“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, January 1857; pp. 8-11)
Come, children, one and all. Come, Hanna, Frank, Mary, Elsie, Laura, Charles, Willie, Harry, Ellen, Susie, and as many more as can climb on my knees, or hang about my chair, or dispose yourselves in other convenient attitudes—I have a story to tell you of my pilgrimages, for I have been somewhat of a traveler, you know, and I wish you to see what I have seen, and enjoy what I have found pleasant, in the sunshine and shade of a roving life. Stories, if rightly told, are like pictures, and present to the mind of the hearer, or reader, scenes, incidents, and characters which have passed before the eye of the narrator. Let me see if I can paint for you a few pictures from the Sketch Book of my memory, and so introduce you to characters and places with which I have had a passing acquaintance, or a more intimate relation as circumstances, or the fancy of the moment, decided.
On the 15th of May, 18—, I entered on the pilgrimage of life. It has been, so far, a checkered course; rambling, roving, up-hill and down-hill; plain and doubtful; easy and difficult; over-shadowed with heavy clouds, and gilded all over with glorious sunshine; darkened with many a sorrow, and many a discouragement, but generally cheered and illuminated with the bow of promise glowing in advance, and growing clearer, brighter, and more substantial with each step in the progress.
But hold! I did not intend to speak of the pilgrimage of life, but of another and a lesser one, which is but a single stage of the former.
On the 15th of May, 18—, I commmenced a laborious, hazardous and amusing “Pilgrimage up Broadway.” It was an undertaking, though I say it, worthy of the genius of Marco Polo, Mungo Park, Ledyard, or Bayard Taylor, and the singular incidents I met with by the way, the remarkable discoveries I made, the moral suggestions
and scientific observations that sprung up on every side, for the enlightenment of the world, though they may have been paralleled by those of Columbus, Humboldt, Layard, Dr. Kane, and some few others, will, I am sure, be found worthy of the notice and regard of all the Merry family at least, if not of the whole civilized world.
Precisely at sunrise we arrived at the pier, a little north of the Battery. In less than fifteen minutes I had all my little matters arranged, and was ready to go on shore. With my valise in my hand, I mounted the cabin stairs, and essayed to go forth into the great city. Here I was met by an unexpected, and somewhat appalling obstacle. The perfect quiet and good order which had reigned on board the boat that brought me to the pier, had prepared me for an easy and pleasant introduction to the far-famed metropolis. I had heard of the city police, of old Hays, and other municipal Cerberi, or Briarii, or (where shall I find a fabulous monster worthy to illustrate my conception of the omnipresent terrors of the detective and protective police of a great city?)—and I innocently supposed that such a thing as a mob, or an assault in open day, was no more to be apprehended than another flood. What was my surprise and embarrassment, then, to find myself, as I stepped on deck, in what appeared to be the very purlieus of Babel, or of Sodom itself. The pier was thronged, and the boat absolutely besieged, by an immense horde of ferocious-looking savages, each armed with a huge weapon, resembling a stage-driver’s whip, and each in a gibberish peculiar to the race attacking the hapless passengers as they came out to view, and seeking to kidnap them, or, at least, to entrap them into their power for a time, and for purposes best known to themselves. The scene reminded me of the accounts I had read, of savages in the South Sea Islands, crowding on board the merchant ships that touched there, and sometimes, when not duly watched, overpowering the crews, and following up their victory with murder, rapine, and fire.
I am usually cool, even under unexpected difficulties. But here I was surprised, excited, and much alarmed. I demanded the cause of this strange and untimely invasion. No one answered me. Some stared at me with looks of surprise, as if I had asked a very foolish question. All, especially the older and more experienced, seemed to look on with perfect indifference, and to move about as if there were no danger. I looked about for the police. I wondered where the “old Hays” was, and expected to see him walk in among the intruders like Samson among the Philistines, mowing them down with the jaw- bone of an ass. But no Samson appeared, and no one offered to explain the disturbance, and show a way of escape from it. The bustle continued. The confusion increased. And soon the boat was boarded by a large number of the savages, leaping upon the bulwarks, and distributing themselves among the passengers, with imquisitorial
looks and menacing gestures—protruding their ugly visages into every one’s face, and demanding, in stern imperious tones—“Wantercadgeser!” “Wantercadgeser!” Occasionally, whether by way of musical variety, or in the hope of striking a deEper terror into the hearts of the multitude, they would scream—“Heesmycardser!”—or—“Izepokefustser!”—or, addressing a comrade, apparently to encourage him in the onset—“D—youthatsmycustomer!”
Laura. Do, Uncle, stop a minute, and let me ask what these strange words meant. Were they really Indians? or did they speak some corrupted dialect of our own language?
Uncle H. I could not discover, at the time, what the invaders were, or what they meant by these uncouth exclamations. I afterward learned, however, that they were not Indians, but a sort of semi-civilized Ruffians who infested the city, and were tolerated by the government, because it was a troublesome matter to get rid of them, and city governments are proverbially opposed to any kind of troublesome business that does not pay well. Their language could be interpreted into English, by any one who was curious to understand it. But, as every one wished, if possible, to avoid contact or collision with such rabble, the object of their pow-wow was not often inquired into.
To proceed with my story. The scene would have been absolutely terrific, if it had not, as I became accustomed to it, began to assume a comical air. I was astonished to find that no ladies fainted or even screamed. They only clung more closely to their protectors, with looks of annoyance and discomfort, but not of alarm. Taking courage from this, and impatient of further delay, I seized firmly my valise and umbrella, and ventured boldly out into the midst of the ferocious gang, who still hung in large numbers about the gangway, as if to cut off our escape. In this, I felt that I was encountering no little hazard of life and limb. In solid phalanx, the ruffian band hedged up the way, each one brandishing his weapon, and frowning darkly on my fool-hardy attempt to break through, alone and unassisted. One of the most savage-looking of them seized my valise, and trying to wrench it from me, shouted—“Imeyourmanser!” while another laid hold of the other side, screaming ferociously—“Izepokefustser!—seemycardser!” Between the two, I was near being pulled in pieces. I called out, at the top of my lungs—“Police! police!” This raised a general shout of laughter, while the two ruffians who had me in hand scowled and swore, as if they would annihilate me. Roused to unwonted energy by the shameful assault, and, at the same time, enouraged by the merriment occasioned by my fruitless call upon the police, I made bold to push the intruders aside, and wedge my way into the solid mass of the besiegers. No sooner had I shaken off these, than I was attacked by others, of the same class, and somewhat in the same way. One of them laid hold roughly of my baggage, as if it were his
own, and then, with a suddenly altered look and tone, as if a wintry nor-wester had instantly changed into “a summer breeze, whispering out of a mellow sky,” informed me that he had a very nice cadge, and would take me to any part of the city, cheap.
I then discovered that his cadge was a carriage, and that he was for compelling me to ride with him, whether I would or not. Informing him, as politely as I could, in my then excited state, that I preferred to walk, and should be my own porter, I contrived, with some difficulty, to shake him off, but not until I had seen the “summer breeze” give way again to the “rough nor-wester,” and learned a good deal of that part of his vocabulary which related to “dammeanyankees,” “stingyoldskinflint,” and several other classes of the community, with whom he seemed to be familiar, but with whom I had no desire to become acquainted.
At length, with great difficulty, and with the loss of two or three buttons from my coat, and of more patience and serenity than I could well afford to spare in one day, I found myself on the outside of the crowd, with my valise in one hand, my umbrella in the other, and with an experience I had neither anticipated, or desired, of a public reception in a great city.
Frank. Well, Uncle, what now of your Pilgrimage?
Uncle H. That is just begun. Having run the gauntlet through a detachment of Border Ruffians, and found myself, right side up, on the planks of the pier, and a tolerably open way before me, I laid my valise on a barrel, and paused a moment, to look round, take breath, and consider.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, March 1857; pp. 70-73)
Finding myself safe on the outer side of the mob, and not likely to be pursued, I took an observation, as Jack Tar would say, and headed my course toward Broadway. There was an unseemly rattle of wagons and carts, but it was music compared with the jargon I had left behind.
The morning was clear and bright; and I had no sooner left the pier, than I was attracted by sounds of mirth and music on the right. I followed them, as I always do, when I can, and soon found myself within the ten beautiful inclosure, called the Battery. The trees had on their fairest spring dresses, and the birds were making them ring and thrill with melody. The bay, the broad, bright, sparkling bay, with its living panorama of boats and vessels, of every form and size, and its distant islands, lay stretched out before me in a golden calm. The air was sweet, fresh, and invigorating, and scores of children, and some who had once been children, were making the most of its healthful influences.
Jessy.—I wish I could have been there, Uncle.
“I should so wish so too, if I were going there again, dear. The children paid no attention to me, but kept on their sports, as if they had been all alone. Finding a comfortable rustic seat under one of the broad spreading trees, I sat down to witness the fun, which I enjoyed as much as any one among them. They were very lively and gay, as free and almost as musical as the birds overhead. By and by, one of them, either a little tired with over-earnest exercise, or attracted by a book which I had taken out of my pocket, but had not yet began to read, stopped near my seat, and looked wistfully toward me. My heart was touched in an instant. I felt as if she must be one of my family—a niece at the farthest—she seemed to feel so too,
and to be on the point of saying, “Good-morning, Uncle.” But she hesitated, blushed, turned a pirouette, with a sweet bird-like gust of song, and was off among the group of merry dancers in a trice. A few moments after, she took one of her companions by her arm, and strolled away to the other side of the park, and then, in returning, came round through the avenue, on the edge of which I was sitting. I caught her eye, as she approached, and said:
“Good-morning, Mary! How do you do?”
Looking at me again, earnestly, she drew a little nearer, and with a diffident, but very lady-like air, replied:
“Good-morning, sir; but please, sir, how did you know my name?”
“Why shouldn’t your uncle know your name, dear?”
“Are you my uncle, sir? Why, I did not know that, though I felt, when I first looked in your face, as if I had seen you before.”
“So did I,” said her companion. “Perhaps you are my uncle, too?”
“Yes, my dear Helen, I am your uncle, too.”
“Why, how strange!” they both exclaimed together. “He does know our names, surely.”
“But, Uncle,” said Helen, “I can’t understand how you can be uncle to both of us, when we are not cousins to each other.”
“Oh, there is nothing easier in the world,” said I. “I have a large family of children at home, and a wide circle of nephews and nieces, according to law. And dear, good children they are, too. But there are not enough of them. My heart has room for so many, that the more I have the more I want. And I claim to be uncle to all the bright, happy children of the land; and I hardly know my adopted nephews and nieces from my real ones.”
“How many do you think you have in all, dear Uncle?” asked Mary.
“Well, I can name somewhat over twelve thousand, and they are constantly increasing!”
“Oh! Mary,” exclaimed Helen, “isn’t that funny?” And she jumped up, and clapped her hands, as if a new joy had touched her heart.
Elsie.—Did they know what you meant, Uncle?
“They soon found out. Helen’s gesture of surprise and pleasure attracted the notice of others of the party, both boys and girls, who came over and joined our group.
“Each one, in coming up, was introduced by Helen, or Mary, with the question, ‘Do you know this cousin, Uncle?’ In every case but one, I gave the right name, and that one, which was Estelle, I called Isabel. They were greatly surprised and delighted, and set up a merry shout, as each new name was pronounced.”
Elsie, Alice, and two or three other together—
“Why, Uncle! how did you find out all these names? Had you ever seen them before?”
“No, I had never seen one of them,
till I entered the park that morning. But old ears are not always dull. mine are very quick to the tones of childish glee. There is more music in the unconstrained frolic of a score of happy children, than in harp or organ, or the full-orbed orchestra. I had been noticing them, when they did not notice me. I had heard them call and answer each other in their sports, while they, perhaps, if they had looked my way, would have thought I was dozing or dreaming. I should have given Estelle correctly, but they always called her Telle, which I mistook for Belle.”
Jesse.—How many of them came to your company?
“About a dozen. Some of the older ones were a little shy, and perhaps doubted the propriety of speaking to a stranger.”
Jesse.—Why, Uncle, is it possible you could pick up twelve names in that way, in so short a time? You must have had a wonderful quick memory?
“My memory was quicker then, than it is now. But it was not all memory. There was some guess-work about it. And the children, without knowing it, helped me out. First, Mary and Helen, who began to feel like old friends, and to take an interest in keeping up my reputation, would, quite unconsciously, and yet with a good deal of expression, say the word to themselves, thus helping me, as I watched their lips, to apply to the right person a name I had heard called in their play. After I had guessed one or two correctly, every child in the group would do the same thing, so that, instead of being more difficult, it became constantly easier to surprise and please them.”
Alice.—Did you explain the mystery to them?
“I told them there was no mystery in it; that when they had seen as much of the world as I had, and counted as many nephews and nieces as I could, they would understand a great many things that looked strange to them. They then asked me, if I had time, and was not too weary, to tell them some of the things I had seen. I told them some stories of my travels, and something about some of my other nephews and nieces, till the breakfast bells in the neighborhood began to ring, as a signal that our meeting must break up. About half the company said, ‘Good-bye, uncle,’ and scampered away. A few of them hesitated a little, among whom were Mary and Helen. then Mary, stepping a little nearer, said, blushing, ‘Uncle, won’t you please walk over and take breakfast with us? I am sure you will be most welcome.’ ”
“Thank you, Mary,” said I, “my relationship, as uncle to you, does not allow me to claim your parents as brother or sister. I am sufficiently happy in the love of children, to find it no loss to be a stranger to their parents. Besides, I must go on my way. I only paused here a little, to have my part in your sports.”
“But what part have you had?” inquired Helen. “You have sat here all the time.”
“My part,” I answered, “is to look on, and listen. It is as much pleasure to me now to see the frolic, and hear the sport, as it once was to take part in it. Through sight and hearing I now enjoy all the pleasure which I once derived from the full exercise of all my boyish powers. When you leap, my heart leaps with you; when you shout, my heart echoes the shout; when you laugh, my heart smiles; when you are merry, I am glad. When you dance, or troop, or hunt-the-slipper, I seem to have a whole bevy of young cherubs galloping through my veins, and making me feel so young and antic, that I can hardly keep from screaming. But you must go, for the bell has rung. Good-morning, dear children. God bless you.”
“Do let us see you again, Uncle,” said Helen. “Then, perhaps, we can find out your name, as you have ours.”
“Oh! I know,” said Estelle; “it must be Uncle Peter Parley.”
“Is it so? Is it?” cried they all together.
“You do me too much honor,” I replied; “but I claim Peter as an old acquaintance.”
“Well, then,” exclaimed Helen, “you must be Uncle Merry. Are you not?”
“Not exactly, dear,” I replied; “but Robert is a friend of mine, and much sympathy do we have in our love of children. My nieces at home call me—” just then one or two bells rang loudly, and eager and curious as they all were, my young friends heeded rather the call of duty, and ran homeward, without giving me time to pronounce the word; though one of them, turning her head as she moved off, seemed to feel sure she should catch it.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, May 1857; pp. 145-147)
Come, Uncle, we are glad to be all together again. We are eager to hear of your pilgrimage, for you have hardly begun it yet.
That is a grand mistake of yours, my darling. You know the old proverb—“Well begun is half done.” It is as true now as ever it was. And, surely, a Pilgrimage whose first step is a battle for dear life, and the second, a sweet, bright, gladsome interview with a whole troop of family friends, trees waving over, and birds singing around us, may be said to be well begun, when that battle is successfully ended, and that interview fully enjoyed. It was as if the city had been walled and strongly guarded, and I had effected an entrance, either by scaling or breach, and found within, a host of my best friends, ready to give me the kindest of welcomes. If I was not as proud as the conqueror whose path is written with blood, I was as contented and happy as the beggar, when he struck into a path strewn with pearls.
Well, Uncle, where did you get your breakfast?
Pilgrims, my dear, never stop to eat; or, if they do, they never tell of it. They are supposed to live on what they see and do, like your heroes in fiction.
I parted from my lively nieces with a feeling of gratitude, that, however the head might become white and the form bent, there was no need of the heart growing old. I looked after them as they ran away, at the sound of the peremptory bell, wishing them all manner of blessings. Waiting still in my comfortable seat, to enjoy, for a few minutes, the fresh breezes and the fresh songs of the morning, I put my book in my pocket, and walked up to the gate, at the northeastern angle of the inclosure. Here I first broke upon Broadway, and began to realize something of the bustle and stir of that great thoroughfare. It is broad, very broad, at the beginning, or rather it would be, if they had not dropped into it a beautiful bright gem of a garden, and inclosed it round, thus dividing the broad way into two narrow ones. This little oasis, called the Bowling Green, has been a famous spot in its day, and has seen wonderful sights. It witnessed the rebellion and execution of Jacob Leisler, and the terrible panic and tragic end of the “negro plot.” It witnessed the comfortable, quiet days of the pipe-loving Knickerbockers, and the more stirring times of English supremacy, and of the Revolution which put an end to that supremacy. But the chief distinction of the Bowling Green, in the olden
time, was the famous leaden statue of George II., very appropriately made of lead, to represent the dull old king. Do you know what was the end of that statue, any of you?
I do, Uncle, exclaimed two or three voices at once.
Well, how was it[?]
It was melted up at the time of the Revolution, and cast into bullets, to defend New York against the British invaders, replied Harry.
Yes, and a very good use they made of it. That was the most profitable piece of statuary that our old mother, England, ever presented to her colonies; and George II., stupid as he was, did some service even after his death.
Well, I was musing quietly under the shadow of the great trees, and thinking of the stirring scenes of those days, when lead was scarce, and courage and true patriotism plenty, when my thoughts were suddenly disturbed—perhaps I ought to say quickened—by the rolling of a drum, and the sound of other martial instruments. Turning inquiringly round, I saw a merry troop of young soldiers, armed with wooden guns, swords, and spears, and with banners waving, coming round the northern sweep of the Green, and moving toward the Battery. A little farther up the street, another company of full-grown boys, who had not yet outgrown the foibles of youth, were coming down the same direction.
When the leader of the juvenile band saw me, he seemed to be suddenly struck with a pleasant recollection. Commanding his company to form a line along the sidewalk, he ordered them to “present arms,” which they did with great alacrity, if not with the most approved military precision. Then, stepping out a little in front, he gave the order for a salute; whereupon, the standard-bearer waved his ensign, the drummer rolled a spirited welcome, and the whole company raised their hats, and gave three hearty cheers.
This done, the Captain was about forming them again for the march, when I thanked him for the honor they had done me, which could not have been more hearty, or more civil, if he and his young friends had known that they were saluting Uncle Merry himself.
I thought you must be Uncle Merry, said the Captain, as soon as I saw you, and I could not persuade myself to go by without saluting you. Uncle Merry! Uncle Merry! exclaimed the boys all together, in spite of the rules of military discipline, breaking from their ranks, and gathering round me. I immediately
told them they had made a mistake. I was not Mr. Merry; but that did not matter much, since I was their Uncle, at any rate, and had come to the city as much to see them as for any other reason. And, I added, Robert Merry himself can not claim to be more fond of his nephews than I am of mine.
Well, exclaimed the Captain, Uncle, at any rate—Uncle Merry, or Uncle Peter, or whatever other Uncle you may be, we are most happy to see you, and now, unless you prefer to be our guest, we shall claim you for our prisoner. We are about to have a grand review in the Bowling Green, and a cold collation, under our marquee, which you are invited to witness and share. For if you came to the city to see us, you will never have a better chance.
I accepted the invitation; the gates were thrown open, we all marched in, and the gate was closed against all intruders. The other company, as it marched by to the Battery, gave a salute, which was handsomely responded to by the juvenile Merrys. The review passed off very pleasantly, consisting much more of gymnastics, curvetings, and merry-making, than of any thing military or warlike. They treated me as an invited and honored guest, and were very anxious to learn my name. Some called me Uncle Frank, but others said I did not at all resemble the portrait they had seen of that worthy gentleman. The Captain, who was a right merry little wag, was quite positive that I was Uncle Merry, while the drummer thought I resembled his ideal of Uncle Hiram. We had a very social time, and stories and jokes went round, till the call was made for the repast.
This was just what it should be—a real merry-making. It was not boisterous or irregular, but a well-conducted, though very amusing affair. Every one felt at liberty to pay me such compliments as came to hand, which I returned as well as I knew how. At length, after toasting all the uncles from Adam down, I was called upon for a speech and a song. This was rather too much for me, and I excused myself, assuring them they should have both in the next MUSEUM, in a form which they could keep. Time passed so rapidly that it was near noon before I was ready to take my leave. They gave me another cordial salute at parting and a special invitation to visit them all at their houses.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, June 1857; pp. 177-179)
Taking leave of the young captain and his merry friends, I crossed over to the “western sidewalk,” now well known, the world over, as the genteel side of Broadway. I was, of course, in somewhat of a military mood, and easily affected by objects and associations connected with the history of the past. I paused before the house on the corner, now known as the Washington House. It was a house much celebrated in the days of the Revolution as the head-quarters of most of the leaders of the army. It was built by Captain Kennedy, of the Royal Navy, a son-in-law of Colonel Peter Schuyler, of Newark, N. J. Here you have a view of the house, as it now stands, with several of its nearest neighbors. The first house on the left, with arched doorway and pediment, is the Kennedy House, occupied for a time by Lee, Putnam, Washington, and afterward by Sir Henry Clinton, Robertson, Carleton, and other British officers, and where the ill-fated André wrote his letter to Arnold.
Willie.—But, Uncle, I see a part of the Bowling Green here on the right, and I want to ask if the printer did not make a mistake in the May number of the MUSEUM. It is said there that the leaden statue which was broken up and cast into bullets was a statue of George II. You told us it was George III., just as I have read in books.
You are right, Willie; somebody made a mistake there; but whether it was a slip of the pen or of the type, I have not investigated.
Elsie.—Was there not once a beautiful fountain in the Bowling Green? I have read something about it in the papers.
Yes, there was once a fountain here; but as to its being beautiful, I prefer not to testify. It was a large pile of rocks, which might have fallen from some volcano in the moon, and certainly they were moon-struck who placed them there. They were as appropriate to the spot, as an elephant to a lady’s boudoir.
Harry.—Did Arnold occupy the same house?
I believe not. After his treason he resided for a time in the next house, on the right, now No. 3 Broadway. It was there that Sergeant Champe, the brave Virginian, attempted to capture
the traitor. Do you remember the story?
Yes, Uncle, but we would like to have you repeat it, with the houses before us, so as to explain it more fully.
Well. The scheme of arresting Arnold, and bringing him to the American camp, originated with Washington. He consulted Lee about it, who at once fixed upon Champe as the person to carry the plan into execution. The great difficulty in persuading Champe to undertake the perilous mission was not the danger, but the seeming dishonor of the service. Champe was to desert to the enemy, and offer his services to the king, and, while acting this double part, to steal away Arnold in the night. Washington had friends and correspondents in the city, with whom Champe communicated. Champe enlisted in Arnold’s legion, and became familiar with his habits. A garden, attached to the house, extended quite down to the river’s edge, for most of the ground west of Greenwich Street has been made since that time. Arnold was in the habit of walking in this garden every night, about midnight, just before retiring. Adjoining this garden was a dark alley, leading to the street. Champe arranged with two accomplices, (one of whom was to have a boat in readiness,) to seize and gag Arnold in his garden, convey him to the alley, and thence by such means as they could, to the river. In case of interruption, they were to represent him as a drunken soldier, whom they were carrying to the guard-house. Every thing being arranged, and the time for the capture agreed on, Gen. Lee, with a chosen party, waited all night on the opposite shore to receive his prisoner. But he was disappointed. The plan was foiled by the removal of Arnold, on that very day, to other quarters, for the purpose of superintending the embarkation of his legion for Virginia. Poor Champe was in a sad dilemma. He was obliged to go to Virginia with the arch traitor, but there found means to escape and join his old friends.
Lucy.—How strange it seems, when looking at such quiet places, to think of what has happened there in the troublesome times that are past.
Yes, Lucy, the world is full of strange things, and there is scarcely a spot, however dear to us, whose past history, if given in full, would not startle and amaze us.
Lucy.—Were the other houses in this sketch remakable for any great incidents.
The two I have been speaking about stood by themselves at the tiem of the Revolution. The next two are more modern. The space occupied by them was an open garden. The next one (now No. 9, Atlantic Garden) was occupied by Gen. Gage in 1765, before the Kennedy House was built.
When Lee entered New York, immediately after the evacuation of Boston, he took possession of this house (No. 1). Capt. Parker, of the British ship Asia, lying in the harbor, threatened to burn the town if the rebel troops should enter it. Lee replied:
“The first house fired shall be the funeral pile of the tories.”
Lee followed the British to the South, and Putnam took up his quarters in this house, awaiting the arrival of Washington. Majors Aaron Burr and David Humphreys formed a part of his staff at this time. It was while residing here that Putnam formed his plan of blowing up the British ships in the lower harbor.
There are many more interesting historical incidents connected with this part of Broadway, but I have not time now to relate them. You will find them in all the freshness and glow of original anecdote, beautifully illustrated, in Lossing’s “Field Book of the Revolution,” published by the Harpers—one of the richest and most elaborately embellished works ever issued from the American press.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, July 1857; pp. 14-15)
Well, Uncle, we are waiting for you to go on with your pilgrimage. It seems as if we should never see the end of Broadway, said Elsie.
Why, are you in such a hurry to get along?
Elsie.—Oh! no, we are in no hurry, for there is something interesting at every step. Still, we seem to move slowly, and to have a long walk before us.
Well, then, let us be moving. A few doors north of the hosue last spoken of, I was startled by the appearance of two full-grown lions, crouching on the steps, and guarding the entrance. I had no fear of the animals, for they could neither bite nor roar. They were exceedingly quiet and well behaved. I think I am within bounds, when I say that they have not moved a muscle these fifteen years.
Fanny.—Oh! I understand; they were not living lions, but stone or bronze. But why, then, did they startle you?
Not from any fear thaat they would harm me, Fanny; but I was surprised that any person who had sense enough to build so fine a house, should have had so little tste as to place these lions in front of it.
Elsie.—Why, Uncle, what objection can you have to them? They are getting to be quite the fashion.
More’s the pity. My objection is, that they are out of place in this cold climate. Lions belong to the torrid zone, and could nto live exposed through our winters. If Solomon had lived in New York, he would never have thought of placing lions on the steps to his throne. He would doubtless have substituted bears, or dogs, a deer, or a buffalo.
Well, I was musing of this incongruity, when an unearthly shout rung in my ear, and a wild, haggard-looking boy rushed up to me, screaming in a gibberish I had never heard before, “HeestheExeHell—onytusants—horblax’nlosserlife.”
I could not gather the slightest meaning from his vociferation, and there was nothing in his expression or manner to help me to understand him, and discover the cause of his agony. But he held out a paper, not as if he wished me to buy it, but as if he would compel me to take it, whether I would or not.
“What is the matter, my boy?” said I.
He looked at me with a mingled expression of anger, contempt, and pity, and rushed on, shouting, as before, “HeestheExeHell—onytusants—horblax’nlosserlife.”
Why, Uncle, that wa a news-boy, and you ought to have bought a paper.
I know it, my dear, and I knew it then. But I hold that the news-boy has no claim on me to understand such barbarous yells, or translate them into English. He can speak as plainly as any one, when he is in the house, or conversing alone with you or me. Why, then, should he make a wild Indian of himself, when he has papers to sell?
I had gone but a few steps, and had lost none of the impression of the news-boy’s shout, when I was attracted by two voices coming, in alternate gusts, down the street, neither of which seemed to have a motive or a meaning. I soon learned that the performers were street peddlers, each being accompanied by a skeleton of a horse, drawing a skeleton of a cart, and each shouting at the top of his lungs. But what either of them said, I had no power to comprehend. The first seemed to be called “Hoyesers! Hoyesers! Aiyenaige Hoyesers! Aiyego!” The other, with equal earnestness and effect, shouted, “Oyejers! Oyejers! Aiyenaige Oiyejers, Aiyego!” It would have puzzled better ears than mine to discern any difference between them, or to discover what it was they were so earnest to proclaim. It was evident they had something to sell, and equally evident that they did not intend the people should know what it was, unless they came and looked into their carts. Being somewhat curious to ascertain the relation of these strange sounds to the things offered for sale, I stepped into the street, and found that the one had oysters to sell, and the other oranges. Having made this discovery, I stood and listened a while, to see if I could then discover the difference in the cries. It was utterly impossible. If I had wished to buy an orange, I should have been quite as likely to call the oyster-man as the other. But hark! there’s the bell for supper. It speaks much plainer English than one in fifty of the New York peddlers.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, September 1857; pp. 82-83)
Elsie. “Well, Uncle, where are we now?”
Leaving the orange man and the oyster man to their outlandish yells, and passing quitely along, by rows of tall, splendid houses, and taller stores, I found myself face to face with Trinity Church. Years before, I had stood in front of it, when it was a much smaller and less pretending structure, and when its next neighbor, on the south, was a very plain Quaker-looking brick barn, called Grace Church. The grace must have been all in the interior, for the exterior was utterly wanting in that quality. It was now replaced by a tall, long, massive temple of Mammon, an immense warehouse for all sorts of fashionable wearables. The houses in the same row had also undergone many changes. Some had come down altogether, to make way for stores, and others had been deserted by their old tenants, and occupied as stores, or offices, with but little change in their outward appearance. The wealthy old citizens, who formerly occupied them, and who regarded this part of the city as the “Court End,” the very choice of all its localities, had been driven away to some remote improvement by the relentless march of business. But here I stood before Trinity, and Trinity stood before Wall Street. What a strange conjunction! thought I. The Church and the World! God and Mammon!
Frank. Why, Uncle, what do you mean? I do not understand you.
Excuse me, dear. I forgot that I was talking to children, who have not seen New York, and know little of Wall Street, or of Mammon. I will explain myself, and then pass on.
Trinity Church is one of the oldest of the church corporations of New York. It received its charter and its land from the British Crown, long before the Revolution. Its property was then known as the “King’s Farm.” It has been made very rich from the sale of lands then given it, and consequently has great influence in the diocese of New York.
Wall Street is the great center of the money operations of New York. Most of the banks are there. The Custom-house and the Mint are there. And there, too, are scores of bankers, brokers, lawyers, and all sorts of operators in stocks, notes, and money. Strange things are done there sometimes—that is to say, things which plain common-sense people do not readily comprehend as altogether fair and straight-forward. It is thought that there are some rogues in Wall Street. It is suspected that there are gamblers there, and that some of them are in the daily habit of putting their hands deep into other people’s pockets. I do not say that this is so, but such is the reputation of the street, and to see the old Trinity Church rearing its lofty crest at its
head, and looking calmly down upon all its doings, seemed much like an attempt to serve God and Mammon at the same time. It may be better, however, to regard it as a watch-tower set for the rebuke of the wicked, a sort of granite conscience to check the spirit of worldliness that prevails there. Be that as it may, Wall Street is headed, and cut off, by Trinity Church.
Frank. How cut off, Uncle?
Well, now, you are getting critical. I will explain again. Wall Street is, as I have said, a very important street. It commences at the East River. It would be a very great convenience to this part of the city to have it run through to the North River, there being no direct communication from one side to the other, for some distance above or below.
The Trinity Church grounds are in the way and the church itself stands directly in front, as a tall sentinel, to say, Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.
This is one of the finest churches in the city, or country. It is built of a light colored brown stone, obtained in New Jersey. The steeple is 280 feet high, and is a conspicuous object, in approaching the city, from any direction, by water. The architecture is Gothic, and unlike many other expensive edifices professing to be Gothic, the style is faithfully and elaborately carried out. It may be set down as one of the great ornaments of the city. The sum expended on it, $300,000 would have been sufficient to erect 30 respectable churches in the country, to accomodate 30,000 people.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, October 1857; pp. 115-117)
Passing from under the shadow of “Trinity,” not caring to pause over the rusty old tombstones and begrimed monuments, that looked dismally through the iron inclosure, I found myself pushed and hurried along at a rapid pace by a wave of eager men and boys, all of whom seemed bent on some great object ahead, which they were in a desperate hurry to secure at the earliest possible moment. In vain did I endeavor to keep on at my wonted pace, noticing, as I went, the objects of interest around. There was a necessity that I, too, should hurry along with the rushing crowd. I had no power to resist it. So, on I tramped, as if the city were on fire, and I had scarcely time to effect my escape. I began to be excited to see what it was we were after. I crossed several streets, and was about to make a perilous passage across another, when I found myself suddenly brought to a stand by another wave rushing in the opposite direction. One advantage I gained by this. My onward course was arrested, and I was not only able, but obliged to stop and look about. Stepping a little one side, I took an observation, as a sailor would say, and found myself facing St. Paul’s. This is a large chapel, connected with the Trinity Church, and situated between Fulton and Vesey streets. I stood close under the great iron gate, drew a long breath, and looked about for something to occupy my eyes while I was resting. The church had nothing attractive to draw me that way. The rattle of carriages and carts, and the rush of men in all directions, made it difficult to hear. But ever and anon, in the pauses of the din, there was a soft, cooling murmur, as of falling water, which was quite refreshing. Stepping forward to the edge of the sidewalk, a fortunate lull in the stream of carriages, that seemed to be ever pouring along the street, enabled me to catch a glimpse of the Park, the Fountain, and the City Hall. The fountain was in full play, and sent up its crystal columns some sixty or seventy feet, falling in graceful spray to the basin below, stirring the air and making a ceaseless gentle murmur, that contrasted pleasantly with the discordant din of the streets. I was about stepping over to get a nearer view of the beautiful fountain, when my attention was drawn another way by strains of martial music. They proceeded from the balcony of Barnum’s Museum, a place so famous in the history of New York, and so attractive to all young persons, that I resolved at once to visit it, expecting, of course, to find some of my own friends there, inasmuch as the Merrys all have a natural drawing toward a museum. At the entrance I was met by Mr. Barnum himself, who recognized me as an old acquaintance (some of the Hatchet family reside in Bridgeport), and gave me a cordial welcome, then and at all times, to the place.
The Museum is a large building, six stories high, occupying the corner of Broadway and Ann Street, and contains a great variety of very remarkable curiosities, with some pictures, statues, and other works of art. On the first floor, directly in the rear of the entrance, is the illuminated gallery, a long, dark hall—
Jessie. Why, Uncle, how can an illuminated gallery be dark?
Not quite so fast, my dear. The Hall is dark, about fifteen feet wide, and running back some fifty or sixty feet. On each side is a row of circular openings, about six inches in diameter, with lenses or magnifying glasses inserted. Behind these, at suitable distances, are hung many rich and beautiful engravings, which are so magnified by the lenses which you have to look through, in order to see them, that they appear to the eye in full life-size. This gallery, containing the pictures, is illuminated, and all the scenes represented are brought out in clear light. One of them represents the funeral procession of Napoleon, in Paris; a magnificent display of military pomp and Parisian enthusiasm. Another represents the front of St. Peter’s and the Vatican at Rome. Another a scene in Venice. This room is called, in the simple language of the Museum, the Cosmo Panopition-Studio. Tell me, if you can, what that means.
Elsie. I am sure I don’t know, Uncle, do you?
Well, it will not answer to say I don’t know. To me, it has two meanings. One is that which was intended by the inventor, a studio or gallery, where you may see all the world at once.
Jessie. What is the other?
Oh! no matter about the other.
Jessie. Do tell us what it is! I am sure we shall understand it better than this.
Well, it means that the proprietor knows how much most people love to be humbugged by hard names, and things they can’t understand. If he had called it the “Illuminated Picture Gallery,” as I have done, few, comparatively, would care to go and see it.
Ascending to the second floor, we find ourselves at once in the Museum, surrounded with curiosities of all sorts, and from all quarters of the globe, in such a variety, it is difficult to know where to begin. Above, near the ceiling, is a long range of portraits of distinguished characters, which would form
a study for the readers of history. They embrace some of the most prominent characters of Europe and America during the last two centuries. This collection was once known as “Peale’s Portrait Gallery;” and many of the best portraits, which adorn our literary and political magazines, and other similar works, were copied from these pictures.
In the cases around the sides of the rooms on this floor, are many natural curiosities of great interest, such as few of us can ever expect to see in any other condition than as they are prepared for us in the Museum, or perhaps in a Menagerie. Lions, tigers, leopards, catamounts, monkeys, apes, ourang-outangs, anacondas, and many others, the full description of which I shall have to reserve for our next meeting. I should like to take Mr. Merry’s entire family with me, and spend a day, or perhaps two, in examining the many curiosities of nature and art which are here brought together.
Elsie—Oh! Uncle, do invite us all. How nice it would be!
What, twenty thousand at a time? That would be nice indeed. Mr. Barnum would be obliged to hire the Crystal Palace for the occasion.
For the present, the greater part of the family will have to content themselves with seeing through my eyes; and as I took no small pains to examine every part of the Museum, I shall have not a little to say about it. It may seem like a halt in my pilgrimage, but will be found to be something like an oasis in the desert, for, to a social heart, there is no desert like a crowded street.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, November 1857; pp. 137-142)
Charlie. Dear Uncle, we are all waiting anxiously to hear more about the Museum. I do wish we could see it ourselves, and have you with us, to explain everything.
It will be time enough to talk about that after Christmas, when I shall go to New York again. Then I will see what I can do.
Hurrah! Capital! That’s good! Bravo! and a whole dictionary full of exclamations, occupying just two minutes by the watch, and what the printers would call a stick-full of print.
There, that will do for a demonstration. Now let us go quietly on. At this rate, we shall never see the end of Broadway.
One of the greatest novelties of the American Museum (for that is the name of this great collection of curiosities), and, perhaps, the greatest attraction it has ever presented to the public, is
Jessie. Why, there is another hard name. Pray what does it mean?
It means an artificial pond, for raising aquatic plants or animals.
Frank. Why! a pond in the Museum! I should not think there would be room enough for that.
Why not, Frank? a pond is not necessarily very large. This fish-globe may be called a pond.
Ha! ha! ha! Uncle. That is just like you, always making fun of everything.
Not at all, Franky, I am quite in earnest. Go to your dictionary, and you will find that a pond is a small body of still water, without an outlet. Will not your globe answer to that definition? At all events, the aquaria of the Museum are small glass vessels, of various forms and sizes, containing water (from ten to one hundred gallons each) for the use of various kinds of fishes and plants. It is a sort of fish-globe on a comprehensive scale, so arranged, however, that in most cases it is not necessary to change the water at all.
Elsie. Why, Uncle? I should think the fishes would all die. I could not keep mine, without changing the water very often.
That is true, my dear. But these aquaria are furnished with living plants, as well as living animals. These plants are growing, and they supply to the water all that is necessary to the life and health of the animals that properly belong there. This gives to the aquarium all the advantages of a natural pond. It is a sort of ocean or river-garden. You may fill it with salt-water, and sea-shells, and plants, or with fresh-water, and the appropriate productions of pond, lake, and river. You may supply it with coral, rock, sea-weed, moss, and all the endless variety of water-life, so that the fishes, after getting over the fright of being caught, will feel as much at home as ever, making love, and rearing their young
families, without the fear of being devoured by large fish, as in the great sea.
Frank. Pray how do our gold-fishes live at all in those glass globes? They have no plants or mosses there, and we never give them any food.
I will tell you. There are more or less impurities in all the water we use; I mean vegetable and even animal matter, too minute for us to observe, but not too minute for their delicate organs. This supports them while it lasts, but when they have consumed this, and the oxygen of the water is exhausted, they die. To prevent this, the water must
be often changed, or supplied with such substances as will furnish, in their growth, both vegetable nourishment and oxygen for breathing.
An aquarium may be of any size or form, from a little globe on the table to a tank, as large as this house. In the Museum, to which I am now to introduce you, there are some twenty or more of them. They are mostly square or rectangular, the sides being formed of heavy plate-glass. The bottom is covered with sand and pebbles, to the depth of several inches, out of which flags and other aquatic plants are growing. Large stones, of various forms, are so arranged, as to give them all the appearance of rocks in the sea, forming, as they lean one over another, caves and grottoes, or whatever fanciful apartments you may choose to imagine for the convenience of the finny race.
In one place, you see scores of sun-fish, or pond-perch, enjoying themselves as if they had a whole lake for their range, moving gracefully about near the surface, as if it were a peculiar pleasure to show their silvery sides to the light, through a wall of French plate-glass. In another, the yellow-perch, the pike, the cat-fish, and some other varieties, live together in harmony, gliding about among the weeds and caves, as if each one was monarch of the whole. This quiet does not arise from any particular amiableness in the species, for, while I stood by, the attendant dropped a small fish, of another family, into the reservoir, who had not yet found his way to the bottom, before one of the larger sort took him in at a mouthful, and swallowed him whole.
Elsie. Oh! Uncle, was it not cruel for the man to put him in there? I should not like to see such a thing as that.
Well, dear Elsie, it is so the world over. Man is not the only destroyer. Dr. Franklin, you know, once thought it wrong to eat any kind of animal food. But when he found, as a fish was opened in his presence, that he had been feeding on another fish, he concluded that that was according to nature, and so gave up both his theory and his practice.
Passing on to another of these beautiful oceal palaces, I found shiners, carp, roaches, muddlers, suckers, and eels, the last, according to their usual habits, nearly hidden in the gravelly bottom.
The next contained gold-fish and craw-fish. They would not seem to belong to the same family, but they live peaceably together.
In the next vase—
Elsie. Why, Uncle! were any of them so small as to be called a vase?
There is no particular size for a vase. It may be large as well as small. I called it a vase for variety. In the next, there was a little nation of water-newts (efts), very much resembling lizards, sprawling about in all directions, and seeming much as if they might be young crocodiles or alligators. These, with the frog and toad, are among the msot amusing inmates of a fresh-water aquarium; but a merciful regard should be had for the last two, and when they
cease to possess gills, they should be liberated, or they will die. This is not the case with the eft, though for amphibia generally the aquarium should be so furnished, that a part of the mimic rock-work rises above the water. The eft retains its tail, and with it the power of volition in water, which enables it to rise to the surface and breathe, having accomplished which, it descends at once to the bottom, as if struck by a blow, but speedily recovers, and, till breathing-time returns, remains actively employed in the water, when the same performance again takes place. The frog, during the last weeks of his residence
in confinement, is the “Mr. Merryman” of the collection.
The cunner and the porges occupied the next place, looking much prettier and more graceful, floating about in their crystal palace, than where we ordinarily see them, in the frying-pan or the platter.
After these came a family of sea-bass, who also exhibited a beautiful contrast with such as we often see in the fish-market.
In one reservoir, there were fine specimens of zoophytes.
Charlie. Dear Uncle, what can that mean?
Zoophyte is a word made up of zo-ou, an animal, and phaton, a plant. It is the lowest species of animal lilfe, and the highest of vegetable; or rather, it seems to be a combination of the two. It appears to be only a plant, but the plant seems to have life. It is sensitive, and retires from the touch. We do not know much about this kind of marine life. Sponges and corals are zoophytes.
Passing on from these, you will find in one place the conger-eel and the horse-shoe, of both of which I once had a great horror, lest I should meet them when I went into bathe. In another, the star-fish adn the crab keep house together, the star-fish delighting to attach itself to the sides of its house, as to the rocks under the sea, and the crab, having no shell of its own, but occupying what deserted habitation it can find.
This is a very curious feature in the habits of the crab. As it grows too large for the shell it has taken, it crawls out and finds another. And oftentimes there will be a severe contest between two of them for the occupancy of some cast-off shell. Sometimes they kill each other in these conflicts, and sometimes they die from exposure, not being able to find a shell large enough to hold them.
One of these crystal palaces was wholly devoted to tortoises, only one of which showed any desire to amuse us by his motions. He swam about most vigorously, but not very gracefully. All the rest seemed to be lazily sunning themselves on the top of a large rock.
One of the most curious, but not the most beautiful, of all these vases, was one which contained a large number of shrimps—a little, delicate, almost transparent fellow, looking very like a lobster, or rather like the ghost of a lobster in miniature. It has long, slender feelers, claws with a single-hooked fang, and three pairs of legs. Its eyes, instead of being in its head, seem to be on the ends of two little protuberances, set out on each side of the head, like horns. Their motions in swimming is very peculiar and funny, and you wonder, as you see them, how they can have any muscles at all, or any power to move, as they do.
I could not help thinking how little we know of the wonderful variety of the works of nature. But, my story has been a very long one, and I must break off short.
Frank. Oh! please go on. We are not at all weary. We should like to hear more of these wonders.
No more now, if you please. It is quite time to stop.
Elsie. One question, dear Uncle. Some of the fishes you have named live in the sea, where the water is salt. How do they live in these glass-houses?
True, Elsie. I thought I had told you, that some of these vessels are filled with salt-water, and some with fresh. they are all carefully prepared with a view to the habits and wants of their occupants.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, January 1858; pp. 16-18)
Elsie. Oh, Uncle! how long we have been waiting for you to tell us more of the Museum, and of all the wonderful things that are there!
I fear you will not find any other part as interesting and curious, as that which contained the Aquaria.
Elsie. Perhaps not, Uncle. I never heard anything more curious or beautiful, and I mean to have an aquarium of my own, by-and-by.
Fanny, Harry, and all the rest. And so do I, and so do I, and so do I.
Frank. And soon we can go fishing in our own parlors, without any danger of wetting our feet, or freezing our fingers.
Well, Frank, I will join you, some stormy day, and try the fun of fishing in a glass vase, while seated in a rocking-chair, with Hannah playing on the piano, or reading some luxurious book. But, we will now to the Museum, for we have much to see there yet, before I can proceed with my Pilgrimage.
There are so many things to be seen here, that I hardly know where to begin. But, as it is the holiday season, and all the young folks are full of Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, I will take you, first of all, to see
THE HAPPY FAMILY.
This is one of the most remarkable
exhibitions ever made since the Flood. The scene in the Ark may have been something like it; but, as we are not informed how the different animals were disposed of there, we can not say certainly. Here, in one large cage, without any division, or any attempt to keep them apart, are animals, birds, insects, and reptiles, of opposite natures, and such as have never been known to meet, except as enemies, all living together in perfect peace and friendship. Here are dogs, cats, and mice, lying down and sleeping, or playing together. Here is a dove, or a small bird, sitting quietly on the back of a cat, or of a hawk. Here is a bird hopping from coil to coil of a sleeping serpent. A timid rabbit is feeding side by side with a dog, or a monkey. An owl sits on the same perch with a parrot. A toad hops, unmolested, among cats, rats, mice, birds, and all the rest; and a hen and a guinea-pig keep company with an ant-eater, and a Mexican hog.
Two or three cries at once. Why, Uncle, are you not jesting? How can these different creatures live together, and not quarrel?
I can not tell you how it was brought about. I do not know what means have been used to tame, and train them. But so it is. They are there, in perfect peace and quiet. I have seen them, and watched them for a long time, as they moved about, each one as much at ease, as if alone in the cage—no one ever interfering with another, or seeming to be annoyed by anything that is done. The mouse seems to have no more fear of the cat, than of his fellow. The cat is apparently as friendly with the mouse, as with her own kitten.
Frank. Why, what a witch that man must be!
Harry. Ha, ha, ha! not a witch, Frank, but a wizard.
Frank. Well, wizard, or witch, I don’t care which; but I should like to know how he does it.
That is a secret you will not find it easy to discover, and, if you should aquire it, it would not do you any good. The greater part of the secret is probably patience and perseverance. A man who has anything else to do, could not well do anything of this kind. Besides, you are too indulgent to your pets, and you would not like to restrain, and deny, and punish them, as much as would be necessary to subdue their nature, and change their habits entirely. These animals live together quietly, but they are not lively and playful. The monkeys seem to retain something of their love of fun, and of mischief. But yet, they do not carry it so far as to annoy their companions.
You would be very much amused, I am sure, to see the “Happy Family.” Sometimes you will see them all up and moving, flying, hopping, jumping, but never interfering seriously with each other; mingling, in the strangest groups you can imagine. Sometimes, especially on a cold day, you will see the greater part of them cuddled down together in a corner, a pile, or lump of life, made up of cats, rabbits, Guinea-pigs, rats, monkeys, etc., etc., either quietly asleep, or trying to keep each
other warm; while the rest of the family are moving about, from perch to perch, or occasionally crowding themselves into the mass of sleepers.
There is in the Museum a great variety of the curious birds and animals, wither living, or stuffed, and looking like life, which will repay anybody for a few hours of study. I hope you will all have an opportunity to see them. Among them are
The Leopard—an animal of the cat species. It is found in the tropical regions of Asia and Africa. Its fur is yellow, with ten or twelve ranges of small black clusters of spots on each flank.
The Ostrich—a native of Africa and Arabia, the largest of all birds, being four feet from the ground to the top of the back, and its head often as high as ten feet—is remarkable for its swiftness in running, in which it is aided by wings, which are too small for flying. Its plumage is elegant, and much sued in ornamental dress.
The Gnu, or Horned Horse, belongs to the ox tribe of ruminating animals, and partakes of the form of the ox, the horse, and the deer. It is found in South Africa.
The Rhinoceros (nose-horn) belongs to the same order of animals as the elephant, distinguished as hoofed animals, which do not ruminate, or chew the cud. It is of the species Tapir. It is much larger than the American tapir, and is distinguished by a kind of horn on its nose, composed of a solid fibrous substance, resembling a tuft of hairs glued together. Some species have two horns, one above the other. It is stupid and ferocious, frequents marshy places, and lives on grass and shrubs.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, February 1858); pp. 47-48)
Bidding farewell to the American Museum, I stepped out into Broadway, and was, for a time, not a little confused by the rattling, and buzzing, and hum of the living multitudes passing and repassing, and rushing up and down, as if the goal of life was at one end or the other of Broadway. The contrast was not agreeable, passing so suddenly from the quiet I had been enjoying among the living and the dead in this great storehouse of natural curiosities. I soon became accustomed to the din, however, and began to take observations for my future progress. St. Paul’s loomed up darkly on the other side of the street, a structure neither imposing nor beautiful. A statue of the great Apostle adorns a niche in the pediment.
Frank.—Does it look like Paul, Uncle?
I don’t know, Frank. In the first place, I don’t know how Paul looked, except that he represents himself as not very good-looking. In the second place, the statue is so high up, that you can not see what it looks like. If it were a statue of Julius Cæsar, it would answer as well, so long as the people accept it as meant for Paul.
In the church-yard, on the south side of the church, there is a tall and somewhat imposing monument, which may be worthy of a passing notice. It is an obelisk, twenty feet high, erected in honor of THOMAS ADDIS EMMETT, an Irish orator and patriot, whose brother, Robert, was executed as a rebel in 1803. Thomas, escaping to this
country, was received with great éclat, as one of a persecuted race, a martyr to the cause of liberty. I was more interested in this monument, that it brought freshly back to my memory my school-boy days, when I was accustomed to recite, with great power of eloquence, as I then thought, a portion of Robert Emmett’s reply to the question, “What he had to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon him?” It was a favorite theme for our weekly declamations, and its author was to us a sort of demi-god.
Thomas Addis Emmett became somewhat distinguished in this country as a politician and a lawyer. His death, which took place about thirty years ago, was sudden and impressive. He expired, without a moment’s warning, while addressing the court at the City Hall.
Passing St. Paul’s, the next object of interest is the Astor House, a fine, large hotel, and one of the best in the world. At the time of its completion, some twenty-five years ago, it had no equal. To it belongs the honor of originating the modern style of palace hotels. Others have arisen, since, more imposing in extent, and more elaborate in architecture and appointments; but I greatly doubt if there can be found in the world a house more conveniently arranged, better conducted, or more thoroughly furnished with every appointment for substantial comfort and reasonable luxury.
The Astor is built of Quincy granite, and occupies the whole front between vesey and Barclay streets, 200 feet, extending back on those streets 150 feet.
The amount of eating done within those walls, in one year, would astonish almost any frugal housewife.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s museum, March 1858; pp. 75-79)
Gazing at the Astor House provoked in me something of an appetite for dinner. But I was doomed to wait some time, before tasting it. As I was crossing Vesey Street, I met an old friend, the first familiar face I had seen among the many thousands that had passed me in my pilgrimage. He seized me cordially by the hand, and, though moving very rapidly when he came up, seemed in no haste to go on. He turned back, and held me a long time in conversation about the great city, its singular history, wonderful growth, wealth, wickedness, etc. He was an old man, and very talkative. He was born in New York, and had always resided there. He had heard his father and grandfather relate many curious and interesting incidents of its early history, and seemed to have the whole story at his tongue’s end. He was particularly interested in talking of its rapid growth, and showing how steadily and powerfully it had been expanding into the acknowledged metropolis of the Western world.
His grandfather’s memory extended back almost to the time when the old Dutch government was superseded by the English. In an old almanac, which he carried in his pocket, he showed me a sketch of the city as it was in 1664, when it contained 1,500 inhabitants, and occupied only so much of its present territory as lies below Wall Street. In truth, it did not occupy more than half that space, for a large part of what is now covered with buildings was then water.
This cut shows us the East River view of the Battery, or Market Field, as it was then called. The fort on the
left was called Fort Amsterdam by the Dutch, and Fort George by the English. The gallows, standing in solemn loneliness on the shore, shows that New York, even in its youth, was not as virtuous as it should be.
It would occupy too much time and space to tell you all that my friend had to say; but it will help you to form some idea of the strides the city has taken toward the country, to remember that the Astor House is about half a mile above Wall Street, and about four miles below the great “Central Park,” which may perhaps be regarded as the present limit of the city on the north, though destined, by-and-by, as the name given it imports, to be its center.
Standing on this point, we were continually jostled and disturbed by the crowds passing up and down. New York as it is was continually withdrawing our attention from New York as it was. I could not help remarking to my friend the seeming earnestness and activity of the passers, saying, that every one appeared to have an important object ahead, which he was bent on accomplishing at once.
“Oh!” said he, “that is all appearance. Not one in twenty of them have any object at all, except to see what is passing, and to occupy time.”
“Is that possible?” I asked. “How, then, do they support themselves?”
“You last question is more than I can answer,” he replied; “and one half of these people would be as much puzzled to answer it as I am. The first I can answer at once, and give you proof that I am right.”
“How will you do that?” I asked.
“I can stop five hundred, or a thousand of them, on this spot, for half an hour, or more, and not one of them shall know why they stop, or what they are looking after.”
So saying, he stepped to the edge of the side-walk, drawing me with him. Then, pointing toward the sky, just over the Museum, he said to me, earnestly, “There! don’t you see it?”
Instantly some twenty or thirty persons gathered around us, each asking, “What is it?” The number of idle gazers and questioners increased at every moment, and in about two minutes, the walk was so crowded and crammed, that no one could pass, and all new-comers were compelled to stop. Not one in twenty of the crowd knew why they were stopped, or how long they would be detained; and very few of them cared, as long as they had something new to excite them.
It was amusing to hear their questions and conjectures, some of them given in a tone of positive earnestness, as if their very lives or fortunes depended on knowing what strange thing had happened.
“Ha!” cried one. “I see it.”
“What? What? Where?” cried a score at once.
“There! over the Museum. I vow it is a balloon, with an elephant in it.”
“Nonsense!” said his neighbor. “You don’t see any such thing. The balloon never was made that could carry an elephant.”
“That’s as much you know,” replied the other. “Pray, did you never hear of Rufus Porter’s balloon, that was to carry fifty men to California in two days?”
“Was to!” growled the impatient objector. “Did he ever do it?”
Having accomplished his object, my friend took me by the arm, and drew me aside, to continue his story of “the Olden Times.”
In his enthusiasm, he forgot that
I was on a pilgrimage, with my pack in my hand, and he did not know that I had not had my dinner. From one story to another, he carried me quite back to the first discovery of the Bay and River, in 1607; then, nothing would do but he must show me a picture of Hendrick Hudson, in his quaint, old dress, with a sketch of his ship, the Half Moon, as she lay at anchor, off the Highlands, surrounded by large numbers of Indian canoes. The brave old navigator thought, as Columbus did, that he had reached the farther India, and that the “River of the Mountains,” as he called it, came down from the heart of its golden regions.
The early settlers had many difficulties with the Indians, owing chiefly to the avarice and injustice of the new-comers, and to the effect of the “fire-water.” Treaties were made with them, at various times, only to be broken, on the first and slightest pretense. The Indians, not knowing how to read, depended upon the white men to make, declare, and explain the treaty. And then, when any difficulty arose, it depended upon the honor and honesty of the white men to make a fair case of it. Whatever may be said of the cruelty of th4e red men, their provocations were many and great. It
certainly was not necessary to rob them of their lands, as they were disposed to sell them very cheap. For seventy-five dollars—and that, perhaps, in rum and trinkets—they sold the whole Island of New York.
The old Dutchmen were shrewd in making bargains, but they were not very careful to keep on the right side of the Indians. They often provoked them to acts of violent retaliation, and then made war upon them, as if they had been first to offend. The Indians were noble-looking men, some of them, and worthy of a better fate. With all their fantastic costume, they do not appear to much disadvantage by the side of the Dutch governor and his council. If the Indians had been the artists in this case, they might, perhaps, have drawn a picture still more favorable to their ancestors. As it is, the history and the illustrations are all the work of the “pale faces;” and, bad as it appears for them, they have probably made out the best case they could.
My friend occupied me so long with these old matters, and entertained me so much by his enthusiasm and his anecdotes, that I did not move from the spot where we first met, where I shall now be obliged to leave you, having no more time at present.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, April 1858; pp. 117-118)
Well, Uncle, said Jessie, here we are, waiting to hear of your progress. If you stand so long at every corner, you will hardly live to see the end of Broadway.
I never expect to see the end of it, my dear; for it grows faster than I can travel. It now stretches miles away into the country. But, little by little, we will see what we can.
Frank. Is Broadway very wide?
No. There are many streets in the city wider than this. When it was first laid out, while the city was but little more than a village, and the houses were all low, it was considered very spacious. And so it was, for the use then required of it. But, at the present time, when most of the buildings, on both sides, are seven and eight stories high, and the street is the principal thoroughfare of a city of nearly a million of people, it is very inconveniently narrow.
To proceed— My antiquarian friend was not disposed to drop the subject he had taken up with so much interest. He entertained me with the history of St. Paul’s—of the Astor House, of the Museum—the Park Theater, and many other prominent objects in this vicinity. He walked with me some distance, and entertained me much by his remarks, and his enthusiasm in all matters relating to this “great city.” While standing near the Astor House, he called my attention to the gates, at the southern extremity of the Park, opposite, and informed me that the balls on the top of the gate-posts were brought from the site of the ancient city of Troy. They are about fourteen inches in diameter, perfectly round, and apparently of brown granite, or sandstone. In what position they were found there, or what may have been their origin, or purpose, my friend could not inform me.
Harry. Perhaps they are some of the thunderbolts of old Jove, left on the battle-field.
Elsie. More likely they are the marbles used by the giants in their sports.
Whatever may have been their origin, or use, they now occupy a conspicuous place at the main entrance to the Park; while not one in ten thousand of those pass them daily knows anything of their history, or looks upon as any other than ordinary ornaments to a gate-post.
While talking of these matters, an amusing incident occurred, near by, which illustrates one of the innumerable phases of Broadway life. A hand-organ, with the usual accompaniment of a monkey, as a tax-gatherer, was grinding out its uncouth measures, opposite the door of a fashionable Hair Dressing Establishment; while the monkey, full of his pranks,
was investigating every object of interest in the vicinity.
Presently the door opened, and a very genteel, carefully-dressed man, with gold spectacles and a gold-headed cane, came out. The monkey, who, just then, was amusing himself, by reaching through the meshes of a wire window-skreen, [sic] for pea-nuts, which the boys threw at him, mischievously seized the gold spectacles, and endeavored to escape with them. This proved a more difficult matter than he imagined, as they were hooked behind the ears of the wearer, who did not at all relish either the rude scratching of his ears, or this public derangement of his toilet. In the scuffle which ensued, the gentleman’s highly polished hat fell to the pavement, and was trampled under foot by the crowd. His cravat was left in a state of unseemly disorder, and his temper was ruffled, like the sea in a storm, or a courtier in the time of Queen Bess. The monkey succeeded, at length, in getting possession of the spectacles, though in a damaged condition; and then, springing to the top of an awning-post, out of the reach of the enraged dandy, he coolly attempted to adjust them to his own ugly phiz. This was a difficult matter, as he did not understand how to make them hold on. Having made several unsuccessful attempts, during which the crowd shouted and cheered him on, he flung them down, and sprang across the awning, into one of the windows of the Astor House.
Frank. I thought these monkeys were always chained to the organ.
This one had been chained, but had got loose. It was some hours before he was caught, during which he led his pursuers in a chase all over the house.
Meanwhile, the discomfited exquisite had swallowed his rage, refitted his toilet, and gone on his way.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, May 1858; pp. 145-147)
Owing to the confusion of the monkey-chase and the uproar and fun it occasioned, my friend and I became parted, and as the quaint old Bunyan says, I addressed myself to my way.
Frank. What answer did you get, sir?
Oh! a very amusing one; at the same time, it was not agreeable. The crowd which had gathered to see the fun, or to learn what it was, attracted some of the New York highwaymen, the professed pick-pockets, who have acquired such adroitness in their craft, that they can take the watch out of a man’s pocket, or the diamond-ring from his finger, without his knowing it. One of these commenced operations on a lady, who was uncomfortably squeezed in among the mass near me, and succeeded in getting her gold watch and chain, while she was most anxious about her laces and flowers. A policeman happened to be so near as to see the act, seized the robber, while his hand was yet in the lady’s pocket, searching for her purse. The scamp immediately dropped the watch into my bosom, and cried, “Hands off! What are you about?” with sundry other angry exclamations, as if he felt himself grossly insulted, to be touched by a policeman. The officer kept his hold, however, while he thief continued to bluster and to protest his innocence. When asked for the watch, he knew nothing of it, and when I produced it, he turned on me like a savage, and said, “There’s the thief!—let me alone!” The officer knew better, and calling some of his comrades, took him off to the Tombs, while I went on my way unmolested.
Jesse. Did not this incident detain you a long time?
Not more than five minutes; then the tide flowed on as quietly as before. A robbery, or a murder, in Broadway, is scarcely noticed, more than the dropping of a pebble into a stream, which makes a few ripples, and soon disappears.
Being a little fatigued with my adventure, I crossed over to the Park, and took a seat on one of the chains, by which the various grass sections are protected from intrusion. Here I had a fine view of the confluence of the two great thoroughfares of New York, Broadway and the Bowery, which last has an outlet here, through Chatham Street and Park Row. On the next page is a very good representation of the scene, as it now appears, so far as the buildings are concerned. The artist hs contrived to clear away a considerable number of trees from the lower end of the Park, and an immense number of carriages and foot passengers from the streets. I never saw those streets so deserted. Perhaps he took the likenesses of those only who were willing to pay for being made so conspicuous. Or, possibly, the handsome people stood still,
to be taken, while the rest ran away. On the right, you see a part of the Astor House. Next to that is St. Paul’s Church, the steeple, which seems to be at the wrong end, lifting its slender spire above the hotel. The building in the center, which cuts off the train of wagons and carriages going down Broadway, is “The American Museum,” where we made such a pleasant visit a short time since, and where we saw such a variety of rare and interesting curiosities.
Frank. What are all those flags for, Uncle?
A mere fancy of the manager, to attract attention, making the Museum more conspicuous, as far as it can be seen.
On the left is “Park Row.” Park Theatre once occupied a conspicuous place there; but has given place to stores and warehouses, for a more useful, if not a more profitable, kind of business. If the gentleman and lady standing under the tree, by the gate, should turn to the left, and look straight through one of those buildings on Park Row, and through another, separated from it by a very narrow alley, they might see right into our sanctum, at 116 Nassau Street, and (if they have very good eyes, or a magic pair of spectacles) read what we are now writing about them.
Elsie. Oh, Uncle, wouldn’t that be funny? But is your office so near the Great Museum?
You mean to ask, perhaps, if the American Museum is so near the Great Museum? Yes, close under our wing, which accounts for its great prosperity.
Frank. Pray, Uncle, are those balls you spoke of, at a former meeting, which came from the site of ancient Troy, on these gate-posts at this end of the Park? If so, they look much smaller than you represented them.
They are not there now, Frank. The old gates have been replaced with new and lighter ones, for which the Troy balls would be quite too large. I do not know where they are at the present time.
There are rail-tracks on Park Row, extending through Chatham Street and
the Bowery, up the east side of the city, and connecting with the Harlem and New Haven Railroads. One of the cars is just on the start, as you see. If you want a ride, you must jump in quickly, or it will be off. But, as they go every three minutes, you can, if you please, wait till we finish our talk.
Elsie. Dear Uncle, I thought there was a fountain at this end of the Park. I do not see anything of it in this picture.
There is a fountain, or rather a basin, near this end of the Park, not embraced in this view. When it was first built, there was a constant display of its brilliant and beautiful jets, attracting large numbers of people, to pause as they passed, and keeping always fresh and green the trees, shrubs, and flowers on every side. But there is seldom any water in it now, the city fathers preferring to waste it in some other way. The flowers are all dead, the evergreens withered and brown, and even the grass gray, thirsty, and stinted, as if a blight had fallen on the place. This Park has nothing about it that is inviting or tasteful as a Park. But anything green, in the midst of so much brick and marble, is refreshing. As an open space, for the better circulation of air, it is of great value. Parks are sometimes called the lungs of a city. But if your lungs, or mine, were as uniformly choked with dust as the City Hall Park is, we should never breathe without coughing.
While I was sitting on the chain, amusing myself with the ever-shifting scene before me, an alarm of fire was sounded from the great bell on the City Hall. One, two, three, four, the deep, solemn tones rang out; and again, one, two, three, four, and so at intervals of a minute or two, for some time. Scarcely had the alarm been repeated twice, before the rumbling of engines and the shouts of the noisy firemen were heard. From different directions, they rushed along the streets, shouting, screaming, hallooing, like so many wild Indians—sometimes dashing on to the sidewalks, to avoid the crowd of carriages, and then sweeping on through the moving lines of omnibuses, as if they would tear up the very pavement in their fury and haste. The people generally paid no attention to the fire, or to the noise the firemen made about it. They went on their way with the same earnestness, or lounged on the corners with the same indifference, as before.
Frank. How did they know that their own houses might not be on fire?
Few of them would stop to think of that; and those who did, would know from the four strokes of the bell whether or not the fire was in their district. In New York, none but the firemen and the rowdies take any interest in a fire, unless their own property is in danger; and it is well they do not. If everybody should rush to the scene, as they do in small towns and villages, the crowd would be so great, the firemen could not do their duty, and every fire would be accompanied by a mob and a fight.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, June 1858; pp. 174-175)
Crossing over to the west side of Broadway, on leaving the Park, I re-commenced my pilgrimage. The street was very different, in some respects, from what you would find it if you should go there now. Many of the old buildings have been taken down, and new ones erected in their places. Pausing at the corner of Park Place, for instance, which is the second street from the Astor House, I had a very pleasant and refreshing view of the grounds and buildings of Columbia College, which are now displaced by a bustling street, and tall, bare marble or stone stores. This College was founded somewhat more than a century ago, and here have been educated many of the great men who have adorned the history of our country. The site which, when first occupied, was quite out of town, has been, for more than a quarter of a century, a sort of oasis in a wilderness of brick and mortar. Commerce crowded so hard upon it, that it not only ceased to be a suitable place for quiet study, but became too valuable to be held for such a purpose. So the inexorable street went through; the College and the “College Green” disappeared, and Mammon piled up in their places his palaces of trade.
As I looked down upon the spot, of which I had often heard, I recalled some incidents connected with the early history of the College, which had interested me much, as I heard them from the lips of one who witnessed and took part in them. The time was a few years after the Revolution, and embraced the period of the formation of our present government, and the inauguration of General Washington as its first President.
The characters were Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Knox, Morris, Marshall, Jay, Hamilton, Burr, John Randolph, of Roanoke, and many others of the same circle. They seemed, as by magic, to come up and pass before me. I had, as it were, known them as they looked and acted and talked on this spot. Their mental photographs had been taken for me, by my friend, and I had them here before me. I talked with them, and sought to protract their visit. But the vision soon passed. The place, the people, the customs were so changed, they did not feel at home. They looked sorrowfully on the extravagance and luxury of the times, and seemed to feel that all their labors and sacrifices would, after all, prove fruitless of any permanent good.
Elsie. Why, Uncle, you must have fallen asleep in the street, to have had such a dream as that!
No, no, my dear child. Nothing so “quick as thought.” All this and more passed through my mind in the twinkling of an eye, conjured up by the simple association of the “College Green,” with the stories I had heard from my old Dutch friend. There are waking as well as sleeping dreams, you know, and visions of things never
seen or even visible. I did pause at the corner of the street. Very probably I put on a very grave face, as these thoughts came rushing upon me; but I kept my eyes open, and my mind busy, and was very soon on my way again up Broadway, and in very different company from that I had called around me at the corner.
Frank. Did you ever see any of the great men of your day-dream?
Of those whom I have mentioned, I have seen only one, and that the very one whom I should least care to see—Aaron Burr. He was a man to be despised for his character—for exalted talents prostituted to low and base ends—and to be feared and shunned for an influence as malignant as it was irresistible. He always appears to me, standing as he did in the midst of that constellation of great and good names, like another Lucifer among the morning stars. There have been many traitors, like Arnold, but few incarnate demons, like Burr. His example should be a beacon to warn all young men that the way of virtue is the only way to honor, and that the sure way to gain and keep the respect of others is, to respect themselves. This Burr never could have done. Born with the highest intellectual endowments, thrown into the society of the noblest and best race of men the world ever saw, with everything around and before him that could excite the loftiest ambition, he seems to have regarded himself as only the creature of passion—born to indulge, and not to aspire.
Frank. Did he not aspire to political honor and power?
Yes; and he might have attained it, if he had sought it openly and honorably. But, in that, as in everything else, he preferred the wrong to the right, the crooked to the straight.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, August 1858; pp. 54-55)
A pilgrim is supposed to attend to his own business, and not to be disposed to notice every odd thing that comes in his way. Thousands of people were constantly passing and repassing, of whom I took no note at all. Some were beggars, and some were peddlers of cigars, cakes, nuts, or matches. There was one very notable character, however, of whom I could not help taking notice. He has become one of the “institutions” of the Great Metropolis, and he forces himself upon the notice of every pil-
grim, whether he will or not. Even the deaf can hardly avoid hearing him; and the blind, if they do not see him, must always know when he is near. He is called “the four-cent man.” For some years he has made it his sole business to peddle paper and envelopes in the street, having but one price, four cents, for the wares he offers. From morning till night, day after day, in heat and cold, and in all weathers, he marches slowly along the sidewalk, with his samples well arranged before him, calling out, in a clear, distinct voice, with a full, slow utterance: “Twelve—sheets—of—writing paper—for four—cents.” “Twenty-five—self-sealing—envelopes—for four—cents.” “Twelve—sheets—of note paper—for four—cents.” He speaks so loud and so distinct, that he can be heard in almost any room of the buildings, for some distance around, and no one finds any difficulty in understanding exactly what he has to sell, and how much he expects to get for it.
Ellen. How can he afford to sell so cheap, Uncle? We have to pay a cent apiece, when we buy envelopes.
There are two reasons why he sells so cheap, my dear. In the first place, he has no rent to pay, no clerks, no fire and lights. He does all his business in the street, and by daylight, and does it all himself. In the second place, he buys cheap, and sells large quantities. His business is very prosperous. He never varies his prices, and never loses anything by credit. His custom is all cash.
Kate. Are not the people of the city sometimes annoyed by these constant outcries in the streets? You know how the newsboys in Cincinnati disturbed us, as we were going to church, on Sunday.
Yes, they are, as a class, considered as a kind of nuisance. The Sunday papers are particularly so; and in some of the cities, they are not allowed thus to disturb the quiet of the holy day. The outcries would not be so annoying, if they were only intelligible. For the most part, you can not guess what they say, unless you have a chance to see what they have to sell. This “four-cent man” is teaching them a lesson, by which it is hoped they will profit. He ought to be regarded as one of the reformers of the day. When he is gone, they should erect a statue to his memory, at some prominent corner, to remind all peddlers, as they pass, of the value of plain dealing and plain speaking.
But there is, it seems, one objection to this plain-speaking four-cent man. His full clear voice and plain words command attention, and often as he passes, every one must hear. This sometimes disturbs the thoughts and interrupts the business of men who are easily distracted, and whose business requires very close and quite attention. In such cases, they have sometimes requested him to change his tone, or to remove to some other street, and have even paid him the amount of an ordinary day’s earnings, to keep still for a day, while some important consultation was in progress. A very short time since, I noticed him, as if some new idea had seized him, moving quietly along, and saying, in a sort of undertone, which yet was very distinct and clear, “Envelopes and paper, selling off cheap.” This he continued till 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and then took up his old strain, in the same clear, full voice, “Twelve—sheets—of writing paper—for four—cents.” He had been hired to “spare the ears of the public” till that time, and he faithfully kept his part of the contract.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, September 1858; pp. 79-81)
In Broadway there are many things to puzzle a pilgrim. Where do so many people come from? Where are they going? How do they all get a living? and is it possible that they all find a home at night?
Look, now, at this poor, blind cripple, led by a child, and begging his way down, and then begging his way up; and then at these organ-grinders, rending the air with a kind of shrieking music, about as melodious and agreeable as that of a pig in the act of being stuck. Here, on the corner, is a shriveled-up old woman, somewhere between sixty and eighty years of age, who looks as if here life had been one long agony. She sits, from morning till night, day after day, on that same stone, with a small basket of peanuts, the whole value of which can not exceed fifty cents. Her gains, if she sell out her stock every day, can not be more than fifteen or twenty cents. God help her! I suppose she is more thankful for that than these fashionable ladies are for their silks and satins, and the fine carriage they ride in.
Just observe the carriages, as they pass, or stand in waiting by the sidewalk. Some of them are quite plain, but many of them are very stylish and showy, highly plated or gilded, with coachman and footman in gaudy liveries.
Some pilgrims would have paused in front of Stewart’s great marble palace, and moralized an hour or so on fashion, extravagance, and the follies of the world in general. I looked at it, as I went by, with a feeling of admiration at its proportions, and of wonder at the enterprise and courage of its builder. I can not say, moreover, that I did not admire the fine equipages that stood all along the street in front of it, and the fine ladies, old and young, who were going in and out, in two ceaseless processions. There are worse ways of spending money than this, and there is something of human love and parental affection mingled with the pride, and something of refined taste, with the mere love of display, here exhibited. So I passed on, not quite sure, to say the least, that there was not a lurking emotion of envy even in my old heart, or at least an entire willingness, if I could have the chance, to ride in a carriage, and see my wife and daughters, and all my large family handsomely dressed. But I passed on, leaving the fashionable world to please itself in its own way, and the poor, miserable starving begging world to creep on as best it could. My sympathies, just then, were turned in a new direction. One of my fellow-travellers, who had never rode in a carriage in his life, slipped and fell on the pavement, and came so near being run over and crushed, that I could not hold back from trying to help him. He had two more legs than I had, but he could manage to stand, for all that, on the slippery pavement, and—
Elsie. Oh! Uncle. It was a horse, wasn’t it?
Yes, it was a horse, an omnibus horse—but a fellow-creature and a fellow-traveler, and I felt for him. But he was soon up, and on his way, and so was I. In a few minutes I found myself in front of the New York Hospital, a very plain substantial building, but, after all, much more to my taste than any of the marble palaces which commerce and pride have reared, above and below it, on the same great thoroughfare.
The Hospital stands back some hundred feet from Broadway, with an avenue, ninety feet wide, leading to it. It has ample ground for its accommodation, covering nearly an entire block. When it was erected, it was quite out of town; and those who selected the site, probably never thought of such a thing as the city overtaking it. It is now so far down, that both fashion and business have made prodigious strides beyond it. It is the general hospital of the city. It is liberally endowed, and embraces every provision for the best and most effective care of those who require its attention.
The society for the erection of this Hospital was organized in 1771, and received its charter from the Earl of Dunmore, then Governor of the Province. Having received liberal aid from the Legislature, the building was commenced in 1773. In 1775, when nearly completed, it was destroyed by fire. further aid being promptly rendered by the Legislature, it was recommenced in less than a month. but the good work was again delayed, or for the time defeated, by the breaking out of the Revolutionary War. The city being in possession of the British, the Hospital was occupied as barracks for English and Hessian troop soldiers.
It was not until January, 1791, that the place was opened, under its own proper officers, for the reception of patients. From that time, it has gone steadily on in its work of mercy, relieving thousands of patients, and adding greatly to the comfort of numbers, whose cases were past all human relief.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, October 1858; pp. 118-119)
While I was inspecting the hospital, a friend, noticing the deep interest I felt in such institutions of mercy, called my attention to another, of a very different kind, which was situated not very far off. It was out of my track, somewhat, but, being an independent pilgrim, and warmly interested in every effort to reclaim the vicious and elevate the degraded, I was easily drawn aside to take a look at the Five Points’ Mission House, and House of Industry.
About one minute’s walk from roadway, that renowned thoroughfare of fashion, wealth, and commerce, brought us to this central point of squalid misery and sin, the most filthy and uninviting portion of the great city. An open space of about one acre, formed by the meeting of Little Water, Cross, Anthony, Orange, and Mulberry streets, is called, by way of derision, “Paradise Square.” On one side of this open space once stood the “Old Brewery,” known to fame as one of the most perfect illustrations of a hell one earth, which even the purlieus of a Sodom could furnish. This Brewery was erected in 1792, and was occupied in its appropriate vocation for about forty-five years. In 1837 it was rented out as a tenement house, or rookery. From this time it became a moral post-house, of the darkest and lowest description, and was marked by a shameless wickedness and misery which our young friends would find it difficult to conceive of. One portion of it was christened “The Den of Thieves,” a name which would aptly characterize the whole building. Along one side of it ran a narrow, filthy path, scarcely three feet wide, known as “Murderer’s Alley.” Nothing can be imagined more offensive and disgusting than the condition and aspect of the whole place, as it was eight years ago. Every room, every corner was reeking with filth, crime, and wretchedness. a mission to such a spot would seem more hopeless than to the darkest region of heathendom. But no place is too dark for the light of the Gospel to penetrate, or too desperate for the power of the Gospel to transform.
The spot where that “Old Brewery” stood is now covered by a handsome, substantial building, called the Five Points’ Mission House. If it be a triumph of Christianity to convert a theater into a church, what shall we say of such a transformation as this?
“It was the very nest of crime. The worst passions which deform our common human nature had their sowing time and their fruit season there. Young children were there immolated to Moloch, and men and women of ripe years were transplanted thence, to bloom upon the gallows. The foulest
crimes were hatched, fostered, and developed there. There was the home of the assassin, the thief, and the prostitute. Up those curious stairs, and along those winding passages, through nests of chambers, ingeniously contrived to prevent the escape of the victim, or elude the search of his friends, has been borne many an unhappy wretch, who will never be heard of till the morning of the resurrection. The Old Brewery was, at one period of its history, not excelled by any haunt in London or Paris, as the lazar-house and infectious center of crime.
“But where it once stood, a church has been erected, with a house for the preacher, school-rooms for the ignorant, bath-rooms for the dirty, and tenements, clean, wholesome, and inviting, for the homeless.”
On the opposite side of the square stands the Five Points’ House of Industry, a large, handsome, convenient structure, which has sprung out of the same spirit of Christian enterprise and active humanity which conceived and completed the Mission House. The latter is more strictly a religious institution, but nevertheless cares for the body as well as for the soul. The former is, in its inception and design, an industrial and reformatory enterprise, but does not, by any means, neglect the interests of the immortal soul, nor give them a secondary place. Mr. Pease, to whom the great work of originating and accomplishing the mission is mainly to be ascribed, is the head and front of this also. In connection with the House of Industry in this city, he has a farm in Westchester County, where he resides, and where he has a large number of children who have been snatched from the very jaws of pollution and death, and placed under the most wholesome training for usefulness and happiness.
At some other time, I will tell you more about this farm, and the good it has done.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, November 1858, p. 150)
Again on the great thoroughfare. How full of life, bustle, and show! But I heed not the bustle and show. I look only for the life, for that which I have just seen is so far exalted above bustle and show, that they seem more hollow and meaningless than ever.
Here now is an object which touches the same chord. It seems to have strayed away from the region I have just left, and to be out of place in any part of Broadway. But such is life, abounding in the strongest contrasts—the bright and the dark, the sad and the joyous, the happy and the wretched, side by side, jostling each other, and sometimes mysteriously changing places. Look at this poor cripple. His lower limbs are entirely paralyzed and useless. He can not walk a step, nor stand, nor even move his legs in any way, without the aid of his hands. He is sadly deformed in his back, and his neck is so twisted, that his chin rests on his left shoulder. Can you imagine a more pitiable object? And do not your young hearts thrill with gratitude to Him who has made you to differ, as you walk by, erect, and in full health and vigor? But he is not unhappy, for he, too, is grateful. Pushed helplessly about in his little wagon, he finds sunlight in human smiles, and absolute happiness in feeling that God is his Father, and will yet make him whole. He knows that, when he gets home, he will be as erect and vigorous as any of the children of the Father’s great family. What a contrast! With scarcely one of all the blessings which constitute our life and happiness, he is contented, grateful, happy—while with all these gifts lavished upon, and preserved to us from year to year, we fret, pine, and murmur, as if God were not only unkind, but unjust.
Well, dear children, it makes me happy and thankful to know that you do not feel so now—that you value your blessings, and pity those who can not enjoy the same. Cherish this feeling. Let it take deep root in your hearts, or it will gradually die out, and leave you as insensible as marble.
But, what have we here? a new aspect of life, a new phase of humanity. A young man stands on the edge of the sidewalk, and holds up a pack of plain cards, quietly calling the attention of the passers to “something curious.” One stops to see what it is, then another, till he has quite an audience. He then shuffles his cards, which were all white on the back, at first, and in a moment they appear spotted with blue stars. He takes great pains to show you, in the first place, that the cards are all blank. Then, with a great show of words, which mean nothing, and a look as if he expected everybody to be astonished, he shows up, first a set of blue stars, then red stars, then black ones, till somebody is astonished, and asks him what he will take for the secret. The price is ridiculously small for the power to perform a miracle. It is soon paid, and the purchaser, grown wondrous who by the revelation then made to him, pockets his cards, and goes off to see whom he can dupe in the same way.
Frank.—Why, Uncle, how does he manage to make these changes?
I did not think the secret worth a shilling, and therefore I was not initiated, so that I can not explain it to you. But if there was any real mystery in it, he would not sell it so cheap.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, December 1858; pp. 178-179)
The pilgrim who walks with his eyes open, is continually meeting with sights that are strange and unexpected. Many are very disagreeable, and disagreeable in that way that we feel, as we pass them, that it must be as painful for those who exhibit them to be seen in such a throng, as it is to us to see them. It is difficult to understand how poverty in rags should feel any satisfaction in showing itself by the side of heartless and ostentatious wealth. And yet in Broadway, as in many other of the great panoramas of life, they jostle each other at every turn. It may be, and probably is, a feeling of selfish pride on our part, that we think it would be more becoming and natural for the very poor and ill clad to choose some more quite walk, when they would be less exposed to observation and to painful contrast. But there is no accounting for tastes. They evidently think they have as good a right to exhibit their ugliness in broad daylight as the more favored have to show off their splendor and magnificence. And so you meet them in all the ingenious deformities of real or feigned distress, all the darker and more urgent in its appeals, as well as the more disgusting, for the violent contrasts it presents.
Look here, now. You have read of Esquimaux dog-teams traveling with velocity over the snow of the Arctic regions. But here is a dog-team in Broadway, and it would seem, too, an Esquimaux squaw to claim and guide it as her own. Who would suppose such a team would ever be seen in Broadway, or find anything to do there! But here you meet them daily, crowding their way through the interminable sea of carriages, omnibuses, carts, wagons, drays, and vehicles of every name, and often, it would seem, at the imminent hazard
of being crushed between them. The Esquimaux dog-teams are only driven on the snow, and generally consist of ten or twelve dogs harnessed together in pairs. The New York dog-teams are not quite so extensive or fanciful; they are a sort of mongrel between these and the Mexican or South American, where we often see a pair of mules at the pole, with an ox or a bull for a leader, and sometimes, even, a mule and an ox side by side. The New York team is generally a small hand-cart, with two dogs harnessed to the axletree or the shafts, a man, a woman, or a boy leading off. Sometimes there are three or four dogs, some attached to the axletree and some to the shafts. The harness is of the most motley character, made up of leather straps, strings of every color, bits of cloth, and sometimes of small chains. The dogs are trained, and always look as if they had seen hard service in the training, and lost all the natural life and frolic of a dog. They plod along moodily, their heads down, and their tongues hanging out, paying no attention to anything by the way, and seeming to be burdened with the care of some great business. They often look as if they felt that they were in the wrong place, and greatly abused. I remember seeing one team dragging heavily along with an overloaded cart, and a master, much more of a brute than his dogs, who looked as if on the verge of going mad—not with ordinary canine madness, but with loss of that reason and instinct which make the dog the friend and faithful servant of man. You can see something of the same expression in this team. How unlike the same animals racing about the fields, or even tamely following a master in the street! How unlike the free and spirited action of the Esquimaux team! The dog was not made to draw heavy burdens; his feet are not formed for such service, nor his limbs adapted to the required strain. Even the Esquimaux dog is often used up by this unnatural labor, becomes insane, rushes hither and thither, howling in his restless agony, and dies in convulsions.
The New York dogs suffer apparently in the same way, although I have never heard of any of them dying as the Arctic dogs do. They draw at a great disadvantage, being so much below the cart that their efforts to pull have the effect to increase the weight they are drawing. Whenever the cart stops, they lie down in their tracks and sheep, or watch tremblingly the motions of their master, as if expecting a lash or a kick to accompany the call for a new start. These dogs are well fed, however, and always seem to be plump and in good order. It is difficult to see how they can be made profitable; it must cost as much to board them as to feed a child. But, as I have said, there is no accounting for tastes, and one half the world has no idea how the other half lives.
Harry. What business are these dog-drivers engaged in?
They follow quite a variety of businesses. Some of them are rag-pickers, scouring the streets, and gathering up paper and rags, which they sell to the paper-makers. Some pick up or buy old iron, which they sell to the founders; others gather bits of rope, twine, and a great variety of other matters, for the junk-shops; and they are all in the way of finding whatever valuable things are lost in the streets. Some of them have amassed money by their occupation, and own large houses in the city.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, January 1859; pp. 23-24)
What is that you were saying, Hal? My pilgrimage rather solemn and dull? I am not surprised that you find it so. It was, for the most part, dull and solemn to me, as all pilgrimages must be. Bunyan’s Pilgrim was not always dull, but he was always solemn. The numberless pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Mecca were none of them mere journeys of pleasure. Most of them were sad, wearisome, and exhausting, with very little at the end to compensate for the toil.
But, Hal, what would you have me do? Life is made up of the grave and the gay, and we must take it as it comes. If the grave overbalances the gay, as, after all, it does, even in Broadway, we can not help it. We must travel on, and see what comes before us. I would prefer to find only amusement, since you are with me. But there is not much fun in Broadway. Bunyan’s Pilgrim did not probably find half as much to amuse him in Vanity Fair, as he found every day along the King’s highway, for he was not disposed to be merry over the follies of his fellow-men. Let us see, however, what will come up next.
Here comes the mammoth travelling advertiser. I doubt if you ever saw one like it. it is a very long wagon, with an immense box on it, like a small house, covered all over on the sides and ends with flaring advertisements. It travels slowly up and down the streets, into all parts of the city, attracting the notice of hundreds and thousands of people, and directing where to go, if they would find certain articles which they ay be wanting, of the best quality and at the lowest prices. Here, perhaps, you will see at one time, in flaming capitals, Hiram Anderson, inviting you to call at 99 Bowery, if you want the best and cheapest carpets. On the other side, you will be told where to find trunks and carpet bags of every pattern and quality, or hats and caps of the most approved style; or toy-books, paper dolls, etc., or perhaps some new or old patent medicine, warranted to cure everything but death, and to stave that off indefinitely. The theaters are conspicuous on this box, and the minstrels, whose minstrelsy will not pass muster unless they black their faces, and pass themselves off for negroes.
Jessie.—How is it, Uncle, that so much money can be spent in advertising? I should not think it would pay. The papers are full of advertisements. I am sure I never read one of them.
But other people do, Jessie. It is astonishing how much of the business of a great city depends upon judicious advertising. In such a labyrinth of streets, avenues, houses, and stores, it would be very difficult to find anything you might want if there were
no advertisements to direct you where to go. It requires a great deal of talent and ingenuity to advertise well. And the expedients which some men resort to in this way are very amusing. Here, now, is another. Six men marching slowly along, each with a large placard, in the form of a banner, with an invitation to all the world to call at No. ——, and see a pig with two tails, and a sheep with six legs!
The next thing, perhaps, will be a file of men, each with white muslin coats, printed all over with the flaring show-bill of a Book Auction or a Ladies’ Fair. And so they go. To do anything in this world a man must be known, and not suffer himself to be forgotten. If you don’t read the advertisements, others do. And you would read them, too, if you were anxious to find some particular thing, and did not know where to go for it.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, February 1859; pp. 48-49)
I wish it was in my power, instead of so tamely describing some of the things I saw in Broadway, to take you all along with me, and show you the things themselves. Some of them can not well be described. To appreciate them at all, you must see them. Here, now, is a large store, full of pictures of all sorts and sizes, in all styles and forms of frames. In the windows there is a great display of some of the rarest, and most beautiful, to attract the passers-by. There are seldom less than a dozen persons at each window at any time of the day. These pictures are often changed, so that you may almost every day see something new; and some persons never pass without stopping to study the window. it is a continual free exhibition.
You ask me how they can afford to have such fine pictures, and be always showing them for nothing. The answer is, that the show-window is one way of advertising. Many are first induced to stop and look, without any intention to go farther, who afterward go in and buy. But let us go in, and look round a little. Where shall we begin? Here is a subject in which I am always interested, though the painting is not as fine as some others. It is the interview, mentioned in the December number of the MUSEUM, between Samoset, an Indian chief, from Maine, and the good old Pilgrims at Plymouth. It is very hard to believe, unless the climate has very greatly changed, that even an Indian could
live through the winters of Maine or Massachusetts, without more clothing than Samoset has in the picture. But such is the story, and such is the picture, and we must take them as they are. The old Pilgrims were few in number, and surrounded with tribes of unknown enemies. They were consequently always on their guard. They never went unarmed. They were afraid of Samoset at first; but he proved to be a friend, whom they could trust. With what an expression of surprise and curiosity the girls look at him from behind the shelter of their father! What a wonder he must have been to them, with his naked body, his long straight hair, his fancy headdress, and his unintelligible tongue! How many questions they would have asked him, if they could have made him understand their language! And how they would have been amused at his stories of Indian life and manners, and how surprised at his account of the wide extent of the country, and the numerous tribes which inhabited it! Those tribes are nearly all gone. The remnant is fast wasting away. I wish I could feel that our nation had dealt justly by them.
But let us pass. Here, on the right, is a beautiful hunting scene. What a rich back ground of open country is spread out on the left, with here and there a fine clump of trees, or a solitary elm or oak, stretching its heavily laden arms to the sky! The leaves of those trees seem almost to move, as you look at them. But see what a magnificent creature that horse is coming down the valley, the tall rider sitting so easy in the saddle, that he seems to be a part of the horse! And this, on the right, just leaping the ditch, his rider, though a lady, as cool and fearless as if sitting in her chair at home. It seems more like flying than riding, and it is a marvel that there are not more necks broken than are reported. The fox they are all so eager after, you see in the distance, down among those clumps of trees. But enough of that.
Here is a group of children at play. How admirably the whole is arranged to give to each game its appropriate place and expression! How alive the children look, almost as if they would speak, or as if you could take them in your arms and carry them away! Would you not like to jump in among them, and take part in their play? I should, old as I am.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, March 1859; pp. 82-83)
When I came out from the picture store, the whole street seemed to be in unusual confusion.
Broadway is always noisy, and always a jumble. But now it was stormy, uproarious. I paused at the door to see what was going on. I found the sidewalks crowded with moving masses, principally of the “lower ten,” men in ragged coats and red noses, boys ragged all over, with dirty hands and faces, and here and there one of a different sort, who seemed borne along with the wave, and who served, by his decent appearance, to show off the mob to better advantage. Omnibuses, carts, carriages, were wedged in among the masses which had crowded into the street, and were slowly, and with great difficulty, struggling to get ahead.
And what was the cause of all this bustle and confusion? It was a slight effervescence of New York folly. It takes all sorts of people to make a city. And it is nothing more than should be expected, that, if there is a great excess of population in New York, there should be a proportionate excess of fools. Except Washington, there is probably no place in the country so afflicted in this way.
The present uproar was occasioned by a company of “Fantasticals,” who had turned out to display themselves to the gaping multitude, and “take off the shine,” as they said, from a new and splendidly equipped company of Hussars, whose first appearance was announced for that day. These Fantasticals consisted of about forty of the most clownish and suspicious-looking figures, in the form of men, that I had ever seen. They were mounted on quadrupeds, most of them supposed to have been horses once, but so emaciated, bruised, and broken-spirited, that they seemed to be but a poor burlesque on that noble animal. The equipments were in keeping with the beasts. Bits of carpet, or an old sheep-skin, served for saddles, and ropes of various colors and sizes for bridles. the captain of the motley band was a tall, long-legged skeleton of a man, with a small coal-scuttle for a hat, tied down with a leather scrap—a very short red jacket—broad, full, duck pantaloons, which reached a little below his knees, with bare legs and feet. He rode a mean little donkey, so small that his feet often touched the ground. His epaulettes were two huge sun-flowers, and his sword, a broad, flat, wooden shillaly, painted blue, with a white edge. next following him, was a very small, hump-backed negro, dressed all in white, riding a large, raw-boned cart-horse, and brandishing a huge wooden axe. Next came the music—a trumpeter, with a slender tin horn, some five feet long, with which he ever and anon executed a kind of shriek. He rode a
long, lank, calico beast, with large spots of white on his head and back. his dress was striped red and white, with long fringes of red at his wrists and ankles, and a cap of straw in the shape of a sugar-loaf, with a paint-brush for a plume, at the top. By his side, on a lame, gray pony, was a drummer pounding on an old tin kettle. He was bare-headed, with a check shirt, bright, yellow pants, and red woolen boots. The grotesque figures that followed I will not attempt to describe in full. They were all in character with their leaders. it would seem as if they had selected all the worst-looking, worn-out, broken-down animals that could be found in the city, or its precincts, and mounted upon them the most ungainly specimens of human nature in all the world. One was covered with rags, which would scarcely hold together, and mounted on an ox. Another, in a tattered uniform of the old continental style, with a paper cap, rode a large Newfoundland dog. Another, with a dress which defied all description, rode backward on a limping mule. The standard was an old tattered bed-quilt, of all colors, borne by a very short, thick-set man, on a tall skeleton of a horse, so lame that it was painful to see him move. Immediately following him was a monkey, in a motley dress, mounted on a quiet old gray, and playing all sorts of antics as the cavalcade moved along. And so the whole company was made up. Some wore hideous masks, some had painted their faces hideously—the strife among them being to see who could make himself look ugliest. If I had been called upon to award the palm, I should have divided it equally among the men, the monkey being the only decent-looking fellow in the company. The crowd of attendants were greatly delighted at his antics, and kept up a continual volley of shouts to encourage him.
The “Hussars” had passed down the street a few minutes before. I did not see them. If called upon to judge between the two companies, I shold say the Hussars were the greatest fools of the two. Their uniform and equipments are expensive, and their time too valuable to themselves and their families to be wasted in such boyish shows. The other company was composed of drunken loafers and rowdies who were never doing so little mischief as while making this burlesque parade. Their dress and equipments cost them nothing, and their time was of no value to themselves or any one else. And yet, though so degraded, they had sense enough to see the folly of the military shows. In a country like ours, and in a time of peace, and with no possible temptation to war, it is an unmeaning, ridiculous, costly, and demoralizing amusement, in which I hope none of the Merrys will ever be found engaged.
N.B.—I don’t believe in duels. So the little colonels or corporals, who may chance to read this, can keep cool, and save their spunk for some worthier subjects.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, April 1859; pp. 102-103)
This seemed destined to be a noisy hour, for the next thing that attracted my attention, was the sudden outburst of an uproar of musical small talk from a hand-organ, at which a tall, grum, savage-looking loafer was grinding with all his might. He had taken his stand on a side street, a few rods out of Broadway, and was beginning to draw crowds of children round him. The great attraction was not the music, nor the man, but a very bright, brisk, musical, fun-loving boy who accompanied the organ with his voice and tambourine, dancing and capering with great vivacity, the while. He was fantastically dressed, and entered, with so much interest, into his part of the play, that he became a general favorite, wherever his master chose to exhibit him. There was so much genuine good-humor and boy-fun in him, and he seemed so entirely independent and original in all that he did and said, that it left the impression on all that his master, notwithstanding his hard look, had a kind heart, after all, and that the boy was happy in his calling. At any rate, he had a wonderful knack of pleasing the children, and getting the pennies from all, young or old, who chanced to have any. The music of the organ was but little short of execrable. the boy music was natural, sweet, and very effective, but the pleasanter music to me was that of the bright looks, the encouraging smiles, and hearty applause of the wondering groups of children. It may seem a weakness in an old man like me, but I really would have enjoyed it highly, could I have followed that organ an hour or two, just for the pleasure of viewing the different groups of children that would gather round it, seeing their happy faces and listening to their exclamations of delight. Children are a pleasant study anywhere, and it does an old man’s
heart good to take lessons in it daily. There was another show connected with this organ, which amused the children very much, though it did not take their hearts like the boy-dancer. This was a group of puppets performing a sort of promenade dance, in a small opening in the front of the organ box. It was a procession of fantastical figures, that moved whenever the organ crank was turned, and kept time to the music. Occasionally, the boy would turn round, and address some comical remark to one of the figures as it passed, whereupon the figure would throw up its arms, and look, for all the world, as if laughing at the fun. This surprised the children exceedingly, but they gave the whole credit of the thing to the boy, who seemed to them to have all the marvelous powers of a young magician. I heartily wished myself as simple as they, that I might enjoy a genuine astonishment. But, unhappily, I knew too much. The boy took his own time for acting this bit of play, knowing precisely in what part of the music his laughing figure would come along, and just when the wires inside would make him throw up his arms and show his teeth. I saw this at once, and, instead of increasing my interest in the actor, as it did wth my simple-hearted companions, it lessened it very much, showing that, after all, he was only an actor, already skilled in deceiving. He was not this joyous natural child I had taken him to be; but just a bit of trained machinery, like the puppets in wood, save only that he was capable of doing better, but they were not. So with that happy group of children, in an ecstasy of delight at what they saw and heard, I was obliged to turn away with the reflection, that if we gain much, we lose something by growing old.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, May 1859; pp. 140-141)
As I turned away from the laughing group, I saw, on the other side of the street, a small, interesting-looking child, with a basket on her arm, standing before an open door, in the act of taking a very unmusical scolding from a rough-looking woman inside. I wondered, at first, that this child was not in the group round the organ, but as i crossed over, and got a view of her face, I forgot the music and the group around it, in my interest for this one little girl. She was not more than nine years old. Her face was beautiful, but so marked with sorrow and suffering, that the beauty was the last thing I noticed. Her dress was ragged, and not very clean. Her shoes were large and loose, and full of holes. Her hair, dark and wavy, straggled out from under a hat that must have been her mother’s and seen many years of service. Her basket was still empty, and likely to be, for all that she would get at the door. I heard a part of the storm as it fell upon her, and was grieved that anything wearing the form of a woman could wear such a look, and use such words, to a child who had simply asked for a portion of the crumbs that might have fallen from her table. It may not be right to encourage beggary; but what shall a starving child do, in such a great city as New York, with two other smaller sisters and brothers at home, as hungry as she, and all dependent upon what she can get by begging? I took interest enough in her to inquire into her history. She told a very plain and simple story, and I felt from her manner that it was true, and resolved to go with her to her home, and see what I could do for her. On my way I stopped at a bakery, and put something in her basket to satisfy the immediate wants of the hungry. The little girl shed tears of joy, as she received it, but she could not speak, even to articulate the thanks that spoke, louder than words, in every feature of her face.
It was scarcely a stone’s throw out of Broadway, on the other side, where the little mendicant found a home, such as it was. It was a basement, or rather
a cellar, with a few panes of glass in the door, which furnished their whole supply of light. The room was about twenty feet square, low, dark, damp, and exceedingly uncomfortable in all its aspects, though much neater than many such places which I have seen. As soon as the door opened, the hungry little ones within rushed toward it, exclaiming, “Bread! bread!” but seeing me with their sister, drew back toward the bed, and were silent. On that bed lay the sick mother, wasted almost to a skeleton, weak, hungry, but worse than all, in agony of spirit for the helpless ones, whom she was soon to leave alone in this dark world. Mary, the eldest, my little friend, was her only dependence, her housekeeper, her nurse, her provider, her all. She had been confined to her bed some weeks, and Mary had taken care of her and the children. While the mother was telling her story, Mary took the hungry little ones into a corner, and gave the each a piece of bread, which, being fresh and sweet, they devoured most eagerly. She also brought a piece to her mother and begged her to eat it at once, “for,” she said, “you have had none since yesterday morning.” The mother hesitated; I told her not to regard me at all, and she attempted to eat. The effort was a severe one, she was so weak. I asked Mary for water, and assisted the poor woman to rise, so that she could drink. With the little strength thus obtained, she finished her story. It was a long one. I may tell it to you at some other time. I will only now say that I saw this family several times afterward, and that the last time I saw them, they were all well and comfortable in the very cottage, on the banks of the Connecticut, where the mother was born.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, September 1859; pp. 83-84)
There is nothing more amusing than the study of human nature in its everyday aspects; and a few places are more favorable for the study than a crowded thoroughfare like Broadway. I took my stand before the great show window of one of the prominent daguerreotypists, and studied for a while both the pictures and some of the living characters they represented. the pictures were nearly all of them characters; that is to say, they represented classes of persons such as are found in all societies, and generally on the top, like scum on the top of any other fermenting compound. Here was a young lady, with no pretensions to personal beauty, a plain, good-natured-looking body, who had the vanity to suppose that her elegant costume and rich diamond brooch would quite eclipse the sweet grace of that plainly dressed girl by her side. And you can see, that, while she would give all the diamonds and silks in the world for just such a face as her neighbor, she has convinced herself that all the world beside are of a different opinion. Very near to this was a young man, or what purported to be a man, who had a notion to be distinguished, and became so by extinguishing the only good feature he possessed. Nature had given him a month finely formed and very expressive. Every other feature of his countenance had some defect. The mouth would have redeemed them all; but he contrived to make it execrable, fierce, suspicious looking, by raising on the upper lip a huge, dark mustache, while a hollow cheek and a long chin were left bare and asked. It attracted attention, as he intended it should—but only from those who wondered how ugly a human face could be made to look. With his chin and cheek covered, and his lips free, he would have been a fine-looking man.
In the center of the group, in a very showy frame, was a young lady (that is, she had been young once) afflicted with literary aspirations, but without taste or genius to bear them out. She had written and published some books, and had received some polite editorial notices. She took her seat there, among the shows, paying an extra price for the central position. Her dress is decidedly negligée, and her hair studiously disheveled. She has a roll in one hand, and leans her elbow upon a table, where books, paper, and pens are carefully arranged in the most careless confusion. She is in love with fame, and so she courts it. Among the crowd of pictures there were Rev.’s and D. D.’s, in gown and bands, so grim, stark, and crusty that you could almost hear the rustle of the silk as you profanely wondered that a man capable of wearing a D. D. should also be capable of wearing, when his rubrics did not require it, so ungainly a covering. It must be said, however, that they “magnified their office” by hiding their proper manhood
behind it. It was astonishing to me that affectation could put on such varieties of costumes and attitudes; for there were other clergymen, of other schools, who despised silk and linen, and displayed themselves quite as conspicuously in open collars, loose flabby coats, long flowing hair, and a sort of “don’t-care” expression, which told plainly how much they did care for the opinions of the people. Then there were all sorts of hats, both masculine and feminine, used always to show off some peculiar trait of the wearer. I had often wondered how the artists obtained so many pictures of persons more than ordinarily plain, who were willing to set themselves up for a public show. But I discovered, in almost every one, a certain something, which would stick out, in spite of all efforts at concealment: a sort of great I on the forehead, which was known and read of all men, but which the looking-glass never revealed to the wearer. It was amusing and instructive to see the same characteristics showing through the various garbs of lawyers and doctors, gamblers, dandies, and ministers, old men and maidens, young men and children, scholars, artists, rowdies, and simpletons. There they were, all in one show-case, all in one show, all in one class in this one respect, that, in presenting themselves to be looked at by the world, they are never natural and siple, but always aiming to be something other than they are.
While I stood looking and studying these pictures, various kinds of persons stopped and looked too. Some of them commented on the pictures, each in his own way. And it was marvelous how, in most cases, their comments differed from mine. “What a beautiful girl that in the corner!” exclaimed one. I could see nothing beautiful but a straggling curl on her neck, and a jaunty little hat, that would have served for a fairy. “Zounds!” exclaimed a coarse-looking fellow, who looked less like a hero than like a lobster, “there is old General Scott; I will go in and have my picture taken by the same man, and sitting in the same chair.” He was doubtless a captain, perhaps a major, or a corporal, in some country regiment. That picture will, perhaps, promote him to broader epaulettes and taller plumes. but I must break off in the middle. I lingered longer here than I intended to, but must not compel you to linger with me.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, October 1859; pp. 104-105)
I was about to leave the window, when two children came up, and stood by my side. At first they whispered quietly to each other, as if they were unwilling to disturb my thoughts. But I heard all they said, thinking I could not better finish my lesson in the study of human nature, at that show window, than by listening to its natural utterances out of the mouths of children. It was a running commentary on all the varieties of character shown up there. It was astonishing how well and how aptly the prominent features of each picture were hit off, generally in a single word. “Stiff,” “sweet,” “pretty,” “proud,” “dark,” “hateful,” “lovely,” “beautiful,” “sweet enough to be Aunt Bessy herself”—in the midst of which the boy shouted—
“Oh! Laura, don’t that look like Peter Parley?”
“Yes, it does,” replied Laura; “that must surely be Uncle Peter—just as he looks in the books. I wish I could see the good old man himself, don’t you?”
“Indeed I do,” answered the boy. “But see here, Laura, did you ever see such a sharp face, in your life, as this. I am sure this must be—”
“Uncle Hiram!” shouted Laura. “I do believe it is. Isn’t he a funny-looking man?”
“Well, if it isn’t Uncle Hiram,” said the boy, “it ought to be. It is one of the Hatchet family, I am sure. I wish the thing could speak, I would ask it who it might be.”
It was a strange position to stand there and be talked about so familiarly, and yet not known. For certain reasons I did not care to make myself known then, though I could not refrain from cultivating a little nearer acquaintance with my young friends, and finding out where they lived, so that I might call and see them at home.
“Well, Laura, my dear,” said I, “that is not Peter Parley, though it does look something like his picture in the MUSEUM.”
Laura looked at me with surprise, almost fear. Her brother eyed me sharply, and said—
“Who is it, sir, if you please?”
“I do not know,” I replied; “but it is not Mr. Goodrich. You could not see his picture, if it was a true one, without speaking to it.”
“Why so, sir?” asked George.
“Because it would speak to you, right out.”
“Why, sir, if you please, pictures can’t talk.”
“Some pictures can. Have you a good picture of your mother at home?”
“Oh, yes, sir, a very fine one, and baby wants to kiss it every time he sees it. One day, when mother was away, and baby cried, we showed him the picture, and he stopped crying, and in a few minutes fell asleep.”
“Yes, the picture spoke to him, though it did not say a word—and so a good picture of Peter Parley would
speak to you, or to any of the Merry family. You could hardly help knowing it at once by—”
“But, please sir,” interrupted Laura, suddenly drawn off to the other picture, “is this Uncle Hiram Hatchet?”
“Do you know Uncle Hiram?” asked George in the same breath.
“Yes, I am acquainted with the man who goes by that name,” I replied, answering the last question first.
“Do, please tell me,” cried Laura, earnestly, “does he look anything like this?”
“Not very much,” I replied; “but he is just about as corpulent.”
“Corpulent!” shouted George, with a merry laugh, “corpulent as a split wafer. But is Uncle Hiram as thin as that?”
“Yes, I think he is—quite as thin, though not perhaps as sharp-looking. Has he ever told you, in the MUSEUM, what a crazy woman once said to him?”
“I think not, sir. If he has, I do not now remember it.”
“Well, this woman was a neighbor of his, a great talker, and said what she pleased to everybody. Meeting uncle Hiram one day, she inquired for his health.
“ ‘Never better,’ he replied. ‘Indeed, I am afraid I am getting too corpulent.’
“ ‘Corpulent!’ she exclaimed, with an indescribable look of half scorn, half merriment, ‘corpulent as a clothes line!’ ”
My young friends laughed heartily, little suspecting with whom they were talking, and quite too polite to ask any very close questions. I enjoyed their embarrassment, and approved their politeness, and meant they should be reminded of it at some future time. I came within an ace, however, of being caught and exposed where I was. My old friend, Jack Downing, came along, while I was talking, and was about to salute me in his wonted cordial style; but I gave him a sign, which he understood, and so passed on; and, after a little more talk with my young friends, I passed on too.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, November 1859; pp. 148-151)
I had gone but a few steps before I found myself brought suddenly to a stand by the cordial salutation of two old friends, whom I little expected to meet in this place. They were booksellers—one from Boston, and the other from Cincinnati, and had come to New York to attend the “Trade Sale,” as it is called, by Geo. A. Leavitt & Co., which takes place in the “great metropolis” twice a year. After the first salutations were over, and a few harmless jokes had passed, principally at the expense of my long and sharp physiogony, they insisted upon it that I must go with them into the sales-room, where I should be sure to meet a large circle of old friends, as well as some new ones; for all the trade, they were complimentary enough to say, would recognize Uncle Hiram as one of the craft. I accepted the invitation, and shall now take liberty to invite you to go in with me.
Ascending a long flight of stairs we reached a large, spacious hall, with a long, high counter running across one side, and a complete stock of very comfortable arm-chairs, filling up almost the entire area below. Most of these chairs were occupied by different members of the trade; that is, of the publishers and booksellers, from all parts of the country—for it is the book trade that is here represented.
There were young men and old men, gray beards and black beards, yellow beards and red beards, and chins as smooth as a barber’s block. There were bald heads and bushy heads, grave faces and merry; men of stout, thick, clumsy figures, and long, thin, sharp, bony ones; in fine, all sorts, sizes, and degrees of men.
Behind that high counter stood the auctioneer, Mr. Orton, and his assistants, who kept everything in steady motion, especially his own tongue. All day long, from early morning till late evening, he kept on an unvarying stream of talk, putting up the books in the regular order of the catalogue, and knocking them off, to this, that, and the other bidder, with incredible rapidity. There seemed to be a sort of telegraphic communication between him and his customers, by means of which a nod or a wink from them was interpreted at once into so many copies of the book, and at what price. Then a considerable number of the trade would be represented by some funny name, or nick-name, by which he would designate them as he knocked off their several purchases, and the frequent variation of these names sometimes occasioned no little sport. Here are some of them; “Jack,” “O. K.,” “Mississippi,” “Ohio,” “X. Y. Z.,” “Hal,” “Oliver,” “Hoosier,” “Bragg,” “Mich.,” “New Orleans,” etc., etc.
Messrs. D. Appleton & Co. had the largest invoice of books. The works of Bayard Taylor and Irving’s Washington, by G. P. Putnam, were in great demand. Mr. Taylor is so well known
as one of the most interesting writers in the world; his travels have been so extensive, that there is hardly a spot on the globe that he can not write about, from personal observation.
Mr. Putnam has just issued a new book of his, on Greece and Russia, which I have no doubt you will all read. There were over one thousand copies sold while we were there.
Our friends, Gould & Lincoln, of Boston, presented a long catalogue of choice books. In fact, their list of books can hardly be excelled in this country.
It is astonishing what an amount of business is done at one of these great sales, and how easily and rapidly the different publishers and booksellers of the country thus effect the exchange they wish to make with each other; for the different publishers not only sell their own books at the trade sales, but buy those of other houses. The sales amount to about half a million of dollars a year. A recess occurs at one o’clock, which lasts an hour. An invitation is given to all booksellers and buyers present to adjourn to an upper room, for lunch. and there, to be sure, is a lunch set out in a most liberal style. Mr. Leavitt understands how this part of the entertainment is done—several long tables, abundantly provided with cold beef, tongue, ham, sandwiches, crackers, oysters, and all the et cetera of a grand collation. Then there was an abundance of good humor and talk; jokes, old and new, and all sorts of fun went round.
I met here some score or two of old friends, from various parts of the country, whom I should not have seen at all if I had not gone in there. Some new acquaintances, too, I made, whose friendship I value very highly, and who gave me a cordial welcome there. It proved to me indeed “a feast of reason and a flow of soul.”
It was with regret that I parted with them, and again betook myself to the crowded thoroughfare.
Sin and its misery meet us everywhere as we walk through this world, and nowhere do they glare upon us with ore hideous faces than in the proud thoroughfares of great cities. As I passed quietly along, musing of what I had just seen, and thankful that there was so much pure sunlight in the happy homes of New York, I was arrested by one of the most painful and disgusting objects I had ever seen; a miserable, ragged, filthy, bloated, broken-down man, without strength or sense enough to find his way along the streets, was leaning against the iron rail in front of one of the fine houses then to be found in that part of the street, begging for a few pence. Two very interesting and beautiful children were inside the rail, regarding the miserable man with pity and compassion, and one of them was appealing earnestly to her mother, who had just come out, to take the poor man in, and give him some clothes and food. Another little girl, at the next house, was peeping timidly out from behind the portico, as if fearing that the vagrant would come there next and find her all alone.
It was a melancholy, but a very instructive sight. The children knew only that the man was very poor and very wretched, and, not knowing what made him so, thought it very easy to help him, and make him comfortable. The mother, with no less sympathy for his said condition, knew that it was hopeless; that no relief she could afford would reach it, and that no treatment, but such as we give to insane persons, or idiots, would do him any
good, or make him decent or comfortable for a single hour. I had seen many such cases; but this, in the strong contrast with the wealth and splendor all around, was particularly painful and revolting.
On viewing the man attentively, I recognized him as an old acquaintance. Though somewhat younger than myself, he had been a fellow-student in the same college. He was a young man of fine talents and great promise. He was handsome, refined, and very witty. He had a fine personal address, and great fluency of speech, and was a general favorite in the gay society of the village. Unfortunately for him, his father was one of those who believed in what was called “the temperate use of ardent spirits,” and encouraged his son in the manliness of a social glass at the table. He was often heard to quote Paul’s advice to Timothy—“Take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmity”—not thinking how absolutely this passage proves the tee-total temperance of the Apostle and his young friend. For surely, if Timothy were not most exemplarily and resolutely abstinent, it would not have been necessary for Paul to urge him, with the authority of a spiritual father, to “take a little wine,” not as a beverage, or a stimulant, for his indulgence, but as a medicine “for his often infirmities.”
Under such influences, this young man grew up. He entered on a professional life with the most flattering prospects. Popular and flattered, he was in all gay society, on all festive occasions. His habits of temperate drinking grew upon him apace. A ready debater, an eloquent speaker, he soon became prominent in political life. He was sent to the Legislature of his own State, and finally to Congress. At every step of his progress, the dreadful habit so early formed, and strengthened by parental example and advice, grew stronger and stronger.
With resolution and force of mind enough to overcome all obstacles in the way of his political advancement, he had not resolution enough to overcome himself. With talent and genius to hold the multitude subject to his will, he was himself an unresisting slave to one of the lowest appetites of his animal nature. At length, notwithstanding the fair prospect before him, and the frequent and urgent efforts of his friends to save him, he gave himself up to unrestrained indulgence. He neglected everything else. He lost his position, his influence, his friends, and his property—all, all sacrificed, apparently without one sentiment of remorse, to this one beastly, burning, voracious appetite. I had not seen him, or heard of him, for many years. I should not have recognized him, but for a singular twinkle of his eye, now almost lost in the baleful bloating of the face, but yet accompanying, with something of the old expression, a peculiar chuckling exclamation, as the boy on the stoop dropped a penny in his hand. “Clutch him, Gro!” said he, as if galvanized into momentary life by the touch of the metal, whose only value to him was its power to command liquor. “Good heavens!” I exclaimed involuntarily, “can this be G.?”
He looked up, with a vacant stare, at first, which changed in a moment to a ghastly smile. Then, with a kind of confused howl, he shouted, “Hatchet, give me a drink!” At this moment the police came along, and I had the pain of seeing the once proud and gifted G. borne off to the house of vagrants.
I went my way repeating sadly, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby, is not wise.”
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, December 1859; pp. 170-171)
As soon as I recovered from my astonishment and distress, at this sudden apparition and no less sudden disappearance of an old comrade, I moved on very thoughtfully, and wondering how I had been preserved from the dread gulf into which poor G. had plunged so deeply. From these reflections, I was soon aroused by the clear, musical, joyous shout of a little girl—a sound that never fails to go right to my heart, and that, then, in contrast with the unearthly yell of a miserable inebriate, was like the music of a better world. I turned toward it as a sick man, tossing in his fever, would turn to a breath of pure air through the open window. Two girls, of the poorer sort, but decently clad, were standing before the great show window of a toy-shop; they had set down their baskets, to rest awhile before this attractive exhibition, and seemed disposed to enjoy, to the uttermost, the sight of the beautiful things, which others might possess, but they could only look at. The window was very showy, and very attractive, and more favored children than they had often stopped to enjoy the view, and to tease indulgent mamma to go in and purchase some coveted article. I have often paused there myself, partly to admire the ingenuity of the manifold contrivances for pleasing and educating the young, and partly to enjoy over again the pastimes of my own childhood, or imagine the fun that some of my numerous family might be enjoying at home with these or similar articles of furniture in their nice little play-houses.
“Oh! Mary,” shouted the younger of the two girls, “do see this darling little baby, with such sweet pretty eyes, and real hair, and darling little feet and hands.” It was this that drew me away from my somber thoughts, and took me straight home again to realms of innocent, happy childhood. thank god for the sunshine of joy in the child’s heart. I wanted to take her up and kiss her. But Mary answered, “Oh! yes, Nettie, ’tis beautiful. I wonder how they can make them so. And do see that dog, he looks just as if he was going to bark at baby, or jump and play with her.
It almost seems as if he must be alive, he looks so bright.” Several times, while Mary was speaking, the little ones broke in with some new exclamation, as each new object in the store caught her eager eye. “I never saw such a beautiful kitten!” “Oh! what is that great cross-looking bird, with big staring eyes?” And so the two sisters went on through the whole array of animals, birds, windmills, kites, tops, dancing-figures, masks, and all the countless variety of things, great and small, that find place in a city toy-shop. I enjoyed greatly their pleasure, and the simple comments they made on each article as it passed in review, and wondered that they did not express any wish to have them, as their own, as children generally, and very naturally do. At length, I said, “Wouldn’t you like to have some of these pretty things for yourself, Mary?” She looked up as if she had not noticed me before, and seemed a little abashed. Nettie drew close to Mary, and was silent. “No, sir,” said Mary, modestly, in reply to my question; “I don’t wish for them, because I know I can not have them.”
“That is very wise,” said I. “It is not well to desire strongly what we know we can not obtain; but it is very common for people to get into the habit of wishing for more things than they have.”
“Yes, sir,” she replied; “I often wish for things I have not got, but not for such toys as these.”
“What are the things you wish for?” I asked.
“Oh! sir, I want mother to be stronger, and not to have to work so hard, and I want little brother to get well, and go with us to the Sunday-school.”
“You have a good mother, Mary,” said I, “and you are a good daughter, I am sure.”
“Yes, indeed,” interposed Nettie, who had now mustered courage to speak. “We have a dear, precious, good mother, and a darling little brother Charlie, and we’ll make him very happy when we will get home, telling him what beautiful things we have seen here.”
I talked more with the sisters, and learned more of their history before I left them. I gave them a sweet little book, which I had in my pocket, for Charlie. I found out where that good mother lived, and Charlie and I are right good friends. Mary and Nettie are all that I thought they were, when I first met them at that show window, and I have often thought, as I have seen how they grow in wisdom and in every grace, that there is not a happier mother or a more blessed household in all the city.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, February 1860; pp. 36-37)
It was somewhere in this neighborhood that I met a young man, in whose history I became greatly interested. He was then about sixteen years of age, but sorrow and trouble made him look much older. He was a cripple, having had one of his legs broken, and so badly set that it was of but little use to him.
When I first saw him, he was sitting on a small box on the sidewalk, close against the iron rail of one of the houses which then occupied this part of the street. At his side was a bench, covered with small articles for sale—songs, papers of pins, matches, essences, and various other things of little value, but nevertheless his whole stock in trade, and that on which his living depended. His crutches—a sort of dumb testimony that he had other pains than those of poverty, and that he did not sit there all day from any unwillingness to work—were leaning against the railing behind him.
My attention was first drawn to him by the effort which a very benevolent-looking lady was making to rouse him from a deep pit of melancholy, or sullenness (it was difficult to guess which), and draw him back to his business. At first, I thought he was ill-natured and surly, but was soon satisfied that it was not so. After several times touching him gently with her parasol, and addressing him in very kind tones, the lady succeeded in arousing him. He start up as from a dream, and
exclaimed, in a tone that seemed half apology and half complaint—
“Oh! excuse me, madam—you have called me away from—,” stopping suddenly, as if unable to say more.
The lady was very kind to him; purchased several articles from his stock, and paid him liberally; attempting, at the same time, to draw him into conversation, but without success.
When she left, I approached him, and, after a few words of commonplace conversation, said to him—
“That lady was very kind to you, my lad. She saw that you were unhappy, that you had some great trouble in your heart, and she wished to know if she could in any way do you a service. I am afraid you did not notice what a motherly look she had, and how much interest she felt in you.”
“No, sir,” he replied, the tears glistening in his eyes, “I did not see it, for I was too unhappy to look up. I was afraid I should cry if I did.”
“Why? What was there,” I asked, “in the very kind tones of that voice to make you cry?”
“Oh, sir! that was just it,” he answered, with deep emotion. “The voice was so kind, so gentle, so like my own dear mother, that I did not dare to look up, or to speak. I knew I could not do it, without crying. And I was ashamed to do that among strangers.”
“Where is your mother?” I asked, after a little pause.
“In heaven, sir!” he replied, with an expression so made up of reverence, of assurance, of joy, and of deep, unutterable grief, that I was awed in his presence. I did not know what to say next. I turned, for a moment, as if to examine some of the articles on his bench. When I looked at him again, he had that same fixed, absent, sad look, which attracted the interest of the good, motherly lady, before I came up. He was away, perhaps, in some distant land, among the scenes of his early home. To divert him from this, and open conversation in another direction, I took up one of his crutches, and asked how it happened that he needed to use them, at so early an age. but here, again, I touched the tender spot. he burst into tears, and said,—“Indeed, sir, I would not mind [m]y broken leg. If both had been broken, it would have been nothing, but my poor dear mother was killed by the same accident. It was on the railroad, sir. And I am left alone, with three little sisters, for my father was dead before.”
He paused to brush away tears; but his heart was open, and he went on.
“I do not mind the care of the children, sir. I would gladly die for them, they are so good and loving. But oh! sir, without my mother, it is not living. I die a hundred deaths every day, thinking of that terrible scene. I don’t know why such things happen.”
There was something in the eloquence of that boy’s sadness and love, that far surpassed all the funeral orations I ever heard. There was a depth and pathos in his filial affection, which was the highest possible eulogy of a faithful, affectionate mother. I could not do much to soothe him at that moment, for his emotions were too deep and excited. I became better acquainted with him afterwards, and with his sisters, who clung to him with all the fondness and confidence of infantile affection. I had his limb properly attended to, so that he was, after a while, able to dispense with his crutches. He has been prospered in business, and has educated his sisters to be, like himself, ornaments to society, and a joy to each other.
“Uncle Hiram’s Pilgrimage,” by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry’s Museum, March 1860; pp. 80-32)
Moving quietly along, among the bustling crowds of people, I was deeply interested in everything I saw, especially in all that illustrated the never-ending varieties of city life. At one of the doors, as I went along, there stood a small girl, in earnest conversation with a woman from within. It did not seem like the ordinary talk of a beggar asking for bread, and getting a reluctant morsel, or an angry denial. There was a tone of kindness in it, and a life and earnestness, which immediately drew my attention. As I paused to get a closer look at so uncommon a scene, there was a sudden shriek, and the little girl fell in a swoon upon the sidewalk. The woman, with another shriek, that caused hundreds to stop and look round in wonder, rushed to the fallen child, seized her in her arms, and bore her into the house. My heart prompted me to follow her. She carried her to one of the upper rooms, laid her on a bed near an open window, and then fell back upon a chair, and gave way to a passionate flood of tears. I saw that something must be done, at once, for the poor child, and looked about for water. A pitcher upon a shelf in an open closet supplied this want, and I bathed the child’s forehead and temples and rubbed her hands for a few moments, when the woman recovered her self-possession enough to find a bottle of hartshorn, and to assist me in my efforts to restore the child to her senses. Not a word was said, till the little one opened her eyes, and looked wistfully around, as if to discover where she was.
“Marcia, dear, God bless you, darling,” exclaimed the poor woman, in an agony of joy, which quite overcame her, and she sat down again to cry. I continued my manipulations, and in a few moments more the little sufferer opened her eyes again, and said, in a faint whisper, “Arnie, are you here?”
“Yes, darling, Arnie is here,” sob-
bed the agitated woman, throwing herself upon the child, and sobbing afresh, as if her heart would break. “Arnie is here, and will not leave you—no, never, never.”
I stepped aside for a while, feeling that they would be better alone during the first moments of returning to consciousness, for I saw that there was a painful and interesting history involved in this sudden and unexpected recognition; and, much as my feelings were excited and my curiosity awakened, I did not feel at liberty to intrude on the first sacred interview, or to listen to the inquiries and explanations which I knew would follow. I therefore went down to the street again, and amused myself, for half an hour, with what I could see in a fancy book-store.
Returning to the upper room in which I had become so deeply interested, I found the child, Marcia, sitting cosily and affectionately in Arnie’s lap, near the window. she had been much excited and exhausted, and was about falling asleep. As I entered, she started up, and looking earnestly at me, exclaimed, “you won’t take me away, will you, sir?”
“No! my child,” I answered, “I have no wish and no right to take you away. I am most happy to see that you seem to have found an old friend, and I have come to see if there is anything I can do to help you.”
With these assurances she was satisfied, and snuggling down close to her old friend’s mother heart, began to sob a little, but was soon lost in a sound sleep. I then learned from Arnie, or more properly Mrs. Arnold, that Marcia was the daughter of a wealthy merchant in one of the flourishing villages of Western New York, and Mrs. Arnold had been her nurse. One day, some three years past, while Mrs. Arnold was busily engaged in the upper part of the house, the child, who was left to play with her pet dog and kitten, in the little garden before the door, was most mysteriously spirited away. She could not be found, or traced. No one had seen her carried off. No one had heard her scream. The most diligent search had been made, in all directions, and kept up for a long time, but no trace had been discovered, either of the child or any person or persons who could be suspected of having stolen her, or aided in her capture. Her parents were almost distracted. Her mother was thrown into a violent fever, with long continued delirium, which had nearly terminated her life. Her own life (Mrs. Arnold’s) was rendered so miserable, she suffered such constant and severe misgivings and self-reproaches, because the child was lost while under her care, that she could not remain in the neighborhood. She came to the city and hired a room, where, by taking care of the rooms and stores adjoining, and executing a certain kind of net-work, in which she was skillful, she had been able to secure an honest living, and get away from scenes and associations too painful to be borne. “This morning,” she said, “as I was sweeping out the lower hall, the little girl accosted me, and begged for bread. There was something in the tones of her voice, and in the peculiar expression of her eyes, which at once attracted my notice. But she was so meanly clad, and spoke with such a timid and downcast air, that it was some minutes before anything like a distinct image of the lost Marica presented itself. The poor child did not seem to recognize me at all. Indeed, she
scarcely looked at me, so much was her spirit broken. At length I said, almost afraid to trust myself to speak the words, ‘Did you ever hear of a little girl named Marcia?’
“ ‘Yes, ma’am—that is my name,’ she replied, looking up with something like a smile.
“In an instant she comprehended the whole thing. She did not know me, but she knew, by a sort of child’s instinct, that none but Arnie could speak so. It was too much for her feeble frame, and she swooned, as you saw, when you came up.”
Mrs. Arnold then went on to repeat what Marcia had told her of her own history.
As she was playing in the garden, a dark-looking man came along, and, without saying a word to her, seized her in his arms, put his hand over her mouth, and carried her off. She was terribly afraid and thought she should die. At length, in her agony and despair, she began to cry. The man threatened to kill her instantly, if she made the least noise, or any effort to get away. He carried her to the rail-road station, and brought her to New York. Here she was put under the charge of a very cross old woman, who took away all her clothes, and dressed her in rags, and compelled her to go out and beg. For a long time, the old woman would follow her at a little distance, or get some one else to watch her, to see that she did not speak to any one, except to beg for bread. She was often severely whipped, because she complained of being tired and sick. Her heart was broken. She thought all her friends were dead, and, to use her own sad words, began to fear that God was dead, too. She did not dare to look anybody in the face. She was afraid to speak out openly, and only in mumbling accents asked for bread, which she must have, or go home to be severely punished. She would gladly have died, but she couldn’t.
“And now,” said Mrs. Arnold, “I shall go home with her to-morrow, and restore her to her bereaved friends.”
As she said this, her feelings overcame her. She burst into a violent fit of sobbing, and Marcia awoke.
I have since seen Marcia in her own happy home. Her friend Arnie was still with her, as a sort of foster-mother, and all the bitter past was remembered only to enhance the happiness to which she was so remarkably restored.