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entered must pass, and there, without the exertion of talking, I saw the aristocracy of New York and of many other places glide by.
The movements were quiet and graceful, countenances beaming, many very lovely_dresses rather elegant than gay. Amongst those that one was glad to have conversed with, even in the brief way that an introduction can produce in such a scene, were the Ex-President Van Buren; the Portuguese ambassador, who led one of his children through that lively maze, as several others did; and John Jay, grandson of the judge, whose name has been long held in veneration as the negro's friend. It was pleasant to look on them, and many more men of note in the country.
We went in groups to the dining-room, where tables were sumptuously and most elegantly spread with all the luxuries of the season—when, having a hint that there could be no time for any other dinner, people took advantage of their opportunity. Stewed oysters, which are amongst the most nourishing and healthy luxuries of the country, with sandwiches, game, fruits, jellies, ices, and champagne, were most dutifully handed about by the gentlemen. After refreshing ourselves, we returned to the saloon with some difficulty, as the throng thickened, and the young people, who had lately begun to time their steps to the music which issued from a side-room, had at last got to dancing. The reception-callers were for a season figuring up the hall amid the circling dancers, and were almost obliged to galope their way into the saloon.
This hugging, and whirling with shut eyes because of dizziness, and panting and falling on each other's shoulders, confounds people of sedate and tranquil manners. I once saw in a cursaal in Germany, through a glass door by which I passed, something similar to this, but never in Britain, though I suppose it may be seen there. A bright lady by my side quoted in my ear what Washington Irving had said at a similar scene_“Go fetch half a dozen parsons to marry these couples, for they have done all the courting already.”
As the conflict thickened, the servants who had withdrawn trooped back again. It was quite new to me to see half a dozen dark people laughing, joking, and enjoying the fun familiarly. You might see the whites within one door of the hall, or hanging on the stair, and the blacks at anotherand an elegant, breathless dancer, fanning and swinging in one rocking-chair, and a black child of nine or ten in the next, quite unconscious of anything like forwardness in her position. My bright friend explains the superior familiarity of the dark people in this way—“The whites are so nearly our equals, that we dare not approach nearer, but there is a bar for ever between us and the coloured people.” There are among the coloured so many “aunt” Silvas and Celias and Sukies, old friends of the houses too,
that there is a great deal of amiability in the way the superiors manage and deal with them in their visits. The white attendants are more like the French bonne than the English waiting-woman. They are all occupied about the dressings and goings to and fro, offering opinions as to what suits complexion, and hints as to what is becoming, such as only a highly indulged servant would think of giving in England.
Some of the party made their way to an upper room, where the numerous and munificent gifts to the bride had been arranged for the purpose of being shewn merely to relatives. The admiration of beautiful things soon reached the ears of those below, and troop after troop ascended, and exclaimed, and admired, contrary to the intention of the lord of the mansion, who, finding his instructions illunderstood, or at least ill-obeyed, sent a messenger, who most relentlessly locked the doors by which the parties had made their way into a neighbouring chamber. It is the plan of most houses to have all the chambers opening into one another. This was rather a comical scrape—a whole train of ladies and gentlemen locked up as if they had been suspected of designing to carry something away. The amiable lady of the house made her way in, and apologised very handsomely for the series of mistakes, and suffered the culprits to escape without farther punishment.
“The reception" having poured out its multitude, the bride and bridegroom were at last emancipated, and made a retreat to procure some food, and to dress for travelling—and presently they slipt away by a side-door, where the drawing up of their carriage was concealed from the public gaze—and the scene of light-hearted mirth having passed the element in which those who are equipped in perpetual sable feel at home, my friend and I, by the same private door, obtained our chariot too, and returned to town.
As a proof of the easy manner of the domestics, it may be worth while to mention, that the one who opened the door for us on our return, said, “Well, ladies, I hope you have enjoyed your day”—a kind of sympathy much more natural than the assumed automatonism of an English servant, who goes through all evolutions as if he had no comprehension of what you are about, and cared as little as if you were in the bottom of the sea.
The pieces of cake which we brought home were in pretty card-board boxes tied with white ribbons. Indeed, on occasion of two of the servants making a match, while I stayed in the house of another friend, during the winter, they presented five such boxes, so tied, to the ladies of the family and their guests. People of all ranks in America do such things in a dashing style. They earn money quickly, and spend it freely. We also brought home some