Best American Humorous Short Stories HTML version

The Watkinson Evening
[From Godey's Lady's Book, December, 1846.]
By Eliza Leslie (1787-1858)
Mrs. Morland, a polished and accomplished woman, was the widow of a distinguished
senator from one of the western states, of which, also, her husband had twice filled the
office of governor. Her daughter having completed her education at the best boarding-
school in Philadelphia, and her son being about to graduate at Princeton, the mother had
planned with her children a tour to Niagara and the lakes, returning by way of Boston. On
leaving Philadelphia, Mrs. Morland and the delighted Caroline stopped at Princeton to be
present at the annual commencement, and had the happiness of seeing their beloved
Edward receive his diploma as bachelor of arts; after hearing him deliver, with great
applause, an oration on the beauties of the American character. College youths are very
prone to treat on subjects that imply great experience of the world. But Edward Morland
was full of kind feeling for everything and everybody; and his views of life had hitherto
been tinted with a perpetual rose-color.
Mrs. Morland, not depending altogether upon the celebrity of her late husband, and
wishing that her children should see specimens of the best society in the northern cities,
had left home with numerous letters of introduction. But when they arrived at New York,
she found to her great regret, that having unpacked and taken out her small traveling
desk, during her short stay in Philadelphia, she had strangely left it behind in the closet of
her room at the hotel. In this desk were deposited all her letters, except two which had
been offered to her by friends in Philadelphia. The young people, impatient to see the
wonders of Niagara, had entreated her to stay but a day or two in the city of New York,
and thought these two letters would be quite sufficient for the present. In the meantime
she wrote back to the hotel, requesting that the missing desk should be forwarded to New
York as soon as possible.
On the morning after their arrival at the great commercial metropolis of America, the
Morland family took a carriage to ride round through the principal parts of the city, and
to deliver their two letters at the houses to which they were addressed, and which were
both situated in the region that lies between the upper part of Broadway and the North
River. In one of the most fashionable streets they found the elegant mansion of Mrs. St.
Leonard; but on stopping at the door, were informed that its mistress was not at home.
They then left the introductory letter (which they had prepared for this mischance, by
enclosing it in an envelope with a card), and proceeding to another street considerably
farther up, they arrived at the dwelling of the Watkinson family, to the mistress of which
the other Philadelphia letter was directed. It was one of a large block of houses all exactly
alike, and all shut up from top to bottom, according to a custom more prevalent in New
York than in any other city.