« AnteriorContinuar »
THE CRADLE - B E D.
BY SLIZA ORILLEY.
NATURE may all her charms display
To move to inspiration now;
And hills around admiring bow.
If I would catch sweet thoughts from heaven,
And guide the pen with easy grace,
And gaze upon an infant's face.
If joyously I'd strike the lyre,
And so a wearied heart beguile,
By feasting on an infant's smile.
Should sorrow be the chosen theme,
I'd soothe a little grieved one's fears,
With pen bedewed with infant-tears.
Or should the ever-changing mind
With little fitful fairies teem,
The texture of an infant's dream :
Or reason's high, ennobling spell,
Her nicer subtleties be sought,
And analyze an infant's thought:
Commune with spirits fresh from heaven,
And con their cunning motions o'er,
And learned to sing their heavenly lore.
When holy angels to our world
Their sweet humility impart,
Than this - an infant's guileless heart.
And oh! when God's eternal Son
To this our fallen earth was led,
His natal song o'er cradle-bed.
POOR OLD CHARLEY. CLARA rushed into my room, her fair hair floating down her shoulders, her little feet in slippers, and her dressing-gown wrapped hastily round her little figure.
"What is it?' I asked, starting half conscious out of a heavy, summermorning sleep, with a dim fear that the baby might be ill or the house on fire.
One of the horses is dead! it must be Charley! They brought him out of the stable just now, and he laid himself down and died.”
I tumbled up somehow and ran to the window. Of course my room commanded the stable-yard, but one horse-chestnut, of untimely luxuriance, had popped a big leafy bough just between my point of vision and the spot where the unfortunate deceased lay, so that I could barely discern two hoofs and a nose. With a speed that emulated my muchabhorred and shudderingly-remembered New-Haven toilettes, (in those dreary college-days when we had fifteen minutes to dress in, without light or fire, on a New-England winter-morning, the thermometer as low down as it could go.) I sprang into the nearest habiliments, precipitated myself down stairs, and appeared upon the scene. Yes, there he lay, poor old Charley, fearfully swollen, (it was inflammation of the lungs, so far as our veterinary knowledge enabled us to judge ;) around his halfopen mouth were some dark stains on the grass, where Tom had been trying to bleed him: it was no use.
He seemed all right last night, Sir, said the groom : (that I knew myself, having seen him at seven.) This morning, when I took him out, he rolled
right over, and choked, and swelled, and died in a minute, as you may say. And,' continued Tom, ' as he saw me regarding the body with a puzzled air, 'I sent Mike off for old Cæsar to come and bury him.'
I returned to the house, performed my matutinal ablutions, and went through the ceremony of breakfast
, unsentimental as it may seem under the circumstances; then moved back to the stable-yard, and arrived there just as old Cæsar drove in.
Such an apparition I never saw before or since. Imagine a man very short and thick-set, any age you please on the grave side of seventy, but strong and active notwithstanding; a grizzly black face; grizzly white hair and whiskers ; long, knotty, prehensile hands, and nails like claws; a hat that resembled a fragment of a very rusty and battered stove-pipe; and clothes -- they really knock the spots out of my poor pen, so far as doing them justice is concerned. Such variety of wretchedness! They were more like the mysteriously-united collections of rags one reads of in the sketches of Irish travellers, than any thing ever seen in an Anglo-Saxon community. That his cart might not have been painted at some remote era, I will not make bold to affirm; but if it ever had been overlaid with color, time, weather, and filth had long since rendered that color indistinguishable; a general hue of mud pervaded the establishment. The horse was worthy of the chariot and charioteer: a mere
pony in height, of a flea-bitten gray, turned rusty by exposure to the elements. Every rib and bony angle protruded through his frame-work of skin; every joint was swollen to twice its natural size. He had no more tail than a Manx cat; and his head was absolutely fixed between his fore-legs, as if the muscles which raise the neck had lost their power. That old horse alone, if turned out in a conspicuous position, would have been enough to infect a whole landscape with an air of desolation.
As I looked at Cæsar and his fortunes, he seemed to me some evil spirit or gnome, come to snatch away the remains of my poor favorite ; a Charon in a cart instead of a boat, who was to bear off Charley to some fearful region where dead horses go. At length I found voice, and demanded his intentions respecting the corpse.
"We used to throw 'em into the river,' said Cæsar, (it was extraordinary to hear him talk like an ordinary person; he ought to have spoken some unnatural jargon, I thought, but the Corporation won't let us now, so we take 'em somewhere and bury 'em.'
It was said that Cæsar had a peeuliar style of burying his subjects ; that, in short, he was a Gothamite representative of the European knacker; boiled up the unhappy beasts ; made glue and dogs' meat of them; sausages, probably, to some extent — perhaps ate them himself. My resolution was taken on the spot.
* Friend Cæsar,' said I, 'I would n't have Charley thrown overboard if the Corporation asked me to. You shall bury him, but you need not take him any farther than the orchard. We will put him there; he
may improve the apple-trees; I understand they put dead cats into grapevine beds sometimes.'
'And sure,' put in Tom with a smile of approbation, he was a good horse in his time, and deserves dacent burial all the same as a Christian.
(Christian, as above used, means merely human being, or one of the genus homo. It is not solely an Hibernicism, but an English provincialism also, and as such has attracted notice in the erudite pages of the discriminating Mr. Punch:
"The ass he drinks water, and likewise the cow,
But none but a Christian takes beer, you 'll allow.') Tom was not uncommonly popular, notwithstanding his professional merits. Indeed, he was something of a misanthropist, and a good deal of a misogynist, (I wonder what he would say if he heard me calling him such awful names ?) but for the noble animal he cherished a tender affection and consideration. Once, when Billy, the cart-horse, had an internal inflammation which I, in my pride of veterinary knowledge, took for the bots, and accordingly.exbibited’some whiskey and red pepper, which very nearly did his business for him, Tom, at the first symptoms of peril, dashed off on a run to the farrier's, just three miles off, without waiting for orders; and when some of the servants afterwards bantered him on his earnestness, he only condescended to allude to his having been sent for the doctor in similar haste one night when the cook was ill, adding, by way of conclusive explanation, that a sick horse needed a doctor as much as any Christian. We prepared to put Charley on the antediluvian cart. One is accusVOL. XLII.
tomed to think of a dead body as easy to handle; easier, at least, than a living one; but I never saw such a specimen of passive resistance is he afforded. We might have carried three live horses, slung them on board a ship, or tied them under Poitevin's balloon, more easily th n we disposed of that dead horse. I thought first that we should nevis have him lifted, and then that we should never have him perfectly balanced on the cart. Tom and Mike were not sufficient aid ; we had to call in the gardener and his helper to our assistance. At length, by the united efforts of all six of us, the now wooden and angular form of the once lightning-footed and pliable-limbed stepper was adjusted on its homely hearse. Then followed another marvel: how was that dilapidated, spectral pony to draw three times his own weight, and up hill, too, for the ground rose to the orchard? Yet draw it he did, and at something approaching to a trot.
I hal noticed from the beginning of the proceedings that all the servants treated Cæsar with a respect which a white man — particularly a white of the lower orders, and most particularly an Irishman — rarely exhibits toward a 'gentleman of color.' This unusual deference was so marked that I observed it from the moment of his entry on the premises ; and my first impulse was to attribute it to superstitious fear — not so bad a guess, either, for even a well-educated man, if his imagination were at all susceptible, might well be excused for standing in some awe of such a hobgoblin concern as Cæsar and his equipage. But this was not the real reason; I was now to learn it.
' Did you notice the cart, Sir?' asked Tom, dropping his voice to an earnest whisper as we brought up the rear of the sad procession.
Yes, indeed. *You would n't give a dollar for it, would you ?' "Not for horse and all.'
Sir-r!' throwing all the impressiveness he could into his tone, 'that man's worth twenty thousand dollars this day !'
The milk in the cocoa-nut was accounted for. Subsequent inquiry confirmed the correctness of Tom's information, save only the usual exaggeration of the amount. This half-scarecrow, half-gnome to behold, this patched and shredded knacker, was the actual possessor of twelve thousand dollars in bank-stock, besides having educated his children and set them up in some respectable business.
We chose the spot for Charley's sepulture between two of the largest and finest apple-trees. Cæsar demanded three spades, and asked the two helpers to stay and assist him. The gardener hurried off for the utensils, and the other men made no objections to working under orders of a nigger.' Such is the magic power of wealth to confer respectability. So it is all arranged now. I sit down on the grass to watch the operation and smoke - not a cigar, but a goodly clay pipe, such as a Knickerbocker who is proud to be a member of the St. Nicholas ought to smoke. Baby -- so long as there is but one, he is always the baby - comes tumbling out of doors to see what papa is about, and what they are going to do with poor Charley. It is his first acquaintance with death, The sun is growing warm, but we have plenty of shade here, and are never breezeless.
And this is the end of our seven years' friendship! for friendship it really was. I believe we understood each other like two Christians, as Tom would say. I have had a great many two-legged friends — at least they called themselves such — in those seven years, not half so true to me as Charley. Once he gave me a fright, but that was not his fault; my own, if any one's. On the whole, I don't think I have one unpleasant recollection connected with him, but a great many very pleasant ones.
The way I came to make Charley's acquaintance was this: walking down Wall-street one fine spring day, I saw that Charley Losing was crossing over to speak to me about a horse. I
about a horse, for that followed of course from the fact of his speaking to me. At that time we were humble units of Young America, and Young America must do one of two things — dance or drive trotters. Losing and I came under the latter category. We knew all the calendars in the Spirit of the Times, so that we could have stood an examination on them, and used to voyage all over the country to see matches and try promising colts, just as an Irish gentleman (according to Thackeray) goes sixty miles on business, i. e., to look at a pointer.
"Good-morning,' said Losing: 'how much do you weigh !! I stated the usual anıount of my material ponderosity.
Just mine exactly:' and then he related to me succinctly (for he never had the national proclivity to word-wasting) that he had matched his bay horse Charley to trot against a team, two in a wagon, two miles of turnpike, for two bundred dollars, (bere I put in, “Why, you ’re quite in the doo-all,' but Losing treated the shocking attempt at a pun quite right by taking no notice of it,) and that he wanted a man of his own weight to sit with him. He had found the right passenger.
Just a fortnight from that time, I underwent the disagreeable operation of crossing the Brooklyn ferry, and soon after found myself travelling down to the scene of action behind Charley Losing's fast team, the dun horse and black mare that every one on the island knew. I had supposed our rendezvous would be Langshaw's, which used to be the great place of meeting for such affairs in those days, but Losing and Mr. Langshaw did n't hitch horses any longer. Said Langsbaw bad good liquor and a miraculous cook, but in his other ways was one of those landlords who are now happily getting to be inatter of history, at least in the more civilized parts of our country. He fed his guests and boarders three times a day by the clock, and it would have taken a very keen man to get so much as a piece of bread and cheese at any other hour, unless indeed you ordered a dinner or supper three days ahead. Mrs. L. was ten times worse in this respect than her husband. One afternoon, Losing, coming along from some sporting excursion, desperately tired, and hungry enough to eat a cat without stopping to cut the claws off, pulled up at Langshaw's, and requested some provender. Mr. Langshaw was out, and Mrs. Langshaw, utterly deaf to Charley's hints of some cold beef which he had caught a glimpse of in a closet, insisted that there was nothing to eat in the house, and that nothing could be prepared in less than two hours. Whereupon, Losing, being prevented by the laws of gallantry and the land from pitching into a female woman, pitched him