« 上一页继续 »
OB ANNEXATION SETTLED FOR EVEB.
BY JOHN Kill.
Tukee is no one thing, perhaps, by which the people of our mother country are so readily and constantly distinguished from our people, as by a certain peculiarity of dress, never to be met with here, and always to be met with there—breeches for example. Unmentionables are to be found in all countries; inexpressibles everywhere; and shorts and tights, among the Sandwich Islanders; while your old-fashioned corduroy breeches belong to the labouring classes of Great Britain, as a part of their national costume.
You never saw a woman with a wheelbarrow in America—nor an American labourer with breeches on. A oarter's frock, anciently the gaberdine of our broad-chested forefathers, a pair of long-shorts, or a kind of outside waistcoat with sleeves to it—you never see here upon a native; nor after three months are over, upon our imported live-stock, the president-makers and Bulls that come to us by the cargo, labelled "for Cowet and a market." Wooden shoes, long pipes, and Swiss caps, or cumbrous woollen petticoats, making up in thickness whatever may be wanting in length, are just about as plentiful and short-lived.
But a few years ago, caps of the fashion you meet with at every step in England, Ireland, or Scotland, were never to be seen here, except now and then, and for a few days at most, upon the head of an immigrant, ashore in his Sunday's best; with Bridget and her blue cloak, heavy shoes, enormous Dunstable, and everlasting stride; or Norah, with her smart cap and her heavy red shawl, to keep him in countenance. And now, although hats of one sort or another—here of folt, and there of fur— sometimes of musquash and beaver, and sometimes of plush, are the only orthodox wear among the substantial yeomanry of the land; yet caps are multiplying themselves with a rapidity which threatens to denationalize, if not wholly to extinguish, our Jonathanism.
Now, between ourselves, all these things, hats, caps, breeches, long-shorts, wooden shoes, carter's frocks, and-so-forths, have a meaning in them; but a meaning very apt to be overlooked by the multitude.
While they indicate a nationality never to be mistaken, they constitute of themselves a law of association which never dies out, so long as
vOL. YI. 15
a single fragment or recollection of that costume is preserved. Bed-quilts are family records; every bit of coloured cloth has its own dear household history—of marriage, or christening, or death. Baby-clothes, being always made up of something left, are full of pleasant memories and queer suggestions. An oldfashioned bonnet may often stand for the memoirs of a whole neighbourhood—as knots tied on a string once told the history of the Montezumas, and still constituto the imperishable records of a North American savage. Under this reverential aspect, a pair of old breeches may become a sort of map, and every patch a bit of unquestionable autobiography; so that, with a little coaxing, and a little care, and a little good husbandry, by the help of our friend Vattemarc, and his new system of exchanges, every little neighbourhood might have its own circulating library—of old clothes; if it could but go about the matter with downright seriousness. Ask Margaret Fuller, la contessa, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or the young gentleman whose poetry "hath a smell of childhood" in it; or the bleached and thatched editor, who advertises himself and his paper by going about the streets slipshod, with "one stockin' off and one stockin' on," like that interesting youth mentioned in Mother Goose, as "my son John, who went to bed with his breeches on," if all these things are not true.
And what then?
Wait a bit and you'll see.
When Peter the Great undertook to trim the beards of the Russians, instead of their backs, he ran more risk, than if he had ordered all the noblemen of the land to bring forth their wives and daughters, to be scourged in the marketplace by the common soldiery, as they are now, by the huge barbarians of the North; whose thrones are charnel-houses, and whose garments are rolled—not in the blood of the battle-field—but of the slaughter-house.
So too, when that suddenly transfigured Sardanapalus of our day, the reigning Sultan, awoke from the long slumber of his beardless youth, and with one blow—and at one and the same hour—like a destroying angel, smote the terrible Janissaries throughout the whole length and breadth of the land, the hazard he ran was hardly worth mentioning, compared with that which followed the firman, abolishing shawls and'slippers, yataghans, trousers, and turbans; and obliging the soldiery of the empire to betake themselves, body and soul, to the frightful costume of the Franks. Nay, even now, with the Czar of all the Russias, and the barbarian armies of all the North, mustering in their strength, and threatening to beleaguer Constantinople herself, should she persist in the vindication of her sovereignty, and refuse to bow herself to the dust at his bidding: what is the peril to be feared?—what the worst that could happen, with all the rest of the world harnessing for her relief, compared with the hazard she would incur, by letting her women go unveiled, unwatched, or trousered like Mrs. Fanny Kemble?
Once more. The habit which has prevailed for centuries among the most enlightened lawgivers on earth, of obliging the Jews to wear a particular kind of dress, or a distinguishing colour, or badge, or to confine themselves to a particular quarter, has done more to bind them together, to make them one people of a truth, and to strengthen them against the whole world, than all their persecutions and sufferings, and all their humiliations and wrongs have done to weaken or divide them.
Just watch the effect of this law for yourself. The great ocean is covered with ships. They are all crowded with strangers. On their way to the land of promise, they go by one another like huge apparitions; not one living creature of the whole, seeing the face of another, out of his own ship, from the day of their departure, till a rough stranger comes crawling up out of the deep sea, dripping with fog and sea-mist, to say that in a few hours they will be alongside o' the pier. And yet, the moment they touch that pier, and the noisy multitude are beginning to empty themselves, and their rattle-traps and their little ones, upon the new shore, that law of elective affinity begins to work. All the corduroy breeches are found huddling together, and all the blue cloaks and fluttering headgear, no matter what ships they came in. They are free to choose now, and choose they will; turning their backs without a sign of regret or remorse, upon such of their fellow-passengers, male or female, as may happen to wear petticoats of another colour, bustles in a different place, or shawls and wrappers after the fashion of a neighbourhood a full inch further north or south, by the map; and all rushing together, and attaching themselves without a word of introduction or apology, to the first group they find crystallizing in the frosty air of a new country, and in the right shape, with the bonnets and broghans, the caps and the calicoes they have always been familiar with from their babyhood ; — here
among the potato-patches, and there among the vintages, or corn-fields, or bleachinggrounds, or hedgerows, it matters little where. They are acknowledged at sight, and honoured at sight, like the patterns of a bedquilt, which every man, woman, and child, may have slept under at home.
One step further, if you please. Not only do they who wear the same kind of clothes, cut after the same prevailing type, look alike; but they see and feel alike, they think alike, and they believe alike. The Mohammedan, the Fire-worshipper, the Catholic, the Protestant, the Presbyterian, the Quaker, and the Jew; are not their clothes a part of their religion? Are they ever to be mistaken for people of a different faith?
Your thorough-bred Irish Protestant may always be distinguished from your thoroughbred Irish Catholic, by something of a shibboleth in the tilt of his cap, or the swing of his coat-tail—if he happens to have a tail to his coat: and you may swear to the flourish of a shelalah. Heretical caps and orthodox breeches are not confined to the hierarchy anywhere.
Look about you and judge for yourself. Are not all the blue jackets of one opinion—the pea-jackets of another? You never see a pair of double-breasted red waistcoats, with rolling collars, bright buttons, and very deep pockets, going to loggerheads, or comforters of the same colour quarrelling over their cups. All the pipes you see of the same length and shape have settled opinions upon every subject, and might be left smoking together till doomsday, without any fear of the consequences.
Put Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Thomas H. Benton, and General Taylor into shortclothes, and they would be changed into overgrown babies—rather venerable, to be sure, but still babies ;—and though they might never ask for sugar-plums, or lollypop, or rattles, or leave off smoking, not a man of the whole could make a speech, or fight a battle, worth mentioning, till you took off his apron, or changed his clothes.
Go to the wharves, after a long easterly wind, and watch the president-makers coming ashore in troops, and you may guess at the leading opinions of all worth guessing at, both in church and state, by the cut of their jib.
And now to apply all this. Turn to the picture entitled "Alehouse Politicians," got up in a hurry by a whimsical fellow, who wanted to call it "Annexation Settled Foe Ever!" and see if you cannot give a guess at the opinions of every man you see represented there—and a guess, too, by which you would be willing to abide in a court of justice, under oath—even if it were entitled " Ho ! for California!" But how happens it? Simply because the garb of each and every man there is a confession of faith—political and religions —with occasional qualifications, to be sure, bur in the main, a true index to both.
Originally, and before he thought of the sketch as a picture, to be engraved and talked about—and published—and illustrated—he intended to typify the old proverb that " Birds of a feather flock together," and by this he meant, not people who are alike in temper, age, or education; but people who dress alike,—whose feathers are alike.
For a while, his theory seemed hardly worth laughing at. By-and-by it began to be worth discovery, and now they acknowledge it worth reasoning with. However simple at first, the enunciation has hardly been made, before the npper-minded, or "judicious few," begin to see a mysterious, and august, and yet comforting philosophy in the assertion to be illustrated, which is, briefly, not that they who think alike dress alike—for that were childish and commonplace—but that they who dress alike, think alike. And here, if any doubt or misgiving should arise, or anybody alive should take it into his head, for a single moment, that these are identical propositions,—let him step into the nearest tailoring establishment, and see the demonstration; or apply to the countess and her baby, la eontetta ed il de Lei bambinello, as the newspapers and magazine writers would have it if they could, or to Ralph—-the same Ralph heretofore mentioned—not Poe's Ralph, poor fellow! but to that other and somewhat more mysterious Ralph, who goes wandering about the world like a dropped rhythm—and they will settle the question for ever—yes or no.
And now to the proof. An alehouse in America is not often to be met with, but still snch a thing may be found. To be what it is over sea, however, you must never look for it among the Jonathans. Alehouses are not grogshops, any more than they are countrytaverns, or booths, or bowling-saloons. They are the most comfortable places on earth for boozing and smoking, and smoking and boozing; for arguing all sorts of questions, and all at once; and for reading all sorts of newspapers, without stopping to breathe.
On the other side of the line—about Montreal and Toronto, and near the larger country villages, they are to be found, looking as if transplanted bodily, like the birthplace of Shakespeare, from the neighbourhood of Liverpool or Aberdeen, or Wapping, or Dover—even to the smoky rafters and thatch, the bunches of dried herring and tallow-candles, the gridiron, the mug, and the saw, the babies, the grannies, the rough-looking thievish dogs, and the sea-coal fire. To be worthily encouraged, however, it must
be kept by a prize-fighter. There must be a garrison a little way off, and a plenty of workshops, with a labouring population, who have been brought up, over sea, to live and die in the belief that there is no home like an alehouse —that a wife and children have no claims upon the husband or father, after the day's work is over, and he no longer knows what to do with himself. There should be also a regular supply of wandering loafers, always ready for a toss-up, a row, or a wager.
The finest, and by far the truest sample of the old-fashioned English alehouse to be found in this country, however, is at Montreal, just by the river-side. It is called the "Royal Arms," and looks as if it had grown there— sprung up of itself. It was kept by a relation of white-headed Bob, and was everywhere renowned for the loyalty of its character and customers, until after the outbreak of last summer. English to the back-bone—British all over—no Frenchman or French-Canadian was ever known to show his face there: and as for the Yankees, they would as soon have thought of becoming naturalized at once, or of swapping their president for a king, as of carrying their democracy to such a market.
Every day of the year, and at all hours of the day, people were to be found there dozing over the latest London papers, and the earliest news, and talking about their wooden-walls, Lord Wellington, Waterloo, Lord Nelson, Sir Robert Peel, the ministry, and their glorious constitution and holy religion, with a vehemence and a loyalty perfectly astonishing—till they could hardly see out of their eyes. After the sun had gone down, for eight months of the year, nothing could be heard but "God save the Queen!" "Rule Britannia!" or " Auld Lang Syne," and "A Fig for the YankeeDoodles!"
But a change followed, and as the outbreak happened only four months ago, which resulted in a political revolution without example in the history of alehouses; and as the author of the sketch referred to, was accidentally under its roof at the time, and saw the whole and heard the whole, perhaps the best way will be to let him tell his own story in his own language.
I was on my way from St. Hyacinth to Montreal in a light gig. A sudden storm, which lasted not more than half an hour, though it completely drenched me and covered the land as far as I could see with large hail-stones, passed over as I was just turning into the city, and frightened my horse. He jumped, and sprung the shaft, and pitched me headlong into the highway ; but I soon recovered myself, and seeing a door open, and a throng of good-natured fellows hurrying to my assistance, with a cheerful fire to encourage and thaw me out; I pushed up to it, and was greeted by the landlord with a gruff" how d'ye do?" before he had well made me out, and then with a look, which I never forgot. Was I welcome, or did he mistake me for a horse-thief? He stood eyeing mo for half a minute, with his hands plunged into his breeches pockets, halfway up to the elbows, and then waddled off with a sort of a whistle, as I walked up to the fire and turned my back to it. I should be sorry to flatter myself—but if I am not the honester and better-looking fellow of the two, then I'm no judge —that's all.
"Hech mon!" said a red-faced, broadshouldered Scotchman, who had just taken his place at the fire, and was mixing a mug of flip —" Hech mon! to see how ye're negleckit!"
A glance of his keen gray eye, as he uttered these words, with the foam of a new tankard upon his lips, directed my attention to a distant corner, where the landlord was sitting with his feet on a chair, his head thrown back, and eyes half shut, trying to puzzle through a paragraph on the wrong side of a newspaper. It was all a fetch—I could see it was; and though a little angry at first, at being so negleckit, and not even asked what I'd have to take, I determined to have my revenge in my own way. As I never drink what I do not believe to be good for me—I eat all the more; and when I find myself in a public house, however wretched, with a bright fire, a clean hearth, and a tumbler of cold water, to be had for the asking, I always manage to pay for the whole in some shape or other. Stinginess I abhor—nobody ever charged me with it. And I wouldn't do what I call a shabby thing, even to the keeper of a groggery. And yet, on this particular occasion, I determined to go to bed without my supper—only to spite the landlord. Nay, if my horse had not been well taken care of, I believe in my heart I should have turned my back upon the "Royal Arms," and limped off to another house.
While standing with my back to the fire, and watching the churlish landlord and the old weather-beaten Scotchman brewing his peck o' malt for two, and listening to the conversation about me, my attention was called to a party of three sitting round a small card-table, with a nipper of Scutch ale and a single wine-glass before them—and two other persons, bystanders I thought from their shyness at first, ■ideling up and hitching nearer and nearer every few minutes, until one had got his arm over the back of his neighbour's chair, and the other seemed ready to spring to his feet more than once, and throw himself headlong into the business under consideration. Judging by his garb—his earnestness—and the half-military
cap he wore, looped up in front with a bit of gold lace, and pushed back from his large, full, shining forehead, I felt sure from the first, that he belonged to the army, and equally sure that he was another cannie Scot—overflowing with loyalty; and that he was in a terrible rage, though not so much perhaps with what a bold young fellow was saying in a low earnest voice, which prevented my hearing to advantage — till the words Yankee—Yankee rebel — and Brother Jonathan — hang him — reached me, and put me upon my guard, as at the patience with which he was listened to by a person he called the Squire, though others called him the Major; a fine, steady-looking, middle-aged man, who sat with his hand lifted to his chin—a newspaper spread out before him—and one leg thrown over the other, watching the countenance, and weighing the words of the young man, evidently without thinking of, or caring for, the large pewter flagon by the side of bis chair, the basket of London porter upon the floor, and within reach, or his interfering neighbour. His mind was about made up; and so was mine. Twice I saw the surly host lift his eyes from the paper, wheu something was muttered near him about the psalm-singin' rebels, and vile swappin' Yankees; and once I caught another young man, who sat by the fire with a long pipe in his mouth, and a cap that showed his lineage, with more certainty perhaps than his yellow hair, interchanging glances with the burly Scotchman, who was the first to fire up, when he saw me so rudely huffed by the landlord.
That there was mischief brewing, I felt sure; but how was I to provide for it? A hurried survey of the whole company satisfied me, that I had little or nothing to hope for, in a row. Only one out of the whole number wore a hat like mine. I felt acquainted with him at once, and I knew he would act with me the moment he turned his head. All the rest wore caps— outlandish hats—and breeches—or gaiters—or something else, that we never see at home.
After a while, they began to talk louder. More ale was ordered up—and though the landlord never left his chair, he saw that every man was helped to what he called for, by the old woman at his elbow. At last, the word "annexation" reached my ear—and a new light broke upon me. I saw the meaning of the glances I hnd been so troubled about—and was probably looked upon as a sort of spy, or eavesdropper; and the most loyal of the company were most anxious that I should hear little or nothing, to encourage any preposterous hope I might entertain to their prejudice.
The dispute grew warmer. The fire burned brighter, and the ale kept humming louder and louder. The young man at the table was holding forth upon the prodigies he had grown familiar with, in a trip of three weeks, through western New York and the busiest parts of New England.
"Whoy, man alive!" said he, pushing out his left hand as far as he could stretch it, and resting the tip of his right forefinger in the very middle of the palm, as if that of itself would pin the Major and settle the question for ever, "I wish I may be danged, if all I tell ye, beant the blessed truth. Yer may take an' blindfold me, and carry me first over the line and then back, all the way from Quebec to Toronto, forty times a day if ye like, an' domme if I couldn't tell you which side I was on. the moment I opened my eyes—that's what I could, neighbour, if there was a bit o' fence near me, or the sign of a house, or even so much as a wheelbarrow-path for a highway."
"That's a fact," added the man who sat by the Major.
.' Oh, kiss your grannie: don't you meddle nor make, Mr. Yankee, if you know what's good for yourself," growled the landlord, without lifting his eyes from the paper.
My dander was up. "Meddle an' make as much as you like," said I, " and I'll stand by you, friend."
"An' for the matter o' that, so will I," mattered the broad-chested Scotchman, fetching me a comforting slap, and casting an eye toward the landlord, which seemed to threaten a grapple in that quarter, if the worst came to the worst.
"The young man's a gcttin' fou, I tell ye— he's ben' a sogerin' among the Yankee-doodles, yer may ken, an' he's just got a bee in his bonnet, an' his twa lugs are fu' o' muokle mair than it may be gude for him to let his neebors ponderstant. Och! ye maun carry it bravely, but there's naething ye ha' seen awa' there, wuth a brass ha'penny, compared with what we're aw a thrivin' wi'—under the proteeksion o' the Queen—God bless her!" Here the speaker had got up to the table ; he could bear it no longer—and thrusting his outstretched hand towards the others' palm, as if he had made up his mind to be dipping into the same dish, come what would of it, he added by way of a clincher—" It's just treeson the puir body's a talkin', but he's no idee o' the consequences— he's clean daft, I tell ye—eatin' the bread of her majesty, an' preeohin' a poleetical separation—hech! but its awfu' to think of, neebors!"
"Eating the bread of her majesty!" retorted the young man, with a suddenness that startled the other, and sent a swarthy flush over his forehead—" no more than her majesty is eating my bread, Mister Sargeon."
"Nor half as much," added the Yankee, in a sort of whisper, though loud enough to be dis
tinctly heard all over the room. The landlord growled—an old woman just entering, made a full stop, on her way to the table with a fresh supply of small black bottles, and a little boy by the door turned to see what the plague was the meaning of such looks.
"Tush, tush," said the Major; "the question is too serious for quarrelling; let the lad finish what he has to say, and then we'll try to answer him."
"Hurrah for you, Major! that's the time o' day," sung out my zealous countryman. "How would you like to be twitted with eating the bread o' the Queen, just because you happened to be employed, at ten dollars a month an' found, for drivin' a garrison-team"
"Two pound ten, if you please, neighbour."
"Well then, two pound ten, if you like; an' I should be glad to know who it is that finds bread for her majesty."
"Friend," whispered the Major, and letting his right hand fall gently upon the other's knee, "mind what you say, here. The people, whatever they may do, or think of doing in this matter, will allow of no interference from strangers."
"So much the better for them! who wants to interfere, hey?"
By this time the landlord, who had managed to get both his feet packed away underneath a chair, began to cough, and shuffle, and wheeze, and then to show unmistakeable symptoms of uneasiness; and seeing his half-shut eyes directed by stealth toward my countryman, I confess I began to feel a growing interest in his welfare. The landlord was a bully and a blackguard, and though he had left the prize-ring and withdrawn from business, and taken to swilling beer, yet he was what may be called an ugly customer, when his blood was up. I could see all this in the look of those about me; I could hear it in their very breathing. My friend with the hat, which I had felt acquainted with from the first, was a quiet, well-behaved, middle-aged farmer, rather meddlesome to be sure, but good-natured and conscientious. With pluck enough, where he had the law on his side, or the question was to be settled by talking; I had my doubts, I acknowledge, whether he would come to the scratch, in a regular flare up. The Yankees are slow to anger, and slower still at fisticuffs. But give them to do what a man ought not to be ashamed of doing, and I never saw one yet that would flinch from a two-and-forty pounder. Believing a crisis at hand, for my ear caught the quickened shuffling of feet under the landlord's chair, I began to count noses. We were in a frightful minority, if the breeches stood together, or the caps combined and acquitted themselves like men; otherwise we stood a pretty fair chance. No