In 1870, the St. Lawrence Republican (of Ogdensburg) ran a story headed “R.S.V.P., or the Van Rensselaer Skating Park,” and promised that “The following ‘local story,’ taken from the Albany Evening Journal, is told in good enough style to make it interesting to the general reader.” Since we were already on the topic of the skating park, we thought we’d present it here.
R.S.V.P. – The Van Rensselaer Skating Park is not the thing of beauty and joy forever that it once was. Skating hereabouts is on a slippery road, and bids fair to be soon numbered among the lost arts. Before the final crash takes place, before the Van Rensselaer Skating Park melts entirely from memory, we wish to record here one fact in regard to it, one story depending upon it, which is too good, and too sadly true, to be lost.
There resided in Grafton, Rensselaer County, in this State, a few years ago, when the Van Rensselaer Skating Park was in its first glaring popularity, a young gentleman who meant well, but didn’t mean enough. He was a trifle crude, not to say green; he had not had those cosmopolitan experiences whose results are summed up in the terse compliment, “He’s traveled.”
The young archer, with the tormenting arrows, sighted him one day and sent a dart for his heart, which “went home” as unerringly as a Haymaker in a close match with “Mutual” friends.
So it happened that our young friend woke up one morning – as the sun was touching with fine gold the towers and battlements of Grafton – and found himself not “famous,” but famously in love. She was a little thing from Troy – a pretty young blonde, with such fair, fair golden hair; “it looks like woven lightning,” was the opinion he expressed in regard to it, through the medium of the postal service.
A letter from Grafton to Troy, from Troy to Grafton, was but a matter of twelve hours, and the little blonde and her Grafton lover sent the white missiles thick and fast.
Kind messages that fly from land to land,
Kind letters, that betray the heart’s deep history,
In which we feel the pressure of a hand,
One touch of fire, and all the rest is mystery.
He used to repeat those lines from Longfellow to her, and when she acknowledged to fancying them very much, and confessed to their being “so sweet,” he had them forthwith printed neatly with her monogram on ever so many quires of paper, and made it all a present to his love, with his love. The little blonde in response came out in one of her most charming blushes, accepted the paper, and said she made all the quires vocal, for his benefit. He bowed in bewildering delight, and leaving her that day, was linked sweetness of sorrow.
It was but two days afterwards that the young lady took a sheet of her nice new paper, and proceeded to indite thereon, in the Grafton interest. She wrote to know if James – which was the name of her lover – could come to Troy, on a particular evening; she would be pleased to have his company, etc. Now, it so happened, that this was an invitation to a stunning party the young lady was giving in honor of her eighteenth birthday, and, of course, she counted particularly on her lover’s presence. She had said nothing to him about it before sending the invitation, and the invitation itself she mde vague in order to take him by surprise. At the bottom of the carefully written mottoed monogramic and delicately scented sheet there was, standing in the left hand corner, the initial letters – R.S.V.P.
In due time the mail deposited this seductive chirographical lure at Grafton, and James received it and read it with delight – Come down to Troy and see her? Of course he would, and that with the greatest pleasure. In the midst of his happy thoughts, his eyes suddenly lighted on the letters in the corner. Blinded with his first delight, he had not noticed them – R.S.V.P.
That bothered him.
“P.S.” he was familiar with; indeed the little blonde’s notes and letters always introduced him to three or four of them. “N.B.,” he had learned to take notice of. “S.T. 1860 X.,”[modern_footnote]A reference to a “tonic” called Drake’s Plantation Bitters[/modern_footnote] he sharply surmised, told of some Bitter experiences. “C.O.D.,” he knew had its meaning – it was Expressly understood by him. “O.K.,” he appreciated as the exponents in letter, of contentment in spirit, and, better still, he had read “The Initials.”[modern_footnote]A reference to both OK and Old Kinderhook[/modern_footnote] But R.S.V.P. collared him, threw him down, and trampled him in the dust of darkness and ignorance. What could it all mean?
He thought, and he thought, and he thought.
Finally, his eye lit up, his features grew radiant, and the Grafton mind saw the light. The meaning of the initials was clear to him now – how stupid in him not to have seen it at once. R.S.V.P. meant, of course, V.R.S.P., (the young lady in the hurry of writing, and in the trepidation of the new paper, had got the letters in the wrong order,) and V.R.S.P. meant – Van Rensselaer Skating Park.
On the evening called for in the invitation, James, from Grafton, drove down to the Van Rensselaer Skating Park, the trysting place appointed by her inditing hand. It was a carnival night; Chinese lanterns, and fireworks, and music made the park gay, bewildering and all attractive.
As bright the lights shone o’er fair women and brave men, he looked anxiously for his little blonde. He saw a number of pretty girls from Troy, skating at their gracefulest, saw bevies of beauties from Albany gliding along, but not, not his “Heart’s Delight.” He went from one end of the park to the other, he made inquiries of the men who shoveled snow, he interviewed the park directors; but as his queries were rather indefinite, being worded, “Did you see anything of her?” he got no information, which was of the slightest service to him. But he wouldn’t give her up without a desperate struggle, and so wandered here and there, with searching eyes, until the lights were all put out, and the last of the gay company had dispersed. Then he went sadly home.
The next day, a young gentleman from Grafton called on a bright little blonde in Troy. She answered the bell herself, but remarked as she opened the door, remarked with flashing eyes, “I’m not at home sir,” and then shut the door quickly.
“Shut it with a jam
That sounded like a wooden d__n.”
She never made up with him. She says: That any young gentleman who wouldn’t so much as reply to a young lady’s polite invitation, when expressly requested to do so, but would, instead, go careering off to Albany on the very evening of her lovely party, was not worthy of her young heart’s devotion. He says: That he wishes he had begun little Pinney[modern_footnote]Author of a popular French grammar [/modern_footnote] earlier in life, but objects, all the same, Pinney or no Pinney to the horrible habit of introducing French into English composition.
He still lives in Grafton, is a subscriber to “Revue des Deux Mondes,” and is confident that, regarding himself from a [?] point of view, he will never again be found in a somniferous state. But alas! It is too late now. The little blonde was married last summer, to a dashing young officer, with much buttons. There was a tide, which, if taken at the flood, would have led him and her to the parson. He didn’t take it, but knocked his prospects high as Gilderoy’s kite[modern_footnote]A common saying of the day, relating to the hanging of a Scottish robber[/modern_footnote] on the rocks of a misinterpretation, which did strange injustice to the original intentions of a nice girl.