HARRY FRANCO. — CHAPTER 1. Get settled in a genteel boarding house. Grow sublime.
[figure description] Page 001.[end figure description]
It was a broiling hot day, and as I toiled along
through the dusty streets of Brooklyn towards
the ferry, I almost wished myself back again upon
the blue sea.
It was almost two years since I left New York -- 002 --
in the Two Marys, but when I stepped ashore
from the ferry boat by the Catharine Market,
every thing looked as natural and as unchanged
as though I had been absent but a day. I looked
around in the expectation of seeing some familiar
face into which I could look for a smile of welcome.
There was an old red faced apple woman
sitting under the shade of a tattered canvass
[figure description] Page 002.[end figure description]
awning, brushing away the flies from her little
pyramids of dusty fruit, with a palmetto leaf in
one hand, while with her other she wiped the perspiration
from her broad face. Close by, was a
negro opening hard shelled clams, with a red flannel
shirt on his back, and a bell crowned brown
beaver hat on his head. Not far from him was a
young girl in a black silk dress and a tattered leghorn
hat, selling ice cream; and near her was a
negro wench, sitting on a curb stone, and crying
out in the most heart-rending tone imaginable,
“Here's your nice hot corn.” Three or four
cartmen, in dirty frocks, were seated on their cart
tails, each of them studying a penny paper, apparently
with the most intense curiosity. There
were also wood sawyers sitting listlessly on their
bucks, and spruce looking gentlemen, very much
dressed, with glass show cases on the side walk,
displaying quantities of jewelry, and soaps, and
penknives; and there was an old man, very poorly
dressed, with an assortment of second hand books
and tattered maps.
These might all have been old acquaintances of -- 003 --
mine, for aught that I knew to the contrary.
They looked extremely natural, and even familiar;
but as I could call neither of them by name, I
[figure description] Page 003.[end figure description]
passed on, feeling lonesome and down hearted. I
longed to grasp somebody by the hand.
I turned down into Water street, and perceiving
a door open with the sign of the Foul Anchor
above it, I walked in, and engaged board with the
proprietor, Mr. Robert Murphy, a gentleman who
had had the misfortune to lose one of his legs. There
was nothing particularly attractive in the appearance
of Mr. Murphy's bar-room, so I gave him
my bag to take care of, and set out in search of a
tailor's shop. I found one close by, the “Emporium
of Fashion,” in Cherry street, where I procured
a full suit of clothes, very similar to those
which I had purchased in Maiden Lane, nearly
two years before. As I had not got the money
for my check, the tailor's book-keeper went with
me to the bank to get it changed, and having paid
him for my clothes, I put the balance in my pocket,
and went in search of Mrs. Riggs' boarding
house, for I was impatient to see somebody that I
knew, and I had no intention of returning again
to the Foul Anchor.
I found the place where I had left Mrs. Riggs' -- 004 --
house standing, with a brass plate on the door;
but no house stood there now: a street had been
cut through the very spot, and towering high brick
stores, with square granite pillars, had sprung up
[figure description] Page 004.[end figure description]
all around it. I could hardly believe that it was
the same place; but I inquired in one of the stores,
and found that it was. I inquired about Mrs.
Riggs, and was told that she had sold her lease to
an operator, in real estate, for ten thousand dollars;
and that she kept a genteel boarding house
in Broadway. I took her number, and soon found
the house. It appeared to me to be on the most
magnificent scale. There was a large silver plateon
the door, with “Riggs” engraved on it; it is not
a very imposing name in itself, but being surrounded
with a good many flourishes, it made a very
respectable appearance. I pulled the bell handle,
and the door was opened by a black man, with
gold lace on his coat collar, much finer than our
lieutenant of marines. He showed me into the
parlor, and Mrs. Riggs soon made her appearance;
she wore more ribands, and wrinkles too,
than when I saw her last; but I knew her, the
moment she entered, and I jumped up and took
her hand, and shook it very heartily; but she drew
back, and I was surprised when I found that she did
not recognise me.
I explained to her who I was, and then I had the -- 005 --
additional mortification of learning that she had
forgotten that she ever did know me; but it was
still a pleasure to me to see her, and I engaged
[figure description] Page 005.[end figure description]
the only vacant room she had. Her charges were
just treble what they were in Pearl street, and the
dinner hour was changed from two to five o'clock.
“Is not five o'clock a very late hour for dinner?”
“It may be for some,” replied Mrs. Riggs.
“Mechanics dine earlier, but five o'clock is much
I never knew before that one hour was more
particularly genteel than another; and as I was
anxious to conform, in all things, to the very genteelest
customs, I asked Mrs. Riggs what was considered
a genteel hour for going to bed.
“Some of the gentlemen,” she replied, “which
goes to the Opera, don't retire to rest until after
I apologized for my ignorance, by observing
that I had been absent from the country almost
two years, and that things appeared to have
changed very much.
“Been travelling?” asked Mrs. Riggs.
“Some,” I replied.
“They are quite genteel in Europe, I presume?”
suggested Mrs. Riggs.
“I presume they are,” I replied, “but I have
-- 006 --
not been travelling in Europe. I have only been
in South America.”
[figure description] Page 006.[end figure description]
“Ah,” said Mrs. Riggs, “that, I believe, is
near Cape Horn.”
“Somewhere in that neighborhood,” I answered.
“Were you in any of the gold, or silver mines?”
inquired Mrs. Riggs; whose views of South
America were very much like my own, before I
had any experimental knowledge on the subject.
Mrs. Riggs was called away before I had time
to make any reply, but I was not left a great while
to my reflections, for a young lady, almost immediately,
entered the parlor, and taking a seat at the
piano, began to thrum away, and scream with all
As I was not particularly charmed with the
young lady's voice, I left the parlor, and with the
hope of catching a glimpse of Georgiana De
Lancey, I walked up to St. John's Square; but
here I was doomed to another disappointment.
The house in which she had lived was pulled down,
and a larger and handsomer one was built in its
place. It was not finished, and a heap of rubbish
obstructed the side walk in front of it.
I returned to my boarding house, weary, disappointed,
-- 007 --
and dejected, and went up to my chamber,
and threw myself upon the bed to revolve in my
mind some plan for my future conduct.
[figure description] Page 007.[end figure description]
I could no longer derive consolation and pleasure
from the bright and glittering hopes which
crowded about me, before an encounter with the
stubborn realities of the world had put them all
to flight. I had to build my expectations out of
such materials as my slender experience had furnished
My first impulse was to go home, for I loved -- 008 --
my parents and my sister most dearly, and my
heart yearned after them. But I loved Georgiana
De Lancey also, although against hope and reason;
and I felt unwilling to leave New York without
first seeing her, or hearing of her; if I could
have caught but one glance of her soft blue eyes,
I should have felt happy; at least I thought so.
And then the prophetic words of my cousin, too,
rose up to deter me from returning home; how
could I meet his sneering look, while the great
object of my pursuit was not half accomplished.
It was true, I had money sufficient to enable me
to make a transient flourish before him; but as
I had no permanent source of income, and not
even a profession to lean upon, I should, by doing
so, only draw down fresh contempt upon my head,
not only from him, but from others. So I resolved
that I would not return to my home until I
had attained a station in the world that would
[figure description] Page 008.[end figure description]
entitle me to the respect of my cousin. And that I
might not be turned from my purpose, I determined
to keep my arrival at New York a secret
from my parents. I struggled hard with my feelings
in forming this determination, and many bitter
tears it cost me.
I got off the bed, and to soothe the anguish of my
feelings, paced back and forwards in the chamber.
I perceived there was a small black bottle standing
on the dressing table, which had probably
been left there by the former occupant of the
room; and thinking it was a cologne bottle, I
smelt of it; but its contents proved to be brandy.
I put it to my lips, and drained it dry.
It was dark; the air was warm and heavy, and
I sat down at the open window of my chamber
with my collar unbuttoned, and cast my eyes upward
to the stars, which shone dimly above me;
they seemed to be oppressed with the heat. I
felt very grand, and very gloomy. I threw my
hands above my head, and gazed upon the dim
stars, until they appeared to be shining within my
Men have delivered themselves of maudlin sublimity -- 009 --
before now, and much of it has been well
received by the world; why should not I do the
same? It was the last strain of the kind in which
[figure description] Page 009.[end figure description]
I indulged, and it shall not be lost to the lovers of
“Tell me,” I exclaimed, “ye bright and beautiful
-- 010 --
existences, glorious in your mystery, and eloquent
in your eternal silence; solitary in your companionships,
and in your might subservient, do ye
hold within your burning orbs the destinies of
beings like me? Creatures as ye are, formed as
I am, but to fulfil your ends, and then expire? If
ye do, O! reveal to me, in characters bright as
your own fires, the fate which awaits me! Or do
you, by your strong power, hold an unacknowledged
influence over the thoughts of men, leading
them to foretel, in their dull whisperings, those
changes of fortune, which should only be revealed
by your own voices. O, stars! bright and beautiful!
ye are high and enduring, but I am low
and transient. Speak to me, that I may know
my fate. Waste not your existence in ethereal
solitudes, but hold converse with me, who am
your fellow-being; we are children of the same
parent. Glorious cousins, satisfy my longings, and
give me to know whether I shall die the death
of old Cole's dog?”
Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 , The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 2 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v2].