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Nature and Human Nature By Thomas Chandler Haliburton Characters: 36050

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

Soon after McDonald had returned and resumed his seat, a tall thin man, dressed in a coarse suit of homespun, entered the room, and addressing our host familiarly as Squire Peter, deposited in the corner a fishing-rod, and proceeded to disencumber himself of a large salmon basket apparently well filled, and also two wallets, one of which seemed to contain his clothes, and the other, from the dull heavy sound it emitted as he threw it on the floor, some tools. He was about forty years of age. His head, which was singularly well formed, was covered with a luxuriant mass of bushy black curls. His eyes were large, deep set, and intelligent, his forehead expansive and projecting, and his eyebrows heavy and shaggy. When addressing Peter he raised them up in a peculiar manner, nearly to the centre of his forehead, and when he ceased they suddenly dropped and partially concealed his eyes.

It was impossible not to be attracted by a face that had two such remarkable expressions; one of animation, amiability, and intelligence; and the other of total abstraction. He bent forward, even after he relieved himself of his load, and his attitude and gait suggested the idea of an American land-surveyor, who had been accustomed to carry heavy weights in the forest. Without condescending to notice the party, further than bestowing on us a cursory glance to ascertain whether he knew any of us, he drew up to the chimney corner, and placing the soles of his boots perpendicularly to the fire (which soon indicated by the vapour arising from them that he had been wading in water), he asked in a listless manner and without waiting for replies, some unconnected questions of the landlord: as, "Any news, Peter? how does the world use you? how are the young ladies? how is fish this season? macarel plenty? any wrecks this year, Peter, eh? any vessels sinking and dead men floating; silks, satins, ribbons, and gold watches waiting to be picked up? Glorious coast this! the harvest extends over the whole year." And then he drew his hand over his face as if to suppress emotion, and immediately relapsed into silence and stared moodily into the fire.

Peter seemed to understand that no answer was required, and therefore made none, but asked him where he had come from?

"Where did he come from?" said the stranger, who evidently applied the question to a fish in his basket, and not to himself, "originally from the lake, Peter, where it was spawned, and whither it annually returns. You ought to understand that, Mac, for you have a head on your shoulders, and that is more than half the poor wretches that float ashore here from the deep have. It's a hard life, my friend, going to sea, and hard shores sailors knock against sometimes, and still harder hearts they often find there. A stone in the end of a stocking is a sling for a giant, and soon puts an end to their sufferings; a punishment for wearing gold watches, a penalty for pride. Jolly tars eh? oh yes, very jolly! it's a jolly sight, ain't it, to see two hundred half-naked, mangled, and disfigured bodies on the beach, as I did the other day?" and he gave a shudder at the thought that seemed to shake the very chair he sat on. "It's lucky their friends don't see them, and know their sad fate. They were lost at sea! that is enough for mothers and wives to hear. The cry for help, when there is none to save, the shriek of despair, when no hope is left, the half-uttered prayer, the last groan, and the last struggle of death, are all hushed in the storm, and weeping friends know not what they lament."

After a short pause, he continued:

"That sight has most crazed me. What was it you asked? Oh, I have it! you asked where he came from? From the lake, Peter, where he was spawned, and where he returned you see, to die. You were spawned on the shores of one of the bays of the Highlands of Scotland. Wouldn't you like to return and lay your bones there, eh? From earth you came, to earth you shall return. Wouldn't you like to go back and breathe the air of childhood once more before you die? Love of home, Peter, is strong; it is an instinct of nature; but, alas! the world is a Scotchman's home--anywhere that he can make money. Don't the mountains with their misty summits appear before you sometimes in your sleep? Don't you dream of their dark shadows and sunny spots, their heathy slopes and deep deep glens? Do you see the deer grazing there, and hear the bees hum merrily as they return laden with honey, or the grouse rise startled, and whirr away to hide itself in its distant covert? Do the dead ever rise from their graves and inhabit again the little cottage that looks out on the stormy sea? Do you become a child once more, and hear your mother's voice, as she sings the little simple air that lulls you to sleep, or watch with aching eyes for the returning boat that brings your father, with the shadows of evening, to his humble home? And what is the language of your dreams? not English, French, or Indian, Peter, for they have been learned for trade or for travel, but Gaelic, for that was the language of love. Had you left home early, Mac, and forgotten its words or its sounds, had all trace of it vanished from your memory as if it had never been, still would you have heard it, and known it, and talked it in your dreams. Peter, it is the voice of nature, and that is the voice of God!"

"She'll tell her what she treams of sometimes," said McDonald, "she treams of ta mountain dew--ta clear water of life."

"I will be bound you do," said the doctor, "and I do if you don't, so, Peter, my boy, give me a glass; it will cheer my heart, for I have been too much alone lately, and have seen such horrid sights, I feel dull."

While Peter (who was a good deal affected with this reference to his native land) was proceeding to comply with his request, he relapsed into his former state of abstraction, and when the liquor was presented to him, appeared altogether to have forgotten that he had asked for it.

"Come, Toctor," said the host, touching him on the shoulder, "come, take a drop of this, it will cheer you up; you seem a peg too low to-day. It's the genuine thing, it is some the Governor, Sir Colin Campbell, gave me."

"None the better for that, Peter, none the better for that, for the rich give out of their abundance, the poor from their last cup and their last loaf; one is the gift of station, the other the gift of the heart."

"Indeed then, she is mistakened, man. It was the gift of as true-hearted a Highlander as ever lived. I went to see him lately, about a grant of land. He was engaged writing at the time, and an officher was standing by him for orders, and sais he to me, 'My good friend, could you call to-morrow? for I am very busy to-day, as you see.' Well, I answered him in Gaelic that the wind was fair, and I was anxious to go home, but if he would be at leisure next week I would return again. Oh, I wish you had seen him, Doctor, when he heard his native tongue. He threw down his pen, jumped up like a boy, and took me by the hand, and shook it with all his might. 'Oh,' said he, 'I haven't heard that for years; the sound of it does my heart good. You must come again and see me after the steamer has left for England. What can I do for you? So I told him in a few words I wanted a grant of two hundred acres of land adjoining this place. And he took a minute of my name, and of Skip Harbour, and the number of my lot, and wrote underneath an order for the grant. 'Take that to the Surveyor-General,' said he, 'and the next time you come to Halifax the grant will be ready for you.' Then he rang the bell, and when the servant came, he ordered him to fill a hamper of whiskey and take it down to my vessel.'

"Did you get the grant?" said the stranger.

"Indeed she did," said Peter, "and when she came to read it, it was for five instead of two hundred acres."

"Good!" said the other. "Come, I like that. Fill me another glass and I will drink his health."

"Well done, old boy!" said I to myself, "you know how to carry your sentimentality to market anyhow. Doctor, doctor! So you are a doctor," sais I to myself, "are you? Well, there is something else in you than dough pills, and salts, and senna, at any rate, and that is more than most of your craft have, at all events. I'll draw you out presently, for I never saw a man with that vein of melancholy in him, that didn't like fun, providin' his sadness warn't the effect of disease. So here's at you; I'll make the fun start or break a trace, I know."

Cutler and I had been talking horse when he came in; a sort of talk I rather like myself, for I consait I know a considerable some about it, and ain't above getting a wrinkle from others when I can. "Well," sais I, "Capting, we was a talking about horses when the doctor came in."

"Captain," said the doctor, turning round to Cutler, "Captain, excuse me, Sir, how did you reach the shore?"

"In the boat," said Cutler.

"Ah!" said the other with animation, "was all the crew saved?"

"We were in no danger whatever, Sir; my vessel is at anchor in the harbour."

"Ah," replied the doctor, "that's fortunate, very fortunate;" and turned again to the fire, with an air, as I thought, of disappointment, as if he had expected a tale of horror to excite him.

"'Well, Mr Slick," said the captain, "let us hear your story about the horse that had a thousand virtues and only one vice."

At the sound of my name, the stranger gave a sudden start and gazed steadily at me, his eyebrows raised in the extraordinary manner that I have described, something like the festoon of a curtain, and a smile playing on his face as if expecting a joke and ready to enter into it, and enjoy it. All this I observed out of the corner of my eye, without appearing to regard him or notice his scrutiny.

Sais I, "when I had my tea-store in Boston, I owned the fastest trotting horse in the United States; he was a sneezer, I tell you. I called him Mandarin--a very appropriate name, you see, for my business. It was very important for me to attract attention. Indeed, you must do it, you know, in our great cities, or you are run right over, and crushed by engines of more power. Whose horse is that? Mr Slick's the great tea-merchant. That's the great Mandarin, the fastest beast in all creation--refused five thousand dollars for him, and so on. Every wrapper I had for my tea had a print of him on it. It was action and reaction, you see. Well, this horse had a very serious fault that diminished his value in my eyes down to a hundred dollars, as far as use and comfort went. Nothing in the world could ever induce him to cross a bridge. He had fallen through one when he was a colt, and got so all-fired frightened he never forgot it afterwards. He would stop, rear, run back, plunge, and finally kick if you punished him too hard, and smash your waggon to pieces, but cross he never would. Nobody knew this but me, and of course I warn't such a fool as to blow upon my own beast. At last I grew tired of him and determined to sell him; but as I am a man that always adheres to the truth in my horse trades, the difficulty was, how to sell him and not lose by him. Well, I had to go to Charleston, South Carolina, on business, and I took the chance to get rid of Mr Mandarin, and advertised him for sale. I worded the notice this way:

"'A gentleman, being desirous of quitting Boston on urgent business for a time, will dispose of a first-rate horse, that he is obliged to leave behind him. None need apply but those willing to give a long price. The animal may be seen at Deacon Seth's livery stables.'

"Well, it was soon known that Mandarin was for sale, and several persons came to know the lowest figure. 'Four thousand dollars,' said I, 'and if I didn't want to leave Boston in a hurry, six would be the price.'

"At last young Mr Parker, the banker's son from Bethany, called and said he wouldn't stand for the price, seeing that a hundred dollars was no more than a cord of wood in his pocket (good gracious, how the doctor laughed at that phrase!), but would like to inquire a little about the critter, confidential like.

"'I will answer any questions you ask,' I said, candidly.

"'Is he sound?'

"'Sound as a new hackmetack trenail. Drive it all day, and you can't broom it one mite or morsel.'

"'Good in harness?'


"'Can he do his mile in two fifteen?'

"'He has done it.'

"'Now between man and man,' sais he, 'what is your reason for selling the horse, Slick? for you are not so soft as to be tempted by price out of a first chop article like that.'

"'Well, candidly,' sais I, 'for I am like a cow's tail, straight up and down in my dealing, and ambition the clean thing.'"

"Straight up and down!" said the doctor aloud to himself; 'straight up and down like a cow's tail.' Oh Jupiter! what a simile! and yet it ain't bad, for one end is sure to be in the dirt. A man may be the straight thing, that is right up and down, like a cow's tail, but hang me if he can be the clean thing anyhow he can fix it." And he stretched out his feet to their full length, put his hands in his trowsers pocket, held down his head, and clucked like a hen that is calling her chickens. I vow I could hardly help bustin' out a larfin myself, for it warn't a slow remark of hisn, and showed fun; in fact, I was sure at first he was a droll boy.

"Well, as I was a sayin', sais I to Mr Parker, 'Candidly, now, my only reason for partin' with that are horse is, that I want to go away in a hurry out of Boston clear down to Charleston, South Carolina, and as I can't take him with me, I prefer to sell him."

"'Well,' sais he, 'the beast is mine, and here is a cheque for your money.'

"'Well,' sais I, 'Parker, take care of him, for you have got a fust-rate critter. He is all sorts of a horse, and one that is all I have told you, and more too, and no mistake.'

"Every man that buys a new horse, in a general way, is in a great hurry to try him. There is sumthin' very takin' in a new thing. A new watch, a new coat, no, I reckon it's best to except a new spic and span coat (for it's too glossy, and it don't set easy, till it's worn awhile, and perhaps I might say a new saddle, for it looks as if you warn't used to ridin', except when you went to Meetin' of a Sabbaday, and kept it covered all the week, as a gall does her bonnet, to save it from the flies); but a new waggon, a new sleigh, a new house, and above all a new wife, has great attractions. Still you get tired of them all in a short while; you soon guess the hour instead of pullin' out the watch for everlastin'. The waggon loses its novelty, and so does the sleigh, and the house is surpassed next month by a larger and finer one, and as you can't carry it about to show folks, you soon find it is too expensive to invite them to come and admire it. But the wife; oh, Lord! In a general way, there ain't more difference between a grub and a butterfly, than between a sweetheart and wife. Yet the grub and the butterfly is the same thing, only, differently rigged out, and so is the sweetheart and wife. Both critters crawl about the house, and ain't very attractive to look at, and both turn out so fine and so painted when they go abroad, you don't scarcely know them agin. Both, too, when they get out of doors, seem to have no other airthly object but to show themselves. They don't go straight there and back again, as if there was an end in view, but they first flaunt to the right, and then to the left, and then everywhere in general, and yet nowhere in particular. To be seen and admired is the object of both. They are all finery, and that is so in their way they can neither sit, walk, nor stand conveniently in it. They are never happy, but when on the wing."

"Oh, Lord!" said the doctor to himself, who seemed to think aloud; "I wonder if that is a picture or a caricature?"

Thinks I, "old boy, you are sold. I said that a purpose to find you out, for I am too fond of feminine gender to make fun of them. You are a single man. If you was married, I guess you wouldn't ask that are question."

But I went on. "Now a horse is different, you never get tired of a good one. He don't fizzle out1 like the rest. You like him better and better every day. He seems a part of yourself; he is your better half, your 'halter hego' as I heard a cockney once call his fancy gall.

1 Fizzle out. To prove a failure.

"This bein' the case, as I was a sayin', as soon as a man gits a new one, he wants to try him. So Parker puts Mandarin into harness, and drives away like wink for Salem, but when he came to the bridge, the old coon stopt, put forward his ears, snorted, champed his bit, and stamped his fore feet. First Parker coaxed him, but that did no good, and then he gave him the whip, and he reared straight up on eend, and nearly fell over into his waggon. A man that was crossing over at the time took him by the head to lead him, when he suddenly wheeled half round, threw him in the mud, and dragged him in the gutter, as he backed up agin the side walk all standin'. Parker then laid on the whip, hot and heavy; he gave him a most righteous lickin'. Mandarin returned blow for blow, until he kicked the waggon all to flinders.

"Well, I must say that for his new owner, he was a plucky fellow, as well as Mandarin, and warn't agoin' to cave in that way. So he takes him back to the livery stables, and puts him into another carriage, and off he starts agin, and thinkin' that the horse had seen or smelt sumthen at that bridge to scare him, he tries another, when the same scene was acted over again, only he was throwed out, and had his clothes nearly tore off. Well, that afternoon, up comes Parker to me, choking with rage.

"'Slick,' said he, 'that is the greatest devil of a horse I ever see. He has dashed two carriages all to shivereens, and nearly tuckard the innerds out of me and another man. I do

n't think you have acted honestly by me.'

"'Parker,' said I, 'don't you use words that you don't know the meanin' of, and for goodness gracious sake don't come to me to teach you manners, I beseech you, for I am a rough schoolmaster, I tell you. I answered every question you asked me, candidly, fair and square, and above board.'

"'Didn't you know,' said he, 'that no living man could git that horse across a bridge, let him do his darndest?'

"'I did,' said I, 'know it to my cost, for he nearly killed me in a fight we had at the Salem Pike.'

"'How could you then tell me, Sir, your sole reason for parting with him was, that you wanted to leave Boston and go to Charleston?'

"'Because, Sir,' I replied, 'it was the literal truth. Boston, you know as well as I do, is almost an island, and go which way you will, you must cross a bridge to get out of it. I said I wanted to quit the city, and was compelled to leave my horse behind. How could I ever quit the place with that tormented beast? And warn't I compelled to leave him when Old Scratch himself couldn't make him obey orders? If I had a waited to leave town till he would cross a bridge, I should have had to have waited till doomsday.'

"He scratched his head and looked foolish. 'What a devil of a sell,' said he. 'That will be a standing joke agin me as long as I live.'

"'I don't see that,' said I, 'if you had been deceived, you might have called it a sell, but you bought him with your eyes and ears open, and a full knowledge of the truth. And, after all, where will you go to better yourself? for the most that can be said is, you have got a critter with a thousand virtues and but one vice.'

"'Oh, get out!' said he, 'and let me alone.' And he walked off, and looked as sheepish as you please."

"'Oh dear!" said the doctor; "oh dear." And he placed his hands on his ribs, and walked round the room in a bent position, like a man affected with colic, and laughed as if he was hysterical, saying, "Oh dear! Oh, Mr Slick, that's a capital story. Oh, you would make a new man of me soon, I am sure you would, if I was any time with you. I haven't laughed before that way for many a long day. Oh, it does me good. There is nothing like fun, is there? I haven't any myself, but I do like it in others. Oh, we need it. We need all the counterweights we can muster to balance the sad relations of life. God has made sunny spots in the heart; why should we exclude the light from them?"

"Stick a pin in that, Doctor," says I, "for it's worth rememberin' as a wise saw."

He then took up his wallet, and retired to his room to change his clothes, saying to himself, in an under-tone: "Stick a pin in it. What a queer phrase; and yet it's expressive, too. It's the way I preserve my insects."

The foregoing conversation had scarcely terminated, when Peter's daughters commenced their preparations for the evening meal. And I confess I was never more surprised than at the appearance of the older one, Jessie. In form and beauty she far exceeded the pilot's high encomiums. She was taller than American women generally are; but she was so admirably proportioned and well developed, you were not aware of her height, till you saw her standing near her sister. Her motions were all quiet, natural, and graceful, and there was an air about her, that nothing but the native ease of a child of the forest, or highbred elegance of fashionable life, can ever impart. She had the delicate hands and small feet peculiar to Indian women. Her hair was of the darkest and deepest jet, but not so coarse as that of the aborigines; whilst her large black eyes were oval in shape, liquid, shaded by long lashes, and over-arched by delicately-pencilled brows. Her neck was long, but full, and her shoulders would have been the envy of a London ball-room. She was a perfect model of a woman.

It is true she had had the advantage, when young, of being the companion of the children of the Governor of the Fort, and had been petted, partially educated, and patronised by his wife. But neither he nor his lady could have imparted what it is probable neither possessed, much polish of manner or refinement of mind. We hear of nature's noblemen, but that means rather manly, generous, brave fellows, than polished men. There are however splendid specimens of men, and beautiful looking women, among the aborigines. Extremes meet; and it is certain that the ease and grace of highly civilised life do not surpass those of untutored nature, that neither concedes nor claims a superiority to others. She was altogether of a different stamp from her sister, who was a common-looking person, and resembled the ordinary females to be found in savage life. Stout, strong, and rather stolid, accustomed to drudge and to obey, rather than to be petted and rule; to receive and not to give orders, and to submit from habit and choice. One seemed far above, and the other as much below, the station of their father. Jessie, though reserved, would converse if addressed; the other shunned conversation as much as possible.

Both father and daughters seemed mutually attached to each other, and their conversation was carried on with equal facility in Indian, French, Gaelic, and English, although Peter spoke the last somewhat indifferently. In the evening a young man, of the name of Fraser, with his two sisters, children of a Highland neighbour, came in to visit the McDonalds, and Peter producing his violin, we danced jigs and reels, in a manner and with a spirit not often seen but in Ireland or Scotland. The doctor, unable to withstand the general excitement, joined in the dances with as much animation as any of us, and seemed to enjoy himself amazingly.

"Ah, Mr Slick," said he, patting me on the shoulder, "this is the true philosophy of life. But how is it with your disposition for fun, into which you enter with all your heart, that you have such a store of 'wise saws.' How in the world did you ever acquire them? for your time seems to have been spent more in the active pursuits of life than in meditation. Excuse me, I neither undervalue your talent nor power of observation, but the union does not seem quite natural, it is so much out of the usual course of things."

"Well," sais I, "Doctor, you have been enough in the woods to know that a rock, accidentally falling from a bank into a brook, or a drift-log catching cross-ways of the stream, will often change its whole course, and give it a different direction; haven't you? Don't you know that the smallest and most trivial event often contains colouring matter enough in it to change the whole complexion of our life? For instance, one Saturday, not long before I left school, and when I was a considerable junk of a boy, father gave me leave to go and spend the day with Eb Snell, the son of our neighbour old Colonel Jephunny Snell. We amused ourselves catching trout in the mill-pond, and shooting king-fishers, about the hardest bird there is to kill in all creation, and between one and the other sport, you may depend we enjoyed ourselves first-rate. Towards evenin' I heard a most an awful yell, and looked round, and there was Eb shoutin' and screamin' at the tip eend of his voice, and a jumpin' up and down, as if he had been bit by a rattlesnake.

"'What in natur is the matter of you, Eb?' sais I. 'What are you a makin' such an everlastin' touss about?' But the more I asked, the more he wouldn't answer. At last, I thought I saw a splash in the water, as if somebody was making a desperate splurging there, and I pulled for it, and raced to where he was in no time, and sure enough there was his little brother, Zeb, just a sinkin' out of sight. So I makes a spring in after him in no time, caught him by the hair of his head, just as he was vamosing, and swam ashore with him. The bull-rushes and long water-grass was considerable thick there, and once or twice I thought in my soul I should have to let go my hold of the child, and leave him to save my own life, my feet got so tangled in it; but I stuck to it like a good fellow, and worked my passage out with the youngster.

"Just then, down came the women folk and all the family of the Snells, and the old woman made right at me, as cross as a bear that has cubs, she looked like a perfect fury.

"'You good-for-nothin' young scallowag,' said she, 'is that the way you take care of that poor dear little boy, to let him fall into the pond, and get half drowned?'

"And she up and boxed my ears right and left, till sparks came out of my eyes like a blacksmith's chimney, and my hat, which was all soft with water, got the crown knocked in in the scuffle, and was as flat as a pancake.

"'What's all this,' sais Colonel Jephunny, who came runnin' out of the mill. 'Eb,' sais he, 'what's all this?'

"Well, the critter was so frightened he couldn't do nothin', but jump up and down, nor say a word, but 'Sam, Sam!'

"So the old man seizes a stick, and catchin' one of my hands in his, turned to, and gave me a most an awful hidin'. He cut me into ribbons a'most.

"'I'll teach you,' he said, 'you villain, to throw a child into the water arter that fashin.' And he turned to, and at it agin, as hard as he could lay on. I believe in my soul he would have nearly killed me, if it hadn't a been for a great big nigger wench he had, called Rose. My! what a slashin' large woman, that was; half horse, half alligator, with a cross of the mammoth in her. She wore a man's hat and jacket, and her petticoat had stuff enough in it to make the mainsail of a boat. Her foot was as long and as flat as a snow shoe, and her hands looked as shapeless and as hard as two large sponges froze solid. Her neck was as thick as a bull's, and her scalp was large and woolly enough for a door-mat. She was as strong as a moose, and as ugly too; and her great-white pointed teeth was a caution to a shark.

"'Hullo,' sais she, 'here's the devil to pay, and no pitch hot. Are you a goin' to kill that boy, massa?' and she seized hold of me and took me away from him, and caught me up in her arms as easy as if I was a doll.

"'Here's a pretty hurrahs nest,' sais she, 'let me see one of you dare to lay hands on this brave pickininny. He is more of a man than the whole bilin' of you put together. My poor child,' said she, 'they have used you scandalous, ridiculous,' and she held down her nasty oily shiny face and kissed me, till she nearly smothered me. Oh, Doctor, I shall never forget that scene the longest day I ever live. She might a been Rose by name, but she warn't one by nature, I tell you. When niggers get their dander raised, and their ebenezer fairly up, they ain't otter of roses, that's a fact; whatever Mrs Stowe may say. Oh, I kicked and yelled and coughed like anything.

"'Poor dear boy,' she said, 'Rosy ain't a goin' to hurt her own brave child,' not she, and she kissed me again and again, till I thought I should have fainted. She actually took away my breath.

"'Come,' said she, and she set me down on my feet. 'Come to the house, till I put some dry clothes on you, and I'll make some lasses candy for you with my own hands!' But as soon as I touched land, I streaked off for home, as hard as I could lay legs to the ground; but the perfume of old Rose set me a sneezing so, I fairly blew up the dust in the road as I went, as if a bull had been pawin of it, and left a great wet streak behind me as if a watering-pot had passed that way. Who should I meet when I returned, but mother a standin at the door.

"'Why, Sam,' said she, 'what under the sun is the matter? What a spot of work? Where in the world have you been?'

"'In the mill pond,' said I.

"'In the mill pond,' said she, slowly; 'and ruinated that beautiful new coat I made out of your father's old one, and turned so nicely for you. You are more trouble to me than all the rest of the boys put together. Go right off to your room this blessed instant minite, and go to bed and say your prayers, and render thanks for savin' your clothes, if you did lose your life.'

"'I wish I had lost my life,' said I.

"'Wish you had lost your life?' said she. 'Why you miserable, onsarcumsised, onjustified, graceless boy. Why do you wish you had lost your life?'

"'Phew, phew,' said I, 'was you ever kissed by a nigger? because if you was, I guess you wouldn't have asked that are question,' and I sneezed so hard I actually blew down the wire cage, the door of it flew open, and the cat made a spring like wink and killed the canary bird.

"'Sam, Sam,' said she ('skat, skat, you nasty devil, you--you have got the knary, I do declare.) Sam! Sam! to think I should have lived to hear you ask your mother if she had ever been kissed by a nigger!' and she began to boohoo right out. 'I do believe in my soul you are drunk, Sam,' said she.

"'I shouldn't wonder if I was,' said I, 'for I have drunk enough to-day to serve a cow and a calf for a week.'

"'Go right off to bed; my poor dear bird,' said she. 'And when your father comes in I will send him to your cage. You shall be punished for this.'

"'I don't care,' sais I, for I was desperate and didn't mind what happened, 'who you send, providin' you don't send black Rose, the nigger wench, to me.'

"Well, in about an hour or so I heard father come to the foot of the stairs and call out 'Sam.' I didn't answer at first, but went and threw the winder open ready for a jump.

"Thinks I, 'Sam, you are in great luck to-day. 1st. You got nearly drowned, savin' that little brat Zeb Snell. 2nd. You lost a bran new hat, and spoilt your go-to-meetin' clothes. 3rd. Mrs Snell boxed your ears till your eyes shot stars, like rockets. 4th. You got an all-fired licking from old Colonel Jephunny, till he made a mulatto of you, and you was half black and half white. 5th. You got kissed and pysoned by that great big emancipated she-nigger wench. 6th. You have killed your mother's canary bird, and she has jawed you till she went into hysterics. 7th. Here's the old man a goin' to give you another walloping and all for nothin. I'll cut and run, and dot drot me if I don't, for it's tarnation all over.'

"'Sam,' sais father again, a raisin' of his voice.

"'Father,' sais I, 'I beg your pardon, I am very sorry for what I have done, and I think I have been punished enough. If you will promise to let me off this time, I will take my oath I will never save another person from drowning again, the longest day I ever live.'

"'Come down,' said he, 'when I tell you, I am goin' to reward you.'

"'Thank you,' sais I, 'I have been rewarded already more than I deserve.'

"Well, to make a long story short, we concluded a treaty of peace, and down I went, and there was Colonel Snell, who said he had drove over to beg my pardon for the wrong he had done to me, and said he, 'Sam, come to me at ten o'clock on Monday, and I will put you in a way to make your fortune, as a recompense for saving my child's life.'

"Well, I kept the appointment, tho' I was awful skared about old Rose kissin of me again; and sais he, 'Sam, I want to show you my establishment for making wooden clocks. One o' them can be manufactured for two dollars, scale of prices then. Come to me for three months, and I will teach you the trade, only you musn't carry it on in Connecticut to undermine me.' I did so, and thus accidentally I became a clockmaker.

"To sell my wares I came to Nova Scotia. By a similar accident I met the Squire in this province, and made his acquaintance. I wrote a journal of our tour, and for want of a title he put my name to it, and called it 'Sam Slick, the Clockmaker.' That book introduced me to General Jackson, and he appointed me attaché to our embassy to England, and that again led to Mr Polk making me Commissioner of the Fisheries, which, in its turn, was the means of my having the honour of your acquaintance," and I made him a scrape of my hind leg.

"Now," sais I, "all this came from the accident of my havin' saved a child's life one day. I owe my 'wise saws' to a similar accident. My old master and friend, that you have read of in my books, Mr Hopewell, was chock full of them. He used to call them wisdom boiled down to an essence, concretes, and I don't know what all. He had a book full of English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and above all, Bible ones. Well, he used to make me learn them by heart for lessons, till I was fairly sick and tired to death of 'em.

"'Minister,' sais I, one day, 'what under the sun is the use of them old, musty, fusty proverbs. A boy might as well wear his father's boots, and ride in his long stirrups, as talk in maxims, it would only set other boys a laughin' at him.'

"'Sam,' sais he, 'you don't understand them now, and you don't understand your Latin grammar, tho' you can say them both off by heart. But you will see the value of one when you come to know the world, and the other, when you come to know the language. The latter will make you a good scholar, and the former a wise man.'

"Minister was right, Doctor. As I came to read the book of life, I soon began to understand, appreciate, and apply my proverbs. Maxims are deductions ready drawn, and better expressed than I could do them, to save my soul alive. Now I have larned to make them myself. I have acquired the habit, as my brother the lawyer sais, 'of extracting the principle from cases.' Do you take? I am not the accident of an accident; for I believe the bans of marriage were always duly published in our family; but I am the accident of an incident."

"There is a great moral in that too, Mr Slick," he said. "How important is conduct, when the merest trifle may carry in its train the misery or happiness of your future life."

"Stick a pin in that also. Doctor," said I.

Here Cutler and the pilot cut short our conversation by going on board. But Peter wouldn't hear of my leaving his house, and I accordingly spent the night there, not a little amused with my new acquaintances.

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