AROUND THE TEA-TABLE.
BY T. DE WITT TALMAGE,
Author of "Crumbs Swept Up," "Abominations of Modern Society," "Old Wells Dug Out," Etc.
PUBLISHED BY THE CHRISTIAN HERALD, LOUIS KLOPSCH, Proprietor, BIBLE HOUSE, NEW YORK.
BY LOUIS KLOPSCH.
At breakfast we have no time to spare, for the duties of the day are clamoring for attention; at the noon-day dining hour some of the family are absent; but at six o'clock in the evening we all come to the tea-table for chit-chat and the recital of adventures. We take our friends in with us—the more friends, the merrier. You may imagine that the following chapters are things said or conversations indulged in, or papers read, or paragraphs, made up from that interview. We now open the doors very wide and invite all to come in and be seated around the tea-table.
T. DEW. T.
CHAP. I.—The table-cloth is spread II.—Mr. Givemfits and Dr. Butterfield III.—A growler soothed IV.—Carlo and the freezer V.—Old games repeated VI.—The full-blooded cow VII.—The dregs in Leatherback's tea-cup VIII.—The hot axle IX.—Beefsteak for ministers X.—Autobiography of an old pair of scissors XI.—A lie, zoologically considered XII.—A breath of English air XIII.—The midnight lecture XIV.—The sexton XV.—The old cradle XVI.—The horse's letter XVII.—Kings of the kennel XVIII.—The massacre of church music XIX.—The battle of pew and pulpit XX.—The devil's grist-mill XXI.—The conductor's dream XXII.—Push & Pull XXIII.—Bostonians XXIV.—Jonah vs. the whale XXV.—Something under the sofa XXVI.—The way to keep fresh XXVII.—Christmas bells XXVIII.—Poor preaching XXIX.—Shelves a man's index XXX.—Behavior at church XXXI.—Masculine and feminine XXXII.—Literary felony XXXIII.—Literary abstinence XXXIV.—Short or long pastorates XXXV.—An editor's chip basket XXXVI.—The manhood of service XXXVII.—Balky people XXXVIII.—Anonymous letters XXXIX.—Brawn or brain XL.—Warm-weather religion XLI.—Hiding eggs for Easter XLII.—Sink or swim XLIII.—Shells from the beach XLIV.—Catching the bay mare XLV.—Our first and last cigar XLVI.—Move, moving, moved XLVII.—The advantage of small libraries XLVIII.—Reformation in letter writing XLIX.—Royal marriages L.—Three visits LI.—Manahachtanienks LII.—A dip in the sea LIII.—Hard shell considerations LIV.—Wiseman, Heavyasbricks and Quizzle LV.—A layer of waffles LVI.—Friday evening
LVII.—The Sabbath evening tea-table LVIII.—The warm heart of Christ LIX.—Sacrifice everything LX.—The youngsters have left LXI.—Family prayers LXII.—A call to sailors LXIII.—Jehoshaphat's shipping LXIV.—All about mercy LXV.—Under the camel's saddle LXVI.—Half-and-half churches LXVII.—Thorns LXVIII.—Who touched me?
AROUND THE TEA-TABLE.
THE TABLE-CLOTH IS SPREAD.
Our theory has always been, "Eat lightly in the evening." While, therefore, morning and noon there is bountifulness, we do not have much on our tea-table but dishes and talk. The most of the world's work ought to be finished by six o'clock p.m. The children are home from school. The wife is done mending or shopping. The merchant has got through with dry-goods or hardware. Let the ring of the tea-bell be sharp and musical. Walk into the room fragrant with Oolong or Young Hyson. Seat yourself at the tea-table wide enough apart to have room to take out your pocket-handkerchief if you want to cry at any pitiful story of the day, or to spread yourself in laughter if some one propound an irresistible conundrum.
The bottle rules the sensual world, but the tea-cup is queen in all the fair dominions. Once this leaf was very rare, and fifty dollars a pound; and when the East India Company made a present to the king of two pounds and two ounces, it was considered worth a mark in history. But now Uncle Sam and his wife every year pour thirty million pounds of it into their saucers. Twelve hundred years ago, a Chinese scholar by the name of Lo Yu wrote of tea, "It tempers the spirits and harmonizes the mind, dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue, awakens thought and prevents drowsiness, lightens and refreshes the body, and clears the perceptive faculties." Our own observation is that there is nothing that so loosens the hinge of the tongue, soothes the temper, exhilarates the diaphragm, kindles sociality and makes the future promising. Like one of the small glasses in the wall of Barnum's old museum, through which you could see cities and mountains bathed in sunshine, so, as you drink from the tea-cup, and get on toward the bottom so that it is sufficiently elevated, you can see almost anything glorious that you want to. We had a great-aunt who used to come from town with the pockets of her bombazine dress standing way out with nice things for the children, but she would come in looking black as a thunder cloud until she had got through with her first cup of tea, when she would empty her right pocket of sugarplums, and having finished her second cup would empty the other pocket, and after she had taken an extra third cup, because she felt so very chilly, it took all the sitting-room and parlor and kitchen to contain her exhilaration.
Be not surprised if, after your friends are seated at the table, the style of the conversation depends very much on the kind of tea that the housewife pours for the guests. If it be genuine Young Hyson, the leaves of which are gathered early in the season, the talk will be fresh, and spirited, and sunshiny. If it be what the Chinese call Pearl tea, but our merchants have named Gunpowder, the conversation will be explosive, and somebody's reputation will be killed before you get through. If it be green tea, prepared by large infusion of Prussian blue and gypsum, or black tea mixed with pulverized black lead, you may expect there will be a poisonous effect in the conversation and the moral health damaged. The English Parliament found that there had come into that country two million pounds of what the merchants call "lie tea," and, as far as I can estimate, about the same amount has been imported into the United States; and when the housewife pours into the cups of her guests a decoction of this "lie tea," the group are sure to fall to talking about their neighbors, and misrepresenting everything they touch. One meeting of a "sewing society" up in Canada, where this tea was served, resulted in two law-suits for slander, four black eyes that were not originally of that color, the expulsion of the minister, and the abrupt removal from the top of the sexton's head of all capillary adornment.
But on our tea-table we will have first-rate Ningyong, or Pouchong, or Souchong, or Oolong, so that the conversation may be pure and healthy.
We propose from time to time to report some of the talk of our visitors at the tea-table. We do not entertain at tea many very great men. The fact is that great men at the tea-table for the most part are a bore. They are apt to be self-absorbed, or so profound I cannot understand them, or analytical of food, or nervous from having studied themselves half to death, or exhume a piece of brown bread from their coat-tail because they are dyspeptic, or make such solemn remarks about hydro-benzamide or sulphindigotic acid that the children get frightened and burst out crying, thinking something dreadful is going to happen. Learned Johnson, splashing his pompous wit over the table for Boswell to pick up, must have been a sublime nuisance. It was said of Goldsmith that "he wrote like an angel and talked like poor Poll." There is more interest in the dining-room when we have ordinary people than when we have extraordinary.
There are men and women who occasionally meet at our tea-table whose portraits are worth taking. There are Dr. Butterfield, Mr. Givemfits, Dr. Heavyasbricks, Miss Smiley and Miss Stinger, who come to see us. We expect to invite them all to tea very soon; and as you will in future hear of their talk, it is better that I tell you now some of their characteristics.
Dr. Butterfield is one of our most welcome visitors at the tea-table. As his name indicates, he is both melting and beautiful. He always takes pleasant views of things. He likes his tea sweet; and after his cup is passed to him, he frequently hands it back, and says, "This is really delightful, but a little more sugar, if you please." He has a mellowing effect upon the whole company. After hearing him talk a little while, I find tears standing in my eyes without any sufficient reason. It is almost as good as a sermon to see him wipe his mouth with a napkin. I would not want him all alone to tea, because it would be making a meal of sweetmeats. But when he is present with others of different temperament, he is entertaining. He always reminds me of the dessert called floating island, beaten egg on custard. On all subjects—political, social and religious—he takes the smooth side. He is a minister, and preached a course of fifty-one sermons on heaven in one year, saying that he would preach on the last and fifty-second Sunday concerning a place of quite opposite character; but the audience assembling on that day, in August, he rose and said that it was too hot to preach, and so dismissed them immediately with a benediction. At the tea-table I never could persuade him to take any currant-jelly, for he always preferred strawberry-jam. He rejects acidity.
We generally place opposite him at the tea-table Mr. Givemfits. He is the very antipodes of Dr. Butterfield; and when the two talk, you get both sides of a subject. I have to laugh to hear them talk; and my little girl, at the controversial collisions, gets into such hysterics that we have to send her with her mouth full into the next room, to be pounded on the back to stop her from choking. My friend Givemfits is "down on" almost everything but tea, and I think one reason of his nervous, sharp, petulant way is that he takes too much of this beverage. He thinks the world is very soon coming to an end, and says, "The sooner the better, confound it!" He is a literary man, a newspaper writer, a book critic, and so on; but if he were a minister, he would preach a course of fifty-one sermons on "future punishment," proposing to preach the fifty-second and last Sabbath on "future rewards;" but the last Sabbath, coming in December, he would say to his audience, "Really, it is too cold to preach. We will close with the doxology and omit the benediction, as I must go down by the stove to warm."
He does not like women—thinks they are of no use in the world, save to set the tea a-drawing. Says there was no trouble in Paradise till a female came there, and that ever since Adam lost the rib woman has been to man a bad pain in the side. He thinks that Dr. Butterfield, who sits opposite him at the tea-table, is something of a hypocrite, and asks him all sorts of puzzling questions. The fact is, it is vinegar-cruet against sugar-bowl in perpetual controversy. I do not blame Givemfits as much as many do. His digestion is poor. The chills and fever enlarged his spleen. He has frequent attacks of neuralgia. Once a week he has the sick headache. His liver is out of order. He has twinges of rheumatism. Nothing he ever takes agrees with him but tea, and that doesn't. He has had a good deal of trial, and the thunder of trouble has soured the milk of human kindness. When he gets criticising Dr. Butterfield's sermons and books, I have sometimes to pretend that I hear somebody at the front door, so that I can go out in the hall and have an uproarious laugh without being indecorous. It is one of the great amusements of my life to have on opposite sides of my tea-table Dr. Butterfield and Mr. Givemfits.
But we have many others who come to our tea-table: Miss Smiley, who often runs in about six o'clock. All sweetness is Miss Smiley. She seems to like everybody, and everybody seems to like her. Also Miss Stinger, sharp as a hornet, prides herself on saying things that cut; dislikes men; cannot bear the sight of a pair of boots; loathes a shaving apparatus; thinks Eve would have shown better capacity for housekeeping if she had, the first time she used her broom, swept Adam out of Paradise. Besides these ladies, many good, bright, useful and sensible people of all kinds. In a few days we shall invite a group of them to tea, and you shall hear some of their discussions of men and books and things. We shall order a canister of the best Young Hyson, pull out the extension-table, hang on the kettle, stir the blaze, and with chamois and silver-powder scour up the tea-set that we never use save when we have company.
MR. GIVEMFITS AND DR. BUTTERFIELD.
The tea-kettle never sang a sweeter song than on the evening I speak of. It evidently knew that company was coming. At the appointed time our two friends, Dr. Butterfield and Mr. Givemfits, arrived. As already intimated, they were opposite in temperament—the former mild, mellow, fat, good-natured and of fine digestion, always seeing the bright side of anything; the other, splenetic, harsh, and when he swallowed anything was not sure whether he would be the death of it, or it would be the death of him.
No sooner had they taken their places opposite each other at the table than conversation opened. As my wife was handing the tea over to Mr. Givemfits the latter broke out in a tirade against the weather. He said that this winter was the most unbearable that had ever been known in the almanacs. When it did not rain, it snowed; and when it was not mud, it was sleet. At this point he turned around and coughed violently, and said that in such atmosphere it was impossible to keep clear of colds. He thought he would go South. He would rather not live at all than live in such a climate as this. No chance here, save for doctors and undertakers, and even they have to take their own medicines and lie in their own coffins. At this Dr. Butterfield gave a good-natured laugh, and said, "I admit the inconveniences of the weather; but are you not aware that there has been a drought for three years in the country, and great suffering in the land for lack of rain? We need all this wet weather to make an equilibrium. What is discomfort to you is the wealth of the land. Besides that, I find that if I cannot get sunshine in the open air I can carry it in the crown of my hat. He who has a warm coat, and a full stove, and a comfortable house, ought not to spend much of his time in complaint."
Miss Smiley slid this moment into the conversation with a hearty "Ha! ha!" She said, "This last winter has been the happiest of my life. I never hear the winds gallop but I want to join them. The snow is only the winter in blossom. Instead of here and there on the pond, the whole country is covered with white lilies. I have seen gracefulness enough in the curve of a snowdrift to keep me in admiration for a week. Do you remember that morning after the storm of sleet, when every tree stood in mail of ice, with drawn sword of icicle? Besides, I think the winter drives us in, and drives us together. We have never had such a time at our house with checker-boards and dominoes, and blind-man's-buff, and the piano, as this winter. Father and mother said it seemed to them like getting married over again. Besides that, on nights when the storm was so great that the door-bell went to bed and slept soundly, Charles Dickens stepped in from Gad's Hill; and Henry W. Longfellow, without knocking, entered the sitting-room, his hair white as if he had walked through the snow with his hat off; and William H. Prescott, with his eyesight restored, happened in from Mexico, a cactus in his buttonhole; and Audubon set a cage of birds on the table—Baltimore oriole, chaffinch, starling and bobolink doing their prettiest; and Christopher North thumped his gun down on the hall floor, and hung his 'sporting jacket' on the hat-rack, and shook the carpet brown with Highland heather. As Walter Scott came in his dog scampered in after him, and put both paws up on the marble-top table; and Minnie asked the old man why he did not part his hair better, instead of letting it hang all over his forehead, and he apologized for it by the fact that he had been on a long tramp from Melrose Abbey to Kenilworth Castle. But I think as thrilling an evening as we had this winter was with a man who walked in with a prison-jacket, his shoes mouldy, and his cheek pallid for the want of the sunlight. He was so tired that he went immediately to sleep. He would not take the sofa, saying he was not used to that, but he stretched himself on the floor and put his head on an ottoman. At first he snored dreadfully, and it was evident he had a horrid dream; but after a while he got easier, and a smile came over his face, and he woke himself singing and shouting. I said, 'What is the matter with you, and what were you dreaming about?' 'Well,' he said, 'the bad dream I had was about the City of Destruction, and the happy dream was about the Celestial City;' and we all knew him right away, and shouted, 'Glorious old John Bunyan! How is Christiana?' So, you see," said Miss Smiley, "on stormy nights we really have a pleasanter time than when the moon and stars are reigning."
Miss Stinger had sat quietly looking into her tea-cup until this moment, when she clashed her spoon into the saucer, and said, "If there is any thing I dislike, it is an attempt at poetry when you can't do it. I know some people who always try to show themselves in public; but when they are home, they never have their collar on straight, and in the morning look like a whirlwind breakfasting on a haystack. As for me, I am practical, and winter is winter, and sleet is sleet, and ice is ice, and a tea-cup is a tea-cup; and if you will pass mine up to the hostess to be resupplied, I will like it a great deal better than all this sentimentalism. No sweetening, if you please. I do not like things sweet. Do not put in any of your beautiful snow for sugar, nor stir it with an icicle."
This sudden jerk in the conversation snapped it off, and for a moment there was quiet. I knew not how to get conversation started again. Our usual way is to talk about the weather; but that subject had been already exhausted.
Suddenly I saw the color for the first time in years come into the face of Mr. Givemfits. The fact was that, in biting a hard crust of bread, he had struck a sore tooth which had been troubling him, and he broke out with the exclamation, "Dr. Butterfield, the physical and moral world is degenerating. Things get worse and worse. Look, for instance, at the tone of many of the newspapers; gossip, abuse, lies, blackmail, make up the chief part of them, and useful intelligence is the exception. The public have more interest in murders and steamboat explosions than in the items of mental and spiritual progress. Church and State are covered up with newspaper mud."
"Stop!" said Dr. Butterfield. "Don't you ever buy newspapers?"
A GROWLER SOOTHED.
Givemfits said to Dr. Butterfield, "You asked me last evening if I ever bought newspapers. I reply, Yes, and write for them too.
"But I see their degeneracy. Once you could believe nearly all they said; now he is a fool who believes a tenth part of it. There is the New York 'Scandalmonger,' and the Philadelphia 'Prestidigitateur,' and the Boston 'Prolific,' which do nothing but hoodwink and confound the public mind. Ten dollars will get a favorable report of a meeting, or as much will get it caricatured. There is a secret spring behind almost every column. It depends on what the editor had for supper the night before whether he wants Foster hung or his sentence commuted. If the literary man had toast and tea, as weak as this before me, he sleeps soundly, and next day says in his columns that Foster ought not to be executed; he is a good fellow, and the clergymen who went to Albany to get him pardoned were engaged in a holy calling, and their congregations had better hold fast of them lest they go up like Elijah. But if the editor had a supper at eleven, o'clock at night of scallops fried in poor lard, and a little too much bourbon, the next day he is headachy, and says Foster, the scalawag, ought to be hung, or beaten to death with his own car-hook, and the ministers who went to Albany to get him pardoned might better have been taking tea with some of the old ladies. I have been behind the scenes and know all about it, and must admit that I have done some of the bad work myself. I have on my writing-stand thirty or forty books to discuss as a critic, and the column must be made up. Do you think I take time to read the thirty or forty books? No. I first take a dive into the index, a second dive into the preface, a third dive into the four hundredth page, the fourth dive into the seventieth page, and then seize my pen and do up the whole job in fifteen minutes. I make up my mind to like the book or not to like it, according as I admire or despise the author. But the leniency or severity of my article depends on whether the room is cold and my rheumatism that day is sharp or easy. Speaking of these things reminds me that the sermon which the Right Reverend Bishop Goodenough preached last Sunday, on 'Growth in Grace,' was taken down and brought to our office by a reporter who fell over the door-sill of the sanctum so drunk we had to help him up and fish in his pockets for the bishop's sermon on holiness of heart and life, which we were sure was somewhere about him."
"Tut! tut!" cried Dr. Butterfield. "I think, Mr. Givemfits, you are entirely mistaken. (The doctor all the while stirring the sugar in his cup.) I think the printing-press is a mighty agency for the world's betterment. If I were not a minister, I would be an editor. There are Bohemians in the newspaper profession, as in all others, but do not denounce the entire apostleship for the sake of one Judas. Reporters, as I know them, are clever fellows, worked almost to death, compelled to keep unseasonable hours, and have temptations to fight which few other occupations endure. Considering the blunders and indistinctness of the public speaker, I think they get things wonderfully accurate. The speaker murders the king's English, and is mad because the reporter cannot resuscitate the corpse. I once made a speech at an ice-cream festival amid great embarrassments, and hemmed, and hawed, and expectorated cotton from my dry mouth, and sweat like a Turkish bath, the adjectives, and the nouns, and verbs, and prepositions of my address keeping an Irish wake; but the next day, in the 'Johnstown Advocate,' my remarks read as gracefully as Addison's 'Spectator.' I knew a phonographer in Washington whose entire business it was to weed out from Congressmen's speeches the sins against Anglo-Saxon; but the work was too much for him, and he died of delirium tremens, from having drank too much of the wine of syntax, in his ravings imagining that 'interrogations' were crawling over him like snakes, and that 'interjections' were thrusting him through with daggers and 'periods' struck him like bullets, and his body seemed torn apart by disjunctive conjunctions. No, Mr. Givemfits, you are too hard. And as to the book-critics whom you condemn, they do more for the circulation of books than any other class, especially if they denounce and caricature, for then human nature will see the book at any price. After I had published my book on 'The Philosophy of Civilization,' it was so badgered by the critics and called so many hard names that my publishers could not print it fast enough to meet the demands of the curious. Besides, what would we do without the newspaper? With, the iron rake of the telegraph it draws the whole world to our door every morning. The sermon that the minister preached to five hundred people on Sabbath the newspaper next day preaches to fifty thousand. It takes the verses which the poet chimed in his small room of ten feet by six, and rings them into the ears of the continent. The cylinder of the printing-press is to be one of the wheels of the Lord's chariot. The good newspapers will overcome the bad ones, and the honey-bees will outnumber the hornets. Instead of the three or four religious newspapers that once lived on gruel and pap, sitting down once a week on some good man's door-step to rest, thankful if not kicked off, now many of the denominations have stalwart journals that swing their scythe through the sins of the world, and are avant couriers of the Lord's coming."
As Dr. Butterfield concluded this sentence his face shone like a harvest moon. We had all dropped our knives, and were looking at him. The Young Hyson tea was having its mollifying effect on the whole company. Mr. Givemfits had made way with his fourth cup (they were small cups, the set we use for company), and he was entirely soothed and moderated in his opinions about everything, and actually clapped his hands at Dr. Butterfield's peroration. Even Miss Stinger was in a glow, for she had drank large quantities of the fragrant beverage while piping hot, and in her delight she took Givemfits' arm, and asked him if he ever meant to get married. Miss Smiley smiled. Then Dr. Butterfield lifted his cup, and proposed a toast which we all drank standing: "The mission of the printing-press! The salubrity of the climate! The prospects ahead! The wonders of Oolong and Young Hyson!"
CARLO AND THE FREEZER.
We had a jolly time at our tea-table this evening. We had not seen our old friend for ten years. When I heard his voice in the hall, it seemed like a snatch of "Auld Lang Syne." He came from Belleville, where was the first home we ever set up for ourselves. It was a stormy evening, and we did not expect company, but we soon made way for him at the table. Jennie was very willing to stand up at the corner; and after a fair napkin had been thrown over the place where she had dropped a speck of jelly, our friend and I began the rehearsal of other days. While I was alluding to a circumstance that occurred between me and one of my Belleville neighbors the children cried out with stentorian voice, "Tell us about Carlo and the freezer;" and they kicked the leg of the table, and beat with both hands, and clattered the knives on the plate, until I was compelled to shout, "Silence! You act like a band of Arabs! Frank, you had better swallow what you have in your mouth before you attempt to talk." Order having been gained, I began:
We sat in the country parsonage, on a cold winter day, looking out of our back window toward the house of a neighbor. She was a model of kindness, and a most convenient neighbor to have. It was a rule between us that when either house was in want of anything it should borrow of the other. The rule worked well for the parsonage, but rather badly for the neighbor, because on our side of the fence we had just begun to keep house, and needed to borrow everything, while we had nothing to lend, except a few sermons, which the neighbor never tried to borrow, from the fact that she had enough of them on Sundays. There is no danger that your neighbor will burn a hole in your new brass kettle if you have none to lend. It will excite no surprise to say that we had an interest in all that happened on the other side of the parsonage fence, and that any injury inflicted on so kind a woman would rouse our sympathy.
On the wintry morning of which we speak our neighbor had been making ice-cream; but there being some defect in the machinery, the cream had not sufficiently congealed, and so she set the can of the freezer containing the luxury on her back steps, expecting the cold air would completely harden it. What was our dismay to see that our dog Carlo, on whose early education we were expending great care, had taken upon himself the office of ice-cream inspector, and was actually busy with the freezer! We hoisted the window and shouted at him, but his mind was so absorbed in his undertaking he did not stop to listen. Carlo was a greyhound, thin, gaunt and long-nosed, and he was already making his way on down toward the bottom of the can. His eyes and all his head had disappeared in the depths of the freezer. Indeed, he was so far submerged that when he heard us, with quick and infuriate pace, coming up close behind him, he could not get his head out, and so started with the encumbrance on his head, in what direction he knew not. No dog was ever in a more embarrassing position—freezer to the right of him, freezer to the left of him, freezer on the top of him, freezer under him.
So, thoroughly blinded, he rushed against the fence then against the side of the house, then against a tree. He barked as though he thought he might explode the nuisance with loud sound, but the sound was confined in so strange a speaking-trumpet that he could not have known his own voice. His way seemed hedged up. Fright and anger and remorse and shame whirled him about without mercy.
A feeling of mirthfulness, which sometimes takes me on most inappropriate occasions, seized me, and I sat down on the ground, powerless at the moment when Carlo most needed help. If I only could have got near enough, I would have put my foot on the freezer, and, taking hold of the dog's tail, dislodged him instantly; but this I was not permitted to do. At this stage of the disaster my neighbor appeared with a look of consternation, her cap-strings flying in the cold wind. I tried to explain, but the aforesaid untimely hilarity hindered me. All I could do was to point at the flying freezer and the adjoining dog and ask her to call off her freezer, and, with assumed indignation, demand what she meant by trying to kill my greyhound.
The poor dog's every attempt at escape only wedged himself more thoroughly fast. But after a while, in time to save the dog, though not to save the ice-cream, my neighbor and myself effected a rescue. Edwin Landseer, the great painter of dogs and their friends, missed his best chance by not being there when the parishioner took hold of the freezer and the pastor seized the dog's tail, and, pulling mightily in opposite directions, they each got possession of their own property.
Carlo was cured of his love for luxuries, and the sight of the freezer on the back steps till the day of his death would send him howling away.
Carlo found, as many people have found, that it is easier to get into trouble than to get out. Nothing could be more delicious than while he was eating his way in, but what must have been his feelings when he found it impossible to get out! While he was stealing the freezer the freezer stole him.
Lesson for dogs and men! "Come in!" says the gray spider to the house-fly; "I have entertained a great many flies. I have plenty of room, fine meals and a gay life. Walk on this suspension bridge. Give me your hand. Come in, my sweet lady fly. These walls are covered with silk, and the tapestry is gobelin. I am a wonderful creature. I have eight eyes, and of course can see your best interest. Philosophers have written volumes about my antennae and cephalothorax." House-fly walks gently in. The web rocks like a cradle in the breeze. The house-fly feels honored to be the guest of such a big spider. We all have regard for big bugs. "But what is this?" cries the fly, pointing to a broken wing, "and this fragment of an insect's foot. There must have been a murder here! Let me go back!" "Ha! ha!" says the spider, "the gate is locked, the drawbridge is up. I only contracted to bring you in. I cannot afford to let you out. Take a drop of this poison, and it will quiet your nerves. I throw this hook of a fang over your neck to keep you from falling off." Word went back to the house-fly's family, and a choir of great green-bottled insects sang this psalm at the funeral:
"An unfortunate fly a-visiting went, And in a gossamer web found himself pent."
The first five years of a dissipated life are comparatively easy, for it is all down hill; but when the man wakes up and finds his tongue wound with blasphemies, and his eyes swimming in rheum, and the antennae of vice feeling along his nerves, and the spiderish poison eating through his very life, and, he resolves to return, he finds it hard traveling, for it is up hill, and the fortresses along the road open on him their batteries. We go into sin, hop, skip and jump; we come out of it creeping on all fours.
Let flies and dogs and men keep out of mischief. It is smooth all the way there, and rough all the way back. It is ice-cream for Carlo clear down to the bottom of the can, but afterward it is blinded eyes and sore neck and great fright. It is only eighteen inches to go into the freezer; it is three miles out. For Robert Burns it is rich wine and clapping hands and carnival all the way going to Edinburgh; but going back, it is worn-out body, and lost estate, and stinging conscience, and broken heart, and a drunkard's grave.
Better moderate our desires. Carlo had that morning as good a breakfast as any dog need to have. It was a law of the household that he should be well fed. Had he been satisfied with bread and meat, all would have been well. But he sauntered out for luxuries. He wanted ice-cream. He got it, but brought upon his head the perils and damages of which I have written. As long as we have reasonable wants we get on comfortably, but it is the struggle after luxuries that fills society with distress, and populates prisons, and sends hundreds of people stark mad. Dissatisfied with a plain house, and ordinary apparel, and respectable surroundings, they plunge their head into enterprises and speculations from which they have to sneak out in disgrace. Thousands of men have sacrificed honor and religion for luxuries, and died with the freezer about their ears.
Young Catchem has one horse, but wants six. Lives in a nice house on Thirtieth street, but wants one on Madison Square. Has one beautiful wife, but wants four. Owns a hundred thousand dollars of Erie stock, but wants a million. Plunges his head into schemes of all sorts, eats his way to the bottom of the can till he cannot extricate himself, and constables, and sheriffs, and indignant society, which would have said nothing had he been successful, go to pounding him because he cannot get his head out.
Our poor old Carlo is dead now. We all cried when we found that he would never frisk again at our coming, nor put up his paw against us. But he lived long enough to preach the sermon about caution and contentment of which I have been the stenographer.
OLD GAMES REPEATED.
We tarried longer in the dining-room this evening than usual, and the children, losing their interest in what we were saying got to playing all about us in a very boisterous way, but we said nothing, for it is the evening hour, and I think it keeps one fresh to have these things going on around us. Indeed, we never get over being boys and girls. The good, healthy man sixty years of age is only a boy with added experience. A woman is only an old girl. Summer is but an older spring. August is May in its teens. We shall be useful in proportion as we keep young in our feelings. There is no use for fossils except in museums and on the shelf. I like young old folks.
Indeed, we all keep doing over what we did in childhood. You thought that long ago you got through with "blind-man's-buff," and "hide-and-seek," and "puss in the corner," and "tick-tack-to," and "leap-frog," but all our lives are passed in playing those old games over again.
You say, "What a racket those children make in the other room! When Squire Jones' boys come over to spend the evening with our children, it seems as if they would tear the house down." "Father, be patient!" the wife says; "we once played 'blind-man's-buff' ourselves." Sure enough, father is playing it now, if he only knew it. Much of our time in life we go about blindfolded, stumbling over mistakes, trying to catch things that we miss, while people stand round the ring and titter, and break out with half-suppressed laughter, and push us ahead, and twitch the corner of our eye-bandage. After a while we vehemently clutch something with both hands, and announce to the world our capture; the blindfold is taken from our eyes, and, amid the shouts of the surrounding spectators, we find we have, after all, caught the wrong thing. What is that but "blind-man's buff" over again?
You say, "Jenny and Harry, go to bed. It seems so silly for you to sit there making two parallel lines perpendicular, and two parallel lines horizontal, and filling up the blanks with crosses and o's, and then crying out 'tick-tack-to.'" My dear man, you are doing every day in business just what your children are doing in the nursery. You find it hard to get things into a line. You have started out for worldly success. You get one or two things fixed but that is not what you want. After a while you have had two fine successes. You say, "If I can have a third success, I will come out ahead." But somebody is busy on the same slate, trying to hinder you getting the game. You mark; he marks. I think you will win. To the first and second success which you have already gained you add the third, for which you have long been seeking. The game is yours, and you clap your hands, and hunch your opponent in the side, and shout,
"Tick-tack-to, Three in a row."
The funniest play that I ever joined in at school, and one that sets me a-laughing now as I think of it so I can hardly write, is "leap-frog." It is unartistic and homely. It is so humiliating to the boy who bends himself over and puts his hands down on his knees, and it is so perilous to the boy who, placing his hands on the stooped shoulders, attempts to fly over. But I always preferred the risk of the one who attempted the leap rather than the humiliation of the one who consented to be vaulted over. It was often the case that we both failed in our part and we went down together. For this Jack Snyder carried a grudge against me and would not speak, because he said I pushed him down a-purpose. But I hope he has forgiven me by this time, for he has been out as a missionary. Indeed, if Jack will come this way, I will right the wrong of olden time by stooping down in my study and letting him spring over me as my children do.
Almost every autumn I see that old-time schoolboy feat repeated. Mr. So-and-so says, "You make me governor and I will see that you get to be senator. Make me mayor and I will see that you become assessor. Get me the office of street-sweeper and you shall have one of the brooms. You stoop down and let me jump over you, and then I will stoop down and let you jump over me. Elect me deacon and you shall be trustee. You write a good thing about me and I will write a good thing about you." The day of election in Church or State arrives. A man once very upright in his principles and policy begins to bend. You cannot understand it. He goes down lower and lower, until he gets his hands away down on his knees. Then a spry politician or ecclesiastic comes up behind him, puts his hand on the bowed strategist and springs clear over into some great position. Good thing to have so good a man in a prominent place. But after a while he himself begins to bend. Everybody says, "What is the matter now? It cannot be possible that he is going down too." Oh yes! Turn-about is fair play. Jack Snyder holds it against me to this day, because, after he had stooped down to let me leap over him, I would not stoop down to let him leap over me. One half the strange things in Church and State may be accounted for by the fact that, ever since Adam bowed down so low as to let the race, putting its hands on him, fly over into ruin, there has been a universal and perpetual tendency to political and ecclesiastical "leap-frog." In one sense, life is a great "game of ball." We all choose sides and gather into denominational and political parties. We take our places on the ball ground. Some are to pitch; they are the radicals. Some are to catch; they are the conservatives. Some are to strike; they are those fond of polemics and battle. Some are to run; they are the candidates. There are four hunks—youth, manhood, old age and death. Some one takes the bat, lifts it and strikes for the prize and misses it, while the man who was behind catches it and goes in. This man takes his turn at the bat, sees the flying ball of success, takes good aim and strikes it high, amid the clapping of all the spectators. We all have a chance at the ball. Some of us run to all the four hunks, from youth to manhood, from manhood to old age, from old age to death. At the first hunk we bound with uncontrollable mirth; coming to the second, we run with a slower but stronger tread; coming to the third, our step is feeble; coming to the fourth, our breath entirely gives out. We throw down the bat on the black hunk of death, and in the evening catchers and pitchers go home to find the family gathered and the food prepared. So may we all find the candles lighted, and the table set, and the old folks at home.
THE FULL-BLOODED COW.
We never had any one drop in about six o'clock p.m. whom we were more glad to see than Fielding, the Orange County farmer. In the first place, he always had a good appetite, and it did not make much difference what we had to eat. He would not nibble about the end of a piece of bread, undecided as to whether he had better take it, nor sit sipping his tea as though the doctor had ordered him to take only ten drops at a time, mixed with a little sugar and hot water. Perpetual contact with fresh air and the fields and the mountains gave him a healthy body, while the religion that he learned in the little church down by the mill-dam kept him in healthy spirits. Fielding keeps a great drove of cattle and has an overflowing dairy. As we handed him the cheese he said, "I really believe this is of my own making." "Fielding," I inquired, "how does your dairy thrive, and have you any new stock on your farm? Come give us a little touch of the country." He gave me a mischievous look and said, "I will not tell you a word until you let me know all about that full-blooded cow, of which I have heard something. You need not try to hide that story any longer." So we yielded to his coaxing. It was about like this:
The man had not been able to pay his debts. The mortgage on the farm had been foreclosed. Day of sale had come. The sheriff stood on a box reading the terms of vendue. All payments to be made in six months. The auctioneer took his place. The old man and his wife and the children all cried as the piano, and the chairs, and the pictures, and the carpets, and the bedsteads went at half their worth. When the piano went, it seemed to the old people as if the sheriff were selling all the fingers that had ever played on it; and when the carpets were struck off, I think father and mother thought of the little feet that had tramped it; and when the bedstead was sold, it brought to mind the bright, curly heads that had slept on it long before the dark days had come, and father had put his name on the back of a note, signing his own death warrant. The next thing to being buried alive is to have the sheriff sell you out when you have been honest and have tried always to do right. There are so many envious ones to chuckle at your fall, and come in to buy your carriage, blessing the Lord that the time has come for you to walk and for them to ride.
But to us the auction reached its climax of interest when we went to the barn. We were spending our summers in the country, and must have a cow. There were ten or fifteen sukies to be sold. There were reds, and piebalds, and duns, and browns, and brindles, short horns, long horns, crumpled horns and no horns. But we marked for our own a cow that was said to be full-blooded, whether Alderney, or Durham, or Galloway, or Ayrshire, I will not tell lest some cattle fancier feel insulted by what I say; and if there is any grace that I pride myself on, it is prudence and a determination always to say smooth things. "How much is bid for this magnificent, full-blooded cow?" cried the auctioneer. "Seventy-five dollars," shouted some one. I made it eighty. He made it ninety. Somebody else quickly made it a hundred. After the bids had risen to one hundred and twenty-five dollars, I got animated, and resolved that I would have that cow if it took my last cent. "One hundred and forty dollars," shouted my opponent. The auctioneer said it was the finest cow he had ever sold; and not knowing much about vendues, of course I believed him. It was a good deal of money for a minister to pay, but then I could get the whole matter off my hands by giving "a note." In utter defiance of everything I cried out, "One hundred and fifty dollars!" "Going at that," said the auctioneer. "Going at that! once! twice! three times! gone! Mr. Talmage has it." It was one of the proudest moments of our life. There she stood, tall, immense in the girth, horns branching graceful as a tree branch, full-uddered, silk-coated, pensive-eyed.
We hired two boys to drive her home while we rode in a carriage. No sooner had we started than the cow showed what turned out to be one of her peculiarities, great speed of hoof. She left the boys, outran my horse, jumped the fence, frightened nearly to death a group of schoolchildren, and by the time we got home we all felt as if we had all day been put on a fox-chase.
We never had any peace with that cow. She knew more tricks than a juggler. She could let down any bars, open any gate, outrun any dog and ruin the patience of any minister. We had her a year, and yet she never got over wanting to go to the vendue. Once started out of the yard, she was bound to see the sheriff. We coaxed her with carrots, and apples, and cabbage, and sweetest stalks, and the richest beverage of slops, but without avail.
As a milker she was a failure. "Mike," who lived just back of our place, would come in at nights from his "Kerry cow," a scraggly runt that lived on the commons, with his pail so full he had to carry it cautiously lest it spill over. But after our full-blooded had been in clover to her eyes all day, Bridget would go out to the barnyard, and tug and pull for a supply enough to make two or three custards. I said, "Bridget, you don't know how to milk. Let me try." I sat down by the cow, tried the full force of dynamics, but just at the moment when my success was about to be demonstrated, a sudden thought took her somewhere between the horns, and she started for the vendue, with one stroke of her back foot upsetting the small treasure I had accumulated, and leaving me a mere wreck of what I once was.
She had, among other bad things, a morbid appetite. Notwithstanding we gave her the richest herbaceous diet, she ate everything she could put her mouth on. She was fond of horse blankets and articles of human clothing. I found her one day at the clothes line, nearly choked to death, for she had swallowed one leg of something and seemed dissatisfied that she could not get down the other. The most perfect nuisance that I ever had about my place was that full-blooded.
Having read in our agricultural journals of cows that were slaughtered yielding fourteen hundred pounds neat weight, we concluded to sell her to the butcher. We set a high price upon her and got it—that is, we took a note for it, which is the same thing. My bargain with the butcher was the only successful chapter in my bovine experiences. The only taking-off in the whole transaction was that the butcher ran away, leaving me nothing but a specimen of poor chirography, and I already had enough of that among my manuscripts.
My friend, never depend on high-breeds. Some of the most useless of cattle had ancestors spoken of in the "Commentaries of Caesar." That Alderney whose grandfather used to graze on a lord's park in England may not be worth the grass she eats.
Do not depend too much on the high-sounding name of Durham or Devon. As with animals, so with men. Only one President ever had a President for a son. Let every cow make her own name, and every man achieve his own position. It is no great credit to a fool that he had a wise grandfather. Many an Ayrshire and Hereford has had the hollow-horn and the foot-rot. Both man and animal are valuable in proportion as they are useful. "Mike's" cow beat my full-blooded.
THE DREGS IN LEATHERBACKS' TEA-CUP.
We have an earlier tea this evening than usual, for we have a literary friend who comes about this time of the week, and he must go home to retire about eight o'clock. His nervous system is so weak that he must get three or four hours sleep before midnight; otherwise he is next day so cross and censorious he scalps every author he can lay his hand on. As he put his hand on the table with an indelible blot of ink on his thumb and two fingers, which blot he had not been able to wash off, I said, "Well, my old friend Leatherbacks, what books have you been reading to-day?"
He replied, "I have been reading 'Men and Things.' Some books touch only the head and make us think; other books touch only the heart and make us feel; here and there one touches us under the fifth rib and makes us laugh; but the book on 'Men and Things,' by the Rev. Dr. C.S. Henry, touched me all over. I have felt better ever since. I have not seen the author but once since the old university days, when he lectured us and pruned us and advised us and did us more good than almost any other instructor we ever had. Oh, those were grand days! No better than the present, for life grows brighter to me all the time; but we shall not forget the quaint, strong, brusque professor who so unceremoniously smashed things which he did not like, and shook, the class with merriment or indignation. The widest awake professorial room in the land was Dr. Henry's, in the New York University. But the participators in those scenes are all scattered. I know the whereabouts of but three or four. So we meet for a little while on earth, and then we separate. There must be a better place somewhere ahead of us.
"I have also been looking over a book that overhauls the theology and moral character of Abraham Lincoln. This is the only kind of slander that is safe. I have read all the stuff for the last three years published about Abraham Lincoln's unfair courtships and blank infidelity. The protracted discussion has made only one impression upon me, and that is this: How safe it is to slander a dead man! You may say what you will in print about him, he brings no rebutting evidence. I have heard that ghosts do a great many things, but I never heard of one as printing a book or editing a newspaper to vindicate himself. Look out how you vilify a living man, for he may respond with pen, or tongue, or cowhide; but only get a man thoroughly dead (that is, so certified by the coroner) and have a good, heavy tombstone put on the top of him, and then you may say what you will with impunity.
"But I have read somewhere in an old book that there is a day coming when all wrongs will be righted; and I should not wonder if then the dead were vindicated, and all the swine who have uprooted graveyards should, like their ancestors of Gadara, run down a steep place into the sea and get choked. The fact that there are now alive men so debauched of mind and soul that they rejoice in mauling the reputation of those who spent their lives in illustrious achievement for God and their country, and then died as martyrs for their principles, makes me believe in eternal damnation."
With this last sentence my friend Leatherbacks gave a violent gesture that upset his cup and left the table-cloth sopping wet.
"By the way," said he, "have you heard that Odger is coming?"
"What!" said I. He continued without looking up, for he was at that moment running his knife, not over-sharp, through a lamb-chop made out of old sheep. (Wife, we will have to change our butcher!) He continued with a severity perhaps partly caused by the obstinacy of the meat: "I see in the 'Pall-Mall Budget' the startling intelligence that Mr. Odger is coming to the United States on a lecturing expedition. Our American newspapers do not seem, as yet, to have got hold of this news, but the tidings will soon fly, and great excitement may be expected to follow."
Some unwise person might ask the foolish question, "Who is Odger?" I hope, however, that such inquiry will not be made, for I would be compelled to say that I do not know. Whether he is a clergyman or a reformer, or an author, or all these in one, we cannot say. Suffice it he is a foreigner, and that is enough to make us all go wild. A foreigner does not need more than half as much brain or heart to do twice as well as an American, either at preaching or lecturing. There is for many Americans a bewitchment in a foreign brogue. I do not know but that he may have dined with the queen, or have a few drops of lordly blood distributed through his arteries.
I notice, however, that much of this charm has been broken. I used to think that all English lords were talented, till I heard one of them make the only poor speech that was made at the opening meeting of the Evangelical Alliance. Our lecturing committees would not pay very large prices next year for Mr. Bradlaugh and Edmund Yates. Indeed, we expect that the time will soon come when the same kind of balances will weigh Englishmen, Scotchmen, Irishmen, Frenchmen and Americans.
If a man can do anything well, he will be acceptable without reference to whether he was born by the Clyde, the Thames, the Seine, or the Hudson. But until those scales be lifted it is sufficient to announce the joyful tidings that "Odger is coming."
THE HOT AXLE.
The express train was flying from Cork to Queenstown. It was going like sixty—that is, about sixty miles an hour. No sight of an Irish village to arrest our speed, no sign of break-down, and yet the train halted. We looked out of the window, saw the brakemen and a crowd of passengers gathering around the locomotive and a dense smoke arising. What was the matter? A hot axle!
We were on the lightning train for Cleveland. We had no time to spare. If we stopped for a half hour we should be greeted by the anathema of a lecturing committee. We felt a sort of presentiment that we should be too late, when to confirm it the whistle blew, and the brakes fell, and the cry all along the train was, "What is the matter?" Answer: "A hot axle!" The wheels had been making too many revolutions in a minute. The car was on fire. It was a very difficult thing to put it out; water, sand and swabs were tried, and caused long detention and a smoke that threatened flame down to the end of the journey.
We thought then, and think now, this is what is the matter with people everywhere. In this swift, "express," American life, we go too fast for our endurance. We think ourselves getting on splendidly, when in the midst of our successes we come to a dead halt. What is the matter? Nerves or muscles or brains give out. We have made too many revolutions in an hour. A hot axle!
Men make the mistake of working according to their opportunities, and not according to their capacity of endurance. "Can I run this train from Springfield to Boston at the rate of fifty miles an hour?" says an engineer. Yes. "Then I will run it reckless of consequences." Can I be a merchant, and the president of a bank, and a director in a life insurance company, and a school commissioner, and help edit a paper, and supervise the politics of our ward, and run for Congress? "I can!" the man says to himself. The store drives him; the school drives him; politics drive him. He takes all the scoldings and frets and exasperations of each position. Some day at the height of the business season he does not come to the store; from the most important meetings of the bank directors he is absent. In the excitements of the political canvass he fails to be at the place appointed. What is the matter? His health has broken down. The train halts long before it gets to the station. A hot axle!
Literary men have great opportunities opening in this day. If they take all that open, they are dead men, or worse, living men who ought to be dead. The pen runs so easy when you have good ink, and smooth paper, and an easy desk to write on, and the consciousness of an audience of one, two or three hundred thousand readers. There are the religious newspapers through which you preach, and the musical journals through which you may sing, and the agricultural periodicals through which you can plough, and family newspapers in which you may romp with the whole household around the evening stand. There are critiques to be written, and reviews to be indulged in, and poems to be chimed, and novels to be constructed. When out of a man's pen he can shake recreation, and friendship, and usefulness, and bread, he is apt to keep it shaking. So great are the invitations to literary work that the professional men of the day are overcome. They sit faint and fagged out on the verge of newspapers and books. Each one does the work of three, and these men sit up late nights, and choke down chunks of meat without mastication, and scold their wives through irritability, and maul innocent authors, and run the physical machinery with a liver miserably given out. The driving shaft has gone fifty times a second. They stop at no station. The steam-chest is hot and swollen. The brain and the digestion begin to smoke. Stop, ye flying quills! "Down brakes!" A hot axle!
Some of the worst tempered people of the day are religious people, from the fact that they have no rest. Added to the necessary work of the world, they superintend two Sunday-schools, listen to two sermons, and every night have meetings of charitable and Christian institutions. They look after the beggars, hold conventions, speak at meetings, wait on ministers, serve as committeemen, take all the hypercriticisms that inevitably come to earnest workers, rush up and down the world and develop their hearts at the expense of all the other functions. They are the best men on earth, and Satan knows it, and is trying to kill them as fast as possible. They know not that it is as much a duty to take care of their health as to go to the sacrament. It is as much a sin to commit suicide with the sword of truth as with a pistol.
Our earthly life is a treasure to be guarded, it is an outrageous thing to die when we ought to live. There is no use in firing up a Cunarder to such a speed that the boiler bursts mid-Atlantic, when at a more moderate rate it might have reached the docks at Liverpool. It is a sin to try to do the work of thirty years in five years.
A Rocky Mountain locomotive engineer told us that at certain places they change locomotives and let the machine rest, as a locomotive always kept in full heat soon got out of order. Our advice to all overworked good people is, "Slow up!" Slacken your speed as you come to the crossings. All your faculties for work at this rate will be consumed. You are on fire now—see the premonitory smoke. A hot axle!
Some of our young people have read till they are crazed of learned blacksmiths who at the forge conquered thirty languages, and of shoemakers who, pounding sole-leather, got to be philosophers, and of milliners who, while their customers were at the glass trying on their spring hats, wrote a volume of first-rate poems. The fact is no blacksmith ought to be troubled with more than five languages; and instead of shoemakers becoming philosophers, we would like to turn our surplus of philosophers into shoemakers; and the supply of poetry is so much greater than the demand that we wish milliners would stick to their business. Extraordinary examples of work and endurance may do as much harm as good. Because Napoleon slept only three hours a night, hundreds of students have tried the experiment; but instead of Austerlitz and Saragossa, there came of it only a sick headache and a botch of a recitation. We are told of how many books a man can read in the five spare minutes before breakfast, and the ten minutes at noon, but I wish some one could tell us how much rest a man can get in fifteen minutes after dinner, or how much health in an hour's horseback ride, or how much fun in a Saturday afternoon of cricket. He who has such an idea of the value of time that he takes none of it for rest wastes all his time.
Most Americans do not take time for sufficient sleep. We account for our own extraordinary health by the fact that we are fanatics on the subject of sleep. We differ from our friend Napoleon Bonaparte in one respect: we want nine hours' sleep, and we take it—eight hours at night and one hour in the day. If we miss our allowance one week, as we often do, we make it up the next week or the next month. We have sometimes been twenty-one hours in arrearages. We formerly kept a memorandum of the hours for sleep lost. We pursued those hours till we caught them. If at the beginning of our summer vacation we are many hours behind in slumber, we go down to the sea-shore or among the mountains and sleep a month. If the world abuses us at any time, we go and take an extra sleep; and when we wake up, all the world is smiling on us. If we come to a knotty point in our discourse, we take a sleep; and when we open our eyes, the opaque has become transparent. We split every day in two by a nap in the afternoon. Going to take that somniferous interstice, we say to the servants, "Do not call me for anything. If the house takes fire, first get the children out and my private papers; and when the roof begins to fall in call me." Through such fanaticism we have thus far escaped the hot axle.
Somebody ought to be congratulated—I do not know who, and so I will shake hands all around—on the fact that the health of the country seems improving. Whether Dio Lewis, with his gymnastic clubs, has pounded to death American sickness, or whether the coming here of many English ladies with their magnificent pedestrian habits, or whether the medicines in the apothecary shops through much adulteration have lost their force, or whether the multiplication of bathtubs has induced to cleanliness people who were never washed but once, and that just after their arrival on this planet, I cannot say. But sure I am that I never saw so many bright, healthy-faced people as of late.
Our maidens have lost the languor they once cultivated, and walk the street with stout step, and swing the croquet mallet with a force that sends the ball through two arches, cracking the opposing ball with great emphasis. Our daughters are not ashamed to culture flower beds, and while they plant the rose in the ground a corresponding rose blooms in their own cheek.
But we need another proclamation of emancipation. The human locomotive goes too fast. Cylinder, driving-boxes, rock-shaft, truck and valve-gear need to "slow up." Oh! that some strong hand would unloose the burdens from our over-tasked American life, that there might be fewer bent shoulders, and pale cheeks, and exhausted lungs, and quenched eyes, the law, and medicine, and theology less frequently stopped in their glorious progress, because of the hot axle!
BEEFSTEAK FOR MINISTERS.
There have been lately several elaborate articles remarking upon what they call the lack of force and fire in the clergy. The world wonders that, with such a rousing theme as the gospel, and with such a grand work as saving souls, the ministry should ever be nerveless. Some ascribe it to lack of piety, and some to timidity of temperament. We believe that in a great number of cases it is from the lack of nourishing food. Many of the clerical brotherhood are on low diet. After jackets and sacks have been provided for the eight or ten children of the parsonage, the father and mother must watch the table with severest economy. Coming in suddenly upon the dinner-hour of the country clergyman, the housewife apologizes for what she calls "a picked-up" dinner, when, alas! it is nearly always picked up.
Congregations sometimes mourn over dull preaching when themselves are to blame. Give your minister more beefsteak and he will have more fire. Next to the divine unction, the minister needs blood; and he cannot make that out of tough leather. One reason why the apostles preached so powerfully was that they had healthy food. Fish was cheap along Galilee, and this, with unbolted bread, gave them plenty of phosphorus for brain food. These early ministers were never invited out to late suppers, with chicken salad and doughnuts. Nobody ever embroidered slippers for the big foot of Simon Peter, the fisherman preacher. Tea parties, with hot waffles, at ten o'clock at night, make namby-pamby ministers; but good hours and substantial diet, that furnish nitrates for the muscles, and phosphates for the brain, and carbonates for the whole frame, prepare a man for effective work. When the water is low, the mill-wheel goes slow; but a full race, and how fast the grists are ground! In a man the arteries are the mill-race and the brain the wheel, and the practical work of life is the grist ground. The reason our soldiers failed in some of the battles was because their stomachs had for several days been innocent of everything but "hard tack." See that your minister has a full haversack. Feed him on gruel during the week and on Sunday he will give you gruel. What is called the "parson's nose" in a turkey or fowl is an allegory setting forth that in many communities the minister comes out behind.
Eight hundred or a thousand dollars for a minister is only a slow way of killing him, and is the worst style of homicide. Why do not the trustees and elders take a mallet or an axe, and with one blow put him out of his misery? The damage begins in the college boarding house. The theological student has generally small means, and he must go to a cheap boarding house. A frail piece of sausage trying to swim across a river of gravy on the breakfast plate, but drowned at last, "the linked sweetness long drawn out" of flies in the molasses cup, the gristle of a tough ox, and measly biscuit, and buckwheat cakes tough as the cook's apron, and old peas in which the bugs lost their life before they had time to escape from the saucepan, and stale cucumbers cut up into small slices of cholera morbus,—are the provender out of which we are trying at Princeton and Yale and New Brunswick to make sons of thunder. Sons of mush! From such depletion we step gasping into the pulpit, and look so heavenly pale that the mothers in Israel are afraid we will evaporate before we get through our first sermon.
Many of our best young men in preparation for the ministry are going through this martyrdom. The strongest mind in our theological class perished, the doctors said afterward from lack of food. The only time he could afford a doctor was for his post-mortem examination.
I give the financial condition of many of our young theological students when I say:
Income $250 00 Outgo: Board at $3 per week (cheap place) 156 00 Clothing (shoddy) 100 00 Books (no morocco) 25 00 Traveling expenses 20 00
Total $301 00
Here you see a deficit of fifty-one dollars. As there are no "stealings" in a theological seminary, he makes up the balance by selling books or teaching school. He comes into life cowed down, with a patch on both knees and several other places, and a hat that has been "done over" four or five times, and so weak that the first sharp wind that whistles round the corner blows him into glory. The inertness you complain of in the ministry starts early. Do you suppose that if Paul had spent seven years in a cheap boarding house, and the years after in a poorly-supplied parsonage, he would have made Felix tremble? No! The first glance of the Roman procurator would have made him apologize for intrusion.
Do not think that all your eight-hundred-dollar minister needs is a Christmas present of an elegantly-bound copy of "Calvin's Institutes." He is sound already on the doctrine of election, and it is a poor consolation if in this way you remind him that he has been foreordained to starve to death. Keep your minister on artichokes and purslain, and he will be fit to preach nothing but funeral sermons from the text "All flesh is grass." While feeling most of all our need of the life that comes from above, let us not ignore the fact that many of the clergy to-day need more gymnastics, more fresh air, more nutritious food. Prayer cannot do the work of beefsteak. You cannot keep a hot fire in the furnace with poor fuel and the damper turned.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN OLD PAIR OF SCISSORS.
I was born in Sheffield, England, at the close of the last century, and was, like all those who study Brown's Shorter Catechism, made out of dust. My father was killed at Herculaneum at the time of the accident there, and buried with other scissors and knives and hooks and swords. On my mother's side I am descended from a pair of shears that came to England during the Roman invasion. My cousin hung to the belt of a duchess. My uncle belonged to Hampton Court, and used to trim the king's hair. I came to the United States while the grandfathers of the present generation of children were boys.
When I was young I was a gay fellow—indeed, what might have been called "a perfect blade." I look old and rusty hanging here on the nail, but take me down, and though my voice is a little squeaky with old age, I can tell you a pretty tale. I am sharper than I look. Old scissors know more than you think. They say I am a little garrulous, and perhaps I may tell things I ought not.
I helped your grandmother prepare for her wedding. I cut out and fitted all the apparel of that happy day. I hear her scold the young folks now for being so dressy, but I can tell you she was once that way herself. Did not I, sixty years ago, lie on the shelf and laugh as I saw her stand by the half hour before the glass, giving an extra twist to her curl and an additional dash of white powder on her hair—now fretted because the powder was too thick, now fretted because it was too thin? She was as proud in cambric and calico and nankeen as Harriet is to-day in white tulle and organdy. I remember how careful she was when she ran me along the edges of the new dress. With me she clipped and notched and gored and trimmed, and day and night I went click! click! click! and it seemed as if she would never let me rest from cutting.
I split the rags for the first carpet on the old homestead, and what a merry time we had when the neighbors came to "the quilting!" I lay on the coverlet that was stretched across the quilting-frame and heard all the gossip of 1799. Reputations were ripped and torn just as they are now. Fashions were chattered about, the coalscuttle bonnet of some offensive neighbor (who was not invited to the quilting) was criticised, and the suspicion started that she laced too tight; and an old man who happened to have the best farm in the county was overhauled for the size of his knee-buckles, and the exorbitant ruffles on his shirt, and the costly silk lace to his hat. I lay so still that no one supposed I was listening. I trembled on the coverlet with rage and wished that I could clip the end of their tattling tongues, but found no chance for revenge, till, in the hand of a careless neighbor, I notched and nearly spoiled the patch-work.
Yes, I am a pair of old scissors. I cut out many a profile of old-time faces, and the white dimity bed curtains. I lay on the stand when your grandparents were courting—for that had to be done then as well as now—and it was the same story of chairs wide apart, and chairs coming nearer, and arm over the back of the chair, and late hours, and four or five gettings up to go with the determination to stay, protracted interviews on the front steps, blushes and kisses. Your great-grandmother, out of patience at the lateness of the hour, shouted over the banister to your immediate grandmother, "Mary! come to bed!" Because the old people sit in the corner looking so very grave, do not suppose their eyes were never roguish, nor their lips ruby, nor their hair flaxen, nor their feet spry, nor that they always retired at half-past eight o'clock at night. After a while, I, the scissors, was laid on the shelf, and finally thrown into a box among nails and screws and files. Years of darkness and disgrace for a scissors so highly born as I. But one day I was hauled out. A bell tinkled in the street. An Italian scissors-grinder wanted a job. I was put upon the stone, and the grinder put his foot upon the treadle, and the bands pulled, and the wheel sped, and the fire flew, and it seemed as if, in the heat and pressure and agony, I should die. I was ground, and rubbed, and oiled, and polished, till I glittered in the sun; and one day, when young Harriet was preparing for the season, I plunged into the fray. I almost lost my senses among the ribbons, and flew up and down among the flounces, and went mad amongst the basques. I move round as gay as when I was young; and modern scissors, with their stumpy ends, and loose pivots, and weak blades, and glaring bows, and course shanks, are stupid beside an old family piece like me. You would be surprised how spry I am flying around the sewing-room, cutting corsage into heart-shape, and slitting a place for button holes, and making double-breasted jackets, and hollowing scallops, and putting the last touches on velvet arabesques and Worth overskirts. I feel almost as well at eighty years of age as at ten, and I lie down to sleep at night amid all the fineries of the wardrobe, on olive-green cashmere, and beside pannier puffs, and pillowed on feathers of ostrich.
Oh! what a gay life the scissors live! I may lie on gayest lady's lap, and little children like me better than almost anything else to play with. The trembling octogenarian takes me by the hand, and the rollicking four-year-old puts on me his dimpled fingers. Mine are the children's curls and the bride's veil. I am welcomed to the Christmas tree, and the sewing-machine, and the editor's table. I have cut my way through the ages. Beside pen, and sword, and needle, I dare to stand anywhere, indispensable to the race, the world-renowned scissors!
But I had a sad mission once. The bell tolled in the New England village because a soul had passed. I sat up all the night cutting the pattern for a shroud. Oh, it was gloomy work. There was wailing in the house, but I could not stop to mourn. I had often made the swaddling-clothes for a child, but that was the only time I fashioned a robe for the grave. To fit it around the little neck, and make the sleeves just long enough for the quiet arms—it hurt me more than the tilt hammers that smote me in Sheffield, than the files of the scissors-grinder at the door. I heard heart-strings snap as I went through the linen, and in the white pleats to be folded over the still heart I saw the snow banked on a grave. Give me, the old scissors, fifty bridal dresses to make rather than one shroud to prepare.
I never recovered from the chill of those dismal days, but at the end of life I can look back and feel that I have done my work well. Other scissors have frayed and unraveled the garments they touched, but I have always made a clean path through the linen or the damask I was called to divide. Others screeched complainingly at their toil; I smoothly worked my jaws. Many of the fingers that wrought with me have ceased to open and shut, and my own time will soon come to die, and I shall be buried in a grave of rust amid cast-off tenpenny nails and horse-shoes. But I have stayed long enough to testify, first, that these days are no worse than the old ones, the granddaughter now no more proud than the grandmother was; secondly, that we all need to be hammered and ground in order to take off the rust; and thirdly, that an old scissors, as well as an old man, may be scoured up and made practically useful.
A LIE, ZOOLOGICALLY CONSIDERED.
We stand agape in the British Museum, looking at the monstrous skeletons of the mastodon, megatherium and iguanodon, and conclude that all the great animals thirty feet long and eleven feet high are extinct.
Now, while we do not want to frighten children or disturb nervous people, we have to say that the other day we caught a glimpse of a monster beside which the lizards of the saurian era were short, and the elephants of the mammalian period were insignificant. We saw it in full spring, and on the track of its prey. Children would call the creature "a fib;" rough persons would term it "a whopper;" polite folks would say it was "a fabrication;" but plain and unscientific people would style it "a lie." Naturalists might assign it to the species "Tigris regalis," or "Felis pardus."
We do not think that anatomical and zoological justice has been done to the lie. It is to be found in all zones. Livingstone saw it in Central Africa; Dr. Kane found it on an iceberg beside a polar bear; Agassiz discovered it in Brazil. It thrives about as well in one clime as another, with perhaps a little preference for the temperate zone. It lives on berries, or bananas, or corn, grapes, or artichokes; drinks water, or alcohol, or tea. It eats up a great many children, and would have destroyed the boy who afterward became the father of his country had he not driven it back with his hatchet. (See the last two hundred Sunday-school addresses.)
The first peculiarity of this Tigris regalis or Felis pardus, commonly called a lie, is its
If it once get born, it lives on almost interminably. Sometimes it has followed a man for ten, twenty or forty years, and has been as healthy in its last leap as in the first. It has run at every president from General Washington to General Grant, and helped kill Horace Greeley. It has barked at every good man since Adam, and every good woman since Eve, and every good boy since Abel, and every good cow since Pharaoh's lean kine. Malarias do not poison it, nor fires burn it, nor winters freeze it. Just now it is after your neighbor; to-morrow it will be after you. It is the healthiest of all monsters. Its tooth knocks out the "tooth of time." Its hair never turns white with age, nor does it limp with decrepitude. It is distinguished for its longevity.
THE LENGTH OF ITS LEGS.
It keeps up with the express train, and is present at the opening and the shutting of the mailbags. It takes a morning run from New York to San Francisco or over to London before breakfast. It can go a thousand miles at a jump. It would despise seven-league boots as tedious. A telegraph pole is just knee-high to this monster, and from that you can judge its speed of locomotion. It never gets out of wind, carries a bag of reputations made up in cold hash, so that it does not have to stop for victuals. It goes so fast that sometimes five million people have seen it the same morning.
KEENNESS OF NOSTRIL.
It can smell a moral imperfection fifty miles away. The crow has no faculty compared with this for finding carrion. It has scented something a hundred miles off, and before night "treed" its game. It has a great genius for smelling. It can find more than is actually there. When it begins to snuff the air, you had better look out. It has great length and breadth and depth, and height of nose.
ACUTENESS OF EAR.
The rabbit has no such power to listen as this creature we speak of. It hears all the sounds that come from five thousand keyholes. It catches a whisper from the other side the room, and can understand the scratch of a pen. It has one ear open toward the east and the other toward the west, and hears everything in both directions. All the tittle-tattle of the world pours into those ears like vinegar through a funnel. They are always up and open, and to them a meeting of the sewing society is a jubilee and a political campaign is heaven.
SIZE OF THROAT.
The snake has hard work to choke down a toad, and the crocodile has a mighty struggle to take in the calf; but the monster of which I speak can swallow anything. It has a throat bigger than the whale that took down the minister who declined the call to Nineveh, and has swallowed whole presbyteries and conferences of clergymen. A Brobdingnagian goes down as easily as a Liliputian. The largest story about business dishonor, or female frailty, or political deception, slips through with the ease of a homoeopathic pellet. Its throat is sufficient for anything round, or square, or angular, or octagonal.
Nothing in all the earth is too big for its mastication and digestion save the truth, and that will stick in its gullet.
IT IS GREGARIOUS.
It goes in a flock with others of its kind. If one takes after a man or woman, there are at least ten in its company. As soon as anything bad is charged against a man, there are many others who know things just as deleterious. Lies about himself, lies about his wife, lies about his children, lies about his associates, lies about his house, lies about his barn, lies about his store—swarms of them, broods of them, herds of them. Kill one of them, and there will be twelve alive to act as its pall-bearers, another to preach its funeral sermon, and still another to write its obituary.
These monsters beat all the extinct species. They are white, spotted and black. They have a sleek hide, a sharp claw and a sting in their tail. They prowl through every street of the city, craunch in the restaurants, sleep in the hall of Congress, and in grandest parlor have one paw under the piano, another under the sofa, one by the mantel and the other on the door-sill.
Now, many people spend half their time in hunting lies. You see a man rushing anxiously about to correct a newspaper paragraph, or a husband, with fist clenched, on the way to pound some one who has told a false thing about his wife. There is a woman on the next street who heard, last Monday, a falsehood about her husband, and has had her hat and shawl on ever since in the effort to correct wrong impressions. Our object in this zoological sketch of a lie is to persuade you of the folly of such a hunting excursion. If these monsters have such long legs, and go a hundred miles at a jump, you might as well give up the chase. If they have such keenness of nostril, they can smell you across the State, and get out of your way. If they have such long ears, they can hear the hunter's first step in the woods. If they have such great throats, they can swallow you at a gape. If they are gregarious, while you shoot one, forty will run upon you like mad buffaloes, and trample you to death. Arrows bound back from their thick hide; and as for gunpowder, they use it regularly for pinches of snuff. After a shower of bullets has struck their side, they lift their hind foot to scratch the place, supposing a black fly has been biting. Henry the Eighth, in a hawking party, on foot, attempted to leap a ditch in Hertfordshire, and with his immense avoirdupois weight went splashing into the mud and slime, and was hauled out by his footman half dead. And that is the fate of men who spend their time hunting for lies. Better go to your work, and let the lies run. Their bloody muzzles have tough work with a man usefully busy. You cannot so easily overcome them with sharp retort as with adze and yardstick. All the howlings of Californian wolves at night do not stop the sun from kindling victorious morn on the Sierra Nevadas, and all the ravenings of defamation and revenge cannot hinder the resplendent dawn of heaven on a righteous soul.
But they who spend their time in trying to lasso and decapitate a lie will come back worsted, as did the English cockneys from a fox chase described in the poem entitled "Pills to Purge Melancholy:"
"And when they had done their sport, they came to London, where they dwell, Their faces all so torn and scratched their wives scarce knew them well; For 'twas a very great mercy so many 'scaped alive, For of twenty saddles carried out, they brought again but five."
A BREATH OF ENGLISH AIR.
My friend looked white as the wall, flung the "London Times" half across the room, kicked one slipper into the air and shouted, "Talmage, where on earth did you come from?" as one summer I stepped into his English home. "Just come over the ferry to dine with you," I responded. After some explanation about the health of my family, which demanded a sea voyage, and thus necessitated my coming, we planned two or three excursions.
At eight o'clock in the morning we gathered in the parlor in the Red Horse Hotel, at Stratford-on-Avon. Two pictures of Washington Irving, the chair in which the father of American literature sat, and the table on which he wrote, immortalizing his visit to that hotel, adorn the room. From thence we sallied forth to see the clean, quaint village of Stratford. It was built just to have Shakspeare born in. We have not heard that there was any one else ever born there, before or since. If, by any strange possibility, it could be proved that the great dramatist was born anywhere else, it would ruin all the cab drivers, guides and hostelries of the place.
We went of course to the house where Shakspeare first appeared on the stage of life, and enacted the first act of his first play. Scene the first. Enter John Shakspeare, the father; Mrs. Shakspeare, the mother, and the old nurse, with young William.
A very plain house it is. Like the lark, which soars highest, but builds its nest lowest, so with genius; it has humble beginnings. I think ten thousand dollars would be a large appraisement for all the houses where the great poets were born. But all the world comes to this lowly dwelling. Walter Scott was glad to scratch his name on the window, and you may see it now. Charles Dickens, Edmund Kean, Albert Smith, Mark Lemon and Tennyson, so very sparing of their autographs, have left their signatures on the wall. There are the jambs of the old fire-place where the poet warmed himself and combed wool, and began to think for all time. Here is the chair in which he sat while presiding at the club, forming habits of drink which killed him at the last, his own life ending in a tragedy as terrible as any he ever wrote. Exeunt wine-bibbers, topers, grogshop keepers, Drayton, Ben Jonson and William Shakspeare. Here also is the letter which Richard Quyney sent to Shakspeare, asking to borrow thirty pounds. I hope he did not loan it; for if he did, it was a dead loss.
We went to the church where the poet is buried. It dates back seven hundred years, but has been often restored. It has many pictures, and is the sleeping place of many distinguished dead; but one tomb within the chancel absorbs all the attention of the stranger. For hundreds of years the world has looked upon the unadorned stone lying flat over the dust of William Shakspeare, and read the epitaph written by himself:
"Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbeare To dig the dust enclosed here; Bleste be ye man yt spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones."
Under such anathema the body has slept securely. A sexton once looked in at the bones, but did not dare to touch them, lest his "quietus" should be made with a bare bodkin.
From the church door we mounted our carriage; and crossing the Avon on a bridge which the lord mayor of London built four hundred years ago, we start on one of the most memorable rides of our life. The country looked fresh and luxuriant from recent rains. The close-trimmed hedges, the sleek cattle, the snug cottages, the straggling villages with their historic inns, the castle from whose park Shakspeare stole the deer, the gate called "Shakspeare's stile," curious in the fact that it looks like ordinary bars of fence, but as you attempt to climb over, the whole thing gives way, and lets you fall flat, righting itself as soon as it is unburdened of you; the rabbits darting along the hedges, undisturbed, because it is unlawful, save for licensed hunters, to shoot, and then not on private property; the perfect weather, the blue sky, the exhilarating breeze, the glorious elms and oaks by the way,—make it a day that will live when most other days are dead.
At two o'clock we came in sight of Kenilworth Castle. Oh, this is the place to stir the blood. It is the king of ruins. Warwick is nothing; Melrose is nothing, compared with it. A thousand great facts look out through the broken windows. Earls and kings and queens sit along the shattered sides of the banqueting halls. The stairs are worn deep with the feet that have clambered them for eight hundred years. As a loving daughter arranges the dress of an old man, so every season throws a thick mantle of ivy over the mouldering wall. The roof that caught and echoed back the merriment of dead ages has perished. Time has struck his chisel into every inch of the structure. By the payment of only three-pence you find access to places where only the titled were once permitted to walk. You go in, and are overwhelmed with the thoughts of past glory and present decay. These halls were promenaded by Richard Coeur de Lion; in this chapel burned the tomb lights over the grave of Geoffrey de Clinton; in these dungeons kings groaned; in these doorways duchesses fainted. Scene of gold, and silver, and scroll work, and chiseled arch, and mosaic. Here were heard the carousals of the Round Table; from those very stables the caparisoned horses came prancing out for the tournament; through that gateway strong, weak, heroic, mean, splendid, Queen Elizabeth advanced to the castle, while the waters of the lake gleamed under torchlights, and the battlements were aflame with rockets; and cornet, and hautboy, and trumpet poured their music on the air; and goddesses glided out from the groves to meet her; and from turret to foundation Kenilworth trembled under a cannonade, and for seventeen days, at a cost of five thousand dollars a day, the festival was kept. Four hundred servants standing in costly livery; sham battles between knights on horseback; jugglers tumbling on the grass; thirteen bears baited for the amusement of the guests; three hundred and twenty hogsheads of beer consumed, till all Europe applauded, denounced and stood amazed.
Where is the glory now? What has become of the velvet? Who wears the jewels? Would Amy Robsart have so longed to get into the castle had she known its coming ruin? Where are those who were waited on, and those who waited? What has become of Elizabeth, the visitor, and Robert Dudley, the visited? Cromwell's men dashed upon the scene; they drained the lakes; they befouled the banquet hall; they dismantled the towers; they turned the castle into a tomb, on whose scarred and riven sides ambition and cruelty and lust may well read their doom. "So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord; but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might."
THE MIDNIGHT LECTURE.
At eight o'clock precisely, on consecutive nights, we stepped on the rostrum at Chicago, Zanesville. Indianapolis, Detroit, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Buffalo. But it seemed that Dayton was to be a failure. We telegraphed from Indianapolis, "Missed connection. Cannot possibly meet engagement at Dayton." Telegram came back saying, "Take a locomotive and come on!" We could not get a locomotive. Another telegram arrived: "Mr. Gale, the superintendent of railroad, will send you in an extra train. Go immediately to the depot!" We gathered up our traps from the hotel floor and sofa, and hurled them at the satchel. They would not go in. We put a collar in our hat, and the shaving apparatus in our coat pocket; got on the satchel with both feet, and declared the thing should go shut if it split everything between Indianapolis and Dayton. Arriving at the depot, the train was ready. We had a locomotive and one car. There were six of us on the train—namely, the engineer and stoker on the locomotive; while following were the conductor, a brakeman at each end of the car, and the pastor of a heap of ashes on Schermerhorn street, Brooklyn. "When shall we get to Dayton?" we asked. "Half-past nine o'clock!" responded the conductor. "Absurd!" we said; "no audience will wait till half-past nine at night for a lecturer."
Away we flew. The car, having such a light load, frisked and kicked, and made merry of a journey that to us was becoming very grave. Going round a sharp curve at break-neck speed, we felt inclined to suggest to the conductor that it would make no especial difference if we did not get to Dayton till a quarter to ten. The night was cold, and the hard ground thundered and cracked. The bridges, instead of roaring, as is their wont, had no time to give any more than a grunt as we struck them and passed on. At times it was so rough we were in doubt as to whether we were on the track or taking a short cut across the field to get to our destination a little sooner. The flagmen would hastily open their windows and look at the screeching train. The whistle blew wildly, not so much to give the villages warning as to let them know that something terrible had gone through. Stopped to take in wood and water. A crusty old man crawled out of a depot, and said to the engineer, "Jim, what on earth is the matter?" "Don't know," said Jim; "that fellow in the car yonder is bound to get to Dayton, and we are putting things through." Brakes lifted, bell rung, and off again. Amid the rush and pitch of the train there was no chance to prepare our toilet, and no looking-glass, and it was quite certain that we would have to step from the train immediately into the lecturing hall. We were unfit to be seen. We were sure our hair was parted in five or six different places, and that the cinders had put our face in mourning, and that something must be done. What time we could spare from holding on to the bouncing seat we gave to our toilet, and the arrangements we made, though far from satisfactory, satisfied our conscience that we had done what we could. A button broke as we were fastening our collar—indeed, a button always does break when you are in a hurry and nobody to sew it on. "How long before we get there?" we anxiously asked. "I have miscalculated," said the conductor; "we cannot get there till five minutes of ten o'clock." "My dear man," I cried, "you might as well turn round and go back; the audience will be gone long before ten o'clock." "No!" said the conductor; "at the last depot I got a telegram saying they are waiting patiently, and telling us to hurry on." The locomotive seemed to feel it was on the home stretch. At times, what with the whirling smoke and the showering sparks, and the din, and rush, and bang, it seemed as if we were on our last ride, and that the brakes would not fall till we stopped for ever.
At five minutes of ten o'clock we rolled into the Dayton depot, and before the train came to a halt we were in a carriage with the lecturing committee, going at the horse's full run toward the opera house. Without an instant in which to slacken our pulses, the chairman rushed in upon the stage, and introduced the lecturer of the evening. After in the quickest way shedding overcoat and shawl, we confronted the audience, and with our head yet swimming from the motion of the rail-train, we accosted the people—many of whom had been waiting since seven o'clock'—with the words, "Long-suffering but patient ladies and gentlemen, you are the best-natured audience I ever saw." When we concluded what we had to say, it was about midnight, and hence the title of this little sketch.