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SAKTAIN'S MAGAZINE.

Vol. VI. PHILADELPHIA, MAY, 18 50. No. 5.

THE MYSTERY OF VISITING.

BY MR8. 0. M. KIRKLAND.

There is something wonderfully primitive and simple in the fundamental idea of visiting. You leave your own place and your chosen employments, your slipshod ease and privileged plainness, and sally forth, in special trim, with your mind emptied, as far as possible, of whatever has been engrossing it, to make a descent upon the domicile of another, under the idea that your presence will give him pleasure, and, remotely, yourself. Can anything denote more amiable simplicity? or, according to a certain favourite vocabulary, can anything be more intensely green? What a confession of the need of human sympathy! What bonhommie in the conviction that you will be welcome! What reckless self-committal in the whole affair! Let no one say this is not a good-natured world, since it still keeps up a reverence for the fossil remains of what was once the heart of its oyster.

Not to go back to the creation (some proof of self-denial, in these days of research), what occasioned the first visit, probably? Was it the birth of a baby, or a wish to borrow somewhat for the simple householdry, or a cause of complaint about some rural trespass; a desire to share superabundant grapes with a neighbour who abounded more in pomegranates; a twilight fancy for gossip about a stray kid, or a wound from "the blindboy's butt-shaft?" Was the delight of visiting, like the succulence of roast pig, discovered by chance; or was it, like the talk which is its essence, an instinct? This last we particularly doubt, from present manifestations. Instincts do not wear out; they are as fresh as in the days when visiting began—but where is visiting?

A curious semblance of the old rite now serves us, a mere Duessa—a form of snow, impudently pretending to vitality. We arc put off with this congelation, a compound of for

mality, dissimulation, weariness, and vanity, which it is not easy to subject to any test without resolving it at once into its unwholesome elements. Yet why must it be so? Would it require daring equal to that which dashed into the enchanted wood of Ismeno, or that which exterminated the Mamelukes, to fall back upon first principles, and let inclination have something to do with offering and returning visits?

A coat of mail is, strangely enough, the first requisite when we have a round of calls to make; not the "silver arms" of fair Clorinda, but the unlovely, oyster-like coat of Pride, the helmet of Indifference, the breastplate of Distrust, the barred visor of Self-Esteem, the shield of " gentle Dulness;" while over all floats the gaudy, tinsel scarf of Fashion. Whatever else be present or lacking, Pride, defensive, if not offensive, must clothe us all over. The eyes must be guarded, lest they mete out too much consideration to those who bear no stamp. The neck must be stiffened, lest it bend beyond the haughty angle of self-reservation in the acknowledgment of civilities. The mouth is bound to keep its portcullis ever ready to fall on a word which implies unaffected pleasure or surprise. Each motion must have its motive; every civility its well-weighed return in prospect. Subjects of conversation must be any but those which naturally present themselves to the mind. If a certain round is not prescribed, we feel that all beyond it is proscribed. 0, the unutterable weariness of this worse than dumbshow! No wonder we groan in spirit when there are visits to be made I

But some fair, innocent face looks up at us, out of a forest home, perhaps, or in a wide, unneighboured prairie,—and asks what all this means. "Is not a visit always a delightful thing—full of good feeling—the cheerer of solitude—the lightener of labour—the healer of differences—the antidote of life's bitterness?" Ah, primitive child! it is so, indeed, to you. The thought of a visit makes your dear little heart beat. If one is offered, or expected at your father's, with what cheerful readiness do you lend your aid to the preparations! How your winged feet skim along the floor, or surmount the stairs; your brain full of ingenious devices and substitutes, your slender fingers loaded with plates and glasses, and a tidy apron depending from your taper waist! Thoughts of dress give you but little trouble, for your choice is limited to the pink ribbon and the blue one; what the company will wear is of still less moment, so they only come! It would be hard to make you believe that we invite people and then hope they will not come! If you omit anybody, it will be the friend who possesses too many acres, or he who has been sent to the legislature from your district, lest dignity should interfere with pleasure; we, on the contrary, think first of the magnates, even though we know that the gloom of their grandeur will overshadow the mirth of everybody else, and prove a wet blanket to the social fire. You will, perhaps, be surprised to learn that we keep a debtor and creditor account of visits, and talk of owing a call, or owing an invitation, as your father does of owing a hundred dollars at the store, for value received. When we have made a visit and are about departing, we invite a return, in the choicest terms of affectionate, or, at least, cordial interest; but if our friend is new enough to take us at our word, and pay the debt too soon, we complain, and say, "Oh dear! there's another call to make!" Our whole system of morning visiting will amuse you, doubtless; and for the sake of those who shall be the happy owners of a bound volume of our Magazine in 1900,—by which date we opine some new light will have dawned upon our social world, causing old abuses to be forgotten,—we will just give you a sketch of it.

A hint has already been dropt as to the grudging spirit of the thing, how we give as little as we can, and get all possible credit for it; and this is the way we do it. Having let the accounts against us become as numerous as is prudent, we draw up a list of our creditors, carefully districted as to residences, so as not to make more cross-journeys than are necessary in going the rounds. Then we array ourselves with all suitable splendour (this is a main point, and we often defer a call upon dear friends for weeks, waiting till the arrivals from Paris shall allow us to endue a new bonnet or mantilla), and, getting into a carriage, card-case in hand, give our list, corrected more anxiously than a price-current, into the keeping of the coachman, with directions to drive

as fast as dignity will allow, in order that we may do as much execution as possible with the stone thus carefully smoothed. Arrived at the first house (which is always the one farthest off, for economy of time), we stop—the servant inquires for the lady for whom our civility is intended, while we take out a card and hold it prominent on the carriage door, that not a moment may be lost in case a card is needed. "Not at home?" Ah then, with what pleased alacrity we commit the scrap of pasteboard to John, after having turned down a corner for each lady, if there are several, in this kind and propitious house. But if the answer is "At home," all wears a different aspect. The card slips sadly back again into its silver citadel; we sigh, and say "Oh dear!" if nothing worse —and then, alighting with measured step, enter the drawing-room all smiles, and with polite words ready on our lips. Ten minutes of the weather—the walking—the opera—family illnesses—-on-dits, and a little spice of scandal, or at least a shrug and a meaning look or two— and the duty is done. We enter the carriage again—urge the coachman to new speed, and go through the same ceremonies, hopes, regrets, and tittle-tattle, till dinner-time, and then bless our stars that we have been able to make twenty calls—"so many people were out!"

But this is only one side of the question. How is it with us when we receive visits? We enter here upon a deep mystery. Dear simple child of the woods and fields, did you ever hear of reception-days 1 If not, let us enlighten you a little.

The original idea of a reception-day is a charmingly social and friendly one. It is that the many engagements of city life, and the distances which must be traversed in order to visit several friends in one day, make it peculiarly desirable to know when we are sure to find each at home. It may seem strange that this idea should have occurred to people who are confessedly glad of the opportunity to leave a card, because it allows them time to despatch a greater number of visits at one round; but so it is. The very enormity of our practice sometimes leads to spasmodic efforts at reform. Appointing a reception-day is, therefore, or, rather, we should say, ictw intended to make morning-calls something besides a mere form. To say you will always be at home on such a day, is to insure to your friends the pleasure of seeing you; and what a charming conversational circle might thus be gathered, without ceremony or restraint! No wonder the fashion took at once. But what has fashion made of this plan, so simple, so rational, so in accordance with the best uses of visiting? Something as vapid and senseless as a court-drawingroom, or the eternal bowings and compliments

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