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List Of Contents | Contents of Their Pilgrimage, by Charles Dudley Warner
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from Baltimore and Philadelphia and Charleston and Richmond, whose smiles
turned the heads of the last generation?  Had that gay society danced
itself off into the sea, and left not even a phantom of itself behind?
As he sat upon the veranda, King could not rid himself of the impression
that this must be a mocking dream, this appearance of emptiness and
solitude.  Why, yes, he was certainly in a delusion, at least in a
reverie.  The place was alive.  An omnibus drove to the door (though no
sound of wheels was heard); the waiters rushed out, a fat man descended,
a little girl was lifted down, a pretty woman jumped from the steps with
that little extra bound on the ground which all women confessedly under
forty always give when they alight from a vehicle, a large woman lowered
herself cautiously out, with an anxious look, and a file of men stooped
and emerged, poking their umbrellas and canes in each other's backs.
Mr. King plainly saw the whole party hurry into the office and register
their names, and saw the clerk repeatedly touch a bell and throw back his
head and extend his hand to a servant.  Curious to see who the arrivals
were, he went to the register.  No names were written there.  But there
were other carriages at the door, there was a pile of trunks on the
veranda, which he nearly stumbled over, although his foot struck nothing,
and the chairs were full, and people were strolling up and down the
piazza.  He noticed particularly one couple promenading--a slender
brunette, with a brilliant complexion; large dark eyes that made constant
play--could it be the belle of Macon?--and a gentleman of thirty-five,
in black frock-coat, unbuttoned, with a wide-brimmed soft hat-clothes not
quite the latest style--who had a good deal of manner, and walked apart
from the young lady, bending towards her with an air of devotion.
Mr. King stood one side and watched the endless procession up and down,
up and down, the strollers, the mincers, the languid, the nervous
steppers; noted the eye-shots, the flashing or the languishing look that
kills, and never can be called to account for the mischief it does;
but not a sound did he hear of the repartee and the laughter.  The place
certainly was thronged.  The avenue in front was crowded with vehicles of
all sorts; there were groups strolling on the broad beach-children with
their tiny pails and shovels digging pits close to the advancing tide,
nursery-maids in fast colors, boys in knickerbockers racing on the beach,
people lying on the sand, resolute walkers, whose figures loomed tall in
the evening light, doing their constitutional.  People were passing to
and fro on the long iron pier that spider-legged itself out into the sea;
the two rooms midway were filled with sitters taking the evening breeze;
and the large ball and music room at the end, with its spacious outside
promenade-yes, there were dancers there, and the band was playing.
Mr. King could see the fiddlers draw their bows, and the corneters lift
up their horns and get red in the face, and the lean man slide his
trombone, and the drummer flourish his sticks, but not a note of music
reached him.  It might have been a performance of ghosts for all the
effect at this distance.  Mr. King remarked upon this dumb-show to a
gentleman in a blue coat and white vest and gray hat, leaning against a
column near him.  The gentleman made no response.  It was most singular.
Mr. King stepped back to be out of the way of some children racing down
the piazza, and, half stumbling, sat down in the lap of a dowager--no,
not quite; the chair was empty, and he sat down in the fresh varnish, to
which his clothes stuck fast.  Was this a delusion?  No.  The tables were
filled in the dining-room, the waiters were scurrying about, there were
ladies on the balconies looking dreamily down upon the animated scene
below; all the movements of gayety and hilarity in the height of a
season.  Mr. King approached a group who were standing waiting for a
carriage, but they did not see him, and did not respond to his trumped-up
question about the next train.  Were these, then, shadows, or was he a
spirit himself?  Were these empty omnibuses and carriages that discharged
ghostly passengers?  And all this promenading and flirting and
languishing and love-making, would it come to nothing-nothing more than
usual?  There was a charm about it all--the movement, the color, the gray
sand, and the rosy blush on the sea--a lovely place, an enchanted place.
Were these throngs the guests that were to come, or those that had been
herein other seasons?  Why could not the former "materialize" as well as
the latter?  Is it not as easy to make nothing out of what never yet
existed as out of what has ceased to exist?  The landlord, by faith, sees
all this array which is prefigured so strangely to Mr. King; and his
comely young wife sees it and is ready for it; and the fat son at the
supper table--a living example of the good eating to be had here--is
serene, and has the air of being polite and knowing to a houseful.
This scrap of a child, with the aplomb of a man of fifty, wise beyond his
fatness, imparts information to the travelers about the wine, speaks to
the waiter with quiet authority, and makes these mature men feel like
boys before the gravity of our perfect flower of American youth who has
known no childhood.  This boy at least is no phantom; the landlord is
real, and the waiters, and the food they bring.

"I suppose," said Mr. King to his friend, "that we are opening the
season.  Did you see anything outdoors?"

"Yes; a horseshoe-crab about a mile below here on the smooth sand, with a
long dotted trail behind him, a couple of girls in a pony-cart who nearly
drove over me, and a tall young lady with a red parasol, accompanied by a
big black-and-white dog, walking rapidly, close to the edge of the sea,
towards the sunset.  It's just lovely, the silvery sweep of coast in this
light."

"It seems a refined sort of place in its outlines, and quietly
respectable.  They tell me here that they don't want the excursion crowds
that overrun Atlantic City, but an Atlantic City man, whom I met at the
pier, said that Cape May used to be the boss, but that Atlantic City had
got the bulge on it now--had thousands to the hundreds here.  To get the
bulge seems a desirable thing in America, and I think we'd better see
what a place is like that is popular, whether fashion recognizes it or
not."

The place lost nothing in the morning light, and it was a sparkling
morning with a fresh breeze.  Nature, with its love of simple, sweeping
lines, and its feeling for atmospheric effect, has done everything for
the place, and bad taste has not quite spoiled it.  There is a sloping,
shallow beach, very broad, of fine, hard sand, excellent for driving or
for walking, extending unbroken three miles down to Cape May Point, which
has hotels and cottages of its own, and lifesaving and signal stations.
Off to the west from this point is the long sand line to Cape Henlopen,
fourteen miles away, and the Delaware shore.  At Cape May Point there is
a little village of painted wood houses, mostly cottages to let, and a
permanent population of a few hundred inhabitants.  From the pier one
sees a mile and a half of hotels and cottages, fronting south,
all flaming, tasteless, carpenter's architecture, gay with paint.
The sea expanse is magnificent, and the sweep of beach is fortunately
unencumbered, and vulgarized by no bath-houses or show-shanties.
The bath-houses are in front of the hotels and in their enclosures;
then come the broad drive, and the sand beach, and the sea.  The line is
broken below by the lighthouse and a point of land, whereon stands the
elephant.  This elephant is not indigenous, and he stands alone in the
sand, a wooden sham without an explanation.  Why the hotel-keeper's mind
along the coast regards this grotesque structure as a summer attraction
it is difficult to see.  But when one resort had him, he became a
necessity everywhere.  The travelers walked down to this monster, climbed
the stairs in one of his legs, explored the rooms, looked out from the
saddle, and pondered on the problem.  This beast was unfinished within
and unpainted without, and already falling into decay.  An elephant on
the desert, fronting the Atlantic Ocean, had, after all, a picturesque
aspect, and all the more so because he was a deserted ruin.

The elephant was, however, no emptier than the cottages about which our
friends strolled.  But the cottages were all ready, the rows of new
chairs stood on the fresh piazzas, the windows were invitingly open, the
pathetic little patches of flowers in front tried hard to look festive in
the dry sands, and the stout landladies in their rocking-chairs calmly
knitted and endeavored to appear as if they expected nobody, but had
almost a houseful.

Yes, the place was undeniably attractive.  The sea had the blue of Nice;
why must we always go to the Mediterranean for an aqua marina, for poetic
lines, for delicate shades?  What charming gradations had this picture-
gray sand, blue waves, a line of white sails against the pale blue sky!
By the pier railing is a bevy of little girls grouped about an ancient
colored man, the very ideal old Uncle Ned, in ragged, baggy, and
disreputable clothes, lazy good-nature oozing out of every pore of him,
kneeling by a telescope pointed to a bunch of white sails on the horizon;
a dainty little maiden, in a stiff white skirt and golden hair, leans
against him and tiptoes up to the object-glass, shutting first one eye
and then the other, and making nothing out of it all.  " Why, ov co'se
you can't see nuffln, honey," said Uncle Ned, taking a peep, "wid the
'scope p'inted up in the sky."

In order to pass from Cape May to Atlantic City one takes a long circuit
by rail through the Jersey sands.  Jersey is a very prolific State, but
the railway traveler by this route is excellently prepared for Atlantic
City, for he sees little but sand, stunted pines, scrub oaks, small frame
houses, sometimes trying to hide in the clumps of scrub oaks, and the

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