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- The Fiend's Delight - 3/22 -
you first lay down."
Again the prostrate gentleman was still. Then when the candle of the waking housewife had burned low down to the socket, and the wasted flame on the hearth was expiring bluely in convulsive leaps, the head of the family resumed: "Jane, who said anything about boots?"
There was no reply. Apparently none was expected, for the man immediately rose, lengthened himself out like a telescope, and continued: "Jane, I must have smothered that brat, and I'm 'fernal sorry!"
"What brat?" asked the wife, becoming interested.
"Why, ours-our little Isaac. I saw you put 'im in bed last week, and I've been layin' right onto 'im!"
"What under the sun do you mean?" asked the good wife; "we haven't any brat, and never had, and his name should not be Isaac if we had. I believe you are crazy."
The man balanced his bulk rather unsteadily, looked hard into the eyes of his companion, and triumphantly emitted the following conundrum: "Jane, look-a-here! If we haven't any brat, what'n thunder's the use o' bein' married!"
Pending the solution of the momentous problem, its author went out and searched the night for a whisky-skin.
The Heels of Her.
Passing down Commercial-street one fine day, I observed a lady standing alone in the middle of the sidewalk, with no obvious business there, but with apparently no intention of going on. She was outwardly very calm, and seemed at first glance to be lost in some serene philosophical meditation. A closer examination, however, revealed a peculiar restlessness of attitude, and a barely noticeable uneasiness of expression. The conviction came upon me that the lady was in distress, and as delicately as possible I inquired of her if such were not the case, intimating at the same time that I should esteem it a great favour to be permitted to do something. The lady smiled blandly and replied that she was merely waiting for a gentleman. It was tolerably evident that I was not required, and with a stammered apology I hastened away, passed clear around the block, came up behind her, and took up a position on a dry-goods box; it lacked an hour to dinner time, and I had leisure. The lady maintained her attitude, but with momently increasing impatience, which found expression in singular wave-like undulations of her lithe figure, and an occasional unmistakeable contortion. Several gentlemen approached, but were successively and politely dismissed. Suddenly she experienced a quick convulsion, strode sharply forward one step, stopped short, had another convulsion, and walked rapidly away. Approaching the spot I found a small iron grating in the sidewalk, and between the bars two little boot heels, riven from their kindred soles, and unsightly with snaggy nails.
Heaven only knows why that entrapped female had declined the proffered assistance of her species-why she had elected to ruin her boots in preference to having them removed from her feet. Upon that day when the grave shall give up its dead, and the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, I shall know all about it; but I want to know now. A Tale of Two Feet.
My friend Zacharias was accustomed to sleep with a heated stone at his feet; for the feet of Mr. Zacharias were as the feet of the dead. One night he retired as usual, and it chanced that he awoke some hours afterwards with a well-defined smell of burning leather, making it pleasant for his nostrils.
"Mrs. Zacharias," said he, nudging his snoring spouse, "I wish you would get up and look about. I think one of the children must have fallen into the fire."
The lady, who from habit had her own feet stowed comfortably away against the warm stomach of her lord and master, declined to make the investigation demanded, and resumed the nocturnal melody. Mr. Zacharias was angered; for the first time since she had sworn to love, honour, and obey, this female was in open rebellion. He decided upon prompt and vigorous action. He quietly moved over to the back side of the bed and braced his shoulders against the wall. Drawing up his sinewy knees to a level with his breast, he placed the soles of his feet broadly against the back of the insurgent, with the design of propelling her against the opposite wall. There was a strangled snort, then a shriek of female agony, and the neighbours came in.
Mutual explanations followed, and Mr. Zacharias walked the streets of Grass Valley next day as if he were treading upon eggs worth a dollar a dozen. The Scolliver Pig.
One of Thomas Jefferson's maxims is as follows: "When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, count a hundred." I once knew a man to square his conduct by this rule, with a most gratifying result. Jacob Scolliver, a man prone to bad temper, one day started across the fields to visit his father, whom he generously permitted to till a small corner of the old homestead. He found the old gentleman behind the barn, bending over a barrel that was canted over at an angle of seventy degrees, and from which issued a cloud of steam. Scolliver pŠre was evidently scalding one end of a dead pig-an operation essential to the loosening of the hair, that the corpse may be plucked and shaven.
"Good morning, father," said Mr. Scolliver, approaching, and displaying a long, cheerful smile. "Got a nice roaster there?" The elder gentleman's head turned slowly and steadily, as upon a swivel, until his eyes pointed backward; then he drew his arms out of the barrel, and finally, revolving his body till it matched his head, he deliberately mounted upon the supporting block and sat down upon the sharp edge of the barrel in the hot steam. Then he replied, "Good mornin' Jacob. Fine mornin'."
"A little warm in spots, I should imagine," returned the son. "Do you find that a comfortable seat?" "Why-yes-it's good enough for an old man," he answered, in a slightly husky voice, and with an uneasy gesture of the legs; "don't make much difference in this life where we set, if we're good-does it? This world ain't heaven, anyhow, I s'spose."
"There I do not entirely agree with you," rejoined the young man, composing his body upon a stump for a philosophical argument. "I don't neither," added the old one, absently, screwing about on the edge of the barrel and constructing a painful grimace. There was no argument, but a silence instead. Suddenly the aged party sprang off that barrel with exceeding great haste, as of one who has made up his mind to do a thing and is impatient of delay. The seat of his trousers was steaming grandly, the barrel upset, and there was a great wash of hot water, leaving a deposit of spotted pig. In life that pig had belonged to Mr. Scolliver the younger! Mr. Scolliver the younger was angry, but remembering Jefferson's maxim, he rattled off the number ten, finishing up with "You--thief!" Then perceiving himself very angry, he began all over again and ran up to one hundred, as a monkey scampers up a ladder. As the last syllable shot from his lips he planted a dreadful blow between the old man's eyes, with a shriek that sounded like--"You son of a sea-cook!"
Mr. Scolliver the elder went down like a stricken beef, and his son often afterward explained that if he had not counted a hundred, and so given himself time to get thoroughly mad, he did not believe he could ever have licked the old man. Mr. Hunker's Mourner.
Strolling through Lone Mountain cemetery one day my attention was arrested by the inconsolable grief of a granite angel bewailing the loss of "Jacob Hunker, aged 67." The attitude of utter dejection, the look of matchless misery upon that angel's face sank into my heart like water into a sponge. I was about to offer some words of condolence when another man, similarly affected, got in before me, and laying a rather unsteady hand upon the celestial shoulder tipped back a very senile hat, and pointing to the name on the stone remarked with the most exact care and scrupulous accent: "Friend of yours, perhaps; been dead long?"
There was no reply; he continued: "Very worthy man, that Jake; knew him up in Tuolumne. Good feller-Jake." No response: the gentleman settled his hat still farther back, and continued with a trifle less exactness of speech: "I say, young wom'n, Jake was my pard in the mines. Goo' fell'r I 'bserved!"
The last sentence was shot straight into the celestial ear at short range. It produced no effect. The gentleman's patience and rhetorical vigilance were now completely exhausted. He walked round, and planting himself defiantly in front of the vicarious mourner, he stuck his hands doggedly into his pockets and delivered the following rebuke, like the desultory explosions of a bunch of damaged fire-crackers: "It wont do, old girl; ef Jake knowed how you's treatin' his old pard he'd jest git up and snatch you bald headed-he would! You ain't no friend o' his'n and you ain't yur fur no good-you bet! Now you jest 'sling your swag an' bolt back to heaven, or I'm hanged ef I don't have suthin' worse'n horse-stealin' to answer fur, this time."
And he took a step forward. At this point I interfered. A Bit of Chivalry.
At Woodward's Garden, in the city of San Francisco, is a rather badly chiselled statue of Pandora pulling open her casket of ills. Pandora's raiment, I grieve to state, has slipped down about her waist in a manner exceedingly reprehensible. One evening about twilight, I was passing that way, and saw a long gaunt miner, evidently just down from the mountains, and whom I had seen before, standing rather unsteadily in front of Pandora, admiring her shapely figure, but seemingly afraid to approach her. Seeing me advance, he turned to me with a queer, puzzled expression in his funny eyes, and said with an earnestness that came near defeating its purpose, "Good ev'n'n t'ye, stranger." "Good evening, sir," I replied, after having analyzed his salutation and extracted the sense of it. Lowering his voice to what was intended for a whisper, the miner, with a jerk of his thumb Pandoraward, continued: "Stranger, d'ye hap'n t'know 'er?" "Certainly; that is Bridget Pandora, a Greek maiden, in the pay of the Board of Supervisors."
He straightened himself up with a jerk that threatened the integrity
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