A NOVEL WITHOUT A PLOT
AUTHOR OF "OUT OF THE HURLY-BURLY," ETC., ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY ARTHUR B. FROST
If every book that contains nothing but nonsense confessed that fact in its preface, the world would have been saved a vast amount of dreary reading. Most of such volumes, however, are believed by their authors to be full of wisdom of the solidest kind; and confession, therefore, being impossible, the reader may learn the truth only through much tribulation. The writer of this book freely admits, at the outset, that it contains only the lightest humor, and that its single purpose is to afford amusement. At the same time, he claims for it that it is wiser and far more useful than many more solemn books that have been published, with the intent to regenerate mankind, by authors who would regard such a volume as this with feelings of scorn.
This is simply an effort to tell stories of a humorous character; and although the attempt may not be so successful as it has been in the hands of others, from Boccaccio downward, it has at least one quality that some greater achievements do not possess: it is absolutely pure in thought, word and suggestion. If it is filled with nonsense, that nonsense at any rate is innocent. It is modest, cleanly and without malice or irreverence. A worthier and nobler work might have been written; a purer work could not have been.
What its other merits are he who reads it will discern. To apologize for it in any manner would be to admit that it has grave deficiencies, and such an admission the author would not make even if his conscience impelled him to do so. The book is offered to the reader with the conviction that if the man who laughs is the happiest man, it may contribute something to the sum of human felicity.
The story of the French horn, related in the twentieth chapter, will recall to the reader of the "Sparrowgrass Papers" an incident related in that most charming book of humor. Perhaps it ought to be said that the former narrative was at least suggested by the latter.
The artist who has illustrated the book, Mr. Arthur B. Frost, deserves to have it said of him that he has done his work skilfully, tastefully and with nice appreciation of the humor of the various situations.
I. THE ADVANTAGES OF ELBOW-ROOM
II. THE TERRIBLE MISHAP TO MR. FOGG'S BABY
III. INTERNAL NAVIGATION.—AN UNFORTUNATE INVENTOR
IV. THE FACTS IN REFERENCE TO MR. BUTTERWICK'S HORSE
V. SOME EDUCATIONAL FACTS
VI. THE EDITOR OF "THE PATRIOT"
VII. HOW MR. BUTTERWICK PURSUED HORTICULTURE
VIII. THE MEETING, AND ITS MISSIONARY WORK
IX. JUDGE TWIDDLER'S COW
X. OUR CIVIL SERVICE
XI. FUNEREAL AND CONJUGAL
XII. A NEW MRS. TOODLES.—POTTS' ADVENTURES
XIII. THE RACES, AND SOME OTHER THINGS
XIV. RESPECTING CERTAIN SAVAGES
XV. LOVE, SUFFERING AND SUICIDE
XVI. MR. FOGG AS SPORTSMAN AND SPOUSE
XVII. HOW WE CONDUCT A POLITICAL CAMPAIGN
XVIII. THE MATUTINAL ROOSTER
XIX. AN UNRULY METER.—SCENES IN A SANCTUM
XX. HIGH ART
XXI. CERTAIN DENTAL EXPERIENCES.—AN UNFORTUNATE OFFICIAL
XXII. JUSTICE, AND A LITTLE INJUSTICE
XXIII. THE TRAMP WITH GENIUS AND WITHOUT IT
XXIV. THE DOG OF MR. BUTTERWICK'S, AND OTHER DOGS
XXV. A PERSECUTED JOURNALIST
XXVI. THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF DR. PERKINS
XXVII. GENERAL TRUMPS OF THE MILITIA
XXVIII. THE MISDIRECTED ENERGIES OF MR. BRADLEY
XXIX. THE TRIALS OF MR. KEYSER, GRANGER
XXX. MR. BANGER'S AUNT
XXXI. VARIOUS THINGS
ELBOW-ROOM MR. FOGG AS A MESMERIST A NOVEL MOUSETRAP A PERPLEXED MULE THE SECRETARY IS ALARMED MR. BUTTERWICK'S HORSE LIES DOWN THE BATTLE OF CANNAE. MR. BARNES PROPOSES THE CARBOLIC DOOR-MAT THE GARDENER RETREATS TREADING WATER THE HEATHEN CLOTHE THEMSELVES THE JUDGE'S COW A TOMBSTONE CONTRACT MR. POTTS' MOUSE SHOOTING A BURGLAR A FLAT-IRON WEDDING AN EXCITED OLD LADY THE CAT SUCCUMBS HOW THE PIG WAS KILLED MR. SPOONER IS ALARMED THE LITTLE BABY-BEAR THE GOLDFISH TRICK. A CURTAILMENT AN INDIGNANT GUNNER CONFESSING THEIR FAULTS FORCED TO DO DUTY THE EARLY COCK THE AFFAIR AT THE POULTRY-SHOW THE SHERIFF IS MAD MR. SMITH'S GRIEF A SCARED FAMILY DR. SLUGG'S INVENTION JOE MIDDLES A COURT SCENE A DOG FOR SALE SMITH'S BOY RETREATS BANG!!! THE WANDERING JEW SIMPSON'S CASE THE GENERAL IN A RAGE "TAKE HER, YOUNG MAN!" BRADLEY'S CRADLE THE NEW MOTOR A QUEER PLANT TOO MUCH OF A BORE. BALLAST MAJOR SLOTT'S TIGER FACING THE TIGER
THE ADVANTAGES OF ELBOW-ROOM.
The professors of sociology, in exploring the mysteries of the science of human living, have not agreed that elbow-room is one of the great needs of modern civilized society, but this may be because they have not yet reached the bottom of things and discovered the truth. In crowded communities men have chances of development in certain directions, but in others their growth is surely checked. A man who lives in a large city is apt to experience a sharpening of his wits, for attrition of minds as well as of pebbles produces polish and brilliancy; but perhaps this very process prevents the free unfolding of parts of his character. If his individuality is not partially lost amid the crowd, it is likely that, first, his imitative faculty will induce him to shape himself in accordance with another than his own pattern, and that, second, the dread of the conspicuousness which is the certain result of eccentricity will persuade him to avoid any tendency he may have to become strongly unlike his neighbors.
The house that he lives in is tightly squeezed in a row of dwellings builded upon a precisely similar plan, so that the influence brought to bear upon him by the home resembles to some extent that which operates upon his fellows. There is a pressure upon both sides of him in the house; and when he plunges into business, there is a far greater pressure there, in the shape of sharp competition, which brings him into constant collision with other men, and mayhap drives him or compels him to drive his weaker rival to the wall.
The city-man is likely to cover himself with a mantle of reserve and dissimulation. If he has a longing to wander in untrodden and devious paths, he is disposed resolutely to suppress his desire and to go in the beaten track. If Smith, in a savage state, would certainly conduct himself in a wholly original manner, in a social condition he yields to an inevitable apprehension that Jones will think queer of his behavior, and he shapes his actions in accordance with the plan that Jones, with strong impulses to unusual and individual conduct, has adopted because he is afraid he will be thought singular by Smith. And in the mean time, Robinson, burning with a desire to go wantonly in a direction wholly diverse from that of his associates, realizes that to set at defiance the theories of which Smith and Jones are apparently the earnest advocates would be to expose himself to harsh criticism, sacrifices himself to his terror of their opinion and yields to the force of their example.
In smaller and less densely-populated communities the weight of public opinion is not largely decreased, but the pressure is not so great. There is more elbow-room. A man who knows everybody about him gauges with a reasonable degree of accuracy the characters of those who are to judge him, and is able to form a pretty fair estimate of the value of their opinions. When men can do this, they are apt to feel a greater degree of freedom in following their natural impulses. If men could sound the depths of all knowledge and read with ease the secrets of the universe, they might lose much of their reverence. When they know the exact worth of the judgment of their fellow-men, they begin to regard it with comparative indifference. And so, if a dweller in a small village desires to leave the beaten track, he can summon courage to do so with greater readiness than the man of the town. If he has occasionally that proneness to make a fool of himself which seizes every man now and then, he may indulge in the perilous luxury without great carefulness of the consequences. Smith's ordinary conduct is the admiration of Jones as a regular thing; but when Smith switches off into some eccentricity for which Jones has no inclination, it is only a matter of course that Jones should indulge in his own little oddities without caring whether Smith smiles upon him or not.
It is, therefore, in such communities that search can most profitably be made for raw human nature that has had room to grow upon every side with little check or hindrance. The man who chooses to seek may find original characters, queer combinations of events, surprising revelations of individual and family experiences and an unlimited fund of amusement, especially if he is disposed, perhaps even while he submits to an overpowering conviction that all life is tragic, to summon into prominence those humorous phases of social existence which, as in the best of artificial tragedies, are permitted to appear in real life as the foil of that which is truly sorrowful. To depict events that are simply amusing may not be the highest and best function of a writer; but if he has a strong impulse to undertake such a task in the intervals of more serious work, it may be that he performs a duty which is more obvious because the common inclination of those who tell the story of human life is to present that which is sad and terrible, and to lead-the reader, whose soul has bitterness enough of its own, into contemplation of the true or fictitious anguish of others.
At any rate, an attempt to show men and their actions in a purely humorous aspect is justified by the facts of human life; and if fiction is, for the most part, tragedy, there is reason why much of the remainder should be devoted to fun. To laugh is to perform as divine a function as to weep. Man, who was made only a little lower than the angels, is the only animal to whom laughter is permitted. He is the sole earthly heir of immortality, and he laughs. More than this, the process is healthful to both mind and body, for it is the man who laughs with reason and judgment who is the kindly, pure, cheerful and happy man.
It is in a village wherein there is elbow-room for the physical and intellectual man that the characters in this book may be supposed to be, to do and to suffer. It would be unfair to say that the reader can visit the spot and meet face to face all these people who appear in the incidents herein recorded, and it would be equally improper to assert that there is naught written of them but veritable history. But it might perhaps be urged that the individuals exist in less decided and grotesque forms, and that the words and deeds attributed to them are less than wholly improbable. And if any one shall consider it worth while to inquire further concerning the matter, let him discover where may be found a community which exists in such a locality as this that I will now describe.
A hamlet set upon a hillside. The top a breezy elevation crowned with foliage and commanding a view of matchless beauty. To the west, beneath, a sea of verdure rolling away in mighty billows, which here bear upon their crests a tiny wood, a diminutive dwelling, a flock of sheep or a drove of cattle, and there sweep apparently almost over a shadowy town which nestles between two of the emerald waves. Far, far beyond the steeples which rise dimly from the distant town a range of hills; beyond it still, a faint film of blue, the indistinct and misty semblance of towering mountains.
To the north a lovely plain that rises a few miles away into a long low ridge which forms the sharp and clear horizon. To the south and east a narrow valley that is little more than a deep ravine, the sides of the precipitous hills covered with forest to the brink of the stream, which twists and turns at sharp angles like a wounded snake, shining as burnished silver when one catches glimpses of it through the trees, and playing an important part in a landscape which at brief distance seems as wild and as unconscious of the presence of man as if it were a part of the wilderness of Oregon rather than the adjunct of a busy town which feels continually the stir and impulse of the huge city only a dozen miles away.
He who descends from the top of the village hill will pass pretty mansions set apart from their neighbors in leafy and flowery solitudes wherein the most unsocial hermit might find elbow-room enough; he will see little cottages which stand nearer to the roadside, as if they shunned isolation and wished to share in the life that often fills the highway in front of them. Farther down the houses become more companionable; they cling together in groups with the barest possibility of retaining their individuality, until at last the thoroughfare becomes a street wherein small shops do their traffic in quite a spirited sort of a way.
Clear down at the foot of the hill, by the brink of the sweet and placid river, there are iron mills and factories and furnaces, whose chimneys in the daytime pour out huge columns of black smoke, and from which long tongues of crimson and bluish flame leap forth at night against the pitchy darkness of the sky. Here, as one whirls by in the train after nightfall, he may catch hurried glimpses of swarthy men, stripped to the waist, stirring the molten iron with their long levers or standing amid showers of sparks as the brilliant metal slips to and fro among the rollers that mould it into the forms of commerce. If upon a summer evening one shall rest amid the sweet air and the rustling trees upon the hill-top, he may hear coming up from this dusky, grimy blackness of the mills and the railway the soughing of the blowers of the blast-furnaces, the sharp crack of the exploding gases in the white-hot iron, the shriek of the locomotive whistle and all night long the roar and rattle of the passing trains, but so mellowed by the distance that the harsh sounds seem almost musical—almost as pleasant and as easily endured as the voices of nature. And in the early morning a look from the chamber window perhaps may show a locomotive whirling down the valley around the sharp curves with its white streamer flung out upon the green hillside, and seeming like a snowy ribbon cut from the huge mass of vapor which lies low upon the surface of the stream.
The name of this town among the hills is—well, it has a very charming Indian name, to reveal which might be to point with too much distinctness to the worthy people who in some sort figure in the following pages. It shall be called Millburg in those pages, and its inhabitants shall tell their stories and play their parts under the cover of that unsuggestive title; so that the curious reader of little faith shall have difficulty if he resolves to discover the whereabouts of the village and to inquire respecting the author's claim to credibility as a historian.
THE TERRIBLE MISHAP TO MR. FOGG'S BABY.
Mr. and Mrs. Fogg have a young baby which was exceedingly restless and troublesome at night while it was cutting its teeth. Mr. Fogg, devoted and faithful father that he is, used to take a good deal more than his share of the nursing of the infant, and often, when he would turn out of bed for the fifteenth or sixteenth time and with fluttering garments and unshod feet carry the baby to and fro, soothing it with a little song, he would think how true it is, as Napoleon once said, that "the only real courage is two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage." Mr. Fogg thought he had a reasonable amount of genuine bravery, and justly, for he performed the functions of a nurse with unsurpassed patience and good humor.
One night, however, the baby was unusually wakeful and tempestuous, and after struggling with it for several hours he called Mrs. Fogg and suggested that it would be well to give the child some paregoric to relieve it from the intense pain from which it was evidently suffering. The medicine stood upon the bureau, but Mrs. Fogg had to go down stairs to the dining-room to get some sugar; and while she was fumbling about in the entry in the dark it occurred to Mr. Fogg that he had heard of persons being relieved from pain by applications of mesmerism. He had no notion that he could exercise such power; but while musing upon the subject he rubbed the baby's eyebrows carelessly with his fingers and made several passes with his hands upon its forehead. As Mrs. Fogg began to feel her way up stairs, he was surprised and pleased to find that the baby had become quiet and had dropped off into sweet and peaceful slumber. Mrs. Fogg put the sugar away as her husband placed the child in its crib and covered it up carefully, and then they went to bed.
They were not disturbed again that night, and in the morning the baby was still fast asleep. Mrs. Fogg said she guessed the poor little darling must have gotten a tooth through, which made it feel easier. Mr. Fogg said, "Maybe it has."
But he had a faint though very dark suspicion that something was wrong.
After breakfast he went up to the bed-room to see if the baby was awake. It still remained asleep; and Mr. Fogg, when he had leaned over and listened to its breathing, shook it roughly three or four times and cleared his throat in a somewhat boisterous manner. But it did not wake, and Mr. Fogg went down stairs with a horrible dread upon him, and assuming his hat prepared to go to the office. Mrs. Fogg called to him,
"Don't slam the front door and wake the baby!"
And then Mr. Fogg did slam it with extraordinary violence; after which he walked up the street with gloom in his soul and a wretched feeling of apprehension that the baby would never waken.
"What on earth would we do if it should stay asleep for years? S'pose'n it should sleep right straight ahead for half a century, and grow to be an old man without knowing its pa and ma, and without ever learning anything or seeing anything!"
The thought maddened him. He remembered Rip Van Winkle; he recalled the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus; he thought of the afflicted woman whom he saw once at a menagerie in a trance, in which she had been for twenty years continuously, excepting when she awoke for a few moments at long intervals to ask for something to eat. Perhaps when he and Mrs. Fogg were dead the baby might be rented to a menagerie, and be carried around the country as a spectacle. The idea haunted him. It made him miserable. He tried for two or three hours to fix his mind upon his office-duties, but it was impossible. He determined to go back to the house to ascertain if the baby had returned to consciousness. When he got there, Mrs. Fogg was beginning to feel very uneasy. She said,
"Isn't it strange, Wilberforce, that the baby stays asleep? He is not awake yet. I suppose it is nervous exhaustion, poor darling! but I am a little worried about it."
Mr. Fogg felt awfully. He went up and jagged a pin into the baby's leg quietly, so that his wife could not see him. Still it lay there wrapped in slumber; and after repeating the experiment he abandoned himself to despair and went back to his office, uncertain whether to fly or to go home and confess the terrible truth to Mrs. Fogg.
In a couple of hours that lovely woman came in to see him. She was scared and breathless:
"Mr. Fogg, the baby is actually asleep yet, and I can't rouse him. I've shaken him, called to him and done everything, and he don't stir. What can be the matter with him? I'm afraid something dreadful has happened to him."
"Maybe he is sleeping up a lot ahead, so's to stay awake at night some more," said Mr. Fogg, with a feeble smile at his attempt at a joke.
"Wilberforce, you ought to be ashamed of yourself to trifle with such a matter! S'pose the baby should die while it is in that condition? I believe it is going to die, and I want you to go straight for the doctor."
Mr. Fogg started at once, and in half an hour he reached the house in company with Dr. Gill. The doctor examined the child carefully and said that it was a very queer case, but that, in his opinion, he must be under the influence of opium.
"Did you give him any while I was asleep last night, Mr. Fogg?" asked Mrs. Fogg, suspiciously and tearfully.
"Upon my word and honor I didn't," said Mr. Fogg, with the cold perspiration standing upon his forehead.
"Are you sure you didn't give him anything?" demanded the mother, suddenly remembering that the baby became quiet while she was down stairs upon the preceding night.
"Maria, do you think I would deceive you?" asked Mr. Fogg, in agony. "I'll take my solemn oath that I did not give it a drop of medicine of any kind."
"It is very remarkable—very," said the doctor. "I don't know that I ever encountered precisely such a case before. I think I will call in Dr. Brown and consult with him about it."
Then Mrs. Fogg began to sob; and while she fondled the baby, Mr. Fogg, feeling like a murderer, followed the doctor down stairs. When they reached the hall, Mr. Fogg drew the doctor aside and said, in a confidential whisper:
"Doctor, I am going to tell you something, but I want you to promise solemnly that you will keep it a secret."
"Very well; what is it?"
"You won't tell Mrs. Fogg?"
"Well, doctor, I—I—I—know what is the matter with that baby."
"You do! you know! Well, why didn't you—What is the matter with it?"
"The fact is, I mesmerized it last night."
"You did! Mesmerized it! And why don't you rouse it up again?"
"I don't know how; that's the mischief of it. I did it accidentally, you know. I was sort of fingering around the child's forehead, and all of a sudden it stopped crying and dropped off. Can't you find me a professional mesmerizer to come and undo the baby?"
"I don't believe I can. The only one I know of lives in San Francisco, and he couldn't get here in less than a week even if we should telegraph for him."
"By that time," shrieked Mr. Fogg, "the baby'll be dead and Maria will be insane! What, under Heaven, are we going to do about it?"
"Let's hunt up Brown; maybe he knows."
So they went around to Dr. Brown's office and revealed the secret to him. Brown seemed to think that he might perhaps do something to rob the situation of its horrors, and he accompanied Mr. Fogg and Dr. Gill to the house. When they entered, Mrs. Fogg was rapidly becoming hysterical. Dr. Brown placed the baby on the bed; he slapped its little hands and rubbed its forehead and dashed cold water in its face. In a few moments the baby opened its eyes, then it suddenly sat up and began to cry. Mr. Fogg used to hate that noise, but now it seemed to him sweeter than music. Mrs. Fogg was wild with joy. She took the baby in her arms and kissed and hugged it, and then she said,
"What do you think was the matter with him, doctor?"
"Why, your husband says he mesmerized the child," replied the doctor, incautiously letting the secret drop.
Then Mrs. Fogg looked at the culprit as if she wished to assassinate him; but she merely ejaculated, "Monster!" and flew from the room; and Mr. Fogg, as he went down with the physicians, put on an injured look and said,
"If that baby wants to holloa now, I'm going to let him holloa, if he holloas the top of his head off."
* * * * *
It was this offence, according to popular rumor, that brought things to a crisis in Mr. Fogg's family and induced Mrs. Fogg to seek to remove the heavy burden of woe imposed upon her by her husband. Only a few days later Mr. and Mrs. Fogg knocked at the door of Colonel Coffin's law office, and then filed in, Mrs. Fogg in advance. Mr. Fogg, the reader may care to know, was a subdued, weak-eyed and timid person. He had the air of a victim of perpetual tyranny—of a man who had been ruthlessly and remorselessly sat upon until his spirit was wholly gone. And Mrs. Fogg looked as if she might have been his despot. She opened the conversation by addressing the lawyer:
"Colonel, I have called to engage you as my counsel in a divorce suit against Mr. Fogg. I have resolved to separate from him—to sunder our ties and henceforth to live apart."
"Indeed!" replied the colonel; "I'm sorry to hear that. What's the matter? Has he been beating and ill-treating you?"
"Beating!" exclaimed Mrs. Fogg, disdainfully; "I should think not! I should like him to try it."
"Maria, let me—" interposed Mr. Fogg, mildly.
"Now, Wilberforce," she exclaimed, interrupting him, "you remain quiet; I will explain this matter to Colonel Coffin. You see, colonel, Mr. Fogg is eccentric beyond endurance. He goes on continually in a manner that will certainly drive me to distraction. I can stand it no longer. We must be cut asunder. For years, colonel, Wilberforce has been attempting to learn to play upon the flute. He has no more idea of music than a crow, but he will try to learn. He has been practicing upon the flute since 1862, and he has learned but a portion of but one tune—'Nelly Bly.' He can play but four notes, 'Nelly Bly shuts—' and there he stops. He has practiced these four notes for fourteen years. He plays them upon the porch in the evening; he blows them out from the garret; he stands out in the yard and puffs them; he has frequently risen in the night and seized his flute and played 'Nel-ly Bly shuts' for hours, until I had to scream to relieve my feelings."
"Now, Maria," said Mr. Fogg, "you know that I can play as far as 'shuts her eye'—six notes in all. I learned them in the early part of June."
"Very well, now; it's of no consequence. Don't interrupt me. This is bad enough. I submitted to it because I loved him. But on Tuesday, while I was watching him through the crack of the parlor door, I saw him wink twice at my chambermaid; I saw him distinctly."
"Maria," shrieked Fogg, "this is scandalous. You know very well that I am suffering from a nervous affection of the eye-lids."
"Wilberforce, hush! In addition to this wickedness, colonel, Mr. Fogg is becoming so absent-minded that he torments my life; he makes me utterly wretched. Four times now has he brought his umbrella to bed with him and scratched me by joggling it around with the sharp points of the ribs toward me. What on earth he means I cannot imagine. He said he thought somehow it was the baby, but that is so preposterous that I can hardly believe him."
"Why can't you? Don't you remember perfectly well that I emptied a bottle of milk into the umbrella twice? Would I have done that if I hadn't thought it was the baby?"
"There, now, Wilberforce! that's enough from you. Do let me have a chance to talk! And, colonel, the real baby he treats in the most malignant manner. A few days ago he mesmerized it secretly, and scared me so that I am ill from the effects of it yet. I thought the dear child would sleep for ever. And in addition to this, I came in on Thursday and found that he had laid the large family Bible on the darling's stomach. It was at the last gasp. I thought it would never recover."
"Maria, didn't I tell you I gave it to the child to play with to keep him quiet?"
"Mr. Fogg, will you please let me get a word in edgeways? Our older children, too, he is simply ruining. He teaches them the most pernicious and hurtful doctrines. He told Johnny the other day that Madagascar was an island in the Peruvian Ocean off the coast of Illinois, and that a walrus was a kind of a race horse used by the Caribbees. And our oldest girl told me that he instructed her that Polycarp fought the battle of Waterloo for the purpose of defeating the Saracens."
"Not the Saracens, Maria; Lucy misunderstood—"
"Wilberforce, I wish you would hush! His general treatment of me was scandalous. He was constantly taking my teeth for the purpose of knocking around the spigot in the bath-tub at night when the baby wanted a drink, and only last week he took both sets after I had gone to bed, propped them apart, baited them with cheese, and caught two horrid mice before morning. I was so hurt by his behavior that I drank some laudanum for the purpose of committing suicide, and then Mr. Fogg borrowed a pump in at Knott's drug store and pumped me out twice in such a rude manner that I have felt hollow ever since."
"I did it from kindness, Maria."
"Don't talk of kindness to me, Wilberforce, after your conduct. And, colonel, one night last week, after I had retired, Mr. Fogg sat down in the room below and determined to see if it were true that a candle could be shot through a board from a gun. He dropped a lighted candle in his gun, and of course it exploded. It came up through the floor and made a large spot of grease upon the ceiling of my room, nearly scaring me to death and filling my legs full of bird-shot."
"Maria, I asked you to believe that I forgot about the candle being lighted. I did it in a fit of absent-mindedness."
"Do go into the other room, Wilberforce, or else hold your tongue. So, colonel, I want to get a divorce. Existence is unendurable to me. The lives of my children are in danger. I cannot remain in such slavery any longer. Can you release me?"
Colonel Coffin said he would think it over and give her an answer in a week. His idea was to give her time to think better of it. So then she told Wilberforce to put on his hat; and when he had done so, he followed her meekly out, and they went home. It is believed in the neighborhood that she has concluded to stick to him for a while longer.
INTERNAL NAVIGATION.—AN UNFORTUNATE INVENTOR.
The village not only has a railroad running by it, but it has a canal upon which a large amount of traffic is done. There has been a good deal of agitation lately concerning the possibility of improving locomotion upon the canal, and the company offered a reward for the best device that could be suggested in that direction. A committee was appointed to examine and report upon the merits of the various plans submitted. While the subject was under discussion one boat-owner, Captain Binns, made an experiment upon his own account.
He had a pair of particularly stubborn mules to haul his boat, and it occurred to him that he might devise some scientific method of inducing the said mules to move whenever they were inclined to be baulky. Both mules had phlegmatic temperaments; and when they made up their minds to stop, they would do so and refuse to go, no matter with what vigor the boy applied the whip. Captain Binns therefore bought a tow-line made of three strands of galvanized wire; and placing iron collars upon the necks of the mules, he fastened the wire to them, and then he got a very strong galvanic battery and put it in the cabin of the boat, attaching it to the other end of the line, forming a circuit.
The first time the mules stopped to reflect, the captain sent a strong current through the wire. The leading mule gave a little start of astonishment, and then it looked around at the boy upon the tow-path with a mournful smile that seemed to say, "Sonny, I would like to know how you worked that?" But the mules stood still. Then the captain turned a stronger current on, and the mule shied a little and looked hard at the boy, who was sitting by whittling a stick. The captain sent another shock through the line, and then the mule, convinced that that boy was somehow responsible for the mysterious occurrence, reached over, seized the boy's jacket with his teeth, shook him up and passed him to the hind mule, which kicked him carefully over the bank into the river.
The mules were about to turn the matter over in their minds when Captain Binns sent the full force of the current through the wire and kept it going steadily. Thereupon the animals became panic-stricken. They began to rear and plunge; they turned around and dashed down the tow-path toward the boat. Then the line became taut; it jerked the boat around suddenly with such force that the stern of it broke through a weak place in the bank, and before the captain could turn off his battery the mules had dashed around the other side of the toll-collector's cabin, and then, making a lurch to the left, they fell over the bank themselves, the line scraping the cabin, the collector, three children and a colored man over with them. By the time the line was cut and the sufferers rescued the mules were drowned and all the water in the canal had gone out through the break. It cost Captain Binns three hundred dollars for damages; and when he had settled the account, he concluded to wait for the report of that committee before making any new experiments.
The report of the committee upon improved locomotion was submitted to the company during the following summer. It was a long and exceedingly entertaining document, and the following extracts from it may possess some interest:
"In reference to the plan offered by Henry Bushelson, which proposes to run the boats by means of his patent propeller, we may remark that the steam-engine with which the propeller is moved would sink the boat; and even if it would not, the propeller-blades, being longer than the depth of the canal, would dig about five hundred cubic feet of mud out of the bottom at each revolution. As a mud-dredge Bushelson's patent might be a success, but as a motive-power it is a failure; and his suggestion that the tow-path might be cut into lengths and laid side by side and sold for a farm, therefore, is not wholly practicable.
"The idea of William Bradley is that holes might be cut in the bottom of the boat, and through these the legs of the mule could be inserted, so that it could walk along the bottom, while its body is safe and dry inside. This notion is the offspring of a fruitful and ingenious intellect; and if the water could be kept from coming through the holes, it might be considered valuable but for one thing—somebody would have to invent a new kind of mule with legs about seven feet long. Mr. Bradley's mind has not yet devised any method of procuring such a mule, and unless he can induce the ordinary kind to walk upon stilts, we fear that the obstacles to success in this direction may be regarded as insurmountable.
"Mr. Peterman Bostwick urges that important results might be secured by making the canal an inclined plane, so that when a boat is placed upon it the boat will simply slide down hill by the power of the attraction of gravitation. This seems to us a beautiful method of adapting to the wants of man one of the most remarkable of the laws of Nature, and we should be inclined to give Mr. Bostwick the first prize but for the fact that we have discovered, upon investigation, that the water in the canal also would slide down hill, and that it would require about fifteen rivers the size of the Mississippi to keep up the supply. Mr. Bostwick does not mention where we are to get those rivers. He does, however, say that if it shall be deemed inadvisable to slope the canal, the boats themselves might be made in the shape of inclined planes, so that they would run down hill upon a level canal. There is something so deep, so amazing, in this proposition that your committee needs more time to consider it and brood over it.
"Mr. W.P. Robbins proposes to draw off the water from the canal, lay rails on the bottom, and then put the boats on wheels and run them with a locomotive. Your committee has been very much struck with this proposition, but has concluded, upon reflection, that it is rather too revolutionary. If canal navigation should be begun in this manner, probably we should soon have the railroad companies running their trains on water by means of sails, and stage lines traveling in the air with balloons. Such things would unsettle the foundations of society and induce anarchy and chaos. A canal that has no water is a licentious and incendiary canal; and it is equally improper and equally repugnant to all conservative persons when, as Mr. Robbins suggests, the boats are floated in tanks and the tanks are run on rails.
"Your committee has given much thought and patient examination to the plan of Mr. Thompson McGlue. He suggests that the mules shall be clad in submarine armor and made to walk under water along the bottom of the canal, being fed with air through a pump. As we have never seen a mule in action while decorated with submarine armor, we are unable to say with positiveness what his conduct would be under such circumstances. But the objections to the plan are of a formidable character. The mule would, of course, be wholly excluded from every opportunity to view the scenery upon the route, and we fear that this would have a tendency to discourage him. Being under water, too, he might be tempted to stop frequently for the purpose of nibbling at the catfish encountered by him, and this would distract his attention from his work. Somebody would have to dive whenever he got his hind leg over the tow-line; and when the water was muddy, he might lose his way and either pull the boat in the wrong direction or be continually butting against the bank.
"Of the various other plans submitted, your committee have to say that A.R. Mackey's proposition to run the boat by sails, and to fill the sails with wind by means of a steam blower on the vessel; James Thompson's plan of giving the captain and crew small scows to put on their feet, so that they could stand overboard and push behind; William Black's theory that motion could be obtained by employing trained sturgeon to haul the boat; and Martin Stotesbury's plea that propulsion could be given by placing a cannon upon the poop-deck and firing it over the stern, so that the recoil would shove the boat along,—are wonderful evidences of what the human mind can do when it exerts itself, but they are not as useful as they are marvelous."
The prize has not yet been awarded. It is thought that the canal company will have to make it larger before they secure exactly what they want.
* * * * *
There is nothing in common between canals and sausages, but the mention of Mr. William Bradley's name in the above report recalls another report in which it figured. Bradley is an inventor who has a very prolific mind, which, however, rarely produces anything that anybody wants. One of Mr. Bradley's inventions during the war was entitled by him "The Patent Imperishable Army Sausage." His idea was to simplify the movements of troops by doing away with heavy provision-trains and to furnish soldiers with nutritious food in a condensed form. The sausage was made on strictly scientific principles. It contained peas and beef, and salt and pepper, and starch and gum-arabic, and it was stuffed in the skins by a machine which exhausted the air, so that it would be air-tight. Bradley said that his sausage would keep in any climate. You might lay it on the equator and let the tropical sun scorch it, and it would remain as sweet and fresh as ever; and Bradley said that there was more flesh-and-muscle-producing material in a cubic inch of the sausage than in an entire dinner of roast turkey and other such foolery.
So when Bradley had made up a lot of the Imperishable, he stored the bulk of them in the garret; and putting a sample of them in his pocket, he went down to Washington to see the Secretary of War, to get him to introduce them to the army.
He walked into the secretary's office and pulled out a sausage, and holding it toward him was about to explain it to him, when the secretary suddenly dodged behind the table. The movement struck Bradley as being queer, and he walked around after the secretary, still holding out a sample of the Imperishable. Then the secretary made a bolt for the door and went out, and presently in came a couple of clerks with shot-guns. They aimed at Bradley, and told him to drop his weapon or they would fire. He deposited the sausage on the table and asked them what was the matter, and then the secretary came in and said he mistook the sausage for a revolver. When Bradley explained his mission, the secretary told him that nothing could be done without the action of Congress, and he recommended the inventor to go up to the Capitol and push his sausage through there.
So Bradley was on hand next day before the session opened, and he laid a sausage on the desk of each member. When the House assembled, there was a large diversity of opinion respecting the meaning of the extraordinary display. Some were inclined to regard the article as an infernal machine introduced by some modern Guy Fawkes, while others leaned to the view that it was a new kind of banana developed by the Agricultural Department. After a while Bradley turned up and explained, and he spent the winter there trying to force his sausage on his beloved country. At the very end of the session a bill was smuggled through, ordering the commissary department of the army to appoint a commission to investigate Bradley's sausage, and to report to the Secretary of War.
When the commission was organized, it came on with Bradley to his home on his farm to examine his method. As the party approached the house a terrific smell greeted them, and upon entering the front door it became nearly unendurable. Mrs. Bradley said she thought there must be something dead under the washboard. But upon going into the garret the origin of the smell became obvious. About half a ton of the Patent Imperishable Sausage lay on the floor in a condition of fearful decay. Then the commissioners put their fingers to their noses and adjourned, and the chairman went to the hotel to write out his report. It was about as follows:
"After a careful examination of the Bradley Patent Imperishable Army Sausage, we find that it is eminently suitable for certain well-defined purposes. If it should be introduced to warfare as a missile, we could calculate with precision that its projection from a gun into a besieged town would instantly induce the garrison to evacuate the place and quit; but the barbarity which would be involved in subjecting even an enemy to direct contact with the Bradley Sausage is so frightful that we shrink from recommending its use, excepting in extreme cases. The odor disseminated by the stink-pot used in war by the Chinese is fragrant and balmy compared with the perfume which belongs to this article. It might also be used profitably as a manure for poor land, and in a very cold climate, where it is absolutely certain to be frozen, it could be made serviceable as a tent-pin.
"But as an article of food it is open to several objections. Bradley's method of mixing is so defective that he has one sausage filled with peas, another with gum-arabic, another with pepper and another with beef. The beef sausages will certainly kill any man who eats a mouthful, unless they are constantly kept on ice from the hour they are made, and the gum-arabic sausages are not sufficiently nutritious to enable an army to conduct an arduous campaign. We are therefore disposed to recommend that the sausage shall not be accepted by the department, and that Bradley's friends put him in an asylum where his mind can be cared for."
When Bradley heard about the report, he was indignant; and after reflecting that republics are always ungrateful, he sent a box of the sausages to Bismarck, in order to ascertain if they could not be introduced to the German army. Three months later he was shot at one night by a mysterious person, and the belief prevails in this neighborhood that it was an assassin sent over to this country by Bismarck for the single purpose of butchering the inventor of the Imperishable Army Sausage. Since then Bradley has abandoned the project, and he is now engaged in perfecting a washing-machine which has reached such a stage that on the first trial it tore four shirts and a bolster-slip to rags.
THE FACTS IN REFERENCE TO MR. BUTTERWICK'S HORSE.
Mr. Butterwick is not a good judge of horses, but a brief while ago he thought he would like to own a good horse, and so he went to a sale at a farm over in Tulpehocken township, and for some reason that has not yet been revealed he bid upon the forlornest wreck of a horse that ever retained vitality. It was knocked down to him before he had a chance to think, and he led it home with something like a feeling of dismay. The purchase in a day or two got to be the joke of the whole village, and people poked fun at Butterwick in the most merciless manner. But he was inclined to take a philosophical view of the matter, and to present it in rather a novel and interesting light. When I spoke to him of the unkind things that were said about the horse, he said,
"Oh, I know that they say he has the heaves; but one of the things I bought him for was because he breathes so loud. That is a sign that he has a plenty of wind. You take any ordinary horse, and you can't hear him draw a breath; his lungs are frail and he daren't inflate 'em. But my horse fills his up and blows 'em out again vigorously, so people can hear for themselves how he enjoys the fresh air. Now, I'll let you into a secret, only mind you don't go to whispering it about: When you want to buy a horse, go and stand off a quarter of a mile and see if you can hear him kinder sighing. If you can, why go for that horse; he's worth his weight in gold. That's strictly between you and me, now mind!
"And you know that old idiot, Potts, was trying to joke me because the horse was sprung in the knees, as if that was not the very thing that made me resolve to have that horse if I ran him up to five hundred dollars! You are a young man with no experience in the world, and I'll tell you why I like such legs: They give the horse more leverage. Do you see? When a horse's leg is straight, the more he bears on it, the more likely he is to fracture the bone. But you curve that leg a little to the front, and the upper bone bears obliquely on the lower bone, the pressure is distributed and the horse has plenty of purchase. It is the well-known principle of the arch, you know. If it's good in building a house, why isn't it good in getting up a horse? Sprung in the knees! Why, good gracious, man! a horse that is not sprung is not any horse at all; he is only fit for soap-fat and glue. Now, that's as true as my name's Butterwick.
"And as for his tail, that they talk so much about! Who'n the thunder wanted a long tail on the horse? I knew well enough it was short and had only six or seven hairs on it. But the Romans and Egyptians made their horses bob-tailed, and why? Maybe you ain't up in ancient history? Why, those old Romans knew that a horse with a fifteen-inch tail had more meat on him than a horse with a four-inch tail, and consequently required more nourishment. They knew that more muscular force is expended in brandishing a long tail than a short one, and muscular force is made by food, so they chopped off their horses' tails to make 'em eat less. They had level heads in those times. They were up in scientific knowledge. But what do these idiots around this town know about such things? Let 'em laugh. I can stand a tail that saves me a couple of bushels of oats a year. I'll bet you anything that there's millions and millions of dollars wasted—just thrown away—in this country every year furnishing nutriment to tails that are of no earthly use to the horses after they're nourished. You can depend on that. I've examined the government statistics, and they're enough to make a man cry to see how wasteful the American people are.
"And when you talk about his ribs showing so plainly through his sides, you prove that you have a very singular want of taste. Which is handsomer, a flat wall or a wall with a surface varied with columns and pilasters? Well, then, when you take a horse, no man who loves art wants to see him smooth and even from stem to stern. What you want is a varied surface—a little bit of hill and a little bit of valley; and you get it in a horse like mine. Most horses are monotonous. They tire on you. But swell out the ribs, and there you have a horse that always pleases the eye and appeals to the finer sensibilities of the mind. Besides, you are always perfectly certain that he has his full number of ribs, and that the man you buy him of is not keeping back a single, solitary bone. Your horse is all there, and you go to bed at night comfortable because you know it. That's the way I look at it; and without caring to have it mentioned around, I don't mind telling you that I know a man who came all the way from Georgia to buy my horse simply because he heard that his ribs stuck out. I got my bid in ahead of him, and he went home the worst disgusted man you ever saw.
"And about his having glanders and botts and blind staggers and a raw shoulder, I can tell you that those things never attack any but a thoroughbred horse; and for my part, I made up my mind years ago, when I was a child, that if any man ever offered me a horse that hadn't blind staggers I wouldn't take him as a gift. Now, that's as true as you're alive. Professor Owen says that so far from regarding glanders as a disease he considers it the crowning glory of a good horse, and he wants the English government to pass a law inoculating every horse on the island with it. You write to him and ask him if that ain't so."
And so Butterwick put his phenomenal horse in his stable, hired an Irishman to take care of it, and possessed his soul in peace. However, before he fairly had a chance to enjoy his purchase, he was summoned to St. Louis to look after some business matters, and he was detained there for about six weeks. During his absence Mrs. Butterwick assumed the responsibility for the management of the horse; and as she knew as much about taking care of horses as she did about conducting the processes of the sidereal system, the result was that Mr. Butterwick's horse was the unconscious parent of infinite disaster. When Butterwick returned and had kissed his wife and talked over his journey, the following conversation ensued. Mrs. Butterwick said,
"You know our horse, dearest?"
"Yes, sweet; how is he getting along?"
"Not so very well; he has cost a great deal of money since you've been away."
"Yes; besides his regular feed and Patrick's wages as hostler, I have on hand unpaid bills to the amount of two thousand dollars on his account."
"Two thousand! Why, Emma, you amaze me! What on earth does it mean?"
"I'll tell you the whole story, love. Just after you left he took a severe cold, and he coughed incessantly. You could hear him cough for miles. All the neighbors complained of it, and Mr. Potts, next door, was so mad that he shot at the horse four times. Patrick said it was whooping-cough."
"Whooping-cough, darling! Impossible! A horse never has whooping-cough."
"Well, Patrick said so. And as I always give paregoric to the children when they cough, I concluded that it would be good for the horse, so I bought a bucketful and gave it to him with sugar."
"A bucketful of paregoric, my love! It was enough to kill him."
"Patrick said that was a regular dose for a horse of sedentary habits; and it didn't kill him: it put him to sleep. You will be surprised, dear, to learn that the horse slept straight ahead for four weeks. Never woke up once. I was frightened about it, but Patrick told me that it was a sign of a good horse. He said that Dexter often slept six months on a stretch, and that once they took Goldsmith Maid to a race while she was sound asleep and she trotted a mile in 2:15, I think he said, without getting awake."
"Patrick said that, did he?"
"Yes; that was at the end of the second week. But as the horse didn't rouse up, Patrick said it couldn't be the paregoric that kept him asleep so long; and he came to me and asked me not to mention it, but he had suspicions that Mr. Fogg had mesmerized him."
"I never heard of a horse being mesmerized, dearest."
"Neither did I, but Patrick said it was a common thing with the better class of horses. And when he kept on sleeping, dear, I got frightened, and Patrick consulted the horse-doctor, who came over with a galvanic battery, which he said would wake the horse. They fixed the wires to his leg and turned on the current. It did rouse him. He got up and kicked fourteen boards out of the side of the stable and then jumped the fence into Mr. Potts' yard, where he trod on a litter of young pigs, kicked two cows to death and bit the tops off of eight apple trees. Patrick said he tried to swallow Mrs. Potts' baby, but I didn't see him do that. Patrick may have exaggerated. I don't know. It seems hardly likely, does it, that the horse would actually try to eat a child?"
"The man that sold him to me didn't mention that he was fond of babies."
"But he got over the attack. The only effect was that the paregoric or the electricity, or something, turned his hair all the wrong way, and he looks the queerest you ever saw. Oh yes; it did seem to affect his appetite, too. He appeared to be always hungry. He ate up the hay-rack and two sets of harness. And one night he broke out and nibbled off all the door-knobs on the back of the house."
"Door-knobs, Emma? Has he shown a fondness for door-knobs?"
"Yes; and he ate Louisa's hymn-book, too. She left it lying on the table on the porch. Patrick said he knew a man in Ireland whose horse would starve to death unless they fed him on Bibles. If he couldn't get Bibles, he'd take Testaments; but unless he got Scriptures of some kind, he was utterly intractable."
"I would like to have had a look at that horse, sweet."
"So we got the horse-doctor again, and he said that what the poor animal wanted was a hypodermic injection of morphia to calm his nerves. He told Patrick to get a machine for placing the morphia under the horse's skin. But Patrick said that he could do it without the machine. So one day he got the morphia, and began to bore a hole in the horse with a gimlet."
"A gimlet, Emma?"
"An ordinary gimlet. But it seemed unpleasant to the horse, and so he kicked Patrick through the partition, breaking three of his ribs. Then I got the doctor to perform the operation properly, and the horse after that appeared right well, excepting that Patrick said that he had suddenly acquired an extraordinary propensity for standing on his head."
"He is the first horse that ever wanted to do that, love."
"Patrick said not. He told me about a man he worked for in Oshkosh who had a team of mules which always stood on their heads when they were not at work. He said all the mules in Oshkosh did. So Patrick tied a heavy stone to our horse's tail to Balance him and keep him straight. And this worked to a charm until I took the horse to church one Sunday, when, while a crowd stood round him looking at him, he swung his tail around and brained six boys with the stone."
"Brained them, love?"
"Well, I didn't see them myself, but Patrick told me, when I came out of church, that they were as good as dead. And he said he remembered that that Oshkosh man used to coax his mules to stand on their legs by letting them hear music. It soothed them, he said. And so Patrick got a friend to come around and sit in the stall and calm our horse by playing on the accordion."
"Did it make him calmer?"
"It seemed to at first; but one day Patrick undertook to bleed him for the blind staggers, and he must have cut the horse in the wrong place, for the poor brute fell over on the accordion person and died, nearly killing the musician."
"The horse is dead, then? Where is the bill?"
"I'll read it to you:
Horse-doctor's fees $125 50 Paregoric for cough 80 00 Galvanic battery 10 00 Repairing stable 12 25 Potts' cow, pigs, apple trees and baby 251 00 Damage to door-knobs, etc. 175 00 Louisa's hymn-book 25 Gimlet and injections 15 00 Repairing Patrick's ribs 145 00 Music on accordion 21 00 Damages to player 184 00 Burying six boys 995 00 ————- $2,014 00
"That is all, love, is it?"
Then Mr. Butterwick folded the bill up and went out into the back yard to think. Subsequently, he told me that he had concluded to repudiate the unpaid portions of the bill, and then to try to purchase a better horse. He said he had heard that Mr. Keyser, a farmer over in Lower Merion, had a horse that he wanted to sell, and he asked me to go over there with him to see about it. I agreed to do so.
When we reached the place, Mr. Keyser asked us into the parlor, and while we were sitting there we heard Mrs. Keyser in the dining-room, adjoining, busy preparing supper. Keyser would not sell his horse, but he was quite sociable, and after some conversation, he said,
"Gentlemen, in 1847 I owned a hoss that never seen his equal in this State. And that hoss once did the most extr'ordinary thing that was ever done by an animal. One day I had him out, down yer by the creek—"
Here Mrs. Keyser opened the door and exclaimed, shrilly,
"Keyser, if you want any supper, you'd better get me some kin'lin-wood pretty quick."
Then Keyser turned to us and said, "Excuse me for a few moments, gentlemen, if you please."
A moment later we heard him splitting wood in the cellar beneath, and indulging in some very hard language with his soft pedal down, Mrs. Keyser being the object of his objurgations. After a while he came into the parlor again, took his seat, wiped the moisture from his brow, put his handkerchief in his hat, his hat on the floor, and resumed:
"As I was sayin', gentlemen, one day I had that hoss down yer by the creek; it was in '47 or '48, I most forget which. But, howsomedever, I took him down yer by the creek, and I was jest about to—"
Mrs. Keyser (opening the door suddenly). "You, Keyser! there's not a drop of water in the kitchen, and unless some's drawed there'll be no supper in this house this night, now mind me!"
Keyser (with a look of pain upon his face). "Well, well! this is too bad! too bad! Gentlemen, just wait half a minute. I'll be right back. The old woman's rarin' 'round, and she won't wait."
Then we heard Keyser at work at the well-bucket; and looking out the back window, we saw him bringing in a pail of water. On his way he encountered a dog, and in order to give his pent-up feelings adequate expression, he kicked the animal clear over the fence. Presently he came into the parlor, mopped his forehead, and began again.
Keyser. "As I was sayin', that hoss was perfeckly astonishin'. On the day of which I was speakin'. I was ridin' him down yer by the creek, clost by the corn-field, and I was jest about to wade him in, when, all of a suddent-like, he—"
Mrs. Keyser (at the door, and with her voice pitched at a high key). "ARE you goin' to fetch that ham from the smoke-house, or ARE you goin' to set there jabberin' and go without your supper? If that ham isn't here in short order, I'll know the reason why. You hear me?"
Keyser (his face red and his manner excited). "Gra-SHUS! If this isn't—Well, well! this just lays over all the—Pshaw! Mr. Butterwick, if you'll hold on for a second, I'll be with you agin. I'll be right back."
Then we heard Keyser slam open the smokehouse door, and presently he emerged with a ham, which he carried in one hand, while with the other he made a fist, which he shook threateningly at the kitchen door, as if to menace Mrs. Keyser, who couldn't see him.
Again he entered the parlor, smelling of smoke and ham, and, crossing his legs, he continued.
Keyser "Excuse these little interruptions; the old woman's kinder sing'ler, and you've got to humor her to live in peace with her. Well, sir, as I said, I rode that extr'ordinary hoss down yer by the creek on that day to which I am referring and after passin' the cornfield I was goin' to wade him into the creek; just then, all of a, suddent, what should that hoss do but—"
Mrs. Keyser (at the door again). "Keyser, you lazy vagabone! Why don't you 'tend to milkin' them cows? Not one mossel of supper do you put in your mouth this night unless you do the milkin' right off. You sha'n't touch a crust, or my name's not Emeline Keyser!"
Then Keyser leaped to his feet in a perfect frenzy of rage and hurled the chair at Mrs. Keyser; whereupon she seized the poker and came toward him with savage earnestness. Then we adjourned to the front yard suddenly; and as Butterwick and I got into the carriage to go home, Keyser, with a humble expression in his eyes, said:
"Gentlemen, I'll tell you that hoss story another time, when the old woman's calmer. Good-day."
I am going to ask him to write it out. I am anxious to know what that horse did down at the creek.
Butterwick subsequently bought another horse from a friend of his in the city, but the animal developed eccentricities of such a remarkable character that he became unpopular. Butterwick, in explaining the subject to me, said,
"I was surprised to find, when I drove him out for the first time, that he had an irresistible propensity to back. He seemed to be impressed with a conviction that nature had put his hind legs in front, and that he could see with his tail; and whenever I attempted to start him, he always proceeded backward until I whipped him savagely, and then he would go in a proper manner, but suddenly, and with the air of a horse who had a conviction that there was a lunatic in the carriage who didn't know what he was about. One day, while we were coming down the street, this theory became so strong that he suddenly stopped and backed the carriage through the plate-glass window of Mackey's drug-store. After that I always hitched him up with his head toward the carriage, and then he seemed to feel better contented, only sometimes he became too sociable, and used to put his head over the dasher and try to chew my legs or to eat the lap-cover.
"Besides, the peculiar arrangement of the animal excited unpleasant remark when I drove out; and when I wanted to stop and would hitch him by the tail to a post, he had a very disagreeable way of reaching out with his hind legs and sweeping the sidewalk whenever he saw anybody that he felt as if he would like to kick.
"He was not much of a saddle-horse; not that he would attempt to throw his rider, but whenever a saddle was put on him it made his back itch, and he would always insist upon rubbing it against the first tree or fence or corner of a house that he came to; and if he could bark the rider's leg, he seemed to be better contented. The last time I rode him was upon the day of Mr. Johnson's wedding. I had on my best suit, and on the way to the festival there was a creek to be forded. When the horse got into the middle of it, he took a drink, and then looked around at the scenery. Then he took another drink, and gazed again at the prospect. Then he suddenly felt tired and lay down in the water. By the time he was sufficiently rested I was ready to go home.
"The next day he was taken sick. Patrick said it was the epizooty, and he mixed him up some turpentine in a bucket of warm feed. That night the horse had spasms, and kicked four of the best boards out of the side of the stable. Jones said that horse hadn't the epizooty, but the botts, and that the turpentine ought to have been rubbed on the outside of him instead of going into his stomach. So we rubbed him with turpentine, and next morning he hadn't a hair on his body.
"Colonel Coffin told me that if I wanted to know what really ailed that horse he would tell me. It was glanders, and if he wasn't bled he would die. So the colonel bled him for me. We took away a tubful, and the horse thinned down so that his ribs made him look as if he had swallowed a flour-barrel.
"Then I sent for the horse-doctor, and he said there was nothing the matter with the horse but heaves, and he left some medicine 'to patch up his wind.' The result was that the horse coughed for two days as if he had gone into galloping consumption, and between two of the coughs he kicked the hired man through the partition and bit our black-and-tan terrier in half.
"I thought perhaps a little exercise might improve his health, so I drove him out one day, and he proceeded in such a peculiar manner that I was afraid he might suddenly come apart and fall to pieces. When we reached the top of White House hill, which is very steep by the side of the road, he stopped, gave a sort of shudder, coughed a couple of times, kicked a fly off his side with his hind leg, and then lay down and calmly rolled over the bank. I got out of the carriage before he fell, and I watched him pitch clear down to the valley beneath, with the vehicle dragging after him. When we got to him he was dead, and the man at the farm-house close by said he had the blind staggers.
"I sold him for eight dollars to a man who wanted to make him up into knife-handles and suspender-buttons; and since then we have walked. I hardly think I shall buy another horse. My luck doesn't seem good enough when I make ventures of that kind."
SOME EDUCATIONAL FACTS.
The public-school system of the village was reorganized during a recent summer; and in consequence of a considerable enlargement of the single school-building and the great increase of the number of scholars, it was determined to engage an additional woman-teacher in the girls' department. Accordingly, the board of directors advertised for a suitable person, instructing applicants to call upon Judge Twiddler, the chairman. A day or two later, Mrs. Twiddler advertised in a city paper for a cook, and upon the same afternoon an Irish girl came to the house to obtain the place in the kitchen. The judge was sitting upon the front porch at the time reading a newspaper; and when the girl entered the gate of the yard, he mistook her for a school-mistress, and he said to her,
"Did you come about that place?"
"Yes, sor," she answered.
"Oh, very well, then; take a seat and I'll run over a few things in order to ascertain what your qualifications are. Bound Africa."
"If you please, sor, I don't know what you mean."
"I say, bound Africa."
"Bou—bou—Begorra, I don't know what ye're referrin' to."
"Very strange," said the judge. "Can you tell me if 'amphibious' is an adverb or a preposition? What is an adverb?"
"Indade, and ye bother me intirely. I never had anything to do wid such things at my last place."
"Then it must have been a curious sort of an institution," said the judge. "Probably you can tell me how to conjugate the verb 'to be,' and just mention, also, what you know about Herodotus."
"Ah, yer Honor's jokin' wid me. Be done wid yer fun, now."
"Did you ever hear of Herodotus?"
"Never once in the whole coorse of my life. Do you make it with eggs?"
"This is the most extraordinary woman I ever encountered," murmured the judge. "How she ever associated Herodotus with the idea of eggs is simply incomprehensible. Well, can you name the hemisphere in which China and Japan are situated?"
"Don't bother me wid yer fun, now. I can wash the china and the pans as well as anybody, and that's enough, now, isn't it?"
"Dumb! awful dumb! Don't know the country from the crockery. I'll try her once more. Name the limits of the Tropic of Capricorn, and tell me where Asia Minor is located."
"I have a brother that's one, sor; that's all I know about it."
"One? One what?"
"Didn't ye ask me afther the miners, sor? My brother Teddy works wid 'em."
"And this," said the judge, "is the kind of person to whom we are asked to entrust the education of youth. Woman, what do you know? What kind of a school have you been teaching?"
"None, sor. What should I teach school for?"
"Totally without experience, as I supposed," said the judge.
"Mrs. Ferguson had a governess teach the children when I was cookin' for her."
"Cooking! Ain't you a school-teacher? What do you mean by proposing to stop cooking in order to teach school? Why, it's preposterous."
"Begorra, I came here to get the cook's place, sor, and that's all of it."
"Oh, by George! I see now. You ain't a candidate for the grammar school, after all. You want to see Mrs. Twiddler. Maria, come down here a minute. There's a thick-headed immigrant here wants to cook for you."
And the judge picked up his paper and resumed the editorial on "The Impending Crisis."
They obtained a good teacher, however, and the course of affairs in the girls' department was smooth enough; but just after the opening of the fall session there was some trouble in the boys' department.
Mr. Barnes, the master, read in the Educational Monthly that boys could be taught history better than in any other way by letting each boy in the class represent some historical character, and relate the acts of that character as if he had done them himself. This struck Barnes as a mighty good idea, and he resolved to put it in practice. The school had then progressed so far in its study of the history of Rome as the Punic wars, and Mr. Barnes immediately divided the boys into two parties, one Romans and the other Carthaginians, and certain of the boys were named after the leaders upon both sides. All the boys thought it was a fine thing, and Barnes noticed that they were so anxious to get to the history lesson that they could hardly say their other lessons properly.
When the time came, Barnes ranged the Romans upon one side of the room and the Carthaginians on the other. The recitation was very spirited, each party telling about its deeds with extraordinary unction. After a while Barnes asked a Roman to describe the battle of Cannae. Whereupon the Romans hurled their copies of Wayland's Moral Science at the enemy. Then the Carthaginians made a battering-ram out of a bench and jammed it among the Romans, who retaliated with a volley of books, slates and chewed paper-balls. Barnes concluded that the battle of Cannae had been sufficiently illustrated, and he tried to stop it; but the warriors considered it too good a thing to let drop, and accordingly the Carthaginians dashed over to the Romans with another battering-ram and thumped a couple of them savagely.
Then the Romans turned in, and the fight became general. A Carthaginian would grasp a Roman by the hair and hustle him around over the desk in a manner that was simply frightful, and a Roman would give a fiendish whoop and knock a Carthaginian over the head with Greenleaf's Arithmetic. Hannibal got the head of Scipio Africanus under his arm, and Scipio, in his efforts to break away, stumbled, and the two generals fell and had a rough-and-tumble fight under the blackboard. Caius Gracchus prodded Hamilcar with a ruler, and the latter in his struggles to get loose fell against the stove and knocked down about thirty feet of stove-pipe. Thereupon the Romans made a grand rally, and in five minutes they chased the entire Carthaginian army out of the school-room, and Barnes along with it; and then they locked the door and began to hunt up the apples and lunch in the desks of the enemy.
After consuming the supplies they went to the windows and made disagreeable remarks to the Carthaginians, who were standing in the yard, and dared old Barnes to bring the foe once more into battle array. Then Barnes went for a policeman; and when he knocked at the door, it was opened, and all the Romans were found busy studying their lessons. When Barnes came in with the defeated troops he went for Scipio Africanus; and pulling him out of his seat by the ear, he thrashed that great military genius with a rattan until Scipio began to cry, whereupon Barnes dropped him and began to paddle Caius Gracchus. Then things settled down in the old way, and next morning Barnes announced that history in the future would be studied as it always had been; and he wrote a note to the Educational Monthly to say that in his opinion the man who suggested the new system ought to be led out and shot. The boys do not now take as much interest in Roman history as they did on that day.
* * * * *
The young tragedian who represented Scipio Africanus is named Smith. His family came to the village to live only a few weeks before the school opened. Scipio is a very enterprising and ingenious lad. Colonel Coffin's boy leaned over the fence one day and gave to me his impressions of Scipio, a lad about fourteen years old:
"Yes, me and him are right well acquainted now; he knows more'n I do, and he's had more experience. Bill says his father used to be a robber (Smith, by the way, is a deacon in the Presbyterian church, and a very excellent lawyer), and that he has ten million dollars in gold buried in his cellar, along with a whole lot of human bones—people he's killed. And he says his father is a conjurer, and that he makes all the earthquakes that happen anywheres in the world. The old man'll come home at night, after there's been an earthquake, all covered with perspiration and so tired he kin hardly stand. Bill says it's such hard work.
"And Bill tole me that once when a man came around there trying to sell lightning-rods his father got mad and et him—et him right up; and he takes bites out of everybody he comes acrost.
"That's what Bill tells me. That's all I know about it. And he tole me that once he used to have a dog—one of these little kind of dogs—and he was flying his kite, and just for fun he tied the kite-string onto his dog's tail. And then the wind struck her and his dog went a-scuddin' down the street with his hind legs in the air for about a mile, when the kite all of a sudden begun to go up, and in about a minute the dog was fifteen miles high and commanding a view of California and Egypt, I think Bill said. He came down, anyhow, I know, in Brazil, and Bill said he swum home all the way in the Atlantic Ocean; and when he landed, his legs were all nibbled off by sharks.
"I wish father'd buy me a dog, so's I could send him up that way. But I never have any luck. Bill said that where they used to live he went out on the roof one day to fly his kite, and he sat on top of the chimbly to give her plenty of room, and while he was sitting there thinking about nothing, the old man put a keg of powder down below in the fire-place to clean the soot out of the chimbly. And when he touched her off, Bill was blowed over agin the Baptist church steeple, and he landed on the weather-cock with his pants torn, and they couldn't git him down for three days, so he hung there, going round and round with the wind, and he lived by eating the crows that came and sat on him, because they thought he was made of sheet-iron and put up there on purpose.
"He's had more fun than enough. He was telling me the other day about a sausage-stuffer his brother invented. It was a kinder machine that worked with a treadle; and Bill said the way they did in the fall was to fix it on the hog's back, and connect the treadle with a string, and then the hog'd work the treadle and keep on running it up and down until the machine cut the hog all up fine and shoved the meat into the skins. Bill said his brother called it 'Every Hog His Own Stuffer,' and it worked splendid. But I do' know. 'Pears to me 'sif there couldn't be no machine like that. But anyway, Bill said so.
"And he told me about an uncle of his out in Australia who was et by a big oyster once; and when, he got inside, he stayed there until he'd et the oyster. Then he split the shell open and took half a one for a boat, and he sailed along until he met a sea-serpent, and he killed it and drawed off its skin, and when he got home he sold it to an engine company for a hose, for forty thousand dollars, to put out fires with. Bill said that was actually so, because he could show me a man who used to belong to the engine company. I wish father'd let me go out to find a sea-serpent like that; but he don't let me have a chance to distinguish myself.
"Bill was saying only yesterday that the Indians caught him once and drove eleven railroad spikes through his stomach and cut off his scalp, and it never hurt him a bit. He said he got away by the daughter of the chief sneaking him out of the wigwam and lending him a horse. Bill says she was in love with him; and when I asked him to let me see the holes where they drove in the spikes, he said he daresn't take off his clothes or he'd bleed to death. He said his own father didn't know it, because Bill was afraid it might worry the old man.
"And Bill tole me they wasn't going to get him to go to Sunday-school. He says his father has a brass idol that he keeps in the garret, and Bill says he's made up his mind to be a pagan, and to begin to go naked, and carry a tomahawk and a bow and arrow, as soon as the warm weather comes. And to prove it to me, he says his father has this town all underlaid with nitro-glycerine, and as soon as he gets ready he's going to blow the old thing out, and bust her up, let her rip, and demolish her. He said so down at the dam, and tole me not to tell anybody, but I thought they'd be no harm in mentioning it to you.
"And now I believe I must be going. I hear Bill a-whistling. Maybe he's got something else to tell me."
The Smith boy will be profitable to the youth of the community.
* * * * *
Barnes, the pedagogue, is a worthy man who has seen trouble. Precisely what was the nature of the afflictions which had filled his face with furrows and given him the air of one who has been overburdened with sorrows was not revealed until Mr. Keyser told the story one evening at the grocery-store. Whether his narrative is strictly true or not is uncertain. There is a bare possibility that Mr. Keyser may have exaggerated grossly a very simple fact.
"Nobody ever knew how it got in there," said Mr. Keyser, clasping his hands over his knee and spitting into the stove. "Some thought Barnes must've swallowed a tadpole while drinking out of a spring and it subsequently grew inside him, while others allowed that maybe he'd accidentally eaten frogs' eggs some time and they'd hatched out. But anyway, he had that frog down there inside of him settled and permanent and perfectly satisfied with being in out of the rain. It used to worry Barnes more'n a little, and he tried various things to git rid of it. The doctors they give him sickening stuff, and over and over agin emptied him; and then they'd hold him by the heels and shake him over a basin, and they'd bait a hook with a fly and fish down his throat hour after hour, but that frog was too intelligent. He never even gave them a nibble; and when they'd try to fetch him with an emetic, he'd dig his claws into Barnes's membranes and hold on until the storm was over.
"Not that Barnes minded the frog merely being in there if he'd only a kept quiet. But he was too vociferous—that's what Barnes said to me. A taciturn frog he wouldn't have cared about so much. But how would you like to have one down inside of you there a-whooping every now and then in the most ridiculous manner? Maybe, for instance, Barnes'd be out taking tea with a friend, and just when everybody else was quiet it'd suddenly occur to his frog to tune-up, and the next minute you'd hear something go 'Blo-o-o-ood-a-noun! Blo-oo-oo-ood-a-noun!' two or three times, apparently under the table. Then the folks would ask if there was an aquarium in the house or if the man had a frog-pond in the cellar, and Barnes'd get as red as fire and jump up and go home.
"And often when he'd be setting in church, perhaps in the most solemn part of the sermon, he'd feel something give two or three quick kinder jerks under his vest, and presently that reptile would bawl right out in the meeting 'Bloo-oo-oo-ood-a-noun! Bloo-oo-oo-ood-a-nou-ou-oun!' and keep it up until the sexton would come along and run out two or three boys for profaning the sanctuary. And at last he'd fix it on poor old Barnes, and then tell him that if he wanted to practice ventriloquism he'd better wait till after church. And then the frog'd give six or seven more hollers, so that the minister would stop and look at Barnes, and Barnes'd get up and skip down the aisle and go home furious about it.
"It had a deep voice for an ordinary frog—betwixt a French horn and a bark-mill. And Mrs. Barnes told me herself that often, when John'd get comfortably fixed in bed and just dropping off into a nap, the frog'd think it was a convenient time for some music; and after hopping about a bit, it'd all at once grind out three or four awful 'Bloo-oo-ood-a-nouns' and wake Mrs. Barnes and the baby, and start things up generally all around the house. And—would you believe it?—if that frog felt, maybe, a little frisky, or p'raps had some tune running through its head, it'd keep on that way for hours. It worried Barnes like thunder.
"I dunno whether it was that that killed his wife or not; but anyhow, when she died, Barnes wanted to marry agin, and he went for a while to see Miss Flickers, who lives out yer on the river road, you know. He courted her pretty steady for a while, and we all thought there was goin' to be a consolidation. But she was telling my wife that one evening Barnes had just taken hold of her hand and told her he loved her, when all of a sudden something said, 'Bloo-oo-oo-ood-a-nou-ou-oun!'
"'What on earth's that?' asked Miss Flickers, looking sorter scared.
"'I dunno,' said Barnes; 'it sounds like somebody making a noise in the cellar.' Lied, of course, for he knew mighty well what it was.
"''Pears to me 'sif it was under the sofa,' says she.
"'Maybe it wasn't anything, after all,' says Barnes, when just then the frog, he feels like running up the scales again, and he yells out, 'Bloo-oo-ood-a-nou-ou-ou-oun!'
"'Upon my word,' says Miss Flickers, 'I believe you've got a frog in your pocket, Mr. Barnes; now, haven't you?'
"Then he gets down on his knees and owns up to the truth, and swears he'll do his best to git rid of the frog, and all the time he is talking the frog is singing exercises and scales and oratorios inside of him, and worse than ever, too, because Barnes drank a good deal of ice-water that day, and it made the frog hoarse—ketched cold, you know.
"But Miss Flickers, she refused him. Said she might've loved him, only she couldn't marry any man that had continual music in his interior.
"So Barnes, he was the most disgusted man you ever saw. Perfectly sick about it. And one day he was lying on the bed gaping, and that frog unexpectedly made up its mind to come up to ask Barnes to eat more carefully, maybe, and it jumped out on the counterpane. After looking about a bit it came up and tried three or four times to hop back, but he kept his mouth shut, and killed the frog with the back of a hair-brush. Ever since then he runs his drinking-water through a strainer, and he hates frogs worse than you and me hate pison. Now, that's the honest truth about Barnes; you ask him if it ain't."
Then Keyser bought some tobacco and went home.
THE EDITOR OF THE PATRIOT.
The editor of the village paper, The Patriot and Advertiser, is Major Slott; and a very clever journalist he is. Even his bitterest adversary, the editor of The Evening Mail, in the town above us on the river, admits that. In the last political campaign, indeed, The Mail undertook to tell how it was that the major acquired such a taste for journalism. The story was that shortly after he was born the doctor ordered that the baby should be fed upon goat's milk. This was procured from a goat that was owned by an Irish woman who lived in the rear of the office of The Weekly Startler and fed her goat chiefly upon the exchanges which came to that journal. The consequence, according to The Mail, was that young Slott was fed entirely upon milk formed from digested newspapers; and he throve on it, although when the Irish woman mixed the Democratic journals carelessly with the Whig papers they disagreed after they were eaten, and the milk gave the baby colic. Old Slott intended the boy to be a minister; but as soon as he was old enough to take notice he cried for every newspaper that he happened to see, and no sooner did he learn how to write than he began to slash off editorials upon "The Need of Reform," etc. He ran away from school four times to enter a newspaper office, and finally, when the paternal Slott put him in the House of Refuge, he started a weekly in there, and called it the House of Refuge Record; and one day he slid over the wall and went down to the Era office, where he changed his name to Blott, and began his career on that paper with an article on "Our Reformatory Institutions for the Young." Then old Slott surrendered to what seemed to be a combination of manifest destiny and goat's milk, and permitted him to pursue his profession. The major, The Mail alleges, has the instinct so strong that if he should fall into the crater of Vesuvius his first thought on striking bottom would be to write to somebody to ask for a free pass to come out with. "But," continued The Mail, "you would hardly believe this story if you ever read The Patriot. We often suspect, when we are looking over that sheet, that the nurse used to mix the goat's milk with an unfair proportion of water."
The major has a weekly edition in which he publishes serial stories of a stirring character, and he is always looking out for good ones. Recently a tale was submitted by a certain Mr. Stack, a young man who had high ambition without much experience as a writer of fiction. After waiting a long while and hearing nothing about the story, Mr. Stack concluded to call upon the major in order to ascertain why that narrative had not attracted attention. When Stack mentioned his errand, the major reached for the manuscript; and looking very solemn, he said,
"Mr. Stack, I don't think I can accept this story. In some respects it is really wonderful; but I am afraid that if I published it, it would attract almost too much attention. People would get too wild over it. We have to be careful. For instance, here in the first chapter you mention the death of Mrs. McGinnis, the hero's mother. She dies; you inter Mrs. McGinnis in the cemetery; you give an affecting scene at the funeral; you run up a monument over her and plant honeysuckle upon her grave. You create in the reader's mind a strong impression that Mrs. McGinnis is thoroughly dead. And yet, over here in the twenty-second chapter, you make a man named Thompson fall in love with her, and she is married to him, and she goes skipping around through the rest of the story as lively as a grasshopper, and you all the time alluding to Thompson as her second husband. You see that kind of thing won't do. It excites remark. Readers complain about it."
"You don't say I did that? Well, now, do you know I was thinking all the time that it was Mr. McGinnis that I buried in the first chapter? I must have got them mixed up somehow."
"And then," continued the major, "when you introduce the hero, you mention that he has but one arm, having lost the other in battle. But in chapter twelve you run him through a saw-mill by an accident, and you mention that he lost an arm there, too. And yet in the nineteenth chapter you say, 'Adolph rushed up to Mary, threw his arms about her, and clasped her to his bosom;' and then you go on to relate how he sat down at the piano in the soft moonlight and played one of Beethoven's sonatas 'with sweet poetic fervor.' Now, the thing, you see, don't dovetail. Adolph couldn't possibly throw his arms around Mary if one was buried in the field of battle and the other was minced up in a saw-mill, and he couldn't clasp her to his bosom unless he threw a lasso with his teeth and hauled her in by swallowing the slack of the rope. As for the piano—well, you know as well as I do that an armless man can't play a Beethoven sonata unless he knows how to perform on the instrument with his nose, and in that case you insult the popular intelligence when you talk about 'sweet poetic fervor.' I have my fingers on the public pulse, and I know they won't stand it."