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to us, sang. What her song was, we knew not. It might have been humorous-it might have been of the lowest kind of Chilian minstrelsy-perhaps it was a love madrigal designed to captivate us. Whatever it might be, we only knew that the strain was pretty and the voice sweet, and that those were tender and languishing eyes which glanced upon us; and we yielded to the fascination of the scene. You said that you would be content to remain for months and years in that rustic arbor, and gaze upon that beautiful bay, and eat those purple grapes, and listen to that soothing melody.
Tom, what would Miss Janet MacNinny, of Gramercy Square, with her Roman nose, her long, straight back, and her two hundred thousand dollars in state-sixes, say, if she knew that her devoted cavalier had ever uttered such a heresy ?
One more recollection. We were far from our ship, and up among the environs of the Sierra Nevada-in a little mountain-begirt valley. Upon each side rose lofty hills, covered from top to bottom with giant pines. In the circle below, our little white tent was pitched, near a pleasant brook, and between the tent and the brook was our fire. Around this fire we would gather-a company of six willing, friendly hearts-sheltered only by the moonlit boughs of the nearest pines, which stretched in friendly protection over us. In the indistinct light we could no longer mark the slender pass which served our valley for an outlet, and, at the first sight, we seemed as though shut in to dwell among those hills forever. But we were careless and jovial; nor did it trouble us that we were thousands of miles away from home, or that we were poor in pocket and shabby in attire, or that the vein of quartz, from which we had expected to reap such profits, had suddenly come to naught. With the mountain life, its reckless, adventurous spirit had come over us; we would plan new enterprises with unabated confidence; and, when we thought of absent friends, we would think of them as though to see them once again required but a quiet stroll around the corner. And as we would pile on the logs to make a ruddier flame, and pull our blankets closer about our shoulders, we would tell our several tales of past adventure. The German, who was still with us, would dilate upon VOL. X.-4
his career in the universities of his own country; and the Scotchman would tell about his native salmon-fishing-and Burns and Schiller would be freely quoted-and still we would sit around the fire, and pile on fresh logs, until the night would be far advanced. There may be greater bodily comfort by a well-arranged grate-fire in a tightlyclosed room; but no civilized refinements can produce that jovial exhilaration of soul which an evening by a campfire, in the midst of wild mountain scenery, will awaken.
So you then thought, Tom; but would you think so now? I fear not. You would say that this is all nonsense and foolish romance, and that the real business of man is to abandon all desultory wanderings, and work hard for comforts to be enjoyed in another manner. And you would point to your great stone house and shining carriage, and show me what I, too, might have had, if I had only chosen to do as you have done.
In this you may be partly right, Tom. I will not deny that I may have too much failed in prosecuting some of the great schemes of life, and may have too often yielded my sense of duty to my keener sense of taste and romance. And it must be a pleasant thing to own a great house and a prancing pair of horses. But Tom-dear Tom-while I thus sat upon the mizzen-top and mused, I could not but think that there might be a welcome medium between my listless life and your energetic absorption; and that a few of the pictures in your gallery, or a few of the pieces of rich plate in your closet, might well be exchanged for the ability, once in a while, to turn aside from daily care and enjoy a little of the freshening spirit of your other days.
"Halloa, there!-You, sir!"
I look over the edge of the mizzentop and see an angry, purple-faced mate shaking his knotty fist, as he calls up at me. He is not the mate with whom I sailed, and with whom, upon the night-watches, I shared my cigars, but another newer mate who knows me not.
"Come down from there!" he shouts. "Who the deuce told you to go up? Is this your ship, I'd like to know?"
Slowly and awkwardly I descend, while the mate still continues to swear
and shake his fist, and a group of little boys collect on the wharf to laugh at me. I reach the deck, commence an apology, which is drowned by a new torrent of oaths; and I step upon the wharf and walk away, followed by a
HAVE been frequently importuned to state the cause and extent of my rupture with that worthy and widelyesteemed personage, the Reverend Doctor Armageddon. Although our estrangement is now over, and the broken chain of friendship between us has linked again, the papers still teem with annoying remarks and surmises on the unfortunate event. I propose to claim justice, both for him and myself, by the present explanation. I am conscious of having done nothing to deserve the public reproofs which I have lately received; and as for him, his real offense, if such it may be called, was venial compared with the calumnies which have been propagated against him. I shall not fear prolixity in my statements, as I know that the world will readily pardon it in one who has sat much at the feet of the copious, the inexhaustible Armageddon.
farewell volley of jeers from the little boys. And so I pass, crest-fallen, along the wharf and up a narrow street, until the great stone warehouses intervene, and the friendly mizzen-top is lost to view.
Going back, after the doctor's own thorough manner, to the foundation of things, I observe that our acquaintance commenced in 1850. It always seems to me, however, as if I had known him for at least eight or ten centuries. This impression of the antiquity of our friendship is produced, I conclude, by the character of his sermons, which generally begin with the deluge or the creation, or the fall of Lucifer, and describe those veteran events with the picturesque minutiæ of an eye-witness. Having helped him name the beasts, birds, and fishes at least a hundred times; having been turned out of the Garden of Eden in his company to the full as often; having run away with him, over and over again, from the roarings of the first carnivorously-disposed lion; having built manifold arks under his direction, and filled them with carefully-selected menageries; having been repeatedly confounded and dispersed in his pres
ence for erecting the tower of Babel; not to mention innumerable long and interesting passages before him through the Red Sea, I naturally feel as if I had been acquainted with him a great while. This sense of time immemorial made our intimacy doubly delightful to me, and would have prevented me from ever breaking it, but for what I foolishly considered an extreme provocation.
The doctor was already a widower when our friendship commenced. How long since his wife died I do not know; and I never alluded to her in his presence, lest the subject might be a sore one to him; for how could I be sure that she was not one of those very daughters of the old Canaanites against whom I had heard him inveigh so fervently? He was considered by most people to be sixty years old; but on this point I naturally remain in a respectful uncertainty. It is singular, by the way, how I speak of the doctor in the past tense, as if he were long since dead and buried. Fortunately for the erring children of mankind, it is not so. But I always mention him thus, instinctively, on account of the odor of antiquity which his venerable conversation dispenses.
The doctor had no children except certain spiritual ones, whom he often alluded to, but whom I never heard of from any other person. Towards earthly, ordinary, flesh-and-blood children, he seemed to entertain a very remarkable dislike. Babies invariably squalled so frightfully under his christenings, that I have suspected him of secretly pinching them. Many parents openly said that he used too much water, and applied it with unnecessary savageness. Indeed, this impression finally became so strong and general, that most of the prolific families in his congregation removed, one by one, to other churches.
where their multiplying little ones could obtain patronymics without so much unnecessary anguish. Thus, although his tabernacle was styled "The Church of the Pilgrim Mothers," there was scarcely a child to be found in the whole phalanx of its overflowing slips and galleries; and his audience consisted chiefly of young men, young ladies, elderly maidens, confirmed bachelors, contented widowers, and a wonderful number of widows, whose sons were away at school, or already in Harvard College. Nor did the doctor ever trouble himself to preach sermons of consolation for those who might have been called upon to part with any little responsibility. If he spoke of such bereavements at all, it was in a tone of the sweetest cheerfulness and even congratulation-as if burying a baby must be rather a delightful pastime than otherwise. He often mentioned children as snares and little stumbling-blockslaying a significant accent on this last epithet, as if he would have called them little stumbling blockheads. I need not mention that his sermons were considered models of orthodox instruction by his peculiar congregation.
All the children who had the honor of knowing Doctor Armageddon regarded him with respectful terror, and, I grieve to add, hatred. His infantile neighbors scampered off at the report of his coming, as if he were that very lion who is said to go about seeking what he may devour. When he was once inveigled into preaching at the orphan asylum, his bereaved hearers were as still as mice listening to the midnight utterances of a grimalkin.
My first and only difficulty with this learned, orthodox, and excellent divine occurred in the summer of 1855. I made a call one afternoon at his house, to converse anew with him on the subject of Noah's port. I do not mean the harbor from which the patriarch is supposed to have sailed, but the wine by which he was afterwards so unfortunately overtaken. The doctor has a fine brand of port, which he suspects of being that veritable article.
An Irish serving-man, Peter Riley, met me at the door, and told me that his master was not at home. I turned away, meaning to saunter down to the Athenæum, but paused a moment on the steps to watch a pretty group of children. In front of the small crowd
trotted a red-headed urchin, whom I knew to be the only heir of Professor Glace, the doctor's right-hand neighbor. Then came a nursery-maid, drawing a baby-cart containing two nurslings of three months old, apparently. Then came another nursery-maid, with another baby-cart, and another pair of bantlings, perhaps twelve months old. Then came a third nursery-maid, bearing in her arms a couple of two-year-old whipsters, who sniveled faintly, as if rather used up by previous walking. Then came a fourth nursery-maid, marshaling before her half-a-dozen younglings, of both sexes, all between the ages of three and six. There was such a pleasing uniformity in the faces and dresses of the entire dozen of minors, that it occurred to me at once that they must be the production of a single prolific family. They were all so pretty, too, and made their little progress so genteelly, that I was smitten with admiration, and began to think it would be a delightful bargain to exchange my own barren bachelorhood for a similar or even smaller procession of such little seraphs.
But suddenly the liliputian multitude was stricken with an evident terror. Master Glace took to his heels towards his own house, and never ceased ringing at the door till he had gained admittance. The four nursery-maids hurried on in the other direction, dragging the small chaises along with such energy that a couple of squalling upsets took place on the pavement. The six children on foot rushed after them with a simultaneous screech, and the whole assemblage disappeared confusedly through the court-yard gate of the next dwelling.
cited, for in passing the gate through which the children had vanished, he dealt it a tremendous thwack with his stick. Such a scream of terror responded as I imagined might come from a city given over to assault. My reverend friend fairly snorted with a stern satisfaction, and, walking back to the gate, saluted it with a second violent battery. Another chorus of yelps arose, but fainter this time, as if the children had already entered the side-door of their domicil, and considered themselves in comparative safety.
During these events I had paused on the steps in a bewilderment, not knowing whether to remain and greet my esteemed acquaintance, or to fly before his bludgeon. Peter, meantime, had shut the door behind me, and retreated into the dwelling. 'Good afternoon, Doctor-fine day," I said at last, cautious not to hint at his excitement.
door. It looked like a bedful of the plant, I acknowledge."
I glanced at his hat, and, observing that there was no weed on it, asked him if he had lost any of his congregation.
"Lost!" he fairly shrieked; "nogained—and such a gain! Oh, my dear sir, there is a certain Mr. Peppergrass come to the city, and joined my church, and taken a house next to mine; and how many children do you think he has? Twelve, sir! twelve-all twins, and all under six years of age. He throws doublets every time, sir-to use a phrase of my backgammon-playing boyhood. My dear sir, just think of such an enormous-such an intolerable fecundity! I don't wonder they burnt John Rogers, with his twelve children and one at the breast. A man who will have as many children as that, deserves to be burnt-he does, indeed, sir, with all his progeny about him!"
"So those are the little Peppergrasses?" said I. "I saw them go by the
"A bedful: yes, sir, six bedfuls !" shouted the doctor, without recognizing my pun. "Not counting the nurserymaids, either," he added, "who make as much noise as if they, too, wore bibs and tuckers."
"Can't you cork up your windows on that side ?" I asked.
"No, sir; I can't cork them up-at least not tight enough," he replied. "If this house was a great bottle, with sides a fathom thick, and a stopper as long as Goliah's spear, those young ones would manage to scream into it and disturb me."
"Well, they will only drive you the closer to your duties," said I, meaning to be jocosely consolatory. "You escape them, of course, when you are in the pulpit."
"Far from it, my friend," he returned, sadly. Mrs. Peppergrass will send them all to church, and every Sunday the maids have to carry several of them into the vestibule. I haven't enjoyed a quiet sermon since this family united with us, sir. Every week or so, too, I am called on to baptize a pair of them. I don't know how many of them have wailed in my arms already, and Peppergrass has been here short of a month."
He paused to shake his head again, and then added, in a low, horror-stricken tone: "Mrs. Peppergrass expects to be ill again. I suppose it will be a round dozen this time. The question naturally arises, where is she going to stop?"
Well, Peppergrass may move," I suggested.
"Bought the house," he replied, with sententious despair.
"And you: can't you move?" I inquired.
My dwelling is the church parsonage. I fear that I could not leave it without parting from my flock, and I hope I know my duty as a pastor better than that," responded the doctor, in a tone of solemn emotion.
interrupt your labors," was my next remark. 66 The moments of a clergyman are precious. I must leave you to finish this fresh manuscript."
'Not at all; don't go," said he, earnestly, at the same time pitching the manuscript in question under the table. "It's only a sermon on the damnation of infants. I could write the whole thing in an hour. My head and heart are full of the subject, sir."
He pushed me with kind insistance into a chair, and then walked across the room to a closet. I thought he was going after his old port, and followed him with my blandest smile of esteem and affection; but, instead of producing one of those luscious crimson decanters, he hauled out a mysterious bundle, which, at first sight, seemed to be a mere confusion of tangled rope and leather. Bringing it forward, he carefully unfolded it over a chair, so as to show me that it consisted of a curious combination of straps, nooses, buckles, pincers, and pulleys.
"What do you think of that?" he asked.
"What is it?" said I.
I call it a Baby-exterminator," he replied, with a triumphant chuckle.
Is it possible !" I exclaimed. "How does it work?"
Mounting the table with remarkable alacrity, he took the machine in his hands and threw it deftly across the room at an empty mop-stand, which occupied one corner. I was thunderstruck to perceive that the noose fell precisely over the stand and clasped it, while a couple of large pincers, like hands, closed on the wooden legs with rapidity and evident tenacity. Giving a sniff of victorious exhilaration, the doctor hauled violently on a cord, and drew the mahogany captive to himself like a whale dragging an entangled whaleboat. I clapped my hands with admira
bly have had any conscientious scruples on the subject.
"Not at all-of course not," said he, emphatically, as if surprised at the question. "The fact simply is, that I have but just got the instrument to work to my satisfaction."
"But you do intend thus to use it?" continued I.
"Unquestionably I do," he replied. Why, sir. I am pushed to it by my profound sense of ministerial duty. I cannot be faithful to my poor hungering flock at present. How can I compose profitable discourses with that uproar? Hark! do you hear that?"
I did hear certainly, for it seemed as if a whole orphan asylum and foundling hospital to boot had been emptied into the next yard. The doctor softly raised one window, while I peeped out of another. Although it was twilight, we could distinctly see the legion of little Peppergrasses stampeding about the narrow court in all the wild, noisy, happy turbulence of childhood. Presently a knot of them gathered, with gay whoops, directly under the window occupied by my reverend acquaintance. "Now is the time," he muttered, with calm resolution; and I must own that I was startled to see him grasp the Exterminator.
"Hold on, doctor, till I can get out of the house!" I exclaimed, but so spellbound that I could not quit my position.
"The doors are open-can't you go?" said he, sharply. His agitation had made him forget for once his usual mild and dignified courtesy. Down went the Exterminator among the heedless young ones, while I gave a wild hurrah-not of exultation, but of uncontrollable and even painful excitement. The next moment the doctor was pulling furiously at the cord, and a small dark mass was floundering up the side of the house, like a trout bouncing on a fish-line. I waited for nothing further, but, clapping on my hat, rushed across the room, fell down stairs, and bolted into the street, where I never stopped running until I had reached my lodgings.
The next day, dining at the Tremont, I met a New York friend of mine--Mr. Punch Punner-well known in Fifth Avenue as a wit and conversationalist. He told me that a Mr. Peppergrass, a New Yorker lately removed to Boston, had just lost a very interesting child in