Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

vate us.

to us, sang. What her song was, we his career in the universities of his own knew not. It inight have been humor- country ; and the Scotchman would tell ous-it might have been of the lowest about his native salmon-fishing-and kind of Chilian minstrelsy-perhaps it Burns and Schiller would be freely was a love madrigal designed to capti- quoted—and still we would sit around

Whatever it inight be, we only the fire, and pile on fresh logs, until knew that the strain was pretty and the night would be far advanced. There the voice sweet, and that those were may be greater bodily comfort by a tender and languishing eyes which well-arranged grate-fire in a tightlyglanced upon us; and we yielded to the closed room; but no civilized refinefascination of the scene. You said that ments can produce that jovial exhilarayou would be content to remain for tion of soul which an evening by a campinonths and years in that rustic arbor, fire, in the midst of wild mountain and gaze upon that beautiful bay, and

scenery, will awaken. eat those purple grapes, and listen to So you then thought, Tom; but would that soothing melody.

you think so now? I fear not. You Toin, what would Miss Janet Mac- would say that this is all nonsense and Ninny, of Gramercy Square, with her foolish romance, and that the real busiRoman nose, her long, straight back, and ness of man is to abandon all desultory her two hundred thousand dollars in wanderings, and work hard for comforts state-sixes, say, if she knew that her to be enjoyed in another manner. And devoted cavalier had ever uttered such you would point to your great stone a heresy ?

house and shining carriage, and show One more recollection. We were far me what I, too, might have had, if I had from our ship, and up among the en- only chosen to do as you have done. virons of the Sierra Nevada- in a little In this you may be partly right, Tom. mountain-begirt valley. Upon each side I will not deny that I may have too rose lofty hills, covered from top to bot- much failed in prosecuting some of the tom with giant pines. In the circle be great schemes of life, and may have too low, our little white tent was pitched, often yielded my sense of duty to my near a pleasant brook, and between the keener sense of taste and romance. tent and the brook was our fire. Around And it must be a pleasant thing to own this fire we would gather--a company a great house and a prancing pair of of six willing, friendly hearts-sheltered horses. But Tom-dear Tom-while only by the moonlit boughs of the near- I thus sat upon the mizzen-top and est pines, which stretched in friendly mused, I could not but think that there protection over us. In the indistinct might be a welcome medium between light we could no longer mark the slen- my listless life and your energetic abder pass which served our valley for an sorption; and that a few of the pictures outlet, and, at the first sight, we seemed in your gallery, or a few of the pieces as though shut in to dwell among those of rich plate in your closet, might well hills forever. But we were careless and be exchanged for the ability, once in a jovial ;

nor did it trouble us that we while, to turn aside from daily care and were thousands of miles away from enjoy a little of the freshening spirit of home, or that we were poor in pocket your other days. and shabby in attire, or that the vein of quartz, from which we had expected to reap such profits, had suddenly come “ Halloa, there !-You, sir !" to naught. With the mountain life, its I look over the edge of the mizzenreckless, adventurous spirit had coine top and see an angry, purple-faced over us; we would plan new enterprises mate shaking his knotty fist, as he calls with unabated confidence; and, when up at me.

He is not the mate with we thought of absent friends, we would whom I sailed, and with whom, upon think of them as though to see them the night-watches, I shared my cigars, once again required but a quiet stroll but another newer mate who knows me around the corner. And as we would not. pile on the logs to make a ruddier flame, " Come down from there!” he shouts. and pull our blankets closer about our " Who the deuce told you to go up? shoulders, we would tell our several Is this your ship, I'd like to know ?" tales of past adventure. The German, Slowly and awkwardly I descend, who was still with us, would dilate upon while the mate still continues to swear

VOL. X.-4

me.

and shake his fist, and a group of little farewell volley of jeers from the little boys collect on the wharf to laugh at boys. And so I pass, crest-fallen,

I reach the deck, commence an along the wharf and up a narrow street, apology, which is drowned by a new until the great stone warehouses intertorrent of oaths; and I step upon the vene, and the friendly mizzen-top is lost wharf and walk away, followed by a to view.

THE BABY-EXTERMINATOR.

I HAVE been frequently importuned ence for erecting the tower of Babel ;

to state the cause and extent of my not to mention innumerable long and rupture with that worthy and widely- interesting passages before him through esteemed personage, the Reverend Doc- the Red Sea, I naturally feel as if I had tor Armageddon. Although our es- been acquainted with him a great while. trangement is now over, and the broken This sense of time immemorial made chain of friendship between us has our intimacy doubly delightful to me, linked again, the papers still teem with and would have prevented me from ever annoying remarks and surmises on the breaking it, but for what I foolishly unfortunate event. I propose to claim considered an extreme provocation. justice, both for him and myself, by the The doctor was already a widower present explanation. I am conscious when our friendship commenced. How of having done nothing to deserve the long since his wife died I do not know; public reproofs which I have lately re- and I never alluded to her in his presceived; and as for him, his real offense, ence, lest the subject might be a sore if such it may be called, was venial com- one to him; for how could I be sure pared with the calumnies which have that she was not one of those very been propagated against him. I shall daughters of the old Canaanitos against not fear prolixity in my statements, as whom I had heard him inveigh so ferI know that the world will readily par- vently? He was considered by most don it in one who has sat much at the people to be sixty years old; but on feet of the copious, the inexhaustible this point I naturally remain in a reArinageddon.

spectful uncertainty. It is singular, by Going back, after the doctor's own the way, how I speak of the doctor in thorough manner, to the foundation of the past tense, as if he were long since things, I observe that our acquaintance dead and buried. Fortunately for the commenced in 1850. It always seems erring children of mankind, it is not so. to me, however, as if I had known him But I always mention him thus, infor at least eight or ten centuries. This stinctively, on account of the odor of impression of the antiquity of our friend- antiquity which his venerable convership is produced, I conclude, by the sation dispenses. character of his sermons, which gener

The doctor had no children except ally begin with the deluge or the crea- certain spiritual ones, whom he often tion, or the fall of Lucifer, and describe alluded to, but whom I never heard of those veteran events with the pictur- from any other person. Towards earthesque minutiæ of an eye-witness. Hav- ly, ordinary, flesh-and-blood children, ing helped him name the beasts, birds, he seemed to entertain a very remarkand fishes at least hundred times; able dislike. Babies invariably squalled having been turned out of the Garden so frightfully under his christenings, of Eden in his company to the full as that I have suspected him of secretly often ; having run away with him, over pinching them. Many parents openly and over again, from the roarings of the said that he used too much water, and first carnivorously-disposed lion; having applied it with unnecessary savageness. built manifold arks under his direction, Indeed, this impression finally became and filled them with carefully-selected so strong and general, that most of the menageries; having been repeatedly prolific fainilies in his congregation reconfounded and dispersed in his pres- moved, one by one, to other churches. where their multiplying little ones trotted a red-headed urchin, whom I could obtain patronymics without so knew to be the only heir of Professor much unnecessary anguish. Thus, al- Glace, the doctor's right-hand neighbor. though his tabernacle was styled “The Then came a nursery-maid, drawing a Church of the Pilgrim Mothers," there baby-cart containing two nurslings of was scarcely a child to be found in the three months old, apparently. Then whole phalanx of its overflowing slips came another nursery-maid, with anothand galleries; and his audience con- er baby-cart, and another pair of bantsisted chiefly of young men, young la- lings, perhaps twelve months old. Then dies, elderly maidens, confirmed bache- came a third nursery-maid, bearing in lors, contented widowers, and a won- her arms a couple of two-year-old whipderful number of widows, whose sons sters, who sniveled faintly, as if rather were away at school, or already in used up by previous walking. Then Harvard College. Nor did the doctor came a fourth nursery-maid, marshalever trouble himself to preach sermons ing before her half-a-dozen younglings, of consolation for those who might have of both sexes, all between the ages of been called upon to part with any little three and six. There was such a pleasresponsibility. If he spoke of such be- ing uniformity in the faces and dresses reavements at all, it was in a tone of the of the entire dozen of minors, that it sweetest cheerfulness and even con- occurred to me at once that they must gratulation--as if burying a baby must be the production of a single prolific be rather a delightful pastime than oth- family. They were all so pretty, too, erwise. He often mentioned children and made their little progress so genas snares and little stumbling-blocks, teelly, that I was smitten with admiralaying a significant accent on this last tion, and began to think it would be a epithet, as if he would have called them delightful bargain to exchange my own little stumbling blockheads. I need not barren bachelorhood for a similar or mention that his sermons were consid- even smaller procession of such little ered models of orthodox instruction by seraphs. his peculiar congregation.

But suddenly the liliputian multiAll the children who had the honor of tude was stricken with an evident terknowing Doctor Armageddon regarded ror. Master Glace took to his heels him with respectful terror, and, I grieve towards his own house, and never ceased to add, hatred. His infantile neighbors ringing at the door till he had gained scampered off at the report of his com- admittance. The four nursery-maids ing, as if he were that very lion who is hurried on in the other direction, dragsaid to go about seeking what he may ging the small chaises along with such devour. When he was once inveigled energy that a couple of squalling upinto preaching at the orphan asylum, his sets took place on the pavement. The bereaved hearers were as still as inice six children on foot rushed after them listening to the midnight utterances of with a simultaneous screech, and the a grimalkin.

whole assemblage disappeared confusMy first and only difficulty with this edly through the court-yard gate of the learned, orthodox, and excellent divine next dwelling occurred in the summer of 1855. I “ Faix, sir, I'm a thinkin' the master made a call one afternoon at his house, be a comin'," said a voice behind me. I to converse anew with him on the sub- turned, and beheld Peter in the doorject of Noah's port. I do not mean the way, he having remained, probably, to harbor from which the patriarch is sup- wink at the nursery-maids. posed to have sailed, but the wine by “What makes you think so ?" I asked. which he was afterwards so unfortu- “Blazes, thin, sir,” he replied, with nately overtaken. The doctor has a grin, * and didn't ye see the childer fine brand of port, which he suspects scamper ?. of being that veritable article.

I looked up the street, and, sure An Irish serving-man, Peter Riley, enough, there was Doctor Armageddon. met me at the door, and told me that Striding as rapidly as the brevity of his his master was not at home. I turned legs would permit, he held his cane over away, meaning to saunter down to the his right shoulder, in the style of a saAthenæum, but paused a moment on bre, while a fearful grimace distorted the steps to watch a pretty group of his usually dove-like countenance. He children. In front of the small crowd was, evidently, very disagreeably ex

me."

cited, for in passing the gate through door. It looked like a bedful of the which the children had vanished, he plant, I acknowledge.” dealt it a tremendous thwack with his " A bedful : yes, sir, six bedfuls !" stick. Such a scream of terror respond- shouted the doctor, without recognizing ed as I imagined might come from a city my pun. “Not counting the nurserygiven over to assault. My reverend maids, either,” he added, “who make friend fairly snorted with a stern satis- as much noise as if they, too, wore bibs faction, and, walking back to the gate, and tuckers." saluted it with a second violent battery. “ Can't you cork up your windows on Another chorus of yelps arose, but that side ?" I asked. fainter this time, as if the children had No, sir; I can't cork them up-at already entered the side-door of their least not tight enough,” he replied. “If domicil, and considered themselves in this house was a great bottle, with sides comparative safety.

a fathom thick, and a stopper as long as During these events I had paused on Goliah's spear, those young ones would the steps in a bewilderment, not know- manage to scream into it and disturb ing whether to remain and greet my esteemed acquaintance, or to fly before “Well, they will only drive you the his bludgeon.

Peter, meantime, had closer to your duties," said I, meaning shut the door behind me, and retreated to be jocosely consolatory. “You escape into the dwelling. “Good afternoon, them, of course, when you are in the Doctor-fine day," I said at last, cau- pulpit." tious not to hint at his excitement.

• Far from it, my friend," he return“Ah, my friend—my dear friend!" ed, sadly. Mrs. Peppergrass will send he replied with his usual suavity, the them all to church, and every Sunday moment he recognized me, “I did not the maids have to carry several of them see you-actually I did not-I was so into the vestibule. I haven't enjoyed a taken up with these little vermin. But quiet sermon since this family united walk in, walk in, I pray you. I hope with us, sir. Every week or so, too, I you have been blessed with your usual am called on to baptize a pair of them. good health.”

I don't know how many of them have “ Thank you-never better," said wailed in my arms already, and PepI. “How are you, my dear doctor ?" pergrass has been here short of a

“Oh! miserably, my friend,” he month." groaned, as we entered the house and

He paused to shake his head again, ascended to his study. “I am dread- and then added, in a low, horror-stricken fully afflicted; my burden is greater tone : " Mrs. Peppergrass expects to be than I can bear."

ill again. I suppose it will be a round I glanced at his hat, and, observing dozen this time. The question naturthat there was no weed on it, asked him ally arises, where is she going to if he had lost any of his congregation. stop ?“Lost!” he fairly shrieked;

"Well, Peppergrass may move," I gained—and such a gain! Oh, my dear suggested. sir, there is a certain Mr. Peppergrass “ Bought the house,” he replied, with come to the city, and joined my church, sententious despair. and taken a house next to mine; and • And you: can't you move ?" I inhow many children do you think he quired. has? Twelve, sir ! twelve-all twins, • My dwelling is the church parsonand all under six years of age. He age. I fear that I could not leave it throws doublets every time, sir—to use without parting from my flock, and I a phrase of my backgammon-playing hope I know my duty as a pastor better boyhood. My dear sir, just think of than that,” responded the doctor, in a such an enormous such an intolerable tone of solemn emotion. fecundity! I don't wonder they burnt • Ah! then I am afraid you must John Rogers, with his twelve children stay and suffer," said I. and one at the breast. A man who will “I shall stay-at least until I have a have as many children as that, deserves more emphatic call otherwheres; but to be burnt-he does, indeed, sir, with we will see who is going to suffer," he all his progeny about him !"

muttered, with a countenance full of un“So those are the little Peppergrass- explained meaning. es?” said I. “I saw them go by the But, doctor, I am afraid that I

no

asked.

interrupt your labors," was my next re- bly have had any conscientious scruples mark. The moments of a clergyman on the subject. are precious.

I must leave you to “Not at all—of course not,” said he, finish this fresh manuscript.".

emphatically, as if surprised at the “Not at all; don't go," said he, earn- question. “ The fact simply is, that I estly, at the same time pitching the have but just got the instrument to work manuscript in question under the table. to my satisfaction." " It's only a sermon on the damnation “ But you do intend thus to use it ?" of infants. I could write the whole thing continued I. in an hour. My head and heart are full “Unquestionably I do," he repliod. of the subject, sir.”

* Why, sir, I am pushed to it by my He pushed me with kind insistance profound sense of ministerial duty. I into a chair, and then walked across the cannot be faithful to my poor hungering room to a closet. I thought he was flock at present. How can I compose going after his old port, and followed profitable discourses with that uproar ? him with my blandest smile of esteem Hark! do you hear that ?" and affection; but, instead of producing I did hear certainly, for it seemed as one of those luscious crimson decanters, if a whole orphan asylum and foundling he hauled out a mysterious bundle, hospital to boot had been emptied into which, at first sight, seemed to be a the next yard. The doctor softly raised mere confusion of tangled rope and one window, while I peeped out of anleather. Bringing it forward, he care- other. Although it was twilight, we fully unfolded it over a chair, so as to could distinctly see the legion of little show me that it consisted of a curious Peppergrasses stampeding about the combination of straps, nooses, buckles, narrow court in all the wild, noisy, pincers, and pulleys.

happy turbulence of childhood. Pres" What do you think of that?” he ently a knot of them gathered, with

gay whoops, directly under the window " What is it?" said I.

occupied by my reverend acquaintance. I call it a Baby-exterminator," he “Now is the time," he muttered, with replied, with a triumphant chuckle. calm resolution ; and I must own that

“ Is it possible !" I exclaimed. “How I was startled to see him grasp the Exdoes it work?"

terminator. Mounting the table with remarkable “ Hold on, doctor, till I can get out alacrity, he took the machine in his hands of the house !" I exclaimed, but so spelland threw it deftly across the room at bound that I could not quit my posian empty mop-stand, which occupied tion.

I was thunderstruck to “The doors are open--can't you go?" perceive that the noose fell precisely said he, sharply. His agitation had over the stand and clasped it, while a made him forget for once his usual mild couple of large pincers, like hands, and dignified courtesy. Down went the closed on the wooden legs with rapidity Exterminator among the heedless young and evident tenacity. "Giving a sniff ones, while I gave a wild hurrah--not of victorious exhilaration, the doctor of exultation, but of uncontrollable and hauled violently on a cord, and drew even painful excitement. The next mothe mahogany captive to himself like a ment the doctor was pulling furiously whale dragging an entangled whale- at the cord, and a small dark mass was boat. I clapped my hunds with admira- floundering up the side of the house, tion.

like a trout bouncing on a fish-line. I “It's a sure catch," said he, proudly. waited for nothing further, but, clapping “I have brought it to absolute perfec- on my hat, rushed across the room, fell

on. I never miss with it now. That down stairs, and bolted into the street, noose will inevitably go round a child's where I never stopped running until I neck, and keep it from squalling; while had reached my lodgings. the pincers grab its legs, and hold The next day, dining at the Tremont, them from kicking."

I met a New York friend of mine--Mr. After examining, with intense inter- Punch Punner-well known in Fifth est, the ingenious mechanism of the Avenue as a wit and conversationalist. instrument, I asked the doctor why he He told me that a Mr. Peppergrass, a had not used it on his troublesome little New Yorker lately removed to Boston, neighbors, and whether he could possi. had just lost a very interesting child in

one corner.

« PoprzedniaDalej »