CHAPTER XXII. THE HOLIDAYS IN THE CITY.
The earliest hour at which a call can be paid, is ten o'clock. The ultra fashionables do not begin to "receive" until twelve. At the proper time, the lady of the house, attended by her daughters, if she has any, takes her stand in the drawing room by the hospitable board. In a little while, the door bell rings, and the first visitor is introduced. He salutes his hostess, and after a few pleasant words, is invited to partake of the refreshments. A few eatables are swallowed in haste - the visitor talking away all the while with his mouth full - a glass of wine or of punch is "gulped" down, and the gentleman bows himself out. He has no time to lose, for he has dozens of similar calls to make. This goes on until late at night.
A gentleman in starting out, provides himself with a written list of the calls he intends making, and "checks" each one off with his pencil, when made. This list is necessary, as few sober men can remember all their friends on such occasions, and after the first dozen visits are over, such a list is greatly needed. Each man tries to make as many calls as possible, so that he may boast of the feat afterwards. At the outset, of course, everything is conducted with the utmost propriety, but, as the day wears on, the generous liquors they have imbibed begin to "tell" upon the callers, and many eccentricities, to use no harsher term, are the result. Towards the close of the day, everything is in confusion - the door bell is never silent. Crowds of young men in various stages of intoxication rush into the lighted parlors, leer at the hostess in the vain effort to offer their respects, call for liquor, drink it, and stagger out, to repeat the scene at some other house. Frequently, they are unable to recognize the residences of their friends, and stagger into the wrong house. Some fall early in the day, and are put to bed by their friends; others sink down helpless at the feet of their hostess, and are sent home; and a few manage to get through the day. Strange as it may seem, it is no disgrace to get drunk on New Year's day. These indiscretions are expected at such times; and it not unfrequently happens that the ladies, themselves, succumb to the seductive influences of "punch" towards the close of the evening, and are put to bed by the servants. Those who do retire sober, are thoroughly worn out.
THE NEXT DAY.
The next day one half of New York is sick. Doctors are in demand. Headaches and various other ailments caused by "punch" are frequent. Business men have a weary, sleepless look, and it requires one or two nights' rest to restore mind and body to their proper condition. Should you call on a lady friend, you will probably find her indisposed - the cause of her sickness you can easily imagine. The Police Courts are busy on the Second of January. Disorder, drunkenness, and fighting are frequent on New Year's night.
The Fourth of July is simply a nuisance in New York. The weather is generally very warm. There is an early parade of the First Division of the National Guard, and at night there are fine displays of fireworks in various parts of the city. The greater part of the day, however, is devoted to drinking and acts of lawlessness. Fire-crackers, Roman candles, pin-wheels, and the like, abound. The police try to stop them, but without success. The city resounds with the discharges, the air is filled with sulphurous vapors, which irritate the throat and eyes, and the ears are stunned with the explosions. Young America is in his glory, and quiet, orderly people are driven nearly frantic.
On the 25th of November, 1783, the British troops evacuated the City of New York, and embarked on board their ships, and the American army, under the personal command of General Washington, occupied the city and its defences. This was a proud day for the city, and the whole country, and the people of New York have always commemorated it by a grand military display. It is honored by a parade of the First Division, and the troops are reviewed upon this occasion by the Governor of the State. The parade is the finest to be seen in America, twelve or thirteen thousand men, with cavalry and artillery, being under arms at the time.
This is a "home festival," and the observance of it was introduced by the New England element of the population. It is commemorated by morning service in all the churches. The rest of the day is given to rest and social enjoyment, and a bountiful dinner, for which all the members of a family assemble at some particular house, affords the occasion for many a friendly and domestic reunion. In the evening the theatres and places of amusement offer additional attractions to pleasure-seekers.
When the bell of old Trinity ceases to strike the hour of midnight, on the 24th of December, there is a brief pause, and then the full, rich chimes of the old church strike up a joyous peal. The sweet tones echo and re-echo through the dark and silent streets, bidding the great city rejoice, for the merry Christmas time has come.