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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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CHAPTER VI. My first dinner at a Hotel, and the consequences of taking wine too freely.

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Having thrown myself upon the bed, I slept until
the bell summoned me to dinner. I dressed myself,
and hurried down to the dining room; and seeing
at a glance that there was no standing upon
ceremony, took a seat at one of the long tables,
which were spread the whole length of a very long
room. I eat a plate of black looking soup which
was placed before me, and then waited to be helped
to something else, but nobody spoke, nor even
looked at me. There was a constant shouting of
“waiter! waiter! waiter!” and a confused noise
of the popping of corks, the rattling of dishes, and
the smacking of lips, enough to have confused my
senses, if they had not been sharpened by hunger.
The gentleman who sat at my left hand, was a lank
cadaverous looking personage, with long black
hair, and keen glossy eyes; he wore a white cambric
cravat, tied in a large bow knot in front, the
projecting points of which had intercepted not a
few droppings of tobacco juice; he spoke in a
drawling effeminate voice, but in a peremptory

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manner, to a stout negro man who stood behind
his chair, and jumped at his commands with the
greatest alacrity, while I could not get a waiter to
listen to me. There was a decanter of wine standing
between this gentleman's plate and mine, with
a piece of paper stuck round the neck, on which
was marked No. 49, which I took for the number
of the cask out of which it was drawn.

Finding that nobody was disposed to help me
to anything to eat, I thought I would help myself
to something to drink. “Is this Madeira?” I
asked of my left hand neighbor, pointing to the

“I imagine not, Sir,” he replied sharply; “I
kind o'reckon its sherry.”

“Is it indeed,” I said; “then I will try a glass of
it in remembrance of my father, for I have often
heard him say that sherry was his favorite wine.”
So I filled my glass, and drank it off with a good
relish, for it was smooth and finely flavored.

“That's right cool,” said my neighbor, fixing
his keen eyes upon me.

“Yes it is,” I replied; “I guess it has been iced.
I believe I shall try another glass.” And so I
took hold of the decanter again to help myself,
upon which the sallow faced gentleman started
upon his feet, and squealed out, “You infernal

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son of a northern abolitionist, I will teach you to
drink a gentleman's wine;” and at the same time
seizing a table knife, he made a pass at me, which
I fortunately dodged, and seized hold of the decanter
of wine, and aimed a blow at his head,
which would infallibly have cracked his skull, had
not the big negro interposed his head, and caught
the decanter in its descent upon his own wool,
thereby saving his master's head, but not his wine,
for the decanter was shivered into a thousand pieces,
and its contents flew over me and my antagonist.
My next impulse was to lay hold of a dish
of cranberry sauce, with which I might have
been more successful than with the decanter, but
before I had time to reach out my hand, I was
surrounded by a dozen, or more, men, who caught
hold of me, and dragged me out of the room, amid
a wild uproar of voices, which sounded in my ears
like the yells of demons. They dragged me
through the hall into a small room adjoining, two
having hold of my collar, and a stout fellow
hold of each arm. Some eight or ten men followed
into the room, and then one of them stood
with his back against the door to keep the others
from crowding in. Somebody on the outside
knocked and kicked very hard against the door,
and demanded entrance on the score of his being

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one of the gentlemen of the press. But the man
who was guarding the door refused to move, and
the gentleman of the press on the outside gave
another savage kick, and swore that the public
should be informed of the outrage it had suffered,
in the disrespect shown to his person.

Among the gentlemen who were admitted into
the room, was an elderly man with gold spectacles,
and a high bald forehead; they called him
“judge;” his heavy black eyebrows, and a protuberant
under lip, gave his face an expression of
sternness, and I trembled as he bent his eyes upon
me. He took a piece of paper and a pencil out
of his pocket, and asked me my name, and where
I was from; but I was so terrified I could make
no reply to him, but burst into tears.

“Don't be frightened, sir,” said the judge,
quietly; “nobody shall harm you, unless indeed
you deserve it very richly, which I am inclined to
believe is not the case.”

After a few sobs, which I could not suppress, I
told the judge my name, where I was from, and
the particulars of the affray, without being at all
aware of the offence I had committed.

“Ha! ha! ha!” roared the judge, as I concluded
my account; “I see through it all, I think;

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you did not attempt, then, to entice away the gentleman's

“A slave!” I exclaimed, in amazement, “I
never saw a slave in my life.”

“Well, well; but how is this, colonel?” said
the judge, addressing one of the gentlemen, “you
said you could swear you saw the young man put
a tract into the nigger's hand.”

“Well, I wish I mought never see ole Virginny
agin, if I could'nt a took a right smart oath I seen
him do it, any how; but praps I was mistaken, it
mought a been a napkin.”

“Very likely it was,” said the judge.

“Hows'ever,” said the colonel, “I'll take my
oath I seen him, if you wish; but as the young
gentleman says himself he did'nt done it, I reckon
I might as well not.”

“So I reckon,” said the judge. “Well, gentlemen,”
he continued, “I think you must be pretty
well satisfied of the young gentleman's innocence.”

“O, perfectly,” they all replied, without appearing
to have any will of their own about the

“I am satisfied if you is, judge,” said the colonel,
“but as you and I were at college together,
I should like just to swear to something to oblige

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The judge thanked him for his kind feelings,
but said there was no particular occasion just

For my own part, my amazement and terror
increased ever moment, and I was expecting to
hear sentence of death pronounced upon me, when
the judge cleared up all the mystery which hung
about the proceedings. “Let me advise you, Mr.
Franco,” said the judge kindly, “the next time
you feel an inclination for a glass of sherry, to
call for a bottle yourself, and not to drink another
gentleman's, unless he should offer it to
you. I don't know what the custom may be where
you were raised, but such things won't do down
south. That gentleman whose wine you made
free with with, was no less a person than the Honorable
Sylvanus Spliteer, the celebrated southern
orator, and these gentlemen are his particular
friends, who, hearing something said about abolitionists,
for their ears are very quick to catch
any thing that is said on that subject, and seeing
you and the orator in an antagonistic position,
they very naturally concluded that you were trying
to entice away his black boy, who was waiting
upon him at table.”

I did not think the conclusion was a very

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natural one, by any means, but I felt no inclination to
dispute the point.

“But I am very happy to find that all the difficulty
has arisen from a very natural mistake of
yours, in supposing that the wine upon the dinner
table, like the brandy and the butter, was for the
benefit of the public.”

Although the explanation of the judge had relieved
my fears, yet I felt so mortified and abashed,
in finding that I had been guilty of a gross breach
of good manners, that my face burned with shame,
and I could not raise my eyes from the floor. But
one of the gentlemen having stepped out of the room,
returned again, bringing Mr. Spliteer himself with
him, who having heard all the particulars, shook
me heartily by the hand, and insisted on my returning
to table, and drinking a bottle of wine
with him. The judge, and the colonel, and the
other gentlemen, said they would join us, and of
course I could not refuse so kind an invitation; so
we all returned to the dining room, where, as the
orator himself expressed it, the remainder of the
afternoon was spent with “a perfect looseness.”

I must confess that, after this, the titles of judge
and colonel lost something more than half their
awe inspiring influence over me; for such songs,
and such speeches, as came from the mouths of

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these gentlemen, I never listened to before nor since.
Even the orator himself outdid the colonel. The
other gentlemen, one of whom was a doctor, and
another a major, told several stories, and related
circumstances which they swore had happened to
themselves, although I had read of the same things
in an almanac when I was a little boy, and I remembered
that my grandmother told me they had
happened when she was a girl. I have no distinct
recollections of the manner in which the dinner
terminated; but I remember very vividly, that I
found myself, the next morning, lying on my
chamber floor, with a burning thirst, and a violent
pain in my head.

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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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