Wherein Our Correspondent Not Only Introduces A Fashionable Washingtonian Belle, But Also Audaciously Takes Advantage Of A Delay In Impeachment To Address Himself Exclusively To The Stylish Young Maidens Of The Period.
Washington, D. C, March 20, 1868.
What luxury of feeling there is in that earliest hour of recognized Spring, when the door by which Winter has gone out can be left open for a while without discomfort, and the casement, that uncloses to release the lingering smoky ghost of the last fire upon the hearth, lets in a sunny spirit whose only flames and sparks shall be roses and humming-birds!
In terms not unlike these did I express the sentiment of the season to Miss Agonies* Blatherly,-only filial expense of the Hon. Senator Blatherly, of Pequog, as I escorted her some mornings ago to select her new spring things for the Impeachment. It was " Opening-day,"-that day of deep thought, and much milliner's bill, when the subtle mind of woman devises its most touching appeals to the funds of the thing called Man, - and while the carriage rolled slowly along the Avenue I spoke as I have written.
* Agonies is the fashionable pronunciation of Agnes.
" Oh, spring is perfectly sweet," she responded, with thoughtful earnestness; " and pa says that the spring-lamb will be heavenly this year; but some of the mantilla-jackets they're wearing now are utterly horrid".
" Still," said I, with great depth of feeling, "your sensitive woman's heart can scarcely take its usual delight even in the most expensive organdy, when you remember that the present spring is to witness the most solemn State Trial within the memory of man".
She met my penetrating gaze with a look of timid sympathy, and answered, with a sigh, -
" I shall wear a black French grenadine, with the back widths full and the front gored".
The remark indicated such an appreciative sense of the grave perils of the hour, that I could only press softly the little hand nearest my own, and tell her that her selection of black instead of gay colors, to wear to the Impeachment, would teach the world that woman knows how to feel for the inexpressible woes of her distracted country. I told her also, in trembling accents, that it would be a rebuke to those who opposed female suffrage on the ground that her sex knew not how to judge great national events; and besought her not to let her exquisite sympathy with the suffering nation lead her into too plain a waist.
An air of patient sadness and resignation characterised the whole aspect of the grenadine maiden, and said she,-
" Pearl-colored poplin with Vandyke flounces, and tan colored gloves, may do for the gay when pleasure's throng is nigh; but at such a moment as this. I love my afflicted native land too well to wear anything but jet bead trimmings and a Marie Antoinette scarf".
Think of this, my boy, in your own home, when some thoughtful, loving face bends over your shoulder, and a low, sweet voice asks to be taken to the Impeachment. Think of it when, in a moment of brutal irritation, you would speak sharply to the gentle creature who wishes to lay down her organdy and poplin for her country - and is none the less earnest in such self-sacrifice because she thinks that Impeachment must be something like the opera.
While Impeachment is being prepared for the stage, I pass much of my time in fashionable grenadine society, studying the fair young women of the Republic in all their beautiful intellectual phases; and as no one of them has thus far encouraged me to write her alone, I do now beg leave, with the utmost courtesy, to address them all.
You need not be informed, young ladies, that a majority of those excellent and rather mature persons hitherto favoring you with counsel and criticism in print have adopted a didactic and grievous strain, somewhat suggestive of those terrors to the young known as spectacles. There is at all times about a pair of spectacles a certain oppressive glare of severe human knowledge, - not to say patriarchal malevolence,-which continually forces upon observing youth a sense of infantile shortcomings, and a vague con-, sciousness of unparalleled crime. The concentrated glare of the spectacles of six clergymen with blue umbrellas, at a fashionable revival meeting, has been known to make a fair girl of thirty utterly embittered against herself and he frivolous younger sister for two weeks; and it is upon record that a lovely seminary scholar, who had received: note from a young man of limited salary, was induced, b; the spectacles of a maiden aunt, to confess herself guilt of murder.
The kind of literature suggesting spectacles is apt to have a like crushing and enfeebling effect, - causing the young partaker cither to experience a morose realization of the general inability of youth to surpass palpable idiocy in anything; or to indulge in those untimely slumber which notoriously indicate a criminal indifference to the most momentous interests of the celebrated Human Family It may, indeed, be truthfully said, that the relentless reiterative references to that same domestic circle, in this kind of literature, have had a tendency to gift the minds of the incorrigibly immature with an impression of a " Family" wearing spectacles of the most vindictive manufacture, and continually glaring righteous indignation at an innumerable host of youthful conspirators against its most sacred rights.
Let it be my object then, young ladies, to counsel you kindly and courteously, through the medium of a style betraying what may be delicately mentioned as the disrobed eye, -basing my supposition of your needs upon your comprehensive aspect to the undraped optic; and tendering advice at no time savoring more of artificial vision than may possibly be involved in an occasional hint of the two little orphan goggles casually bestriding the nose of innocent and harmless manhood.
Long and thoughtful contemplation of your delightful sex through a piece of Smoked Glass-which I use to protect my eyes from over-dazzling - has impressed me with a firm belief in the unquestionable superiority of all young ladies to their parents; and I would especially bring to your attention the manifest propriety of discountenancing any familiarity from your mothers when in society. If obliged to go with your tiresome maternals to any social gathering, you may reclaim your freedom immediately upon entering the room by slipping abstractedly away in the direction of the piano, and from thenceforth being artlessly forgetful of all messages forwarded to you, and miraculously blind to all beckonings and elevations of fans. Sentimental dry-goods clerks have, before now, been greatly stricken at heart by such evidences of refined feminine spirit; and distinguished foreigners have more than once been tempted into offering their hands and hearts, by well-timed exhibitions of filial contempt,-quite forgetful, in the enthralling excitement of the moment, of the wives they already had in their own countries.