THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF MAJ. ROGER SHERMAN POTTER:
TOGETHER WITH AN ACCURATE AND EXCEEDINGLY INTERESTING ACCOUNT OF HIS GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS IN POLITICS, DIPLOMACY, AND WAR,—ALL OF WHICH ARE HERE RECORDED OUT OF SHEER LOVE FOR THE MARTIAL SPIRIT OF THIS TRULY AMBITIOUS NATION.
I HERE DECLARE THAT THIS GREAT WORK WAS NEITHER TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH, NOR PRIGGED FROM THE UNPUBLISHED WORK OF ANY ENGLISH AUTHOR, BUT WAS TRULY AND HONESTLY WRITTEN FOR THE ESPECIAL BENEFIT OF MY PUBLISHER.
BY PHELEG VAN TRUSEDALE, WHO, WITHOUT ASKING PERMISSION, RESPECTFULLY DEDICATES IT TO HIS FRIEND AND BENEFACTOR, JAMES BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT OF THESE UNITED STATES.
IF the reader will but pay attention to what I have written in this great work, it will be found that I have taken an unwarrantable liberty with his good taste; that is to say, I have so far deviated from that stereotyped rule-so strictly observed by all our great authors-as to make my hero, who is what is curiously enough called a "Yankee Character," speak tolerably good English, instead of vulgar slang. In truth, so closely do "our great writers" adhere to this rule of depicting the eccentric American as a lean, scraggy individual, dressed most outlandishly, making splinters of the king's English, while drawling it with offensive nasal sounds, and violating the rules of common politeness in whatever he does, that when he goes abroad the foreigner is surprised to find him a tolerably well polished gentleman, and indeed not unfrequently inquires what part of our country those lean persons he has seen described in the books of American authors reside in.
Let this preface then suffice, for if any one of my many readers think he can write a better—and I doubt not he can-let him set about it, and not stop until he get it exactly to his fancy. But before he say one word against aught that is herein written, let him bear in mind that I am the author of not less than a stack of great histories, which have already so multiplied my literary fame, that the mere announcement of another book by me sends that only great and generous critic, the public at large, into a perfect fever of anxiety.
PHELEG VAN TRUSEDALE.
New York, Nov., 1857.
1.—A Chapter Wherein those Having a Taste for Nonsense may find It
2.—Containing Sundry Matters of Deep Interest
3.—A Pleasant Meeting with a Renowned Major
4.—Major Roger Sherman Potter Recounts his Exploits in War and Politics
5.—In which Politicians and Other Vagabonds may find Something to Their Advantage
6.—Major Roger Potter's First Adventure in New York
7.—The Pleasant Side of a Misfortune
8.—Meeting Between the Renowned Major and an Eccentric Fishmonger
9.—How the Renowned Major Exchanged Chickens with Mrs. Trotbridge
10.—The Kindness of Mine Host of the Astor
11.—Wonderful Story of an Intelligent
12.—Concerning Matters Necessary to the Perfection of This History
13.—The Two Strange Characters at the Independent Temperance Hotel
14.—A whole Town in a State of Alarm
15.—An Amusing Meeting between Major Roger Potter and his Wife, Polly Potter
16.—Many Queer and Deeply Interesting Things which took place When Major Potter arrived at Barnstable
17.—A Man of the Name of Giles Sheridan
18.—Which Relates how Major Roger Potter Sailed for New York, to the Great Delight of Little Barnstable
19.—The Most Pleasant and Satisfactory Mode of Displaying Courage and Military Skill
20.—A Mistake that had Nearly Cost Major Potter his Life
21.—The Happiest Way of Settling a Difference
22.—The Least Expensive Way of Manufacturing Heroes
23.—Which Treats of a Party of Yachters Met on the Sound
24.—A Remarkable Interview between the Renowned Major Roger Potter and the Commander of the Fleet
25.—A Small Accident which had well nigh Lost the Renowned Major all His Reputation for Gallantry
26.—Major Roger Potter's Grand Reception in New York, and How he was Fairly Suffocated with the Attentions of Our Aldermen
27.—What was Said and Done when the Renowned Major Potter Arrived at the Great St. Nicholas Hotel
28.—A Remarkable Mayor of the City; how he Received the Major, Exchanged Speeches, and was Serenaded, to the Great Delight of Politicians and Vagabonds in general
29.—Wherein is Pleasantly Related how Major Roger Potter was Found Almost Suffocated
30.—How to Regulate the Good Conduct of Young Gentlemen Entering the "Century Club."
31.—How the Landlord of the Astor pursued the Renowned Major with a Small Bill
32.—A Queer Account of How the Major got into Debt to the Landlord of the Astor
33.—How the Major became a General, and Joined the Young American Banking House of Pickle, Prig & Flutter
34.—A Remarkable Showman, and what was Done with the Intelligent Pig
35.—Two Great Generals, and an Amusing Account of the Very Unmilitary Predicament they were Found in on the Morning of the Review
36.—The Story of a very Learned Critic, together with other Queer and Interesting Matters, all of which took place at the New York Hotel
37.—A Chapter on Military Politicians and Critics, all of which is set down in Writing by Mr. Orlando Tickler, one of the Order
38.—Major Roger Potter Engages to get the Kingdom of Kalorama for us, and Prepares to Depart for Washington, to Procure the Mission promised him by the Government
39.—A Remark or two concerning our Grand Opera House
40.—How certain Well-Known Adepts and Office-Seekers were Alarmed at General Roger Potter's Arrival in Washington
41.—An Adept of the Name of Ben Stretcher, and what He Does for those who Stand in Need of His Services
42.—Which Records the Singular Character of the Application made by General Roger Potter for an Office, and how he is sent Minister to the King of the Kaloramas, that being the Easiest Method of Getting Rid of Him
43.—Which Records how the General Got His Commission, and Returned to New York, with Other Things Common to Politicians
44.—General Roger Potter gets a Mission, and Returns to New York, with the Loss of his Secretary, Mr. Tickler
45.—An Affair of Gallantry that had Nearly Cost Mr. Tickler his Life, an event that would have been a Serious Loss to the Nation; also, the Story of Leon and Linda, as Told by the Critic
46.—The Renowned General Potter takes his Departure as Minister Plenipotentiary for Kalorama; as, also, a True and Accurate Account of What Took Place when the Ship Crossed the Line. To which is Added the Sad History of Spark Island
47.—Which Describes the Rejoicing that Took Place when the General Landed at Buzabub, on the Coast of Kalorama
48.—How the Renowned General Potter Spent a Night Among the Dead
49.—Sorry Trials of a Great Minister Plenipotentiary, all of which arise from his Ignorance of the Language spoken at Court
50.—The Journey to Nezub; as, also, a Curious Conversation which took place between Minister Potter and his Secretary
51.—In which is Minutely Described an Entirely New and Most Extraordinary Mode of Punishing Ministers and Secretaries of Legation
52.—Things which the Author Ventures to Assert Cannot Fail to Amuse and Instruct the Reader
53.—How the Renowned General Potter had an Army of Vagabonds sent him, and how the Terrible Battle of the Banana Hills was Fought Without Bloodshed
54.—An Amusing Result of a Great Battle
55.—Which Recounts how General Potter Condemned the Priests to Ride Asses Three Times a Day, as a Good Enough Punishment for their Intriguing; also, a Plain and Unvarnished Account of the ever-Memorable Battle of "The Miracle," in which Old Battle, the Greatest War Horse of these times, Lost his Life
56.—An Amusing Quarrel, which Arose Concerning the Government of Kolorama
57.—Which Treats of How the Ruler of a Kingdom was Carried Off into Captivity on a Mule, and how he Escaped from the Priests
58.—An Account of how the Renowned General Potter stole the Hat and Mule of a Poor Priest, that he might go in Search of his Straying Army
59.—The Vagaries of Mr. Tickler, Secretary and Critic to General Roger Potter. He Relates the Story of Angelio
60.—The Last and Most Melancholy Chapter in this Eventful History, and wherein will be found one the Most Truthful Accounts of a Warrior Returning Home Without a Kingdom, and in a Pelting Rain
THE ADVENTURES OF MAJOR ROGER SHERMAN POTTER.
WHICH TREATS OF THINGS NOT PARTICULARLY INTERESTING, AND MIGHT HAVE BEEN OMITTED WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO THIS HISTORY.
CAPE COD, you must know, gentle reader, is my bleak native home, and the birth-place of all the most celebrated critics. The latter fact is not generally known, and for the reason that the gentry composing that fraternity acknowledge her only with an excess of reluctance. Her poets and historians never mention her in their famous works; her blushing maidens never sing to her, and her novelists lay the scenes of their romances in other lands. One solitary poet was caught and punished for singing a song to her sands; but of her codfish no historian has written, though divers malicious writers have declared them the medium upon which one of our aristocracies is founded. But I love her none the less for this.
It was a charming evening in early June. I am not disposed to state the year, since it is come fashionable to count only days. With my head supported in my left hand, and my elbow resting on my knee, I sat down upon the beach to listen to the music of the tide. Curious thoughts crowded upon my mind, and my fancy soared away into another world. The sea was bright, the breeze came soft and balmy over the land, and whispered and laughed. My bosom heaved with melting emotions; and had I been skilled in the art of love, the mood I was in qualified me for making it. The sun in the west was sinking slowly, the horizon was hung with a rich canopy of crimson clouds, and misty shadows played over the broad sea-plain, to the east. Then the arcades overhead filled with curtains of amber and gold; and the sight moved me to meditation. My soul seemed drinking in the beauties nature was strewing at the feet of her humblest, and, perhaps, most unthankful creatures. Then the scene began to change; and such was its gently-stealing pace that I became moved by emotions my tongue had no power to describe. The more I thought the more I wondered. And I sat wondering until Dame Night drew her dusky curtains, and the balconies of heaven filled with fleecy clouds, and ten thousand stars, like liquid pearls, began to pour their soft light over the land and sea. Then the "milky way" came out, as if to take the moon's watch, and danced along the serene sky, like a coquette in her gayest attire.
How I longed for a blushing maiden to tune her harp, or chant her song, just then! Though I am the son of a fisherman, I confess I thought I heard one tripping lightly behind me, her face all warm with smiles. It was but a fancy, and I sighed while asking myself what had induced it. Not a brook murmured; no willows distilled their night dews; birds did not make the air melodious with their songs; and there were no magnolia trees to shake from their locks those showers of liquid pearls which so bedew the books of our lady novelists. True, the sea became as a mirror, reflecting argosies of magic sails, and the star-lights tripped, and danced, and waltzed over the gently undulating swells. A moment more and I heard the tide rips sing, and the ground swell murmur, as it had done in my childhood, when I had listened and wondered what it meant. The sea gull, too, was nestling upon the bald sands, where he had sought rest for the night, and there echoed along through the air so sweetly, the music of a fisherman's song; and the mimic surf danced and gamboled along the beach, spreading it with a chain of phosphorous light, over which the lanterns mounted on two stately towers close by threw a great glare of light: and this completed the picture.
While contemplating the beauties before me, I was suddenly seized with a longing for fame. It was true I had little merit of my own, but as it had become fashionable at this day for men without merit to become famous, the chance for me, I thought, was favorable indeed. I contemplated my journey in quest of fame, and resolved never to falter. "Fame," I mused, "what quality of metal art thou made of, that millions bow down and worship thee?" And all nature, through her beauties, seemed returning an answer, and I arose from my reverie, and wended my way toward the cabin of my aged parents. A bright light streamed from one of the windows, serving as my beacon. I had not gone far before Fame, I thought, replied for herself, and said: "Know, son of a fisherman, that I am a capricious goddess; at least, I am so called by the critics. And they, being adepts in deep knowledge, render verdicts the world must not dispute. I have the world for my court: my shrine is everywhere, and millions worship at it. Genius, learning, and valor, are my handmaids. I have great and good men for my vassals; and upon them it affords me comfort to bestow my gifts. I seek out the wise and the virtuous, and place garlands of immortality upon their heads; I toy with my victims, and then hurl them into merited obscurity. Little men most beset me, most hang about my garments, and sigh most for my smiles. The rich man would have me build monuments to his memory; the ambitious poor man repines when I forget him. Novel-writing damsels, their eyes bedimmed with bodkin shaped tears, and their fingers steeled with envious pens it seems their love to dip in gall, cast longing looks at me. Peter Parley, and other poets, have laid their offerings low at my feet. I have crowned kings and emperors; and I have cast a favor to a fool. With queens and princes have I coquetted, and laughed when they were laid in common dust. I have dragged the humble from his obscurity, and sent him forth to overthrow kingdoms and guard the destinies of peoples. Millions have gone in search of me; few have found me. Great men are content with small favors; small men would, being the more ambitious of the two, take me all to themselves. Millions have aspired to my hand; few have been found worthy of it. Editors, critics, chambermaids and priests, (without whom we would have no great wars,) annoy me much. I am generous enough to forgive them, to charge their evil designs to want of discretion, to think the world would scarce miss them, and certainly could get along well enough without them.
"In my halcyon days there appeared before me one neas, who was great of piety, which he laid at my feet, soliciting only a smile. After him came Hector, whom I condoled for his misfortunes. Upon the head of Achilles, who sought the smallest favor, I placed a garland. Eurylas, a man of large friendship; and Alexander, who was known among the nations for his liberality; and Csar, who had some valor; and Trajan, whose probity no one doubted; and Topirus, a man of great fidelity; and Cato, of whom it was said that he had some wisdom-these came, and in humility bowed before me and accepted my offering. For the delight and instruction of future generations, I have had their names written on the pages of history, which is the world's gift. And this was an age of the past.
"Then the age of modern poetry and oratory came in with one Shakspeare, and a friend of his of the name of Bacon. And it went out with Sheridan, and one Pitt, and a queer man of the name of Byron, whose name I have written in letters of gold, and have placed where envious bishops cannot take it down, though they build ladders of lawn. I will watch over it, and it shall be bright when kings and bishops are forgotten.
"Then there came the age of Washington; which was a new age, in a new world, with new glories and new men, whose names I have enshrined for the study of the young, the old, the great, and the good. On Jefferson's brow I laid a laurel that shall be green in all coming time; and the memories of Webster, Clay, and Calhoun shall long wear my mantle, for they won it worthily.
"Latterly, I have been much annoyed by one Benton, who, being a man of much light and shade, climbs my ladder only to break it down, and is for ever mounting dragons he cannot ride. If I shake him from my skirts to-day, he will to-morrow meet me upon the highway, and charge me with ingratitude. Dancing-girls and politicians beset me on all sides, reminding me that, without them, the world would go to ruin. Political parsons and milliners daily make war upon me. And singing women, and critics who herald their virtues for pennies, threaten to plunder me of my glories. And, though I am not a vain dame, many of these think me as cheaply bought as their own praise.
"I would not have you mourn over the age of poetry and oratory, for that also is of the past. You must not forget that it is become fashionable for men to give themselves to the getting of gold, which they pursue with an avidity I fear will end in the devil getting all their souls. You, son of a fisherman, shall be the object of my solicitude. Go out upon the world; be just to all, nor withhold your generosity from those who are worthy of it. Be sure, too, that you make the objects of your pursuit in all cases square with justice. Let your purposes be unvarying, nor be presumptuous to your equals. Beware lest you fall into the company of boisterous talking and strong drinking men, such as aspire to the control of the nation at this day; and, though they may not have been many months in the country, kindly condescend to teach us how to live. Also let those who most busy themselves with making presidents for us keep other company than yours, for their trade is a snare many a good man has been caught in to his sorrow."
And Fame, I thought, continued discoursing to me in this manner until I reached the cabin of my father, when she bid me good night and departed. I entered the cabin and found my father, who was bent with age, sitting by the great fire-place, mending his nets. My mother was at her wheel, spinning flax. She was a tidy little body, of the old school. Her notions of the world in general were somewhat narrow and antiquated; while the steeple-crown cap she wore on her head so jauntily, and her apron of snow-white muslin, that hung so neatly over a black silk dress, and was secured about the neck with a small, crimped collar, gave her an air of cheerfulness the sweet- ness of her oval face did much to enhance. My father, whose face and hands were browned with the suns of some sixty summers, had a touch of the patriarch about him. He often declared the world outside of Cape Cod so wicked as not to be worth living in. He was short of figure, had flowing white hair, a deeply-wrinkled brow, and corrugated lips, and blue eyes, over-arched with long, brown eyelashes. My mother ran to me, and my father grasped me firmly by the hand, for he was not a little concerned about my stay on the beach. Indeed, I may as well confess, that he regarded me as a wayward youth, over whom it was just as well to exercise a guardian hand. In his younger days he had been what was called extremely good looking, a quality he frequently told me I had inherited, and from which he feared I might suffer grievous harm, unless I exercised great caution when divers damsels he had a jealous eye upon approached me. My mother was less jealous of my exploits among the sex, which she rather encouraged.
Another cause of anxiety with my father was the fact that I had written a "Life and Times" of Captain Seth Brewster; which work, though the hero was a fisherman, reached a sale of forty thousand copies, put money in my pocket, and made me the pet of all the petticoats round about. It was not unnatural, then, that my father, with his peculiar turn of mind, should set me down as being partially insane. I had also manufactured several very highly-colored verses in praise of Cape Cod; and these my publisher, who was by no means a tricky man, said had made a great stir in the literary world. And his assertion I found confirmed by the critics, who, with one accord, and without being paid, declared these verses proof that the author possessed "a rare inventive genius." The meaning of this was all Hebrew to me. My mother suggested that it might be a figure of speech copied from Chaldean mythology.
Another cause of alarm for my morals, in the eyes of my father, was the fact of my having made two political speeches. And these, according to divers New York politicians, had secured Cape Cod to General Pierce. And, as a reward for this great service, and to the end of illustrating in some substantial manner (so it is written at this day) their appreciation of a politician so distinguished, I was waited upon by a delegation of the before-named politicians, (two of whom came slightly intoxicated,) who had come, as they said, to tender to me an invitation to visit New York. A public reception by the Mayor and Council; a grand banquet at Tammany Hall; the honor of being made one of its Sachems; free apartments and two charming serenades at the New York Hotel; and divers suppers at very respectable houses, were temptingly suggested as an inducement for me to come out and take a prominent position. Indeed, such were the representations of this distinguished delegation, that I began to think the people of New York singularly rich and liberal, seeing that they trusted their surplus money in the hands of persons who were so loose of morals that they could find no other method of spending it than suppering and serenading men of my obscure stamp.
But if my father was alarmed lest my morals should suffer by these temptations, my mother would have answered to heaven for my virtue, though a dozen damsels were setting snares for me. And this will be shown in the next chapter.
WHICH TREATS OF HOW I LEFT MY NATIVE CAPE, AND SUNDRY OTHER MATTERS.
I HAD no sooner disclosed to my father my musings with Fame, and the aspirations she had excited in me, than he went right into a passion, and set me down as extravagant and mad. He had entertained hopes of making me a schoolmaster, perhaps an inspector of fish, in which office excellent opportunities for increasing one's fortunes were offered; but I had been rendered quite useless to the parish ever since the New York politicians had taken me into their favor. Anybody, he said, might go out upon and know the world, but few had the courage and daring to grapple with its difficulties. And then, the world was so wicked that men of reflection instinctively shrank from it. Notwithstanding my wild, visionary plans, he yet had hopes of me. But if I sought distinction in the political world, it would be well not to forget that it had at this day become a dangerous quicksand, over which a series of violent storms continually heaved. And these storms, by some mysterious process or other, were incessantly casting up on the shore of political popularity and making heroes of men whose virtues were not weighty enough to keep them at the bottom. "Be an humble citizen, my son," said he: "learn to value a quiet life. You are not given to loud and boisterous talking, to lying, or to slandering; which things, at this day, are essential to political success. Worthy and well disposed persons are too much afraid of being drowned in the violence of the storm politicians with shallow brains and empty pockets create, by their anxiety to take the affairs of the nation into their own keeping. Remember, too, that if you fail in the object of your ambition (and you are not vagabond enough to succeed), the remotest desert will not hide you from the evil designs of your enemies. You may seek some crystal stream; you may let your tears flow with its waters; but such will not lighten your disappointment, for the persecuted heart is no peace-offering to the political victor. Politically vanquished; and you are like an unhappy lover who seeks him a rural deity and sings his complaints to the winds. Your eye will become jealous at the fortunes of others, but your sighs over the cruelty of what you are pleased to call human imperfections will not bring back your own. Stay quietly at home, my son, and if you cannot be a schoolmaster, chance may one day turn you up President of these United States. Let your insanity for writing books not beguile you into crime; and above all, I would enjoin you, my son, never to write the 'Life and Character' of an in-going President, for then, to follow the fashion of the day, and make for him a life that would apply with equal truth to King Mancho, or any one of his sable subjects, will be necessary that you write him down the hero of adventures he never dreamed of, and leave out the score of delinquincies his real life is blemished with. If you do this, wise men will set you down a scribbler for charity's sake."
Thus spoke my venerable father. But I remembered that he had several times before said that if I would so square my morals as to become in favor with the matronly portion of the parish he would even try and make a parson of me, which was, in his opinion, a promotion still higher than schoolmaster. Having got a parish, and chosen the richest damsel of the flock for my wife, there was nothing to hinder me from snapping my fingers at the world and its persecutions.
My father, I would here observe, in justice to his memory, was much given to the study of religion, and would not unfrequently invite to his house the parson of a neighboring village, that he might debate with him on matters appertaining to the creed, which he had been thirty years narrowing down to the finest point. And yet he always kept a vigilant eye to his worldly affairs, nor ever let a man get the better of him in a bargain. Indeed it was said of him that though he had not been to sea for many a day he so linked himself to the fortunes of his neighbors as to secure a large share of the bounty so generously paid by our government. That there was nothing in this inconsistent with his love of true religion my father was assured by the parson, who held that worldly possessions in no wise blunted the appetite for redemption; and that even bill-discounting quakers, with their bags of gold on their backs, would not find the gates of heaven shut to them. And as the parson was a man of great learning, though small of figure, and very curatical in his features and dress, his opinions were in high favor with the villagers, among whom he had given it out that he was a graduate of Yale and Harvard, both of which celebrated institutions had conferred high honors upon him. This high throwing of the parson's lasso getting abroad atoned for innumerable antiquated and very dull sermons, for the delivery of which he would excuse himself to his private friends by saying that his salary was but four hundred dollars a year, one third of which he took in No. 2 mackerel no one would buy of him. He was excessively fussy; and if he advocated temperance to-day, he would to-morrow take a sly smash, never forgetting to add that it was recommended by his physician, who was likewise a man of great learning. Under the influence of this medicine, it was said, by malicious people, which no parish is with—out, that if the occasion demanded a serious sermon he was sure to preach one that would send all the young folks of his congregation into a titter. If the occasion was such as to tolerate a little humor, he was sure to send them all into a melancholy mood with the gravity of his remarks. In fine, he was sure to be on the opposite side of everything natural. The only question he was not quite sure it would do to get upon, was the slavery question. And for this he always excused himself by saying that there were many others in the same condition. It would not do to be in the desert, hence he inclined to the policy of our fashionable clergy, who are extremely cautious not to steer too close to questions not popular enough to be profitably espoused. If Parson Stebbins (for such was his name) let drop a few words in favor of freedom to-day, Obadiah Morgan, the most influential member of his church, would to-morrow politely withdraw. A word or two complimentary of the South and her peculiar institutions was equally sure to find him taken to task by the philanthropic females of his parish. In truth, he could approach neither side of the question without finding a fire in his rear. And as his empty pocket would not allow him to rise to independence, he resolved to preach to that portion of his church which was content to let the slavery question take care of itself.
The parson joined my father in his endeavors to shake the resolution I had taken, and said many things concerning the snares set by the wicked world, and how easy it was for an ardent youth like myself to fall into them, that grievously annoyed my mother; for, as I have said before, she had great faith in my virtue, and so doted on me that she had a ready excuse for all my follies. Indeed, she would often smile at the combined alarm of my father and the parson, saying she held it infinitely better that a youth like myself go out upon the world in search of distinction, for therein lay the virtue of his example. Children were born to the world; if they had daring enough to go out upon it and battle with it, the parson's advice to stay at home was unnecessary. You could not make human things divine; and, to expect miracles from saints now-a-days, or truth from critics, or liberality from parsons, was like looking for reason in our "current literature."
When my father found that I was, in spite of the admonitions of the parson, resolved on setting out, and that he was confronted by the strong opposition of my mother, he gave up in despair, telling me whatever befell me, not to look to him for succor. My mother, on the other hand, gave herself up to my preparation for the journey with so much ardor, that she for several days almost wholly neglected the regulation of her domestic affairs. My precious new suit of black, in which I had adorned myself on Sundays, and, not a little vain of my appearance, shone out at church, was got out and brushed, and then nicely packed away in my valise, which likewise contained an ample supply of unmentionables, and homemade shirts, and stockings, and other articles appertaining to the wardrobe of an adventurous young man. My mother also exercised a wise discretion in the selection of such books as she thought would afford me "maxims of guidance," as she called it, through the world. A pocket Bible, and a small volume of the "Select Edition of Franklin's Maxims," a book in high favor with the good people of the Cape, were got of a bookseller in Barnstable, a queer wag, who had got rich by vending a strange quality of literature and taking fish in exchange. In addition to these good books provided by my mother, I was careful not to forget my "Polite Speech Maker," a book which I confess to have studied much. In truth, like many distinguished members of Congress, I am indebted to it for my great political popularity. Resolved as I am that this history shall never swerve from the truth, I would sincerely recommend a study of the "Polite Speech Maker" to all juvenile politicians, dealers in liquor, editors of three-cent newspapers, and learned litterateurs, whose names, according to sundry malicious writers, it is come the fashion of the day to reflect in one mirror.
In the "Polite Speech Maker" will be found such sentences as "the tranquilized glory of our glorious country," and "the undying beauties, that starry emblem, our flag, awakens in our heart of hearts;" and sundry others, equally abstruse, but no less essential to the objects of primary meetings. The author of this invaluable work is my learned friend and very erudite scholar, Dr. Easley. And as some readers hold the study of an author of much more importance than his book, I may be excused for saying here that no one can take up one and forget the other, since literature, as is there set forth, was never before either blessed or encumbered with so great a doctor.
My library and outfit being complete, my mother, having provided me with a yellow waistcoat and white plush hat out of her private purse, gave an evening party in honor of my departure. Parson Stebbins, the doctor of a neighboring village, (not Easley, for he had set up his fortunes in New York,) and sundry bright-eyed damsels of my acquaintance, were invited, and came accompanied by their sturdy parents. The last jar of jam and applesauce was stormed, the two fattest pullets in the yard brought to the block, choice mince and pumpkin pies were propounded, three dollars were expended upon a citron cake such as Cape Cod had never seen before, and no less than a dozen bottles of Captain Zeke Brewster's double refined cider was got of Major Cook, the grocer. Stronger beverages were held in questionable respect by the Cape folks. My mother did, indeed, busy herself for nearly two days in the preparation of this supper, declaring at the same time that she would not be outdone by any housewife this side of Barnstable at least. Nor did she heed my father, who continued the while muttering his misgivings.
The stars shone out bright on the night of the party, which passed off to the delight of every one present. The fowls, and the pies, and the jam and apple-sauce, and a dish of tea the parson declared could not be excelled, were all discussed with great cheerfulness. My father, as was his custom, drew his chair aside after supper, and engaged two of his guests in religious conversation, while the doctor and the parson got into a corner, and soon became deeply absorbed in a question of law, which they debated over the cider.
No sooner had my mother set her table to rights than she, with an air of motherly watchfulness, drew her chair beside the damsels, with whom I was exchanging the gossip of the Cape, and entered cheerfully into our conversation.
More than one of the bright eyed and ruddy cheeked damsels gave out hints that led me to believe they would have accompanied me on my journey and shared the fortunes of my career. Nor did their hints disturb my mother, whose mind was too pure to conceive their attentions aught else than blessings. And thus, with an abundance of good cheer, and the interchange of those civilities so common to villagers, and the singing of an orthodox hymn or two, in which my father joined, while the doctor and the parson continued their discussion over the cider, passed one of those rustic evening parties so characteristic of Cape Cod.
Half-past nine o'clock arrived, and it being an hour of bedtime religiously kept by the villagers, the bright eyed damsels and their chaperons, each in turn, shook me warmly by the hand, congratulated my mother on having a son so daring, lisped words of encouragement in my ear, and took an affectionate leave. Among them there was one Altona Marabel, the daughter of a worthy fisherman. This damsel had a face of exquisite beauty; and her great lustrous eyes and blushing cheeks had caused me many a sigh. And now I saw that her heart beat in unison with mine, for the words good-by hung reluctant upon her lips. Nay, more, she would have sealed the love she bore me with a tear, for as she shook my hand it came like a pearl in her eye, and she wiped it away lest it write the tale of her heart upon the crimson of her cheek.
Neither the doctor nor the parson were disturbed at the departure of the rest of the company; for they continued to praise the quality of the cider and debate the question of law until my father went into a deep sleep, from which he was disturbed by the parson, who, in response to an invitation from the doctor, commenced singing a song for the entertainment of my mother. Such joviality was uncommon with the parson, and so surprised and astonished my father, that he intimated to the doctor that it would not be amiss to get him home. Being something of a wag, the doctor intended to vanquish the parson with the cider, and then perform certain mischievous tricks with his features. But this my father, who was not given to sporting with the weaknesses of others, prevented, by ordering my mother to lock up the six remaining bottles. "We might debate the question until daylight, but I could not convince you," spake the parson, rising from his chair on finding the bottles empty, and rather fussily adjusting his spectacles, "it is not expected that law is a part of your profession."
The doctor being a well bred and courteous man, bowed and held his peace. Indeed, he saw that the parson's intellect was somewhat deranged; hence he held it more becoming a Christian to tender his services in conducting him to his home, which was some two miles off. The parson now took me by the hand, and having looked me in the eye steadily for nearly a minute, addressed me as follows: "You, young man, I am afraid, have got a dangerous turn of mind. Many is the young man that has been hurried to destruction by a too daring and adventurous spirit. But if your resolution to go out upon the world in search of fame is not to be shaken by anything I say, then I would enjoin you always to so fence up your character that the devil and slander-loving editors cannot pick holes in it. Pray much. Let no one tempt you with mild drinks, for such only lead to the taking of stronger ones. Go regularly to church, but let not your eyes fall upon the faces of pretty women so that your ears be sealed to the sermon. Never make love to another man's wife. Remember this when you are a great man, for with them it is become a fashion. Let ruffians go their own way. Let gentlemen be your companions, and never fail to show them that you can at least be their equal in courteous demeanor. Always pay your washerwoman; be not ashamed to acknowledge your father, and remember that the fonder you speak of your mother, the more you will be beloved by strangers. Avoid politicians, who are come to be great vagabonds, who drink bad liquor and give their thoughts to base designs against the nation's gold. If you become great and valorous, historians will no doubt defame you, and lay crimes of which you were innocent at your door, as is common with them. But you must bear what they say of you with Christian fortitude, remembering, always, that it is a delight with them to tear greatness from its high throne." The parson looked wisely in my face as he said this, and shook his head warningly. "Most of all," he continued, "never permit yourself to fall into the hands of treasury swindlers, money changers, and malicious editors, who will set you up as the only fit person to be President of these United States, though you have not a single qualification necessary to the office. For they, being tricky men, will be sure to let you down with the same facility they took you up; and when your ancestors, down to the third and fourth generations are dug up, (as it has become necessary to do,) and their character, together with your own, made blacker than the ink they seek to damage one another's character with, they will be the first to declare they were mistaken in you-that you were not the man they took you for."
The parson said many other things of a like character, out which I did not think worth writing down in my memory. He then shook hands with my mother and father, expressed his surprise at the lateness of the hour to the doctor, and took his leave, meeting with a strange mishap on his way home, which will be related in the next chapter.
IN WHICH IS RELATED A PLEASANT MEETING WITH A RENOWNED MAJOR.
EARLY on the following morning, before the sun had hung the eastern sky with golden mists, my mother was astir, and in due time had a plain but substantial breakfast prepared. And, too, I heard my father muttering his misgivings in an adjoining chamber. My valise, nicely packed and strapped, stood by the door; this I thought a contrivance of my father to shake my resolution. Indeed I must confess that whenever my eye rested upon it, an emotion of regret moved me, and my fancy filled with an hundred perils that seemed incident to my career. The earnestness of my mother, however, always restored me to confidence. Her motto was, never despond, nor sit idly at home, when fame and fortune are to be gained by going abroad. She did everything with great cheerfulness of manner, and though the frosts of fifty winters had made snow-white the hairs of her head, and plowed their furrows deep into her oval face, there was a vigor in her action that might have excited the envy of youth.
Though I could not suppress the effect of those reminiscences of home, which on the eve of departure from it, rise up and disturb the feelings, no sooner was breakfast over than I shouldered my valise, and with my father on my left, and my mother on my right, sallied forth to the garden gate, where we halted before taking a last parting. The favorite watch-dog, Tray, who had gamboled with me in my boyhood, and held himself worthy of protecting me in his old age, followed us, wagging his tail in evident delight at the prospect of bearing me company. A soft breeze fanned over the beach, the dew-dripping rose bushes, that lined the green-topped picket fence, waved their tops to and fro, the sparrows whistled and sung, and wooed, as if Providence had made them for that alone; and all nature seemed putting on her gayest attire to inspire me with resolution.
"My son," said my father, grasping me tightly by the hand, as the words trembled upon his lips, and the breeze played with his gray locks, and his eyes filled with tears, "if go you must, be a man in all things; but heed not the sayings of men who talk loudest of being your friends."
"Why should he not go, daddy?" replied my mother, who was accustomed to addressing him in this manner. "Be your own judge of the world, my son, nor ever think bad of it until you have made your virtues an example to others, for they who condemn the world most have least to lay at its door." She then took my hand affectionately, and after gently rebuking my father for his attempt, as she styled it, to excite me to melancholy, which she held to be a great enemy to youth, kissed me and bade me adieu. And I set out, taking the road to Barnstable. They both leaned over the little gate, and twice exchanged adieus with me, as I turned to have a last look at all that had been so dear to my childhood. Faithful old Tray bore me company, and wagged his tail approvingly, and the rose tree tops, as I fancied, waved me a God speed; and the wind whispered joyously; and the birds flirted and sported before me on the sandy road, and tuned their songs to the temper of my feelings.
Between me and Tray there existed the uninterrupted friendship of a lifetime, the recollections of which I have sometimes thought of writing for the benefit of future generations, seeing that to write one's recollections, (to which may be added the recollections of others,) is become extremely fashionable. Tray had been my companion in many an adventure, all of which I thought he at this moment treasured in his memory, and would have recounted were he possessed of the power of speech. Having ascended a piece of rising ground, about a mile from the house, I sat down by the road side, intending to take leave of him and send him back, according to the request of my mother. He immediately planted himself close by my side, laid his great paw incessantly upon my knee, and, with looks of regret, would have expressed the friendship he bore me with caresses. Indeed there seemed a hidden goodness in his heart, a nobleness that caused the current of his friendship to flow with much gentleness, and a singleness in his mute appeals to my approbation, that I could not help contrasting with the insincerity of those dogs who go about the world on two legs, and imagine themselves most valiant when devouring one another.
After resting for a few minutes, and casting a longing look over the scene behind me, recalling, as it did, so many old associations, I told Tray that we must part; and that as he was now well down in years, perhaps we should never more meet again. He seemed to understand all I said to him, and, as I patted him gently upon the head, repaid my friendship by caressing my hand, and turning upon me several sympathetic looks. On telling him that he must go home, he hung his head, and drooped his tail, and moved slowly into the road, several times halting and casting reluctant looks back. Then he stretched himself down in the sand, and placing his head between his great paws, watched me out of sight.
Having journeyed about two miles, I reached a cross-road, and saw approaching one of those great wagons familiarly known in that part of the country as "tin wagons." It was drawn by an exceedingly lean, gray horse; and a short, fat man, with a broad, florid face, beaming with good nature, was mounted upon a high seat, made of a bundle of sheepskins. He was squint eyed, spacious mouthed, and had a nose that was flat to the end, which turned up in a short pug. His hair was of a sandy color, and parted carelessly down the center; and his dress was of well-worn gray satinet, which sat loosely upon his rotund figure. His hat, of soft black felt, was drawn well down over his low forehead, and but for his beard, which was thick and matty, one might easily have mistaken him for a cross between a Dutch washerwoman and a pumpkin-bellied quaker.
His team moved along at a measured pace, as if keeping time to the song he was singing, with great flow of spirits, for his own entertainment. I waited until he came up, much amused at the manner in which he every few minutes cracked his big whip. "Stranger!" said he, in a shrill, squeaking voice, "which way are you journeying?-what can I do to serve you this morning?" He reined up his team, and dismounting in a trice, extended his hand with a heartiness I was surprised to find in a stranger. "Jedediah Smooth, the renowned fisherman, is my father, and I have set out in search of fame and fortune," was my reply. At this he set his small, but searching eyes upon me, and seemed confounded, the cause of which I was not a little anxious to learn.
"Son of the worthiest of fathers!" he exclaimed, in a voice of great earnestness, "my delight at meeting one whose fame as a politician has preceded him, knows no bounds." Again he shook my hand fervently, as a pleasing delirium seemed to have seized upon his senses. "Accidents are sometimes equal to conquests," he continued. "Know, then, that you confront Major Roger Sherman Potter, commonly called Major Roger Potter. Like a titillation of the fancy, I have been thrown up and down by the tide of political fortune and misfortune until I became sickened of it, and resolved to seek obscurity, and live like an honest man by the sale of tin, and such wares as the good people of this remote part of the world might have a demand for. You must not judge me by the calling necessity has now forced me to follow, for I hold it right, and in strict accordance with the nature of our institutions, that when fortune forsakes us, we stand not upon the order of a reputation, which at best is but a poor thing in time of need, but give ourselves manfully to any labor by which our hands may preserve the honesty of our heads. It is much better, I think, than following the fashion of our politicians, who reward the people who send them to Congress by neglecting their duty to the country, and studying those arts by which they can appropriate to themselves the choicest spoils."
The Major now led his team a little out of the road, hung his feed bag to his horse's head, and while the animal was eating, spread a sheepskin upon the ground, under some elder bushes, and invited me to sit down to a plentiful supply of crackers and cheese, to which he added a quart of cider drawn from a small keg he kept secreted under his box. He also discovered to me the fact, that in addition to every variety of tin ware, mop handles, washboards, crimping moulds, and wooden faucets, he kept a small supply of fourth proof brandy, which he sold to those who had a want in that line for winter strained sperm oil, a name convenient enough to suit all purposes. In truth, the good people of the neighboring villages had taken so strongly to the temperance cause, that no spiritous liquors could be got of anybody but the doctor, and then only on a certificate from the parson, who vouched for your good character, and set forth that to the best of his belief, it would be used only as a medicine. And the doctor, who had a scrupulous regard for all good and well regulated communities, took a joint interest with the parson, and so raised the price of this sort of medicine as to make the trade an extremely lucrative one. But as the rich were never known to be denied, and the poor had not money enough to enjoy so expensive a cure for their maladies, which were greatest in number, the popular enactment became not only a grievous, but a very oppressive monopoly. And this monopoly the major, who esteemed himself a great public benefactor, sought a cure for in selling for three shillings a pint, an article equal in quality to that for which the doctor and the parson demanded ten. But this, he said, very good naturedly, he was compelled to do on the sly, for though his customers were principally poor people, if it got noised abroad, nothing could save him from the fury of a mob of pious and very orderly people, who would get up town meetings and vote him down an intolerable nuisance. This done, and the market for his tin pints and washboards would be closed for ever.
Having refreshed ourselves with the crackers and cheese and cider, the Major very pleasantly commenced recounting a little affair of honor he had been called upon to adjust but a few minutes before, and as he was proud of his skill as a diplomatist, the recital afforded him an infinite amount of pleasure.
"Parsons and doctors," said he, taking a copious cup of cider, "no doubt imagine themselves (and they have an undisputed right so to do) to be the very embodiment of natural benevolence and inviolable fidelity. But there are things of an opposite nature, to which their hearts and inclinations are as susceptible as those of the tenderest virgins. I was pursuing my journey this morning, when 'old Battle,' my horse, who has smelled powder enough to make his nerves more steady, pricked up his ears at something he saw in the bushes by the roadside. Reining him up, I dismounted, and to my great surprise discovered two well-dressed men fast asleep, locked in each other's arms. 'Faith of my father!' says I, 'who's here?' A slightly guttural sound was followed by a hoarse voice answering, 'It's only me.' And then a lean figure, with two well-blacked eyes, and a face otherwise disfigured, disconnected itself from its fellow, rose to its haunches, and stared at me with wild dismay. A white neckcloth, somewhat besmeared with blood, denoted his profession. On coming to his senses he aroused his companion, and commenced charging him with being the cause of the sad plight he was in. Neither seemed to have a very distinct recollection of the event that had founed them in a condition so disgraceful to them as respectable citizens; and the other protested his innocence of any misdemeanor, but was equally at a loss how to account for the disfigured face of his companion, and was about charging the whole affair to a dispensation of Providence, that being the most convenient and fashionable method for disposing of such things. But the man of the disfigured face, who was no less a person than Parson Stebbins, (and his companion the doctor, of whom mention was made in the foregoing chapter,) clung tenaciously to what he was pleased to call his love of facts, and said he would come out with it all, that the truth of history might not be impeached.
"They had been spending the evening at your father's house, and were regaled with cider of such uncommon strength as to make a deep impression upon their sensibilities. The doctor declared they drank nothing stronger, notwithstanding the parson accused him of having a small flask in his pocket. It was late when they left the house; and as they had been warmly discussing whether it was right in the sight of God to hang a woman for killing her drunken husband, without coming to any decision, they agreed to change the subject to one of a theological character, it being absolutely necessary that they have something to debate on their way home. The doctor inquired of the parson, what he thought of the doctrine held by many popular divines, that God made Moses and Elijah visible to the Apostles on the occasion of the transfiguration. The parson, after pausing a few moments, and remarking that he had a curious feeling in his head, which seemed to sit unsafely upon his shoulders, replied that the question was of too abstruse a nature to be debated by any but members of his own profession, to which it of right belonged. If he were to speak his mind it would be to give doctors in general no very high reputation for either morals or religion. 'True history never gave them much mention; and though Aristotle had treated their vagaries with great condescension, Cicero never could be got to look with favor upon them. Yours is a mischievous profession, the members of which are always seeking the demolition of useful sciences.' This the parson said in so angry a tone that it excited the pugnacity of the doctor, who was scrupulous of his profession, and declared he would not stand by and hear it slandered.
"They had now staggered among some laurel bushes at the side of the road, when the doctor, having inquired if the parson meant anything personal, and not receiving an immediate answer, fetched him a blow that felled him to the ground, and almost simultaneously followed him. And now so great was his fear of having done him bodily injury, that he seized him in his arms, and, thus embraced, they had slept until I disturbed them. Each now commenced giving a confused version of the affair, criminating and recriminating in a manner that only served to increase the disgrace to which it attached. The doctor protested his innocence of the deed, while the parson continued to discant upon the consequences that would result from the disfiguration of his features. At the same time they both intimated their readiness to have me sit in judgment upon their affairs, and accept my decision as final.
"When they had put on their hats I bid them sit down upon a moss-covered hillock, and hold their peace. Having done this with great good nature, I seated myself on an opposite one, and commenced to deliberate upon their case. The state of debility in which they had unfortunately found themselves on the previous night must, doubtless, be put down to the strength of the cider. The debility, then, being acknowledged, neither could be held accountaable to the other for acts committed while morally insane. As to the imputation cast upon the medical profession by the parson, even were it done when the mind was morally sane, it ought only to be set down to the natural envy existing among members of different professions, and was much to be deplored, for instead of one being ambitious to claim a superiority over the other, they ought to regard themselves coworkers in equally good causes, and for the advancement of a common humanity. In order to settle the questions they had attempted to debate, I proposed that they adopt the rule laid down by our noisy Congressmen, each being satisfied in his own mind that he had demolished the arguments of the other, and for ever settled the question at issue. The battering they had given each other was a thing of the past. Was it not better then to let a bygone be a bygone, rather than seek a technical satisfaction, that while it afforded the public some amusement would only bring themselves a great deal of pain? They could no more recall the past than they could make a set of rules for governing the appetites of the people. There were always simpletons enough to believe that they could be cured of consumption by taking such nostrums as cod liver oil and Wistar's Balsam; so also would the world always be pestered with men simple enough to believe that every man must square his inclinations to the measure of their own. But one point now remained to be deliberated upon, and that was how the doctor should atone to the parson for his damaged face. I, however, soon overcame this, by suggesting that it would be no more than right, and equally becoming of a Christian, that the parson accept the doctor's deep regrets in offset for the injuries he had received in his features. This the parson, who was not to be outdone in his benevolence of soul, readily acquiesced in; and thus was saved the trouble of calling in the aid of a lawyer, who, with no earthly hope of restoring the broken peace, would have made destructive inroads upon both their pockets. The two now shook hands, and with expressions of the highest esteem for each other, thanked me and took their departure for home."
I had my suspicions that this story was a romance of the Major's own manufacture; nor were my suspicions dispelled by any subsequent act of his. And notwithstanding he was ready at all times to redress the wrongs of thirsty humanity, he kept a sharp eye to the equivalent, and had an inveterate hatred of all who opposed his free trade principles, which, in a measure, accounted for the story of the doctor and the parson. In truth, he had the facility of an Arab for manufacturing romances, which he used as a means to demolish his enemies, as will hereafter be shown in this history.
MAJOR ROGER POTTER RECOUNTS HIS NUMEROUS EXPLOITS IN WAR AND POLITICS.
HAVING finished the story with great sincerity of manner, the major commenced to brighten and polish up his face with his handkerchief, and to pack away his provender. This done, he bridled old Battle, his horse, arranged his seat of sheepskins, and invited me to mount and ride with him; for no sooner had I discovered to him the object of my undertaking than he dubbed himself the luckiest of fellows, offering to be my companion in arms, and the sharer of my fortunes. Three loud cracks of the whip, and old Battle started off at a brisk pace, the major adding that if we made haste we would reach Barnstable by nightfall. As the wagon rolled over the road, a cackling noise was kept up, much to my surprise and annoyance; this I found was caused by a coop of disconsolate chickens, which the major had bought on speculation, and fastened to the back of his wagon, intending to make a good thing by selling them for Shanghais whenever he could find a customer.
"Now, although I know you so well by reputation, you may not have heard so much of me as many others have. It is no great thing for a major like me to be engaged in this sort of business, you will think; but an honest living made by vending tin is better than a fortune gained by fingering the affairs of the nation. Indeed I have often thought a man was never so great as when he condescended to make his living honestly. As you see, I have surrendered myself to fortune, and am what some would call 'down in the world.' But I have been up, and made a noise, and will make more when next I get up." These remarks were delivered with such evident self-conceit, that I was at a loss how to comprehend their meaning, and asked the major to explain himself.
After cracking his whip twice or thrice, he resumed, "My father, (he is gone, God bless him,) was an honest shoemaker in the town of Barnstable, where I was born and reared. Being poor, he could not give me much schooling; but we lived comfortably, and enjoyed the respect of the town people. I assisted him at his trade of making shoes until I reached the age of two and twenty, being esteemed a skillful mechanic. Joining the Barnstable Invincibles, a very disorderly militia company, I was twice elected its captain, which was considered a very good practical joke, the militia there being in very bad odor with everybody but the young damsels of the town. To my military title, then, I owe one of the most fortunate circumstances of my life-that of getting a wife. And this wife, though she bore my title the strongest love, was quite as good as I deserved. In due time we were blessed with one, and then another little Potter, and I began to thank heaven for making me the happiest of men. A snug little home was the result of frugality and industry, and peace reigned in it. But my wife was vain of my military reputation, which she regarded as a hinge for taking a higher position in the world. I must tell you that she cut two clever speeches from an old newspaper, declaring that I must study them, so that with a few alterations, (an art well understood by our clergymen and politicians,) I could set up for a public man, making them apply to all great questions with equal force.
"Wife was of a good, puritanical family, and, as I afterwards had reason to know, well understood how to push her husband up in the world. I got the speeches down without the slightest difficulty." Here the major wet his organs of speech with a little of something he kept in a small flask he drew from his breast-pocket. "They were fu l of blaze. In truth, I may say without fear of contradiction, that a dozen patriots might have found room to roll up in them and die gloriously. Still, it didn't seem to me much for a man to get a speech into his head; so, after getting another, I found no difficulty in getting twenty, all of which were applicable to general subjects. The Tippecanoe fever then began to spread with great virulency, and such was the power of its contagion that John Crispin threw away his lapstone, and Peter Vulcan hung up his anvil, and both went about the country delivering themselves of great speeches, with which they deluded the simple-minded villagers, who forced greatness upon them at every step. And so forcibly did the opinion that they were great men take root with the good natured mass, that the great men of the newspapers, and the kind-hearted critics, who are greater, seconded the opinion, and set them down for wonders. The ambition of my wife now knew no bounds. She insisted that I should go to the next political meeting, and then and there deliver one of the speeches I had got into my head, and which I had twice spoken before her, that the variations might be squared to the occasion. My shoe bench I sold for a trifle, and my pegs and awls were consigned to the children for playthings. The Tippecanoe side of politics being the most popular, as well as profitable, I tied to it at once; and on going to the "Coon-meeting" surprised and astonished every one with the power and arguments of my speech. I may indeed humbly say, I flashed into greatness with the quickness of lightning. Neither Cicero nor Lycurgus were ever, in their day, thought so well of by the multitudes. It got noised about that Webster would have to give up to me. And I am sure that if the elder Adams or Jefferson had been living, they would have been set down by the editors, in the gravest sentences they were capable of penning, as mere shadows in comparison."
Here the major paused to make room for the Provincetown stage; a great yellow coach, full of passengers, which we had come upon suddenly. The driver of the stage, not liking the slow pace in which old Battle was proceeding to make room for him, laid his whip briskly over his haunches, quickening his movements, but driving the major into a furious passion. The sudden twitch landed us both upon the sandy road, under the pile of sheepskins we had used for a seat. In this dilemma the major called loudly for assistance, swearing that if the stage driver would but stop he would give him battle to his satisfaction. This only served to increase the mirth of the passengers, who rather encouraged their mischievous driver, now looking round and making grimaces at his adversary. The major, however, was not long in extricating himself from the sheepskins, when, for want of a better weapon, he seized a string of tin pints, and running as fast as his short legs would carry him, hurled them one after another at the stage coach. Ceasing to afford the passengers this amusement only when his wind gave out, the major swore by his military reputation that if they would only give him an opportunity he would whip the stageload before breakfast, and think it a mere trifle. The coach now rolled out of sight, and the major sat down by the road side to contemplate the loss of his tin cups, which like spilled apples, were strewn along the sand. It would not do to suffer so great a loss, so he girded up his nether garments, and commenced picking up his cups, lamenting their bruises as he strung them upon his string. Finding that we sustained no other loss than that of the major's temper, I set his team to rights, and, having mounted the sheepskins, we were ready to proceed on our journey. "Such an insult as that offered to me when I was in the Mexican war," said he, mounting over the wheel with one of those expletives much used among soldiers, "and I had demolished the lot at a stroke of my sword. Zounds! why can't stage drivers be gentlemen?"
This was the first intimation I had had of his being a hero of the Mexican war. Regaining his good humor soon after, I resigned him the reins, and he desired me to tell him at what point of his story he had been interrupted. Having done this, he resumed its thread as old Battle jogged on at his usual slow pace. "I now took up the trade of politics," he continued, "and went about the country, making speeches and demolishing everything that came in my way. I had ideas enough for any number of speeches, no matter what the length might be; but the evil was how to put the sentences together. I could make points such as Cicero and Lycurgus never thought of; as for patriotism, there was no trouble about that. I had a dozen platforms at my fingers' ends, and could move an audience equal to Lamartine. Here then was my game, and at it I made a nice thing. The editor of the "Provincetown Longbow," who was celebrated for making at least two Cabinet ministers a day, declared to his readers that it was lucky for the era that my great wisdom had been discovered; that it would be a great wrong in General Harrison to offer me any less office than Secretary of State. The "Barnstable Pocketbook," a clever little sheet, edited by Miss Holebrook, who snapped her political whip in the teeth of the town, and had come off conqueror in many a tilt with editors in breeches, was willing to compromise with he of the Longbow, by assuring its readers that only two years' study of law would make me an excellent judge of the Supreme Court. These well bestowed encomiums, (as I think they are called,) so elated my wife that she speedily took to giving tea parties, to which all the majors and generals of the town were invited. And as they demolished the hospitality of her teacups they made her believe the nation never could get along unless I had two fingers in its affairs.
"My children, before as distasteful as the butter one gets in New York hotels, were now so sweet that the whole town wanted to kiss them. And the parson, who had scarcely been known to say, 'how do you do, Mrs. Potter,' now made his calls so frequent, and his bows so gracious, that the neighbors said it would be as well to have an eye out. I got fifteen dollars and my feed, for each speech. Now and then an inspired soul threw in an extra five. So that at the end of two months I had funds enough to establish a bank in Wall street, with three branches in the country. My credit, too, received an unlimited extension. And this my wife took advantage of to new furnish the house and haberdash the little Potters. I contented myself with drawing on the tailor for two suits of his best broadcloth, such as would appertain to a politician so distinguished. But in truth I must confess, without blushing, that my wife was not long in contracting debts a richer man would have found difficulty in paying.
"However, having cleared away all doubts and elected Harrison, whom I was careful to see safe into the arms of the people, my friends all advised me to set out for Washington, where such abilities as I had discovered could not fail of being rewarded by the government they had so ably served.
"As a military title was held indispensable to the success of a politician, the Barnstable Invincibles elected me Major, an honor which could not be overlooked by the politicians at Washington, whose business it is to give offices and save the Union. So, with the praises of two newspapers and the well-wishes of the town, I set out for Washington, believing that the chief magistrate, in the exercise of his great wisdom, would reward me with at least a foreign mission."
WHICH TREATS OF HOW THE MAJOR FELL AMONG POLITICIANS AND OTHER NEW YORK VAGABONDS.
HAVING paused a few moments to moisten his lips, for the day was excessively warm, the Major spoke a few encouraging words to old Battle, and resumed his story.
"If wisdom becometh the great, money is not to be despised by the politician, I thought. So, having stocked my purse with not less than two hundred dollars, I arrived safely in New York and put up at the Astor House, an hotel in high favor with ex-secretaries and dilapidated politicians, inasmuch as the worthy landlord accepts the honor of their being guests of his house in satisfaction of his bills. It was night when I arrived, and the splendor and strangeness of everything around bewildered and confused me so much, that I forgot to put the prefix of 'Major' to my name, when I registered it in the big book. And this single omission had the effect of consigning me to an attic room in the ninth story. Having intimated an objection to this lofty position, the polite waiter said it was the most convenient room in the house, since, in case of a fire breaking out I could use the sky-light, and, having gained the roof, would be rescued by the firemen with their scaling ladders; whereas, a lower position would render me liable to be blockaded and devoured by the rush of flames. I told the polite waiter, who was a gifted Irishman, and though not four months in the country, had taken to politics like a rat to good cheese, that he was entitled to my thanks for the information. An intimation, however, that I was a Major of some renown, surprised the gifted Irishman not a little. That he conveyed the news to my worthy host I had not a doubt, since on the following day I was removed to a spacious room on the second story.
"On descending to the great supper room, I was accosted by one General John Fopp, of the Tippecanoe Club, who congratulated me on my safe arrival in the city. Being extremely easy in his manners, and apparently ready to render me services of no mean importance, I invited him to join me in a cup of tea, which invitation he was not slow to accept. Being much impressed with his dignity of manner, and the glibness with which he discoursed upon the events of the last campaign, I listened to him with profound respect. He said he would see that my name was duly chronicled in the newspapers, not a few of which he assured me he had full control over. In fine, nothing that could serve the interests of one who had made himself so famous during the late campaign was to be left undone. He knew every speech I had made by heart, as he said; and he had the name of every town I had been in at his fingers' ends. Indeed, so varied were his accomplishments, that I at once set him down for one of those great men, in the possession of whom New York is more fortunate than her sister cities, and of whose merits strangers, for divers reasons, have had occasion to speak with great confidence.
"When the newspapers had faithfully recorded my arrival and given an undoubted history of my doings in politics, I was to be introduced to the Collector and Postmaster, both of whom, though differing with me on great national questions, would receive me as became gentle- men. The Mayor, too, would receive me at the City Hall, in presence of the Common Council, and review the police, which body of men had become, under the new order of things, more devoted to beards and brandy than the good order of the city. He said I must be careful not to accept the invitations of councilmen to drink, for they were sure to saddle the payment upon their guest, to say nothing of their lately adopted art of making invitations a means of supplying their own wants in the article of liquor. And as drinking had become their most distinguishing characteristic, perhaps it would not be amiss to defend myself, he said, after the fashion of our smaller politicians, who, as a general thing, invited councilmen to confer with them at the bar, and left the settlement to be arranged between them and the host.
"On finishing our tea, the General was kind enough to say he would show me over the city. He could not, however, introduce me to the Coon-club that night, seeing that it had adjourned and gone on a frolic. Only too glad to accept the services of a companion so valuable, I joined him, and we were soon at the door of the Broadway Theater, where the General, to his great surprise, discovered that in the change of his vest that evening (he had foregone the pleasure of a very fashionable party in the Fifth Avenue to do me ample honor) he had omitted to replace his purse. I begged he would not mention it, drawing forth the required sum. With great apparent mortification he begged me to disburse the trifle and consider it all right in the morning. This I was only too glad to have the honor of doing.
"An highly colored melodrama, in four acts, one of which was laid in each of the four quarters of the globe, (and if there had been a fifth, the cunning author would have had an act for it,) was proceeding at a stormy pace, the principal character being personated by a gentleman of color, the audience, I thought, were trying to emulate in loudness of talking. My new companion seemed to have an extensive acquaintance, for he introduced me to no less than twenty judges of the Supreme Court, whose good opinion, he said, it was well to cultivate, and many other persons, not one of whom was less than a major-general of the Ninth Regiment, a corps somewhat celebrated for its courageous marching and counter-marching up Broadway. Of the etiquette that ruled among the military heroes of New York I knew but little; nor was I well acquainted with the accomplishments necessary to her judges: but it was impossible to suppress the thought, that if soliciting treats of strangers were regarded as a qualification, they could not be beaten, though the whole Union were put to the test. And so excessive were their duties in taking care of the Union, that their faces had assumed a deep purple color.
"Ascending several flights of stairs, we, by great exertion, reached what was called the 'third tier,' which lofty domain was, by the generosity of the manager, set apart for damsels whose modesty and circumspection would not permit of their occupying seats in the dress circle. I, however, noticed in them an audacity of manner that did not appertain to such artless beings as my companion would have me believe them. It struck me, too, that the toilet of these artless damsels was not what it should be. Indeed, there was an extravagance of color, and scantiness at both ends of their drapery, that both my mother and grandmother would have set down as in extremely bad taste. My companion soon cleared up this little matter, by informing me that the toilet of these artless damsels, so bright in color and scanty in places, was in strict keeping with the standard of fashion adopted by the very best society, which was to be more undressed than dressed, that the devil-who always wanted to look in-might see for himself.
"What there was lacking in drapery, to save my emotions, I might, my friend said, make up in the color of my imagination. They were all the daughters of rich bankers in Wall Street; hence no one had a right to interfere with their mode of dress. Stewart, at whose shrine of satins and silks ten thousand longing damsels worshiped, owed his fortune to their love of bright colors. And although he had filled two graveyards with ruined husbands, and was preparing a third for the great number of wives whose constancy he had crushed out with the high price of his laces, no one was simpleton enough to blame him. No matter how many sins of extravagant men he might have to answer for, the purchase of seven pews in Grace Church, and the good will of Brown, would secure his redemption. Stewart was a hero whose deeds should be recorded in history, and to whose memory a monument ought to be raised in every fashionable graveyard; and upon which it would be well to inscribe an epitaph written by Brown, the sexton.
"My companion said he would (and he did) introduce me to several of these daughters of rich bankers, which was very kind of him. The unrestrained quality of their speech at first struck me as being a little curious, such indeed as I was not accustomed to; but I found them extremely easy to become acquainted with, and in nowise prudish. They did, however, keep up a suspicious intimacy with a brilliantly lighted, though not very fragrantly scented, saloon on the left. In this I was assured there was nothing improper, inasmuch as it was sanctioned by the customs of the best society in New York, and much frequented by the Mayor and Aldermen.
"One of the damsels, whose winning smiles excited the filaments of my heart with joy, condescended to express an enthusiastic admiration for my watch-chain, while another very modestly said she would owe me a lasting obligation if I would lend her my watch, that she might wear it at the Tammany Hall ball, to which she was invited by one of the managers. She pledged her honor, of which she seemed to have a large stock, to return it safe. As it was the first favor she had ever condescended to ask of a gentleman, she felt sure I could not deny a lady. Notwithstanding my respect for rich bankers and their daughters, I begged that she would excuse me in this instance, and charge to my poverty what might otherwise seem a want of generosity. She said she would sing to me, and be the light of my dreams; but even this failed to impress me with a due respect for her desires. With that penuriousness characteristic of bankers, their papas, it was clear, had not stocked their purses with change enough to cover their wants, which habitually ran to ice-water and something in it.
"It was clear they took me for a country bumpkin instead of a great politician, and were inclined to make much of my excess of simplicity. Motioning my companion that it was time to be going, I expressed the great delight their company had afforded me, and took my leave, promising to pay them another visit at no very distant day. I now began to mistrust my companion, whose deportment did not seem to square with that which I had been accustomed to associate with great generals. But he was tailored and barbared after the manner of gentlemen, and was likewise excessively smooth of tongue.
"On turning to depart, my companion reminded me that it was customary on such occasions for all distinguished persons to present each of the artless young ladies with a golden dollar, which they preserved as a fund, intending, when it became sufficiently large, to start a 'Journal of Civilization,' in which the literature of other lands was to be much improved for the benefit of this. The 'Journal of Civilization' was not to be considered a reflex of free brains, but rather as a reflex of free stealing, which was to be advocated at great length in its columns. Its general department would, my companion told me, be devoted to the histories of great historians, commencing with Jacob Abbot and ending with Peter Parley. Of its politics not much was to be said, seeing that they were written by my learned friend, Doctor Easley, author and compiler of 'The Polite Speech Maker,' and ought never to be taken as meaning what they said. Sharpeye and Scissors were to be honored with the post of general editors; and the musical department, which it was intended should be strong enough to drown all weak instruments, had been consigned to three magnificent harpers, who were capable of climbing a gamut of any number of notes. Neither had tuned their harps very extensively to home literature, the love they bore it being of the chastest kind; and though they were capable of conferring princely endowments upon it, they had turned a deaf ear to all its cries and distresses.
"Not seeing the enlarged benefits that were to flow from this Journal of Prospective Civilization, nor having any great faith in the quality of civilization stolen literature would confer upon a nation, I preferred to distinguish my generosity by a more national and less tricky example. This, I observed, did not give satisfaction to the damsels, who turned away with a look of contempt, and no doubt to this day entertain a very poor opinion of me.
"When we had reached the street my companion very modestly said there were not less than a thousand curious places a politician should visit before being qualified for taking a high position among his fellows. Many of these were established for the benefit of poor men in pursuit of fortunes, which it was absurd to think could not be got without a too strict adherence to truth and probity. First, he said, he would introduce me to the high priest of the Pewter Mug, which was the Star Chamber of Tammany, though many simple-minded people residing in the rural districts had mistaken it for the place in which Mr. Beecher, the reverend, wrote his celebrated star letters. No famous politician or statesman ever visited New York without scenting its pure atmosphere. And even Marcy himself, who, notwithstanding his grievous fault of quoting great authors, would be written down in history as a knight of diplomatists, had been heard to say (he was a frequenter of the Mug) that he owed the profoundness of his wisdom to the quality of the beverages there served. And as the first dawn of his generosity was supposed to have broken forth in this compliment to the accommodating high priest, it did him infinite credit in the future.