Little Masterpieces of American Wit and Humor
Edited by Thomas L. Masson
Washington Irving Oliver Wendell Holmes Benjamin Franklin "Josh Billings" "Mark Twain" Charles Dudley Warner James T. Fields Henry Ward Beecher and others
NEW YORK DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 1903
Copyright, 1903, by DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY Published, October, 1903
This anthology of American Humor represents a process of selection that has been going on for more than fifteen years, and in giving it to the public it is perhaps well that the Editor should precede it with a few words of explanation as to its meaning and scope.
Not only all that is fairly representative of the work of our American humorists, from Washington Irving to "Mr. Dooley," has been gathered together, but also much that is merely fugitive and anecdotal. Thus, in many instances literary finish has been ignored in order that certain characteristic and purely American bits should have their place. The Editor is not unmindful of the danger of this plan. For where there is such a countless number of witticisms (so-called) as are constantly coming to the surface, and where so many of them are worthless, it must always take a rare discrimination to detect the genuine from the false. This difficulty is greatly increased by the difference of opinion that exists, even among the elect, with regard to the merit of particular jokes. To paraphrase an old adage, what is one man's laughter may be another man's dirge. The Editor desires to make it plain, however, that the responsibility in this particular instance is entirely his own. He has made his selections without consulting any one, knowing that if a consultation of experts should attempt to decide about the contents of a volume of American humor, no volume would ever be published.
The reader will doubtless recognize, in this anthology, many old friends. He may also be conscious of omissions. These omissions are due either to the restrictions of publishers, or the impossibility of obtaining original copies, or the limited space.
Acknowledgments are made herewith to the following publishers, who have kindly consented to allow the reproduction of the material designated.
F. A. STOKES & COMPANY, New York: "A Rhyme for Priscilla," F. D. Sherman; "The Bohemians of Boston," Gelett Burgess; "A Kiss in the Rain," "Bessie Brown, M. D.," S. M. Peck.
DODD, MEAD & COMPANY, New York: Four Extracts, E. W. Townsend ("Chimmie Fadden").
BOWEN-MERRILL COMPANY, Indianapolis: "The Elf Child," "A Liz-Town Humorist," James Whitcomb Riley.
LEE & SHEPARD, Boston: "The Meeting of the Clabberhuses," "A Philosopher," "The Ideal Husband to His Wife," "The Prayer of Cyrus Brown," "A Modern Martyrdom," S. W. Foss; "After the Funeral," "What He Wanted It For," J. M. Bailey.
BACHELLER, JOHNSON & BACHELLER, New York: "The Composite Ghost," Marion Couthouy Smith.
D. APPLETON & COMPANY, New York: "Illustrated Newspapers," "Tushmaker's Tooth-puller," G. H. Derby ("John Phoenix").
T. B. PETERSON & COMPANY, Philadelphia: "Hans Breitmann's Party," "Ballad," C. G. Leland.
CENTURY COMPANY, New York: "Miss Malony on the Chinese Question," Mary Mapes Dodge; "The Origin of the Banjo," Irwin Russell; "The Walloping Window-Blind," Charles E. Carryl; "The Patriotic Tourist," "What's in a Name?" "'Tis Ever Thus," R. K. Munkittrick.
FORBES & COMPANY, Chicago: "If I Should Die To-Night," "The Pessimist," Ben King.
J. S. OGILVIE & COMPANY, New York: Three Short Extracts, C. B. Lewis ("Mr. Bowser").
THE CHELSEA COMPANY, New York: "The Society Reporter's Christmas," "The Dying Gag," James L. Ford.
KEPPLER & SCHWARZMANN, New York: "Love Letters of Smith," H. C. Bunner.
SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY, Boston: "On Gold-Seeking," "On Expert Testimony," F. P. Dunne ("Mr. Dooley"); "Tale of the Kennebec Mariner," "Grampy Sings a Song," "Cure for Homesickness," Holman F. Day.
BELFORD, CLARKE & COMPANY, Chicago: "A Fatal Thirst," "On Cyclones," Bill Nye.
DUQUESNE DISTRIBUTING COMPANY, Harmanville, Pennsylvania: "In Society," William J. Kountz, Jr. (from the bound edition of "Billy Baxter's Letters").
R. H. RUSSELL, New York: Nonsense Verses—"Impetuous Samuel," "Misfortunes Never Come Singly," "Aunt Eliza," "Susan"; "The City as a Summer Resort," "Avarice and Generosity," "Work and Sport," "Home Life of Geniuses," F. P. Dunne ("Mr. Dooley"); "My Angeline," Harry B. Smith.
H. S. STONE & COMPANY, Chicago: "The Preacher Who Flew His Kite." "The Fable of the Caddy," "The Two Mandolin Players," George Ade.
AMERICAN PUBLISHING COMPANY, Hartford: "A Pleasure Excursion," "An Unmarried Female," Marietta Holley; "Colonel Sellers," "Mark Twain."
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, New York: "Living in the Country," "A Glass of Water," "A Family Horse," F. S. Cozzens.
GEORGE DILLINGHAM, New York: "Natral and Unnatral Aristocrats," "To Correspondents," "The Bumblebee," "Josh Billings"; "Among the Spirits," "The Shakers," "A. W. to His Wife," "Artemus Ward and the Prince of Wales," "A Visit to Brigham Young," "The Tower of London," "One of Mr. Ward's Business Letters," "On 'Forts,'" Artemus Ward; "At the Musicale," "At the Races," Geo. V. Hobart ("John Henry").
THOMPSON & THOMAS, Chicago: "How to Hunt the Fox," Bill Nye.
LITTLE, BROWN & COMPANY, Boston: "Street Scenes in Washington," Louisa May Alcott.
E. H. BACON & COMPANY, Boston: "A Boston Lullaby," James Jeffrey Roche.
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & COMPANY, Boston: "My Aunt," "The Wonderful One-hoss Shay," "Foreign Correspondence," "Music-Pounding" (extract), "The Ballad of the Oysterman," "Dislikes" (short extract), "The Height of the Ridiculous," "An Aphorism and a Lecture," O. W. Holmes; "The Yankee Recruit," "What Mr. Robinson Thinks," "The Courtin'," "A Letter from Mr. Ezekiel Bigelow," "Without and Within," J. R. Lowell; "Five Lives," "Eve's Daughter," E. R. Sill; "The Owl-Critic," "The Alarmed Skipper," James T. Fields; "My Summer in a Garden," "Plumbers," "How I Killed a Bear," C. D. Warner; "Little Breeches," John Hay; "The Stammering Wife," "Coquette," "My Familiar," "Early Rising," J. G. Saxe; "The Diamond Wedding," E. C. Stedman; "Melons," "Society Upon the Stanislaus," "The Heathen Chinee," "To the Pliocene Skull," Bret Harte; "The Total Depravity of Inanimate Things," K. K. C. Walker; "Palabras Grandiosas," Bayard Taylor; "Mrs. Johnson," William Dean Howells; "A Plea for Humor," Agnes Repplier; "The Minister's Wooing," Harriet Beecher Stowe.
In addition, the Editor desires to make his personal acknowledgments to the following authors: F. P. Dunne, Mary Mapes Dodge, Gelett Burgess, R. K. Munkittrick, E. W. Townsend, F. D. Sherman.
For such small paragraphs, anecdotes and witticisms as have been used in these volumes, acknowledgment is hereby made to the following newspapers and periodicals:
_Chicago Record_, _Boston Globe_, _Texas Siftings_, _New Orleans Times Democrat_, _Providence Journal_, _New York Evening Sun_, _Atlanta Constitution_, _Macon Telegraph_, _New Haven Register_, _Chicago Times_, _Analostan Magazine_, _Harper's Bazaar_, _Florida Citizen_, _Saturday Evening Post_, _Chicago Times Herald_, _Washington Post_, _Cleveland Plain Dealer_,_ _New York Tribune_, _Chicago Tribune_, _Pittsburg Bulletin_, _Philadelphia Ledger_, _Youth's Companion_, _Harper's Magazine_, _Duluth Evening Herald_, _Boston Medical and Surgical Journal_, _Washington Times_, _Rochester Budget_, _Bangor News_, _Boston Herald_, _Pittsburg Dispatch_, _Christian Advocate_, _Troy Times_, _Boston Beacon_, _New Haven News_, _New York Herald_, _Philadelphia Call_, _Philadelphia News_, _Erie Dispatch_, _Town Topics_, _Buffalo Courier_, _Life_, _San Francisco Wave_, _Boston Home Journal_, _Puck_, _Washington Hatchet_, _Detroit Free Press_, _Babyhood_, _Philadelphia Press_, _Judge_, _New York Sun_, _Minneapolis Journal_, _San Francisco Argonaut_, _St. Louis Sunday Globe_, _Atlanta Constitution_, _Buffalo Courier_, _New York Weekly_, _Starlight Messenger_ (St Peter, Minn.).
Wouter Van Twiller 1 Wilhelmus Kieft 8 Peter Stuyvesant 13 Antony Van Corlear 15 General Van Poffenburgh 18
Maxims 21 Model of a Letter of Recommendation of a Person You Are Unacquainted with 21 Epitaph for Himself 22
WILLIAM ALLEN BUTLER
Nothing to Wear 24
HENRY WARD BEECHER
Deacon Marble 39 The Deacon's Trout 41 The Dog Noble and the Empty Hole 43
ALBERT GORTON GREENE
Old Grimes 45
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
My Aunt 49 The Deacon's Masterpiece; or, the Wonderful "One-hoss Shay" 63 Foreign Correspondence 106 Music-Pounding 109 The Ballad of the Oysterman 142
NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS
Miss Albina McLush 51 Love in a Cottage 125
WILLIAM PITT PALMER
A Smack in School 56
B. P. SHILLABER ("Mrs. Partington")
Fancy Diseases 58 Bailed Out 59 Seeking a Comet 59 Going to California 60 Mrs. Partington in Court 61
EDWARD ROWLAND SILL
Five Lives 68
JAMES T. FIELDS
The Owl-Critic 70 The Alarmed Skipper 104
Little Breeches 74
HENRY W. SHAW ("Josh Billings")
Natral and Unnatral Aristokrats 77
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL
The Yankee Recruit 81 What Mr. Robinson Thinks 170
CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER
My Summer in a Garden 90
FREDERICK S. COZZENS
Living in the Country 111
CHARLES GODFREY LELAND
Hans Breitmann's Party 127
FRANCES M. WHICHER
Tim Crane and the Widow 129
JOHN GODFREY SAXE
The Stammering Wife 135
ANDREW V. KELLEY ("Parmenas Mix")
He Came to Pay 139
A Pleasure Exertion 144
EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN
The Diamond Wedding 162
Why He Left 23 A Boy's Essay on Girls 38 Identified 47 One Better 48 A Rendition 57 A Cause for Thanks 73 Crowded 103 The Wedding Journey 105 A Case of Conscience 126 He Rose to the Occasion 136 Polite 137 Lost, Strayed or Stolen 138 A Gentle Complaint 141 Music by the Choir 173
WOUTER VAN TWILLER
It was in the year of our Lord 1629 that Mynheer Wouter Van Twiller was appointed Governor of the province of Nieuw Nederlandts, under the commission and control of their High Mightinesses the Lords States General of the United Netherlands, and the privileged West India Company.
This renowned old gentleman arrived at New Amsterdam in the merry month of June, the sweetest month in all the year; when dan Apollo seems to dance up the transparent firmament—when the robin, the thrush, and a thousand other wanton songsters make the woods to resound with amorous ditties, and the luxurious little bob-lincon revels among the clover blossoms of the meadows—all which happy coincidences persuaded the old dames of New Amsterdam, who were skilled in the art of foretelling events, that this was to be a happy and prosperous administration.
The renowned Wouter (or Walter) Van Twiller was descended from a long line of Dutch burgomasters, who had successively dozed away their lives and grown fat upon the bench of magistracy in Rotterdam, and who had comported themselves with such singular wisdom and propriety that they were never either heard or talked of—which, next to being universally applauded, should be the object of ambition of all magistrates and rulers. There are two opposite ways by which some men make a figure in the world; one, by talking faster than they think, and the other, by holding their tongues and not thinking at all. By the first, many a smatterer acquires the reputation of a man of quick parts; by the other, many a dunderpate, like the owl, the stupidest of birds, comes to be considered the very type of wisdom. This, by the way, is a casual remark, which I would not, for the universe, have it thought I apply to Governor Van Twiller. It is true he was a man shut up within himself, like an oyster, and rarely spoke, except in monosyllables; but then it was allowed he seldom said a foolish thing. So invincible was his gravity that he was never known to laugh or even to smile through the whole course of a long and prosperous life. Nay, if a joke were uttered in his presence that set light-minded hearers in a roar, it was observed to throw him into a state of perplexity. Sometimes he would deign to inquire into the matter, and when, after much explanation, the joke was made as plain as a pike-staff, he would continue to smoke his pipe in silence, and at length, knocking out the ashes, would exclaim, "Well, I see nothing in all that to laugh about."
With all his reflective habits, he never made up his mind on a subject. His adherents accounted for this by the astonishing magnitude of his ideas. He conceived every subject on so grand a scale that he had not room in his head to turn it over and examine both sides of it. Certain it is that, if any matter were propounded to him on which ordinary mortals would rashly determine at first glance, he would put on a vague, mysterious look, shake his capacious head, smoke some time in profound silence, and at length observe that "he had his doubts about the matter"; which gained him the reputation of a man slow of belief and not easily imposed upon. What is more, it gained him a lasting name; for to this habit of the mind has been attributed his surname of Twiller; which is said to be a corruption of the original Twijfler, or, in plain English, Doubter.
The person of this illustrious old gentleman was formed and proportioned as though it had been molded by the hands of some cunning Dutch statuary, as a model of majesty and lordly grandeur. He was exactly five feet six inches in height, and six feet five inches in circumference. His head was a perfect sphere, and of such stupendous dimensions that Dame Nature, with all her sex's ingenuity, would have been puzzled to construct a neck capable of supporting it; wherefore she wisely declined the attempt, and settled it firmly on the top of his backbone, just between the shoulders. His body was oblong, and particularly capacious at bottom; which was wisely ordered by Providence seeing that he was a man of sedentary habits, and very averse to the idle labor of walking. His legs were short, but sturdy in proportion to the weight they had to sustain; so that when erect he had not a little the appearance of a beer barrel on skids. His face, that infallible index of the mind, presented a vast expanse, unfurrowed by those lines and angles which disfigure the human countenance with what is termed expression. Two small gray eyes twinkled feebly in the midst, like two stars of lesser magnitude in a hazy firmament; and his full-fed cheeks, which seemed to have taken toll of everything that went into his mouth, were curiously mottled and streaked with dusky red, like a Spitzenberg apple.
His habits were as regular as his person. He daily took his four stated meals, appropriating exactly an hour to each; he smoked and doubted eight hours, and he slept the remaining twelve of the four-and-twenty. Such was the renowned Wouter Van Twilleri—a true philosopher, for his mind was either elevated above, or tranquilly settled below, the cares and perplexities of this world. He had lived in it for years, without feeling the least curiosity to know whether the sun revolved round it, or it round the sun; and he had watched for at least half a century the smoke curling from his pipe to the ceiling, without once troubling his head with any of those numerous theories by which a philosopher would have perplexed his brain, in accounting for its rising above the surrounding atmosphere.
In his council he presided with great state and solemnity. He sat in a huge chair of solid oak, hewn in the celebrated forest of the Hague, fabricated by an experienced timmerman of Amsterdam, and curiously carved about the arms and feet into exact imitations of gigantic eagle's claws. Instead of a scepter, he swayed a long Turkish pipe, wrought with jasmine and amber, which had been presented to a stadtholder of Holland at the conclusion of a treaty with one of the petty Barbary powers. In this stately chair would he sit, and this magnificent pipe would he smoke, shaking his right knee with a constant motion, and fixing his eye for hours together upon a little print of Amsterdam which hung in a black frame against the opposite wall of the council chamber. Nay, it has even been said that when any deliberation of extraordinary length and intricacy was on the carpet, the renowned Wouter would shut his eyes for full two hours at a time, that he might not be disturbed by external objects; and at such times the internal commotion of his mind was evinced by certain regular guttural sounds, which his admirers declared were merely the noise of conflict made by his contending doubts and opinions.
It is with infinite difficulty I have been enabled to collect these biographical anecdotes of the great man under consideration. The facts respecting him were so scattered and vague, and divers of them so questionable in point of authenticity, that I have had to give up the search after many, and decline the admission of still more, which would have tended to heighten the coloring of his portrait.
I have been the more anxious to delineate fully the person and habits of Wouter Van Twiller, from the consideration that he was not only the first but also the best Governor that ever presided over this ancient and respectable province; and so tranquil and benevolent was his reign, that I do not find throughout the whole of it a single instance of any offender being brought to punishment—a most indubitable sign of a merciful Governor, and a case unparalleled, excepting in the reign of the illustrious King Log, from whom, it is hinted, the renowned Van Twiller was a lineal descendant.
The very outset of the career of this excellent magistrate was distinguished by an example of legal acumen that gave flattering presage of a wise and equitable administration. The morning after he had been installed in office, and at the moment that he was making his breakfast from a prodigious earthen dish, filled with milk and Indian pudding, he was interrupted by the appearance of Wandle Schoonhoven, a very important old burgher of New Amsterdam, who complained bitterly of one Barent Bleecker, inasmuch as he refused to come to a settlement of accounts, seeing that there was a heavy balance in favor of the said Wandle. Governor Van Twiller, as I have already observed, was a man of few words; he was likewise a mortal enemy to multiplying writings—or being disturbed at his breakfast. Having listened attentively to the statement of Wandle Schoonhoven, giving an occasional grunt, as he shoveled a spoonful of Indian pudding into his mouth—either as a sign that he relished the dish, or comprehended the story—he called unto him his constable, and pulling out of his breeches pocket a huge jack-knife, despatched it after the defendant as a summons, accompanied by his tobacco-box as a warrant.
This summary process was as effectual in those simple days as was the seal-ring of the great Haroun Alraschid among the true believers. The two parties being confronted before him, each produced a book of accounts, written in a language and character that would have puzzled any but a High-Dutch commentator or a learned decipherer of Egyptian obelisks. The sage Wouter took them one after the other, and having poised them in his hands and attentively counted over the number of leaves, fell straightway into a very great doubt, and smoked for half an hour without saying a word; at length, laying his finger beside his nose and shutting his eyes for a moment, with the air of a man who has just caught a subtle idea by the tail, he slowly took his pipe from his mouth, puffed forth a column of tobacco smoke, and with marvelous gravity and solemnity pronounced, that, having carefully counted over the leaves and weighed the books, it was found that one was just as thick and as heavy as the other; therefore, it was the final opinion of the court that the accounts were equally balanced: therefore, Wandle should give Barent a receipt, and Barent should give Wandle a receipt, and the constable should pay the costs.
This decision, being straightway made known, diffused general joy throughout New Amsterdam, for the people immediately perceived that they had a very wise and equitable magistrate to rule over them. But its happiest effect was that not another lawsuit took place throughout the whole of his administration; and the office of constable fell into such decay that there was not one of those losel scouts known in the province for many years. I am the more particular in dwelling on this transaction, not only because I deem it one of the most sage and righteous judgments on record, and well worthy the attention of modern magistrates, but because it was a miraculous event in the history of the renowned Wouter—being the only time he was ever known to come to a decision in the whole course of his life.
As some sleek ox, sunk in the rich repose of a clover field, dozing and chewing the cud, will bear repeated blows before it raises itself, so the province of Nieuw Nederlandts, having waxed fat under the drowsy reign of the Doubter, needed cuffs and kicks to rouse it into action. The reader will now witness the manner in which a peaceful community advances toward a state of war; which is apt to be like the approach of a horse to a drum, with much prancing and little progress, and too often with the wrong end foremost.
Wilhelmus Kieft, who in 1634 ascended the gubernatorial chair (to borrow a favorite though clumsy appellation of modern phraseologists), was of a lofty descent, his father being inspector of windmills in the ancient town of Saardam; and our hero, we are told, when a boy, made very curious investigations into the nature and operations of these machines, which was one reason why he afterward came to be so ingenious a Governor. His name, according to the most authentic etymologists, was a corruption of Kyver—that is to say, a wrangler or scolder, and expressed the characteristic of his family, which, for nearly two centuries, have kept the windy town of Saardam in hot water and produced more tartars and brimstones than any ten families in the place; and so truly did he inherit this family peculiarity, that he had not been a year in the government of the province before he was universally denominated William the Testy. His appearance answered to his name. He was a brisk, wiry, waspish little old gentleman, such a one as may now and then be seen stumping about our city in a broad-skirted coat with huge buttons, a cocked hat stuck on the back of his head, and a cane as high as his chin. His face was broad, but his features were sharp; his cheeks were scorched into a dusky red by two fiery little gray eyes, his nose turned up, and the corners of his mouth turned down, pretty much like the muzzle of an irritable pug-dog.
I have heard it observed by a profound adept in human physiology, that if a woman waxes fat with the progress of years, her tenure of life is somewhat precarious, but if haply she withers as she grows old, she lives forever. Such promised to be the case with William the Testy, who grew tough in proportion as he dried. He had withered, in fact, not through the process of years, but through the tropical fervor of his soul, which burnt like a vehement rush-light in his bosom, inciting him to incessant broils and bickerings. Ancient tradition speaks much of his learning, and of the gallant inroads he had made into the dead languages, in which he had made captive a host of Greek nouns and Latin verbs, and brought off rich booty in ancient saws and apothegms, which he was wont to parade in his public harangues, as a triumphant general of yore his spolia opima. Of metaphysics he knew enough to confound all hearers and himself into the bargain. In logic he knew the whole family of syllogisms and dilemmas, and was so proud of his skill that he never suffered even a self-evident fact to pass unargued. It was observed, however, that he seldom got into an argument without getting into a perplexity, and then into a passion with his adversary for not being convinced gratis.
He had, moreover, skirmished smartly on the frontiers of several of the sciences, was fond of experimental philosophy, and prided himself upon inventions of all kinds. His abode, which he had fixed at a Bowerie or country-seat at a short distance from the city, just at what is now called Dutch Street, soon abounded with proofs of his ingenuity: patent smoke-jacks that required a horse to work them; Dutch ovens that roasted meat without fire; carts that went before the horses; weathercocks that turned against the wind; and other wrong-headed contrivances that astonished and confounded all beholders. The house, too, was beset with paralytic cats and dogs, the subjects of his experimental philosophy; and the yelling and yelping of the latter unhappy victims of science, while aiding in the pursuit of knowledge, soon gained for the place the name of "Dog's Misery," by which it continues to be known even at the present day.
It is in knowledge as in swimming: he who flounders and splashes on the surface makes more noise, and attracts more attention, than the pearl-diver who quietly dives in quest of treasures to the bottom. The vast acquirements of the new Governor were the theme of marvel among the simple burghers of New Amsterdam; he figured about the place as learned a man as a Bonze at Pekin, who had mastered one-half of the Chinese alphabet, and was unanimously pronounced a "universal genius!" ...
Thus end the authenticated chronicles of the reign of William the Testy; for henceforth, in the troubles, perplexities and confusion of the times, he seems to have been totally overlooked, and to have slipped forever through the fingers of scrupulous history....
It is true that certain of the early provincial poets, of whom there were great numbers in the Nieuw Nederlandts, taking advantage of his mysterious exit, have fabled that, like Romulus, he was translated to the skies, and forms a very fiery little star somewhere on the left claw of the Crab; while others, equally fanciful, declare that he had experienced a fate similar to that of the good King Arthur, who, we are assured by ancient bards, was carried away to the delicious abodes of fairy-land, where he still exists in pristine worth and vigor, and will one day or another return to restore the gallantry, the honor and the immaculate probity which prevailed in the glorious days of the Round Table.
All these, however, are but pleasing fantasies, the cobweb visions of those dreaming varlets, the poets, to which I would not have my judicious readers attach any credibility. Neither am I disposed to credit an ancient and rather apocryphal historian who asserts that the ingenious Wilhelmus was annihilated by the blowing down of one of his windmills; nor a writer of latter times, who affirms that he fell a victim to an experiment in natural history, having the misfortune to break his neck from a garret window of the stadthouse in attempting to catch swallows by sprinkling salt upon their tails. Still less do I put my faith in the tradition that he perished at sea in conveying home to Holland a treasure of golden ore, discovered somewhere among the haunted regions of the Catskill Mountains.
The most probable account declares that, what with the constant troubles on his frontiers, the incessant schemings and projects going on in his own pericranium, the memorials, petitions, remonstrances and sage pieces of advice of respectable meetings of the sovereign people, and the refractory disposition of his councilors, who were sure to differ from him on every point and uniformly to be in the wrong, his mind was kept in a furnace-heat until he became as completely burnt out as a Dutch family pipe which has passed through three generations of hard smokers. In this manner did he undergo a kind of animal combustion, consuming away like a farthing rush-light; so that when grim death finally snuffed him out there was scarce left enough of him to bury.
Peter Stuyvesant was the last, and, like the renowned Wouter Van Twiller, the best of our ancient Dutch Governors, Wouter having surpassed all who preceded him, and Peter, or Piet, as he was sociably called by the old Dutch burghers, who were ever prone to familiarize names, having never been equaled by any successor. He was in fact the very man fitted by nature to retrieve the desperate fortunes of her beloved province, had not the Fates, those most potent and unrelenting of all ancient spinsters, destined them to inextricable confusion.
To say merely that he was a hero would be doing him great injustice; he was in truth a combination of heroes; for he was of a sturdy, raw-boned make, like Ajax Telamon, with a pair of round shoulders that Hercules would have given his hide for (meaning his lion's hide) when he undertook to ease old Atlas of his load. He was, moreover, as Plutarch describes Coriolanus, not only terrible for the force of his arm, but likewise of his voice, which sounded as though it came out of a barrel; and, like the self-same warrior, he possessed a sovereign contempt for the sovereign people, and an iron aspect which was enough of itself to make the very bowels of his adversaries quake with terror and dismay. All this martial excellency of appearance was inexpressibly heightened by an accidental advantage, with which I am surprised that neither Homer nor Virgil have graced any of their heroes. This was nothing less than a wooden leg, which was the only prize he had gained in bravely fighting the battles of his country, but of which he was so proud that he was often heard to declare he valued it more than all his other limbs put together: indeed, so highly did he esteem it that he had it gallantly enchased and relieved with silver devices, which caused it to be related in divers histories and legends that he wore a silver leg.
ANTONY VAN CORLEAR
The very first movements of the great Peter, on taking the reins of government, displayed his magnanimity, though they occasioned not a little marvel and uneasiness among the people of the Manhattoes. Finding himself constantly interrupted by the opposition, and annoyed by the advice of his privy council, the members of which had acquired the unreasonable habit of thinking and speaking for themselves during the preceding reign, he determined at once to put a stop to such grievous abominations. Scarcely, therefore, had he entered upon his authority, than he turned out of office all the meddlesome spirits of the factious cabinet of William the Testy; in place of whom he chose unto himself counselors from those fat, somniferous, respectable burghers who had flourished and slumbered under the easy reign of Walter the Doubter. All these he caused to be furnished with abundance of fair long pipes, and to be regaled with frequent corporation dinners, admonishing them to smoke, and eat, and sleep for the good of the nation, while he took the burden of government upon his own shoulders—an arrangement to which they all gave hearty acquiescence.
Nor did he stop here, but made a hideous rout among the inventions and expedients of his learned predecessor, rooting up his patent gallows, where caitiff vagabonds were suspended by the waistband; demolishing his flag-staffs and windmills, which, like mighty giants, guarded the ramparts of New Amsterdam; pitching to the duyvel whole batteries of Quaker guns; and, in a word, turning topsy-turvy the whole philosophic, economic and windmill system of the immortal sage of Saardam.
The honest folks of New Amsterdam began to quake now for the fate of their matchless champion, Antony the Trumpeter, who had acquired prodigious favor in the eyes of the women by means of his whiskers and his trumpet. Him did Peter the Headstrong cause to be brought into his presence, and eying him for a moment from head to foot, with a countenance that would have appalled anything else than a sounder of brass—"Pr'ythee, who and what art thou?" said he.
"Sire," replied the other, in no wise dismayed, "for my name, it is Antony Van Corlear; for my parentage, I am the son of my mother; for my profession, I am champion and garrison of this great city of New Amsterdam." "I doubt me much," said Peter Stuyvesant, "that thou art some scurvy costard-monger knave. How didst thou acquire this paramount honor and dignity?" "Marry, sir," replied the other, "like many a great man before me, simply by sounding my own trumpet." "Ay, is it so?" quoth the Governor; "why, then, let us have a relish of thy art." Whereupon the good Antony put his instrument to his lips, and sounded a charge with such a tremendous outset, such a delectable quaver, and such a triumphant cadence, that it was enough to make one's heart leap out of one's mouth only to be within a mile of it. Like as a war-worn charger, grazing in peaceful plains, starts at a strain of martial music, pricks up his ears, and snorts, and paws, and kindles at the noise, so did the heroic Peter joy to hear the clangor of the trumpet; for of him might truly be said, what was recorded of the renowned St. George of England, "there was nothing in all the world that more rejoiced his heart than to hear the pleasant sound of war, and see the soldiers brandish forth their steeled weapons." Casting his eye more kindly, therefore, upon the sturdy Van Corlear, and finding him to be a jovial varlet, shrewd in his discourse, yet of great discretion and immeasurable wind, he straightway conceived a vast kindness for him, and discharging him from the troublesome duty of garrisoning, defending and alarming the city, ever after retained him about his person as his chief favorite, confidential envoy and trusty squire. Instead of disturbing the city with disastrous notes, he was instructed to play so as to delight the Governor while at his repasts, as did the minstrels of yore in the days of the glorious chivalry—and on all public occasions to rejoice the ears of the people with warlike melody thereby keeping alive a noble and martial spirit.
GENERAL VAN POFFENBURGH
It is tropically observed by honest old Socrates, that heaven infuses into some men at their birth a portion of intellectual gold, into others of intellectual silver, while others are intellectually furnished with iron and brass. Of the last class was General Van Poffenburgh; and it would seem as if dame Nature, who will sometimes be partial, had given him brass enough for a dozen ordinary braziers. All this he had contrived to pass off upon William the Testy for genuine gold; and the little Governor would sit for hours and listen to his gunpowder stories of exploits, which left those of Tirante the White, Don Belianis of Greece, or St. George and the Dragon quite in the background. Having been promoted by William Kieft to the command of his whole disposable forces, he gave importance to his station by the grandiloquence of his bulletins, always styling himself Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the New Netherlands, though in sober truth these armies were nothing more than a handful of hen-stealing, bottle-bruising ragamuffins.
In person he was not very tall, but exceedingly round; neither did his bulk proceed from his being fat, but windy, being blown up by a prodigious conviction of his own importance, until he resembled one of those bags of wind given by AEolus, in an incredible fit of generosity, to that vagabond warrior Ulysses. His windy endowments had long excited the admiration of Antony Van Corlear, who is said to have hinted more than once to William the Testy that in making Van Poffenburgh a general he had spoiled an admirable trumpeter.
As it is the practice in ancient story to give the reader a description of the arms and equipments of every noted warrior, I will bestow a word upon the dress of this redoubtable commander. It comported with his character, being so crossed and slashed, and embroidered with lace and tinsel, that he seemed to have as much brass without as nature had stored away within. He was swathed, too, in a crimson sash, of the size and texture of a fishing-net—doubtless to keep his swelling heart from bursting through his ribs. His face glowed with furnace-heat from between a huge pair of well-powdered whiskers, and his valorous soul seemed ready to bounce out of a pair of large, glassy, blinking eyes, projecting like those of a lobster.
I swear to thee, worthy reader, if history and tradition belie not this warrior, I would give all the money in my pocket to have seen him accoutred cap-a-pie—booted to the middle, sashed to the chin, collared to the ears, whiskered to the teeth, crowned with an overshadowing cocked hat, and girded with a leathern belt ten inches broad, from which trailed a falchion, of a length that I dare not mention. Thus equipped, he strutted about, as bitter-looking a man of war as the far-famed More, of Morehall, when he sallied forth to slay the dragon of Wantley. For what says the ballad?
"Had you but seen him in this dress, How fierce he looked and how big, You would have thought him for to be Some Egyptian porcupig. He frighted all—cats, dogs, and all, Each cow, each horse, and each hog; For fear they did flee, for they took him to be Some strange outlandish hedgehog."
—Knickerbocker's History of New York.
* * * * *
"A friend of mine," said a citizen, "asked me the other evening to go and call on some friends of his who had lost the head of the family the day previous. He had been an honest old man, a laborer with a pick and shovel. While we were with the family an old man entered who had worked by his side for years. Expressing his sorrow at the loss of his friend, and glancing about the room, he observed a large floral anchor. Scrutinizing it closely, he turned to the widow and in a low tone asked, 'Who sent the pick?'"
While Butler was delivering a speech for the Democrats in Boston during an exciting campaign, one of his hearers cried out, "How about the spoons, Ben?" Benjamin's good eye twinkled merrily as he replied: "Now, don't mention that, please. I was a Republican when I stole those spoons."
Never spare the parson's wine, nor the baker's pudding.
A house without woman or firelight is like a body without soul or sprite.
Kings and bears often worry their keepers.
Light purse, heavy heart.
He's a fool that makes his doctor his heir.
Ne'er take a wife till thou hast a house (and a fire) to put her in.
To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.
He that drinks fast pays slow.
He is ill-clothed who is bare of virtue.
Beware of meat twice boil'd, and an old foe reconcil'd.
The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.
He that is rich need not live sparingly, and he that can live sparingly need not be rich.
He that waits upon fortune is never sure of a dinner.
MODEL OF A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION OF A PERSON YOU ARE UNACQUAINTED WITH
PARIS, April 2, 1777.
Sir: The bearer of this, who is going to America, presses me to give him a letter of recommendation, though I know nothing of him, not even his name. This may seem extraordinary, but I assure you it is not uncommon here. Sometimes, indeed, one unknown person brings another equally unknown, to recommend him; and sometimes they recommend one another! As to this gentleman, I must refer you to himself for his character and merits, with which he is certainly better acquainted than I can possibly be. I recommend him, however, to those civilities which every stranger, of whom one knows no harm, has a right to; and I request you will do him all the favor that, on further acquaintance, you shall find him to deserve. I have the honor to be, etc.
EPITAPH FOR HIMSELF
THE BODY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (LIKE THE COVER OF AN OLD BOOK, ITS CONTENTS TORN OUT, AND STRIPT OF ITS LETTERING AND GILDING), LIES HERE FOOD FOR WORMS; YET THE WORK ITSELF SHALL NOT BE LOST, FOR IT WILL (AS HE BELIEVED) APPEAR ONCE MORE IN A NEW AND MORE BEAUTIFUL EDITION CORRECTED AND AMENDED BY THE AUTHOR.
WHY HE LEFT
Mr. Dickson, a colored barber in a large New England town, was shaving one of his customers, a respectable citizen, one morning, when a conversation occurred between them respecting Mr. Dickson's former connection with a colored church in that place:
"I believe you are connected with the church in Elm Street, are you not, Mr. Dickson?" said the customer.
"No, sah, not at all."
"What! are you not a member of the African church?"
"Not dis year, sah."
"Why did you leave their communion, Mr. Dickson, if I may be permitted to ask?"
"Well, I'll tell you, sah," said Mr. Dickson, stropping a concave razor on the palm of his hand, "it was just like dis. I jined de church in good fait'; I gave ten dollars toward the stated gospil de first year, and de church people call me 'Brudder Dickson'; de second year my business not so good, and I gib only five dollars. That year the people call me 'Mr. Dickson.' Dis razor hurt you, sah?"
"No, the razor goes tolerably well."
"Well, sah, de third year I feel berry poor; had sickness in my family; I didn't gib noffin' for preachin'. Well, sah, arter dat dey call me 'dat old nigger Dickson'—and I left 'em."
WILLIAM ALLEN BUTLER
NOTHING TO WEAR
Miss Flora M'Flimsey, of Madison Square, Has made three separate journeys to Paris, And her father assures me, each time she was there, That she and her friend, Mrs. Harris (Not the lady whose name is so famous in history, But plain Mrs. H., without romance or mystery), Spent six consecutive weeks, without stopping, In one continuous round of shopping— Shopping alone, and shopping together, At all hours of the day, and in all sorts of weather, For all manner of things that a woman can put On the crown of her head, or the sole of her foot, Or wrap round her shoulders, or fit round her waist, Or that can be sewed on, or pinned on, or laced, Or tied on with a string, or stitched on with a bow In front or behind, above or below; For bonnets, mantillas, capes, collars and shawls; Dresses for breakfasts, and dinners, and balls; Dresses to sit in, and stand in, and walk in; Dresses to dance in, and flirt in, and talk in; Dresses in which to do nothing at all; Dresses for winter, spring, summer and fall; All of them different in color and shape, Silk, muslin and lace, velvet, satin and crape, Brocade and broadcloth, and other material, Quite as expensive and much more ethereal; In short, for all things that could ever be thought of, Or milliner, modiste or tradesman be bought of, From ten-thousand-franc robes to twenty-sous frills; In all quarters of Paris, and to every store, While M'Flimsey in vain stormed, scolded and swore, They footed the streets, and he footed the bills!
The last trip, their goods shipped by the steamer Arago, Formed, M'Flimsey declares, the bulk of her cargo, Not to mention a quantity kept from the rest, Sufficient to fill the largest-sized chest, Which did not appear on the ship's manifest, But for which the ladies themselves manifested Such particular interest, that they invested Their own proper persons in layers and rows Of muslins, embroideries, worked underclothes, Gloves, handkerchiefs, scarfs, and such trifles as those; Then, wrapped in great shawls, like Circassian beauties, Gave good-by to the ship, and go by to the duties. Her relations at home all marveled, no doubt, Miss Flora had grown so enormously stout For an actual belle and a possible bride; But the miracle ceased when she turned inside out, And the truth came to light, and the dry-goods besides, Which, in spite of Collector and Custom-House sentry, Had entered the port without any entry.
And yet, though scarce three months have passed since the day This merchandise went, on twelve carts, up Broadway, This same Miss M'Flimsey of Madison Square, The last time we met was in utter despair, Because she had nothing whatever to wear!
Nothing to wear! Now, as this is a true ditty, I do not assert—this, you know, is between us— That she's in a state of absolute nudity, Like Powers's Greek Slave or the Medici Venus; But I do mean to say, I have heard her declare, When at the same moment she had on a dress Which cost five hundred dollars, and not a cent less, And jewelry worth ten times more, I should guess, That she had not a thing in the wide world to wear!
I should mention just here, that out of Miss Flora's Two hundred and fifty or sixty adorers, I had just been selected as he who should throw all The rest in the shade, by the gracious bestowal On myself, after twenty or thirty rejections, Of those fossil remains which she called her "affections," And that rather decayed but well-known work of art Which Miss Flora persisted in styling her "heart." So we were engaged. Our troth had been plighted, Not by moonbeam or starbeam, by fountain or grove, But in a front parlor, most brilliantly lighted, Beneath the gas-fixtures, we whispered our love. Without any romance, or raptures, or sighs, Without any tears in Miss Flora's blue eyes, Or blushes, or transports, or such silly actions, It was one of the quietest business transactions, With a very small sprinkling of sentiment, if any, And a very large diamond imported by Tiffany. On her virginal lips, while I printed a kiss, She exclaimed, as a sort of parenthesis, And by way of putting me quite at my ease, "You know I'm to polka as much as I please, And flirt when I like—now, stop, don't you speak— And you must not come here more than twice in the week, Or talk to me either at party or ball, But always be ready to come when I call; So don't prose to me about duty and stuff, If we don't break this off, there will be time enough For that sort of thing; but the bargain must be That, as long as I choose, I am perfectly free— For this is a kind of engagement, you see, Which is binding on you, but not binding on me."
Well, having thus wooed Miss M'Flimsey and gained her, With the silks, crinolines, and hoops that contained her, I had, as I thought, a contingent remainder At least in the property, and the best right To appear as its escort by day and by night; And it being the week of the Stuckups' grand ball— Their cards had been out a fortnight or so, And set all the Avenue on the tiptoe— I considered it only my duty to call, And see if Miss Flora intended to go. I found her—as ladies are apt to be found, When the time intervening between the first sound Of the bell and the visitor's entry is shorter Than usual—I found; I won't say—I caught her, Intent on the pier-glass, undoubtedly meaning To see if perhaps it didn't need cleaning. She turned as I entered—"Why, Harry, you sinner, I thought that you went to the Flashers' to dinner!" "So I did," I replied; "the dinner is swallowed, And digested, I trust, for 'tis now nine and more, So, being relieved from that duty, I followed Inclination, which led me, you see, to your door; And now will your ladyship so condescend As just to inform me if you intend Your beauty, and graces, and presence to lend (All of which, when I own, I hope no one will borrow) To the Stuckups', whose party, you know, is to-morrow?" The fair Flora looked up, with a pitiful air, And answered quite promptly, "Why, Harry, mon cher, I should like above all things to go with you there, But really and truly—I've nothing to wear." "Nothing to wear! Go just as you are; Wear the dress you have on, and you'll be by far, I engage, the most bright and particular star On the Stuckup horizon——" I stopped, for her eye, Notwithstanding this delicate onset of flattery, Opened on me at once a most terrible battery Of scorn and amazement. She made no reply, But gave a slight turn to the end of her nose (That pure Grecian feature), as much as to say, "How absurd that any sane man should suppose That a lady would go to a ball in the clothes, No matter how fine, that she wears every day!" So I ventured again: "Wear your crimson brocade;" (Second turn up of nose)—"That's too dark by a shade." "Your blue silk"—"That's too heavy." "Your pink"—"That's too light." "Wear tulle over satin"—"I can't endure white." "Your rose-colored, then, the best of the batch"— "I haven't a thread of point-lace to match." "Your brown moire antique"—"Yes, and look like a Quaker." "The pearl-colored"—"I would, but that plaguy dressmaker Has had it a week." "Then that exquisite lilac, In which you would melt the heart of a Shylock;" (Here the nose took again the same elevation)— "I wouldn't wear that for the whole of creation." "Why not? It's my fancy, there's nothing could strike it As more comme it faut"—"Yes, but, dear me, that lean Sophronia Stuckup has got one just like it, And I won't appear dressed like a chit of sixteen." "Then that splendid purple, the sweet Mazarine; That superb point d'aiguille, that imperial green, That zephyr-like tarletan, that rich grenadine"— "Not one of all which is fit to be seen," Said the lady, becoming excited and flushed. "Then wear," I exclaimed, in a tone which quite crushed Opposition, "that gorgeous toilette which you sported In Paris last spring, at the grand presentation, When you quite turned the head of the head of the nation, And by all the grand court were so very much courted." The end of the nose was portentously tipped up And both the bright eyes shot forth indignation, As she burst upon me with the fierce exclamation, "I have worn it three times, at the least calculation, And that and most of my dresses are ripped up!" Here I ripped out something, perhaps rather rash, Quite innocent, though; but to use an expression More striking than classic, it "settled my hash," And proved very soon the last act of our session. "Fiddlesticks, is it, sir? I wonder the ceiling Doesn't fall down and crush you—you men have no feeling; You selfish, unnatural, illiberal creatures, Who set yourselves up as patterns and preachers, Your silly pretense—why, what a mere guess it is! Pray, what do you know of a woman's necessities? I have told you and shown you I've nothing to wear, And it's perfectly plain you not only don't care, But you do not believe me" (here the nose went still higher). "I suppose, if you dared, you would call me a liar. Our engagement is ended, sir—yes, on the spot; You're a brute, and a monster, and—I don't know what." I mildly suggested the words Hottentot, Pickpocket, and cannibal, Tartar, and thief, As gentle expletives which might give relief; But this only proved as a spark to the powder, And the storm I had raised came faster and louder; It blew and it rained, thundered, lightened and hailed Interjections, verbs, pronouns, till language quite failed To express the abusive, and then its arrears Were brought up all at once by a torrent of tears, And my last faint, despairing attempt at an obs- Ervation was lost in a tempest of sobs.
Well, I felt for the lady, and felt for my hat, too, Improvised on the crown of the latter a tattoo, In lieu of expressing the feelings which lay Quite too deep for words, as Wordsworth would say; Then, without going through the form of a bow, Found myself in the entry—I hardly know how, On doorstep and sidewalk, past lamp-post and square, At home and upstairs, in my own easy-chair; Poked my feet into slippers, my fire into blaze, And said to myself, as I lit my cigar, "Supposing a man had the wealth of the Czar Of the Russias to boot, for the rest of his days, On the whole, do you think he would have much to spare, If he married a woman with nothing to wear?"
Since that night, taking pains that it should not be bruited Abroad in society, I've instituted A course of inquiry, extensive and thorough, On this vital subject, and find, to my horror, That the fair Flora's case is by no means surprising, But that there exists the greatest distress In our female community, solely arising From this unsupplied destitution of dress, Whose unfortunate victims are filling the air With the pitiful wail of "Nothing to wear."
Researches in some of the "Upper Ten" districts Reveal the most painful and startling statistics, Of which let me mention only a few: In one single house on the Fifth Avenue, Three young ladies were found, all below twenty-two, Who have been three whole weeks without anything new In the way of flounced silks, and thus left in the lurch, Are unable to go to ball, concert or church. In another large mansion near the same place Was found a deplorable, heartrending case Of entire destitution of Brussels point-lace. In a neighboring block there was found, in three calls, Total want, long continued, of camel's-hair shawls; And a suffering family, whose case exhibits The most pressing need of real ermine tippets; One deserving young lady almost unable To survive for the want of a new Russian sable; Still another, whose tortures have been most terrific Ever since the sad loss of the steamer Pacific, In which were engulfed, not friend or relation (For whose fate she, perhaps, might have found consolation, Or borne it, at least, with serene resignation), But the choicest assortment of French sleeves and collars Ever sent out from Paris, worth thousands of dollars, And all as to style most recherche and rare, The want of which leaves her with nothing to wear, And renders her life so drear and dyspeptic That she's quite a recluse, and almost a skeptic, For she touchingly says that this sort of grief Cannot find in Religion the slightest relief, And Philosophy has not a maxim to spare For the victims of such overwhelming despair. But the saddest, by far, of all these sad features, Is the cruelty practised upon the poor creatures By husbands and fathers, real Bluebeards and Timons, Who resist the most touching appeals made for diamonds By their wives and their daughters, and leave them for days Unsupplied with new jewelry, fans or bouquets, Even laugh at their miseries whenever they have a chance, And deride their demands as useless extravagance. One case of a bride was brought to my view, Too sad for belief, but alas! 'twas too true, Whose husband refused, as savage as Charon, To permit her to take more than ten trunks to Sharon. The consequence was, that when she got there, At the end of three weeks she had nothing to wear; And when she proposed to finish the season At Newport, the monster refused, out and out, For his infamous conduct alleging no reason, Except that the waters were good for his gout; Such treatment as this was too shocking, of course, And proceedings are now going on for divorce.
But why harrow the feelings by lifting the curtain From these scenes of woe? Enough, it is certain, Has here been disclosed to stir up the pity Of every benevolent heart in the city, And spur up humanity into a canter To rush and relieve these sad cases instanter. Won't somebody, moved by this touching description, Come forward to-morrow and head a subscription? Won't some kind philanthropist, seeing that aid is So needed at once by these indigent ladies, Take charge of the matter? Or won't Peter Cooper The corner-stone lay of some new splendid super- Structure, like that which to-day links his name In the Union unending of Honor and Fame, And found a new charity just for the care Of these unhappy women with nothing to wear, Which, in view of the cash which would daily be claimed, The Laying-out Hospital well might be named? Won't Stewart, or some of our dry-goods importers, Take a contract for clothing our wives and our daughters? Or, to furnish the cash to supply these distresses, And life's pathway strew with shawls, collars and dresses, Ere the want of them makes it much rougher and thornier, Won't some one discover a new California? O! ladies, dear ladies, the next sunny day, Please trundle your hoops just out of Broadway, From its swirl and its bustle, its fashion and pride And the temples of Trade which tower on each side, To the alleys and lanes, where Misfortune and Guilt Their children have gathered, their city have built; Where Hunger and Vice, like twin beasts of prey, Have hunted their victims to gloom and despair; Raise the rich, dainty dress, and the fine broidered skirt, Pick your delicate way through the dampness and dirt. Grope through the dark dens, climb the rickety stair To the garret, where wretches, the young and the old, Half starved and half naked, lie crouched from the cold; See those skeleton limbs, those frost-bitten feet, All bleeding and bruised by the stones of the street; Hear the sharp cry of childhood, the deep groans that swell From the poor dying creature who writhes on the floor; Hear the curses that sound like the echoes of Hell, As you sicken and shudder and fly from the door; Then home to your wardrobes, and say, if you dare— Spoiled children of fashion—you've nothing to wear!
And O! if perchance there should be a sphere Where all is made right which so puzzles us here, Where the glare and the glitter and tinsel of Time Fade and die in the light of that region sublime, Where the soul, disenchanted of flesh and of sense, Unscreened by its trappings and shows and pretense, Must be clothed for the life and the service above, With purity, truth, faith, meekness and love, O daughters of Earth! foolish virgins, beware! Lest in that upper realm you have nothing to wear!
A BOY'S ESSAY ON GIRLS
"Girls are very stuckup and dignefied in their manner and behaveyour. They think more of dress than anything and like to play with dowls and rags. They cry if they see a cow in afar distance and are afraid of guns. They stay at home all the time and go to Church every Sunday. They are al-ways sick. They are al-ways funy and making fun of boys hands and they say how dirty. They cant play marbles. I pity them poor things. They make fun of boys and then turn round and love them. I dont beleave they ever kiled a cat or any thing. They look out every nite and say oh ant the moon lovely. Thir is one thing I have not told and that is they al-ways now their lessons bettern boys."
HENRY WARD BEECHER
How they ever made a deacon out of Jerry Marble I never could imagine! His was the kindest heart that ever bubbled and ran over. He was elastic, tough, incessantly active, and a prodigious worker. He seemed never to tire, but after the longest day's toil, he sprang up the moment he had done with work, as if he were a fine steel spring. A few hours' sleep sufficed him, and he saw the morning stars the year round. His weazened face was leather color, but forever dimpling and changing to keep some sort of congruity between itself and his eyes, that winked and blinked and spilled over with merry good nature. He always seemed afflicted when obliged to be sober. He had been known to laugh in meeting on several occasions, although he ran his face behind his handkerchief, and coughed, as if that was the matter, yet nobody believed it. Once, in a hot summer day, he saw Deacon Trowbridge, a sober and fat man, of great sobriety, gradually ascending from the bodily state into that spiritual condition called sleep. He was blameless of the act. He had struggled against the temptation with the whole virtue of a deacon. He had eaten two or three heads of fennel in vain, and a piece of orange peel. He had stirred himself up, and fixed his eyes on the minister with intense firmness, only to have them grow gradually narrower and milder. If he held his head up firmly, it would with a sudden lapse fall away over backward. If he leaned it a little forward, it would drop suddenly into his bosom. At each nod, recovering himself, he would nod again, with his eyes wide open, to impress upon the boys that he did it on purpose both times.
In what other painful event of life has a good man so little sympathy as when overcome with sleep in meeting time? Against the insidious seduction he arrays every conceivable resistance. He stands up awhile; he pinches himself, or pricks himself with pins. He looks up helplessly to the pulpit as if some succor might come thence. He crosses his legs uncomfortably, and attempts to recite the catechism or the multiplication table. He seizes a languid fan, which treacherously leaves him in a calm. He tries to reason, to notice the phenomena. Oh, that one could carry his pew to bed with him! What tossing wakefulness there! what fiery chase after somnolency! In his lawful bed a man cannot sleep, and in his pew he cannot keep awake! Happy man who does not sleep in church! Deacon Trowbridge was not that man. Deacon Marble was!
Deacon Marble witnessed the conflict we have sketched above, and when good Mr. Trowbridge gave his next lurch, recovering himself with a snort, and then drew out a red handkerchief and blew his nose with a loud imitation, as if to let the boys know that he had not been asleep, poor Deacon Marble was brought to a sore strait. But I have reason to think that he would have weathered the stress if it had not been for a sweet-faced little boy in the front of the gallery. The lad had been innocently watching the same scene, and at its climax laughed out loud, with a frank and musical explosion, and then suddenly disappeared backward into his mother's lap. That laugh was just too much, and Deacon Marble could no more help laughing than could Deacon Trowbridge help sleeping. Nor could he conceal it. Though he coughed and put up his handkerchief and hemmed—it was a laugh—Deacon!—and every boy in the house knew it, and liked you better for it—so inexperienced were they.—Norwood.
THE DEACON'S TROUT
He was a curious trout. I believe he knew Sunday just as well as Deacon Marble did. At any rate, the Deacon thought the trout meant to aggravate him. The Deacon, you know, is a little waggish. He often tells about that trout. Says he: "One Sunday morning, just as I got along by the willows, I heard an awful splash, and not ten feet from shore I saw the trout, as long as my arm, just curving over like a bow and going down with something for breakfast. Gracious says I, and I almost jumped out of the wagon. But my wife Polly, says she, 'What on airth are you thinkin' of, Deacon? It's Sabbath day, and you're goin' to meetin'! It's a pretty business for a deacon!' That sort o' cooled me off. But I do say that, for about a minute, I wished I wasn't a deacon. But 'twouldn't make any difference, for I came down next day to mill on purpose, and I came down once or twice more, and nothin' was to be seen, tho' I tried him with the most temptin' things. Wal, next Sunday I came along agin, and, to save my life I couldn't keep off worldly and wanderin' thoughts. I tried to be sayin' my catechism, but I couldn't keep my eyes off the pond as we came up to the willows. I'd got along in the catechism, as smooth as the road, to the Fourth Commandment, and was sayin' it out loud for Polly, and jist as I was sayin': 'What is required in the Fourth Commandment?' I heard a splash, and there was the trout, and, afore I could think, I said: 'Gracious, Polly, I must have that trout.' She almost riz right up, 'I knew you wa'n't sayin' your catechism hearty. Is this the way you answer the question about keepin' the Lord's day? I'm ashamed, Deacon Marble,' says she. 'You'd better change your road, and go to meetin' on the road over the hill. If I was a deacon, I wouldn't let a fish's tail whisk the whole catechism out of my head;' and I had to go to meetin' on the hill road all the rest of the summer."—Norwood.
THE DOG NOBLE AND THE EMPTY HOLE
The first summer which we spent in Lenox we had along a very intelligent dog, named Noble. He was learned in many things, and by his dog-lore excited the undying admiration of all the children. But there were some things which Noble could never learn. Having on one occasion seen a red squirrel run into a hole in a stone wall, he could not be persuaded that he was not there forevermore.
Several red squirrels lived close to the house, and had become familiar, but not tame. They kept up a regular romp with Noble. They would come down from the maple trees with provoking coolness; they would run along the fence almost within reach; they would cock their tails and sail across the road to the barn; and yet there was such a well-timed calculation under all this apparent rashness, that Noble invariably arrived at the critical spot just as the squirrel left it.
On one occasion Noble was so close upon his red-backed friend that, unable to get up the maple tree, the squirrel dodged into a hole in the wall, ran through the chinks, emerged at a little distance, and sprang into the tree. The intense enthusiasm of the dog at that hole can hardly be described. He filled it full of barking. He pawed and scratched as if undermining a bastion. Standing off at a little distance, he would pierce the hole with a gaze as intense and fixed as if he were trying magnetism on it. Then, with tail extended, and every hair thereon electrified, he would rush at the empty hole with a prodigious onslaught.
This imaginary squirrel haunted Noble night and day. The very squirrel himself would run up before his face into the tree, and, crouched in a crotch, would sit silently watching the whole process of bombarding the empty hole, with great sobriety and relish. But Noble would allow of no doubts. His conviction that that hole had a squirrel in it continued unshaken for six weeks. When all other occupations failed, this hole remained to him. When there were no more chickens to harry, no pigs to bite, no cattle to chase, no children to romp with, no expeditions to make with the grown folks, and when he had slept all that his dogskin would hold, he would walk out of the yard, yawn and stretch himself, and then look wistfully at the hole, as if thinking to himself, "Well, as there is nothing else to do, I may as well try that hole again!"—Eyes and Ears.
* * * * *
N. P. Willis was usually the life of the company he happened to be in. His repartee at Mrs. Gales's dinner in Washington is famous. Mrs. Gales wrote on a card to her niece, at the other end of the table: "Don't flirt so with Nat Willis." She was herself talking vivaciously to a Mr. Campbell. Willis wrote the niece's reply:
"Dear aunt, don't attempt my young feelings to trammel. Nor strain at a Nat while you swallow a Campbell."
Old Grimes is dead; that good old man We never shall see more: He used to wear a long, black coat, All button'd down before.
His heart was open as the day, His feelings all were true: His hair was some inclined to gray— He wore it in a queue.
Whene'er he heard the voice of pain, His breast with pity burn'd: The large, round head upon his cane From ivory was turn'd.
Kind words he ever had for all; He knew no base design: His eyes were dark and rather small, His nose was aquiline.
He lived at peace with all mankind, In friendship he was true: His coat had pocket-holes behind, His pantaloons were blue.
Unharm'd, the sin which earth pollutes He pass'd securely o'er, And never wore a pair of boots For thirty years or more.
But good old Grimes is now at rest, Nor fears misfortune's frown: He wore a double-breasted vest— The stripes ran up and down.
He modest merit sought to find, And pay it its desert: He had no malice in his mind, No ruffles on his shirt.
His neighbors he did not abuse— Was sociable and gay: He wore large buckles on his shoes. And changed them every day.
His knowledge, hid from public gaze, He did not bring to view, Nor made a noise, town-meeting days, As many people do.
His worldly goods he never threw In trust to fortune's chances, But lived (as all his brothers do) In easy circumstances.
Thus undisturb'd by anxious cares. His peaceful moments ran; And everybody said he was A fine old gentleman.
ALBERT GORTON GREENE.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was a kind-hearted man as well as a great novelist. While he was consul at Liverpool a young Yankee walked into his office. The boy had left home to seek his fortune, but evidently hadn't found it yet, although he had crossed the sea in his search. Homesick, friendless, nearly penniless, he wanted a passage home. The clerk said Mr. Hawthorne could not be seen, and intimated that the boy was not American, but was trying to steal a passage. The boy stuck to his point, and the clerk at last went to the little room and said to Mr. Hawthorne: "Here's a boy who insists upon seeing you. He says he is an American, but I know he isn't." Hawthorne came out of the room and looked keenly at the eager, ruddy face of the boy. "You want a passage to America?"
"And you say you're an American?"
"From what part of America?"
"United States, sir."
"New Hampshire, sir."
Hawthorne looked at him for a minute before asking him the next question. "Who sold the best apples in your town?"
"Skim-milk Folsom, sir," said the boy, with glistening eye, as the old familiar by-word brought up the dear old scenes of home.
"It's all right," said Hawthorne to the clerk; "give him a passage."
Long after the victories of Washington over the French and English had made his name familiar to all Europe, Doctor Franklin chanced to dine with the English and French Ambassadors, when, as nearly as the precise words can be recollected, the following toasts were drunk:
"England'—The Sun, whose bright beams enlighten and fructify the remotest corners of the earth."
The French Ambassador, filled with national pride, but too polite to dispute the previous toast, drank the following:
"France'—The Moon, whose mild, steady and cheering rays are the delight of all nations, consoling them in darkness and making their dreariness beautiful."
Doctor Franklin then arose, and, with his usual dignified simplicity, said:
"George Washington'—The Joshua who commanded the Sun and Moon to stand still, and they obeyed him."
My aunt! my dear unmarried aunt! Long years have o'er her flown; Yet still she strains the aching clasp That binds her virgin zone; I know it hurts her—though she looks As cheerful as she can; Her waist is ampler than her life, For life is but a span.
My aunt, my poor deluded aunt! Her hair is almost gray; Why will she train that winter curl In such a spring-like way? How can she lay her glasses down, And say she reads as well, When, through a double convex lens, She just makes out to spell?
Her father—grandpapa! forgive This erring lip its smiles— Vowed she would make the finest girl Within a hundred miles. He sent her to a stylish school; 'Twas in her thirteenth June; And with her, as the rules required, "Two towels and a spoon."
They braced my aunt against a board, To make her straight and tall; They laced her up, they starved her down, To make her light and small; They pinched her feet, they singed her hair, They screwed it up with pins— O never mortal suffered more In penance for her sins.
So, when my precious aunt was done, My grandsire brought her back (By daylight, lest some rabid youth Might follow on the track); "Ah!" said my grandsire, as he shook Some powder in his pan, "What could this lovely creature do Against a desperate man!"
Alas! nor chariot, nor barouche, Nor bandit cavalcade Tore from the trembling father's arms His all-accomplished maid. For her how happy had it been! And Heaven had spared to me To see one sad, ungathered rose On my ancestral tree.
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.
N. P. WILLIS
MISS ALBINA McLUSH
I have a passion for fat women. If there is anything I hate in life, it is what dainty people call a spirituelle. Motion—rapid motion—a smart, quick, squirrel-like step, a pert, voluble tone—in short, a lively girl—is my exquisite horror! I would as lief have a diable petit dancing his infernal hornpipe on my cerebellum as to be in the room with one. I have tried before now to school myself into liking these parched peas of humanity. I have followed them with my eyes, and attended to their rattle till I was as crazy as a fly in a drum. I have danced with them, and romped with them in the country, and periled the salvation of my "white tights" by sitting near them at supper. I swear off from this moment. I do. I won't—no—hang me if ever I show another small, lively, spry woman a civility.
Albina McLush is divine. She is like the description of the Persian beauty by Hafiz: "Her heart is full of passion and her eyes are full of sleep." She is the sister of Lurly McLush, my old college chum, who, as early as his sophomore year, was chosen president of the Dolce far niente Society—no member of which was ever known to be surprised at anything—(the college law of rising before breakfast excepted). Lurly introduced me to his sister one day, as he was lying upon a heap of turnips, leaning on his elbow with his head in his hand, in a green lane in the suburbs. He had driven over a stump, and been tossed out of his gig, and I came up just as he was wondering how in the D——l's name he got there! Albina sat quietly in the gig, and when I was presented, requested me, with a delicious drawl, to say nothing about the adventure—it would be so troublesome to relate it to everybody! I loved her from that moment. Miss McLush was tall, and her shape, of its kind, was perfect. It was not a fleshy one exactly, but she was large and full. Her skin was clear, fine-grained and transparent; her temples and forehead perfectly rounded and polished, and her lips and chin swelling into a ripe and tempting pout, like the cleft of a bursted apricot. And then her eyes—large, liquid and sleepy—they languished beneath their long black fringes as if they had no business with daylight—like two magnificent dreams, surprised in their jet embryos by some bird-nesting cherub. Oh! it was lovely to look into them!
She sat, usually, upon a fauteuil, with her large, full arm embedded in the cushion, sometimes for hours without stirring. I have seen the wind lift the masses of dark hair from her shoulders when it seemed like the coming to life of a marble Hebe—she had been motionless so long. She was a model for a goddess of sleep as she sat with her eyes half closed, lifting up their superb lids slowly as you spoke to her, and dropping them again with the deliberate motion of a cloud, when she had murmured out her syllable of assent. Her figure, in a sitting posture, presented a gentle declivity from the curve of her neck to the instep of the small round foot lying on its side upon the ottoman. I remember a fellow's bringing her a plate of fruit one evening. He was one of your lively men—a horrid monster, all right angles and activity. Having never been accustomed to hold her own plate, she had not well extricated her whole fingers from her handkerchief before he set it down in her lap. As it began to slide slowly toward her feet, her hand relapsed into the muslin folds, and she fixed her eye upon it with a kind of indolent surprise, drooping her lids gradually till, as the fruit scattered over the ottoman, they closed entirely, and a liquid jet line was alone visible through the heavy lashes. There was an imperial indifference in it worthy of Juno.
Miss McLush rarely walks. When she does, it is with the deliberate majesty of a Dido. Her small, plump feet melt to the ground like snowflakes; and her figure sways to the indolent motion of her limbs with a glorious grace and yieldingness quite indescribable. She was idling slowly up the Mall one evening just at twilight, with a servant at a short distance behind her, who, to while away the time between his steps, was employing himself in throwing stones at the cows feeding upon the Common. A gentleman, with a natural admiration for her splendid person, addressed her. He might have done a more eccentric thing. Without troubling herself to look at him, she turned to her servant and requested him, with a yawn of desperate ennui, to knock that fellow down! John obeyed his orders; and, as his mistress resumed her lounge, picked up a new handful of pebbles, and tossing one at the nearest cow, loitered lazily after.
Such supreme indolence was irresistible. I gave in—I—who never before could summon energy to sigh—I—to whom a declaration was but a synonym for perspiration—I—who had only thought of love as a nervous complaint, and of women but to pray for a good deliverance—I—yes—I—knocked under. Albina McLush! Thou wert too exquisitely lazy. Human sensibilities cannot hold out forever.
I found her one morning sipping her coffee at twelve, with her eyes wide open. She was just from the bath, and her complexion had a soft, dewy transparency, like the cheek of Venus rising from the sea. It was the hour, Lurly had told me, when she would be at the trouble of thinking. She put away with her dimpled forefinger, as I entered, a cluster of rich curls that had fallen over her face, and nodded to me like a water-lily swaying to the wind when its cup is full of rain.
"Lady Albina," said I, in my softest tone, "how are you?"
"Bettina," said she, addressing her maid in a voice as clouded and rich as the south wind on an AEolian, "how am I to-day?"
The conversation fell into short sentences. The dialogue became a monologue. I entered upon my declaration. With the assistance of Bettina, who supplied her mistress with cologne, I kept her attention alive through the incipient circumstances. Symptoms were soon told. I came to the avowal. Her hand lay reposing on the arm of the sofa, half buried in a muslin foulard. I took it up and pressed the cool soft fingers to my lips—unforbidden. I rose and looked into her eyes for confirmation. Delicious creature! she was asleep!
I never have had courage to renew the subject. Miss McLush seems to have forgotten it altogether. Upon reflection, too, I'm convinced she would not survive the excitement of the ceremony—unless, indeed, she should sleep between the responses and the prayer. I am still devoted, however, and if there should come a war or an earthquake, or if the millennium should commence, as is expected in 18——, or if anything happens that can keep her waking so long, I shall deliver a declaration, abbreviated for me by a scholar-friend of mine, which, he warrants, may be articulated in fifteen minutes—without fatigue.
A SMACK IN SCHOOL
A district school, not far away, 'Mid Berkshire's hills, one winter's day, Was humming with its wonted noise Of threescore mingled girls and boys; Some few upon their tasks intent, But more on furtive mischief bent. The while the master's downward look Was fastened on a copy-book; When suddenly, behind his back, Rose sharp and clear a rousing smack! As 'twere a battery of bliss Let off in one tremendous kiss! "What's that?" the startled master cries; "That, thir," a little imp replies, "Wath William Willith, if you pleathe—— I thaw him kith Thuthanna Peathe!" With frown to make a statue thrill, The master thundered, "Hither, Will!" Like wretch o'ertaken in his track, With stolen chattels on his back, Will hung his head in fear and shame, And to the awful presence came—— A great, green, bashful simpleton, The butt of all good-natured fun. With smile suppressed, and birch upraised, The thunderer faltered—"I'm amazed That you, my biggest pupil, should Be guilty of an act so rude! Before the whole set school to boot—— What evil genius put you to't?" "'Twas she herself, sir," sobbed the lad; "I did not mean to be so bad; But when Susannah shook her curls, And whispered, I was 'fraid of girls And dursn't kiss a baby's doll, I couldn't stand it, sir, at all, But up and kissed her on the spot! I know—boo—hoo—I ought to not, But, somehow, from her looks—boo—hoo—— I thought she kind o' wished me to!"
WILLIAM PITT PALMER.
Two old British sailors were talking over their shore experience. One had been to a cathedral and had heard some very fine music, and was descanting particularly upon an anthem which gave him much pleasure. His shipmate listened for awhile, and then said:
"I say, Bill, what's a hanthem?"
"What," replied Bill, "do you mean to say you don't know what a hanthem is?"
"Well, then, I'll tell yer. If I was to tell yer, 'Ere, Bill, give me that 'andspike,' that wouldn't be a hanthem;' but was I to say, 'Bill, Bill, giv, giv, give me, give me that, Bill, give me, give me that hand, handspike, hand, handspike, spike, spike, spike, ah-men, ahmen. Bill, givemethat-handspike, spike, ahmen!' why, that would be a hanthem."
B. P. SHILLABER ("Mrs. Partington")
"Diseases is very various," said Mrs. Partington, as she returned from a street-door conversation with Doctor Bolus. "The Doctor tells me that poor old Mrs. Haze has got two buckles on her lungs! It is dreadful to think of, I declare. The diseases is so various! One way we hear of people's dying of hermitage of the lungs; another way, of the brown creatures; here they tell us of the elementary canal being out of order, and there about tonsors of the throat; here we hear of neurology in the head, there, of an embargo; one side of us we hear of men being killed by getting a pound of tough beef in the sarcofagus, and there another kills himself by discovering his jocular vein. Things change so that I declare I don't know how to subscribe for any diseases nowadays. New names and new nostrils takes the place of the old, and I might as well throw my old herb-bag away."
Fifteen minutes afterward Isaac had that herb-bag for a target, and broke three squares of glass in the cellar window in trying to hit it, before the old lady knew what he was about. She didn't mean exactly what she said.
"So, our neighbour, Mr. Guzzle, has been arranged at the bar for drunkardice," said Mrs. Partington; and she sighed as she thought of his wife and children at home, with the cold weather close at hand, and the searching winds intruding through the chinks in the windows, and waving the tattered curtain like a banner, where the little ones stood shivering by the faint embers. "God forgive him, and pity them!" said she, in a tone of voice tremulous with emotion.
"But he was bailed out," said Ike, who had devoured the residue of the paragraph, and laid the paper in a pan of liquid custard that the dame was preparing for Thanksgiving, and sat swinging the oven door to and fro as if to fan the fire that crackled and blazed within.
"Bailed out, was he?" said she; "well, I should think it would have been cheaper to have pumped him out, for, when our cellar was filled, arter the city fathers had degraded the street, we had to have it pumped out, though there wasn't half so much in it as he has swilled down."
She paused and reached up on the high shelves of the closet for her pie plates, while Ike busied himself in tasting the various preparations. The dame thought that was the smallest quart of sweet cider she had ever seen.
SEEKING A COMET
It was with an anxious feeling that Mrs. Partington, having smoked her specs, directed her gaze toward the western sky, in quest of the tailless comet of 1850.
"I can't see it," said she; and a shade of vexation was perceptible in the tone of her voice. "I don't think much of this explanatory system," continued she, "that they praise so, where the stars are mixed up so that I can't tell Jew Peter from Satan, nor the consternation of the Great Bear from the man in the moon. 'Tis all dark to me. I don't believe there is any comet at all. Who ever heard of a comet without a tail, I should like to know? It isn't natural; but the printers will make a tale for it fast enough, for they are always getting up comical stories."
With a complaint about the falling dew, and a slight murmur of disappointment, the dame disappeared behind a deal door like the moon behind a cloud.
GOING TO CALIFORNIA
"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Partington sorrowfully, "how much a man will bear, and how far he will go, to get the soddered dross, as Parson Martin called it when he refused the beggar a sixpence for fear it might lead him into extravagance! Everybody is going to California and Chagrin arter gold. Cousin Jones and the three Smiths have gone; and Mr. Chip, the carpenter, has left his wife and seven children and a blessed old mother-in-law, to seek his fortin, too. This is the strangest yet, and I don't see how he could have done it; it looks so ongrateful to treat Heaven's blessings so lightly. But there, we are told that the love of money is the root of all evil, and how true it is! for they are now rooting arter it, like pigs arter ground-nuts. Why, it is a perfect money mania among everybody!"
And she shook her head doubtingly, as she pensively watched a small mug of cider, with an apple in it, simmering by the winter fire. She was somewhat fond of a drink made in this way.
MRS. PARTINGTON IN COURT
"I took my knitting-work and went up into the gallery," said Mrs. Partington, the day after visiting one of the city courts; "I went up into the gallery, and after I had adjusted my specs, I looked down into the room, but I couldn't see any courting going on. An old gentleman seemed to be asking a good many impertinent questions—just like some old folks—and people were sitting around making minutes of the conversation. I don't see how they made out what was said, for they all told different stories. How much easier it would be to get along if they were all made to tell the same story! What a sight of trouble it would save the lawyers! The case, as they call it, was given to the jury, but I couldn't see it, and a gentleman with a long pole was made to swear that he'd keep an eye on 'em, and see that they didn't run away with it. Bimeby in they came again, and they said somebody was guilty of something, who had just said he was innocent, and didn't know nothing about it no more than the little baby that had never subsistence. I come away soon afterward; but I couldn't help thinking how trying it must be to sit there all day, shut out from the blessed air!"
* * * * *
Apropos of Superintendent Andrews's reported objection to the singing of the "Recessional" in the Chicago public schools on the ground that the atheists might be offended, the Chicago Post says:
For the benefit of our skittish friends, the atheists, and in order not to deprive the public-school children of the literary beauties of certain poems that may be classed by Doctor Andrews as "hymns," we venture to suggest this compromise, taking a few lines in illustration from our National anthem:
"Our fathers' God—assuming purely for the sake of argument that there is a God—to Thee, Author of liberty—with apologies to our friends, the atheists—
To Thee I sing—but we needn't mean it, you know.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might—remember, this is purely hypothetical——
Great God—again assuming that there is a God—our king—simply an allegorical phrase and not intended offensively to any taxpayer."
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
THE DEACON'S MASTERPIECE; Or, the Wonderful "One-hoss Shay"
A LOGICAL STORY
Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay That was built in such a logical way, It ran a hundred years to a day, And then, of a sudden, it—ah, but stay, I'll tell you what happened without delay, Scaring the parson into fits, Frightening people out of their wits—— Have you ever heard of that, I say?
Seventeen hundred and fifty-five. Georgius Secundus was then alive—— Snuffy old drone from the German hive. That was the year when Lisbon-town Saw the earth open and gulp her down, And Braddock's army was done so brown, Left without a scalp to its crown. It was on the terrible Earthquake day That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.
Now in building of chaises, I tell you what, There is always somewhere a weakest spot—— In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill, In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill, In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace—lurking still, Find it somewhere you must and will—— Above or below, or within or without—— And that's the reason, beyond a doubt, That a chaise breaks down, but doesn't wear out.
But the Deacon swore (as deacons do, With an "I dew vum," or an "I tell yeou") He would build one shay to beat the taown 'N' the keounty, 'n' all the kentry raoun'; It should be so built that it couldn' break daown: —"Fur," said the Deacon, "'t's mighty plain Thut the weakes' place mus' stan' the strain; 'N' the way t' fix it, uz I maintain, Is only jest T' make that place uz strong uz the rest."
So the Deacon inquired of the village folk Where he could find the strongest oak, That couldn't be split nor bent nor broke—— That was for spokes and floor and sills; He sent for lancewood to make the thills; The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees, The panels of white-wood, that cuts like cheese, But lasts like iron for things like these; The hubs of logs from the "Settler's ellum"—— Last of its timber—they couldn't sell 'em, Never an ax had seen their chips, And the wedges flew from between their lips, Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips; Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw, Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin, too, Steel of the finest, bright and blue; Thoroughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide; Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide Found in the pit when the tanner died. That was the way he "put her through"—— "There!" said the Deacon, "naow she'll dew!"
Do! I tell you, I rather guess She was a wonder and nothing less! Colts grew horses, beards turned gray, Deacon and Deaconess dropped away, Children and grandchildren—where were they? But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake day!
Eighteen hundred—it came and found The Deacon's masterpiece strong and sound. Eighteen hundred increased by ten—— "Hahnsum kerridge" they called it then. Eighteen hundred and twenty came—— Running as usual; much the same. Thirty and forty at last arrived, And then come fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.
Little of all we value here Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year Without both feeling and looking queer. In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth, So far as I know, but a tree and truth. (This is a moral that runs at large; Take it—You're welcome—No extra charge.)
First of November—the Earthquake-day—— There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay, A general flavor of mild decay, But nothing local, as one may say. There couldn't be—for the Deacon's art Had made it so like in every part That there wasn't a chance for one to start. For the wheels were just as strong as the thills, And the floor was just as strong as the sills, And the panels just as strong as the floor, And the whipple-tree neither less nor more, And the back crossbar as strong as the fore, And spring and axle and hub encore. And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt In another hour it will be worn out!
First of November, 'Fifty-five! This morning the parson takes a drive. Now, small boys, get out of the way! Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay, Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay. "Huddup!" said the parson—Off went they. The parson was working his Sunday's text—— Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed At what the—Moses—was coming next.
All at once the horse stood still, Close by the meet'n' house on the hill. —First a shiver, and then a thrill, Then something decidedly like a spill—— And the parson was sitting upon a rock, At half-past nine by the meet'n'-house clock—— Just the hour of the Earthquake shock! —What do you think the parson found, When he got up and stared around? The poor old chaise in a heap or mound, As if it had been to the mill and ground! You see, of course, if you're not a dunce, How it went to pieces all at once—— All at once, and nothing first—— Just as bubbles do when they burst.
End of the wonderful one-hoss shay. Logic is logic. That's all I say.
* * * * *
A certain learned professor in New York has a wife and family, but, professor-like, his thoughts are always with his books.
One evening his wife, who had been out for some hours, returned to find the house remarkably quiet. She had left the children playing about, but now they were nowhere to be seen.
She demanded to be told what had become of them, and the professor explained that, as they had made a good deal of noise, he had put them to bed without waiting for her or calling a maid.
"I hope they gave you no trouble," she said.
"No," replied the professor, "with the exception of the one in the cot here. He objected a good deal to my undressing him and putting him to bed."
The wife went to inspect the cot.
"Why," she exclaimed, "that's little Johnny Green, from next door."
Five mites of monads dwelt in a round drop That twinkled on a leaf by a pool in the sun. To the naked eye they lived invisible; Specks, for a world of whom the empty shell Of a mustard-seed had been a hollow sky.
One was a meditative monad, called a sage; And, shrinking all his mind within, he thought: "Tradition, handed down for hours and hours, Tells that our globe, this quivering crystal world, Is slowly dying. What if, seconds hence When I am very old, yon shimmering doom Comes drawing down and down, till all things end?" Then with a wizen smirk he proudly felt No other mote of God had ever gained Such giant grasp of universal truth.
One was a transcendental monad; thin And long and slim of mind; and thus he mused: "Oh, vast, unfathomable monad-souls! Made in the image"—a hoarse frog croaks from the pool, "Hark! 'twas some god, voicing his glorious thought In thunder music. Yea, we hear their voice, And we may guess their minds from ours, their work. Some taste they have like ours, some tendency To wriggle about, and munch a trace of scum." He floated up on a pin-point bubble of gas That burst, pricked by the air, and he was gone.
One was a barren-minded monad, called A positivist; and he knew positively; "There was no world beyond this certain drop. Prove me another! Let the dreamers dream Of their faint gleams, and noises from without, And higher and lower; life is life enough." Then swaggering half a hair's breadth hungrily, He seized upon an atom of bug, and fed.
One was a tattered monad, called a poet; And with a shrill voice ecstatic thus he sang: "Oh, little female monad's lips! Oh, little female monad's eyes! Ah, the little, little, female, female monad!" The last was a strong-minded monadess, Who dashed amid the infusoria, Danced high and low, and wildly spun and dove, Till the dizzy others held their breath to see.
But while they led their wondrous little lives AEonian moments had gone wheeling by, The burning drop had shrunk with fearful speed: A glistening film—'twas gone; the leaf was dry. The little ghost of an inaudible squeak Was lost to the frog that goggled from his stone; Who, at the huge, slow tread of a thoughtful ox Coming to drink, stirred sideways fatly, plunged, Launched backward twice, and all the pool was still.
EDWARD ROWLAND SILL.
JAMES T. FIELDS
A Lesson to Fault-finders
"Who stuffed that white owl?" No one spoke in the shop: The barber was busy, and he couldn't stop; The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading The Daily, the Herald, the Post, little heeding The young man who blurted out such a blunt question; Not one raised a head or even made a suggestion; And the barber kept on shaving.
"Don't you see, Mister Brown," Cried the youth, with a frown, "How wrong the whole thing is, How preposterous each wing is, How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck is— In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck 'tis! I make no apology; I've learned owl-eology. I've passed days and nights in a hundred collections, And cannot be blinded to any deflections Arising from unskilful fingers that fail To stuff a bird right, from his beak to his tail. Mister Brown! Mister Brown! Do take that bird down, Or you'll soon be the laughing-stock all over town!" And the barber kept on shaving.
"I've studied owls, And other night fowls, And I tell you What I know to be true: An owl cannot roost With his limbs so unloosed; No owl in this world Ever had his claws curled, Ever had his legs slanted, Ever had his bill canted, Ever had his neck screwed Into that attitude. He can't do it, because 'Tis against all bird-laws Anatomy teaches, Ornithology preaches An owl has a toe That can't turn out so! I've made the white owl my study for years, And to see such a job almost moves me to tears! Mister Brown, I'm amazed You should be so gone crazed As to put up a bird In that posture absurd! To look at that owl really brings on a dizziness; The man who stuffed him don't half know his business!" And the barber kept on shaving.
"Examine those eyes. I'm filled with surprise Taxidermists should pass Off on you such poor glass; So unnatural they seem They'd make Audubon scream, And John Burroughs laugh To encounter such chaff. Do take that bird down; Have him stuffed again, Brown!" And the barber kept on shaving.
"With some sawdust and bark I would stuff in the dark An owl better than that; I could make an old hat Look more like an owl Than that horrid fowl, Stuck up there so stiff like a side of coarse leather. In fact, about him there's not one natural feather."
Just then, with a wink and a sly normal lurch, The owl, very gravely, got down from his perch, Walked round, and regarded his fault-finding critic (Who thought he was stuffed) with a glance analytic, And then fairly hooted, as if he should say: "Your learning's at fault this time, anyway; Don't waste it again on a live bird, I pray. I'm an owl; you're another. Sir Critic, good-day!" And the barber kept on shaving.
A CAUSE FOR THANKS
A country parson, in encountering a storm the past season in the voyage across the Atlantic, was reminded of the following: A clergyman was so unfortunate as to be caught in a severe gale in the voyage out. The water was exceedingly rough, and the ship persistently buried her nose in the sea. The rolling was constant, and at last the good man got thoroughly frightened. He believed they were destined for a watery grave. He asked the captain if he could not have prayers. The captain took him by the arm and led him down to the forecastle, where the tars were singing and swearing. "There," said he, "when you hear them swearing, you may know there is no danger." He went back feeling better, but the storm increased his alarm. Disconsolate and unassisted, he managed to stagger to the forecastle again. The ancient mariners were swearing as ever. "Mary," he said to his sympathetic wife, as he crawled into his berth after tacking across a wet deck, "Mary, thank God they're swearing yet."