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Jipson's Great Dinner Party by Jonathan F. Kelley


“Well, you must do it.”

“Do it?”

“Do it, sir,” reiterated the lady of Jipson, a man well enough to do in the world, chief clerk of a “sugar baker,” and receiving his twenty hundred dollars a year, with no perquisites, however, and—plenty of New Hampshire contingencies, (to quote our beloved man of the million, Theodore Parker,) poor relations.

“But, my dear Betsey, do you know, will you consider for once, that to do a thing of the kind—to splurge out like Tannersoil, one must expect—at least I do—to sink a full quarter of my salary, for the current year; yes, a full quarter?”

“Oh! very well, if you are going to live up here” (Jipson had just moved up above “Bleecker street,”)—“and bought your carriage, and engaged——”

“Two extra servant girls,” chimed in Jipson.

“And a groom, sir,” continued Mrs. J.

“And gone into at least six hundred to eight hundred dollars a year extra expenses, to—a——”

“To gratify yourself, and—a——”

“Your—a—a—your vanity, Madam, you should have said, my dear.”

“Don't talk that way to me—to me—you brute; you know——”

“I know all about it, my dear.”

My dear—bah!” said the lady; “my dear! save that, Mr. Jipson, for some of your—a—a——”

What Mrs. J. might have said, we scarce could judge; but Jipson just then put in a “rejoinder” calculated to prevent the umpullaceous tone of Mrs. J.'s remarks, by saying, in a very humble strain—

“Mrs. Jipson, don't make an ass of yourself: we are too old to act like goslings, and too well acquainted, I hope, with the matters-of-fact of every-day life, to quarrel about things beyond our reach or control.”

“If you talk of things beyond your control, Mr. Jipson, I mean beyond your reach, that your income will not permit us to live as other people live——”

“I wouldn't like to,” interposed Jipson.

“What?” asked Mrs. Jipson.

“Live like other people—that is, some people, Mrs. Jipson, that I know of.”

“You don't suppose I'm going to bury myself and my poor girls in this big house, and have those servants standing about me, their fingers in their mouths, with nothing to do but——”

“But what?”

“But cook, and worry, and slave, and keep shut up for a——”

“For what?”

“For a—a——”

But Mrs. J. was stuck. Jipson saw that; he divined what a point Mrs. J. was about to, but could not conscientiously make, so he relieved her with—

“My dear Betsey, it's a popular fallacy, an exploded idea, a contemptible humbug, to live merely for your neighbors, the rabble world at large. Thousands do it, my dear, and I've no objection to their doing it; it's their own business, and none of mine. I have moved up town because I thought it would be more pleasant; I bought a modest kind of family carriage because I could afford it, and believed it would add to our recreations and health; the carriage and horses required care; I engaged a man to attend to them, fix up the garden, and be useful generally, and added a girl or two to your domestic departments, in order to lighten your own cares, &c. Now, all this, my dear woman, you ought to know, rests a very important responsibility upon my shoulders, health, life, and—two thousand dollars a year, and if you imagine it compatible with common sense, or consonant with my judgment, to make an ass or fool of myself, by going into the extravagances and tom-fooleries of Tannersoil, our neighbor over the way, who happens for the time to be 'under government,' with a salary of nothing to speak of, but with stealings equal to those of a successful freebooter, you—you—you have placed a—a bad estimate upon my common sense, Madam.”

With this flaring burst of eloquence, Jipson seized his hat, gloves and cane, and soon might be seen an elderly, natty, well-shaved, slightly-flushed gentleman taking his seat in a down town bound bus, en route for the sugar bakery of the firm of Cutt, Comeagain, &Co. It was evident, however, from the frequency with which Jipson plied his knife and rubber to his “figgers” of the day's accounts, and the tremulousness with which he drove the porcupine quill, that Jipson was thinking of something else!

“Mr. Jipson, I wish you'd square up that account of Look, Sharp, &Co., to-day,” said Mr. Cutt, entering the counting room.

“All folly!” said Jipson, scratching out a mistake from his day-book, and not heeding the remark, though he saw the person of his employer.

“Eh?” was the ejaculation of Cutt.

“All folly!”

“I don't understand you, sir!” said Cutt, in utter astonishment.

“Oh! I beg pardon, sir,” said poor Jipson; “I beg pardon, sir. Engrossed in a little affair of my own, I quite overlooked your observation. I will attend to the account of Look, Sharp, &Co., at once, sir;” and while Jipson was at it, his employer went out, wondering what in faith could be the matter with Jipson, a man whose capacity and gentlemanly deportment the firm had tested to their satisfaction for many years previous. The little incident was mentioned to the partner, Comeagain. The firm first laughed, then wondered what was up to disturb the usual equilibrium of Jipson, and ended by hoping he hadn't taken to drink or nothing!

“Guess I'd better do it,” soliloquizes Jipson. “My wife is a good woman enough, but like most women, lets her vanity trip up her common sense, now and then; she feels cut down to know that Tannersoil's folks are plunging out with dinners and evening parties, troops of company, piano going, and bawling away their new fol-de-rol music. Yes, guess I'll do it.

“Mrs. Jipson little calculates the horrors—not only in a pecuniary, but domestic sense—that these dinners, suppers and parties to the rag-tag and bobtail, cost many honest-meaning people, who ought to be ashamed of them.

“But, I'll do it, if it costs me the whole quarter's salary!”

A few days were sufficient to concoct details and arrange the programme. When Mrs. Jipson discovered, as she vainly supposed, the prevalence of “better sense” on the part of her husband, she was good as cranberry tart, and flew around in the best of humor, to hurry up the event that was to give eclat to the new residence and family of the Jipsons, slightly dim the radiance or mushroom glory of the Tannersoil family, and create a commotion generally—above Bleecker street!

Jipson drew on his employers, for a quarter's salary. The draft was honored, of course, but it led to some speculation on the part of “the firm,” as to what Jipson was up to, and whether he wasn't getting into evil habits, and decidedly bad economy in his old age. Jipson talked, Mrs. Jipson talked. Their almost—in fact, Mrs. J., like most ambitious mothers, thought, really—marriageable daughters dreamed and talked dinner parties for the full month, ere the great event of their lives came duly off.

One of the seeming difficulties was who to invite—who to get to come, and where to get them! Now, originally, the Jipsons were from the “Hills of New Hampshire, of poor but respectable” birth. Fifteen years in the great metropolis had not created a very extensive acquaintance among solid folks; in fact, New York society fluctuates, ebbs and flows at such a rate, that society—such as domestic people might recognize as unequivocally genteel—is hard to fasten to or find. But one of the Miss Jipsons possessed an acquaintance with a Miss Somebody else, whose brother was a young gentleman of very distingue air, and who knew the entire “ropes” of fashionable life, and people who enjoyed that sort of existence in the gay metropolis.

Mr. Theophilus Smith, therefore, was eventually engaged. It was his, as many others' vocation, to arrange details, command the feast, select the company, and control the coming event. The Jipsons confined their invitations to the few, very few genteel of the family, and even the diminutiveness of the number invited was decimated by Mr. Smith, who was permitted to review the parties invited.

Few domiciles—of civilian, “above Bleecker st.,”—were better illuminated, set off and detailed than that of Jipson, on the evening of the ever-memorable dinner. Smith had volunteered to “engage” a whole set of silver from Tinplate &Co., who generously offer our ambitious citizens such opportunities to splurge, for a fair consideration; while china, porcelain, a dozen colored waiters in white aprons, with six plethoric fiddlers and tooters, were also in Smith's programme. Jipson at first was puzzled to know where he could find volunteers to fill two dozen chairs, but when night came, Mr. Theophilus Smith, by force of tactics truly wonderful, drummed in a force to face a gross of plates, napkins and wine glasses.

Mrs. Jipson was evidently astonished, the Misses J. not a little vexed at the “raft” of elegant ladies present, and the independent manner in which they monopolized attention and made themselves at home.

Jipson swore inwardly, and looked like “a sorry man.” Smith was at home, in his element; he was head and foot of the party. Himself and friends soon led and ruled the feast. The band struck up; the corks flew, the wine fizzed, the ceilings were spattered, and the walls tattooed with Burgundy, Claret and Champagne!

“To our host!” cries Smith.

“Yes—ah! 'ere's—ah! to our a—our host!” echoes another swell, already insolently “corned.”

“Where the—a—where is our worthy host?” says another specimen of “above Bleecker street” genteel society. “I—a say, trot out your host, and let's give the old fellow a toast!”

“Ha! ha! b-wavo! b-wavo!” exclaimed a dozen shot-in-the-neck bloods, spilling their wine over the carpets, one another, and table covers.

“This is intolerable!” gasps poor Jipson, who was in the act of being kept cool by his wife, in the drawing-room.

“Never mind, Jipson——”

“Ah! there's the old fellaw!” cries one of the swells.

“I-ah—say, Mister——”

“Old roostaw, I say——”

“Gentlemen!” roars Jipson, rushing forward, elevating his voice and fists.

“For heaven's sake! Jipson,” cries the wife.

“Gentlemen, or bla'guards, as you are.”

“Oh! oh! Jipson, will you hear me?” imploringly cries Mrs. Jipson.

“What—ah—are you at? Does he—ah——”

“Yes, what—ah—does old Jip say?”

“Who the deuce, old What's-your-name, do you call gentlemen?” chimes in a third.

“Bla'guards!” roars Jipson.

“Oh, veri well, veri well, old fellow, we—ah—are—ah—to blame for—ah—patronizing a snob,” continues a swell.

“A what?” shouts Jipson.

“A plebeian!”

“A codfish—ah——”

“Villains! scoundrels! bla'guards!” shouts the outraged Jipson, rushing at the intoxicated swells, and hitting right and left, upsetting chairs, tables, and lamps.

“Murder!” cries a knocked down guest.

“E-e-e-e-e-e!” scream the ladies.

“Don't! E-e-e-e! don't kill my father!” screams the daughter.

Chairs and hats flew; the negro servants and Dutch fiddlers, only engaged for the occasion, taking no interest in a free fight, and not caring two cents who whipped, laid back and—

“Yaw! ha! ha! De lor'! Yaw! ha! ha!”

Mrs. Jipson fainted; ditto two others of the family; the men folks (!) began to travel; the ladies (!) screamed; called for their hats, shawls, and chaperones,—the most of the latter, however, were non est, or too well “set up,” to heed the common state of affairs.

Jipson finally cleared the house. Silence reigned within the walls for a week. In the interim, Mrs. Jipson and the daughters not only got over their hysterics, but ideas of gentility, as practised “above Bleecker street.” It took poor Jipson an entire year to recuperate his financial “outs,” while it took the whole family quite as long to get over their grand debut as followers of fashion in the great metropolis.


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