In the afternoon, my friend returned home from Impeachment, and, after slipping down upon the white lead on the sidewalk and getting his vest, coat, and hat tastefully touched up with turpentine and straw-color, stared critically at the great work.
"Dear me," says he, with unreasonable hypercriticism, "isn't that place up there, by the towel, a little too sketchy?"
The sensitive young artist pushed him impatiently aside with his paint-brush, and says he, -
"Do you expect to examine a great painting by standing close enough to touch it with your nose ? Just step off to the proper distance,-a couple of blocks, say,- and you'll see the difference".
My friend retired a couple of blocks for the purpose; but quickly returned in great agitation, and says he, -
"From that distance the house doesn't look as though it had been painted at all".
"Exactly!" says the young artist, triumphantly. "The perfection of art is to conceal art. I'll leave the ladder standing here five or six days, and send in my bill immediately." And he shook hands with us with the greatest good feeling, and promptly retired with the pots to his Academy of Painting.
His work, my boy, was a bold Sketch, a strong Study, rather than a strictly-finished composition; and what I at first took for his signature in the lower right-hand corner, has since proved to be the sign of a Dutch boot-maker keeping shop in the basement; but the young artist is destined to rise (especially when he has a ladder with him), and, as he is particularly noted for his Varnishing also, we may well believe that the man destined to pictorialize Impeachment for posterity is not far off. The man must be really great with Varnish, you see, or the sublime historical work may be regarded by posterity as altogether too shallow-looking and crude to be tolerated by respectable notice.
As it is unquestionably a duty of the contemporaneous historian to give the future artist certain vivid hints for his canvas, I take the liberty of insinuating that last Monday and Tuesday afternoons offered fine opportunities for sketching, and that some vigorous "whitewashing" was even attempted on the spot. Art, however, has its separate departments; and if the inspired white washer shall also be required to touch-up some of the principal figures in the great historical Impeachment picture of the future, it is to be hoped that the gifted young painter and varnisher will not grudge a reasonable share of the honors to his brother-artist. Many of our very greatest public men are already known to prefer whitewash to natural colors in such portraits of themselves as are taken for posterity; and, aside even from the admitted necessity of this branch of art in the depiction of such eminent historical personages, its practical encouragement by all true philanthropists cannot fail to aid notably in the elevation of the freed-negro race, many of whose members are its ablest exponents.
To both branches of art, then, I may intimate, that ft picture representing a massive lump of white sugar in an elevated background, and about ten thousand agitated horse- flies swarming at it in the fore and middle ground, will convey a reliable idea of the majestic Theatre of Impeachment on the afternoons I have named. A general and particular, understanding that the great final Transformation Scene of the exciting play was to have a private rehearsal on Monday, preparatory to its triumphant production at the Tuesday matinee caused all the unemployed persons in the United States to visit this city without further confusion; and, as I looked down from my window at Willard's upon the dense throng of amusement-seekers in the street, I could not help saying to myself, after the manner of Xerxes,-
"Of all these myriads, not one will be alive in a hundred years from now! None live more than a hundred years, except revolutionary veterans and poll-parrots. Even now, some five or six Senators are seriously sick from Impeachment Speeches. The thought is melancholy, and I'll just step down to the bar-room and see if there are any letters for me from Jamaica or Santa Cruz".
But the surging throng in the hallways caught me as I descended, and I was summarily swept out-doors upon the Avenue, just in time to hear the remarks of the venerable Miss P. Hen; who had arrived hastily from New York expressly to witness the great Transformation Scene, and was waving her blue cotton umbrella in a spirited harangue to the populace. Miss P. Hen is the author of the most reliable History of the War ever delivered to subscribers at four dollars a volume, besides being celebrated for bailing out the recent well-known Southern Confederacy; and says she,-
"The great Transformation Scene will satisfy everybody, and be universally accepted by the press and public as the most splendid spectacle of the age. A. Johnson is transformed into a private citizen; B. Wade is turned into the King of Fairy-Land, and all the seven-thirties are changed into five-twenties. One of our great machinists, named Trumbull, is probably the most ingenious man ever known, and also deserves credit as the author of that immortal Civil Rights Act which permits colored men to go behind the scenes and-"
Here a well-inforfaed chap came tearing frantically along from the majestic Theatre of Impeachment, and says he,-
"There's a hitch in the rehearsal of the Transformation Scene, my friends! Trumbull refuses to perform; because, he says, that theatricals are immoral".
Miss P. Hen made a pass at him with her blue cotton umbrella, and says she, -
"As every enemy of decency and morality remarks, Trumbull is the most ingenious man ever known; but outraged public sentiment points at him the withering finger of scorn, and the coming ages shall regard him as a noxious insect. Oh!" says Miss P. Hen, with wild emotion, "I feel that I could tear his eyes out!"
Turning sadly from sight of the gifted lady's tears, and edging slowly around a group of solid Boston men, who were committing an assault with carpet-bags upon another machinist, named Grimes, who was also suspected of having moral scruples against the drama, I came suddenly upon that haughty Southerner, Loyola Munchausen, who, in his surtout of French-Yoke Shirt, and Spring-overcoat of Water-Proof Awning, was malevolently offering bete against the success of the great Transformation Scene. He had left his organ and monkey at home in the suburban hen-house where he now resides; but I noticed two or three new business-cards pasted in the advertising panels of the half a boot-leg which he wears as a dress-hat; and says he, -
" Here you are, now, ten mortgages to five that the Transformation Scene don't work. Here you are: first and second mortgages on improved Southern real-estate. Ten to five that the great Transformation don't come off to-morrow".
Before I could salute him, there was a fresh excitement right behind me, where the irascible Miss P. Hen had 'lighted upon Fessenden, a third machinist, whose moral compunctions would not allow him to take final part in the immoral drama, and was indignantly beating him over the head with her blue cotton umbrella. "Oh!" says she to him, "you nasty thing!" And she stuck the ferule of her umbrella into his ear, and began spanking him with one of her shoes.*
And when the memorable Tuesday came, and it was really announced to the vast audience of the Impeachment matinee, that, in consequence of a defect in the complicated machinery, the great Transformation Scene must be deferred until Saturday, it actually seemed as though the dramatic public were bent upon having the Scene, even though it were given separately as merely a Farce.
Under the supervision of the incensed P. Hen, a public indignation meeting was immediately called, whereat it was unanimously resolved, that those machinists who were moral should either at once resign all employment and go to the Poorhouse, or be adjudged guilty of corruption, tergiversation, and inexpressible iniquity.
These, my boy, are a few of the points to which I would call the especial attention of the future great historical painters of this distracted country; trusting that Tarnish and whitewash will combine to make the pictures I refinement upon the originals,
Orpheus 0. Kerr.
* " Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The P. Hen is mightier than the Seward."-Bulwer. 13*