Imagens da página
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]


'It were as pleasant eating hot-pudding in dog-days as writing of tales in winter.'


I always begin with an apostrophe. O! sprite, spirit, and spectre of the disembodied horse Cæsar! – left hand leader of Danby and Digby's mail stage! — sprainer of the ancle, in thy speed up the Hard-scrabble hills! where in the universe of dead and live beasts art thou now? Thy bones lie, I well know, 'neath a knoll in Hampshire, whereon grows as gaudy a harvest of corn as any scene sees corn that has come to this veritable metropolis, and been piped through its streets, pipinghot — corn of which I mayhap have partaken- and thus, according to Hamlet's theory, have I eaten thee, Cæsar!

But where is thy spirit? Ah me! — it is a mystery of providence whither a horse's spirit goes, when exiled from the flesh. Is it like the cigar smoke that is puff'd into the air, and gone? Or is it inhaled by the stander-by at his decease, who catcheth his breath, and thus becomes

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


one of your speed-and-go-fast travelers, benamed Hall or Trollope, who gallopeth through a country, kicking at whatever beseemeth him good. Answer, ye departed horses, and ye living inheritors of their spirit!

Thy three co-mates in travel, Cæsar, must I forget.

Whip! -smack ! - crack! — and we are off on the post-road for Bell-town. Bell-town is all in a bustle,' wheezed what might have been entitled • Falstaff enlarged,' in a front corner of the vehicle.

· Bell-town in a bustle! An ounce of powder in a blaze! What has Bell-town to do with bustle ??

• An election for constable is enough to stir the blood, and excite the feelings of any people.'

* Ay, ay — you are right you are right. A constable is the lord mayor of your country towns. It is not every man that knows best how to handle truncheon or stave when rightly to break heads, and when to leave unbroken.'

Thy silly merriment, friend,' softly said the voice of a Bell-town quaker

, 'proveth that peradventure in times past the stave hath touched thy head too rudely.'

A joke cracked, proveth not always a cracked head,' responded the one who had thus far played the part of the mail-stage wit: "you are

that to a pismire a pippin seemeth a mountain; and no doubt a Bell-town constable is a mighty man, when seen through the magnifying eyes of his village subjects, Pray, have you a grand coronation, when this potentate is inducted into office ?"

• There is a horn sounded, and a drum beat,' replied the sociable Lambert of the corner: “but to tell you the truth, the constable is nobody in Bell-town; it is his daughter, who, in a pair of bright eyes, carries more influence than all the writs, precepts, and summonses ever issued in Christendom.

These words of the fat gentleman seemed to touch a peculiar chord in'the right arm of friend Broad-brim; for, with a fitful twitch, he pulled down his raven beaver so as to hide a dawning blush — like Night suddenly dropping her crape clouds over the red flush of the west.

The conversation had, somehow or other, received its death-blow: In vain did the wit and querist apply tentatives and cork-screws to draw more from his companions. Falstaff had evidently betrayed himself

, and brought scandal upon the character of a whole village. He would have unsaid what he had uttered - he would have wiped the blush from the quaker's cheek — but the vehicle rolled just then into the great village of their discourse, and displayed a spectacle worth a thousand dramas, and ten thousand such descriptions as I can afford it.

In the first place, Bell-town is one of those old-maidish settlements which father Time has battered and hawked at most unmercifullycarrying away bricks from chimney-tops, and shingles from house-roofs, making the scattered trees in its highways bear the likeness of grand-fathers who have just come out of some super human struggle, with limbs dislocated and crowns scalped.

As the inhabitants were too temperate to have a tavern, and too lawless to have a court-house, the election was held in a barber's shop. From the top of his professional pole, the upward gazer might behold, suspended in friendly juxtaposition, a painted print of some female or




other, and the corpse of a rabbit - mysterious engines of electioneering, as the sequel proves. Through the principal avenue of the town — in which this humble temple of liberty was planted – flowed a strong and

a heady current of beer and cider, on which the holiday urchins were sailing miniature sloops, ships, and schooners, of various and marvelous structure.

Throughout the thoroughfare, busy persons with baskets were dealing out fac similes of the suspended print. By trifling inquiry, a traveler might ascertain that the community was split into factions — the Toad and Bull-frog parties - or, as others named them, the Rabbit and Anti-rabbit parties.

The Bull-frog party, it was acknowledged by all, possessed the loudest speakers, but the Toads surpassed them in the length and breadth of their orations. A deadly and savage hatred seemed to fire the breasts of both.

The sight of a Toad made a Bull-frog spit; and on the other hand, a Toad's physiognomy was spoilt for a whole day, by a chance glimpse of a Bull-frog.

Not far distant from the tonsorium, up-mounted on a decayed hogshead, which last had been filled with the primest New Orleans, was the leading orator of the Bull-frog and Rabbit faction. He prided himself on always appearing before the people with a tattered waistcoat, and a half-burnt cigar in the corner of his mouth. In truth, the chief point of his eloquence lay in this — that, while he evolved from one corner of his mouth clouds of smoke, from the other, with a dexterity unexampled, he puffed forth equal clouds of oratory. He held forth his bony, knuckleknobbed hand, in which was clasped, seemingly with a death-gripe, a green Jersey sweetin,' and harangued a motley multitude of men, women, and boys, with an occasional dog, to this purpose:

• Fellow-citizens! I rise in my place to remark — and while I am up, I may as well add

you are all here!

yes, you are all here! Ponder on these things: you are all here, every one of you! You appear here, in behalf of your much injured countrymen — the real Bull-frogs, that live over by the mill, and down here by the bridge— whom Stubbs, the candidate of our enemies, has so cruelly, and I may say ungentlemanly, persecuted with sticks, staves, stones, ropes, hands and feet - and in behalf of the Rabbits, too, whom he has hunted with dogs, gunpowder, and shot; there is one of the innocents, (pointing to the rabbit that surmounted the barber's pole,) a victim of his unchristian hunting, and so sure, fellow-citizens, as I hit that rabbit with this · Jersey sweetin, and here the orator arrayed himself in a projectile attitude — so sure will

The smoking Demosthenes sunk — the earth seemed to give way under him — and he fell through the hogshead. The apple hit its mark; the crowd gave three loud-ringing shouts — but for which object, the lapsus of the speaker, or his correct aim, is matter of conjecture to this day. The orator was not abashed, but with head projecting just above the wall of his wooden prison, he continued his rhetorical flourishes with renewed vigour – striking its sides with his feet, and ever and anon leaping up and down, after the manner of a porpoise.

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

you beat

LEAVING him to escape as he best can, let us for a while accompany



another figure of our little drama a figure whom we beg leave to introduce to our audience and readers by the name of Amelia Stubbs.

She was the daughter of constable Stubbs, (who was a candidate for rëelection to that high dignity,) and the fair one whose picture graced the barber's pole, in company with the defunct rabbit. Ås Falstaff had hinted, in the mail-stage, the whole election at least on the side of the Toad and Anti-rabbit party - hinged on her. The most influential of that party had, at some time or other, and somehow or other, fallen in love with her manifold graces. She was certainly not a Venus de Medici; but charms she did possess, which marble never has possessed, or can or will possess.' There was nothing magnificent in her features; but there was something really magnificent in her smile — and her laugh

ye gods! it was a laugh, that made the very air merry a mile around.

Her father, the honorable constable, Solomon Stubbs, was, in addition to his official duty, devoted to sportsmanship; he could ring his whistle as merrily through the woods, and run down a rabbit as quickly as any. He was envied for his admirable facility in gathering a string of these long-eared hop-o'-my-thumbs, and envy begat opposition. He had also unfortunately murdered (in cold blood,) half a dozen clattering bull-frogs, who had disturbed his slumber for more than two months, unannoyed.

From these two facts sprang the great Bull-frog and Rabbit party, so warm in its enmity — so virulent in its invectives!

Nathan, the blushing quaker of the stage-coach, was a staunch friend to Solomon Stubbs ; in fact his friendship for that potentate was so enlarged and electric, that it extended even his beloved daughter Aurelia. The orator, also, who fell through, in his sublime attempt at missile argument, was an enemy to Solomon, only because he had been occasionally laughed at and despised by his blooming daughter.

The political war in the streets, or rather street, of Bell-town, waxed hotter and hotter. The country was scoured; old men, who had lived a lifetime in the woods, were disinterred, and brought once more on the stage: juveniles, beardless and almost yet petticoated, adventured to draw nigh and deposit a vote. Old women, clothed in the habits of male octogenarians — sleight-o-hand voters, who knew how to insert two ballots at a time — were sought after, and well feed. One hatless, unhewn son of Erin deposited four votes.

While the campaign deepens, Ralph Jones, the third traveler, o'erwearied with the bustle of Bell-town, has escaped at least two miles from its precincts, and, supported by an antique stone wall, is alternately plucking and eating cherries.

'Forbidden fruit!' cries a gentle voice, apparently emerging from behind a clump of alder bushes.

Ralph turned hastily, and somewhat frightened, to discover the body whence it issued, but to no purpose. He returned to his repast on the glossy red fruitage. The voice drew nigher, and as he turned a second time, his eye alighted on a summer damsel a very living cherry approaching with downcast features.

Young gentleman, that is choice fruit; it is father's tree; pray forbear.' He now leaped from the fence, and as he turned to survey the supplicant, his face shone full upon her.

• Is it you, Ralph Jones ? — dear Ralph, is it you?' exclaimed the fair one, with a musical tremor in her tone.

· And is it you, Aurelia ? cried the cherry-thief, with a similar quavering of the voice.

They knew each other - their eyes had already passed the quick telegraph-signal of recognition; more than two volumes had already been spoken. They rushed toward each other, but did not (as perhaps they ought to have done) embrace, but simply, warmly, affectionately — shook hands!

• You rogue, you stole away on that spring morning, three years ago was it three ? — from our little village, like a poultry-thief in the night. Do you know the amount of sorrow you left behind ??

* No, Aurelia were there any tears shed ?'

• A pond. I shed not a few myself, for the copy of Robie Burns you plagiarized. Falstaff Furness too, remembers you, for that post-boy sin of yours.'

Riding his black horse within stone's throw of death? Falstaff remembers me no longer : his memory has given my face the quittance; for I was with him this morning, and he said not even 'Good day to you:) but Aurelia, Nathan Ellwood, the unquakerish quaker —

• Oh, Ralph, he is desperately in love with me - me ! and is striving to make Solomon Stubbs high-constable of Bell-town, to further his amorous intents. Cupid and I have been in close partnership, this is the third year, to make father a catch-pole: but what, where, how have you been, Ralph, for three blessed years ?'

• Over flood and earth; 'twould cost a winter's night to tell them: but who comes yonder ? — that mathematical figure, through the od

It is Nathan Ellwood! Pray let us withdraw, through this path. He is coming to make love. I'd as leave see him dance, as that.' • Does n't Master Nathan dance ?

so does a bear !'

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Oh yes

Every vote was gathered. Fortune had thrown her dice, and both parties — the Rabbit and Anti-rabbit — pressed forward to learn whether she had turned up sixes or blanks.

Gentle reader, have you ever seen a hollow pumpkin illuminated ? Then have you seen a type of the thick heads of Bell-town lit up with the faint rays of hope. At length, victory perches on the shoulders of the Bull-frogs, and they croak forth 'Solomon Stubbs forever!' — and the welkin answers, Solomon Stubbs !' - and at that name tremble rabbits and reptiles without number - for Stubbs their direst foe is victor!

And the rogues and chicken-hearted thieves of Bell-town (for their whole heart is placed on chickens,) rejoice--for Solomon has been a father to them, and winked at their larcenies, for the small tax of a fat pullet, or a brace of geese.

But lo! there! Nathan Ellwood rushing toward Solomon Stubbs, and a knot of his joyful friends — puff, pant, and gallop — hallooing from the distance, with the mouthful of breath that running has left him. · The devil! villains ! Stubbs! married to Aurelia ! Run, fly! Quick! or Satan has her!'

« AnteriorContinuar »