Wit and Humor of America, The Vol 08



As we approached the inn at Amherst, the Clockmaker grew uneasy. "It's pretty well on in the evening, I guess," said he, "and Marm Pugwash is as onsartin in her temper as a mornin' in April; it's all sunshine or all clouds with her, and if she's in one of her tantrums she'll stretch out her neck and hiss like a goose with a flock of goslin's. I wonder what on airth Pugwash was a-thinkin' on when he signed articles of partnership with that are woman; she's not a bad-lookin' piece of furniture, neither, and it's a proper pity sich a clever woman should carry sich a stiff upper lip. She reminds me of our old minister Joshua Hopewell's apple-trees.

"The old minister had an orchard of most particular good fruit, for he was a great hand at buddin', graftin', and what not, and the orchard (it was on the south side of the house) stretched right up to the road. Well, there were some trees hung over the fence, I never seed such bearers: the apples hung in ropes, for all the world like strings of onions, and the fruit was beautiful. Nobody touched the minister's apples, and when other folks lost their'n from the boys, his'n always hung there like bait t' a hook, but there never was so much as a nibble at 'em. So I said to him one day, 'Minister,' said I, 'how on airth do you manage to keep your fruit that's so exposed, when no one else can't do it nohow?' 'Why,' says he, 'they are dreadfully pretty fruit, ain't they?' 'I guess,' said I, 'there ain't the like on 'em in all Connecticut.' 'Well,' says he, 'I'll tell you the secret, but you needn't let on to no one about it. That are row next the fence, I grafted it myself: I took great pains to get the right kind. I sent clean up to Roxberry and away down to Squawneck Creek.' I was afeard he was a-goin' to give me day and date for every graft, bein' a terrible long-winded man in his stories; so says I, 'I know that, minister, but how do you preserve them?' 'Why, I was a-goin' to tell you,' said he, 'when you stopped me. That are outward row I grafted myself with the choicest kind I could find, and I succeeded. They are beautiful, but so etarnal sour, no human soul can eat them. Well, the boys think the old minister's graftin' has all succeeded about as well as that row, and they sarch no further. They snicker at my graftin', and I laugh in my sleeve, I guess, at their penetration.'

"Now, Marm Pugwash is like the minister's apples, very temptin' fruit to look at, but desperate sour. If Pugwash had a watery mouth when he married, I guess it's pretty puckery by this time. However, if she goes to act ugly, I'll give her a dose of 'soft sawder' that will take the frown out of her frontispiece and make her dial-plate as smooth as a lick of copal varnish. It's a pity she's such a kickin' devil, too, for she has good points,—good eye, good foot, neat pastern, fine chest, a clean set of limbs, and carries a good—But here we are. Now you'll see what 'soft sawder' will do."

When we entered the house, the travelers' room was all in darkness, and on opening the opposite door into the sitting-room we found the female part of the family extinguishing the fire for the night. Mrs. Pugwash had a broom in her hand, and was in the act (the last act of female housewifery) of sweeping the hearth. The strong flickering light of the fire, as it fell upon her tall, fine figure and beautiful face, revealed a creature worthy of the Clockmaker's comments.

"Good evening, marm," said Mr. Slick. "How do you do? and how's Mr. Pugwash?" "He!" said she: "why, he's been abed this hour. You don't expect to disturb him this time of night, I hope?" "Oh, no," said Mr. Slick, "certainly not, and I am sorry to have disturbed you, but we got detained longer than we expected; I am sorry that—" "So am I," said she, "but if Mr. Pugwash will keep an inn when he has no occasion to, his family can't expect no rest."

Here the Clockmaker, seeing the storm gathering, stooped down suddenly, and, staring intently, held out his hand and exclaimed: "Well, if that ain't a beautiful child! Come here, my little man, and shake hands along with me. Well, I declare, if that are little feller ain't the finest child I ever seed. What, not abed yet? Ah, you rogue, where did you get them are pretty rosy cheeks? Stole them from mama, eh? Well, I wish my old mother could see that child, it is such a treat. In our country," said he, turning to me, "the children are all as pale as chalk or as yaller as an orange. Lord! that are little feller would be a show in our country. Come to me, my man." Here the "soft sawder" began to operate. Mrs. Pugwash said, in a milder tone than we had yet heard, "Go, my dear, to the gentleman; go, dear." Mr. Slick kissed him, asked him if he would go to the States along with him, told him all the little girls would fall in love with him, for they didn't see such a beautiful face once in a month of Sundays. "Black eyes,—let me see,—ah, mama's eyes, too, and black hair also; as I am alive, you are mama's own boy, the very image of mama." "Do be seated, gentlemen," said Mrs. Pugwash. "Sally, make a fire in the next room." "She ought to be proud of you," he continued. "Well, if I live to return here, I must paint your face, and have it put on my clocks, and our folks will buy the clocks for the sake of the face. Did you ever see," said he, again addressing me, "such a likeness between one human and another, as between this beautiful little boy and his mother?" "I am sure you have had no supper," said Mrs. Pugwash to me; "you must be hungry, and weary, too. I will get you a cup of tea." "I am sorry to give you so much trouble," said I. "Not the least trouble in the world," she replied; "on the contrary, a pleasure."

We were then shown into the next room, where the fire was now blazing up, but Mr. Slick protested he could not proceed without the little boy, and lingered behind to ascertain his age, and concluded by asking the child if he had any aunts that looked like mama.

As the door closed Mr. Slick said, "It's a pity she don't go well in gear. The difficulty with those critters is to git them to start: arter that there is no trouble with them, if you don't check 'em too short. If you do they'll stop again, run back and kick like mad, and then Old Nick himself wouldn't start 'em. Pugwash, I guess, don't understand the natur' of the crittur; she'll never go kind in harness for him. When I see a child," said the Clockmaker, "I always feel safe with these women-folk; for I have always found that the road to a woman's heart lies through her child."

"You seem," said I, "to understand the female heart so well, I make no doubt you are a general favorite among the fair sex." "Any man," he replied, "that understands horses has a pretty considerable fair knowledge of women, for they are jist alike in temper, and require the very identical same treatment. Encourage the timid ones, be gentle and steady with the fractious, but lather the sulky ones like blazes.

"People talk an everlastin' sight of nonsense about wine, women and horses. I've bought and sold 'em all, I've traded in all of them, and I tell you there ain't one in a thousand that knows a grain about either on 'em. You hear folks say, Oh, such a man is an ugly-grained critter, he'll break his wife's heart; jist as if a woman's heart was as brittle as a pipe-stalk. The female heart, as far as my experience goes, is jist like a new india-rubber shoe: you may pull and pull at it till it stretches out a yard long, and then let go, and it will fly right back to its old shape. Their hearts are made of stout leather, I tell you; there's a plaguy sight of wear in 'em.

"I never knowed but one case of a broken heart, and that was in t'other sex, one Washington Banks. He was a sneezer. He was tall enough to spit down on the heads of your grenadiers, and near about high enough to wade across Charlestown River, and as strong as a tow-boat. I guess he was somewhat less than a foot longer than the moral law and catechism, too. He was a perfect pictur' of a man; you couldn't fault him in no particular, he was so just a made critter; folks used to run to the winder when he passed, and say, 'There goes Washington Banks; beant he lovely!' I do believe there wasn't a gal in the Lowell factories that warn't in love with him. Sometimes, at intermission, on Sabbath-days, when they all came out together (an amazin' handsom' sight, too, near about a whole congregation of young gals), Banks used to say, 'I vow, young ladies, I wish I had five hundred arms to reciprocate one with each of you; but I reckon I have a heart big enough for you all; it's a whopper, you may depend, and every mite and morsel of it at your service.' 'Well, how you do act, Mr. Banks!' half a thousand little clipper-clapper tongues would say, all at the same time, and their dear little eyes sparklin' like so many stars twinklin' of a frosty night.

"Well, when I last seed him he was all skin and bone, like a horse turned out to die. He was teetotally defleshed, a mere walkin' skeleton. 'I am dreadful sorry,' says I, 'to see you, Banks, lookin' so peaked. Why, you look like a sick turkey-hen, all legs! What on airth ails you?' 'I'm dyin', says he, 'of a broken heart.' 'What!' I says I, 'have the gals been jiltin' you?' 'No, no,' says he; 'I beant such a fool as that, neither.' 'Well,' says I, 'have you made a bad speculation?' 'No,' says he, shakin' his head, 'I hope I have too much clear grit in me to take on so bad for that.' 'What under the sun is it, then?' said I. 'Why,' says he, 'I made a bet the fore part of the summer with Leftenant Oby Knowles that I could shoulder the best bower of the Constitution frigate. I won my bet, but the anchor was so etarnal heavy that it broke my heart.' Sure enough, he did die that very fall; and he was the only instance I ever heard tell of a broken heart."

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