List Of Contents | Contents of Their Pilgrimage, by Charles Dudley Warner
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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

"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

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