The carnival idea has not been confined to strictly Southern cities. St. Louis has, for many years in succession, enjoyed the pageants and balls of its Veiled Prophets, an organization as secret and mysterious as any to be found in a Creole section. Instead of being a Mardi Gras celebration, the St. Louis pageant is given during the Indian summer days of the first week of October. The parade takes place after night-fall, and consists of very costly pageants and displays.
It is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in illuminating the streets through which the processions have passed, the money for this purpose being freely subscribed by business men and private citizens. But in St. Louis, as in New Orleans, no one knows who finds the money to pay for the preparation of the pageant, the rich and varied costumes, the exquisite invitations and souvenirs, and the gorgeous balls. Readers of the "Pickwick Papers" will remember that when certain members of the club proposed to make a tour of the country, with a view to noting matters of special interest, it was unanimously resolved not to limit the scope of the investigations, and to extend to the investigators the privilege of paying their own expenses. Very much the same rule prevails in regard to the Creole carnivals and balls, and the adaptation of the idea in other cities. The utmost secrecy is preserved, and it is considered bad form in the extreme to even hint at belonging to any of the secret orders. The members subscribe all expenses themselves without a moment's hesitation, and there has never been such a thing seen as a list of the amounts donated.
There are not lacking people who say that these celebrations are childish, and beneath the dignity of a business community. The answer to criticisms of this kind is, that no one being asked to contribute to the expense of the revelries, or being even asked or allowed to purchase a ticket of admission to the balls, any criticisms are very much like looking a gift horse in the mouth. If it be agreed that life is made up of something more than one stern, continuous race for wealth, then it must be conceded that these carnivals occupy a most important part in the routine of life. The absolute unselfishness of the entire work commends it to the approval of the most indifferent. Those who raise the expense have to work so hard during the parades and balls that they get comparatively little pleasure from them, while they are also prevented by the absolute secrecy which prevails from securing so much as a word of thanks or congratulation from the outside public. In this material age, there is a danger of celebrations of this kind wearing themselves out. When they do so, the world will be the poorer in consequence.
MY NATIVE LAND
The United States: its Wonders, its Beauties, and its People; with Descriptive Notes, Character Sketches, Folk Lore, Traditions, Legends and History, for the Amusement of the Old and the Instruction of the Young.
BY JAMES COX, Author of "Our Own Country," "Missouri at the World's Fair," "Old and New St. Louis," "An Arkansas Eden," "Oklahoma Revisited," Etc., 1903
"Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself has said,
This is my own,my native land."