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- The Fiend's Delight - 10/22 -
the rails of even the most cleverly constructed pen. The best of us are they who spend most time repressing the beast by rapping him upon the nose. The Young Person.
We are prepared, not perhaps to prove, but to maintain, that civilization would be materially aided and abetted by the offer of a liberal reward for the scalps of Young Persons with the ears attached. Your regular Young Person is a living nuisance, whose every act is a provocation to exterminate her. We say "her," not because, physically considered, the Y. P. is necesarily of the she sex; more commonly is it an irreclaimable male; but morally and intellectually it is an unmixed female. Her virtues are merely milk-and-morality-her intelligence is pure spiritual whey. Her conversation (to which not even her own virtues and intelligence are in any way related) is three parts rain-water that has stood too long and one part cider that has not stood long enough-a sickening, sweetish compound, one dose of which induces in the mental stomach a colicky qualm, followed, if no correctives be taken, by violent retching, coma, and death.
The Young Person vegetates best in the atmosphere of parlours and ball-rooms; if she infested the fields and roadsides like the squirrels, lizards, and mud-hens, she would be as ruthlessly exterminated as they. Every passing sportsman would fill her with duck-shot, and every strolling gentleman would step out of his way to smite off her head with his cane, as one decapitates a thistle. But in the drawing-room one lays off his destructiveness with his hat and gloves, and the Young Person enjoys the same immunity that a sleepy mastiff grants to the worthless kitten campaigning against his nose.
But there is no good reason why the Spider should be destroyed and the Young Person tolerated. A Certain Popular Fallacy.
The world makes few graver mistakes than in supposing a man must necessarily possess all the cardinal virtues because he has a big dog and some dirty children.
We know a butcher whose children are not merely dirty-they are fearfully and wonderfully besmirched by the hand of an artist. He has, in addition, a big dog with a tendency to dropsy, who flies at you across the street with such celerity that he outruns his bark by a full second, and you are warned of your danger only after his teeth are buried in your leg. And yet the owner of these children and father of this dog is no whit better, to all appearance, than a baker who has clean brats and a mild poodle. He is not even a good butcher; he hacks a rib and lacerates a sirloin. He talks through his nose, which turns up to such an extent that the voice passes right over your head, and you have to get on a table to tell whether he is slandering his dead wife or swearing at yourself.
If that man possessed a thousand young ones, exaltedly nasty, and dogs enough to make a sub-Atlantic cable of German sausage, you would find it difficult to make us believe in him. In fact, we look upon the big dog test of morality as a venerable mistake-natural but erroneous; and we regard dirty children as indispensable in no other sense than that they are inevitable. Pastoral Journalism.
There shall be joy in the household of the country editor what time the rural mind shall no longer crave the unhealthy stimuli afforded by fascinating accounts of corpulent beets, bloated pumpkins, dropsical melons, aspiring maize, and precocious cabbages. Then the bucolic journalist shall have surcease of toil, and may go out upon the meads to frisk with kindred lambs, frolic familiarly with loose-jointed colts, and exchange grave gambollings with solemn cows. Then shall the voice of the press, no longer attuned to the praises of the vegetable kingdom, find a more humble, but not less useful, employment in calling the animal kingdom to the evening meal beneath the sanctum window.
To the over-worked editor life will have a fresh zest and a new significance. The hills shall hump more greenly upward to a bluer sky, the fields blush with a more tender sunshine. He will go forth at dawn with countless flipflaps of gymnastic joy; and when the white sun shall redden with the blood of dying day, and the hogs shall set up a fine evening hymn of supplication to the Giver of Swill, he will stand upon the editorial head, blissfully conscious that his intellect is a-ripening for the morrow's work.
The rural newspaper! We sit with it in hand, running our fingers over the big staring letters, as over the black and white keys of a piano, drumming out of them a mild melody of perfect repose. With what delight do we disport us in the illimitable void of its nothingness, as who should swim in air! Here is nothing to startle-nothing to wound. The very atmosphere is saturated with "the spirit of the rural press;" and even our dog stands by, with pendant tail, slowly dropping the lids over his great eyes; and then, jerking them suddenly up again, tries to look as if he were not sleepy in the least. A pleasant smell of ploughed ground comes strong upon us. The tinkle of ghostly cow-bells falls drowsily upon the ear. Airy figures of phenomenal esculents float dreamily before our half-shut eyes, and vanish ere perfect vision can catch them. About and above are the drone of bees, and the muffled thunder of milk streams shooting into the foaming pail. The gabble of distant geese is faintly marked off by the bark of a distant dog. The city with its noises sinks away from our feet as from one in a balloon, and our senses are steeped in country languor. We slumber.
God bless the man who first invented the country newspaper!-though Sancho Panza blessed him once before. Mendicity's Mistake.
Your famishing beggar is a fish of as sorry aspect as may readily be scared up. Generally speaking, he is repulsive as to hat, abhorrent as to vesture, squalid of boot, and in tout ensemble unseemly and atrocious. His appeal for alms falls not more vexingly upon the ear than his offensive personality smites hard upon the eye. The touching effectiveness of his tale is ever neutralized by the uncomeliness of his raiment and the inartistic besmirchedness of his countenance. His pleading is like the pathos of some moving ballad from the lips of a negro minstrel; shut your eyes and it shall make you fumble in your pocket for your handkerchief; open them, and you would fain draw out a pistol instead.
It is to be wished that Poverty would garb his body in a clean skin, that Adversity would cultivate a taste for spotless linen, and that Beggary would address himself unto your pocket from beneath a downy hat. However, we cannot hope to immediately impress these worthy mendicants with the advantage of devoting a portion of their gains to the purchase of purple and fine linen, instead of expending their all upon the pleasures of the table and riotous living; but our duty unto them remains.
The very least that one can do for the offensive needy is to direct them to the nearest clothier. That, therefore, is the proper course. Insects.
Every one has observed, a solitary ant breasting a current of his fellows as he retraces his steps to pack off something he has forgotten. At each meeting with a neighbour there is a mutual pause, and the two confront each other for a moment, reaching out their delicate antenn‘, and making a critical examination of one another's person. This the little creature repeats with tireless persistence to the end of his journey.
As with the ant, so with the other insect-the sprightly "female of our species." It is really delightful to watch the fine frenzy of her lovely eye as she notes the approach of a woman more gorgeously arrayed than herself, or the triumphant contempt that settles about her lips at the advance of a poorly clad sister. How contemplatively she lingers upon each detail of attire-with what keen penetration she takes in the general effect at a sweep!
And this suggests the fearful thought-what would the darlings do if they wore no clothes? One-half their pleasure in walking on the street would vanish like a dream, and an equal proportion of the philosopher's happiness in watching them would perish in the barren prospect of an inartistic nudity. Picnicking considered as a Mistake.
Why do people attend public picnics? We do not wish to be iterative, but why do they? Heaven help them! it is because they know no better, and no one has had the leisure to enlighten them.
Now your picnic-goer is a muff-an egregious, gregarious muff, and a glutton. Moreover, a nobody who, if he be male wears, in nine cases in ten, a red necktie and a linen duster to his heel; if she be female hath soiled hose to her calf, and in her face a premonition of colic to come.
We hold it morally impossible to attend a picnic and come home pure in heart and undefiled of cuticle. For the dust will get in your nose, clog your ears, make clay in your mouth and mortar in your eyes, and so stop up all the natural passages to the soul; whereby the wickedness which that subtle organ doth constantly excrete is balked of its issue, tainting the entire system with a grievous taint.
At picnics, moreover, is engendered an unpleasant perspiration, which the patient must perforce endure until he shall bathe him in a bath. It is not sweet to reek, and your picnicker must reek. Should he chance to break a leg, or she a limb, the inevitable exposure of the pedal condition is alarming and eke humiliating. Thanksgiving Day.
There be those of us whose memories, though vexed with an oyster-rake would not yield matter for gratitude, and whose piety though strained through a sieve would leave no trace of an object upon which to lavish thanks. It is easy enough, with a waistcoat selected for the occasion, to eat one's proportion of turkey and hide away one's allowance of wine; and if this be returning thanks, why then gratitude is considerably easier, and vastly more agreeable, than falling off a log, and may be acquired in one easy lesson without a master. But if more than this be required-if to be grateful means anything beyond being gluttonous, your true philosopher--he of the severe brow upon which logic has stamped its eternal impress, and from whose heart sentiment has been banished along with other small vices-your true philosopher, say we, will think twice before he "crooks the pregnant hinges of the knee" in humble observance of the day.
For here is the nut of reason he is obliged to crack before he can obtain the kernel of emotion proper to the day. Unless the blessings we enjoy are favours from the Omnipotent, to be grateful is to be absurd. If they are, then, also the ills with which we are afflicted have the same origin. Grant this, and you make an offset of the latter against the former, or are driven either to the ridiculous position that we must be equally grateful for both evils and blessings, or the no less ridiculous one that all evils are blessings in disguise.
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