In Old New York

Amusements and Sports,
page 2 of 12

A basket with tea, sugar, and the other usual provisionns for breakfast, with the apparatus for cooking it; a little rum and fruit for making cool weak punch, the usual beverage in the middle of the day, and now and then some cold pastry, was the sole provision; for the great affair was to depend on the sole exertions of the boys in procuring fish, wild ducks, &c., for their dinner. They were all, like Indians, ready and dexterous with the axe, gun, &c. Whenever they arrived at their destinaation, they sought out a dry and beautiful spot opposite to the river, and in an instant with their axes cleared so much superfluous shade or shrubbery as left a semicircular opening, above which they bent and twined the boughs, so as to form a pleasant bower, while the girls gathered dried branches, to which one of the youths soon set fire with gunpowder, and the breakfast, a very regular and cheerful one, occupied an hour or two. The young men then set out to fish, or perhaps to shoot birds, and the maidens sat busily down to their work. After the sultry hours had been thus employed, the boys brought their tribute from the river or the wood, and found a rural meal prepared by their fair companions, among whom were generally their sisters and the chosen of their hearts. After dinner they all set out together to gather wild straw-berries, or whatever other fruit was in season; for it was accounted a reflection to come home emptyhanded. When wearied of this, they either drank tea in their bower, or, returning, landed at some friend’s on the way, to partake of that refreshment.”

Suburban taverns were much resorted to at a little later date by all town-folk, and “ladies and gentlemen were entertained in the genteelest manner.” New Yorkers specially liked the fish-dinners furnished at an inn perched on Brooklyn Heights; and twice a week they could drive to a turtle-feast at a beloved retreat on the East River, always taking much care to return over the Kissing Bridge, where, says with approval a reverend gentleman, a traveller of ante-Revolutionary days, “it is part of the etiquette to salute the lady who has put herself under your protection.” More idyllic still was the rowing across the river to Brooklyn, to the noble tulip-tree near the ferry, with its great spreading shadowy branches, so cool in summer suns, and glorious with tropical blooms, and hospitable with a vast shining hollow trunk which would hold six or eight happy summer revellers within the sheltering walls. Would I could sing The Tulip-Tree as Cowper did The Sofa; with its happy summer groups, its beauty, its pathetic end, and the simple joys it sheltered, — as extinct as the species to which the tree itself belongs!


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