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Getting into the “Right Pew” by Jonathan F. Kelley

 

New Year's day is some considerable “pumpkins” in many parts of the United States. In the Western States, they have horse-racing, shooting-matches, quilting-frolics and grand hunting parties. In the South, the week beginning with Christmas and ending with New Year's day, is devoted to the largest liberty by the negroes, who have one grand and extensive saturnalia, visit their friends and relations, make love to the “gals” on neighboring plantations, spend the little change saved through the year, or now and then given to them by indulgent or generous masters, and in fact have a glorious good time! The holidays in New Orleans, and in Louisiana generally, is a time, and no mistake. The old French and Spanish families keep open house—dinners and suppers, music, song and dance. On New Year's eve, they decorate the graves of their friends with flowers. Lamps or lanterns are often required for this purpose, and as you pass the silent grave-yards, it is indeed a novel sight to see the many glimmering lights about the tombs of the departed. In most of the South-Western towns, the day is given up to fun and frolic. The Philadelphians have a great blow out. The streets are filled by holiday-looking people, children with toys and “mint sticks”—making the air resound with tin trumpets and penny whistles. The men and boys used to load up every thing in the shape of cannons, guns, pistols and hollow keys, and bang away from sunset until sunrise, keeping up a racket, din and uproar, equal to the bombardment of a citadel. The authorities stopped that, and now the civil young men kill the night and day in dancing, feasting, and attending the amusements, the multitude of rowdies passing their time in concocting and carrying on street fights and running with the engines.

But the New Yorkers bang the whole of them; bear witness, O ye New Year's doings I have there seen. Visiting your friends, and your friends' friends. Open houses every where! “Drop in and take a glass of wine or bit of cake, if nothing else”—that's the word. Jeremy Diddlers flourish, marriageable daughters and interesting widows set their caps for the nice young men, the streets are noisy and full of confusion, the theatres and show-shops generally reap an elegant harvest, and the police reports of the second morning of the New Year swell monstrously! Of a New Year's adventure of an innocent young acquaintance of mine, I have a little story to tell.

Jeff. Jones was caught, at a New Year's dinner in New York, by the fascinating grace and cap-tivating head-gear of a certain young widow, who had a fine estate. Jeff. was what you might call a good boy; he had never seen much of creation, save that lying between Pokeepsie (his birth-place) and the Battery, Castle Garden and Bloomingdale. He was a clever fellow, fond of rational fun and amusement, kept “a set of books” for a mercantile firm in Maiden Lane, dressed well, kept good hours, and in all general respects, was—a nice young man. He went with a friend on a tour—New Year's day, to make calls. After a number of glasses and chunks of cake, feeling altogether beautiful, he found himself in the presence of a charming widow, and some two months afterwards, himself and the widow, a parson and a brace of male and female friends, Jeff. Jones, aged 28, took a partner for life, ergo he hung up his hat in the snug domicil of the flourishing widow, who became Mrs. Jeff. Jones, thereafter.

Poor Jeff., he found out that there was some truth in the venerable saying—all is not gold that glitters. The charming widow was seriously inclined to wear the inexpressibles; and poor Jeff., being of such a gentlemanly, good and easy disposition, scarcely made a struggle for his reserved rights. However, things, under such a state of affairs, grew no better fast, and as Jeff. Jones had neglected to go around and see the elephant before marriage, he came to the conclusion to see what was going on after that interesting ceremony. In short, Jeff. got to going out of nights—kept “bad hours,” got blowed up in gentle strains at first, but which were promised to be enlarged if Mr. Jones did not mind his Ps. and Qs.

The third anniversary of Jeff. Jones's annexation to the widow was coming around. It was New Year's day in the morn; it brought rather sober reflections into Jeff.'s mind, on the head of which he thought he'd as soon as not—get tight! This notion was pleasing, and dressing himself in his best clothes, Jones informed Mrs. J. that he wished to call on a few old friends, and would be home to dine and bring some friends with him!

“See that you do, then,” said Mrs. J., “see that you do, that's all!” and she gave Mr. J. “a look” not at all like Miss Juliet's to Mr. Romeo—she spoke, and she said something.

However, Jones cleared himself; dinner hour arrived, if Jeff. Jones did not; Mrs. Jones smiled and chatted, and did the honors of the table with rare good grace, but where was Jones?

“He'll be poking in just as dinner is over, and the puddings cold, and company preparing to leave; then he'll catch a lecturing.”

But don't fret your pretty self, Mrs. Jones—for dinner passed and tea-time came, but no Jones. Mrs. Jones began to get snappish, and by ten o'clock she had bitten all the ends from her taper fingers, besides dreadfully scolding the servants, all around. Mrs. J. finally retired—the clock had struck 12, and no Jones was to be seen; Mrs. J. was worried out; she could not sleep a blessed wink. She got up again, Jones might have met with some dreadful accident! She had not thought of that before! Perhaps at that very hour he was in the bottom of the Hudson, or in the deep cells of the Tombs! It was awful! Mrs. Jones dressed—the house was as still as a church-yard—she put on an old hood, and shawl to match, and noiselessly she crept down stairs; and by a passage out through the back area into a rear street. Mrs. Jones at the dead hour of night determined to seek some information of her husband. She had not gotten over a block, or block and a half from her mansion, when she spies two men coming along—wing and wing, merry as grigs, reeling to and fro, and singing in stentorian notes:

    “A man that is (hic) married (hic) has lost every hope—
    He's (hic) like a poor (hic) pig with his foot in a rope!
                     O-o-o! dear! O-o-o! dear—cracky!
    A man that is (hic) married has so (hic) many ills—
    He's like a (hic) poor fish with a (hic) hook in his gills!
                    
O-o-o-o! dear! O-o-o-o! dear—cracky!”

In terror of these roaring bacchanalians, who were slowly approaching her, Mrs. Jones stood close in the doorway of a store; the revellers parted at the corner of the street, after many asseverations of eternal friendship, much noise and twattle. One of the carousers came lumbering towards Mrs. J., and she, in some alarm, left her hiding place and darted past the midnight brawler; and to her horror, the fellow made tracks after her as fast as a drunken man could travel, and that ain't slow; for almost any man inside of sixty can run, like blazes, when he is scarce able to stand upon his pins because of the quantity of bricks in his beaver. Mrs. Jones ran towards her dwelling, but before she could reach it, the ruffian at her heels clasped her! Just as she was about to give an awful scream, wake up all the neighbors and police ten miles around, she saw—Jones! Jeff. Jones, her recreant husband!

It was a moment of awful import—the widow was equal to the crisis, however, and governed herself accordingly; proving the truth of some dead and gone philosopher who has left it in black and white, that the widows are always more than a match for any man in Christendom!

Jones was loving drunk, a stage that terminates and is a near kin to total oblivion, in bacchanalian revels. Jones had not the remotest idea of where he was—time or persons; his tongue was thick, eyes dull, ideas monstrous foggy, and the few sentences he rather unintelligibly uttered, were highly spiced with—“my little (hic) angel, you (hic), you (hic) live 'bout (hic) here? Can't you ta-take me (hic) home with you, eh? My-my old woman (hic) would raise-rai-raise old scratch if I (hic), I went home to-to-night. (Hic) I'll, I'll go home (hic) in the morning, and (hic) tell her, ha! ha! he! (hic) tell her I've be-be-been to a fire!”

“O, the villain,” said Mrs. J. to herself; “but I'll be revenged. Come, sir, go home with me—I'll take care of you. Come, sir, be careful; this way—in here.”

“Where the (hic) deuce are—are you going down this (hic) cellar, eh?”

“All right, sir. Come, be careful! don't fall; rest on my arm—there, shut the door.”

“Why (hic), ha-hang it a—all; get a light—that's a de—ar!”

“Yes, yes; wait a moment, I'll bring you a light.”

Mrs. J. having gotten her game bagged, left it in the dark, and retired to her bed-chamber. Some of the servants, hearing a noise in the basement, got up, stuck their noses out of their rooms, and being convinced that a desperate scoundrel was in the house, raised the very old boy. Poor Jones, in his efforts to get out, run over pots, pans, and chairs, and through him and the servants, the police were alarmed! lights were raised, and Jones was arrested for a burglar!

Never was a man better pleased to find himself in his own domicil, than Jones! It was all Greek to the watchmen and servants; it was a mysterious matter to Jones for a full fortnight—but upon promise of ever after spending his new year's at home, Mrs. J. let the cat out of the bag. Jones surrendered!

 
 
 

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