Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dapper Dan, or BAN.

O be the common dormitory as well as parlor. To my surprise and chagrin,
the girls and their dowdy mother had, in those brief moments of
transition, contrived to arrange their hair and dress to a degree which
took from them all those picturesque qualities with which they had been
invested at the time of my arrival. The father was being reproved, as he
emerged upon the porch, for not “slick’n’ his ha’r, and wash’n’ and
fix’n’ up, afore hay’n’ his pictur’ taken;” but the old fellow was
obdurate, and joined me in remonstrance against this transformation to
the commonplace, on the part of his women-folk. However, there was no
profit in arguing with them, and I took my snap-shot with a conviction
that the film was being wasted. We were in several small towns to-day,
in pursuance of the policy of distributing our shopping, so as to see as
much of the shore life as practicable. Chief among them have been New
Matamoras (141 miles) and St. Mary’s (154 miles), in West Virginia, and
Newport, in Ohio (155 miles). Rather dingy villages, these–each, after
their kind, with a stone wharf thick-grown with weeds; a flouring mill
at the head of the landing; a few cheap-looking, battlemented stores;
boys and men lounging about with that air of comfortable idling which
impresses one as the main characteristic of rustic hamlets, where nobody
seems ever to have anything to do; a ferry running to the opposite
shore–for cattle and wagons, a heavy flat, with railings, made to drift
with the current; and for foot passengers, a lumbering skiff, with oars
chucking noisily in their roomy locks. Every now and then we run across
bunches of oil and gas wells; and great signs, like those advertising
boards which greet railway travelers approaching our large cities, are
here and there perched upon the banks, notifying steamboat pilots, in
letters a foot high, that a pipe line here crosses the river,