List Of Contents | Contents of Their Pilgrimage, by Charles Dudley Warner
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

along the shore, and the broad bay, sparkling in the sun, was animated
with boats, which all had a holiday air.  Was it not enough to come down
to breakfast and sit at the low, broad windows and watch the shifting
panorama?  All about the harbor slanted the white sails; at intervals a
steamer was landing at the wharf or backing away from it; on the wharf
itself there was always a little bustle, but no noise, some pretense of
business, and much actual transaction in the way of idle attitudinizing,
the colored man in castoff clothes, and the colored sister in sun-bonnet
or turban, lending themselves readily to the picturesque; the scene
changed every minute, the sail of a tiny boat was hoisted or lowered
under the window, a dashing cutter with its uniformed crew was pulling
off to the German man-of-war, a puffing little tug dragged along a line
of barges in the distance, and on the horizon a fleet of coasters was
working out between the capes to sea.  In the open window came the fresh
morning breeze, and only the softened sounds of the life outside.  The
ladies came down in cool muslin dresses, and added the needed grace to
the picture as they sat breakfasting by the windows, their figures in
silhouette against the blue water.

No wonder our traveler lingered there a little!  Humanity called him, for
one thing, to drive often with humanely disposed young ladies round the
beautiful shore curve to visit the schools for various colors at Hampton.
Then there was the evening promenading on the broad verandas and out upon
the miniature pier, or at sunset by the water-batteries of the old fort--
such a peaceful old fortress as it is.  All the morning there were
"inspections" to be attended, and nowhere could there be seen a more
agreeable mingling of war and love than the spacious, tree-planted
interior of the fort presented on such occasions.  The shifting figures
of the troops on parade; the martial and daring manoeuvres of the
regimental band; the groups of ladies seated on benches under the trees,
attended by gallants in uniform, momentarily off duty and full of
information, and by gallants not in uniform and never off duty and
desirous to learn; the ancient guns with French arms and English arms,
reminiscences of Yorktown, on one of which a pretty girl was apt to be
perched in the act of being photographed--all this was enough to inspire
any man to be a countryman and a lover.  It is beautiful to see how
fearless the gentle sex is in the presence of actual war; the prettiest
girls occupied the front and most exposed seats; and never flinched when
the determined columns marched down on them with drums beating and colors
flying, nor showed much relief when they suddenly wheeled and marched to
another part of the parade in search of glory.  And the officers'
quarters in the casemates--what will not women endure to serve their
country!  These quarters are mere tunnels under a dozen feet of earth,
with a door on the parade side and a casement window on the outside--a
damp cellar, said to be cool in the height of summer.  The only excuse
for such quarters is that the women and children will be comparatively
safe in case the fortress is bombarded.

The hotel and the fortress at this enchanting season, to say nothing of
other attractions, with laughing eyes and slender figures, might well
have detained Mr. Stanhope King, but he had determined upon a sort of
roving summer among the resorts of fashion and pleasure.  After a long
sojourn abroad, it seemed becoming that he should know something of the
floating life of his own country.  His determination may have been
strengthened by the confession of Mrs. Benson that her family were
intending an extensive summer tour.  It gives a zest to pleasure to have
even an indefinite object, and though the prospect of meeting Irene again
was not definite, it was nevertheless alluring.  There was something
about her, he could not tell what, different from the women he had met in
France.  Indeed, he went so far as to make a general formula as to the
impression the American women made on him at Fortress Monroe--they all
appeared to be innocent.



Of course you will not go to Cape May till the season opens.  You might
as well go to a race-track the day there is no race."  It was Mrs.
Cortlandt who was speaking, and the remonstrance was addressed to Mr.
Stanhope King, and a young gentleman, Mr. Graham Forbes, who had just
been presented to her as an artist, in the railway station at
Philadelphia, that comfortable home of the tired and bewildered traveler.
Mr. Forbes, with his fresh complexion, closely cropped hair, and London
clothes, did not look at all like the traditional artist, although the
sharp eyes of Mrs. Cortlandt detected a small sketch-book peeping out of
his side pocket.

"On the contrary, that is why we go," said Mr. King.  "I've a fancy that
I should like to open a season once myself."

"Besides," added Mr. Forbes, "we want to see nature unadorned.  You know,
Mrs. Cortlandt, how people sometimes spoil a place."

"I'm not sure," answered the lady, laughing, "that people have not
spoiled you two and you need a rest.  Where else do you go?"

"Well, I thought," replied Mr. King, "from what I heard, that Atlantic
City might appear best with nobody there."

"Oh, there's always some one there.  You know, it is a winter resort now.
And, by the way--  But there's my train, and the young ladies are
beckoning to me."  (Mrs. Cortlandt was never seen anywhere without a
party of young ladies.) "Yes, the Bensons passed through Washington the
other day from the South, and spoke of going to Atlantic City to tone up
a little before the season, and perhaps you know that Mrs. Benson took a
great fancy to you, Mr. King.  Good-by, au revoir," and the lady was gone
with her bevy of girls, struggling in the stream that poured towards one
of the wicket-gates.

"Atlantic City?  Why, Stanhope, you don't think of going there also?"

"I didn't think of it, but, hang it all, my dear fellow, duty is duty.
There are some places you must see in order to be well informed.
Atlantic City is an important place; a great many of its inhabitants
spend their winters in Philadelphia."

"And this Mrs. Benson?"

"No, I'm not going down there to see Mrs. Benson."

Expectancy was the word when our travelers stepped out of the car at Cape
May station.  Except for some people who seemed to have business there,
they were the only passengers.  It was the ninth of June.  Everything was
ready--the sea, the sky, the delicious air, the long line of gray-colored
coast, the omnibuses, the array of hotel tooters.  As they stood waiting
in irresolution a grave man of middle age and a disinterested manner
sauntered up to the travelers, and slipped into friendly relations with
them.  It was impossible not to incline to a person so obliging and well
stocked with local information.  Yes, there were several good hotels
open.  It didn't make much difference; there was one near at hand, not
pretentious, but probably as comfortable as any.  People liked the table;
last summer used to come there from other hotels to get a meal.  He was
going that way, and would walk along with them.  He did, and conversed
most interestingly on the way.  Our travelers felicitated themselves upon
falling into such good hands, but when they reached the hotel designated
it had such a gloomy and in fact boardinghouse air that they hesitated,
and thought they would like to walk on a little farther and see the town
before settling.  And their friend appeared to feel rather grieved about
it, not for himself, but for them.  He had moreover, the expression of a
fisherman who has lost a fish after he supposed it was securely hooked.
But our young friends had been angled for in a good many waters, and they
told the landlord, for it was the landlord, that while they had no doubt
his was the best hotel in the place, they would like to look at some not
so good.  The one that attracted them, though they could not see in what
the attraction lay, was a tall building gay with fresh paint in many
colors, some pretty window balconies, and a portico supported by high
striped columns that rose to the fourth story.  They were fond of color,
and were taken by six little geraniums planted in a circle amid the sand
in front of the house, which were waiting for the season to open before
they began to grow.  With hesitation they stepped upon the newly
varnished piazza and the newly varnished office floor, for every step
left a footprint.  The chairs, disposed in a long line on the piazza,
waiting for guests, were also varnished, as the artist discovered when he
sat in one of them and was held fast.  It was all fresh and delightful.
The landlord and the clerks had smiles as wide as the open doors; the
waiters exhibited in their eagerness a good imitation of unselfish

It was very pleasant to be alone in the house, and to be the first-fruits
of such great expectations.  The first man of the season is in such a
different position from the last.  He is like the King of Bavaria alone
in his royal theatre.  The ushers give him the best seat in the house, he
hears the tuning of the instruments, the curtain is about to rise, and
all for him.  It is a very cheerful desolation, for it has a future, and
everything quivers with the expectation of life and gayety.  Whereas the
last man is like one who stumbles out among the empty benches when the
curtain has fallen and the play is done.  Nothing is so melancholy as the
shabbiness of a watering-place at the end of the season, where is left
only the echo of past gayety, the last guests are scurrying away like
leaves before the cold, rising wind, the varnish has worn off, shutters
are put up, booths are dismantled, the shows are packing up their tawdry
ornaments, and the autumn leaves collect in the corners of the gaunt

Could this be the Cape May about which hung so many traditions of summer
romance?  Where were those crowds of Southerners, with slaves and
chariots, and the haughtiness of a caste civilization, and the belles

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: