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Major Blink's First Season at Saratoga by Jonathan F. Kelley


“Ha, ha!” said Uncle Joe Blinks, as the subject of summer travel, a jaunt somewhere, was being discussed among the regular boarders in Mrs. Bamberry's spacious old-fashioned parlors; “Ha! ha! ha! ladies, did Mrs. Bamberry ever tell you of my tour to Saratogy Springs?—last summer was two years.”

“No,” said several of us neuter genders who had repeatedly heard all about it, but were desirous that those who had not been thus gratified, especially the ladies, and particularly a Miss Scarlatina, who was dieting for a tour to the famed Springs—“tell us all about it, Major.”

“Then,” said the Major, with his favorite exclamation, “then, by the banks of Brandywine, if I don't tell you. You see, last summer was two years, I came to the conclusion, that I'd stop off business, altogether, brush up a little, and go forth a mite more in the world, and I went. A friend of mine, a married man, was going up north to Saratogy, with his wife and sister—a plaguy nice young woman, the sister was, too; well, I don't know how it was, exactly, but somehow or other, it came into my head, especially as my friend Padlock had asked me if I wouldn't like to go up to Saratogy—that I'd go, and I went. It was odd enough, to be sure,” said Uncle Joe, taking a pinch of rappee from his tortoise-shell box—“very odd, in fact, but somehow or other, Mrs. Padlock, being in poor health, and her sister, a rather volatile and inexperienced young woman, you may say—”

“So that you had to beau her along the way, Uncle Joe?” says several of the company.

“Well, yes; it was very odd, I don't know how it was, but somehow or other, I-a—I-a—”

“Out with it, Uncle Joe—own up; you cottoned to the young lady, gallant as possible, eh?” says the gents.

“Ha! ha! it's a very delicate thing, very delicate, I assure you, gentlemen, for an old bachelor to be on the slightest terms of intimacy with a young—”

“And beautiful!” echoed the company.

“Unexperienced,” continued the Major.

“And unprotected,” says the chorus.

“Volatile,” added the Major.

“And marriageable young lady, like Miss—”

“Miss Catchem,” said the Major.

“Catchem!” cried the gents.

“Catchem, that was her name; she was the daughter of a very respectable widow,” continued the Major.

“A widow's daughter, eh?” said they all, now much interested in Uncle Joe's journey to Saratoga, and—but we won't anticipate.

“Of a very respectable widow, whose husband, I believe, was a—but no matter, they were of good family, and a—”

“Yes, yes, Uncle Joe,” said the ladies, “no doubt of that; go on with your story; you paid attention to Miss Catchem; you grew familiar—you became mutually pleased with each other, and you finally—well, tell us how it all came out, Uncle Joe, do!” they cried.

“Bless me, ladies! You've quite got ahead of my story—altogether! Miss Catchem and I never spoke a word to each other in our lives,” said the Major.

“Why, Uncle Joe!” cried the whole party.

“By banks of Brandywine, it's a fact.”

“Well, we never!” cried all the ladies.

“Well, ladies, I don't suppose you ever did,” Uncle Joe responds. “The fact is, Mrs. Padlock died suddenly the week Padlock spoke to me of going to Saratogy, and he married her sister, Miss Catchem, in course of a few weeks after, himself! I don't know how it was, but somehow or other, I thought it was all for the best; things might have turned out that I should have got tangled up with that girl, and a—”

“Been a married man, now, instead of a bachelor, Uncle Joe!” said the young ladies.

“It's odd; I don't know how it was, ladies; it might have been so, but it turned out just as I have stated.”

“Well, well, Major,” said an elderly person of the group; “go on; how about Saratoga?”

“I will,” says Uncle Joe, again resorting to his rappee, “I will. You see Padlock didn't go, it was very odd; but somehow or other, I made up my mind to go, and I went. I calculated to be gone three or four weeks, and I concluded for once, at least, to loosen the strings of my purse, if I never did again; so I laid out to expend three dollars or so, each day, say eighty dollars for the trip; a good round sum, I assure you, to fritter away; but, by banks of Brandywine, I was determined to do it, and I did. It was very odd, but the first person I met at New York was an old friend, a schoolmate of mine. I was glad to see him, and sorry enough to learn that he had failed in business—had a large family—poor—in distress. It was very odd, but somehow or other, we dined at the hotel together—had a bottle of Madeira, and I a—well, I loaned—yes, by banks of Brandywine, I gave the poor fellow a twenty dollar bill, shook hands and parted; yes, poor Billy Merrifellow, we never met again; he—he died soon after, in distress, his family broke up—scattered; it was very odd; poor fellow, he's gone;” and Uncle Joe again had recourse to his rappee, while a large tear hung in the corner of his full blue eye. Closing his box, and wiping his face with his pongee, the Major continued:

“Next morning I called for my bill. I was astonished to find that a couple of bottles of good wine, two extra meals, and something over one day's board, figured up the round sum of ten dollars. I was three days out, so far, and my pocket-book was lessened of half the funds intended for a month's expenses! By banks of Brandywine, thinks Major, my boy, this won't do; you must economize, or you shall be short of your reckonings before you are a week out of port. That morning at the steam-boat wharf I meets a young man very genteelly dressed; he looked in deep distress about something. It was very odd, I don't know how it was, but somehow or other, he came up to me and asked if I was going up the river, and I very civilly told him I was; then, he up and tells me he was a stranger in the city, had lost all his money by gambling, was in great distress—had nothing but a valuable watch—a present from his deceased father, a Virginia planter, and a great deal more. He begged me to buy the watch, when I refused at first, but finally he so importuned me, and offered the watch at a rate so apparently below its real value that I up and gave him forty dollars for it, thinking I might in part, indemnify my previous extravagance by this little bit of a trade. It was very odd; I don't know how it was, but somehow or other, upon my arrival at Saratogy, I found that watch wasn't worth the powder that would blow it up! I was imposed upon, cheated by a scoundrel! Here I was, four days from home, and my whole month's outfit nigh about gone. In the stage that took us from the boat to the Springs, rode a very respectable youngish-looking woman, with a very cross child in her arms; we had not rode far before I found the other passengers, all gentlemen, apparently much annoyed by the child; for my part I sympathized with the poor woman, got into a conversation with her—learned she was on her way to Saratogy to see her husband, who was engaged there as a builder. Upon arriving at Saratogy, the young woman requested me to hold her child—it was fast asleep—until she stepped over to a new building to inquire about her husband. I did so; she went away, and I never saw her from that to this!”

A loud and prolonged laugh from his auditors followed this tableau in Uncle Joe's story. A little more rappee, and the Major proceeded:

“Well, it was very odd, I don't know how it was, but somehow or other I was left with the child, and a plaguy time had I of it; the town authorities refused to take charge of it, nobody else would; so by Brandywine, there I was; the people seemed to be suspicious of me—sniggered and went on as though I knew more about the woman and her child than I let on. In short, I had to father the child, and provide for it, and I did,” said the Major, quite patriotically.

“Well, never mind, Uncle Joe,” said Mrs. Bamberry; “that boy may pay you yet—pay you for all your trouble; he's growing nicely, and will make a fine man.”

“So you really had to keep the child!” cried several.

“O yes,” says the Major; “I was in for it; I got a nurse and had the youngster taken care of. The hotels were crowded, very uncomfortable, rooms wretched, small, damp, and dirty. The landlords were quite independent, and the servants the most impudent set of extorting varlets I ever encountered! To keep from starving, I did as others—bribed a waiter to keep my plate supplied. At night they had what they called 'hops!' in other words, dances, shaking the whole house, and raising such a noise and hullabaloo, with cracked horns, squeaky fiddles—bawling and yelling, that no sailor boarding house could be half so disturbant of the peace. By banks of Brandywine, I got enough of such folderols; at the end of the week I asked for my bill, augmented by some few sundries—it made my hair stand up. Now what do you suppose my bill was, for one week, board, lodging, servants' bribes and sundries? I'll tell you,” said the Major, “for you never could guess it—it was forty-one dollars, fifty cents. I took my protege, bag and baggage, and started for home. I was absent on this memorable tour to Saratogy just two weeks, and by banks of Brandywine, if the expense of that tour—not including the time wasted, vexation, bother, mortification of feelings, fuss, and rumpus—was but a fraction less than three hundred dollars! Four times the cost of my anticipated trip, lessened half the time, with fifty per cent. more humbug about it than I ever dreamed of!”

Miss Scarlatina agreed with the rest of the company, that it cost Uncle Joe Blinks more to go to Saratogy than it came to, and they all concluded—not to go there themselves, just then—any how!


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