journals would, I felt confident, be unable to produce anything reflecting my real sentiments about my betrothed. I had spoken of her and her family freely—-one must have a vent somewhere— to Mr. Derby Deblore, my other self, my Pylades, my Damon, my fidus Achades in New York ; but, unless they found Derby and compelled him to testify, they could not alienate my Saccharissa.
I gave her a touching glance, as Mellasys Plickaman closed his reading of my private papers.
She gave me a touching glance,— 01 rather, a glance which her amorphous features meant to make touching,—and, waving musk from her handkerchief through the apartment, cried,—
“Never mind, Arthur dear! I don’t like you a bit the less for saying wlrat barbarous creatures these men are. They may do what they please, — I '11 stand by you. You have uiy heart, my warm Southern heart, my Arthur ! ”
“ Arthur !” shouted that atrocious Plickaman,— “the loafer’s name’s Aminadab, after that old Jew, his grandfather.”
Saccharissa looked at him and smiled contemptuously.
I tried to smile. I could not. Aminadab was my name. That old dotard, my grandfather, had borne it before me. I had suppressed it carefully,
“ Aminadab’s his name,” repeated the Colonel. “ His is own mother ought to know what he was baptized, and here is a letter from her which the postmaster and I opened this morning. Look! — ‘My dear Aminadab.’ ”
“ Don’t believe it, Saccharissa,” said I, faintly. “ It is only one of those tender nicknames, relics of childhood, which the maternal parent alone remembers.”
“Silence, culprit!” exclaimed Judge Pyke. “ And now, Colonel, read the letter upon which our sentence is principally based,-—-that traitorous document which you and our patriotic postmaster arrested.”
The ruffian, with a triumphant glance at me, took from his pocket a letter from Derby Deblore. He cleared his throat by a plenteous expectoration, and then proceeded to read as follows: —
“ Dear Bratley, — Nigger ran like a hound. Marshall and the rest only saw his heels. I ‘m going on to Toronto to see how he does there. Keep your eyes peeled, when you come through Kentucky. There’s more of the same stock there, only waiting for somebody to say, ‘ Leg it! ’ and they ’ll go like mad.”
Here the audience interrupted,—“Hang him ! hang him ! tar and feathers a’n’t half bad enough for the dam’ nigger-thief! ”
I began to comprehend Deblore’s innocent reference to his favorite horse Nigger; and a successful race he had made with the well-known racer Marshall— not Rynders -—was construed by my jury into a knowledge on my part of the operations of the “ Underground Railroad.” What could have been more absurd V I endeavored to protest. I endeavored to show them, on general and personal grounds, how utterly devoted I was to the “ Peculiar Institution.”
“ Billy Saugaree,” said Judge Pyke, “do you and Major Lickliekin stand by the low-lived Abolitionist, and if he says another word, blow out his Black Republican heart.”
They did so. I was silent. Saccharissa gave me a glance expressive of continued devotion. So long as I kept her and her hundred thousand dollars, ($100,000,) I little cared for the assaults of these noisy and ill-bred persons.
“ Continue, Colonel,” Said Judge Pyke, severely.
Pliekaman resumed the reading of my friend’s letter.
“ Well, Bratley,” Deblore went on, “ I hope you ’ll be able to stand Bayou La Farouche till you ’re married. I could n’t do it. I roar over your letters. But I swear I respect your powers of humbug. I suppose, if you did n’t let out to me, you never could lie so to your dear Saccharissa. Do you know I think you are a little too severe in calling her a mean, spiteful, slipshod, vulgar, dumpy little flirt ? ”
“ Read that again !” shrieked Saeeharissa.
“ You are beginning to find out your Aminadab ! ” says Plickaman.
I moved my lips to deny my name : but the pistol of Billy Saugaree was at my right temple, the pistol of Major Lieklickin at my left. I was silent, and bore the scornful looks of my persecutors with patience and dignity.
Pliekaman repeated the sentence.
“ But hear the rest,” said he, and read on : —
“ From what you say of her tinge of African blood and other charming traits, I have constructed this portrait of the future Mrs. Bratley Chylde, as the Hottentot Venus. Behold it!”
And Mellasys held up a highly colored caricature, covering one whole side of my friend's sheet.
Saccharissa rose from the sofa where she had been sitting during the whole of my trial.
She stood before me, — really I cannot deny it,—a little, ugly, vulgar figure, overloaded with finery, and her laces and ribbons trembled with rage.
She seemed not to be able to speak, and, by way of relieving herself of her overcharge of wrath, smote me several times on either ear with that pudgy hand 1 had so often pressed in mine or tenderly kissed.
At this exhibition of a resentment I can hardly deem feminine, the Fire-Eaters roared with laughter and cheered her to continue. A circle of negroes also, at the window, expressed their amusement at the scene in the guttural manner of their race.
I could not refrain from tears at these unhappy exhibitions on the part of my betrothed. They augured ill for the harmony of our married life,
“ Hit him again, Rissy ! he ’s got no friends,” that vulgar Pliekaman urged.
She again advanced, seized me by the hair, and shook me with greater muscular force than I should have expected of one of her indolent habits. Delicacy for her sex of course forbade my offering resistance ; and besides, there were my two sentries, roaring with vulgar laughter, but holding their pistols with a most unpleasant accuracy of aim at my head.
“ Saecbarissa, my love,” I ventured to say, in a pleading tone, “ these momentary ebullitions of a transitory rage will give the bystanders unfavorable impressions of your temper.”
“ You horrid little wretch! ’’she screeched, “you sneak! you irreligious infidel ! you Black Republican ! you Aminadab!”-
Here her unnecessary passion choked her, and she took advantage of the pause to handle my hair with extreme violence. The sensation was unpleasant, but I began to hope that no worse would befall me, and I knew that with a few dulcet words in private I could remove from Saecharissa’s mind the asperity induced by my friend's caricature.
“ I leave it to you, gentlemen,” said she, “ whether I am vulgar, as this fellow’s correspondence asserts.”
“ Certainly not,” said Judge Pyke. “ You arc one of the most high-toned beauties in the sunny South, the land of the magnolia and the papaw.”
“ Your dignity,” said Major Lieklickin, “ is only surpassed by your grace, and both by your queenly calmness.”
The others also gave her the best compliments they could, poor fellows! I could have taught them what to say.
Here a grinning negro interrupted with,—
“ De tar-kittle ’s a-b'ilin’ on de keen jump, Mas’r Mellasys.”
“ Gentlemen of the Jury,” said Judge Pyke, “ as you had agreed upon your verdict before the trial, it is not requisite that you should retire to consult. Prisoner at the Bar, rise to receive sentence.”
I thought it judicious to fall upon my knees and request forgiveness; but my persecutors were blinded by what no doubt seemed to them a religious zeal.
“ Git up !” said Major Lieklickin ; and I am ashamed, for his sake, to say that there was an application of boot accompanying this remark.
“ Prisoner,” continued my Rhadamanthus, “ you have had a fair trial, and you are found guilty on all the counts of the indictment. First: Of disloyalty to the South. Second : Of indifference to the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, Third : Of maligning the character of Southern patriots in a book intended, no doubt, for universal circulation through the Northern States. Fourth : Of holding correspondence with an agent of the Underground Railroad, who, as he himself avows, has recently run off a nigger to Toronto. — Silence, Sir! Choke him, Billy Sangaree, if he says a word! — Fifth : Of defaming a Southern lady, while at the same time you were endeavoring to win her most attractive property and person from those who should naturally acquire them. Sixth : Of Agrarianism, Abolitionism, Atheism, and Infidelity. Prisoner at the Bar, your sentence is, that you be tarred and cottoned and leave the State. If you are caught again, you will be hung by the neck, and Henry Ward Beecher have mercy on your soul! ”
I was now marched along by my two sentries to a huge tree, not of the bandanna species. Beneath it a sugar-kettle filled with ebullient tar was standing.
My persecutors, with tranquil brutality, proceeded to disrobe me. As my nether garments were removed, Mellasys Plickaman succeeded in persuading' Saccharissa to retire. She, however, took her station at a window and peered through the blinds at the spectacle. I do not envy her sensations. All her bright visions of fashionable life were destroyed forever. She would now fall into the society from which l had endeavored to lift her. Poor thing ! knowing, too, that I, and my friend Derby Deblore, perhaps the most elegant young man in America, regarded her as a Hottentot Venus. Poor thing! I have no doubt that she longed to rush out, fling herself at my feet, and pray me to forgive her and reconsider my verdict of dumpiness and vulgarity.
Meantime I had been reduced to my shirt and drawers, — excuse the nudity of my style in stating this fact. Mellasys Plickaman took a ladle-full of the viscous fluid and poured it over my head.
“ Aminadab,”said he, I baptize thee! ”
I have experienced few sensations more unpleasant than this application. The tar descended in warm and sluggish streams, trickling over my forehead, dropping from my eyelids, rolling over my cheeks, seating my month, gluing my ears to my skull, identifying itself with my hair, pursuing the path indicated by my spine beneath my shirt, — in short, enveloping me with a close-fitting armor of a glutinous and most unsavory material.
Each of the jury followed the example of my detested rival. In a few moments the tarring was complete. Few can see themselves mentally or physically as others see them ; but, judging from the remarks made, I am convinced that I must have afforded an entertaining spectacle to the party. They roared with laughter, and jeered me. I, however, preserved a silence discreet, and, I flatter myself, dignified.
The negroes, particularly those at whose fustigation I had assisted in the morning, joined in the scoffs of their masters, calling me Bobolitionist, Black Republican, Liberator, and other nicknames by which these simple-hearted and contented creatures express dislike and distrust.
“Bring the cotton!" now cried Mellasys Plickaman,
A bag of that regal product was brought.
“ Roll him in it! ” said Billy' Sangaree.
“ Let the Colonel work his own tricks,” Major Licklickin said. “ He’s an artist, he is.”
I must admit that he was an artist. He fabricated me an elaborate wig of the cotton. He arranged me a pair of bushy white eyebrows. He stuck a venerable beard upon my chin, and a moustache upon my lip. Then he proceeded to indicate my ribs with lines of cotton, and to cap my shoulders with epaulets. It would be long to describe the fantastic tricks he played with me amid the loud laughter of his crew.
Occasionally, also, I heard suppressed giggles from Saecharissa at the window.
I have no doubt that I should have strangled my late fiancee, if such an act had been consistent with my personal safety.
When I was completely cottoned, in the decorative manner I have described, Mellasys took a banjo from an old negro, and, striking it, not without a certain unsophisticated and barbaric grace appropriate to the instrument, commanded me to dance.
I essayed to do so. But my heart was heavy ; consequently my heels were not light. My faint attempts at pirouettes were not satisfactory.
“ Dance jollier, or we ’ll hang you,” said Plickaman.
“No,” say's Judge Pyke, — “the sentence of the Court has been executed. In the sacred name of Justice I protest against proceeding farther. Culprit,” continued he, in a voice of thunder, “cut for the North Star, and here’s passagemoney for you.”
He stuck a half-eagle into the tarry integument of my person. Billy Sangaree, Major Licklickin, and others of the more inebriated, imitated him. My dignity of bearing had evidently made a favorable impression.
I departed amid cheers, some ironical, some no doubt sincere. But to the last, these chivalric, but prejudiced and misguided gentlemen declined to listen to my explanations. Mellasys Plickaman had completely' perverted their judgments against me.
The last object I saw was Saecharissa, looking more like a Hottentot Venus than ever, waving her handkerchief and kissing her hand to me. Did she repent her brief disloyalty ? For a moment I thought so, and resolved to lie in wait, return by night, and urge her to fly with me. But while I hesitated, Mellasys Plickaman drew near her. She threw herself into his arms, and there, before all the Committee of Fire-Eaters of Bayou La Farouche, she kissed him with those amorphous lips I had often compelled myself to taste. Faugh !
I deemed this scene a token that my engagement was absolutely terminated. There was no longer any reason why I should degrade myself by remaining in this vulgar society. I withdrew into the thickets of the adjoining wood and there for a time abandoned myself to melancholy reminiscences.
Presently I heard footsteps. I turned and saw a black approaching, bearing the homely viand known as corn-dodger. He offered it. I accepted it as a tribute from the inferior race to the superior.
I recognized him as one whose fustigation bad so revived my crapulous spirits in the morning. He seemed to bear no malice. Malignity is perhaps a mark of more highly developed character. I, for example, possess it to a considerable degree.
The black led me to a lair in the wood, He took my half-eagles from my tar. He scraped and cleansed me by simple methods of which he had the secret. He clothed me in rude garments. Gunny-bag was, I think, the material. He gave me his own shoes. The heels were elongated ; but this we remedied by a stuffing of leaves. lie conducted me toward the banks of Bayou La Farouche.
On our way, we were compelled to pass not far from the Mellasys mansion. There was a sound of revelry. It was night. I crept cautiously up and peered into the window.
There stood the Reverend Onesimus Butterfut, since a prominent candidate for the archbishopric of the Southern Confederacy. Saccharissa, more overdressed than usual, and her cousin Mellasys Pliekaman, somewhat unsteady with inebriation, stood before him. He was pronouncing them man and wife, — why not ogre and hag ?
How fortunate was my escape !
As my negro guide would not listen to my proposal to set the Mellasys establishment on fire while the inmates slept, I followed him to the banks of the Bayou, He provided me with abundant store of the homely food already alluded to. He launched me in a vessel, known to some as a dug-out, to some as a gundalow. His devotion was really touching. It convinced me more profoundly than ever of the canine fidelity and semi-animal characteristics of his race,
I floated down the Bayou. I was picked up by a cotton-ship in the Gulf. I officiated as assistant to the cook on the homeward voyage.
At the urgent solicitation of my mother, I condescended, on my return, to accept a situation in my Uncle Bratley’s cracker-bakery. The business is not aristocratic. But what business is ? I cannot draw the line between the baker of hard tack — such is the familiar term we employ — and the seller of the material for our product, by the barrel or the cargo. From the point of view of a Chylde, all avocations for the making of money seem degrading, and only the spending is dignified.
As my conduct during the Mellasys affair has been maligned and scoffed at by persons of crude views of what is comme il faut, I have drawn up this statement, confident that it will justify me to all of my order, which I need not state is distinctively that of the Aristocrat and the Gentleman.