Their Pilgrimage

Author: Charles Dudley Warner

II Cape May, Atlantic City

Of course you will not go to Cape May till the season opens. You might as well go to a race-track the day there is no race." It was Mrs. Cortlandt who was speaking, and the remonstrance was addressed to Mr. Stanhope King, and a young gentleman, Mr. Graham Forbes, who had just been presented to her as an artist, in the railway station at Philadelphia, that comfortable home of the tired and bewildered traveler. Mr. Forbes, with his fresh complexion, closely cropped hair, and London clothes, did not look at all like the traditional artist, although the sharp eyes of Mrs. Cortlandt detected a small sketch-book peeping out of his side pocket.

"On the contrary, that is why we go," said Mr. King. "I’ve a fancy that I should like to open a season once myself."

"Besides," added Mr. Forbes, "we want to see nature unadorned. You know, Mrs. Cortlandt, how people sometimes spoil a place."

"I’m not sure," answered the lady, laughing, "that people have not spoiled you two and you need a rest. Where else do you go?"

"Well, I thought," replied Mr. King, "from what I heard, that Atlantic City might appear best with nobody there."

"Oh, there’s always some one there. You know, it is a winter resort now. And, by the way— But there’s my train, and the young ladies are beckoning to me." (Mrs. Cortlandt was never seen anywhere without a party of young ladies.) "Yes, the Bensons passed through Washington the other day from the South, and spoke of going to Atlantic City to tone up a little before the season, and perhaps you know that Mrs. Benson took a great fancy to you, Mr. King. Good-by, au revoir," and the lady was gone with her bevy of girls, struggling in the stream that poured towards one of the wicket-gates.

"Atlantic City? Why, Stanhope, you don’t think of going there also?"

"I didn’t think of it, but, hang it all, my dear fellow, duty is duty. There are some places you must see in order to be well informed. Atlantic City is an important place; a great many of its inhabitants spend their winters in Philadelphia."

"And this Mrs. Benson?"

"No, I’m not going down there to see Mrs. Benson."

Expectancy was the word when our travelers stepped out of the car at Cape May station. Except for some people who seemed to have business there, they were the only passengers. It was the ninth of June. Everything was ready—the sea, the sky, the delicious air, the long line of gray-colored coast, the omnibuses, the array of hotel tooters. As they stood waiting in irresolution a grave man of middle age and a disinterested manner sauntered up to the travelers, and slipped into friendly relations with them. It was impossible not to incline to a person so obliging and well stocked with local information. Yes, there were several good hotels open. It didn’t make much difference; there was one near at hand, not pretentious, but probably as comfortable as any. People liked the table; last summer used to come there from other hotels to get a meal. He was going that way, and would walk along with them. He did, and conversed most interestingly on the way. Our travelers felicitated themselves upon falling into such good hands, but when they reached the hotel designated it had such a gloomy and in fact boardinghouse air that they hesitated, and thought they would like to walk on a little farther and see the town before settling. And their friend appeared to feel rather grieved about it, not for himself, but for them. He had moreover, the expression of a fisherman who has lost a fish after he supposed it was securely hooked. But our young friends had been angled for in a good many waters, and they told the landlord, for it was the landlord, that while they had no doubt his was the best hotel in the place, they would like to look at some not so good. The one that attracted them, though they could not see in what the attraction lay, was a tall building gay with fresh paint in many colors, some pretty window balconies, and a portico supported by high striped columns that rose to the fourth story. They were fond of color, and were taken by six little geraniums planted in a circle amid the sand in front of the house, which were waiting for the season to open before they began to grow. With hesitation they stepped upon the newly varnished piazza and the newly varnished office floor, for every step left a footprint. The chairs, disposed in a long line on the piazza, waiting for guests, were also varnished, as the artist discovered when he sat in one of them and was held fast. It was all fresh and delightful. The landlord and the clerks had smiles as wide as the open doors; the waiters exhibited in their eagerness a good imitation of unselfish service.

It was very pleasant to be alone in the house, and to be the first-fruits of such great expectations. The first man of the season is in such a different position from the last. He is like the King of Bavaria alone in his royal theatre. The ushers give him the best seat in the house, he hears the tuning of the instruments, the curtain is about to rise, and all for him. It is a very cheerful desolation, for it has a future, and everything quivers with the expectation of life and gayety. Whereas the last man is like one who stumbles out among the empty benches when the curtain has fallen and the play is done. Nothing is so melancholy as the shabbiness of a watering-place at the end of the season, where is left only the echo of past gayety, the last guests are scurrying away like leaves before the cold, rising wind, the varnish has worn off, shutters are put up, booths are dismantled, the shows are packing up their tawdry ornaments, and the autumn leaves collect in the corners of the gaunt buildings.

Could this be the Cape May about which hung so many traditions of summer romance? Where were those crowds of Southerners, with slaves and chariots, and the haughtiness of a caste civilization, and the belles from Baltimore and Philadelphia and Charleston and Richmond, whose smiles turned the heads of the last generation? Had that gay society danced itself off into the sea, and left not even a phantom of itself behind? As he sat upon the veranda, King could not rid himself of the impression that this must be a mocking dream, this appearance of emptiness and solitude. Why, yes, he was certainly in a delusion, at least in a reverie. The place was alive. An omnibus drove to the door (though no sound of wheels was heard); the waiters rushed out, a fat man descended, a little girl was lifted down, a pretty woman jumped from the steps with that little extra bound on the ground which all women confessedly under forty always give when they alight from a vehicle, a large woman lowered herself cautiously out, with an anxious look, and a file of men stooped and emerged, poking their umbrellas and canes in each other’s backs. Mr. King plainly saw the whole party hurry into the office and register their names, and saw the clerk repeatedly touch a bell and throw back his head and extend his hand to a servant. Curious to see who the arrivals were, he went to the register. No names were written there. But there were other carriages at the door, there was a pile of trunks on the veranda, which he nearly stumbled over, although his foot struck nothing, and the chairs were full, and people were strolling up and down the piazza. He noticed particularly one couple promenading—a slender brunette, with a brilliant complexion; large dark eyes that made constant play—could it be the belle of Macon?—and a gentleman of thirty-five, in black frock-coat, unbuttoned, with a wide-brimmed soft hat-clothes not quite the latest style—who had a good deal of manner, and walked apart from the young lady, bending towards her with an air of devotion. Mr. King stood one side and watched the endless procession up and down, up and down, the strollers, the mincers, the languid, the nervous steppers; noted the eye-shots, the flashing or the languishing look that kills, and never can be called to account for the mischief it does; but not a sound did he hear of the repartee and the laughter. The place certainly was thronged. The avenue in front was crowded with vehicles of all sorts; there were groups strolling on the broad beach-children with their tiny pails and shovels digging pits close to the advancing tide, nursery-maids in fast colors, boys in knickerbockers racing on the beach, people lying on the sand, resolute walkers, whose figures loomed tall in the evening light, doing their constitutional. People were passing to and fro on the long iron pier that spider-legged itself out into the sea; the two rooms midway were filled with sitters taking the evening breeze; and the large ball and music room at the end, with its spacious outside promenade-yes, there were dancers there, and the band was playing. Mr. King could see the fiddlers draw their bows, and the corneters lift up their horns and get red in the face, and the lean man slide his trombone, and the drummer flourish his sticks, but not a note of music reached him. It might have been a performance of ghosts for all the effect at this distance. Mr. King remarked upon this dumb-show to a gentleman in a blue coat and white vest and gray hat, leaning against a column near him. The gentleman made no response. It was most singular. Mr. King stepped back to be out of the way of some children racing down the piazza, and, half stumbling, sat down in the lap of a dowager—no, not quite; the chair was empty, and he sat down in the fresh varnish, to which his clothes stuck fast. Was this a delusion? No. The tables were filled in the dining-room, the waiters were scurrying about, there were ladies on the balconies looking dreamily down upon the animated scene below; all the movements of gayety and hilarity in the height of a season. Mr. King approached a group who were standing waiting for a carriage, but they did not see him, and did not respond to his trumped-up question about the next train. Were these, then, shadows, or was he a spirit himself? Were these empty omnibuses and carriages that discharged ghostly passengers? And all this promenading and flirting and languishing and love-making, would it come to nothing-nothing more than usual? There was a charm about it all—the movement, the color, the gray sand, and the rosy blush on the sea—a lovely place, an enchanted place. Were these throngs the guests that were to come, or those that had been herein other seasons? Why could not the former "materialize" as well as the latter? Is it not as easy to make nothing out of what never yet existed as out of what has ceased to exist? The landlord, by faith, sees all this array which is prefigured so strangely to Mr. King; and his comely young wife sees it and is ready for it; and the fat son at the supper table—a living example of the good eating to be had here—is serene, and has the air of being polite and knowing to a houseful. This scrap of a child, with the aplomb of a man of fifty, wise beyond his fatness, imparts information to the travelers about the wine, speaks to the waiter with quiet authority, and makes these mature men feel like boys before the gravity of our perfect flower of American youth who has known no childhood. This boy at least is no phantom; the landlord is real, and the waiters, and the food they bring.

"I suppose," said Mr. King to his friend, "that we are opening the season. Did you see anything outdoors?"

"Yes; a horseshoe-crab about a mile below here on the smooth sand, with a long dotted trail behind him, a couple of girls in a pony-cart who nearly drove over me, and a tall young lady with a red parasol, accompanied by a big black-and-white dog, walking rapidly, close to the edge of the sea, towards the sunset. It’s just lovely, the silvery sweep of coast in this light."

"It seems a refined sort of place in its outlines, and quietly respectable. They tell me here that they don’t want the excursion crowds that overrun Atlantic City, but an Atlantic City man, whom I met at the pier, said that Cape May used to be the boss, but that Atlantic City had got the bulge on it now—had thousands to the hundreds here. To get the bulge seems a desirable thing in America, and I think we’d better see what a place is like that is popular, whether fashion recognizes it or not."

The place lost nothing in the morning light, and it was a sparkling morning with a fresh breeze. Nature, with its love of simple, sweeping lines, and its feeling for atmospheric effect, has done everything for the place, and bad taste has not quite spoiled it. There is a sloping, shallow beach, very broad, of fine, hard sand, excellent for driving or for walking, extending unbroken three miles down to Cape May Point, which has hotels and cottages of its own, and lifesaving and signal stations. Off to the west from this point is the long sand line to Cape Henlopen, fourteen miles away, and the Delaware shore. At Cape May Point there is a little village of painted wood houses, mostly cottages to let, and a permanent population of a few hundred inhabitants. From the pier one sees a mile and a half of hotels and cottages, fronting south, all flaming, tasteless, carpenter’s architecture, gay with paint. The sea expanse is magnificent, and the sweep of beach is fortunately unencumbered, and vulgarized by no bath-houses or show-shanties. The bath-houses are in front of the hotels and in their enclosures; then come the broad drive, and the sand beach, and the sea. The line is broken below by the lighthouse and a point of land, whereon stands the elephant. This elephant is not indigenous, and he stands alone in the sand, a wooden sham without an explanation. Why the hotel-keeper’s mind along the coast regards this grotesque structure as a summer attraction it is difficult to see. But when one resort had him, he became a necessity everywhere. The travelers walked down to this monster, climbed the stairs in one of his legs, explored the rooms, looked out from the saddle, and pondered on the problem. This beast was unfinished within and unpainted without, and already falling into decay. An elephant on the desert, fronting the Atlantic Ocean, had, after all, a picturesque aspect, and all the more so because he was a deserted ruin.

The elephant was, however, no emptier than the cottages about which our friends strolled. But the cottages were all ready, the rows of new chairs stood on the fresh piazzas, the windows were invitingly open, the pathetic little patches of flowers in front tried hard to look festive in the dry sands, and the stout landladies in their rocking-chairs calmly knitted and endeavored to appear as if they expected nobody, but had almost a houseful.

Yes, the place was undeniably attractive. The sea had the blue of Nice; why must we always go to the Mediterranean for an aqua marina, for poetic lines, for delicate shades? What charming gradations had this picturegray sand, blue waves, a line of white sails against the pale blue sky! By the pier railing is a bevy of little girls grouped about an ancient colored man, the very ideal old Uncle Ned, in ragged, baggy, and disreputable clothes, lazy good-nature oozing out of every pore of him, kneeling by a telescope pointed to a bunch of white sails on the horizon; a dainty little maiden, in a stiff white skirt and golden hair, leans against him and tiptoes up to the object-glass, shutting first one eye and then the other, and making nothing out of it all. " Why, ov co’se you can’t see nuffln, honey," said Uncle Ned, taking a peep, "wid the ’scope p’inted up in the sky."

In order to pass from Cape May to Atlantic City one takes a long circuit by rail through the Jersey sands. Jersey is a very prolific State, but the railway traveler by this route is excellently prepared for Atlantic City, for he sees little but sand, stunted pines, scrub oaks, small frame houses, sometimes trying to hide in the clumps of scrub oaks, and the 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 way?

"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 separately."

"Well, now! I suppose they have to there."

"Yes; the older nations grow, the more self-conscious they become."

"I don’t believe, for all you say, Mr. King, the French have any more conscience than we have."

"Nor do I, Mrs. Benson. I was only trying to say that they pay more attention to appearances."

"Well, I was brought up to think it’s one thing to appear, and another thing to be," said Mrs. Benson, as dismissing the subject. "So your friend’s an artist? Does he paint? Does he take portraits? There was an artist at Cyrusville last winter who painted portraits, but Irene wouldn’t let him do hers. I’m glad we’ve met Mr. Forbes. I’ve always wanted to have—"

"Oh, mother," exclaimed Irene, who always appeared to keep one ear for her mother’s conversation, "I was just saying to Mr. Forbes that he ought to see the art exhibitions down at the other end of the promenade, and the pictures of the people who come here in August. Are you rested?"

The party moved along, and Mr. King, by a movement that seemed to him more natural than it did to Mr. Forbes, walked with Irene, and the two fell to talking about the last spring’s trip in the South.

"Yes, we enjoyed the exhibition, but I am not sure but I should have enjoyed New Orleans more without the exhibition. That took so much time. There is nothing so wearisome as an exhibition. But New Orleans was charming. I don’t know why, for it’s the flattest, dirtiest, dampest city in the world; but it is charming. Perhaps it’s the people, or the Frenchiness of it, or the tumble-down, picturesque old creole quarter, or the roses; I didn’t suppose there were in the world so many roses; the town was just wreathed and smothered with them. And you did not see it?"

"No; I have been to exhibitions, and I thought I should prefer to take New Orleans by itself some other time. You found the people hospitable?"

"Well, they were not simply hospitable; they were that, to be sure, for father had letters to some of the leading men; but it was the general air of friendliness and good-nature everywhere, of agreeableness—it went along with the roses and the easy-going life. You didn’t feel all the time on a strain. I don’t suppose they are any better than our people, and I’ve no doubt I should miss a good deal there after a while— a certain tonic and purpose in life. But, do you know, it is pleasant sometimes to be with people who haven’t so many corners as our people have. But you went south from Fortress Monroe?"

"Yes; I went to Florida."

"Oh, that must be a delightful country!"

"Yes, it’s a very delightful land, or will be when it is finished. It needs advertising now. It needs somebody to call attention to it. The modest Northerners who have got hold of it, and staked it all out into city lots, seem to want to keep it all to themselves."

"How do you mean ’finished’?"

"Why, the State is big enough, and a considerable portion of it has a good foundation. What it wants is building up. There’s plenty of water and sand, and palmetto roots and palmetto trees, and swamps, and a perfectly wonderful vegetation of vines and plants and flowers. What it needs is land—at least what the Yankees call land. But it is coming on. A good deal of the State below Jacksonville is already ten to fifteen feet above the ocean."

"But it’s such a place for invalids!"

"Yes, it is a place for invalids. There are two kinds of people there— invalids and speculators. Thousands of people in the bleak North, and especially in the Northwest, cannot live in the winter anywhere else than in Florida. It’s a great blessing to this country to have such a sanitarium. As I said, all it needs is building up, and then it wouldn’t be so monotonous and malarious."

"But I had such a different idea of it!"

"Well, your idea is probably right. You cannot do justice to a place by describing it literally. Most people are fascinated by Florida: the fact is that anything is preferable to our Northern climate from February to May."

"And you didn’t buy an orange plantation, or a town?"

"No; I was discouraged. Almost any one can have a town who will take a boat and go off somewhere with a surveyor, and make a map."

The truth is—the present writer had it from Major Blifill, who runs a little steamboat upon one of the inland creeks where the alligator is still numerous enough to be an entertainment—that Mr. King was no doubt malarious himself when he sailed over Florida. Blifill says he offended a whole boatful one day when they were sailing up the St. John’s. Probably he was tired of water, and swamp and water, and scraggy trees and water. The captain was on the bow, expatiating to a crowd of listeners on the fertility of the soil and the salubrity of the climate. He had himself bought a piece of ground away up there somewhere for two hundred dollars, cleared it up, and put in orange-trees, and thousands wouldn’t buy it now. And Mr. King, who listened attentively, finally joined in with the questioners, and said, "Captain, what is the average price of land down in this part of Florida by the—gallon?"

They had come down to the booths, and Mrs. Benson was showing the artist the shells, piles of conchs, and other outlandish sea-fabrications in which it is said the roar of the ocean can be heard when they are hundreds of miles away from the sea. It was a pretty thought, Mr. Forbes said, and he admired the open shells that were painted on the insidepainted in bright blues and greens, with dabs of white sails and a lighthouse, or a boat with a bare-armed, resolute young woman in it, sending her bark spinning over waves mountain-high.

Yes," said the artist, "what cheerfulness those works of art will give to the little parlors up in the country, when they are set up with other shells on the what-not in the corner! These shells always used to remind me of missionaries and the cause of the heathen; but when I see them now I shall think of Atlantic City."

"But the representative things here," interrupted Irene, "are the photographs, the tintypes. To see them is just as good as staying here to see the people when they come."

"Yes," responded Mr. King, "I think art cannot go much further in this direction."

If there were not miles of these show-cases of tintypes, there were at least acres of them. Occasionally an instantaneous photograph gave a lively picture of the beach, when the water was full of bathers-men, women, children, in the most extraordinary costumes for revealing or deforming the human figure—all tossing about in the surf. But most of the pictures were taken on dry land, of single persons, couples, and groups in their bathing suits. Perhaps such an extraordinary collection of humanity cannot be seen elsewhere in the world, such a uniformity of one depressing type reduced to its last analysis by the sea-toilet. Sometimes it was a young man and a maiden, handed down to posterity in dresses that would have caused their arrest in the street, sentimentally reclining on a canvas rock. Again it was a maiden with flowing hair, raised hands clasped, eyes upturned, on top of a crag, at the base of which the waves were breaking in foam. Or it was the same stalwart maiden, or another as good, in a boat which stood on end, pulling through the surf with one oar, and dragging a drowning man (in a bathing suit also) into the boat with her free hand. The legend was, "Saved." There never was such heroism exhibited by young women before, with such raiment, as was shown in these rare works of art.

As they walked back to the hotel through a sandy avenue lined with jigsaw architecture, Miss Benson pointed out to them some things that she said had touched her a good deal. In the patches of sand before each house there was generally an oblong little mound set about with a rim of stones, or, when something more artistic could be afforded, with shells. On each of these little graves was a flower, a sickly geranium, or a humble marigold, or some other floral token of affection.

Mr. Forbes said he never was at a watering-place before where they buried the summer boarders in the front yard. Mrs. Benson didn’t like joking on such subjects, and Mr. King turned the direction of the conversation by remarking that these seeming trifles were really of much account in these days, and he took from his pocket a copy of the city newspaper, ’The Summer Sea-Song,’ and read some of the leading items: "S., our eye is on you." "The Slopers have come to their cottage on Q Street, and come to stay." "Mr. E. P. Borum has painted his front steps." "Mr. Diffendorfer’s marigold is on the blow." And so on, and so on. This was probably the marigold mentioned that they were looking at.

The most vivid impression, however, made upon the visitor in this walk was that of paint. It seemed unreal that there could be so much paint in the world and so many swearing colors. But it ceased to be a dream, and they were taken back into the hard, practical world, when, as they turned the corner, Irene pointed out her favorite sign:

Silas Lapham, mineral paint.
Branch Office.

The artist said, a couple of days after this morning, that he had enough of it. "Of course," he added, "it is a great pleasure to me to sit and talk with Mrs. Benson, while you and that pretty girl walk up and down the piazza all the evening; but I’m easily satisfied, and two evenings did for me."

So that, much as Mr. King was charmed with Atlantic City, and much as he regretted not awaiting the arrival of the originals of the tintypes, he gave in to the restlessness of the artist for other scenes; but not before he had impressed Mrs. Benson with a notion of the delights of Newport in July.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Their Pilgrimage

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Their Pilgrimage

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Charles Dudley Warner, "II Cape May, Atlantic City," Their Pilgrimage, ed. Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937 and trans. Townsend, R.S. in Their Pilgrimage (New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1916), Original Sources, accessed August 19, 2019,

MLA: Warner, Charles Dudley. "II Cape May, Atlantic City." Their Pilgrimage, edited by Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937, and translated by Townsend, R.S., in Their Pilgrimage, Vol. 22, New York, A. L. Burt Company, 1916, Original Sources. 19 Aug. 2019.

Harvard: Warner, CD, 'II Cape May, Atlantic City' in Their Pilgrimage, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, Their Pilgrimage, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 19 August 2019, from