Sketches New and Old
A real storyteller can make a great story out of anything, even the most trivial occurrence. The candid, ironic, playful, and petulant sketches are indispensable to our understanding of a harried genius during thirteen quite amazing years.
Sketches New And Old
by Mark Twain
I have scattered through this volume a mass of matter which has never been in print before (such as “Learned Fables for Good Old Boys and Girls,” the “Jumping Frog restored to the English tongue after martyrdom in the French,” the “Membranous Croup” sketch, and many others which I need not specify): not doing this in order to make an advertisement of it, but because these things seemed instructive.
An Instructive Little Tale
My beautiful new watch had run eighteen months without losing or gaining, and without breaking any part of its machinery or stopping. I had come to believe it infallible in its judgments about the time of day, and to consider its constitution and its anatomy imperishable. But at last, one night, I let it run down. I grieved about it as if it were a recognized messenger and forerunner of calamity. But by and by I cheered up, set the watch by guess, and commanded my bodings and superstitions to depart. Next day I stepped into the chief jeweler’s to set it by the exact time, and the head of the establishment took it out of my hand and proceeded to set it for me. Then he said, “She is four minutes slow-regulator wants pushing up.” I tried to stop him – tried to make him understand that the watch kept perfect time. But no; all this human cabbage could see was that the watch was four minutes slow, and the regulator must be pushed up a little; and so, while I danced around him in anguish, and implored him to let the watch alone, he calmly and cruelly did the shameful deed. My watch began to gain. It gained faster and faster day by day. Within the week it sickened to a raging fever, and its pulse went up to a hundred and fifty in the shade. At the end of two months it had left all the timepieces of the town far in the rear, and was a fraction over thirteen days ahead of the almanac. It was away into November enjoying the snow, while the October leaves were still turning. It hurried up house rent, bills payable, and such things, in such a ruinous way that I could not abide it. I took it to the watchmaker to be regulated. He asked me if I had ever had it repaired. I said no, it had never needed any repairing. He looked a look of vicious happiness and eagerly pried the watch open, and then put a small dice-box into his eye and peered into its machinery. He said it wanted cleaning and oiling, besides regulating – come in a week. After being cleaned and oiled, and regulated, my watch slowed down to that degree that it ticked like a tolling bell. I began to be left by trains, I failed all appointments, I got to missing my dinner; my watch strung out three days’ grace to four and let me go to protest; I gradually drifted back into yesterday, then day before, then into last week, and by and by the comprehension came upon me that all solitary and alone I was lingering along in week before last, and the world was out of sight. I seemed to detect in myself a sort of sneaking fellow-feeling for the mummy in the museum, and a desire to swap news with him. I went to a watchmaker again. He took the watch all to pieces while I waited, and then said the barrel was “swelled.” He said he could reduce it in three days. After this the watch averaged well, but nothing more. For half a day it would go like the very mischief, and keep up such a barking and wheezing and whooping and sneezing and snorting, that I could not hear myself think for the disturbance; and as long as it held out there was not a watch in the land that stood any chance against it. But the rest of the day it would keep on slowing down and fooling along until all the clocks it had left behind caught up again. So at last, at the end of twenty-four hours, it would trot up to the judges’ stand all right and just in time. It would show a fair and square average, and no man could say it had done more or less than its duty. But a correct average is only a mild virtue in a watch, and I took this instrument to another watchmaker. He said the king-bolt was broken. I said I was glad it was nothing more serious. To tell the plain truth, I had no idea what the king-bolt was, but I did not choose to appear ignorant to a stranger. He repaired the king-bolt, but what the watch gained in one way it lost in another. It would run awhile and then stop awhile, and then run awhile again, and so on, using its own discretion about the intervals. And every time it went off it kicked back like a musket. I padded my breast for a few days, but finally took the watch to another watchmaker. He picked it all to pieces, and turned the ruin over and over under his glass; and then he said there appeared to be something the matter with the hair-trigger. He fixed it, and gave it a fresh start. It did well now, except that always at ten minutes to ten the hands would shut together like a pair of scissors, and from that time forth they would travel together. The oldest man in the world could not make head or tail of the time of day by such a watch, and so I went again to have the thing repaired. This person said that the crystal had got bent, and that the mainspring was not straight. He also remarked that part of the works needed half-soling. He made these things all right, and then my timepiece performed unexceptionably, save that now and then, after working along quietly for nearly eight hours, everything inside would let go all of a sudden and begin to buzz like a bee, and the hands would straightway begin to spin round and round so fast that their individuality was lost completely, and they simply seemed a delicate spider’s web over the face of the watch. She would reel off the next twenty-four hours in six or seven minutes, and then stop with a bang. I went with a heavy heart to one more watchmaker, and looked on while he took her to pieces. Then I prepared to cross-question him rigidly, for this thing was getting serious. The watch had cost two hundred dollars originally, and I seemed to have paid out two or three thousand for repairs. While I waited and looked on I presently recognized in this watchmaker an old acquaintance – a steamboat engineer of other days, and not a good engineer, either. He examined all the parts carefully, just as the other watchmakers had done, and then delivered his verdict with the same confidence of manner.
“She makes too much steam-you want to hang the monkey-wrench on the safety-valve!”
I brained him on the spot, and had him buried at my own expense.
My uncle William (now deceased, alas!) used to say that a good horse was, a good horse until it had run away once, and that a good watch was a good watch until the repairers got a chance at it. And he used to wonder what became of all the unsuccessful tinkers, and gunsmiths, and shoemakers, and engineers, and blacksmiths; but nobody could ever tell him.
Political Economy is the basis of all good government. The wisest men of all ages have brought to bear upon this subject the—
[Here I was interrupted and informed that a stranger wished to see me down at the door. I went and confronted him, and asked to know his business, struggling all the time to keep a tight rein on my seething political-economy ideas, and not let them break away from me or get tangled in their harness. And privately I wished the stranger was in the bottom of the canal with a cargo of wheat on top of him. I was all in a fever, but he was cool. He said he was sorry to disturb me, but as he was passing he noticed that I needed some lightning-rods. I said, “Yes, yes – go on – what about it?” He said there was nothing about it, in particular – nothing except that he would like to put them up for me. I am new to housekeeping; have been used to hotels and boarding-houses all my life. Like anybody else of similar experience, I try to appear (to strangers) to be an old housekeeper; consequently I said in an offhand way that I had been intending for some time to have six or eight lightning-rods put up, but – The stranger started, and looked inquiringly at me, but I was serene. I thought that if I chanced to make any mistakes, he would not catch me by my countenance. He said he would rather have my custom than any man’s in town. I said, “All right,” and started off to wrestle with my great subject again, when he called me back and said it would be necessary to know exactly how many “points” I wanted put up, what parts of the house I wanted them on, and what quality of rod I preferred. It was close quarters for a man not used to the exigencies of housekeeping; but I went through creditably, and he probably never suspected that I was a novice. I told him to put up eight “points,” and put them all on the roof, and use the best quality of rod. He said he could furnish the “plain” article at 20 cents a foot; “coppered,” 25 cents; “zinc-plated spiral-twist,” at 30 cents, that would stop a streak of lightning any time, no matter where it was bound, and “render its errand harmless and its further progress apocryphal.” I said apocryphal was no slouch of a word, emanating from the source it did, but, philology aside, I liked the spiral-twist and would take that brand. Then he said he could make two hundred and fifty feet answer; but to do it right, and make the best job in town of it, and attract the admiration of the just and the unjust alike, and compel all parties to say they never saw a more symmetrical and hypothetical display of lightning-rods since they were born, he supposed he really couldn’t get along without four hundred, though he was not vindictive, and trusted he was willing to try. I said, go ahead and use four hundred, and make any kind of a job he pleased out of it, but let me get back to my work. So I got rid of him at last; and now, after half an hour spent in getting my train of political-economy thoughts coupled together again, I am ready to go on once more.]
richest treasures of their genius, their experience of life, and their learning. The great lights of commercial jurisprudence, international confraternity, and biological deviation, of all ages, all civilizations, and all nationalities, from Zoroaster down to Horace Greeley, have—
[Here I was interrupted again, and required to go down and confer further with that lightning-rod man. I hurried off, boiling and surging with prodigious thoughts wombed in words of such majesty that each one of them was in itself a straggling procession of syllables that might be fifteen minutes passing a given point, and once more I confronted him – he so calm and sweet, I so hot and frenzied. He was standing in the contemplative attitude of the Colossus of Rhodes, with one foot on my infant tuberose, and the other among my pansies, his hands on his hips, his hat-brim tilted forward, one eye shut and the other gazing critically and admiringly in the direction of my principal chimney. He said now there was a state of things to make a man glad to be alive; and added, “I leave it to you if you ever saw anything more deliriously picturesque than eight lightning-rods on one chimney?” I said I had no present recollection of anything that transcended it. He said that in his opinion nothing on earth but Niagara Falls was superior to it in the way of natural scenery. All that was needed now, he verily believed, to make my house a perfect balm to the eye, was to kind of touch up the other chimneys a little, and thus “add to the generous ‘coup d’oeil’ a soothing uniformity of achievement which would allay the excitement naturally consequent upon the ‘coup d’etat.’” I asked him if he learned to talk out of a book, and if I could borrow it anywhere? He smiled pleasantly, and said that his manner of speaking was not taught in books, and thatnothing but familiarity with lightning could enable a man to handle his conversational style with impunity. He then figured up an estimate, and said that about eight more rods scattered about my roof would about fix me right, and he guessed five hundred feet of stuff would do it; and added that the first eight had got a little the start of him, so to speak, and used up a mere trifle of material more than he had calculated on – a hundred feet or along there. I said I was in a dreadful hurry, and I wished we could get this business permanently mapped out, so that I could go on with my work. He said, “I could have put up those eight rods, and marched off about my business – some men would have done it. But no; I said to myself, this man is a stranger to me, and I will die before I’ll wrong him; there ain’t lightning-rods enough on that house, and for one I’ll never stir out of my tracks till I’ve done as I would be done by, and told him so. Stranger, my duty is accomplished; if the recalcitrant and dephlogistic messenger of heaven strikes your—” “There, now, there,” I said, “put on the other eight – add five hundred feet of spiral-twist – do anything and everything you want to do; but calm your sufferings, and try to keep your feelings where you can reach them with the dictionary. Meanwhile, if we understand each other now, I will go to work again.”
I think I have been sitting here a full hour this time, trying to get back to where I was when my train of thought was broken up by the last interruption; but I believe I have accomplished it at last, and may venture to proceed again.]
wrestled with this great subject, and the greatest among them have found it a worthy adversary, and one that always comes up fresh and smiling after every throw. The great Confucius said that he would rather be a profound political economist than chief of police. Cicero frequently said that political economy was the grandest consummation that the human mind was capable of consuming; and even our own Greeley had said vaguely but forcibly that “Political—
[Here the lightning-rod man sent up another call for me. I went down in a state of mind bordering on impatience. He said he would rather have died than interrupt me, but when he was employed to do a job, and that job was expected to be done in a clean, workmanlike manner, and when it was finished and fatigue urged him to seek the rest and recreation he stood so much in need of, and he was about to do it, but looked up and saw at a glance that all the calculations had been a little out, and if a thunder-storm were to come up, and that house, which he felt a personal interest in, stood there with nothing on earth to protect it but sixteen lightning-rods—“Let us have peace!” I shrieked. “Put up a hundred and fifty! Put some on the kitchen! Put a dozen on the barn! Put a couple on the cow! Put one on the cook! – scatter them all over the persecuted place till it looks like a zinc-plated, spiral-twisted, silver-mounted canebrake! Move! Use up all the material you can get your hands on, and when you run out of lightning-rods put up ramrods, cam-rods, stair-rods, piston-rods – anything that will pander to your dismal appetite for artificial scenery, and bring respite to my raging brain and healing to my lacerated soul!” Wholly unmoved – further than to smile sweetly – this iron being simply turned back his wrist-bands daintily, and said he would now proceed to hump himself. Well, all that was nearly three hours ago. It is questionable whether I am calm enough yet to write on the noble theme of political economy, but I cannot resist the desire to try, for it is the one subject that is nearest to my heart and dearest to my brain of all this world’s philosophy.]
―economy is heaven’s best boon to man.” When the loose but gifted Byron lay in his Venetian exile he observed that, if it could be granted him to go back and live his misspent life over again, he would give his lucid and unintoxicated intervals to the composition, not of frivolous rhymes, but of essays upon political economy. Washington loved this exquisite science; such names as Baker, Beckwith, Judson, Smith, are imperishably linked with it; and even imperial Homer, in the ninth book of the Iliad, has said:―
Fiat justitia, ruat coelum,
Post mortem unum, ante bellum,
Hic jacet hoc, ex-parte res,
Politicum e-conomico est.
The grandeur of these conceptions of the old poet, together with the felicity of the wording which clothes them, and the sublimity of the imagery whereby they are illustrated, have singled out that stanza, and made it more celebrated than any that ever—
["Now, not a word out of you – not a single word. Just state your bill and relapse into impenetrable silence for ever and ever on these premises. Nine hundred, dollars? Is that all? This check for the amount will be honored at any respectable bank in America. What is that multitude of people gathered in the street for? How? – ’looking at the lightning-rods!’ Bless my life, did they never see any lightning-rods before? Never saw ‘such a stack of them on one establishment,’ did I understand you to say? I will step down and critically observe this popular ebullition of ignorance.”]
Three days later. – We are all about worn out. For four-and-twenty hours our bristling premises were the talk and wonder of the town. The theaters languished, for their happiest scenic inventions were tame and commonplace compared with my lightning-rods. Our street was blocked night and day with spectators, and among them were many who came from the country to see. It was a blessed relief on the second day when a thunderstorm came up and the lightning began to “go for” my house, as the historian Josephus quaintly phrases it. It cleared the galleries, so to speak. In five minutes there was not a spectator within half a mile of my place; but all the high houses about that distance away were full, windows, roof, and all. And well they might be, for all the falling stars and Fourth-of-July fireworks of a generation, put together and rained down simultaneously out of heaven in one brilliant shower upon one helpless roof, would not have any advantage of the pyrotechnic display that was making my house so magnificently conspicuous in the general gloom of the storm.
By actual count, the lightning struck at my establishment seven hundred and sixty-four times in forty minutes, but tripped on one of those faithful rods every time, and slid down the spiral-twist and shot into the earth before it probably had time to be surprised at the way the thing was done. And through all that bombardment only one patch of slates was ripped up, and that was because, for a single instant, the rods in the vicinity were transporting all the lightning they could possibly accommodate. Well, nothing was ever seen like it since the world began. For one whole day and night not a member of my family stuck his head out of the window but he got the hair snatched off it as smooth as a billiard-ball; and; if the reader will believe me, not one of us ever dreamt of stirring abroad. But at last the awful siege came to an end-because there was absolutely no more electricity left in the clouds above us within grappling distance of my insatiable rods. Then I sallied forth, and gathered daring workmen together, and not a bite or a nap did we take till the premises were utterly stripped of all their terrific armament except just three rods on the house, one on the kitchen, and one on the barn – and, behold, these remain there even unto this day. And then, and not till then, the people ventured to use our street again. I will remark here, in passing, that during that fearful time I did not continue my essay upon political economy. I am not even yet settled enough in nerve and brain to resume it.
To whom it may concern. – Parties having need of three thousand two hundred and eleven feet of best quality zinc-plated spiral-twist lightning-rod stuff, and sixteen hundred and thirty-one silver-tipped points, all in tolerable repair (and, although much worn by use, still equal to any ordinary emergency), can hear of a bargain by addressing the publisher.
The Jumping Frog
In English. Then In French. Then Clawed Back Into A Civilized Language Once More By Patient, Unremunerated Toil
Even a criminal is entitled to fair play; and certainly when a man who has done no harm has been unjustly treated, he is privileged to do his best to right himself. My attention has just been called to an article some three years old in a French Magazine entitled, 'Revue des Deux Mondes' (Review of Some Two Worlds), wherein the writer treats of "Les Humoristes Americaines" (These Humorist Americans). I am one of these humorists American dissected by him, and hence the complaint I am making. This gentleman's article is an able one (as articles go, in the French, where they always tangle up everything to that degree that when you start into a sentence you never know whether you are going to come out alive or not). It is a very good article and the writer says all manner of kind and complimentary things about me – for which I am sure thank him with all my heart; but then why should he go and spoil all his praise by one unlucky experiment? What I refer to is this: he says my jumping Frog is a funny story, but still he can't see why it should ever really convulse any one with laughter – and straightway proceeds to translate it into French in order to prove to his nation that there is nothing so very extravagantly funny about it. Just there is where my complaint originates. He has not translated it at all; he has simply mixed it all up; it is no more like the jumping Frog when he gets through with it than I am like a meridian of longitude. But my mere assertion is not proof; wherefore I print the French version, that all may see that I do not speak falsely; furthermore, in order that even the unlettered may know my injury and give me their compassion, I have been at infinite pains and trouble to retranslate this French version back into English; and to tell the truth I have well-nigh worn myself out at it, having scarcely rested from my work during five days and nights. I cannot speak the French language, but I can translate very well, though not fast, I being self-educated. I ask the reader to run his eye over the original English version of the jumping Frog, and then read the French or my retranslation, and kindly take notice how the Frenchman has riddled the grammar. I think it is the worst I ever saw; and yet the French are called a polished nation. If I had a boy that put sentences together as they do, I would polish him to some purpose. Without further introduction, the jumping Frog, as I originally wrote it, was as follows [after it will be found the French version, and after the latter my retranslation from the French]:
The Notorious Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County
In compliance with the request of a friend of mine, who wrote me from the East, I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler, and inquired after my friend's friend, Leonidas W. Smiley, as requested to do, and I hereunto append the result. I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he on conjectured that if I asked old Wheeler about him, it would remind him of his infamous Jim Smiley, and he would go to work and bore me to death with some exasperating reminiscence him as long and as tedious as it should be useless to me. If that was the design, it succeeded. I found Simon Wheeler dozing comfortably by the bar-room stove of the dilapidated tavern in the decayed mining camp Angel's, and I noticed that he was fat and bald-headed, and had an expression of winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance. He roused up, and gave me good day. I told him that a friend of mine had commissioned me to make some inquiries about a cherished companion of his boyhood named Leonidas W. Smiley – Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, a young minister of the Gospel, who he had heard was at one time resident of Angel's Camp. I added that if Mr. Wheeler could tell me anything about this Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, I would feel under many obligations to him. Simon Wheeler backed me into a corner and blockaded me there with his chair, and then sat down and reeled off the monotonous narrative which follows this paragraph. He never smiled he never frowned, he never changed his voice from the gentle flowing key to which he tuned his initial sentence, he never betrayed the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm; but all through the interminable narrative there ran a vein of impressive earnestness and sincerity, which showed me plainly that, so far from his imagining that there was anything ridiculous or funny about his story, he regarded it as a really important matter, and admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in 'finesse.' I let him go on in his own way, and never interrupted him once. "Rev. Leonidas W. H'm, Reverend Le – well, there was a feller here, once by the name of Jim Smiley, in the winter of '49—or maybe it was the spring of '50—I don't recollect exactly, somehow, though what makes me think it was one or the other is because I remember the big flume warn't finished when he first come to the camp; but anyway, he was the curiousest man about always betting on anything that turned up you ever see, if he could get anybody to bet on the other side; and if he couldn't he'd change sides. Any way that suited the other man would suit him any way just so's he got a bet, he was satisfied. But still he was lucky, uncommon lucky; he most always come out winner. He was always ready and laying for a chance; there couldn't be no solit'ry thing mentioned but that feller'd offer to bet on it, and take any side you please, as I was just telling you. If there was a horse-race, you'd find him flush or you'd find him busted at the end of it; if there was a dog-fight, he'd bet on it; if there was a cat-fight, he'd bet on it; if there was a chicken-fight, he'd bet on it; why, if there was two birds setting on a fence, he would bet you which one would fly first; or if there was a camp-meeting, he would be there reg'lar to bet on Parson Walker, which he judged to be the best exhorter about here, and so he was too, and a good man. If he even see a straddle-bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get to – to wherever he was going to, and if you took him up, he would foller that straddle-bug to Mexico but what he would find out where he was bound for and how long he was on the road. Lots of the boys here has seen that Smiley, and can tell you about him. Why, it never made no difference to him – he'd bet on any thing – the dangdest feller. Parson Walker's wife laid very sick once, for a good while, and it seemed as if they warn't going to save her; but one morning he come in, and Smiley up and asked him how she was, and he said she was considerable better – thank the Lord for his inf'nite mercy – and coming on so smart that with the blessing of Prov'dence she'd get well yet; and Smiley, before he thought, says, 'Well, I'll resk two-and-a-half she don't anyway.' "Thish-yer Smiley had a mare – the boys called her the fifteen-minute nag, but that was only in fun, you know, because of course she was faster than that – and he used to win money on that horse, for all she was so slow and always had the asthma, or the distemper, or the consumption, or something of that kind. They used to give her two or three hundred yards' start, and then pass her under way; but always at the fag end of the race she get excited and desperate like, and come cavorting and straddling up, and scattering her legs around limber, sometimes in the air, and sometimes out to one side among the fences, and kicking up m-o-r-e dust and raising m-o-r-e racket with her coughing and sneezing and blowing her nose – and always fetch up at the stand just about a neck ahead, as near as you could cipher it down. "And he had a little small bull-pup, that to look at him you'd think he warn't worth a cent but to set around and look ornery and lay for a chance to steal something. But as soon as money was up on him he was a different dog; his under-jaw'd begin to stick out like the fo'castle of a steamboat, and his teeth would uncover and shine like the furnaces. And a dog might tackle him and bully-rag him, and bite him, and throw him over his shoulder two or three times, and Andrew Jackson – which was the name of the pup – Andrew Jackson would never let on but what he was satisfied, and hadn't expected nothing else – and the bets being doubled and doubled on the other side all the time, till the money was all up; and then all of a sudden he would grab that other dog jest by the j'int of his hind leg and freeze to it – not chaw, you understand, but only just grip and hang on till they throwed up the sponge, if it was a year. Smiley always come out winner on that pup, till he harnessed a dog once that didn't have no hind legs, because they'd been sawed off in a circular saw, and when the thing had gone along far enough, and the money was all up, and he come to make a snatch for his pet holt, he see in a minute how he'd been imposed on, and how the other dog had him in the door, so to speak, and he 'peared surprised, and then he looked sorter discouraged-like and didn't try no more to win the fight, and so he got shucked out bad. He give Smiley a look, as much as to say his heart was broke, and it was his fault, for putting up a dog that hadn't no hind legs for him to take holt of, which was his main dependence in a fight, and then he limped off a piece and laid down and died. It was a good pup, was that Andrew Jackson, and would have made a name for hisself if he'd lived, for the stuff was in him and he had genius – I know it, because he hadn't no opportunities to speak of, and it don't stand to reason that a dog could make such a fight as he could under them circumstances if he hadn't no talent. It always makes me feel sorry when I think of that last fight of his'n, and the way it turned out. "Well, thish-yer Smiley had rat-tarriers, and chicken cocks, and tomcats and all them kind of things, till you couldn't rest, and you couldn't fetch nothing for him to bet on but he'd match you. He ketched a frog one day, and took him home, and said he cal'lated to educate him; and so he never done nothing for three months but set in his back yard and learn that frog to jump. And you bet you he did learn him, too. He'd give him a little punch behind, and the next minute you'd see that frog whirling in the air like a doughnut – see him turn one summerset, or maybe a couple, if he got a good start, and come down flat-footed and all right, like a cat. He got him up so in the matter of ketching flies, and kep' him in practice so constant, that he'd nail a fly every time as fur as he could see him. Smiley said all a frog wanted was education, and he could do 'most anything – and I believe him. Why, I've seen him set Dan'l Webster down here on this floor – Dan'l Webster was the name of the frog – and sing out, 'Flies, Dan'l, flies!' and quicker'n you could wink he'd spring straight up and snake a fly off'n the counter there, and flop down on the floor ag'in as solid as a gob of mud, and fall to scratching the side of his head with his hind foot as indifferent as if he hadn't no idea he'd been doin' any more'n any frog might do. You never see a frog so modest and straightfor'ard as he was, for all he was so gifted. And when it come to fair and square jumping on a dead level, he could get over more ground at one straddle than any animal of his breed you ever see. Jumping on a dead level was his strong suit, you understand; and when it come to that, Smiley would ante up money on him as long as he had a red. Smiley was monstrous proud of his frog, and well he might be, for fellers that had traveled and been everywheres all said he laid over any frog that ever they see. "Well, Smiley kep' the beast in a little lattice box, and he used to fetch him down-town sometimes and lay for a bet. One day a feller – a stranger in the camp, he was – come acrost him with his box, and says: "'What might it be that you've got in the box?' "And Smiley says, sorter indifferent-like, 'It might be a parrot, or it might be a canary, maybe, but it ain't – it's only just a frog.' "And the feller took it, and looked at it careful, and turned it round this way and that, and says, 'H'm – so 'tis. Well, what's HE good for. "'Well,' Smiley says, easy and careless, 'he's good enough for one thing, I should judge – he can outjump any frog in Calaveras County. "The feller took the box again, and took another long, particular look, and give it back to Smiley, and says, very deliberate, 'Well,' he says, 'I don't see no pints about that frog that's any better'n any other frog.' "'Maybe you don't,' Smiley says. 'Maybe you understand frogs and maybe you don't understand 'em; maybe you've had experience, and maybe you ain't only a amature, as it were. Anyways, I've got my opinion, and I'll resk forty dollars the he can outjump any frog in Calaveras County.' "And the feller studied a minute, and then says, kinder sad-like, 'Well, I'm only a stranger here, and I ain't got no frog; but if I had a frog, I'd bet you. "And then Smiley says, 'That's all right – that's all right if you'll hold my box a minute, I'll go and get you a frog.' Any so the feller took the box, and put up his forty dollars along with Smiley's, and set down to wait. "So he set there a good while thinking and thinking to himself and then he got the frog out and prized his mouth open and took a teaspoon and filled him full of quail-shot-filled him pretty near up to his chin – and set him on the floor. Smiley he went to the swamp and slopped around in the mud for a long time, and finally he ketched a frog, and fetched him in, and give him to this feller and says: "'Now, if you're ready, set him alongside of Dan'l, with his fore paws just even with Dan'l's, and I'll give the word.' Then he says, 'One-two-three – git' and him and the feller touches up the frogs from behind, and the new frog hopped off lively but Dan'l give a heave, and hysted up his shoulders – so-like a Frenchman, but it warn't no use – he couldn't budge; he was planted as solid as a church, and he couldn't no more stir than if he was anchored out. Smiley was a good deal surprised, and he was disgusted too, but he didn't have no idea what the matter was of course. "The Teller took the money and started away; and when he was going out at the door, he sorter jerked his thumb over his shoulder – so – at Dan'l, and says again, very deliberate, 'Well,' he says, 'I don't see no pints about that frog that's any better'n any other frog.' "Smiley he stood scratching his head and looking down at Dan'l a long time, and at last he says, 'I do wonder what in the nation that frog throw'd off for – I wonder if there ain't something the matter with him – he 'pears to look mighty baggy, somehow.' And he ketched Dan'l by the nap of the neck, and hefted him, and says, 'Why blame my cats if he don't weigh five pound!' and turned him upside down and he belched out a double handful of shot. And then he see how it was, and he was the maddest man – he set the frog down and took out after that feller, but he never ketched him. And—" [Here Simon Wheeler heard his name called from the front yard, and got up to see what was wanted.] And turning to me as he moved away, he said: "Just set where you are, stranger, and rest easy – I ain't going to be gone a second." But, by your leave, I did not think that a continuation of the history of the enterprising vagabond Jim Smiley would be likely to afford me much information concerning the Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, and so I started away. At the door I met the sociable Wheeler returning, and he buttonholed me and recommenced: "Well, thish-yer Smiley had a yaller one-eyed cow that didn't have no tail, only just a short stump like a bannanner, and—" However, lacking both time and inclination, I did not wait to hear about the afflicted cow, but took my leave. Now let the learned look upon this picture and say if iconoclasm can further go:
[From the Revue des Deux Mondes, of July 15th, 1872.]
La Grenouille Sauteuse Du Comte De Calaveras
" – Il y avait, une fois ici un individu connu sous le nom de Jim Smiley: c'etait dans l'hiver de 49, peut-etre bien au printemps de 50, je ne me reappelle pas exactement. Ce qui me fait croire que c'etait l'un ou l'autre, c'est que je me souviens que le grand bief n'etait pas acheve lorsqu'il arriva au camp pour la premiere fois, mais de toutes facons il etait l'homme le plus friand de paris qui se put voir, pariant sur tout ce qui se presentaat, quand il pouvait trouver un adversaire, et, quand n'en trouvait pas il passait du cote oppose. Tout ce qui convenaiat l'autre lui convenait; pourvu qu'il eut un pari, Smiley etait satisfait. Et il avait une chance! une chance inouie: presque toujours il gagnait. It faut dire qu'il etait toujours pret a'exposer, qu'on ne pouvait mentionner la moindre chose sans que ce gaillard offrit de parier la-dessus n'importe quoi et de prendre le cote que l'on voudrait, comme je vous le disais tout a l'heure. S'il y avait des courses, vous le trouviez riche ou ruine a la fin; s'il y avait un combat de chiens, il apportait son enjeu; il l'apportait pour un combat de chats, pour un combat de coqs;—parbleu! si vous aviez vu deux oiseaux sur une haie il vous aurait offert de parier lequel s'envolerait le premier, et s'il y aviat 'meeting' au camp, il venait parier regulierement pour le cure Walker, qu'il jugeait etre le meilleur predicateur des environs, et qui l'etait en effet, et un brave homme. Il aurai rencontre une punaise de bois en chemin, qu'il aurait parie sur le temps qu'il lui faudrait pour aller ou elle voudrait aller, et si vous l'aviez pris au mot, it aurait suivi la punaise jusqu'au Mexique, sans se soucier d'aller si loin, ni du temps qu'il y perdrait. Une fois la femme du cure Walker fut tres malade pendant longtemps, il semblait qu'on ne la sauverait pas; mai un matin le cure arrive, et Smiley lui demande comment ella va et il dit qu'elle est bien mieux, grace a l'infinie misericorde tellement mieux qu'avec la benediction de la Providence elle s'en tirerait, et voila que, sans y penser, Smiley repond – Eh bien! ye gage deux et demi qu'elle mourra tout de meme. "Ce Smiley avait une jument que les gars appelaient le bidet du quart d'heure, mais seulement pour plaisanter, vous comprenez, parse que, bien entendu, elle etait plus vite que ca! Et il avait coutume de gagner de l'argent avec cette bete, quoi-qu'elle fut poussive, cornarde, toujours prise d'asthme, de colique ou de consomption, ou de quelque chose d'approchant. On lui donnait 2 ou 300 'yards' au depart, puffs on la depassait sans peine; mais jamais a la fin elle ne manquait de s'echauffer, de s'exasperer et elle arrivait, s'ecartant, se defendant, ses jambes greles en l'ai devant les obstacles, quelquefois les evitant et faisant avec cela plus de poussiare qu'aucun cheval, plus de bruit surtout avec ses eternumens et reniflemens. – crac! elle arrivaat donc toujour premiere d'une tete, aussi juste qu'on peut le mesurer. Et il avait un petit bouledogue qui, a le voir, ne valait pas un sou; on aurait cru que parier contre lui c'etait voler, tant il etait ordinaire; mais aussitot les enjeux faits, il devenait un autre chien. Sa machoire inferieure commencait a ressortir comme un gaillard d'avant, ses dents se decouvcraient brillantes commes des fournaises, et un chien pouvait le taquiner, l'exciter, le mordre, le jeter deux ou trois fois par-dessus son epaule, Andre Jackson, c'etait le nom du chien, Andre Jackson prenait cela tranquillement, comme s'il ne se fut jamais attendu a autre chose, et quand les paris etaient doubles et redoubles contre lui, il vous saisissait l'autre chien juste a l'articulation de la jambe de derriere, et il ne la lachait plus, non pas qu'il la machat, vous concevez, mais il s'y serait tenu pendu jusqu'a ce qu'on jetat l'eponge en l'air, fallut-il attendre un an. Smiley gagnait toujours avec cette bete-la; malheureusement ils ont fini par dresser un chien qui n'avait pas de pattes de derriere, parce qu'on les avait sciees, et quand les choses furent au point qu'il voulait, et qu'il en vint a se jeter sur son morceau favori, le pauvre chien comprit en un instant qu'on s'etait moque de lui, et que l'autre le tenait. Vous n'avez jamais vu personne avoir l'air plus penaud et plus decourage; il ne fit aucun effort pour gagner le combat et fut rudement secoue, de sorte que, regardant Smiley comme pour lui dire – Mon coeur est brise, c'est to faute; pourquoi m'avoir livre a un chien qui n'a pas de pattes de derriere, puisque c'est par la que je les bats? – il s'en alla en clopinant, et se coucha pour mourir. Ah! c'etait un bon chien, cet Andre Jackson, et il se serait fait un nom, s'il avait vecu, car il y avait de l'etoffe en lui, il avait du genie, je la sais, bien que de grandes occasions lui aient manque; mais il est impossible de supposer qu'un chien capable de se battre comme lui, certaines circonstances etant donnees, ait manque de talent. Je me sens triste toutes les fois que je pense a son dernier combat et au denoument qu'il a eu. Eh bien! ce Smiley nourrissait des terriers a rats, et des coqs combat, et des chats, et toute sorte de choses, au point qu'il etait toujours en mesure de vous tenir tete, et qu'avec sa rage de paris on n'avait plus de repos. Il attrapa un jour une grenouille et l'emporta chez lui, disant qu'il pretendait faire son Education; vous me croirez si vous voulez, mais pendant trois mois il n'a rien fait que lui apprendre a sauter dans une cour retire de sa maison. Et je vous reponds qu'il avait reussi. Il lui donnait un petit coup par derriere, et l'instant d'apres vous voyiez la grenouille tourner en l'air comme un beignet au-dessus de la poele, faire une culbute, quelquefois deux, lorsqu'elle etait bien partie, et retomber sur ses pattes comme un chat. Il l'avait dressee dans l'art de gober des mouches, er l'y exercait continuellement, si bien qu'une mouche, du plus loin qu'elle apparaissait, etait une mouche perdue. Smiley avait coutume de dire que tout ce qui manquait a une grenouille, c'etait l'education, qu'avec l'education elle pouvait faire presque tout, et je le crois. Tenez, je l'ai vu poser Daniel Webster la sur se plancher, – Daniel Webster etait le nom de la grenouille, – et lui chanter: Des mouches! Daniel, des mouches! – En un clin d'oeil, Daniel avait bondi et saisi une mouche ici sur le comptoir, puis saute de nouveau par terre, ou il restait vraiment a se gratter la tete avec sa patte de derriere, comme s'il n'avait pas eu la moindre idee de sa superiorite. Jamais vous n'avez grenouille vu de aussi modeste, aussi naturelle, douee comme elle l'etait! Et quand il s'agissait de sauter purement et simplement sur terrain plat, elle faisait plus de chemin en un saut qu'aucune bete de son espece que vous puissiez connaitre. Sauter a plat, c'etait son fort! Quand il s'agissait de cela, Smiley en tassait les enjeux sur elle tant qu'il lui, restait un rouge liard. Il faut le reconnaitre, Smiley etait monstrueusement fier de sa grenouille, et il en avait le droit, car des gens qui avaient voyage, qui avaient tout vu, disaient qu'on lui ferait injure de la comparer a une autre; de facon que Smiley gardait Daniel dans une petite boite a claire-voie qu'il emportait parfois a la Ville pour quelque pari. "Un jour, un individu etranger au camp l'arrete aver sa boite et lui dit – Qu'est-ce que vous avez donc serre la dedans? "Smiley dit d'un air indifferent – Cela pourrait etre un perroquet ou un serin, mais ce n'est rien de pareil, ce n'est qu'une grenouille. "L'individu la prend, la regarde avec soin, la tourne d'un cote et de l'autre puis il dit. – Tiens! en effet! A quoi estelle bonne? " – Mon Dieu! repond Smiley, toujours d'un air degage, elle est bonne pour une chose a mon avis, elle peut battre en sautant toute grenouille du comte de Calaveras. "L'individu reprend la boite, l'examine de nouveau longuement, et la rend a Smiley en disant d'un air delibere – Eh bien! je ne vois pas que cette grenouille ait rien de mieux qu'aucune grenouille. " – Possible qua vous ne le voyiez pat, dit Smiley, possible que vous vous entendiez en grenouilles, possible que vous ne vous y entendez point, possible qua vous avez de l'experience, et possible que vous ne soyez qu'un amateur. De toute maniere, je parie quarante dollars qu'elle battra en sautant n'importe quelle grenouille du comte de Calaveras. "L'individu reflechit one seconde et dit comma attriste – Je ne suis qu'un etranger ici, je n'ai pas de grenouille; mais, si j'en avais une, je tiendrais le pari. " – Fort bien! repond Smiley. Rien de plus facile. Si vous voulez tenir ma boite one minute, j'irai vous chercher une grenouille. – Voile donc l'individu qui garde la boite, qui met ses quarante dollars sur ceux de Smiley et qui attend. Il attend assez longtemps, reflechissant tout seul, et figurez-vous qu'il prend Daniel, lui ouvre la bouche de force at avec une cuiller a the l'emplit de menu plomb de chasse, mail l'emplit jusqu'au menton, puis il le pose par terre. Smiley pendant ce temps etait a barboter dans une mare. Finalement il attrape une grenouille, l'apporte cet individu et dit – Maintenant, si vous etes pret, mettez-la tout contra Daniel, avec leurs pattes de devant sur la meme ligne, et je donnerai le signal; puis il ajoute – Un, deux, trois, sautez! "Lui et l'individu touchent leurs grenouilles par derriere, et la grenouille neuve se met h sautiller, mais Daniel se souleve lourdement, hausse les epaules ainsi, comma un Francais; a quoi bon? il ne pouvait bouger, il etait plante solide comma une enclume, il n'avancait pas plus que si on l'eut mis a l'ancre. Smiley fut surpris et degoute, mais il ne se doutait pas du tour, bien entendu. L'individu empoche l'argent, s'en va, et en s'en allant est-ce qu'il ne donna pas un coup de pouce pardessus l'epaule, comma ca, au pauvre Daniel, en disant de son air delibere – Eh bien! je ne vois pas qua cette grenouille ait rien de muiex qu'une autre. "Smiley se gratta longtemps la tete, les yeux fixes Sur Daniel; jusqu'a ce qu'enfin il dit – je me demande comment diable il se fait qua cette bite ait refuse, Est-ce qu'elle aurait quelque chose?. On croirait qu'elle est enflee. "Il empoigne Daniel par la peau du coo, le souleve et dit – Le loup me croque, s'il ne pese pas cinq livres. "Il le retourne, et le malheureux crache deux poignees de plomb. Quand Smiley reconnut ce qui en etait, il fut comme fou. Vous le voyez d'ici poser sa grenouille par terra et courir apres cet individu, mais il ne le rattrapa jamais, et…."
[Translation of the above back from the French:]
The Frog Jumping Of The County Of Calaveras
It there was one time here an individual known under the name of Jim Smiley; it was in the winter of '89, possibly well at the spring of '50, I no me recollect not exactly. This which me makes to believe that it was the one or the other, it is that I shall remember that the grand flume is not achieved when he arrives at the camp for the first time, but of all sides he was the man the most fond of to bet which one have seen, betting upon all that which is presented, when he could find an adversary; and when he not of it could not, he passed to the side opposed. All that which convenienced to the other to him convenienced also; seeing that he had a bet Smiley was satisfied. And he had a chance! a chance even worthless; nearly always he gained. It must to say that he was always near to himself expose, but one no could mention the least thing without that this gaillard offered to bet the bottom, no matter what, and to take the side that one him would, as I you it said all at the hour (tout a l'heure). If it there was of races, you him find rich or ruined at the end; if it, here is a combat of dogs, he bring his bet; he himself laid always for a combat of cats, for a combat of cocks – by-blue! If you have see two birds upon a fence, he you should have offered of to bet which of those birds shall fly the first; and if there is meeting at the camp (meeting au camp) he comes to bet regularly for the cure Walker, which he judged to be the best predicator of the neighborhood (predicateur des environs) and which he was in effect, and a brave man. He would encounter a bug of wood in the road, whom he will bet upon the time which he shall take to go where she would go – and if you him have take at the word, he will follow the bug as far as Mexique, without himself caring to go so far; neither of the time which he there lost. One time the woman of the cure Walker is very sick during long time, it seemed that one not her saved not; but one morning the cure arrives, and Smiley him demanded how she goes, and he said that she is well better, grace to the infinite misery (lui demande comment elle va, et il dit qu'elle est bien mieux, grace a l'infinie misericorde) so much better that with the benediction of the Providence she herself of it would pull out (elle s'en tirerait); and behold that without there thinking Smiley responds: "Well, I gage two-and-half that she will die all of same." This Smiley had an animal which the boys called the nag of the quarter of hour, but solely for pleasantry, you comprehend, because, well understand, she was more fast as that! [Now why that exclamation?—M. T.] And it was custom of to gain of the silver with this beast, notwithstanding she was poussive, cornarde, always taken of asthma, of colics or of consumption, or something of approaching. One him would give two or three hundred yards at the departure, then one him passed without pain; but never at the last she not fail of herself echauffer, of herself exasperate, and she arrives herself ecartant, se defendant, her legs greles in the air before the obstacles, sometimes them elevating and making with this more of dust than any horse, more of noise above with his eternumens and reniflemens – crac! she arrives then always first by one head, as just as one can it measure. And he had a small bulldog (bouledogue!) who, to him see, no value, not a cent; one would believe that to bet against him it was to steal, so much he was ordinary; but as soon as the game made, she becomes another dog. Her jaw inferior commence to project like a deck of before, his teeth themselves discover brilliant like some furnaces, and a dog could him tackle (le taquiner), him excite, him murder (le mordre), him throw two or three times over his shoulder, Andre Jackson – this was the name of the dog – Andre Jackson takes that tranquilly, as if he not himself was never expecting other thing, and when the bets were doubled and redoubled against him, he you seize the other dog just at the articulation of the leg of behind, and he not it leave more, not that he it masticate, you conceive, but he himself there shall be holding during until that one throws the sponge in the air, must he wait a year. Smiley gained always with this beast-la; unhappily they have finished by elevating a dog who no had not of feet of behind, because one them had sawed; and when things were at the point that he would, and that he came to himself throw upon his morsel favorite, the poor dog comprehended in an instant that he himself was deceived in him, and that the other dog him had. You no have never seen person having the air more penaud and more discouraged; he not made no effort to gain the combat, and was rudely shucked. Eh bien! this Smiley nourished some terriers a rats, and some cocks of combat, and some pats, and all sorts of things; and with his rage of betting one no had more of repose. He trapped one day a frog and him imported with him (et l'emporta chez lui) saying that he pretended to make his education. You me believe if you will, but during three months he not has nothing done but to him apprehend to jump (apprendre a sauter) in a court retired of her mansion (de sa maison). And I you respond that he have succeeded. He him gives a small blow by behind, and the instant after you shall see the frog turn in the air like a grease-biscuit, make one summersault, sometimes two, when she was well started, and refall upon his feet like a cat. He him had accomplished in the art of to gobble the flies (gober des mouches), and him there exercised continually – so well that a fly at the most far that she appeared was a fly lost. Smiley had custom to say that all which lacked to a frog it was the education, but with the education she could do nearly all – and I him believe. Tenez, I him have seen pose Daniel Webster there upon this plank – Daniel Webster was the name of the frog – and to him sing, "Some flies, Daniel, some fifes!" – in a flash of the eye Daniel 30 had bounded and seized a fly here upon the counter, then jumped anew at the earth, where he rested truly to himself scratch the head with his behind foot, as if he no had not the least idea of his superiority. Never you not have seen frog as modest, as natural, sweet as she was. And when he himself agitated to jump purely and simply upon plain earth, she does more ground in one jump than any beast of his species than you can know. To jump plain-this was his strong. When he himself agitated for that, Smiley multiplied the bets upon her as long as there to him remained a red. It must to know, Smiley was monstrously proud of his frog, and he of it was right, for some men who were traveled, who had all seen, said that they to him would be injurious to him compare, to another frog. Smiley guarded Daniel in a little box latticed which he carried bytimes to the village for some bet. One day an individual stranger at the camp him arrested with his box and him said: "What is this that you have them shut up there within?" Smiley said, with an air indifferent: "That could be a paroquet, or a syringe (ou un serin), but this no is nothing of such, it not is but a frog." The individual it took, it regarded with care, it turned from one side and from the other, then he said: "Tiens! in effect! – At what is she good?" "My God!" respond Smiley, always with an air disengaged, "she is good for one thing, to my notice (A mon avis), she can better in jumping (elle pent battre en sautant) all frogs of the county of Calaveras." The individual retook the box, it examined of new longly, and it rendered to Smiley in saying with an air deliberate: "Eh bien! I no saw not that that frog had nothing of better than each frog." (Je ne vois pas que cette grenouille ait rien de mieux qu'aucune grenouille.) [If that isn't grammar gone to seed, then I count myself no judge.—M. T.] "Possible that you not it saw not," said Smiley, "possible that you – you comprehend frogs; possible that you not you there comprehend nothing; possible that you had of the experience, and possible that you not be but an amateur. Of all manner (De toute maniere) I bet forty dollars that she better in jumping no matter which frog of the county of Calaveras." The individual reflected a second, and said like sad: "I not am but a stranger here, I no have not a frog; but if I of it had one, I would embrace the bet." "Strong well!" respond Smiley; "nothing of more facility. If you will hold my box a minute, I go you to search a frog (j'irai vous chercher)." Behold, then, the individual, who guards the box, who puts his forty dollars upon those of Smiley, and who attends (et qui attend). He attended enough long times, reflecting all solely. And figure you that he takes Daniel, him opens the mouth by force and with a teaspoon him fills with shot of the hunt, even him fills just to the chin, then he him puts by the earth. Smiley during these times was at slopping in a swamp. Finally he trapped (attrape) a frog, him carried to that individual, and said: "Now if you be ready, put him all against Daniel with their before feet upon the same line, and I give the signal" – then he added: "One, two, three – advance!" Him and the individual touched their frogs by behind, and the frog new put to jump smartly, but Daniel himself lifted ponderously, exalted the shoulders thus, like a Frenchman – to what good? he not could budge, he is planted solid like a church he not advance no more than if one him had put at the anchor. Smiley was surprised and disgusted, but he no himself doubted not of the turn being intended (mais il ne se doutait pas du tour, bien entendu). The individual empocketed the silver, himself with it went, and of it himself in going is it that he no gives not a jerk of thumb over the shoulder – like that – at the poor Daniel, in saying with his air deliberate – (L'individu empoche l'argent, s'en va et en s'en allant est-ce qu'il ne donne pas un coup d pouce par-dessus l'epaule, comme ga, au pauvre Daniel, en disant de son air delibere): "Eh bien! I no see not that that frog has nothin of better than another." Smiley himself scratched longtimes the head, the eyes fixed upon Daniel, until that which at last he said: "I me demand how the devil it makes itself that this beast has refused. Is it that she had something? One would believe that she is stuffed." He grasped Daniel by the skin of the neck, him lifted and said: "The wolf me bite if he no weigh not five pounds: " He him reversed and the unhappy belched two handfuls of shot (et le malheureux, etc.). When Smiley recognized how it was, he was like mad. He deposited his frog by the earth and ran after that individual, but he not him caught never. Such is the jumping Frog, to the distorted French eye. I claim that I never put together such an odious mixture of bad grammar and delirium tremens in my life. And what has a poor foreigner like me done, to be abused and misrepresented like this? When I say, "Well, I don't see no pints about that frog that's any better'n any other frog," is it kind, is it just, for this Frenchman to try to make it appear that I said, "Eh bien! I no saw not that that frog had nothing of better than each frog"? I have no heart to write more. I never felt so about anything before.
HARTFORD, March, 1875.
To Raise Poultry
Seriously, from early youth I have taken an especial interest in the subject of poultry-raising, and so this membership touches a ready sympathy in my breast. Even as a schoolboy, poultry-raising was a study with me, and I may say without egotism that as early as the age of seventeen I was acquainted with all the best and speediest methods of raising chickens, from raising them off a roost by burning lucifer matches under their noses, down to lifting them off a fence on a frosty night by insinuating the end of a warm board under their heels. By the time I was twenty years old, I really suppose I had raised more poultry than any one individual in all the section round about there. The very chickens came to know my talent by and by. The youth of both sexes ceased to paw the earth for worms, and old roosters that came to crow, “remained to pray,” when I passed by.
I have had so much experience in the raising of fowls that I cannot but think that a few hints from me might be useful to the society. The two methods I have already touched upon are very simple, and are only used in the raising of the commonest class of fowls; one is for summer, the other for winter. In the one case you start out with a friend along about eleven o’clock on a summer’s night (not later, because in some states – especially in California and Oregon – chickens always rouse up just at midnight and crow from ten to thirty minutes, according to the ease or difficulty they experience in getting the public waked up), and your friend carries with him a sack. Arrived at the henroost (your neighbor’s, not your own), you light a match and hold it under first one and then another pullet’s nose until they are willing to go into that bag without making any trouble about it. You then return home, either taking the bag with you or leaving it behind, according as circumstances shall dictate. N. B. – I have seen the time when it was eligible and appropriate to leave the sack behind and walk off with considerable velocity, without ever leaving any word where to send it.
In the case of the other method mentioned for raising poultry, your friend takes along a covered vessel with a charcoal fire in it, and you carry a long slender plank. This is a frosty night, understand. Arrived at the tree, or fence, or other henroost (your own if you are an idiot), you warm the end of your plank in your friend’s fire vessel, and then raise it aloft and ease it up gently against a slumbering chicken’s foot. If the subject of your attentions is a true bird, he will infallibly return thanks with a sleepy cluck or two, and step out and take up quarters on the plank, thus becoming so conspicuously accessory before the fact to his own murder as to make it a grave question in our minds as it once was in the mind of Blackstone, whether he is not really and deliberately committing suicide in the second degree. [But you enter into a contemplation of these legal refinements subsequently– not then.]
When you wish to raise a fine, large, donkey-voiced Shanghai rooster, you do it with a lasso, just as you would a bull. It is because he must be choked, and choked effectually, too. It is the only good, certain way, for whenever he mentions a matter which he is cordially interested in, the chances are ninety-nine in a hundred that he secures somebody else’s immediate attention to it too, whether it be day or night.
The Black Spanish is an exceedingly fine bird and a costly one. Thirty-five dollars is the usual figure, and fifty a not uncommon price for a specimen. Even its eggs are worth from a dollar to a dollar and a half apiece, and yet are so unwholesome that the city physician seldom or never orders them for the workhouse. Still I have once or twice procured as high as a dozen at a time for nothing, in the dark of the moon. The best way to raise the Black Spanish fowl is to go late in the evening and raise coop and all. The reason I recommend this method is that, the birds being so valuable, the owners do not permit them to roost around promiscuously, but put them in a coop as strong as a fireproof safe and keep it in the kitchen at night. The method I speak of is not always a bright and satisfying success, and yet there are so many little articles of vertu about a kitchen, that if you fail on the coop you can generally bring away something else. I brought away a nice steel trap one night, worth ninety cents.
But what is the use in my pouring out my whole intellect on this subject? I have shown the Western New York Poultry Society that they have taken to their bosom a party who is not a spring chicken by any means, but a man who knows all about poultry, and is just as high up in the most efficient methods of raising it as the president of the institution himself. I thank these gentlemen for the honorary membership they have conferred upon me, and shall stand at all times ready and willing to testify my good feeling and my official zeal by deeds as well as by this hastily penned advice and information. Whenever they are ready to go to raising poultry, let them call for me any evening after eleven o’clock, and I shall be on hand promptly.
Experience Of The McWilliamses With Membranous Croup
[As related to the author of this book by Mr. McWilliams, a pleasant New York gentleman whom the said author met by chance on a journey.]
Well, to go back to where I was before I digressed to explain to you how that frightful and incurable disease, membranous croup, was ravaging the town and driving all mothers mad with terror, I called Mrs. McWilliams’s attention to little Penelope, and said:
“Darling, I wouldn’t let that child be chewing that pine stick if I were you.”
“Precious, where is the harm in it?” said she, but at the same time preparing to take away the stick – for women cannot receive even the most palpably judicious suggestion without arguing it; that is, married women.
“Love, it is notorious that pine is the least nutritious wood that a child can eat.”
My wife’s hand paused, in the act of taking the stick, and returned itself to her lap. She bridled perceptibly, and said:
“Hubby, you know better than that. You know you do. Doctors all say that the turpentine in pine wood is good for weak back and the kidneys.”
“Ah – I was under a misapprehension. I did not know that the child’s kidneys and spine were affected, and that the family physician had recommended—”
“Who said the child’s spine and kidneys were affected?”
“My love, you intimated it.”
“The idea! I never intimated anything of the kind.”
“Why, my dear, it hasn’t been two minutes since you said—”
“Bother what I said! I don’t care what I did say. There isn’t any harm in the child’s chewing a bit of pine stick if she wants to, and you know it perfectly well. And she shall chew it, too. So there, now!”
“Say no more, my dear. I now see the force of your reasoning, and I will go and order two or three cords of the best pine wood to-day. No child of mine shall want while I—”
“Oh, please go along to your office and let me have some peace. A body can never make the simplest remark but you must take it up and go to arguing and arguing and arguing till you don’t know what you are talking about, and you never do.”
“Very well, it shall be as you say. But there is a want of logic in your last remark which—”
However, she was gone with a flourish before I could finish, and had taken the child with her. That night at dinner she confronted me with a face as white as a sheet:
“Oh, Mortimer, there’s another! Little Georgi Gordon is taken.”
“Is there any hope for him?”
“None in the wide world. Oh, what is to become of us!”
By and by a nurse brought in our Penelope to say good night and offer the customary prayer at the mother’s knee. In the midst of “Now I lay me down to sleep,” she gave a slight cough! My wife fell back like one stricken with death. But the next moment she was up and brimming with the activities which terror inspires.
She commanded that the child’s crib be removed from the nursery to our bedroom; and she went along to see the order executed. She took me with her, of course. We got matters arranged with speed. A cot-bed was put up in my wife’s dressing room for the nurse. But now Mrs. McWilliams said we were too far away from the other baby, and what if he were to have the symptoms in the night – and she blanched again, poor thing.
We then restored the crib and the nurse to the nursery and put up a bed for ourselves in a room adjoining.
Presently, however, Mrs. McWilliams said suppose the baby should catch it from Penelope? This thought struck a new panic to her heart, and the tribe of us could not get the crib out of the nursery again fast enough to satisfy my wife, though she assisted in her own person and well-nigh pulled the crib to pieces in her frantic hurry.
We moved down-stairs; but there was no place there to stow the nurse, and Mrs. McWilliams said the nurse’s experience would be an inestimable help. So we returned, bag and baggage, to our own bedroom once more, and felt a great gladness, like storm-buffeted birds that have found their nest again.
Mrs. McWilliams sped to the nursery to see how things were going on there. She was back in a moment with a new dread. She said:
“What can make Baby sleep so?”
“Why, my darling, Baby always sleeps like a graven image.”
“I know. I know; but there’s something peculiar about his sleep now. He seems to – to – he seems to breathe so regularly. Oh, this is dreadful.”
“But, my dear, he always breathes regularly.”
“Oh, I know it, but there’s something frightful about it now. His nurse is too young and inexperienced. Maria shall stay there with her, and be on hand if anything happens.”
“That is a good idea, but who will help you?”
“You can help me all I want. I wouldn’t allow anybody to do anything but myself, anyhow, at such a time as this.”
I said I would feel mean to lie abed and sleep, and leave her to watch and toil over our little patient all the weary night. But she reconciled me to it. So old Maria departed and took up her ancient quarters in the nursery.
Penelope coughed twice in her sleep.
“Oh, why don’t that doctor come! Mortimer, this room is too warm. This room is certainly too warm. Turn off the register-quick!”
I shut it off, glancing at the thermometer at the same time, and wondering to myself if 70 was too warm for a sick child.
The coachman arrived from down-town now with the news that our physician was ill and confined to his bed. Mrs. McWilliams turned a dead eye upon me, and said in a dead voice:
“There is a Providence in it. It is foreordained. He never was sick before. Never. We have not been living as we ought to live, Mortimer. Time and time again I have told you so. Now you see the result. Our child will never get well. Be thankful if you can forgive yourself; I never can forgive myself.”
I said, without intent to hurt, but with heedless choice of words, that I could not see that we had been living such an abandoned life.
“Mortimer! Do you want to bring the judgment upon Baby, too!”
Then she began to cry, but suddenly exclaimed:
“The doctor must have sent medicines!”
“Certainly. They are here. I was only waiting for you to give me a chance.”
“Well do give them to me! Don’t you know that every moment is precious now? But what was the use in sending medicines, when he knows that the disease is incurable?”
I said that while there was life there was hope.
“Hope! Mortimer, you know no more what you are talking about than the child unborn. If you would – As I live, the directions say give one teaspoonful once an hour! Once an hour! – as if we had a whole year before us to save the child in! Mortimer, please hurry. Give the poor perishing thing a tablespoonful, and try to be quick!”
“Why, my dear, a tablespoonful might—”
“Don’t drive me frantic!. There, there, there, my precious, my own; it’s nasty bitter stuff, but it’s good for Nelly – good for mother’s precious darling; and it will make her well. There, there, there, put the little head on mamma’s breast and go to sleep, and pretty soon – oh, I know she can’t live till morning! Mortimer, a tablespoonful every half-hour will – Oh, the child needs belladonna, too; I know she does – and aconite. Get them, Mortimer. Now do let me have my way. You know nothing about these things.”
We now went to bed, placing the crib close to my wife’s pillow. All this turmoil had worn upon me, and within two minutes I was something more than half asleep. Mrs. McWilliams roused me:
“Darling, is that register turned on?”
“I thought as much. Please turn it on at once. This room is cold.”
I turned it on, and presently fell asleep again. I was aroused once more:
“Dearie, would you mind moving the crib to your side of the bed? It is nearer the register.”
I moved it, but had a collision with the rug and woke up the child. I dozed off once more, while my wife quieted the sufferer. But in a little while these words came murmuring remotely through the fog of my drowsiness:
“Mortimer, if we only had some goose grease – will you ring?”
I climbed dreamily out, and stepped on a cat, which responded with a protest and would have got a convincing kick for it if a chair had not got it instead.
“Now, Mortimer, why do you want to turn up the gas and wake up the child again?”
“Because I want to see how much I am hurt, Caroline.”
“Well, look at the chair, too – I have no doubt it is ruined. Poor cat, suppose you had—”
“Now I am not going to suppose anything about the cat. It never would have occurred if Maria had been allowed to remain here and attend to these duties, which are in her line and are not in mine.”
“Now, Mortimer, I should think you would be ashamed to make a remark like that. It is a pity if you cannot do the few little things I ask of you at such an awful time as this when our child—”
“There, there, I will do anything you want. But I can’t raise anybody with this bell. They’re all gone to bed. Where is the goose grease?”
“On the mantelpiece in the nursery. If you’ll step there and speak to Maria—”
I fetched the goose grease and went to sleep again. Once more I was called:
“Mortimer, I so hate to disturb you, but the room is still too cold for me to try to apply this stuff. Would you mind lighting the fire? It is all ready to touch a match to.”
I dragged myself out and lit the fire, and then sat down disconsolate.
“Mortimer, don’t sit there and catch your death of cold. Come to bed.”
As I was stepping in she said:
“But wait a moment. Please give the child some more of the medicine.”
Which I did. It was a medicine which made a child more or less lively; so my wife made use of its waking interval to strip it and grease it all over with the goose oil. I was soon asleep once more, but once more I had to get up.
“Mortimer, I feel a draft. I feel it distinctly. There is nothing so bad for this disease as a draft. Please move the crib in front of the fire.”
I did it; and collided with the rug again, which I threw in the fire. Mrs. McWilliams sprang out of bed and rescued it and we had some words. I had another trifling interval of sleep, and then got up, by request, and constructed a flax-seed poultice. This was placed upon the child’s breast and left there to do its healing work.
A wood-fire is not a permanent thing. I got up every twenty minutes and renewed ours, and this gave Mrs. McWilliams the opportunity to shorten the times of giving the medicines by ten minutes, which was a great satisfaction to her. Now and then, between times, I reorganized the flax-seed poultices, and applied sinapisms and other sorts of blisters where unoccupied places could be found upon the child. Well, toward morning the wood gave out and my wife wanted me to go down cellar and get some more. I said:
“My dear, it is a laborious job, and the child must be nearly warm enough, with her extra clothing. Now mightn’t we put on another layer of poultices and—”
I did not finish, because I was interrupted. I lugged wood up from below for some little time, and then turned in and fell to snoring as only a man can whose strength is all gone and whose soul is worn out. Just at broad daylight I felt a grip on my shoulder that brought me to my senses suddenly. My wife was glaring down upon me and gasping. As soon as she could command her tongue she said:
“It is all over! All over! The child’s perspiring! What shall we do?”
“Mercy, how you terrify me! I don’t know what we ought to do. Maybe if we scraped her and put her in the draft again—”
“Oh, idiot! There is not a moment to lose! Go for the doctor. Go yourself. Tell him he must come, dead or alive.”
I dragged that poor sick man from his bed and brought him. He looked at the child and said she was not dying. This was joy unspeakable to me, but it made my wife as mad as if he had offered her a personal affront. Then he said the child’s cough was only caused by some trifling irritation or other in the throat. At this I thought my wife had a mind to show him the door. Now the doctor said he would make the child cough harder and dislodge the trouble. So he gave her something that sent her into a spasm of coughing, and presently up came a little wood splinter or so.
“This child has no membranous croup,” said he. “She has been chewing a bit of pine shingle or something of the kind, and got some little slivers in her throat. They won’t do her any hurt.”
“No,” said I, “I can well believe that. Indeed, the turpentine that is in them is very good for certain sorts of diseases that are peculiar to children. My wife will tell you so.”
But she did not. She turned away in disdain and left the room; and since that time there is one episode in our life which we never refer to. Hence the tide of our days flows by in deep and untroubled serenity.
[Very few married men have such an experience as McWilliams’s, and so the author of this book thought that maybe the novelty of it would give it a passing interest to the reader.]
My First Literary Venture
I was a very smart child at the age of thirteen – an unusually smart child, I thought at the time. It was then that I did my first newspaper scribbling, and most unexpectedly to me it stirred up a fine sensation in the community. It did, indeed, and I was very proud of it, too. I was a printer’s “devil,” and a progressive and aspiring one. My uncle had me on his paper (the Weekly Hannibal Journal, two dollars a year in advance – five hundred subscribers, and they paid in cordwood, cabbages, and unmarketable turnips), and on a lucky summer’s day he left town to be gone a week, and asked me if I thought I could edit one issue of the paper judiciously. Ah! didn’t I want to try! Higgins was the editor on the rival paper. He had lately been jilted, and one night a friend found an open note on the poor fellow’s bed, in which he stated that he could not longer endure life and had drowned himself in Bear Creek. The friend ran down there and discovered Higgins wading back to shore. He had concluded he wouldn’t. The village was full of it for several days, but Higgins did not suspect it. I thought this was a fine opportunity. I wrote an elaborately wretched account of the whole matter, and then illustrated it with villainous cuts engraved on the bottoms of wooden type with a jackknife – one of them a picture of Higgins wading out into the creek in his shirt, with a lantern, sounding the depth of the water with a walking-stick. I thought it was desperately funny, and was densely unconscious that there was any moral obliquity about such a publication. Being satisfied with this effort I looked around for other worlds to conquer, and it struck me that it would make good, interesting matter to charge the editor of a neighboring country paper with a piece of gratuitous rascality and “see him squirm.”
I did it, putting the article into the form of a parody on the “Burial of Sir John Moore”—and a pretty crude parody it was, too.
Then I lampooned two prominent citizens outrageously – not because they had done anything to deserve, but merely because I thought it was my duty to make the paper lively.
Next I gently touched up the newest stranger – the lion of the day, the gorgeous journeyman tailor from Quincy. He was a simpering coxcomb of the first water, and the “loudest” dressed man in the state. He was an inveterate woman-killer. Every week he wrote lushy “poetry” for the journal, about his newest conquest. His rhymes for my week were headed, “To Mary in H – l,” meaning to Mary in Hannibal, of course. But while setting up the piece I was suddenly riven from head to heel by what I regarded as a perfect thunderbolt of humor, and I compressed it into a snappy footnote at the bottom – thus: “We will let this thing pass, just this once; but we wish Mr. J. Gordon Runnels to understand distinctly that we have a character to sustain, and from this time forth when he wants to commune with his friends in h – l, he must select some other medium than the columns of this journal!”
The paper came out, and I never knew any little thing attract so much attention as those playful trifles of mine.
For once the Hannibal Journal was in demand – a novelty it had not experienced before. The whole town was stirred. Higgins dropped in with a double-barreled shotgun early in the forenoon. When he found that it was an infant (as he called me) that had done him the damage, he simply pulled my ears and went away; but he threw up his situation that night and left town for good. The tailor came with his goose and a pair of shears; but he despised me, too, and departed for the South that night. The two lampooned citizens came with threats of libel, and went away incensed at my insignificance. The country editor pranced in with a war-whoop next day, suffering for blood to drink; but he ended by forgiving me cordially and inviting me down to the drug store to wash away all animosity in a friendly bumper of “Fahnestock’s Vermifuge.” It was his little joke. My uncle was very angry when he got back – unreasonably so, I thought, considering what an impetus I had given the paper, and considering also that gratitude for his preservation ought to have been uppermost in his mind, inasmuch as by his delay he had so wonderfully escaped dissection, tomahawking, libel, and getting his head shot off.
But he softened when he looked at the accounts and saw that I had actually booked the unparalleled number of thirty-three new subscribers, and had the vegetables to show for it, cordwood, cabbage, beans, and unsalable turnips enough to run the family for two years!
How The Author Was Sold In Newark
It is seldom pleasant to tell on oneself, but some times it is a sort of relief to a man to make a confession. I wish to unburden my mind now, and yet I almost believe that I am moved to do it more because I long to bring censure upon another man than because I desire to pour balm upon my wounded heart. (I don’t know what balm is, but I believe it is the correct expression to use in this connection – never having seen any balm.) You may remember that I lectured in Newark lately for the young gentlemen of the – Society? I did at any rate. During the afternoon of that day I was talking with one of the young gentlemen just referred to, and he said he had an uncle who, from some cause or other, seemed to have grown permanently bereft of all emotion. And with tears in his eyes, this young man said, “Oh, if I could only see him laugh once more! Oh, if I could only see him weep!” I was touched. I could never withstand distress.
I said: “Bring him to my lecture. I’ll start him for you.”
“Oh, if you could but do it! If you could but do it, all our family would bless you for evermore – for he is so very dear to us. Oh, my benefactor, can you make him laugh? can you bring soothing tears to those parched orbs?”
I was profoundly moved. I said: “My son, bring the old party round. I have got some jokes in that lecture that will make him laugh if there is any laugh in him; and if they miss fire, I have got some others that will make him cry or kill him, one or the other.” Then the young man blessed me, and wept on my neck, and went after his uncle. He placed him in full view, in the second row of benches, that night, and I began on him. I tried him with mild jokes, then with severe ones; I dosed him with bad jokes and riddled him with good ones; I fired old stale jokes into him, and peppered him fore and aft with red-hot new ones; I warmed up to my work, and assaulted him on the right and left, in front and behind; I fumed and sweated and charged and ranted till I was hoarse and sick and frantic and furious; but I never moved him once – I never started a smile or a tear! Never a ghost of a smile, and never a suspicion of moisture! I was astounded. I closed the lecture at last with one despairing shriek – with one wild burst of humor, and hurled a joke of supernatural atrocity full at him!
Then I sat down bewildered and exhausted.
The president of the society came up and bathed my head with cold water, and said: “What made you carry on so toward the last?”
I said: “I was trying to make that confounded old fool laugh, in the second row.”
And he said: “Well, you were wasting your time, because he is deaf and dumb, and as blind as a badger!”
Now, was that any way for that old man’s nephew to impose on a stranger and orphan like me? I ask you as a man and brother, if that was any way for him to do?
The Office Bore
He arrives just as regularly as the clock strikes nine in the morning. And so he even beats the editor sometimes, and the porter must leave his work and climb two or three pairs of stairs to unlock the “Sanctum” door and let him in. He lights one of the office pipes – not reflecting, perhaps, that the editor may be one of those “stuck-up” people who would as soon have a stranger defile his tooth-brush as his pipe-stem. Then he begins to loll – for a person who can consent to loaf his useless life away in ignominious indolence has not the energy to sit up straight.
He stretches full length on the sofa awhile; then draws up to half length; then gets into a chair, hangs his head back and his arms abroad, and stretches his legs till the rims of his boot-heels rest upon the floor; by and by sits up and leans forward, with one leg or both over the arm of the chair. But it is still observable that with all his changes of position, he never assumes the upright or a fraudful affectation of dignity. From time to time he yawns, and stretches, and scratches himself with a tranquil, mangy enjoyment, and now and then he grunts a kind of stuffy, overfed grunt, which is full of animal contentment. At rare and long intervals, however, he sighs a sigh that is the eloquent expression of a secret confession, to wit “I am useless and a nuisance, a cumberer of the earth.” The bore and his comrades – for there are usually from two to four on hand, day and night – mix into the conversation when men come in to see the editors for a moment on business; they hold noisy talks among themselves about politics in particular, and all other subjects in general – even warming up, after a fashion, sometimes, and seeming to take almost a real interest in what they are discussing. They ruthlessly call an editor from his work with such a remark as: “Did you see this, Smith, in the Gazette?” and proceed to read the paragraph while the sufferer reins in his impatient pen and listens; they often loll and sprawl round the office hour after hour, swapping anecdotes and relating personal experiences to each other – hairbreadth escapes, social encounters with distinguished men, election reminiscences, sketches of odd characters, etc. And through all those hours they never seem to comprehend that they are robbing the editors of their time, and the public of journalistic excellence in next day’s paper. At other times they drowse, or dreamily pore over exchanges, or droop limp and pensive over the chair-arms for an hour. Even this solemn silence is small respite to the editor, for the next uncomfortable thing to having people look over his shoulders, perhaps, is to have them sit by in silence and listen to the scratching of his pen. If a body desires to talk private business with one of the editors, he must call him outside, for no hint milder than blasting-powder or nitroglycerin would be likely to move the bores out of listening-distance. To have to sit and endure the presence of a bore day after day; to feel your cheerful spirits begin to sink as his footstep sounds on the stair, and utterly vanish away as his tiresome form enters the door; to suffer through his anecdotes and die slowly to his reminiscences; to feel always the fetters of his clogging presence; to long hopelessly for one single day’s privacy; to note with a shudder, by and by, that to contemplate his funeral in fancy has ceased to soothe, to imagine him undergoing in strict and fearful detail the tortures of the ancient Inquisition has lost its power to satisfy the heart, and that even to wish him millions and millions and millions of miles in Tophet is able to bring only a fitful gleam of joy; to have to endure all this, day after day, and week after week, and month after month, is an affliction that transcends any other that men suffer. Physical pain is pastime to it, and hanging a pleasure excursion.
“The church was densely crowded that lovely summer Sabbath,” said the Sunday-school superintendent, “and all, as their eyes rested upon the small coffin, seemed impressed by the poor black boy’s fate. Above the stillness the pastor’s voice rose, and chained the interest of every ear as he told, with many an envied compliment, how that the brave, noble, daring little Johnny Greer, when he saw the drowned body sweeping down toward the deep part of the river whence the agonized parents never could have recovered it in this world, gallantly sprang into the stream, and, at the risk of his life, towed the corpse to shore, and held it fast till help came and secured it. Johnny Greer was sitting just in front of me. A ragged street-boy, with eager eye, turned upon him instantly, and said in a hoarse whisper,
“‘No; but did you, though?’
“‘Towed the carkiss ashore and saved it yo’self?’
“‘Cracky! What did they give you?’
“’W-h-a-t [with intense disgust]! D’you know what I’d ‘a’ done? I’d ‘a’ anchored him out in the stream, and said, Five dollars, gents, or you carn’t have yo’ nigger.’”
The Facts In The Case Of The Great Beef Contract
In as few words as possible I wish to lay before the nation what share, howsoever small, I have had in this matter – this matter which has so exercised the public mind, engendered so much ill-feeling, and so filled the newspapers of both continents with distorted statements and extravagant comments.
The origin of this distressful thing was this – and I assert here that every fact in the following résumé can be amply proved by the official records of the General Government.
John Wilson Mackenzie, of Rotterdam, Chemung County, New Jersey, deceased, contracted with the General Government, on or about the 10th day of October, 1861, to furnish to General Sherman the sum total of thirty barrels of beef.
He started after Sherman with the beef, but when he got to Washington Sherman had gone to Manassas; so he took the beef and followed him there, but arrived too late; he followed him to Nashville, and from Nashville to Chattanooga, and from Chattanooga to Atlanta – but he never could overtake him. At Atlanta he took a fresh start and followed him clear through his march to the sea. He arrived too late again by a few days; but hearing that Sherman was going out in the Quaker City excursion to the Holy Land, he took shipping for Beirut, calculating to head off the other vessel. When he arrived in Jerusalem with his beef, he learned that Sherman had not sailed in the Quaker City, but had gone to the Plains to fight the Indians. He returned to America and started for the Rocky Mountains. After sixty-eight days of arduous travel on the Plains, and when he had got within four miles of Sherman’s headquarters, he was tomahawked and scalped, and the Indians got the beef. They got all of it but one barrel. Sherman’s army captured that, and so, even in death, the bold navigator partly fulfilled his contract. In his will, which he had kept like a journal, he bequeathed the contract to his son Bartholomew W. Bartholomew W. made out the following bill, and then died:
The united states
In account with John Wilson Mackenzie, of New Jersey, deceased, Dr.
To thirty barrels of beef for General Sherman, at 0, ,000
To traveling expenses and transportation. 14,000
Total. ,000 Rec’d Pay’t.
He died then; but he left the contract to Wm. J. Martin, who tried to collect it, but died before he got through. He left it to Barker J. Allen, and he tried to collect it also. He did not survive. Barker J. Allen left it to Anson G. Rogers, who attempted to collect it, and got along as far as the Ninth Auditor’s Office, when Death, the great Leveler, came all unsummoned, and foreclosed on him also. He left the bill to a relative of his in Connecticut, Vengeance Hopkins by name, who lasted four weeks and two days, and made the best time on record, coming within one of reaching the Twelfth Auditor. In his will he gave the contract bill to his uncle, by the name of O-be-joyful Johnson. It was too undermining for Joyful. His last words were: “Weep not for me – I am willing to go.” And so he was, poor soul. Seven people inherited the contract after that; but they all died. So it came into my hands at last. It fell to me through a relative by the name of, Hubbard – Bethlehem Hubbard, of Indiana. He had had a grudge against me for a long time; but in his last moments he sent for me, and forgave me everything, and, weeping, gave me the beef contract.
This ends the history of it up to the time that I succeeded to the property. I will now endeavor to set myself straight before the nation in everything that concerns my share in the matter. I took this beef contract, and the bill for mileage and transportation, to the President of the United States.
He said, “Well, sir, what can I do for you?”
I said, “Sire, on or about the 10th day of October, 1861, John Wilson Mackenzie, of Rotterdam, Chemung County, New Jersey, deceased, contracted with the General Government to furnish to General Sherman the sum total of thirty barrels of beef—”
He stopped me there, and dismissed me from his presence – kindly, but firmly. The next day I called on the Secretary of State.
He said, “Well, sir?”
I said, “Your Royal Highness: on or about the 10th day of October, 1861, John Wilson Mackenzie of Rotterdam, Chemung County, New Jersey, deceased, contracted with the General Government to furnish to General Sherman the sum total of thirty barrels of beef—”
“That will do, sir – that will do; this office has nothing to do with contracts for beef.”
I was bowed out. I thought the matter all over and finally, the following day, I visited the Secretary of the Navy, who said, “Speak quickly, sir; do not keep me waiting.”
I said, “Your Royal Highness, on or about the 10th day of October, 1861, John Wilson Mackenzie of Rotterdam, Chemung County, New Jersey, deceased, contracted with the General Government to General Sherman the sum total of thirty barrels of beef—”
Well, it was as far as I could get. He had nothing to do with beef contracts for General Sherman, either. I began to think it was a curious kind of government. It looked somewhat as if they wanted to get out of paying for that beef. The following day I went to the Secretary of the Interior.
I said, “Your Imperial Highness, on or about the 10th day of October—”
“That is sufficient, sir. I have heard of you before. Go, take your infamous beef contract out of this establishment. The Interior Department has nothing whatever to do with subsistence for the army.”
I went away. But I was exasperated now. I said I would haunt them; I would infest every department of this iniquitous government till that contract business was settled. I would collect that bill, or fall, as fell my predecessors, trying. I assailed the Postmaster-General; I besieged the Agricultural Department; I waylaid the Speaker of the House of Representatives. They had nothing to do with army contracts for beef. I moved upon the Commissioner of the Patent Office.
I said, “Your August Excellency, on or about—”
“Perdition! have you got here with your incendiary beef contract, at last? We have nothing to do with beef contracts for the army, my dear sir.”
“Oh, that is all very well – but somebody has got to pay for that beef. It has got to be paid now, too, or I’ll confiscate this old Patent Office and everything in it.”
“But, my dear sir—”
“It don’t make any difference, sir. The Patent Office is liable for that beef, I reckon; and, liable or not liable, the Patent Office has got to pay for it.”
Never mind the details. It ended in a fight. The Patent Office won. But I found out something to my advantage. I was told that the Treasury Department was the proper place for me to go to. I went there. I waited two hours and a half, and then I was admitted to the First Lord of the Treasury.
I said, “Most noble, grave, and reverend Signor, on or about the 10th day of October, 1861, John Wilson Macken—”
“That is sufficient, sir. I have heard of you. Go to the First Auditor of the Treasury.”
I did so. He sent me to the Second Auditor. The Second Auditor sent me to the Third, and the Third sent me to the First Comptroller of the Corn-Beef Division. This began to look like business. He examined his books and all his loose papers, but found no minute of the beef contract. I went to the Second Comptroller of the Corn-Beef Division. He examined his books and his loose papers, but with no success. I was encouraged. During that week I got as far as the Sixth Comptroller in that division; the next week I got through the Claims Department; the third week I began and completed the Mislaid Contracts Department, and got a foothold in the Dead Reckoning Department. I finished that in three days. There was only one place left for it now. I laid siege to the Commissioner of Odds and Ends. To his clerk, rather – he was not there himself. There were sixteen beautiful young ladies in the room, writing in books, and there were seven well-favored young clerks showing them how. The young women smiled up over their shoulders, and the clerks smiled back at them, and all went merry as a marriage bell. Two or three clerks that were reading the newspapers looked at me rather hard, but went on reading, and nobody said anything. However, I had been used to this kind of alacrity from Fourth Assistant Junior Clerks all through my eventful career, from the very day I entered the first office of the Corn-Beef Bureau clear till I passed out of the last one in the Dead Reckoning Division. I had got so accomplished by this time that I could stand on one foot from the moment I entered an office till a clerk spoke to me, without changing more than two, or maybe three, times.
So I stood there till I had changed four different times. Then I said to one of the clerks who was reading:
“Illustrious Vagrant, where is the Grand Turk?”
“What do you mean, sir? whom do you mean? If you mean the Chief of the Bureau, he is out.”
“Will he visit the harem to-day?”
The young man glared upon me awhile, and then went on reading his paper. But I knew the ways of those clerks. I knew I was safe if he got through before another New York mail arrived. He only had two more papers left. After a while he finished them, and then he yawned and asked me what I wanted.
“Renowned and honored Imbecile: on or about—”
“You are the beef-contract man. Give me your papers.”
He took them, and for a long time he ransacked his odds and ends. Finally he found the Northwest Passage, as I regarded it – he found the long lost record of that beef contract – he found the rock upon which so many of my ancestors had split before they ever got to it. I was deeply moved. And yet I rejoiced – for I had survived. I said with emotion, “Give it me. The government will settle now.” He waved me back, and said there was something yet to be done first.
“Where is this John Wilson Mackenzie?” said he.
“When did he die?”
“He didn’t die at all – he was killed.”
“Who tomahawked him?”
“Why, an Indian, of course. You didn’t suppose it was the superintendent of a Sunday-school, did you?”
“No. An Indian, was it?”
“Name of the Indian?”
“His name? I don’t know his name.”
“Must have his name. Who saw the tomahawking done?”
“I don’t know.”
“You were not present yourself, then?”
“Which you can see by my hair. I was absent.
“Then how do you know that Mackenzie is dead?”
“Because he certainly died at that time, and I have every reason to believe that he has been dead ever since. I know he has, in fact.”
“We must have proofs. Have you got the Indian?”
“Of course not.”
“Well, you must get him. Have you got the tomahawk?”
“I never thought of such a thing.”
“You must get the tomahawk. You must produce the Indian and the tomahawk. If Mackenzie’s death can be proven by these, you can then go before the commission appointed to audit claims with some show of getting your bill under such headway that your children may possibly live to receive the money and enjoy it. But that man’s death must be proven. However, I may as well tell you that the government will never pay that transportation and those traveling expenses of the lamented Mackenzie. It may possibly pay for the barrel of beef that Sherman’s soldiers captured, if you can get a relief bill through Congress making an appropriation for that purpose; but it will not pay for the twenty-nine barrels the Indians ate.”
“Then there is only a hundred dollars due me, and that isn’t certain! After all Mackenzie’s travels in Europe, Asia, and America with that beef; after all his trials and tribulations and transportation; after the slaughter of all those innocents that tried to collect that bill! Young man, why didn’t the First Comptroller of the Corn-Beef Division tell me this?”
“He didn’t know anything about the genuineness of your claim.”
“Why didn’t the Second tell me? why didn’t the Third? why didn’t all those divisions and departments tell me?”
“None of them knew. We do things by routine here. You have followed the routine and found out what you wanted to know. It is the best way. It is the only way. It is very regular, and very slow, but it is very certain.”
“Yes, certain death. It has been, to the most of our tribe. I begin to feel that I, too, am called. Young man, you love the bright creature yonder with the gentle blue eyes and the steel pens behind her ears – I see it in your soft glances; you wish to marry her – but you are poor. Here, hold out your hand– here is the beef contract; go, take her and be happy! Heaven bless you, my children!”
This is all I know about the great beef contract that has created so much talk in the community. The clerk to whom I bequeathed it died. I know nothing further about the contract, or any one connected with it. I only know that if a man lives long enough he can trace a thing through the Circumlocution Office of Washington and find out, after much labor and trouble and delay, that which he could have found out on the first day if the business of the Circumlocution Office were as ingeniously systematized as it would be if it were a great private mercantile institution.
The Case Of George Fisher
This is history. It is not a wild extravaganza, like “John Wilson Mackenzie’s Great Beef Contract,” but is a plain statement of facts and circumstances with which the Congress of the United States has interested itself from time to time during the long period of half a century.
I will not call this matter of George Fisher’s a great deathless and unrelenting swindle upon the government and people of the United States – for it has never been so decided, and I hold that it is a grave and solemn wrong for a writer to cast slurs or call names when such is the case – but will simply present the evidence and let the reader deduce his own verdict. Then we shall do nobody injustice, and our consciences shall be clear.
On or about the 1st day of September, 1813, the Creek war being then in progress in Florida, the crops, herds, and houses of Mr. George Fisher, a citizen, were destroyed, either by the Indians or by the United States troops in pursuit of them. By the terms of the law, if the Indians destroyed the property, there was no relief for Fisher; but if the troops destroyed it, the Government of the United States was debtor to Fisher for the amount involved.
George Fisher must have considered that the Indians destroyed the property, because, although he lived several years afterward, he does not appear to have ever made any claim upon the government.
In the course of time Fisher died, and his widow married again. And by and by, nearly twenty years after that dimly remembered raid upon Fisher’s corn-fields, the widow Fisher’s new husband petitioned Congress for pay for the property, and backed up the petition with many depositions and affidavits which purported to prove that the troops, and not the Indians, destroyed the property; that the troops, for some inscrutable reason, deliberately burned down “houses” (or cabins) valued at 0, the same belonging to a peaceable private citizen, and alsodestroyed various other property belonging to the same citizen. But Congress declined to believe that the troops were such idiots (after overtaking and scattering a band of Indians proved to have been found destroying Fisher’s property) as to calmly continue the work of destruction themselves; and make a complete job of what the Indians had only commenced. So Congress denied the petition of the heirs of George Fisher in 1832, and did not pay them a cent.
We hear no more from them officially until 1848, sixteen years after their first attempt on the Treasury, and a full generation after the death of the man whose fields were destroyed. The new generation of Fisher heirs then came forward and put in a bill for damages. The Second Auditor awarded them ,873, being half the damage sustained by Fisher. The Auditor said the testimony showed that at least half the destruction was done by the Indians “before the troops started in pursuit,” and of course the government was not responsible for that half.
2. That was in April, 1848. In December, 1848, the heirs of George Fisher, deceased, came forward and pleaded for a “revision” of their bill of damages. The revision was made, but nothing new could be found in their favor except an error of 0 in the former calculation. However, in order to keep up the spirits of the Fisher family, the Auditor concluded to go back and allow interest from the date of the first petition (1832) to the date when the bill of damages was awarded. This sent the Fishers home happy with sixteen years’ interest on ,873—the same amounting to ,997.94. Total, ,870.94.
3. For an entire year the suffering Fisher family remained quiet – even satisfied, after a fashion. Then they swooped down upon the government with their wrongs once more. That old patriot, Attorney-General Toucey, burrowed through the musty papers of the Fishers and discovered one more chance for the desolate orphans – interest on that original award of ,873 from date of destruction of the property (1813) up to 1832! Result, ,004.89 for the indigent Fishers. So now we have: First, ,873 damages; second, interest on it from 1832 to 1848, ,997.94; third, interest on it dated back to 1813, ,004.89. Total, ,875.83! What better investment for a great-grandchild than to get the Indians to burn a corn-field for him sixty or seventy years before his birth, and plausibly lay it on lunatic United States troops?
4. Strange as it may seem, the Fishers let Congress alone for five years – or, what is perhaps more likely, failed to make themselves heard by Congress for that length of time. But at last, in 1854, they got a hearing. They persuaded Congress to pass an act requiring the Auditor to re-examine their case. But this time they stumbled upon the misfortune of an honest Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. James Guthrie), and he spoiled everything. He said in very plain language that the Fishers were not only not entitled to another cent, but that those children of many sorrows and acquainted with grief had been paid too much already.
5. Therefore another interval of rest and silence ensued – an interval which lasted four years – viz till 1858. The “right man in the right place” was then Secretary of War – John B. Floyd, of peculiar renown! Here was a master intellect; here was the very man to succor the suffering heirs of dead and forgotten Fisher. They came up from Florida with a rush – a great tidal wave of Fishers freighted with the same old musty documents about the same immortal corn-fields of their ancestor. They straight-way got an act passed transferring the Fisher matter from the dull Auditor to the ingenious Floyd. What did Floyd do? He said, “It was proved that the Indians destroyed everything they could before the troops entered in pursuit.” He considered, therefore, that what they destroyed must have consisted of “the houses with all their contents, and the liquor” (the most trifling part of the destruction, and set down at only ,200 all told), and that the government troops then drove them off and calmly proceeded to destroy—
Two hundred and twenty acres of corn in the field, thirty-five acres of wheat, and nine hundred and eighty-six head of live stock! [What a singularly intelligent army we had in those days, according to Mr. Floyd – though not according to the Congress of 1832.]
So Mr. Floyd decided that the Government was not responsible for that ,200 worth of rubbish which the Indians destroyed, but was responsible for the property destroyed by the troops – which property consisted of (I quote from the printed United States Senate document):
Corn at Bassett’s Creek…………… 3,00
Stock hogs………………………. 1,050
Drove hogs………………………. 1,204
Corn on the Alabama River…………. 3,500
That sum, in his report, Mr. Floyd calls the “full value of the property destroyed by the troops.”
He allows that sum to the starving Fishers, together with interest from 1813. From this new sum total the amounts already paid to the Fishers were deducted, and then the cheerful remainder (a fraction under forty thousand dollars) was handed to them, and again they retired to Florida in a condition of temporary tranquillity. Their ancestor’s farm had now yielded them altogether nearly sixty-seven thousand dollars in cash.
6. Does the reader suppose that that was the end of it? Does he suppose those diffident Fishers were satisfied? Let the evidence show. The Fishers were quiet just two years. Then they came swarming up out of the fertile swamps of Florida with their same old documents, and besieged Congress once more. Congress capitulated on the 1st of June, 1860, and instructed Mr. Floyd to overhaul those papers again, and pay that bill. A Treasury clerk was ordered to go through those papers and report to Mr. Floyd what amount was still due the emaciated Fishers. This clerk (I can produce him whenever he is wanted) discovered what was apparently a glaring and recent forgery in the papers; whereby a witness’s testimony as to the price of corn in Florida in 1813 was made to name double the amount which that witness had originally specified as the price! The clerk not only called his superior’s attention to this thing, but in making up his brief of the case called particular attention to it in writing. That part of the brief never got before Congress, nor has Congress ever yet had a hint of forgery existing among the Fisher papers. Nevertheless, on the basis of the double prices (and totally ignoring the clerk’s assertion that the figures were manifestly and unquestionably a recent forgery), Mr. Floyd remarks in his new report that “the testimony, particularly in regard to the corn crops, demands A much higher allowance than any heretofore made by the Auditor or myself.” So he estimates the crop at sixty bushels to the acre (double what Florida acres produce), and then virtuously allows pay for only half the crop, but allows two dollars and a half a bushel for that half, when there are rusty old books and documents in the Congressional library to show just what the Fisher testimony showed before the forgery – viz., that in the fall of 1813 corn was only worth from .25 to .50 a bushel. Having accomplished this, what does Mr. Floyd do next? Mr. Floyd ("with an earnest desire to execute truly the legislative will,” as he piously remarks) goes to work and makes out an entirely new bill of Fisher damages, and in this new bill he placidly ignores the Indians altogether– puts no particle of the destruction of the Fisher property upon them, but, even repenting him of charging them with burning the cabins and drinking the whisky and breaking the crockery, lays the entire damage at the door of the imbecile United States troops down to the very last item! And not only that, but uses the forgery to double the loss of corn at “Bassett’s Creek,” and uses it again to absolutely treble the loss of corn on the “Alabama River.” This new and ably conceived and executed bill of Mr. Floyd’s figures up as follows (I copy again from the printed United States Senate document):
The United States in account with the legal representatives of George Fisher, deceased.
1813.-To 550 head of cattle, at 10 dollars…………. 5,500.00
To 86 head of drove hogs……………………. 1,204.00
To 350 head of stock hogs…………………… 1,750.00
To 100 acres of corn on Bassett’s creek………. 6,000.00
To 8 barrels of whisky……………………… 350.00
To 2 barrels of brandy……………………… 280.00
To 1 barrel of rum…………………………. 70.00
To dry-goods and merchandise in store………… 1,100.00
To 35 acres of wheat……………………….. 350.00
To 2,000 hides…………………………….. 4,000.00
To furs and hats in store…………………… 600.00
To crockery ware in store…………………… 100.00
To smith’s and carpenter’s tools…………….. 250.00
To houses burned and destroyed………………. 600.00
To 4 dozen bottles of wine………………….. 48.00 1814.
To 120 acres of corn on Alabama River………… 9,500.00
To crops of peas, fodder, etc……………….. 3,250.00
To interest on ,202, from July 1813 to November 1860, 47 years and 4 months…….63,053.68
To interest on ,750, from September 1814 to November 1860, 46 years and 2 months,35,317.50
He puts everything in this time. He does not even allow that the Indians destroyed the crockery or drank the four dozen bottles of (currant) wine. When it came to supernatural comprehensiveness in “gobbling,” John B. Floyd was without his equal, in his own or any other generation. Subtracting from the above total the ,000 already paid to George Fisher’s implacable heirs, Mr. Floyd announced that the government was still indebted to them in the sum of sixty-six thousand five hundred and nineteen dollars and eighty-five cents, “which,” Mr. Floyd complacently remarks, “will be paid, accordingly, to the administrator of the estate of George Fisher, deceased, or to his attorney in fact.”
But, sadly enough for the destitute orphans, a new President came in just at this time, Buchanan and Floyd went out, and they never got their money. The first thing Congress did in 1861 was to rescind the resolution of June 1, 1860, under which Mr. Floyd had been ciphering. Then Floyd (and doubtless the heirs of George Fisher likewise) had to give up financial business for a while, and go into the Confederate army and serve their country.
Were the heirs of George Fisher killed? No. They are back now at this very time (July, 1870), beseeching Congress through that blushing and diffident creature, Garrett Davis, to commence making payments again on their interminable and insatiable bill of damages for corn and whisky destroyed by a gang of irresponsible Indians, so long ago that even government red-tape has failed to keep consistent and intelligent track of it.
Now the above are facts. They are history. Any one who doubts it can send to the Senate Document Department of the Capitol for H. R. Ex. Doc. No. 21, 36th Congress, 2d Session; and for S. Ex. Doc. No. 106, 41st Congress, 2d Session, and satisfy himself. The whole case is set forth in the first volume of the Court of Claims Reports.
It is my belief that as long as the continent of America holds together, the heirs of George Fisher, deceased, will still make pilgrimages to Washington from the swamps of Florida, to plead for just a little more cash on their bill of damages (even when they received the last of that sixty-seven thousand dollars, they said it was only one fourth what the government owed them on that fruitful corn-field), and as long as they choose to come they will find Garrett Davises to drag their vampire schemes before Congress. This is not the only hereditary fraud (if fraud it is – which I have before repeatedly remarked is not proven) that is being quietly handed down from generation to generation of fathers and sons, through the persecuted Treasury of the United States.
Written about 1870.
Written about 1870.
Written about 1865.
Being a letter written to a Poultry Society that had conferred a complimentary membership upon the author. Written about 1870.
Written about 1878.
Written about 1869.
Written about 1869.
Written about 1867.
Some years ago, about 1867, when this was first published, few people believed it, but considered it a mere extravaganza. In these latter days it seems hard to realize that there was ever a time when the robbing of our government was a novelty. The very man who showed me where to find the documents for this case was at that very time spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in Washington for a mail steamship concern, in the effort to procure a subsidy for the company – a fact which was a long time in coming to the surface, but leaked out at last and underwent Congressional investigation.