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He cautiously approached the plate and scrutinized the uncased shell-fish with a gravity that would have done honor to the most illustrious searcher into the hidden mysteries of nature.
“I never seed anythin' hold on so. Takes an amazin’ site of screwin', boss, to git 'em out, and ain't they slick and slip’ry when they does come? Smooth as an eel! I've a good mind to give that feller lodgin', jist to realize the effects. I'll tell you what, boss, I'll gin you two chickens for a dozen, if you'll conclude to deal.”
The bargain being understood, the countryman squared himself for the onset, put off his seal-skin cap, tucked up his sleeves, and, fork in hand, awaited the appearance of No. 1. It came—he saw -and quickly it was bolted! A moment's dreadful pause ensued. A wag standing by dropped his knife and fork, and, with a look of mingled amazement and horror, burst out:
“Swallowed alive, as I'm a Christian."
Our hero had opened his mouth with pleasure a moment before, but now it stood open. Fear, a horrid dread of he didn't know what, a consciousness that all wasn't right and ignorance of the extent of the wrong, made the uncertainty of the moment terrible. Urged to desperation, he faltered out: "What on earth's the row ?”
"Did you swallow that oyster alive?"
“You’re a dead man, then! The creature is alive, and will eat right through you."
"Git a piezn-pump, and pump it out! Oh, gracious! what'll I do?
It's got hold of my innards already, and I'm dead as chicken. Do somethin' for me, do !-don't let the infernal sea-toad eat me afore your eyes.”
“Why don't you put some of this on it?" inquired the wag, pointing to a bottle of strong pepper-sauce.
The farmer seized the bottle, and, wrenching out the cork, swallowed half the contents at a draught. He fairly howled from its effects, gasped, puffed, pitched, and twisted as if it were coursing through him with electric effect, while at the same time his eyes ran a stream of tears. At length, becoming a little composed, his waggish adviser inquired:
“How are you now, old fellow? Did you kill it?"
"Well, I did, boss! Ugh, ugh, 0-0-o! my innards! If that ister critter's dying agonies didn't stir a 'ruption in me equal to a small arthquake, then 'tain't no use sayin' it. It squirmed like a sarpent when that killin' stuff touched it. Hu!” And here, with a countenance made up of suppressed agony and
a present determination, he paused to give force to his words, and slowly remarked: “If you git two chickens from me for that live animal, I'll be darned !” and, seizing his seal-skin hat, he vanished.
MRS. MULDERRICK'S TURKISH BATH.
Written expressly for this book.
CHARACTERS: MRS. MULDERRICK, speaker present; MRS.
O'FLAHERTY, supposed to be present. SCENE: Mrs. MULDERRICK's sitting-room.
YEH, talk as yez like, Mrs. O'Flaherty, about the disadvan
tages o’ washin' an' clanin' yersel in a basin or the washtub for that mather; but, whist, wait till I tell yez what happined to mesel the other day an' what I wint through for the sake o' me shkin.
Mary Ellen's misthress does be goin' to the St. Agnes bats for a clane, dacent washin’ Dacent! Ayeh, don't mention it in the same breat' wid the wo-rd dacent.
Will, Mary Ellen's misthress, as I was tillin' yez, does be goin' there to take thim bats eviry tio or three days in a week, an’ whin she cooms home yez could bleed her cheeks wil a sthraw.
Paint? Ayeh, no, natheral as the sun. “Begora," sez mesel' to mesel', "maybe, who knows but it would bring back the blush to me own face—the purty blush that mesel thinks got homesick for ould Irelant an' ran back to it.” So I made up me mind to go to the Saint-torium an' have mesel claned from top to toe. Ayeh, Mrs. O'Flaherty, I give ye me wo-rd, I niver dhramed that anything was wrong wid the place, an' the Holy Saint's name afore it, but we are niver too ould to larn. The only exchuse I kin give for mesel at all, at all, is that I missed the bats I got at home in the say, an' it runnin' afore the cabin-dure. Ayeh, I can
see the sun hidin' behint tumblin' clouds that looked like white flacy wool now in the shky whin we did be coomin' home afther a day's harvestin' an’ we bounced into the rowlin' billows. O God, be wid thim good ould days.
Ayeh, the little dabble we give oursel' in this counthry in a basin is mooch the same as buyin' cloes on the insthallment plan, no good at all, at all, ye're niver clane at onct together.
Thursday afthernoon I dhressed mesel in me bist. I thought to mesel as I shtood afore the merror, that Mulderrick an' the ones at home would bust wid pride lookin' at me.
Will, off I wint wid the kart in me bussum tillin' the number o'the place on Lexington Avenue. Mary Ellen got it in the misthress's boodware whin hersel was dhrivin' in the park.
So off meseľ wint fashter than me ligs could carry me, an' made sthrait for the place. A fine portable woman mit me in the hall.
“What do yez want?” says she. “Faith, what would any one want,” says mesel, “but a clane, dacent bat?” She smiled mooch as how she liked mesel. She towld me to go into the anty-room an wait, an' I did. She came back in a few minits.
“You're sixteen,” says she. “Oh, Ma'am,” says I, "I am a thrifle more than that.” “Ycu’re not,” says she. “Ayeh, faith," says I, “that's all right. I'll niver contradict yez in that opinion.”
“Will,” says she, “it will be your own loss o' time, if yez do." “Faith, I know that,” says I, and I give her the wink. "Sixteen, thank
yez, Ma'am.” An' I turned me face away so she would not be undesaved. An' thin mesel thought o' all I wint through
wid that divil o' a Mulderrick since the morn that the sun o'sixteen tumbled in an' out among me goolden hair.
Will, Mrs. O'Flaherty, I heard the ages o' all thim people called out at the top o' their v’ice. Ayeh, that's the place where they made no sacret about it. Mrs. O'Flaherty, there was a purty lookin' young girl that didn't look a day over eighteen, an' I give you me wo-rd, they called her age out forty-three.
As soon as she called me age out sixteen an' beckoned me to coom to her, I jumped to me feet proud like, an' I saw thim all lookin' at me in wundher an' great admiration.
Will, Mrs. O'Flaherty, it was one thing to wait in the antyroom an' another to be led like a lamb to the shlaughter. The fust thing she done to mesel was to run me like the mad crathur she was from wan r-room to another. But that was all will an' good till she kem to wan place—will, I don't like to sphake the name. It's the place where the sirmon's praches us to give all to our nixt dure naber an' keep nothin' for ourselves, if we want to keep out of it, whin we lave this threerestial spear. Thin she caught howld o' me be the ar-rum an' dhragged me to another place. Howsomever place it was, I had a sk-hato on me fur fair. But wait. There was a big flagsthone sprid out afore mesel an' in a minit me ould hop-an’-go-trot threwn mesel across it, an' if me back had twinty pair skhates on it the divil a better it could bowl along. May Ellen says it was soap, but Mrs. O'Flaherty, it was grase, an' I caught wan side wid me wan hand, an' thin another ; but whin I caught the wan side wil me both hands I kem down to the flagsthones wid a shlap that would waken the dead-an' thin an' there me teeth began to rattle in me mouth an' fell in fifty pieces on the flagsthones. An' there was mesel widout a thing in me jaw but me gums. Whist, that was only the beginnin' o' the disasthorousness. In a minit, eviry stitch o' me cloes was whipped from me an' mesel thrown into a tub mooch as how I was a boondle o' dirty cloes. Thin widout as mooch as by your lave or a spiť o' anger in her face or a sign o' annything wrong wid her mind, she tuck to scrubbin' me as how I was a fure in
a Chinatown rest'rant an' thin to batin' me. Mrs. O'Flaherty, I niver got a batin' since the fayther o me, an’ me a kid at home, used to throw me acrass his knee. “O Lord,” says mesel' in me own mind, "it's the crazy part o' the house they put me." "Don't, ma'am," I cried, "if yez plaze," an' I thried to pull mesel out o the tub.
“What's the mather wid yez, annyway?" she cried. “Didn't yez coom here to be claned?” An’ her eyes this time was spittin' fire; an' wid a jerk that would pull your body an' sowl apart she tuck a-howld o'me lig as how it was a pot-sthick, an' dowsed me an’ the lig back into the tub. Thin she pulled the poor ar-rums o' me till yez could hear thim crackin' in Irelant.
"For God's sake, ma'am!" I cried; "is it killin' me, yez are? Shtop, if yez doan't want me death on your hands. Have yez no respect for the Judgment-day?" I cried. Will, wid that she tuck to sich a fit of lafin' till she most bust her two sides in two halfs, an', seein' how crazy she was, mesel began to laf wid her be the way o'humorin' her an' keepin' her in countenance. An' at the same minit me ligs, savin' ye prisince, was knockin' together like dhrum-sticks. Thin she gev me a turn-over like one o' thim quisseeners do the slap-jacks in Child's rest'rant. An' thin she began punchin' me agin till eviry bone in me body groaned like the laves o the threes does whin the wind goes cryin' through thim. Will, Mrs. O'Flaherty, I thought me last end had coom, an' that I'd niver clap me two lovin' eyes on Mulderrick's face agin. Wid that, she wound me in a sheet, like the corpse I
was, an' marched afther me wid a face like an underthaker.
Thin, as I was tellin' yez, she brought mesel to another big place, like a graveyard, an' begorra, thin an' there I cried out at the top o' me vice for elp. Wid that another one o' thim came runnin' in widout puff o' breať in her body an' white as a sheet, an’ me crazy frind giv her the wink, an' the both o’thim laid howld on me, throwed me in a big bar-roll o' cowld wather, as cowld, Mrs. O'Flaherty, as the cowl'est winter day at the FlatIron corner.
At lasht I was dead. Not a wo-rd in me jaw, but