Magnificence , like the size of a fortune , is always comparative , as even
Magnificent Lorenzo 3 may now perceive , if
he 3 has happened to haunt
New York 4 in 1916 ; and
the Ambersons 2 were magnificent in
their 2 day and place .
Their 2 splendour lasted throughout all the years that saw spread and darken into
a city 6 , but reached its topmost during the period when
kept a Newfoundland dog .
every prosperous family with
children 8 7
that town 5 , in those days ,
all the women who wore silk or velvet 9 knew
all the other women who wore silk or velvet 10 , and when there was a new purchase of sealskin ,
sick people 11 were got to windows to see it go by .
Trotters were out , in the winter afternoons , racing light sleighs on
National Avenue 12 and
Tennessee Street 13 ;
everybody 14 recognized both the trotters and
the drivers 15 ; and again knew
them 16 as well on summer evenings , when
slim buggies 17 whizzed by in renewals of the snow-time rivalry .
For that matter ,
everybody 18 knew
, could identify such a silhouette half a mile down
everybody else 20
's family horse-and-carriage 19
the street 21 , and thereby was sure who was going to
market 22 , or to a reception , or coming
home 23 from
office 24 or
store 25 to noon dinner or evening supper .
During the earlier years of this period , elegance of personal appearance was believed to rest more upon the texture of garments than upon their shaping .
A silk dress needed no remodelling when it was a year or so old ; it remained distinguished by merely remaining silk .
Old men 26 and
governors 27 wore broadcloth ; “ full dress ” was broadcloth with “ doeskin ” trousers ; and there were seen
men of all ages to whom a hat meant only that rigid , tall silk thing known to impudence as a “ stove-pipe . ” 28
town 5 and
these men 30 would wear no other hat , and , without self-consciousness ,
they 30 went rowing in such hats .
Shifting fashions of shape replaced aristocracy of texture :
dressmakers 31 ,
shoemakers 32 ,
hatmakers 33 , and
tailors 34 , increasing in cunning and in power , found means to make new clothes old .
The long contagion of the “ Derby ” hat arrived : one season the crown of this hat would be a bucket ; the next it would be a spoon .
Every house 35 still kept
its 35 bootjack , but high-topped boots gave way to shoes and “ congress gaiters ” ; and these were played through fashions that shaped them now with toes like box-ends and now with toes like the prows of
racing shells 36 .
Trousers with a crease were considered plebeian ; the crease proved that the garment had lain upon a shelf , and hence was “ ready-made ” ; these betraying trousers were called “ hand-me-downs , ” in allusion to the shelf .
In the early ' eighties , while bangs and bustles were having their way with
women 37 ,
was invented :
that variation of
the “ dude ” 39 38
he 39 wore trousers as tight as stockings , dagger-pointed shoes , a spoon “ Derby , ” a single-breasted coat called a “ Chesterfield , ” with short flaring skirts , a torturing cylindrical collar , laundered to a polish and three inches high , while
his 39 other neckgear might be a heavy , puffed cravat or a tiny bow fit for a doll 's braids .
With evening dress
he 39 wore a tan overcoat so short that
his 39 black coat-tails hung visible , five inches below the over-coat ; but after a season or two
he 39 lengthened
his 39 overcoat till it touched
his 39 heels , and
he 39 passed out of
his 39 tight trousers into trousers like great bags .
Then , presently ,
he 39 was seen no more , though the word that had been coined for
him 39 remained in the vocabularies of the impertinent .
It was a hairier day than this .
Beards were to
the wearers 40 ' fancy , and things as strange as the Kaiserliche boar-tusk moustache were commonplace .
“ Side-burns ” found nourishment upon childlike profiles ; great Dundreary whiskers blew like tippets over young shoulders ; moustaches were trained as lambrequins over forgotten mouths ; and it was possible for
to wear a mist of white whisker upon
a Senator of
the United States 42 41
his 41 throat only , not a newspaper in
the land 42 finding the ornament distinguished enough to warrant a lampoon .
Surely no more is needed to prove that so short a time ago
we 43 were living in another age !
At the beginning of
the Ambersons 2 ' great period
were of a pleasant architecture .
the houses of
the Midland town 5 45
They 45 lacked style , but also lacked pretentiousness , and whatever does not pretend at all has style enough .
They 45 stood in
commodious yards , well shaded by leftover forest trees , elm and walnut and beech , with here and there a line of tall sycamores where
the land 47
had been made by filling
the creek 49 46
, was built of brick upon a stone foundation , or of wood upon a brick foundation .
The house of
a “ prominent resident , ” 51
Military Square 52
National Avenue 53
Tennessee Street 54 50
it 50 had
a “ front porch ” 55 and
a “ back porch ” 56 ; often
a “ side porch , ” 57 too .
a “ front hall ” 58 ; there was
a “ side hall ” 59 ; and sometimes
a “ back hall . ” 60
“ front hall ” 58 opened
three rooms 61 ,
the “ parlour , ” 62
the “ sitting room , ” 63 and
the “ library ” 64 ; and
the library 64 could show warrant to
its 64 title -- for some reason
these people 2 bought books .
the family 2 sat more in
the library 64 than in
the “ sitting room , ” 63 while
callers 65 , when
they 65 came formally , were kept to
the “ parlour , ” 62
a place of formidable polish and discomfort 124 .
The upholstery of
the library 64 furniture was a little shabby ; but the hostile chairs and sofa of
the “ parlour 62 ” always looked new .
For all the wear and tear they got they should have lasted a thousand years .
Upstairs 66 were
the bedrooms 67 ; “
” the largest ;
's room 68
a smaller room for
one or two sons 71 70
one or two daughters 73 72
each of these rooms containing a double bed , a “ washstand , ” a “ bureau , ” a wardrobe , a little table , a rocking-chair , and often a chair or two that had been slightly damaged
, but not enough to justify either the expense of repair or decisive abandonment in
the attic 76 74
And there was always
( where the sewing-machine usually was kept ) , and during the ' seventies there developed an appreciation of the necessity for
a “ spare-room , ” for
visitors 78 77
a bathroom 79 .
the architects 80 placed
bathrooms 81 in
the new houses 82 , and
the older houses 83 tore out a cupboard or two , set up a boiler beside the kitchen stove , and sought a new godliness , each with
its own bathroom 84 .
plumber 86 joke , that many-branched evergreen , was planted at this time .
At the rear of
the house 87 ,
upstairs 66 was
a bleak little chamber 88 , called “ , ” and in
the stable 90 there was
, and called “
another bedroom , adjoining
the hayloft 92 91
the hired man 94
's room 93
House 87 and
stable 90 cost seven or eight thousand dollars to build , and
people with that much money to invest in such comforts 95 were classified as
the Rich 96 .
They 96 paid
two dollars a week , and , in the latter part of this period , two dollars and a half , and finally three dollars a week .
the inhabitant of
the girl 89
's room ” 88
She 89 was Irish , ordinarily , or German or it might be Scandinavian , but never native to
the land 42 unless
she 89 happened to be
a person of colour 125 .
had like wages , and sometimes
who lived in
the stable 90 100
he 99 , too , was lately
a steerage voyager 126 , but much oftener
he 99 was coloured .
After sunrise , on pleasant mornings ,
; laughter and shouting went up and down
the alleys behind
the stables 90
were gay 101
their 101 dusty lengths , with a lively accompaniment of curry-combs knocking against back fences and
stable 90 walls , for
the darkies 102 loved to curry
their 102 horses in
the alley 101 .
Darkies 102 always prefer to gossip in shouts instead of whispers ; and
they 102 feel that profanity , unless it be vociferous , is almost worthless .
Horrible phrases were caught by
early rising children 103 and carried to
older people 104 for definition , sometimes at inopportune moments ; while
less investigative children 105 would often merely repeat the phrases in some subsequent flurry of agitation , and yet bring about consequences so emphatic as to be recalled with ease in middle life .
They 102 have passed ,
; and the introspective horses
those darky hired-men of
the Midland town 5 102
they 102 curried and brushed and whacked and amiably cursed -- those good old horses switch their tails at flies no more .
For all their seeming permanence
they 1 might as well have been buffaloes -- or the buffalo laprobes that grew bald in patches and used to slide from
the careless drivers 106 ' knees and hang unconcerned , half way to the ground .
The stables 90 have been transformed into other likenesses , or swept away , like the woodsheds where were kept the stove-wood and kindling that
the “ girl ” 89 and
the “ hired-man ” 99 always quarrelled over : who should fetch it .
stable 90 and
woodshed 107 , and
all are gone .
the whole tribe of
the “ hired-man , ” 99 108
They 99 went quickly , yet so silently that
we 109 whom
they 99 served have not yet really noticed that
they 99 are vanished .
So with other vanishings .
the little bunty street-cars 110 on
the long , single track that went
troubled way among the cobblestones 111
At the rear door of
the car 110 there was no platform , but a step where
passengers 112 clung in wet clumps when the weather was bad and
the car 110 crowded .
The patrons 112 -- if not too absent-minded -- put
their 113 fares into a slot ; and
no conductor 114 paced the heaving floor , but
the driver 115 would rap remindingly with
his 115 elbow upon the glass of the door to
his 115 little open platform if the nickels and
the passengers 112 did not appear to coincide in number .
A lone mule drew
the car 110 , and sometimes drew
it 110 off the track , when
the passengers 112 would get out and push
it 110 on again .
They 112 really owed
it 110 courtesies like this , for
the car 110 was genially accommodating :
a lady 116 could whistle to
it 110 from an
upstairs 117 window , and
the car 110 would halt at once and wait for
her 116 while
she 116 shut the window , put on
her 116 hat and cloak , went
downstairs 118 , found an umbrella , told
the “ girl ” 89 what to have for dinner , and came forth from
the house 119 .
The previous passengers 120 made little objection to such gallantry on the part of
the car 110 :
they 120 were wont to expect as much for
themselves 120 on like occasion .
In good weather the mule pulled
the car 110 a mile in a little less than twenty minutes , unless the stops were too long ; but when
the trolley-car 121 came , doing
its 121 mile in five minutes and better ,
it 121 would wait for
nobody 122 .
Nor could have endured such a thing , because the faster
they 123 were carried the less time
they 123 had to spare !
In the days before deathly contrivances hustled
them 123 through
their 123 lives , and when
they 123 had no telephones -- another ancient vacancy profoundly responsible for leisure --
they 123 had time for everything : time to think , to talk , time to read , time to wait for
a lady 116 !