The wit and humor of ame.., p.4

The Wit and Humor of America, Volume VII. (of X.), page 4

 part  #VII. (of X.) of  The Wit and Humor of America Series

 

The Wit and Humor of America, Volume VII. (of X.)
 


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  "What disease? Why, scarlet fever, to be sure."

  "And is it contagious?"

  "Certainly!"

  "Then I am a dead man!" exclaimed the notary, putting his pipe into hiswaistcoat-pocket, and beginning to walk up and down the room in despair."I am a dead man! Now don't deceive me,--don't, will you? What--what arethe symptoms?"

  "A sharp, burning pain in the right side," said the apothecary.

  "O, what a fool I was to come here!"

  In vain did the housekeeper and the apothecary strive to pacify him;--hewas not a man to be reasoned with; he answered that he knew his ownconstitution better than they did, and insisted upon going home withoutdelay. Unfortunately, the vehicle he came in had returned to the city,and the whole neighborhood was abed and asleep. What was to be done?Nothing in the world but to take the apothecary's horse, which stoodhitched at the door, patiently waiting his master's will.

  Well, gentlemen, as there was no remedy, our notary mounted thisraw-boned steed and set forth upon his homeward journey. The night wascold and gusty, and the wind right in his teeth. Overhead the leadenclouds were beating to and fro, and through them the newly-risen moonseemed to be tossing and drifting along like a cock-boat in the surf;now swallowed up in a huge billow of cloud, and now lifted upon itsbosom and dashed with silvery spray. The trees by the road-side groanedwith a sound of evil omen; and before him lay three mortal miles, besetwith a thousand imaginary perils. Obedient to the whip and spur, thesteed leaped forward by fits and starts, now dashing away in atremendous gallop, and now relaxing into a long, hard trot; while therider, filled with symptoms of disease and dire presentiments of death,urged him on, as if he were fleeing before the pestilence.

  In this way, by dint of whistling and shouting, and beating right andleft, one mile of the fatal three was safely passed. The apprehensionsof the notary had so far subsided, that he even suffered the poor horseto walk up hill; but these apprehensions were suddenly revived againwith tenfold violence by a sharp pain in the right side, which seemed topierce him like a needle.

  "It is upon me at last!" groaned the fear-stricken man. "Heaven bemerciful to me, the greatest of sinners! And must I die in a ditch,after all? He! get up,--get up!"

  And away went horse and rider at full speed,--hurry-scurry,--up hill anddown,--panting and blowing like a whirlwind. At every leap the pain inthe rider's side seemed to increase. At first it was a little point likethe prick of a needle,--then it spread to the size of a half-francpiece,--then covered a place as large as the palm of your hand. Itgained upon him fast. The poor man groaned aloud in agony; faster andfaster sped the horse over the frozen ground,--farther and fartherspread the pain over his side. To complete the dismal picture the stormcommenced,--snow mingled with rain. But snow, and rain, and cold werenaught to him; for, though his arms and legs were frozen to icicles, hefelt it not; the fatal symptom was upon him; he was doomed to die,--notof cold, but of scarlet fever!

  At length, he knew not how, more dead than alive, he reached the gate ofthe city. A band of ill-bred dogs, that were serenading at a corner ofthe street, seeing the notary dash by, joined in the hue and cry, andran barking and yelping at his heels. It was now late at night, and onlyhere and there a solitary lamp twinkled from an upper story. But on wentthe notary, down this street and up that, till at last he reached hisown door. There was a light in his wife's bedroom. The good woman cameto the window, alarmed at such a knocking, and howling, and clatteringat her door so late at night; and the notary was too deeply absorbed inhis own sorrows to observe that the lamp cast the shadow of two heads onthe window-curtain.

  "Let me in! let me in! Quick! quick!" he exclaimed, almost breathlessfrom terror and fatigue.

  "Who are you, that come to disturb a lone woman at this hour of thenight?" cried a sharp voice from above. "Begone about your business, andlet quiet people sleep."

  "Come down and let me in! I am your husband! Don't you know my voice?Quick, I beseech you; for I am dying here in the street!"

  After a few moments of delay and a few more words of parley, the doorwas opened, and the notary stalked into his domicile, pale and haggardin aspect, and as stiff and straight as a ghost. Cased from head to heelin an armor of ice, as the glare of the lamp fell upon him, he lookedlike a knight-errant mailed in steel. But in one place his armor wasbroken. On his right side was a circular spot, as large as the crown ofyour hat, and about as black!

  "My dear wife!" he exclaimed with more tenderness than he had exhibitedfor many years, "Reach me a chair. My hours are numbered. I am a deadman!"

  Alarmed at these exclamations, his wife stripped off his overcoat.Something fell from beneath it, and was dashed to pieces on the hearth.It was the notary's pipe! He placed his hand upon his side, and, lo! itwas bare to the skin! Coat, waistcoat, and linen were burnt through andthrough, and there was a blister on his side as large as your hand!

  The mystery was soon explained, symptom and all. The notary had put hispipe into his pocket without knocking out the ashes! And so my storyends.

  * * * * *

  "Is that all?" asked the radical, when the story-teller had finished.

  "That is all."

  "Well, what does your story prove?"

  "That is more than I can tell. All I know is that the story is true."

  "And did he die?" said the nice little man in gosling-green.

  "Yes; he died afterwards," replied the story-teller, rather annoyed bythe question.

  "And what did he die of?" continued gosling-green, following him up.

  "What did he die of? why, he died--of a sudden!"

  HOLLY SONG

  BY CLINTON SCOLLARD

  Care is but a broken bubble, Trill the carol, troll the catch; Sooth, we'll cry, "A truce to trouble!" Mirth and mistletoe shall match.

  _Happy folly! we'll be jolly! Who'd be melancholy now? With a "Hey, the holly! Ho, the holly!" Polly hangs the holly bough._

  Laughter lurking in the eye, sir, Pleasure foots it frisk and free. He who frowns or looks awry, sir, Faith, a witless wight is he!

  _Merry folly! what a volley Greets the hanging of the bough! With a "Hey, the holly! Ho, the holly!" Who'd be melancholy now?_

  SONGS WITHOUT WORDS

  BY ROBERT J. BURDETTE

  I can not sing the old songs, Though well I know the tune, Familiar as a cradle song With sleep-compelling croon; Yet though I'm filled with music As choirs of summer birds, "I can not sing the old songs"-- I do not know the words.

  I start on "Hail Columbia," And get to "heav'n-born band," And there I strike an up-grade With neither steam nor sand; "Star Spangled Banner" downs me Right in my wildest screaming, I start all right, but dumbly come To voiceless wreck at "streaming."

  So, when I sing the old songs, Don't murmur or complain If "Ti, diddy ah da, tum dum," Should fill the sweetest strain. I love "Tolly um dum di do," And the "trilla-la yeep da"-birds, But "I can not sing the old songs"-- I do not know the words.

  TRIOLETS

  BY C.W.M.

  She threw me a kiss, But why did she throw it? What grieves me is this-- She threw me a kiss; Ah, what chances we miss If we only could know it! She threw me a kiss But why did she throw it!

  Any girl might have known When I stood there so near! And we two all alone Any girl might have known That she needn't have thrown! But then girls are so queer! Any girl might have known, When I stood there so near!

  WHAT SHE SAID ABOUT IT

  BY JOHN PAUL

  Lyrics to Inez and Jane, Dolores and Ethel and May; Senoritas distant as Spain, And damsels just over the way!

  It is not that I'm jealous, nor that, Of either Dolores or Jane, Of some girl in an opposite flat, Or in one of his c
astles in Spain,

  But it is that salable prose Put aside for this profitless strain, I sit the day darning his hose-- And he sings of Dolores and Jane.

  Though the winged-horse must caracole free-- With the pretty, when "spurning the plain," Should the team-work fall wholly on me While he soars with Dolores and Jane?

  _I_ am neither Dolores nor Jane, But to lighten a little my life Might the Poet not spare me a strain-- Although I am only his wife!

  AN EDUCATIONAL PROJECT

  BY ROY FARRELL GREENE

  Since schools to teach one this or that Are being started every day, I have the plan, a notion pat, Of one which I am sure would pay. 'Twould be a venture strictly new, No shaking up of dusty bones; How does the scheme appeal to you? A regular school for chaperones!

  One course would be to dull the ear, And one would be to dim the eye, So whispered love they'd never hear, And glance coquettish never spy; They'd be taught somnolence, and how Ofttimes closed eye for sleep atones; Had I a million, I'd endow A regular school for chaperones!

  There's crying need in West and East For graduates, and not a source Supplying it. Some one at least Should start a correspondence course; But joy will scarce o'errun the cup Of maidenhood, my candor owns, Till some skilled Mentor opens up A regular school for chaperones!

  THE CAMP-MEETING

  BY BAYNARD RUST HALL

  The camp was furnished with several stands for preaching, exhorting,jumping and jerking; but still one place was the pulpit, above allothers. This was a large scaffold, secured between two noble sugartrees, and railed in to prevent from falling over in a swoon, orspringing over in an ecstasy; its cover the dense foliage of the trees,whose trunks formed the graceful and massive columns. Here was said tobe also the _altar_, but I could not see its _horns_ or any _sacrifice_;and the pen, which I _did_ see--a place full of clean straw, where wereput into fold stray sheep willing to return. It was at this pulpit, withits altar and pen, the regular preaching was done; around here thecongregation assembled; hence orders were issued; here, happened thehardest fights, and were gained the greatest victories, being the spotwhere it was understood Satan fought in person; and here could be seengestures the most frantic, and heard noises the most unimaginable, andoften the most appalling. It was the place, in short, where most crowdedeither with praiseworthy intentions of getting some religion, or withunholy purposes of being amused; we, of course, designing neither onenor the other, but only to see philosophically and make up an opinion.At every grand outcry a simultaneous rush would, however, take placefrom all parts of the camp, proper and improper, towards the pulpit,altar, and pen; till the crowding, by increasing the suffocation andthe fainting, would increase the tumult and the uproar; but this, in theestimation of many devotees, only rendered the meeting more lively andinteresting.

  By considering what was done at this central station one may approximatethe amount of spiritual labor done in a day, and then a week in thewhole camp:

  1. About day-break on Sabbath a horn _blasted_ us up for public prayerand exhortation, the exercises continuing nearly two hours.

  2. Before breakfast, another blast for family and private prayer; andthen every tent became, in camp language, "a bethel of struggling Jacobsand prevailing Israels," every tree "an altar;" and every grove "asecret closet;" till the air all became religious words and phrases, andvocal with "Amens."

  3. After a proper interval came a horn for the forenoon service; thenwas delivered the sermon, and that followed by an appendix of some halfdozen exhortations let off right and left, and even _behind_ the pulpit,that all might have a portion in due season.

  4. We had private and secret prayer again before dinner;--someclambering into thick trees to be hid, but forgetting in theirsimplicity, that they were heard and betrayed. But religious devotionexcuses all errors and mistakes.

  5. The afternoon sermon with its bob-tail string of exhortations.

  6. Private and family prayer about tea time.

  7. But lastly, we had what was termed "a precious season," in the thirdregular service at the _principia_ of the camp. This season began notlong after tea and was kept up long after I left the ground; which wasabout midnight. And now sermon after sermon and exhortation afterexhortation followed like shallow, foaming, roaring waters; till thespeakers were exhausted and the assembly became an uneasy and billowymass, now hushing to a sobbing quiescence, and now rousing by the groansof sinners and the triumphant cries of folks that had "jist gotreligion"; and then again subsiding to a buzzy state, occasioned by thewhimpering and whining voices of persons giving spiritual advice andcomfort! How like a volcanic crater after the evomition of its lava in afit of burning cholic, and striving to resettle its angry andtumultuating stomach!

  It is time, however, to speak of the three grand services and theirconcomitants, and to introduce several master spirits of the camp.

  Our first character, is the Reverend Elder Sprightly. This gentleman wasof good natural parts; and in a better school of intellectual disciplineand more fortunate circumstances, he must have become a worthy ministerof some more tasteful, literary and evangelical sect. As it was, he hadonly become what he never got beyond--"a very smart man;" and his aimhad become one--to enlarge his own people. And in this work, so greatwas his success, that, to use his own modest boastfulness in his sermonto-day,--"although folks said when he came to the Purchase that a singlecorn-crib would hold his people, yet, bless the Lord, they had keptspreading and spreading till all the corn-cribs in Egypt weren't bigenough to hold them!"

  He was very happy at repartee, as Robert Dale Owen well knows; and not"slow" (inexpert) in the arts of "taking off"--and--"giving them theirown." This trait we shall illustrate by an instance.

  Mr. Sprightly was, by accident, once present where a CampbelliteBaptist, that had recently taken out a right for administering six dosesof lobelia, red pepper and steam to men's bodies, and a plunge intocold water for the good of their souls, was holding forth against allDoctors, secular and sacred, and very fiercely against Sprightly'sbrotherhood. Doctor Lobelia's text was found somewhere in PopeCampbell's _New_ Testament; as it suited the following discourseintroduced with the usual inspired preface:

  DOCTOR LOBELIA'S SERMON

  "Well, I never rub'd my back agin a collige, nor git no sheepskin, andallow the Apostuls didn't nither. Did anybody ever hear of Peter andPoll a-goin' to them new-fangled places and gitten skins to preach by?No, sirs, I allow not; no, sirs, we don't pretend to loguk--this here_new_ testament's sheepskin enough for me. And don't Prisbeteruns andtother baby sprinklurs have reskorse to loguk and skins to show how themwhat's emerz'd didn't go down into the water and come up agin? And as toSprightly's preachurs, don't they dress like big-bugs, and go ridinabout the Purchis on hunder-dollur hossis, a-spunginin on poorpriest-riden folks and a-eatin fried chickin fixins so powerful fastthat chickins has got skerse in these diggins; and then what ain't friedmakes tracks and hides when they sees them a-comin?

  "But, dear bruthrun, we don't want store cloth and yaller buttins, andfat hossis and chickin fixins, and the like doins--no, sirs! we onlywants your souls--we only wants beleevur's baptism--we wantsprim--prim--yes, Apostul's Christianity, the Christianity of Christ andthem times, when Christians _was_ Christians, and tuk up thare cross andwent down into the water, and was buried in the gineine sort of baptismby emerzhin. That's all we wants; and I hope all's convinced that's thetrue way--and so let all come right out from among them and gitbeleevur's baptism; and so now if any brothur wants to say a word I'mdone, and I'll make way for him to preach."

  * * * * *

  Anticipating this common invitation, our friend Sprightly, indignant atthis unprovoked attack of Doctor Lobelia, had, in order to disguisehimself, exchanged his clerical garb for a friend's blue coateebedizzened with metal buttons; and also had erected a ve
ry tasteful andsharp coxcomb on his head, out of hair usually reposing sleek and quietin the most saint-like decorum; and then, at the bid from thepulpit-stump, out stepped Mr. Sprightly from the opposite spice-woodgrove, and advanced with a step so smirky and dandyish as to createuniversal amazement and whispered demands--"Why! who's that?" And someof his very people, who were present, as they told me, did not knowtheir preacher till his clear, sharp voice came upon the hearing, whenthey showed, by the sudden lifting of hands and eyebrows, how near theywere to exclaiming: "Well! I never!"

  Stepping on to the consecrated stump, our friend, without eitherpreliminary hymn or prayer, commenced thus:

  "My friends, I only intend to say a few words in answer to the piousbrother that's just sat down, and shall not detain but a few minutes.The pious brother took a good deal of time to tell what we soon foundout ourselves--that he never went to college and don't understand logic.He boasts, too, of having no sheepskin to preach by; but I allow anysensible buck-sheep would have died powerful sorry, if he'd ever thoughthis hide would come to be handled by some preachers. The skin of theknowingest old buck couldn't do some folks any good--some things saltwon't save.

  "I rather allow Johnny Calvin's boys and 'tother baby sprinklers,'ain't likely to have they idees physicked out of them by steam logic,and doses of No. 6. They can't be steamed up so high as to want coolingby a cold water plunge. But I want to say a word about Sprightly'spreachers, because I have some slight acquaintance with that theregentleman, and don't choose to have them all run down for nothing.

 
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