villages are just collections of the same small frame houses hopelessly decorated with scroll-work and obtrusively painted, standing in lines on sandy streets, adorned with lean shade-trees. The handsome Jersey people were not traveling that day--the two friends had a theory about the relation of a sandy soil to female beauty--and when the artist got out his pencil to catch the types of the country, he was well rewarded. There were the fat old women in holiday market costumes, strong-featured, positive, who shook their heads at each other and nodded violently and incessantly, and all talked at once; the old men in rusty suits, thin, with a deprecatory manner, as if they had heard that clatter for fifty years, and perky, sharp-faced girls in vegetable hats, all long-nosed and thin-lipped. And though the day was cool, mosquitoes had the bad taste to invade the train. At the junction, a small collection of wooden shanties, where the travelers waited an hour, they heard much of the glories of Atlantic City from the postmistress, who was waiting for an excursion some time to go there (the passion for excursions seems to be a growing one), and they made the acquaintance of a cow tied in the room next the ticket-office, probably also waiting for a passage to the city by the sea. And a city it is. If many houses, endless avenues, sand, paint, make a city, the artist confessed that this was one. Everything is on a large scale. It covers a large territory, the streets run at right angles, the avenues to the ocean take the names of the states. If the town had been made to order and sawed out by one man, it could not be more beautifully regular and more satisfactorily monotonous. There is nothing about it to give the most commonplace mind in the world a throb of disturbance. The hotels, the cheap shops, the cottages, are all of wood, and, with three or four exceptions in the thousands, they are all practically alike, all ornamented with scroll-work, as if cut out by the jig-saw, all vividly painted, all appealing to a primitive taste just awakening to the appreciation of the gaudy chromo and the illuminated and consoling household motto. Most of the hotels are in the town, at considerable distance from the ocean, and the majestic old sea, which can be monotonous but never vulgar, is barricaded from the town by five or six miles of stark-naked plank walk, rows on rows of bath closets, leagues of flimsy carpentry-work, in the way of cheap-John shops, tin-type booths, peep-shows, go-rounds, shooting-galleries, pop-beer and cigar shops, restaurants, barber shops, photograph galleries, summer theatres. Sometimes the plank walk runs for a mile or two, on its piles, between rows of these shops and booths, and again it drops off down by the waves. Here and there is a gayly-painted wooden canopy by the shore, with chairs where idlers can sit and watch the frolicking in the water, or a space railed off, where the select of the hotels lie or lounge in the sand under red umbrellas. The calculating mind wonders how many million feet of lumber there are in this unpicturesque barricade, and what gigantic forests have fallen to make this timber front to the sea. But there is one thing man cannot do. He has made this show to suit himself, he has pushed out several iron piers into the sea, and erected, of course, a skating rink on the end of one of them. But the sea itself, untamed, restless, shining, dancing, raging, rolls in from the southward, tossing the white sails on its vast expanse, green, blue, leaden, white-capped, many-colored, never two minutes the same, sounding with its eternal voice I knew not what rebuke to man. When Mr. King wrote his and his friend's name in the book at the Mansion House, he had the curiosity to turn over the leaves, and it was not with much surprise that he read there the names of A. J. Benson, wife, and daughter, Cyrusville, Ohio. "Oh, I see!" said the artist; "you came down here to see Mr. Benson!" That gentleman was presently discovered tilted back in a chair on the piazza, gazing vacantly into the vacant street with that air of endurance that fathers of families put on at such resorts. But he brightened up when Mr. King made himself known. "I'm right glad to see you, sir. And my wife and daughter will be. I was saying to my wife yesterday that I couldn't stand this sort of thing much longer." "You don't find it lively?" "Well, the livelier it is the less I shall like it, I reckon. The town is well enough. It's one of the smartest places on the coast. I should like to have owned the ground and sold out and retired. This sand is all gold. They say they sell the lots by the bushel and count every sand. You can see what it is, boards and paint and sand. Fine houses, too; miles of them." "And what do you do?" "Oh, they say there's plenty to do. You can ride around in the sand; you can wade in it if you want to, and go down to the beach and walk up and down the plank walk--walk up and down--walk up and down. They like it. You can't bathe yet without getting pneumonia. They have gone there now. Irene goes because she says she can't stand the gayety of the parlor." From the parlor came the sound of music. A young girl who had the air of not being afraid of a public parlor was drumming out waltzes on the piano, more for the entertainment of herself than of the half-dozen ladies who yawned over their worsted-work. As she brought her piece to an end with a bang, a pretty, sentimental miss with a novel in her hand, who may not have seen Mr. King looking in at the door, ran over to the player and gave her a hug. "That's beautiful! that's perfectly lovely, Mamie!" " This," said the player, taking up another sheet, "has not been played much in New York." Probably not, in that style, thought Mr. King, as the girl clattered through it. There was no lack of people on the promenade, tramping the boards, or hanging about the booths where the carpenters and painters were at work, and the shop men and women were unpacking the corals and the sea-shells, and the cheap jewelry, and the Swiss wood-carving, the toys, the tinsel brooches, and agate ornaments, and arranging the soda fountains, and putting up the shelves for the permanent pie. The sort of preparation going on indicated the kind of crowd expected. If everything had a cheap and vulgar look, our wandering critics remembered that it is never fair to look behind the scenes of a show, and that things would wear a braver appearance by and by. And if the women on the promenade were homely and ill-dressed, even the bonnes in unpicturesque costumes, and all the men were slouchy and stolid, how could any one tell what an effect of gayety and enjoyment there might be when there were thousands of such people, and the sea was full of bathers, and the flags were flying, and the bands were tooting, and all the theatres were opened, and acrobats and spangled women and painted red-men offered those attractions which, like government, are for the good of the greatest number? What will you have? Shall vulgarity be left just vulgar, and have no apotheosis and glorification? This is very fine of its kind, and a resort for the million. The million come here to enjoy themselves. Would you have an art-gallery here, and high-priced New York and Paris shops lining the way? "Look at the town," exclaimed the artist, "and see what money can do, and satisfy the average taste without the least aid from art. It's just wonderful. I've tramped round the place, and, taking out a cottage or two, there isn't a picturesque or pleasing view anywhere. I tell you people know what they want, and enjoy it when they get it." "You needn't get excited about it," said Mr. King. "Nobody said it wasn't commonplace, and glaringly vulgar if you like, and if you like to consider it representative of a certain stage in national culture, I hope it is not necessary to remind you that the United States can beat any other people in any direction they choose to expand themselves. You'll own it when you've seen watering-places enough." After this defense of the place, Mr. King owned it might be difficult for Mr. Forbes to find anything picturesque to sketch. What figures, to be sure! As if people were obliged to be shapely or picturesque for the sake of a wandering artist! "I could do a tree," growled Mr. Forbes, "or a pile of boards; but these shanties!" When they were well away from the booths and bath-houses, Mr. King saw in the distance two ladies. There was no mistaking one of them--the easy carriage, the grace of movement. No such figure had been afield all day. The artist was quick to see that. Presently they came up with them, and found them seated on a bench, looking off upon Brigantine Island, a low sand dune with some houses and a few trees against the sky, the most pleasing object in view. Mrs. Benson did not conceal the pleasure she felt in seeing Mr. King again, and was delighted to know his friend; and, to say the truth, Miss Irene gave him a very cordial greeting. "I'm 'most tired to death," said Mrs. Benson, when they were all seated. "But this air does me good. Don't you like Atlantic City?" "I like it better than I did at first." If the remark was intended for Irene, she paid no attention to it, being absorbed in explaining to Mr. Forbes why she preferred the deserted end of the promenade. "It's a place that grows on you. I guess it's grown the wrong way on Irene and father; but I like the air--after the South. They say we ought to see it in August, when all Philadelphia is here." "I should think it might be very lively." "Yes; but the promiscuous bathing. I don't think I should like that. We are not brought up to that sort of thing in Ohio." "No? Ohio is more like France, I suppose?" "Like France!" exclaimed the old lady, looking at him in amazement--"like France! Why, France is the wickedest place in the world." "No doubt it is, Mrs. Benson. But at the sea resorts the sexes bathe separately."
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