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- Public Speaking - 60/65 -

for a month. I guess he didn't mind it, though." Of this I was less certain, forlorn little Medora being a "busted" cow town, concerning which I once heard another of my men remark, in reply to an inquisitive commercial traveler: "How many people lives here? Eleven--counting the chickens--when they're all in town!"

My foreman continued: "By George, there was something that professor said afterward that made me feel hot. I sent word up to him by Foley's boy that seein' as how it had come out, we wouldn't charge him nothin' for the rig; and that professor answered that he was glad we were showing him some sign of consideration, for he'd begun to believe he'd fallen into a den of sharks, and that we gave him a runaway team apurpose. That made me hot, calling that a runaway team. Why, there was one of them horses never _could_ have run away before; it hadn't never been druv but twice! and the other horse maybe had run away a few times, but there was lots of times he _hadn't_ run away. I esteemed that team full as liable not to run away as it was to run away," concluded my foreman, evidently deeming this as good a warranty of gentleness in a horse as the most exacting could possibly require.


From a lecture entitled "Clear Grit," published in "Modern Eloquence," Vol. IV, Geo. L. Shuman and Company, Chicago.


In what we call the good old times--say, three hundred years ago--a family lived on the border between England and Scotland, with one daughter of a marvelous homeliness. Her name was Meg. She was a capital girl, as homely girls generally are. She knew she had no beauty, so she made sure of quality and faculty. But the Scotch say that "while beauty may not make the best kail, it looks best by the side of the kail-pot." So Meg had no offer of a husband, and was likely to die in what we call "single blessedness." Everybody on the border in those days used to steal, and their best "holt," as we say, was cattle. If they wanted meat and had no money, they would go out and steal as many beef cattle as they could lay their hands on, from somebody on the other side of the border. Well, they generally had no money, and they were always wanting beef, and they could always be hung for stealing by the man they stole from if he could catch them, and so they had what an Irishman would call a fine time entirely. One day a young chief, wanting some beef as usual, went out with part of his clan, came upon a splendid herd on the lands of Meg's father, and went to work to drive them across to his own. But the old fellow was on the lookout, mustered his clan, bore down on the marauders, beat them, took the young chief prisoner, and then went home to his peel very much delighted. Meg's mother, of course, wanted to know all about it, and then she said, "Noo, laird, what are you gaun to do with the prisoner?" "I am gaun to hang him," the old man thundered, "just as soon as I have had my dinner." "But I think ye're noo wise to do that," she said. "He has got a braw place, ye ken, over the border, and he is a braw fellow. Noo I'll tell ye what I would do. I would give him his chance to be hung or marry oor Meg." It struck the old man as a good idea, and so he went presently down into the dungeon, told the young fellow to get ready to be hung in thirty minutes, but then got round to the alternative, and offered to spare his life if he would marry Meg, and give him the beef into the bargain. He had heard something about Meg's wonderful want of beauty, and so, with a fine Scotch prudence, he said, "Ye will let me see her, laird, before I mak' up my mind, because maybe I would rather be hung." "Aye, mon, that's fair," the old chief answered, and went in to bid the mother get Meg ready for the interview. The mother did her best, you may be sure, to make Meg look winsome, but when the poor fellow saw his unintentional intended he turned round to the chief and said, "Laird, if ye have nae objection, I think I would rather be hung." "And sae ye shall, me lad, and welcome," the old chief replied, in a rage. So they led him out, got the rope around his neck; and then the young man changed his mind, and shouted, "Laird, I'll tak' her." So he was marched back into the castle, married before he had time to change his mind, if that was possible, and the tradition is that there never was a happier pair in Scotland, and never a better wife in the world than Meg. But I have told the story because it touches this point, of the way they hold their own over there when there are great families of children. They tell me that the family flourishes famously still; no sign of dying out or being lost about it. Meg's main feature was a very large mouth, and now in the direct line in almost every generation the neighbors and friends are delighted, as they say, to get Meg back. "Here's Meg again," they cry when a child is born with that wonderful mouth. Sir Walter Scott was one of the descendants of the family. He had Meg's mouth, in a measure, and was very proud of it when he would tell the story.


From a speech published in Brewer's "The World's Best Orations," Vol. IX, Ferd. P. Kaiser, St. Louis, Chicago, publisher.

BY SIDNEY SMITH I have spoken so often on this subject, that I am sure both you and the gentlemen here present will be obliged to me for saying but little, and that favor I am as willing to confer, as you can be to receive it. I feel most deeply the event which has taken place, because, by putting the two houses of Parliament in collision with each other, it will impede the public business and diminish the public prosperity. I feel it as a churchman, because I cannot but blush to see so many dignitaries of the Church arrayed against the wishes and happiness of the people. I feel it more than all, because I believe it will sow the seeds of deadly hatred between the aristocracy and the great mass of the people. The loss of the bill I do not feel, and for the best of all possible reasons--because I have not the slightest idea that it is lost. I have no more doubt, before the expiration of the winter, that this bill will pass, than I have that the annual tax bills will pass, and greater certainty than this no man can have, for Franklin tells us there are but two things certain in this world--death and taxes. As for the possibility of the House of Lords preventing ere long a reform of Parliament, I hold it to be the most absurd notion that ever entered into human imagination. I do not mean to be disrespectful, but the attempt of the lords to stop the progress of reform reminds me very forcibly of the great storm of Sidmouth, and of the conduct of the excellent Mrs. Partington on that occasion. In the winter of 1824, there set in a great flood upon that town, the tide rose to an incredible height, the waves rushed in upon the houses, and everything was threatened with destruction. In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm, Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the top of her house with mop and pattens, trundling her mop, squeezing out the water, and vigorously pushing away the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused. Mrs. Partington's spirit was up; but I need not tell you that the contest was unequal. The Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs. Partington. She was excellent at a slop or a puddle, but she should not have meddled with a tempest. Gentlemen, be at your ease--be quiet and steady. You will beat Mrs. Partington.


From the same speech as the foregoing


An honorable member of the honorable house, much connected with this town, and once its representative, seems to be amazingly surprised, and equally dissatisfied, at this combination of king, ministers, nobles, and people, against his opinion,--like the gentleman who came home from serving on a jury very much disconcerted, and complaining he had met with eleven of the most obstinate people he had ever seen in his life, whom he found it absolutely impossible by the strongest arguments to bring over to his way of thinking.

They tell you, gentlemen, that you have grown rich and powerful with these rotten boroughs, and that it would be madness to part with them, or to alter a constitution which had produced such happy effects. There happens, gentlemen, to live near my parsonage a laboring man of very superior character and understanding to his fellow laborers, and who has made such good use of that superiority that he has saved what is (for his station in life) a very considerable sum of money, and if his existence is extended to the common period he will die rich. It happens, however, that he is (and long has been) troubled with violent stomachic pains, for which he has hitherto obtained no relief, and which really are the bane and torment of his life. Now, if my excellent laborer were to send for a physician and to consult him respecting this malady, would it not be very singular language if our doctor were to say to him: "My good friend, you surely will not be so rash as to attempt to get rid of these pains in your stomach. Have you not grown rich with these pains in your stomach? have you not risen under them from poverty to prosperity? has not your situation since you were first attacked been improving every year? You surely will not be so foolish and so indiscreet as to part with the pains in your stomach?" Why, what would be the answer of the rustic to this nonsensical monition? "Monster of rhubarb! (he would say) I am not rich in consequence of the pains in my stomach, but in spite of the pains in my stomach; and I should have been ten times richer, and fifty times happier, if I had never had any pains in my stomach at all." Gentlemen, these rotten boroughs are your pains in the stomach--and you would have been a much richer and greater people if you had never had them at all. Your wealth and your power have been owing not to the debased and corrupted parts of the House of Commons, but to the many independent and honorable members whom it has always contained within its walls. If there had been a few more of these very valuable members for close boroughs we should, I verily believe, have been by this time about as free as Denmark, Sweden, or the Germanized States of Italy.

This is the greatest measure which has ever been before Parliament in my time, and the most pregnant with good or evil to the country; and though I seldom meddle with political meetings, I could not reconcile it to my conscience to be absent from this.

Every year for this half century, the question of reform has been pressing upon us, till it has swelled up at last into this great and awful combination; so that almost every city and every borough in England are at this moment assembled for the same purpose, and are doing the same thing we are doing.


From "Modern Eloquence," Vol. X, Geo. L. Shuman and Company, Chicago, publishers.


I do not want to be in the position of a man I once heard of who was a lion tamer. He was a very brave man. There was no lion, no matter how big, or strong, or vicious, that had not succumbed to this man's fearlessness. This man had a wife, and she did not like him to stay out late at night, and big as he was, and as brave, he had never dared to disrespect his wife's wishes, until one evening, meeting some old friends, he fell to talking over old times with them, their early adventures and experiences. Finally, looking at his watch, to his amazement he discovered it was midnight. What to do he knew not. He

Public Speaking - 60/65

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