Chronicling The Arrival Of P. Penruthers As Suitor; The Ancient Feudal Ceremonies There At ; And The Dreadful Demeanor Of The Nobility At The Ensuing Banquet.
Chipmunk Court House, May 28, 1868.
To the man of limited salary and a religious turn of mind, nothing is more revolting than the presumptuous pride and four-horse turnout of a wealthy person. The man of limited salary and a religious turn of mind, who takes his cheap but happy ride to Central Park in a horse-car, pauses for a moment at the Fifth-Avenue entrance of that park to scratch himself; and, as the sinful vehicles of the rich roll by him, he softly murmurs, " Give me my horse-car and a clear conscience, rather than a basket-phaeton and a soul guilty of wealth. My horse-car may not be inclosed with plate-glass," says he, cheerily, wiping the dust out of his ears; "it may not be devoted to myself alone," says he, scraping the mud from his knees where an Irish-woman's baby had stood upon them during the trip; " but it brings one here as safely as though it were a chariot. Boll on, then, ye hapless children of mammon, in your shining carriages. I ask none of your gold to make me the more virtuous as a man, or the more justly celebrated as an umbrella-maker".
And what, after all, is this wealth, that its possession Should bring pride, its loss despair ? Its sudden withdrawal in consequence of a Vandal war of emancipation may, indeed, oblige men of imperious natures to go around in straw hats made of the bottoms of baskets, and collars composed of wall-paper; it may compel them to dine and attend church in dressing-gowns made of old window-curtains ; but it cannot crush the indomitable souls long accustomed to implicit obedience from persons of African descent; nor humiliate the chivalric minds to which everything from the North, save six months' credit, has always been inexpressibly disgusting.
Imagine yourself here beside me, my boy, at Chipmunk Court House, gazing at the patrimonial chateau of the Munchausens, with four mortgages upon it, and a Dutch-oven sticking out of the side. Has it any less dignity to the sight as the castle of an ancient and knightly race, merely because a temporary misunderstanding with the Rothschilds impels its owner to wear a woollen stocking for a smoking-cap, and a pair of his deceased wife's hose for gloves ? Does it loom less princely upon the vision as a stately Southern home, merely because a few of the shingles have fallen from the ramparts, and one of the towers closely resembles a chimney with all the top bricks blown off? You dare not answer in the affirmative. You dare not believe that a temporary misunderstanding with the Rothschilds is any derogation from the native dignity of men who are strangers to fear and a fear to strangers.
On Tuesday morning, while Captain Villiam Brown was shaving himself, in his own room, with the bit of window-glass which our host had lent him for the purpose, and I was seated in my own chamber, upon an old wagon-seat, which served as a sofa, there entered unto me Loyola Munchausen; who, with his usual haughty air, threw himself upon the inverted butter-tub which represented a chair in the suite of Southern cottage furniture.
" I greet your Highness," said I, rising, and pretending a delicate blindness to the fact that the pocket-handkerchief fluttering in his right hand had undoubtedly been manufactured from a discarded night-cap. " I greet your Highness. To what am I indebted for your worshipful company this morning ? "
" Sir," said he, loftily, " I can no longer refrain from noticing that you have brought a carpet-bag with you to the South." *
" I cannot deny it," said I, coloring with shame.
" Then, sir," added the imperious Southerner, leaning heavily upon the reversed barrel which served as the toilet-table of the cottage suite, " let me warn you against making that carpet-bag too conspicuous while you remain in the chateau of my knightly brother, Captain Munchausen. The sunny South," says he hotly, " has used no carpet-bags herself since the late Vandal war, and the sight of one in the hands of a Northern Hessian is an insult to her during the present coolness between herself and the Rothschilds".
* " Carpet-baggers " is one of the affectionate titles given to Northern visitors by Southern sarcastic journals.
"Oh," said I, calmly, " I understand you now. The sight of a mudsill carpet-bagger from the Yankee North is an aggravation to the sunny South, because she herself has at present nothing whatever to put into a carpet-bag!"
" Sir," said Loyola Munchausen, rising to his feet again that I might not too closely observe the pair of india-rubbers which he wore as slippers, "you are right. Your military Vandals may have - ha! ha! - conquered the sunny South for a time, and rendered it temporarily difficult for her to pay the interest upon all her mortgages; but she is still too proud to bear the insolence of carpet-baggers in silence".
Pausing for suitable words whereby to confess my own iniquity in possessing any baggage, and my deep sympathy with one of the most sensitive peoples that ever had a trifling difference with the Rothschilds, I was abruptly startled by a tremendous clangor which seemed to come from some point over our heads.
" Dear me ! " says I, agitatedly, " is somebody cleaning a brass kettle on the roof; or has the cat got a fit amongst the milk-pans?"
" No, poor Vandal," says Loyola Munchausen, moving haughtily to the nearest window, and swiftly pulling aside the split coffee-bag which represented its damask curtains; "that is the great bell of the chateau; audit is ringing in honor of the arival of Pendragon Penruthers, Esquire, of Taikachor Court House, who comes in state to sue for the hand of our fair sister, Matilda Munchausen".
The original great bell of the Munchausen chateau, after having called the family to dinner for ages, had been freely melted into cannon during the recent Vandal carnage; but its place was now amply supplied by a large tin dish-pan, in which swung a pewter spoon on a wire; and, as it gave forth its peal of welcome, and I thrust my head through the window to behold the pageant, Captain Villiam Brown's intellectual countenance also appeared from a neighboring casement.