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Tales Of Two Cities (Philadelphia & New York)
by [?]

What mundane joy can surpass the pleasure of approaching the station lunch counter, with full ten minutes to satisfy a morning appetite! “Morning, colonel,” says the waiter, recognizing a steady customer. “Wheatcakes and coffee,” you cry. With one deft gesture, it seems, he has handed you a glass brimming with ice water and spread out a snowy napkin. In another moment here is the coffee, with the generous jug of cream. You splash in a large lump of ice to make it cool enough to drink. Perhaps the seat next you is empty, and you put your books and papers on it, thus not having to balance them gingerly on your knees. All round you is a lusty savour of satisfaction, the tinkle of cash registers, napkins fluttering and flashing across the counters, coloured waiters darting to and fro, great clouds of steam rising where the big dish covers are raised on the cooking tables. You see the dark-brown coffee gently quivering in the glass gauge of the nickel boiler. Then here come the wheatcakes. Nowhere else on earth, I firmly believe, are they cooked to just that correct delicacy of golden brown colour; nowhere else are they so soft and light of texture, so hot, so beautifully overlaid with a smooth, almost intangible suggestion of crispness. Two golden butter pats salute the eye, and a jug of syrup. It is now 7:38.

As everyone knows, the correct thing is to start immediately on the first cake, using only syrup. The method of dealing with the other two is classic. One lifts the upper one and places a whole pat of butter on the lower cake. Then one replaces the upper cake upon the lower, leaving the butter to its fate. In that hot and enviable embrace the butter liquefies and spreads itself, gently anointing the field of coming action. Upon the upper shield one smilingly distributes the second butter pat, knifed off into small slices for greater speed of melting. By the time the first cake has been eaten, with the syrup, the other two will be ready for manifest destiny. The butter will be docile and submissive. Now, after again making sure of the time (7:40) the syrup is brought into play and the palate has the congenial task of determining whether the added delight of melting butter outweighs the greater hotness and primal thrill of the first cake which was glossed with the syrup only. You drain your coffee to the dregs; gaze pityingly on those rushing in to snap up a breakfast before the 8 o’clock leaves for New York, pay your check, and saunter out to the train. It is 7:43.

This, to be sure, is only the curtain-raiser to the pleasures to follow. This has been a physical and carnal pleasure. Now follow delights of the mind. In the great gloomy shed wafts and twists of thick steam are jetting upward, heavily coiled in the cold air. In the train you smoke two pipes and read the morning paper. Then you are set down at Haverford. It is like a fairyland of unbelief. Trees and shrubbery are crusted and sheathed in crystal, lucid like chandeliers in the flat, thin light. Along the fence, as you go up the hill, you marvel at the scarlet berries in the hedge, gleaming through the glassy ribs of the bushes. The old willow tree by the Conklin gate is etched against the sky like a Japanese drawing–it has a curious greenish colour beneath that gray sky. There is some mystery in all this. It seems more beautiful than a merely mortal earth vexed by sinful men has any right to be. There is some ice palace in Hans Andersen which is something like it. In a little grove, the boughs, bent down with their shining glaziery, creak softly as they sway in the moving air. The evergreens are clotted with lumps and bags of transparent icing, their fronds sag to the ground. A pale twinkling blueness sifts over distant vistas. The sky whitens in the south and points of light leap up to the eye as the wind turns a loaded branch.