Thus craftily did he inveigle the vain bird, who finally came and spread his tail alongside the fracture for comparison. The gorgeous feathers at once froze fast to the ice, and—in short, that artless fowl passed a very uncomfortable winter.
A volcano, having discharged a few million tons of stones upon a small village, asked the mayor if he thought that a tolerably good supply for building purposes.
"I think," replied that functionary, "if you give us another dash of granite, and just a pinch of old red sandstone, we could manage with what you have already done for us. We would, however, be grateful for the loan of your crater to bake bricks."
"Oh, certainly; parties served at their residences." Then, after the man had gone, the mountain added, with mingled lava and contempt: "The most insatiable people I ever contracted to supply. They shall not have another pebble!"
He banked his fires, and in six weeks was as cold as a neglected pudding. Then might you have seen the heaving of the surface boulders, as the people began stirring forty fathoms beneath.
When you have got quite enough of anything, make it manifest by asking for some more. You won't get it.
"I entertain for you a sentiment of profound amity," said the tiger to the leopard. "And why should I not? for are we not members of the same great feline family?"
"True," replied the leopard, who was engaged in the hopeless endeavour to change his spots; "since we have mutually plundered one another's hunting grounds of everything edible, there remains no grievance to quarrel about. You are a good fellow; let us embrace!"
They did so with the utmost heartiness; which being observed by a contiguous monkey, that animal got up a tree, where he delivered himself of the wisdom following:
"There is nothing so touching as these expressions of mutual regard between animals who are vulgarly believed to hate one another. They render the brief intervals of peace almost endurable to both parties. But the difficulty is, there are so many excellent reasons why these relatives should live in peace, that they won't have time to state them all before the next fight."
A woodpecker, who had bored a multitude of holes in the body of a dead tree, was asked by a robin to explain their purpose.
"As yet, in the infancy of science," replied the woodpecker, "I am quite unable to do so. Some naturalists affirm that I hide acorns in these pits; others maintain that I get worms out of them. I endeavoured for some time to reconcile the two theories; but the worms ate my acorns, and then would not come out. Since then, I have left science to work out its own problems, while I work out the holes. I hope the final decision may be in some way advantageous to me; for at my nest I have a number of prepared holes which I can hammer into some suitable tree at a moment's notice. Perhaps I could insert a few into the scientific head."
"No-o-o," said the robin, reflectively, "I should think not. A prepared hole is an idea; I don't think it could get in."
MORAL.—It might be driven in with a steam-hammer.
"Are you going to this great hop?" inquired a spruce cricket of a labouring beetle.
"No," replied he, sadly, "I've got to attend this great ball."
"Blest if I know the difference," drawled a more offensive insect, with his head in an empty silk hat; "and I've been in society all my life. But why was I not invited to either hop or ball?"
He is now invited to the latter.
"Too bad, too bad," said a young Abyssinian to a yawning hippopotamus.
"What is 'too bad?'" inquired the quadruped. "What is the matter with you?"
"Oh, I never complain," was the reply; "I was only thinking of the niggard economy of Nature in building a great big beast like you and not giving him any mouth."
"H'm, h'm! it was still worse," mused the beast, "to construct a great wit like you and give him no seasonable occasion for the display of his cleverness."
A moment later there were a cracking of bitten bones, a great gush of animal fluids, the vanishing of two black feet—in short, the fatal poisoning of an indiscreet hippopotamus.
The rubbing of a bit of lemon about the beaker's brim is the finishing-touch to a whiskey punch. Much misery may be thus averted.
A salmon vainly attempted to leap up a cascade. After trying a few thousand times, he grew so fatigued that he began to leap less and think more. Suddenly an obvious method of surmounting the difficulty presented itself to the salmonic intelligence.
"Strange," he soliloquized, as well as he could in the water,—"very strange I did not think of it before! I'll go above the fall and leap downwards."
So he went out on the bank, walked round to the upper side of the fall, and found he could leap over quite easily. Ever afterwards when he went up-stream in the spring to be caught, he adopted this plan. He has been heard to remark that the price of salmon might be brought down to a merely nominal figure, if so many would not wear themselves out before getting up to where there is good fishing.
"The son of a jackass," shrieked a haughty mare to a mule who had offended her by expressing an opinion, "should cultivate the simple grace of intellectual humility."
"It is true," was the meek reply, "I cannot boast an illustrious ancestry; but at least I shall never be called upon to blush for my posterity. Yonder mule colt is as proper a son—"
"Yonder mule colt?" interrupted the mare, with a look of ineffable contempt for her auditor; "that is my colt!"
"The consort of a jackass and the mother of mules," retorted he, quietly, "should cultivate the simple thingamy of intellectual whatsitsname."
The mare muttered something about having some shopping to do, threw on her harness, and went out to call a cab.
"Hi! hi!" squeaked a pig, running after a hen who had just left her nest; "I say, mum, you dropped this 'ere. It looks wal'able; which I fetched it along!" And splitting his long face, he laid a warm egg at her feet.
"You meddlesome bacon!" cackled the ungrateful bird; "if you don't take that orb directly back, I 'll sit on you till I hatch you out of your saddle-cover!"
MORAL.—Virtue is its only reward.
A rustic, preparing to devour an apple, was addressed by a brace of crafty and covetous birds:
"Nice apple that," said one, critically examining it. "I don't wish to disparage it—wouldn't say a word against that vegetable for all the world. But I never can look upon an apple of that variety without thinking of my poisoned nestling! Ah! so plump, and rosy, and—rotten!"
"Just so," said the other. "And you remember my good father, who perished in that orchard. Strange that so fair a skin should cover so vile a heart!"
Just then another fowl came flying up.
"I came in, all haste," said he, "to warn you about that fruit. My late lamented wife ate some off the same tree. Alas! how comely to the eye, and how essentially noxious!"
"I am very grateful," the young man said; "but I am unable to comprehend how the sight of this pretty piece of painted confectionery should incite you all to slander your dead relations."
Whereat there was confusion in the demeanour of that feathered trio.
"The Millennium is come," said a lion to a lamb. "Suppose you come out of that fold, and let us lie down together, as it has been foretold we should."
"Been to dinner to-day?" inquired the lamb.
"Not a bite of anything since breakfast," was the reply, "except a few lean swine, a saddle or two, and some old harness."
"I distrust a Millennium," continued the lamb, thoughtfully, "which consists solely in our lying down together. My notion of that happy time is that it is a period in which pork and leather are not articles of diet, but in which every respectable lion shall have as much mutton as he can consume. However, you may go over to yonder sunny hill and lie down until I come."
It is singular how a feeling of security tends to develop cunning. If that lamb had been out upon the open plain he would have readily fallen into the snare—and it was studded very thickly with teeth.
"I say, you!" bawled a fat ox in a stall to a lusty young ass who was braying outside; "the like of that is not in good taste!"
"In whose good taste, my adipose censor?" inquired the ass, not too respectfully.
"Why—h'm—ah! I mean it does not suit me. You ought to bellow."
"May I inquire how it happens to be any of your business whether I bellow or bray, or do both—or neither?"
"I cannot tell you," answered the critic, shaking his head despondingly; "I do not at all understand it. I can only say that I have been accustomed to censure all discourse that differs from my own."
"Exactly," said the ass; "you have sought to make an art of impertinence by mistaking preferences for principles. In 'taste' you have invented a word incapable of definition, to denote an idea impossible of expression; and by employing in connection therewith the words 'good' and 'bad,' you indicate a merely subjective process in terms of an objective quality. Such presumption transcends the limit of the merely impudent, and passes into the boundless empyrean of pure cheek!"
At the close of this remarkable harangue, the bovine critic was at a loss for language to express his disapproval. So he said the speech was in bad taste.
A bloated toad, studded with dermal excrescences, was boasting that she was the wartiest creature alive.
"Perhaps you are," said her auditor, emerging from the soil; "but it is a barren and superficial honour. Look at me: I am one solid mole!"
"It is very difficult getting on in the world," sighed a weary snail; "very difficult indeed, with such high rents!"
"You don't mean to say you pay anything for that old rookery!" said a slug, who was characteristically insinuating himself between the stems of the celery intended for dinner. "A miserable old shanty like that, without stables, grounds, or any modern conveniences!"
"Pay!" said the snail, contemptuously; "I'd like to see you get a semi-detatched villa like this at a nominal rate!"
"Why don't you let your upper apartments to a respectable single party?" urged the slug.
The answer is not recorded.
A hare, pursued by a dog, sought sanctuary in the den of a wolf. It being after business hours, the latter was at home to him.
"Ah!" panted the hare; "how very fortunate! I feel quite safe here, for you dislike dogs quite as much as I do."
"Your security, my small friend," replied the wolf, "depends not upon those points in which you and I agree, but upon those in which I and the dog differ."
"Then you mean to eat me?" inquired the timorous puss.
"No-o-o," drawled the wolf, reflectively, "I should not like to promise that; I mean to eat a part of you. There may be a tuft of fur, and a toe-nail or two, left for you to go on with. I am hungry, but I am not hoggish."
"The distinction is too fine for me," said the hare, scratching her head.
"That, my friend, is because you have not made a practice of hare-splitting. I have."
"Oyster at home?" inquired a monkey, rapping at the closed shell.
There was no reply. Dropping the knocker, he laid hold of the bell-handle, ringing a loud peal, but without effect.
"Hum, hum!" he mused, with a look of disappointment, "gone to the sea side, I suppose."
So he turned away, thinking he would call again later in the season; but he had not proceeded far before he conceived a brilliant idea. Perhaps there had been a suicide!—or a murder! He would go back and force the door. By way of doing so he obtained a large stone, and smashed in the roof. There had been no murder to justify such audacity, so he committed one.
The funeral was gorgeous. There were mute oysters with wands, drunken oysters with scarves and hat-bands, a sable hearse with hearth-dusters on it, a swindling undertaker's bill, and all the accessories of a first-rate churchyard circus—everything necessary but the corpse. That had been disposed of by the monkey, and the undertaker meanly withheld the use of his own.
MORAL.—A lamb foaled in March makes the best pork when his horns have attained the length of an inch.
"Pray walk into my parlour," said the spider to the fly. "That is not quite original," the latter made reply. "If that's the way you plagiarize, your fame will be a fib— But I'll walk into your parlour, while I pitch into your crib. But before I cross your threshold, sir, if I may make so free, Pray let me introduce to you my friend, 'the wicked flea.'" "How do you?" says the spider, as his welcome he extends; "'How doth the busy little bee,' and all our other friends?" "Quite well, I think, and quite unchanged," the flea said; "though I learn, In certain quarters well informed, 'tis feared 'the worm will turn.'" "Humph!" said the fly; "I do not understand this talk—not I!" "It is 'classical allusion,'" said the spider to the fly.
A polar bear navigating the mid-sea upon the mortal part of a late lamented walrus, soliloquized, in substance, as follows:
"Such liberty of action as I am afflicted with is enough to embarrass any bear that ever bore. I can remain passive, and starve; or I can devour my ship, and drown. I am really unable to decide."
So he sat down to think it over. He considered the question in all its aspects, until he grew quite thin; turned it over and over in his mind until he was too weak to sit up; meditated upon it with a constantly decreasing pulse, a rapidly failing respiration. But he could not make up his mind, and finally expired without having come to a decision.
It appears to me he might almost as well have chosen starvation, at a venture.
A sword-fish having penetrated seven or eight feet into the bottom of a ship, under the impression that he was quarrelling with a whale, was unable to draw out of the fight. The sailors annoyed him a good deal, by pounding with handspikes upon that portion of his horn inside; but he bore it as bravely as he could, putting the best possible face upon the matter, until he saw a shark swimming by, of whom he inquired the probable destination of the ship.
"Italy, I think," said the other, grinning. "I have private reasons for believing her cargo consists mainly of consumptives."
"Ah!" exclaimed the captive; "Italy, delightful clime of the cerulean orange—the rosy olive! Land of the night-blooming Jesuit, and the fragrant laszarone! It would be heavenly to run down gondolas in the streets of Venice! I must go to Italy."
"Indeed you must," said the shark, darting suddenly aft, where he had caught the gleam of shotted canvas through the blue waters.
But it was fated to be otherwise: some days afterwards the ship and fish passed over a sunken rock which almost grazed the keel. Then the two parted company, with mutual expressions of tender regard, and a report which could be traced by those on board to no trustworthy source.
The foregoing fable shows that a man of good behaviour need not care for money, and vice versa.
A facetious old cat seeing her kitten sleeping in a bath tub, went down into the cellar and turned on the hot water. (For the convenience of the bathers the bath was arranged in that way; you had to undress, and then go down to the cellar to let on the wet.) No sooner did the kitten remark the unfamiliar sensation, than he departed thence with a willingness quite creditable in one who was not a professional acrobat, and met his mother on the kitchen stairs.
"Aha! my steaming hearty!" cried the elder grimalkin; "I coveted you when I saw the cook put you in the dinner-pot. If I have a weakness, it is hare—hare nicely dressed, and partially boiled."
Whereupon she made a banquet of her suffering offspring.[A]
Adversity works a stupendous change in tender youth; many a young man is never recognized by his parents after having been in hot water.
[Footnote A: Here should have followed the appropriate and obvious classical allusion. It is known our fabulist was classically educated. Why, then, this disgraceful omission?—TRANSLATOR.]
"It is a waste of valour for us to do battle," said a lame ostrich to a negro who had suddenly come upon her in the desert; "let us cast lots to see who shall be considered the victor, and then go about our business."
To this proposition the negro readily assented. They cast lots: the negro cast lots of stones, and the ostrich cast lots of feathers. Then the former went about his business, which consisted of skinning the bird.
MORAL.—There is nothing like the arbitrament of chance. That form of it known as trile-bi-joorie is perhaps as good as any.
An author who had wrought a book of fables (the merit whereof transcended expression) was peacefully sleeping atop of the modest eminence to which he had attained, when he was rudely awakened by a throng of critics, emitting adverse judgment upon the tales he had builded.
"Apparently," said he, "I have been guilty of some small grains of unconsidered wisdom, and the same have proven a bitterness to these excellent folk, the which they will not abide. Ah, well! those who produce the Strasburg pate and the feather-pillow are prone to regard us as rival creators. I presume it is in course of nature for him who grows the pen to censure the manner of its use."
So speaking, he executed a smile a hand's-breath in extent, and resumed his airy dream of dropping ducats.
For many years an opossum had anointed his tail with bear's oil, but it remained stubbornly bald-headed. At last his patience was exhausted, and he appealed to Bruin himself, accusing him of breaking faith, and calling him a quack.
"Why, you insolent marsupial!" retorted the bear in a rage; "you expect my oil to give you hair upon your tail, when it will not give me even a tail. Why don't you try under-draining, or top-dressing with light compost?"
They said and did a good deal more before the opossum withdrew his cold and barren member from consideration; but the judicious fabulist does not encumber his tale with extraneous matter, lest it be pointless.
"So disreputable a lot as you are I never saw!" said a sleepy rat to the casks in a wine-cellar. "Always making night hideous with your hoops and hollows, and disfiguring the day with your bunged-up appearance. There is no sleeping when once the wine has got into your heads. I'll report you to the butler!"
"The sneaking tale-bearer," said the casks. "Let us beat him with our staves."
"Requiescat in pace," muttered a learned cobweb, sententiously.
"Requires a cat in the place, does it?" shrieked the rat. "Then I'm off!"
To explain all the wisdom imparted by this fable would require the pen of a pig, and volumes of smoke.
A giraffe having trodden upon the tail of a poodle, that animal flew into a blind rage, and wrestled valorously with the invading foot.
"Hullo, sonny!" said the giraffe, looking down, "what are you doing there?"
"I am fighting!" was the proud reply; "but I don't know that it is any of your business."
"Oh, I have no desire to mix in," said the good-natured giraffe. "I never take sides in terrestrial strife. Still, as that is my foot, I think—"
"Eh!" cried the poodle, backing some distance away and gazing upward, shading his eyes with his paw. "You don't mean to say—by Jove it's a fact! Well, that beats me! A beast of such enormous length—such preposterous duration, as it were—I wouldn't have believed it! Of course I can't quarrel with a non-resident; but why don't you have a local agent on the ground?"
The reply was probably the wisest ever made; but it has not descended to this generation. It had so very far to descend.
A dog having got upon the scent of a deer which a hunter had been dragging home, set off with extraordinary zeal. After measuring off a few leagues, he paused.
"My running gear is all right," said he; "but I seem to have lost my voice."
Suddenly his ear was assailed by a succession of eager barks, as of another dog in pursuit of him. It then began to dawn upon him that he was a particularly rapid dog: instead of having lost his voice, his voice had lost him, and was just now arriving. Full of his discovery, he sought his master, and struck for better food and more comfortable housing.
"Why, you miserable example of perverted powers!" said his master; "I never intended you for the chase, but for the road. You are to be a draught-dog—to pull baby about in a cart. You will perceive that speed is an objection. Sir, you must be toned down; you will be at once assigned to a house with modern conveniences, and will dine at a French restaurant. If that system do not reduce your own, I'm an 'Ebrew Jew!"
The journals next morning had racy and appetizing accounts of a canine suicide.
A gosling, who had not yet begun to blanch, was accosted by a chicken just out of the shell:
"Whither away so fast, fair maid?" inquired the chick.
"Wither away yourself," was the contemptuous reply; "you are already in the sere and yellow leaf; while I seem to have a green old age before me."
A famishing traveller who had run down a salamander, made a fire, and laid him alive upon the hot coals to cook. Wearied with the pursuit which had preceded his capture, the animal at once composed himself, and fell into a refreshing sleep. At the end of a half-hour, the man, stirred him with a stick, remarking:
"I say!—wake up and begin toasting, will you? How long do you mean to keep dinner waiting, eh?"
"Oh, I beg you will not wait for me," was the yawning reply. "If you are going to stand upon ceremony, everything will get cold. Besides, I have dined. I wish, by-the-way, you would put on some more fuel; I think we shall have snow."
"Yes," said the man, "the weather is like yourself—raw, and exasperatingly cool. Perhaps this will warm you." And he rolled a ponderous pine log atop of that provoking reptile, who flattened out, and "handed in his checks."
The moral thus doth glibly run— A cause its opposite may brew; The sun-shade is unlike the sun, The plum unlike the plumber, too. A salamander underdone His impudence may overdo.
A humming-bird invited a vulture to dine with her. He accepted, but took the precaution to have an emetic along with him; and immediately after dinner, which consisted mainly of dew, spices, honey, and similar slops, he swallowed his corrective, and tumbled the distasteful viands out. He then went away, and made a good wholesome meal with his friend the ghoul. He has been heard to remark, that the taste for humming-bird fare is "too artificial for him." He says, a simple and natural diet, with agreeable companions, cheerful surroundings, and a struggling moon, is best for the health, and most agreeable to the normal palate.
People with vitiated tastes may derive much profit from this opinion. Crede experto.
A certain terrier, of a dogmatic turn, asked a kitten her opinion of rats, demanding a categorical answer. The opinion, as given, did not possess the merit of coinciding with his own; whereupon he fell upon the heretic and bit her—bit her until his teeth were much worn and her body much elongated—bit her good! Having thus vindicated the correctness of his own view, he felt so amiable a satisfaction that he announced his willingness to adopt the opinion of which he had demonstrated the harmlessness. So he begged his enfeebled antagonist to re-state it, which she incautiously did. No sooner, however, had the superior debater heard it for the second time than he resumed his intolerance, and made an end of that unhappy cat.
"Heresy," said he, wiping his mouth, "may be endured in the vigorous and lusty; but in a person lying at the very point of death such hardihood is intolerable."
It is always intolerable.
A tortoise and an armadillo quarrelled, and agreed to fight it out. Repairing to a secluded valley, they put themselves into hostile array.
"Now come on!" shouted the tortoise, shrinking into the inmost recesses of his shell.
"All right," shrieked the armadillo, coiling up tightly in his coat of mail; "I am ready for you!"
And thus these heroes waged the awful fray from morn till dewy eve, at less than a yard's distance. There has never been anything like it; their endurance was something marvellous! During the night each combatant sneaked silently away; and the historian of the period obscurely alludes to the battle as "the naval engagement of the future."
Two hedgehogs having conceived a dislike to a hare, conspired for his extinction. It was agreed between them that the lighter and more agile of the two should beat him up, surround him, run him into a ditch, and drive him upon the thorns of the more gouty and unwieldy conspirator. It was not a very hopeful scheme, but it was the best they could devise. There was a chance of success if the hare should prove willing, and, gambler-like, they decided to take that chance, instead of trusting to the remote certainty of their victim's death from natural cause. The doomed animal performed his part as well as could be reasonably expected of him: every time the enemy's flying detachment pressed him hard, he fled playfully toward the main body, and lightly vaulted over, about eight feet above the spines. And this prickly blockhead had not the practical sagacity to get upon a wall seven feet and six inches high!
This fable is designed to show that the most desperate chances are comparatively safe.
A young eel inhabiting the mouth of a river in India, determined to travel. Being a fresh-water eel, he was somewhat restricted in his choice of a route, but he set out with a cheerful heart and very little luggage. Before he had proceeded very far up-stream he found the current too strong to be overcome without a ruinous consumption of coals. He decided to anchor his tail where it then was, and grow up. For the first hundred miles it was tolerably tedious work, but when he had learned to tame his impatience, he found this method of progress rather pleasant than otherwise. But when he began to be caught at widely separate points by the fishermen of eight or ten different nations, he did not think it so fine.
This fable teaches that when you extend your residence you multiply your experiences. A local eel can know but little of angling.
Some of the lower animals held a convention to settle for ever the unspeakably important question, What is Life?
"Life," squeaked the poet, blinking and folding his filmy wings, "is—." His kind having been already very numerously heard from upon the subject, he was choked off.
"Life," said the scientist, in a voice smothered by the earth he was throwing up into small hills, "is the harmonious action of heterogeneous but related faculties, operating in accordance with certain natural laws."
"Ah!" chattered the lover, "but that thawt of thing is vewy gweat blith in the thothiety of one'th thweetheart." And curling his tail about a branch, he swung himself heavenward and had a spasm.
"It is vita!" grunted the sententious scholar, pausing in his mastication of a Chaldaic root.
"It is a thistle," brayed the warrior: "very nice thing to take!"
"Life, my friends," croaked the philosopher from his hollow tree, dropping the lids over his cattish eyes, "is a disease. We are all symptoms."
"Pooh!" ejaculated the physician, uncoiling and springing his rattle. "How then does it happen that when we remove the symptoms, the disease is gone?"
"I would give something to know that," replied the philosopher, musingly; "but I suspect that in most cases the inflammation remains, and is intensified."
Draw your own moral inference, "in your own jugs."
A heedless boy having flung a pebble in the direction of a basking lizard, that reptile's tail disengaged itself, and flew some distance away. One of the properties of a lizard's camp-follower is to leave the main body at the slightest intimation of danger.
"There goes that vexatious narrative again," exclaimed the lizard, pettishly; "I never had such a tail in my life! Its restless tendency to divorce upon insufficient grounds is enough to harrow the reptilian soul! Now," he continued, backing up to the fugitive part, "perhaps you will be good enough to resume your connection with the parent establishment."
No sooner was the splice effected, than an astronomer passing that way casually remarked to a friend that he had just sighted a comet. Supposing itself menaced, the timorous member again sprang away, coming down plump before the horny nose of a sparrow. Here its career terminated.
We sometimes escape from an imaginary danger, only to find some real persecutor has a little bill against us.
A jackal who had pursued a deer all day with unflagging industry, was about to seize him, when an earthquake, which was doing a little civil engineering in that part of the country, opened a broad chasm between him and his prey.
"Now, here," said he, "is a distinct interference with the laws of nature. But if we are to tolerate miracles, there is an end of all progress."
So speaking, he endeavoured to cross the abyss at two jumps. His fate would serve the purpose of an impressive warning if it might be clearly ascertained; but the earth having immediately pinched together again, the research of the moral investigator is baffled.
"Ah!" sighed a three-legged stool, "if I had only been a quadruped, I should have been happy as the day is long—which, on the twenty-first of June, would be considerable felicity for a stool."
"Ha! look at me!" said a toadstool; "consider my superior privation, and be content with your comparatively happy lot."
"I don't discern," replied the first, "how the contemplation of unipedal misery tends to alleviate tripedal wretchedness."
"You don't, eh!" sneered the toadstool. "You mean, do you, to fly in the face of all the moral and social philosophers?"
"Not unless some benefactor of his race shall impel me."
"H'm! I think Zambri the Parsee is the man for that kindly office, my dear."
This final fable teaches that he is.
BRIEF SEASONS OF INTELLECTUAL DISSIPATION.
FOOL.—I have a question for you.
PHILOSOPHER.—I have a number of them for myself. Do you happen to have heard that a fool can ask more questions in a breath than a philosopher can answer in a life?
F.—I happen to have heard that in such a case the one is as great a fool as the other.
PH.—Then there is no distinction between folly and philosophy?
F.—Don't lay the flattering unction to your soul. The province of folly is to ask unanswerable questions. It is the function of philosophy to answer them.
F.—Am I? Pray tell me the meaning of "a fool."
PH.—Commonly he has none.
PH.—Then in this case he has one.
F.—I lick thy boots! But what does Solomon indicate by the word fool? That is what I mean.
PH.—Let us then congratulate Solomon upon the agreement between the views of you two. However, I twig your intent: he means a wicked sinner; and of all forms of folly there is none so great as wicked sinning. For goodness is, in the end, more conducive to personal happiness—which is the sole aim of man.
F.—Hath virtue no better excuse than this?
PH.—Possibly; philosophy is not omniscience.
F.—Instructed I sit at thy feet!
PH.—Unwilling to instruct, I stand on my head.
* * * * *
FOOL.—You say personal happiness is the sole aim of man.
PHILOSOPHER.—Then it is.
F.—But this is much disputed.
PH.—There is much personal happiness in disputation.
PH.—Hold! I detest foreigners.
F.—Wisdom, they say, is of no country.
PH.—Of none that I have seen.
* * * * *
FOOL.—Let us return to our subject—the sole aim of mankind. Crack me these nuts. (1) The man, never weary of well-doing, who endures a life of privation for the good of his fellow-creatures?
PHILOSOPHER.—Does he feel remorse in so doing? or does the rascal rather like it?
F.—(2) He, then, who, famishing himself, parts his loaf with a beggar?
PH.—There are people who prefer benevolence to bread.
F.—Ah! De gustibus—
F.—Well, (3) how of him who goes joyfully to martyrdom?
PH.—He goes joyfully.
PH.—Did you ever converse with a good man going to the stake?
F.—I never saw a good man going to the stake.
PH.—Unhappy pupil! you were born some centuries too early.
* * * * *
FOOL.—You say you detest foreigners. Why?
PHILOSOPHER.—Because I am human.
F.—But so are they.
PH.—Excellent fool! I thank thee for the better reason.
* * * * *
PHILOSOPHER.—I have been thinking of the pocopo.
FOOL.—Is it open to the public?
PH.—The pocopo is a small animal of North America, chiefly remarkable for singularity of diet. It subsists solely upon a single article of food.
F.—What is that?
PH.—Other pocopos. Unable to obtain this, their natural sustenance, a great number of pocopos die annually of starvation. Their death leaves fewer mouths to feed, and by consequence their race is rapidly multiplying.
F.—From whom had you this?
PH.—A professor of political economy.
F.—I bend in reverence! What made you think of the pocopo?
PH.—Speaking of man.
F.—If you did not wish to think of the pocopo, and speaking of man would make you think of it, you would not speak of man, would you?
PH.—I do not know.
* * * * *
FOOL.—I have attentively considered your teachings. They may be full of wisdom; they are certainly out of taste.
F.—Why, that of people of culture.
PH.—Do any of these people chance to have a taste for intoxication, tobacco, hard hats, false hair, the nude ballet, and over-feeding?
F.—Possibly; but in intellectual matters you must confess their taste is correct.
PH.—Why must I?
F.—They say so themselves.
* * * * *
PHILOSOPHER.—I have been thinking why a dolt is called a donkey.
FOOL.—I had thought philosophy concerned itself with a less personal class of questions; but why is it?
PH.—The essential quality of a dolt is stupidity.
F.—Mine ears are drunken!
PH.—The essential quality of an ass is asininity.
PH.—As commonly employed, "stupidity" and "asininity" are convertible terms.
F.—That I, unworthy, should have lived to see this day!
* * * * *
FOOL.—If I were a doctor—
DOCTOR.—I should endeavour to be a fool.
F.—You would fail; folly is not easily achieved.
D.—True; man is overworked.
F.—Let him take a pill.
D.—If he like. I would not.
F.—You are too frank: take a fool's advice.
D.—Thank thee for the nastier prescription.
* * * * *
FOOL.—I have a friend who—
DOCTOR.—Stands in great need of my assistance. Absence of excitement, gentle restraint, a hard bed, simple diet—that will straighten him out.
F.—I'll give thee sixpence to let me touch the hem of thy garment!
D.—What of your friend?
F.—He is a gentleman.
D.—Then he is dead!
F.—Just so: he is "straightened out"—he took your prescription.
D.—All but the "simple diet."
F.—He is himself the diet.
* * * * *
FOOL.—Believe you a man retains his intellect after decapitation?
DOCTOR.—It is possible that he acquires it?
F.—Much good it does him.
D.—Why not—as compensation? He is at some disadvantage in other respects.
D.—He is in a false position.
* * * * *
FOOL.—What is the most satisfactory disease?
DOCTOR.—Paralysis of the thoracic duct.
F.—I am not familiar with it.
D.—It does not encourage familiarity. Paralysis of the thoracic duct enables the patient to accept as many invitations to dinner as he can secure, without danger of spoiling his appetite.
F.—But how long does his appetite last?
D.—That depends. Always a trifle longer than he does.
F.—The portion that survives him—?
D.—Goes to swell the Mighty Gastric Passion which lurks darkly Outside, yawning to swallow up material creation!
F.—Pitch it a biscuit.
* * * * *
FOOL.—You attend a patient. He gets well. Good! How do you tell whether his recovery is because of your treatment or in spite of it?
DOCTOR.—I never do tell.
F.—I mean how do you know?
D.—I take the opinion of a person interested in the question: I ask a fool.
F.—How does the patient know?
D.—The fool asks me.
F.—Amiable instructor! How shall I reward thee?
D.—Eat a cucumber cut up in shilling claret.
* * * * *
DOCTOR.—The relation between a patient and his disease is the same as that which obtains between the two wooden weather-prophets of a Dutch clock. When the disease goes off, the patient goes on; when the disease goes on, the patient goes off.
FOOL.—A pauper conceit. Their relations, then, are not of the most cordial character.
D.—One's relations—except the poorer sort—seldom are.
F.—My tympanum is smitten with pleasant peltings of wisdom! I 'll lay you ten to one you cannot tell me the present condition of your last patient.
F.—You have won the wager.
FOOL.—I once read the report of an actual conversation upon a scientific subject between a fool and a physician.
DOCTOR.—Indeed! That sort of conversation commonly takes place between fools only.
F.—The reporter had chosen to confound orthography: he spelt fool "phool," and physician "fysician." What the fool said was, therefore, preceded by "PH;" the remarks of the physician were indicated by the letter "F."
D.—This must have been very confusing.
F.—It was. But no one discovered that any liberties had been taken with orthography.
* * * * *
FOOL.—Suppose you had amongst your menials an ailing oyster?
DOCTOR.—Oysters do not ail.
F.—I have heard that the pearl is the result of a disease.
D.—Whether a functional derangement producing a valuable gem can be properly termed, or treated as, a disease, is open to honest doubt.
F.—Then in the case supposed you would not favour excision of the abnormal part?
D.—Yes; I would remove the oyster.
F.—But if the pearl were growing very rapidly this operation would not be immediately advisable.
D.—That would depend upon the symptomatic diagnosis.
F.—Beast! Give me air!
* * * * *
DOCTOR.—I have been thinking—
D.—That you "come out" rather well for a fool.
Can it be that I have been entertaining an angel unawares?
F.—Dismiss the apprehension: I am as great a fool as yourself. But there is a way by which in future you may resolve a similar doubt.
F.—Speak to your guest of symptomatic diagnosis. If he is an angel, he will not resent it.
* * * * *
SOLDIER (reading from "Napier").—"Who would not rather be buried by an army upon the field of battle than by a sexton in a church-yard!"
FOOL.—I give it up.
S.—I am not aware that any one has asked you for an opinion.
F.—I am not aware that I have given one: there is a happiness yet in store for you.
S.—I will revel in anticipation.
F.—You must revel somehow; without revelry there would be no soldiering.
F.—I beg your pardon: I had thought your profession had at least taught you to call people by their proper titles. In the service of mankind I hold the rank of Fool.
S.—What, ho! without there! Let the trumpets sound!
F.—I beg you will not.
S.—True; you beg: I will not.
F.—But why rob when stealing is more honourable?
S.—Consider the competition.
* * * * *
FOOL.—Sir Cut-throat, how many orphans have you made to-day?
SOLDIER.—The devil an orphan! Have you a family?
F.—Put up your iron; I am the last of my race.
S.—How? No more fools?
F.—Not one, so help me! They have all gone to the wars.
S.—And why, pray, have you not enlisted?
F.—I should be no fool if I knew.
* * * * *
FOOL.—You are somewhat indebted to me.
SOLDIER.—I do not acknowledge your claim. Let us submit the matter to arbitration.
F.—The only arbiter whose decision you respect is on your own side.
S.—You allude to my sword, the most impartial of weapons: it cuts both ways.
F.—And each way is peculiarly objectionable to your opponent.
S.—But for what am I indebted to you?
F.—For existence: the prevalence of me has made you possible.
S.—The benefit is not conspicuous; were it not for your quarrels, I should enjoy a quantity of elegant leisure.
F.—As a clodhopper.
S.—I should at least hop my clods in a humble and Christian spirit; and if some other fellow did did not so hop his—! I say no more.
F.—You have said enough; there would be war.
* * * * *
SOLDIER.—Why wear a cap and bells?
FOOL.—I hasten to crave pardon, and if spared will at once exchange them.
F.—A helmet and feather.
S.—G "hang a calf-skin on those recreant limbs."
F.—'T is only wisdom should be bound in calf.
F.—Because wisdom is the veal of which folly is the matured beef.
S.—Then folly should be garbed in cow-skin?
F.—Aye, that it might the more speedily appear for what it is—the naked truth.
S.—How should it?
F.—You would soon strip off its hide to make harness and trappings withal. No one thinks how much conquerors owe to cows.
* * * * *
FOOL.—Tell me, hero, what is strategy?
SOLDIER.—The art of laying two knives against one throat.
F.—And what are tactics?
S.—The art of driving them home.
S.—I'll bust thy crust! (Attempts to draw his sword, gets it between his legs, and falls along.)
F. (from a distance)—Shall I summon an army, or a sexton? And will you have it of bronze, or marble?
* * * * *
FOOL.—When you have gained a great victory, how much of the glory goes to the horse whose back you bestrode?
SOLDIER.—Nonsense! A horse cannot appreciate glory; he prefers corn.
F.—And this you call non-appreciation! But listen. (Reads) "During the Crusades, a part of the armament of a Turkish ship was two hundred serpents." In the pursuit of glory you are at least not above employing humble auxiliaries. These be curious allies.
S.—What stuff a fool may talk! No true soldier would pit a serpent against a brave enemy. These worms were sailors.
F.—A nice distinction, truly! Did you ever, my most acute professor of vivisection, employ your trenchant blade in the splitting of hairs?
S.—I have split masses of them.
* * * * *
FOOL.—Speaking of the Crusades: at the siege of Acre, when a part of the wall had been thrown down by the Christians, the Pisans rushed into the breach, but the greater part of their army being at dinner, they were bloodily repulsed.
SOLDIER.—You appear to have a minute acquaintance with military history.
F.—Yes—being a fool. But was it not a sin and a shame that those feeders should not stir from their porridge to succour their suffering comrades?
S.—Pray why should a man neglect his business to oblige a friend?
F.—But they might have taken and sacked the city.
S.—The selfish gluttons!
* * * * *
SOLDIER.—Your presumption grows intolerable; I'll hold no further parley with thee.
FOOL.—"Herculean gentleman, I dread thy drubs; pity the lifted whites of both my eyes!"
S.—Then speak no more of the things you do but imperfectly understand.
F.—Such censorship would doom all tongues to silence. But show me wherein my knowledge is deficient.
S.—What is an abattis?
F.—Rubbish placed in front of a fort, to keep the rubbish outside from getting at the rubbish inside.
S.—Egad! I'll part thy hair!
THE GRATEFUL BEAR.
I hope all my little readers have heard the story of Mr. Androcles and the lion; so I will relate it as nearly as I can remember it, with the caution that Androcles must not be confounded with the lion. If I had a picture representing Androcles with a silk hat, and the lion with a knot in his tail, the two might readily be distinguished; but the artist says he won't make any such picture, and we must try to get on without.
One day Androcles was gathering truffles in a forest, when he found a lion's den; and, walking into it, he lay down and slept. It was a custom, in his time, to sleep in lions' dens when practicable. The lion was absent, inspecting a zoological garden, and did not return until late; but he did return. He was surprised to find a stranger in his menagerie without a ticket; but, supposing him to be some contributor to a comic paper, did not eat him: he was very well satisfied not to be eaten by him. Presently Androcles awoke, wishing he had some seltzer water, or something. (Seltzer water is good after a night's debauch, and something—it is difficult to say what—is good to begin the new debauch with). Seeing the lion eyeing him, he began hastily to pencil his last will and testament upon the rocky floor of the den. What was his surprise to see the lion advance amicably and extend his right forefoot! Androcles, however, was equal to the occasion: he met the friendly overture with a cordial grasp of the hand, whereat the lion howled—for he had a carpet-tack in his foot. Perceiving that he had made a little mistake, Androcles made such reparation as was in his power by pulling out the tack and putting it in his own foot.
After this the beast could not do too much for him. He went out every morning—carefully locking the door behind him—and returned every evening, bringing in a nice fat baby from an adjacent village, and laying it gratefully at his benefactor's feet. For the first few days something seemed to have gone wrong with the benefactor's appetite, but presently he took very kindly to the new diet; and, as he could not get away, he lodged there, rent-free, all the days of his life—which terminated very abruptly one evening when the lion had not met with his usual success in hunting.
All this has very little to do with my story: I throw it in as a classical allusion, to meet the demands of a literary fashion which has its origin in the generous eagerness of writers to give the public more than it pays for. But the story of Androcles was a favourite with the bear whose adventures I am about to relate.
One day this crafty brute carefully inserted a thorn between two of his toes, and limped awkwardly to the farm-house of Dame Pinworthy, a widow, who with two beautiful whelps infested the forest where he resided. He knocked at the open door, sent in his card, and was duly admitted to the presence of the lady, who inquired his purpose. By way of "defining his position" he held up his foot, and snuffled very dolorously. The lady adjusted her spectacles, took the paw in her lap (she, too, had heard the tale of Androcles), and, after a close scrutiny, discovered the thorn, which, as delicately as possible, she extracted, the patient making wry faces and howling dismally the while.
When it was all over, and she had assured him there was no charge, his gratitude was a passion to observe! He desired to embrace her at once; but this, although a widow of seven years' standing, she would by no means permit; she said she was not personally averse to hugging, "but what would her dear departed—boo-hoo!—say of it?" This was very absurd, for Mr. Boo-hoo had seven feet of solid earth above him, and it couldn't make much difference what he said, even supposing he had enough tongue left to say anything, which he had not. However, the polite beast respected her scruples; so the only way in which he could testify his gratitude was by remaining to dinner. They had the housedog for dinner that day, though, from some false notion of hospitable etiquette, the woman and children did not take any.
On the next day, punctually at the same hour, the bear came again with another thorn, and stayed to dinner as before. It was not much of a dinner this time—only the cat, and a roll of stair-carpet, with one or two pieces of sheet music; but true gratitude does not despise even the humblest means of expression. The succeeding day he came as before; but after being relieved of his torment, he found nothing prepared for him. But when he took to thoughtfully licking one of the little girl's hands, "that answered not with a caress," the mother thought better of it, and drove in a small heifer.
He now came every day; he was so old a friend that the formality of extracting the thorn was no longer observed; it would have contributed nothing to the good understanding that existed between him and the widow. He thought that three or four instances of Good Samaritanism afforded ample matter for perpetual gratitude. His constant visits were bad for the live stock of the farm; for some kind of beast had to be in readiness each day to furnish forth the usual feast, and this prevented multiplication. Most of the textile fabrics, too, had disappeared; for the appetite of this animal was at the same time cosmopolitan and exacting: it would accept almost anything in the way of entremets, but something it would have. A hearthrug, a hall-mat, a cushion, mattress, blanket, shawl, or other article of wearing apparel—anything, in short, that was easy of ingestion was graciously approved. The widow tried him once with a box of coals as dessert to some barn-yard fowls; but this he seemed to regard as a doubtful comestible, seductive to the palate, but obstinate in the stomach. A look at one of the children always brought him something else, no matter what he was then engaged on.
It was suggested to Mrs. Pinworthy that she should poison the bear; but, after trying about a hundredweight of strychnia, arsenic, and Prussic acid, without any effect other than what might be expected from mild tonics, she thought it would not be right to go into toxicology. So the poor Widow Pinworthy went on, patiently enduring the consumption of her cattle, sheep, and hogs, the evaporation of her poultry, and the taking off of her bed linen, until there were left only the clothing of herself and children, some curtains, a sickly lamb, and a pet pigeon. When the bear came for these she ventured to expostulate. In this she was perfectly successful: the animal permitted her to expostulate as long as she liked. Then he ate the lamb and pigeon, took in a dish-cloth or two, and went away just as contentedly as if she had not uttered a word.
Nothing edible now stood between her little daughters and the grave. Her mental agony was painful to her mind; she could scarcely have suffered more without an increase of unhappiness. She was roused to desperation; and next day, when she saw the bear leaping across the fields toward the house, she staggered from her seat and shut the door. It was singular what a difference it made; she always remembered it after that, and wished she had thought of it before.
* * * * *
THE SETTING SACHEM.
'Twas an Injin chieftain, in feathers all fine, Who stood on the ocean's rim; There were numberless leagues of excellent brine— But there wasn't enough for him. So he knuckled a thumb in his painted eye, And added a tear to the scant supply.
The surges were breaking with thund'rous voice, The winds were a-shrieking shrill; This warrior thought that a trifle of noise Was needed to fill the bill. So he lifted the top of his head off and scowled— Exalted his voice, did this chieftain, and howled!
The sun was aflame in a field of gold That hung o'er the Western Sea; Bright banners of light were broadly unrolled, As banners of light should be. But no one was "speaking a piece" to that sun, And therefore this Medicine Man begun:
"O much heap of bright! O big ball of warm! I've tracked you from sea to sea! For the Paleface has been at some pains to inform Me, you are the emblem of me. He says to me, cheerfully: 'Westward Ho!' And westward I've hoed a most difficult row.
"Since you are the emblem of me, I presume That I am the emblem of you, And thus, as we're equals, 't is safe to assume, That one great law governs us two. So now if I set in the ocean with thee, With thee I shall rise again out of the sea."
His eloquence first, and his logic the last! Such orators die!—and he died: The trump was against him—his luck bad—he "passed"— And so he "passed out"—with the tide. This Injin is rid of the world with a whim— The world it is rid of his speeches and him.
* * * * *
Madame Yonsmit was a decayed gentlewoman who carried on her decomposition in a modest wayside cottage in Thuringia. She was an excellent sample of the Thuringian widow, a species not yet extinct, but trying very hard to become so. The same may be said of the whole genus. Madame Yonsmit was quite young, very comely, cultivated, gracious, and pleasing. Her home was a nest of domestic virtues, but she had a daughter who reflected but little credit upon the nest. Feodora was indeed a "bad egg"—a very wicked and ungrateful egg. You could see she was by her face. The girl had the most vicious countenance—it was repulsive! It was a face in which boldness struggled for the supremacy with cunning, and both were thrashed into subjection by avarice. It was this latter virtue in Feodora which kept her mother from having a taxable income.
Feodora's business was to beg on the highway. It wrung the heart of the honest amiable gentlewoman to have her daughter do this; but the h.a.g. having been reared in luxury, considered labour degrading—which it is—and there was not much to steal in that part of Thuringia. Feodora's mendicity would have provided an ample fund for their support, but unhappily that ingrate would hardly ever fetch home more than two or three shillings at a time. Goodness knows what she did with the rest.
Vainly the good woman pointed out the sin of coveteousness; vainly she would stand at the cottage door awaiting the child's return, and begin arguing the point with her the moment she came in sight: the receipts diminished daily until the average was less than tenpence—a sum upon which no born gentlewoman would deign to exist. So it became a matter of some importance to know where Feodora kept her banking account. Madame Yonsmit thought at first she would follow her and see; but although the good lady was as vigorous and sprightly as ever, carrying a crutch more for ornament than use, she abandoned this plan because it did not seem suitable to the dignity of a decayed gentlewoman. She employed a detective.
The foregoing particulars I have from Madame Yonsmit herself; for those immediately subjoining I am indebted to the detective, a skilful officer named Bowstr.
No sooner had the scraggy old hag communicated her suspicions than the officer knew exactly what to do. He first distributed hand-bills all over the country, stating that a certain person suspected of concealing money had better look sharp. He then went to the Home Secretary, and by not seeking to understate the real difficulties of the case, induced that functionary to offer a reward of a thousand pounds for the arrest of the malefactor. Next he proceeded to a distant town, and took into custody a clergyman who resembled Feodora in respect of wearing shoes. After these formal preliminaries he took up the case with some zeal. He was not at all actuated by a desire to obtain the reward, but by pure love of justice. The thought of securing the girl's private hoard for himself never for a moment entered his head.
He began to make frequent calls at the widow's cottage when Feodora was at home, when, by apparently careless conversation, he would endeavour to draw her out; but he was commonly frustrated by her old beast of a mother, who, when the girl's answers did not suit, would beat her unmercifully. So he took to meeting Feodora on the highway, and giving her coppers carefully marked. For months he kept this up with wonderful self-sacrifice—the girl being a mere uninteresting angel. He met her daily in the roads and forest. His patience never wearied, his vigilance never flagged. Her most careless glances were conscientiously noted, her lightest words treasured up in his memory. Meanwhile (the clergyman having been unjustly acquitted) he arrested everybody he could get his hands on. Matters went on in this way until it was time for the grand coup.
The succeeding-particulars I have from the lips of Feodora herself.
When that horrid Bowstr first came to the house Feodora thought he was rather impudent, but said, little about it to her mother—not desiring to have her back broken. She merely avoided him as much as she dared, he was so frightfully ugly. But she managed to endure him until he took to waylaying her on the highway, hanging about her all day, interfering with the customers, and walking home with her at night. Then her dislike deepened into disgust; and but for apprehensions not wholly unconnected with a certain crutch, she would have sent him about his business in short order. More than a thousand million times she told him to be off and leave her alone, but men are such fools—particularly this one.
What made Bowstr exceptionally disagreeable was his shameless habit of making fun of Feodora's mother, whom he declared crazy as a loon. But the maiden bore everything as well as she could, until one day the nasty thing put his arm about her waist and kissed her before her very face; then she felt—well, it is not clear how she felt, but of one thing she was quite sure: after having such a shame put upon her by this insolent brute, she would never go back under her dear mother's roof—never. She was too proud for that, at any rate. So she ran away with Mr. Bowstr, and married him.
The conclusion of this history I learned for myself.
Upon hearing of her daughter's desertion Madame Yonsmit went clean daft. She vowed she could bear betrayal, could endure decay, could stand being a widow, would not repine at being left alone in her old age (whenever she should become old), and could patiently submit to the sharper than a serpent's thanks of having a toothless child generally. But to be a mother-in-law! No, no; that was a plane of degradation to which she positively would not descend. So she employed me to cut her throat. It was the toughest throat I ever cut in all my life.
* * * * *
THE LEGEND OF IMMORTAL TRUTH.
A bear, having spread him a notable feast, Invited a famishing fox to the place. "I've killed me," quoth he, "an edible beast As ever distended the girdle of priest With 'spread of religion,' or 'inward grace.' To my den I conveyed her, I bled her and flayed her, I hung up her skin to dry; Then laid her naked, to keep her cool, On a slab of ice from the frozen pool; And there we will eat her—you and I."
The fox accepts, and away they walk, Beguiling the time with courteous talk. You'd ne'er have suspected, to see them smile, The bear was thinking, the blessed while, How, when his guest should be off his guard, With feasting hard, He'd give him a "wipe" that would spoil his style. You'd never have thought, to see them bow, The fox was reflecting deeply how He would best proceed, to circumvent His host, and prig The entire pig— Or other bird to the same intent. When Strength and Cunning in love combine, Be sure 't is to more than merely dine.
The while these biters ply the lip, A mile ahead the muse shall skip: The poet's purpose she best may serve Inside the den—if she have the nerve. Behold! laid out in dark recess, A ghastly goat in stark undress, Pallid and still on her gelid bed, And indisputably very dead. Her skin depends from a couple of pins— And here the most singular statement begins; For all at once the butchered beast, With easy grace for one deceased, Upreared her head, Looked round, and said, Very distinctly for one so dead: "The nights are sharp, and the sheets are thin: I find it uncommonly cold herein!"
I answer not how this was wrought: All miracles surpass my thought. They're vexing, say you? and dementing? Peace, peace! they're none of my inventing. But lest too much of mystery Embarrass this true history, I'll not relate how that this goat Stood up and stamped her feet, to inform'em With—what's the word?—I mean, to warm'em; Nor how she plucked her rough capote From off the pegs where Bruin threw it, And o'er her quaking body drew it; Nor how each act could so befall: I'll only swear she did them all; Then lingered pensive in the grot, As if she something had forgot, Till a humble voice and a voice of pride Were heard, in murmurs of love, outside. Then, like a rocket set aflight, She sprang, and streaked it for the light!
Ten million million years and a day Have rolled, since these events, away; But still the peasant at fall of night, Belated therenear, is oft affright By sounds of a phantom bear in flight; A breaking of branches under the hill; The noise of a going when all is still! And hens asleep on the perch, they say, Cackle sometimes in a startled way, As if they were dreaming a dream that mocks The lope and whiz of a fleeting fox!
Half we're taught, and teach to youth, And praise by rote, Is not, but merely stands for, truth. So of my goat: She's merely designed to represent The truth—"immortal" to this extent: Dead she may be, and skinned—frappe— Hid in a dreadful den away; Prey to the Churches—(any will do, Except the Church of me and you.) The simplest miracle, even then, Will get her up and about again.
CONVERTING A PRODIGAL.
Little Johnny was a saving youth—one who from early infancy had cultivated a provident habit. When other little boys were wasting their substance in riotous gingerbread and molasses candy, investing in missionary enterprises which paid no dividends, subscribing to the North Labrador Orphan Fund, and sending capital out of the country gene rally, Johnny would be sticking sixpences into the chimney-pot of a big tin house with "BANK" painted on it in red letters above an illusory door. Or he would put out odd pennies at appalling rates of interest, with his parents, and bank the income. He was never weary of dropping coppers into that insatiable chimney-pot, and leaving them there. In this latter respect he differed notably from his elder brother, Charlie; for, although Charles was fond of banking too, he was addicted to such frequent runs upon the institution with a hatchet, that it kept his parents honourably poor to purchase banks for him; so they were reluctantly compelled to discourage the depositing element in his panicky nature.
Johnny was not above work, either; to him "the dignity of labour" was not a juiceless platitude, as it is to me, but a living, nourishing truth, as satisfying and wholesome as that two sides of a triangle are equal to one side of bacon. He would hold horses for gentlemen who desired to step into a bar to inquire for letters. He would pursue the fleeting pig at the behest of a drover. He would carry water to the lions of a travelling menagerie, or do anything, for gain. He was sharp-witted too: before conveying a drop of comfort to the parching king of beasts, he would stipulate for six-pence instead of the usual free ticket—or "tasting order," so to speak. He cared not a button for the show.
The first hard work Johnny did of a morning was to look over the house for fugitive pins, needles, hair-pins, matches, and other unconsidered trifles; and if he sometimes found these where nobody had lost them, he made such reparation as was in his power by losing them again where nobody but he could find them. In the course of time, when he had garnered a good many, he would "realize," and bank the proceeds.
Nor was he weakly superstitious, this Johnny. You could not fool him with the Santa Claus hoax on Christmas Eve: he would lie awake all night, as sceptical as a priest; and along toward morning, getting quietly out of bed, would examine the pendent stockings of the other children, to satisfy himself the predicted presents were not there; and in the morning it always turned out that they were not. Then, when the other children cried because they did not get anything, and the parents affected surprise (as if they really believed in the venerable fiction), Johnny was too manly to utter a whimper: he would simply slip out of the back door, and engage in traffic with affluent orphans; disposing of woolly horses, tin whistles, marbles, tops, dolls, and sugar archangels, at a ruinous discount for cash. He continued these provident courses for nine long years, always banking his accretions with scrupulous care. Everybody predicted he would one day be a merchant prince or a railway king; and some added he would sell his crown to the junk-dealers.
His unthrifty brother, meanwhile, kept growing worse and worse. He was so careless of wealth—so so wastefully extravagant of lucre—that Johnny felt it his duty at times to clandestinely assume control of the fraternal finances, lest the habit of squandering should wreck the fraternal moral sense. It was plain that Charles had entered upon the broad road which leads from the cradle to the workhouse—and that he rather liked the travelling. So profuse was his prodigality that there were grave suspicions as to his method of acquiring what he so openly disbursed. There was but one opinion as to the melancholy termination of his career—a termination which he seemed to regard as eminently desirable. But one day, when the good pastor put it at him in so many words, Charles gave token of some apprehension.
"Do you really think so, sir?" said he, thoughtfully; "ain't you playin' it on me?"
"I assure you, Charles," said the good man, catching a ray of hope from the boy's dawning seriousness, "you will certainly end your days in a workhouse, unless you speedily abandon your course of extravagance. There is nothing like habit—nothing!"
Charles may have thought that, considering his frequent and lavish contributions to the missionary fund, the parson was rather hard upon him; but he did not say so. He went away in mournful silence, and began pelting a blind beggar with coppers.
One day, when Johnny had been more than usually provident, and Charles proportionately prodigal, their father, having exhausted moral suasion to no apparent purpose, determined to have recourse to a lower order of argument: he would try to win Charles to economy by an appeal to his grosser nature. So he convened the entire family, and,
"Johnny," said he, "do you think you have much money in your bank? You ought to have saved a considerable sum in nine years."
Johnny took the alarm in a minute: perhaps there was some barefooted little girl to be endowed with Sunday-school books.
"No," he answered, reflectively, "I don't think there can be much. There's been a good deal of cold weather this winter, and you know how metal shrinks! No-o-o, I'm sure there can't be only a little."
"Well, Johnny, you go up and bring down your bank. We'll see. Perhaps Charles may be right, after all; and it's not worth while to save money. I don't want a son of mine to get into a bad habit unless it pays."
So Johnny travelled reluctantly up to his garret, and went to the corner where his big tin bank-box had sat on a chest undisturbed for years. He had long ago fortified himself against temptation by vowing never to even shake it; for he remembered that formerly when Charles used to shake his, and rattle the coins inside, he always ended by smashing in the roof. Johnny approached his bank, and taking hold of the cornice on either side, braced himself, gave a strong lift upwards, and keeled over upon his back with the edifice atop of him, like one of the figures in a picture of the great Lisbon earthquake! There was but a single coin in it; and that, by an ingenious device, was suspended in the centre, so that every piece popped in at the chimney would clink upon it in passing through Charlie's little hole into Charlie's little stocking hanging innocently beneath.
Of course restitution was out of the question; and even Johnny felt that any merely temporal punishment would be weakly inadequate to the demands of justice. But that night, in the dead silence of his chamber, Johnny registered a great and solemn swear that so soon as he could worry together a little capital, he would fling his feeble remaining energies into the spendthrift business. And he did so.
* * * * *
FOUR JACKS AND A KNAVE.
In the "backwoods" of Pennsylvania stood a little mill. The miller appertaining unto this mill was a Pennsylvania Dutchman—a species of animal in which for some centuries sauerkraut has been usurping the place of sense. In Hans Donnerspiel the usurpation was not complete; he still knew enough to go in when it rained, but he did not know enough to stay there after the storm had blown over. Hans was known to a large circle of friends and admirers as about the worst miller in those parts; but as he was the only one, people who quarrelled with an exclusively meat diet continued to patronize him. He was honest, as all stupid people are; but he was careless. So absent-minded was he, that sometimes when grinding somebody's wheat he would thoughtlessly turn into the "hopper" a bag of rye, a lot of old beer-bottles, or a basket of fish. This made the flour so peculiar, that the people about there never knew what it was to be well a day in all their lives. There were so many local diseases in that vicinity, that a doctor from twenty miles away could not have killed a patient in a week.
Hans meant well; but he had a hobby—a hobby that he did not ride: that does not express it: it rode him. It spurred him so hard, that the poor wretch could not pause a minute to see what he was putting into his mill. This hobby was the purchase of jackasses. He expended all his income in this diversion, and his mill was fairly sinking under its weight of mortgages. He had more jackasses than he had hairs on his head, and, as a rule, they were thinner. He was no mere amateur collector either, but a sharp discriminating connoisseur. He would buy a fat globular donkey if he could not do better; but a lank shabby one was the apple of his eye. He rolled such a one, as it were, like a sweet morsel under his tongue.
Hans's nearest neighbour was a worthless young scamp named Jo Garvey, who lived mainly by hunting and fishing. Jo was a sharp-witted rascal, without a single scruple between, himself and fortune. With a tithe of Hans's industry he might have been almost anything; but his dense laziness always rose up like a stone wall about him, shutting him in like a toad in a rock. The exact opposite of Hans in almost every respect, he was notably similar in one: he had a hobby. Jo's hobby was the selling of jackasses.
One day, while Hans's upper and nether mill-stones were making it lively for a mingled grist of corn, potatoes, and young chickens, he heard Joseph calling outside. Stepping to the door, he saw him holding three halters to which were appended three donkeys.
"I say, Hans," said he, "here are three fine animals for your stud. I have brought 'em up from the egg, and I know 'em to be first-class. But they 're not so big as I expected, and you may have 'em for a sack of oats each."
Hans was delighted. He had not the least doubt in the world that Joe had stolen them; but it was a fixed principle with him never to let a donkey go away and say he was a hard man to deal with. He at once brought out and delivered the oats. Jo gravely examined the quality, and placing a sack across each animal, calmly led them away.
When he had gone, it occurred to Hans that he had less oats and no more asses than he had before.
"Tuyfel!" he exclaimed, scratching his pow; "I puy dot yackasses, und I don't vos god 'im so mooch as I didn't haf 'im before—ain't it?"
Very much to his comfort it was, therefore, to see Jo come by next day leading the same animals.
"Hi!" he shrieked; "you prings me to my yackasses. You gif me to my broberdy back!"
"Oh, very well, Hans. If you want to crawfish out of a fair bargain, all right. I'll give you back your donkeys, and you give me back my oats."
"Yaw, yaw," assented the mollified miller; "you his von honest shentlemans as I vos efer vent anyvhere. But I don't god ony more oats, und you moost dake vheat, eh?"
And fetching out three sacks of wheat, he handed them over. Jo was proceeding to lay these upon the backs of the animals; but this was too thin for even Hans.
"Ach! you tief-veller! you leabs dis yackasses in me, und go right avay off; odther I bust your het mid a gloob, don't it?"
So Joseph was reluctantly constrained to hang the donkeys to a fence. While he did this, Hans was making a desperate attempt to think. Presently he brightened up:
"Yo, how you coom by dot vheat all de dime?"
"Why, old mudhead, you gave it to me for the jacks."
"Und how you coom by dot oats pooty soon avhile ago?"
"Why, I gave that to you for them," said Joseph, pressed very hard for a reply.
"Vell, den, you goes vetch me back to dot oats so gwicker as a lamb gedwinkle his dail—hay?"
"All right, Hans. Lend me the donkeys to carry off my wheat, and I 'll bring back your oats on 'em."
Joseph was beginning to despair; but no objection being made, he loaded up the grain, and made off with his docile caravan. In a half-hour he returned with the donkeys, but of course without anything else.
"I zay, Yo, where is dis oats I hear zo mooch dalk aboud still?"
"Oh, curse you and your oats!" growled Jo, with simulated anger. "You make such a fuss about a bargain, I have decided not to trade. Take your old donkeys, and call it square!"
"Den vhere mine vheat is?"
"Now look here, Hans; that wheat is yours, is it?"
"And the donkeys are yours, eh?"
"And the wheat's been yours all the time, has it?"
"Well, so have the donkeys. I took 'em out of your pasture in the first place. Now what have you got to complain of?"
The Dutchman reflected all over his head with' his forefinger-nail.
"Gomblain? I no gomblain ven it is all right. I zee now I vos made a mistaken. Coom, dake a drinks."
Jo left the animals standing, and went inside, where they pledged one another in brimming mugs of beer. Then taking Hans by the hand,
"I am sorry," said he, "we can't trade. Perhaps some other day you will be more reasonable. Good bye!"
And Joseph departed leading away the donkeys!
Hans stood for some moments gazing after him with a complacent smile making his fat face ridiculous. Then turning to his mill-stones, he shook his head with an air of intense self-satisfaction:
"Py donner! Dot Yo Garfey bees a geen, shmard yockey, but he gonnot spiel me svoppin' yackasses!"
* * * * *
DR. DEADWOOD, I PRESUME.
My name is Shandy, and this is the record of my Sentimental Journey. Mr. Ames Jordan Gannett, proprietor's son of the "York——," with which paper I am connected by marriage, sent me a post-card in a sealed envelope, asking me to call at a well-known restaurant in Regent Street. I was then at a well-known restaurant in Houndsditch. I put on my worst and only hat, and went. I found Mr. Gannett, at dinner, eating pease with his knife, in the manner of his countrymen. He opened the conversation, characteristically, thus:
"Where's Dr. Deadwood?"
After several ineffectual guesses I had a happy thought. I asked him:
"Am I my brother's bar-keeper?"
Mr. Gannett pondered deeply, with his forefinger alongside his nose. Finally he replied:
"I give it up."
He continued to eat for some moments in profound silence, as that of a man very much in earnest. Suddenly he resumed:
"Here is a blank cheque, signed. I will send you all my father's personal property to-morrow. Take this and find Dr. Deadwood. Find him actually if you can, but find him. Away!"
I did as requested; that is, I took the cheque. Having supplied myself with such luxuries as were absolutely necessary, I retired to my lodgings. Upon my table in the centre of the room were spread some clean white sheets of foolscap, and sat a bottle of black ink. It was a good omen: the virgin paper was typical of the unexplored interior of Africa; the sable ink represented the night of barbarism, or the hue of barbarians, indifferently.
Now began the most arduous undertaking mentioned in the "York——," I mean in history. Lighting my pipe, and fixing my eye upon the ink and paper, I put my hands behind my back and took my departure from the hearthrug toward the Interior. Language fails me; I throw myself upon the reader's imagination. Before I had taken two steps, my vision alighted upon the circular of a quack physician, which I had brought home the day before around a bottle of hair-wash. I now saw the words, "Twenty-one fevers!" This prostrated me for I know not how long. Recovering, I took a step forward, when my eyes fastened themselves upon my pen-wiper, worked into the similitude of a tiger. This compelled me to retreat to the hearthrug for reinforcements. The red-and-white dog displayed upon that article turned a deaf ear to my entreaties; nothing would move him.
A torrent of rain now began falling outside, and I knew the roads were impassable; but, chafing with impatience, I resolved upon another advance. Cautiously proceeding via the sofa, my attention fell upon a scrap of newspaper; and, to my unspeakable disappointment, I read:
"The various tribes of the Interior are engaged in a bitter warfare."
It may have related to America, but I could not afford to hazard all upon a guess. I made a wide detour by way of the coal-scuttle, and skirted painfully along the sideboard. All this consumed so much time that my pipe expired in gloom, and I went back to the hearthrug to get a match off the chimney-piece. Having done so, I stepped over to the table and sat down, taking up the pen and spreading the paper between myself and the ink-bottle. It was late, and something must be done. Writing the familiar word Ujijijijijiji, I caught a neighbourly cockroach, skewered him upon a pin, and fastened him in the centre of the word. At this supreme moment I felt inclined to fall upon his neck and devour him with kisses; but knowing by experience that cockroaches are not good to eat, I restrained my feelings. Lifting my hat, I said:
"Dr. Deadwood, I presume?"
He did not deny it!
Seeing he was feeling sick, I gave him a bit of cheese and cheered him up a trifle. After he was well restored,
"Tell me," said I, "is it true that the Regent's Canal falls into Lake Michigan, thence running uphill to Omaha, as related by Ptolemy, thence spirally to Melbourne, where it joins the delta of the Ganges and becomes an affluent of the Albert Nicaragua, as Herodotus maintains?"
HE DID NOT DENY IT!
The rest is known to the public.
* * * * *
In the city of Algammon resided the Prince Champou, who was madly enamoured of the Lady Capilla. She returned his affection—unopened.
In the matter of back-hair the Lady Capilla was blessed even beyond her deserts. Her natural pigtail was so intolerably long that she employed two pages to look after it when she walked out; the one a few yards behind her, the other at the extreme end of the line. Their names were Dan and Beersheba, respectively.
Aside from salaries to these dependents, and quite apart from the consideration of macassar, the possession of all this animal filament was financially unprofitable: the hair market was buoyant, and hers represented a large amount of idle capital. And it was otherwise a source of annoyance and irritation; for all the young men of the city were hotly in love with her, and skirmishing for a love-lock. They seldom troubled Dan much, but the outlying Beersheba had an animated time of it. He was subject to constant incursions, and was always in a riot.
The picture I have drawn to illustrate this history shows nothing of all these squabbles. My pen revels in the battle's din, but my peaceful pencil loves to depict the scenes I know something about.
Although the Lady Capilla was unwilling to reciprocate the passion of Champou the man, she was not averse to quiet interviews with Champou the Prince. In the course of one of these (see my picture), as she sat listening to his carefully-rehearsed and really artistic avowals, with her tail hanging out of the window, she suddenly interrupted him:
"My dear Prince," said she, "it is all nonsense, you know, to ask for my heart; but I am not mean; you shall have a lock of my hair."
"Do you think," replied the Prince, "that I could be so sordid as to accept a single jewel from that glorious crown? I love this hair of yours very dearly, I admit, but only because of its connection with your divine head. Sever that connection, and I should value it no more than I would a tail plucked from its native cow."
This comparison seems to me a very fine one, but tastes differ, and to the Lady Capilla it seemed quite the reverse. Rising indignantly, she marched away, her queue running in through the window and gradually tapering off the interview, as it were. Prince Champou saw that he had missed his opportunity, and resolved to repair his error. Straightway he forged an order on Beersheba for thirty yards of love-lock. To serve this writ he sent his business partner; for the Prince was wont to beguile his dragging leisure by tonsorial diversions in an obscure quarter of the town. At first Beersheba was sceptical, but when he saw the writing in real ink, his scruples vanished, and he chopped off the amount of souvenir demanded.
Now Champou's partner was the Court barber, and by the use of a peculiar hair oil which the two of them had concocted, they soon managed to balden the pates of all the male aristocracy of the place. Then, to supply the demand so created, they devised beautiful wigs from the Lady Capilla's lost tresses, which they sold at a marvellous profit. And so they were enabled to retire from this narrative with good incomes.
It was known that the Lady Capilla, who, since the alleged murder of one Beersheba, had shut herself up like a hermit, or a jack-knife, would re-enter society; and a great ball was given to do her honour. The feauty, bank, and rashion of Algammon had assembled in the Guildhall for that purpose. While the revelry was at its fiercest, the dancing at its loosest, the rooms at their hottest, and the perspiration at spring-tide, there was a sound of wheels outside, begetting an instant hush of expectation within. The dancers ceased to spin, and all the gentlemen crowded about the door. As the Lady Capilla entered, these instinctively fell into two lines, and she passed down the space between, with her little tail behind her. As the end of the latter came into the room, the wigs of the two gentlemen nearest the door leaped off to join their parent stem. In their haste to recover them the two gentlemen bent eagerly forward, knocking their shining pows together with a vehemence that shattered them like egg-shells. The wigs of the next pair were similarly affected; and in seeking to recover them the pair similarly perished. Then, crack! spat! pash!—at every step the lady took there were two heads that beat as one. In three minutes there was but a single living male in the room. He was an odd one, who, having a lady opposite him, had merely pitched himself headlong into her stomach, doubling her like a lemon-squeezer.
It was merry to see the Lady Capilla floating through the mazy dance that night, with all those wigs fighting for their old places in her pigtail.
* * * * *
THE MAGICIAN'S LITTLE JOKE.
About the middle of the fifteenth century there dwelt in the Black Forest a pretty but unfashionable young maiden named Simprella Whiskiblote. The first of these names was hers in monopoly; the other she enjoyed in common with her father. Simprella was the most beautiful fifteenth-century girl I ever saw. She had coloured eyes, a complexion, some hair, and two lips very nearly alike, which partially covered a lot of teeth. She was gifted with the complement of legs commonly worn at that period, supporting a body to which were loosely attached, in the manner of her country, as many arms as she had any use for, inasmuch as she was not required to hold baby. But all these charms were only so many objective points for the operations of the paternal cudgel; for this father of hers was a hard, unfeeling man, who had no bowels of compassion for his bludgeon. He would put it to work early, and keep it going all day; and when it was worn out with hard service, instead of rewarding it with steady employment, he would cruelly throw it aside and get a fresh one. It is scarcely to be wondered at that a girl harried in this way should be driven to the insane expedient of falling in love.
Near the neat mud cottage in which Simprella vegetated was a dense wood, extending for miles in various directions, according to the point from which it was viewed. By a method readily understood, it had been so arranged that it was the next easiest thing in the world to get into it, and the very easiest thing in the world to stay there.
In the centre of this labyrinth was a castle of the early promiscuous order of architecture—an order which was until recently much employed in the construction of powder-works, but is now entirely exploded. In this baronial hall lived an eligible single party—a giant so tall he used a step-ladder to put on his hat, and could not put his hands into his pockets without kneeling. He lived entirely alone, and gave himself up to the practice of iniquity, devising prohibitory liquor laws, imposing the income tax, and drinking shilling claret. But, seeing Simprella one day, he bent himself into the form of a horse-shoe magnet to look into her eyes. Whether it was his magnetic attitude acting upon a young heart steeled by adversity, or his chivalric forbearance in not eating her, I know not: I only know that from that moment she became riotously enamoured of him; and the reader may accept either the scientific or the popular explanation, according to the bent of his mind.
She at once asked the giant in marriage, and obtained the consent of his parents by betraying her father into their hands; explaining to them, however, that he was not good to eat, but might be drunk on the premises.
The marriage proved a very happy one, but the household duties of the bride were extremely irksome. It fatigued her to dress the beeves for dinner; it nearly broke her back to black her lord's boots without any scaffolding. It took her all day to perform any kindly little office for him. But she bore it all uncomplainingly, until one morning he asked her to part his back hair; then the bent sapling of her spirit flew up and hit him in the face. She gathered up some French novels, and retired to a lonely tower to breathe out her soul in unavailing regrets.
One day she saw below her in the forest a dear gazelle, gladding her with its soft black eye. She leaned out of the window, and said Scat! The animal did not move. Then she waved her arms—above described—and said Shew! This time he did not move as much as he did before. Simprella decided he must have a bill against her; so she closed her shutters, drew down the blind, and pinned the curtains together. A moment later she opened them and peeped out. Then she went down to examine his collar, that she might order one like it.
When the gazelle saw Simprella approach, he arose, and, beckoning with his tail, made off slowly into the wood. Then Simprella perceived this was a supernatural gazelle—a variety now extinct, but which then pervaded the Schwarzwald in considerable quantity—sent by some good magician, who owed the giant a grudge, to pilot her out of the forest. Nothing could exceed her joy at this discovery: she whistled a dirge, sang a Latin hymn, and preached a funeral discourse all in one breath. Such were the artless methods by which the full heart in the fifteenth century was compelled to express its gratitute for benefits; the advertising columns of the daily papers were not then open to the benefactor's pen.
All would now have been well, but for the fact that it was not. In following her deliverer, Simprella observed that his golden collar was inscribed with the mystic words—HANDS OFF! She tried hard to obey the injunction; she did her level best; she—but why amplify? Simprella was a woman.
No sooner had her fingers touched the slender chain depending from the magic collar, than the poor animal's eyes emitted twin tears, which coursed silently but firmly down his nose, vacating it more in sorrow than in anger. Then he looked up reproachfully into her face. Those were his first tears—this was his last look. In two minutes by the watch he was blind as a mole!
There is but little more to tell. The giant ate himself to death; the castle mouldered and crumbled into pig-pens; empires rose and fell; kings ascended their thrones, and got down again; mountains grew grey, and rivers bald-headed; suits in chancery were brought and decided, and those from the tailor were paid for; the ages came, like maiden aunts, uninvited, and lingered till they became a bore—and still Simprella, with the magician's curse upon her, conducted her sightless guide through the interminable wilderness!
To all others the labyrinth had yielded up its clue. The hunter threaded its maze; the woodman plunged confidently into its innermost depths; the peasant child gathered ferns unscared in its sunless dells. But often the child abandoned his botany in terror, the woodman bolted for home, and the hunter's heart went down into his boots, at the sight of a fair young spectre leading a blind phantom through the silent glades. I saw them there in 1860, while I was gunning. I shot them.
My envious rivals have always sought to cast discredit upon the following tale, by affirming that mere unadorned truth does not constitute a work of literary merit. Be it so: I care not what they call it. A rose with any other smell would be as sweet.
In the autumn of 1868 I wanted to go from Sacramento, California, to San Francisco. I at once went to the railway office and bought a ticket, the clerk telling me that would take me there. But when I tried it, it wouldn't. Vainly I laid it on the railway and sat down upon it: it would not move; and every few minutes an engine would come along and crowd me off the track. I never travelled by so badly managed a line!
I then resolved to go by way of the river, and took passage on a steamboat. The engineer of this boat had once been a candidate for the State Legislature while I was editing a newspaper. Stung to madness by the arguments I had advanced against his election (which consisted mainly in relating how that his cousin was hanged for horse-stealing, and how that his sister had an intolerable squint which a free people could never abide), he had sworn to be revenged. After his defeat I had confessed the charges were false, so far as he personally was concerned, but this did not seem to appease him. He declared he would "get even on me," and he did: he blew up the boat.
Being thus summarily set ashore, I determined that I would be independent of common carriers destitute of common courtesy. I purchased a wooden box, just large enough to admit one, and not transferable. I lay down in this, double-locked it on the outside, and carrying it to the river, launched it upon the watery waste. The box, I soon discovered, had an hereditary tendency to turn over. I had parted my hair in the middle before embarking, but the precaution was inadequate; it secured not immunity, only impartiality, the box turning over one way as readily as the other. I could counteract this evil only by shifting my tobacco from cheek to cheek, and in this way I got on tolerably well until my navy sprang a leak near the stern.
I now began to wish I had not locked down the cover; I could have got out and walked ashore. But it was childish to give way to foolish regrets; so I lay perfectly quiet, and yelled. Presently I thought of my jack-knife. By this time the ship was so water-logged as to be a little more stable. This enabled me to get the knife from my pocket without upsetting more than six or eight times, and inspired hope. Taking the whittle between my teeth, I turned over upon my stomach, and cut a hole through the bottom near the bow. Turning back again, I awaited the result. Most men would have awaited the result, I think, if they could not have got out. For some time there was no result. The ship was too deeply laden astern, where my feet were, and water will not run up hill unless it is paid to do it. But when I called in all my faculties for a good earnest think, the weight of my intellect turned the scale. It was like a cargo of pig-lead in the forecastle. The water, which for nearly an hour I had kept down by drinking it as it rose about my lips, began to run out at the hole I had scuttled, faster than it could be admitted at the one in the stern; and in a few moments the bottom was so dry you might have lighted a match upon it, if you had been there, and obtained the captain's permission.