Urban Sketches eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 58 pages of information about Urban Sketches.
and closed my eyes until the forms and benches of a country schoolroom came back to me, redolent with the incense of fennel covertly stowed away in my desk, and gazed again in silent rapture on the round, red cheeks and long black braids of that peerless creature whose glance had often caused my cheeks to glow over the preternatural collar, which at that period of my boyhood it was my pride and privilege to wear.  As I fear I may be often thought hypercritical and censorious in these articles, I am willing to record this as one of the advantages of our new house, not mentioned in the advertisement, nor chargeable in the rent.  May the present tenant, who is a stock-broker, and who impresses me with the idea of having always been called “Mr.” from his cradle up, enjoy this advantage, and try sometimes to remember he was a boy!

III.

Soon after I moved into Happy Valley I was struck with the remarkable infelicity of its title.  Generous as Californians are in the use of adjectives, this passed into the domain of irony.  But I was inclined to think it sincere,—­the production of a weak but gushing mind, just as the feminine nomenclature of streets in the vicinity was evidently bestowed by one in habitual communion with “Friendship’s Gifts” and “Affection’s Offerings.”

Our house on Laura Matilda Street looked somewhat like a toy Swiss Cottage,—­a style of architecture so prevalent, that in walking down the block it was quite difficult to resist an impression of fresh glue and pine shavings.  The few shade-trees might have belonged originally to those oval Christmas boxes which contain toy villages; and even the people who sat by the windows had a stiffness that made them appear surprisingly unreal and artificial.  A little dog belonging to a neighbor was known to the members of my household by the name of “Glass,” from the general suggestion he gave of having been spun of that article.  Perhaps I have somewhat exaggerated these illustrations of the dapper nicety of our neighborhood,—­a neatness and conciseness which I think have a general tendency to belittle, dwarf, and contract their objects.  For we gradually fell into small ways and narrow ideas, and to some extent squared the round world outside to the correct angles of Laura Matilda Street.

One reason for this insincere quality may have been the fact that the very foundations of our neighborhood were artificial.  Laura Matilda Street was “made ground.”  The land, not yet quite reclaimed, was continually struggling with its old enemy.  We had not been long in our new home before we found an older tenant, not yet wholly divested of his rights, who sometimes showed himself in clammy perspiration on the basement walls, whose damp breath chilled our dining-room, and in the night struck a mortal chilliness through the house.  There were no patent fastenings that could keep him out,—­no writ of unlawful detainer that could eject him.  In the winter

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Urban Sketches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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